Treasure Trove

A random comment I noticed on a Facebook group last night sent me off on a treasure hunt this morning. It mentioned a fabric shop I’d never heard of, just a short drive from where I live. I’ve been on the lookout for some cheap knit fabric so I can practise the Renfrew top pattern I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show, before I let myself loose on the spensive fabric I bought with it.

The fabric shop itself was much smaller than I’d hoped and didn’t carry a vast amount of stock. Most of it was printed cottons suitable for quilting, but I did find an end-of-roll offcut of a pink floral-printed jersey. I didn’t measure it, but it was only three quid, so I bought it anyway and hope it might be enough for a first crack at a Renfrew.

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The treasure was to be found in the adjacent barn. It hosts a selection of small businesses, almost like a small indoor market – vintage clothes, art and papercraft supplies, a small haberdashery, a petfood stall, fruit and veg, even a yarn shop, but the crown was the most amazing Aladdins Cave of a cake decorating supplier. They stocked just about everything you could possibly want for cake decorating – tools, toppers, food colourings, fondant icing, edible glitter, boxes, cake boards, stands, and a huge selection of cake tins for hire. I know where I’ll be heading next time I need some serious cake supplies, and it’s much nearer than the place I used to go to!

I think I’ll have to keep looking for a good local fabric shop. I discovered a great one a few weeks ago when I visited a friend and her yarn shop in Essex, but sadly that can hardly be considered local! Still, if you’re in the vicinity of Braintree in Essex, Blake House Craft Centre is definitely worth a mooch. They have a whole range of shops there though I’ve only been in two of them myself. And Sew On stocks a wide variety of fabrics and haberdashery supplies. I could have lost hours in there and left with a considerably lighter purse had I been in the mood for indulging. Just next door is my friend’s shop Sconch, which is just yarn heaven. It carries probably the biggest range of yarn types I’ve ever found in a single yarn shop. They have a great space for running Craft and Cake sessions several days a week. The staff were friendly and helpful. They also run an online shop which I’ve ordered from in the past and they have excellent customer service. I’d definitely recommend stopping by if you can.

I’m resisting buying any yarn at the moment as I have several projects lined up already, but I couldn’t come away completely empty handed, so I bought these cute stitch markers.

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What’s your local yarn or fabric shop like? Have you ever come across a crafty treasure trove?

Don’t they fly!?

The years, I mean. WordPress kindly informed me yesterday that it was my 3 year anniversary here. That would have totally passed me by!

I celebrated by picking up my knitting for the first time in about a week. I only managed a couple of rows but something’s better than nothing.

I also went to a rehearsal last night. I’m itching to get back to rehearsing a show. But this one was for a show I’m crewing in a couple of weeks time. Backstage work is something I enjoy, and you still get the buzz of being in a theatre, but it’s not the same as being part of the cast who’ve been rehearsing for months and going out on the stage in front of an audience. So I’m keeping my eye out for other opportunities.

In other news, the cake is safely in the freezer and it remains to be seen whether it survives on the other side.

Brakes On!

Today is Pickle’s birthday party.

We booked a soft play party and invited his friends. From his point of view, it’s that same kind of party his brother has, so he’s happy. From my point of view, it’s easy peasy. Activity is provided, food is included. I just have to do party bags and the cake.

Now, I admit I haven’t been particularly organised about it, but a couple of last minute evening activities this week really threw my timings off. I had an insanely busy day yesterday, but managed to get the cake baked and a chocolate ganache prepared, leaving me about 4 hours to crumb-coat it, fondant cover it and decorate it today.

It took me a while to successfully cover it in fondant. In fact, I wasn’t totally happy with it, but was pressed for time so accepted that was how it was going to be. I was just moving on to the more interesting stages of decorating, when I received a phone call from school saying that Pumpkin had been sick and I needed to collect him immediately. Oh.

Brakes on.

I spent the afternoon calling and texting round all the guests to reschedule the party for two weeks time. And then I crashed out. Shattered!

Now I have a half decorated cake sitting on the side and two weeks before the party. I have googled and I am going to attempt to freeze the cake whole and hope it’s ok to be defrosted and decorated fully in two weeks time.

Just hope none of the rest of us get the bug in the meantime.

A different kind of WIP

Since we moved house, our front room has been a playroom. It’s a pretty small room with not much floor space, so the boys haven’t really played in there much and it’s actually been more of a glorified toy cupboard/ hurl-the-toys-in-and-shut-the-door kinda space. In short, a total toy-filled pigsty.

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So last weekend, Mr Jack and I set to work while the kids were away for a couple of days with the aim of turning this room into a study/hobby room.

Inspired by Pinterest we had grand plans of picking paint colours and shopping at Ikea for a desk, shelves and storage solutions, and generally spending the weekend getting the job done as fast as possible.

Desk, shelves above, drawers or cupboard underneath. And I’m loving the idea of using a really deep blue colour on the walls, with white furniture although it’s a North facing room so I’m not sure if it would be too dark. (You can tell I’m not really an interior designer!)

Unfortunately, the room is one of three in this house with woodchip wallpaper. We battled woodchip once before, when we first moved unto our previous house, and it was such a struggle to strip the stuff that we never bothered tackling the other rooms that had it! But in this case, and since we plan to stay here long term, we decided that if the job was worth doing, it was worth doing properly. So we hired an industrial steamer and set to work.

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The first strips came off in large sheets so we were lulled into a false sense of security that maybe it wasn’t as bad as we remembered. But after that, every square centimetre was thoroughly steamed and scraped and steamed and scraped some more.

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Halfway through the second day we were vowing never again and suggesting paying someone to do the rest. But, we persevered and finished the job.

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Unfortunately, that was the end of our childfree time, so that’s as far as we’ve got. Another project on the WIP pile. Hopefully we’ll find time to get back to it soon.

In the meantime I’ll continue browsing Pinterest for inspiration and flipping through the Dulux brochure to try to decide on a colour. What do you think of dark blue?

 

Ganseys

On a trip up to the North Norfolk coast last weekend, I visited the small but delightful Cromer Museum. Whilst there, I noticed these amazing Fishermen’s jumpers, known as ‘Ganseys’. The knitting was so small and fine, that it’s hard to believe that they were handknit – they looked more like modern machine knitting – and some of the patterns were beautiful. It was fascinating to read about them.

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Here’s a bit of the blurb about them:

“Fishermen traditionally wear a blue woollen jumper called a ‘gansey’, which is a corruption of Guernsey.”

“Ganseys were hand-knitted ‘in-the-round’ using dark blue worsted wool to make a hard-wearing garment. The upper part was decorated with a pattern of purl and plain stitches.”

“Despite great age and years of hard wear the quality of these labours of love shines through.”

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I was also intrigued by these ‘Knitting shields’, though despite the explanation, I can’t quite picture how they would have been used.

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“The shield was tied to the waist or stuck into the waistband of an apron. The right hand needle was inserted into the end. This helped to support the weight of the gansey and steadied the needle.”

The museum also had a great exhibition about the work of Olive Edis, a female photographer around the turn of the 20th century, who also worked a war photographer during the First World War.

All in all, the museum is well worth a visit, and Cromer itself was just glorious!

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Improvisation

Pumpkin forgot to take his football kit to school today for his after school football club. Fortunately for him, he has a kind mummy who was willing to come to school early to deliver his kit and then wait around for an hour until football finished. School is a 25 minute drive away so not worth coming home in between.

Fortunately for me, this gave me a whole hour of knitting time. Or so I thought, until I read the first line of the next section of my pattern which told me to slip around a third of my stitches onto waste yarn, and I had neither spare yarn, nor scissors, nor yarn needle with me. I attempted to improvise. Spare yarn was to be found in one of my existent sets of held stitches for the sleeves. I used a key to cut the length of yarn I needed, but was stumped as to how to get the stitches onto the yarn. I was just considering using a spare needle tip ( the split one I replaced recently) to somehow thread the stitches, when I went to put away the stitch marker that was no longer required and there, joy of joys, in my stitch marker box, was a yarn needle!

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The stitches were swiftly and safely dispatched onto scrap yarn and I made the most of the remainder of my knitting time!

Is there a good way to slip stitches to scrap yarn without a yarn needle? What would you have done?

Roll on spring

 

The show is over. I miss it. We all had an absolute blast but I was utterly exhausted by the end of the week. I’m just about recovered now and the stripes are calling once more.

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The sunshine and the garden are also calling. I’m enjoying seeing what appears from the ground in our new garden. Spring bulbs fill me with joy and the blossom is beautiful!

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Dagenham Dress

This was going to be a series of work in progress posts, but since it all progressed rather quickly and to a deadline, and injuring my wrist at rehearsal a couple of weeks ago made typing difficult, it’s ended up as a fait-accompli post instead!

I’ve been rehearsing over the last few months for a production of Made in Dagenham. It’s set in the 1960’s and is based on the true story of the women workers of the Ford factory in Dagenham who went on strike for equal pay. It’s a fun show with great music and of course it requires lots of great costumes in keeping with the 60s era. My character in particular needs several different outfits and since the wardrobe mistress has her hands full costuming everyone else, I offered to have a crack at making a dress for myself.

I’ve never really sewn a garment on my own from scratch before. I did a bit of dressmaking as a teenager, though only simple skirts, and always under the tutelage of my mum. My mum and I also worked together to make my wedding dress several years ago. I’ve wanted to have a go at something a bit more ambitious ever since I got a sewing machine for Christmas a couple of years ago, but until now had only ever done simple mending jobs, or basic projects like my crochet hook roll and Pumpkin’s pencil case.

So, after a little bit of procrastinatory research, I decided the only this to do was to bite the bullet and throw myself into it. A trip to the local fabric store and I was equipped with pattern, fabric, lining material and a zip.

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I was a good girl and put the fabric straight into the washing machine when I got home. Then read the pattern properly and realised I would need a few other things. Cue another hasty trip to a different haberdashery shop for interfacing, carbon paper, tracing wheel and a rotary cutter.

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Since I was between sizes, I had a go at grading the pattern out at the waist and further at the hips. I made a toile out of the lining fabric to begin with to check the fit and ended up adjusting the grading a fair bit. The red line above shows my first attempt.

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Tin cans make excellent pattern weights!

 

I spent a long time laying the pattern out and tracing it using the carbon paper and wheel. I still took a big deep breath before I started cutting it. (Rotary cutting wheels are awesome by the way!) There were quite a lot of moments throughout the project where I found myself starting to question each new step and whether I was doing it right or was going to risk messing up what I’d already done. I just told myself to suck it up and get on with it. I’m not always very good at doing that. Often projects sit and linger when I can’t quite bring myself to do the next step for fear of messing up.

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Once I was happy with the toile I moved onto the main fabric. I thought it could be a big challenge having to do all the pattern matching, but in fact having the lines to keep me on track really helped.

Sewing the shoulder seams would have been easier if I’d fully unpicked the lining after using it as a toile. I did have to unpick it all eventually, otherwise the construction wouldn’t have worked. Pulling the whole thing right side out through the shoulder straps required some mental gymnastics, but was easy enough. I would need to think through the seams allowances better if I was doing it again, in terms of which way they lie and trimming them better before flipping it through, as they ended up being a little bulky, but that’s just how you learn, right!?

Inserting the zip was a similar story. I’ve only done a zip once before – on Pumpkins pencil case – and never an invisible zip. The first side went in fine. The second side took me a couple of attempts and then when I flipped it round I discovered it was twisted anyway, so I had to unpick that side again and reposition it before stitching again. Fortunately it went in right first time after that and I was very pleased with the pattern matching.

This was the point at which I fell over at rehearsal and sprained my wrist, so the dress rested for a week before I could get back to it. But with the show looming I had to push on. I basted the sides together and my wardrobe mistress kindly helped to check the fit and mark the hemline and it was fairly straightforward after that, just a little slow.

The hem was the bit that I procrastinate over the most I think. With everything having gone together so well up to that point, I really didn’t want to mess it up at the final hurdle. I pinned and repinned and basted and pressed and eventually took a deep breath before chopping off the excess length. I hand sewed the outer fashion fabric for a neater finish on the outside and machine stitched the lining.

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I’m incredibly proud of the finished garment especially given it’s the first time I’ve made something like this, and to wear it onstage and pretend it’s a designer outfit is a fantastic feeling. I’m absolutely loving doing the show too. I got my nails done last week to help me get into character as well. So unlike me, but they complement the dress perfectly! Here’s to more successful sewing!

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Knitting and Stitching show

We had a great day at the Knitting and Stitching Show, once we’d successfully navigated past the queue of people that definitely didn’t fit the crafting demographic! They were there for Walker Stalker which I believe is a convention for fans of the Walking Dead.

Here’s a few snapshots of our day.

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Lauren Guthrie BBC Sewing Bee finalist 2013

 

 

 

We watched Lauren Guthrie give a very good demo of working with knit fabrics. We perused the many many stands and finally made our considered purchases.

I’m hoping to have a go at making a top out of knit fabric, so I bought a set from Guthrie and Ghani which includes ball point needles and twin needles and some helpful info for working with knits. Lauren recommended the Sewaholic Renfrew top pattern as a starting point and helped me choose some fabric. I went for the Art Gallery Tomahawke striped cotton jersey.

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I also bought thread to match the jersey and some more black thread for my current project along with some new dressmaking scissors. My old pair has been used for a lot of different purposes over the years and are less than sharp these days so a new pair was definitely called for.

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Tilly also featured in the 2013 BBC Sewing Bee

My friend bought the Tilly and the Buttons book as well as her Cleo dress pattern and some other bits and bobs.

It was a great day out!