Monthly Archives: February 2015

A study in sewing

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Exhausting work

On Sunday we went down to London. I headed over to have tea with my younger sister, to giver her a bit of moral support and a break from her revision (her medical finals are not far off – good luck E!). Whilst I was enjoying a cup of thick Florentine hot chocolate and cakes, James went over to the canal museum. He wanted to do a few bits and pieces on the tug, ahead of the visit from the guy who is hopefully going to be able to repair the engine. The main job was to replace the exhaust pipe (which regular readers may remember was in a poor way, and held together with bits of soft drink can!).

He used a piece of flexible pipe which was spare from when James (ex-Kestrel) was repairing his exhaust pipe some years ago (one of those bits which you keep in case it comes in handy one day!). It had since been donated to Suzi Q, but evidently not used because James (Willow) then found it in the bin next to Willow and Suzi and fished it out before the bin men came to empty it! It’s now connected up and ready for lagging in Bantam IV!

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The tug’s engine room is covered in grime from where the old leaking exhaust had desposited smuts everywhere. Needs a proper scrub!

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More Curtains

I’m now onto my third set of curtains with another pair cut and ready to sew. For the third pair I changed things a bit by switching to a different fabric for the bedroom curtains. Whilst the green Morris “Willow Bough” pattern is perfect for the living room, it wouldn’t look quite right in our burgundy and cream bedroom. Instead I used this lovely Habitat for V&A fabric, which my parents bought the end of a roll of sometime in the 90s to make a sofabed cover. Since then it has been used for various things, and it is nostalgic for me to find another use for it on Willow, as the pattern brings back happy childhood memories. With its curling foliage it’s not dissimilar to the Willow Bough fabric either.

It was here in the bedroom where the blackout lining I’ve used on all the curtains really has come into its own. With the old curtains, we had simply blocked the light out by pinning up a black cover over the window at night, but with these there is no need – compare with the last photo of the old curtains.

Just two more pairs to make now (and the door ones!)

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A Year with Thea

Thea, our little fluffy possibly-Siberian rescue cat came to live with us a year ago today. At first she was incredibly nervous and didn’t leave the bedroom and bathroom end of the boat for months. But gradually she has become bolder, and has been on adventures all around the canals with us, although she still hides behind the sofa when the engine is on. Now she’ll happily go outside (when it isn’t snowing) and she and Lyra chase each other about and generally get on pretty well. They won’t snuggle up together but are happy sharing the bed or the sofa. Here’s a little selection of photos showing her increasing boldness, settling in to the life of a boat cat!

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Vegging Out

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I don’t generally believe in New Year’s Resolutions, but we have made one change recently which co-incidentally has happened at the start of the year. We had a leaflet dropped onto our boat by a fellow moorer who works on an organic farm, offering veg boxes delivered directly to boats. A neighbour and I decided to share the smallest one. So now we get lovely seasonal organic veg delivered on a weekly basis, which is exciting, but also challenging. We really don’t eat enough vegetables and so I’m going to have to find ways of using them up and doing more with them. It will be a good exercise in eating more healthily and cooking from scratch.

So I’m on the lookout for simple ways to eat more vegetables without completely altering our eating habits, which seems the most realistic way to eat better – suddenly making a huge switch is less manageable, especially as James’s very physical job at the moment means that he needs lots of carbs!

A few ideas:

  • Adding “white” root veg such as parsnip, celeriac and turnip to mashed potato
  • wilting greens to go in a tomato pasta sauce
  • adding caramelised onions and leeks to gravy
  • bringing chopped carrots to work as a snack
  • making warming stews and casseroles on the stove or in my Wonderbag* when I have time at the weekends
  • using up any leftover veg in a soup which can be stored for a few days on the baseplate and brought in to work for lunch in a tupperware pot.

Any more suggestions?

*Modern version of the traditional “straw-box” concept – an insulating bag to keep a pre-heated pot of stew cooking in its own heat for several more hours after cooking. Amazingly useful – and I’ll do another post on this soon, just need a few better photos!

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Getting the Hang of It

Once I had gathered all the necessary materials for my new curtains, I was keen to get started. I spent Saturday reminding myself how to thread (thanks YouTube!) and practicing using the Singer – it has a hand crank so one hand is needed to turn the mechanism leaving only one hand free to guide the fabric through. It used to have an electric pedal to control the mechanism but I wan’t sure if it would still work and I prefer being able to run it off-grid.

At first though, I thought it was broken because it kept skipping stitches and the ones it did manage were irregular in length. Again, the internet came to the rescue, and I read that this could be caused by something as simple as a blunt needle. I switched it for one of the new ones I’d recently bought (learning in the process that the design of the machine needle has barely changed for over a century, so that my 1931 machine could use the same needle as a modern one) and the result was perfect – even, neat stitches.

Once I felt confident using it, the next step was to cut the fabric up – possibly the most important step! When I was younger, making things in our Textiles classes at school, I used to be terrible at cutting things neatly, relying on seams to hide the wobbly edges, but I’ve now learned the value of accuracy! Without a large table (although I’m lucky that my drop leaf table is a pretty decent size) I found that the best way to cut the patterned fabric was the thread pull method – isolate one thread, and pull it so it bunches up and then when you flatten it out again it leaves a track through the fabric where it has shifted. This took a while to do but resulted in a very straight cut. The blackout lining was too tightly woven for this method to work so I simply drew lines on it using a straight edge and cut along them, which worked well enough.

Then it was a matter of pinning and sewing the two layers together and attaching the rufflette tab along the top, which was actually fairly straight forward (thanks again to YouTube tutorials!). I managed to make one on Sunday evening and another last night – once the fabric is cut it’s actually only about an hour’s worth of work (at my pace) to put one together, and I really enjoyed it. Only eight more to make… I’m sure the novelty will wear off but the resulting curtains will be worth it, I’m so pleased with these ones, the fabric is just perfect!

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