Saturday, 30 November 2013

Memory Lane

My mum is moving house so I had to go back and pick up my stuff which involved going through lots of old bits and pieces. I had two bin bags full of rubbish, two more full of paper for recycling and about two thirds of my old books have gone to charity. Phew! I took some time to go through some old photos and to throw some away - you know all those ones that are blurry, or have the thumb over the lens, or of people I don't remember anymore. It was a real trip down memory lane - all the photos from school and Sixth Form and from Uni... so many photos of my year abroad in my third year, and going clubbing with Miss R in my fourth year.... I was pretty trigger happy, probably a lot more than I am now actually.

I took all my stuff back with me and now my room is looking pretty full. I decided that I should probably do a clear out so G very kindly came round and helped me clear things away. We're only half way through, but we have cleared away quite a lot. It feels quite nice to be throwing things away... I can feel a shift inside myself, I'm ready to clear up, get moving, start afresh. In addition to that Fairy Princess Mummy is letting me store some stuff at her place where they have a lot more loft space and she is taking away some of my charity bags for me because she has a car, which is very kind. But just for one night I'll be at home in one room with all the stuff I own in the world.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Big City High Tea

I kept meaning to get to London and see Miss H's new flat and then before I knew it suddenly it's November and neither of us have any free weekends til Christmas... life moves fast sometimes,doesn't it? I haven't even had time to moan about the short evenings and the chill in the air because it's not long now til the evenings start getting longer. Well, anyway, it turned out the we both had Saturday free so I grabbed the opportunity to see her and jumped on a train post haste.

We met at Goldhawke Road tube station and had a coffee and a wee chat before heading out and tackling some fabric shops. I wasn't quite prepared for the sheer numbers of fabric shops on that street! You walk out of the tube station and there are about ten in plain sight already. We went into Classic Textiles (as recommended by Roisin on her blog) and I picked up some plain lilac cotton and Miss H found this really amazing toile that was white with red print that looked a bit like willow pattern from a distance but actually turned out to be rustic farmhouse scenes (complete with chickens). We both got really excited about it, so I bought some and said I'd make it into some sort of garment for her - she looked delighted! Next up we went across the road to A-Z Fabrics and had a look. They had some really amazing beige heavy weight fabric with Victorian era news print on it, complete with illustrations of hot air balloons and pictures of serious men with cravats and sideburns. Alas, it was £25 a metre. Oh well. I was planning to make Miss T's Christmas present and I decided that I needed something much more exciting so we popped into the shop next door which was covered in sparkly, sequinned, lacy, day-glo, furry, and generally ridiculous textiles. It seems like a good bet for me to find something quirky - and so I did. Look out for a post about that soon.

As much as I love textiles, it must be said that after a while I get saturated by colours and shapes and generally run away without buying anything because I can't process it all. (Actually this happens to me with any other type of shopping too.) Around this time we decided to run away and have lunch so we wandered up the road and found this lovely little sushi place and shared the vegetarian platter. I haven't had sushi for ages - yummmm!

Then we caught the rail replacement bus (hooray for scheduled engineering on the tube!) up to Highgate so that she could introduce me to her area. It's a nice 15 min stroll from the bus up to the house and it becomes increasingly gentrified as you walk up the hill. It is a wonderful area though, right up my street. We went for tea at a tea shop a stones throw from the house called High Tea of Highgate which was quirky and delightful but still genuine and all things a tea shop should be. It sells art prints and tea and tea pots and aprons and harmonicas and scarves and blankets as well, so there was a lot to do. I had Christmas tea which smelled fabulous and Miss H had some elderflower, and we shared a slice of lemon drizzle and a slice of lavender cake. We giggled about ridiculous things and sang along to the Christmas music they were playing and chatted to the bar staff. It felt like old times. Then we walked back down the hill and I jumped on a bus to go home. I will most definitely be visiting again, so hopefully I'll get a chance to look around and explore more.

Fun times! A lovely day catching up - it did me the world of good. I'm sure I'll be back down to buy fabric again at some point in the new year, so I'm quite sure that Miss H will be coming with me.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Jive Night: Betty's Doghouse

A week earlier than normal with only two days notice the legendary Phil announced that he had invited Betty's Doghouse, a rockabilly trio from the Netherlands. This was the last Jive Night of the year, but the turn out was pretty poor - there is a gig on next week and the Rhythm Riot was last week so I imagine most people were either knackered or skint or both.

The band played pretty fast and loose. They played three sets, so at least we had a chance to catch our breath at some point. They did lots of classics (I had a very haphazard dance to Johnny Cash) they were adaptable too - a DJ put on the rockabilly version of 'Tainted Love' in one of the breaks and they performed that next. The name refers to Betty Boop, they had a little doll of her attached to the drum kit so that it looked like she was helping play the drums, it was adorable. I had a wee chat with a couple of the band on the way out, and Miss Mac even managed to get a dance with the drummer.

The music was good, though because the pace was pretty fast mostly it made jiving pretty difficult. We managed a few strolls and Miss Mac and I had a good old bop to some of the faster songs. I danced with most of the lads at least once, and got a dance in with Ingrid before she left. It took me a while to get into it this time, I was a little off my rhythm. I hadn't seen Miss Mac for a while so we got a little bit of gossip in outside by the pool tables a few times over the course of the evening. She spent a bit of time trying to teach me to Charleston - I think I need a good dance around my bedroom to perfect that one, maybe I should ask for some Cole Porter music for Christmas?! I had a dance with a lovely older man that I've danced with before and we managed to have a chat after which was nice - he gave me some advice on my dancing which I really appreciated ('Keep your arms firmer') and he introduced me to his wife, they have been Lindy hopping for years, they don't go to the classes but they try to get to the events when they can.

I was wearing Dress no. 2, (the flowery, slightly wayward one) and the legendary Phil declared that I was looking resplendent. How very lovely of him to say so! I got a fair few compliments ('You look like such a lady!' said N), especially when I mentioned I'd made it. It's got definitely got some twirl to it, that dress! N was wearing a fabulous black and white rock n' roll dress with a petticoat and everything, and Ingrid was wearing a lovely red wiggle dress with a fake fur coat. Apart from that most people didn't really dress up, and for once the men had made more effort than the ladies - there were a few good ties and some waistcoats and even a couple of hawaiian shirts. P had been away recently and brought me back the second tackiest fan in Paris - it has a picture of the eiffel tower, a baguette, an old Fiat 500, and even a croissant. Apparently the most tacky fan in Paris had ruffles and frills on it and she just couldn't bring herself to buy it for me. The fan came in very handy since it was boiling in there, but I have to say it was a chilly evening, I was pretty glad to get a lift back with Miss Mac.

I'm never going to say no to a dance, but I must say it was a bit of a flat end to the year. I really enjoyed the band though and I'd like to catch them again sometime.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

When the Moon Hits Your Eye like a Big Pizza Pie

I spent the weekend with the Fairy Princess family by the seaside which was very exciting as always. I love staying at their house, the girls are adorable (if a little wayward.... I believe the phrase 'she's knows her own mind' well applies to both of them in different ways) and they always think of something fun to do. It's like having a mini-holiday.

On Saturday, FP Daddy made some pizza dough for us and we all made our own pizzas and calzones. Well, maybe more pizza pie and giant cornish pasty, but hey, who's counting?! It was so much fun - I love playing with my food!

While the pizza creations were in the oven, the big Fairy Princess and I watched Wreck-It Ralph. One of the reasons I like going round there is that I get to watch kids films, I'm not ashamed to admit it. It wasn't amazing but I liked it. In the evening, once we had stuffed ourselves and put the girls to bed, FP Mummy cracked open a bottle of white and we watched Midnight in Paris. It was so very lovely and got me thinking I should probably read more classics! I've never read any Hemmingway, can you believe it? There were so many famous characters in the film I'll have to watch it again to spot them all. And I must say that Marion Cotillard got to wear some fabulous dresses.

The next day we all had breakfast together. mooched about and played with some balloons. Then some friends came round and so little FP had someone to play with while big FP and I watched Tangled. I'd never seen it before, but nearly everyone I know loves it, so not before time. As usual, it was a relaxing and fun weekend.

Pizza Dough

enough for 6 - 8 medium pizzas

1kg strong bread flour
1 tsp fine ground salt
2 x 7g packets of dried yeast
1 tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp olive oil
650 ml luke warm water

- Sift the flour and the salt into a bowl and make a little well in the middle.
- Mix together all the other ingredients into the water. Leave for a few minutes for the yeast to activate and then pour into the well. Start mixing the flour and water together until you get dough.
- Place the dough ball in a flour dusted bowl with a damp cloth over it and place in a warm room for about an hour. The dough should rise to almost double it's size.
- Remove the dough and knead it. (If you don't want to use it immediately cover it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge or freezer.)
- Roll out the dough and leave for a few minutes before you add your toppings.
- Bake pizzas for 10 to 20 mins depending on the thickness of your base.

We ended up using some thick spicy tomato sauce and then had a variety of toppings to choose from including fried mushrooms, spinach, gorgonzola, mozarella, cheddar, pepperoni, salami, peppers, meatballs and falafels. The kids made pizzas and because the dough was so thick they looked more like pizza pies.

I made a calzone, so instead of laying it flat like a pizza, you turn the sides up and secure them together like a cornish pasty. It's helpful to roll the dough out pretty thin for this, but not too thin - I ended up patching up a hole! FP Daddy meanwhile had the biggest calzone I've ever seen, it even needed an especially large plate! He ended up having half of it for lunch the next day.


Saturday, 16 November 2013

Sew Inspiring!

I saw this on Sew Retro and had to share. This is the work of Angela Carter, Auckland based artist.

Coralline dress by Angela Carter

Hydra dress by Angela Carter

Angela Carter, otherwise known as Mermaid's Purse, made these out of recycling - she made the fabric out of plastic bags and then made amazing dresses out of them! Yep, those blue bits in Coralline are the logos of the plastic bags. The two pieces were entered into the Cult Couture show this year, and the Hydra dress won the Recycled Revolution prize.

Coralline and Hydra dresses by Angela Carter at Cult Couture
This has really inspired me to think more about the types of fabrics that I use in my creations. I have been thinking for a while that I would like to start sourcing ethically where I can, but this opens up a whole new dimension in terms of what is possible in terms of recycling, upcycling and 'make do and mend'. I would also like to play around a bit more with texture and colour so this is incentive for me to get on and become a good seamstress - as Fran would say 'you have to know all the rules first before you can break them'. If you look at her blog, you will see that both dresses took a lot of time, effort and experimentation - but I think all the effort was worth it, don't you? How extraordinary!

More details about the processes and construction about Hydra here  and about Coralline here.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Oh! Those Buttons!

This is the third dress that I've made, it's based on Vogue Vintage V2960

This time I was focused on buttons and buttonholes. I chose a duck egg blue cotton with white polka dots.

I decided to do some covered buttons (with a little help from Miss T)

And used some grosgrain ribbon for structural integrity

Ta dah!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Good Night, Sweet Prince

There is a lovely man who was a member of our community, I've known him for years. He used to make me laugh, ask really good questions in teachings and he always had a ready smile and a compliment for everyone. He was British but his parents went out to India so he grew up there and then came back to Britain in his teens. There were a bunch of girls that he used to hang around with at school ('beautiful girls, they were, beautiful') but he never thought any of them would be interested in him because he was only about 5'4. One day one of them kissed him and eventually they went on to get married and have three children. He was an engineer for most of his life, you could tell by the types of questions he asked. He started teaching Buddhist meditation around the same time that I did, so maybe about six years ago, and he had to stop because of his health about two years ago. His teachings were precise, funny and very heartfelt. All the kids are grown up now and have their own kids, and they and his wife is now mourning his loss. He had two battles with cancer, one many years ago before I knew him ('the chemotherapy played havoc with my hormones, I can really sympathise with women's time of the month, I can tell you!'). The cancer returned again and I watched him deal with it with acceptance for his own situation and with compassion for his family who were suffering so much on his behalf. He got on with his life and continued to care for those around him in whatever ways possible. He was a real inspiration to me - I can only hope I take life with as much grace and joy. After three years of treatments, he finally went into a hospice last Tuesday night, and he died peacefully on Sunday morning. I didn't see him very often, I didn't know him that well, but I will miss him and his sparkly smile. Good night Frank, I hope flights of angles sang you to your rest.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Weekly Roundup

I trust you've all had a good week? Other than being pretty tired and having a slight case of post-festival blues, everything is pretty tip top at the moment. The air is pretty crisp, but still fairly sunny, so I get some sunshine and yet still get a chance to eat lots of soup, drink lots of cocoa and wear lots of knitwear. Which is surely the best reason for winter existing, right?

I met a lovely young man a couple of weeks ago just before I went away. He was wearing a knitted tie! and it was stripey! It seemed like we had a bit of chemistry, so when I got back I sought him out and asked him out for a coffee. I'm sad to say that he didn't really take me up on the offer. Oh well. I did put myself out there and I'm not usually very good at that type of thing so well done me.

In other news, I have just had a little mini spending spree - I would say it's to console myself, but frankly it's just because I like fabric - which is why I shouldn't go on the internet in the middle of the night. But it's done now, so hey ho, I'm just going to have to enjoy it all coming through the post. My friends have been bothering me about how much I would suit a wiggle dress, so I picked up a copy of a pattern that I've been umming and ahhhing about for a while, the Elisalex dress:

I also picked up a couple of 1940s blouse patterns from Etsy including this one:

and some delightful fabric from including some of this:

I'm also nearly finished with dress no. 3, so you'll have an update on that soon so a few more sewing posts in the next few weeks I think. Hurrah!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Tip Top!

I saw this pattern for a top on Pintrest and thought it looked pretty easy to make up.

Simply Sally top from Style Arc

Fran and I figured out the dimensions and how much fabric I'd need.

I bought some jersey and we spent some time measuring things out. The trickiest bit was figuring out if it would fit - we lay the fabric out on the floor and put pins in it and I lay down in between the pins to see if we had the measurements right. When we were sure I cut up the fabric and tried it on. It didn't need hemming, but I decided to hem it so that it would last longer and roll up less.

It's the first time I've sewn with stretchy fabric and also the first time that I have done zig zag stitch. I was pretty happy with the result. All in all the top took about an hour - of which half an hour was doing measurements and faffing about.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!