Friday, 28 December 2012

Wishing you a Happy Christmas and New Year

We have had a really lovely few days in our little cottage filled with family, friends, music, lots of great cooking and good cheer.  In between times, there have been walks with the dogs, pottering about with the chooks, fiddling with the corset and film-nights in front of the new fire: perfect.    Tonight is cheese and dessert night and, in preparation (uhuh!), I'm relaxing... taking the opportunity to catch up on some reading, laundry and a few other jobs, take photos of Finn (he's in proper posing mood today), hope that you all had a very Happy Christmas and wish you all the best for the New Year.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Flowers from my Mum

I had a lovely surprise on Thursday, flowers for Christmas from my lovely mum; tulips and anemones, just beautiful.

The Starry Night Corset

I have decided on a name for the corset for the Selene costume, thanks to Mr Van Gogh (though it has already been nicknamed Norah!), and have started on the pattern.  The reproductions in Corsets and Crinolines are to scale, and in the first instance I have transposed that onto tracing paper; my first thought, it's tiny!

The scale on the pattern worked out to 6mm = 1".  

With a little maths, some light graffiti in my book and a little artistic license, in about an hour I had a pretty faithful reproduction of the pattern in the book.

Now, with a restocked glass of red, I am working my way through Appendix 1 and annotating like crazy.   Norah Waugh gives a fascinating account of how to construct a corset, mixing instruction with contemporary quotations and historical detail.  I did not know before, for example, that modern women's backs are broader as we have not worn corsets since childhood, which narrowed the shoulder blades and, what a bonus, caused "greater development" of the bust to occur - if only I'd known that sooner!  The suggestion is to make the corset two inches smaller at bust and waist, the next step is to measure myself and redraft these larger pieces to my measurements; great time of year to do this, just as I'm about to tuck into a Christmas dinner or two!  That might have to be 3" smaller and a workout or two in the new year ;o)

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Silhouette Christmas Cards

Now that they're delivered or on their way, I don't think I'm giving too much away.  In honour of our first Christmas Day in 5 years with the 11yr old, I wanted to play with the idea of the traditional "family grouping" picture; without the festive jumpers and fixed smiles!  In Photoshop I turned photos of my happy band (the 11yr old, Megs, Finn and Rascal) into silhouettes, each wearing a hint of festive and waiting on a present.  Printed on to white card stock and glued to shop-bought A6 cards with a paper trim and 12mm star brad.  I do love this card, it has four of my favourite souls on it.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Finn's Stocking

Well, Finn needed a stocking to go with Megs and Rascal's.  I have tried to tailor them all to fit their personalities, Megan's is girly but refined; Rascal's is pared back and unfussed; and Finn's, a combination of bright blue felt and vintage polka dot and house themed vintage ribbons, is rather more colourful and unexpected - rather like the little man himself.

The only thing is that is that the boyf now needs a new stocking; his "shop-bought" looks a little lack-lustre in comparison to the others. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Abbie needs a home

I'm on a mission, this beautiful girl (who looks so like my Megs) needs a good home urgently. She is 6 years old and has lived the same family her whole life (pedigree, vaccinations up to date but not neutered).  Sadly, she has not adjusted to the arrival of their son a year ago and, with a second child on the way, they do not think that they can keep her.  They are also not able to walk her regularly, a important factor as any dobe owner knows!  She has not lived with other animals but is used to being left at home as they both worked full time.  If anyone can help or wants more information, please contact me.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Herbarium, a tutorial of sorts

Thinking about what to get my Dad for Christmas whilst also idly musing about keeping herbs in the kitchen over the winter gave me an idea to make a modern, herby version of a terrarium, a Herbarium.  Now I'm sure most of you don't need a tutorial on how to make a terrarium - especially if you're my age and have fond memories of them from your childhood. Sure, you can debate pebbles, gravel, activated charcoal but they are more a matter of taste I think than  necessity.  As long as there is some drainage and a light, well-draining soil, anyone can make a terrarium.  All that said, I was taking photos as I went along and really loved them, especially of the pebbles, so here it is, my tutorial:

I chose a mix of pebbles and gravel as drainage, both were rinsed thoroughly first in a colander before being layered in a glass vase.  I found a lovely rectangular shaped one in IKEA, a far more modern take on the old skool green bottle terrariums of memory!

I didn't bother with activated charcoal; I don't think it does much in terms of helping with drainage, as long as you don't overwater I think that the double gravel layer works well.  I would expect to refresh the herbarium once every so often to trim roots, replace the soil and at that point clean the gravel and pebbles through.  For the soil layer I chose a fine, well draining soil.  I could have added sand to the mix but I was happy with it as it was.  As it's a winter herbarium I planted sage (sage and chestnut soup, oh yes!), lemon thyme (always) and parsley (a good all-rounder).  You can't overplant otherwise you'll end up with an overgrown mess, hence the basil hovering in the background, but I was happy to put large sage and parsley in as they should be being used regularly and therefore trimmed back.

Yep, I made two, I couldn't resist!  The garden centre grows an amazing selection of herbs in the spring and I plan to refresh them next year with some funky new additions.  My herbarium is now the new centerpiece for dining room table, a perfect accompaniment to dinner.

A very frosty morning, Wordless Wednesday 12th December 2012

Monday, 10 December 2012

It's been a while....

I was reading an article the other week about women bloggers.  A surprisingly mean-spirited article written, not so surprisingly, sadly, by a female columnist.  The article focused on former working women, now mothers and with no need to work thanks to their husbands salaries, who litter the interweb with their musings and, even worse it would seem, earn money from their ramblings.  The given examples were all successful, witty, interesting, beautiful blogs with hundreds (even thousands) of readers which had also, in some cases, spawned successful businesses.  

I would be delighted if my musings could one day grow into something as successful as some of those sites, but more so the article made me think about how much I have missed lately having the time to sit and write.  More important to me, than anything else with this blog, is that it is my potted history of my life today, my journal.

I have been tinkering with a couple of posts the last few days, a scrapbook of photos and words; we've had such a lovely time of late. A weekend away with friends, an afternoon of cupcakes and Aussie Masterchef (we are addicted) with the 11yr old and the lovely Mr S, an evening spent causing chaos with a plastic moustache!, lunch with my family and gorgeous goddaughter, veg shopping at our local garden centre (beautiful veg and half the price of the supermarket) and last, but not least, our first ever real Christmas tree.  

It should have been so easy but I have struggled, there is just too much going on to focus on what I want to write.  The only time that I truly have to myself at the moment is when I walk the dogs in the evening:  sadly, sliding round a field in the dark and mud is not the best time to email, catch up on FB or blog!  It does, however, give me plenty of time to think and watch the stars; both of which put me in good stead with the Selena project.  

I love looking at the night sky thanks to my beloved Great Uncle who taught me two "very important" things; the Whyte Notation and to recognise the constellations.  Neither I remember perfectly, but as I looked up tonight and spotted the Pleiades (our sky is seldom bright enough to see them) I felt a frisson of excitement and wonder at what sits in the heavens above us.  The night sky is truly beautiful and if I can translate any of that beauty into stitches on canvas I will be very pleased with myself and my project.

In the meantime, as I write this, there are presents to wrap (though the buying is all done); cards to finish making and writing; the little man is in need of a stocking to match the ones that I made for myself, Megs and Rascal last year; I have my imapiece to make, though I'm saving that as a Christmas to New Year project; and then there's the day job and the four Christmas cards that I was asked to design today, which then need to be printed and ready for posting by next week... I tried not to look too spooked, or repeat "but it's the 10th December" any more than a half dozen times.  That would just have been gibbering... :o)

Thursday, 29 November 2012

He's a Rascal!

This week has been all about Rascal the cat.  He likes a counter top to sleep on, does our Rascal, and has an end of ours all to his own.  This week, however, Rascal went sleepabout:

balancing on the breadboard,

hiding in my online shopping,

and, finally, back on his mat.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Brrr it's cold...

I walked the dogs this evening.  The sleet blowing in our faces, the wind (strong enough to blow you sideways) whipping around us, reduced to a dirge-like trudge by mud so thick it was pulling my boots off with every step.  With head down, hunched into the wind and my eyes fixed firmly on the foot of path I could see in front of me, I decided that I am definitely not made for weather like this. I far prefer my winter weather all neat and tidy thank you; a crisp frosty morning, a sprinkling of snow, that's more my kinda cold!

Sunday, 25 November 2012


....the Titan Goddess of the Moon, as described by Orpheus and Homer:

"To Selene (Moon), Fumigation from Aromatics. Hear, goddess queen (thea basileia), diffusing silver light, bull-horned, and wandering through the gloom of night. With stars surrounded, and with circuit wide night’s torch extending, through the heavens you ride: female and male, with silvery rays you shine, and now full-orbed, now tending to decline. Mother of ages, fruit-producing Mene (Moon), whose amber orb makes night’s reflected noon: lover of horses, splendid queen of night, all-seeing power, bedecked with starry light, lover of vigilance, the foe of strife, in peace rejoicing, and a prudent life: fair lamp of night, its ornament and friend, who givest to nature’s works their destined end. Queen of the stars, all-wise Goddess, hail! Decked with a graceful robe and amble veil. Come, blessed Goddess, prudent, starry, bright, come, moony-lamp, with chaste and splendid light, shine on these sacred rites with prosperous rays, and pleased accept thy suppliants’ mystic praise."
Orphic Hymn 9 to Selene (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.)

"Long-winged Mene [i.e. Selene, as goddess of the month]. From her immortal head a radiance is shown from heaven and embraces earth; and great is the beauty that ariseth from her shining light. The air, unlit before, glows with the light of her golden crown, and her rays beam clear, whensoever bright Selene (the Moon) having bathed her lovely body in the waters of Okeanos, and donned her far-gleaming raiment, and yoked her strong-necked, shining team, and drives on her long-maned horses at full speed, at eventime in the mid-month: then her great orbit is full and then her beams shine brightest as she increases. So she is a sure token and a sign to mortal men."
Homeric Hymn 32 to Selene (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th - 4th B.C.)

I would not plan a dress based on a Greek goddess, it would probably be the last theme/age that I would want to make a dress from!  Drapey drapey is not my thing.  But I like my projects to have a name (someone to talk to when the sewing gets tough!) and after a couple of days of googling I came across a list of Greek goddesses and learnt about Selene. Not only a goddess of the Moon, she was goddess of some of my other favourite things: peace, horses, ocean tides, sight, dew and, rather appropriately for Halloween, magic.  Then I found the two hymns above and fell in love with the beautiful descriptions of a shining silvered goddess being drawn across a night sky; it perfectly matches my earlier thoughts about Van Gogh's Starry Night and some how creating a corset alive with the night sky.

I've also been playing with a few sketches and the one below is what I will be working to.  It will take a dramatically shaped corset from Norah Waugh's Crinolines and Corsets and combine it with mini panniers on the hips and a full but delicate skirt, covered in individual scales and featuring the prerequisite Mermaids tail!

I also found, in my googling, Rainbow Gallery's Varigated Gold Rush 14 threads, particularly Night Sky Blue, which I think will work as a very good background thread for the canvas layer of the corset.  So, whilst I have been quiet on my blog of late, I've not been entirely resting on my laurels!  I am exhausted by the manic new job and the change in season/light/temperature - the thyroid is not a happy camper - which makes me more likely to sit on the sofa and doze of an evening than get my laptop out and think some more, but it is giving me time to plot and ponder and I'm pleased with how this dress is starting to look in my mind.

And, ever the geek, I've also been having fun with my new Window's 8 phone - the camera on it is stunning, I'm enjoying this week's Wordless Wednesday :o)

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Elizabeth... all done!

Elizabeth has had a final outing, for this year at least, for some photos of her all done and finished.   

I also took the opportunity to photograph the inside of the gown with the finished pleating and lining.  I am still surprised by how easy it is to wear; you don't notice the pleats at all when wearing the gown even though, as the picks show, they are not small!

And one last pic, it all together for Halloween :)

I utterly love this outfit!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

I'm itching to get sewing again...

and it's all the boyfs fault, it was his great idea after all!  I have a self imposed rule, one big project a year from January to October and then two months off.  It is a chance to take a few deep breaths, enjoy Christmas (and eating dinner at the dining table without having to find it under a mound of sewing stuff first!) and think about what I will do next year.  Normally I enjoy tossing around a few ideas but I am seriously missing working on the Tudor dress and, now that I have the kernels of a fabulous idea already in place, I am just itching to get started.

Can I really start on next Halloween's costume less than a fortnight after I finished the last? Short answer?  No.  It breaks my rules which I made for good reason (and I have some jigsaw pieces to make), I haven't got it all figured out anyways and I've already hit my first big stumbling block.  It doesn't stop me plotting, planning and talking about it though ;o)

So, the inspiration:  

It's not very promising is it... remember, feel free to blame the lovely boyf, it is entirely his idea!  This was the night that we met.  He was a hired Jedi and I had thrown a random bunch of fabrics together, pretty much the night before, into an outfit that I optimistically thought of as an interpretation of Space - I was, and will always be known, in certain circles, as the Space Mermaid.  I blame it on the hair.  As to why it would be inspirational... at Halloween the lovely Mesdames B & S and I thought that the theme for next year could be your fantasy fancy dress.  "If you could be whatever you wanted to be, what would it be" kinda thing.  I mentioned it to the boyf and his near instant response was to say that we should recreate the above.  I laughed, I scoffed, I poo-pooed... I went to bed, closed my eyes and, damnit!, was suddenly plotting and planning and getting excited.  

Why?  Because, if you step back from the shoddy workmanship, the garish fabrics and the heinous wig, you have a long dress with a corseted bodice, designed to resemble the glories of the night sky.  What's not to get excited by?  My mind has been swimming with corset patterns, garment canvas (my big stumbling block as Kreinek no longer make it), alternatives to garment canvas (I'm thinking silk?), Van Gogh, variegated and metallic threads.  Ever since I saw the Dolce & Gabbana Autumn/Winter collections with their stunning tapestry pieces, I have wanted to do something similar and I think that this could be my opportunity; once I figure out how!  I'm starting to pull ideas and a mood board together; I'll post it when it's ready.

In the meantime, back to the boyf briefly, and there is a pattern by Simplicity that would do the job.  Out of stock, rare and hard to get, but who doesn't love a challenge!  I'm watching one on ebay now.  If that fails, I am certain I will find some good sites with diy instructions....

Saturday, 10 November 2012

I'm rather in love with Christmas

and I don't know what's up with me as it's not the usual state of affairs.  Yes, I like shopping for presents and the tree is nice for a couple of weeks; you can't argue with any opportunity to see friends and family, and who doesn't love presents... but its all a little too commercial and overly sentimental for me.  Halloween is far more my thing; commercial yes, but with a darn good scare thrown in!

This year though, I'm addicted.  I started my cards in September (more of that later), am half way through the shopping (and loving it) and find myself inexplicably drawn to any and all displays of  Christmas decorations.  Pop to the hardware store for paint for the 11yr old's roman shield?  Find myself coveting patchwork owl baubles and eyeing up tinsel which, lets be honest, is Christmas Marmite: you either love it or you hate and usually I can't stand the stuff! 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Halloween 2012

Despite it being a panic pretty much until right up to the party starting (the exploding pot of glue that covered half the dining room being my personal highlight) Halloween this year was great fun, one of my most favourite parties ever.  We are so lucky with the friends that we have, they all rose the the challenge admirably and we had some great costumes, really funny, inventive and inspired.  To give you a idea: Mr B, killed with a corkscrew came, thanks to Mrs B's talents, as a wine bottle; D, killed with a tyre, braved an all-in-one Crash Test Dummy getup; Mr S, pickled peppers (formerly ogres toes from last Halloween), was a very funny early Beatles hairdo, first case of Foot (i)'n Mouth disease; S & N, poison and a spatula respectively, were blood crazed chefs who had killed each other; and, of special note, the lovely Mrs S (thanks to Mr S's wire bending skills) was the best ball of wool-killed by her knitting needles-Grandma I've ever seen! 

I lost a day of prep as I had to travel on the Friday before the party and wimped out slightly on the decorations, relying on my box of past goodies more than I had planned.  I also found a lovely selection of ornamental gourds at the supermarket which we dotted around the place, along with our pumpkins, which the lovely boyf carved out for us.  We lined two them with tin foil and used them to serve the main dishes (a Chipotle Bean and Vegetable Stew and Sweet Potato, Spinach and Chickpea Coconut Curry) at dinner before lighting them and putting them out in the garden. 

The shrunken heads looked great too.  The 11yr old loved staking them and we are going to let them slowly finish their drying and keep them for next year.  By default, the carved and fruits and veg became a theme of their own; not quite what was planned, but I liked it.  I'm going to have a go at drying out the gourds too (will tell you how that goes in approximately 6 months time!) and see what else we can do with them next year too.

Albert (the reason for the exploding glue...) also made a reappearance, as dessert this time.  Chocolate eyeballs, brains and spiders filled his skull and he kept watch on our Halloween Hands - non-powdered plastic gloves filled with a very addictive mixture of toffee and salted popcorn, Chipotle and salted pretzels, M&Ms, salted cashews and honey salted peanuts.  Yum!

The 11yr old rocked her 80s costume, complete with record through her head!

And, on realising that I was never going to be able to serve drinks and food in full Tudor garb, I kept the makeup and hair (extensions, which I rather love, I wish I could grow hair that lovely and long) and decorated a tshirt in fake blood and suitably ironic commentary; it raised a laugh.

Lorraine, the brain, looked very good too, especially with the nerd specs and the horrible (in a cool, Halloweeny way) white eyeball contact that the boyf put in.  Finn was fascinated by all the pullable, chewable bits of costumes; especially the lovely Mrs B's long gloves (candlestick to the head).


And, despite initially refusing to come down stairs, Megs got involved too and was rather fond of A's (the world's hottest chillis, teamed with clown shoes, very cool!) chef''s hat.

The Tudor Gown was on Miss G for most of the evening but got a wearing, once the food was served and in time to go to the pub!

Food un-friendly sleeves
Doing my very best "scary"

Mrs B helped me get Miss G undressed and myself dressed, giggling the entire way through!  Every piece I took off and gave her, took back and put on, was accompanied by the loveliest chuckle; I've threatened to get her kitted up in it at some point!  It was still heavy and cumbersome and breathing took a bit of getting used to, but after a while, and once I'd learnt to sit without impaling myself on that wooden busk ;o), I was properly in love with it all.  It's hard to describe but the weight and the restriction became very comforting and comfortable, and the whole experience is so removed from how we wear clothes today, it is fascinating.  I can see how people get hooked on dressing for Renaisance Faires and events. 

That's the Tudor Gown done now though (apart from possibly taking a few more pictures of it all finished), it was such a rush at the end (entirely my own fault) that it's all ended too quickly really!  It was a project that overall, despite the problems with the pattern, I throughly enjoyed.  I could happily make more of the same (now that I know what to watch out for) but sadly don't have the space in my life for a wardrobe of Tudor gowns!  There's been a bit of discussion about next year's project, I think my two would like it to be one that is a little less time and dining room consuming, but I am going to try not to think about it until I have at least got Christmas out of the way first - though the 1700s has always fascinated me, side panniers at the hips and all that, it's tempting!

As for Halloween next year, yep we were discussing it, I think we're going for "Your Fantasy Fancy Dress Costume"... if you could wear anything, be anyone/anything, what would it be...?  Hmmm, I may have a couple of ideas!
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