Friday, 27 December 2013

25 Before 24 - December Update

Snowdrops in Royal Fort Gardens
Late again - but I'm all moved in with Boy now. We got all our stuff into the house pretty quickly and unpacked but have been rather exhausted by keeping all the normal things together on top of that. We were both rather looking forward to some quiet time together in the house to enjoy each other's company but busyness has held that off 'til after Christmas. Boy's birthday is just before Christmas too so I was gearing up for that.
We've not made any new year plans so hopefully it'll be a quiet one spent with some good friends, some wine, and the contents of our salad cheese drawer.
As ever I'd like to blog more regularly - I think reminding myself that I do make and do interesting "blog-worthy" things is part of the struggle. Now I have a craft room I shall hopefully be more organised in my making and not have unfinished projects lying about.

25 Things

1. Cycle to Bath - Now have a garage but it's full of car things so no space for bike yet...
2. Visit K at RHUL
3. Go to a sewing meet
4. Make 5 items of clothing - Craft room is set up & I have some lovely soft teal cord for another Simplicity 2451. It'll need lining though - new frontiers :s
5. Go to Cornwall and/or somewhere warm - we've talked about a week in the warm in Jan/Feb
6. Learn some Perl/Ruby/C++/SQL- Hmm
7. Keep a list of things to cook and make 2 new ones per month - Made a very fruity/vegetably cake twice over - once carrot, banana, apple, coconut & walnuts and once apple, banana, hazelnut & chocolate
8. Read twelve or more books  - Nope. All mine & boy's books are cohabiting merrily on proper bookshelves now
9. Cut down my photo-uploading backlog - On roll 4 of K1000 photos
10. Scrapbook - Did a little concerted scrapbooking just before I moved, currently just keeping bits together
11. Visit 5 new towns or cities - Visited different parts of London to previously... Bethnal Green, Dalston & Goldhawk Road
12. Keep job/get good/become independent - Finished the annoying thing. Now doing lots of copying & pasting. Have taken over scrum master duties which is more responsibility -> good
13. Go to a pop-up restaurant or supper club
14. Finish things - UFOs are now dwelling in a box of shame
15. Mend/alter - Did a little of this before moving, got a couple of things back into circulation
16. See cousins - Failed to see any
17. Go to a gig/film/... every month - Saw Cate Le Bon at Rise for free and Darren Hayman at The Vortex Jazz club in London. Both very good.
18. Walk lots - Now closer to *a* bus stop, but a little way from a reliable one so walking there is a better option
19. Visit new cafés/things - Went to The Breakfast Club in Shoreditch and Tap Coffee on Wardour Street in London. Both very good - I had bacon & banana french toast in the former, and good coffee and some kind of tasty cake in the latter.
20. Do something creative every week - This got rather lost in all the moving and I've been feeling the want of some craft time
21. Make an effort to go to things - Went to London! Saw a few friends who now live there
22. Learn to knit properly - I have a pattern recommended and some wool in mind for arm-warmers
23. Listen to the radio regularly - Boy's digital radio is often on in the evening
24. Use stashes
25. Find a dentist & get teeth fixed 

Friday, 6 December 2013

25 Before 24 - November Update


Edit: This was written quite a while ago but got stuck on my phone. For the sake of completeness I've not edited it.
October was the month that boy & I found a house to move to together. We've been together almost four years now and with both of us having finished all the degrees we have planned and settled into jobs, now really did seem like the time.
One of the hard parts of adapting to full time working and commuting has been not seeing him half as much as I had been used to. When I was a student, and then when I was unemployed, it was very easy to come past his office at lunch time and get a quick cuddle, or bring him lunch when he'd forgotten. Now I work a full day far outside the city centre that just isn't possible: I'm often too tired in the evening to think of going out again and too late to join him in the pub for long before we start wanting dinner and whatever else we had planned goes out of the window. We've joked that going out for dinner has replaced Photography as our shared hobby but it is rather too close to the truth.
We've payed our Subject To Contract fees and deposits and all we have left to do now is to sign the contract and get the keys. It'll be nice to be together by default, and be able to take short breaks from our respective activities for a cuddle and a coffee instead of having to choose between getting stuff done and being together. Hopefully too we'll be able to get the domestic stuff out of the way and go for days out. We both do the majority of the housework in our current houses so that should only get easier!
25 Things
1. Cycle to Bath
2. Visit K at RHUL
3. Go to a sewing meet
4. Make 5 items of clothing - I seem to have started another instead of finishing anything
5.Go to Cornwall and/or somewhere warm
6. Learn some Perl/Ruby/C++/SQL- Writing teats & exercising my Perl skills again
7. Keep a list of things to cook and make 2 new ones per month - stir fry broccoli noodles, marinated pork & slaw, apple upside down cake
8. Read twelve or more books  - Inherited lots of books
9. Cut down my photo-uploading backlog - Started on K1000 photos
10. Scrapbook - Keep scraps with book but otherwise no progress
11. Visit 5 new towns or cities - Had an evening drive to Portishead but didn't make it out of the car
12. Keep job/get good/become independent - Been stuck on one thing for ages which is quite a downer, but also got pulled off it to help with an emergency
13. Go to a pop-up restaurant or supper club
14. Finish things - Oops
15. Mend/alter
16. See cousins - going to London next week & will hopefully see some
17. Go to a gig/film/... every month
18. Walk lots
19. Visit new cafés/things - Tried the little café near work and was pleasantly surprised
20. Do something creative every week - Finished my bus crochet
21. Make an effort to go to things - Been for dinner with friends after work, to a Photosoc social
22. Learn to knit properly
23. Listen to the radio regularly - Occasionally pop it on while cooking
24. Use stashes - I have plans
25. Find a dentist & get teeth fixed

Sunday, 13 October 2013

25 Before 24 - October Update


 Where did September go?! After our week in Cornwall I felt like I'd been away for ages which was lovely, but going back to getting up early wasn't so nice...
I'm struggling to remember what I did during the rest of the month! The weekend we came back from Cornwall it seemed that everyone we know was in Bristol, including those who aren't usually. We both had a pretty busy weekend of coffees, dinners, and pub visits, both together and separately; I took a day trip and marvelled at the stock in my hometown's charity shops and had coffee with friends.
Later in the month I visited my Grandmother with my sister, drove for the first time in six months, and got stuck into some gardening and cleaning. I think my remaining weekends were mostly spent resting and being domestic.

25 Things
  1. Cycle to Bath
  2. Visit K at RHUL
  3. Go to a sewing meet
  4. Make 5 items of clothing - All but skirt still half-made.
  5. Go to Cornwall and/or somewhere warm
  6. Learn some Perl/Ruby/C++/SQL- I should find out more about C++ as we could be doing more of it at work in the future
  7. Keep a list of things to cook and make 2 new ones per month - Made lemon & rocket risotto with baked salmon, tried a new way of making coffee, improvised a rather good apple tart.
  8. Read twelve or more books  - Only got non-fiction from the library
  9. Cut down my photo-uploading backlog - Digital 2012 is done! And ME Super film completely done
  10. Scrapbook - Stalled. Seems like a good rainy afternoon activity
  11. Visit 5 new towns or cities - Stopped off at Sainsbury's in Warwick but I don't think that counts...
  12. Keep job/get good/become independent - Started "tracking" i.e. taking a turn at fielding support e-mails
  13. Go to a pop-up restaurant or supper club
  14. Finish things - Still quite a few projects on the go but no more started...
  15. Mend/alter - Had a sewing & Big Fat Quiz evening with flatmate and mended a couple of things :)
  16. See cousins
  17. Go to a gig/film/... every month - The Wave Pictures at The Louisiana and This Is The Kit at The Folk House, plus Rush (F1 film) at The Watershed
  18. Walk lots - Got off the bus a stop early several times
  19. Visit new cafés/things - 4500 Miles From Delhi which was alright if a little more expensive than other curries, The Stable which was great fun - so many ciders!
  20. Do something creative every week - Lots more bus crochet
  21. Make an effort to go to things - Took my day trip home
  22. Learn to knit properly
  23. Listen to the radio regularly
  24. Use stashes - Gained some more crafty things from a friend's Great Aunt. Oops.
  25. Find a dentist & get teeth fixed - Apparently the one near work is alright, may investigate that

Sunday, 29 September 2013

25 Before 24 - September Update

At Prior Park Landscape Garden in Bath last November
Oops. I've been meaning to write this post for weeks but somehow it's fallen by the wayside. Here it is anyway.
Over the last month or so I've been on holiday, seen many different friends, watched the Balloon Fiesta Night Glow had a day on the Exmoor coast, caught the last day of the Laura Ashley exhibition with my Mum, been visited by my sister, and (joint-)won the charity bake-off at work!

25 Things

  1. Cycle to Bath
  2. Visit K at RHUL
  3. Go to a sewing meet
  4. Make 5 items of clothing - skirt, half-made Sonja, half-made Strawbetto
  5. Go to Cornwall and/or somewhere warm - Cornwall again
  6. Learn some Perl/Ruby/C++/SQL - I'm picking up fragments of Perl as I go along
  7. Keep a list of things to cook and make 2 new ones per month - Cooked my first artichoke, made up patatas bravas, re-created itame, and experimented with overnight oats (meh)
  8. Read twelve or more books  - Finished "Toast". Borrowed various non-fiction library books
  9. Cut down my photo-uploading backlog - Almost finished with digital 2012! See above :)
  10. Scrapbook - Almost up-to-date
  11. Visit 5 new towns or cities
  12. Keep job/get good/become independent - Started doing more complex code reviews
  13. Go to a pop-up restaurant or supper club
  14. Finish things - I've ripped the Sonja muslin apart again... it just needs re-cutting & constructing
  15. Mend/alter
  16. See cousins
  17. Go to a gig/film/... every month - No gigs but I saw the night glow at the balloon fiesta :)
  18. Walk lots
  19. Visit new cafés/things - Two new cafés in Bath (Same Same But Different and one nearby whose name I don't remember), Topping & Co bookshop.
  20. Do something creative every week - I've been crocheting on the bus, productive commutes are pleasing
  21. Make an effort to go to things - walked to the balloon fiesta!
  22. Learn to knit properly - made a moss stitch headband... and stalled
  23. Listen to the radio regularly - listened at work some more
  24. Use stashes - started a baby blanket for a colleague
  25. Find a dentist & get teeth fixed

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Lytes Cary


Lytes Cary is a lovely old National Trust property in South Somerset, just near the A370 & Somerton. Boy & I went last October when he came down to visit me. It was a very cold day but lovely and clear with sunny intervals and we were snug-ly wrapped up in coats & scarves. Of course we took full advantage of the sunshine and photographed the garden to within an inch of its life.
We walked down to the River Cary too and through a really picturesque little wood - that might appear in a later post - but didn't make it into the house. I'd like to go back and see inside, and to see the garden in another season. I love autumn for its low warm sunshine, orangey brown leaves, and crisp edge, but most  gardens really should be seen in May or so too :)

Sundial . . . . .

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Finished: New Look 6154

I look like I'm about to jump
I made another skirt! A better one! After my Simplicity 2451 turned out too big I knew I should go down at least one size. This is New Look 6154, which I reasoned probably had the same sizing as the Simplicity skirt and in fact every pattern piece apart from the skirt front is suspiciously similar, although I haven't overlaid them to check yet. I added the first review on Pattern Review which surprised me, but then I suppose it's quite a basic pattern.
I wanted to make a couple of adjustments, namely moving the centre back zip to the side, cutting the back on the fold, and lengthening the whole thing a couple of inches. I muslined it using a second-hand Ikea bedsheet and it was a good thing I did; I added extra seam allowance at the sides but forgot to take it off the back and ended up with a seam there anyway and a foldy mess on the yoke. Lesson learned.

I don't know if the zip is this obvious without flash...
I sewed the skirt over the course of several evenings, but saved the zip insertion and hemming for the bus to work - time I can easily lose to gazing sleepily out of the window. This was intended as a very cake-y and work-appropriate garment - the summer equivalent to my favourite navy cord skirt.
The final version is made of some medium-weight navy cotton from Fabricland which leeched an incredible amount of dye in the wash (even my very bleed-y pink & red bedsheets fell victim) and shrank a little. This, I thought, was fair enough - one is meant to pre-wash - what annoyed me though is that on the first wash after wearing as a completed garment it leeched still more (thankfully I remembered the colour catcher) and shrank more! The fit is no longer what you see above, instead it sits a bit higher and moves around annoyingly. I only washed it on 40! Boo and hiss. It also wrinkles a fair bit - these photos were taken after one day of office wear and half a bottle of cider.

Failing to show off my bias binding'd hem. Why yes, that is a mop
Before the aforementioned laundry incident the skirt was very comfortable and just what I needed for work. I was even happy with my shirt tucked in. Next time (and there will be one, possibly with more of this fabric and the pockets from Simplicity 2451) I'll re-pre-wash the fabric and attempt a full bottom adjustment as I think I have a combination of that and sway-back. It's hard to tell from these exuberant photos but I don't think the side seam is quite vertical - at least it isn't now that the skirt has shrunk. Hmm.

Productive commuting
For the yoke facing I used a scrap of fabric leftover from the time a misunderstanding led my Mum to shorten a new skirt of mine, thus ruining it  - childhood trauma made good -  and a scrap of purple bias binding from her collection at the hem. I didn't attempt any levelling on the hem, just turned it up a roughly even amount all the way around. The zip is one of my 10 for £1 from the Rag Market at the Birmingham Sewists' meet, put in by hand as I don't have a zip foot and find it reasonably simple to do. It's centred as that also seems like an easy option, but perhaps not so good for a side seam? I don't know if the light blue zip is so obvious in real life. I decided that laziness could be euphemised into stash busting and didn't bother buying a navy one.
I had to re-sew the yoke facing around the top of the zip a few times as I'd got it caught up in various places which was annoying but not the end of the world. With a little more care it should be easier next time. I'm still not sure what the pattern instructions wanted me to do with the bottom of the yoke facing - it seemed to be telling me to zig-zag the edge and leave it - but I turned it under before stitching in the ditch, as you can see above.

Ta da!
More straight-up details can be found over on pattern review.

These photos come courtesy of my friend Alice who invited various of our friends around for dinner that evening and cooked us tasty bruschetta, then goats cheese, polenta & spinach parcels with roasted veg, followed by an enormous banoffee pie. There was good food, good company, a cat, a garden, and beer, wine, & cider aplenty. It was a very good evening.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Chicken Itame, or Spicy Coconutty Soupy Noodles

 One of my favourite things to eat at Wagamama is chicken itame - it's a very comforting hot, slightly spicy, yet refreshing bowl of noodles, vegetables and chicken in a spicy coconutty soup. You have to be quite careful while eating it that you don't drop noodles back into the bowl and splatter yourself with soup!
Yesterday I borrowed the original Wagamama cookbook from the library. It didn't have the recipe for itame in but it inspired me to try and replicate it anyway. I googled a bit and found a couple of other replications (here, here and here) but, as usual, when it came to making I went off-road and improvised my own version. I ended up making it with roasted pork loin (also easy - I followed the packet instructions) as I couldn't work out where Morrison's had hidden the chicken section! My life is so hard.

While googling I noticed that itame doesn't necessarily mean what you get in Wagamama - it seems to mean something like "stir" or "sauté" - and in fact it's something different in Australian Wagamama to in the UK.
In the UK it's:
"rice noodles in a spicy green coconut and lemongrass soup topped with stir-fried chicken, beansprouts, chillies, red and spring onions, bok choi, peppers and mushrooms. garnished with coriander and lime"
While down under it's:
"succulent strips of chicken marinated in ginger, garlic and lemongrass, stir-fried with red chillies, zucchini, broccoli, red onions, mint, basil, coriander, ginger, garlic and chilli oil. served on steamed jasmine rice and garnished with a wedge of lime"
There are definitely some elements the same, but it's interesting to see the difference -  and good to know that looking for "chicken itame"won't necessarily get me what I expect. Now I've got my own recipe I don't have to worry about Wagamama taking it off the menu and never being able to have it again either :-)

Anyway, here's my version:

Itame - or Spicy Coconutty Soupy Noodles - for 2+

I'm leaving this general (and almost veggie) as the way I made it the elements are assembled at the end, so any protein-y element isn't cooked along with the rest anyway. I think this is a fairly authentic (whatever that means) method, and has the effect of keeping all the different parts fresh and distinct rather than becoming a homogenous mush.
There are lots of ingredients here but it's not complex at all. You can even prepare your protein beforehand and let the soup heat it up at the end.
To go veggie, omit the fish sauce and check the packet of anything that has >1 ingredient. Dried mushrooms might help the depth of flavour in that case (do let me know if you try it).

You will need:

Noodles - fresh ones that don't require much cooking
Mild-flavoured oil (or something that goes, like sesame, just not strong olive)

LOTS of coriander, chopped
1 can coconut milk - I used low fat
Half a stock cube - you could use a whole one but it doesn't need it
Fish sauce - 4 tsp
Soy sauce - 2 tsp
Ginger - a small lump, grated
Lemongrass - 2tsp of paste or equivalent (remove the sticks before eating if you have those!)
Half a red chilli, chopped - or more if you like things spicy
A pinch of basil and/or mint - I used dry but fresh would be far better
One small red pepper, chopped
Chinese greens, beansprouts, mange tout would all be good - I used green beans as that's what I had

Spring onion, chopped
More coriander, chopped
Juice of one lime


Boil the kettle. Empty your can of coconut milk into a pan, add another canful of boiled water (careful, it'll get hot), and the half stock cube, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, lemongrass, herbs, and chilli. Bring to the boil and simmer for ...a while. Maybe 15 minutes, you can't go too wrong here, just make sure the liquid doesn't boil off too much - you want enough for 2+ decent bowls.

After that, heat some oil in a frying pan and stir fry your noodles (as it says on the packet). While heating your pan, add your pepper and other vegetables (but not the spring onion) to the soup. Leave any leaves quite late as they'll cook very quickly.

When you're ready to assemble it all, take the soup off the heat and stir in the lime juice. Put some noodles into your serving bowls, add the protein and spring onion, and pour over the soup. Garnish with coriander and enjoy.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

25 Before 24 - August Update

Pretty leaves at Trelissick in 2011

It's been a busy & exciting month - the boy and I went to Cornwall, graduated, had our parents meet for the first time, decided we'd like to move in together, and took a day trip down to Exmoor with a friend. I went to my sister's Oxford graduation (Fancy! Latin!), visited the Bath Vintage & Antiques market, moved desk at work, made my first quiche, made a skirt, taught myself to knit, and even read a bit. Gosh.
I had a few weekends of busy-ness which made me very thankful when I got a slow one to myself, I've taken pleasure in cleaning and tidying the flat when I could, and impressed myself with my ability to keep on top of things like laundry and making lunch. I could do with being better at going to bed earlier though.

25 Things

  1. Cycle to Bath
  2. Visit K at RHUL
  3. Go to a sewing meet
  4. Make 5 items of clothing - New Look 6154 is complete, post soon!
  5. Go to Cornwall and/or somewhere warm - we've fixed up to go *again*
  6. Learn some Perl/Ruby/C++/SQL - I'm slowly picking up Perl at work, I don't like the lack of strict types as it allows people to write some horrible horrible code
  7. Keep a list of things to cook and make 2 new ones per month - I'm not as deliberate as intended but I made a quiche and some frozen custard
  8. Read twelve or more books - Catching up a bit - I read the first and third Scott Pilgrim graphic novels and am halfway through "Toast" by Nigel Slater
  9. Cut down my photo-uploading backlog - I'm into 2012!
  10. Scrapbook - Things are still scattered on the floor but I have good intentions...
  11. Visit 5 new towns or cities
  12. Keep job/get good/become independent - I've moved across to sit with my team instead of the cluster of new people :)
  13. Go to a pop-up restaurant or supper club
  14. Finish things
  15. Mend/alter - Added Boy's torn shirt and a missing button to my pile :/
  16. See cousins
  17. Go to a gig/film/... every month - Alela Diane at The Louisiana & Dark Dark Dark at The Fleece
  18. Walk lots - I took a scenic route home once and visited St Andrews Park for the first time
  19. Visit new cafés/things - Finally visited Grillstock and Café Provencal
  20. Do something creative every week - Numbers 4, 7, and 22
  21. Make an effort to go to things - Went to a distant pub meet, a work dinner, and a party in Chippenham
  22. Learn to knit properly - "How To Knit" by Debbie Bliss, coupled with larger needles, has helped me achieve double moss stitch and ribbing
  23. Listen to the radio regularly - I realised I can stream 6music at work, hurrah! Helps me get in the zone a bit more too
  24. Use stashes - A few bits of stash went into NL 6154 but I picked up some white viscose for lining from Fabric Land and some spotty cotton from Minerva Crafts. Oops.
  25. Find a dentist & get teeth fixed
Right, I should probably go to bed now!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

What's The Opposite Of Buyer's Remorse?

I kind-of collect plastic beads. I say kind-of because collecting would probably imply spending more than 50p-£1 a pop and making concerted effort to find them, that and it sounds a bit wanky. Anyway, I like the ones like the yellow and white you see here best - ovoid, fixed to their thread, and in strings about 19" long. It all started with the white ones which came from The Guildhall Market in Bath - there's an amazing jewellery stall there with all manner of sparkly wonders.

Sadly I didn't warn Alice that I was trying to make art. What you can see of my hand is in focus though.

It's the kind of place that paralyses me with lustful indecision - I'd like to own ALL of the pretty, but I'm blinded to the merits of individual brooches, necklaces and earrings. Too much! Too much! As moley said in The Wind In The Willows :)

The colours!

Anyway, in front of this stall on a little table is a box full of assorted plastic beads. They're mostly the long sort that you can knot - like twenties pearls - but there are various graduated round and oval ones. These are 50p each, and that's how I came to own the white ones.

I was far too pleased with myself for this photo
I loved my first string of white beads - they went with everything - and was quite unhappy when they broke. They'd got tangled in my hair and camera strap on a rather hasty walk along the Cornish coast path and the fixing came off the back. My Dad decided that araldite wouldn't work and bodged them back together with a safety pin and I carried on wearing them, but far less often than before as I was sad about the loss. Over the next few years I kept looking out for a replacement in charity shops, and took the opportunity to look whenever I was in Bath but to no avail. I amassed quite a collection of other colours - more than you see in the photo above - but never did I find the elusive white.

And then one day it occurred to me to see what eBay might have, and lo there was a seller with a whole stash of eighties deadstock plastic necklaces. I ordered one straight away and it's an exact replacement of my broken favourite. Hurrah!
In fact I may have just bought another, in grey, oops.

Oh! And the title of this, and what I meant to talk about: I saw a pale grey necklace in Shop on Saturday, didn't buy it, and spent my idle moments on Sunday regretting it. Boo for browser's remorse.
This probably isn't a terribly interesting post but hopefully you've enjoyed the pictures? Here's one last one of the original white necklace in action in Cornwall - look how happy I am!

Elephants! Perfectly innocent.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Unseasonal Shots


It's not that I'm wishing away the summer or anything (except that I kind of am - I'm really not made for this weather) but going through the old photos I've been uploading to Flickr is making me really nostalgic for autumn. Pretty leaves, big cardigans, boots, & cosiness.

17 . . . Plane

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Toiling Over A Toile

My week in Cornwall was good and I've been busy back at work, catching up with friends, graduating (along with the boy), and being exhausted by the heat - but now I've found some time to sew.
This is my toile/muslin for New Look 6154 which I was lucky enough to pick up at the swap in Birmingham a month ago (it's been that long already! My studenty self still isn't quite used to working.) and I believe was kindly donated by Hannah of Made With Hugs And Kisses. I've got some navy cotton from Fabric Land to make a final version in and it'll hopefully be a work-wearable but summery skirt (my work has no dress code but I try to keep some level of decency & presentability) to go with my many patterned tops. My clothes buying habits in the past have veered heavily towards the patterned and colourful "frosting" - I could do with some "cake" to go with all that.
I've been making a size 18 since my hip measurement is 42 on a good day and the ease marked on the pattern pieces is something huge - the muslin seems alright so I'm carrying on. I'm adding a couple of inches to the length for comfort, cutting the back piece on the fold, and moving the zip to the side seam. Hopefully that will all turn out ok, I'm making notes as I go along which should help avoid any mistakes.

Next I'm going to trace out my lengthened pattern pieces (I'm trying brown paper as it's sturdy) and start cutting, wish me luck!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

25 Before 24 - July Update

Polruan, summer 2011

I'm in Cornwall! Hurrah! That's number 5 ticked off. Hopefully the weather is behaving and I'm sitting out in the garden of our holiday cottage with a nice cold cider. I thought this might be a good time for my first 25 Before 24 update.

25 Things

  1. Cycle to Bath
  2. Visit K at RHUL - Last bank holiday weekend I went on a Surrey-based adventure, photos to come when I'm less overwhelmed by the quantity!
  3. Go to a sewing meet - I went to Birmingham and it was great :)
  4. Make 5 items of clothing - Several uncompleted Sorbettos, muslined New Look 6154
  5. Go to Cornwall and/or somewhere warm - I'm there now!
  6. Learn some Perl/Ruby/C++/SQL
  7. Keep a list of things to cook and make 2 new ones per month - my beetroot went off before I had time to make risotto :(
  8. Read twelve or more books - Had a drought but taking "Camera Lucida" by Barthes to Cornwall
  9. Cut down my photo-uploading backlog - slow progress is being made
  10. Scrapbook - I've started
  11. Visit 5 new towns or cities - Dawlish/Teignmouth & Egham/Twickenham
  12. Keep job/get good/become independent - Not been fired yet!
  13. Go to a pop-up restaurant or supper club
  14. Finish things
  15. Mend/alter
  16. See cousins - Had brunch with one in London
  17. Go to a gig/film/... every month - I've seen Caitlin Rose, Public Service Broadcasting, & Sweet Baboo
  18. Walk lots - I can't walk to work but boy and I have had a few evening walks
  19. Visit new cafés/things - I've been to Bill's, a new-to-me Thai restaurant, and Harris & Hoole in Twickenham
  20. Do something creative every week - this has mostly come in the form of cooking recently, I might do a little food post some time soon
  21. Make an effort to go to things
  22. Learn to knit properly - I've been stalking "Learn To Knit Love To Knit" on Libraries West but no luck thus far, it's overdue at my nearest library :(
  23. Listen to the radio regularly - I've been stalking the DAB radios in Sainsbury's but haven't taken the plunge yet
  24. Use stashes - Visiting Birmingham didn't help with this, but I have some inspiration now
  25. Find a dentist & get teeth fixed
Not too bad for this early on but plenty of Getting On With It to do. Hopefully I'll have visited another new town by the time I'm back :)

Friday, 28 June 2013


: (

As I'm sure you're sick of hearing, Google Reader is closing down SOON. I was pretty hacked off when I heard this, and even more so when I had to look for alternatives.
The two that are everywhere are Bloglovin' and Feedly (I bet they were popping champagne corks & ordering servers when they heard the news) but there are plenty of others out there and what you need to do to find the best alternative is to understand what a reader is.
Now I may be preaching to the converted here since Google Reader users will at least have to have come across the concept of an RSS feed, but it's amazing how many times I've seen Bloglovin' or Feedly recommended because "it has feature x!" when feature x is a standard RSS thing or common to all readers. Because I'm cynical and care too much it rather irks me that they're being given credit for things that were always there (although I know they're not doing it themselves) - like Apple making a big fuss about multitasking on iOS7 when Android has done it for years. What it all comes down to is that people don't know what they don't know, and you can't blame them for it, so all I can do is try to make things a bit clearer.

A reader is essentially a thing that brings together the RSS feeds from lots of different sites. Essentially an RSS feed is a page (probably not human-readable) that's a stripped down version of a site with only the entries/posts/items on it. (and lest you think it's just for blogs, every Flickr photostream and group has an RSS feed) Your RSS reader takes this and turns it into a nicely readable format and allows you to organise your feeds how you want them - usually with some sort of folders, fave-ing, mark-all-as-read, sharing buttons etc. That's it.

There are lots of different types of readers - web-based, app-based, desktop etc. Most of the web-based ones will also have a mobile version so you can read on the go and not have to mark all those items as read later; but one of the things that, in my opinion, made Google Reader great was that it had an API (Application Programming Interface). I didn't use the official Reader for Android app (the reviews weren't great), I used gReader and it linked perfectly happily to my google account. As far as I know with Bloglovin' you're locked in to using their app and if it sucks that's tough (you could move, but think of the bother). Feedly on the other hand do have an API - points for them!
Now the real selling point of Bloglovin' is its social-media-type framing of everything - blog owners can "claim" their blogs, while Feedly does "magazine-style" layouts. I'm not particularly fussed about either of those but you might be?
Any reader worth its salt will allow you to import your subscriptions from a file (clicking that Learn More link will get you there) and/or import directly from Google, so it's not whether or not it does this that you should judge a reader on, it's whether the internet is full of complaints about it not working.

A couple of other options I've come across are new readers made by Digg and AOL - and I think Yahoo have majorly missed the boat by not coming up with their own.
Digg Reader, which launched yesterday, seems alright if a little slow at present. Their aim was to make a direct replacement for Google Reader and then develop it from there. They've not been on top of their game for years but I really liked the sound of the project and their attitude. They're addressing the people (like me) who just really want Google Reader to carry on as-is.
AOL I haven't investigated properly, but having grown up with their hideous bloated browser/screen name system I'm none to keen to go back there. I do still have an account so I might have a poke about and see what it's like. The landing page actually looks encouraging and they too have an API. Plus it's blue, bonus points for that too :p

The "Next" button (and the subscribe button!)

Time for one final moan - I've seen people complain that they don't like readers because they take posts out of context, and claim that such-and-such-a-reader is better because you can click through to the articles. Both of these make me sad inside. Any reader should let you click through to an article and see it in context, and many bloggers (especially food ones with lots of pictures e.g. Smitten Kitchen) use shorter previews in their RSS feeds to encourage you to click through (and on their main sites so you don't have to scroll so far) so this complaint makes no sense!
Google Reader transcended this whole issue with the "Next" button. It lives in my favourites/bookmarks toolbar and when I click on it it takes me to the next unread article in my reader, in situ on the page it was published on. Beautiful and under-appreciated (although a bit hidden in the settings). It would have been even better if there was a version that went in oldest-newest order. It even had an easter egg - when you were down to 0 articles unread it would take you to a page congratulating you on reaching "the end of this internet" and offer you a link to look for another, which lead to the wikipedia page on interplanetary internet. Geeky & pleasantly real.

Oh Google Reader, you shall be missed.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

25 Before 24

This is definitely a bit late but I've been collecting ideas since well before my birthday and have already completed a couple so I'm going to post them up anyway.
If you're not familiar with the concept, my 25 Before... is  a list of things I'd like to have done by my next birthday. I started my first one in August last year for my March birthday and managed to complete about half of it. This time I have more time to do the Things and some of the points are carried over as not-yet-complete.

25 Things

  1. Cycle to Bath - carried over from last year
  2. Visit my sister at university - ditto
  3. Go to a sewing meet
  4. Make 5 items of clothing
  5. Go to Cornwall and/or somewhere warm
  6. Learn some Perl/Ruby/C++/SQL
  7. Keep a list of things to cook and make them
  8. Read twelve or more books 
  9. Cut down my photo-uploading backlog - a repeat entry
  10. Scrapbook - another repeat entry
  11. Visit 5 new towns or cities
  12. Keep job/get good/become independent
  13. Go to a pop-up restaurant or  supper club
  14. Finish things
  15. Mend/alter
  16. See cousins
  17. Go to a gig/film/... every month
  18. Walk lots
  19. Visit new cafés/things in Bristol
  20. Do something creative every week
  21. Make effort to go to things
  22. Learn to knit properly
  23. Listen to the radio
  24. Use stashes
  25. Get teeth fixed
They're a varied bunch - lots of creative ones, some self-improvement, career-type bits, and a couple of boring necessities. Hopefully keeping count will help me get on with them :)
I'll try and update regularly - perhaps once a month - and see whether I can beat my score from last time.
Have you ever tried a similar project? Any tips?

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Raiding The Rag Market

Please excuse my terrible photos, I sacrificed light for promptness
If you went down to the woods Birmingham Rag Market today you would have come across a small hoard of ladies with button rosettes like the one you see above. Almost forty of us, fearlessly led by Kat & Marie, descended upon the midlands to buy, swap, chat, & buy some more. It was a good day.

The rosettes were kindly made by our wonderful hosts, while the very generous & organised Claire provided name stickers (very useful in matching people up with their lunch!), and mid-way through the afternoon produced two large tupperware containers of cake from her trolley. <3

The day started with a walk to Barry's Warehouse, where I became so overwhelmed by the amount and variety of fabric available that I didn't buy anything. I wandered in circles, trying to work out what it was I'd planned to buy, and how much I'd need for the patterns I couldn't remember the names of. After a while of this we headed off to Café Soya for lunch, getting thoroughly rained upon on the way.

The post-lunch swapping of fabric, patterns & notions was quite a sight to behold too. Everyone seemed to pick up something good, and after initially choosing one item from each table (fabric, patterns, notions) and holding back to let more able (and efficient) seamstresses get a pick, there was still heaps to be had. I came away feeling like I'd done rather too well out of the whole thing!

I picked up: salmon pink cotton (from Claire), red/pink vintage shiny fabric (from Marie, who later told me about it), and this rose print printed cotton (blend?), three sets of buttons, and two patterns.
The skirt pattern was exactly what I wanted - it's a simple a-line with a waistband and two back darts - and will hopefully provide some wardrobe staples. The dress pattern was a last-minute choice - I'd assumed it would be tiny, but it turned out to be just about right! (judging on the bust measurement, inches can't have changed since 1970?!)
The pink cotton is destined for an M6503* - possibly with one of those sets of buttons.
Post-swap, refreshed and somewhat drier, we headed on to the rag market.

 We were equipped with copies of Kat & Marie's ace map (which it was) and allowed to run amok among the many stalls packed with shiny things. Unable to resist a bargain I bought ten zips for a pound - that's got to be a good deal, right? I was also excited to discover the existence of satin-y bias binding. I'm thinking it'd be good for binding seams smoothly and/or giving my makes shiny innards.

Outside I found a stall selling this lovely purple broderie anglaise for £4/metre - I bought two for a skirt of some description. I dithered over and eventually splurged (relatively) on this lovely Liberty-ish printed cotton lawn which was £8/metre. The selvedges are missing so there's a chance that it could actually be Liberty. Either way I think it's lovely. I bought a metre and a half for a blouse of some description (a Colette Jasmine perhaps?)

Gratuitous close-up
And finally, after various people had left to catch trains, we visited the Fancy Silk Store. Contrary to its name the shop sells all sorts of fabrics - literally piled up to the roof. I was attracted by various fabrics, including granddad-ish  paisley brushed cotton, but in the end came away with three metres of roses on black at £4.99/metre. It's 100% cotton and looks almost linen-ish but feels very soft. It's destined for some sort of dress, with as full a skirt as I can muster.

Hurrah for Birmingham!
Thankyou very very much to Marie, Kat, and to Claire too, for making it such a good day. It was great to meet so many people and put faces to blogs, and to see makes in real life! Kat's Minoru, Rose's & Sabs' Sureaus were among the ones I spotted & admired :)

* For some reason the McCall site says that the pattern is for stretch knits. Further down the page (and on the pattern envelope) it says "Designed for light to medium weight woven fabrics". Hmm.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Simplicity 2451 - I made a skirt!

In all its wrinkly glory

In the spirit of having some actual sewing on my blog before going to the Birmingham sewists' meet-up next weekend, here is my Simplicity 2451. I first mentioned it way back in October, and it's been almost done for quite a while. Since getting my sewing machine I've zig-zagged some seam allowances, and today I finally took some photos.
Please excuse the wrinkles - it had been through a whole day at work. And of course this is just an accurate representation of the fabric...

I made view D, the short one, and it really is short. I made the biggest size as I was worried about making it too small but this wasn't the right thing to do - what should be the waistband sits on my hips. At least this means it hits just above the knees rather than being a crotch-grazing super-mini... If it had turned out like that I don't think it would have got half the wear it has, so it's not all bad.
Since this was intended to be a wearable muslin I made it out of a remnant of bottle green sheeting from John Lewis and used a scrap of amazing tropical fabric inherited from my Grandma for the pocket and back waistband facings. Sadly I didn't have enough for the front waistband facing too.

I'm not sure what you call this type of pocket but I like it. Also in this photo you can (not) see where I've stitched-in-the-ditch. I was a) apprehensive about doing this b) had a lot of spare car journey time and c) couldn't be bothered to change the thread in my Mum's sewing machine, so I did this bit by hand. It looks somewhat rough on the inside, but that's only for me to look at so it's ok. In future versions I'll conquer machine ditch-stitching - now I know how simple my machine is to thread I'm more likely to bother doing it :)
Changing feet was also beyond me (and I'm not sure Mum has a zip foot - her machine is a lovely old 70s Bernina so it probably wouldn't be cheap). I think I did a pretty good job for my first lapped zip. It's slightly wonky at the waistband but it's good enough for me!

The inside is definitely not glorious. I didn't really put much thought into seam finishing 'til I was mostly done. Then I naively thought zig-zagging with my new machine would be a good way to neaten things. Ha. Wobbling and puckers everywhere - my flatmate was quite alarmed at the outbursts this caused. I might go back and apply the pinking shears one day, if I can face it.
I think future versions will feature lining to hide the insides and prevent sticking when wearing tights (i.e. always).

There's that awesome back facing and the somewhat fudged waistband finish. You can also see here that I used white for the majority of the stitching (see laziness, above) which means that you can see the darts stretching out. Not attractive.

The main fabric cost £2.57, and the zip maybe a couple of pounds. Everything else came from my stash or Mum's.Having made this once and found it pretty straight forward I'm sure there will be future versions. I'd like to try to move the zip to a side seam, add a lining, use a thicker fabric, and make things generally a bit straighter and neater.
I'm fighting my perfectionist instincts but I know that for a first skirt I've done a pretty reasonable job :)

Monday, 3 June 2013


On a slightly hazey but very pleasant day in April.
Mum, The Boy, & I had lunch by the sea, strolled along the pier, and generally enjoyed the sunshine.
The building being demolished next to the pier is an old hotel and it's set to be replaced by swanky new flats (sold by a fancy Clifton estate agent).