Steve is away, the house is a tip, the bathrooms need cleaning, I need to go food shopping and yet I have not got the energy to move beyond this, not particularly comfortable, office chair. I am totally shattered. This week I have been learning something new. I have been learning the basics of Pattern Cutting at Bath College. Continue reading “Pattern Cutting and Loving to Learn”
Finally, I have found the photo I referenced in a previous post (Clothkits Fundraiser). My memory was a little off what with it being my fifth and not sixth birthday, and the outfit actually being a skirt and waistcoat combo (this was 1981 in deepest Somerset after all). But it was my best birthday cake EVER and one of my most favourite childhood outfits.
Many years ago* I bought a pack of bunting with which to decorate our garden. Last year it adorned our balcony in Switzerland but, sadly, it is to be its last to bring joy to our home.
Now I know what you are going to say: “get a grip woman, it was only bunting.” I know that I may be sounding a teeny tiny bit dramatic, but that bunting has been with me through A LOT. I mean that bunting has witnessed the toddler years and if something has come through that with you, well it is a very fine thing indeed. An attachment has developed.
When I was a child there was a shop in Bath that sold Clothkits – clothing sewing kits (see what they did there?). They were lush, I remember a particular favourite being a pale blue sundress complete with matching bolero padded jacket. I loved it. The outfit also features in a photo taken of me when I wore it on my 6th (I think) birthday and had my best birthday cake EVER. (Sadly, the photo is in the UK so I can’t reproduce it here for you!)
Anyway, Clothkits has always held a special place in my heart what with it being totally entwined with brilliant childhood memories and it selling easy to create, perfectly lovely, make at home clothes. Clothkits has an interesting history and, when it became a victim of its own success, it almost didn’t make it into the 21st century. Happily though it has made it, and, now based in Chichester, it still sells the loveliest cloth kits you can possibly find. I have several on my wish list (the Liberty print tea dress would make a really fabulous birthday present if you’re reading this Steve!).
Following the tragic earthquakes that took place earlier this year in Nepal the wonderful people at Clothkits decided they couldn’t just sit by and watch the devastation but have set about raising some money. Now the way they have gone about this has been rather ingenious. They started by selling off all their fabric remnants (yes, a great way to clear the stock room) for just a £10 donation to the DEC Nepal Earthquake Appeal. This then launched the Scrap Fabric Challenge. The purchasers of said remnants were invited to create something with them that could possibly be auctioned to those less imaginative/time rich/creative/talented/motivated (delete as appropriate). This week has seen the Scrap Fabric Challenge items listed on Facebook and there are some delightful creations from a bunny to a pair of kids dungarees.
The auction is now open* on the Clothkits Facebook Page…. Go ahead, buy a handmade gem, and justify it by knowing that the money you pay will be going to make a huge difference to lives that have been affected in a way that we can’t even imagine. (Please note that if you are outside of the UK and win an item through the action you will need to cover the postage cost).
If you miss out why not make a donation anyway – Nepal Earthquake Appeal.
*Auction ends at midnight on Sunday 7th June, 2015 (yes, that’s the day after tomorrow, so hop on over and get bidding… Clothkits Scrap Fabric Challenge).
Last week I set myself three tasks the first of which I blogged about in Handmade Tale – Baking – hop on over and take a look I won’t mind (and it includes a link to a wonderful lemon and raspberry cake recipe from Richard Burr!).
The second and third of my personal tasks were sewing based, something that my Mum taught me many years ago. I remember a beloved polka dot circular long skirt that I wore and wore and wore that Mum had made for me. Simple but perfectly proportioned, it made me feel like I was 5 foot 10 instead of the diminutive 5 foot 3 and a half (don’t forget the half people, it does make all the difference!) as it swirled around my ankles. Then, there was the ball dress Mum made with a red silk dupion bodice and short layered chiffon shirt that Mum hand hemmed and which took her hours and hours because it was so full. The school ball turned out to be a disappointment as my then boyfriend got hideously drunk and ended up spending the evening in the toilets, but the dress. Oh, I loved it, more than the boyfriend by a long stretch, and it made me feel positively beautiful. I still have it hanging in the wardrobe, along with the Liberty print hand smocked dresses Mum had also made when I was a child. You’d have thought that with this maternal influence I would have regularly sewn clothes for myself and my children but sadly I have never made time to do it. I have however regularly lusted after the fabrics sold at Millie Moon in Frome and the gorgeous retro kits from the legendary Clothkits. I have even devoted many evenings to knitting jumpers and cardigans for the children. I realised recently that I now have the time to sew and the Great British Sewing Bee had motivated me enough to get the sewing machine out of its rather dusty box.
Pleasingly I have completed all three tasks. Whoop, whoop! Pat on the back for me. I thank you very much.
Now, I’m not just writing this blog post to show off (well maybe just a tiny bit) I am actually writing this because it is the first time in my life that I have had the time and head space to get creative. I love baking and I love sewing but I have never motivated myself to find the time to start (or rather finish) handmade projects. Now that I am an Expat Wife and a Single Wife with plenty of alone time I have found the motivation to do so and have encountered some inspirational people in the process.
I enjoy baking, more than I like cooking. Cooking is just an essential, routine, boring part of the day where I have to provide my family with nutritional meals. Baking is where you get to indulge, to create a bonus, a little slice of heaven to serve with that ordinary cup of tea. I am not a superstar baker but my cakes and biscuits rarely get left in the tin to go mouldy. I find baking therapeutic; the measuring, beating, folding. Combining a host of innocuous ingredients to create something, well, delicious. The smell of a baking cake that wafts around our open plan living space provides comfort and creates a little cocoon against all the strangeness that we find ourselves in. My Mum has always had cake in the tin, the occasions are few and far between when a sponge or fruit cake hasn’t been available to accompany our cup of tea and gossip when visiting. As I have grown into the roles of housewife and mother I have started to follow suit and I feel embarrassed if I am unable to offer a morsel of something homemade to any guest that drops by. Since we have been in Switzerland I have been unable to source self-raising flour and so have been using baking powder and plain flour with varying degrees of success. The lemon and raspberry cake of Mr Burr’s uses this very combination of plain flour with baking powder so I was a little apprehensive of the outcome. However, I have to say that the lemon sponges I made this week have quite possibly been the best I have made to date.
This cake provides a treat for all the senses. It starts with the sharp, sweet lemon scent, that prompts a reflex from the saliva glands as soon as the tin lid comes off. Then your eyes lower and feast on the pale yellow, light, fluffy, inviting, sponge contrasting with the pale pink raspberry icing. You grab a knife to slice through the three soft layers and experience no resistance as they give way to create a slice of beautiful art that you carry aloft to your waiting plate, the smell of lemon once again tantalising you with it’s freshness. Then, finally, you reward your taste buds with that first mouthful, the sweetness balancing perfectly with the zesty lemon that must surely be the epitome of paradise. Homemade indulgence. Homemade perfection. Thank you Mr Burr for bringing this plate of gorgeousness into my day and reminding me that homemade pleasures are definitely the best.
The other two of my three tasks can be read about in Handmade Tale – Sewing .