Sewing Bee … bzzz

Hi All

I am still getting used to being in full-time paid work as you might guess by the sporadic nature of these posts. But never fear behind the scenes I am still keeping time for crafting. The last few months have seen more sewing than yarn crafts. And now we here in the UK are into the full flow of the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee my sewing endeavours have been given a push.

Pre Sewing Bee I was working slowly but surely through a special quilt for oldest granddaughter Peanut and also managed to finish a top for myself, the Merchant & Mills Ellesworth Shirt. This pattern was marked as intermediate and did test me in places, does anyone love a placket? But I am very happy with the finished item, placket, binding, cuffs, French seams and all. Nonetheless I will make it longer in future as it ends in just the place my mother called your avoirdupois (that is your heaviest bit!). Hey ho, this lovely shirt will be paired over long loose sleeveless dresses so my ‘avoirdupois’ won’t matter. Here’s my tale of the Ellesworth in pictures:

Sorry no completed shirt picture. When I feel confident – you might be waiting a while – I will have a picture taken in the finished item.

Before more sewing, there was a special first birthday for youngest granddaughter Shrub. You would never have known she had chickenpox. Surrounded by her cousins and family she rose to the occasion and was a perfect hostess. I think the cake (best cake ever) might have helped!

One happy little one year old ensued. But did I mention the cake?!

It was a lovely weekend bringing all the family together. Thank you to No1 Daughter and Son-in-law and everyone who came.

Back at home, this weekend I gave myself a Sewing Bee Saturday Challenge. On the Sewing Bee I always marvel at how quickly they make things. Sometimes the cutting out takes me as long as they have to come up with a finished garment. But in for a penny in for a pound I decided to find an old duvet cover – it was recycling week on the Bee- and make a child’s jacket in an afternoon.

I ratched through the airing cupboard and sure enough right at the bottom was a single duvet cover – I think it was my mum’s! – one tsunami of clothes later I had my cloth. Enough to make the Burda child’s jacket. Head down and away I went. Here I go ..

All done in 5 and a half hours. It would have been faster but Jolly Janome threw a wobbly at the middle buttonhole which led to disaster and about thirty minutes of tears. Despite the Frankenstein (sob) buttonhole and repair that resulted I was happy with the pattern and the recycling of the long forgotten duvet cover. I even have enough left over for quilting. What more can I ask … except to be less clumsy with the unpicker!

Lesson? Handsew buttonholes in future. But then don’t expect to meet the challenge deadline! No worries, I will definitely return to my pre-deadline ways.

Well, time to sort out the airing cupboard swamp that has engulfed the landing.

Happy crafting,

Mx

Slow down Saturday (and Sunday) … ribbit!

Happy world frog day! No frog-y visitors today in the back porch, I expect they are busy putting up the water lily bunting and getting ready for an evening of partying … ribbit…

For me it has been a weekend of slowing down after a busy working week. Since the end of Covid lockdowns (fingers crossed) I enjoy sociable Saturdays, a chance to catch up with much missed friends and touch base with family. This week I was delighted my good friend KS could come over – with the beautiful elderly cocker spaniel that is Bagel – for plenty of chatting, food and crafting. Bliss.

Hi folks – remember me?

KS and her husband are spending this year – in addition to their day jobs – fundraising for Cumbria’s children’s hospice, Jigsaw. I am full of awe, they both have incredibly stressful jobs yet they are dedicated in their efforts to support this special charity.

On Friday 15 April KS is organising a coffee and cake morning at Melmerby village hall. Along with refreshments there are stalls including one with woolly makes. I am behind the curve here, I need to get cracking on my crochet baby boots, but KS is of course on this (as well as organising the whole event). She finished a gorgeous baby matinee jacket while she was here along with starting a second knitted baby bootee. So if you live in or are visiting the stunning Eden Valley and the village of Melmerby on Good Friday do drop in on KS at the village hall and bring plenty of cash!

Now a quick crafty round-up from me. I paired chatting, listening and cooking with Lucy at Attic 24’s crochet-along (CAL) Harbour Blanket. I am only just finishing Week 2 of the original CAL but no matter the easy rhythm of the ripple pattern make it the perfect accompaniment to being sociable. I might just get it finished for next Winter. Here’s how it looks today:

In other crafty news: my polar bear panel has now been joined by panda.

Think the bears are enjoying the company.

Counter Intuitively – because the weather is fabulous – I decided to carry Slow Down Saturday into Slow Down Some More Sunday and enjoy tea, leftovers and books. I don’t know about you but I always have a few books on the go. This suits my restless … I mean butterfly mind. Off the shelves this weekend are:

Ed Winters is often known as Earthling Ed and what I love about him is his gentle discursive way of talking to people about veganism. As this book shows he knows his stuff and references all the research he has used. Of course while Ed appears a gentle soul what he talks and writes about is often violent and brutal. I squeamishly read through the section on how meat, milk, eggs and fish get to our plates and confess I am actually relieved to be on the section devoted to the environment! Even though I don’t think that will be an easy ride either.

Pleased to have a little bit of light relief I smiled at the book mark I am using. A much treasured reminder of my friends’ wonderful bookshop, Fireside Bookshop, that has recently relocated to Stroud in Gloucestershire. This is my favourite of favourite bookshops please have look see either online or in person. The selection is superb and contains specialist rarities, many of my books on archaeology and ancient history are from Fireside.

Ooh I hear the gentle whisper of a fritillary’s wings. Book number two:

I have loved Kate Atkinson since reading ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’ years ago. She has the rare gift of conveying how life changing events occur in a heartbeat. She has certainly given me a few ‘I didn’t see that coming’ moments. Book three:

Inspired by our recent visit to the Quaker Tapestry here in Kendal and sadly by the way of the world – in Ukraine and the many other war-torn parts of the globe – I thought I would again re-visit the ‘religion’ of my English grandmother, Quakerism. This famously pacifist community seemed to me the antidote to the violence of how we humans often speak and act.

It is very difficult to pin down what a Quaker is. I recently heard that if you ask four Quakers what a Quaker is, you will get five different answers. Love a group with a sense of humour! I am agnostic, I just don’t know what (if anything) is ‘out there’. But I do love the idea of a kind way of life where there is good (God if that is your belief) in everyone. I will keep on reading but while I read I must eat, so to my last books;

These two well thumbed cookbooks will help me use up everything in my veg box. It’s looking like that remaining Savoy Cabbage will be roasted with peppercorns … yum.

Please keep safe and be kind,

Mx

Christmas Bear Quilt No.1 – Polar Bear

Hi All

It’s a very breezy day here in the Auld Grey Town so a good one to keep away from tree branches, roof tiles, signage … etc …. and hunker down to finish the Polar Bear panel for Peanut’s Christmas quilt. You might remember me mentioning Christmas 2022 back at the beginning of January. Oh the madness. But I have at least twelve bear panels to make so never to early to start, right?

This is a quick post to keep you up to date on Christmas Bear Quilt stage No. 1 the polar bear.

I had a scale drawing and an idea of the colours I would use.

If you look back to the first post and the drawing I did then you can see a dramatic change of style!

With the help of good old Bondaweb – which allows you to cut out pieces and then stick them to another fabric – it was really a task of cutting, sticking, zig-zag stitching and layering.

And hey presto! One finished (bar the quilting) polar bear panel.

Okay, okay my zig zag went a little wild at times but I like that it suits the bear and gives a fuzzy furry-ness to her.

One down, eleven and extras to go … I am thinking the Peruvian Spectacled Bear will be next in honour of the Paddington Bear exhibition that has been held at Tullie House Museum in Carlisle.

Mx

PS where are the marmalade sandwiches?!

Toddling into town

Hello all,

I hope your New Year is getting off to a good start. For me it is back to the normal run of things. This no criticism it is the mundane that allows some occasions to be cherished as special and there is also comfort to be had in the routine. I am happy to be ‘bored’ it gives me chance to reflect, look ahead or just switch off.

Off course not all reflections are helpful. Yesterday as I toddled into town to get some chores done I pondered: how come I am Cumbrian yet I hate walking up hills? Who said that?! I will have you know I am r-e-l-a-t-i-v-e-l-y fit and only just on the cuddly side.

My walk starts with a short uphill section, puff wheeze:

I am half way up here

Followed by a quick stroll across a field with a long (dare I say it dull) walk UP the next road …. can….n’t….sp…ea…ck …gasp:

Mmmm, not looking that much of an uphill struggle

Obviously to my Cumbrian kith and kin I don’t know a steep road when I climb one:

Anyhoo after pondering the imponderable (you at the back again! I said ‘cuddly’), and feeling much warmer than when I set off, I arrived in town. Food shopping out of the way I wended my way to my favourite store, Reticule.

Cosy, snug and full of crafty promise

I am about to embark on a new quilt which I am sewing for granddaughter Peanut for … wait for it … next Christmas! Do I get a prize for being the first person you know to mention the C word this year?!

Peanut is the only one of my three granddaughters not to have a quilt. Here are Munchkin and Shrub’s:

I had not embraced my inner quilter when Peanut was born. I am making up for lost time. Peanut is a keen supporter of Animals Asia so I decided her quilt should be dedicated to bears. As there are 8 species of bear to which I can add a few sub-species I am going to create twelve panels each devoted to a different type of bear. Ursus Ianuarii is the polar bear.

I had made a small sketch:

How do you spell ‘grey’ Moke?

I had then checked my fabric stash but came up with only one useful piece … erm dark grey/gray. But with this visit to Reticule, a chat with the super helpful owner Jane, I am polar bear fabric ready.

The loveliness of a walk into the ‘Auld grey (flippin’ heck not that word again!) town’ of Kendal – hills not withstanding – did not end there. Friend ACk had given me the gift of a book token for Christmas and it was burning a hole in my imagination, what new book would be joining the shelves, tables or other flat surfaces at Casa Moke?

Missing our independent bookshops though I am, it is still enjoyable to visit Waterstones (the UK’s ubiquitous seller of tomes) and browse their two floors of stock. Having cried at the beauty of Madeline Miller’s love story ‘Song of Achilles’ last year and loving Natalie Haynes BBC radio classical comedy ‘Natalie Haynes Stands up for the Classics’ I went for a Natalie Haynes’ novel “The Children of Jocasta” which was recommended by Madeline Miller. Win win.

Adding a 2022 diary to my purchases rounded off my sortie onto the high street. Bearing two bags of veg and other essentials I walked home to enjoy a relaxing read and contemplative updating of the new diary… but with arms at least a few inches longer, blast those hills!

Keep safe and well in 2022,

Moke x

Waggy tailed visitors always welcome

It is lovely to get together with old friends. These visits have been in short-supply lately so I was over the moon when KS braved the atrocious weather and possibility of floods to come to mine for a crafty morning and catch up. She also brought a bonus guest, one of her three cocker spaniels the elder of the pack, the gorgeous Bagel.

Spaniel eyes anyone?

As you can see in the background KS brought the travel blanket she made for Bagel so that he would be comfy and cosy. He is an older gent and deserves every creature comfort.

Made of re-cycled tea towels and quilted for extra snugness, Bagel was of course keen to show off his transportable bed.

My human is so kind and clever.

It was difficult for me to stop admiring the wonderful Bagel (you can see why, those eyes!) But at least one of us managed some crafting.

KS – being far more industrious than yours truly – is knitting a beautiful cable scarf for a friend and had brought it along to get a few more rows done. I love the colour and the cabled texture. Someone is going to be very happy when they receive this superb handmade present.

As you can see we had cakes and nibbles to keep us going. The lemon and berry cakes were scoffed before I got to taking pictures. They and the remaining boxed cakes were from Ginger Bakers at Plumgarths and were super delicious.

We must have chatted a lot as Bagel got back home and straightaway curled up with his favourite toy for a well earned snooze. He was no doubt dreaming ‘knit two, purl one”.

Cast on … knit two … purl one ….

Shhh let’s leave him in peace ….

Mx

Giant Christmas Doughnut!

I have said it. The ‘C’ word. I am sure for the crafty community the ‘C’ word has been a big part of their endeavours for some time now.

I have made a couple of things for my granddaughters and one project (which is enormous) has been benched until next year. My Christmas 2021 crafting seemed finished. Happily I had something waiting in the wings.

Last year I spent much of the run up to Christmas making the Clothkits quilted jackets for Peanut and Munchkin. I had no time to use the bundle of pre-printed fabrics that had been given to me by friend JG.

This year because of the aforementioned ‘benching’ I found myself with a window to complete a Yuletide project that got left behind last year.

Amongst the festive pre-printed fabrics donated by JG was one that looked like it had the makings of a large door garland. It was already cut out and ready to go.

All that was left to do was:

Sew.

If you are ever confronted by such a design remember do not sew up any part of the middle circle – I mean what idiot would do that … – as you won’t be able to turn it out to the right side.

Press.

Those tailors’ hams certainly proved invaluable for this one.

Turn out.

I added a ribbon tab as I was planning to hang it on my front door.

Stuff it and stitch up the middle hole.

At that point I discovered – having already used copious amounts of stuffing – when hung up the would-be garland pulled on the panel at the top! It looked rather saggy (know how it feels). Not wanting to use even more stuffing it was time for a re-think.

Despite the fact that the Giant Christmas Doughnut reminds me of the type of cushion you might want to sit on after a painful piles operation it appears to be destined to be an addition to my sofa during the festive period. That seems a bit of a waste. Have you dear readers any better ideas?

Looking at it now I am wondering if I took out one panel it could become one of those horseshoe cushions you wear around your neck on long journeys. Now there’s a thought. What a way to travel to Yorkshire this Christmas! Whether my son and daughter share the same view when they ferry me too and fro – there being very little public transport – is another thing …

For their sakes I hope you come up with something better!

Mx

Jolly Janome is busy

Hello All

Over the last couple of years I have been sewing more and more. I’ve made clothes for me and the girls, bags for gifts, bags for medics clothing and of course many, many masks!

Weirdly I have no photos of the masks, but I reckon you have all seen enough of them over the last 18 months or so. I don‘t need to show you any more.

My favourite pieces however were two quilts. One was made for Munchkin when she was born and the other was sewn for Shrub when she arrived.

Munchkin‘s was made by creating appliqué panels based on the ‘Woodland Critters’ quilt pattern. I tweaked it ever so slightly. There had to be a robin! Then I had great fun deciding on the fabrics to make the blocks before sewing the completed panels together, adding the surround, batting, backing and quilting.

When it came to Shrub’s quilt I chose a simpler method. I bought cloth with pre-printed panels. I cut out each panel then framed them with different coloured fabrics before once again sewing them together, giving them a border, batting, backing and quilting. I must say I was particularly pleased with the border and backing materials that I bought – like a lot of my fabrics – from Reticule here in Kendal.

If you are wondering where Peanut’s quilt is, truth be told I had not ventured into the wonderful world of quilting when she was born. For her birth I made a crochet ripple blanket.

The time has come to work on a special quilt for P. But it is hush hush as Mother Christmas is busy working on it …

Until we meet again,

Moke x

The Tribe of Doris

Hello All,

When I left .. deserted … you in 2019 I had one amazing granddaughter, Peanut. P is now the magnificent and all-wise age of 5 years. Five?! Yes 5! She keeps us straight on all things vegan – “Omi, is this vegan?” – is an animal welfare activist and a budding expert on bears. A perfect bundle of eco-warrior and caring human being.

During my long blog-sleep Peanut was joined by a brilliant cousin and gorgeous little sister. Collectively the three girls are to me The Tribe of Doris (psst this was the name of an fabulous all female drumming band … don’t tell them I stole it).

First to join the party was A, daughter of No 1 Son and No 1 Daughter In Law.

Munchkin is over 18 months old and as you can see is very happy to be donning her welly-bobs for country walks and splashing in mud. I have missed her sooooo much during the various lockdowns and was really pleased that No 1 Daughter In Law’s parents were near at hand and able to be there as part of her childcare bubble. As things have eased I am getting to know A again and it is wonderful to meet the beautiful, reflective and intelligent little girl that has blossomed from the newborn I remember pre-pandemic.

In case you wondered, Munchkin is sporting a Clothkits jacket I managed to smuggle to her during the Christmas lockdown lift. Yes a tad on the big size… but she looks adorable and she will get her wear out of it. I was happy to find that Clothkits are still very much alive and kicking as I loved them when my own two were children and they continue to make gorgeously printed kits along with complete items and fabrics that are irresistible. One word of warning the binding was a devil to get right. Although this could just be me and my cack-handedness.

Then there were … three. Earlier this year P got her wish of a baby sister. Shrub was a bump through much of the pandemic and arrived as a little ray of sunshine in a year overcast by the clouds of Covid. It seems she knew this because I swear she was smiling by 2 weeks old.

Now you have met the tribe. It is a wobbly old world they have arrived into but as with all children they are our hope for the future and they make me even more determined to work to rectify the problems we have so far bequeathed them. After all I don’t want this fearsome bunch coming after me in my dotage (not long off) asking “WHY?!”

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Cover Up

Hello All

Today I share with you a guilty secret. Brace yourselves for some hideousness.

In the room I like to call my study (well I do read in there) is this ….

Ermm disintegrating heap of an old sofa. But wait you have not seen the full horror. Close your eyes if you are of a nervous disposition and cue music from ‘Psycho’:

Before you disown me for the lush that I obviously am let me explain. First the sob story: this was my mother’s sofa (aaaaaahhh) however she died almost 20 years ago … and she gave it to me before she died (tut, tut). Next the pragmatics: the sofa was until ‘fairly’ recently covered and the covers had (after a fashion) withstood the rigours of children and two elderly spaniels. But enough was enough and in a moment of madness/cleanliness I donned a nuclear fallout suit and whipped the covers off and disposed of them. Don’t worry you are safe.

I couldn’t however get rid of the sofa: it has sentimental value, a good solid frame and it provides a cosy nook to curl up with a yarn-y project or a good book. So recently – ok, several years ago – I decided I would re-cover it. In my head this was a perfectly formed LITTLE endeavour. The project even had a boost when super friend JG donated me some old curtains.

Plenty to cover a small settee. Surely an easy weekend make would follow in which I could sing the praises of re-cycling and making do and mending. Yet even in my pea brain something told me that this was going to be trickier than my original vision of up-cycled loveliness allowed. I stalled.

But now only three years later – I am not the Procrastination Queen for nothing – I have started creating loose covers for Omi’s sofa and here I am describing the makeover, part one of it anyhoo (let’s not go wild!). As with all good 21st century projects I started by trawling the internet. Now I don’t want to say that other’s have had it easier but every similar sofa recovering I watched seemed either to involve box type cushions and/or staple guns.

Omi’s Sofa has ‘nobbly’ shaped seat cushions and recessed arms meaning more shaping would be involved. I also did not want to staple the covering to the sofa. I want to be able to remove it for washing. I have a granddaughter! and she is second only to me as a ‘dropper’. Finally I have ‘previous’ for being lethal with a staple gun…don’t worry that child’s limp is barely noticeable now….

Suffice to say Jolly Janome and I were going to work this together with a little bit of tacking and hand sewing thrown in for good measure. I even moved my scene of operations downstairs. Ironing board too.

My first objective was to cover the seat cushions. Not being one for maths I worked by covering the foam with the fabric inside out and cutting and tacking then sewing around the ‘L’ shaped corners.

I am still using the original seat cushions and wanted to keep the covers loose enough to remove easily when, at some point in the next century, I get new foam. For this reason I put vents into the side seams.

This called for some tricky pinning and tacking but I am pleased that the vents afford easier removal.

The almost finished cushions are a wee bit lumpy bumpy thanks to the old foam but I am happy that they turned out a matched pair and I hope you agree that already Omi’s old sofa is vastly improved.

For now (another three years?) I have thrown the remaining curtaining over the settee and as I had already crochet covered the back cushions by adding a row of patchwork cushions (thank you KS for the beautiful blue one) the sofa has a new lease of life.

But I must dash. I have a cosy nook to sit in and that Ann Cleeves thriller will not read itself.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

PS the rug was knitted with jumbo needles using selvedge yarn. In case you wondered. Mx

Dog Days

Hello All

It has been an activity mish-mash at Casa Moke over the last couple of weeks. No matter how hard I try my poor old pea-brain can’t come up with a coherent single theme for this post. Dear reader be prepared for the confused Cornucopia of everyday life here in the brr-is-it-me-but-is-Winter-coming-to-the-fffff-reezing-North-?.

First to the ‘Dog Days’. No 1 Daughter frequently travels with her job and last weekend she had the chance to combine work and a family trip while visiting some wonderful Animals Asia supporters in Glasgow. Only two small ‘problems’ her furry friends, George and Buddy. Yahoo! chance for me to enjoy the company of the boys for a couple of days dog-sitting.

George and Buddy would probably call it human-sitting and to be frank they would be right. Their time here does seem to entail a lot of sitting on me!

George takes the lap…

… and Buddy purloins the feet! My doggy visitors certainly make themselves at home. Bless ’em.

And while we relaxing, look what dropped through my door:

It is always exciting to see what classes are happening locally but this year I found it even more exciting. If you have a look under Arts and Crafts you might notice a few entries for ‘Introduction to Needle Felting’, guess who is responsible for them????

Yup that will be me! I am lucky enough to be running a few short courses over the Spring for Cumbria County Council’s Community Learning and Skills Programme in South Lakeland. It was such fun to micro-teach the interview panel that I am really looking forward to sharing one of my favourite crafts with new needle felters.

[Clears throat and takes on serious tone] Better keep up my crafty credentials in case any of my students-to-be are looking (can’t wait to meet you by the way). I have done a little more work on the wall art. The character on the right seems to be sending out some star-dust to cheer up the rather drab lettering:

I think she has done a good job and may need to be rewarded with a tiara or floral tribute…watch this space.

I have also been patch-working my way through several cushions:

I think almost all the fabric was from Reticule in Kendal. They have a huge range of beautiful and stylish fabrics and quarters. I chose these to coordinate with particular colour schemes. I can’t help but chuckle when I look at the blue birds: they seem to be on a see-saw. Have you spotted them? Hope they don’t get sea-sick!

Finally as ‘Winter is Coming’ a wee bit of sock knitting was called for.

Just knitting socks makes you feel warmer doesn’t it? Or is it trying to keep all the stitches on the needles and the counters in the right places that keeps me warm? Well done to Crafty friend KS who has launched herself into the world of sock knitting on circular needles with great results. I think I just like the suspense of working on double pointed needles, will the stitches stay on for another round ….

As you see I have a few projects to keep me busy and snug. And there are those courses to plan. Can’t wait.

Until next we meet,

Moke x