Sunday, 9 December 2018

Harry Potter Notebook Covers with Zipped Pockets

Book cushions and  notebook covers together

Immediately after the YouTube video I watched to find out how to make a book cushion (see previous post and photo above) was another which gave instructions to make an embroidered notebook cover with a zipped pocket on the front. I decided to make a couple of covered notebooks using the leftover Harry Potter fabric. First, I had the problem of finding notebooks of the right size… In the UK we use A4, A5 and A6 sizes but I required different from what was widely available. While I saw the right size and type online, they were expensive as they had to be imported. Eventually I managed to buy a drawing pad (? - it has plain brown pages) of the right size and a lined notebook of almost the right size (a quarter of an inch taller but I felt that was manageable). In the end, I didn't use the lined notepads, only the brown drawing pad which looks a great colour inside the notebook covers.
I really like the lined zipped pocket - I'm going to do one for myself (not Harry Potter themed, though!)

I think the colour of the zips and the font look great with the fabric - and a very suitable Harry Potter colour

So I now had all the materials (fabric, fusible fleece, lining, zip) and decided to make these at sewing bee in my first visit for quite a while. I'd drawn out the right sizes for my cutting out onto dot and cross paper.

I was able to construct the notebook covers as instructed on the video. First steps include the zip, the pocket, joining front to back and covering everything with fusible fleece. No problems, though I had to make a trip to get fusible fleece. I do have some but couldn’t find it. Sadly that statement says a lot about my organisation and points to what I need to do in the New Year once I’m properly mobile.

At this stage on the video, the embroidery is done. As with the book cushion, I wasn’t using plain fabric but the less patterned Harry Potter fabric. I’m a novice with machine embroidery and was concerned about placing their names (again using the Harry Potter font) in the right place as I wasn’t going to be able to hoop the fabric. However, I went ahead, using spray adhesive on the tearaway stabilizer and pinned the fabric on top to the stabilizer at the edges of the hoop as advised. I had marked the fabric I was sewing with a pressure line rather than pencil etc to ensure my embroidery would be straight. I’m glad to say that it worked out well.
After that, it was straightforward.  I placed the book-cover sleeves on the face of the fabric, sandwiching them between the fabric and lining. I sewed around 3 sides then turned the fabric through with the sleeve on the front of the book properly positioned. The sleeve on the back of the fabric was left not turned to the other side. The remaining open edge was then sewn, and the sleeve turned through to the correct position. I thought this part was rather clever as there is no hand sewing and no external sewing - everything is inside the back pocket. This was really a bit of magic as far as I was concerned! A bit of pressing and then I put the notebooks I had purchased in. This bit was slightly tricky, and I thought that I had made the covers too small, but I managed.

Although I had carefully cut all my pieces to the correct size, I do think that a) fusing the fleece and b) adding the embroidery ‘shrank’ the main fabric - I found I had to trim a bit off the sleeves. My edges weren’t level with each other as they should have been and this has led to a bit of inaccuracy in my sewing. I don’t think my grandsons will be examining my stitching in that detail, though!

I like the brown notebooks with the colour of the fabric cover

Book cushions for my grandsons

My younger grandson turned 7  a couple of weeks ago. I've already posted that I gave him a hoodie embroidered with an Infinity Gauntlet (embroidery as requested) plus a Gauntlet with lights for him to wear. The gauntlet is huge on his hand but my daughter and son-in-law thought it was great. In the meantime, Ben, probably forgetting that he had requested an embroidered tee, asked for Harry Potter merchandise when they were visiting earlier in the month. My daughter said she already had quite a lot of Harry Potter merchandise for Christmas. Needless to say, this wasn't in the boys’ hearing.

Then a number of things came together. I saw an Instagram of Harry Potter fabric sold by 1st for Fabrics which is local to me. I saw some postings of book pillows (I'd never heard of them) and found a good YouTube video showing me how to make them and a number of people in the embroidery groups I follow were embroidering fantastic ones. So - a Harry Potter themed, embroidered book pillow. One for each of my grandsons. 

No books in these.

Book cushions with books - notebook covers are the next post, in progress at the moment
I didn't want to use plain fabric (best for the embroidered panel; often quite complex embroideries and sayings but mine is a simple name) when I had bought specific Harry Potter fabric. Sadly the Gryffindor fabric was sold out so I bought newspaper print, the Daily Prophet, instead - that's the back of the cushion. I decided simply to embroider their names on the less densely printed fabric.

Front of one cushion and the back of the other

This led to a search for a Harry Potter font. I bought one following a search but sadly it was a pain to download and even worse to use. Following advice from my embroidery group, I found a fabulous and easy to use one which was actually free! This is a True Type font so I can actually use it on my computer too - so if I ever write to my grandsons I have the perfect font! I successfully embroidered the boys’ names onto the fabric which formed the front of the pocket. I used the first initial of their surname, T, as that gave the proper Harry Potter effect.

I love the effect on the T

I made paper templates of the sizes I needed. After that I followed the video instructions;
Briefly, make the interfaced and embroidered pocket front, join to pocket lining, creating a band of lining across the top of the pocket opening, join both to main front. Join overlapping backs to front right sides together. Turn cover to right side. Not difficult. Advice from the embroidery group also included using fleece behind the embroidery and quilting the two layers together but I had already moved past that point by the time I got that advice and I think it's okay.

I made the covers to fit a 16” cushion insert. I was making these in my first time at sewing bee for ages. Lyn said that the overlap at the back was very big and I'd struggle to get the cushion in, but would manage and the cushion would be plump. That was exactly what happened. I think the back fabric has slightly stretched too with the effort of getting the cushion in.

I think they look great. The only issue is that the pocket fabric has a pattern which runs in both directions and it looks as if I've got it upside down. I haven't but I think I could've placed the embroidery better - the Harry Potter name reads 'upside down' in the centre but 'right way up' at the lower sides.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Machine Embroidery - update on finished Infinity Gauntlet hoodie

In my previous blog post about making the Infinity gauntlet embroidery, I showed what a mess I made of the first embroidery on tee shirt fabric. I made a number of changes, which I spoke about in that post. I enlarged the design and reduced the stitch density then sewed a practice on a more stable fabric with more body, using better and more suitable stabilisation. This worked and I was pleased with the embroidery.

Close up of embroidery

However, I found that I couldn’t fit the bigger hoop that was needed inside the hoodie and get it properly fixed in place. This was because the bigger hoop extended into the sleeve and hood area. The fabric was just too bulky. I wasn't too happy about 'floating' the sweatshirt fabric on top and saw from some that it shouldn't be necessary.

In the end, I went back to the original smaller, stitch-dense design and stitched that on the hoodie. I was able to use a smaller hoop which meant that I didn’t catch the sleeve or hood. To be honest, the design is also a bit more central than originally intended but I didn’t mind about that. I’m glad I didn’t do the larger embroidery as this one looks quite large already.

Finished hoodie

You can just see the remnants of my chalk markings showing that I'm more central than I had intended

With good stabilisation and also using a water soluble topper, my stitching went well. I’m pleased with the final result.

I used cutaway stabiliser and trimmed this down, putting a soft layer over it to protect soft skin from the embroidery (which is still fairly rigid!)

The hoodie and logo looks good.

Birthday boy - picture from WhatsApp
I gave Alison the ‘blanks’ I bought - the boys can wear them now, but they're growing so fast some of them were already too small but Alison can give them to other mothers. I’ve kept back one white tee shirt for Ben and may do similar to that as I did with Jack’s. Now that I've finished it and it has been pretty successful for a first attempt, particularly, I feel I could do more, by special request, for my grandsons, though I didn't particularly enjoy the process while it was ongoing!

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Cashmerette Concord Tunic and my first stretch V neck

Cashmerette Concord tunic

I’ve finished the Cashmerette Concord tunic I decided to make using very similar striped fabric to my first T.

This time, I used the pattern pieces I had already altered to fit but had to further alter them to the required design.
I wanted the V neckline. Fortunately, Rory looked at the pattern and asked me if I really wanted the neckline that low. Needless to say, I didn’t and raised it by about an inch but could easily have raised it more.
I wanted the longer length with the split hem sides and the curved bottom hem so added the pieces back on to what I had, altering them to fit the rest of the pieces. I also had to alter the facings.
I decided to go for the sleeves with the tabs.

V neck

First, the V neck. Yes, I would have preferred it higher than this but it’s okay - just that I realise that as I’ve got older, I prefer to be more covered up. I had open heart surgery to fix a congenital lesion in 2000 and at first I didn’t like to expose the scar. It’s fairly invisible now and doesn’t bother me at all - my issue now is, I think, just ageing skin and wondering who wants to see that! That and dislike of revealing bra or bra straps - that’s clearly an age thing as many youngsters don’t seem to care about this.

I pretty much followed the pattern instructions to construct the V neck. They were easy to follow. As my neckline was a different shape from the pattern’s - longer because of my height and the V higher because of modesty, the neckline band was obviously not the correct size. I did baste and measure, but in the end, my neckband is a bit longer than it should have been and the band is rather loose - more at one side than the other which is strange as the band was measured and put on symmetrically. I had gone ahead and overlocked the seams on the inside before I realised the extent of the issue but decided not to alter. I tried to steam the band to shrink it a bit and that perhaps had a little effect.

I think I stretched the band when applying, sadly.

The pattern recommends topstitching from the right side to hold down the inside neckline band. I was unable to do this even after several attempts - my machine just wouldn't have it! I had been using a zig zag stitch. Rory advised that as the neckline was fairly wide and would not be under any strain, that a straight stitch would work but to sample if first.  This worked! I was able to use my edgestitch foot which meant that things were kept straight.


I had to alter the facings because of the alterations I made to the original tee shirt pattern.. Perhaps because of this, but also because I intended to insert the sleeves in the round rather than flat, everything was a touch trickier - I had already sewn the side seams.

I managed to top stitch the hems in place using a large zig zag stitch.

I had to fiddle about to get the facings to end in the correct place. My front and back don’t seem to be at different levels (I thought back was going to be longer than front) so I’ve done something wrong somewhere. I need to adjust the pattern for the next time.


The pattern instructions have you insert the sleeves flat then sew sleeves and side seams in one go which would have been fine had I been happy with the sleeves.

I had altered the sleeve cap to give more height and in line with my previous alterations. When I basted them in place, I found excessive fabric and a couple of weeks back asked Rory to pin them correctly. A huge chunk of fabric was eventually removed. Much more from the back than the front as is usual for me.  I couldn’t actually remember (hangs head in shame) whether I had already adjusted the previous pattern for this - perhaps I hadn’t and this was the result, combined with the increased cap depth.

By this time, I had permanently sewn the sleeve seam and overlocked. I had not put on the tab at the suggested time as I knew the sleeves would need to be altered. I now turned up the hem and zig zag topstitched and sewed the modified sleeves in place, and overlocked the raw seams.

I added tabs separately. I simply sewed on a button, taking the thread through all layers. I have hundreds (thousands?) of buttons - who knows where they’ve all come from!! I remember as a child, playing with my grandmother’s button box. That was great - looking through all these buttons for a suitable pair was a bit more frustrating! I eventually found a pair.

Thoughts on finished tee

  • I’ve already mentioned that I could have done better with sewing on the neckband. I’ll try again and I’ll also slightly raise the neckline and bring in the neckline a bit - this tee will not hang on a hanger.
  • I actually find this tunic length a bit too long for my preferred style so I would shorten in the future.
  • At the moment, it is a little tight around the high hip (bit too much of a tummy at present!). Because of my foot being in the moonboot, I’ve had little or no activity and zero ‘exercise’. I won’t adjust yet. The tightness looks a bit worse than it might because of the length.
  • I like the fabric and the colours.
  • My stripes don’t match as well as they should have at the armscye as a result of chopping off all that fabric from the sleeve head.
  • I will wear it but hope I don’t keep reaching for a scarf to cover my decollete!
  • I’ll make another.

I wore it to sewing bee today. It felt comfortable but the neckline looked really bad when I looked in a mirror after I had been wearing it a few hours.

Today was first day back to sewing bee because of my foot. Seeing these photos makes me realise just how long it is since I've had my hair cut! Way overdue but visit to hairdresser wasn't possible. Excuse my hair and my trousers which I wore because they fit over the moon boot.

My tutor there confirmed that it looked as though I had stretched the neckband more on one side (which she otherwise liked very much! she also liked the sleeve tabs). I had asked if taking up the shoulders would work but she said the issue was with the neckline not the shoulders. She didn't feel it was worth re-doing and suggested trying to shrink which of course I've already tried, as I explained to her.

E suggested I should give it to her if I don't get on with it - or even if I do! (Several things have gone on that direction in the past)

Verdict - imperfect but wearable. This is my first V in stretch fabric so I'm not beating myself up about it!

I'm doing this entirely from my phone so I'm not sure how well it will work.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Machine embroidery - An Infinity Gauntlet for Ben

I haven’t seen the movie - but apparently the villain Thanos  in the new Avengers movie ‘Avengers - Infinity War Marvel Legends’ wears this gauntlet which has, of course, super powers. When I offered to make Ben a tee shirt with a logo on the pocket, like Jack’s, he declined and said he’d like an image of Thanos. When that wasn’t possible (= it was far too difficult for me; I explained that I needed a pattern), he asked for the Infinity Gauntlet, or just a Jewel. The little sweetie! Of course, I had to do it.

I'm a beginner at this, building up to trying embroidery on clothing so I certainly didn’t want to try to make my own image!

I did a search for machine embroidery designs for the gauntlet and found one which I purchased.
My second  practice example. I couldn't see how to download photo and I didn't want to infringe copyright!
While I’m recuperating from my fracture, and not formally dressmaking, I thought I could stitch out a sample on tee shirt fabric. I used an old tee shirt and used stabiliser behind the fabric as required, putting these in a 4x4 hoop. It looked okay and appropriately taut, but I did wonder if the fabric was too tired. It just didn’t seem to have any resilience or elasticity - is that the term? It didn’t spring back the way it should.

For those of you who don't do machine embroidery, a quick resume. You can make your own images and digitise them for embroidery. Then you have complete control over the whole process. To do this you need embroidery software and some idea how to use it. I’ve been trying using Craftsy classes. I did manage a monogram for Jack.

Or you can buy/download the instructions for your embroidered design in the correct ‘language’ for your embroidery machine. Different brands use different languages. A bit like Android and IOS. You don't need to have software for this but if you want to change anything other than colours you do.

Some software programs are more versatile than others and can understand multiple languages.

For those of you who do machine embroidery, please excuse my wrong terminology.

My instructions were downloaded in PES which is the ‘language’ my Brother embroidery machine uses. I do have specialist software and so I can alter various components on my computer. I can get a stitch preview and a realistic preview of the finished design. Most usefully, there is a stitch simulator which lets you see your design being stitched out on screen. I can easily change the colour or the order of stitching. On  a commercial pattern other changes are more complex and I haven't tried  any as yet.

These instructions are transferred by USB stick to my embroidery machine. The embroidery machine is computerised. The needle then knows where to go. I don't direct it. It's all automatic except for changing thread colours. This design had 10 colour changes.

When I started stitching, I could see pretty quickly that this wasn’t going to work. However I decided to complete the design. The fabric was puckering and the main body of the gauntlet had pulled away from the outline - quite a lot in places. The outline isn't supposed to leave these gaps of course. The outline actually stitched over the two little fingers. This result wasn’t acceptable and I wasn’t completely sure how to sort it.
Major gap down left side of gauntlet. The next layer of stitching is in the correct place.
The blue tee shirt fabric is extremely puckered

I ended up with a stiff and completely inflexible stitched fist design with big gaps particularly around the small fingers. The problem appeared to get worse as the embroidery progressed.

There are gaps elsewhere too.

I thought there could be problems with:
  • The fabric - perhaps this was just too thin and too stretchy and perhaps partly stretched out for this design. As an alternative to making a tee shirt pocket, I had also bought a black hoodie and the design could be stitched directly onto that.
  • The design  could have been digitised wrongly. I’ve never bought from the company concerned. I didn’t think it was this though as there is a live action stitch preview on my computer and this ‘stitched‘ out okay
  • Or the stitch density was far too great. This seemed very likely. Some areas were being stitched over and over again
  • The stabiliser - wrong type, inadequate etc
  • My hooping technique could be bad - if you stretch the fabric too much this can be a problem. The fabric needs to be held firmly with some tautness but not too much.
  • I didn’t think there was a problem with my thread, my needle, my machine, or my threading of the machine.

I was going to try to reduce the density of the stitching and change the fabric as these seemed the most likely issues to me. I asked on IG and PR and it was suggested that I try to stitch out on regular fabric to see if it was the digitisation process which had problems. There were various other suggestions. The most useful (though I was grateful for them all) was from Lisa on IG who suggested signing up for the Little Acorns group. I did this. I introduced myself and had excellent suggestions for the problem even before I had formally asked any questions. I had still intended to go down the route suggested on PR, that is stitch out on cotton to check that the digitisation was okay, which I would know if the design stitched out okay. The Little Acorns suggested that this route was not sensible as the fabric was so different from what I actually wanted to use. I heeded their advice.

In the course of reading their many responses, I received a recommendation for a UK supplier of suitable stabilisers. I had been unable to find any of the recommended kind or of the soft fabric that is put next to the skin - for example if you have an embroidery on a child’s baby-gro. I’ve ordered a starter pack and a couple of extra that I need. An excellent and helpful group

I now decided to stitch the design again in a larger size onto old sweatshirt fabric. Again as a practice.

I first looked up in the instruction book to find out how to reduce stitch density on a commercial pattern. Well actually how to reduce the stitch density on any pattern! The method I used involved enlarging the design but keeping the number of stitches the same as before to reduce the density (I could've increased the stitches with the size to keep the density the same). I’m not sure if I could reduce the size again but this time also reduce the number of stitches, so that I would end up with an image the size of the original but with fewer stitches. This is the only workaround I could find. I think this size, while too big for a child’s tee shirt pocket, has enough presence to work on a hoodie. Anyway, an Infinity Gauntlet shouldn’t be small, should it?

I looked out all of the stabilisers I had and did the best I could,  following the received suggestions to use cut-a-way stabiliser rather than tear away and to use polymesh stabiliser (which I didn’t have). I stabilised the fabric in the hoop.  I had to use a bigger hoop than before, a 5x7 rather than a 4x4 as the design was substantially bigger. Then I started stitching.

Night and Day! I could see quickly that there weren't the same problems this time. The outlines were in the correct places. The fingers and the outline were correctly aligned. I did notice that by the end the fabric looked looser in the hoop. I couldn't adjust that as the position of the fabric would change and the registration would be wrong. Basically the machine must know exactly where the needle is in relation to the fabric at all times. Otherwise you get the kind of problem I had earlier - an outline in the wrong place for the filling.

I  also used an additional frame of stitches to keep the fabric stable.
This image shows the raised effect of some of the stitiching

I simply cut round the sweatshirt fabric and removed the stitching around the image.
The image is much flatter because of the type of light today
I’m very happy with the result.

With the  hoop being bigger than the original, I’m not sure how I’ll get it inside the small hoodie and get the design angled in the right way (I know I can rotate the design instructions if I need to) and stabilise it and hoop it properly. I will need to stitch the design directly onto the hoodie rather than apply as an applique.  There must be a way. That’s not for today though!

I had already taken some photos, but they are poor quality, so I decided to try to take some more today, when it’s light and I can take without flash or artificial light and show the two sizes together. The jewels in the two samples are not the same colour. Between you and me, I have ordered a gauntlet for Ben to wear and I'll match the colours I use to what's on that, which I assume are what is seen on screen - the colours from the embroidery company match the first.

The two together. The embroidery on the right has the same number of stitches as the one on the left
While I was completing my typing, my post arrived with the stabiliser samples I had purchased. I found that the polymesh that came is pretty much identical to one of the stabilisers I had and used, but which was not labelled polymesh. I must check the small print on the packet.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Moving On, Slowly

I started to write a blog post and then realised it sounded as if I felt sorry for myself and rather defeatist in attitude. That’s not at all how I feel so I’m trying to rewrite. I may not be able to publish if it still sounds awful. I’m really feeling quite positive.

As you may know, I've fractured the 5th metatarsal of my left foot. The footballer's injury. There was no major trauma, but I fell as a result of the fracture. (On my way into Camera Club last Tuesday) The fracture didn't require a cast or operative treatment thank goodness. I have to wear a moon boot for 6-8 weeks. I'll get used to it but I'm finding the boot fiddly to fasten and uncomfortable for the moment; there is still a lot of bruising, swelling and pain. I don't have a crutch or stick. I've worked out that I need to wear a higher heel than usual on the good foot to try and level up my hips. I’ve chosen to wear wide legged trousers to fit over the boot. I need more of them, so a pair has climbed up my to do list, so to speak. To do list - at least one pair wide legged pants; need to identify and fit suitable pattern. Any ideas?

I've had to cancel a lot of events, of course - golf games, my rewilding walks and my circuits classes, none of which are possible for some weeks at least and a couple of sewing bees, though these will be possible in the near future. Last Sunday, I was supposed to be in Pickering at the 40s festival with my photography club. I could have travelled there (coach) but I cancelled as I didn't feel I could walk around taking photos or watching the events, especially as the weather was atrocious. David went and said the event was fabulous and really well organised and that we should go next year. It’s usually very busy but the weather led to it being much quieter than usual. David also said we should dress up for the event as that improves the experience. He’ll go as a 40s photographer and I’ll go as his assistant. Naturally, I’ll have to research an appropriate costume. Actually, I’d prefer something that I could wear at other times too, so we’ll see. To do list - research suitable 40s outfits. Should I include a raincoat? I enjoyed looking through the Instagram tag photos.

I need to rest more than usual (I'm usually constantly on the go so this is no bad thing) to aid the healing. I've been reading more and watching more TV, though I still haven't managed to catch up with any of The Bodyguard or Killing Eve which I gather are well worth watching. I’ve been doing a bit of pattern and magazine culling. I thought I'd do a lot more sewing but that hasn't happened as yet. I'm finding the positions a bit uncomfortable and I need to have my foot up a bit.

There are positives here. As you may know, David has had his driving licence revoked on medical grounds for another few months still. I have been doing a lot more driving. Fortunately, I drive an automatic car so I'm still relatively mobile as long as the journey isn’t too long and there's not too much walking at the other end. It could have been the other foot - bye bye driving. It could have been a hip or worse. This is seen, clearly, as a fairly trivial injury (not by me though!). Being older, healing is likely to take a lot longer than those youngsters and footballers who get this injury.

I usually go to 2 sewing bees each week, in term time. As they involve different people, I like to keep projects separate though that doesn't always work out. I had missed some of both sewing bees even before the fracture because of other commitments - in fact I wasn't going back to the Wednesday bee until the 24th anyway and hopefully I'll get there then. I'm not going to try this Wednesday (not now playing golf) as there is quite a bit of walking while carrying things to get into the studio and I'm not ready for that. I'm hoping I'll feel able to go to the Thursday bee. There is less walking involved with that.

On return to Wednesday sewing bee in September, I decided to further modify the Cashmerette Concord pattern and make the tunic version with side slits and V neck. I also added more height to the sleeve cap. The top is nearly finished but I think the sleeves need adjustment at the armscye so I'm waiting until I see Rory in a couple of weeks. I found the V neck rather difficult. Overall, I'm fairly pleased with the top - it's wearable - and VERY glad I raised the V of the neck as even so it’s almost too low for comfort.  I could certainly improve things on my next version but it’s wearable. The V neckline is a little loose - I’ve finished it and overlocked the seam allowances together so I’m not going to redo it. There may be another solution. I’ve tried steaming. Perhaps insert some elastic? 

I haven't managed to stitch around the neckline to hold down the SAs as yet. Basted just now.
You can see it could do with being a bit tighter

Perhaps because of my changes to the pattern, I found the side vents very tricky to do and had to do them differently from the instructions to make them work. They look ok. 

Out of focus sorry. Shows top stitching (I don't have a coverstitch machine).
They're a bit spread apart in this quickly snatched phone photo.

Once I get the sleeves sorted, it’s going to be in my wardrobe and used.

This with a V neck

Bottom one but with a V neck

My last sewing post was about tissue fitting a shirt/blouse which I abandoned in favour of a standard toile. I modified the pattern following that. On Sunday past, I cut out the back and the front. That was all I could manage. I'm using fashion fabric - a blue grey chambray. I can't remember whether I adjusted the sleeves at all so I'll need to have a look at them next - fortunately they're 2 piece sleeves which give a lot of fitting opportunity. I haven't touched the collar yet.

I also have a shirt dress started a few weeks ago. At the time I had run out of suitable toile material (hard to believe if you see my fabric collection) and my sew-jo was particularly low. That's coming back a bit now. I'll finish the shirt first though.

We had the feedback from our entered digital images at Camera club last week. I received some nice comments on one of my images and positive criticism on both. Neither of us gained a ‘commended’. I’ve been getting some images prepared for a print competition (tonight). David is entering 2 black and white and two colour, the maximum allowed. I’m not entering any B&W. One image was suitable but the print, sadly, looked awful.  I totally lack experience in making good prints and have no experience of using some of the software that is considered mandatory these days. I had 4 that I thought would make reasonable choices for the colour option. David is kindly mounting them for me - I had the wrong idea about what mounting was as I thought it was like underlining where  you mount that on your fabric. The prints look so much better mounted. I guess it’s a bit like presentation of food - so important. I’m not expecting to get anywhere, though David might with his. I finally decided on a Mull seascape and a wall mosaic - the two I decided against were the colourful Mull houses and a single tulip. They can be used in the future. I’m a little anxious about going to club because of what happened last week but I’ll take my time and I should be fine. The club is in a pub and we’ll have something to eat there. I'm not going to show my photos yet as there may be something that says they shouldn't have been published previously

Next month, at a time when I will still have my moonboot on, I have a long weekend in the Lakes with my Bridge Club. I won’t be able to walk as much as we usually do on in our free time on these bridge playing events but there are lots of shops including essential coffee shops. I don’t think there are any fabric shops though we’ll no doubt call in at Linton Tweeds for lunch on the way there. The dress code is smart casual so hopefully I'll manage to get those wide legged trousers done. I have plenty of suitable tops. David doesn’t play bridge, but he will be able to explore during the day - normally I would have joined him, and we could have driven further afield, but there is also a bridge session in the afternoon so I’m likely to join in that.

I still have quite a few events in the next week that I will be going to, but I have cut down - really, I have. I hope that sewing will feel more comfortable in the next few days.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

A few days in Mull

David and I have wanted to visit Mull for a while, but the time was never right for one reason or another.

Tobermory is on the north east of Mull

David has two additional interests to mine - first, the malt whisky made here (Tobermory and Ledaig). He's a whisky lover and we have visited many of the Scottish distilleries, often combining this with golf. Secondly, he has long had an interest in the colourful buildings in Tobermory both from a photographic and a personal point of view (he knew one of the actors in Balamory a children's program set in fictional Balamory - Tobermory of course. Neither of us has ever seen an episode of Balamory!).

Iconic view of Tobermory. Our hotel is sitting high, above the blue house on the right
I have lots of different images

While David is unable to drive for health reasons, I've undertaken all of the driving he would previously have done when we were together, but I haven't been able to take over the driving he would have done on his own This included a photography club in a town 20 odd miles away which clashed with something I was doing. Public transport isn't always feasible. He has a bus pass (I don't) so local bus and metro travel is free for him.

You may be aware that I have tried to interest David in bridge (with almost zero success) and in golf, with limited success. It is important to have interests and friendship groups separate from your partner but equally important that you can share interests, I firmly believe.

With this in mind, David and I have been going on re-wilding walks with a health-focused group and this has introduced us to many local areas previously unknown to us. David hasn't really been able to take decent photographs on such walks because the rest of the group is keen to walk on but would like to do so. That means we need to go on our own.

Rob, the originator of these walks, has his home on Mull. He recently moved to take a job in Oban, which left us all bereft! He is a fantastic and enthusiastic instructor and extremely knowledgeable. He kindly marked my maps of Mull with the best places to see various types of wildlife.

The other thing David and I are doing together is attend a photography club locally. While David has a lifelong and extensive interest in photography, my interest is much more limited. I have taken ‘snaps’ and record shots for years. I accompanied David on a landscape photography course in France a few years ago and developed an interest in flower photography, though at the time I wasn't sewing or playing bridge - both are much bigger interests. In this club there are several competitions following which the entries are critiqued, I believe. I've decided to embrace the club wholeheartedly. I put in two flower images and await the critique next week with interest. The next challenge is to produce images of a seascape. We're allowed two entries each. I'm not sure that any of the seascapes I took from Mull will work for this so I may not enter.

David is also attending a local photography course with the same enthusiastic tutor he had last year. This week he is missing a photoshoot at a stately home, designed to show autumn colours, so he hoped to get some autumn colour photos in Mull.

So do you see how this all comes together?

(I wrote some of the following while in Mull)

A trip to Mull at this time ticks a lot of boxes. We're hoping to get photos of the colourful Tobermory houses, by day and by night, a seascape or two and photos of autumn colours. David also has an interest in astrophotography and would like to shoot an image of the milky way as the area is not polluted with light as it is at home. We hope to have a few good walks and perhaps see some of the wildlife that is here, though we don't plan to spend hours in hides or walk for hours to isolated places in the hope of seeing some, even though I knew from Rob that the stag rut had started.

So on Saturday last week, I drove up to Oban and took the ferry across to Craignure in Mull, then drove the 45 miles or so to our hotel in Tobermory. We started very early and I was tired - I'm not a natural driver. I found I didn't like the road up past Loch Lomond and the other lochs too much as the roads were narrow, two way though, with rock on one side and a fall on the other. This made me less keen on one of our planned nocturnal trips in Mull as I thought there were a lot of single-track roads.. On arrival at the hotel, we found that parking was at a premium and we decided to concentrate on the immediate area, on foot. The parking issue turned out to be because there was a classic car tour - the drivers were driving around Scotland and stayed at our hotel for a couple of nights. The cars were very interesting, but I prefer mine!

Mull is a lot more hilly than I realised

As I sat writing this on the first evening, in front of a log fire (much needed), with a glass of wine (also much needed), outside it was dreich and miserable. It was cold. It was rainy. The visibility was poor. David didn’t want to go through with some of our plans any more than I did.

I didn't take any sewing. I took a photography book. I still had my phone though (my new camera can be shot remotely using my phone and can copy small JPEG images from the camera). If I get any half decent photos, I'll include them in this post. My new camera is easier to use than my last one, which kept ‘freezing’. It's a compact but very versatile. I didn't really want to be seen as specialising in smartphone selfies at the camera club! Though what's wrong with them when they're taken with a particular purpose in mind? In fact, in one of the photography magazines of David's, they recommended a book 'Smart Phone Smart Photography' by Jo Bradford which I bought; it has just arrived today so I haven't looked through it all.

The weather improved markedly from that first day. It was colder than we’ve recently become used to used to but I had appropriate clothing so no problems. I had taken some of my layers bought for our Northern Lights trip a few years ago - but that was overkill! Thinking of sewing, I don’t need to think about making any walk-specific items for the moment, though again a pair of trousers would be useful. For our Friday re-wilding walks, a lightweight jacket would be useful, for spring and autumn. The autumn colours were less advanced than those at home which I thought surprising as Mull is further north - but then the Gulf Stream probably has more influence there than it does on the east coast where we live.

This isn't my image. Tobermory Lighthouse from the path
I do have some images but wasn't too happy with them

One walk we took was along a 2 km cliff path to Tobermory Lighthouse (Rubha nan Ghal).  Gorgeous views and yes, some seals. The old lighthouse keepers’ cottages have been bought and done up. A family lives in one and rents the other out. There is NO road access. All materials for the lighthouse and for their renovations had to be brought in by helicopter or boat. Needless to say, the postman doesn’t deliver mail to them (I asked him) and they don’t have the benefit of supermarket deliveries. Well, of any deliveries. Maybe an Amazon drone? Last winter the path was closed for repairs (there is some evidence of rock fall and slippage) so I don’t know how the family managed. If you had seen how much stuff we carried for our brief stay you'd realise that there is no way we could stay there. It’s off grid completely (for electricity - solar; for water - spring) and fabulous.

Our hotel sat high on a promontory (see earlier photo) and we misunderstood the initial directions to the lighthouse (which is at sea level). We cut through the golf course at Tobermory - 9 holes, hilly, beautiful views and I’d love to play there. (We didn’t take our clubs.) We considered it as a venue for next year’s family trophy but decided against (Just realised I haven’t said anything about this year’s trophy. Oh well! We played it in Pidley). Unfortunately, the ‘path’ from the golf course towards the lighthouse was too difficult and we turned back but not until we had gone some way along. We had an extra-long walk that day. I’d hate to think the lighthouse family carried on living in their cottage and used that path while the regular path was closed! I was glad we saw the golf course. There is another golf course in Mull which we didn’t go to see.

View from Tobermory Golf Course

Mull is very dog friendly. Even the stiles have dog entrances.
The start of the path across the stile looked innocuous but we had to give up as it became steeper and more treacherous.
At the entrance to the real path
Great views from the path

We both like food and coffee bars though we don’t often visit restaurants at home. We did of course visit the distillery and David got to sample 4 whiskies and bought 2 bottles. 

The hotel food was great and the restaurant had the most fabulous views. We ate at other restaurants too,  but our highlight was a meal in Cafe Fish, an award-winning restaurant on the pier that has its own fishing boat and lands crabs etc right outside for absolute freshness. I saw the crabs I ate as starter in the evening landed that afternoon. The restaurant looks very unprepossessing from the outside and if you didn’t know of its reputation, you wouldn't give it a second look. You must book as it’s popular. Inside is perfect.

We’re home now. I got plenty of exercise on walks, didn’t see much in the way of wildlife and David didn't get his star photos as even in Tobermory, there was quite a bit of light pollution and we didn’t want to drive at night to a more isolated spot. Oh, the roads weren’t bad although quite a few are single-track but all the drivers were considerate and there are plenty of passing places so that wasn’t the issue - the wine with my evening meal was more significant!

I didn't intend this to be a detailed travelogue detailing everything we did so I'm stopping now. 

Importantly, we spent time together doing something we want to do together rather than travelling for others as we usually do. 

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