Friday, 29 April 2016


Normally when I've made a big purchase, and said purchase has arrived, I sit and look at the box for a while. Days, actually.  Sometimes it's me contemplating whether I've made a purchase error; sometimes it just takes me a while to psyche myself up to get started.

I really needed to practice what I'd learned on my course. It's already been 9 days since the course, and I wasn't sure how much I'd remember.So, I opened it up straightaway.

It came "ready threaded", but this was actually literally just enough thread to thread it - none to actually sew with.

Never mind,  I had learned how to tie on new thread and pull it through. AND I'd already thought of using 4 different colour threads, so I could tell them apart while I started to practice.


Predictably, within seconds, I looked like this:
I struggled on for a bit longer, then I gave in and cut the threads...and attempted to re-thread from scratch.

I did it!

It was similar, but not the same, as the process for the machine I'd used on the course.  Actually, it was easier,  and understanding a bit about "upper loopers" and "lower loopers" etc etc really helped.

The Bernina also had a needle threader which took a bit of practice.  I'd seen it on a Youtube video the other day, so I kinda knew what to expect.

Then I sewed. I adjusted and sewed again. I played with this lever and that lever,  sewing a row each time so I could try and see what difference it makes.

And then I did a little happy dance around the kitchen.

I've made the right choice.

Well, that was a longer break than I expected.   I'm feeling better now, much more like myself.

A evil cough overcame me. accompanied by a very high temperature and migraines.  It could hardly have come at a worse time... for the first time in months I had two paid-for things booked and I just didn't have time to be ill.

I spent a day and a half in bed trying to sweat it all out.  I got up on the Saturday, dosed myself up (and kept myself dosed and hydrated ) so I could attend a long-awaited "tea tasting" course in London with my friend Y.    Great course, really interesting, learned loads.

I spent the Sunday and Monday in bed  in the hope that I would be well enough to go to my Overlocker one-to-one course in Brighton.   Fortunately it was only 3 hours, and I'd arranged it for the middle of the day.  Good course, learned a lot, but couldn't decide what to do about an overlocker.   We'd used the exact model that a friend had recommended. It seemed fine, easy to thread.  But I  just didn;t feel as...enthused as I had expected.   Back to bed, or lolling around the house, still dosing myself up trying to suppress the damn cough and get rid of the disjointed migraine.

I finally managed to make the pencil case for DGD's birthday, and on Monday we took her presents over.   I didn't take a picture of the final one, but here's a pic of one of my earlier failures to give you the idea.  The fabric is black and white, ready to be coloured in with fabric pens.  I included a set of those as well.

 She was not particularly impressed.

I'd also promised someone some bunting, before I was unwell, and it was taking me days to make it. I could only do a bit at a time.   And then, at last, on Tuesday I felt less unwell.   I managed a trip to Ikea to take a load of stuff back, and to get the last few things for my sewing area.

I was also well enough to think more clearly about the overlocker.  Another model - a different manufacturer - had caught my eye.  On the way back from Ikea I called in to a dealer to take a look at this other machine but, sod's law,  it was the one machine he didn't have in stock. 

I finished the bunting.

I watched overlocker videos on Youtube.  I sought advice from online sewing friends.   I decided on Tuesday that I would buy one, and I decided which one. 

I mentioned to DH that I was buying an overlocker.  I expected him to roll his eyes, or to ask me where it would go.  He didn't, which was quite sweet of him (or so I thought).

I then waited until yesterday to place my order, just in case I changed my mind.

I also bought an online pattern for a quick vest type shirt, which I printed and spent an hour sticking together today.   And I bought some calico, so I could have a go at making a mock up before I actually used some proper fabric.

The delivery driver arrived a few moments ago, and I said "Oh, it's probably the overlocker". 

"That was quick!" said DH  as he opened the door.  It's quite a big box...?"  he said.

 I went into the hall and looked at the box.  "Yep, that's it".  I said, "I'll get it out and try it a bit later".   

 "Is that another machine then?    I thought you were just buying a special foot for your machine"

 No wonder he though the box was a bit big.


Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Normal service will be resumed

Am unwell.

In other news, Wash got into a fight with the other cat, a proper - rolling around on the floor with fur flying  - fight.

He's OK.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Back with a vengeance

The new, heavyweight, Wash has wasted no time in reasserting himself in the neighbourhood.  I mentioned that he visited both adjoining gardens (scaling the fences) on his first time out. He's been in and out o fthe cat flap at all hours since.

This morning I was woken up at some unearthly hour (the young hens hadn't got up, it was still dark, so it was before 5.30) by cat wailing.  Fearing for Wash,  I leapt out of bed, opened the window, and the cacophony was unbearable.  I grabbed my dressing gown, ran downstairs, opened the back door and ran out in to the rain. I had slipped on some garden shoes, but , n my haste, I hadn't been able to get my heels in.

It took me a moment or two to work out where the cats were, the other side of the gate.  I had to go back in the house, unlocking and going out through the front door.  My arrival disturbed things, and the enormous black and white cat (the one Wash had a stand-off with last year, before his accident) ran out of the driveway and along the street to the alley way.  Wash was in hot pursuit.

I cursed.  I shut the front door, and ran after him, in the rain, in my dressing gown, still schlepping along with myfeet only partially inside my garden shoes.  As I was running along the alleyway, I imagined bumping in to someone. Oh well, I'd explain that I was searching for my cat.

Eventually I found him, and he came home with me, bouncing along a bit like Tigger.  He had to prove how jaunty he was feeling by leaping over the garden wall. 

He then strolled upstairs and went for a nap.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Comings and Goings

Wash has been in and out of the cat flap.  He's visited both next door neighbours,  as we discovered when we were out with the tracker trying to find him.   I know it's silly worrying,  but I can't help it.

In both cases, his visit required him to go over the fence.  On one side there was a convenient something for him to use to help him up; on the other side there wasn't and he had to leap up from the ground (and back down again. Both directions).    I hope his paw holds up to this, we've got yet another vet visit next week.

I suspect he will start to lose weight now, as he exercises more.   He weighed 5.675kg this morning, and I'm writing it here so I don't lose it.

We've also bought an Alphatrak meter, as his last urine test showed he had glucose in his pee,  so he's back on insulin again.   DH did the test the other day, and it worked easily.     We need to do a 2 hoursly test for 12 hours to establish a baseline, and take this to the Vets with us.  DH tried yesterday, but had trouble getting a blood sample.  We were meant to do it today, but I screwed up.

The plan was to take the first measurement before Wash had any breakfast.   This morning, the wall cabinet was being delivered, and I had to be up at 6am to be ready.  In fact, I was up at 5.45 becaise the Girls kicked off,  and after I'd quietened the hens down I made tea and fed the cats.

So, DH is going to try tomorrow.

Wash, meantime, is sleeping.  Maybe he won't be out exercising after all!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Busier than expected

The children sometimes ask what DH and I have been doing, and we rarely have a sensible answer.    Partly it's because our day to day lives seem relatively unremarkable, and we have enough trouble remembering what we did yesterday, never mind last week or last month.

I was thinking about this a f couple of days ago, so I decided to try and make a note of things I had to do for a couple of days, and I updated it (when I remembered) with additional things I'd done. 

I was a bit shocked by the length of the list after 2 days.  In some respects it was "reassuring" to realise that when I talk about "pottering about", I do actually achieve quite a lot;  and in other ways it was a bit overwhelming, as I had thought that I didn't really do anything any more.

You may be relieved to know that I shan't be boring you with a list of the minutae of my life. That doesn't mean you get away scot free, I do have a couple of things to bore you with:

First is that I ran up, in record time,  a tiny duvet cover and pillow case (complete with an Oxford trim) . I even put beautiful heart shaped kamsnaps on the bottom,  and made a "duvet" out of some pet bedding to go in it.   It is soooo sweet.

Actually, I should have made the cover wider so it draped over the side of the bed frame. If the cats ever do deign to use it as a bed, I'll make another one.  And yes, those of you who can sew will be thinking "That's really easy".  Well, yes, it was. In hindsight.

I'm keen to tackle my Superking sized duvet cover, and I've booked myself on an Overlocker course as I think Overlocking may make the whole thing much easier.  It's taken me a looong time to book a sewing course of any sort, mainly down to a lack of teachers offering the right sort of courses in my area.


You may remember me mentioning the pencil case that I was trying to make for my granddaughter?   Well, I had my second attempt. It was beautiful.  Andthen I managed to snip an important thread. Right at the finish, after I'd turned it all out, removed the stabiliser, pressed it, whipstitched the opening, pressed it again.

I haven't had the enthusiasm to make it again, but I will do so.

I've got another project to slip in first.

The sewing area inches (or, perhaps I should say "centimetres") towards completion.   The wall unit should be arriving tomorrow.  The new desk top arrived yesterday. It weighs a ton. 

We're definitely feeling like a couple of old farts as we try to manouevre it to do anything.   We took it outside so  DH could  cut it to size,  then we put it in the summerhouse as it was raining.  We got it out again today, and DH has routed the edges. Then we put it away again.   It needs protecting with Danish Oil and then sanding, before it's ready to install.  Installation will be a bit fraught and, as I'm also swapping desks with the kitchen table and so poor DH actually has to fit 2 desktops, I expect the air will be blue and we'll have a bit of a heated discussion about things.  There's no rush


Unrelated,  the replacement glazing for our french windows was ready, it's been a long time coming.  We wanted to have a panel with a hole for a cat flap in (our existing cat flap opens on to the driveway, and is an encouragement for Wash to go off to the main road).   While we were at it, we decided to have internal blinds in the glass, which meant both panels needed replacing.  The chap we chose to do the work was very busy,  then there was a problem with the units and the delivery date was put back....

They were fitted today, and DH installed the cat flap and we registered both cats with it.  This time we've gone for a Sureflap. We're happy with the other one, a PetSmart one, just fancied trying the competition as well.    Wash learned how to use it - mostly - very quickly. Izzy refused to go anywhere near it.  We had lots of fun sitting/lying either side of the cat flap trying to get them to get on with it.

Wash was allowed out on his own, without Jacky, for the first time.  After about 20 minutes of exploring the garden, he leapt up on to the fence and visited next door's garden.  He came back eventually, unfortunately we had the back door open so he didn't use the cat flap to get back in.  He's worn out now, and is flopped out on the bed to recover.

I want to see him coming and going before we finally dismantle the enormous cage in the living room (and get rid of the litter tray in there).   I'm really looking forward to it going.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Ikea looms

I need to visit Ikea.... to take some stuff back.  I've added it up and I have about £60 worth of stuff, still new in packaging, that I don't need.   It's enough to make the trip worthwhile.

As long as I don't go round the store.

Happily they have an excellent policy on returning stuff,  anytime within 365 days.  

So, I'll wait a bit.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Grr. Argh.

I started work on a large-ish pencil case for the upcoming birthday of one of my granddaughters.  I'd found some colour-in fabric that seemed like a good wheeze, she'd be able to colour the pencil case in as she wished.

The finished pencil case would be 10 inches across by 6 inches high. It's a US design, hence the ancient measurements.   I had to use one of the largest hoops for the machine.  It requires soluble stabiliser, and I felt a pang of "what a waste" as I hooped it up.  The stuff isn't cheap,  the hoop is enormous and used a lot of it,  and it only needs to be soluble because of the zip.  I gritted my teeth and carried on.

I had trouble with the first lining piece. It wouldn't stay stuck to the stabiliser, no matter how much masking tape I applied.   I gave in and dug out my adhesive spray - I hate using it, it gums up the needle and the hoop.  I put the hoop back on,

The front piece fell off.  I retrieved it from the floor, stuck it back on, and started to sew.  As it sewed, I could tell something wasn't right. I'd put it in the wrong place.

I stopped the machine,  took the hoop off, and attempted to unpick the stitching - a challenge on soluble stabiliser.  I turned the fabric round,  re-stuck it, did the sewing.

Next step, fold back the front piece and now sew any personalisation.   I ran downstairs to the computer, added personalisation (initials in outline, so she can colour those in too), sent the design back to the machine, ran back upstairs.  Sewed the initials. Hmm. My folding back wasn't as good as it could have been.

Took the hoop off, turned it over, and discovered that there was a kink in the fabric on the back.   I swore, loudly.   I unpicked the stitching, re-stuck the fabric,  put the hoop back on.

And then realised I couldn't restitch.  I'd put initials on the front, which meant I couldn't turn the fabric back over.  I could sew the line, it would mean that the stitching showed. That's not great, but it's not the end of the world.  What IS the end, is that it would look odd, stitching on one side only. 

I swore again.  I looked at it all and decided there was only one thing to do.

Grr, Argh,

Cut another piece of fabric, and start again.  


Something picked

I decided to make a pocket calendar thing, for holding reminders/tickets/cards etc during the year.

For many years we've used either a Lakeland "family planner" calendar or their "couples calendar", both of which have a pocket a the bottom of each month.We haven't used the calendar part for some years, but the pocket bit is useful.

DH commented that the calendar was a bit out of date and, as I'd thought about this briefly in the past, I decided on the spur of the moment that I would make something.

Several hours in to making my epic sewn-and-embroidered version, I realised that I could have achieved something perfectly satisfactorily, in paper and card,  in less than an hour.  At this point it was too late to turn back.  I'd cut fabric and pressed and hemmed edhes,  I'd cut 12 pockets, ironed and hemmed edges, folded and ironed pockets,  and started to embroider the month name on the pockets. 

Looking back now, it wasn't really that difficult.  It seemed a challenge at the time because I hadn't sewn much before,  wasn't sure how to make the pocket expandable without being saggy,  wasn't sure about lining it all up,  wasn't sure about how to actually assemble it so it would turn over neatly. 

Just trying to iron and sew the backing pieces so they were the sme size was a bit of a challenge.  Then trying to get 12 pockets the same size, all neatly sewn, was tough.   I realised that it would have been a lot less trouble if I'd gone for a plain background with patterned pockets and no embroidery. 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

And the amount of pinning and testing I did before sewing the background pieces together... anyone would think I was engineering a rocket to the moon.      The difficulty for me is that I have to see these things to work out how to do them.  I don't have enough experience (or I didn't) to rely on the picture in my mind's eye.

On the plus side, I've learned a lot.  I was able to sew while my embroidery machine did the embroidery.  I was able to test the ergonomics of my new sewing area.   I got to use my Kam Presses (and have now ordered lots more colours of kam snaps).

Anyway, here it is. There are lots of little niggles and mistakes - stitching isn't always straight,  it's scrappy in places,  but it is what it is. My first completed combined project:

By the way, most of the pictures were taken while it was lying in a heap on the kitchen table.

I wished that I had some sort of measure on my ironing press to help me with pressing seams....  I've discovered some fabric which has tape measure printing, and so I've now added a press cover made in tape measure fabric to my list of projects.

I also found that the pieces I'd cut for the background would have ade lovely placemats.  I ended up, ahem, stumbling across  (after a lot of googling) some heat resistant wadding, so that's another project to my list.

I had to stop part way through to make some other pieces.  A card for my neice's birthday tomorrow (I forgot to take a picture);   a headband request from one of my granddaughters - which ended up being matching headbands for her and her friendl when I made them  I wondered if I could make the whole design narrower, so I did some work on that and then made 2 more.    They were collected before I had a chance to photograph them.

And, finally, a card for my friend Sandra.
EmbroideryGarden then had a sale,  and I ended up buying another bucketload of designs, yet more projects to add to The List.

The List is now so long that I've had to write it down. And I've had to limit myself to writing down only those things that I am really going to try and do in the forseeable future. (Otherwise I'd feel overwhelmed and, knowing what I'm like, I would then go off the whole idea of sewing and embroidery).

Friday, 8 April 2016


It's been a busy week, more about that in another post later. Meanwhile...

We ad a very small chicken on Monday.  DH didn't want it roasted in the normal way, so we went through lots of recipe books and in the end chose pressure cooker recipe from Catherine Phipps.  It involved pressure cooking the entire chicken, stuffing and all.  It was..... a success. 

On Tuesday, we had cold chicken and (sadly, frozen) rosti.

On Wednesday, I made chicken fajitas.  We finally used the enormous electric griddle, which was surprisingly good and enabled us to cook 4 tortillas at once.  Result!

On Thursday, I made chicken and mushroom risotto in Thermy. 

And tonight we had Arancini (deep fried risotto balls) with the leftover risotto.  I made hummous and this time I used this recipe ( adding in a squirt of frozen coriander to the ingredients. 

It was delicious, the best hummus I've ever made.  I will be using this as my base recipe from now on.  I'm so happy to have found a good recipe at last.

DH made yet another load of beer.   Each batch has been excellent,  as good (or better) than pub beer.  I can't thank John Norman enough for talking about the Grainfather

Actually I can.  Thank you John.

Work on flooring and sewing room has kept us busy. For the first time I've had both machines ready to go, and I've been able to use them simultaneously.    The new desktop arrived today,  hopefully we'll have that in place in a few days.  It needs cutting down,  and I'm swapping desks with the kitchen.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Choir practice

The Girls have decided it's a good idea to have a chooky choir practice at about 5.45am each morning. They may be in the same choir, but they aren't singing the same song.

I've tried shutting them in the coop at night (which I know is normal for many people).   I don't like doing this.  Firstly,  some of them like to sleep, literally, hanging out of the coop door.   Secondly,  with  things still unresolved,  I don't like to have any of them shut in with no means of self protection or escape from another henpecking hen.  I can just imagine Poppy or Gloria waking up in a grump, and going for one of the youngsters.   On the nights (say, a Friday night or a Saturday night) when I shut the coop door ,   I sleep badly.

This morning, there weren't any planes so the Girls noise was really really loud.  I leapt out of bed threw open the window to try and shush them, and it was as effective as it always is - not at all.  I had to go outside and talk to them to get them to shut up.   I could see the downstairs lights on in my next door neighbours house, which was a bit of a shock.   I think she has triple glazing, so we're really fortunate that she doesn't hear the chooks (I do check with her, regularly).

I realised that the house 2 doors down, which is angled,  might be in a direct line for chooky noise.   I can see that I'm going to have to do some tests next time the girls start squawking.... but I'll try and do it during the day as I suspect a n old woman wandering alog the street in her dressing gown at 6am would be a bit of a cause for concern.

All was quiet, so I went back in, locked the door, went to the loo, went back to bed.

The little madams then  had another go at choir practice.