Friday, 24 June 2016

At the Vets

We phoned this morning to find out how Wash was getting on.

He'd eaten a little bit, but not a lot.  The vet assistant remarked "He just isn't himself, is he?"  She was one of the young ladies who looked after Wash during his stay earlier in the yearl she always asks after him when we bump into her on the many occasions we're at the Vet.  He was very popular, and they are really kind.

She asked me what his favourite food was ("Normally, anything"). She said she didn't mind cooking him some chicken or fish, which did I think he would prefer? ("Chicken, probably").  

We arrived at the Vets dead on visiting time.   Wash ignored us for a little while, but after we'd both had a bill and a coo and a stroke he started to purr.    We saw the dish of chicken (uneaten) and a pile of dry food (uneaten).  He looked a little brighter, presumably due to the IV, but he wasn't right.

There was a note stuck on his cage, which made me smile. I wish I'd had my phone with me to take a picture.  It said "Social eater, please keep him company while he eats".

None of the other in-patients had such a note.

There wasn't any other news, so I guess it will be Monday before any more tests are done.  We will pop in and see him on Saturday and Sunday.

Poor Washy, again

The cats have both been a bit lethargic lately. Not surprising, the weather has been humid and horrible, and lying around doing nothing is quite attractive.

On Saturday,  Wash got caight in my legs as I was walking round the kitchen table trying to pin out my duvet cover.   It was a noteworthy occurrence, because the last time Wash had got caught  my legs was just before he got hit by a car - and we later discovered the lack of agility was a symptom of his liver problems.    So, I mentioned it to DH, and asked him to watch out for any other instances.

On Sunday, Wash failed to get out of the way when DH was coming downstairs in the dark.  We checked Wash over, and couldn't see any obvious injury, and he wasn't exhibiting tenderness anywhere.    On Sunday night we found a scab on his head, which hadn't been there in the earlier examination.  He'd presumably got caught on something, or had a run in with another cat.

On Monday he seemed fine, just a bit sleepy.  On Tuesday, he was still laying about (which isn't unusual), but he just didn't seem right.  We'd been testing his blood sugar levels, and they weren't unusual. We made a Vet appointment for the following day.

On Wednesday, the Vet determined that he'd had a bite from another cat.  A battery of tests was run, but everything came back normal. He wasn't fighting an infection,  there was nothing obviously wrong.   However, the Vet (who knows Wash reasonably well now, having had so many interactions with him since Christmas) agreed that something wasn't right.   He gave Wash an antiobiotic jab, took another urine sample which this needed to go to an offsite lab,  and we made an appointment for the following day.

The following day was yesterday.  Wash had eaten some food in the morning, but promptly vomited it back up.   He continued looking really miserable all day.  The Vet checked him over, and Wash's heartbeat was a bit fast (not surprising, he hates being at the Vet). Th ewanted to do a chest xray, to rule various things out, so we waited while this happened.  And we waited. And waited. 

How long does a chest xray take?

Well, the reason for the delay was because the chest xray showed some clouding, and the Vet had gone back to the Christmas xrays to do a comparison.    There was definitely something there.   The next step was to do a heart scan,  and also to do a test for pancreatitis.    The scan would be done on Friday, Wash would be kept in and, because he had vomited his breakfast, he would be on a drip.

We had not expected to come home without him.   We had to go back a little later, to take in his insulin.  We arrived at 8.15pm and were surprised to fid the Vet was still there. He'd stayed on to do the heart scan that evening. 

The good news is that the heart scan was clear.

Wash has to stay at the Vets until his situation has improved.  We had, of course, expected we'd be bringing him home today.... but we know that he's in the right place.

Hopefully we'll know more later.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Animal Antics

Sasha, the gobby Appenzeller,  is continuing to be the shriekiest chicken I have ever met.   We're shutting the coop door at night now, in an attempt to muffle her sounds, but still I have to get up somewhere between 5 and 6am to do something about the racket.

"Doing something" usually means letting them out of the coop and going back to bed, then getting up again half an hour later to try and catch Sasha and shut her in one of the nest boxes to keep her quiet.  The standalone nestboxes work quite well for this, because she can't stand and stretch her throat (like a cockerel does while crowing), so she can't reach quite the volume. 

However, I don't really like doing this, so I only do it when she's being particularly voluble particularly early. I always set a timer if I do it, just so I don't forget about her.

This morning it was 6.05am.     When I rushed through the kitchen to get to the back door I saw that Izzy had had  a fit.  After sorting out the chooks, I came back in to investigate the fit, decided to make a cup of tea, and so there was no point in going back to bed.

Izzy has had two fits in the last 2 days, and is being extremely finicky about her food.


Wash has also been "not quite right".   He got tangled up in my legs yesterday, when I was working on the duvet cover in the kitchen.  Last time he got tangled up, he went on to get hit by a car, and we learned that he has liver problems and jaundice, and this had affected his reaction times.      I mentioned it to DH, on the basis that a one-off we can not worry about; 2 instances, and we have to keep watch; 3 instances and action must be taken.

Last night when I went to bed, Wash was sleeping on the top step, just below the landing level.   DH went downstairs and, in the dark, almost trod on him.   Wash was very shocked and ran into the bedroom.  We checked him all over and couldn't see any obvious sign of injury, he wasn't reacting to being poked and prodded.

This morning Was came in with a cut on his head. Unlikely to have been caused on the stairs last night, we would have found it.

Vet appointment for him tomorrow, I think.


The torrential rain and bad weather has meant the chicks haven't got outside much.   I managed maybe 10 mnutes yesterday.  It was hot, briefly.  I put the outside hen on, then waited 15 mins to see if  the weatherwas going to stay hot, or whether it was going to turn.  It stayed hot, so I put the chicks out.   10 mins later I could see a rain cloud approaching, so I had to try and catch the chicks on my own, and put them away.

This morning I've been waiting for the grass to dry and the wind to die down.  I'm ging to attempt to put them out shortly.


And while I was outside, I noticed that a snail was having a drink from a chick waterer I'd left on the paving. It was balancing on the lip, and leaning in to the dip where the water was.  It was a very delicate operation, it's little antenna wiggling slowly as it tried to stretch in.

What a little sweetie!  I've bever really thought that about snails before,  they are usually a pest in the garden.  But this little thing was going about its business, drinking from the oasis I had kindly - if unknowingly - provided.

Marked cards

Two cards this week...

The outline of a Plymouth Superbird as a reminder of things past for my Dad

And a congratulations card for my therapist friend, who's just passed her reflexology exams (with merit!)

Duvet Day

You may remember from many many months ago, that I'd had an idea about making a Duvet cover using some gorgeous chicken themed fabric?

The fabric was very expensive, and I couldn't justify spending that much money on fabric to make a duvet cover for a superking sized bed,  so I'd decided to use the fabric as a feature and to make a duvet cover around it.

I couldn't find really high quality fabric for sheeting,  and then I'd had a brainwave... I'd buy a flat sheet and use that! Brilliant!  It would already be hemmed round the edges, it would be really easy to sew, what could go wrong?

Well, I bought a sheet, in a blue similar to the background of the chickeny fabric, but wasn't sure about using that colour for the top as well.  So I bought another sheet, this time in white, as well.  I'd then have enough for pillowcases too.  I washed the fabric in preparation. I pressed it.    I was very new to sewing then, and I needed to think about it for a bit.   I also suspected that an overlocker would make the whole process much easier, so I decided to wait and see.

And then events overtook me.

We re-designed the front bedroom to make a sewing area.  No point starting until that was done.   Then I waited for my overlocker course to see if it would really help with my projects.  Then I waited until I had bought an overlocker.  Then I started down the path of making tops, in stretch fabric, using the overlocker.

Months passed.  Every time I saw the fabric I thought "hmm, I really must have a go at that."

Then, the other day, I decided I was going to do it.

I got it all out of it's Ikea box, and wasn't enthused.  I wanted a much BOLDER colour to set the fabric off.   I searched online for sheets, looking for a burgundy red to match the red on the fabric.   Few places had sheets that colour.

Eventually, I found some in John Lewis.  I did some sums, and decided that I'd buy 2 flat sheets, and that would give me enough to do the pillowcases (like in my original plan mark 2).   Before I clicked "checkout",  I suddenly wondered about buying a duvet cover and cycling-up  ( "upcycling" as the trend has it) that.

The idea had advantages.  It certainly had poppers already in place, and straight seams.   But that wasn't realy what I'd set out to do, was it?  But then, if I was buying two sheets, why not?

I bought the duvet cover.  I winced at the thought of the total cost of the project (although it was stil cheaper than buying enough chickeny fabric to do the whole thing).  Even the "free" pillowcases weren't really making me feel any better about it.

And yesterday, I had my duvet day.

I started by making a little mockup with the overlocker.  I created a mini duvet cover, overlocked on 3 sides. I cut a section out, and put some other fabric in.   I worked out how to do it so it didn't look like it had just been sewn on the top.   I was going to use the full width of the fabric, but I wasn't sure how long to make it.  I wanted an inset rectangle, ao I used the computer to draw out the duvet cover size..  then the bed, which was was a more visual representation of the size, and then anothe rectangle to work out what sized length looked proportionate.

And then on to the real thing.

Firstly, I have to say,  I should have used 2 sheets.   What was I thinking?!  Trying to lay out, measure, cut, sew a panel in the middle of a duvet cover is a P.I.T.A. 

It was a pain even trying to get it all laid out flat to start measuring and drawing lines, despite pressing it beautifully first.   DH helped as we draped it over the kitchen table.

Then the cutting! Oh my goodness!  I managed to not move the cutting mat at one point, so I cut both layers of fabric.  Thank heavens I wasn't pressing hard, ptherwide I would have gouged the kitchen table too! So, as well as everything else I had to do a repair.  Darning wasn't going to work, but I had an idea about using a really tight zigzag stitch, and using some embroidery stabiliser on the back. It worked.  It looks like a bit of a duelling scar, but it's on the underside, so who cares.   And, on the plus side, I now know how to do a really fab satin stitch, like they do for going round applique.

I used a pen to draw on my cutting lines.  I drew on my sewing lines.   I drew on my corner clipping line.  I checked it was all square, and parallel.   I pressed. With an actual iron!   I got the chickeny fabric, and pressed the seam allowance all round.    Then I attached one side of the the fabric - pinned, pinned, pinned.  I used wonderclips too.  I turned it right side out, to check it looked OK.   I changed my mind about the size of the seam allowance.

I drew the new seam allowance all the way round, moved the pinned side, then pinned and wonderclipped the other 3 sides.  I turned it right side out and checked it looked OK.   I then sewed a side, unpinned, and checked it.  Then I sewed the other sides.   (Yes, I know you don't need to sew first if you're overlocking - but doing so means (a) I don't have to deal with two layers of fabric slipping about while using something as final as an overlocker, and (b) I can see whether I've cocked up before the fabric gets irretrievably cut off)

I decided to take a break, and looked at the pillowcase.  I had one from another bed set, so I looked at how it was constructed. I looked at my fabric.  I had just enough to make 2 pillows, assuming I was adding a band of the fabric as well.   We have special neck pillows,  and I debated whether to make pillowcases to fit those, or whether to make standard sized cases (too big really for our pillows).  I went down the standard route.

I laid out the fabric for one, measuring, measuring, measuring.  I overlocked the fabric to the divet offcut, and then pressed all the seams and cuffs.  I did the same for the second one.  Then I had a go at making them up.  Sew the hem at each end.  Turn over and sew the small inside bit.  Make the cuff. Overlock all round. 

It worked!   The pillowcases looked lovely!

Inspired,  I decided to do the overlocking on the cover,.  It went well.   I then had to finish the corners, which I didn't do particularly well (I'll think about how to make that better for another time).  And, finally, I decided to top stitch, to stop it rolling. Or whatever the reason is you do topstitching.

Top stitching a superking sized duvet cover is quite hard work, there's a lot of fabric to squish up on the sewing machine and to hold out of the way whilst sewing.

A quick press, and I had to put it on the bed to see what it looked like.  The pics make it look more of a scarlet, it isn't that colour at all.  The real colour is in the plain pic further up ^^^

It came out quite well.  Not perfect. One particular corner needs some attention, but I've had enough now, I might try and fix it when I take the cover off for washing.

I think it would have taken half the time if I'd used two sheets instead, and that's what I'll do next time. If there is a next time!


Thursday, 16 June 2016

Not all failures

It's not all been about failures.  In the last couple of weeks I've done a few cards:

My colour choices for the butterfly on my friend Sue's card ended up being a little bizarre.

No idea why this photo is so dark. Shame, as I really liked the card (and obviously don't have it any more to be able to re-photograph it). The first letter is applique, the rest is stitched. The two fonts are from two different designers, but they go together quite well.  I expect I'll use this pairing again.

And a Plymouth Superbird for my dad for Sunday.    Many, many years ago, he owned two of these - and there were only 3 in the whole country at the time.

I've just done a design for a friend who has successfully passed her Refloxology exams.   I haven't got round to stitching it out yet, maybe later today.

Be careful what you wish for

I tried ironing on the Stay tape.

I failed.

I tried using the ironing press to iron it on.

I failed.

I don't think it's actually fusible tape, I think it's sew-on (wtf?!).

So I have to wait for the mega roll now. I hope that one is fusible.

Contrariness, continued

DH wandered into the kitchen, and made a cheery comment about the cut out pieces of top all over the table.   I explained to him the tape saga, and showed him the tape.  He looked at the reel and said,
"that's just clingfilm". 

"Is it?. I thought that, but when I unwrapped it, it was the tape".

He unwound a bit.  "See? " I said. "It's not clingfilm, it's the tape".

He unwound a bit more.  The tape/clingfilm changed from being loose and clingfilmy to being tight an tape-y.  He stopped unwinding, and we examined it.  It was still clear, and it didn't have a rough side.    Whatever it was, it wasn't what I needed.  I mentioned this to him.

"No, I don't think it is the tape, look at the side of the reel, that's not clear.".  He continued to unwind.   More and more clear tape rolled off the reel.  I wasn't too bothered,  I had a larger, correct, reel coming at some point.   The tape had reached the floor and was starting a little pile.  He continued unwinding. "This is really odd", he said.

And them, after yards and yards of clearness,  there was white tape underneath. With a rough side.

Well done him :-)

And yay!.  Which, if you could hear me saying it, you'd hardly hear anything.

Because now I have to get myself psyched up again.  Which is precisely why I'm writing this blog entry, instead of  getting on with it. 

But I am going to do it. I am  In a few minutes.  When I've had a coffee, checked on the chicks,  tested those DVDs to make sure my DVD player can read them......

Procrastination fail

Well, the reel of "Stay Tape" arrived, along with other bits I'd ordered at the same time. I'd since had a reply from the Wrapalong lady telling me which Vilene product best matched my needs.  I'd found an enormous roll of that online (rarer than I expected) and, in the expectation of all the future jersey dresses and tops I was going to make,  I'd ordered that. It'll be here in a couple of days.

While I had been waiting for the originally ordered small roll, I had re-traced my pattern, using the top and part of the skirt from the original tissue version.  I checked the front and back had the same curves etc, and then I committed them to tailors card.

When the stay tape arrived, I had run out of excuses, so I cleared the kitchen table and attempted to lay out my pattern pieces.   I had trouble finding the grainline.  The jerseyish fabric was curling a bit, so that didn't help.  I also discovered that the selvedge was a bit weird.  It wasn't consistent. 

I googled and read posts and watched a video or two,  and then attempted to find the grain by stretch.   I mostly managed it, although I guess I won't know until the top is made whether I got it right or not.   I laid the pattern pieces out, and had to have a break while I considered the implication of one of them.  The original pattern had a lined top, and so required 4 front pieces to be cut out.  Because the fabric is folded, it was 2 pairs,  with 1 pair using the pattern reversed.    I'm not lining my top, and I suddenly couldn't decide whether this meant I needed to just cut out one pair,  or whether I needed to cut out a single one way and a single reversed.   It must be just a pair, surely?

I ended up doing a mock up with paper,  and it seems that my assumption is right.  I guess I'll find out shortly.

Anyway.   Eventually, I had cut out the front and back.  I'm not having full length sleevies,  so I cut out fabric a bit longer than I think I need, I can adjust before I go ahead.    I'd used clover wonder clips to keep the pieces attached to the card templates, in an attempt to stop the edges curling.  I'd had enough by this point, so I didn't cut out the ties, nor the binding for the neck.

This morning, I found myself wanting to make my duvet cover, or to watch some sewing videos which arrived yesterday. Anything, in fact, which didn't involve doing the wrap top.    I know what I'm like,  and I know that I'm really just afraid that I'll make it and it won't be right, and I'll be disillusioned.   

So, I gave myself a mental slap, and prepared myself to get on with it.  I read the instructions.   Step 1.  Put on the knit stay tape.   I  marked on my card templates where I needed to tape.   Put it rough side down, and press with an iron, don't move back and forwards. Yep, I can do that. 

 I would normally use my ironing press but I decided to start with an iron and a board  downstairs.   I got the reel of tape out of it's packet,  carefully wrote "stay tape" on the cardboard core so that I could tell it apart from all the other tapes (they all look surprisingly similar when they're out of the packaging), and started to unroll it. 

 It had a sort of clear clingfilmy thing around it, which I had trouble removing.  I then realised that it wasn't clear clingfilmy stuff to keep it clean, it was the tape itself.

So, after all that, I have to wait for the other stuff to arrive.

True to my naturally contrary nature, I was feeling a bit let down.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Over the Top

I completed my first successful jersey fabric tee shirt!

I has a very large pattern on it, and by luck (i didn't even consider it) the pattern on the front looks OK.   The size is far too big (so I'll try the same size in a non-stretch fabric), and I made a bit of a booboo at the shoulder.... but it's actually not bad at all.

I saw a great blog pot about dresses for overweight ladies - it didn't refer to overweight, that's me - and it was really interesting. Firstly, the lady whose blog it is is a similar shape to me. She was wearing a wrap dress she's made, and it looked really good.    Secondly,  she talks about how easy it was, and there was a promise of a sewalong (or wrapalong as she called it)

I ordered the pattern (from the US), and it arrived this week.

Following on from my success at the other top, I decided I'd make a top version of the wrapalong dress.   I found the wrapalong posts, and realised that it really should be easy enough to convert it. She also changed the neckline to use binding, which I've now done successfully on two teeshirts, and that suited me.

I got the pattern out, got my pattern paper out and traced off the correct size.  I cut this out,  pinned it together at the seams, and tried on the paper version to see what I needed to do about the length. I decided it needed another 5 inches.

After some debate with myself about whether I shoud be adding the 5 inches directly to the bottom, or whether I should be adding it above the tie.   I opted for adding it to the bottom, as I guessed the tie should still sit on my waist.

I farted about adding 5 inches to the length, carefully measuring vertically at many points then joining them up using my recently acquired patternmaster curve, and trying to get the same shaped curve as the original.  And then I put the back and front together andmade sure that I'd ended up with the same shape and same positioning for both.  

Several hours later, I realised that I could and should have just included 5 inches from the top of the skirt pattern. Doh!

Then I read the wrapalong instructions carefully to make sure I was ready to lay out and cut.  Apparently I need some "knit stay tape".   I found several products which might be the equivalent of the US "Knit stay tape".  I ordered a reel of it, and I have to wait for that to arrive before I can carry on!

Maybe I'll make a oven tee shirt while I'm waiting....although that means I have to prewash some fabric....

Or maybe I'll just wait.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

One week

On Monday it was baking hot, and we thought we'd set up an outside coop for the chicks.   Because there's only 4 of them, we decided to use the Eglu Go.

They are, of course, far too small to use it as a coop at this stage.  We use it to give them a safe area outside, with shade from the raised coop and with heat from an Electric Hen.    It took us a while to retrieve the coop from it's storage place, plus finding the Hen, then an outdoor extension lead, then for me to disindect the extra feeder and drinker. DH had to mow the grass,  we need it very short for the chicks.

 By the time it was set up, it was too late to put the chicks out.

Yesterday, the weather wasn't suitable.  Because the chicks are so young, it needs to be really warm out and really dry.  The grass didn't dry off properly in the humidity,  and then we had an enormous thunderstorm.

Today it wasn't warm enough, and the grass was still wet. 

 Then, suddenly, it was baking hot and the grass was dry.   We got the chicks and popped them in the run, underneath the Hen.   They didn't stay there, they came out and sat in a group, just looking.  I can imagine they were on sensory overload.

Then they were off.  One of them tried nibbling the grass, then they were all at it.  One of them climbed on the spoke of the wheel. They chased each other round.  It was great to watch.

Eventually they had a little break and sat down by one of the wheels.

Izzy came to investigate, and I told her off.  She was a little too interested - probably thinking "I know what you blighters grow in to,  I'll get you while I can".

Wash also strolled by, and looked deliberately disinterested. He continued his absolute disinterest when he lay down nearby, and started washing himself.   Which means he was watching very closely.

They were out for about 30 minutes, then we brought them back in.   From now on, they'll go out for a short time each day (or several times a day), if the weather is good enough.

Only a week old, and look at the wing feathers on Blondie:

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Oh Poop!

The blue chick didn't hatch, so I dismantled the incubator and sterlilised it all, leaving it strewn around the bathroom floor to dry.

This moening we moved the now-5-day-old chicks into the shed brooder. This gives them more space, and a choice of whether to snuggle under the electric hen, sit under the lamp, or sit in a cooler area.    Aa aoon as they've grown a bit, we'll enlarge the ring,  and then we'll add some things to hel keep them amused.

As soon as they were in the shed, I went to remove the initial brooder from the guest room.  I wanted to be able to get back in and to sew.   I picked the brooder up by the top handle, and the bottom promptly fell off.

This meant that the water bottle vacuum was broken, and the water gushed out.  I couldn't risk moving the half I had left in my hand, as that would have spread the joy even further. Instead I stood, and waited for the water to finish pouring.

Spilled chick poo,  chick crumbs, water, and soggy newspaper, make a surprising amount of mess.

I pushed my "grrrrr" feelings to one side,  after all, a few months ago, that would all have been on the carpet.

I gingerly put the top down out of the way, and went to get some kitchen towel, a dustpan, and some newspaper.

Fortunately most of it missed the Ikea boxes. 

It didn't take that long to clear up.  And it's gone now.

And it could have been worse.  I might have picked up the brooder with the chicks still in!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Another year

Did you spot that the flowers were fried eggs?