A just in time handmade gift

In Monday’s post I mentioned the Christmas gift that almost wasn’t ready in time, and which only managed to be under the tree with some last minute sewing Christmas Eve evening. MOH was bemused my by last minute industriousness, even more so when he realised it was for him. I was keen to get it finished, so he stood a chance of working out what it was, and of course to get it finished and wrapped so it could be opened on Christmas Day.

It was a bit out of the norm you see, but I needn’t have worried as he got what they were for as soon as he opened them, phew.

park here - the handmade gift for moh

They’re mats for the wheels of his bike, for when it’s wet and dark, and so the bike stays in our conservatory overnight. Up until now he’s been parking his bike on some newspaper, which while it serves a purpose and does a job, tends to hang about for a bit and so I thought something more aesthetically pleasing must exist. Then I realised it probably didn’t, but was something I could make.

The trouble was when I had time on my own in the house, usually his bike wasn’t there so what size? In the end I guessed and cut a leg of an old pair of jeans to be approximately 40cm x15cm - I knew I wanted something hardwearing, but I also wanted something softer for the newly varnished conservatory floor, so a leg of some old pyjamas were just the thing, and I had some batting somewhere I’m sure…

PYJAMAS AND JEANS REPURPOSED

PYJAMAS AND JEANS REPURPOSED

But I also knew it’d need to be more than just two pads for MOH to know what it was for. With a flash of inspiration one night I hit on the idea of adding some lettering, but what: bike park, stay dry, clean floor, no mess, not newspaper and so on, but in the end I went with the simple instruction of “Park here.”

The original plan was to embroider both words, in script, and “here” looked to be the easier and more continuous to do, so I started with that using twine. I’d written the design onto the jeans (and you can still see it in both photos) and it wasn’t onerous to do, and there was lots of tracing where the flow of the letters should go with my fingers, I realised I wanted more of the pyjama fabric on show too.

TWINE EMBROIDERY

TWINE EMBROIDERY

So a new plan was hatched for the “park” which involved using my die cutter to cut out the letters from fabric ironed onto interfacing, which I hoped would stop them fraying (we’ll have to see how that works out), then stitched onto the denim. I toyed with the placement and went with a more jaunty arrangement, as time wasn’t on my side, and I preferred to have them clearly not straight rather than trying to be straight and failing.

APPLIQUED LETTERING

APPLIQUED LETTERING

I’m rather pleased with how they turned out, with more planning I think I’d have quilted them some more perhaps, and given them a wash to remove the red felt tip lettering, but there’s time for that.

What was more pleasing was that when he opened them, he knew what they were for and sweetly suggested I could make these and sell them, however as they often say on Dragon’s Den, I think this is solving a problem that not many people know they have, so I don’t expect there’s much demand for these. They were fun to make, and to give, and as well as their practical-ness they’ve also demonstrated to MOH that sometimes old fabric can be put to good use, and uses you might not have first thought of!

Park here  - a simple instruction - on MOH's bike mats

How were your handmade gifts received?

Reflecting on my week #64

It’s New Year’s Eve and the last day of my solo time off over the Christmas break, I’ve got tomorrow off too but MOH will also be at home, so that doesn’t count as a day that I can truly do what I want (although there is an argument that I do what I like anyway, but let’s not go there!) So today I’ve been pommodore-ing my time to keep me focussed and so I stand a chance of getting as much of what I want to get done, alongside what I need to get done. 

The luxurious and lengthy solo break I had in my head has in effect morphed into just a couple of days as I knew it would at this peculiar time of year. That’s not a complaint, more a reflection that I’m still over-ambitious about what’s realistic to fit into a single day. You think I’d know by now, but it seems not... 

The Christmas food is dwindling, and will soon be topped up with a batch of New Year food, which for us is going to be a quiet affair. Well, as quiet an affair as you can have with a kilo of beef rib, dauphinois potatoes and chocolate fondants (not together) with accompanying alcohol and trying (but always failing) to see if we can spot the fireworks on the Thames from our conservatory.  It’s become a tradition to try, I mean the fireworks are just ten or so miles away, why wouldn’t we spot them? 

I did mostly get the Christmas decorations up before the 25th, and those I didn’t were just as quickly hurried back upstairs in a way that suggested they might not have been out of the cupboard at all really. This Christmas has felt the most last minute ever, which is probably a good summary of the year, but it’s the first year I can remember dashing upstairs after our fish pie on Christmas Eve to carry on sewing a gift, but I did. And I got it finished, and wrapped, much to MOH’s bemusement, especially as it was for him.

My shoulder was still giving me gyp at the start of the week, I contemplated using that as an excuse to duck out of peeling the sprouts and other veg, but decided it might just be more painful to watch. MOH to be fair was amazed I think at just how much prep was needed not only for Christmas lunch, but also for tea on Christmas Eve and getting ahead as much as I could with the salmon-en-croute for Boxing Day, and I was grateful when he picked up the peeler to prepare the spuds. But Christmas Eve is one of those days isn’t it, that’s just a bit full on, and one day of full on-ness is worth it to minimise time in the kitchen for the next few days. 

I was determined to get my crochet out at some point as I was sure that would help my shoulder, and I think it has. In the past week I’ve tackled - and completed - Granny Peggy, all eleven colour combinations for my brightly coloured ‘vintage sweethearts’ throw.  

IMG_4218.JPG

It’s not been my favourite pattern to crochet, Granny Beatrice is still holding that crown, but it is done and there’s just Flora to tackle in the first section.  As I’m not crocheting this ‘live’ as the patterns are released in the magazine, I'm batch crocheting hence all of one type at a time.  But now I’m in two minds about if once all the elements of each section are complete if I should pause and see in the ends and make it up as I go. 

Part of me wants to steam on ahead with the crocheting, but another part of me is already remembering how dull sewing in the ends is, so perhaps I should break it up and then seeing the sections materialise will spur me on further, we’ll see... 

I’ve also managed to do some online sales shopping  - rude not to hey?  So I’ve a couple of pairs of shoes arriving, one more sensible than the other, but both with the realisation that I need to sort through the shoes I do have, as there’s some I won’t wear again which I’ve been hanging onto in the vain hope that I just might.  I’ve also managed to nab a good deal on some photo books, which I’ve done in the past and have compilations for 2013, 2014 and 2015.  Now I just need to get those up to date.  Nor could I resist looking at the craft sites and so have some card making materials and some wool on the way too.

I think one of my biggest successes this year is being inspired to start so many projects, I need to follow through though and do more than just the purchasing the kit, that’sone to work on for next year.  Let’s hope MOH isn’t reading this post - he announced over Christmas that he hadn’t stopped by for a while but really should as it’s a good way for him to find out what he’s been up to - cheeky.  If you see him, don’t mention anything about the shoes or the craft supplies, let’s keep that just between ourselves…

Have a very happy new year, however you choose to see it in (or if you completely ignore it), over the next week or so I’ve a series of “end of year” posts, as well as some looking forward and I’ll also be sharing more about that last minute handmade gift. 

That’s it from me for this year, thanks for reading it’s been great having you along - and gah! I’ve just remembered I’m supposed to be drinking lots of water today, hydrating myself ahead of the celebratory drinks this evening, but instead I’m sat here tucking into the Ritz biscuits, which is probably having the opposite effect, but is way more tasty! 

Happy New Year! 

And relax, with an artisan cuppa

Much has been made this year of “Twixmas” the time between Christmas and New Year, the time of year we all recognise because we’re unsure what day of the week it is, and we’re still nibbling our way through the festive food, that was designated as “for Christmas” in the lead up to the celebrations. We still do that ritual of asking what you want for tea, but know that the answer is more than likely going to be turkey, or ham. That is until the new year when we’ll add beef to the repertoire!

But life is starting to get back to normal. Our Christmas guests have gone, the turkey is off its carcass and in only a small number of containers in the fridge. But the real barometer of returning to normality is the decline of the cheeseboard and that the pigs in blankets, even the second batch, have vanished more quickly than you’d know.

The calm after the whirlwind of family visits and the general hubbub of December is something to enjoy though, and this year it’s been enhanced by a proper cuppa, and artisan ones at that from Adagio teas, who sent a selection of their seasonal teas for me to try. In this post I’ll share a bit more about each of the samples, which are extensive.

Adagio teas are a family company who source their teas direct which means they arrive fresh and the farmers benefit from a better deal. On their site there’s information about the types of tea, the five basic steps of tea processing - plucking, withering, rolling, oxidising and firing, and the five basic styles of tea - white, green, oolong, black and pu erh.

A CHRISTMAS SELECTION OF TEAS INCLUDES: CHRISTMAS, ROOIBOS NUTCRACKER AND YULETIDE TODDY

A CHRISTMAS SELECTION OF TEAS INCLUDES: CHRISTMAS, ROOIBOS NUTCRACKER AND YULETIDE TODDY

I’m a big tea drinker, but I hadn’t realised that there was so many options and choices when it comes to flavours. The Yuletide Toddy is a mixture of cranberry and orange, whereas the Rooibos Nutcracker has a different slant of Christmas with nuts, caramel and cocoa, and is a good reminder of our trip to the ballet in Birmingham last month.

CHESTNUT, GINGERBREAD, CANDY APPLE, CRANBERRY, PUMPKIN AND CANDY CANE TEAS IN MINIATURE TINS, FULL OF HOLIDAY CHEER

CHESTNUT, GINGERBREAD, CANDY APPLE, CRANBERRY, PUMPKIN AND CANDY CANE TEAS IN MINIATURE TINS, FULL OF HOLIDAY CHEER

These small tins are a great way to get started into a different kinds of tea, chestnuts are one of my go to Christmas flavours - chestnut stuffing anyone? No, you don’t like it either, no problem, that’s more for me is the usual gist of the conversations - so to have a tea that brings that roasted chestnut smell in a cup, well that sounds almost perfect.

CHRISTMAS TEAS INCLUDES: CANDY CANE, CANDY APPLE, GINGERBREAD AND CHESTNUT TEAS

CHRISTMAS TEAS INCLUDES: CANDY CANE, CANDY APPLE, GINGERBREAD AND CHESTNUT TEAS

SWEET TOOTH TEAS INCLUDES: CARAMEL, CREAM, TIGER EYE AND CHOCOLATE CHIP TEAS

SWEET TOOTH TEAS INCLUDES: CARAMEL, CREAM, TIGER EYE AND CHOCOLATE CHIP TEAS

The Sweet Tooth Teas box intrigued me. Sweet tea isn’t normally my thing and I’m not one for sugar in tea. The Tiger Eye blend caught my eye though with its smooth flavours, the website says this has a high caffeine level and the reviews warn of over-steeping this one.

CHAI TEAS INCLUDES: MASALA CHAI, CHOCOLATE CHAI, SPICED APPLE CHAI AND THAI CHAI TEAS

CHAI TEAS INCLUDES: MASALA CHAI, CHOCOLATE CHAI, SPICED APPLE CHAI AND THAI CHAI TEAS

Masala Chai is one of my favourite teas, and I’m regularly found in the queue in the cafe at work asking for one of these. So much so, that if I opt for something else the servers there look most confused, so I was pleased to see a chai selection in this parcel, and while I haven’t tried these yet, I’m looking forward to branching out from my usual “plain” chai.

I also find traditional Earl Grey teas challenging, but the names of these blends may just make me overcome this. I think I’ll be easing myself into these gently, perhaps starting with the green and Rooibos blends, which are described as a classic blend with a twist. I think making sure I’ve some shortbread to hand will help with easing myself in. There’s something about a cup of tea and a biscuit, or two isn’t there?

EARL GREY TEAS INCLUDES: EARL GREY BRAVO, EARL GREY MOONLIGHT, EARL GREY GREEN AND ROOIBOS EARL GREY TEAS

EARL GREY TEAS INCLUDES: EARL GREY BRAVO, EARL GREY MOONLIGHT, EARL GREY GREEN AND ROOIBOS EARL GREY TEAS

The final two sample boxes have teas with names I can’t pronounce but flavours I know I will enjoy. Oolong tea is one of the five basic types of teas, and one of the most time-consuming teas to create using all of the five steps, but the result is a more complex flavour which are often smooth and rich.

OOLONG TEAS OF CHINA INCLUDES: TI KUAN YIN, WUYI ENSEMBLE, FORMOSA BAI HAO AND DANCONG ARIA TEAS  PREMIUM TEAS OF CHINA INCLUDES: YUNNAN GOLD, GOLDEN SPRING, KEEMUN RHAPSODY AND PU ERH POE TEAS

OOLONG TEAS OF CHINA INCLUDES: TI KUAN YIN, WUYI ENSEMBLE, FORMOSA BAI HAO AND DANCONG ARIA TEAS

PREMIUM TEAS OF CHINA INCLUDES: YUNNAN GOLD, GOLDEN SPRING, KEEMUN RHAPSODY AND PU ERH POE TEAS

I’ve only shared some information about tea in this post because it’s impossible to do it justice in a single post, but if you’re interested in learning more about the different types of tea, health benefits, the teabags vs loose tea question, or even food pairings then do take a look at the Adagio teas website, like me, I’m sure you’ll be surprised at how much effort goes into a cuppa.

Tea is so much a part of the British psyche. We all know that a cup of tea will fix almost anything, help solve a problem or just provide some thinking time, and it’s something that is part of who we are, but so often we reach for the household name tea bags rather than anything more. So this Twixmas, my tea exploration journey has resumed, and I’ve a feeling it’s going to continue through to the 91st of January or whatever, at least and hopefully much further into the year as I’ve rediscovered that there’s really something rather nice about using loose leaf tea, which feels like a treat, when really it shouldn’t.

Are you joining me?

* This is a collaborative post, but all opinions are my own.