Habits, old and new

In February, more than any other time of year, I find myself relying on old habits. Good ones, to keep life running smoothly. They might be easy – grabbing a jar of soup from the freezer as I head out the door to work – or require a bit more effort (my Tuesday night swim definitely fell into that category this week), but habits really do work.

Thankfully, new habits are relatively easy to create, one at a time. I tend to throw one in every few weeks, just for fun. This week was the week of starting to eat a salad for lunch every day, on top of my usual mid-morning soup. It’s only been three days and already I’m planning my next batch. And loathe as I am to join in with food trends, I have to admit that jarred salads are pure genius. I’m making them three at a time and the third was as fresh and appealing as the first. I just grab a jar from the fridge as well as the freezer on my way out the door now.

Like all families, we tend to let things slip a bit when life gets busy, and our children asked John and I whether we might revamp our plastic-free efforts a bit. I was all too happy to agree – some plastic has begun to creep back into our shopping – and we had a look through our bin to see what the culprits were. It turned out that it was mainly the odd unusual purchase – and lots of plastic from food that friends gave us when they emptied their fridge before a recent holiday. While there are a few things that we’ve reverted to buying in plastic (for instance our toothy-tab supplier ran out for a while, so we’ve been back on tubes of toothpaste), for the most part habits have kept our bin slim. Neither John or I would think of heading to the shops without our shopping kits in tow, and really, it is no extra effort at all. So we’ve just made a list of plastic-free goods we need to replenish to avoid some packaging we have fallen back into buying, and that’s about all we plan to do for now.

It goes without saying that I do have some bad habits – drinking endless cups of tea is one I’m tackling at the moment. There’s nothing wrong with the odd cup of tea, but from time to time I find myself drinking nothing but the black, caffeinated variety all day, which can’t be good for me. So far, I’ve cut it down to two cups a day, and I’m finding myself ready for bed a little earlier with each missing cup. Seriously, I’m sleeping like a baby at the moment, and this is from someone who normally sleeps well. Who knew it was having such big effect?

Then there are habits that are good for the environment but not always so good for me, like not buying flowers any more. In the summer, this doesn’t matter as I grow my own, but in the winter I rely on the odd flowering pot plant. Well, this week I have been doubly blessed by a bunch of alstroemerias regifted by those same holiday-going friends, and the most gloriously bright bunch of tulips as a thank you from another friend. What a joy it is to have flowers in the house again. They make me smile every time I see them.

What’s more, they’ve got me thinking about my own garden again, and those bulb lasagnas I planted in the autumn. I wonder how they’re doing? I must pop out and check on them, as well as the other things under cover, and give them all a drink. Soon enough it’ll be time to get back into the habit of watering them every few days and pulling weeds when I get in from work. That’s the lovely things about habits in a temperate climate: they shift with the sun. Nothing lasts for ever – not the winter and its challenges, nor the habits we build to survive it – and that’s just the way it should be.

Madeleine

Have you been trying out any new habits recently? I’d love to know – and maybe try them for myself!

Preparing for spring

Over the past few years, I’ve come to make the winter months precious by filling them with winter-only activities. Come spring, I’ll be needed in the garden, and I’d like to immerse myself in a fleece or two on rainy days. That means that there won’t be much – if any – time for knitting. So I’m doing a little pre-spring cleaning, and using up the bits and pieces left over from other makes.

So far, three such projects have graced my needles: a long-awaited (we’re talking years) tea cosy for our house, a pair of colourful wrist warmers and the start of a sweet little bonnet for a soon-to-be-born little person. I started the bonnet on Sunday afternoon while watching a film with the girls and went wrong twice before finally reading the pattern properly. I have to say, I didn’t mind a bit. I was so cosy, wrapped up on the couch in front of the fire, and working on something so small that it was the work of an hour to pull it out and start again. The yarn is leftover from the socks I designed, with the idea that the busy new parents will be able to throw it in the machine when it gets grubby. I’ve been there.

The wrist warmers were a bit of a slog, if I’m honest. Not because they were hard (they aren’t) but because there were three yarns used in every colourwork row, so I had to keep dropping and picking up two of them. They were one of those projects that I had to set an end date for. I’m glad I did, though, because Fliss loves them and I’ve set them aside for next Christmas.

Bringing me the most pleasure, though, is the new tea cosy in my life. This is going to sound ridiculous, but why did I not know how effective these things are? They keep the tea piping hot for ages, even in our somewhat chilly house. I used a pattern from this book, and have plans to make little birds with the last of my leftover scraps. More Christmas presents, you see. The pile on the present shelf is growing, as there have been some little sewing additions too, of late, and it is so satisfying to reach for a gift you made a few months earlier with just that person in mind. Come next Christmas, it really will feel as though the elves had made it all.

With the lengthening days, the urge to read about the natural world has come again, and I found myself scanning the library nature writing section. In the end, I plumped to reread The Shepherd’s Life. We’ll be going to the Lake District in the spring, and journeying through its pages feels almost like setting off on that little jaunt a few weeks early.

I love having so much to look forward to, but instead of thinking I can’t wait, I find that really, I can. I can because I have so much to enjoy doing between now and then. Next up will be another pair of wrist warmers, and a second snood, and perhaps even a second little bonnet to tuck away for another, as-yet-unknown baby. A few little birds might find their way into the children’s rooms. There are winter walks to enjoy, still, before reading about the rest of the year indoors, in the warm. Come the spring, I’ll be out there all the time, with my hands in the cool dark soil. For now, though, I’m preparing for spring in the most pleasurable ways I know.

Madeleine

Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along at Small Things

How are you preparing for spring? Or is it not on your mind just yet?

Winter Flora publication – and we have a winner!

Thank you so much for your comments on the Introducing Winter Flora post. I’m delighted to announce that the winner of the pattern is Cathy. A copy of the pattern will be landing in your inbox later today.

The pattern is now available in my Ravelry and Etsy shops.

Madeleine

Mrs Darcy Wears the Trousers tutorial part four: adding the waistband and fastenings, and finishing the hems

Welcome to the fourth and final part of the Mrs Darcy Wears the Trousers tutorial. It’s now time to attach the waistband and fastenings, fit the trousers and finish the bottom hems.

First, you are going to prepare the waistband. Taking one piece of the waistband at a time, arrange the interfacing so that it is lying on the bottom half of the main fabric, on the wrong side, within the seam allowance. The interfacing should butt up along the horizontal centre line of the waistband piece. It should be glue (bumpy) side down. Using a pressing cloth to protect your iron, and following the manufacturer’s instructions, iron the interfacing into place.

With right sides together,pin edges U together.

Make sure that the interfacing runs along the bottom of both pieces.  Sew and press seam UU open.

Seam UU is the centre back of the waistband. Then turn edge S down so that it meets edge T, and press the long horizontal fold.

Open out the waistband again. Arrange your trousers, right sides out, so that the back is facing upwards. Lay the waistband along the top of the trousers, right side down, aligning seam UU with seam KK. The raw edge of the waistband (T) should align with the raw edge of the trousers (BG).

Start to pin the waistband to the trousers, working your way around from the centre back (UU). Keep going until you go past piece 5. Open out the pocket (pieces 3 and 4 and keep pinning.

Stop at the point where the pocket fabric meets the trouser fabric of piece 1 (seam NA).

Measure a further 2cm/ 0.75” and cut the waistband here.

Keep the short cut-off piece of waistband for later. Repeat on the other side.

Use your tailors’ chalk or fabric marker to mark the point where the waistband meets piece 1, on both the wrong and right sides of the fabric. This marks your sewing line; the further 2cm/ 0.75” is your seam allowance. Take out the final pin so that you can work with the cut end of the waistband. Snip your length of ribbon in two, and fold half of it to form a loop. Pin the ribbon loop to the right side of the cut waistband. The cut ends of the ribbon should overhang the cut end of the waistband, and it should be a quarter of the way from the top of the waistband (not including seam allowances). In other words, it should be in the centre of the interfacing, but on the right side.

Your ribbon loop will be sewn along the seam line. Make sure that your loop is big enough to accommodate your chosen button. Adjust if necessary. Sew the ribbon into place along the seam line.

Repeat on the other side of the waistband.

Now take one of your discarded lengths of cut-off waistband. (It should be easily long enough to cover the gap between your two cut ends of waistband – check that it is.) Arranging it in the same way as the pinned length of waistband (wrong side up, the raw edge of the waistband (T) aligning with the raw edge of the trousers (BG)), pin the cut end to the cut end of the pinned section of the waistband, wrong sides together. This is what it looks like with the seam allowance turned towards the new piece of waistband…

and here it is with the seam allowance flipped the other way.

Sew along the seam line. Zigzag the raw ends. Press this seam open.

Now pin the new length of waistband along the front of the trousers, until it meets the other cut edge of waistband. Taking care to ensure that it will be the right length to lie flat along the top of the trousers, pin these two ends of the waistband together at the sewing line, and sew. Zigzag the raw ends, press this seam open, and pin it down.

I’m afraid I forgot to take a photo of this until after I’d sewn the waistband to the trousers – so if you’re wondering why you can see those stitches, that’s why! Just ignore them…

Sew the waistband to the top of the trousers all the way along edge T of the waistband. Use the top of the interfacing to guide you.

This is what your waistband will look like when you’ve finished sewing…

and this is what it looks like when you flip it upwards.

Next, you need to hand finish the inside of the waistband. Press seam TH/G up towards inside of the waistband. Press the seam allowance of edge S inwards, wrong sides together. It should look like this before it is folded over:

Pin it down to the inside of the trousers so that all the raw edges of the waistband are contained neatly inside the waistband. It should look like this:

Sew seam SB/G by hand from the inside of the trousers. Make sure that your stitches are invisible from the outside. This is easiest if you sew edge S down to the seam allowances already there, rather than to the outside of the trousers. Here are my trousers with the waistband finished off, and folded as you are supposed to wear them:

Attach the buttons. Try your trousers on. They will look like clown trousers, with an enormous waist! Fold the pockets inside so that edge A roughly meets edge P. Adjust until there is an equal fold on either side of the centre front of the trousers, and they feel comfortable around the waist. See where the end of the loop meets the waistband, and mark with a pin.

 Take them off, and make sure that the pins are both an equal distance from the side seams. Adjust as necessary, then sew on your buttons in the places marked by the pins. (My waistband needs another press…)

Finish the bottom hems. Try your trousers on again. Fold up edges E and I until the trousers are the length you like. (They look really nice about an inch above the ankle.) Mark this length with a few pins. Turn the trousers inside out. Mark your desired length on the inside of the trousers with your tailors’ chalk or fabric marker. Mark another line 5cm/ 2” below this, and trim the excess fabric away. Zigzag the bottom of the trousers again.

Then turn the seam allowance under by 2cm/ 3/4” and press.

Fold it over a further 3cm/ 1 1/4”, press and pin (this should take them to your desired length).

Hand sew seams E and I using ladder stitch. (To do this, you simply catch a couple of threads of the outside of the trousers:

then take a bigger stitch along the inside of the hem:

before picking up a couple of threads from the outside of the trousers again.)

All done!

Wear your new trousers with pride. And rest assured that they are incredibly easy to adjust should you gain or lose weight – you just need to move the buttons…