Monday, 25 May 2015

In which I realise I might have bitten off more than I can chew

Sometimes deadlines are just impossible. Was it Douglas Adams who said he like the sound of them whooshing past?  

Knowing that my parents visit was fast approaching, I spent a couple of evenings last week diligently cutting fabric into pieces and then stitching it back together again - trying to get the quilt top for my mum into some sort of order. 

I chain pieced and I pressed, and I now have 100 finished blocks. I ought to be ready to stitch these together into rows, but eeek. The blocks aren't quite perfect.

Some of them are a bit smaller. Some are a bit bigger.
Some are (gasp) a bit wonky. Turns out, my cutting wasn't always as accurate as I thought. And, um, neither was my sewing. 


So, I'm sort of stuck. I don't know whether to embrace the wonkiness and just sew the darned thing together, or spend time fiddling and trimming and trying to square things up before sewing the darned thing together. 

My parents are here now too, and as my mother doesn't Know about The Quilt, I'm not going to spoil the surprise. 


A half plan is forming in my head, but it'll have to wait. 

Enjoy the bank holiday if you have one. I'm at work, the kids are at school, so it's not a holiday here #justsaying.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Another day, another blankie (FO)

Me again (don't faint with surprise)

After the raving success of the first stash-busting blanket I cobbled together another one, using up absolutely all of the weird textured yarn I used in the first one. 

It's not my finest creation evah, in that it's not very rectangular - something about the textured yarn made it difficult to keep my edges straight, but it's okay. I tarted it up a bit with some nice bold blue around the edge (4 ply held double) and gave it a wash. One end has stripes, and the other half is just plain because that's how the yarn worked out. 

Just like the last one, this will be donated to local charity: the Pregnancy & Parents Centre. They've got a nearly new sale coming up on Saturday (16th May!) Just in time. 

Monday, 11 May 2015


Howdy chaps.

Just back to report on last week's sewing adventures. In the midst of the rain, I got an annoying sewing job done - involving replacing a zip on my husband's hi-viz bike jacket (I broke the zip, so I really had to fix it!) It is a major cobble - I broke two needles in the process, unpicked a lot of very wonky stitching but managed in the end to return the jacket to him with a functional zip. And, he was happy with that. Phew.

Once that was out of the way, I moved onto other things. I refashioned one of my old hoodies into a sweatshirt/hoodie for the bean. He's got lots of sweaters that are almost too small, so I hacked apart one of my sweaters to make something for him. I cut the sleeves off, the hood off and cut along the side and shoulder seams. Then I narrowed the back and the front by several inches (taking things in at the sides) and lopped a chunk off the top of the sleeve, using one of his other sweaters as a guide. After rejoining the shoulder seams, I set in the sleeves and joined the new side seams. The neck was very wide  - much too wide for my 8 yr old, and I couldn't find an easy way of reducing this because of the logo on the back and the kangaroo pocket on the front. [Note to self: these features make refashioning much more tricky!] I opted to reattach the original hood - just tucking a wee pleat in the centre back to make everything line up. The neckline is still super wide, but with the hood attached it's not very noticeable. 

The best bit. He loves it. A photo will follow at some point - but each time I try and take one he has covered the sweater in milk, or mud, or something splattery.

Just so you have something to look at, here is a stack of freshly stitched squares that I am making into a quilt top for my mum. The fabrics all came from my grandma, and a duvet cover she made for me when I was a teenager. 

The duvet cover was made from vintage fabric scraps from clothes and other household textiles in my nana's house. The duvet cover disintegrated a long time ago, and I've been trying to decide how to make the remnants into a quilt top for some time. Last week I finalised my design/approach, cut the squares to the right size and started to stitch. There are 100 patterned squares, and I chain pieced the lot while the children ate their supper the other night. Wowzers that was fast! Who knew?

There might just be a deadline with this one. My mum's birthday is at the end of the month, and they are coming to visit. Maybe I can get it done before then?

Monday, 4 May 2015


Hey chaps. I'm on leave this week, although the rest of the family are doing their normal things (apart from 2 days off school, *sigh*). As usual I have made myself a massive list of things to get done.

Today it was Dig the Allotment. The plot has been much neglected over the last few months - so I've been doing my best to sneak in some visits here and there to get things tidied up and ready for sowing. There's still a lot to do, but I managed to get a few rows is seeds in today, and I've dug over the potato patch ready to get some spuds in later in the week.

Tomorrow the forecast is wet, so instead of sowing in the garden I'm planning to do some sewing in the house!!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Tidying and decluttering for families - a review of Marie Kondo's 'The life-changing magic of tidying'

Last weekend I gave in, powered up the kindle and downloaded *that* book about tidying and read it in two or three sessions. 

It's an easy read, with lots of nice stories about clients/former clients, and some clear thoughts and advice about how to declutter and tidy your home (and life). I did gobble it up pretty quickly, indicating that I was quite eager to absorb all the life-tidying advice/principles on offer. 

It certainly made me think, and I have been tidying a lot since I finished reading it (but I haven't done it all, and I haven't done it in any particular order - I am a Konmari rebel). I realised that I already *knew* some of the things Kondo recommends. Like the thing about folding and storing things on edge, rather than in piles. I have got one drawer that stays tidy, where you can see the contents in one glance and, don't you know, the contents are folded Kondo style and lined up on their edges.

Anyway, I like some of her ideas, and I have been using them to good effect. Drawers are being reorganised, and clothes refolded in the Kondo way. It's nice to open a drawer and see everything that's inside - rather than see the tops of piles, or - more usually in my house - a random jumble of stuff.

An amazing thing happened when I organised the bean's drawers in the Kondo style. I put most of the clothes away, but hadn't quite finished folding and stashing his shorts. Later, he folded and put them away himself, which was good. But, when I opened the drawer I realised that he had spontaneously folded and placed them in the drawer in the same way as I had. 

Totally brilliant.

I hadn't asked him to do it that way. I hadn't explained how to do it, or shown him how I was folding his things. He just did it. 

So, it's good then? Well, yes, but no. Some of the advice just doesn't work for me. Do it all (declutter and tidy) in one 6 month period - okay. But never again? 


You don't have children do you Marie? 

Children grow and develop, and as part of that process families have to go through a regular cycle of acquiring new things and disposing of old ones. If you have children in a range of sizes/ages then it is patently absurd not to hand some items (clothes/books/toys) from one child to the next. Add to that the constant flow of paper and objects that come into the home with children, and the tidy 'once' rule soon breaks down. 

I am happy to throw things away - the broken toys, the beads dropped on the floor, the dog-eared card/certificate/picture that has been in the bottom of someone's bag for a fortnight. But I can't and don't police all of the trinkets and favourite sticks/stones/shells that my children collect. These are regularly cleaned up, but it can't be a one-time event, it has to be done over and over and over again. Not very Konmari.

For me, there is a lot missing from Marie Kondo's book about living with children, about coping with the daily onslaught of stuff that comes through the door, about making decisions about what to keep/chuck, when it's not actually your stuff, but your children's. Although I would love to declutter and tidy my home in a one-off event, I suspect that I will have to keep a permanent donate pile somewhere around the house, for the grown out of clothes, the grown out of books and toys, and the other stuff which no longer fills me/them/us with joy. 

Maybe I'm wrong, and once I've Kondo'd my own stuff, my children will also embrace the 'focus on joy - tidy once' philosophy? 

I also suspect that despite failing the joy test, I will continue to keep paint-spattered and old clothes for activities that involve spattering paint and digging the garden. Practicality and pragmatism doesn't feature in Kondo's worldview, and her advice doesn't really help much when you need to sort out the garden shed.

I like Marie Kondo's ideas a lot, but can see that they work best for households with grown ups. Maybe her next book will be about tidying for/with kids (or maybe I should write that one?!) 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Stash and burn (FO): the story of a made-up blanket

Hey peeps. 

I'm not on a stash diet this year, I'm blitzing, I'm busting, I'm hoovering up that stash. It will be conquered. After this, everything will be different. 


[Has Marie Kondo written a book about dealing with a stash yet?]

Anyways. I had a bit of a rummage in the yarn stash a couple of weeks ago, just before our bedroom was deconstructed. I pulled out some baby blue/green yarns that I cant find a project for, and got my crochet hook out.  

This is what I ended up with. 

The colours are a bit off here, the olive colour isn't quite so olive in real life - it's just pale green. But the other colours are fairly true (I will resist the temptation to tell you that it's really blue and black).

Not bad huh? It's fairly square, and should work as a baby blanket to keep someone small warm. It consumed a reasonable amount of yarn, with enough left for another blanket too. I dropped it off at the Pregnancy and Parents Centre, so they can sell it to raise money. 

I've no idea what any of the yarns are - but they are all highly synthetic and came from charity shops at one time or another. Two of the yarns are textured, so it's quite forgiving in terms of mistakes, but also slightly harder to work with because the stitch definition is, well, not very defined.  I didn't follow a pattern, I just started with a chain that was about the right length, and just took it from there. Also, don't ask what stitch I used, I have no idea!

Seeing as there was a goodly amount of yarn left over, I almost immediately cast on (do you cast on in crochet?) for another blanket. The stripes will be a bit different, because I used up most of the smooth yarns in the last one. 

In other news, I have been watching the great british sewing bee, and fantasising about having 4 hours, or 6 hours, or even 90 minutes to sew something without having to look after children or make meals or rush out to pick someone up from a party/play date/school. I don't think I've touched my sewing machine since Christmas *sigh*. I am really looking forward to the end of (my) term, and the Easter holidays, and maybe having a wee bit more time to do something apart from work. Grrrr.

Sorry. Did that last bit come out out loud? It's been a bit of a rollercoaster recently, mostly plunging towards an abyss, and hoping that at some point things might get slightly less bad. 

Still, there is always crochet. 

And knitting.

And chocolate.

And urchins like this

to keep me going.