Category Archives: sewing


I have been having trouble with my balance lately. Not physical balance (though I am as clumsy as ever) but my life balance. At all times, there is a pretty fine balance in my life between work and play, which is not helped by the fact that many of the things I really ought to do present as play.

There are a number of hours a week dedicated to simple hard graft for dosh. These are non-negotiable, so we will leave them to one side. Of the remaining hours, there are a number of possible activities, all of which need doing. They are: prayer, writing, reading, learning Hebrew, riding, animal care, rest, home maintenance (tidying, cleaning, washing), gardening, restoring the house, and dress making. Oh, and blogging. All of these need to be done. Few of them can be combined by any other. And that is the problem.

Currently what I actually burn to do is dress-making, and I spent last weekend making a ‘dressing-up’ dress for one of my grand children. It was a beguiling but tiring job, and it brought great joy to both me and the child. I did rather therefore miss out on actual rest, and as I get older I do find I need down time doing nothing. Not even blogging.

Hebrew, gardening, and until yesterday, house restoration, and riding have been all but non existent, and this must not continue.

So this week sees a renewed effort to parcel out my time – oh and if any of you have solved the work/life balance thing – do let me know!

Not making it

I am not much in the way of buying special occasion clothes. I wear them all right, but usually I make them myself. However, currently I have a house being renovated, a book being prepared for publication and have almost no flat clean surface in my home, and dress-making does not seem like a cunning plan. Therefore today I sallied forth to buy an outfit for my grandson’s baptism in a couple of weeks.

I headed for a shopping centre, and as they are really all the same, it matters not which one. I picked the one with a good cheap fresh fruit stall. I started in TK Maxx where I remembered seeing a calf-length skirt and bolero jacket outfit which I thought would be suitable. It turned out to be a knee-length dress and jacket. As is always the case, the dress was too tight over the bust. They always are, my figure being like that – either that or fine over the bust and far too loose everywhere else. The answer is to cut a bit more generously at the top. An answer which did not apply in this case. So I found a very neat tweed jacket – which was too loose. And its smaller cousin, which was a bit too tight. And no trousers in both the right size and the right colour to go with them, not even in other shops.

I moved on to the other chain stores. I had many nice ideas for a ‘look’ which out of deference to the father of the baby (my own son) was to be pleasantly inconspicuous and not at all like the kind of thing I make. All the dresses were too short, or sleeveless, or both. Jackets in my price range were cheap and nasty. Quite a few had me goggling that anybody could even consider putting such a nasty fabric into what was plainly intended to be ‘smart-but-casual’ wear. Tailored trousers were either too tight at the waist, or too loose at the hip, causing an odd jodhpur effect that was not intended. I, who have always been a bit condescending about ‘George’ where I buy jeans and Ts suddenly realised what a sterling job they do. There was very very little suitable for a size 16 lady nearing sixty who does still want to look well turned out and smart, and does not have the kind of money to spend that Harvey Nicks expects her to have. Very possibly I would have had similar problems in Harvey Nicks, too, but am able to keep them as a kind of happy dream.

In the end I headed to the one single shop which does not cater at all for my age group – New Look. Here I found a very chic pair of very full trousers – so full the hip problem was abolished – and a very sweet Art-Deco revival chiffon blouse/jacket, which sits at the waist (fine with such full trousers) and has huge sleeves, and the kind of pattern which suggests a 70s revival of Clarice Cliffe. I also got a simple vest to provide modesty at the neck of the jacket. We will pass over the fact that I yearned to buy some teal blue fabric to bring out the touch of that colour in the jacket, and run up the trousers myself.

The only downside is that the outfit, while perfectly modest, and covering all the flesh that anybody might want covered, and not needing either new shoes, nor an new bag, not yet a new hat, looks exactly like something I would make for myself.

Colours and shadows

One picture says it all – back to Bute overnight. A joyful afternoon choosing fabric for my new living room with the help of a good friend, dinner with another, then a night of peace and bliss with the dogs at St Ninian’s Bay.

The dogs love camping. The little tent you can see cost me ten squid at Woolworth in the good old days – I had been searching for a tent with a very limited budget. I went form Tiso to Blacks to Millets, with increasing alarm – all too dear. then in Woolies, I found what appeared to be the exact same tent, with the same specs, and the same fabric – only with a different pattern. The choice was Barbie Pink or camouflage. I have never regretted it – and it does just hold one woman and two large dogs. I am never cold – though sometimes too hot.

I lay at night, happy in the consciousness of glorious colour to deck the living room if it is ever finished, and listening to the oystercatchers. Max soon came to the conclusion that if I was resting he should, and Bridget too finally decided she could call it her bed. They lay up against me, and moonlight alternated with showers. There was no sound but wind and rain and water and birds and soft breathing.

But the next day when I came back to Ayrshire, it was home. The barn owls were very busy with the raising of their family. Bernadette and Martha were hopeful of food, and the ponies jostling for position, and I could see, at least, that one day the house WOULD be in order. I came back with renewed zest to get on with it all.

I will always go back to Bute – sometimes. The people, the peace, the wild flowers. But things are happening in Ayrshire, and I want them to happen. I have moved.


It has been a taxing week, complete with a friend who has gone through a horrible expereince, a sick sheep, and (trivial I know) a dress for my son’s wedding providing traumas of its own.

But there were blessings. A kind and supportive vet. A friend prepared to go to great lengths to sort out the dress, and make her help seem like fun. A cluck of little chicks running round the yard. And although I did have to make a separate journey to have the under-warranty car’s rear-view mirror glued back on, at least they washed the car for me!

Tit fer …

I hope they are not tat.

Absence with desperate busy-ness – one part of which has been the creation of two sets of hat decoration (and, incidentally also the hat where they rest) for the Rural (in England the SWRI).

There are competitions, where various Rurals put up teams of four people to compete against other Rurals. These competitions are usually themed, and the theme of the one I am entering is ‘Holiday Fever’. The three other people are doing a sun top, a patchwork beach bag, and some decorated muffins (tell me, whatever happened to fairy cakes??). I am to do the decorated sun hat – and here it is. Or they are. I am offering a choice of two.

I have never made silk flowers before (only ribbon flowers which are made in another way) and was fearful my attempts would fail They did not, I think. But I thought I would like the ‘beach comber’ hat more than the ‘opium with Rosie’ hat – but I don’t. I like the bog standard conventional hat more.

What I think of during the night watches

(or, Chinese howling torture).

I am caring for my two delightful eldest grandchildren. So last night Ted was tortured by his teeth, obdurately boring a hole in his gums to escape the closeted encushioned burial in the jaw into the rooted freedom of his mouth. And Ted, generous soul that he is, shared the torture around. He half-woke, and howled for a few moments. Then he dropped back to sleep. After two am, every twenty minutes or so, he would once again stir, howl, and sleep. This gave one unaccustomed to his sufferings plenty of time to ponder the things one does ponder in the night. Some happy, some sad, some just pondering.

I spent a little time considering my prospective hat for my son’s wedding this summer (to go with the fabric you have seen). I think squares, and the top one buckled by an explosion of corn and leaves from beneath. Would abstract shapes add to or take from this? And what length and style should I make the suit jacket?

I pondered, a little melancholy, why this blog does not manage the kind of heavy weight topics which have made Pluralist and Mad Priest such influential blogs. One reason is that my creativity, such as it is, is reactive – I actually do a heap better commenting on the blogs of others than writing my own.

I pondered what attracts readers to this blog (because modest as it is, it does have readers, as you yourself know.) I never know how many prefer the religious stuff, and how many the domestic. I suppose I never shall know.

I refused point blank to start doing sums calculating the various expenditures needed to restore my house, because that way insomnia lies, if not actual madness.

And I wondered how long it would take me to fall off to sleep when Ted finally shut up, and when that would be. It turned to be (respectively) half an hour and about four a.m.


After church I had lunch with one of my friends who sews. We just popped into an Asian fabric shop to see what they had. Fifteen minutes later, I exited, over-excited, with the fabulous fabric you can see above. It is a jacquard weave between black and russet with the beads and sequins, and will make a shift dress, and the plain will make a jacket to go over it. The whole lot for less than the cost of a jacket from Next. I just hope my son was not secretly hoping I would turn up in a down-played outfit. I hope it will be both elegant and drop dead spectacular. I know it will resist small sticky fingers, as it is virtually uncrushable.