Tag Archives: patchwork

Recording Beautiful Things memories. Best Practise.

Although the last couple of gloomy days mean really dark or bizarrely flashlit photographs I’m quite enjoying the foggy grey days. Ida and I spend our afternoons very happily either side of the table.

I have my sewing machine or a glue gun and she has play dough or a paintbox. Occasionally we go around to the other’s side to look in admiration or help sort out a thorny problem like biscuits stuck to the table or how all the paintblocks have turned brown. It’s actually very good for my self-esteem – oh noes – problems solved in the blink of an eye.

It amazes me how long she can concentrate on something that interests her. I think she has better focus than me. We both get lots of happy satisfaction from this time. The cushion mountain is also growing..


 I’ve actually had this post sitting here for a couple of days nagging at my mental to-do list but wordpress doesn’t like my photos… well it doesn’t like my ancient browser. My PC is so old sometimes I feel like I should be pressing a treadle pedal to keep it going but we’re determined to squeeze every last drop of life out of it so on we trudge…

Today I’m determined to achieve a little so unrotated photo it is!

 The cushion pile has doubled  since then and I now have several markets lined up. I alternate between gloomful surety I won’t sell a thing and will have wasted the meagre amount of cash I have invested and deep sweat inducing fear that I have not made enough stuff which jerks me out of bed in the morning for an hour at the sewing machine before everyone else gets up.

Zeph and Ida are deeply interested in everything I produce. Zeph admires the cushions and offers up interesting plans for future makes. He seemed incredulous at first when people wanted to buy the wings but now seems pleased and proud of them. A lovely woman came to pick some up she’d ordered through my fb page yesterday and he jigged about afterwards saying incredulously – “a stranger!”  I could easily be slightly offended by this but I feel exactly the same so join in the jigging and finger the notes she paid as though they might turn back into oak leaves and flutter away.

Despite feeling under pressure the sense of achievement and boosted self-esteem is well worth it. With happy eyes BT’s are everywhere.

The kids seem quite harmonious – there’s a sense of all pulling together and Zeph has a real Ida taming knack. I love this photo from this years Children in Need day

Yes, yes – also unrotated…  I am adding ‘update browser’ to the to-do list. We had pea and ham soup for tea last night and there’s enough left for Ida and I to have for lunch. A small pleasures but a very greedy/happy one. My mum bought Ida a new dress last week. It’s a  scandi looking knitted tunic dress and brings both of us much pleasure. It suits my little blonde imp very well and every time my eye falls across it I feel happy and warmed by the love behind the gift as well as how beautiful she looks.

I’m also enjoying marvelling at her new scissor skills. She can spend a joyful hour snipping shapes out of paper. Not so thrilled about the multitude of tiny paper pieces that join the threads on my floor to be tracked all over the house but on balance it’s a price well worth paying!

My mum also arrived with a stack of plastic boxes to help impose order on the fabric mountain in the middle of our living area. Some people thought they could be put to better use…

but now they’re full of sorted assorted material, wools, wadding and ribbon. Stacked up they are a hugely Beautiful Thing.

Today the gorgeous low sun slants in through the steamed up windows and makes the room glimmer. I can bear struggling up out of my bed in the dark mornings when the walk to school is full of these bouncing electric sunrays. They make me thrum with happiness and skip with Ida through the puddles past our beloved bird’s-nest.

rotate damn you, rotate!

 She has dug out a leopard glove puppet from the toy box and as I sit here typing half an eye on the tottering stack of wings that need sewing I can hear her chuntering about chatting to him on her hand which I find very BT. I try to fix it in my mind for forever and have a sudden mental picture of all these fluttery fleeting fragments stretched out  like pinned butterflies on my mental corridor.

I’m going to choose to change that to a huge Victorian style conservatory, like the ones in Kew, filled with dancing live butterflies. As you walk through the clouds they kiss your upturned face with their impossibly delicately feathered wings and you get a tinglely jolt of the memory they hold.

No pins. Much nicer.

Making ends meet – important in sewing.

Recently I have been mostly crouched over my rickety sewing machine trying to create enough stock from things I already have to sell. The already have point is crucial as our cash flow problems are mounting in urgency.

The thing is, if your outgoings are always bigger than your income there’s only one direction you’re going to head in. The red. I still have the overdraft I had when I had a salary so we have room but eventually, they’ll want that stuff back and I can’t imagine where it’ll come from.

The fine balance between wage and childcare costs mean I need a really well paid job in school hours. Brief pause for hollow laugh. Another drawback being I am qualified for NOTHING. Well nothing well paid anyway.

A few years ago I’d of picked up  a few night shift at a nearby supermarket or something similar. No childcare costs, I’ve done restocking before and it’s okay and just a little would top up our coffers.  Now that seems pretty tricky thanks to the legacy of osteoarthritis my galloping Paget’s left.

Sooooo. A few long nights looking at the ceiling considering my skill base has prompted me to look more speculatively at the Etsy and Folksy sites I spend far too long wandering. At the moment it’s only the seed of an idea but a few christmas craft fairs maybe with my very good and far more professionally handy friend Hattie also bolstering the table is actually  achievable.

Mooching around assessing my craft stocks I played around with some angel wings I made for Ida for her first Christmas.

 At the time loads of people asked where I got them but I was to befuddled and enmeshed in the grip of PND to actually do anything about it.  While she was out a few days ago modeling the more recent prototype someone asked about them and made an order for some…

Which means I’m either hunched over the sewing machine cursing wildly, chasing Ida to retrieve buttons or pathetically seeking reassurance from Steve, “Would people buy this?” Which almost always ends in tears as he usually says “Well, I wouldn’t.”

Things have improved since I sat him down and explained I’m not asking him about his own shopping tastes which don’t run to gold angel wings, hairslides and patchwork bags but seeking reassurance and bolstering.

There are lots of beautiful things to see along the way. Some of my favourites are the dark nights which make our home and fairylights seem very safe and cosy. I love frosty mornings and the sky being streaked with pink, orange and red as we brush teeth and scramble into our clothes. I love the smell of quinces in our house and the storing up of jams and jellies. I love Ida’s new enthusiasm for dressing in the morning and her creative approach to wardrobe selections. I love seeing her in her rain gear leaping through puddles. I even love my Dad for miraculously mending her beloved umbrella despite the traumas of being out and about with a truculent toddler armed with what is essentially a collection of spikes. 

The colder weather perfectly suits the economical soups and stews I concoct from the storecupboard. Silky pearl barley is very soothing and sustaining.  Ida is in the full grip of inventive play. We move through the day as crocodiles, aliens, cooks and pirates. As I cook and sew I listen to her narrating exciting games to herself. I am heartened by her happy contented chuntering and offer monster/mummy crocodile/customer/ elaborate meal eater support as needed. I know I am rich in many things although a bit more filthy lucre wouldn’t go amiss.

Patchwork curtains

Huzzah – curtains. These are deeply satisfying for several reasons – the first being it’s been a while since I managed to make something more than tea or a bit of a mess. Another is that they’re all from my scrapbag so genuinely pieced together from bits and bobs to make a new glorious whole. Finally, Zeph loves them, as does Ida – they love to draw them in the day and look at them glowing like a cross between stained glass and boiled sweets.  

 It doesn’t matter that it’s all a bit wonky and that I used different bits of cotton to back them…  Look I freely display my sloppiness… 

A lovely friend who makes “proper” patchwork hisses at the centres of my pinwheels that do not meet and the lack of colour plans or balance. It’s not what she calls patchwork. It makes me giggle because I see what she means but also it’s the very definition of patchwork in that I took some patches and made them work…

I’ve got two big bits of foam that I salvaged from the old bed and I’m making covers for them in the same way to make floor cushions. Bunkbed summer seems to have worked out okay. Ida’s not actually sleeping in her bed yet but is very pleased at the prospect and Zeph is busy rearranging his treasures on the new shelves and spaces.

All my fingers and my relationship with Steve survived the construction process which, frankly, is a miracle worth celebrating. Resting on my loins slightly I try to avoid looking at the mouldy cupboards that need crow bar-ing out in the kitchen…

Lots of BT’s at the moment – having Zeph home after a week away – although he’s yearning a little for country living. Right now I’m drinking a tall glass of pink grapefruit juice over ice. I have lots of ice. It’s very hot and ice is free. I keep making more in my two old battered trays and fill up old margarine tubs with clinking blocks ready to lavishly chill my drinks. Getting home after the long sweaty bus journey to fetch Zeph from his art workshop this week we all rush to the bathroom for baths and showers. Ida splashes for a long time in a deep cold bath while I sit on the floor in the breeze from the open window and read a book. We can hear Zeph singing in his bedroom, checking on him I find him lying on his back with his legs up against the wall reading a book. I have one of those sudden rush memories of my childhood, like a jolt in the arm. We have bread and cheese for tea with the reddest, ripest tomatoes ever, they smell of  green vines and summer.

Patchwork swirling twirling dress

Well I’ve missed a day again. Thordamn. The thing is,  I was seized with the urge to finish the patchwork dress for Ida to wear to the circus. I’m not sure whether these goals are good or bad. They do mean I, finally, get things actually finished but on the other hand I tend to get even more slapdash than usual.

The dress was from this amazing tutorial Patchwork Twirler  and is really a great example of a gorgeous dress. I cut out the squares the other Ida-free morning.

I even attempted to stop the fraying mayhem by zig zagging around every square. Took a while… I’ll let you know if it was effective after the first wash. I was aiming for a rainbow effect, starting with red at the top.

 I calculated the least layers I could get away with was probably four. Since I’ve never gathered before and have a disastrously short attention span I thought I’d stick with that.

Well. I completely forgot about making a bodice/yoke thing. I hurriedly cut a rough shape out of some cotton and tacked it together. I planned to fit it better to her at the end. First mistake. Also the cotton I used was a bit thin. Next time I’d make it a bit more substantial.

Look – it’s already bloody fraying and I haven’t even sewn it up yet. I’m still optimistic at this point. It’s my first gather and I haven’t realised I’ve sewn it to the bodice wrong.


 There is still hope in my heart.


 I’m starting to worry now. I didn’t realise gathering stuff was going to be so tricky. I’ve also realised the yoke is too flimsy and that attaching the layers can only get harder as they get longer…

 Yep, I’m cursing now. Loudly and colourfully. The kids and Steve are foraging in the kitchen for something to eat for tea. They can gnaw on cabbage stumps from the compost tub for all I care. I just painstakingly steered my increasingly uncooperative sewing machine around the previous flounce only to discover at the end it had run out of thread in the bobbin half way and in the flurry of material I didn’t even notice.

Had to repin it all. Joined the rest of the foraging family in the kitchen briefly to check I didn’t miss any gin. Bacchus damn it – I didn’t.

Here I’m attempting to pin at quarters before gathering to try and make it more even (why bother on the last layer you might wonder – that is not a learning through experience attitude – cut it out)

About halfway through sewing this layer on I had a little weep. Afloat on what seemed a neverending pile of pin- filled patches and realising I’d managed to catch a section of the previous layer. Steve’s put the kids to bed and I won’t be able to make the top fit properly on Ida AND I’ve promised her she’ll be able to wear it tomorrow. Gah.

This is no fault of the tutorial. Just my technical ineptitude. I think sewing is a good example of more haste less speed. Also I’m not very good at undoing and redoing. My natural inclination is to press on.

Mysteriously during my random piecing I’ve managed to make some of the patches line up. I was too lazy to un-pin and re-do so I’ve just let it happen. I’m hoping at the end it will not matter.

The colours are so awful because it is late at night. I’ve still got to rig some ribbony straps. I do like it but all the faults seem glaringly obvious. I totally see what I’d do differently next time so it’s been a good learning curve. The question is whether Ida will like it in the morning.

Ta da! – she does. It’s beams all round she spends a good half an hour spinning then crashing into stuff, dizzy.

I realise I’m covering all her clothes in those button rosettes but I just can’t get enough of them. Really need to top up the button box though.

The next photo is after a spinning induced collapse. There was a dreadful scene when we were trying to leave for the circus in the morning as Ida felt the pushchair straps were crushing her skirt. Bribery had to be used.

The colours look so much nicer in the daylight. My mum raises her eyebrows at the wonky hem but is charmed by the way it lends itself to swirling. I love it, faults and all. I’m definitely planning another one, a more competently made one and can’t recommend the indietutes tute  highly enough.

I vant to be alone

Steve took Ida out for the morning today.

Oh what a perceptive man, or indeed, one able to read the desperate notes I’ve been leaving around the house along the lines of;

Someone help me..

please please please please please please can we arrange some time for me to be alone?

would it be wrong to put her in a cupboard…


and, ta da – he spied the way the wind was blowing. He offered me a choice of going out or him taking Ida out and I snatched the second.

I had breakfast alone. Scrambled egg, made the way I like it and coffee eaten blissfully slowly whilst reading. Then I spent the morning sorting through my fabric stash, making piles, dissecting fancy buttons and trimmings off old clothes, rolling up ribbon. As I sorted I cut out patches of cotton for this dress at the fantastic inditutes blog.

The minute I saw this whilst browsing I wanted to make it. Her tutes are beyond brilliant and neatly bypass my pattern phobia. I’ve been turning it over in my head and spent a painful evening calculating how many squares I needed. At the moment I’m zigzagging around the edge of each square as I don’t have a serger (and wouldn’t know what to do with one if I had one…) Only one hundred plus to go.

They arrived home triumphant with some chips to share and lots of things to tell me. Best of all they’d gone to the docks and had seen Gifford’s Circus set up at llanthony priory. My Mum and Dad are taking us on saturday and it’s a toss-up who’s more excited,me or the kids.

I feel like I’ve been away for the weekend, just four hours solitude has set me up. N is watching Ida for me on Wednesday so I can swim for an hour and I can’t wait. I feel annoyed at myself for not organising stuff before. It’s kind of my responsibility to ask for the stuff I need and I keep forgetting. Who knows, I may have the strength of will after wednesday to ring the child tax people (doubtful.)

Best BT’s today include the rainbow hat S trekked to a further out supermarket to get for Ida. My mum bought her one a few weeks ago and I left it at slimbridge the next day. I just couldn’t bear to tell her and have been very shifty about it to her…so pleased to have another and so is Ida who insisted on wearing it during tea.

Zeph’s joyful recounting of his school swimming lesson triumphs – he also got to wear pj’s in this evenings lesson, they’re starting basic life saving stuff. It was brilliant seeing twelve kids lined up all jigging with excitement at wearing clothes in the pool.. Good golly miss molly.

The last clump of irises are flowering in the garden. They are the most beautiful clear sky blue.

It’s curtains for me.

Watching the royal wedding, (well – while watching royal wedding roundups – live viewing wasn’t an option in this house, not with the beard bristling and all…) I was reminded, (as I am at most weddings,) of Maria from The Sound of Music.

Now I have a deep and immutable feeling of love for this lady. We have many connections… First off; my strange childhood conviction I was destined for a nunnery. Secondly; my dad, who used to tease me within an inch of maintaining my childhood sanity by singing appropriately adapted lyrics to “Problem like Maria.” Proof of my devotion is that I never resented her for it even though I know there was little affection meant unlike those kindly nuns. (I think it’s only fair I point out I was a godawful child.)

The wedding made me think of those beautiful monochromatic shots of her sailing up the abbey launched by a flotilla of nuns. Sorry Kate, lovely dress but no nuns.

Anyway, I have realised another link. Yes I believe I was born into the wrong time and reality and should have been Maria. I have fashioned clothes for myself from curtains.

Ta da!

Anyone who’s been here long may remember this post about my wardrobe. As you can see I could do with a few key summer additions. I’ve wanted a long skirt – in a great printed cotton – for ages. Since prints are BIG right now (this comes courtesy of a Grazia in hospital waiting room – yes it was this years) I assumed it would be the work of a moment to pick up something I loved, cheaply.

I was wrong. I really wanted it for a family gathering on Easter Sunday and came home after a last-ditch saturdayshopping attempt disheartened. In this sad state I rifled through my fabric stash and pulled out this curtain fabric remnant I’ve been lugging around for years.

It wasn’t enough for actual curtains and I liked the print so much I’ve never been able to commit to a project with it as nothing seemed quite right until now.

I did, successfully, manufacture a garment from it. As in – I could wear it, it covered me and generally fulfilled the basic requirements of a skirt. It had quite a lot of volume… and the print is striking. These are fashion terms that, perhaps, would sound more convincing from someone elses mouth. Someone maybe, not in Gloucester, without a fine figure, who doesn’t prefer blending in to the background.

I am too cowardly to model it...I think the cushion does a great job.

 The volume and relative stiffness of the cotton made me feel at moments during the day a bit… – Tudorish. Not unpleasant. Quite swishingly satisfying. I will be wearing it again. I’m just not sure when I’ll get the nerve up again. Until that day I’m working on a denim skirt made from chopped up legs of Zeph’s old jeans with a patchwork strip incorporating offcuts of this nice fabric. Just in much smaller amounts.

The windy city is mighty pretty…

My posts have been very small recently. That is, more a reflection of the immediate world around me and not the outer world at large and definitely not the spinning expanse inside my head.

This is mainly because I’m trudging  through gloom mire. I’m focusing a lot on breathing, getting by, seeing BT’s and handing out pat-on-the-backs for cooking hot food, conveying it to the table and washing. As in myself. It’s not the best sign that goals have shrunk so but still…

This periods black dog weight on my shoulders was joined today by Ida’s. Although not physically sick she’s under the weather, tearful and clingy which means the day’s business had to be conducted with her slung over my shoulder, sometimes asleep and sometimes not.

Not much got done – I have big plans for this holiday, in terms of finishing emptying the mouldy cupboards and a spot of bricklaying. Today I’m racking my brains for anything accomplished. Hmm. I have finished sewing the backing onto the patchwork picnic blanket we’ve made in sewing club. It looks lovely and as soon as I find the camera in the flotsam of clutter clogging up our lives I’ll post a picture.

Until then I’ve stolen this one from my clever sister’s Facebook page;

Argh – I’m loving my pirate boy and I’ve also lifted this one;

Which just goes to show it’s all about the eye behind the lens. She has a fine eye for a great picture my sister. Like knitting, composition comes easily to her. Luckily I’m old enough now to avoid insane jealousy. When we were little we shared an hours piano lesson where it quickly became clear Alice had a gift and I didn’t. It quickly descended into ten minutes of me mangling some scales and the teacher saying “Oh Alice, show her how it’s done…” very galling to my eleven yr old self. I would stride home too fast for her six yr old legs to keep up. She would trot behind me squeaking pitouesly..”oh please don’t be cross Laura!” ’til I’d relent and slow down. Sight reading still seems miraculous to me, I long to be musical… and cheerful. Doris Day maybe.

Buttons and bad bobbins.

It was Steve’s day off today so I thought we could all go to singing and he could see the miracle that is Ida participating in song.


Not only did she refuse to sing, she was pretty determined to stop everyone else. Also she had VERY strong feelings about the rattle distribution. I was actually sweating by the time the session was over.

Steve found it all very amusing. It was like the period a few months ago when Ida still wasn’t talking and I was starting to feel a bit anxious about it. She would utter a distinct sensible word in the proper context a few times and Steve would arrive home and I’d excitedly present her to perform and she would perform. Her  TOTALLY silent, limpid eyed, finger sucking special.

“I’m not making it up!”

“No, no – I’m sure you’re not…” (soothe the crazy woman, soothe her)

Oh how I remember those quiet days… can’t believe I was ever worried about her language acquisition.

My BT’s today include my daughter hastily cramming a strawberry whoopie pie into her mouth just in case she was forced to share. Picking through my button box with Zeph and Pixie. Some of the buttons are from my Nannies button box. I can remember her telling me about a set that have pheasants hand painted on to them. She’d had them from her Grannies box which means they’re easily over a hundred years old.  We all oooh at them in awe. They pick some others for the centre of their flower badges.


I finally finished sewing the patchwork pieces together for the picnic blanket we’ve been making in sewing club. I am especially happy about the appropriate use of my sushi print cotton. I’ve seen some polka dot oil cloth fabric that I think would work well as backing. Just got to start work on the bunting next and we’ll be a proper travelling sideshow. I am deeply pleased.

Toddler tactics

Gah – it’s been one of those toddler days.

 A never-ending establishing of boundaries only to have them toppled again seconds later. This afternoon I sat on the floor wrestling her away from a bar stool in the leisure centre café. We nearly toppled a woman off it. Angrily she lifted her bag off the stool next to her. “Have I taken your seats?” she snaps, justifiably annoyed. Ida refuses to relinquish her iron grip on the leg, “Mine! MINE!” she howls. “No no” I say weakly. She retorts “It’s not a problem” (clearly it is, she’s tight-lipped) “No – I mean, she wants ALL the stools and probably your shoes and handbag too. Tomorrow she’ll invade Poland” She thaws – and laughs – I must look thoroughly brow beaten, sprawled on the floor. Zeph’s been out of swimming for at least two minutes. He’ll be standing by the doors dripping and furious, awaiting his towel.

Like a goddess the woman relents and proves the sisterhood rule and some  experienced toddler tactical knowledge. Pointing she trills “Ohhhh – MY towel!” Ida hurriedly wriggles out from under the stool and dashes to lay claim to it. My newfound lifesaver adds, “I’ll race you to the pool” to Ida’s back as she sprints off trailing the towel behind her.

I mouth a dishevelled “Thank you” and follow with the pushchair. As I turn the corner I can hear Zeph wailing, “No! – it’s my toweeeeeel- I neeeed it!”

It’s been a long evening.

and now I have to try to piece a lining to my patchwork skirt. I’ve already gathered it. I know it’s not going to work but have bodged myself into a corner. Again – Gah.

I desperately need to knit some ravelled sleeves of care – see – I’m gibbering. And seeing double, or is that just where I’ve sewn the skirt, lining and all to the leg of my jeans?

Equal deity opportunities

I’m doing a bit of light packing. Celebrating my success with the recent Big Smoke jaunt, three bags for two adults, one eight yr old and a toddler. In nappies. Who needs a cuddly duck and a couple of books to get to sleep. Unlike her mother who can get by with a gin. Joke. Honest.

Anyway this afternoon was suitably chaotic. I’ve realised that a friend’s b’day is a lot closer than I realised. I’ve been musing with trying to fashion a  patchwork skirt for her and, as usual, have not left sufficient time considering I’ve not done one before…

I whipped Zeph into doing his homework as we’re away for the weekend and Ida had to be tempted away from the sewing machine. She is totally fascinated by it, especially the foot pedal and stalks it from the other side of the table. I try to remember to ALWAYS switch it off between actual sewing but there’s a lot of starting, stopping and ironing when doing patchwork so she managed to scare the bejeezus out of me at least twice and had to have time-out on the stairs. She spent the two minutes wailing,  “Zephzie, Zephzie – ‘elp me”  very pitifully. Shiva knows* what the neighbours think.

I set her up with some paint afterwards which bought us an hour. In which Z sped ahead with his Jamaican menu with recipes. Mmmmm, jerk chicken. It feels very companionable sharing a table. Here’s him deciding which salsa will go best..

While I look blankly at my squares wondering how to assemble them.

 The house hums with pleasurable industry. Shame I forgot to cook tea, never mind, it’s not the first time Steve’s entry into the house after work has been met with an “Oh shit” and kedgeree is actually quite quick to whip up.

Todays BT’s , this sumptuous orange velvet, a curtain from the seventies I’m slowly snipping away at.

The hobnobs Steve produces from behind the toaster as I make coffee.

Ida sweetly replying to my plea for just one more minute to finish a seam – “OK Muma, I t’ink about it”  – something I clearly say too much to Zeph.

* Zeph has pointed out that as an atheist I use God, Christ, Lord and Jesus a great deal in my cussing. I blame my potty mouthed catholic mother. In the interest of fairness I’m experimenting with ringing the changes.