Walkies

WARNING: Photo Heavy and mainly of dogs, cats and plantlife – look away now if you are here for knitting/crochet/sewing/baking.

When Alys at ‘Gardening Nirvana‘ recently compiled a video of the lovely plants in her Californian garden, I commented that we didn’t grow cultivated sweet peas (she has lots and lots) but we do have wild ones up on the hillside and she said she’d be interested in seeing some of my garden so I took my camera with me on the morning dog walk and, even though the wild sweet peas aren’t in bloom yet and we are desperate for rain, here it is now in mid-April in S.W. France in the midi-Pyrenees.  Our garden is very large and very steep and terraced.  We only plant up the first couple of terraces – the rest we keep brushcut but only lightly so that it is a haven for insects and birds. ((Note, the use of the word ‘we’.  It should really be ‘he’)

Sometimes one of the cats accompanies us …….

….and sometimes one of the dogs spots it

He should have paid attention to the notice!  I put this here at the top of the garden to prevent people thinking it’s a public footpath although it doesn’t always work.

This Judas Tree has been quite spectacular in previous years but seems to be getting a bit old now and the purple flowers are a bit more sparse.  You can see it from Montségur which is on the green mound just underneath the highest snowy peak opposite.  The Château de Montségur is famous as the last Cathar stronghold, which fell after a 10 month siege in 1244.   A field below the hilltop castle is reputed to be the site where over 200 Cathars were burned alive, having refused to renounce their faith.  It’s quite a climb up to the ruins but the views are amazing and it gives me the opportunity, when my heartbeat has returned to normal and I can speak again, to say                                 ‘you can see our house from here’.

Back on our walk – Flo usually leads the way.

I keep Stan on the lead on the way up, and Flo on the way down, otherwise they tend to run off together and make mischief – which usually involves fox poo and a wash down afterward.

Taz is our old boy who usually brings up the rear.

Somebody has made a little monument.  I don’t know who as we don’t walk on the public footpath and it is rare to see anybody else up here.   The hunters come through in the season but I can’t imagine them faffing about with something like this.   I like to think it’s a secret admirer who has found an ‘L’ shaped rock and placed it as a little message to me.  Actually, I hope not as that would be beyond creepy.

Although the wild sweet peas aren’t out yet, the wild orchids are.

Back down through the garden gate now and the ball game can begin.

Though somebody is only interested in the newly turned out compost bin contents.

I love this viburnum which, soon, will turn white and look like lots of little snowballs.

Phlox does very well here and this is growing over one of our many dry stone walls.

A beautiful tree peony being photobombed by Flo.

The chooks in their lilac bower.  This is just one of many lilacs we have and the scent in the late evenings and early mornings is lovely.

A tiny yellow rose growing up another stone wall on our terrace.  It blooms its little heart out for ages and, if we’re lucky, we get a second flush of flowers a bit later on.

Just in case you were worried about Leon.

He made it down the tree and back down the garden safely.

He’s not a year old yet and not a large framed cat and I couldn’t understand why he has such a saggy tum.

After a bit of research I discovered that some cats are genetically prone to something called a ‘primordial pouch’.  This is meant to protect their internal organs from damage in a cat fight and also provides extra space to stuff with food in times of shortage.  It also gives them more leeway to bend and stretch .  That’s something new I’ve learnt and also saved money by not buying special diet food from the vet.  So, if you have a cat that looks a bit saggy underneath, this may well be the reason.  I wonder if the same principle can be applied to muffin tops.

I’m not fat – it’s my primordial pouch.

 

Last but not least – the first poppies are opening.

How’s your garden doing at the moment – is it too dry like ours or are you having too much rain?  Are there plants you would really like to grow but aren’t suited to your soil or climate?  I would love some foxgloves but they wouldn’t grow well here

 

 

 

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Call the (Quilt) Police There’s A Mad (Wo)Man Around

With apologies to the Pet Shop Boys for sort of ripping off their lyrics for my title, I hope you’re all enjoying a lovely long Easter/Spring break and doing whatever it is you like to do at such times.

Last time we had a chat I asked you for help in deciding on a border for the Friendship Braids quilt and then mostly ignored what everybody said anyway.  The Quilt Police will not be happy but I decided to dig out a vintage sheet I had actually bought a couple of years ago with the backing for this quilt in mind and use it for the border.

Tell me I was wrong.

I’m not normally a ‘green’ lover but I think it makes it look very fresh.

It is quite a low thread count I believe but, just to be sure, I washed it, made a sandwich with a square of quilting cotton, wadding and sheet and had a go on the machine.  I didn’t have any problems with tension or thread knotting or snapping or anything and I certainly won’t be doing any quilting this close together so I’m going to go ahead and if I’m arrested and given a long sentence it will just give me the opportunity to sew mini hexies together, learn to love cross stitch, do a degree in psychology and concentrate on trying to make an orange jumpsuit work with my complexion – although that would only be if I got arrested by the United States Quilt Police which is a possibility as I think they are the most rigorous.

As I’m in confession mode, I must offer as evidence to be taken into consideration M’lud that, even worse than it being a sheet, there might be a touch of ‘poly’ in with the cotton as there’s a vague chemical smell when I iron it.

With this in mind, I decided not to go the whole hog and use it for the backing as well.  As luck would have it, I had just dug a duvet cover out of the clean laundry basket that has been subjected to numerous treatments and washes in an attempt to remove some oil (I think it was some sort of body oil) that Mlle Tialys the elder had managed to spill on it some time ago.  There was a patch of oil that refused to come out and, if anything, appeared to increase in oiliness as time went by.  I cut out the patch, harvested the top Cath Kidston like floral fabric for future projects and pondered using the checkered side for the back as it is serendipitously the right colours and size.  (Woohoo, I got to use ‘serendipitously’ – and again!)

I did make another sandwich, it worked fine, it is now cut to size for assembly so it’s too late to tell me if you don’t think it’s a good idea and, anyway, you know I don’t always listen don’t you.  It is, at least, 100% cotton.

I rest my case.

I did have a vague idea about giving this to my Mum when I’d finished it but I think it might have too much green in it now for her liking.  She has a thing about green and, as with most of her superstitions, has passed them on to me.   Even though I don’t really count myself as a particularly superstitious person, I like to err on the side of caution.  I don’t put new shoes on the kitchen table, I don’t bring lilacs into the house, I don’t tell Friday’s dreams on a Saturday in case they come true, and other such tosh.  However, for years I believed the colour green to be unlucky until it turned out that her basis for believing that was that her own mother had once lost a purse while wearing a green coat.  Sometimes I worry.

So she will be getting my first ever crocheted blanket instead which, as far as I know, has no bad luck associated with it and will go very nicely on her sofa and across her knees if she gets a bit chilly

Flushed with success after harvesting 450g of gorgeous tasting brown mushrooms from the pot on the right and watching the new babies grow (you can just see them if you squint) – I spotted a pot for white mushrooms (or champignons de Paris as they are called here) and thought I’d give them a go too.  It’s quite amazing how much better they taste when plucked from their very own compost just before you cook them.  I’m a convert and our earth floor wine cellar – which never gets used to store wine as we drink it too quickly – may well be put into use as a mushroom growing room in the near future.

I found this little stool in the junk shop last week and, as with much vintage French furniture, it was covered in a very dark brown thick varnish. Yuk.  I forgot to take a ‘before’ photo but it was a flat, uninteresting, no grain showing, almost black, dark brown. Mr. T. had a go with the varnish remover and the sander and got it down to this.

I’m going to treat it with some woodworm killer – just in case – and, if all of the varnish has gone I want to use a white wax on it but, if not, I will probably use a chalk paint and then distress and wax it.

Off to baste a quilt before somebody stops me.

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Veg, Fungi and Quilting as I Digress, As Usual

I did some food shopping today for the weekend – it’s only Thursday but Mr. T. arrives home tonight and I count Friday as the weekend – mainly so I can have a glass of wine (or two) but also because it feels like the weekend to me.  Sometimes I come home with unusual things like this Romanesco – a cross between a cauliflower and broccoli which, so far, looks better than it tastes but I think that’s because I haven’t perfected my method of cooking it yet.  I love all those little mini fir trees in fluorescent green although last time I cooked it in the oven and overdid it a little so the mini trees looked as if they had been in a mini forest fire.

Today I discovered this mushroom shaped pot of mushrooms, if you see what I mean.  I couldn’t resist it because you are supposed to get three harvests out of this pot – obviously the first one is ready to pick.

But look at all these little baby ones ready to spring into life and become friends with eggs and bacon.

I try to have little adventures all the time, even when I’m doing the food shopping.  Don’t judge me.

The postlady surprised me yesterday morning and not only because she arrived before 2 o’clock in the afternoon.  She delivered a little package which had me racking my brains trying to think what I’d ordered from here in France – my online purchases are usually from further afield.  Then I spotted the sender’s address and realised it was from Claire  a fellow British expat.  She is very generous with the results of her many talents and often sends little unbirthday gifts out to friends – both real and blogging – which is such a sweet thing to do.  I might start to prefer ‘unbirthdays’ as you don’t have to get another year older when you have one.  This lovely little needlecase features a little egg in the centre and I’m embarassed to say I don’t know exactly how she’s done it.  It doesn’t look quite like cross stitch and it isn’t hardanger as I know you cut bits away with that – so I’m stumped.  Pardon my ignorance but I don’t do all that fiddly stuff on tiny squared fabric  – just admire those who do.

                                                                      Anyone would think I like cats

Inside, some stitch markers for both crochet and knitting and some pins – all in a lovely turquoise colour which goes beautifully with the crochet project bag I showed you last time.

A long time ago (Lordy, 2 years ago – I just checked), I started a quilt – you know the story – and now I’ve brought it back out into the light of day to finish it.  I have my Mum’s birthday in mind but I’m not 100% sure it isn’t too bright for her tastes.  I’ll finish it first and then make a decision about its eventual home.  The design is called ‘Friendship Braid’ and is made using a jelly roll from a book about using jelly rolls called something I can’t bring to mind at the moment.  The fabric I used was Gypsy Girl by Moda.

I have two questions for both quilters and non- quilters who wish to venture an opinion.

I need a six inch border around the outside.  I can’t use plain white (as they have in the book) because my quilting wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny.  I need something with at least some sort of design on it.  There is a white fabric in the braids with tiny green spots – do you think something like that would work?  What I decide on will depend on the answer to my second question.

Obviously I can’t ‘quilt as you go’ with this one – not at this stage anyway – what sort of simple (very simple!) machine quilting design would work do you think?

How do you feel about sending quilts out to be professionally quilted?  I’m pretty sure I’ve asked this question before but it’s one that vexes me.  I know it’s fairly common in the States to do so but I have recently seen a company in the U.K. who does it for quite a reasonable price and I’m interested to see how it would turn out. I am the first to admit that I’m a piecer not a quilter but is it cheating? (O.K., that might be three questions)   I would have it back afterward to put the binding on so I would feel as if I’d done the ‘finishing touch’ but I can’t quite decide what to do.  If I did something like vertical lines it would be fairly easy – apart from wrestling my smallish sewing machine into submission – but would that look O.K.  Help!

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Hatbox Collection For March

It’s the end of March already so it’s time to show and tell  the three hatbox blocks I’ve finished in time for this month as pledged to Kate over at Tall Tales from Chiconia.  Kate is making a full size quilt from her blocks so needs to make gazillions plus she has been battling Hurricane Debbie for the last couple of days over in Australia and has had other things on her mind so if she hasn’t made her three this time I won’t be casting aspersions –  even though we did have a bit of snow here the other day accompanied by thunder and lightening  which, to be fair,  only rendered me slightly perplexed rather than full on terrified.

Here’s a bit of Chinoiserie for you as a change from florals.  As you might remember, I’m using Liberty of London tana lawn for all the hatboxes and scraps of other fabric for the backgrounds.  I bought this when Liberty had a 50% off sale recently –  I did give you all a heads up at the time and apparently cost some of you money.

The book that this quilt pattern comes from – Passionate Patchwork by Kaffe Fassett – has been on my bookshelf for ages and seems to be quite hard to get hold of now (at a reasonable price) .  I had always fancied making this but was newly inspired when Kate started hers.

Some very art nouveau style flowers here – would they be fritillaria or some sort of poppy do you think? – or do you know?

These are definitely poppies – even I know that – and this one might be my favourite this month, although I do like the Chinoiserie one at the top just because there be dragons.

Unlike Kate, I’m only making a wallhanging 4 blocks across x 3 blocks high so I only need 12.  I’ve already made 9 but I’m not sure about one of them so there may be 4 still to go.

 Then I’ll have to think about how I’m going to quilt them – I’m not convinced about the suggestion in the book.  I’m going to do each block separately using the quilt as you go method.  If you quilt, how would you tackle it – something simple perhaps or something more squiggly?

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Is It Mothers’ Day Where You Are?

It’s not the Fetes de Mères (Mothers’ Day) in France until the end of May but as my Mum is English and in England, today is Mothers’ Day as far as I’m concerned.  Also, since Mlle. Tialys the elder lives back in the U.K. now, I only stand a chance of being remembered on Mothers’ Day if we stick to the U.K. one because she will see all the palaver surrounding it beforehand and remind her sister who is still in France and would otherwise be blissfully unaware of it.

Who better than your mother to practice on when indulging your new sewing passion?

Unfortunately, even though my crochet hook has been a blur, I didn’t manage to finish the blanket I was hoping to give her for Mothers’ Day but, being my Mum, I’m sure she’ll forgive me.

Remember the Stitching Santa organised by Sewchet I participated in last Christmas?  When I received my goodies from Pippa at Beads and Barnacles she included this turquoise drawstring pouch.  I was thinking I could use it to keep my current small crochet project in and saw another opportunity to practice the freehand machine embroidery I’ve become keen on.

Just the right size for keeping  my Fusion quilt squares in which, as you can see, is progressing slowly but surely, one square at a time.

The yellow thread started out as a representation of a slip knot.   It went a bit awry but you get my drift.

It can hang on my pinboard which I am very happy with as a way of keeping my tools and other bits off the surfaces but within easy reach.  I have two of these side by side and painted them duck egg blue to go with the woodwork on the top floor of my house which is where my sewing room is.

I bought my own Mothers’ Day gift – just in case my girls didn’t remember  –  this cool ‘maker’ pin from Jodie at RicRac.  I thought it would be just the thing to wear when I’m selling my wares at the fund raising craft fairs I sometimes do and, in fact, will be doing one next Saturday.  (It wasn’t really a Mothers’ Day gift  to myself  – just an everyday indulgence – but it was an excuse to show it to you)

 

 

A craft fair next Saturday?  Sounds like another opportunity for some freehand machine embroidery I hear you say – and, of course, being a fund raiser for a retirement home for unwanted old and disabled dogs, it had to have some sort of pooch on it.

Flex Frame Glasses Case with Freehand Machine Embroidery (with one I made earlier)

 

Much as I love the effect of the stitches against linen, this was a complete pain to thread the flex frame through at the top due to the linen itself being thick, plus a layer of fusible fleece and a cotton lining.  So this will be unique in the true sense of the word and not in the sense of  ‘rare’ or ‘unusual’ which seems to be in common usage these days  because I really am only making one of them.  I am going to rope in Mr. T and see if we can work out a way to make the channel at the top somehow separate from the body so I don’t have to go through all the thicknesses.  I’ve seen one done like this but the channel was not the full width of the case,  and I prefer it if it is,  so maybe I could adapt that.

Meanwhile, so far today – it’s 09.20 – I took Mr. T. a cuppa in bed and said ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ in what I hope was a sarcastic manner,  although I know I’m not his mother.  There is no sign of a card anywhere nor email nor text from the U.K. nor from the room at the end of the corridor where Mlle. Tialys the Younger will doubtless remain entombed until around 1300h, which is her usual habit of a Sunday.

I’ll let you know if things change.

UPDATE:

There was a lot of staggering and muttering ( and very possibly a lot of  husband/father involvement) and these appeared.  The morning staggering was even more pronounced than usual as we forgot to put the clocks forward last night so time was confused.

They looked better than this before I unwrapped them and then hastily wrapped them back up again for the photo so I could show daughter in the U.K. what she had instructed her dad to get me 😉

I must confess to a nostalgia for the early days when I got a cup of tea and croissant brought up to me in bed, a flower out of the garden on the tray and hand made cards with masterpieces such as this within.

Not the most flattering of images conjured up of me there but I’m guessing the rhyme was the important thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Eat Vegetables

Here in France the shops are full of courgettes (or zucchini to you perhaps) at the moment.  I don’t much like them as a vegetable but spotted a likely looking recipe in Nigella’s  How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ book and, undeterred by my recent tasty yet unattractive chocolate loaf cake, decided to give the stand mixer another whirl.

The early signs were encouraging.

We already had a jar of home made lime curd in the cupboard for the filling and a whole net of limes in a bowl seeking a purpose.

I just had to nip down to the shop for some cream cheese and there you go.

The recipe has you sprinkle the top with pistachios – which makes it even more green – but I stuck with the zest of a lime.  Because, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not keen on sweet things.

Have a great weekend.

Flora’s Famous Courgette Cake (from Nigella Lawson How To Be A Domestic Goddess)

  • 60g raisins (optional)
  • 250g courgettes (2-3, weighed before you grate them)
  • 2 eggs
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line 2 x 21cm round tins.
If using raisins, place in a bowl and cover with warm water to plump them up. (I didn’t add any and didn’t miss them).
Rinse whole courgettes, and then grate (skin on) with the course side of a grater – you want to see the flecks of green.
Place eggs, oil, and sugar in bowl of electric mixer, and beat until creamy. Fold in sifted flour, bicarb, and baking powder. Stir in courgette (and raisins if using).
Pour mixture into tins and bake for 30 minutes, until golden on top and firm to touch. Remove from oven and leave to cool completely before assembling.
For filling use a good quality curd or make your own.  Lime is best and we just happened to have some already made but lemon is good too.
For the icing.
  • 200g cream cheese, softened
  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • juice 1 lime (and zest if you want to decorate the top with it)
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped pistachios (not the salty ones you have with drinks!)

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add icing sugar, beating continually. Add lime juice.

To assemble cake, place bottom layer on a serving plate and spread thickly with lime curd. Place 2nd cake on top carefully. Spread cream cheese over the top, and sprinkle with pistachios or just the zest of lime as I did. 

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The Travelling Sketchbook Comes to France

from The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook 

Last year I mentioned that Anne Lawson, a talented botanical artist, instigated a sketchbook which would start with her in Australia and make its way around the World to interested parties who signed up for the project and, at each stage of the journey, a new entry would be made.  As everybody who signed up for it is a woman, it became known as ‘The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook’.  I believe there have been others but this one – our one – began life in the Spring of 2016.

I cannot draw or paint to save my life,  nor have I ever attempted to write poetry,  but I knew that other media was acceptable so thought I’d join in for fun. Then I started dreading its arrival when I saw the standard of entries as they were added to the book then recorded online.   The sketchbook finally arrived in France last week – people have been taking their time enjoying the book and considering what to contribute and, despite having considered other options, I decided to go with my first idea.  I have taken photographs of most of the entries but didn’t take the book to pieces – too scared – so apologies to the sisterhood if I’ve cut a piece off or haven’t done their piece justice with my photography.

Click on the name beneath the images to go to the contributor’s website.

The sketchbook started and will end with Anne who set the bar high with her sketch of Kakadu Escarpment along with her garlic and lilies that adorn the front and back covers.

by Anne Lawson

Staying in Australia and up to Queensland to Kate who added this delightful paper pieced patchwork feather together with the lovely words beneath.

by Kate Chiconi

Staying in Queensland for a tasty, beautifully illustrated Ratatouille recipe from Sandra.

by Sandra Gay

Moving back down to Victoria, Chas created this brilliant cycling trail map to show us some of the sights to be seen from a bicycle on the way to Melbourne’s National Gallery. This is a long, fold out map so I’ve just included a small detail.

by Chas Spain

The last stop for the sketchbook in Australia was with Sandi Worrall -Hart who wrote a beautiful poem called ‘ The Explorer’ which you can see included in the collage below cleverly compiled by Alys from all the entries so far in the book at the time it reached her in the United States.

by Alys Milner

From California to Mount Vernon where Sue added these gorgeous mixed media pieces using fabric, beads, thread and charms.

by Sue Brown

Over to Ushasree in Indianapolis for an eyecatching and colourful collage of small delights

by Ushasree Gudipalli

Then a trip over to Europe and Greece with this take on the naming of Athens.

by M.L. Kappa

From Greece to Germany where Constanze produced this lovely textile piece which reflects the snowy landscape around her as she created her entry for the sketchbook.

by Constanze Hofmann

The sketchbook should have stayed in Germany for another entry but, unfortunately, Annett is struggling with some health problems at the moment and didn’t feel able to contribute – we wish her well and hope she’ll be able to join in next time, should there be one!

So, to France and to me.

I’ve told you I can’t draw or paint.  Kate, Sue and Constanze had already done perfectly lovely works in textiles and fabric so what to do?  I  thought about something knitted or even a bit of crochet but it would have to be something quite tiny and relevant.  Back in 2016 I attended a workshop on freehand machine embroidery and my plan was to practice and practice and produce something lovely for when the sketchbook arrived at my door.  Time passed – quickly as usual – and I didn’t get to practice as much as I would have liked but freehand embroidery is a forgiving craft and I hope I’ve produced something – though ‘naive’ (polite talk for ‘simple’) – that sort of enters into the spirit of the sketchbook, using thread instead of a pencil.

by me

I know it looks like a kid’s drawing but that is sort of the style – honest!   I like using natural linen for freehand embroidery as I think it sets off the fabrics and stitches really well but it frays like a bugger so I have deliberately frayed the edges and run a couple of rows of stay (I hope) stitching around the perimeter.  If you’re wondering what the blue lines are they are my interpretation of the map of the World.  It is very imprecise! Australia is disappearing up the skirt of the last sister, Europe is frillier than necessary and there appears to be a squished square country north of the barely recognisable British Isles but you get my drift.  As I’m an English expat living in France I  introduced a bit of entente cordiale by using French linen  (the type they produce to make those classic linen t-towels) and the dresses are all in Liberty of London fabric.    I didn’t want to make any political statement but, as it was a recent event and as I know one of the sisterhood went along with a pink plastic bag on her head, I’ve included a pink pussyhat wearer just to be topical.

As soon as I’ve worked out how to add this to the book – the linen is backed with calico and card so I’ll probably glue it in – it will be on its way to the United Kingdom for its last two entries, then back to Australia where we have hopes that it will be digitally scanned so we can all have a copy to keep.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at the Sketchbook as it stands so far in Tialys blog form .

A great project to be involved with  🙂

 

 

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Fusion

Regular readers may remember that I have started  to wave a crochet hook about in what I hope will be a productive fashion.  I’ve made a few practice squares, hearts and circles and am halfway up a multicoloured ‘v’ stitch blanket but I’m also juggling two knitting projects and, like most of us, I can’t remember how many patchwork/dressmaking/commissioned thingies and various other craft projects I have on the go.  When something catches my eye, however, I am very easily persuaded from my path and, when that something involves two of my favourite things – fabric and yarn – patchwork and crochet – that particular bull has to be taken by the horns and run with (or is that against the law now?)

So, in the manner of a fancy restaurant with a mélange of dishes gleaned from various parts of the world and calling it ‘fusion cuisine’, I am combining some double sided fabric squares with a border of crochet and making a fusion quilt – or, if I find it too difficult,  a fusion handkerchief.

Here is a photograph from Fanny Lu Designs showing a corner of her High Tea Fusion Quilt which is where I got the inspiration (and the instructions!)

fusionquiltcloseup

Detail of High Tea Fusion Quilt from Fanny Lu Designs – more photos and tutorial here

I went through a phase of buying charm packs (42 x 5 inch squares of coordinating fabrics for those not of the patchwork/quilting persuasion)  and then never really knowing what to do with them so, although Tiffany uses 6 inch squares in her tutorial, I had two matching Moda charm packs in my stash all dressed up with no place to go so I decided to adapt, save some money and make some room in my stash at the same time – it can always be replenished later after all.

Fabric for Fusion Quilt

I also found a pack of 12 x 50g balls of Rowan organic cotton yarn that I had pounced upon like a woman possessed when it was laid on the floor along with numerous other packs of bargain yarns for  knitters, crocheters and random passers by to rummage amongst  in some sort of woolly rugby scrum.  This was at some forgotten knitting/stitching show I attended at some forgotten time – I am more dignified these days 😉  Anyway, so much did I need that pack of 12 x 50g balls that I still have it, untouched, to this day.  I thought, as it’s a quite nice ‘tea-stained’ colour, it would make a vintage looking border for my vintage looking fabrics and result in a pretty, vintage looking blanket (or hanky).  Plus, as with the fabric charm squares, it would use up some stash and I would end up with a free quilt.   ‘Free’ is a relative term when you are somebody who stockpiles yarn and fabric as you probably know if you have been interested enough to read this far.

Test Sqaure for Fusion Quilt

Here is my first attempt.  I quite like the colour but the yarn is a double knit and the Fanny Lu design uses a fingering weight (4-ply?) baby wool so it looks a little ‘thick’ and not as delicate as I might have liked.  Also, that Rowan cotton is a mare for splitting and I didn’t fancy doing the whole blanket faffing about with split yarn, not at my novice stage.

So, I faced the fear and ordered a huge cone of ivory cotton 4-ply from eBay.  I had it delivered to Mr. T’s office in London.  When I spoke to him on the phone he asked me why I’d ordered a large spool of string.  The fear returned.

4 PLY YARN CONE

I had a go with another pair of squares and the ‘string’ and I think this looks a bit more like the original idea of a delicate blanket with a vintage look.

FUSION QUILT TEST SQUARE 2

I think the thicker yarn would also work – though not the splitty stuff unless you are a complete whizz with the hook and that stuff doesn’t bother you – but, obviously, it would give the finished blanket a different look.

Fusion Quilt Test Squares 1 & 2

Which do you prefer?

So, I’m going to make this a project I do with my sewing buddy on a Wednesday as we have ‘finished’ our Friendship Braid quilts we were making together.   I say ‘finished’ but only the tops are done though we will complete the rest of it as individuals.  Maybe.   By contrast, this blanket can be made in small pieces and we can crochet the borders while having a chat and complaining about things in France and in general – at least I think that’s what we’re doing, my French isn’t perfect.  My crochet skills aren’t perfect either – far from it – so I will probably get carried away from time to time moaning about French drivers (they don’t indicate – you’d think there was a tax on using the indicators or something), the lack of any decent restaurants round here (we’re in France for God’s sake!), the amount of dog poo on the pavements and anything else that takes us on the day and then I’ll have to undo what I’ve done and start again which, I must say, seems to be a lot easier with crochet than with knitting.  Just as well as it’s not easy, putting the world to rights.

Time will tell whether I end up with a blanket, a table mat or a handkerchief or just lots of fabric squares with crochet borders waiting, at the bottom of a basket in a corner of my workroom, to be joined together which of course is yet another possibility.

 

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Knitting Needles, Crochet hooks and Dodgy Cakes

knittingneedleholderforannelaure-6

A friend of mine has just started to learn to knit and it was her birthday last week so I knew just what to make her.

knittingneedleholderforannelaure-3

I went back to the pattern in ‘Stitch and Bitch’ that I’d shrunk down to make a roll for my new crochet hooks and made a full size one for her.

knittingneedleholderforannelaure-1

I didn’t leave my gorgeous knitting needles in though – I bought her some plain ones.  I’m not that good a friend.

colour-mix-v-chain-blanket

Possibly becoming adventurous beyond my burgeoning crochet ability I bought a kit from Black Sheep Wools who kindly deliver to France at a reasonable cost.  I was tempted by those lovely colours.  The yarn is James C. Brett DK Merino.  It’s actually mostly acrylic  – well, it is for a blanket that will need washing – but there is a 10% merino content so it feels lovely and soft and is great to work with.

I was daunted by the 162 chains as I’ve never yet managed to make even a small  one without twisting it and then, getting my U.S. and U.K. terms mixed up, I did the foundation row in double treble crochet instead of treble but that is how it’s staying as I’m not re-doing that chain!   It’s a nice easy pattern and perfect for me to get used to the whole technique of crochet.

This is it so far…..

Crochet Blanket Start

….. and this is how I’m hoping it will end up.

Highland Heathers Blanket

Sara’s Highland Heather Blanket Kit – available from Black Sheep Wools here

Just in case you are thinking I’ve gone all ‘perfect’ over the weekend – think again.

It was Mlle. Tialys the Younger’s birthday on Friday and, flushed with success after making Nigella’s Madeira cake (feast your eyes here – no calories!), I had a go at her Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake (also from ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’).

Salvaged Cake

If you think this looks a little like a pig’s breakfast, then you should see how it looked half an hour after it came out of the oven.

And you shall –

Nigella says the cake is so dense and damp it will sink a little when it comes out of the oven.

Burnt Cake

 I don’t think she meant quite this much  😦

Some days I’m more of a domestic goddess than others.

I broke a few pieces off around the outside and it actually tasted good so I chopped it up into brownie sized damp, dense pieces and arranged them on a plate, sprinkled them with icing sugar and, because I couldn’t find the birthday candles, stuck a fancy straw in the top.  Luckily my daughter is easily pleased especially when chocolate is involved.  How fortunate was my friend who got a hand made knitting needle roll instead of a cake.

I Googled the recipe expecting to find loads of other, similar disasters but I didn’t.  So, it’s just me then.

I know I have a follower who happens to be a baker and, if he’s managed to get past the knitting and crochet, perhaps he will have an idea of what went wrong.  I think it was because I’m a lazy cow and, instead of creaming butter and sugar together by hand and adding the rest of the ingredients gradually, I did the whole thing in a stand mixer – although stage by stage and fairly gradually – so I might have beat too much air in.

Anyway, Sunday night we heated it up and had it with cream and it made a really nice dense, damp, chocolate pudding 🙂

 

 

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More Hatboxes and some Fuzzy Reminiscences

Remember when I said that Kate over at Tall Tales from Chiconia was making a quilt from a Kaffe Fassett book that I had lusted after for some years?  (If not, you can read my original post here ).  Kate’s way ahead of me with her blocks but, then again, she started first and she’s making a quilt whereas I’m late to the party and am only making a wall hanging.

Here’s the version in the book that inspired us.

Hatbox Quilt

All my hatboxes are going to be made in Liberty of London tana lawn with various scraps of other fabric for the ‘wallpaper’ and ‘floor’ in the ‘cubby holes’ which each contain one hatbox.

We pledged to complete three hatboxes every month.

These are my three for February.

libertyhatboxwallhanging4

I used this gold/yellow tana lawn that I used to make a blouse some time ago although I seem to have quite a lot of it left.  I like the backgrounds here – the duck egg blue is the predominant colour in my bedroom where the finished wallhanging will be displayed.

libertyhatboxwallhanging5

This was actually the first one I made but it went wrong and I was going to ditch it but, in one of my rare patient and resourceful moments,  managed to peel off the appliqué, re-cut it, re-position it and salvage the block.

libertyhatboxwallhanging6

I need twelve blocks in total.  Some might not make the final cut.  Although I like the background fabrics in this block – especially the Tilda one with birds – the colours might be too overpowering to work with the others in the wallhanging plus I  set the right hand side of the base of the hatbox a little higher than the others and it’s a bit on the wonk so we’ll see.

Here are all six I’ve completed so far which I’ve displayed on my design wall.  I call it a design wall but, in reality, it’s a flannel sheet draped over a towel rail which the blocks are clinging to in the manner of a set of Fuzzy Felt – how I used to adore my fuzzy felts –  and this is the extent of its displaying capabilities.

libertyhatboxwallhanginghalfdone

Eventually, the layout will be four hatboxes across and three down with sashing and, possibly, a border.  Should be ready around May/June time.

Talk of Fuzzy Felt sent me off down a rabbit hole and I found myself looking at vintage sets.

I know I definitely had this one

and I had one with mostly shapes so you could be a bit freestyle.

I’m pretty sure I had this one

fuzzy-felt-circus

and I think I might have had this one………

noddy-fuzzy-felt-2

………………although that might just be wishful thinking because I loved Noddy  and – look! – they’ve got proper little faces and everything.

I know these were made in England but my non-Brit followers might have had them because, according to Wikipedia, since the creation of Fuzzy Felt in the 1950s, more than 25 million sets have been sold internationally and although Fuzzy-Felt reached its peak in popularity sometime in the mid-1970s, it remains an iconic children’s toy, still enjoyed by children who play with it and parents who nostalgically purchase it.

Don’t think I’m not tempted.

So – which sets did you have?  If it was something like a My Little Pony set or anything else post 1980, don’t tell me as you are too young and I will become depressed.

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