Monday, 28 May 2018

Stages of life

One of the nice things about life is the various stages. The carefree and innocent, the growing into an adult, getting a job and having your own money, having babies - I have learnt that it is a good thing that women stop having babies at a certain age though! Growing into yourself and your character, then having more time to be carefree again (within the limitations of income sadly!)

I have always found time to do my stitching, whether it's making clothes for children, or quilts, or more frivolous things, but I am currently enjoying the more time to be carefree again - actually I'm loving it.

The Spring (Ha! - next Spring) quilt is coming on after a few weeks of abandonment.
Nearly all the leaves are sewn on and I'll be able to start on the flowers. The good thing about leaving something and picking it up again is that it never feels like a chore,  you get that just-started enthusiasm all over again.

I spent a couple of happy hours yesterday sorting out little projects
This will be to take on holiday in a month. I'm going to make all the centres and just take white yarn (cotton/acrylic - some Tilda Svarta colours and some Bergere de France white). I'll have to see how much white I need and make the right number of inner circles as I only have four balls of white. It has been discontinued.  I'd love to be able to get the Tilda Yarn here but it is only available in Europe (Denmark ships) but it works out really expensive. It has more 'give' than 100% cotton and is easier on the wrist. It isn't as heavy either. I might make some enquiries about  potential UK stockists.

I was disappointed with the yarn I got (Scheepjes Secret Garden). It is hard to work with and has different thicknesses through the ball. I remade the squares a few times but have decided to use the yarn I have until it is finished and not continue with the whole blanket. 
These squares were all done from the same ball with the same sized hook. I have three more coloured balls - enough to make a six by six block. They are about three inches each, so only a large cushion front. It was hard work on the wrists and although it is a silk blend it feels stiff and lumpy. 

Whilst searching for little scraps of fabric for the July Mini-Quilt I discovered a purchase from a couple of years ago when Steph and I went for curtain fabric. 
A Tilda Bag kit (nothing to do with the Tilda Yarn - same name, different company). I'll cut this out today ready for 'knocking up' when the sewing machine is next out. £3.99 for a large chunk of Tilda fabric is a good buy.
The July Mini Quilt is ready to stitch and the pattern is already written for class.  At some point I will make them available through the blog if anyone wants to stitch the year's quilts.
On the subject of fruit, I'm enjoying the soft fruit season - especially the juicy sweet doughnut peaches in the shops now. This time of year is my favourite for fruit. Oh and when my Victoria Plums are hanging from the tree.
I have a feeling it's not going to be such a good year this year - no blossom has appeared yet. 

So, on my list today:
  • Bag up John's university stuff for him to sort and store in his own loft(!)
  • Iron (I still seem to have a large pile of Will's clothes somehow)
  • Rake the lawn and de-weed the paving slabs
  • Tidy my 'pile' on the dining room table. It just gets bigger and bigger until I get sick of it - I'm sick of it now and have a friend coming over to make a patchwork rabbit so we need the space.
  • Try to hold back on the new design I have (shh it's a Christmas one) - I can't stop going back to it.
  • See my babies - Ben wants to sleep over.
  • Make a shopping list and do some cooking
  • Embroider the mini-quilt
  • Possibly finish painting the BAKE letters
  • Stare into space
Until next time xxx

Sunday, 20 May 2018

A slow start to Sunday but finished on a roll

I didn't make a list today but would have had a lot of things to cross off if I had. After having a lazy start to the day I knuckled down to the ironing. Not too much to do - but it still needs to go upstairs.

Alex and Will got the keys to the house on Friday but it needs quite a bit of cleaning.  The previous tenants had two pets (the agreement says no pets) so Alex spent quite a lot of time scrubbing. There's still quite some to do though. She starts her new job tomorrow so they are staying here until the house is sorted (the boiler isn't working either).

I was pleased to get the project bag finished. It was meant to be a quick thing but Max had hidden the lining fabric.

The new fabric is different. I'll find the original one day.

I made a couple of trays of lasagne for suppers this week for me and for Will & Alex. There are plenty of vegetables in it and it will be served with salad.
Then I moved on to the hanging basket, planting it with trailing fuchsias this year.

I haven't quite planned out where I'm going to plant the climbing plants, or rather what order they will go in along the fence. I got some honeysuckle, a rambling rose, and two clematis, one pink and one white.

I will put the rose near the seating area I think because it is 'highly fragrant' according to the label. I'm going to make a secret garden at one end of my little patch. I'll take some before and after pictures. It may take me some time......

I stopped for a quick bite to eat at lunchtime.  A pork and apple pie from the local farm shop - gorgeous it was with thin crispy pastry, a meaty pork filling and topped with caramelised apples.
Alex, bless her, helped me paint the first part of the fence, even though she had been working at the house all day.  Actually I think she painted more than I did in the end, Will did a bit more tidying around the lawn - I've just bought a new lawn mower as I haven't had a lawn for some years, but John purloined that yesterday. It was cut on the highest setting and now needs a good rake.

So now everyone is quietly tired - Will has just made some burgers, as the urge suddenly took him, so we are going to have some ginger beer/beer and cheeseburgers to end a busy day.
Let's just hope my poor unfit body, with the unusually physical day and the not so healthy food doesn't protest too much tomorrow!

Thursday, 17 May 2018

How much can I squeeze in today?

Time off is precious so I like to make sure I make the most of it. Lists! that's what's needed. I have a little book that I carry round in my handbag for just such things:
I always write everything I want to do knowing that there are too many things to accomplish but I don't think I've failed if they aren't all done, I just don't run out of things. On my list today:

  • Finish stitchery bag and pattern (both close to completion)
  • Write pattern for June Mini-Quilt
  • Start July Mini-Quilt
  • Prepare shortbread base for lemon squares  from Once upon a Chef
  • Translate recipe to English measurements and write in cookery notes
  • Iron clothes
  • Vacuum (I only have carpets upstairs and a rug downstairs so can do on one charge)
  • Clean one kitchen cupboard 
  • Wash kitchen floors
  • Dust the bookshelves and lampshades in the sitting room
  • Sweep the back terrace
  • Sort recycling for tomorrow's collection
  • Order yarn (tick! - did that before breakfast - you have to get your priorities right)
  • Check and answer emails and messages
  • Pull out sofa to get all the things Max has thrown behind including my go-to thread colour (favourite pastime, chucking things about)
  • He is wearing a nappy - no bare pictures on this blog!
  • Vacuum behind sofa (don't recoil at the amount of dust and detritus hidden there)
  • Go to work (this is where the some computer work gets done when John has long appointments so there aren't loads of people checking in and out - an hour tonight will give time for some pattern work.
  • Put ice on back as often as possible - suffering at the moment, dammit.
  • Blog
Not all will get done but it is lovely to tick things off.  The yarn order?  Well I saw this irresistable  blanket to crochet on Fifty Shades of 4Ply. I need a project for the flight to Spain in 5 weeks. OMG 5 weeks. 
I only ordered enough to test and will make a cushion cover if I decide not to make a blanket. I've never used the yarn before but I'm in lerv with the colours. I'm getting on well with my no-brain crochet blanket (for those moments when your hands want to do something but your mind can't cope)
I've started the third ball so when that is finished I will know what size the blanket will be. I think it will be about 45" square.  With Corner to Corner crochet you increase every row until you have used half the yarn then start decreasing - no calculations. Sadly you can't see the richness of the colour in either of these pictures, although the second is much closer
I have learned one lesson though, start a new ball at the end of a row.  This yarn is impossible to unpick. It is so fluffy that it 'welds' itself together and won't budge - you have to snap it which would pull the stitches tight. I thought the yarn gradations would follow on from each other but they don't - hence the half a stripe in the middle of the green/blue sequence. I was expecting it to morph back into the rust colour but is went green again.

By the time I press 'publish' I'm hoping to have got a good way through the list so I better get started as it's 8.40m and I have only ordered yarn.


 later in the day.........................So... I got most things done, not the back terrace, not the bookshelves and notably not the bag finish.  Max has hidden the piece of fabric that was laid out ready to to the lining. I've searched high and low, in cupboards, behind sofas, in between books. It is nowhere to be found.  If I can't find it before I go to class I'll get some more - the missing fabric will turn up and I have another plan that it can be used for. Anyhow I'll leave you now with a little piccy of the strawberries and cream cupcakes from last week.
I think I might do a tab on the blog for recipes I use for the class and for 'cake Friday' at work, or maybe rather just the ones that people ask for. Sometimes the experimental ones are not too repeatable!

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Is this the last Sunday lunch?

We sat down tonight with Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding.  Me, Will, Alex. They have found a house to rent while they look for one to buy. Alex moves up next weekend and starts her new job straight away.  My last baby is leaving the nest. How strange it feels. Probably the last Sunday lunch I will make with my family living at home.  Will strimmed the weeds in the garden whilst I cooked the Sunday Lunch and Alex made chocolate mousse. I can feel her concern, she reassures me they will be here again, pottering, helping, cooking Sunday Lunch.

Another rite of passage.

It was hard sending them to the first day at school, letting them catch the bus home from the disco, getting a job, going on holiday without me... a lifetime of learning to let go; to let go with pride in the beautiful people they have grown up to be.  Will the space be overwhelming?  Will I be lonely? Will they worry about me? (I think they already do). Life's a funny old thing isn't it?

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Simple design for a new project bag.

I've been playing with an idea for a new project bag.  I wanted to make a bag with a quilted linen base and some appliqué flowers. I started with different ideas but couldn't quite get it together as I liked it. The appliqué didn't seem to flow so I abandoned the more complicated design for a much simpler stitchery panel and this is what I'll be doing this morning.  Inspired by the cushion I made at the weekend....
I spent my happy hour this morning sewing hexagons to the base of the bag. Thank goodness for Frixion heat sensitive pens - I couldn't get the lines in the right place for some reason. The markings are the third attempt, the first two being ironed off in some disgust. The last version was closer but as you can see the lines still didn't match up!
Thankfully they all disappear miraculously when they get a blast of steam from the iron. 

Two pens that I have only had relatively recently - Sewline white marker for darker fabrics and the heat fading Frixion pens.
They make such a difference. I've tried all sorts of things over the years but kept going back to my trusty 2b pencil. But you can't make mistakes with it and sometimes the marks don't wash out. 

So then - back to the bag design -instead of this -
-  I'll be transferring this simple stitchery to the front of the bag (and back actually) later this morning
The appliqué design needs a lot more work and will be stored away for later when the inspirational juices are flowing better.  These flowers will go into my Assets Panel for future use.  Although they only took an hour or so to construct it is useful to click on to them for future designs, even if I do tweak them so that they don't all look the same. I suppose that's the disadvantage of having a computer library - you lose the organic feel to the drawings.

I had some lovely afternoon tea with friends on Monday and met, quite by chance someone from way back in my youth.  Forty five years ago I made my first parachute jump - the pilot that flew the plane was there with some mutual friends. We spent a lot of time reminiscing of course although it was quite sobering to find out how many long lost friends have died of old age. Oh dear! Let's not dwell on that too much.

I have errands this morning, a quick trip to the accountants, some shopping for the clinic and some household tasks too before I start work this afternoon, but one thing is for sure - the stitchery will be marked up and started today. 

How different my life is now with its cosy domestic minutiae. I'm grateful for the contrasts and experiences of my years, very grateful.

Monday, 7 May 2018

'And peace comes dropping slow....'

After work on Saturday I contemplated the long hours of peace ahead of me - should I go into the garden or wait until it's cooler? Should I stitch, or leave it until I'd finished the washing? Should I.... answer the little knock at the door?  There was Ben with a little overnight bag - could he come for a sleepover?  Checking the hens, riding his bike, ordering in pizza, computer games and then bed. I did manage a bit of tacking when he went to bed. This is a cushion kit from High Street Quilting which I have been eyeing for some time - a perfect bank holiday project.
It took me a while to get everything lined up.  Ben's Daddy took him swimming when the baths opened on Sunday morning so I spent a blissfully quiet day, in the garden stitching. Best of both worlds although the gardening didn't get done.

This morning (in my happy hour) I got the machine out and within an hour I had stitched the quilting pattern - with surprisingly neat results as I am the Queen of Puckers when it comes to machine quilting. 
This is the reverse - in dappled sunlight.

......and the front. I'd already put the zipper in the back.  Next I need to tackle the piping and then finally sew the back to the front, remembering to leave the zip open a little so I can turn it the right way around.  In case you're wondering - yes I have had to carefully, tooth by tooth, undo a zip from the wrong side because I forgot to leave it open an a couple of inches.

I love the way the quilting looks, making its own little hexagon shapes all over. Thanks for the lovely kit Hilary - everything but the cushion pad. Sometimes quilt kits are like those recipe boxes you can get for cakes, just add milk, butter and eggs (so.... just sugar and flour in the packet then).  This had all the paper pieces, piping, zipper, fabrics and lining. Perfect.

I'd planned to go shopping yesterday but now need to go today instead.  I should get the piping done and the cushion sewn together before the shops open.Then there's there small matter of the garden and the washing and ironing. It was peaceful yesterday and peaceful for the moment now. The sun is shining and I'm calm and rested. In all a pretty good bank holiday, time with the family, time on my own.

 In case you're wondering where the quote comes from:

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
                     – W. B. Yeats

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Baby Quilt update

Well - I finished this in record time, only to discover that the baby isn't due until 16th June! Well my babies were both premature so you can never be too careful. Not wishing of course for any untoward births of course!
Now that I know there is more time I'm going to do some embroidery around the edge.  Amy doesn't know what sex the baby is - hence the absolutely neutral colour. I loved this quick project and the quilt is so clean and crisp but my soul is craving for colour. It's nice to know you have a quick pattern in hand though.  I'm going to wash this quilt a few times before I give it to Steph because it isn't very 'drapey'. I used 100% white cotton which was quite hard to hand quilt and it is very much firmer - more like a machine quilted finish. I decided against the very soft wadding in favour of the practicality of pure cotton.  I think I might just make a girly quilt for me with the Quilters Dream Orient wadding, I don't mind hand washing precious things.

I discovered why I thought I had made a cutting error.  I didn't put sashing on the end squares.
You don't notice from a distance, it was only when I started quilting that I realised. But I'm not going to tell if you don't! That comes from seeing an picture and cutting before you actually think it through properly.

I've been experimenting with a bag pattern - it is still easier to get the coloured pencils out and draw it on a piece of paper but I'm persevering, especially since I discovered that I can save things as 'assets' which can be used in any document created. This helps for things like buttons and hearts and little flowers.  It is especially helpful for documents when I want to do instructions for half square triangles and flying geese, or any other shape. If I made each set of instructions individually it would take hours. This way it's like cutting and pasting from my very own 'Clipart'
It probably won't look exactly like this but I wanted to do something a bit flowery - even if the seasons are mixed. Originally I had a little picket fence and a birdhouse but I moved them out of the way in favour of pretty maids all in a row. There is a little stash of fabric left over from the folded stars I made a while ago.
I'm hoping there is enough for the bag. I just need to find where I put it of course. That may take some time!

I have a bunch of household things to catch up on so won't have much time to craft today before work  but I know I'll feel bad if I continue to live in the mess which seems to pile up when I'm engrossed in a quilt.

I made scones last week for class and in doing so discovered why I don't do it more often. John makes lovely light scones - mine are more like hockey pucks. They tasted ok but they needed lashings of butter.
Date and pecan on the right and cheese on the left. The recipe was from my trusty Be-Ro book and said that it made 10 scones. I made a separate batch for each flavour - in this day of giant scones the mix would only have made three or four. We were reminiscing how small scones used to be, which makes you wonder how many calories are in the ones that are heaped in luscious piles underneath glass domes in coffee shops. My mother and I used to share one between us.

So Will is off to work and the house is mine for four hours. Where on earth shall I start?