5 February 2008

Moving House

[edited to add: if you’d like to bookmark just the Sophia the project can now be found here
In fact the whole blog has moved over here]

First of all hello to everyone who’s come along from U-handblog – you can’t see it but I’m waving at you all madly! Lisa so nicely linked to me today because I’m meticulously logging the progress for my Sophia, but truth be told there was no good progress, only the kind that likes to meet the seam ripper.

So – step away from the sewing machine. You can just tell that it’s not going to go right some days, and I think I’m better at accepting that now.

Instead I spent today doing something I’ve had on my mind for a while – I migrated this blog to a different kind of software. This version is run on Textpattern, which was definitely the best choice at the time for the way I was running the site, but recently, say in the last six months or so (yeah I know – when you get older recently gets much much longer), I’ve been struggling with a way to make archives appear. And the comments system never really made me happy – I never really expected to get any comments at all when I started so perhaps that’s why it didn’t figure. But now you do comment, and it’s lovely, and I’d like to make it nicer for you.

Enter Wordpress, which actually installed and imported everything like a dream. Almost. This is the kind of shenigans you have to do get involved with as a control freak who can’t just sign up to typepad already.

This is such a longwinded way of saying that this is the last post here, and from now on, I’ll be posting here instead: Today we are… Please come and join me :)

3 February 2008

Baste, Pin, Baste - Or how I learned to stop worrying and love zips

I suppose that I’m either lucky or stupid but I don’t have a fear of zips, and never have. Practically the first thing I made was a cushion cover with a zip. I didn’t know that it was supposed to difficult and therefore it wasn’t – well, eventually. The method that I ended up with for cushions is very similar to the one for inserting the zip for the Sophia, and so step 8 was one I was looking forward to.

The secret with zips is all about stability. They have a habit of flopping about all over like fish gasping for breath, and even when you pin it down everything still moves – the fabric gapes, the zip slips, and before you know it you’ve been pinning and re-pinning for several hours and feel no closer to actually putting your foot down.

The biggest hand you can give yourself is to baste the two pieces of fabric together to create a seam, whenever possible: a zip is simply a seam that opens after all. You can then easily centre the zip onto the seam and pin it in place. Then crucially, you hand baste it in place. I’ve tried doing without, but believe me there is no short cut to hand basting for the neatest possible result, plus it has the added bonus of producing the least swearing from the sewing room…

Where the Butler method differs is in dealing with the zip tab, and I think I’ll adopt this wherever possible. Instead of keeping the fabric in the machine, and lifting the foot to tease the tab out of the way, she advises that you take it out, remove some of the seam basting and move the zip tab. Then onto take two – finish off the top end of the zip, easily and without tears.

All that’s left is to open up the basting, tidy up and admire your perfect zip. Now, if only the rest of it would go so easily…

I must confess that lately my sewing mojo has left me, which is partly why this bag is taking so long. I don’t know why, but I haven’t been truly inspired to sit down and cut, sew and play. Does this happen to everyone? I hope it comes back soon.

And if you were wondering about the cats, and I’m sure you’ve done little else, they are getting on better, although the very early morning chase growl hiss is still going on, so I’m still not sleeping well. I invested in a Feliway diffuser which arrived yesterday and there’s been rapid progress to include a bit of head rubbing, so if you do intend to introduce a new kitten to an older cat I’d recommend investing in it before you bring the kitten back.

And now, because it’s late and I’m tired, I’m going to sit back and watch my favourite movie about writing, Wonder Boys, adapted perfectly from the book of the same name.

2 February 2008

Piping Heaven...

Or piping hell? Pinning it to the main panel was fairly straightforward, although I could tell that it didn’t much like the curves. The pattern tells you to trim the excess before you sew, but I wasn’t sure this was the best idea, especially considering my use of non biased casing for the cord, so I left it dangling and only cut when I’d finished sewing.

And into the machine we go. The trick with attaching the piping is to sew to the left of the original line you made when you made the piping. This may well be the moment where you find yourself wishing you’d made it perhaps a couple of millimetres to the right. But take a deep breath and squeeze it round. Because the piece is mostly curved, I took it fairly slowly and tried not to rush.

There are a few wobbles here that I could be happier with, but then I’m not very happy with the fact that my fabric is so off centre. I am pleased with the way the piping looks againts to fabric though, so next time I’ll definitely contrast texture as well as colour for the piping.

And then the bottom panel. With corners. Now if only I’d read the instructions instead of just looking at the picture. Do not do as I did, and pin the piping all the way round, like the picture above. It made my life just that bit harder, and my corners more rounded. Instead, according to the written instructions you should sew the piping up to half an inch from the end and only then clip and turn the corner.

It’s done, and it’s ok, but it’s certainly not as neat as I’d like. That’s probably a combination of my fabric choices and my increasing frustration at the same. Lessons to learn, self: don’t sew with a heavy heart. It is what it is, and you never know how it will turn out in the end.

31 January 2008

Apologies for the absence

I didn’t mean to be away for so long but sometimes life has a sneaky way of happening away from computers. Last weekend was all in Wales, where Isaac grew up, up as far north and west as you can go, on the isle of Anglesey. It has a special kind of beauty all of its own:

There was some of this..

And some of this…

Plus a dose of this…

And then we capped it all off with this:

Yes, we brought a new kitten home with us. We’re such suckers for cute face, and a willingness to chase things and then get belly rubs. Miss Charlie was not best pleased at first, but she’s coming round, mostly by the method of staying up late at night to box his ears and growl at him when he gets too excited.

Consequently we haven’t been sleeping well this week and the days have been full of intensive kitten management activities so crafting has been off the menu. I’m hopeful about tomorrow – things are feeling a little more normal. Whatever that is.

23 January 2008

Kaffe Fassett on the Radio

I was just listening to Kaffe Fassett on Radio 4’s Midweek, talking about colour, fabric, yarn and his exhibition, and how the British climate is perfect for staying indoors and getting on with your craft.

The first piece of fabric I bought for myself, for my first ever project with my new sewing machine (a cushion cover) was a Kaffe Fassett, and I have such a clear memory of it even though it was long worn out by our various elbows, heads and bums. Amazing how colour can imprint itself like that.

If you want to listen again, or subscribe to the programme’s podcast, you can do it from Midweek’s homepage. Although I think midweek is always interesting, you might not, so you can find Kaffe at the end of the show, about 30 minutes in.

22 January 2008

Amazing and Weird

Well, goodness, thank you, Florence, for nominating me as amazing, but also weird. I like the combination, and will now attempt to come up with the required 7 suitably odd things…

  1. I am also terrified of driving like Florence. See no 2 for explanation of why it took me until I was 32 to learn and pass my test. Every Wednesday when my instructor was due I’d sit in the house and feel sick, but I forced myself out there because it felt like something I had to do to be a real grown up. I was elated when I passed, but since getting a car and doing some long road trips I realise I don’t want to drive that much. At all. If I know I have to drive out of London I spend weeks agonising about it, and the only bit of motorway I like is the M6 toll road, because it’s so empty. I hate my car but I can’t bear the stress of having to sell it.
  2. I got hit by cars three times as a child. Not very bright at crossing roads.
  3. I have forgotten great chunks of my life (and not because I was wasted). I used to wonder at my mother’s appalling memory when I was a child, but now it’s mine. I have no idea why things don’t stick.
  4. I like filing. And organising.
  5. As an adjunct to that, I will often fixate on one thing that I think is wrong and needs ‘mending’: the contents of a drawer to be sorted, a room to be rearranged, six years worth of paperwork to be stored in colour-coded filing boxes. Whatever it is I have to do it as soon as humanly possible because I become convinced that life can’t move forward until it’s done. Naturally, there’s always something else around the corner and when that’s done life will be neater, happier, more fulfilling. Currently, it’s new wardrobes. Some wardrobes, since we don’t have any. If we did get some we’d become the kind of people who neatly fold their clothes and put them away instead of slovens who pile them up on that nice chair we got in Greenwich market for that very purpose. Seriously, we would – the very next day.
  6. I can’t click my fingers. I’m so uncool.
  7. I really like being at home and not seeing people during the day. Is that weird or just misanthropic? I mean, I like people, but not all the time. Some people think that’s really weird, but I feel saner for less human small talk.

At least I’m not as weird as this though, eh?

And now to hand over the baton to the following nice folks, should they choose to pick it up: Lisa from U-handbag, Ruth from Two Hippos, Ali from Domesticali and Monkee Maker from, well, Monkee Maker.

21 January 2008

Steps 5 & 6

Yes, according to the pattern that’s where we are. Step five is simply sewing the handles together, so I’ve saved you the photos of me squinting over my sewing machine.

Step 6 is attaching them to the main panel. And it’s here I realise that my centering wasn’t quite as accurate as I thought, so the handles will be slightly off. Never mind – this is exactly the reason I’m making myself one of these first. (Amazing what defects I will put up with when it’s for me.) The other thing is that, although I love this velvet, with the fleece and interfacing on the back, plus the folded over handles, it’s getting a bit bulky, and needs a bit of a shove to get it moving. I think next time a home dec weight will be easier to work with, especially considering the limits of my machine.

Isn’t it amazing what a bit of sewing can do? All I’ve done is attach the handles and sew this strengthening cross and suddenly I can see how the bag will be when it’s finished.

20 January 2008

Final Preparations

After a Saturday full of London boats, and food at Wagamama and going to see No Country for Old Men, Sunday turned itself into a perfect crafting day.

On the Sophia bag I only had to do the final preparations of the fabric – I bet you can’t wait for something to actually happen.

Everything went smoothly, until I began to attach the fleece. You might remember that I only have double-sided fusible fleece, and I decided it was worth trying a tip from Lova, who used a sheet of paper to shield the other sticky side. It would have been nice not to have to cut more interfacing, but sadly half of the fleece came away when I pulled back the paper, firmly welded to its surface. Back to the interfacing then…

Then all I had left to do was a little bit of trimming – I’m never particular about cutting my interfacing straight, so it makes the sewing easier if I trim now. Finally I’m ready to sew…

And after that I had to put it down to make a different bag for my mum – no photos since it still gets dark at 4.30pm – because I’m off on a day trip to see her on Tuesday. Wooo! Train ride! All by myself! I’m so looking forward to it – seven hours of nothing to do but sit down and read books…

17 January 2008


Today has been mostly about this. Before I can apply the elephant’s breath I have to move furniture, and before I can do that, as anyone who has ever moved house with me knows, I have to move the books. I have a lot of books. This pile isn’t the sum of the books that were in our bedroom – this is about half. Some ended up in Isaac’s little room, some in a cupboard that I miraculously found had some room, and some even found their way into a pile for the charity shop.

This is almost unknown for me.

Books come in, but they very rarely go out.

But when I was unpacking the double packed shelves I was having two reactions:

  1. oh! This book! I’ve had this copy for [x] years. I remember reading this when I was in [insert appropriate house]…and cue flood of memories and a desire to flick through the pages
  2. ‘oh yeah, I read that.’ Tosses book aside.

So I figured that I could thin the shelves and take the ‘yeah I read that’s to the charity shop and be no worse off, but it does feel very strange. I suppose that changing any habitual behaviour is the same, and for me, clinging onto books regardless of my feelings for them has become just that – a habit. The trouble with this particular habit is that the lack of shelf space is stopping me from bringing in new books, ones that I think are more for the me I am now. (Which is not the same as saying that I’m discarding all of the old me, just that I know when I look through my shelves which parts I have assimilated, and which parts simply skimmed the surface for a while.) And if I can’t broaden my bookshelves then I feel as if I’m simply marking time, trapped in a room of old obsessions.

The best solution would be a big house with several rooms that can be given over to library shelves, but since that’s not in the offing I’ll weed and cull instead. Just don’t expect me to be entirely happy about it.

16 January 2008

You say cording, I say piping

I went out into the tipping rain yesterday for something to make piping from, and gravitated to V V Rouleaux, thinking I would pick up some of their piping tape and save myself a whole heap of trouble. It wouldn’t have been very interesting for you though, would it? Perhaps that’s why there were only four colours available, and none of them any good. So I bought this splendid satin ribbon instead, even though I knew it would be slippery to work with, and to be honest, it’s not bias cut so I’m really asking for trouble later, and may end up having to unpick and do this all again with something more suitable.

The things I do for you…Although it’s my bag, so technically it’s for me. I’ll call it a learning experience.

First thing first, measure out your cord – you need 108” or 3 yards, and fold it inside the ribbon, pinning as you go. This will take longer than you think because of the slippery nature of the ribbon – have a nice song on to hum along to so you won’t get cross.

Attach your zipper foot to your machine, and sew the cord into the ribbon by sewing a single line of straight stitch. You want to sew close enough so that the cord doesn’t start to slide out and can’t move around too much, but don’t sew right up to the cord. You don’t want a tight fit yet – you’ll do that when you attach it to the bag and you don’t want to see any stitching on the finished bag.

And here is the finished result – neat (mostly) and ready to attach. If you’re eager to know how to attach it then see Lisa’s whole and unabridged piping tutorial

In the meantime I’ll just admire how nice this looks next to the fabric, while worrying about possible screw ups when I come to finally sew it on.