Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Making a quilt for my son

Seeing the wonderful quilt Jane made for her son, here, reminded me I haven't blogged about the quilt I made for mine recently. My 12 year old asked if I could make him a quilt, having watched my earlier efforts here. I was so pleased, as it's rare for him to ask for me to sew him something. He chose a nautical theme, and had a good rummage through my fabrics. I then cut them into strips, using my rotary cutter (I'm so glad that was an early purchase when I started sewing again) and cutting mat.

We then played around quite a bit with the design.

More photos to come as I seem to have lost all the photos of the finished quilt. It was lovely to work on this with him.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Three easy skirts - first steps in dressmaking

I'm so hooked on dressmaking now. Well, skirt making, but my first dress is coming along. I've finished off three in the past couple of days. The tops and hems were waiting on getting done, and a zip here or there. I'm pleased I've actually got these things tidied up. The stamp print was a fabric I bought from America. The pattern is taken from Tanya Whelan's brilliant book Sew what you Love, which I really would recommend. There are things I don't like about this skirt, but it's an simple introduction to making a skirt, as there's no waistband to worry about, and the zip insertion is easy.

I also finished the hem for the skirt I made for the Abakhan blog challenge in my post here. I love this pattern, and will definitely be using it again, but will practise getting the yoke the right size first. I love the fact it's got a yoke, belt loops (I chose not to make up the belt, as I wanted to wear a contrast belt), a zip, and pockets. And it's easy too.

And I then half used a pattern and half did my own thing. I wanted to try a lined skirt, so lined this one, which has given it a much better feel. I decided to make a waistband, in a contrast red, and I'm pleased with how it's turned out. 

Best of all is getting to use some of my lovely fabrics on clothing where I can look at them.  :) 


Friday, 19 April 2013

Simplicity 2226 skirt - such a fabulous skirt

So, the lovely people at Abakhan asked me to do another project, and without realizing its fame, I chose to try a skirt pattern, Simplicity 2226 to be precise. This is for their blog challenge on a budget, which I started last year, and for it I received the above: a pattern, fabric, zip, and interfacing. I thought this looked a great pattern, with its four variations, pockets, and even a belt, and belt casings. I've since found this was part of a Sewalong by Noodlehead (which was a lovely way to discover a wonderful new blog) and is a very popular pattern. As the Sewalong was some time ago, I didn't refer to it. I suggest you do if you, like me, are new to dressmaking, as she makes each stage very clear. When I was ploughing through the pattern, I had to backtrack and rectify a couple of mistakes, and in the end fitted a smaller skirt to a larger yoke. But I'm really pleased with the resulting skirt, and that's one of the beauties of the pattern - it really is very adaptable and forgiving. I especially loved the fabric I chose - this one, which I thought was excellent value at £6.25 a metre. So, on to a look at what I did.

I first traced the size I thought I'd be. This turned out to be not such a good move as I ignored the pattern sizing instructions (in my defence, I was coming up a lot larger than I've ever been!). This was my first mistake. Follow the packet advice! :) Anyway, because I traced the size I thought I was, I still have my original intact, to retrace when I next make this skirt.

Once that was done I cut the pattern pieces. I then had to recut the pockets as I cut them the wrong way. :) Told you I made a couple of silly mistakes. This is the way they should be cut if you have a definite print (here lying in place right side down on the skirt front):

I don't know how others do it, but I marked the dots like this, putting a pin through the spot on the pattern, and circling where the pin was on the wrong side of the fabric with a pencil:

It worked for me, though I kind of lost the plot with the dots. I haven't the patience to go matching dots. But the finished skirt still works. :) Popping the pockets in place was simple, and I then overstitched in a contrasting thread.

This pattern is lovely, and comes together so quickly. Even adding the yoke (one of my other mistakes - do have patience (lacking in my approach to dressmaking) and cut a test piece from cheap cotton first, as mine was too small and I had to recut) was simple:

I'm thrilled with my skirt. It fits. It has pockets. It has belt loops. I've just the hem to do now.

I'll post a final picture once that's done.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Happy pigs in mud cake

So, when we saw the internet cake masterpiece of the happy bunch of pigs in mud recently, my daughter knew exactly what she wanted for her birthday cake, as no doubt countless others have wanted since the original was posted. So I made this for her today. Our very own pigs in mud. :)

Here's a link to the original pigs in mud cake. And here's the English translation from the original Dutch.

Regular visitors to my blog may recognize the pigs from a previous cake (I tend to reuse some of the iced makes) but I needed more pigs. Specifically some piggy bottoms. It was really fun putting these together.

I couldn't use the previous pigs on the top, though they tried it out before the delicious ganache went on (boy, I could eat so much of that stuff)...

... so they went on the side, as they didn't want to be left out. This was such an easy cake to make, and it's a really fun one. The party's tomorrow.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A book for a reluctant teen

My 15 year old rarely reads - she's always found reading 'boring' and I rarely find a book that she will get absorbed in. I love books, and I'm lost without a book, so this has been hard for me to accept. Especially a few weeks back when she told me she wasn't interested in trying anymore... which made me determined to find her a book.

I spent ages choosing and settled on Louise Rennison's Withering Tights!

She loved it! Read it in a day. She's not an avid reader by far, but I've persuaded her there are books out there for her. She's now gone on to Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes, which I think is a brilliant, easy read, with lots of issues to discuss. So far so good.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Tips for a happy canal boat / narrowboat holiday

We've just returned from another week on a narrowboat. I love these weeks. Unfortunately, it was icy cold this past week, but we still enjoyed ourselves. There's something very relaxing about life on a narrowboat. I've been on a few of these holidays now (the picture above was from a brilliant week in 2010), and there's certainly a few tips I've picked up. Things to avoid big time are:

1. Aim not to call your loved one a 'stupid man' (or woman... or worse). Everybody on the bank hears you, stops their stroll, and turns to look at said 'stupid man' who then stares daggers at you for the next hour or so.

2. "But muuuuummm, he looks hungry"... ! Try to avoid feeding a 'lovely looking', 'hungry looking' swan at dusk. That swan will begin tapping on your boat at 2 am in the morning, looking for another snack. And somehow, it knows where your bedroom is - it will not wake the children!

3. It looks faster, but don't cut corners - it's a sure way to get grounded. Everyone gets grounded, but it is certainly avoidable on corners.

Meanwhile, good things to do are:

Check the boatyard maintains the boats well. Most boatyards we've used have been excellent, but there are some things to look out for. If, for example, the sills on the windows are wood and left to rot, they let in a bad draught at night. If the engine alternators aren't maintained, they stop working the day after you take them out and that involves mooring and waiting for someone to come and mend it all. Or going without power all week if not running the engine. And it may sound silly, but ask how old the double mattress is. Most of ours have been fine. The one we had that should have been replaced years ago resulted in a very bad week of sleep (I'm talking feeling the springs had sprung!). The above boat was one of the best we've had, so much so we've used the company twice, but there have been a couple of boatyards I wouldn't hire from again. And I certainly now know the questions to ask before hiring (it's not cheap after all).

I hope that helps if you're considering booking a canal boat for the first time. It's a great holiday, I'd really recommend it, and there's a fabulous selection of waterways to go on in the UK, all lovely in different ways.