Sunday, 8 July 2012

There's a mouse loose about this hooouse...!

I had intended to undertake the great mouse challenge on make the four mice in a day I need to be able to make to earn sufficient profit for making them to be viable when I start trying to make a living from all this malarkey. There were two obstacles to this:

1) insufficient stuffing for more than one mouse (I have ordered some more now); and

2) Hannah and Jamie came for dinner on Thursday evening and the meal...bruschetta followed by roast lamb with mediterranean roast veg, olives and feta cheese, rounded off with a vanilla and rosewater panna cotta, a raspberry and rose coulis and my favourite chokladkolakakor (Swedish chocolate biscuits)...was washed down with rather more (very delicious) red wine than I am used to. I was n't hungover, but I was, you could say, a little concentrationally challenged.

However, I did cut out the pieces for all four mice and made one completely, making copious notes about the best tension to set on the sewing machine, seam allowances, order of sewing together and stuffing, etc.

I am very organised and have put the pattern pieces for each item in a clear plastic envelope in a box file marked "craft patterns and ideas". The only problem was the pattern piece envelope was not in the box file. I went through all my fabric piles and craft drawers, but nothing. So I had to make new pattern pieces. The result is, I think, a slimmer Ellen Mouse, but I like her.

Cutting multiple pieces was easy with a rotary cutter and cutting mat and speeds things up no end (and makes me feel more professional):

I need to make three brushed cotton mice and one calico, so decided to make the one calico one. I started with the ears and then sewed together the pieces of the head.

I find a chop-stick is very useful for pushing stuffing in to nooks and crannies and for pushing fiddly pieces the right way out again (they are always sewn right sides together so the seams end up on the inside - apologies if I am teaching my granny to suck eggs (where did that phrase come from!!), but I am not sure whether people reading this are sewers...that's people familiar with sewing, not drainage pipes). This particular chop-stick was once a wand at a particularly good Harry Potter Halloween party, and still works its magic from time to time.

 Ta daaa! A mouse head!

Next I made arms and legs (these are probably the fiddliest parts of a mouse). I then sewed a dart in to the front of the body, to make a tummy shape, and tacked the limbs in place before sewing the front body to each of the two back parts, inserting the tail in the seam down the back of the body, before sewing it up and stuffing it.

Sewing the head to the  body is fiddly, but results in an Ellen Mouse, missing only eyes, nose and whiskers.

I found this pink fabric in a little fabric shop in Bath - it is soooooooo soft and feels like velvet. I cut a very basic top from it and sewed velcro on the back fastening...what kid does n't want to dress and undress their toys! I then cut an equally basic pinafore from some of my favourite grey fabric with an Alice in Wonderland print.

I had first one brainwave - to line the pinafore rather than faff about neatening seams - and then another - to use a patterned fabric and press studs to make the pinafore reversible! So Ellen can have grey on weekdays and purple stripes at the weekend. See, I said I was n't hungover!

I woke early on Saturday morning with one thought loud in my head..."PANTS!". What was I thinking sending Ellen Mouse out in to the world without a nice pair of knickers??!! I went downstairs in my nightie and made her a nice purple pair with a pink frill. Mark has suggested I consider a range of clothing and accessories for Ellen Mouse. I can't get out of my head the idea of angel wings on elastic and a halo head-band for Christmas...!

Here you can see her showing off both sides of her pinafore and her lovely purple pants:

I have learnt some important things from Friday's sewing day:

1) don't waste time unpicking seams if it is quicker just to cut a new piece;

2) back pattern pieces with card so they don't fall apart when using a rotary cutter (and don't lose them either!);

3) pinning rather than tacking does not save time in the long run - you only have to re-sew seams;

4) finding the right fabric takes time, so set it up the evening before so you're ready to go when you start work in the morning;

5) don't get cross with yourself if things don't work out perfectly straight away; you are are allowed to need is what this time leading up to redundancy is for; and

6) don't arrange to have dinner with Hannah the evening before a work day if you want get a lot done. I had such a nice time, but next time I will plan to make something simple like lavender hearts and catnip fish the next day!

In other other news (please imagine my best news reader's voice), I have been singing this weekend - in the Bath Minerva Choir Bach St John Passion weekend workshop. It was a lot of singing (about 11 hours over two days) but I really enjoyed it. I don't have a great deal of knowledge about music theory or classical music in general, and it's fun to learn. The soloists who came in just for the weekend were all young new music graduates with stunning voices. I had only heard counter tenors singing Elizabethan madrigals, but we had a counter tenor sing the alto! I actually shed a tear or two! These guys (and girl) were hugely talented, but did n't have a hint of diva about them; they were good humoured and felt like part of the choir - I think they have very bright futures ahead of them. That's the end of choir for the Summer - no more until September. I love it, but a few Saturday morning lie-ins will make a welcome change.

And finally, we have been looking after Mark's parents' 100 year old tortoise while they were in Cornwall. I just have a mental block about little Tommy-Fred. I get the cats in of an evening, lock the door and block the cat-flap, everyday forgetting to bring in the tortoise - the same in the mornings when I forget to put him in the pen in the garden. I walk right past without him registering with me in the slightest. He has gone home now, but I think Max will miss him...


  1. Brilliant! "concentrationally challenged" - I must remember that one, it will come in handy ;-)

    And I LOVE Ellen Mouse - but trying to sew one (in an non-plumbering way) would drive me absolutely crazy.

    I love your blog - I really like to be able to take part of your life in this way.

    1. Thank you Irene - you are always so sweet to me and so encouraging! S.x