Sunday 29 September 2013

Stitching Sundays 4

Are you sitting down?  I only ask because... is my finished embroidery - yes, I have actually finished!  The bark pattern took me a while because I tried a couple of different stitches with a couple of different numbers of strands of thread, but in the end, decided on one strand and stem stitch again, so undid it several times before I got it right.
You can still see the purple pen lines but these will fade in a day or two.
 Then I started on making it into a decoration.  Here's the underside (I was surprised by how neat this ended up).
 Here's the finished decoration from the front...
 ...and the back, using some vintage fabric (originally used for curtains by someone, but given a new life by me in this project).  Chris and I both felt that the colours suited the tree very well.
Here's the decoration on the seasonal tree, alongside some woodland animal pegs (excellent and unexpected find at Wilkinsons).  However, I think I need to make some felt leaves to add a bit more interest to the tree, which still looks a bit bare.
I am delighted with the finished decoration and have really enjoyed this little project.  I have a few more in mind, so will be continuing Stitching Sundays for a while longer yet.

Saturday 28 September 2013

Beautiful colours

 The beautiful sunny weather we have been enjoying over this last week has been a real bonus.  Look at this Mediterranean blue sky, against which the Magnolia leaves shine.
 The delicate pink petals of a cyclamen hederifolium with its silvery green leaves.  This was a real bonus as I haven't any cyclamen in the borders now, but I noticed this little one in a pot.  Nature can be so generous.
Bright, happy and fabulous shades of pink cosmos.  This is a recent favourite of mine and I would like to grow much more next year.   I am intending to grow lots of other annuals next year and am really hoping for a riot of colour (as well as nectar and pollen for insects).
 Aster 'Little Carlow' I think, and it is a mass of pale lilac, elegant daisy flowers.
I couldn't resist another shot of zingy colour - it may not be to everyone's taste, but I love it!  I am hoping we'll be lucky enough to enjoy more of the early autumn sun to keep these colours going a bit longer. (I know, I'm just greedy!)

Sunday 22 September 2013

Stitching Sundays - 3

 Week three of Stitching Sundays and not a huge amount of progress this week, due to doing lots of other things instead - oops!  However, I have managed to add a few more leaves to the bare branches.
I'm not quite sure about the falling leaves - I do want some falling ones and some already on the ground and turning brown, but I am uncertain whether these particular ones look quite right. 
I also need to decide whether to add more to the tree trunk and am thinking that it might look nice with some bark patterns.  I have also decided what to do with it when it is finished.  I have a 'seasonal tree' decoration which Chris made and it looked lovely at Easter because I made lots of flowers to hang from it.  However, since then it hasn't had a lot of decorations on it and has looked a bit sad.  I am thinking of making this into an autumn decoration and hanging it on the central part of the tree (I think it will be too big to be on the branch).  However, if it doesn't look right, I am sure I can find another home for it - hanging on a door handle, perhaps?  We shall see.  I'll try to make more progress for next week.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Higgledy Garden - seeds

 I was looking at a blog I follow and found this lovely post about a seed grower from Cornwall whose business is called Higgledy Garden.  Being of a naturally curious disposition, especially where anything about gardens is concerned, I went to explore.  Of course, I was seduced by the beautiful annual plants Benjamin Ranyard grows and loved the way he wrote - he is so passionate about what he does.  So, I ordered some annuals for next year.  Two days later, they arrived, and with great excitement, I opened the envelope.  Here's what arrived:
Gorgeous stamped seed packets and a handwritten note from Benjamin himself.  He has also included some Dahlia seed free for me to try!  So what did I buy?  Here's what they should look like next year:
Nicotiana 'Lime Glow', Cerinthe, Tithonia 'Fiesta', Calendula 'Art Shades', Phacelia, Corncockle and the free Dahlias.  (Mosaic made from photos from the Higgledy Garden website and using PicMonkey).  I now need to buy some verbena bonariensis seeds and some Stipa Tenuissima seeds and then I am all set for next year.  Can't wait! Incidentally, if you wanted to order any seeds from Higgledy Garden this weekend, you'll get some free Rudbeckia seeds.   It is great to support a UK business and get some lovely things too and I haven't been asked to advertise, but I was impressed by the business and wanted to share my excitement!

Sunday 15 September 2013

Stitching Sundays 2

Well, here I am again, sharing the progress I have made with my autumnal tree.
 As you can see, I have stitched the outline (using a mixture of my version of stem stitch and a few backstitches thrown in for good measure.)
 Here's a closer view (you can tell that it has taken on a character of its own now).
 This afternoon, I sewed on a few leaves, using backstitch again.  I'm not quite sure it is how I certainly doesn't look much like the original, but then I have made it my own!  I'll keep going with the leaves and then need to decide what to do with the trunk/branches.  I am really enjoying the freedom of being able to 'make it up as I go'.
Here's a reminder of the original design (I was just doing the autumn part).

Saturday 14 September 2013

Late Summer Colour

 To cheer us up after these rather dull, grey and definitely autumnal last few days, here is a nice burst of colour from the garden.  I must admit that I took these photos last weekend, when the light was better, but the flowers are all still going, though looking a little more bedraggled now.  Above is an annual dahlia, grown from seed, which I shoved in a pot and put outside the front door.  As it turned out, this is the best plant because the ones in the back garden have been decimated by snails!
 White cosmos, again grown from seed, also in the pot at the front door.
 A geranium versicolour showing beautiful veining.
 Rose Mary Rose, with the slowly opening buds of caryopteris.
 Crocosmia 'Honey Angels' with a shot of yellow to enliven the border.  This is a great plant, not too tall and it has come through the last winter or two beautifully.  I have ordered a couple more of these.
 A sugar pink phlox flower, bought as part of a a bare root collection earlier this year.
 My favourite geranium, Rozanne, which has been voted plant of the century by the RHS members. (I voted for it too!)
 Another cosmos, in a pot in the back garden.
 Clematis Crystal Fountain, showing the stages of the flowers.  I like the pom pom left after the petals have fallen.
 Hydrangea Endless Summer 'The Bride'.
 A pretty fuchsia 'Thamar', which is also in a pot and which came through last winter.
 A recent addition bought from Barnsdale; Helenium 'Ruby Tuesday' which is a compact variety, again in a pot. 
Beautiful rusty red flowers.
 More hydrangeas - Endless Summer 'Pink'.
A relatively new hydrangea, with blue flowers but no name.  I'm not sure how hardy this will be, but I couldn't resist the delicate blue/purple flowers.
The colours have definitely brightened my day and I hope you have enjoyed them too.

Sunday 8 September 2013

Stitching Sundays 1

 Well, here I am at the start of my little embroidery project as part of Stitching Sundays, organised by Chrissie.  What have I done so far?  Well, I have gathered new needles and an embroidery hoop and some material to stitch on - I have chosen calico (because I have extra in case things go wrong...which of course they won't).
 Some of the lovely bits and pieces I'll be using.
 I am just choosing a design from this rather gorgeous book, which has simple and quirky images which don't seem to be too daunting for a beginner, but I'll let you know once I have started stitching.
I do like this one, but simplified a bit and just using the autumn leaves section.  Now I need to stop prevaricating and make a start!

Saturday 7 September 2013

Polymer clay with alcohol ink and stamps experiments (and news of a giveaway at millefeuilles.blogspot)

 Here are my latest designs using polymer clay, stamps and mica powder.  However, these are a little more special because...
...they have interesting things on the back!  I used alcohol inks to make the marbled backgrounds and then stamped with pigment ink once the alcohol ink had dried a little.
 I tried other base colours and textured stamps to see what the effect would be...
 ...and made the backs more interesting, using stamps and the alcohol ink.  I was really pleased with how these turned out and have ordered some more alcohol inks in blues and yellows to play with too.  I need to finish these by sanding down the rough bits and then giving them a coat of varnish (matt or gloss - haven't decided yet).  I can see I shall be doing a lot more experimenting...

On a completely unrelated subject, Stephanie, over at millefeuilles is having a very special giveaway.  She creates the most beautiful hares, rabbits and mice using vintage French fabrics and her own beautiful and delicate embroidery.  I am in awe of her workmanship.  The exciting thing is that you could win one of her beautiful creations - this meadow hare (she has given permission for her photos to be used).
Isn't she gorgeous?  If you don't win (and I think there will be many, many entrants!), you can also commission her to create a special one-off hare/rabbit/mouse for you.
Have a lovely weekend.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

"By George, I think she's got it!"

My third meringue - ever!  Fresh eggs, whisking until the egg whites are able to withstand being upside down over your head, baking parchment, really low heat (Gas mark half), baking for an hour and then turning off the oven and leaving it in overnight.  Following these guidelines, I managed to create a second successful pavlova as a 'welcome to the team' celebration for a colleague at work.
The meringue was crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle and again, I added a spoon of natural yogurt to the double cream (which made the cream so much healthier - well, I think it did!).  The raspberries were from a supermarket as mine hadn't produced enough, although the four I picked that morning were added to the top (slightly bigger and a bit darker in colour, if you'd like to play the fascinating game of 'hunt the home-grown raspberries').  The pavlova was very well received , so yes, in the words of Professor Higgins, "by George, I think she's got it!"


Here's the recipe I used:
Serves 6
3 large fresh egg whites
6 oz/175g caster sugar
Small pot whipping or double cream (the recipe says 10 fl oz/275ml), whipped
Fruits of your choice
a little icing sugar to dust the top

Pre-heat the oven to Gas 2/300 degrees F, 150 degrees C.
Lightly oil a baking sheet and line with baking parchment (silicone paper)
1. Place the egg whites in a large clean bowl and have the sugar measured out ready.  Whisk the egg whites until they form peaks and you can turn the bowl upside down without them sliding out. (This is the secret to success I think!) However, it is important not to over whisk the egg whites as they may start to collapse.
2.  Whisk in the sugar, a tablespoon at a time.  The meringue should look shiny at this stage.  Spoon the meringue using a metal tablespoon onto the baking sheet, forming an 8 inch/20 cm diameter circle.  (This is where I added some piping around the edge, just to raise the edge up). You can spoon extra blobs around the edge or make the centre slightly lower than the edge.  Turn down the oven to Gas 1/275 degrees F/140 degrees C and leave to cook for one hour.  (I had to turn my oven down to gas mark a half - my oven is old and has no fan assisting or anything! I also needed to put the meringue on the bottom shelf.)
3.  Turn the heat right off but leave the pavlova inside the oven until completely cold.  It can be left in the turned off oven overnight so that it dries out completely.
4.  To serve, lift the meringue from the baking sheet and place it on a serving dish.  Just before serving, spread the cream on the top and arrange the fruit on top of the cream.  Sprinkle some icing sugar on the top if required.  Enjoy!

If it doesn't work quite as you hope the first time, I can recommend Eton Mess (crumbled up meringue, cream and fruit).  That's what I did with my first attempt!