Saturday, 24 January 2015

Grow Your Blog - Good Intentions

2 Bags Full

Welcome to anyone visiting via GYB 2015. I hope you enjoy your visit.
I had the date for the party post on my diary and as I was having a full week at my daughter's house before the date I had plenty of time to write an interesting post once I had taken the children to school. Well, dear readers, it wasn't to be!

I arrived here in Wiltshire to find my son-in-law burning up with a fever in bed so I made him drinks and gave him Paracetamol to get his temperature down. He looked ghastly but was determined not to miss the flight to Jamaica. The next morning my grandson had a temperature of 39° so he had to stay home from school for three days until his temperature dropped. On Thursday I started with the same thing and felt awful. My husband Mike took over the school run and I am writing this in bed on Saturday morning at the last minute.

2014 was an exciting year for me. It was my first year of blogging about my new hobby of quilting and as I took so many classes and courses there was plenty to write about. In the run up to Christmas I have concentrated more on my knitting and crochet. I've learnt new skills and made many new friends both in the real world and on the net. I also include posts on family life, the occasional book review and recipe.

So, maybe I should tell you a little about myself: I am a 61 year old wife to Mike, mother to 2 daughters and a step-daughter who between them have 6 children. I don't feel like an old-fashioned granny though. I like to keep active and interested in life. I love crafting, reading, family history, foreign travel, listening to music, cooking and gardening as well as spending time with friends and family. I was a nurse, midwife and pharmaceutical rep in my working life. I married a doctor and all three daughters are doctors and one is also married to a doctor so we have most bases covered medically! Mike and I live in the Vale of Glamorgan near the coast in South Wales in the UK. Our house is a converted stone barn on a farm that was in existence 500 years ago. We don't farm the fields but Mike keeps bees and we grow plenty of soft fruit as well as damsons, pears and apples for our own use.
The view down the garden from the house
Last weekend I attended a day course on Bargello with the marvellous Judi Mendellsohn, past editor of British Patchwork and Quilting magazine. The class were asked to bring a jelly roll with a good variation on light and dark tones. I used about 22 strips from the roll and discarded the colors I did not think would work. The jelly roll is Atelier by 3 Sisters for Moda.

The finished top is 40x29.5" so I may add a narrow fillet of red then the brown fabric as a border to make a lap quilt. While I like the finished pattern I am not too sure I will do any more Bargello work. All that straight line stitching was fairly boring- although it did come together very quickly. That is the beauty of one day classes. They provide a taster of new techniques without a huge amount of outlay. Over the past year I've discovered that I'm a piecer; I love EPP and appliqué. I'm trying to improve my quilting skills but I am struggling with my Brother machine and would love to upgrade. I am ADDICTED to fabric and yarn.

A few of my highlights from 2014:

I try to blog weekly or at least fortnightly but I will not write a post unless something interesting has happened. I do not sell stuff or make to order. I quilt, sew, knit and crochet for the love of it and give to my friends and family. I'm not interested in getting sponsorship for my blog and do not see it as a business enterprise but as a record for me and a chance to meet new friends.

I would like to offer a giveaway to say thank you for reading through my blog.
The prize is this cute quilted wall hanging kit. The wallhanging would be a super gift for a new baby or small child.

 The giveaway will close on Sunday February 15th  to give you all lots of time and is open to anyone. I will post anywhere in the world so no excuses not to enter. All I ask is that you leave a comment below telling me what attracts you to a blog (is it photos, content, variety etc?) Please check you are not a "no reply" blogger or leave an email address in your reply if you prefer.

I really appreciate your comments and the fact that you have read through until the end. If you have the time please take a look through some of my older posts to get more of a flavour of my blog. I hope that some of you might become good blogging friends too!

I would like to thank Vicki of 2 Bags Full for running the Grow Your Blog 2015 party. I'm sure it will be just as successful as last year.


Friday, 9 January 2015

A late start to my 2015 blogging.....

2015 almost started with a bang; or should I say a major incident which has shaken me up quite a bit.

Our house, an old stone built barn, is at the end of a single track lane with high hedges on both sides. We have neighbours and we are all aware of the dangers of driving too fast along the lane. On January 2nd I decided I needed a few bits and bobs from the supermarket and so I set off after breakfast. I was tootling along the lane when the postman appeared around the corner. I slammed on my brakes and was almost stopped but the van kept coming. When people say that your life flashes before your eyes I have never believed it but it does! Suddenly the van mounted the bank to the right and flipped over onto it's roof. I felt sick and could not take in what had happened. After a few seconds, when I had figured out how to use the phone, I rang 999 and my husband. The van had landed a few feet from the front of my car. I moved my car back a few yards as I was so worried that the impact might cause the van to explode.

Within a couple of minutes my husband arrived and checked on the driver. He was conscious and able to answer questions. The paramedics came followed some time later by 3 fire engines, the ambulance and police. The driver was cut from the van and taken to hospital where it was found that he had no injuries apart from bruising and whiplash. What an amazing escape for him.
However the whole thing left me shaken and tearful for the next few days. I suppose one thinks of what might have happened.
So, excuses over, I'm back to my blog.

I know it is customary to start with a review of the last year but I am keeping that for my next post which will be linked to Grow your Blog 2015 on January 24th.

I've not managed to get my sewing machine out since the van incident. I'm not concentrating well at all so I have decided to do a few knitting projects to keep me occupied. The first one is a Bunny Girl in a Spotty Dress. The pattern is available from Julie on the Little Cotton Rabbits website. I made one some time ago that went to live in Thailand with my friend's granddaughter. The project is a bit fiddly with lots of seams but I love her to bits. It's also a great way to use up leftover yarns.

I used Malabrigo Merino Worsted in Chapel Stone for the body and Rowan Wool Cotton 4 ply for the dress, tights and shoes. Julie provided lots of tips on the pattern for stuffing the head to get a good shape but I have possibly over-stuffed the arms a bit. She is now put aside to add to a certain little girl's birthday presents.

My second project is the Cosy Blanket from Attic24 which is coming along quite nicely but I have no photos yet.

Lastly, I am challenging myself to knit a pair of socks. Despite knitting for years and years I have never felt the need to knit socks but as there are such beautiful yarns available (and sock knitting is all the rage on Ravelry) I decided to have a go. My yarn is the 4 ply sock yarn from The Old Piggery and is a hand-dyed 50/50 mix of merino and tencel in the Petunia colourway.

I'll be having a break until I have to post for the blog party on the 25th. The house looks like it has been blitzed with the various combinations of visitors over the Christmas/ New Year period and it will have to be tackled.

I hope you all have a wonderful, uneventful, New Year.

Linking up to Freshly Finished Friday, a brand new Friday link party at hardknitlife run by Jenna
Also linking to:


Saturday, 13 December 2014

Christmas is coming

You know that feeling when you know projects are not going to get finished in time? That Christmas quilt you imagined lying over the back of the sofa; the table mats for Christmas morning? Well, I've decided to let go and say they won't be finished for this year. I've given it my best shot but life has got in the way. An elderly aunt passed away and we will be travelling to her funeral next week. This will mean 7 hours driving in one day starting at 5am.
I was feeling a bit panicky about the projects but have decided to finish off the handmade gifts I was knitting instead. I have finished off one Tiny Tea Leaves cardigan for Lexie. I made the size 6 years for her as she has just turned 5 but I think it has turned out too large so I will be putting it in the drawer until next year. I blogged about it here.

While we were in northern France last week I found a delightful new yarn shop in Montreuil called "Un point, c'est tout" at 48, Rue d'Hérambault, Montreuil-sur-mer. This is the first time I have had to use my school girl French to buy wool, needles and buttons. All quite technical terms but somehow we managed.

The shop stocks a wide range of yarns from Bérgere de France. I love their yarns but they are quite expensive in the UK so of course I was tempted. I chose a new yarn with sequins called Miroir - the color is Rose Pastel, a beautiful pale pink. It is 41% wool with some acrylic and polyester added. The sequins are tiny and just catch the light. I bought 6 balls and some beautiful silver buttons with tiny flowers for a size 4 party Tiny Tea Leaves. I have not found a shop with such a range of buttons in the UK. It always seems a shame to finish a garment with boring buttons so if anyone knows of a good source please let me know.

I started the new cardi as soon as we arrived home. The yarn knits up quite well but has a tendency to split. It feels a bit like knitting with a cotton yarn which is a bit odd but looks lovely with the twinkly sequins. I just have to knit the second front band and the sleeves. I think I am getting the hang of this top down knitting now and I was so pleased with my first attempt at knitting the sleeves on double pointed needles. I hope to finish the second sleeve this weekend so I can wash and block in time to include the cardi in with the other presents.

This is my current bedtime reading. It is atmospheric, well written and set in the wilds of North Cumbria.

My last project is Isobel's Little Honey cardigan just needs sewing together, washing and blocking. It will be a busy weekend. Photo in the New Year.
                  I'd like to wish anyone who takes the time to read my ramblings a very 
Happy Christmas 
and peace and prosperity in 2015.

This will be my last post before Christmas as next week will be ever so slightly manic. Enjoy yourselves in whatever way pleases you most and I'll see you in the New Year.


I'm linking to Wool on Sundays, #knityourlist with Tin Can Knits, and yarn-along(next Wednesday).

Friday, 28 November 2014

A Friday Finish for me at last!

Hello everyone and Happy Thanksgiving to all my American quilting and knitting friends. I hope you are having a wonderful time with your families and friends gathered round. I am a teeny bit jealous and then again a teeny bit glad I don't have to organise another family feast. Christmas is probably enough for me.

Tuesday was the last class of our cutting mat bag course. It has been great to sew with some lovely ladies and a shame it has come to an end. I have spent this afternoon putting the final touches to my effort and I am just waiting for the varnish to dry on the handles to take a photo. They should be dry by the time I post this on Friday. The bag has pockets for a 24x6" ruler, a 12' x 12" ruler, a rotary cutter, a notebook and a 24' x 18" cutting mat. All the pockets are lined and quilted before attaching to the bag. We have appliquéd, patched and foundation pieced the various blocks before embellishing them. It was a lot of work but I am pleased with the result. I blogged about the bag here.
Guess who likes Kaffe Fassett and saturated colour? - me! I used Kaffe Fassett shirt stripes for the linings and binding, Benartex Essential Gradations for the maple leaves, Wickerweave for the background and various Kaffe Fassett prints for the flowers and stars.

Mike has made the sloe gin this year. We picked the sloes (blackthorn berries) in late September. Blackthorn has lethal thorns and they have to be picked so carefully. They were frozen then put in Kilner jars of gin until this week. The freezing means that the sloes do not have to be pricked for the gin to penetrate and for the flavours to mingle. The colour is glorious. The recipe does not need the best gin. We used bog standard supermarket brand gin. Mike added the sugar after decanting the gin from the berries and warmed it slightly to dissolve (Do NOT boil the alcohol off!) This saves the shaking of the sloes every few days and the sugar is added to taste. I find most commercial sloe gin too sweet so our is just sweet enough. Very fruity and warming. It is all bottled up and we might give a bottle or two away as presents.

Tomorrow I am attending a class on machine and free motion quilting. I have been practising and I think I am getting better but I need all the help I can get.

Have a wonderful weekend, especially to my dear friends Margaret and Colin whose son is getting married.


Linking up to: TGIFF and  Can I get a whoop whoop?,

Monday, 24 November 2014

Stir Up Sunday, the start of the Christmas season.

Stir up Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent and is so called because of the Collect in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549.

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Traditionally this was the day for the making of Christmas Pudding but I'll let you in on a secret. I marinated the fruit on Friday and steamed the pudding on Saturday as the pudding requires 8 hours steaming and it was more convenient to steam when I was not cooking Sunday lunch. I use the Delia Smith recipe from her Christmas Cookbook. I love all the spicy smells and the traditional stirring and wishing. The pudding has now cooled and been put away to mature for Christmas Day.

I've been trying to finish off a few bits and pieces. I finally finished the Christmas Stocking for Bee Hive. All the members of Bee Hive are making them and they are to be donated to the children's ward in a local hospital. The front is quilted and the back has a simple star appliqué.

I am a bit behind with my "homework" for the cutting mat bag class. I have to make 12 maple leaf blocks as a panel and have only managed 8 before running out of background fabric so I've placed an urgent order and I hope it will be delivered for Tuesday morning.

I've removed the machine tacking out of the stems and stitched them down since the photo.

Last week I had the great pleasure of attending a class in Cheadle Hulme near Manchester at Patchfinders with Lucy Brennan of Charm About You. The shop has a fantastic fabric selection and I will be visiting it next time I am in the area.
Lucy was brilliant and the day passed too quickly. She was teaching the Japanese +x quilt block. I had been a bit concerned about my fabric choices as they were quite far out of my comfort zone but I am pleased with the 6 blocks I completed. It might have been more if I had not chatted as much.
This will not be the final layout!

I will put this project on hold until the New Year as there is so much to finish for Christmas.

I've been knitting up a storm to finish some hand knits for my granddaughters. I started the Tiny Tea Leaves cardigan last week for Lexie. This pattern was written by Melissa LaBarre and is meant to be a quick knit so here's hoping. I am knitting the size 6 for her (26" chest). The yarn is Sublime extra fine merino DK in a peacock blue colour. This is the first time I have knit a garment in the round from the top down. Everything has gone well so far but I am now waiting for a set of double pointed needles to finish the sleeves. This will another first as I have not knit anything in the round before either. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The button bands look like they may need a good stretch when I block- or should I unpick and adda few stitches- not sure what to do.

Other projects to finish before Christmas:

  • Christmas Tree quilt- quilting started but lots to do.
  • Christmas napkins
  • Isobel's cardigan
  • 2 chunky hats (also in the round!)
  • Cushion covers.
Linking up to Janine's Wool on SundaysJanine is celebrating her first year of Wool on Sundays with a giveaway so pop on over and take a look.

also linking to my unfinished cardi to Celtic Thistle Stitches:

and to Ho, Ho, Ho and on we sew, November over at Rose and Dahlia with my stocking

Also linking to Lee's WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced. #wipwednesday

Have a great week and try not to stress about Christmas plans (note to self!). Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends too!


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Fabric choice for my Green Tea and Sweet Beans quilt

I purchased the Green Tea and Sweet Beans booklet by Jen Kingwell with the intention of starting this summer. However none of the current fabrics really grabbed me. The 1930's prints I saw were all in primary colours and somehow just not to my taste.
I was reading Lori Holt's fab blog, Bee in My Bonnet, yesterday and loved her new fabric range for Riley Blake fabrics, Flower Patch. It has a vintage vibe in slightly pastel tones and a great range of colours. Lori was kind enough to give me permission to use a couple of her photos.

I've done what I've never done before and ordered a fat quarter bundle of 24 designs from Fat Quarter Shop without seeing the actual fabric. I think it should look good as there is such a variety of colours and tones. All I've got to do now is sharpen up my appliqué skills!

At the beginning of the year I took part in the Grow Your Blog party run by Vicki of 2 Bags Full. This is the most amazing event and the organisation behind it is tremendous. I met so many interesting people and in a short space of time had new followers for my blog. It isn't that I want followers per se but it is lovely to share ideas and thoughts with creative people all over the world. All that is needed is to sign up and commit to a blog post on January 25th about yourself and your work and to visit some of the other blogs on the lists. Last year there were over 600 participants so you are bound to find some blogs you really like.
The party sign up is open for 2015 and you can get to Vicki's sign up post by clicking the previous link  or the button in the sidebar on the right. If I can do it then anyone can, whether you are totally new to blogging or have been at it for years. I promise you won't be disappointed so give it a go!


Friday, 14 November 2014

A finish and a conundrum

I never thought I would be as busy when I was retired but these days I never stop. Mike and I have been away for the last two weekends; first to catch up with our family "up North" in the Lake District  for Halloween and then in Leicestershire for the Remembrance day service at the parish where Michael's grandfather was vicar from 1913-1923. There was a huge turnout at the church and then afterwards we attended a book launch at Wymeswold Memorial Hall. The book is "Bringing them home: the story of the Lost sons of Wymeswold" by Ivor F. Perry. Ivor researched the stories of all the boys and men who went to war in 1914 and never returned. There was an exhibition of first world war artefacts and the research. Michael's grandfather, as vicar,  had been instrumental in co-ordinating the memorial committee and in the decision to have a memorial hall as a place for the whole village to meet. Michael was asked to unveil a new plaque at the hall.

Wymeswold Parish Church, St Marys.

The highlight of the week for me was acquiring a haberdashery shop unit from eBay. These usually go for a lot of money but we set a limit and got the counter for less than £250. It is 6 ft long and has sixteen solid oak drawers with half moon handles, a glass top and back. The only place we can keep it is in the conservatory as it is too large for anywhere else. Mike has replaced the beading on the kick board and it is like new. We think it is likely to be from the 1950/60's. This morning I spent hours sorting my fabrics into colour groupings. I am so pleased there was room for all my fabrics, WIPs and threads with a large space under the drawers for mats and large rulers.

I know that the light in the conservatory is likely to be strong enough to fade fabric colours so I have only put small current projects in the top drawers and will cover them.

Next; a FINISH! The Coastal Ripple blanket has been around the house for at least 3 months and I am beginning to feel a bit snowed under with lots of things to finish for Christmas. The blanket will be a present so I'll not publish this to Facebook and spoil the surprise. I will need to steam the corners gently to square them up and darn in the ends from the border but I could not wait any longer to show you.

I just love the colours that were chosen by Lucy of Attic 24 for her Coast Ripple. The pack is available at Wool Warehouse. I enjoyed this so much I've bought the Cosy pack too but will not start until after Christmas. There is a lovely rhythm to the crochet stitches in this blanket and it is ideal to do in front of the TV.

Finally, do you wash? Not you but your fabrics for quilting?
I have never done this before but I am about to cut my fabric for a Japanese +x quilt class next week. I chose a very modern dark fabric- Juggling Summer by Zen Chic for Moda. I saw this in Calico Kates in Lampeter in the summer and had to have it. It is totally not my normal style and I am not sure what I will do with it when it is finished either but I loved it!

I added Kona fabrics in Putty and Amber and since this photo was taken, a pale grey in the Juggling Summer range. As the prints were so intensely coloured I did two separate washes and threw in a couple of colour catchers.This is how they ended up.

Just so glad I did wash this time. I would hate to do all the work in a quilt and then have muddy spoilt colours.

I am going to the West Country Quilt Show tomorrow. I entered a quilt for the first time, not I might add in the hope of winning, but for the experience of seeing my quilt hanging up for all to see. I feel a little recreational shopping coming on too.

I'll be linking up to Wool on Sundays and Yarnalong.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Halloween tote bags

Mike and I are off up to the Lake District this weekend to see some of the family. As it will be Halloween I decided to make special tote bags for some treats for Vivi and Hugo.

This was such a simple but fun pattern that I found at Skip to my Lou. The bag is reversible too.

I used a fun Halloween print that I found at the Malvern Quilt Show last weekend; Halloween Manor by Deb Strain for Moda. The lining is a plain black and the plain orange I bought at Busy Bees Patchwork in Newport. I had intended to appliqué a black cat on one and an owl on the other but I settled instead for their initials as I had been sewing all day and wanted a quick finish.

I have bought all sorts of goodies for the bags, colouring books, coloured pencils, stickers, nail transfers, spooky paper chain strips, spider biscuits and chocolate. I am making some spooky iced cupcakes and we'll be hollowing out our pumpkins with the children's help on Saturday.

Have a spectacular, spooky weekend,


Linking up to W.I.P. Wednesdays with Lee at Freshly Pieced

Also linking to Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation
Needle and Thread Thursday