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Christmas Wreath placemat to complete.

December 27, 2015
Christmas wreath

finished article

Here’s another thing I found when searching through my Christmas fabric box, a placemat I made years ago, and the makings of another one. Which is great because I can show you how I made it without having to make another! If only I can remember how it went together.

Christmas wreath

start with snowball block

The centre block, the Christmas wreath, is a “kind of” nine patch, made up of a centre strip 2 green squares 2.5 inches and a white rectangle 2.5″ by 3.5″. the corner squares are 3.5″. The red border is 2 inches, can’t think why. The chequerboard border is made up of 2.5 inch squares too.

Christmas wreath

just little squares

The little square in square blocks I think must have been made up of the bits left over when I made the corner blocks.

christmas wreath

corner block

I used the stitch and flip method, place a small square on the larger square at the corner, stitch diagonally corner to corner, then cut off all but the seam allowance, and flip over to create a new corner to the block, this block uses that method twice with two different size smaller squares on diagonally opposite corners.  I took the opportunity to sew together the two bits I would cut off, simply because it’s easier to sew fiddly little bits while they are still attached to the larger piece.

Christmas wreath

a little gold sparkle

I copied the holly leaf quilting pattern from a hand bill advert I found, it was a tiny but simple line drawing of a holly leaf with berries, which I had to scale up and transfer to cardboard,cereal box card. I drew round the pattern with a disapearing pen, and machine stitched with gold thread for a little Christmas sparkle. Finally the Christmas wreath block, which is supposed to be a holly wreath is embellished with little red buttons, they are too big to be berries, but smaller ones would have been difficult to source, and I would have needed very many of them to get the balance of colour right.

subsequently I’ve cut some more chequerboard squares and made another Christmas wreath placemat… well I’ve got the top done. The wadding backing and quilting will have to wait till I can get to a shop that sells wadding.

christmas wreath

easy squares

Christmas Wreath

easy peasy

Christmas wreath

putting it together.

I’m also making something bigger, I’m not sure yet what it will look like, possibly a table runner to go the length of the table or maybe just something for the middle of the table to hide all the table mats, and protect my snowy white table cloths. Watch this space, but don’t hold your breath, it might be ready for next Christmas.

Beanbag camera kit

October 8, 2015
beanbag camera kit

freebie fabric

In the middle of developing an idea about making a beanbag support for my camera I visited my sister and whilst telling her all about it she showed me her new make. She had been to the wonderful factory shop we have locally which sells designer furnishing and dress weight fabrics, and bought a small amount of Ralph Lauren Home fabric. She had  made cushions and a table cloth to spruce up her porch, to make it into somewhere she could sit when the sun is shining but not quite warmly enough to be outside. She had a small amount left which she gave to me, because it was just the size I needed for my project. I’m such a lucky sister.

beanbag camera kit

Inside/outside sitting area

So I made a beanbag, by turning the fabric into a tube and then stitching the end seams at 180 degrees to one another to create a little humbug shaped beanbag cushion,  leaving a gap at one end for the filling.

beanbag camera kit

make a humbug beanbag

I turned the beanbag right sides out, and made a paper funnel out of some scrap paper to fill the bag with.

beanbag camera kit

paper funnel

The beanbag is filled with polystyrene beads, which I have recycled from an old beanbag seat that was bought for the 15 year old to sit on when he has a little lad, and which has lain forlorn and unused in my studio for  longer than I care to admit (my excuse is I always knew it would come in handy one day).  l could have used rice or beans but I wanted it to be as light as possible, because my camera kit is already heavy enough.

beanbag camera kit

polystyrene beads

I scooped a glassful of beads from the old beanbag seat, then holding the funnel inside the bag with one hand it was really easy to pour the polystyrene beads into the bag, encountering very little problem with static cling. There were a few beads left in the bottom of the glass, probably because I didn’t dry it properly, but no little beads clinging to every surface, my hands, my clothes… if you’ve ever had dealings with polystyrene beads you’ll know what I mean.

beanbag camera kit

filling the beanbag

It just needed a machine stitched closure, to make sure it won’t bleed little beads all over the place and it’s done.

beanbag camera kit

beanbag

and what’s the point of all this I hear you wondering?  It’s my own take on beanbag camera kit. At the time I had just bought a telephoto lens for my camera, and at 300mm you can’t really hand hold without getting camera shake. I have a tripod but don’t really want to hump it about with me, it’s rather heavy and my hips and knees are getting arthritic so the weight is a problem. This light as air little cushion allows me to set up my camera on a wall or fence post and take pictures without camera shake… if there is a handy wall at the right height.

beanbag camera kit

camera on a wall

Subsequently I bought myself to a monopod but I still carry the beanbag, it weighs nothing at all and cost me nothing but a little time and ingenuity. My sister is also a keen photographer, I wonder if she might like one…and then my niece… but then I have an idea for a slight design adaptation… watch this space.

Bigger slippers

February 18, 2015

So what do you do when you have bought things for Christmas which turn out to be the wrong size? I recently had two such mistakes to solve, I bought my Dad a pair of soft jersey pants, which he finds comfortable to wear at leisure, but they had cuffs at the ankle and were too long, not a good look. Saggy grey cotton jersey doesn’t really suit anyone, no matter how old. I cut the cuffs off and finished the raw edge with an overlock stitch and double stitched hem. Problem solved, pants no longer sagging in the legs.

bigger slippers

we need bigger slippers

The next problem was a bit more difficult to solve, a pair of soft fleece slippers for the 14 year old. To me he’s still a boy, I keep forgetting how big he has grown, he is taller than me and his feet are larger than his dad’s, so how I managed to think Medium sized slippers would fit I don’t know! He likes his slippers, and wants to wear them but they are a tad too small, and although stretchy, not quite stretchy enough, so what to do? Make bigger slippers. Yes but what with? I was considering what I had which I could use to build an extension for the 14 year old’s toes, when I saw the cuffs I’d cut off Dad’s pants sitting on my sewing table, perfect colour, now how?

bigger slippers

problem solved, bigger slippers.

I cut one cuff along the seam and then cut it in half, each half was stitched along the two short edges to create a little pocket, then I opened up the toe of the slipper peeled back the fluffy faux lamb’s wool lining and stitched the little grey jersey pockets to the outside fabric. The lining was then hand stitched back into place covering the seam allowance so the lining is held in place and the seam hopefully will sit under the toes, where the toes meet the ball of the foot, and won’t be too uncomfortable.
They may look rather silly, but it worked, it solved the problem and the 14 year old tells me they are comfortable and a much better fit, of course the acid test is, does he wear his Bigger Slippers? Yes he does. I thought asking him to model them was pushing my luck too far, he would probably have a fit if he saw this post, so Sshh.
I love sewing, I love being able to mend and customise, fix my mistakes, and make something usable out of left over scraps from another project, retrieve the torn and damaged, create something usable out of what otherwise would be thrown away.

I’m in love with an idea, I want a shed

July 17, 2014

An idea has been bubbling away at the back of my mind, I want a shed. I’m loath to admit it, but I have shed envy.
Having seen many magazine articles and even TV programmes about people who have their own little outside space, garden room, beach hut, pavilion, Hobbit hole, garden shed, I have developed a yen for my own little space, another room to furnish and decorate without the need to move or build an extension. A space I can furnish on a shoestring, from charity shops and boot fairs, and use to sit in when I want to be outside but it’s not quite warm enough. That’s most evenings in a typical British summer.

this is what I want

this is what I want

I want a little summerhouse with roses round the door, a place I can sit and sew with the doors and windows open, garden smelling wonderfully, birds making their evening chorus, hedgepigs snuffling about in the undergrowth.
My only difficulty was where on earth to put it, my garden is lovely, but very small, any kind of wooden building would be intrusively large and would take up space where currently plants are flourishing. And why would I want to replace flowers with walls?

dirty little secret

dirty little secret

But I also have a dirty little secret, an overgrown patch behind the garage, where I have foolishly planted a rampant rambling rose which has grown way beyond its allotted space. I had intended it to grow through an old Elder tree in the corner of my plot, but one winter maybe 8 years ago the old tree fell, and the rose just kept on growing… and growing, it has grown into a tree in my neighbours garden, it has encroached upon two trees in my garden and it overhangs the garden of the folks on the other side of the fence. In fact last summer I spied them lift up the fence panel, climb into my garden and cut a whole bough from the rose, the cheek of it! I didn’t object, they took away the remains and disposed of it, and they would have been within their rights to throw the dead branch back over the fence. The rose has grown so high over the garage roof it must stand a metre higher than the roof line, and shades my garden. Despite romantic reminiscence of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale; sadly it has to go.

Dead wood that needs to go

Dead wood that needs to go

Despite the fact that it smells divinely in the spring, I have to cut it down. I’ve made a start but it’s a lot of work. When it has gone, and the fallen tree cleared, and a Holly tree too, I think I will be able to make a space big enough to accommodate my little garden shed. Of course I will be referring to it by some fancy name like “the garden room” but we all know in reality it will be a shed.

The old dead Elder tree

The old dead Elder tree

I’ve already been shopping for my shed, I think I know what I want, but I can consider it all winter while I get the site cleared, no rush, plenty to think about, …ship lap…log lap, tantalized or not… should it be painted…do I need to run electricity… what type of furniture, will it be insulated so I can use it in winter…how to heat it, safely. Curtains…rugs…comfy chair………bed? ( well that’s another story entirely)
I want a shed, my sewing room shed, my peaceful place.

lets hope this isn't the reality

lets hope this isn’t the reality

Paradise is a garden

April 23, 2014

Our Garden furniture has been looking rather tatty for a couple of years now so we decided to treat ourselves to new ones; a table, chairs and a parasol to afford shade or shelter according to the weather. Getting rid of the old ones presented a greater challenge than expected, we couldn’t get the table down the side path; too wide, and it wouldn’t go through the house either, same reason. The bolts too rusted to easily take apart we came up with a canny solution… wait till the neighbours went out, then passed the table over the fence, past the too narrow place, and back over the fence…shhhh, don’t tell. The new ones all fold up for easy storage, so we won’t have that problem again.

paradise in my own back yard

paradise in my own back yard

I’m not sure what we planned to buy when we began looking but we did shop around before we bought, did we want rattan… no, too likely to get dirty given the secluded position under trees, did we want glass and steel…Nope, too fancy and likely to rust in our damp climate. Wood then…hmm, maybe, maybe not, which wood? What about mosaic topped and painted metal? We finally decided on wood, but teak, not a cheaper alternative and something which could be easily stored indoors for the winter to extend its potential life. My Dearest insisted on an HUGE parasol, so that he can sit in the garden even when it’s raining and not get wet. I have to say there is something wonderful about sitting in our garden in the summer rain, paradise is a garden.

chair before teak oil

chair before teak oil

Being teak, I decided to give the furniture a coat of teak oil to help preserve it, my Dearest having determined to have nothing whatever to do with any noxious substances, said that was my job…as ever.
Next task making cushions to go on the furniture, we could have bought the cushions sold with the furniture, and I did like them very much, but I could not justify the expense, four small chair cushions and a bench cushion would have cost as much as 2 chairs! How much!!!

and after

and after

So off to town on Saturday for some upholstery foam, and to a local factory shop for suitable striped fabric, now all I need to do it cut the foam to fit, and cover with my chosen fabric.

yet another job for me

yet another job for me

With what’s left of the fabric I may make some more bunting or some softer scatter cushions. All told I think I will have saved £40 or more, if I don’t cost in my time, but then I didn’t have anything else to spend my time on now did I?

easy cut to fit

easy cut to fit

One thing I did find time for, down at the bottom of my street runs a little stream, and on the bank the City Council has planted the most beautiful cherry tree which is in full bloom, so on Saturday when the sun shone all day in a clear blue sky, I took the time to walk down to the stream with my camera.

white cherry blossom

white cherry blossom

Finally a Christmas walk

December 29, 2013

I’ve been waiting since Christmas day for the weather to be fit for a walk, we have had gale force winds and driving rain, but today the sun shone, the temperature was mild and the wind has dropped.

where has all the Elder gone?

where has all the Elder gone?

We took the footpath along the estuary, someone has layed the hedge where last October we picked Elderberries, the Elder bushes have been cut to the ground, disaster, we’ll have to find somewhere else to pick next year.

hiding in the bushes

hiding in the bushes

As we were walking and chatting, I heard a rustling in the bushes, and saw a Robin, my Dearest kept talking and whenever I moved to get a better view, he moved to stand in the way, typical man!

that's better

that’s better

I waited to get a picture , after a little shyness the Robin must have guessed I wanted a picture because he hopped out of the undergrowth and literally posed for me, getting closer and closer with every shutter click.

did you get my good side?

did you get my good side?

There wasn’t much else to photograph but I had vowed not to go home till I had at least one shot I was happy with. I even waited till the sun came out from behind a cloud to get this shot.

sunshine on Ivy

sunshine on Ivy

Another Grand Day Out

August 23, 2013

22.08.2013
What a lovely day I had today, with nothing planned and a promise of mixed weather, we set off to Morecambe to collect my winnings, not a lump sum, sadly but a novel written by a local author, and offered as a competition prize in my local newspaper. Having collected it and noting that the clouds had rolled back, the sun was shining and the tide was high, we drove north along the promenade looking for a suitable place for lunch. We turned off the coastal road and headed for the shore at Red Bank Farm.

date stone, Red Bank Farm

date stone, Red Bank Farm

Red Bank Farm has a very enviable setting being sited at the very point where the sea meets the land, any further west and it would be in the sea. A High bank protects the land from being encroached upon, I guess when the Farm house was built perhaps the sea was not so close, but then the date stone over the door says 1680, so Red Bank farm has weathered many a storm since it was built.

So close to the Sea

So close to the Sea

My Dearest had a Bacon Buttie, no change there then, and I had a baked potato, butter and salad, being on the Hay diet limits my choices as I don’t eat protein at lunchtime, still I could have just had a bowl of chips, I restrained myself. They did look good though, thick cut and crisp cooked with the skin on.

ancient steps on a right of way

ancient steps on a right of way

 

 

A footpath passes behind the farm house, right on the edge of the beach, ancient steps form a style between the building and the wall which borders the property.

dappled sunshine on a country road

dappled sunshine on a country road

 

 

We drove on to Silverdale, a place of outstanding Natural Beauty, visited a little gallery we know and then on to Jack Scout for a walk, the sun was very hot and the day humid, so we did not walk far before my Dearest wanted to turn back. I snatched a couple of pictures near the cliff edge looking up the Kent Estuary towards Arnside.

Jack Scout, Kent estuary

Jack Scout, Kent estuary

Not wanting to set off home just yet we turned the car northwards up the A6, a route we had taken several times already this week, but stopped at Beetham, it’s one of those villages which is by-passed by the road and so is rarely seen or investigated by passing traffic but I knew there was a Pub the Wheatsheaf, which had been recommended to me for good food, so we stopped to check out the menu.

stocks, now where are those rotten tomatoes?

stocks, now where are those rotten tomatoes?

What a charming little village, with fine old houses, a set of stocks on the green, a good pub, a beautiful church (The Church of St Michael and All Angels, parts of which date from the 12th century) , it still boasts a Post Office and general store, but more than that it has its own theatre! ( The Heron Theatre, a 80 seat theatre housed in the listed 18th century grammar school ) I believe the village has its own amateur theatre group, who put on productions, and it is otherwise used as cinema, “Quartet” is showing this weekend.

St Michael and all Angels

St Michael and all Angels

There is apparently The Heron Corn Mill, a working watermill, which we did not investigate. We went home via Morecambe again to walk on the promenade, and enjoy the cool sea breeze. Whilst promenading we saw a BBC news team about to record a piece live for that evening’s news, we didn’t stay to find out what it was to be; given the lateness of the hour, and having left the 13 year old alone all day, we decided it was time to go home and feed him.
The day had been unexpectedly sunny, almost cloudless and very warm, we even got to sit in the garden till it went dark, and then the rain which had been promised but which we thought we had escaped, came down suddenly in great big drops and soaked us as we ran across the garden from the terrace to the back door, if only it would always rain through the night, and allow us clear skies during the day.

Not to blow my own trumpet…

August 17, 2013
beautiful

beautiful

Look at these lovely and unusual roses, given to me at work for a job well done, it’s nice to be appreciated.

I'm so lucky

I’m so lucky

Burn him off Steve!

August 15, 2013

Whilst on holiday this month a trip to the Lakeland Motor Museum caused my Dearest to relive an unfortunate event in his misspent youth.

1-IMG_5105

This is a Norton Commando 850cc, used by Lancashire Police in the 1970’s. My Dearest told me a tale in which he “rescued” a 50cc Honda moped from a stream near his home. He and his friend neither more than 14 at the time got it working, it had no kick start so they had to push it along the road, running till the engine fired,and they managed to fit a working head light taken from an old car.   One night they set off on an adventure, riding through the streets of Preston on this death trap motorcycle, My Dearest in control, his friend riding pillion.

Inevitably they were spotted by a Motorcycle Cop and flagged down, but in a panic to escape their fate the friend shouted “Burn him off Steve, burn him off!” and My Beloved, being a stupid 14 year old boy, attempted to outrun a Norton Commando 850cc, on a Placcy 50cc. Needless to say they were stopped and arrested; the Cop must have been bursting to laugh.

Norton Commando 850CC

He was left to cool his heels in clink all night; his Mum thought the experience would teach him a lesson, his first time in a Police cell. But the greater lesson was that the bike was confiscated and there ended his passport to the freedom of the open road, for the time being at least. It was about this time that he was teaching himself to drive in his father’s Allegro 1750 Supersport, not that his father was aware of it at the time, but that’s another story.

Gadget girl

June 7, 2013

I’ve never really been a gadget lover unless you include my sewing kit, but one thing I have always had a hankering for is a detail sander; a neat little hand held device which I could use to save time when preparing surfaces for paint. Probably because I love shabby chic and would like to customise found objects and charity shop finds.
Last week I bought some teak oil to treat my Garden furniture but didn’t get any further than storing it in the garage, I couldn’t face the work of sanding them all down by hand with a sanding block, and hadn’t the patience to try to persuade my Dearest to do it, he doesn’t DO manual labour!
Imagine then my delight at finding the very thing I needed in my local supermarket, at a very reasonable price. No contest; one of those was coming home with me. I hardly stopped to put away the groceries, before running out to the back garden to try out my new toy. A gadget which saves time and effort is always a blessing, especially if it means you enjoy the task, even better if you can get someone else to enjoy the task instead, I wonder if I could get the thirteen year old interested…..?

stripped down and ready in half an hour!

stripped down and ready in half an hour!

My old grotty moss stained teak garden chair was sanded down and given a coat of Teak oil in less than an hour, next task is the teak garden bench which lives on the terrace in the back garden, and then the bench from the front of the house. Note the foolish mistake, I didn’t put down newspaper before I began, so now I will need to clean the paving, Doh! Next time I’ll work on the lawn, it won’t do any permanent damage.

Teak oiled.....Good as new

Teak oiled…..Good as new