Monday, 29 September 2008

Story so far

Story so far, originally uploaded by soja.

The cooler weather is making hand craft much more doable. I've mostly finished the outline, worked in holbein stitch with two strands of floss, over two strands of linen. I've left the lower trunk undone so it doesn't get worn and rubbed in the ring while I stitch the rest of the design.

To pull the sampler together, I've used the same filler stitch for all the leaves (I think this is the same as the original, there is a photo in the book, but no details of which filler stitches are used where). The rest of the strange fruits will all have a different filler stitch each. I'm going to work these with one or two strands, for a little variety in tone.

The rest of my brain is filled with gocco ideas and thoughts of teaching, classes start again on Wednesday.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

First Gocco Print

Well, I did it and the process is really easy, no problems, after reading maybe all the posts on the gocco group at flickr I was prepared for disaster. I'm used to labour intensive linocutting - this almost feels like cheating, and I'm intrigued by the detail that is possible, looking at the prints and hundreds of wedding invites posted to the flickr group.

I had delayed having a go, worried about wasting a master and bulbs (needed to make the master screen for printing). The Japanese company, Riso, has stopped producing the press and supplies are reported to being scarce. In the end I thought I should just stop deliberating and have a go. 

Friday was a quiet day at work, still raining, and I ended up spending time doodling. I guess rain is on my mind. On the way out of work on Friday night I photocopied the doodle and printed it out today.

And then couldn't stop! I'm not sure what to do with all the prints. I may never buy stationary again, I hope my friends don't get fed up of the image on every card and note they get from me from here on in. 

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Rain rain rain.

Rain, rain, rain. Not a bad thing. It's still warm, and this part of Spain needs the water. but it's strange. Three days in a row of rain and a spectacular thunder and lightning storm on Sunday. Over the last couple of years, it'd seemed that down here in the south-east there were only two seasons, summer and winter. Summer lasted, and then ended promptly more or less on the 31st October and winter began on 1st November, almost as if the weather looked at the calendar. I went from having nothing but a sheet on the bed to both layers of my four seasons quilt within a week. Perhaps this year there will be an autumn.

Jaffa is mesmerised by the rain falling and splashing on to the balcony and Lucky tries to shake himself dry in the middle of wet rainy walks. I think he likes the mud on his paws. The days are drawing in. September is a mixture of beginnings and endings. The academic year is about to start, new students, new books, new pencils, and at the same time winter nights are looming, the days are getting shorter, the end of the year approaches. Beginnings and endings.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Oh me oh my

Not even back teaching yet and look what is happening! Spent the weekend learning how to edit in imovies and then how to make dvds in idvd for work instead of doing things for me, although a little stitching got done.

Almost cooling down enough in the evenings to make me feel like knitting again.

Think I'll trace out a skirt pattern from 'Diana Moda' and order some decent interfacing so I'm good to go and get started when I can. Tomorrow is market day so maybe there will be some usable material around.

Still got to finish those Christmas presents too....

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Bits and pieces

Hmm, no photo today. Back to work this week, but not properly. It's the no-man's land of work. I have to be at school, but classes don't start until 1st October. A mixture of being busy and trying to look busy.

Still excited by the prospect of gocco-ing, just trying to get hold of some paper/card samples to print on. This week I hope. I also picked up a paper cutter at Lidl today and it seems to work really well. I'd bought a cheap cutter years ago and took it back, it was awful, just a stanley knife blade that ripped the paper, but this seems to cut cleanly. It also comes with a blade that perforates and a wavy blade. I think it'll be a big help cutting up paper for the gocco....

The blackwork sampler is coming along, most of the outline is stitched, I hope I'm not making it too small to work the filler stitches, I'm hoping that with 32 count linen I'll have the space I'll need.

I wore the blouse to work yesterday and I was really pleased with the fit and look, the day before I wore some linen drawstring trousers I'd sewn and it feels great wearing clothes that really fit well and are comfortable. I hadn't realised how different it would feel - I hadn't thought that the clothes I normally wear didn't fit...

Last note to self - that curry was delicious! Maybe the wine and coconut made it special? Hmm, the freshly ground coriander didn't hurt, and the mustard seeds - yum!

OK, that's it.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

New project - Blackwork

New project, originally uploaded by soja.

I've wanted to start this for years. I've completed several different types of samplers in the past, maybe even started one or two more, but never a blackwork sampler.

was really taken with this design, based on a really 1970s looking tree and weird fruit and birds. The original design is from my old Collins Complete Book of Needlecraft (1978,1981). I've changed the shape of the tree just a little and I'll get some technique help from The Complete Book of Needlecrafts introduced by Caroline Ollard (1983,1984).

I'm going to work the design on mulberry coloured Belfast linen (32 counts per inch) in black cotton. The linen is a much brighter colour than I had realised when I saw it on my mac on ebay, but no matter, I think it'll be fine.

This project should keep me busy for quite a while, I don't plan to rush it or work on it exclusively.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Felt tips as fabric markers

I saw these amongst all the back to school stationary displays last week and the washable bit caught my eye. I wondered if they could be used as fabric markers. I would have preferred something with a thinner tip, but these turbo tips were especially marked as being completely washable at 40º. Well, if they hadn't worked I could have always used them as felt tips for classroom displays and lesson prep. They were €2.99 for twelve, which makes them cheaper than pens sold as fabric markers - which I can't buy locally here. I use triangular blocks of tailors chalk, but this isn't always fine enough.

Anyway, as the blouse in the last post was going to be a practise version I used the grey marker and drew on the fabric. I ironed it too, wondering if this might change the washability of the marker...but I washed the blouse last night at 40º with my usual detergent and success! No marker, it's worked. The blouse is made from light-weight 100% cotton fabric, maybe on other material the results might be different and obviously it'd be no good for material that can't be washed at 40º I won't be using it for embroidery that I don't intend to wash, but generally anything I'm going to sew to wear is going to be machine washed so I think these will be a good cheaper alternative to fabric markers. Great!

Friday, 12 September 2008

More finished

Wey hey, first Burda magazine pattern finished - not bad as I had a Spanish edition and so was trying to follow the instructions in Spanish...

This came together pretty easily. I like the button loops, neck and sleeve binding and the overall style. I traced size 40 and added 2 cm to the back length. I also chose to finish all seams as well as I could either with false French seams, or binding (the armholes) etc instead of zigzagging them and I like this very much. Nuts, I know. Anyway, this will be a smartish blouse for going back to work.

NB The Spanish magazine version has a different cover and name - but the same patterns and pattern numbers as the international magazine. So this is blouse 103 from the August 2008 Nueva Burda or Burda World of Fashion.


Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Underneath it all

Oooffph. Ok, now I need to make a note on what I've been doing. First, I completed my first ever bra. This had been put aside a month ago because I was having a lot of trouble sewing through the elastic, slippery materials. I think part of the problem was also that I didn't really like the materials. 
As it was my first go, I had thought I'd be better off ordering a kit with all the necessary materials to go with the pattern. I ordered the Elan Bra 511 pattern and kit from Sew Sassy in the US ( 

My first problem, almost immediately, was that I couldn't identify which materials were which. The materials supplied in the kit were not labelled and the pattern stated that I should have tricot and lycra. I emailed Sew Sassy, and got a quick polite response, and then a day later the answer. Good customer service, and generous amounts of the two main fabrics. Unfortunately, to me the tricot and power net (they had substituted for the lycra, which is what had confused me I think) were a bit shiny and 'cheap bra' looking to me, not really anything I would chose.

Second, I found sewing the elastic to the power net difficult, and unpicking impossible.  I had to scrap my first two attempts. I was using special stretch needles.

Well, I managed to solve the second problem. I just placed tissue paper between the fabric and the machine, under the elastic or whatever, and no problems. Great! After that, the bra came together pretty quickly and looks fine, although the fit is not perfect. The centre band does not sit against my body, so now I have to work out how to solve that.

As I had plenty of spare tricot (the shiny slippy stuff) and power net (stretchy, rubbery mesh) I decided to practise and have another go. This time I took apart my favourite, and too old to wear anymore, bra and made a pattern from each piece, noting down what stitches were used and in what order I undid the bra, so that I could reverse the order for making a new one. This information from Cindy Elan was very useful (hhtp://

I also took the underwires and casing from another worn out bra. I made up one side of the bra (one cup, side, back etc) and am really surprised that the fit seems to be pretty good! So I'm going to continue with this. I'm also looking round the net for some nicer looking materials in small quantities. I have seen a pattern for making bras from woven non-stretchy materials (Kwiksew 2489), so might consider buying one as it would give me a wider choice of fabrics and I prefer cotton stuff anyway.

However, then a parcel of fabrics arrived, including the corduroy that I needed to finally finish my lingerie was abandoned! Think that will have to be a separate post.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Bean rice bag sacky paper-weight things

Phew it seems to be getting more humid here. I have had the fan on in the flat while cutting out and sewing - but finding that I had pattern pieces flying here are these things to help keep the paper on the table. I was inspired by a post at "A Spoonful of Sugar" (, Lisa had made some much bigger and elegantly tassled ones to hold the pages in her books down. 

Well these are a little smaller. I cut out an equilateral triangle with 10cm sides from a piece of card, drew round this on the fabric, and used the line as a sewing line. Four triangles for each triangular pyramid. I then stuffed them with rice or lentils or couscous and that's it. Quick and simple. I did make the mistake of throwing one in the air in sight of now I have to hide them from him, because he thinks they are really interesting. They'd make good toys for children too, for throwing and catching games, obviously, and learning to juggle or just balancing them on your head...

(Um, yup, I did change the photo. I hate seeing horrible photos taken late at night under electric light. I know this isn't much better, but it's enough of an improvement. ;-))

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Little T-shirts for a little friend

So this stabilser thing then. It works - all sewn on cotton knit and no puckers. Great. I used a stabilser called "Avalon" by Madeira, purchased from Jaycotts ( £4 for 5m. It is a transparent fabric that dissolves in water, but isn't ironed on. I chose it mostly because it said it was environmentally friendly and that it was ideal for sewing onto knits and for machine embroidery - exactly what I wanted to use it for. I had wondered if it would work, I thought I might be better off with an iron on stabilser, but it worked really well, the machine didn't seem to object at all, no chewing of fabric or tension problems. I used some medium light cotton for the appliques, shapes made up by me. The "J" because the little boy's name begins with a J ;-) and the bus because his father is a little bit bus crazy. I don't think the inside is rough - I did line the sun with a bit of light knit material as I thought that the gold thread was a bit scratchy, so hopefully this will be fine. I bought the t-shirts, size 18-24 months, from Eroski.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Sausage and Apple casserole

OK, bad lighting because it's dark and this was taken in the kitchen.

I must write down what I did while I remember, if I remember, this was absolutely delicious - I think because of the long cooking time, between 1 and 2 hours somewhere. My little, less than sociable, nervy young kitty decided that she actually wanted to curl up on my lap and I was loathe to disturb her. Funny little thing.

Ah, but um, yes, back to the point. Slice one smallish red onion (think that a normal onion would be fine in this, but only had red left) fry in olive oil with 5 0r 6 small cloves of garlic. Thinly slice (on the diagonal) 4 carrots (thin and youngish), peel core and dice one eating apple and thickly slice 3 sage and apple sausages (see Sunday's post). Add to pan. Add about a teaspoon of yellow mustard seeds, ground mixed pepper, 1/2 - 1 teaspoon rosemary, thyme and oregano. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric. Chop and add two big tomatoes Fry until a little brown. Add 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, 2/3 tin of dry white wine, 1-2 tins of water and about 1 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas. Add a pinch of brown sugar and 2 stock cubes (vegetable, low salt). Add two bay leaves. Bring to boil and then simmer. Yum yum yum, very simple, and pretty similiar to lots of things I cook when feeling lazy, but this just seemed to taste really rich and um, yes, delicious - thanks to Jaffa the cat for her part in the proceedings.

Monday, 1 September 2008

A little something for me

My New Bag, originally uploaded by soja.

She tried a big bag, but it was too big, she tried a little bag, and it was too small, but she tried a medium-sized bag and it was just right! Well, ok, that's not how the story goes and I'm not Goldilocks.

I wanted a bag that was big enough that I didn't need to transfer my money into a smaller purse, but still small enough that it didn't look like I was going to work or away for a weekend!

It's based on a free downloadable pattern from Ottobre (

I made a few changes - obviously the fabric. The blue bottom fabric is a thickish cotton from Ikea and the top fabric (also used as the lining fabric) is something I picked up from the market. It looks sort of like blue denim on one side and silky grey on the side I chose as the right-side. I used heavy interfacing, but I'm still not completely happy with this, will definitely try fleece or something next time.

I changed the straps, I made them longer than the pattern so that I could wear them over my shoulder. I also changed the construction. Ottobre tell you to interface them, stitch them right-sides together and then turn right-side out. This sounded like it would be a near impossible task, especially as I had lengthened them. So I folded the seam allowances under and stitched on the right-side, then folded again and stitched again. Not such a smart finish, but I think it looks ok.

I also added an internal zippered pocket, like for Allison's bag (using this tutorial: This went slightly better this time, I understood what I was supposed to be doing and the finished result is a little neater. Anyway, this is no reflection on the excellent tutorial - the wonkiness is all my own work. Practise, practise....or pockets without zips..

Instead of velvet ribbon I used some brown hem tape and black ric-rac, this way all the colours I wear are more or less represented on the bag so it should go with everything....

I'm the toughest girl I know

I'm pleased with the bag, I estimated the dimensions and handle lengths, based on bags I already own. I wanted this to be a very light simple, unlined bag that could be folded up and taken along in another bag for groceries. However I didn't want any raw edges, so I used french seams and folded the handles carefully with the top edge so everything is all neat and lovely. Fortunately the sewing machine didn't seem to mind all the layers, I guess as this isn't furnishing fabric, poor little machine. It's plain medium weight cotton from Ikea. On the front I added some fabric paint direction - my first attempt. Hmm, well, you know I was going for a childlike style.....This bag is just a useful fun present (I hope) to put another present in...also to be sewn and yet to be created. 1st September and hey - the Christmas gift making is going at a decent pace. :-D

NB, I saw this wording a year or so ago on something or other, a t-shirt in a shop, or maybe a bag, and I liked it. I think the recipient will too.