Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year!

I'm sitting here not quite believing it is already New Years Eve. I hope you all had a good Christmas and a peaceful time whatever you did and wherever you are. I have travelled a bit over the past week to visit relatives and much to both DS delight we found snow again driving west. I had intended trying to knit a scarf whilst DH did the driving but packed wool, pattern and no needles. I was lucky enough to get some books I have been looking at and a basketful of Clarins wonderfulness (my one guilty pleasure). DS got some jumping stilts, thankfully the weather has been too bad for him to start practising with them. I'm not too worried as he has used them at Scouts. One thing has been bothering me, I think I have good hand-eye co-ordination, I can sew, knit, embroider so why do I find it so hard to do Mario Karts on the Nintendo Wii? DS has been giving me lessons and I'm practising.
I have made lots of Christmas presents this year, the cushions above were some that I made for my nieces and nephews. An advantage of a big stash is that I was able to use fabric that was appropriate for all, Sean loved his trains and sister Aimee liked her rabbits. I've also made several book covers, small make up bags and some larger bags.

For those of you who are really observant  I have added a link to the Sketchbook Challenge for 2011. The idea is that you follow along and share your pages. There will be a different theme set each month and it sounds like there is going to be lots of ideas and inspiration shared. I just love their definition of a sketchbook which is, "a book filled with dreams and inspiration". I've got an A4 sketchbook and I have stated to make a cover by stitching small samples. I had the idea from Sweetypie who got the original idea from the blog Teesha's Circus. I have been carrying them around with me so it will all be done by hand. I'm using up some odd bits of hand dyed fabric and edging them in black. I have really enjoyed doing this freehand and stitching whatever comes into my head.

I would like to wish everyone who has visited me a happy and creative New Year and 2011. I really do appreciate all your visits, even if you just lurk. I've enjoyed sharing all your blogs and learnt lots from you all. The last thing to say is that I'm nearly at my 100th blog post and will be having a giveaway very soon, a good excuse to keep popping back.

Monday, 20 December 2010

In The Bleak Mid Winter

I was going to start this blog post on a positive note but I'm cold and fed up with being cold. Today the fog hasn't lifted and the temperature hasn't been above -7. When I was young my favourite books were The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls. I remember my favorite one was The Long Winter (sound familiar?).  

All my recent energy/sewing has been on completing paperwork and making Christmas presents which I can't share photos of. DS has also spent time making presents and has just about mastered how to put a zip into a bag. Instead here are some frosty images of my garden taken this morning.
This was the frozen washing line.
 This robin was a little photo shy but you can still see his/her red breast.
I was looking for colour amongst all the white and found this red onion skin in the compost heap.
The fields are still full of Brussel sprouts that haven't been harvested

I found this on Emma's blog A little Bit of Everything. Despite the weather I went to two carol services and this carol was sung at both. This Enya version is really beautiful that I thought I would share it with you.

I found some sock knitting today from last year, my first attempt at toe up socks knitted on a circular needle. I love hand made socks but am a slow knitter. I'm off to spend the rest of this evening curled up in front of my log burner. I hope you are all keeping safe and warm.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


Does anyone know how to make these woven, folded paper necklaces? My recycled craft group wants to make them next Friday and although I've made them before I can't find my notes. I've also had an unsuccessful trawl through the Internet and can't find any instructions unless I subscribe to a site.

I've fingers and toes crossed...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010


Well, this is the result of the snow dyeing - remember lime green and purple. Its OK I guess, I'm not too impressed though. It is darker than the image shows as I had all the lights on as well as the camera flash. The cold has definately affected the green dye. The snow was very powdery so I'm not sure how much difference that made. I had hoped to do some more today but after I slid home from school the snow was melting. We are forecast to have some more so watch this space.

I am coming up for my 100th post and I am planning a giveaway so keep checking back and I will let you know what it will be.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Snow dyeing 2010

Well I'm stuck home today as DS2's taxi didn't make it to us due to the snow. The bus that comes down the lane for DS also didn't arrive but "dad" got him to school. This meant time for snow dyeing, I'm not sure how successful this will be as the snow seemed very powdery. Also after I had laid my soda soaked fabric out onto the tray Daisy cat walked all over it so I have muddy footprints before even starting the dyeing process.
I needed to be quick so just chose the first two colours that came to hand, purple and lime green. I would like to do a planned blue from dark to light so might get this done tomorrow.
Lilly however just doesn't understand snow, she runs round in circles bleating and can't work out whether to eat it or butt it!!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Its cold outside

I forgot to add these to my last post. This was a frozen puddle in the back garden. I have no idea what made these fantastic lines but my mind is starting to work overtime with design ideas.

Advent Sunday

This weekend with DS2 off with his respite carer I have had a fairly chilled weekend, even with two teenagers (well very nearly in the house). I just can't believe how much they eat. Also shopping for trousers for DS for the first time yesterday we had to buy men's sizes, my baby is getting too tall and grown up, how do I turn the clock back or slow it down?? 

Having time to stand back and take stock is important to help me see the bigger picture of my life and where I am heading. In my normal pace of life I hadn't realised that today is the first Sunday in Advent, dare I say that four weeks today will be Boxing Day? It led me to think about the lists we all make, a gifts to buy list, gifts to make list, gifts to wrap list, food to buy list, people to see list, but sometimes these can distract from the true meaning of Christmas to most Christians.
On a more creative note I have finally finished this book jacket. There was a talent auction at church and as well as making some Xmas decorations I said that I would make a cover for an A5 notebook in the colour of the successful bidders choosing. Well, I was given the complete works of Shakespeare. Not wanting to make a fuss I just started the book jacket in the said colours.  I have not had any feedback yet so I hope she likes it. One thing I do need to finish this week is an alien costume as my friends son is an alien in his schools Nativity play. Remember the scene in Love Actually when I think the children come home and say they are an octopus in the Nativity? When I was a teacher we just had the basic characters, one year I do remember was when I had the kings entering on scooters to Crazy Frog!!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Busy Times

Well. life has been busy here and the run up to Christmas has definately started!! Lots of teaching, I have taught a mini shibori evening twice in the past two weeks. Its a great, if not busy two hour workshop and everyone goes home with a wrapped, stitched fat quarter in a bag of dye to rinse at home.
Last weekend I was up in York at the Quilt Museum, my project was Christmas birds. Some of the children are regulars up there now and  they have excellent machine skills. This time they learnt how to use a long doll making needle to sew a button through the stuffed bird. which secured the wings.

My Thursday smocking class is going well. We have practised lots of stitches and now we are moving onto making some smocked gift bags. The light wasn't great when I took the photo of the sample below.
I also have resurrected my sock knitting, not that I have any time on my hands at the moment but need something to fiddle with. I also must get on and just finish my diploma quilt.

I am hoping for a restful weekend as DS2 is going off to his respite carer so we are left to catch our breath and regain our strength for the next few weeks. DS is having a sleepover though with his closest friend and (thankfully)  the Scout environmental day has been cancelled due to the weather. I suspect a little Christmas shopping will get completed as well.

Have a  great weekend whatever you are up to.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Delectable Dyeing Day

Yesterday I taught a dyeing workshop to a wonderful group of people at Unique Cottage Farm Studios in Spalding AND I remembered my camera.  The aim of the day was to print onto fabric, and dye a little thread to match using both procion dyes and fabric paints. They all certainly embraced their creative side and produced some fantastic results. I know its a good class when everyone has to be presuaded to leave the room for a coffee break.

This was the room at coffee break time -
We just used fabric paint in the morning to give the fabric time to dry out. It was great to see everyone so busy producing seriously gorgeous, individual and unique fabrics

Pat and Nigel totally absorbed in their printing

This is just some of the monoprinted fabric that was produced.
In the afternoon we moved onto using procion dye as a printing medium which had been thickened. We also dyed threads, doesn't this bundle of crochet cotton look fab.

At the end of the day when all was clean we had a mini show and tell with the fabric painted fabric. I hope that I will have some photos sent to me of the dyed fabrics. All the fabrics printed with dyes go home wrapped in plastic ready for rinsing after 24 hours.
As I was packing up, the sky caught my eye, the colours were so much sharper than the photo shows - I think I had it on the wrong setting.

I want to end by saying Julie hope your ankle is feeling much better, we missed you today.

By the way, is anyone else having problems with Blogger? It has taken me nearly 90 minutes to load these photos. Each time I want to put another on I have to log out and back in again so frustrating when time is limited.

Thursday, 28 October 2010


This is not the greatest photo I have ever taken, in fact I will use the words of DS2 and say it's totally crap BUT it represents a huge breakthrough in my City & Guilds final quilt progress. Without giving too much away, the design inspiration is the fields and fens hence dyeing brown. I have tried immersion techniques but never got a grade of tone that was acceptable for the diploma work. The answer was so simple yet it took me along time to think of it, print dye the fabric which has worked on a small sample. The red spots you can just see are because I didn't mix up the dye fully as I was in too much of a rush.

I had a conversation with Sweetypie about dyeing fabric the other day. When you see my larger pieces so much work has gone into the dyeing/printing of the fabric which is mainly unnoticed. the piecing and quilting is there on display but not the processes of soaking, drying, washing, dyeing often done more than once. So much time, effort and emotion goes into this. I once put on a label that 12 hours of dying time had gone into the fabric before I even applied a needle to it. I'm not moaning as I do love this stage but it can be very time consuming.

Changing the subject totally, yesterday I placed two large orders with well known companies. I needed products ordered for a workshop on the 6th November so you could say urgent. One, Kemtex was fantastic, the parcel arrived this morning so less than 24 hours. They sell dyes and dye chemicals, I use them alot and would really recommend them. If you are a novice there is a man called Stuart who really knows the products and will give out advise. The other company (I'm not going to name and shame although I might if it doesn't arrive before the 6th), took my order and then told me that they were having a stock take and the order wouldn't go out until next week. Not only that but the orders will be sent out in order, no they were unable to tell me how many before mine. It's a shame I like their products but with customer service like that they basically don't deserve the custom!!

Have you heard about improvisational piecing? I had an e-mail from QuiltArts which had me reaching for my stack of Halloween fabric that I have promised DS2 for about three years that would turn into a quilt. I was going to show you some photos but Blogger isn't playing tonight. I'll leave it a few days and then try again.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Mud, mud glorious mud

I had a paperwork day at home today, well that is until a newly ploughed  field attracted my attention! I only have my C&G quilt to complete now. All the design work has been agreed but I still haven't dyed a close enough brown (think earth/mud) for the bottom part. It will have applique over the top but will still be visible. Since completing the bag I have been pondering this for a while and have come up with a cunning plan. I can't share this yet as I haven't run it past my tutor. This is why this, made me excited (sometimes I'm very easy to please)....
and this, it proves just how much texture there is in the soil. The photo's just don't show how it was glistening in the sunlight today.

I finished piecing the half square triangle Golden Wedding quilt two weeks ago so it's a priority to get it quilted and to it's new home. It's not a great photo but it shows progress at least. It will be going to a non-sewing home so I hope to be able to get away with minimal quilting.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Completed Bag

They say pictures speak a thousand words so I'll let mine do the talking. This is the bag I have made for  my 3D assessed item for my City & Guilds Diploma which is finally completed. All fabrics were printed using fabric paint before being pieced and embellished.
Back view

 I love this image with the contrast of the monoprinted, pieced cotton against the trees in the background.
You might have noticed a little update going on with my website and blog, let me know what you think...

Light at the end of the tunnel

Thank you for all your messages of support over this difficult few weeks. A very sensible man did a risk assessment on DS2 and the current journey he has to take to school. As a result of this DS2 now has his own taxi and escort again (after a year of fighting on our part), happy boy, happy mummy, happy everyone. Behaviour is settling down at school and at the end of our dark tunnel we have light!! 

More good news is that I have finished my C&G bag and pieced my half square triangles. I'll share photos in my next post.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Life and chocolate

Well, it has been a long, hard difficult week. Monday morning breakfast time we had no idea of just how the week would pan out nor how terrible things would get. I tend not to make much of DS2's needs on this blog but although ten he has an emotional age of 4. Basically (and I need to be careful how I phrase this) he has been let down by several professionals this week which led to an aggressive outburst resulting in the County Council banning him from home school transport until a meeting on the 11th October. We don't know what will happen after this. Obviously there are details and extremely strong feelings I can't share in case anyone from the Council Council or who is directly involved reads this blog. Because of all the extra pressures no sewing has been done at all, no City and Guilds, nothing. If I have cried on your shoulder this week I want to say thank you, this seems such a small word to say for your support and comfort.

The other word in the title was chocolate, this is essential in times of stress. Rather than eat my bar of chocolate I made it into this -

And the secret ingredient was beetroot, although neither DS's knew about this. This is the recipe I followed.

Chocolate Beetroot Brownies

250g/10oz good, dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
250g/10oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus more for greasing
250g/10oz caster sugar
3 free-range eggs
150g self-raising flour
250g beetroot, boiled until tender, peeled and grated
1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Grease a baking tin of approximately 20 x 30 x 3cm and line the bottom with baking parchment.
2. Break up the chocolate into pieces, cut the butter into cubes then mix them up a bit in a heatproof bowl. As the oven begins to warm up, put the bowl onto one of the shelves for a few minutes until the chocolate and butter starts to melt. Stir, and put back into the oven for a few more minutes to melt completely.
3. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until combined, then beat in the melted chocolate and butter until smooth. Gently fold in the flour then the beetroot – be careful not to overmix or it will make the brownies tough.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth over the top with a spatula. Bake for about 20 minutes. A knife or skewer pushed into the middle should come out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Don't be tempted to overcook them! Remove the tin from the oven and leave on wire rack to cool before cutting into squares.

This recipe was a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe which can be found here.

Off to do some C&G so there should be some proress to report soon.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Woolly progress

I kept stitching into my woolly blankets last night and this is how far I've got (still no beads sewn on though). I think they are going to be made into a bag. Although it doesn't look like it in the photos both pieces have the same purple blanket in them.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Workshop Day

This weekend my LQG had a talk and workshop by Madeleine Millington. She drove all the way from Exeter to Lincolnshire to give us a fantastic time. It was so great to have a day to forget about C&G and do lovely woolly hand stitching. Everyone was working on something different, using Madeleine's work as inspiration. She uses recycled wool blankets which have been dyed and lots of discussion started  about charity shop prices.

At the end of the day we had a show and tell, Sweetiepie was there in the stripey t-shirt. I'll show you what I did once I have sewn on some beads.

At the end of the day Mary showed me her Shibori quilt using fabrics that she dyed on a workshop with me earlier this year. It's fantastic, the photo (with Mary hiding behind) doesn't do it justice. She used lots of embroidery stitches with hand dyed thread and which I should have taken a close up photo of. Well done Mary.