Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A look back at 2013

It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the build up to Christmas! There have been many Carol Services and other church activities, let alone shopping for food and making gifts, and we seem to go from one appointment on the calendar to another. So I thought I'd spend a little time reflecting on the past year and reminding myself of the things that have happened in our lives.

January got off to a pretty cold start and winter stayed with us for several months.

I did have a break from the snow and cold when I visited Chay and Sharon, Tarryn and Angus in Bahrain in February. It was so good to see where they live and get an idea of what their lives are like there.

In May, Ian and I went to South Africa for a few weeks and had a wonderful time in the Natal Midlands, where we spent two weeks at Whispering Waters. Friends and family were able to come and visit us for a day or two and we had a great time catching up in the beautiful countryside.

We were able to see Sean and Allison's new home in Durban and catch up with many of the family members when Ian baptised our great nephew, Kaelan Faul.

In July Sharon and the children came to the UK for the summer holidays to get away from the intense heat in Bahrain and it was wonderful to have them here as they used our home as a base from which to go off and visit friends and then come back again.

A special treat was to have Chay stay with us for two weeks. No surprise as to what he and Ian did!

In October, Ian and I managed to go to the Lake District for a week. It was a much needed time of rest and relaxation! We swam every morning in the heated pool at the resort where we stayed and just soaked in the beauty and tranquillity of the scenery.

The year has not been all holidays and fun, though! I have done my share at work, doing two shifts a week plus several extra shifts as well and my nearly-67 year old body is telling me that this kind of work is very strenuous, both physically and mentally! My sewing has kept me busy and I have made many bags of all shapes and sizes as well as other items, such as metres of bunting! Sewing certainly gives me a lot of pleasure and fills many hours. Other people seem to appreciate it as well as I seem to have a reasonable flow of orders.

Ian has had a busy year in the church; there are not enough full-time clergy to take care of the parishes so he often has more than one service a Sunday as well as baptisms, weddings and funerals. Fortunately, he still manages to play golf regularly and enjoys the company of his golfing partners.

As we come to the end of 2013 and look ahead to next year, we do so in faith. Ian will be 74 in a couple of weeks and is now on a yearly contract with the Diocese, so we might have to rethink our lives in the middle of 2014. Who knows where we will be next Christmas? I will continue in my care work, which I do to support Ian in his ministry as he gets the house in return for the work he does but no stipend. I am going to South Africa at the end of January for three weeks as it is my sister's 70th birthday and I decided a long time ago that I would spend that time with her. Thank goodness for the money I have invested in South Africa as it pays for my air ticket!

I have some plans for my sewing: I have some fabric suitable for spring/summer bags as well as a piece I intend using to make a few bags to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire. I also have quite a lot of African-themed fabric and I intend buying some more in February so I will have a range of bags which I shall call, 'A Taste of Africa'. I am still trying to pluck up the courage to start an online shop; maybe this will happen in 2014!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Busy November

November was a very busy month! I did several extra shifts at work as one of my colleagues was off sick and I seemed to spend all the time I could sewing. I made items for two craft fairs as well as filling a couple of orders. From tomorrow I will be working hard on orders I have for Christmas.

Considering all the time and effort I put into the craft fairs, after today's I wonder if it is worth it! I sold two items and managed to cover the cost of my table! Oh well, I know what some people will be getting for Christmas presents! I'm also organising a Pop-In Christmas Shop here in our village so will have a table there. I do prefer sewing to order, I think. I had an order for two patchwork tote bags and the person for whom I made them was pleased with what I had done. Here they are:

The blue one is made from shwe-shwe fabric, manufactured in South Africa and popular with African women because it is so hard-wearing.

The manager of the Keyingham Community Café here in our village, asked me to make her some Christmas bunting with stockings on it. They were pleased with it and I think it looks quite cute.

Now I have a stock of tote bags, pencil cases, make-up bags etc. Maybe it's time to start my online shop... At least I know that the sewing I'll be doing in the next couple of weeks is all going to be done to order!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Our holiday in the Lake District

We had a good, relaxing week away in the Lake District. We stayed at Whitbarrow Village, near Penrith, where we have stayed twice before. We like the Northern Lakes, away from the crowds and dense traffic in more commercialised places, like Windemere.

Our main aim was to relax so we didn't intend going for great walks. Anyway, my knees and back don't seem to cope very well with walking over rough terrain any more. However, if you count walking the 18 holes on Keswick Golf Course, I did have at least one good walk! Yes, the Great Golfer took some clubs and a cart as part of his holiday equipment and I walked with him while he played. Thank goodness that was one of the days when we just had some misty drizzle! The scenery was lovely and I did pretty well until about the 14th hole; then the going got a bit tougher. However, I managed to make it to the 18th and then a very good lunch in the clubhouse.

We did enjoy more regular exercise with a good morning swim on five mornings. Thank goodness for 'adults only' swimming times. We both benefited from the exercise and by Friday morning my back was hardly affected.

Of course, we also indulged a bit! What's a holiday for, if not to have a treat now and then?! This was the final indulgence on our last day:

As for things 'crafty', we visited The Wool Clip in the village of Caldbeck. This is a co-operative of fifteen crafty people who spin, weave, knit, felt and make all sorts of wonderful things out of wool. It's not my area of interest and skill but it is always good to admire the work put into top-class crafts. To satisfy my inner craft self, I kept my hands busy with crocheting more squares for another little blanket and then visited a yummy fabric shop in Penrith, called Just Sew. What a feast for the eyes! Even the GG was attracted to the lovely fabrics, suggesting possible pieces for eye-catching bags! I managed to avoid impulse buying and only bought what I needed for some Christmas orders. Oh, the self-discipline!

On the day with the best weather all week, we drove to Ullswater Lake and soaked in the beauty and the peace and tranquillity of the surroundings. I really felt revived after sitting looking at the lake and the mountains.

Now we have more memories and more photographs so that we can say, 'Yes, we did enjoy our break away.' Tomorrow I'll be back in my sewing room!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Using my stash.

Why is it that I seem to run out of essential materials when I want to get on with a project?? I have such lovely fabric to make bags but have run out of the Thermolan interfacing I usually use as well as fusible fleece. We are taking a short break next week (going to the Lake District!) and I didn't want to order more and then not be here when it comes in the post. So I decided to use my time profitably (I hope it will make a profit!!) and use what I had in my stash to make some pencil cases for a Craft Fair on 10 November. For once, I had outer fabric, lining fabric and matching zips to make what I wanted - five pencil cases. I even found reasonably suitable charms to use a zip pulls. Here are the finished products:

Last week I made my granddaughter's present for her 8th birthday. She loves her ballet so I made her some ballet dancer bunting and a drawstring bag for her ballet shoes. I might have to explain about the bunting as my sister tells me that it isn't trendy in South Africa - yet. It certainly is trendy here as I seem to be making quite a bit of it!

The next bunting I make will be Advent bunting, which will double up as Christmas bunting. I got the idea from Craftseller Magazine but will not follow their instructions.

Still using my stash, I am going to make two knitting needle cases using some rather pretty tea towels that I bought a long time ago. This is another idea I found in a magazine.

The other step I have taken is that I have set up a page for MBags on facebook. I have hesitated about doing this but it seems to look OK and I've had very nice feedback from my friends (and family). I suppose the next thing I'll have to think about is a website for selling my bags. The thought of that makes me rather nervous, though.

All this will happen when we return from our little holiday. We are so looking forward to it!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A tale of two bags

I was asked to make a bag that had to have butterflies on it. I searched the internet and found some very pretty butterfly fabric on ebay. I ordered what I needed and, only after I had paid for it, I realised it was coming from Bangkok and would take a few weeks to get here! I told the person who had ordered the bag and she asked me to try and find some fabric locally (in the UK) as she needed the bag sooner than October. I found some that I thought was suitable and the bag was completed by the end of last week.

I emailed the lady to tell her the bag was ready but she didn't get back to me. Yesterday the fabric from Bangkok arrived, earlier than expected. I set to and made another bag in this fabric and emailed the lady yesterday afternoon to tell her she could now choose between the two bags. I attached photos of the bags and within a couple of hours her husband was at our front door to collect the bag made with the fabric from Bangkok.

It is pretty, isn't it? Fortunately, someone else has expressed an interest in the first butterfly bag, so I should be able to sell it. Next time I order something from ebay, I'll check where it's coming from before paying for it!

Some weeks ago I bought a very big curtain at a charity shop. The fabric has a very nice feel to it and I've been looking forward to using it. I had a pair of bag handles which I bought years ago and they go very well with the curtain, so I decided to make a basket bag. The bag was working out just fine and I had attached the handles and was putting the finishing touches to it when one of the handles came apart! I was so disappointed! However, in a previous life the Great Golfer was the Great Engineer and he loves nothing more than a challenge in that line, however big or small! Off he went with the offending screw 'thingy' that wouldn't screw together and less than 15 minutes later the handle was fixed and I was able to complete the bag. So here is my up-cycled basket bag.


Bunting seems to be the thing at the moment in my sewing room! I have made three lots now with two more in the making and then some I want to make for my granddaughter's birthday. More photos of bunting to come...

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Keeping busy

There seemed to be rather a lot of laundry, tidying, vacuuming and re-organising of bedrooms to do after our children went back to their home in Bahrain. It kept me busy, which helped with the empty feeling inside me and the quietness of the house. In a way, it was good to have our own space back again...

I have also kept at it with my sewing, although I haven't really had a heart for it. Some orders are coming in for Christmas, though, so I've got them done and I've finished the crocheted knee rug I wrote about in an earlier blog. It will go to our local church Victorian Christmas Fair. I'm so pleased that I've used up all the wool that was left over from knitting jumpers for my granddaughter. There's still some pale pink and white wool so I'll make a little baby blanket. The weather is decidedly autumnal and I won't mind working with wool in the evenings. Here is the finished knee rug:

Oops - I meant to rotate the photograph!

A lady in the choir I sing with asked me to make a bright bag for her and this one certainly is bright! She says people comment on it whenever she uses it - I'm not surprised!

I also had an order for some bunting for someone's birthday. It looks very pretty and the person who ordered it has asked for some more, this time in shades of purple. I ordered the fabric online this morning. I make the bunting the quick way: I sew the triangles together with the right sides on the outside and then use pinking shears to neaten the edges. They look pretty and it saves the time it takes to turn the triangles right side out and press the edges.

Christmas is in the air and some people are already thinking of stocking fillers. Despite the move to reusable shopping bags (one I support!!) there are still plastic bags around and a colleague asked me for two plastic bag holders.

The criss-cross coasters are proving popular and these are orders for Christmas stockings:

The care home where I work had a table top sale yesterday. I wasn't able to go but I made four shopping bags for them to sell and these little coasters. I bought strips of little horse pictures a long time ago and thought they would make useful little coasters. I hope there were some horse lovers out shopping!

I have been offered a table at a Craft Fair on 10 November, so I need to get some bags made. I have plenty of fabric and have got started. A very generous person gave me some wonderful offcuts of curtain fabric, which I'm looking forward to making up. If only I didn't have to work and then use up valuable sewing time by sleeping in the daytime!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Bag for Bahrain

Next week my daughter-in-law and two grandchildren will fly back to Bahrain. I foresee some rather sad moments! However, I have enjoyed making a new bag for Sharon and she is thrilled with it. It is a Pleated Tote and she chose the fabric: it is curtaining fabric in sage green, pink and cream. It looks really good and I'm pleased with it.

Fortunately, I had some dark pink cotton fabric that suited the lining and the bag is interfaced with fusible fleece. There are two internal slip pockets and the top has a magnetic snap fastener.


Monday, 12 August 2013

Golfing partners

The houseful of visitors is dwindling in number. Our son flew back to Bahrain on Saturday. The whole family left before 06.00 for the London train from Hull so I didn't see them leave as I was at work. Driving home after 07.00 I felt a bit tearful at the thought that our son wouldn't be there and I don't know when we'll see him again. Our daughter-in-law and grandchildren have gone for a final visit to friends before flying home in about ten days' time.

One of the nice things about having our son here has been that he and his father, the Great Golfer, have played golf together several times. They have partnered each other before in a very different sporting activity. During 1999 they spent hours and hours training together for a gruelling ultra canoe marathon, called the Duzi Canoe Marathon. This takes place every year over three days in January between Pietermaritzburg and Durban on the Umsunduzi and Umgeni rivers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Father and son decided to do it together in January 2000 to celebrate the new millennium and Father's 60th birthday. They survived the ordeal in extreme heat and difficult paddling conditions.

Now, in August 2013, they are older and wiser and stuck to dry ground (except for having to fish the occasional ball out of a water hazard!) and enjoyed playing golf together. Far more relaxing for the whole family!

The photographs speak for themselves!

Personally, I've found a bit of time to sew and have made three more charity tote bags for the sale table at my place of work and a set of coasters for a colleague's birthday present. These coasters are easy to make and are very popular with the recipients.

The person for whom I made these has ordered four sets as stocking fillers for Christmas!

Now I have a bag to make for my daughter-in-law before she returns to Bahrain...

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


I guess summer time is when one either goes to visit people or you have visitors come to stay with you. This summer it is our turn to have visitors stay with us.

Our family from Bahrain has come to the UK to see us and various friends - and to get away from the 50C temperatures! Actually, we seem to be the base from which they are going out and about. At the moment, our daughter-in-law and grandchildren are visiting friends in Oxfordshire and our son is here with us. It is the first time he has stayed with us alone since he was 18 and he is now 41! At least I don't have to worry about him if he is out late, although he did get off the bus in the wrong village on Sunday night and ended up having an hour's walk to get home!

Our other visitors thus far have been our French friends who spent a few days with us last week. Our grandchildren were here at the same time and our granddaughter enjoyed practising her French. I must confess that I was rather exhausted by Friday last week, thinking of meals and trying to make sure the visitors were entertained and the grandchildren were behaving suitably. I don't think I am coping too well with teenagers; I find them rather stressful!

Before our French friends arrived, I did manage to make a set of South African-themed placemats as a gift for them. However, I forgot to take a photograph of the placemats. I have just finished another set for my daughter-in-law to take back to Bahrain; they are also South African-themed, this time with pictures relating to the San people, or Bushmen as they used to be called. This is what the mats look like:

I bought the fabric for both sets of placemats in South Africa. It comes in panels, printed with the placemats, so all you have to do is cut them out and stitch them.

Continuing on a South African theme, I have a South African friend currently staying in our village. She enjoys knitting so I made her one of these:

It is a zippered pouch with an eyelet in the front and keeps the ball of wool tidy while you are knitting. You put the ball of wool in the bag and thread the end through the eyelet and get on with  you knitting or crocheting. The ball of wool is kept clean, it doesn't bounce around the floor while you are working, and the cat can't get it! The bag in the photograph is one my friend ordered to take back to South Africa to give to a friend of hers who loves knitting.

I have also made my daughter-in-law and black and white wristlet to use when she goes out at night as she only brought a rather large bag with her. So I have done some sewing over the last couple of weeks; I just haven't had time to blog about it!

The children will come and go before they return to Bahrain in a few weeks' time. Then we will have a break till the next visitors come in September. Time to get on with some sewing!

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Garden Party that nearly didn't happen

Last Saturday was the date for the St Nicholas Church, Keyingham, Garden Party. Every year this event takes place in the Rectory garden in June. We arrived home from our holiday in South Africa and had to do some serious grass cutting and digging of weeds to get the garden reasonably tidy for the day. Unfortunately, the weather was very unpredictable and rain and strong winds were forecast for the day. At 07.30 in the morning the organising committee made the decision to hold the 'Garden Party' in the village hall. In some ways, it was more convenient but there wasn't the same atmosphere - and it didn't rain but the wind did blow. Oh well...

A lot of people came and things seemed to go quite well. I had made a number of very simple shopping bags for the craft table, mainly from fabric that had been given to me over some time. I took nine bags and seven were sold. One lady said the two she bought were going to Hong Kong! Now I'll have to get on and make some more for a sale due to take place at the care home where I work.

Here are the bags I took last Saturday:


Wednesday, 12 June 2013

My mug

Today I received a lovely mug from my partner in the recent mug swap, Sarah-Jane Goode. She lives in Portleven in Cornwall and the mug has a picture of a building in Portleven on it. I love the sea so the breaking wave will remind me of being on holiday!

With the mug came some very naughty fudge made with Cornish cream! Yummy! I will ration that out at one piece a day!

Thank you to Hannah/Cupcakemumma for organising the mug swap! Here is my first coffee in my new mug:


Sunday, 9 June 2013

Holiday sewing

Three weeks without sewing? Not a chance! Thanks to my sister-in-law, Elaine, I enjoyed a unique sewing experience while on holiday in South Africa. Elaine attends bag-making workshops in her home town of Ballito and has made bags very different to the ones I make. She was determined to show me how to make a couple so arrived at our holiday cottage well prepared. She had done the prep on the bags: some of the cutting out, the quilting and the piping; all this to save time so that, basically, all I had to do, with her guidance, was to put the bags together. She even brought her small Bernina with her; just as well as it is far more up-to-date than the 40+ year old Bernina I use in Durban!

While our husbands went off to play the local golf courses, we set to work. Elaine is a good teacher and supervised while I did the work.

Some of the bag construction was quite tricky and I learned to insert an endless zipper with two sliders. The first bag we made was a plastic-lined toiletry bag and the second a matching overnight bag. Attaching the piping was a bit tricky but the most difficult part was attaching the gussets. We did the overnight bag on the second day but had spent part of the morning in the nearby village so I ended up working into the night. Eventually I was just so tired that Elaine came to my rescue and helped with the gusset. It was a comfort when she said that, when she made her first overnight bag, her teacher had come to her rescue as well. I didn't feel a complete failure!

Here we are with the completed bags:

This was a very interesting and enjoyable learning experience. However, I had another sewing experience that really warmed my heart!

We spent the last week of my holiday with our son and daughter-in-law and grandchildren in Durban. They had moved house a week before we went there and one day I was left with our grandchildren while the other adults were busy moving things from the old house. My daughter-in-law had said that the children could do with more drawstring toy bags so I found some fabric I had left there after another project and got out the trusty Bernina. Emily, my 7 year old granddaughter, was very interested and I involved her in measuring and cutting out a bag for her. She then sat on my knees at the machine and her foot just reached the peddle. With my hands guiding hers, she did nearly all the sewing on her bag. She kept saying how much fun it was to sew and how much she loves sewing. It made me so happy and I'd like to think that my Mother, her Great Grandmother, was watching us from heaven and enjoying the passing on of skills to another generation. Sadly, there was no-one around to take a photo of us but I think I'll remember the experience for the rest of my life!

5 year old Alexander was not to be outdone; he sat on my lap and, with my hands guiding his, zig-zagged the bias binding for the drawstrings on his bag. What fun!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Mug swap

I joined a Mug Swap organised by Hannah, of Cupcakemumma. As I was about to go to South Africa, I decided to buy my partner a mug there. That turned out to be a good idea as, when I communicated with her, she said she likes elephants, collects teapots and likes the colour purple.

I looked for a mug with an elephant on it but couldn't find one I liked. Then, in the last shop I went to, accompanied by my sister, (which was such a treat!) I found a mug I really liked but it had an African hut on it. Then I found a cute little matching teapot with an elephant on it and then my sister spotted a handpainted card with a purple elephant on it! Now, what could be more suitable!!?

Here they are:


Sunday, 2 June 2013

Home again!

I arrived home on Friday after three weeks in South Africa. It was wonderful and I really feel as though I've had a holiday. It's been all 'go' since Friday as I worked last night and will do so tonight and tomorrow night. What with laundry, food shopping and opening mail, my time seems to be filled.

The house is very quiet as I've left the Great Golfer in Durban for another week. I haven't spent time alone for three weeks, which makes it more intense.

I still have to get all my photographs onto my laptop so, when I've done that, I will blog about some of them to highlight special moments of our holiday. But it was wonderful to spend time in the beautiful countryside of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, then with our son and his family in their new (100+ year old) home in Durban. We have enjoyed meeting up with friends from various stages of our lives and with all our siblings. I have been truly blessed! I would like to share this African Blessing with anyone who reads this:

May the African sun always shine on you.
May the rhythm of its drums beat deeply in your heart.
May the vision of all its glory fill you with joy, and may the memory of Africa be with you, always.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Holiday sewing

I might be on holiday but I'm still sewing! We are staying in a log cabin in the beautiful Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands, one of my favourite areas in South Africa. My sister-in-law and her husband are spending a few days with us and today the men went off to play golf and we spent most of the day sewing! Elaine has learned to make different bags to the ones I usually make so I was the pupil today and she was the teacher. I managed to complete one bag today and tomorrow we will make a bigger one - and the men will play golf again!

Photos will follow when I am back home and using my own computer.

While I was sewing today, Elaine saw something moving in the trout dam in front of our cabin. We went out to take a look and it was an otter! We were both so excited and watched the beautiful creature diving and swimming after fish. I think it is the most exciting wildlife experience I have ever had! Then, while we were watching the otter, a large bird, I think it was a heron, caught a fish and stayed on the bank of the dam eating it. Two wonderful acts of nature at the same time! We were so blessed to be able to watch all this taking place right in front of us!

So, more sewing tomorrow and, maybe, another sighting of the otter!?

Monday, 29 April 2013

Bags for Africa

I might not have blogged for a couple of weeks but I have been busy! I think I have now finished making all the gifts I'm taking to family and friends in South Africa. With less than ten days to our departure, I am beginning to feel excited! Fortunately, my husband and I take separate suitcases as we fly back a week apart; as it is, he wants to know if I intend taking any clothes as the pile of things to take is growing steadily without any clothes added to it!

So, here are some more bags that I've made:

Drawstring toy bags for my granddaughter, a great niece and great nephew, as well as one each for expected twins!

I call this the 'Bundu bag'. The fabric has animal prints on it and I've made it for a friend who, together with her husband, has recently opened a restaurant called 'Bundu Bistro'.

The Bundu Bag is embellished with a yo-yo and a cute hippo button.

I have another friend with whom I went through high school. She loves all things Celtic and I've made her a make-up bag out of some Celtic fabric I've had in my stash for a few years. The other make-up bag is for my daughter-in-law.

The zippered pencil cases are for my grandson and great nephew and the little princess wrist bag is for my granddaughter.

I have also made another friend a simple tote bag and yet another friend some criss cross coasters as a birthday present. No photos of those as I think there is a bit of 'photo overload' in this blog!

For a change of pace, I attended a knitting workshop at one of our local churches yesterday. We were shown a number of different patterns for knitting squares for blankets and I tried this one. It's knitted in one piece with decreasing on every alternate row to make the corners.

The final corner is sewn together to make a square. There's always something new to learn and it was fun meeting with some different people.


Saturday, 13 April 2013

On Safari

Two of my friends in South Africa are very keen on visiting game parks to see the wild animals. I've had some fabric in my stash for a couple of years and, with a trip to South Africa next month, thought this was a good time to get it out and use it!

The fabric is by Makower and there are two designs which are meant to be used as borders. I made two bags: this one is from a commercial pattern, Kwik Sew 3133, but I added some Thermolan as interfacing to give the bag a bit more body.

The second bag is a bit smaller:

Both bags have internal slip pockets trimmed with the outer fabric:

Each bag also has a matching zippered purse attached to a snap hook on a narrow strap:

Yesterday I went into Hobbycraft and found this fabric on the sale. I've made my grandson a pillow case as he loves road signs!

I know that many people would have been working in their gardens today as the weather has at last turned spring-like, but I like sewing and am pleased with what I have done in the last couple of days. I'll just have to get fresh air some other day!