Category Archives: trips

Joining the Brother 1034D club

Madeira in february

The week before last, I spent a lovely week in Madeira with one of my best friends (and bridesmaids). We didn’t really know what to expect (we booked our flights last minute so just went as far south as we could without spending a fortune.

It was gorgeous, but such a funny place. It feels like you’re in Portugal (and technically you are), but you’re actually off the coast of Africa.You can be lazing on the beach in the sun and then get in the car and 15 minutes later you’re up a mountain in the fog. The food was incredible (including lots of lovely Portuguese pastries and vino tinto!). It really is a wonderful place, and the people were so, so nice. (When we couldn’t find our hotel, a man hopped in his car and told us to follow him, then drove ten minutes across town to show us where it was!)

Anyway, when we got back, Mr V told me that he’d bought me my birthday present (my birthday is next month) and needed me to check out whether it was right because it was second-hand and if there was anything wrong with it he needed to send it back asap.

Brother 1034D AD limited edition1

That lovely sneak had paid attention when I was babbling about wanting an overlocker/serger and found out which one I wanted and there it was! Waiting for me! (If Mr V was down with his photo on the blog, this is where there would be a “Hey girl, I bought you that sewing gadget that I don’t understand because I really want another noisy machine in the flat.”)

(I wanted this one because I’d seen it lurking in the sewing rooms of some of my favourite stitchers, including Karen, Andrea, Tilly and the Colette studio. I normally research things like this death, but I figured those guys wouldn’t have bought it if it was a duff and I really really wanted a machine that lots of other people had so there would be lots of tutorials and YouTube videos on it, plus this Pattern Review thread was really reassuring.)

I was both incredibly excited and utterly terrified. This is a complicated machine with four threads and two knives. KNIVES!  Normally I’m a real stickler about waiting till my birthday to use my presents, even if I know what they are, but after putting this back in the box and leaving it for a day, I realised I was just making The Fear worse, so I got it out and having been playing with it ever since.

I LOVE IT. Yeah, I’m still scared of rethreading it, but I’m in touch with a local sewing tutor and will be on her introduction to overlockers class as soon as it runs again (spending some the money I’d been saving up to buy an overlocker!). (Or I might buy this Craftsy class with Andrea’s 50 per cent discount.)

Anyway. My exact overlocker (The 1034D AV Limited Edition, whatever that means!) came with three extra feet (yaaay!) but nothing to catch the trimmings and lint, so I popped it on this Ikea tray WHICH MATCHES THE COLOURS PERFECTLY (I’m a leeetle excited about it). (I’d also read that having it on a tray made it easier to move around without getting your hand tangled in the threads). (That tray doesn’t seem to be on Ikea’s website anymore, but this one would look cute too!)

I wanted a little box to keep things like the tweezers and lint brush in, so I went to my stash of empty boxes (everyone has one of those, right?), and found this fancy Prada box that I rescued from an optician’s recycling bin as I just knew one day I’d find the perfect use for it.

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PERFECT! The box fits perfectly in that little nook of the machine and then when I’m using it, I just take the lid off and use that to catch the crap and use the bottom to hold all the bits and pieces I need nearby. PERFECT! I must save empty boxes from the rubbish more often!

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Those hand sewing needles are for weaving in the serger ends.

You can see in those images above that I also stuck labels all over it to help me remember what’s what (and what order it needs to be threaded in). I saw this idea on Tilly’s blog and also in the Pattern Review thread and shamelessly copied it.

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I also wanted a little pouch for all the less everyday accessories that came with the machine, so I serged one. (Like how I threw that in there all casual? Really I was grinning a manic-happy-scared smile the whole time like a 10 year old who was allowed to get behind the wheel of a bus.)

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(I added the velcro on my other machine, and no I didn’t change my thread to match).

And then to round out this weird little recap of things I did with my overlocker during its first week, here are two dusters I made out of an old t-shirt. You can wear them on your hands. JAZZ HANDS!

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No but really. I’m a proper boring grown up now, I made my own dusters and was really excited about it.

 

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Lots of elephants and a giraffe

Happy new year, team! I hope everyone had a jolly Christmas and a spendid New Year. We had a lovely Christmas at Mr V’s parents’ house with the whole family and then we whipped down to Devon to welcome the new year with my friends.

Beach

We swam here on the 1st of January to wash the old year away! It was frrrrrreezing, unsurprisingly.

Anyway, I thought I’d just update with some Christmas sewing I did for the tiny nieces and for the homemade secret santa that we do at New Year.

First up, I made our toddler niece a dress with elephants on it.

Every little thing dress elephants

It’s the Every Little Thing Dress pattern from Schwin Designs, which I bought in their Black Friday sale.

Not going to lie, I pretty much hated sewing this dress. My sewing machine kept ripping thread, my gathering kept messing up, my iron got dirt on the white bit of dress… basically everything that could go wrong, did go wrong! (And most of the things that did go wrong, were my fault either that day or at some point in the past.) Eventually I called it a day, whapped some polka dot bias tape on it to cover some sins and accepted how wonky these elephants are on the back.

Every little thing elephant dress back

I was a bit aware that making clothes for babies and toddlers is more of a present for their parents than the kid themselves, so I wanted to make a simple softie to match the outfits I’d made (the baby niece got these polka dot dungarees).

So, using this Little Softies Zoo Pattern (amazing, so well designed and written!) I made big and little elephants in the same fabrics.

Little Softies elephants

I was happier with how the baby elephant turned out. It really felt like I was short changing the toddler niece as I wasn’t happy with her dress or elephant and I was thrilled with her baby sister’s dungarees and elephant. Oh well, luckily she’s only two so she didn’t care!

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I was thrilled to get this message from the nieces’ mum a few days ago: “I spent a long time this morning trying to get a picture of the girls playing with their elephants but they move too much! I hadn’t even set it up, they absolutely love them!” (She really liked the dungarees and dress too!)

I didn’t have much time to make my present for homemade secret santa so I decided to stick with the Little Softies pattern, adding a giraffe to the mix. I made them out of lovely printed felt and did a bit more embroidery on them (as they were for an adult). I still realised that I’d essentially made a 29-year-old a baby toy, but she seemed to like them!

Felt elephant and giraffe

I only managed to snap a picture of these with the iphone after I’d given them, so sorry there’s not much detail.

So that’s the last of my pre-Christmas sewing all caught up! Homemade secret santa marked one year since my first sewing project since school (pyjama cat). It’s been really fun – I’ve loved learning so much and nothing beats the feeling of making a whole new thing out of fabric and thread.

I’m looking forward to sewing a lot more in 2013. I’m also hoping to get a lot more technically proficient and make many more wearable garments.

Making the felt elephant also ignited a new love – hand embroidery – so there might be a bit of that too!

Embroidered flower

I made this last week. The really rough petals and leaves are from before I got the embroidery hoop…

Did you make any Christmas presents this year? I wanted to make more but ran way out of time (I owe Mr V some pyjama shorts!). Next time I’ll start earlier, because I’ve missed my selfish sewing.

Wild swimming in France

Here are some more pictures of our wild swimming road trip around France. We were there for ten days, swam in five different rivers (and the sea!), covered about 3,000 miles, camped in four campsites, and… just had the best time. Hands down. Hands up. Best.

I thought, rather than giving you a day by day run down of what we did, I’d just post some of my favourite pictures, and tell a few stories alongside them.

It doesn’t even look real does it?

It certainly doesn’t feel real that just a fortnight ago
I was swimming here every morning in lieu of a shower!

 

Our first stop (after an early start, a ferry across the channel and a long day’s driving for Mr V) was a beautiful wooded campsite near Angouleme on the river Charente. There were four families there when we arrived and then we had the place to ourselves for the second night!

The river here was gorgeous. One evening, as we sat quietly by the water, we saw a furry little head bob past in the water – we’re fairly certain it was an otter or a eurasian beaver, but could have been a coypu. Either way it was one of those moments you know you’ll always remember.

The campsite itself was in an oxbow of a river (we could see and hear the water from our tent) and quite fast flowing, so on the morning we left we had a great time swimming round in circles (hop in upstream, drift downstream and then run across the narrow sliver of land back into the river upstream!). (This ‘method’ is recommended by Roger Deakin in his lovely book Waterlog, I’ll post his description of it sometime, because it makes me happy.)

While we were there, we also went into Angouleme for dinner. We didn’t see much of the city, but did enjoy the cheeky little bits of comic book graffiti around the place, like this funny little chap:

Doesn’t he look like Where’s Wally’s scruffy little brother?

After two lovely nights in the Charente, we drove in the pouring rain to the Dordogne. Luckily, this was the last bit of rain we’d see all holiday – something we were thankful for after a soggy few months in England!

We spent three nights in the Dordogne at a gorgeous campsite next to a clear, surprisingly chilly tributary of the big river. Every morning we’d wake up hot in our little tent and slip down to the river for a swim before hordes of children overtook it. Those morning swims are the thing I’m missing most now we’re back in the city.

(Wow, I look so glum in this photo! I was going for serene water nymph)

That little pool above was right by our tent, but then we discovered this dreamy pool, and that’s when we knew we’d found a campsite we’ll be coming back to again and again.

During the day, we went to cafes in cute little towns, hired a canoe (I lolled in the bow taking in the scenery while Mr V paddled for three hours, it was perfect!), found little nooks in the river to call “our private beach” and did lots more swimming.

Dodgy picture taken on my iphone through its waterproof case!

Mr V taught me to skim stones properly here! I’m now obsessed.

When I call this a ‘wild swimming holiday’, that might be a bit misleading
as we mainly enjoyed floating our way around France. Just FYI!

The view overhead. Sigh.

This little fella was so hot and sleepy. We loved him!

After four dreamy days, we packed our little tent in our little car and headed to the coast. We camped at Ronce-les-Bains and, even though we thought the Dordogne was crammed with tourists, we soon realised that that was nothing compared to the crush at the seaside. After a swim in the Atlantic, moules frites on the Ile d’Oleron and a good night’s sleep, we hightailed it to the leafy Loire.

Ah! The Loire. I love the Loire.We hired a canoe again and literally paddled through the moat of a chateau. It was amazing (those pics are on my underwater film camera so not in this post). We swam in the Indre and the Loire, had lovely beers on leafy terraces and felt the last few days of our holiday slipping blissfully through our fingers.

We stayed at another lovely riverside campsite, this was the view from our tent

On our last day, Mr V bought me a basket at the market (I’m a bit obsessed with baskets) and we spent hours and hours with a picnic at another place that felt like a private beach, swimming and skimming and sunning ourselves.

I know you’ve seen this one before, but I really love baskets, ok?

Then the next morning, we woke up, packed the tent up while it was still dark and drove all the way home!

Man. I know I’ve already gone on about how brilliant this holiday was, but it really was magical. Ten shining, bright, beautiful days. We left the ipad at home and listened to audio books. We cooked simple meals over a teensy stove (more on this soon). We woke up and slept with the sun! Ah. I could go on forever….

Kooktouw for everyone!

Boom_shopfront

Remember when I wrote about finding bakers twine in the most amazing hardware shop we found during my Dutch holiday with Mr V?

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Well! Imagine how happy I was to get an email from Bernadette, the owner of the store. She thanked me for writing about her shop, pointed me in the direction of some great pictures of it and said my post had inspired her to start selling bakers twine (kooktouw) on their online shop.

Kooktouw

She said they post to the UK and over 60 other countries so if you need a bulk order of the stripey stuff at just € 2,25 a roll, head on over to her website (use a bit of google translate or email info@ouderwetsewinkel.nl – their English is excellent) (of course).

Of course, if you buy it online you’ll be missing out on this real treat of a shop. If you’re ever in Holland and anywhere near Alkmaar, be sure to pop in for a visit. The floor to ceiling cubbies full of household goods and clogs will make your heart happy. Also make sure to check out the bike shop across the road, it’s a cyclists dream and has the same totally charming feel.

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PS. Check out the amazing vintage till! I saved my hand written till receipt as a souvenir from our trip, I love it.

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All images taken from J. Boom’s Google places page or webshop