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31 days and counting

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Ok I have 20 minutes to write this post AND finish a lovely bottle of Sancerre before I give up alcohol for January.

Yes you read it right. All 31 days of it. I’ve decided to just get on with it.

I realise that January is a long month and I did consider postponing to February to be honest. But that wouldn’t be so much of a challenge would it? I’ve always found them rather hard to resist.

So. My reasons.

Quite simple really. I’m raising awareness for mental health issues. You must have read the statistics – 1 in 4 people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime. It’s the ‘elephant in the room’, the topic you either make fun of or don’t talk about at all. Yet we all know someone who is suffering daily or has suffered in the past. They might be a friend or part of the family. But they exist. The stigma that is (still) attached to mental illness is huge – just think of the headlines in the media or the ridicule that people are subjected to when they ‘lose it’ or don’t appear ‘normal’. Volunteering at Crisis UK this year just hammered home how many more people, young and old, are having difficulty holding on to their sanity. Stress, bereavement, divorce, losing a job or not being able to find one are just some examples of events that can affect people adversely. In the current climate, mental illness isn’t something that happens to ‘other people. Christmas and the New Year are the hardest times of the year for too many.

Here’s an animated short about depression. It’s a mere  4 minutes and 19 seconds long…you can watch it in an ad break!

That’s it really. Oh here’s the bit where you come in. January, for me, is all about the charity SANE. And resisting adding that bottle of wine to my weekly shop. You can help support me through the LONG DARK GLOOMY DAYS OF SOBRIETY (have I made my point?) by making me feel it’s all worth it!

Please share this post. Read and learn about mental illness and donate on my Just Giving page . You can even visit my Etsy shop (there’s a sale on too!) and as I’m donating 5% of my total sales in January to the cause.

Talk about it. Learn, donate, even volunteer. Just don’t brush it under the carpet.

Thank you.

Happy New Year!  *drains glass*


Altogether now!

Apparently I’ve been ‘tagged’. No I’m not  a criminal and I don’t have some sort of disease. The delightful Mrs Worthington and her partners in crime Liz ‘n’ Laura thought it would be a whizzo idea to ‘encourage’ me to participate in a Christmas meme. Little did they know that:

a/ I had no idea what tagging or a meme was,    and

b/ I would then go in to ‘Oh my goodness what do I say? mode and drive everyone potty asking questions about it.

(really sorry about that, ladies).

I teach therefore (I am? Erm…No) getting into the Christmas spirit didn’t even happen until the last excited pupil had left the building and I placed the receiver down on my final  phone call. Then, and only then, could I begin to get excited about the days ahead, rope my  darling divas in to helping me decorate the tree, and start a week of relative relaxation… aided and abetted by the odd  glass of  ginger wine and white rum *grins*.

Last year, however, I held my first Reddskinbags Festive Open Day. This meant that the tree had to be up much earlier to create the right ambience (or something). It’s hard to resist the Christmas Spirit when Leilani our Home Fairy is watching you make mulled wine from atop the Christmas tree (and even harder when you’ve sampled  a glass).

Back in the day, Christmas morning at my mum’s house always began early with her blasting out Christmas hits by Perry Como or Vic Damon. Ah, memories. My siblings and I  duly rolled our eyes at each other but when I moved in to my own place I actually missed their old school festive warbling. Rest assured I am not going to site any of their offerings as my favourite Christmas Song. For me, its ALL about the joining in! In the 80’s my peers and I were just discovering a new-fangled genre named ‘rap’… so when Kurtis Blow’s ‘Christmas Rapping’ hit the airwaves we were hooked!

And I still love it!

So here, for your delight and entertainment (check the suit), is Kurtis Blow on  ToTP. I defy you not to rap along with it!

And now it’s time to pass the tagging baton to these select few elliestreasures , Julesy10 , Giddystuff , DitsyBirdDesign , and The_Moiderer . What’s your favourite Christmas song?

So you think you can’t sew?

So you think you can’t sew?


Do you have a sewing machine that you haven’t used for ages? Perhaps it’s gathering dust in a corner somewhere and you’ve forgotten how to use it. Maybe it’s still in it’s box and you’re a little scared of it? Well this tutorial is for YOU! *points finger in a non-rude way*

You will learn how to make a fabulous ZIP-LESS cushion cover…as a gift for you – because you’re worth it – or a very lucky friend!

Compulsory ingredients; 1 piece of (non-stretchy) fabric 18ins x 18ins. 2 pieces of fabric 12ins x 18ins. Fabric scissors, thread, a sewing machine, and iron and some pins.

Optional extras; A 16ins cushion pad, thread scissors or snippers, chocolate treats and wine (see compulsory)

Ready? So let’s start!

Love my ironing board cover!

Turn over approx 1/2 inch of a long edge of the back panel. Press. Repeat with the other panel.

Turning hem again

Turn the hem over  1/2 inch again to hide the raw edge. Press. Repeat.

Hemming the back panel.

Sewing machine time! (can I get a ‘WOOP’?) Sew in a straight line close to the pressed edge to create a hem on both panels.

Over-lap back panels.

Place both pieces, right sides down, on top of the front panel (which should be facing up towards you). The overlap is deliberate.

Pin through all thicknesses

If you have fancy bead head pins you could position them so that they peek-a-boo and are easy to see. If you don’t, no worries. They’re just showing off anyway!

One pin in the middle

Tip: Whilst you’re in a pinning mood, pop one in the middle to stop the back panels shifting around when you sew. Trust me.

Don’t forget to take the pins out as you sew!

Start with a short backstitch (most electric sewing machines have this wonderful facility) on the overlap and sew an approximately 5/8 inch seam all around the cushion cover.

A little foot action

Tip: When turning the corners, stop the machine and use the hand-wheel to place the needle at the corner. Lift up the presser foot and turn your fabric before returning the presser foot and continuing on your journey.

Back-stitch = machine moonwalk!

Backstitch to secure the threads when you get to the end.

Neat and tidy

Cut the threads an inch or so in on both sides. It won’t show when you turn your cushion cover so please don’t stress!

Reduce the bulk

Snip the corners. This will reduce bulk when you turn your cover and give you professional looking sharp-tastic corners. Oo-er!

Get those scissors out!

Trim the edges to about 3/8 inch…

Back away from the overlap!

…but leave the overlap part untouched. This gives you more fabric to play with/sew through and make the opening more durable. Promise!

Its a cushion corner pre-turning…not a finger puppet!

Remove the central pin. Then place your thumb into one corner and use your forefinger to turn it. Repeat with the other three. Tip: If you have one, use a chopstick to push the corners out very gently –  makes them fabulously crisp!

Only a few more steps to cushion heaven!

Now stand back and bask in your Creative Genius. This is the optimum time for an edible/quaffable TREAT(s)!

Not long now…

Those blasted pins again!

Pin at decent intervals around your cover (and pop that pin back in the middle whilst you’re at it…)

Gently does it…

Gently press the edges between the pins. Then remove them and repeat.

Machine time again!

Start on the overlap with a backstitch and sew a border approximately 5/8 inch from the edge all the way round.

Ready for a snip!

This time when you snip, do so close to the stitching so that they become invisible.

In theory your cushion cover is complete! (WOOP time again!)

But if you happen to have a cushion pad lying around your household (or you can ‘borrow’ one from an old cushion like I did)…

*drum roll please* …

…you can magically turn it into…

Ta-DAAAAAAAAAAAHH! How clever are YOU?!



So there you have it! STILL think you can’t sew? Do give it a go and let me know how you get on!

Which Sewing Project you would like to tackle after this one?

There’s nothing ‘Mini’ about Me…

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I love a library! Rooms full of knowledge and adventure and fantasy and fact and FREE BOOKS! What’s not to love? Our School library is run by a human dynamo named Carol who decided to run a Self-portait competition for pupils and staff. As we were allowed to use any medium it seemed only natural for me to make a Mini-Me doll.

I have only ever made two dolls before. One is Leilani, our home fairy. One year, frustrated in my search for a Christmas fairy I decided to attempt to make my own. She had to be pretty and have beautiful brown skin like my lovely girls. I made her out of scrap fabric, drew her face using permanent ink and fashioned wings  using wire, old tights and a sprinkling of glitter (Pretty Polly Nylons, if you must know).

Isn’t she a hottie?!

My next foray in to doll-making was years later following a plaintive plea from my little sewing-phobic sister. ‘Pleeeeease can you make Peso the penguin for my son? He LOVES the Octonauts!”. Erm…who? Conveniently over looking the fact that I have two teenage girls, know nothing about little children and had never even heard of Peso I set about this task with apprehension. I watched The Octonauts (after Rastamouse it’s become a favourite. Don’t judge me) and after a few wrong turns (flammable fabric, anyone?) managed to make a pretty good Peso. The best part is that he has become my nephew’s Toy du Jour. That’s a phrase, right?

I often find that I build a problem up into a massive mountain until I finally start and realise it was a teensy molehill after all! This formula applies to most parts of my life, unfortunately, which is why my title as Queen of Proscrastination will take some beating. However, I also love a challenge so once I had decided that Mini-Me would be a combination of the real me (hair and matching accessories) and fantasy me (perfect make-up and  ever-ready smile) making her became easier. Less of an Oh-My-Gawd-What-Have-I-Done? and more  Fun-Times-In-Front-Of-CSI:Miami. Her face is embroidered and her orange linen headwrap matches her undergarments. Oh yeah!

P.s I gained an ‘honourable mention’ for my entry and received a special book prize – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Read it. It’s good.

I was so pleased with my Mini-me that I decided to run a competition. All you had to do was to tell me why YOU deserved to have a Mini-Me created. The lucky winner, Debbs, wanted to send her doll to her sister because they missed each other so much. Awww! I’m a sucker for a bit of sentiment. I made sure that she was wearing her favourite jeans tucked in to some ‘leather’ boots. As soon as the winner was announced I was contacted by an unlucky entrant, Kate, who wanted to commission a Mini-me for her boyfriend! Kate has gorgeous long curly hair and wanted to wear a dress and matching shoes! What I loved about making them was the artistic license I was given. They really are a combination of real life people and their fantasy counterparts. I hope that Debbs and Kate love their Mini-me’s as much as I enjoyed creating them!

So what about you? Have you ever worked yourself in to a state of near paralysis over something that turned out to be easier than you thought? Or is that just me?

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