Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Fabric Flowers

Having made the bunting for my Mothers garden party I was left with a few scraps of material, enough to play with! I bought this book Sew Fabulous Fabric: 20 Charming Ways to Sew Fabrics into Your Life by Alice Butcher and Ginny Farquhar. a few months ago thinking that I could make the fabric flowers for my Mum's garden party and was really pleased to find I had enough scraps left to play with. I love the book, there are quite a few ideas in it that I am going to make, the peg bag for instance look fabulous.

I had intended on adding my own embellishment to the idea, but realised I wouldn't have enough flowers for people to share. So that idea will stay in my things to make compartment of my brain.

I had great fun playing with this idea, choosing the fabrics, threads and buttons appeals to my inner child and the more I played with them the more fun I had.

I thought I would pinch one and sew it onto ribbon and tie it onto my handbag,

and encourage all of the ladies at the party to take one too. They could make broaches out of them or pin to an old well loved teddy bear or perhaps pop onto a hat or coat to go shopping in.

I think there are a myriad of ideas to be played with. And what are left Mum could sew to ribbon and festoon her conservatory.

I think they will look pretty like that, that's if.... there are any left!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Bunting!

A few months ago Mum proposed having a garden party this summer to which I cooed "ooh I could make you some bunting." It was met with a slightly perplexed reply, "bunting?" "Yes, bunting, it will be FUN" on seeing my enthusiasm for such sillyness Mum became a little bit warmer to the idea. But I don't really think Mum was that enthusiastic, but then we all live in different worlds and this is mine.

You see since the Royal Wedding had been announced I'd seen a resurgence in bunting and had even contemplated making some red, white and blue triangles with which to adorn our house on the day itself. That idea had come and gone but I'd looked at all the pretty bunting around and the bunting that adorned Devon on the wedding day itself were really pretty and at that point I was still hankering after bunting of my very own. So it was more me and what I would like but I knew I could win Mum round.

I toddled home and immediately set to work on the net to source some pretty colours and found some very pretty Amy Butler fabrics reduced to half price at Get Knitted. Five metres was ordered in five different colourways and once they came I then had to put together a pattern I was happy with. When the fabric came I cooed over it and rang Mum and told her it had come, which was met with a warm welcome. And so with this idea buzzing around in my brain the work began.

There are lots of places to get ideas as to how to make bunting, so I won't go through all of that. But I did decide to make the sturdy bunting with two sheets sewn together and all seams on the inside rather than just one sheet of fabric cut with pinking sheers that would wither and die if the British weather decided to turn against us. I chose to make a big pointy triangle and have the template stored somewhere in my computer should anyone need it.

Eventually I had cut out 120 triangles, I folded the fabric and cut out four at a time, (don't forget to iron your fabric before starting) with the use of a template, a HB pencil, ruler, rotary cutter and mat. I am so very grateful that I have learnt to quilt otherwise I most probably would have gone down the route of cutting them out with scissors which whilst doable would have taken a very long time and left me with sore hands. Rotary cutters are a girls best friend. Being an accurate kind of gal this took me three sessions to complete.

Then I sewed all the triangles wrong side together down their two longest sides and as a hint and tip at the sharp point put a few extra stitches going over each other so that when your long pointy knitting needle pushes the points out it doesn't break the stitches and you don't find yourself muttering unpleasants under your breath. Fortunately I had done a test run and found the weakness in a few triangles before embarking on the marathon run of sewing 60 triangles. It took me a couple of days to complete this part of the procedure. I then clipped the points to make the turning out easier, turned them out and then ironed them all again. And then son no.2 and I played with colours, always the favourite part and came upon a pattern we were both happy with and placed the piles of triangles in this pattern next to my sewing machine.

And I was ready and off I went, having no idea as to how much tape/bias binding to buy there were two different types used, slightly saddening for the perfectionist that I am, but if anyone is going to spot and critise that, then they have clearly missed the idea of the day.

Before I got sewing proper I did a quick test run as to what gap I favoured. I used marks on my sewing machine, I tried the end of the foot plate, the corner of the machine or the drop to the table as a guide, I only pinned at this point and I realised that I rather liked the small gap which was produced by sewing to the end of the triangle and then placing the next triangle at the edge of the footplate. With that technique I was able to achieve a gap that was regular without too much measuring or stress.

And soon I had 3 x 5 metres of bunting..

A quick pic of one of them, too much sun for my camera, I am sure they will look fabulous on the day.

But then being the perfectionist that I am, I ironed the binding and whilst it was still damp, (I have a super dupa steam iron) I check to see if the triangles would hold steady and was shocked to find that some of them didn't. Well that would never do, not least because firstly if we did have a quick shower with wind some of them would come away and secondly, you know what family is like, someone (especially after a couple of drinks - my mothers punch should have a health warning on it!) would be sure to tell me that this particular triangle had separated from his or her friends and I would become crest fallen.

So I needed a plan and came up with using a pattern on my sewing machine that not only zig zagged but it sewed the zig zag in stages so as to secure the fabric securely, set my machine so as not to go over the binding and off I went, five metres at a time. Now my machine can go pretty fast and I've never before this have had it at full speed... It was amazing, seriously I will never sew so fast again in all my life!

You can just about see the zig zag in this picture.

I showed Carie and Kitty the bunting, Kitty was quite enchanted by it and loved us waving the bunting, by her smiles and giggles I do believe she is her mothers daughter. And Dad, well he suggested we should tie it to his car and he could drive down the high street with bunting catching the wind behind him. And I was right, Mum laughed and giggled and loved it too.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Ooh pretty colours.

As spring sprung I seem to have need of an injection of colour into my life. Perhaps it was a knee jerk reaction against the really long winter we in the UK endured, perhaps it was the loss of Roger. What I do know is that the colours are eye searingly bright.

In no particular order,

I was incredibly lucky during the sales, well alright then tenacious! I did keep going back again and again, but on one trip I found two packs of colourscape chunky for just £30.00 each which is an incredible discount because they should sell for £130.00 Of course I immediately told Diane because I know how she likes a bargain and at some stage later as I was admiring her Valour she reminded me that I had some colourscape in my stash. And that was all the encouragement I needed and quickly cast on.

Today I finished my Valour by Sarah Hatton and this is a photo of it blocking in the sun. I am feeling slightly nervous and am hoping there are no naughty birds around today. These aren't the best photo's, the bright colours don't work against a green background. I am sure there will be more photo's of Valour once it is dry.


These socks are knit in Wollmeise 80/20 in colourway Grapes for Sheri. I originally started to knit a vanilla sock pattern a 60 stitch 2.5 mm needle and the pooling was in a straight line, not even a slight swirl around the sock, I didn't like it at all. So I started to knit my fall back pattern which I love called Wildflower socks by Fawn Pea and sure enough the yarn started to behave beautifully. It obviously wanted to be a very pretty sock and I love the way you could almost pick the daisy's on the lawn.

These socks are knitted from Babylonglegs Blue Faced Leicester sock yarn in colourway Blue Banana. I loved the yarn but am very disappointed with how the colours fell. If you look at the heel and turn of the heel you can see how pretty the yarn is. In another life I would have pulled them back and changed the pattern but I just carried on knitting. I am not even sure why. I may frog them.

Whatever happens to them they are going in my sock stash. I don't need to add to the circulating pairs of socks that I currently have on the go. But I may need socks later on in life and be uncomfortable knitting them, which is a horrible thought, but it could happen, I needed a plan. And the plan that came up was to have a sock stash and to knit extra pairs. I think that my socks will wear out at a maximum rate of three pairs per year, bearing in mind I am still wearing the first pair I knitted some four years ago. I have had to mend the odd pair of socks that have been made with wool that simply wasn't strong enough, but from that I have learn't the lesson on what to look for in sock yarn or equally as important what not to wear when wearing delicate socks. Walking boots can tear a heel apart in seconds whilst soft Ecco sandals with their padded straps are quite happy to partner a deliciously soft pair of delectable socks.

So I will need to knit approximately 120 pairs, some of which will be circulated quite quickly and some will be stored carefully to be used on a needs must basis. It makes me feel more comfortable that I have a plan rather than worrying that I may have cold feet later on in life. Having warm feet makes me feel happy. Being wrapped in wool makes me feel warm and happy.

On a trip to Stitch Perfect which is based in the Custard Factory in Birmingham I became entranced with Fleece Artist Trail Socks in colourway Hercules and realised it was much too pretty to make into socks. So I searched Ravelry and found this very pretty pattern called Willow Cowl by Amelia Lyon. It is very clever the way Amelia has designed the cowl so that the cowl flops down on itself in concentric circles.

I really love it, so simple but so effective.

And there is picot edging too, whats not to love.

And it keeps me warm, it's proving very useful when I am wandering around in a tshirt before the heat of the day, it keeps me warm enough without having to resort to finding a cardigan. I have another skein of this colourway, it is very tempting to make a hat, you won't be missing me in a crowd this winter.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Florence upped her game.

Florence, our tabby and white moggy of this parish left a really big suprise for us this morning.

"What was it?" I hear you cry.

"Was it another Pigeon, all plucked and ready for the oven"

"No thankfully she hasn't repeated that particular performance, downy feathers whipping around your ankles at six in the morning is quite unnerving" "I'll give you a hint, it was bigger"

"Was it that Magpie you told me about?"

"No it wasn't a Magpie"

"Was it a squirrel?"

"No think Bigger"

I can hear the pause in the conversation and even I didn't think she would be able to achieve this..

Hubby was greeted with an almost fully grown rabbit this morning, deposited in the middle of the kitchen floor. I'd say it was a good three pound in weight wearing an adult coat but still having that look of youth about it.

I'm not sure if she has been really lucky and has picked up road kill but from the look of it it didn't appear to have been hit by a vehicle but you never know. Having been bought up on wild rabbit I was quite tempted to skin it, but I will wait and see to see if she brings another one home, it was certainly a fresh kill.

And I'll say something about her, she must really love us a lot to have brought this bunny home, its a good five minutes walk to where the bunnies roam, so to drag it back would have taken some serious effort from what is quite a small moggie and then to get the damn thing through the cat flap, that, I would have paid good money to see.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Conversation at Slimming World.

I love our slimming world chats, it makes you realise you are human.

One lady was saying that she had bought her husband a box of chocs for his birthday, but she kept dipping into them, so she had asked her hubby to hide them as 'the children' kept taking them..

So he did, he hid them.

As soon as he left for work she started to play a game of hide and seek that he didn't even know he was playing! Her next comment was "He hadn't hidden them very well either"

The room was rocking with laughter, I could barely breath.

I love those girls.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

"half way, I reckon" picture heavy.

How time does creep by, it is truly shocking. Well 45 here I am, am I grown up, I'm not sure. I can't climb castle walls as I once did, or run or dance or play like I used to. What do I miss the most, long summers where everyone was out to play at the same time. Or long summer terms at Junior school where we swam, learnt maths and played rounders, they were good times. A long time ago I was a parent helper in the local junior school and just before it closed down forever the teacher knowing my love of rounders organised a final game with her class for me, it was great fun.

Well my birthday, it went on for days, which was wonderful. Firstly,


Noelle came by the day before with such wonderful flowers all from her own garden. They were gorgeous.

and that night, the day before my birthday I was trying to finish of Miss Felicity's hat. Which I did.

Notice the perfect joins at the crown. I was best pleased with those.

On my birthday we ventured off to pastures new, Hardwick Hall, as recommended to us by Lucy Worsley Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces was her favourite National Trust House whilst she was giving us a talk at Kenilworth Castle called "If Rooms could talk", which was wonderful. I digress, Bess started to build this house in 1590 after the death of her fourth husband Lord Shrewsbury. She was in her early sixties and one of the richest people in England.


"Hi honey, I'm home.."


hubby and I and the views from Hardwick Hall.

Bess loved leaving her stamp all over the house with magnificent statues, this one was on the roof,

and tapestries. Although the 6th Duke, known as the Bachelor Duke who furnished the house as it is today, used tapestries as wall paper and filled the house with furniture and portraits.

The High Great Chamber, so huge that they say a roomy five bedroomed house could easily fit into it.

The work is stunning and the frieze was most probably modelled by Abraham Smith and his assistants. The theme is the forest, with the court of Diana prominent on the north side amid attendant deer, lions, elephants, camels and other animals. The court of Diana, the virgin goddess and huntress is probably a deliberate allusion to Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen.

Why such expense? Well Bess was aiming at putting her granddaughter Arbella Stuart on the throne. Some thought that her right to succession through her father, Charles Stuart, was stronger as she had been born in England than that of her cousin James. But alas it was not to be, perhaps as Bess was by this point too old to plot.

The Long Gallery, measuring 51 metres long and 8 metres high, varying from 6.7 to 12 metres in width is the largest (although not the longest) of surviving Elizabethan long gallery's. And the only one to retain both of its original tapestries and many of its original pictures.

The attic was open whilst we were there and we gaily climbed the steps to the top of the house. Interestingly the floor of the attic was made of stone, perhaps as a fire break, I can imagine fire being quite a problem in those days. The view from the attic.

I love this pile of mattresses. I wonder which noble person would have slept on them. In those days the Upper Servants had their own well furnished rooms, mostly in the Old Hall, the lower servants bedded down more indiscriminately, on landings, on the main staircase, outside Bess's bedchamber door, in the scullery, off the pantry and the hall, or in the porters lodge and the turrets around the entrance court. Often with only a straw mattress which could be rolled up and stowed away if they were lucky.

And Hardwick house from the back.

We then hurried to Matlock to find a yarn shop called The Compleat Knit, it was a wonderful knitting shop, I could have spent a few happy hours there unearthing all of its treasures.

Happily I found some Lantern Moon double points and some gorgeous Cashmere with which to amuse myself this winter.

We headed home through Leicester and rang son no.2 to see if he wanted to come out to dinner but he was cramming for an exam the next morning so we took ourselves off to Yo Sushi and a good time was had by all.

The next morning, whilst quietly chatting to Sir Lancelot I told him of my dilemma at not having a doll big enough to model Miss Kitty's new dress and hat on. Now you know Sir Lancelot is a very kind Lion and he is also very greedy and is rather partial to bacon sandwiches, especially if the fat on the bacon is crispy. And quick as a flash Sir Lancelot said, "Well, I would love to model it for you, but at the moment I feel quite faint with hunger, I am sure a bacon sandwich would help" And so it was the bacon sizzled under the grill and a sandwich was made with just the right amount of HP Sauce and after a quick wash Sir Lancelot put on Kitty's new hat and dress.

Sir Lancelot thought things through and decided that he liked the dress, especially the colours that were used, but next time,

he would quite like a hole for his tail.

I especially liked the top stitching on the dress, it didn't frighten me as much as when I made my hat and it really finishes the dress off. The button holes were terrifying, but turned out well and

I love the gently scalloped edge.

I went to knitting and met up with Carie and Kitty who loved the dress,

and a piccie of gentle moments with Mum.

And then there were the presents from my knitting group.

A beautiful chocolate cake with handmade roses from Cynthia,

and yes it tasted as good as it looks.

There were gorgeous stocks, smellies from Lush (oooh nice) and a project bag from Diane, a very pretty rose bush and wine from Sheila and lots of cards, one signed from all of the girls, I loved them all.

A beautiful photograph of Kitty my God Daughter, modeling her christening bracelet and Easter present. Carie took over a hundred photos before she got the shot she was looking for.

And lastly I must show you this card from son no.2. I laughed like a drain when I read it.

And that is it,, three days of partying, and I am pretty knackered, grateful for such wonderful family and friends but absolutely shattered.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Saturday's highlights.

It was such a beautiful day on Saturday that although a local agricultural show was on the call of a beautiful garden and cream teas proved too great.

And so it was we arrived at Packwood House and gently strolled around its beautiful grounds.

The garden is famous for its representation of the Sermon on the Mount. With a magnificent Yew known as the Master. Flanking it are a dozen yews said to represent the disciples and beneath them is the multitude, yews replacing an orchard in the 19th century.

We climbed the spiral mount to The Master and

viewed the gardens from this vantage point.

It gave me the shivers walking amongst such large and beautiful trees, they had such a presence about them, a very calm and large presence, so difficult to describe.

There was a little sock knitting underneath the canopy of the yews. These particular yews were castellated which we thought was great fun.

The same yews from a distance.

We saw geese and goslings munching grass.

And the same goslings having been led to the lake for a much needed drink.

We then saw inside Packwood House which was beautiful but very dark, so the photo's are not stunning.

Although I do have to show you some brown delft tiles I spotted over a fireplace.
And then it was time for tea and as Packwood house has limited catering facilities, something to do with Graham Baron Ash's wishes not to have restaurant/cafe in the house - too many sticky fingers! We headed over to Baddesley Clinton just in time for a cream tea which was delightful. Sadly we didn't have time to explore but there is always another day.