Friday, May 30, 2008

I find it a little worrying.............

...............that so many of you know my husband better than I do.

Yes, you've guessed it - the kids and I ended up clearing the conservatory of all those coats and shoes. Don't ask - lets just say the possible impending row wasn't worth it

No don't shout all at once 'We told you so'

However the coats, shoes, scarves, hats, gloves and bags were very lucky to get back into that cupboard. It was very nearly claimed for something else

Louise decided she'd like to be Harry Potter - mind you if you've seen the state of her pigsty (sorry that should really read bedroom but it would be a contravention of the Trades Descriptions Act to call it that) you'd understand why a newly painted empty cupboard would seem so attractive and preferable.

Enough of coats and cupboards and onto more stitchy things

I've received details of my partner for the final Summer part of the Four Seasons Quilt Swap

Obviously I can't tell you who he/she is but a love of red was one of the things on the preference list

To me Summer always means roses - so I dug out this piece of 'sort of Cath Kidston' type rose fabric.

I've also started a bit of stitchery to compliment it. I took my inspiration from a design for a home decorating stencil.

Now I have a big query here for all you experts.
I'd like to shade the insides of the stitching like the scarf and nose on this random photo I've pulled from the net - sorry if it's yours (obviously Scandinavian) but I didn't keep a note of where I found it - however I can't remember what to use for the shading - I seem to think I've read somewhere that watercolour pencils do the trick but I'm not sure if I have the wrong end of the stick. Maybe someone could give me a clue or two.

Yesterday I went on a workshop held locally and arranged by a lady from our Monday morning group - how fortuitous it was in the holidays and I could make a weekday.

It was on Atarashii patchwork which is a variation on the theme of Japanese Folded Patchwork
This was the result of my work yesterday and last night.
I ended up making 3" blocks which were more fiddly than the recommended 4" ones - my pieces of card were too small to make templates for 4" blocks.

The outer circles are pieced and the inner inserts too - with careful placing of colours and fabrics you can produce endless combinations of patterns. I shall persevere with this piece of work - after all I've completed nine of the 16 blocks but I wouldn't say it's a technique I'd play with on a regular basis.

However it was very nice to spend the day just stitching amongst pleasant company.

I've completed my offering for the ALQS run by Kate - now to post it off - just couldn't resist using these colourful heart buttons I've been saving for something special

And the fancy took me the other day to try a little mini-mini heart quilt on the same lines as the others I've been making but smaller still - I shall give this one a home next to the fireplace in my living room.
Here we are - how dinky - the initial squares are 1" and the hearts about 3/4" - the whole thing measures a hair's breadth under 5.5" finished and those little heart buttons are just teeny
Here's another bit of heart nonsense I played with the other week combining applique and stitchery - this time the heart's back to the size on the black quilt.
And finally a sneak preview of my 400th post giveaway - not long now - only a few postings left until all can be revealed.
Right I have some 'work' work to do today - BORING! - yes and it's for work but in the holidays! - I've brought home a great wadge of paperwork which has been piling up and crying out to be sorted into some semblance of order (before I get a surprise visit from the auditors too) - I'd never get the time or the workspace in the office to do it so home seemed the most sensible option - I shall claim the time for it though but it does seem a shame to take up a chunk of my holiday time
Never mind once I've completed it I might just have a go at finishing off the Japanese Folded blocks - or crack on with the Summer quilt.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Not fit to turn the dog out........

............ if we had one that is!
The Bank Holiday weekend weather here in Somerset has been disgusting!

There's no other way to describe it.

Blustery squally rain the whole of Sunday and Monday - Saturday was a little better so we went for a drive on the top of the Quantocks and I foolishly forgot to pick up the camera on leaving the house.

We had a beautiful cream tea out in the gardens of a tea room overlooking the hills and then called in to the adjacent nursery picking up a beautiful yellow rose called 'Golden Wedding' for my parents in law's namesake in two weeks time.

I had thought about making something for them, but to be honest everything I've ever made has disappeared out of sight on receipt never to be seen again - so I thought, why bother? They love their garden so will probably appreciate the rose bush much more.

Nigel did manage to sort out quite a bit of the back garden and get most of my new plants planted in between spells of rain on Sunday.

In the corner of the garden we did have a little cherry tree. It had been planted by the initial owners of the house who weren't great gardeners and when we moved in (after another set of owners) we found it had been somewhat neglected, growing bushlike and forlorn.

We've spent the past two plus years trying to give it a bit of TLC with gentle pruning etc but this spring the promise of new leaves never materialised - the buds just came through all curled up and dead looking, so we took the decision to remove it this weekend.

Good job too - when Nigel started to pull it up (after cutting through the roots) it snapped clean in half about 2ft up from the ground to reveal the original wire tie that had been used to fasten it to the stake. It had become incorporated deep into the trunk and gradually killed it - the poor tree.

At first that corner of the garden looked rather bare without it - I know we're only talking a tiny garden here folks so the little tree was quite a big feature - but now Nigel has dug a proper bed in that corner and put all my new plants in it's looking so much better. Fortunately they haven't all been completely drowned yesterday.

As for the front of the house - that's quite a different story.

Originally we had a silly little lawn which never grew anything but moss as it faces north and gets pretty soggy. As we're in the corner of the cul-de-sac with limited on-street parking to supplement the drive in front of the garage we decided it would be far more use as an extra parking area.

When we had a half empty skip from the builder doing the conservatory Nigel decided to demolish part of the wall and then fill the rest of the skip with some of the earth from this lawned area leaving a new flower border around the wall edge.
This was 18 months ago.
This is the view as you open our front door - mmmmm. The paving slabs are temporary so I don't have to trek out onto the mud and admittedly we've let the flower border go somewhat until after the resurfacing is done but it is a bit of an eyesore and I find it quite depressing each time I open the door.

Finally this morning the contractor came to measure up to tarmac the new driveway.

This is the before photo!
He had arranged with Nigel to call in here fairly early before Nigel headed off for work.

We were laid in bed listening to the 7 o clock news when the house phone rang downstairs - we really ought to get an extension in up in our bedroom - another little job to get round to eventually.

We are never ever rung at that time of day so Nigel immediately shot out of bed in his night attire - which I might add doesn't actually consist of any fabric, if you get my drift - and flew down the stairs not even pausing to grab his dressing gown thinking it might be some emergency about the health of one or other set of aged parents.

We have a partially glazed front door so anyone outside would have precious little left to the imagination as the Lord of the House shot down the staircase in all his glory to catch the phone before the answerphone cut in.

It so happened that the contractor had arrived early and seeing the curtains all closed thought it prudent to telephone us first rather than knock on the door. Fortunately he was sitting in his car and not standing on the doorstep or he might have seen more than he bargained for!

Of course I could do absolutely nothing for falling about in giggles!
Hopefully we can get the work done pretty soon and get the front of the house into some semblance of order

I had some more lovely post on Saturday - my Lucy Locket Quilt Swap arrived from Suzie Sews along with some sweet little additional bits and bobs. I would never think to buy this sort of fabric but I just love the end result so much - maybe I should broaden my fabric purchasing horizons.

It will join Hedgehog's little quilt shown here on the wall above my cutting table.

I also managed to get my ALQS offering top completed and quilted this weekend - and the binding's been machined on this morning ready for handstitching down - after all, the hilarious early start to the morning did give me a bit of a head start on the day.

Nigel is back at work today, Sarah is revising (still), Nick has gone round the corner to play with a friend and Louise is occupying herself as normal - so who knows I might get a bit more stitching done today :o)))

However in all that rain yesterday, Nigel, who doesn't do sitting on the sofa chilling in front of The Sound of Music on the tv at all well decided that the understairs cloaks cupboard needed a coat of paint.

Hence this is the state of my conservatory this morning (and this is only about a third of the floor area which is all filled with coats and shoes) as the paint was too wet last night to return it all to the cupboard again - how does a family of five amass so much outerwear???

Maybe the sewing might have to wait! Or maybe I'll leave the cupboard contents for him to put back again this evening!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


This week has been so hectic - not with the kids really, only scouts on Thursday evening so with them not so much of the taxi service

However for me at work I've been working on 110% capacity - not something that can be sustained for very long, and not a particularly comfortable seat to sit in either.

A training course on Tuesday, a very long day of intensive year end stuff with my Finance Officer on Wednesday, a return visit by her on Thursday as Wednesday's 8.30 to 6.15 didn't knock everything on the head and finally trying to get some other imperative deadline stuff finished against the clock yesterday just about finished me off

It's also been a really emotional week for Sarah - more exams and yesterday was the Year 11's leavers' lunch.

Here she is all dressed up, with her hair being allowed to do what it does naturally, standing with her Head of PE.
Both her teachers and her peers have written some lovely things in her Year book - makes us very proud of her.

There were lots of tears all round as, although she is so looking forward to 6th Form College in September, a good part of her will really miss school. I only hope all three of mine enjoy it so much that they're sad to leave. She does still have to go in for exams for the three weeks up to the 20th June so she hasn't totally broken free yet. And of course there's the all important Prom on Friday 13th to fit in too - who picked that date, I ask you?

Today is the start of the late Spring Half Term break - it is a Bank Holiday on Monday so Nigel gets a long weekend - he's been dashing here and there this week too with UK trips and a day over in Holland - phew!!! I think we all need to step back and take a deep breath or two

I have fitted some sewing in during this week - my giveaway for my 400th post is complete (strawberries is a bit of a hint), I have quilted my ALQS offering and just need to bind and label it and I've also fitted in a little stitchery for some more little quilts.

I've had some nice post drop through my letterbox including a mini-quilt from Hedgehog following on from her visit in April and a couple of nice bits of fabric from Clare - I'll share these with you next time. However I have failed miserably to post out the two pink heart quilts yet - the Post Office just didn't call loudly enough to be heard above the melee - they will have to go next week

I haven't taken any photos of my handiwork so I shall leave you with a few more Quantock Spring shots

Monday, May 19, 2008

Busy, busy, busy

This weekend saw us heading back to Gloucester - or rather should I say Tewkesbury (just a little further up the M5) - for a friend's 40th Birthday Lunch - a lovely idea as lots of the guests had small children. The birthday boy is of Irish descent so his wife had arranged for an Irish band to play throughout.

We also took the opportunity to follow that by calling in on our closest friends in Gloucester so all in all this ruled out virtually all of Saturday - but it was lovely to revisit our old haunts - amazing how things change in under three years - buildings springing up everywhere especially round the Docks area.
It was the Malvern Quilt Show this weekend and had Sarah not been revising for her exams we might well have carried on up to Worcester on Saturday evening to stay with the out-laws and enable me to get a serious quilt fix on the Sunday but alas this year it wasn't to be - her exams are more important than my quilting at the moment.

I'm just hoping that Siobhan and Tonya will show their favourite quilts as they went on Friday

I guess there'll always be next year, sighhhhh

However at least having Sunday at home combined with a bit of sunshine meant that Nigel and I could get some serious work done in the garden

Lots of villages in the vicinity seem to hold plant sales around this time of year, often to raise much needed funds for say the local church etc.

We went to one last weekend and again another on Sunday morning buying plants and more importantly gleaning very useful information about them from their growers for relatively small money. A much nicer and usually cheaper way to stock the garden than using the big impersonal garden centres and DIY stores.
Our garden is a typical modern English estate garden - precious little space usually laid to lawn with a couple of boring shrubs around the edge. When we first moved in we put borders around the fencelines and planted up several climbers which are now pretty well established. As our children are no longer of an age to need to play in the safe confines of a back garden and as we took up all the previous patio space with the conservatory, eventually - maybe this year, maybe next - we will lose all the lawn and turn the back garden into a paved courtyard with lots of climbers, shrubs and perennials in the deep borders. We're aiming for a little fragrant oasis to sit out in during the summer and enjoy from the conservatory in the winter with colourful plants that encourage birds, butterflies and bees.

So yesterday we enlarged one of the borders and cleared out all the old weedy tubs ready to take some of our plant sale booty.

Next weekend is a bank holiday again so we have three more days with precious little planned to get done except more gardening.

This is me playing with the macro setting again on the new camera showing the very first rose in the garden this year - It's a David Austin rose - Shropshire Lad - very apt as Nigel was born in Shrewsbury in Shropshire and it's one of three beautiful climbers the children bought for me for my first Mother's Day in this house (with some fairly strong direction from yours truly I might add). It opens out into a beautiful rich peach blowsy bloom.

Here's a columbine (aquilegia) awaiting planting - I'm a great fan of cottage garden plants - I already have the pink and deep purple varieties

One of last years foxgloves which has very obligingly reseeded and somehow managed to do so in the front garden too - don't you just love freebies? There's also a very pretty, more unusual, peach coloured version along side it.

Meet Hagley Hybrid - the clematis which climbs up the washing post - we had just the same clematis in the same spot at the old house but this one will have more sunlight as the old post was under a large lime tree.

And another clematis further round the fence whose name escapes me - this picture really doesn't do it any justice - in real life the flowers are just like velvet. Clematis of all shapes, sizes and colours are, I think, my very favourite plants - in my opinion you can never have too many.

Finally a hydrangea who looks happy with its new home after being planted out yesterday - so far so good

I did get some stitching in over the weekend - here's a glimpse of two more completed heart quilts - the black one will go to Clare and the pale pink one to Julie

And finally these two photos show the lovely fabric Julie sent in exchange for her quilt - some of her own hand-dyes and a selection of Moda fat quarters with a Japanese theme - I shall enjoy playing with them. Ladies your quilts should make it into the post before the weekend - work permitting.
I have a germ of an idea for my Four Seasons Summer Quilt which I'm mulling over in my head - I just need Margaret to let me know which of the other 99 quilters I'm making it for and their preferences so I can adjust colours and fabrics to suit and get cracking with that next.

I found out today that I've missed my two year blogging anniversary on the 15th of this month. However this post is actually my 392nd so I am coming up to my 400th post.
Therefore I shall be having a little giveaway for the 400th in the next week or three and it will be something of a stitching summery nature - so watch this space.....................and get ready to comment.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It's a wrap!

There's one big advantage to my husband being away in Spain overnight (lucky dog!) is that I can sit and stitch all evening without someone distracting me.
I must say I did have a quick smile when he phoned in to gloriously hot sunny Taunton from wet and miserable Madrid! He's been several times and has yet to see Spain's capital city in dry weather - tough old life eh?
So I stitched away and finished the binding on my Spring Fling - now it's ready to post to the last person on my list.
I even had time to finish the centre of my Another Little Quilt Swap quilt - now it's ready for borders
Sarah had her first written GCSE exam in Religious Studies yesterday and she thinks it went okay - one down, thirteen to go! Roll on 20th June and her final paper in Physics.
Louise has been busy all week with Key Stage 2 SATs exams but seems to be taking them all in her stride.
Nick has been revelling in the glorious weather we've been having - dashing home from school and getting changed on the hoof to dash out and play football with all his mates - aren't summer evenings just the business. Mind you the South West is wet and dreary this morning (that'll teach me for laughing at Nigel) - still at least I won't have to water the garden tonight - every cloud has a silver lining :o)
I have to make the May BQL bag before the end of the month and so that may well be the next thing on the horizon, plus both Nigel's parents and my parents have their Golden Wedding Anniversaries over the next two months and I thought I might make them each something.
Who would believe that the two sets of parents were married exactly four weeks apart, Nigel's parents have two sons and a daughter, my parents have two daughters and a son. Nigel and I were both born in 1960. Our next siblings, his brother and my sister were born in 1963 and finally our youngest siblings, his sister and my brother were born in 1969. Spooky eh?
I have seen a design for a cushion with an iris on done in stained glass applique using gold bias as the 'lead'. I'd quite like to do something like that - after all when you get to your 70's you really do have most things.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Work on the Spring Fling proceeds and sign up for Summer

Summer has arrived!

Yippee I hear you all say - and the weather here in Taunton is certainly hot and sunny
But I don't mean the weather
The Summer round of the Four Seasons Quilt Swap has opened for registration - I've already emailed Margaret with my details. After all I have Autumn, Winter and Spring quilts - I wouldn't want to miss out on having a complete set would I?
I also spent a fair bit of yesterday working on the Spring Fling Round Robin I've been sent to quilt and complete.
Being as deeply entrenched in a hearts phase as I seem to be at present I couldn't resist quilting the odd heart or two - well the triangle shaped pieces cried out for them really
And then lots more leaves to echo Kate's appliqued ones
Finally Kate had passed on a piece of the brown stripe you see along the edges of the label with the very sensible suggestion that it would make an excellent binding.
I totally agreed. However I really am not comfortable with doing straight bindings and always go for bias myself. As there wasn't sufficient of the stripe to run with this method I decided to use some of the brown, pink and green flowered I received in a swap for one of the heart quilts instead. I think it picks up the elements in the quilt quite well
This has been an odd experience for me - quilting someone else's work. I know a lot of you ladies with longarm machines do it for a living, but it was a first for me and felt rather strange.
Not an unpleasant experience though, just different and I'd happily repeat it if another chance came along

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rugby and back to stitching

The pink and the yellow shorts got an outing over the weekend

The girls had a fabulous time

Due to the vagaries of some fairly suspect refereeing by mostly novice referees they were robbed and finally came in 6th of twelve in the overall tournament as runners-up for the plate which is the trophy for the middle group of four. Without wishing to sound like a case of sour grapes one does wonder if the place for new referees to cut their teeth is in the biggest tournament in the English girls rugby calendar. Sadly maybe it's a damning indictment of the way the rugby fraternity views the female game that they couldn't get referees of a higher level of skill and experience - but hey-ho!

I shan't bore you with the nitty gritty - this is meant to be mainly a quilting blog not a rugby one - so I'm not going to go into detail but the girls felt that, because of some very questionable judgement on the part of most of the refs, they were beaten both in the first pool game (making them second in their pool) and subsequently in their section final by two much lesser teams which meant lots of frustrated tears as they left the pitch after the last game. However in true rugby fashion and style they showed dignity and good sportmanship to the end.

Here they are - a slightly less than conventional team photo just after finishing their last match complete with coaches and managers with their battle cry 'Where's the beach?' - no idea where that came from except the three counties which the region covers have some of the best holiday beaches in the UK. It obviously has some significance to the girls. Sarah's at the back of the girls just to the right of the coach in the pale top.

Here's one of Sarah with her two Somerset team mates after receiving their medals - completely mad! Note the afore-mentioned pink shorts and the 'Where's the beach?' pose again - sorry you just had to be there!
Here is the coach with his yellow shorts on - nuff said!

An action shot of Sarah flanking on the side of the scrum
And one of her poaching the ball from the scrum and heading off on the blind side to be tackled by the one opposition player aware of what she was trying to do. The game is certainly not without risk - Sarah took a boot to the nose in a ruck (probably accidental) just after this and had to come off as a blood injury and then a deliberate boot to the cheekbone in the final game which was completely missed by the ref - fortunately she's only got a good bruise on her cheek and a very tender nose but no broken bones. Because of the wonderful hot weather we've had this past week or so the ground was rock hard and there were several knock-outs and cases of concussion for the medics to tend throughout the day - thankfully none of them were our girls.

For any rugby fans out there ignore the fact that she was wearing the no 5 shirt - they were numbered so the RFU talent spotters would be able to identify them to go through for specialist training and development over the summer. Our team manager had naively listed the girls in alphabetical order rather than by their playing position numbers which really made for a few laughs as some of the bulky forwards were poured into the slimfit backs' shirts and the backs drowned in the forwards' tents!
The girls very nearly didn't make it to the tournament - well at least not on time anyway - as three of them got stuck in the hotel lift and had to be rescued by the fire brigade - this is Sarah with four of her team mates acting the goat in front of the appliance - lots of high spirits

And more serious horseplay at the end - one has to empty the water bottles of course - especially if it's over the coaches! He was obviously expecting it as he gave me temporary custody of his mobile phone to avoid it getting soaked prior to this.
Now onto more fabric orientated things

I decided, as the weather here in Taunton is absolutely beautiful, to do some open-air shots for these
This selection of lovely fabrics with a woven pattern came a little while ago from Cathi - from Sweden via Ireland - beautiful, thank you Cathi

This little pink heart quilt next to the clematis is a swap to go out soon - just awaiting buttons and hangers

And here's my final part of the Spring Fling Round Robin passed onto me from Kate and now sandwiched ready for quilting
Yet more hearts - this time for the 'Another Little Quilt Swap' - the recipient is less than partial to country/muddy fabrics like Thimbleberries - I think this is about as far away from that as you can get. The quilt needs to be a little bigger than all the other heart ones I've done so this is 5 rows of 5

Lastly we have a new camera - hence all the great rugby pictures, I wasn't going to bore you with the other 374! - this one will happily travel away from home

So here's a little bit of late Spring I took when trying out the macro-setting - back to glorious yellow again :o)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Shorts to dye for!!!

Big weekend this weekend in the girls' rugby calendar.

It's the National Regional Festival at Lichfield RFC in Staffordshire

The U15s play on Saturday and Sarah's age group the U18s play on Sunday

From our club Sarah will be the only girl there in either age group and the squad for her region of SouthWestSouth is drawn from the counties of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall - the West Country, the bottom left hand corner of England

Squads of 22 girls from each of I think 11 or 12 regions will battle it out in pool games and then knock-out games throughout the day to decide which region will become national champions this year. To be honest the squad isn't looking that strong (with the exception of my daughter of course - biased mother talking here) so we don't expect to get placed but it will be a great day and it is a real achievement to make the squad in the first place

Sarah was a member of the squad four seasons ago at the lower age group who were the inaugural champions when the competition first started so she has previous experience.

As you can imagine we're all going up there to support her

Sadly for the two younger ones they're missing a scout camp this weekend because of it but sometimes something just has to give - we can't be in two places at the same time and there will be lots of other scout camps

One of Sarah's coaches is a youngish teacher from Somerset who has a very sweet behind, especially in rugby shorts (sorry if this is making you blush, but one can always look). He often wears a pair of particularly noticeable bright yellow shorts which show his assets to their full advantage and the whole squad of 15 to 18 year olds delight in teasing him about it - not to mention the mothers :o) I think he loves the banter in an embarrassing sort of way

So when we spied a couple of pairs of white rugby shorts in the sale a few weeks ago we thought what fun it would be to dye them for Sarah to wear them all in the interests of winding him up of course!

Hence the bright YELLOW! and PINK! specimens you see before you

Of course I couldn't possibly allow just one little pair of shorts to venture unaccompanied into the washing machine - I'm not that cruel

So here's the rest of the yellow dye lot - the interesting brown/toffee colour on the left was originally part of a lilac cotton charity shop sheet - not quite so attractive is its mottled cousin on the right mixing the brown with the purple - I think that may be a candidate for the next black session

And here's the rest of the pink dye lot - it's always fun to overdye other fabrics - but I can't believe I'm showing you this lot mostly un-ironed - what a scruffy individual I am. My excuse is that Nigel's need was greater than mine last night as he'd run out of work shirts - oh dear, the obstacles that stand in the way of my art!

Mind you I have been a little bit busy on the stitching front

I did a big post office visit yesterday to send off another Lucy Locket Mini Quilt, two heart quilts for blogging friends who need a lift, another heart quilt I promised in exchange for fabric and of course the replacement Spring Fling Round Robin - pleeeease Mr Postman can you make extra sure that this version gets to its rightful recipient - I really don't fancy making another one!

I was also very taken with a little mini quilt that Lucy in the Netherlands had made for Libby

So much so I had a bit of a go myself

My little red squares are half an inch so I don't think it's quite as teeny tiny as Lucy's version, plus I got bored after 12 little nine patch blocks so it's only 3 x 4 instead of 4 x 5, but I'm very taken with it and it joins the churn dash in the 'waiting for sandwiching' pile along with several heart quilts.

Some of the next heart quilts don't actually have homes to go to and a few people have suggested opening an etsy shop to sell them - the jury's still out on that one