I had been planning to make elderflower Vodka for weeks, since I saw the first Elderflower umbels begin to flower. I bought Vodka and waited for a lovely summers day to go out and gather some elderflowers. In came the rain, and the gales, and cold weather, Brrr, not going out in this!
Yesterday I noticed that most of the elderflowers were already finished and decided today would have to be the day, or it was all over for another year, and no elderflower vodka. This morning it was sunny and still, a perfect day, and I only needed to walk a short way from my door to find a small elderflower bush with a shady side which was less advanced than I’d seen out and about yesterday. Ten or so Umbels picked and back to my suntrap back garden.
So what else do I need? a Lemon, and a bottle of Vodka, 100g of sugar, and a glass jar.
I gently removed the flower heads from the stems, Elderflowers aren’t toxic but the wood and stems are, I don’t think I would poison anyone if I’d left the stems on but you just never know. I de-stem the flowers over a plate so I can check for foreign bodies or small creatures, which can be encouraged away or squashed according to preference. I encouraged some small creatures to depart, the ones who wouldn’t go got squashed.
On top of the flowers went the zest of a lemon, and a 100 grams of sugar, and a 75cl bottle of Vodka, (it should have been a Ltr but I only had a 75cl bottle) So only 75 cls of Elderflower vodka this year.
On top of the flowers I put 3 layers of greaseproof paper and the lemon slices, this is to hold the flowers under the vodka to stop them going brown and colouring the vodka.
I found the recipe at wild at heart foods, thanks and credit where it’s due.
note to self… next time cut the paper to fit the jar, 3 or 4 layers slightly offset, each tucked down the side of the jar slightly will hold the flowers down better. Some of the lemon slices can go under the paper, all of them is too many. I have made elderflower liqueur before, see :- Elderflower liqueur
These two quilts are another mother and daughter effort, the first is mine using my favourite bright colours, with black. The second is my mother’s, rich colours which tone beautifully together.
The block is known as Twister, it looks rather complicated, and whilst it does take some planning and a large workspace is helpful it is actually fairly simple to achieve.
First task is to cut out squares and put them together in a grid bearing in mind that each square will tessellate with its neighbouring squares in the finished article, so each square should be sufficiently different from its neighbour to give the definition you want.
Once you have a grid maybe 20 percent larger than the finished article you plan, you take your scissors to it cutting it up using a template guide. At first it may seem that there is a profligate waste of fabric as you do cut to waste. A large bias square is cut from the centre of each square, I set these aside to use in the border. As each new square is cut diagonally from the fabric with the intersection of the squares as the centre of the new squares you cut, you should then rotate the square 90 degrees and set it back next to its neighbour. You will find they begin to tessellate; now you see why you need to have a large workspace, because you need to set out the entire quilt top, each piece placed by its neighbour, to get the placing correct.
You will have a collection of little bias cut squares left over, now it’s never a good idea to use bias cut fabric , bias cut edge to bias cut edge if you can avoid it,because both edges will stretch. If you cut the same size squares on straight grain, and join them alternately bias cut edge to straight grain edge, you can produce a string of coloured squares to use as a border, it will still stretch a little if you are not careful, but at least there will be no waste. I cannot bear waste.
The first quilt I made in this pattern I can’t find a photo of, probably because it was photographed long before I discovered digital photography, in fact it may have been made before digital photography existed.( Do you know how old that makes me feel?) It was a cot quilt made for a friend at the birth of her daughter, and was in pretty pinks and blues and on a very small scale, hand quilted in circles.
Santa brought me a Sizzix Big Shot, I’d seen apple core quilts on Pinterest and coveted them, so when I discovered how the pieces were cut I coveted the Sizzix machine as well, but I couldn’t justify buying one just to have a go at making a quilt. My Dearest however thought it would make an excellent gift this Christmas. I am delighted with it and have already begun cutting apple cores from my stash.
If you are not familiar with this piece of equipment it’s a die cutter, basically a miniature mangle, which presses dies (a shape cutting blade) onto whatever you want to cut the shape in, paper, card or fabric, mostly used by card makers and other crafty people. I have already worked out that I can use it for appliqué, with bondaweb, and to make other paper crafts as yet not crystalised but bubbling away at the back of my head ( no doubt you’ll be the first to know when I get round to trying out my as yet vague ideas)
I always find myself wondering how other quilters manage to make such well balanced colour coordinated Scrap quilts, I generally find I struggle to have the right amount of sufficient variation of colour and pattern to make a balanced quilt; do you think maybe they cheat? Maybe they go out and buy new fabrics to achieve the look they want and then just call it a scrap quilt? Surely not!
I have pulled a few fabrics from my stash and cut them into apple cores but together they lack a certain something, I’m not sure what exactly and don’t want to cut any more till I know what it is that’s missing; the dreaded yellow perhaps, or maybe greater variation of darks and lights, at the moment what I have cut are mainly mid shades. I shall need to pull out a great many more fabrics from my stash and throw them in a pile I think, then pare it back, pulling out the ones that don’t work, till I have the right mix.
Having said that I think one of my weaknesses is a need to control, perhaps, as it’s a scrap quilt I should just throw it all in and let it all hang out, wherever the fabrics fall… if you see what I mean, and pardon my clichés.
The truth is I didn’t pull out of my stash the fabrics I love, I pulled out the fabrics I could spare, the unloved and languishing bits, so it’s no wonder they aren’t yet making an inspiring mix. I need inspiration, one or two well chosen fabrics to pull it all together, or white, or navy? Oh Help! What I really need is a few days of free time in my studio to let this quilt come together.
Sometimes I receive a Christmas card which I like too much to throw away on 12th night.
I tend to keep some maybe just in case no-one sends me a card next year! Perhaps when I’m old and friendless I’ll be able to put up cards that I have kept and still feel surrounded by the love of old friends, who are no longer around to send cards.
This card I loved so much I wanted to make something with it, so I decided to frame it, it will still get packed away with the Christmas decorations and come out every year but it will not get tatty or bent out of shape.
I took charity shop frames,
sanded and spray painted them,
used red wrapping paper to mount the card on.
Wanting to have something to hang alongside it and not being able to find another card of a similar type I bought a little felt tree decoration, from a budget store, it doesn’t entirely work , I’ll keep looking out for another paper cut card.
In the run up to Christmas, I always think I will have time to be creative and make gifts rather than buying them, Pinterest has a lot to answer for!
I also thought that I would have time to blog what I have made, then Christmas arrived, work went viral, home life was hectic and the cold virus crept up to bite me too. I didn’t finish the present wrapping till 22.20 on Christmas Eve, and the cards got posted on the last posting day. So let me tell you what I did manage to achieve.
The Limoncello (see a still life with lemons) was filtered and bottled, I tried the coffee filters but it didn’t work very well, so I used a double layer of muslin in a sieve over a funnel, which worked much better. It made a litre and a half of Limoncello. The 500ml bottles were cordial bottles that I have put aside once empty specifically for the purpose. I kept one bottle for myself, gave one to my sister, and put the rest in a beautiful Victorian cut glass decanter I found at an antiques fair in the summer and gave it to my Mum.
There’s something very evocative of Christmas in the smell of spices, I love the smell of clove oranges and always make some for Christmas, and put them by my chair so that I can enjoy the fragrance, heaven! If you want them to last you should wrap them in paper and put them in a warm dry place till they have dried, and then they won’t go mouldy, but if you do they look desiccated and not nearly so pretty. I prefer my clove oranges to have a short but pretty lifespan.
They are so easy to make, just take an orange, a cocktail stick, some ribbon and some cloves. I tie the ribbon on first giving me four quarters to fill, and allowing the cloves to be placed to keep the ribbon in place. Use a cocktail stick to make a hole to push the clove into, if you try to use the clove to make the hole you will find the bud of the clove will be crushed by your finger as you push it in, and it will fall off leaving just the stem behind.
They make nice little stocking gifts wrapped in cellophane, but you’d need to make them the night before they are given to be sure they are given in perfect condition.
And so happy Christmas Mum.
One of my most used quilts, most washed and cuddly, the one that gets to sit on my knee when I’m ill is this one. It isn’t really a quilt as it has only two layers, the back being fleece. I based it on the Double Irish Chain, traditionally made in red and white. This one was made with my favourite hyacinth blue and a collection of my two inch scrap squares.
It is made up of two alternating blocks one block is made up of 25 two inch squares put together randomly apart from the centre square in each side which is the hyacinth blue fabric; the other block is a 4” square of the hyacinth fabric, surrounded by 4“ x 2” rectangles of hyacinth, topped and tailed with a random 2” scrap. When put together alternately the two blocks blend into squares and chains.
Sadly it has become rather faded over time, but still goes with us when we go camping and is a great comfort on chilly summer evenings. It sits on the back of the sofa in winter ready to go over a lap when a nod in the chair is needed, and even gets the occasional trip in the sports car if the roof is down and the weather less than perfect. I’m not precious about this one it’s just a comforter and a great comfort it has been, the epitome of what a quilt should be, bright and cheerful, soft and warm, always to hand when needed.
I think this was the last quilt I made which has a little of that old dress fabric in it.
If you want to make your own quick and easy Christmas stockings you can buy ready printed panels, or simply choose a Christmassy fabric and a simple lining. Once you have found or drafted a pattern you are happy with cut two stockings from the outer fabric and two from the lining, make sure you cut them right sides of the fabric together so you get a left and a right, rather than two lefts or two rights.
Stitch each outer and its lining together along the top edge, then lay the two right sides together outer on outer, lining on lining and stitch right round the whole piece, leaving a gap on the back seam of the lining as indicated between the points of the scissors in the photo
You can then turn the whole thing right sides out, hand stitch the opening in the lining closed and then tuck the lining in.
You might want to consider tucking a ribbon (to use as a hanger) into the back seam of the outer pair, but remember to put it between the seam on the INSIDE before you stitch it, you don’t want it between the outer and the lining do you?
You might also want to top stitch the top edge to stop the lining rolling out, and a few stitches in the seam at the toe to hold the lining in place. And if you aren’t wadding and quilting then choose a furnishing fabric to give some substance to your stocking.
And I need to finish a project I began 5 years ago, we were driving to Hull and back twice each weekend to facilitate contact with my Dearest’s 7 yr old son and 11 yr old daughter. To while away the long car journeys and thinking I might have two children staying with us at Christmas, I began to make them a stocking each to hang at the fireplace.
I have already made a number of Christmas stockings but they are for adults and generally fairly small for the kind of little stocking gifts that amuse adults, these stockings would need to be bigger, much bigger.
I can’t remember where I got the original pattern from, but it has been modified a number of times over the years. There are plenty of stocking patterns on the net if you’d like to try this yourself.
The fabric was my quilt group’s Christmas challenge fabric for 2007, sadly I’m five years too late to enter the challenge, but they will be finished this Christmas, come what may! There were two colours of co-ordinating fabric, and a collection of small panels. I chose two matching panels one for each side of each stocking, a different colour way for each stocking, so that I could tell them apart.
The panels were applied using bondaweb, and the edge stitched with Gold thread using a fancy machine stitch. I used a stitch which reminded me of icicles, it would have worked far better in silver but the embellishment on the fabric is gold, so my embellishments had to be gold too.
I will have to quilt the panels in gold tread before I stitch up the sides of the stockings, and I haven’t quite worked out how I will quilt them, but probably the holly leaves and berries, which I have used before. It’s easy to create your own quilting patterns or stencils, I found a simple line drawing of a holly leaf and berries on an advertising handbill, scaled it up and cut it out of cereal box. I might have used plastic film if I needed to use it on an entire quilt, but cereal packet is fine for a few uses.
Each stocking will have metre of ribbon folded in half and stitched into the back seam so it can be tied with a bow to whatever I want to attach it to, the banister rails are a favourite place.
I plan, if I have time to make a swing tag,a gift tag to hang from each stocking like the little dog on a Radley handbag, with just an initial for each of them V and T, the children are now 12 and 16, their gifts tend to be smaller and more expensive than back then, so the stockings are probably large enough, thank goodness I didn’t make them bigger, stockings have to be well filled at Christmas, a thin and meagre stocking is so dispiriting isn’t it?
My quilt group have an exhibition biennially; we use it as an opportunity to raise money for charity and like to choose a small local charity rather than a large national charity. We don’t raise much but a little often goes a long way for a small charity, and makes a real and tangible difference. We always create a group quilt to raffle and to publicise the forthcoming exhibition.
This design was presented as a possible group project to create a quilt to raffle, as a member of the committee at the time I took the pattern and volunteered to give it a trial run, to see if it would work as a group quilt. There is one simple piece to cut, and to achieve an optical illusion similar to the tumbling blocks design, it’s necessary to chose fabrics in light, dark and medium tones, one of each tone is then sewn together to produce a triangle; placing the light, dark and medium in the same position in each block to give the effect of a pyramid viewed from above.It’s important always to have the three tones in the same position because the 3D effect of the pyramids only works if the light appears to be coming from the same angle across the whole surface of the quilt.
Although the triangles are put together in rows one pattern which also emerges is the hexagon; it was the hexagon I used as inspiration for my quilting design, as can be seen where it extends into the border.The design never made it as a group quilt, there were just too many possible variables, group quilts work best when the variables are kept to a minimum, this pattern required hand drawing of pieces round templates, cutting with scissors not rotary cutting, there would be fabric placement variables, seam allowance variables….. etc… etc. No there were just too many possible ways in which blocks made by many individuals would fail to go together neatly to produce a quality finished article.
Nevertheless I liked the finished article, so much so I began to make another quilt, from the same design but with a limited palette of just three fabrics, but somehow, somewhere I lost the template, and the impetus to finish, so for years I had a number of cut pieces and a bag of bits, but no template. The original pattern came from an Australian Quilt magazine, which didn’t belong to me, and I’m not sure who owns it. I have subsequently found another template for the same design in a quilting book I bought in (of all places) ALDI. Maybe I’ll get round to finishing that quilt, or maybe not, the thing is … the moment has passed.