Granada, mother nature and man

I am firmly convinced that one of the reasons that Granada, and specifically the Alhambra, is so stunning, is due to the contrast between the man made splendour and the amazing beauty of the Sierra Nevada backdrop.

This is the second time I have visited the city, both in the same season with snow on the mountains and it is the most amazing sight. My first trip, around 20 years ago, was going to be my only trip to Spain as an adult but I fell in love with the beautiful houses and coastline here and the rest is history!

We stayed in a beautiful apartment, Apartamento Capitania found on Booking.com, in a fantastic location near the cathedral, with shops, tapas bars and taxi and bus stops all minutes away. It was also excellent value for money, costing us each 30 euros a night. It had a gorgeous view of a small church and a square with a few bars around.

As always the architecture was stunning, so many beautiful ‘wedding cake’ style buildings, balconies and wonderful doors!

On our first day we went to the Albaicin, in itself a World Heritage site for its steep winding roads and Moorish architecture. This trip was for Mum’s birthday so she had planned everything that she wanted to see.

The houses are, as often in Spain, amazing in the way that they have been constructed on top of each other up the hillside, with beautiful roof gardens and lots of wonderful tiles and doorways. We were aiming for one of the royal palaces but stopped off at the numerous miradors, or viewing places to get closer and closer to the views of the Alhambra with the snowy mountains behind it.

This was the view from the restaurant where we had a delicious mango and goats cheese salad and fried aubergine with honey.

The Palacio de Dar al – Horra was lovely, a very understated version of the Alhambra, with again amazing views across the Albaicin and the Alhambra.

After that we wandered down into the valley, with the assistance of Google maps, and around the mountain to the area of Sacromonte, famous for its cave houses and the flamenco venues that the gitanos or gypsies who have been here since the 1700s developed. We are now quite knowledgeable about cave life since our visit to Ben and Amanda so really enjoyed looking round the cave house museum there.

The best bits were all the textiles and the old photos of the people who lived in this complex. There was a perfect little one person cave that I would be very happy living in, complete with sewing area! In this cave there was the most fascinating rag rug, made from triangles, unlike the other strip ones I have seen and it was wonderful to be able to see all the different fabrics that had been used.

An amazing day and a perfect start to our trip. We had pre-booked tickets for the Alhambra for the following day so to see so much of it beforehand was just perfect.

I will be back with part two of the trip soon. I have made a promise to myself that I will develop a design from one of the Alhambra pictures so if you have any favourites in the next post let me know in the comments.

As always have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

The rain in Spain …..

It has been raining this afternoon. This is a rare enough event in this part of Spain to cause much discussion, although this year has been wetter than any other for 72 years. Having lived in Yorkshire for 37 years I keep telling people here that this gentle rain that they get most of the time is nothing to be concerned about ๐Ÿ˜‰ I was actually secretly quite glad that it was raining as otherwise I would have felt as if I should be weeding at the front of the house, or washing my paintwork or some other useful household task.

Instead I spent all afternoon sitting watching Netflix and sewing, finishing off the project we started this morning at my sewing group here. It still feels very naughty to be doing this kind of thing on a school day, I haven’t quite got the hang of this retirement lark meaning I can do anything I like at any time but have had a thoroughly lovely time.

My new sewing group, and the knitting group that are some of the same people are lovely, so welcoming and friendly. We alternate between our own projects and workshops led by one of the group and today we were doing one of my favourite things, making a pincushion. I mentioned previously that I don’t have many left and couldn’t resist this gorgeous design. This is one of the demo versions made by Eileen who led the workshop and the pattern and an instructional video can be found here.

What I love about this is that they can be so easily customised. Eileen’s version had the apron having little pockets for scissors etc as her apron was finished using pinking shears but as I don’t have any I finished mine with lace and left out the pockets.

You can also stitch a little necklace on but I decided to trim the neckline with ric rac instead. All of the material came from my stash, all Liberty fabrics for the coloured sections. You just need some toy stuffing, rice to give it some weight, and a small circle of both felt and card for the base.

A really lovely make, I am so glad that I found this group (through an advert on the local Facebook page) as we have other exciting things planned in the next few months. It also gives me an outlet for other makes as the group do a lot of crafting for charity. I have completed the Jubilee outfit for Luna so will share that with you soon.

Granada was wonderful, I have hundreds of pictures to sort through and then I can do some posts about that. We have three other day trips in the next two weeks as well so I will be able to share lots of lovely Spanish architecture with you over the coming weeks.

This week I also start another creative writing course so I am very much looking forward to that. I am not sure if I will get much writing done until autumn as want to make the most of the time here being outdoors but am looking forward to spending time with more creative people.

I hope that you have all had a good week and are looking forward to the weekend. Whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

A very special dress and a pattern review – Simplicity 1045 dress

This post has been a very long time coming, I first wrote it two years ago as my friend Sarah, the very talented knitwear designer from Marsden, had asked me to make her wedding dress. The celebration was originally scheduled for April 2020 and the dress was finished on March 16th, just in time for her to tell me they were going to have to postpone for a bit ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Poor Sarah finally got to have the ‘official’ ceremony in August that year with just two witnesses, but the party only got to take place this last weekend, two years to the day that it would have been.

I am so glad that she finally got to have her celebration, the theme was Lord of the Rings as she and her partner Alan are huge fans. I wasn’t able to go, as knew I would be back in Spain for Mum’s birthday, but Sharon very kindly sent me some photos and she looked amazing in the dress. I will hopefully have some more photos of every else at some point as well as everyone dressed up.

Sarah's dress - large 1

Sarah's dress - large 2

When Sarah first chose this pattern for her dress I looked for reviews of it but didn’t find any so I thought it might be useful to write one in case anyone else wanted to make it. I have also talked about fabric choices as well.

Choice of garments in the pattern

This is a good value pattern as you get different choices of sleeves and necklines. I made a combination of view A for the sleeves and the length of the dress and View B for the centre panel with braid and the cording loops. View A also has three panels at the front, but in the same fabric they are not as obvious.

Sarah's dress 1

Sarah's dress 2

Sarah's dress 3

Fabric choices

The pattern calls for light fabrics so we chose a beautiful blue polyester art dupion for the main body and a heavily embroidered grey silk for the centre panel. I trimmed the loose threads from the silk before using it.

Sarah's dress 9

The centre panel fabric did cause a few issues as it was quite difficult to sew the tabs for the front cording onto the panel. The tabs were made of the braid we chose for the edging and it was a really good match with the embroidery as it had the same kind of sequins but they were quite stiff to sew on.

Sarah's dress 6

Sarah's dress 11

The front seams needed redoing several times as they would not stay still. If I made it again I would use a less textured material as the embroidery was very difficult to stitch through in places although it is a gorgeous fabric. The dupion was beautiful to work with, it was very easy to handle and didn’t crease easily so didn’t need ironing.

The sleeves were made ofย  an organza with tiny sparkles on rather than a chiffon which meant they were a little stiffer. I think this looks good as they hold their shape more easily without having to hold your arms out all the time as the model is doing ๐Ÿ™‚

Sarah's dress 8

They do take up a lot of fabric as there is a lot of waste on the layout. If you want to save money you could have shorter, narrower, sleeves and be able to get two cut out of each width. They would still be very pretty being a little smaller.

We bought extra fabric than that specified just to be on the safe side but due to an issue with the dye on the dupion ending up cutting all panels horizontally out of the width of the 60 inch fabric so could have got away with much less. The length was fine, although we had to cut 3 inches off each pattern piece to do that. My friend is of medium height but it was a good length with just a tiny hem.

Sizing

As with all patterns it bore little relation to shop sizing, I cut it out at size 16 for the bust as her bust inch measurement was 1/2 inch more than that for the size 14 and I am glad I did as it fitted really well. It gives 2 inches of ease on the finished measurements but there didn’t seem to be that much ease.

Sarah's dress 4

The waist was cut at size 16 as well although the inch measurement was a size 14 as the hips needed to be a size 18 and I didn’t want it to end up too tight on the waist. It is a very flowing design so does not need to be too specific in terms of the hip sizing.

Sarah's dress 5

I made a toile out of an old bed sheet which was a similar weight to the actual fabric and there were no real fit issues. I did take the shoulder seams up by half an inch to give a better fit on the bust line and cut half an inch from the bottom of the armholes after the final fitting as it was a little tight there.

Instructions

The instructions were clear, I didn’t need to really follow them in detail as the dress was very easy to work out, it has seven panels and since they are all different shapes it was clear what went where. There were no complicated techniques.

The pattern had two pieces for each sleeve which would have meant a seam on the top which given the sheerness of the fabric I didn’t want so I cut it out using only the back piece (as it was slightly larger) on the fold and it was fine. I used French seams as instructed for the seams of the sleeves. This was all hand stitched and I also inserted the sleeves by hand as the organza was quite slippery and the sleeves so large I thought this was easier than trying to get it all through my machine.

Sarah's dress finished 7

Sarah's dress finished 2

I wanted to line the dress which wasn’t in the instructions so we bought some lining fabric and made another dress for the lining. This was then sewn to the neckline then hand stitched into the armholes and next to the zip.

Sarah's dress finished 8

There was a facing as well which I made and attached as instructed but it showed through the dress fabric and looked bulky so I trimmed it back to 1/2 inch, zig zagged it and then used that to attach the dress lining to.

Construction notes

All body pieces were zig zagged after cutting before sewing up which was a good strategy as the blue fabric frayed a lot. The sleeves were not treated in this way, they did not fray too much when cut so I left them raw and the French seams and the rolled over hem at the edges hid the raw edges of the fabric.

We did not have an invisible zip due to wanting to match the colour exactly so I inserted the zip leaving an overlap each side which was then sewn with small stitches so that the zip was hidden.

I cut the cording loop tabs at 7 cm according to the instructions but they looked too big so cut 2 cm off each. The pattern also asks for 1/2 inch cord but that looked too bulky so it was swapped for thinner cord.

Sarah's dress finished 9

Overall feelings

This was a very easy pattern to work with, the only issues we had in construction were to do with a few glitches with the fabric. I am not sure why they split the sleeve in two pieces but other than that and the removal of most of the facing everything worked well. I would make the pattern again and think it would be suitable for someone with little sewing experience as it is a straightforward make.

Sarah's dress finished 3

Sarah's dress finished 5

Sarah's dress finished 4

Sarah's dress finished 6

Time taken was around 50 hours in total but about half of that was hand stitching so if you were machining sleeves, lining etc it would be far less. I hand stitched the hems on both lining and main dress as I prefer the finish and enjoy hand stitching but if you are just making a costume you might not do that and the braid could have been machined on as well.

I hope that this has been useful, as I make more things with commercial patterns I will review them as I find it very helpful to read other people’s thoughts about what they use before I decide which patterns to buy.

I will be back in a while with more travel pictures, in the meantime, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Sewing with a view of the sea!

I have had a very lovely first week back in Spain. I have been out a lot as we have had family visiting from the UK so have spent a few evenings with my cousin and her children and been busy sorting the house and garden. It always takes me a while when I get here to remember where everything is, as I keep discovering things I had forgotten I owned !

I spent yesterday sorting out my new sewing space in my bedroom, and had a lovely afternoon using the new machine with a view of the sea and the windows open so that I could smell the orange blossom. It is a beautiful time of year here, they have had a lot of unseasonal rain and some dust storms over from the Sahara but that has meant that many more wildflowers are in bloom.

I do need to buy some more furniture for storage but have just got this lovely little drawer unit which is perfect for when I am at the machine as it holds all of my threads and tools and has enough space for the essentials on top.

At the moment the wardrobe on the left of the first picture holds all of my sewing and knitting supplies in some plastic drawers and hanging units but I would like something more custom with easier access so that I can keep everything tidier.

I am currently using my table from the dining area which is brilliant as it folds out to a really large space which is perfect for cutting out so I will buy another one for the lounge and move this one permanently into here.

The first job was to make a new pincushion for this area, I gave most of my sewing supplies to Ellen for her upcycling project, including nearly all of my pincushions which is a great excuse to make some more! I found this piece of applique when I was sorting my WIP pile.

I stitched it last year as a postcard for the Crafting During Coronavirus research project that I took part in but due to the general busyness of life at that point never managed to finish it and send it off. I just backed it with one of my favourite Liberty prints and stuffed it with cushion filling, et voila a nice big pincushion! It is pictured here next to the little scraps basket Facebook helpfully reminded me this morning that I made 6 years ago.

I think the sentiment I stitched is perfect for my new sewing room. I have been thinking a lot about that time as we have just had the second anniversary of lockdown. I was so worried that my family would be badly affected and that all my plans to retire and move to Spain could go wrong, so it is good to have a reminder of not to lose hope when things look difficult. I am so grateful to be here and for everything that has happened in the last nine months.

I have also kept some of the stitched gifts that I have been given over the years and this beautiful needlebook is now in place to hold all my hand stitching needles. It was made for me many years ago by a very talented friend, Barbara, at my old embroidery group.

I am working on a new outfit for Luna at the moment. I really enjoyed making the Luna and clothes last year but then got a bit stuck as to who to give them to. My cousin’s children are a little too old for those kind of gifts and though the newest member of the family is expected any day now, it will be a while until she can have one.

Moving to Spain and joining a new knitting and sewing group has meant that I have whole new outlet for things in terms of donations to charities that other members support here. This Luna will be going to raise funds for the local food bank in a ‘name the rabbit’ competition to be held at the Jubilee celebrations in June. She therefore needs a new outfit in red, white and blue, which I am hoping will be finished this afternoon. Having all the windows open made it a bit breezy so I was glad of my pattern weights that my very talented daughter Ellen made last year.

I have also been replanting all of my pots so the terrace is looking bright and colourful again. I have spent the last two evenings sitting out there reading with my candles and solar lights lit. It really is my happy place and I love the quiet and peace there in the evenings, especially after all of the excitement of the last month!

We are hopefully off on a trip this coming week, it is my wonderful Mum’s birthday tomorrow and this is her birthday trip, to Granada. We will be going by coach so will get chance to travel through the mountains again which will be wonderful. I will of course take lots of pictures and will have so much to share with you when I get back.

My next post is going to be a very special one, over two years in the making but everything finally came together this weekend so I can share that with you now. More will be revealed next time!

Until then I hope that you have a lovely weekend, and enjoy the celebrations and Easter Bank Holiday if you have one. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Fitting out the micro camper – first purchases

As I mentioned in my previous post about Katy I have started getting the things together to turn her into a ‘no build’ micro camper so I thought it would be useful to post about some of those and my thoughts on how it is going to work. I have used pictures from Amazon, Ebay or the purchase sites to illustrate as everything is at my sister’s at present but am not sponsored for any of my purchases. I have put links in case anyone would find this information useful.

Due to the lack of time to sort things before my return to Spain I only had a day with her after she was delivered before leaving Worcester. I spent a lot of time measuring and sitting in her with various combinations of boxes to try and work out what space I had. This is a good tip that I picked up from watching You Tube videos and it helped me work out what head room I had and what would be suitable.

Katy has some very useful little airline type overhead lockers, which you can see in the picture above. I had seen these on other vans and was really pleased to be able to buy a van with them as not all models have them. I plan to use one side for food storage and the other for toiletries as there is quite a bit of space in them.

Last year’s UK camping tour was also very useful in getting me to think about minimal kit. I had everything I needed for 5 weeks travel, including the tent, all cooking stuff and all clothes, in one large bag and a rucksack so knew that I was set up for living. I now just have more space to put things away in!

My plan is to book camp sites this summer as a tent and to pitch the little tent I used last year as well as have the micro camper set up. That will give me additional storage and I will still probably sleep in the tent some nights as well. I will always love camping so will have the best of both worlds.

At the moment there is no flooring in the van. The area is luckily very clean so my temporary solution is a boot liner and a boot carpet. These will cover the majority of the area and I will just need to add to that to cover the footwells.

The seats will be removed and I am going to buy plastic storage boxes to fit into the footwells to make it level with the rest of the boot. I may create some kind of removable floor next year but for now this should work.

Later on I may buy a folding chair to sleep on like the one below, we had one of these for guests in my old house and they were great.

For the moment I am planning to use my air bed and existing sleeping bags (I have a normal and a lightweight one), plus some additional fleece blankets and cushions. I have this very cute fabric, that I have previously used for the backing for a campervan cushion for my sister pictured below, to make another version for me!

In fact I may make many campervan cushions as I still have my inspiration photos from Pinterest like the ones below. One of the reasons that I love having this blog is that I put together posts of my inspirations, like this one all about my campervan obsessions.

I also have my cute little appliques, made during lockdown two years ago, when I could only dream of learning to drive and buying a van. They will come with me on my travels, as a reminder never to give up hope!

Lot of people do make their own window covers out of reflective material, and I did consider that. However the windows are all odd shapes, and have lots of bits that protrude so I have treated myself to some custom made ones from Simple Camper Vans. They have blackout material on the inside and the silver material on the outside. They come in a great storage bag as well and though they cost more than making my own I think that is money well spent. I am planning to make some curtains as well.

It has been very helpful being able to stay with Jacky in her campervan as well, that has given me lots of ideas of kit that is essential, and what I can do without. I have decided that fixed power is not needed. Katy has two 12 volt sockets, one at the front and one in the boot, that I can use to charge my phone and tablet. I have two power banks that I bought for last year’s trip which are re-charged through a main socket and since I will be away for only 2 weeks maximum at a time before visiting people, and at campsites with facilities, that should be fine.

I bought a re-chargeable lantern at the motorhome show, and have also got some cute little battery operated magnetic lights so should be fine for power and light.

I have bought a very handy electric hook up with plugs, that I saw on someone else’s van conversion video, so may choose to book pitches with electric hook up if I need them.

I also have a little fan heater, that is more for when I will be using Katy next year in the spring, as I found I was fine last summer in a tent with just lots of fleeces. On our recent trip to the Peak District I bought some new thermals which are great as an underneath layer.

One of the things that Jacky has that is very useful is some collapsible storage boxes that can also be used as seating. I have bought one single version at present which is just the right height to sit in the van on when cooking.

I have chosen to keep my existing cooking set up, I have a single ring gas camping stove, and Jacky has very kindly given me an additional one. I can then have two rings if I need them. For my cooking set up I have my mini table from last year which is about 14 inches high and also I have bought a camping kitchen unit.

This will travel flat pack with me and then I can set it up either inside or outside. It gives me lots of storage for cooking equipment as well as a great surface for food prep. Since I managed very well with just the small table and my lap last year I am sure it will feel very luxurious this summer. I will still use my very cute and comfortable mini folding chair from last year for sitting outside and plan to use the front seats as ‘sofa’ and additional storage.

I have also bought a little table that hangs from the steering wheel, which I thought would be great for my tablet for watching even more van life videos ๐Ÿ˜‰ It even has a cup holder for my wine!

I will also have running water, of a sort! Last year I managed really well with a small folding water carrier, which I am still using but have also bought this nifty little 5 litre water container that can sit on my unit and which has a tap.

I have two very useful collapsible bowls as well. Most of the time I used campsites with washing up facilities anyway last year so just need the bowls to carry things.

Other purchases that have been recommended are magnetic hooks, useful for a variety of things and some back of the seat storage hangers which will fit over driver and passenger seat and be for additional practical items such as bin bags, though I may add a fluffy bunny as well ๐Ÿ˜‰

The one thing that always fascinates people about van life is toilet and shower arrangements. I will be using facilities at campsites most of the time but Jacky has very kindly offered me a spare porta potti which I may take if I have space. My alternative is I am trying out some bags that are filled with crystals from this company. Those will just be for emergencies if I am off in the wild somewhere or at night if it is raining too much!

My last purchase was a little present to myself. I love sitting round a campfire so have bought this wonderful little mini fire basket. It folds up so small, about 12 inches long so I am looking forward to being able to use that at some campsites.

I also bought some map books, much as I love Google maps I also like planning trips with a paper map, and it is always handy where you have no signal. My sister also has a journal to record her trips so I bought one of those as well.

Total ‘no build’ costs so far are about ยฃ475, in addition to the around ยฃ150 I spent on new smaller camping kit last year, which I am pleased with. The van came in well under budget and most of these purchases can be used when we are tent camping as well, or would have been bought for it as a car.

I am so looking forward to putting it all together properly in July and going off and having my first adventures as a driver. I still can’t believe that I have been blessed enough to be able to realise this final part of my dream for retirement. I am so lucky.

I have arrived safely back in Spain and have been spending time unpacking my additional craft purchases and catching up with family. We have lots of fun trips planned, starting this week as there are the amazing Easter celebrations here. I hope that you have all had a good week. I will be back soon with more adventures so until then have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Spiritual stitching

One of the things that was so brilliant at Exeter was the level of information given about all of the textiles on display. As well as a dedicated display of ecclesiastical garments in the centre of the cathedral there was information all around the site about the work.

The Company of Tapisers was formed in 1933 and although the individuals are anonymous there was a real sense when visiting of the human hand behind the work.

Some of the interpretation was very poignant as with this beautiful banner piece of the Virgin Mary.

This was a stunning and very unusual piece, seating along the length of the chapel telling the history of Exeter.

Everywhere there was so much lovely work, from kneelers to altar frontals. It really enhanced the experience for me to be able to read the additional information and I gave my thanks to the staff after the visit.

One thing that I am passionate about is the human story behind textile creation. The novels that I am writing are all based around individual pieces of textiles and the women involved with them. The history of textiles is the history of people, whether it be to celebrate, or simply to keep us warm. It is just so fascinating to me how all of these things are made, and why they are made.

I am so pleased that I have so many friends that share my passion for textiles, and that Ellen is so keen. She has made some stunning things recently, one being a very lovely crochet cushion cover that I am keen to learn how to make as I think it would look great in my new van.

I went to her crochet group last night and that was lovely. She is helping to run workshops with a friend of hers, Vic, who is a very talented creator so are you are in the Nottinghamshire area I can thoroughly recommend Made by Torty B. Her workshops can be found here and are great for beginners or more experienced crafters.

It will have to have a very good sort out of all of my new craft space soon as the machine will have to be found a new home and there might just have been a few purchases made while I have been in the UK. Some storage shopping is on the cards I think!

I hope that you are all enjoying life. I am so looking forward to the next few months of beautiful spring and summer weather. I have promised myself that there will be a new outfit for Whitby and a new dress for Tewksbury so need to get organised and fit all that in.

Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting and commenting, it is always lovely to meet my readers!

To the glory of God

I am posting some of the things that I never got chance to share from last summer this week, before I have more adventures in Spain in the next few months. If you visit regularly you will know how much I love cathedrals and the one at Exeter was stunning for so many reasons. This post will be about the cathedral itself and the next about the textiles there.

It never ceases to amaze me how these structures got built when they did, and the complexity of the architecture. There is an amazing beauty to the interiors and Exeter is definitely one of the most beautiful that I have visited.

There were also many unusual features, such as this altar and the golden gate next to it. One of my plans for retirement was to do some designs for black work and goldwork, based on historical architecture and decoration and this gate would make an incredible goldwork piece.

There were also some beautiful memorials, the decoration, the painted ceiling and the floor of this one, and the chapel behind it also contain so much inspiration for designs.

A truly wonderous celebration of the craftmanship of all who built the place and their beliefs.

I am now at my daughter’s for a few days, part of my volunteering for the food bank this time has involved making knitted egg cosies for sale at the market next week. It has been very interesting to see the other side of the organisation. I have visited their other site in nearby Retford, where I was pleased to see that the contents of my old craft room are being put to good use. I also helped out on the market stall there that they use to raise funds for the food bank.

I had an unexpected brief trip to Durham yesterday as I had to get a new passport, due to Brexit the rules have changed and I did not have enough months left for the upcoming trip. Fingers crossed I will be back home soon ๐Ÿ™‚

I will post about the amazing textiles at the cathedral next time, meanwhile I hope that you are all having a good week, whatever you are doing. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.