Thursday, June 28, 2007

Quick ten minute post before I go to work

This has to be a speedy one because I'm off to work in ten minutes
I put the final stitches into my sister's wallhanging last night. Nigel just needs to find and cut me a piece of cane or dowel to go across the back for hanging.
This is just as well as..............
we're going up there tomorrow morning for a long weekend - YIPPEE!!!!
The two youngest are heading off to France for a four day trip with school at 7.45 in the morning. Sarah will head off to school (she's staying in the care of our friend who moved in round the corner last December as she's probably not quite old enough to stay at home alone yet), I have a doctor's appointment at 8.40 and then we're heading on up that road to Yorkshire to stay at my sister's house while she's at her boyfriends in the Lake District for the weekend.
I will get to see her when we first arrive and we're meeting up with them for a meal Saturday night (we haven't met him yet) but essentially it'll be the chance for Nigel and I to have some 'us time sans enfants'
Hence why I needed to get the rose finished.
I've kept quiet about this up to now as I didn't want the kids letting the cat out of the bag to my parents as we didn't intend visiting them. However this isn't an option now anyway as they're right in the middle of the area of South Yorkshire badly affected by all the flooding. Mercifully their house hasn't been affected yet but the High Street of Bentley (the area of Doncaster they live in) is under 1-2 ft of water. Fortunately they are slightly higher up so should be ok. However it would be folly to travel into the area unless absolutely essential. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!
So I may post later today - or then again not if I get tied up with getting everyone ready for tomorrow. If I don't it will be next Tuesday before I get chance to catch up with everyone.
Here's a less than flattering picture of me that Sarah took yesterday evening after I'd dropped asleep in the conservatory, don't I look cross in my sleep? - obviously all getting too much!!! Definitely ready for the break!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The rose top is done

Well I stitched and stitched and stitched some more yesterday (until I had a totally numb behind from sitting hand stitching on the sofa) and finished the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Rose top for my sister around nine o'clock last night.
I've really enjoyed this - the challenge of working out which piece of 'leading' to stitch in which order so all rough ends are enclosed gave my brain something else to work out other than school accounts especially on the pink rose area. It's good to stretch your brain in a different direction now and again and a real relief to find it still works!
Atet from Quilting in Cornfields mentioned on yesterday's comments about her intention to do something similar but using the work of Frank Lloyd Wright as inspiration. I think he was probably thinking on similar lines to Charles Rennie Mackintosh albeit possibly slightly later and his stained glass works are lovely - just right for this type of work.
On my CRM piece here I've extended the design out by about 2.5" to give the corner 'nine patches' and create a bit of an illusion of a border but still echoing his style. I shall cut off the excess white you can still see on the picture when I square it all up.
I hope to get it sandwiched and machine quilted today and then I shall bind it in more of the 'school uniform' grey that I've used for the 'leading'.
I think I shall machine quilt along the edges of all the leading strips - I can't really think of any other way to tackle it - if I try and do something in the open white areas I think it will just detract from the simplicity and clean lines of the design. It's destined to be a wallhanging anyway so doesn't need close quilting for durability.
I ought to title it 'Glastonbury Rose' as I've discovered more new bands (well new to an old fogie like me anyway), sitting watching the Glastonbury Festival coverage on tv while I've stitched, than I ever knew existed.
I hope she likes it - she's not much of a stitcher, just does some cross stitch and a little simple dressmaking but she did like the Celtic Knotwork (her other real design love) cushion covers I made her for Christmas so I should be onto a winner. I need to get it completed for next Friday so I'd better get a wiggle on with it :o)
On a totally different note I received my penultimate winter block, indeed my penultimate block altogether, for the four seasons swap quilt I'm in the middle of. Can't wait to get the final block and finish assembling the centre. Then we're onto those borders and that'll be another top done.
Mind you there's no deadline for this so I don't know why I'm rushing. Don't you sometimes feel like it's a self imposed race we set ourselves with these things?
Never mind - on with the sandwiching of the CRM Rose - at least it's a small manageable size to handle.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

More than enough on the go already?

Well what do we do?

You guessed it - start something new!!!
No surprise there then :o)
I've always been a big fan of the Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh - his distinctive designs from the early 20th century brought a fresh newness to interior design after the heavy fussy Victorian era
His work is mainly associated with Glasgow and I've not been fortunate enough to visit the places around that area where you can actually see his work in person
However my little sister, who is a fairly recent convert to his work was lucky enough to visit Hill House on her trip to Scotland last month
She is about to do us a huge favour so I thought I'd make her a Rennie Mackintosh style wall hanging by way of gratitude

This is the picture I've used for inspiration

And here is my attempt as of yesterday morning - I have to say I did a whole load more of the stained glass applique last night while watching the evening's tv coverage of the Glastonbury Festival - we might live near but there's no way we can afford to fork out the £170 each for the five of us to go for the weekend - plus my sofa's a lot drier and warmer than all that mud and I can get more stitching done even if it's not so atmospheric :o)
I haven't done any stained glass since last summer and I'd forgotten how much I liked it
I did promise you some more ridiculous hats from Royal Ascot
Here are a couple from this year

Plus a picture of the Queen and her grand-daughter who is far more likely to be wearing a riding hat when in the Showjumping arena - does she realise how ridiculous those leopard skin bunny ears look? (But probably nothing like as daft as the wedding cake and the horses heads!!!)
And I couldn't resist this one I found on Google from a previous year - for my husband - it represents 'The Flying Scotsman' - probably THE most famous steam locomotive ever built - so that's specially for him :o)
Have a great stitching weekend all :o)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What would you do with an orphan panda cub?

You know after telling Finn there was no way I could play her orphan game because I just don't seem to make orphan blocks what do I find but a little baby panda all alone and abandoned - aaaaaahhh!

Going back to before my youngest started school almost six years ago we said a fond farewell to the mums and toddlers group I'd been going to for nine years with one or another or more of my three kids

It was held at a local evangelical church each Wednesday afternoon and was (and still is) run by the members of the congregation, partly as an outreach of the church, and partly as a facility for local families. It was more than your usual mums and toddlers, they helped if you were ill, sent a present for any newborn arrival in your family and were massively supportive to me when I had post-natal depression after the birth of my youngest

We'd had some very happy memories and I was so sad to stop going once mine had all gone to big school.

Not surprisingly the group was called 'Noah's Ark' so I made them a Noah's Ark wallhanging as a thankyou for all the support, fun and fellowship they'd given our family over the years.

The only photo I have of the finished object is on paper and as our scanner isn't working I can't really give you a particularly clear picture of it

This is the best I could do with a photo of a photo

The whole thing measured about 2'6" wide by 4' tall and had Noah's Ark buttons fastening the top tabs

The animals, rainbow, sun and ark were all hand appliqued and the creatures all came from various animal fabrics I had in my stash

Originally when I decided to make a wallhanging I thought about paper piecing various animals but only got as far as completing the panda - that took long enough and I felt sure I would lose the will to live if I were to make a whole arkfull hence changing to plan B to go down the applique route.

As far as I know it still hangs up in the stairwell of the church, nicely out of direct sunlight but where all the children can see as they go to do messy activities in the lower room.

The other day on rooting through one of my craft drawers one of the children pulled out the poor little orphaned panda from the original plan A - he didn't even have any facial features then

I merrily drew his face and thought he'd make a splendid start for another kiddies quilt for the Womens' Refuge

And here we are so far - it now measures about 2'6" across so I'll have to persuade someone to go into the loft and retrieve some more bright green, red and yellow fabric while they're up there looking for my little blue dutch fabrics to enable me to make it grow to a more useable 4ft square.

It's always nice to make something out of newly re-discovered treasure

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Blues and silly hats!

Over the past few days I've had an attack of the blues in more ways than one - hence the lack of posts this week.

Work is driving me mad and really getting me down at present - I was under the misguided impression that, after the year end, things would become easier to understand. They are, but only marginally, and I still feel like I'm perpetually wading through treacle. I'm not going to bore you with the details but the longer I work there the less I like this feeling of rudderless, minimal, snailpace progress. The only redeeming feature is that most of the people I work with are lovely but the Head drives me nuts!!! The job suits me because of the term time hours but to be truthful unless I start feeling like I know what I'm doing I will only stick it for as long as it suits me until the youngest are old enough to not need me all through the school holidays.

Because of this I've been feeling pretty blue and stitching has not been high on the agenda. But I shall stop whinging now and talk about something a bit more positive.

I have been able to spend a little time in the evenings doing some blue-work.

You might recall Finn showing us a lovely book from the thirties about children and drawing.

One of the pages she showed us had a pair of Dutch children (sorry can't seem to get a link on this - you'll have to scroll back to June 3rd)

I fell in love with this and asked her permission to reproduce them in stitchery. She very kindly scanned them and emailed me a larger more workable version

Here it is.....

Thank you Finn - you're a sweetheart :o)

I have two pieces of fabric I bought at a patchwork shop on a visit to Amsterdam about 3 years ago. One has a white background and the other mid blue. They feature little pictures of Dutch children, windmills and tulips and I've never found the ideal project to use them in - they're just too nice to get swallowed up with the general blues.

Anyway this is the perfect opportunity to use them with the stitchery children to make a 'delft' style wallhanging.

Once I've persuaded DH to locate them in the loft I'll post a photo and then all I have to do is decide how to use them all together.

Still on the subject of 'blue' - you might remember me writing about the death of Cicely , the lady who founded our quilt group in October last year.

Her friend Anne has been going through her UFO's and came across a sweet little blue crib quilt top which she brought to the group the other week to see if anyone would like to finish it and donate it to a charity.

I offered to complete it and donate it to the local womens' refuge - I'm sure they occasionally get ladies with babies and this will be just the ticket. A quick all over large meander and some shirting stripe for the binding had it finished in a jiffy before tea this afternoon. It will be great to see it going to a good home.

And on a brighter note it's the season of silly hats again - Royal Ascot

Why would anyone want to walk around with a bright red petrol pump on their head??????? If there are any other ridiculous creations I'll share them with you as the week progresses.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Just taking baby steps here

Well I did make a little progress here last night and this morning

I was struggling to decide what sort of border(s) I wanted on my table protector
I'm usually a firm believer in the 'quilt's not finished until it's got at least two or more borders, the deeper the better' school of thought
However I had the restricting factor of overall size to contend with on this one - I really don't want it to overhang the sides of the table very far at all
So I knew I could only afford a 1.5" border all round and just didn't feel like doing anything elaborate.
In a perfect world I might well have pieced the border with the joins matching the block joins in all different fabrics but to be honest at the moment I'm right out of energy so I pulled out the first piece of fabric I came across that was long enough for me not to have to pieced the lengths and cut some 2" strips
It's a piece salvaged from some very posh Ralph Lauren bedding my husband salvaged at minimal cost from a warehouse where they'd had flood damage. This was the skirt of the valance, hence the length of the pieces and thus no joins
It's an odd fabric, all shades of china blue with big blowsy roses on it, but of course cut to this width you don't get the full impression of the pattern
So I thought as I'd mixed the star block fabrics with such gay abandon it was quite fitting that I should border it with something equally bizarre
However I do intend to do a scrap binding in lots of different fabrics, probably the ones I've used for the stars
Once I get past the dreaded sandwiching process that is anyway :o)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Something nice in the post

I've had a fairly stitch free few days - work has been hectic and Nige has been away for most of the week (he's in Madrid overnight tonight for example) so the taxi driving has been down to me - in the end I've been just too whacked to concentrate on anything creative

I did put the stars together but can't decide what fabric to use for the border - plus I don't like cutting long borders so put off doing them as long as I can - next to sandwiching it's my least favourite job

I've also been cracking on with the blue stitchery work I showed you in my new basket - first half done, second half to start, but I want to keep that as a surprise until it's completely stitched

However I thought I'd give you a visual treat

Here is the very first quilty postcard I've ever received - it's been sent inside a plastic sleeve to keep it from any post office sorting machine sabotage so there is a bit of sheen and reflection in the picture

McIrish Annie asked me for the instructions for my confetti quilt

I sent her them plus a little pin keeper in the snail mail and had this lovely postcard in return

Thank you Annie, it is beautiful and made in my mostest bestest favouritest colour too - how did you guess?

I've not succombed to the postcard making bug yet - but who knows...................

Monday, June 11, 2007

The stars have it!

So did you guess correctly then?
18 x 9" blocks (finished size) to stitch into six rows of three - then a 1.5 or 2" border all round.
This is a 'Buggy Barn' star pattern that was originally a 12" block that I resized down to 9". You just stack up your fabrics, draft the pattern with all the cutting lines onto freezer paper, iron that onto the top piece of fabric and slice through. Then by moving the top layer of star pieces to the bottom of the pile you end up stitching a series of contrasting stars.
Once I've quilted it I think I may well round off the corners before binding it. Then I'll add ties at each side to keep it from sliding off the table.
It's a bit on the bright side but all three kids love it and it will brighten up that corner as well as protecting the table.
Sarah did make me smile as I was pulling out the random fabric choices - "Oh no Mum," she said of one selection "You can't use that one it's far too nice!"
Spoken like a true quilter :o)

And now for something completely different...

in those immortal words from the gang of Monty Python.

In our conservatory we have a lovely table which used to live in my flat (pre-Nigel) where space was limited.

It's dark wood and has two leaves and opens out to around 30" x 60" ish but when the leaves are down it only takes up a foot print of 30" x 8" - perfect for storage in a small flat.

It was bought at a time when I had plenty of spare cash and is of pretty good quality albeit its not an antique or anything.

Since it moved out into the conservatory Nigel has kept saying that we ought to cover it up so it doesn't fade. He does have a point, however this has become his current bee in his proverbial bonnet. I could put a tablecloth over it but in our house it would slide off to join the rest of the melee before you could say 'Jack Robinson'

So I finally set to last night to make something bespoke to cover it.

In true Dawn and Rolf Harris fashion here's a 'Can you guess what it it yet' photo

It will be bright and cheerful and it won't matter too much if it fades as I won't have invested too much time and fabric in it.

I'm also still bitten by the stitchery bug and have started another project - Finn will have a good idea what the subject will be - I'm going to keep the rest of you all in suspense for a day or two yet - but I needed some handwork to take to my group this morning

The basket it's sitting in was a bargain from a shop we have that I think is peculiar to Taunton - Chaplins. It's a homeware store that sells anything from garden plants to wetsuits, party wigs to teapots and a whole range of other stuff in between.

I was in there yesterday looking for a pack of thistle seed to keep the very hungry goldfinches that frequent our garden happy. Unusually they didn't have the seed but I did find this basket for £3.99 and it will match my lounge perfectly in a futile attempt to stop my 'in progress' stitching migrating around the room - yes okay don't laugh - you have to at least try to make an effort!

And finally here's a picture of the 'White Elephant Cover' in situ - so far so good, nothing deposited on it yet. Maybe I ought to start a book running to see how long it takes :o)

Have a good stitchy day everyone :o)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Fingers - and onto elephants............

You may remember me telling you a little while ago that I used to have beautiful long fingernails which I took great delight in keeping manicured and varnished.

I suppose I am a little sad that the arthritis I suffer from in my fine joints has turned my hands into something you might be more likely to see dipping an apple into a cauldron of poison in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

However the thing about my misshapen fingers that annoys me, more than how they look, is the pain I suffer from them quite a lot of the time. I would be devastated if it deteriorated to the point where it affected my stitching.

So much so, that this week I decided to return to my doctor to see if there was anything else they might recommend.

It was a very interesting conversation.

I had previously thought the pain was caused by using them too much doing handwork - all that stitching!

However as we chatted she pointed out that the pain wasn't actually from too much movement, more from too little - inactivity and them seizing up.

As I thought about what she'd said I realised she had a very good point. After all when we're stitching either by machine or by hand we really don't actually move our joints to any great extent - rather we grip our work and the needle and hold our hands fairly rigid in one particular position. Multiply this rigid state by several hours a day (if we're lucky to be able to get that much stitching in) is it any wonder the joints whinge and complain?

So, her solution was, rather than stitching all the time thereby keeping the joints rigid, instead, using something like a stress ball or a dog's soft ball, repeatedly work the joints at regular intervals to keep them supple and aid their movement, hence reducing the inflammation and pain

So far I've not remembered to try and source a stress ball so, when my youngest came down from tidying her bedroom with this wonderful red lip shaped cushion filled with those miniscule polystyrene beads (about a pen tip size each), I realised it would be an excellent substitute. It offers just the right amount of resistance when squidged.

Here's Sarah doing a passable impersonation of a certain Mr Jagger of Rolling Stones fame with the cushion in question

I've been having a jolly good squidge of it at regular intervals throughout today and strangely enough my fingers feel a little better already

I suppose it stands to reason - if you have a stiff hip which gives you great pain on getting up after being sat for a long while, but then as you walk around loosens up and becomes less painful - why shouldn't the same apply to your fingers

So the moral of the story is - if you too have sore joints, try giving them a little bit of regular exercise against something with some resistance and see if it improves them.

In amongst all that squidging I have got some quantity of stitching done today

Here it is - my white elephant cover.............

I've machine quilted in the ditch around the purple star components and then echo quilted all the stitchery - you can probably get a vague idea from this picture but the lighting isn't great.

Of course all I have to do now is clear the pile of junk from the top of the aforesaid elephant to be able to put it into use...

I guess that's on the list for the morning!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Nothing much of mine to show...

Well I don't have anything of mine to show you - I've been merrily stitching away at my white elephant cover and am well over three quarters done now so should be able to show you the completed top this weekend
However I have received a winter block this week for my 'Four Seasons Swap'
The lady who made it picked this block because it reminded her of a snowflake
I just LOVE the navy blue fabric with the ethereal trees!
Can't wait to see the other two that I'm due :o)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

More stitchery and some new fabric acquisitions

Last night it was our monthly Guild meeting - the speaker was a lady called Jenni Dobson and her talk was right up Bonnie's street - 'In praise of scraps'. As usual, like the muppet I am, I forgot to take my camera so have no photos to share but I think hers was the most entertaining and inspiring talk I've listened to since I joined the group

I was very lucky and won a prize in the raffle - this lovely fat quarter of very unusual leaf fabric has already got the creative imagination buzzing away working on a mid green and sand colour scheme for another quilt - after all I've no others in the cupboard still to finish - NOT!

We also had some fabric for sale - the local Oxfam charity shop often receives ends of rolls of fabric which they try, not always successfully, to sell for a measly 50p per yard. I suppose you don't often get people looking for fabric from the roll in charity shops.

Anyway one of our committee members offered to try and sell it at our meeting for £1 per yard - half to Oxfam and half to the group.

Most of the fabric was poly-cotton - fine for the back of say Women's Refuge charity quilts - but there were the odd few rolls of 100% cotton.

I managed to obtain over a yard of the dark blue stripe and well over three yards of the turquoise gingham - when I say the measurements they were pretty rough because the ladies were, with everyone's agreement, measuring with the old standard 'nose to finger tip' method. All this for the princely sum of £4. With £1 for the strip of raffle tickets I came home with an armful of treasure for a fiver :o)

It would appear that the charity shop gets in this sort of fabric quite regularly so who knows there may be more on the horizon.

As for stitching, my 'white elephant cover' is coming on apace - I think I'm past half way done now and really liking the result

Originally I drew the little stars with a single dot in the middle, but once I started I thought I'd rather have a pair of french knots in each star so it looked like the holes in the middle of a button.

One or two people have asked me which stitch I'm using and I have to tell you it's neither back stitch, stem stitch nor chain stitch. A few months ago, when I was looking at redwork patterns on the internet, I came across as article I've never been able to relocate which describes 'winchester stitch'. In trying to find the article again I've come across lots of other 'dictionaries of stitches' where this same stitch is called 'split stitch' or Kensington outline stitch. Basically it's a back stitch that is worked into the previous stitch instead of meeting it. Essentially you enter your needle into the stitch you've worked before thus splitting the old stitch. If it's done neatly it does give the effect of a very fine chain stitch and is wonderful for going round corners and odd shapes. It's very quick and effective.

And finally here's another little piece of nonsense that I've stitched this past week too - lilac's definitely the flavour of the moment, but this time on cream. It seems I've caught the stitchery bug!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

And some more stitchery.............

Once I'd finished the eight large stars with their central buttons I stood back and thought - shall I or shan't I?

Does it really need any more stitchery?

Probably not - it looked quite happy to stand alone with no more decoration. I even got to the point of cutting the wadding and backing fabric to size ready for pinning.

But then the twitching of the stitching hand took over and I decided that enough is never enough.

And here we are - a sort of interlocking garland of little star 'buttons' linked with curls and french knots.

I did consider using the same coloured floss for these and then decided I'd quite like to pick out the more pinkish parts of the plaid instead.

I'm not sure yet if this colour will work, it's too soon to tell, but I reckon that by the time I've stitched the whole thing it would probably have been total overkill in the bluer shade of the large stars.

Not that it won't be overkill anyway - but hey, I'm enjoying working on it - after all it is only a 'white elephant cover'!

Friday, June 01, 2007

A little more lilac - stitchery now

Well my 'white elephant' topper is coming along apace

I was considering putting some applique in the spaces within and between the stars until May Britt suggested some stitchery - if you follow the link just look at the beautiful navy blue and white table runner on today's post with the stitchery ivy garland all around it - fabulous!

So here we go - a start - a little faux appliqued star with a pretend button in the middle in the centre of each star. I did 5 last night and hope to complete the other three today.

I'm so pleased with them that I don't think I'll stop there - I might do some little stars in a sort of garland between the pieced stars - ideas are bubbling in the back of my mind and should come to fruition just as I finish the star centres.

I finally got round to sending 'Spencer's Stars' off to my brother and his wife this week.

He phoned last night to say they were totally blown away by it.

I had to reassure him that it was fine to use and not just put away as too precious. He was a tad sceptical when I said it would go through the washing machine but I managed to reassure him so I think they will use this one!

Thank goodness, after all that work, that I seem to have hit exactly the right spot!