Monday’s Meander Round the Garden

We’ve had a few nice dry days here in Yorkshire and I’ve managed to spend quite a few hours in the garden. It’s almost happy dance time for my AA garden…almost!

Last weekend I started marking out where my raised beds would be and ordered some split log rolls. I managed to find some in 2.4m lengths and worked out I needed about six rolls. It arrived on Tuesday so this weekend I’ve been planting log rolls!! These are 12″ high, so I had to dig a trench about 5″ deep, hammer it in a bit further with a mallet and then firm down the soil at the front, hoping this would give it enough stability to cope with the weight of soil behind. Continue reading

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Flower Lattice Stitch-a-long 15

Over the last week I’ve managed to complete another diamond on my ribbon embroidery and stumpwork flower lattice, this is where I was three weeks ago at the last stitch-a-long…

The next diamond was foxgloves, rain daises, wild dagga and rock roses, together with a very dainty dragonfly.

The first to be stitched was the foxglove. I didn’t have quite the right shade of green for the leaves so I overdyed a pale green ribbon, it came out a bit uneven but I really like that effect, a bit more realistic! The foxgloves were just stitched with a simple ribbon stitch so they were fairly quick to do.

I’ve never heard of Wild Dagga so I had to google it to see what it looked like, it’s a bit of a funny looking plant and the links for legal highs was a bit disconcerting! The instructions said to use one long straight stitch of 4mm wide ribbon for the stem, the picture shows it lying flat, when I’d finished it I felt it looked too wide and dominant, so I put a little stitch in top and bottom just to narrow it a bit, I think it looks much better. The flowers are made with  silk ribbon using green french knots for the centre and orange pistil stitch for the flowers, pistil stitch is basically a french knot on a stalk! The smaller wild dagga was meant to have stems of ribbon too, but I felt they would be too bulky so I used a soft perle thread which looks fine. The flowers are in a silk thread. I’m beginning to think the silk thread I bought off ebay is completely different to the silk thread the designer uses. Mine is very very fine, the instructions called for straight stitches in one strand of silk thread, well you wouldn’t be able to see them if I used a single strand, for these I actually used the whole thread, so all six strands.

Rain daisies are osteospermums (I learn all sorts with sewing!) Again the instructions called for bullion knots using a single strand of silk, well the weedy one on the left is using a single strand, the rest have three strands and about 6 wraps. The lazy daisy stitched after in pale blue around each bullion just finish them off, it’s very effective.

The little rock roses are stitched with little ribbon straight stitches with french knots on top.

The last thing for me to embroider was the dragonfly. The wings were stitched on organza by couching over shaped wire laid on the organza. I bound my embroidery hoop with seam binding to help it hold the organza firmly. The instructions called for disolvable fabric under the organza. This would then be melted away afterwards. I must admit I skipped this bit as I was concerned it would leave the stitches a bit loose. I also changed how I stitched the wings a bit too. The instructions had you making each wing separately, the wires are then poked through to the back of the fabric. Two sets is four wings, each with a wire from each end, so that would be eight wires to get through the fabric. I felt this was  rather a lot of wire so I made mine in a figure of eight and crossed my fingers that it would work!

There’s a butterfly to stitch in a few weeks too, so I decided to embroider all the wings at the same time. Having couched round each wing and added a few embroidered veins, I very gingerly cut round each wing, cut the wires to about an inch long, made a hole with the biggest needle and could find and poked the wires through…to my relief they sat nicely on the fabric.

The tail is embroidered with stranded cotton, just couched over three long stitches. I managed to secure the wires at the same time underneath.I decided to use a gorgeous thick thread from my embroidery box for the body, it’s too think to actually stitch with so I folded it in half, secured it at the top of the tail with a single stitch of thread through the loop, made some cross-stitches across the thorax and then (keeping my fingers croosed again that it would work!) I simply tied it in a reef knot to create the head. I trimmed it close and then secured it with a couple more stitches. The antenna are stitched with a single silk thread.

My dragonflies body doesn’t bear close scrutiny but I love her wings, she is very dainty.

I’m now three-quarters of my way through this project, having stitched nine out of the twelve diamonds. Next up is the orange tree, I’ve got my beads ready to bind in ribbon!

There’s quite a few of us taking part in the stitch-a-long now, everyone is stitching their own project, so please follow the links to see their progress, there’s some gorgeous embroideries to see.

AvisClaireGunCaroleLucyAnnKateJessSueConstanzeDebbieroseChristinaKathyCindyHelenStephLindaCatherineMary MargaretTimothy, Heidi, Connie

Everyone is in different time scales, so if there isn’t a post when you first look, check later in the day. If you fancy joining us for the SAL, just send a message to Avis.


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A Pair of Ultimate Trousers!

I have finally made myself a pair of trousers!! It’s been on my to-do list for ages, I even included trousers as part of my #2017 Make Nine challenge to try and give me the kick to get going with trousers! It became a bit of a block, but since I no longer buy clothes and all my old trousers were wearing out I had to start somewhere!

I bought this material on the last Dewsbury meet-up, Ali (AKA Thimberlina) had made a great pair of trousers in the same fabric using Style Arcs Misty Jeans pattern. As soon as I saw it in Lucky Fashions I thought Ooh, I’m having some of that! It’s a heavier stretch fabric with a lovely jacquard design on it, perfect for stretch trousers.

My first plan was to use the Misty pattern, but having looked again at the pattern I’m not convinced I’ve bought the right size! I decided this wasn’t the fabric to try and fudge the pattern as I like it too much! I had the Ultimate Trouser sewing pattern from Sew Over It, this is designed for non-stretch fabrics but I looked on line and found a few people had made it with a bit of stretch.

I cut out a size 12, lengthening the legs by about 3″ as I didn’t want cropped trosers. I stitched the seams with the stretch stitch on my sewing machine, but finished them with the overlocker. I’m still struggling to get tension right on my overlocker, the stitch looks fine, but it’s not tight enough for a seam to hold neatly. I’m beginning to think it’s my overlocker as it is about 25 years old.

Having stitched the four pieces together I tried it on. The pattern includes an invisible zip at the side. I decided as mine were stretchy, if I could get them over my hips, I would just have pull up trousers. I had plenty of room, so the side seam was stitched up. They felt a bit baggy around the waist so I took in a bit extra at the darts front and back and a little at the centre front seam.

The Ultimate Trousers are a little low waisted for me, and I also wanted a waistband in order to put some elastic in. Though my daughter’s comment to that was not to have them looking too elasticated ‘or they look like granny trousers’  She is clearly not at the age yet when she looks at clothes and think Ooh, that looks comfortable!!

I cut a 3″ wide length of fabric for my waistband and rather than trying to calculate the required length I just stitched it on whilst applying a little bit of stretch to the waistband, this system worked pretty well if I say so myself! I held the elastic round my middle with a bit of stretch, sewed the ends together and then inserted the elastic in by hand sewing the waistband down over it.

I just did a basic narrow hem at the foot end and my trousers were finished.

I’m really pleased with these, I just need a slight wiggle to pull them on, as you do with any snug pair of trousers, but they feel comfortable and I think they fit pretty well. I think I might make one more pair of Ultimate trousers (with a zip!) before I tackle jeans.

So I can tick another one off my Sew Nine challenge list, I’ve made the first three from my list of nine, so I’ve made a third, unfortunately it’s taken 2/3rds of the year 🙂

I’m linking up with The Petite Passions as the #wardrobe builder project for September is to make a pair of trousers, why not follow the link and see what everyone else is making.


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Monday’s Meander Round the Garden

I’ve just had nearly a week off work, just the way my shifts worked out, so I’ve managed to do quite a few hours in the garden. It’s been pretty perfect gardening weather, warm and dry, but not too hot!

My first target was to get on top of my Amber & Amethyst garden, I’m completely redesigning it so it’s been a major clearance job that seems to have taken months’ particularly as we have a lot of nasty pernicious weeds! I’ve now cleared it all, I started leveling the centre with a rake, pushing the decent soil from the middle to the edge where it will be in a raised border. I decided I needed to mark out my centre which is going to be graveled. I stuck a post in the centre and then measured out with a long cane, marking the circumference of the circle with more sticks. This gave me a more definite area to concentrate on, leveling and also digging a shallow trench for the split log roll to go in. I’ve ordered 12″ split log roll with the thought that I’ll bury it about 5″, have an inch of pea shingle, then a raised bed of 6″, hopefully that will work.

I was quite proud of myself remembering the formula for calculating the circumference of a circle from it’s radius from school days, (must be 35 years ago!) even better, I worked it out in my head (approximately) and it came pretty close when I checked it on the computer later! So I’ve ordered enough log roll, just need to wait for it to be delivered! Continue reading

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Lizzie Stitching Wallet

I’ve been stitching away on an evening on my Lizzie Stitching Wallet, a stitch-a-long by Faby Reilly. I’ve just finished the outside piece, it’s a trifold wallet so there’s a front, a back and a third to fold in. We had three weeks to stitch this last section, it’s a mirror image of the other end, this will be the front when it’s all stitched together.

I must admit I thought we had another week before the next pattern came out, so I was a bit surprised when Faby posted on Facebook  ‘Are you ready for section 7 tomorrow?’ Ooh, better stitch my beads on then! Continue reading

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Sunflowers Growing Down the Rabbit Hole

I’ve just started month 7 of my Down the Rabbit Hole quilt, the block of the month by Sarah Fielke, it’s a medallion quilt so we’ve started in the middle and we’re gradually adding borders, this month we’re finishing the third major border. This is where I was last time you saw it, having just finished the Dresden flowers which caused me so many headaches trying to choose the right fabrics…

It was very reassuring on facebook to see just how many of us were struggling with the same issues, trying to help each other, that is the big advantage of doing a BOM that has an on-line ‘support group’ such as a facebook page, you don’t feel quite so alone, there’s always someone to help and encourage.

The suns in the corner of the cottages border are now turning into sunflowers! The outer quarters have an inner ring and an outer ring before the petals. Someone else on facebook had used purple for the outer circle and I thought ooh that would work with my colours. My original plan was to use four different gold fabrics  for the petals, one for each quarter. I cut the four pieces for the inner quarters out of one 10″ square, so I thought Great, I’ve got just enough fabric with three more squares. Unfortunately I didn’t factor in the increase in size of the outer border petals, I could only get three out, luckily I found some in my stash that works sufficiently well.

As I’ve used three different purple fabrics for each flower I decided it would look better if each flower had all it’s outer petals in one fabric, it sort of brings it all together, a bit of continuity!  Sarah suggested that we lay out the full quilt when arranging the applique pieces and I can see why, it would be so easy to get a Dresden flower upside-down or a flower pointing the wrong way. It also meant I could be careful when arranging my petals that they are all in the right corner! It’s getting harder and harder to photograph though as it get’s bigger with each border, it measures over 57″ already so I’m standing on tiptoe with it on the floor!

I’ve just started stitching the flowers onto the background, I’ve completed five so far, seven to go. I’ve got leaves to add in the corner squares too. The quilt feels a lot more balanced now, the dresden flowers don’t seem as dominating, I just hope it all goes together neatly when I come to piece it. Next month is all pieced, so I’m enjoying the hand sewing whilst it lasts 🙂


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Show Day

Happy danceWell I had a busy day on Saturday both entering and judging at local shows. I was on a pretty strict timetable until mid morning, I went down to Otley market to do my weekly food shop, Helen picked me up and drove me to Ilkley where I entered ten different things in Ilkley Flower Show. I’ve never been to Ilkley Show before, let alone entered so I wasn’t sure what I would be up against. I entered four photographs and the rest in handicrafts. I then took a bus over to Addingham to be ready to start judging at 10.30!

Judging went pretty smoothly with just a couple of things for my assistant to sort out. The hardest bit was choosing the ‘homecraft’ cup. This is awarded to the best in show in the handicrafts, baking and home preserves classes, so the three judges have to get together and agree on the winner. We, the judges, felt it was impossible to fairly judge between a cake, a jar of jam or a piece of embroidery or craftwork which has taken hours and hours to make. As handicrafts won last year I said I felt maybe this year it should go to one of the other areas, however the other judges said no, handicraft wins hands down. We did speak to the organiser to say they really need to have three individual cups, one for each section. After a lovely lunch I caught the bus down to Ilkley to see how I had fared there.

I was well chuffed to see I’d won a prize with six entries, though not necessarily with the ones I thought would do well!

I had to smile as on Friday night I was trying to choose which photos to enter so I showed them to my OH and Helen, they chose two from Beverley minster and one of embroidery threads. As it happened I popped all the photos back in the envelope so when I got down there and realised I’d entered four photos, I put the one of Harewood House in as well…

The first photography class was entitled ‘Looking Up’. I entered two photos of Beverley Minster, I particularly like the first one, but neither of them were placed.

However my photo of the ceiling at Harewood House which I put in at the last minute came second!

There was also a novice class for anyone who has never one a photographic prize at Ilkley Show. The title was ‘A Splash of Colour’ so I took a photo of my box of perle threads. This won second prize.

I won first prize for my dress made from a vintage silk sari in the class for ‘Something New from Something Old’ I made this a few months ago from a sari I bought on ebay for about £12.


The poppy embroidery I had made specially for the show wasn’t placed in the Embroidery Class, but the embroidery of Catbells on a wooden reel came third!

The three cross-stitches I entered were fairly small so I wasn’t convinced I’d get anything, but I won first prize for my hardanger sampler and third for my cross-stitch box.

A very successful day, I thought, then whilst I was queuing up for my winnings I heard my name being called, I’d won a cup! ‘Ooh, that’s me!!’ I said, I’d won the ‘Inspirations’ cup for my sari dress!!! That was the icing on the cake 🙂

It just shows that it’s always worth popping an entry in, even if you think it’s unlikely to get anywhere, you just never know how a judges mind works!

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McCalls 6696 Mark 2

M6696I can finally show you a dress I’ve been making over the last couple of weeks, it seems to have taken ages, probably because I was being careful with pattern matching and seam finishing. It’s another McCalls 6696 shirt-waister, I know that’s not what I need (which is trousers, tops and everyday clothes!) but there was method in my madness!

Over the last couple of months I’ve seen the occasional moth in my sewing room, which has thrown me into a bit of a panic with my fabric stash! I decided to sew first the length of fabric I thought they might be most attracted to and which I would be most upset to lose! I bought this fabric on my last trip to Goldhawk Road, it wasn’t expensive, I paid £28 for 4m, but it feels like gossamer, it is so light you can hardly feel it on your hand. The lady in the shop reckoned it was silk and cotton mix and it certainly feels like it could be, imagine an extra light liberty tana lawn. She also reckoned it was machine washable on a delicate wash but I think I might be testing that on a scrap first!

DSC_0008I decided to make McCalls 6696 again, I made one earlier in the summer and I love it, I’ve worn it several times, it’s one of those dresses that makes you feel a million dollars, especially as I’ve had so many compliments about it.

I spent ages trying to pattern match the bodice and I’m pretty pleased with it, especially as it wasn’t easy planning it across the button band. I was also careful not to have a dark blue flower in an inappropriate place…with the result I’ve got a light blue one instead! It would have been nice to have the skirt pattern matching with the button band too but trying to work it out across the waistband would have just got too complicated.


The pattern went together beautifully again, I cut it to the same length as before as I like above ankle or lower calf  dresses. The seams are all french seamed, including round the pockets. I love the pleats on the skirt, I think it is so much more flattering than gathers.


I went into Leeds to buy some buttons and as usual found nothing jumped out. I tried blue ones, taupe ones, pearly ones, in the end I got these blue ones although I’m still not 100% on them. I then had this bright idea to position the buttons in the centre of the flowers, this initial plan was good, where it fell down was to put one button in between, following the pattern of the fabric again. I feel they are just too far apart, I should have put two in between instead. The crucial button across the bust is a little bit too high, both from a point of view of wearing it open and also from a potential gaping problem!


I have a cunning plan! Tomorrow I am judging at a local village show and one has to look the part!! I shall wear my new dress, if I’m not happy with it then in the afternoon whilst I’m in Ilkley (for Ilkley Flower Show – two shows in one day!) I can call in at Duttons for Buttons and they are bound to have something as they have thousands of buttons, literally!

I just need a navy belt to complete my outfit. By the way, if anyone has any suggestions on what to do with arms in photos, please let me know! It didn’t help that it was a cold, wet evening when my chief photographer was trying to take them. Even the Rosie the dog was laughing at my efforts!



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Tea with The Girls

keep-calm-and-join-the-wi-3I had a lovely afternoon with my Women’s Institute last week when we held an afternoon tea to help one of our members raise money for Bloodwise, the charity for blood-borne cancers. It’s the charity the ‘Calendar Girls’ raise so much money for and two of the original Calendar Girls came to support us.

Those of you abroad may not have heard of ‘The Calendar Girls’…

Rhylstone is a sleepy little picturesque village not too far from here,further up Wharfedale.  Eighteen years ago some of the ladies of the local WI decided to try raise money to replace the uncomfortable settee in the visitors room of the cancer unit at the local hospital. Angela’s husband was fighting leukaemia and she spent a lot of time on said settee. They decided to make a calendar, only it wasn’t pretty local scenes…

…it was a nude calendar! Nowadays such calendars are ten-a-penny, every local rugby team, firefighters etc does calendars, but Rhylstone WI were the first! It was all very tastefully done with ‘no nipples or front bottoms’!! They were photographed doing WI activities such as baking, jam-making, flower arranging, they just happened to be naked! That takes some guts! They thought they might sell 250 if they were lucky…it hit the national press and the sales went crazy!  It’s a wonderful calendar as they are just normal, mature ladies, all shapes and sizes, beautifully photographed. It completely changed peoples perceptions of ladies of the WI!!

Their story was made into a brilliant film in 2003 with Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, a stage production and most recently a musical by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth. I went to see it last year and it was wonderful, I laughed and cried all the way through, if you get a chance, go and see it!


Anyway, back to Thursday, one of our members wanted to raise money for Bloodwise so we held a vintage tea party, called Tea with the Girls. We decorated the village hall with bunting, vintage embroidered tablecloths and napkins, flowers on the table, the table groaned with home-made cakes and we served tea and cake in china cups and saucers with pretty tea pots and milk jugs.


Lots of ladies from local WI’s came, with their families and friends, together with ladies from the surrounding villages. We also had two special guests, Angela and Chris who were two of the original Calendar Girls. It was wonderful to have time to sit and chat with them.


Another WI in Swindon called Old Town Belles have made a photobooth with applique, I first saw it at the Tea and Tents weekend last year so we hired it, it has a quote at the top from the movie ‘we’re going to need considerably bigger buns!’ We had lots of fun with that.

There was a lovely atmosphere, the hall was buzzing, everyone laughing and chatting, even better, £630 was raised for Bloodwise 🙂


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A Colourful Cushion

I’ve decided to enter the handicraft section of the local flower show, I’ve never been so I’ve no idea what the competition is like, but it’s only like 50p per entry…so I’ve entered ten items 🙂

One class is ‘A Colourful Cushion’, making a cushion for the show has also helped me as I’ve made the (possibly rash) move of booking a stall at the Dickensian fair at one of the local villages in December, to have a go at selling some  of my makes. Cushions is something I thought of making.

The fabric is gorgeous, it was an off-cut from one of the soft furnishing shops in Otley, they have pretty good sales, they sell the ‘nice’ curtain fabric such as Voyager and they sell off display lengths, end of rolls and shorter lengths, this was obviously what they cut off the bottom of a curtain.

I found a tutorial on Pinterest which gave me the idea. The cushion pad is 12″ by 20″ so I aimed to have the two end panels 7″ wide and the pleats 6″.  I bought a coordinating batik on Skipton market for the pleats and the binding. The pleats were my first job. I decided to try a technique I saw mentioned on a blog just a few weeks ago, using a dinner fork! It works a treat! You basically inset the fabric in between the end two tines and then twist it back, it holds it beautifully. I quite fancy making a pleated skirt now! As this was such a short width I managed to carry the pleats across with the iron. I basted them down before sewing the end panels on.

The piping was also helped with a tutorial on YouTube, how to join two ends of covered piping! I must admit in the past I’ve just winged it and crossed them over and into the back, but having seen this tutorial I decided to learn how to do it properly, especially as I want to sell some. It was fiddly but doable, just joining the two ends on the bias at just the right point (that was the tricky bit!) and then trimming the cord to fit.

I wanted to put buttons on the back to fasten, rather than a zip. Zips are trickier to get neat, but they are also not cheap, especially when you are looking at 18″ ones. I think buttons also make a nice feature on the back. I edged one side with the batik, just to make a feature. My original plan was to cover three large buttons with the batik, of course I only had two in my button box, I thought I’d do five smaller ones when I spotted at the bottom of the box some raspberry pink buttons I’ve had for ages, I knew I had a few and sure enough I found five. I think I prefer five smaller ones now, they seem to hold it nice and firm, my only concern is that they have metal shanks and I’ve had bad experiences with metal shank buttons…ping…ping…ping…so long as they last til Saturday night!

I’m really pleased with my cushion. The piping looks good, the colour scheme works well, I like the pleating detail, I just need to work out how to stop it ‘bulging’ in the middle, it’s got a bit of middle age spread at the moment! After the show I might try adding some iron on interfacing to the back, see if that holds it better.

I think it’s very apt for a flower show!

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