Wednesday 27 April 2011

Makes for Me

What do you know it, I never post pictures of myself- who like doing that?  And then two posts come along together!  I made this skirt a few weeks ago from the Amy Butler Barcelona pattern.  I just knew the shape would fit and the 4 panel raw edge effect is simple and breaks up the block of fabric on a  long A line skirt.
The linen was a lucky car boot bargain, there was just enough to make this! The lining (I know you can't see it but it is there and makes the skirt hang nicely) was a lightweight navy cotton from a charity shop and the vintage lace trim finishing the hem was another thrifty find.  I have worn this a lot.  I am technically capable of drafting my own clothes patterns- I did an HNC in fashion 10 years ago- but it is a faff, I don't have a big enough surface apart from the floor and now I have this I can trace off the pieces and make variations on a theme.  A table cloth version is next.
I have been sitting on this unbelievably lovely Yuwa kitchen print for an age, waiting for inspiration to strike.  I decided that a bag would be the best use of it-  I'll use it a lot and thus I will get to see this print frequently, it will feel like a close companion.  The print is still available at this European store.
I only had half a yard and it is a heavier weight so along with a bit of old Parker Knoll upholstery fabric, some polka dot cotton and tea dyed vintage lace it quickly came together to make a good size bag/purse- depending which side of the pond you are on.  The shape was largely based on a Pochee (Vol 9) pattern.  I don't like fussy bags and I am not keen on interfacing, this has none and is an easy user friendly shape.  I added the darted pockets which make for good storage and I always add a key fob to any bag I make.
Next time I make a bag I'll do a tutorial on the pockets, they are not hard and they are handy for storing mobile phones and granola bars.  
Another double bank holiday coming up in the UK, this is my kind of working week x
sib blog

Saturday 23 April 2011


Every Easter I make Simnel cake.  We are not religious but I like family tradition and this is one of ours. I use Nigella Lawson's recipe but instead of a circle of marzipan in the centre, I cube the marzipan, freeze it and add it with the dried fruit.   Lula makes the 12 apostles represented by marzipan balls
and then eats Judas before I toast them under the grill.  It is a delicious lemony fruit cake and the addition of Megan's fancy cinnamon give it an extra kick!  Yummy.
Today, a hotly awaited parcel arrived from USA courtesy of the lovely, helpful Ali ( I am so grateful to her, check out the link, she has a great blog with really good tutes).  The new Denyse Schimdt new DS Quilts fabric line , available exclusively at Joanns USA fabric store chain.
It is a fusion of  her previous Flea Market Fancy/ Katie Jump Rope lines and general feedsack vintage designs.  Totally lovely, I have never had so many FQs at once.  My fav are the last three, far right on the pic above.  You may well be able to find some on Etsy
I am going off at a tangent now, but a great recent find is this make up mineral powder foundation by Lily Lolo.  I found out about it in India Knight's Thrift Book.  The book is a variable read but some of the tips are worth knowing and I found the beauty section incredibly helpful.  She highlights this product in particular and I bought the 'Light' sample set that you see below- includes a baby buki synthetic brush and a set of pale colours to find the perfect shade.

My skin is incredibly reactive, I can't ever wear foundation, I have to use a particular brand of sun block  so I don't get spots etc. etc.  I usually end up with concealer, Dr Hauschka loose powder, Dandelion brightening powder by Benefit  and hope for the best.  I don't like heavy make up, it makes me feel too painted.  The Lily Lolo foundation powder goes on in swirls with the little brush.  It almost feels like you are lightly buffing your face-there is a video to show you how to master the art.  And then magically your skin looks all balanced, even, natural.  I cannot tell you how good this stuff is- even for a pale face like me, I can find the right shade! A full size pot is £12.49- bargain and there is a plethora of sample sizes and other make up if that is your thing.  You can see from the pic that my make up is pretty minimal but believe me without the powder my skin does not look like that! 
That's enough revelation for today, taking that picture was a challenge in more ways than one.
  Reading the comments on the last post made me teary at times, what a lovely, supportive readers I have and some good advice too.  Thankyou and happy Easter x
sib blog

Friday 22 April 2011


I had a little blogging wobble last week, hence the blog new look- thanks for the positive feedback by the way.  I read other blogs, the writers are so funny, witty, edgy- my writing is none of those things.  Unsurprisingly, I don't like writing.  My degree was English literature,  I loved the research and the reading but not the exposition of my ideas in words.   I'd much rather make stuff to get my thoughts out there. Socially, I am quite a quiet person.  In my teaching job I have a professional persona of hostess, bonhomie and chat and class leader, but in my private life I work better in small groups not party size crowds.   I don't like to offend so I rein in some of my language- I think I need to let it go a bit.   Online I was thinking this was making me a bit bland and insipid, not me at all.  I am a mix of reserved (typical English style) and radical and I need to express and reveal more than I have done.  Nothing is worse than being repressed.  That's all a bit solopsistic and if I was big sis talking to my younger brother I'd be telling him to grow some and move on.
I have been working for a block for Miriam in Bee Europa.  She asked for a block responding to this painting.  Nice stimulus and she sent a pile of linen, Hope valley and shot cotton scraps.  This was my inital sketch- back of an envelope, I am not always disciplined enough to go get my sketch book and this was to hand.
I found this pad in my local craft shop, hiding on the bottom of a shelf,  so much easier than the huge sheets of graph paper for block design.
Traced this out on to the reverse of freezer paper for piecing.
Finished result.  The little navy circle was a tricksy thing to piece but perseverance won out.
It's time for my close up Mr DeMille
sib blog

Wednesday 20 April 2011

North South Divide

This seems a slightly parochial subject, but even in a small country like the UK there are big differences between the North and South.  I live in the Southwest, pretty, hilly, not many people although I am in a busy urban lite bit, and we just returned form a visit to Damian's parents who are in the Northwest, big flat, lots of people.   The distance between us is about 260 miles. Back in the Victorian hey day of industry, the cotton mills were based in the North and even now fabric is easy to come by and at times unbelievably cheap.  Turquoise linen £2 per metre at the market, lovely soft quality too.
The shot green linen- one thread is pistachio green, the other amber golden brown is from Abakhans.   A huge great length for £6- UK sewers will appreciate the bargain of this purchase. I have mentioned Abakhans before, the website experience is not the same as being in in their bricks and mortar shop.  Big wire baskets of random craft fabrics meet you as you walk in the doors and you buy by weight or length.  There are lots of old Moda fabrics, other fabric companies odds and ends and seconds.   I found a big piece of green houndstooth check from  one of my favourite Moda ranges 1974  by Urban Chiks as well as a bit of Chloe's closet and a great little print by Sharon Kessler for Vera Bradley (both new names to me) but I love the pattern.  I have plans for the first two for my partner's little clutch pouch in Pretty Little Pouch Swap on Flickr
I couldn't resist these measuring cups- not in Abakhans but a garden centre/ lifestyle store/ cook shop kinda place.  I love nesting things although strangely not Russian dolls.
And these  cute tape measures were in Hobby craft, I was stocking up on Needle grip it pads and these were at the till, one for me, one for my partner.
Enjoying the new blog look?  Cleaner, fresher and about as restrained as I can get.  I struggled not to hang a million bits and pieces on the baker's twine but I try to remember less is more and stuff generally looks better that way, being selective, paring down, is all to the good.
sib blog

Monday 18 April 2011

The Kindness of Bloggers

I never fail to be surprised at what a kind bunch bloggers are.  I know Kaelin (The Plaid Scottie) from the original Modern Swappers group on Flickr- now Make Mine Modern, and from Bee (a little bit Japanese) quilting bee.  She said she had bought something thinking of me and I was so nicely surprised to receive this a few days ago.
In my Bee month I had sent Kaelin a scrap of scottie dog fabric in with the block fabrics and in return she had included a bit of giant strawberry print in her block which was very cute.  This parcel was out of the blue for me and so pretty.  Beautiful napkins and the cutest felt mini clothespins.  Kaelin is such a kind person generally and I felt really touched that she had thought of this for me.  Her blog is a lovely mix of humour, fabric and crafty makes- this is a particularly funny post.  
Plus, I returned home today from a trip visiting Damian's family to this little goodie from Amelie's recent giveaway.

I haven't been able to do my usual blog reading so this was a total surpise I didn't know I had won!  Check out this wonderful block she did for the Bee Europa quilt bee
If you are a UK quilter like Amelie and me, how about joining the  Brit Quilt group on Flickr, open to any UK dwelling stitchy quilt makers, you might find a like minded quilter on your doorstop, or just find more online fabric fixated friends.
And a last minute request- I am thinking of getting a Blackberry phone- any recommendations which type?  I would like to be able to blog on it as well as emails, and internet browsing.

sib blog

Sunday 17 April 2011

Battered, worn out, in need of a make over?

Not me, although that is debatable on some mornings, but this little G-Plan table which has seen better days.
Dry across the top, many cups of tea and coffee have left their mark.
As for the sides, dry, flaking veneer made it look a bit tatty.  So I got to work with PVA and a little brush to secure the veneer edges.  I filled the unevenness with wood filler applied by the best tool, my fingers.
 Sanded  it a little, primed and painted with some egg shell that I used for my sewing storage shelves.
And now it is all shiny, gleaming and sexy looking!  Buffed, waxed and polished. Morells oak coloured wax  to colour and Effax leather balm to moisturise and shine.   
Effax is the most amazing product for wood and leather.  It is a mix of bee's wax, lanolin and avocado oil.  It leaves a lovely smell as well as the glowing finish.  I don't normally take on furniture projects as lots of sanding really hurts my hands, but a little mini makeover is OK and I am really pleased with the results.  It whispers rather than shouts retro so Damian is happy too- he is not the biggest fan of the Mid Century modern aesthetic, but I can make some of it work for him and get to indulge myself.
The paint colour reminds me of my ongoing love affair with teal and turquoise.  We are replacing our kitchen after 13 years of the old kitchen which is starting to show its age.  Nor surprisingly I am going for a retro feel- matt cream units, integrated aluminum strip handles and genuine Formica worktops.   I am planning the refit in two stages and trying to conserve existing tiles and layout to keep costs down.  But, the Formica is worth the splurge.  Feast your eyes on these beauties!
Now as much as I love the middle two woth their squiggles and scratchy lines, (and I love them a lot) the far right colour will work better.  It has a dimple dot surface, a bit like Minky dot plush fabric but concave rather than raised, and just look at the colour.
Turquoise makes me happy.

Wednesday 13 April 2011


I  recently won some crazy cute Japanese Kawaii fabrics from Kats recent giveaway.  They are perfect for little girls- (and maybe big girls too).  I started with a gift for my baby niece who I meet for the first time this week!
I have been wanting to make this pattern from Jenny Ryan's Sew Darn Cute for ages and the Japanese fabrics were perfect for this project.  Add a bit of linen and out comes a rabbit/bear cuddly.   The eyes and the buttons are all made felted wool and I used Sashiko threads to stitch them on I just know the ears and paws are perfect for a baby to chew.  Next Lula's turn, a gathered clutch using Anna from Noodlehead's tute.  I love her patterns, the shapes are crisp and simple and just what I look for in a pattern.  I know some of you think I am some sort of super sewer but any sort of zippy pouch always takes me ages and a lot of unpicking.
As usual this one drove me a little crazy.  It is the zip that fells me, or more accurately the zipper foot.  I have a Janome Jem Platinum sewing machine.  It is small and light which is why I bought it as I used to have out it away each time I sew.  I love it with the exception of the zipper foot- it is on the right in the pic below.

It is just too lumpy.  It is hard to adjust where you stitch along the zipper as it likes to sit next to the zip- sometimes closer than I would like.  This leads to problem with a lined pouch as the lining then has a tendency to stick in the zip and needs hand stitching to keep the fabric away from the zip.
When I stitch the side seams you need a zipper foot to overcome the bulk on one side and the Janome foot is too wide again.  I resorted to my Feather weight, Minty, and its lovely skinny zipper foot (on the left in the foot pic). Minty did a lovely job but only when I had remembered how to use her- that took an hour and a half to refresh my addled brain with threading, getting the needle the right way, threading the needle right to left etc- all basic stuff but I had forgotten it all.
It finished pouch is pretty though and Lula is very happy with it.  Sometimes I see little stacks of pouches for sale on Flickr and other people's blogs and I marvel at the apparent speed and accuracy and uniformity with which they can produce so many.  I can produce detailed log cabin all day long but zippy pouches I fear will always elude me!

Sunday 10 April 2011

Car boot Sale Explained

I have been asked by blog readers outside the UK what is a car boot sale?  So here is my explanation.  I arrive 7.00am Sunday mornings and most sellers are setting up or, on a sunny day like today, still arriving.  This location is a livestock market and 'park and ride scheme' car park out of town so it is big.
Each stall holder pays for the stall, it ranges from £7 for a car up to £15 for a trader.  The money is split between the council and local charities.  The charities go into a draw and when it is their week they provide volunteers who organise the parking and collect the money.  
If you arrive early you can find the best bargains.  Straightaway I see this, 
 I already have a version of this but with a bigger cabinet and more drawers, otherwise I would be tempted.  To be honest I was tempted with this one but I do not have the space!
Most of the stalls look like this.  People sell their kid's stuff, clothes, household bits and pieces etc.
There are traders too.  This is a German bakery and I get bread here most weeks.  They have a great selection and regularly sell out.
There are a lot of plant sellers, some are individuals with green fingers and enough surplus of plants, fruit or veg to sell, some are traders who are there every week.  I buy my plants here rather than the DIY superstore places.  The sellers have lots of expertise and are willing to share it, and the prices are cheap. 
This was a whole trailer of rhubarb!  The seller comes every year and sells produce he has grown, runner beans, chard, apples.  It is the first time I have seen him in a while.
This is where I get many of my fabric finds, the rag stall.  It is a mixture of household linens- duvets, curtains etc on the floor and clothes on board tables either side.  There is a big pile of house clearance boxes to rummage in too.  At 7.50 am, a crowd of regulars (including me) stand around this pile and around the clothes tables until the stall holder rings the bell at 8.00 am and then it is a crazy frenzy of mad fabric obsessed women. He started early this week, I got there just in time!  This is the remains after we all dived in and pulled out the good stuff!  
I talked to the lady who had this stuffed cat sitting on her car.  She said her husband always put it out for good luck.  She told me the story of a women whom she met a couple  of months ago who wanted to get pregnant and asked to touch the cat for good luck.  A few weeks later she came back pregnant!
There were a lot of sewing machines today, I must have seen ten as I walked round.
The seller on this stall is a lovely lady and I always stop and chat with her.  She has an incredible supply of vintage buttons and sewing notions.  I bought some buttons from her today- you'll see those later.

There are other random stalls, this one sold bikes, car repair manuals and lawn mowers.
There are pretty vintage style stalls too.  These are nice to look at but often expensive.
After a slow start, I did have bumper finds.  A massive stack of vintage cotton sheets- some unused and all in excellent condition.  They were from the rag stall.
I love these pretty tea plates, there were a little stack for 50p, they match nicely with the linens as well, should I want to eat cake in bed.
This was a cute little tin with its cocktail motif.
The buttons came from the stall you saw earlier and the cotton tape I found for 20p at another stall.
The lady showed me these buttons a couple of weeks ago and I had to buy them today- they reminded me of ducks!  The effect is lost once the stitch is in to hold them on but I probably won't use them, I like them like this and they are very tactile too.
So now I hope you are better informed!  This is a big boot sale and buyers and sellers drive from all around to come.  I am lucky, I live 10 minutes drive from it.  We thought about moving house a while back and this was seriously one of my considerations for staying!   As I come so often it is nice to get to know regular stall holders.  It is a friendly, quirky place- lots of families, dogs, even a ferret on a lead has been seen on some weeks.  And I always find something, a great place for a bargain!
sib blog