Thursday, 13 August 2015

Lavender and English Paper Piecing

Last Saturday we went to the New Forest Lavender Farm at Landford near Salisbury. It was a really warm day (well, warm compared to recent days, as the UK has been experiencing a rather cold Summer this year). The gardens are small but absolutely stunning. There was a swathe of wildflowers and a large sunflower hedge. The whole thing was literally buzzing with insects of all kinds - bees, wasps, hoverflies, moths and butterflies. There were also a large number of birds flitting around. We even saw a dragonfly as we were about to leave.

As it was such a warm day we went into the tearooms for some refreshment. As well as a range of cakes and snacks they sell lavender shortbread, lavender cordial, lavender tea and lavender lemonade. All of the cakes are homemade by the owner and her two daughters. We decided to sample the lavender shortbread.

It tasted as good as it looks!

They also have a small plant nursery there and offer a wide range of plants for sale (much to my Other Half's delight!)

Although it is fairly small it is well worth a visit if you are ever in the New Forest.

On the way back we drove through the New Forest National Park. We stopped so that OH could take some photos of New Forest Ponies and some donkeys. They roam freely and that can make for very interesting driving. At one point a group of ponies had taken shelter from the strong sun in the shade of a large tree. The only problem was that meant they were standing in the middle of the road, quite unfazed by the large number of vehicles having to edge their way very carefully around them!

This week I have been on leave and, as OH has had to work, I have been able to get quite a bit of sewing and beading done. I am progressing slowly with my English Paper Piecing. I have been using up more of my small scraps of fabric. The stack of neatly tacked hexagons is starting to grow.

I am using a paper clip to temporarily hold the fabric in place and then, as my hexagons are only 1 inch on each side, I am using the corner tack method, rather than tacking through the paper templates. The corner tack method is only really recommended for shapes with sides of 1 inch or smaller. Instructions for this method of tacking can be found on the Sew & Quilt website.

I haven't decided what I am going to make with them yet. Possibly another small pouch or bag. I am just enjoying the soothing task of sewing them together. I am aiming to make a piece about 12 inches square. I have a little way to go yet!!

Thinking of other possible EPP projects - I have been inspired by our visit to the Lavender Farm. I am considering a way to re-interpret the 'Cat Tails' quilt on the cover of Hexa-go-go by Tacha Breucher to reflect the lavender fields, wildflower garden and insects that we saw.

As for the beading - I am saving that for my next post!

Monday, 3 August 2015

More scraps!

After completing my Scraptop Carrier (see previous post) I was determined to continue to use up my patchwork fabric scraps. For the moment I am content with making small items. I will work up to making larger items in due course.

For my next project I made a small zippered pouch. I thought that it would be ideal for storing  my sewing or knitting bits and pieces. My inspiration was from the Strippy Charm Purse on the Moda Bake Shop site. I tweaked the proportions to suit me and decided to put the spotty strip at top instead of the bottom. Instead of a charm pack I used some 5 inch squares from my scrap box. I also left out the wrist strap.

I was fairly happy with the way that it turned out, however there were a couple of niggles. These mainly concerned the zip. I didn't feel that the finish on the zip ends was neat enough and I think that my top stitching could have been neater.

I have found a tutorial on adding zipper tabs to create a neater finish on the Flossie Teacakes site. I am resolved to try again and to do a better job next time.

My pincushion in the picture above is made from a small bone china vase that I found in Green Park Station Market in Bath when we visited last year. It only cost £1.50 but as soon as I saw it I realised that it would make a perfect sewing accessory. I cut out a circle from some vintage fabric (bought at a local antiques fair) and ran a gathering thread around the edge. I then pulled up the gathering thread and stuffed the shape before gluing it into the vase with some PVA.

It is hard to tell from the photograph but it is quite small, only 8cm high (approx 3 inches). Just the right size to keep next to my sewing machine. The added bonus is every time I look at it I am reminded of a lovely day spent with my Other Half.

Finally this week I started to cut up some more fabric scraps for English Paper Piecing. I am in need of something soothing to do at the moment. When I need relaxation I normally turn to knitting, knitting socks in particular. However that is not possible at the moment. Three months ago I was diagnosed with calcific tendonitis in my left shoulder. I am having treatment for the condition and I am told that it will eventually go away. But knitting is far too painful at the moment. Just 5 minutes with my knitting needles brings on intense pain.

Hand piecing is supposed to be as soothing as knitting. So I am going to give it a try. So far I have cut out lots of hexagons using a handy acrylic template I got free with an issue of Quilt Now magazine, last year.

The next step is to tack the hexagons onto paper foundations before sewing them all together. I will let you know how I get on in my next post.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Scraptop Carrier Finished

Last night I finished my Scraptop Carrier (see previous post). I have really enjoyed making it but I had a few problems along the way.

I had real trouble making the handles. The instructions tell you to join all of the strips together in a continuous loop using diagonal seams. For some reason it took me three attempts and lots of swearing to get it right, much to Other Half's amusement. I am not sure what happened as Joan's instructions are very clear and well illustrated in the book. On reflection it is probably not a good idea to attempt detailed sewing when you are tired and have been taking strong painkillers!!

Overall I am very pleased with the way it has turned out. Below you can see the transformation from an untidy pile of scraps to fully finished bag. Thanks go to my Other Half who has patiently documented my progress with his camera.

At this point after struggling to make the handles I decided that I didn't like the colour. It is difficult to tell from this photo but the blue of the handles was much too bright for the rest of the bag. I wanted something to blend in with the patchwork panel. I then, I am ashamed to say, broke my vow to only use fabric from my stash. After much searching I was forced to admit that I didn't have anything suitable for the handles. Courtesy of my Other Half I dashed to a local fabric shop and bought a small piece of suitable fabric and I tried again! This time the handles came together quickly and easily (no swearing!).

I felt that this looked much better so I stitched on the handles and the side seams, squared the corners...

Attached the lining and button loop....

Pushed the lining into the bag, top-stitched close to the upper edge, added a button and ...

 Finally - one finished bag!!

I now have to decide what to make next. Possibly a table runner. We have a large pine table in the bay window of our living room and I have been meaning to make some sort of covering for it for quite a while. Another possibility is to tackle some smaller projects such as English Paper Piecing or making some much needed needlework accessories.

I will contemplate my stash and let you know what I decide.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

I'm Back!!!

It has been a really long time since I posted on this blog. I am not sure how to explain my absence, except to say that life just got in the way. Between my work, home life and some of my health issues I just lost my urge to update this blog.

I am in a much happier place now. Although I still have the same health issues I feel that I am dealing better with them and the creative urge has started to grow again. So from now on I resolve to post at least once a week. Let's hope that it works out that way!

I recently bought some new storage units for our spare bedroom to replace some old ones which were falling apart. Sorting through my fabric and beads gave me an idea. I have resolved to start making things using my stash, rather than buying new materials. I have already started making something.

At the end of last year I was inspired by Joan Ford's Scrap Therapy website and her book Scrap Therapy Plus One. I bought it last December with some Birthday money and found it very interesting. In it she encourages you to look through your scrap bags and make some hard decisions about your fabric stash. I have been quilting for over 20 years so I had three plastic bags of scraps stored away.

Last Christmas I started sorting through my fabric, cutting it all into a range of two inch, three and a half inch and five inch squares. Sorting through my scraps was an enjoyable experience. Over the last few years I have made 11 large quilts including christening, anniversary and leaving gifts for friends and relatives. Many of the fabric scraps hold happy memories and are associated with people I care about. Making them into a patchwork seemed like a wonderful way to use them up. I had originally intended to make a double bed sized quilt, but for a whole host of reasons that did not happen.

Three weeks ago I decided to look at the book again and unearth my plastic storage box full of my carefully stacked squares. I have always loved the Scraptop Carrier which is pictured hanging on a chest of drawers on the right side of the front cover picture.

So I decided to have a go at making that, as it would take me less time than a full sized quilt. So, that is what I have been doing for the last two weeks.

Progress has been a bit slow as pain in my lower back and leg mean that I find it difficult to sit at my sewing machine for too long. Also, trying to sew after a long, hot day at work has resulted in a lot of ripping out!! But I am getting there, slowly. OH has kindly been documenting my progress with his camera. In my next post I hope to show you what I have done so far.

So that is it for now. I really will post again as soon as I can!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Hello, remember me?

It is with utmost shame that I note my last post was in August. This has been for a variety of reasons. My health has not been too good. I seem to have spent a lot of time hanging around in hospitals and having quantities of blood taken. Work has been difficult. So busy that at times I have had to put in extra time in the evenings and weekends. Also my Mother has not been well. She spent some time in hospital in November but happily is now well on the road to recovery. To be honest blogging has been far from my thoughts for months.

However, things are improving. Work is not so hectic and I am feeling better, so with OH's encouragement, I am posting again.

The beginning of December saw a significant landmark for me - my 50th Birthday! I find it very hard sometimes reconciling the image that I see in the mirror every morning with the how I feel inside. Granted that when I am having an arthritis flair up I can feel about 90 when I get out of bed, but most of the time I still feel as though I am in my 20s. It is a bit disconcerting sometimes when I catch a glimpse of my reflection in a shop window and I wonder who that strange grey haired woman is. Sometimes I even think I have seen my Mother!

I started my Birthday celebrations with a meal at a local restaurant with OH and a group of close friends. We had a lovely evening. The next day we went off to Bath for the weekend. It was a joint Birthday celebration as OH's Birthday is 3 days before mine. The weather was bitterly cold but we had a lovely time.

As you can see the hotel room was very grand, with four poster bed and views across bath to the Abbey.

The Christmas market was being held that weekend and it gave me the opportunity to do some Christmas shopping.

I couldn't go to Bath and not visit The Makery. Luckily there is a pub next door, much to OH's relief.

And of course we couldn't go to Bath without actually visiting the baths themselves. 


I bought some lovely fabric from The Makery and Country Threads. But more about that in my future posts.

We finished our time in Bath with a visit to the American Museum, where we were befriended by a curious robin.

We returned home tired but very happy. A lovely way to mark my half a century!

If you are wondering where the beading and creative stuff has gone, I have not been idle. More of that in my next post. So goodbye for now. It feels great to be back and a happy New Year to everyone.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Time Off (Part Two)

In my last post I promised to tell you more of our adventures over the past few weeks.

One evening OH and myself went to explore Knowlton Church and Earthworks. This is situated near Verwood, a short drive from our home in Bournemouth. It is a ruined medieval church built within a Neolithic henge. People have been using this site for worship for over 2500 years.

It was a beautiful, warm summer evening and I stood on top of the henge and watched the swallows darting about and the butterflies feasting on the wildflowers that grow all around it. It is a magical place with a unique atmosphere. They still hold regular church services here, weather permitting and the sense of continuity and connection with past generations is very strong. A magical place!

Our next adventure was a long weekend in Bath. We both love Bath and when we lived in Exeter we used to visit often for the day. We decided to go for a longer stay as there is so much to do there. As this was to be our only holiday this year we splashed out and picked a good quality hotel. It is very difficult to find cheap accommodation in Bath. Apparently hotels there are more expensive than central London. I found the Ayrlington online and I was impressed by the glowing reviews. To my relief the hotel more than lived up to its reviews. Our room was large, beautifully furnished and spotlessly clean. I would highly recommend it. Also, if you like cats this is the place for you. The owner has three, two of which roam freely around the building lapping up attention from the guests.

It is a short level walk from the Arlington over Pultney Bridge to the centre of Bath

We went to the Herschell Museum and I thought it was one of the most interesting museums I have ever visited. The small Georgian house contains the telescope Willam Herschell used to discover Uranus in 1782 and two of Saturn's moons. He was also the first person to discover the existence of infra red radiation. As a gifted musician he composed 24 symphonies during his lifetime. His sister Caroline was his assistant and made important astronomical discoveries of her own including eight comets and eleven nebulae. She was honoured by the the Royal Astronomical Society. Remarkable achievements at a time when women were universally considered to be of inferior intellect to men and rarely received a good education, by our modern standards!

A statue of William Herschell and his sister Caroline in the Museum garden

Everywhere you go in Bath you see can see evidence of its elegant Regency past -

I also had time to visit the Fashion Museum and of course a bead shop (Bijoux Beads), a yarn shop (Wool) and a quilting shop (Country Threads).

 The final part of our adventures will feature in my next post.