Monday, December 11

Darning, more darning, and hooks and eyes

I have a regular customer for whom I have done a lot of mending. When she comes to collect one job she usually brings another, and last time she brought another cardigan of her husband's (cashmere) for me to darn a hole in the sleeve. I will show you my darn, and then another darn, which is SO good that I hadn't even realized it was there!

This is the front of the hole -

This is the back - 

This is my darn - 

According to my book on mending - 

- my darn is a stocking darn. Basically it's probably the sort of darn most people would think of, where you just weave over the hole. It is the best I can do at the moment although I'd like to improve, so if you have any woollies I can darn, send them my way!

Then, when I was looking for my darn to photograph it, I found this superb one in the same sleeve.
Here's the front - 

and the back - 

It is amazing! Not surprising I missed it! When my customer collects the cardigan I shall ask her who did it - I hope she can remember. She has always been happy with my work so I don't think she will mind that my darn is nothing like as invisible as this other one.

I have looked at the different types of darn in my book but haven't managed to work out what type it is. 

Hooks and eyes

The same customer asked me to replace the hook and eye on a skirt, which is probably wool (no label inside to tell me) and certainly not mass market, although I've looked up the name and can't find anything about it.

This is the waistband after I'd removed the old hook, which was bent, probably because it was the wrong size and not strong enough, and what looked as if it was meant to be a handmade bar, but wasn't really doing anything.... As you can see, the two sides of the waistband are not level. The zip has also been sewn so high that to then pull the sides closer together to do up a hook and eye is very difficult. 

I was also surprised that the pattern matching at the back was not done properly! It matches horizontally but not vertically. You'd have been marked down in "O" - Level needlework (my only qualification!) for that! Not to mention the Great British Sewing Bee! (I wonder if that's coming back?)

Then I went off at a tangent on the subject of hooks and eyes, and hooks and bars, and hooks and hand sewn bars, and which you use where, but I rather like going off at a tangent as I always learn something new. My tangent got me looking at the collection of hooks and eyes etc that I have in an old ice cream box in my sewing room. I have collected this lot over the years - some of it was probably inherited from my mum and grandma, and some has come with sewing machines I have bought. In my lifetime of sewing I hadn't really taken in the fact that there are such a variety of sizes of hooks and eyes. These below are size 1 and 2, in black and silver. There are "eyes" with most of the hooks, and "bars" on the left. Incidentally, I love the old Newey's artwork in the card at the bottom. I must not go off at a tangent trying to date them.....

Or go off at another tangent and look up "japanning" - it's some sort of finish but what exactly I don't know. "Extra japanned" must be even better! More japanning anyone? Three different styles of Newey's art work here - 

As far as I can remember I have always made my own hand sewn bar, but I have learnt that you should use a metal eye or bar when there is likely to be more pull on it. That makes sense.You use a bar with an overlapped zip, and an eye where one side butts up against the other. The eye should very slightly overlap the edge so that the hook can hook into it. So now I know.

It was hard to do a good job on the skirt because of the zip being sewn too high and the two sides not lining up. I had to sew part of the eye to the zip itself rather than to the skirt. I sewed on a black hook and then thought - ah, I haven't got a black eye in the right size to go with it, silly me! But the silver eye is not that noticeable on the other side. The zip cannot come right up to the top now but I had to do it like that in order to sew the hook and eye on in the right position. Here it is anyway, not perfect but it will do the job for some time to come -  

Believe me it was impossible to do it any better!

What I think is the shame is that the zip and the waistband weren't done properly in the first place on what was probably an expensive skirt. Not to mention the bad pattern matching. But never mind! One wouldn't want to discard the skirt for these reasons.

There was a lot more to these two jobs than I thought when I was given them!

Sunday, November 19

To the Thames again, for the last Coffeeneuring trip, #7

It wasn't until the morning of the day of this trip that my plans for it were finalised. But that was OK -  plans are useful but you don't have to stick to them!

Going along with my watery theme, I had thought about cycling to the Thames at Abingdon, but knew that the scenic route I would take would make it just a tad on the long side for these short days, so I looked at the map and decided instead to aim for Culham Lock, a few miles south of Abingdon. The route was to be through West Hanney and Steventon - but as I wasn't taking a flask this time - where would I get coffee? Problem! So I hatched a better plan on the morning of the day itself, and decided to change the route entirely, meaning I could have coffee with Daughter No 2, and Granddaughter No 1, at The Grocer Chef, Ardington's village shop and cafe, en route.

The forecast was for cold but sunny, and it certainly was both! I wore the same multitude of layers that I did for the previous chilly ride, but this time wore my warmest gloves - Pearl Izumi Elite. At 9.15 a.m. when I left it was 2 degrees C, and I must admit that even with these good gloves on, the ends of my fingers were chilly for those first seven miles or so to the cafe.

So here we are at Ardington -

I had an Americano (9/10 on my coffee grading scale - would have been 10 but the mug could have been a bit fuller!!). Granddaughter was offered a colouring book and box of pens and crayons, which she loved! I drew a few cats.....

Official Coffeeneuring patch from last year

After this D and GD went to the playground, and I pedalled off, but I went in the wrong direction, and on cycling back GD saw me and called out "Mandma!" (rhymes with Grandma) so I stopped and walked with them for a bit. As I said in my last post, I always get in a muddle round this area east of Wantage, but eventually my navigational skills improved and got me onto NCN Route 5. Near East Hendred I explored a bridleway that I had often noticed from the car, meaning that I only had to cross the busy A417 instead of travelling on it. I love finding these little safer shortcuts.

I knew that this ride wasn't going to be the most scenic of routes, but I wanted to explore some of the shared cycle/pedestrian paths that connect to Didcot, perhaps thinking of one day taking my bike on the train from there. I have previously cycled to Didcot using Route 5 all the way, but I thought it must be possible to shorten the distance by using these other shared use paths from the Milton interchange. I wasn't intending to cycle right into Didcot today, but was aiming to go across the Milton interchange north to Milton itself, and then on to Sutton Courtenay and Culham Lock. 

My next stop was for lunch here, at the newly built Great Western Park in Didcot, with the power station in the background, and the noise of heavy traffic just near that fence -

However, like the plonker I am, I'd already gone wrong...... I'd missed wherever the crossing was to  the Milton road. But hey ho, I'll find it another day! That meant that I did have to cycle on nearly into Didcot to find the path, but it also meant that I discovered that cycling against the traffic - fast cars and heavy lorries - albeit on a good and wide shared use path, is not at all pleasant, and I could see why people might not want to do it. In fact, come to think of it, when travelling this way by car, we don't see that many cyclists on this path, going in either direction.

Another advantage of having missed my crossing to the Milton road was that I did cycle past this highly salubrious watery place! -

Didcot Sewage Treatment Works

Route 5 (horribly littered here, sadly) takes you past here, and you can certainly smell it before you see it! Recently Husband and I had walked past, and a party of schoolchildren were just going in, no doubt for an educational tour, and I actually wished I could go with them! I think we should all know what happens to our, you know, pooh..... just like we should all know what happens to the rubbish we put in our bins. That's another thing I'd like to do - have a trip round a waste collection/recycling site.

All these extra miles meant I was beginning to think I might not have time to actually get to Culham Lock, but fortunately it wasn't much further. Route 5 takes you round the back of the power station and is actually a very pleasant path to ride, and a good surface too.  It takes you into Sutton Courtenay, and from there it was only a mile or so to the lock at Culham. Once I got there I wished I had time to just sit on one of the benches by the river and watch it go by, but time was getting on and although I had lights, I did want to get back home before it got properly dark.

Looking east along Culham Cut

But I did have time to laugh at this, in the garden of what I assume is the lock keeper's house. I wish the photo was better, but I think you'll get the gist when you hear my confession about other people's washing lines -

I am slightly obsessed with how people hang their washing out. I do it very tidily and logically (I like to think!) and I am always looking at how other people do it. I mean, look at the way those pants and socks are hung up so neatly! Personally I always hang pants up sideways as I think the billow factor is increased by doing that, but maybe this washing hanger-upper (the lock-keeper perhaps?) likes the more symetrical look of hanging them up this way. Regarding the socks - peg up by the toes or the tops? My mum used to peg them up by the tops, on the line between the apple trees in our garden, until one day I put some socks on and felt something wriggling around my toes; it was an earwig, which had dropped into the sock from the trees...... I'm sure I remain psychologically damaged by that experience.  I think she did it by the toes after that. I did, too, for years, but then decided I like the toes to flap around, so I usually hang them up by the tops, and as our line is not between trees, I don't have earwigs dropping in to worry about. Just hundreds of sparrows pooping on my sheets!!!!

For some reason that reminds me of a line from "Under Milk Wood", where one of the characters, not wanting to have a lodger if I remember rightly, screams (imagine Welsh accent here please) -

"He'll sleep in my sheets!!!!"

I also like looking at what people have actually got on their lines, not in a perverted way - !! - but more in a "Ooh I like that!" sort of way. Not long ago I walked along a local canal path, past the back of somebody's garden, and looked at the washing hanging on the line, and admired the Little Person's lovely clothes hanging neatly on it. I have often thought that I'd love to go round the world, on a bike of course, taking photos of nothing but washing on lines, and write a book about it. But I would need something better than Husband's old smartphone.....

Anyway, I digress.

I did then pootle off towards Culham itself, but decided it would be wiser to just turn round and go home now, but on stopping to turn round I was stopped in my tracks by this -

It's a Little Free Library. Apparently they are all over the world - little boxes of books that you can borrow, or I think, take away and replace with another. I had heard of these a long time ago but I had never seen one, and was stopped in my tracks because someone in the US had mentioned one recently in a Coffeeneuring post, which made me feel very connected to a fellow Coffeeneur! I have also seen a telephone box full of books to borrow - what good ideas!

A little more digression, on the subject of tea. When I am at home, the best cup of tea is my breakfast one. I also have one in the afternoon, and possibly one in the evening, but they never taste as good as that first one of the day. One of the best cups of tea I've ever had was after the birth of child number three (Daughter in pics above), having been "off" tea all through the pregnancy. Once she had popped out it seemed as if magically all those hormones that had been saying "Tea is horrible!"" were now shouting "Tea is the best drink on earth!!!". And that's how it always is in the afternoon of a bike ride - I crave TEA TEA TEA. But the only place I might have got one was shut, so I just had to put my head down and keep going for the next 13 miles or so, with only the thought of a cup of tea at home to keep me going.

The extra miles earlier in the day were beginning to tell, and the ride home was a bit of a slog, as much a mental challenge as a physical one. I had intended the ride to be perhaps 30 or so miles but it was 1/2 mile short of 40 in the end. I found myself thinking -

"Three miles or so to the main road, over there, two or three miles to the next village, then a mile to the main road, then up there, turn left, then a nearly two mile slog, then only one more (slight) hill and I'm home......Put your head down and keep pedalling."

And I did.

And so ends the very enjoyable Coffeeneuring challenge for another year. But there is an "Errandonneuring" one next year I believe.....

Wednesday, November 15

A bike ride on a cold day, and Coffeeneuring (or rather Teaneuring) #6

If you're coming across this post without having heard of coffeeneuring, then you can read about it here on the Chasing Mailboxes blog (a blog about cycling and running). But basically it's about riding your bike to 7 different places in about the same number of weeks. You can get your coffee (other drinks are allowed) at a cafe, or take/brew your own outside, which comes under the Coffee without Walls bit of the challenge. There are other rules, but not too many. Those taking part can post their rides to a Facebook group, either as they go or all in one post at the end of the challenge.

This post is about my sixth ride, so I have one more to go. I chose a theme this year, and that was to visit watery places...... ponds, rivers, and who knows what connection my last one will have to water! Watch this space.....

I do and try and pick days where the forecast is reasonable, but even so the rides have to fit in around other activities, such as paid sewing jobs. And getting Husband's tea. The forecast for this Sunday trip was sunny but cold,  about 7 degrees C, but combined with the wind chill factor it would be about 2 degrees. They say that for outdoor activities there's no such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong clothing, so I put on -

On top

Merino wool base layer
Cotton shirt
Cotton jumper
Home made wool zip-up thing
Fleece lined Buff
Vulpine Primaloft cycling jacket (one of my few bits of  cycling-specific clothing, and well worth the expense)
Gloves (not my REALLY  wintery ones)

On the bottom

Thick cotton tights, under Altura Women's Cruisers (really pleased I bought these last winter)
Above tucked into cotton socks

The plan was to cycle to East Lockinge, about 7 miles away, to a very pretty part of the river where it forms a pond, by a public footpath. Then I would go on to Youngest Son's to pay a surprise visit and deliver some of the muffins I'd made in the morning.

For some reason, I always get in a muddle with the villages and roads on this side of Wantage, so had taken a map with me, just in case I got lost. After one wrong turn (I'm happy to take wrong turns when out cycling though!) I vaguely followed the river back the other way and found my spot. But for the second time in this coffeeneuring season, I arrived to find a dry river bed -

No water in the pond

As you can see there is water in the river beyond, but none here in the pond. There seems to be a blockage stopping the water getting into the pond, but according to a dog walker I chatted to, the real reason is lack of rainfall. He told me that the water levels here on the local estate are 10% of what they should be, and that households on this private water system have been asked to conserve water. Rather disappointing too is the fact that the pond has been fenced off - you used to be able to get down into it.

This was what I took with me to eat and drink -

Chocolate cranberry muffin

And this is where I most definitely thought -

"What this bike needs - is somewhere to put one's refreshments!"

A folding table to attach to the rack perhaps....... hmmmmm, food for thought!

A lovely place to walk, and drink tea.

Then it was on to Grove, a few miles away, to Youngest Son's, who was in, with his girlfriend, so I didn't have to leave the muffins hanging on the door handle. I stopped for a while, had a look at his new router, (I'm fascinated by tools!) then cycled home. By then it was getting dim so I needed my lights  - Busch and Muller dynamo, which came with the bike.  It's really useful to have the lights there all the time, and not to have to rely on batteries.

I couldn't believe how much traffic there was on this sunny Sunday -

"Why aren't people out on bikes?" I asked myself!!!

I frequently ask myself this. I always feel like shouting to drivers -

"It's great on a bike! Try it, you might find you like it!"

This ride was about 18 miles. Another cycling blogger writes here about the delights of one particular ride she had. Some rides are undoubtedly more enjoyable than others, and this one was one of those.  As I said to Husband recently on my return home from a shopping trip by bike - "I LOVE cycling!" But even when I've got hungry, tired, wet, lost or it's got worryingly dim and I haven't had lights, I can honestly say -

"Even a bad ride's a good one!"


Sunday, November 5

Three useful sewing books

Since I started doing sewing for other people, I have been given jobs which at first I have not  known how to do. The first one, which I might have mentioned before, was to take out some morning suit trousers, with a fish tail back. The gentleman in question needed them for a wedding the next week. I had never in my life taken out any pair of trousers, let alone a pair like this. I did not know that the distinctive V shaped back was called a fish tail back until I searched the internet.

At first I thought that I would have to refuse the job, as I was terrified that I might make an awful mistake and the trousers would be ruined, but I knew that if I did, then I would never know whether I could actually have done it or not. I didn't look up any instructions on how to do the job - I just unpicked the back seam, observed how they were constructed, and then, after taking out the seam, I reconstructed them in reverse order. That customer has been back, so I think I must have done an acceptable job!

I actually think that this is quite a good way to learn how to do something, not having instructions but just going ahead and discovering, in a sensible way, how to do it. My cycling hero Josie Dew suggests taking a bike apart and putting it back together to learn how to do jobs on your bike, and this could well apply to sewing as well. So start taking something apart......

I'll talk about these three books -

But first, I recently did a repair on a fairly old, but good quality, wool coat for a customer. The customer had put felt pens in the pocket of the coat, which had leaked......

His wife asked me to put a patch over the top, which I did, but I thought it looked terrible, as although it was neat it stood out too much above the fabric. So I did some googling, and searched first for the patch that I knew Prince Charles had been seen with on his jacket! You can see and read about it here. I would love to see it in real life! I can't remember what I searched for next , but I found that Tom of Holland had done a "tailor's patch" on a wool coat  - see Tom Of Holland's blog -  this was the only reference I could find to one of these. He doesn't go into detail of how to do it, and none of the few sewing books I already had referred to it, so I had to work it out for myself. However, at the end of his post he refers to the book which he used, and I decided to get a copy. Once the book arrived I found that I had done the patch pretty much how you are supposed to, but the book gives instructions  on a process called "rantering", a detail to make it less visible, which I then did.

It is an out of print American book but there are plenty available. I paid about £13 for it, obtained from that place in the jungle of South America.....

This is it -

It's going to be very useful. Here are the contents -

The following pages give you an idea of the quality of the diagrams and photos. [My photos aren't the best......]

Tailor's patch instructions

Tailor's patch instructions

And here's the coat on which I did the tailor's patch -

My tailor's patch

It's not quite as invisible as I'd have liked, but I'd done my best. The patch was slightly darker than the outside of the coat, as it came from the inside, so hadn't faded. Actually I think I improved it more after that photo was taken, but deleted the new photo by mistake! I think it compares reasonably favourably to Prince Charles' patch! The customer was pleased with it.

Some years ago I had bought a book in Oxfam called "Sew it Up" by Ruth Singer, which is mentioned in this list of sewing books. I paid a reduced new price rather than a secondhand price. I'm not sure why I bought it...... It has a lot of good reviews but in my opinion it is awful! I think I gave it away as I didn't think it was worth keeping. If I remember rightly the photos weren't clear and I didn't think much of the projects. but I am delighted to see that the above list says, about my next book - 

 I’ve been told by many people that this is the ultimate reference guide for stitchers.

It certainly is excellent in my opinion. This is my copy, and is the 1994 edition -

I paid the grand sum of - wait for it - 20p, for this book!!!!! We have a local charity shop where all books are 20p each. Or 5 for £1. Must remember to tell them about that.....

The sewing part is the (revised) part of the book in the above list, The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, and forms the greater part of the book.

Here are the contents -

I have picked out a couple of sections, to give an idea of how the book is illustrated, and the instructions given -

I picked this next bit on rolled hems to compare it to the section on hand rolled hems in another book (further down) -

Machine-rolled hems, and hems which are narrow but not necessarily rolled, are something I have been trying to master this year. I was forced into it by being given three ball gowns to hem! They were all different fabrics but all needed varying degrees of narrow hems. I have a rolled hem foot for both my Bernina and my Singer but I confess that I had never mastered the use of them! For one of the dresses I used a sort of cheat's method, which was actually very good. I watched a You tube video on how to do it.  

The third book is this one, published in 1954, again bought secondhand locally - not, sadly, for 20p, but £5, but well worth it - 

Here are the contents - 

Here's the section on the hand rolled hem, here called an Italian Rolled Hem - 

This book also has instructions on how to do the tailor's patch, though it doesn't mention the 
rantering - 

And here are a couple of bits to make you laugh! I obviously need to up my game regarding my appearance and preparing dinner (never my strong point...) - 

I now know exactly where I've been going wrong regarding inviting my intimates round for sewing - I've been inviting them on a Tuesday!  No wonder they don't turn up! Or maybe they just think I'm too scruffy.....

It is these older sewing books that often have information in that isn't in the newer books, particularly on mending, and now that mending is, dare I say it, fashionable again...... they are extremely useful. I wish I had not given away, many years ago, a little fat needlework book that was my mum's, and which I thought at the time wouldn't be of much use to me. Ah well.....

I would love to know of any useful sewing books that you have, so do tell me in the comments.


Thursday, October 26

Coffeeneuring trip # 3, a ride to Bishopstone in Wiltshire

I am trying to stick to a watery theme for this year's Coffeeneuring trips. If you want to know more about Coffeeneuring then click on that link, but basically it's about riding your bike somewhere and having coffee - and you're allowed tea or other beverage - and sharing your ride with others doing the same, during a period of a few weeks at this time of year. Most people do this through a Facebook coffeeneuring group. You can go to a cafe, or you can take your own/brew up your own, and drink it outside - officially that comes under "Coffee without walls".  Most of my trips will come under that category, but I'll treat myself at some point to a trip to a nice cafe. You can also open up your house to other coffeeneurs.  It's such a simple idea and yet somehow it's great fun! What I like about it is that it challenges me in a different way to get out to new places on my bike, and I also love reading about other coffeeneurs' trips. 

As I said, this year I'm going for a watery theme, although trip number one was to a stream that had run dry, and trip number two failed to be properly watery as there was nowhere near enough the water to sit. But one of my possible watery venues was Bishopstone, a village a few miles from here just over the border in Wiltshire, which has a lovely pond, so that's where I decided to go today.

Before I set off, there was some preparation to do. Sometimes I wish that going somewhere on my bike didn't need preparation, but it does........ Even if I'm only going shopping to my nearest town, 4 miles away, there's routine to stick to - unlock the garage, get the bike out, check the tyres, lock up the garage again, make sure I have a bottle of water - and something to eat, as even on a short journey I can run out of energy if I don't eat. In winter I also need to strap my trousers round my ankles, or tuck them into my socks (soooo fashionable....) and put cycling gloves on. Plus I like to take my Garmin for recording the ride. And though I don't use a mobile phone much, I try to remember to take it with me when I cycle, in case I have to make a call of shame to Husband. And that's just for a short shopping trip! If I'm going out for a long ride I need more food and probably a second bottle of water, and I need to think about what the weather's going to be like - e.g. do I need to wear or carry a waterproof?

So you see sometimes I get fed up with all this and think "Can I be bothered?"

But the thing is - yes I can, because it's worth it!!! Even the worst of bike rides leaves you feeling better when you come home than you did before you went out. Today's preparation included making the coffee, and as Coffeeneurs are all quite interested in what brand of coffee /tea/whatever fellow coffeeneurs drank, and what stove they brewed it on (if they did) here are the details - 

I regularly buy this one - but always wait until it's on offer.

Flask, jam funnel, filter......

When all was in the panniers, I set off, diverting slightly to do an errand on the way. To be honest I didn't enjoy the ride much for the first few miles, as it was windy and I was slightly lacking in energy, probably due to it being about 3 hours since breakfast. I couldn't remember whether there was a bench by the pond at Bishopstone - we have travelled through the village hundreds of times by car and I have also cycled through it and I'd never noticed one, but there usually are benches by village ponds so I was confident of having somewhere, apart from wet grass, to sit and drink and eat, 

All the preparation was worth it when I got there, about 10 miles later. It was, as I have said before in this blog, "Jus' perfick!" (Pop Larkin, Darling Buds of May) - the sun was well and truly out and what could be nicer than to sit by a village pond after 10 miles of cycling and drink coffee and eat a banana and a home made Pumpkin, Prune and Chocolate bar (even more delicious warmed, with cream, as a pudding) - recipe further down if you're interested!

Bishopstone pond, looking towards the old mill. Oh look, there's my shadow.

The pumpkin stuff might look like a dark splodgy mess, but it's delicious!

Nearby was this information board -

I found the bit about the farms interesting and rather sad. It applies too to this estate where we live. When we came here in 1981 there were beef cattle and about 700 sheep. Dairy cattle and pigs had already gone in the 1970s. The beef cattle went in 1995 and by the time Husband was made redundant in 2003 the sheep had gone too. Only arable is left now. There are a few sheep around but they belong to other farmers. Land on this farm and another close by has been sold off in the last couple of years and it has been bought by neighbouring wealthy landowners. The farms just get bigger and bigger. The arable work on this estate has been done by contractors since 2003. The only employee left is the gamekeeper, who also has to do maintenance in the few remaining houses.

Then I wandered off, exploring paths and places I didn't know existed. As I always say, it's amazing how much you see when you travel on foot or by bike that you don't see from a car.

I went into the churchyard, and looked at the gravestones. First I read this one -

 and noticed the bit at the bottom which says that their four children are buried here in the churchyard too........ and there were their graves, next to them. Look at the ages - 3, 4, 12 and 16. How terrible to lose your four children all so young. I wondered why they died so young, and when I went into the church the vicar was there talking to someone, but he disappeared before I had a chance to ask him if he knew.

So, that was my coffeeneuring morning. After pootling around the lanes a bit I cycled home; the return journey was much better than the outward one - I had more energy, the sun was shining, and the wind was behind me. The preparation was most definitely worth it!