Monday, April 30, 2007

A quiet weekend doing not much at all

Another weekend gone and it's been a quiet one. I called in sick on Thursday and Friday, so I could rest up after visiting my consultant. He injected my poor knee again and having suffered badly last time, I did exactly what he said afterwards, staying off the leg and elavating it. Five days on and so far so good, I'd go so far as to say I haven't felt this pain free in months! Of course, I'm back at work now and after sitting at a desk for hours on end and facing stairs on a regular basis the familiar burning sensation is starting up again, so I'm not sure how well it's going to last...

Staying home for a couple of days, I reacquainted myself with daytime TV, a dismal, depressing experience if ever there was one. The number of life insurance ads was frightening, with mature actors - all of them household names - inviting me to put money aside to help towards funeral costs every ten minutes... In the end, I put a DVD on before I lost the will to live.

I have done some sewing this weekend, working on a jacket which I made up last week. I set the sleeves and hand sewed much bias binding, both of which could be done sitting down without too much running around. I'm not done yet as I need to set the frogs on the front as my chosen fastenings and I'm toying with adding ties of some sort to the side panels, both for decorative purposes and to cinch it in. Photographs and a more thorough description will be along in due course.

In the meantime, I finished off the spike stitch scarf on Wednesday but just haven't had an opportunity to upload any photos. Better late than never though, so here it is.

Spike stitch is of course a crochet stitch and my scarf is based on this pattern. It's worked in alternating double and treble crochet (or single and double if like me you read American patterns) with the treble stitch spiked in every second row and as you can see was very effective.

I took it along to Knitwits on Wednesday and Kellie said they really needed to get me off scarves. Now, I like making scarves and at the moment, I'm not looking to be challenged overly, but I do get the point. I think I'd like to have a go at something else now, just for a change... Then I can do another scarf.

So, the search is on. What to make?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Finally, a purpose for scrap

It's with some degree of surprise that I have to admit that I've been making costume for over five years now. Never one to be daunted by a challenge, my first project was a full length semi-fitted coat. It was made of thick coating and lined with linen, which was very prone to fraying and creased if you looked at it. Over the years, I've progressed from those tentative days when I consulted with Esther (who has oodles and oodles costuming experience) over every stitch and these days she's only likely to receive a panicked call if I'm really, really stuck - something I'm sure she's eternally grateful for.

The point of this nostalgic trip down memory lane may not be obvious, but in those five years of sewing costume I've accumulated a lot of scrap fabric. At first, I used to save all of the scraps as I cut, putting them aside, not sure what I'd do with them but reluctant to just throw them away. As the months turned into years and the project count increased, so my scrap mountain grew and grew and grew...

Now, I no longer keep every scrap but I do keep those fragments which I think may be large enough to do something, anything with. Unfortunately, despite my long standing intention to give crazy quilting a go, those scraps still pile up and I never have got around to making anything from them.

Until now that is. I finally found something I can make which uses scrap fabric and here it is!

This is an 'Acorn Hat' taken from The Medieval Tailor's Assistant and it is made entirely of fabric taken from my scrap mountain. The outer shell is grey wool and I've lined it in calico, with four pieces of each sewn together to form the hat shape. I used an even tinier piece of scrap from cutting out these pieces to make a stalk and I'm pretty pleased with the result. In fact, I'm so pleased I may well have to make some more which may end up being donated as kit to Andy.

Before I make any more examples of this little hat, I think I may need a rotary cutter to speed things along. Cutting out the eight pieces of fabric which sew together to make this hat took as long, if not longer than making it up. With this in mind, I dropped by the Singer shop in Coventry on Saturday morning to try to purchase one.

The obvious mistake there was assuming that the ladies who work in Coventry's Singer shop would be more helpful than they usually are. Instead, the conversation went something like...

Sales Lady #1: Can I help you?
Me: Yes, I hope so. I was wondering if you sell rotary cutters?
Sales Lady #1: *Puzzled* A what?
Me: A rotary cutter? It's sort of like a pizza cutter but for fabric and you use it to cut out shapes.
Sales Lady #1: *Shaking head* Never heard of a...'rotary cutter'? Is that what you called it?
Sales Lady #2: *Coming over* Is there a problem?
Sales Lady #1: This lady is looking for something called a 'rotary cutter'.
Sales Lady #2: Oh, a rotary cutter. *laughs* No one uses them any more, so there is no call for them and no one makes them. Sorry.
Me: *Blinking in surprise* Pardon? I think you'll find they get used quite a lot by quilt makers.
Sales Lady #2: Oh no one bothers to make quilts anymore, so as I said, no call for them.

I refrained from commenting further and put this down in the list of bemusing conversations I've either had or overheard in the Singer shop. If it were not for the sewing work they take in and their sewing machine sales, I really don't think this shop would stay in business. My worry is that sometimes they give this kind of advice or information to customers who don't know better. No one makes quilts? Have they checked the craft section of a book stores? Or the magazine rack? Or looked online?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I just came across this graphic illustrating how a bobbin catches the thread in a sewing machine, forming the bottom stitch and locking it in place with the top thread.

It's absolutely fascinating to watch and after a few rotations its obvious why timing is so important in a sewing machine. If either the needle or the bobbin is just a tiny fraction of a second out of sync you can see why this would go horribly, horribly wrong.

My question now is how does it work with oscilating rather than rotating bobbins such as you see on most side loading machines?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Testament to my Costuming Ability?

A week on from the first core Shards event of the year, I am just about recovered and my mind is already plotting away for future events, planning kit and coming up with ideas for Strangehaven. I haven't written here for a while, mostly because I was tired and what little energy I had was being directed into work. Now though, with a weekend between me and the event I'm feeling a little more energised and bubbling with ideas.

The event itself was fun, with the best possible weather for camping at this time of year although the flip side of clear, bright days was of course freezing cold nights. Fortunately, I was equipped with thermals, hot water bottle and the means to make plenty of hot drinks.

I spent a good portion of the weekend padded up, playing my pregnant character but curiously, no one really mentioned it until the last morning. At that point, one lady was talking to me when her gaze drifted down to my belly and a puzzled expression settled across her face. Then she prodded me in the belly, to which I naturally acted (as you would) in a startled fashion provoking apologies and exclamations that I normally look so slim. My non-plussed "Why thank you dear but its to be expected, I am pregnant." completely threw her.

Time out was called shortly afterwards, I got changed and returned to my normal slimline self, at which point the questions started. I refused to answer IC queries, just smiling tolerantly, but it seems that those who were not in the know as it were didn't notice the bump initially. I didn't draw overt attention and was dressed in flowing robes, although I made several casual references - again as you would. As the weekend progressed, some people did notice and began to ask amongst themselves if Julie had put on weight. Some even suspected that I might be pregnant, but didn't like to ask or react either IC or OOC in case I was, wasn't or they were seeing things...

The fact that in the mornings I was wondering around OOC and definitely not pregnant apparently didn't register. Nor did the fact that I was also playing my new character who is tiny and again most certainly not expecting anything other than to make as much trouble as she can.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Last night, I learned how to make stitch markers...

With a bank holiday weekend looming, I shall be heading off to Candleston Campsite to do a spot of LARPing for the next few days. Very gingerly LARPing, avoiding all physical activities which might impact on my poor knee which is aching as I type this. The weather forecasts look good although I'm not looking forward to the cold nights and have packed my hotwater bottle in preparation.

Mostly, I am looking forward to escaping work for a few days and allowing my mind to drift onto subjects which do not revolve entirely around the University.

I made a special effort last night, escaping from work almost on time and again made it to the Knitwits meeting in time to get a good seat. It was workshop time and I had raided my bead stock and Dave's modelling tools in anticipation of learning how to make stitch markers.

And here are the results!

Aren't they pretty? I should have put a coin in the picture to give some idea of scale, but these little dangly things are about the size of an earring. I started out making the loop style ones which sit on a needle, but as I crochet as well, I thought the hook ones might be more useful.

These stitch markers are my first real effort in a long time to use beads as something other than an embellishment and I think they turned out very well. So well in fact, that I may have to make some more... Although I will have to buy my own tools first.

(Click on the picture to see a bigger version.)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Trees, bugs and bumps, tis the season methinks...

This weekend I finally escaped from work at 6pm on Friday evening but I don't think I really switched off until the next morning. Having worked straight through, I didn't have much time for sitting around and the past couple of days have been centred around housework and getting things ready for next weekend.

We headed off to the local camping shop and showed great restraint, only buying what we actually went in for! Which was of course gas, a new foot pump and the endless requirement for citronella. Personally, I'm hoping that next weekend the bugs stay away but you never know, the little blighters could wake up early rather than remembering they're supposed to stay dormant until May.

Once we were home again, I busied myself in the house, cooking, cleaning, tidying... All those really essential but boring tasks that never seem to get done if I have to work a lot of hours. The cats took themselves out sunbathing whilst Dave locked himself in the shed, working as always on how to transform himself into a tree.

And here he is in person in tree guise.

I have banned him from the house in case he takes out the light fittings and asked him not to wear this mask in front of Missy. She took serious offence to his Russian hat which makes it look like he's wearing a cat on his head. If he shows her this mask, I think it will remove any doubts from her mind that he is indeed a cat eating monster in disguise.

In between all the cleaning, I did finish the waistband for the skirt to go over the bump and found time for a costume check, hence we have a couple of pictures of me in full padding. Once I'd put the robes on top of the bump, I've got to admit it was scarily convincing - which was of course the point - and I spent a good few minutes standing in front of the mirror staring in shock.

I haven't had time to make up a new jacket as yet, so I've pulled out the one I made a couple of years ago. As with everything - other than overrobes - I make for the character in question, this jacket is fitted but as it is centre fastening I'll get away with wearing it open as demonstrated here. All of which means I'm all set for next weekend.

Except for the customary pouches... I have no idea how I'm going to wear those!

(Click on the pictures to see bigger versions)