Saturday, 31 October 2009


So... I've been absent for a few days. Hubby and I've been staying with my parents near London, taking advantage of a wedding present we were given for a lunch river cruise on the Thames and a trip on the London Eye. Whilst I do have access to the internet at theirs, I've been trying really hard to prioritise my real life connections over my virtual ones, and part of that is spending time with family first and foremost, and updating my blog and Facebook second!

I'm gonna give you a bullet point update of the things I've been up to of late, then I can fill you in in more detail over the next few days.
-Made birthday cake and present for one of my best friends
-Did a pregnancy photo shoot of one of my other best friends
-Made soap (yes, I still haven't told you about that, have I?)
-Made Sloe Gin
-Did some tailoring for my sister
-sent off two job applications and a bunch of CVs
-Went on the aforementioned London trip

See? Told you I'd been busy!

I can tell you about the tailoring now, since it's a simple story and I forgot to take any photos to go with it. My sis started her first job on the Monday just gone and, in anticipation of this, bought herself an entire new wardrobe. Insane amounts of clothing. Anyway, due to the family trait of short arms and legs, which we both inherited, two of the pairs of trousers she'd bought were too long, even though she wears 4 inch heels and is only a UK size 6 anyway.

As well as this she had a suit jacket with really cheap, plasticky looking buttons on it. For the small remuneration of £10 I replaced the buttons with some amazing Art Deco style pewter effect ones out of my mum's button box and took up both pairs of trousers. This benefitted both of us, because she can't/won't sew and a tailor would charge her a fortune for the same services.

Unfortunately the task was rather more onerous that it needed to be, since I have no overlocker and it took forever to get the tension right for the zig-zag stitch on my mum's Singer. Plus both pairs of trousers were slightly stretch, prone to fraying and my sister is very particular about her clothes - scary job! Still, I think I did an OK job, using two lines of zig-zag stitch instead of overlocking, then doing a simple overhand whip-stitch to hem it. I could have done what I generally do when I take up a hem and turned it over twice before whip-stitching, but that can create a bit of a lumpy hem and since these were work clothes I needed them to look as smart as possible. I wish I had taken pictures, but even more I wish that I had an overlocker... Though a working sewing machine of my own would be a good start!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Technology Fail

So... I'm making this cute little skirt apron for my friend's birthday. It's bright scarlet cotton, lovely and crisp, all gathered with a deep waistband - very '50s. It should have taken me just a couple of hours to knock up, but unbeknownst to me, my sewing machine (which I have been waiting so eagerly to use) is dead and lifeless.

I was so excited about having my own sewing machine and, after the teeniness of our little flat, the space to use it, but it was not to be. My darling husband performed resusitative surgery on it, but it was not to be. A new fuse would not fix it. It may be the motor. Boo :-(

So I've been hand stitching the whole thing - good job I'm a neat and speedy sewer. It's nearly all finished now - thank God, but I may have to scale back my plans for decoration, unfortunately. I was going to applique beautiful flowers and letters on the front saying 'Domestic Goddess'... Not sure what to do now, but I'll think of something - I'm gonna have to make myself one too in white or pale yellow - it's so cute! I'm also going to use the stiff red cotton to make myself one of those lovely '50s dresses - stunning or what?

Photos to follow!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Fabric Shopping

Just had a great idea for some pressies for a couple of my girlfriends, so going to buy some fabric so I can make them up. Left it a wee bit late for one of them, as it's her b-day on Saturday and I'm going to be seeing her then, but oh well! I can get it done - what with the wonders of modern technology (sewing machine) and a fast-approaching deadline. Nothing is more motivational!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Pretty Pattern Madness!

So I went a little crazy today. My 'friend' (who shall remain nameless) sent me a link to the most beautiful midnight blue satin evening dress, 1950s style, which she knows I adore. This dress was a piffling £150 -- a sum which makes me blanch slightly to think of spending at the moment, when hubby and I are teetering so precariously on the edge of solvency after a few months of, frankly, insolvency.

Anyway, I mentioned this to the lovely ladies at the D2E forum, hoping one of them would be able to turn up a lovely pattern or something. Well, they didn't as such, but their suggestions got me Googling and I rediscovered a site I had browsed obsessively a long while back - the marvellous Sewing World (don't visit that link unless you want to have a massive attack of the 'I wants'). They stock all the usual pattern makers, including the divine Vintage Vogue range: a reprinted selection of the original, stunning 1940s and '50s dresses, hats and coats patterns that are so chic and feminine and classic that I basically wanted them all, but managed to talk myself down to four...

That's right. I bought four dress patterns (see one of them below). Now, they weren't hugely costly, but they weren't exactly bargain basement either, this is Vogue we're talking about here. However. I reckon I just have to make one evening dress and I'll have made a saving. Even a really beautiful satin in the right amounts for a 1950s cocktail dress will still come to less than £150, right - unless I get some very rare silk and I don't think that's going to happen on my rusty and long-awaited return to dressmaking. Anyway - one evening dress and I'll have definitely broken even, so any dress I make from the patterns after that will be the cost of fabric only - marvellous! Plus a few cotton day dresses will give me more scraps for patchwork.

As the final cherry on the cake I was discussing toiles (or muslins) with Barb from the D2E forum and she suggested that one make up the toile from a cheap, pretty printed cotton, then if it goes wrong you still won;t be very out of pocket and can probably fix it fairly easily, but if it (hopefully) goes right then you have a lovely day dress to wear and can make your evening dress in the happy knowledge that you test drove the pattern already.

Even more cleverly Barb suggested making the toile out of a lightweight lining satin, so the dress is fully lined. Tack that in with a few judicious slip stitches and it'll mean that (unless God forbid you get something down the front of the dress) you only need remove and wash the lining, rather than having to worry about the whole frock being washed.

I'm so excited about those patterns and I can't wait for them to arrive! I just hope they don;t go AWOL in the postal strike we're being threatened with.

Now I know what's next on my wish list... A beautiful, multi-tiered net petticoat... (unless there's a pattern for that, too!)

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Confessions of a Naughty Housewife

No, you filthy minded lot, not those kind of confessions and not that kind of naughty. Honestly, what's wrong with you?

No, the kind of confessions I mean are the sort where you spend all day at home alone, supposedly taking tender loving care of home, hearth and husband - a very Nazi kind of ideal, you know - Kinder, Kuche, Kirche. Anyway, instead of industriously scrubbing away at the kitchen floor, or whatever other fanciful notion he has of how you spend your time, you actually went to the library, found a copy of your favourite trashy author's new book and whiled away the afternoon on the sofa with the book, a duvet, both the warm and snuggly cats and, um, well, six packets of Maltesers (albeit mini ones). Dear God, I hope my husband doesn't read this.

Well days like this are fairly rare, not more than once a week, I swear ;-) But the last thing you can do is let hubby come home and find you on the sofa, the place a tip and no dinner ready for his hungry working-all-day belly. So just about the time he's due back you jump to your feet and think "well, I'd better at least get supper going." You rush into the kitchen, hasten some potatoes into the oven or whatever and then realise the state of things.

OK, if you just empty the cold greasy water out of the sink and refill it with all the dirty things and hot soapy water then the counter won;t be fillwed with stuff and it'll look like you've done something. Since you're doing that you may as well put all the clean things away - the clear space will make it look really under way and efficient. Hrm, now you've put the clean stuff away you may as well actually wash up the stuff in the sink -- there! That's better. No wipe the counter down and put the ketchup away. Cool, the kitchen looks well kept now. Luckily you made the bed when you got dressed, but the sitting room is a dump - sewing stuff everywhere, the sofa throw dishevelled thanks to you and the cats and cushions everywhere. Two minutes work and the room looks very different. Amazing how a heap of sewing stuff looks so much better than a scattered mess...

So there you have it -- my secret to domesticity. Run around and do all the obvious, visible stuff in the half hour before he gets home, then it'll look like you were slaving all day -- but don;t let him catch you doing anything big! Fine if you're stirring a big pot of food, or maybe hanging out the washing or doing a little light ironing, but do not get caught up to your armpits in three days' worth of washing up or he'll know that you've just left it all to the last minute and won't be impressed at all.

On the other hand you do want him to know you're constantly striving for an orderly house, so try and find some small thing he can catch you in the middle of!

And do remember - since you're in the position of being a kept woman there's nothing wrong with having a lazy day to relax, as long as he's not having to take up the slack when he gets home then why not? He'd almost definitely do the same thing if he was in the lucky position to be able to stay at home all day without the pressure of work.

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Philosophy of 'Homemade'

Once upon a time, many moons ago, my mum and I went on a jaunt into the countryside. We drove around picturesque countryside and villages, eventually stopping to explore one more fully. It was a charming place, filled with tumbledown cottages, leaning villas and a heavy stone church.

Wandering through a back passage into a little courtyard we happened upon a farm produce type shop, selling local honey and jams, some cuts of meat and, taking up an entire counter, "Homemade Cakes".

I give it inverted commas, because each cake was labelled, very clearly, with the handwritten moniker of "Homemade" and boy, didn't they look it. It was as if someone had made the perfect cake, then tipped it sidewards to make the whole thing lean and the icing drip, then pushed a thumb into it in a couple of judicious spots. You'd have no trouble passing this off as one you'd made yourself, believe me, though I'm sure they still tasted delicious.

Ever since then my darling mum and I have used "homemade" (with unspoken, yet clearly delineated inverted commas around it) to gently mock and denigrate any item we've produced which is, shall we say, less than restaurant standard!

I tell you this, because it is something I shall refer to in the future and is not always entirely complimentary, especially when directed towards myself. It's not cruel, though, just a gentle tease, because homemade, whether "homemade" or professional looking, is always better and you should know that I truly believe that. Besides, the unique and individual appearance of "homemade" items give them a charm all of their own... or so I like to think ;-)

Sunday, 18 October 2009


Hubby is free today and has promised his assistance with the soapmaking - bless him. Seems like I might actually get it done today!

More later!

Friday, 16 October 2009


So I was all set to make my soap yesterday, but the weather wasn't having any of it. Making up the lye water releases a lot of toxic fumes and, due to the size of my little galley kitchen, I needed to do this step outside, but it rained constantly all day.

OK, fine, I used it as an opportunity to collect rain water to use in the soapmaking and felt very proud of myself for seizing the day etc and getting on with the spicy chinese chicken soup I've been meaning to make.

Well today I woke up, bright and perky, the sun was shining, I had everything i needed, the moulds are all ready - perfect! Today I have a crack at it, for definite... or not. The brand new digital scales that I bought two days ago will not work, not for love nor money. Hubby put new batteries in it for me last night and it worked just fine, but this morning I press the 'on' button and nothing. I could scream with frsutration. I could have done it w/o the stick blender, but not w/o the digital scales as, according to this website, weights must be very accurate.

Oh well, guess I'll finish the soup, do some knitting and alter the dress that could look better with some minor modifications. Still useful, just not what I had planned.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Patchwork Dilemma

I was rootling through a basket my mum dug out for me of fabric scraps, sewing equipment and suchlike and in it was a project I started in about October 2003, I guess this is the time of year when my mind turns to patchwork...

Anyway, this project consists of 20 large patches made from 6 hexagons of a flowery fabric with a centre hexagon of yellow cotton - each one resembling a large flower. Some of these 'flowers' have white hexagon patches surrounding them, indicating how I was intending to join the 20 into a whole. Anyway, I laid them out on the floor in front of me and had a good look.

Firstly, I don't think I have enough patches for the pattern to look balanced. At the moment it runs 2 patches, 3 patches, 2 patches, 3 patches (going from right to left in the piccie above), so I'm either going to need another 2 or another 3 'flowers' depending whether I add them to the 'top' or the 'bottom'. Secondly I'm not sure if the length and width are large enough for this to work on a double bed, which is what I had originally intended it for I believe. Finally, and most damning of all, sweet and cottagey as the delicate floral prints are, they don't really tone in with the way I've decorated the house, which is plain, minimal, with blocks of solid colour... more trendy, basically, than this sweet, old-fashioned design of mine from 6 years ago. So here's the question - what do I do with it now?

- Finish it as a double and be damned, perhaps my tastes will change, or we'll move house and it'll fit in better
- Finish it as a single and keep it for if I have a little girl in the future
- Turn it into a number of cushions, aprons, whatevers and gift them to people, hoping I can find people with similar tastes. If I do this I'll need more suggestions for the 'whatevers'.
- Finish it and gift it to someone as a wedding present... I've actually just thought of a friend who might like it... although I'm not certain whether they would and they're not actually engaged, so...

Answers on a postcard please...

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Note To Self

I figure it'd be harder to lose notes to myself if I leave them here, rather than scribbling them on a scrap of paper, so here it is.
Cheap, unusual yarn.

One can also unpick sweaters bought from charity shops, as long as you can find something suitable...

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Almost forgot...

I ordered those glass bottles, but when they arrived one of them had smashed and broken and powdered glass was inside all the other bottles as well as sprinkledliberally over the carpet and table. I contacted Baldwins to let me know and they got back to me immediately, offering to replace the broken bottle and send a voucher for the inconvenience. Well, it was an inconvenience, but there's only so much you can do to protect glass and they've dealt with the matter promptly, politely and efficiently, so I would have no hesitation in recommending them to others. besides, theirs was the best price I could find. Definitely worth a look if you need supplies of any kind in the herbal/homemade cosmetics and containers way, though their speciality appears to be natural remedies, essential oils and other natural products.

Foraging from Surrey...

Am staying with the parents down in sunny (hah!) Surrey at the moment and couldn't resist the urge to take a bag or two along on the dog walk this afternoon. Well what do you know? Despitethe more temperate nature of the Thames Valley, there were still rosehips *and* blackberries to be had. Even weirder a number of the rosehips were this strange purple-black colour. According to this Danish website these colour hips are just as edible as the scarlet sort and belong to the Burnet or Scotch rose. Well knock me down with a feather - I was having some of those, so I collected all that were still good and made a mental note to try again next year. I wonder what I should amke from my black rose hips?

In other news - one of the other regular dog walkers saw me foraging and pointed out some sloes I'd missed and a hazel/cob nut tree that I was too late for, but might consider checking out next year. She had a good point, perhaps the later season of the Midlands might produce some cob nuts or chestnuts when I go back? She also offered me a glut of crab apples she has at the moment - excellent! My jelly is so delicious I'd love to make some more - what a success. Apparently she has some Medlars in her garden, too. Not quite ripe, yet, but mine when they are - marvellous. I've ehard of these but am not quite sure what to do with them. I have a suspicious they're a quince like fruit, so maybe a jelly or cheese from them?

Finally, as I was leaving the rec, I spotted a few small, orange coloured fruit that looked edible and Medlar-Lady helped me identify them as small, but tasty plums. If I pop back tomorrow when I have a bit more time then I could gather up a few of those and make a delicious plum jam - nothing could be nicer!


Friday, 2 October 2009

Note to Self

Going away this weekend, then will be away for a few more days visiting my parents, so I boiled up the rosehips and am freezing the juice to make syrup from when I get back. 1 1/2 pints of rosehip juice.

The second straining of crab apple juice got me 3/4 pint.

Will do stuff with them next week!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Self is not quite sufficient enough... yet

I tried my hardest to collect all the jars and bottles myself for the various potions I'm concocting, but there's only so much you can do in a month and I had a massive clearout when we moved house at the end of August...

Next year I'll do better, because I'll have a whole year to stock up and beg/borrow/steal glass jars and bottles, but for the time being I had to bite the bullet and buy a whole lot of small glass bottles to put my syrups and cordials in.

It wasn't cheap, the bottles worked out at 55p each with postage and packing included, but I'm going to try and sell half of them on, who needs 84 150ml bottles, huh?

Anyone need 42 150ml glass bottles?