Thursday, 15 November 2018

Birthday makes

It was my colleague, Leanne's, birthday last week so I had a lovely time making her cards and gifts.  I used stencils, stamps and dies to make her card (of course, I had to make an envelope as well).
 The inside was decorated with star stencils and little star die cuts.
She has asked for some jewellery - a brown macrame bracelet - this has mookite, tiger's eye, botswana agate and coffee striped agate in it.  (Apologies for the photography as my camera does not like low light levels and in future, I must remember to  use a lamp as well as the main light). The tiger's eye has some lovely colours in it, caramels and toffee, but the photograph is not doing it justice.
 The other thing she wanted was an anklet with black stones.  I made this one using black agate beads and silver plated findings. 
All hell would have broken loose if I hadn't made the traditional 'Russian Roulette Revels Cake' (my go to chocolate cake recipe) with chocolate fudge icing and those innocent looking Revels chocolates.  Yes, I did get a coffee one again - ugh!  Leanne was really pleased with the gifts and the cake.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Painting using the gelli plate...and more cards

 I was watching a video on Youtube about 'Painterly Layers' on a gelli plate, so thought I should have a go as I really liked the effect.  I discovered a few things:
1.   You need to be quite fast (especially if your acrylic paint dries quickly) and can't take too long with each layer - don't let the paper stick to the plate either (!)
2.   Using a heavy body acrylic paint is probably the best for this technique.
3.   Use light colours working through to darker colours (which is a good thing to remember with any gelli layer prints).
4.   I like bright colours best for this technique (although more muted colours would give a different feeling so perhaps I should try them too).
The paints I used were Pebeo studio acrylics, some with iridescent or metallic sheen to them.  While these are lovely paints, they were a bit too transparent for this technique and also dried too quickly.
However, I was quite pleased with some of the results.  Even the ghost prints were interesting.
 This one was an improvement - I added a magenta to the final layer which worked better.
This one was my favourite as I had covered the plate with pattern and colour. The colours weren't quite so transparent and I do like the mix of yellow, orange, pink and blue.  I have some System Three acrylics which are heavy body paints, so I shall give them a go next. 
 I have also been making some cards - the one above was for my sister and turned out pretty much how it looked in my head.
This was for a colleague at work who kindly bought me some fleece tops for felting.  It was nice to be able to give it to her the next day.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Needle and Thread workshop - Free Motion Quilting for the Terrified with Stuart Hillard

Last Sunday I took part in a workshop at Needle and Thread Workshops, which is in a lovely rural location just outside Lincoln.   The workshops are held in a converted barn and all materials, equipment and food are provided.  'Free Motion Quilting for the Terrified' was led by Stuart Hillard.  The photo below and biography are from the website.
"Stuart Hillard 
Expect lots of fun, expertise and super stitching know-how on any workshop with Stuart Hillard!  Stuart is a professional quilt designer, make and teacher with over 20 years' experience and hundreds of quilts under his belt.  More than fifty of his designs have been published in national and international magazines and he is a monthly columnist for Popular Patchwork Magazine, Essentials Magazine and Sew Magazine and published author.  A semi-finalist on the first series of The Great British Sewing Bee in 2013, global ambassador for Handi-Quilter, ambassador for Coats Crafts/Rowan/FreeSpirit Fabrics and regular guest on Create and Craft TV."
I watched Stuart on the Great British Sewing Bee and also on Create and Craft, so knew that he would be lovely, funny and patient...and he was.  He brought some of his beautiful quilts with him...
They are stunning...
You can't see the quilting very easily but it adds complementary patterns to the quilts.  This hexagon quilt is made from material designed by Stuart (I have some of this too, but it probably won't be made into a quilt!                                      
What were we aiming for?  Here is Stuart's sampler of nine quilting patterns, although there are more than nine ideas there.
We started with a ripple pattern, getting a feel for the machine and trying to control the stitch length.  This was something I struggled with and my stitch length was far from consistent; however, Stuart said it was all about practise.  This was only the second time I had ever tried free motion stitching, so I couldn't expect miracles (although a little part of me did!)  The cake was very welcome and was a yummy lemon one.  We stitched for about 15 minutes at a time, which Stuart said was the most you should stitch for without a little break.  He was full of hints and tips, recommendations for materials and needles.
Here's my ripple attempt.  The other ladies (and it was all ladies) in the group were all more experienced in quilt making than me and had all made quilts before.  
Then it was time to start the sampler.  Stuart showed us how to stitch the patterns first and then we went off to have a go.
   Gradually, the patterns started to build up.
Some were more tricky than others.         
This was the last pattern we attempted, called peacock feathers. Although I still struggled with a consistent stitch length, I really liked the end result.
 Here's the whole thing.  There are some unfinished sections where I ran out of time before we started the next pattern.  Homework, I think!
Here's a plan of the whole thing which I drew today, just to give an idea of what it should have looked like and also to remind me about the unfinished sections.
It was an intense day, but one I enjoyed.  The organiser, Sally, was very welcoming and Jan provided delicious refreshments and a lovely lunch (jacket potato, lots of salads, cheese, tuna followed by caramelised apple tart).
I have gained a lot of confidence about giving it a go and although I don't think I shall be quilting, I may well be able to use some of the patterns in free motion embroidery onto my felt.  I will keep an eye on the website and look out for a free motion embroidery workshop.  There are lots of ideas swirling around in my brain!  

Thursday, 18 October 2018

New bag for work

At long last I am delighted to announce that I have finally finished my new bag for work!  It has been sitting in pieces for quite some time and last Sunday, when it rained pretty much all day, I got on with it.  I love the cats in glasses material and added the denim for the base as I felt it would be long lasting.
It has 'heat and bond' inside so that it keeps its shape. My previous bag just had some interfacing and over time, it just went all flollopy (technical term) and I got annoyed with it (it did last ten years though, so I can't really complain).  I hope this one lasts as long!
I love the cat fabric (Fryett's 'Cool Cats') so much that I have bought enough to make into a  pinafore - it will probably need to be lined, so it may take me a while...  There is a rather nice blue scandi patterned fabric I have also got my eye on for a pinafore too and I have denim waiting to be cut out.  I think I am going to be busy!
In other sewing news, I am going on a workshop this Sunday, led by Stuart Hillard, called 'Free Motion Quilting for the terrified', so will report back on that next week. I am really looking forward to it.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

What a difference a day makes or October in the garden

It was such a warm day yesterday and has been a really wet miserable day today. I made the most of the weather yesterday and planted some daffodils in pots.  I also took the opportunity to have a look round the garden too. (The song 'What a difference a day makes' by Dinah Washington sprang into my head, hence the title of the post, even though the song is nothing to do with the weather, so here's a link to it on Youtube.)
 Autumn is certainly here, as can be seen by the Blueberries, here Northland...
...turning their fiery colours.  They have fruited really well this year and are such an easy to look after plant, as long as they are in ericaceous compost.  Mine don't always get rain water either - it depends how much is in the water butt.
A few last roses from 'Winchester Cathedral'.
 Buttery yellow leaves on Ginkgo Biloba Troll.
 Liriope muscari flowering away beautifully.
 My favourite grasses - Miscanthus Silberfeder.
 Cosmos Dazzler, doing what the name suggests.
 Aster (renamed something I can't spell, but having checked, it is Symphyotrichum, although it will always be an aster to me) Little Carlow, showing which flowers have been pollinated by turning red/brown - really helpful for the bees.
Aster (Symphyotrichum) novae-angliae September Ruby (I think).
Miscanthus Starlight - smaller but still beautifully formed.  I am really enjoying the autumn colours and hope they will stay for a few more weeks.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

My first visit to Hull (or Kingston-upon-Hull to give the proper name) and Hull Scrapstore

Humber Bridge (photo from Wikipedia)
We headed to Hull last Saturday to visit the Scrapstore (more about it here) as we had seen a visit on a blog (Life without Money - see the post here) and it had whetted our appetite.  It was the first time I had travelled over the Humber Bridge which seemed to go on for miles and was really impressive.  On a sunny day, I imagine the views are wonderful.  Sadly, as it was raining when we went, our views were limited.
The Scrapstore was an Aladdin's cave full of all sorts of bits and pieces from cardboard tubes to paper and card to a room full of fabric remnants and an art department.  While you can fill a basket for £5.00 in the main room, the art materials are individually and competitively priced.  Chris bought some more materials for puppet making.  I was quite impressed with myself as I was quite restrained.  Here's what I came home with:
 Some sequin waste, gummed brown paper (which I use for stretching paper prior to watercolouring) and three curtain samples which I think will make great bags or cushion covers.  The retro looking rose patterned one we both spotted in the video made by Ilona from Life Without Money and I was really pleased that it was still there and almost pounced on it!
While this photo looks rather underwhelming, it represents really good value for money. Hand made paper from India in A2 size (at least) for 10 pence a sheet.   Of course, we bought 10 sheets, well, why wouldn't we?
We had rather a detour on the way back as we went round by Goole, missing going back over the bridge (which I was a bit disappointed about).  Still, there's always another time.
There are Scrapstores around the UK - there may be one near you.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Creativity

I have been busy creating this week.  First there is a birthday card for our nephew.  I do like the vintage look the brown ink and Kraft card gives. I made the stripy envelope just for something different.
 This was made for a colleague at work who keeps forgetting to drink her water.  It actually worked yesterday too as she finished the bottle.  I put some Glossy Accents on the water droplets to make them shine.
 I have recently got a couple of new stamps about being creative.  At work, I often get bogged down in the constant filing, updating spreadsheets, recording information, photocopying, etc. that are part of an admin job.  I made these to remind me to be a bit more positive and remember that there is more to life than work, although I do realise I am lucky to be able to work part time and lucky to have a job.  I really enjoyed making this one, using stencils and stamps.
 More reminders to be positive... I really like the girl's 'sassy' attitude.
This one was inspired by hearing the song 'Life's what you make it' by Talk Talk which is on Youtube here.  It's really bright and colourful and I used lots of ink splat stamps to make the background.  Now I just need to practise what I preach!

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Star Plants of late summer/early autumn

 My star plants at the moment are my miscanthus.  I have three varieties - here are Starlight and Kleine Fontane at the back. They are elegant plants and bring movement to the border.  I have found them to be really well behaved too and they provide something to look at throughout the winter.
 This miscanthus Silber Feder is in the other border and is a stunner.  It is statuesque and keeps its flower heads all winter.  If I had a larger garden, I would have many more miscanthus, but I really enjoy the ones I do have.  (The fence panel will be painted black at some point, once the clematis growing in front of it has died down.  The miscanthus will show up beautifully against the dark backdrop).
Helianthus Lemon Queen is a perennial sunflower which has grown absolutely huge this year.  I divided it early in Spring and this seems to have given it a new lease of life.  It towers above me and gives a lovely burst of sunshine yellow. 
 The bees love it too, as you can see.
How about this for a colourful combination?  Cosmos Dazzler, which does live up to its name.  This is a single plant shoved rather unceremoniously into a pot, contrasting against the sunflower.  The cosmos took ages to come into flower and I nearly composted it, but it has redeemed itself now.  As well as 'living for the moment' in the garden,  I do look forward to the way the character of the garden changes with the seasons.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

More on Gainsborough Old Hall and All Saints' Church

As promised, here is more from the visit to Gainsborough Old Hall.  I do like this lion sculpture in the Great Hall.
 The Great Hall itself has some beautiful timbers.
The kitchen has enormous fireplaces - there is another one like this on the opposite wall.
This is the view up one of the chimneys - Chris wanted me to take this photo.
 A view of the garden through the diamond shaped glazing.
 Another view of the herb garden.
Chris noticed these hanging acorns on the bed before I did.  They are detachable and I marvel at that attention to detail.
 Even the floors are beautiful, with the brick herringbone pattern.
 Around the Old Hall are paths and grass areas, with trees.
 Another view of the brickwork.
I do like the higgledy-piggledy nature of the building, where you can see areas which were added over the years, like the chimney stack.
Having spent a good while at the Old Hall, we ventured to All Saints' Church in Gainsborough. It has an ancient tower but an 18th Century main body.  On opening the double door, this is what we saw.  It is a large, light and open space, which was quite unexpected.  It reminded me of a theatre, but a church service does share elements of a theatrical performance.   This part of the church was built from 1734 - 1744.  There is more information about the church here.
 This (according to the little brochure I found) is a Morris and Co window.
There was a Georgian font, which was something I hadn't seen before.  It was rather elegant.   I was really impressed with the church as sometimes churches can be dark and oppressive.  This one was decorative, light and beautiful.