Monday, 27 August 2012

Dreich- adjective ( see also Scotland)

My back garden lawn !
Today has been the sort of the day the Scot's invented the word dreich for. It's been grey and damp with that horrid drizzly sort of rain that gets you soaked right through to the bone. When I first ventured north to university I wrote home to my Mum ( yes, that was in the days when you used a stamp and an envelope, but not quite a quill pen) and told her that the rain up here was wetter than down in the good old south. And do you know, I still stand by that daft statement to this day.

Rain in Scotland has a persistence about it that matches the national character. It is strong and unforgiving. But like the Scottish character the land has a warmth and glow about it that I cannot resist and that makes my heart smile. So I will wear wellies and cultivate the biggest umbrella collection known to man.

Anyway all this drivel about drizzle is because today was "Bank Holiday Monday" which translates as "Guaranteed Wet Dreich Day" so I spent the time catching up on some odds and ends and started a new project. You might remember a few blogs ago I asked for suggestions on what pattern to use for a Layer Cake I had bought entitled "Happy Campers". Well I settled on Emily's suggestion of  "You Zig and I'll Zag" , from the Ruby Blue Quilting Studio and have made a good start. I have promised to give this to Pepper Ann, who is a huge retro fan as I thought it would be a great start to her and Scott's home which they have started  saving things for. It used to be called a "bottom drawer" and that probably  sounds very old fashioned thing now , but actually I think is quite sweet. Pepper Ann and her big and wonderful Scott ( who is somewhere around 6 ft 6 I am sure) are the last of our gang of 5 to set up a home and we hope it won't be too long for them before they are all set and find their ideal place. In the meantime, I can start off their nest with a nice big and bright quilt to snuggle under on the dark nights. I have hit a wee snag though, as the pattern requires 41 blocks and as the layer cake only has 40 pieces I have had brain fade trying to figure out how it's meant to work from the cutting instructions, so I hope I hear from Ruby Blue soon. If you have made a similar pattern or any ideas that will help me please drop me a line to rescue me.
I have to confess though that I did get a bit distracted from my task of this quilt as I stopped for a cuppa and a slice of Marmalade cake and discovered a rerun of Sense and Sensibility on Channel 4 and, well you can't beat a bit of Austen on a wet bank holiday can you. Not to mention Mr Rickman in breeches. Three hours later it seemed a bit late to return to the den to pick up the pieces, if you pardon the pun, so I will continue next weekend, as the beloved JB will still be away at work.

Given all this moaning about rain I thought it would also be good if you saw a few of the upsides of all this northern precipitation. You know I love my garden and its been a tough year but these last couple of pictures show  some of the beneficiaries from this summer. I have been trying to grow Agapanthus for years and this is my first ever bloom. I know its a bit on the weedy side, but its a start. As for the Hydrangea, they remind me of our wedding where we had them stacked high in buckets by the entrance to the marque, and they looked stunning in shades of pink and purple. Next year I will try the iron filings trick and see if I can get a similar effect. The last picture is one of the rain laying on the Achemilla which I thought just looked rather cool. Hope you like them .


Anyway, that's me off to find a cure for webbed feet and trench foot... see you again soon

Sunday, 26 August 2012

A challenging shopping trip

I don't know about you other stitchy types , but I had no idea that if you're not into crafty type things, being marched off to a fabric shop and being asked to choose a set of fabrics for a quilt is the equivalent to torture of the N th degree.  I unintentionally inflicted this horror on a lovely friend of mine last week after she asked me if I could make her a small gift. She was after a baby present but had no preferences at the time so I thought she would enjoy choosing the fabric as I always jump at the chance to browse a fabric department so thought everyone else felt the same. But oh how wrong was I.
The pair of us jumped in a cab and headed off to Mandors, as this I thought was the only fabric shop in our reach at lunchtime (but I have since been proved wrong, thanks to researching another project, of which you will hear more later). Very quickly it became clear that this was not at all pleasurable for her in any way and I felt so terrible as she walked panic stricken up and down the rows of fabric with a pained look on her face. I must have sounded a right little know it all when I pointed out " no that will not work" or " no, that's too girly" and I am sure at one point she must have considered picking up a bolt and battering me around the head with it. Trouble was she had settled on a fat quarter featuring a farmyard theme, but there was not one other fabric which was an obvious " baby" fabric which fitted the colours. Hesitantly I suggested some greens as some people are  a bit superstitious of this for children, but whether out of desperation or hunger ( as it was lunchtime after all) she agreed and we grabbed some other quarters and sped back to work.
Since our shopping trip a little voice in my head has been nagging at me and I have actually been dreading looking at this piece, as I didn't feel at all confident that I could make the fabrics look soft enough for a new born, but some one must have been looking out for me as it seems to have come together pretty well. The farmyard fabric is pretty subtle but still stands out in this design.
For the backing I have added some streaks of the feature greens to hopefully pull it all together.
Anyway the proof will be in the pudding when I deliver it to her on Monday.... Fingers crossed everyone please, oh and by the way, no more baby quilts for a while please.
apologies for the quality- camera phone!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

a Sunday in June ( and James came to tea )

Its been a quietish day in the QD land. Summer has tried to make its way to Scotland, leaving the rest of the UK in its wake with gales and floods, but we luckily have enjoyed a mild , if not a little grey day. I took the opportunity this morning to check the garden to see what was managing to bloom and got a few pleasant surprises. Whilst the peony was stunning  when it started to bloom last week, the heavy rain that hit us immediately the buds started to unfurl meant that this was one of its poorest shows since planting 5 years ago.  Never mind, we will see what next year will bring, and we will have the added excitement then of seeing what the new root does, which Emma from the office gave me and which we have planted in a good sunny spot.

To make up for it though the poppies are looking splendid as ever, and will once again  give me some inspiration for stitching I am a sure. They haven't let me down yet, so watch this space soon  for a quilt from today's pictures. I thought you might like a quick peek at what else is showing up at the moment too.

Cornflowers in the "Zoe's Secret Garden"

I am particularly fond of Primula, with the tiny tiny little elements that make up the flower heads. Here we have blue Primula Capitata, which is in its second year and the far larger Primula Bulleyana, which I bought at Gardening Scotland last year. It is recommended for cooler areas so I reckon its an ideal plant for us here in Scotland. No roses yet, a bit early I think but the delphiniums will soon be ready so really looking forward to those. I bet they bloom when we are away on holiday - you could count on it in fact.

After my stroll and snapping the latest additions I set too baking as little James was coming to tea (and bringing mum and dad) so that he could collect his long awaited quilt. He has grown so much since his last visit and was full of smiles and giggles today. Mum said he had been a bit of a pickle recently but I reckon he's a little sweetheart and a very jolly little chap.  Anyway I am pleased to say he seemed very happy with his quilt and quickly settle down for a snuggle. Thanks to Dad for the snaps. (He likes to think he is a bit of a pro at these things, so it was best to leave him too it.

After all the excitement it was soon time for his tea of rice cakes and milk so we adults settled down to a cuppa and a piece of Blueberry Sour Cream Cake, which is becoming a bit of a favourite. If you fancy trying it out check out my recipe tab. Its a very moist cake and reminds me of German style baking, with its slight denseness. Definitely one for the summer and the garden I would say. Sadly not quite up to tea in the garden this week, but never mind. James' company was enough for me and Mum and Dad weren't bad either . I will probably let him bring them along again too next time. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Hiding away

Moda bake shop is hosting a "Show of your stash" malarky so I thought this was good opportunity to share Quilty Doings land with you. Its a small and bijou little land, packed with weird, fun and just soppy keepsakes that remind me of my amazing family and my wonderful life .
This looks like a place of chaos but that's because it is mid stitch. Join me on any normal day and you will find order - well if Emily has been home you will . Whenever Em comes home she loves to spend time checking out my latest purchases and sorting them Harry Potter style but without the hat, into colour and designs. 

Once I get into a project, which hardly ever are planned they all get hauled out and end up all over the place. I love my den though and it is my sanctuary when the beloved JB is away at work. On goes the radio or ipod and the music will be load and on the money and the machine or rotary cutter will be going hell for leather.
If you look one way you will see rows of our books, covering all sorts of subjects and styles. Biographies, novels and a huge amount of travel guides which I adore. These are a total necessity before any trip abroad. Love them. Look the other way and you will see old photos of the gang growing up which make my heart smile. Tom beaming on his first visit to The Bridge, aged 15 ( that's his football mecca for the uninitiated), or Emily aged 3 as the prettiest cow at her first nativity play when every other little girl was asked to be an angel. Poor child. 

The room is littered with children's artwork, wedding keepsakes and just generally daft stuff. For the eagle eyed you might spot the odd strange memento such as the Toy Story toy or a Star Wars Man. The pony surprisingly was a Christmas present only last year from my lovely son in law Greg because when asked what I wanted from Santa I replied " a pony" in jest.  Well what do you know ,I got one. Anyway, as you see , I think my stash lives in a very individual place and I hope you love it as much as I do.

PS its looks nothing like the rest of the house.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Don't you just hate it when that happens

Its been a very strange stitching week, which has led to the neglect of  my blog I'm afraid. I was distracted by a quick diversion back to some dressmaking on the tout suite, which I haven't done for years, due to what can only be called a "Wardrobe Crisis". We had been invited to a birthday party of a lovely friend and her husband and they had the brilliant idea of it being a Hollywood party and we were urged to "think Red Carpet Glamour". I loved this idea as I love an opportunity for a bit of dressing up and the idea of the beloved JB in a tux is always appealing, but this time it was topped by me knowing instantly what I was going to wear. 

Lurking in the back of the wardrobe was lovely taupe beaded number I had bought some years ago in the sale, which had been too good a bargain to resist and here was the ideal chance for it to shine, if you pardon the pun. I tried it on and it fitted like a dream and the only issue was footwear, as the colour was unusual and didn't fit with the normal black, silver or gold evening shoe. So my quest began and I plagued my friends with ideas as my search failed once, twice and three times to find a matching colour. Weeks passed and then panic set in so I thought I would haul out all of my shoes from the wardrobe in the belief that somewhere in there inspiration would be hiding and the Cinderella moment would follow. So I popped on the dress and guess what? Yes, horror of horrors, the stunning but unforgiving cut of this beaded column dress did not allow for an indulgent week in Provence, nor the even more indulgent trip south to see my best chum and Number One Son.The blessed thing would not zip up! The familiar cry went up " I have nothing to wear" and so JB and I hot footed it to Glasgow where I purchased 7 metres of black taffeta, with an amazing ribbon effect edging and I assured my ever patient husband that a gown could be knocked up in no time, to use my Mum's vernacular.

I had a vision in my head of a sweeping off the shoulder number with a big skirt and a tight little bodice( of course ignoring the fact that I no longer have a tight little body to match). Heaven.
What I hadn't of course factored into his week of eager stitching was a full time job, a trip to the Edinburgh festival, nor a hospital visit to a very dear friend who is having a horrid time at the moment. So dear reader I think you may have guessed by now that come Thursday  night there was no gown. Said taffeta can now be found neatly folded in its bag in the fabric cupboard and will wait to see the light of day next time we get to play dress up. As for the party, the LK Bennett's had a great trip out and a good time was had by all. ( oh, I might have forgotten to say I found another gown in the back of the wardrobe! oops).
So after the distraction of the party wear I thought it not a good plan to start a new project so at the weekend I pulled out of the basket a part made project which used a pattern called " Confetti Stars", by Atkinson Designs which I bought The Fat Quarters ( a lovely little shop in County Durham, definitely worth a visit if you are in the area- just ask for Kim)  a couple of years back. This project has been on the go for quite some time and is a scrappy effect from a whole host of toning fabrics I bought on a trip to Canada at least 5 years ago. So long ago that I couldn't tell you the names of the fabrics nor the maker by now. 
I had pieced a large number of squares and now I needed to stitch these in rows. I thought all was OK and and I was pleased with the look, but then I made that fatal mistake we have all made. I got a bit carried away and over confident. As you will see here the pattern was emerging beautifully, but then if you look at the next photo you will see what has happened . Some how I lost the flow and reversed the rows and the mistake did not appear until at least three rows later and the whole pattern fell apart.  So annoying.
all going well

As you may have guessed the next sewing session will involve a lot of unpicking. I have managed to figure out a way of sorting it out without taking out all the rows but really, not a very productive week all at all. No gown and no quilt. Don't you just hate it when that happens...

By the way if anyone recognises any of these fabrics I would love to know what they are called .

Friday, 10 August 2012

Amy's Butler's Flickr friday

Just a quick update in between the usual ramblings to let you know the popularity of "A Brighter Life" continues and have to say I am so so chuffed at how kind everyone has been. I discovered this morning on the way to the office that Amy Butler has chosen to include it today in her Flickr Friday choice of 9 examples of work which use her "Lark" designs.  There are some stunning pieces in the whole Flickr group so do check them out. Totally inspirational and of course the amazing colours that Amy uses always makes it a joy to work with her fabrics.

Amy Butler Lark Flickr Friday

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Don't blink - this might be summer

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday we suffered yet another day of lashing rain and we were all  beginning to wonder if we are going to go straight into Autumn, so much so that my mind has started to turn to thoughts of apples, pumpkins and all this autumnal. My favourite time of the year. This feeling was not helped by my latest copy of Country Living Magazine hitting the door mat, displaying  a beautiful cover photo bearing all those things that make me feel comfy and cosy but I quickly buried such thoughts. It is only August for goodness sake. I must not succumb to the urge to either hibernate or seek out all things witchy . And do you know my resistance was repaid immediately.  The sun has come out!
Edinburgh Castle ready for the Tattoo

I braved the elements, coatless, on the commute in this morning and then spent my lunch break envying all the passing tourists in their skimpies as I charged about the shops on a very important mission ( shoes!!) boiling my little bits off in office gear. Edinburgh is such a stunning city and the arrival of the Festival in August transforms an already hectic city into a place of madness. However I do not begrudge the extra ten minutes it takes me to plough through the crowds to get to my train home, as the colour  and vibrancy of the place makes me smile. Me and the beloved JB have not been very organised with tickets this year as I think the ongoing Olympics has been a bit of a curved ball and drawn our attentions away, but I am sure we will catch up for the final couple of weeks once the Games have finished. Last year we very proudly took Zoe on her first ever trip to see live theatre , seeing " Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy", based on the wonderful books by Lynley Dodd. If you are not familiar with these you really should check them out for the little people in your life. Tales of naughty pups and their friends, with names like SlinkyMalinky, Bottomly Potts and Hercules Morse. Cracking stuff.

Anyway as ever I digress. I purpose of this blog was to share with you a little update from the garden, as I was able to catch a few rays when I got home tonight. It has taken an absolute battering this year with all the rain and although it looks very lush and green, we have had hardly any flowers since back in May when things started to peek out. Its been such a shame as many of my favourites just didn't appear because of the low temperatures and the rain.  We do have a garden full of roses at the moment though which is giving a great show of colour, but if you look closely you can see we have the worst black spot I have ever seen.  I will need to consult Dad, as rose guru, to see if he thinks this is due to the rain or some other horror. He told me years ago to plant garlic near the base of the rose bush and this did appear to help, even if it looked a bit on the odd side. If roses are your bag and you have and ideas , do let me know your ideas for beating this blight.

As well as the roses, the hostas are out which I adore but again they are very bruised. I love these giants of our garden and we are very lucky not to have a slug problem. Don't tell anyone though but when I have found the odd mollusk or two I have been known to fling them over the fence as my neighbour doesn't garden at all and I figure the little blighters do need to eat at some time.


 As you will see we do have a few other favourites in bloom, even if it is a bit of a poor shown this year, but I hope you enjoy the pictures. As for me I am about to put my feet up with a glass of something chilled and enjoy the dappled sun under the dovecot, comfy cushions to hand ( as you will  see we have gone for an international flavour - of a sorts ha ha)

White Buddhlia

Under the dovecot, the sun breaks through

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Bits 'n bobs

Well, we are back from the Games, where I spent my birthday ( thanks to the IOC for going to such lengths to help me celebrate ha ha)  and and I very pleased to say that a wonderful time was had by all.  Hope you have been following the events down in the East End as there have been some amazing moments of sporting achievements, not just for us supporting Team GB , but also for a lot of very talented guys and gals from all over the globe. The UK have now got behind the whole event and the atmosphere throughout the country is electric and such a joy to experience. Absolutely love it.

Another big event last weekend was Number One Son moving into his first real home with the delightful Miss Danni N. No more student hovels for him , but a nice little bijoux end of terrace in the Suffolk countryside. Built around 1850, its a lovely little house that needs a bit of TLC so I think Missy D, who is a furniture designer, will be in her element. To tide them over though we had the obligatory trip to a well know Swedish furniture store to buy the basics, just so they don't end up eating off cardboard plates for the next couple of  months. This was a whole new experience for my boy who likened it to a retail treasure hunt and of course we had to top off the whole thing by introducing him to the weird wonder that is the IKEA meatball. No trip to the store would be the same without a plate of those weird grey but surprisingly tasting little spheres and I had never quite been able to put my finger on what it was that they reminded me of , but my boy got it in one. School dinners. Genius.
Thank you to Aeracura- A Blossoming Life for this funny and i think scientifically accurate diagram
There are certain things that I cannot bring myself to buy though and one of those is pot holders, given the thousands of bits and bobs of fabric sitting in my den needing a home. I don't know what you do with your orphans (I hope that is what you call your left over blocks otherwise you may think I am going slightly mad?), but I regularly transform mine into handy little pot holders. I use one layer of the heat resistant wadding as well as one layer of standard cotton wading in each one, as this gives enough protection, but  is not too chunky like some oven gloves. I managed to stitch 5 whilst watching Andy Murray win Gold this afternoon so they can go off in the post tomorrow.


My favourite actually was not an orphan, but a left over piece of the Koala and Kookaburra fabric with a cheeky little monkey face peeping out of it , which just reminded me of my boy so I couldn't resist. ( Did I say he was 27 - no probably not. I am such an embarrassing parent!)

back views- quite pretty too?

Whilst routling around I found a couple of other pieces that needed binding so have spent the rest of the day finishing them off. I am always surprised at the amount of wee table toppers that are always hiding in that pile of cast off blocks and left overs.

Let me know what you do with all your orphans. I would love to know.