Words for November

Over the last couple of days I’ve stitched the wordplay to go opposite the flower page for November in my Anthea SAL book. The SAL is organised by Faby Reilly and her designs are beautiful. This was the penultimate month of this SAL and the flower was the Chinese Lantern, or physalis, which has unusual round flowers which become like skeleton leaves as they age.

It does vary how easy or hard it is to think of words for a particular month, I was surprised to have more than enough ideas for November especially as we haven’t really done anything! Dates I didn’t have room for include Mischief Night on 4th November, this is more of a northern England thing I think where kids play pranks like knocking on doors and running away, it seems to have been superceded by trick and treat for Halloween. The last Sunday before Advent is called Stir-up Sunday, It got its name from the beginning of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer, which begins with the words, “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people”. This was taken as a sign or a reminder that it’s time to make the Christmas cake and pudding as both need to mature for several weeks. My cake is now made and decorated with a simple stencilled top and a few stars.

Bonfire Night is on 5th November when we celebrate Guy Fawkes getting caught before he blew up the houses of parliament. Guy Fawkes was a local man, living at Farnley Hall just across the river, the head of the family there is always called Guy Fawkes, we had a talk from him a couple of years ago with WI. From what I recall it is part of the deal that if you want to inherit Farnley Hall you take the name of Guy Fawkes. As a twist to the story, when I was researching my family tree, I found the Bickerdikes (my maiden name) of Low Hall who were recusants back in the days of Henry VIII, so they refused to denounce their Catholic faith and suffered greatly for it. It is said in the folklore of that branch of the family that Guy Fawkes plotted the foiled plan on the kitchen table of Low Hall, though I’ve never found anything to corroborate the story! I’m not a great lover of fireworks, but I do like sparklers. I like watching fireworks from the safety of indoors! Having said that, someone who lives further up the Chevin has a huge professional firework display most years as a private party which the rest of the town enjoys. One year it was in the summer, I sat outside on a warm evening with a glass of wine, thinking this is the way to watch fireworks, never mind the freezing cold nights in November!

This year Remembrance parades were all cancelled and the laying of wreaths at cenotaphs across the country was a quiet socially distanced affair, it seemed to make it all the more poignant.

Faby Reilly Poppy Humbug

I saw a goldcrest in the garden in November, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen one so it was quite exciting. They are one of Britains smallest birds alongside their rarer cousin the firecrest.

We went for a couple of muddy walks this month, many fields are getting waterlogged so we end up doing big detours round a field to try and find somewhere reasonable to cross. I always think of mist and fog when I think of November, we haven’t had much fog this time but a lot of misty mornings.

Schizostylis is the Latin name for kaffir lily, it’s a very pretty flower which looks far too delicate to flower in November, but it’s flowering it’s socks off in my garden at the moment!

It’s the first Sunday in Advent at the end of November, we always have an Advent ring which has four candles on a foliage wreath, the idea being that you light a candle on the first Sunday, then two on the second Sunday etc etc. In the past I’ve used an oasis ring as a base, which works really well but it’s totally unecological as it never breaks down! Last year I tried a straw based wreath but the foliage died too quickly so I replaced it with an artificial wreath which I bought years ago, titivated up with lots of other bits and bats, it looked great. So that’s what I’m doing again this year…I just didn’t quite get round to it on Sunday!! To give you an idea, this was last years…

The poem I’ve chosen isn’t as maudlin as it sounds. It’s interesting looking back at the quotes I’ve used over the year. I went to my notebook of poems and quotes which I started back in my twenties, I was planning to use one which starts ‘Launch a dream, watch it rise…’ as I’m pretty close to finally having a website! Then I wondered about the remembrance one, ‘For your tomorrow we gave our today’ . But as soon as I read this one I knew it was the right one. We’ve had a pretty rubbish year, even without covid, but I have friends who have had a much worse year,made much more difficult by covid. The poem is by David Lyons…

If thoughts were flowers & words could heal our pain, I would give my friend a garden filled with songbirds where tree leaves whisper to a stream.

And summer evenings hang with the scent of warm gold sun, the petals floating for her bed, soft as heather wine.

And on the tops of the hills, around where the garden lies, I would gather wood in piles and set a ring of fires to destroy the frosts of winter and singe the storm clouds with their dragon tongues.

And if flowers were thoughts, the blue of the gentian would humble my words for ever and, in the cathedral of trees, peace would descend like pollen motes upon our hair.

I think the imagery in the poem is just beautiful.

I embroidered the skeleton petals from the original design, however rather than using gold thread, I used the variegated brown which is used for cross-stitch all the months, I think it’s pretty effective in the brown.

So, here’s my wordplay for November…

December’s pattern will be released early next week I think, the last one, then I need to start stitching the pages together.

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Crisp Autumn Walks

A couple of weeks ago my walking buddy and I went on another local walk. This one was in a leaflet called Another Four Walks round Otley, it was from Otley to Pool Bank and back over the Chevin, about 6.5 miles which was just the sort of length we wanted. We walked from my house which added another mile on in theory…

It turned out to be one of those lovely autumn days, a bit crispy, blue skies after a bit of mist first thing, much better than the weather forecast reckoned! The low sun at this time of year makes the photos look a lot darker…

We walked into Otley, picked up some extra supplies, like a sausage roll and a Belgian bun, and then followed the route out towards Pool. The route soon took us off the roads and onto old lanes and then tracks and paths, following along side the old railway line. The low sun made for some long shadows…

We sat on a stile for our morning coffee, one on each side of the step, not a bad view for a cuppa, by this time the mist had cleared and it was quite warm in the sun…

The instructions in the leaflet were OK, but we did have a few moments trying to work out how far along we were, not helped by trying to negotiate some very wet fields. We finally reached Old Pool Bank where the old toll cottage is, which was the turning point for our walk. I was surprised to see we had already walked five miles as this was about half way! Alarm bells started to jingle about just how long this walk was going to be!

We ate our sandwiches and set off back over the Chevin and up to Surprise View, time for our sticky bun break, though the skies were now threatening rain so we didn’t dilly dally for long.

The path took us right to the other end of the Chevin where it’s much quieter. We descended via path I’d not been able to find before which comes out on West Chevin Road. It was pretty steep and rather muddy. We took our time but I still ended up on my bottom and had a near miss too!

Once we finally reached the bottom it was just another mile home along the old railway track at the back of our house. We sat outside for a much welcome cup of tea in the garden, my friend checked her fitbit, we had walked 10 miles!!! My OH was trying very hard not to say ‘Told you so’ as he had reckoned the day before that it was nearer ten miles!!

We were quite impressed with ourselves for walking ten miles, it was a bit of a challenge towards the end but we did it. We’ve come to the conclusion over the years that however long the walk is, the last mile is hard work!

I soaked my aching muscles in a lovely hot bath and they hurt even more when I got out!! I limped for two weeks with a painful knee, but I’m not sure if it was the walk or the digging in the garden the day before! It was a good walk though, undulating on the whole and a lovely autumn day.

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Jenny Wren

A couple of weeks ago I stitched a kookaburra, it was a kit from Fido Stitch Studio on Ebay, I was really pleased with the detail in such a small piece of cross-stitch. I’d bought two kits at the same time, so pretty much straight after I finished it I started the next one. This is the kookaburra…

The next kit is of a wren, one of our smallest birds, but one of the loudest! For such a little bird they have a beautiful, loud song. We had a pair who for a couple of years nest just above our backdoor under the shelter of the carport, dawn chorus was very noisy but wonderful to hear.

I found the wren much more taxing to stitch,mainly because it’s basically a little brown bird, never mind fifty shades of grey, twenty shades of brown was quite enough for me! I got lost in the stitching a few times until I’d both got my eye in for the different shades and also stitched sort of a framework of the darker or lighter colours, ones which stood out slightly so I could work out where I was.

I stitched the wren on 32 count linen again, instead of the 14 count aida provided, so it’s come out at about 3″ square, just nice size to make into a ‘small’.

I finished it at the weekend, I love it, it’s really caught the cocky nature of this little bird…

There’s lots of lovely bird and animal designs on the Fido Stitch page, I’m quite tempted with the kingfisher, he looks gorgeous, but I must try and stitch some of my stash first, before I start buying yet more kits!!

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Cottage Garden Quilt HQAL

I’m enjoying making the Cottage Garden Quilt, the pattern is in a book of the same name by Kathryn Whittingham, it’s so pretty. Three weeks ago I’d just finished the first two blocks of the bottom row…

I’m stitching the bottom row before the middle as I realised earlier in the project that the bottom is a reflection of the top in terms of borders and colours, this is what helps it to look balanced rather than busy. I wanted to make sure I had enough of some of the border fabrics before I used the fabric up on little squares.

I’ve been busy over the last week, embroidering on an evening to get these blocks ready for piecing the quilt. The next block to be stitched was a pile of plantpots. I love this block, the colours work well, though the dandelion at the bottom could have been a bit brighter. I’m particularly pleased with the pink primula at the top, I fussy cut it from a rose print and with the embroidery over the shading on the print it just works. It took quite a while to stitch this one as there’s quite a lot of stitching, back-stitch round the pots, blanket stitch round the tops, then the flowers and the ladybird. This one will be pieced the same as the tall flower at the top and the red paisley is the main reason I’m stitching the blocks is this order as I haven’t got very much left!

The remainder of designs for this block were little ones, so fiddly to cut out but fairly quick to stitch.

I stitched a snail with a flowery pink shell and a green frog on a lily pad. These will go in the centre of green star blocks to mirror the flower blocks above…

I stitched a pink heart to go in another log cabin block…

The final embroidered block was a trowel which pairs up with the hand-fork above…

So my next task is to make these into blocks and join them up with various filler blocks, so this…

…turns into something which balances this…

Then I can start the middle row!

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, Deb, NanetteSharonKarrin, Gretchen, Daisy, Connie, Monica and Sherrie

I’ll also be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow all the links for lots of hand-stitched inspiration.

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Kookaburra Cross-stitch

Last month on facebook I spotted a lovely cross-stitch of a kookaburra which someone had stitched. My OH is Australian and loves the sound of a kookaburra so I decided to stitch one.

The design I had seen was a kit by Fido Stitch Studio, they have an Etsy store with a huge range of cross-stitch kits of their lovely designs. There are lots of birds and animals in beautiful detail for such little designs. I ordered the kookaburra and a wren, the kits are about £9 each including UK postage, which I think is very reasonable.

I stitched the kookaburra first, he’s pretty cute for such a funny looking bird! The fabric supplied in the kit is 14 count aida, I used a 32 count linen instead in a slightly buttery cream, I prefer stitching on linen and this also had the advantage of making the finished stitching slightly smaller.

The design stitched up really easily, the chart was clear, there were over twenty different colours so it made sense to sell it as a kit, rather than just the pattern.

Here it is, a kookaburra…

… isn’t he cute! He measures 2.75″ by 3.5″ in the linen, so a nice size for a cross-stitch small. I’ve a few cross-stitches waiting to be made up so I think I need a session one day.

I quite fancy some birds to go in my collection of cross-stitch smalls, I don’t think the wren I’m stitching next will be my last.

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Grasses and Flowers Workshop

A couple of months back I spotted a course run by Jo Hill which looked rather interesting. With so many teachers going on line it does make for a lot more opportunities to attend workshops, whilst there is something special about attending a workshop there is always the issues regarding travel and accommodation and this way I can attend courses all over the country…in fact the world is my oyster!

Anyway, back to the course…Jo does machine embroidery of nature, flowers, birds etc, I like her style so an on-line course on grasses and flowers appealed. It’s a six week course on the website course-craft it’s £75 but there’s a couple of easy ways to get a 15% discount which she mentions.

The course started on 1st November, but I’ve just today got round to starting, luckily access to the videos has been extended from mid December to the end of January. There’s a facebook page for people to share their progress and thoughts and there’s also room to comment or ask questions on the website.

Well I loved it, there’s several videos for week one Jo is clearly a good teacher who has adapted to on-line teaching very well – it’s her first on line course. Having gone through equipment, the first sample for us to make was a page of ‘doodling’., trying to stitch different patterns and shapes. It was harder than I anticipated, particularly as I’ve done a fair bit of free-motion quilting…

Having seen my doodling, I was beginning to worry what the next sample would look like! Jo started with grasses, using both the free-motion foot and the standard foot, she showed us different ways of stitching grasses, she uses a black thread which does make it nice and clear on the videos but also shows every mistake!! I changed to a Gutermann variegated green thread, there’s good bits and not so good bits, but I could see myself improving as I stitched…

In the next lesson Jo was adding blocks of colour, just simple shapes to represent flowers or seedheads. I chose some colourful batiks from my scrap box and a little tweed. Here’s the first stage, as you can see I was trying different stitches and ideas, particularly with the triangles and rectangles…

I then decided to fill up the spaces with grasses I’d learnt in the earlier sample…

I’m pretty pleased with this, though I think my colour balance is off – I either need darker thread or lighter fabrics! But for a first attempt, I’m happy. So far I’m very impressed with the course, there were about five videos to watch just for week one!

I’m hoping over the weekend to crack on with leson two, so watch this space!

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Stitching 4 the Soul SAL

This week I turned my attention back to my #stitching4thesoul book. I started this in the summer, already late to the party and then got waylaid. Luckily it’s all on YouTube. It’s a stitch-a-long organised by Anne Brooke who lives not that far away and her videos on what to stitch for each page are delightful, it’s like having your best friend sitting there sharing an afternoon’s stitching.

We’re making a book with a colour of our choice running through it, not a dominating colour, just something to link the pages, mine is ecru, so it nicely includes lace and mother of pearl buttons, of which I’m rather fond!

For this third double page spread Anne suggested we use a colour we don’t particularly like, which isn’t easy as you don’t tend to buy fabrics you don’t like!! I’m using a fabric sample book as a base for all these pages, I flicked through the different colour ways and decided on red, mainly the orange end of red. In the book there was a page of furnishing weight silk with a gorgeous embroidered silk honey suckle flower in flame red, it was a perfect starting point. As an aside, I was flicking through the sample book when I found a price list at the back….Gosh!!…they’re between £100 and £200/metre!!!

I cut various squares and strips of different weights of fabric from the sample book, frayed some edges and started playing with them, I pulled out some lace and various trims and started to play with potential layouts. I find it difficult not to follow Annes design closely, it’s always interesting to see at which point you veer off and make it your own.

The brief from Anne also called for Suffolk puffs, otherwise known as yo-yo’s across the pond. I love the term Suffolk puffs, so that’s what I made. They are simple to make but tricky to get to look as neat as teachers!! It’s just a circle turned under and gathered round to make a fabric disc, gathers on one side and plain on the other. I decided for lightness to use scraps of Liberty tana lawn. My daughter has been making Liberty masks to sell on Etsy (Handstitched by Helen) and I get her scraps!! I made seven altogether in slightly differing sizes. I also used a couple of plain fabrics from a company who used to make fabric for Liberty so it’s a similar weight.

Once I’d stitched the pieces down with a simple running stitch in an orange/red variegated thread, I decided to continue to stitch lines of running stitch to make like a wave formation, the idea being that this would be the line that the Suffolk puffs followed.

I stitched the lace on next, the one on the left is in about three pieces as the flowers actually go across the lace, not down it’s length, so I pieced them together to get the effect I wanted.

Once I’d stitched the lines, I rather liked them, so I didn’t want to completely cover them with puffs. Instead I positioned the puffs slightly higher, overlapping the lines in places, but not obscuring them.I stitched a red bead over the hole in the middle.

It still needed a bit more, so I found my pot of random red buttons and started to play…

…the bottom right hand corner looked a bit bare, so I played around with a few buttons and fabrics and in the end found a frayed, simple square of red was sufficient.

I still haven’t decided if this one is finished yet, I’m tempted to do a few more lines of embroidery, maybe with some different stitches,but I might put it on my design wall for a couple of days, see how I feel then, otherwise I just need to stitch it onto the calico pages of my book.

This stitch-a-long is organised by Avis from Stitching by the Sea. We post our progress on our chosen project every three weeks, just long enough to keep us motivated. Please follow the links to see what everyone else is stitching.

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLauraCathieLindaHelen

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Winter Coat Time

Thw winter coat I made a couple of years ago is looking decidedly past it’s best, it’s one of those loose weave wools which I love, but they don’t wear well! I decided this year to make a coat using a gorgeous grey wool, it’s beautiful, like luxury men’s overcoating, it feels beautiful. I think I bought it a few years ago on Goldhawk Road in London and felt somewhat guilty as it was labelled Yorkshire Wool, it didn’t seem right to travel 200 miles to buy wool made on my doorstep! I seem to remember it was a bargain at around £10 a metre.

My original plan was to make the Papercut Sapora coat, but it takes over 3m of fabric and I only had just over 2m. Instead I used a pattern which has been in my stash for a while, Newlook 6074, that one also needed more fabric (2.5m)but I decided I could get it out with a bit of fudging. The design has a curved hemline and a single button fastening on a deep stand-up collar.

I could get all the main pieces out, though the collar had to have a centre back seam! My main fudge was that the front piece was faced with the main fabric, I had no where near enough fabric to cut four fronts out so I cut it out in lining instead. My original plan was to use a narrow facing to edge it however I decided in the end to just go with the lining as it would have made quite a bulky edge.

The lining is a very pretty Liberty tana lawn which I bought on Dewsbury market a couple of weeks ago for the grand sum of £7 per metre! It goes beautifully with the grey wool and they feel as soft as each other.

The coat went together really easily, it was pretty straight forward apart from the bagging out of the lining. Bagging out always makes me nervous, I usually try and avoid it, but with curved hems I decided it would probably look neatest. For those of you not familiar with the term, bagging out is when you stitch the main garment and the lining together right the way round, apart from a little gap for turning. If it works well you have beautiful edge to edge lining…however if the outer or inner fabric is slightly different length, it won’t hang right. The bagging of this coat went ok, not perfect but not bad. The issue I had was the instructions for stitching the sleeve to the lining as it was done through the gap, I couldn’t follow the instructions or the diagrams, so in the end I machine stitched the cuff and hand stitched the lining over it. I think it makes a bulkier cuff but it’s OK.

Once the construction of the coat was complete the instructions said to topstitch round, or ‘for a decorative touch’ hand-stitch with running stitch. Of course I couldn’t resist a bit of hand-stitching, but I must admit half way round I was beginning to regret it as it took forever!! I do like the finished effect though.

The design just has the one button on the stand up collar. I’ll see how I get on with it but I’m tempted to add another two buttons down the centre front as I’m not keen on garments that fastene firmly round my neck, I’d rather have it open and wear a scarf.

I’m pleased with the coat, it does feel lovely and snuggly to wear, though I’m not sure about the shape with this style of skirt, it may be better with a longer straight skirt or trousers. I think Lucy likes her new coat too, seen as she’s photo-bombed my picture!

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Anthea Calendar SAL

Over the weekend I finished stitching this month’s design for the Anthea Calendar, a SAL by Faby Reilly. Each month has a seasonal flower and I was wondering what November’s would be and it’s physalis.

Physalis is otherwise known here in the UK as Chinese Lanterns as the flowers are an unusual round shape and a wonderful shade of orange. I actually bought a pot of these on Otley market last month to go in my Amber and Amethyst garden, I just need to get round to planting them!

This month proved fairly quick to stitch, I think there’s not as many little colour changes, it’s a lovely colourful design with all the extra detail that makes Faby’s designs so good. It’s rice stitch round the edge interspersed with woven rose stitches every so often.

I do like the detail of the skeleton leaf in gold as that’s just how they turn, I’m tempted to include that bit in the wordplay, maybe in a slightly darker thread so it shows up more…

Once we get nearer the end of the month I’ll start thinking about the wordplay to go with it, though I already know one word that will be included, goldcrest! They are one of Britains smallest birds, smaller even than the wren. I’ve never seen one before and there was one in our garden last week, very exciting! They’re tiny brown birds with a flash of gold on the top of it’s head, so quite distinctive.

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I Spy an Elephant

Gosh, it’s a whole week since I last wrote a post! This year seems to fly by at times…and last forever at times too! I have been busy, just not got round to writing…

Last weekend my walking buddy and I finished the Guiseley Gap walk, we’d done the first half the week before and as the weather forecast was reasonable we decided to crack on and finish it.

We parked the car in Guiseley and walked up the hill to where we could rejoin the walk. The first thing I saw when I reached the top was an elephant! You may recall that towards the end of the first half we passed a copse of trees known locally as the Elephant copse, I jokingly commented that they must have very vivid imaginations in Guiseley…well I must eat my words as from this different angle I could see it…

We walked across fields and down some old lanes towards High Royds. High Royds’ full name used to be the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, it actually only closed down in about 2003, it’s a huge Victorian complex which was largely self sufficient with a dairy, butchers, bakery, farm and of course a ball room!! There were some very sad tales that came out of High Royds about the reasons people were admitted and how many then couldn’t get out and spent the rest of their lives there. I’ve just found a fascinating website on High Royds hospital with entries from past staff and patients, please follow the link for more info about the hospital and the care of mental illness in Victorian times. The walk took us past the Memorial Garden which was only recently restored by a local group, there’s nearly 3000 people buried there in unmarked graves. Next to it is the route of a railway line which served the hospital. A small remnant of track has been left as a reminder of it’s history….

The old hospital site has been turned into a new village with the old buildings converted into flats and lots of houses built. It still has large grounds which have lots of paths to wander round. We did appreciate the well made paths as many paths are getting muddy and slippery now…

One thing that we did comment on whilst walking round High Royds was that there is a distinct lack of seats, the occasional wooden bench would have been nice – we do like regular breaks on our walks – sausage roll break, coffee break, sandwich break, sticky bun break…the first place we found to sit down was in a lovely beech wood at the far side of High Royds…

It was lovely walking through the crunchy leaves, but they did obscure the path somewhat!

Once we were above High Royds we could finally just about make out ‘The Guiseley Gap’. The gap is a hanging valley between Airedale and Wharfedale. It’s not very distinct as it’s quite shallow but it separates Otley Chevin from Rombold’s Moor which stretches over towards Skipton. From this vantage point you could also see all the Gothic towers of High Royds.

From there all we had to do was wind our way through old lanes and snickets back to the start.

We enjoyed the Guiseley Gap walk, it was a bit further than we anticipated – the leaflet says it’s 9.8 miles altogether , fitbit reckons more like 12.5 over the two walks- and we didn’t get lost that much! It’s been nice this year to do more local walks, discovering the little paths in the neighbourhood that we didn’t know existed.

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