Category Archives: My ramblings

A craft post – the bench project

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 was to make time for more creative stuff. I decided I will do one project a month, ideally small enough to do over a weekend. So for January, kicking off in grand style… I upholstered a bench.

I will tell anyone who will listen that I re-upholstered the headboard on my bed a couple of years ago. It justified the expense of the chunky craft stapler I bought, but it has been languishing in my drawer for a while, so here we go…

You will need:

  • your bench top
  • foam block(s)
  • fabric to cover the top
  • a big ol’ stapler

You may possibly need:

  • A second pair of hands
  • cushion pads
  • fabric or craft glue
  • your vacuum cleaner
  • ribbon or other trim (bench style dependent)
  • A method of making your new upholstery flame-retardant
  • Your tunes and snacks of choice

I have had this bench in my lounge since my parents dropped it off when I moved in to my current flat. I think my dad put it together from the old legs of a table or bench, and a random shelf, or cut off of ply. As you can see, the colours are totally different between top and legs. It sits under the living room window, so someone (totally not me) can sit and look out the window and watch (judge) passersby. It usually has cushions on it, which is fine, but I wanted a more permanent solution. As this is an existing bench, all I had to do was undo the screws my dad had used to put it together (he did it in a super handy way which meant very little faff – thanks past-dad!) but I have no clue about your potential benches (potenches?) so in however way it works, stage one is to have the top bit of the bench separate from the legs. Then measure the length and width of it, so you know how much padding/foam block to buy.

I bought a 4” thick foam block from a high street craft shop, in its standard size. I even put it on the floor and sat on it to see how much it would compact when sat on. Thankfully it was a quiet day and no one challenged me about it! The block I found was quite dense already so it didn’t sink too much. I also bought a couple of cushion pads to help give the top some shape and make the direct bum-to-bench feeling a little cosier. See what feels right for you!

I had to cut the foam to the dimensions of my bench top, which was easy enough with big scissors and a serrated knife. As you can see, it left my block a little rough on the edges but I’m OK with that. If you want the cut side to match the factory cut, the internet suggests either a foam cutting saw, or an electric carving knife. I also bevelled the edges to give a smoother line for the fabric to go over, rather than all the corners, especially given the density of the foam. No one wants lumpy corners! You will likely end up with foam bits all over the floor, so be careful if you have small kids or pets. This is why vacuum cleaner is in the materials list.

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Now for the fun bit. This is where you may need a second pair of hands to just keep stuff steady. I didn’t have that option, so I had to take out some staples and adjust as I went. I put the cushion pads on top of the foam, giving them a fab of fabric glue underneath for luck, though how it will fix to the foam I have no clue. Even if it only stuck temporarily, it ain’t going anywhere now it’s contained in a fabric prison! Then I stapled along one long edge, on the underneath side. I stapled far enough in from the edge to give me good stretching room. My top tip is to start with the centre and work outwards evenly. This helps to stop the fabric all shifting one way so that you don’t end up with too much at one end and not enough left to cover the other.

NOTE: My bench already had screw holes, so I made sure not to staple over them! If you’re making your bench for the first time, it’s up to you if you cut holes for drilling, or just fix through the fabric as well.

I used my fabric on the bias, which means at an angle to the edge. Depending on what fabric you’re using, this may be a good idea to help you get the top really tight. Using the bias of most traditionally woven cottons will give you the stretch that you just don’t get if you follow the grain lines. Depends on your fabric/pattern though! Mine is peacock feathers so I think it looks good at an angle. If you’ve got stripes or something really straight and regular, it might look weird at 45 degrees. You do you!

So, one long edge is stapled. Sure would have been good to have a second person help me for this bit! Ah well. I rocked the top over, pulling the fabric tight over the top, smoothing out the cushion pads and foam into a vaguely dome shape (and for bonus points, symmetrical!). Because the fabric is on the bias – and this is the downside – it was a little harder to stop wrinkles and bunching in the fabric. Just keep adjusting until it’s even on both sides and not totally pulled to one side. Staple the other long side!

Now is the time to do a little trimming of excess, so that the ends aren’t too bulky. Be careful though – it’s better to have to keep trimming little by little, than hack too much off at once and then have gaps. To do the ends, I tucked a little around the corner and pulled the end over before stapling. Not a proper parcel or hospital corner, but enough to get a little pleating at the ends, because I like that effect. If you want your ends smoother or more like envelopes, tuck in like you would a birthday parcel before pulling the end over, to hide that excess. Trim out some bulk if you need to.

Put your bench top roughly on top of the legs and step back. Is it as symmetrical as you want it? Have you got one baggy corner? I had a baggy corner, so I did a bit of emergency stapling. There’s always one baggy corner…

Once you’re happy, fix the top to the base/legs/box (whatever!). I was lucky – I just had to screw it back in. I bow to your own judgement on wood glues, different types of screw/nail or however else your project is going.

OPTIONAL EXTRA: I decided to glue a complementary coloured ribbon along the upright edge of the bench board, just to add a finish and cover up any little wrinkles along the edge. I didn’t have the patience or skill to do this with those big stud nail things, but that’s another option that looks really good.

Now sit back, admire your bench with a brew and something tasty. Then vacuum again. I vacuumed, sat down to write this up, and immediately noticed a piece of foam I’d missed.

SIDE NOTE ABOUT FIRE SAFETY: Depending on the fabric you’re using, you may wish to treat it with a flame resistant/retardant spray. It may not be fabric originally designed for furniture, but now you’ve made it into a furnishing! Just be aware if you’re making this bench as a gift or for sale – there are laws about this stuff, people!

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Pontificating

Wow, so, hey! What a turn up for the books (pun always intended). Let’s catch you up:

I still haven’t finished Rivka’s Christmas present and her birthday is right around the corner as well. Oops! She’s super into scarves and headwrapping at the moment though so I imagine a couple of lovely layering linens will go down a treat. Or maybe that’s to throw her off the scent and I’m going to buy her books. Or make her something… Hmmm… I guess in a month we’ll find out.

I am still reading. Always reading. Not doing very well with Book Bingo. A lot of the books I have don’t fit into those categories… but I’m working on it. There’s no time limit, right? Right?

I have, however, read an amazing debut novel from Paul M M Cooper. River of Ink is a sumptuous narrative set in Sri Lanka in the thirteenth century. Cooper himself hesitates to call it ‘historical fiction’ (as you can hear for yourselves in the Papertrail podcast interview he did). I can see why: it’s very much a character piece so really the history side of it is just the window dressing. But it’s an extremely beautiful window. The story is told by Asanka the court poet. He is translating an epic saga poem for his new master. The world of Sri Lanka is exquisitely constructed – Cooper has clearly done a lot of research and I think spent time over there getting to know his locations firsthand – and the language is poetic, as you would expect, but not laboured.

river

Asanka is narrating the tale to his lover, who appears in the tale as well, and his relationship with her also tells us a lot about his character. Asanka is quite set in his ways but if he considers something worthwhile he will stubbornly and doggedly pursue it. He excuses his transgressions on occasion, while being critical of others, but the strength he doesn’t know he has slowly comes to the surface. He is a reluctant hero, and he fights his war with words. Be in no doubt: it is a story of conflict and violence and death, but Cooper weaves those harsh moments deftly through the real point of the story. He clearly very much loves words and language and poetry. Hang on, do I mean Asanka or Cooper? Both. Oh, very both.

I had the joy or reading part of this book in a beautifully painted roulotte caravan and being surrounded by peacock motifs, turquoise, purples and greens while reading on a chaise longue was almost like heaven. I mean, I don’t think I can attribute that to Cooper, but hey why not.

Other than listening to some audiobook Neverwhere (narrated by Neil Gaiman himself who as you know is not always my favourite person but at least he gets to make the characters sound the way he intended them to and he doesn’t do a bad job) I have almost from nowhere discovered podcasts. I know. I’ve always been behind the curve. My friend Jim told me I should listen to Hello, From the Magic Tavern and since I always listen to Jim I did so. Fifty episodes in, I’m now trying to eke them out as I don’t want to catch up so quickly and run out of them! Waiting for a new episode every week is for losers #Netflixgeneration

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If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a comedy podcast hosted by Arnie Niekamp from Chicago. He fell through a dimensional portal in a Burger King drive-thru and landed in a magical land called Foon. He hosts the podcast (so lucky that he had the equipment with him in his car!) from a tavern called the Vermillion Minotaur and usually he co-hosts with a wizard called Usidore and a shapeshifter called Chunt. They have local guests and tell stories and Arnie is trying to get his head around life in Foon. It’s mostly improvised and they do try to trip each other up a little, but the continuity is great and they’ve really built a bizarre and wonderful world. My personal favourite episodes usually involve Mittens (the national sport of Foon) and its weird rules, Glenn Miller & Spants the travelling bards, or more recently the episode called Offices & Bosses, which is about a roleplaying game that is popular in Foon. You may not need me to tell you the premise of that. Also any time a wizard introduces themselves they do so with their full name including all nicknames and regional variations. The first time I heard Spintax the Green’s full name I could not stop laughing for a literal five minutes.

It’s rude, it’s bold and it’s hilarious. You currently have 62 episodes to get through. What are you waiting for?

Next projects… well… I’m sewing a manticore onto a cushion cover. As one does. Also trying to be more accountable to my creativeness. I was thinking about this the other day – I will always have projects on the go of one sort or another. I will write, I will stitch, I will take the vacuum apart and put it back together again (guess what I did yesterday?) or occasionally I may even draw. I need those things. But not in the same way I used to. As a teen, I wrote a lot (A LOT) of awkward angsty poetry. I wrote fanfiction. I wrote angry cathartic stories. I did some other things, too, like friendship bracelets and weird sketches and things. All that, I feel, was partly due to my latent personality being desperate for recognition.

Since hitting my twenties, and since finding decent friends and a fulfilling lifestyle, that focus has shifted. I don’t have to pretend to be “normal” whatever that means. No more Suzy-Highschool. So that drive to pour my real self into stories or fabric or drawing (and the odd cringeworthy song) has become less necessary. I am who I am on the outside now. Luckily. I may have a few grey hairs but I’m also independent, employed, in a great relationship… despite being a massive nerd and weirdo. So hoorah for that! Now I get to do the projects I want to do. Make things that are pretty or that I know others will like as gifts. I get to do for fun what I used to do for sanity.

Screw the normals! Well, actually, don’t screw them, because in my experience they’re not very good at it. To mix in another metaphor: I’m not hungry for it any more. My soul isn’t starving. I can nibble, and I want a snack, but I don’t need a big banquet of brain release. I’m happier. So that’s a good thing. Less productive maybe, but I’m productive in other ways. Emotional bridges, a little bit of mindfulness, taking care of my body, just actually chilling out… all the things I couldn’t really do when I was younger. I may be growing as a person. Horrifying.

And now for bacon. And listening to podcasts.

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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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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.

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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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Federal Bureau of Instigation

Currently reading: Stephen Hunt, Secrets of the Fire Sea

Feeling: Potent! (in the sense of “full of things that will burst forth with glorious purpose!”)

Whiiiiiich immediately makes me think of this

Whiiiiiich immediately makes me think of this

Hello, hello. Well, I’ve been on holiday, and I have *thunderclap* read a book that was not on my list. But I couldn’t help it, because I was at my parents’ house, and it was just lying there… and I was bored… it was The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie; a series of shorts – twelve in fact – about the famous moustachioed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. AND I’M NOT SORRY. Also, bloody hell, the olden times were misogynistic!

I went out bureau hunting today. It wasn’t so much a hunt as going to a shop and saying “yes, we’ll have that bureau, please”, but hey. Let’s make it an adventure. It was not a bureau for me, dear reader, oh heavens no! I’ve had a bureau for a while now. It’s lovely and foldy and has cubbies. What sort of self-respecting writer doesn’t have a bureau? Tut tut. How could you doubt me? I love it almost as much as the cocktail cabinet of joy. I have a cocktail cabinet. FEAR ME.

Anyway… I helped my friend buy and transport the bureau in my lovely, battered old car. We also did some gardening. I can feel myself levelling up to a new and impressive state of middle-class-ness. Hurrah for furniture that needs a key, I say!

I’m sorry to say that over my holiday I did not manage to get the draft of Once Bitten re-edited. I did pretty well with it, but the middle third needs a bit (a lot) more punch. Looking at it objectively (ha!) I can see a few holes that need some narrative polyfilla to appeal to an audience that isn’t me, or in on the joke. So Broadening The Range is the new goal. I’m happier with it than I was. I feel like it’s improving with revision, so I’m going in the right direction. I’m transferring the draft to Novlr as I go along (with a back up, of course! Never again, NaNoWriMo 2012!) and enjoying that process. It’s a pretty simple interface at the moment, more or less WYSIWYG, but they’re adding new features and fixing bugs as they go, and it’s working for me.

I’ve got a little crafting to do over the next couple of days so perhaps I’ll photoblog the things. Perhaps. Gotta leave ‘em wanting more *nudge nudge*

Onwards and upwards!

velmakelly

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Wednesday

Currently reading: Dreams of Gods and Monsters – Laini Taylor

I’ve been reorganising the site a little. And a new tab up there at the top is a list of all the books I own that I’ve not yet read. I’m trying to get through some backlog before buying more. Ha. I already have my beady eyes on a few little things… So far, though, I have resisted. But my birthday is coming up… hint… hint? I’ll be crossing books off as I read them, and if I post reviews I’ll link them there. I won’t review all of them, but no doubt there will be some I can’t help blabbering about. I’ll try to do a ‘currently reading’ at the top of blog posts if I remember.

My current read will be getting a review. No question. I stared at the shelves when I got home from work last night and didn’t really feel like reading anything (gasp!) so it was sort of grudgingly that I picked up DOGAM. Don’t get me wrong, I was aching to read it, and it is surpassing my wildest dreams so far, but I just didn’t feel up to engaging with any text yesterday. I was two hundred pages in before I realised it had happened. So now I’m back at work and itching to get home because I want so much to do all the reading. All together now… #What a difference a day makes… Twenty-four little hours….

Otherwise, I’ve given myself a new deadline. Scary. I’m going on holiday with some girls from uni at the end of July, and I’m going to try to get the Once Bitten draft done, and a little tidied before I go. So they can read it. I’m not talking super-edited. But readable. They were there when it was begun. They’re in it (currently, but likely to face the chop as there’s too much beginning to the story) and they have been waiting six years to see how it ends. *shrug* So that’s a thing. Then I can get back to the slightly more grown-up projects. Like the steampunk vampire murder… um… or the sci-fi interdimensional bubbles thing… um… oh crap and the fey folk thing… *sigh* Get in line, already!

Finally, Katie Cross has been in touch that the ARCs for Mildred’s Resistance are starting to come through, so I’ll be hopping up and down by the letterbox in a couple of weeks waiting for that. And then the full third book The High Priest’s Daughter to follow in the autumn!! I am one lucky lady. If you don’t know why that’s exciting, take a look at Miss Mabel’s School for Girls and you’ll see what I mean.

And just to get you grooving, a bit of Wednesday on a Wednesday.

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