Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Wall Hanging Completed and starting patchwork and quilting properly

For a week before the main event in Birmingham, I've held my own mini expo in the conservatory. Now that it is over, the hangings will be put up in our loo!

This is my first 'original' piece of patchwork and quilting.

On Sunday I went to my first patchwork class at the Quilter's Den in Warwick. It was a warm day, but I would never have thought that I would have sweated so much trying to cut a small square of fabric! Because the cutting table was so low, I arrived home really tired and with lots of aches and pains, and was a bit down so went to bed for a rest. However, the next day, I got out my work and admired my first three 9 patches, and have one more to finish! The joints were not really well matched, so there is much more practice needed.
I realise that I had viewed the results of the works of the gods and goddesses of the craft at the Quilting Show this year.

Yesterday I called a knitting and quilting friend, as I knew she would give me encouragement to continue and in that short time chatting with Claire, I gathered many more tips to add to the ones I had picked up on the day and realised that I had also missed or had not been corrected on things like the right way to press the pieces. I am really grateful to all my craft friends who generously pass on the benefits of their knowledge and skill.

Maybe I am starting to react to the bite of the patchwork and quilting bug!

First visit to the Quilting Show

Armed with a packed lunch, lots of nibbles and drinks, I set off for THE SHOW, and was very near to the front of the queue, with time spent chatting to quilters on all sides, some coming from Denmark. I spent most of the time there looking with amazement at the quilts. I've seen traditional quilts before many years ago at the American Museum in Bath, and also when I was a little girl, seeing Aunty Frances make hexagons and sew them together in Mauritius.

I was amazed by the artistry and craftsmanship displayed. I just did not take as many pictures as I would have liked to, I just wanted to spend time there looking at the quilts. Its a good job really, as I think I had the wrong setting on my camera, and I am not at all happy with my efforts. I'm posting some of the best, partly as a big thank you to Claire who organised a group ticket, but who sadly was not well enough to come. One day was not sufficient to take in the treats which were sent in from around the World. I think that next year, I shall have two tickets!

Traditional Black and White, with the smallest amount of red.

Detail of quilt with 'pebbles'.

The winner of the small quilt section, about the size of a sheet of paper!

This Japanese looking quilt was one of my favourite ones.

This one which was inspired by Honesty Flowers was also one of my top favourites.

This quilt was a hanging testament to the person's family and needed a good looking at. What a tribute.

The quilting on this one in the form of barbed wire was truly ingenious.

This one reminded me of planets and Japanese gravel gardens.

Six small quilts ingeniously connected to make a whole with the pattern flowing across. Wonderful artistry and skill.

There were workshops going on, special sections for individual quilters to show their pieces, and a huge area of stalls. I can now understand how this show draws interested people from so far and wide. I chatted to some ladies who were there for the duration, treating this as a holiday, staying in a hotel nearby, and going to a number of classes.

Interest in things Japanese

My father travelled to Japan in the early sixties and also had a Japanese Plant Friend there. When he returned from his trip I remember begging him to describe the country to me, and he would tell me about his walks looking for plants in the Mountains, the beautiful wooden houses, the baths, etc etc. Although we had no television in Mauritius and I may not have even seen pictures of such things, it was as if I was there.

I still have the pearls which my father brought back for each of us, so I've had an interest in things Japanese since being a little girl; not to a great extent: not sufficient to learn the language or consider a visit there, but in Museums, in magazines or on the TV etc., I am drawn to their wonderful art, landscape, customs etc. For example when we were in Brighton I was drawn to the Museum's small exhibition on Furoshiki. I loved this strong fish design.

I even took a picture of the explanation board.

Having left Mr S enjoying excellent coffee in the Museum tea rooms, I even returned a second time to take some notes. My greatest disappointment was that a very old Furoshiki cloth made using the Sashiko embroidery was on loan to another museum. On return I even managed to find a site on the Japanese Ministry of the Environment showing how to use the technique to wrap various items. I gather it is the equivalent to using cotton shopping bags in the UK. By the stand in the Museum I also met a very nice Japanese Tourist and we chatted about Furoshiki.

Imagine my delight when I visited Rita last week, and I saw on her table an example of a lovely gift wrapped up using fabric Furoshiki

Not only were the Japanese sweetmeats wrapped up this this lovely cloth, it was presented in a beautiful Japanese Basket which was also wrapped up.

Rita has received this gift from the new Japanese Daughter in Law of an old friend. Rita had sent hand knitted gifts for the baby, and they brought this gift all the way from Japan for her. I think Rita got the hint that if she does not wish to keep the wrapping then I would love them!

Potting time again

With incredible timing my dear friends Marie Claire and Stephen arrived Sunday afternoon with 3 kg of wild plums, the small yellow ones which I know make the finest of jams. I was just thinking of cycling over to my favourite wild plum site. So over two days Sunday and Monday of last week, I make two lots. I know that my pressure cooker, which acts as my jamming pan can take 1.5 kg of sugar and up to two pounds of fruit, and have room for a good rolling boil, so I am not tempted to make more than that at one time.

This morning I led Mr S to believe that I was going out shopping for frocks etc., but seeing that the few plums our poor tree has managed to bear this year, needed picking, I set to and got busy. Compared to the bountiful load of last year, the couple of pounds this year is hardly worth talking about. However, I was not about to let them go to waste. I have eaten a few, but having some bites on them, have had to cut them open to check for creepy crawlies. I looked at my old tried and tested Fruit Book by Jane Grigson, and went for her Plum Chutney with a twist of my own. When I am making my Chinese Stir Fry or Duck Breasts flash fried, I often add some plum jam or chutney to round off the sauce, and hence my inspiration for adding the Star Anise. After potting three large jars, I have a little dish, and even without maturing, the flavours are wonderful.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Jam and Chutneys

Why the lavender wand? Its just that I named myself the Sugar Plum Fairy when I emailed Diane a week or so ago to thank her for the lovely gift she gave me: a beautifully hand tied bunch of lavender heads from her garden . Also, I am in Sugar Plum Fairy mode having made a batch of wild plum jam yesterday.

I was all set for cycling out and foraging yesterday, when I had a call from Penny...'Would I like some wild plums she had picked from the hedge of a friend's garden?' With all sorts of apologies about how tart they were, and perhaps one needed to skin them, I assured Penny that the jam would be delicious. I cycled to Waitrose to pick up my favourite T & L sugar, and by the time Mr S was home, the jam was ready to bottle. Strange saying this, should we say 'jar'? This morning at breakfast Mr S declared the jam to be delicious. There were sufficient yellow plums to make just one jar, and the rest was red.

I have a little assortment of labels, and am using a pretty hedgerow pattern. These were passed on to me via a friend, from an old lady who no longer makes jam, so from this batch, there will be three jars given away: one each for Penny and her friend, and one for the donor of the labels.

On Monday as well as the apricot jam in the photo with the plum jam, I made some runner bean chutney. I managed to collect 800g of runner beans from the garden, and was really pleased with the recipe which I had devised last year.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Stashing more fabric

I've joined facebook and in my own sweet way am enjoying that. I've recently been contacted by a long lost and until now forgotten cousin. Its at the stage of: we met when we were very young at an Aunts, and with facebook we are getting to know each other more. I pointed her towards my blog, so she has the advantage, so I now am asking her loads of questions.

She has one or two questions mind you, and with coming from a different country, and perhaps not speaking English constantly, came up with one: What does Stasher mean? Some of my friends are stashers too, and if 1 is low and 5 high, I would say I am only on level 2. I then gave her a few examples of the things I stash. They only fill small boxes or parts of drawers, and I know they will be used one day. One of my friends who has had a few weeks in the US and who is a very talented patchworker and quilter has admitted that she picked up some lovely fabrics there.

A new stash which is starting to grow is my stash of fabrics for crafting. On Sunday I set off all on my little own to Leicester to the Fabric Guild where I must have spent all my pocket money for some time! I then went on to spend a couple of hours at Quorn Hall, where a friend was spending a few days at a Quilting Gathering. I was made most welcome by all the ladies, and after a nice cuppa and chat with Jean Gentry, went round the five or so rooms looking at all the fabulous works in progress with Claire.

Hanging on the pegs are some of the bags made during the previous couple of days. Most ladies were working on their own projects too, and it marvellous to see fabulous quilts in the making. I enjoyed sitting with Claire as she worked on her hand pieced quilt. As she is going to show this, there was no question of her accepting my offer to help!

I could see that these ladies were in heaven....several days of excellent company, time to sew, all meals being provided and no clearing up to do at the end!

New shoes and socks

With the magic of the Internet, I spied this picture, when means that little Izabelle is growing pretty fast. Not that she is quite ready for walking yet!

I've finished knitting up socks for Mother and daughter, and I wonder how well they will match, or maybe there are other shoes waiting to be used?