Friday 29 November 2013

Planning Ahead?

Is it planning ahead when you doodle on paper and think of new ideas. Or is it avoiding cleaning the loos? You tell me.

Anyway, whatever it was, I printed off some hexagon graph paper and grabbed the nearest colouring pencil and doodled. Over the Christmas holidays the sewing machine will go away and stay away for at least a week. Family and friends will be around. Piles of fabric placed willy nilly about the sewing dining room will not be happening.

With this in mind I thought it best that I start thinking about what sort of hand project I would like to start. As I am notoriously good at starting English paper piecing projects but not finishing them I thought it would be really nice to plan a huge epp project. A quilt size one. Silly not to.

Apologies for the fact that the nearest colouring pencil was gold.

I'm thinking an LV background and an undecided (but obviously strong) colour for the pattern. I am also thinking I favour a version of the pattern I've doodled on the right. Maybe there is a little more colouring time required while I tweak my idea. What do you think?

Meanwhile, my other constructive activity for today was to do a little bit of shopping. I have had to resist - out of the fact that I spent my money in London last weekend - most of the Black Friday sales. (Sob!) There are some good ones out there. But I did succumb to one, the 20% off of everything in the shop at Fluffy Sheep Quilting. Just use the code BlackSheep when you checkout. Cindy has the best Aurifil prices and with an additional 20% off I had to stock up. There may have been a number of other items that inadvertantly slipped into my basket while I was there. I've only got so much willpower after all. And they were really pretty fabrics!


Thursday 28 November 2013

Psychadelic Bird

Last night I sat and finished off my bird embroidery. When I first saw this pattern I wasn't sure that it appealed to me at all, but now with all the colours thrown in randomly (sort of the same way I quilt) I love it.

I used a smaller hoop to do the embroidery, and now need to go purchase a slightly larger hoop for finishing it off. Moving the small hoop around kind of bashed the hell out of my French knots but they still look okay(ish) if you don't look too close.

As said in an earlier post, I picked up this pattern at the FQ Retreat in the summer time. It did not come with a stitch guide so I just randomly chose stitches as I went along. I used French knots, backstitch, chain stitch, split stitch, stem stitch, lazy daisy, satin stitch and who knows what else. Mostly I used floss, but there are a couple of bits of Perle thrown in when I wanted a different colour. The majority of the time I used two strands, though I did do some single strand chain stitching, and all the French knots were single strand to keep them small.

I do find embroidery surprisingly relaxing and quick to do. I will have to have a poke around and see what else I can find in the way of patterns just hanging about waiting for me to pick them up.


Wednesday 27 November 2013


One of the benefits of having a million and one projects on the go is you never have to do the same thing two days in a row. You do, eventually, have to start finishing things though. Today was the day that my bunny embroidery needed to be turned into something useful.

One cushion, done. I used white linen for the borders and the backing. Wanted to keep it simple as the bunny is the star of the show. I debated about closures as I didn't have any long zips left, and my supply of aqua blue ones would have been entirely inappropriate for this project. As I debated internally, my eyes fell upon the ribbon I bought for the lavender bags and I instantly knew it was perfect for this.

I was also pleased with how my mitred corners came out in the white linen. It just seemed the right thing to do as there was not going to be any heavy stitching to hide seams, etc. All I did was top stitch around the white piecing.

The hardest bit was getting half decent photos. Everywhere is too damp and nasty to put something this pretty down on it, or lean it against. The trampoline surface was the only available thing that didn't make me cringe. Then there was the sun, welcome most of the time, but the shadows it cast when it was out were phenomenal. Though it did make the embroidery glow.

Yet another project I wish was on the FAL list. Surely someone somewhere has thought of a way of fudging that list by now!


Tuesday 26 November 2013

A Different Kind of Sewing?

I rediscovered my sewing machine today. It seems like ages since I sewed with it. Hand stitching has predominated around here. But I am determined to have my Christmas quilt finished in time for the holidays so I planted more trees at my Christmas Tree Farm.

And while I stitched I decicded on what I should do once all these triangles are together. Sashing? Borders? Or something completely different? You'll find out soon enough.


Monday 25 November 2013

Starting To Feel Like Christmas To Me

It's starting to feel like Christmas not because there is only one month to go, but because I spent my weekend being carefree and fun, and filling myself with that Christmas feeling in London. I went down to the city for a couple of nights with my mum and we crammed in as much as we possibly could. We stayed out in the Docklands, a place neither of us had ever been but which is far more accessible than thought, and I would happily return.

Once we had checked in we hopped on the river bus to return to the city centre as it was a beautiful day and a great way to see London from a different perspective. From there we wandered about leisurely, checking out the Christmas decorations.

I particularly loved that Eros in Piccadilly Circus was turned into a snow globe. And preferred Oxford Street's glittering globes to Regent Street's more commercial lighting.

Then we inadvertantly stumbled upon Liberty's Christmas shop. How did that happen? Bliss!

Saturday morning we headed off to check out various department store windows. My favourites were Hamley's (left), Harrod's (middle), and Fortnum & Mason (left).

We squeezed in some good food, surprise surprise, and some nice coffee breaks too (though I am more of a hot chocolate girl). And we went to see Dirty Dancing. OMG! It's been a long time since I've seen a man move his hips like that! (Enough said!)

Fortnum & Mason get the prize for the oddest stocking stuffers.

Yes, if you look closely, scorpians are included in two of those.

But Fortnum & Mason also had the nicest of Christmas-y things too. I succumbed to the musical biscuit tin, because doesn't everyone need a Christmas tin that plays Christmas music?

All too soon I had to return home, but we did our best to fill every minute that we were there, and it really did get me in the proper holiday spirit. Hope you all had fabulous weekends too.


Sunday 24 November 2013

A New Embroidery

I've been sorting out some of my sewing stuff and discovered more of the pre-printed panels for embroidery I got at the Retreat in the summertime. So I popped one in a hoop and got out the floss.

This is going to be one psychadelic bird by the time I am done!


Friday 22 November 2013


... of postcards has happened round here. I found that the first set of postcards I ordered from Moo! was almost finished and they have been the most useful item to have. So I ordered another set. 100 this time.

I got to include some new photos in this order, with an old favourite or two thrown in for fun. There are two that I am not so pleased with the colour (they seem a bit murky) but otherwise I am really happy. It is so much nicer now that I have these postcards to write a note whenever I send a parcel rather than the odd scraps of paper I used to write on.


* If you connected to Moo! through the above link and ordered anything I would receive credit towards future orders, just to be totally honest and up front.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Never Again

In our house you get asked what you would like to eat for your birthday dinner. It's just one of the perks. Only himself had a birthday on the weekend and when I asked him what he would like to eat he said Beef Wellington. Really?!!

I love him, but never again. No way, no how. I slaved over that thing. And still couldn't get it to cook right. Next year - slow cooked lamb shanks or something similar. I'm not asking. He is just getting. Remind me if I forget, please.

The girls both made himself a birthday present from each of them. I didn't get a photo of Emily's before hand but she made him juggling bags. Helen made him a cushion.

Scuba diving is one of his favourite activities.
She whipped up that cushion, design and all, in about an hour. I wish I had that kind of focus!

Meanwhile, I have been trying over the past few months, to get a better balance in life. I found that I had slippped into a pattern of spending too much time at the computer and one of the things that was being sacrificed was the reading of books. I have been a voracious reader all my life and it became imperative that I make time for it again. Most of my reading is done on the Kindle Reader app on my iPad but there is nothing like the tactile pleasure of a real, proper book.

I just finished The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading. The next book in line is one I won from the delightful Lucy. I am really looking forward to starting this one.

I'll be packing it this weekend because I won't be here. My mum is arriving in a couple of hours and on Friday morning we are running away to London for the weekend. Yay!


Monday 18 November 2013

Purple Yak Attack

Enough said...

... other than the fact that this was on my FAL list so that's another box ticked there. Woohoo!


Saturday 16 November 2013

Keeping It Small Round Here

I looked at a little scrap rectangle of linen sitting there all innocent the other night and decided I would put it to use. After a quick measure and a little trim I marked it out in six equal sized boxes and then got out the white floss again.

I chained pieced chain stitch hearts. (Can you chain piece with embroidery?) Then I pinned a little snippet of ribbon at the centre top of each one, cut some linen for the back, and then sewed a quarter inch on either side of all my lines.

I then unpicked the seams that went along the bottoms of all the little bags and did those ones again! Because they did need to be turned right side out. It wouldn't be a project from me without the ocassional brain fart. Anyway, eventually I had them all sewn up properly and I cut them apart, trimmed the corners and turned them using those convenient little gaps I left.

They are filled with lavender now and the bottoms are hand sewn shut.

So it smells really pretty in my house right now. Unless you get too close to the gerbils, but we wont discuss that right now.


Wednesday 13 November 2013

Placemats Finished

I have happily completed the placemats for my brother.

I bound them in four different colours of purple solids. And I backed them with some unbleached rough cotton. Here's the weird thing though. I almost think that these mats are reversible, because I really like the plain side too. The quilting keeps them from being totally boring and the binding frames them.

Maybe that is the side my brother should use when eating foods that have a propensity for staining. Just a thought.


Tuesday 12 November 2013

Embroidery Done

It goes to prove that even I, when push comes to shove, can have singleminded focus when necessary. So, I've sat and embroidered and mostly kept myself from distracting myself. The result is that the bunny embroidery is completed.

I really like doing embroidery. It is the first sewing I ever learned to do as a child. It's a bit like riding a bike, once you've learned you never forget. And, like hand quilting, it's the overall effect you are going for. Looked at individually the stitches are not perfect. But I think that bunny is pretty damn cute when you look at all the stitches put together.

It's made me want to do more embroidery. Not like I have placemats to complete, a Christmas quilt on the go, some secret Santa gifts to make, and, and, and...


Monday 11 November 2013

And The Next Gift Has Been Started

Nothing like the overseas posting thing to really light the fire under my a**e. I've got the next gift I am making well under way. Depsite all the Instagram jokes about bunnies being for Easter. I rather thought that bunnies had an appeal all year round. I certainly hope they do!

I copied the bunny pattern out of my Stitch with Love book. And set to it with the chain stitching. All was going well until I ran out of white floss. There shall be a temporary (very) pause while I get myself into town and source some more floss.


Sunday 10 November 2013

The Panic Is Kicking In

With the help of all those kind people on Instagram posting the number of days left until Christmas on a regular basis I have been gripped by the annual 'I've got to post things to Canada and I've not made anything yet' panic. So the making had begun. From now until whenever I need to focus on that, not me, as much as I possibly can.

I started with my brother - who doesn't read this blog - and it was easy to decide what to make for him. Because he asked for placemats. He told me his new dining room was dark green and the table a dark wood. I could have gone with this colour scheme (yeah, right) but felt that maybe the room could use a little lightening and brightening.

I dug around in my stash and emerged some time later, short of breath but happy, because I had come across some hand screened prints done by Ceri for her Brit Bee blocks in round two. I thought they provided just the whimsy and inspiration I required. I added some strips of bright solids and Kona snow, and some Stof white linen, and I got piecing.

One thing for sure, these will certainly stand out on a dark wood table. I managed to finish the piecing today, baste and quilt them in a circular pattern starting in the upper righthand corner. I rather hoped the quilting would bring to mind the heat of the sun coming down on a summers day, or ripples in water. Now, all these placemats require is binding.

And I am one step closer to completing my first Christmas present. There may be hope for me yet.


Thursday 7 November 2013

Long Ago and Far Away...

So I was in one of our cupboards this morning and I got distracted, by a big box of memories. From a life before digital cameras, before children, before marriage, just before. I hauled it out and there went my day.

There are the requisite photos of me when I was still a child. I thought some of you would get a kick out of my first ever Halloween costume, seen above.

But most of that box is filled with photographs and slides, taken in my travels, and then when I worked at sea on the cruise ships.

We have now have a scanner that will scan slides and I am intent on going through this box and turning some of these memories into digital memories as well. Today's photos are just what I snapped with my phone.

I think the girls will enjoy a good look through these as well. It has been a long time since this box has seen the light of day. They are the right age to appreciate that their mother had a life before she married and had children.

They might even appreciate that I was really skinny at one point!


Wednesday 6 November 2013

Confession Time

I received a box in the post yesterday. There might have been a little bit of fabric in it. Honestly, I blame IG, and those pop up sales. Westwood Acres, Knotted Thread and Pink Castle have a lot to answer for. A lot!

Shall we break it down a little bit?

Two bundles of Alison Glass.
A little bit more low volume.
A rainbow bundle,
and various FQs (several should be in the LV bundles actually).
Some half yards I couldn't resist,
and a charm pack of Katy Jump Rope.
And some scraps from my friend Di.
Emily already has her name on the Dr Seuss - especially The Grinch!
If you break it down into individual bundles it doesn't seem so bad, does it?! It wasn't my fault! Really, IG made me do it. That's my excuse, and I am sticking to it.


Tuesday 5 November 2013

I May Have Set A Record For Me

It may never happen again, but today I made my Stitch Tease bee blocks for November, remembered to make a siggie block (a small miracle in itself) and delivered them to the recipient. All today. Go me!

Okay, it may have helped that Ange came down to sit, chat and sew today. And she brought the book with the bee block pattern in it. And the pattern was super easy to do. Ignore all that, and let's just concentrate on the fact that I got them done and into the hands of the recipient well ahead of schedule.

I also finished the second round on the Brit Bee medallion quilt that I had for round two. We just sent off our stars to the next in line for this years bee, and I had Di's lovely star to add borders to. I can't show you the overall effect but a sneaky peek is allowed.

Obviously from the photos you can see it took me a little while to switch my brain on today, buy once I got going I was on a roll. I love a productive day. And I am not done yet. I still have over an hour until I have to pick the girls up from school. Tuesday is after school club day. So I am going to scoot off back to the sewing machine and see what else I can accomplish. Hope your day is going equally as well.


Sunday 3 November 2013

Ooops! I Did It Again

I started a new project. It isn't like the list of things to do is the length of my arm or anything. It's longer, I think. And I have firm intentions of getting right on with that list - tomorrow. Today I indulged myself.

Every house needs a Christmas quilt, don't they? I pulled out my precious F8 bundle of Aneela Hoey's Cherry Christmas, made some templates and got cutting. Before domestic chores like making dinner and the ironing pile interupted I got this far in the piecing.

This is going to be my Christmas Tree Farm quilt. If you look closely you will notice that not all the trees on the farm are growing at the same rate. There are still a lot more trees to plant, but I am rather happy with my little divergence from 'the list' today. Back to the necessary tasks in the morning.

I will be in the house alone tomorrow as the girls go back to school, half term having ended. I will even get more than ten minutes at a time on this computer again. Now there's a thought!


Friday 1 November 2013

Run Run, As Fast As You Can

I've been blogging for two Christmases now; this year will be the third. And each year I tell you about our family tradition of making masses of gingerbread cookies and decorating them. It was something that my mum did with my brothers and me when I was a child. As we grew into our teens we did not grow out of the tradition, rather we invited friends over to join in the decorating fun.

This year, I thought I would talk about it well before the actual fact occurs and give you the recipe - so if you decided it was a good idea you could start your own tradition in your house. The recipe will be posted up on the recipe tab at the top of my blog so it will be there whenever you would like.

This recipe is not for the faint hearted. It makes a lot, as in many, many cookies. But they are (a) tasty, (b) fun to put out when you are entertaining over the holidays, and (c) don't go stale and horrible, or soggy, as long as you store them well in a cookie tin. Just an idea of how much dough you get can be seen by how full my Kitchen Aid mixer gets when I am making it.

I tend to make the dough a couple of days in advance, and then form it into three discs, wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until we are ready for the cookie marathon. On the day we decorate I make royal icing as this is the icing that dries hard and is good for decorating and then stacking up in the cookie tin once they are dry. We empty the cupboards of every sprinkle and bit of edible glitter we have, put on the Christmas tunes and have a great time.

If you are feeling particularly ambitious then use some of the dough to make a gingerbread house. We have cookie cutters to help us achieve the desired shape, and like to smash up boiled sweets and put them in the window openings before baking to form 'stained glass' windows.

Though I must admit that making that gingerbread house stand up and stay standing up is a challenge that I struggle with. This year though I have a new card up my sleeve. I've purchased new cutters at Ikea. They slot the pieces of the house together so, theoretically, there won't be any houses falling down here abouts. Trust Ikea to come up with the flat packed gingerbread house.

I hope I haven't scared the pants off you talking about Christmas cookies so far in advance. I guess they were on my mind what with the recent new house cutters purchase. But if I have inspired you to join the fun, here's the recipe -

Gingerbread Dough

5 cups of plain flour
2 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
2 heaped tsp of ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (8 oz) shortening/margarine/butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup light molasses/treacle
1 egg

Combine dry ingredients. Beat shortening/butter and sugar. Add molasses/treacle and beat in. Add in egg and beat until incorporated. Add dry ingredients a cup at a time until all incorporated and a stiff dough is formed. Form into three discs, wrap well in plastic wrap and refridgerate for at least an hour to rest.

Preheat oven to 350F/180C/160 Fan/Gas Mark 4.

Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to approximately 1/8" thick. (The dough is hard to work with at first when chilled but it will become much more pliable soon enough. Have faith.) Cut out desired shapes and place on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, until golden brown. Decorate as desired once cooled. Enjoy!

If you try this recipe, I hope you enjoy it.