Author Archives: Nicola

About Nicola

Long-time vegan, whole-food plant-based enthusiast and educator. Crazy about crochet and knitting.

Checking in

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Hi all

Well, this is a bit of an adventure. WordPress have decided to give me a new blog-writing functionality. It’s not completely different from the old one but no doubt I will find some things require some extra thought.

Firstly, I hope you’re all doing well and that wherever you are you’re enjoying your crafting. Maybe even more crafting than ever! Maybe less. A lot of people have more time on their hands because they haven’t been at work, so their crafty productivity has soared, whilst others are suffering from COVID apathy and if and when they make something it has to be as simple as possible.

I’ve been back at work for two weeks and have noticed that every shift seems like 16 rather than 8 hours. One week in, Head Office mandated masks for everyone, staff AND customers, and so we have the physical distancing, the sanitising, the one-way aisles, and the clear barriers, plus the wearing of masks. Masks get hot when you wear them most of the day – my face gets pretty sweaty – and if I walk too fast around the store I get breathless.

I’ve seen many reports of negative effects of mask-wearing, the main one being that you’re re-breathing your exhaled carbon dioxide. This means that breathlessness and brain fog are quite common. However, in order to keep my job, I need to wear one, and I also have to enforce customers wearing a mask or other face covering too. Some people object to this quite strongly but until the Government decides to lift the restrictions I guess we’re stuck with it. It’s a minor inconvenience to wear a mask for a short time during your shopping trip, really.

The best thing to do is to immerse yourself in something you enjoy, and crochet gives me a great sense of satisfaction and calm. The back and front of my Ocean Breeze sweater are done. It’s a cropped sweater so it’s waist length. Once I reached the last colour in my chosen group for the body, I started on the sleeves. These I am working from the cuff up, but flat rather than in the round like the pattern states.

The sleeves have all the remaining colours of my Scheepjes Stonewashed/Riverwashed XL minis and now I’m up to the part at the top which is just a few rows of the Moonstone. The only colour I’m not using is Black Onyx, so there will be 49 colours total in this sweater.

The only sewing I’ve done in the last week has been an experimental couple of masks from Craft Passion. It’s a shaped mask with a pocket for a removable filter and an outside channel for the wire so it can be removed for washing. It’s probably a bit easier to sew than the one I’ve made lots of, but I was using a work T shirt of my son’s to see if I could incorporate his company logo. The first one was ok, but the second one was better – I interfaced both layers and it made an effective mask with some added body to it. I have bought some extra elastic and interfacing in case he wants more, or if his co-workers ask him about it.

Also, I’ve been patching this old quilt.

I made this in 2003! Can’t believe it was 17 years ago, but I made a label for the back so it’s true! At the time, I had been quilting like crazy for about 5 years and was starting to get back into yarny pursuits. So I made this scrappy nine-patch using bits of fabric I had left over from making all those other quilts. I decided it would be a beach quilt and would get used, and it was. It was dragged to homeschool park days, beach days, out into the garden, left in the sun, tromped on, wrapped around cold kids, it got wet and dirty and was tossed into the washer and dryer.

It’s huge, and when I constructed it I did it in four sections which I then joined together after quilting.

The fabrics faded and in time actually started to wear out, and I have had to patch areas of it before. Last night, I started patching over the holey areas that have developed since the last round of mending. It’s very quick and dirty patching – the stitching is messy and a lot of the edges are raw. I think what I should do next is lay it out in the sun for a while so that the new fabrics fade a little to blend in more with the old ones.

My gym is opening June 1st and I really need the exercise. I’ve been getting lot of steps in at work, but I need to lose weight and get those muscles lifting weights again. I’m off the oil again – no fried foods, no margarine, no oil in salads, no vegan cheese – and I’m also off Yorkshire tea (sob) and coffee because I have a touch of acid reflux which I’m convinced I can control with tweaks to the diet and a loss of the spare tire around my middle. Dr Greger (nutritionfacts.org and How Not to Die) says that the valve at the top of the stomach is relaxed by a fatty meal which allows the acid to leak back into the oesophagus. I’ve read what this can do long-term and it isn’t pretty. I’m not going to take antacids because those just mess up your digestion and weaken your bones. Of course, stress plays a part too, and the last couple of months have certainly brought new stressors (promotion and the dreaded virus)!

On that note, it’s time for me to get off the computer and make dinner. Take care, and talk soon.

What’s new?

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What’s new?

Well, since I tidied my sewing room, I have tested out the new arrangement. It works great. I decided to make a Car Diddy Bag from SewCanShe.com. It’s a medium-sized bag with a long strap that can loop over the gear stick, it has a main compartment, front pockets and a hidden zippered pocket.

 

I do love these Patrick Lose fabrics. As you can see, it does what it’s supposed to do…sits in my passenger seat footwell, looking pretty. It even has a strip of hook tape on the bottom to stop it from slipping around.

That made, I also went on to cobble together this drawstring bag. It’s a dodgy bag! The rayon fabric was left over from a skirt I made a year or two ago. It doesn’t behave itself at all. But I had this rectangle which was just the right size for the outer and lining, and I used some sew-in fleece in between the layers. It probably would have worked better with a fusible, but never mind.

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That was one afternoon’s sewing.

As you’ll see, the backdrop to that photo is my pack of Scheepjes Stonewashed and Riverwashed XL minis. Big news! I finally decided to crack them open and actually make something with them.

It’s been over a year of wondering what to make, wanting it to be wearable rather than another blanket or something, and I finally found a sweater pattern which seemed like it might be compatible. The Ocean Breeze Sweater is an easy project. Mostly double crochet, simple shaping, and a clear pattern. I have 250g of the yarn in Moonstone (the cream colour) and a total of 750g in the pack of minis so the plan evolved on the hook.

I started the front and worked 14 rows, and then started the back and worked 14 rows, and joined the shoulders.

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Then I played around with the minis in the hope I could get a pleasing gradation from light to dark for both the body and sleeves.

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I have added a few rows of the lighter colours now:

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As I said on my FB post yesterday – this will either be a huge mistake and get frogged, or it will be my most favourite sweater ever. The jury is still out! Fifty colours is a lot for one sweater, after all!

Whilst the body panels are worked flat and seamed, the designer says to crochet the sleeves from the cuff up in turned rounds. But because of my intended stripes, I would rather crochet them right on to the side of the body and work down. Wish me luck!

Today was the first day that I’ve had to wear a mask for my whole shift – well, except for breaks. After the first hour, it actually wasn’t so bad. But I’ve been up since 6.30, because I woke early, and now it’s only 9pm and I’m fried.

Hope you’re staying well and enjoying some crafty moments.

Sewing room blitz

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It was time for a clean-up! After sewing a number of projects, things are always out of place, messy, strewn about, and the creative chaos feels just like…chaos!

Tonight I did a blitz. Well, more of a semi-blitz as I didn’t touch everything in the room. But the plan was to move the folding table under the window for more natural light during the day. That freed up the entire centre of the room. Yarn and fabric were stuffed in cubbies/bags/drawers. The ironing board was moved against the whiteboard wall. I brought in an extra wire cube section that had been housing my shoes in the utility room. I needed to maximise the space I had.

This room used to be ds1’s bedroom which is why it has the heavy furniture in it that he acquired himself. It’s useful, if not pretty.

Anyway, here are the before shots:

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Table in the middle of the room, ironing board under the window, yarn and fabric spilling over

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Pile of fabric on left threatening to fall! New machine on cutting table, old machine on right

 

 

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Batting on the floor, yarn swift and junk on desk, quilting cottons in disarray, oh my!

It took a couple of hours, some organisation and some vacuuming, but it is once again a room that’s pleasant to be in. Whether I like working in my new set-up is yet to be confirmed!

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New machine under window, cutting station on corner desk, batting in box

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Yarn more compactly shelved, clear horizontal surface, denim and jeans underneath, knitting needles and crochet hooks at far right of desk

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Added wire cubes holding quilt cottons and patterns, swift above with knitting machine and blocking mats

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Bag collection – some I use, some are waiting for their forever home – white drawer units hold fabric and notions

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Ironing board set up, both machines on same table with lamp, bobbins and pressing mat

I see I didn’t get around to straightening the granny square on my chair! But I am looking forward to my next project now that things are tidy again.

 

Back to work!

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Back to work!

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Coordinating mask and hair!

I was called back to work last week. Almost all of our staff came in for two solid days and we hung plastic barriers around the till and the cutting tables, taped arrows on the floor, cleaned, tidied and organised our buns off. Sunday was a day of rest and reopening day was Monday (yesterday).

We don’t have to wear masks but I made myself an extra-special one anyway!

The first day back went well, with customers happy to see us open, and OK with waiting if there was already the maximum allowed in the store.

Since my last blog post, I have making, yes you guessed it, more bags. I’m afraid there has been no crochet or knitting. I had a bit of a repetitive strain pain in the base of my left thumb which was irritated by the blanket knitting. Instead I upcycled a couple of jeans pockets and some extra bits and pieces I had lying around.

After I took the photos, I added some turquoise stitching around the seamline, though I don’t think my machine is meant to be embroidering on multiple layers of denim. It doesn’t look as good as it does on thinner fabric.

I am in love with this bag that I made today. I sized it based on what I had of the fabric, bearing in mind the floral and pink fabrics were both left over from sewing garments.

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I added extra features like the detachable wrist strap and the keyring on the side of the inner pocket. It’s a big bag – about 12.5″ tall.

So that’s two more bags for the #dodgybagmal2020 that Ali of Little Drops of Wonderful is running this month.

Just an old bag lady

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Just an old bag lady

Well, we’ve had a lovely run of sunny weather…until today. This morning was grey and wet, with solid rain falling vertically for quite some time. I love it. Good for the garden! Now it’s dry, but windy. Weird!

So yeah, I’m definitely a bag lady this week. Four new bags made.

Ali of Little Drops of Wonderful, in partnership with Claudia of Crochet Luna, is running a Dodgy Bag Make-along #dodgybagmal2020 which is inspiring me to make even more bags! Here’s another of the project bags from Erica Arndt’s tutorial – I’ve made a lot of these now – and I used some of my dwindling peace sign fabric in conjunction with some solid cottons and denim. I used my new machine to embroider “handmade” on the front and I added a couple of pockets inside.

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This small crocheted bag was an “I need something to crochet while I walk” project. Yesterday I decided it was going to be a long walk, so I grabbed a bag and some yarn and a hook and set out. It’s two partial cakes of Caron Cupcakes, different colourways, held together and single crocheted with a 5.5mm hook. I made most of it while walking for well over an hour. When I got home, I decided to line it. Well, the first attempt to make a lining failed because I made it too narrow so that became a separate little bag.

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Then I cut some solid purple and used that to line the crocheted bag, extending the lining above the level of the crochet to make a drawstring casing.

Seeing my work in progress sitting on top of its denim project bag got me all excited about combining crochet and denim in one project. So today, after breakfast and noodling around on the computer, I went down to my sewing room and rummaged in my denim offcuts. I have lots of old jeans, most of which have now been cut up for bags, but I found a good-sized chunk which I cut and trimmed to make an asymmetrical project bag.

It’s basically the back pocket and top part of the leg, and one belt loop was attached at the top. I removed three more belt loops from what was left of the waistband and sewed them to the top of my new bag. Before sewing the side seams, I attached the crocheted mandala to the non-pocket side, anchoring the centre with a button. I discovered a new stitch on my sewing machine which looks like overlocking, so I used that for the side seams, and then I added part of the jeans seam as a drawstring, plus a large button.

To give you an idea of size, the bag is 13″ tall when lying flat, and the crochet mandala is 7.5″ across.

There has been some yarny progress on my only WIP, however I seem to have a repetitive strain injury at the base of my left thumb which makes knitting a little uncomfortable. However, here it is in all its scrappy glory.

Last time I measured it, it was about 18″ deep, and I’m probably aiming for 60″. Also, I think the measurement across (when the tube is laid flat, double thickness) is about 48″, though it’s hard to tell for sure. It’s 370 stitches around (and around, and around) but it’s great Netflix knitting. I had to do some minor repairs on the bottom edge the other day, as the vacuum cleaner sucked in a couple of tails and I realised afterwards that one row had been pulled really tight for a few inches either side and there was a live loop randomly hanging out. Oops!

We had an enjoyable dinner of homemade sushi, coconut rice and baked spicy tofu and once that has had a chance to digest Mr Fixit and I are going to do some yoga. Happy crafting!

 

 

 

FOs: sewn and crocheted

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FOs: sewn and crocheted

G’day all! I hope I find you well.

My 4S program is really helping to keep me moving. The Strength part has been a circuit that I’ve set up downstairs, with some music, and various exercises with dumbbells and bands and things. The Stamina is mostly walking, with some gardening thrown in. The Stretch is yoga, and the weather has co-operated so that I could enjoy some Sunbathing, in my swimsuit no less!

Some days, I’ve managed three out of four, though my goal is two.

I just realised Sewing is another S that I enjoy, and I did finish a couple more things today. These shorts…

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…are not something that I would be seen dead in in public! However I had this remnant and thought I’d try the “make a pair of leggings from a pair you already own” as per the Crafty Gemini tutorial. I made them as shorts because (a) it was just an experiment and (b) I only had a small piece of fabric. I must say, I was surprised with how well they worked out. My new sewing machine has a bunch of stitch options and I used a couple of the stretch stitches to put these shorts together. If this fabric was a lot sturdier and held in the <ahem> wobbly bits a bit better they would work as swimshorts and I could make a bikini top to go with them.

At least my old fear of sewing knit fabric is waning!

An old interest has been sparked again recently. I pulled out my quilting books, some of which are full of templates for foundation piecing. What this involves is tracing the outlines onto a sheer fabric, interfacing or tracing paper, or you can photocopy them from the book and use that instead. Then you place small pieces of fabric behind the paper outlines and sew them together, through the paper, in the order of the numbers on the paper. The paper is torn off at the end.

I thought I’d have a play with this rat block, to which I added fabric top and bottom and then turned it into a zippered pouch.

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This is a pretty sloppy effort! I’m not proud of it. The zipper seams are not perfect, the quilting lines didn’t stay in the ditch, and the part on the top of the head where it meets the ear doesn’t match up. I could blame getting used to the new sewing machine but I should probably just suck it up and take responsibility!

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I am happier with this result – the Loops & Threads Barcelona cowl/snood. The colourway is Lapis. It’s very muted but I do like the variations. The circumference is 29″ and the length top to bottom is 21″, which is long enough to be able to wear it as a hood.

And my other crochet FO:

Four little nesting pots or bowls, for which I have no plans at the moment. They could be used as mini yarn bowls, plant pot covers or just catch-alls for random bits and pieces. These used up some of my miscellaneous DK yarn that I’d wound into cakes using odds and ends of different colours. By using two cakes at a time and holding two strands together, the colours seem to work! And I like leaving the ends hanging, trimmed to a uniform length, for added quirkiness.

Well, I think that’s us up to date. I need to get a daylight photo of my knitted blanket to show the progress. Tomorrow, if I remember. Take care!

 

 

Prayer flags

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After I finished decorating my back railing with pompoms, I had an idea for another way to brighten up my deck. Prayer flags!

Obviously these are not “official” prayer flags but they have the same intention: to send blessings out into the world. And I had fun embroidering the words on them with my new sewing machine.

They are made from 6″ squares of solid cotton; two layers stitched around and edged with pinking shears; embroidered with a meaningful word, and then sewn to a length of black ribbon.

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That was fun!

And I started a new crochet project yesterday. When I went out for my walk, I took a skein of Loops & Threads Barcelona and a 6.5mm hook, and started crocheting around and around. The circumference is about 29″ which is wider than my usual cowls but the plan is to make it deep enough to pull it up like a hood. So this is more of a snood.

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This is where my multiple project bags come in handy. I can slip the yarn in, put the drawstrings over my wrist, and hook away while walking. And using such a basic stitch (this is double crochet – or UK treble) means it requires no mental effort.

Hope you have a great day!

Playing with my new sewing machine

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Playing with my new sewing machine

I have to say, there are some really handy features on my new Janome 4120QDC. The thread cutter is awesome! The needle threader is good, though I’m still finding I have to squint to make sure that the thread is in the right place to be pulled through the needle, but I’m sure with practice it’ll get easier. I love that I can move the needle over when doing a straight stitch, which was useful yesterday when I made a couple more masks for my oldest son and wanted to topstitch a little closer to the wire. And I also love the zipper foot for its notches on BOTH sides – my old one only had one on one side which limited the way I could sew in zippers.

My first project was this one which was published by Fabricland. They are little pattern weights, and I filled mine with wheat berries because I had a huge bag from years ago. They aren’t very heavy though, so maybe something with a bit more density would have been better.

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I made ten – it felt like a good number!

And then I made this…

…which is an infinity scarf with zippered pocket. I had to go with stash fabric, and it turned out I had about a metre of this soft knit jersey. In order to get the length I needed, I had to cut it lengthwise and seam the two pieces together end to end. With hindsight, I should have made it a bit shorter because it isn’t as snug to the neck as I’d like. The pocket lining fabric is another knit that I made a top out of a couple of  years ago. The tutorial I linked to isn’t the only one online for something similar. I made mine by leaving the turning gap in the bottom of the pocket rather than in the seam at the end of the tube. It  makes for a neater finish.

As soon as I’d finished that, my son brought me an old bandanna that I’d made him about 5 years ago. I made two face masks out of it for him for work. The ones they’d provided him with were crap – thin fabric, useless wire, badly shaped, and elastic that was the wrong length. So now he has some better ones.

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This morning, I joined in with a Zoom meeting for Crafternoon Treats (podcast) Patreons, and I wanted something to do with my hands while I was doing that. So I pulled out a bag that has been sitting around for probably a year! I think I started making these pompoms out of Stylecraft Special DK some time around last Easter to make a garland or window hanging. I had made a bunch of them (they aren’t very plump, as the pompom maker I have is not great, but at least they were quick) and had started crocheting them together with chains. Today I finished joining them and decided to decorate my deck railing. I rather love that the yellow ones, which coincidentally seem to be mostly along the top of the railing, look like dandelions.

After a month of being off work, I could feel the pounds creeping on. No work, no gym, just an occasional bit of yoga or a walk, and not every day either. So on the day I did my tie-dye hair I made a plan. Each day I would do at least two out of four S’s. The S’s are Sun, Stretch (yoga), Stamina (walk) and Strength. I am checking them off on a piece of paper as I do them. Because self-discipline isn’t always easy! It’s surprising how just doing something makes you instantly feel better. It can just be a half hour of yoga, or a walk around the neighbourhood, or playing some loud music while you do some push ups, squats, and dumbbell lifts.

By going for a walk in the sunshine, I can check off two at a time!!

 

So excited!

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Guess what! I have a new sewing machine!

It’s a Janome 4120QDC and I bought it after a fair amount of research of brands and prices based on the features I wanted in a new machine. My basic machine that I’ve had for over 20 years is a Janome, and I’ve been thinking of upgrading for a couple of years. Of course, with most stores closed, I didn’t get to play with different machines before I bought one. I ordered this from a local quilt shop, e-transferred the money, and they called me a week later.

I have read the manual, watched the DVD (how old-fashioned!) and tomorrow I will test it out.

One of the things people are finding out right now is how high maintenance they are! Do you usually go to the hair salon every 6 weeks, do you get your nails done every month, get waxed, tanned, massaged, whatever? Well, with all this social distancing, we are having to be more self-sufficient. Luckily I have been cutting my own hair since Christmas. We have clippers, scissors and combs, and that’s all I need to give myself a short back and sides, a bit longer on top. In fact, after I’d done the 23mm job the other day, I went back over it with the 15mm. It’s SO tempting to just keep going and do the lot but I didn’t!

My nails are natural – they grow really well when I’m not working, though I still break one now and then, so they aren’t all even lengths.

And my hair, well, that hasn’t been a natural colour for a long time! When I cut it, the old colour was gone. And I actually quite liked it brown with a bit of grey. So I left it for a few days. But I had bought some more Manic Panic Flash Lightning and some Atomic Turquoise and Hot Hot Pink (thank you, Sally Beauty, for doing curbside pickup) so today I took the plunge and did my whole head!

It’s kind of a tie dye look, isn’t it!?

Yesterday I had a big sewing jag. I was going to make a bag, but instead got sidetracked looking through bits and pieces in my stash. And I’ve had these thin knits for years, bought when I was quite new to working at the fabric store and this stuff was $3 a metre and I bought far too much of it in three or four colours.

I finally feel like I made something worthwhile out of it.

The skirts are simple rectangles with elasticated waists, with a half lining inside in the same fabric. I didn’t even neaten the hems. And the PJs are from a self-made pattern from an old pair.

The tie dye skirt is a rayon fabric that I recently brought home.

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I used the fabric sideways because I needed the extra length to fit around me with enough to spare, and that also meant I could use the selvage as the hem without sewing. (Can you tell I’m a lazy ass sewist?)

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This is my batik stash. I had them all in one drawer. The small messy pile is made up of leftover scraps but the other pieces are good sizes. The turtle ones, second from left, are half-yard cuts from a quilt shop in Maui. After I laid them out, I washed them on cold, hung them to get mostly dry and ironed them. They are now neatly folded and back in the drawer. Yes, the untouchable part of my stash! You know that feeling, saving it for ‘best’, like precious yarn, or the good china!!

And finally (at last, I hear you say) here’s my finished Cakes Two to Tango shawl. It took almost two complete cakes of Lion Brand Mandala.

I love it and want to make another someday.

WIP: Cakes shawl

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I am loving the way these two cakes of Lion Brand Mandala are playing off against each other.

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I have a teeny regret that in the first part I used three small balls of yarn that were separated from the original cake and I feel I should have put them in a different order, starting with lighter pink then going darker (at the top there, against the green). I prefer the stripes that visibly segue into the next colour rather than a hard colour change. But I can see myself making another of these.

I am almost finished with the cakes, but have to remember to leave enough for a picot edging.

I have also made another bag, what I call my Quadrant bag. This is the third one, and it’s 3″ taller than the first two. Did I say how much I really dislike sewing circles and cylinders together? Oh yes, multiple times!!

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And I wasn’t going to make any more masks, but the people at my favourite tea shop think that they may only be able to stay open if they wear masks to work, and commissioned me to make them some. They paid me in tea!

This bamboo flannelette print is just perfect for them.

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It’s been an absolutely beautiful day. Sunny but still with a hint of coolness. Mr Fixit and I went on a totally essential trip to a plant nursery to buy new plants for the garden!

It was nice to get out of the house and a little further afield than I have been in weeks.

And we had a wonderfully simple but tasty dinner of bannock, vegan cheese (Daiya Smoked Gouda, mmmmm), olive tapenade and a huge salad. Feeling blessed and replete!