115: lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Ok, I might be exaggerating a bit here, but one of the wonders of living out here in sunny Essex is the variety of wildlife we get in the garden. The majority of it is welcome but some – like the odd rat – is less so. Living near farmland and with a watercourse near the house it’s inevitable, of course, but I still don’t want them snacking on the bird seed.

My favourites at this time of year are the blue tits who colonise the nest box and produce a brood of noisy chicks demanding feeding. The first sight of the babies as they peek out of the hole and glare at us is always an ‘aaahhh!’ moment, and one of the very bedraggled and exhausted parents paid us a visit one evening this week too. Rather foolishly, it had stopped for a rest on the fence outside the back door which surrounds the cats’ outdoor space – Lulu thought it was her birthday but Thing 2 came to the rescue. The bird was remarkably tame (or possibly just knackered) as we were able to get very close. It flew from Thing 2’s hand to my head before we were able to put it safely out of reach of the cat.

The local shrew population has less luck when it comes to Lulu. The occasional one ventures in to the cat space (probably after the strawberries) and doesn’t live to tell the tale, instead becoming a love gift for my (and her) beloved. She’s always most annoyed when we take them away from her. She did bring a mouse in just before Christmas which we didn’t realise until it peeked out from behind my sewing machines, leading to a frenzied twenty minutes with a wooden spoon, an empty cheese sauce pot and finally a rehoming in the compost bin.

Today I have been joined in the garden by a baby sparrow, and every year we have robins, blackbirds, dunnocks, goldcrests, woodpigeons and collared doves. There’s a raucous family of magpies too, whose antics make me laugh. They are scrappy and behave like human siblings, arguing amongst themselves and rough and tumbling in the garden. The poor mother (I assume!) takes refuge on our neighbour’s roof, and as soon as the juveniles spot her they all go and join her. On one occasion there was a panicked squawking as one landed on the telephone wire and ended up upside down without enough sense to let go….

Other garden birds are woodpeckers, the odd sparrow hawk, starlings (nesting in next door’s roof), red kites soaring overhead, moorhens in wet springs and for the first time this year parakeets have flashed past. For several years we had a very tame pheasant who our builders named Colin after one of their colleagues who also strutted about. This year Richmond the Rook is a regular, stalking about in his fluffy rook trousers and hanging about with a couple of jackdaws.

The less feathered friends turn up too: we’re privileged to have badgers visiting from the Common as well as foxes, rabbits and the occasional muntjac. We can usually track their progress by the nibbled plants, much to my Beloved’s disgust. A slow worm can often be found in the greenhouse enjoying the warmth, while toads lurk under stones and tarpaulins and newts haunt the flowerpots. Most years we have a bumble bee nest somewhere, as well as squirrels and tiny mice.

One of my friends described coming through the back gate once as like walking into Narnia – sometimes I think she’s not far wrong!

Other things this week have included cheering on the RideLondon cyclists as they zoomed through the village, binging Stranger Things seasons 1-3 in preparation for season 4, seeing this year’s museum fox cubs playing in the sunshine, Thing 3 going off on his first solo sleepover at London Aunty’s house (it’s fancy, apparently), much crocheting of a shawl which is taking forever, a glorious swim, a mooch about the market, an early walk, and making some tiny things.

This week it’s half term and there’s only three days in work thanks to some Queen or other having a jubilee. The village has broken out in bunting already. I have promised my beloved that I’ll sort out my shed next weekend….

See you next week!

Kirsty x

The Betrayal of Trust/The Various Haunts of Men – Susan Hill

Villager – Tom Cox

Week ten: lazy days

So here we are at the end of week ten, and we’ve survived half term. Actually, it’s been lovely: the weather continues to be glorious, and we have taken advantage of the slight easing of lockdown rules to go on a couple of socially distanced walks with a neighbour and her daughters. Her twin girls fall between Things 2 and 3, and in normal circumstances at this time of year the kids would be in and out of each others’ houses all day making up dance routines (or TikTok-ing, this year), splashing in the pools and bouncing on trampolines. It’s been lovely seeing them back together while we grown ups put the world to rights. The best fun was when we walked through the woods to a brilliant rope swing where we spent a good hour jumping off over a stream bed before following the meanders back to the path home.

Following the path through the woods

Rope swings have been a bit of a feature of our exercise this week – we also visited one in Gernon Bushes, near Coopersale, which has been there for years and which someone has kindly fixed a seat to this year! The first time I went on it I faceplanted spectacularly as I forgot to let go….

This route took us through what’s known locally as the rhododendron path – it borders the Gaynes Park estate, and while they did a lot of clearance last year they have left this beautiful section on the way to the motorway bridge. The bushes are several metres high in places, and dense with flowers as you can see. We brought a cutting home at the children’s request to see if we can grow one for the garden.

Things 1 – 3 on the rhododendron path

As I type this morning I am recovering from my long walk of the week – solo today, and covering 8.5 miles. I was hoping for 10, but it was getting hot and I was getting hungry so I took the quick way home instead of retracing my steps! I picked up the Essex Way on the edge of the woods and then followed that to the outskirts of Ongar, past St Andrew’s at Greensted – the oldest wooden church in the world, and very pretty. I love this route as it follows the green lanes with very little road in this stretch. I hope to walk the whole of the Essex Way to celebrate my significant birthday in a couple of years – I have covered the stretch from Epping to Willingale while training for the Shine Marathon last year, and would love to do the rest over a few weekends.

The devil is in the detail…

This week’s making has been very small scale, unlike my walks! Apart from a bit of crochet in the queue for the chemist and the Co-op (the virus shawl has become my queuing project!) and whipping up a couple more pairs of MBJM Four Seasons shorts from some remnants of jersey and stretch denim, it’s all been about the cross stitch.

Four Seasons shorts – so comfortable!

Thing 3 and I tried some cyanotype printing with some garden plants, with moderate success – we enjoyed watching the paper change colour and developing the prints in water. I think we need to find an acrylic sheet to hold the plants down flat while they develop so we don’t lose definition in the middle.

Cyanotype printing

Thing 2 and I have been baking – this week we made soft pretzels, cinnamon rolls and Hummingbird Bakery chocolate cupcakes with coffee icing from the Cake Days book. All very unhealthy but so delicious. Baking is Thing 2’s happy activity – she does love to cook, and with 16kg of flour to get through it’s nice to have alternatives to bread. We used cinnamon sugar on the pretzels instead of salt, I recommend this as a great breakfast. I also insisted on raisins in my cinnamon rolls.

Cinnamon rolls

And here’s my cross stitch update – there’s still a few gaps in this section, but it’s almost finished. The cross stitching technique, with its capacity for detailed colour changes, really captures the pointillist style of Seurat’s painting – looks better from a distance!

Centre top panel of Sunday Afternoon on the Island

What’s growing this week?

The garden is lovely – the roses are heavenly, and while out walking the blasts of elderflower and honeysuckle are blissful. The garden is full of bees (especially when my beloved discovered a bumble bee nest under a raised bed) and they are loving the lupins, lavender, cotoneaster and the mass of foxgloves that have seeded this year. I spent some time yesterday cutting back periwinkle and mahonia to give my hollyhocks a chance for some sun, and cutting hawthorn shoots away from my physalis plants which have self-seeded beautifully so I should have a good show of ‘lanterns’ this year. Strawberries are ripening every day, and its so decadent to be able to pick and eat them warm from the sun – the raspberry canes are blossoming too, so with any luck we’ll get a good crop. Home grown lettuces have been the basis of this week’s salads, and I think we’ll have fresh peas with dinner tonight.

Honeysuckle in the garden winding round a dead buddleia tree

The hedgerows and fields are producing new flowers as well – I spotted my first bindweed of the year on my walk this morning, some beautiful escaped sweet peas, mallow and grass vetch.

One of the most lovely flowers this week has been the poppy – the Oriental one in the garden is still in bud, but the fields are splashed with red and this rubble pile at the local farm is covered with them. I love the way they almost glow in the early morning sun. You’ll also spot the farm cat and – not a flower – a fledgling magpie who let me take a photo of him before he flew off. Unlike the green woodpecker, who squawked indignantly at me and flew off across the field!

That’s it from me for the week – I’m posting early today so I can sit in the sunshine this afternoon! Term starts back tomorrow, much to the Horde’s disgust, although Thing 1 now only has to do GCSE subjects and Things 2 and 3 are on a four day week.

I’ll leave you with an image of a baby blue tit we found on the ground while out walking – no, I didn’t bring this baby home with me! Feeding a baby mouse with milk is one thing, but I draw the line at smooshing up worms. He was a noisy little chap, shouting away at us and demanding food – I made Thing 2 put him back as close to the nest as we could.

Hungry baby blue tit

Hope your week was as good as mine! One of my favourite moments was a comment about last week’s post that said reading it was like taking a holiday in someone else’s life. Thanks Olivia! Olivia is one of the museum world’s treasures, with her wonderful stories, so this was high praise indeed.

See you at the end of week 11…

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Still on Jilly Cooper, sorry… the doings of Rupert Campbell-Black and co are much more interesting than the current omnishambles of real life.

Week eight: ups and downs

What a strange week this one’s been – again. After last week’s lengthy rant about the possibility of lifting lockdown shortly before Johnson’s pre-recorded ‘address’, we’ve all been stuck in a weird confused limbo which hasn’t really been clarified by various press conferences and guidelines. We are staying safe at home still, as that seems the most sensible thing to do at the moment. And don’t even get me started on school reopenings…

All three children (and I) have had a wobble at some point this week. It’s been important for us all to recognise that this is not a normal time, and that it’s OK to be able to put our hands up and say ‘right, I am not coping today’ and to retire to the sofa. Thing 2 had a meltdown on Thursday when it became clear that the family holiday in Wales was going to have to be cancelled and we wouldn’t be seeing the cousins and the grandparents this summer, let alone the aunties and uncles. My parents live in France and my youngest sister in Northern Ireland, so getting everyone together every couple of years is something we all look forward to. Thing 1 is missing her friends and has lost motivation, and Thing 3 is not sleeping well and is having trouble focusing. He enjoys learning and the stimulation of the classroom, as well as being with his peers. Being stuck at home with his big sisters isn’t a lot of fun, he tells me.

My own meltdown was Tuesday. I couldn’t wake up, and spent the day feeling as if I was wading through treacle. I didn’t even pick up a crochet hook or a needle which, if you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know is pretty unusual for me. I lay on the sofa, read a book, and napped through the afternoon before feeding the family things from the freezer for dinner. I’ve learned over the last twenty years or so of periodic depression that some days are bad days, and there’s often no rhyme or reason for it. I’m not in a period where the first thing I do when I wake up is do a mental check to see if I’m OK, thank heavens, but there’s still the odd downturn. I take Citalopram, like many other people like me, and that seems to keep me pretty level most of the time.

What about the rest of the week?

Luckily up days outnumbered down, and despite a few frosty mornings I’ve been able to get out walking every other day. I’ve been varying my route only slightly, by taking the odd different path, but mostly I’ve stuck to a wide semi-circle around the village which takes in fields, woods, a farm and – one day – the golf course. The pink flowers are coming into bloom now alongside the white and yellow, and one early morning I saw three hares. There are coot chicks on the ponds, and the sound of skylarks in one particular field on the stretch of Essex Way I cover is glorious.

Today we went on a bike ride round my usual route – all five of us! – and were lucky enough to run into friends. It was so good to have a conversation with other adults – albeit from a distance! The kids had enormous fun in the giant climbing oak on Friday too, when we dragged them out of their pits for a walk.

Things 2 and 3 – monkeys in a tree again

My sock fixation has continued, and I finished the pair that had me cursing last week because I wasn’t reading the pattern properly. They’re very pretty, and quite lacy – it’ll be a shame to put shoes over them!

I’ve managed some sewing too. After last weekend’s organising of patterns and fabric, I was able to grab the kits I wanted and get straight on – apart from with the True Bias Shelby Dress, which I cut out and then discovered I didn’t have any interfacing! Annoying, as this was the one I really wanted to make!

Virtually everything else has been using jersey and other stretch fabrics, for which I bless my overlocker. The first thing was the Jump Up Suit by Alice and Co, which is yet another item in my collection of work appropriate pyjamas. I made this in a grey Ponte Roma fabric, and before cutting I took 6 inches off the legs (and another three when I hemmed it!) and lengthened the waist by a couple of centimetres which I then ended up taking out again. I CANNOT get the hang of blind hemming, so couldn’t do the pretty scalloped neckline, so after much swearing I ended up doing a rolled hem on the overlocker which still seems to work. I can see this being much worn…

Alice and Co Patterns Jump Up Suit

I used scraps of jersey fabric to make the Watson bra by Cloth Habit – a toile, really, to practise new techniques and to check the fit. Apart from needing to pull in the elastic under the arms, it’s pretty much a perfect fit and the pattern instructions really do guide you through the process step by step. As I was working on smalls, I also whipped up a pair of Superhero Boxers by MBJM Patterns for my beloved, who was the only person in the house who didn’t have any handmade undies – he was sceptical but they fitted perfectly and he wants to know when the rest are coming…

Finally, I gave in and made some face coverings after the lovely Patrick Grant launched The Big Community Sew project – I used leftover fabric from my red quilt (which still isn’t bound) and from Thing 2’s shaggy pants, and some fat quarters from the stash. Luckily I also had some elastic, as that’s proving hard to source at the moment. I chose the McCalls face covering pattern as it looked pretty straighforward. I whipped up ten – not perfect but they’ll do the job.

Face coverings

I made another Greenstyle Centerfield top, using plain black jersey and a printed jersey I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show a few years ago and have had in the stash. I bought it as I thought it had sheep on it, but it turns out to be alpacas so at least I’m on trend. This is a DREAM to sew and comes together in less than an hour’s sewing time. I chose the plain scoop neckline rather than a hood this time round, so it was superspeedy. And SO comfortable – particularly with the MBJM Patterns Four Seasons joggers that I used the rest of my black jersey on. I love MBJM patterns, they are so versatile – I made these in capri length with phone pockets, but you can also choose three other lengths, two waistbands, a faux drawstring and another pocket style.

Finally, we have been lucky with the wildlife this week – I’ll leave you with our regular badger, and see you at the end of week nine.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading

Jump! – Jilly Cooper

Home School – Charles Webb

Mrs Bradshaw’s Handbook – Terry Pratchett

Week five: school, sewing and sunshine

I’ve often described my working life as like a rollercoaster we get on every Monday and get flung off every Friday, exhilarated but exhausted – like Diego the sabre-tooth tiger in Ice Age after he comes down the ice slide. I’m upgrading that to the waltzers, I think – you think you’re moving fast and then someone comes and spins you in the opposite direction entirely. All you can do is hang on… that’s what Monday was like! A morning of catching up with a week’s worth of emails, followed by a frantic team meeting and then three hours of preparing to lock down for the next couple of months. Furlough means we are forbidden to do any work for the museum at all, so we had to make the most of Monday!

All this while trying to convince the Horde that it really was the start of term and it was time to get back to routine. (They all got dressed, so I counted the day as a win….) Anyway, I – along with most of the museum – am now furloughed for the next couple of months unless the situation changes rapidly (anything is possible these days) and the relief this news brought was huge. I have written before about the stress of trying to be’work me’ and ‘mum me’ at the same time, when it feels as if I am failing at both, so this means I can try and get one right at least.

Time to slow down and enjoy time at home – bluebells on a local lane

So, it’s back to SPAG and fractions (I’m sure there was more to maths than fractions!), story writing using some strange acronyms (DADWAVERS, anyone?) and Hitler’s Germany which is Thing 1’s history topic. We’ll stick to the format we were using before Easter, as that gives us time for creativity in the afternoon.

Doesn’t furlough mean more making time, too?

It does! It’s been a productive week, too, with a bit of upcycling, a bit of fixing, a bit of making and a bit of crochet.

In the mornings while I have been working with the children, I have been repairing the hexies in a lovely crochet blanket – I made it, and used the magic ring to start all the hexies but all of them have started to come undone. I used this very helpful tutorial to fix them, and will go back to the chain method to start these things in future.

Thing 1 requested a wrap skirt, as she had seen one on Instagram – rather than buy one, I knew I had a few wrap patterns. She chose New Look 6456 in style D, and I had some lovely polycotton with daisies and dots on. It was pretty straightforward to make up, and now I have a happy daughter.

Thing 2 – who usually flatly refuses to wear hand-me-downs – will NOT give up on a stripy dress which my sister bought for Thing 1 when she was about 5. She’s been wearing it as a top with shorts for the last couple of years, but it’s finally got too small. So, she asked me to make her a crop top and mini skirt out of it to get another year’s wear – we cut round the waist seam, added elastic waistbands and she’s happy again! She’s now requested pyjama shorts, which she’s going to help me make, and ‘Shaggy pants’. Apparently she means wide trousers like Shaggy in Scooby Doo – so it was back to the pattern stash where she found another New Look pattern and a quick browse on Pound Fabrics where we found some pretty cotton.

The pyjama shorts request sprang from watching me whip up a pair from the remnants of the wrap skirt fabric. I used a pattern by The Makery, which was a freebie with Simply Sewing magazine a few years ago. I used elastic rather than the drawstring, for ease, and they are perfect with a vest for this hot spell. While searching the stash I rediscovered the Lapwing Trousers pattern by Simple Sew and once madam had rejected the ditsy blue flower fabric I offered her, I decided I’d make another pair for myself. There’s nothing like a pair of floaty cotton trousers for hot days. (Other things I have rediscovered this week: my hammock, Bloom Strawberry Gin and Fevertree Elderflower Tonic, and stargazing in search of satellites and meteors).

The table tennis table is still up in the garden and it’s so useful for laying out large patterns and quilt tops, even when Thing 3 decides to open a market stall at the other end.

I sandwiched the red quilt top (the wadding was a bit of a patchwork too) and quilted it together, and its now awaiting binding. I’ve decided to use ready made bias binding on this one, and am waiting for it to arrive. The second image is the big make of the week – I volunteered to be a pattern tester for Alice and Co Patterns, who are extending their size range for the Intrepid Boiler Suit. I ran across Alice and Co when they did an updated versions of the Mary Quant Georgie and classic minidress to accompany the Quant exhibition at the V&A.

I love an all in one, and had just bought their Jump Up Suit pattern – I would probably not have tried the boiler suit if they hadn’t asked for testers. I’ve looked at boiler suits but never had the courage to buy one – this seemed like the perfect solution! I’d also just bought several metres of gorgeous lightweight pinstripe denim (Pound Fabrics again) and now I had an excuse to use it. Luckily they let me join the tester team…

The PDF pattern was really straightforward to put together (if I ever win the lottery, the first thing I am buying is an A0 printer and a garden studio to put it in), and the instructions were really clear and easy to follow – even the enclosed yoke, which I have only tried once before. It really was a case of trusting the pattern, and the resulting yoke looked great.

I’m a great one for taking sewing shortcuts, especially with zips and sleeves – I hate setting in sleeves – but as I was testing the pattern I thought I’d better do it properly! The process became quite mindful, as I had to think about what I was doing more carefully and pay attention to the finishing. The only step I skipped was finishing the raw edges before sewing, as I decided to overlock them as I went along. I even overlocked the zip tape to the seam allowance.

The back and breast pockets were cut against the grain so I could have the pinstripes at a contrasting angle, and the side pockets were perfectly (if accidentally) pattern matched. I decided to make a self-fabric tie belt to go through the waistband casing, rather than use a proper belt, and used fabric scraps to patch one together as I knew no one would see the seams!

The making process took me about six hours, plus time to stick together the PDF and cut out the fabric, and it was thoroughly enjoyable – and I LOVE the result. I made my beloved take a proper photo of me wearing it with my Lottas just so I could share it… it also shows off my new ultra-violet hair, or so it says on the box. I may make the legs a bit shorter, as here you can see I have had to fold them up four times, but I love the 80s girl group vibe. There’s also a free pattern hack on the website for a button front version, and I quite fancy a sleeveless one too, so will definitely be making this again.

You can’t have spent all week sewing, surely?

I mentioned earlier that Thing 3 had decided to open a stall on the table tennis table – there’s a touch of the Del Boy about this one! He sold bric-a-brac, and not to be outdone Thing 2 decided she also needed a stall. I had bought them some new acrylic paints, so her USP was painting rocks on request. I had some tiny pebbles that we’d sprayed white with primer, and she painted me a set of ladybirds for my shelves of frivolity in the shed. She also painted me – secretly – a puffin rock, as they are my favourite birds. Thing 3 helped his dad improve the water feature – here you can see him taking a well earned break!

Having been inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee, I painted some rocks to use as pattern weights – very useful when cutting outside! I usually use chunks of slate from the garden centre, but these pebbles have been hanging around for a while and now they’ll see more use.

Pattern weights drying in the sun

I have even managed some gardening! Hard pruning some hydrangeas transplanted from the neighbours last year, which are showing signs of life, and weeding out the wild garlic from the beds by my shed. I was really pleased to see the campanula survived the winter, and also the bleeding heart we bought at the sad plant section last year and which I snapped the stems off when planting out – it’s got flowers on and I hope it will self-seed. My hollyhocks are shooting up again, and my chinese lanterns.

Not such a sad plant!

The hammock has seen some use, too – crocheting and listening to birds in the afternoons. The BirdNET app has been so useful – I now know what the goldcrests sound like, and the chiffchaffs. The red kites seem to have stuck around, and I see them wheeling over the houses quite often. Other garden visitors have included the fox, the badger and a tiny mouse.

Let’s see what week six brings us! Have a great week.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Plan for the Worst (Chronicles of St Mary’s) – Jodi Taylor

The Language of Spells and The Secrets of Ghosts – Sarah Painter

Soundtrack for the week:

John Mellencamp, Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Prine

Week four: busy doing nothing

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in lockdown (of a sort) for four weeks already…or that it’s the end of the Easter holidays so the Horde and I will be back to work tomorrow. My email inbox is already filling up with work for them to do, sent by their teachers, who are clearly superhuman.

People cavil about the amount of ‘holidays’ teachers get, but from my own days at the chalkface I know that the majority of those holidays are spent marking, planning for the next term, prepping their classrooms and (usually) being ill. All these teachers (who have just worked through their breaks) are as much in need of applause as the rest of the key workers. On that note, we did remember to join in the applause on Thursday at 8pm – I haven’t seen so many of my neighbours for weeks! The noise was amazing and a passing ambulance beeped as it went along the main road.

But what did you do all week?

I have had a very lazy week with the Horde! My sort of lazy, anyway…

I’ve been able to stay awake in the evenings long enough to do some crochet, and on Wednesday I sent off a Frontline Hero bear to a little girl whose Daddy has been in our local hospital with Covid-19 and who has been very brave. Several friends sent me links to this pattern on Facebook (definitely an improvement on some of the things I get sent!): it was really easy to follow, and the scrubs/bear colour can be adapted to suit either your stash or your local heroes. You can find the link in my week 2 post, or just search ‘Frontline Hero bear’. I chose this bluebell colour in Stylecraft Special DK as I happened to have some handy. I sent off four pairs of real-people scrubs in a very similar colour to a mental health trust in East London, too, which I hope arrived safely.

Bear ready for action

I discovered how mindful unmaking can be as well. My first pair of crochet socks – before I got the hang of tension – were beautiful but too tight for even Thing 1 to wear, let alone me and have languished in a box in the shed for several years now. They surfaced this week while I was trying to resist all the Easter sales emails from yarn companies by seeing what I already had in my stash, and I decided to unravel them so I could remake them to fit.

You need patience to unravel an item that’s been very tightly worked, freeing stitches and rewinding the yarn without it tangling. I spent an afternoon in a hammock in the sunny garden, listening to the new fountain burbling away (my beloved made me a fountain in the old bird bath!) and carefully unworking the socks. I now have two beautiful balls of Drops Fabel yarn, which is lovely to work with – I just need to decide what to make!

Spending time in the garden gave me the chance to watch a pair of red kites soaring overhead – new to the village this year – and a pair of goldcrests. These tiny birds live in the pine tree along with the nesting collared doves, several families of blue tits and even a bat or two.

Mindfully unmaking some socks

The Horde got creative, too – they love working on canvases, and when they are bored with them we repaint them with white emulsion and reuse them. Thing 1 is hoping to do GCSE Art next year so is experimenting with perspective, Thing 2 likes white space and we gave Thing 3 a box of pastels to try as something different and he drew a giant Pikachu. Pokemon are enjoying a bit of a revival in our house at the moment. I really love the way Thing 1 has painted the clouds in her picture.

They spent a happy afternoon outside getting messy! Thing 3 also made a TV for the treehouse out of an Amazon box, and Thing 2 made a squirrel picnic table out of offcuts of wood after we had seen a social media post about them. The badger and the fox also appreciate the table, as it turns out.

There’s been a lot of baking too – bread rolls, dough balls, Melting Moments (Dad’s favourite), homemade pizzas and chocolate brownies. We made a foray to our local farm shop earlier in the week on a quest for flour – getting in the car and going somewhere felt quite adventurous.

New challenges

I decided that since the overlocker was out for making scrubs, I’d try some new patterns – my go-to working at home outfit is a tunic/tee dress and leggings, and while I am not quite ready to sew leggings I did have some lovely striped lightweight jersey that was calling me.

I searched the stash of sewing patterns and came up with ‘The Staple Tee’ which was a freebie with Simply Sewing magazine aaaaages ago. It could be made as a t-shirt or a dress, so I went with the longer version. The pattern had grown on sleeves, cuffs on the sleeves instead of a hem (I hate hemming sleeves) and a slightly curved hem. Super easy to make, especially with the overlocker. I think if I make it again I’ll grade the bodice down a size as it’s very wide, but I really like the elbow length sleeves.

‘The Staple Tee’

I used the remnants of the stripey fabric to clone my favourite Hema skirt – tube skirts have been part of my wardrobe for years, for layering with leggings, and you can never have too many. I used brown paper to trace off the original skirt, added seam allowance and then whizzed it together with the overlocker in about half an hour (most of that was doing the waistband).

I wanted to try a raglan tee-shirt as well, which I’ve always been fond of but haven’t tried making before as the sleeves looked tricky. I found a pattern online by Greenstyle Creations, an indie pattern company I haven’t heard of before, and it also had an add-on pack for a cowl neck or a hood, as well as lots of sleeve options in the original pattern (to cuff or not to cuff?).

I went with the hoodie option, and 3/4 sleeves (no cuff), and used cotton elastane jersey in black and royal blue. Apart from when I did exactly what the instructions warned me about – stitched one of the hood sections on upside-down and had to unpick – and when I had to unpick all my topstitching on the hood (twice) when my tension went awry, the pattern was really easy to follow and the result looks great. The fit is perfect – a good length, which as a long-waisted person is often an issue, and the hood is wearable rather than cosmetic. I can see this becoming a staple make too, in lighter weight jerseys for layering.

Centerfield Raglan Shirt

I’ve cut out a wrap skirt for Thing 1 and some pyjama shorts for me, too, from a lovely polycotton fabric with dots and daisies on a black background – the fabric was from the stash. I have made the shorts before, last time by upcycling a duvet cover, but this time I’ll use elastic at the waist instead of a drawstring. The wrap skirt was a request – she saw one on a shopping site and I knew I had a pattern somewhere!

That was my week! I’ve been determined about not turning on my work phone or logging in to check emails, so there’s probably about a million waiting for me tomorrow morning but tomorrow – as Scarlett O’Hara said – is another day.

I’ll leave you with one of our more unusual garden visitors, who found himself in the new fountain the other day. He gave me an excuse to resurrect one of my favourite jokes….

This is Tiny….. he’s my newt!

And on that note I’ll leave you for another week – hope yours was as enjoyable as mine!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Crow Investigations (series of 3) – Sarah Painter

The Travelling Cat Chronicles – Hiro Arikawa (I cried)

Under the Paw: confessions of a cat man – Tom Cox