27/11/2013 § 8 Comments
to wrap up warm and start knitting!
On our recent trip to Cardiff, we stopped off in Bath so that I could jaunt – at top speed – to a couple of my favourite shops. I treated myself to a ball of sock wool (from a dry cleaners, can’t remember which one), and then in a fit of complete madness, to a set of Knit Pro Symfonie double pointed needles, from Wool.
I had no idea what I’d be making, had no pattern or plan but whilst watching the starlings over the bay, I picked up the ball of wool and these beautiful needles and started to knit! I do like knitting, but a crochet hook has become my tool-of-choice for so long now. These needles are AMAZING – so wonderful to hold, almost soft – it’s like knitting with air. They’re warm too – I hate cold knitting needles and hooks!
Here’s what’s been flying off my needles, and hooks …
I didn’t have a pattern, so cast on sufficient stitches to fit around my wrist. The thumb bit just sort of happened and I started the 2nd mitten at the same stripe in the yarn so they match. A crochet cuff and top row was all that was needed to complete them and boy are they warm. I started a snood in Solomon’s Knot crochet, but am not so in love with this so it will probably be unravelled very soon and I’ll try something else with the remainder of the ball.
The teal yarn was a me-treat and so were the 2nd set of Knit Pro needles, in a larger size! In fact, they’re almost finished as I took these photos yesterday morning, and had a fun time last evening making up the finishing touches – crochet cuff, top and thumb-top – no draughts please!
Teamed up with last year’s scarf and snood creations, I’m feeling ready for Winter! I think the change in the season can be exactly marked by the date when my red snood is brought from it’s summer nest and snuggled around my neck. I can’t be parted from it – other layers are added for extra warmth!
My new seasonal fashion love is my poncho. Never thought I’d wear one – I remember them in the 1960′s! But good old Sainsburys – on one of their recent 25% off weekends – tempted me, and I love it. So warm for chilly evenings, driving and daytime jaunts. I shop at only the best retailers, as you can tell – Sainsburys for clothes and Aldi for food! We did jaunt to Compton Marbling Christmas Fair last weekend though – such a pretty location in rural Wiltshire. Great stalls and the festive atmosphere that really kicked off Winter and the Festive Season, for me.
Snuggle up – it’s getting very cold out there!
PS – just discovered that Knit Pro also do sets of crochet hooks and they’ve made it straight onto my Christmas list!
23/11/2013 § Leave a Comment
but I’ve been busy!
Some of my work will have to stay secret for a while longer as a major commission has been undertaken and is probably the most amazing quilt that I’ve ever made. It’s a Christmas present from a major well-known British organisation for one of their clients – so … WOW – W O W !!!!
Fitting life in around this has been a bit of a jigsaw, but we spent a few days in Cardiff last week – thoroughly enjoyable and pictures from google (I decided not to take the camera and immediately regretted it) – I’ve linked to the photographers’ websites below.
We stayed on the fifth floor overlooking Cardiff Bay where, from our balcony, we were treated to evening displays of exquisite flight by starlings coming home to roost in the reed beds at the Wetlands Reserve. I was totally awestruck.
Cardiff is my home city and has changed dramatically since I left in the 1970′s, as a teenager. I had a whole day to myself to take the bus, browse in shops, visit the vibrant Market, have tea at St John’s Church tearoom with homemade cake. Then another bus to Albany Road and Wellfield Road, where my mother used to push me almost daily, in my pushchair. I thought about her a lot that day, remembering the material she bought for my 5th birthday dress – pink with white flock polka dots – I remember that dress so well; a painting book and paintbrush where you just added water – do you remember those books? The colours appeared magically as you washed the page with soft brush strokes, trying not to smudge the colours?
Mum loved Cardiff, she loved the buzz of the city shops, she loved the independence of her day after dropping me off at school, she knew the City like the back of her hand and drove her little old beetle car all around. Just like the one below (minus the white wall tyres) – a 1954 VW beetle called Bessie!
PPW 147 – Mum’s favourite car
We also had a most memorable evening at a very special Graduation Ceremony – an Honorary Fellowship Degree of the university where he taught for so many years, awarded in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the education of students – for Himself.
I was in the front row of the theatre as he regaled the audience and former
colleagues with hilarious tales of his working life
- back on form – on stage – a larger than life character -
my amazing husband!
So, we’ve had a memorable couple of weeks, enjoying meeting up with friends and family at home as well as jaunting through some incredible Autumn landscapes on trips out and about.
Enjoy your weekend – that Autumn light is something special this year.
11/11/2013 § 1 Comment
in life that sometimes give the most pleasure …
Autumn walks, wild ponies, collies splashing in puddles, little ducks!
Yes, I do love the Autumn and especially November. I can’t leave my birthday duck anywhere other than on the front doorstep as Flora would undoubtedly recognise a fellow ducky and make amorous advances!
Enjoy your week – embrace Autumn!
06/11/2013 § Leave a Comment
isn’t that a lovely name for a quilt?
Some weeks ago, I received an enquiry for a commission. It sounded like a perfect project for me – a red and white quilt. Commissions are always exciting – and a bit scary! I want to – (must) – create something that I love. I’ll spend hours and hours designing, planning, cutting, stitching, quilting – and the finished article has to be perfect. Here’s a journey through the different stages of creating a bespoke quilt.
When accepting a commission, I need to get inside somebody else’s head to create something that they’ll love too. They’ll have a vision, a colour-scheme, personal likes (and dislikes), a history and traditions that will transform, through my hands, into a very personal heirloom. It’s a lot of responsibility.
I usually start with a colour-scheme and send off a swatch of possible fabrics …
Some will be discarded, new ideas will emerge and then I’ll work with some specific fabrics and cut out some patches …
Quickly, I discarded the pale green, here, it was washing out other more vibrant colours and had to go! After more discussions, I retreated to my studio and began to work – and work I did! This was a mega king-size quilt with 2 matching pillowcases. I don’t share photos from this point on, with my clients. From now until the final binding stitch, the quilt is all mine, the creative process indescribable, but here are some of the stages, in photos (for another quilt, called Summer Days).
3rd draft involves taking photos, a final re-arrangement to balance the colours and focus patches. Then I pile up the patches, in rows, ready for stitching. I work fast and uninterrupted. Daydream Believer was too large for a single session so I divided the quilt up into smaller, more manageable sectors for this stage and pieced them all together once they were completed.
It’s not in draft any more – now it’s a piece of patchwork!
5th stage involves a lot of pressing, with the iron, tweaking and checking. Then, with a plain border added, a sandwich is made – backing fabric (my preferred fabric is fleece), wadding (I like light-weight wadding that’s easy to wash), then much smoothing when the top patchwork layer is added. It’s a bit like icing an enormous cake – smoothing takes ages – but not as long as the pinning!
Stage 7 – it can take me well over an hour to pin a quilt together. I don’t tack with stitches as I find the fabric layers stay together much better with tight pinning. It’s important to allow a good few extra inches of backing and wadding, all around the edge of the quilt as it will move, most probably, when quilted.
Then, the fun begins – what’s this – 8th stage? The quilting will totally transform the 3 layers of pinned materials into one. Quilting patterns are endless sources of creativity but somehow, I love the simplicity of diagonal lines dissecting perfect squares. It really ‘does it’ for me! Quilting also takes hours and hours – sometimes days!
Now we have a patchwork quilt, with messy edges but NO – DON’T take the scissors to those edges yet! A binding must be added first. Bindings are important. They’ll frame the whole quilt. I sometimes have a quilt laid out for days, with different strips of possible bindings draped across it. I nip into my sewing studio to catch it in unexpected moments – surprise the quilt (and myself sometimes) – with what looks best!
9th stage – sew the binding (right side to right side) all around the edge and THEN, and only then, TRIM THE EDGES.
10th stage – if you’re still with me, then you’ll probably be a quilter, or potential quilter. What’s your favourite thing to do whilst hand-stitching the binding? It’s going to take HOURS – me, I like to watch a good film! On rare days in summer, I’ll sit outside in the sunshine, but 90% of my quilts are finished during quiet evenings on my sofa, feet up, watching a film!
11th stage – name the quilt, add a label and get the camera!
I knew I married a tall man for a reason! I had to be quick with the camera, as he stood with arms outstretched to hold up the finished quilt. I was clicking and nagging constantly as it couldn’t possibly touch the autumn leaves – or worse – Flora’s water bowl! Success!!
Daydream Believer was named one afternoon, when I was doing the quilting. The song, suddenly came into my head and the lyrics seemed to fit perfectly …
Oh, I could hide ‘neath the wings
Of the bluebird as she sings.
The six o’clock alarm would never ring.
Sometimes, people ask how I can let go of a quilt and to tell the truth, this quilt was a special one. As I rolled it up and tied it with a selvedge-ribbon bow, I did say goodbye and felt a little sad. But it wasn’t mine to keep and here’s what my client wrote:
“It was lovely to see you this morning. I wanted to relay to you a very big thank you for the bespoke quilt you made for me. I am so very happy with the end product and I appreciate it will not have been easy given I was changing my mind on design every so often. You exceeded my expectations and the quality of the materials and your workmanship is to the highest standard.
I look forward to commissioning more work with you!”
“Thank You – I’m so pleased you love your quilt”
So now, it’s on with more commission work. There’s one called Champagne Truffles that’s almost ready to be quilted and another commission about which I’m sworn to secrecy. But it’s for somebody famous!!!! I’ll say no more – I’m off to my studio for some SERIOUS design work this morning.
Thank you to everybody who sent me Happy Birthday wishes for yesterday. I had a marvellous day – flowers, wonderful presents from Himself, nougat from Mallorca, wishes from friends and family all around the world, supper with one of the boys and Himself at my favourite restaurant, sparklers, a birthday cake with candles (just 5, I’m counting intervening years, not the tens), lots of magazines (my treat to me) and a new phone (that’s driving me mad)!
I LOVE the 5th of NOVEMBER!
28/10/2013 § 3 Comments
a day makes!
Having risen early to take a photo or two, I went back to bed for an hour to catch up on my beauty sleep, although I had slept much sounder than expected. Last night we eventually turned in at about midnight and it was rather like sleeping on a station platform with heavy freight trains constantly rumbling and bumping past. The wind and waves were deafening, even through our solid granite walls.
When I eventually drew up the blinds this morning, it was like being a celebrity – our loft, the access lane, driveway and car park were teeming with photographers! Fortunately, nobody had their cameras trained on me! Today has been all about the waves – they’ve been centre stage …
Colossal waves, pounding the sea defence wall above the beach and crashing over the breakwater at the harbour entrance. The inner harbour is calm, with the fishing boats and pleasure vessels bobbing about amongst the foam, protected from the waves by the huge wooden caisson in place across the narrow harbour entrance, stopping the swell from entering the harbour and village.
We’ve been treated to a few squally showers, a rainbow, sunshine shafts emerging from dark clouds and although it’s still gusty the swell has moderated and most of the photographers have trundled off back to their digital screens, to upload, download and amend. Everyone searching for that elusive perfect photograph that captures the very essence of the day.
Porthleven featured in a photo montage in today’s Guardian – the big house on the cliff is always a favourite, with the sea spray and waves bashing the rocks below. Fame at last!
Now – I’ve got a quilt to work on and tonight we’re going to treat ourselves to a take-away! I just love holidays by the sea, whatever the weather.
27/10/2013 § 3 Comments
Today dawned bright and very breezy. As the sun peeped from behind the clock tower, the waves rolled in – nothing too dramatic - wind with tide brings rollers rather than breakers. Here’s how the day unfolded …
As darkness fell, so began the rain, showery at first. Time to light the tealights, bolt the door and feel cosy. It hasn’t been cold today, but the stiff breeze has made me feel the need for gloves and boots, when walking the dogs and this evening – just teatime, really – it was definitely time to batten down the hatches as the constant weather warnings rang out in every news broadcast.
Our holiday home for the week feels like home – we’ve stayed here so often. Just one room deep and 3 rooms long, the walls are well over 2′ thick with high ceilings so feels airy and bright. A net loft, originally, I’m taking some comfort knowing that it’s been here for well over 100 years, maybe a lot longer. It’s beautifully decorated and I love the clean colours, wooden floors and whitewashed walls. Of course, some essential supplies came with me …
As dinner was cooking, I set about some soothing patchwork, to take my mind off the weather warnings! Lots of Liberty prints came on holiday with me, and a real beauty has made it into this quilt. I hope to finish the patchwork top tomorrow. It looked much crisper after it had been pressed!
Then our evening mellowed through soothing Sunday TV – culminating in my favourite, Downton Abbey. As Lady Mary descended down the stairs to find Rose with the band singer, so the storm hit. Just like that! Wham.
It’s blowing like hell with lashing rain, now. High tide was about half an hour ago. We’ve been braving the spray and peering out through the top half of the stable door. As the gusts blow in, it makes my ears pop! The waves are booming onto the rocks below us and the wind is howling – it’s a bit scary. There’s not much else to see …
Hope you all stay safe tonight – take care.
26/10/2013 § 2 Comments
I’ve done it again -
Whilst chatting away to my friends earlier in the week, I expressed the wish for some spectacular seas for our jaunt to Cornwall. Have you seen the weather forecast? Amber alerts, heavy rain, travel disruption, falling trees -
next time we go away, I’m going to wish for a heatwave!
In the meantime, let’s batten down the hatches (and hutches) – Flora is in the capable hands of one of our boys who’s staying home to look after her this week, with Auntie B riding shotgun in case of emergencies!
Hope to be back with some spectacular sea photos soon – keep safe!