Sunday, April 28, 2013

An invitation to parliament

Well how could I refuse! In a life pre-kids many many eons ago I have stood various times on College Green in front of the Houses of Parliament conducting TV interviews but I had never actually set foot inside.

Last year I contacted the British Lung Foundation to find out whether people could post personal stories on their website. We had just emerged from a very difficult few years of little M being almost permanently ill because of undiagnosed sleep apnoea. I thought maybe our experience could help other families in similar circumstances. The upshot was they used our story - read it here - and I got an invite to a parliamentary reception about putting OSA on the health agenda.

It was a glorious sunny day. I got the train to Waterloo, had a wander down the South Bank, grabbed a coffee, then walked across the bridge to the Houses of Parliament. So easy navigating London without two small children in tow! I almost felt transported back to my twenties.
In the queue to get in I was torn between wanting to appear cool and nonchalant and wanting to take photos. I snapped a few covert photos hoping I didn’t look too touristy.

Inside there were signs everywhere warning you not to take pictures. I was desperate to take a shot of my shoes against the beautiful intricate tiled floor but a very sweet policeman with a huge machine gun patiently agreed that while it would make a good photo, it was still not allowed. He did point the way to Westminster Hall the one area where photos are permitted so here is the proof that I was inside.

I was glad I got there early and had plenty of time to gaze at the statues – long gone kings and queens, lions, unicorns and griffins, dramatic paintings of pivotal moments in British history, sumptuous chandeliers. The reception itself was in a blander more corporate room. We were served pretty pink cakes, tiny sandwiches and cups of tea. There were various speeches including one from a fabulous lady who spoke about how OSA had personally affected her life. She has a big online following offering support to those affected here.
Afterwards I wandered back down the South Bank half of me wanting to linger and soak up every moment of London in the sunshine the other half already on the train racing back to my family.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hello springtime

Woo hoo! At long long last spring is here. It feels like winter has lasted about two years. I was starting to wonder if we’d been transported to some awful version of Narnia where it is always winter but never Christmas except without the benefit of crisp snowy forests and magical fauns just endless damp chill days.
But enough! The sky is blue. The birds are back. And there are even flowers - creamy magnolia, pink camellias, yellow forsythia, blue... erm bluebells.
Before I am accused of egg stealing. Our neighbour brought this robin’s nest around for the children to see. They had been tree felling and it was a casualty. I did try and insist that we placed it somewhere up high so the mother could find it but apparently it was too late.
Little M was as gutted as I was but made he made this paper robin and claimed it had hatched from the egg.

I made the most of the sunshine and attacked the dandelions, which seem to have taken over from the ivy as enemy weed numero uno. 

Afterwards it looked like an over active mole had ploughed its way through the lawn.
I also pruned the roses and hacked the fuchsias back to mere stumps, which seemed to pay off last year. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Easter escape

We are back from ten glorious days in the sunshine. We escaped this insanely cold British spring of endless grey skies and biting winds for the hot dry climate of Fuerteventura. I could actually feel the sun’s rays leaching into my skin as my vitamin D deprived body suckered up every drop. We are not exactly tan but we have lost that milky blue pallor we set off with. 

I had hoped we would fly back to the start of a proper spring complete with white puffy clouds and daffodils but we seem to be locked into an eternal winter. It was actually snowing as we drove home from Gatwick. We are back in our winter coats but feeling stronger, healthier, more happy and relaxed than before.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pattern review - New Look 6578

This is the first piece of clothing I have ever made from a bought pattern. I absolutely love it but I admit I was terrified! Irrationally so as surely having all pieces provided along with a set of instructions has to be simpler than the hit and miss guesswork I have been using up to now. There is something slightly - okay incredibly intimidating about using a pattern. It feels like proper grown up serious sewing.

The pattern, New Look 6578, is classed as easy but I spent weeks staring at the instructions barely able to make head nor tail of them. I even read them in Spanish but was still completely bamboozled.

Eventually I gathered my courage, measured up my girl and started cutting out – a lovely brown and white Michael Miller fabric with a voile design of children playing. I was going through a heap of different fabrics with her mentally crossing my fingers she wouldn’t choose something too pink and princessy and amazingly she picked the brown. Little P is a tall slim 2 and half year old so I went for the size 2 pattern but added the length of the size 3. Phewee. So far so good.

I had four pieces for my a-line dress – a front, back, front facing and back facing. I finally figured out that facing meant a sort of lining in the same fabric, in this case around the armholes and neck line. I was still struggling with the instructions, so I decided to dump them and turn to good old google instead.

It threw up this great little video tutorial for a similar a-line dress. The construction was slightly different with a back fastening instead of over shoulder fastenings but it helped me figure out what I was aiming for. Mainly it gave me confidence to just crack on and stop worrying about everything being perfect. The lady in the clip effortlessly slings the thing together. I followed her good advice to pin and iron every step of the way and it definitely helped the finish. 

But even after all my careful ironing the facing kept flipping up under the arms, so I ran a few stitches below and parallel to the armholes to keep it in place. I skipped the interfacing so maybe that would have helped. My way worked fine.

I tried a couple of new tricks. In the absence of a serger, I zigzag stitched the raw edge of the facing. It wasn’t perfect but it was okay. And for some mysterious reason I decided to attempt a French seam down the side seams. It was pretty easy and looked lovely.

And of course there were buttonholes to contend with. I nearly bottled out and used press studs. I didn’t have the patience to figure out how to machine sew them so I hand sewed. Here I am looking very serious stitching away on holiday.

They were a long long way from perfect but they work and the beautiful pearly pink vintage buttons from love buttons disguise my poor sewing.

The finished dress is gorgeous. Once I was over my initial confusion it was pretty straight forwards. The fit is lovely but there is zero growing room. Next time I would use less generous seam allowances and add an inch or two to the length. I also realised after the event that I had got my buttons and buttonholes the wrong way round. Oops.

I would definitely make this dress again now I kind of know what I am doing. I have my eye on a lovely blue and white ikat print...