Early Summer Reading

It was May when I last wrote a book post, so I’ve a few to share with you;

Having discovered Robert MacFarlane books on Tracks and The Old Ways, I started to look out his other books. The first two books had been very much about walks he had done, the history, the landscape and the emotions of walking. Next I read Landmarks, this was a fascinating book, it’s like a dictionary of local nature terms. If you love words, you will love this book! A few examples; zwer is an Exmoor term for the sound of partridges taking flight, a smeuse is a Sussex word for the gap in a hedge made by the passage of small animals, and snow-bones are patches of snow on ridges or in furrows after a partial thaw here in Yorkshire (apparently!) The words are intermingled with walks and descriptions of nature writers through the ages.

View over Derwentwater from Catbells

Last night I finished his most well known book, Mountains of the Mind, it is a history of mountains and their relationship with man, from being places to fear and avoid to being climbed for enjoyment and exhileration. He describes in detail the early attempts on Everest and how it seem to hold people spellbound. Both books were really interesting, though ‘heavier’ to read, I preferred the first two books which were mainly about actual walks.

A Wood of One’s Own is by Ruth Pavey. She lives in London but several years ago she decided to buy 4 acres of scrubland in Somerset and set about restoring it to mixed woodland. This book is about how she managed it, transforming it into a haven for wildlife. It’s a beautifully written book, I read it in a day, which is my favourite way of reading a book, all at once. OK it was mainly because I was sat in A&E for several hours checking out I’d not caught Lyme Disease – I hadn’t!

Bluebells

The Shepherds Life by James Rebanks; he is a shepherd based in the Lake District, his family have farmed in the area for 600 years. It took me a bit to get used to his style of writing, it’s what I would call very honest writing, it’s like he’s stood there talking to you. It’s a wonderful insight into a disappearing way of life.

Sheep

…and now for something completely different, I pulled this book off the shelf to lend a friend and ended up reading it again quickly before I passed it to her…

It’s not often a book completely changes your opinion on something but Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult did when I first read it about 7 or 8 years ago. It’s about a couple who get divorced and she then wants to use embryo’s from their IVF in her new relationship, her new partner is a woman and her ex has joined a very evangelical church who are very against gay marriage. You can imagine the court battle. It has all the twists and turns which you come to expect in a Jodi Picoult book, I find her books very well researched and they often cover difficult issues. Whilst I’ve never had an issue with gay marriage, I did have qualms about them having a family, not from any concerns about them as parents, more to do with a children coping, possible bullying, confusion with their own sexuality. Reading this made me realise that actually all children need are parents that love them unconditionally.

Posted in Books, Serendipity, Walking | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Practice Makes Perfect…or not!

I’ve been trying to decide how to quilt my Spring Wreath quilt, Andrea (the designer) hand quilted hers with simple diagonal lines but recently she has densely machine quilted other quilts. I didn’t want to hand quilt it and as it’s machine embroidered it did seem to fit the bill to machine quilt it, but how…

Spring Wreath quilt

I found a pretty quilting design on pinterest which had twining flowers and leaves, I thought that would fit very well. I decided to have a practise to get the feel of the movement. I had a cushion top panel which I had sandwiched to test out the machines where I was holding a workshop, I’d only stitched a simple square box. It was perfect to practise on.

I used a variegated blue thread on top and a plain blue underneath, I prefer to use similar colours where possible so there’s no risk of a little dot of the underneath thread showing on top.The downside is it does show all your flaws!

Free motion quilting

It’s not pretty!! I started in the centre with the flowers and leaves, not good, so I tried round the border with just leaves, still not good. OK there is an element of it looking worse with the contrasting thread, as on the front it doesn’t look too bad – mainly because you can’t see it! I was certainly not happy to use this pattern on my quilt.

Free motion quilting

I decided to make it into a cushion whilst I thought about it. I found some co-ordinating furnishing fabric left over from our dining room curtains, so I made it into a simple square cushion.

I was on a bit of a roll then,I decided to make a kanthe stitch hare I embroidered sometime last year into a cushion as well. It wasn’t an easy colour to match. I found a length from my Splendid Sampler stash that went OK with it. I also remembered a really pretty trim I’d picked up in Hobbycraft on impulse a couple of months back. It worked perfectly, picking out both the blue and the beige of the embroidery, together with some brown ric-rac.

Kanthe stitch hare

I felt it still needed a border. I eventually chose some blue quilting fabric which does go, I’m just not sure it’s not too dominating. I then tried to find some backing and eventually chose a bit of a random woven fabric I actually made a coat out of last year. It may seem an odd choice, but it actually has every colour of the front in it, blue, grey, beige, brown, teal…no I’m still not sure even though I’ve made it up! I’ll live with it for a month and then maybe change it to a calm and peaceful colour scheme!

Handmade cushions

Anyway, back to the Spring Wreath quilt. I have a plan! It’s sandwiched, ready to start as soon as my variegated cream threads arrives, hopefully tomorrow. I looked at a quilt a made a couple of years ago called Andersons Farm, I quilted that pretty densley and specific to the design, I can do this! I’m planning to shadow stitch round the stars, filling in their centre squares with a meander. All the little pops of colour I’m going to stitch in the ditch around the square and then do a sort of leaf shape in each corner. I’ll then quilt the rest with my usual pattern which can be made more leaf like. Fingers crossed!

Posted in embroidery, Home, Quilting, Sewing | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Two are Too Tempting

“I can resist everything except temptation” Oscar Wilde

I have a reel of ribbon with this quote on, given to me by a stall holder, she obviously saw me coming!

A few months ago I was tempted by another stitch-a-long with Faby Reilly, called the Zoe SAL, the patterns come out once a fortnight and I’ve just completed bock 7. We’re stitching the sides of a box at the moment with a different side representing each season.

Zoe SAL

This week is a very cute squirrel for autumn, he’s also a very mischievous squirrel as he has shifted very slightly to the right and taken the branch with him!!! OK so I mis-counted at the very first leaf! It’s only one stitch out so I’ll just fudge the beginning and end of the back-stitch. I just need to make sure I end the branch in the right spot so it will meet up with winter when I come to stitch it all together. On Monday the next section pattern is released so it will be all the back-stitching and embellishment.

Having resisted up to now, I have finally put the linen on a roller frame. I don’t find them easy to work with, I much prefer the sitting hoop, but hoops and embellishments such as beads and sequins don’t go well together. I need to check which area we’re stitching next, make sure I’ve finished stitching the backstitch outline that I should have done at the start!

Zoe SAL

Last month I heard about another stitch-a-long, this time by Tempting Tangles Designs, it’s called Enlightment; Words of Wisdom. It’s described as ‘framed in a leafy border and filled with Quaker trees, other motifs and a thoughtful Zen quotation to remind us of the simple and yet most important things in life.’ The colours are beautiful and of course I couldn’t resist!

This one is also once a fortnight, though luckily they are not released on the same day! Deborah, the designer, uses just four flosses for the design, she uses Dinky Dyes, which are beautiful silk threads, but she also gives a DMC alternative. I decided to use a mixture.

I ordered a gorgeous variegated Dinky Dye called Verdigris and also one called Nutwood which is a subtly shaded rich brown. I had the other two alternative DMC threads in my stash, 502 and 3847.

I found a piece of Permin linen which was just the right size, it’s rather a nice soft shade, I think it might be called French Lace. I started stitching the border with the verdigris silk, I have to say it is beautiful to use. I stitched each cross-stitch individually rather than in rows so I would get the full effect of the variegation.

Flosses

The only floss I had my doubts about was the 3847, it looked so dark and hard against the soft border. Half of me was saying I just need to trust the designer. I started looking through my stash for potential alternatives. 3848 seemed just a little too light. I remember that I’d bought some Aurifil flosses in peacock colours, I eventually found them but they were too turquoise and bright. However in the same box were the threads from DeVere that I got in my Advent calendar from them. There was a perfect shade, just sort of inbetween the other two. I know, they don’t look that different on the photo…but they do in real life!

I tried it and I think it works. It’s much finer than DMC threads so I’m using three threads at a time. I’m keeping all three options handy as I might alternate between them.

Tempting Tangles

So I now have three cross-stitch projects on the go, together with everything else!

Posted in Crafts, Stitch-a-long | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

Monday’s Meander Round the Garden

I’m playing catch up in the garden at the moment having been wiped out for the whole of last week with a virus, I didn’t have the enregy for any gardening, so I just sewed instead! With less than two weeks to our open garden weekend I could have done without it but I’m now just weeding and tidying to make it look cared for and pretty…

The rose which was going over the arch by the patio was looking very sick, a very bad case of black spot I think on a pretty old rose. I started pruning out affected areas and ended up cutting the whole lot right down. It says it all that I only saved six roses from the whole bush! I’ll give it a good feed and see what happens next year. I’m fairly philosophical about plants in the garden, they either survive or they don’t! Taking the rose down has actually opened up and lightened the area, I was a bit worried the birds would be concerned by the lack of cover near their feeding station, but within an hour the long tailed tits were landing on the feeders when I was less than 2m away from them.

Summer garden

Under the feeding station is a mass of geraniums, there’s actually three different colours here, all intermingling. They’re starting to get a bit out of control but as this area is earmarked for a big sort-out next spring I’m just enjoying it at the moment.

I’ve had a bit of a weed and a tidy up by the pond, cutting down the solomons seal which were looking very tatty, I need to squeeze a support underneath the crocosmia lucifer as they are well and truly flopping. Tucked away in the shade between the rhododendron and the summerhouse is a pretty corner with eunonymous, a straggly vinca, camellia, some leucothemums and what I think are the seedheads and fluffy foliage of thalictrum. There’s pulmonaria under there too and of course some geranium mingling along. Quite a lot of interest for such a little spot, it’s a shame it’s tucked away where people won’t see it!

Shady plants

I love this view of the Amber & Amethyst garden, it’s actually the back view, as seen when you walk up the path. I like all the spires of veronica, foxtail lillies and the poppy seed heads, together with the rusted metal stakes.

Amber & Amethyst garden

Talking of rich colours, the day lilies are just starting to flower, you can’t get much brighter than this one!

Day lily

The big bed under the fence needs a big tidy up, it’s certainly looking full!There’s quite a few shrubs near the fence that only went in last year, so as long as I can keep on top of the weeds, they should grow to nicely fill this area as a low maintenance area.

Summer garden

The clematis over the arch is just starting to flower so I’m hoping it will look amazing in 10 days time! This one is called Romantica – I happened to find the label in the spring when I was giving it a good prune!

Clematis

Down by the conservatory I’m trying to plant a nice peaceful bed, creamy whites, soft blues and purples. I saw a lovely show garden last year in Harrogate, mainly of hebs, but it just looked so calm. I also love the luminescent effect of white flowers at dusk, they look wonderful. I planted this purple sage and erysimum last year and they seem to work pretty well together.

Purple sage

It’s coming together is the garden, I could just do with a few more hours in the day…quilts to finish…cakes to bake…

Summer garden
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Coming Home Quilt

Last week I managed to finish last months section of my Coming Home quilt BOM. This is the medallion quilt BOM by Sarah Fielke and last month’s was particularly labour intensive! There was lots of houses to piece, roofs to make and if that wasn’t enough, there were clouds, suns, moons and other bits besides to applique.

I took the borders on holiday and I did manage to get a fair bit stitched, but there was still quite a lot to do…

Coming Home Quilt

I originally chose an ivory patterned fabric for the moon, but it just disappeared, so I changed it to a light teal plain fabric. The stars around the moon are actually a light teal too with little white glow in the dark spots. Ironically I originally bought this fabric for the background but it looked too bright amongst the other fabrics, so I used it for the stars instead and it doesn’t look at all bright. On the photos they don’t show up much at all but in real life they look fine!

Coming Home quilt

With all the applique completed I could stitch the border onto the quilt. The quilt already measures nearly 54″ square. I’m already thinking about missing off the final border, just because these quilts are pretty big and there is a limit to how many generous king size quilts a home needs!

This month is a lot lighter, allowing people to catch up, we’ve just got a few trees to applique, I must get started with it though!

I’m linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow the link to see lots more inspiring hand-stitching.

Posted in Coming Home Quilt, Quilt-a-long, Quilting | Tagged , , , | 28 Comments

Nerdy Needlecase

My boss told me I needed to get a life when she asked me what I was stitching one morning before work – a needlecase with different pages for different needles! Needless to say she’s not a sewer!

I’ve been thinking about this project for a while as I had two main pin cushions that my needles went on, but invariably when I tried to find a specific type of needle it would take forever. I wanted a pretty one of course, so I found a mini sampler by Anne of Les Petites Croix, she has lots of free patterns and this was one of them. I stitched it in different shades of purple. The evenweave is particularly pretty, I bought it at the Quilt Festival last year and it’s almost like a batik version of evenweave.

Needle case

I was all set to make the needlecase last month, went to my sewing room but could I find it?!! It was playing hide and seek, so when it appeared a couple of weeks ago I moved it higher up my to do list, before I lost it again!! I found a square left over from a layer cake which matched perfectly for the outside, another fat quarter worked for the inside and I had just about enough purple felt to make the pages, I was all set.

I played about with a few trimmings, but eventually I decided to keep it simple with just a length of ricrac. I spray basted some batting to the back and did a simple quilting following the lines of the fabric. I stitched it to the lining, turned it and edge-stitched it. The basic book was made.

Embroidered needlecase

I’d thought for some time about how to label the pages, I listed the different needles; cross-stitch, quilting embroidery, beading, dressmaking and odds and sods, so six pages. I didn’t quite have enough felt for three double pages. I needed to do a bit of fudging! I cut two double pages and stitched them in down the middle.

I had already decided that rather than embroidering the needle type, I would embellish with something to represent it. I have a length of pieced quilt strips left over from my Down the Rabbit Hole quilt so I cut a piece and stitched it to the side of a piece of felt, making the page a little bigger, it still wasn’t quite big enough so I added a strip of the main purple fabric to effectively making a hinge. I stitched it in front of the double page spreads to make a fifth page. This one was for quilting needles.

Embroidered needlecase

I was originally planning to stitch some odd buttons for dressmaking, but when I pulled out my button box, I had a few sewing related buttons, perfect!

For the embroidery needle page I embroidered my initial in a simple backstitch…

Embroidered needlecase

On the cross-stitch page I found a scrap of evenweave linen and stitched my initials and the date, plus a few cross-stitches…

Beading was simple, just a selection of purple beads…

Embroidered needlecase

I had just enough felt left to add a square on the back cover, that way it didn’t matter that it was smaller than the other pages! It was for any needle that wouldn’t fit in, the odds and sods, like curved needles! I decided to use some odd buttons to attach it to the backing and I machine stitched a handmade tape along the bottom just to finish it.

I added the ribbon and button on the front and a large button the the back to twist round as a fastening. As you can see I’ve already transferred a lot of my needles over and it’s proving a success!

I’m linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, follow the link to see lots of inspiring hand sewing.

Posted in Crafts, embroidery, Serendipity, Sewing | Tagged , , , | 33 Comments

Dancing Round my Spring Wreath

This week I finally settled down and stitched the last part of my Spring Wreath quilt, this is a Block of the Month (BOM) by Andrea Walpole of Raggedy Ruff Designs and it has been amazing to do. I fell for the finished quilt on facebook and signed up as soon as I discovered it would be a BOM.

It has been a huge learning curve as it’s created with raw edge applique and free motion machine embroidery. This was a new technique to me and it did take some courage to start that first piece, ‘take a deep breath and go for it’ was good advice from Andrea. With the help of her clear instructions and support on line, I did it!! I even found I rather like machine embroidery and I’m now using the techniques I’ve learnt in little pieces of my own.

The last section was four lengths of borders, two of which needed embroidering to complete the floral border within the wreath. The background is beautiful in it’s own right, with muted shades of cream and lilac, little pops of colour and gentle stars. It’s mainly made with batiks and kona solids, but there’s also different fabrics such as linen, calico and a sparkly one, which I would never have thought to put in a quilt, but it just lifts it.

Spring Wreath quilt by Raggedy Ruff Designs

The first one I tackled was the bottom arc of flowers and foliage, there’s dandelions, ivy and little blue flowers which look a little like periwinkle. I found these borders more fiddly than the main blocks, just because the pieces are so tiny. Andrea somehow manages to secure them all just by positioning and sewing, I have to use a dab of fabric glue first – I tried without on a bud that I’d missed with the glue, it turned on me and ended up facing the wrong way!

The final area to be embroidered was the right hand border, dandelion flowers and clocks, periwinkles and white blossom, with a couple butterflies fluttering by too.

Spring Wreath quilt by Raggedy Ruff Designs

With all the blocks complete I could start assembling the quilt, but first I had the nerve-wracking job of cutting away the stabiliser from behind the blocks, I trimmed to within about 1/4″ of the stitching, I really must buy some duck-billed scissors at the next quilt show!

The panels went together really easily, most of my corners match up! I love it! It’s so peaceful and calm, it’s going to hang on my landing wall where I do my hand quilting – I’ve just got to get it quilted!

I’ve decided to machine quilt it, the original was hand quilted with simple diagonal lines, Andrea’s more recent quilts have been machine quilted with the most beautiful, intricate stitching, way beyond my capabilities, but I have seen a free motion quilting pattern which I think will work, it has twining flowers and leaves, I think I’ll have a practise on a cushion front first. I’ve ordered some variegated cream thread so as soon as it arrives I’m hoping to get started on the last stage of this quilt.

Spring Wreath quilt by Raggedy Ruff Designs
Posted in embroidery, Quilting | Tagged , , , | 20 Comments

…because every fairy deserves a special set of wings!

I’m so chuffed with my latest ’embroidery’ that it’s jumping ahead of about six other outstanding posts!!

It’s my Embroiderers Guild on Monday and that means it’s time to swop travelling sketchbooks again, so I thought I’d better get on with it! I’ve had this book before, last year, it’s theme is mythical beasts, not something I know much about really. Last time I stitched a phoenix. I looked on pinterest for ideas, wonderedfor a while about a unicorn, but the ones I saw were either too complex or looked like they came out of the same stable as My Little Pony!

I started to look at fairies, I know they’re not exactly beasts, and some might argue that they’re not mythical, but I quite fancied doing an embroidery on fairies. I saw a link on pinterest to make fairy wings, they were beautiful. They’re designed for babies and young children, but it gave me an idea….

I would make a pair of fairy wings!

I pulled out my ‘textiles’ box which has organza, georgette, sari silks…all sorts of stuff. Initially I laid them over a piece of shot taffeta, I then decided it may work better with a batik fabric behind the fancy layers. I played around and eventually came up with a length of sari silk, a couple of layers of organza, all overlaying batik cotton. I tacked it round to hold everything in place.

Making Fairy wings

I wanted it a little stiffer, so I used bondaweb to attach the taffetta to the back. I traced my wings onto freezer paper, cut them out and ironed them onto the back of the wings. This gave me an easy outline to follow with my first row of machine stitches, I just went twice around the wings. I peeled off the paper and turned it over to start embroidering it.

I used a variegated blue thread to stitch veins on each wing. A green-blue thread worked well for extra colour round the edges with just a free motion sort of zigzag pattern. It still needed a little something so I stitched some circles in the greeny thread too. You can see from the back view how much stitching there is.

Fairy wings

My original plan was to embellish them with beads and sequins, but I quickly discovered that so many layers of machine embroidered fabric is not easy to get a needle through! I just added some blue sequins with a beadin the middle of each one.

Fairy wings

Then came the tricky bit…cutting them out! I turned them over so I just had the clear stitching outline and took it slowly. The edges are raw, I just straight stitched round, but as they are going to be sat in a book I felt that would be enough.

Fairy wings

I stitched the two together with difficulty, in fact I just did one stitch through both sets of wings, the bow, sequin and bead and back again – that took quite a lot of effort and a pair of forceps! I added a spot of glue to stop them turning.

Fairy wings

I am so pleased with these, they’ve been stitched in an evening and I think they are so beautiful, it’s just worked out perfectly!

Posted in embroidery, Serendipity, The Travelling Sketchbook | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

R is for Reading and Red Robbins!

A few months ago a friend visited and brought a large bag full of crafty things, they belonged to her mum, who is now well into her 90’s and no longer wants them. There was all sorts of goodies in there, including this little cross-stitch kit.

Robin bookmark.

It’s a bookmark kit by Textile Heritage Collection, I think it’s still available though as this one had a £2 charity shop sticker on I think it was a bit of a bargain.

It’s probably not a design I would go out and choose, but I liked it enough to stitch it and actually it’s turned out rather sweet.

I decided that as I was reading so much more now, it was time I made myself a bookmark, instead of using train tickets, WI programmes, envelopes…

It’s stitched on an aida band, 14 count I think, as it was stitched using three strands of floss. It only took a couple of weeks to stitch with odd half hours here and there.

It was designed to just have a piece of felt covering the stitching at the back with a little tassel matching the light turquoise border. It’s actually quite a soft aida, I wanted a bookmark to be a bit firmer, so I found some cotton in my stash which had red fruit on which match the robins perfectly…unfortunately the way it folded they’re all on the back apart from that little glimpse at the top!

I left off the tassel as with the green and black background it no longer worked.

I now have a smart bookmark to mark the place I fell asleep…

Posted in Books, embroidery | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Tanya Culottes

I’m a member of the Minerva Crafts Boggers Network, so every few weeks I get the chance to try out some fabric in exchange for a post which will hopefully inspire some of their customers. My latest make is now live on their website!

A few weeks ago I chose some navy blue viscose, it was described as having a beautiful drape, it looked perfect for a pattern I’ve had for a couple of years, Megan Nielson’s Tanya cullottes. These cullottes hang like a skirt, they are so full. As a result they do take quite a lot of fabric, so this was the perfect opportunity to try the pattern.

Tanya Culottes

They went together beautifully and I love them! They are so comfortable but smart, I love the way the viscose twirls too! I’ve worn the quite a few times. The only thing I need to change is the zip, the pattern calls for a 9″ zip, I had a standard 7″ skirt zip inmy stash, that’ll be long enough, I thought…it wasn’t! After too many wiggles over my bottom it needs changing to a 9″!

To read more about making this skirt, follow the link to my write up on Minerva Crafts.

Tanya Culottes
Posted in Dressmaking | Tagged , | 14 Comments