Falling Leaves, Trees and Fudge

I’ve just got up to date with both the cross-stitch-a-longs I’m doing (seemed a good idea at the time!!) I’m just in time as the next part for the Zoe SAL is published tomorrow.

The Zoe Box is a stitch-a-long by Faby Reilly, last time I shared it with you I had just done the cross-stitch on the fourth side. Each side represents a different season and this was autumn….

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I knew I’d made one mistake as my very first stitch on this section was one square out! I anticipated just doing a little adaptation with the back-stitch at the beginning and end, to make sure the branch would be continuous with winter when it all went together.

Well I don’t know how but nearly every leaf seemed to be in the wrong place!! I had made so many mistakes, but luckily as some of the leaves were falling I could fudge it! I did lots of fudging!!

The squirrel is very cute, luckily he draws the eye away from all the mistakes! I love all the different stitches in Faby’s designs, the ones that look like pine cones are spiders web stitch (I think) Next we will be stitching the inside of the box, two sections in a fortnight, so there can’t be as much stitching. Here’s all four sides together…

My second stitch-a-long is by Tempting Tangles, it’s called Enlightenment and is meant to be all about trees with a zen saying. The colours are beautiful, the pattern calls for four Dinky Dye threads, which are gorgeous, I bought two of them, the designer also gives DMC alternatives so that’s what I’ve mainly used for the other two colours.

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I say ‘mainly’ as DMC 3847 seemed awfully dark when I put them together. When I was stitching the first part I didn’t fancy the big ‘tree’ in the dark green, so I found a De Vere thread which is just a shade lighter. It was sort of in between 3847 and 3848. It does look pretty perfect…

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I decided to vary between the three threads over the sampler.

This time there was another tree, so I used the darker thread and it does look dark! I’ve stuck with it and so long as I use it in a couple of other places in the sampler it will look fine! I’ve stitched a couple of stitches into next weeks section as I can’t be doing with single stitches when I don’t need to, if it’s wrong then I’ll just have to unpick it!

This is an eighth of the sampler completed. Tempting Tangles is a new designer to me, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out. I love the colours, especially in the border. It will be about 8″ square when it’s finished, I’m still not sure if it will be a cushion or framed.

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Cinema Dress

I’ve finally got round to doing some dressmaking! I’ve made myself a summer dress…

Liesl & Co Cinema dress

In my stash I had this length of teal blue fine cotton lawn with a little feather design on it. It feels like Liberty Tana lawn, so I think I bought it at Steadfast and Barracks in Lancaster. They used to make fabric for Liberty so when Liberty decided to transfer all their manufacturing abroad (don’t get me started on that one!!!) they brought out their own range of cotton lawn, at a third of the price!

I originally planned to make a simple cotton dress, sort of princess lines, slightly flared midi skirt. I then realised just how much fabric I had bought, especially as it was 60″ wide! I had a change of plan and reached for a pattern I bought a few years ago called the Cinema Dress by Liesl & Co. I’d been put off making it before because it takes such a lot of fabric – even with wide fabric it takes 3.5m. I must have bought 4m as I had plenty.

Liesl & Co Cinema dress

The dress is very loose fitting, with about 3-4″ ease around the bodice. The pattern sizing is completely different to other patterns, my size came between an 8 and a 10, in view of the generous ease I made a size 8. It buttons down the back to the waist.

Seam allowances are 1/2″, so I tended to move my machine needle across so I could follow the standard 5/8ths line instead. I overlocked to finish the seams (my overlocker actually decided to work!!) The pattern did go together pretty easily but I think the order Liesl & Co make it in is bizarre, it didn’t flow and at times it made it harder than it should have been in my opinion. As an example, there are pockets in the centre front side seams. It would have been simple to attach the welts and the pocket pieces to the front and the side front before they were attached to anything else, so it was a nice flat manageable piece. The instructions had you joining the bodices to the skirt front and backs, then the bodices at the shoulders and the sides at the shoulders first. You were then attaching the pockets onto a piece that was about 10′ long!

Liesl & Co Cinema dress

Moan over! It’s a comfortable, everyday sort of cotton summer dress. It’s plenty big enough, though if I reach up for anything the whole dress rides up – I’ll have to be ladylike in this one! I love the pockets on the front and I also like the length of the sleeves with their little cuff turn-up.

Liesl & Co Cinema dress

The final comment in the pattern is ‘Don’t you feel like a glamorous old-style cinema star in your new dress’…well no, but it’s a nice summer dress!

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A Trio of Workshops

In June I traveled over to Halifax to Fabbadashery for a workshop, it takes about 1.5 hours to get there on buses or trains, but they have some pretty good embroidery courses, so having worked out how to get there for 10am, I’ve been on several!

Harold the Hare is a gorgeous embroidery which I first saw at an Embroiderers Guild area meeting, I seem to remember it won the competition! It was in mixed media and I think it was free machine embroidered. The designer was Anne Brooke and she now does workshops based at her home in Brighouse. As soon as I saw Harold the Hare on Fabbadashery’s workshop list I booked a place! We were stitching a hand embroidered version of Harold.

We started off with a pre-printed panel, this gives the effect of the mixed media background but makes it much easier to hand sew. The basic outline and a few details of the hare was given too.

The hare is embroidered with long and short stitch, with stitches in different directions to give texture. We’re using just four shades of brown, stitching with 3 threads at a time. Anne is a great tutor, demonstrating the different areas and giving individual help and encouragement where needed. We started off with the darkest shade and worked each shade in turn, the hardest bit was the eyes, I haven’t quite finished those, I’m tempted to put a little bit of amber in as I think hare’s eyes are a fairly bright amber. When I left the one day workshop my Harold looked like this…

Harold the Hare

I’ve since taken him to my embroiderers guild meeting a stitched a little more but Harold isn’t quite finished yet, I want to do a bit of stitching in the background too, maybe a couple of stalks of cow parsley and a few tiny french knot flowers in front amongst the stems of grass.

Harold the Hare

A couple of weeks ago I went over to Halifax again for a workshop by Deborah Mullins called An Introduction to Tahriri. Deborah came to talk to us at my Embroiderers Guild meeting at the beginning of the year. She studied Palestinian embroidery, in particular Bethlehem embroidery, when her husband went there for a three month sabbatical. Her work was beautiful and I came home and booked myself on two of her courses, this was the first one.

Palestinian Embroidery by Deborah Mullen

Tahriri embroidery is the bands of mainly couched thread which are used to embellish the traditional dress in Palestine. Couching is very economical with thread and the patterns are designed so the outline is made in one continuous thread. We practised couching first with the straight outlines, stitching on some hand dyed cotton. Deborah had a wonderful array of threads for us to choose from, many dyed by herself.


The central wiggly line was next, the stripy effect is made by couching with two colours of threads. We practised the filling in pattern for couching by drawing it on paper first, a bit like practising a quilting pattern first, getting the movement into your brain and your hand before trying it in thread. We’re making a bookmark size piece, I started the second side during the one day workshop. To finish it I need to fill in the flowers and hearts with satin stitch, I chose a very colourful thread for couching so I think I’ll either go very pale or very dark for the satin stitch. Deborah was a great teacher, giving us the history as well as the techniques. I’m looking forward to another workshop with her in September.

Tahriri embroidery

At the end of June I ran my first quilting workshop, it was based at B&M Fabrics in Leeds and called Quilt in a Day. The idea was that they would make a lap size jelly roll race quilt, piece it, sandwich, quilt and finally bind it. This would mean they learnt all the basic techniques of quilt making and went home with a quilt pretty much finished.

Jelly roll race quilts are very quick to make. For those of you not into quilting, a jelly roll is a pre-cut set of 20 (half size) or 40 (full size) different fabrics, a 2.5″ strip of the width of fabric (about 42″) Sometimes jelly rolls have several lengths of the same fabric, this quilt works best when each strip is a different fabric.

Well I think it went pretty well, I had six students which really was an ideal number for the size of the room, as you do need a bit of space between sewing machines. They varied enormously in sewing experience, one lady had only started sewing three months before, but everyone went home with a quilt pretty much finished, they just had to hand-stitch the binding down.

Quilt in a Day

A friend I’d not seen for nearly 30 years came up to do the course, she stayed for the weekend so we had a great time catching up. Hopefully it won’t be another 30 years before we meet up again! She gave me some lovely hand-made gifts before she left, she has clearly got me sussed as one was me to a tee, it’s now on display in my sewing room…

Sewing PHD
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Tuesday’s Totter Round the Garden

I had a busy week in the garden getting ready for our open garden with quilt and needlework show. By Thursday I ‘just’ had the front garden left to sort, I say ‘just’ as it was knee high in weeds!!

Typically Thursday was heatwave day, I think it is now officially the hottest day on record, it was certainly well into the the 30’s – not ideal weather for gardening! Luckily the front garden is mainly in the shade for most of the morning, so I started early, like about 7.30am, and set too clearing thistles, marestail and bindweed, together with the usual spread of annual weeds. This was mainly superficial weeding, it just made the garden look better, but whilst I know it doesn’t solve any problems it does make me feel better once in a while! I worked so hard I believed my watch when it said it was 2.45pm, I carried on til 5pm, went inside for a cup of tea and eventually realised my watch had broken and it was actually only 1.30!! At least it meant I had a bit of time to clean the house as well!!

I weed with one tonne builders bags, I filled 2 1/2 of them that morning!! I have had another suggestion from a visitor over the weekend of how to eradicate marestail though, so fingers crossed!

English garden

Having had a scorching day on Thursday, by Saturday when I opened the garden it was about 12 degrees and raining – typical British weather, inconsistent!!

It rained pretty heavily all day, but hardy friends and family came, luckily I had the quilts and needlework for them to look at too. I had about 12 quilts to show and lots of needlework, I displayed my wedding dress, Helen’s Christening gown, all sorts of things. As I pointed out to people who commented on the volume of work, there was over 40 years of work on display, from an embroidery I did when I was 7 years old to the quilt I finished last week.


Sunday was much better, whilst it wasn’t sunny, it didn’t rain til after 4pm when we finished. We had a steady trickle of people, neighbours, Embroiderers Guild or WI members, work colleagues. It was nice as on the whole I just had time to wander round a bit with someone before the next one’s arrived. Everyone was amazed by my big hosta which has hardly a nibble out of it!

English garden

A few flowers came out just in time for the garden opening, crocosmia Lucifer was looking good, but also this giant of a flower behind the summerhouse. I tend to think of this area as my wild bit and this inula certainly looks a bit wild, it’s so big it’s visible from the other side of the summerhouse too!

The alstromeria and the crocosmia added a nice bit of sunshine to the Amber & Amethyst garden

English garden

I made lots of cake ; coffee, elderflower & lemon, coconut & lime, blueberry, apple, mincemeat, carrot, lemon drizzle and Victoria sponge!

All in all it was a successful weekend, we raised £170 for the Soldiers Charity, which considering the weather, I think was pretty good.

It was nice being able to make suggestions to help others with their gardens, one of the neighbours asked how I cope with the heavy clay soil; lots of pea shingle and compost, I used to buy a couple of tonnes each year to dig in. I also said if I find a plant that likes our conditions I buy one in every colour! So I have several astrantias, geraniums, osmanthus, brunnera…

If I say so myself, my clematis climbing the arch down by the patio looked magnificent!


The most admired plant was actually a shrub called Sambuscus Nigra, a black elderflower, it’s actually dead easy to grow and needs a hard prune each year to stop it taking over! The lilies in front opened as the day progressed, they’re beautiful colour, I’m tempted to plant them in a bed in the Amber & Amethyst garden in the autumn.

English garden

I think taking people round also made my OH see the garden in a whole new light!

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Down the Rabbit Hole HQAL

It’s three weeks since I shared my Down the Rabbit Hole quilt with you. This quilt is by the same designer as my Coming Home quilt, Sarah Fielke. I finished the top about 18 months ago and then had the crazy idea of hand quilting it, I say crazy as it’s about 96″ square and I’d not done any hand-quilting for donkey’s years!

Three weeks ago I’d just started the last two borders, which sounds so encouraging, but one of them is a pretty deep border so I’ve still a long way to go before I can get my dancing shoes out!

hand quilting

Excuses first! I’ve been concentrating on getting the garden and house ready for the open garden and quilt and needlework show this weekend, we’ve also had a bit of a heat wave, the powers that be are still trying to decide if Thursday was the hottest day ever or not! Thirty odd degrees may not seem hot to many of you, but our houses etc are not designed for hot weather!! We’ve had a very sticky few days and it was certainly too hot to sit under a quilt hand sewing!!

Hand quilting

Having said all that I did manage to get a little done before the weather got too warm, last time I was struggling with marking, I had a go with masking tape, which I didn’t find overly successful, but I ordered a ceramic pencil at Kate’s suggestion so I’m going to try that out next week.

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, MargaretEmmaTracyDeb, Susan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrinGretchen and Kathi

Posted in Down The Rabbit Hole, Quilt-a-long | Tagged , | 12 Comments

A Copse or Two

I’ve just finished this month’s applique for my Coming Home quilt, a BOM by Sarah Fielke. Last month took a while as there was a lot of fiddly stitching to do, with suns, stars birds and such like, never mind piecing houses to start with. ..

Coming Home quilt

This month she gave us a bit of respite with just a few trees to applique. These are going to go in between the houses on the next border. They were fairly quick to stitch, I’ve got at least one bendy tree as I couldn’t find my fabric glue to hold the applique pieces in place. You’ll be pleased to know I’ve now had a bit of a tidy up in my sewing room and I’ve found my glue!!! The bendy tree is staying though, it gives a hint of realism!!!

#cominghome quilt

One day I’ll be rash with my colour schemes and have random colours for my quilts, in the meantime I’ll stick to shades of green for the trees! We’re also meant to be selecting fabrics for our next group of houses, so I’ll have to have a play over the next couple of days, ready for when the pattern is released on the 31st.

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

Posted in Coming Home Quilt, Quilt-a-long, Quilting | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

A Happy Spring Dance

I’ve just finished my Spring Wreath quilt, I’m so pleased with it. It’s a BOM by Andrea Walpole of Raggedy Ruff Designs, I first saw the finished quilt on facebook and fell for it a few months ago!

It’s been a huge learning curve as I’d not tried free motion machine embroidery before. Andreas instructions are great and the detail in the pictures is amazing and I think that is what makes them so beautiful. As she says in her instructions ‘just take a deep breath and go for it!’ so I did…

I stitched the rabbits first…

Spring Wreath Quilt

I still can’t quite decide which is my favourite. I think it’s the owl…

Spring Wreath Quilt

but I also love the deer…

Spring Wreath Quilt

…and the foxes are pretty sweet, I like all the flowers round these two…

Spring Wreath Quilt

and I’ve always loved red squirrels!

Spring Wreath Quilt

The background is a lovely mix of muted shades of cream, taupe and mauve. There’s also an interesting mix of fabrics, a little bit of sparkle here and there, little pops of colour and stars too.

It took me a while to decide how to quilt it, I didn’t want to spoil it at the last stage. I’d ordered some variegated cream thread on line, but whne it arrived I felt it was a bit too yellowy. In the end I just used standard ivory Gutermann thread, which is that bit finer than machine quilting thread too.

I backed it with Liberty tana lawn, which sounds very extravagant, but there’s thousands of yards in local fabric shops as apparently it was made for Liberty but then they wouldn’t pay for it, so it’s being sold off cheap. I got 2.5m for £10 and it feels beautiful, soft as silk, it’s made a wonderful backing.

Spring Wreath Quilt

Anyway, back to the quilting. after much deliberating I decided on the following – I stitched four petal shapes in each pop of colour, I stitched round the outside of the stars, I love how they stand out. I stitched a fine meander in the centre of the stars. The rest of the quilt I stitched with my variation of curves and corners, it could look sort of leaf like, I stitched a few flowers and fern fronds too. I stitched it alot more densely than I’ve done before, it’s not perfect but I’m happy with it. It feels really light and soft, cuddly, though it’s going on a wall, not a bed!

Spring Wreath Quilt

I ordered two different shades of mauve from the quilt to use as the binding and chose the darker one, I think it finishes it off nicely. I spent the last couple of evenings hand stitching the binding down, I rather enjoy this bit, it’s a relaxing sort of sewing, you can get into a rhythm with it and let your mind wander! Having said that the tana lawn was actually quite tough to sew, I think possibly because it’s such I high thread count. I stitched a hanging tube into the top as I was binding it.

All I need to do now is hand embroider a label on the back with the date and my initials on. It’s going to take pride of place at the Open Garden & Quilt Show at the weekend!

Spring Wreath Quilt

I can’t recommend Andreas designs and kits enough, they’re beautiful designs, full of detail, the instructions are great, if you order the fabric pack as well you get just a comfortable amount, so you don’t feel you’re paying for stuff you don’t need. If you need say two 3″ squares you might get a piece that’s 4 x 7″. Every piece is labelled too so no confusion over which colour. I’ve got about half a dozen more of her kits (little ones) to do, so you’ll be seeing plenty more of her designs.

As I’ve spent a couple of evenings hand-stitching the binding down I’m linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday.

Posted in embroidery, Quilting, Serendipity | Tagged , , , | 18 Comments

Tuesday’s Totter Round the Garden

Well I think there’s a chance I’ll be ready for the open garden this weekend, I spent yesterday doing a final tidy up of the top part of the garden, the beds round the lawn, the pond, the autumn bed and the Amber & Amethyst garden…

Many of the roses are over and they’ve had a lot of blackspot this year, maybe due to the weather earlier on, however my Champagne Moments rosebush is looking amazing! We planted these when we got married in 2007 and they flower their socks off every year!

Champagne Moments

The deep bed by the big fence has filled up this year, there’s quite a few shrubs at the back which I’m hoping will in time make a good backdrop.

Deep bed

If there’s a gap I pop a pot or a wire mesh sculpture in it! I’ve got four sculptures which I made a workshops a few years ago, I’ve a chicken, a goose, a duck and a heron. I move them round depending on where the gaps are.

Goosey Lucy

Hubert the heron has just moved forward a bit to cover the area where all the Solomons Seal was. The crocosmia are all starting to flower, this one is called Lucifer, it’s a bit of a thug and every year I say I’m going to divide it, but it’s intermingled itsself with iris which i like!

Hubert the Heron

The Amber & Amethyst garden is looking respectable, There’s a few roses out, Lady Emma Hamilton has been hit with blackspot, but Port Sunlight is a bit floppy but otherwise OK. Alstromeria, day lilies and crocosmia are all adding a splash of colour, I’m just hoping the echinacea will open their flowers in time.

Amber & Amethyst garden

I planted a pot with annuals last week, a bit late I know but I think it’s looking very pretty, just got to make sure I keep it watered!

Summer pots

I even managed to do little jobs in the summerhouse which have been waiting nearly a year – I put two new panes in the door, hung the pictures back up, screwed the candle holders to the window sills and washed all the candle holders, made it look pretty again.


Today I need to tackle the patio garden, decide how much of the geraniums I need to cut back, dead head roses and generally tidy up. The clematis over the arch is going to look beautiful byt the weekend, fingers crossed!

Patio garden

Today I’d already made two cakes by 8am, six to go 🙂

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The Finery of Nature SAL

It’s three weeks since I last shared my Finery of Nature cross-stitch with you. It’s a Dimensions kit with a different picture in each quarter, I’m stitching a nest of eggs and a dragonfly at the moment, three weeks ago I was here…

The Finery of Nature

Progress has been a little slow this time as I’ve been concentrating on other projects, but I’ve almost finished the wings and the nest. I think the back-stitch on this bit will make a huge difference, that will be the next part to stitch.

The Finery of Nature

I’m hoping that now I’ve got this big block of stitching completed, the rest of the quarter will be fairly quick, I’ve just got a few flowers and the border to do.

This stitch-a-long is organised by Avis, we post our progress on a project every three weeks, it’s a great motivator! Please follow the links to see everyone else’s progress;

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Sue, Constanze, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Helen, Linda, Heidi, Jackie, Sunny, Hayley, Megan, Deborah, Clare, Mary Margaret, Renee, Jenny, Carmela, Jocelyn, Sharon

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

Posted in embroidery, Stitch-a-long | Tagged , | 22 Comments

Early Summer Reading

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

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

View over Derwentwater from Catbells

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

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


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


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

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

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