Monthly Archives: September 2015

Getting that Fix

Currently reading: Vlad, CC Humphreys (and The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick)

Currently hearing: Guards! Guards! and Going Postal, Terry Pratchett; Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden; The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood.

Alright, so I’m cheating on my “no new books” thing. I’ve got four audiobooks on the go that are books I’ve read before, but the audios are newly purchased. Sort of. I decided to cancel my Audible account because while £14.99 isn’t breaking the bank, I’m not actually using it. So I had 12 credits of books to buy. Can’t waste that money! And audiobooks are reeeeally expensive! So I bought some audios of books I already own, and yes, a couple of new ones that I really want to read but technically can’t because I’m working through my To Read pile. But… but… OK it’s not really an excuse.

As for cycling through four in one go… my brain needs stimulation! And these things are many, many hours long. I like them for listening to while crafting or pottering about, because I don’t need my eyes or my hands to enjoy them, and they’re less distracting. But hearing the same voice for hours on end means eventually you start zoning out. I’m trying to cope with having less to occupy my brain by feeding it more fiction. Usually that works.

I’m also cheekily re-reading The Summer Queen. I didn’t even read it that long ago, but I was at the optician’s yesterday with my new tablet, and I’ve only just put Kindle onto it, so I didn’t have many books actually downloaded. So I HAD TO read what was to hand. HAD TO. And I was there for an hour and a half in the end, so I think I did the right thing. Also, I have ordered new glasses. It’s about time. I’ve had my current frames a good four years at least, and they were chosen when I had longer hair. I don’t feel like they suit my face as well since I had the chop. So that’s exciting!

I’m signed up to a craft swapping deal at the moment as well. It’s Christmas themed! I am pretty excited about it; you know how we love Christmas in Crow-Spicer-Quinn towers! I have to make a tree decoration of some kind, but I don’t think I can stick to that! I was Pinteresting earlier and have a lovely inspiration board. There are loads of cute ideas for small decorations that you could even stack up to make wall strings or mobiles so I’ll probably make a few things and connect them somehow. Or just make a complete tree’s worth of decoration, haha. VERY EXCITED. That also means more craft project photo blogs.

I broke my sewing machine earlier this week. Well, I snapped a lever with my WOMAN STRENGTH. But I soon had the screwdriver out to take the machine apart. I eBayed a new part and it’s in and ready to start levering again. That’s good because it meant all work on Rivka’s Christmas present had stopped. It’s pretty much taking over the craft room. I’m still excited though. There’s time to do some more work on it before dinner. It feels like there’s still a lot to do, but in the way that hopefully it’ll suddenly come together. Hopefully.

The nights are starting to draw in, the fire has been lit, and it’s cosying up time. Now is the season of quilts and spices. I effing love autumn. The next few weeks are going to buoy me up, I can tell.

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A Stitch in Time

This week, I have mostly been… well, I’m not really sure. I’ve not been doing much reading, I’ve done no writing, so I must have been working on Rivka’s Christmas surprise! And I have. I’m writing an update post for that soon, scheduled for after Christmas Day.

VERY EXCITING THOUGH: Katie Cross has sent me a copy of The High Priest’s Daughter and I am clearing the decks for that one. I will be tucked up early tonight so I can dive back into Antebellum and the crisis in the Central Network. I hope there are more dragons.

VERY EXCITING THING THE SECOND: A very clever chap I know has been giving me sneaky previews of his new book. E O Higgins is powering up his steam-word-processing-engine and bringing us a sequel to Conversations with Spirits (eventually).

Slow progress with all other book type things. Though I did catch a bit of Roald Dahl day last weekend. His books – particularly Matilda (guess why) and The Witches – were some of the most-read on my shelves. And as I got older, I graduated to the short story collections for more grown up readers. The macabre and twisted worlds he created, with their often grotesque inhabitants… well, there was no one like him. The Hitchhiker, Man from the South, Royal Jelly to name a few, freaked me out but kept me hooked to the very last sentence.

Rivka taught me dragonscale smocking the other week. It was a crazy Saturday smocking party in the Highlands! I think technically it’s a type of American smocking, but we know it mainly from the costume lady on Game of Thrones because she used it to make the textured scale effect on Daenerys’s blue dresses. But it looks really cool. It’s puffy, but you can iron it flat. Rivka has done more of it than me, but I might find a use for it…

So baaaasically I’ve been crafting and working. And not getting enough sleep. But I’m working on it. I have some holiday coming up in a few weeks that is going to be hectic (understatement) but productive. And then NaNoWriMo. Holy swearwords!

And now, back up to the attic…

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Project – drawstring bag

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For this project you will need:

  • sturdy cotton/twill fabric (I’m using denim)
  • a contrasting colour/fabric band for the top (printed cottons are jazzy!)
  • cord (fabric, ribbon, plasticised rope…)
  • embroidery thread
  • an iron, if you’re doing it properly
  • a big ol’ safety pin

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I’m making my whole bag from denim, and adding a contrasting band over the top, with top stitching, so that the whole bag is sturdy! I cut my main bag on the fold, to save sewing the bottom seam – a handy tip, because if you sew the seam, if anything pointy gets jogged about in there, it might start to snag the seam and make a hole, but hey, I’m making mine without a bottom seam! I sort of blagged how big I want it to be, so decide on size based on what you want it to carry. It might only need to be big enough for a book or two, or you might want it big enough for a chunky towel and swimming kit. Your choice, craft fans! **Just remember – you’ll lose a little on the measurements because of seams and the fold down at the top for the cord channel**

As I’m using a printed cotton for the top band, I need the pattern to be even as best I can. If you’ve got one with polka dots or tiny flowers or a stripe, it’s easier to get away with, but I think this lady will notice if I chop a fox’s head off! My contrast bands are two foxes deep each (metric) but it can be as narrow or wide as you want. Personalisation and choice, my friends. When the bands get sewn on, they’ll be sewn to what will be the top edge at both sides, so you’ll get a long rectangle with bands at each end (mirror image, so your animals are all the right way up!!) before you sew up the sides. Mine are two bands with a gap, but you can do one wide one, or a narrow one at the bottom: Up. To. You.

It is at this point that we must repair to the ironing station. Proper sewing people will tell you that you need to press a lot of things when sewing, and hand on heart I don’t always bother. But for this, if you want your contrast band to have a nice crisp edge (and this will also help your top stitching) you should really press your edge under. So steam up those craft rooms! Fold the top and bottom edge of the contrast under until it’s as narrow as you want it to be, and press those folds so you get a sharp line. It’ll then stay tucked under, making the pinning a lot easier. Dual purpose ironing!

OK, now the work begins. Luckily this stitching is all in straight lines! Easy peasy.

**Before you do anything else, you need to know how fat your cord is going to be. If you are using ready-made cord, or ribbon, great. Grab it. If you’re going to make cord by plaiting things, or rouleau tubes, you need to do this now, so you can work out how big the cord channel needs to be at the top.**

I’m using a synthetic cord rope stuff they sell at Hobbycraft in the ribbons and rickrack section. It’s not very fat, so I don’t need a huge turn down at the top. Right. So. Measure from the top edges of your backing fabric twice the width and a bit of your cord channel. That’s where the top of the contrast band will sit, so it’s neat along the bottom of the cord channel. Neatness is key in this project I’m afraid.

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Remember how we pressed the contrast bands? Those creases should have held nicely. We’re going to top stitch now, so the band needs pinning to the right side (the visible-when-finished side) of the bag. The top edge needs to sit juuuuust under where the cord channel seam will be, so you won’t accidentally sew over the cord channel and make it too narrow. Pin those bands, and neatly, gently, lovingly top stitch. I’m using a matching thread (the top machine thread is visible, and the bottom thread is on the inside) but you can contrast if you like. Hopefully, she says confidently, when this big long rectangle is folded in half, the two sides will match up. If they don’t; make a cup of tea, and don’t stress about it. It can be fixed. It can be saved. It can be beautiful. **This is when I stitched the name on the front, when I could still get to the inside easily**

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If/when your two halves match, fold the rectangle right sides together so you can sew up the two sides. It is super important to make sure the two outsides are sandwiched together so that the seams are tucked inside the bag when you turn it the other way out. Pin the two sides together (making sure the band edges still match!) and sew up to just past the top of the contrast band. DON’T sew right up to the top and close off the holes you need for the cord. If you want to, when that’s done, and you’re breathing a sigh of relief, and also marvelling in your awesomeness, you can quickly stitch at right angles at the bottom of the cord channel just to fix the top of the seam.

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In order to make the edges nice and finished at the top, you need to turn in the sides at the top by a seam’s width (about 5/8 of an inch is standard) as far down as you measured, and machine stitch. This should naturally fold to follow the seam you’ve just done.

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This will stop the edge fraying and make it look like you made something competently. It’s all in the details. Then, turn the top edge down, right side facing out, so the tucked under bit is on the inside of the bag. It is now up to you which way round you stitch. I am going to stitch this so that the top thread on the machine is on the inside (so I’m sewing while looking at the fold) and the bottom machine thread will be visible from the outside. It’s up to you if you want hidden or contrasting thread. I’m choosing not to contrast thread. Pin and sew the two top edges and voilà, cord channel halves. This seam should run just above the top of your contrast bands, as you can see on the left below.

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We are so almost done! Now we need to thread the cord. I am choosing to attach my cord top and bottom, to make shoulder straps, but again, you can decide how you want your finished bag to look. Keep it hand-held if you want. If you’re going to attach the cord at the bottom as well, make sure you cut an eyelet big enough to get the cord through but not so big it can come back out. Because of the cord I’m using, I can pass it through, knot it, and then melt the ends with a match to stop it coming undone. So my eyelets need to be smaller than the knots. If you’re lucky enough to have a beefy eyelet punch, go with that. If not, you’ll need to buttonhole the edges with thread to stop them fraying and make it look neat. I hate that part.

Time for the threading and then we’re done, I promise. How many cups of tea have you had by now? I know this seems like a really long tutorial but you can zip through it, honest! You need to cut your cord in half, to make it “drawstring” properly. Take one half, put the safety pin on the end to help with feeding it through, and push it into the cord channel. Feed it through one side and come back the other. Pull it through until the ends are even. Now put the pin on the other half of the cord, and do the mirror image, so you have ends on each side. Put them through the holes at the bottom and secure with a knot or stitch. Ta-da! (or just knot the ends if you’re leaving it at that)

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I added one extra step: stitching on the name of the recipient with embroidery thread. This is optional. You could get applique letters, or free stitch initials, or whatever. I free-stitched the name cursive in the gap I put between the two bands.

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Now it’s really, really done. Enjoy your bags and salt the earth of your craft room, never to return! Until next time…

KEY POINTS:

  • MEASURE accurately or your sides won’t match
  • IRON those cotton bands!
  • FIRST top stitch
  • THEN side seams
  • NEXT top channel and threading
  • EYELET HOLE needs to stay SMALL
  • CINCH!

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Jogging my memory

Currently reading: C C Humphreys, Vlad

Hey you guys! I must be back at work full time because my online presence is virtually nil! The last few weeks I have mostly been planning and prepping for winter projects. And working. And, as a shock to me let alone anyone else, doing more exercise. All I need to do now is add blogging to the routine.

I’m still working through my TBR pile, and matching it to Book Bingo. So far I have crossed off two from the bingo board:

Author from another culture: Isabel Allende, Daughter of Fortune

Been on the to-read pile for more than 2 years: Stephen Hunt, Secrets of the Fire Sea

book bingo

Slowly getting through Vlad. It’s hard to place for me because the late fifteenth century in the Ottoman Empire region is not something I know much about. So I have no idea how well-researched it is. But it’s a very butch read at the moment. Teen bravado and mysticism and a bit of brooding.

Coming up next will be a project post for a little bag I made for my friend’s daughter for her gym kit. Hopefully I will explain it alright and the pictures will make sense!

I’m very aware that November is looming its ugly, cold, drizzly head. And with that comes NaNoWriMo. The annual scramble to remember our logins begins soon. Last year we came back to the news that our amazing ML had passed away, and it was a sad time to be a writer in Scotland Elsewhere region. But we pulled together a great little group for write-ins in Inverness and did her proud! Rivka and I met at a write-in, and kept in touch leading to us moving in together. Last year we met, amongst others, two lovely guys that we have also kept in touch with and now count as good friends.

Participant-2014-Web-Banner

Writing, though it can be a very individual pursuit, is what has brought me into contact with so many lovely and talented people. Handily, we converse through words on the Internet a lot of the time, but our little local group also has dinners and coffee and games nights. Last time we met up, we played Exploding Kittens and Articulate and laughed until we hurt. So I hope we have a similar experience this year and find another couple of weirdos to add to our wordy family. Regardless of how many words we write (though I’m sure Rivka will zoom past 50k as she always does) we still win.

So that’s what I’m up to. Preparing to clear the decks for Katie Cross again – her next book, The High Priest’s Daughter, comes out in TEN FREAKIN’ DAYS on 15th September and she has once again kindly allowed me to have an ARC. I’m excited but with it being really tense now… ooooh. What next? How will it end?

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An end of trilogy coming up soon – Rivka has just about finished Coven so the end of the Last Ancient series is approaching… I think at the end of the month? Then she has A Kiss from the Grave on the cards for a spooky Hallowe’en release. It’s a horror story with possession and demons and apparently you won’t sleep with the lights off for a while. In case you missed it, here’s the book trailer. 100% real, no CGI effects!

Now onto the next job: putting the kettle on! Stay hip and happening, you crazy cats.

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