Friday, May 24, 2013

Holiday Day 5

Well, my liking of Dublin increased further with the fact that it was easy to get out of by car.  Still, if we can get through Chicago and driving on the other side of the road, we think we can drive anywhere (well, maybe not New York, Paris or Rome.  Just shut up now!)  We made out way north and visited the neolithic grave sites of Newgrange and Nowth which were amazing.  It is fascinating that such ancient people could construct such buildings of great complexity and precision - apparently the stone roof at Newgrange has never leaked in the 6,000 odd years the structure has been  in existence.   And the transporting of the materials is also a miraculous feat, with some of the stone traced to the Wicklow Mountains some 70 odd miles south of the site.  After living the experience of those who came thousands of years before us, we moved to more relatively modern times with a visit to the site of the Battle of the Boyne where William of Orange imposed a significant defeat of James II.  It wasn't the end of the Jacobite wars but it ended with James II heading back to exile (presumably a very comfortable one) at the court of his cousin Louis XIV.  A pity his son and grandson didn't take the hint.  The opening of the centre was another step in the reconciliation between Northern Ireland and the Republic as the equivalent of the Prime Ministers of each country opened the centre in 2007/8.

After sating our desire for culture for the day, it was then on to Belfast.  This should have been an easy run, but I suspect Stos had the GPS set to avoid toll roads as we found ourselves in some odd spots along the way, including finding ourselves outside the wrong place at our destination (although I think this was a GPS thing rather than a Stos thing).

Anyway, we have spent our first full day in Belfast and I have a number of observations on the place:
- The wind in Wellington has nothing on the howling gale we experienced in downton Belfast this morning.
- I am sure that the reason Irish people emigrate is the weather.  It is nearly summer here and the top temperature today was 7 - 10C and with windchill, I am sure that this is a generous estimate.  Such was the severity of the cold, that Stos wore gloves.  Those who know him will understand from this exactly how cold it must have been for this to occur.
- The people are delightful and love a chat. We were told by our tour driver that this is possibly because of making up for lost time during the Troubles when the walls had ears and people needed to be very cautious about what they said and in whose hearing (real and electronic) they said it in.
- Black cabs can be white, or any other colour.
- The pubs are charming and meals consist of  huges servings.
- When you order a roast, you get both roast and mashed potatoes on the same plate.  I am assured by my host that this is normal.
- I totally get why you need two serves of potatoes with your meal and why comfort food is big on menus.  See comments on the weather.
- Heating is terrific in Ireland.  It needs to be - again, refer to comments on the weather.  For the same reason, I suspect that lack of airconditioning is not a problem.
- I talked myself out of bringing my ski jacket on this trip.  I shouldn't have.

Belfast is a city of very grand Victorian buildings that reflect the  affluence of the past; the result of the being a leader in the linen and ship building industries.  I like it more that I expected to (weather excepted).  However the real revelation of the day was our Black Cab tour of West Belfast and the murals.  The driver is a Catholic who was personally impacted by the conflict that reignited in the 1960's, yet does not appear bitter about the past and is hopeful for the future of Northern Ireland.  Most shocking to us was the continue presence of the dividing wall and lock out zones between the hard core Protestant and Catholic estates in West Belfast plus all the stories that didn't make it to Australia about the sectarian violence.  I thought I had a good idea of this but there is obviously a lot that we didn't know.

Tomorrow we head to the Northern Coast to Carrickfergus and Giant's Causeway.  Our host tells us it is going to be a nice day tomorrow but I will have gloves, coat and scarf at the ready.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Holiday Day 3

After talking about this trip for so long, it is hard to believe we are actually in Dublin.  Following the usual long flight, only made interesting by delays and the fact that I managed to stick to my vow to watch only films I haven't seen before, we managed to get to get here without incident.  When we arrived at the airport, I knew I would like this place because 1/.  there is free wi-fi and 2/.  it was easy to find cheap transport to the city.  The flat we are in is cute and comfortable and right in the middle of Temple Bar and it is easy to get to most attractions from here.  Monday afternoon was spent trying to keep going by acclimatizing to local time and ambling around a beautiful local park,  St Stephen's Green and poking around the shops in the Grafton Street area.  One of the great things about using apartments on our trips is getting information from locals on where to eat so we had a delicious meal at the quaintly named Skinflint before giving in to the jet lag (or more the lack of sleep over the previous 36 hours) and had an early night.   Day 2 started with a walking tour of Trinity College, a great self-guided walk accessed via a Podcast called iWalk Dublin covering Georgian Dublin, followed by a look around the beautiful reading room of the National Library and St Ann's church .  Then, having been assured that the crowds would die down in the afternoon, we headed back to the Old Library at Trinity to see the amazing Book of Kells and the Long Room before doing another iWalk around Temple Bar and the Docklands.  Dinner at the very convenient Larder (across the road) followed, with a 12 euro steak looking like the meal everyone was going for.  Then, having walked our legs off, it was time for a cup of tea, while checking out Belfast accommodation in readiness to head north today.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sewing Circle Tote Sew-a-Long update

Well, I have jumped the gun on the Sewing Circle Tote project as I want to get a head start on this before heading off on holidays.  As Cath says, there is a big investment in time in the cutting stage, but then there are some really quick bits, like the straps.  I have never used interfacing before but have found this to be pretty easy.   A number of the participants in the sew-a-long are experienced sewers, but I am not, so I thought I would jot down my thoughts on the process so far for those who might be in the same category as me and are a bit daunted at the idea of using elastic and zips:

- When you do a read through of the pattern, do not freak out if you don't understand some of the instructions.  They make more sense when you get to the relevant step.  Someone else who I consider to be a very experienced sewer also made that comment. 
- Directional prints.  Cutting the external fabric was not an issue, with the exception of the sides of the patchwork pockets, which you should cut according to the print direction.  However the lining is another story and I would cut as you go.  I have now abandoned the idea of all chevron lining and will use a combination of a solid and the print to make up for the fact that a couple of pieces are cut the wrong way and I also won't have to try and match the chevron stripes.  Once I realised the direction of the lining was going to be a problem, I stopped cutting and have worked out that I can use what I have and repurposed some of the pre cut pieces of the print and should be right to make most of the interior pockets with what I have.
- Have plenty of thread.  The quilting of the bottom of the bag and the quilt as you go approach to the patchwork pockets uses a lot of thread.
- Before you topstitch the patchwork pockets, make sure you have the pockets the right way up.  I had the bottom at the top, so not only had to unpick the bottom piece, but because of the directional print, had to unpick the topstitching and the seams of the sides.
- When quilting the base of the bag, initially I used the guide on my machine to measure the distance between the lines.  Take my word for it, it's much easier to mark the fabric and erase the lines later..

But apart from this, the project is proving to be a lot of fun and not difficult (having said that I am not up to the zips and elastic!).  It is also very addictive; I have been sneaking in 'just one more seam' while I should have been doing other things over the last few weeks.

Here's a shot of progress to date - straps, bag base and two patchwork pockets.  The rainbow stripe is the lining of the exterior pockets.  It is all a bit of technicolour explosion but I think it will work when the time comes to put it together!

To be continued...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Creative Space

I've finally managed to finish the Sweet Baby James quilt and pass it to James' parents, but it took a few weeks from the last photos to the hand over.  I had decided to try attaching the binding both on the front and the back by machine and let's say it wasn't the best idea I have ever had.  I started off by over filling and breaking a bobbin with the invisible thread and after sewing one side, found that the red from the needle side shows through and you could see the very uneven stitching far more than I would like.  So out came the unpicker and the long task of pulling out the nylon thread, then re-attaching by hand.  But it was all worth it in the end.

All the fabric is from Spotlight.  I was very happy to pick up the Prints Charming Rocket print off the clearance table - just the thing for a small boy!

Then came the actually gifting, which made me a bit nervous - what do I say, where do I hand it over and so on.  Finally, I just made sure that his father was free and passed it over fairly quickly as I was worried I would cry and I did note a tear in my colleague's eye.   A week later I was rewarded with a visit from little James and his mum and got a cuddle to boot.  And that's why I love making gifts for others as it is so rewarding and people really do appreciate a handmade present.

For more creative spaces, head over here.