Happy Jars

I’ve written before about having a jar to track how much you actually get done even while you feel like you’re just spinning your wheels.

My jars have come out of storage (finally!) and this year I’ve decided to use them as happy jars.

Partly because I now have my bullet journal for everyday tracking, but mostly because there is enough shit going on that reminders of the happy are always very welcome <3

So here are my two for home (the big one lives on the bureau in my living room, the smaller on my studio desk):

Happy jars | Carla Watkins Photography for carlalouise.com

I’ve found a new home for the straws!

There’s a smaller version on my day job desk, and the plan is to empty all three at the end of each month, and record the happy things either in a journal or on the blog. I’m hoping it will work as well as my gratitude journal has in previous years, to boost my mood and recognise the good things regardless of what crap is going on around me.

Have you ever had a happy jar, or a collection of happy things?

A peek inside my handbag

It’s almost two years since I last did a “what’s in my bag” post, and today I was doing some product shots anyway, so I emptied my bag.

in my handbag March 2016

Definitely doing better than before… though no kitty helper in this picture!

My purse: pretty standard object for a handbag, this one is the one that was stolen when I was visiting a friend, and then found its way back to me eight months later, courtesy of Reading police station.

My phone: another pretty standard item, this is my Honor 7 – I made the leap away from Samsung a month or so ago, when prices got ridiculous. So far, I’m delighted with my choice!

Burts Bees lipbalm: winter essential. This one’s mango flavoured, I love it.

Emergency charger: not that necessary yet as new phone has amazing battery life. Which is just as well, given I appear to have misplaced the actual lead to connect it to my phone…

Tangle Teezer hairbrush: my new favourite thing. I left my hairbrush on my day job desk before the bank holiday weekend, and rather than go in to fetch it, just didn’t brush my (waist length) hair for two days. Bought this, spent 20 mins brushing my hair, it was soft and smooth and tangle-free again. Properly impressed.

Four pens: an improvement on the last time I did this, when I had a pencilcase containing 15! The last of these is also a stylus and torch.

Tissues: because I’m permanently sniffly.

Mermaid tail fabric sample: I mean, who doesn’t carry one of these in their bags?! I’ve been bikini shopping and wanted to see which ones best suited my tail, as I rarely swim without it any more.

Antihistamine tablets: See tissues. (Also an improvement on the half a pharmacy I usually cart around)

Keys: I have no idea why these keys are in my bag, they’re not my front door keys or my car keys. But at least I now know where they are!

Sleek pout polish: instant lip balm and blusher. Which is 90% of the makeup I wear most days.

My Winter fabric swatch pack from In Love With Colour: Since having my colours done I carry this everywhere – the colours I choose are mostly instinctively Winter, but it’s nice to have confirmation when I’m out and about

A Creme Egg and a Wispa: my all time favourite chocolates. Just in case I get munchy.

My beloved Fuji point-and-shoot: I use this camera like other people use notebooks, and record stuff that’s happening, people and life, and also the things and places and ideas I want to come back and shoot with my full kit. It’s also a really pretty camera!

Chewing gum and YET ANOTHER LIP BALM: apparently I really, REALLY like lipbalm – three in one tiny bag!

What this stuff says about me? I hope it says I’m excited, happy and ready for anything. What I suspect it says is that I’m dreamy, super-connected, and always sneezing…

What’s in your everyday bag?

Can tidying up really be life changing?

I hate tidying up. Really, truly, hate it. But annoyingly I really like living in a space that isn’t full of clutter.

As I’ve tried to explain too many times to count, I don’t TRY to make things messy – chaos just follows me. I don’t deliberately leave things lying around, I’m just absorbed by an idea and don’t notice them lurking. I wasn’t born organised – and I am beginning to believe that the world can be divided into those who can stay tidy effortlessly and those who can’t stay tidy even if they make themselves miserable spending every spare moment trying to tidy up. (I suspect this effect is immeasurably worse if your partner/children/housemates/visitors are also messy by nature!)

My whole life has been lived in creative chaos – from my room as a child to my spaces at uni, from half the flat I shared with Julia to the whole house and garden I currently live in.

*I* know where everything is, it’s a filing system unique to me and I usually know exactly where to locate a specific item (under the bed, sideways a bit, behind that bag – there you go! Oh, you meant the other one? Basket on the windowsill, about a third of the way down, in a pink zipper bag. Sorted.) Until I tidy up, or worse, someone helps me tidy up, and then I have months of frustration because I can’t find anything.

I am naturally untidy and unashamedly lazy when it comes to housework – I will do the bare minimum to keep my house nice, and am easily overwhelmed by situations like my current one, when my house is filled with boxes and tools and goodness knows what else, in preparation for modernisation (plumbing and electrics. Necessary but oh-so-disruptive).

Much to the bemusement of the generation above mine, I have always unapologetically chosen fun things over housework for my entire life. Hoovering vs creating? No chance I’m going to pick hoovering (though the kittens’ faces when I do switch the Dyson on is unfailingly hilarious).

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t collect things that made me happy or curious, and I have always believed I’m happy surrounded by my precious possessions. I just happen to have a lot of possessions which mystify everyone else as to why they’re precious!

But as I pack up everything I own into boxes so I can more easily shunt them around the house during the electrical works (I lose either Luna or Clover behind or in boxes on a daily basis right now), I find myself wondering whether I actually, truly, need all this stuff.

Boxes

But how in hell do I even start to thin it down? (actually that’s a bit too melodramatic – I’m already two bin bags of clothes, three boxes of books and several bridesmaid’s dresses down… but the rest of it is overwhelming.)

Marie Kondo is the author of the bestselling book oddly entitled “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. I was initially hugely entertained by this – how could tidying up be fun, magic or remotely life changing? It’s just one of those endless, thankless, reoccurring chores. Right?

Well, wrong, apparently. David over at Raptitude reckons she’s got a good point and that her method is intrinsically different from most. She also acknowledges that very few of us were ever taught to tidy up – only told that it had to happen. (No blame intended to our parents – they weren’t taught by their parents either). She also comes highly recommended by my circle of friends who travel the world constantly and work as they go – some of whom had even more stuff than me before they took up that wandering lifestyle!

Marie teaches an all-at-once, drastic method of decluttering your living space and your life, using intuition rather than logic or emotion to choose what stays and what goes. I’ve not read the book yet but I’m aware of the underpinning concept of “does this spark joy?” – if so, it stays, if not, it goes.

And that, I think, is what’s finally got through and made me willing to give it a go. My intuition is strong and well developed; I have spent immense amounts of time on getting to know myself, what makes me tick, what makes me happy; and I know exactly what kind of life I want to live. Joy is something I wholeheartedly approve of and seek in my day to day life.

Perhaps having less stuff will give me more time and space, both mental and physical, to continue creating & living the life I choose. Perhaps this book will help me get there. And given I have to handle every single thing I own over the next few weeks anyway, it would make sense to turn it into an experiment alongside the Raptitude one and see if it makes a blind bit of difference to my lifelong messiness.

And if it works, my Mum (one of the world’s loveliest but also tidiest people, to whom my clutter is befuddling in the extreme) can sit back and smile, thinking that it’s owning a house that’s done the trick. As long as she’s happy, I don’t mind!

So. Ramble over, what am I actually going to do?

  • Buy Marie Kondo’s book (on Kindle, of course)
  • Read the book
  • Apply Marie’s concepts to my belongings as I pack them
  • Live in unintended minimalism while the modernisation work is completed
  • Move all my stuff back into the correct rooms and out of boxes and hopefully never have a messy house again

Hmm. I’ll keep you posted…

With love and unicorns,

Carla xx

Edit: I read and started applying Marie’s methods last night. I’m another bag of clothes down and can see my bedroom floor for the first time since I started packing…

 

 

 

 

Why being interested in ALL THE THINGS is actually a good thing

Discovering, a couple of years ago, that I was a Scanner, was a turning point in my life.

If you’ve never come across the word in this context before, alternative names include Renaissance woman/man/soul, polymath, da Vinci personality, multipassionate, multipotentialite, and some that are less complimentary – dilettante, flake, Jack-of-all-trades, fantasist.

Barbara Sher, who coined the term Scanner, goes into it in much more depth in her books, but the gist is that it’s someone who has many interests, usually moves jobs often, can’t seem to settle on one thing to do and who has ideas all the time, and frequently leaves projects seemingly unfinished.

I’m not normally one for labels, but I’d struggled for years with my many, many interests, and my attention span waxing and waning depending on what I was doing, but also on when I was doing it and what other things were currently on my radar. I had more hobbies than the rest of my group of friends put together, and found it utterly impossible to stay in a job for more than 18 months or so without being bored to tears. By the time I was 24 I had a CV which spanned as many pages as my Dad’s did – he was 66 at the time.

Even the line dancing I adored, I stopped once I’d reached a certain level. I qualified for, competed in and placed in the World Championships in Nashville in 2000, and it has taken me fifteen years to rekindle my love affair with line dancing. I got what I wanted out of it, and then I quit. (Though I’ve worn cowboy (girl?) boots ever since I was nine.)

boots-puddle

Modern Western society expects us all to be specialists, and to choose one thing to do for the rest of our lives. Even at 16 I raised eyebrows by choosing English, French, German and Physics for my A levels. So many people told me that I should have taken another Humanities subject. I’d have taken something arty (photography or textiles or something like that), but I was told at school, repeatedly from childhood, that I was academic and not creative. So I did what I could at the time, while dreading the thought of refining my choices even further.

My tendency to stop completely and move on, once whatever I was doing ceased to be interesting or fun, has been frowned upon over the years too – because in our society, whether at work or at play, quitting is seen as giving up, as being unreliable and therefore as a bad thing. I couldn’t understand why people would continue with all sorts of things, most of which were either supposed to be fun or which took up a considerable chunk of precious life –  work, relationships, hobbies, projects – long after they stopped enjoying them.

stop

Discovering blogs (or weblogs, as they were known in the misty recesses of 2005) was a revelation – here at last was somewhere where I could write about and share the day to day stories of being me, of everything I did – and instead of simply recording it in a diary, I found likeminded people! Other people’s writing, blog comments, forums for incredibly niche hobbies like collecting model horses – for the first time, no one judged me for having a series of bursts of enthusiasm for something, then taking a break and returning to it later.

(A vaguely relevant side note – I found it hilarious when people started extolling the virtues and wonder of internet dating, and meeting people online, a few years ago – because these were the same people that gave me repeated lectures on how stupid I was to go to London to meet new friends I’d met online through my hobbies… whether Wheel of Time fans, model horse collectors or photographers. My first internet meetup was with Chloe in London when I was 19, back in 2006 – and it was apparently far from normal to do that then. She’s now one of my dearest friends. Who knew something held in such suspicion would become so mainstream so fast?!)

Regardless of the type of project, idea or pastime, I followed (follow!) a pattern of sorts – I’d have an idea or something would pique my interest, I’d research it a bit and decide I wanted to learn about it or learn to do it. I’d do some more research, meet some people who already did it, buy some things related to it (craft materials, jewellery tools, small collectable resin horses, typewriters…) and then throw myself into it with an all-consuming passion. Until the next thing caught my attention.

An example – at the time I write, I have just found the new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series. I ADORED MLP when I was younger, and had avoided the new style ones in case I hated them. Then I saw an episode on YouTube and am now devouring the first and second series on DVD, while scouring shops and the internet for MLP memorabilia to keep on my desk, pin up in my studio, and hang from my handbag.

I’ve driven both my (now ex) partners and my parents, and probably my friends too, up the wall for decades with my wild enthusiasm for a new project which dwindles into inertia just as they’re starting to come round to the idea of me having chosen My Thing, at last.

buttons

So after the best part of a decade of doing this and blogging, and trying to justify my inability to choose or find that One Thing to do with my career and free time that was supposed to keep me interested for the rest of my life, I found one of Barbara Sher’s books in the library.

And I read it, and I cried… because there at last was proof that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t a flake and that I wasn’t broken. I just had a different kind of brain – and there were other people out there like me.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I’ve actively sought out other people who get it, though the majority of people I know still don’t. Which is ok – we’re just wired differently! Lots of the solopreneurs I now count among my dearest friends (the internet is a properly magical thing!) are also scanners, and we’re learning how to make our personalities work with our businesses rather than forcing ourselves into a box.

When I find a new thing, the time I spend engaged with it varies – from a few days to a few years, and I am never without several things on the go. (if I’d had a £1 for every time someone asked me how I fit so much in and follow so many hobbies, I could probably retire tomorrow). And I have a noticeable cycle, though the timing isn’t consistent – generally, if it’s something I discover and like enough to chuck myself into it, I make friends within it and then continue to return to it after intervals, throughout my life.

Examples of these include collecting, painting and showing model horses; my car Poppy and the club I belong to through her; roller skating (started at age 6 and I go through phases of being addicted to it every few years); horse riding; jewellery making; papercraft and scrapbooking; customising shoes and clothes; reworking the interior of my home; sewing; camper vans; cross stitching, baking, wanting to write a book… the list is endless (almost literally).

The only things which are consistent are writing and photography. Which brings me to the heart of this post.

When it became apparent at an absurdly early age that I was going to write, and read, far more than I was going to do anything else consistently (the photography came later), it’s been suggested repeatedly that I should be an author and write books, or a journalist and write articles, or a travel writer, or [insert traditional writing-related-job here].

And they’re all good ideas on the surface. But the trouble is, I don’t want to write whole books (well, I do, but I know myself well enough now to know that completing more than one is highly unlikely – the kick I’ll get when I finish Unfurling is highly likely to be enough for me to move onto something else instead of writing a second book).

I don’t want to dive so deeply into one subject that I don’t have time or energy left over to explore all the other amazing things out there – which, if I pursued a traditional writing career, I would have to do. Even journalists, who write short to medium articles instead of whole books, usually specialise in a broad topic – business, or travel, or cookery, or lifestyle.

And while thinking about my blog, and where it’s headed over the next few years, and how I got into blogging in the first place, it occurred to me that it really is the perfect place for my scanner personality to develop, grow and flourish.

It takes the two things I do naturally and consistently, and applies them to the ever-changing series of things that I do equally naturally, but much less consistently. I can write one-sentence posts, or 2,000 word epics like this one – and I get to choose, rather than an editor.

Since I very first started blogging back in 2006, and in a more structured way since the inception of Ducking Fabulous in 2010, I have used my very own space on the internet to record, write, think out loud and muse about life, learning and all the things that catch my fancy.

moodboard

To explore and investigate my passing enthusiasms, catch ideas I’d like to follow up in the future, and record my journey through learning and practising and discovering. It gives me a self-made library to refer to when I come back to something I’ve done before, and means I have tangible evidence of how I’ve improved, changed, or grown in a particular area.

Through my writing I’ve learned to give myself permission not to finish things, and to hop, if I want to, between interests. I allow myself to stop doing things if they’re not working – a complete antithesis to the previous generation’s work ethic, which tends to be along the power-through-and-keep-going-even-if-it’s-hard-and-it-should-be-worth-it-in-the-end lines.

Credit is also due to the rise of blogging in popularity and as a career choice – I no longer have to explain what a blog is, and it’s the best excuse I’ve ever had for trying out new things – all in the name of fresh content for my lovely readers. Yet this blog, seemingly uniquely for a blog that supports a business, is still very much my little space on the internet. I’m forever reading articles which tell you what you must and mustn’t do in order for your blog to be businesslike, or relevant, or grow your readership… and I stand by my belief that a blog is the equivalent of your home online.

I want people to see me for who I am, and if they resonate with me and like my writing, then some part of my business will probably be a good fit for them. Whether it’s jewellery, tarot decks or courses depends very much on them and what they’re looking for.

I’m trying this year for the first time to schedule my posts and write them in advance, and while it works for some types of post, it’s failing miserably for others. Like these. I need to write them when the inspiration strikes, and then I want them out there so I can have the conversations they spark while the subject is still fresh in my mind.

So what about you? Are you also a scanner, or beginning to realise you could be one? Let me know in the comments (or email me if you’d prefer it not to be public) – I’d love to know.

With love and unicorns,

signature

 

 

[collecting] jewellery stories – where do you keep yours?

A slightly different take on the jewellery stories series today, inspired by the fact that, having had various guests in and out for a week and a half, my house is surprisingly tidy and everything is in its place. This does not happen often!

Since the move, and acquiring a chest of drawers that functions as a dressing table, my jewellery has had a much nicer place to live.

I acquired this gorgeous amber glass dressing table set many moons ago, but until now haven’t had anywhere to use it. Now my pendants live in the smaller one, and necklaces in the larger, with brooches and stud earrings in the one which doesn’t have a lid.

dressing table set in amber

My rings live on and around a little donkey I’ve had since I was a child – he never fails to make me smile, but unusually doesn’t have a name even after all this time.

ring-holder-donkey

And when I travel, I take my dressing table with me in this little black box – it fits into every bag and suitcase I own, and as it’s solid, keeps my jewellery safe when I’m on the move.

travel-box-and-contentsIf you’re looking for something similar, John Lewis have some gorgeous things in their jewellery boxes and rolls department – both for at home and for on the move. I’m currently lusting after this beautiful crystal bird box – don’t you think she’d look perfect on my dressing table?

bird-crystal-potWhere do you keep your jewellery? Do you have an unusual solution for storing it? I’d love to see – drop me a line or let me know in the comments!

This is a sponsored post.

[collecting] jewellery stories – the Tiffany ring and the typewriter charm

Currently gracing my neck most days:

SAM_0882

The ring:

My 21st birthday present from Julia. She and I had wanted Tiffany rings for as long as we could remember. And now we have matching ones – identical, except that mine has a blue sapphire and hers has a pink sapphire. I wear it almost constantly – either on a finger or on a chain. Six and a half years on, it would feel very odd to be without it. It’s a symbol of the friendship that will be twenty five years old this year, and which I couldn’t imagine being without.

The typewriter:

A very pretty little charm which I fell for at a craft fair I did, back in April. I usually have a very strict rule of not spending until I’ve sold, but when I saw that they had a typewriter, vintage camera and an ice skate charm, I had to be very sneaky and buy them all. And given that my collection of real typewriters has accidentally doubled (from two to four, lol) in the last few months thanks to the generosity of a fab friend and a colleague, it seems appropriate.

[collecting] jewellery stories heart brooch

While moving and doing all the associated clearing out, I realised that lots of pieces of my jewellery have stories of their own. Some short and sweet, some more involved… I’d like to have a record of them and I thought they’d be quite nice to occasionally feature on the blog 🙂

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Tnis heart brooch is a familiar sight on lapels, collars and sometimes bags. It came to me as part of the very first Curiosity Box swap I did, back in October 2011. Nicola from Yallop Skin Care was my anonymous swap partner – it was a lovely project to be part of, and this was my favourite thing from my box!

New typewriter!

When I was invited by the lovely Cheryl to bring Ink Drops to the Make Me Joyful Letter Writing Salon, I delightedly accepted and promised to bring two typewriters.

It wasn’t until a week or so before the event that I realised I only had one that worked properly. Cue a mercy call to the staff of the university where I work (at least half of them are as quirky as me) and lo and behold, one of them needed to get rid of his as he was moving house.

So this lovely little Adler Tippa has come to live with me! Typewriter at the bus stop

It needs a proper service, as there’s some rust and accumulated dust, and the shift key is sticking – but the ribbon still works, it still types, and it was lovely to see people using it at the salon last night.

And I couldn’t resist this quick snap when I took it apart for a speedy clean – don’t you think it could be a steampunk typewriter quite happily?!

steampunk typewriter

[acquired] a new typewriter!

When I was invited by the lovely Cheryl to bring Ink Drops to the Make Me Joyful Letter Writing Salon, I delightedly accepted and promised to bring two typewriters.

It wasn’t until a week or so before the event that I realised I only had one that worked properly. Cue a mercy call to the staff of the university where I work (at least half of them are as quirky as me) and lo and behold, one of them needed to get rid of his as he was moving house.

So this lovely little Adler Tippa has come to live with me! Typewriter at the bus stop

It needs a proper service, as there’s some rust and accumulated dust, and the shift key is sticking – but the ribbon still works, it still types, and it was lovely to see people using it at the salon last night.

And I couldn’t resist this quick snap when I took it apart for a speedy clean – don’t you think it could be a steampunk typewriter quite happily?!

steampunk typewriter

Guest Post: Getting Crafty with Storage – Drew Davies

Another fab guest post today – I know that many of you are crafters, thrifters or hoarders of small beautiful things… and it’s always good to share ways of keeping these collections under control. (Is it just me, or are any of the rest of you completely shocked when you actually discover how much stash you own?!)

So, over to Drew…

It’s that time of year: the last two Sundays I’ve spent the evening sewing missing buttons onto my winter coats to get myself ready for the colder weather. Luckily, I’ve tamed my sewing paraphernalia (it wasn’t always the case – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve skewered a finger on a needle) so here are some storage tips to keep your crafty bits and bobs in order:

Button Storage

medium_45412314(photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosapomar/45412314/ via Photopin) 

· The best way to store buttons is to have two separate systems: one for regular "common" buttons (in empty jars, for example), and one for "special" buttons (putting them onto a piece of fabric on the wall for easy reference).

· Plastic (and transparent) multi-drawered cabinets are great for buttons. Some shops like Muji offer great solutions, but they can be costly. Craft stores are a good place to look for cheaper options (hardware stores too). Clear shoeboxes can be used, as can lens cases and plastic pill organisers.

· Once you’ve sorted regular and special buttons, segregate them further by colour or material.

· A ring binder filled with business card sleeves can be useful. Most pages will hold ten or twelve buttons, and several pages can be put into a single binder and still allow it to close. Use a binder with clear plastic sleeves too (just make sure they don’t tip out from the open top end).

Sewing Tool Storage

medium_3217505972 (Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/andresrueda/3217505972/ via PhotoPin)

· Peg boards are great for tools such as scissors, rotary cutters and tape measures – taking up less of your work surfaces.

· Small baskets are great for storing sewing tools and gadgets.

· Standard plastic business card holders are good for needle holders, holding about fifteen boxes of needles, standing three across by five deep.

· A purchased scissor block (similar to a kitchen knife block) from a sewing specialty store works well, otherwise hang them on a hook. Mark your scissors "fabric only".

Storing Thread

· Thread gets brittle and breaks when it gets old and thread exposed to sunlight and heat will break down more quickly. Storing thread in airtight containers, such as Ziploc bags, will keep it from drying out as quickly.

Storing Fabric

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(Picture from http://www.flickr.com/photos/tweedledeedesigns/4776025810/ via PhotoPin)

· Open shelves are fine if you frequently use your fabric. But longer term, exposure to dust and UV radiation will degrade it. Similarly, cardboard is a bad idea for storage as it’s acidic.

· Before you organise your fabric, get rid of anything you’ll never use and then sort by colour, size and fabric content.

· Stackable clear boxes are good for shelves. For large drawers, shirt boxes keep fabrics neat and tidy. Don’t use wire hangers, since they can stain over time. Long tubes (to avoid creasing) are great if you have the space. Make sure to label any boxes or tubes clearly.

· Larger boxes are great for projects and keeping fabric and patterns stored together (supermarkets often have a cheap range of clear storage boxes).

Drew writes for Big Yellow Self Storage. For information on large storage lockers (sizes from 9 square feet – or the volume of half a phone box), perfect for long term fabric storage, see their website or blog.

Disclaimer: I am not paid or otherwise compensated for guest posts. I only accept those which I feel fit my interests and therefore those of this blog. The content of guest posts does not necessarily reflect my own views or opinions. All images from PhotoPin and link back to their original sources, used under Creative Commons licensing.

The Homecoming of a Vintage Sewing Machine

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Quite some time ago, I broke the little portable sewing machine my Gran gave me. The tension has gone, and when I took it in to be fixed they told me, gently but firmly, that it would be significantly cheaper to buy a new one.

So I have existed without one till now – not critical as I plan a lot of sewing and rarely get round to actually doing it, and have been able to beg, steal or borrow machines to use when I’ve needed to make things like the parrot costume.

However, lovely Kim at work gave me one quite a while ago, and only its weight and bulk stopped me from bringing it home till now. One very long day, a sturdy suitcase and a few pulled muscles later, and here she is, installed in my studio… isn’t she gorgeous?

Joining my Singer and my Jones (meep, that means I now officially have a collection of vintage sewing machines), but superior in that she has an ELECTRIC PEDAL… she’s very heavy, but threaded up and whizzed through the test piece very smoothly. I have bobbins that fit her, so will get some new needles tomorrow and we’re off!

Here’s to a long and happy relationship!

xx

PS Pretty sure Kimmy doesn’t read my blog – but if you do, a million thank yous, I’m in love!