Monday, 30 March 2009

Addicted to love

Well, actually, I'm addicted to Etsy, I freely admit it.  I spend at least 30 minutes a day just browsing through the beautiful, the clever, the stylish, the ridiculous, the hideous and the incredible.  So what's a girl supposed to do when it's down for maintenance?  How am I supposed to get my culture fix?  Firstly, I whip through the main blogs I like to read, mostly previously mentioned here, and then I check out the Victoria & Albert Museum website, because they have the most amazing collection of 'stuff' I've ever encountered, and every single time I go to London I drag my poor long-suffering WH in there.  He says it reminds him of the biggest jumble sale he's ever been too, and I guess he's right... who'da thunk that some of the stuff they have in there would be considered valuable now?  You can bet your bottom spool of yarn that nobody thought wrought iron would be worth putting in a museum when they were hammering it out 200 years ago:

But how beautiful is this?  Imagine this as an embroidery pattern, then think "this is made of metal".  Amazing.

Then, when I've finished there, I have been known to spend entire days in the costume section...

Did you know you can order images from the V&A collection?  They're really nice quality & make fantastic cards or even items on your noticeboard... but I digess, shoe-wise...

The other thing I love to do is to check out Panoramio, which is a fantastic way of having a super cheap holiday - you can go to all the places you've ever dreamed of, and see what other people actually saw, rather than what the guidebooks show you.  Here's some examples:
Isn't this beautiful?  Wish I'd taken it!
© Franco Truscello
And this one
Fabulous.   Check it out next time Etsy is down & your're bored, there are pictures from all over the world! 

Sunday, 29 March 2009

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye...

I've just said goodbye to my faithful old Dell laptop, which I've had for 5 years - I wanted to get some more RAM (that's Random Access Memory, for those who don't know, and it's what your computer uses to put stuff it's using short term, so, the more, the merrier) for my laptop; the nice man in the shop pointed out that the cost of the RAM would be double the cost of newer style RAM, and that as the old girl had hit 5 (which is apparently multipled by 20 for laptops, kind of like by 6 or 7 for dogs), it wasn't worth upgrading her any more.

Well, I'm not one to hang around, as some of you may know, so 2 hours later I walked out with a new one...
The process of moving everything isn't as bad as it used to be, but it's still a bit of a pain, but I was up and running in about 2 hours... amazing really - and when I say 'up and running' I don't mean 'waiting to load things on', I mean, surfing the net, writing this blog, editing my photos, ripping more music, you know, the real stuff. 

Anyway, now I have a headache from spending too long inside the house looking at the computer, and it's a shame because yesterday & today are perfect Autumn days - and this is what I'm looking at - just gorgeous.  Those biggish shrubs are a native & the birds and butterflies just love them... as do I, as they stop me having to look at the blue house behind us.  There's a whole ugly story about the man behind us who had a bit of a brainstorm one day & cut off all the foliage from his turpentine trees, leaving us with an ugly view of him, and vice versa, I'm sure.  I don't think he realised his improved view of our roof would be the result!
And finally, the sewing!  I'm about to make these lovely pieces up into toiletry bags for my lovely DSSIL*: 
I had a funny moment at the beautician yesterday, when I was explaining to the lovely Beckie about my 'toilet' bags; she said "do you keep toilet rolls in them?".  I realised I should probably update my vocabulary, so I don't end up sounding like my Nanna!  Anyway, off to lunch (sardines & crackers), then to the sewing machine!
And here's half the finished result!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Happy Birthday to a wonderful person

My very lovely DSSIL* has just had a birthday, which, to my everlasting shame, I missed, but if you read the previous long & winding road, you will understand why. The venue for the course I was on, on the days when I would normally have whipped out to the Post Office in order to get the parcel in the post in time for the birthday (phew) has no post office. No shops, except food shops, and only a shuttle bus to take you to the nearest shopping centre but not in the 30 nanoseconds the evil twins running the course allocated for lunch. Sorry, Katy & Jackie, you know I love you, smooch, smoooch.

So, I couldn't post it, but anyway, it's gone - and apparently she loves it! Interestingly, I had not made pouches out of silk before, and it's hard, because the material is so stiff, and it frays like crazy - I think I need to get some fraystop, or something similar, and disappointingly, I embroidered an initial on the bottom of the squarer one, and it got eaten up by the corners. Need to practice that a bit, I think. They looked nice though. Hope she can find a use!

*de-facto step-sister-in-law (my mother lives with her husband's father).

You're the top...

You're the colisseum, you're the top, you're the Louvre museum, you're a melody from a symphony by Strauss.. * Now, I know that you all know how much I love Cole Porter... so I just had to plop a bit in there to salute some of my colleagues today - we had a team building exercise today, wherein the younger & fitter amongst us got to climb up artificial walls with coloured lumps on them, and some of us got to hold on down the bottom and 'belay'.  Hmmm.  I need to go & look up the link between 'belay that order' (as in the verb) and 'belay' as in 'stop', (the noun).

Why am I mentioning the difference, and how does it relate to where I've been?  Well, from Monday-Wednesday last week (yes, yes, I know, that was last week, but it's all relative) I was off on a course given by my employer, the tyrannical one I was ranting about earlier this month.  There were a bunch of people on this course who were university graduates, and who had been taken on by my employer into the graduate entry program.  All very fine.  These were intelligent, articulate people, who had obviously done well at university, and who were going to go on to be the managers of the future, and in all likelihood, possibly my manager in the future.   None of them knew what a noun was.   Please, please don't tell me that any of you don't know the difference between a noun and a verb, (or even what a noun & a verb are...) I couldn't bear it. And whilst you're digesting this, I'll just say that it scares the crap out of me that people don't know why it matters.

In other news just to hand, the course ran from 8.30am to 5.15pm.  I drove, leaving home at 6.45am the first day, and 6.30am the other two days.  On Tuesday, it took me 2 hours to get home.  It's 39 kilometres/24 miles.

Then, on Thursday and Friday, I started a new assignment (thank god the other one is over, one day when the Official Secrets Act waiting period is up, I will reveal all, but for now, be extremely grateful they make you wait 30 years before opening some files), at Parramatta. 

Parramatta is a bit further away at 47 kilometres/29 miles from home, and like a good citizen trying to reduce her carbon footprint, I've been experimenting with public transport.  I get up at 5.30am, leave home at 6.20am, arriving in the city at 7.20am, get on a train at 7.34, arriving in Parramatta at 8.14am, then a 10 minute walk to the office gets me in there at about 8.30am.  How can it take so long?

I'm quite sure you're all sitting there "she's gotta be kidding", so I'm not going to bore you rigid with the gory timetable details for the return journey.  Suffice it to say, last night it took me 2 hours & 20 minutes.
Needless to say I'm completely knackered when I get home, so something's got to give, of course, which is the blog, and sadly, the sewing!  My cunning plan to do an hour every night has just gone right down the pan, and I'm sitting here at 8.12pm wondering how long it is before I can go to bed... the good news is that this is only for 3 months, and I'm already working on the boss to see if I can do at least one day per week in the city, or better yet, at home.  I'm trustworthy, I would never work in my PJ's.  I might answer the door in my pj's, but I'd take them off to work.  You know what I mean. 

Anyway, after all that, I have to get back to the whole point of this (yes, yes, there was a point...) I met a bunch of really nice people today, we had a lot of fun and I helped some of the unlikeliest looking people climb really high walls.  More power to you, Andrea, you impressed the hell out of me!

Oh, and I made these on the weekend, but that deserves a page on its own, which is immediately forthcoming:

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Blogger just ate my post...

Well, I just wrote a whole post & tried to publish it & Blogger ate it. Man, I hate that. I've been up since 5.30am & so I am now too tired & cranky to re-do it. You'll just have to wait until the weekend now. Yah booh sucks - it had links, pictures, dancing girls, dancing boys, bread pudding and proof of life on mars...

Bed, bed, bed...

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Oops, my heart went oops

Let me just say at the outset that, despite having worked as a trainer, I always forget just how much work is involved in showing people how to do something. I just made a box pouch, the last one of the eight I was making for my WMIL, and took 44, yep, 44 photographs... That makes it sound complicated, but trust me, it's not, I just wanted it to be really clear... so, my first instruction is, read this all the way through before starting, just like an exam. There are some good hints there which will make life easier for you.

After re-reading this, I've decided to simplify it by assuming you all know how to make a zip sandwich and a box pouch already.  If you don't, check out this excellent tutorial on zipper sandwiches and this one on Box Pouches


  • This pouch was made using 6.5" X 4.5" or 16.5 X 11.45cm rectangles.  Don't make your first pouch much smaller than this, it becomes way too fiddly.
  • If you are putting a label inside the pouch, either stitch it to your lining fabric before you stitch anything to anything else, or after you've attached your lining and focus fabric to your zip, otherwise you'll have to do it by hand through the hole in the lining!
  • I always use iron-on interfacing on my focus fabric, it helps to maintain the shape and makes it easier to work with.
  • Make it easy on yourself by using a much bigger zipper than you need, 9"/22cm zippers are great for 6.5" pouches, that way you can gnore the zipper pull altogether. Leave it at the top of the zip and start stitching below it.
  • When you put your zipper in, make sure the cut-out bit of your zip foot is resting on top of the zip. That's what it's for, to help you get as close as possible to your zip.
  • If you are putting pull tabs or ribbon at the ends of your pouch to make it easy to open and close, stitch them to the right side edges of the focus fabric after sewing up the bottom seam. They go at the point where the side seam and bottom seam meet, right on top of the zipper.  It's much easier than trying to hold it all together when you come to stitch the side seams. Make sure the tabs have enough length in case you have to trim the side seams to straighten the pouch out.
  • If you want to top-stitch or decorate the bottom of your pouch, first stitch the seam, then do the decoration before you stitch the lining seam. It's much easier to do this way because you don't have to try and avoid the zipper, and the space is much larger.  Try it the other way and you'll see what I mean!
  • I recommend at least a 90/14 needle to help you sew over the zipper comfortably.  Anything smaller will probably break.
  • If you're making a bigger bag, use bigger corner angles.  Remember that whatever size corner angles you use will effectively be doubled once you form your corners.  If you have a 1/2" cutout, you will get 1" corners.  If you use a 1" cutout, you will get 2" corners.  It's the old "sum of the square of the hypotenuse" thing from school (half plus half equals one, one plus one equals two etc) 
  • Be careful!  If you make a 6.5" bag and use 1" corner angles, your pouch will be square, not a rectangle.  It will still be cute though.
  • If your side seams start to open where you have cut the corner angles out, it's okay to stitch over them again.
Okay, so let's get started.

We have assumed here that you have already stitched your focus, zip and lining together to make a zipper sandwich, and that you've top-stitched the zip to make it look nice and to stop the fabric from getting caught in the zipper.

This is the Most Important Thing! When you stitch the bottom seam of your lining fabric, leave a big gap (big is a relative term - big enough to turn the pouch inside out through) in the middle of the seam. Reinforce the stitches on either side of the gap, because this is where you will pull the entire bag right-sides out:

Assemble the pouch so you have two tubes, with your bottom seams centred over the zip.   Stitch in your ribbon pulls or tabs now, right where the side seam meets the zip.  Make sure you put them on the inside, having raw edges even.

Next, stitch across the side seams, but make sure the zipper pull is inside the pouch.  I like to pin the end without the pull together to make sure the opening isn't too big.  Do some double stitching over the zipper itself, because this is where all the pulling happens.

Again, making sure you haven't stitched the zipper pull on the outside, trim off the ends of the zipper.  You should have a small box looking like this:  

You can still get into the box from the lining side, which looks exactly like this, only with the lining fabric showing.

Now, this is where the good bit comes in!  Take your quilting ruler, or anything you can use to mark off a half-inch/1.27 cm square.  You must do this from the focus fabric side, because that is the side which is seen when the bag is finished.  Place your ruler on the side seam, and align it with the edge of the pouch:

Mark the corner angle with a pencil or wash-out marking pen: 

Snip out the half-inch square.  Note that one side will be longer than the other because you have to cut off all the edge after the seam stitching.  If you don't believe me, trim off the fabric after the seam; it will then definitely be a half-inch square :-) 

You will end up with your pouch looking like this:

Flip the pouch over and reach inside the pouch, via the gap in your lining fabric; open the zipper all the way down.  This makes it easier to move the bag around when you are making the corner angles.

Okay, now the fiddly bit. You need to take the angles and bring them round, or open them out, so that the 90° angles you had are now gone, and you have a nicely horizontal edge.  Some of you older people may remember the "sides to middle" repair we used to do on sheets that had torn - it's the same principle.  You are pushing the sideseam towards the middle of the bag, wrapping the corners round.  These are your perpendicular corners. 

The edges should match up, but it doesn't matter too much if they're not 100%, 95% is fine.   It is fiddly, and I find that a bit of spit on my fingers helps to make the fabric move more easily.  See here:

Pull the angles outwards so that they become flat:

You will need to do this for all four corners.  A bit of shuffling makes the corners more accessible, don't be afraid to manipulate the bag to give you easier access to the corners.  The first few times you do this you will find it very fiddly.  Keep manipulating the fabric until you've got all four edges (two outside, and two lining) all lined up.

Once you have one end aligned, pin and stitch them.  Don't wait until you've got all four pinned before stitching, because it's harder to  stitch if they're all pinned up - moving the bag is constrained by the pins. 

This is what it looks like in progress:

Once you've stitched all four, your bag will look like this:

I recommend turning the bag right sides out now through the hole in your lining fabric, to check that you've caught all your edges in the stitching.  There's nothing more frustrating than thinking you've got it all in and then blam!  A gap!  Pull it through the hole gently, a bit at a time.  Remember that you have to pull two pouches through, the lining one and the focus fabric one, so be gentle. 

Check your lining seams:

You should be able to see your magic half-inch slice has turned into a magic inch seam. 

Once you've got it all okay, turn it back inside out again and zigzag over the seams. This way you won't be unpicking the zigzag if it isn't right.

Okay, so now it should be perfect. Turn it right-sides out again but don't press yet, because you still need to stitch up the hole in your lining.  You can either handstitch it invisibly, leaving no clue as to how you made this excellent pouch, or you can be lazy like I am and machine stitch it closed:

The finished pouch should look something like this:

Now go and press it and go and have a glass of excellent Hunter Valley Semillon and a good lie down!  Phew! 

Thanks are due to the following excellent tutorials for leading me to the water jump, and stimulating my brain on how to get over it without flinching:   

Firstly, twelve22 - her no-fuss approach to zips in pouches helped me with the zipper sandwich - love it.

Secondly, three bears showed me how to get the box shape, and how fiddly it was to get those corners perpendicular without using a ruler, or something else, which led me to...

Twenty Acres and no sheep - she provided me with the excellent idea of using a quilting ruler to get the corners right.

The rest of it I came up with on my own.  Please feel free to use this, and spread it around.  If you have any questions, please post and I will try to answer them.  Or, if you think it isn't clear enough, especially round what to do with the corners, please let me know.  I may have to go to YouTube.  Scary.


Saturday, 14 March 2009

World spins, I'm part of it...

That's nicely obscure, but somebody might know from whence it came..

Anyway, this is just a teaser to say "yes, I haven't forgotten I said I would do a tute on the magic lining for the box pouch"... I've been very busy this week, had to go out to our offices way out west (well, 47 kilometres from home) twice - the first time was Monday, when it was raining quite heavily & I thought "I'll go by public transport". I got on a bus at 7.07am (it's printed on the ticket) & walked into the office at 9.20am. Two hours, 10 minutes. The workshop I went out there for started at 9.00am & my bit was from 9.00-9.30. Can you imagine how I felt? Apart from very very cross, I was hot, bothered, hungry, tired and embarrassed. Thursday, I drove. 75 minutes, door to door. ''Nuf said.

Anyway, that's my excuse for not getting out to the world between last time & now. Good news is that both my lucky birthday people loved their gifts, man, have I ever got good taste or what?, and my lovely DSSIL bought the jumbo pyramids & toilet bag I made for her. I love seeing those "Congratulations on your sale' emails in my in-box :-))

Anyway, I will be posting the instructions this afternoon at some point, I keep hearing that tutorials are hard to do well, so we'll see.

Stay tuned people.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

I'm not going to get too sentimental...

like those other sticky valentines... okay, so it's not a song title, but it is a line from a great song.. and it was a lovely day - Friday was our 16th wedding anniversary, which is amazing, really. We've beaten both our married and subsequently divcorced siblings, but I don't think we'll ever catch up to MWH's parents, who were married in 1955, and who lasted 49 years before my lovely FIL gave up the fight against Alzheimers disease..

MWH surprised me, too. He, who isn't normally given to moments of spontaneity, had organised a surprise night in the hotel where we spent our wedding night, which was lovely. For dinner, we went to the Italian Restaurant we've been going to before we even were a couple, run by another advertisement for marriage. Dad waits at table, Mum cooks & number 3 son splits his time between the kitchen & the restaurant, depending on how busy they are. Lovely, fresh and generous - that Nocello bottle made a couple of visits to our table and I had a slight headache yesterday morning, but it was worth it!

The view from the balcony was gorgeous, too...

And because Friday should have been a wholly happy day, today I feel a bit like I should take down the rant about the injustices of large corporations taking advantage of their workers, but one of my fellow DUSTers, Sayraphim, obviously felt the same way! Check out her shop in Etsy, she does beautiful work - and she made this for me as part of our February Craft Swap - I've named him Captain, for reasons which the older readers amongst you may find moderately amusing... and because I was so thrilled by the Captain, I've made her some lavender pyramids as a small 'thanks!', also pictured here. Hope she doesn't read this before they arrive on her doorstep!

Also good news, the last of the pouches I made for the Oz Bushfire Appeal Shop on Etsy has sold, to another person in Georgia, USA. Two to the States, one to Mexico & one to Grose Wold. Wonderful. I'm thinking of making more... maybe... I'm loving making the box pouches, and the flat ones, and I just sent my Mum the links to the tutorials that helped me get started - I'm thinking now I should make a tutorial about lining the box pouches, seeing as I haven't found one anywhere on the 'net & had to figure it out myself... any takers?

Friday, 6 March 2009

Working for the man...

Sorry, but is it me, or is it completely unrealistic of an employer to give you so much work that you have to stay there until midnight and regularly work seven days a week to finish something? And if you do that, are you creating a monster and making it really hard for the rest of your colleagues? Australians work more unpaid overtime than any other nation, apparently. I think it's indefensible that an organisation which can make billions of dollars profit can happily squeeze 60 or so hours a week out of somebody without paying them a red cent to do so. Unconscionable. Unethical, unprincipled, immoral. And don't give me that line about "we're paying you above-market rates so you should be fine with working a few more hours...", it's just another way of saying "we're bloodsucking leeches and we're going to squeeze every free minute out of you that we can".

When I was in my 20's, I had a job like that in a small organisation owned by 2 guys - and I wasn't making huge money here, less than $20k a year, if memory serves. These guys didn't pay overtime, they didn't pay leave loading, there were no meal allowances, and no taxis home [note here for non-Aussie readers - leave loading is something you are paid by your employer as a 'thanks for going on holidays' bonus, it's 17.5% on top of your salary & the reasons for it are lost in the mists of time, but suffice it to say, pretty much everybody gets it], they were pretty much in the 'you should be grateful to us for giving you a job' kind of employment space, rather than the "we're an equal partnership & we can't survive without each other" space I have experienced elsewhere.

I regularly worked 10 or 12 hours a day for these guys, for nothing. I gave up my Saturdays, and I even worked until 2.00am once trying to finish something. And for what? Nothing. I came to my senses and left, and they said "thanks for coming", and carried on. I could have dropped dead and they would have just kept going. So why, why, why, even in this "harsh economic climate" do employers think it's okay to expect that people will just give up their lives, for no return? The irony of it is that they proclaim they are "family friendly", and that the 'work/life balance' is really important to them. Hah! Bah humbug, I say. I refuse pointblank to do it anymore. If it means I don't get a bonus, so be it. I'd rather have a life.

On a much happier note, my lovely DSSIL* came to visit, and she brought Chloe with her, and so I was able to take a photo... she also ordered a dog from McCalls Craft M4893, some jumbo lavender pyramids, and three toilet bags, one in the box pouch style & two in the flat bottom 'toilette' bag style, so now I have no spare time... but I've started on the order already.. at least the pyramids are quick to make!

*defacto step-sister-in-law