Saturday 30 July 2016

Wendy's Week - Sewing, Stadiums & Steam

Hello! I hope you are having the most wonderful weekend!
Here are a few things that have been making me happy lately...

~ Sewing, Stadiums & Steam ~
The Butterfly Balcony - Sewing, Stadiums & Steam - Winning Star Make // St Paul's  Cathedral // Deepak & Oprah // Epping-Ongar Line // McCalls Pattern Haul // The Olympic Park
Winning Star Make // St Paul's  Cathedral // Deepak & Oprah //
Epping-Ongar Line // McCalls Pattern Haul // The Olympic Park

- Meditate on this. Back in November I started seeing a therapist, for my ongoing and at times crippling anxiety. She is wonderful, she is honestly helping me to change my life. Slowly but surely I'm seeing a difference in my way of thinking, my ability to find the positive has increased dramatically, and best of all my background anxiety - constantly shaking and feeling anxious every second of every day, which makes me even more prone to full-blown panic attacks - has gone completely. One of the ways she recommended to help calm my mind of all the worries was to try meditation, she pointed me in the direction of Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra's free 21 Day Meditation Course which has been a wonderful experience (They run these free courses every few months throughout the year, so if you fancy a bit of free meditation why not sign up to their next one!). I am still utterly hopeless at not letting my mind wander off onto the day's events, or to what I am having for dinner, but it doesn't matter, just the act of trying is enough and in time it will be easier. Plus the chance to take a few minutes out of your day to close your eyes and focus on just you is actually really rather lovely!

- Winning 'Star Make' and getting some free patterns. It was a few weeks ago when reading The Fold Line newsletter that I unexpectedly spotted my grinning face popping out from the screen, with a message saying I had won their star make of the week! Winning meant I was able to pick two McCall's patterns of my choice as a prize! It took me a while to decide but I opted for M7116 a simple dress pattern and M7126 a jersey peplum top pattern...

The Butterfly Balcony - Sewing, Stadiums & Steam - McCalls M7126

- Started Sewing a top and dyed my sewing machine pink in the process! Once I received my lovely free patterns from the girls at The Fold Line, I set straight to work on cutting out M7126 in a double knit jersey from my stash. I have a little way still to go with it, hopefully, this weekend I will be able to finish it off. There is one problem, I thought I'd pre-washed my fabric, but I hadn't (usually I pop new fabric in the wash before adding it to my stash, not this time). The dye in it is so strong that everything it touches it stains, my nails, ironing board, and my lovely new(ish) sewing machine. Hopefully, it will wear off with time, but it's very annoying, as now that it's all cut out I can't wash the fabric until it's all been sewed together, so there will be more opportunities for it to dye my machine pink!

The Butterfly Balcony - Sewing, Stadiums & Steam - St Paul's Cathedral

- Did a bit of sightseeing around London. My parents and brother came to London for a mini-break the weekend before last so that my athletic little brother could compete in the Newham 10k. My dad and brother booked a hotel in Leyton for the duration. Mum, however, stayed with me and after a week that had been filled with massive highs and lows, it was lovely to see her and be able to have a mum hug - they are hard to beat!

The Butterfly Balcony - Sewing, Stadiums & Steam - St Paul's Cathedral

Saturday we all headed into central London for a walk around St Pauls. James had found a shopping centre across the way from the cathedral that has a wonderful roof terrace where you can get outstanding views across the city, and a fancy Champneys cocktail or two, if your pocket can stretch that far, ours couldn't, but the free view was nice all the same!

The men wanted to tour the cathedral so we set off towards the entrance where we were greeted with a whopping £18 ticket price - I should point out it's free if you're partaking in a service or just want to quietly converse with the big man! Seeing as it was a bit, erm, expensive, oh, and the whispering galleries spiralling staircase is where I suffered from my first panic attack as a child, me and mum decided to forgo this adventure, instead opting to watch the world go by in the cathedral gardens.

The Butterfly Balcony - Sewing, Stadiums & Steam - Museum of London
Henry the VIII // Selfridges Deco Lift // Antique Brooch //
Enjoying the exhibits // The small but utterly drool worthy Biba collection

Next up, was the Museum of London where we spent the remaining afternoon, gazing at the wonderful artefacts that make up London's vast history. It's a fab museum if you're interested in a trip, full of all sorts of things marking the dawn of the city to the present day, best of all its free!

The Butterfly Balcony - Sewing, Stadiums & Steam - The Great Run Newham 2016 at the Olympic Stadium Stratford
The Olympic Stadium, now West Ham's new ground

Sunday we had an early start as we needed to be in Stratford to watch my brother compete in the Newham Great Run. We had tickets to sit in the Olympic stadium which is where the race was set to finish, so after seeing my brother off to the starting line, we headed into the stadium, it was epic! Watching all the runners come in and cheering and clapping as much as possible was great, I found it super emotional, when I saw my little brother run past us, with his shades on (he's too cool) as I cheered him on, which then made me burst into tears, me shouting/screaming always makes me start to cry, no matter the context, I'm ridiculous!

The Butterfly Balcony - Sewing, Stadiums & Steam - Epping Ongar Steam Railway
A Routemaster Selfie // Dad Taking photos of the loco//
North Weald Station // The Routemaster which took us from the tube to the railway // British Rail Crest

Once reunited we headed out of the stadium and back down to the tube for a train out to Epping. We had decided to spend the remainder of the, stiflingly hot day, pootling back and forward on the Epping Ongar Steam Railway, pulled by a diesel loco towards Ongar and a Steam loco back towards Epping. It was lovely if a little stuffy in the vintage 80s carriages, I have moaned (to myself) about how cold the virgin trains aircon can get at times, but honestly, I'll never again! After the train ride, everyone came back to mine for a cool drink and for a spot of dinner, with which I treated them all to my favourite Sunday treat of Quorn Steak and Gravy pies, they were a resounding hit, I'll make veggies of them yet!

Have a wonderful weekend!
Wendy x

Sunday 24 July 2016

Knit It - Star Trek Socks

We are currently experiencing a mini heatwave here in the UK, as I type this I am sitting on the back step overlooking the garden, relishing the cool breeze in the morning air and watching Beau attack some ants, you know because that's what cats do! So what better time could there be to write a post all about my newly knitted, thick and cozy, super toasty, woolly socks! Goodness, I'm perspiring just thinking about them!

~ Star Trek Socks ~
Needles: Circular 2.25 mm

I call these my Star Trek socks because whilst I was knitting them, the flashes of blues and purples that were being created by the variegation in the yarn, really reminded me of the cyan tinted lens flares used in the fabulous rebooted Star Trek films (watch the trailer here if you are not sure what I mean), this discovery also gave me a fabulous excuse to rewatch both films whilst I was knitting - it's a hard life!

The Butterfly Balcony: Knit It - Star Trek Socks Knitting Pattern

The pattern I used is a free one found on Ravelry, called Hermione's Everyday Socks. They are designed to be knitted from the cuff down on circular needles and incorporate a very simple variation of moss stitch, to create the lovely texture you can see on the ankle section and top of the foot. I will say for my first time knitting socks they were a pleasure to work on. Something about the speed at which each sock grew was very appealing to me, and I can now see why people become obsessive sock knitters!

The Butterfly Balcony: Knit It - Star Trek Socks Knitting Pattern

I was a little apprehensive about the instructions at times. The pattern is written for knitters who already have a basic understanding of the construction of socks, if you are a novice like me it can be a little confusing, but with the aid of YouTube and a little perseverance I muddled my way through and I am happy with the result. The area where I first lost my confidence was on turning the heel. Turning a heel can be done many different ways, but this pattern calls for a heel flap to be knitted and then stitches to be picked up along the sides of the flap to rejoin the knitting back into the round, creating a right angle in the knitting and giving the sock its heel. It is very ingenious once mastered, but I truly did struggle and I'm still not 100% sure I've done it quite right, but it works as a heel and so it will do!

The Butterfly Balcony: Knit It - Star Trek Socks Knitting Pattern

The last thing you need to do when knitting a cuff down sock is to join the toe ends with the very clever Kitchener stitch. This was the most frustrating part of the whole project for me, OK, let me explain why. The Kitchener stitch is a wonderful way of invisibly joining your knitting together by cleverly creating, with a sewing needle, an additional row of knit stitches between the two pieces of fabric, or in this case the top and bottom of the toe. When done correctly it looks great and really is the perfect way to join the toe together, saving your toes from any nasty seams to rub against, whilst you're proudly prowling around in your new snazzy socks. The toes in my socks are not so neat. I watched the video on how to do it loads of times but I still haven't quite mastered it, one sock is definitely better than the other, but for a first attempt it's not too bad and they are still pretty snazzy right?!

The Butterfly Balcony: Knit It - Star Trek Socks Knitting Pattern

Obviously, now they are done it is far too warm to wear them, so I'll have to wait until the weather cools down a bit before I can unleash their full fabulousness upon the world. That said, I am planning a trip to watch the new Star Trek movie next week and would love to wear them, but if I am honest, even with the air conditioning in the theatre (only place in the UK you can guarantee on air conditioning, even in the winter, brrr, is the cinema) I think it will still be too warm. I guess I'll just have to wait until the DVD comes out and then I can have a triple bill movie marathon whilst wearing my Trekkie socks and perhaps also while I'm knitting up another pair - now that sounds like a plan!

Wendy x

Thursday 14 July 2016

Wendy's Week - An Island Escape

Hello you lovely lot, I hope you have been having a wonderful July so far!

Last week I decided to take myself off to the Isle of Wight for a few days, to spend some quality time with my parents and for a little bit of Island tranquillity in the summer...err...sunshine? Well, at least I was hoping so!

~ An Island Escape ~
The Butterfly Balcony: Mum and me at I.O.W Railway // Freshwater Bay // New Knitting Appledurcombe House //  Off to see a show // Clematis in my folks garden
Mum and me at I.O.W Railway // Freshwater Bay // New Knitting
Appledurcombe House //  Off to see a show // Clematis in my folks garden
I decided to head down to Portsmouth bright and early on Friday morning, as I'd been lucky enough to snag a super cheap train ticket from Waterloo to Portsmouth with Megabus (a site really worth checking out if you can be a little flexible with your travel times and are able to book in advance). So after a couple of early morning buses to get me to Waterloo, a train and then a ferry I arrived at Ryde pier head more than ready for a few days holiday.

The Butterfly Balcony: Fish and chips at freshwater bay
View Across the Bay
The first stop on my trip was to Freshwater for a bit of charity shopping at the Wessex Cancer Trust Shop and to grab some fish and chips for lunch. I managed to get a relatively new copy of Winifred Holtby's South Riding (I blogged about the BBC adaptation here), for a whole 75p and some little black buttons for £1, which should hopefully work well with the next sewing project I have planned, so left Freshwater rather happy with my little haul. Dad drove us over to Freshwater bay, to one of my favourite viewing points on the island, where we sat to eat our lunch and the sun started to shine for what felt like the first time this year. It was bliss!

The Butterfly Balcony: Dad as a station guard // Wartime Cheese Sarnies // Mum looking very chic in my beret, it really suited her!// Stop Look & Listen // taking a ride on a train // US Army camp
Dad as a station guard // Wartime Cheese Sarnies // Mum looking very chic in my beret, it really suited her!//
Stop Look & Listen // taking a ride on a train // US Army camp
It was the Round the Island Yacht race on Saturday but we decided to forgo an early morning start for a good vantage point to watch the boats, in favour of popping along to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway for the first day of their annual 1940s weekend.

The Butterfly Balcony: Isle of wight Steam Railway 1940s weekend 2016
The Butterfly Balcony: Isle of wight Steam Railway 1940s weekend 2016

If I am honest this was actually the main reason for my trip, it's something I have managed to attend every year for the last few years and now that I am a member of the railway's club it means that I get three free passes into the station a year, one of which I always save for this weekend. I've actually been visiting this railway since I was a tot and so it has a special place in my heart; as a child I used to pretend as we rattled along, with the wonderful smell of smoke and the smuts blowing in my face as I stuck my head out of the window, that I was back in the 40s or even that I was one of the Railway Children, so as you might imagine, the child in me is very happy that I get to pretend for real as a grown up, even if it is just for one day!

The Butterfly Balcony: Isle of wight Steam Railway 1940s weekend 2016 The Butterfly Balcony: Isle of wight Steam Railway 1940s weekend 2016

This year I wore my vintage style tea dress, which I bought many years ago from ASOS and thankfully even with all the stress eating I have been doing lately it still fit! The beret was a last minute change; it was a bit windy I didn't want to spend the day fighting with my hat so swapped it for the beret. Annoyingly I forgot to pack my newly finished Sunday Pictorial beret which was actually knitted to go with my fab late forties coat, which would have topped off all the blue and purple in my outfit perfectly! Mum's dress is a lovely floral one I found in one of my favourite (and much used) Etsy stores, Secondhand Rose Worcester, it's a lovely 80s cotton dress which really does look perfectly 40s too and as she loves it,that means it's a win all round! My dad wore the Stitchcraft Fair Isle Pullover I knitted for him many Christmases ago, he even had two ladies compliment him on it, which I think he was rather chuffed about!

The Butterfly Balcony: Isle of wight Steam Railway 1940s weekend 2016
The Butterfly Balcony: Isle of wight Steam Railway 1940s weekend 2016

This year there were many more exhibits than at past events, plus lots more of the visitors had dressed up in 40s style clothes this year, which is great as it really adds to the atmosphere and makes the day a lot more enjoyable! There was also many more vintage clothing stalls this year, which me and mum had a good old rummage through. I was quite restrained and so only bought a few pairs of vintage clip on earrings, which were real bargains from one of the charity stalls. We also bought some rag rug supplies from the lovely ladies at The Pig & Lion so that we can try our hands at making a 40s style rug with all the leftover scraps of fabric we have accumulated over the years, which should be fun!

The Butterfly Balcony: Charity shop treat and a gift from mum // my now undone shawl // I'll Be Seeing You at the Winter Gardens // Earrings from the 1940's event
Charity shop treat and a gift from mum // my now undone shawl //
I'll Be Seeing You at the Winter Gardens // Earrings from the 1940s event
On Sunday after a trip into Shanklin for a little lunch and a wander around Rylstone Gardens, we headed back to Ventnor to take in a show. The local theatre group were hosting a 1940s musical called 'I'll Be Seeing You' which was being performed in the very appropriate 30s built Winter Gardens. Mum thought it would be a nice way to end our 40s weekend and so treated us to some tickets. The atmosphere in the theatre was great and the show was fabulous. The story was really rather lovely and focused on a fictional family living in Ventnor during the war, I even got a bit teary in places and the ton of songs they filled the show with were all classics from the 40s and 50s, which were beautifully sung by the amazing cast, it really made the perfect afternoon treat!

The Butterfly Balcony: Shawl Knitting
A change of Plan
Monday was grey and cloudy, which meant plenty of time for knitting. OK, so this is where I need to confess to something, something I have a feeling I may live to regret. I took along my shawl project (see it in the last collage) which I have been slowly working on over the last few weeks. As I have been working away on it I have been becoming less and less enamoured with it, not the pattern, that's fabulously fun and very easy to knit, it was the pink and purple stripes, they were reminding me a little too much of a stick of rock and so I decided to rip it all back; I just couldn't see myself ever wearing it! I did cast on another, though mum had two 100g balls of lovely navy DK glitter wool which she couldn't think of a use for and passed on to me, so I used this to cast on a new version and with more time and less distraction meant I rattled through knitting and even managed to cast it off just minutes before I had to leave to catch my ferry home! Mum was rather enamoured with it so I gave it to her as a gift and as I still have another ball I'll cast on a matching one for me!

The Butterfly Balcony: Isle of Wight Wroxall Village

Before I left for my ferry on Tuesday morning I did manage to fit in another little walk 'around the block' as my parents call it, which it's actually much nicer than it sounds, as once you get to the bottom of their road it's all hilly valleys and lanes. Also you get to walk past my favourite place on the island Appuldurcombe House, (pronounced Apple-der-combe, we were reliably told by a local many years ago) it's an 18th century ruin, now maintained by English Heritage, which is set back into a small secluded wooded area with fabulous views across Wroxall village and the hills beyond.

The Butterfly Balcony: Isle of Wight Appuldurcombe House
Appuldurcombe House

It is so beautiful and sad, that I fell in love with it the first time we visited when I was a child and always hoped that one day I might live near it. I am also hoping that one day, weather permitting, I'll be able to pop up there with a picnic and a Jane Austin novel and sit in the derelict tranquillity of the grounds to pass a sunny afternoon Oh, and just between you and me, if I ever did get married I'd dearly love it to be held here as it looks like the perfect place for an elegant party!

The Butterfly Balcony: Beau looking suspiciously at me
"Who are you...where's my dinner"
After a long journey home I was expecting a lovely warm welcome from the little furry one, he usually runs in and jumps on my lap for a few minutes attention, but the best I got was this sceptical peering from around the sofa before he ran off to find his dinner, haha, he is a fickle little beast!

Wendy x