Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Wanting to eat colours...

Blogging has taken a back seat over the last week or so as I have been sewing almost constantly and I now have the most enormous stash of things around me waiting to be photographed and loaded onto my site, as well as shared here on my blog. So in the meantime, here are some photos of some pincushions that I made for a custom order at the start of last week. The delicious matryoshka card in the background was sent to me by my sister, another one of Gwendolen's wonderful designs.

Here they are about to be tissue wrapped...which would have been a lot quicker if I hadn't kept stopping and taking photographs of them - the sunshine was so lovely that day and nice light always makes me feel like getting my camera out and taking a completely excessive amount of pictures.

So other than sewing I have been answering the door to the postman...

Today I received these fabrics from the wonderful Saints & Pinners - it is such a treat to find a website that is based in the UK that stocks the kind of fabrics that all too often, and very upsettingly, only seem to be available from overseas. It is perhaps rather remiss of me, but I have never owned any Anna Maria Horner fabrics until today, and my heart did a little leap when I unwrapped the package and saw this amazing print on top - the colours are, to my eyes anyway, completely perfect. Is it wrong to want to consume colours, I wonder. I can't stop glancing at this print as I write this... it is destined to become a make-up bag I think.

I wonder if eyes have changing appetites and preferences for certain colours in the same way that our tastebuds do for food, because this morning I saw a similarly olivey Orla Keily mug in a shop and practically passed out with happiness. Mr Teacakes would be so proud of me though, for despite the fact that it felt like I may suffer grave pains if I walked away without purchasing one, somehow that's what I did...helped by the thought that I would later show them to him on the internet and see whether he felt similarly in love with them - there's something about Orla Keily prints that makes me feel they must be just as appealing to men as they are to women. I feel absolutely positive that drinks would also taste better out of them. You see what awful things eyes can do! Be still, eyebuds!
Anyway, back to the postman, he also brought some reading material for the Little Teacakes, after they were gifted with an Amazon voucher. Zebra-girl has been reading Gobbolino the Witch's Cat to herself at night and loves it, but I wanted some that I could read to both of them after school time, so chose the Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse by the same author, as well as several others which look interesting. The reading of them will hopefully be a lot more relaxing than what we got up to last night.

The Teacakes wanted to make buses for their Littlest Pet Shop creatures - they were specific in their requirements - wheels must be able to move and be on an axle (!), doors must be able to open, windows should be plentiful...it was quite a challenge for me and it became increasingly clear that mummy was not up to the job. The wheels, while free-spinning on their axles in mid-air, do not turn around on carpet (or any other surface for that matter). Dinosaur-boy disposed with his and kindly told me that his bus would be on imaginary skis instead. Then I realised that the Littlest Pets actually have the largest heads and no amount of breathing in was going to get this puppy through the door - he now entrances through the window, Dukes of Hazard styley.

Friday, 17 April 2009

A shop update around tissue holders

It seems like forever since I last updated my shop...and that's probably because it is. I've been lucky enough to live off custom orders for the first part of the year (well, I seem to have written 'live off', but that makes it sounds like there's ever a possibility of Mr Teacakes becoming a kept man or that I have been the one funding weekly sprees in Waitrose...there's not and I haven't - I just meant that my time has been nicely filled!). In between the custom orders I have been making and squirrelling away some stock and then making and squirrelling away more stock in order to avoid having to photograph and then itemise for my website the first lot of stock that I made...this has been punctuated by urgent and intense studying of paint charts on days when I've felt like I really ought to be doing something other than more sewing for a shop for which I seemed incapable of getting round to updating (the paint charts are because I am hoping to change the colour of the front door to a lovely sagey green...but no amount of tester pots is bringing me nearer to quite the right green - it is so clear in my mind and so elusive on the colour charts).

But last night, in a fit of Teacake household efficiency, I took lots of photos, named and sized them and then when Mr Teacakes came in from playing football he loaded them all up for me, in between harrumphing about my inability to count (why were my product IDs unsequential and picked at random out of my head, he wondered...well, they weren't actually meant to be - I just seem to have lost the ability to count in a straight line without missing a number out here or there). While I tried to catch the last of the evening sunshine for my photographs my lovely mother looked after Dinosaur-boy and did general tidying...quite the nicest thing. There's nothing more delicious than coming downstairs and seeing that everything has cleaned itself without any involvement from me.

So there are now some new pencil rolls, tissue holders, summery handbags, slouchy make-up bags and a handful of new glasses cases on my site - but I was so surprised and delighted to turn on my computer this afternoon and find that a couple of things have already been sold...almost like elves had been in the shop overnight!

This post contains photographs of a small array of the vast number of tissue holders that I have created over the past couple of months...for no other reason than that a post without photos is just all wrong.

Enjoy your weekends. The Fired Earth paint chart arrived in the post this morning...so I'm off to analyse the different greens and hoping, really, really hoping very hard, that there might just be the perfect green in there. x

Monday, 13 April 2009

Painting, eating, breaking and making eggs

Easter weekend found the Teacake household a hive of activity and mess. While the little Teacakes and I blew eggs, dyed them (somewhat unsuccessfully - how much food colouring must one use to achieve even the softest pink glow?! - I remember the ones that I made with my own mother as a child being almost maroon!) and then painted them at the dining table, Mr Teacakes took over the breakfast bar constructing a contraption needed for a competition at work on Tuesday - namely who can throw an egg from a 3rd floor window and get it to reach the ground without it breaking. An elaborate contraption using cardboard, a cats cradle of shock-absorbing elastic bands and a parachute has been made and repeatedly flown down from our bathroom window to whoops of delight as we discover that yet again the egg has remained intact...we began to wonder whether the egg was faulty, with a strangely unbreakable outer shell.

So here are our eggs. We visited Grandmama's house for tea on Sunday and hung them on her Easter Tree.

Other things causing mess and mayhem was the hand-making of chocolate Easter eggs. Somewhat selfishly I chose to save this activity until after the small ones had gone to bed as I knew that, never having done them before, but always having wanted to, I would want to be control-freaky about the finished result and didn't want to inflict my pained grimaces and helpful suggestions upon the children as they tried to get on with the joyful business of whooshing chocolate across the room. But really, I should have been more relaxed and let them in on the fun as they were, for me at least, impossibly difficult to get right and resembled a child-like creation in the end anyway. Three layers of chocolate must be built up and allowed to dry in the moulds to make the shells thick enough to remain whole when taken from their plastic nests...it was only after making and then breaking six eggs that I discovered that the final act of separating them from their moulds could be completely painless if they were left in the fridge to harden for a good couple of hours, rather than an impatient 15 minutes...but no matter, for one must eat what cannot be salvaged.

I began to feel rather professional when I attempted mixing white and brown chocolates to give a swirly outer shell...but the wonkyness of the edges, the rocky terrain of the interiors and the inability of the two halves to be stuck together hints at the fact that a true chocolatier had not had a hand in their making.
This was Mr Teacake's Easter Egg - we have become somewhat obsessed with Jelly Beans since realising that they don't actually contain gelatine as we had previously assumed.
I hope that you all had lovely restful long weekends and that the Easter Bunny gave generously. x

Monday, 6 April 2009

Wiggly waggly

Well, last week really did end up feeling all together holidayish. With my gardening companion installed for the first part of the week, overlapping with Mr Teacakes taking a week off work to work on his music from his soundproof cell (and actually, it really is like a cell, so instead he set up in the playroom while the babes were at school), it seemed like a week when sewing could take a more experimental turn.

A couple of weeks ago I was having one of those evenings when Internet travels are drowsily continued only to avoid having to turn the laptop off and get on with the tiresome business of brushing one's teeth before falling into bed (I don't know why I never learn that it is simply better to turn the computer off the minute I have finished checking the weather, rather than remaining delusionally hopeful that magic fairies might appear to do it for me). Anyway, somehow in this drowsy haze I found myself on a blog called Don't Look Now that acted like a dose of smelling salts and left me sitting bolt upright in a such dizzying excitement that I nearly had to lie straight back down again. Oh dear. Am I gushing? How undignified. But really, the applique stitchery on there is breathtakingly lovely. Which is what lead me to the doodling shown in the photo at the top of this post: I've always previously favoured the overlocked applique method (shown here if you haven't a clue what I'm talking about but have a wish to know) as to me it looks neater and feels more 'finished'...but seeing the effect of the free-motion* (*explanation at the bottom of this post) quilted applique on the Don't Look Now blog made me feel like I had been missing out on something rather wonderful (as well as seeing Mette's beautiful coin quilt earlier this week with her lovely wavy quilting which made me long to be able to quilt using something other than straight lines).

I love the three-deep lines of stitching used to form the birds tail (which I have attempted to imitate here and found it to be so much harder than it looks) and the way that the thread always matches every individual fabric piece which must be so time-consuming, but looks so wonderful. Anyway, as you can see from my first effort I found it difficult at first to consistently move the fabric at the same speed so as to keep the stitch length regular...as well as it being difficult to keep an even pressure on the foot pedal to keep the stitches coming at the same rate. I eventually found that it was easier to keep the stitch length more even when I pressed down harder on the foot pedal...but other than that my technique has remained rather experimental.

But what fun it has been trying something new (although not entirely new...I tried it when I first bought the Big Foot over a year ago, but found it so difficult that I gave up after ten minutes). How very much I would love to hear your tips on free-motioning if you have any!

This weekend we have had Dinosaur-boy's birthday party. He was five. I can't quite believe how old he is...but also how very young he still seems. He has little of the worldliness that Zebra-girl possessed at his age and still seems happily round-cheeked, lispy-tongued and sweetly naive, only to occasionally startle us with a question or comment that belies the air of littleness that he usually carries with him; recently a question about wartime evacuees and his obvious brooding anxiety about whether where we live would be classed as the city or the countryside suddenly appeared mid-Lego construction. Mr Teacakes made him this rocket cake which we are still gobbling our way through...he has also been making wooden borders to the flower beds in the garden. This has involved much hammering. I have sat on a chair and provided moral support... and photographed the flowers...I feel all gardened out after last weeks efforts.

Anyway, the two photos of my stitching attempts were actually taken at night, but I seem to have accidentally stumbled across something that gives the illusion of sunshine! My desk lamp has a 40w reflector spotlight bulb in it that gives a very white light...with the sewing machine light turned off (as this tends to be very yellow) it all seems very day-timey. So after a winter of struggling to take pictures through the gloom, I have realised that were there to ever be a nighttime photographic emergency I would be well-equipped to deal with it. What a pleasingly Girl-Guidish thing that is.

*What is free-motion quilting? Unlike every other type of sewing where your feed-dogs guide the material and regulate the stitch length, with free motion you have your feed dogs down and can basically doodle in whichever direction you wish. Oh how delightfully easy and relaxing that sounds!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Mama's got a brand new bag...

I have been wanting to make my mother a bag for a while now. With a near-frozen shoulder she had been told that her bag carrying should be done by hand, which is most upsetting for her when her whole bag wardrobe revolves around the longer-handled shoulder bag that would almost graze the ground were she to carry them by hand. So when Jo recently suggested a jaunt to Fabrics Galore in Lavender Hill to break up the terrible monotony of talking, giggling and cake-eating (which can be such a bore) that we had planned one weekend, I thought it might be a good place to find some suiting for my mother's bag. But gosh, I had quite underestimated the fabulousness of Fabrics Galore, for they had bolts of this wonderful Paul Smith suiting that I knew would be perfect for my lovely Mama, for a price that made me want to cry with happiness. Well actually, the whole shop actually made me want to cry with happiness, not least one of the wonderful shop owners who was was wearing a self-made shirt with the most divine detailing on - there's something about the rarity of a man who can sew and will go to any lengths to track down the right fabric for a project that is most delightful...his sewing was rather edgy and avant Garde though. I felt rather dull and suburban in his presence. But sewing inferiorities aside, the bolts of Mini Boden fabrics will have to wait for another post, but yes, they also had Mini Boden fabrics and, unable to decide between any of them, I came away with half a metre of several...which is never a particularly useful amount, but that's the price of indecision. Oh to be more like Helen who was also indecisive, but wild enough to go for a whole metre safe in the knowledge that she will actually be able to make things bigger than a small handkerchief.

So here is some of my selection. The middle two are both Paul Smith, the top one is of unknown origin and the bottom one is some of Ikea's lovely linen that Joanne kindly purchased for me - there's nothing quite like agreeing to a pregnant lady's offer to haul fabrics across London for you to make you feel like a bad person.

A hand bag requires a different sort of everything to a shoulder bag. It requires a handle that is comfy on the palm, a stockiness that means it doesn't lollop around one's ankles as you walk and a fastening that sandwiches together the sides in case of inclement weather (for with a shoulder bag your arm acts most efficiently on this front). So on this occasion the Melly bag that I love to make so much would be all wrong. So here it is (the photo is poor - a very rainy day last week).

The shiny hardware is, as ever, from my favourite bag supplies lady. I also ordered some plastic tubing to go inside the handle (photo of handle at top of post). I worried that the ends might wear at the fabric and so sewed the tube flat at each end before inserting it (if you are thinking of doing this it's not at all stressful and my sewing machine sewed through two layers of the thick plastic tubing without any problem, because while it's thick, it is very squashy). I found constructing the handle tricksy, partly because I'd never made that type before...my mistake was to attempt to stick to using my machine, in the end I realised that the only way to get the finish that I wanted was to sew the majority of it by hand. I'm sure that I've mentioned and linked to this before, but once again I was so grateful for the tutorial on ladder stitching by Orange Flower. Where a traditional whip stitch would have been technically suitable, aesthetically it would have been an eyesore. Thankfully a ladder stitch is almost completely invisible and so perfect for this kind of handfinishing...it troubles me to think of all the projects that would look utterly ugly in parts had I never come across this method. It's one of those things that within the realm of sewing is quite life changing! Yes, I am such a creature of understatement and reserve, I know.


Anyway, this week I have made a cravat, a bag and a bed tidy...as random as the items in a game of My Grandmother went to Market...but somehow it doesn't feel like I've been sewing at all. On Monday I found myself going on an impromptu trip with a lovely friend to previously unvisited garden nurseries where we managed to fill her entire car with eleven Laurels, some clematis and a 7ft Golden Bamboo. The next day she returned to help me dig...we dug nearly all day and ate fondant fancies from Marks and Spencers in between shovels loads. On Wednesday I painted the garage door a sagey green. On Thursday I ate one green leaf (that bit's not strictly true) and wrote a blog post. Ahh, the sun has come out and it feels like I'm on holiday this week. Enjoy the sunshine. x