Monday's Meander Round the Garden

We have a tall beech hedge down one side of our garden, it’s probably about 40′ long as it continues down the side of the garage and the carport. It was well overdue for a trim, in fact it was decidedly overgrown. It had got to be too big a job for my OH too, particularly as I wanted the side taking back a good 18″ too.

Well today it had a trim, we paid for a couple of tree surgeons to come and sort it, it looks so much better! It isn’t perfect on top but when you take a hedge back about 6′ you have to give it a bit of time to recover and look beautiful again! Hopefully now we can keep on top of it.

Any flower that blooms in January gets lots of respect from me, choosing to stick it’s head above the parapet with the cold, wet and windy weather! Our mahonia has been flowering for most of January, my OH has a love hate relatinship with this shrub as it’s on the edge of the drive, just where he gets into the car, so he regularly gets prickled!

mahonia

I also noticed a primula braving the weather in the Amethyst and Amber garden, it looks a little tetty round the edges but at least it’s trying.

primula

The snowdrops are just starting to come into flower up near the pond, they look so delicate.

snowdrops

Top plant award in my garden at this time of year has to go to the hellebores. I’ve got quite a few now, all different colours and they’re just starting to put on a show. I bought this one last year in Morecambe – my friend and I supposedly set off for a walk up a local mountain, changed our mind and went to the seaside instead, coming home with plants and fabric – my OH looked very confused! The flowers start off this colour and then turn a sort of coppery colour.

hellebore

This purple one is particularly pretty, though they’re quite low flowers…

hellebore

Round the pond I have double white ones and these prickly ones whose name I have momentarily forgotten!

hellebore

I need to get out in the garden and start tidying up the perennials, cutting back old growth and damaged branches, get a head start on the weeds too!

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The Finery of Nature SAL

These three weeks seem to fly by, last time I showed you my Finery of Nature cross-stitch I was skipping merrily round the room having completed the third quarter…

The Finery of Nature

It took me a while to get going on this final quarter, as I was concentrating on finishing my Zen SAL and my Anthea SAL. However, this week I’ve made pretty good progress. I’ve completed the cross-stitch of one butterfly,just got all the back-stitching to do. I’ve also started the second butterfly which is a much brighter affair in gold, turquoise and black!

The Finery of Nature

Hopefully in three weeks time I’ll have finished this butterfly and maybe some of the flowers!

This stitch-a-long is organised by Avis, we publish our progress every three weeks, which is just enough time to keep you motivated! If you would like to join us please send Avis a message, in the meantime please follow the links to see what everyone else is sharing.

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

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

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January Smalls

I’ve just realised it’s the 25th January and I haven’t shown you my smalls yet!! OK so I was a bit late putting them out, what with Christmas and the like, but here they are…

January smalls

I seem to have lots of summery ones, and Easter or Christmas ones, not so much for the gloomy months like January so it’s a bit of a mixed bag!! I’ve turned my two seasonal boxes round to winter, one is an etui by Betsy Morgan, the other is my most recent finish by Faby Reilly, the gorgeous Zoe Box, showing the cute robin at the moment.

The big one is a Lizzie Kate design which always seems pretty apt for January! The cream cat is a needlepoint I stitched about 30 years ago, but finally made up last year! January is from the Snowflake Diaries SAL called Joyful World. The little gingerbread house is actually a Christmas decoration I made years ago, the embroidered cottage is also from many years ago.

The beady eyed amongst you will have noticed that the snowdrop one above is not in the photo – well it will be as soon as I find it! I’m hoping to make the January cross-stitch for the Anthea SAL into a mini pillow just in time too…

I’ve got plans for my February smalls, hopefully you won’t have to wait another month to see them!

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Zen Enlightenment SAL

Last year I started a SAL by Tempting Tangles called Enlightenment. The patterns are released every two weeks and there’s still another two patterns to go but I’ve finished it!!

Last time I showed it to you I was here…

Enlightenment by Tempting Tangles

It was pretty obvious where the design was going (which was somewhat disappointing) especially when the pattern came out for the next section which took us up to the middle of the bottom row…so I just kept stitching to get it finished.

Enlightenment by Tempting Tangles

I’m pleased it’s finished, I’m going to make it into a cushion for our guest room. I like the colours, especially in the border which uses a beautiful variegated thread. I actually added more colours than the pattern suggested. The design just used four threads, brown, dark green, soft green and the variegated. I used three or four extra shades of green to bring in a bit more variation – for example, the round trees should all have been stitched in the darker green.

I like it, I just expected a bit more interest, a bit more variation.

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Anthea SAL

My plan this year was that I wasn’t going to do any stitch-a-longs or quilt-a-longs, I was just going to do projects I already had in the pipeline! Then Faby Reilly released details of her next stitch-a-long, the Anthea Calendar, my resolve disappeared immediately and I signed up within minutes!

This is a monthly SAL, each month we’re sent a design which has flowers on for that month – Anthea means flowers or blossom in Greek. Faby’s designs are always beautiful so I knew I would like them.

I’ve just finished the design for January – a gorgeous bunch of snowdrops. Just to show you how Faby’s designs develop, here’s the snowdrops when I’d stitched all the cross-stitch and just started the back-stitch. Faby doesn’t use any half or quarter stitches, so it’s pretty straight forward to stitch. I used a soft grey/green linen, at first I thought it might be too close in colour for the snowdrops…

Anthea SAL Faby Reilly

With the blue back-stitching the snowdrops looked fine against the soft green…

Anthea SAL Faby Reilly

Once all the back-stitching was complete I started the embellishments, adding beads, sequins, rice-stitch border and half Algerian star stitches in the corners. It’s these bits that really make Faby’s designs stand out…

Anthea SAL Faby Reilly

Isn’t it gorgeous!! I was hoping to show you it made into a small of some kind, but I haven’t quite decided on the finish yet! I’m wondering now what February’s flower will be, we’ve nearly two weeks to wait!

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Anne Bronte P200

On Monday my friend and I had a lovely drive over to Scarborough, a seaside town on the East Yorkshire coast. We were going to see a piece of my work in an exhibition – it was pretty exciting as I’ve never had something exhibited like that before!

Anne Bronte P200

Back in the summer I heard about a project being organised to celebrate 200 years since Anne Bronte’s birth. Anne was one of the famous literary Bronte sisters, she was born in Haworth, just up the road from here, but she died aged about 30 in Scarborough.

She wrote two books, Agnes Grey and the Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Over the years she’s been a bit overlooked by her more famous sister Charlotte,but actually Anne was quite radical in her time, a feminist in a male dominated era. She wrote about how life was for many women, with alcoholic, abusive husbands and no legal means of escape. This didn’t necessarily make her popular with those who preferred the sanitised version of life in their times.

This exhibition and lots of other events in Scarborough this year aim to set the record straight! It’s the brainchild of Lindsey Tyson, she’s done an amazing job getting 200 artists organised! She’s a textile artist herself working from her studio in Scarborough, her work is beautiful.

200 artists were each given a page from a vintage copy of The Tenent of Wildfell Hall and we had to create something inspired by the page, or by Anne herself. I wrote about my piece and how it came about here.

Anne Bronte P200

The exhibition opened on Friday at Woodend Gallery on The Crescent in Scarborough. There’s an amazing variety of art media on display, painting, calligraphy, book art, as well as embroidery. I felt pretty proud of my piece!

Anne Bronte P200

There’s also a book been published which has a photo of each piece and the artists description…so I’m in print!!! I picked up my book on Monday, it was beautifully gift wrapped!

Anne Bronte P200

If you’re in the area it’s well worth a visit, though don’t go this Saturday as there’s some event on so it’s not open. There’s been alot in the press about it, with TV and radio interviews, so hopefully it will be well supported. You never know, I might even sell my piece!

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

The advantage of doing courses like the Stitchbook Collective is that you can try new techniques out without major expenses, a bit like attending workshops, you can decide if it’s something you want to try more of. A couple of weeks ago I had a messy morning trying Joomchi and gel plate printing. I had mixed results…

Having made the ‘textiles’ I still had to do something with them!

I tackled the joomchi first, this is a bit like felted mulberry paper. Helen, from the Stitchbook Collective, had included some shiny stranded thread to try as she said it works particularly well on the joomchi. It was a cheaper alternative to pure silk thread. I decided to try the pink circle first…

The centre is worn away during the process with the idea that holes start to appear – how big they are depends on how far you go with the process. Mine were still fairly small, I decided to put some ivory silk dupion behind to bring a bit of light to the centre. I chose the pink shiny thread which Helen had sent and simply went round in a spiral. I quite surprised myself how much I like this one now!

Next to be tackled was one of the leaf ones, I liked both of these which always makes it a bit more tricky when decideding how to embellish them! I remembered some real silk threads I’d bought off ebay, I think they were left over from someones project, I chose a soft green and a grey-blue. I embroidered round the edge with herringbone and then used an irregular feather stitch towards the centre. On the inner row of feather stitch I added beads to give a bit of sparkle. The leaf in the centre is slightly clearer in real life. I’m pretty pleased with this one.

The next one was very delicate, I decided to machine quilt it onto silk, just using two shades of variegated thread in a basic meander. It was my first attempt at free motion quilting on my new machine – with a speed regulator and no foot pedal – scary stuff!!

After my success with the joomchi I turned to the gel pate printing. Helen advised tearing one into strips and overlaying it on another. I decided to try the Catbells one – I wasn’t too keen on my first one and the poppy fields had been marked when drying on the radiator.

Well, I like the lake bit….and the sky isn’t bad, but I couldn’t get the mountain to work, I tried overlaying organzas, but they were too shiny, in the end I found some batik in similar colours, tore a strip and gathered it along the botom where the woods are, I embroidered over it but I still don’t like it. I’ve stitched it to a page in the book but I still haven’t decided if the page will be kept!!

Having tried tearing along the markings on the poppy one I couldn’t face spending hours stitching them on only to still not like it, so I’m afraid it’s gone in the bin!!

You win some, you lose some, it’s all a learning experience 🙂

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Christmas HQAL

Last month I finally finished my Down the Rabbit Hole quilt so it was time to choose a new project for my Hand Quilt-a-long posts. I was planning for a while to start a different quilt, but having started this Advent SAL before Christmas and got a bit behind, I decided if I didn’t finish it now it would languish for years as a UFO!

Advent stitching

Hugs ‘n’ Kisses kindly organised this free mystery SAL, they released a pattern each day for a little bit of Christmas stitching and by the end we had 25 cute mini embroideries. The suggestion was to make an Advent calendar ready for next year. We’ve already got one I made years ago, so I decided to make mine into a runner for the sideboard. This is where things like the Christmas cakes and gingerbread houses are displayed so it would be nice to have a pretty runner.

I found three co-ordinating Christmas fabrics in my stash and started to play about with ideas. In the end I decided to edge them in the red and green fabrics and use the cream in the centre and maybe for an extra border.

A couple of the embroideries were stitched too close together, I patched one but the other I’ve left out as it was also easier to arrange an even number of squares. Similarly I arranged them with one in the middle of the short sides so I would have an odd number down the long side, so the crib could be central!

Advent stitching

I’ve just to finish a couple of long seams, decide on final borders, then I can layer it and I’m going to do a very simple big-stitch quilting in red and green thread, well that’s my plan at the moment. Apoplgies for the photo, I couldn’t get it all in without relaying it on the floor, but you get the gist of what it will look like!

Advent stitching

This hand quilt-a-long is organised by Kathy, we post our progress every three weeks, it’s a great way to keep motivated!

New members are always welcome, any type of hand quilting is acceptable. That could be piecing, quilting, embellishing, applique and finishing.

Kathy, MargaretEmmaTracyDeb, Susan,  Nanette,  EdithSharon
Karrin, Gretchen, Kathi,  Bella, Daisy and Connie

Please follow the links to see some great hand quilting. I’ll also be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday.

Posted in Christmas, embroidery, Quilt-a-long, Quilting | Tagged , , | 26 Comments

Busy Bees

Last year I made my mum a cross-stitch small with a beautiful bumble bee on it. The pattern is still available on Etsy, I think it’s gorgeous! I found some cheerful quilting fabrics with sunflowers and bees on to titivate it. We used to keep bees when I was young so it seemed appropriate, she loved it…

Bee cross-stitch

The cross-stitch was so beautiful I decided to make myself one too! This time I made it more oblong shaped with a subtle soft green fabric with bees on. I added some mini pompom trim with ric-rac and beads round the edge…

Bee cross-stitch

I posted it on facebook and a good friend asked if I would make her one too! Over Christmas I stitched the bumblebee and later sent her photos of three different options for making it up. She chose the pretty green fabric with bees amongst twines of leaves. It’s one of my favourite fabrics at the moment…

Bee cross-stitch

I rummaged through my trims drawer to see what would work, trying lace, pom-poms, ribbon – someone asked to see my drawer, well here it is!!!

trims

As you can see I still haven’t worked out a way of sorting it! I tend to pick up lengths at shows or just when I see them. At first I found it quite hard as I didn’t know what I would use – I’m getting better!

I stitched the basic oblong, added bee tape and a gorgeous variegated ricrac which co-ordinated perfectly with the blue of the buds on the fabric. I stitched on the backing and stuffed it. I still felt it needed a little more embellishment so I added some tiny soft gold beads next to the ric-rac – it’s just enough.

Bee cross-stitch

I wanted something round the edge, but the ric-rac would have been too much, so I chose three coordinating DMC threads and made some cord. I used two shades of blue and a soft yellow. Now I have a cord maker it’s a two minute job. I stitched it round, forming a loop at the top and a bow behind to finish off the back.

handmade cord

She loves it! I think it’s the first time I’ve stitched a pattern more than once – three times is definitely a record!

Bee cross-stitch
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Textiles photo challenge; Playtime!

Sandra from Wild Daffodil is organising a monthly photo challenge again (last years theme was windows) this year it’s all about textiles – right up my street! Do follow the link to her post to see lots more textiles.

I’ve been playing today,messing about with paints and paper…

I got a bit behind with the Stitchbook Collective, monthly workshops which are produced by Helen Bellingham of Untangled Threads. They’re great, she sends everything you need to try a new technique and as well as written instructions she provides a really good video too. December’s box was on Joomchi, with Christmas etc I hadn’t got round to doing it, so when January’s box arrived and it was also a messy one I decided to have a messy morning!

Joomchi is an ancient Korean paper-making technique which uses water to mesh several layers of thin mulberry paper together to make one pice, it’s a bit like felting with paper. The traditional mulberry paper is pretty expensive here in the UK but Helen has devised a way of using Thai mulberry paper which is easy to get and much cheaper. Helen sent us half a dozen sheets in the pack of random colours, I also happened to have a sheet of handmade paper which I’ve had for years, it feels like a thicker version of mulberry paper, what I love is the leaves and petals that are caught withing it.

I learnt how to tear mulberry paper accurately – just wet a line – so simple when you know how!! I made four samples altogether, first up is the one with a pink circle. The pink is rubbed gently until it becomes almost threadbare, showing lacy holes. For the second sample I used different colours to make a bit of a collage effect.

joomchi

My favourites are the last two. I’d saved my favourite papers for these – a lovely soft green paper and a blue/grey one with fibres in it, they blended nicely with my leaf paper. I made one by layering strips of paper and putting the leaf one on top, this one is a little fragile really.

joomchi

The last one was made by making a ‘frame’ in the darker green and then felting it t the grey with a leaf on top. I really like these two. I’ve just got to put some stitches on them now and create something.

joomchi

This months workshop was on gel plate printing. Helen had sent a gel plate and a selection of paints together with calico etc. There were three main prints from each ‘painting’, the first is the strongest, a second is softer, then the gel is sprayed with water for the third print which gives a lovely watercolour effect. We could also play around with second prints overlaying prints.

My first attempt was just a sort of moorland scene. I then tried a proper scene. Regular readers may recognise the shape of my favourite fell, catbells. I had to concentrate painting it as everything comes out in reverse!

gel printing

For my final set I felt I really needed to try some different colours, I decided to do a sort of poppy field, overlaying with extra splodges of red. I was pretty pleased with these but when I popped them on the radiator to dry they immediately marked from the metal lines, I’m hoping I can do something arty-farty with these!!

Now I have to do something creative with them, embroider them, embellish them,, even tear them up and rearrange them!!

Watch this space…

Posted in Crafts, Serendipity, Textile Books, The Stitchbook Collective | Tagged , , | 6 Comments