21 Jul 2016

Makes of late - July

It's been a productive summer so far and what with my self-imposed clothes buying ban (except for a swimsuit), I have a feeling that there'll be a few more makes to come before we reach September.

Anyhoo, here's what's been under my sewing machine lately...

Baby quilt (which I blogged about here) // Scout tee (which you might recognise from my Me Made May post) // patchwork sleep mask // self drafted day dress

This was my first Scout tee and my first attempt at set-in sleeves. They're not a complete disaster but they are a bit puffy. Overall I'm happy with it - it's wearable (always a bonus when making clothes) - but it's a bit boxy which is probably due to my fabric choice. Don't get me wrong I luuurve the print but the material, although it's some cotton blend, it's quite stiff. I reckon this tee might be better in a lawn...

As much as I love these daylight savings hours, a combination of 4:30 sunrises and crap blinds means that I've been waking much too early for my liking. The sleep mask then was born out of need rather than whim. It's patchwork and quilted with some wadding in the middle. I cut it into a vague sleep mask shape before covering the edges with bias binding. I had some rather nice stretch cotton lace lying around so I stitched it to the otherwise boring elastic. Pretty simple but a cute (and useful) item nonetheless :)

Last but not least is my latest bit of dressmaking, finished last weekend, a self drafted day dress. Again, not a complete disaster but the zip isn't my finest bit of sewing. I have a long history of zip struggles and it really doesn't seem to be getting better with practice! Fortunately it's at the side which means it's not some huge monstrosity going down the back. The fabric is super light and airy, perfect for this spell of hot weather we seem to be having!

Next in the pipeline: possibly another baby quilt (a friend has just had her second bubba); more tees and hopefully more dresses...watch this space!
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17 Jul 2016

three days in Edinburgh

In between finishing my old job and starting my new one, I managed to get a few days off, and, what with the rumour of cheap flights being v.much true (45 quid return!), Mitch and I decided to spend three nights in beautiful Edinburgh last month.

It was my first ever visit to the city so you should've seen my face when I stepped off the tram at Princes Street: there's the castle, the gallery, the Scott monument, calton hill in the distance, not to mention Princes Street Gardens. Edinburgh is, frankly, just stunning, no wonder so many people have been (and continue to be) inspired by it's incredible history, architecture and culture. As you can probably tell, I loved it immediately but these are some of my highlights:

Arthur's seat
For a capital city, Edinburgh sure is green and, taking advantage of the amazing weather on our first day, Arthur's Seat was our first port of call. It's a bit of walk, nothing too gruelling (although I'd suggest wearing decent footwear) and the views from the top of the extinct volcano are incredible.

Camera Obscura
The weather on our third day was not so wonderful so we descended upon the world of trickery and illusion, aka Camera Obscura. It's touristy but super fun (with lots of amusing photo opportunities).

Free walking tour
One of the best bits of advice we got was to take one of these, it was most excellent! Our guide was engaging and v.knowledgable, he took us to a number of parts of the city which we'd never have come across on our own such as greyfriars kirkyard (below).

Live music
Mitch knew of a gem of a pub, The Royal Oak, which was absolutely tiny but had the best live music (guitar, banjo, uke, mandolin playing patrons) we heard the whole holiday.

Hot damn was there some good grub in Edinburgh, from breakfast (waffles with bacon, brie and maple syrup at Saint Giles Cafe & Bar) to lunch time snacks (pulled pork buns at Oink) to dinner (fish and chips at the Old Kings Head in Leith). And speaking of Leith, it's home to what seemed to be some of the best places to eat in Edinburgh, my favourite was probably V Deep, the curry was excellent and they had an extensive selection of delicious beers.

Other good stuff: Calton Hill (although the observatory was closed which was a shame); Portobello beach (it was pretty cold right on the coast but luckily there was a v.cute van selling crepes and a pub on the sea front); taking a two hour nap amongst the beautiful flowers in Princes Street Gardens :)

There was lots we didn't get around to in Edinburgh (the castle, the vaults, the writers museum) so I guess that means I'll just have to visit again which suits me fine :)

6 Jul 2016

Reading & Seeing 29

I've got a fair amount (for me anyway) of reading done over the last three months, and an interesting mix of books at that, I'll begin with In a Dark Dark Wood. Our protagonist, Nora, a solitary writer living in London, is invited to an old school friends' hen weekend. Against her better judgement, she attends and so ensues the most twisted and bloody hen do I've ever encountered. It's definitely a page turner and Ruth Ware kept my interest all the way to the end. The school girl relationships, bitchiness and heirachy was very relatable, I remember how some girls at my school were much the same as Claire, which is why I didn't quite get why the hell Nora would put herself back in close proximity to that. Also, would she really still be pining after her high school boyfriend? The biggest plot problem for me was the motive behind everything (a lot of effort over something kinda trivial?). Still, an enjoyable read.

I finally got around to reading The Alchemist and, for all its acclaim, I feel I must have missed something. To me the story read like some sort of teaching or parable from the Bible, ie: two dimensional characters, not much in the way of description, a 'message' at the end. *shrugs* I'm not sure what the fuss is about...From alchemy (although the alchemist is barely even in the book) to Authority, the second instalment of the Southern Reach Trilogy. In contrast to the mission based narrative of the first book, Authority is set within the Southern Reach agency and written from the perspective of its newly appointed director. It doesn't have the pace of the first book nor the stripped back cast of characters but it certainly creates more intrigue as we learn more about the mysterious (and expanding!) Area X. I cannot wait to read the last book (I'm actually kind of savouring it), I just hope it answers some of my hundred questions!

Big Magic and My Brilliant Friend were both blook club choices. The former was the perfect example of why joining a book club is a good idea: it forces you to read books you'd never normally pick up. I purchased Big Magic on my kindle but had I bought a physcial copy I would have found it (or not found it) in the self help section. Never have I read a self help book but actually I was pleasantly surprised, perhaps because it didn't really feel like a self help book (or what I imagined one to be like). Certain parts of the book are a little difficult to swallow and there is an emphasis on writing and a feeling that the book is aimed at aspiring writers, but Elizabeth Gilbert has some great stories and anecdotes and I felt very inspired to get on and create stuff once finishing it. My Brilliant Friend (written by the annonymous writer known as Elena Ferrante) follows the story of a friendship between two girls growing up near Naples. I've not seen a bad word said about this book, and I won't start! As a reader you're completely emmersed in the world of the two central characters, the writing is deliciously detailed and rich and you really get a sense of the inner-most thoughts and feelings of the narrator. This is only the first instalment (thank god, the end was a right cliffhanger) and I cannot wait to read book no. 2! 

The last book I read was A Hologram for the King. Having enjoyed Dave Eggers' The Circle, I thought I'd give another one of his a whirl but meh, I can't say it did much for me (I also can't see why they wanted to make a film out of it). Set around the initial construction of a new Dubai-like settlement in the Saudi desert, not a great deal happens, it felt like the reader too is living an empty life waiting and waiting until the King arrives so that Alan, our protagonist can deliver his presentation to demonstrate the hologram technology to be used in the new development. For me the book felt as vacuous as the incomplete city itself, but maybe that was the point?

I also had a bit if a catch up on some recent (and not so recent) marvel movies. X-Men: Apocolypse, although it had some excellent set pieces (anything with Quicksilver; Wolverine's cameo) and brilliant casting (Sophie Taylor as Jean Grey!), overall it was too long and pretty cheesy (Apocolypse "learning" through the TV; Magento shacking up in the woods? Please). A much better 'ensemble' movie, for me, was Captain American: Civil War. Again, excellent casting, script, action sequences and how flipping ace was Spiderman??!!! Which brings me on nicely to Ant-Man. Why I missed it in the cinema, I don't know! Paul Rudd is absolutely perfect and coupled with the fact that Edgar Wright had a hand in the script, it was a winner for me. Lastly, we recently watched Deadpool. I know everyone collectively lost their sh*t over this film, but I gotta say, I didn't get the hype. Yeah it was funny in places (mostly thanks to Man of Steel) but the over the top abnoxious-ness of Deadpool didn't make him likeable, give me Ant-Man any day :)

27 Jun 2016

the joy is in the planning: star block baby quilt

I'd not made a quilt for quite some time (over two years ago in fact!) and stitching this one reminded me of how much I enjoy it, the sewing and quilting yes, but actually it's the planning I love the most - figuring out which blocks to stitch, how many I might need, what fabrics to use, how big the quilts needs to be - it's all very satisfying.

I gave this latest quilt to its teeny recipient on Saturday as a christening present, I hope they liked it :)  I made a similar star block quilt for his sister three years ago and I thought it'd be cool to replicate the design albeit in different colours.

It took about 4 months to complete, but I really did take my time with it, and, like I say, I probably went a bit over board in my planning stages.

There's not much else to say really, it was great fun to sew and because it's a baby quilt it was very manageable under the machine and not unwieldy to quilt by hand. Another friend is having a baby in about two weeks so I'm tempted to start another one but I might need to replenish my fabric stash, any excuse for fabric shopping :)

18 Jun 2016

Me Made May

For the last three of years I've seen lots of sewing bloggers partake in Me Made May, which, for those who don't know, is when people wear an item of clothing made by their own fair hands everyday in May and post it (yay!) on instagram, twitter, blogs etc inspiring and encouraging more people to do the same. This year (and it might be every year) it was also linked in with #whomademyclothes creating awareness about where your clothes come from and the conditions in which they are manufactured. This year I was dead set on taking part but quickly discovered that 1. I didn't fit into most of the dresses I had made myself. 2. I just didn't have enough 'everyday'/work appropriate stuff I could wear. So, not to be defeated, I set myself my own challenge: wear 3 me made items every week...

Week one: knitted jumper, 2 x zippy tops (sans zips)

Week two: zippy top, pastille dress

Week three: self drafted summery top, zippy top, pj bottoms (I stopped taking crappy mirror pics at this point because, let's be honest, they're not great are they?)

Week four: pj bottoms, scout tee, self drafted jersey tee

As you can see, I didn't quite manage it BUT it has taught me that if I want to participate in next year's Me Made May (and I do!) I gotta up my game. I need more casual items of clothing.  I need to try more patterns (my Me Made May would've fallen apart without the zippy tee). And lastly, I need some skirts and dresses! Compared to the beginning of the year when I had about two handmade tees, I've now got quite a selection but only one work appropriate work dress; it's time to get sewing and I've got my eye on the Fen Dress :)

16 May 2016

Four days in Helsinki

My sis and I try to vacate the country every year for a few days but thanks to four months of unemployment (and a couple of getaways closer to home) we didn't quite manage it last year. We sort of, kind of, take it in turns to pick the next destination and for 2016 my sis chose Helsinki!

The Finnish capital is a fairly small city some of which is walkable but we mostly made use of their excellent tram network. The locals we met were a mixed bunch, mostly very friendly and helpful, others less so. Practically everyone spoke English and near on perfect at that. When we got back from Finland and people asked me "how was it?", three things came to the forefront: 1. It's a cool city - it's full of cute cafes & bars, two out of three people seem to own dogs (as dog lovers we thought this was awesome) and it's got islands and Moomins (need I say more?). 2. Our airbnb was perfection, a cosy scandi appartment (perfect for two) in a great location. 3. Finland is hella expensive. Stupidly I thought it would be similar to London prices (aka expensive but just about manageable) but no, it turned out to be pricier than Iceland!

Food & drink
So both these were expensive, I'm talking  8 euros for a half litre of beer or a single vodka and coke, sandwiches costing between 6-9 euros and you'd be looking at 18-22 euros for a main course at a mid-priced resturant. But, we found ways round it, such as the most excellent Bar 9 (try their Kill Bill - one of the best things I ate the entire holiday), delicious falafel at Fafa's, traditional Finnish brunch at Bergga (Helsinki are very into brunch) which incidentally was directly below our Airbnb and lastly, the Old Market Hall for a range of foods and price ranges (the building itself is also a stunner). In terms of nights out, we discovered (on our first night after ordering the 8 euro beers) that this wasn't going to be a boozy holiday. Instead we stuck to one or two small beers (equivalent to half pints I guess) with food and only went out twice. Firstly to the awesome Library Pub which is exactly what it sounds like: a bar with books! And secondly to Navy Jerry's a cocktail place that played rockabilly tunes (my kind of place). We did buy a couple of beers at the supermarket and a v.chatty member of staff explained to us that we only had until 9pm to buy alcohol as they stop serving it then (and that we wouldn't be able to buy any on Sunday either!). He told us that Helsinki residents hop on the ferry to Tallin to buy their booze in the-much-less taxed Estonia (kinda how we brits do booze cruises to Calais). We found A LOT of coffee places which pleased my sis and they all had an excellent selection of tea which was perfect for me. (I may have brought back moomin tea...)

Architecture & Art
The buildings in Helsinki were incredible - lots of turrets and spires, a bit gothic in a way and just generally interesting looking, from the cathedrals and market halls, to the train station and people's brightly coloured clapperboard houses. We didn't get around to the architecture museum (or a couple of the other museums for that matter) as everything was basically closed on Mondays (poor planning on our part really). We did pop into HAM though, Helsinki Art Museum, to see the mini exhibition they had on moomin creator, Tove Jansson.

The island
Helsinki has around about 330 islands, varying in size and accessibility. On our first day we caught the ferry to Suomenlinna to see the marine fortress built the 1700s. Visiting the island was easily one of the highlights for me. We were free to wander through the town (people actually live on it now too) and explore the network of tunnels and spaces used to store ammunition for the cannons which are still in place today!

Tampere & Moomins
On the Saturday we took a two hour train north to Tampere, home of the Moomin museum which housed some of Tove's original drawings as well as a number of moomin sculptures, made by her partner, depicting scenes from the Moomin adventures. Although the exhibition was good, it and the Moomin shop were very small, we actually ended up buying the bulk of our moomin goodies back in Helsinki! With some time to kill before our train, we wandered over to the edge of the huge lake (which actually looked like the sea) at Tampere to take in some views. On reflection, I really liked Helsinki as a city but I think if I ever went back to Finland I'd want to spend my time in the countryside. We saw bits of it on the train to and from Tampere - lakes, so many lakes, and pine forests - and it looked beautiful.

So there you have it, a little break down of Helsinki. Now that I've finally got around to writing this post, I reeeeeeally want another holiday...but somewhere a bit cheaper I think!

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