Monday’s Meander Round the Garden

The weather has been seasonably mild for the last couple of weeks and everything in the garden seems to have suddenly started to wake up, the perennials are pushing up shoots, the shrubs have tiny leaf buds appearing and the early spring flowers are starting to appear. I’ve worked hard in the garden and I finally feel I’m making progress in the big tidy-up…

I’d been working on the raised bed by the patio for what seems like ages, weeding and cutting stuff back. This weekend I reached the far end, pruning the overhanging branches of the black sambucus in front of the fence, I’ve kept the height as it helps to disguise the fence. I’ve also put a nesting box up by the sambucus, it’s an open fronted one designed for blackbirds or robins, last year a pair of blackbirds nested against the fence in the shrub, so I’m hoping the box might be a bit cosier and safer. I also pruned the choisya as it was starting to impinge on the rose next to it and tried to smother the artemisia in front. I found a hydrangea tucked behind the choisya, so I’m planning to move it in the next couple of weeks to somewhere with a little bit more light and room and where it can actually be seen! The whole border looks so much better, still a bit of weeding to do, but I feel on top of it now, it looks cared for!

Patio garden

I then moved on to the rose border by the top circle of grass. This border is my priority this year as it was getting choked up with couch grass, mares tail and bindweed. This is what it looked like back in November…


…not a pretty sight! Four large trugs of weed roots later and I’ve almost cleared this corner. I’ve had to sacrifice a few perennials along the way such as geraniums, as they were just overtaken by weeds. I carefully dug up my shrubby clematis, pulled out the couch grass routes running through it and replanted it a bit further along the border. There will still be weeds coming up as some were right in the middle of the roses, but I’m planning on tackling those (very carefully) with a weedkiller as they appear. The border looks promising now, I’ll put some low growing flowering shrubs in and a few perennials, trying to make it lower maintenance. This is what it looks like now…

Winter tidy-up

The hellebores are still flowering their socks off…


The ones round the pond still need their leaves trimming back, but the snowdrops by the pond are making quite a drift this year.


I’ve got pulmonaria in various pockets around the garden as it seems to self seed or spread, there’s just a few pink/purple flowers appearing under the rhododendron by the pond. It wasn’t easy to photograph them as they are so small and low, I just lowered the camera and crossed my fingers, this was the best shot and although it’s not got the whole flower, I rather like it!


The first daffodils of the year have appeared, it always feels like spring is getting close when the daffodils start to flower, they are so bright and cheerful, there’s even a few crocuses just showing their purple spike. These daffodils are miniature ones in a pot by the back door.


My three sessions a week in the garden are definitely paying dividends, I’ve just got to keep it up!

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Travelling Sketchbooks on the Move

The latest Travelling Sketchbook project at my Embroiderers Guild starts tomorrow. We were given an A5 sketchbook last month and it has to be ready to swop tomorrow. It seemed ages off but all of a sudden I had two days!

Travelling sketchbooks are a great way of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, the idea is that each person chooses a theme for their book, decorates it and writes an introduction. It is then passed around the group each month and everyone does a little piece of embroidery on the theme to go in the book. At the end of the travels each person has a lovely book full of handwork by their friends. I find it pushes me embroidery-wise as I have to do something on a given theme, you can look for ideas but it does make me think outside the square and design something myself. Over the last couple of years I’ve had to do embroideries on subjects as divers as ‘down the microscope’, mythical beasts, astronomy, walls, chickens…

My theme this time is Christmas. I love Christmas and I thought it would be rather nice to have a sketchbook I can get out each year. I covered the book first, I used a fat quarter I’ve had for years, I love it, it’s a gorgeous rich blue covered with a delicate pattern of silver holly leaves. I lined it with another blue and silver fabric, this time it has stars on it. As a pretty but practical finishing touch I’ve tied it with a silver ribbon, which makes it look like a gift, but also holds it closed. I had just enough fabric left to make a bag to keep it clean.

Travelling Sketchbook

On the opening pages I just stuck some Christmas card designs, I used to make all my Christmas cards using all sorts of techniques and ideas, here’s just three of them.

Handmade Christmas cards

I wrote a little introduction to the book, mainly about what I love about Christmas, trying to keep the idea as open as possible so people can stitch anything seasonally appropriate. On the page opposite I include a red-work card my mum stitched for me around 2004. Homemade cards should always be treasured, this one is particularly poignant now as mum is rapidly losing her ability as a needlewoman.

Handmade Christmas cards

Many years ago I went to a WI workshop on painting snowflakes. This card was the result, I loved it so much I could quite bring myself to give it to anyone! I decided my travelling sketchbook was the perfect home for it.

Snowflake design

Finally, my official piece! I was tempted to do another snowflake, but I didn’t think I had quite enough time, I rummaged through my stash and found a Christmas quilting panel (originally from my mums stash!) which included several pictures of chickadees. I decided to cut one out and embellish it with embroidery. This is how it started.


I started off with some straight stitches on the pine-needles, it doesn’t show up that much but I know it’s there and I think it’s just enough.

When I first started the little bird I was matching the thread to the painting, I very quickly realised that this was going to make a very boring embroidery, as the stitches really didn’t stand out enough. I changed over to variegated threads which just added an extra colour or two. I used one of my favourite threads on his head and tail, it’s overall impression is quite dark but includes olive green and violet, it reminds me of the plumage of a mallard duck.

Chickadee embroidery

I used several different stitches, fly, feather, lazy-daisy, herringbone, chain, straight stitch and french knots. I think the floss on his chest possibly has a touch too much salmon pink in it, but I just went over with some ecru frech knots to tone it down a bit.

I decided it looked good as a circle, so I used some iron on interfacing on the back to give a bit of stability, cut round the circle and used buttonhole stitch to finish it.

I’m pretty pleased with my embroidery and having the image behind made it pretty quick to sew. I think the theme of the book I’ll have next month is the letter S, so quite a lot of scope, just got to think of an idea!

Chickadee embroidery

I’m linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, why not follow the link and see what everyone else has been stitching.

Posted in embroidery, Serendipity, The Travelling Sketchbook | 9 Comments

Quick and Slow Stitching

A couple of weeks ago Faby Reilly released a free pattern for Valentine’s Day, a very cute little heart. I love Faby’s cross-stitch designs, having stitched quite a few now. I nearly didn’t stitch it, thinking I’ve done a few Valentine ones this year… then I started to see it stitched on facebook..!

It is a very quick design to stitch as it’s just back-stitch, lazy-daisy, french knots and spider web stitch. I started it whilst cooking tea at about 6pm one evening, after tea I carried on stitching, I had about a half hour break when my son came round and it was finished by 9pm! So probably less than two hours actual stitching time!

Faby Reilly Valentine Heart

I think it took longer to finish it! I found some fabric in my stash which matched it beautifully colourwise, both with the straw background and the different shades of red. I’m still not sure if it isn’t too busy though. It needed a bit of a border round as it is pretty small, more scissor fob size. I fancied putting some ricrac round it but I didn’t have the right shade so I made some cord using two of the DMC threads and then couched it round with a cross-stitch every five stitches, I added a bead at the same time which just adds a bit of sparkle and co-ordinates it with the heart. I made enough to go round the edge too but I decided it was enough. I’ve added it to my February smalls, just in time for Valentines Day.

Cross-stitch smalls

I’ve also been stitching my mandala, this is definitely slow, relaxing stitching. I’ve finished the second ring and I’m now working my way round the outer circle with little buttonhole circles and spider-web stitches. I love the way it’s turning out. I’ve run out of a couple of colours but I know it’s due to my stitching, not the amount the company have provided. I find it easier to do a neat stem stitch like a back-stitch, so I come out ahead and then go back under, tucking in under the previous stitch. I find it easier but it does use at least twice as much thread as you can see from the photo of the back. (I’m feeling very brave here, I don’t think I’ve ever shown the back of my work before!!)

back of mandala

Hopefully I’ll manage to get some more pink thread at the weekend and be able to crack on and finish this one, then I just need to decide what to do with it. I’ll try to get some daylight photos for the happy dance post too!

Embroidered Mandala
Posted in embroidery, Smalls of the Month | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Making Progress Down the Rabbit Hole

I finally feel I’m getting somewhere with the quilting of my Down the Rabbit Hole quilt. The little rows of houses seemed to take for ever to quilt and weren’t particularly easy to quilt either as they are paper pieced. This is where I was three weeks ago, I was doing a mini happy dance for finishing those houses…

Three weeks later and I think I’ve made reasonable progress!

I stitched rays of sunshine from each sunflower at the corners of the houses border. I also stitched in the ditch along the purple border. I did make a slight boob here as I was stitching the rays in an ivory colour to blend in with the background so I carried on round the purple border in the same thread until I met the next sunflower. This was fine until I reached a section I’d obviously done before when I was bored of houses..stitched in purple! Luckily the backing fabric is so quietly busy you can’t see the stitching patterns anyway, never mind the colours!

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Having finally finished the houses border I could move onto the rest of the sunflowers. I decided to continue the theme of rays of sunshine, it’s easy to quilt and I think it’s quite effective. As these rays were going to be significantly longer I wanted to mark them properly, so I manoevred the quilt onto my cutting table and used a hera marker to make a mark. It gives just enough of a shiny line to be able to follow. I’ve almost finished the first sunflower, I’ve just got the shorter inner ones to do. I’m enjoying this section as I’m finding it easier to get a neat stitch as I haven’t got the bulk of fabric to get through. Once these rays are complete I can stitch in the ditch round the narrow border to the next one.

I haven’t quite decided how to quilt the Dresden flowers, but I’m thinking of echoing the shape or quilting in the ditch on the actual flower. I think I need an echo of some kind round the whole flower maybe an inch out as otherwise the rays of sunshine are getting rather far apart. from a quilting coverage point of view.

The straight lines you can see are the basting lines, I’m undoing these as I go and the holes are gradually closing. I think once it’s washed at the end (which having been a few years in the making it will definitely need!) they will pretty much disappear.I’m hoping to make better progress with quilting now I’m on an easier border, I’m certainly enjoying it more. It’s much easier to handle now too as I’m not so much in the middle of the quilt.

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.

KathyLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDebConnieSusan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrin, and Gretchen

I’m also linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, a weekly celebration of hand-stitching. Why not follow the link to see even more hand-stitching..

Posted in Down The Rabbit Hole, Quilt-a-long, Quilting | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Coming Home

I’ve just finished the first block of Sarah Fielke’s 2019 BOM, it’s called Coming Home. It’s a gorgeous design with lots of cottages and trees on. It’s the second quilt I’ve made of Sarah’s, the first being Down the Rabbit Hole, which I am still hand-quilting. Sarah’s quilts are a great way to learn needle-turn applique as it always features quite heavily on her designs.

I’ve started with a box of fabrics in soft teal, grey, purple and peach, I’ve also got background fabrics in light grey and teal, though I’ve already had to add to them!

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It’s a medallion quilt so we’re starting in the middle with eight pieced cottages. It took some careful cutting and sewing to get those windows square, they’re pretty small!

Our applique homework was five circles. These can be quite tricky to get neat but Sarah’s method of using tinfoil wraps works a treat. I fussy cut mine to have a sprig of flowers in each one and then hand sewed them round.

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I was originally planning to use one of the background fabrics next to the houses but it just looked too dark. I tried plain fabrics in cream and very pale blue but they look too stark. Then I remembered one from my Splendid Sampler stash, it’s ivory with a tiny soft grey sprig, perfect!

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The block went together fairly easily, it just needed concentration and plenty of time when I wouldn’t be interrupted or rushed. I found my block book very helpful in holding various components safe whilst I worked on another area. I’m pretty pleased with how the colours have worked out so far and my points look OK too…and even more important, it’s exactly the right finished size, ready for the next border.

It’s now sat patiently waiting in my quilt block book for part two to be released at the very end of the month.

Posted in Coming Home Quilt, Quilt-a-long, Quilting | Tagged , | 16 Comments

UFO Time

I’ve been trying to have a bit of a sort out at home, including my sewing room. Whilst mooching through boxes I found an embroidery I did years ago, 1988 to be precise, I know that because luckily I embroidered my name and the year at the bottom. So it’s been sitting in my sewing box for thirty years waiting to be made into something!

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I seem to remember this was a Dimensions kit, one of those with a picture printed onto fabric which you then embellished with embroidery. My mum did exactly the same one, her version was put in a fire screen which now lives with us!

The embroidery isn’t perfect but I’ve got to the point with various unused items like this that I either make something or it goes! I decided to make a cushion.

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The embroidery is oblong so my original plan was to add a side border to square it up and make a 16″ cushion. The design already had a printed side border so adding another one would fit in. I even sent my OH out to a fabric shop to buy a pad! I found a fat quarter from my stash that matched pretty well both in terms of colour and style. However I discovered that to square it up the borders would actually be pretty narrow, I looked at making it oblong the other way, but I then felt I lost some of the design in the curve of the cushion.

I found another co-ordinating fabric! I stitched the first pair of borders on either side. I then added a 2″ border on all four sides in the darker green. It framed it nicely. There was also enough of the dark green to back the cushion. By this time it was a lot bigger than 16″, it was more like a slightly oblong 20″! As it happens I had just, the day before, put an unused IKEA 20″ cushion pad in a box for charity, on the grounds that I never make cushions that big!! I retrieved it from said box!

I’ve made the back with a pillowcase opening, it seems to happily stay closed without any buttons etc. I popped the cushion pad in, it will need replacing when I next go to Skipton as it’s a pretty thin pad, but it will suffice for now.

It looks great on the sofa in the conservatory, not too big either!

Posted in Crafts, Home | Tagged , , | 17 Comments

Nineteen for 19

We’re already well into the first week of February, so I thought I’d better see how I fared in January with my nineteen challenges for 2019…

…I think I’ve made a reasonable start!

  • 1 Scrap Quilt; nothing as yet but I am collecting ideas and making plans – I probably just need to set too and make blocks instead of plans!
  • 2 Tutorials; nothing here either.
  • 3 sessions in the garden; I’ve managed this most weeks in January, and my garden is looking tidier for it!
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  • 4 workshops; I’ve booked two for May and June at Fabbadashery, ones a hand embroidery one and the other is to make Harold the Hare, a mixed media, machine embroidered picture. I’m quite excited about this one as I’ve admired Harold for some time!
  • 5 presents; I made a baby quilt for my niece who is due next week so she hasn’t seen it yet, but I’m counting it in January as I’ve finished it.
  • 6 quilts; One baby quilt finished already! My Spring Wreath quilt will hopefully be finished around May but by then I also need to make another quilt, I’ve been asked to make one for a charity auction. The Splendid Sampler quilt hopefully won’t be far behind either…
  • 7 new patterns; none as yet but I am planning a good sort out of my pattern stash.
  • 8 kits; I stitched my bobbin garden kit and I’m half way through a mandala, so one so far.
Sewing room cushion;
  • 9 mini embroideries; we all received our new travelling sketchbook to cover and start ready for the February meeting, so I’ll be stitching one a month at least for a while.
  • 10 things; I made a quilt block book for my Coming Home quilt.
  • 11 cross-stitch smalls; I made a good start with three stitched this month, I’ve another another one which just needs finishing too.
  • 12 pages in my book; this is going to be quite a special textile book as I’m including all the pieces of handwokr I found when clearing my mums house, both finished and unfinished. I’m still making plans in my head.
  • 13 clothes made; I thought I’d made a dress in January, then I realised I sneaked it into December!
  • 14 drawers organised; I’ve started organising my machine embroidery threads, having bought a few from Raggedy Ruff designs for my Spring Wreath quilt BOM I now have quite a few, so they have a box to themselves. I’ve also started sorting my cross-stitch patterns, I must have dozens on my computer which I’ve either bought or found freebies, as I can’t easily see the picture I forget about them, so I’ve started printing them off and putting them into a file. I’m classing this as one completed.
  • 15 minutes tidying at the end of a sewing session. I can’t say I do this every night, but I am getting much better at having a quick tidy up, hanging things back on my peg board and clearing the cutting table.
  • 16 books; One read and almost finished the second, so a good start. I read A Golden Thread which was fascinating, all about the history of textiles through the ages. I’m now re-reading West With the Night by Beryl Markham, which I’ll tell you about when I’ve finished it.
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  • 17 blogs a month; I wrote 19 posts in January, which I was pleased about as I haven’t got the weekly photo challenge now.
  • 18 walks; I’ve had a good start here too, I’ve been on three walks, only about 5 miles each, but it’s enough at this time of year. I’ve walked on the Chevin twice and round Fewston reservoir once. It’s nice to get out and have a bit of fresh air.
  • 19 Splendid Sampler Blocks; I completed another four this month, so I’ve got twenty made altogether, all pieced, sandwiched and quilted.

So all in all, not a bad start to 2019!

Posted in embroidery, Nineteen for 19, Quilting | Tagged | 9 Comments

February Windows

Wild Daffodil is organising a monthly photo challenge with one theme all year, windows, so here’s another little collection of photos;

English Garden

This photo of the garden last summer reminds me that I really need to fix the window on the summerhouse – the door fell off in a storm and broke the glass, I’ve got two sheets of perspex sitting in the conservatory waiting to be fitted!

The window fittings at Blackwell House near Windermere were all individual, lots of beautiful designs typical of the Arts and Crafts movement. I visited last year with my Embroiderers Guild and enjoyed a fascinating guided tour.


This was the view from the dining room window of our hotel in Keswick when we did our four lakes walk a couple of years ago. It is, of course, my favourite fell, Catbells!

The Old Barn

The windows on this old red barn are appliqued and embroidered. It is one of the blocks of the Anderson Farm quilt, I hadn’t mastered needle-turn applique at that point so I think they are bondawebbed on and stitched down.

Why not follow the link to Wild Daffodil and see else is sharing lots of window photos.

Posted in Photo Challenge | Tagged | 6 Comments

Monday’s Meander Round the Garden

We’ve had hoar frosts and a smattering of snow this week, not weather conducive to gardening, luckily today it’s warmed up a bit and everything has thawed.

The little patch of snowdrops by the pond is looking very pretty. A few stately homes round here open their gardens at this time of year for people to see the snowdrops. My WI is off to Goldsborough Hall in a couple of weeks time and they have a huge display.

Winter garden

For me, this time of year is all about hope, winter is passing, the days are getting noticeably longer and there’s shoots appearing all over the garden, bulbs, perennials and buds on trees. They may only be small, but they’re starting, spring will soon be here! These big red buds are the shoots of a peony.

Winter garden

There’s a few shrubs putting on a quiet, understated display at the moment, they are all the more appreciated at this time of year. The skimmia is in the Amber and Amethyst garden with it’s tiny coral coloured buds…

Winter garden

Hebe’s a great at all times of the year, there’s the flowers in the summer and the foliage the rest of the year. I’ve got several of diffent sizes and colours. This one has reddish-purple tinge to it’s leaves and will (hopefully) be covered in purple flowers in the summer.

Winter garden

Looking at the garden from upstairs at this year really shows the bare structure and plan of the garden, what it doesn’t show is everything that’s happening underneath 🙂

Winter garden
Posted in Garden | Tagged | 9 Comments

The Finery of Nature

Three weeks ago I finally finished by Tall Year Square etui, so it was time to start a new project for the stitch-a-long. I decided on a kit which will take a while to do but which I hope is straight forward enough for me to do in short spells such as whilst I’m cooking tea or having my morning coffee.

At Embroiderers Guild we have a sales table, anything a member no longer wants can be put on the table, and anyone can have it for a donation to the Guild. A few months ago I spotted this cross-stitch kit, it’s by Dimensions and it’s called The Finery of Nature. I popped a donation in the pot and it was mine!

The Finery of Nature

I liked the nature theme with it’s birds and butterflies, the flowers also reminded me of the medieval style tapestries, I think they’re called mille-fleurs. The only thing I didn’t like was the black aida, mainly because it’s so difficult to work with, but that was easy to sort out.

I chose a soft blue-green permin 32 count linen called sapphire. Hopefully it will work OK with the design. It took me quite a while to sort the threads out as there were four bundles to identify. I sorted them into colours so I have a card of blues and greens, one of reds and oranges and a third one of neutrals. So far it’s working pretty well. There’s a few different stitches in this design too, apart from the usual cross and back-stitch, there’s french knots, cording and couching too. Some of the french knots are with thicker thread too to make them stand out. It all adds interest!

The Finery of Nature

I’m working the quarter with the little bird first, I think he’d a chickadee. As you can see I’ve stitched the violets at the bottom and I’m just working up the stem to be able to start the bird. I’m aiming to back-stitch as I go along but there’s also quite a bit of gold thread used both for back-stitch, cording and couched stitches. I might leave that until the end as I’m using a hoop and I’m concerned about the couched and corded stitches in particular being damaged. I could change over to a frame, but the hoop is one of those you sit on whilst you stitch, so it’s easy, convenient and I can stitch with both hands so it’s quicker.

The Finery of Nature

This stitch-a-long is organised by Avis from Stitching by the Sea, we all choose our own projects and just share our progress every three weeks. It’s a great motivator to keep going! We’ve got two new members today too, welcome to Carmela and Jocelyn, please follow the links and see what everyone else has been stitching.

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, LucyAnn, Kate, Jess, Sue, Constanze, Debbierose, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Helen, Steph, Linda, Heidi, Jackie, Sunny, Hayley, Megan, Catherine, Deborah, Connie, Clare, Mary Margaret, Renee, Jenny, Carmela, Jocelyn

Posted in embroidery, Stitch-a-long | Tagged , , | 29 Comments