Tuesday, 30 September 2014


DH has been a very busy little bee.

A corner of the garden has been cleared, and substructure laid, ready for the shed move

The existing shed has been - mostly - emptied.   DH has also re-painted the two sides he can get to, before dismantling takes place.
He;s removed the solar panels from the roof. 

Dismantling will commence shortly, starting with the roof.

Saturday, 27 September 2014


I've sold my sideboard (not on Ebay), and I'm replacing it with some more practical storage.   

I bought a set of drawers via Ebay, and I need to collect it on Monday.  I decided I'd be better off using DH's car, which is an estate, rather than my tiny little car.  DH's car is in a bit of a state.  It's not just dirty and full of carp,  it's full of mud and small stones.

I decided I'd take it to the local "Hand Car Wash" for a mini valet.   I emptied it first, and then drove it down.

It took the chaps a long time to do, and it was well worth the outlay.  The car is gleaming outside and really really clean inside. 

I was a little jealous, so I took my little car down as well. She didn't need a mini valet, just an outside clean and inside hoover.

I think the drawers may fit inside her.  I'd prefer to take her.  She's half the length, no where near as wide, and an automatic.  I think the drawers will fit.

So I didn't need to get DH's car cleaned.  

But I'm glad I did


Now that summer is over and the weather is changing,  we've made a decision on a summerhouse.

We've spent several months thinking about this, with spurts of activity where we went to look at garden buildings of various sorts.

We had originally planned to get a proper garden studio.  We had even got down to the final two suppliers, and had been discussing the merits of both.  It was difficult to make a decision.  They were both similarly priced,  the outside of the buildings were very similar,  but the two suppliers had some very fundamental differences in their offerings.  

We couldn't decide.  It wasn't that we couldn't agree,  it was that neither of us could decide.  I think the problem was that neither was exactly right,  and it was a lot of money to pay for not exactly right.   We knew that whichever we went for, it would be fine. 


We left it for a while, waiting for inspiration to strike.  We occasionally talked about sizes. We talked about whether the existing concrete base would need to be removed.   We didn't get very far.

Some time later, I had time to kill before an appointment, and I wandered into a garden centre.  I ambled round their sheds. log cabins,  and summerhouses.  I had discounted these structures because, by the time we'd paid extra to have the walls, floor and ceiling insulated, and had double glazing, and folding doors, and a proper floor, we might as well pay the then bit extra to have a proper garden room.

But some of these were quite pleasant. I could see them working for what we really wanted from a garden room.

When I got home, I looked online for nearby places that did log cabins.  We drove out to one, which was totally uninspiring.   We saw another place on the return journey, and they had an absolutely lovely summerhouse.  Folding doors.  Pyramid roof.  Really gorgeous. The downside was it required planning permission.

We investigated the cost of planning permission.  Sadly. the local authority makes no distinction between a shed in the garden which is taller than 2.5m, or a full blown extension. The cost, plans requirements, etc, are all the same.

We parked it.

We looked at summerhouses and cabins which didn't require planning permission. My concern was that the pent rooves were a bit...claustrophobic.   But Apex = planning permission.   We went to visit one on a neighbours garden, which  was really pleasant - but it wouldn't meet our needs.  We did, however, arrange to visit the manufacturers showroom to look at what they did that might suit us.

Once again, they didn't have quite what we wanted.   We came away with options. I wanted to see my Pyramid roofed one again, so we went to see it to compare.  

We stared at pieces of paper.

DH proposed an option on one of the ones we had travelled to see.  I wasn't sure.  I guess I knew that I really wanted the one that required planning permission.   We'd already missed the summer, so it didn't matter if we had to wait for planning permission.  I checked prices and roof heights for the size we wanted.  All looked good.  I thought we might as well go for that one.

DH started to lay a base on the other side of the garden so we could relocate the existing shed. This would need doing whatever we decided, and we might as well get on with it before the really bad weather came.

Then I was staring out of the window one day, and I realised that the pyramid roof would be great at the bottom of the garden, but would look a bit odd at the proposed location.

I thought about it some more.

And then I agreed with DH about the other one.

It took us some time to work out exact sizes and what we would need to do. On the day we were discussing it, the chap from the showroom (show site, I suppose), phoned to see if we had made a decision.  I asked him to confirm prices  to cover the extras we wanted. He promised he'd call back in 15 minutes.

He didn't.

He did call back the next day, and explained why it had taken so long. They had been trying to work out the most cost effective way to accommodate our requirements.  He gave me the quotation.  On speakerphone, we went through it step by step, to make sure it would work.   I asked him to email me all the details.

He did.

I phoned back the next day to place the order.

He was on holiday.

The next day we were at the NEC.  I phoned him on my return.  

He was at lunch.

When I am indecisive about something, I take these sort of things as a sign that I should maybe reconsider my decision.

I didn't.  I phoned back and we placed the order.

Now we just need to get the existing shed emptied,  dismantled, moved, and repainted.  And extend the concrete base.  And take down the trellis and extend the terrace to meet the concrete.   And take out some  productive blackcurrant bushes.  And work out how to lop off a corner of the fruit cage.  And agree on a paint finish for the new summerhouse. And think about electrics and air conditioning. And. And. And.

It's a DIY job.  The company does offer installation, but DH is adamant he wants to do it himself.

It's good for him to have a project on the go.


A few months ago I had been thinking about selling my Pashley and buying a 2nd hand electric bike.  I'd seen a few on Ebay, and it was very tempting.   I read up a but about them, but ended up none the wiser.  Most of the bikes were really big and chunky, when what I really wanted was an electrified version of my Pashley.

When looking for information online, I stumbled across an advert for The Cycle Show at the NEC, and a discounted ticket code.  I decided to book tickets and use the intervening weeks as a cooling off period. Always a good thing with whims, I find.

At the beginning of this week, we had a discussion about whether or not to go.  We've had a few other projects on the go, and taking a day out wasn't really a great idea.  I looked at the online brochure, and could see that there were going to be a lot of manufacturers there, and there was a track to try out some of the bikes.  We decided to go, as it would be a year before it came around again,  it would be a great opportunity to see lots of them together, we had tickets, blah blah. 

So, Friday arrived, and we set off.  A good run down (up?) to the NEC,  no queues for parking,  a really pleasant day for strolling from the car park to the exhibition halls.   We went straight to the "Electric Bike" village.  I wandered forlornly looking at the stands.  It had been a couple of months since I looked at them, and I couldn't even remember which manufacturers I was interested in.   The bikes were chunky, clearly not aimed at me.   It was a waste of time.

An electric trike caught my eye.  Not that I had considered one, or was even really considering one.  I just thought that would be fab for when I was older if I wanted to bring back proper shopping.   The chap on the stand came over and asked if we wanted any help "No thanks" I said. "Yes" said DH.  He then asked some questions about the design of electric bikes in general - the difference between having the power bit on the pedals or on the gears (that's my interpretation of what he asked, he used correct terminology).

The chap was really really helpful.  His company was called Batribike, and they only sold the bikes with the motor thing on the hub, not on the middle bit of the bike.  So, he explained why his company did this, what was good about it, what wasn't,  and what to look for in the other style of bike (which they didn't make).    He made it very easy for me to understand more what we should look for and what we should avoid.

So, we then went round all the stands having a look.  I bemoaned the ugliness of the bikes.   A young girl and her boyfriend stood beside me and she sneered, with the ignorant bliss of youth "what's the point of an electric bike. I mean, why don't people just get fit enough to pedal".  I was tempted to turn round and say "What about those who are a bit arthritic?  Or who don't want to go shopping and arrive dripping in sweat?", but I bit my tongue.  I expect she'll work it out in a few years.

I was interested to see that Raleigh had a couple of new electric bikes which were designed to be much more like normal bikes. 

With that, we joined the queue to use the test circuit.

Our first pair of bikes were the Raleighs. 
 I was amazed. Mine wasn't much heavier than Pashley (she is a heavy old girl).  The riding position was comfortable,  and it was really easy.   Raleigh, as most of them,  provide pedal assistance.  You can choose how much assistance you want, but you need to contribute.   I was really impressed at how easy, and how not-noisy, the bike was.

We then tried the Batribikes.  Again, these were really easy to ride. These were cheaper than the Raleighs, because they had the motor on the rear wheel. With these, it was also possible to ride without any pedal power. 

At this point I was thinking "yes. I think I want to get an electric bike".

We tried a pair of chunkier bikes, another make, very expensive.  The ride was horrible.  I mean, the position.  The electric bit was fine, but I couldn't ride it.

Then I tried a "cheapy".  The electrics on this weren't so great, not surprising given the difference in the price tag,  but the position (handlebars, my back, that sort of thing) was really great.

We then went on to have a look at the bikes which had been identified as "Best Buy" in the Sunday Times.  Before we did so, I said to DH that I was very suspicious of the ST Best Buys.  Whenever they evaluate a subject I know something about, I find their "best buys" a poor choice,  so I have no faith in them when it comes to something I know nothing about.

I got on the bike, powered up, and got off.   I didn't like it.  There wasn't any point taking it out for a test, because it just wasn't right.  DH tried it, but came back and said he didn't like it much.

It was well worth going. 

We left, and were home by 2.30pm.

We didn't buy a bike. That wasn't the point of going.  But I think I will get one, maybe next Spring ready for the summer.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Still more

And another 4m of differentcat bunting today.

The finishing line is in sight.

I have only one more lot of bunting to make.

And then normal service will be resumed. Maybe.

And more bunting

Yesterday afternoon I made 4m of double sided, cat related,  bunting

Here is the "front"...

...and here is the "back"..

I've got another 4m of cat bunting  - a different sort - to do. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Special Bunting

I have now completed my third set of bunting. I'm quite pleased with it.

This is it from the back, which used fabric I had to buy new!

And this is it from the front, which includes the lettering which I created, printed on tee-shirt transfer paper, and then ironed on (before joining the bunting together, in case there were problems with the ironing.)

My tests the other day gave me very useful learnings, especially the fact that having the iron hot enough to do the transfer results in the fabric scorching... this explains why the instructions say to use a cloth over the top.  Sadly, I forgot the instuction about not using an ironing board, and I forgot that in my tests I used a wooden board as backing,  so if you look closely you'll see a couple of letters are a bit dodgy.

But I'm pleased with it.

And I'm pleased it's over because it was a bit of a pig to do. It was the edging of the lettered sides that was a real, ahem, PITA.

My second-hand Shaun the Sheep duvet cover arrived yesterday, so I've already cut some bunting triangles from that.    The Chicken Run cover arrived today, so I'll be cutting that up and making my fourth set of bunting soon.

I really need to go and visit the venue to measure how much bunting I need.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Making life hard for myself

I'm now working on the 3rd set of bunting to decorate the roon for DH's birthday dinner.   This set was going to be plain on one side (from cut up sheets), with a complementing polka dot backing.  I was going to have 2 colours.

Having had success (of sorts) with  my other two sets,  I felt that the plain side was going to be a little too plain for its purpose (can't say any more), and I had this brilliant idea of edging it.   I spent some time thinking about how this would work in practice, and what I might need to do.

[I started to type a paragraph describing the things I considered.  Trouble is, if you know about sewing, you'd think "what an idiot!"; if you don't know about sewing, you'll be thinking "Who cares?!"]

The following is, believe it or not, an abridged version of what happened next, and took place over nearly a week. 

I entered the murky wold of bias binding, both single fold and double fold.   Firstly, I searched for suitable  bias binding to buy.  For the quanity  needed (half a metre per pennant), it was all horrendously priced, which is a bit ironic considering what I subsequently spent trying not to spend money on buying binding.  I couldn't find anything that was the right pattern and/or colour.

I watched a YouTube video showing me how easy it was to make my own, and to apply it using a Janome bias binding foot.  I sourced a foot. I waited impatiently for it to arrive.  I tried it. I failed.  I just couldn't get my binding in the way the woman on the video did. 

I had also bought some hemming feet for the machine, which roll the hem and stitch it in one neat movement,  so I tried those.  They worked quite well, but the widest rolled hem just wasn't wide enough.

Next, I tried making my own folded bias binding using bias binding things.  I ordered 3 different sizes of bias binder makers,  from 3 sellers as I couldn't find one seller carrying all 3, and waited for them to arrive.    While I waited, I contemplated the application process.   I'm not a natural seamstress, so making myself work out what would happen with various methods of application was a bit of a gym-exercise for parts of my brain that normally are undisturbed.

I watched YouTube videos on applying single fold and double fold binding.  My brain hurt, as what I was seeing on screen just didn't stack up with what I was expecting to see.I twiddled bought binding, thinking about it all.

Several days later, 2 of the 3 binding makers arrived and I had a go.  I didn't cut my fabric across the bias for my test runs.  I used starch.   They worked OK - although not perfectly - for making binding. But even the widest, wasn't really wide enough (once it had been bent round the edge of a pennant, and the pennant sewn to another piece of fabric before being turned out.  The mega one had yet to arrive.

Last night I rewatched the video of the woman using the binding foot and I had a bit of an "Aha!" momen when I realised she was putting unfolded fabric into it.  How ironic that I had bought the bias makers and waited for them to arrive!.   It took me several goes running between YouTube and my machine, stopping in between to go and buy some spray starch, but eventually I managed to get it to work.   It was OK, very promising in fact - but again not wide enough when the backing pennant was sewn on and the whole thing turned out.

I then realised what I had to do, but I doubted my ability to do it neatly.  I looked for a shortcut.  First attempt, I ironed my binding in half to give me a crease, and inserted the pennant into it.  I sewed it. I sewed the other pennant on the back. I turned it inside out.  It looked like carp because the stitches could be seen.

I tried again, with the painstaking sewing the little lip...blah blah blah... it looked great, the stiches were hidden, but was too narrow and wasted a hell of a lot of fabric.

So, I tried another version, which didn't use any of the feet and it didn't use any of the bias makers.  And it worked.  But it is going to take ages.   At this point, I decided that plain pennants would look fine, and I made one up to prove it to myself.

It looked awful. Especially when I....looks round to make sure DH isn't looking>
put the final finishing touch on. And I scorched the fabric putting on the finishing touch.

Well, it's going to have to be done.

Strips cut to the required width + double seam allowance.  Manually draw centre line on the wrong side.  Pin right side to right side against plain fabric. Sew along line, removing pins as I go.  Iron over, so that strip is right side up.Sew this half pennant to the patterned half of pennant, right side to right side. Turn out. Iron on finishing touch.  When all pieces completed,  sew into bunting tape. 

I dreamt about it last night, trying to calculate sizes, and trying to work out if I really had to make bias strips or could I just cheat and cut quick strips.

I need to take a deep breath and have a go.

Monday, 15 September 2014


Izzy has been on her thyroid medication for 3 weeks now, and had a checkup booked to see Uncle Tim today.

For the first couple of days, she was just a bit lethargic. Then she started retching and vomiting up small amounts of liquid.  I'd read that these were possible side effects, so we carried on. In case her vomiting was down to digestive troubles, I bought and cooked chicken breast for her for a couple ofdays, and this settled things down.  Back on ordinary cat food, it started again - so we put her on chicken completely for a while.

Despite the chicken, she's been pretty disinterested in food.  Usually we have to sit her in front of her bowl to get her to eat.    We weighed her a week or so ago, and she was down to a shocking 3.9 kilos.

We're so used to our cats eating voraciously, that we had to remind ourselves - continually - that normally cats only get fed twice a day,  and maybe this was just Izzy getting bacl to being a normal cat.

We were relieved when today arrived, so we could get her checked out.

We also decided ot take Wash along.  After all these years of mentioning his constant hunger and vomiting,  we wondered whether maybe he has a hyperactive thyroid too.

The first surprise was Izzy's weight.  4.79kg. She'd put on weight, and was now back to her July weight.  Blood was taken to check thryoid, we'll get the results on Wednesday.  We're so happy!

Next, Wash.  The Vet was really busy, and I hadn't given notice that we were bringing Wash too.   Tim kindly accomodated us. Wash has also lost a small amount of weight. The amount wasn't of particular concern, byt my concern was that he has been losing weight constantly.  Tim took urine and blood.      The urine showed that there was no diabetes,  so now we just need to wait for the blood test results.   I know this may be odd, but I hope that it is a hyperactive thyroid,  as that is potentially easy to get under control.

We'll know more on Wednesday.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Bunting. continued.

DH made me a pennant template out of some acrylic!
My next stretch of bunting came from some old Winnie the Pooh tea towels.  These took ages to cut ut, to get the characters centred and to make best use of the available cloth.   There are some small holes - these are used tea towels, after all. 

I had one other tea towel which was pale green with polka dots, and this provided the backing for several of the pennants.  I wasn't really sure what to do about backing for the rest, so I carried on regardless. 

After what felt like hours of cutting out, I made a decision on what to do for the backing.  I cut up a quilt cover.

I then started sewing pennants.

Then I ironed pennants.

The I lined them up, and then I checked the pattern on the back as well.

The I started pinning them into the bunting tape.  I ran out of pins.  I had a lot of pennants.

Learning 1.
Tea towels are quite thick, and so are not the easiest of things to sew as double pennants.

Learning 2 
Cut out the two parts together. Even using my template, it was very difficult to get two separately cut pieces lined up.

Learning 3
Tea towels are quite thick. Two tea towels are a nightmare trying to sew them into fairly thin bunting tape.

They are a but ropey, close up... but they look OK from a distance.



Friday, 5 September 2014

One extreme to the other

Izzy now has no interest in food, is a bit lethargic, and has started vomiting. Usually it's retching, with a little but of goo coming up, but we've had the full works.  No wonder she doesn't want to eat.

I read that vomiting, lack of appetite and lethargy (amongst other things) are symptoms of side effects of the medication.  She's going back to the Vet a week on Monday, so I think I'll weigh her today and see if I can hold my nerve until then.

I might have to keep her in to see if she's going to the toilet OK.

DH is back later today, so hopefully that will cheer Izzy up.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Green-eyed monster

The bottom of our garden is very shaded, and backs on to public land.    I'm sick to death of clearing ivy, only for it to surge forward from the other side of the fence.  With the recent changeable weather, Ivy has been even more rampant than usual,  and has not only crept under the fence but through the fence and, like a waterfall, over the fence from the other side.

A few days ago I decided I'd attack the other side of the fence with the mattock, and yesterday I decided that today was the day.

So. I walked round to the park, mattock discreetly in my hand.  The gate nearest my house was locked, so I had to do a detour which involved passing a childrens play area, and a youths' play area.  I walked as nonchalantly as I could, given that I was carrying a very large, very sharp, very scary knife.

The area backing on to my house was deserted, and I set about my task.  It was horrendous. After about 40 minutes of slashing and pulling, I had great big red blobs all up my arm, which I assumed was nettle rash but, as I type this, I am now wondering if it was poison ivy.    I'd done the best I could, and I walked home. 

I tried even harder to be nonchalant, as now I was not only carrying a great big scary knife, but I had wounds down one arm, was bright red (from exertion, but an onlooker might not have realised that), and I imagine I was looking a little less than kempt.

At home, full of itchiness,  I decided I might as well finish the job on our side.

An hour later, I had not only cleared the ivy - well, most of it -

..sorry, there was a break of  a few minutes while I looked up the symptoms and treatment for poison ivy, and then I went and did it. Took antihistamine,  washed the area with lukewarm soapy water,  in case you need to know...

- but I had also cut some sapling branches which were hanging over our side of the garden.  I only did those I could reach with my small two-step step stool.  I left the higher branches alone as they weren't really causing a problem.  I cut them into smallish pieces, as the Green Bin isn't being collected until next week, and DH will have Words if he finds big bits in it.

I'd opened the nettng to the back of the Girls' free range area so I could get the step stool in, and I'd left it open so the Girls could have a rook around the newly cleared ground on the other side.  They lined up and made busy with their feet and beaks.  Eventually they got bored and wandered off towards the house,  so I had to halt what I was doing to re-enclose them.   The cats pretend not to notice when the odd chook pops in the house,  but they wouldn't have been to happy if the Girls came in mob-clawed. 

It's probably just as well that the green bin is full, as I was tempted to do a bit more pruning while I was out there.  Our damson trees are nearly all misshapen, and I can see we might want to cut some of them down to let the straighter ones survive. 

Right, I'm off to find some antihistamine cream now, as my arm feels like it is full of pins and needles.  The antihistimine tablet has reduced the swellings. 

It's quite annoying actually.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Sew and Sew

DH is away at the moment, which is partly why I wanted to get the machine now.   Whil I had a bit of peace and quiet to think about it all.

I eventually packed the machine, and started by reading the manual.

I set it up, without the foot press, and tried it out withrout any coton or bobbin.  I know that probably seems a bit bizarre, but I wanted to see how it was going to be, would it be slow, too fast. Could I control it?  It was very easy.

Relieved, I went on.

The instructions on winding the bobbin were very easy to understand.  Success.

The instructions on threading the machine were OK to start with, helped by the fact that I had a vague idea of it, and the machine itslef has numbers on it to tell me where to go next.  It was OK until I got to the needle area, and then I just couldn't make sense of the pictures.

The first Youtube video wasn't very helpful.  The lady showed very clearly all the bits I already knew, but then didn't show in detail the bit I was stuck on.

The second Youtube video was more helpful, and I the lady explained that I needed to look at the underside of the machine.   Aha! Got it.    For the next bit, I had to watch the video twice, and then I got that.  I expect I'll be a bit better next time.

Now I needed to thread the needle.  I used the needle threader.  It took me several goes, but I got there in the end.   And then I followed the manual to pick up the bobbin thing.  Success.

I got some old teatowels from the utility room.  I sewed a bit, trying out different stitches.  I worked out that the letters refer to the type of  foot. Good start.

I thought about my bunting ideas, and the next thing I did was try sewing some paper into the folded edge of a tea towel.  To my surprise and delight, it worked!  Ha!

I then got a lighter tea towel so I could actually see the stitching, and tried them all - well, all those that did not require a foot change.  I tried the autolock feature, which is where the machine does a backwards and forwards set of sitches (so you don't have to do it manually).  

I really love it.

It's so easy to use.  

Well, it's so easy to use when I'm just sewing without actually trying to make anything.

I'm likely to be out tomorrow, otherwise I'd go and get some binding so I could try making the first of my bunting projects,  paper bunting.

I wish I'd done this years ago.

Sew what?!

I've bought a sewing machine.

I've been dallying with the idea for several years now, but each time I've looked at machines I've had to lie down in a dark room to recover.   I do actually have a machine already, an ancient Singer, which is very pretty but is (a) a nightmare to use,  (b) weighs a ton, and (c) (d) (e) is a nightmare to use.  In fact, that is partly what keeps putting me off buying a new machine.

I don't know how to sew.   I tried at school at 13, and was hopeless.  Like sports, the needlework lesson wasn't really about being taught , it was about doing.  Like sports, I put it in the "I can't do that" category.

I found a lady a few miles away who runs classes, and this gave me the prompt to think about it again.   Her lessons were booked up,  but I was sure she'd start a new class. I looked at machines. It was too complicated.  I decided I's wait until I had had my first lesson, and I'd get some advice on what machine to buy.

The May course finished. She didn't post any new dates.  Then she took an extended holiday.  And she still hasn't restarted.

The reason for me wanting to get restarted is that I wanted to sew some bunting.  I know it's a bit extreme, buying a machine to sew bunting.... but bunting was really the poke I needed.  

Once again I did some research.  I looked on the John Lewis website.   I looked for nearby sewing centres who might be able to give advice.  All the well rated places are hundreds of miles away.

Then I came across a blog where someone was actually talking about sewing machines for beginners who were looking for a mid range machine.  She really rated Janome,  and actually recommended a machine, the 5018.   I looked at the machine online, it was available in John Lewis.  It was also available from a very highly rated online place, SewingMachinesDirectwhich gave a 5 year guarantee for the machine.

It was so much easier than previous attempts where I'd been trying to compare across makes as well as within makes.
I did what I always do.  I compared the machine to the one or two below it in price, and the one or two above it in price.  The next machine up, 5024/5124,  had some additional features that I thought would benefit me.  It was available in John Lewis and the online shop.    It looked ideal.  

I looked for reviews.  It was promising, although one of the forums had a discussion about this machine versus another Janome, the 3050. .  John Lewis had that one too.  I looked for second hand versions.  I could see that second hand machines don't hold their value, and it would be much better to pick one up second hand, and resell it if I didn't like it.

I parked the idea, waiting for the "heat of the moment" to die down.

It didn't. Yesterday morning I had a spare hour. I went to John Lewis to look at the machine.   I was baffled.  The assistant wasn't able to demo the machine as she had another demo booked.  I left the shop, wishing that I had know that it was possible to book a demo.  I didn't know what to do.

If I booked a demo at John Lewis, I would feel obliged to buy from John Lewis.  Maybe that was the answer.

I searched some more online.  Then I found a recent forum posting discussing exactly the machines I had been looking at, plus a 3000 which was badged for Sewing Machines Direct.  I compared the machines.  Once was electronic, the other computerised.  The computerised one was significantly cheaper,  but the forum discussion leaned heavily towards this one, recommending purchasing the quilters pack to go with it.

I couldn't find an exact equivalent to the SMD3000 at John Lewis,  so there wasn't much point in going back.  Surely I'd be able to work it out? Ot there woudl be Youtube videos?

In the end, I went for the SMD3000, the cheaper option.  It had some features that the 5024/5124 did not, like a stop start button so I wouldn't need to use a foot press.  It didn't have the onboard storage that the 5024/5124 had, but that seemed like a small thing.

I ordered it yesterday afternoon from sewingmachinesdirect, and it arrived today!

It sat, still in its packaging, while I considered what I had done.