Saturday, 27 June 2015

10 Things: Week 25

1. Read An increase in sewing as meant a decrease in reading and I only have one book on the go. Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult.  Several kindle books ago this book started off as my bath time read. I seem to read proper books more slowly than kindle books. So with less baths and more showers it's taking me forever to get through.  However, now I'm over half way through I'm enjoying it even more. It's about an anthropologist who wakes up in a graveyard with no memory. She's helped by an new to town cop who takes her in and helps her look for her forgotten life. However, she's soon claimed by her husband. Who just turns out to be one of the most famous actors in Hollywood.  The story switches back in time to tell us readers how this unlikely couple met and why there life isn't as quite picture perfect as it would appear. I have mixed feelings about Jodi Picoult novels. My first was Her Sisters Keepers, swiftly followed by Vanishing Acts. I was so hooked I think I put her entire back catalogue on my Book Crossing wish list. However, whilst I've enjoyed others since, like: Plain Truth. Many of them I've found a struggle to get through. Enjoyable enough but just too similar and formulaic.

2. Made: My making has been confined to the Xand+ blocks which I was churning out like mad over last weekend. I even cut up some more this week. However, I've felt a bit under the weather and have had stuff to organise like car and holiday insurance so that's eaten into my free making time.

More blocks ready for sewing

3. Watched: The best thing I'm watching on TV right now is The Syndicate. I think we've had three, possibly four episodes out of 6? But I'm completely hooked. I can't say more (like who I think is the 'kidnapper' is) because I don't want to reveal a load of spoilers for those watching this on catch up.

4. My Garden/Flowers: I think it's definitely going to be a good year for roses and most of the pictures I've taken have been rose ones. There is plenty of other colour though. My delphiniums are still a bit stunted although I keep seeing other people's in full bloom.

Sweet Williams My garden in June My garden in June My garden in June

5. Eaten: Nothing of note because the under the weather feeling has definitely been stomach/digestive centred. I think I had a similar experience at this time of year last year and I'm even wondering if there is something this time of year that's triggering this or if it's purely some weird bug.

6. Visited/Seen: Again it's been a quiet week so I have nothing new to report.

7. Recommended: Click and Collect at Asda. Although if Asda isn't your local store probably not so good. But I think many supermarkets to this kind of service these days. I ordered some cheap tops from 'George' at Asda. I have found that many of my summer tops have: shrunk or faded. (Of course I may have put on some weight since they were first bought.) I also had one t-shirt split under the arm and was beyond repair. The time had come for some replacements. Being paranoid about shrinkage. (I've found this a particular problem with tee's bought from M&S in the past.) I went up a size and to be fair they're probably a bit roomy if they don't shrink. But at such good prices it was worth it. Anyway, I saved postage by agreeing to pick them up at my local Asda which is like a second home the amount of visits I make - using it like a corner shop. It took less than five minutes for them to give them me in store and they'd arrived there in less than 24 hours.

8. Stash: In 0 Out: A tonne of scraps. Some clever bod can probably tell me how much fabric each xand+ block uses and therefore calculate exactly how much yardage I've used to date. But I am not that much of a mathalete. You'll notice as I didn't buy it I decided not to count all the fabric I won and showed you in my last post? I already have some plans for it so hopefully it'll not languish in the stash for too long. A few bits have been cut into already for the Xand+ bocks.

9. Birds: The woodpeckers are still around but not visiting with the frequency of recent times. I suspect the young are getting more independent. We have had quite a lot of house sparrows in the garden. Which are actually quite rare around my house. Although I notice a long the high street where I work every house has a little colony of them twittering in gutters or holes in walls.

10. And finally...I got my hair cut. It's become a bit of an annual thing and I was very close to going short. Proper short - like I haven't gone for about 10 years. But longer hair is easier to manage on holidays. I get proper bed head with short hair and I prefer to shower at night not the morning so the chances are getting up with proper sticky-up-hair are quite high. However, I haven't ruled out a complete change of style for the end of holidays.

New Do

Sunday, 21 June 2015

X and + = fabric fun!

Last Wednesday I had the urge to start cutting up fabric. I had wanted to make a quilt of X and + blocks for years. But other than make the odd one for other projects I'd always relegate starting this quilt to the back of the list. I think what motivated me was when I'd heard from Jo the day before I'd won her give away. With more fabric coming in I really need to get back to using up some of my stash.

The fabric in the picture below is not scraps. The smallest must be about fat 8th, but most are much much larger. Fat Quarter or bigger. So thanks again to Jo for a generous give away because you'll spot a book in there too! Jo contributed projects to this fun book.

Lovely winnings from Jo Bearpaw

I decided to approach the X and + quilt slightly differently to my normal way of working and decided to cut a few blocks ready to sew. It was easy to keep the block pieces together with wonderclips. Then I thought: I have 20 wonderclips why don't I cut twenty blocks worth and then start sewing. 

X&+ Blocks

The cutting took so much longer than I'd expected. Which might be why people abandon these projects or don't start them in the first place!

However, Saturday I started sewing. I shouldn't have done this whilst hungry as the first block had the unpicker taken to it so many times I had to put it down and step back. I mean I'd got everything to line up a treat after a few unpickings and then noticed there was no X shape thanks to one of the pieces being inverted. Grrrrrrrr.

I pretty much decided that my earlier plan to go bed sized would 1) probably kill me (death by unpicker anyone?!) and 2) as these blocks are far from perfect I'd be too embarrassed to send these out to the likes of Trudi for quilting and the plan has been for some time to make a bed sized quilt and get someone else do the bit I don't like and would struggle with on a big quilt - quilting!

After I'd eaten things worked out a lot better. Although lining up the crosses on some blocks has not proved easy. I think some of the bias cut blocks have a little extra stretch in them so that's caused a few problems. 

X&Plus blocks

Still nine blocks soon became sixteen and I decided I'd sew them all together. I added another row this morning and made a couple more blocks and started cutting more fabric for other future blocks.

X&Plus Blocks

I am loving the scrappy colourfulness of this. I am not being precious about fabrics. In fact I'm using up hoarded treasures I've had in swaps and scrap rolls. Like the last little bit of some original green Flea Market Fancy and some Mendocino.  There are other bits of fabric that I'd kept but had no idea what I'd ever use them for as they were perhaps long strips or funny shapes. If nothing else this project is a great scrap buster.

Now I have to work out how many of these I need to make to get a decent sized quilt. I'm not ruling out adding a sashing border.

Friday, 19 June 2015

10 Things: Week 24

1. Read: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith was my kindle read. I'd read Cuckoo's Calling last year and found it a bit more of a struggle than I was expecting. It's exactly my kind of read, but it did seem to go on and I think it took about a month to read. Not so the second in the series by J K Rowling writing under the name of Robert Galbraith.  I was soon drawn in and finished it in a few days. My bath time read was sent to me by a book crosser: Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult. I'm enjoying it but not getting enough baths in to make much headway with it. I have managed to finish another book on the kindle though. Three Inquisitive People. One of the Duke du Richelieu novels by Dennis Wheatley. I started off with The Devil Rides out last year (I'd seen the hammer film and Chief had told me as a teenager the book had given him nightmares.) and enjoyed it so went on to read the book that came after that: The Golden Spaniard. I then discovered there was a whole series and I was starting off part way through. So I downloaded one of the earlier novels and it is a whodunit that brings together four of the characters that are to become friends and go on adventures in subsequent novels: Simon Aron, Rex Van Ryn, Richard Eaton and of course Duke Du R. It is of course very dated. I think these were first written in the 1930's. I love the atmosphere created and how the main upper-crust characters are totally preoccupied with the right hotels and restaurants to eat in and how they can stretch a lunch out for about 5 hours and describe all the 'right' wines to accompany the dishes and the right cigars and cigarettes to have with them!

2. Made:  I don't think I mentioned last time I finished another Blurb year book. This time 2006. I would struggle to go back any further as I got my first digital camera in September 2005. It's ironic that I switched to digital in the hope to save money and effort on processing a lot film and then storing the pictures. I thought I'd take far less with digital as there would be no need for a back up shot in case one was blurry etc. However, as the years have gone on I find myself taking more digital images not less. With an imminent foreign trip on the cards -  The first since the 1990's - I dug out the photos from that previous trip and wow my photography skills, equipment and processing were shameful back then. Whilst I hope to do a dedicated blurb book for my up coming trip. I won't be scanning these old pics in and doing one!

And...I have started playing with fabric again. I have wanted to make an X&+ quilt for ages. I have made the odd block for things like mug rugs and in bee's. In fact I almost picked it as my block in a bee I was in. Only someone got there first and whilst a few others said they'd be happy to make more of the same blocks, I thought I'd go for something different. Until now the quilt has only been a dream. Then on Wednesday I got my scraps out and started cutting. I've got about 14 blocks cut ready to sew. I have 20 wonder clips so am aiming to use all the wonderclips to hold the block pieces together before I start sewing. I wasn't dithering over fabric. It still has taken hours to get all the cutting done. I'm not sure how many I'd need for a bed sized quilt. I'm already thinking this might be the project to get professionally quilted and therefore bed sized. We'll see how I go! I can't imagine it being a quick project! It has really helped that I won that huge pile of scraps from Lucy a few weeks ago. Many have been cut up already to add to my own. Everyone always knows other peoples scraps are better than our own right?

X&+ Blocks

3. Watched: I know I watched something since last time that I thought I'd share with you all. Only it's gone clean out of my head. I bet I'll remember what it is the moment I hit the 'publish' button. Hmmm... I remember now! It's Humans the new sci-fi drama on Channel 4. Shades of "I Robot" and I'm intrigued as to where this is going to go.

4. My garden/Flowers: New things coming out all the while. I haven't taken any garden photos to speak of this week though. It's showing every sign that this will be an excellent year for roses.

5. Eaten: Strawberries. It's pretty bad  when my niece took a picture of me it even shows I have strawberry juice on my front tooth. So there is no way I was going to get away with pretending I was good and didn't sample any at the pick-your-own!

Rectory Farm PYO

Rectory Farm PYO 

Rectory Farm PYO

6. Visited/Seen: As you probably gathered from above there was a trip to the local pick your own this week. The season was delayed due to the cold weather. Then when the sun did come out there was such a frenzy of picking that weekend that they had no more for a few days while they waited for the next few to come on. Then last Thurs we'd planned to take my niece over and I was ill and we had to postpone. Probably as well as we did have to hunt a bit to get some fully ripe ones. They are also a lot smaller this year than they often are. Just as sweet and juicy though. 

7. Recommended: In light of 5 & 6 above it has to be Pick Your Owns! Our local one has a lovely farm shop attached where you can get lots more produce and even strawberries if you can't be bothered to go and pick. They sell flowers and preserves and all sorts too. They also have a cafe. So of course post pick we went for a drink and some cake! If you have kids these places totally cater for the family day out. Ours even has a bouncy castle to entertain the little ones.

8. Stash: In: 0 Out: A tonne of scraps. The x&+ blocks maybe smaller than the standard 12.5" blocks but they eat into a fair bit of fabric. So I'm really busting through my scraps. I'm not ruling out delving into stash proper for a spot of fussy cutting or to get the other block elements. And I won another great prize which involves fabric. But more on that in another post.

9. Birds: I am totally absorbed in watching the woodpecker family. If I find myself awake at 5am in the morning I get out of bed to check the activity at the bird feeder! I mean really I could have talked about the woodpeckers in the watched, my garden, visited/seen and recommended sections above because I'm so woodpecker centric right now!

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker 

Great Spotted Woodpecker

10. And finally: It's feeling so good to find my love of playing with fabric again. I may actually get some posts done that are about sewing type things not just these 10 things posts!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

10 Things: Week 23

I had a bit of a bug towards the end of the week and was off the computer, so I'm only just doing the 10 things post.

1.Read: First off there was C L Taylors: The Lie. It was about 75p and top of the best sellers list for Kindle so I thought I'd give it a go. Told in flash backs to five years previously this is the story of 4 friends who go on the trip of a life time with devastating consequences. I found it a real page turner and it was quickly devoured. Up next on the kindle was: The Uninvited by Liz Jensen. I'd read The Ninth Life of Louis Drax several years ago and subsequently purchased a couple more of her novels on my kindle, which then languished unread. This is a modern day fable, which tells of a dystopian future. The opening of the book is quite gruesome. A child picks up a nail gun and kills her grandmother with it and then blinds her father. It is the first of many child perpetrated murders. Meanwhile the main character Hesketh is a sort of troubleshooter for big industry. Having Asperger's he views the world differently to most and spots patterns others would never notice. Job's he's sent on across the globe all seem to be linked; all the people claim to have been possessed by child like spirits that 'made' them behave the way they did. This book was really different and again I was hooked until the very end.

2. Made: Nothing. I had plans. But that was before going down with the lurgy. I did pull out some fabric. Changed my mind about what I'd do with it and that's as far as I got.

3. Watched: The Theory of Everything - the film about Stephen Hawking's life. Which whilst I can't fault the acting of the lead, left me wanting something more. In fact I think if I hadn't googled to fill in a few gaps as I was watching I  might have felt even more at a loss. Moving all the same though.

Watching this. 

4. My Garden/Flowers: The self seeded poppies have been the stars of the show this week. Along with the Sweet Williams planted last autumn in my cuttings garden.

My garden in June Flowers after the rain Sweet Williams 

5. Eaten: Last weekend (although it feels like a lot longer ago.) Mum and I had lunch at a local pub. We both opted for quiche, salad and chips and had room for dessert afterwards. Always a bonus.

My dessert 
My dessert of lemon tart with vanilla infused strawberries

6. Visited/Seen: Mum and I took a trip over to Waterperrry Gardens for a turn around the gardens. The gardens were looking particularly pretty.

Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire

Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire

Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire

7.Recommended: Not getting ill. Although I realise this is not a choice we generally have. So I should recommend something you can actually have some control over! Only I can't think of anything right at this moment. I'm still a big foggy headed!

8. Stash: In: 0 Out: 0

9. Birds: I was woken this am (and it is a Sunday.) at around 6am by a strange hammering. On closer inspection there was a great spotted woodpecker under the eaves of the house by my bedroom window. No doubt waiting for the one to stop feeding on the nuts on the feeding station. I've now seen 5 together and managed to get a photograph of two. Chief is quite jealous. Even more so when I told him I'd seen three together this am and then when I drove out to Asda this morning there was a green woodpecker in the road!


 10. And finally: Chief is going away on Tuesday. We thought it was going to be Germany but now it turns out it's Cyprus. It's only going to be for a few weeks at most, but it's unlikely I'll see him this month and perhaps not before we go away.

Friday, 5 June 2015

10 Things: Week 22

1. Read: I have developed a habit of waking up earlier on a Sunday than any other week of the day. Ironic considering it's the day I definitely could have a lie in! So it's become my custom to get up make a brew and take it back to bed and read for a bit. I started The Letter by Kathryn Hughes, which I'd bought for 99p on my Kindle ages ago because the blurb sounded interesting. Well, I couldn't put it down and despite getting up and doing chores (including a trip to Asda and a huge pile of ironing.) I'd finished the book after lunch. It's a story set in 1974 and 1939. A charity shop worker finds a stamped, yet unfranked letter in the pocket of an old suit and after reading the contents decides to track down the people concerned and deliver the letter to its intended recipient, which has life changing (both good and bad) consequences for her. I'm not a huge fan of romance type dramas, but I liked the characters in this and was intrigued to see how their stories would work out. I also have finished: The Bad Mothers Handbook by Kate Long. Again another book I'd not normally be drawn to but a good read with well drawn characters and whilst it didn't shy away from all kinds of potentially depressing human drama, it tackled these topics in a way as to give hope and not become unduly sentimental.

2. Made: I am embracing the fact that I am struggling to find my mojo to sew. I loved making the Amsterdam Quilt I have plenty of other things I'd like to make. I am going with the flow and not forcing things. I do not have to sew. I choose to sew. When I feel so inclined I'm sure I will. A few weeks back plenty of people suggested I take a break and hopefully return to sewing feeling refreshed and energised and that's the approach I'm leaning towards. That said I have joined a group on flickr to be involved in a year long swap that's a bit like a bee only not quite. I'm excited about that and having a deadline to work to may just give my mojo the kick up the 'jo to get sorted.

3. Watched: Series 3 of The Syndicate started this week and I'm hooked from episode one. Each series followers the lives of a group of people (different each time) that win the lottery. This series they are all workers at a Yorkshire manor house. The aristocratic owners of the house are struggling financially so there will no doubt be plenty of story lines focusing on the reversal of fortune with the servants now wealthier than their employers. It has a cracking cast too with the likes of Anthony Andrews and Lenny Henry.

4. My Garden/Flowers: British Summertime starts on June 1st. I think someone forgot to copy the weather in on that particular memo. It's been cold and wet and so windy. So most of my garden has been battered by the elements.

my garden early June

my garden early June

5. Eaten: I had a lovely quiche and salad at Waterperry Gardens last Saturday. I was too busy nattering and eating it to take a picture!

6. Visited/Seen: I had a walk through the village after work today so I could deliver a sympathy card. A lovely lady I've known for as long as I could remember has died of cancer. I wanted to drop in a card to her children who have already lost their father to cancer. It doesn't matter that they are around my age. I can only imagine the pain they're going through.


village stroll

7. Recommended: Bubbles. Not the champagne sort - the sort you get in the supermarket for a £1 or less. I couldn't resist getting a bubble wand in Asda to use in the garden when my niece came round after school this week. The pictures of us were not that flattering. It's a job to blow a bubble and not look like a puffa fish. By happy accident my niece took this lovely picture of a bubble with my camera.


8. Stash: In: 0* Out: 0 *now let me explain. I haven't bought any fabric from a conventional or online fabric store. But I did score some vintage sheet lovelies this week when I popped into a couple of charity shops. I got a king sized duvet cover  and two flat sheets - the latter also had two matching pillowcases so I got them too. I wasn't sure if the flat sheets were vintage and then I thought when was the last time I saw patterned flat sheets? Of course as I liked them anyway I bought them. Luckily the day I bought them was glorious and sunny so I got them washed and line dried in a couple of hours.


9. Birds: Last Saturday I had an impromptu lunch out with a friend and as it was near to the place I'd seen spotted flycatchers last year I decided to see if they were back again. Within seconds of entering where I thought they'd be I spotted one! I hadn't the right sort of lens to get a decent picture so hope to go back (I think Chief will be wanting to come too.)

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

10. And Finally... I'm signed up for the Summer time surprises swap and when I get my partner details I'll be putting together a suitable package.
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