Thursday, 30 June 2011

Birthday Weekend

Sunday 19th June was my 52th Birthday (Oh My God .... am I really that old? Oops .... look in mirror ..... yes, I am!!). We always try to go away for a long weekend for our Birthdays, so we had Friday 17th June off and had a long weekend at Ansty Hall Hotel near Coventry. This is a great way to use up Tesco Clubcard Rewards tokens and effectively means a great long weekend away for very little cash! This hotel is part of the MacDonald chains of hotels ..... and no, not the burger people ..... they are McDonalds ... no connection at all!!

We've been to quite a few of their hotels now and this is one of the nicest. It is quite an old building with lots of interesting features inside. Our room was very spacious and actually in the top left-hand corner of this photo. The staff are also very good and we got very good service at breakfast over the weekend.

We arrived just after mid-day on the Friday and decided to go out for a walk along the Oxford canal that is located not that far from the hotel.

You might think that, by now, we'd be sick of walking alongside canals but we love it! The paths, by definition, are pretty flat so the walking is not too strenuous. Added to this, there is always lots to see. We passed a farm with what looked like several rare breed animals; I think the sheep above are soy sheep? Not sure!

Not forgetting that the water attracts so much wildlife. Aren't cygnets cute?

We actually walked quite a way on the Friday, covering 15.4 miles over 4 hours 52 mins. This did involve stopping at a lovely pub called The Greyhound at Hawkesbury Junction for our evening meal. I didn't take a photo as it was too dark but the link goes to a photo. The pub was very good with fantastic food. Can thoroughly recommend it!

On Saturday, we again aimed to walk along the Oxford canal but in the other direction. However, we started by looking round Ansty Church which is actually right next door to the hotel. This is a very pretty little Church and luckily it was open enabling us to have a good look round. I love looking round old Churches. The craftsmanship that has gone into the stained glass windows, the wooden carvings on the pews and other fittings and the stonework on memorials is a delight to really examine. And even if you have no religious feelings, who can deny that the atmosphere in many old Churches is magical?

Of course, what I have failed to mention about Friday was that we did get caught by the rain a little bit! This also happened on Saturday as well. However, the weather was really odd ...... blue skies one moment and then very heavy rain that lasted for a little while but would then stop!

Have I managed to capture the heavy downpour in the photo below? Not sure! Still ..... it wasn't cold and the rain didn't dampen our enjoyment of the walk.

Part of our walk on Saturday involved walking through Newbold Tunnel. This is an amazing 1/4 mile tunnel that is illuminated by red, blue and green floodlights. Because of the reflection in the water, it creates the illusion of circles of colour and it is very eerie to walk through there.

More swans and cygnets, this time on the path. The parents are obviously more used to people than many swans as they didn't hiss at John for getting this close to their babies! Earlier in the day, we'd had to cautiously skirt our way round some swans and their cygnets that were sitting on the towpath! Their hissing definitely meant, Keep Away!!

We walked a total of 17.3 miles on Saturday and were plodding just a little during the last couple of miles. Still, we liked The Greyhound pub so much that we had booked a table for dinner in the evening and after another lovely meal there, we felt better!

On the Sunday, my actual Birthday, we went into Coventry. Here is John alongside a statue of James Brindley, 'the Father' of the British Canal system, in the Coventry Canal Basin. The Canal Basin looks like it is designed to have an artsy-craftsy feel to it but, unfortunately, none of the shops were open and some were unoccupied ..... perhaps feeling the current economic pinch? A shame because it is a very attractive place, much nicer than the main Coventry shopping area. 

However, the main reason we went into Coventry was to see the Cathedral. Our first view of it was this rather austere concrete view of the back!
And, of course, everyone is familiar with this image of the statues on the front. Both the angel and the devil look rather frightening, don't you think?

I loved the modern etching on the glass wall near to the Cathedral entrance. The inside of the Cathedral I'm afraid I'm not too keen on. The masses of concrete walls and the darkness don't appeal! I'm of the view that Cathedrals should be about light and airiness and leave you feeling uplifted. The very dark stained glass and very low light levels are just too depressing.

Right next to the Cathedral are the remains of the Cathedral destroyed during the bombing in WWII. Although it is a sad place in that the results of the terrible destruction during WWII are only too obviously visible, it is nevertheless a place that inspires hope. There are many sculptures that express how people are working towards reconciliation and peace and it leaves a very positive impression of how things could be.

All in all, a great Birthday weekend :)

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Did I really say The Rug was finished?

OK, I lied before!
It isn't quite finished and won't be for a bit!! We've had a very busy time over the last few weeks but three Saturdays ago, I sewed back the edge of the canvas as you can see. It took a bit longer than I anticipated and I still have yet to do the fringe!

The cats seem to approve :)

However, I dare not leave them in the same room as The Rug without one of us being there! Minstrel has already looked as though he was about to sharpen his claws on it! Argh!!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Hooray! The Rug is Done

Thanks to a very nice lady called Kimberley at the Customer Services of William Briggs, the company that now owns the Glorafilia brand, The Rug is now complete.

As she promised, she sent me the green wool and it arrived on Thursday. The wool was indeed a perfect match, much to my delight. After a little bit of stitching on Thursday evening and last night, all the cross stitching is now done. By the way, the wine bottle is only in the picture to give some idea of how big it is, although a celebratory glass of wine might have been a good idea :)

I really can't thank Kimberley enough! She actually sent me more wool than I need, so I will send the surplus back with a Thank You card for her kindness. It's nice to know that a company has a 'human face' :)

So, all I now need to do is to turn back the excess rug canvas and sew that down and also do the fringe on each end. Hopefully, that shouldn't take too long.

What big project shall I do now?    :)

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Rug - Gone As Far As I Can!

Well, what with the 42 mile sponsored walk, the Flower Festival and following along with the Ginger sewalong, you' d be forgiven for thinking that The Rug has been forgotten! Not so!

I've been continuing to stitch away at it and last night, I completed everything I can at the moment. I say 'everything I can at the moment' because I previously blogged about the fact that I have run out of the pale green wool, so there are bits that I can't finish.

In the bottom left hand corner, there is a little bit on the diagonal stripe.

In the middle section, more green is needed for a diagonal stripe and the stem of a flower.

On the right hand side, some green is needed in two diagonal stripes plus a leaf and a stem and a tiny bit in the border right down on the bottom..

I haven't run out of any other colour, thankfully, although the cream was very close with only a length of wool of about 12 inches being left ..... a definite close call!!

Trying to get more green wool is going to be a challenge. However, I will try phoning Glorafilia tomorrow to see if they can help. However, this might be tricky sourcing wool for a kit that is at least 20 to 25 years old that they no longer make :(

Does anyone in blogland know of any wool matching services?

As an update on Tuesday 7th June, I did indeed phone Glorafilia yesterday (Monday) and spoke to a very lovely lady. My enquiry wasn't at all odd; they get requests for extra wool all the time along the lines of 'My Mum passed away and I found this half-done kit and wanted to carry on but have run out of wool ... can you help'! Back in the days when I bought the kit, the Glorafilia name was run by another company and apparently they out-sourced the production of several of their kits and not having enough wool was apparently a common problem! Phew! Not just me then!

Matching the wool might be difficult as the wool is rug wool in balls (which is unusual) but only 4 ply (it's usually 6 ply), but she did recommend a company called Iriss in Penzance. However, having a blog came in very handy! I pointed her to this entry and, having looked at the pictures, she thought she might have a bag of similarly coloured wools (might even be for this kit). After a quick look, she found it and she'll be sending the green wool in it to me! The other shades in the bag roughly match with the wools in my kit, so it may just be the wool for this kit! What luck and how's that for great Customer Service. If it doesn't match, I'll just send it back and see what Iriss can do to help.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

My Newbie's Ginger Is Complete!

I'm a bit late getting to Sunni's Ginger party, but better late than never! My version has the waistband of version three of the pattern but it is like versions 1 and 2 in that the fabric is not on the bias. As you can see, I am slightly short in the body so I didn't really want to make the skirt with the higher, shaped waistbands of versions 1 and 2. Also, although Sunni had some fantastic ideas for adding embellishments like piping and pockets, I decided in the end to keep things simple as this is my first skirt and just keep it plain as far as the making up was concerned. Since this material has such a definate pattern, I didn't think it would look boring and need anything extra.

However, I am delighted with the fit! It has actually made me realise that I haven't had a skirt that fits me well for ...... well, forever!

As a genuine newbie, I am so glad I came across Sunni's blog and decided to get involved with the sewalong. It has given me so much confidence to carry on sewing!

I found it quite easy to follow Sunni's instructions on tailoring the pattern. I had to tailor for size 12 on the waist but size 14 on the hips.

The invisible zip has come out really well. It was the instructions for doing the waistband that 'foxed' me for a while but I just tried it out with pins first until it made sense and then went with it. It all worked out in the end!!

I was a bit lazy with the hem in that I didn't do it by hand ie an invisible hem, as I recall being taught when at school eons ago :)

I sewed it all the way round with a straight stitch. After all, just about every skirt you see nowadays is done that way and it has come out well. Please note ..... the hem does look wonky here ...... it really isn't !! It was a bit breezy in my garden this morning and the skirt kept blowing round my legs!! :)

All in all, a fantastic experience! I have some other material to make some others, one is a nice yellow floral print (not the same as this one) and the other is a plain blue material that I might embellish with embroidery ........ so thank you again to Sunni for getting me past being a completely newbie sewer :)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Not Quite So Gingerly - Starting With the Main Material

Although I had already pre-washed and ironed my black and white cotton material, I gave it another iron both to fold the material so the right side was inside and also to get rid of any slight fold creases it might have where I'd had it folded up, ready and waiting!
But, I then thought to re-read the instructions on how to double check that the main pieces are in line with the grain ..... and realised I had the fabric folded the wrong way as it had to be selvedge to selvedge!! Ooops! So, re-fold and re-iron!

Then, I noticed that where I had hung the material on the line to dry, the material had been stretched out of line ..... see where I'm pointing to? I decided to avoid that section so as to make sure all the pieces were truly cut on the grainline. Luckily, I have plenty of material, so I am OK doing this!

With all the pieces pinned in place, I then cut out! Why do I find this bit so daunting? I guess 'cos if you boob ..... you really do boob at this point! Anyhow, I double-check before cutting ...... and then get on with it. By the way ..... note to self ...... I think I could do with a new pair of shears! Perhaps I'll ask John or James as it is my Birthday pretty soon :)

I also cut out the interfacing and iron this to the waistband pieces.

Then, on to the sewing! I need to wind some of the black cotton onto a new bobbin (and also have to read the manual on this 'cos I've forgotten how to do it!!). I had also made the stitch length the longest it could be for the muslin so I adjusted to the middle stitch length and did a test on a spare piece of material and it looked OK, so I went with that. I had to re-apply the interfacing to the waistband pieces as it had slightly come away from the first time I'd ironed it; it does say 8 seconds, so 8 seconds it got, on every little bit. I'm glad I did that ironing the day before otherwise I would never had realised and doing it when sewn up would have been tricky.

Any differences when sewing with the main material? Well, the cotton material is thicker and therefore heavier and so its more inclined to slide off the edge of the table.

With all the seams done and pressed open, once again ..... the dreaded invisible zipper. I had not been completely happy with the results using Sunni's instructions, so this time I decided to really study the instructions on the Colette pattern site. This hadn't made very much sense before but now I found that they did!! I found that the result was much better although I think I will add a couple of extra hand stitches at the bottom of the zip as this is the point that gets stress.

Now for the bit I've never done before - attaching the other side of the waistband. I think I understand what the instructions are saying but I decided to pin it totally in place first, in place of stitching, to make sure I actually have understood!!

However, stumbling block! When really reading the instructions, some of them don't make immediate sense! Attaching the waistband edge initially was OK but then the next stage, involving turning the edge in on itself again didn't seem obvious. I ummed and ahhed about that stage for ages! In the end, I tried it with pins and turned the waistband inside out and could see it worked out.

Then  ....... next stumbling block! In sewing the waistband facing to the waistband with the interfacing, the needle didn't seem able to cope with the thickness. However, it did occur to me that the needle might be blunt as I don't think I've ever changed it! Luckily, I have some spares and changing the needle did the trick (although again I had to reference the manual for how to do this)! Phew!

Then, to stop the waistband facing rolling out, you need to use a technique called understitching. I read these instructions, tried to follow the diagram in the pattern and then really studied the tutorial on the Colette website but it just didn't make sense! Possibly, not helped by the fact that the tutorial is aimed at doing a neckline and also in its photos it is difficult to tell the difference between the main fabric and the facing. I have to say I dithered here for a long time!

Note to self ..... doing any serious thinking late at night is not a good thing :)

I looked at the other skirt photos that have been posted in the Ginger sewalong Flikr pool and could see that on some, top stitching is evident. Is this top stitching the overstitching? The Colette website seems to indicate that there shouldn't be any evidence of stitching on the front ....... so surely this couldn't be the topstitching? I Googled understitching to see if I could get inspiration elsewhere, but couldn't. In the end, thinking logically about why this stitching is necessary, I did it where you can see in the photo above. Because of the zip, I couldn't go entirely to each end, but the stitching isn't visible and hopefully should perform the function it is there for ie stopping the inside material rolling up, so that's OK.

I then turned the waistband out. The zip looks pretty good. However, I'm concerned that one corner looks like it might unravel ...... remember my machine had problems stitching through all the layers? So I turned it back and oversewed the end by hand. In turning the waistband out again, it looks fine.

I then hand stitched the inside edge of the waistband. Call me odd but I actually really love doing hand sewing! The skirt then gets hung up for the 24 hours required to 'hang' before sorting out the hem. For this, I need John's help!

Today (Thursday) John put pins all round the bottom of the skirt at a specific level. I then cut around where these pins are, hoping that I got it right! The instructions for doing the hem say to press the bottom edge 1/4 inch and then a further 3/8 inch. However, I just can't get this to work! So ...... I just turned the hem up 5/8 inch and pressed that and then went round and turned the raw edge under and pressed and pinned that. This worked much better for me, at any rate! Finally, I machine sewed the hem. I was going to hand stitch it but, on looking at just about every skirt I own, the hem is sewn by a straight line of stitching which is visible on the front. Well ..... I say visible ...... it isn't really in that you don't notice it and it looks nice and neat!!

So ..... voila! It is done! I am really pleased with how it has come out. Here I am wearing the skirt. I look a bit 'washed out' but I'm afraid the not-so-lovely hay fever season is on us and my eyes are suffering a bit.

(Flossie preferring not to be held!!)

I've just realised that I aught to get John to take some real closeups to show the invisible zipper and other details. I think I'll leave that for a post tomorrow or the weekend.

However, I have thoroughly enjoyed doing this sewalong. The skirt is a close fit which is something I haven't had in a skirt for a very long time, if ever! It has given me the confidence to try other clothes sewing.
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