Beach Bucket Bag – Perfect for holiday fun

All set for summer

Made for Mi


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Hasn’t the lovely spring weather brought dreams of summer!

The beach cafes here have been full to bursting it feels as if we have finally shaken of winter,

just in time for beach huts, divers and little boats!

Gathering the fabrics for the beach bag,

I stitched this diver using free motion machine embroidery a while ago, not really sure what I was going to do with it, I had these lovely fabrics in my stash, the stripes remind me of a swimming pool, and the little boats would ‘float’ above the pockets. I think the colours were in harmony with the diver.

 The idea of the bucket bag came because I remember sitting poolside in Italy and getting frustrated because I had to keep on hunting through everything to find my book, or my suncream etc.

Everything is handy at the beach

I thought it would be so useful to have a bucket bag – where clothes etc could be stashed away

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Sugar – Poetry 101 Rehab challenge

Sugar

She knew

He was distracted

Absent

Staring into space

Again

She loved him

Fastening her apron

Reaching for the jar

She smiled

He loved her too

On Monday

Pulling apples from his tree

She made Apple Crumble

Spicing it with cloves and cinnamon

Just like his school dinners

On Tuesday

She baked

Sicilian Lemon cake,

First tasted on honeymoon

twenty years ago

On Wednesday

Golden treacle pudding

with custard

just like his mother taught her

On Thursday

Shortbread fingers

Eaten by the loch

where they discovered

blossoming parenthood

On Friday

The vanilla scent of

New York Baked Cheese Cake

Welcomed him home

By Saturday

He was no longer distracted

They celebrated

With tiramisu

Who made your clothes? – Sew Solidarity

I love clothes, last weekend I dipped into Primark with a little sense off guilt. All around me were clothes piled high at prices that you simply cannot ignore – I know how much time and effort goes into making a t-shirt, so buying one for £2?

Everyone’s perception is distorted by the low prices of items – everything is made so cheaply that we have begun to perceive these as throwaway items. Why repair a microwave when you can purchase another for less than £30? Why bother storing your clothes from one season to another when you can buy new every season for less than the price of the weekly shop.

Sewing machines made today don’t have the staying power that machines did years ago – a friend of mine ‘wears her machine out’ in a year and happily buys a new one.

I have greatly reduced my clothes buying, even those from charity shops, I just am feeling a little sickened by the sheer wastefulness. Have a look at this lovely film – it really does show the scale of the problem. It is about the workers in India that deal with our discarded clothes. They think we throw clothes away hardly worn because we cannot afford to wash them!

Our sense of value is being distorted in such a way that craftspeople and artisans are no longer valued for the work they do. We believe that a t-shirt should cost £2 without even considering how it is made or where the cotton comes from. Or the true cost of the lives who are paid low wages so that we can have it all cheap.

The world is getting smaller, we are recognising that we can no longer distance ourselves what is happening in China and Asia will affect us one way or another. China is paid in dollar bonds they hold enough to bankrupt America if they called those in, and yet we and the Americans get more and more dependent on China for goods.

How much longer can we sustain this balance? We don’t make things in the Uk anymore, so where are our wages going to be coming from in the future? What do we as a country offer the world? Could we ever be self sufficient? We have lost all our skilled labour – generations ago.

But there are things we can do,  April 24th is a day we can all do something simple, have a look here. Its in memory of the factory disaster two years ago, when a building collapsed killing thousands of workers.

You don’t have to pay anything, you don’t have to go anywhere, just use your voice to join others in asking for sustainable, fair clothing.

We might just be one voice, but together we can help to change things.

Afloat – WordPress Challenge

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Afloat.”

Three years

How time passed

She remembered this house as it had been then, a dark little space: depressing, squalid; far from perfect but the optimist in her loved a challenge.

She had faith in putting love in the four walls believing everything around it would blossom and grow.

She sighed, her restless heart was beating.

What had happened to all those hopes and dreams?

How she was going to transform things; bring to life the potential she could see beyond the frost bitten welcome.

She hoped that if she gave it time, introduced things slowly, they would come around.

Three years is a long time to keep hope alive, to push out tendrils of friendship in barren ground.

This had been a place of sanctuary – a place of healing old, deep wounds because there had been no distractions.

Her isolation had given her time to find inner peace, she discovered herself because there were no other reflections to distort her self image.

She had been drawn to the restlessness of the sea, made daily pilgrimage, savouring it’s changing moods.

She felt most at home on that deserted beach, the chill wind whipping wild waves that tore at the rocks made smooth over time.

She did not have a lifetime’s patience of the sea to change things – maybe they are what they should be anyway?

This wasn’t the destination but the gateway,

The rootlessness that had caused her such grief was transformed as she realised how free she was

It was time to leave the restless sea and seek out the wild woods.

Love Sewing Magazine Ruby Dress Pattern Review

My sewing blog is up and running – introducing my spring dress!

Made for Mi


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 This ‘Sew Simple’ pattern came with Love Sewing Magazine – called the Ruby Dress

I thought it looked lovely – it is reminiscent of the 1950’s – a very flattering style, good for pear shapes or hourglass because the full skirt covers hips and thighs and focusses attention onto a small waistline which are the assets of a pear and hourglass shape.

07-Ruby Dress Simple Sew Pattern from Love Sewing Magazine-002

There were a couple of adaptations I wanted to make to the pattern:

Replace the centre Zip in the back to a concealed zip in the side seam.

11-Ruby Dress Simple Sew Pattern from Love Sewing Magazine-006I traced off the back pattern piece, using cross and dot paper.

I removed the seam allowance in the centre; because I have narrow shoulders pinched out a dart so that it narrowed the back slightly towards the top.

I drafted a mirror image to create one pattern piece that would not have to be cut on the fold. When…

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The Girl on the Train – Book Review

The Girl on the Train review

Brilliant read – the pace of the book never slackens as the stories unfold. There is an honesty about flawed characters; the three women in this book are all struggling one way or another and the theme running through is how women punish themselves.

I read a lot of reviews about the book before I bought it  – a lot of them stated that none of the characters were likeable, but I really felt for Rachel – yes she is an alcoholic, but as we travel through her story I had a lot of sympathy for her.

This is a story of hope,  I was only a third of the way in and I realised just how blessed my life was – Rachel’s loneliness seeped off the pages. She was at her lowest ebb and while she might have done awful things, I believe she was trying hard to please everyone around her. Imagine going to London by train every day and hanging about in Libraries because you don’t want your flatmate to know you have lost your job. She never burdened Cathy (her flatmate) with any of the pain she was suffering, why she was drinking, she carried her burdens alone. Its pity that prevented her from opening up, when you are at your lowest ebb, pity is unbearable.

Despite being labelled crazy, dismissed and scorned, she is very brave, she tries to help people, Scott, and Anna, even though they treat her with such contempt. Rachel does pull her life together the ending was very satisfying and hopeful.

Paula Hawkins writing is excellent, this story drew me in, the characters portrayed so well – and the pace relentless. It takes talent and skill to pull that off, I can’t wait to read more, for a first book this is an astounding achievement.

The Last Runaway – Tracey Chevalier


the last runaway

Oh my! What a read – I am almost jealous of those who have yet to pull back the cover of this brilliant book and journey to America with Honor Bright! (ok so the name is a bit odd, I grant you)

I loved this book – which meant I read it in a day and now I am bereft! My dear friend N, gave this to me with the words “it made me want to take up quilting’ and I know what she means!

Honor quilts, her stitching is so good that other characters comment on it. I am not sure if it was the simplicity of the life depicted, where order reigned and women gathered together to sew that I was attracted to, or just the joy of reading about sewing, but I found it delightful.

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Chevalier really brought Honor to me in waves of sympathy –  being so seasick that she would never travel by sea back to England,  chapter one flew by in a blink of an eye and I was completely hooked.

We follow Honor, a Quaker, on her journey to a vast America only just independent from England, where slavery is still a matter of government debate that will eventually lead to war.

Honor brings to life the differences in culture, language and landscape – as she tries to adjust to her new life. She was supposed to be accompanying her sister, Grace to her husband in Ohio – but sadly Grace dies not far into their journey – leaving Honor travelling vast distances alone. She makes good friends along the way, a larger than life milliner who makes good use of Honor’s sewing skills and forges a deep friendship that overcomes the natural barriers of Quakers and ‘others’.

I felt sorry for poor Honor that she received such a lukewarm reception, not just form her potential brother in law, but the Quaker Community. I know Quakers are supposed to be quiet people but I don’t believe they are as sombre as depicted in this book – but it is a subtle influence to the plot and essential to the story. My best friend at school was a Quaker, as a family they were a happy bunch, quiet, unassuming and most of all warm.

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This story is not really about sewing – it is about the ‘underground railroad’ where runaway slaves followed a network of sympathisers as they headed from the South to Canada.  I know very little about American History but there are some interesting articles at the back of the book – if you want to dip your toe in.

It is about finding your place among strangers, finding courage to speak. It is about following your beliefs and how ideals are watered down by the nuts and bolts of living; something that has been a recurring theme in my life recently.

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I loved the way relationships were echoed by the weather, the stifling heat reflected and intensified just how stifled Honor was feeling. How silence can be strangely liberating and smiling can mask underlying jealousy.

I think what works so well is that Honor is not able to express her views to those around her instead she writes letters; the tale of passive aggressive behaviour by women is so cleverly illustrated – Honor is a talented seamstress and a good home maker, but that doesn’t make her liked. But Chevalier gives Honor her voice in the letters she writes at the end of each chapter – she vents to her friends back in England and longs to  belong.

It has given me a new respect for Americans – the weather can be hostile and so can some of the animals, but its the attitude of picking yourself up and moving forward that comes across most. The optimism and courage to start from scratch and begin something new.

I know that it all sounds rather moral and boring, but it really is not, you will love it I promise!

This book is reviewed on Richard and Judy’s book club – here are the questions.

Question 1: Honor is in a very difficult position when she first arrives in America. Do you feel that she makes the right decisions?

Yes – she goes to the only person in the country she knows – the one person who is expecting her. I think she was incredibly brave to trust strangers and she was lucky with those she picked – perhaps she was a good judge of character.

Question 2: What role does faith play in the novel – both religious faith and faith in other people?

I think faith was the link between them all, they seemed to be searching to belong – but as the book illustrates it was also about cutting ties and upping sticks and moving on. It made people restless and disconnected.

I think their strong beliefs were being tested, none more so than the Haymakers – the father died for his faith and rather than feel strengthened by his sacrifice – the Haymakers retreated – which belief should you follow? The law of the land or faith in equality? I am not sure I could have chosen, I know I could not have ignored someone in need but then I hadn’t suffered for my beliefs either.

Question 3: Who do you think the ‘last runaway’ of the title refers to?

I think it is Honor herself – her silence did not work so she had to escape.

Question 4: Discuss the importance of quilting to the story.

Quilting was Honors comfort, even though it was different like everything else, it was familiar enough for Honor to feel connected. I felt that it also symbolised her adjustment into American culture, her enthusiasm for appliqué grew as she became more settled – it showed that she was ready to move forward.

Book Hangover

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I have a bit of a quandary, I have a large pile of books on my shelves waiting to be read and I keep on picking one or two up – reading a few pages and then get busy with something else. I did wonder if I had lost my reading mojo but a couple of books recently came to the fore and I discovered that I could still get lost in a book in fact I can read a really good one in a day!

I ran a book group once – my reading time was very limited (I had teenagers, full time job and other interests), I began to resent reading books that were frankly ‘hard work’ gritting my teeth as I read page after dreary page to discover my instincts were right after the first few pages; I had wasted valuable time that could have been better spent reading the multitude of books I want to read.

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I had a few books that ‘stretched me’ Never let you go, was one that I would never have read otherwise: a very haunting book, I can’t say it was pleasurable, but thought provoking. We read a couple of Jodi Picoult books – I loved the way she weaved modern dilemmas into stories like My Sisters Keeper and Faith- they offered some great subjects for discussion. When I moved away I was pleased to leave my book group behind, they were a lovely bunch but I wanted to choose for myself.

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I ended up with the rule 72 (bear with me). I was wading through yet another dreary tome and noticed I was on page 72. I stopped reading and declared that unless a book was gripping me by that marker I would give myself permission to discard the book.

Its odd though, how something simple like reading can filter through other areas of our lives – leaving a book unread feels wrong, as if am am lacking in moral fortitude.

“You never stick at things’ is what comes to mind,

‘you always give up easily’

and my personal favourite,

‘no pain no gain’

(Well that particular one is discredited, we all know that Nietzsche ended up in an asylum, poor chap!)

There is a deep sense that I am missing something, that I don’t have the intelligence to really understand the narrative, there is shame too, my tomes aren’t high brow, or ‘improving’ literature, I read for pleasure – so why then, is it so difficult to abandon a book.

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There are so many wonderful adventures out there, I find bookshops terrifying sometimes – I want to walk away with armfuls picking one seems an impossible task. I don’t really have a specific genre – so I can’t narrow down my choice.

I wish I had a formula, if the book is about x then its definitely one to read, but no two books are the same – I can be really loyal to an author such as Mauve Binchy and Robert Goddard, but then I notice they all begin to merge – the same story different characters.

I know right now I have a book hangover so might not be in the right frame of mind, but I wonder if anyone else struggles as I do?

At present I am struggling with Suite Francaise – the film came out recently and so many people have told me  the book is sublime but I am bogged down reading about people fleeing from Paris!

Alongside is the Beachfront Bakery – I just don’t pick it up – its OK but not wow.

Miss Scarlett’s School of Patternless sewing had some brilliant reviews… but the sugary sweet women are not floating my boat either! It should work in theory, I love sewing, it was the same with the Friday Night Knitting club – I did not connect with the characters.

Perhaps it is time for a clean sweep, take them all to the charity shop and start afresh, without these novels silent reprimand I think I shall feel a whole lot better.

I must be careful though, I nearly bought a novel in a shop yesterday –  thought it would be great – only to remember as I was heading to the till it was one I had given them a month before!

My kindle seems to be much kinder… right now I am ready to settle down to The Girl On the Train… after Shazza’s book review.

ttfn x

The Darkest Hour – Barbara Erskine Book Review



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This is Barbara Erskine’s thirteenth tale – so I was expecting ghosts and time travel and I was not disappointed – in her usual style there are two stories running together in different times. I have read a couple of her novels – Hiding in the Light being one of my favourites so I was thrilled to spot this in Waterstones last weekend.

We have the story of Evie trying to make her name as a War Painter during the Battle of Britain. She has an arrangement with a neighbour called Eddie who has enough connections in the Art World to help her to achieve fame and fortune. However she meets Tony a pilot stationed at nearby Westhampnet and they fall in love. Of course no romance had a smooth course and this one has twists and turns that are only unravelled in the present day where Lucy is researching Evie’s life story for a biography – after her husband purchases one of Evie’s paintings. Sadly Lucy’s husband is killed in a hit and run accident which makes Lucy determined to complete the book. She makes contact with Evie’s family – who fall into two categories, those willing to help and support her book and those who are hostile. (There appears no room for middle ground!). Lucy is given access to a lot of Evie’s possessions including Evie’s home and art Studio – we begin to follow Evie’s story back through time and in Lucy’s research.

We have several ghosts – but these won’t keep you awake at night, Erskine writes novels that are more about unfinished business than hammer house horror.

If you want to read for yourself, best stop there and come back in case I spoil the story for you! 

I started this book as soon as I came back from the bookshop – I was immersed immediately and could not put it down – I found Lucy a likeable character and found Evie’s life interesting as she struggled with farm tasks and painting. What attracted me to this novel was that she had written about my local area, Lucy’s art gallery was based in Chichester – and the Battle of Britain played out across the Sussex Downs with several small airfields locally were the back drop for Evie’s tale.

I found the plot and storylines plausible but then midway through the book I found my enthusiasm waning.

I think I was frustrated – Evie’s section of the tale was getting repetitive, I lost count of the number of times Evie and Tony could not meet, wrote notes to each other saying they could not meet, only for them to meet briefly and the whole thing repeat itself. Her life was dull, milking cows, and painting – she only went out once and that was when she met Tony. Rachel (her mother) was more real, but I found the wailing haunting really odd, as was the woman living in the house in the present day.

Evie never really came across as a full bodied character – she was passive, it was hard to relate to her. I thought it might have been better if we could have had some of her diary entries written in the first person – I needed to understand how she ticked, what she felt – it was all in the third person so she never really came alive.

When she was laying with Tony in the thunderstorm was the closest we had to understanding Evie she was wildly exuberant, it would have been nice for them to have spent more time together, so that the depth of their feelings was understandable. Maybe even meetings where they felt soul to soul – instead they simply met and fell in love. Tony creeping in the house at night to her upstairs bedroom was odd, it did not seem likely that Evie’s father would have tolerated that for one minute – I imagine any man would take that as an insult to his household. Tony would have been a bit of a cad for doing that sort of thing. Why did it have to be sex, why not the pictures or a local dance?

There were other elements of the story that I began to struggle with:

Lucy’s story was more interesting, but she was also passive. Other supporting characters drove the story, dealt with the ghosts, dropped research into her hands – everyone was rallying round her and she really did not do much to bring the story together, in the end I was irritated by her. I thought that Caroline had more substance, I knew what motivated her, she had passion whereas Lucy seemed to drift through her research as she drifted through everyone else’s home.

I also found it odd that despite Lucy’s husband dying in the first few pages, she never misses him and falls in love quite easily! (I’m not telling you who – read it and see!)

Yet, I enjoyed it because I read it solidly for a week – there was enough of a mystery to keep me guessing and it did all come together.

I believe I learned quite a lot from this book – the story itself was very good – I love two stories and unravelling mysteries. I also like to believe that ghosts have unfinished business!

I would recommend it to my friends, they may not have the same reservations – I would love to hear from other readers about how they found it.

Hiding from the light

I can recommend Hiding from the Light – I thought it was one of her best. About the Witch-finder General – a haunted cottage and of course Witches and ghosts!