Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Big Stitch Swap Round 2

I had (pretty much intentionally) dropped off the face of the blogiverse of late. The simple fact is I've completely lost my joy for sewing. I signed up for a swap so I had to sew and whilst I enjoyed coming up with a design for my partner and even doing the whole sewing bit. It's made me want to do little more than think about sewing.

I haven't bought fabric in ages. I was convinced I would be the one bulk buying Mendocino (when my all time fave fabric became available again this spring.) However, I've not felt the urge to buy any. And yes maybe one day I'll regret that. Who knows.

Not sewing has been a major factor in not blogging. Whilst my blog has never been wholly sewing motivated, I have always felt that the bulk of my readership was here to see what I'd made or was making.   Sometimes I miss blogging. I know so many people that were blogging when I started that no longer blog or blog infrequently now. The loss of that sense of community and camaraderie has in some ways helped me not feel too bad about not blogging.

So what have I been doing instead. I am still a prolific photographer. It's the creative 'thing' that over the years has consistently brought me the most happiness. I can't imagine ever getting bored of taking pictures of things. I feel I'm constantly learning and (hopefully) improving. I absolutely love making my blurb year books. And since last years foreign trip (which I never did blog about.) I've started making travel blurb books too. I suffer quite seriously from a travel related anxiety. I am forever trying to get to grips with it. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not so. What usually motivates me greater than anything else is knowing I can take photos of every trip. Next month I'm off on my adventures again. When the trip was booked, I'll confess the excitement vanished into a complete irrational melt down. But as I'm working through all that, the thought I can fill a zillion memory cards to document the trip and then come home and make a photo book and on miserable dark winter nights I can look back and remember, is what's motivating me through all the rubbish stuff that goes on in my head.

But what of the sewing I have done!? My partner made a lovely inspiration mosaic over on instagram and whilst her sign up form indicated a love of bright colours I picked up a sort of vintage love from the mosaic and once I'd run with that idea I found I'd probably gone a bit more muted than I'd intended or she would have liked. But I'm hoping she likes it just the same.

Mini for my partner

I made yo-yo's/Suffolk punches - first time since I was at infant school and most of the square shaped fabric you see is raw edged and sewing down with mini kantha style mini stitches in rows along and across each piece. 

The rabbit is made from a scrap of Heather Ross double gauze I'd been hoarding for just the right project. The lace circle has been in my stash forever. I'm not sure I've used one before. I think they were another item I was saving just because! It is so liberating to no longer feel so precious about my fabric/stash. The binding was left over from another quilt and I had just enough to bind this little mini. The background fabric is a piece of Essex linen. Apart from sewing down the binding on my machine, ready to hand sew down at the back - everything else has been hand sewn. 

I'm sure if I was more motivated I'd have destashed a lot of my fabric by now. I may start off by sorting out some scraps and putting them on instagram. Just don't hold your breath I'll be back to regularly blogging any time soon. 

Monday, 15 February 2016

I made a quilt!

I appeared to have dropped of the face of the blogiverse. That's what a chest infection followed by a cold than hung on and on before and all over Christmas will do for me blogging. Chief gets the blame for the cold. He decided to come and nurse me with my chest infection...he had a stinker of a cold at the time and all that happened was we swapped germs and that put paid to seeing each other between Christmas and New Year! Not spending Christmas with Chief is becoming a tradition now.

Something else that feeling poorly and getting caught up with other Christmas plans put paid to, was finishing the quilt I wanted to give to a family member. I'm fairly sure she won't be stopping by my blog any time soon.  I think I'll get away with revealing it on here before it's been gifted for her birthday.


Country Garden Snowball Quilt

I am calling it Country Garden Snowball Quilt because all the fabric I chose for this, I chose because it reminded me of flowers in a country garden herbaceous border. I was lucky enough to win a give away Jo had and I'm sure she'll recognise a lot of the fabric I won, in this quilt - it fitted the bill perfectly. The rest is from stash. I haven't bought any fabric since before Christmas. Apart from there being a strong chance I'll get myself some Mendocino when it hits the shops I have no interest in buying more fabric. I actually am more determined than ever to get rid of fabric not acquire it. I think part of the reason I've stopped enjoying quilting is: I can't see the wood for the trees any more. The logical thing would be to have a destash. I'm not ruling that out. It just feels like an impossible task at the moment. So I'm hoping to have a real purge on the making front. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed making a quilt. There are stages I don't much like. (Quilting will never be my thing.) But I love sewing the binding on and knowing I'm about to have a finished quilt. 

The white fabric in this quilt is, I believe, Kona Snow - some I bought from Jude's etsy shop because I never have enough white/solid fabrics to use like this in quilts. The binding was made from two fat quarters of  green Denyse Schmidt fabric from the Flea Market Fancy Reprint. The backing (which I didn't get a picture of is a white and green vintage sheet I found in a charity shop.) 

Country Garden Snowball Quilt
Taking pics on a windy day is never easy but you can just
glimpse the backing here!

I forgot to measure the final quilt. I think it's around 45" x 58"

Believe it or not I have already decided to make a quilt for another friends birthday - yes, it'll be another quick simple design where the fabric does the talking and I intend making it all from stash. Also, cutting the wadding for this I have a piece left over that would be about the right size for a baby quilt and I've been wanting to make some baby quilts for a while - and as I have no babies to make for, I'm thinking charity quilt time...If I can get all this done I really can bust my stash. More on what I'd like to do creatively (non quilting wise) another time. 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Advent 11: Oxford at Christmas

Languishing in my drafts folder is a half started blog post about a project I started in the summer to photograph Oxford. It's my local home town (although technically it's a city) and even though I've done many of the touristy things over the years I've rarely taken an decent photographs. I decided after I did my Amsterdam Adventure travel blurb book that I'd do an Oxford one. Maybe giving myself 2 - 5 years to explore via day trips etc and capture the city as if I'm seeing it for the first time. I thought it might also make me explore the city a bit more and on the second photography trip I did something I'd never done before - you'll have to wait for that blog post though!

One of the things I really wanted to do was photograph The Covered Market. Which opened in 1774 and was as the name suggests and indoor market. It was apparently built in response to appeals to tidy up the untidy and unsavoury stalls that littered the centre of Oxford. So far from being just an indoor market with stalls it's actually more like a complex of little independent shops. However, if you stop to look there are some lovely details and I've always thought the best time to photograph the market would be at Christmas. Unfortunately I didn't have much time as I had Mum with me, a trip to the Christmas Market planned and some Christmas shopping. So I really was just taking a few quick snaps.

After a few hours we'd done everything we needed to and both of us were ready to go home. Where we've been resting all afternoon. Yes, definitely hibernation mode here.

The Covered Market, Oxford

The Covered Market, Oxford

The Covered Market, Oxford

The Covered Market, Oxford
That's a cake made in the shape
of The Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford!

The Covered Market, Oxford

The Covered Market, Oxford 

The Covered Market, Oxford

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Advent 10: A knitting update

Seeing as it's been just over a month since I did a knitting blog post I thought it was high time I did an update.

To be fair I haven't been knitting as much as I did last month. Despite getting over the bug I had a few weeks ago. I seem to be lacking in energy and motivation. It comes and goes in fits and starts and even though I have two projects on the needles at present. It doesn't feel like I'm any where close to finishing either. Which has made me reluctant to start something else. I'm not really a winter person. I could quite happily hibernate. If I do though, I definitely won't get any knitting done.


I'm knitting my first ever shawl. In fact a few firsts with this one. First time using cables and first time knitting with 4ply. The pattern is: Simple Shawl and to be fair it is simple and perhaps that's why I'm finding it a bit dull to knit. It seems to be taking forever and it's got to a stage where it feels like it takes longer and longer to knit a row yet it seems like the shawl isn't growing. I'm not in love with this project, and I can't rip it out because I feel too committed. 

Not put off of shawls though I have bought this yarn and purchased The Hitchhicker Shawl pattern and hope to cast this on in the new year. (I'm not optimistic enough to think the other shawl will be finished this side of Christmas and if it is I'm sure I'll want to knit a non shawl project first!)

Look at the rainbow at the end

Also on the needles is my Fancy Dr Who Scarf. I'm loving the pine cone design so much. I never want this project to end. Only I do because I want to wrap this around my neck several times and have long trailing ends to swish about, just like Tom Baker did as Dr Who. However, it's slow growing because it's mainly knitted using aran scraps from other projects. The exception has been that bit of orange I've added in. Even the Khaki colour being added in now has been used to finish a hat knitted in the taupe colour the other side of the orange. I have an aqua coloured ball of the same wool, purchased purely for this scarf. But I feel I need a different aran brand to break up the other taupe, orange and khaki which are all the same brand and have a similar colour tone. I do have two other lots of aran weight yarn. Both need knitting into projects, so I can have the left overs first. They'll be next on the needles as I think this scarf is crying out for some purple next. 

Fancy Dr Who Scarf

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Advent 9: Christmas Traditions

Do you have some little traditions that are personal to you at Christmas? Things you do year in year out because Christmas wouldn't be the same without doing them? I know I do.

First off we always aim to post the bulk of our Christmas cards on December 7th. This was my Gran's birthday. It seems early enough to not be silly (I mean who wants their cards arriving the first week of November?!) and not so late as they'll get caught up in the big Christmas rush. I say the 'bulk' of our cards posted, because inevitably there will be some I need to put letters in that haven't happened yet or foreign ones that need me to calculate specific postage. I'll hand deliver a fair few around the village and normally aim to do this when I have the parish magazines to deliver.

Has to be done.

Another tradition we have is to always open one little present on Christmas Eve. This started when I was a pre-teen and lacking in the patience to wait to open my presents. I made a deal that if I sat up on Christmas Eve past midnight then technically it was Christmas day and I could open a present. I tell you some years I had matchsticks holding up my eyelids just so I could open something! Since then the whole sitting up past midnight thing has been dispensed with. But Mum and I usually open one present on Christmas Eve. In fact Christmas Eve might be my favourite day of the holiday. I love it when I come in from work. The last chores of delivering presents etc has been done. I switch on the tree lights, light some candles and cosy up in front of the TV with a proper Christmas movie or two. 

Christmas Eve 2014
Last year opening a present on Christmas Eve

In a similar tradition I usually give Chief a small silly gift to open when he comes down before Christmas. (Sorry no photos he'd kill me if I did!) Even though we have known each other for 9 Christmases  we are yet to spend a Christmas together. We have made plans. Each time thwarted by him getting ill (he's had pneumonia or bronchitis as well as regular flu over Christmases past!), bad weather or his father being in hospital. I'm not holding out on seeing him this Christmas. He can't really leave his step Mum alone on Christmas day. He has two brothers living on the doorstep but one is likely to be working so won't be around and the other ...well lets just say not all families think of others at Christmas and leave it at that. 

So what Christmas traditions do you have?

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Advent 8: My Autumn Reads (Part 1)


How I lost you - Jenny Blackhurst: This book had me downloading at this line: I have no memory of what happened but I was told I killed my son. And you believe what your loved ones, your doctor and the police tell you, don't you?
What ensued was a twisting and turning thriller about a woman sent to a psychiatric unit after killing her young child.  When she's let out she re-invents her self in a new area. Then she received a letter addressed to her former self and it makes her question whether she really did kill her child (an event she has no memory of ) and in fact whether he's dead at all.

The Children Act - Ian McKewan: This was a book group choice and I confess when the person announced their choice my heart sank. You see many years ago a friend gave me a copy of Saturday and thought I'd like it. I hated it. I never finished it. I didn't like or care about the characters enough to finish the book. I found the writing style pompous, I think I tried another of his books and felt the same. Really I did not want to ever be reading anything else by him ever again. But still it was the choice and I downloaded the book to my kindle and you know what? I enjoyed it. It made for an interesting discussion too. The book centres around a judge who has to made decisions about the lives of children and in one crucial case; whether a Jehovah's witness boy should be given life saving treatment against his and his families wishes. What results is a complex study in human nature and morality. Not a word seemed wasted in this book (which is more of a novella than chunky fiction works.) The characters were well drawn and it was a relief to hear from other members of book group that they struggled with McKewan at times and if a surgeons wife said that Saturday irritated her too (the main character was a surgeon) I felt much better for dissing such an acclaimed author.

Next up with Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym and sent to me by Helen.  Barbara Pym is an author I keep hearing about and yet had never read anything by her or understood her appeal. I even missed a talk about her at the World Bookcrossing Convention in Oxford this year and the room opposite mine in St Hilda's college was named after her. When Helen sent me her first novel to read I was intrigued. Step back in time to two spinster sisters living our their lives in a village where it's quite insular and everything seems to revolve around the comings and goings as the vicarage. In fact there was more men of the cloth in this novel than you could shake an incense stick at. (Oh how village life must have changed.) I enjoyed the subtle humour and characters and having started to learn to knit around the same time I enjoyed the fact someone always seemed to be knitting something.

The Good Neighbour by A J Banner was up next. This was a kindle first deal. At the start of the month Kindle offers a new book at a knock down price. There is usually about five or six books to chose from and this one appealed. Sarah settles into life in Shadow Cove with her doctor husband but when there is a fire next door resulting in the death of the family (save their little girl - who Sarah manages to rescue) and the destruction of Sarah's own home; Sarah starts to discover things about her own life are not all that they seem. A fun, fast paced domestic thriller. The kind of story I can see being made into a good TV movie.

I let you go - Clare Mackintosh. I was scrolling through my kindle and this popped up as unread. At first I thought I had read it and was confusing this with the plot of How I lost You. Similarly this thriller also concerns a woman who thinks she's responsible for a child's death. I don't want to say much more as this was cleverly written to make me think one thing and completely misdirect me for a good chunk of the novel. Much better in fact than How I Lost You.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo was up next. Can you tell I LOVE thrillers yet? I have long given up trying to read the Harry Hole books in order (It hasn't helped they weren't released in the UK in order.) This was quite a chilling one. Women are going missing around the time of the first snow and a snowman is built at the victims home - often wearing the victims clothing or the victims head...Yes, snowman are now set to freak me out as much as scarecrows did as a child! I am used to the false killer trails and I actually plumped for the real killer very early on because there are some big obvious clues left.

By Halloween I was ready for something creepy so I opted for The Others by James Herbert. James Herbert along with Stephen King were my go to modern horror writers during my teen years and as such I probably haven't read any James Hebert for nearly 20 years. This was actually more of a detective cum romance novel with a supernatural twist. I don't find his work as disturbing as I remember it. I enjoyed this just the same and liked the main characters a lot.

It was book group reading again with The Road Home by Rose Tremain. We discussed this at book group just last week and it was a book that largely divided the group. I didn't much like it. It was bleak, depressing, stereotypical and I can't see why it won awards. There were plenty of the group that disagreed and one person even said it was the best book we'd read at book group!

I have read plenty more since, but I'll save that for another post later in the month. I'm already making a list of books I'd like to read next year. Do you have any recommendations? I'd love to hear them.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Advent 7: Spring is around the corner, right?

It was dull and dark as I headed off for work this morning. I'm not a morning person and it's so much harder getting out of bed during these dull days. At least I think so. By lunch time it was lovely and bright with even some blue sky. So I spent an hour in the garden planting tulips bulbs. Of which I seem to have rather a lot. I picked some up in the supermarket and Mum ordered some online. Only the online ones never did appear and she said the cheque wasn't cashed. So as Sarah Raven had a sale on tulips I bought a few (well about 85 or something ridiculous!)

For next spring

Pretty much all those in the yellow bags have been planted. I've half filled one of my veg beds with tulips. Well, I didn't put any veg in that one last year (unless you count some rhubarb, which couldn't be harvested the first year any way.)

For next spring

I've covered the bed in some metal mesh I had. I'm hoping this will discourage the neighbourhood squirrels and birds from digging them up. Also stop any mice disturbing them and cats scratching on the freshly turned soil. 

For next spring

I planted some in the front garden where I'd taken some lavender up earlier in the year. I planted some pansies on top to help stop the pigeons trampling them - it's quite near to the bird feeder and they have been known to do a spot of tulip trampling in the past. 

Come spring I'm looking forward to a riot of colour and being able to pick a few to bring into the house. Of course this isn't getting my Christmas making sorted. But tomorrow is another day right?

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Advent 5 & 6: Making a Christmas Wreath

I got it into my head this year our door would have a wreath (I don't always bother.) and further more I'd be making it. Stuff was ordered and then I got ill so that cast all doubt as to whether the extra items I bought would be languishing in the shed until next year. Believe it of not in a previous life I was involved a lot in flower craft and floristry. It was a natural step for someone that grew up loving gardening and growing flowers and just happened, from an early age, to have a bit of tutelage from a talented flower arranger. (Who sadly passed away at the beginning of this year.)

I thought I'd share a few tips here for anyone who might want to contemplate making their own door wreath. If you can forage for all or the majority of the materials required you can make wreathes for a fraction of the price it would cost you to buy them - even from a supermarket. (I noticed our local Asda had some lovely simple ones this year for a tenner.)

It's a good idea to make your wreath outside. Wrap up well and try and pick a warmish day. I have a photo of me somewhere making a wreath around a metal ring I found in the road. I do not look happy having pricked frozen fingers with holly for the umpteenth time! It was mild today, if a little breezy!

Supplies gathered 
Gather a selection of foliage, moss, a wreath ring and some
 floristry materials like stub wire and fine wire on a spool

Metal rings and floristry wire can be purchased relatively cheaply from the likes of Amazon. You can often get floristry materials at your local garden centre, although they do tend to be at premium prices. If you really can't get a metal ring you can make one by wiring lengths of bent twigs together. It's best if twigs are still a bit green and bendy so opt for willow, hazel or dogwood. Or if you have the patience you can use some thick garden wire.

I bought some moss for my ring. As well as padding it out nicely it keeps the vegetation fresh as the moss retains moisture. This is probably the most expensive item to buy (unless you can gather some from a shady spot in the garden.)  You can manage without if you pick your foliage carefully and use plenty of it. Although it won't last as long as a wreath made with moss.

Place sections of moss on the ring and wrap thin florists wire to hold it in place. To make the wreath a bit more sturdy you can weave lengths of twigs such as hazel into the moss to give the wreath a bit more structure. Again you needn't bother (and I didn't) with this if you're using some quite woody foliage like holly or similar.

Moss around the ring base

I had big plans of country walks with a basket and my secateurs to grab some holly and other evergreens. However, in the end I ended up buying a bundle from a local garden centre. It cost me just under £5.00 and there was more than enough for two wreaths so I'm saving the left overs for other Christmas decorations and to replenish the wreath if any bits get damaged by the weather.

I used a length of stub wire to create a loop for hanging. Then starting at the bottom middle I pushed the woody stems of longer lengths of foliage into the moss and wired little bundles of mixed foliage together and pinned these on top.

Working my way around the wreath

I made push wires out of stub wire

I didn't have any ready made wire pins so made some by cutting lengths of stub wire down and bending to make little pins like above. Once pushed through I folded the ends back much like you would a paper fastener as it helps to hold everything more securely.

Essential cuppa whilst wreath making
It was mild but blustery so I did have to chase a few bits of greenery that blew away.
A cup of tea was much appreciated!

Once I'd continued right the way around the ring I used the ribbon the bundle of greenery had come tied with, to create a festive bow at the top. I hung it up to see how it looked and where I needed to add more. I had been holding it up vertically after every few additions, as working flat you don't get a good impression of what the wreath will look like when it's hung up. 

Keep checking how it looks vertically

Then with a few more bits added I had a finished wreath. I was going for something that looked quite rural and rustic. It seemed to suit the foliage bundle I had. 

Rustic looking wreath on the front door

extra bits added

My garden wildlife December 2015
It was festive to be joined by a robin!

Later in the month I hope to return with some more festive floral ideas.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Advent 3 & 4 opps normal service will be resumed

I came home from work yesterday with a migraine. I get the aura ones, and thankfully only very rarely. I think this was triggered by a co-worker painting some chairs for the boss. I didn't detect how strong the smell of paint was until this morning when I returned to work.  Even though the dazzly aura bit only lasts about 20 minutes, it wrote off the rest of the day. So no advent post yesterday. I had planned a throwback Thursday post. This is me in the late 1970's. Clearly Christmas because of the tree.  I had several pairs of those Disney dungarees. It appears, Griffy - the family dog, was not paying enough attention when the photograph on the left was taken. As he was my best friend it's no surprise he's in the chair with me though.


Hopefully normal advent blogging will resume at the weekend.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Advent 2: Serendipity (or me enabling again!)

A curious thing happened the other Sunday night when I was browsing around on my laptop. A picture popped up in my flickr feed and I didn't recognise the person it was from or their work.  I liked what I saw and favourited a few things; all the while it bugged me having followed this person on Flickr - how on earth had I managed to forget their beautiful work. I noticed their location was Grantham which was curious because Chief lived there for the first 7 years I knew him (and before he knew me for a good few years more.) Then I twigged that I'd first discovered them on Flickr because of some travel pictures they'd posted. (Nothing to do with their beautiful creations!) Often before I go somewhere I'll see what pictures other people have posted on Flickr of the same location. It adds to the excitement and gives me things to look out for that I might want to photograph myself.  In this feed were some pictures taken at Crab Manor - where Chief and I went in September 2014. Chief had been before he met me and before I was with Chief another beau had told me about The Crab - I'd hoped one day I'd get to go. (I blogged a bit about the trip here.) Even though I was getting over food poisoning for our night there, I have such happy memories and really hope I get to go back. (I constantly tell Chief in the hope he'll take the hint. Although he normally says - you'll have to get the train because I'm not driving down to pick you up now I'm in the North East!)

But I'm digressing because the whole point of this post is to tell you about what happened after I'd favourited some more pics on Flickr. It turned out Allison sells work at The Creaking Door on Etsy and when I clicked through to her shop I found that one of the pieces I'd favourited was for sale still. All these little connections? It had to be serendipity right? So I did some shopping.

A few days later the most delightfully packaged parcel turned up at my door. The outer wrapping was just filled with pretty details and only hinted at the even lovelier wrapping I'd find inside.

Exciting mail

Packaging details
Excuse my dirty kitchen apron. I'd just cooked
breakfast for Chief who was down for a
few days.

Inside those lovely little boxes were: a pendant - a tiny glass phial full of moss and birds eggs. The legend around the bottle is: Hope, Wisdom and Wonder - something I could always do with plenty of! On the long bronzed chain are further little treasures. When I saw this item on flickr I just had to have it. I knew if I didn't go and buy it I'd keep thinking about it and wishing that I had.

Treats for me

The second item was these lovely birdie earrings. The turquoise stones almost remind me of robins eggs. 

Earrings by The Creaking Door

If you're looking for jewellery presents (even for yourself) that are just a little bit different, I urge you to run, not walk over to The Creaking Door Etsy Store. You might just pick up the perfect stocking filler or special treat.