Friday, February 25, 2011

Stork Deliveries

Come March 1st we will be celebrating the birthday of our nephew who will be one. Sadly we won’t be there to watch him open his presents or spit at his candles as he lives back home in England. Not only that but we will miss the arrival of his little brother who is due to make an appearance at the end of April. We are there in spirit though and to make sure they know we care I have been busy with the sewing machine making handy presents for them.

First is a wall hanging quilt that has little pockets down the side of his name where his mum can put little toys.

The next present which was a commission by his mum is a nappy stacker. I can’t take credit for the design as I got the pattern on the internet, as I had never heard of a nappy stacker before and didn’t have a clue what it looked like. But I think I did a good job and I hope they will be pleased with it.

Now getting to that age where everyone is growing up and getting married and having babies! It feels a bit strange in a way because it feels like yesterday I was 18, but that was 10 years ago.

Wall Hanging Quilt

I hope my little nephews like their pressies and hopefully in the coming year I can give them the gift of a cousin to play with.

Nappy Stacker

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Balanced Design Diet

My other half and I were discussing styles and home design over the holiday weekend, and thankfully I found out we are both on the same page when it comes to style. We both agree that we want practical/modern design with no clutter and clean lines. But then I started flicking through a catalogue from a home furniture and design store and I could see myself living in each of the different styles due to what they all brought to the pot.

I like simple, clean, practical, modern design with minimal clutter. Design styles such as the Bauhaus or the Scandinavian spring to mind.

Marcel Breuer designed home.

An Ikea living room

But then I like that old, homely rustic look. Natural materials and warm tones used in a smaller space with interesting nooks that invokes the feeling of a den.

A country cottage kitchen

I am also interested in homes that are green and energy conscious. This may mean homes using certain types of windows and window coverings, wallpaper instead of paint, carpets or under floor heating, recycled wooden floors. The furniture within, is it recycled, antique or revamped retro?

I think in the end my personal preference comes down to having a good balance of all these styles. I think to myself about what makes a home. To me a home is your den, your space to relax and live. It is your family and your family’s personality and history. I like photos up on walls and on sides of happy times gone by. I like reminders of events and milestones. But not to the point where it just becomes clutter on sideboards and tables, which then hinders cleaning and takes up useful practical space.

I like cleanliness and practical storage solutions to help keep things tidy and protected. I hope to have children one day and I realise that keeping things clean and tidy will be a near impossible task. So the more that furniture pieces and d├ęcor can be child/pet friendly the better. I would look for durable, easy clean, safe and helpful items, such as machine washable cushions and soft furnishings, rounded and curved edges, areas that can be shut off and handy little cupboards.

I am very keen to have a green and environmentally friendly home and lifestyle. I would like to have energy-efficient systems put into place and pieces of furniture that are either made out of green sourced materials or are revamped/reused pieces with style.

I can see the use of minimal design in my home, where form follows function, but uses of fabrics and statement pieces will bring a more homely and individual feel to the spaces. Right, well now that’s sorted, better buy a house now!

What is your ideal home style?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Recommended Reading

I was thinking I would post some books that I recently got that i've found very inspiring. The first is the Quilting Bible.

As a Brit I wanted to learn how to make a traditional American Quilt. I found the whole book full of useful step by step guides and inspiring projects. Even if you know how to quilt having this on your bookshelf will always be useful. I always still collect how to sew books just because they are always good as reference and no matter how many years you've been sewing.

Link to the book:
Quilting Bible

My American - British Quilt being made.

My husband got me this for Christmas. Lotta Jansdotters's Simple Living. Its a wonderful book if you are a sewing beginner or if you're a lover of functional, pragmatic Scandinavian design and you want to get some inspiration. Lotta Jansdotter also has lots of other books and she has a website
I left most of my books back home, so I would welcome any suggestions for interesting books to look out for here, so as to build up my new collection.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dexter: A Lesson in Fur.

When we talked about moving to the states one of the conditions I stated was I would like to eventually get a dog. I have loved Beagles for as long as I can remember. I look back at drawings I did as a kid and the standard dog I always drew was a Beagle. I didn’t realise at the time it was a Beagle but now I know it was.

So after being here for a month, my husband dragged me out one weekend to see a puppy for sale from a breeder. That’s when we first met Dexter. There was only him and his sister left. We had decided we wanted a boy from the beginning, so the breeder went and got him. He didn’t want to go, tried hiding in a kennel, his sister hid under their mum. So we took this puppy home worried as to why he was scared stiff of us. Most puppies I’d seen were bundles of hyperactive joy/pain in the arse.

We got him home and set him down on a mat by the sofa. That’s where he stayed all evening. At one point he got up and walked the slowest I’d ever seen a dog walk to the other side of the lounge to a corner. He sat down there facing the wall!

Over the next couple of days he remained quiet and still. I wondered if we had made a mistake, he seemed more active in the kennels with his family. One day I came down the stairs into the lounge where he was and he saw me and waggedhis tail! This was a break through. He liked me! He became happy when he saw me. He started moving about more, which in turn caused a problem because he went to the toilet anywhere. So the frustration of toilet training began and the puppy started to appear.

He got excited when he saw us, he followed us everywhere. He wanted to be with us all the time so much he would cry if we were out of his eye line. We couldn’t leave him in the house on his own because he’d cry and bark. This became very frustrating. He is now much better, we can go out for a few hours after we have done this elaborate routine of taking him for a long walk, have a relax time, put him in the crate with a peanut butter stuffed kong, leave the TV on CNN and out the door with little fuss.

Dexter has now grown into a proper mad dog. He likes Fig Rolls and peanut butter; he has furry friends who he likes to play with in the park; he barks like crazy whenever someone goes past the house; he passed puppy school with flying colours; he sleeps under the desk when I work; he likes to lick his dad’s feet before he goes to bed; he still sleeps in our room, but at least he does so on his own little bed and he sleeps through the night now.

They say that dogs mellow as they get older, I hope so, because at the moment it’s like someone has given him a can of Red Bull everyday.

In honour of our furry baby I have started making a new range of items for dogs! So far I have made little bags that hang off the handle of the lead/leash in which you can put your dog mess bags. I use to keep the bags in my coat pocket. Every time I change coats or if my hubby took him out the bags would be forgotten. Now they are always in the little bag which is on the lead where it hangs by the front door.

My Dexter bags are now available to buy in my Etsy Shop.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Modern Past: Women's Role Today

The other day I was thinking about how the roles of women have changed over the decades and centuries. I am reading a book about 17th century women and how in an era when all they were suppose to do was breed and be a dutiful wife (if you were well off) or be a dutiful wife and live beyond 30 years old (if you were poor), there were some women who tried to buck the trend and do something other than being a constant bun making machine.

Women in the past have had the indignity of being seen but not heard. We were the little women, too delicate and too little brain power to do a man's work and a man's role. The various European thrones of old had king's obsessed with begetting a son in order to carry on the work and the good name of the house. A daughter born was a great disappointment, and her only destiny was to be married off to a good family of similar royal stock. Men thought a woman could not rule, they wouldn't have the stomach for it, they would be too emotional. The most famous king whose obsession to have a son saw him take six wives, was in the end succeeded by a little boy who died after 6 years on the throne. Then his eldest daughter tried to govern, but was ultimately a disaster, mostly because she was swayed and manipulated by the men around her. It was eventually this old King's youngest daughter that took control and being free of men and vowing to only be married to her country did she prevail and show that a woman could be great at doing a man's job.

We have got better at letting the roles become equal. The 20th century was the most radical for change in giving women the rights as equal citizens of the world. We got the right to vote, we took on dangerous industrial work and hard labour that men had done during the war, we became CEO's, Prime Ministers, Presidents and adventurers. The invention of the contraceptive pill gave us control over our own bodies and our own lives, we could decide when we had children. Education improved and we were shown we didn't just have to just get the basics in life to go to work for a while until we were married and then be taken care of by our husbands. We could go to universities no matter what background we came from and have a career!

We have come such a long way and we continue to push the boundaries, which is great. My generation and my group of peers have it ingrained in our psyche that we must have a career first, we will wait till we're older to have a family. Then we can go back to work after having our children. We can do it all, that's what society tells us.

But can we? Are we now going too far the other way? TV, magazines, lifestyle websites and the rich and famous bombard us which the images of the modern day woman. She has a career, she's a mother, lovely nice clothes, nice house, does the cleaning and cooking, looks all sexy for her husband/boyfriend/partner when they come home. But that's all false. I don't know any woman like that. Most women and mothers I know rush around like their arse is on fire. Take the child to school, go to work, pick up this, drop this off, pick the child up from school, do the vacuuming, make dinner, feed the dog/cat, do any household business, walk the dog, bath child, put child to bed, tidy up after child and husband/boyfriend/partner, sit down to see that nothing is on TV, maybe have a shower, to tired to read book/magazine, bed. Restart the next morning. Now I don't have children myself, all I have is a dog and a husband and that is work enough at the moment, so god knows what its like to put children into the mix. I have friends that are studying as well as doing all of this also. My question to them would be how?! By the way, the day I described above is my mother's normal work day.

I personally have never really been ambitious, I haven't seen myself as a high powered career woman. I just want a comfortable life. I would be happy doing a small part-time job, having a couple of kids and not working when they come along. Maybe go back once they're older and can look after themselves a bit. Just a simple life. But then when I think that, I feel I'm saying something really terrible, I feel guilty even, am I backstabbing all those years of pushing for equality?

I understand that most parents have to work today just to be able to afford a roof over their heads and food on the table. I just think that the idea of having it all (lifestyle, money, house, career and family) has made it now unbecoming to want a more traditional lifestyle. Surely the result of feminism was the freedom of choice and options. We can have a career, we can delay having children, we can marry or not marry, we can stay at home, we can go to space, we can sail the oceans, we stitch and sew or we can weld and hammer. Women use to be shunned or looked down upon in history if they broke the mould and worked or didn't marry, if they went travelling or got an education. Now the tables have turned the other way, I feel looked down upon if I say I'm a homemaker/housewife.

So where do we go from here? Who knows. The social landscape is forever changing and the roles we face in an ever complicated world evolve like us. All I can say is we should be thankful we were born now. We now live longer and healthier lives, where we can try every lifestyle at least once. We have choices and we can be whoever we want to be.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How to get some comfort in your life...

A Simple Cushion

1. Decide on what size and shape you want. I am making a 40cm x 40cm. Firstly I cut out the material. If you have a patterned fabric place your square pattern (43cm x 43cm, this includes the seam allowance) in such a way that it centres and frames a particular part of the patterned fabric. If you have a picture fabric like I’m using make sure you insert the zip at the bottom of the picture.

2. With the right sides of the fabric together pin the bottom of the fabric 3cm from the side of the square. Sew just 3cm. See picture.

3. Press the seam open. You can see in the picture the 3cm sew line coming in from each side of the square. I like to zigzag stitch the edges of the pressed opened seam or use pinking shears.

4. Insert the zip by pinning it at the one end first (the closed end), then pin down one side , pin the other end in and then down the other side.

5. Clip on your zipper foot for the sewing machine and start sewing midway down one side. Make sure the zipper pull is a quarter of the way along the zip, as you get to it as you’re sewing stop, make sure the needle is in the fabric, lift the foot up and pull the zipper pull past the foot. It can be a squeeze sometimes but just give it a wiggle. Then foot down and continue.

6. Once you get to the end, leave the needle in, foot up and turn at a 90 degree angle. Foot back down and sew across the bottom of the zip. I sew back and forth a couple of times to make it extra strong and secure. Lift foot again and turn again and sew down the other side, repeat as the other side and end.

7. Once done, keep the right sides of the fabric together and pin the edges of the square together.

8. Sew 1.5cm from the edge along all 3 three sides.

9. I like to tidy up the edges by using a zigzag stitch and cutting off any excess. You can use pinking shears if you wish.

10. You’re finished, so turn it right side out and insert a cushion pad.

The finished product! Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Story So Far....

Now you may wonder why there is such a big gap between posts in the blog. Last August my husband and I moved from our small home town in leafy Hertfordshire, England to up-state New York USA. Why the big move? Hubby got a job transfer. We had anticipated that we would be moving in March of 2010 but due to the economic downturn his company started making cutbacks. So the move was delayed till the dust had settled. You don't want to be walking into a new office where people have just lost colleagues due to the depression.

Us in Times Square in December

So we were stuck for 5 months living at my parents, in my sisters old bedroom (we had given up our apartment as we thought we were going in March). We used this time to get rid of more possessions. We figured that it would be cheaper to sell our furniture and buy new stuff in the US rather than ship it across. Some of the prices quoted were crazy! We only had a few items not a mansion full of things.

So after 5 months of living in a shoebox room and trying not to kill everyone around me, we finally flew mid August. This was the thing I most feared. I hate flying, I feel ill thinking about getting on a plane. Luckily I saw my doctor before I went and she kindly prescribed me Valium. My word, it did the trick. It was the quickest flight I've ever been on.

Being here in the States has been interesting. I have never been here before, so I didn't know what to expect. What I've found is how even though we both speak English, we have a totally different language.

I find myself sometimes talking to people, and realise by the perplexed look on their faces that they only understood half the conversation. I now think that when we go home i'll be saying all these American words, because I had to say them in order to be understood here. I also don't understand how we keep getting mistaken for Irish?!
Dexter our 6 month old Beagle.

We have experienced amazing weather (boiling hot summer, gorgeous autumn, and a proper snowy winter) which is now becoming laborious. I haven't seen grass since Boxing Day (26th Dec) and my face hurts from the cold every time I take the dog out to the toilet. I can't wait to see what the spring is like. By the way one of the first things I bought when we got here was a sewing machine! I need my fix of cotton and thread.

Well hopefully I can get back to writing more blog posts and step by step guides now that i'm settled... for now.

Monday, February 7, 2011

New Items Made!

I have started making iphone cases thanks to the inspiration of my husbands iphone. Its his precious and so this quilted case will protect from knocks and scraps and greasy fingers!
Unfortunately he won't be parading around promoting them anytime soon, as the ones I tend to make are a bit to feminine. He'll just have to stick to the his manly one I made him.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Spirrel Monkey is now on Etsy!

You can now get your hands on Spirrel Monkey made items! I now have a shop on Etsy which is a site where artist/makers can share and sell their handmade goods. Check it out today!