Friday, 31 December 2010

2010 tally

It's New Year's Eve, and I'm already feeling full of New Year enthusiasm and excitement. Yesterday I sat at my sewing machine and sewed all afternoon, and ate Smarties (gluten free, dairy free and artificial colour free, but extremely delicious - thank you Number Two Son) and managed to finish the top for the 2010 BOM I've been making, Leanne Beasley's Down in the Garden. And I started to remake Tail Feathers, the 2009 BOM that I completely ruined with my machine quilting. These will be 2011 finishes, so pictures to follow.

But I thought I'd tally up my 2010 finishes and see what I've achieved. I've finished 62 items! A whole range of things, from large (An Angels' Story) to small (little quilted house). It's been such fun, and I've learned a great deal as well along the way.

So, next year? Well, I've signed up to do a short course with the Open University, just to keep my brain ticking over; Understanding Shakespeare, which starts in February. I'm really looking forward to starting that. And on the sewing front? Well, I've actually got a few UFOs for the first time in my life, though they're really WIPs. And they're first on the list. Tail Feathers (WISP); Down in the Garden; Hexagon quilt using the fabrics from the Victoria and Albert exhibition; Autumn medallion quilt that I'm hand quilting very slowly. And continuing work on the Japanese quilt that I've started, and am treating as a home-grown BOM.

And then I really do intend to use up my scrap fabric, which is actually most of my fabric now, I don't have anything left that's even as large as a fat quarter except one piece which is destined to make a new ironing board cover. I've signed up to Scraphappy's Rainbow Scraps Challenge, so that should help.

And I know that one or two people want me to make them a quilt, so they'll have to find a place on the list. And then there's the Chewton Mendip Festival, where I'm organising the art exhibition, so that will keep me busy too.

I hope that you've all got plenty of plans to keep you busy in 2011.

With best wishes to you all for a happy New Year,

Belated Christmas Fun

We had a lovely time when our sons and their partners visited us for a slightly late Christmas celebration. They arrived on Monday, rather later than they'd hoped due to very heavy traffic, and stayed until Wednesday afternoon. We talked a lot, ate a lot, washed up a hug amount of dishes, played games (Trivial Pursuit and Scattergories), went for a walk and generally had a wonderful, memorable time. We ate our main celebration dinner at about 4.30 on Tuesday afternoon, and thankfully it all went very well. So, here are a few photographs of us in our silly Christmas hats, including a very rare photograph of me.

Best wishes to you all for 2011

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Just in time

We spent a very quiet Christmas Day yesterday; some neighbours came in for a drink before lunch but apart from that it was just the two of us. Both of our sons spent Christmas Day with their partners' families this year; a rather sad part of 'growing up' for us, but an inevitable and proper one. They are all four coming to us on Monday, so we will be having our real festive meal on Tuesday instead. I can't wait for them all to arrive and am keeping my fingers crossed that the weather behaves itself.

Since there are to be six of us for dinner on Tuesday I decided that my current Christmas settings needed replacing and finished these just in time. I've used a pattern from Lynette Anderson's 'Friends for Christmas' and made six placemats and six napkins.

I hope you've all had a lovely Christmas Day, whether with or without your families, and that you enjoy the rest of the holiday break.

Roll on Monday!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Please vote for my quilt

If you have the time please go to Quilting Gallery and vote for my Christmas quilt. I've entered a quilt I made about three years ago, using the quilt pattern from Lynette Anderson's 'Friends for Christmas'.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


I don't think I can remember a day as cold as today has been. Up here in the Mendip Hills the temperature hasn't risen above -6C all day, although it was -3C when we went down to Wells to have some lunch and do some shopping. It's been foggy all day and the trees haven't lost the tiniest bit of the heaviest frost I've seen in a long time.
That's not snow on the trees, it's frost. It's nearly 4.30 now and just about dark enough to close the curtains and shut it all out. 

I'm now snuggling up with a cup of peppermint tea and a gluten-free chocolate bourbon in our warm lounge to watch the latest episode of Miranda, which I downloaded from BBC iPlayer.

I hope you're managing to keep warm if it's as cold where you are.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Christmas tree skirt

I've wanted a Christmas tree skirt for years, but this year is the first time that I've had the time to make one. I've made it from odds and bits of fabric which were either Christmassy or vaguely bright and cheerful and/or a bit shiny. I decided to make it from hexagon shapes, and it wasn't until I'd cut them out that I bethought me of all the inset seams I was going to be faced with. Well, I wasn't going to stress about that, as I decided to put Suffolk puffs over each intersection. Problem solved. In fact, the set in seams weren't that much of a problem, but if I'd expected them to show I'm sure I'd have worried over them much more.
So, that's all the Christmas presents made and most of them wrapped to be delivered soon. I've got one birthday present to make for a friend whose birthday is on 20th December; then I need to write the Christmas cards. But, after that, my time is my own to play with some more Christmas decorations.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Amy, at Amy's Passions, was wondering how she'd get along if she wasn't connected to the internet, and I've been wondering much the same recently.

We got our first computer in the late 1980s, when the boys were just about old enough to start playing with a computer. It was a Sinclair Spectrum ZX, which attached to the television. Christopher didn't have much interest in it, but Number One Son and I loved it. We bought a few games for it, but mostly we programmed our own. In those days you could get books out of the library which gave you the programming for various games. Remember the old Ping Pong game?
Well, I followed the programming details from a library book and created our own. And we had great fun with it as I remember. I also moved on to programming my own little programs, and was highly delighted with myself when I completed something.

When Number One Son was 12 we bought our first PC, a very timely purchase as it coincided with him developing ME, an illness which kept him confined to the house for several years, and playing on the computer was one of the few activities he could pursue. We loved that PC and the games we bought for it - Lemmings, Humans, Tetris, Sim City, Pushover, all brilliant games that kept us entertained for hours. Oliver and I even managed to fit a sound card to that PC, all by ourselves. It took us all day, but we were triumphant.

As the years went by we upgraded our PCs to bigger and better machines, with supposedly bigger and better games, though I still even now hanker for those original games. But for the life of me I can't remember exactly when we first got the internet. It was doubtless at the urging of our sons, as I couldn't see much point in having it at the time (I say 'I', since Christopher left all of the computing decisions to me, he had no real interest or understanding). But get it we did, and the boys embraced it wholeheartedly.

And slowly I came to depend on the internet too. I could not function easily as a quilter without it, as I purchase so much of my tools, notions and fabric online - cheaper and a wider choice. I have found so much inspiration from others through blogging, and got loads of patterns and ideas from free online sites.
Would I enjoy quilting so much if I wasn't able to see what other people have been up to, and to share photographs of my own efforts? I'm not sure that I would.

When I was working full time I did my weekly shopping online too, though now I don't bother. But I still buy many things online that I can't find in our local shops. And I use the internet for research into items that we plan to buy.

The internet is my encyclopaedia of choice, though it has to be approached with care and understanding of bias.

And of course having access to email is absolutely essential these days. Yesterday I was in a shop and overheard a conversation between an elderly customer and a sales assistant who was helping her to sign up to the loyalty card. She was asked for her email address and when she admitted that she didn't have one the assistant said that he'd have to make one up for her as he could proceed without one.

I think the greatest boon of the internet however has been for Christopher, my computer phobic husband. Without it he wouldn't be able to work largely from home. Nowadays he travels to London for just three days a month. I love having him around the house, and being able to get out and about at times other than the weekend. 
But I HATE his Blackberry; it means that he's never off duty, and we can't even go out for lunch without him checking up on what's happening at the office, and replying to emails. I swear I'm going to start hiding it when we go out, or on holiday!

Love it or hate it, I can't imagine life without the internet.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Going Dotty, Snow, Christmas Fairies

On Friday evening came the first snow of the winter; apparently we've not had 'proper' snow like this as early as November for about 17 years. Luckily the roads in our neck of the woods are clear, so no problems getting around. It's so cold that the snow has barely melted since it fell, and the weather forecasters are saying that it's not going to get any warmer for some time yet, and we might get more snow. But nothing like they're getting in Scotland, Wales and the North of England.

I've made two Christmas fairies, using a pattern originally from Homespun magazine, issue 66. If you look carefully you'll see that the first one I made is 'special' - the poor thing has her arms on upside down; I didn't notice until she was finished and I certainly wasn't going to take her apart then.

And finally, a bed runner that I've made for Number Two Son and his partner. He saw a pattern for a quilt in Quiltmania that he really liked, but it was all made with circles, which I just couldn't come to grips with. So I used that inspiration for the dotty fabrics. Then I found a pattern in Liberated Quilting II which was sort of roundish, so that was the pattern I used. Then I changed the shape to make it into a long narrow quilt. I really love the result, and hope he does too - if not I can certainly find a home for it!

I used the same quilting motif in the black squares, and parts of it in the half and quarter squares, only using black thread.

We're going visiting family this coming weekend, so I need to get all the family presents finished and wrapped so that we can take them with us, together with birthday presents for our two sons who both have their birthdays in December. And then I'll have time to play with Christmas decorations.

And I suppose I ought to do some housework!

Friday, 26 November 2010

This is very similar to the first car I remember; my grandfather's black car that was his pride and joy. Whenever we visited them we used it to go to the shops or to the pub for the regular Saturday lunch time visit. I used to love the visit to the pub. It's probably unthinkable these days but my parents and grandparents would go inside and bring me out an orange juice and a packet of crisps (the sort with a little blue waxed paper screw of salt that you had to add yourself and shake up) and I'd have the car to myself. I'd read my book and enjoy the peace and quiet and the smell of the old leather.

I was thinking yesterday about how life has changed since I was a little girl and thought about the advance in technology in cars in particular. We now have a Renault Megane Scenic; it's some years old and a bit battered, but it has so much more than my grandfather's old car.

Some of the changes include electric indicators - the old Ford had flip up indicators that came out of the side of the car; and you had to be prepared to use hand signals in the event that the indicators got stuck.

It never even occurred to us then that one day you might be able to have music in the car, but we went on to have a radio, then a CD player, and now we can play music from iPods through the stereo system. And some cars are now being produced with DAB radios.

My grandfather's car had a starter button, but it was more likely that he'd have to use the starter handle, getting it out from the boot, inserting it into the hold in the front of the engine and cranking away until it started. 

The old black Ford had a top speed of about 50mph, though I don't imagine that my grandfather ever drove it at above 30mph, and of course there were no motorways for him to race along.

And best of all was the clock; it was wind up and my grandfather never set off on a journey without first winding the clock up and checking it against his watch.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


I've made this robot as a Christmas present for my 6 year old nephew, to sit on a shelf and hold a few bits and pieces. I'll put some pens and pencils in it when I pack it. It only took me a couple of hours to make this morning and was quite fun to do.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Bags and books

I've been beavering away getting birthday and Christmas gifts made up and stored away, so that I can get them all done and then perhaps have time to make a new Christmas quilt for myself.

I made this laptop bag for Number One Son's birthday in December. It's made from heavy weight denim, and has a laptop harness inside as well as three different pockets. Sadly, my Bernina didn't much care for stitching the rather thick straps into place and started making complaining noises. So it's had to go to be mended, so I can only do things that need straight stitching for the time being, as that's about all that my old machine does.

These two bags come from the same pattern and will make super presents I think, if I fill them with toiletries. The large one is for Number One Son's girlfriend, the smaller one is for my hairdresser. I'm going to make a few more for other gifts that I'm going to need. They were easy enough to make once I understood how to insert the zip.

Two Christmassy lavender bag door hangers for friends.

Covered note books for my two brothers-in-law.

For me, it's one of the joys of being retired, being able to make presents for people. I always tried to make as many presents as possible, but it was very difficult when I was teaching full time. 

How are you all doing with your Christmas present lists?

Saturday, 6 November 2010


I've just finished a wall hanging designed by Jennifer Reynolds of Elefantz. It was a five month BOM called Daisy-Do. I used a fat quarter of Kaffe Fassett fabric that I found.

It's a dull and dreary day here, so I had to take the photograph indoors, with the light on and from a bit of an angle, hence the poor and wonky photograph.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Sorry, but Christmas comes early for crafters

Close your eyes now if you can't bear to see Christmas decorations on the 1st November. But if you're a crafter too you'll understand why I have to get going early if I'm going to get everything done in time. For the past three years I've made my two sons Christmas decorations instead of giving them a Christmas card. Now they have their own homes I hope that they'll have fun building up their own collection of decorations which they'll enjoy bringing out each year. This year I've made Christmas bunting, from a pattern by Mandy Shaw at Dandelion Designs. I've kept theirs short-ish by using Noel, as they both live in very small flats; but I think I'll make some for us too and make it longer by having Merry Christmas.

The only difference is the felt ornaments along the top.

If you look closely you will see - as I discovered only once it was too late - that the fabric has lifebelts on it! When I bought it I thought that it was just a green and red pattern, ideal for Christmas. Hey ho!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

A final flourish for October

This wasn't made for any reason other than that I fancied making it. Usually I have a purpose in mind before I start making something, but it was fun to make something just for the fun of trying out a new pattern. It comes from Gwen Marston's Twenty Little Amish Quilts and is made using some of the solids I've been collecting. I've hand quilted it, using a variegated thread, which was fun as it didn't take too long. I've done a sort of feathers pattern in the borders.

As you can see, we had a lovely sunny spell this morning, which has washed out the colours a bit. Sadly, the sunshine didn't last for long, although the rain did stop long enough this afternoon for DH to get out and do a bit of autumn tidying in the garden.

I'll certainly be making some more of the quilts from this book as I love the manageable size. Though what I'm going to do with them I have no idea. Just pile them up somewhere I expect.