Monday, 24 October 2011

The perils of poor posture

Perfecting my posture has never been high on my list of priorities. A book is for burying your nose in whilst curled up in front of a fire, not balancing precariously on your head.

If the book isn't enough add a glass for that little extra risk factor

During my formative years the occasional volley of "don't slouch, stand up straight" was fired off in my general direction, only to be deflected by the wall of indifference erected by youth. I'd stand how I wanted to thank you very much!

Needless to say that wall gets torn down by experience and I'm now wondering how many times in the coming years I'll catch myself thinking, 'if only I'd listened'. 

While I escaped any long lasting effects from my teenage slump, years of carrying heavy bags full of textbooks, paperwork and assorted paraphernalia have left me with one shoulder higher than the other. Not a problem in itself ( except when I want to wear a strappy dress) but in the last few years I have discovered that, combined with poor sewing posture, it has lead to all sorts of curious complications.

The do's and don'ts of sewing machines

Two years ago I was experiencing some discomfort when breathing, so I went to visit my GP ( okay , okay so I left it for six weeks before I got around to making an appointment). I'd had pleurisy the year before and was convinced it was rearing its head again. Several tests later proved that while my lung capacity was indeed impaired it wasn't due to inflammation of the pleural lining. Hmmm. The pain wasn't easing any so my next port of call was the local osteopath. Five minutes in to the session she said, "Ah yes, here's the problem........"

Now before I go any further let me explain something. While I fully accept that I may not be the sharpest knife in the block, a realisation that was crippling when I first made it but have come to terms with over time,  I was fairly sure I am of average intelligence. So imagine how dumb I felt when she ended her statement with, "'ve forgotten how to breathe!"

Wha...? How come someone forget how to breathe? That can't be possible, can it? Well, apparently it can. Sitting, incorrectly, at my sewing machine for periods of time had caused tension in my uneven shoulders. This led to pain in my ribs and in an attempt to alleviate it I had subconsciously stopped breathing from my diaphragm and was shallow breathing using muscles across my chest. Since they are usually only meant to be used as a back up when exercising (HA!) they had quite naturally become a bit irritated at being called in to do the bulk of the work.

A few retraining exercises later and I had my diaphragm back in on the act. Now all I had to do was correct my posture. I changed the height of my machine and my chair, and did what I could with the table. When hand sewing I made sure that I had a suitable support behind me. Problem solved.

Vintage advice, but still pertinent.

Or so I thought. Six weeks ago I began to get a strange sensation down my right arm. It felt as if cold water was constantly running down from my shoulder to my thumb. It later turned in to a persistent ache. I now have a tremor in my hand whenever I have to grip and exert pressure at the same time. It's made rotary cutting something of a challenge, and I don't even want to think about the amount of fabric that has suffered from the wibbly scissor syndrome.

My fine motor skills are slightly impaired and hand sewing is being kept to a minimum, mainly for the sake of my children's delicate ears ( I think I may have mentioned before that I'm not a patient patient) I'm having to type everything as my handwriting now appears to be the visual representation of a drunk spider learning to tap dance.

The cause of all of this disruption? A possible trapped nerve brought about by... you guessed it...poor posture while working. Looks like it's back to the drawing board for my machine set up.

And the moral to this rather long story? Well, fellow crafters, if there is a moral it would probably be this. Unless you want to give Charles Laughton a run for his money pay attention to how you work. Those little aches and pains are telling you to take a break and that maybe, just maybe, you need to balance a book on your head once in a while. 

Charles Laughton as the Hunchback of Notre Dame

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Halfway through the second week of the October break and I can't shake the feeling that something is missing. Although the last few days have seen feverish workroom activity , mainly in the construction of Christmas decorations, it hasn't been as fraught as it normally is. Perhaps I have finally learned to relax slightly and 'go with flow'. Ha! As if. 

No, the reason behind my relative composure is the result of yet another teenage milestone. For nearly ten years, as well as the usual craft fair preparations, the last few weeks of October saw me fabricating Halloween costumes and scribbling down poems to be learned as the 'turn' when out guising ( I don't agree with the 'trick or treat' mentality, the boys have always had to do something to earn any goodies ) Last year they told me not to bother.

I'm not quite sure what triggered their decision to stop getting dressed up and going out. There could be any number of reasons. Peer pressure, adolescent self consciousness, an aversion to frost bite! All I do know is that, strangely, I miss it.

So, I hope you will indulge me as I take this trip down memory lane.
Don't you just love muslin? Stitched on to a t-shirt and trousers for ease of use.  
What can be achieved with a football, wellies and a tin of silver spray paint.

A ten tentacled, eight eyed, four footed, two headed alien. Halfway through the night it split in to two!(you just gotta love Velcro) 
Eyes that were open even when closed.

Scary, Hairy Beastie Monster and his friend Inside-out Man. 
Hmm, that looks tasty!

Death and a zombie

Don't worry, he's 'armless *groan* 
Death obviously didn't find that joke funny either.

The Headless Horseman. Yes, that is real hair on the paper mache head. It was the only way I could get him to agree to a haircut!

A liberal splash of luminous paint helped this ghost glow in the dark. And there's that muslin again.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde I presume. Hopefully that's the last time I'll ever have to make a top hat.
Three years ago it became apparent that we didn't have ceilings high enough to make treacle scones a challenge.
Well, not so much treacle (bleargh) as strawberry and toffee sauce

I hope they have good memories of their guising years, I know I do. Although I think I can honestly say I won't miss the dooking for apples!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

C is for......crikey, is it that time of year already?

So there I was, innocently marking a dentist's appointment on the wall planner, when it hit me! We were already a third of the way through October. It would soon be Christmas *said in a hushed voice* Eeek!!! 

Having worked in retail for many years I have mixed feelings about when it's appropriate to start preparing for Christmas. I used to hate this time of year as it usually saw the arrival of the 'holiday season' music tapes. Listening to Slade for 10 weeks can seriously damage your festive spirit. And don't even get me started on Cliff!

Ideally I wouldn't think about it until the 1st of December, when the advent calendar gets put up. Unfortunately, in order to have enough stock of decorations for the glut of craft fairs leading up to Christmas, I really should have started my preparations in August. I hadn't.

I hastily placed an order for some scrap bundles from Strawberry Fayre. Most of their cotton fabrics are quite traditional, perfect for what I had in mind.         

my fabric scraps

Many of the fairs I attend are ones I take part in every year. I try to make some new items to give regular customers something fresh to look at. So this week has been spent experimenting. 

I'm not quite sure what this could become. A napkin ring perhaps?

 I thought I could make my fabric flowers look more like stars. The smaller prints work better when there are so many folds. 

I wanted to try something simple and inexpensive that would work with larger print fabrics. I've filled this pyramid with some spicily scented wadding. Hmmm, I'm not sure it works.  

And finally, mini bunting, my alternative to tinsel.I was thinking about sewing small bells on to the points for a little extra festive cheer.

What do you think? I'd love to have your feedback or suggestions.     

Monday, 10 October 2011

And so to bed

I love jigsaws ! ( the puzzles not the power tool)

Unfortunately for me my family do not share my enthusiasm. In fact I'd go so far as to say they treat it with a certain level of contempt, seeing the entire pursuit as a pointless waste of time. Why on earth would anyone cut up a picture just to put it back together again?

To avoid facing the inevitable ridicule I have learned to subdue my passion. It's lying dormant, waiting hopefully for those twilight years when I'll wear purple, rattle railings and fit oddly shaped pieces of cardboard together until my little heart's content.

However, in the meantime I have discovered a productive outlet for my obsession. One that no one can complain about since they invariably reap the benefits. The gaping hole left by my unfulfilled desire for jigsaw puzzles has been occupied by ......Flat Pack Furniture!

It's quite sad really when I think about the sheer pleasure and sense of accomplishment I get when I've put something together. When I say 'I' I mean just that . In the interests of marital harmony flat pack furniture building is a solitary pastime ( the instructions always seem pretty clear to me! )

This is my latest contribution, a single mid sleeper with under bed and overhead storage. 

It replaces a high sleeper cabin bed, one of two I built a few years ago. They had a wardrobe, drawers, desk and shelves underneath with a bookcase at the side and seemed like a good idea at the time. Space saving, practical, and they took two days each to assemble. Bliss! 

What I had failed to take in to consideration was the passage of time. Time that would see the boys undergo a growth spurt and me suffer a loss of desire or ability to climb up a ladder to change the beds. They started bumping their heads on the ceiling while getting in to bed. And me? Who knew putting a fitted sheet on a mattress while perched on a step 4 feet above the carpet could be so exhausting?

I know what you're thinking. Why didn't I just let the boys change their own beds? Or the sheets at least! I tried. Honestly I did, but have you any idea the mess two teenage boys, who would much rather be playing their X Box than scrambling about on a mattress, can make of putting on a sheet? I mean, for goodness sake, there aren't even any corners to tuck in! It was more than I could bear. They had to go - the beds, not the boys.

So far I've managed to persuade son no.1 to go for a change, hence the new addition. Son no.2 is being slightly more stubborn. A good thing I suppose, this way I can look forward to piecing together more furniture at a later date. Well a girl has to get her fix somehow!

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