Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Life of pi.............and other mathematical marvels

I have finished my sewing room which is just marvellous and has sped up my productivity no end, plus my mood is far calmer now I am not searching for pins, needles, scissors, fasteners, get my point. I won't tell you exactly how long it took as then you will guess at how bad it really was, Needless to say I am pleased, as are my husband and children. We can now sit down for dinner around the kitchen table without me having to shift half a made bag out of the way first.

Another thing that has happened is I have set the wheels in motion to have my own website. How exciting is this? The domain name has been bought and labels with the name Funky Yoga Bags have been ordered. There are a lot of sites online that sell yoga bags, most of them import from the East and nearly all of the bags are either too small for a decent mat or the mat has to be rolled up precisely to fit it in. So, who knows fingers crossed my offerings could be welcome.

I have already been making and sewing drawstring bags with a water bottle and iphone pocket but I wanted to also sell a zippered bag.

It took a while to deconstruct the pattern in my head. I knew how I wanted the bag to look but it was the working out of how to do it that was causing me a headache. As with all things, how I could make a zippered tube correctly came to me at midnight. I knew that all I needed to get me started drawing up the dimensions was to know how to work out the circumference of a circle. Waking up Andrew I shouted out how do you work out the circumference if you have the diameter, to which he sleepily replied 2piR (I couldn't work out how to do the symbol on my keyboard). He then fell straight back to sleep and I sat there thinking, huh?

From then on I had it nailed and actually it was simple to make. From measuring the diameter of my mat rolled up and adding on for seam allowances and extra space, I then calculated how wide each panel needed to be. As this was a trial run I didn't line it, and there are still things I am not happy with but overall the pattern works. Whoop.

close up of the zip as I was so chuffed

Its too long so I will change the pattern for next time

My aim is to have the bag big enough to hold a big mat with a towel without having to squeeze it all in. As  I am completely self taught when it comes to sewing, this style of bag had always seemed a logistical nightmare and I am dead chuffed with myself for having worked it all out.

As I type this I am being squeezed of the kitchen table by Martha and her friend who are making puppets for a puppet show that is apparently going to be performed. I better go before I disappear beneath a ton of pom poms and feathers.
  Plus this has all become rather self-congratulatory.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

clutching at.........

When i look around clothes shops which is not as often as I would like, or when i peek in the boutique windows on the way to yoga in Berkhamsted my eyes immediately seek out handbags. They did this even before i started making them, but my mindset has gone from - oo I'd really like that blimey how much? - to - I wonder how they make that then.

The latter thought had been going through my head a lot when I kept seeing the solid small clutches that were pinging up everywhere. Then lo and behold the wonderful Lisa started stocking the frames for such clutches. The frames themselves are not particularly cheap but the bags do not need much fabric at all and are such good fun to make. Obviously I ordered some and have sold a couple which is marvellous.

rings to add c . hain to which can then be kept inside.

Back in my roller derby playing days I met a fellow skater who designs and makes fabulous vintage inspired dresses, skirts and tops. Utterly gorgeous stuff and her facebook site is here. Anyway she has now got a unit in the unique Fleetville Vintage Emporium which is a must visit if you are ever in the St Albans area. Not only does it have unbelievable stuff to look at and buy plus a sweet tea rooms it is opposite a supermarket that houses a sushi bar. I LOVE sushi. However I digress, as from today alongside her beautiful dresses now sits two of my clutch bags. Cool huh?

can you see them?

All the clothes are designed by Nicky and are made in the most wonderful fabrics so really worth checking her site out if this is your thang.

In other news plans are afoot for the website and so the next few weeks will be spent making yoga bags and designing different styles of them.

Project sewing room is still a work in progress but getting there..............................

Next post I promise to give you the cake recipe i mentioned last time. It is practically a health food.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Post craft fair Procrastination

SO, after reasonable success at the craft fair on Saturday, and surviving a cake making 6 year old birthday party, this week I am meant to be sorting out my spare room into a proper sewing studio. This is so  I don't have to clear the kitchen table each evening so that we can sit down as a family to eat. But, I really don't want to start this mammoth task because quite frankly I don't know where to start. Hence the term procrastination in the title of this post. I am not an organised person although i yearn to be one.

So I will firstly reply to a point raised in my last blog and a comment received by the lovely Indigo Blue. As I  mentioned before I have had to go cold turkey where caffeine is concerned and cannot even tolerate decaffeinated coffee. HOWEVER, I have found that Yorkshire decaf teabags are just as tasty as the normal ones. Believe me it actually takes like a real cup of tea without the kick. They are my new addiction! Obviously though you have to go through the real pain of caffeine withdrawal. I think it may have been more painful for my husband and children.

Trying to set myself up in a reasonably successful business is obviously stressful. The main stress has been controlling my creative brain and focusing on one or two things that will work rather than thinking, Oh i could make that and oh look that doesn't seem too tricky. I adore making yoga bags and yoga is a huge part of my life so this is really where I want to focus my creative skills (such as they are).

SO this week WILL see me sort my spare room out into a studio and i WILL sort out my fabric and notions into reasonable piles. Honestly! I find the process of a yoga bag, incredibly calming and I am not entirely sure why. It could be because it is my pattern and design so I am not constantly attempting things I cannot do. Maybe it is because I know they look good and are different and funkier to the ones out on the market.

house set up for the party

Another reason why i can focus on my yoga bags and excitingly getting a website set up (whoop whoop) is that the party I threw for 12 six year old girls to celebrate my daughters sixth birthday is done. We held a cake making party at home and it was a lot of fun, if incredibly loud. Instead of the usual party bags, I made each girl an apron with their name embroidered on. They also got to take the three cakes that they had baked and decorated home in a cake box. Obviously the idea of embroidering 12 aprons after cutting them out and sewing them seems okay a couple of months before the big day. However the week before, whilst completing other bag orders, I sat till 11.30 each night completing everything. They did seem to go down well though. This one is Martha's.

Maybe I will give myself more time to complete everything. Right off to tackle the room.
 Next time I will be sharing a recipe for a ridiculously easy fruit loaf with a difference.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Quick and Easy

Since suffering with bladder problems, something which became really bad at the end of March, I have now cut quite a few things out of my diet. The saying "we are what we eat" is of course incredibly true. The first place to look when suffering with many things is the diet and although mine is and was healthy, it was also full of caffeine, sweeteners (because I always went for the low fat version) and white flour. So I have had to cut caffeine out. This is me, I have a proper inbuilt coffee machine in my kitchen. I LOVE coffee and was previously unable to talk until I had had at least one cup of strong coffee. However anything is possible. So I have managed to cut out of my diet:
white flour
and anything that says low fat. For example I will buy full fat Greek Yoghurt and just have less of it.

It sounds like I am a saint and believe me I am not and do slip up from time to time - like today whilst making a cake for my daughter who is 6 today. A fair amount of cake mixture has been consumed!

For me it is all about keeping my body in an alkaline state and coffee for example is one of the most acidic things you can have. Even decaffeinated is highly acidic. I still miss coffee, 8 weeks down the line. I did give in but paid the price, in a few days of pain so it wasn't worth it in the end.

So, for my bread fix I make home made soda bread. Believe me it is so simple. As it does not contain yeast, there is no need to let it prove. Whoop. No need for kneading either. Double whoop. It has a gorgeous dense texture and is bliss covered in humus. So here is the recipe. From mixture to your plate in 40 minutes. Mine is cooking now. :-)

450g strong bread flour - i use wholemeal. ( I also sometimes use 400g flour, 50g oats)
teaspoon of bicarb of soda
300ml of buttermilk. (or 150 each of natural yoghurt and milk)
6 tablespoons of tepid water.

Literally mix together into a soft dough. Form into a round measuring approx 18cms in diameter and cut a cross in the top with a knife. Place on an oiled baking sheet and pop in the oven at 200'C (180 fan) for 30 minutes. Then take out, turn upside down and put back for another 10 minutes.

Eat warm and enjoy the gorgeousness of your homemade bread. Yum
The recipe has been taken from Mary Berry's The Baking Bible which i have mentioned before is just brilliant.

I have been sewing like a mad thing and will have lots of news re that coming up.
Enjoy the sunshine,

Monday, 11 June 2012

Blimey that's a big wash bag you've got there

I hope you all had a jolly jubilee even if it was slightly soggy. I managed to knock out some jubilee/Olympic themed goodies before the long weekend.

hair band

shopping tote
But I was actually lucky enough to go away for the weekend with just my husband as a 40th birthday treat. It meant that we missed the big parade that my children were in but in fact they loved going with my mum. Andrew and I went up to the Lake District to a hotel that we have stayed in twice before, in the years prior to children when we could just pop away for the weekend without a worry. Do you remember those days?

As I get older one of the many things that i have noticed, is that the amounts of creams and potions that i have to just twice daily gets bigger and bigger. My little wash bag is just not big enough and I can never find one that is. So, as I was packing, I looked through my fabrics and found some Cath Kidston oil cloth that I bought years ago in Bicester. Not only that but i had a matching zip in my stash. So less than twenty minutes later I had a new wash bag. Marvellous. AS it is just for me I didn't line it and as it is oil cloth I knew that really the lining is only for aesthetic purposes. Do you know what, it isn't brilliant on the design front but it blooming well does the trick and it is huge.

just a few of the bits i need to take

nice flat bottom to give depth

The few things that I have pictured above, only really touch the surface of what I packed but as you can see from the next picture there was still a lot of space left.

I have two craft fairs coming up over the next couple of weeks so I am going to be busy busy and I definitely think I will be putting a few of these on my stand. They will have more care attention paid to their design though and of course will be lined. However I am thrilled and it proves the point that simple is the best.

How was your Jubilee?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

A quick pudding

My children love their puddings (as does their mother). Oliver especially likes good old fashioned treacle sponge and custard etc. Over the last few months I have made an effort to stop buying the ready made cakes, you know the ones, they have a sell by date somewhere in the next millennium so are obviously preservative ridden. Instead I am baking a cake, or Oliver volunteers after school if he doesn't have an activity. My favourite book by far is the Baking Bible by Mary Berry. EVERYTHING is super easy and quick. It literally takes 10 minutes to get the cake in the oven and then you don't have to worry until the timer goes off.

I had always thought that i didn't have time to bake during the week, with two children, a husband who is away and working from home. It was only when I went to a friend's house, who works full time has four children but ALWAYS has homemade cake ready or in the oven that i realised actually i do.

Sunday morning baking is the best really. Radio 4 cooking programme and cake baking together? Marvellous.

So last night, faced with the prospect of no banana loaf and not enough sugar for a sponge cake I made a very quick crumble. Quick thanks to the joy of tinned apples. Blooming love them. It may sound strange and indeed during my time as a weight watchers leader when i raved about them, people did laugh.....a lot. But don't mock until you have tried. No sugar, no juice, just rammed with sliced apples already soft and yummy.

Straight from the tin.
As you can see from the picture all you need to do is sprinkle on some cinnamon. They really are so sweet that there is no need for sugar at all plus all the peeling is done for you. Obviously fresh apples are best but this was 5.15 on a school night and their dinner was already in the oven. All you need do is add the crumble which takes about 2 mins in the magimix. Home made crumble in the oven in less that ten minutes.
Add a jug of custard and then done. Everyone happy and for my son, he is eating a good portion of fruit without feeling like he is.
yummy and crunchy.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Post weight watchers

So, two things have happened since I left weight watchers at the beginning of March. Firstly I have lost 6lbs in weight. Whoop. Secondly however I've been ill which has been quite debilitating due to the pain. There isn't any fast fix unfortunately just tests at the hospital but I am hoping that acupuncture tomorrow will help with the pain at least. This has reduced my sewing down to a dribble. I have made sales and some bags have sold at the yoga studio in Berkamsted. But lets just say it is not the start that a new business needs.

Sanity is being kept by my daily yoga practises and still making it to Bayoga each week. Now it may seem mad to carry on with Ashtanga whilst in pain. But yoga is such good therapy for the mind and actually I find that the postures can actually help. My strength has diminished though but I am sure that everything will get better eventually.

I have also had to give up coffee, chocolate, sugar, bread and alcohol. The things that basically are the support network for my life! What can i say I have marvellous skin at the moment :-)

So today, I am measuring out a design for a tai chi bag at the moment. A request from Stuart at Tai-ga. IF you have no knowledge of Tai chi like me, you may be unaware that weapons are used. This bag will be a cool and funky way to carry the sword etc around to the classes.

I have a few ideas in my head about how it will work but i think, the truth will be in the first mock-up I make.

This zebra shopping tote is proving popular as well although this is a useless photo I'm hoping to be able to use the services of my 5 year old daughter later to model it for me.

She does a rather good job don't you think?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Beltingly busy

To be honest I am not entirely sure how it can be a month since my lost post (without wishing to sound like a Catholic at confession), or maybe I can. Life has been a tad hectic and please take that description as the massive understatement that it is.

For the last two years I have been a weight watchers leader and have been fortunate enough to run very busy meetings around the Beds and Bucks area. However for the last 6 months I have been unhappy and so just over a month ago i resigned. It turned out to be a hugely emotional decision but after working my 4 weeks notice, having my garage cleared of SEVENTY NINE boxes of stock I can safely say it was the correct decision.

BUT, I need to earn cash so am giving my bag sewing a kick up the backside and am going to try and make a living from it!

This is scary. Not only have i got to find some faith in my limited skills but I need to get my bags out there. Thankfully BAYoga in Berkhamsted are storing a few of my yoga mat bags and a couple of people have purchased some directly from me. Also orders for purses and evening bags have been coming through.

My  next big thing is a stall at a roller derby bout which will involve me selling bags, bandanas, purses and hair accessories and i have some fantastic fabric all waiting to be cut. 

Not only that but the marvellous psycho Vintage are opening a unit at Fleetville Emporium in St Albans from April and have agreed to let me occupy a small space. Whoop di whoop.

All of this with no bathroom as it is being ripped out and replaced.

So this is why there have been no blog posts but hopefully I will have more time to whitter on about stuff from now on.

I have made an extremely pretty evening bag for a friend but as she has not seen it yet i cannot put photos here but they will follow tomorrow. It is really beautiful.

I hope you are all okay?

Saturday, 18 February 2012

new header, new design, new me

Thanks to the lovely Laura my blog is looking all smart and professional. (unlike it's author unfortunately). I am only hoping my sewing and writing can live up to its grand image.

What do you think to the revamp?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

From a simple stitch

I was fortunate enough to meet the lovely Julia last week at Carluccio's in Bicester. How decadent eating brunch over coffee, midweek, whilst talking sewing. It would seem that our passion and technical know how for sewing increased after finding the wonderous blog written by the incredibly talented and now blooming mum to be Lisa Lam. I wonder how many careers / sewing enthusiasts Lisa has created?

Before I stumbled upon her blog, looking for frames to house my knitted bags and instructions on how to better them, the only thing i had ever sewed with a machine was a few cushion covers and an ill fitting pair of pyjamas. In fact at school I rejected sewing and cookery in favour of metalwork and woodwork; a rebellious act that turned out to be a tad futile. Although the teapot stand i made stood the test of time, I leave the sanding of wood to experts and much prefer perfecting a lemon drizzle cake or choosing fabric for purse-frames.

Metal bag frames, leather straps and any kind of bling for a bag are my weakness. I quickly found that they could take my meagre efforts and turn them into something professional looking. The joy of seeing a finished glasses case is still incredible.

Getting over my fear of zips was also a big stepping stone and the power of Lisa Lam and the other helpful blogs littered around cyber space are a bottomless pit of knowledge. I even summoned up the courage to make my own overnight bag last year when i was fortunate enough to go to Claridges for the weekend with Andrew. It was hilarious seeing the doorman grab my bag which stood out with it's delicious primary spottiness against a drab background of Louis Vuitton designer blandness. I am sure he enjoyed the pleasure as much as it made me giggle. Once again Lisa was to the rescue with her patterns and know-how.

All of this help over the years has given me the courage to try my own patterns which have taken the form of yoga bags (see previous posts) and handbags. I need to remember the joy of sewing and the happiness at seeing a pretty finished bag that looks flawless, when either the glue spills on the fabric when fitting into the frame or the tension on the machine plays up for no apparent reason. Sewing maybe a lovely and gorgeous art but it doesn't stop it being frustrating and annoying. At these times it is best to provide me coffee and duck!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Moving on

It is impossible to get to the age of 40, a momentous age that I will hit in May without hitting bad and emotional times on the way. How we deal with them and move on is a different thing. Do we keep them compartmentalised in our brains, shut away in a filing cabinet at the pit of our brain with a massive neon sign saying DO NOT ENTER IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCES or do we deal with them head on?

I have in the past been tempted to shut the door to the filing cabinet, turn the light off and forget it is there. It never stays locked though does it? Things manage to seep out when you least expect them to. A photo that you didnt expect to find, a song on the radio or simply too much time on your own thinking.

So what is the best way to deal with life and the crap it can throw? Is this the reason why people approaching 40 suddenly become manic about exercise as it clears the mind? Most men I know are constantly entering into longer and longer races, triathlons, mountaint climbs. Exercise makes you happy and clears the mind, having a target focusses the mind and keeps you at it. It is definitely one of the reasons i practice so much yoga. In fact yoga and regular practice got me off the magic pills prescribed by the doctor. Ashtanga yoga especially is extremely powerful. Some people eat and obviously in my years as a Weight Watchers leader I see this time and time again.

Is the best way to sit down and talk it through with someone? Do the Americans have the best idea of going to see therapists and hearing an objective view. We are all seeking something, some inner happiness, some sense of fufillment. Sometimes it is just good to let the tears flow, let the thoughts flood back in, accept them and then put them back and move on.

ANy thoughts?

While I am here have a photo of a new yoga bag I have made complete with iphone pocket and water bottle pocket

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Behold the Turtle

Behold the turtle, he only progresses when he sticks his neck out
I heard this quote a couple of weeks ago and it absolutely sums up how I feel about changes I am making to my life right now. I thought i would share.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Not fans

My poor chickens are not fans of snow it would seem.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Alone in the playground

Trying to resurrect a blog is a bit like being away from school as an eight year old for a very long time and then suddenly reappearing, only to find that everyone has forgotten you and made new friends. Or if you move away from an area and promise to others as well as yourself that yes, you will keep in touch and yes, obviously you will remain close friends even though 200 miles separate you. Two years later you stumble across their name in your address book whilst writing Christmas cards and it actually takes you 5 minutes to remember who they are and when you phone, surnames are required. All of the lovely bloggers and crafters who I became close to cyberly before will now not remember who I am and really why should they? 
So, a lot of effort needs to be put in by myself too reacquaint myself with the fantastic crafters out there and hopefully some yoga made people as well. I'm not a shy type so I am happy to put myself out there, I will return to my old chat up line that saw me in good stead through my early twenties.

"Hello, my name is Joanna". Simple but effective.

I am just in from yoga, I practice Ashtanga Yoga and although I have practiced yoga on a regular basis for 4 years (although dabbled since I was 23) I started a regular Ashtanga practice a year ago and quite frankly I have never looked back. Ashtanga is a set sequence of postures that link one from the other. IT takes me 90 minutes to get through the practice and believe me you sweat, sweat, sweat. So twice, sometimes three times a week I take myself over to BAYoga to do my stuff on the mat. It is a Mysore style practice and leads you to places within your mind and body that are incredibly powerful. It works as a moving meditation and calms my chaotic brain for that 90 minutes and leaves me buzzing afterwards. Physically it teaches you that things are possible if you practice and perservere; a hard lesson as an adult but one that we accept as a child. If you have ever watched a toddler learn to walk, they constantly fall over but they never give up. I have yet to see a toddler sit down and go "sod that for a laugh, I'm just going to stick with crawling." Time and time again they get and have another go 

When you start the Ashtanga practice some of the postures just seem impossible and at first they are out of your reach but each practice brings you closer and closer to having the necessary strength and flexibility.

One of the items required for a yoga practice is a mat, and what better thing to carry a mat around in than a yoga bag. Can you see where I am going with this? Yoga bags made by me. Marvellous.

Last week I took myself off to an area in Luton called Bury Park and stocked up on gorgeous sari fabrics. I will also be getting some stronger home decor fabrics for a different range. My idea is to stock them in my folksy shop but also to stock them at the studio. The designs I have floating through my head are varied and this is the first one I have trialled. The fabric is just amazing. My personal home made yoga bag is really functional and has been going for a couple of years and has stood up to being lugged around everywhere but is slightly too small and the mat has to be rolled up incredibly tightly. So, the future designs will be slightly roomier.
modelled by the marvellous Rachel


I have made two sales today as well which is also incredibly exciting so I foresee busy sewing times ahead. I  Have you got any exciting plans?

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Are you sure?

You know when you try something again after a long time of not having that something; like a type of biscuit for example? I am a massive biscuit fan, in fact I could write a book about my love of biscuits and what works and what doesn't. Party rings for example don't cut it with me, whereas a bourbon or a custard cream are just pure joy. I tend to fast or feast on a type of biscuit and then give it a break and so when you then return to say, the custard cream you realise how much you enjoy them. The perfection of the creamy centre with the light patterned biscuit is a pure biscuity joy. The bourbon is obviously unmatched for chocolately heaven in the biscuit world, by biscuit world I don't include cookies. They have their own food group in my eyes and it is not one that i enter very often. There is the American imitation of the bourbon biscuit, a wannabe; but that is all the Oreo biscuit will ever be, a bad imitation. To compare the Oreo to the bourbon would be like comparing cool mustard (you know the insipid squeezable yellow gunk that looks and smells like the contents of a newborn's nappy), to the sheer beauty of English mustard. Mustard is not  mustard unless your nose runs seconds after eating it. Mustard should also not be squeezable. It should come in a glass jar and when the contents of this jar come to an end you find  that you are taking an over size knife, scraping around a the glass bottom knowing full well that the last dregs will never be gotten.

 I digress as ever, but my point is this, like an unintentional break from custard creams, I took a break from sewing and blogging. No reason really, 2011 was full of bad stuff that made me disinclined to sew or indeed write about my lack of sewing.

So this week I dug out some of my old bags and thought to myself, you are not bad at this sewing lark Butchart, get your bloody act together. So I did and it feels great. There will hopefully pictures to follow soon and stuff in my shop to buy.

What have you given up and then gone back to and realised, blimey this is lovely?