Sunday 29 December 2013

Stitching Sundays 17

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas. Stitching Sunday has come round again and I have a little more progress to share with you.  I have added in a few seed head-type plants in the mid ground.  I needed a bit of thinking time as I wasn't sure quite how to tackle these and my first thought was to applique some tiny pieces of felt in order to get the look I wanted.  However, in reality, the tiny pieces of felt just didn't work at all.
(It probably doesn't look much in this photo, so I have added a couple of close ups below in order that all my hard work will be easier to see!)
 I turned to the trusty split stitch for the stem and then double french knots at the base of the stem, moving to single french knots towards the top.  I used six wraps round the needle to make the french knots bigger.
Although I did have a few issues when the thread decided to helpfully get tangled right in the middle of the knot construction, (and this happened quite a few times) I am pleased with the result, which adds more texture to the embroidery as well.  I am slowly moving onwards and the next thing will be the dandelion seed heads.  I have tried these already, with no success at all, so am going to use one piece of thread, rather than my usual three, so that I should get a more delicate stitch.  That is the hope, anyway.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

I was busy making a cake this morning and thought how appropriate this seasonal golden syrup tin was.  I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas; baking, eating and enjoying being with your families.
Merry Christmas!

Sunday 22 December 2013

Stitching Sundays 16

 Amazingly, I have actually started stitching onto my felt background and I am quite pleased with the effect so far.  I started with the large seed heads at the back and the intention is to move to the middle ground and finish with the foreground, building up the stitching in layers.
I have used my favourite split stitch and french knots for these seed heads and I feel that it looks quite effective. Although the thread looks white in the photo, it is a pale beige colour which echoes the colours of the original seed heads in the original roadside verge.  I hope to make some more progress for next week, but at least I have finally got it started!

Thursday 19 December 2013

Finally...the Christmas Tree is up!

 I have finally got round to putting the Christmas Tree up (there were times when I thought it would never happen!)  Traditional red and gold but also various little bits and pieces we have collected or been given.  I do admire beautifully colour co-ordinated trees, but it just isn't me!  While I was busy with assembling the tree, Scruffy was very interested in the box.
 He decided it would make a perfect little bed...
Doesn't he look comfy?
 Perhaps the other part of the box is better?
He just about managed to squish himself in  - he has filled out a lot and the vet told us he is overweight, (but I blame the steroids he has to have for his itchy skin), as he is pretty active and doesn't seem to eat that much. However, we don't know what he does or who he might go to, once he goes out prowling!
Here is a close up with two new decorations from the Christmas Cracker swap, which look lovely!  I think I feel a bit more ready for Christmas now, although I need to wrap the family presents and write their cards, oh, and finish making a present for a friend...hmm, on second thoughts, perhaps I'm not quite there yet!

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Christmas Cracker Swap 2013

I have just taken part in Tracy's (from Mad About Bags) Christmas Cracker Swap.  I first joined the swap last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, so was hoping she would run it again.  This year, I was partnered with Jille.  We emailed each other to find out addresses for posting and discovered we lived reasonably close to each other so would meet up to swap, rather than post.  We had the grand meet up yesterday and enjoyed a cup of tea and an hour long natter - it felt like we'd known each other for years.
 Here's Jill's cracker to me - doesn't it look beautiful?  It almost seemed a shame to open it...almost! The Noel decoration will be going on my tree (when I eventually get round to putting it up!)
 Look at all these goodies - it is amazing what can be fitted into the inside of a kitchen roll.  The fabric was really pretty too - white with little green circles.
 Beads, a flower ring, a gingerbread man brooch, a red spotty heart decoration and a crocheted mistletoe brooch...
 a vintage sewing kit in a pretty tin, some chocs and a Christmas snow globe.
 I am ridiculously excited to have my very own snow globe!  Thank you so much to Jill - what a wonderful selection of gifts!
 Here's my cracker for her.
Cosmos seeds, Christmas ribbons, sequins, embroidery threads, chocolate coins (I fitted as many as I could in, but couldn't quite squeeze the whole bagful in there!), a felt heart, a chocolate reindeer, a polymer clay star decoration and some earrings.
This was a lovely swap to take part in and I hope that Tracy will be running it again next year.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Stitching Sundays 15

I have made a little progress this week, but not as much as I would have liked.  I have been really busy at work and have only just got around to writing Christmas cards!  Decorations will be going up in the next couple of days, I hope.  So, enough excuses, what have I done?  I looked at the original photo and then did my trick of using a scanned image to draw the design on.  Unusually for me, I only drew one design.  I used a white pen as the background was so dark, so that I could see what I was doing, but the stitching won't be in white - I'll use the photo for inspiration in choosing colours.
 Here is the design, which I am really happy with.  It will probably change as I start actually stitching,  but I am hoping to keep the busy feeling of all the grasses at the front.  I am intending to have some dandelion-type things in the mid ground and some more detailed feathery grasses as well.  I think the stitches will be relatively simple; stem stitch, split stitch, seed stitches, perhaps satin stitch (or a variation on that), couching and french knots.
So, as you can tell, although I haven't stitched yet, I have been doing lots of thinking and decision-making. Now I'm ready to start the stitching, I think!

Monday 9 December 2013

Stitching Sundays 14

 The eagle-eyed amongst you may have spied that it is, indeed, Monday, not Sunday.  I am making a bit of a habit of this just lately (I blame Christmas preparations which do seem to be rather taking over).  I don't actually have any visible progress on my latest project to show you, but I have been getting more inspiration, from a lovely book (which is a Christmas present to me from Chris, but which I couldn't resist having a sneaky peek through).  It has some lovely designs which sent my brain whizzing again! Details can be found here.
How about this for my design?  Perfect, isn't it?
Then I noticed this one as well.  I think the seed stitch is so effective here.  There are lots more fabulous designs in the book, which I'll save up for other projects.
I think I need to sketch out a design for my felt piece - I could just dive into the embroidery, but I think I would be happier with some sort of  basic plan.  That's my next job and hopefully, next Sunday I may have even started the stitching and have something to show you!

Saturday 7 December 2013

A bit of a funny week

It has been a bit of a funny week this week.  Not funny, ha ha, but funny, odd.  I have had lots of creative ideas whizzing round my head, but when I have tried things, they just haven't quite worked the way I  had hoped. I am also feeling rather inadequate when it comes to Christmas as I have only managed to buy one present so far, haven't written any cards and am not feeling at all christmassy.  Oh dear, this sounds a bit like a moan! I feel a bit like Fanny Cornforth (above) does - a bit listless - although she is also waiting for the man she loves to come and visit her (it is a study for 'Fair Rosamund'), so that may have something to do with her expression.  I haven't even started my Stitching Sundays project - not one stitch done yet!
There's only one thing to do when you feel like this on a Saturday night - watch Strictly Come Dancing!!

Having just published my slightly moany post, my week has suddenly got a lot better as my lovely husband had to go to the supermarket to get some supplies for pickled pear making and came home with these for me!  48 Jaffa Cakes - yum!

Sunday 1 December 2013

Stitching Sundays 13

 I think I have finally decided on my next Stitching Sunday project (although I do need to make some winter decorations for my seasonal tree as well).  It all started with the photo above which I thought would make a good felt piece with some embroidered grasses and seed heads.
 I made the felted background, incorporating lots of interesting bits and pieces to add texture and depth, including silk, tweed, yarn and randomly placed threads.  So far, so good, I thought.
 Then, as the tutor from my art course had taught me (she'd be pleased with me!), I started to jot down ideas and make little drawings to find the right design for the embroidery.
I carried on doodling and sketching and couldn't quite decide what I wanted to do.
I made notes when I saw images in shops or in adverts.  Then, I started to get nervous.  My embroidery skills weren't terribly advanced and I was worried I would ruin the felt. How could I get the image to look right?  Perhaps I should just think about it a bit more.  That was in 2010!  I did think about it, in 2011 and 2012, but somehow, no progress was made. So, I am feeling brave and now I think I must get it done.  I am more confident about my skills and if it doesn't look right, I can always unpick it and have another go.  So, this is going to be my next project and it may take me a few weeks to get it done (it has waited this long, so I don't think it will matter if it takes me a few weeks!)
Wish me luck and I'll post my progress.

Saturday 30 November 2013

Latest bracelets

Here's the latest bracelets I have made - for a colleague's birthday.  She likes black and white, hence the choice of monochrome!  Above is a macrame bracelet using striped agate, rutile quartz and crackled quartz.
This is my second memory wire bracelet and I used black rutile quartz chips, black agate bicones, white pearls and silver pearls.  I am enjoying using memory wire as you don't need any findings and it is quite a meditative experience to thread the chips on.  My colleague was really pleased with the jewellery and said the the memory wire bracelet would be a 'going out' one!

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Autumn colour

I must admit that there hasn't been as much Autumn colour in my garden this year as I would like.  Leaves seem to have just fallen, without changing colour.  There are a couple of exceptions - hydrangea above and Prunus incisa Kojo-no-Mai below.
 This photo was taken last week and since then, all the leaves have fallen off the Prunus...
 ...and the hydrangea is looking like this, with more yellow on its leaves.
 The little geranium 'Rozanne' plants, which have featured before, are still flowering away in a sheltered part of the garden.
 Magnolia Stellata has lovely yellow leaves.
 Still, there are a few surprises, like this Campanula 'Iridescent Bells' (I think) which has decided to flower, even though it is nearly the end of November and it is still a young plant!
There are also a few glimpses of colour from the Fuchsias - this one is 'Lady Thumb' I think.  It helps that they are sheltered but it is lovely to be greeted with some colour, even if it is not necessarily autumnal!

Sunday 24 November 2013

Stitching Sundays 12

 As you know, I finished the snowflake embroidery on my bunting...on the turquoise piece...
 ...and the shiny silvery-grey piece.  I managed to get the bunting made even though I had to sew the bias binding on twice, because I hadn't sewn it close enough to the edge (you would think that I would have got the hang of that by now, having made at least five bunting projects over the last year).  I am not sure that the snowflake embroidery will be that obvious once the bunting is hung up, but I'll know it's there.
 So, here's the finished product.
 Even though it isn't quite winter yet, I hung it on the mirror, just to take a photo.
I am pleased with the combination of colours and patterns and I shall be putting it up properly on December 1st.  Now, what is my next project?

Thursday 21 November 2013


 On Monday night, Chris and I went to our local Odeon cinema to see the National Theatre production of Frankenstein, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller.  They swapped the roles of Victor and the Creature each night in the original run.  The productions were filmed and cinemas have been showing the films now and again over the last couple of years.  It was an amazing production and the two leads gave really powerful and exciting performances.  I really don't know how they managed to keep going on the original run, as the Creature, in particular, demanded  huge reserves of physical strength and agility.  It was moving, sad, funny, clever and disturbing.  I read the book last year and was stunned by it - not just the story, but by Mary Shelley's writing skill.  It is such a powerful story about rejection, prejudice, love, power and revenge. 
The production we saw was with Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor and Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature and I am so pleased we saw it that way round, as to me, it worked perfectly.
The set was very clever and had a minimal feel, which I really like as I enjoy using my imagination, but in fact, I didn't need to very much, as everything that was needed was there.  The lighting really complemented the different parts of the story and action and the music was particularly effective.
I was a little concerned that the audience would be the typical cinema audience, with all the noise they make, but in fact, everyone was as gripped by the film as we were and you really could have heard a pin drop.  It was a wonderful evening.
I think that there are going to be more films like this as there was a trailer for Ballet, Shakespeare and Opera productions too.  It is something I shall keep looking out for because it means that you can still see productions even if you can't actually get to the original live one.
(Photo from National Theatre website)

Monday 18 November 2013

Stitching Sundays 11

 I am a bit late with my Stitching Sundays post this week, as you may have noticed that it's Monday.  Time just ran away with me yesterday!  I have embroidered snowflakes on the plain silver/grey and turquoise blue material.
 I used simple stitches in grey and white - split stitch, backstitch and french knots.
I'm pleased with how they turned out.  I have sewn the triangles for the bunting and hope to be able to show the finished bunting next week.

Tuesday 12 November 2013


 Being a keen gardener can be a wonderful and exciting thing - but it can also be frustrating, challenging and difficult at times.  However, the one thing above all that it teaches is to be patient.  In this fast-paced world, patience is most definitely a virtue. 
Here we are, in autumn and I have just finished my tulip planting for next spring, with the optimism and excitement this brings.  I have ordered more tulips than I have had before, due to the joy that this year's tulips gave me.  Above is Ballerina, from my garden in April/May this year. The other photos are from the Peter Nyssen website, which is where I got all my bulbs from, and if the quality is the same as last year, they should be terrific.
I have kept some of these Ballerina bulbs and have put them together with some Black Parrot, also from earlier this year, in the same pot, to see whether they will flower next year, as the flowering quality can drop and most advice seems to be to treat tulips as one year only flowers.  However, it's a bit of an experiment and I shall report back.
 I have gone for single mixtures for the early insects, including single early (above)...
 and single late.  They do look spectacular in a mass planting.  Mine are all in pots and tubs.
 I have also chosen Red Shine, which is meant to be as good as Ballerina, so I am really looking forward to seeing how that one does.
Another bright mix - single Triumph mix.  I am hopeful that my pots will be a riot of colour.  I have learnt from my mistakes last year and I haven't crammed the bulbs in so much.  I have planted them on two levels, so now there is nothing left to do but to sit and wait until next Spring.  Patience indeed...