Monday, 11 January 2016

What I want to make in 2016

Last year I put this list together (from what I'd left undone in 2014!!) of things to make during the year.  As you can see from what I've crossed out, it wasn't that productive a year!
  • Bedroom curtains - our room
  • new cushion for Lloyd Loom chair
  • bedroom curtains - sewing room
  • finish snowdrop sampler
  • something out of box of old cloths
  • bedroom curtains - top bedroom?
  • finish spring tapestry cushion
  • new canvas for garden chairs & coordinating bench cushions
  • use DH's old shirts to make tops?
  • something out of striped Mulberry fabric
  • Something out of Nain's pink/orange fabric (Amy Butler Lotus tunic?)
  • Scandinavian garlands from Scandinavian Needlecraft by Clare Youngs as Christmas presents - use stuff stored in boxes/attic?
  • key rings/fridge magnets - possibly from Made in France: Sweet Treats in Cross Stitch by Tinou Le Joly Senoville; garden secrets book at home; also see 'key to it all' post
  • Presents/cards for birthdays
  • Christmas tree skirts - as presents
But, looking on the bright side, I don't need to worry about curtains for the top bedroom as I brought a pair I made about 20 years ago from my flat (I was fed up with my tenants having my lovely curtains and the last one certainly didn't appreciate them). So, I have curtains made by my fair hand in all rooms but one of our house (and the curtains in that room have new linings made by me).

Another small plus is that now that the major projects (you guessed it, curtains) are done, I can hopefully concentrate on some smaller finishing touches, like the chair cushion and some tie-backs for the numerous infamous curtains.

I'm not going to promise to complete this list as a) I don't want to put pressure on myself, b) I know I won't manage it and c) I'll probably do other stuff that I haven't considered putting on this list.  I am hoping to concentrate on a few of them though:
  • tie backs for 'final curtains'
  • new cushion for Lloyd Loom chair
  • finish snowdrop sampler
  • finish spring tapestry cushion
and take it from there.  It is four years since I started blogging here and the last 18 months have been pretty poor to say the least, so hopefully this will be my blogging come-back year.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Advice from our grandmothers

Now I know where I've been going wrong all these years!

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Merlin has new friends

You've probably noticed over the years, that I quite like making Christmas decorations.  It may also have come to your attention that I buy sewing/embroidery/craft magazines that often have free gifts or kits.

So in true Sew and Siw fashion, I bought a Christmas craft magazine with a free kit a couple of months ago.  And again, in true Sew and Siw fashion, I waited until the Christmas holidays to get the kit out and craft!

I'm probably 'officially' too old for finger puppets, but you're only as old as you feel aren't you?!?  ;-)

PS:  Merlin is our cat in the background - I don't think he's all that impressed with 'his' new friends though!  After all, they take the limelight from him ;-)

Monday, 4 January 2016

The final curtain

I know I probably shouldn't say this, but I really hope that the title of this post is true!

For those of you have been faithful followers of this (rather intermittent) blogger (and thank you if you are!), you will know all about my bumpy road to curtaining our home (is there such a verb as curtaining?!).  It has involved a huge amount of fabric, miles and miles of thread, aching knees and back and (literally) a substantial amount of blood, sweat and tears.  Not to mention an inordinate amount of patience on DH's part!

I hope that you are sitting down as you read this next part, because I have made the final* pair of curtains!!!!

I have been keeping fairly quiet about them I admit.  Partially because I'm so sick of making curtains, but also because we've had quite a big family event behind it all, which I didn't want to say too much about. It still isn't imminent, but at least the curtains are up now.

They should have been a quick and easy pair to make as the window involved is soooo much smaller than the others I've blogged about.  As ever, though, it all took longer than I'd hoped.  I didn't order enough fabric to start with (a bit of a boo-boo to say the least) and then I ran out of thread.  After getting more supplies and starting the next stage, the sewing machine decided to go on the blink!  To be fair to it, though, I've had it (or I think my parents would say, we've had it) for over 20 years and it hasn't been serviced once (shame on us), so it has done brilliantly to last this long.

So, all in all, my final (hopefully) foray into curtain making hasn't been the smoothest.  With all the experience I've had, you'd think I'd have perfected it by now though, wouldn't you!?!  As ever, I've decided to try something new again - blackout lining this time - and it is a bit weird to sew with.  I was a bit concerned that the stiffness of the lining would put me off them now they're hanging as it doesn't hang as nicely as 'normal' lining, but it isn't as bad as I expected.  That is one bonus of worrying yourself silly for months about something - it can NEVER be as bad as you expect! ;-)

Et voilĂ !

*At least, the final pair for a VERY VERY long time.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

House tour - part 5

We're almost there now!  Not far to go!

As I've implied in previous instalments, what I've left to show you is probably the least dramatic of all the work we've done to the house.

In the 'guest' bathroom and WC, all we changed really was the ugly lino for some tiles and a fresh, clean coat of paint.

The guest room was a bit of a surprise when we first got the keys.  Everytime we'd been to the house, the teenage son was recovering in bed from a late night out, so we'd only ever peeped in and seen it with the curtains drawn.  We realised that it was a convenient 'ploy' after getting the keys as this was the only room with a Critall window (just about visable in the photo below) - hideous!  And draughty!  Initially we were just going to paint and carpet it, but the plaster was pretty awful, so it was replastered too and last year we replaced the awful window.
The second spare room had some nice original features - bare floor boards, original fireplace and a nice little cupboard (and no radiator as we discovered some months later!).  They were however painted a rather bright blue:

And now:

(you may recognise this as my sewing room now!)

Then the final bedroom, like the guest room, was replastered and redecorated and carpeted and went from this:
To this:
Now that leaves just one room left.  The previous owners used it as a dark room, so it had a sink in it already.  We'd thought of keeping the sink and using it as a laundry room, but when we looked more closely at the sink it was disgusting (photographic chemicals presumably).  So a bit more money spent and it was transformed from this:
 to this:

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Getting the juices running

image of plum cake
I know the title of this blog suggests that it is all about sewing and suchlike, but are there restrictions to being creative?

Like many of you, I'm sure, I've been getting my teeth into the latest series of Great British Bake Off (excuse the pun!).  As ever, it makes me want to bake more and try new techniques and recipes.  Not that I'm intending to construct biscuit and choux pastry towers or anything.  I just enjoy baking and would like to do more and get better at it.

Two years ago my DM had a severe stroke.  Over recent years, we'd shared the Christmas jobs between us to a certain extent - a good friend has given us a couple of Christmas puddings as part of her extremely generous Christmas parcel, DM would make the cakes (one for all of us, some for friends and relatives), DS and DNs would decorate the family cake, I'd do mince pies ... You get the idea.  Well, since Mam's stroke, baking was more than my already over-stretched sister could face, and I didn't want Christmas to change too much as a result of DM not being at home any more.  So, guess who now has the job of making the cake?!?  You've got it!  Since DM has been out of rehab, I've included her in the job - she supervises me :-D  And she's done such a good job that the only time I've managed NOT to curdle the mixture with the creaming method is when she's keeping an eye on me.  And the Christmas cake baking weekend isn't far off now ...

The downside of baking is the eating (depending on how you look at it, obviously).  Generally, the eating is The Upside, but DH and I don't want to put weight on (anymore than I've already done), so having cakes and biscuits at home is a bit awkward.  Since GBBO, though, I've found a way around the problem - work!  If I bake something at the weekend and take it into work on Monday, I get to indulge my baking dream and have an office load of people to eat the cake.  I'm lucky that I work with people who love cake too :-D

So, my two offerings so far have been ...
Bavarian Zwetschgendatschi (or plum cake)
And double ginger cake (but my colleagues got to it before I did with my camera - sorry!), but which is a lovely moist cake flavoured with both ground ginger and crystalised ginger (from Nigel Slaters' Kitchen Diaries).  I must admit - it went down a treat at the office, so I shall be making another (but maybe just for us next time!).
I'm not sure what will be next as last weekend and next I wasn't/won't be able to bake, but it is 'that time of year' again and I feel a pumpkin pie coming on ...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Literary catch up

I am acutely aware that I'm a bad blog-mother (or whatever you'd call someone who should be caring for her readers but forgets to post anything for weeks or months) and haven't given you any 'sustenance' for some time.

To be honest, it has been a pretty awful few months for us recently and crafting hasn't been very high on the agenda.  Finding the emotional energy and concentration for it has been beyond me too.  I've tried to carry on with household crafting, but the sewing machine stitch length regulator packing up hasn't helped much either!!  The machine is now back on its feet, so hopefully I can tell you all about that soon.

In the meantime, following a chat about books with a colleague, I thought I'd at least fill you in on my reading this year.  It was January when I last updated you.  As I say, I've not had much patience or concentration for crafts or reading over the summer, but I'm gradually getting back into things again now and I'm going to try and work my way through the pile of books I've had next to my bed and cluttering up the front of the bookshelves over the next few months.  So, since January ...

Llwyth - Bethan Gwanas (a Welsh language book for teenagers - I know, I'm well past that stage now, but I met the author and this was the only book I hadn't got that I could get her to sign. It is about tribes (hence the title, which is Welsh for tribe) in a sort-of prehistoric, mystical Wales where the tribes have animal attributes - crows, wolves, bears and dragons - and they have to overcome their fear/prejudice of each other to fight a common enemy. Enjoyable even as an adult!)
Martha, Jac a Sianco - Caryl Lewis (a novel set in rural Wales, on a farm where two brothers and a sister live together after caring for their parents. Are they still 'young' enough to start afresh, or is it too late for them now? Not an unusual situation in rural communities where the children (or at least one child) remains at the family home caring for the aging parents. Quite a poignant and sad tale.)
O'r harbwr gwag i'r cefnfor gwyn - Robin Llywelyn (Like Martha, Jac a Sianco, this is an award-winning novel. According to (Welsh book council's website/shop) "a fantasy love story about the quest of the hero for his love against many odds".  I must admit, I found it hard going and struggled to persevere with it.  But I hate being beaten by a book!)
The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton (My MIL was given this as a gift and I'd intended to borrow it, but when I was looking for something to read on holiday I threw caution to the wind and bought myself a copy. I loved it! I'd visited the Rijksmuseum and had seen the doll's house that had inspired it, so I simply couldn't resist.  Well worth a read if you like historical novels - this is a good HN, but with a difference.)
The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton (We had two weeks on holiday and two long flights to fill, so when there was BOGOHP or something at Waterstones I had to choose something to go with The Miniaturist.  There was another book in competition, but for whatever reason (possibly because it was a Man Booker prize winner) this is what I bought. It is a who-dunnit of sorts, but a historical novel too. Quite puzzling - I found it hard work, but also couldn't put it down.  I think the ending disappointed me a little, but quite a good read.)
An Equal Music - Vikram Seth (This was DH's holiday reading choice.  He loved it and recommended that I read it too.  We both like music, so it was pretty certain to appeal.  Another poignant story, but also a page turner.  It left me wishing that I was a better musician - again.)
Excursion to Tindari - Andrea Camilleri (This was the start of a bit of a 'binge' read and a clear out at the same time.  I'd bought an unboxed 'boxed' set of Inspector Montalbano books from the Book People, so having read the first four, I wanted to finish the set.  So, how better than to 'binge' in them, one after another? All the Montalbano books are atmospheric and full of mouth watering descriptions of his favourite foods!  I can't imagine that the Sicillian tourist board need anything more than these books to tempt people there!  It is certainly high on our list of places we want to holiday in soon.  There are common themes running through them too - including, topically (or not as these books actually prove) the problems mediterranean destinations face with the influx of refugees.  Despite the obvious distress and concern the recent news items have caused, I got quite angry that the media made it sound as if it was a 'new' problem.  The Snack Thief was first published in Italian in 1996 and deals with the son of a refugee who is being traficked - so the problem has been around for at least a decade! Anyway, these are great 'light reading' books, with plenty of atmosphere, humour, serious themes and drama - so I won't write about each one individually.)
The Scent of the Night - Andrea Camilleri
Rounding the Mark - Andrea Camilleri
O! Tyn y Gorchudd - Angharad Price (I actually read this a while ago, but only realised it wasn't on my list in the midst of my Montalbano binge! It is tells the story of Rebecca Jones and her life in rural Montgomeryshire.  another award winning book - and well worthy of the prize.  There is a translation available, which DH found fascinating.)
The Patience of the Spider - Andrea Camilleri
The Seville Communion - Arturo Perez-Reverte (This is another 'throw back' that somehow missed getting on my list. If you enjoy mystery/thriller type books, but fancy one that is a little different, I'd recommend any of Arturo Perez-Reverte's books.  This one is about "murderous goings-on in a tiny church draw the Vatican into the dark heart of Seville. A hacker gets into the Pope's personal computer to leave a warning about mysterious deaths in a small church in Seville that is threatened with demolition".)
The Paper Moon - Andrea Camilleri
August Heat - Andrea Camilleri
The Boleyn Inheritance - Philippa Gregory (After a crime binge I needed a bit of a change, so reverted to my other 'love' - historical novels.  Philippa Gregory is difficult to beat too.  I'd already read her Cousins' series about the Wars of the Roses and had dipped into her Tudor series, but I've decided now to read them in chronological order (rather than the order they were written). As it happens I'd got as far as 'dear ol' Ann Boleyn, so the 'aftermath' was next.  As usual, Philippa doesn't disappoint.  Luckily, the next novel chronologically has just come out, so I'll be moving on to that soon.)
he Captive Queen - Alison Weir (This and The Boleyn Inheritance have been my way of getting back into reading after a horrible summer, so thank you to Philippa and Alison for tempting me back. This is about Eleanor of Aquitaine.  I remember reading the Plantagenat series by Jean Plaidy when I was still at school.  I've enjoyed the Plaidy books over the years, but this gives a bit more flesh to the bones, and probably more historical fact too, although there isn't much about Eleanor apparently. I've only read one other book by Alison Weir before, but I may 'pinch' my DM's copy of Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and his Scandalous Duchess in the future.)

Since then I've completely changed direction.  As I've promise (!), I am going to work my way through the pile of books blocking the other books on our bookshelves and the pile next to my bed.  So, as good as my word, the top of one of those piles was Good Ideas - How to be your child's (and your own) best teacher by Michael Rosen. In short, it is about making every day experiences fun and educational for children. The introductory part was hard going (but I was tired and run down at the time), but it is fun reading it.  A lot of it is probably stuff you'd do without thinking, but it may well open your mind to doing something different (in my case, despite LOATHING mushrooms, the thought of going foraging in woods with an expert - obviously! - and seeing nature, the life cycle of plants ... AND getting something tasty (for some people) to boot, sounded like fun.  So I may well give it a go one autumn - as long as none of you make me eat the results!!!

So, what have you been reading recently?  Any recommendations?  Have you read any of the books I've been reading?  If so, what do you think of them - and do you agree with me?!