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Happy New Year!

1 Jan

Well, goodbye 2012. It was nice knowing you!
It’s been an exciting year for me. In the spring I set myself a goal of having 20 patterns available on Ravelry, which I achieved as the year drew to a close. I’ll have 10 more coming out in February, which were finished some months ago – more on that soon.
Over the summer we published issue 50 of The Knitter, with a frankly bonkers 50 patterns, and redesigned the magazine.
My only regret was all that work meant I could only take a one week holiday while
Storm had 7 weeks at home before starting school.
I made some new friends, and got to know some others better.
My journey as a minimalist is now in its third year. At Christmas this meant having an emptied car driving home after the festivities, and actually being able to see out of the back window for a change! Being a minimalist doesn’t mean all white interiors and a penchant for Philippe Starck (at least, not to me). It means fewer possessions, and more real life. Zen Habits and Becoming Minimalist are both great places to start if you’re curious.

While letting go of possessions has felt relatively easy, one of my biggest challenges as a minimalist is reducing my commitments. For about four months over the summer my workload meant I barely had a moment to just ‘be’, and also resulted in much reduced blogging here.

So my goal for 2013 is to look at balance, say no a little, and have some more fun and get some more adventure in my life!
I’ll have 2 pattern collections coming out this year, but first up is a very exciting trip to New York for Vogue Knitting Live.
In the meantime, here are my key moments of 2012. I hope you had a good one, and wish you all the best for 2013,

Rosee
Xxxxx

1) Storm starting school. And starting to read and write. Just wow.
First school packed lunch. Awww.
2) Making new friends and renewing old bonds
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3) The death of one of my oldest friends – in itself a terrible loss, but with some surprising silver linings.

4) Starting and finishing (!) quilts for my dad and Storm

5) Being able to call myself a designer – after 20 plus years of dreaming about it

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6) Watching my husband launch his fledgling breadmaking business
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7) Helping Storm learn to swim and being able to share my passion for swimming with her

8) Handmade birthdays and a minimalist Christmas
Christmas chutney!
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9) Being constantly reminded that happiness in work, family and friends is more important than anything money can buy
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10) And this picture… (thanks Steven)
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Quilting the easy way, part 3: Super neat quilt binding

16 May

I’m not going to talk about mitred corners. Partly because I can’t get the hang of them, but also because there are heaps of posts out there already about that.

But! It is a bit frustrating to machine piece and bind a quilt only to have to hand stitch the ‘wrong’ side of the binding. I just couldn’t get it to look neat on the first quilt I made.

Then I stumbled across a great YouTube vid, which of course I now can’t find, which showed me Another Way. This is what you get at the end of it…

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All you do is make sure that when you sew on the binding to the top of the quilt you leave a raw inner edge which you can fold the binding over and meet the stitching on the other side – so make your seam just under half as wide as the binding.

Like this…
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Once you’ve machined on your binding (and done your fancy mitred corners, natch) fold over the binding to the underneath of the quilt and then simply lace the the edge of the binding through the seam. Like this…

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Clever huh!?

The eye burn half log cabin quilt

9 May

Oh hai.

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Yeah, I know. The last month was my first long absence since starting this blog. It all started when I trod on my camera card reader. Whoops…

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But then a bunch of stuff happened and I lost my mojo to be honest. Work was crazy, I got ill, Storm kept getting ill, a relative turned out to have cancer, and then an old friend died. I haven’t smiled quite as much as normal lately.

But! No more! Time to get the mojo back. Today is my friend’s wake, and I’ve been feeling, well, sad and weird, as you would.

So I decided today was also time for a new quilt.

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You know how there are things you want to do, but are scared to do them? This quilt was one of them. It’s BRIGHT. But, my now departed friend taught me some good lessons in the 13 years I knew her, and one of them was to go for what you want in life and not be afraid. She was pretty amazing that way.

A quilt might not seem like something you should be afraid of, but I’ve not done much more than sew squares together so far, so tackling a more complex method, with a heritage going back probably centuries, feels like a big step.

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And then there are those colours. I’ve been stockpiling fabrics and scraps for ages, to make a bright quilt, but didn’t have enough until someone very generously gave me a jelly roll a couple of weeks ago (and that’s on top of the one the girls at work gave me for my birthday – I mean, are they like buses or something?).

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It’s made up of fabric from Amy Butler’s Soul Blossoms range, which I was a bit over, to be honest, but cut into two and a half inch strips I like it much better, as it’s all about the impact of the colours and less about those very iconic patterns.

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This morning was also the first I had any time to myself in weeks so I just went for it, and got three and a bit blocks done. I am so excited about how they look.

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As I type, Storm is leaning on my right hand side, warming me to through to my very heart and I’ve just dashed out to grab some chocolate cakes out of the oven I’ve made for her to decorate later.

Slowly, the mojo is returning. I can tell life is going to feel strange and sad for a while yet. But that’s OK.

I may be gone sometime…

11 Apr

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Now I’ve written this title, I’m wondering whether alluding to the last known words of a fearless explorer facing certain death is entirely in good taste. Ah well.

Anyway, I have taken possession of The Sewing Machine (hurrah!) so forgive me if I hibernate a little.

I combined the trip with a 2 hour visit to Bath’s amazing Victoria Park playground to keep the wee girl happy, so I didn’t feel too guilty when I then carted her along to Husqvarna Studio to pick up my Janome XL601, complete with add-on quilting package (swoon).

The first thing I did (OK, the first thing, after wrestling with the bobbin winder and wrangling with the automatic needle threader), was to sew some ‘proper’ one-step buttonholes onto Storm’s Puppet Show dress.

I practised a lot first, which was just as well. Ahem. The best bit was when I tried to start a buttonhole with the feeddogs down, thus zig-zagging on the spot for several seconds before realisation hit, which led to me having to practically cut out the bobbin. Duh.

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I got the hang of it in the end. They aren’t perfect, but a damn sight quicker, and neater than any I’ve sewn by hand.

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The Machine is not top of the range by any stretch, but it has a few cute embroidery stitches, and I particularly like the one you can use to create a scalloped hem. Sweet!

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I feel nervous about getting rid of my old heavy-duty machine, which mum taught me to sew on, and I’ve had about 20 years. But I suspect a minimalist is not allowed two sewing machines by any stretch. Uh oh.

Lovely Easter things

8 Apr

Ooooo, it’s my birthday today. Hurrah! I must confess though, I’m not brilliant at celebrating my ‘big day’. It often falls around Easter, when people are on  holiday or with their families so in recent years I’ve gotten a bit half-hearted when it comes to rallying the troops for a big shin-dig.

Still, I can always enjoy the little things that make a birthday special. This year, its combination with Easter Sunday has meant lots of warnings in advance not to eat ‘too much chocolate’. When did we ever start worrying about that?!

My own indulgences are pretty simple. Some lovely flowers from the fantastico ladies at The Knitter and Simply Knitting (I am very lucky to work with such delightful, generous people)…

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A smidge of Tilda fabric remnant for another pass at Simplicity 2211, which I treated myself to yesterday at  Get Knitted (where we also had lots of delish cakes courtesy of Kat, whose birthday is tomorrow. Happy birthday Kat!).

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Buttons which came with the new issue of Mollie Makes that arrived yesterday. Mollie has great taste, and perfect timing…

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(And they match the fabric uncannily – although my camera seems to be implying otherwise – weird).

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‘Proper’ chocolate from the husband, who knows me too well by now (today is also our sixth wedding anniversary). This has candied orange peel in it. Yum.

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And a gorgeous vintage tin, which I plan to line to use for sewing kit.

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I’ve also had some lovely cards, and a beautiful fig candle from my dear friend Jo. Top work!

You may notice that this doesn’t seem like a lot of ‘stuff’ and that’s how I like it. My big present is, quite amazingly, a new sewing machine, which my lovely family have clubbed together to buy me, and should arrive on Tuesday.

I will be sorry to say goodbye to my old machine, which is pretty much the same age as me, and is starting to look a bit tired (no jokes please). I feel very disloyal getting rid of it, but, while it is perfectly functional as a basic machine, it has a lot of things that don’t work any more, and it also weighs about 50lb.

As well as sharing my birthday with our wedding anniversary, I’m sharing it with a celebration of all things chocolate, which makes it a little easier to keep the small person cheery when I’m being spoilt. I do hope you’re having a lovely time too! Happy Easter!

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Buttons. And a Lisette pattern review (Simplicity 2211)

2 Apr

Do you like buttons? Me, I LOVE me some buttons.

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I am quite restrained when it comes to collecting them. For ages my button collection fitted in an old Altoids tin. There are a few too many now to get in the tin, but I try to keep it reined in.

This week though, was time for a button splurge. After much procrastinating (waaaaaay too much stocking stitch for my liking) I finished my Chickadee cardigan this weekend.

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I’d already lined up some stunning buttons from The Makery Emporium, which has become my go to place for pretty Japanese painted wooden buttons. I bought nine of these large chintzy ones..

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…and also, some tiny ones with tropical looking orange flowers, to decorate a blouse I just finished in time for our mini heatwave.

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The blouse is by Lisette for Simplicity (pattern 2211, view E) and this was a dry run for some Liberty Tana Lawn which was too perfect to risk on a first attempt. It’s just as well I did the dry run – I managed to sew the collar on inside out (duh) and had to cut it off and bodge the neckline.

And then the sleeves turned out to be smaller than the armholes, which made it kind of hard to gather them in, as per the pattern – definitely a grading error as I followed all the seam allowances exactly. Luckily my lovely repro feedsack fabric was 130cm wide, not the standard 115cm, which meant I had a little spare, so I recut a new pair of sleeves two sizes larger and used those.

Voila…

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Shame about the ‘wasted’ fabric. It’ll go into a quilt one day. The blouse only needs a metre of 150cm wide fabric if you fancy making it (a little more if you use quilting width).

I do have some glorious vintage glass buttons, which I bought at the first Knit Nation. They are from L Nichols, a company set up by the daughter of buttonmaker Lionel Nichols to sell off her huge collection of buttons he made in his lifetime. She releases them in collections a couple of times a year. Each set is totally unique and priced accordingly. Ahem.

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Nearly two years on, they still haven’t found their perfect project. They nearly went on the feedsack shirt, but it just wasn’t quite right.

Their time will come…

And they say never meet your heroes…

23 Mar

I distinctly remember when I was in my early 20s watching Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler on a UK chat show.

Man, I’d always loved that band (yes, I know they are The Cheese). But seeing Tyler on TFI Friday, talking about women in a most unsatisfactory way – though Lord knows what I was expecting, put me Right Off.

And then there was the time I made an absolute fool of myself when I bumped into Noel Fielding (lovely) and Julian Barrat (less so) in Soho Square at the height of Mighty Boosh mania. You don’t need to know more than that.

I’m rambling. But because of the above, I was a little wary about meeting a more recent hero of mine – Jane Brocket.

Jane was on the Mollie Makes stand at the Stitch and Craft show at Olympia, where I was working at my day job for The Knitter. It was a perfect opportunity to say hello and have my copies of her books signed…

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Happily it was third time lucky for me. Not only was Jane absolutely lovely, she told me a little about her next two books, and her plans for some time off after six years of working solidy. Fair enough I think.

I didn’t get a picture with her because, if it were me, I wouldn’t like that at all. But as she was absolutely instrumental in my decision to take a chance on a new kind of career, it was great to pay a little homage, without any actual fawning/ grovelling involved.

While at the show I also finally permitted myself a Moda jelly roll (you can blame Jane for my ever growing quilting obsession)…

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And was also treated to a little yarn freebie by the utterly delightful Martin Storey (thanks Martin!)

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So tell me, who are your heroes?