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Crafting 2 Thrifting 1……Culture 0

This was meant to be my Big Fat Week of Crafting and Culture, the itinerary planned out thus:

Wednesday: Pick up sewing machine, go to sustainable art collective ReFound‘s new premises to chat to owner before big launch of their new premises on Thursday.

Thursday: ReFound launch party

Saturday: Frock Around the Clock vintage fair in Lisburn; bit of blogging in the evening.

It actually panned out thus:

ReFound’s lovely founder Jill, up to her eyes in planning for the launch, had to cancel our meeting, so I headed

straight to the Singer Sewing Centre, stopping at a cash machine en route to lift the amazingly-reasonable £36 I’d been charged for a service and replacement plug.

I was nearly sick when the ATM blew its “Insufficient funds” raspberry at me. Suddenly I remembered this was direct debit week and I stupidly hadn’t budgeted properly. Pay day was Friday, but right now I was (pathetically) £3 short of my bill.

I was in Belfast already at this stage, so thought I’d call in rather than ring – and was gobsmacked when the lovely Cecil told me “Ah, sure pay me when you have it. I trust you.” Pay when I…..are you sure? Unused to such generous treatment from a retailer, I insist on paying some of the balance now – especially since I am then invited to a little table where my machine, complete with PAT-tested stickers, is set up, ready for a quick lesson on how to thread and use her correctly.

If anyone would like me to share my newly-acquired skills via a little step-by-step ‘how to’ post on threading and sewing on the Singer 99k, then do let me know. You can email or write a comment below.

Cecil tells me he is an electrician by trade and that the plug on the machine when I brought it in was potentially dangerous – showing me a picture, he points out a metal screw screwed through a live wire. The pic below demonstrates the difference between a safe modern plug and the older ones which lack insulation on the prongs.

All the electrics are now safe and tensions in the machine fully balanced. Just shows you how important it is to get your machine serviced; you never know what’s going on inside its workings unless an expert takes a look.

After a thorough and patient one-to-one tutorial, I leave the shop absolutely buzzing, confident I now know how to properly use the Singer and excited to finally get making something on my beloved heirloom.

How to thread the Singer 99k

It seems they are similarly fond of the old Singer, as this picture appears on the shop’s Facebook page.

My machine beside its granddaughter – the computerised special edition machine Singer released for its 160th anniversary.

The next day, it dawns on me that I will indeed be making something on the machine tonight, at my sewing class – on at the same time I had promised to attend and blog from the launch of the new ReFound building. Aaaargh….. I am also running over deadline this week on a piece for PosAbility and not sleeping much, so I blame my blondeness on sleep deprivation and stress. (Both self-inflicted, before the violin music starts!)

Jill and I agree to meet on Tuesday and I head to week two of the sewing class in Ballybeen Women’s Centre. We are making a cushion cover, using a scaled-up version of the method taught last week to make our tissue pack holders.

What do you think of mine? If I’d folded over the two ends another couple of inches, that gapping in the middle wouldn’t have occurred, plus my stitching isn’t the straightest, as I’m not used to sewing such thick material. But it is perfectly functional as a cushion cover and looks alright from the front, so I’m pretty happy.

Again, if you want me to do a how-to on the blog for this, just email or comment, but I’m leaving it out of this already-quite-lengthy post!

Friday rolls around, the article is filed, my pay is in the bank and I am so looking forward to beginning my weekend soaking up all the arty creative goodness filling the streets of Belfast for Culture Night. I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks. My body, however, has other plans.

“Just an hour in bed, pleeeeeeeease?!” it begs, and once I’m there, the cumulative exhaustion of the week hits me like a freight train and I can’t move. For fourteen hours, to be precise. I get in to bed at 6.30pm, snooze for an hour, text my excuses for not coming out to play and then sleep virtually without interruption until 3.30am. After a snack and a drink, I’m back in bed for 4.20am and sleep through until my boyfriend leaves for work just before 11am this morning.

So that was my experience of Culture Night! Admittedly, I enjoyed some colourful dreams, the most vivid of which saw me star in a gangster film alongside Samuel L Jackson and deceased rapper 2Pac, but I missed a night which, from all accounts, could have been designed entirely with The Patchwork Quill in mind. Arts, crafts, kookiness, colour and creativity – all for free, on the streets and in the cafes, bars and music venues of Belfast.


I am actually gutted to have missed it, but the upside is that Saturday saw me waking up – in The Actual Morning – feeling totally amazing! Full of energy, I’m actually smiling to myself as I get dressed and bounce into the car to go the Singer Sewing Centre to pay off the rest of that bill. I buy a couple of spools of bright thread, a tape measure and some heavy-fabric needles, enjoy another great chat with Gwyneth and back to Lisburn I go.

Coming off the motorway at the Saintfield Road, I suddenly remember a place I peer at every day on my way to work. It’s closed at 8.25am when I’m crawling past in rush hour traffic, but Blythswood Charity Shop and Furniture Store on the Saintfield Road (just opposite Barbour Playing Fields) is open now.

In my post A Crafty Plan, you’ll remember one of my to-do list tasks was to get my studio/sewing room kitted out with a proper work table and storage, and I’ve been meaning to check this place out for weeks to see if it had any reasonably priced tables and shelving.

Sadly my camera died before I could take all the pics I wanted to, but hopefully these will give you some idea of what a total Aladdin’s Cave this place is. It is absolutely huge, with a shop front area mostly taken up by books, kitsch ornaments and homewares and the furniture window display.

Couldn’t resist taking a picture of this!

I thought this could be good for books and magazine storage in my crafting room.

I really like the idea of lots of open shelving and glass fronted storage.

Quite tempted by this, only £15!

Then there’s another room behind this with men’s and women’s clothes and books, loads of cool old retro toys and games, jewellery, handbags, duvets, curtains and fabrics.

Behind this, there is a big warehouse with loads of furniture in it – complete sofa sets, fireplaces, dining table sets, beds, cots, dressers, wardrobes….

Entry to the warehouse, from the shop.

Plans to go to the vintage fair regretfully go out the window – my afternoon flies by. I am in heaven. I measure up a corner desk which isn’t exactly what I was looking for as a worktable, but at £35, is within my budget. There is a lovely, circular dining table which would be ideal, but it’s being sold as a set with chairs and is £100. I’m not really willing to pay more than £40 and I want something pretty big and really sturdy for that.

A couple of cute little telephone tables catch my eye – one at £40 is particularly tempting as I really want to reupholster and paint a phone table as a little upcycling project.

I am planning to begin a regular charity/thift store post (Thrifty Thursdays, anyone?), so I will revisit Blythswood and post more pics. I manage to leave having only spent a fiver on a handbag, which I plan to customise. But that’s for another post….

REMEMBER! You can vote for my post ‘A Fatal Cut’ in the Best Blog Post Category. You’re allowed to vote once a week, every week from any one computer and the five posts with the least votes get cut every week. Every vote counts, even when voting reopens. Click here and scroll down to The Patchwork Quill if you’d like to vote for me! Thank you! Voting is now closed; thank you for all your votes!

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