Monday, 19 December 2016

Random Bits

I had a really good few weeks of posting regularly then I had this insane amount of traffic that was clearly spam or whatever you call it, coming from certain countries I know it wasn't genuine as I researched it a bit a while ago.  The thing is you are not supposed to click on any of the links in your traffic stats as that is where you then get diverted to unsavoury sites and hacked or something. How very sad that all is, anyway it sort of puts me off posting anything.  It is still happening a bit now as I can tell with the odd names of where hits are coming from so unfortunately if there are any interesting new views with blogs I would like I will probably not know as I daren't look!

We finished work for Christmas on Friday so it is nice and relaxed around here.  I have a big pile of shirts to alter for someone, a dress to make and a shirt for me. 
Earlier I made these gf vegan mince pies from the Naturally Sassy blog they are really nice and the home made fruit mince smells lovely while cooking I have a lot left so will be making more to freeze tomorrow.
I didn't have a cutter I don't know where they have got to, so I used a wine glass as recommended by Saskia, and I have seen such pretty mince pies where the tops have been cut with a fancy cutter.  I don't do much pastry since becoming gluten free as it is so hit and miss and very difficult to handle.  These were tricky while rolling but now they are cooked they hold up well.

I read Gone Girl this last few weeks as it was recommended by a couple of friends, quite a twist in that one so worth a look if you haven't already. I have a few to read over the next few weeks a box set of non fiction by C. S Lewis and a few others which I will share later.   I have started a little journal for myself with what I read each month in it and a short review, as I often forget over time and it can come in handy when you are thinking about whether to revisit a certain author.

On the television I have recently finished watching the Swedish drama 30° in February on Sky Arts, this has been a fabulous series if you want to watch it you will have to go back and watch from series 1 to get the whole story.  I am a little sad it's finished, however I have started watching another Swedish drama called Modus and that one is good too.  A lot of people I know won't watch any TV with subtitles but they are missing so many good dramas.

Friday, 2 December 2016

This Week a Trip to the Ballet

This has been a nice week, starting to recover from the nagging cough and finally getting some energy back has helped. Earlier this week we went to see Snow White by the Vienna Festival Ballet I really enjoyed that, we don't go out much but we have seen this company five times now over the last three years and it is something I look forward to.   I have already got my tickets for the next one...

It is a small theatre so it is nice, a relaxing few hours in a busy week.

A bit of wonderful news is that my oldest son has secured himself a trainee I.T position, quite amusing was that he wasted no time in handing in his notice at his part time job, but it will be good to see him doing something he enjoys.  He also came home with these lovely flowers for me. Feeling very proud.

It has been a lovely feeling around school with all the children rehearsing for the play and getting excited about advent calendars.  Sometimes you just need to be around children to see everything in a better light I think. The grown ups I hear talking about stress and how they are not ready and are never going to be.  The children just want a bit of sparkle and fun, I don't think it has to cost a fortune to give them that, that meal we will all eat on the 25th doesn't have to be perfect, and to the grown ups out there do you all need to buy so much? Smile everyone and relax.

Speaking of buying I bought a piece of fabric last week for £4, it is red and black so that will be my Christmas day dress, or winter dress just when I decide what to do.  I am thinking usual skater style that I like to make but I want to add some detail somewhere.  That is my personal contribution to the consumer madness. Ha!
I have this in a blue that I made last year and it sews up really  nice.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Ebay Bargains

I recently bought two blouses from Ebay for 99p each as the winning bid, of course there was a couple of pounds postage on each so they cost £2.99 each in total but they were exactly what I was looking for.  I had spotted some fabric with little deer on it but it was too expensive and while I enjoy making clothes I do not enjoy over paying for fabric.

The good thing I find sometimes is that if I want something very specific I can put in a style and colour and there is usually somebody somewhere selling something similar. Here are the two blouses I bought, both from next, in pristine condition and my size.


This one has just been washed and needs a press but I was eager to photograph in natural daylight.  I know not everyone will wear items that have been previously owned but after a good wash I don't see any problem.  You are saving something that would have been discarded and saving money too.

I was recently in our nearest shopping mall getting PE trainers for my son, I was quickly in and out but the amount of money that was being spent was crazy, people loaded down with bags.  I wonder how many of those people will be struggling with debt for the coming months but would never dream of buying used?

Friday, 18 November 2016

Soup on Friday, Pepper and Lentil Soup (Vegan/Gluten free)

Making a soup for lunch on a Friday is becoming a bit of a habit now.  Today I used what I had in again, no need to buy anything extra as all kinds of leftover veg can go in.
So I roasted two peppers one red, one yellow and  a red onion, boiled 150g of split red lentils then put them all in the blender with one veg stock cube, one tbsp. tomato puree, one tsp basil and topped it up with a little water.

Roast the veg on medium so they don't burn.

I had mine with a GF sweet potato wrap, I wouldn't recommend putting it in the oven as it turns like cardboard! I have had some success before popping them in a lightly oiled pan for a  few minutes though.

My oldest son ate a large bowl full so I always take that as a good sign as he is so fussy.  I do have to remind myself now when I almost pick up the tins in the supermarket as it is so easy to do, but such a waste when soup is so easy to make and you know it is not full of nasties if you make it yourself.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Books, Cookies and This week

There have been a couple of books finished off this week, one of them being Madam Bovary which I bought the other weekend when we went away.  I cannot make up my mind on this, yes of course it is good writing but the very idea that women were arguing at the time because they believed this character was based on them makes me so sad.  That such a dreadful, pitiful woman should spark such familiarity.  As you can tell I had no sympathy for the character at all, in such times there were many women and girls who had despicable lives. The day to day life of Emma to many would have been one of comfort, if lacking in opportunity and yet from beginning to end she simpered and complained.

I'm sure there will be many that disagree but for me while I had to read on to the end, it was more for the resolution of the story rather  than for Emma.

The next book I finished was no regrets on Sunday.  This was an improving book, some good tips some overdeveloped ones also.  I didn't do the activities as there were so many of them and they are so in depth! I only picked it up in passing and read it quickly,  in all it was a bit gimmicky, with the odd bit of wisdom but then I suppose these kinds of books all have a different voice and feel so as to appeal to us all.  So we are probably going to clash with some of them.

I am Malala is the one I just started, I have been wanting to read this one but felt it would be hard and upsetting while inspirational.  As an educational campaigner Malala was targeted and shot by the Taliban and later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  What an amazing young lady.

Whatever the awful germs are that are circling  at the moment I steel feel a bit like a zombie, tight in the chest, wiped out at the end of the working day and it seems so do lots of other people. Bring back the sunshine.   This evening I needed a bit of energy so I made these almond and dark chocolate cookies with Gf Flour and ground almonds.  I will post the recipe another day as all I did today was throw it all in the blender, shape and bake for 12 minutes.

They taste good enough, I may add a little soya milk next time to the mix.

Now that it is cold and dark I like to be home and to shut the cold outside, there doesn't seem to be a great deal on the T.V at the moment.  It seems a lot of the  dramas I was following have now ended. although I have been enjoying 'The Missing' harrowing though it is at times.  Even the BBC 4 subtitled dramas I like appear to have dried up as well.  Feel free to let me know if there are any good dramas I have missed, I will get them on catch up.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Grey Winter Skirt Finished and Sewing a Zip Pocket

Today I got on with the job of finishing my skirt and while I was doing so I thought I would include  few photographs of how I do a zip pocket.  They are not as difficult as you might think and as  with anything just practice on some scraps first if you have not done one before.
Here is the finished skirt, then I will go through what I did.

First of all in assembling the skirt I sewed the little pleat on the front and back pieces.
  I had pins in to keep it even and I repeated the process front and back.

I sewed it to a little v, then removed the pins.

Next I sewed the darts into the yoke panels, I had marked with a notch where I wanted them to go and then deciding how far down was easy as I used the lines in the fabric to keep the end points even.
I have also started adding a pin to the right sides of fabric especially now that it is darker as it can be sometimes difficult to tell the right side from the wrong side.

Next I notched the centre yoke, put right sides together with the bottom piece, stitched them together then top stitched.

For the pocket I decided on the angle and pinned a rectangle of fabric in place, I marked where the top and bottom of the zip would go and then sewed a thin rectangle just wider than the zipper teeth.

Next I cut along it making a little snip into each corner.
Fold it through the hole then straighten it all up, I used pins to keep it all straight.  You don't always need to do that but this wool will not hold the fold, a cotton fabric would.
Next sew your pocket fabric to the zip, I used the wool on one side and lining on the other to save on bulk.
Place it behind your pocket opening again you can pin it if it helps. Don't worry about the shape you will be trimming it neat once it is in place.

Sew on the inside close to the original stitch line.
The wool is pointing upwards when laid flat and the lining downwards.  Now fold the wool downwards so it lays behind the lining piece.
Then stitch around it, now trim away any excess and neaten.

Now I stich front and back together and add the waistband lining and zip.
I hand stitch the waistband on the inside catching in the lining as I go.
I also hand stitch the hem.

A little press and it's finished, sadly dark by the time we had finished our meal and I had chance to photograph it.

A side zip and a small button.
I am very happy with it, all in with the remnant, lining and side zip it cost me £4.50,  the chunky zip in the side pocket I already had in my sewing box.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Pattern Books, Pattern Cutting and the Value of Waiting

We have been out and about today so I have not really done any work on my skirt, that will be my finishing off job for tomorrow.  We had a look around the charity shops but nothing jumped out at me but I did overhear a young woman beside me talking to the lady serving in St Luke's shop.  She was telling her she had wanted to buy the Handa's Surprise book for her daughter from the schoolbook fair catalogue, it was £5.99 she said but she left it too late so there was going to be a late order charge on top so she told them no, leave it then.  She had the book in her hand in the charity shop for £1.50 and was really pleased then the lady said all those books are half price!  She went over and picked out a couple more.  Good for you I thought, how often do we rush into buying things and then have second thoughts later or wish we had hunted down a better bargain?

I think the reason for these choices a lot of the time is that everything is so instant now, we have accounts and passwords for everything and anytime we have a need or whim we only have to turn on the computer, click a button and items are there  within hours sometimes.  So that is not always a good thing.

This whole incident got me thinking about my own list on Amazon, now I have a list but it is very changeable and the reason for that is that I use it as  a holding place for wants.  I only occasionally buy things from this list but throughout the year many items make their way onto it and then later get deleted.    The latest being  this book...
Now I have looked at this book on there before and wondered about buying it,  it is supposed to be the book that tells you all you need to know about pattern cutting, professionally. The thing is, it is £28 and that is a lot of money for a book that yes I am sure I will learn from but I am not ready to commit that amount to it at this time.  So it left my list after a few days, the reason being that I don't want my husband to rush in and buy it for me for Christmas when I am not sure if it will be worth the investment. 

There was another book on there a few weeks ago with patterns to trace, a Burda one and that has also been removed.  You see on further inspection on a new day I had a better look at the 'look inside tab' and found that the items I liked I could already make and have already done so in the past.  The trousers I didn't like but would have been able to figure out anyway had I wanted to.  Maybe I just like the idea of the books because I enjoy sewing and browsing the ideas, but I have the internet for that. 

One book that I have mentioned before and that is inexpensive and very useful is Sew What! Skirts, I have recommended this to a friend who has bought it and used it.  There are no complicated illustrations just some common sense calculations and ideas for variations on what is a basic shape.

I will continue to use my list as it gives me thinking time, for me that is a valuable tool to store things that interest me without committing just yet.  I will keep my eyes open on ebay, in charity shops and look on the library catalogue to see if there is something similar to the book above but I'm in no rush.
If I have been making clothes all these years without knowing the technical aspects of pattern making I'm sure I can wait a bit longer.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Grey Winter Skirt, Making a Start

I cut out my grey skirt today from the remnant I bought for £2, it was a bit of a decision what to do as there was only a small amount of fabric but I think I can still incorporate some of my ideas from my little plan the other day.  I have opted for just one large pleat in the centre front and back, a dropped yoke so that the pleat doesn't fall from the waistband and a placket pocket but I am undecided on the placement of this as yet.

Here I cut it out as wide as I needed judging by a skirt I have previously made. Then I folded it in  half and did an equal pleat in to the centre (which I notched).

I cut the yoke also based on my own skirt measurements, the waistband and a small piece for a pocket placket.

Now I placed them on the table as they should go but I'm not sure if that is where I want the pocket I may put it at an angle.  I then cut a straight lining, no messing about with pleats on this although I have done on linings in the past I don't know why.   I had to stop there as my friend was visiting shortly so I will continue tomorrow. I am finding I much prefer working in the natural light at this time of year, it is such a pain it getting dark so early and my eyes don't thank me for squinting in artificial light. 

I have also just found another fabulous idea for a dress in a tweed style fabric which I would like to make but I will share another day.  All that is needed is an event to wear it to.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Quick Vegan Dinner

Well I arrived home from work with a sore throat which is a bit rubbish as I've had an awful cough for two weeks that is just going. While there are lots of things I could be getting done the only practical thing I felt up to was making the dinner then crashing on the sofa with a book.
So the meat eaters of the house had a stew, chop it all and pop it in the oven style.  I had a look in the fridge and came up with this...
It hasn't really got a name but tasted lovely and very soothing.

I put baked potatoes in the microwave for  five minutes each, then rolled them in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and put them in the oven. Then in a pan with a little more oil I added about eight mushrooms, half a pack of marinated tofu and some garlic salt then fried for a few minutes. Next I added about a quarter of a carton of chopped tomatoes with garlic and a handful of chopped spinach, finally a good sprinkle of Italian seasoning.  This was allowed to cook for about ten minutes then poured over the cooked potato. 

It was really just a case of grabbing what was available in the fridge and making something warming and quick, and it was. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Change, Work and What if...

There must be something odd in the air at the moment as everywhere I turn there is someone having a change of direction, change of career, change of location even on the blogs I read people are hinting that it might be time to learn a new skill, retrain or move on.  With our working lives stretching on for longer now it is not surprising that many feel they ought to be doing something that brings them more joy.

A cute idea but working with mad brides is not for me.

I have in the past toyed with the idea of doing more in the way of sewing, and while I enjoy it there is always that doubt that if it became the main source of income would it take all the pleasure out of it? 
A couple of years ago when one of my friends got married she bought me a book called Handmade Weddings.  I had made a couple of table runners for her and while she was researching her ideas she told me that I should do that kind of thing, banners, bunting and little gifts, favours and the kinds of things that sell at wedding fairs.  Well I didn't go for that idea but the book is lovely and has some cute ideas for gifts.  I know this as I dug it out for a ponder earlier.  I am very happy in what I do (mostly) but it is good to be reminded that there are many skills to draw from and that we are not stuck in any situation should our feelings change.

Then when I checked my email I had one from Do what you love for life this particular post was not particularly encouraging you to change what you do but rather to explore and re-evaluate the value of it in terms of time and personal cost. The author was explaining how she had recently done a used baby item sale, spent a whole day on stall, hours of repackaging and preparation and missed out on a day of her weekend all for £50 which did not include her transport costs. 

Depending on your situation I suppose you have to calculate what your time means to you and how much you are prepared to give, how much time that can never be replaced.  This was the reason I chose to reduce my hours last year when my father was ill and I have kept them the same ever since. 
I think it is good to have options, to keep learning and be aware of what you enjoy and what skills you have, but for now I enjoy going to work and sewing as a hobby. 

Now after that strange diversion I would like to share the gift ideas that came to mind when flicking through the wedding book.

This lovely favour could be a pin cushion.

These button holes would make good brooches with a proper clip on the back.

I love the ruffled purse, in a deep colour it  would make a great clutch bag for party season.

A few ideas came from a quick glance at a forgotten book, it just shows there is inspiration everywhere.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Carrot and Cranberry Energy Bites (Vegan/Gluten free)

Occasionally I fancy something sweet, not as often as I used before I stopped eating gluten but every now and then I fancy something like that.  About a month ago I made the carrot bites from the cook book Keep it Vegan, and these are a variation on that. In fact I would imagine you could come up with all kinds of variations on these by just adding your favourite fruits, nuts and flavourings, keeping them all natural of course.

These are on a tray but they are not going in the oven as they are raw, just pop them in the fridge to set then keep in a container.

200g pecans
50g cashews
50g cranberries
100g dates
1 carrot grated
zest of 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
40g desiccated coconut

Place all the ingredients except the coconut in a blender and blitz, I like to chop my dates a little first as my blender is not that powerful.  Shape  into balls in your hands, about 12 of a good bite size then roll in the coconut, place on a tray and leave to set in the fridge.  If you have ever bought those expensive naked bars you will never do so again if you make these they are much better value.

They go down well with a cup of tea at work and are just enough to keep you going until lunch, so much better than a starchy biscuit.   If you are interested the book I adapted this from it is 'Keep it Vegan' as mentioned above by Aine Carlin.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Fixing Dress Sizing Problems (Tips)

This weekend I was asked to sort out a dress that had been bought for a wedding.  The owner of the dress felt the dress fit but couldn't understand why it was sitting so strangely on one shoulder  and under the arms.  We often buy clothes but forget how very different we all are, this is one of the reasons that I enjoy sewing, it means I am able to make clothes that fit me just right or alter the ones that don't.

Looking at the dress in question I feel it was a bit of a design fault, I think it is unlikely the shoulder should be sitting so much higher than the other.

As you can see here, when the dress had been tried on, the shoulder was off by almost 2cm.

So first of all place your pins on the inside where the new seam will go and unpick.

Stitch your seam in the new position only catching one of the layers on one side.

The reason you only catch one seam on one side is that you are going to let it lap over the seam and turn it under.

Pin it in position then hand stitch taking care to only catch on the underside of the fabric.

Next tackle the side seam

Keep the pin in the position where you want your new seam to be.  Sew seam in the new position be sure to taper it gradually, trim away excess, and fold facing to wrong side of dress.   Hold in place and topstitch into the seam on the right side of the dress making sure your stitches stay in the seam.

Once you have had a go at this it will make more sense, why not try it out on something old first of all.  I learnt to sew by doing, trying on my own and I feel no amount of books or courses will make up for just having a go.  If you practise on ill fitting garments that you never wear anyway then you have nothing to lose.  I hope this was of some help.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Autumn Wool Skirt Ideas

A couple of weeks ago I bought a fabulous little remnant of wool mix fabric when I was out shopping for the new lining for my jacket. It is grey and has a tweed feel to it however the cost was only £2, it is a good sized piece and I also bought lining to match which cost me the same as the fabric. 

Usually I just jump straight in and make the first thing that comes to mind and usually this works pretty well but recently I have decided to try and keep track of the items I make. I thought it would be nice to keep some sort of paper record other than this blog so I have decided on a small note book.  I began with my recent apron and I thought I would continue in this vain.  It is a shame that I didn't do this years ago as there are so many things that have been made for myself and others that have now gone forever but here is a start.

Here are my ideas for my autumn skirt...

Now I am no fashion artist so this is purely for my own train of thought but I have seen a few skirts that gather from the waist slightly and I don't think there is enough fabric for that.  I also like the one pleat front (see above but imagine just one centre pleat). Other thoughts were adding a pocket within a placket as I have a zip with heavy metal teeth in my stash or some detail waistband tabs with button detail.

The skirt will be lined as I like my clothes to have some substance and it prevents tights from grabbing on the fabric.  It will also be slightly longer than the one in the diagram, other than that it is still up in the air at the moment but I will be using elements from the picture above I just haven't made my mind up yet.  I hope to begin this tomorrow along with a party dress alteration for a colleague of my husband.

I had a little peak on the Betz white blog and there is a gorgeous little tree ornament stitch along, I am not going to take part but what a lovely idea, I may take a few ideas from pinterest nearer the time and  make a few things.  If you have time maybe take a look you may find some inspiration.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Sweet Potato, Carrot and Apple Soup (Vegan/Gluten free)

My son actually requested I make us a soup today, quite unusual for him to request something healthy but progress at least.  Last week I made us a kale and watercress soup, today I did something different.
Very deep bowls so it looks like I haven't got much but there is quite a bit in there.

2 large carrots
1 large sweet potato
1 red onion
1 apple
2 tomatoes
1/2 tsp cumin
1 veg stock cube
A little black pepper

Boil sweet potato and carrot until softened, fry onion in a little oil, add tomatoes and apple and fry a little longer. Once the veg are cooked add to the blender with stock made from the water the veg were boiled in ( or steamed, I usually steam them it just takes a little longer). 

Add onion, tomatoes and apples to the blender along with the cumin and pepper, blitz.  This amount served three of us with bread, I had gluten free toast with mine.  It could be stretched much further but I like it quite thick so not as much water.  I also made vegan lasagne for four but I will share that some other time.

Another Shift Dress

The dress I made today is from the free New Look pattern I got with Sew magazine last month. It is very similar to the scuba dress I made bu...