Plan B

So you know those posts I promised….a couple of new makes and a review?

It would help if all my photos were on my shiny new MacBook Pro (thankyouverymuch Mr Husband) and not on my tatty old machine.  Sigh!  Such First World problems

I’m also spending way too much time trying to quell World War Three which seems to break out Chez Stitches about every 20 seconds.  Little folk don’t take well to Daddy working away all week.

The Mr is home tomorrow.  I’ll get him to shift all the photos over.  With a fair wind I’ll be back next week.  Until then…wish me luck with rampaging small peeps.


Floored

I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth…I’m just having new floors fitted throughout the ground floor and the fireplace installed.

floored

Our home looks like a building site…of course…and all other fun stuff is on the sidelines until next week when we’ll have the sitting room and kitchen looking like we live here again.

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I can’t wait.

And then I’ll be back with a couple of new makes and a review.

See you on the other side!


Cardigan

We’re back from our Autumn half term holiday in Wales and much the better for it. It’s been 4 years nearly since our last holiday so it was well overdue.  After a delayed start for a day whilst we confirmed that the 100.4 temperature that Button was running wasn’t, in fact, scarlet fever (phew!) the week ran smoothly and we had a relaxed but still very lovely time doing pretty much nothing except walking, eating and watching movies.

Oh, I love these guys

Oh, I love these guys

Of course there was the minor incidents of small folk rampaging out of earshot and the neighbouring holiday makers knocking on our door at 6.30am begging for relief.

And The Incident of the (toy) Dragon in the Nighttime, which included a beanie baby dragon, a table lamp, and a pesky small boy, that could have ended up very badly had Button not realised that the Rubicon had been crossed and come to wake me.

That said, here are a few pics that aptly capture the real essence of our break and the beauty of the Welsh coast and countryside around Cardigan bay.  They are phone photos because very early on I decided that I wanted to actually be in this holiday rather than spending time observing it from behind the lens.  I highly recommend this strategy…making memories is more fun than simply capturing the images.

leaves

sheep

Cardigan

Cardigan

Cardigan

Cardigan

Cardigan

Cardigan

Cardigan

Searching for shells for Grandad. A very serious endeavour!

Cardigan

Llanerchaeron

Llanerchaeron

Llanerchaeron woodland walk


Tempus fugit

Balmy golden autumnal days have given way to chill and rain here in Northland. Yet still I’m sewing the last dress of summer.

polka dress

So many unfinished things at the moment.  It feels like time is simultaneously held in abeyance and winging it’s way south for the winter.

Obviously at this time of year it becomes all about the knitting and life Chez Stitches is no exception.

argyle sock

These are a work of love and I’m hoping to have them finished by the weekend, when we head off on our holidays.

hall

The decorator has arrived and the first coat of paint to seal the plaster was applied at the weekend.  I really need to get my act together as I’ve got to choose and purchase coloured paint before Saturday.

paint3

And whilst I’m at it, I’d better get the flooring, as my builder (who, serendipitously, is also my cousin) is finally free to lay the floors, build a dog den under the stairs and fit the new fireplace.

fireplace

The ground floor will look like home by Christmas.  The socks will be done.  The dress will be hemmed.  And I’ll do my best to get my last fabric sale post up this week.

Progress!


May Martin’s Sewing Bible – Review

Recently I have requested from the library a number of knitting reference books and over the next few weeks I hope to share my reviews of them with you. However, whilst in the library this week I noticed May Martin’s new book on the shelf and, obviously, swept it up in anticipation of an evening of delight spent increasing my sewing knowledge.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

I think my enthusiasm may have been premature.

Calling your book a “Sewing Bible” does somewhat set the expectations of the reader that this is going to be a reference tool of some depth and breadth.  Sadly this book falls short. It runs to 320 pages, yet only 100 of them are allocated to sewing techniques and information.  This results in each topic only being covered in summary fashion.

An example of this would be the section on “altering a pattern” which is covered in less than 1 page.  The same amount of space is given to discussing tailor’s dummies.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

Hardly “Sewing Bible” status.

The illustrations are also disappointing.  The book has many artful photographs sprinkled about the place, but illustrations are sparser and, I found, not always accurate.  Surely when stay-stitching a neckline you sew from the shoulder to the centre of the neckline on each side?

Not according to May.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

As for the “vintage” snippets of “sewing wisdom”…I’m frankly perplexed as to their function!

May Martin's Sewing Bible

So far, so not so good.

Surely the projects section, which is divided up into several topical sub-sections, and which occupies the bulk of the book, would be more inspiring?

First up…Crafts.  Table runner.  Napkins. Bunting. Christmas stocking.  Hasn’t every beginner’s sewing book for the last 5 years included a version of these.  It’s so unoriginal.  Even the slightly more imaginative projects such as the puppet theatre have been done many times before…as any 5 minute search on Pinterest will show you.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

The home furnishings section is so dull it should be prescribed as a solution for insomnia. Cushion covers, a roman blind, bag lined curtains.  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

And don’t get me started about the pleating on that curtain.  It’s just awful…not enough fabric has been used so the curtain is lacking in fullness.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

And if that didn’t work, you could always use the accessories section.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

But wait, what’s this?  Adult and children’s fashion sections!  Surely they will save the day?

Oh look…a cute shift dress. (I’m ignoring the drag lines at this point…!)

May Martin's Sewing Bible

Where’s the pattern pages?  What size does it go up to?

What?

May Martin's Sewing Bible

McCalls M6355!

You mean I have to go out and BUY THE PATTERN?

On top of the cost of the book?

And don’t sewing patterns ALREADY HAVE AN INSTRUCTION SHEET??

As Button is wont to say….What. The. What?

May Martin's Sewing Bible

I’m sorry…I just don’t think that’s good enough.

I know this post isn’t the usual upbeat review that I like to post, but this book clearly sets its stall out to be a “Sewing Bible” yet it’s very obviously a long way away from being such a thing.

May Martin's Sewing Bible

If you were a beginner sewist looking for a good sewing book to set you off on your newly discovered hobby, the title and the back cover, where May’s, not unimpressive, credentials are clearly set out, would probably be enough to persuade you to purchase this book. You’d not, of course, have enough experience to see the not inconsiderable gaps in the content. And, all mocking aside, this is my biggest gripe with this book and one which actually makes me quite cross.

At RRP £25.00 this isn’t a cheap buy. I personally think that even the Amazon discounted price of £12.50 is a bit much for a book which is, in my opinion, not much more than a triumph of style and marketing over substance. It feels very much like it’s been pulled together to take full advantage of the current upsurge in people learning to sew, and to ride on the coattails of the Sewing Bee. I’d have no qualms about this if I thought the content was fresh and inspiring and actually added something to the subject.   But I don’t feel that it does.  Add in the presumptuous title of “Sewing Bible” (there’s the sarcastic inverted commas again), and I find the whole project to be more than a little disingenuous.  Which is a real shame.

Needless to say this is one tome that won’t be making it’s way into my sewing library. Neither would I recommend it.  It’s not a patch on the good old Reader’s Digest sewing book that many of us learned to sew with, nor Tasia’s Sewtionary which has been much feted in the blogosphere over recent weeks, with very good reason.

Save your pennies, dear reader, by not buying this book.  I’d suggest that there are better ways to spend them.


And the winners of the Simplicity giveaway are…..

Helen S

and

Mother of Reinvention

Congratulations, ladies, I’ve emailed you for your postal addresses.


Autumn cleaning – the fabric sale

sale

I have had, for quite some time, the idea that a stashbusting website would be a marvellous thing.  Think Etsy but just for pre-loved fabric and yarn.  The AutoTrader of the fibre world, if you will.  But no knitted toilet roll covers or Ford Cortina’s allowed.

As that isn’t available, over the next few weeks, I’m going to be destashing here. Not just my stash, but also a selection of fabulous vintage fabrics kindly added to the pile by friends.  I need to clear space, both physical as I’m about to start doing a lot of decorating, and mentally to make headspace for my Autumn sewing plans.

There’s quite a bit of it.  So each week I’ll load up some of the pieces, with a description, cost and shipping charges.  If you’d like any of the fabric, just comment and I’ll send you a PayPal invoice and arrange for the fabric to wing it’s way to you.

The first week will be Prints and Plains – Modern Fabrics.

Week two will be Prints and Plains – Cotton and Linen.

Week Three will be Tweed Week.

Fairly self explanatory, I hope. There’ll be about a dozen or so fabrics in each of the first two weeks.  Slightly fewer in Tweed Week.

Each piece of fabric will be shipped in a sealed plastic postage bag.  Not only does this protect the fabric from water damage, but also keeps the weight, and therefore the shipping, costs down.

If you want more than one piece of fabric then I’ll happily bundle them together and get a revised shipping cost before invoicing you.

If you’d like me to hold onto a piece for you until all the fabric has been uploaded to avoid incurring additional shipping costs, again I’m more than willing to do that. Let’s face it, none of us want to spend more on postage than we absolutely need to.

All parcels will be shipped via Royal Mail.

I won’t be accepting any returns on this sale I’m afraid.  All fabrics are in excellent condition and from a smoke free home.  We do have pets but, as you can imagine, they aren’t allowed within sniffing distance of fabric (perish the thought!).

And one final thing.  At the end of each week when I load the new fabric up, I’ll remove the previous fabric post.  So if you like something, do let me know whilst the post is still up.

Now…I’d better get sorting, photographing and working out the postage.  Watch this space.


Build your sewing skills with Simplicity

If you’re a regular reader here you’ll know by now that I love a good sewing class or tutorial.  So when the lovely folk at Simplicity contacted me to ask if I’d like to tell you about their new Masterclass Webinars…well, how could I say no?

At the moment there are two, one featuring cushions, the other a tote bag.  They are, only short videos so you can easily watch them over a quiet tea break, but I think they could benefit from being slightly longer so that the editing is a wee bit smoother.

That said, these are perfect for beginner sewists who are looking to expand their repertoire.  There are more videos planned to follow on from these…a bridesmaids dress, inserting a zip, a table runner, and an apron masterclass, and I think these will also appeal to those of us who have a little more experience.

Even so, I’m always keen to see someone else sewing. You never know when you might learn a brilliant new tip that will either save you time or make your sewing look more professional, so these are definitely worth checking out.

This is the bag pattern used in the video:

6095_env_front_1

I can think of so many uses for that bag….beach…baby…swimming at the pool…taking your knitting to Stitch ‘n’ Bitch…carrying your sewing to class…the list goes on.  It’s such a roomy tote.  And with the help of the tutorial, even a beginner sewist could tackle this project with confidence.

Also, take a look at that cute dress (which is drafted for wovens, btw).  Obviously it’s just a perfect everyday summer dress, but as the weather here is cooling down I can also easily see versions B and C in winter wools, layered over a polo neck sweater or crisp shirt, paired with cosy tights and boots.  Sew the tote in leather (faux or real, dependent on your nerve and budget) and it will take you through the winter months too.

Chic, no?

Oh, I’m glad you agree, because I’ve got two copies to give away.  Well, after all the knitterly love over the last week or so, how could I leave the seamstresses out of the fun?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

But if that doesn’t float your boat, do check out the Simplicity website, because they’ve got a half price sale on at the time of publishing this post.  That could be dangerous to the old bank balance.

Have fun either way!

 

SimplicityNewLook provided the patterns for this giveaway, but all opinions are my own.  And no…I’m not getting a commission for pattern sales either.  I just don’t see why I should be the only one with too many patterns landing on the doormat these days!


Simplicity 1606 – review

Simplicity 1606-1

It’s scandalous that it’s about a year since I received this pattern.  This review is well overdue!

I’ve spoken about the alterations that I made to the pattern, and can only reiterate that I really, really like this design and would definitely recommend it and suspect I’ll be making this one again! I can’t comment about the instructions, because I didn’t follow them.

I know…that’s no help to anyone!

The fabric, whilst lovely to look at, was a pig to sew.  Shifty, stretchy, just generally a nuisance and a right royal PITA.  It’s also pilling a little after just a couple of wears. Which is a pain and makes me glad this is a dress that I’m not planning to wear every day.

Even so…and taking into account the creasiness of this because it’s linen…I think this dress is definitely worth the hassle.

simplicity 1606-1-1

Although I’ve gained a significant amount of weight this year* this dress reminds me of the me that wore the Giverny dress.  That, my friends is a very good thing indeed.

Simplicity 1606-1-3

We had such a laugh taking these photos. The Husband and I were on our way to our favourite local Italian bistro for a romantic dinner a deux, and stopped en route at this picturesque archway, which is, in fact the entrance to a not particularly picturesque nursing home.

It is, however, on the main road through the village and caused much amusement and amazement on the part of passing motorists, as I posed by the wall and The Husband stood in the middle of the road, snapping shots like a veritable David Bailey.

I didn’t care…I was in the company of my gorgeous hubby, in a pretty frock, en route for a glass of wine and a bowl of lobster ravioli.

Simplicity 1606-1-4

That’s enough to make any girl smile!

*thank you very much, medication. I’m glad to see the back of you now.  And hopefully my toes in the not too distant future!


How to make damson vodka

damson vodka-1-5

When the husband and I honeymooned, Alice-who-isn’t-a-cat packed us a hamper full of goodies, including a bottle of sloe gin.  Then Lara Croft gave us a Christmas hamper full of fruit liquors that I can’t remember the names of but remember how much we enjoyed them.

Hic!

My conversion to fruit liquors was complete so it was very odd that when my friend Linda picked me a bag of wild damsons last autumn  I planned to make jam from. But the way to hell is paved with good intentions and the damsons have lurked at the bottom of the freezer ever since.

Until today…when I saw sense and realised that what they really want to be is damson vodka.

If the damsons actually want to be jam, well it’s just hard luck, because they’re going to be vodka. I’ve been completely spoiled by the generosity of friends, and quite frankly, the weather has a wonderful and much anticipated autumnal nip to it at the moment that has me thinking of warming drinks that aren’t necessary tea.

At this point in proceedings I need to own up that I’ve never actually made the stuff…just happily slurped sipped a glass or two on a cold wintery evening to lubricate the knitting and ward off chills.  But I figured it couldn’t be that hard.

I was right.

Three ingredients.

damson vodka-1-3

Four if you count time.

Vodka.  Of course!  Although you could also use gin if you’re that way inclined.  It will be equally wondrous.

damson vodka-1-1

Damsons.  Or it would be plain ole “vodka”, amiright?

Note the soft, wrinkly skins…the freezer has done all the work and I don’t need to prick the little darlings.  Bonus!

damson vodka-1

Sugar.  I used good old fashioned caster sugar.

damson vodka-1-2

Put them all together in a the biggest Kilner jar you can find, sit back and wait.  And wait.  Aaaaaaand wait a wee bit more.

damson vodka-1-4

Oh, how creepy is that photo?

Hugh Fearnly-Whitingstall’s recipe tells me this will reap about 1.5 litres of damson vodka.

Time will tell.