The Finery of Nature SAL

It’s three weeks since I last showed you my Finery of Nature cross-stitch – doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!! I’ve stitched a fair bit, though not quite as much as I hoped as I’ve been concentrating on keeping up with my Faby Reilly cross-stitches too!

Three weeks ago I had just started the second butterfly…

The second butterfly is now stitched, though I still have all the back-stitching to do on both of them. I’ve started the little flowers surrounding them as well. I tend to start in one area, but if I have thread left over I’ll use it up in another area , hence odd little bits of green have been stitched!

Once the flowers are stitched, there’s just the border to finish and it will be happy dance time – I think that’s a while off yet though!

This Stitch-a-long is organised by Avis from stitching by the see, we all share our progress every three weeks, it’s a great incentive to keep going on a big project. If you would like to join us please send Avis a message. In the meantime please follow the links to check out every one else’s progress.

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Sue, Constanze, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Heidi, Jackie, Sunny, Hayley, Megan, Deborah, Mary Margaret, Renee, Carmela, Jocelyn, Sharon, Daisy, Anne, Connie, AJ, Jenny

I’ll also be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, a celebration of all things hand-stitched.

Posted in Serendipity | 16 Comments

Monday's Meander Round the Garden

Today’s meander was more of a quick whizz as it was too cold to dilly-dally outside! I make no apologies for the lack of progress in the garden over the last few days, we were away for a couple of days and then Storm Ciara hit with strong winds and heavy rain, it was definitely a weekend to stay in the sewing room!

This was the flooding on the back lane behind our garden, at the far end it would have been over my wellies!

We had a temporary water feature in our back garden! The old railway line behind us occasionally floods and overflows down our path, luckily we live on a hill so the water just carries on down our drive to the road! Last time it did this was the Boxing Day floods a few years ago. Other areas have not been so lucky with lots of flooding around Yorkshire.

This morning the garden path is looking pretty clean, though the drive has loads of debris strewn across it. The rest of the garden seems to have escaped pretty unscathed. I noticed the pulmonaria are just starting to flower, they’re a really pretty blue and pink.

My hellebores are still putting on a good show, this is my favourite one when it’s in full flower, it’s a wonderful deep red, it’s still in bud at the moment but it shouldn’t be long. I think it brings out the purple of the pretty little hebe next to it.

I noticed another hellebore in flower down by the conservatory, I only planted it last year so it’s still pretty small but it’s a beautiful double flower with delicate pink spots, I think they call them freckles.

Perennials are starting to push their shoots up, this is brunnera Jack Frost, I’ve another couple of brunnera plants around the garden as they provide good ground cover and make a lovely display of pretty blue flowers in the spring…and they like my soil!!

We should have our first daffodil soon, as the buds have formed and they’re starting to bow down. Hopefully they won’t get too battered by the snow we’re expecting over the next few days!

Hopefully next weekend I’ll manage to start working on the garden as there’s an awful lot to do!

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The Kelpies

A few weeks ago I discovered my OH was going up to Falkirk in Scotland with work, staying overnight as it’s about 200 miles away. It just happened to be 2 miles from where a close friend from schooldays lives. It was too good an opportunity to miss. I did a three way swop with my shifts at work, organised dog care and on Thursday we drove up to Falkirk!

I had a great time catching up with my friend and her OH. On Friday we walked to see the Kelpies, about a two mile walk each way with a coffee shop on the middle and a pub at the end!!

The Kelpies are 30m high statues of horse heads, based on the Clydesdale heavy horses. They were designed by Andy Scott, apparently the horse in the Trinity Centre in Leeds is by the same designer. Kelpies are a mythical beast which don’t sound very nice, but they represent the horses used in heavy industry in Scotland in the past together with the transformative nature of the area (have a look on Wikipedia for a more detailed explanation!)

Having seen lots of photos on facebook over the years, I’ve wanted to see them for ages, I wasn’t disappointed…

It was a nice gentle walk to the Kelpies, we passed a sundial, you stand on the month and your shadow tells the time with two rings of time for winter or summertime. Unfortunately we had no sun!


We walked along the bank of the tidal river Carron, watching a pair of swans along the way in a nearby pond…


We also admired Ian’s bridge…

River Carron

The Kelpies are situated next to the canal, we walked across one of the lock bridges which brought back memories of our holiday on the Leeds Liverpool canal as they are similar heavy locks…

Canal lock

The Kelpies are stunning, they change by the minute as the light changes.

The Kelpies

They look different from every angle too..

The Kelpies

It wasn’t particularly sunny when we arrived, though it looked like it would burn through soon, so we went for a coffee and a scone..

The Kelpies

When we came out it was quite misty, but it made the Kelpies look quite ethereal.

The Kelpies

It was lovely to catch up with my friends and wonderful to see the Kelpies, if you’re vaguely in the area they are worth a detour!

Posted in Serendipity | 21 Comments

2020 Vision

It’s a month since I set my goals for the year, my 2020 vision! Twenty things I want to make in 2020. I’ve done a fair bit of stitching in January, but I must also admit to a fair bit of faffing!! I think having two new machines to get to grips with has been a bit overwhelming, but at least I’ve started using them. I really need to sit down at the beginning of the instruction books and work my way through,rather than hitting a problem and trying to sort it, which is what I’m doing at the moment. I am getting much faster at threading my overlocker though!!

Clothes; I have to confess I didn’t do any dress-making in January, I decided half the problem (apart from two new machines!!) was my pattern stash, many of my patterns are like 30 years old, which is fine if; a) you’re going to use them again, b) you’re still the same size as you were aged 25!! and c) all the pieces are there if you do decide to use them. The last one was the most frustrating, I’ve decided I’m really not very good at looking after patterns! What I decided to do was to buy some new patterns which will hopefully enthuse me again. Simplicity were all half price so I ordered half a dozen, I’ve decided that when each make is on offer I will have a look and see what looks interesting, in the meantime I need a good sort out of my patterns and a new storage system.

Quilts; I made a baby quilt for an expected new member of the family, it’s very cute and is now winging it’s way over to Australia to be used and abused hopefully. Next I want to finish the top of my Coming Home quilt, I need a bit of a kick with this one, I’ve been procrastinating over how to finish it as I don’t want another deep border, but also the thought of appliquing 88 leaves on the last corners has been a bit of a damper! This picture is from October – big kick needed!!

Projects; The Stitchbook Collective is progressing nicely, I did two months worth in January, with a workshop on Joomchi and one on Gel printing. February’s box has just arrived too, it looks quite exciting!!

The Anthea SAL started with the beautiful snowdrop design for January. I’m thinking of making this into a book, so I just need to do something simple for the facing page; my plans are coming together!

I’ve done a little bit more stitching on my Harold the Hare at Embroiderers Guild Meetings, though there’s still a long way to go with this one. My Finery of Nature is getting there, I’m probably now half way through the last quarter, so there’s light at the end of the tunnel here, this was my progress a couple of weeks ago…

Things; I’ve not made anything off my list, but other makes from January include a bee cross-stitch small, a temari ball and the last part of my Enlightenment SAL. So I might have been a bit faffy in January but I have managed to make a few things 🙂

Posted in 2020 Vision, Coming Home Quilt, Quilting, The Stitchbook Collective | Tagged , | 12 Comments

Damson Dress

Over Christmas I had a major move round in my sewing room which involved emptying my fabric cupboard so I could move it. The nice side to this was I fell in love with a lot of fabrics again!! In amongst the piles of fabrics I found this gorgeous purple corduroy, it’s a needlecord one in a beautiful shade of what I would call damson, the more pinky end of purple!! I also realised when I was cutting it out that it has a slight width ways stretch, it didn’t cause any problems sewing and hopefully will make it extra comfortable to wear.

Last week I decided to make a dress, having looked through my patterns and worked out that some had several pieces missing (!!) I decided to make another dress from Vogue 2412, this will be the fourth dress I’ve made from this pattern, and I didn’t even buy it in the first place, it was on the swop table at a sewing meet-up a couple of years ago. I’ve made two in boiled wool and one in a sort of suede-feeling fabric, between them they have been my staple dresses over the winter, comfortable and easy to wear but smart too.

I decided on a different collar, a stand-up one – mainly because the other collar piece was missing – I really must learn to look after my patterns better!! Having made it several times it was a fairly quick make, I used my overlocker to finish the seams in side.

In the pattern the hems are just top-stitched up, I decided to have a play with my new sewing machine. I used one of the decorative stitches instead, it’s really pretty. I tried it on the sleeves first, I liked it so I did the hem the same way. The only issue I found was that the machine did seem to ‘throw’ the fabric to the side slightly on the same bit of the pattern each time, so it’s not quite as even as I would have liked, I do really like it though, it just gives an extra touch to an otherwise plain dress.

I’ve discovered that purple is one of those colours that is a nightmare to match buttons too. There are so many different shades and the wrong one looks awful! I looked in my stash and couldn’t see anything, so I popped into Ilkley to Boyes, thought I’d found a good match, brought them home to see them again in a different light and they looked awful!! I wanted to wear the dress today as we’re off visiting friends, so I was short on time. I managed to get off work a little early and flew down to Samuel Taylors at the bottom of Leeds, despite having dozens of purple buttons, nothing was right, I started looking at greys and black, in the end I bought some matt black buttons. I came home and decided to have one last look in my button stash and I found these, they’re actually vintage buttons as I bought a big box of them off e-bay and whilst they’re not 100% perfect, they look pretty good!

The sun has finally reached our garden, having hidden over the other side of the Chevin for the winter, so I managed to get outside for the photo! It was pretty cold though, hence the chilly stance!

Posted in Dressmaking | Tagged , | 19 Comments

A Quick Quilt

We have a baby due in our extended family in a few weeks time so I decided a couple of weeks ago to make a cot quilt. Time was of the essence as baby is in Australia and Granddad-to-be is coming over next weekend to the UK so I could post it down and he can take it over!

Fortunately last year I made an impulse buy of a very cute cot quilt panel, it was so lovely and I thought someone is bound to have a baby sometime…and they did!! Printed panels are perfect for a quick make as all you have to do is sandwich them, quilt and bind.

Baby quilt

I wanted to use fabric from my stash, so I picked a silver grey for the backing, it’s a nice gentle colour but quite practical as well! I decided to quilt it in a warm white, this was my first time doing FMQ on my new sewing machine, I took a deep breath and went foot free!! I started off on the middle speed whilst I got used to the idea of not using a foot pedal. I then remembered that the demonstrater at the show when I bought it said she actually found it easier on the fast speed…another deep breath and off I went!

free motion quilting

I did a fairly simple but new to me design of meanders with circles or loops. I’m fairly pleased with it – some of the circles are not very circular, but it’s not bad. There were a couple of bits where I wasn’t happy with the tension, so I undid it and restitched it, I think it was probably when I first turned the speed up!

Baby quilt

I bound it with a warm mid brown which nicely brings out the colours of the orangutans! I spent an evening hand-stitching the binding down and the quilt was finished. If I’d really put my mind to it I could have easily made it in a matter of hours,rather than the couple of days as I’m easily distracted!!

Today it went in the post. I put a little letter in saying it’s to be used and abused, I encouraged them to put it on the floor as a playmat, take it to the park for a picnic, throw it in the back of the car for a snuggle in long journeys, use it for a throw when they’re feeling poorly on the sofa. I’d rather it fell apart from use than sitting looking pretty on the shelf.

Baby quilt

Hopefully I’ll meet the new arrival at Christmas 🙂

Posted in Quilting | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Christmas HQAL

It’s three weeks since I last shared my new hand quilting project, a Christmas runner with 24 embroidered squares. The embroideries were a surprise SAL from Hugs’n’kisses before Christmas,their suggestion was to use them for an Advent calendar, we don’t need another Advent calendar so I decided to make them into a simple runner to go on our sideboard.

Last time I showed you I had almost finished the piecing (by machine) so it was nearly ready to start sandwiching and quilting…

I finished the piecing that same day…and then it sat there, looking reproachfully at me…until Friday!! Two days ago I finally gave myself a bit of a talking to and sandwiched it. The backing is pieced as the main fabrics I used weren’t quite big enough, so I used a different one. Of course the runner is a couple of inches longer than a width of fabric, rather than cutting down the length of a piece of fabric I decided to put a six inch strip of the top gold fabric in the middle instead, it works pretty well.

My original thought with quilting was firstly to keep it simple, secondly to try more of a big stitch quilting with a perle thread – I have a big box of colourful perle threads! I tried laying red and green threads first, I just wanted simple lines along the squares but continuing across the centre, so it would almost make a plaid pattern. Unfortunately the red and green shades just didn’t look right. I tried a soft gold colour and that seemed to work with all three colours.

Christmas runner

I’ve used a polyester batting just to see if it’s any easier to hand quilt, I happened to have some in my stash as my mum wanted to try some quilting last year. I’ve stitched a few rows and so far I’m pretty pleased with my stitching, it’s not as straight as it could have been but I’ve just been stitching by eye, probably not the most accurate way of making a straight line! I’m trying a hera marker for the next few lines, see if that helps.

Christmas runner

Once I’ve stitched the short rows across I’ll do the long lines travelling the length of the runner. Hopefully next time I’ll have made a bit more progress – what would I do without this HQAL!!

Hand Quilt Along Links

This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, MargaretEmmaTracyDeb, Susan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrin, Gretchen, Kathi,  Bella, Daisy and Connie

I’ll also be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow the link to see more hand stitched inspiration.

Posted in Christmas, embroidery, Quilt-a-long, Quilting | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

A Faby Fest for February

I was thinking about which cross-stitch smalls to put on display for February, last year it was all lovey-dovey ones for Valentines Day, but we have our wedding anniversary in March so most of them stay out for next month too. I decided to have a change this year and have a Faby Fest!

As regular readers will know, I’m rather partial to Faby Reilly’s designs and over the last few years I’ve stitched quite a few, I’ve several more patterns waiting to be stitched and of course I’m stitching the Anthea Calendar SAL at the moment…

Anthea SAL

I’ve not yet made January up as I’m quite taken with Del’s idea of making them into a book, of course I’m now wondering whether to do a facing page for each month too, thinking of a sort of wordplay design. I’m going to wait for February’s design before I make a decision.

I went through my smalls collection and pulled out most of my Faby smalls, there’s a couple of Christmas ones which are just too Christmassy though and a card I made for my mum which was never found when we emptied her house…

Even so I have quite a collection…

Faby Reilly designs

The box at the back is of course the Zoe box which was last years SAL, there’s also the Lizzie sewing wallet and mini biscornu which was the SAL from the year before. The bigger heart was part of the Christmas SAL but I decided I could get away with this one, it’s not too overtly Christmassy! The little heart was a freebie design on facebook last year as was the autumn wreath.

There’s three humbugs on there, the gorgeous poppy one and also the two little holly and mistletoe ones, they usually hang on my tree at Christmas, they look so tiny next to the poppy one!.

At the front there’s the lavender bag and sachet which went with the card I made for my mum, the card at the back was an anniversary card I made for my OH, still waiting to be made into a small of some kind….

If you fancy joining in the February Faby Fest, feel free to leave a link in the comments.

Posted in embroidery, Smalls of the Month, Stitch-a-long | Tagged , | 15 Comments

Winter Reading

I’ve started borrowing books from our local library, it certainly makes you try different authors!

The Eight Mountains by Paolo Cognetti; This is a beautifully written, gentle book about male relationships (lets face it, they’re very different to female relationships!!) between father and son and between friends and of course their relationship with mountains. It’s translated from Italian but seems to have lost nothing in the process, thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Girl who Climbed Everest by Bonita Norris; At 20 Bonita had never climbed a mountain, she went by chance to a talk about climbing Everest and it sparked a passion for mountaineering. Within two years she had become the youngest woman to climb the peak. This is her story, about her childhood and how she pushed herself, as it says on the back, its a story about not giving up, and finding the resilience to keep following our hearts even in our darkest hours. An inspiring read.

And now for something completely different…

Smoke Gets in your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty; At the age of 23 Caitlin started work as a mortician in a crematorium, this is a behind the scenes look at the ‘death industry’. It’s described on the back as hilarious, now I’m a nurse, we are known for our black sense of humour – my OH is sometimes shocked at the things my daughter and I will laugh at! I didn’t find it hilarious, but I did find it really, really interesting. Caitlin looks at peoples reactions to death, our rituals and those of other cultures, arguing that this taboo subject really needs to be brought back into the open, so we are no longer terrified and ignorant of death, reclaiming our mortality. A fascinating read.

At Home by Bill Bryson; This is described as a short history of private life. Bill lives in an old vicarage and he uses it to examine every morsel of everyday living, the history and stories behind each room in the house. I learnt lots of little facts, it’s full of ‘oh I didn’t know that’ moments! It’s not as funny as some of his books, but his gentle humour comes through. It’s the sort of book you can dip in and out of – I’ve read it over about 2 years!!

The British Oak by Archie Mills; This was a Christmas present, it’s a beautiful book. I love trees, this is all about the history and use of the oak tree, that iconic British emblem, from ship building to tanning. He describes over fifty famous oak trees in the country – there’s quite a lot which are named. It always amazes me to think about how old a tree is and the history it has seen, many of these are 800 to 1000 years old or more! A wonderful book for tree lovers!


Til The Cows Come Home by Philip Walling; I have to confess I didn’t quite get to the end of this one! It is very interesting, it just goes on a bit! He goes through every different breed, how it originated, what it was good for (beef or dairy). It was interesting reading about the different styles of husbandry, he describes both the good and the bad, from mass production to the open pasture. It did make me glad I bought my beef from a traditional butcher who could tell me which farm it grew up on if I asked! It’s an interesting read too about how government policies affect farmers and our choices so much, it just went on a bit too long – herd lists and the number of cows sired by a certain bull – I lost the plot a bit there!

The Moors by William Atkins; This is another one I didn’t quite get through! I like moorland, I’ve done a lot of walking across moorland, it sounded an interesting book! William starts off down south and visits each area of moorland, describing it’s history, folklore as well as his walk across it. Somehow I kept getting muddled as to whether he was describing past or present. I even tried skipping to an area I knew, the moors in Yorkshire, but I still struggled! I gave up when I realised I was about three weeks overdue taking it back to the library – luckily they don’t do fines anymore!!

So a bit of a mixed bag of books, both in subject and marks out of ten!

Posted in Books, Serendipity | 7 Comments

Temari Balls

At my Embroiderers Guild meeting this month we had mini workshops, four members volunteered to teach other members a skill. I put my name down for Temari balls, they have fascinated me for a while.

Temari balls are, I think, originally from Japan, they are tightly bound balls covered with intricate geometric designs made from thread. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos during the workshop, so I’ll just have to tell you the process…

We started off with a sock, folded into a ball! We then bound it firmly with wool to make as perfect a ball as possible. I had misread the requirements so I didn’t have co-ordinating cotton thread to bind it with, this gives the ball it’s final base. I used embroidery thread instead, which made it rather pricy and didn’t cover perfectly but it’s all a learning curve!

Once we had a perfect ball we had to carefully mark with pins the north and south poles and then the equator, eventually dividing the ball into sixteen segments with lines of silver thread. This is quite an important bit as the final result depends on the accuracy of the segments. Mine’s not perfect but it was OK for the simple design we made.

To decorate the ball we started winding embroidery thread neatly along the segment lines and finally along the equator. This is where I was by the end of the workshop…

Temari Balls

At home I finished the central band and used another shade of embroidery thread to stitch two rows of herringbone stitch around the equator, trying to get the threads to lie as flat as possible.My temari ball was complete…

Temari balls

I’m pretty pleased with it for a first attempt, I’d like to have another go (they look very effective in a big bowl – like lots of them!!) I did pick up a book that was going free but the instructions look pretty complicated, I might get as far as marking the segments and take it to Embroiderers Guild for our member to give me some tips!

Posted in Crafts, Serendipity | Tagged , | 14 Comments