Monday, 5 June 2017

Dresden delights

I'm sitting here kicking myself because I haven't taken pictures of some of the really lovely things I've done this weekend.

I ran a Durham Quilting workshop at High Street Quilting on Saturday morning. Bumped into someone I hadn't seen for years . Went to Max's second birthday BBQ on Saturday afternoon - no pictures - silly me. So you won't be able to see the lovely things that the ladies produced between the first class and last Saturday. Or the smiley (sun-pinked) faces of everyone at the party. Lovely food, good company, a glass of beer on a sunny afternoon - oh that last bit doesn't work for me....

So to the pictures I have taken.  For our Quilt as You Go I decided to do a Dresden Plate block:
I chose 20 different fabrics but could have gone for fewer. But I reckon if I have so many different fabrics in my stash, why stick to a few!
I did the cop-out design! No curves to make. I do prefer the curved version but it's very time consuming.
A break in the middle for a jam tart from the corner shop - yummy pastry - half biscuit, half pastry, soft and slightly almondy and gooey jam.  I couldn't make one like that. I love strong tea! Good tea requires perfect timing, not just for how long you leave it to brew, but for how long you leave it to cool.  I like to wait until I can take big gulps without burning my mouth.  There's a very small window to achieve the perfect temperature.

Back to the dresden plate:
It's always difficult to choose the centre circle when you have so many different fabrics but, if in doubt, go for purple!
Pinned on to the black background suddenly makes the colours zing.  An unfinished dresden plate with bright colours on a cream background shows just how much black adds to the drama.
I must finish this one - it's only a couple of hours away - the background is going to be cross-hatched.

Sometimes I wish I were brave enough to put all my unfinished quilts and projects into one cupboard and work my way through them systematically. Actually I'm not sure that one cupboard would be big enough.

We've got British Gas roadworks outside the house at the moment (is it me or are the roadworks taking over the entire transport system?).  They managed to cut the electricity off and when it came back on the boiler wouldn't fire up.  It turns out my fan was shorting out.  Oo err - what a thing to happen at my time of life.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

All change at Strawberry Patches

Reflecting on life choices has been uppermost in my mind for a couple of years or more. A fast-paced job, good money, but not much time to relax and enjoy things in my down-time. Not enough down time - you know the age old thoughts on work/life balance. Well an opportunity came up to change all this.  It's an opportunity that scared the life out of me. It didn't take long for me to decide though.  I put my notice in at work and spent a few frightening days wondering how I would cope on half the money.  So now I work with my son in his clinic in Newcastle. I love it. I don't feel at the moment like I have any extra time but that's my choice and my down-time is much better quality because I'm not stressing over the things I have to do in the near and far future.

More baking:

Oatie Biscuits with a cup of builder's tea - just the ticket.
Indulgent lemon curd cupcakes with cream cheese topping.
and little raspberry and blueberry muffins. I always put a couple of spoons of yoghurt in my cake mix to keep it moist so this has raspberry yoghurt and fresh blueberries.

Next week I have been requested to make some Bounty Bar cakes.

Not much in the way of crafting - also I haven't taken many photos.  But I settled down yesterday to do some piecing for a jewel quilt. Black background, bright coloured blocks and quilt as you go technique. This is both for the Thursday night ladies and for a class next weekend. The Saturday class is actually a Durham Quilting class but the technique for joining quilt as you go is the same.

I cut out some pieces for a bow tie block and a windmill variation.
I know it would be much quicker to sew by machine but I enjoy hand-piecing so much.
Two 16" blocks ready to quilt
I've also done a few more squares from the 'My Rose Valley Baby Blanket - no baby in mind but the yarn is a dream!
Unfortunately she has stopped selling the yarn (Tilda - but nothing to do with the Tilda Fabrics) otherwise I would have bought more to make a bigger blanket. I have found someone in Denmark that sells it but it is too expensive to import. Obviously I can't make a bigger blanket this time but will search round for an equivalent yarn for the future - it's 50% cotton and 50% acrylic and just slightly thicker that 4ply.

So that's the news for the moment. I work on Saturdays now so my weekends are Sundays and Mondays, which is taking some getting used to. I'm looking forward to Max's second birthday on Saturday which is, at that age, more about the grown ups getting together of course!

Until next time - stay safe everyone.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Things are stacking up

In more ways than one.  Some good, some frustrating.
I've been on my hands and knees this afternoon cutting strips to make a 12" cushion project for our Junior Youth Club at school.
It's a little Easter project which will fill in a gap as we change Youth Workers from the County Council (their funding has run out) and to direct employed workers.  We are funded this year by the Durham Police and Crime Commissioner and the local councillor's fund. We're looking round for next year because things like this are never self sustaining.  I have to say it is not my favourite way of spending a Monday evening. I chose my career path because I like working in finance, the school bit came when I took a job with the same holidays as the children. I like being involved with the children but I could never be a full time teacher. No sir!

For New Year every quilter seems to make the resolution that they will finish things they started. I seem to have done the opposite this year, buying fabric and planning quilts I can never hope to finish in a year. I have three quilts sandwiched but only part quilted and what did I do yesterday?  I bought some fabric for a fourth! That doesn't count stuff that I have put in the cupboard and forgotten about. Bad Girl.

I finished the larger version of the mat I made a couple of weeks ago.  This one has a slightly larger margin around the edge of the linen.

I like them both and can't decide which is the better design.
They are going to be a workshop at High Street Quilting when Hilary and I decide on a date, sometime in the next couple of months I think.

I'm just watching Kate Humble on the telly 'Back to the Land'. There is a lady on that has a 'flower' farm. She sells edible flowers to restaurants and weddings. What a job! I love to see how all the people are bucking the trend of the countryside and taking a risk. Good luck to them.

I've just had a cup of tea with the last of the choice cupcakes I made this week.  Sugar rush.....
I've done the chores, Will is out on the bike, making the most of the sunshine. John, Steph, Matty (her little brother), Ben and Max are enjoying the fifth of their ten days in Lanzarote.  I've planted a Minarette Apple tree (variety - Discovery) and there's a joint of pork slow roasting in the oven for pulled pork tonight. No doubt Will has worked up an appetite. The fridge is stocked for the week so now I'm going to settle back for a little embroidery before the light goes - I think the clocks go forward next week so I'll be back to dark mornings for a little while but will appreciate the light nights stretching ahead.
I am nearly on to the last edge of embroidery so this will be finished soon. A bit sad really because I really love sewing these and you can only have so many mats and table runners.

I've a massively busy week ahead of me at work so this hiatus at the weekends is pure joy, especially when I think of next weekend and the start of the F1 season. Yay, stitching and fast cars - who'd have thought?

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Table Runner (and still girly)

This has been a weekend of mixed weather - dull and cloudy yesterday, bright sunshine for most of today but now at half past four it's gone dull and cloudy again.  I've been working with the linen fabric again this weekend. I found some gorgeous soft pink fabric with a lovely delicate design so I decided to make a runner which would be suitable for the chest of drawers in my bedroom but, in different colours would make a nice spring runner for the dining room.

I laid out the pieces
but discovered I had cut the centre piece the wrong size so I had to do some alterations.  I also made the first border narrower to accommodate the stitchery design I wanted to use.
I'm learning the ins and outs of my design programme (Affinity Design) and can now manipulate shapes.  It's a slow process because I have never really worked with a computer design from scratch. Most of my patterns have been hand drawn.  I printed the page and traced them on to fusible web.
After ironing on the flowers and leaves
 I drew a vine which 'loops' around the inner border
and chose some colours to embroider.  The earthier colours on the left are the ones I'll be working with.
So this is the first corner done.  I work on the linen attached to the wadding but will wait until it's all sewn before I put the backing on (like a cushion cover) and quilt through all the layers.
It measures about 15" x 24"

From the 'bakery' this week a simple traybake. Four ingredients - Rice Crispies, toffee, marshmallows and butter
Put the ingredients in (minus the rice crispies)
and melt them very slowly
 to a smooth sauce
add the crispies
 and press into a tin.
There's enough for immediate use and some left for the biscuit tin for snacks at work next week. Yum.

John and Steph are off to Lanzarote with the boys next week so I popped down this afternoon.  It was such a lovely day so I walked round. I was following a man who was out for a walk with twin boys (about 2-3 years old).  When we got to a quiet little cul de sac the boys stopped and looked for traffic. One of them only looked one way before he crossed.  His daddy told him he had to look both ways because if something had been coming he would have got squished flat, like a pizza.  The little boy said - "could you put me in a pizza box then" he asked.  I didn't hear the answer because I was too busy chortling.

Now I'm going to make a beef stew, tidy my stuff away and prepare myself for the week to come - lots of meetings and setting our new budget for next year.

Flossy is continuing to improve and her fur is growing back now. She's been a brave little bunny and am still full of wonder that she survived.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Loving the stitching and the sunshine

Friday night was the wettest I've seen for a long time.  The rain started after lunch and didn't stop until the Saturday morning.  Driving through flooded roads to John's clinic yesterday it felt like the damp and grey winter was never going to end. Today the sun is shining from almost cloudless sky. Yes I am in England! It's warm and almost windless.Why does life feel better when the sun shines?
A quick trip to the dentist yesterday was followed by a spot of shopping before going back to the clinic to hold the fort on reception.
I was looking for kimchi - a vegetable concoction similar to sauerkraut but without the digestive effects. I also called into Lakeland for a yoghurt maker for John.  He eats pots of yoghurt - so does Max. There is a big chinese supermarket in Newcastle which sells loads and loads of asian food, including fresh vegetables like pea aubergines and galangal.  I thought I was buying fresh turmeric but it turned out to be kaempher which has a similar fragrance to lemongrass. I also got some seaweed and sesame crisps (lurv seaweed). Just to redress the balance I got some cookie cutters and little pie moulds.

I'm quite behind with the chores so am sewing and typing in between washing loads.  If it doesn't get finished I'll live with that.  The important places in the house are clean and the rest is a bit of a tip. Hey ho.

Last weekend I started my little girlie mat by tracing a design on to the linen fabric I got last week.
I love the little stitcheries.  I added some appliqué then made a slightly larger shape in fabric.
It's about 7" across
Perfect for a little coffee and cake mat (fully washable)
Rhubarb and custard cupcake - this one was the one of the rejects because I blobbed the icing but the taste is still there!

I've been working on a larger pattern - same design. I've also started a table runner - same colours but different design although they will work together.

The chinese supermarket sold all sorts of china too and I couldn't help myself and came away with a little bowl that is perfect for my Holland and Barrett snacks (oh my halo is shining this week)
The pink flower goes perfectly with the mat.  As I was about the dive into the delicious dried mango, creamy cashew nuts and chocolate brazils, not to mention the sunflower seeds and other little goodies. It got me to thinking - I've seen something similar very recently - 
- in Flossie's bowl. 

It's a funny old life.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Urge to be girly - it must be spring

Just a quick update on Flossie - she is getting stronger each day and is adjusting to life on three legs.  She won't be joining Scruffy in the outside hutch until her wound is healed and her fur grown back though. She's still not eating and drinking as much as we would like but she's survived!  My bank balance, however is in terminal decline. What I have learnt is that the service and care from a vet is second to none.

I came home from the shops the other day with some daffodils and plonked them in the nearest receptacle whilst I unpacked the shopping. The sauce by the way is the same as every other tomato sauce in a jar. Utterly disgusting. I must spend the time to make some proper stuff instead of taking the easy way out. However I think I might give the jar a shabby chic makeover because it it's rather a nice shape.

Talking about Shabby Chic and Girly stuff, I went to visit my friend Jan at The Cotton Tree yesterday and found the Tea Shop next door under new management - formerly Jiggery Pokery - now called Elisa Rose Tea Rooms
Jan said I would love it or hate it. I think I'm more in the latter camp although I recognise the huge amount of work that's gone into it - I just wouldn't like to be the cleaner! They had perfumed candles burning too which I really don't like, especially when I'm eating; it's an assault on the senses, not to say an air pollutant. 

I called into Bradley Gardens Nursery which I have passed so many times and promised myself I would go to.  It's a walled garden - bare at this time of year but still so very interesting:
 Beautiful Hellebores and Snowdrops in an urn
 A Garrya -  (Silk Tassle Plant)
And a standard bay tree next to the beautiful wall.  There's also a fabulous cafe built into the victorian glasshouse along one wall.  Unfortunately I'd just had tea and a piece of tiffin at Elisa Rose but I'll definitely call in at different times of the year to see how the gardens look.  There's also a few lovely shops built into the wall and some plants and (expensive!!) pots for sale.

My friend commissioned a heart for her husband for Valentine's Day.  I had a little angel heart that I had started a long time ago and abandoned because I couldn't get inspiration.
I started by painting over the old colour - there is a little bit of sculpting paste on but I decided to leave it.
Then I painted a plaid background and a little space for the wording - I love the painty clutter on my little table!

I made one of my favourite ever bakes last week
 Millionaire Shortbread - the trimmings are for the chef.
None of your waffer-thin, sprayed on toppings though. Buttery Shortbread with a hint of sea salt, creamy soft caramel and milk chocolate topping, poured over when it just starts to thicken so you get thicker bits, like an Easter Egg.  Nom Nom.

I ran a workshop for would-be Durham Quilters yesterday - there are some promising ladies and they have signed up for a second workshop to learn how to design a wholecloth quilt. This was the most popular choice for the block they made - called a Rose in a Rose.

Alex and Will are braving the wind this afternoon to visit the charming Crook Hall Gardens in Durham City so it's peaceful enough to relax and do some stitching, the weekend chores are done, so it will be guilt free.

So why have I got the urge to do something girly? Not girly like Elisa Rose but fresh and Spring-like.  I think it's the gloom that we have endured for the last few months. There is sunshine today and we have had some bright days but on the whole it has been a gloomy, grey winter.

Some spring shades to make a little hanging and a mat for the chest in my bedroom.
I have a few projects in mind. The linen has sparked my creative juices (mixed metaphors?) to make some hangings. I saw a little mat I liked somewhere on the internet so I have done a rough drawing and will have a little potter making this - about 6"-7" I think. It will have little embroidered flowers around the outside.
So Flossie and I are going to to settle down to watch the rugby this afternoon and I haven't decided whether to start the little mat or continue with my Moorland Blanket. Considering last Sunday was spent wondering whether the little bunny would survive her operation I feel so glad that I am now watching her nibbling sweetly at some kale and groom her little face so daintily.

Until next time xxxx