Monday, 28 March 2016

Gearing down

This weekend always feels like a bonus holiday. You think it's Saturday and actually it's Friday and so on. So now on Monday I'm not sure what day it feels like. I'm trying to gear down not gear up for the following week. I'm very lucky not to be travelling in to work next week although I will be doing some work - at a gentle pace, interspersed with stitching and painting.

We 'lose' an hour this weekend.  How does that work? An hour less sleep and an hour extra during the day. An hour longer in the evening and lo and behold it's dark again to get up.  To counteract this I decided to make an hour-glass quilt. To be specific a dotty hour-glass quilt.

 First half-square triangles
 Cutting off a million bunny ears to reduce bulk
 Re-layering the half-square triangles
To make the hour glass block.

I have 47 blocks -  I changed my mind on the size of the block and need more fabric.  I'm not sure whether to make this a 7 x 7 block which makes a  52" square quilt (only needing two more blocks) or to go further and make a 10 x 7 block quilt measuring 73" x 52", needing 23 more blocks. It took ages to stitch and trim all the blocks so another 23 blocks is quite an undertaking.  Also I don't like the method I've used - drawing a line diagonally across one of the squares and stitching 1/4" either side of the line, then cutting on the line. I don't think it was any more accurate than cutting triangles and stitching along the diagonal (which is the bias and can stretch). Drawing all those lines is quite tedious.  Since I've made most of them with the first method I'll feel obliged to make the remaining blocks in the same way. Tsk.

This stitching was done in between prepping lunch - a mini Christmas lunch with John, Steph and the boys. Will is away in Edinburgh for the Easter weekend with his lovely girlfriend, Alex.
Meanwhile I'm quilting away at the Dancing Squares quilt and loving it. I've got five of the eight rows finished and should have six done by tonight.  This is going to be a hard one to part with. I won't take any more pix until it's finished though.

I babysat last night and took my slow moving ripple blanket - I don't know why it's taking me so long.
The worrying thing is that Lucy from Attic 24 has been working up a stripe blanket in a design I love with some gorgeous spring colours.
(Photo uploaded from Attic 24 blog)
Will I be tempted before I have finished or will I be able to restrain myself?

The light has improved considerably since this morning so I'm going back to the quilt. Tomorrow I will be starting to gather together some ideas and samples for a class I'm doing at our Open Day on 9th April - a Shabby Chic workshop. I shall be quietly enjoying myself and working at the same time! How good is that?

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Hexagons v all night football

There were two things I knew I wanted to do this weekend. The all night football for Sport Relief - we raised over £1,000! Yippee!

The other thing on my to-do list was to see if I can make a much bigger hexagon bag. The ladies of Willunga Quilters asked if the bag featured in my tutorial could be made much bigger with more hexagons. I think ladies, the answer will be yes.  Of course the quickest way to make it bigger is to use bigger hexagons but this would start to look out of proportion after a while. So this morning I set to designing a bag with more hexagons.
The original design had 16 hexagons - this new one will have 34. There are 10 along the middle then rows of 5,4 and 3. I'll test it out first to see what size it will be but this will work. The handles will go on the outside hexagons of the top three. I'll post the results when I've done mine but it will have to wait until next weekend because it's now Sunday evening and I still have normal weekend chores to finish.

The all night football took a huge chunk of time out of my weekend - no Friday night to chill and I didn't get to bed until nearly 11am on Saturday morning - 29 hours after I got up on Friday morning. I slept until about 4.30 but was useless for the rest of the day - everything ached - so I gave up and went back to bed by 8.30pm. There's no getting away from it this chicken is more winter than spring.

Sadly I didn't get much crocheting done overnight in the quiet room (partly because there weren't enough staff and I kept having to swap rooms from the quiet room to the common room and the Sports Hall depending on the numbers of pupils in the group). I think I did half a line and read a couple of pages of the book I took (White Nights by Anne Cleeves).  
The rest of the time was making sure that the kids were safe and sound (Year 9 girls and Y10 and Y11 boys - you get my drift?)

I got some lovely buttons last week and sewed some on to my little thread catcher. I love it

I did a bit of quilting this morning whilst watching the first Grand Prix of the season - recorded as, funnily enough,  I didn't want to get up at 4am!
What came from the kitchen this week?  Well I made a frittata this afternoon because we have rather a lot of eggs. Will likes to take slices for his breakfast. He feeds the animals first and then has breakfast. He doesn't like eating for half an hour or so after he's got up, so usually takes fruit or sa sandwich. Normally he sorts something for himself but he really appreciates it if there is something already made.

For St Patrick's Day I thought I'd make some Irish Cream and Chocolate Cupcakes, although the Irish Cream flavour was very subtle.  I didn't want the quilting ladies to be breathalysed.
This afternoon I had a lovely cuppa with a hot cross bun and it got me to thinking if I could make hot cross bun flavour cupcakes.... it would make a change from little nests with sugar eggs or easter biscuits.
Well - all the washing is done but I'm not going to iron - what a rebel. I'll just put the board up and iron as I go. I'm not that house-proud. As long as the kitchen and the bathroom are clean I can live with the rest.

Easter next weekend will bring a much appreciated rest and apart from Sunday when everyone will be over for lunch I should get some serious quilting time in.

Until next time.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Work, stitch, bake, oh no - and eat!

This blog is going to be about baking and stitching - which is the only thing I seem to be doing apart from working (when will my numbers come up????). It's my double busy time of year at work with the new budgets coming in - woefully small in comparison with Tony's Blair's budgets where we were awash with grants and initiatives. Education, education, education has been replaced with squeeze, cut and more squeeze. Hey ho - that's the work bit over.  Work is what makes the other bits possible!

So stitch -
I finished this over half term
It has a fleecy backing which was actually very tough on the hands to stitch. The pattern above is around the border but you can't really see it on the busy front.
I love the bit when you are sewing the binding down - it's like watching one of your babies come of age.
Hilary organised a sewing day to 'Dress a Girl around the World'. These two dresses took about four hours to make and are part of batch which High Street Quilting customers have made for the project. You'll need to scroll down a bit (just slowly so that you can see all that lovely fabric and all those beautiful quilts people are making). We used the extra day (February 29th) to do the dresses but I loved doing them so I'll definitely be making more. There are different patterns to choose. Just in case anyone thinks that dressing a girl is gender biased - I'm just a drop in the 're-dressing the balance ocean' on this, but my little bit goes to make the whole. It's so easy to be lulled into a false sense of security living in a place like Britain where women have equal rights and opportunities - but don't get me started on that, anyway the charity does shorts as well as dresses.

I've layered two UFO quilt tops:
The first one is all batiks (apart from the backing) and the second one is all homespun plaids.
Not everyone likes the effect of homespun plaids because the stripes and checks never match but I love that rustic look. The plaid quilt was a collaborative done at work - it's just taken me a long time to get round to it! All three quilts are destined for Quilts for Comfort, together with one I made for a sample for a pattern.
I love making the quilts and when you have a house full of them it's nice to know that you can still make them for someone else.

Baking! Lots of baking!

During the half term break when I had more time I thought I'd make some choux pastry:
 Some 'oreo' biscuits
and some Victoria Sandwich hexagons made from some mix that didn't rise enough to call a cake!
I bought a little Mary Berry cookbook from the book man at work.  All the hype about Mary Berry on the television as Queen of Baking hasn't yet stacked up when I've used this book.  I made Coffee Fudge Squares - the cake was sooo dry, as was the topping which I had to slacken off with some water,
Then I made Viennese whirls
and had to add half as much butter again because they were too stiff to pipe - I could have rolled the mixture out! Back to my trusty BeRo book I think.

For Mother's Day we got together for Afternoon tea - I made some Macarons using Swiss Meringue

and some chocolate orange cake - I weigh the eggs and use the same weight of sugar, margarine or butter (margarine makes a lighter cake) and flour.  My eggs are all different sizes so this is the most accurate way to do it.
I also add yoghurt or sour cream to the mix - I can't tell you how much though - maybe a dessert spoon per egg.
 and then the different flavourings - this was orange rind and zest
I took some of the mix out before I added the orange to make Rose and Pistachio cupcakes.
The icing was made with a thick white sauce as the base which is allowed to cool and then beaten together with a little softened butter and icing sugar.  It is not too sweet and very light - like American Frosting. I haven't got pictures of the finished article though - I'll explain later.
Then baked the rest into a full sized cake with chocolate orange ganache.
Mini cheese scones
Mini Sausage Rolls and 'Tartes Tomates'
Making millionaire's shortbread - I make a base with the ingredients for shortbread but just press that into the baking tin, then refrigerate for a short time - no rolling makes a crisp but tender base.
The toffee layer goes on next - this was a bit firmer than I usually make as I took my eye off the caramel for a few seconds, luckily it hadn't turned bitter.
and then the chocolate goes on top of that when it's set - no picture of the final article for the same reason as the rose and pistachio cupcakes. Everyone arrived as I was putting the finishing touches to the sweet things and I didn't like to take pictures when they were all there.  We all pitched in to make cucumber sandwiches and some ham and mustard sandwiches too.  A lovely pot of Orange Pekoe tea (I save this for special occasions) and some chilled Prosecco washed everything down.  We decided to do it all again for Father's Day!

In all this activity there has been no crocheting but that will change next Friday night. We have our Annual All night 5-a-side football match at school for Sport Relief.  I am the night nanny - I make sure the teams of players actually rest between sessions.  No kicking footballs about for me!  Crochet can be done in lower light then quilting so I'll be in the quiet room hooking up a storm.

Now (all chores except ironing being done) I'm going to watch a bit of rugby and catch up on the stuff I've recorded to watch when I'm awake!  I've done some work in the garden while the weather is nice, and feel better for the fresh air - the weather is lovely today - but now it is time to stitch again.

Until next time. xxx