Thursday, 29 April 2010


I am desperate to embark on some serious garment knitting/designing at the moment but, stubborn as I am, I will not break my personal oath to use up a good portion of my stash before I begin anything new. Alas, I cannot use my existing yarns to make garments because, as we all have at some point, I have foolishly purchased a ridiculous collection of single skeins! Unless I plan on the knitting the world's most stripey jumper (which I don't!) then I must find another outlet for all those little 100 gram bundles of beauty! After hours (literally hours - I am so indecisive!) of searching through my hundreds of pattern books, I eventually alighted on this beauuuuuuty of a book!

Kim Hargreaves is a magnificent knitwear designer and if I happen to be introducing any of you to her for the first time then I must urge you to go and buy one of her (multiple) books. I own 3, I believe. Everything she designs has a timeless elegance, so you can be certain that her pattern books will be as relevant in 20 years as they are now. If I'd thought ahead, I might have taken some pictures of the other designs in this book as the one that I am about to discuss is, by no means, characteristic of her style.

I decided to use up a skein of blue DK cotton (denim style!) to make the hat on the left in the image below. I apologise for the pictures - the focus is a bit off!

'Peaches' is a crocheted slouchy beret with these great 'tr5tog' stitches that form big, bouncy clusters. It's a fun design and one that I'd probably do again! I have a thing for hats anyway, so I expect everybody I know will be getting one of these for Christmas now!

I did have to rip this back by about 50% at one point. Apparently, I cannot count! Very frustrating to think that, had I taken my time, I would be all finished up by now! Oh well -not too much to do!

I hope you all enjoy seeing these brief, one weekend projects because I expect to be posting many more of them! I will not rest until my stash is halved! Each project that I make will be another step in the right direction and the small amounts of leftover yarn that I am bound to have will be used up in my crocheted hexagon blanket! Now that's organisation!

Do you have any favourite stash-busting patterns?

More soon

Mother's Ruin xxx

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

No more blocks!

Yay! I've finished the last of my blocks for the Mod Sampler Quilt! I made the last two sets (Blocks E & F) on my old Singer 201. Now that I've been using a modern machine for several months, I can really tell the difference in the quality of the stitches. Distressing as it is to say this - I'm not sure I'll be going back to the modern machine. Simple buttonholes and fancy stitches are always going to be a bonus of the newer units, but for good old straight stitching and piecing simple blocks there really is no comparison - the 201 will win every time!

While Whitney crooned in the background I managed to get 12 blocks done. There were couple of stupid mistakes that resulted in making good use of my seam ripper (though these usually occurred, I must admit, when I was more focused on lip-syncing than stitching!) but on the whole all went smoothly!

(Don't look too closely - these haven't been squared up yet so the outer edges don't align properly!)

I think my favourite block has to be this one! The lines from the striped fabric make a really good frame for that central burst of colour!

So there you have it. All 36 blocks ready to be made into a gorgeous quilt! I did briefly consider cutting the sashing strips too but I'm still trying to pluck up the courage! The instructions tell me to fold the 1.75 yards of fabric, making sure that the selvedges are 'perfectly' aligned, and then start cutting. I'm slightly terrified by the word 'perfectly'. Is there NO room for a little human error?! Obviously, I don't want sashing strips that form a zig-zag when they are unfolded!!!

I was thrilled to tick these blocks off of my to-do list!

With rotary cutter standing in for a microphone, I strutted around the room performing my own rendition of 'Queen of the Night' in sheer celebration.

Archie caught my eye.

And then swiftly dropped his gaze.... 

Can't think why!

More soon

Mother's Ruin xxx

Monday, 26 April 2010

What have we here?



Crisis? Not so much. That's not to say that I've fixed the problem of my poorly sized blocks, but after a nice weekend of crafting along to Whitney Houston's entire back catalogue, two bottles of Merlot and a metaphorical 'chill-pill', I've managed to assuage my hysteria and frustration. I'm feeling philosophical about the whole thing! It's a lesson learned!

You know how sometimes the universe seems to be telling you something? When events take on an element of the uncanny (like, you hear an old song for the first time in years and years and then all of a sudden every radio station in the country seems to be playing it and people are humming it in the queue at the post office and you pick up a magazine that you've had laying around for weeks and notice that the same song is mentioned in an interview on the back page)? Well, all week this has been happening to me and catching up on 'Green Apples' (have you read Jessica's blog - I love it! She is so talented!) blog on Friday was the final straw! Which leads me on to this:

So, what have we here? This is my 1950's Singer Model 201K, which a very dear friend of mine rescued for me before it was disposed of! Now, I know that, as crafters and artists (unfortunately, I cannot command the label 'artist' but for many of you it is a wholly appropriate title), we are supposed to strive to be unique, creators of fashion rather than followers, but on this occasion I really must follow the herd. Everywhere I look people are telling the stories of their acquiring/re-acquaintance/long companionship with a vintage sewing machine. So on Saturday - out came mine!

I love the pure weight of the older units. They just feel like such quality pieces of engineering! Indeed (is this geeky?) I quite enjoy taking the plate off of the back and taking a look at the inner workings. Normally I'm not in the least interested in this side of things - if it works, I don't need to know how (though I have discovered that this approach is less than favourable when it comes to cars. I've been driving for over 7 years and still don't know where the oil goes!). Things are looking a little rusty inside so I ought to clean her up a little, but there is certainly nothing wrong with the way she stitches!

I particularly appreciate the little drop-down table that is hinged to the side! Why this little piece of wood makes such a difference, I have no idea! But it does - it really does!

And look - how cute! The original (though damaged) instruction manual and little box of accessories, which included several feet (I'm at a loss to comprehend what some of these are - any ideas?) amongst other things.

Here's a shot of her in action - more about this tomorrow! In many ways, I regret spending so much money on my modern machine. I love how the vintage machine sews and keeping my seams straight is so much easier!

I got so much crafting done this weekend that I worked up quite an appetite! You can imagine how impressed I was, then, when Hubby produced this tasty little delight for lunch! Homemade vegetable quiche (all the vegetables were grown by Hubby on his allotment). Needless to say - it didn't last long!

A million things to share with you all at the moment - so I'm afraid I simply have to spread them over the next few days.

Love and light

Mother's Ruin xxx

Friday, 23 April 2010


***If you do not wish to be moaned at - please leave now!***

You know how sometimes you do something so stupid that you could, quite literally, just smash your own face into a wall? Those moments when you have to step out of your sewing room to avoid the almost uncontrollable urge to blind yourself with a pair of scissors, poke pins under your knee-caps and rip open your windpipe with pinking shears? [Ok, ok - so a little O.T.T. but sometimes a little bloody humour is appropriate!]

Well this, in the last 24 hours, was me.

Now that Hubby has managed to talk me back in from the window ledge and I have been persuaded not to stick my head in the oven, I can tell you all about it.

My blocks, for the Mod Sampler Quilt?

Remember those?

Yeah - they're all the wrong size! But no no no....I ought to rephrase. Some are the correct size BUT THEY ARE ALL DIFFERENT!

So typical of me to just rush in without checking anything (white linen trousers with red undies anyone?! I've done that before! Really, how foolish can you get?!) I didn't bother to verify the markings on my 1/4" quilting foot. It looked like the third groove, at the rightmost extreme, was a quarter of an inch from the needle, so that's the one I used giving no thought whatsoever to the fact that 1/4" and 3/8" are really RATHER SIMILAR!

Oooooohhhh I was so annoyed with myself! But more importantly, I was furious with whoever manufactured the foot for my machine! I mean COME ON! If you are selling something under the cunningly misleading description '1/4" Quilting Foot' (trust me - I've been back and checked, so indignant was I!) then why, OH WHY, include three, YES THREE, grooves on the damned thing! I didn't buy a 'Quilting Foot with Multiple Seam Allowance Guides', I bought and paid for a '1/4" QUILTING FOOT' so I only expect it to show me where a 1/4" is!!!!

[I don't have anger management issues in the sense that I am volatile or violent, but can you tell that I am the kind of person that upon stubbing their toe will immediately (and stupidly, I don't deny it!) kick whatever they hit it on in some innately ridiculous attempt to take revenge?! Like a wooden chair leg or a concrete step feels the pain of being attacked by a bare-foot, mincing queen!]

So here I am! A few weeks into my quilting career (ever get the feeling it's going to be shortlived) and already I am in crisis! I am going to have to take a few days to wrangle things out and come up with a solution. They (the blocks, that is) should all be 8.5" square, but as some only have vertical seams I now have a set of blocks that are like 8.5" by 8.25" and others that are 8.25" square. So very annoying when one considers that I spent all that time perfectly measuring and cutting the pieces!

I will not be beaten! Like every singer I have ever loved (seriously - they all seem to have had breakdowns of some sort! Whitney, Mariah, Amy Winehouse!!!) I will rise from the flames like a phoenix! I'm just wondering if taking a 1.25" seam allowance (hello!!!) is going to be a) too risky b)not strong enough and c) another disastor waiting to happen......

On a slightly more positive note (only slightly) I have just finished knitting a small item. I'm not entirely happy with it though.....(honestly, I moan like this at Hubby all the time! Just think yourselves lucky that you only have it once in a while and even then you can be outta here with a simple click of the mouse!)

I'm pretty sure that most people, at some time or another, have made a scarf similar to this one. I've had a couple on my Folksy shop. I love how they look - so much more tailored and retro than a normal scarf. I just wanted to do something a little different so decided I'd have a go at mixing things up! I used contrasting fibres (pure wool & pure mohair) in different shades of red and knitted the ruffles in a horizontal rib using swing needles (have you ever tried them - they're wacky!). I also replaced the traditional 1x1 rib for moss stitch to increase the textural pleasure! But still, there's something that just doesn't quite feel right. Having just about reached the top level of frustration that one can safely endure without giving oneself a heart attack, I cannot bear to look at any less than perfect (in my eyes) project pieces for a while! For this reason, I would like to offer this scarf to one of my readers! If you like it, you are more than welcome to have it. Drop me an email/comment and we can arrange to have it sent to you F.O.C. There's nothing wrong with it at all - it just doesn't look how I saw it in my head! Boo!

Anyway - now that I have written my entry monologue for 'The world's most miserable blogger award', I'm off to wash my face with a brick......

Love to you all

Mother's Ruin xxx

Thursday, 22 April 2010


No crafty post today.

Alice Beryl Sabine


This is my Nan.

 That's all there is to say. No words that I could record here would truly convey what a very special woman she was and how much she means to me. From the moment I was born until the moment that I lost her, she was my rock. I love her very much.

Nan was a real character and would not agree with a tearful or dramatic memorial. So I ask you to spare a brief thought for her, as I celebrate her life. Today would have been her birthday.

Happy Birthday Nan

We miss you still

M xx

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

And as if by magic.....


Ta da! How do you like my new blog space? Mother's Ruin was feeling so drab and dreary that I decided it was time for a change! I'm BRITISH - like we don't see enough grey already!'s gone - banished from bloggersville and replaced by the warm and light hues that you see before you.

Mind you, talk about giving myself a difficult brief - I wanted the blog to look fresh, contemporary and clean but I also wanted to include the vintage, swirly, floral type design that I have on my business cards already (similar to my new header). I hope that I've managed to obtain a pleasant balance between the two contrasting styles!

I'm having a ball writing this blog. I haven't been here for long and I don't expect to become a minor internet celebrity like some guys have - but I am meeting new people and tentatively edging towards friendship with some. That's more than enough for me - as long as the blog continues to develop in this positive manner then I'll be happy. I want to create a space where we can all enjoy hanging out for a few minutes every day. Look out for more changes over the next few days. Trust me - the blog fairies (believe me, I know plenty of fairies!) are going to do loads to make Mother's Ruin the best blog it can be!

It's my birthday on May 7th - I've told nagged demanded  asked Hubby for a new snazzy camera with which to take my blog photo's! The future's looking good - now I just need to get some crafting done and I'll have something to post about!

More soon

Mother's Ruin

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Final supplies...

So, this weekend I had my delivery from 'Doughty's Fabrics' containing the last of the supplies required to complete my Mod Sampler Quilt..... Inside I found a big bundle of cotton batting that, despite the hot weather here (I refer readers to my previous post and sunburn scars!!!), just made me want to snuggle up beneath it and fall asleep. Also inside were the 'ivory' and 'melon' plain cottons for the sashing and binding, and an Amy Butler print for the backing.... DELICIOUS!

I've still to finish the last set of blocks for the quilt before I even begin piecing the quilt top. I'm relishing the process though - beats knitting 60 cm's of stocking stitch any day! I'm still concerned about the actual quilting process though and whether or not my conventional home sewing machine will be up to the job - I've read plenty of blogs and it seems that a huge number of people have either quilting machines themselves OR send the finished quilts off to be quilted. I've never quilted before and don't have any friends that have either - where do you guys go when you need advice? Is there like a roadside recovery service for quilters?

 "Hi, I appear to have broken down somewhere between the nine-patch block and the cotton batting - not sure what's happened. Can you send an engineer?"
[I would like to think, however, that in the Quilting world one would not have to endure being subsequently met by a chubby, middle-aged, unshaven, greasy haired guy reeking of sweat, tobacco and diesel which is, invariably, all that would be sent to your rescue by the RAC or some such company!]

I think I'm really going to like the finished piece (provided that there are no major mishaps). I love the whole country kitsch, shabby chic (shabby s**t as my disdainful father playfully calls it) vibe and I believe that my bright floral fabrics will help to strike the right look. Typical of my disorganisation though - I'm going to be styling an entire room around one handmade item, rather than the other way around! I don't feel like I've been particularly adventurous though - pastel shades are rather easier to balance than bright, vibrant shades. Looking through old holiday snaps (well, if you can call 3 months old old) I was drawn to the colours in the two images below. These pictures were taken in an indoor food market in central Barcelona. I'd love to recreate a quilt in these sensational colours that just ooze passion, vigour and hispanic virility! (ok, ok, so it's a bunch of chilli's but it doesn't take much to get me going!)

Are there any colourways that you are particularly drawn to, or would like to try?

Mother's Ruin xxx

Monday, 19 April 2010

The cost of crochet....

When I got up yesterday morning and was told by Hubby "if all you're wearing today is that t-shirt and 3/4 length trousers then you really ought to put some sunscreen on" I'm guessing that the sensible response was not to roll my eyes and mutter under my breath "yeah, yeah Mother Hen..."

Many hours later, having spent most of the day reclining on a garden lounger doing nothing more energetic than flicking some DK yarn with a crochet hook (I was exhausted afterwards!), I began to realise that my earlier flippancy had, perhaps, been misplaced. You'll remember being told by your parents 'not to pull that face because if the wind changes direction you'll stay like that'? Well, apparently the same is true of crocheting in the sun. When it came time to lower my arms from the hook wielding position, I could almost hear the crack as my charred skin broke under the pressure of movement. Sunburn.

Garden Lounger - £25.00
Crochet hook - £4.00
Assorted DK yarns - Variable
Realising that you have incapacitated yourself through sheer, unadulterated stupidity - PRICELESS.

So yes, the cost of crochet this weekend was both my arms. Bizarrely, my legs did not burn at all! I'm guessing that, since I had managed to attain such a shocking shade of porcelaine white over the winter months, my legs were, in fact, reflecting all of the sunshine. Indeed, it may have been the kick-back from my milky shins that was responsible for the incineration of those other, lesser limbs...... Needless to say I am a little sore today.....

And THIS is what it was all for:

We all have that pile of leftover, half-used balls of yarn that are too nice to throw away and yet too useless to employ in any project - so I decided that I was going to put  them all to good use and make a crocheted hexagon stash-busting blanket..... I'm still not entirely sure if I like it though - using up all my odds and ends is incredibly satisfying, and looking over the finished blanket will be like a trip down memory lane of old projects, but I'm wondering if using so many different colours and fibres is, in fact, making the whole thing look like a big mess. Perhaps more intimidating are the yarn-tails!

Because us crafters are renowned for our patience! Of course I wont be itching to move onto the next project by the time the blanket is finished (factoring in time to re-grow my own arms, that'll be about 2020 then)!

More soon!

Mother's Ruin xxx

Thursday, 15 April 2010

A brief rant - and more blocks!

What a busy week it's been! Thursday afternoon already? Hello!!! I'd much rather be getting on and getting things done than languishing in a corner somewhere feeling bored and dejected, but honestly! Gimme a break! I feel like I'm going to nip into the toilet for a sec and when I come out a whole week will have passed! I thought only weekends were doomed to zip past in the blink of an eye?

Here's hoping that you aren't all TOO bored with hearing about my Mod Sampler quilt because - yes, you guessed it.....MORE BLOCKS! Here are a few shots of my 'D' blocks. Although these are far easier (and quicker) to complete than Block 'C', I found them really difficult to press for some strange reason. They kept wanting to crinkle up along the seamline - maybe that's symptomatic of poor sewing skills?!

OK, ok....stop yawning - I'm done now!

I was, until recently, primarily a knitter (some would say nutter). As such, I have subscriptions to about 4 knitting magazines and yesterday the new issue of 'Yarn Forward' was dropped through my letterbox and waiting patiently for me when I got home.

As with all similar publications, this magazine can be a bit hit and miss. I admit that I am an especially difficult person to please - after all, how well can you really expect ANY knitting magazine to cater for the young, homosexual male?! It's just a very messy demographic! This month I was actually pretty pleased with the balance of patterns and, if I was knitting for a woman, I would be pretty tempted to try out the red sweater dress on the cover. What do you think? 

Don't proffer that casual smile too soon - now look at this...

Eurgh! No way! Now, I am the first to admit that I bitch and moan about the fact that both mens patterns AND ready-to-wear are only ever available in a vomit-inducing range of blue/black/brown and similar exotic shades but this postbox red alone is enough to encourage me to revoke my comments - AND YET it doesn't stop there! Cables? Is that what we have come to? Have we pushed and exploited the boundaries of imagination and creativity for all these years and come no further than bloody cables? I've lost count of the number of times, this year alone, that I have written to knitting magazines to request that they hunt down a design for anything OTHER THAN A CABLED MENS JUMPER! It's frustrating and demeaning. I cannot help but imagine that editors feel obligated to 'throw in' a token pattern for men in order to remain 'p.c' but do not really give any thought as to what that pattern may be. Indeed, the fact that they've used a model here that bears a striking resemblance to Anthony Hopkins in 'The Silence of the Lambs' proves, I feel, that the editor is less than attentive when it comes to male orientated content! The recent so-called 'Men's issues' from The Knitter and Yarn Forward were, in my humble opinion, pretty laughable!

I don't mean to rant and rave. Indeed, on a more positive note, I am TRYING to negotiate a solution of my own by designing some menswear pieces. I'm not a professional though, and it is proving to be such a lengthy process.....

I'm going to leave things here for today - having read this post back it seems that throwing a tantrum precludes my ability to write coherently! I'll be back, hopefully a little more positive, very soon.

Love and light

M xxx

Monday, 12 April 2010

Brighton and more blocks.....

Hello all you wonderful people!

I know that, strictly speaking, this blog is supposed to be about all things crafty but I'm afraid you'll have to humour me for a moment while I tell you about my trip to the coast on Saturday! I guess the reason that I am so ecstatic about it is that I managed to drive myself all the way there! I know, I know, this sounds ridiculous. But you must bear in mind that I am a terrible driver and suffer from a severe lack of confidence! If I do not know how to get somewhere then, 9 times out of 10, I don't go! I can't parrallel park (indeed, most of my parking should really be labelled as a form of vehicle abandonment), I can only drive into a parking space that is on my right-hand side (no idea about this one!) and, despite having completed an undergraduate degree in English literature, it seems that I cannot read road signs. Honestly - Chaucer, Bronte, Shakespeare, Keats, all no problem. Faced with a simple sign that says 'A23' and suddenly I'm f***ed, absolutely no comprehension! Sat-nav's were invented for people like me and Saturday was my first real opportunity to use one!

We arrived at around 7.30 am (I wanted to miss the rush!) and were greeted, of course, by this:

As you can imagine, Denny thought she had died and gone to Doggie Heaven. All she wanted to do was play and so Daddy Nathan was left in charge of entertaining pooches while I had a nice rest and enjoyed the sounds of the sea.....

We didn't stay all day long. We walked from the pier to the Marina and back, played with the dogs (Bruce is the only dog I know who believes that drinking salt-water is an option!) and gazed, open-mouthed, in some of the art shop windows (needless to say, we didn't go in. It is unlikely that Bruce would wait to be invited before cocking his leg against one of the frames. Indeed, rather worrying was the fact that most shops had several large canvases displayed outside, so I felt like we were an 'accident' waiting to happen).

Perhaps the main reason that I felt compelled to mention my trip here, is the artistic inspiration that Brighton provides. I accept that this may be something that exists in only my own imagination, but I always percieve a strong sense of nostalgia, I guess, whenever I visit a coastal town like Brighton. Take this image for instance:

Surely, I am not the only one that is struck by the disparity of what this view currently represents and what it stood for 100 years ago? I cannot help but imagine that Brighton is, in some way, aware of its own inability to ever attain the giddy heights of fashionability that it has previously enjoyed. I look at this and I imagine sweet little girls in pinafore dresses, corseted women in ivory coloured lace and delicate shawls and moustached men strutting the promenade with canes, the gold chains from their pocket-watches glistening in the sunlight. In previous years it would have been the height of fashion to spend time in Brighton, to enjoy the sights and sea air. Nowadays, a day trip to the seaside isn't often considered a noteworthy event and, while I believe it to be a positivething that everybody now has the time, money and freedom to pop along whenever they want, I still cannot help but feel that the place has lost something. You know, like Christmas has lost something since it became a collossus excuse for gratuitous commercialism? And the artistic inspiration that I mentioned? Again, maybe it's just me, but it makes me want to create something that captures both the 'then' and 'now' of the place, the whole history of Brighton. I assume this is why there are so many artists living in the area - maybe my observations are far from original?!

Not liking to spend too much time away from my sewing, I continued piecing my 'C' blocks for the Mod Sampler quilt when I got home. These are all finished now, so it will be on to Block 'D' next. What do you think?

I also made some decisions about the remaining parts of the quilt this weekend, which resulted in placing another hefty online order! I came to the conclusion that, although white would not make the blocks 'pop', I did not want to saturate the quilt by using a coloured sashing. My compromise is to use a creamy, ivory sashing and a light, fresh green for the binding ('Melon', I believe it was called). The backing will be another favourite Amy Butler print. Incidentally, has anybody ever used these guys to order fabric? They currently have quite an extensive selection of AB's older prints that are at the reduced price of £6.50 a metre. Pretty reasonable, I thought? Also, if you order before midnight tonight, you get an additional 10% off (and no, I am most certainly not on commission!).

My final comment today is about wadding/batting (whatever it's called). I've ordered a cotton blend for my quilt which, so I'm told, will shrink by 3-5% unless pre-washed. Now I love the idea of achieving a puckered, vintage look by shrinking the wadding after quilting, but I am a bit nervous about committing. Does anybody have any advice or horror stories in this area? Is it an accepted stylistic choice, or is it just going to make my work look like I made a massive mistake?! All comments gratefully received this time....

M xxx