Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Raspberries and runner beans

A couple of allotment pics here - the raspberries are just starting to ripen and the runner beans are just taking off nicely. Potatoes are also ready and we've started to eat those too. Raspberries are my favourite fruit - I've got two rows but once they really ripen it takes a long time every night to pick them - even accounting for the large amount that get popped straight into DS's mouth. Usually DH and DS come down with me every night to water the plants but tonight it was just me so it took a quite a while - you aren't allowed to use a hosepipe, just watering cans filled from a water butt so you can imagine there's a lot of trotting backwards and forwards. That was one of the reasons I wanted an allotment - couldn't stand the idea of joining a gym, but I thought gardening would keep me fit and be productive at the same time. Not sure it's quite worked out like that (on the fitness side at least) but as far as I'm concerned my little oasis beats a gym any day.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Summer Reading

The reading group I belong to has just finished reading this novel, The Island by Victoria Hislop. We borrow from the library's reading group collection 6 times a year and then every other month we take it in turn to choose a book which we buy. When this book was chosen we had got to the point of requesting a good summer read, not too demanding and with a story that we could understand, after a few dark, gloomy and hard to read choices. I think our member chose well. The story involves the island of Spinalonga, which was a Greek leper colony off the coast of Crete up until the 1950's and follows a young woman's discovery of how the island is bound up with her mother's past. It is part love story, part family saga - some members of the group had holidayed in Crete and visited the island, now a tourist spot, so it was interesting for them. I have now lent it to another friend who is going to read it on holiday in Greece.

I read a lot, but I don't always read every reading group choice - I figure that I've reached a point where I read either for pure pleasure to enjoy a story or pictures (like in quilt books) or because I want to find out more about a subject. Life's too short to read books that I don't really enjoy and wouldn't choose for myself - I will generally try to give them a go, but if I really can't get into the book and it is taking me an hour to read three pages I give up. On the other hand, sometimes a book group choice turns out to be something I love, like The Time Traveller's Wife. There are no men in our group - someone's boyfriend did come along once when we had a local author attend the group meeting as we had read his novel but maybe some of our choices are a bit too female oriented.

I am plodding on slowly with sewing down the binding for DS's quilt and am cutting out light/dark triangles for a depression block quilt but neither seems worth showing a pic of yet - hence the post about books.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

I bought this dress from a charity shop in the week for the princely sum of £1. It's one of those times when I'm going through the angst of should I / shouldn't I cut it up. There is nothing wrong with it. I don't think it has been factory made because it looks as if it was made from quilting fabric to start off with and it just has an embroidered label - no care or washing instructions, although the seams have been serged. I don't mind so much cutting up shirts, but sometimes in these shops you see lovely smocked dresses - I don't buy them because I would NEVER be able to cut one up when all that handwork has gone into it.

When my daughter was small I used to make lots of clothes for her - dungarees, dresses, all sorts. I even hand-smocked some dresses (and you know how I feel about hand-sewing). I made most of my own clothes too, from when I was 18 until about ten years ago - in case you are wondering, I'm 43. Don't really know why I stopped - time, I suppose, I like to be able to finish a garment all in one day and I just couldn't do that anymore. Plus, it was getting harder and harder to get fabric at the right price. I used to get lots of fabric from a place called the Rag Market in Birmingham where they sold fabric from textile manufacturers, sometimes seconds, sometimes surplus, but as the textile industry in the UK continued to outsource their manufacturing to countries where labour is cheaper, the supplies of fabric also dried up. Here in Leicester, there used to be several shops that sold dress fabric, now there are just two left and a couple of stalls on the market.

Most of the clothes I made for my daughter I later gave to my SIL when she had a little girl - and I have to say that gave me a lot of pleasure - because she really appreciated them and used them. Sometimes you don't know if people are being polite when you give them outgrown clothes that are still useful but she was so pleased with them, and at the time (several years ago now) when we were looking at some photos of my niece, in nearly every one she was wearing a dress or item that I'd given her, so I know they were used.

Friday, June 23, 2006


When the organisation I work for announced they were restructuring and that there was the possibility that people might be made redundant, they introduced an allowance of £250 per person for any training activity that might help people gain employment or self employment in the future. They gave various examples of what the money could be used for - driving lessons, training courses, life coaching, books etc. I had been thinking that if I was made redundant I might try to develop my leisure interests to have some sort of craft business - and that to do so I would need more books with ideas on what I could make. My application was successful and this is what arrived from Amazon today...aren't they fantastic? I have used up all of the allowance now, because I claimed for a number of books already in March. This has been a real bonus, because I would never have been able to afford to buy all of these books at once in the normal run of things - more like one a month. So although I won't be leaving the organisation, I still get to benefit from the training allowance! How brilliant is that? I can't wait to sit down and have a really good look at them.

Meanwhile on the home DAD made the rabbit hutch...I got fed up of waiting for DH to do it so hopefully will be getting a rabbit in the next week.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Good news - I did get the job I applied for, and it's a promotion as it's a grade higher than I'm on currently. It is a strange situation though, as some people didn't get through so although I'm pleased and relieved for myself, it still feels a bit flat because you feel for them having to reapply at the next grade down - anyway, enough of that, this blog is about what I like to do, not what I have to do (to pay for all that lovely fabric, templates, thread, etc, etc.)

The pic is of a couple of postcards I made for friends this weekend past - one has just moved house and the other has her 40th birthday in a couple of weeks. I must say I really enjoy making these cards - they are so quick and simple to do. They are stiffened with a product called Timtex, it's like a very thick interfacing but really easy to sew through - it's the same product used to make fabric bowls.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Yet again, blogger wouldn't let me publish pictures in the previous here is a photo of part of our back garden - just look at those overgrown herbs - however, my theory is that if you let them go wild they add a bit of colour! (Yes, it's my theory and I'm sticking to it). I'm sitting here looking out at it now and have just seen a fox on top of my next door neighbour's shed. By the way Anne, my hostas are now full of holes - haven't got my Dad's touch evidently.

Today's the day

Well, today's the day I find out:
  1. if I've got a job in my organisation's new structure at all
  2. if I've got either of the jobs I actually applied for
  3. if I haven't got either of the jobs I applied for but they offer me something else

Complicated or what? I had my interview nearly 5 weeks ago so it has been a long time to wait. I have to go in and see my Area Director at 3.30 p.m but before that I am going to my son's school sports day. DH and DS will also be coming as DS has finished her exams and DH is taking a day's leave. Luckily parents don't have to participate - we just go along to give support. All of the children in the school are mixed up into teams with children from all the different age groups - this year the theme is 'World Cup' (surprise, surprise) and they each have the name of a participating country - DS is in 'Ecuador'. The teams go round all sorts of different tests, like basketball, sack race, skipping, egg and spoon - probably about 20 different kinds of tests and the winning team is the one that scores the most in each event. Usually it's just me that goes so it will be really nice for all of us to be there

I have to tell you all that it's not just me that loves these blogs - my son, aged 9, often hangs over my shoulder whilst I'm reading them and comments on whether he likes the quilts. Finn - if you are reading this he was very concerned about your eyes and wanted to wish you well. My daughter of course, is addicted to MSN so thinks all this is very old hat!

Monday, June 19, 2006

More strings

Blogger just wouldn't let me upload all my photos in the first post so here is the pile of squares and my string box.


I love string quilts - the completely random placing of the fabric and sizes of the strips really appeals to me. My string quilt started off that it was going to be a bag (see picture with the 6 squares trimmed and sewn together) but I loved them so much I couldn't bring myself to make it into a bag - it just had to grow. So...every now and then I cut out squares of plain calico and just sew the strings on. Sometimes I sew on strings that compliment each other, sometimes I just choose all the uglies and put them together, sometimes I only use floral strings - whatever comes out of my box. I have lots of strings from all the shirts I buy - I use the fabric from the collars, the cuffs, the bit where the buttons are sewn down the front and any scraps left over from trimming the fabric into even strips for other uses. This way I don't feel so bad about cutting up otherwise serviceable clothes and it seems kind of true to the tradition of quilting and patchwork in using up every last scrap. For these squares I only cut strips from yardage or otherwise useful fabric if the fabrics in the string box are looking a bit dull and need brightening up a bit but I am tempted to do another string quilt using yardage 'cos it would be a lot quicker like the quilts in 'Liberated Strings' by Gwen Marston.

This is a bit of an ongoing project because it does take a long time to sew all those strips, but it's good to return to when you don't want to do anything too taxing.

I have been continuing to quilt the seaside quilt for my DS this weekend, he likes it, but I know it would have been better if I'd tied it instead of trying to quilt it by machine. Well, I'm not going to unpick it now, so I'll have to chalk that one up to experience. I'll post a picture (taken from a distance) when I've put the binding on.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


The pink and green blocks are all completed and sewn together - I'm still not quite sure about it but I think it'll grow on me once I've put a border on.

The allotment is now going great guns after all this good weather - we're getting quite a few strawberries now, and the raspberries will be ready soon too. We go down to the allotment on our bikes - it's not very far but it's downhill on the way there and uphill on the way back! I keep thinking that I should cycle to work - it's only 4 miles, but there is an even bigger hill on the way back - oh well, maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Bright and cheerful

Seeing Finn's 'Strippy Twist' reminded me of these two quilts which I made earlier this year and donated to our local hospital's Children's Intensive Care Unit. I can't say that either of these quilts are perfect examples of the art - I'm still a novice, but they won't fall apart when they're washed and the colours are bright and cheerful and comforting, so I think they'll fit the bill. I really enjoyed makiing them but I had nightmares with the strippy twist - mainly down to my seam allowances being out. I had to cut down the blocks to make them a uniform size and that made the little squares in the centres of the blocks come out different sizes too. I do love this pattern from Bonnie's though, it's so simple, so effective and so scrappy! Think maybe I'll make another one soon to see if I've improved ;-).

Talking of nightmares, have spent the afternoon trying to quilt the seaside quilt for DS, well, what didn't go wrong? I had bought some (expensive) thread made by a reputable manufacturer - don't know if it didn't suit my machine or not but it kept getting tangled in the reel. So, I changed to my normal thread and that then kept getting snarled on the back of the quilt so I'm going to have to unpick it. I have a horrible suspicion that the batting I've used is a bit too thick and if I'd used thinner it would have been better but DS did want a snuggly quilt. DH is being very diplomatic and says that I've just got to learn from the experience! Anyway, I've given up for now, I'll go back to it tomorrow.

It's very quiet this afternoon as England are playing a game in the Football World Cup and everyone seems to have stopped in to watch the match - for those who have no interest in football whatsoever (like me) it's an excellent time to go and do your shopping - the stores are empty.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A card for my friend

This is going to have to be a very quick post - blogger seems a bit on and off at the moment. I made this card yesterday - it is shamelessly similar to the lovely small quilt that Tonya put on her blog recently - thanks so much for the idea Tonya. I don't know why it's come up sideways and I hope you don't have to crane your necks too much to see it. The organisation where I work (and have worked, in a variety of roles for the past 15 years) is 'restructuring' which means they are throwing everyone's jobs up in the air and seeing where they land. Almost everyone is having to apply for jobs internally because in the 'new' structure all the jobs are different to what they are currently. Needless to say, this is not having a good effect on morale, my friend was a bit down on Wednesday so I made this to cheer her up.

This is what I learnt when I made it:
  1. Trim the edges off the top fabric BEFORE you sew on the buttons, Fiona. Buttons + acrylic ruler + rotary cutter = a bad combination
  2. You don't have to change the bobbin colour for the zig-zag stitches - if you just leave cream in the bottom and change the top colour the cream doesn't show - yippee - less messing around, more time to sew.

I'm still working on my pink and green square blocks but I'm waiting until I get them all done before I post a picture.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bucket Bag

Some posts ago I said I was making a bag but that I wouldn't put up any photos yet because (a) it wasn't finished and (b) my son wasn't very complimentary about it. Well, I'm glad to say he has changed his mind now that I've put bindings on the edges and added the handles - it has a circular bottom so it is a bit like a bucket, though you can't see that so well in the picture. I quilted it using a decorative zig zag stitch and variegated thread. I really like plaids, this was made from charity shop shirts and I would like to make a whole quilt in them one of these days. I've just realised I should have turned the bag round to show the different fabrics on the other side - never mind, you'll' just have to trust me.

I'm taking a day's holiday from work today - the weather is good so why not? Hope to get some sewing done but I fear that I may have to tidy up a bit first and I've got some errands to run.

Monday, June 05, 2006

More fabric - and something to read

Thought I'd come home for lunch and the postman had brought more fabric and a book. I adored These is my Words by Nancy E. Turner and have read the sequel, Sarah's Quilt. I liked that too, though maybe not as much as the first one. I'm looking forward to reading this other one of hers - might save it for when I go on holiday in July.

The other pictures show how I keep track of my stash (sorry they're a bit mixed up - blogger didn't insert them in the order added them and I daren't change them in case I delete everything - AGAIN). Because a lot of the fabric I have is cut up from shirts and stuff purchased at charity shops it doesn't fold up in one neat piece. I put each fabric in ziplock bags once I've cut it up and keep it in storage boxes with regular cuts of fabric in the same colour. Trouble is, I'm not the neatest of people, and the boxes tend to get a little jumbled up, shall we say. So I cut a little piece of each fabric and stick it onto old business cards from my last job with double-sided tape - the plastic holders are the sort they sell for photographers to keep their slides in. I still pull out the actual fabrics to decide what I'm going to use and lay them all out together - the squares are too small for that, but having a little sample of each means I can hunt for a fabric even if I've put it in the wrong box because if it's in the folder I know I've got it. Besides, I like flicking through the folder and looking at the fabrics anyway!

By the way - the pattern for the bears - it's Simplicity 5247 :o)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Another way to use up stash

The bears were made last summer - I'd seen similar ones on a patchwork website and thought I'd try it out. I love the pattern because you don't have to sew the head onto the body by hand - you machine sew it onto the body and stuff it all in one piece. However...if you look closely you will see that only one bear has a satin stitch nose. I had so much trouble doing that one that I gave up with the rest :-( . Well, I never said handsewing was my forte! I'm going to donate them to my son's school fete next month as they've sat in a basket in the sewing room all this time without a home. (Actually, they sat there for months as UFOs without button eyes or ribbon round their necks.)

To all of you who have left comments on my blog - thank you - they've really encouraged me.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Allotment

DS and I have just come back from our allotment, I don't know if you have them in the USA but here in the UK they are very sought after and I think they also have them in mainland Europe. They are plots of land which are split up into small allotments (about 1/8 of an acre each) which are rented out either by the local council or the allotment society so that people who live in cities and towns can grow their own flowers, fruit and vegetables. They are really, really cheap to rent - about £12 a year which is the equivalent of about $24. I think the idea started during the second world war, when growing enough food was so important. They are now really popular here with families and young people as well as older retired people who have more time to spend on them. Most allotments have big waiting lists, I have had mine for about 3 years but have to confess I haven't worked very hard on it this year for a variety of reasons. Luckily my Dad has helped out so it doesn't look too overgrown.

I have seen allotments in Austria and they are way different from our British ones - very, very neat with new sheds and fences all around them. The culture of allotments in the UK is a bit like quilting - making something out of scraps - and very utilitarian so most sheds are an odd assortment of planks and spare windows and we are not allowed to have fences around each plot. Hence the old planks you see in one of the pictures will have a purpose (probably to hold compost).

Growing at the moment in ours (top photo) we have strawberries, leeks, peas, runner beans, raspberries, potatoes and carrots (not doing much good at the moment though). I've also got a row of gladioli because I like to have flowers too.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Green - and pink!

Thought I would share this hosta with you that my Dad brought for me today.He has a greenhouse (which I don't) and always grows lots of geraniums (or pelargoniums if you're going to be correct about it) for me to put in pots in the backyard in the summer. He brought the hosta to show off the colours of the geraniums when they are put out in the pots.

Back on to the pink and green theme - I've been making a couple of these blocks each night 'cos they're so quick and you get 2 big blocks about 9"x9" each time. Don't look too close because I do join the strips - I get some of my fabric in the form of shirts and stuff from charity shops, which of course doesn't come in nice 44" lengths so I need to make a few joins. I don't care - gives it character!