No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Show and tell

All my life I have learned from books.  At school and afterwards, to figure out life, I have turned to books to explain.  I trust words.  Written words in particular.  It's no coincidence that I should choose as my first craft project to spell out words in fabric!

So, when I want to know how to do something new, my instinct is to buy a book.  When I took up photography a few years back, I bought shelves full of books about technique, and bought beautiful photography books for inspiration.  I took a writing class last year, and another pile of books sat by my bed.  I thought, and still do, that by reading about what motivates writers, what gets them to sit down at their computers every day in front of a flashing cursor,  some of that motivation might seep into me.

Now, I am discovering that this crafting business is a bit different.  I can read how to crochet chain stitch, but how much better to be shown how to crochet, as here.

But I have not quite kicked the habit.  I have been leafing through this over the weekend and  it's absolutely lovely.
Forgive the dodgy photography - taken under lamplight but the illustrations are too lovely not to give you an idea.  

And the book is full of step-by-step instructions on how to make everything from a simple apron to winter curtains.  And lots of helps with seams and other things that novices like me find so tricky.

And fab drawings and photos to show you how lovely an egg cosy can be (who knew?)
I bought the book on impulse last year.  I had no idea why.  I didn't even tell Mr. P about it.  I sneaked it into the house and shoved it onto the top shelf like a dirty mag because I couldn't quite admit that I might be the kind of person that would want to sew.  But that was before I saw the cloth letters and the woman in Peter Jones helped me pick out some fabric.  She told me a story about when she first got married and she wanted to learn how to make a cake.  Whenever her husband went out for the afternoon, she would get out a recipe book and follow it slavishly.  She said she must have made half a dozen flops before she had a cake that she was prepared to show her husband.  "Just practice", she told me.  "You'll be fine."

When I got home, I knew exactly where I would go for my first lesson.  A book.

And even as I write this, I know I am distracting myself with words from the fact that I have not yet learned how to make my first granny square.  This is where I've got to so far.

Somehow, 'granny rhomboid' doesn't have the same cozy ring to it...


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Are buttons male?

Whenever I buy something new, I tend to hang on to the little packets of buttons that come with the garment.  For ages, I kept these packets in a battered old tin that at some point had got squashed in one of my many moves so that the lid didn't sit right and was always bursting open.  And it wasn't as though I ever actually remembered that I had the packets whenever a button came loose.  The tin and its content just sat neglected in a corner of my bookcase.  So, last weekend I succumbed to the obvious and decanted all the little packets into a glass jam jar.  (I love jam jars).  I didn't have a pretty Bonne Maman checkered-lid jar to hand, so had to make do with Frank Cooper's marmalade.

The exercise was like a trip through my wardrobe of the last few years.  Long forgotten cardigans and dresses that I now don't have and must have given away to charity at some point.   But they make for quite a pretty button collection.

And I came across this label which I just can't throw away.

But I have to say, I was surprised that buttons are in fact male.  Not sure why, or if that says more about me than the man who made the label, but (to the extent that I had thought about it at all) I would have said they were female.

What do you think?  Buttons - male or female?


Friday, January 28, 2011

Failing better

I fully intended to spend today practicing my crochet and maybe even making my first granny square.  But I woke up this morning thinking about my 'M' and felt my conviction failing me.  Maybe I'd bitten off too much with the Merry Christmas project.  After all, I haven't a clue what I'm doing and the idea of cutting out thirteen more letters, stitching them and working out how to turn them inside out was suddenly quite a daunting prospect.  And I have three Rs to make.  Three Rs.  How am I going to do that?  How do you turn an R inside out?  (I know - these should be my biggest problems in life...)

So, there was nothing for it but to get on with it.  And this is the result.

I know.  Not an R, but not bad.  And it took only the morning rather than the day and a half the M took.  So I am learning.  Good.
And it's more or less the same size as the M.  I think they look quite sweet together.  (Even if I know I'll end up making two Ms when the time comes.

And as for the Rs, Mr. P came up with the obvious next step.  Do the easier letters first.

Crochet tomorrow.  Or not.  We'll see.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow on snow

It has snowed.  And snowed.  And snowed some more.

And the ice has come down on the river from Canada.  The first year we lived here I thought the river had frozen over, but apparently not.

I am taking a couple of days off work.  I should be doing all sorts of admin (we're trying to sell a flat and buy a house at the moment), but instead I have made berry crumble.  Perfect for a day like today.

 And you've got to love a diet that allows for treats like this, even if it is on the knitted knickers side of worthy puddings (think oat flakes, sugar substitute and wholemeal flour), but it tastes delicious.

And I've been learning chain stitch from Granny Squares 101 here .  I bought the loveliest wool in Purl Soho last weekend.  And the woman there actually pretended to believe me when I told her with a straight face that I was going to make granny squares.  She was kind enough not to point out my ignorance when I asked for a crochet hook and she had to guide me through the sizings.

So, now I am the proud owner of five skeins (if that the right word) of Cascade Yarns 220 100% Peruvian Highland wool and a size H hook with a rather fetching brown and cream handle.  I would tell you what weight the wool is (4 ply? 8 ply?) but I'm not sure and don't know how to read the label.  You begin to see the level I'm at...

BUT, I am learning.  And today, I have learned how to make a slip knot, and practiced my chain stitch a gazillion times.  It's a start. (Where I got the pink wool from is a story for another day.)

And I've loved winding the wool.  It's quite trance-inducing.  And I found the perfect skein-holder for it.

And at the end of it, you end up with this.  

A snowball!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Good morning!

Normally I eat worthy porridge for breakfast but today I couldn't resist.

Hope you have a lovely day.


Monday, January 24, 2011


These are my new favourite thing to bake.  And I got home tonight and needed to be domestic.  So a flurry of activity in the kitchen just as Mr. P was trying to cook dinner. 

 But the raisiny/nutmeg/bready smell as we sat down to eat was worth it.

We're trying to watch what we eat at the moment.  Well, really trying to lose a bit of post-Christmas belly.  So we're following the GI diet.  And these scones fit right into the plan.  AND they're delicious.  Honest.  Glad I made a double batch.

Happy Monday.


Sunday, January 23, 2011


Oh dear.  It started really well.  I got up early yesterday and even before I'd made the first cup of tea I'd pinned my M to the fabric and started to cut.  I realised right away that I'd made my first mistake by not making sure both fabrics were right side facing.  But luckily the denim was fairly symmetrically cut so it didn't matter too much when I flipped it around.   

I first learned to sew when I was around 8 years old.  I remember two things from those lessons.  "The long thread of the lazy tailor" was one.  (Can anyone explain why that's important?)  And the other is that at some point, my teacher called over another woman to have a good giggle at my big stitches.  So I'm a bit paranoid about making my stitches small.

Anyway, I finished the whole thing in about 45 minutes and was busy congratulating myself, until I realised that there was no way I was going to be able to turn this inside out and stuff it.  Basic schoolgirl error I know...

So I started again with a bigger template.

Only that didn't work either.  Still too thin to work with.  I was getting a bit frustrated at that point.  Mr. P and I had words about how to get the right template font to print.  

In the end I had to improvise a template drawn around the second template.  And that worked.  More or less.  

I know.  It looks a bit like an elephant who'll wake up tomorrow with the mother of all hangovers.  But I didn't have the heart to start again.  So I stuffed it anyway.

So there you go.  My first letter.  Only another 13 to go!  I may relent and make two Ms when I get that far in my Merry Christmas project.  But for all its wonkiness, I quite like this one.  In fact, I'm chuffed to bits.

And Anthropologie need not worry about a share price warning just yet...

Lessons for next time:

1. Never sew when you're hungry.
2. Right side in.
3. If it looks like it won't fit, it won't fit.
4. Patience patience patience.

All suggestions on how to improve gratefully received.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Crochet a rainbow

Sarah London ( has come up with the fabulous idea of asking for granny squares to be sent in response to the flooding in Queensland.  Given that I last picked up a crochet hook when I was 8 years old, I haven't a hope in hell of being able to contribute anything more than a mangled mess.  But if anyone reads this and knows how to make granny squares, this seems like an excellent use for something beautiful.

For me, it's an incentive to actually learn how, and I have found just the place:

And chapeau to Meet Me At Mikes for advertising Sarah London's project. 

Spread the word.!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A very good place to start

I have cut out a paper "M".  Hardly a very auspicious start to my crafting life, I know, but I had to start somewhere.  And actually, it's more difficult than you might think (not the cutting out part - even I can manage that), but choosing the font was a bit tricky.  Most Ms, as I've now studied in detail, are actually made up of thick legs and thin ones, and I needed one of the sturdy, thick-leg-all-round, variety.  And take it from me, American Typewriter Condensed on an Apple computer is the way to go.  Chunky legs with nice rounded edges.

And I needed the "M" because I have chosen my first project.  Mr. P. and I were in London on holiday at Christmas and I went out for the day with my Mum.  The Christmas decorations in Anthropologie (you'll hear a lot about Anthropologie) were all half-price and I saw a rather lovely bunting-like decoration that spelled out "Merry Christmas" in stuffed-cloth lettering strung along some fabric tape with bells on (not sure if that description does it justice, but you get the gist).  I was dithering about buying it as it seemed a bit frivolous and it was GBP 49 half price (yes indeed).  Anyway, I didn't buy it, but spent the evening wishing I had and when I went back the next day they were sold out.  I hate that.  So, I have decided to have a go at making it myself!

I picked out this fabric from Peter Jones.  I'll use the denim for the back of all the letters and then swap and change between the rest for the front (some may have ribbons on; I haven't quite decided).  I don't have a sewing machine (yet...) so I'm going to have a go at doing this by hand.  And my "M" is my project for this weekend.  I figure if I make a letter or two a month, I'll have it finished by Christmas.

Yesterday was truly miserable here.  There was icy rain in the night so the trip to work was awful - a mix of ice and snow and slush everywhere and the rain on the pavements had frozen over.  I fell over just in front of my office.  (Nothing broken except my dignity.) My fall was softened by my sleeping bag coat (aka my shite coat).  I hate my shite coat.  But when we moved here three years ago, I spent the winter being stylish and cold.  Now I'm warm and look like a cross between a pile of tyres and a penguin.  I'd rather be wearing this Marc Jabocs creation which is tantalising me from the window of Saks at the moment:

And I have to remind myself that the sky doesn't always sit on your head in winter, even if it has been for the last fews days.  I got up the other morning and the light was streaming through a gap in the buildings all the way across Manhattan and hitting the glasses on my kitchen shelf. 

Wish me luck with my letters!


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