Monday, 24 November 2014

Yay! I have a thread stand!!!

Not so long ago I posted about my new tidy sewing room with newly organised fabric shelves and sorted threads. Well it is still tidy, but the promised thread stand proved to be a bit more complex.
I purchased a lovely new stand from the knitting and stitching show this year and eagerly awaited delivery.  It was to hold 120 threads which (I am embarrassed to say) isn't all of them, but it is a start. Anyway, when it arrived I excitedly took it home and Paul carefully installed it beside the fabric unit. It looked lovely so I prepared to fill it only to discover that it didn't fit a single spool of thread in my collection.  Disaster! Who makes a thread stand with spokes measuring 12mm? So afternoon a quick telephone call, they sent me another stand will 100 spokes which only measured 8mm. Result.
So that one arrives, and nothing fits. Arggggh. Paul could see that I was a little perturbed and so offered to help. And on Sunday he took the afternoon and made me a stand.
Well, repurposed the old one! Step one - cut all the spokes off.
All gone!
I didn't photograph the process of cutting and sanding 120 6cm long pieces of doweling! 
Then he drilled 120 iddy biddy holes, and then carefully glued all those little spokes into the holes.
Doesn't it look good!
And so here it is - all finished and full of thread, and doesn't it look great. Paul really is a lovely chap! I didn't want to tell him that this is less than half of my thread stash - so he may have to do it twice more!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Play time - a workshop with Faye Gagel-Panchal

During the summer I took a day off to enjoy a number or exhibitions on for Peterborough Artists Open Studio. It was a chance to enjoy the work, and chat to many innovative artists who open their homes and work studios to members of the public so we can have a good rootle around!
Some artists gather together in one place, including churches, shops or restaurants. In one such place (Stibbington Church)  I found the work of Faye Gagel-Panchal which is unique! She works with paper, fabric and paints to create stunning works of art drawing reference from her extensive collection of saris and Indian textiles. She creates layer of texture over many months, and then seals it behind numerous layers of varnish until they resemble pieces of enamel. She creates small fragments, all the way up to large canvases.
I loved her work so much that I signed up for a workshop in her kitchen. Myself and my friend Sarah went for two sessions over two weeks. I was going to create a canvas and Sarah  was planning to create a fragment.
Week 1 we created a design based on her selection of saris. They are stunning.
This purple one was the source that I chose. 
I then created a design using some of the images. I covered a canvas block with handmade paper and then cut out my design elements. I chose a paisley centre with a border around two edges.

I then used gold to outline the elements.
We left it there and took our stuff home to dry. It was suggested that I started building up some layers of paint in the week before the next workshop, which I did - though a little tentatively.
The following week we went back and the real fun started! I used beads, glitter and layers of paint to create my design and add texture. I carried on working on it for weeks and once I was happy with my design I could start building up the layers of acrylic gloss mediums. With 24 hrs needed to dry between each layer it has taken weeks to create a gloss finish. I'm afraid the picture isn't great because the finished piece is quite glossy and so the flash plays merry heck with the picture quality.
 I am delighted with the results, and now I need to find somewhere to hang it. It was a really freeing experience making this piece. Much of the work I do now has to be precise by its very nature, so being a bit looser was fun. Faye is a great teacher with a huge amount of talent and an ability to draw work out of you without you even noticing, and you even get cake! Now that's what I call a bargain :)

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Keeping busy on October!

Well October has proved to be a very busy month - no change there :). In my family, October is the month for birthdays! Mine comes first on 9th October (a date shared with John Lennon - a fact I was thrilled to find out when I first discovered the Beatles in my early teens, though sadly long after he had already passed!). Then we have my brother's wife Julie's birthday on the 15th, my brother Simon is on the 24th, and my youngest brother Tim is on the 26th. So we have a long family tradition of drawing a birthday out over the whole month - which is great because it means that I have over a week of celebrating to go!
The festivities started for me on the 9th October with a night out in our local pub with some lovely girls from my WI - who helped me commiserate my old age of 42 over a glass of vino! Just the ticket so thanks Jane & Julia! Then the next day Julie & I headed to Ally Pally for the Knitting & Stitching show for 2 days of workshops, shopping and general gorgeousness! And guess who spent ALL of her birthday money - plus a few pence more!
My main objective of the show was to sort out some storage for my overflowing sewing room. Recent influxes of sewing machines from Create & Craft had led to a very really danger of shelving collapse and so something had to be done. Sewing machines (even borrowed ones) need somewhere safe to live. So the very rickety shelving had to go and has been replaced with good old billy bookshelves from IKEA. Next followed literally weeks of ironing and refolding my fabric stash so it all fits on my new shelves! It looks marvellous, but I didn't realise quite how much I had - eek! So next I needed to deal with my threads - currently residing in 6 boxes so I can never find the colour I wanted. And the show came to the rescue! I was interested in playing with some light weitgh sewing machine threads and so made my way to the Wonderfil stand and invested in some Invisifil (which I cant wait to get to grips with!). As I was talking to the lady, I mentioned my storage issue and she showed me one of the wall mounted stands that they sell. Blooming fantastic! It was just what the doctor ordered. And delight of delights - it was delivered yesterday! So after the purchase of some raw plugs - here it is! And doesn't it look fab next to all those lovely fabrics! Hopefully I can keep it all this neat!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

How your garden grows!

It is often interesting to look back at pictures from the past and see how much the garden has changed!

Now that the seasons are definitely changing, I thought that I would post some pictures to remind myself how far we have come!

We moved into a new build in May 2010, and we started working on the garden in May 2011.
It was very much a blank canvas, and we were a little lost as to where to start! But we have settled into a routine where we create a big project each year, and it is finally starting to come together.

Here is my Dad helping make the first bed! He is planting our cherry tree next to the garage.

It was later joined by a morello cherry tree and this year it looked like this:

Those cherries make the best cherry gin liqueur in town :)

The following year, we decided to build a pond. Here is the picture from April 2012 - the wettest April for donkeys years!

It was a complete mud fest! But great fun all the same. And at least with all that clay at the bottom the pond shouldn't ever leak!!!

Here it was by the end of that summer - settling in nicely:

And here it is today. It has become a home to fish, dragonflies, water boatmen and all manner of squigglies! We are yet to attract any frogs or newts but we wait and see!

You can see the cherry tree bed in the back ground. We call this the "suicide bed" because so many plants have given their lives over the last five years to make the soil good enough for plants to survive. Planting in solid clay is certainly a challenge - even with the addition of sand and a LOT of mulch!

This is the view of the pond from the new patio - this years project! The pear tree is a new addition and we are patiently waiting for our 4 pears to ripen!

Last year we decided to build a summer house. After much bargain hunting, we found one we liked and that came in on budget, and so it was duly ordered and delivered.
Paul and Dad laid the base, and some very nice men with a big saw built the summerhouse!

Jack soon made it his favourite spot!
This year we decided it needed a patio so that we could sit outside it, as well as inside it. So once more, Paul and Dad to the rescue!

So now we have a lovely patio on which to sip our gin & tonics :)

So now that was in place - we needed to think about some new beds around the edge of the garden. We wanted to have more 'views' as we sat in the summerhouse - so in went a new bed down the left hand fence with a nectarine tree in it!

We also wanted beds at the top of the garden. We planted a eucalyptus tree, and Jack could not resist helping!

Maisy was pretty interested too!

 So this is what it looked like at the end of that day after much sweating and swearing....

and this is what it looks like now!
It has filled out a bit - and I have added a rambling rose that I hope with grow up the side of summerhouse. It is obviously very much a work in progress!

On the other side of the summer house we have extended the bed and I sowed a lot of wild flower seeds. Paul recons that they are weeds but I like them - I call it my wildlife bed! It has the second of my apple trees - and this one is a cooker! I made a fab pie with the 4 apples we got off it this year.

So there we are! Nearly up to date. The eagle eyed amongst you would notice the arch leading nowhere, but it is acting as frame for two of the lovely rose bushes we were given as engagement gifts. The plan for next year is to make all of that side of the garden into a flower bed, with a path running from the archway up to the patio - hopefully crossing a little stream using the bridge that Paul has built me! Whether our spines are up to all that digging solid clay will determine whether that happens - but at least we are making a start!

I planted 250 spring bulbs around the place at the weekend, and now I am really looking forward to seeing how it all looks in March next year!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Quilt as you go tutorial

Funnily enough I have had 3 requests for help with quilt-as-you-go techniques via email & twitter this week! So I thought I would do a quick post outlining two different methods. This enables you to quilt blocks as you go along, and then put them all together at the end. It avoids the need to cram great big quilts through your sewing machine!
The method you choose can be determined by the result you want to achieve: do you want sashing as part of the design or not!
Whichever method you choose, you want to avoid quilting all the way to the edges of your block because you will need to pull the edges back a little to put them together.
Quilt as you go with sashing.
This lap quilt utilises sashing as a technique to sew your blocks together.  There are other quilt-as-you-go methods that do not use sashing but I use it here because it adds a uniformity to the design.

For the front sashing – you will need 1 inch wide strips, and for the back you will need 1 ¾ inch strips.
Fold the back strip in half and press lengthwise. Pin the raw edge of the strip to the back of your block, and the front strip is pinned right sides together to the front of the block (see picture).
Sew an accurate ¼ seam so that the back sashing, the block and the front sashing are now stitched together.
Fold the front sashing back and press.
Now pin the raw edge of the front sashing to the next block front sides together (as in picture). Sew with an accurate ¼ inch seam (the backing fabric in this picture is white!).
Now lay the two blocks flat with the right sides up and press the front sashing flat.
Turn the blocks over and sew the back sashing onto the back of the block using a ladder stitch as seen in the image.
Continue sashing the whole quilt.
Quilt as you go without sashing.

This method does not use sashing. I didn't want sashing to distort my log cabin so this method was perfect.
First, trim your squares to your required size (remember the seam allowance!).
Take your two blocks and place them face down. Pin the backing and the wadding back out of the way.

Now place the blocks right sides together, sew the front pieces together with a ¼ seam and press the seam flat (as shown in the picture below).
Trim the wadding carefully so that it will lie flat.

Now lay one piece of the backing flat. Turn the second piece under with a scant ¼ inch seam and pin in place.

Slip stitch the pinned seam in place keeping the stitches small so that they will not show.
Continue using this method to sew the rest of the row. Then continue and sew the rows together.

So now you are done!

There you are - two different ways of putting together your blocks once you have quilted them! I hope you find this useful and it gets you having a go!!!

Monday, 8 September 2014

It's always Pimms O'clock!

Well I have been a little lax on posting (again) but things have been a bit of a whirlwind! The shop has been keeping me busy, and I have now been on create & craft for over a year now and that fills any 'spare' moments I may have. I am now working for Simplicity, Tilda, Singer Sewing Machines and now Brother too. There is of course a little time left for sleep :)
But the last couple of weeks have been spent preparing for our engagement party which we held in our garden on Bank Holiday Sunday.
Here are some pics of the party, which kicked off about 2.30pm with a vintage tea party (with Pimms in those tea cups!) in the summer house and was followed by a bbq into the early hours!
Paul took most of these pictures, which is why they are stunning... and why he isn't in any of them!
My best friend Sarah Trude (Erms) created the stunning floral displays as a surprise gift!
 We have been working hard to get the summer house, patio and new beds looking fit for visitors, and we just about made it! And the rain held off too.
 Capt Jack is patiently wondering where his glass of Pimms has gone!
Even the swing was suitable decorated!

 And the guests began to arrive!

My friend Nicola made us this stunning engagement cake! There is a better pic further down. This dress was my first attempt at making a dress - and it was moderately successful. The fit could have been better but it was so flowery that I don't think anyone noticed!

 The stunning cake by Nicola from Cambridgeshire Sugarcraft in Yaxley. Friends Lucy & Carol also contributed home made cakes which went down a treat! I really do have talented friends!
 Not a bad spread - largely due to the help on Sunday morning supplied by Sarah Trude & Julie Fernandez as they helped me check that the Pimms was ready!
 And a sneaky shot of Sarah sorting out the sarnies!
 A BBQ shot - the fire pit was a crowd pleaser after the bbq had gone out!
 My girls! 3 Sarah's and an Amanda!

And finally, one shot of the engaged couple together (all be it slightly fuzzy!)
We were so busy keeping everyone fed and watered that we hardly saw each other. But it was a lovely day - and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Now I am forever asked the question "so when is the wedding?", to which I reply "it took us 10 years to get engaged... we don't like to rush onto things!"