Sunday, 31 January 2010


So here we are at the end of January and I have managed a post a day for 30 days (didn't manage it on New Years Day!).

I've really enjoyed doing so because as much as I fight it, I do like a routine!

It's been a month of new things: new quilts (I'm obsessed!), new yarn, new structure to my days, new ways of eating in an effort to lose a bit of weight and get fitter.  My morning walks have taken on an almost meditative effect and have given me a new energy to my day.  Pippin is an, ahem, enthusiastic walker so there is no slacking when he takes me out!  I am trying to cut out sugar but not change my diet too much as I eat pretty healthily anyway.  I have switched to sweetener and try to stay away from the biscuit jar and it seems to be working...  I have a hospital appointment next Monday to see how my thyroid is functioning now there is only half of it left.  That could, of course, be a reason as to why I have gained some weight in the last couple of months.

I also started the year with the challenge to myself to do the 365project over at Flickr.  So far so good and here is my mosaic for January.

Thank you for all your lovely comments on my posts - they really do make my day and have given me the momentum to keep it going. 

As a little thankyou, come back tomorrow as I'm going to have a giveaway to celebrate my first NaBloPoMo!

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Deep breaths...

Deep breaths were needed to put cutter to fabric in order to cut my carefully-pieced modified bento box squares into four.

This mosaic is a photo of each square before being cut up.  I had got my maths wrong, somehow, and I needed 20 pieces, so I had to make another 4 to add on the bottom of the quilt to make it up to my preferred size.  I like how every square is different.

Here they all are cut and trimmed, ready for laying out on my living room floor to make the top.  There are a couple of mistakes, but I'm confident they'll never be noticed.

So this is how it looks all sewn together randomly.  I like it!

This quilt top has actually been finished for some time since I last posted about it.  I was averaging four squares a day and so it was done within a week of finding a bit of time here and there.  I'm now waiting for the backing to arrive which is giving me time to complete the hand-quilting on Harry's quilt.


Friday, 29 January 2010


Today we said farewell to No19. 

The house my parents renovated completely having been bought for the princely sum of £23,000 in 1977.  

The house that was kept with many period features in spite of being extended to accommodate a growing family of three girls and subsequent grandchildren.

The house that was filled with unusual furniture,  mainly old and mainly found in Camden Market on Sunday mornings.  It was our family outing every Sunday - up early, bacon in pitta from one of the numerous food stalls and then a leisurely browse through the market picking up bits and pieces for the house.

The house that was a meeting place for all our friends and the venue for many parties and get-togethers.

The house that I got married from, having had my photograph taken in the back garden that was my Mum's pride and joy - all that garden knowledge passed down from her to me over the years.  The garden centre is probably our favourite place to go together.

The house that was filled with memoribilia and all sorts of natural history - where I inherited my love of nature and the natural world from my Dad.  I'm happy to say that a lot of his collection now resides under my roof.  And of course, this!

The house that was our family home for over three decades.

The house where I had this sign on my bedroom door as a teenager and remained there until yesterday, when I insisted that it belonged to my parents and therefore should be taken off and put with all their other belongings on the removal lorry.

As we left this afternoon, it suddenly became apparent that the home we had loved was now safely packed in pallets on two removal vans the size of double-decker buses ready to make the new house their new home.

There is some serious work to be done first though...

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Fabric love...

I still can't get enough of the red and aqua combination.  I still love this quilt.  Really love it!


It seems that whenever I go looking for fabric, there is more of this fab combination to tempt me into buying more.  I love the starling fabric in the above photo.


I am virtually delirious about this hummingbird fabric!  I probably should have ironed it before I took a photo...  I experience an astonishing amount of joy looking at these new fabrics as they get delivered.


I have come back home after spending the day doing countless journeys between my house and my Mum and Dad's with all their things ready for them to come and stay tomorrow.  My feet and legs are killing me from going up and down the stairs!  I cooked us all a homely roast chicken for dinner - we were all ravenous and now they have gone back to spend their last night in their home of the last 32 years and I am going to put my feet up and relax into some meditative sewing.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


That's the noise I made when I opened up my Amazon box on delivery this afternoon!  It was followed by some more... and some more...

I ordered these books two weeks ago and have found Amazon to be unusually slow in delivering them for some reason.  Especially considering they were all in stock.

I've had such a busy day today I've only been able to glance through Amigurumi Two! briefly, but I liked what I saw. 

How impossibly cute are these peas nestled in a pod?  Knowing where to start is going to be a tough one.  I want to make one of everything.

And look at this amazing mobile.  I have a christening to go to in a couple of weeks - do you think it would make a good gift?

And, DottyCookie, look at these!  They definitely need  to be made.  Like now.  Like more than one!

I think I need to get this week done and dusted before I start on these books.  I wonder if I have the will-power to let them be until the weekend...

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A birthday...

Today my niece, Rio, is 10 years old.  Double figures are always a bit of a milestone, I think.

Birthdays in our family are fairly typical.  The girls want pink icing...

...with marshmallows and maltesers... 

...perhaps some Dolly Mixtures.

The boys just want sweets and lots of them!

Rio has a cake with a heart on it.  Just for a change!

I use Hugh F-W's recipe from this book for my Victoria sponges now.  He says to weigh the eggs (I have balance scales, so I just put them in as the weights) and then use the same amount of sugar, butter and SR flour.  I usually add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a level teaspoon of baking powder.  I whizz the whole lot together in my food processor - no fussy creaming and folding and therefore no curdling.  Divide it between 2 sandwich tins and bake for about 25-30 on 180°C.  If I use 3 eggs, I use my 18cm tins and if I use 4 eggs, I use my 20cm tins.

For the frosting, I'm sticking with the one from The Hummingbird Bakery book.  Sweeties available from all good supermarkets!

Off out now for a birthday dinner here!

Monday, 25 January 2010

My day...

I have thoroughly enjoyed this daily posting project.  At first, I wondered if I'd have anything remotely interesting to post about or whether my ideas would run dry.  Of course, the interestingness is a matter of personal opinion and what might interest some, might not be very exciting for another.  But, it seems, I still have things that I want to say and record.  So bear with me, the end of the month is nearly here!

I have a busy week ahead of me this week.  I am working on Ali's project and as much as I'd love to show and tell what I've been doing on the crafting front, I really don't want to give too much away and spoil the surprise for my partner.  Also, my parents are moving house on Friday.  Tomorrow the removal company starts to pack away 32 years of family life into storage for a bit while they renovate (or, at least, put central heating in!) their new house.  I will have lodgers!

Anyway, back to today.  So far I have:

  • Been soaked while out on my morning 3 miles walk with Pippin.  I am walking with one of No2's friend's mum, so it is nice to have some company, especially when it is raining!
  • Read through my Google Reader items, left some comments and answered my email.
  • Followed links and found myself here.  Nursed a cup of coffee and felt very removed from real life, wishing I could do something worthwhile.
  • Ordered the backing fabric for Max's quilt from here.
  • Ordered the binding for both the boy's quilts from here.  I decided it would be nice if the binding was the same on both to link them in together.
  • Spotted some Katie Jump Rope, also here, to go with the next quilt I'm making.  It fell into my basket, I tell you.
  • Then I had to have this little bundle.  Had to.
  • I had a browse round Flickr looking for inspiration to make a denim quilt from old jeans.  Found quite a few...
  • Had previously mentioned mum round to give first sewing lesson.  She came armed with a bag of old pairs of jeans and left with instructions how to cut them into workable sized pieces of fabric without losing the interesting bits such as pockets and double stitching, ready to get quilt-making. 
  • Spent the rest of the afternoon working on afore-mentioned project.  Just one little tiny peek, ok?

  • Had left-over cottage pie from yesterday for dinner - delicious.  I swear it is better the next day after being reheated.

  • Started the hand-quilting on Harry's quilt - nice and snuggled up underneath it on the sofa!

  • Wrote this post.

Now, I'm going back under the quilt to do some more sewing.  See you tomorrow!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

And another thing...

...that I have learnt in the last few months is... wait for it... courtesy of Rachel Allen, rolling pastry out between pieces of cling film!  I know, thrilling, isn't it?  But it has been a revelation.  No more flour everywhere.  No more uneven, odd-shaped pastry.  Just perfectly rolled pastry.  Goodness knows why I had never thought of it before!  This recipe for lemon tart is well worth making.

I usually make my pastry in my food processor.  Just a few quick whizzes and it's done.  I then tip it out into cling film, pat it down into a round, then wrap up and put it in the fridge for a while to chill.  After half an hour or so, out it came with the flour shaker and hence the mess.  Not any more!  I think it's always been said that the less you handle pastry, and the cooler you can keep it, the better it will be.  This method seems to tick all the boxes.

Rachel also said that you can bake the pastry blind with the cling film using your baking beans rather than foil or baking paper.  She was very reassuring that it wouldn't melt and that it would leave a lovely smooth pastry case.  Of course, she was right!

This year I want to keep on learning stuff like this.  It's important stuff.  Stuff I can pass on down my family and share with others.  Do let me know of any important stuff you think I may need to know!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Learning as I go...

So, Harry's quilt is sandwiched together and ready for hand-quilting.  I think this is my favourite part - I've certainly mentioned that before!

This is the eighth quilt I have made and my skills have improved dramatically as I have picked up tips and techniques from around the globe and have found the confidence to stray away from the instruction books to suit my own way of quilting and sewing.

Chain-piecing is something that I now dare to do, and boy, does it save time.  I can now just zap all my carefully cut pieces through my machine, snip them apart and repeat as necessary.

Then there is the back-breaking task of layering the quilt top, batting and backing fabric.  To start with, I cleared my kitchen table off and systematically pinned then basted the layers together.  Now, after reading somewhere (not sure where, but it could have been one of many quilt blogs I read now), I spread each layer out on the floor in my living room, securing with masking tape and a couple of heavy books for good measure.  What a revelation! 

Nor do I baste it all together now - I use safety pins... I'd wondered why the quilt shops always had loads of them!  I'm sure any quilters reading are saying 'she's finally caught up!' 

I have my first order for a custom-made quilt for a friend's daughter - it felt so good to spend someone else's money on fabric of my choosing!  I'll photograph some of the fabrics to show you soon.  Then there is another quilt being built for after that...  Plus heaps of ideas for more quilts for me!  There really is no stopping me now and I love it!

Friday, 22 January 2010

A sneaky peek...

A short but sweet post today, offering a tiny glimpse of my current medium for a project I'm working on. 

My parents finally exchanged contracts today on their house move so I have been helping out with all sorts for them as they are completing in ONE WEEK!  There is some serious packing to be done!  My head is banging.  I think a glass of wine is in order...

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Day tripper...

My excursion to meet Kristina last week had to be abandoned because of problems on the train so was hastily rearranged for today.  We went to Tikki Patchwork in Kew.  Any excuse to peruse fabric!  It is a wonderful little shop, well worth a visit if fabric and all things quilty float your boat.

There is nothing I like more than seeing a spectrum of colour in any shape or form, so there was lots to please me here.  I was looking for a couple of specific colours for some future projects...

...some thread for hand-quilting Harry and Max's quilts...

...and some essential bits and bobs that I'd run out of.

We had both coffee and lunch - we took the train one stop further to Richmond and had a delicious baguette in Paul.  Over lunch we discussed a joint venture that we have planned.  Colours were picked over and a game plan agreed.  It's a hooky project...  All will be revealed soon...  ish!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Step away from the catalogue...

I am determined not to fall for it again this year.  It fell through my letterbox yesterday and although I briefly flicked through it just for the eye-candy, it is now in the recycling box.  That's discipline for you.  It doesn't feel right to publicly bad-mouth anything on here but maybe the eagle-eyed of you might have a hankering to what I'm going on about.

I have spent a lot of money in the past with purchases and in most instances I have been disappointed.  This is what my 'Jescot Julie' dahlias looked like:

and this is how they looked in the catalogue:

Not quite the same, and yes, I am fussy when it comes to colour.

This is my 'Ambition', not really the rich, dark red/burgundy as advertised:

My cutting garden last year was a complete disaster.  I guess I could just blame it on me being a hopeless gardener, but I don't think I'm that bad.  I bought a load of gladioli - 45 to be precise.  Planted at different intervals to give a long flowering period.  I had 5 flowers in total.  5!  My disappointment was mind-numbing.  I wanted vases full of them in the house, like this one:

I had very few vases of flowers in the house, come to think of it.  This little posy was the first lot of flowers I collected from my cutting patch.  I didn't really get any better. 

This year I am going to think a bit more about what and how I grow flowers AND I'm determined to get my allotment sorted again.  The good news is that I have a helper - YAY!  We have got a mammoth task on our hands, but big plans!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Don't you just love it when...

...your tools co-ordinate with your current fabric project?

I'm going to try and make this post a regular feature on my blog.  I've done one before and have been meaning to keep it going.  Must try harder!

Monday, 18 January 2010


At last - I finally managed to escape from the house!  It seems like I've been stuck in there forever, what with Christmas, holidays and hoards of people visiting...then the snow...
My little friend Harry (he who is getting a new quilt), for some reason, calls me Lover.  He's 8, I might add!  I'm not really sure why, but I couldn't resist a photo opportunity when it arose this weekend while I was away.

I sent him the picture and he wants to go there with me!  Maybe someday...

Anyway, the village of Lover is just outside the New Forest and we spent a lovely but rainy day driving through the Forest, stopping to look at the amazing lichens growing...

...the wonderfully green, mossy branches...

...and, of course, the rather bedraggled New Forest ponies.

We ended up right on the coast at Milford-on-Sea and huddled in the car with a picnic.

On Sunday we saw something that has been quite elusive for some time now... sky.  The perfect backdrop to Salisbury Cathedral.  I've been before, you can read about it here.  It is stunning.  As were the shadows in the cloisters.

I like escaping, I want to do it again.  Soon.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

These are a few of my favourite tins...

Since the arrival of my shiny new toy, I am collecting a lovely little stash of one of my favourite tins.

All sorts of things are going to be given new coffee-ish homes...

I don't know what it is about tins that I find so appealling.  I've had this lovely red tin for about 10 years...

...I love the label. 

I bought it at Pisa airport on the way home from a wonderful Tuscan holiday.

It holds my corks (another thing I don't seem to be able to throw away!). When it gets full, Jasmine has them to take into school. I wonder what her teacher's think of her wine-loving aunt...

More recently, I bought another, this time in green.  Just for the tin... but the biscuits were delicious too!

I bought these tins of tomatoes especially to grow basil in, after I saw Jamie Oliver growing his herbs in tins - they look great on my windowsill in the summer.

Unsurprisingly, I then got tin envy when I spotted Nigella's little tin of smoked paprika and searched for ages so I could have one too!  I know, it's sad!