'If you make happiness your goal, then you're not going to get to it… The goal should be an interesting life."

Dorothy Rowe

Saturday, 29 December 2012


As so often happens at the end of the year, it has turned into clear out time - old clothes, old magazines, and a few apps, because I decided I had far too many. Of course before I decided whether to delete them, I had to find out remind myself what they did. Which is where serendipity came in.

I started with this - Saga tubes - and bunged it into 'Glaze' which has so many options I find it a bit overwhelming. I made several versions, and I can't remember which one I chose for the next step...

which was 'Type Drawing', using 'Bradley Hand' font (hereinafter known as 'Sir Bradley') (sorry, couldn't resist). 

Yes, the so called original is square and the other is rectangular. Don't ask me why.

Then I used step 2 in 'Kyoobic' (ouch), 'Percolator' and my favourite, ’Decim8’. The 'randomise' button in the latter is responsible for the excess of images. 

But serendipitously, in one of them I spotted the motif I am currently besotted with. 

This one has the chevron motif lurking at the left side. So now it's gained a backing of wadding and the makings of some raw edge appliqué, and tomorrow it will get quilted and become page 4.

Unfortunately what was going to be page 3 has assumed the status of 'a sample to go in the work book to show what not to do'. I still think I have the basis of an interesting design, but it needs some tweaks, and the embroiderer needs to improve the standard of her stitching more than somewhat. 

However I haven't got enough of the right colours of thread to start again just yet, so it will have to wait till I can get to a thread shop.

On a more cheerful note, the third Karen Ruane block is finished - not a very good photograph, I'm afraid, there is so little daylight at the moment to try to get decent images. The snowflakes are actually lavender in colour, not this strange grey.

The initials are mine and my mother's - and that is a pocket in the middle. I think I shall put photos in it when the thing is finished.

In case I don't post gain before Tuesday, I wish you a happy new year, and a somewhat drier one for everyone in the UK, or anywhere else affected by the deluge  we have been treated to!

Monday, 24 December 2012

We survived...

a sleepover by one granddaughter, one grandson and one granddog. And a good time was had by all - apart from the grandparents being so worried about the children sleeping well that, even though the children did, the grandparents didn't. (The dog was pretty restless too. He can't get his head round the fact that no cat is going to come in and attack him - or that there is no cat food to steal, now.)

We went to Hillier Gardens on Saturday, despite the rain. The tree house was inspected and deemed too wet to use. But it was decided that we should return another day to explore it further.

The mermaid in our party hugged a few trees. The non-mermaids didn't.   

The whole party enjoyed tea in the cafe. Babybel sat quietly and ate her crisps. The VHC didn't. The feminist in me says that boys and girls are pretty similar. The grandmother in me thinks boys are louder and bolshier! 

On Sunday we went to Mottisfont. As non-dog owners we hadn't realised that you can take well behaved dogs into the gardens, which allowed us to exercise the mermaid, the dog and ourselves all at the same time. (The other member of the party came along for the ride.)

Babybel enjoyed finding the stars on the Star Trail, and granny and granddad did too. This is only a sample - the photographer was in charge of buggy pushing and refused to tackle more muddy wet grass than she had to. 

It was not too cold to have coffee in the stable yard, where Babybel could pet the chicken wire horse, suitably dressed for Christmas.

The VHC could explore the effects of running away from granny and through puddles, falling over (fortunately not in a puddle), and pretending you can't get up again, pretending you don't like the gravel on your hands and then adding more after granny has wiped them, (see what I mean about  bolshier?) and fearlessly approaching and petting a dog who is bigger than you are (a beautiful English pointer). He was more wary of the horse, however.

Granny and granddad could sit down, at least for part of the time, and the dog could field the crumbs from the rich humans' table.

Then we all went to Babybel and the VHC's house and very gratefully returned our visitors to their mum and dad.

I am sure seasoned grandparents wonder why I'm making such a fuss, but this is the first time we've had both of hem overnight, and previous visits from Babybel on her own have been rather tearful affairs.

Before all this I did manage to finish Page 2. Neatened Italian quilting and arrow stitches. It's not clear from the photo but the stitch on this is silver, not white, apart from the red thread end which seems to have crept in from somewhere. I'm pleased with the way this looks, it feels like it follows on well from Page 1.

Now to Page 3 (!) - or maybe a later page, as I have clearer ideas about those. Not that I don't have ideas for Page 3, if anything I have too many, which is a big part of the problem!

Friday, 21 December 2012

The shortest day?

This is not an obscure reference to the end of the world, which had better get a move on if it is going to happen, except that, if it's based on Mayan time, we have to make allowances for their day ending several hours after midnight GMT.

It is an even more obscure reference to the fact that 35 some years ago I was experiencing one of the longest days of my life, which started in the small hours and ended a long time later, after a lot of swearing and yelling, with a bouncing baby boy. Of course he isn't really 35, it just isn't possible....

Happy Birthday, Cheese Major, so glad that after a few rough years things seem to be looking up for you.

Things are looking fairly good at Cheese Acres too. 

Page 1 is finished, apart from having some stiffening and a backing added, which won't happen until the very end.

A considerable amount of unpicking went into this, so even though it doesn't quite lie flat, it's staying that way. I have been called many things in my life, but 'perfectionist' is not one of them. (I actually typed 'peefectionist' which I rather like, but I'm not one of those either...)

And I've made a good start on page 2. In the chilly fastnesses of Wednesday night - or perhaps Thursday morning - I came up with the idea of making a stamp with Softsculpt from page I. 

So I did. 

Well, several stamps, because when I was searching for the Softsculpt, I found some Magicstamp shapes as well. Anyone else have stuff they don't remember buying?)

The result of the printing was rather paler I'd hoped, perhaps because the fabric paint is several years old, but paler was better  than too strong.  

Then, as I was reading old embroidery magazines in bed, I came across an article about Italian quilting - so the phantom tubes have been Italian quilted. (I hope you are impressed by the months of forethought and planning which go into my design process.)

As this is the only time I've ever done any IQ apart from C&G , when I used a sewing machine and a twin needle, and the result was very tight, I'm not quite sure to do with the ends. The book I consulted suggested quilting wool or piping cord, and as I had lots of the latter and none of the former, piping cord it was. The drawback to this is that piping cord is very prone to unravelling. I've left the ends quite long for now, but when I've had enough wine to stiffen my sinews, I think I will probably tack the ends to the backing fabric before I trim them a bit shorter. Then some random arrow stitches in the background and page 2 will be done. However, if I don't get it done tonight it will have to wait till next week, as we are having two small guests for a couple of days and I suspect there will be other things on my mind.

The small hours search for Softsculpt was productive in other ways. Not only did I throw away some things I won't ever use (feathers and tomato paste tubes, mostly) but I also found several packets of skeleton leaves left over from C&G, which will be useful for the next session of the Contemporary Textile Workshop. For once we've been told more or less what we'll be doing, so with any luck I will not be taking masses of stuff I decide isn't right when I get there. (As it isn't until the middle of January, perhaps I have been guilty of forethought and planning after all?)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Slow progress...

on my Karen Ruane piece.

This is the third block, and definitely not finished yet. For a start I don't like that running stitch, so it will either come out or have something added.

The initials are mine and mum's, the hanky is one of mum's. 

Slow progress too with the cover for 'Moving On', because I keep changing my mind. (Autocorrect changed that to 'much mind' - I wish!)

First I tried couching in a sort of brick stitch effect in a thicker silver thread. Then I decided the stitches needed to be closer together, in a chevron pattern. But when it was nearly finished I realised it looked boring, and the silver was overwhelming the blue. 

Fortunately it was easy to cut out.

Then I tried small, closely-spaced patches, arranged at random by rolling a die. Still overwhelming.

So now I'm using a much finer thread, which looks better. Unfortunately it is really meant for couching, and doesn't take kindly to being pulled through the fabric, so I'm having to use a big needle and very short lengths. I just hope it works, I can't face starting for a fourth time.

And this afternoon we made a slow and stately progress round the Winter Garden at Hillier Gardens (this cold weather and my arthritis do not agree).

The sun was setting, and the light was beautiful.

The tea and cake were pretty good too.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Things can only get better...

having been pretty bad at Cheese Acres and environs for the last couple of months. No wrecks and nobody drownded, (listen, Google, when I type in 'drownded', I mean 'drownded', and if I wanted Stevie Smith I'd have said so!) but some major hassles to cope with. So the e-mail I got this afternoon telling me I'd been excused jury service was a cause of great rejoicing, and a great weight off my mind.

I believe you get picked for jury service at random by computer, and I've never been picked before, so I'm hoping that this means that official computers are in a mood for selecting my name, and that Ernie will select one of the £10 worth of Premium Bonds I've had since I was 21 without ever winning anything. 

Bit of a Fylde Coast connection in this post. (You probably have to be Northern and/or old to understand this.)

The arrival of good news had been preceded by an enjoyable lunch at Brasserie Blanc, so I was in the mood to be cheerful. Not completely cheerful, as we waited 30 minutes for the bus both going and coming (it's a 10 minute service), and the weather was dreadful, at least at first.

And I've finished the Contemporary Textile Workshop piece, which has, as you can see, morphed into a Christmas decoration.  Not quite, I think, what Terri the tutor intended, but I like it.

The other CTW piece has stalled a bit, but once we've got Sunday over  - a joint celebration for Wensleydale's birthday (early) and my graduation (late) I should be able to fit in some dedicated embroidery time.

Assuming no more hassles happen. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

You wait days for a post...

then two come along together. That's because I actually have something to say. (Not that having nothing to say usually stops me.)

I left you agog with indifference about what I was going to select from my crammed work basket. 

As you can see, the mittens won. And the eagle-eyed will also see that the cables are incorrect. Be warned: this is what happens if you try to knit complex cables while watching complex TV thrillers in Danish. Unless, of course, you speak Danish.

However, they have been tested today, and they are nice and warm. 

The mittens were tested on a Monday meander, to Stourhead. You may remember our attempt to visit Stourhead in half term, when we ended up going to Kingston Lacy. (According to a member of staff we spoke to, the Saturday of the week we tried to go and gave up, they had 7,000 visitors. Glad we didn't persist!)

We thought a Monday in mid-December might be a little quieter, and it was. 

We had intended going round the gardens, but when we realised that the house was open, and decorated for Christmas, we changed our minds.

And, despite it being a lovely sunny day, we're glad we did. The decorations were beautiful - different in each room, mostly hand made, and never OTT. 

I especially liked the dining room, where, unusually in a National Trust house, the blinds were up and the sunlight poured in over the dining table, as you can see at the bottom of this collage, and on the plate at the top.

Then home, in the light of the setting sun.

The day was only marred by the sight of three dead deer by the roadside on the way home, which is three more than I've ever seen before. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Started bad, got better.

The bad news - I've been summoned for jury duty in January. When I was working I would have been happy to do it, but now - I have two small children to look after, twice a week. Finding a child minder, at short notice, to do the hours I do, for the money the courts offer as compensation, and for an indefinite period? Unlikely. And unfortunately Wensleydale's disability means that he can't cope with the VHC, becaus he can't pick him up, carry him, or push him in a buggy.

I have asked to be excused, so keep your fingers crossed for me - well, us!

On the better side, Friday was Contemporary Textile Workshop day, and it was much more to my taste than the previous session.

We'd been asked to take sticks - but a few tubes crept in. These were once going to be 'Saga' until I decided I'd done enough degree stuff. Never throw anything away.

Of course, when I got home, I unpicked what I'd done. Didn't like the backing, didn't like the thread.

This is the second version in its embryonic stage. The background was once a drop cloth from my dyeing table, overdyed with blue - the colours work better in real life than in the photo. 

I think this may become the cover for 'Moving On', and, as I have more than enough of this fabric to make a book, it will be used for the pages as well. The anarchy of the colours seems right for the anarchy of what I have planned.

So that's the first of my definite decisions gone west. 

The session was based round the idea of using gold work techniques over sticks, or over the ridges in corrugated card. I did try the latter but mine was so awful I only did a tiny bit.

But like several of my colleagues, I played around with putting the sticks in the corrugations. 

This wasn't quite how it looked when it got home. It's got a bit greener, glitterier and golder since then, I can't imagine why. It is now in the process of having some gold stitch added.

Before I got involved in silly stuff, I finished my second Karen Ruane block. (The pins are part of the blocking process, as taught by Karen.)

It is upside down in the photo, and I'm too lazy to photograph it again, so please just imagine that flower on the left is on the right, and growing upwards.

So now my work basket contains a silly Chrismassy thing, another KR block, the cover for 'Moving On', (and the beginnings of another 7 pages), a mitten which needs the top and thumb finishing, and a scarf which I started last night because I had to have some mindless knitting for watching 'The Killing' with, and the mitten needed too much concentration.

So where shall I start?