Friday, 29 July 2011

Mary Mary...your allotment is gorgeous!

Mary is my Mum in Law, who from now on will be just known as Mary or L.M.I.L (Lovely Mum In Law). She has a small allotment close to her home in central Winchester. She wanted to make it work for itself and produce things she and the family are some pictures from the allotment and the produce. It really is an idyllic setting with Winchester Cathedral right behind it.  You have to collect water in a bucket dangled from the bridge over a stream which runs along the bottom of the allotment. That is part of the reason that she grew things that would put roots down and not need too much attention. If I ever had an allotment that is exactly what I would trees, pear trees, plum trees, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, rhubarb, roses and sweet peas for cutting, fresh mint, rosemary. Lovely!
Her garden is amazing too but I missed the first roses of the year so I am waiting for the next lot to bloom before I take some pictures. They are beautiful.
Nix x

Kim's Game

I was clearing out our garage the other day and I found a box of some of my favourite childhood trinkets, or as my lovely Granny used to call them, nic nacs. Sometimes she used to take me to a little shop in Maidenhead to get a new nic nac. Often it was some sort of box or tin as I loved those and had loads, each with some tiny, different, thing inside. I also collected tiny china animals, shiny buttons, semi precious stones, bits of rejected jewellery. I expect most girls did that kind of thing...right?
Anyhoo, the point of all this reminiscing is that this box of old nic nacs gave me an idea for a good game that could fit in your handbag, bottom of pushchair, car glove box etc and could make those 'waiting' moments (waiting for lunch, waiting at the Doctors surgery, waiting for the bus) much more pleasant.
I didn't realise, this game has a name. Kim's Game. You probably all know that, but I didn't. I was a brownie but apparently not a very good one.
So, if you don't know the game, it goes like this. You lay a number of items out in front of you. Study them for a minute and then someone removes one and the other player or players have to guess which one. You can make it easier for children by having less to start with and you can also take away more than one item which makes it a bit easier to guess. It's harder than it looks but that's good as it means the children can play against adults and really enjoy making them guess. You can change the items around as everyone starts to remember them and you don't need to have a giant box of nic nacs to delve into. Anything small will do. A paperclip, a stone, a badge etc...
I also made this little bag to hold it all in. 
There are many patterns for lined drawstring pouches on the web but I used this one from Martha Stewart's book, which is also available for free on her!
What would be really good, which I thought of afterwards, would be a pouch that opens out into a flat circle so that you can use that to lay all the things on.
Thanks, Nix!

Purses for teachers...

I decided to make some pencil cases/purses for my son’s teachers as a leaving present. It was his last day at pre-school on Wednesday and so typically I ended up slightly panicked on Tuesday. I already had the material and I had made some similar ones previously after searching for ‘zipped lined pouch’ on the web.
This time I used this tutorial over at flossieteacakes, because I like the zip end covers and it also looked beautifully clear and nicely photographed.
My stitches are not as neat as hers though...
How do you sew two perfectly straight lines over a bumpy zip anyway? And even though the instructions very clearly stated that the zip should be exactly 8 inches, I managed to miss-measure and ended up with a zip too long for my nicely cut out pieces of fabric. 
On the right is the fabric cut to the tutorial measurements and on the left the fabric cut to the zip length! I put these 8 inch pieces to one side to make more smaller purses at a later stage.
I also only had iron-on interfacing instead of sew-on interfacing and I feel that left my fabric looking slightly wrinkled even after a good ironing. I think the iron on stuff I used was a bit dodgy as that didn’t happen last time I made one...Really I think I should have used sew-in...If Flossie says use sew-in then do it!
All in all, my purses turned out okay and in fact after the zip fiasco I think the longer purses look more like pencil cases which is probably a more useful shape. The teachers really liked them. 

Also measure twice, cut once, the golden rule for EVERYTHING! should have been followed. However, I do think that the best way to make these pouches is to buy the zip that looks the right length for what you want to do and then work out the rest of the dimensions from there.
Now I have picked up some pretty pink 8 inch zips and already have the fabric cut out with interfacing stuck on so it shouldn’t take me more than an hour to knock up a couple more. I may even keep one for myself!
Thanks, Nix!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Wraps...I can't get enough of them!

My friend Nicky Leader got me started on these...She made me one for lunch the other day and now I can't stop. It's not like I had never had a wrap before but somehow these are different and much tastier. I think it's the fresh herbs which happen to be growing like mad in my kitchen due to the new light since we had our extension...and the proximity to the kitchen tap. It really would be remiss not to water them when I see them every time I make a cup of tea.
So, I have made wraps with lots of different fillings over the last couple of weeks. Here are a few of my favourites.
This one is hummus, avocado, cheese, tomato, basil, mint, then finished with some freshly snipped lettuce, a drizzle of balsamic and a little salt and pepper.
I had a friend coming yesterday so I roasted some peppers, red onions and tomatoes, all covered in 'evoo' (just heard that the other day - extra virgin olive oil!) and a little salt and pepper. In the oven on high for 40 mins, then low for an hour or so, then off and leave in oven.
Before and...
after (we had eaten half of the tray!)

So these wraps had similar ingredients...but also some nice ham and lots of roasted vegetables.
Also very good with smoked, peppered mackerel. 
Honestly. So delicious. 
Nix X

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


My friend Alice over at Mrs Maker blogged about beautiful decorated stones the other day (she saw them here)...I am in awe and just waiting for my pot of ‘mod podge’ to arrive so I can get started. It looks amazing!! As well as making some name stones and some picture stones, I am going to make stone noughts and crosses to play with on the beach using sticks or marks in the sand as the grid. I can’t wait to sew a little pouch to keep them in.

So Alice’s blog post made me think about how much I love stones too...I am quite picky about my stones though. When we search for them on the beach I like particular shapes and an evenness of colour and texture...I sit looking for stones all around me with my bucket at my feet while the children run around collecting. They show me their offerings and they get a stock answer...either ‘accept’ and then I throw the stone in my bucket or ‘reject’ and then I throw the stone over my shoulder. The anticipation is tense and dramatic. They love waiting to see if they have found a good one, stone perfection. Sometimes they try to get me ‘pretend’ cross by bringing me ugly duds and watching them fly over my shoulder with the cry ‘reject!’ getting louder! Last time we did this, loads of other children started getting in on the action and bringing their stones for assessment, in the end we had to stop not least because it is never a good idea to throw stones over your shoulder when surrounded my children!*
Zac last August on Charmouth Beach (stone heaven)
So, I think I first fell for stones during my A-level art course at secondary school. I did a project on Andy Goldsworthy and I loved his work with perfect stones and beautiful leaves and mounds of earth and ice and get the idea.
I used to love to tower the stones up and leave them for people to look at and knock over. I also admire the skill of the stone balancers. There is this one guy that comes along to the beach in Lyme Regis in the summer, what a skill to feel the distribution of weight in a lump of rock and balance it like that.
Other things I have done with stones include....
Crocheting a cover for a stone...I followed the pattern I found here. I know it sounds mad and it’s definitely one of the crafty moments Ed (and a fair few others) have completely failed to ‘get’. (Please note, if you love this and decide to go for it yourself, do read through the comments section of this link first as there are a couple of errors corrected in there).
Stone decorating with the children at Gabe’s 4th Birthday party this year...all inspired by the best stone story ever...
'Bonting' by Shirley Hughes...If you like stones you MUST read your children this sweet and beautifully illustrated story from the ‘The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook’. My boys love it. So anyway, thanks to Alice for reminding me of stones and leading me to this cool project and hurry up my mod podge!
Byeeeeee. Nix
* No children were physically or emotionally hurt in this stone hunt...Everyone got at least one ACCEPT! after a little coaching on the qualities of a fine stone!

Sunday, 17 July 2011's gotta be done though...

I am not very good at doing sewing 'jobs'. I like to make pretty and, often fairly useless stuff. Now and then though, I have to do my repairs and alterations. It's annoying but it is always appreciated and once it's done and the pile of 'to do' sewing jobs is out of my sewing room, I do feel a certain satisfaction...
So my repairs / alterations list looks like this tonight and I am determined to get through at least half of it....
  • Take up one pair of trousers for my sister in law
  • Repair a tear in some shorts for my brother in law
  • Sew turned up sleeves and repair a hole in one of Ed's shirts
  • Fix some holes on Gabe's fave skinny jeans, oh and also sew on the 'no sew' Lightning McQueen patch that Ed got him from America a LONG time ago and that immediately fell off.
  • Shorten my skinny jeans and finish hem with some pretty homemade bias tape for a nice change.
So, that is not actually too bad a list...let's hope I get most of them done tonight though because I really want to make a pencil case for Gabe and some cute drawstring bags for some children's games that have got broken boxes.

Time to pull my thimble out! Nix

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Work in progess...another blanket!

Each square is eleven rounds of trebles and takes about two nights to make. When I was on holiday in Cornwall with Mum and the boys I did one each night but at home there are too many jobs to do after the children are in bed. I need to make eight more squares, then go around each one with chocolate brown wool and then stitch them all together and do a nice edging...I am sure it will be done before the weather starts to get cold.
Crochet is a great craft to have in a bag by the sofa, it's so easy to pick up and put down and it really doesn't take long to learn. There are loads of videos on youtube...and if you live in or near Winchester in the UK...I would be happy to show you how! Also, if searching the web you should know that US have different terminology from the UK and the rest of the world.
If you want to start, you'll need one crochet hook - a size 4 or 5 hook is always a good one. Then some yarn. Yarn (that's wool or cotton or bamboo or synthetic or a mixture) can be really expensive so get a couple of balls of something cheapish to have a go on. You will also need a pair of scissors, a safety pin for when you need to put your work down and save your last stitch and a large blunt ended needle for sewing in all the ends. The best thing about crochet is that if you go wrong, you just pull the end of your yarn and do that bit again. This is a great site for learning crochet...meetmeatmikes also the new craft magazine Molly Makes has a crochet tutorial too.
Happy hooking y'all, Nix!

Monday, 11 July 2011

A new tablecloth with Martha's mitred corners

I wanted to get a new table cloth and saw one on the web I liked. I popped into the shop and it was reduced but still really expensive so instead I brought some fabric and decided to make it myself. So instead of £40 down to £29, I paid £15.
I decided to mitre the corners properly. I used this book to follow the instructions.
This is a really good book. It has instructions for just about everything from stitch types to fading or dyeing fabrics. I’ve used it to learn a few techniques and it is really clearly laid out. It also has lots of lovely projects.
I followed these instructions for mitred corners.
It was a fiddly process. The fabric is quite thick, which made it slightly more difficult and I also wanted the turned over edges to be fairly thin so that gives you a smaller area to work with.
Once I had pinned all the corners I stitched all the way around. Easy peasy.
Pleased with the result though. Now I know how easy it was I won’t ever buy another table cloth. 
 Thanks, Nix!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Lovely flowers and Sunday lunches

I have been given some gorgeous flowers recently...They are too pretty not to photograph.
Nicky gave me these on Friday...I have no idea what they are but they are beautiful aren't they. Thanks Nic! X
These I was given (well, encouraged to take) from Mary's allotment while they were on holiday. Roses, sweet peas, lavender and mint (just like my wedding bouquet).
The flowers in the background here were bought to me by Mary from her allotment last Sunday along with little porcelain bag from France. Mary also prepared the delicious starters for our Sunday lunch. I made the Pimms and cake. Ed cooked the roast pork (roasted meat really doesn't photograph well though!)
The tablecloth used to be my Mums. I love things that have been passed down through the family. I just wish I had taken better care of some of them when I was moving all over the place in my twenties. Who knows where some of my stuff has ended up?
Hey ho. Happy Sunday. Nix :)

Mini Bunting

I wanted to make this mini bunting after I saw some similar on the front of a craft book - sew la tea do. The one on the book is only 20 flags and I think would look nice over a child's bed or door. I am going to make some a bit longer for indoor parties. Zac's birthday is in January and it's so dark and always indoors so it's nice to try and cheer up the house a bit for him.
To make one length of bunting:
  • Three 9” squares of felt
  • 2.5 metres of bias tape
  • Scissors (or a rotary cutter and self healing mat)
  • Tailors chalk
  • Ruler or tape measure
  • Thread – matching or contrasting
I wanted to make quite a lot of this bunting and for it to be really colourful so I got four lots of bias tape and 13 different coloured squares.
I took some paper and cut out a triangle to see what sort of size flag would look right. It turned out to fit nicely four times in the 9” square so I decided to make the flags 2.25” wide and 4.5” long.
I folded the square in half so that I only had to make half the number of cuts once I had marked out the triangles.
I marked with chalk every 2.25” along the top and then the midpoints along the bottom. I have chalked out the triangles on this example so you can see them clearly. 
I then cut out the flags, giving me 14 in total with just a tiny triangle of wasted felt from each side. You can use this method of making triangles for bunting of any size and it uses all the material leaving very little waste. It means you don’t need to buy very much fabric to make loads of flags.
Once I had made piles of all my felt triangles, I mixed them all up and lined them up for sewing together. I used 40 flags for 2.5metres of bunting.
I fed part of the bias tape through the sewing machine to give me a tying end and then just inserted one flag at a time.
I wanted one to give to a friend's two year old baby as part of her birthday present so I embroidered her name on the flags before inserting them. This one was only 20 flags so could go above her door or bed.
Bye for now, Nix