Sunday 30 March 2014

Wartime Farm Goes to the Wall

My little brother is currently in China with one of his friends for a lovely few weeks seeing the sights as they travel from Shanghai to Beijing then to Xi'an and finally onto Hong Kong.

The Beautiful Sighhts of China

As you can see, he has been sending me lots of beautiful pictures via WhatsApp as he travels around, which has been really lovely and has even given me some great ideas for my Sew For Victory project! It's also made me just a little jealous, though until I get over my flying phobia I will stay a lovely 'one-day' dream. My favourite photos so far have to be the ones from his trip to the Great Wall.

Wartime Farm Pullover at the Great Wall of China

I mean how flipping amazing does this look, puts my wet week walking Hadrian's wall to shame, that's for sure! But the most surprising thing was the next picture he sent, to be honest, it made me a little teary.

Wartime Farm Pullover at the Great Wall of China

 It's not the greatest photo I grant you (it was taken on his old school Polaroid) but it made my year when I saw it! The Wartime Farm Pullover has made it to the Great Wall of China and that makes me so very proud, partly because I know it must mean that he actually really likes it!

Wendy x

Sunday 23 March 2014

The UFO Hall of Shame

If you have been reading the blog for a while, you will know that for the last few years I have on a mission to rid myself of the dreaded Unfinished Objects, UFO for short, of the knitting and sewing variety which lurk in the dark recesses of my flat. I must confess of late I have been a little better at creating new UFO's rather than culling them, so when I saw that Lucy from Pin Up Crafts had documented her UFO list and was encouraging others to do the same, I instantly knew it was something I had to do, whether or not I wanted to (I'd started a post many months before and then deleted it as I was embarrassed at just how many things there were left unfinished) I needed to do it for my own sanity! So after much deliberating, and searching my flat for the hidden projects, here is my list. There are quite a few so you might want to grab a cuppa before you embark upon this rifle through my abandoned projects, it a long list!

~ Sewing ~

1960s Midi Dress - Woman Easy Makes pattern W11 from the mid-Sixties, teamed with some bright, green and turquoise blue curtain fabric from Ebay.

This is a pattern that I 'borrowed' from my mum's stash, which I teamed it with some lurid 70s curtain fabric, love the dress but it is a disaster! Firstly it needs a zip no big problem there. Secondly, some weird things happened around the collar I chose to do the stand-up fold over one version A. - I can't for the life of me currently think what it's called! Thirdly and most importantly, I have taken the seams in way too much, after initially finishing it and finding it too big I took in the seams and guess what its now too small! I really want to finish it, but I fear its always going to look a just that little bit bodged!


1960s Tap Pants - Le Roy Pattern 2035 An Underwear lingerie pattern from the 60's, made from turquoise blue satin I got from Walthamstow Market.

Another one of my mum's patterns started at the same time as the above dress. It was the first time I had worked with satin and french seams so project ended up slip sliding its way into the UFO pile, where it has sat for the past SIX years!!!


1940s Bathing Costume - Simplicity 1022 from 1944, made with some candy striped printed cotton, again from Walthamstow Market.

The bra/top is essentially finished, it's just the short/skirt that needs to be done, it's all cut out, I vividly remember watching Benjamin Button whilst doing that, so whenever that film made it on to DVD is when this project was started! There are two reasons for it hitting the pile, one is that I blustered ahead not taking into consideration the pattern was about 2 sizes too small for me so was never going to fit no matter how much seam allowance I lost! Two, those lovely red and white stripes kept making my eyes go funny, like when you stare at someone wearing a Bretton top for too long or when you see red and green together, so a headache ensued and so it was left to get squashed at the bottom of my to-do pile.


1940s Red Jubilee Suit - Vintage Vogue V1136 from 1945 made from some lovely drapey red cotton crepe from Walthamstow Market.

I wanted to make this pattern up so that I could wear it during the Queens Diamond Jubilee festivities. The plan was to turn it into a suit, as I can't believe I am saying this about a 1940 pattern, but I really hate that dress (the front is boring and the back is just over the top, low v and a pleated bustle, meergh, it's just not for me) so I intended to make a simple 40s skirt to go with it. But once I had cut the pieces out for the jacket, I lost patience when I couldn't get the sleeves to fit, it was puffy all the way and for once I wanted a nice set-in-sleeve (you just know that Mae & Patrick would not be happy with a puckered sleeve head). Part of the problem is that the fabric has a lot of natural ease due to the loose weave, so when I cut the sleeve heads out they stretched and so are now too big to fit in neatly.  I do have enough fabric to start again, so I am tempted to have another go at finishing it soon.

Update: Abandoned March 2016 - Fabric repurposed into A Sew Over It 1950s Self Draft Skirt


Sequined 1940s Blouse - McCall 1192 teamed with a thick blue cotton satin, to be decorated with gold sequins both were bought at Walthamstow Market.

Love this pattern and it was destined to be an ultimate stash buster as the fabric is what was left over from my Sunburst pleated dress seen here and the gold sequins are ancient I bought them when I first started college, so a long, long time ago! Not sure why this has sat for so long unfinished I think it has to do with the re-sizing of the blouse, the patterns a 32 and I'm, well a 38, so I did a bit of tinkering before I cut it out, but the fit is a bit odd. Also, I think the way I have sewn on the sequins, leaving them on their chain, makes it look a bit rubbish as the ends don't look at all neat. I think this will be finished just needs a bit of a re-think.


1950s Hitchcock Dress AKA 'The Dress That Clings Too Much' - Butterick 4894 made with large purple gingham cotton blended fabric from again Walthamstow Market.

Before for my French holiday a few years ago, I saw Dorris Day wearing the most fabulous dress whilst I was watching 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' see it here I knew instantly I wanted to recreate it to swan about France in and that I had the perfect pattern for the job so why did this dress get restricted to the UFO zone? Well, the reason was simple, the fabric. I used a cotton blend which on the face of it works perfectly it's light and bright and has a lovely 50's feel to it. But, and it's a big but, it has quite a bit of nylon in the mixture so when the fabric is rubbed against its self or any other fabric for that matter, the most horrendous amount of static is produced, which results in the skirt clinging do I put this, to me bum, there I said it! It's not attractive (more like embarrassing) and it's certainly not comfortable, so until a solution is found it will remain an unfinished object.


The Jess Dress - Simplicity's Project Runway Collection K2588, made with a pink poly cotton blend from Walthamstow Market.

It was last year that this dress, or should I says a bag of pieces, showed up on my UFO list. It is the result of a couple of hours spent watching 'New Girl' and deciding I needed to make me a Jess dress. That would be something that had a sixties vibe, a full skirt though unlike Jess's dresses long enough to cover my knees and was in a plain but pretty fabric! In my haste to get cracking, I decided to cut up my Kimono as I hadn't really made much use of it since we moved so figured I should re-purpose it, great plan! But I got bored unpicking the stitching and so some pieces got cut out others didn't, so it got relegated, as do most things it seems, to the UFO pile.


A copy of M&S Lace Dress - Pattern is adapted from Sew U Home Stretch. The fabric is a black paisley stretch lace from Ebay.

When I saw this dress from M&S I instantly fell in love. I wanted to make a version in a striking red like the original but, I just could not find a shade of lace that was quite right they were all a bit too brassy or tomatoey for my liking, so defeated I went back to the classic stand by shade, black. I used the same pattern as for my Red Jersey dress I made in the summer, this time, though it is floor length something that works really well with the generous amount of stretch this lace has, the dress is essentially finished. But it still needs an under dress as the lace is see through and until I find the right fabric this dress is on hold!


Gertie Coat - Butterick 5824 made from Astrakhan style short pile fur fabric lined with a fuchsia satin anti-static lining.

This started as part of a Sew-a-long way back in 2012, and is to all intents and purposes finished apart from the buttons, but there is a problem. The waist has dropped, probably due to the weight of the fur fabric skirt pulling the fabric down, it has dropped so much that it has meant that it now sits on my hips, which makes it unwearable. So until I find the bravery to take it all apart again it will stay on the UFO list.


1940s Coat - Butterick B5425 made from some lovely burgundy wool bought from Fabric Land in Southsea.

It's all cut out but with the Gertie coat still looming over me, I've lost the confidence to finish it.

~ Knitting ~

1940s Land Girl Jumper - V&A pattern see it here, 2ply bottle green knitting machine yarn doubled up to make 4 ply from eBay.

I started this back in 2011 see the post here, I have used knitting machine wool to knit it double up which is time-consuming and makes for a non-portable project, also the wool is as rough as a badgers bottom (I'm guessing, having never felt one) and I had been dreading wearing it, but was recently told by my Mum that knitting machine wool often has a stiffener in it to make it flow through the machine easily, and so when washed out it will soften up, fingers crossed. Anyway, I have only managed to knit the main body and I am torn between making it into a tank top or finish the sleeves, I would dearly like to rid myself of the bottle green itchy wool once and for all!


Stash Buster Beret - Sunday Pictorial Beret from 'A Stitch In Time' by Susan Crawford made with two balls of Rowan Cashsoft in dark blue and purple.

I knitted this at some point in 2012 as a stash buster for a couple of balls of rowan cash soft I had been given. I had completely finished this with a bow and all but the bows were so limp and floppy, that they looked ridiculous so I have undone them and will try something that Mim from Crinoline Robot suggested of using wire to make them...well a bit more, well, stiff! So until I can that it will sit for a bit longer  in the UFO pile. I also want to make some matching gloves to go with it, so I have bought some more yarn in the same shades...stash buster indeed!

Update: Finished May 2016 - Read all about it here!


1930s Jan Sweater - From Susan Crawfords 'A Stitch In Time Vol.02' Started this in September whilst I was liberated form cooking for a month, sadly I got no further than the rib for the front or back don't remember! There is no photo for this as when I went to pull it out of my knitting bag I managed to pull all of the stitches off of the needle, so I have now ripped it all back and so no photo and I suppose now it can be crossed off the list, at least there's something that can!

~ Crochet ~

Stained Glass Granny Square Blanket - A stash buster using up the odds and ends of various ply's of yarn.

Oooh only one unfinished, crochet project, I think that is probably due to limited ability rather than choice.  This was started years ago in an attempt to use up the odds and sods of yarn left over from other projects, I have made a concerted effort to finish this off since new years so it's on its way to being finished very soon!

Ok so it was 2 years later, but it's finally finished!!  See my post about it here!!


Phew! We are done! 

So there you have it, my shameful unfinished 'dirty laundry' list has been well and truly aired. It's actually very liberating to lay it all out in once place, it's turned it from an embarrassing annoyance in the back of my mind to a manageable list of things to do, let's see if I can tick off a few over the next few months!

Do you have a UFO list of your own? If you do then hop on over to Lucy's blog to grab the button and lay your list bare, go on it's good to share!

Wendy x

Saturday 15 March 2014

The Last Enemy

...I closed in to 200 yards, and from slightly to one side gave him a two-second burst: fabric ripped off the wing and black smoke poured from the engine, but he did not go down. Like a fool, I did not break away, but put in another three-second burst. Red flames shot upwards and he spiralled out of sight. At that moment, I felt a terrific explosion which knocked the control stick from my hand, and the whole machine quivered like a stricken animal. In a second, the cockpit was a mass of flames: instinctively, I reached up to open the hood. It would not move. I tore off my straps and managed to force it back; but this took time, and when I dropped back into the seat and reached for the stick in an effort to turn the plane on its back, the heat was so intense that I could feel myself going. I remember a second of sharp agony, remember thinking 'So this is it!' and putting both hands to my eyes. Then I passed out...
It was whilst on the Isle of Wight that I was first captured by this paragraph. We had taken shelter from a seemingly never ending downpour in St. James church and after musing on the musty architecture and admiring the pungent fresh flower displays, it was time to move on to the secondhand book box nestled beside the pews, which, if I am honest had been on my mind from the moment we pushed open the heavy church door. I rifled through the books hoping yet again to find something interesting and I was not disappointed, this time it came in the form of a tattered, dusty, sweet smelling, little blue book with the biblical sounding title 'The Last Enemy', I opened to the Proem and read the words above. I was sold. I paid my 25p and we left the church, just as the sun began to shine for the first time that day.

I spent the rest of my all to brief time on the island immersed in this little books pages, amazed that I had never heard of this book or its author Richard Hillary before, and feeling so lucky to have found it. I was even more smitten when I spotted a inscription in the front few pages, from a Daddy to his son in 1943, I wonder if the unnamed son was also in the RAF, or perhaps it was in fact Daddy who was protecting the skies.

After the captivating Proem, the book becomes an autobiographical novel which is broken into two parts. Book one begins with the authors charmed days rowing and occasionally studying at Oxford, his joining the Oxford University Air Squadron, his subsequent RAF training and deployment to 603 City of Edinburgh squadron to fly spitfires, up until him being shot down. Book two focuses on life after, his rehabilitation and the pioneering work of his surgeon Archibald McIndoe to repair his fire ravaged body, his coming to terms with life as it will now be and his realisation that some of his firm held beliefs are no longer sustainable and that some of his actions and the treatment of his friends in the past begin to haunt him.

The Last Enemy is not your archetypal war hero story there is a lot of honesty amongst the moments of bravado. Hillary's is a young man, obsessed with the rather un-English desire for self analysis, which at times does make him seem arrogant, he likes to goad his friends in to debates and is frustrated by those who don't react to his intellectual taunting. But there is something about his unsentimental approach to life, the war and even the deaths of those close to him, which makes the descriptions all the more memorable. 

Immediately that I finished reading, I wanted to know what had happened to Hillary after publishing his book. If I had been able to, I am sure I would have looked online whilst I was reading such was my curiosity, thankfully my parents lack of modernity saved me from myself, so it was not until I returned home that I was able to discover the true sadness of his story. 

Richard Hope Hillary
Born 20th April 1919 Australia
After his months of painful reconstructive surgery, Hillary tried and failed to regain his A1 flying status, instead he was sent to the USA to give talks to the people about his experiences in the RAF, with the aim of trying to build up public support for America to join the fight. Officials soon realised that Hillary's 'damaged' appearance made him unsuitable for public speaking, it was thought that American mothers would object to America joining the war effort due to the fear of a similar fate or worse being inflicted upon their own family, though  his 'new' looks didn't stop him from attracting all the ladies, whilst in New York he had a relationship with actress Merle OberonIt was the public rejection that spurred Hillary in to finishing his novel that he had started back in London, once finished it was published in the USA under the title 'Falling Through Space' a title which was though inappropriate for a British audience and so once across the pond it was renamed The Last Enemy, it was a resounding success.

Hillary post-burn treatment, third from right at an awards ceremony (Image source)
On returning to England, Hillary again pursued his A1 Flying category and this time succeeded, even though it had been noted in the officers mess that he could 'barely handle a knife and fork'. In 1942 he was posted to No.54 operational Training Unit at RAF Charterhall in the Scottish borders, to train as a night fighter pilot. It was during bad weather in early hours of the 8th of January 1943, whilst carrying out an exercise in a Blenheim V, that Hillary and his Navigator F/Sgt. Wilfred Fison were killed when their aircraft crashed into Crunklaw Farm.

Initially, I found it hard to understand why, when Hillary had been through so much in such a short space of time and had such a resounding success with his novel, why would he be so very desperate to return to the skies, had he not wanted in his Oxford days to be a writer? I think though, the answer to this can be found within the pages of his own novel.
Much that is untrue and misleading has been written on the pilot in this war. Within one short year he has become the nation's hero, and the attempt to live up to this false conception bores him. For, as he would be the first to admit, on the ground the pilot is a very ordinary fellow...these men may seem to fit into the picture of everyday life, though they seem content enough in the company of other men and in the restfulness of their homes, yet they are really only happy when they are back with their Squadrons, with their associations and memories. The long to be back in their planes, so that isolated with the wind and the stars they may play their part in man's struggle against the elements.
Some have suggested that he may well have intended to kill himself, to atone for the loss of his friends, perhaps, but to me this seems unlikely, I just can't believe he would have wanted to have taken someone else's life along with his own. Perhaps you could see him as a headstrong young fool that put others at risk for his dreams, or you could see it as him dying for his passion for flying, either way his account of his battles with life even if at times woven with a touch of fiction (last chapter) make for a fascinating insight in to the war, which for me at least mean that both Hilliary and his novel should not be forgotten.

Sources & Further Reading:

Sunday 9 March 2014

The Kitchen Front - Eggless Pancakes

It was pancake day this Tuesday past and as always seems to happen, after dreaming about them all day, when it comes time to make them I am already too full from my dinner and no longer fancy them. So I thought this year I would make them a weekend treat and have a late brekky, of sticky and sweet lemon pancakes.

Now the only reason I am telling you all this is because the recipe I used is a wartime one, it popped up on my Google+ feed on Tuesday shared by the Imperial War Museum, and I knew it was something I wanted to try. It is an eggless recipe as you might expect for the time and for me this is a bit of a bonus as I'm trying to whittle down the food that is lurking in the recesses of my kitchen cupboards (it appears it's not just fabric I'm hoarding) and so everything needed I already had!

Eggless Pancake Recipe
Good Fare published in 1942

1 tbsp Custard Powder
3 tbsp Flour (Plain)
1 teaspoon salad oil (sunflower or olive etc)
1/2 Pint Milk (I used Soya)
Pinch of Salt

1. Mix together the dry ingredients
2. Pour in 1/4 pint of the milk saving the other 1/4 for later
3. Whisk together for 5 minutes
4. Add the rest of the milk and the oil and whisk again
5. Let the batter rest/stand for at least 1 hour
6. Fry in Oil
7. Eat

I found these tricky little blighters to cook, It might in part have been caused by me replacing the dairy for soya milk, but without remaking them I can not tell, either way, I think it's worth keeping these two things in mind when cooking them:
USE A NON STICK PAN - This means you don't need to add extra oil, This batter has quite a bit in the mix already I found adding oil to the pan made cooking them take much longer and made them much more greasy/slimy.
KEEP THEM SMALL - No bigger than an American pancake and make them thin as the centres seem to remain gooey even when the have been cooked for a long while. Also, it's worth noting they will take a fair bit longer to cook than normal pancakes.

I can confirm after eating more than my fair share that they are delicious, you can't taste the custard at all and though they are a little more taxing to cook than your normal batter ones I would still recommend giving them a go! I doubt lemon and sugar would have been the topping of choice during the war years due to the shortages of both, but they would be just as nice with a little jam!

Wendy x

Thursday 6 March 2014

Reasons to be Cheerful...

Well hello, how are we all! 
It's been a while ain't it, and my word there are some serious cobwebs that need dusting away from this poor little blog, definitely time for a spring clean!
the Goofball // spring like sunrise// slightly lighter evenings // my favourite t-shirt
The reason for my bloggy neglect has been, part workload and part an inability to shake off the wintry hibernation laziness I've been feeling. The workload part was due to constructing my day job's new website which took two solid months of work and pretty much took over my work and home life for a while.
blue skies // finished website // beautiful blooms // homemade bread
Thankfully it's now all finished and looking rather fancy if I do say so myself, but the enthusiasm for getting back into my crafting (which I had been so eager to get back to while I was preoccupied) had totally left me, I felt like a puppet whose strings had been cut, I just could not seem to find the energy to get on with anything, except eating...I've done a ton of that!

So the last few weeks have involved me battling with myself to find where that blasted enthusiasm is hiding, and thankfully after much pestering, it's starting to creep back! Something that has helped has been Instagram, the fact that all you need is a little brain power and nice photo, is supremely appealing and using it has forced me to look for something to be cheerful about every day which is helping me in a small way to get back on track, and the longer evenings and occasional blue skies are certainly helping too!
Spring blooms // Bread and butter pud // Hair setting // Kitty cuddles
Despite my lazy fog, I did actually finish my Knit for Victory Project though I didn't manage to photograph it properly by the deadline, I did at least get it done and I am rather in love with it, so I shall endeavour to get some good photos of it the moment a willing photographer and the nice weather align. I will be back very soon this time I promise!

Wendy x