Monday, April 30, 2007

Three different reds

I love Mondays - after the weekend with the family it's my 'me' day - the one day of the week I don't go into work.
Mind you I don't always get to do nothing - in fact not very often at all. But I do enjoy going to my quilt group and having a good old 'chew of the fat' with all the other ladies whilst doing a bit of handstitching.
Over the past few weeks, in between hand applique projects like my 'Ugly bug/tulip' table runner I've been doing some redwork.
I finished this today - I shall now put a red and sand coloured checked border around it and make it into a Christmas wall hanging.
Last night I also completed the second of the blocks I'm doing for Clare at Dordogne Quilter - I may do some more to go with these - we'll see what inspiration comes to me before I head to the post office.
Yesterday I went to a small quilt show on the other side of Taunton. Not a big collection of quilts but nevertheless some lovely ones and some delicious cakes in the refreshment room too.
Here's a 'confetti' quilt for my third 'red'. I was very taken with this pattern - squares of fabric sliced 'buggy barn' style and then swapped over and reassembled.
And here are two of its mates in other colourways.
I think the last one, the batik, is my favourite - a lovely mix of colours.
This would be a good simple pattern for a quick and colourful quilt for charity I think. Maybe I'll show you some more of their handiwork another day
Sew many quilts - sew little time :o)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Wonderful, wonderful wisteria

Here in the UK apparently we've had the hottest April for over 100 years.

I'm sure in years gone by the wisteria has not flowered this early. However it would appear that the conditions must have been absolutely perfect for it because everywhere you go it is in full and glorious bloom.

Nowhere more so than in the centre of Taunton up the walls of the four storey very swish and expensive Castle Hotel.

I won't apologise for posting five separate pictures of it. Suffice to say they don't even start to do it justice. It is absolutely awesome!
What a shame that, like its equally ostentatious mate magnolia, it is so short lived. A perfect reason to capture it on film

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Have shoes will travel

Lots of pictures today. I've discovered you're not limited to the first five photos - you can add subsequent lots too - how long have I been doing this? Duh!!!

Over the past six months DD1 Sarah has had lots of problems with chronic abdo pain - several doctors visits and various tests culminated in a real nasty episode this week necessitating a visit to the Accident and Emergency department of our local hospital on Thursday. I won't bore you, or embarrass her, with any details. Suffice to say that we're all (that's us and the medics) coming to the conclusion that she's suffering from a very unpleasant spell of IBS. It goes without saying that we are hugely relieved that it's nothing life threatening or sinister but the pain she's suffered this week almost put paid to her partaking in something she's been looking forward to for months.

However she rallied round enough to head off this morning with the rest of her rugby playing team mates on tour for the weekend to Cornwall. She's a determined girl who seldom lets anything stand in her way and I'm glad she's been fit enough and pig-headed enough to be able to go.

The coaching team and one of the mums have worked extremely hard to get sufficient sponsorship to give each of the girls a tour polo shirt, a pair of tracksuit bottoms, a tour waterproof training jacket and a tour kit bag - WOW! (Sarah's the one under the coach wing mirror)

The yellow for the shirts was a big surprise to everyone - someone had heavily hinted at pink at one stage but they're male shirts which apparently you can't get in pink - whatever! - I think they looked pretty smart actually - you certainly wouldn't miss them coming that's for sure (and again she's the one in the centre with her tongue out)

Before they were allowed to set off they were given the task of arranging themselves into order as per the letter embroidered on the left arm of their shirts. If they stand in the correct order the line of 28 of them spells out 'Taunton Fillies Newquay Tour 07!' This was a huge challenge as you can imagine at 8.30 in the morning when they were all massively excited. Failure to replicate this manouevre at speed throughout the weekend may have dire consequences :o) - revenge for the coaches (even in jest) is a dish best eaten cold!

They all managed to get on the road just before 10am and so the rest of the family had the day to go off and do something else with.
When Nigel asked me what I'd like for my birthday I told him I've been wanting to treat myself to a pair of crocs shoes. They are starting to become quite popular over here but are not widely stocked and there is usually very limited colour choice. The purple ones I fancied have been particularly elusive in my size.
However I happened to discover that a new footwear shop was opening (on my birthday no less - obviously an omen!) which exclusively stocks all manner of Crocs in Glastonbury, about 30 minutes from us and a couple of miles down the road from Nigel's work. Obviously meant to be!
The town is a magnet for all things mystical, new age and whacky and is probably a very good place to put this shop. They should do well.
So we headed there first and made the crucial purchase. Please excuse the chubby ankles - I'm blaming the camera angle ;oP - 'Yeah right' I hear you all chorus!
Once we'd finished our shopping and had some lunch we headed off, best foot forward, to climb Glastonbury Tor.
The tor is a hill outside the town which can be seen for miles around and has a ruined church tower on the top. It is probably the most easily recognisable symbol of Somerset and deemed by some to be a very holy and spiritual place - the mythical Isle of Avalon from the times of Arthurian legends.
Well mythical it may be but it's also a jolly long steep walk up to the top! I did it in my new purple Crocs with not a jot of discomfort - they might not be very pretty but they are like walking on air.
Apart from the 300+ steps you have to climb actually up the tor itself, the hill is situated a good steady yomp of about a mile and a quarter from the car park in the town centre - we certainly had our exercise today and the weather was pretty hot and sunny making it fairly strenuous.
As is usually the case I always tend to bring up the rear so am generally caught on camera further down the hill than the rest of the party. Not pretty! We have many such pictures of me in rear guard position part way up a variety of climbs in our family albums.
But the views from the top were well worth the effort - wonderful, if a little hazy, and you could see a good proportion of not only Somerset but into Dorset and Wiltshire, the neighbouring counties, too.
Whilst we were browsing the shops before our mammoth ascent I came across a lovely striped lady's sleeveless shirt in a charity shop and some Indian cotton plaid fabric with an elephant grey background in another shop - treasure! Wish the shirt had been man-sized and long sleeved as it is a lovely stripe. Actually they go quite well together too - mmmm I wonder?
On another tack I don't know if any of you are familiar with Leanne's blog from Australia. I've decided in a fit of sheer lunacy that I'd quite like to have a go at her 365 day challenge. My birthday seemed as good a time as any to start.
So here are the first two days worth .........
I have lots of ideas for this and won't use it as just a report of what I do each day - heavens that would be so boring - whoever would give that a second glance after about the third week (or should that read third day?). But I think it will make an interesting 'document', albeit in fabric, for my descendents and will be fun to do.
Of course, in my usual inimitable fashion I've gone in feet first with no preparation - have I pre cut all my days/pieces? - er...... No! Does all my fabric match? - er...... No! but hey who cares? I've made a start and can catch up with the cutting as I go along.
Leanne has decided to use all various parchment coloured fabrics so it looks like old vellum. I'll be a bit more eclectic than that and intend to use lots of different pastel fabrics and a variety of colours of pigma pens too. I shall add little illustrations along the way with maybe some embroidery and/or applique as the fancy takes me. Watch this space..............

Friday, April 27, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me!!!!

It's my birthday today - I'm 47 years old and don't feel a day over 97!!!
This picture is the best I can do for baby/childhood photos - these three images were put onto a t-shirt for my 40th. In the centre I was probably about 11 months old - sitting in the coal house with a peg and a pop bottle, the right hand one about 8 years old and the left hand one around 13 or 14 years old - would you allow your daughter out with a hairstyle like that?
My lovely children had, after enormous unveiled hints, visited one of the fabric shops in town and each picked a fabric from the half-price rail to buy half a metre of. Sarah chose the brown after a description from me, Lou went for the red art deco design and Nick plumped for the green one with the wolves on - all fairly predictable in a lovely way. The pins were a useful extra - they know I use them all the time.
But then came the surprise - totally unexpected - a foot spa. I have problems with arthritis in my fingers - probably from too much stitching, not that it will stop me but......... also it seems to be affecting my feet too - this one not from stitching I hasten to add, although the extra weight I lug around obviously doesn't help. So the surprise will be very much appreciated and is a really thoughtful present. I will sit in my conservatory hand stitching away with my feet in some lovely warm scented bubbles. Sarah said as I unwrapped it - "we couldn't afford to send you to a spa so we brought the spa to you" - bless!
My sister had also had her thoughtful head on. She had been surfing around on ebay and purchased a beautiful antique silver thimble for me, still in it's original box.
It is tiny and will only fit on my little finger which leads me to think it was either owned by a very petite lady or possibly a child. On the top it is dented in slightly at one side and has obviously had some usage.
If you look carefully on the box you can see it came from a jewellers in the North East of England which is even more exciting - it may well have belonged to a Durham Quilter making north country quilts with their distinctive patterns. This makes it extra special then.
Oh how I wish it could talk :o)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The (not so) Ugly Bug Ball

Well my buzzy bee has been joined by some more entomologist's delights - a little blue butterfly and a ladybird. The butterfly might well be joined by a couple more - we'll see. This is such fun and all for a humble table runner to cover those dark and brooding granite table mats. Maybe I keep adding little bits of applique so I can put off the dreaded sandwiching moment :o)
I think it was either Jane or Fiona who asked if I'd used a pigma pen to add the stripes to the bee - yes indeed, you've sussed me - it also made a reasonable job on the ladybird's spots and the butterfly's body. However I did embroider the bee's pathway
I was browsing round the various blogs and spotted that Joyce has been making some Leukaemia blocks to send off to Clare. I realised I've not made any for a while and my recent charity shop haul had included some red checks so, as I'm particularly partial to appliqueing hearts, I thought I'd rustle up a block or two for that very worthy cause
This is the first (ignore the ratty edges I've not trimmed it to size yet as I can't actually see my cutting and stitching table under everything my family has deposited on it - and that's my excuse for stalling on Spencer's Stars)
Another block is part done - that's tonight's job along with those extra butterflies

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A buzzy bee

Only managed a tiny bit of stitching yesterday - a grey dotted running stitch line showing the path my bee has taken from the last flower he visited.
I'm not sure but this table runner might just gain a ladybird (that's ladybug to you ladies over the pond) and maybe even a butterfly or two before it goes down the sandwiching route
We'll see.................

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

And more tulips

A couple of people asked about those 'black' tulips - are they really black?

Well the answer to that is 'almost but not quite' - I believe they are a strain called 'Queen of the Night' and they really are the darkest, darkest purple, a bit like the black ones in Fruit Gums or Midget Gems sweets - usually blackcurrant flavoured.

For those of you who haven't already spotted them there are some seriously impressive tulip pictures on Norma's Silver Thimble blog. They remind me of the shots you see of the Dutch bulbfields but the mountain scenery in the background raises these images to the superlative.

As for tulips here - I've finished the hand applique on my table runner - and added a busy little bee as a finishing touch.I intend to do one of those looping dotted lines you see in cartoons leading to him but can't decide whether to hand quilt it in black or embroider it before I quilt the item (or I could be really lazy and draw it in pigma pen).

Finally on the tulip subject here is a pot of the prettiest coloured blooms you could wish for that I saw when we went round those gardens in Herefordshire - a lovely restful change of pace after those bold yellows and reds you more usually associate with this type of bloom.

Have a great day all :o)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

National Pride..... on a local level

Tomorrow is St. George's Day - the patron saint of England.
Ireland has St Patrick's day on March 17th, where shamrocks and all things green abound. Wales has St David's day on March 1st with leeks and daffodils on show and Scotland celebrates St Andrew on 30th November with probably not quite so much enthusiasm and vigour but no doubt lots of thistles.
However in England on 23rd April sporting the red rose of England and the St George's flag is often seen in the media and politically correct circles as one step removed from xenophobic posturing - a sign of an almost neo-nazi threat.
While I think it is good to embrace the multi-cultural make up of our land I do feel there's nothing wrong with being proud of the country you come from especially when the other countries within the United Kingdom do so on their special days.
Traditionally the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements have always celebrated St. George's day, usually with a parade followed by a church service.
Taunton today was no exception with DS and DD2 parading with their respective scout and cub groups. Here you can see Louise carrying their pack flag.
The parade worked its way through the town centre ending up in the town's beautiful Vivary Park for an act of collective worship combined with a celebration of scouting's centenary this year.
The almost black and white tulips were stunning and we did have a quiet smile that some joker had put copious quantities of bubble bath in the fountain - much to the delight of the littler children who were scooping handsful of froth out to throw at their parents.
The last photo shows you a view across the park with the old converted Jellalabad barracks in the background - harking back to days gone by when the town housed an army regiment
We were very lucky as the weather for the parade and service was very kind - nothing like as nice if it's pouring down - as it often has been on other years.
Stitching wise I've managed to get a few more tulips appliqued onto my table runner, stitched a little more of my redwork christmas tree and done a bit more machine quilting on Spencer's Stars - nothing too exciting to warrant a photo yet - lots more to go!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Lovely fabrics and some good news

I had a very nice parcel in the post this week - you might remember I'd considered trying to buy some more of the blue fabric for my soft and faded quilt to enable me to put narrow blue borders between all the blocks.
I finally managed to track the shop I bought it from and rang them. As it had been last summer they thought they probably wouldn't have any left but suggested I send a sample and they would check.
Luck was on my side - they still had some fabric left and so I bought another two metres - Result!!!
At the moment I'm rather partial to checks and plaids and here is a selection of fat quarters I picked up when I went fabric shopping for Sarah's DofE fabric. I have no particular project in mind they will go into my stash to pop into projects along the way to take the edge off that certain sickly sweetness I sometimes feel you end up with if you use all florals.
Some wonderful news this morning in the form of a thank you letter from Nigel's cousin and wife up in Lancaster.
You might recall their second son was born very prematurely weighing only 1lb 12 ozs back in the winter
The letter gave us the fabulous news that he is now in Lancaster hospital, having moved from Manchester ITU and has reached the whopping milestone of 2kgs or in proper money 4lbs 7ozs. Mum is currently staying with him to establish feeding so the grandparents have been drafted back in to help look after his dad and elder brother.
The nicest thing about the letter was the expression of appreciation not only for the little garments I knitted for him but also our words of support which they said hit exactly the right note at the time. The link we'd given them to a book written by friends of ours who'd been through a similar experience was particularly helpful and I'm so glad I took my courage in my hands and put pen to paper.
When people are going through such a difficult time it's all too easy to just shrug and think 'Oh well I don't know what to say' and subsequently do nothing. However I'm sure that if you try to send a sensitive message with the best intent the thought is usually appreciated. You may recall my 'darling' MIL treated us like total idiots at the time not trusting us not to put our foot firmly in it. Obviously we didn't and it's lovely to have that confirmed.
Now Matthew John is making good progress, once I have Spencer's Stars completed (and I keep chugging away on that) I shall make him a quilt of his very own in time for him coming home out of hospital.
Isn't modern medical science absolutely marvellous?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Zipper Quilt

I can't claim any credit for this quilt - it's merely a picture I saved for inspiration on my computer, which is where Sarah spotted it - it may well have been Calico Cat's or Nancy's but I honestly can't remember - so if it's yours my humble apologies for not giving credit where it's due
Atet was asking for instructions or a link - sadly I don't have either but it looks reasonably simple providing you keep track of what to stitch to what.
If anyone does have basic instructions of what size/ratio of sizes to cut the pieces and would be kind enough to share them I'd be very grateful.
Now to pin down the girl to a timetable of an hour a week to regularly stitch

Another (very special) brand new project

Ok - I hear you say - why would a woman with so many projects bubbling along want to start YET ANOTHER ONE!!!
However this has a different twist on it......................
It's not me that's starting it but Sarah, my eldest.
In the UK there is a scheme for young people to participate in called the Duke of Edinburgh Award (colloquially known as the DofE). It can be taken at three levels - bronze, silver and gold.
The award at each level has four parts: service, activity, skill and expedition
For her bronze award Sarah has completed 3 months service - helping at a church kids club, and 6 months activity - trampolining. Now this leaves her with 3 months skill and the expedition to do. Her school will arrange the expedition but she has decided to go for patchwork and quilting for her skill.
She has to spend at least one hour each week for three months on it.
With this in mind, last summer she bought two metres of this funky fabric
Then when we were in Hereford we bought the three others to accompany it.
We originally thought about doing a sampler quilt but then she spotted a 'zipper' design on someone's blog I was perusing so we'll go with that, probably in a lap quilt size to sit on the end of her bed.
Another convert :o)
On my front Spencer's Stars is back under the needle as I get on with the fairly tedious job of microstippling all around the edge now - still at least it's making progress

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Back to work :o(

Just a quick post today before I head into work - boo hoo!

Actually I did go back yesterday - unusually as I don't often work Mondays but it was the Governor's Finance Committee meeting yesterday teatime to discuss the budget. Fortunately my area finance officer was there to clarify lots of it because I still am fumbling about in the dark - however the governing body are generally a pretty friendly bunch so it was fine even if I did get home after three and a quarter hours feeling like my head was fried.

I can't have been that bad though as I sat and did some more handstitching on my table runner last night and this morning, for a little while before work, I've done some more machine quilting on Spencer's Stars - poor little mite is over five weeks old now - he should get the quilt before his first birthday.

Okay gotta fly - work beckons - have a good day everyone

Monday, April 16, 2007

An assortment of purples makes a little bit of nonsense

I did promise you some of my charity shop treasures......................
It's going to take me some time to dismantle all those shirts, blouses and skirts but this selection of purples is a start. The one second from the right is a pale turquoise and white with a really pretty sparkly mid purple over check - very sweet. More colours as the scissors allow
When we were away last week I went into one of those touristy shops in Hay-on-Wye and spotted some very simple stuffed fabric hanging hearts made from a single pretty flowered fabric with a hanging ribbon and a little button and bow in the notch of the heart. These spectacularly simple hearts were retailing for £10.50 (about $20) - yes that took my breath away too. Of course as is always the case it's whatever the market will stand regarding pricing, and Hay does get a lot of affluent London weekenders particularly in May for its famous Literature Festival, but I brought home the idea.
On Friday I made one for Nigel's little niece for her third birthday to slip in with her presents - there's no photo of this as the camera was with him and I needed to catch the post. However Louise then said those immortal words - "That's nice, I'd really like one of those Mummy........"
So here's her own particular little bit of nonsense. What a great way to use up all those bits of wadding I've been saving after cutting away the surplus before binding quilts - can't we always justify hoarding :o)
Quilt group again today so I have to dash to iron some more leaves and tulips to take with me for my table runner ............. see you all later...............

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Back from our travels - well four of us anyway :o)

Well we're back from our foray into beautiful rural Herefordshire. The weather was exceptionally kind to us - like a balmy summer day rather than the usual weather we have in April.
We had some really lovely days - Nigel took the children, three of ours and two of our hosts, canoeing down the River Wye one day, another day both families spent the afternoon exploring the gardens of a nearby stately home - here you can see the entire Bebbington family in one shot - an unusual occurrence by any standards. After all one of us is usually taking the picture.
Another day I took the two eldest girls into Hereford on a shopping expedition with the main aim to find a posh frock for Sarah for her forthcoming rugby club presentation evening - we found a fabulous elegant long black number for the princely sum of £40 (about 75 US$) which was a real bargain.
The rest of the time we chilled big time - what a treat after the past few weeks, particularly for me - gave me the chance to rest my aching brain and just recuperate.
Here are our three with Scamp the farm pony - more new experiences for them.
All in all a wonderful break.
I managed to do a little hand work while I was there - probably the most stitching I've done for a few weeks. I would show you my progress but the camera is with Nigel at present.
We arrived back in Taunton mid afternoon on Thursday in plenty of time for Sarah to go to work at the local swimming pool where she helps the little children learn how to swim.
However no rest for Nigel - he was up at 5am the next morning to head off for Exeter airport to catch a flight for Guernsey in the Channel Islands.
His ultimate destination was the tiny neighbouring Channel Island of Sark - a beautiful idyllic place which is even more peaceful than rural Herefordshire.
Sadly the reason for his trip is less than happy. His cousin Caroline is the post mistress on the island and her husband died suddenly of a massive heart attack a few weeks ago while they were on holiday with their young children in Australia. Tim was only 45 years old - a sudden and shocking way to go. Althought they held his funeral and cremation while they were still in Oz today will be his memorial service on the island.
Finances prohibit all five of us from attending but we felt it only right that Nigel should go to represent us all.
Things like that certainly make you count your blessings and try to live life to the full.
On a lighter note I managed a trawl of our local charity shops yesterday and came home with a haul of lots of lovely cotton garments. As I haven't got the camera at present I can't treat you to a picture of my goodies - maybe tomorrow when my beloved returns from his trip.
I think I can feel a plaids and plains quilt coming on - as if I haven't got enough on the go already!
On a final note Tanya from Japan tagged me for the Thinking Blog meme - I haven't had the chance to sit down and give this some thought yet - so I'll save my list of inspirational blogs for another day

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A seasonal wish before we head off

I'll take out a few minutes before the melee of the day really takes hold to wish all of you who celebrate it a very happy Easter, and to those who don't but benefit from the public holiday, have a restful break
I came across this picture when searching for an Easter image to put on my blog - and we think quilting is painstaking. Can you imagine the frustration if you drilled just once too often and it collapsed in your fingers - think I'll stick to fabric
Have a good one :o) and see you at the end of the week when we return from glorious Herefordshire.

Friday, April 06, 2007

And then off on a completely different tangent

Well we're heading off to sunny Herefordshire tomorrow teatime. I've put together lots of hand stitching to take with me for those quiet spots you get when you're relaxing. I have my Christmas wallhanging in redwork to crack on with - I managed to refrain from stitching most of it during this week - and I also traced off some bluework snowmen too.
Sarah made some Lemon Curd (or some people call it Lemon Cheese) in Food Technology the other week and it was so delicious I suggested she might like to make a jar to take for our friends, Jon in particular is especially partial to lemon flavoured things.
So this afternoon she rustled up a jar full and we dressed it up with a pretty lemon coloured fabric cap - just right for a present.
Our own lemon curd jar from the other week is still well over half full and as it's not one of those preserves you can keep for too long and I seem to be the only person in the house spreading it on my toast I thought I'd use some of it up in some baking to take with us tomorrow too.
I've no idea what the name of these is - if in fact they have a name - I just made them up as I went along............... shortcrust pastry on the base, a layer of lemon curd and then a thick layer of victoria sandwich cake mixture with added lemon zest and juice and finally sprinkled with copious quantities of caster sugar to give a crunchy sweet topping - then in the oven on 180 degrees C for I've no idea how long as I just kept adding another 5 or 10 minutes until the cake testing skewer came out clean. Jon's farm work involves plenty of physical exertion so he never needs to worry about what he eats and cakes are always welcome - hope he likes these
Then once I'd finished the baking I was surfing around the blogs and came across this beautiful table runner on May's blog - how beautiful and springlike
So it set me thinking - my dining room table has a row of three black granite blocks down the middle to put hot dishes on - we have never had much luck with place mats so bought these as they looked pretty indestructible - indeed they are but they're also a bit dark and dreary.
Just what I need then - a nice bright table runner to sit on top of them when the table is between meals.
So in the winking of an eye I cut out some 3.5" squares and stitched them together.
Two tulips later I've made a good start and I shall take the rest of the leaves and flowers with me tomorrow and might get some of those done too. Needless to say the tulips will take a little longer than the pieced background!
Who knows I might make a whole series of runners and change them with the seasons like some of you girls do with your quilts
Finally here's a sneaky picture taken by the 'Lemon Curd Cook' of me lumbering onto the floor to lay out the tulip WIP for photographing - not the most flattering photo with me specs on the end of me nose - I'll get her back tomorrow :o)