Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Computer based catch up

I have been a bit slack in the last couple of days, both with doing projects and with writing them up.

Tuesday morning began with Milla having a manicure.

The weather was not great with overnight storms, but at least the rain and the worst of the winds held off until the afternoon by which time she had two beautiful front feet. Her back will have to wait until the weather improves, and her temper too!

Still - I bought her a lovely new head collar and lead rein today to make up for it.

I realised on Tuesday that leaving my lead rein outside over winter would not necessarily have ruined it, but leaving it where Milla could chew on it definitely had.

Then I got stuck in during the afternoon setting up my new second-hand computer. Being a bit of neatness freak, I had to get all the cables tidied away and some desk re-arranging had to happen to make the setup comfortable to use.

The computer was very kindly given to us by friends who felt sorry for Brendan having to constantly fight for access to a laptop so he could chat to his forum buddies.

The 'new' computer is a tower so it has gone up into the office and has been hardwired for internet access. It has become mine by default as I seem to have the programmes with the biggest memory requirements and as my current lot of photos already take up 25GB I can only see me needing more and more memory.

I do have an external hard drive as a back up drive and last night and this morning was spent moving the photo folders from the laptop memory onto the external drive and then convincing the new tower to recognise and upload my files. This sounds easier to do than it actually was.

You see the tower has a Dutch operating system, as it came from Dutch friends, and then when I downloaded my software, most of it was in French, as that is country the computer is in, but I like to read and write in English. So there has been a bit of a three way language lesson going on, as I try to read enough Dutch to find the setting controls for the programmes to change them into English, and then do the same for the French programmes. But here I am in English. And the best thing about it is - the operating system may be Dutch but it is XP and not Vista!

Anyway - this afternoon was a bit of bargaining time between Brendan and myself.

For some time Brendan has had a dead tractor, he has finally found he has oil pressure and so the engine is worth repairing. To repair it he needs a new piston. To buy a new piston would cost 400 euros - so not happening. To buy a second hand piston would cost around 100 euros - more likely. So we have struck up an arrangement - in return for the piston, he will not enter a supermarket for the whole month of April. This may seem daft, but if you know Brendan you will know he has a supermarket shopping fixation and a loaf of bread and pint of milk inevitably cost me 30 euros in other items I did not want to buy.

I believe he can save the 100 euros just by staying out of a supermarket for a month. In return I took him to a Carrefour today so he could stock up on some nibbles and beer that I would not normally buy. Not that I think for a second that they will last a month - but I can hope.

I want to him to renovate the pantry later this year, so this is as good a reason as any to eat all the stuff that is hiding away on the back of the shelves and hasn't seen the light of day for months.

I can also treat the pantry renovation as an excuse to drink all the plum wine, elderberry and blackberry vodka, orange and apricot liqueur that is stashed away at the back - well it does save on moving it out to the barn, only to have to move it all back in again.

............ hic..............

........... hic.............
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring cleaning the barn

With the last of the current Spring sunshine before the storms set in and the snow returns I thought I would get a start on the barn spring clean.

What tends to happen all through winter is that things get randomly thrown through the barn doors until there is a mountain to climb if you want to get anything further in than a metre from the entrance.

Or as Bren would have it, he hangs things up on the floor.

Unfortunately my gardening stuff was at the back of the barn and impossible to get to, so I thought I would transfer it back down to the building we call the garage.

I was using this garage last year to store all my equipment in, but then Bren thought he would use the building for storing the rotavators and his little tractor in and that didn't exactly happen as planned as his tractor doesn't run. Then once it was empty I thought I may use it as a stable for Milla for the winter but she refused to use it, preferring to stand around under the cover of trees instead.

So this afternoon with a few trips back and forth with the wheel barrows I moved all my tools, my nets, my buckets, my cloches, and seedling pots back to the garage, which is looking altogether much more organised with the addition of a very useful work table, just made from a couple of trestles and some  floor boards that were too knotty to use in the house.

The baskets under the table are actually old fridge and freezer baskets that I liberated from the tip, and they hang just right on the edge of the table top, one for pieces of string and baling twine and one for gloves.

Now there is just a big clean space in the barn - not that I think that will last for long with Bren in there.  

Sunday, March 28, 2010

First paying job for the studio

Well it is not a paying job as such - but another swap.

Two pairs of jeans hemmed in return for two boxes of 1 litre kilner jars ready for my preserves in autumn.

We had a lovely day on Saturday with some new acquaintances, having a good look around their new house that is being renovated then dinner together with a couple of bottles of wine and that relaxed chat around the dinner table that sees the hours zip by.

There was just enough time on Saturday morning to get some tomato seeds into pots, and I got a couple of pots of cucumber seeds in too.

While I was in the studio on Sunday I realised that I was missing a pin cushion for my needles.

Because I am always doing little touch ups in various fabrics and colours, I end up with 6 or 7 reels of cotton with needles stuck in them lying around on the table.

So after I had knocked them to the floor 3 or 4 times I decided I needed to knock up a quick pin cushion. This was just a couple of circles of T-shirt material stuffed with some bits of old jumper then quickly whizzed together with the sewing machine.

And the best news of all is that I finally finished unpicking that jumper so I now have 3 balls of beautiful purple silk ribbon - and no idea what to make with it.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

After the rain

This photo taken this evening at 7pm, after the rain had passed. The whole garden looks greener and smells fresh and clean after the cleansing rain.

Had a bit of time out this afternoon and travelled to Riom to find some garden chairs.  Up until last year we had been using an old dining room set of table and chairs in the garden, but after the chairs got left outside one too many times they literally just blew apart, so we went to find some others today as all the shops are full of garden stuff now.

When we got back, I spent a happy hour in the greenhouse, getting the next batch of seeds lined up and dated in my gardening diary, ready to go out. 

This weekend is a fruit planting weekend so I intend to get some of my tomatoes and cucumbers in pots.  I have decided to re-seed some of my herb garden which is looking a bit pecked and scratched bare after the chicken raids of winter, and to that end I found some rosemary and cumin seeds today, so I have just planted those up.

 I am still using my rabbit poo compost, and for these tiny seeds, I very lightly packed the compost into black pots, then sprayed the compost with greenhouse temperature water before sprinkling a few of the seeds and then crumbling some more of the compost very lightly on top.
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fitting it all in before going to work

I am off to a new job this afternoon, so I am trying to get everything uploaded, written up and sorted out before I go.

Yesterday's projects were lots of little things that just needed to be done, including an hour spent amassing all the paperwork required to register with my new agency for today's new job.  By the time I had found, copied, scanned and emailed fifteen different pieces of paper my head was hurting and my lack of patience over the slow internet connection was frustrating me and causing a very very bad mood.  I almost had to resort to a very early gin and tonic to recover.

By the time I got that sorted out, I had little enthusiasm for anything else, but did manage to get a bit more of that blasted jumper unpicked, as well as converting the sleeves into a pair of fingerless gloves.

That made me feel a little better, so I thought I would just indulge myself a bit more, and taking the scraps left over from the scraps of underskirt I used to make cushions and then to decorate the jacket the other day, I decorated the new headband I quickly knocked up the other day.

This is just the neck of a jumper, unpicked at the seam, then rolled in on itself and hand stitched with some matching red wool to create a stretchy headband, for those days when it is too sunny for a hat but too windy to be without something keeping your ears warm while you are working outside.

Only problem is - it clashes dreadfully with my currently purple hair - never mind - can't have everything. 

The decoration is the same as the jacket, just a looping running stitch pinning down a long strip of underskirt into some vague swirls, and then the final scraps sewn up into a little flower at the end.

I finished the day with some indulgent TV viewing, and some cotton buds soaked in acetone, cleaning up a keyboard that belongs to a computer kindly donated to us by some friends.  For some reason this simple act of cleaning something spotless really helped me to relax and I felt much better.  Some days I think I need more serious help than a gin and tonic can provide!

Today the forecasters have announced rain followed by rain, with strong winds and risk of temperatures dropping low enough to give us snow again at the start of next week. 

But I am determined that they have got it wrong.

So I went ahead and started my first salad sowing under the poly tunnel in the garden.

I use the natural sections to succession sow, and so have the first row of lettuce leaves, spring onions and radishes under cover - hopefully ready to start sprouting soon.

I want Spring - and I want it now!

OK - so armed with a wedge of paperwork in hand - off I go to find some old moulin, tucked away in a  village that doesn't show on any of my maps, hopefully won't get too lost and be late for my first day.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gardening update

With the sun continuing to shine for the past two days, we have all been busy in the garden.

Yesterday I finished the second round of rotavating, having done the pass vertically, I then cross hatch horizontally and I did the final pick of the grass sods, nettle root clumps and first batches of buttercups sprouting leaves.

We celebrated the weekend's official start of Spring with an outdoor lunch on Monday, complete with some well earned garden beers.

Today I started planting out the flower bulbs I was given - I don't actually know what they are but they are pretty, and some gladioli bulbs as well.

The ground is now so hard as we have not yet had any rain after the snows. The well level is really high with the snow melt, but the tilled ground is drying out really fast. However there is rain on the forecast heading in on Thursday along with more risk of snow next week. On this occasion I really hope that the forecasters have got it wrong.

We were given a large water bowser on Monday, so we got that mounted up and ready to use for the green house today. It is supposed to be the basis for Bren's water trailer taking water to Milla when she is in her summer grazing fields, but until he manages to get his tractor repaired, the bowser can be static in the garden.

I got the small salad poly tunnel up in the garden as well today.

I normally start at one end and succession sow in each section, 1 row of lettuce, 1 row of radishes and and 1 row of spring onions, about a week apart. 

I also spent some time in the bit green house getting my herb planting started with some basil, oregano and dill to replace those plants which did not survive the winter.  My thyme seems to be done for - no sign of life to it at all so looks like I shall have to invest in a new plant this year.

While it was so lovely outside I thought I had better tackle some of the nettles sprouting in the strawberries too.  I am not as retentive as our neighbours locally who like to have nothing but bare ground around their strawberry plants, I don't mind a bit of grass and clover, but I do draw the line at nettles, they just make harvesting the fruit much to painful!

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Quick make over for a plain jacket

This jacket was in the bundle of clothes I received in my rabbit swap.

I do like it and the fit is good, but it just seemed a little too plain so I thought I would give it a very quick make over.

I took the scraps of underskirt left over from the cushion covers the other day, and cut them into long strips.

 Then with my trusty tailor's chalk again I sketched out a swirly pattern on the front of the jacket.

With some black wool, I stitched on the strips of underskirt along the pattern on the jacket.  I just used a looping stitch, a slanted running stitch to gather the material in place, and made sure I only went through the top layer of the jacket fabric and not through into the lining.

I added a bit more swirl onto the opposite sleeve, to finish it off, and there you have a it - a very quick and easy make-over.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Another "How to ....."

How to turn an old pair of denim shorts and an old skirt into a new skirt.

I had a pair of denim shorts that once upon a time I did wear for the summer - but my time for short shorts has long gone, but for some reason I did not bin the shorts (although I did try to give them away - but they came back anyway - I guess no-one else wanted to wear short shorts!)

So I decided to try to combine them with a completely impractical white skirt in the wrong waist size that my mum sent me to create one denim/cotton skirt that I would actually wear.

First step was to cut up the shorts to create a skirt effect. I did this by removing the crotch and then pinning and sewing the front piece at an angle and the back to level out the hem.  I kept the hem from the shorts because it has a lovely frayed effect.

The white cotton skirt was then pinned to the waistband of the denim skirt and I followed the hem line of the denim, pinning to the white skirt underneath.

As the denim skirt is made from a pair of shorts the hem line is not straight and the back is slightly longer than the front, due to this I decided that the easiest way to measure the cotton skirt length was to simply pin one over the other rather to then trying to do lots of fiddly measurements to get the skirt the same length front and back.

I then machine stitched the white skirt to the denim, just above the hem line of the denim skirt, then folded the cut cotton skirt  hem under to create a double hem to prevent it from fraying and ran another set of machine stitching above the first to create a double row of stitches.  I just used a denim blue to match the colour of the skirt rather than trying to emulate the yellow jeans stitching.

Then just to add a bit of decoration to the plain white cotton skirt, at the hem line there were some stitched flowers just in white, so I added some blue ribbon rosettes for the flowers and picked out the leaves in green embroidery silk. 

Once again I realise that by the time I come to load the photos and write this up - I have not taken a photo of the finished item.

With the skirt, two vests, and a cardigan on the way - I have the start of my summer wardrobe.

I am just adding this final photo of the final touches to the skirt - if only to show the sheer disorder in my embroidery box - and to prove that I do not organise everything!

A bit unravelled

What with feeling a bit under the weather on Friday with a rotten headache, I did not get much done, only to unravel a bit more of that jumper.

If it was not such a nice ribbon I think by now I would have lost all patience with it as the wool, being mohair and having been washed too hot, has now felted up completely, and the ribbon is in such a densely crocheted weave that it has nothing but knots in it constantly.  It took me hours just to get the bottom two inches unwound on Friday and I am having to cut the wool nearly constantly to free the ribbon

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Swapped a rabbit ......

This is our polytunnel / greenhouse which we put up last year. We had a fantastic crop of tomatoes in it and are still eating various sauces I made and preserved in jars for the winter. I am looking forward to another lovely greenhouse full of tomatoes this year.

Anyway - today was a bit of a bits and pieces day. Started with an exchange.

We have several rabbits, two of which I discovered today are pregnant, we are going to be overun with bunnies this year.

So on the basis that we have several rabbits too many, I swapped one today (a female - possibly also pregnant already) for a huge sack of clothes and some new shoes for Brendan. There were also a couple of pairs of wellies both in Bren's size so he did quite well from the swap.

I got a lovely faux fur jacket in purple - matches my lovely new handbag - which was a gift from a friend. There was another faux fur in white but too small for me and I am not going to repeat what Thea said when she saw it.

Alongside the coats, there were also a couple of 70s suits in fantastic garish bright geometric patterns - which I have to say I love, some floral skirts, some tweed skirts and a smartish grey poplin skirt suit.

To be honest I think I got the better end of the deal, as I can forsee several very happy weekend wardrobe makeovers in my studio in the coming months.

Got my bounty home and then spent a happy couple of hours organising it into refashioning and material piles.

There was also a mohair and silk ribbon hand knitted jumper which had been shrunk in the wash, and I intend to spend the rest of the evening now unravelling and saving as much of the purple silk ribbon as I can (are you sensing the purple theme yet?).
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Another day of sunshine = spring cleaning the garden

Yet another glorious spring day and so much too pleasant to be inside.

With the garden now fully rotavated I set to getting my pots in order.

My plan for them this year is to grow patio lettuce, radish and cherry toms around the terrace ready to pick and eat while we are sat outside.

I am not very keen on flowers and tend to only have the sort of things that come back again and re-seed themselves like sweet williams and sweetpeas.

I spend so much of my time gardening in the veggie plot (which you can see from the photos is a not inconsiderable amount of ground), weeding, and hoeing and generally cleaning stuff up that I just don't have the time to devote to worrying about some flowers as well.

I was pleased to find that some honeysuckle that a friend gave me from their garden last year survived the winter and has thrown out some new leaves. It is planted in one of my tip finds from a couple of years ago - a lorry cab dashboard, that has three large holes for the clocks and glovebox and radio.

I also got the first of the little seedling pots composted up and ready for planting in the cold frames.

My compost this year feels and smells like a success. Last year in autumn I put aside a bit of garden and when I cleaned out the rabbits I dumped the straw and its poo contents on the patch of earth and left it to mature over winter, this year I have turned it a couple of times and it is very rich, black and smells divine, so I am using it as my seedling compost and also in the pots for the patio.

In the collage you can just make out that we had a large branch down from our apple tree. This happened last year during a storm in autumn, the tree was actually hit by lightning while I was getting in the car to go to work. It was a bit of a wow moment, I have never been that close to a lightning strike before. The branch was covered in apples, luckily none went to waste as Ernie cleaned them all up.

As part of my spring cleaning the garden I got the branch moved and the smaller twigs off it ready for burning, and have decided to keep the larger thicker branches to make some buttons and bits and pieces with.

I cut back a load of brambles again, mostly around the garage where the honey suckle is and across from the terrace where we have a few downed broom trees, and then this afternoon I lit a fire in the firebin and burnt all the debris that had been strewn across the garden after the storms we got in the tail spin of cyclone Xynthia.

It sounds like hard work, but by 4pm we were sitting around the fire with a drink of beer toasting our toes and catching the last rays of the day's sun on our backs. No suntan yet but I'm working on it!
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blowing away the cobwebs

Metaphorically speaking that is.

Woke up to another stack of emails today and not a cheery one amongst them, they were all either someone missed a meeting, someone else was a no show, paperwork not being filed on time, can you call to chase up - blah blah blah.  By the time I left to go to work today it already felt like I had done 12 hours.

So this afternoon with an unseasonably warm bit of sun, my hubby and I went for a ride out on the bike.

Just a bit of slow and gentle lane pottering, seeing the countryside starting to turn green, being able to see the views of the snow capped mountains against the beautiful clear blue sky just made both of us feel a bit better and a bit more human.  Some quality together time.

Came home and finished ploughing the veg garden, and made a new recipe, baked endives with pancetta and cream, and now I am going to relax with a glass of my own cocktail conncoction in my newly decorated apero glasses - following on in the vein from a previous post - why save things for best - I've painted them, they were only cheap and now I am going to use them - so there!

Tonight's cocktail is:

1 part cassis liqueur
1 part blackberry and elderberry vodka I made last year
2 parts mixed fruit juice
5 parts white wine
5 parts lemonade
and a few elderflower cordial ice cubes to finish it off with

Monday, March 15, 2010

First calluses of Spring

Whilst some people may measure Spring by daffodils or crocuses, I tend to see the first signs of Spring in the calluses on my hands.

Spring cleaning of the garden has begun with the first rotavating of the season. Generally I turn the ground at least 3 times before planting, doing a root and weed pick as I go along and turning in any manure that I have put down in the process.

The chickens love a good bit of rotavation and do a really good job of collecting up the first lot of hibernating bugs before they wake up. The worms are still too deep for them to get to so no danger to that population.

Listening to the motor chug along has a soporific effect on me, and I find myself almost meditating as I stroll leisurely up and down the furrows.

Off for a long soak in a hot bath now - meditation or not the vibration and the weight of the rotavator itself is enough to set all my muscles protesting after a winter of inactivity.

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Weekend Wardrobe ReFashion - Part 2 - Take 1 pullover

Amongst the bundle of clothes recently donated to me, was this pullover.

I detest high neck jumpers or shirts, but I really liked the wool in this jumper all variagated blues and tropical greens, so I thought I would try something new. I decided to turn this pullover into a cardigan.

I started by removing the offending neck piece (which got rolled over and stitched to create a headband - but that is yet another story!). This was much harder than I anticipated, as it was stiched into place, then overlocked, so there was quite a bit of unpicking to do.

 Having removed the neck, I chose a line halfway across the chest, and pinned it to allow me to follow it easily, then cut up the centre of the jumper.

Then with some silk ribbon taken from my miscellaneous box of stuff, I hemmed the two cut edges, and hand stitched - yes hand stitched AGAIN - the ribbon, because the stretchy wool and the silk together did not make for a neat line in the machine - and believe me I did try first.

To finish the neck line and prevent the wool unravelling, I pinned then tacked some interface webbing to it.  (Not being a seamstress or tailor I don't know the proper terms for the materials, but I think it is interface webbing).

And that is all she wrote on that one, as I don't actually know how I am going to finish the neck line on this cardigan - I have enough ribbon left to finish it or some lace - but that may look a bit too twee, so will have to debate on this for a while longer.

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Weekend Wardrobe ReFashion - Part 1 - Take 2 plain white Tshirts

This is my weekend wardrobe refashion - Part 1 - Two plain white Tshirts.

These Tshirts were part of a bundle kindly donated to my studio by a friend a couple of weeks ago.

The first thing I did was to remove the sleeves and the necklines of both Tshirts. I really don't like round crew necks and much prefer a V neck, so I marked out a V with some tailors chalk and cut along the lines.

Considering that I set up my sewing machine in the studio, most of this weekend was spent hand sewing - not really sure how that worked out.

Rather than try to hem the edges of the stretchy material the tshirt is made from I hand stitched some vintage lace to the arm holes and neckline.

So now I had one V neck vest top instead of a Tshirt - but as it was quite plain still, I decided to jazz it up a little with some flowers taken from another Tshirt that had been cut up into dusters a while ago.

First I took some white netting cut into a long strip, folded it in half and tacked along the bottom edge with some white cotton, then pulled it together to form a rosette, which acts as the backing to one flower. 

The second flowers was just stiched into position with some matching red embroidery thread,

With one vest finished I thought I may as well continue with the second while I was on a roll and the studio was warm - I have been burning all the scutty bits from the bottom of the wood pile, so lots of bark and chips - makes for a messy smoky fire but lots of heat.

The second T shirt was combined with what was left of a skirt I bought on Ebay three years ago, but ripped on some barbed wire and kept the material scraps because I just knew one day I would have a use for them.

I cut the material in two long strips, folded them in half, ironed the fold, then folded the two inner edges in and ironed into place again.  The armhole edge then got fed into the fold, pinned and machined into place.

The V neckline was once again finished with some vintage lace, hand stitched into position.

To finish I added some circles cut from the same skirt material along the bottom of the vest.  I think I may add some beading to these circles but my hands had had quite enough hand stitching by then so stopped at this point.

I have just realised that I did not take a photo of the finished vests.  I'll see if my model is free later today and try to remember to take some finished shots for that before and after feel.

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