So have you guessed what this is for yet?

Well it was for a very unusual commission.  I have to say though, I have had some very odd commissions for things over the years, in fact The Littlest Thistle came into being because of a strange commission.  It all started through photography in fact, when a friend of mine and I were looking at some extremely expensive flash accessories (as in £150 odd for 5 things) and I declared that that was just ridiculous, and I could make them for about £20.  I think I actually pulled it off for about £12.50, because, of course, my friend immediately said, ‘Go on then!’  I made a few of those sets for friends, but alas Mandors chose to run out of one of the key components at a rather critical moment, and didn’t restock for a couple of months.

Moving on, my next commission was for 4 bears.  Yep, I’d only ever sketched out one pattern, and it hadn’t even made it into the fur, and my friend decided she wanted one each for her kids for Christmas.  It was such a lovely ask, and so utterly terrifying all at the same time!  Still, they made it, and she and the kids loved them (phew!).  Since then I’ve had several more lovely beary commissions for a number of different styles, shapes and colours, and I’ve also made a few other things for my various family members, but my latest commission was definitely different.  The conversation went something a little like this (CK is my friend, who I know through photography)

CK: You make things, right?
LT: Err, yes (I knew at this point that whatever else, this conversation was going to land me in something!)
CK: Can you make costumes?
LT: (fear gripping me somewhat, images of full fur suits flashing through my mind!) Um, well, I probably could if I had a pattern (I was thinking at this point that it was unlikely that he could find a full fur suit pattern, but I did know a woman that could have made one if needed!)
CK: Can you make a Shakesperean ruff?
LT: (relief flooding through)  That I think I could manage

Good grief, what had I got myself into?!  He proceeded to bombard me with links to online ruff making pages, until I had to tell him to stop.  It looked easy enough, and to be truthful it wasn’t difficult to make, thanks to a very detailed tutorial (even if it was missing half the photos) but it turned out to be extremely time consuming (as in about 16 hours worth of time!), not to mention that the strip of material that makes it up is over 10m long, probably nearer 11m – do you have any idea how long that takes to press?! 

I was lucky enough to be able to get a metre of home decor weight material that was 150 cm wide, just perfect to cut into 15cm wide strips to piece together (it was meant to be a metre, but was nearer 110cm long when I measured it, thank you Mandors girl, I just needed that bit extra!).  I would not have liked to attempt this without my incredibly large doll needles that I use for the bears, as they were a godsend at the folding stage, as well as the last bit, the ‘figure of 8’ stitches.  I’m hoping that it works for the photo shoot in his vision (and he’s promised to share pics when he does the shoot)

Moving on to the calamities, I ordered the pattern for my mum’s Christmas-dress-that-I’m-giving-her-in-September and discovered on Friday night, when trying to make up a muslin to do an in-person fitting while she was up visiting, that I’d got the wrong size.  Now I swear that it didn’t mention anywhere on the page that there was more than one size range for this pattern, and often the ‘Easy-Sew’ patterns (that this happened to be) are the whole range of sizes in one packet, but no, this was the small one, and I needed the large one. 

I didn’t have time to order another pattern, so I got to have my first stab at grading a pattern up the way.  Because of the style of the bodice it was quite easy to find a point to add to, so I threw in an extra 3/4″ and crossed my fingers.  Who knew, it fit!  Now I shall embark on making the whole thing out of the real material (I only did the bodice in a muslin) and shall endeavour to remember to add that 3/4″ to the waistband and skirt sections too!

Finally Cardonald College.  This is one of the colleges in Glasgow that offers evening courses for those of us poor souls in full time jobs that want a chance to play on our nights off.  I’ve done a jewellery course there before, and when I saw a pattern drafting course last year I thought that would be great for both the bears and clothes.  I phoned them up in August just at the time the registration evenings were coming up, and was told that I didn’t need to come on the first night, the Tuesday (which would have been a bit awkward due to a dental appointment) and that the Thursday would be fine.  I turned up on the Thursday and discovered that I was now number 40 tryign to sign up for the 16 places in the class.  It had been filled on Tuesday.  The woman apologised for the advice I’d been given, but said that they were looking at maybe running another class, so I could realistically be on a waiting list for the 2nd class.  Unfortunately they decided not to run the second class, so needless to say I didn’t get on it, although they did send me a satisfaction questionnaire for the class in May…

This year’s registration was rolling around, and after chatting to a friend who was looking to sign up for another class at a different college, I decided to do a quick check to see where Cardonald was with this year’s registration.  To my horror I discovered that they page for the class had a registration button which had been disabled and had a note underneath explaining that the class was full.  This was in July, and from my experience of the previous years, registration shouldn’t even have been open at this point.  I sent them a query, explaining that we had been told last year that we would be given preference for this year since we didn’t get on, and I got a message back that they’d changed their registration policy, so sorry, I’d have to wait till next year.  I was raging!  I e-mailed back, asking for contact details for their complaints department, then sent a long letter explaining the situation and that frankly, ‘sorry’ wasn’t doing it for me.  On Saturday I received my reply.  As it turns out they decided that the evening registration wasn’t working for people so they moved to online registration, which opened last November and closed in March for this course (when it was full) – WHAT?!  Apparently they’d contacted everyone who left details, so I couldn’t have done that, and even if I had, tough luck, the places had all been handed out, but if I wanted I could phone up and go on a reserve list.

I am now beyond livid.  They had my address to send me prospectuses, the letter that told me I’d missed out last year, and the stupid questionnaire in May.  I believe what happened was that those of us that fell between numbers 16 and however many the list went up to, somehow ended up on the ‘enrolled’ list, which meant that when it came to informing people about the change of registration policy we were missed out.  I am a self-funding student, and this course is £250, so not exactly a cheap exercise to be undertaking.  The lady at registration last year told me that many of their students are on benefits and only register to take classes to make it appear like they’re in education in order to keep receiving money, and have absolutely no intention of attending the classes. 

I could scream!  The thing is though, I’ve started to learn myself now both online and through books.  By next year (and I know there’s no point in even phoning for that reserve list after last year) I will be beyond what the course could teach me, so I guess that saves me £250, but I just can’t believe that a higher education establishment could have such shocking administration, and get away with misleading people by implying that they will try and make up for previous failings (ie the priority we didn’t get for this year).

The point of this story?  Anyone that  finds themselves in Glasgow at a loose end for an evening, don’t ever go to Cardonald College.  I know I certainly won’t ever be going there again!