Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Three Happy Things

I had a whole week off work to spend with Chief last week. It was the most time we'd spent in one go together in the last 7 years. The only thing to take the shine off our time together was illness - mine at the start of the week and his at the end; when he was totally exhausted from all the driving. But we made the most of out time together and the hardest part is finding the words and limiting the pictures to blog about it. So I'm restricting myself to just 3 happy things to share with you. (Although there are loads more pictures over on flickr.)

So here in no particular order are three happy things from our three day trip to Yorkshire.

1. Bempton Cliffs - No break away with Chief is going to be complete without some birds. He has two passions in life - his football team and birds. If he plans any trip it will have to include birds. I'd never been to Bempton Cliffs or seen the gannets. It wasn't the best time of year to go as birds like Puffins, Razor bills and Kittiwakes are long gone. But the gannets were pretty amazing.

Gannet at Bempton Cliffs

2. Seals at Greatham Creek, Seal Sands. Whenever Chief has been to see the seals I always comment on how I've never seen seals in the wild. So on Tuesday when we checked out he told me to get my camera ready because we'd not be making the four hour journey home quite yet. He detoured to see if the tide was out and the seals were basking. That detour also took in lots of other local highlights so that I got the most out of our trip north.

Seals at Seal Sands

3. Bird Island - We both had tombola birthday's this year (ones that end in a 0 or 5) and to my mind this is a cause for celebration. Although to be fair I can use anything as an excuse for a celebration! So when a special hotel up North happened to have two luxury rooms available and one of them was called Bird Island it was a no brainer that we'd blow our trip budget on one fabulous night. Not disappointed. Our own in room sauna and private hot tub.


Bird Island
The bed was so comfy I wanted to take it home. Especially the peacock
cushions!


Private Sauna
In room sauna just for us.

Bird Island Private Hot Tub
Our own private hot tub. It got a lot of use and was really
rather romantic being in this at night looking for stars.


But now normal life returns and I'm trying to find time and inclination to get on with some sewing. 



Thursday, 28 August 2014

Cold toes and other signs of Summers End?

Since I returned from Bournemouth it's been noticeably cooler. I've been back in full length jeans and been reaching for a cardigan and socks more often than not. Last Sunday I went out for a walk and it seemed that the signs of summer ending were creeping into every photo I took.


Signs of Autumn 
Loving all the yellow and reds

Signs of Autumn 

Signs of Autumn
Can't believe how many of the trees are starting to turn! 

Signs of Autumn 

Signs of Autumn 

Signs of Autumn

I've sewn together half of my wafers. They come together quickly. I'm just going slow because I'm enjoying the pondering over fabrics. I'm thinking if these cooler temps continue I'll be back to hand quilting my HipBee's star quilt soon. It will at least keeping my toes warm as I curl up on the sofa and stitch.

The Big Stitch Swap - Received

I am such a lucky girl because today when I came home from work I had some great mail waiting for me. It was my goodies from The Big Stitch Swap, made by the lovely: Yeechi who nailed my tastes and likes perfectly. I had secretly been hoping for some kind of project pouch and well with birds and plants and lovely embroidered text it couldn't have been any more perfect!


Lovelies received in Big Stitch Swap!
Perfect goodies!

Lovelies received in Big Stitch Swap! 
Opens out nice and wide and there's plenty of storage space inside for projects!

Lovelies received in Big Stitch Swap! 
Gorgeous leaf design.

Lovelies received in Big Stitch Swap!
Lovely scraps and great embroidered words




So that's me finished in the first round of The Big Stitch Swap. I'd definitely play along again if there was another round. Thanks to Sarah and Cindy for being such great swap Mamas. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

My 10 Quilty Little Secrets

13 Spools

Having started seeing 10 Quilty Little Secrets popping up over our little slice of blogiverse thanks to Molli Sparkles (where you can grab the button.) and Amy at 13 Spools I thought I'd share some of my dirty sewing laundry with you. I haven't read a single blog post about this where I haven't identified with at least one of those 10 Quilty Secrets!

1. I don't prewash. Unless it's flannel. (Then I always mean to zigzag around the edges to stop fraying in the wash and rarely do, so have that big hot mess of thread tangle to deal with.) 

2. I don't like spray basting. It's sticky and messy and just doesn't work for me.

3. I've never changed my rotary blade. Ever. I don't have a spare and I'm not sure what size my rotary cutter is anyway. (I do have an unused rotary cutter that I keep meaning to use instead.) 

4. I hate the quilting part of making a quilt. 

5. I do the best I can do and that's not perfect and I don't expect perfection in others. (We're making quilts not parachutes. Nobody is going to die if we cut the fabric wrong, sew a seam wrong or completely mess something up.) 

6. I do a lot of my stitching and prep in front of the tv. I could never do this for a living because often I only get to the sewing machine in the adverts...(I pieced my red and white squares Christmas lap quilt in the adverts of Sleepless in Seattle  You've Got Mail. Just saying.) 

7. I'm scared of destashing any long unused fabric because the moment it's gone I'll have the perfect project for it.

8. I use a dent puller (you know for pulling dents out of car body work) on my quilting rulers because it's cheaper than a quilting ruler handle. And hey I don't want to slice my fingers on a never-changed-rotary-blade do I?

9. All the patterns and tutorials on the Internet have made me lazy. I rarely design my own stuff now because it's easier to find it done already by someone else. Likewise it irks me when I see people rehashing some long standing idea/tutorial/design and acting like they just invented the wheel.

10. I've got much better at training myself to change the needle in the machine and not sew until the stitches start skipping. But I'm still rubbish at throwing away the blunt needles and bent pins. (Apparently when Chief half left a sharps bin here, it was for his diabetic needles, not to help me dispose of my sharps responsibly. It was an easy mistake to make!)

So there you go ten of my quilty little secrets. What are yours?


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Wafers

So I'm half way through the working week. It's been a strange sort of week so far and a little surreal at times (like today when a neighbour asked me to mind his dogs whilst he got a ladder and climbed over his wall to let himself in, after discovering he was locked out.) or like the other day when a utility company phoned to ask if the pub across the road from our office was open for business...


Random things happen at work like being asked to look after dogs when neighbour has locked himself and needs to climb over his wall to get back in!

But at home I've been de-stressing by doing a spot of English Paper Piecing. I downloaded the wafers templates and colouring sheet you can get from Nellies Niceties Etsy Shop (for the bargain price of £1). Then I had a rummage through my over spilling scrap box. I fancied using some jewel bright colours and a spot of purple Klona I had left over from some other project. Hand sewing Klona can be a little hard on the fingers as it has a stiffer texture than Kona. But I'm loving the bright pops of colour. 

Jewel Bright Wafers

Inspired by all the lovely English Paper Pieced cushions that Reene keeps churning out, this is destined to become a cushion too. My house - believe it or not- is woefully short of pretty cushions! I'm also back on the fabric diet as it's an expensive time of year for me and I think now is the perfect time to be shopping my stash.
  

Monday, 18 August 2014

Bournemouth - a distant memory now

By the time you read this I'll be back at work. (sob.) Last week I had a weeks leave from work and was off on my annual Bournemouth holiday. It's become a tradition and despite my saying I'd never want to be the sort of person that goes to holiday in the same place every year (it's a bit like re-reading books there are just too many to read to keep revisiting the same old ones.), my mum and I have been taking my niece there since 2007. Same hotel. Same high level of fun. Just slightly different activities. Niece has even requested a trip next year too. At 14 I was surprised she wanted to go with us this year.

I'd been in a complete funk before we left. Just really down. The prospect of horrendous weather while we were away and Chief not being able to make it for even a day this year, really dragged me down further. The tail end of the hurricane weather hit a few hours before we were due to load up the car, so we delayed going. We were all frantically checking weather reports and I was researching things to do in the rain. But then the closer we got to Bournemouth the better the weather seemed to be and by the afternoon when the whole family sat on the terrace over looking the pool I took this snap.

Sunday at Bournemouth

Such a blue sky and for the rest of the week we were so lucky with the weather. It was showery, but on most occasions we had just gone indoors only to find when we looked out of the window it was raining!

We had day trips on the bus to Poole and also went on the open topped bus tour which did a different route to last year.

Bournemouth 2014
The Pier at Bournemouth

Sunday at Bournemouth


Bournemouth 2014
Cosmos growing around the crazy golf course. (the only time we got caught in a shower
was playing crazy golf here!)

Bournemouth 2014

Bournemouth 2014



Poole, Tuesday
Niece and I at Poole. The wind has helped protect her anonymity 

Poole, Tuesday


Paddling

You have to have a paddle at the seaside!


Memorial to Red Arrows
Memorial to the the Red Arrow who crashed and died at Bournemouth Air Festival
a few years ago.

Herring Gull?
Huge gull wanted our lunch!

Bournemouth, Thursday
Beach huts freshly painted after last winters storms.

Last night in Bournemouth


Last night in Bournemouth

Our last night. Niece showed us how to play this fun card game and we would sit
in the bar playing it after our meal.

It was so great to be away from work and all the things that drag me down in day to day life. It took me a while to get used to using a bridge camera and not my DSLR. The break has made me realise that I need to make some changes to my life moving forward. Stress has been dragging me down emotionally and physically and I really need to find little ways of changing that. 






Friday, 8 August 2014

Weekender Jewellery Pouch

A little while ago I bought Kaelin's aka The Plaid Scottie Weekender Jewellery Pouch pattern.  Kaelin had sent me a pouch as a present some while back and it really is a very useful pouch to store jewellery when packing for a holiday or mini break. It would also make a great portable sewing pouch.  I decided that these would make great Christmas and birthday presents for friends and family.

With my Scottish Twins Tombola (ends in a nought or a five) birthday coming up; where I'd already bought her a little necklace from here, I thought it would be fun to make a pouch to put the locket in. I haven't been able to show it until now because I thought Lynz might read the post and twig it was for her!

Weekender Jewellery Pouch 

The pattern is super easy to follow and straight forward. The bit I went wrong with was using my automatic button hole function. I put what I thought was the right sized button to make the specified button hole. It was far too big. (unpicking button holes are not fun!) I put a smaller button in, but it still wasn't right. So I had to wing doing the draw string bit at the top. It's very organic shall we say. But it works. I'm also going to change a small construction detail on the next pouch I make. Purely because I'm rubbish at turning under circular gaps to close them!


Weekender Jewellery Pouch

I chose the fabrics I did because the external fabric had butterflies on it and the bee fabric inside sort of fitted the theme and colours. The locket I got had butterfly lids on it.  I hadn't enough of the bee fabric or butterfly fabric left to line that section, so I've used some pink wood grain fabric. The pouch actually takes a deceptive amount of fabric. You really need to allow at least 3/4 of a yard. 

I'll definitely be busting my stash to make some more for Christmas presents!





Sunday, 3 August 2014

Tea for Two

Friday after work, my friend and I went off for afternoon tea at the Old Parsonage Hotel in Oxford. It's a hotel I was aware of but had never been to before.  I like playing tourist in my home city. All to often when I venture the six or so miles from my rural home into the city, it's to go to high street stores like Marks and Spencers and Fat Face. Of course I see the dreaming spires Oxford is so famous for when the bus trundles up the High. But most of the time I take them for granted and forget that behind big wooden doors, stone walls, wrought iron railings and narrow passage ways is a totally different Oxford. An Oxford you see in episodes of Inspector Morse or Lewis. The Oxford that tempts tourists in from all over the world.


The Old Parsonage
Old Parsonage Hotel where we went for Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea at The Old Parsonage
The hotel has bikes for guests. 

Afternoon Tea at The Old Parsonage
Through this gate is one of Oxfords busiest roads!

Afternoon Tea at The Old Parsonage
Me contemplating another sandwich

Tea for two
Tea for Two

Afternoon Tea at The Old Parsonage
At 5.30pm they set the tables with these really pretty copper tea light holders.
Really wanted one for my patio but thought it would be bad form to pop it
in my handbag. Not to mention the fire risk, given the lit tea light.

So that was afternoon tea. I could get used to this. But probably shouldn't as I have sewing to get back to.


Saturday, 2 August 2014

The Big Stitch Swap!

A few hours sewing this morning and I've finished my The Big Stitch Swap item. Feeling a bit smug that I've not only managed to get it finished before the posting window opens up, but I've also got a third item on my Finish-A-Long list completed.

The Big Stitch Swap is the first online swap I've taken part in for years. It was a new swap where the priority is hand sewing. Whatever you chose to make for your partner the over all emphasis had to be on the hand sewing. This was great for two reasons: one - hand sewing is so flexible out in the garden in the sunshine; two - it really gave a lot of scope to what item you wanted to make and also which hand sewing you chose to feature. Whether that was embroidery, hand quilting, English Paper piecing, applique or something different...lots of choices.

Until now I've only given sneaky peeks at what I've been making. I can now reveal I made my partner a note book cover.


Note Book Cover

I started off by making an English Paper Pieced panel of one inch hexies. I used glue basting for that and am totally converted. I added some Essex linen scraps either end, leaving enough on the front to give me a panel to embroider later. I then hand quilted with perle the hexies in red and pale blue/aqua.


Note Book Cover

The strip of Essex linen at the back adds a nice contrast and was essential due to a slight cutting mishap - one of two that nearly had me tearing my hair out. (Given that slicing up wrong a hand sewn panel was going to take a lot of work to re-do completely!)

Note Book Cover

Most of the patterned fabric I used it Lake House Dry Goods - in particular Annie's Farm Stand. There is also a few random texty fabrics and some Farmdale into the mix to stop it looking too matchy matchy.

I discovered most notebooks are a standard height, although not a standard depth or width. Largely depending on number of pages or whether the pages pull off straight from the spiral binding or from a perforated tab attached to the binding. I have hopefully left enough wiggle room that the notebook could easily be replaced.

As for the notebook cover pattern. Totally winged it. I had an idea in my head I hoped would work, so just got on with it, rather than hunting for a pattern. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I hope my partner is too.


Note Book Cover

The Big Stitch Swap

Finish Along 2014



Friday, 1 August 2014

Last Weekend

I realise we're on the cusp of this weekend and I haven't told you about last! It'll act as a little diversion from the sewing I've been doing and can't show you for a while longer. (Hopefully I can this weekend!)

I'd had a pretty horrible week last week due to a two day heat/stress/exhaustion induced migraine thingy. By the time I finished work on Friday I was feeling pretty stressed and wobbly. Chief was parked next to my car in the car park I use for work. I knew he was coming down, but hadn't expected that surprise. We headed off to the place in the Chiltern's we know feeds the kites and you're guaranteed to get some close up shots of them swooping down to feed. I haven't gone through my pics yet so can only show you this one:


Red Kites

You get about 30 kites circling, before they swoop down one after an other in little groups to pick up the left over lunches and breakfasts. Chief really wanted to go back there as he'd not got any pictures since he bought a new big lens. (500mm)

The next day we went off to Blenheim Palace. We'd converted our tickets from the last visit into an annual pass so we can now go back whenever we want without having to pay entrance fees again. There is so much to see and do at Blenheim and everything seems so well organised and put together. I can see why this is a big tourist attraction and world heritage site.


Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Blenheim Palace - well part of it. I need to practise not having my buildings look like they are wonky or falling over!


Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
There are several lakes you can walk around.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
We had lunch sat on this terrace. The food is really nice.
Although the queues not so good.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Me and an old bird. Chief bought me the hat because I said I wanted one to keep the sun off my head. We had to call in to a sports shop on our way as he needed trainer liners. He also bought me the lovely purple shoes, which I risked putting straight on. So comfy and no blisters at the end of the day. LOVE them! (not least because they are purple!)

Blenheim Palace Oxfordshire

There are quite a few water features. I really wanted to run through this by the end of the hot day!

Blenheim Palace Oxfordshire

Did I mention he has a big lens? The amount of looks and comments you get carrying this beast around!

Blenheim Palace Oxfordshire

On our way home Chief bought a BBQ. He'd used a disposable one the night before, but decided we really needed a proper one. He's really into BBQing.

Bbq is built and chief is trying it out

The next morning we had a quick trip to a nature reserve I'd come across in the middle of a local housing estate. It's called the C S Lewis nature reserve because the land used to belong to C S Lewis. His house is nearby and this land would have once been part of his garden. The nature reserve is small with large ponds and such a great space for families. In fact there were several pond dipping when we arrived.

CS Lewis Nature Reserve

I can easily see why it's thought this area inspired Narnia. Outside the house is the most gorgeous planted flower bed.

CS Lewis Nature Reserve

Then it was time for Chief to make the 2.5 hour journey back home. We're going through quite a stressy time at the moment as Chief has been served with 3 months notice and no redundancy. It was the worse possible scenario out of those on the table. It was so nice to have a weekend where we relaxed and chilled and didn't think about what the future might hold.