5 things I liked this week – 4.11.16

  1. Working on a good project at work.
  2. Girl Lacer getting good marks in her school assessments.
  3. Humans is back on, yay! And even though Colin Morgan has toned down his out and out sexiness for this show, he’s still not bad to look at! (I am such a perv). And of course the TV show itself is good too.
  4. Me and Mr. Lacer are back box-setting Mr. Robot and we’re now on season 2. I love Mr. Robot for pretty much everything but ooh the love and care that goes into those camera shots, it’s achingly beautiful.
  5. The High Court’s decision that the government needs to be consulted before Article 50 is revoked is fantastic. The Brexiters want more sovereign control (what are we in the Middle Ages?) and as soon as OUR courts, OUR government try and exert some control, they don’t like it! As someone said on Twitter yesterday, it’s a rise of a group of people who only care that they’re right, that only their opinions matter, never mind that the pound shot up on the decision yesterday but hey, what are facts?

Two dresses for a wedding

Date Night Dress

Since setting up my sewing table and having a warm up with a cushion cover and some pattern weights, I’ve been sew, sew, sewing two dresses for a wedding. I started with the easiest of the two dresses (still warming up), the Date Night Dress by April Rhodes, which was for me and um, I don’t really like it. The dress itself came together fairly well and was quite easy to make, although I had an issue with running out of fabric before I could cut both sleeves (even though I had the amount recommended) and so had to quickly order a bolt end (the only fabric left for that pattern, which, I know you can’t tell from that photo, is grey dotted scallops). The sleeves were meant to be cut against the grain but the bolt end wasn’t big enough for that, plus it’s a very directional print with the scallops, so having the scallops run the other direction on the sleeves (compared to the dress) would have possibly looked a bit odd but then again, I think they would have frilled a bit better if I had cut them the right away.  But, anyway, I had the horrible sinking feeling, when I first put this dress on, you know, when you’ve spent time, money and effort on something and you don’t actually like the result. I really don’t know what possessed me, well I know in part what possessed me, I really wanted to wear black, dark colours suit me far better than pale colours but I wasn’t sure of the whole etiquette of whether you can or can not wear black to a wedding, I even Googled it, with some sites saying yes and some saying no and I thought I’d better play it safe, as my family can be quite traditional, As it happened quite a few women wore black to the wedding and no one batted an eyelid. Anyway, as I had ruled out black, I thought I’d go for grey instead but somehow, on me, the grey looks a lot lot paler than it did on the uncut fabric! And also, omg, those frilled sleeves, what possessed me? I look like someone’s forced Brienne of Tarth out of her armour and into a ‘nice’ dress. Also, the dress has very big arm holes, billed as giving the opportunity of giving a nice flash of a lacy bra or the slip (which also comes with the pattern but I didn’t have time to make). The arm holes are way more revealing than that and I think if you’re even bigger in the chest department than I am, probably even more so. And finally, I didn’t realise when planning what to wear for the wedding, that I’d have had more surgery a week before and well, put it this way, some of my bandages are showing through that dress most awkwardly.

Clara Dress

The second dress was for Girl Lacer. I said I would make her a dress, directed her to my favourite online dress pattern shop and let her pick one. Showing such faith in my ability, she made sure to just look at the beginner patterns lol and this one, the Clara dress from Sew Liberated, was billed on the pattern shop site as advanced beginner, *cough, cough, splutter*. I would bill myself as intermediate but this dress was hard. The Date Night Dress used one technique I hadn’t used before, french seams and I lurve french seams now. The Clara dress, well, I suppose it didn’t really feature anything I hadn’t done before but there were so many bits to the dress (and that binding on the sleeves was fiddly), that I found it quite hard going. And I say there were no new techniques for me in this dress, it has button holes and I have made buttonholes before but manually, on a previous sewing machine, with my current machine, I’ve never been able to work out how to do automatic buttonholes, well I had to work out quickly (and late the night before) for this dress. I did manage to figure it out and have quite a few practices on scrap fabric but I still managed to cock the buttonholes up a bit on the dress and it was the last step too, *sob*. Still, it was wearable, I thought Girl Lacer looked lovely in it and that fabric (which I also let her choose), is absolutely gorgeous, so soft, I want to make something for me with it now.

5 things I liked this week – 28.10.16 (bit delayed)

  1. Going to see The Next Step with Girl Lacer. For those that don’t have dance obsessed children, The Next Step is a TV show about a group of dancers and they’ve been on tour. Girl Lacer absolutely loved it and for this 41 year old, who has only seen the random trailer for the show, I thought it was rather good too.
  2. Class has started! As in the TV show, Class, written by one of my favourite writers, Patrick Ness. For those that don’t know it, it’s a brand new Doctor Who spin off, set in Coal Hill Academy, with a bunch of sixth formers protecting the world from a crack in space time. It’s more ‘adult’ than Doctor Who, a bit scarier and even a bit of sex. It’s been billed as the British Buffy, which is big shoes to fill and so far, it’s filling them well.
  3. We popped into Hampton Court for one last visit to The Magic Garden before it closed for the winter and we also ended up having a go at the Garden Party trail. Girl and Boy Lacer particularly liked playing the 17th century garden party games.
  4. We had a Fire of London themed day this week too, going for a tour and then seeing the Fire! Fire! exhibition at the Museum of London, it was okay but I have two kids who definitely prefer art galleries over history museums.
  5. Finishing the dress I’d been working on all week (see next blog post!).

Craft table and new pattern weights

New craft table

I mentioned a week or so ago that I had a new craft table and it has been fantastic. Previously I had been sewing on our fold down dining table, which I could only ever put half up and even that wasn’t brilliant, as it’s oval shaped and that’s not great when you’re trying to cut fabric. So when we had to store away our dining table, I was suddenly without any sewing space whatsoever, so I bought a table from Folding Tables UK (not a sponsored post) and it’s been brilliant. It’s actually big enough to sew on and have an ironing blanket on (I sew in my living room and there wouldn’t be enough space to put up the ironing board too, when I used to sew on the dining table, I used to have to put the ironing board up in the hallway, blocking everyone’s route to the toilet) and it is so much easier to be able to sew and then press a seam straight away (and to be honest it makes me far less likely to take short cuts and not do it). As you can see from the photo above, it’s even big enough for my sewing machine, the ironing blanket and a bored 12 year old. It goes up and down really easily, is solid when up and fits neatly under our sofa. Since I’ve been using the table, it hasn’t just been used for sewing, it was put up for a family take out pizza gathering, it’s been used for board games, homework, drawing and Mr. Lacer uses it to maintain and upgrade his PC.

Anyway, with my new and improved craft ‘space’ (I will blog further, later on, when everything has finished being sorted, about what other things I’ve done in the flat to improve my storage and access to my craft stuff), I could finally sew! Every year, on my Flickr, I create albums to record what I’ve sewn and embroidered for each year and just generally my craft output has been rather pathetic this year (for finished stuff anyway) but it surprised me, that when I went to put photos of my recent finished sewn pieces on Flickr, that I hadn’t even created a Sewn 2016 album yet because until this month, I actually hadn’t sewn anything (excluding my diamond hex quilt, which is still a WIP). So it feels extra good that I’ve managed to do so now.

Warm up pillow

Because I hadn’t used my sewing machine for so long, the first thing I did was make a cushion cover, to warm up. In the grand bedroom switch, I had found an uncovered cushion pad and I didn’t want to throw it away but I also didn’t want it to continue sitting around unused. I’d also been sorting through my fabric and had even managed to throw some of it away (the shocker), as I’ve only got limited space and so any fabric I do store, it’s got to work for its space. The fabric above, Michael Miller’s Rocket Rascals, was one of the first fabrics I bought, years ago, when I started sewing. Like I think a lot of beginner sewers, I was heavily attracted to novelty fabrics and need I say, these days, I’m not, I much prefer muted, less in your face stuff, you can use it for a wider range of things for a start. So Rocket Rascals had been in the discard pile but argh, I’m sentimental too and I fished it out and used it (finally!). I have metres of the stuff, uncut, and even making a cushion cover, I’ve still got loads but I associate the print so much with learning to sew, I haven’t got the heart to get rid of it.

Pattern weights

After the cushion cover, the next step was pattern weights. I’ve been hankering after pattern weights for ages, after seeing them on The Great British Sewing Bee and I thought that they’d be a good excuse to reduce down my smaller pieces of fabric pile and to celebrate my new, efficient, pattern cutting.

Pattern weights

The pattern is from Tea and a Sewing Machine and was pretty easy to follow.
Pattern weights

Since making the pattern weights I’ve sewn myself a dress, which will be blogged about later (a new blog resolution is to be patient until I can take at least reasonably decent photos of something I’ve made, although that’s bad timing since it’s Autumn and the light is no longer good) and I have a lot more sewing planned.

5 things I liked this week – 21.10.16

1. Some seedlings I planted earlier this month (really it should have been September) have grown! (I am such a bad gardener).
Cut flower seedlings

2. Me and Girl Lacer went to Tate Modern this week, we had meant to go on the next stage of the Capital Ring but thanks South West Trains, by the time we managed to get anywhere near central London, we’d ran out of time. But we had fun round Tate Modern, we went to see the new exhibit in the Turbine Hall and I showed her the new extension.

Turbine Hall Oct 16

The current turbine hall exhibition is by Philippe Parreno and is a massive (mainly) sound installation, that sounds like you’re underwater. There’s also moving lights, so the effect of the shadows moving across the hall floor is fantastic (and encouraged Girl Lacer into a bout of shadow puppetry – bottom right photo). Those panels you can see in the top two photos move around too and sometimes showed footage. Girl Lacer and I stayed and watched for about 15 minutes but each time we walked past it afterwards, it seemed to be playing something different.

Tate Modern roof

The roof of the new bit was stunning as usual (some of these photos may be Girl Lacer’s, she was using my camera). The new bit at Tate Modern

And of course I still love the texture of the outside of the new bit (pretty sure these last two photos are Girl Lacer’s, she’s been studying photography at school).

3. Catching glimpses of Girl Lacer’s dance class preparing for a show, this show normally happens about once every two years and you can see her really leap up in skill level each time and even just seeing those few minutes each week at pick up, you can see how more polished the dance routine is becoming each week.

4. I had the second stage of the big surgery I had over the summer, this week, this time just day surgery and not too much pain (not that I was in that much pain last time, those anesthetists really knew their stuff with nerve blocks). Once again I was in total awe of the lovely, organised, talented and professional staff at the hospital, the day surgery unit was like a highly polished, super efficient machine. I’ve seen a lot of hospitals over my life time and as much as I love the NHS as a whole, unfortunately not all their hospitals are that well run and I’ve had one particularly not nice, what was meant to be day surgery but didn’t turn out to be, experience at a different hospital, last year. I really think a lot of the difference comes down to money, the hospital where I have most of my treatment now is well funded (thanks to also taking a lot of private patients I think) and that obviously makes a difference. But I think the funding (or lack of funding) can also leach into moral, I still have to use that other hospital where I had the bad ‘day’ surgery experience (along with quite a few more bad experiences there) and the amount of times I’ve walked down the hospital corridors and overheard staff talking to each other about how unhappy they are at work, it really puts confidence in you, not. And if your staff are unhappy and underfunded, no wonder they can’t organise surgery efficiently.

5. I’ve been doing a lot of sewing recently, a pattern where I needed to use a hem gauge, the only hem gauge I could find locally was a not particularly brilliant cardboard one and Girl Lacer had been watching me sewing and struggling with it. So, I came home from hospital to discover that she’d ordered me a better one, the sweetheart!

Present from S ❤️

5 things I liked this week – 14.10.16

  1. Walking in Richmond Park with the stags; I actually went twice this week, once last Friday and again on the Saturday. The Saturday walk wasn’t actually that relaxing, the park, if that’s at all possible, felt too crowded but I shouldn’t let that detract from the fact that I did enjoy my Friday walk.
  2. I’m still watching The Fall, still way behind, so no spoilers please but I’ve just got to the bit in season 2 where Colin Morgan makes an appearance, which always makes me feel completely hypocritical because I always think that men shouldn’t objectify women but oooh Colin Morgan (for those only familiar with Morgan’s earlier work, Merlin has grown into being a bit of a brooding hunk). I do really like The Fall but the fact that all the main characters bar the murderer’s downtrodden wife, all look like they’ve just stepped off a magazine fashion photo shoot, doesn’t make it feel completely realistic, although I can sort of get it from stylistic point of view, all the main characters, bar the wife, are in this almost out of this (normal) world, cat and mouse game, whereas the wife is just trying to raise her kids and do her job. There’s also the whole thing with Jamie Dornan being so good looking, ‘he just can’t be a murderer’, as shown with that scene on the train, where a young woman is looking at a rather accurate of photofit of the suspected murderer and Jamie Dornan is going “Do you think that looks like me? I think that looks like me. But I can’t be a murderer right?” and the young woman is going “Of course not,” simper, simper. Personally, the “cor Jamie Dornan is a bit of all right” effect lasted for about five minutes into the first episode of season one for me, as he’s a very good actor and he plays a very convincing absolute creep with a journalling fetish, so I can’t see why anyone would find that character attractive. Although for the record, Jamie Dornan with a beard, even playing a creepy murderer, is better looking I think than Jamie Dornan without a beard, playing Christian Gray (also, the Irish accent helps).
  3. Also on the TV front, I watched the recording of Derren Brown’s latest stage show this week. I saw Brown a few years ago and he was absolutely fantastic and I’m a big fan, I think the work that he does, not only his gift with hypnotism, reading people and all round trickery but also his work on looking at people like psychics, faith healers and psychology in general, is amazing. Brown has a book that’s either out or coming out soon (I’m not sure if the print copy is out yet, it might be, I’m waiting for the audiobook, which is out in November) on happiness and you could see echoes of that in his latest stage show, about how we are the stories we tell ourselves and if constantly tell ourselves bad stories, well, we’re not going to be very happy. Interesting stuff.
  4. We’re still finishing off the last touches of our grand bedroom swap that happened over the summer (the kids have got our big bedroom and we’ve now got the small bedroom). One of the things that the bedroom swap has influenced is where and how I can do my crafting, particularly big stuff, i.e. machine sewing. Now, except for a brief period when I had a desk in my old bedroom, I haven’t been able to use my sewing machine in my old bedroom anyway, I’ve always sewn in the living room (and that wasn’t particularly easy either) on our foldaway dining table. However, in moving the furniture around for the bedroom swap, we had to move the large bookcases that were in our bedroom, out into the living room and to fit the bookcases in the living room, we had to move the foldaway dining table. Now we did sort of think (briefly) about getting rid of the table, we only ever used it completely up, once a year (for Christmas), if that, because fully up it takes up the entire living room floor (and it is not a big table), it was increasingly not even half up, as we stored stuff in front of it a lot of the time. But me and Mr. Lacer are quite attached to what we call our ‘proper pieces of furniture’ (ie anything that didn’t come from Ikea or somewhere similar), as we only actually own two pieces, the table and a wooden oak chest of drawers (we are particular fond of the chest of drawers, it was an investment buy, after years of Ikea chest of drawers which would fall apart after a few years, I can see the investment chest of drawers literally being passed down the generations). So anyway, the chances of me and Mr. Lacer actually throwing out one of ‘proper pieces of furniture’ is about zero, so instead we’ve tucked the table down the side of our sofa and it now serves as a telephone table (it folds down pretty small). We will probably still get it out for Christmas but it will involve some heavy duty furniture moving to do so and I’m not exactly going to do that every time I want to do some sewing, so I was without a sewing table. Anyway, over the summer, this came to a head as Girl Lacer was invited to a 50s style birthday party and I wanted to make her a 50s style skirt, life ended up getting in the way, so I never did make the skirt (got as far as sticking together the .pdf pattern, I will still make the skirt though) but to make the skirt I knew I needed to sort out the table problem, so I ordered something I had been thinking about ordering for a while, a collapsible table that I could store under the sofa and then assemble when I wanted to get the sewing machine out. The table arrived, unfortunately the fabric for the skirt took ages to arrive (which was one of the reasons why the skirt didn’t happen for this party) and the table got stuck, still in its cardboard wrappings, under the sofa and left there, until this week …. Now I have been itching to get the sewing machine out all summer but the bedroom swap generated such a huge amount of boxes, that it took literally the whole of September (from basically when the kids went back to school) to sort out. There are still boxes in the living room, as Mr. Lacer recently cleared out a cupboard and I need to sort through those too but for a good long while, there was barely enough room to get even an embroidery hoop out in the living room, let alone a table to do some machine sewing, so the table stayed under the sofa. But as usual with crafting, sometimes it takes a fast encroaching deadline to get you moving; we have a family wedding to go to in a few weeks and I am making both me and Girl Lacer the dresses for it, so, I had to get sewing. So out came the table finally and it’s fantastic! I will be blogging about the sewing table (with pics) and what I’ve been sewing, in another blog post soon but it’s definitely been a highlight of the week!
  5. Time is going so quickly, it seems just like yesterday me and Girl Lacer were looking around secondary schools, now it’s Boy Lacer’s turn, although this time round we’re only looking around one, the school Girl Lacer ended up at (which had been her first choice school, on a list of about five schools). Girl Lacer’s school is only in its second year, it didn’t even properly exist when we went to ‘look round’ it, so it was excellent being able to look around an actual school building this time and to see how those initial words have very much been turned into very definite actions and we’re very lucky, it’s bloomed into a wonderful school, so that now, when we consider schools for Boy Lacer, there really is only one choice. Although we’re not the sort of parents who are very “you’re doing this whether you like it or not”, I can imagine, that in some families, kids have very little choice about what secondary school they want to put as their first choice and if Boy Lacer had wanted to look at other schools, we’d have been happy for that and if he’d wanted to put a different school as his first choice, as long as he had sound reasons for it, that would have been fine too. But he’s seen his sister have so much fun at her secondary school and although he was pretty sold even before he stepped into the door of the open evening last night, he sat and listened to the head’s speech, he said to me afterwards “well that sold me”. So, I am very excited for both of my kids, for the opportunities that they’ll have there. We were very lucky in that their primary school was fantastic and that it looks like their secondary school will be fantastic too. Which is, going back to the bedroom swap and the tables under the sofa, etc. etc. is why we’re doing this, my dad is frequently on at us to move out of the area, so that we can buy a three bed house, although these days in London, to buy a three bed house, we wouldn’t just have to move out of the borough, we’d have a move out of the city! He knows that a big reason we stay here is because of the schools and his counter argument is always “there’s good schools elsewhere, you know”, yes, of course there is but if we were to move now, wherever we ended up, those good schools would have waiting lists that our kids would be right at the bottom of and although I went to a ‘not good’ school (ooh it had a bad, sort of justified reputation), back when I was a kid and I came out all right, why give up on these opportunities for the kids that we currently have? They are worth the compromises.

5 things I liked this week – 7.10.16

1. The cake Girl Lacer made for Boy Lacer’s birthday was thankfully much better than my cupcakes. She used a slightly adapted Nigella recipe.
Cake made by S

2. Sometimes it’s the small things but on the way back from an appointment on Monday, I stopped off at Morrisons (we don’t have one near where I live) and had the most gorgeous wrap from their choose your own fillings sandwich bar. They’re incredibly good value, under £3, I’m so used to London prices now, I’d more expect something like that to be a fiver, as the wrap had about six fillings in and was so big it was a struggle to fit in your mouth. The fillings were good too, much fresher looking than a certain well know sandwich chain which is a soon to be teenage favourite of Girl Lacer’s.

3. I went to see the lovely doc who did my op back in June, I hadn’t seen him since then and I made him laugh with the amount and nature of the compliments I have been getting since. The second stage of the op has been booked now and will be towards the end of this month. I have been extremely lucky to be so well looked after.

4. I went to see the Opus Anglicanum exhibition at the V&A and well, just wow! An exhibition of medieval English embroidery, it is mainly religious stuff (apparently lots of stuff would have been embroidered back then but the religious embroideries were more carefully looked after) and religious stuff isn’t really my cup of tea but, oh wow, the pieces are just so well preserved, I had to keep looking at the labels and reminding myself that what I was looking at was 800 – 900 years old and the needlework, oh my goodness, was amazing. Everything is obviously under glass but you can (with the glass between you obviously) get pretty close, so to see how intricate the stitching is, well, it got this embroidery geek pretty excited. I loved how all the exhibition labels said what stitches were used and I loved how although this stuff was 800 – 900 years old, the colours used and the illustrative work, heck, it would look good if it were done today. So, if you like your embroidery, you have to see this.

5. Somebody once said to me, that I don’t have very many positive, older role models in my life and although there are a few, a lot of older people I’ve known in my life, well things didn’t end particularly well for them. So one of the many things I love about living in London is that some of the older people here, they rock, at least of the stylistic stakes. So a big thumbs up to the very elderly guy I saw on the bus, who seemed to be having trouble walking but still rocked a pair of crisply turned up jeans, a buttoned up denim jacket, a crisp blue shirt and a thickly knotted yellow and black stripy tie, with a record bag slung over his shoulder. He was a street photographer’s dream. You couldn’t help but look at him and think that he must have lived an interesting life, if I had had the nerve (and not the worry that I might have freaked him out), I would have loved to talk to him.