Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Victory Garden - February- Plotting and Planning

Firstly, I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU for all your supportive words in my 'Victory Garden' endeavour. It means more to me than I can say and is certain to help me keep my motivation up over then next few months. What is also wonderful, is that a few of you are creating your own Victory Gardens too! Scrummy veggies for everyone!

I was hoping to have my third morning of allotmenteering (I doubt it's a real word but I'm keeping it) this weekend, but I came down with a case of the lurgy on Friday evening, which meant the thought of dragging my sorry backside, out into the cold morning air, made me feel like sobbing. So instead I decided to give myself an impromptu weekend off from the digging, to have a more relaxing time focusing on some knitting and sewing, all whilst balling my eyes out to the brilliant new series of Call the Midwife on catch up. It was wonderful!

So this is what 7am on a crisp Saturday morning in February looks like.
The two weekends that I have been over, have been really enjoyable. It was lovely to have a bit of warm winter sunshine the last time, fingers crossed for many more sunny days. It certainly makes things a lot more enjoyable, the first Sunday I went over, I got utterly soaked through, and had to travel back on the bus, dripping wet, I made no friends that day! My lesson is now learnt and a spare set of clothes are firmly packed in my bag, hopefully, this is not a warning of things to come, but its as is says in the first pamphlet February can be very changeable.
"February Fill Dyke" may live up to that old country title––or it may not. We shall not be so rash as to prophesy what the weather will be, for though it may be snowing or raining in the North, the South may be basking in the sun––even if a wintry one. Ministry of Agriculture Allotment & Garden Guide Vol. 02 1945
So I am making steady, but slow progress on the digging side of things. I have now reached the ground which was not worked over last year and so is packed full of matted weeds, meaning that it is difficult to dig as you have to untangle the grass and weeds before you can lift the soil up with your fork. Thankfully I only have another small section to go and then I will be digging the ground which is currently under the tarpaulin, so fingers crossed its weed free!

The digging so far.
I am aware from all the manuals and advice that I have been absorbing over the last few weeks, that I should probably be waiting until the ground is a lot dryer to dig it over.
Never work the soil when it is too wet and sticky and clings in lumps to your boots. You do more harm than good by walking on it and working it when it is like that.  Ministry of Agriculture Allotment & Garden Guide Vol. 02 1945
My glamorous digging attire
 The puddles do tend to form in the holes I've dug, and the mud well and truly sticks to my boots, but I fear if I don't get cracking now I will be panic digging later to get all the things planted that I need to. So I am going against advice (I am making sure I don't walk on the dug sections and I am using a fork rather than a spade to break up the clods) and doing my own muddy thing!

The digging might be progressing slower than I would like, but I have at least marked out my sections. As I mentioned in my last post, the wartime plan is for a 30'x90' plot, which by the way is flipping massive, that's three times the width of mine! I would seriously need to give up the day job to manage a plot that big!
Ours, thankfully, is nowhere near that size. After a bit of measuring I have discovered, it works out to be 11.5 ft wide by about 60ft long (give or take a foot or two on the length) so I have had to scale things down considerably. I realised that to keep the beds square, as in the original plan, I needed to make the sections 10 x10 ft, which leaves a bit of room to have a path each side.

Relocated gooseberry bushes to divide the first section from the second. It was only when I started to man handle them that I realised just how prickly they are!  
I am dividing each of the sections with my fruit bushes which currently run along the left-hand fence. This will mean I will be able to get at the bushes better for pruning and picking the yummy berries. It's also going to provide me with a way of keeping my sections well defined in the subsequent years, though it may mean the odd spiky branch up the bottom when digging...something to look forward to then!
One of my little Robin friends
But the very best thing about this whole venture has been, listening to the birds in the surrounding forest chirp away while I am working. It's so lovely and peaceful and makes all the hard work seem a lot easier. I've even made some friends in some very brave little Robins, who are very keen to snaffle up the worms that are being unearthed as I dig away.

So that's the story so far on the plotting and planning stage of things, next up is planting and pruning!

Wendy x

Monday, 18 February 2013

Things To Make & Do - Sew For Victory - Decisions

As you may well have seen from the link in my sidebar, a couple of weeks ago I signed up to Rochelle's very exciting 1940s Sew-along! The challenge is to make a garment from either an original, repro or a 40s inspired pattern and to have it all finished and photo ready by the end of March, which should be plenty of time, even for the likes of me :)

If you want to join in then head on over to the lovely Rochelle's blog Lucky Lucille where you will find all the info and lots of 40s inspiration! If you do you will be in great company as Miss Katie and Tasha to name just a few, have both shared what they plan to make and both projects are very exciting! 

I'll be honest the reason I haven't published this post this sooner is because I have been having great trouble choosing which pattern to use. You see I have a bit of a problem...I am a big old greedy pattern hoarder.

Due to my inability to resist an eBay bargain, and my love of the recent trend for reproductions patterns (Do you want original vintage patterns in more than one size, namely my size? Yes please!) I currently have a storage crate filled with vintage patterns and I'll be honest there is no guarantee that it won't be two crates by the end of the year!

That's a heck of a lot of patterns!
All this means I am in the wonderful yet overwhelming position of having far too many options to choose from.  Here's a little peek at just some of my favorites...

Dress Patterns
Coat & Suit Patterns
Blouse Patterns
and even hat patterns

After much deliberation, I have managed to narrow it down to two patterns. Both are in or near my actual size, which will hopefully mean minimal fitting issues and both patterns are a bit more practical than my whimsical sewing tastes would usually go for - I do seem to be quietly creating a wardrobe full of cocktail dresses and with nowhere to wear them!

Maudella Pattern No. 3319- A Puff Sleeve Blouse 
I think this would be just perfect for the upcoming spring and practical enough for wearing at work. I have made a few blouses before from a wartime Economy Pattern but I am in need of many more. I would ideally like a simple white one or a dark blue one that I can embroider flowers on. Unfortunately, I have neither type of fabric in my stash and as I am still battling to reduce it (more space for patterns...naturally) I'll have look for suitable alternatives I am positive there will be something lurking in there that will do the job!

Blackmore Pattern No. 5755 - A Tea Dress With A Ruched Bodice 
I just love this pattern and I have been wanting to make it up for ages, I even think I have the perfect fabric for it in my stash, some lovely black stretch velvet (same fabric I used for my Turban) and I am hoping that by working with the stretch in the fabric I can perhaps leave out one of the two zips the pattern calls for, to make it a smoother finish and because I am a little dubious as to how good my velvet sewing skills are.

I'm still none the wiser as to which I will go with, I am going to set aside some time this evening for pattern copying and perhaps even some fabric cutting, so hopefully by then I will have made my mind up. Fingers crossed :) 

Wendy x

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Victory Garden - Backs To The Land

One of the many plans I have for this year is to get cracking on turning my slightly neglected allotment in Walthamstow into and food producing 'Victory Garden'!

Last year was a bit disappointing for both crops and for my enthusiasm. With the rotten weather and my partner in crime becoming pregnant early on in the year (she now has an adorable little baby boy) our grand plans of growing simply potatoes and onions whilst we set to digging and clearing the rest of the plot fell by the by and with addition of a garden at home for me to look after, I struggled to keep on top of everything and so our poor little 'Lotty' got a little neglected and more than a little overgrown.

Fortunately the bad weather meant that the story was much the same with our neighbouring plot holders (boy do weeds love wet weather) so we avoided the obligatory 'tut-tut' letter telling us to shape up or ship out (they are quite rigorous on our site and we got the aforementioned letter in our first year, even when our plot looked amazing compared to what we had started with, see below).

Our achievements in 2011

and in 2012 it looked like this!
There are about 5 rows of potatoes under there somewhere!
Regardless of the threat of a letter I will be honest and say by the end of last year I was considering giving it up, my friend has obviously more important things to worry about (three little ones under five, does not leave you with much free time) so it was going to mean another year going it alone, battling to keep on top of the weeds and make progress with the digging, I really was not sure I could summon up the enthusiasm.

That was until a few weeks ago, I had popped over to see just how bad it had become and was hit with a huge pang of guilt. So I started there and then to pull up some of the weeds, the more I pulled out, the more I realised just how much I enjoyed it, the more ground I cleared the more resolute I became that 'NO' I was not going to give up so easily, this massive plot and its bazillion weeds was not going to beat me.

After a morning of weeding and a considerable amount of digging, I found not only the soil but my enthusiasm buried  beneath the weeds.
How could I give up I had waited and wanted an allotment (well any green space after living with only a balcony for 8 years) for such a long time and there was plenty of other people who would bite my hand off in an instant for the opportunity. So after much deliberation I decided that the best course of action would be to go back to my original dream of turning my patch of weeds into my very own Victory Garden. I am going to 'Dig for Victory' and the war I am hoping to win is against the weeds (oh and that darn letter from the association).

So where to begin?

Well, I will need a planting plan and there is no better plan to work from than that issued in 1945 by the Ministry Of Agriculture  'Grow for Winter as well as Summer' which promises 'Vegetables for you and your family for every week of the year ' sounds good to me! It requires a plot divided 3 separate sections so that you can rotate your crops each year to maintain the nutrition in the soil.
'Dig Well and Crop Wisely'
The plan suggests a plot of 30ft x 90ft divided into 3, 30ft x 30ft squares. Now I haven't measured my plot yet but I am pretty sure its nowhere near 30ft wide (it's definitely 90ft long though) so I will have to scale the plan down to fit which will mean one row rather than two in certain areas, but that's no problem.
Along with the planting plan, I will also be following the Ministry of Agriculture Monthly Allotment & Garden Guides also produced in 1945, which promise to keep me on track with all that I need to do in the coming months!
"In this new series of monthly "Guides" we are out to help you to get better results from your vegetable plot and your fruit garden. Every month we shall try to do three things : first, we shall remind you of the things that ought to have been done, but may not have been possible because of the weather or for some other reason ; secondly, we shall deal with gardening operations for the month; thirdly, we shall look ahead a month or two and remind you of what you need to do in readiness." {Source}
 I will also be referring to the multitude of books new and old I have on the subject of veg growing, so all in all I should have every aspect covered (I am quite intrigued to see if any of the modern advice differs greatly from that of the wartime publications).

I am a firm believer that you can never have too many books!
So all of this will mean a monthly post charting my progress or lack of. I am happy to admit there are bound to be times when I will loose enthusiasm, but hopefully, it won't be for long and the insensitive of shaming myself online should be enough to keep me on track!

 Right, I'm off. I've got my flask of tea at the ready, I just need to grab my wellies and my bus pass and then I'll be heading on over to the allotment. It's time to measure up and to crack on with some serious digging!

Wendy x

Friday, 1 February 2013

The Link of Love

Afternoon! I thought it was about time I stopped by and said Hello. I have been very busy this month working away at lots of interesting projects for the coming year, scheduling lots of lovely free vintage patterns for 'The Vintage Pattern Files' and doing lots of home reorganising, in the hopes that I will be able to make 2013 a slightly more organised year than 2012. Fingers Crossed!

So seeing as I have had a bit of a hiatus from blog reading (and writing) and seeing that I am now the proud (though sweary) owner of a shiny new windows 8 laptop (reason for swearing; Apps crashing and 'One-finger swipe' thing are annoying me no end....Grrrr. What is worse is that it was a lovely belated Birthday/Christmas present, so I feel rather guilty about grumbling so much) I have finally had some time to read lots, and lots of well overdue post, I thought I would be nice to share with you a little of the lovely stuff I have seen over the last few days!*
  • I linked up to this pattern over at my other blog at Christmas but it's so good it deserves another shout! The lovely Melanie of The Folly Bird has posted a pattern of 1940s War-Time Crochet Jewelry - I will have to get my Mum on the case with these as I couldn't crochet anything that delicate! 
  • I love my woolen skirts, especially at this time of year, but they can be expensive to have cleaned. Mim from Crinoline Robot has the answer with her post on  How to Wash a Wool Skirt Its definitely going to save you the pennies! 
  • Not sure which lovely blogger led me to this site, but I am in totally in love with the gorgeous prints of Edward Dulac seen above!
  • Cassie is a supremely talented Artist, Teacher and Crafter and her latest creation "Put A Bird on It" cardigan is too cute for words. Who would have though needle felting could be so wonderful! 
  • Something I mentioned in my Dad's pullover post and is worth repeating is that you can block acrylic knitting! Yep, it's done slightly differently, but it certainly can and should be done, see Beadknitters post all about it Here
  • "Love to look neat as a pin? Like to comb your hair after you put on your dress?" Then this Apron Smock pattern that Anna from A Few Threads Loose gave away to mark 2013, its perfect for you!
  • Speaking of free stuff did you see the wonderful knitting pattern that the lovely Lucy posted after Christmas Knit Yourself a 1940's Turban. It's the pattern that she used to make the one I am modeling above. Honestly its so lovely it's been on my head daily keeping my ears lovely and warm and hiding many a bad hair day!
  • Is it just me, or have you ever wondered how people put those short links rather than the full www address, in the comments box?  Well, wonder no longer as Rebecca from The Bexter explains how to do it here!
{Source - Source}
  • Those of you that have been around here for a while will know I love a post full of screenshots dripping with fabulous vintage outfits (another film fashions post is already in the production line). So when the stylish Hannah of Leopard and Lipstick posted her screenshots of Flowers of War I was certainly not disappointed and have another film to add to my must watch list.
  • Speaking of beautiful stylish ladies May Loh's stunning series on the wonders of QiPao is just a treat for the eyes!
  • I have been using this for a while now but it time I shared I love Pilxr-o-matic for vintage-o-fying my pictures. It's downloadable so can be used without the internet and best of all its free!
And as a link up post in my eyes would not be complete without some kind of cakey goodness ...

So there you go just some of my favourite creative posts from the last few months. If you like this kind of post and want more suggestions then I can heartily recommend reading Elise's Faff Favorites. I have spent many an hour clicking on their suggestions and found some amazing things in the process!

Have a great weekend!
Wendy x

*Oooh, too many brackets! Honestly, the number of times I have thought I should rename this Blog 'My life in Parentheses (Blogging in Brackets); or some such similar thing. With this paragraph being the worst offender yet. Sorry!