Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

I quick reminder that I am, in fact, still alive, despite online evidence to the contrary. You won't have been able to find me on Twitter, or either of my blogs or even on Daily Waffle recently, because my house is plague-ridden. Ever since the kids started nursery, it's been one bug after another, and the eventual cumulative effect of so much disease has knocked us all out for about a month. But, I'm able to prop myself in front of the computer for a little bit to tap out this post, wish you all a Merry Christmas, and share a few photos of my other Christmas crafts.

The Christmas panel my Nana gave me to finish off. I added some East of India ribbon at the top for hanging and I absolutely love it!

 My super cute origami wreath which I made with squares of wrapping paper and was ridiculously easy to do. The tutorial is here (not by me) if you want to rustle up a few yourself. There's still time!

I also made this bunting for my mantel. I would usually having bunting hanging a little more loosely than this, but I have too many children and cats who would be tempted to swing off it, so I made it to fit the mantel exactly. If you look closely, you can also see the tiny mochimochi snowmen I knitted last year!

I also made a table runner, but have no photos of that as of yet. Maybe when the dinner table is all set on Christmas day, I'll get a few snaps. I hope you all have a great Christmas with lots of pressies and yummy food and I'll see you all in the new year.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Operation Christmas Crafts: The First Wave

My Christmas crafting has begun in earnest. I've already started sewing up the lovely festive alphabet wall panel that my nana gave me, although I've had to abandon any plans to pad it, as I simply can't get the knack of sewing wadding :(

I have, however, cut the fabric for a table runner for my dining table. The sewing up will be interesting, as I decided to try my own method rather than following a pattern, and despite my fondness for maths, I found working out the measurements for the edging a bit fraught. Experienced pattern drafters out there may think I'm daft, but trying to remember to include seam allowances seemed to be more than I could manage. Anyway, photos may follow depending on my level of success. I'm also sewing over 50 bunting flags (and that's just the kids stuff!) for both the boys' nursery classroom and their bedroom. I'm making strands of about 15 flags each, and here is my first one.

I know that's only 8 - some of the flags are behind the door. I made them with the gingerbread man fabric on one side, and the green and gold stripe on the other, and then just alternated them. I sewed them onto green satin bias binding tape (22mm) that I got on eBay really cheaply and I think it looks suitably festive. The flags are slightly bigger than my Halloween bunting as I had plenty of fabric. You can follow my bunting tutorial here if you'd like to have a go at making your own.

In other festive news, I've decided to make Christmas cookies and snickerdoodles for the nursery teachers, as I was pretty much going to buy them a box of fancy biscuits anyway, and as I already had all the ingredients, it works out cheaper to bake them myself. Only time will tell how much I will regret this as I'm not the keenest of bakers. I tried a batch of snickerdoodles last night, as I've never made them before. Here is the result.

They seemed okay, although I'm not sure about the taste. They taste vaguely familiar, but I can't quite put my finger on it. However, I discovered that I used baking powder instead of bicarbonate of soda and that they are not, despite my protests, the same thing. So I'll be trying them again tonight to see if using the right ingredients gives better results.

Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Lopsided Christmas Trees and Green Lantern Stitches

At last! Some finished projects!! I started these knitted Christmas trees absolutely ages ago. But I had some problems with the yarn which put me off finishing. I had used some scraps I had in my knitting bag, but they knitted up in slightly different sizes. That's what I get for never checking the gauge of my work. As a result, the sewing up part, always my least favourite bit of a knitting project, was a bit fraught, and my enthusiasm evaporated quickly. But, a quick burst of motivation (mostly caused by my desire to sort out my stash and get my bedroom tidy) meant that they are now finished and ready to share.

The evening winter sun did nothing for my already questionable photography skills. Anywho, these were originally inspired by this project for potted knitted trees, but the dowel, pots and florist foam would have made this less a fun, thrifty seasonal project and more of an epic, costly undertaking. As you can see, my trees are neither as perky nor as well constructed as the ones in the pattern, but I put that down to rubbish wool and an extreme aversion to sewing knitting up. As the boyfriend wonder says, they are charmingly rustic. I'm going to thread some ribbon through the tops and hang them somewhere in my house come Christmas. I am also going to buy some suitable yarn and give them another go, this time with a little more attention to detail. Maybe Santa will bring me patience this Christmas and I'll become a slightly less slap-dash knitter.

Now for some more cross-stitching - my latest crazed obsession. I think I'm taking to it so well because, unlike knitting, it is something I'm actually good at (perhaps because a cat could do it if it had thumbs.) The second of my three superhero projects was the Green Lanterns of Earth - a collection of some of the biggest asshats in the DC universe. I am not a fan. But the boyfriend wonder and the kidlets are, and since it is intended for their superhero bedroom, who was I to argue. Here they are, in all their glory, still in the hoop. I have yet to find a frame for them.

And that's it for now. I am crossing everything that I'll have a slew of Christmas sewing projects finished very soon (or at least started, which is almost the same thing.) Plus, the seed of yet another obsession is forming in my brain as we speak, so there might be that too. Ooohh...cryptic!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Stash Attack!!

Recently I've been trying to hunt down some Christmas fabric that isn't ridiculously expensive. While some of the designer fabrics are really cool and a bit different, they're a bit too expensive to buy in any great amount. So i decided to just buy basic printed cotton in Christmassy themes. But, imagine my surprise when a trip to my local fabric store revealed hideously twee Christmas cottons which were the same price as designer ranges. Ultimately I was just looking for something understated to make some bunting and maybe a table-runner or two, and I didn't want to spend a fortune. Luckily, a recent visit to my parents' house in Belfast resulted in a trip to the single most amazing fabric store I've ever been in - Paragon Fabrics on Donegall Pass. Seriously. if you live in Northern Ireland and you love sewing, get yourself down there. Fabrics are reasonably priced and they have absolutely everything under the sun and the staff were really lovely and helpful. I could easily have spent a ton of money in there. I came away with this little bundle....

I will be busily turning it into all sorts of festive decorations over the next few weeks, and will attempt to keep the blog updated with my progress.

I also found myself the recipient of an unexpected stash windfall. My nana, who originally taught me to knit, gave me two bags full of yarn and assorted knitty type stuff. Unfortunately she finds she can't manage knitting much these days, and had no use for it all anymore. Here are a few photos of some of the stuff I was lucky enough to bring home with me (thank goodness we had the car!)

 I've never knitted with this type of fluffy yarn before, and I've heard that it's notoriously slippery, but my nana uses it to make all sorts of stuffed toys (that's a teddy bear's tummy in the front) as well as scarves, and I'm thinking I can make some cute little hedgehog cuddlies with some of it.

She also gave me this lovely blue and cream yarn - a full project's worth, I reckon - along with a book full of knitting projects for babies and toddlers. There's a lovely zip up cardigan in it that I'm thinking of knitting for Olly, but he's growing that fast, I had better get a move on! There was a knitting magazine from 1992 in there too and loads of patterns, so I have lots to be getting on with.

There was also some fabric panels, interfacing and fleece wadding - too much to show. This is my favourite though. A fabric panel with the A-Z of Christmas on it. I just have to sew on the borders and the backing and I can use it as a wall hanging. After I iron it, of course.

So that's my newest stash - with Christmas fast approaching, an endless bout of colds and flu in the house and various writing commitments, I'm pretty busy. So much so that I won't even mind if we get snowed in this winter, as I have plenty to do :)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Sera's Blog Giveaway

The lovely Sera McDaid, a fellow writer on Daily Waffle and I successful Slimming World follower, is having a fantastic giveaway on her blog here. The prize is simply tons of food bits and recipes and such to get you started on similar slimming success. If you're wanting to make a change, why not pop over and enter :)

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Crafty Avengers

Double posting alert!! If you read both my blogs, you'll be treated to this post twice. And if you follow me on twitter, three times :)

This is my latest crafty project all finished. Well, I say latest - I started it almost a year ago, but academia got in the way and I've only now got around to completing it. I've already started on the next one, and have plans for many more - I may have found a new addiction!

 The super reflective glass was a bit of a nightmare to photograph, so apologies for the poor quality. I got the pattern for this from the fantastic wee little stitches on etsy. If you're itching to do some stitching I strongly suggest you check them out. They have all sorts of cool patterns, from The Breakfast Club, to Ghostbusters and Doctor Who. Lots of fun and easy to stitch - well worth $6 of any one's money.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Cape Tutorial

Looking for a quick and easy cape tutorial? Of course you are. Check out how I made this great superhero cape over on Daily Waffle.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Guest Post: Elise from NerdNuptials

(Today is a very exciting first for Dropped Stitches. I have my very first guest post written by the lovely Elise from NerdNuptials. Elise makes beautiful paper bouquets for brides who want something a little unique. So if you, or someone you know is planning a wedding, why not check out her store. And even if you're not getting married, her lovely hair pins would add a touch of literary chic to any outfit.)

        My name is Elise, and I am the proud owner of the Etsy shop NerdNuptials.  I don't know if creativity is born in nature or nurture, but I know it's something the women in my family treasure.  Hearing a sewing machine from the next room will always trigger sense memories of my grandmother; my mom would often occupy me with various craft projects when I was young.
Because of that, it seemed instinctive to me to DIY as much of my wedding as I could, as we never had much of a budget to work with.  My fiance and I pretty quickly decided on a book themed wedding.  I spent an entire summer working on flowers and decoupaging paper mache boxes.  As the weather cooled, my projects wound to a close.  I was oddly disappointed.  Not with my results, but that all of the sudden, my most frequent  passtime was essentially done.
My father, a man of few words, told me I should be selling the flowers.  That alone was enough to get me thinking.  Initially, Etsy was incredibly intimidating to me.  Up to that point, I had never been much of an online shopper, and was even less of a postal shipper.  Originally, I opted for selling my flowers and paper mache boxes in a local handmade shop.  Putting my items under the name Nerd Nuptials was a time based impulse.  I was heading over to drop off my first supply of pins and hair clips and needed to put something on the tags.  I like aliteration.  My product was born of a wedding theme and does cater to the geekier clientelle.  The moniker popped into my head and now I can't imagine ever having called it anything else.
When I sold a few things in the shop, I decided it was time to reach the much larger audiene.  Just over a year ago, I signed up for my Etsy account.  It took me a couple nervous weeks to read EVERY bit of the rules for the site.  Then I made my first few bouquets and started listing.  I did the most ridiculous happy dance when my first sale went through (October 25th, 2010 - a Walking Dead keepsake box).  A little part of me still does it every time.  Okay, a big part.  I will never get over the excitement that I can create something with my bare hands and someone out there wants it.  Furthermore, that someone is often a bride.  I am a bride.  I know full well how picky we can be!
I try to offer a good variety in my shop.  I use book pages for the Lit geeks (and I've had requests for everything from Twilight to Sherlock Holmes).  I love using comics.  You end up with a really great pastiche of image and color.  And for trivia, almost everyone asks for Marvel.  A few customers, after my own heart, convinced me to cut up the extra copy of the first Sandman graphic novel from my own library.  I doubt any other page was as hard to cut into as that was!  I'll use anything.  I've used sheet music.  One customer even sent me a copy of her school's newspaper.  
One of my huge breakthroughs was getting into steampunk styles.  Open up a google page.  Do a search for "steampunk bouquet".  My shop will be somewhere on the first page.  If you click to do an image search, you will see my flowers.  With such a completely ideosyncratic style, I have no idea why this type of bouquet doesn't already flood the interwebs.  They're my favorite to work on, by far.  I can still use any kind of paper or paint color, but selecting the embelishments is completely zen for me.  I always love the results.  It's pathetic how sad I am every time one of them is purchased.  I want to keep them all for myself!  
Custom orders are also fantastic.  I love working with the people who buy from my shop: messaging back and forth, making recommendations, and reading the great ideas the buyer has.  Then, from an idea this buyer had, I create something.  My favorite part of that process has to be reading the reactions when I send the pictures of the final product.  It's a total thrill to have someone tell me that I made them exactly what they wanted.  Then I get to read their feedback (100% positive, I'm proud to say) and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.  
I hope you'll stop by my shop and check out what I have to offer!  Maybe you're the next person I'll be working with.  Lastly, thanks to all the people who have encouraged me and especially all the people who've purchased from me.  You're all delightful!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Cosplay for Kids

My exam is over and done with and the relief is astonishing. So naturally, I got immediately down to the very pressing business of creating hallowe'en costumes for my twins. Hallowe'en is a big deal when you're a geek parent, and, as per usual, the boyfriend wonder had hugely ambitious plans. Unfortunately, I'm not quite a wizard with the sewing machine just yet, so some adjustments had to be made to his original idea.

Working with what we already have, we've decided to persuade the boys to dress as Thor. This is kinda the look we're going for.

Only, you know, with less lightning. And a little simpler.

We already have the helmets, so we can check that off the list. A while back, I made the twins capes, and as is their way, they were pretty much worn out within a month. So, using a new pattern, some plain red cotton and ribbon (now that I'm convinced they won't strangle themselves) I've made pretty nifty replacements. I'll be writing up yet another tutorial for those next week. Likewise, their Thor hammers now look like they've been attacked by a family of foam-loving beavers but alas, it turns out those particular hammers are like gold dust now. So the chewed look will have to do.

The rest of the costume cost practically next to nothing to make, but I'm quite chuffed with how it's looking. I bought two navy t-shirts for under a pound each, removed the sleeves and sewed up new seams. I found some silver card at home and cut 6 circles for each shirt and then glued them on with E6000 glue that I bought for another project. Then I layered the t-shirts over grey long-sleeved shirts for his armour (and also for warmth, it's cold in October in Scotland you know!) and I have yet to make the wrist bands, but it's on my list, along with  possibly a belt. They'll be wearing it with jeans and wellies, in all likelihood, but that hardly matters. I still think it'll look pretty kick ass.

And don't worry, as soon as possible, I'll get photos of the kids proudly wearing this - unless ,of course, by that time Jake is still sulking because he wants to be Bumblebee. There's no pleasing some people.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Me and my Sewing Machine: A Love Story

Well, not quite, but we do get on very well together. Despite a few broken needles, which were speedily replaced, there has been no project too tough for us to tackle together. So, in the interests of helping any new sewing fans find their mechanised soul mate, I wrote a piece on Daily Waffle about how to choose your first sewing machine. If you, or anyone you know, is looking to take the plunge and invest in your first sewing machine, please take a look. And spread the word too.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Proof that my kids have been brainwashed.

As if proof was needed that I'm warden to three tiny geeks, Jake revealed where his true allegiance lies in a conversation with his dad. Recently Jake has been fixated on the idea of best friends, and the boyfriend wonder, eager to prove that Jake had been claiming that his daddy was his best friend, initiated this exchange.

D: Jake, who's your best friend?

Jake: Optimus Prime.

D: Okay, who's your second best friend?

Jake: Bumble Bee.

D: Well who's your third best friend?

Jake: Another Optimus Prime.

The boyfriend wonder was a little deflated after that. But to be fair, Jake has also claimed that ugly fudge (the name the twins have given the little black and white kitten) is his best friend, as well as his teacher, Batman and, of course, Ben. Poor Daddy.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

What I'm Working on (or How I'm Avoiding Studying for an Imminent Exam)

Whenever I finish an assignment, I tend to throw myself into crafts and/or lazing about, to make up for the amount of work and stress I'd put into it. Inevitably, this continues a little longer than would be desirable, and I give myself a panic stricken week to write the next assignment before starting the whole cycle all over again. It's a wonder I haven't given myself a stroke.

But the end is in sight. On October 11th I sit an exam that I am, as of yet, in no way prepared for, and then I can focus on a lovely, sedate creative writing module followed by a summer off before I start the heavy literature stuff again. I've already planned all the nifty little crafty things I'm going to be doing, including some nerdy cross-stitch and hopefully, somewhere down the line, an etsy shop. Provided I survive my first exam in 4 years, that is.

Currently distracting me from the task at hand is a handful of random bits that I started with gusto once my assignment was submitted.

I'd been hearing so much about other people's knitting projects recently, that I was having withdrawal symptoms, so I decided to knit some Christmas presents. The green knitting in the background is a half finished scarf for my cousin. I've gotten to the stage in my knitting career where I finally understand the mechanics of certain stitch patterns and techniques, so this is my first project knitted without a pattern to follow. I'm noting down the pattern as I go along, and so might share it someday, if it works out that is. The scarf will have little pockets at the bottom, for those days when he forgets, or loses his gloves, as kids tend to do. The boyfriend wonder also wants a version of this scarf, so I'll be knitting his with 3 strands at a time on big needles, to save time. I bought 8 balls of the green marl yarn on eBay quite cheaply. It's a 30% wool acrylic mix, and while I tend to avoid acrylic, it will wash much better and both my little cousin and the boyfriend wonder are prone to losing scarves, so no point splashing out on expensive wool.

The red and white things are pieces of a Christmas decoration project that I just have to embellish and sew up. I'll share photos when I'm done. I used random red and white yarn from my knitting bag, and because I never check the gauge of my knitting, the red pieces are slightly smaller than the white. I've completed one of these already, and it isn't noticeable in the final piece, but it makes the sewing up a little trickier. If these turn out nice, I might make a whole batch as they are so quick and easy, and in that case, I'll buy more uniform yarn.

The final, and only completed project thus far, is some Hallowe'en bunting made with one of the remnants I mentioned last time. Because I only had a small amount, I used black and white polka dot material for the back of each flag, and spaced them out a little further on the binding tape. I made two strands and wrote up a tutorial which I'll be posting shortly. I'm really quite pleased with them and they'll look great when they're all strung up on the wall.

In preparation for my creative writing module, I needed to buy some writer's notebooks, as the course encourages copious note taking to help get ideas flowing. That's hardly a new concept to any writer, and I have tons of notebooks lying around with half finished ideas and plans in them. I usually just get whatever lined notebooks take my fancy in the supermarket or stationary shop. Nothing fancy. But while browsing WH Smith, with an eye to picking up a Moleskine notebook as a treat, I noticed they had a 60% off sale on Paperblanks. For those of you who aren't familiar with the brand, Paperblanks produce a range of notebooks and diaries that are as beautiful as they are horrendously expensive. But with such a good deal, I picked up a few to help me get inspired and excited about writing again.

The blue one in the back is from their Tiffany range and actually feels textured liked leaded glass. Hopefully if I start producing anything of any worth, I can share some short stories here and finally get over my fear of putting my writing out into the public eye.

And finally, one quick photo of my littlest dude, Olly, who turned one on the 9th. We are rapidly leaving the baby years behind us, and while a little, tiny part of me is sad to see them go, mostly I'm massively relieved as I've pretty much been exhausted for the past three years.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Daily Waffle recipes and more

You may not be aware because I've only mentioned it about a couple of hundred times, but I write in a more professional capacity on Daily Waffle every week. While I appreciate that a lot of my articles appeal to a pretty niche community, I try to write a few less geeky ones every so often. However, the thing is, the site is not attracting the traffic it deserves and it's starting to get everyone down.

There are a heap of people like me over there, writing about the random things they know and are interested in. So there have been heart wrenching articles about dementia and others about anti-bullying campaigns. There is sport and humour and really something for everyone. But, today I'm going to talk about some of the cookery articles. In particular, my fellow writer, Sera McDaid who has lost an absolute ton of weight with Slimming World and is sharing some of her favourite syn free meals (syns are the Slimming World equivalent of Weightwatchers points, as I understand it.) If you are trying to lose weight, or even if you aren't, you should check out her delicious recipes.

This Eton Mess has to be my favourite. I haven't tried to make it yet, but it looks absolutely divine. While not being absolutely syn free, it is low in fat and calories, and if you're worried about all the sugary, fruity goodness, well, just make sure to brush your teeth extra well afterwards.

If you are trying to diet, or just eat a little better, but are missing take out food, Sera has devised a syn free Rogan Josh made with fresh ginger, delicious spices and tons of vegetables. For any curry lovers out there, this is an excellent recipe.

And meatloaf doesn't exactly sound like an ideal slimming food, but it does sound good on cold September days when it's grey and wet outside. So, Sera's meatloaf is perfect as it is syn free and filling for cosy autumn nights in.

I can't wait to see what else she shares with us every week, so if you like the look of Sera's brand of cooking, why not subscribe to the site via RSS, Facebook, Twitter or e-mail and keep up to date with all the latest articles. You can follow Sera on Twitter too and keep up with her slimming exploits. The girl's got amazing style too and a good eye for a bargain, so she's well worth following. @sera_mcdaid

I'm also going to start hosting all of my tutorials over there, and will list the links in my sidebar here. I should have a bunting tutorial to go with my cushion covers in a little while, and I have many more planned. So please, pop over, read, comment and show a little love for eager writers trying to get out there.

And the winner is...

Thanks to all who entered my very first giveaway. A lot of people came over from my MIL Angie's blog. And while I would love to take part in WOYWW I don't actually have a workspace to speak of, just the kitchen table as and when I need it. Maybe when the kids grow up and move out I'll have a workroom. Only 15 more years to go then :D

Anyway, thanks to everyone who entered. The winner has been chosen randomly and it is...

... Maggi!

Congratulations! Send your mailing address to me at chickpeasoup [at] and I will send your prize ASAP.

Thanks again for all the entries and new followers. I will be back soon with a few ongoing projects and one completed one. I also hope to get around to all of your blogs when I have a bit of peace XD

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Last Chance to Win!!

Only two entries to my first ever Dropped Stitches giveaway! Why not go enter while there's still time? The winner will be chosen tomorrow evening.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Newest Stash and A Giveaway!

I finally got my last assignment completed for uni and although I have an exam in a month, I'm allowing myself a few relaxing, crafty days before I really start studying. And in order to celebrate my return to the crafting world, I bought a few little things from my favourite online fabric store, Seamstar. Not only were they having a remnant sale, which I never can resist, but they were also selling random remnant rolls and trimming bags. The element of surprise appealed to me so I went ahead and got one of each. And my haul looks like this.

Firstly I got two Dan Stiles Organics fat quarters that were reduced because they had slight damage. But both are near the selvedge so it shouldn't be a problem. I don't have a project in mind for these right now, but the boyish colours and prints mean they will eventually get used up for some little thing for my sons.

I also got two remnants from the Momo 'It's a Hoot' range, basically because I loved this range and in fact you'd be hard pressed to find Momo fabric that I didn't love.

Next was the remnant bundle. It was pretty much luck of the draw with this one, and while there are fabrics I loved, like the gray and green floral print, or the rich stripe, there are others I'm at a bit of a loss with. Namely the pink kids fabric in the background, since I don't have little girls. But I'm keeping it in the hope that it'll come in handy some day.

Sorry all of the fabrics are so wrinkled. I'm not the type to iron my stash before I take photos.

But by far my favourite is the fun Hallowe'en print, which I'm going to use to make mini bunting to decorate with come Hallowe'en, so that is top on my list of future plans. I'll also be doing a how to guide for the bunting which I will probably post over on Daily Waffle. (PS: Have you been over there recently to check out my writing? Not all of it is about superheroes!)

The trimming bag was a mix of long lengths of basic colours and short lengths of more interesting ribbons. However, there were some that are just too short for the sort of crafting I do. Maybe they'd be good for card makers or scrap-bookers. So with that in mind, I am giving away a few odds and ends from my stash.

Included in the prize is a remnant of Tina Givens Opal Owl Grain fabric in violet approx. 56cm x 35cm, a 64cm of red pom pom trimming, 46cm of white floral trim, 70cm of purple floral trim, 30cm of green ribbon and 1m of cream and brown floral print cotton ribbon.

To win, all you have to do is leave a comment. And if you are a follower of this blog you'll get two entries, so why not click the follow button, eh? The winner will be chosen randomly next Wednesday, so plenty of time to enter. Good luck!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Finally...the crescent skirt

Sorry readers! I haven't forgotten about you, nor have a forgotten about my crafty endeavours, but my sewing machine seems to get more use these days taking up trouser legs than anything really exciting. I was in Ikea yesterday and fell in love with so many of their weird and wonderful fabrics, but since I didn't have a project in mind, I didn't feel the urge to buy anything. Something must be up.

I suppose it's because I've been spreading myself a bit thin recently. The twins are pretty much potty trained, but the baby is resisting feeding himself finger foods, so that's taking up a lot of time and energy. Besides this blog and my comics-centric one, Pink Ink, I also write for Daily Waffle and Team Hellions. That last one is a pretty recent addition, and the tone of my work there is very much tongue in cheek and not to everyone's tastes. In fact, what I find most difficult about the writing work is that I have to adjust my style slightly for each audience, but that's great experience for me. When I started this blog I didn't think it would open up so many oppurtunities for me, but blogging, and using Twitter, has made a huge difference. Now I just have to find a paying writing job!

So, today I'm doing a bit of a retrospective about a skirt I made quite a few months ago. I got the pattern for the Crescent Skirt on Sewaholic where the fantastic Tasia blogs about sewing and has her own patterns available for you to buy. I liked the full skirted style of the Crescent Skirt, the high waist and the pockets, which are essential for me these days. I thought I could manage the pattern by myself, and I probably could have, but one of the great things about Tasia is that she holds sew-alongs where she takes you through the complete sewing of the garment, start to finish, with really helpful tips thrown in. The crescent skirt sew-along was fantastic, and I can't recommend it highly enough. I learned how to do french seams and how to sew perfectly flat pockets which won't ruin the line of a garment. It's like buying a pattern with a free tutorial thrown in!

I chose plain green fabric for my skirt, mostly because I've been looking for a skirt in this colour to go with a few superhero t-shirts I have, and when I couldn't find one, I decided to make one. But I will be making this skirt again in pretty patterns as well as in a heavier fabric for wearing with tights and wellies when the winter comes along.

Please excuse the rubbish photo and poorly ironed skirt - did I mention I'm super busy?

Handy pocketses
 At the moment, Tasia has three patterns; a blouse, a skirt and a dress and sew-alongs for all three too, so why not pop over and see if her elegant styles appeal to you.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

In which I aplogise...

Sorry! Sorry for being a terrible blogger. To be honest, I have that many writing commitments at the moment that it's taken a while to get to grips with it all. But, I've gotten it all under control and I promise I'll be back before the week is out to show you the skirt I made a few months back, and the sew along I followed that made it easy peasy! I also have one or two more tutorials up my sleeve so hopefully I'll be able to keep posting semi regularly from now on :)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Tutorial: How To Make Simple Envelope Cushion Covers

I'm doing a tutorial for two reasons. Firstly, more than one person has asked me how I made my cushion covers. This is a method I improvised myself and may not be how others do it, but it always works for me. Secondly, since I'm now writing at the Daily Waffle, I thought I should temper the comic-centric tone of my articles with some crafting. The editor is looking for some How To guides, and if this tutorial seems clear and helpful, I might use it. So, apologies to my more experienced crafty readers, who will no doubt be able to do this in their sleep!

1. Choose your fabric. Any kind of non-stretch material is fine (stretchy material will probably work too but I'm not sure if this method is the best way for that kind of fabric.) I'm using a lovely remnant that matches my living room decor that my MIL Angie kindly gave me.

2. Measure your cuhion pad. Mine is 16 inches square. Measure across the fullest part. If it is very full, squash it down just a little before measuring.

2. Now to work out your fabric measurments. For the front of your cover, add one inch for seam allowances. Do this for both length and width. I end up with a front piece measuring 17"x17".

Front piece

3. For the back, things get a little tricky. Decide how large of an overlap you want for your envelope opening. As a rule of thumb, I usually use anywhere between 1/4 to 1/3 of the width of the cushion pad. Very large cushions tend to need bigger overlaps, and I've found that cushions in active households, like my own, fare better if they have generous overlaps. So, I'm using a 5 inch overlap. Add twice the overlap to your width, plus two inches for seam allowances (since you'll be seaming the overlap edges to finish them nicely as well as the sides.)
For me, this works outs as 16 + 10 + 2 = 28". The length is 17" as before. So, my back piece is 28"x17". Cut this in half. I have two pieces measuring 14" x 17" each.
Back piece cut in two

5. Take the back pieces and place them wrong side up. Fold a 1/2 inch seam along the inner cut edges towards the wrong side and press the fold. Turn it again, another 1/2 inch and press well. Your two pieces should look like this

Back pieces with seams folded and pressed.
6. Thread your machine with matching thread. Sew along the inner fold as shown below.

When you're done it should look like the picture below. Do this to both back pieces.

Wrong side                                  Right side
7. Place the front piece right side up. Place one half of the back piece right side down on top of the front piece with the seam you've just sewn towards the inside of the cushion. Make sure the edges and corners match up and any patterns are running in the same direction. Place the second half of the back piece, matching up the corners and edges on the other side of the front piece. The two seams should overlap. Pin in place.

All pinned and ready to go. Sorry about the picture quality - I was sewing quite late.
8. Sew it all up. I used an overcasting stitch first to control fraying and then stitched a single row of stitches 1/4" from the edge.
Sorry this is blurred. It was the best of a bad bunch.
9. Once all the stitching is done, cut all the long threads and turn the cover in the right way, taking care to poke out the corners as much as possible. Insert your cushion pad and you're done!

Back, you can just make out the edge of the opening.
I hope this was clear. I was having trouble explaining myself in places, since this is the first tutorial I've done. If anything seems unclear, please let me know so I can fine tune this before I submit it :)

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Zoo-per days out!

So I promised I'd be back later in the week and here I am! I have so many writing commitments at the minute that sometimes this blog takes a back seat to all the other stuff. Despite my long silence, I don't have a huge lot to share with you all.

I made a skirt a few weeks ago and I'll write a post about that and the sew-along I followed that made it so easy and rewarding. For now I just have some photos of my trip to the zoo in Belfast when I visited my family last week. It was Ben and Jake's third birthday, so the five of us, plus granny and grandad, my sister Rachael and her boyfriend, and my aunt and her children all headed off up the mountain to the zoo. It seems to be that zoos are always uphill, but for whatever reason, this one didn't seem as steep as others I've visited. And we got to see the elephants being fed, which was great. Also, the lemurs were allowed to roam free through the zoo, which would have been great if they weren't be constantly chased off by a group of school children who were there. The boys experienced some mild terror thanks to a very large, very noisy pig, but other than that, they had a great day.

Lemurs taking refuge on the roof of the reptile house - stupid school kids!!
Never mind the animals! Look! A daisy!!
The sealions were show-offs
Tthe laziest bat in the rainforest house.

Feeding time

It was a great day as most of the animals were out in plain sight including the more elusive types like tigers and cheetahs. The boys had a great time trying to run like giraffes and unfortunately learned some bad behaviour from watching the chimps eating their poo.

On their birthday, we had a little party for the younger members of our family, and it went well with nobody getting too overwhelmed. They were content to eat some chocolate and sweets and run around like loons with the other kids. The 'gold dubloons' or regular chocolate coins as you and I know them, were a huge hit as 'Jake and the Neverland Pirates' seems to be super popular among kidlets at the minute. They had a Toy Story cake and dinosaur candles too.

Sorry for the pic dump - I promise I will try to be back soon with some crafty stuff :)

Saturday, 25 June 2011

I'm A Proper Writer!!

Sorry for the long silence. I have been super busy lately and haven't really been able to turn my hand to very many crafty projects. I will be back later this week (fingers crossed) with a longer post, but right now I just wanted to let you know that I am officially writing a weekly article over on Daily Waffle. I'll be covering a lot of less mainstream topics, similar to what I write on my other blog, but more accessible, and this week I'm taking a look at anime and in particular, Studio Ghibli. Hopefully this is the start of something for me.

There is also lots of other great stuff on the site, from really interesting baking to articles on self image, football and chess. Something for everyone, I should think :)

Friday, 3 June 2011

Using my Loaf!

It's typical of me to fixate on one thing and do it until I get sick of it. And so it has been with baking. I'm determined to be able to bake a few things well, the type of things that my kids will have fond memories of. So in this spirit I've been trying a few new recipes while my sewing machine sits forlornly, my knitting needles are untouched and my cross stitching is forgotten.

I have no idea if I'm a good or a bad baker. The boyfriend wonder doesn't have the most discerning palate when it comes to baked goods. He's not fussy. The pecan pie was delicious, though the recipe could probably do with some tweaking. He loved it and was sorry when it was all gone. I have to confess though, that I don't like making pies. Getting the pastry into the pie tin is always a disaster for me. I must be doing it wrong!

Much easier was this cherry and almond loaf cake. I'm a sucker for cherry bakewells so this sounded great, and I'm a fan of the kind of simple cake that is good with tea. Nothing too sweet or gooey or fussy. Just delicious sponge. So this was what I ended up with.

Half of it was already gone when I took this photo as the boyfriend wonder was munching on it as soon as it was out of the oven. It was really delicious and really quick, easy and relatively mess free to make. So it's a keeper. Something I can make semi-regularly. Next up on my baking plans is a lemon drizzle loaf, walnut and honey loaf (you may be sensing a theme here) and honey and vanilla madeleines. Hopefully I'll try these before I lose enthusiasm for baking and move on to weaving or model train building or something equally random.

I do have some sewing projects to share. I finished a skirt and I'm working on some new cushion covers but I'll save that for another day. In the meantime here's some photos of what my boys were up to while I was baking.

Olly can't crawl just yet so Ivy the kitten was safely out of reach :)

Jake and the unnamed male kitten having a chat

Ben, sulking.