Hi

Ah, another poetic blog post title!

I wish I had something amazing and couture to show you all, but in reality I’m just checking in.  Sewing is still pretty much non existent (but scheming… Oh my, the scheming!).  I’ve basically managed in a little over a month to make a teeny-tiny baby dress for my new niece with some matching baby bloomers, cut three shirts for Boy, order some fabric for a friend’s little girl who was born Saturday morning, order fabric for Boy’s friend’s birthday present shirt at the end of this month, lose a stone and a bit, start another course for another exam and still have a partially completed Mad Max Flora in a heap in the sewing room.  Sigh.

Hi

So, a lot to tell you but nothing to show I’m afraid (and this really is a space to show and tell!).  Having said that, by the weekend I may have assembled the new rabbit hutch for Buzz and Woody (who we have learnt are girls) if it’s arrived and be able to show you our latest project in the garden.

I’ve also recently done the summer bedding plants and I have enjoyed choosing the hottest, brightest most obnoxious, bratty colours I could find.  Cerise, purple, hot orange, lime green…  There’s going to be a riot of colour out there soon…

Anyhoo, hope you’re all well and sewing when you get the chance or just enjoying life in general.  Hopefully I’ll catch up again before another month as sped by…

Real Talk

I am in a funk. I’m not entirely sure why, but I am in one.

When I’m in this weird mindset, I want to buy all the fabric and eat all the things. One is no good for the bank balance, the other is no good for me.

I’m also stupid busy. Finding time to sew is just not happening and quite honestly this is adding to if not causing the funk. I’m fantasy sewing all the time in my head – my stash has been cut and sewn several times. Time is not on my side though, or at least it feels that way.

Work is busy, Husband’s business is busy, Boy is amazing and frustrating and life is what it is. I just need to find some equilibrium and some time to just be creative. To create and enjoy the process. Me and my machine, that’s my calm and happy place (unless I’m repeatedly attempting a sleeve or zip – then, not so much).

That’s why the blogging has become sporadic. I have so much I want to say, I have things I made a while ago that I haven’t blogged. I’m starting to put some crazy pressure on myself, which isn’t helpful. I’m just not sure where to start and my time is limited and there are a lot of things I want to do with it; blog, exercise, sew, sleep!

Please bear with me, once I’ve worked out how to get a bit of balance back, I hope to be back here a bit more. And not just rambling at half past nine on a Saturday night!

Friends and Macarons!

22 March 5

I’ve had a go at making macarons on a number of occasions but they’ve never been a rip-roaring success.  Dibs on the other hand is a master.  She makes them as stress relief for goodness sake – that most pernickety patisserie as a form of relaxation!  After commenting on one of her instagram photos she was kind enough to invite me to her home to make a batch (the whole reason I went to London in the first place) and whilst fabric shopping is always great fun, the baking was the best part of the day!

First we made a white chocolate ganache to sandwich the macarons together as it needed to cool before we could use it.  This Craftsy Blog post has some good ratios in it.  It’s simply melting chocolate into hot cream and stirring (vigorously – I wasn’t vigorous enough so we needed a bain-marie) until you have something smooth and glossy.  You then place cling film over the surface so that it can’t form a skin or crust as it cools.  Then it was time for the macarons!

22 March 3

Dibs uses an Italian Meringue method to make hers which involves making a sugar syrup that is then added to the whipped egg whites.  This makes for a more stable meringue and therefore more reliable results.  There’s a description of the different methods here and  I’ve found a similar recipe to the one Dibs used (from Piere Herme’s book) on The Baker Chic blog.  We also discussed why it’s so important NOT to use liquid food colouring (throws the moisture content off) and the demise of her favourite glass she used for filling the piping bags.  We also discussed CBeebies (Our weapon of choice in distracting Noah) and Claire educated me in how to pack my shopping trolley more effectively!

We all had a go at piping the meringue – Dibs is a ninja, me and Claire not so much!  It was great fun trying though even if, once you’ve carefully made all those circles, you end up being quite violent with the trays to ‘knock any air bubbles out’ by dropping them onto the table several times!  Once they’d been left to form a skin they went into the oven for just under quarter of an hour – apparently this isn’t an exact science with a domestic oven!

22 March 4

As you can see though, she got some phenomenal results and once they’d been paired up (mine and Claire’s attempts at piping had made their sizes somewhat irregular!) we sandwiched them together.  We used two flavours – lemon and caramel.  We piped a small dot of the lemon or caramel in the middle and then a circle of the white chocolate ganache around the outside before sandwiching the pairs together.  Once again, Dibs skills in this area outstripped mine and Claire was doing an awesome job of supervising us and looking after Noah.  Then there was time to quickly pack some in a box for me and Claire to take home before making a run for the train!

22 March 6

All bar three made the journey home where they managed to make it until Sunday (Dibs told me that they taste better the next day and it’s true!) and My Dad, Husband and friends who popped in all gave them a massive thumbs up.  The lemon combo was the favourite!

Thank you so much for inviting me into your home Dibs, Noah and Mr Dibs.  I had a wonderful time and have been shopping for the ingredients to have another go at home.  Boy has chosen purple as the colouring for ours (and yes, it’s a gel colour!).  I’m just waiting for the disposable piping bags and some appropriately sized piping nozzles to arrive and then I’ll be having a go at macarooning solo!

Crafting a Rainbow’s Top 5 is BACK!

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Do you remember Gillian’s (of Crafting a Rainbow) Top 5 series of reflection posts that took the blogging world by storm last year?  Well, she’s doing it again this year (after a Twitter chat, the instigator of so much sewing mischief!) and has designed a lovely, shiny, new logo for 2013’s Hits, Misses, Reflections, Inspirations and, of course, Goals for 2014.  I’m so glad that this series is going to happen again this year – I found it so interesting to read every body else’s posts last year and did a similar thing myself in two posts (here and here) as I was late to the party.

Here’s what Gillian has to say about it for those new to the idea:

“Want to join in? It’s easy, and the rules are meant to be broken. Basically, between now and the new year, think back over the year and blog Top 5 lists about the following five topics: 

  • Top 5 Hits: Favourite Creations, most worn or most loved
  • Top 5 Misses: Sewing Fails, UFOs, worn once, or complete disasters
  • Top 5 Reflections: What did you learn about yourself or sewing this year? 
  • Top 5 Inspirations: What books, people, blogs, trends etc motivated you this year?
  • Top 5 Goals for the New Year”

If you want to know who took part last year, have a look on her blog.  It’s fascinating and inspiring reading and a great way to find some new blogs!  In fact, the Top 5 is how I discovered Gillian’s blog.

I’ll be posting my Top 5’s between Christmas and New Year.  I’ll also be including a bit about last years goals in my reflections… Hope you can join in the fun!

Recently

Recently

 

Life,  it is happening and blogging is not.  Fireworks have been and gone (no more late nights on that front), I’ve got three law exams next week being fuelled by tea and have started planning Boy’s 4th Super Hero themed birthday party.  After the exams I hope to have a little more time to spend with you guys.  Sewing has been neglected but I still have things I made in the summer I haven’t shared with you yet plus a more recently completed Archer and Bombshell!  I also owe Evie some photos and really ought to sort out the house…  I have a week off soon and I am really looking forward to it!

Catharsis

This is going to be a bit off the beaten track around here; no sewing, baking crafting to speak of.  It’s likely going to end up being a stream of consciousness because sometimes you have to get things out of your system.  In this particular case not only do I need to write I also need to know its going to be read; so I’m afraid you guys are my audience.  Feel free to skip if you want as I’m probably going to follow some paths that aren’t too shiny or pretty.

September is a weird month.  It’s back to school time (even though I am a decade or more past that stage in my life) and kinda has that new page feeling about it.  In a lot of ways its like new year without the resolutions.  It represents to me a time to start over, try again.  In other ways it absolutely sucks.  With absolutely no grace summer just ups and walks out, the weather turns and its suddenly dark.  And quite often that’s the route my thoughts take too, although September and early October now also completely suck as they remind me of what could have been and haul the loss of my tiny tiny baby up to the surface again.

What makes it harder is that September and October are full of family wedding anniversaries and birthdays.  So whilst I’d quite like to crawl under a rock and hide the mask goes on and I pretend everything is ‘fine’.  Whilst the remake of the Italian Job was not overly my cup of tea, the definition of ‘fine’ has stuck with me: Fucked Up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional.  Yup, that’s me.  I’m fine.

Depression sucks.  I could use a hundred and one different expletives but it wouldn’t come close.  Before I suffered from it I thought I could imagine what it was like; you know feeling sad and flat.  I was wrong.  So, so wrong.  It’s more than feeling sad and a bit flat.  The sadness is there all the time, it becomes (I’m not sure how to describe this) a sort of filtered window.  It distorts and colours what you see and you feel separated.  That separation makes me feel flat, two-dimensional.  But all the time my head is buzzing and it’s never in a straight line.  I constantly feel like I’m on the outside looking in and the longer it goes on the stronger that feeling gets.  I make the problem worse by putting on the mask and pretending everything is OK.  I don’t know what else to do though.

I can’t let the mask slip as I have a gorgeous Boy who needs me.  So I go through each day working on presenting myself the way I think I’m supposed to.  I know that sometimes my temper is too short and that I lose it at situations that really don’t warrant that response.  I try to explain to him that sometimes I get really really sad and it makes me grumpy and short-tempered.  I know I don’t hide it all the time as there are times when I’m lost in my thoughts and he’ll climb up into my lap to give me a cuddle because he says I look sad again.  It’s the use of the word ‘again’ that breaks my heart.  He deserves better.

Over the last year I’ve had different coping mechanisms.  Some work better than others and some are actually pretty destructive.  Suffice to say I’m on meds and they seem to have lessened the peaks and troughs.  What does help is being fully absorbed in a task as when I’m concentrating completely on a task the negative committee in my head sit down and shut the f**** up.  There is no floor space for them when I’m working out how to construct a collar or making sure some topstitching is even or a sleeve goes in smoothly.  I think it’s also the positive action of taking something and turning it into something else using my hands.  The restlessness of my mind also affects my sleep.  I’m tired, I want to sleep but my head will not shut up.  I’m very familiar with my bedroom ceiling and the way the bedside lamp creates shadows on the ceiling.  So I read (often what other bloggers have written), or I get up and sew, or in this instance, I write.

I also know that I’m an emotional eater and my comfort food of choice is something sweet.   That’s the start of a big nasty circle for me; feel rubbish, eat, look in the mirror, not like the reflection, feel like a failure, eat something to make it better…  It’s text-book and self-perpetuating.  I know that and in fact knowing it makes it worse.  There’s a lot going on over which I have absolutely zero control.  There are some things I can control though and what goes in my mouth and what I ask my body to do each day are things I can act on.  I can change what I eat and I can get off my backside and move more.  So I’m going to.  I’m not as brave as Evie and heading for a crossfit gym (although I’m intrigued, inspired and slightly terrified of the idea of it… One day…  Especially as I’ve found a box near me…) So I’m going to become a Nerd.  Not just a sewing nerd but (and here’s the plan) a fitness one too.

In the early part of the summer I started to eat a more natural diet with less processed anything in it.  I felt and looked a lot better.  And then something happened and I went back to comfort eating and that familiar circle.  Somewhere along the line I found Nerd Fitness and I’ve been reading the blog and it’s archives for a while now.  I’ve even got one of the ebooks in my reader and tentatively started doing the body weight workout.  On the 23rd September Steve Kamb and Staci opening an online fitness academy just for women.  I’m going to sign up.  I’m going to give myself six weeks to see what I can do in that time frame.  See if taking a bit of control and doing something positive for myself helps with the rest of it.

I’ve got a 3/4 of the year resolution I guess; do something for me that helps make me feel better.  You never know, if I can make the fitness gains I want then a better looking bod may come with it and a whole reason to sew some more!  But I’m going to keep sewing in the mean time, it’s my meditation and brings me a lot of joy and satisfaction so there’ll still be sewing going on around here too.  You never know, I may get in front of that bl***y camera and photograph the 6 (or is it 7?!) items that have yet to be blogged!

And apologies if there are any adverts spamming up this (or any other) post.  They’re not there through my choice but are a way for WordPress to keep this a free blogging platform which you can read about more here if you want.

Sewing in Norwich

Since I started sewing around three years ago, I’ve discovered a number of sewing resources in Norwich (the nearest city to me).  I’ve listed them here in case it’s useful for people wondering where to look in the Norwich / Norfolk area.  I can’t promise and don’t hold this out to be an exhaustive list – if there are any I’ve missed please let me know and I’ll add them.

Anglian Fashion Fabrics
29 Magdalen Street, Norwich, NR3 1LE
This is a treasure trove of fabrics with a really knoweldgeable and helpful staff.  The stock changes constantly and they have new deliveries every day.  If you see something you like, buy it then because it’ll probably be gone next week.  There’s around 5,000 fabrics to choose from and patterns by Vouge, Burda, McCalls and Kwiksew are stocked.

Anglian Furnishing Fabrics
40 Magdalen Street, Norwich, NR3 1JE
Specialists in curtain and upholstery fabrics they also stock everything you need to make curtains, including lining, interlining, buckram, heading tapes, tracks, rods…

Makeplace
33 Magdalen Street, Norwich, NR3 1LQ
This is a learning hub for textile crafts including sewing,  knitting, crochet, weaving and felting to name but a few

Sew Creative
19 Magdalen Street, Norwich, NR3 1LE
Knowledgeable staff able to sell you sewing machines and overlockers as well as service your machines.  Also stocks a good range of accessories and some knitting bits.

The Fabric Warehouse
8 Swan Lane, Norwich, NR2 1HZ
Part of a small nationwide chain of stores that mostly focus on home dec fabrics with a limited range of dress making fabrics.

John Lewis
All Saints Green, Norwich, NR1 3LX
Formerly known as Bonds (and still referred to as such by a lot of locals) the haberdashery department is currently in the basement.  There is a range of dressmaking fabrics and quilting cottons as well as a good range of buttons, zips, pins etc.  They also sell sewing machines and their staff are friendly and helpful.  They stock patterns from the big 4 and Burda.  In the same area there is also the craft and knitting supplies.

Norwich Market
There are a few stalls in Norwich Market, the two I use the most is the haberdashery stall burried in the middle of the market and the fabric stall which is two rows in from the guild hall side of the market.  There are also stalls selling upholster foam and bean bag filler if you need it.

Hobbycraft
Unit 7, Riverside Retail Park, Albion Way, Norwich
This is a big box craft store (a bit like JoAnn’s I guess) which stocks materials for every type of craft under the sun.  As such it’s sewing section is limited with no patterns but some good basic notions.  The fabric carried is quilting cotton although they also stock batting for quilts.

Here on in, you’re going to need a car to reach these retailers:

Dunelm Mill
Unit 1&2 Sprowston Retail Park, Salhouse Road, NR7 9AZ
This is a homewares store that also stocks curtain and upholstery fabrics you can buy by the metre.  They’ve just started stocking a limited range (less than a dozen at the moment) of cotton quilting fabrics.  There’s a basic haberdashery area and they stock Gutterman as well as Coats & Clarke sewing threads as well as Dylon dyes.

Sew Creative Quilts
Wroxham Barns, Tunstead Road, Hoveton, Norfolk, NR12 8QU
This is outside of Norwich and twoards the east of the County.  It’s a specialist quilt shop so has a great selection of rulers and printed fabrics although doesn’t stock things like Alexander Henry or Michael Miller.  Also carries a good range of embroidery equipment.  The staff are really friendly and knoweldgeable.

Sew Simple
Taverham Nursery adn Shopping Centre, Fir Covet Road, Taverham, NR8 6HT
This is a craft store where around half the floor space is dedicated to patchwork.  There’s a good range of printed fabrics here but little in the way of dressmaking fabrics.  Some embroidery supplies can be had here as well as a lot of paper and general craft items.

Online

I appreciate that for a starter you may not be any where near Norwich and that secondly you probably lead busy lives!  Shopping online is massively convenient for me as I work, have a three year old whirlwind of a son, help my self employed husband with running his business as well as attempt (and often fail) to keep our house in some sort of order.  These are the online retailers who I use and return to, as well as some others that come highly recommended by other bloggers:

Sew Essential
Patterns, haberdashery, sewing machines, overlockers…  Great service and good prices.  I bulk buy my sewing machine needles from them as they have the best prices.

Jaycotts
Absolute gold mine for zips.  It’s where I buy most of mine as the prices are good and the service is excellent.  They also stock some great sewing tools –  I always have to edit my online shopping basket down!

Fancy Moon
If you love a good cotton print, this is the place!  Mostly quilting cottons, but of the high end variety. 

Frumble
Again, fabulous prints and some cute bias bindings.  Again, quilting cottons but of a quality that is suitable for clothes.

Maculloch and Wallis
If you’re after something a bit specialised then this is a good place to start.  Whilst it’s not cheap the quality is apparently high.  I’d love to visit the bricks and mortar store one day…

Fabricland
Really great priced good quality fabric.  The website though is awful, unless you like bright yellow with lots of gifs!  The staff on the phone are helpful (you can’t order online) and I have occassionally requested swatches but at around £3 a metre I’m more often happy to take the risk.  I’ve yet to have an unuseable fabric from them and there are bricks and mortar stores you can visit in person.

eBay
The one caution I would have about buying fabric from eBay is that you are 100% reliant on the seller’s description, it is very much buyer beware.  If you fall in love with a print you find on eBay, see if the seller has a direct site  or you can find it from another store as often it may work out cheaper as they’re not having to factor in PayPal or eBay fees.

Fabric Inspirations
Another great site with a massive range of cotton prints.  The pages can be a little cramped with a lot of designs shown to you in one go, but the prices are good and the service excellent.

Plush Addict
This retailer has everything you need if you want to make your own re-useable nappies.  If that’s not your thing their range of cotton prints is fabulous!  They quite often have some of the more difficult to track down Michael Miller or Alexander Henry prints.  Their turnover is high though so if you want it, buy it when you see it!

Charity Shops

If you’re a bit of a bargain hunter or need something cheap to make a test garment (muslin / toile), charity shops are hard to beat.  I’m not going to list all the ones in Norwich as there are a lot but rather the things I check out first when I visit one:

Bed sheets (new or used) are great for toiles and lining bodices.  If it’s not in its packaging it goes through as hot a wash as my machine will do with a good dose of a hygenic stain remover.  Some retro printed ones may be good enough to wear.

Curtains are a great source for prints.  I always go for washable ones and treat them the same was as I do sheets and they yield a lot of fabric.

Sometimes you may strike gold and actually find dressmaking fabric.  The Oxfam shop on Magdalen Street is the most reliable place for this locally.

The other thing to look at is clothes that you can either alter or harvest fabric from.  Kilts and gathered skirts can have yards of fabric in them!  There are some great refashinoning blogs out there but my two favourites are Miss P and So Zo.

Supermarkets

If pre-loved weirds you out, next time you’re shopping at the supermarket, check out the homewares section.  The sheets and duvets often have some lovely prints and the price for the amount of fabric you get isn’t bad!  This By Hand London Elisalex dress made by Me and My Polar Bear started out as a duvet cover!

Hope this helps if you’re looking for resources in Norwich, or some ideas of where to shop on line.  Are there any retailers I’ve missed that you think I should add?