Monday, 31 December 2012

Looking backwards and forwards

It's the end of the year, the traditional time to reflect on the year past and look forward to the year ahead.  When I read over last year's end of year post I realise how much I've achieved this year.  Apologies for blowing my own trumpet for a second but vet school was a real slog to the bitter end and I'm so grateful it's over, I'm so much happier now than I was this time last year!

The only resolution I made last year was to craft more for me.  I love crafting for friends and family so don't get me wrong, I don't resent it at all.  Just sometimes I take on too much and end up having to put my own projects on hold for months at a time.

Let's see how I managed shall we?

Projects for friends and family - 35


Projects for me - 4 (well 3, one is for the dog.  Well, 2.5 as one was just changing the buttons on a cardigan...)


I think we could say that this resolution was an abject fail!  I've loved the projects I've done this year, with personal favourites being mini Maciver's lamb cardigan, Karen's mushroom cushions and Frances' bow cushion.  On the other hand though, I had lots of projects for myself that never materialised (remember 5 tops in 10 days?  My plans for Sorbetto tops?  I even created a tag 'Inspiration' to try and get the creative juices flowing!).  Somehow it's always easier to justify spending the time if I'm crafting for other people and it's money saving if I'm using stash materials for presents - money has been tight this year after 8 years of university.

New year, new start and all that.  Last year I only made one resolution, since with final year I didn't want to commit to more than one and fail (although I epically failed at just one so ho, hum!).  This year I've got a few things I want to improve upon so I plan to make 2013 the best year yet!

1. Craft more for me!  - this time I intend to make it happen!  I'm going to enter
Karen's 'Put your money where your mouth is' post to make sure I stick to this one.

2.  Start giving regularly to charity - I've got a wage now so no excuse of being a poverty stricken student anymore.  I donate regularly to charity in the form of giving to and buying from charity shops but I want to start donating a portion of my income.  I've yet to decide which charity but I'm thinking at the moment something linked to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, something involving health, education for women and vaccinations/contraceptives.

3. Start doing exercise.  I come from a rather large (in kilos), rather unhealthy (in disease terms) family and would like to avoid this trend if possible.  To this end I'm signing up for the Edinburgh half marathon.  I'm doing it with my friend Karen as a means to motivate myself to exercise.  We'll see how I go when it's 5 degrees and sleeting in February...

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas presents part 3

Remember the almost-finished project?  Well, it's finally finished!  It was my Mum's Christmas present and I'm really pleased with how it turned out, I'm planning on making one for me in 2013, now I've made one for Vicky and one for Mum.


Once again it's New Lanark wool, I should be sponsored by them I think.  I'm going to make myself one in either Sky, Heather or Woodland.  Decisions, descisions...



Owls!  All with mismatched stash button eyes


Back decreases, for the knitting nerds

I love giving handmade gifts, though every year around this time I get burned out with making things for other people.  I've got 2 more to go before the end of the year and then I'm done for a little while.  Or at least, until the next baby or wedding comes along!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas presents part 2

I made this scarf for my Grandad from a tartan ladies' kilt that was a relic of my old Etsy shop.  I got the idea from a few pretty Pinterest finds (originally blogged about over here), I don't know the official name for this kind of scarf but I think of it as a 'reading' scarf.  The type a gentleman with a library would wear whilst smoking his pipe in front of the fire, sat in a leather chair with a beagle at his feet and a green reading lamp to light the room.


The original tartan skirt.  100% wool made in Scotland, the real thing


It was really simple, I cut around a scarf of mine that I thought was the right size, cut out an identical piece from some satin I had in my stash, then sewed the two together.  My sewing machine then proceeded to break halway through, so this project took 2 weeks when it could have taken 20 minutes.


I bought a plain box from Paperchase to present it in, make it look a bit more professional and all that.  The fabric is lovely, it's the same material that I used for Andrew's tartan tablet case, I love real wool, it's probably my favourite type of fabric!



Hopefully Grandad will like it!  The perfect stash bustin', thriftin' Christmas make!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Christmas presents part 1

I think I'm safe to show off this present since its for a lady at work who doesn't know about the blog.  Ever tried explaining blogs to folk at work who aren't into the nerdy world of the internets?  Don't do it, you come away feeling even more of a dork than normal.


I've made loads of these bags in the past, especially when the Etsy shop was up and running.  Having not made them in a while though, I've not practiced and so this bag was a tad wonky in places.  The straps are uneven widths and the lining is too big, meaning there's an ugly pleat down one side.  Hopefully she'll like it anyway, it's the same material as Danica's bag, it used to be a pair of curtains in a previous life.  Gotta love a bit of 'upcycling'!


These photos came out all blurry for some reason, they don't look blurry on my phone but sadly I'd wrapped and given it away before I realised!  You'll have to squint a bit to compensate.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

It's a very puppy Christmas

It's been a week of Christmas festivities here at Chez Taylor-Dyce, York Division.  Andrew came down last weekend and we bought my christmas tree, it's a little 5 footer and looks very cute under the sloping roof in my flat.  The dog was very unimpressed by the whole process and probably ate about a kilo of pine needles over the course of the day.


I've been doing a lot of Christmas crafting, most of which I can't share until after Christmas, but I can certainly show off my amazing homemade wreath, even though I do say so myself!  It's made with real tree branches so smells lovely and pine-y every time I open my front door.  A lady at work, Jackie, gave me a massive bag of cinnamon sticks to add to it, I've got enough there for the next 5 years I think. 


Unfortunately we're in that time of year where I'm going to be relying on photo editing tricks even more than normal, given the grey, dark weather.  Instagram is going to come into its own I think!


Quality Wilkinson's ribbon.  I don't have any of my ribbon stash here in York so had to resort to Wilkinsons, they had lime green or grey, neither of which are particularly festive colours

I bought the backing wreath off Ebay about 7 years ago and it's been brilliant, it's made of twigs so it looks quite natural so it doesn't matter if you don't manage to cover the whole thing, you've not got bits of bright green oasis poking through.


Amazing cinnamon sticks.  You can see the backing wreath in this photo, see how natural it looks?  Good old Ebay



The dog helping Andrew straighten the tree.  He was acting as a counterbalance - in his head at least...

I love Christmas and can't wait for us to buy a house and be able to host our own Christmas.  I'm going to attempt shortbread this week for Cake Friday so will hopefully have some lovely christmassy photos of beautiful shortbread to share soon.  Not the burnt lumps of crumbly dough I can foresee really happening...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Autumnal baby blanket

I made this blanket for Elaine's new baby, it started off with a cone of brown wool thrifted from a car boot sale, added some stash yarns that complemented and all came together with some amazing Donegal Tweed wool that was supposed to be for the new house blanket but was too lovely to keep for just one project.  The keen eyed and memory'd of you will recall that I started this blanket back in February, I can't believe how much has changed in the amount of time its taken me to finish.


Now, I know it's not your traditional baby blanket colours but Elaine and her husband aren't really traditional baby coloured people.  Plus, as Elaine rightly pointed out, it'll last past babyhood!  Though it is a bit on the small side for an adult...


This was a lovely project to make, it started off quite organically, just growing and adding as I went without any clear idea of what it was going to turn into or who was going to be on the receiving end.  Then about halfway through it just suddenly became Elaine's baby blanket.  I think it's where the blanket wanted to go.  Or something like that.


Good luck for the 22nd m'dear!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Disasterous refashion

Once upon a time a girl had a pair of lovely green satin knickers.  They were a Christmas gift from some friends and in the sales she stumbled upon the matching camisole.  In a cruel twist of fate however, the camisole was only available in a size too small or several sizes too large.

"Oh no!" cried the girl.  "Whatever shall I do?"

She racked her brains and decided to buy the smaller top, thinking with her magic sewing skills she would be able to transform it into a camisole fit for a princess.  But it was not in the stars for our young heroine, as we shall see if you turn the page...


It's so beautiful

By now you must have guessed that I am the fair maiden in the fairy story.  I figured it would be a quick and simple refashion, unpick the side hems, insert some black lace and there we have it, a lovely matching cami for my french knickers.  How wrong I was.


My sewing machine HATED this fabric, even remembering to put on a fine needle didn't help.  The thread kept getting snarled up, the fabric tore at the drop of a hat and an accident with the iron left one of the bottom lace panels a bit frazzled and holey.


Font credit

When I finally turned it right ways out, I realised that there were several gaping holes and the hems were misaligned.  By this time I was too frustrated to continue so I threw it back into the pile of clothes to refashion (a sizeable pile) and swore loudly at the dog.  Since then I haven't got the courage to pull it out again, it might have to be a bin job because every time I catch a glimpse of that lovely green fabric I feel this knot of burning frustration in my stomach and I'm forced (FORCED I tell you) to pour myself a large glass of wine.  I hate throwing away fabric, even fabric scraps make me feel guilty since they'll just sit in a landfill site and rot away for the next thousand years.  But it's even worse to throw away useable fabric, just because it upsets you so much to look at it.

Any suggestions folks?  I'm going to hang onto it for a while and see if inspiratio strikes but I think this little guy's days as an item of clothing are numbered...

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Musings on an Etsy shop

Long time readers will know that in the recent past I used to run a little Etsy shop.  It was also called Second Fiddle, you can check it out over here.  I originally started it with the intention of selling handmade things, but with vet school and real life getting in the way, I ended up selling mainly vintage.  It was never hugely successful but then I never really wanted or needed it to be, I wanted a bit of extra cash to spend on presents and craft things and the satisfaction of knowing that somewhere out there someone is wearing something I sold them.


Now that vet school is done and real life can begin in earnest, I'd planned to restart the shop, selling handmade things this time the way I'd always intended.  I knocked up a few items as prototypes, to see what would sell, but now I've got a job and time is tight, I'm finding my interest in selling has waned. 


One of my friends, Frances of Lapin Gris Crafts has had some success selling at crafts fairs, so I've been pondering trying some next year.  To be honest though, the more I think about it, the more I want to just focus on crafting for me.  I really want to learn how to make clothes and master the art of refashioning, I love making presents for people and I'm really enjoying the sudden arrival of multiple babies in my life, baby crafting is both adorable and super fast!  What little time I have to craft, I want to be focusing on making things for myself, friends and family, not random strangers over the internet.  I really admire people who sew or knit for a living and find the whole process of setting up your own craft business really fascinating but if I'm honest with myself, it's not one of my life goals any more.  I used to dream of being a vet 4 days a week and running a successful Etsy shop 1 day a week but it would take far more than 1 day a week of work to make that dream a reality. 


At the point I'm at now, I want to settle down and make peace with what I have in life.  I feel like I've spent the past 10 years of my life desperate for the next phase to begin; at school desperate to go to uni, at uni desperate to start vet school, at vet school desperate to have a job.  Now I have a job and I'm desperate for the next phase to start, to be able to move back to Edinburgh and buy a house and get married and just generally take life a bit more slowly.  It's silliness, I'm going to wake up one day 50 years old and wonder where my life went! 


So I'm shutting up shop for the foreseeable future.  Maybe at some point I'll get back into selling, if I can't work as a vet for whatever reason, but for the moment I want to concentrate on crafting for myself, friends and family ♥

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Sewing niggles...

This is one of the many things that annoys me about sewing and it all comes back to the same point - I don't know what I'm doing.  I don't know what I'm doing with the machine this time (as opposed to not knowing about patterns) and so things like this happen.  Can anyone out there shed any light?  Or has anyone else had these problems?


This first one was a good learning experience - the people in your local sewing machine shop are AMAZING.  I had my machine serviced and about 2 weeks later this started happening.  I don't know if you can tell from the photo but the end of the needle has broken off and when you lower the needle it hits the foot, hence why it broke in the first place.  I was so annoyed at the time, thinking it was something to do with it being serviced, maybe they'd set the foot wrong or something.  Nope, turns out I'm an idiot trying to do a zig zag stitch through a regular straight stitch foot.  That's right folks - there are different feet for different stitches.  Who knew?!  Certainly not me, as the broken end of the needle went whizzing past, a hair's breadth from my cornea.  I need goggles to sew, it's a high risk activity.  The lady in the sewing machine shop spent a patient 20 minutes explaining this problem to me, my goodness I felt like an idiot...


This one I have yet to fathom.  From time to time, apparently randomly, my machine decides it wants to cause this little mess at the back of my sewing.  It's always where I've started sewing, there's a horrendous 'GNNNNN' sound, the needle refuses to move then all of a sudden it shoots away like the man Bolt, sewing every which way but the way you want and occasionally across my thumb in the process.  When I finally get it under control and turn my work over, there's this nice little bird's nest awaiting me.  Fun times.  It's at this point that I pour myself a large glass of wine and take up my knitting instead.

Anyone else got sewing woes to share? 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

(Almost) finished project!

It's so nice to be able to post an (almost) finished project, I feel like I constantly have several large projects on the go that seem to go on and on forever (the new house blanket being a case in point) and the only things I ever finished are small projects that can be done in an evening.  I have so many unfinished objects (or UFO's for the non-knitters out there) lying around the house, hopefully now I have a craft room I can start mopping them up a bit!


This is my second owl jumper and it was just as quick and simple to knit as the first.  I finished it while I was on holiday last week and back in Edinburgh, so I blocked it and left it to dry on the floor in the box room.  When I'm back up in 2 weeks time I plan to sew on the eye buttons and then that's one Christmas present ticked off!  I'm pretty certain my Mum doesn't read my blog, otherwise I'm in trouble...


Drying on the floor in the box room

In other knitting news, I've started my next Christmas project, Vicky's cable knit skirt.  I'm actually further along than this photo implies so I'll be showing my work in progress soon.  I love chunky yarn, it knits up so quickly!


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Zippered pouch and a sneak preview!

Remember the dinosaur zippered pouch I made, way back in January?  It's nothing special really, just a zippered pouch, though to me every zippered pouch is a MASSIVE TRIUMPH since I epically suck at putting in a zip.  I don't know what it is about zips, I follow the instructions carefully and use the right sewing foot but somehow they always come out slightly wonky.  This one didn't though, I'm very proud, it represents one small step for a sewing nerd, one giant leap for...hmm, well, me.

Does anyone else find that when they make photos smaller in Flickr, they somehow become less focused?  Is that a thing?  Or is it my crappy photography skills?  It happened in the inside shot of the vest top in the post below, and just happened again with this shot.  Weird stuffs.

This one I made for work, to hold all the kit needed for the blood machine.  Sexy right?  That 99p pillow case from the charity shop has served me well!


This little dude is hiding away, I can't show you him until after Christmas but he's pretty damn adorable!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Recycled t-shirt to vest

I recently inherited a whole pile of t-shirts from a friend, each with an awesome print on the front.  Since most of them were too big for me and some had stains in funny places, I thought it would be a good opportunity to finally have a bash at So Zo's free t-shirt to vest pattern.  I've been meaning to try this pattern for ages, since reading it on Zoe's blog and seeing successful 'upcycled' (to use the disgustingly trendy term) versions on Did you make that? and Scruffy Badger Time's blogs.


Please excuse the blotchiness, this was a straight-out-of-the-shower shot

They were not lying when they said this pattern is easy!  Zoe, I tip my hat to you, my fear of sewing patterns (recently mentioned over here) is somewhat abated, at least for the moment.  I only managed one of these on my week off (so much for 5 tops in 10 days, ha!), I did lots of non-clothing sewing too.


Don't mess with those arms, BEEFY ARMS WILL EAT YOU!

I love the recycling aspect of this project, that I can now buy charity shop men's t-shirts and turn them into something I would wear on a daily basis.  This one is going to be a sleeping vest, to go with a pair of pyjama bottoms I have yet to make.  


Look at that neat elastic sewing!  I'm so proud

The elastic was the best of a bad bunch from my local fabric store so is sadly of the type that reminds me of old lady bra straps.  You know the ones - functional, wide, comfortable but not at all sexy.  I know I can get nicer, cheaper versions online but I wanted a quick fix, I wanted it in my sweaty little palm right then and there.  I got duped, though it works for a sleeping vest.


Obligatory inside shot.  Sewing elastic is strangely satisfying

Next time I'm going to grade up a size from below the bust downwards.  Although this one technically fits me, it's a bit tight to wear outside (hence sleeping only).  It's comfortable, don't get me wrong, it's just that it clings that bit too much to my muffin tops.  Or after this week of holiday, cheese-take-out-and-wine-tops.  I'm on a health food kick this week, I have no holiday regrets but feel my arteries and liver have taken a pounding...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

I have a craft room!

I can't believe it's been 2 and a half weeks since my last post, where is the time going?  I think of things to blog about all the time, I guess I need to start writing them down otherwise clearly I don't get round to doing it!  A Beautiful Mess recently posted 2 really interesting and inspiring articles about creating blog posts and planning them properly.  I actually already carry a little notepad round with me wherever I go, I use it for to do lists, shopping lists, things not to forget, it would be very easy to start noting down blog ideas.  We've also already got a massive whiteboard in the flat, so again, it would be easy to start organising the blog a bit better.  Hmmm...ideas to percolate on...I'm in no rush at the moment, just enjoying having a job and a real life for the first time in 8 years!


Which brings me nicely on to my topic of choice...I HAVE A CRAFT ROOM!!  This is something I've been dreaming about for years now, a room of my own to fill with fabric, wool and notions.  To have my sewing machine out permanently so I can sit down and sew for just 20 minutes if I want to, without having to go through all the faff and hassle of unpacking everything I need, then repacking it at the end.  To have my fabric and wool out on display, so I can be inspired by a particular print or colour. 


This all hinged on the fact that I don't need a study anymore, yay!  The box room was my study, meaning we couldn't use it for storage as much as we'd like.  A day spent dismantling furniture and moving boxes around and suddenly the box room is for storage and the spare room is an empty blank canvas to fill with craftiness!


What exciting things lie within?  Patterns, clothes to alter, batting, stuffing, embroidery hoops...

Andrew has his computer set up in one corner, which means I can sew and he can play computer games, 'together alone time' we call it!  The fireplace is now uncovered as well, so in the winter we can have the fire on while we craft and play.

Even the dog got involved, helping me sort which fabric was staying in the trunk and which was going on the shelves.


Ah, is there anything more satisfying and inspiring than a day spent organising your craft room?  It made me super productive too, I finished a So Zo t-shirt to vest and 4 stuffed hearts for my Etsy shop.  More on those to come...

Monday, 22 October 2012

Works in progress

A few little works in progress...



I'm half thinking of attempting a little challenge, 5 tops in 10 days.  I've got 10 days off soon and I think it might help give me a kick up the bum to get back to sewing clothes.  Watch this space to see if I manage it...

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Knitted egg cosies

I made these on request from a nurse at work and given that I've accidentally stabbed her twice whilst she's been helping me inject various animals, I felt I couldn't really say no.


I used Coordinating Egg Cosies by Lindsay Mudd off Ravelry and I must say, it was a super fast make and a great little stash bust.  I made two this time, but I could see myself getting slightly addicted to these, especially when the chickies eventually come to live with me.  You could make them in so many different style and colour combinations!


They would make great little stocking fillers, for those of you, like me, who are anal enough to be planning your Christmas presents in September.


They also fit nicely onto sleeping puppy ears, if you happen to own a mongrel with radar ears...