Thursday, 24 September 2015

Learning to knit

It was not long after I discovered the wonderful quilting community over on flickr (that subsequently led me to blogging and forging some fantastic friendships.) that I noticed that many quilters are also talented knitters. I've looked wistfully at peoples creations. Everything from lacy shawls to chunky cowls; comfy sweaters to cute beanie hats and wished that I wasn't so cack-handed when it came to knitting.

You see up until these past couple of weeks I could only ever do the knit stitch badly (and I learnt to cast off when I made some scarfs from that loopy mesh material.) I could not cast on. I could not purl and quite frankly 99% of knitting terminology was a complete and utter mystery to me. 

Of course my Mum had tried to teach me to knit over the years. She is not a teacher. She has no idea how to communicate to me how you do something and finds it hard to correct my mistakes without picking up the knitting and just putting it right - which isn't a great way to learn. I confess on previous knitting attempts there were dropped stitches, gained stitches (if I'd poked the needle through the yarn) and tension that got so tight that Mum used to look if she was wrestling when she tried to get knitting needles into stitches to correct it. To be fair Mum was never a knitter. She made me a beautiful royal blue ballet wrap cardigan when I started ballet and refused to wear pink because it was just too girly! I also remember my teddy Walter being cold and in the space of a few hours she knitted him up a pair of navy tights and red jacket and a very fetching pixie hat with some left over bits of wool. She never did adult sized garments or fancy patterns or colour work. She'll admit she much preferred embroidery. Knitting was a skill she had the basics of, but had little inclination to develop.

I never persevered with learning to knit because I was so bad at doing the knit stitch and unable to master anything else. And quite frankly even at a young age I knew if I knitted, I wanted to make things that had pretty stitches and colours; not just knit stitch everything. I just didn't have the patience to try and improve and then learn skills that my Mum could not begin to teach me and all this was before the days of You Tube how-to Videos.

A chance comment on Instagram a few weeks ago led me to two fantastic offers from Helen of Archie the Wonderdog. (One offer will be saved for a future post.) The other offer was she was convinced she could teach me to knit. No mean feat considering she lives closer to Chief than she does to me and the learning process was all going to be done online (unless Chief could ever get me up there for an afternoons knitting session!) Mum looked vaguely amused when I told her. (and was more likely thinking Helen was going to need a medal by the end of it all!) She has been very impressed with my progress. The first cast on method I learnt was one she'd never seen before. 

In the past week I've learnt:  that yarn bands are full of useful (not mysterious information.) That needle size is important. That purl stitch is not half as hard as I always thought it must be and by knowing the knit stitch and the purl stitch you can create other patterns and stitches. I've learnt to cast on by two different methods.  I've also sorted most of my tension issues of old and my first practise piece had me finish a ball of wool from the charity shop! If I go wrong (and I have done.) I only have to tell Helen what's gone wrong and she's been able to talk me through what I've done.  Knitting is not an intuitive process for me. I am that person that needs to be told things like where the yarn needs to start or finish off. But despite any errors, I am having so much fun. I've placed two three yarn orders now and I've finished my first ever wash cloths. I am not hoarding yarn though. I've bought stuff from sale bins for specific projects and intend to continue this way, so I don't have to try storing a yarn collection as well fabric.

I have cast on for the first time ever!

When I was waiting for my first yarn order to arrive I did whip up a project bag using fabric from stash and my scraps bin. I think I may need a couple of these!

Project bag

I started off knitting a ball of wool from the charity shop in knit stitch. Then my first wool order arrived and I did some face cloth knitting. But seeing as I don't wash my face I was itching to try something else that I would use and I started my first scarf - I even made up my own pattern! I finished the scarf last night and currently it's been washed and 'blocked'. (Another learning curve for me.) Hopefully in a future post I can show you me modelling it.

Two completed wash cloths
Two simple wash cloths 

My first 'proper' scarf
my first scarf finished!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The last weekend of Summer?

I put socks on to go to book group this week. It's the first time in ages that I've decided that I need proper footwear and not sandals or flip-flops. Socks were a must. Another reminder that summer is coming to an end. Sunday morning the heating (that has been turned down so low it won't come on all summer) came on and woke me up at stupid o'clock in the process. Any day that feels warm and sunny is a blessing and I've been trying to make the most of it.

Saturday I was in a real funk. I actually woke up on Saturday morning and didn't want to get out of bed I felt so low. I wanted to pull the covers back over my head and forget about everything. I did get up and did the usual food shop and then came home and watched rubbish repeats on TV. Eventually I decided I needed to get out with my camera. Lacking motivation I struggled to come up with anywhere to go and didn't feel like expending much energy. I ended up taking Mum and my camera out for a drive. There were so many lovely things I could have photographed, however they always seemed to be in places with no where to park safely. Many of the roads I ventured down were single track. Luckily across the bridge from this mill house there was a pull in and I managed to walk back over the bridge and take a few snaps.

Cuddesdon Mill 

  Bridge of the R.Thame at Cuddesdon

Cows at Cuddesdon

Sunday was bright, warm and sunny and the funk of Saturday had passed so I decided to get some late summer colour ideas for the garden by taking a trip to Waterperry Gardens.  Mum and I had a lovely wander around the gardens.  Thankfully she doesn't mind my constant stopping to take pictures.

Waterperry Gardens in September

September at Waterperry Gardens

  September at Waterperry Gardens

September at Waterperry Gardens

September at Waterperry Gardens

September at Waterperry Gardens

September at Waterperry Gardens

Waterperry Gardens in September

As you can see Waterperry Gardens have plenty of colour right now. Mum bought a couple of Michaelmas Daisies from the nursery and I treated myself to a pair of earrings in The Gallery (a sort of posh craft gallery.) As it was getting near lunch time Mum and I stopped on for lunch. Although, as those who follow me on IG will know, I was not impressed when I sat down with our lunch (collected from the servery) and Mum pointed out a sign on the tables asking people to clear their tables. Don't get me wrong in many establishments I clear my table without being asked. Every time I'm in a MacDonald's type place, or at a greasy spoon type cafe. The week before at the local PYO I walked back inside with our crockery from the outside seating area and even deposited rubbish in the bin as I went. However, the big difference between any of those kinds of places and Waterperry tea shop is the prices. You see Waterperry have a captive audience. There isn't a pub or cafe for miles so if you're out for the day and haven't bought your own lunch, you're going to end up in their cafe. The food is OK. The cake is not cheap and not as nice as it used to be.  I've never had a bad quiche and as Chief says it's the sort of place that you have to like salad because everything comes with salad. I once made the mistake of ordering a roast (rare to see a fully cooked, no salad meal) and I wasn't sure whether to persist in trying to cut the tough beef or re-sole my shoes with it. To my mind if you're going to charge nearly £8.00 for a jacket potato and a small serving of lettuce, tomato and cucumber side salad you should be bringing that hot food to my table not making me queue for it and then expect me to clear away the table afterwards. As it was the racks for the used trays were full (well there was one space at ground level in one of the trolleys. I wasn't about to try bending down to floor level carrying a tray of crockery.) As a protest I stacked my crockery on the tray and left it on the table. I could see quite a few staff members milling about; I'm sure they coped with my militant actions. I'm in no hurry to go back and eat there. 

Still, it didn't spoil our trip out and as the sun was still shining when I got home I sat in the garden and finished my book. I am hoping to do a whole post to catch you up on my latest reads as I know the book recommendations were a popular part of my 10 things posts and I've probably got 10 books to tell you about!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

So what have I been sewing?

You could be forgiven for thinking that my summer has either been spent gadding about or reading. And to be fair, a lot of it has. However, I've also managed some sewing too. Not nearly as much as I'd have liked; although enough to show my mojo has not gone away entirely. Curiously though (apart from buying some destash fabrics from Kerry last night). I have not been remotely interested in buying fabric for months. Of course I've looked (and noticed the slight increase in fabric prices since I last had a splurge.) only nothing has tempted me enough to hit the purchase button. I'm so conscious I need to use what I have and to that mind I'm hoping that quite a few Christmas presents this year will be hand made.

First up I made the large size of the open wide pouch by Noodlehead. I'd wanted a new wash bag that was flexible enough to fit into overnight bags without taking up loads of space. However, the large one turned out to be huge, so I might use it to keep my make up in. (At the moment it's housing some complimentary biscuits packets and other travel size foody items ready to decant into Gertie should we ever go away.)

The fabric choices were dictated by the nylon ripstop fabric I had already in my stash which I used for the lining. It was the same dark green as the green in the hare/rabbit fabric.   I decided to use that fabric along with some Essex Linen in a more neutral fabric to match the zip and co-ordinate with my other fabric. I thought by using the ripstop fabric I'd make the bag at least wipe proof, if not fully waterproof. It wasn't nearly as hard to sew with in this project as I'd feared.

New wash bag for travels or maybe to hold my make up stash when home. It's the large size #openwidepouch and I used nylon ripstop fabric to make it easier to keep clean inside. #noodlehead

Next up I made a brush roll for my cosmetic brushes. I bought the purple set of real techniques brushes from Ebay last year after I'd used my nieces on holiday. I didn't much like the black case they'd come in and after having my niece do my makeup this year on holiday I decided to buy some of the orange brushes from Amazon and make my own brush roll. I made the design up as I went along and apart from needing some fabric tape to tie the roll up I used everything else from my stash and am so pleased with how it turned out. It took parts of 3 fat quarters and a little left over wadding from quilt making. I'm thinking I should make my niece one for her brushes and put it in with her Christmas presents. When it gets grubby I can just put it in the wash.

Finally made the brush roll

Brush roll exterior #madebyme

Next up I made the smallest open wide pouch style to keep personal stuff in my desk drawer. Being the only female in a male environment I am often only reminded I'm female if something negative happens. Even the most enlightened of colleagues/bosses can have their sexist or inconsiderate moments. Anyway because I'm not in a mixed or female office environment I have to say I mainly forget to be girly. I think women often make the effort around other women not for men's benefit. Where as a woman might notice if I've not bothered to put make up on, you're average man rarely will, or certainly won't comment on it if he does. I've decided I need to value myself a bit more and that's about little things like using the lovely perfume I have (not forgetting until it goes rancid and I throw it out.), bothering with hand cream and body lotion.  I thought I'd keep a few essentials in my desk drawer, so when I'm feeling a bit jaded and down and certainly not female, I can have a little pick me up.

Even the small size is deceptively roomy and I haven't ruled out switching this out for a smaller style of pouch and using this for chargers when I travel. It's so handy to be able to wrangle camera and phone chargers rather than have them snag amongst delicates in the suitcase. Again the fabric choices were dictated by the zips I had to hand. (I've never got the right size zip in the right colour!) I have just last night placed an order for more zips. Since I started a huge bedroom declutter I've decided I need more pouches to store things in drawers etc. I'm sure in the next few weeks I'll be making lots more pouches.

Latest sewing

My most recent sewing took me a couple of months of procrastinating and then once I started I had trouble stopping. I'm a PIP a little mini bee organised by Lynz which is proving to be not only low stress but lots of fun and I'm fortunate to be sewing with some lovely talented ladies. In PIP we've all sent a block on to the next person who will add another block and send it on and so on. It's not a traditional round robin and we're keeping the blocks small. The first block I received was from Ethene and she went for a non square curvy improv. She also sent along some of the fabric in the first block so we can all include a little in our blocks to tie all the blocks together.

Ethene's block is on the left and my addition is on the right. It was all very improv although I knew I wanted a curve or two (which I find challenging to think about and easier to just do!). 

Playing with fabric

I've just received the next block I have to add to and I'm hoping I don't take the full allowance of making time to decide exactly what I'm going to do with it!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Hello. Remember me?

I think this is possibly the longest break I've had from blogging. I'm not sure how many people noticed I'd gone because I've still been relatively active on flickr and facebook and I've been super active on instagram. The 10 things posts definitely fell by the way side and even though I started a post before about what I'd been up to it's languishing unfinished in the drafts folder. I have to say the longer I've left things the harder it's been to get back to blogging. It's felt like I have stuff to fill 50 posts and where do I start?

So I've decided to start with a recap of why things have gone quiet.

Chief and I had our first trip abroad together. A coach trip to Amsterdam. Way back in July now. Can you believe it, but a few days before we were due to leave I got properly sick. A horrid heavy cold/flu type lurgy and it was touch and go as to whether I'd be up for travelling. I'm not great with travel especially when I'm not well. We discussed options should we have to cancel, which involved Chief going by himself! But in the end I dosed up on tablets (including travel sickness pills.) and we started our adventure. We were going by coach but it wasn't like I had to drive the thing! It all went fabulously well. Even though it took about 15 hours of travelling to get from Oxford to Amsterdam. I figure if I can cope with that whilst being ill I can cope with further more adventurous travel! We had a lovely time. And I have started a blog post about the trip and hopefully I'll get around to blogging more fully about the trip sometime!

The whistle stop version is:  I want to go back to Amsterdam. I loved what I saw of The Netherlands and the best bit about Belgium was the waffles and chocolate.

  Ostende, Belgium
Best Belgian Waffle I've ever had - nutella and

I didn't think so much of our stop off in Ostend such a contrast to Amsterdam. Chief didn't think much to the one night we spent in a hotel in France which was basic to say the least, although we had lovely walks before and after dinner around the pretty town of Gravelines. I absolutely loved putting together a holiday photo book with blurb. Which I rushed to do when they sent me a 50% off voucher code!

Amsterdam Adventure

I was exhausted after our trip, yet couldn't rest on my laurels for too long as then we had our annual family trip to Bournemouth. My brother and his wife stayed at the hotel for a night with us too. Then we had the usual three generations kind of fun with my Mum, Niece and I doing things like shopping, beach walking, playing crazy golf and card games in the hotel bar after evening meals. We had Chiefs underwater camera this year and had so much fun in the hotel pool with that. I had my own personal stylist as niece did my make up and hair before dinner each day. She is way better at beautification than I am!

Underwater Camera - Bournemouth
We had so much fun in the water with the camera. I can't
swim properly, but I am the only family
member that keeps eyes open under water.
Bournemouth - Underwater camera fun

I was due to go away with Chief for a weekend a week or so after Bournemouth. To spend my first night in Gertie. Chief was going to arrange accommodation either in Dorset or the Cotswolds and I was so excited to be off on my travels again. Then disaster struck. The Friday before I got a text from Chief telling me he was in the med centre and would ring later. He was on exercise. Not entirely sure where. (He did tell me I lose track. Yorkshire-ish I think.) Anyway, he'd collapsed and they thought he had exhaustion and they were keeping him in over night. He was destined to spend most of the next day - his birthday in the med centre and they ruled he had a 'chill in his kidneys' which I laughed at when he told me because what kind of 21st century diagnosis is that? Any how, long story short. He's had an untreated kidney infection, which turned serious due to lack of treatment and has pneumonia again. This time in a different location and lung! He got very dehydrated because he hasn't been able to keep food or liquids down. He's on a stack of meds still and struggles to get his breath so is exhausted all the time. The doctor keeps reminding Chief he came very close to dying. I haven't seen him since our Amsterdam trip and I doubt I'll be seeing him any time soon let alone going away.

So the weekend we were due to be going away I decided a staycation was in order and that's a whole other blog post. I also have to blog about all the great books I've been reading and yes, there has even been sewing!

Friday, 10 July 2015

10 Things: Week 27

1. Read: I put Strangers by Rosie Thomas to one side because I found out the next book group choice was The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. Now whilst I'd recognise the paperback cover of this book anywhere I knew nothing about it. Anyway, the moment I went on Amazon to buy it for my kindle and found out it was set in Amsterdam I started reading it. I was hooked and had the book finished within 24 hours. It was an enjoyable read but...Oh I can't say without giving away spoilers. Lets just say there was an element to the story that I'd have liked to have been explained a little better and not left so mysteriously. Maybe that's just me liking neat resolutions all round. Then I decided to get on with Re-reading The Diary of Anne Frank. This is a book I'd not read since school. I don't recall it being quite so dull as it was. But then again she was trapped for two years in an attic with the same people it didn't exactly give her a lot of different stuff to write about. That said it's incredibly poignant and moving given history tells us exactly how things would end for Anne and her family. Next I was going to read: Girl with a Pearl Earring only I was not about the pay that price for a kindle book (Unless I have to get a book for book group I limit the amount I'll spend on kindle books.) so opted for Amsterdam Calling by...forgotten! And I haven't read much so I'll tell you more about that another time.

Summerhouse reading

You're probably wondering why all the Amsterdam centric reading? Well Chief and I are off on a coach trip there shortly. I'm excited and nervous all at once because I'm not a great traveller and don't want to get ill and exhausted. On the plus side I'm visiting three new to me countries.

2. Made: I could resist no longer the urge to make a Luna Lapin! These have been popping up all over my IG feed and they are beyond adorable. I think she deserves her own blog post though so I'll just leave you a teaser picture here. If you can't wait until that blog post you can buy your own Luna Lapin kit from Coolcrafting.

Ok so making me pose like this is so undignified! #lunalapin 

3. Watched: I got the whole family hooked on The Syndicate. My niece keeps asking me what I'm watching on TV because I've given her some good recommendations lately. Although I told her last week she wouldn't cope with The Walking Dead and she apparently decided during episode one it was just too much for her! I am watching Odyssey on catch up (BBC2 Sunday 9pm) It sort of reminds me of Homeland before they killed off the best character. (Which was all the more gutting for me as a good friend put a spoiler on facebook, which told everyone this had/was going to happen and so ruined the last episode for me.) I'm loving all the different linked plot lines and conspiracy stuff.

4. My Garden/Flowers: I'm still getting lovely compliments about my garden, I keep seeing all the weedy bits that need attention!

5. Fish and Chips: Which were lovely at the time and I've regretted eating every since!

6. Visited: I had a walk through the grounds of my old school which had a wild flower meadow planted last year.

A walk through the Park

7. Recommended: This week it has to be Coolcrafting for their excellent kits like Luna Lapin.

8. Stash: In 4 fat quarters Out: 0

Sale pretties

9. Birds: It's not the best time for birding as many birds are feeding young and those finished with that are starting to moult. This means they lose feathers and look quite scraggy. It also makes them more vulnerable to predation so they keep out of sight even more than usual.

10. And finally...this is the most important bit in this whole blog post and it would be great if you could share about this on any social media you're involved with.   Elsie is the daughter of a very old school friend of mine. We go way back to primary school. Unfortunately little Elsie is in desperate need of a blood stem cell donation. Getting a match for anyone is so difficult which is why as many people as possible need to go on the register. Think of it like this: Elsie really needs to win this lottery and the more people on the register the more tickets Elsie has in the draw.  I was completely ignorant about stem cell donation. I'd heard of bone marrow donations and how invasive this is and I'd also heard on the news that if you were over 30 you couldn't go on the register anyway(and I believe this is the case for the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Register.) However, blood stem cell donation is a whole different prospect. It's a bit like giving blood and you do it as an out patient and don't even have to have a general anaesthetic for it.  The age limit for registration is a lot higher. It goes even higher if you already give blood because you can register at the blood donation centre. What is making it even more difficult to get a match for Elsie is that the number of mixed race people signing up is not very high. Elsie is mixed race because her mother is white and her father is Indian.

So I would really really appreciate if you could watch the you tube video and if you're on facebook check out the page and share amongst your friends. @AMatchForElsie is the twitter thingy. If you're able to join the register that would be beyond fabulous. Imagine if you were a match for Elsie or someone else and all it took was a few hours in hospital undergoing a procedure that's a lot like giving blood and at the end of it you could save someones life.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

10 Things: Week 26

1. Read: I have moved away from my kindle of late because it's developed an annoying fault that I can't seem to solve. Despite trying various things on forums. Basically it's taken to freezing. I'm unable to move on to the next page or go back or do anything else. Necessitating a reboot. Then when it comes back online it's not remembered where I read to. Frustrating if I have to click through a lot of pages to find my place since it logged it before. I'm trying to remember to keep coming out of the book so it saves my place on a regular basis. But it is frustrating. I even left the device to see what would happen if I didn't reboot it. Would the home screen saver come on? Would it start working again? No, it just rebooted itself and my place was still lost! So I've moved on to The Telling Error by Sophie Hannah. I have mixed feelings about Sophie Hannah books. I find I devour them quite quickly but they do tend to make my brain spin with all the detailed character analysis. There is invariably a (female) character that I can't stand. This was a gift though so I felt obliged to read it. Next I've moved on to Strangers by Rosie Thomas. It's about two people that go out Christmas shopping first thing in the morning and get caught up in a terrorist bomb blast. Having never met before they find themselves laying beneath rubble in the basement of the store, only able to touch each others fingers and taking comfort in each others presence. They talk to each other. Tell them the secrets of their lives and hearts. I can't wait to see where this goes.

Latest read

2. Made: I am lucky enough to be part of a sort of bee-come-swap over on flickr. PIP: Project in Progress. Suggested by my lovely Scottish Twin Lynz because quite a few of us miss the way we interacted on the old style flickr. I've stayed with flickr, but am conscious that many people found it just too difficult from their various devices and I firmly believe that the changes in our lovely sewing community first started when we didn't have the cohesive base of flickr to hold us all together. Anyway, PIP is going to be a round robin swap where we all make small blocks of our choosing and send them on to be added to - whether that's an addition in the form of a new block or some embellishment to the existing ones. It's a cracking bunch of talented ladies in this group and we're already inspiring and bouncing ideas off each other. For my first block I couldn't help but want to do something bird related. So I made a reduced scale Anna Maria Horner feather. I reduced the two page pattern so it would fit on one page. It still seemed too big so I reduced that so it fitted on half a page. It made for some fiddly piecing and I messed the first feather I attempted up because I taped a pattern piece to another and I shouldn't have done. I only realised my mistake too late to sensibly put it right. But being such a quick block I decided to start over.

This is my #pip piece so far. Too small at mo so I'm contemplating adding to it #feather 

3. Watched: The second episode of Black Work. Seeing that Sheridan Smith was in the lead role and everything she's touched of late seems to be golden I had high expectations of this series. But by episode two I'm thinking: Hmmm haven't we seen this all before with different characters?

4. My Garden/Flowers: My garden is looking weedy. I need to find the time to get out and dig up the clumps of this pale green grass that seems to be invading parts of the borders. Seeding itself right in the middle of plants I'd really rather save. However, I fear I need to dig them up and risk losing them to eradicate this perennial invader.

5. Eaten: My brother and Niece invited Mum and I to a BBQ. I think niece had the idea in her head because I said I'd never seen her dads new gas BBQ bought mid-season last year. She was convinced we'd been down for a BBQ last year and I said we hadn't. Bro did us proud with yummy sides and great BBQ food.

BBQ cooking


 6. Visited: My brother has a totally different style of garden to mine. He likes neat and tidy and order. His garden looks excellent though. Although he still thinks it's not at its best. I've never know anyone get hosta's looking as good as he does. It was like visiting a show garden. Ironic thing is my brother does not like gardening. But he's motivated to do it because he likes a nice garden.

stripy lawn

Bro's Garden

Bro's Garden

Move over alan titmarsh. Bros got green fingers

More corners of bros garden 

7. Recommended: Eating outside. It doesn't matter what it is it'll taste better in the fresh air. Well I think so anyway.

8. Stash: In: 0 Out: Scraps.

9. Birds: Nothing of note to report.

10. And Finally...I seem to be taking more pics on Instagram than ever before so if you want to check out the random stuff I post over there I'm isisjem there too.

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!