Memories of June

Early yesterday morning I managed to finish the wordplay for June, the one that goes with the Anthea Calender SAL by Faby Reilly. I was just in time before July was released later in the morning.

June’s SAL was cornflowers, it’s a beautiful vibrant blue design. I shared it here a couple of weeks ago..

What I didn’t realise until Faby kindly mentioned it, is that I’d completely forgotten to add the french knots and the beads! So yesterday I finished it properly, it makes such a difference, it’s gorgeous!

Trying to think of words to include in the wordplay wasn’t easy, I haven’t exactly done much recently apart from sewing and gardening! I’m trying to keep these covid free whilst still reflecting the times. In the end I stopped trying to think of what June has been like this year, and thought about what I remember of past June’s.

Centaura is the latin name for the cornflower, I’ve only got the perennial cornflower in the garden and that gets a bit sprawly and needs keeping under control! Roses are usually coming into their best in June, we’ve got probably over 30 roses in our garden, not counting the hedge.

We always enjoy watching the birds visiting the feeders near our condervatory. We’ve had lots of bluetits in June as the parents brought their brood to feed. It reminded me of a line in a book I read last year ‘Oh look, someone’s opened a can of bluetits!’ One of the fledglings nearly flew into the conservatory after feeding on the perspex feeder we have attached to the window, it was right next to an open window and before we knew it the little thing was perched in the open window looking round. Luckily it decided to fly out rather than in!

The phrase in the middle is by Jenny Uglow. The full quote is ” We may think we are nurturing our garden, but of course, it’s our garden that is really nurturing us. ” It seemed particularly apt for the moment, as if I’m feeling fed up with the current situation then I do feel a lot better after a session in the garden.

My walking buddy and I often do our long distance walk in June as the weather is usually decent and the days are long, without having the inevitable price hike on accommodation once school holidays start. The hay is usually being cut and neatly stacked, the calves are getting frisky in the fields and we’re always extra vigilant if the path goes through their field – we once had a detour of a couple of miles due to frisky calves and their protective mums.

Up in the Yorkshire Dales the wildflowers meadows are beautiful, full of buttercups, poppies, cornflowers to name but a few. I think the farmers get a special grant to delay cutting the hay so the meadows are protected, it gives the flowers chance to set seed ready for next year.

Last month we also had the saga of the bumble bee nest! A swarm decided to take up residence under the eaves outside our front room window. I rather enjoyed watching them, however the workman who came to give us a quote for replacing our soffits was not so impressed, even after I reassured him (with fingers crossed!) that they would be gone in a matter of weeks, long before he was planning to do the work. I love seeing bumble bees and refused to ‘deal’ with the nest, we need as many bees as we can. They were short term residents to my relief, but then whilst working in the front garden last week we noticed some smaller bee activity around the nest, like lots of them! We had a few concerned hours thinking another swarm had moved in, luckily they were obviously just raiding the nest as the next day they were gone!

We’re now half way through the SAL, I’m making mine into a book so these wordplays will be on the facing pages. Here’s six months of wordplays…

The design for July has just been released and it’s pretty bunches of lavender with butterflies. There’s lots of french knots though, I’ll be doing them in my sleep!

Posted in embroidery, Stitch-a-long, Textile Books | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Sewing Room Pictures

Over the last few days I’ve been reorganising my sewing room, I’ve been mulling it over for a while as the previous layout just wasn’t working. I decided at the weekend to rearrange the cupboards, then if I’m happy, I’ll make it a bit more permanent. More about that later, it’s still a work in progress as you can see but so far, so good…

Of course when I’m moving everything round, emptying cupboards and drawers I find stuff, get distracted, you know what it’s like! Propped up in the corner I found an Ikea box frame, still in it’s packet, I think my daughter gave me it when she was having a clear out. I realised the aperture was a perfect size for a sewing themed card a good friend had sent me after attending my quilt in a day class. The card had been stood on the windowsill ever since as it’s so pretty. I stuck it in the frame but it needed something else…

As a box frame there’s room for little things in front of the mount, I started looking round for bits, an old thimble of my mums, a handmade label and some buttons. Somewhere I have a box of vintage cotton reels, but of course I haven’t found that box yet! In the meantime I found some wooden reels, I’m tempted to wrap a little ribbon or lace round them but for the time being they’re plain. I then had the idea of standing a couple of long pins in one of the spools…

I like it, it’s all a bit temporary as nothing is attached, so if it is tipped, the whole lot will change, but I think it will make a nice addition to my sewing room.

This friend clearly knows me too well too, at the weekend she sent me a link for the virtual classes being set up instead of the live ones at the Festival of Quilts. I’d managed to ignore the direct e-mail they sent but of course temptation was too great once I’d followed the link. I’m now booked on to two live classes on zoom, they’re £15 each, so I’ll let you know how I get on. I’m doing Folding Circles with Jennie Rayment and Machine Embroidered Landscapes with Wendy Dolan. Follow the link if you fancy learning something new.

Posted in Home, Sewing, Workshops | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Monday’s Meander Round the Garden

Our weather is very unsettled at the moment – blazing hot one day (well, hot for us!!) and then a drop of 15 degrees, thunder and hail the size of £2 coins the next day! The poor flowers don’t know whether they’re coming or going! I managed to take a few photos before the hail hit them…

My roses are just starting to look good, they’re a bit late this year as I was so late pruning them. This one is called Lark Ascending, it’s a beautiful delicate rose with a gorgeous scent, it’s up in the autumn bed at the top of the garden. It will be quite a big shrub when it going.

You can see it from the amber & Amethyst garden, mingling with the foxgloves and the perennial cornflower …

The foxtail lillies are looking quite spectacular, I’m still quite amazed that I’ve managed to grow these! Next to them is another David Austin rose called Port Sunlight and behind it you can still see the little dark orange flowers of a geum, that one has been flowering it’s socks off since early spring!

Along the back border of our garden I’ve planted a hedge of wild roses, they’re just coming into flower now. Underneath them I’ve planted varius perennials to try and keep the weeds from creeping in from the old railwayline behind. There’s alchemilla mollis, geraniums, self sown feverfew. It looks rather pretty at the foot of the roses…

One of my favourite roses in the garden is called Champagne Moments, we bought it when we got married. I think it’s a great rose, it’s tough, healthy and flowers well, it hasn’t got the strongest of scents, but it’s still smells nice. I’ve given quite a few as presents too. There’s actually three rose bushes here, planted closely to look like one big bush. It’s something David Austin recommends and I’ve done it several times when funds allow, it does make for a good show!

As well as roses, we have lots of self-seeded annual poppies at the moment, the lovely purple ones, they come in all shades from almost white to quite a dark purple. I let them come up all over the garden, even in the middle of paths. I make sure they’ve set seed before I pull them up at the end of the year.

Another plant I have dotted about the garden is veronica, I do like the intense blue spires, they pretty much look after themselves too. This one is in the amber & amethyst garden, it looks quite striking next to the alstromeria and the pieris.

One of my friends is a professional gardener, I’ve finally succumbed and asked her to come and help me, just a morning a month. We’re tackling the front garden at the moment and it’s made such a difference, we’ve cleared the top area, she’s bringing her rotavator next time, then I can put some membrane down, make a path and plant some shrubs. Just having someone working along side is such a motivator and it’s great to have someone else to bounce ideas off. In the meantime, I just need to try and keep up in the back garden!

Posted in Garden | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Spring Orchards

I started a new embroidery kit a couple of weeks ago, it was meant to be my stitch anywhere project, i.e the one that’s in my handbag for stitching when I’m out of the house. However, it’s crept into becoming my go-to stitching at home too as I’m enjoying it.

It’s a kit I bought a couple of years ago in the embroidery shop in Grassington further up Wharfedale. If I visit a little shop like that I like to buy something to support them this caught my eye as it reminded me of the walks my friend and I have done up in the dales when the blossom trees have been in full bloom.

It’s needlepoint rather than cross-stitch so it’s stitched on canvas. It’s a bit smaller than I realised, though a better size for me really, the finished embroidery will be 11cm square. One thing that appealed was the use of different stitches to get the different textures, there’s french knots and long stitch as well as tent stitch.

I had to stitch the centre in tent-stitch first, then add the extra stitches before moving on to the border. I’m probably about half way through all the french knots, I’m making some of them a bit bigger than the instructions say, but they’re coming out more like the photo on the front. I don’t find it as easy to count tent stitch as opposed to cross-stitch, and fitting in the long stitch neatly is a whole new ballgame – the tent stitch coves the cross-over point of the canvas, whereas the long-stitch lies between the holes, so I just fudged a bit where needed.

I love the dry stone wall and the gate in particular, the gate is made to stand out by stitching over a long stitch, so it’s just raised a bit.

I’ve just started the outer border to give me a rest from all those french knots as well as the concentration working out where each one is meant to be!

By the way, the kit is by Derwentwater Designs, they are a company based in the Lakes, they have some lovely kits sold by a lot of independent shops, I couldn’t find a website specifically for them.

Linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, follow the link to see lots more sewing inspiration.

Posted in embroidery | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

A trio of Blocks

Each month I’m making three blocks to be mailed around the world for Foot Square Freestyle block swop party, I’m usually scraping in at the end of the month and June was no exception!

June was Monike’s turn and her colour scheme is indigo with accents in golden yellow and hot pink. I ordered a couple of fat quarters for the accent colours but I remembered in my stash I had a charm pack (5″ squares) in shades of indigo with a sort of Japanese (???) style print. I bought it from a Quilters destash page some time ago.

I flicked through my 365 quilt blocks book, I was limited to ones that were based on at least 9 squares, due to the 5″ squares of fabric, though accents could be any size. I felt the colour scheme lended itself to more modern blocks than I tend to do – taking part in this sort of project does make you sew out of your comfort zone – both colour and pattern-wise. This was my first one…

There was only two or occasionally three of each print, so I didn’t have enough to be too fussy about the direction of prints, though I did try and choose ones where it wouldn’t be too obvious, though I’ve only just realised that none of the squares match on the bottom right block, two were meant to but I think it possibly looks better for none matching than half!! . It looks more like a red/orange in the photo, but it is a lovely magenta really.

The second block just had an hourglass block in the middle in the accents, it was interesting trying to sort the charm squares out into lights and darks etc…

I realised a lot of the squares I now had left were quite linear in design, I graded them according to tone and found an ideal block pattern in my book…

This month we’re making blocks for Robin in shades of blue and yellow, so it could be a nice summery block. Do have a look over at the F2F website to see what everyone else has been making.

Posted in F2F, Quilting | Tagged , | 3 Comments

In the Pink

I seem to be in pink mode at the moment!

I’ve a few projects on the go at the moment and one of them is a quilt for a friend, she’s going through difficult times at the moment so I thought I’d make her a quilt. I asked her what her favourite colours are and (to my surprise) she said red and pink. I decided to concentrate on the pink!

I’m not very keen on buying fabric on line, but needs must, I don’t find it easy to see if the colours work together. I had a look at the wool warehouse site and found you could pull the ones you liked onto a wish page and check how they worked before you bought, it did help. My starting point was the one with butterflies, this gave my the turquoise second colour as well as including several shades of pink. The ‘plains’ with the bubbles on is Lewis & Irene blueberry range, I’ve used it quite a bit recently. In this case I’ve decided they’re bubbles as she likes swimming, especially in the sea! I also realised when they arrived that the teal one with the blue flowers on has also got tiny octopi on it! The coral pink one I admit if I’d been in a shop choosing, I probably wouldn’t have included it, however it’s exactly the shade of some of the butterflies and also flowers on the pale blue one. In real life it doesn’t look quite so orangy, it’ll be fine!

I wanted a fairly quick block, I decided on a disappearing 16 block. The quilters amongst you have probably heard of the disappearing 9 and 4 blocks, this is made along the same lines. The block pattern is for sale on the UKQU site, it’s by Lyn Butler, she’s made it into a gorgeous Christmas mat with lights and darks from a charm pack.

Rather than light and dark, my fabrics worked better as pink or turquoise. I cut a couple of 5″ squares in each fabric and had a play arranging them. Once I was happy I stitched them into a block of 16. I used the chain piecing method which is where you don’t actually cut the threads between the blocks, you just stitch one row of pairs, then add a third square to each row and so on. It does make it easier and there’s no threads to snip!

Once it was all pressed it was time for the scary bit! I cut it either side of the diagonal line, turning the board rather than moving the block. The diagonal strips were then moved round one space and the block was re-stitched. After my first block I retrieved my Best Press spray from downstairs and sprayed each block liberally, all theses second seams are on the bias, so you do have to be careful not to stretch the fabric. The starch made a big difference.

If you decide to make this pattern and you want it a little bigger, one thing to bear in mind is the size of the first set of blocks. I thought about using 6″ squares so a set of 9 blocks would make a good sized throw without a border. I only decided against it as my fabric was 21″ wide, so 6″ blocks were a lot more wasteful than 5″ blocks. However, having made my 16 block up, it only just fitted on my A2 cutting board and my 24″ ruler was only just long enough. The bigger blocks would have caused problems.

Once the blocks were re-sewn, they measure 17.5″, I made nine altogether and decided on the final layout. With only nine blocks it didn’t take long to stitch them together. I concentrated on getting the square intersections matching rather than the diagonals, I decided they wuld be more obvious if they missed. Some of the diagonals are perfect, some not so!

I wanted it slightly bigger, I had just enough fabric to have a one inch border in the turquoise and a two inch border in pink, I had to use both shades of pink, so I made the corners darker.

I’m pleased with it so far, I’m just waiting for some backing fabric to arrive so I can finish it and post it off to my friend.

Posted in Quilting | Tagged , | 16 Comments

As Busy as a Bee

Last week I decided to make a little present for my MIL, she always admired my bumble bee pincushions, but having stitched it three times already, I wasn’t sure I was ready to stitch it again just yet. I also realised it was also a lot smaller than many people realised – the bee is only about 2″ square!

Whilst I was having a bit of a sort out during lockdown, I found a lovely panel of a bumble bee in a furnishing weight fabric, together with a co-ordinating piece for the backing, isn’t it gorgeous! I bought it at a quilt shoe with the idea of making my mum a cushion,before I realised just how many cushions she had in her room at the time! It was perfect for my MIL.

I decided it needed some kind of simple trim such as piping, just to finish it. I found some thick piping cord in my stash and some smudgy dark drey/black quilting cotton. I cut some bias strips, covered the cord and stitched it round the front panel.

If I’m making cushions for myself, I often don’t put an opening in such as buttons or a zip, I just stitch it up and if it needs cleaning I unstitch it again. However as this was a gift I thought I ought to do it properly! I cut the backing piece in half so it would overlap, finnished the edges and then stitched the front and back together. I found some bee tape in my stash which worked really well for ties, I even managed to alternate the colour of bees across the three pairs of ties.

I had an 18″ cushion pad, so my bumble bee cushion was complete, ready for delivery in an afternoon…and she loves it 🙂

Posted in Sewing | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Sheer Pink

It’s a couple of weeks or more since the Sewing Weekender event, this is usually a weekend away for about 100 people in Cambridge with lots of sewing, chatting and speakers. It sounds great fun but obviously sells out in a matter of minutes. This year one silver lining to the current situation is that the organisers made it on-line instead, so numbers were pretty much unlimited. It only cost around £15 and there were lots of speakers on youtube, a goodie bag of lots of discount codes and lots of camaraderie over the weekend, with zoom meetings of everyone sharing their makes. It was all good fun, though I didn’t get as much sewing done as I hoped! Lots of money was raised for charity too.

I decided to pluck up the courage and make a shirt from sheer fabric. It was on my to do list this year, I seem to have ended up with a few sheers in my stash – I keep falling for them on Dewsbury shopping sprees!

I decided to make this gorgeous burnt-out chiffon – at least I think that is what it’s called. It’s sheer, but it does have a little bit of body to it – it’s not as fluid as some I’ve sewn with. Isn’t it just gorgeous!

I chose a Style Arc pattern called the Artists Tunic. I bought it a couple of years ago with a sheer shirt in mind as it is pictured in a sheer fabric. It’s the first time I’ve used a Style Arc pattern. It is the last time I will be using a Style Arc pattern!! It is already in the bin!. When I first looked at the instructions I thought they were a bit minimalistic but the more I sewed, the worse they were! To give you an example for the dressmakers out there, it said stitch sleeve side seam, so I made a nice neat french seam. Next stage, stitch sleeve placket!! Now how are you meant to sew a full sleeve placket with limited access due to the side seam being stitched! I quickly gave that up as a bad job and just bound the edges of the slit instead. OK, having made lots of shirts over the years I should have twigged instead of just blindly following the instructions but I didn’t…

Having had my moan about the instructions, the actual shirt has come out OK!

Luckily when Bluprint had their free classes at the beginning of lockdown I watched one on sewing sheers and made lots of notes. I picked up lots of tips such as the size of needle, small stitch length, not doing a back-stitch at the beginning and using organza as an interfacing. I’ve decided when I next visit a fabric shop I’m going to buy some plain organza to have in my interfacings box, I ended up rummaging in my fancy textiles box, there was a silvery one and a slightly bronzy one which twinkles a bit but they did the trick.

I used french seams throughout except for the armhole which I just zig-zagged. I edge stitched round the collar and cuffs as well as the front button placket, it just helped to keep the edges crisp.

I finished it a week or so ago but I didn’t have any buttons, so the photo below is the buttonless one! I ordered some on line, they’re a ruby red shell button. I rather like the shell buttons as they’re very light weight. This evening I made the buttonholes as stitched the buttons on.

Have you ever noticed that even if you practise the buttonholes beforehand, the automatic buttonholer makes a beautiful buttonhole until the moment you relax, usually about three or four buttons in, before it throws a wobbly and jams half way through. This means that even if you start with something like the bottom one just to make sure it’s working OK, it always blobs on the most obvious one, like the bust buttonhole!! At least it’s covered up by the button!

I’m really pleased with my shirt, I just need to make a camisole for underneath and something to wear it with – I’ve a pattern for a Morticia (Adams) skirt which might just work.

Posted in Dressmaking, Serendipity | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Antique Quilt HQAL

I haven’t got very far with my antique quilt, but I have made a start. This is an unfinished quilt which my daughter found when clearing her grandmother’s house. It’s a tumbling blocks pattern and from what we can deduce from the backing papers, it’s from around 1880!

Having taken advice from a nearby museum which specialises in textiles, I am aiming to finish it but also make a record, such as a book, of what I have done and anything I’ve discovered. The main body of the quilt is about 85″ by 58″, there’s also several part-pieced strips, waiting to be added, so I can fairly easily make it a little wider.

I decided to remove the remaining papers before I stitched the pieces together. I realise this isn’t the usual way of doing English paper piecing, but having been stitched down for nearly 150 years, I think the crease will stay there. More importantly, many of the papers won’t survive the handling involved when I try to stitch it, some are just newspaper which is already starting to disintegrate. These papers are the only chance we have of working out who may have made it.

As you can imagine, I kept getting distracted trying to read the snippets from the papers…

Henry Charles Butler, of Downland House, Bramshott, in the county of Southampton, Esquire, hereby give notice that I will NOT be RESPONSIBLE for DEBT or DEBTS my wife, ELIZABETH ANNE BUTLER…CONTRACT without my written authority and permission. I further Give Notice that she has no authority in any way to use my credit”

Ooh dear!

Or how about this …

FOR LADIES ONLY; Things a married woman cannot help thinking;

That she was a very pretty girl at sixteen. That she had, or would have had, a great many good offers. That all her lady friends are five years older than they say they are. That she has a very fine mind. That if her husband had acted on her advice he would be a richer man today. That her mother-in-law is a very trying woman.

As I said, I got waylaid! However, I have found a couple of useful snippets, two dates, one of 1876 and one of 1880, and a piece of a document which mentioned Sheffield. This is important as it suggests which branch of the family made it. Several years ago I looked into their family tree for my daughter and I recall a branch lived in Sheffield at about that time.

It’s been interesting looking more closely at the quilt. The stitches are so tiny, I counted one section to be about 20 stitches to the inch! Many of the diamonds themselves are also pieced and some of the seam allowances are very narrow! Some of the pieces are stained, but as the adjoining ones aren’t, I can only presume either the fabric was already stained, or it was stained as a prepared diamond but used anyway. There’s a huge variety of fabric, some of it feels almost waterproof, as if it has some kind of coating on it. I even found a pin still in the fabric, I’m not sure what it’s made of as it looks black and not particularly rusty.

I’ve counted the spare blocks and I have enough for another two rows which would make it more of a square. I just need to find some vintage creamy white fabric which will blend in for one row of adjoining diamonds.

I love the complete mix of fabrics, especially the occasional pop of red, it’s a true scrappy quilt! Hopefully next time I share this quilt with you I’ll be stitching the blocks together.

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, Margaret, TracyDeb, Susan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrin, Gretchen, Kathi, Daisy, Connie, Monica and Sherrie

Posted in Quilt-a-long, Quilting, Serendipity | Tagged , , | 33 Comments

Autumn Leaves

Yesterday I decided it was time to stitch another entry for a travelling sketchbook from my Embroiderers Guild. This is the last one in the current round. The book this time was on the theme of leaves. I had a perusal on Pinterest for a bit of inspiration, but nothing really caught my eye. I did see one which was like a little crazy patchwork sort of thing with a leaf in one quarter, so that was my starting point…

I started having a rummage in my textile box and found some Harris tweed squares in autumnal colours. I happened to spot a scrap from a chiffon shirt I’ve just made which had a dark red leaf in just the right size. A further rummage in my box and I found a scrap of chiffon/silky stuff in gorgeous autumn colours and some stuff which was part of an experimental dying session at an Embroiderers Guild workshop. I can’t remember what it started out as, but it was the right colour, gave a bit of texture and reminded me of skeleton leaves or rough bark. I cut a narrow strip for the centre and later some leaf shapes from a different colour batch. It was starting to take shape…

I used variegated DMC threads mainly. I used a simple running stitch to hold the main pieces in place with calico on the back for support. The centre strip is stitched on with a simple leaf design using fly stitch. In the bottom space I did a simple back-stitch outline of a leaf and then used what I think is called chevron stitch to fill it in, the back-stitch somehow gives a neater edge.

I wasn’t sure at first how to fill the long space to the left, I decided to do a chain stitch stem with spaces for thee leaves, initially planning to embroider the leaves. I then spotted the other piece of stuff I’d dyed which was a perfect colour for autumn leaves, they could be stitched on again with fly stitch.

My final bit of stitching was to add a silver running stitch round the red leaf to look like a frosted edge, it just helped to lift it.

I’m pretty happy with how this one came out, I think the different textures and colours give a good representation of autumn leaves.

I’ll be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts on Sunday for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow the link for more stitching inspiration.

Posted in embroidery, Textile Books, The Travelling Sketchbook | Tagged , , | 18 Comments