Saturday 30 June 2012

Prepare Yourself Mentally For Sewing!

My blogfriend Karen, over at Sew Many Ways [a brilliant blog, always full of great ideas and tutorials] Has posted this picture today. It is Advice from a 1949 Singer Sewing Machine manual.

Singer Sewing machine

I have spent the morning in jeans and an old tee-shirt, the sewing machine on the kitchen table, Radio 4 playing in the background.


There is washing up as yet undone

The beds are stripped- but I have yet to put clean sheets on them

The floors need to be vacuumed

There are bins to empty and dead flowers to be thrown out

And I am not wearing fresh lipstick or a clean dress

I am definitely not ‘neatly put together’

sewing and tea

But oh! how I have enjoyed my sewing.

Now I have to finish preparing my sermon [I don’t think the person who wrote the Singer Manual would countenance women preachers]

Then I will finish the other chores!

Would You Credit It?


I went out.

In my absence, Bob was trying to purchase some Church stuff online and needed to use the card. It was rejected. He rang NatWest to ask about this.

“But we cannot talk to you, as you’re not the principal cardholder. We need to talk to Mrs Almond”

“But we have had this discussion before and she has given permission for you to speak to me about the account”

“Sorry, I have no record of this, so I cannot discuss the account with you”

“This is rather frustrating. I would like you to register a formal complaint about this”

“I am sorry, I cannot record that complaint as you’re not the principal cardholder. We need to talk to Mrs Almond”


I came home.

Bob explained what had happened. Then it was my turn. He rang NatWest again – and this time handed the phone to me. I answered the security questions, and said please would they discuss this particular purchase directly with my husband. And please could they note on our records that I have given my permission for them to discuss the account with them.

“We will send you the permission form to fill in, but certainly for today I can agree to discuss things with him”

I handed the phone to Bob and settled to work upstairs. A few minutes later Bob came upstairs with the phone. He had been transferred to another department – and they would not discuss anything with him.

“Yes I am Mrs Almond… yes my birthday is still in April…”

Then there followed loads more security questions – including one which I answered with

At the moment I bank with NatWest, but if this saga continues, I may change to another bank!”

What is utterly crazy is that any other female could have been on the phone answering those questions, pretending to be me.

How would they know?

Maybe next time Bob should put on a fake feminine-sounding voice!

Friday 29 June 2012

Coming Through The Rye


“Oooh! that’s from Liz!” I squealed, when Bob brought in the post.


Another Muriel Spark for me to read- The Ballad Of Peckham Rye. I feel I ought to have read this a few years back, when Liz, Jon and Steph all lived in Peckham.

Isn’t the postcard great? A brilliant shot of the London skyline showing the dome of St Paul’s in front of one of the Tate Modern chimneys.

Thanks, Liz! Denise has just mentioned another author, Rebecca Shaw – and on Wednesday I borrowed one of her books. I suspect these two books will be very different. I will let you know!

John 3:8

You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it's headed next.


This is the garden right next door to the school where I was yesterday afternoon [I went in to help with play costumes]. A ‘mini-tornado’ came through the village, felling many trees, and sadly causing devastation to the memorial playing field [only opened in 2008]

I fitted one cheerful little girl with her Greek Costume, and then we discovered at home-time that a tree had come down through the roof of her home. Fortunately nobody was hurt by all the fallen trees.

My return journey included a diversion to avoid a flooded road, and Bob said that there had been some huge hailstones in our village just after I’d left [pictures from the BBC]


The weather this summer has been…amazing!

Thursday 28 June 2012

Syrup Of Figs–A Tutorial

Conversation at school on Tuesday afternoon…

“We need something for the eight magistrates – but I have no idea what they should be wearing. Can you do wigs, Angela ?”

“Yes, I’ve done wigs before. I just need some wadding”

Back in 1993, Liz was in “Of Mice And Mozart”, which was her Primary School Leaver’s Production. Her teacher asked if anyone knew how to make Mozart wigs [they needed around 45!] something like this…


The following day, on a train journey to Didcot, I worked out that wadding would be the ideal material – cheap, easy to work with, and above all, it would be fast! On my return, I got out in Central London, dashed to John Lewis and bought a yard, came home on the next train, and made a prototype. Then I taught a group of Mums, and together we made the lot!  Here’s that original wig


It lives in a Twiglet tub in my drawer


I used it yesterday to make eight new wigs for school. Here’s how…

Each wig requires a piece of wadding 18” square. Cut out a T shape with top bar and central bar 6” across. You now have two rectangles 6” x 12” at each side. Cut them in half to make four 6” squares. Now trim a strip 1½” from the bottom of the central bar of the T.

DSCF4027DSCF4032Now roll the sides of each 6” square into the centre and sew down [fairly loosely- use big stitches, the wadding is very forgiving ]


Now roll up and stitch 1” on the ends of the ‘cross bar’. Fold down the centre bar and stitch down the sides.

I have balanced the wig on the arm of the sofa to give you an idea of the developing shape.

Now pin two ‘rolls’ on each side of the wig [line up the ends of the rolls with the front]


Stitch them in place by sewing along the centre gap between the two rolls. Also tack down the front edges of the rolls so that they don’t ‘flop’

You have about 5” of ‘tail’ hanging down. Fold up 2” to the inside. Run a gathering stitch through and pull tight. I find that winding round a few strands of cotton helps to hold it firmly.


Now take that strange narrow strip, and pleat it in the centre to make a chevron. Tack that along the top front of the wig.


DSCF4036That gives it a better shape. Finally tie a short piece of black ribbon round the tail.

Here’s four of the wigs on the table. [I must thank Susan for her help at Sewing Club last night to ensure all eight wigs were ready to deliver to school this morning] I also bought a pack of hairgrips [bobbypins] to ensure they stay on!


I made some jabots for these court officials to wear.


The neck band is a strip 3” by 16” folded over with raw edges inside at the bottom, and the jabot is a 7” square hemmed, pleated and trimmed with lace.

I put Velcro squares on the ends to fasten at the back of the neck.

tip –when putting Velcro on garments, put the sharp ‘hook’ side on the piece facing ‘outward’ and the soft ‘loop’ piece on the side which faces ‘inwards’ towards the skin. That way, the wearer is less likely to get scratched.

This is the OPPOSITE rule to notice boards! There you should put the hooks on the POSTER [inwards] and the loops on the BOARD[outwards] That means you can re-use the posters elsewhere on ‘fuzzy’ noticeboards if you need to!


Plain black tops and trousers, wigs and jabots. Costumes sorted.

What is your verdict, Mr Penry-Jones?

Well M’Lud, I think my client has already spent many hours doing community service and should be allowed to go free now!

The Last Christmas Present!

That is, the final gift from last Christmas! Steph and I visited my SIL a couple of weeks ago and at last we managed to swap gifts. Only six months late [and we did get it done before Midsummer, which somehow seemed important] Denise and Kevin gave me the most beautiful apron. It is from the V&A and has a design based on some of their 18th century jade green Chinese Wallpaper.

chinese wallpaper


I love the birds and flowers and butterflies. I also appreciate that the apron is huge and covers me up well [I am a messy cook!] and it has two splendid large pockets on the front. Thanks Denise!


The flowers are nothing to do with the apron – but I thought they looked lovely in the blue earthenware yogurt pot. They have lasted a full fortnight – the remains of the bouquet Chris brought us when she stayed the other weekend. What excellent quality blooms. Thanks, C!


Presents are always good to receive- and to give – however late! The latest gift we’ve ever had is a wedding present received in December 1998 [we married in August 1979] It’s a breadmaker, and is still in regular use.

Have you ever had any wonderful delayed gifts?

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Sew Green

I took a break from play costumes and Holiday Club preparations in order to deliver the final batch of textiles to the EcoHouse. The girls at Sewing Club have been using donated, thrifted fabrics to make table cloths and seat pads for the ‘bistro furniture’ in the Coffee Shop – and also a simple patchwork bedspread for upstairs.




It all looks very cheerful now – and much more inviting. If you are in the Leicester area anytime, do drop in for a cuppa with Sarah and Charlotte! They’re really friendly girls and will happily explain what the EcoHouse is all about [and show you our wonderful handiwork]

The Thrill Of What You Already Have #6

st andrews

Oh St Andrews! a lovely place… for some it means golf, for others it is the birthplace of Inspector Rebus, and for many [Like William & Kate] it is a fine University …

…but for me it means two splendid holidays in that region which has the glorious name of “The East Neuk OF Fife”. We went with the girls back in 1997, and on the Sunday afternoon drove along the coast through Crail [wonderful pottery], and Anstruther [fabulous fish and chip shop] to the fishing village of Pittenweem [very picturesque] and then down to St Monans [and the Salt Mill].

Because it was Sunday, I phoned Dad [from a callbox – no mobiles then!] “Oh Pittenweem!” he said “I used to preach at the Baptist Chapel there when I was a student. And they always gave me a generous preaching fee – so the next week I would treat your Mum to tea at Miss Cranston’s


And in the final week of our holiday, I bought my Dad two coasters showing the picturesque Pittenweem Harbour. And Bob bought me a pair of silver Rennie Mackintosh style ear-rings, and then he took me to the breathtakingly gorgeous Willow Tea Rooms [the men in my family are truly romantic!]


Now the coasters are either side of our bed, and I see mine each morning when I have my first cup of tea.

Happy, happy memories!

Tuesday 26 June 2012


I have been watching this recently. I thought Series 1 was better than Series 2 [and Bob couldn’t get into it at all]


But this week have been even busier than expected with this sort of activity [and I thought I’d got all the school stuff sorted!]

sewing machine poster

This evening the two activities have weirdly come together, but I shall explain tomorrow or Thursday


Don’t panic, I have not been in court for hemming without due care and attention, or causing grievous bodily harm with my scissors!

Bright Spark

In my teens, I read ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ – and despite that schoolmistress employing somewhat unconventional methods, and encouraging distinctly inappropriate beliefs and behaviour among ‘her gels’ there were some aspects of her character I admired. She brought wit and sparkle into the classroom – and she used her vocabulary properly.

And Maggie Smith was exactly right in the role.

miss jean brodie

muriel spark

But I never read anything else by Muriel Spark. I don’t know why. I just didn’t! And if you had asked me what she looked like, I think my mental picture would have been …Maggie Smith!

But Liz has recently lent me “A Far Cry From Kensington” saying “I think you’ll enjoy this, Mum” and she was [as ever] dead right! Her copy is a delightful Virago Modern Classic edition.

spark - far cry from Kensington

The cover of the book is the iconic Lucienne Day print ‘Calyx’ – which dates back to the Festival of Britain in 1951. As the book is set in the mid fifties, this is wonderfully apposite.

The plot revolves round Nancy Hawkins, a young war widow, living in rooms in Kensington, and working in a publishing house.

Like MissJB, this book is full of pithy sentences, and I found it great fun to read. Passages like

[He] was full of unconventional advice which savoured of officers’-mess lore “The way to throw the Income Tax, Mrs Hawkins” he said, “is to send them, out of the blue, a cheque for eight pounds seventeen and three…They can never tally up a sum of that kind with any of their figures,; your file goes from hand to hand for months and years, and eventually gets lost”

and this one

“You can see by the mess in the room she was of unsound mind” said Kate “The poor woman”

“Dressmakers are always untidy” said Eva

I have checked out the Leicestershire Library Catalogue Online – loads of copies of MissJB. I quite fancy trying “Aiding and Abetting” next – which is Spark’s fictional take on the disappearance of Lord Lucan.

If you are a Spark aficionado, which of her books would you suggest?

Monday 25 June 2012

Holey Moley- Another Tutorial!

The costume for Mole was quick and easy. I got some nylon ‘velvet’ fabric from the market, and cut out body pieces and a hood.


Sorry, this picture taken at an angle- the sides are parallel, and my fabric is just folded in half. The measurement across the top is about 17” and then I measured 11” down the side, and cut off the triangles to make the armholes.

The Hood piece is double fabric, and I used one of my own hoodies as a pattern. The front edge and top edge are FOLDS.


DSCF4010The reason for cutting it double and using folds is that it means you can easily stitch a ¾” channel down the front and thread elastic through, so it fits snugly round the child’s face. But do not make it too tight!


DSCF4012Then I bound the neck edge of the hood with bit of black ribbon.That served three purposes

1- it covered the raw edges

2-it makes it comfortable to wear

3-it saved me the bother of making complicated facings!

Isn’t black velvet incredibly hard to photograph!!


Finished garment. Now I grant you, this has very little ‘hanger appeal’ – but if you dress the child in a long-sleeved black tee-shirt, and leggings, and give her some bright pink gloves [Marigolds, or Poundshop ‘exfoliating’ gloves] and then she puts small round spectacles and a pink nose [spray-paint a Red Nose Day one!] She will look incredible Mole-Like.

And next year you can use the same garment as the basis for Darth Vader!

I finished those ribbon wristbands too!


TIP OF THE DAY- When you are making tunics and other costumes for children, stop and try the neck over your OWN head before you do the final stitching. Children’s heads are not much smaller than those of adults- and if the costume is tight on you, it will probably be uncomfortable for them to put on too. They can sometimes panic if they get stuck halfway with fabric over their faces!

Childminding, Pet-sitting, And Similar Worries

Once upon a time we had two guinea pigs. Their names were Derek Tidball and David Coffey [long story, don’t ask!] When we went on holiday, our friends looked after them. And when we got home, I telephoned and said “Can we come and collect the pigs?”


[these are not our pigs, I cannot seem to find a photo of DT and DC anywhere. These are from here]

“Well, you can collect Derek” said my friend. “And David…?” I asked anxiously. “He’s OK. But he is at the vet’s” It appears that the day before our return [Friday] DC had suffered a minor seizure. Joy had promptly rushed him round to the Vet.

The Vet gave him Vallium [??!!] and suggested that as he did not belong to Joy, she should leave him at the surgery over the weekend till our return. When we got back at 6pm on Saturday, the Surgery was not open to customers again till Monday 9am [although the Vet’s Nurse was obviously inside tending the ‘overnight’ pets] It cost us £28 to retrieve him [Vallium plus 3 nights ‘in care’] Which was six times more than we had paid for him in the first place!

“I wasn’t sure what to do!” said Joy [this was in the days before mobile phones, so she could not contact us to ask our advice] We thanked her, and said this was probably her best course of action. [But back in 1992, £28 was an awful lot of money for us – especially just after a holiday]

Facebook:Pet Sitting is a huge responsibility. Everyone has an anecdote. Similarly child minding, and plant watering***. But I have now found a new, scary responsibility – Blog Minding!  Kristin and Twinkle Twinkle is hosting a Blog Fest called Summer of Color.

I am not involved in it. But my friend Fishcake at FHMH is participating. And she is on holiday this week. So I must remember that later this morning I sign up to the Mr Linky to ensure that F’s charming embroidery is registered.[Especially has F has mentioned on her blog that she has appointed me to this task]icecreams

I shall have to leave post-it notes all over the house so I do not forget.

[***never, ever ask me to water your plants. They will die. Either I’ll forget completely and they will dehydrate or I will operate the once only-total immersion- Baptist approach, and drown them!]