Monday, 14 December 2015

Be careful what you save!

 A while ago, I found this quote from George Eliot, which I quite liked, so I saved it. I also saved a picture from a knitting pattern, round about the same time, as I thought they went together.

Well, I looked at the picture more closely, and now I'm not too sure what the reindeer are up to!

GEORGE ELIOT (1819-1880)

It is easy to say how we love new friends, and what we think of them, but words can never trace out all the fibres that knit us to the old.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Have you ever thought about Service Stations?

I spend  a lot of time in my car, or in hotels. Or on one spectacularly wet day, in Warwick Services, waiting for the rain to stop.

As I'm not a great telly watcher, I use the time in hotels to do some hand sewing, and usually rake my big sewing bag with me with an assortment of projects as I never know a) what project I wNt to work on and b) how good the light is.

So often find myself with a few small projects on the go. A few weeks ago I was cutting out fabric for the Little Joys Quilt

And making yet another owl

And of course there are days like today, when I just randomly chuck things in a bag, with no idea what I'm going to do.

It's always a bit easier, when the hotel is part of a chain as you tend to know the facilities you'll get.

Motorway Services, on the other hand, are a bit 'hit and miss'. To lots of people they're an expensive place to stop, as they have a 'captive audience', but for those of us who spend many, many hours in our cars, they're a necessity. Most people can't (and shouldn't) drive 5 hours without stopping.

But driving home a week or so ago I noticed something odd...
On the M25, clockwise, the distance between some services is 40 miles. Now I never really noticed it, because it's generally at the beginning of my journey, but I had an idea that services where generally closer together.
And they are. I've no idea what it is that dictates how far apart they are, but a casual glance gave me the impression that 20-25 miles is about average. Obviously there are area like Cumbria, where there aren't many, but they seem to appear quite often.

And then you get to a particular stretch of the M6. And this is probably a sign that I need a life!

From Stafford to Keele is 10 miles.
From Keele to Sandbach is 11 miles .....and
From Sandbach to Knutsford is 12 miles.

After that it changes again, but why are they so close together? Answers on a postcard please!

Friday, 3 July 2015

My first 'proper' quilt

Since getting back into sewing, I've made some small patchwork pieces, and have quilted some, but have shied away from anything big enough to require machine quilting using a walking foot or even worse, free motion!

But this year is the year of the quilt. I want to make something full size, I've absolutely no idea why.  Or in fact what I'm going to do with it when its finished, but hey ho!  And then I hit a snag, I had absolutely no idea where to start.

I've saved all sorts of ideas on Pinterest, but even if I found something I liked, I struggled to find fabric that worked. Partly due to limited time, but mainly due to limited ability with colours. I make cards,  have done a fair bit of embroidery, but I tend to stick with colours I'm confident with.  Fabric is fine when dressmaking, you find the fabric you like and make it into something, but getting lots of different fabrics to work together was something I lacked confidence in.

I tried with scraps from my stash, someone suggested a 'mood board' and I spent many hours laying different pieces out on hotel beds, all to no avail.

So I gave up and used the Daisy Chain quilt pattern from

Based on a jelly roll, sub cut into strips and measuring 44in square, it's a good start.  The picture below is a Moda charm pack and the jelly roll - which is from a collection called Lottie Da.

So the first thing I did was to try and work out how the colours went together. Now as its a jelly roll, in theory, its already been done for you, but in practice you don't want to end up with lots of orange in one part and not another. In fact, that's what I ended up with in some places, but better luck next time.

The first stage was to join all the strips together.  Not so easy when you suddenly realise you're sat at a slight angle to the sewing machine and your seams are going for a bit of a wander.
According to the instructions, the strips were then cut into strips.  At this point I started to get a bit confused, but plodded on, sure it would come right in the end.
And it did!

Then you joined them all back together again, but in a different order
It was at this point that I really started to notice some of my joins weren't perfect.

In fact the picture above should have been a perfect square! But you can plainly see that I had to do some tidying up.

Then came the fun bit.  Sat on the settee, with pins, joining all the squares into strips, then joining the strips together to make something that started to resemble a quilt.
Then I had to actually 'quilt' it.
Easier said than done, as I don't have a free motion foot for my machine, so I'm going to do it by hand.  I took it with me to a hotel in one week, but have hardly touched it since, so this is going to be a bit of an epic.

That said, its lovely to work with quality fabric, and there was something really relaxing about sitting in my hotel room sewing, with a cuppa next to me, while the world just passed by below.

The above was typed a month or so ago, and since then I've attempted some machine quilting too, although it did get unpicked a couple of times! But it's easier to cheat with wavy lines.

Next step, binding. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

A new month, a new start

New beginnings.  At the end of this month I will be 56. What's important about that? Not a lot, except that 8 weeks ago my son was 28, so I'm now twice his age (ish) which is quite scary. Lots of his friends now have children of their own, and this prompted a conversation about photos.

For my 50th Birthday, my family put together a photo album using the iMac. The words tell more of a story than the photos do!

You see, I HATED having my photo taken. Really, really. Now I've heard it said (by some ex friends) that refusing to have your photo taken is just attention seeking. But for me, I don't think it's that. As soon as I see someone with a camera, my first reaction is to get out of the way.

Someone once told me that you just have to learn to stop, smile, pose and move on. But I can't. And then someone asked me a couple of questions...

Why?  What started it?
and crucially

If anything happened to me, would my son have any recent photos? What will I do when he gets married, has children etc. when he graduates, he'll probably want a photo taken with his ever so proud Mum
In answer to the first, I've no idea. I've looked back on photos and you can tell I'm not happy; there's a sort of 'grin and bear it' look on my face.

Grinning and bearing it

As I've got older, I've shied away from the camera even more. Now I know that lots of people do the thing where they're behind the camera, but I'm not that interested in photographs. They're just a record of an event. But I've got worse since digital cameras, and posting photos on Social Media.

Of course, putting on weight hasn't helped, so I'm joining the two issues together. And tackling them together.
I took the plunge this morning, and weighed myself. I knew I'd put weight on, as nothing fits. But the reality is that I weigh the same now as before I started Weightwatchers 4 years ago. I am not sharing that number!

But I'm going to try and be more confident around cameras, and maybe, occasionally allow people to take photos. So to start off, here's a photo I took last week in a hotel, somewhere, and another taken a couple of years ago. The only recent photos in existence!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Random thoughts after watching the London Marathon

Today was the London Marathon.  There's something amazing about watching the massed start, but its never, ever inspired me to want to do it.  I'm not the right shape, size and have absolutely no inclination.  My brother has run it, and its hard work, hours and hours of training,. Nope, its not for me.
Hats off to those that do, and incredibly amounts of money are raised every year for various charities, by people of all shapes and sizes, serious runners and those dressed in bizarre costumes.
 Image result for london marathon 2015 heels

It must be hard enough to run 26.2 miles, but to do it while carrying a bobsleigh, or wearing a costume that weighs 3 stone, or running in heels is probably something that is peculiarly British.

Where am I  going with this?  Actually, it goes back to a TV programme I watched on catch up - about the fashion industry's attitude to plus sized women.  Here, I'll admit to a vested interest, I'm by no means slim.  Neither am I fashion conscious, being the wrong side of 50 to really care that much.  But what does annoy me is being unable to find things to fit.  There's a general assumption that if you are a size 16 for example, then you're wide and square. 

This is even more the case with sports wear, and here is the great anomaly.  Everywhere you look, someone or other is spouting off about how 'we' are getting bigger, and how people should get out and exercise.  But you try and get sports wear from the major brands in larger sizes.  They tend to stop at 16 - and a skimpy 16 at that.  Lycra isn't a good look if you're on the larger side, but that doesn't mean you should have to buy men's sports wear.  The major supermarkets tend to do larger sizes, but again, they tend to be wide, and in plain colours. 

Now, as I've said, I've no intention of running a marathon, but I would like to get fitter, and if my boredom threshold can stand it,  I even go to the gym.  But I can't be the only person who struggle to find things to wear, without resorting to oversized T shirts. 

I hope everyone's managed to finish it, but every year I wonder  when I see people struggling 'why don't you just walk?' and this year David Hemery (aged 70) was interviewed and said that at just over 4 miles an hour he'd finish it in 6 hours (ish).  I don't know if he finished, I hope he did, who knows, I may walk it one year.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Stash busting

Following on from previous post about items I've made recently, I had a plough through my fabric stash and decided that I really, really needed to start using some of it up.

I also need to finish some projects I've started, and then not completely finished!

Like this....

Which only got as far as the cutting out stage, and a bit of stay stitching
And this..

Yet another Mae blouse from Bluegingerdoll,which needs a hem, and a back fastening.

So the plan was to finish these.  The Mae blouse is easy, I've decided to put poppers on the back, rather than buttons, so just need to mark the positions properly. The maroon Jersey is another thing altogether. I bought the fabric on impulse, cut out the pattern, and then my courage failed me. I don't possess an overlocker, so needed to practice with my machines overcasting foot. Not a problem, but sewing with twin needles was. The reason? My machine has a needle threader, something I couldn't be without, and you can't use it with twin needles. After 20 minutes trying to thread the things I gave up, threw the fabric back in the bag, and it's been there ever since.

Yesterday I came across a free pattern, and a tutorial at so sew easy, so I'm going to try again. I may need to tweak a bit, as it's already cut out, but I've spare fabric, so should be able make something wearable. Fingers crossed. All I've got to do is work out an alternative to twin needles, or else get someone else to thread them for me!

Wish me luck!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

A quiet weekend after a hectic week

This week was always going to be a busy one.  March seems to be manic normally for most people; there are year end processes to be completed, projects to be finished before the money runs out etc. and for me, and my colleagues that means being on site supporting customers through some of those things.

As my customer this week was a 3 hour drive (on a good day) I'd agreed to travel at my leisure on Sunday afternoon, rather than risk Monday traffic.

Arrived at site and for various reasons, virtually lived there for the rest of the week. Sustained by supplies of chocolate, coffee, cakes and the occasional bacon buttie, the team plodded along, working long hours and remaining positive throughout.

I was dreading the journey home. The M6 heading North on a Friday night is normally horrendous, just one long car park, accidents in the road works and so on. But not this week. I arrived at the point where the M6 Toll joins and discovered that the usual traffic jam was missing. No idea why, but I'll take it thanks. I spend many hours in my car, and usually listen to the radio, or to audiobooks, I'm not a big fan of music in the car; but this week I've been listening to a podcast, The Serial from This American Life, and I've been hooked, even though I knew how it was going to end.

So this weekend was just for chilling. Not much in the way of housework has been done, some baking and some essential tidying and ironing but that's about it.

Having sorted through my fabric stash last weekend, I realised I should make a start on something. But what? I've promised  that this year I'll embark on a BIG project, and here we are, in March and I haven't even started.
I've got a Moda charm pack which was a prize giveaway ( I wish I could find the label, as I've forgotten the name) and a jelly roll that I bought on impulse

A bit of juggling later, and I've started to put the charm pack squares together
Of course, at the moment, they're just a glorified ironing board cover!

Plans for next week are to put some of them together as a cushion cover and do some hand quilting, and look for patterns for a jelly roll quilt.