Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas is coming, the pickledweasel's getting fat...

I need to stop eating honeyed salted cashew nuts, or I'll not fit into my nice new Christmas skirt tomorrow :( Things are Christmas a-go-go here in the pickledweasel household, despite me having a throat infection and munchkin getting over a stinking cold. We've been making Christmas decorations:

And cards:

And hair slides for Christmas parties:

And the icing on the cake, a man-bag for mr pickledweasel:

We decided to just spend £10 on each other this year (excluding presents for munchkin), as we're a bit short after the loft conversion. The bag came in at about £7.50, although that's kind of cheating because I calculated the cost based on the material used, so the whole yard of the amaaaaaaazing coffee cup fabric cost £6.60, but I've calculated it as £3.30 because I used half a yard. And I'm not including the £8.00 postage because it came from America :D Any ideas what I can make from the leftover half yard?

The denim was an offcut from Abakhan. The slider and the d-ring were actually a bargain - I've yet to find reasonably priced ones online, especially sliders, does anyone have a secret magic website that does bag making haberdashery at sensible prices? Anyway, I found this bag for £1.25 from our local Winners:

And cannibalised it. I'll use the zips and the canvas for a pouch I'm making for my sister-in-law, so it won't have died in vain :) I've not done much more Christmas making, just a hat and snood set for my neice - photos of her modelling it to follow - and I've made a mountain of gingerbread to give to friends and family using this recipe.

So here's wishing you all a very happy Christmas, and hoping you have a lovely day with family and friends. I'll just be on this big comfy chair over here, with a scarf round my neck, a hot toddy and this family sized bag of cashews :) x x x

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Trousers of ginormous warmth.

It's bloomin cold here. It's barely getting above freezing most days, and yesterday morning I opened the curtains to be greeted with the sight of another good few inches of snow. The novelty of winter has definitely worn off, and I'm wishing for rain, which is most unlike me.

Whilst trying to cope with the icicles and the snow flurries, I've realised how few warm 'bottom half' clothes Munchkin has. She has jumpers and tunics a-plenty, all of which can be layered, but all of her trousers and skirts seem alarmingly thin. With this in mind, a few weeks ago I set about making some lined trousers with the brushed cotton I used for her latest tunic.

I bought this pattern last month, with the intention of using it as a stash-buster. I am still a bit scared of commercial patterns, but when I was looking at the back of the envelope I could see that there wouldn't be any techniques involved that I haven't already mastered, and it would just be a case of reading the instructions carefully. I just seem to get my head in a bit of a tizz whenever I sit down with that big piece of paper and read all those technical sewing terms. And then I fold it all back up again and put it back in the packet :)

But this pattern was fine. I made the trousers up with a few alterations - I essentially made two pairs of trousers, one from denim and one from brushed cotton, and then attached them right sides together at the waistband, flipped them wrong sides together, and then topstitched. They came up quite big, but that means they'll probably last until she's about 5 :) I did a pattern review here, so you can read more about it if you want to.

They look a little bit mid-90's, but they're warm and they match lots of nice red tops that Munchkin already has in her wardrobe. I suppose in theory they're reversible, but I imagine someone would report me to social services if I made her wear them with the brushed cotton on the outside :)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Best laid plans...

This morning I am learning all sorts of interesting things. Like, I didn't know that Squiglet is actually a boy (I thought he was a girl). And Mr Tumble has a hamster called Harry.

I am sat in front of CBeebies because Munchkin is poorly. She was sick (all over our new carpet) earlier this morning, and is currently sat on the sofa looking peaky, although she is managing to eat a cracker (update: during the writing of those post the cracker has re-emerged, all over the sofa). Despite her insistence that she is not going to be sick again, and can we go to Run Amok now, I'm not so sure.

Which is a shame, because tonight was possibly going to be the poshest and most exciting night of the last three years. Maybe even the poshest and most exciting night of my life. Mr Pickledweasel and I were due to go to Gibbon Bridge, for a champagne reception, dinner in a private dining room*, and bed and breakfast. In a suite. All for free, courtesy of Mr Pickledweasel's work.

Grandma pickledweasel was due to babysit, but I can't leave her with a poorly child who'll ask for me all night. So instead of amuse bouches, Moet and a uninterrupted nights sleep with a lie-in guaranteed, I'm facing a night on my own with a vomiting child. The cheery pictures that accompany this post are Munchkin modelling her new snowman snood made using Kitschy Coo's tutorial, just to try and lift the mood a bit. No, those aren't tears in my eyes. They're just bits of melting snow.

* I'm imagining it'd be like that scene at the end of Layer Cake, where they all have cigars. Only without the guns and shooting.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A little winter warmer

Tis frosty cold out there, and although we've escaped most of the snow, we've just come back from a weekend at my sister-in-laws where there was plenty of it. It was almost touch and go as to whether we'd make it back, but it was fine once we got west of Leeds.

I picked up some snuggly brushed cotton at Abakhan last week, and I loved the colours so much I bought 2m so I could make Munchkin a few things from it - the first being a Kitschy Coo tunic. I was a bit concerned the neckline wouldn't sit right as the fabric's a bit heavier weight than I would normally use, but it turned out fine. I used a scrap to make a matching hair clip, which both I and Munchkin love. It's a little bit of a girly touch, but I like it :)

Munchkin was very warm in it, and needed to be with the snowy exploits her and her cousin Juliet got up to. She's still making good use of her snowman hat, and Juliet was very admiring of it*, so I'll make her one for Christmas. Next May there'll be a terrible trio of cousins, as my other sister-in-law is 16 weeks pregnant :) I don't know if the world is ready for such levels of cuteness...

*stole it repeatedly from Munchkin's head :)

Friday, 26 November 2010

Stairway to Heaven

I am deliriously happy to report that myself and mr pickledweasel are now sleeping in the neverending loft conversion. In a bed, and with carpet and everything!

We finished painting the woodwork on the landing on Monday, and the carpet fitters came the next day. The carpet in the hall makes such a huge difference :) We still have to decorate our old bedroom, which will become Munchkin's new bedroom, but for now we're just keeping the door closed and ignoring it.

There is just literally a bed in our new bedroom, not because we're going for the minimalist look, but because we've only bought one chest of drawers so far and we haven't put it together yet. I don't care though, I'd keep it that way if I could. It's so calming waking up in a room that's full of light and space...the rest of the house looks like some sort of slum in comparison. I'm hoping the contrast will shock me into trying to get everywhere else as clean and junk free, but I think in reality I'll just spend more time in the new room :)

In amongst all the excitement I managed to get to the Abakhan sale preview and bagged myself some bargains. The elephants and the apples are for Munchkin, but I'm undecided on the skulls yet. As it's cuddlefleece I think it's probably more suited to 'loungewear', so I'm thinking I might make a pull-on hoodie for me to wear in the mornings. I'd love to do Munchkin something with it, but I fear it's too pyjama-y to be worn outside.

Munchkin's woodland nap quilt is coming along nicely, and I'm now ready to machine quilt it before I back and bind it. Hurray for all things bed-related!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

I'm moving to Japan.

It must be the best place to live in the world, if their standard of sewing books is anything to go by :)

Buoyed by the success of the mushroom skirt (I'm still sorting the bow out, pictures when it's done), I started on the little bloomer / pantaloons, which looked equally as simple.

And they were! I remembered the seam allowance this time, so no hiccups. The fit on Munchkin is perfect. They're made from a bog-standard denim from the magic fabric shop, and they'd suit any other medium to heavy weight fabric. I have some nice red cord that I think I'll use for another pair.

Me and Munchkin had an outing to Skipton last week with Grandma pickledweasel, and we went to The Fent Shop to have a browse. I picked up a few bargains, including a lovely piece of babycord that was just crying out to be made into a top to go with the new pantaloons :)

I couldn't quite get munchkin to replicate the poses in the book :)

There were faults on the fabric, so I had to cut the pattern pieces carefully, but it looks pretty good. This pattern was slightly more advanced, and I did spend a long time staring at the diagrams for the sleeves before my little brain was able to make sense of how they go together. I made a size larger, as I wanted it to last til next summer, but the fit is still pretty good. It would maybe be better sewn in a fabric with a bit more stretch, as the chest is a bit tight when munchkin pulls it on over her arms / shoulders.

Three garments in two weeks is pretty good going for me, so you can tell how easy the patterns are :) I'm going to give it a rest for a while now and start on my quilt, but I'll definitely be making more from it. It goes up to 130cm (roughly age 8), so Munchkin can have a new pair of pantaloons each year for the next six years :) I bet Japan is so cool that pantaloons are standard issue school uniform.

Friday, 12 November 2010

All Things Bright and Quiltiful

I've been wanting to make this quilt from Two Little Banshees for a while, and have spent many an hour trawling through Etsy to find the perfect fat quarter combination at the perfect price (I swear I could sew munchkin a wardrobe a week if I didn't use the internet. My ridiculous pledge went out the window months ago). But a couple of fabrics in my stash caught my eye, and I've ended up only buying 3 fat quarters, which has saved me a lot of money.

I have never made a quilt before, but I think this will be a good one to start with as it seems really simple and the instructions are well written. I will have grandma pickledweasel on hand to help as she has made several, so I'm hoping she'll show me the best binding techniques.

I'm not sure about my fabric combos though. Three of the FQs are quite subdued and muted:

and three are a bit louder:

It'll be bound and backed with this leafy print, which has been in my stash for a while.

The finished item will be a nap quilt for Munchkin, and the woodlandy / brown theme is to fit with her treehouse wallpaper. Do you think it will work? Or should I make two quilts, one quiet one and one loud one?

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The tale of the bow and the big belly

A very lovely friend went to Japan earlier this year, and was nice enough to do a bit of shopping on my behalf. I was quite sensible as a) I didn't want to spend squillions of pounds and b) I didn't want her to have to leave half her clothes in Japan so she could fit all my goodies in her suitcase, so I asked for 2 sewing books and 2m of a girlish print and 2m of a boyish print. She doesn't sew at all, so I sent her some links to Japanese fabric and sewing books that I liked on Etsy.

Needless to say, she did a sterling job :) And here is the first thing I've made with the things she bought. It comes from this book, which according to Babelfish is called 'Foppish Clothes of Girl', although I'm sure the title's much snappier in Japanese.

The mushroom fabric is Alexander Henry, so not Japanese at all, although it cost about £5.00 a metre in Tokyo. How I wish I lived in Tokyo.

The brown contrasting fabric was from the magic fabric shop, and has a lovely nap to it.

Despite the entire book being in Japanese, the diagrams were brilliant and I managed to sew it up quite easily. Admittedly it is one of the easier patterns, but it was a good one to start with and it's given me the confidence to try some of the others, like these little short bloomers which are next on my list.

I did mess up on the seam allowance (I forgot to include any when I was cutting my pieces out), hence the extra band of fabric where the brown ties are, but that was my fault for not looking carefully enough at the instructions, as it was clearly marked.

As you can see from the photos, the skirt looks lovely on the floor, but doesn't quite work on the Munchkin. The two ties pull the side seams forward so it sags, meaning it doesn't hang properly. This might not happen so much if the ties weren't so skinny because of my lack of seam allowance, but I still think it would be a problem. And then there's the matter of the dysentery style tummy:

Munchkin has always had problems with poohs, and usually only goes every other day, which results in ridiculous amounts of bloating. She's managed toilet training really well and is now dry 99% of the time, but is still really reluctant to go for a pooh until she can't possibly wait any longer. Which means she normally looks like she's 6 months pregnant :O

She doesn't wear very many skirts, and when I asked her to try this one on I realised why. Never mind, she can wear it on days where she's managed to go before breakfast :) So, what to do about the ties? My initial thought is to take them off and then use one of them to make a big bow to sew on the front of the skirt. Anyone else have any thoughts?

And if you're looking at this thinking you can't live another week without getting some Japanese sewing books, try M is For Make. Kate has a really nice selection, some of which are in the sale, and they all come with a sheet of translated sewing terms.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Just one more, and then I'll stop. Promise.

I am a bit addicted to this pattern. After the last lot of shenanigans with the seams and turning through, this one sewed up like a dream. But I'm still not going to make them to sell, i value my sanity :) If anyone else is though, use recycled jeans, they work really well!

This one was made on a rainy Lancashire day, but it's being shipped off to sunny Australia, so I thought the tropical blue flowers were quite appropriate. It's going to a very lovely friend who emigrated there about 5 years ago, and who is sorely missed. She has two beautiful boys who I last saw 6 months ago - the octopus messenger bag was made for Ben, her eldest.

I would dearly love to make the trip out to see her one day. Maybe after the neverending loft fund has been repaid. My only worry would be that we wouldn't want to come back...

Friday, 29 October 2010

Show me the money.

This year is turning out to be pretty expensive. Along with the twenty squillion pounds we paid for the neverending loft conversion, we have had to repair the washing machine, then replace the washing machine, replace the hoover, replace the iron, and now the central heating is broken. Not broken in a major way, but it'll still cost about £150 to fix it.

Add to that the extra bill we have from our builder for changing the stair spindles in the loft (they were twirly, and they just weren't right. Now they're straight and they're lovely. Yes it was important and worth the money. Now be quiet) and using better quality wood on the cupboard doors (we're staining it rather than painting), and we're a bit strapped for cash.

I'm still finding things to put on eBay, and we're selling nearly all of our dvds on Music Magpie, but we need more moolah. So one of the obvious solutions is for me to try and sew up a bit of cash. My mum, the lovely grandma pickledweasel, has a little business making and selling glass jewellery and art. She does lots of farmer's markets, and always takes along a little selection of wooden brooches on my behalf. When I started making bags we talked about selling some on her stall, so I thought I'd finally crack on and make up some stock for her. I've been buying bits and bobs of fabric in preparation, and have quite a few patterns that can be used to make items to sell. My aim was 10 bags using this pattern in 7 days. If they sold, I would try a few more different styles out. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Er, no. Despite this being the fourth time I've used this pattern, the bag pictured took me around 4 hours to make and is unsellable unsaleable unsellible no-one would buy it. The outer is faux suede and the lining is a bit of vintage soft cotton I found in a charity shop. Both fabrics are quite lightweight so I thought I would use fusible interfacing on the floral cotton to give the bag a bit more structure. Only when I came to turn it through it had obviously added a bit too much structure, because it was like bloody childbirth. The stitches on the strap split, and tore the lovely old cotton. I had to unpick and re-sew the join at the tops of the straps so many times to get the two sides the right length so they would sandwich together properly that there is a whole new pattern of little holes in the faux suede. It just doesn't cut the mustard.

I have to accept that I don't have the speed or the skill to make it worthwile financially. In fact, I'd probably make more money if I stopped buying fabric and bag patterns :) I would love love love to make money out of sewing, but I just don't think it's feasible for someone who works part time and has a two and a half year old the rest of the time. Selling online is slightly easier, as you can make things as they're ordered, but you still need time to promote your business and find patterns that work for you and that you can use to make things comercially (or design your own). I've got rid of my little Coriandr shop, which was rapidly going nowhere due to a lack of promotion on my part. No matter how badly I want it, or believe it's my destiny (in an X-Factor styley), making money from stitching stuff isn't going to happen right now.

So it's back to eBaying the contents of my wardrobe and shopping in bulk at Approved Food in an effort to save money. If anyone has any 100% proven get rich quick schemes, or interesting recipes for tortillas or cous cous please comment below :)