Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Needle case nearly finished

Sewing on the binding and turning neat corners is trying!

Snow snow go away and please don't come again any other day

Just as I was going to get up early to get ready to go to visit David's father in Cirencester, this is what I saw as I drew back the bedroom curtains. As we have several hills to go up and down, we decided to abort the outing. This meant a day at home, and after a good walk out in the snow to blow away the cobwebs, we settled to a day of crafts.

I had been knitting David up a pair of 'house boots' a grown up version of bootees I suppose. The design is all my own, and I had to really make good notes so that the second turned out the same as the first. I already had the yarn left over from a jumper which I had knitted up several years ago, which my son now has. The are just the ticket to keep toes cosy on snowy days in doors. Now that these are complete, I can get on with other projects.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Gifts from friends and other additions to my craft threads

Yesterday, one of the craft group turned up with two files of embroidery threads. Do help yourself she said. Someone she knows had been clearing out a house in London, and had passed on a huge stash, and Freda, having more than enough to 'see her through' had generously brought the threads along to be shared. Above is my selection for which I am very grateful. I had only just been thinking about how to acquire some as economically as possible, and hey presto they came to me as a gift...Thank you.
Only last week, I put in a bid and won a whole range of cotton threads suitable for quilting, and they just fit into one layer of my work box. I feel inspired to design and make a cover for my new book.

1 Kg of Flour

Take 1 Kg of good quality bread flour, sit down and decide what to make and with just a few ingredients, not only is there a nice fresh loaf, but there is also one to freeze, as well as a 'his' and 'her pizza, with plenty for another day.

Garden Wisdom with illustrations by Angie Lewin - An excuse to indulge myself

A few years back, whilst on holiday in Norfolk, I came across a design on a pack of notelets, which just grabbed my attention. I loved the designs so much, that I kept the cards and only sent them to dear friends on special occasions. They are all gone now. Imagine my delight when I came across individual cards by the same artist, in the foyer of the Herbert Museum. I bought one, and back home was able to find more about Angie Lewin
Angie Lewin captures plants and flowers and using a very limited colour pallet, sets their auras in wood engravings. I would just love one of her original prints....... in the meantime, I can now enjoy looking at her work as illustrator in 'Garden Wisdom'.
The book is beautifully produced, and I can see myself not only pouring over the detail of the illustrations, but enjoying the contents. 'Malheuresement' in my excitement of first opening the cardboard box, and trying to open the pages, which had not been properly cut, I have slightly spoilt my book by using a serrated knife to cut the page. The other thing I would have liked would have been a dust cover....but maybe I shall be moved to make one.

More quilting for the new small sewing project

A couple of weeks ago, I went out on an expedition to The Bramble Patch. I could have spent all day there, and would love to go on a course there. I came away with some lovely fabric for our new WI craft group project. We are making a needle case. I'm pick up the shape of the lozenges. The inside of the case and the binding is in a complementary fabric.

Valentine thoughts

Valentine Evening Pudding consisted of a fat less sponge soaked with fruits of the forest liqueur, and topped with cream folded through with chopped strawberries steeped in liqueur, topped with strawberries and cream and shavings of white and dark chocolate. A little easier that Raymond Blanc's fancy deserts, but I am sure just as tasty!

We must be true soul mates Mr S and I, as we whilst we had a run out in the car, we both agreed on what our thoughts had been over the previous couple of days or so, and we have decided that the spirit of Valentine has been well and truly hijacked by commercial interests. There are now ones which can be sent to mothers, fathers, pets.....We agreed that cards are fun to read, but not easy to find just the right one, and well lovely to send between young things and no so young things who are not yet bound together, or perhaps for people who feel that they do not say 'I love' you often enough.

We have now given each other our last Commercial Valentine Cards......mine was pretty funny and really nice, and had a dog on it, the one I gave to David had lots of lovely decorated cup cakes on it!

Our Valentine Custom is to go out in search of snowdrops, and we were not disappointed by the lovely display at Badesley Clinton. The National Trust Properties are now opening up far earlier in the year, but this time, as the sun was shining we decided to stick to the grounds, and also walked out to the little church. It was there in the church yard where we found our patches of snowdrops. At home our snowdrops are later than they were last year, but in sheltered spots the blooms have lived up their name and defied snow and ice to put on a special show.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Old Blue Silk Tie recycled into Valentine Present

I like Valentine's Day, its just one more opportunity to celebrate togetherness, love, friendship, nurturing, whatever.....but I eschew the shops. There is so much STUFF there, which will just end up unused. Also I seem to spend so much time looking for the just the right thing and feel cheated when I need to compromise.

A few weeks ago, driving somewhere towards the south, with the low winter sun in David's eyes, I struggled to prize his sunglasses from the small nifty slot on the dashboard to no avail. Back home it took some thought and ingenuity to remove the hard case. For once David gave me a big hint that a nice soft glasses case would be just the job. I've been cogitating about this for some time, and when I decided to turn over the contents of my large cupboard, I found just the thing to use.

Several of David's discarded ties, washed and ready to use in some project, and my lovely samples of woven wool from Cotswold Woollen Weavers. I had already made a couple of small cushions from these for the car, so I choose some of the same wool, a dark navy with a small pale blue fleck, and a beautiful pale blue patterned tie.

I'm only just starting to develop quilting know how, and have also become interested in Japanese Sashiko quilting. The pattern on the tie inspired the quilting design.
The silk lining of the tie was used as the bottom of three layers for the quilting, with bamboo and cotton batting as the middle layer.

Except for the machining the seams down the two sides of the quilted outer shell , all the rest is hand-stitched. I used the silk from the tie to sew up an inner pouch which slots into the quilted pouch.

Its taken me a few hours to make this glasses case up, and I have learnt a few techniques along the way. In addition, I think this is a really lovely way of using up a tie which is no longer worn. I shall be thinking of other things to turn the old ties into, and looking out for ideas and inspiration.

I had never unpicked a tie before, and was amazed at the various layers and the skills used to make it. I was careful to keep the very long and strong length of silk thread used to hand stitch along the length of the tie, and used this to stitch the binding around the opening.

I now feel that I have a lovely gift to give my Valentine, one made with a lot of thought.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Oh to be in Spain, I would choose Can Torras

With the cold and damp we are experiencing this winter, I can now understand why so many people escape to get some sun and warmth for a week, a month or even longer. I love Spain in April, May and June, when on the hillsides there are so many wild flowers.

We have visited Jenny in Spain several times. Some time ago she lived in the south, but now lives closer to the Pyrenees, in Gerona. The countryside is unspoilt and beautiful, and the picturesque city has splendid 'medieval' centre, surrounded by walls . My favourite time is when the flower festival is on, but I gather from Jenny that most towns and small villages vie with each other to put on festivals several times a year.

This picture is amongst the dozens I took during the last flower festival I visited, and it is free!

On several visits Jenny took me up to see her good friend Karen, who lives in the most idyllic setting a few miles from Gerona, in peaceful countryside. The garden is set up on a hill, with the most wonderful of views, but looking at the garden, this is truly a plants woman's dream. Karen has combined the best of the English Garden style with the terrain, and has a wide collection of plants, which we can only dream of growing here.

This is a long way from their roots in England, but Karen and David are now well grafted into their corner of Catalonia. Karen together with her husband David, have worked on an old traditional farm house, and made a beautiful home, and are now ready to welcome guests. With easy flights into Gerona's airport, it is not far to Karen and David's, about a forty minute car drive I would say.

Should any friend of mine be thinking of having a go at arranging their own type of holiday, then I would suggest they look over Can Torras which is an excellent start to planning your holiday. Karen has built up this site with many links to help you to get the most out of your stay with them.

Quilted bag completed

Just before Christmas Kaye gave each of the WI craft group, a small piece of fabric, with the only information that it was to form part of a small project to get us started once we reconvened in January. Kaye does so like to keep us on tenterhooks! All we had to do was to bring a fat quarter of some matching fabric. Even though I tried and tried to get it out of her, she would not let on what we were to make.
It has taken just three weeks to complete, and I have been amazed at how a small flat piece of fabric, can be given strength and definition with quilting. I enjoyed the hand quilting, which would not be passed by a purist, since I used different coloured embroidery threads to bring out some of the flower and leaf details, and used deep blue to trace a diamond pattern on the background pattern. I also pulled on the thread to help bunch up the quilting to give the shapes more bounce. The lining includes pockets: some narrow for knitting needles and some wider ones for scissors, tape measure etc. I used several embroidery stitches inside the bag. The attachment of the circular bottoms to the bags was pretty difficult for me. Each new project is advancing my sewing technique, which less than two years ago, was limited to repairing hems, and sewing back on buttons!

Chocolate and Pear Pudding

I'm sure Mr S's epitaph ought to read "and what's for pudding"?

January is a great time for baking, well after the first week or so, of trying to lessen the strain on the waistband from Christmas eating.
One of the most successful bakes has been a chocolate and pear pudding/cake. I made up a chocolate Madeira type mixture substituting half of the flour for ground almonds, then topping the cake in a large spring form tin with slices of fresh pear. When it came out of the oven, I brushed it liberally with honey, and served a couple of slices warm, with some warmed heavenly chocolate sauce made by Veronica.
This pudding is in my opinion a very close competitor to sticky toffee pudding. It is also excellent cold, with afternoon tea.

I froze several slices and can say that it is really very good warmed up from frozen, with more sauce of course, as an emergency when one is really needed and there is nothing made. Some evenings we have fruit, but every few days a real desert is requested!
I have since made ginger sponge topped with fresh pineapple, and a fragipanne type mixture topped with fresh apricots.
All the fruit came from Kenilworth Market, which means fresh, in paper bags, and no plastic bags.

Where has all the time gone

I can't believe it is now February. I seem to have been rushing around, yes doing things, some time on the PC catching up with friends and some time surfing, doing things for people etc. I feel I just want to slow down for a bit.

I feel a big tidy up coming on, partly because I seem to be misplacing papers, I am sure I shall come across the things when I start to have a big sort out.

We seem to be having waves of cold weather with snow, then ice, and then a thaw. I know what a toll this is taking on the roads, as with some friends on the way to a WI quiz, the car we were travelling in, went through the most enormous pothole, which resulted not in one, but two flat tyres. When we moved up to Warwickshire we felt the roads were very nearly the worst we had ever come across, and this is confirmed almost every time we travel out of the county!
Val was driving along on a very dark country road, and suddenly round a bend in front of us, we saw two cars with their hazard lights on. Maybe if our attention had not been momentarily drawn towards these vehicles, we may have noticed the pothole in time to avoid it. The other cars were parked up having had the same damage! It has turned out that two new alloy wheels are also needed, and maybe more to do with the suspension. The vehicle recovery lorries arrived almost in convoy, as well as the Warwick patch repair van, and the police. Needless to say we did not make the quiz, nut I am sure our team would have done well on the night!