Sunday, 24 June 2012

Camping & Monopoly Quilts

This evening the Week Day Home has been turned into Himself's personal football stadium complete with beer as England bid to progress in the Euro 2012 thing.  That's meant I've had a nice evening catching up on some overdue blogging and quilting housekeeping.
The quilting housekeeping means getting the Camping Quilt up to date.  This was the second quilt I made and it was made specially to accompany us on camping trips.  It was designed in greens to represent the green fields camp in, grey to represent the roads we drive down and splashes of bright pink representing summer time.  But so far this year we seem to have gone straight from spring to autumn :(
The quilt isn't just for keeping warm and snugly in our tent, it's a record of the trips we've taken it on.  I am a big fan of this stuff....I love making little labels to sew into things - just so you remember.  It must be a hangover from my scrapbooking and journalling.
Tonight I printed off some labels for the trips we've made so far this year...
 And once they've dried and been ironed, they get sewn on the back of the Camping Quilt.  Et voila!
In other quilting news, I've now finished the quilting on the Monopoly Quilt and it was easy peasy on the quilting frame from this post.  Last week it took me an evening to set the frame up and have a play about and two evenings to complete the quilt.  Admittedly it's not huge, about 3 ft by 5 ft but it was very satisfying to whizz across the frame making wobble shapes.  I discovered I am excellent at making wobble shapes and rubbish at quilting in the ditch or doing straight lines.  So I'm not showing you any close ups!!
 And now we're down to penalties to I'm off to cheer on the team...night night x

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Poppies and stocks

Stumbling across a field of unexpected poppies is one of those things that makes you go "oooh!" and smile.  This splash of vibrant red against the green fields was taken as we tootled around the country lanes north of Bath a couple of days ago.  Stunning.

And continuing the flowers theme, on my weekly trip to my local farmer's market I stopped by the flower stall to pick out a bunch of beautiful scented stocks.    Flowers for the Week Day Home must be scented (what's the point otherwise?) and are preferably white.  I don't know why, it's just that white simple flowers have always appealed to me :)

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Long Arm Quilting

Finally after 14 months of thinking about it and planning it and wondering if it's a good idea and "where would I put it" and "how often would I use it" and "can I live without it" and all those sorts of questions, the Week Day Home is now the proud home to a Freestyle Quiltframe!  And I'm doing the happy dance.  I saw this at the Malvern Quilt Festival back in 2011 and have thought about it ever since.  In fact every time I laid out a large quilt to tack all the layers together zzzz.  And every time I struggled to squash a mountain of fabric through my machine.  And every time I visited the Freestyle website in the dead of night to look guiltily at quilt porn.  Being a proper grown up with a car, my own make-up  bag and everything - I told myself to get over it and stop behaving like a child with the wanties but I couldn't.  I pretended to be sensible.  I waited patiently for May to bring the Quilt Show.  I went to the Quilt Show.  I looked at the Freestyle.  I had a go on it.  I took photos and measurements and compared it to other versions (how much??!)  I made umming and ahhing noises.  I pulled furrowed brow, serious thinking faces but I always knew I was going to get it.  So I did. 
I had been worried that it would be tricky to assemble and listening to talk on the stand at the Quilt Show about adjusting tension made me want to stick my fingers in my ears and sing "la la la la la la".  BUT, it arrived with a very helpful and straight forward DVD which talks you through assembly, how to prepare your quilt, how to get the tension right (la la la la la la) and off you go.  I've set up a practice piece made out of an old faded curtain and just look at the lovely, wiggly detail you can get!!  I also had a go at tracing one of the leaf patterns provided using the laser and this is so much fun there's a high risk I'll use all my thread just playing.  The way the machine glides over the fabric is like arriving in quilting heaven and being given a free pass to the seraphic fabric warehouse of eternity just as the arch angels are handing out jugs of iced Pimms with all the trimmings and extra fine, calorie free chocolate.  For breakfast.  
Once I'm confident I've got it all rigged up properly and I've got some clue about what I'm doing (hah!) the first quilt on this baby is going to be the Monopoly Quilt.  Happy Days!

Monopoly Quilt

You remember I told you about the Holiday Grand Monopoly Tournament recently?  Well it's the second born's 10th birthday soon (as he's been reminding us on an hourly basis since Christmas) and I got thinking I'd like to make him a quilt.  (Oh, by the way, we need to keep this a secret ok?  No telling him, shhh!) I wanted to make it really unique, something just for him and although grown ups appreciate that each quilt is unique, how many small boys are that interested.  So it had to be something A Bit Good.  Then  I had an idea....and there was BIG excitement in the week day home this week following the arrival of a special package from America!!  It really is printed Monopoly fabric!!!  Whoop di doop!
It took a couple of evenings to thrash out a suitable design.  The limitations were that there was very little allowance between the different design elements such as the chance cards and the money to allow a seam.  I couldn't use the houses and hotel border seen on the top of the fabric because there was no allowance at all. I could have just sewn a border around the whole piece but I wanted more symmetry, more balance.  I also wanted the money to be closest to the board and all the same way up but again, the way the fabric is printed meant I had to re-think.
 In the end I opted for a mirror image which works quite nicely when viewed from the short ends of the quilt.
Once the design was planned it sewed up quickly.  But it unpicked very, very slowly :(  The seams were sooo tight and the straight lines had to be sooo straight that some of these seams and borders were unpicked up to 4 times before I got it right!  In the whole quilt there are only 2 seams which went in right first time.  Humph!  It's not clear in the picture above but those thin blue lines around the outside edge of the board have a 1 inch border sewn in between them and the start of the money.  They took several attempts because I kept accidentally doing wobbly sewing over the blue lines and bits of them disappeared. It looked too bad to be left.  Sigh.  On the plus side I am now so good at unpicking I'm expecting to take gold at the Olympics.  And the finished top below is 3ft x 5 ft which I reckon is just about boy sized!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


Good times in Normandy camping with the boys.  Weather was warm and we only had one morning of serious rain.  Our trip coincided with D Day so the boys not only got to see the landing beaches, they got to meet some of the veterans too.  
There was a Monopoly tournament which has yet to be won (first to win five games takes FOREVER!) and apparently I'm making the prize which is to be a gold hotel mounted like a trophy.  Ummm...I'll need to work on that....And obviously Dad's have their own special going-on-holiday counters to move round the board.
The countryside is beautiful and transports you from your normal work weary world into one of peaceful, birdsong filled meandering.  Sigh.
We visited the Abbeys in Caen and Bayeux and I felt obliged to take pics of the stained glass windows and pretend they will be inspiration for a quilt.  But since I currently have mental plans (that's plans in my head not muppety plans) for 4 quilts to be completed before christmas, that inspiration will probably not happen anytime soon.  But I liked this.  I thought it looked very much like a potential quilt.
And this was just filled with bright colours.  I won't need to wonder which colours will work together, I can just look at the photo.  (Lazy designer!)
We spent our wet morning in Caen and this is the only remaining old area of the town.  (Isn't it pretty?)   We learned that 75% of the town was destroyed, not during the war but as part of the fight to liberate France in 1944.  By the time we had enjoyed a coffee and a croque monsieur the rain had cleared and the sun was shining.
We headed for the beaches which once were defended by guns but are now guarded only by little rows of beach huts.
We proudly strung our home made bunting round the tent and I went shopping with my Bunting Bag but I couldn't get a good enough picture of all that so instead, here's the real reason tent pegs were invented....
Our return sailing from Caen to Portsmouth was 6 hours of heaving, pitching seas and I have vowed never, ever, ever to make that crossing again.  Or if I do I'll book a cabin.  With a basin.  Oh and of course the boys managed to squeeze in another game on the way back while I stared fixedly at the horizon in an effort to control those sea surges - ewww! 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

May Mosaic

All packed and ready to go but I nearly forgot this!  A round up of the past month in pics which includes a week in London on a study course, walking the route the night before the Olympic torch came to town, drying herbs, decorating boxes at an Andy Skinner workshop, the amazing Quilt Fest at Malvern and the busy little house martins feeding their chicks.  A busy month :)   À bientôt!

Bunting Bag

So this morning I am supposed to be packing for a few days camping in France with Himself and the boys but I had, had, HAD to finish this.  Obviously I need it de faire du shopping au supermarché!!
I started it a few weeks ago because I had some fabric left over from my Bunting Tutorial.  It was nearly finished, I'd done all the tricky planning, measuring, cutting etc and only had to add the bunting flags and sew it up but could I get my act together to finish it?  The plan was always to have a special bag so I could take the Jubilee with me since we will be away for the whole thing.  This morning was really my last chance!
It's basically a very plain canvas bag with a strip of cheery fabric sewn over the lower third and wavey bunting sewn on using machine embroidery.  Feed dogs down and off you go!  I find it very liberating but I need a lot more practice.  The "string" the bunting is attached to is some red wool I found and zig zagged in  place.  The handles are reinforced with what I think is called webbing ?
It was fun to make and I predict there will be more bags with machine embroidered pictures on my return....

In other news - if you remember this  I DID pass (phewwww!!) and the certificate arrived yesterday.  BIG happy!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Bird watching

While I was full of virus I had time to watch the little birds which each spring sweep and swoop outside my windows.  It's a perfect location to watch them doing what ever birds do (I'm no expert - if it's bigger than a fly and has wings, it's probably a bird).  Himself has been trying to educated me and informs me that these little cuties are house martins...

It's difficult to catch them, they move pretty quickly.  Can you see the wings hanging below the nest in the pic below?
What you can see are these industrious birds flying in and out of the overhang of an old building opposite me where I think there are about 7 or 8 different nests.
There are at least two nests to the left of the furthest away drain pipe in the corner of the building and a minimum of four between that and the nearest drain pipe.  (What picturesque descriptions - not!)

These birds return here every year so it must be an ideal place for them to nest.  It's high up, south facing and difficult for predators to get to them.  (Been watching Springwatch on BBC.)

For about the past 3 weeks, the birds have worked from sunrise to sunset, feeding from the insect soup the warm weather brings out.  They have gone a little quieter in the past few days which makes me think some of the chicks must have fledged.  Perhaps I'll get better at wildlife photography and catch that next year :)

Drying herbs

I've seen more than I wanted to of the Week Day Home recently having been struck down with a virus.  It coincided with the recent HOT weather which added to my grumpiness because the Week Day Home is at the very top of an old converted chapel and the roof is more velux windows than actual roof.  So when the sun shines it's like living in a greenhouse!  Much sticky sulking :(  But as the days have grown cooler I have taken an interest in some herbs gathered from the Country House. 

My plan is to dry them out and add them to my next soap making batch. On the left is rosemary and thyme, on the right is honeysuckle on trays ready to go into the dehydrator which is usually used for raw foods.  I'm branching out to see what else I can do with it :)

And this is what it looks like after drying overnight at about 48 degrees celsius.  The rosemary has kept it's strong scent and I'm hoping the soap will take on some colour from the honeysuckle so I'm pleased the purple shade looks more intense after drying.

Once everything was completely dried out and crunched when squished (technical stuff) it was blended. On the left is what a beaker full of dried rosemary looks like and on the right is how little you get once it's had a whizz. I want to make a herb scented and masculine soap for Himself partly because I've read that rosemary is great for soothing muscular aches and increasing circulation -   ideal for his post-run showers! And partly because I like the self sufficient, romantic notion of making use of our own plants.

And this is the honeysuckle.  There are still flecks of purple in there but I'm not sure what will happen once it's added to a soap mixture.  I once put about 20 mls (!) chamomile in a recipe turning it a beautiful sky blue which all but disappeared over the 4 weeks curing time. 

Finally here's everything all ready in jars.  Honeysuckle on left, tiny tiny amount of thyme in middle and rosemary on right.  Everything seems to have it's own season and I associate soap making with summer and early autumn.  For the first year I am actually ahead of myself and have some herbs ready!