Sunday 8 April 2012

7 Things I Love About Spring

'Spring is sprung
Der grass is riz
I wonder where dem boydies iz?'

I'm not sure where my mom got this, but she's been reciting it every spring for as long as I can remember. And I'm just as subconsciously hooked as she is! So, reasons to love spring?

{ooooh! turns out this is quite the interesting little poem, indeed. Apparently it's the Brooklyn National Anthem and may or may not have been written by Spike Milligan?! More here.}

1. Daylight
Or, specifically: daylight saving time! Hailing from more southerly climes, this concept was lost on me until my first summer in the UK. Nowadays I look forward to it for most of Jan/Feb/March!

Best thing about the clocks going forward? It forced me to make the blind for my sewing room that's been on my Sewing Flagellation List for, like, ever. Y'see, in a fit of makers' anguish, I finally removed the nasty curtain pole & too-short curtains that had been temporarily hung nearly a year ago ... But now the blazing morning sun is beating down on my beloved sewing library and UV protection is needed! More on that soon!

On the DLR on the way home after a day in Clogland.
It's still light!!! And so purdy. 
2. Flowers
Ahhhhh. Spring flowers. Nothing beats 'em. Daffodils (1st offenders?), tulips, crocuses, TULIPS, hyacinth, tulips, other bulbs. Magnolias!! Cherry blossoms! ALLLLLLL blossoms!

Ahem. Excuse me.

I have a rampant urge to snap meeellions of blossom pics every spring but never get around to doing anything with them.

I have no IDEA when or where I took this.
But it's so PURDY!!!
Crocuses outside the Brighton Pavilion
Daffodils springing up out of the rubble outside a neighbour's house.
Determined little buggers, aren't they? ;)
Tulips from a neighbour's garden.
- Mine aren't blooming!!!! :(
3. Green
There's nothing like seeing some leafy growth to cast off that wintry haze.

The sprawling, rampant rose bush by our front gate.

4. Warm!!
Ah, to wear short sleeves & flip flops. It's a joy entirely unto its own.

6. Gardening
See above re: daylight, flowers, green & warm. Add your own homegrown tomatoes (so tasty!) and tadaaaaaa! Joy.

My yield from a few years ago
7. Birdies
We're incredibly fortunate to have the most awesome garden, and to live very close to 2 parks. Birds are in abundance and give us plenty of chirping. They also provide hours of fascination for the fluffs ... As long as they don't catch any birdies, that's fine by me.

Because none of the birdies want to sit still long enough for me to take a pic-a-roo :(

And just for good measure, here's some more poetry:

Der spring is sprung
Der grass is riz
I wonder where dem boidies is?

Der little boids is on der wing. 
Ain't dat absoid?
Der little wings is on der boid!

Monday 19 March 2012

Thursday 15 March 2012

Baking Queen

You are the Baking Queen, young & sweet, only hhmmhmhmhmmmm ...
What do you mean this 'isn't for kitties to lie on'?
Baking Queen, feel the beat of the egg-beat-thing
Do not say anything about the lousy stitching. Do not.

You can shake, you can bake, having the time of your life

Take one little bit of leftover fabric ...

Add a sprinkle of embroidery, a pinch of frenzied sewing and delicately fold onto some gingham ...
... et voila!! Embroidered teatowels shall be yours!

See that girl, watch that scene, diggin' the Baking Queen!
Queen Ren proudly showcasing her Red Velvet cupcakes ...

Project details:
I hated Abba until Lauren & I saw the Mamma Mia movie. Meryl Streep is the Queen of Everything (except baking, duh!!!). That title is reserved for Her Highness, Most Awesome Rennie of Cooperland.

(Oh wait. Shit. What about 'Julie & Julia???')

Precursor posts: Xmas in February (not the Lou Reed kind), So, what are we making today?

The apron was made using this Martha Stewart Pattern, embroidered with the AWESOME Beat It by Urban Threads design. I spent several weeks of the December Xmaspresentmakingfrenzy humming 'Beat It' to myself. I'm sure I'm not the only Urban Threads customer to have experienced this particular problem.

The tea towels were entirely self-drafted by me. I know. Marvel at my awesomeness as I cut a rectangle. Then laugh at my stupidity as I render myself incapable of using a hemming foot (or whatever it's called) and end up doing it the ole-fashioned way, a la pressing & stitching. Lather, rinse, repeat. The embroideryagain, marvel at my awesomeness as I embroider sans pattern. Actually, embroidering lettering is pretty damn awful without some sort of grid-based size guide ... but hey.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

The "Merry Wedding-Mas" Beanbag

Be warned, al ye who enter here. The tale of woe ye are about to reade is longe and fraughte.
(or something else olde english-ey & forboding-ey)

My lovely friend, Shelley, got all married up in October 2009. Some months before that, she asked whether I'd make her & lovely hubby-to-be a beanbag for their living room as a gift. The story went thus: they had already purchased the fabric & knew exactly what they wanted, but Shelley's lovely mum wasn't able to make said beanbag and the gorgeous fabric was sitting around unloved, waiting for someone to whip it into shape. Cue heroic fanfare, and enter Santie, wearing cape and tights. (and other suitable garments. come on, this is a family show.)

In an almost identical fashion to the 'A-hunting We Will Go' waistcoat, we fast forward to November 2011. Aforementioned gorgeous fabric had been sitting in my sewing room among all my own fabric for such a long time that I had to review my Sewing Flagellation List* to remember it was still there and that I still hadn't even given the lovebirds a freaking wedding present.

*You know what I mean. The long list of lovely projects you dream up and that end up just making you feel guilty for not having completed them. I'm going to publish my SFL soon in an effort not to have one at all. It's a scary list at the moment - and I'm not the only one. Judging by how popular Tasia's recent post on her sewing stash, it seems many sewists are echoing the sentiment, 'It’s no fun if it feels like homework!'

The turning point came with the previously blogged frantic nature of preparations for Christmas last year. I couldn't possibly spend time on making them a different present when they had been waiting so long for one of their own conception ... so I got stuck in.

I used a pattern from the Singer Reference Library: Quick & Easy Decorating Projects book, which I found here. These are such amazing books and I am hunting them down one by one. They will be mine! Oh yes, they will be mine!!! Mwahahahaaaaaaa....

Ahem. The printer I've had for 8 years only works as a scanner these days - something to do with clogged feed heads or spurty things or little nasty green pixies cackling maniacally at my fruitless efforts to get it working again as a printer - so I just drew the pattern pieces onto newsprint free-hand with a few measurements in mind to keep the proportions right.

 As Shelley & Marty are also the proud parents of 2 lovely kittehs, I was conscious that they would probably need to wash the beanbag to de-fur it once in a while, so I decided to make an inner & outer for the beanbag. I cut 8 of the main body pieces, and 1 large circle and 1 small circle from both the lining fabric and the main fabric. The lining was the leftovers of the costumes I made for Hallowe'en, so both Ghostbuster & Bin Laden will live on elsewhere ;)

The rest was simple. Insert 'normal' zip into bigger circle (cut in half to accommodate the zip), sew up the 8 panels, attach the small circle to the top of the 8 panels & then attach the bigger circle (with the zip closed) to the bottom of the 8 panels. Open up the zip, turn the bag right way around and ta-da! Wash, rinse & repeat for outer. Ta-da. Like I said.

Beanbag inner bottom with zip

Beanbag inner panels

Beanbag inner top panel

The only complicated bit was that I had decided some time ago to embellish the beanbag with some embroidery. C'mon. Ya knowz me like-a to 'broider. I asked Shelley if there were any preferences, and she provided the CUTEST designs in confirmation of their nicknames for each other, the Monkey & the Cat. I've looked around to see who the designer of these prints are (Shelley had them as cards) but no luck - so please let me know if you know. You know.

So, here's the finished version, all 'broidered up.
Oh yeah. I couldn't use the 'You Rock my World' image for embroidering. Boo.

Here's my one annoyance with this project. Those leftovers, and the two zips from my stash, make the total cost of the beanbag about £1. EXCEPT for the bastard beanbag filling. People, take my word for it: this stuff is pricey. I'm not talking millions of squidoos, but £15 for a 2.5cu ft bag at Argos is taking the piss -- and didn't even fill this bag halfway. I know Hobbycraft do the same size for about half the price BUT, dah-lings, don't waste your time. eBay is your friend. eBay is always your friend. I got a 4cu ft bag for £10.95 with free P&P and it arrived the next day. Ta-freaking-DA!

Filling it was fun. Rose & I have developed a foolproof system, having developed a cat-food-bag-funnel prototype last year for a different beanbag ... luckily our prototype was not required this time around, hence the relatively unharried expressions.

Tip: it's much easier to fill the bag if your zip
opening is big enough to hold the the bag of filling!
And finally, some shots of the final (albeit half-filled) bag in use. Did I say this was a gift for Shelley & Marty? I'm sorry, my bad: this was evidently meant for Sophie & Oscar all along.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Follow the light ...

... and be joyous, for it shall relieve your blog reading from crappy templates and remove mediocrity from the titles in your blogroll.

I've been unhappy with the title, layout, design and overall look 'n' feel of my blog for a while. As a results of Ali Edwards' One Little Word class I'm following at Big Picture Classes, I got thinking about what I really want to say & do with this blog. 'How To Use Your Time' came out of the overwhelming boredom I was feeling one summer between jobs and a lot has changed since.

Suffice it to say: How To Use Your Time was shit. Bright White Lights is going to be awesome.

See you all soon for more updates on the great Christmas list!

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Xmas in February (not the Lou Reed kind)

Darlings. I am most unavoidably aware that I have been whatever-the-opposite-of-prolific-is for some time now. See, I have been refusing to post anything until I explained about Christmas, and the onslaught of craziness that preceded & ensued from this one little day. Which was a big day. But just one day in the scheme of things ... ohhhhh, the confusion!!!

Let me explain.

I had decided that, as my dear Dad was coming to visit from SA for the first time ever, I would put heart & soul into Christmas. It would be the Christmas that all other Christmases knelt before and wept at; the Christmas that lauded proudly over all the other little Christmases, patting them patronisingly on the head; the Christmas that would justify humanity's cruel replacement of all other yuletide festivals over the centuries with this one, single shindig.

In short: this Christmas was to kick ass.

{image source}
There would be handmade cards, tree decorations and advent calendars. Rob's family would come to our house for the day, and the whole feast would be made from scratch. Wine would flow, bellies would be full, the house would be aglow with the lights of a thousand fairies (or should I say the fairy lights would be aglow with the wattage of a thousand power plants? global warming be damned, it's my CHRISTMAS!! (see above, re: cruelty)). Most importantly, it would be a DIY event. Everyone would get a handmade present. Preferably only handmade presents.

Making Christmas decorations during conference calls ... 

To this end, I compiled this list (I'm editing out those not yet finished so that the giftees - who read this blog - aren't completely robbed of the element of surprise):

  1. Mum-in-Law: framed family pics; monogrammed pyjamas; >incomplete<; novelty Xmas earrings
  2. Dad-in-Law: framed family pics; DVD boxset*; gardening book*
  3. Gramps-in-Law: brushed cotton shirts; monogrammed slippers; framed family pics
  4. Sister-in-Law: framed family pics; clutch bag; Vogue 1170 dress; CD*
  5. Nephew (4yo): Gruber monster from Mollie Makes; interactive world map*; atlas
  6. My dad: monogrammed slippers; scanned family pics on USB stick; Dietz lantern; trip to Edinburgh; trip to west end; winter coat*; long johns* (tee hee); miscellaneous warm things for Northern Hemisphere winter
  7. Lauren: >incomplete<; infinity scarf; slippers with stuffed bunnies; mezzaluna & chopping board*; infused olive oil
  8. Rose: >incomplete<; dip-dyed t-shirt
  9. Shelley & Marty: Beanbag; >incomplete<; infinity scarf
  10. Willow (Lauren's ickle niece): dress
  11. Matthew (Lauren's ickle nephew): coat
  12. Andrew (Lauren's sister): >incomplete<, dip-dyed t-shirt
 *non-handmade presents, duh. As many of these would be thrifted/vintage as possible, with  some exceptions. Like long johns. That would just be weird, a la: 'Hi Dad, thanks for coming thousands of miles to visit us -- here is someone else's used underwear. Merry Christmas'

WOW. Even typing up that list took ages.

How did I do, do you ask? Well.
Some of the cards. I miscounted and made nearly 40 instead of only 30. 

It took nearly 3 weeks to just make the Xmas cards and some of the ornaments I had in mind. The advent calendar nearly missed the 1st of December, and we only managed to get the last of decorations in place about 10 minutes before the family were due to arrive on Xmas morning ... so it did not go according to plan.

The result of the 1st day of car boot fair shopping for materials for this insane endeavour!
As Rob was entirely un-reluctant to point out, this is because 'the plan' was freaking mental and totally over the top. He, however, has become accustomed to the totally over-ambitious nature of my plans and remains calm and helpful and reassuring and (oddly) optimistic for 99% right up until the moment where I lose my shit. Then he points out that he did suggest we took things a little less seriously, brings me a cup of coffee, and gets stuck in. Wonders occur. Things work out pretty much OK, and the world keeps spinning.

Stop making me pose for pictures!
Okay, I'll be cute for one more ... 
In this particular context, the world kept spinning through the following workarounds:
  • I realised 3 days before my dad's arrival that the presents would never be finished in time. Several were (and still are ... *blush*) near completion, but there just wasn't enough time to finish them all, or even some of them, properly. So we bought some presents were there was a shortfall. There was no angry mob accusing me of being a horrible consumer-driven spendthrift. I guess they must have been attacking someone else that day.
  • The 17,000 unmade ornaments & decorations (which I had made in my mind and my Xmas Planning File) were not missed by anyone.
  • There was still wayyyy too much food, even though some of it was cold (stupid vegetables) and some of it was nearly inedible (stupid homemade bread).
  • There was enough chocolate to last until after my dad went back home in mid-Jan. Chocolate makes everyone much more malleable.
  • I apologised profusely to those whose presents did not materialise and promised to deliver on completion.
This last bullet point is my explanation for the posts to follow over the next few weeks. I have decided not to post anything, or start any new projects, until I've completed this Christmas list. Some headway has been made and I can now start posting ... so bear with me! :) :)
The amazing Sharpie art of laineylamonto {imagesource}

Monday 2 January 2012

Merry New Year!

Hey everyone,

Just a quick note to wish you all a big ole happy new year. We've been muchos busy round these parts as my dad is visiting from SA & we've been hauling him all over this little island. When it's not been a frenzy of sightseeing, there've been a LOT of board games and card games and yakking ... Awesomeness.

I have SO much to show you in belated Xmas craftiness - and then belated handmade gifts (belated in the sense that I only finished one of the 15 or so I started!!!) which will be featuring throughout January.

In the meantime, here's my favourite non-parental visit pic of the last few days: Miss Meg wanting to participate in a New Year's Eve game of canasta. Yes, we rocked it hard, baby. :)