Time to say goodbye…

My youngest is about to make the move up to secondary school so it’s time to say goodbye to his primary. I pretend I won’t miss it, but I will; I’ll especially miss my daily snippet of adult conversation (I once read a blog post of someone who also works from home and they wrote about coming across as a little crazy when they finally got into the ‘real world’ by over talking and being a bit loony with enthusiasm about being out of the house and around people – I can relate!).DSC_0060We’re ready, though. The enthusiasm has gone now for all the little necessities of primary school; I’ll be happy not to have to magic a costume out of thin air with no notice to be worn for just one day, and I dream of not doing the school run (although with two spectrum children that won’t be possible for a good while yet, in fact, it’ll get worse as I’ll have a double pick-up – they will be in two different schools – with daily motorway drive then a stressful drive directly through town, between the schools).DSC_0009One thing we stopped doing ages ago was making teachers gifts. We started off well but then dropped into the habit of adding money to the class joint pot (actually, we used to do both). Looking through old photos whilst cleaning out my library I’m amazed at how much effort we went to, so here are a few (click on the titles to go to the relevant posts):DSC_0241(when were my kids EVER this cute!!!)

2010: Strawberry Jam and Lavender Birds


2011: Blackcurrant Jam, Little Birds and BagsDSC_0026

(Jam recipe is here)

2012: Apple Lavender BagsDSC_0012I can’t find a post for these but I remember I embroidered messages on the back of them for each teacher.

2013: Flower BroochesDSC_0044DSC_0050

2014: Flower Brooches and Linen MiceDSC_0066

The Christmas ones…

2010: Santas


2013: Chocolates and Little BirdsDSC_0049DSC_0054

There will have been other Christmas gifts but I can’t find them in my photos and I’m getting vertigo from scrolling on the laptop (not kidding, sadly).

As anyone with kids will know, the last few weeks of school are crazy, especially when in year 6 and it is definitely with mixed emotions that we will be saying ‘goodbye’.

Wolves and Kitty-cats!

School charity day and yet another opportunity for me to try and weasel out of making costumes for the boys to wear, in this case, a call for animal theme of their choice (I suggested a stoat, as F made a fab stoat mask some years ago for topic homework that is still stuck to his noticeboard in his room, but he was having none of it).

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 16.19.16

Under pressure, I agreed to make masks (to be worn with their own clothes as the pay-off).  F asked for a wolf and C a ‘kitty-cat’.  I forgot about it until the day before, when having a lovely ladies lunch, but luckily I remembered I had this pdf download from oxeyedaisey

DSC_0231I used a mix of linen and tweed, as that’s what I had in stock and totally ignored the making instructions (which I have no doubt are brilliant) and went with the same method I used to make skeleton masks back in 2010 (see here), ie layering fabrics and interfacing and using various machine stitches to attach them together.

DSC_0162I thought they would be quick.  They weren’t.  To be fair, this was mainly time taken up with stupid things like hunting for fabric and elastic, but I got there in the end and I was quite pleased with the results.  The cat is just the wolf pattern adapted, shorter ears and snout and added whiskers as C was very keen to get whiskers.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 18.23.29On a completely random note, Grimwith House came up for sale a few weeks back.  It may already have sold, I don’t even look any more, as I get little flutters of want just at the idea.  I’ve been hankering after this derelict property for many, many years, wondering why it was unlived in and unloved….it once belonged to my relatives.  I could buy it but never afford to do it up.

Ah well, I’m sure someone will make a beautiful home of it and I’ll jealously try not to stare next time I’m walking up in the Dales 🙂

Back Camera

Guinea Pigs…

I keep starting to write blog posts, but then never get around to finishing them or I don’t get the photos together to support the writing (and goodness knows, my writing does need supporting 😉 ).  In fact, I spent some of yesterday writing a bullet point post just to get my news together, but it sounded so moany and depressing I’ve scrapped it (I must have seen the new moon through glass again as I’ve never had such a crappy run of bad luck).  Let’s forget all that and talk cute fluffy animals instead.

boysguineapigsThe boys got a guinea pig each for their Birthday.


Oh my goodness, how have I missed knowing how adorable little piggies are?!  I had hamsters growing up but these little critters top them by far.

(I had planned to take nice arty photos for the post, but I’ll never get this published if I try that, plus iPhoto has totally changed and I can no longer edit the way I could, that’s going to be a problem, I might even have to learn Photoshop properly!).


Sadly, Nuzzle died after only one week 😦  No idea why, by the time I took him to the vets (I noticed he wasn’t quite as perky as he had been on the Saturday, but it was clear by Sunday that he really wasn’t well and I managed to get an appointment  in the store we bought him from) he was dehydrated and they advised me he was in pain and it was kindest to have him put to sleep.


Big shout out here for our local Pets at Home now, they paid for the vets bill, and allowed C to choose another piggie.  They were also amazing with advice and help when we went to originally choose a pet.  Incidentally, considering the reason we chose guinea pigs was partly because C couldn’t stand the idea of a pet dying on him after only a couple of years, and piggies live for about 8, he wasn’t nearly as upset as I was at the demise of Nuzzle.  Oh and the new guinea pig is named ‘Cuddles’…..I might have to intervene in future pet naming!!


I can’t think of guinea pigs without thinking of Miss Bumbles and her needle felted creatures.


I’ve shown all of these photos before, but Ruth’s work is spot on and well worth another mention.DSC_0043 DSC_0029

Guinea pigs also make me think of Racey Helps, who I know I also mention a lot on this blog,

DSC_0161mainly because of ‘Guinea Pig Podge’….oh how I wanted to call one of the new little furries Podge.


This is one of the few of his illustrated books where the animals don’t wear clothing, but it’s the one I remember best from when I was a child and Gran used to read his stories to us.

I am busy sewing, things for this summer, and also for next winter (trying to get ahead before my first long holiday as a single parent) I really need the shop to pay, it has to bridge the gap between part-time work plus the resulting cost of childcare and remaining flexible for the boys and at home and sewing, but I’m finding it a hard balance plus between that and all the other jobs that need my attention there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  I think that might deserve a blog post all of its own.

Right, off to do a quick animal cuddle before cracking on with the day 🙂

Tudor Boy….6?

I am pretty sure I never published this post showing the (final?) outing of the Tudor Boy costume and as it’s the end of the school year, now seems a good time to finish it and press the button.  I’m afraid these entries are often more for my own record than anything else, so you might want to skip this one…oh and if you’re waiting for shop sewing there will be so many posts in a row in a few weeks time, you’ll be sick of them all!!

DSC_0253 DSC_0054DSC_0020DSC_0018Back in March The Tudor Boy costume came out again.  I think this is about the 6th time it has been worn by the boys, it really was a good make but is definitely getting a little too tight now (I originally made it for my oldest when he was in reception, as above), although it might get another outing yet.

DSC_0016See how happy C is about wearing it…again…he moaned sooooo much that I ended up getting quite cross.  He’s quite particular and couldn’t get past the fact that is was 1666 History Day and not actually Tudor Day so he figured the costume was wrong, I struggled to get him to understand that this outfit is fine to wear for both.  You can see the original post for the costume here…..I am sorry it’s doesn’t really offer any help in drafting your own pattern, I get endless emails on the back of it asking if I have one (a pattern, that is) and I feel terribly guilty explaining I just made one especially for my own kid but have no record of it and if I’m honest, it’s to complicated for me to attempt to explain how to draft one to share on-line.

DSC_0146Also early this year, F needed a costume for the school play, and knowing how well the Tudor one has done (and knowing a similar style will be needed again in the coming couple of years) I made a kind of generic ‘ye olden days’ tunic and shirt.  Annoyingly F has had a growth spurt and I’m afraid it might not even last for the next two years, despite my making it a  bit large.

DSC_0020 DSC_0022I’ve been sorting all my online photos and it’s been really good to have them nicely filed.  In the ‘school’ folder from this year I also have ‘bad hair day’.  Here is F rocking a mohican.  What a moody monster 🙂  I have no idea where he gets the grumpy attitude from *ahem*.

DSC_0016And nonchalantly strangling his brother.  Says it all really.

charlie australian dayIn case you are mistaken in thinking that I always make costumes for the boys, here’s a more recent one,  C for Australia Day – G’day Folks! – Hat with corks, boomerang and kangaroo in pocket and beach wear…no stereotyping there then!


Any my fav bought costume of this year, a cloak and tie for F for Harry Potter Day, along with chop stick wand.  Job done.  Actually this was a great buy, it’s an adult size (I have learnt to buy adult sizes for F in fancy dress costumes as he’s very tall and I find the cheap stuff comes up small) the cloak is actually quite well made.  It’s well cut and stitched, plus fully lined, there is no way I could have made one for the £15 it cost…there was a fear it might self-combust due to the synthetic fiber content but otherwise it was great.

That concludes my quick round-up of some of this year’s school costumes, I wonder what we’ll need for 2015?

You Win Some…

And sadly, some you lose 😦DSC_0149

I buy a lot of my vintage clothing from the US and I’m lucky in that it mostly works out.  This 1950’s dress cost a pretty penny and was described as ‘excellent’ in its (vintage) condition but sadly it’s not.  I had already left positive feedback for the seller, one I’ve used many times, but when I came to give it a good iron and decided if it needs a dry clean, I noticed loads of badly mended holes, including some patched that actually rather ruin the dress.  Shame.  We’ll just have to chalk that one down to experience.


On a happier note, whilst perusing the net for Chie Mihara shoes (I do this often, I’m afraid) I found these beauties on one of those aggregated shopping sites, one last pair left, in my size for a silly low price (for Chie Mihara shoes) and I went for it.  They came from Saks NY and were bought using the Borderfree system where all taxes are pre-paid in advance.  It was  a thoroughly pleasant shopping experience and they arrived in record time.


Another lovely bit of shopping, these cosmetic bags using vintage tapestry bought from the Etsy shop EllaOsix.  I saw them on the fabulous blog modflowers and couldn’t resist buying a couple (one is for a gift and has been squirreled away).  How did I manage before internet shopping existed – ha ha!  I joke, but I pretty much never go clothes shopping for myself in actual shops, I have no patience for it and know what I like and tend to wait for bargains on-line. 

What else?  Oh World Book Day.  This year we had to provide a hat with an Alice in Wonderland theme, I’ll be honest and say we cobbled this together at the weekend, really very quickly using some cheap hats bought on Amazon.  Half the kids in school were wearing top hats with card decorations.


The addition of some Linen Cat bits was purely because they were to hand, F wanted some red roses on his and C needed a ‘doormouse’ for his teapot (which is a sneak peek of a design for next winter).   Job done.  Only ‘Tudor Day’ and school play costumes to go.

Lastly this little lady is giving me a run for my money.  She’s been back and forth to the vets due to weight loss and sickness.  So far they can’t find what’s wrong with her and as she finds going there traumatic there is a limit to what I’ll expose her to.  I can feel her time is coming an end, she’s 16 and I’m slightly dreading her leaving, for now she just follows me around all day sitting as closely as she can.


Since I wrote this (a couple of days ago) Smelly has perked right up!  I think it’s the sunshine, perhaps she was just suffering from SAD and needed to roll in dust baths and stalk around the garden in the long grass 🙂

The Vikings Are Coming…

I just found this post, half written from back in July of last year (now that sounds odd….but hurrah for it being 2014!  I’m ready for a fresh New Year), so figured I’d finish it and finally get it published….

Recently, Felix had to dress as a Viking for the day, for a school project.  As the Tudor Boy costume I made has been worn so extensively, by both my boys and children of friends, I decided to make a quick tunic in the hope it’ll also be well used.


It wasn’t in any way historically correct, although I did reference some original patterns for guidance and was made quickly using linen and trim I already had in stock.  Above you can see the basic shapes (this is half the tunic, obviously, so there are double side triangle pieces and the rest is shown folded).


F had chosen to make a sword for his project homework….out of wood, at his insistence.  I was thinking of cardboard but he was very keen to use wood so I figured he’s old enough to use a knife and cut balsa, although I did worry he might lose a finger at one point.  Actually, what I was really thinking was maybe doing one of the written homework options, but F was having none of it.


He takes his posing very seriously doesn’t he?!  He worked hard on sanding and painting his sword and had fun hammering in brass furniture tacks for rivets.


We just bodged the rest of the costume with my belt, his trousers and some bits of linen tied roughly around the lower leg, partly to hide his school shoes.  Oh and the helmet was made from cardboard and paper mache.


If you’re thinking I make this effort every time the boys have to dress up for school, I don’t, only on occasions when I have time and I know that what I make will be worn again.   C recently needed a Victorian boy outfit, I resisted the urge to get out all my original stuff (of which I have lots, and plenty for men/boys) or to make a nice tweed suit and instead cobbled together the usual ‘working lad’ outfit.  I didn’t even make the hat (which I had planned to) as this one cost £7 and to be honest, it’s actually quite nice quality tweed, I probably couldn’t have made one for that money.


I like that both the boys have taken a quirky interest in how they choose to dress themselves.  Here, for Boxing Day (is it bad to admit that they stayed in their pj’s all day Christmas Day?!! – I didn’t, I should add, I dresses up including curling my hair and putting make-up on – go me!) they dressed themselves.  F has taken to wearing my Dad’s old school blazer, I’m trying not to be precious about it but can’t help reminding him it is very old and needs to be treated nicely.  C is very particular about what he wears and currently favours ‘smart’ clothing with, ideally, a Dickie bow (and usually a cardi and shirt with EVERY button done up).  I leave them to it.  They are always in need of a haircut.

Oh and the dog C is clutching is by Sally Nencini, I have a footstool of her’s to photograph and mention at some point.


My other reason for finally publishing this post is that I just treated myself to some new books, including this fabulous one, ‘Creating Historical Costume’ by Elizabeth Friendship.  She was the head of my degree course and taught me to pattern cut, so the book is brilliant for me, as it’s a process of pattern drafting that I already know quite well.  Still, I totally recommend it to anyone interested in cutting their own period clothing patterns, it really is a great guide.


Whilst I remember, another period pattern book I love is ‘The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Dress’ which is also written by someone who went to my college, so again, it’s all processes I already know but it’s such a great book, I wish I’d bought it before I had to make the Tudor costume for F!

That’s it.  I’m easing slowly into the new year due to a stinking cold, but I’m determined not to let it beat me so I’m pretending it’s not happening and just making sure there’s a box of tissues permanently to hand.  I hope you all had a lovely time over the festive season and are also enjoying the start to the new year – let’s hope it’s a good one!

Tudor Boy Revisited…(and other costumes)


Back in January 2011, I made a Tudor boy’s costume for F, for school.  I blogged about it here and it is one of the most visited posts on my blog.  I remember grumbling quite a bit at the time about the idea of providing an outfit to be worn for just one day (and to be absolutely fair, there were lots of suggestions from the school about cobbling one together from jogging bottoms tucked into long socks etc) before deciding to just get on with it, which has more than proved it’s worth, as I had hoped, and the outfit comes out at every possible opportunity.


Both my boys tend to be quite tall for their ages (due to a 6′ 5″ husband, probably) and I  made the original costume quite long (but slim fitted, in keeping with the time), knowing I would need it again a year later – here F is in 2012, for his second Tudor Day at school.


Since then the costume has been used frequently, at least twice as a pirate costume for parties,  even once with the above mask (from the boys Halloween skeleton outfits) to make a ‘ghost pirate’,


and most recently for C to wear for his first school Tudor Day.


Although his favourite bit is the un-Tudor like bag, which he kept his tissues in.  Bless.


Another bit to get regularly recycled are the capes from the boys vampire outfits


Here being enthusiastically (he was a lot happier than he looks, I promise, he just doesn’t do posing in the same was as F) modeled by C, who had a magic party to go to last year.


The only outfit that hasn’t been worn again, is F’s Messy Monster one (from Okido magazine), made for World Book Day in 2011.  Shame, as I like this the most.


Which brings me neatly back to today, also World Book Day and two happy little boys in cobbled together Tom outfits from Beast Quest.  My boys are quite particular and F, especially, always wants very exact details….I may have myself to blame for this, from past years, but these days I have less enthusiasm I’m afraid, and I try to find the quickest efficient solution, so roll out Tudor boy again!  If you are looking at this photo and thinking – well they aren’t bad – wait, you can’t see the shields, which are rubbish, but hey, they are only for one day….or not, perhaps I can stretch out Beast Quest Tom for a second year?…maybe 😉

I’m still here..and summer collection…

Really I am.  I know I’ve been kind of absent but I think, from my blog reading (which I am still behind on), that this seems to be the case generally in ‘blogland’.  I have been very distracted with family life; I’ve found myself busy with decorating, gardening and being a Mum, plus we have just spent half term in Berlin (more in that another time), both boys have had birthdays and M is about to go away for nearly 2 months to the US with work, meaning I will not get to sleep past 6am (if I’m lucky) in the mornings for a very long time.  I feel tired.

Although I haven’t been sewing all that much, and when I have it’s mainly been blinds for my sister, I have sneaked in a few hours here and there to complete my Summer collection.  I’ve found in the last couple of years that working a loose series of collections through the seasons works really well for me (I’ve been trying to create some Galleries on my website to view past designs), I tend to take a colour theme, from a fabric or picture or just the colours from the landscape and garden and try to change my core shop products to match.

For this summer, I knew early on that I wanted to use my love of Racey Helps work as an influence, I have a number of postcards tucked onto my pinboard and I’ve talked about Racey Helps before.  He tends to work in a set colour palette and I love the bold, bright but natural colours that he uses, they really do remind me of my childhood, I also really love the extensive use of nature in his work and who can resist animals in clothing!

I started some new lavender bags, little birds and a re-stock of other favourites some time ago, but it has taken me a really, really long time to get any of them finished.  First up are a new batch of Little Birds; these, I think, are my favourite of the little birds so far, there is something about the colours, especially with the bright wooden beads that really does make me nostalgic, they make me smile when I look at them.

I would have liked (and still might) to have made a mobile from these, ideally with a nice blue bird in there as well, but for now, they have been mounted and wrapped in their cello bags and are finally listed here.

I need to do a big Folksy shop update.  I’m undecided what to do here, I’ve rather neglected my Folksy shop recently, in all honestly I don’t sell very much there, I mostly sell (and have from the very beginning) much more from my own website and with the new fees and selling structure I need to have a good look and decide if it still works for me.  I find listing in general a chore and splitting stock etc between sites only adds to the work.  The other consideration is what do I get back from Folksy in return for the selling and listing fees?  I love being part of a British selling community (and it’s why I opted for Folksy not Etsy in the first place) but I think it’s very easy to get lost in the mass of sellers and I have noticed it’s aways the same ones that appear in promotional Folksy ‘stuff’ such as the christmas newspaper.  I do think to be fair, this probably says more about my lack of effort to get involved, rather than Folksy itself, I rarely take part in the discussion boards, but I do wonder what I am getting back in return for my fees.  Decisions, decisions.

Finally, I hope to spend my first week ‘home alone’ decorating so I’m not sure just how much time I’ll get for writing posts, although I do have some nearly ready to publish.  The plan is, get the house sorted (I breath so much easier in a tidier space) and then sew, sew, sew and sleep as much as I can, when I can.  We’ll see how it goes 🙂

Couldn’t resist a photo of one of my recent birthday boys, I’ve only just managed to get his thank you cards done, better late then never.  Notice my rather dyslexic (I assume if you read my blogs often you might have noticed I can neither type nor spell) first version, lucky I spotted that before I printed them all out!

Batman and Vampire Mice…

I have finally finished my last sewing project – hurrah!

Last night I quickly sewed up the cape for Vampire Mouse, which I have been trying to work on in secret whilst the boys are around.  This is more difficult than it sounds as my studio also has the spare bed in it and the boys like to ‘hang out’ there (it’s and old double brass Victorian thing) and watch tv (it’s the only other room in the house with a telly in it) plus M has made it his convalescence bed whilst resting his shoulder and ribs….I can’t lie I will be very excited to have it back to myself once everyone is back at school and work.

Anyhow here we are, Batman Mouse as requested by C when I refused to give up one of the new Pirate Mice I made for the shop.

and Vampire Mouse for F, both to be stuffed in the top of their stockings.  I have explained that I will leave them out for Santa to include in their gifts.

M and I just had a laugh that they will complain straight away that the details are wrong.  F is very specific about his ideas and likes to over think things, for instance he demanded dripping blood from the teeth of the vampire prompting a hasty bit of additional embroidery from me and as I was selecting fabric for batman cape there was talk of jet packs and ‘pointy bits on the arms’.  They are soooooo excited already, I think we’ll have to start counting down the hours soon 😉

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

Boys Messenger Bags…

This is to be a quick post as in half an hour I shall be wrapped up warm and singing carols in the school playground.

Thanks for all your lovely comments and get wells from the last post (I will reply to comments when I have a mo), I am feeling much better and today for the first time in weeks I have been busy in the studio sewing.  This is partly, I admit that I have zero time left to finish up any secret gifts for the boys so I have favoured sewing over housework….which let’s face it, I’d probably do anyway.

A while ago now I read this fantastic post by Zoe of Scented Sweetpeas with the most adorable linen nature satchel she had made for her daughter and I instantly felt inspired to make the boys a bag each for Christmas, like many mums I often end up as the family mule and I think encouraging the boys to sometimes carry their own things on outings is a great idea.  Zoe’s bag is lovely, I especially like her idea to use a laminated lining as both my boys are a bit messy and being able to wipe the inside is a great idea.

After coming up with some designs of my own based on past bag making, a hunt around the internet and a good think about what the boys requirements are I settled on using a pattern for a messenger bag from the book ‘little things to sew’ by Oliver +S.  I figured the boys need pockets and ideally an adjustable shoulder strap as they seem to grow inches practically every day and this fitted the bill perfectly.  It’s rare for me to sew from patterns but this seemed so right it was an obvious choice to use it.  After a little tweet about what materials to use, I dyed some of my linen union that has been sitting around in a box for ages and borrowing Zoe’s fantastic idea ordered some oil cloth for the linings.

For the straps I bought some heavy cotton webbing, in the pattern you stitch your own but I figured the boys are going to be rough on them so I wanted something strong and durable and I liked the idea of the contrast of textures and colours.  The bag in the book uses contrasting binding which I think would work quite well but as I was unsure of the ‘decoration’ I might add to the front, I decided to use a similar colour from my ready made cotton bias-binding stash.

I also didn’t bother with the front pocket flaps, I plan to make a version for myself in tweed (of course!) and then I will put them in but for the boys I preferred the idea of leaving them off and the pockets very accessible.  Luckily I had the entire bags stitched up except for the front main flap which I’d left unstitched to I could add some personalisation, before we all got ill.  I simply couldn’t decide what to do there, I had originally planned monster faces with gnashing teeth, but the boys are growing up fast and I wanted to make something they wont tire of too easily and with a more grown-up feel.

In the end I decided on stripes and their names.  I have rushed this morning to finish and hide them and in doing so they are not as ‘perfect’ as I would like.  The appliqued names were difficult to do, as I had the bags already made up I had to maneuver the entire bag under the machine which was quite difficult and the final binding around the outside could have been neater but on the whole I am very pleased.  I also forgot to add some D-rings and snaps for attaching ‘things’ which is a shame.

Right, must dash as I don’t want to miss seeing the kids sing, I actually prefer it to the nativity play, it’s nice to have all the school together and the parents joining in, who knows, if I carry on feeling so well I may even go for it tonight and have my first glass of (mulled) wine for some weeks 🙂