Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Teaching old dogs

Last week saw the boys back at school, sent off with new uniform, schoolbags and the obligatory start of term pep talk. Whether they paid any attention to the "This is an important year" or the "You need to put a bit more effort in" and of course the ever popular "No more messing about, you need to stay focused" remains to be seen. But the desire to escape the lecture is a very effective way of getting them out the door on the first day back ( that and the appearance of the camera for the mandatory memento)

So off they trundled, keen to see their friends if not necessarily their classrooms. Eager minds, waiting to learn, consciously and unconsciously, whether they want to or not!  

I might not have been making my way back to school but I learned a few lessons of my own last week. The first one being

 'Don't rush things'

I started on a brand new design 4 days before a weekend long craft fair. Crazy, I know, but Eryl had given me a tweed skirt in a wonderful combination of colours and it just so happened that I had some other fabrics that tied in with it perfectly. 

A picture developed in my mind almost immediately. There was only one slight flaw. The picture in my head was of a bag with front pockets! I've never done front pockets! I've never done any pockets on the outside of a bag before. 

And so I found myself on a bit of a learning curve. When I say curve, at the time it felt like a hair pin bend. A limited timescale along with a heavily napped cord and a check tweed that turned out to be warped ( if I followed the vertical the horizontal was squint and vice versa) made the whole process seem like the sewing equivalent of a lap around the Nurburgring.  

But I persevered, measured, remeasured, stitched, unpicked and stitched again. And in the process I learned my second lesson,

 'Everything worth while requires a bit of effort'

The process was made slightly easier with the help of my newest machine attachment. And thus my third lesson was learned. I started using an even feed foot a few months ago on the advice of the ever popular Lisa Lam. Up to that point I had been trying to adjust the feed of fabric manually ( I never actually got my fingers stuck in the machine but that was more a matter of good luck than good judgement) 

It's a fantastic addition to my sewing machine and I can thoroughly recommend one. There is however one slight drawback. If I wanted to change the foot to, say, a zipper foot, instead of the unclip and clip that is usual with a Janome I had to unscrew the entire unit, and then screw on the appropriate one. Fiddly and time consuming.   

Being on that tight schedule I mentioned earlier I thought I would save time by setting up my old machine with a zipper foot and use it when required. Hmmm. 

It seemed like a good idea at the time. I had failed to take in to consideration the differences between the two machines, and the fact that I had spent the last two years on the newer, programmable, more responsive version (it's by no means a top of the range machine but it's much more advanced than the one I had before) . 

It was like having to drive a van after being in a Subaru! I spent more time unpicking seams than I would have unscrewing screws. The lesson? 

'There are no short cuts'

So I may no longer be at the optimal age for learning, and most of my official education was forgotten as soon as it was written down on an exam paper, but each day that passes presents me with little reminders that there are still plenty of tricks for this old dog to learn.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Productive Procrastination

Diversion Tactics!

We all have them. Whenever there is a difficult or unpleasant task ahead of us, or a deadline to make, rest assured we can find a hundred and one far more 'important' things to occupy our time.

I have a four day event coming up at the end of the month and should have my nose so firmly set to the grindstone that it necessitates breathing through my ears. So why am I taking time out to rearrange bookshelves? Do the clothes in my cupboards really need to be colour blocked? Surely the bubble wrap doesn't need to be folded before its put in the storage box? And just how many cups of tea a day can one person drink? 

Yes, I've found every excuse I can not to get stuck behind my sewing machine. I even tidied my workroom *gasp*. It was in the midst of this delaying exercise that I came upon a box of Fimo I'd bought for no.1 son. He has always loved small models regardless of whether they are Lego, games workshop or kinder egg! His aunt bought him some wonderful fimo creatures from an artisan on etsy and earlier this year he thought he would try his hand at creating some himself. After an initial burst of enthusiasm the inevitable happened......he got distracted. 

The box languished in the kitchen for 6 weeks before I asked him to put it with all of their other craft paraphernalia in my workroom. It was dumped in a pile in the corner, waiting for me to tidy it away properly. 

Well, before it could be put away in the appropriate place I had to have a look inside the box didn't I? And since the lid was now open there wouldn't be any harm in taking out a few blocks and moulding them a bit. Would there? Now I know how Pandora felt!

And that's exactly how 3 hours of my life disappeared, never to be seen again! Instead I now have a wee gang of McWhackles and no idea what to do with them. Oh, and the sewing machine still hasn't been used.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Sentimentalist...or hoarder?

We had some friends from Canada staying with us for a few days last week, hence the mild panic last post about the lack of shower in the refurbished bathroom. Since we don't have a spare room as such we decided to put them up in the boys bedrooms and sitting room ( it started life as their play room but as they are now teenagers I'm not allowed to call it that anymore!) and let the boys sleep in the office.

Not only was it the best sleeping arrangement for all concerned but it was also a cunning plan on my part to get the boys involved in some serious tidying and de-cluttering. Or so I thought.

I'm probably not the best role model when it comes to throwing things out or getting rid of unnecessary items. If something gets broken or damaged, whether a toy, ornament, book or clothing  I'll try and fix it rather than consign it to the bin. A make do and mend mentality that wouldn't be a problem in itself, in fact many would applaud my efforts. Unfortunately it's joined by a  rather liberal dose of sentimentality, never a good combination if you want a streamlined home.

How much easier it would be to put things away if drawers and cupboards weren't filled with old birthday/Christmas cards, handmade calendars, art work from playgroup, nursery and primary, Halloween costumes, prizewinning poems and stories, pebbles, shells, pressed flowers and leaves, entry tickets and information leaflets........the list goes on.

Now, I was under the impression that this was a personal foible, especially since my husband didn't seem to show any signs of similar idiosyncrasies.  However, during last weeks great tidy-up it became apparent that I have passed it on to the boys( it must be genetic). Rather than discarding anything they spent most of the day organising their treasures into piles, three to be exact. A pile that could be given to charity, a pile that was to be kept in their room, and a pile that could be boxed up but had to be kept in the loft. I'll let you guess which was the smallest pile!

The largest pile was of their childhood books, ones they were way past reading but couldn't bear to part with.
Only one of 4 boxes of books that made their way in to the loft

The Hairy Maclary series, a firm favourite with all of the males in the house

Some of the funkiest illustrations ever

So the boxes were lifted up later that night, deposited next to a cache of others filled with knitted baby jackets and christening robes, the first year of shoes, wooden train sets, wedding cards and best man speeches, letters from family and friends. 
Some might see it as hoarding, an inability to let things go. As for me? Well, I'm just glad we have a really big loft!
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