29 May 2015

Living room freshen-up

I've had a little freshen-up of my living room this spring, and it's surprising how little things can brighten the room up.

I put a lighter-coloured throw on the settee, made some new cushion covers, rearranged books on many of the shelves, painted some picture frames and my ikea tree white, and got a new white curtain rod. I also removed the gathers from the net curtain, cut it and discarded pretty much half of it, so there's a lot more light coming through the window now!

I also got my sideboard to replace the tv unit, so there's a bit more floor space - this means I've brought the old rattan chair in from the hall, which I'd been thinking of taking to the charity shop!

I do want to give the room a fresh coat of paint, but that probably won't be happening until the summer holidays!

Blogger Tricks

28 May 2015

The joy of statistics

I recently bought myself a Fitbit to track my step count and sleep, and realised that I really love looking at all the graphs and statistics it gathers on my sleep, steps, floors climbed, and activity levels. And now I realise that this fascination with statistics is something I enjoy in lots of my other activities!

One of the main ones is my blog stats – I’m addicted to checking these! When I relaunched my blog just over a year ago, the figures grew rapidly for a few months, and this gave me lots of motivation. Unfortunately it isn’t as good when the figures are not heading upwards!

Account tracker is an app that I use to record my spending and saving, and it's got loads of graphs and charts that help me to see if everything's on track. I've been using it religiously since the start of 2011. I use Memrise for tracking my Japanese language learning, and I'm sometimes tempted to get the paid version just because of all the graphs on my progress I'd get access to! I find that I hardly spend any time at all on Flickr now that I have the free account that doesn’t have statistics! I hadn't realised how much being able to see whether other people were viewing my photos improved my experience of the site.

For a few winters I kept statistics on my mood, energy, sleep, and how much light I’d had that day. It helped me to see that using my light box was making things better. I've just discovered all the graphs that are available online for my gas and electricity usage since I got my smart meter last August. I also love to catalogue changes in other ways – taking photos of my teeth since I got braces, so I can see the progress, is a good example of this.

27 May 2015

Frida Kahlo inspired self-portraits

I love challenging myself to take creative self-portraits, so I decided to take these ones which were somewhat inspired by the artist Frida Kahlo. I braided my hair, and added some flowers and bright jewellery.

25 May 2015

Refashioned vintage paisley dress

I found this vintage dress (probably 1980s?) in a charity shop a few months ago. I fell in love with the fabric, a red background with a floral paisley pattern in royal blue and white. The dress was a bit like a tent on me, but at the same time it was tight around my back and shoulders when I pulled my arms forward.

Because of the problems in the area of the armholes, I decided this was where I needed to start. I carefully unpicked the seams around the armholes, then made the hole bigger by cutting it about an inch further down at the bottom, then I hemmed around the armholes, making it into a sleeveless dress. 
Next I put the dress on inside-out, and pinned the sides in to give the dress more shape, and also pinned two darts at the front and two at the back. I was fairly confident about doing this as I've used this method on a dress before to give it a better fit. I tacked these in place, then tried the dress on again, and pinned again where I needed to alter the lines slightly. I couldn't make the dress fit closely to my shape, because it doesn't have a zip for getting in and out of it, but I did the best I could while making sure I could still get it on and off! I sewed the darts and side seams, added a line of zigzag stitching, and trimmed off the excess.
Next I got to work on the neckline. The neck was very high and frilly, and I don't find high necks very comfortable. So I folded the fabric in until I found a look I liked, then put some pins in to mark where I wanted the neckline - I kept it just above one of the existing buttons at the front, and kept it higher at the back by just cutting off the frill. I cut a curve above the pins, and folded and hemmed it. I left the length of the dress as it was.
I was really pleased that I managed to hem around the armholes and collar neatly! This was my first time doing so on a full-sized piece of clothing - I've only done it on dolls' clothes before, and I discovered that doing it on a bigger scale makes it so much easier! Now I think I will maybe have the confidence to make a piece of clothing from a pattern, which is something I've been planning to try this year!

23 May 2015

Have a Great Bearthday card

My Mum loves space, so it's surprising that I haven't made a space-themed card for her before! The idea for this card came from seeing some embroideries online of constellations, displayed in embroidery hoops. I thought of the Great Bear as an iconic constellation, then the "Great Bearthday" greeting for inside the card popped into my mind, which I thought was quite appropriate because my nephew has been referred to as Baby Bear, which certainly makes my mum Great Bear!

1. Draw a circle on plain paper, cut it out and draw a sketch of your constellation on it.
2. Cut a circle of navy or black card of the same size, and use the plain paper copy and a pin (or other sharp object) to make holes at the locations of the stars.
3. Sew the stars with a few strands of embroidery thread - I used a pale blue.
4. Sew the lines of the constellation with a single strand of embroidery thread - I used pale grey.
5. Add some random stars using a white or silver pen.

6. Stick the circle to the front of the card, and add the greeting "Have a Great Bearthday" inside using stamps.

22 May 2015

Kimono photos

It was a beautiful morning, my cherry tree in the back garden was in full bloom, so I decided to take advantage of the lovely weather to finally get round to taking some photos of myself wearing the kimono that I bought in Kyoto in 2013. This is where it becomes clear how far in advance I start planning and writing my blog posts - this cherry tree is in flower in mid-April rather than mid-May! But my other cherry tree does flower about now!
This is only the second time that I've made a proper effort to get dressed in my kimono. It's a lot of work, and it's not easy doing so on your own! I don't have a proper collar to wear under it, so I just used a length of fabric folded over, which got a bit scrunched up as I was dressing myself, and I can never get the neckline to stay back from the nape of my neck like it's supposed to! And my obi was just tied any which way at the back to get it to stay in place - that's the most difficult bit!
After spending ages on my hair and makeup, and getting dressed in my kimono, I headed out to the garden. It was really bright, so it was difficult taking the photos. I did take a parasol out with me to try to shade my face in some of them.

21 May 2015

Recently thrifted

I have been looking for a vintage sideboard for quite a while, but just at the moment I started looking they seemed to no longer be available in any of the charity shops! I kept my eyes open, but with no success, until I started thinking about it from a different angle - what if I was to get a vintage dressing table and remove the mirror?

It proved a bit easier to find one of these - one of my favourite local charity shops posted a picture of one on their Facebook page. It was perfect, with the tapered legs I was looking for. Unfortunately I saw this after they had closed on a Saturday, and had to wait until the Monday (I was on holiday that week) to see if it was still there! Luckily it was, and I could see that the mirror would be easy to remove. 

It only cost me £40 plus £5 delivery, and the lady apologised that they wouldn't be able to deliver it until the following morning - which I thought was pretty quick! And I was able to get them to remove the big old TV unit it was replacing too!

In one of the cupboards was the original tag from when it had been bought for £30 in 1972!

Another fun little find was this little blue dish. I'd been admiring Komon dishes online, and this dish satisfied my desire for something similar, with a fairly simple graphic blue and white Japanese style design.

20 May 2015

Blue and white photo challenge

Another of this year's photography challenges was to take photos on a walk based on a particular colour scheme. Because I'd been thinking about blue and white items in my home, I decided on blue and white. I'm glad that the sky was really blue that day, because otherwise I think I'd have had trouble finding many things in that colour scheme! Maybe next time I will try green!

19 May 2015

I love... Blue and white!

I love the combination of blue and white - it looks so clean and crisp! I've got a few items around my home in these colours, especially on the bookcase in my hall. I also seem to have quite a few items of clothing in this colour combination!

Here are some projects that I've made in a combination of blue and white:
Fleur de Lis coaster
Scandinavian jumper card
Alpine bedroom
Mackintosh mosaic pendant
Mackintosh clay pendant