Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Price of Charity

Normally I don't get the time to browse in charity shops but recently I decided to combine exercising my wonky knee somewhere with lots of places of interest to stop and look.

Byres Road in Glasgow has a very laid back Westend vibe with fab restaurants, cafes and bars, boutiques, everyday and speciality shops as well as a number of charity shops. Its sometimes referred to as the desperate mile if you're on a pub crawl, though definitely not advisable while on painkillers otherwise I'd have keeled over and been classified as a traffic bollard, or hazard!

Oxfam has a dedicated bookshop AND a couch so this was definitely worth a visit and a little rest. I was chuffed to pick up a Kirstie Allsopp Crafting hardback for £4.99 which seemed reasonable enough and had a browse of their other books and dvd's but was quite surprised at some of the prices.

I saw a Belinda Jones novel I hadn't read but thought it was rather overpriced at £3.99 especially as it was a used mass market paperback. When I checked online, amazon have it new for £1.50, used for 1p and £3.49 for kindle. I know book prices are fluctuating wildly due to the whole e-reader impact and resellers, and there are also the ethics of supporting authors and charitable endeavours which I strongly support, but something is not quite right here.

When I moved house I donated what probably equated to perhaps 3-4 tall bookcases of books, most read but some new to a charity which supports homelessness. I fully expected them to be priced attractively but would have been rather annoyed if they had overpriced them and retarded sales that fund the charity.

Oxfam wasn't alone as I noticed the prices were quite steep in another that I visited. They had some nice cut glass/crystal wine glasses but at £38 I'd be looking to buy them new, shiny and boxed from a department store not loose and with some scratches. In their window they has a pair of ladies shoes for £72.99 which blew me away. On closer inspection they were well polished Ferragamo's, in an older style similar to those worn by the Queen, but they were very obviously used with the distinctive imprint of the previous owners foot spread and bunions.

It is nice to go into a clean and well organised charity shop, and to feel you are supporting their cause, but quite another to feel you are paying a premium for used items donated in good faith. This may be limited to this area as they can possibly demand higher prices. If it works then I wish them well but question whether I'd pay these prices when I can buy new items cheaper which come with guarantees and refund policies.

Is this a Byres Road phenomenon, or am I so out of touch with modern charity shops that this is the price of charity?

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

A Year in Books: The Honey Queen - Cathy Kelly

The Honey Queen is a nice Irish tale by Cathy Kelly read by Amy Creighton. It has three overlapping stories of a family, a woman who was adopted and now in her 60's travels from Australia to Cork to meet her brother and a woman who opens a knitting shop in the small village.

The story had a feel of a Maeve Binchy but with less intricacy and substance. Much of it is clich├ęd and contains many stereotypes with everything all working out the way you can probably guess. I'd have liked the knitting shop to figure more prominently but both the shop and the honey queen reference are just back drops to the people and their interactions.

This may make it sound like I didn't enjoy the book but I did. It was total easy listening which is great for relaxing to or while crocheting, and when it finished last night I felt quite sad that I had to leave Redstones village and the people I'd been hearing about.

The reader's voice and soft Irish accent were gorgeous to listen to as well and I think this is critical to enjoying an audiobook as the reader's voice, accent and style can make or break a book.

The very first audiobook I bought about 12yrs ago utterly destroyed my enjoyment of Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti novels which are set in Venice. I adored her series and would even buy the hardbacks the moment they came out. Unfortunately, I found Andrew Sach's accent and delivery totally at odds with how I imagined Guido Brunetti. Obviously this is a personal view as reading is all about engaging your imagination whereas listening involves additional information added by the reader. Sadly I could never read her books again without hearing his voice and stopped reading them altogether.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Grow your blog 2014 - Gone Beading

2 Bags Full

I'm joining in with the Grow your Blog meet and greet event at 2 bags full and am looking forward to meeting new visitors as well as going to visit other bloggers. Welcome, come in and grab a coffee and settle yourself down as this is probably a post best told in pictures.

I have two blogs; this one is for my adventures in crafting, creating and ramblings on the general insanity that somehow forms my life. My other blog, called Pepsi Max Addict, is where I blog about the two cats to whom I am a long suffering and mainly willing servant.
 Swarovski and freshwater pearl set for a friend's birthday
 Fire polished crystals and haematite set for my Mother
I live in Scotland and this blog started off as a place for me to record my developing skills in jewellery making and beading. I love beading as it is great fun and probably one of the first crafts where I could create something that I could wear without apologising for the wonky nature of it. I also love having the skills to create special handmade gifts for friends which have special meaning or represented their specific tastes. 
 A decoration for the Christmas Decoration Swap arranged by Marianne. This beaded snowflake went to Jessie's Needle
An angel to send a friend a message of support
Over the last year I have diversified into new crafts such as decorative glasswork at Glasgow Metropolitan College with the fab tutor Kimberly, machine sewing at Clydebank College taught by Jenny, paper crafting, needle felting, paracord knotting and some wall art.
My His and Her's toilet door sign 
A basket liner for my towels
 A knitting needle and crochet hook case
 A birthday card
 My first glasswork pattern for my little dove
 Some paracord key chains
I have also been revisiting and refreshing old crafts that I used to enjoy but haven't touched in years such as knitting, crochet, punch tool embroidery and some hand sewing. I have also enjoyed the assistance of a good friend who has taught me how to read a crochet pattern which was something I had never learnt as a child/teenager.
A crocheted cotton washcloth with a bar of soap inside
One thing that is very obvious throughout this blog is that I am a bit of a control freak and hate being told what to do. This extends to arguing with my Sat Nag in the car, reading a pattern then ignoring it and my worst crime of all is deciding I've got an 'idea' then just totally free-styling things. Sometimes my approach pays dividends, like the fairy below for the Christmas tree, and sometimes it is a disaster but I usually 'fess up in a cautionary blog post.
I am a prolific maker of small things, I like my crafts to be absorbing but relatively quick otherwise I lose interest as something new comes along. I like to adapt the William Morris rule by only making things that are either beautiful or useful. I love reading, listening to audiobooks and occasionally just using my blog to have a little rant so you sometimes get a mixture. I've joined a virtual book group at Circle of Pines and am blogging about my latest read or listen on this blog.
Normally, when crafting I work at my dining room table, and often have to contend with a furry friend snoopervising, and my stash for each craft is piled into many corners. After moving to this house a room was joyously allocated as a dedicated creative space/craft room/study. However, this excitement is tempered by the fact that this room is chockfull of post-house move boxes which are now reduced to a height of around 7ft at present and the room has been christened the 'spare room of despair'. Still I live in hope.

So this me and my crafting blog in a nutshell really. I hope you have enjoyed stopping by, and if you'd like to leave a comment to let me know you've visited please feel free.

Friday, 24 January 2014

A Year in Books: Dark Blood by Stuart MacBride

This is a crime/ police procedural novel read by the author  in audiobook format. It centres on a predatory criminal who attacks and abuses elderly men. On his release from prison he relocates to his grandmother's old house in Aberdeen. The book centres on a Sgt Logan McRae and his colleagues and there are a number of books in this series.

This is the second book I've read/listened to from this author as I picked up Shatter the Bones from the bookshelf in the tearoom at work and had read this just before I chose this audiobook. I listened to a good three hours of this one while I sat crocheting and waiting for surgery in the hospital so I think if it can hold a listeners attention at this kind of time then it is pretty engaging.

I particularly enjoyed listening to the author reading it as I felt it added a particular pace and emphasis which only he could do. The Aberdonian element and the dark humour was well featured in the book as were the author's talent for accents which added authenticity. On the less pleasant side this book was quite graphically horrible in describing unpleasant events or crimes but such is the style of this type of book.

Three things didn't settle as well though and possibly the unabridged nature of the audiobook made them more obvious. One was the sheer amount of swearing which I found irritatingly repetitive but I wondered if when I am reading a book I just gloss over the swearing instead of having to listen to it in full. Two, the DI Steel character is so overblown that she is more or less a caricature and it makes it hard to accept that she'd still be in her job given her dreadful behaviour. Third was the amount of beatings and injuries which MacRae sustained in such a short space of time. Either these were over described or a bit of fantasy but I cannot imagine any officer sustaining these injuries and still be fit to stand never mind work.

Niggles aside I would still plan to read more in this series and have Close to the Bone on my kindle app.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Year in Books: Never Somewhere Else - Alex Gray

Linking up with the lovely bloggers participating in a Year in Books at Circle of Pines.

This was the first Alex Gray I've read. It is a crime/police procedural novel set in Glasgow featuring a DCI Lorimer who is on the hunt for a killer who leaves their victims in St Mungo's Park. As part of the investigation the DCI is required to work with a psychologist from Glasgow University which he is less than pleased about. Initially it looks like a straight serial killer is on the loose but the killings are linked in a more complex manner.

Essentially the story is pretty standard stuff, no great surprises but enjoyable and well planned if you like crime fiction. The blurb about it being a threat to Inspector Rebus is a bit of a stretch but I was keen to read this author as she has written a number of books. I love finding new authors with a good back catalogue who are also still active and I am keen to read more of her work. The Glasgow connection was of interest for me too but I found it a bit odd as some key areas were fictionalised.

From a purely personal point of view this book represented a bit of a mystery to me. It is a signed copy and had obviously been read, however I have absolutely no memory of the story, meeting the author or buying it, so either I've been loaned it or picked it up secondhand or quite possibly I am going bonkers!

Monday, 20 January 2014


Today was a lovely day. It started with a breakfast egg which came with added fluffiness. I like to believe in white feathers as a message from your guardian angel. Even if it is not true I am happy in my delusion so don't enlighten me as I felt blessed by two feathers.

Later my friend and I had planned lunch and a good gab. As it was a pretty dreich day we decided just to take a little pootle to Clydebank to try a newish Italian restaurant where we had a nice meal and lots of conversation. The restaurant is in the bottom part of the shopping centre and right beside the Forth and Clyde Canal that separates parts of the centre. As we were talking the sky darkened and this amazing rainbow appeared.

 It got stronger and stronger, and a second one appeared.

 The water was as calm as a mill pond after  lunch
The blue and white thing in the distance is a barge/boat which is a fabulous fish restaurant.
After this we did a 'lidl' shopping as I was keen to see if they still had some honey pomelo's in as I am utterly addicted to these. They did, and they also had some craft specials which I nabbed.
 The lilac set is beside a 4mm hook to give a sense of size. These handled ones are from 0.75-1.5mm. I've no idea if I can manage to work with these but worth a go.
 Next into the basket were some packs of cotton yarn for only £3.99 which I thought was a bit of a bargain. I can see myself possibly getting my own washcloth out of this lot.
 Next, I already have a nail and staple gun but have never used it. This electric one looked like it would be a decent investment as it will take some of the pressure off and help me re-cover the kidney shaped stool more easily.
 Lastly, this is a double pack of canvas sketch paper which I plan to use for the Mondriaan style piece I want to try and possibly backing some box frames etc.
After this little haul we browsed a little in Dunelm Mill where I've never been before but it sells fabric and haberdashery items, as well as homewares, so I'll definitely be coming back.
The short walks between the car and these venues are the furthest walks I've managed in months and certainly since my operation. I am rather suffering for it now and I've had to top up my painkillers but it has been worth it. Today was a lovely day with my friend and in receiving the feathers and seeing the rainbows as it makes me feel hopeful of progress with my knee.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Year in Books: commencement

I saw this read-a-long being hosted by Circle of Pines on Bobobun's blog which sounded very interesting once I saw the range of books other bloggers will be reading and the flexi-book club nature of it.

I've wanted to join a book club for so long, probably since I saw the channel 4 sitcom, but the enforced reading to a schedule, the genre specific nature of some groups or having to read someone else's choice which I don't fancy puts me off as it would destroy the pleasure. On this basis, joining in with a virtual book club then sharing my experience of my own choice of book and hearing others' opinions of theirs sounds very attractive.

I buy books prolifically and used to read each to the end no matter what, even if I knew it was going to be a dud. A few years ago I suddenly decided that life was too short and precious to waste on a poor book especially as great new ones are being written every day. I always have a few books on the go at any one time but much of my daily reading often happens online which reduces my physical book reading. I have a long commute to work and love audiobooks from the local library. Since my knee problems have limited my outings I've been sourcing them from audible and listen when crafting and at bedtime. 

Current reading is as follows:
Never Somewhere Else - Alex Gray just finished 2days ago and will write up as started in Jan
Various Pets Alive and Dead - Marina Lewyka

Kindle App
Close to the Bone - Stuart MacBride

Stuart MacBride  - just finished 3days ago
The Honey Queen - Cathy Kelly

Monday, 13 January 2014

Sewing Machine, little makes and repairs

I never did tell the tale of how I got my first sewing machine last month. While lying in bed one night plotting thinking if I could afford a sewing machine I realised I had £70 of unused Love to Shop vouchers which came as part of my broadband deal. The next morning I realised the vouchers are rather limiting to certain shops but Argos had some entry level machines and after some advice from Jenny our sewing tutor I chose one. Using Argos also meant I could use Nectar points to add the extra AND I'd get a £10 Argos voucher. Very Machiavellian but the outcome was a brand new machine and a selection box of threads for about £2.50 in real money all in.

Minutes after getting the machine home I managed to wreck the spool holder and the whole thing fell apart. Really, I should read the manual at the start instead of using it after the fact to repair the damage! The manual is thick with many languages but precious little useful information so thank goodness for YouTube. I managed to repair the spool retaining mechanism and eventually worked out how to thread it as it was a front loading one compared to the top loading class machines. I got it working and made some little lavender bags out of felt just to get me started, then I made the Christmas Trees. I'm really glad I had the benefit of the sewing class behind me as it was a great primer.
This weekend I decided to make a basket liner tho' the project was nearly scuppered by Magic as I swear she had developed puppy dog eyes when she was trying to claim the basket. I wish I'd chosen a straight sided basket but I got there in the end. Don't look too closely it is as squinty as anything but it will not be noticed once my hand towels are piled on top!
The next little project was a bit of 'repurposing' of fabric swatches. I like this term better than upcycling-what is 'up' about second hand or recycling-sounds worthy, but I associate recycling with dingy looking toilet paper. I had a number of little swatches which were just too nice to bin so I kept moving them around the house. Then I decided they could become lavender sachets and help use up my lavender mountain. Goodness knows how many lavender sachet I can find a use for so I think I might just pop these in a little basket in the hall for friends to take as they visit and it will keep the hall sweet smelling.
The next project was a knitting needle holder and bamboo needles for a friend who knits baby cardigans constantly as folk keep having babies. Technically it is her Christmas present but we haven't managed to meet up yet so I am still in time.
 The picture makes the lines look squint but they are totally straight, and were a gift when sewing as I was able to use the stripes to guide me. These are the same carbonised bamboo needles as I have from sizes 2-10mm and they are lovely to use. It is great to always have the right size to hand.
Then there were the repairs - a small seam rip on a pair of trousers and my handbag zip. I read a blog post describing how to repair a zip ages ago not knowing I'd need it so soon. My handbag zip fell apart on Thursday which counts as a bit of a disaster as I rarely leave home without this bag. Since I started using a handbag I've used a tiny dark Tula leather bag as my everyday bag, this is only my fourth one in 30yrs. For work I plonk this inside a briefcase or workbag and for everything else I use the little bag. It accommodates everything I need - purse, two phones, two sets of keys, hanky, pen, reading glasses in a tube (a sad but necessary recent addition), lipstick, small perfume and small mirror. This sounds like a lot, and it is which is why the leather stretches to the point where something has to give, and this time it was the zip. However I managed to use the stitch ripper to get the end of the zip out, reattach the zip pull then sew and glue the end back on. The zip looks weak but my bag is functional once more and I am so chuffed.
I'm currently working on making a little cushion out of some scrap cotton and will finish it today. I just need to decide if it will be a dinky cushion or a cat beanbag. I haven't really tested the sewing machine's limits but as I am a prolific maker of small things it was never going to be used for major projects but I am enjoying using it immensely. Not bad for a nearly free sewing machine!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Designer Directions

During the summer I saw a sign on the bathroom door in one of my favourite seafood restaurants Two Fat Ladies Restaurant in Glasgow and was so taken with it I just had to make one myself. Their name is a play on the bingo callers term for their address at No.88 Dumbarton Road. They've expanded to other venues but for me the tiny original where you can peer in the front window and watch the chef at work is the best and I never need a second asking to dine there.

I thought the idea was so quirky, witty and absolutely inspired and just had to try and make one myself
even though I don't actually need a toilet door sign....! 

Sourcing the bottles was rather tricky but thank heaven for the internet as I was able to eventually find a set which was very reasonably priced. These were my very first ebay and paypal purchases. Finally tonight I made it and am delighted.

The sign uses the dinky little 3.5ml anatomical Jean Paul Gaultier bottles as the symbols for Ladies and Gents in a recessed box frame.
The originals in the restaurant are in dark colours to fit their scheme but after much procrastinating I went for a gold theme to link in with my hallway. I used metallic spray paint on the frame, gold card and a dark woven cardstock to back the gold as I'd used a Martha Stewart punch on the edges just for a bit of extra interest and to break up the all gold.

Gluing them was a bit of a hassle. I tried E6000 which is apparently great for glass but it just wouldn't take and was too flexible. I tried to resort to superglue but it had gone rock solid in the tube(!) so I resorted to a roll on permanent glue which seems strong so far.
I've hung it up with some 'no more nails' tape instead of hanging them I'm concerned in case they come loose and end up smashing on the floor.
To the person who thought of this, I take my hat off to you, with my homage to your style which I just love.  

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Always a solution

Time for a silly post I think. No idea why I've remembered this but it makes me laugh so I thought I'd share it.

The bedroom door in the previous house was of very light hollow construction and prone to loud, infuriating rattling when closed with even the lightest breeze or someone shutting a door in the house. Over the years either it got worse or I got more crabbit, and it caused many an argument if someone closed it when it should have remained open if I was studying or sleeping and had to get up to open the door to stop the rattling. Essentially the problem was that the door was flimsy and hollow inside and between that and the couple of millimetres gap with the doorframe the noise was amplified.

I'd tried many solutions with different types of foam draught excluder tape but they were all too thick; I tried just leaving it open with a finger guard in place but the cats got out and caused merry hell in the hall in the middle of the night. I'd consulted a joiner who said the gap was so small it would be hard to fix. It was a rented house and but if we'd known how long we would live there I'd have gladly paid.

One windy night I'd absolutely had enough and was in full, festering, sleep deprived crazy lady mode and the totally obvious 'solution' struck me. I grabbed a pair of scissors and a panty liner and set to work cutting thin strips and sticking these around the door frame at strategic points. They were white, unobtrusive and only a few mm deep AND they worked like a charm!!! I fell blissfully, quietly and a little smugly asleep.

This was only meant to be a temporary solution, particularly as it wasn't really one you'd want to brag about, however it was working and I couldn't bring myself to take them off in the absence of a permanent fix.

So why am I laughing about this? Well, we moved out over a year and a half ago and it is quite possible that the folk who now live there are benefitting from my Heath Robinson solution without ever knowing their bedroom sound-proofing is powered by a panty liner......!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Washcloth finish

Finally, I made a face/body washcloth with a frill. I've been seeing so many bloggers make these washcloths and have loved them. Admittedly, I didn't understand why you would make these at first as I'd confused them with dish or washing up cloths. I still don't understand why anyone would let their precious handmade cloth be used for washing dishes or surfaces but this is probably because I see these hand-crafted items as little luxuries. I rarely handwash dishes (if I can get away with it) and, if I must, I use a brush on a stick and have a babywipe/disposable policy for most other cleaning so I never think of boring housework as suitable for a pretty handmade cloth.
This lovely was made for a friend and I wrapped it round a beautiful bar of Yorkshire Soap Company Orangery soap and pulled through a Merry Christmas Ribbon with a crochet hook. I did think of putting a pretty button and loop on it but I was worried the recipient might end up putting her eye out when she was washing her face!