Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A cover for an elephant

In the corner of our dining room we keep an elephant - a great big white one....

Ok, ok, I hear you all shouting, has this woman gone nuts?

But here in the UK we use the term 'white elephant' to describe an item which is unwanted, a waste of space etc but too valuable to discard.

When Nigel and I got married we had two separate houses worth of belongings and so struggled to draw up a list of wedding gifts - in the end we decided we'd rather like a good quality china dinner service and so picked a pattern we both liked and encouraged guests to each buy maybe just a single plate or something.

One of Nigel's aunts, who is not without money, thought that, instead of buying maybe a couple of plates or whatever, she'd buy us a hostess trolley. Needless to say there wasn't one of these on the list

We were obviously somewhat taken aback by her generosity but of course it then created the dilemma of where to store this particular piece of furniture.

It's never had a proper home, probably because we never use it. I believe we used it once for our first Christmas and the plug has never entered a socket again. I know some people find them incredibly useful but it just doesn't fit in with our lifestyle.

It now resides in the dining room alongside our china dresser slotted into the corner.

This is fine - it's not in the way there but of course it's just an invitation for people (particularly the smaller variety) to dump things on top of it as you can see from this picture.

This practice drives me mad - we're naturally an untidy family, not particularly prone to putting things back where they belong and an additional surface for junk collection is an additional irritant to me

So I decided I'd make some sort of mat to place on top of it to try to discourage my family of 'flytippers'

I really liked the purple pyjama fabric I picked up the other week

So I started to stitch some purple and white geese

They then turned into a star

And were closely followed by seven others

Once the borders are all on - who knows I might even do some applique.....

Monday, May 28, 2007

And the rain just kept on coming

10pm ................ The telephone rang.....................

"It's the Cub Leader here, Louise isn't feeling very well, could you come and collect her please"

So off we drove, half an hour on pitch black roads (they don't go in for street-lighting much in rural Somerset) through the lashing rain and howling winds to collect not one but two children.

When we got there Nick, who'd been give the option to stay or go with his sister, had decided that he also felt exhausted and rotten so a night in a warm dry bed was preferable to being kept awake by the vile weather.

Back home, into a nice warm bath and then straight to bed.

In hind sight this morning they probably could've both stayed, they weren't poorly just totally shattered - in fact I think they wished they had stayed.

However, when Nick eventually surfaced just after 12 noon, Nigel headed back to the camp with them to salvage what was left of the afternoon, collect their belongings that had to stay there last night to avoid disturbing their sleeping beauty mates and to help pack up camp.

Despite the over 2 inches of rain and howling winds that had swept across the airfield they were camping on (this is a random picture from the net but you get my drift);

Despite Louise getting stuck in a portaloo because the privacy barrier that had been constructed in front of it got blown across her door with her in it - she had to scream and shout until some other passing scouts came to her rescue (thank God it happened with her in it rather than just entering it);

Despite coming home early last night, they both had a brilliant time and can't wait to go again next year.

Sarah and I stayed at home instead and after nipping to the supermarket for bread, milk and some other basics I decided I'd have a go at something I spotted on Anne-Heidi's blog

All these thrift-shop shirts have yielded quite a crop of buttons, so here's their new home - a converted kilner preserving jar.

I've got quite a few of these jars left in the garage - think I can feel some more conversions coming on

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Spot the deliberate mistake and another close call

Well with two children away this weekend the house has been much quieter than normal.
None of the usual sibling scraps between the two youngest. We have had the odd disagreement between the eldest and her dad about maths revision - she has her first exam a week Monday, the first day back and thinks that she can revise at the last minute. Dad is obviously trying to adjust her attitude as she waits!!! She is taking her maths GCSE a year early as she's in the top set. Heavens above - if she makes this much fuss revising for one subject, who knows what she'll be like next year working for the other nine! Tin hats and flak jackets at the ready next year I think.
Yesterday afternoon Sarah was at work so Nigel and I had the afternoon to ourselves. Personally I prefer to go fabric and quilt hunting but as there was nothing local I was happy to let him indulge himself looking at trains again - it keeps him happy and I just enjoy the peaceful time together without the kids - to be honest I'd go and look at a sewage farm if it meant an afternoon sans enfants!
We visited the West Somerset Railway which travels between Bishops Lydeard on the outskirts of Taunton and Minehead on the coast
He got to change the signals and also have a drive of a tiny engine which had formerly been used to move extracted peat cut for fuel on the Somerset Levels.
Today though because the rain was coming down hard enough for Noah to start looking for a launch site we stayed home and I did manage to get in some quality quilting time.
Can you spot the deliberate mistake?
Glad I realised I'd stitched over the orange triangle before it was too late to rectify it
Anyway I managed to complete all the quilting with slightly different dancing triangles in the piano key border and went on to work out how much of the black/lilac mottled fabric I'd need .................. 17" square
And what width was that last bit of the fabric?
Yes you've guessed it - another close call!
A nice afternoon on the sofa watching the New Zealanders win the Rugby Sevens at a very soggy Twickenham gave me ample opportunity to hand stitch the binding down and here it is done!
Just as an after thought in case you're a little worried about our two youngest facing the cruel elements at the Scout Jamboree camp - worry not!
One of the parents went up to the camp this afternoon as it was her Cub's birthday and she was taking a cake for our troup/pack to enjoy (no, she wasn't taking enough for all 1800 children) - she called on us as she left and I did send her with some spare dry clothes just in case.
Good job too - Louise was fine, lots of spare trousers to keep any soaked legs nice and dry. Nicholas on the other hand had only packed one pair of trousers - I've probably told you before he's a strictly 'shorts for all weathers' man. However the foul heavy rain and driving wind we've had today proved just too much for him and she found him feeling a bit sorry for himself trying to keep warm helping out in the cook tent.
As much as he insists he should always wear shorts I don't think anyone could've been more thankful to receive a pair of warm and dry track suit bottoms :o)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Busy day today!

A busy day in store for us all today....

The Headteacher and my colleague Trish are both out on a course all day so I'm manning the office on my own from 8.45 to 3 instead of my usual 9.30 to 1.30

Nigel spent all yesterday evening organising the two youngest getting their kit ready for a three night scout/cub camp from tonight with ... wait for it ... 1800 other marauding youngsters!

I'm just not even thinking about the prospect of them getting lost etc - please God keep them safe. I don't doubt the leaders and organisers will have it all really well organised (fingers crossed)

It's all in aid of celebrating 100 years of Scouting all around the world - this linked article is from South Africa for example

I know one thing for sure it should be lovely and quiet here at home with just Sarah 'til 3pm Monday afternoon (we have a Bank Holiday on Monday)

We have to get them to the site about 30 minutes from here by 6pm tonight - can you imagine the organisation needed to get all those kids there at the same time?

Nigel's the 'retired' scout (of long standing) in the house - so I'm afraid I fully delegate all responsibilty for getting kit together to his superior knowledge and experience. Can't you see my shoulders sloping as we speak? Well I do do lots of other stuff for them - honest!

As for stitching - in and amongst the frenzy of packing last night I did get my hand dyed confetti top sandwiched and started the quilting

Don't look too close at the 'in the ditch' around the confetti triangles it is a bit wobbly in places. Plus I'm using a variegated thread with some bright yellow in the colour changes which is showing the odd black dot (or seven!) from the under thread - I'm not pulling it back though - I shall live with that! So there!

It'll be okay - I won't be entering it into any competitions and I don't allow the quilt police through the front door :o)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

From all to nothing - so to speak

Well the roll had to stop yesterday - just no time at all to even look at a needle never mind pick one up. The creative juices are still flowing though so I might get back to something later today

Tanya showed a picture of her daughter going out to her prom the other day, so I'm in proud mum mode now - if you don't want to look at pictures of teenage girls dressed up to the nines click away now :o)

Last night was Sarah's rugby presentation dinner and as a lot of the girls are around school prom age they opted for a formal dress code. Sarah's prom isn't until next year so we had to go out and buy a dress for this but it was worth it, thank goodness for good old TKMaxx.

So lots of tarting up and getting ready before having to be out of the house for 6.45pm

Here are the proud parents and daughter leaving the house (thank you Wendy next door for kindly pressing the button on the camera) Ignore that rather large bump on the mother's derriere it's an optical illusion - I'm actually a tall slim sylph like size 10 really (I wish - in my head I guess) Why do cameras never lie. And please do ignore the very elegant wellington boot rack by the open door too :o)

This is Sarah and her boyfriend Dan as we arrived at the rugby club - sweet!

The ageing parents (and boy I did feel old looking at my grown up daughter) sitting at the table - Dad has already had a couple of pints so is looking a little daft! Oh no sorry that's normal.

A close up of Sarah as we had some photos done out on the pitch

And this is of the whole group on that pitch - they just about managed to resist dragging each other to the ground on the way to a try. I guess the groundsman got a good deal getting his grass spiked with all those stilletto heels for nothing

And this is one of the other larger than life characters in the team with her rugby shorts on under her dress ?!?!?!?!? Sarah said she'd intended to do the same but her shorts would've spoiled the silhouette of her dress.

And finally a bevy of beauties back in the clubhouse. Incidentally the arm cast and the crutch are a result of rugby injuries on both parts. However they do all scrub up pretty well don't they?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

And another checked shirting binding

Well I must be on a roll.
Another finish tonight.
My tulip table runner, the concept for which I copied from May Britt, is complete (Sorry you'll have to scroll down to early April 07 to see her version - I can't seem to get a direct link to her posting.
Nigel was away in Kendal overnight and Monday night is nice and quiet regarding kids' committments, so I settled down to sandwich and quilt this without the usual interruptions. It did help that it's not that big a piece of work - about 16" x 32"
Then I picked a particularly bright charity shop shirt fabric for yet another bias checked binding - I had used it for a couple of the tulips.
As you can see if you look closely I added a little caterpillar to my collection of bugs
And here it is in all its completed glory.
Now - whatever next? ...............................

Monday, May 21, 2007

New treasure today!

I've had a bit of a day for uncovering treasure. When in town this morning I called in at a couple of charity shops and made some lovely discoveries

Some lovely florals - the dark blue background is a ladies dress and has copious amounts of fabric in a full skirt

Some very feminine stripes and checks

And another batch of checks - the lilac in the front right hand corner is a pair of ladies pyjamas so again quite a bit of fabric in those legs - there'd be even more if they were my size, but hey you can't be greedy :o)

Then when I got back home a parcel on my doorstep contained these three complimentary books for making feathered stars - I'd bought them second hand from a lady on one of the online quilting yahoo groups I belong to. I've long been in awe of the feathered stars that Dawn makes (along with others of you that I can't remember at present) and these books might just spur me on to have a go at one.

On a slightly different note you might remember the stitching day we held on World Quilting Day to make children's quilts for our local Women's Refuge.

Prior to that I showed you a blue stripey quilt top which I'd stitched lots of bright stars onto.

It was taken by another Anne in the group to be completed at home and here it is

I think she's made a lovely job of it and it goes to join the other 35 we've made as a group so far, with more in the pipeline. It should really help to brighten up some small person's life a little I hope.

The sun's shining beautifully here in Taunton this morning, hope it is with you too!

And finally....

With various kids sporting fixtures and Sarah working on Saturday afternoons the opportunities for all five of us to have a day out together are becoming less and less feasible.
However we decided that, as the sun was shining and we were all free, yesterday would be one of those opportunities
Nigel knew that a local preserved railway society were having an open day so we headed off to Yeovil junction about 35 minutes from home.
Here he is standing by a little engine that used to regularly travel past his office when he worked in Hereford around 15 years ago. That was his fix for a while
Then as a token gesture to me we stopped off at a craft place on the way to the coast - sadly the quilt shop there doesn't open Sundays - but the thought was there :o)
And finally heading for the beach... West Bay near Bridport in Dorset. Even after living in Taunton for almost two years I still can't get over the novelty of being able to get to several lovely beaches within an hour. I've never before lived this close to the coast and it was always a major day out taking military precision planning when I was a child living in the Yorkshire Dales. We played cricket on the beach and hunted for interesting stones.
Here are the three monkeys just after an ice cream.
However as is often the case with kids they had to go and spoil it by squabbling in the back of the car on the way home.
So it was straight to bed when we got in with no tea. I made an evening meal for Nigel and I which we sat and enjoyed in blissful quarrel-free peace and quiet.
Then I relented and allowed them down for breakfast cereals and toast before shooing them back upstairs to bed. Little horrors!!!
The rest of the evening Nigel and I spent in kid-free peaceful companionship on the sofa in the lounge in front of the tv while I hand stitched the border down on my log cabin piece.
My only disappointment with it is the border quilting has crept under the binding in places - mental note to allow for the outer seam allowance in future but I am pleased with it. I reckon the only thing nicer that wonky homespun fabrics is bias homespun binding giving this criss-cross effect.
Now what next? ..................

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Just the binding to do then

Isn't it wonderful when something captures your quilting imagination and keeps hold of it until the end of the job.

Thats how I feel about this little log cabin piece.

Friday night I sandwiched and quilted it continuing the leaves theme.

I'm pretty confident with free-motion quilting - it's just like drawing with the needle as the pencil and moving the 'paper/fabric' instead of the 'pencil/needle'.

However following lines is a whole different ball game to me - one I certainly need lots of practice at.

I was always under the impression it was best to do 'in the ditch' straight lines with a walking foot and had never had particularly satisfactory results. However last summer I had a conversation with a very accomplished machine quilter who told me she does all her quilting whether free-form or in-the-ditch with a darning foot and using her hands to guide everything as you would with any normal free-form work.

I tried this around the stars on Spencer's Stars with mixed results - most of it was okish but I did wander off my lines now and then.

However on this log cabin I could tangibly feel the improvement on each of the four log corners and by the end wasn't wandering too badly at all.

Now I just have to bind it, adding in a hanging sleeve, and I think this one might come to work with me for my notice board above my brand new desk to remind me now and then why exactly I do actually go to work.

The old adage rings true again - 'Practice makes perfect!' - mine may not be perfect but we're getting there slowly!

Friday, May 18, 2007

And the applique finishes the top

What an exciting day Friday turned out to be at work...

Our new desks arrived - Yippee!!!

Yes I know this may sound very sad to you but when I tell you that since September I've been managing on a flat topped table measuring less than 5ft wide by 2'6" deep with no drawers and having to share that space with my monitor, keyboard, mouse, pen tidy, stack of trays and several of those plastic stand up magazine racks to contain all my ongoing paperwork and belongings you can see why a new desk is such a delight. To have drawers to put away my pens and stop any itinerant teachers picking them up and walking off with them will be joy enough!

By moving the photocopier and relocating my colleague to the other side of a short supporting wall I've managed to fit in a corner desk and adjoining set of drawers that's big enough to hold a party on!

Learning a new job is always difficult but this particular one has been made doubly so by a rubbish work station and the constant fear of having so little surface to work on that the risk of losing a vital bit of paper due to it becoming accidentally clipped to the back of something else has been very real indeed.

Hopefully my new area will mean I can do the job much more efficiently and finally get a bit of a grip on things :o)

So having spent the morning helping our handyman remove the old furniture and install the new I came home fired up full of enthusiasm to get straight on with the applique on my log cabin piece.

The top is now ready for sandwiching.

Also in the post yesterday was my final Autumn block - I hope she won't mind me saying it but the lady who made this one was very reluctant to join the swap as she felt she was too much of a beginner.

Well I reckon for a beginner or any other level of quilting she's made a pretty good job of these flying geese and I'm delighted to have them in my quilt

So that's the Autumn quadrant done

Now to wait for everyone's winter blocks - so long as they're not accompanied by wintry weather :o)

PS - I did promise to hold the draw for the purple bag I made to celebrate my first blogiversary. When I was stitching the pink buttons in the middle of the yoyos never did I dream how far it would have to travel.

It's been won by Lori aka Elkhoundmom who is currently in Macao so if she'd care to email me with her snail mail address I'll pop it into the post to her at the beginning of next week.

I only wish I'd had 32 bags to give away - I'd have liked to send one to each of you but even at the speed I sometimes work that would have been a bit of a tall order :o)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Something a little more traditional

I am such a butterfly flitting from one thing to another - only occasionally finishing anything!

First of all let me apologise for using this picture and not crediting the source. If it's yours I'm sorry for not giving named credit where it's due - please accept imitation as the sincerest form of flattery.

On both of our computers I have a file of pictures that I've collected from all different sources to use as personal inspiration for my stitching. I'll often save an image from someone's blog or something I see on a website purely for personal use but don't give it a meaningful label.

This is one of those photos and judging by the fact it's on the older of the two computers I might have saved it well over a year ago.

Nigel was away in Spain again on Wednesday night and, as Sarah's rugby training has broken for the summer, once I'd got the three children in from school and fed them the night was free from taxi duties.

Just the opportunity to play.

The plaids I'd bought in the form of all those charity shop men's shirts were calling my name so I set to and tried to make something similar to the above.

Here is my effort. Some of the plaids are from the shirts, some are from yardage in my stash and yes, for those of you sensitive to wobbly checks, all of them could be offensively crooked so if that applies to you don't look too closely I wouldn't want to be accused of causing undue suffering :o)

However I've really enjoyed playing with something a little more traditional and will probably applique/embroider some leaves in the centre along the lines of the inspirational quilt I saved the picture of up above. Overall my own effort measures about 17.5" square - the logs are 3/4" wide.

Oddly enough in all the years I've been stitching this is the very first time I've made log cabin blocks - can you believe that?

7 Things about me

As I've been tagged by at least two people I thought I ought to enlighten you about 7 things you might not know about me - none of them are that quirky - although you might think some are when you read them - I'll leave that to you to decide......
1. Third time lucky - Nigel is my third partner (married twice and lived together once). I married when I was a young and impressionable 19, first husband was 25, intellectually and emotionally we were probably similar at that time. I guess over the five years we were married I grew up and he stayed the same. Despite various attempts on my part to make the best of things I realised that we had to part, no children involved to complicate matters and he's since found another partner and has two almost grown up daughters.
Soon after this split I met my second partner and we lived together for almost five years. My philosophy at the time was that if you cared enough about each other you didn't need a piece of paper to prove it. Whilst going through a particularly rocky patch when we were contemplating separation he sadly died following a road traffic accident. The ensuing financial mess because we weren't married and he hadn't made a will made me decide that if I was lucky enough to find another mate he must be prepared to make a real committment and marry me.
Nigel came into my life around a year later and we were married two weeks short of a year after that. He is my best friend and was worth every minute of the waiting. As I said, third time lucky.
2. I almost never had these three. Being totally convinced that I never ever wanted a family, whilst living with my second partner, I was sterilised at 28. I was totally happy with this decision until he died in the accident. Those sort of life-changing events certainly make you look at life a little differently and when I met Nigel I realised that having a good job and plenty of money weren't the be all and end all of life. I was extremely fortunate to be able to have an operation to have the sterilisation reversed and Sarah, Nick and Lou were the wonderful result.
3. In another life, pre-kids, I held down a pretty responsible job with a company that manufactured supermarket chillers and freezers. A boring product maybe but it certainly gave me a very good living for a few years as one of very few females in a very male orientated business. I looked after the company's second and third largest accounts with my order book equating to £4.5 million each year. I had a company car and wore a suit to work, spent time at hospitality functions like golf days and travelled the length and breadth of the UK. This all makes me all the more puzzled why a school office job still has me part beaten even after 8 months in post - maybe I lost my marbles when I was pregnant!
4. I detest the edges of harbours and waterfronts. Not only can I not bring myself to stand near any that are unfenced but I almost have a blue fit if Nigel or the children go near the edge. Even looking a pictures like this makes me shudder. I can swim so shouldn't fear drowning, but it's as if there's a magnetic force pulling me over the edge if I go anywhere near. I'm not even comfortable walking on the opposite edge, say up against a wall - but if there's a fence at the edge it's not a problem at all.
5. I used to bite my fingernails right up to my elbows up until I was about 19. Even now if I'm not busy with my hands, say if I'm reading a book I have my fingers in my mouth and often nibble away. Every so often I do bite them all down until they're sore and then really regret it until they grow back. Yet when I was working before I had the kids they were always so beautifully long and manicured that people would ask if they were false nails - they were always my own and I was immensely proud of them. Sadly now with arthritis in my fingers if I did grow them very long they'd resemble witches talons too much to look glamorous :o(
6. I never ventured out of the UK until the summer after my second partner died. I was 30 before I took this first trip abroad and then took 5 trips in the next 18 months to Gibraltar, Lanzarote, Germany, the USA and finally Bermuda on honeymoon with Nigel. I love to travel abroad given any opportunity and wish we could afford to do more.
7. This one applies to both Nigel and I. We both have (and did have independently even before we met) the ambition to live in a home that wasn't originally built as a house. It doesn't matter what the building was originally - a lighthouse, a barn or even Nigel's favourite a train station. However unless we find something unusual to retire into I can't see it happening for some time as I think we're probably committed to our current abode for the foreseeable future
Gosh haven't I gone on at length? I'm not going to tag anyone else in particular as I think this has probably already caught everyone who wants it to, but if not and you want to enlighten us about your undiscovered depths then consider yourself tagged.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Four Seasons and not a sign of Vivaldi or Frankie Valli!

Just to say before I start today's random waffling that I will not be doing the draw for the purple bag until Friday night so if anyone still wants to put their comment in you can do so until then.

I will then enlist the help of the three 'musketeers/wise monkeys/ little pigs/ errant children' (you take your pick and delete the least applicable - no only kidding!) to carry out the draw so I can try and get it arranged to take to the Post Office on my day off next Monday

After showing you my 'four seasons' blocks so far and then completing my winter block I decided it was time to take up that gauntlet (or should that read Sword of Damacles) - the Sashing Challenge!!!

Right from the start, as there were to be four seasons meaning four sets of four blocks, I had the germ of an idea about arranging the quilt in quadrants - one for each season.

So I then decided I wanted each quarter of the quilt to have its own identity - hence four different sets of sashings and corner stones

But to try and give it a little bit of uniformity I decided that I'd like all the corner stones to be green, but a different shade of green in each quadrant - each being most suitable to its own season.

Winter was the trickiest - my initial thought was a dark christmas/fir tree green but it just didn't work with the other three paler ones - so in the end looking at the reverse side of the greens in my stash I came across a green that reminded me of a pale dusting of snow or ice on grass and so went with the one in the picture

Then having so many different fabrics in each quarter I decided on the unifying theme of checks for each set of sashings

Once I have all the blocks in I'll put it all together and then put a 2" border round in 4 seasonal colours - one to each corner, but repeating the same green corner stones

Finally I think a 4" border with four separate darker/stronger fabrics again with matching green corner stones and I intend to applique the four corresponding words 'Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter' on the relevant border sections using each of the central sashing check fabric possibly along with relevant motifs ie flowers, autumn leaves, snowflakes etc

Does that all sound as clear as mud! Yeah thought so - sorry! Read it again once you've had a cup of coffee :o)

Then binding....... mmmmmm........ Anybody's guess really!