Saturday 23 March 2013

Grrrrr Google

I don't deal too well with change, my grumbling about my new windows 8 laptop and its swishy app'y ways, is proof of that (though I have finally managed to make peace with it). So when Google announced that it was closing its Google Reader soon, I wanted to weep!
I personally think it's a strange decision, as the integrated-ness, of being a blogger and using the dashboard's inbuilt reader, to see what others have posted (or in other words getting wonderfully distracted for hours, when I was supposed to be posting something myself) while organising my own site, seems, well, logical. But it is to be no more, and where this leaves the relevance of 'Google Friend Connect', I guess we will have to wait and see.

So what to do? Well, as of this morning I have swapped all of my subscriptions over to my current feed reader of choice Bloglovin'.  Initially, I spent a few days of faffing, until I realised there had to be a simpler way than typing and searching for each blog individually. After a quick look in the settings, I found the subscription import tool!

Log in or Sign up to Bloglovin' - Go to your Settings - Scroll down to Other - Click Import Blogs - Import direct from Google Reader - Log in to Google account - Accept Bloglovin' Access to your subscription info - Wait - Wait some more, lots of people are doing this right now - Wait - Your done!
Hurrah, Now all my 350+ subscriptions are there ready for me to read. The only downside for me  with bloglovin', is that you can't actually see who follows your blog (it only shows you a few of your most recent followers, as the site is geared to anonymous following...spoilsports!).  I personally think that getting to know who is interested in your site, and finding out about their blogs is a huge part of the enjoyment of blogging. Hopefully, this is something they will remedy soon as other than that is a simple and eloquent alternative.

What reader do you use? If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them:)

Wendy x

Sunday 17 March 2013

Things to Make & Do - Sew For Victory - Muslin

I thought I'd take a little tea break from my 'Sunday sewing session' (I do love alliteration!) to give you all a little update on my 'Sew For Victory' progress!

So the last time I posted about it, I mentioned my dilemma between my two chosen patterns: The Maudella short sleeved blouse and the Blackmore gathered bodice dress. I love them both but eventually chose...

Blackmore No. 5755
I actually attempted to make muslin's up for both patterns, but the real deciding factor was the sheer simplicity of the dress, over the lack of instructions available on the blouse. Phrases like 'make an attach cuffs' are not really that helpful, especially when you have no given pattern piece, even when you have a vague notion of what you are doing!

So I said yes to the dress, which if I am honest almost just as unhelpfully states the sizing as 'medium' with no additional measurements given. I can't say I've ever been classified as a 'medium' in my life, so I copied the complete pattern onto brown paper added on the required 1.5cm seam allowance. Knowing from experience that I have wider arms than your average 40s lass, I also added an extra 4cm to the cuff ends before set to making up my muslin, with the hopes that 'medium' would not be too cruel a size on my generally 'large' frame.

Work in progress
Need to sort out the way the gather strip finishes at the neckline as it looks untidy
I was pleasantly surprised. It was not ridiculously tight, and as I had decided to use the stretchy velvet fabric, which was intended for the final dress, it was much more forgiving than I could have hoped. I eventually decided against the stretch fabric, purely because it was so shiny and I wanted to make a more period-accurate dress. So instead I've opted for a darker, nonstretchy velvet, its still black but much richer in colour, a triple velvet from Minerva Crafts

One way Stretch Velvet on the Left & Triple Velvet (not the loo roll) on the right.
A first for me has been using a cutting mat and rotary cutter to cut out my patterns and fabric. Honestly its the best way, I am a total convert. No more kneeling on the floor hacking at my fabric, and the carpet, for me!

They were a Christmas gift from my prolific quilt maker Mum, who has been an advocate of the rotary cutter for as long as I can remember. I don't know why it has taken me so long to see the light (well I do* if you're squeamish don't follow that pesky asterisk) as its made cutting out the fidgety velvet a breeze and the edges are so neat and easy to line up. It makes you feel like a pro - At last!

This dress has a lot of gathering, up the centre of the bodice, on the shoulders and both of the sleeves all need to be gathered. I decided to try a technique (I read about it somewhere but I can't remember...whoops!) where you use a piece of string or yarn and zig zag over it and then pull the yarn to create the gathers, it works like a charm especially on the velvet as it can be prone to gripping the running stitch when it's done the traditional way!

So far I have finished the bodice, attached the sleeves and hemmed the neckline, all that's left to do is sew the skirt, attach it, pop in the zip, then hem the lot. I can't believe I might actually be on track to finishing this before the deadline! 

Have a wonderful Sunday, oh and a Happy St Patricks Day!

Wendy x

*Last warning this is not for the squeamish!*
I know exactly why I have avoided it. My Mum, as I said above, an avid crafter and with 20+ years experience using a rotary cutter, a few years back ended up in A&E after she'd managed to cut the top of her index finger off, whilst cutting out blocks for her next quilt...shudder. My brother found the shrivelled top bit later that evening on her cutting mat...murgugaah...gruesome!  So, yes I know exactly why I have given rotary cutters a wide birth until now, and as I am the clumsy one in the family this story has been looping through my mind whilst I am caaaaaarefully cutting away! I still think the benefits still outweigh the possible finger loss. Just!

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Film Fashions - Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

With all the digging and veg talk that I have been doing lately, and all the posts with pictures of muddy allotments I've inflicted upon you recently, I thought I would be rather nice to have a little break from all that mud and wallow, so to speak, in a bit of 1930s glamour.

My remedy comes in the form of another Fabulous Film Fashions post and though it does actually contain scenes of mud and vegetables I can whole heartedly promise, that they are for beautification purposes only!
Fabulous Film Fashions Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Romantic comedy based on the novel by Winifred Watson. Frances McDormand stars as Miss Pettigrew, a dowdy governess struggling to find employment in 1930s London after being unfairly dismissed from her previous job. She unexpectedly finds herself fulfilling the role of social secretary for glamorous American actress and singer Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), whose life is an unending social whirl - the complete opposite of Miss Pettigrew's own drab existence. Despite their differences, Miss Pettigrew becomes Delysia's confidante and personal aide, and is witness to many of the joys and indiscretions that thrive in this heady, high-society climate. Could it be that Miss Pettigrew has finally found her calling? [source]

I first watched 'Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day' a couple of years ago, and it has since become the perfect light-hearted tonic when I am feeling down. Its short, sweet, touching, funny and has such wonderful clothes. There is just so much to love, and all this gushing comes from someone who tends to shy away from Rom-com's (I've been jaded by ex-flatmates forcing me to watch too many bad ones). Generally I would pick a war film over a Rom-com any day, the boyfriends very lucky in that respect (I've even watched his favourite the 5 hour epic Das Boot, with subtitles, twice!), but there are exceptions and this is certainly one I am glad I tried.

Lee Pace [source]
Oh yeah,  it also has the very dishy Lee Pace, the 'Pie Maker' himself, in it which let's face it, certainly helps one maintain an interest!

So today I am going to focus my costume love, on to the outfits of the two main characters, that of Guinevere and Delysia, On to the glamour! 

---- Warning screenshot heavy post. Click all images to make bigger ----

Miss Guinevere Pettigrew Played by Frances McDormand

Poor, sweet Miss Pettigrew, she starts off rather out of luck (and dinners) when she meets the shocking and glamorous Delysia, never fear things are set to change for the better. Sadly Miss P only has three outfit changes to Delysia's Six, and all in one day, the opulence!

Brown Mac & Dress
[Source / Source]
The first outfit we see Miss Pettigrew in is rather dull, so much so, it initially didn't cross my mind to screenshot it! Thankfully the good old Internet helped me out with a couple of good images and I have to say other than being a bit bland in colour there is quite a pretty dress lurking underneath that coat!

Blue Chiffon Dress
 This dress has Sunburst pleats, oh my!!!
Such a pretty, royal blue chiffon dress, long bishop sleeves, large cuffs with fabric covered buttons, The bodice is soft fitting with beneath bust pleats to add some shape, bodice and skirt are joined together with a diamond cummerbund style waist band, the skirt has fullness to the front which is created with sunburst pleats, dress is fastened at the back with buttons.

Blue Velvet Evening Gown
Beautiful deep blue silk velvet, bias cut floor length dress, high under bust waist line, with buttons which run down the bust. Front and back neck line run to a modest V shape edged with what looks like a soft pleated white taffeta long sleeves which taper at the wrist and are adorned with matching buttons.

Delysia Lafosse Played by Amy Adams

Delyisa is a ditsy, up-and-coming American entertainer living in 1930s London, who is torn between following her heart or following her career. The film may well be about Miss Pettigrew but Delysia's clothes steal the show. They are all soft, floaty, opulent and very, very dreamy!

Peach Silk Satin Dressing Gown

Silk satin dressing gown, with ostrich feather elbow cuffs & attached cummerbund style tie sash closure. How wonderful would it be to swan about in this dressing gown, I don't think I would ever want to get dressed!

'Wallis' Blue Dress, Stole & Hat
"Amy Adams wears a day dress of a colour called “Wallis Blue” named after the Duchess of Windsor. The short dress has a self bow at the neck and a sash with a tortoise shell buckle at the waist. The matching hat gives the whole (ensemble) some added oomph." [Source]
I just love this outfit, can you tell? 
A Wallis Blue, what looks like crepe, below knee dress with bias cut skirt, button through shirt waist blouse top with pussy bow collar, rouched bracelet sleeves, with shoulder pads and another cummerbund style belt topped off with a matching blue felt hat with tortoise shell red trim!

Ostrich Feather Coat

Sadly we don't get to see this coat in is full glory, as it is only in one scene. But its just too fabulous not to show you!

Pink Tea Dress with Fountain Diamanté Detailing

Just look at the detailing! It makes me want to buy a Bejeweler just so that I can recreate this dress! 
A simple rose pink calf length dress, with a panelled skirt, left side zipper and yet another cummerbund style waist cincher, which this time is incorporated in to the back of the dress and in a darker dusty pink. The bodice has gathers at the shoulder and a deep plunging V-neck, shoulder pads accentuate the sleeve heads which have been decorated with fountain jewelling which leads down to a long tapering close fitting sleeve.

Bath Bow & Dressing Gown

Another satin ensemble, A dusty pink hair bow, to protect your curls whilst bathing elegantly! And another dressing gown, this time in rose pink, with what looks like panels of quilted flowers on the lapels and sleeves. This actually really reminds me of Anne's dressing gown in Glorious 39.

Cream & Beige Pin Stripe Safari Suit

I love the way this safari style suit gives a nod to the intrepid adventures that Delysia life may hold. 
A felt 'pith helmet' styled hat, tops what looks like a beige cotton ticking shirt waist dress, perfectly matched stripes, covered with a cream bolero style long sleeve jacket, with matching lapels and Cuff link style button closure.

Gold Lame Floor Length Evening Gown
What can I say about this dress, its certainly a show stopper! 
Gold Lame floor length bias cut dress, with subtle diagonal gathers on the front and back at hip level, zipper at the back of bodice, which is where the calf length front sash is attached. The bodice is a very clever construction, the shoulder straps cross over at the front making it look like a halter neck but the straps actually run straight down the back and re-join at the lower back of the bodice.

because I promised you mud and vegetables, and it would be rude not to deliver...
Miss Pettigrew getting beautified! [Source]
Wendy x

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Victory Garden - February - Pruning & Planting

I am aware that we have now silently slipped into March, but as there is still plenty of time to get planting those early crops, I figured it was still ok to post this, somewhat belatedly.

Now that I have worked out where everything will be going and (as of Saturday) have reached the end of my second section of digging (WHOOP!), it's time to see what other jobs lay ahead for February/early March. In all the information I've read, February is the month to maintain your overwintering crops, prune fruit trees and bushes, plant a few early seeds and of course dig! Thankfully as I have nothing growing currently, it cuts my jobs right down to digging, pruning and planting!
Just one more section to dig over!!!!
Something I should be doing whilst digging is adding manure to the soil to help the crops in the coming year. Here again, I have a problem, manure at our plot is delivered very occasionally, and when it does arrive it tends to vanish quicker than an ice cube in the Sahara! By the time I pitch up on the weekend the only sign that it was ever there, are a few stray clumps and some straw floating about in the breeze. I honestly never knew horse dung could be so popular, I certainly was not so enamoured with it when I spent my days mucking the stuff out!


Now that I have moved most of my fruit bushes, it is time to prune them. Ideally this should have been done earlier, but as I have moved them and disturbed their roots, it's best that I cut back some of the top growth, so that they can concentrate on establishing a firm base in their new home (almost sounds like I know what I am talking about, don't it). I have got to say pruning is the one thing that terrifies me slightly, I am sure I have said it before, but I will say it again I am no great gardener, any knowledge that I have so far all comes from my plant obsessed parents and as the are not here to scream 'not that Much at me I have had to go with instinct.
Gooseberry Bush Before & After Pruning
 Apparently, when pruning gooseberry bushes you want to create a goblet shape by removing internal branches and cutting back the remaining by a third.


So, on to what is essentially the second best part of veg growing, the first being eating your produce (obviously), buying and planting the seeds! I had planned to go wholeheartedly into finding only variety's which were available in and around the 30s and 40s but I have really struggled to find seed. So annoyingly I have had to opt for modern varieties for now, but I will keep looking!

Februarys seed and set buying!

Broad Beans

Wartime Seed Verities: Early Magazan, Broad Windsor, Seville Longpod, Eclipse, Giant four-seeded Windsor, Harlington.

The earliest and often most successful crops of broad beans are obtained by sowing in autumn (but not in the North, unless protected by frames or cloches): but a second sowing can be made during February. The broad bean does best on land manured for a previous crop, such as potatoes. It is best to sow two lines of seed to each row, with 6 in. between the seeds and 2 ft. 6 in. between the rows. Ministry of Agriculture Allotment & Garden Guide Vol. 02 1945
I remember utterly hating these as a child, age has given me some more perspective and though they are still not my favourite vegetable, I will happily eat them, especially since I've grown them myself!

Bunyards Exhibition & Masterpiece Green Longpod.
Rather than following the Ministries advice, to plant them directly into the soil, I have opted to plant my seeds at home in seed trays, so that I can keep a close watch over them while they grow (far too excited to not watch over them). I struggled to find out into books which way up I needed to plant them, it seems that you should instinctively know (or it doesn't matter), but after the customary phone call to my green fingered Parents, I was ready to go. My Mums wise words were

"Oh, just plant them on their side, they'll figure out which way up they want to be"


Bunyards Exhibition


Wartime Seed Verities: Appleton's Crimson, Appleton's Red, Early Albert, Linnaeus, The Sutton, Victoria, Dawes Champion, Hawkes Champagne.

Rhubarb likes deeply-dug and well-manured ground (use compost if you cannot get manure), for the plants usually have to stay put for several years. Plant in a sunny spot about 2 ft. apart, and do not pull any of the stalks from plants divided this year. Ministry of Agriculture Allotment & Garden Guide Vol. 02 1945 
Red Champagne Rhubarb
I loooove Rhubarb, so I have bought two small rhubarb tubers from Sainsbury for bargain £2! I am not sure yet where I will plant them on the plan, so, for now, I have potted them up in a tub in my garden. I can't wait till they get big enough to be picked, I know I have a year at least to wait, but I'm already dreaming of Rhubarb Crumble and Custard...Yum!


Wartime Seed Verities: Ryder's Giant, True Shallot, Russian Shallot, Dutch Shallot, Jersey or False Shallot, Yellow Shallot.
...shallots are a sort of hardy perennial onion grown annually from small bulbs or "sets". You can also grow shallots from seed, but these bulbs are really small onions and are useless for replanting and should be used up each year.
Plant in rows 1 ft. apart and 6 in. or 9 in. between the bulbs, leaving the top of each bulb just showing above soil level. Crops are usually mature by early July and should be taken up, carefully dried and stored. Ministry of Agriculture Allotment & Garden Guide Vol. 02 1945

I struggled to find variety's of shallots listed in the wartime publications and the one I did find appears not to be available so I have settled for some from the 99pStore called Golden Gourmet, which sounds good to me!


Wartime Seed Verities: Long-Standing Summer, Round-Leafed Victoria & Prickly, King of Denmark, Monstrous Viroflay, Reliance, Blanchford's New Prickly, Giant Lettuce Leaved, Long Standing,The C.O.
The Ministry's cropping plan suggests that summer spinach (for those who like it) should be sown in mid-April. But if you wish, you can make successional sowings from February to May in drills 1 in. deep and 12 in. apart. Ministry of Agriculture Allotment & Garden Guide Vol. 02 1945 
I have decided to wait until a little later in the year to plant my spinach, this is purely because I forgot to buy the seeds! I will be remedying this today so should be raring to go when the next planting comes around.


Wartime Seed Verities: Arran Pilot, Duke of York, Epicure, Arran Banner, Gladstone, Majestic, King Edward, Great Scott.
If you haven't ordered your seed potatoes, do so at once. As soon as they reach you, set them up to sprout (rose end uppermost) in shallow boxes in a cool (though frost-proof), dry shed, where they can get plenty of light and produce the short, sturdy shoots that make for earliness and high yield. Don't let them get even slightly chilled, for that's enough to kill the "eyes". Ministry of Agriculture Allotment & Garden Guide Vol. 02 1945 

I have set my potatoes up to chit in a chocolate box which is currently sitting on the dining room table, I know I am classy! I have been lucky with my choice of potato verities, I've picked Duke of York, Marris Piper and King Edward which are all varieties available during the wartime period, and yes you guessed it they all came from the 99p Store too!

Just Chitting, me ta'toes!

All of my planting was done under the watchful and seriously unimpressed gaze, of our little grumpy cat puss Beau!
Do you know what you're doing? You should be planting these!
Could he look anymore unimpressed with my gardening skills!

So I am all ready to crack on with March, I really can't wait for things to start sprouting. I say roll on Spring!!

Wendy x