The pitter patter of tiny feet

I know that a bad workman always blames his tools, but there comes a time when you need to invest to get a better result.

When adding piping to a cushion or anything else I’ve been fudging along with an old zipper foot which is fine, but there are occasions when I just can’t get it quite right.  So while I was in John Lewis buying a birthday present for a chum (I’m hoping I am going to be able to persuade her to blog about it because it looks like a lot of fun) I bought myself a specialist piping foot.

I’m going to have to look up a little video or two online to see exactly how to use it properly, but if it makes it easier to get a great end result I’ll be happy.  I’ll keep you posted of how I get on.

I also bought a concealed zipper foot.  Being a self-taught sewer I didn’t know that these existed, and it might explain some of my zip-phobia.  I am in the process of making a dress for a friend which requires a concealed zip so I really need to get the hang of this – plenty of practice required methinks before getting to the real thing.

As for the zigzag foot – that actually came with the ‘foot kit’ that Kid, Kitty and co. bought me for my birthday last year. I am yet to work out what sewing task will be made better by this particular implement but I’m willing to work through lots of different projects to find out.

Cat x

Sunday afternoon stitchin’

I’ve been feeling a bit guilty that I haven’t done any actual sewing for a few weeks. There always seems to be something to do or someone who needs to be taken somewhere.

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Therefore this afternoon I thought I would try and complete a little project just for the satisfaction of doing something. I found an old copy of Mollie Makes which still had the freebie make on the front and dug out the sewing equipment to make a little travel card holder.  Since my existing travel card wallet has been slicing a hole in my coat pocket this would also possibly be something that would come in very handy.

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I’m always amazed that I have picked a hobby that requires so much ironing.  The first thing I had to do on opening the little paper envelope was to give everything a jolly good press.

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The instructions were clear, but unfortunately the person writing them had clearly had a common sense failure.  There is a reason why imperial and metric recipe requirements aren’t interchangeable, and this is equally so for sewing.  How anyone is expected to measure 6 and 7/8cm is beyond me.  The instructions had patently been created in inches and whoever rewrote them didn’t round the cm measurements up to accommodate a ruler.

There was another problem with the acetate. This had to be trimmed to exactly the same size as the originally sewn rectangle.  But, as we all know, when you turn something inside out you lose a little from the bend of the fabric, so more adjustments required.

My first attempt at sewing through acetate wasn’t wholly successful, but fortunately I still had a heavyweight needle in the machine from sewing something else a couple of weeks ago.  I did discover that the knack to sewing ribbon onto acetate was to spray a little adhesive onto the back first, stick it in place and sew with the ribbon face down to allow the feet to gain a little traction.

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This was almost a 15 minute project, and the results were not bad at all.  Not least because my travel card actually fits in the wallet!

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Buying locally is a more satisfying experience

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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

I don’t care what the weatherman says…

You won’t find me complaining.

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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

New Year Optimism

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There’s something inherently smiley about the hyacinth, especially in the long winter days after Christmas when all those necessary journeys seem to take place in the dark. It doesn’t matter that you know the days in the Northern Hemisphere are getting longer, the appalling weather makes Spring seem such a very long time away.

If you are lucky, however, someone will have bought you some bulbs that arrive sleepily but full of promise on Christmas Day. Less than 2 weeks later, in the warmth of an ever busy kitchen they have sprung to life and in a day or so the room will be full of scent.

I was lucky and these lovely blooms are acting as a cheery reminder of all the good things that are to come. I’m not a great maker of resolutions (normally ‘eat less chocolate’ features in the number one slot) but I’m going to make this the year when I remind myself that there are lots of things I can, and do, do well and that I don’t need to beat myself up about the rest. Not everything I make can, or should be, department store perfect and not everything needs to be made with a sale in mind.

I am going to continue to buy copious numbers of sewing and crafty magazines (a girl has to have a few vices) and more fabric/ribbons/buttons because I like them. I’m not going to make protestations of projects that will be undertaken during the year because then I won’t feel a failure if I just don’t get round to them. I am going to embrace the slow movement and use the time spent sewing and making as more of a meditative journey rather than a chore which needs to be completed. And I’m not going to spread myself thinner than KC’s marmite on his morning toast.

So you’ll just have to watch this space to see how things pan out. Who knows what might happen. Most of all I hope that the happy atmosphere generated by these three simple little bulbs lingers the whole year long.

Cat x

The art of being lucky

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One of the hardest things about working for yourself is motivation. Every morning you have to hoist yourself out of bed and create your own goals for the day. If, like many self employed people, you have adopted this particular work pattern because of family commitments then you probably have the added distractions of getting other people out of the door by a set time. Which means that by 9am you feel like you have already done a whole day’s work!

In my ‘other’ life I often come across people who ask ‘I want to set myself up in business/I’m just starting out as a freelance’, how can I be successful?’ Well the straightforward answer is hard work. Not even the seemingly most talented individual gets to the top without huge amounts of effort. Those that do get there by a stroke of good fortune often find the time and energy commitment required to maintain their position is far more than they were expecting, and possibly more than they are willing to commit.

Today I am going to put some concerted effort into being lucky. Starting with binding my beautiful quilt.

Cat x

Lavender blue, dilly dilly

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Normally I would consider gardening as a waste of good sewing time but the weather over the last couple of days tempted even me out of doors. And there were a couple of things in the garden that required my attention.

Firstly there has been a bit of an issue with the dogs. Normally they are pretty good but recently they have taken to digging in the raised beds. They aren’t exactly small beasties so it doesn’t take them long to deposit half a hundredweight of soil onto the patio. A few plants judiciously placed should rectify the situation.

And then there was the weed problem… When we first moved into our house it took two years of almost constant effort to get rid of the nettles. Some of them were six foot tall. Honest. Now we are plagued by chickweed and couch grass, some sort of creeper from the strawberry family and ground elder. Deep joy.

So yesterday I spent the morning digging and cursing as I filled bucket after bucket with green stuff that I didn’t want in my garden. But the bonus prize was a trip to the garden centre this morning knowing that all I had to do when I got home was pop them in the ground. I’m no plants woman, my modus operandi is to buy something I like the look of, check that I’m not putting something which is going to grow to 4m at the front of the flower bed, then stick it in and if it survives well fantastic.

But the one plant I do have a huge soft spot for is lavender. It’s hardy, pretty, smells divine and makes the garden busy by attracting hoards of bees. Plus it can be used to make lovely hearts and other scented goodies so its a sewist’s delight. I’m working on filling my garden with the stuff. Most of my plants have been French lavender so far but today I found white English lavender, how cool is that!

I couldn’t buy just one plant – it would be lonely. I bought enough to fill an entire flower bed. Which means lots and lots of lovely smelly sewing at the end of the summer. Now that’s something worth gardening for

Cat x

Sew near and yet sew far. Part 2

Well my skirt is finally finished.

I’m sure this will come as a huge relief to those of you who have been following the saga on Facebook. It is still a tad on the large side, but it fits, it’s comfortable and I’m happy with my sewing skills.

One thing it has demonstrated very clearly is that no matter how unhappy I MIT be about my own body shape (currently under review – hence the reason why I had to keep adjusting the waistband) I am definitely not pear-shaped. Sewaholic patterns are specifically for this profile so I going to have to be very careful in future to read all of the dimensions before I start.

I also think that I MIT give designing some of my own patterns a bit of a bash. So long as I take lots of care with the old ruler and measuring tape I can’t go too wrong?!

Cat x

Leaping the divide…

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Like many fabric addicts, I often find myself musing how life would be if I could devote myself 100% to sewing.

  1. Would I be disciplined enough to work when there is no boss to tell me what to do?
  2. Can I create enough of what people  want to buy?
  3. Have I got the time to devote not only to the creative process but also to the marketing and administrative side of the business.
  4. Is it possible to make sufficient income to justify the time commitment.

I can answer the first point very easily.  This is most definitively a yes since I have run my own successful freelance/consultancy business for the last ten years.  It’s extremely hard work, not least because when you aren’t an employee clients have no problem telling you at 6pm that they want something on their desk by 9am the following morning. Running your own show is certainly not for the faint hearted and I’m extremely lucky in having a partner who is very supportive of my efforts (though I still haven’t managed to teach him how to cook a meal that the children will eat!).

Point two is more difficult as with most creative pursuits there is always a twinge of fear that people are only making appreciative noises to be polite. Plus with so much choice both in traditional retail and the online craft communities, is it possible to create a unique enough product which stands out from the crowd?  My other problem is that I am both a perfectionist and a creative polymath, a combination of traits which mean I don’t really have a singular style or product.

Time! I am sure that some being comes along and steals hours out of my day.  Juggling pets, kids, day job and a plethora of volunteering commitments already accounts for almost every hour right now.  The marketing and administrative parts of running a sewing related business are not remotely frightening or new to me (see point one) but I don’t have any spare minutes for just thinking and creating and that is a bigger problem.  I could of course give up the day job, but actually I find it rather exciting so that’s a non-starter.

And finally – income.  I’ve participated in a number of (heated) online debates about this and I know that many full-time craftspeople get very cross about individuals who run their kitchen-top business without running proper accounts or declaring their income for tax purposes.  Since I run my own business already I can ‘fess up here that I don’t fall into that category.  I can tell you just how much deficit I am in at any one time!  It is very, very hard to make money from a craft business because time is the biggest expense and very few people feel able to charge for the hours they are putting in.  There are occasions where I have made something and then had to price it competitively which means I would earn something like 50p/hour for my labour.  I don’t want to make industrial quantities of the same product over and over again – it’s not enjoyable for me at any price.

So what’s the conclusion then?  Yes I do think that at some point I will find a way to create a sewing related business, but right now I’m really happy producing a small volume of unique products which I sell via Etsy and by commission.  All you have to do is get in touch!

Cat x

Hello spring!

Fabric_flowerHere’s the conversation I had with KC when I collected him from school yesterday:

KC:  There’s a letter in my bag.
Cat: Yes?
KC: It’s about a flower.
Cat: A flower?
KC: A 3D flower.
Cat: For anything in particular?
KC: To hang in the corridor.  We’ve got to make one.
Cat: When for?
KC: Friday.
Cat: Is there anything in particular you want to make?
KC: It has to be made of fabric.  And I want it to be a rose.  It’s got to be red in the middle and green at the bottom and you’ve got to be able to hang it up.
Cat: Anything else?
KC: No.  I’m sure you’ll manage.  With your capabilities I reckon you’ll be able to come up with something.
Cat: ….!!

I’m taking it as a complement that my eight year old thinks I am ‘capable’ and given the grin I got this morning I think I did good!  It was very easy to make using the contents of my scrap bin with a little help from my Accuquilt Go! Baby.

Cat x