Saturday, 30 October 2010

We heart shelves

See the chaos - no room to eat at the table.

Pens, pencils, art straws, playdough, magnetic letters, talking globe...see they all fit!

When trying to practice mindful spending and not buying new things I have found that patience can be rewarded. I have been wishing to have some shelves for a long long time. I wanted to stick to my guns and buy second hand but I was getting fed up. Shelves offered on my local freecycle network get snapped up very very quickly.

I had even started to look at Ikea's website, and asking other people where their shelving came from. In short I was becoming an obsessive, shelving wannabee-bore. Mr Minnado doesn't like shelves. Really, really does not like shelves. When I suggest shelves in our new house that we are planning, he adds quickly "But wouldn't you like a door over them?" i.e. a cupboard. (But I would like a shelf in the kitchen to put some of my pottery pieces on.)

Due to his shelf hatred (yes, that is shelf not self) and my lack of funds we have had more things on the floor and the dining table than I would like. When he trips over a box of pens and swears, I suggest this would not happen if we had some shelves. But at last....having restrained myself from buying some new shelves from a shop... I got lucky... the local junky charity shop was closing selling off their ikea shelf units. I asked if I could buy two units for £6.00 each. Mr Minnado was slightly petrubed when we had a phone call at 9pm one evening from a gruff voiced man, "It's Dave from the charity shop". He had rung to tell me I could have the shelves. (When the local charity shop rings you at home, is that a warning that maybe you are doing too much second hand shopping?) So, I had to collect them this morning and it all turned into an epic task. I was on my own with the children and realised I could not fit children and shelves into my small car at the same time. So we walked, I had to carry each shelf unit home in turn while T pushed Little I in the pushchair.

I have put one set in the dining room as you can see above. The other set are ina kind of utility space we have which is very dark and didn't photo well. The bonus of it is that I was able to decant loads of stuff from the top of the fridge onto the shelves. In doing so I discovered,

  • we have lots of children's paints, two sets of unopened tempera paints

  • three large tubs of coloured glitter

  • three tubs of never used magnetic letters and words

T used the magnetic letters to label the shelves as you can see in the top picture. I hadn't realised they were magnetic. As usual my seven year old knows more than me.

The point of this lengthy ramble about shelves is partly this, Hayley has written about containers before and the idea that you should only have stuff that you can fit into containers. When you have a container full of stuff, for instance a cupboard full of dried foods or a jewellery stand full of jewellery, that is it - you have enough.

By getting these shelves, which I would consider containers of a sort, I not only tidied up but I found things that I had forgotten we even had. I had been planning on going to buy more paints and glitter. Having them organised and easy to see means we can use them more often as well as saving me from buying things I already have. We have enough!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Sack dress update and a day out

The Victorian technical school

An interesting corner

Woman so happy to be out of the house for one day. Oh yes, I was in a building full of visually stimulating, and lovely objects and where am I for my photo of dress in action? By the toilets...
So I took the children out for the day and where does a die-hard sewer take their kids? The theme park, the safari park, the zoo? No silly, of course not, we went to Bilston Craft Gallery. Now certain relatives have sniggered when I announced we were going on a day out to Bilston because it is a fairly non picturesque place.
We walked past some interesting buildings that hint at Bilston's past - I always am taken with this one which has "Technical School" on the front and the words "Science" and "Art" above the windows. It makes me think of Victorian self improvement and education. So sad it is derelict now.

Back to the day trip, the craft gallery is great , and the best thing about it is this - Craftplay. It is a purpose designed space for 0 - 7 year olds. You have to book in and it is only open limited days of the week. There ia s a member of staff there who is lovely and parents have to stay and play too. There is making and loads of materials but it is not prescriptive craft where everyone makes something like a halloween mask for instance. Oh no, it is much more child centred and about exploring materials. So, there is a round table with materials and then other activities all around. Little I started with some glue and glitter, yoghurt pots and made a sort of 3d collage. T made a giant plastic tube with attachments. There was flubber and gloop to put your hands in and play. There was sand with glitter in for "cooking" and there was dressing up. There are lots of interesting corners to see and things to touch and listen. to T built a complicated system for ping pong balls using piping.
In a foyer space where we ate our sandwiches there was a notice board full of local opportunities for designer/makers, and a table with reference books. This was enlightening and refreshing for and I felt a bit like I had crawled out from a shell and realised there is a vibrant crafts scene in the West Midlands.
We went there on the train to Wolverhampton and then on a tram. They found this very exciting. Trams are a novelty to us as they don't have them where we live. It is fun to whiz past the traffic jams on the tram. I could have driven there (and have done before) but going by public transport made it into more of an expedition and adventure. It also made me feel like I had come out of my little bubble for a day.
And, finally, I wore my black sack dresss, I received some really great advice after posting about this dress. I took the pockets off and just thought I would give it a go. Maybe like Roobeedoo suggested I just need to get used to wearing a different shape. I wore it with thick tights, my flat green boots and a cardigan. Oh yeah, and I loved it. It was comfortable and easy to wear, I managed to bend down and play without feeling exposed. I think the pockets were perhaps a detail too far. One of those things that look good on paper or in my head but not so great in reality. Sometimes perhaps less is more. I still think the fabric choice was wrong as it is quite creasy and attracts dust but heigh-ho, I will take that as a learning point.
One last thing about the dress and then I will shut up about it - I found the neckline a bit too high and I hadn't fitted the yoke quite properly so I had to tug at it quite a bit during the day. I have an alteration in mind but it's in the wash now havingbeen covered in flour, glitter, and glue yesterday.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Coffee Pot

It is half term holiday here this week so all is chaos but I did rush to the local shops and library by myself yesterday. I was supposed to be buying something sensible like milk but here's what I came back with instead. (The local junky charity shop is closing down and has a half price sale).
A coffee pot and milk jug bought for next to nothing (£1.25 to be exact). They caught my eye yesterday - I like the clean simple shapes and the wooden handles.

I gave them to Little I for her play kitchen. She loves them and has made me lots of pretend coffee. I turned the coffee pot over and saw that they are Danish. Anyone out there know - are they for stove top use?

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Granny-chic shopping finds

These charity shop finds are spread over the past couple of months. I have cut back on random, impulse buys, partly because of lack of funds, and also as a part of trying to be more mindful in my spending. I have been taking stuff into the charity shops and trying to stick to a rule of nothing coming into my house from the charity shop unless something has gone out. HOWEVER....all rules need to be broken sometimes....and these are the recent finds.
A granny-esque pyrex casserole with lid. I especially like casserole dishes with lids so I can forego clingfilm or other disposble coverings that just go to landfill. Plus the flowers are cute and it is a good size.

I found the hand embroidered egg cosies, all four for £1 in a charity shop down the road from my house. It is quite a recent shop and I do not often go in except to poke through the basket of old linens. I never go in with my kids as there are too many cheap toys in there ( as in under 50p) and we have enough already. Seriously, where is Santa going to go? I asked T this recently and I said he needed to sort through what he doesn't play with and give it to the charity shop. His solution? "I will give the toys to the charity shop and then after Christmas go and buy them all back, because I don't want to get rid of any of my toys" Anyway back to the egg cosies, I do buy old linens and embroidered pieces partly because I think they are undervalued and need to be reinstated with some respect. There is a lot of great needlework out there chucked in the 50p basket. And I think they look good too. So, as everybody in this house dislikes boiled eggs I am thinking these could look sweet framed up in Little I's bedroom. Any other thoughts on potential use?

I needed some warmer cardigans and found these two lovelies...
The warm wool cardigan, from Next (how to describe the colour? beige? taupe? mushroom? weak old lady tea?) yes, I think I will say it is old-lady-weak-tea in colour, and it has a nice retro shape to it. I have already worn it on cold days and it is great. I do like a bit of granny-inspired dressing.

A red and grey (a favourite winter colour combo) wool cardigan - very warm. Originally from Benetton this gave me a flash of nostalgia - I can remember the excitement when Benetton opened in my home town when I was a teenager - all those perfectly folded woollens in so many colours. I only had one friend who could afford to actually buy in there.
Not much sewing going on here as my machine is still not right. I have been ploughing through my necessary but boring sewing pile feeling virtuous, so far I have taken up one pair of trousers for Little I, and patched one pair of jeans for Mr Minnado. Still to go, a pair of jeans to be taken up for T and another pair for Little I. These sorts of jobs are best undertaken while watching a film I think.

Friday, 22 October 2010

House progress

As you may or may not be aware we are renovating and rebuilding a house. About 3 weeks ago the builders came along and started work.

I hope we can move in next year, maybe in March. I am being cautious here as building projecst always seem to over run or at least they do on TV. This morning I have been struggling with filling in a primary school application form for Little I as when we move we will change local education authorities and she will therefore be in catchment for a different set of schools. I think I have to send in some proof we are moving to where we say we are moving! Luckily we already moved T to the school in catchment for the new house so that is one less complication. I know however that I will be worrying in the middle of the night until mid January (when you are informed) as to whether she has a place at her big brother's school or not.

Anyway, last weekend I went over with the camera and here are a few pictures to share with you.

The view through the "front door"

The living room.

And in true sustainable living wannabee style I give you Mr Minnado's woodpile! He has been collecting old pallets from factories and the offcuts from our local woodyard (with permission!) for about two months now and this is about half of his collection. The other half has already been chopped up and stored ready for use as fuel when we move in. But some of this lot we hope to be able to use in building furniture for the house.
The children have already found new entertainment in being allowed to each select one piece of wood to bring home and paint. This wood was all designated rubbish at the yards/factories and I am not sure where it would have ended up.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Thoughts on a dress gone wrong

I made a dress from fabric in my stash but it has all gone a bit wrong. Do you want to see some not so great photos of it? The photos of me in it are so awful I cannot bring myself to post them. I used the shift pattern from Sew U dresses. The black fabric is some cotton with a bit of stretch in it. The stripey fabric is cotton that was orinally white with a mint green stripe but I dyed it a few months ago. I cut out the shift dress and then made the yoke and facing from the pattern.

I really, really wanted this dress to work but this may be a case of what I had in my head not quite matching up in reality. Here are thoughts on it so far....

1. I tried to get the pockets sewn on evenly but I think they are not. The stripey fabric just emphasises little errors like this.

2. It is kind of like a huge black sack.

3. If I had a waist I could try a belt

4. I think I should live in a spooky gothic mansion to wear this dress

5. In the sideways view you can see the shapelessness issue AND you can see how the fabric is very prone to creasing

6. The fabric also attracts dust and lint

7. If I lived in a dark spooky gothic mansion the creasing and dustiness would not be visible

8. I could wear this dress for Halloween

9. Damn, I wanted an everyday dress not a costume

10. I think I should remake this dress in cotton jersey

The other annoying thing is my sewing machine is not working properly - I sat down yesterday with two free hours (a miracle for me) and a pile of Christmas sewing, nice and simple. Something is wrong with the bobbin mechanism, and the needle keeps coming unthreaded - is this a tension problem? Any advice? My machine is a thirty five year old Elna. I get it serviced annually but I am beginning to feel fed up with the rattling, the bits falling off, and am thinking maybe I should stop making things harder for myself and buy a newer machine. Mr Minnado has offered to buy me a newer one for Christmas (can I wait that long?) - does anyone have any advice or recommendations? Any advice about my black-sack-gothic-dusty-dress too?

Monday, 18 October 2010

I fixed the solar system, what's next?

It has been a busy week with not much sewing here.
I had one trip to A&E to test my nerves after Little I had a nasty fall at her nursery. Luckily she got the all clear from the doctor. She fell onto the tarmac playground while running and forgot to put out her hands. She is fine now but sporting a greenish bruise on her forehead and a black eye. She has been busy playing fire stations. Guess who has to be the fire officer back at the station house? Yes, it's me and I am starting to think a red plastic fire helmet may be the look for autumn winter 2010.

I have a nearly finished sewing project but have been feeling very pressured for time this week. Maybe because I spend a lot of time playing fire station, shops, and pirates.
I did manage to fix the solar system though...not that I have a complex about being an omnipotent being or's the mobile hanging in my hallway. Complete with T's plastic bottle rocket. I hope to return soon with some finished projects.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Apple day

We recently went to a local apple day. We go every year to this and this year was one of the best so far. Maybe it was because Little I was finally big enough to have a real go at the children's activities. Both of the children made a pot on the potter's wheel.

T made a wooden spatula, this was a serious business, using real tools. I held my breath and restrained myself from squeaking "Be careful!".

We took a bag of apples we had picked and got two litres of fresh juice. I did a bit of shopping there too.
I bought this knitted hat for Little I. She was wearing last year's too small pink fleece hat.

This one seems to suit her much better and is nice and soft. I like my kids to wear hats especially as the weather gets colder.

You can see below it is a good hat for the playground.

I bought these mittens for myself - they are also very soft and were knitted by ladies in aid of the local hospice.

Naturally with a three year old involved, the day ended with tears and an exhausted little girl having to go to bed at 4pm. That is possibly the sign of a good day out, that and the fact she woke up the next day asking to go back. Sorry, I had to say, Apple Day is only on once a year.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Ten things about me, me, me

Thank you to Ms Scruffy Badger and Sigrid of AnalogMe who both nominated me for a Beautiful Blogger award. Being a dolt I just cannot seem to get the beautiful blogger sign thingy (note technical terms) to copy and appear here.

I have to tell ten things about myself. It has taken me ages to think of ten things, I realised I could procrastinate for weeks about this.

1. I love the coast and the beach even in winter. It started young. Here I am as a baby, napping on the beach.

2. The silver ring I wear every day has "princess" engraved on it in braille. Well, that is what the silver maker who made it told me.

3. The most fun job I have had was in the unlikely setting of a mental health day centre. I went as a temp for three weeks and stayed for two years.

4. The worst job I had was possibly in a university registry where I had nothing to do. You may think a job with nothing to do would be great but I can tell you it gets very boring, day after day, when you beg your colleagues for some filing, some photocopying, anything to break the monotony. I was not allowed to use the computer system till I had had official training, it took two months to get the training (which lasted 1 day). I started looking for other work and after a few months I got a better, much more interesting job. On my last day the manager called me in to his office and said they were sorry to see me leave. Was I leaving because there was nothing to do he asked. Um, yes, I said.

5. The most interesting job I have had was as artist in residence at a primary school.

6. When my parents first married they went to live in Minnesota for a year. They travelled to the States in style on a cruise ship. I have been sorting their slide photos of the US in the 60s and getting them put onto CD. The image above is of the pilot boat or tug boat guiding their cruise ship into harbour in New York.
7. I have been vegetarian since I was old enough to decide. There were a lot of mealtime traumas before my mum finally gave in and let me give up meat.

8. I have a great talent for burning the bottom of saucepans.

9. We are renovating/rebuilding an old bungalow in a a village. We hope to be able to move in next spring. Just out of shot is a car the previous owners left in the garden, a car with no wheels or engine. The scrap man had to bring a crane to remove it. At the moment the house (just seen in pic) has no windows, doors or roof.

10. I love my morning coffee and I don't like instant coffee, I just don't see the point of it.
I am supposed to nominate five bloggers, but I think nearly every one I know has already received an award. So if you read this and want to, please respond.

Friday, 8 October 2010

quick quick top

I went to see a friend for lunch on tuesday and she gave me a length of fabric she didn't want. It was in a carrier bag so I chucked it in the car boot and went to school to collect T, go to parents' evening and then go to collect Little I. Then home to make a quick supper for two tired children. So it was not until wednesday afternoon that I got the bag out of my car boot and had a look. I was surprised by how much nicer the fabric was than I had initially thought. My friend just said it was some not very nice fabric that maybe I could use for small scraps. When I looked at it I decided it would make a good loose fitting top. It is slightly tablecloth-like fabric so I am not sure if will look like I am wearing a table cloth.

There was not a huge amount of fabric but I have managed to squeeze this top out of it using Simplicity 3835 (again). The good thing about this pattern is that I now know I can get a top with short sleeves out of a relatively small piece of fabric. The stripey bit at the bottom of the shirt was in the middle of the long narrow piece of fabric so I cut the fabric in half along the mid section of the stripey bit. Then I cut out the back and front pieces and had just enough left to do the sleeves. I managed to match the back pieces but didn't have enough fabric to match the sleeves.

Another thing I like about the 3835 pattern (I have used view C here) is that it is super quick to make, comfortable to wear and happily has no fiddly facings to make. I washed the fabric yesterday afternoon, cut it out last night and sewed it up this afternoon while Little I was at nursery. I hemmed it while in my car waiting outside T's school for him. I just have about 4 inches of hem left to sew but I photographed it quickly before the light got too bad.
I have been working slowly for the last few weeks on a slower sewing project and I am still committed to the idea of sewing slowly, taking care, but it is refreshing for me to intersperse slow sewing with some quick quick projects.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

September reflections

1. Cardigans - what can I say? They must appear daily in my life. I love cardigans and am not sure I could dress without them. Is this an english thing? Layering is key to me dressing in the english climate. I will have to make some if I am to go with a fully me-made wardrobe in March. I am not sure if I should go down a knitting route or sewing some jersey cardigans. With 6 months to prepare maybe I can manage both.

2. I like having a record of a month out of my life. In our family I am usually the one taking the photos so I often don't appear in them.

3. It was easier in some ways this time than in May as I had more items and also some neutral things - I loved having my tate denim skirt which goes with so many other things. I also really liked having my two stripey tops. Wearing my own made things feels more like normal these days.

4. It was harder just because Sept is a busier month than May and this September has been one of changes for us as a family, so there was a lot of extraneous stuff going on.

5.I enjoyed being part of a group, receiving comments from the same people and seeing their outfits - it feels like a community. I didn't participate so much through Flickr this time round partly due to lack of time. I made new contacts and I always love that.

6. I have a heap of mending and alterations to do to my existing Me Made clothes to make them more wearable. My nautical top is too big, my grey duvet top is too small.

7. I made trousers and they fit! I surprised myself here.

8. March is a strange month weather wise and to go a step further and wear more outfits that are fully me-made I would need a range of clothes for warm and cold weather. Hmmmm...need to think this through.

Saturday, 2 October 2010


The end of Self Stitched September

...finished with a heavy cold, I managed to put my hanky down long enough to take the photos.

I put my dress on in honour of the last day. The dirndl is a new shape for me - initially when I read the Sew U dresses book I had thought I would not be making a dirndl dress as it just wasn't a shapee that immediately appealed to me, but look how my opinion has changed! There was something about the fabric (a charity shop find) that suggested to me it needed a dress with a waist. I have been pleasantly surprised by wearing it and how comfortable I felt in it. No need to be tugging at it to rearrange or trying to suck in my stomach! And I love having the in seam pockets. I know they can affect the line of the skirt but I really like having somewhere to stash small pieces of lego or my car key on the school pick up. I wore it in the end with dark brown leggings as my tights collection is somewhat sad and lacking. (Soon to be rectified I hope) I had felt I needed to save this dress for a special occasion - to wear out to drink tea at a stately home, or for a sedate party with a little jiving perhaps, or to a summer fete? But due to a sad dearth of such occasions (and the end of summer) I just wore it for everyday life and it was good.