In order to do something different each week of the year, I have a list of challenges to undertake...

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Week 13 - Smarten up Clothes & Shoes

Unless you are one of those highly organised people who grew up with a weekly shoe polishing ritual which is still with you, then you end up saying to yourself 'I must polish these shoes' every now and again when you notice they are dull and scuffed.

For me, this is generally in the reception area waiting to go into a work meeting. And of course, by the time I get home, I have forgotten all about my good intentions towards my scruffy shoes, and back they go into the wardrobe.

Similarly with clothing repairs and alterations - I have had a button off a cardigan for longer than I remember, and just go about with a middle button missing looking unkempt; and I bought too singlets last Summer from H&M which I can't wear until I shorten the straps. Well, I can wear them, but they would be rather more daring than I would like.


So this evening I have set aside time to get those jobs done. A marathon shoe-shining session sees the shoes all polished and shiny; a needle and thread has seen the button sewn back on; and a mere ten minutes at the sewing machine with matching thread has seen the singlet tops altered and they are now ready to be put back in the wardrobe to be worn.


Week 13 challenge: done!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Week 12 - Go for a Bra Fitting

Apparently, You're supposed to replace your bras every six months, because with time and washing they lose their shape and ability to support.

I hang onto mine for not just longer than that (actually, I don't know anyone who does chuck their bras out every six months and replace with new), but for so long that the writing has worn off the labels.

But what really has spurred me into action is that the underwire on a favourite 'everyday' bra has snapped, the upshot being that I have a rather - er - lopsided appearance. 

So it's off to Marks & Spencer to get re-measured - after all, I've been buying the same size bras since I was about 16, but that doesn't mean that I've been buying the right size.

The bra fitting service at M&S is by appointment (which I didn't realise), but it was early in the day, and the snow was keeping people away, so there was no problem there.

Over the next half an hour I was measured for size and fitted properly; then was talked through (and tried on) some different styles, and shown what I should look for (and what I should avoid) in terms of my shape and frame.

Marvellous! Well done, M&S!

I came away with a rejunenated bra wardrobe, and with the confidence to buy for my size and style next time round.

So, that's week 12 Challenge: done!

PS: That giant white jobby at the front of the pic is a sports bra - one look at my reflection in the shop window when out running last week convinced me of the need!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Week 11 - Paint the Toolshed

I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time in February 2008 when a plotholder at the Hill asked me if I'd like their old toolshed as they were replacing it with something larger. I jumped at the opportunity, and they were kind enough to dismantle it and drop it at my plot for me to reassemble.

In the subsequent five years it has had - er - one application of fence preservative, so I guess that it is not surprising that it is looking a bit shabby.

The weather today has been the best of the year so far - although that's not saying an awful lot - with glimpses of sunshine too, so after nipping into Wilko for a tub of preservative, and making sure I had a big fence painting brush, I headed off to the Hill.

Inspecting the shed in more detail, it really is feeling it's age - some of the nails holding the planking in place have disappeared or are loose, some of the wooden pieces hold the roof felt in place are rotten, and frankly, one good slam of the door is in danger of reducing the whole thing to a pile of kindling.

I hammered (gingerly!) some of the nails in more firmly (although this has somehow meant that the door is harder to close properly), and turned to the tub of preservative.

I nearly fell at the first hurdle here as I struggled to get the lid off, but got there in the end, and got painting. After the first side was completed, I remembered why I've only done this job once in five years - it is incredibly tedious. However, the end result is marvelous, in the circumstances, and it looks very much smarter.

Before pics:

After pics:

So week 11 challenge: done!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Week 10 - Organise Fabric Stash

This is a fun challenge this week!

It's amazing how I have accumulated bits and pieces of fabric for my quilting considering that I have only been at it a relatively short time. It is all the more amazing when you chuck into the mix how loathe I am to part with money - there's a recession on donch'a know, and fripperies like wonderful pretty printed cottons for quilting are up there in the 'wants' rather than the 'needs' list.

One way to square the conscience is to start off with a good friend who sends you a big jiffy of 'offcuts' for you to play about with; and for gift tokens for the local quilt shop to be on your birthday and Christmas lists.

The other way to square the conscience is to buy cotton fabric from charity shops every now and again - you not only don't spend much per go, but the money is going to a good cause. We all win!

This is why you will find me rummaging through the bins of curtains in the local charity shop; and going through the racks of XXXXL size clothes, as a big girl's summer dress can yield a couple of yards of lovely cotton print for next to nothing.

And this is why I have two collapsible crates stuffed to the gunnels with all size of bits of cotton in all sorts of colours; prints and plains; large pieces for backing, small coordinating fragments for scrappy piecing. And every time I want to have a look for something, the whole damn lot gets pitched out on the floor, rifled through then put back in a completely random fashion.

Time for action - so this evening in the company of Radio4, I have sifted and sorted, piled up and refolding and now have a crate of big pieces for backing; a crate of browns & beiges, one of reds and yellows, one of greens and blues, and a sort of miscellaneous which has both extremely striking fabrics, the weediest of pastels and any black & whites.

I'm more than happy with the resulting orderliness - so week 10 Challenge: done!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Week 9 - Make Bathroom Toiletries

The original plan had been to make soap. I researched the ingredients and method and decided that the 'melt down bits of old soap and squash into a new bar' was a bit of a cop out; however the 'make it from scratch with a number of quite potent ingredients' was a bit unnerving.

Another strike against making soap is that there doesn't seem to be a way of sensibly scaling down the proportions (without having loads of bits of ingredients left over) such that you are not producing soap on an industrial scale. Fine if you find it's terrific fun and a great success, but I tend to be a bit more cautious than that and want to start small.

The alternative to soap making, was to make BATH BOMBS - those fragrant cricket ball sized powdery balls that you drop into your bath and they go mad fizzin' round the place and making the bathwater all soft and lovely.

I found the method at the soap kitchen website, and was delighted to see the I already had most of what I needed. Although I bake and sew, I'm not much of a one for 'home made gifts', but thought that I might be onto something here for Christmas presents, and so I was keen to get stuck in.

I mixed bicarb of soda and citric acid, then added red and yellow food colouring (hoping to make orange) and then blended in some orange extract; spritzed with a little water and pushed the mixture into a couple of little dipping pot moulds before leaving them to 'cure'.

The first one collapsed a bit when I got it out of the mould later, and so I squashed it into a ball shape instead, and that's the one I had in the bath this evening - oodles of fizzing and a wonderful orange aroma; really lovely!

Er - a downside, however, was the colour. Now I do not know why this is, but the bath bombs ended up a sort of green, with yellow/orange patches. In fact, if you bring to mind the image of a really mouldy orange, you've just about got it.

If I were to make these as presents - and there is certainly mileage in this idea - I would have to seriously sort the colour thing out!

So week 9 challenge: done!