Monday, 15 June 2015

Garden flower bouquet and a Monday finish

I love this time of year. The sun is shining and the garden is looking beautiful. This is the result of of all Mike's hard work, but under my direction, of course. The best thing is that there is plenty of choice to fill a vase for the house.
Today's choice is a mix of pink shrub roses, late flowering honeysuckle and Sambucus Nigra "Black Lace". The last is a version of the wild elderberry that we planted in the quarry garden years ago. I'm afraid that part of the garden is a bit of a mess but this bush is a towering display of tiers of pale pink blooms.

Last year our bees made a bee-line for our chimney for the winter. Unfortunately they died out early in the New Year. We were lucky enough to be offered a swarm of bees last week and we are thrilled to have honeybees in the garden again.






 Half of the bees were tipped gently into the top of the hive and the rest were left on a sloping board to make their own way into the hive. They instinctively walk upwards to the opening.



The hive is right down at the bottom of the garden and the bees seem to have settled well. They have been  drawing out the comb from the foundation and are busy bringing nectar and pollen back. Hopefully, the queen will start laying this week.

So to my finish. Ta dah!.....

It is the finished foundation pieced table runner. I have appliquéd the centre flower with whipped buttonhole stitch.




The glass bottles are all Victorian in origin. Mike rescued them when he excavated the ice house here on the farm. They are a mix of seltzer, medicine and poison bottles! We found a dozen Victorian champagne bottles too. The ice house must have become redundant and was then used a a dump. I think the bottles look just right with the colours of the table runner .


I have spent the afternoon preparing for tomorrow's masterclass by Harriet Hargrave on invisible machine appliqué. Bags now packed, machine checked and all the class requirements ticked off. I think I'll need my brain in gear tomorrow so I will be having an early night.

I will be linking to several of the link parties (see the right hand margin for the links)

Hope the sun is shining on you too today.

Catherine

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Massive

I have been having a bloggy conversation with Glenda of Patchwork Dreams recently. She posted about a giant centipede that made it's way into her bedroom. She lives in what looks like a subtropical area of Australia with huge trees and a lush garden of tropical flowers. Very warm and humid.... and so you would expect giant insects. Apparently spiders eat birds there. Ugh!

I thought I was safe here in South Wales. A temperate (sometimes a bit too cold) and gentle climate. Just see what showed up this afternoon in my conservatory. I have no photos of this insect alive as I was too busy looking for the fly spray.



The wingspan was 2 inches.



I'm afraid I had to kill it and once sprayed it took over 10 minutes to finally die. I was concerned that it may be the Asian hornet but it would appear to be a European hornet. The Asian sort has yellow tipped legs. The photos do not do it justice as the hornet curled slightly once it expired.

This is so totally off topic for my blog but it provided a bit of excitement.

My table runner is now sandwiched and ready for machine quilting tomorrow.

Lets hope tomorrow holds no surprises.


Catherine

Monday, 8 June 2015

Monday morning

It is sunny outside and I've woken up feeling optimistic and happy. For some reason I started thinking about the song "Monday, Monday" by the Mamas and the Papas; anyone remember it? Well it was a long time ago (1966) so you are forgiven if you don't know it. I checked out the lyrics and find they are so sad- that's really weird. I'm not sure why I associate it with feeling good. I must never have paid attention to the words. Still, it is a brand new week full of possibilities.

First, the almost finished top of a table runner.


I took a class on foundation paper piecing with Jeannie Duncan-Farr at Cutting Edge last week. I love FPP- the way you just cover the paper and get accurate points. Jeannie had designed a colourful table runner with a flying geese border.

Jeannies table runner from the Cutting Edge website
 I had chosen an entirely different colour palette for mine and struggled a bit as I did not have any green for the leaves. Still, here are some photos of my progress.







I have pieced the whole top now but still need to appliqué the central flower. It will be interesting to see how everyone else got on when we meet tomorrow for our monthly meeting. I plan to start a new embroidery as it will be something that is easy to do in the garden while enjoying the sunny weather.

Mike and I took a trip to the National Botanic Garden of Wales yesterday and what a treat! The main aims of the garden are conservation and research that is accessible to all. This gem of a garden is only an hour away from Cardiff and yet I only visited it once in the year it opened to my shame. The planting has matured and there is something for everyone to explore; history, sculpture, plants in medicine, bees, glorious gardens and the largest single span glasshouse in the world that was designed by Norman Foster and partners. A few photos....

It was difficult to show the scale of the glasshouse because of the way it nestles in the landscape.


If you are planning a trip to Wales try to get to visit the garden. Something here for everyone.

Have a great sewing week,

Catherine

I'll be linking to several link parties this week and I have the links in the sidebar on the right;

A brand new to me Monday link party Monday Makers run by Nurdan of Hug-a-bit Quilts. It would be nice if you could drop into her party and show some support.
Anything Goes Mondays seems to be missing this week.
 Linky Tuesday (Freemotion by the River) and So Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts.
 Esther Aliu's WOW and WIP Wednesday (Freshly Pieced)

Monday, 1 June 2015

Waste not, want not.

Life has been super busy and enjoyable recently. We were away in May for a few days staying near Rutland Water. Our bedroom had the most fantastic view of the water framed by a pink clematis on one side.

We had time to visit Oakham and Stamford but the main reason for visiting the area was to attend a private event at Althorp, the home of the Spencer family. Charles, the 9th Earl Spencer, read Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford. My husband studied chemistry at Magdalen in the 1960's before changing direction and reading medicine. The Magdalen Society was invited to Althorp for a reception and lecture by Earl Spencer on his new book, Killers of the King- the men who dared execute Charles I. The lecture was fascinating but the best bit of the visit was being able to wander around this wonderful Grade I listed house wine glass in hand. Click through for history and official photos of the house.



I spent several days preparing for a lunch party for special friends to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary. Mike has known Mike and Peggy for more than 30 years.  I decided on a traditional summer lunch of poached salmon with new potatoes and green bean salad followed by meringues and strawberries. I also made a cake but chickened out on the icing by using fresh flowers as decoration.




So what has this got to do with the title of the post? Well the consequence of making 48 meringues were 8 leftover egg yolks. I hate wasting food so put the whole egg yolks in a container and added a small amount of cold water to cover. They keep well for a couple of days in the fridge like this. Today I felt recovered enough to do some cooking and decided that a good use of the eggs would be to make lemon curd.
I found a recipe online which just needed the yolks and not whole eggs. The only thing I changed was to increase the amount of sugar- in fact I doubled it! The curd was still fresh and lemony but not mouth puckering.


 Butter, sugar, lemon zest and juice are combined in the same bowl and heated gently over boiling water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water.



 The finished product- delicious!


So sorry once again for the blogging drought, I hope you understand.

We had a meeting of the Honey Bee group here last week too so I will post about that soon.
Have a great week,

Catherine



Sunday, 10 May 2015

Casting on

     
I'm giving my sewing machine a rest after a busy week and getting on with my new project, a Wildflower Cardigan. The pattern is by my favourite designer at the moment, Alana Dakos. You may remember that I made the child sized version, the Wee Wildflower,  for Vivi last September. The link is to my photos and projects page on Ravelry.

I had to think long and hard about the sport weight yarn for this cardigan as I have been a bit disappointed with the Debbie Bliss brand I used for the Gnarled Oak cardi and the Bergere de France for the Entangled Vines. Both pilled badly although the Debbie Bliss looks OK if I use one of those velcro type brushes that remove lint. I don't think I should have to do that though when the yarn is so expensive.



I needed a harder wearing yarn that was not quite as soft. I searched the forums on Ravelry and found that an American yarn called Chickadee from Quince & Co was really popular. It is only stocked at one shop in London, Loop,  and they did not have quite enough yarn in the colour I wanted so I decided to take the plunge and order it from the US. There is a good selection of subtle colours but I liked this slightly sludgy green called Bosc. There was a notable difference in the price in America and the price here but this was all due to import tax and shipping costs. In the end there was only a couple of pounds in it. Why is yarn so cheap over there? I must say that the staff at Loop took my name and called me back a couple of weeks later when they had more in stock. I would definitely order from them next time as they have a beautiful selection of yarns and seem to have great customer service too.



So, how is it knitting up? I cast on for the back and have managed about 5" so far. The yarn is slightly harder but has excellent stitch definition and no sign of going fluffy. I would love to hear your recommendations for other DK or sport weight yarns. I really would like to support British yarns more. I would like more subtle tones and better value.


The other project on my needles is Lexie's silver and gold bunny girl. The link is to a pink and cream dressed version I did a few years back. I went into Hobbycraft in Cardiff for some odds and ends and found the ideal sparkly silver yarn in the reduced bin. It is Rico Creative Reflective print. This is a 4ply silver grey with a silver metallic thread running through it. Not my usual kind of yarn but ideal for the project. I "interpreted" the gold as a strong yellow. Hopefully she will be finished for the end of the month when Lexie and Sam are coming to stay for a few days.

Finally I need advice about storing fixed circular needles. Mine are like a rat's nest of tangled spagetti in this bag. There must be a better way.



I'm linking up to Janine's Wool on Sundays on her website Rainbow Hare Quilts. The regulars to the party are a lovely bunch and there is always some new project on the go. The button on the right takes you to the current Wool on Sundays.

Next week is going to be really busy with visits to Malvern for the quilt show and to Althorp for a tour of the house with Mike. I may not get much time to post anything but I'll be taking lots of photos while I am out and about for when I do.

Catherine

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Over the rainbow

I woke so early this morning that I was sitting up in bed drinking tea well before 7am. There had been some rain overnight but the sun came out and I spotted the most glorious rainbow. I grabbed my husband's phone quickly and took two photos; one through the bedroom window and the other through the study window to catch both ends of the rainbow. The photo does not do the colours justice but it was spectacular.


Such an uplifting start to the day.

My English Country Garden appliqué quilt was so near completion yesterday that I left everything in the kitchen overnight. I don't have a dedicated sewing room so use the kitchen table for my machine and the centre island for cutting fabric and assembling the blocks.  The top came together fairly quickly although the pieced cornerstones and flying geese meant there were lots of points to match along the way.

I hope you will not mind a few photos. I am really pleased with the finished top.





Mike is hiding behind the last photo!

I used fabrics from my stash for the flowers on pieced blocks using Lynette Anderson's range of fabrics called Bread and Butter. Some of the flowers are hand turned appliqué, some using fusible with machine appliqué. A few flowers are embellished with very simple embroidery mainly blanket stitch, chain stitch and a few French knots. I would love to improve my embroidery skills one day.
The border fabric is the new blender range called Bumbleberries from Lewis & Irene- they do a huge range of colours in this blender so I think it will become a favourite.

Thank you Kerry for giving up your time to design this lovely pattern. It has been a pleasure to work on it. Details of the pattern can be found by clicking the link in the side bar.

Also thank you to new visitors to my blog. I have really enjoyed your comments recently.

Catherine

I'll be linking up to Can I Get a Whoop Whoop? and TGIFF tomorrow (well, it is a finished top!) and Esther Aliu's WOW (Wips on Wednesday) next week with this post. All links are in the side bar. I know how much comments mean so please take a peek at these parties if you have the time and give some encouragement if you like what you see.

Monday, 4 May 2015

My English Country Garden.

I've been a bit behind with the blocks for Kerry's fabulous English Country Garden appliqué BOM on her blog Pennydog Patchwork so I decided to get my act together yesterday to finish the 12 blocks.
The final blocks were the dahlia and clematis. I had left the dahlia for some time as the background was a set in circle. I really should have taken photos of the method but it was fully explained in the block instructions. I was so pleased when everything worked out.
I had used the blocks to practice different appliqué methods but decided to make the last 2 blocks with fusible web. This saved time. So without further ado....



I have used PicMonkey to make a collage of the 12 blocks in order to try and work out a layout.


This is not the final layout and due to different lighting conditions the colour of the background fabrics is not always true. I chose a Lewis & Irene blender fabric called Bumbleberries for the sashing from my LQS, the Patchwork House in Llantrisant. This lovely blender comes in 20 beautiful colours to coordinate with all their fabric lines.


The blocks will be divided with cornerstones in the sashing. Check out Kerry's here. Kerry has used very dark background fabrics and sashing and her cornerstones really pop.

I hope you have all enjoyed the Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK. Mike and I had a wonderful time with two of the grandchildren, Jacob and Isobel, at the Moscow State Circus in Cardiff on Saturday. The acrobats, high wire and trapeze were fantastic and the whole show was so professional.

I should get the sashing finished this week if the weather is as bad as the forecast suggests.
Have a good week anyway whatever the weather.

Catherine

This week I am linking up to the fabulous Esther Aliu's WOW link party. Esther designs the most marvelous appliqué and is currently running the Oma's Blues appliqué BOM. There are always interesting projects to admire so please check it out if you have time.

I'm also linking to Kelly's Needle and Thread Thursday. The link is in the sidebar on the right.



Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The future is bright, the future is Orange (with apologies!)

April has flown in and not a post written but I could not wait to write about my weekend away for a retreat with my Honeybee group.
We decided last year that we would book a retreat and I found Come2Quilt which seemed to have everything we needed; an experienced quilting host, delicious food cooked by her husband and a comfortable space for our small group. Kate and David Ranson have been running retreats from their home in Somerset for some years. The walls are adorned with examples of Kate's work and it seemed that we were still discovering things we had not noticed at the end of the stay.

Kate's Orange Peel wall hanging
Our task for this retreat was to conquer the fear of curves and with this in mind Kate had designed an orange peel wall hanging in two contrasting fabrics. The templates and instructions were at our workstations and we settled down quickly to cut the three shapes we needed. Although this stage was tedious it passed quickly enough as we chatted.
I had originally planned to use a Japanese fabric I had bought on impulse. I'm not sure what had come over me as gold highlights are not my thing at all and as the time for the retreat came closer I fell right out of love with the colour and design. I pulled two fabrics from my stash instead. One was a muted orange and the other a modern restrained design in pale grey with a touch of the same orange tone. Orange seems to be my "go to" colour this year (it was purple in 2014).

Gilly and Liz with Kate in the background.

Jane hard at work. She is the industrious one!
With Kate to guide us we took our first tentative steps in sewing curves. Those of you who are more experienced may have forgotten how difficult it is at the start. Eventually we mastered got the knack of easing the fabric and sewing at the same time. Curves were clipped and pressed and our blocks started to take shape. The real difficulty was in trying to get points matched when we joined the rows together. This is where my skill with a seam ripper really helped!
It had been hoped that the quilt top would be finished by the end of the weekend but this was not to be. The combination of great company, food and wine with a "new to us" skill foiled our attempt. Jane had decided to use her blocks to make a bucket shaped tote bag. Her design was modified to include a curved bottom and a flap. Her bold fabric choice was a real success and I cannot wait to see the finished bag. Gilly decided that the only way to go was to do a table centre. Her Brandon Mably spotted fabric was accentuated with larger circles and will look super in her modern home. Liz and I are going with the original design idea and hope to have wall hangings to show soon.


I do have a finish this week on the knitting front. I have been following the KAL on Ravelry run by 2 Knit Lit Chicks, Barb and Tracie. Their podcast is always worth a listen for trends, tips and good reads. This KAL was an Alana Along using the designs of Alana Dakos. Remember my Entangled Vines? This is the link for the finish off thread with some beautiful knits. I just about managed to finish another cardi for myself which I have on Ravelry with all the details of yarn etc. It is my Gnarled Oak cardigan designed by Alana and I just love it- everything is just right and it fits so well. The KAL finished tomorrow and I have my fingers crossed.



I told you I liked orange.

Post-script. I finished the third row of the orange peels yesterday afternoon and decided to finish at that point. I have squared it up, chosen a thinnish cotton batting and I aim to hand quilt it. No photos as yet.

So I'm back home and sorting things out for a visit by Jenny and her family next weekend. She and her husband are celebrating their wedding anniversary by staying in a 5* hotel on Friday night and we will have Isobel and Jacob to ourselves. Bliss (I think).

Have a wonderful week. The promised downturn in the weather has not happened yet in South Wales and it is another sunny, if cool, day.

Catherine

I'm late but linking to Wool on Sundays and tomorrow to Yarn along with Ginny of Small Things. Also linking to Celtic Thistle Stitche's New to Me, button on the sidebar, with my new curvy technique.