Buying locally is a more satisfying experience

Reading through a local history story the other day I was struck by the language of the author.

Xville was not a large village, on the high street there were only a few shops, the butcher, the bakery, a post office, general store and the haberdasher as well.

What are the chances today that any village in the UK could offer such a variety of retail experience? Very slim I would have thought since many are struggling not only to maintain a single village shop but also to hang onto their local pub. The question is ‘Are we any the poorer for this state of affairs?’

I would argue that yes, we most definitely are. Local businesses deliver something so very different from the ‘pile em high, sell em cheap’ philosophy of the large supermarkets. Local retailers smile and wave at you as you go by. They notice when you haven’t been in for a while. They buy stock with you in mind.

People will quote price as the main reason for heading for the superstore, yet the minute it snows, or the wheels are broken, it is to the local store they turn for help. Older people and those with small children need local shops, and frankly they are just altogether nicer places to be (in the main).

It isn’t economical to buy everything from the local deli but a cup of coffee from an independent cafe or a joint of beef from the local butcher are what keeps the money in our communities (rather than being shipped around the globe in some form of complex tax dodge) and the heart in our towns and villages. So shop local.

Cat x

P.s these gorgeous flowers are from The Secret Garden in Beaconsfield

Every colour of the rainbow.. And then some!

When someone says “I’m going to the US, is there anything I can bring back for you?” little do they know what they are letting themselves in for!

Just before Christmas some kindly neighbours gave me an address in California and offered to squeeze a package or two into their suitcase for the return journey. Like many of my sewsistas I look in envy at US based swing sites. It isn’t the range of fabrics, because we have most of them on his side of the pond, it is the price. Often a metre costs less in US$ than we pay in £ sometimes by as much as 50% which is a heartbreaking prospect. So the opportunity to get some at great prices, and in the January sales as well was too good to miss.

I was very good and restrained myself (not least because they are going again in July and if I play my cards right…) and bought these two gorgeous bundles. I use a lot of Kaffe Fassett shot cotton but normally I have to wait until a particular stage in a project then make the 90 minute round trip to the nearest warehouse which sells a decent selection to buy the right colour. By getting a complete set in this way I am going to be able to create my own colour reference board which will give me more options for buying online.

I’ll add that to my very long list of things to do!

Cat x

Making good use of the things that we find…

Anyone else humming the tune?

Underground, overground, Wombling free…

Actually, if you weren’t born in the late sixties you probably aren’t but then you are missing out on a vital piece of upcycling heritage.

Tomsk, Orinoco and Tobermory aren’t the only ones adept at making good use of the things that they find. There are lots of extremely talented individuals who make truly wonderful pieces out of the stuff other people throw away. I am not one of them I’m afraid, I just don’t have that design confidence unless of course it is fabric.

I have been very successful at making brooches, cushions and bags out of recycled curtains, but since shabby chic isn’t really my style it isn’t something I have gone for in a major way. This week however I have been ‘repurposing’ a couple of old sheets from a local charity shop to make Tudor costumes for KC’s class at school. Having made 20 boys’ hats (with a little bit of help from another Mum) I spent last night constructing 12 girls’ coifs. Individually they are an easy make but in such quantities it did become a bit of a chore. I now have a couple of skirts to make, utilising the flounced edge of the sheet and then I think I am done.

Now, where did Mr Cat put his old pair of pyjamas…

Cat x

I don’t care what the weatherman says…

You won’t find me complaining.

Actually, right now, I think there’s a fairly strong chance you will because frankly I’ve just about had enough of the weather we have been having. Whoever normally gets fifty-two million trillion gallons of rain at this time of the year can have it back. Bits of my house are falling off and I’m fairly sure that pretty soon it is going to float away. Even as I type I can hear the sound of thundering precipitation on my rooftop.

Ho hum, at least I don’t have to do the garden, though I think I am going to have to do something about it in due course because the bulbs are valiantly poking their way through the remnants of last year’s perennials. I can snuggle up inside with my fabric and projects, oh and clearing up Spare ‘Oom.

Cat x

As addictions go, mine is fairly benign….

Oh the excitement when the doorbell rings. A glimpse of the courier’s van and the hope that it’s for me!

There is nothing quite like a bit of squidgy post to lighten the soul on a cold and wet winter’s morning.
I do try my very hardest to steer clear of the fabric porn sites, aka online sewing stores but it is very difficult. They have come a long way since the nasty brown polyester and floral curtain patterns (as Mr Cat calls it) of the seventies so that now there is a veritable cornucopia of choice. I have my favourite emporia and designers, but like any addict when I need a fix I am not actually all that fussy.

Those of you who have been following the Spare ‘Oom project will know that fabric is not something I am short of. While my collection is nothing on that of a few other people I know, I could sew for a year without having to buy another thread.
And yet still I need more. But in the general scheme of things there are much worse things I could be addicted to

Cat x

Project multi-tasking

Ask any sewsista and she’ll sheepishly direct you to the box in the corner which contains her UFOs (sorry boys, sewbruvva doesn’t sound anywhere near as cool).

Unfinished objects are a fact of life for anyone creative. Sometimes you start something and run out of bits. Occasionally you run out of creative juices. More often it is because it is easier to group tasks together, so piecing two quilts, or making 4 soft toys at the same time is infinitely more effective than doing them one at a time. While you get lots done you are left with lots of things that are half finished.

As a recovering unfinished itemer I have been doing my level best not to have too many projects on the go at one time. Unfortunately this week I have failed miserably. A bag full of mending from a friend included her son’s favourite but now too small shorts with a reinvention brief. My own son’s new rug lies 75% finished on the office floor and I seem somehow to have given myself the task of making a selection of Tudor headgear for this term’s school outing…

Going to be a busy week methinks…

Cat x

A question of wastage

A similarly sewing motivated friend, on seeing a rather beautiful piece of fabric that I was very attached to me gave me a piece of advice.

Cut it. Even if you just take a corner off, cut it. Otherwise you will never be able to do anything with it.

How right she was. There is nothing more singularly handsome than a metre or two of cloth lain out as a single piece. I sometimes spend ages looking for an alternative because I don’t want to slice into a particular favourite, only to have to take the plunge eventually.

One of the attractions of patchwork is that more often than not there is very little in the way of leftovers. You buy a straight bit, cut it into more straight bits and end up with a straight bit. It’s one of the reasons why I love jelly rolls. Lots of fabric, not much left over, and that is generally in useable little squares.

Dressmaking and soft toys I find much more unsettling. You end up with lots of pieces, none of which are quite big enough to do anything with and moreover are in some fairly random shapes. They get put in the scrap bag along with all of the other “might be big enough for something’ bits until this gets to be unmanageable and you end up giving it all to the local primary school for ‘projects’.

This fabric waste hating trait is often the cause of creation procrastination and brings me to discussion of my five fat quarters project. Since I was unable to find online inspiration I decided to use a ‘random’ cutting technique I had seen in a magazine some time ago. The theory is that you layer a number of fabric squares equal to the number of shapes you are going to cut and then you can reassemble them afterwards in a random manner to create new squares.


This works fine, but the problem is that you end up with some very odd shaped squares which you have to trim down. So my original 6″ squares finished up as 4.5″ squares. It also meant that I was left with a pile of unusable trimmings.

I am very happy with my finished assemblage (picture to follow) but I won’t be using this method again simply because I can’t bear the idea of throwing this much fabric away at the end of the process.

Cat x

Spare ‘Oom progress

At first glance it may not look like it, but there has in fact been quite a lot of progress in my new crafty abode. At one point there was not a single square centimetre of the carpet visible as I tried to make sense of the various bags and containers full of fabric and haberdashery.

I have cleaned out all of my filing drawers and these now house buttons, zips, binding and purse making sundries. While the top will soon have space for the magazine collection. I have a home for the fabric bolts but am yet to come up with a satisfactory solution for all of the fat quarters and other pieces.

The ribbon stand I usually use to display goodies at craft fairs is now being used for (you’ll never guess!)… ribbons and braids. I need to get some more bobbins to go on this because not every ribbon I buy comes on a spool that will fit.

Next task is going to be getting a top to put on the football table where I can house my cutting board. Although I have taken over my room again, I don’t mind if the children want to play here at any time. In fact we have been known to take a carpet picnic here on a wet afternoon just for a change of scenery.

I’m looking forward to getting this all sorted because frankly I’m getting bored of tidying up now. Apart from anything else I am wasting good quality sewing time.

Cat x