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Friday, 16 January 2015

Sewing with friends

Happy Friday, everyone!

For some reason, this week seems to have gone by very slowly, and I am not sure why. It's weird how our perception of time varies, isn't it? Charlotte's down for a sleep, having worn herself out trotting around at playgroup, and I am taking time out to do nothing much in particular, before the chaos of school run. We have an extra four children coming for tea - this week it's the turn of my five year old to invite her friends over, so it'll be fish fingers and chips, followed by iced doughnuts all round.

On Tuesday, I spent a lovely evening round at my friend Charlotte's house, stitching with her and another friend, Christina. I had half planned to take my coat lining to work on - I plan to quilt the lining with Bamboo batting for extra warmth. As it turned out, I couldn't get hold of the batting in time, so I opted to take this cushion to finish off instead.

I'm glad I did. I think I need to keep my coat adventures to evenings when I can concentrate fully and spread out. Tuesday night was full of gossip, blueberry and marzipan muffins (thanks, Charlotte) and chocolates, as the sewing kind of happened in the background.

I'd made the front to the cushion a month or so ago, following a trip to John Lewis where a big ball of mustard coloured wool caught my eye. I had no fixed plan in mind, apart from knowing it was a colour that would go down well with my best friend (and me, for that matter - so if you don't like the cushion, Sang... just saying).

It's just as well I didn't take my coat to start. Look at how wonky the patch work is! Anyone would think I went about this project without a proper plan, cutting mat or ruler...! The best bit is, I have loads of the fabrics left. They go perfectly with the colours of my newly painted dining room walls. I have had an idea for making a picture to go on the wall. We'll see... (must focus on one thing at a time - the coat - and not start multiple projects,,,).

Last night I used a tutorial from Tilly and the Buttons to make a Tailor's Ham and Sausage. Wow, did they take a lot of stuffing. Pleasingly so, as I'd had a clear out of (one of my) sewing cupboard, and accumulated a bag of non-usuable random tiny scraps, that I'd held on to for goodness knows why. So I am a step closer to having all my supplies in place for my tailoring adventures. Next, to order some self cover buttons.

Any how. That's the sewing that's gone on this week (apart from notebooks, but more on that another time). Mum measured me (crikey, what a lot of measurements are needed when making a coat) when she was last up, so when my batting arrives, I'll no doubt procrastinate a bit more over actually cutting into my lovely coat wool and silk. Eek. I bet I am not the only person to feel a bit nervous before starting a big project.

Back to the subject of sewing with friends, this is kind of a new year's resolution for me. To do more of it, that is. Admittedly, an easier one to stick to than fitness related goals (currently have legs that want to go back to bed after a ridiculously short amount of time using Davina's latest 7 minute DVD).

The plan I have come up with is for a once a month Stitch and Bitch at my local pub, The Burnaby Arms. If you're a local to Bedford, please pop along and have a catch up over a glass of something nice.

STITCH AND BITCH (and optional fabric swap)
Thursday 22nd January, 8 pm
The Burnaby Arms, Stanley Street, Bedford.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Fabulous fabrics for notebook making

Check out what the postlady delivered yesterday! Two parcels full of fabulous fabrics.

It was perfect timing, as I had just sat down to do a spot of lunch time notebook sewing while Charlotte slept.

Parcel number one was no surprise. Using some of the start up cash my friend donated, I ordered a selection of fat quarters from Fabric Rehab. Even though I knew what should be in the parcel, I still gave a little squee of excitement when I could see and touch these lovely fresh designs for myself.

Bunch of Budgies, Linen Mochi Dot (grass and mocha), Vintage Mini
I have taken some pictures, so that anyone reading who might be interested in owning their own #NotJustAnotherNotebook can take their pick and let me know which ones they'd like me to use.

Keep it Sassy, Essex Linen (putty and aqua), Polka Dot Stars (yellow)
I can imagine picking out indivdual parts of this and using it as part of a design...

Foxes and raccoons, and polka dots in green, with some rockets and stars for good measure. Need I say more? (Reminds self that I am making notebooks for other people...)

Friendly Forest
In an effort to convince the world notebooks are not just for us girls, here's an alternative to flowers and woodland creatures...

Skater Boys, Illustrated rockets (orange), Comic Strip - Star Wars, Japanese mini racing cars
 And now back to the woodland theme. Love. It. All.
Utopia (urban sprawl), Elk Grove (in the trees), Linen Mochi Dot (mocha)
Utopia - Paradise Dwellers (vivid), baby cord (red), Avant Garden Flowers Cherry Linen
Scandi Woodland Pistachio, Tonal Chevrons (grey)
Parcel number two came from my sewing blogging friend Caroline. Check out the amazing shirt dress she has just made. She had kindly offered to send me some scraps for notebook making, and here is what her wonderful parcel contained.

Caroline's gorgeous fabric parcel
I wasted no time in using some of the pretty vintage prints in the ice cream notebook I was half way through making. I think the fabrics really finish the design off as something truly one of a kind, so thank you, Caroline.

Again, please say if there are favourites you spot. I think mine have got to be the classic ginghams at the bottom left of the photo - old tablecloths belonging to Caroline's grandma. It'll be lovely to reuse them.

That's it for today. I'm up to nine finished notebooks now, and have three orders waiting to be made. I feel grateful to the people who have jumped in and ordered, not really knowing what they are getting, but trusting me to make them something nice.

I have started recording the completed ones on Instagram (my name is notjustabothernotebook) and Twitter (@kitchentablesew), should you fancy having a peek. For the time being, here's my current favourite...

Notebook #8 - for Kally (who likes ice creams and the colour purple)
If you'd like a notebook, click on the link to the right of this (you need to be on full web version), donate, and email me with ideas on the the sort of thing you'd like.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Notebook Number One

Happy New Year!

Well, #NotJustAnotherNotebook (otherwise known as my attempt throughout 2015 to flog custom made notebooks and give the profits to charity) is officially off the starting blocks. Woohoo!

My friend Jane was the first to put an order in. She wanted a birthday gift for her sister in law, in time for the weekend, so I got on and made it for her today. I asked her what she had in mind for the cover, she emailed me a sketch with the words and style of fabric and colours she wanted.

Jane's initial ideas sketch
Knowing the jumbo ric rac would be a hit, and that Jane's sister in law likes Cath Kidston, I had a play about with combinations that I thought looked good together. The tea cup patch is part of a remnant of absolutely lush Harlequin fabric gifted to me by a friend. There are loads of different colour combinations and shapes of tea cups all over the design, so I will be able to incorporate these into all sorts of notebook designs if people ask me to.

This was my first commission. It took exactly the time I hoped it would - one hour - but I was intentionally more focused than usual so I could stick to this. I have several aims with #NotJustAnotherNotebook - the primary one to be to raise as much cash as possible for my chosen charities. I also want to enjoy the creative processes, and, for this project to sit comfortably into my normal family life. So, I will aim to strike a careful balance on time - of producing my best work on each commission whilst not letting procrastination take over, with the rest of practical jobs that are my remit going to pot for the sake of notebooks. The first make has also reminded me to deliberately set about enjoying every make. Fellow sewing peeps all know that a big reason why we make stuff is just because it's fun, right? For me, that means not having a negative interior monologue as I sew, of mild worry about whether the person will like my end notebook.I guess it is all about keeping a healthy sense of perspective. Expect good things.

Anyhow. There it is. The first one. And yes, she likes it. And, I promise not to waffle on like this about every notebook I produce.

So, who will be next, I wonder...

After my last post, I had a lovely message of encouragement from a friend. She has generously stumped up hard cash for the making costs (£5 per notebook) of the first 20 that I make. This means the full amount of the price you pay for your notebook can be donated straight to the charity giving site in one easy step. You'll still need to do a small add on payment via Paypal to cover postage (£2.50).

My friend also commented she thought £10 was too little for a customised notebook, and pointed me in the direction of these lovely ones as a comparison. I can see how you get to the price - I know the time, thought and materials involved, not even thinking of the amount NotOnTheHighStreet probably slice off. I guess it boils down to not having the guts to ask that much. The suggested price is £10, and I will stick to this for January. But, I think being honest, £15 is a price that sits better with me as a reflection of my time, and as a better deal for the charity in terms of getting the most money I can for each notebook, so if interest translates into actual orders for notebooks, I will probably look towards achieving that in time. This thinking out loud is not very business like, is it?! A decent businesswoman would have more balls, and, do her market research first.

(Source Mollie Makes)
This popped up on my Twitter feed last night. I like it. And, ideas for potential notebooks immediately come to mind...


1. Donate here and then email me with your design ideas.
2. Pay postage (£2.50) using Paypal `Add to Cart' button. 


Monday, 29 December 2014

Are you into New Year's Resolutions?

I'll admit that I feel slightly sad that the Christmas ham is practically finished. This year's ham was better than the last one - something I didn't think possible. It had a crust which, although looked revolting, provided a spectacular contrast of treacle, mustard and slightly crunchy bread crumbs, to go alongside the smooth sweetness of the fat and the saltiness of the ham itself. How I have enjoyed my (totally unnecessary) trips to the fridge to slice a bit more off during the ad breaks on late night TV. (Wasn't it Victoria Wood who said that calories consumed standing up don't count..?)

Another thing I will admit. My thoughts are turning to potential resolutions I might make come Thursday. You can laugh, but my mental list so far includes: running more (for that, read actually doing some running, in comparison to current non-existent miles being travelled at jogging pace); doing Davina's new 7 minute workout DVD every day; joining in with WaterAid's #justwater for January (as opposed to #justteaandtheoccasionalredwine - watch out for the caffeine withdrawal shakes by day 2); and, casual thoughts (but not actually sharing them with anyone I live with) about being more tidy and shouting less.

One idea I have come up with for 2015 is more likely to be stuck to - namely, because it involves getting my sewing machine out, rather than putting on trainers at 6 am on a freezing cold morning.

Here goes.

During 2015, I will try my hand at sewing slightly less selfishly than normal. That is, I'd like to see if I can put my sewing skills to good use for raising money for charity.

I have a couple of charities in mind - WaterAid and The Salvation Army.

My plan is to make notebooks to order.

I loved making them as presents this Christmas, and (unless the recipients are lying and being polite) they went down pretty well. I'm not sure how this will pan out yet, as I have never really made things to sell. Part of the reason for this has been that I don't like making the same thing again and again. Which is why personalised notebooks are so appealing to me. I'm happy for people to Tweet me a sketch me their idea, or to ask for a certain fabric, style, colour, word, letter or trim... or to ask for a similar design to one of my other notebooks.

Another thing that has put me off making things to sell, is scepticism that there is not enough money in it. People just don't value the time that goes into handmade items, I've said, and there is a reason why factories are a much more viable option economically. I have feared that effectively working for what I consider to be a smaller hourly rate than I think I am worth, coupled with a self imposed pressure for perfection on items intended to be sold for hard cash, would kill the joy I get from making things. I am spoilt/lucky enough that my life is comfortable enough at the moment that sewing can remain my hobby.

And there comes part of the motivation behind this notebook project. Just that. My life is comfortable. I think there is enough slack in the system that I can and should be thinking a bit more about other people than I currently do. I am not slow in lecturing my children about how lucky they are. (The latest version of the `Think of children less fortunate than you' speech being prompted by the Middle Girl, complaining on Christmas night about the pile of presents not being quite what she was hoping for.) But. And there's the but. On a regular basis, I don't do a lot that really has much of a practical impact on those imagined less fortunate kids I refer to.

So, for one year, I am going to give priority to sewing up stuff that might have some benefit for other people.

The initial price I am suggesting is going to be £10 - at least half of that will go directly to the two charities, although, I am hoping to shift the making costs down so that a bigger chunk goes to charity.

Interested in getting your hands on a notebook, or, sending some nice scrap fabric my way, to become a notebook? Please check out my page here.

And, please, if you think this idea is not completely bonkers, and might indeed have legs. Please share it. Hit those icons for social media for me, and follow the progress at #NotJustAnotherNotebook


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Happy Christmas!

Hello... just a quick message to wish all who read my blog a very happy Christmas time.

I have no last minute gift ideas or quick tutorials for you. Good luck to you if you are still sewing things in time for Thursday.

My throat and chest are all blergh, so I am on the sofa and have stopped any unnecessary activity. It is time to relaaaax, and remember that there is loads of food in the house. Everything seems to be ticking along nicely without me manically rushing around finding things that need to be done. The biggest three girls are Very Excited it is only two sleeps to go, and the littlest one is excited too (but hasn't a clue what she is meant to be excited about). Frozen costumes are done and hidden away from inquisitive eyes. All things not done now (such as a carefully handmade stocking for the baby for starters - she's getting a pillow case again) won't be missed that much. Pass me the tin of Quality Street, will you? Oh, bother. We ate those last week. Oops.

Thanks for sticking with me and reading my witterings. Get ready for plenty more next year. I spy a Big Sewing Project planned, one beginning with a curly `C', and that will require me to learn about a whole heap of tailoring tecniques I haven't the foggiest what they are, yet. Can't wait.

Until then, take care, and have a lovely break. X

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Weird Notebook Giving Auntie


Hello friends. This is a short post, as I have just put the children to bed, and intend to spend the evening making some presents. But, I thought I'd share a couple of simple ideas you could use for your own home made Christmas if you're feeling in the festive mood (I have had little choice but to get in the festive mood since the girls started coming home several weeks ago singing carols they'd been practising at school).

Alison is friend of ours, and ex colleague of my husband, and she and her husband Roger make chocolate houses at Christmas. Actually, I think it's mainly Roger who is the genius behind the ever impressive structures - one year, he even wrote a how to guide, in response to all the positive comments he got about the chocolate houses (I'll ask Roger if I can share this, if you'd be interested..?).

Last week, I thought I'd make a chocolate house to give to my nieces and nephew, as they were coming up for a pre-Christmas visit. I took a few pictures, before sending it away with them still in tact (much to the noticeable disappointment of my girls, who would have dived in and helped themselves to all the raspberry bonbons, given half the chance).

The walls are made out of After Eights (well, the fake Aldi version), and the roof is Matchmakers (from Aldi, too). You melt a load of chocolate on a tray of greaseproof paper, and make your walls and roof that way, and then assemble it all once it has set. 

I found I had to carry out a few emergency building repairs during construction, but extra Matchmakers with melted chocolate do a pretty good job of sticking things back together and holding them in place long enough to set again. 

Then for the fun bit, of choosing favourite sweets and going over board on decorating the house. I got all the sweets for this one from the old fashioned sweet shop in the arcade in town (known in our house as The Saturday Sweet Shop).

Thinking of what to give my nieces and nephew - and all the other family members who I want to give something to without either bankrupting myself or plumping for dull vouchers - is a challenge. I could - and arguably should - just go for vouchers, especially now they are all getting older. It avoids just giving stuff for the sake of it, and they can have the enjoyment of some spending power in choosing something they genuinely like. But. I just didn't want to do that.

There lies the thing. It isn't just about them. It's about me feeling good about the thing I am giving them. Selfish, perhaps, I know. I didn't want to just give them another thing any one else can give them. So... I came up with these naff covered notebooks! Ha, ha. I have turned into Weird Notebook Giving Auntie. In my defense, naff as they may be, these notebooks are personal to them. I spent a happy few hours making them, and thinking about my lovely nieces and nephews in the process. A bit like the Welsh lady on this year's Sewing Bee (gosh, I have forgotten her name!), who said in the opening credits each week that making things for her grandchildren felt like she was giving them her love. That. 

All three are super stars in their own ways, and I feel immensely proud of them, even though they are not my children. One example (and this happens to have been my nephew, but it could easily have been either of the girls) is when we were at the park together, and the boy overheard some other kids swearing in front of my girls. `Watch your language, there's little girls around,' he said, in a calm and confident manner. I could have hugged him with pride. 

So that is why I have given three cool kids some notebooks. 

I am not expecting them to be excited when they open them, compared to the genuinely exciting things they will probably open on Christmas morning. It's the nephew's birthday a few days after Christmas, and for that I shall be throwing cash in his direction. He wants a BMX for doing stunts. 

So, I am going all out on the notebook giving front. I'm putting all my eggs into one basket, and not shying away from the title of Weird Notebook Giving Auntie.

I feel slightly bad now, as since making the first three notebooks, I've got hold of a free motion foot for my machine, and can do a better job of writing with my sewing.

Oh my goodness. This thing is so much fun. Okay, maybe lots of fun for me. Not necessarily my teenage nieces and nephews. But seriously, guys, get Father Christmas to buy you one of these toys.

Liberty print pin cushion, made for my tree - using this tutorial
I'll also make some more chocolate houses to give away, too. In my head, it balances out the cool stakes a bit. I'm a bit deluded, I know...

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Hibernating (with Liberty and Ric Rac)

Days like today make me feel like hibernating.

The weather outside is drizzly and grey. Not proper rain, where you put on wellies and join the children in puddle splashing, but the annoying just damp with no fun attached variety. In fact, the very opposite of fun, as Charlotte howled the whole way to and from school this morning. She strongly dislikes being underneath a rain cover, and felt the need to share this with the world in the way she knows best.

And so, we are not going out. We have played inside, listened to music, banged drums, and emptied cupboards, and stopped for tea (for me, not her) and toast and jam.

Now that she's in bed, I'm getting on with my own indoor fun, and putting together kits ready for my workshops. I've finally finished fiddling about with different combinations of fabrics and trims, and have my samples ready.

There's some old favourites making a comeback (puddings), some designs that I've tweaked (trees, houses and stockings for chocolate coins), and a new comer (cheeky robin). The common thread this time is that all the decorations feature Liberty of London prints somewhere in them.

I am developing a thing for Liberty fabrics. I won't admit this to my husband, but I dreamt about having a room filled with bookshelves stacked with tana lawn. Not wishing to remortgage my house, I am happy to settle for a few Christmas decorations with these pretty prints instead.

My eldest girl spied the samples over breakfast this morning, and we've agreed on a Sewing Club after school today. When you are 8 years old, an activity can be doubly exciting if you declare it to be a club. (The reality for me will be different, I know, as I will be trying to help thread needles and soothed pricked fingers for three girls with a baby keen to join in too.)

Here's the link if you'd like to come along to a workshop.