Thursday, 19 October 2017

Bag Lady

I joined a Bag Making class recently and then promptly went on holiday and missed the first two classes! This week I finally got a chance to meet my fellow Bag Ladies and start to catch up on what I had missed.

The class teacher had kindly sent me the pattern in advance so I was able to have all my pattern pieces cut beforehand.

We are making this Catch All Caddy, which will definitely come in useful both at home and when I travel to a class. I am forever forgetting some piece of vital equipment when I head off to a class but, hopefully, with this smart caddy to hand that will be a thing of the past :)

I wanted to use up fabric from my stash for the bag, but when I pulled my fabric choices I decided that the plain cotton that I had chosen for the piping and handles was purple when I really needed a deep red, so one order to Plush Addict later and I was all sorted. I discovered an even better match in my stash later, but only 1FQ so rather than order even more fabric I opted for going with what I have!

Rather than work on my own to catch up at the class, it made sense for me to work on the same part of the bag as the rest of the Bag Ladies and catch up at home between the classes.

This week we were constructing the padded handles for the caddy. The handles use ByAnnie's Soft and Stable, which I had never used before but I have to say I am a fan. It went through my sewing machine like a hot knife through butter even although it is quite thick, and even when it was doubled over for the centre of the handles.

Since the class I have been quilting the pieces for the sides of the caddy and the Soft and Stable has been a breeze to use there too.

Back to the sewing machine now for some more catching up before the next class :)

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Camera Challenges

A local Camera Club advertised their new sessions as being particularly suitable for beginners, so I thought that I ought to give it a go. I have had my fancy DSLR camera for a few years now but I know that it (and I!) could do so much more if I only knew how, and I was hoping that the sessions might go some way towards that.

The session two weeks ago was a quick run down on the lessons that the club had gone through last year, and was a welcome refresher for me on the basics of apertures, shutter speeds and ISO's. Not that is to say that I am now an expert on any of those things, but I did recognise most of the topics being discussed even if I don't always practise them :)

A recent visit to Pollock House after that session was a chance for me to make sure that I used a high aperture setting to keep all of the detail of this fine country house on the outskirts of Glasgow.

Then I switched to a low aperture setting to give these thistles in the grounds a blurred background.

Clearly the lesson on quick shutter speeds to freeze the motion of this insect on the flower didn't quite sink in :)

This week's lesson was all about "Exposure Bracketing" which might as well have been a foreign language to me. Apparently it means that the camera can be set to take the same photo at different exposure settings, which can then be combined to produce a composite shot. Who knew such a thing existed???

Although we practised some shots during the session I decided to have a go at home to see if I could remember what we had been told, and here are the results.

The bottom photo above is under-exposed by 1 stop, the middle over-exposed by 1 stop and the top photo is taken at the original setting. I am not quite sure what all that means but you can see for yourself the differences in the photos :)

The trainer recommended free software, for those of us who don't have Photoshop, where you can upload the images and they will be combined in something called HDR (High Dynamic Range ????) and result in a photo that has the definition in the shadows of the under-exposure and the clarity in the light of the over-exposure. Sadly you will have to take my word that this occured as the website, Fotor would allow me to upload and combine the photos but I couldn't save the resulting image without signing up and paying for the advanced version.

I couldn't initially think of when I might use this facility on the camera, but then I remembered the trouble that I had taking photos of the amazing painted monasteries in Romania recently. The detail beneath the eaves was lost in all of my photos so maybe if I had known about the Exposure Bracketing I might have ended up with photos that showed all of the wonderful frescoes, then again maybe not without paying who knows what for the software :)

Still at least I have used a setting on my camera that I never even knew existed, maybe now I need to do the same with all those fancy settings on my sewing machine :)

Friday, 13 October 2017

Happy Mail 1

It was my birthday at the end of the summer (what summer???) and as our boys and their wives/girlfriends all live many miles away from us birthday presents these days arrive in the post.

Whilst my family obviously know that I quilt, the room full of fabric is a bit of a giveaway (!) they don't often cater to that in their gift-giving. I suspect, in part, as it is probably quite hard to work out what might be appropriate/useful and what might not.

So, you can imagine my surprise and delight when this turned up on my birthday.

Two metres of Liberty fabric from our eldest son and his wife!!!

I have bought bits and pieces of Liberty fabric over the years but other than this Jewellery Roll and this Bias Applique cushion I have not been brave enough to cut into any of it. Clearly that will need to change as my son and his wife will undoubtedly expect to see that bundle transformed into something substantial sometime soon :)

Whilst I was happily stroking that gorgeous bundle of fabric Ruth at Charly & Ben's Crafty Corner was pondering on the nature of blogging and rewarding her loyal readers with a fabric giveaway. To my surprise a few weeks later I received an email from Ruth telling me that my name had been picked out of the (virtual) hat as the giveaway winner!

After we returned from holiday this lovely bundle arrived in the post. We are just in the process of remodelling our bedroom and it will be decorated in a palette of sage greens and stone with a hint of pink so these fabrics couldn't have been a better match if I had planned it myself. The bedroom has been stripped back to the bare boards so I have plenty of time to plan what to do :)

Aren't surprises in the post lovely to receive?

Monday, 25 September 2017

Escapes and exhibitions

Welcome to this month's New to Me Link party, your chance to celebrate any attempt you have made this month at trying something for the first time.

Applaud or commiserate with your fellow bloggers who have pushed themselves out of that cosy comfort zone during September. As ever the link party will remain open until the end of the month, so there is still time to give that new technique or pattern a go and join the party!

I have had fun this month trying out new techniques and visiting new places.

 First up two New to Me stitches for my submission to the Embroiderers Guild Page 17 exhibition, Drizzle Stitch at the top and Turkey Stitch below.
 Then a New to Me applique method using Freezer Paper and liquid starch, also for the Page 17 exhibition piece.

In September I have also managed to visit three New to Me countries, although only 2 of them are officially recognised as independant countries.

Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria (the unrecognised one!)

Side on view of Moldovito Painted Monastery in Bucovino region, Romania

and Romania!

As you can see it was a very interesting trip! As well as the amazing Painted Monasteries like the one above we visited a church in Romania that is described as being covered in stonework embroidery, it was glorious! Posts to follow on the trip soon :)

So, now it is your turn to share anything that you have tried for the first time this month, whether it was a brilliant success or abject failure! We have all been on both sides of those experiences so will be happy to applaud or sympathise with a fellow blogger whatever the result of your endeavours :)

Friday, 22 September 2017

A walk in the park!

Several months ago the Embroiderers Guild sent out a request for contributions to a forthcoming exhibition to be based around books. The exhibition would be called Page 17, although the solicited exhibits could be based upon anything to do with a book not just the 17th page. The exhibits would be on display at the Knitting and Stitching shows in Harrogate and London and, it was hoped, would also travel to other venues later in the year.

Existing works that might suit the theme were to be submitted by the end of April for consideration and a deadline of the end of August was set for exhibits created specifically for the exhibition. At the time I think this distinction created some confusion as I saw several comments on how little time there was to submit a piece. Undaunted I sent off an email to say that I was interested in submitting a new piece and then started thinking ... and thinking ... and thinking :)

You will not, I am sure, be surprised to know that I finally finished my piece for the exhibition the day before the submission deadline!

When our boys were little one of their favourite books was Lynley Dodd's Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy, and now it is a favourite of our gorgeous grandson too. So, I decided to have some fun with the characters in the book for my embroidery. I knew that my drawing skills were not up to reproducing the characters exactly so decided to show bits of them as if they were being seen through holes in the fence.

Each of the dogs in the book has an accompanying description, so Muffin McLay is like a bundle of hay.

My Muffin McLay is a bit curly for hay but I think he is still recognisable! I used a New to Me stitch for Muffin, drizzle stitch, which is apparently Brazilian in origin. It was great fun to stitch and is definitely a great addition to my stitching repertoire.

I stitched all of the dogs, apart from Hairy Maclary, on to a cotton backing fabric then joined the sky and fence fabric together to place over the top before adding Hairy Maclary and the fence and tree detail.

I spent a while trying to work out how best to deal with the cut-outs for the embroidery and finally used another New to Me technique.

Spray starch sprayed into the aerosol lid

then painted on to the seam allowance of the circle cut-outs and ironed in place before being placed in front of the embroidered cotton. To my surprise it worked!

I wanted Hairy Maclary to stand proud of the rest of the embroidery so used wool on canvas and another New to Me stitch, Turkey Stitch, to create his fluffy self. (Apologies for the somewhat blurred photo I was running out of time when I took it!)

I was very pleased with how it all turned out and when the piece has finished travelling it will be another addition to the gallery on the gorgeous grandson's wall!

If you haven't read the books the characters are from the left;

  • Schnitzel von Krumm with a very low tum
  • Muffin McLay like a bundle of hay
  • Bitzer Maloney all skinny and bony
  • Bottomley Potts covered in spots
  • Hercules Morse as big as a horse
and Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy :)

 Linking up to Crazy Mom Quilts

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Friday, 25 August 2017

Firsts and Seconds

It is the 25th of the month already, how did that happen? You know what that means, time to open up this month's New to Me link party.

If you haven't come across the New to Me link party before, it is where we celebrate the trials and tribulations of giving something a go for the first time. So, join me as I share what I have been up to this month and join the link party if you have had any new experiences this month too. The link party will stay open until the August 31st so there is still time to have a go at something new and join the party :)

My New to Me's are definitely a mix of highs and lows.

The high?

My first ever entry in to the Hobbies and Crafts section at the local horticultural show and it came second!! I entered my Still Waters piece from the Embroiderer's Guild Capability Brown exhibition into the Tapestry item class. I wasn't 100% convinced that this counted as a tapestry but I was told that the organisers were not too strict on their definitions, and there was no other class that it could have come in so I went ahead and entered. I was very glad that I did when I went to collect it at the end of the show.
Next year I might even enter something in the Quilted Item class :)

My next New to Me has been a definite mix of highs and lows.

We treated ourselves to a new AGA range cooker in preparation for our new kitchen. If you haven't come across a range cooker before it is a very different way of cooking, and one that we are still trying to get our heads around. Instead of setting the temperature for a dish there are three ovens, all of differing heats, and the mantra is to "find the appropriate heat". We haven't starved since the oven has been put in, but there have been some occasions when the local fish and chip shop has seemed like a very attractive option!

My final New to Me is a mix of old and new, old - cross stitch and new - on paper. I picked up the paper cross stitch bunting kit on our last trip to France, and have been stitching away now and then ever since. When finished it will be another gift for the gorgeous grandson who, can you believe it, is about to turn one in a couple of weeks! Now that time really has flown :)

So, that's my New to Me's now it is your turn to link up. As always the link up will remain open until August 31st. Visit your fellow linkers and leave a comment or two as we all know a little encouragement when we are learning new skills is always welcome.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

A Day out in the Sunshine

We have had a rather wet and miserable summer here in Scotland, so opportunities to explore more of the region have been thin on the ground. The rain held off long enough recently for us to visit Culzean Castle and it was definitely worth dodging raindrops for!

The site has been the home of the chiefs of Clan Kennedy since the 14th Century, although the building you see in the photo above is the converted Castle designed by the celebrated architect Robert Adam for the 10th Earl of Cassilis. The Castle has been owned by the National Trust for Scotland since the Kennedy's gifted it in lieu of death duties in 1945. One stipulation of the gift was that the top floor of the castle be retained as an apartment for use by General D. Eisenhower, who did visit four times during his lifetime. Nowadays you can walk in the General's steps as the apartment is available for rent

Culzean Castle sits in nearly 600 acres of grounds, so as well as exploring the house with it's magnificent Oval Staircase there are some wonderful gardens to discover.

The Fountain Court garden in front of the Castle was closed to the public the day we were there, as they were setting up marquees for a wedding that weekend. A marquee wedding is a very brave thing to book in Scotland, even in August!

The Walled Garden, which was split in to a kitchen garden and pleasure garden was entered through these imposing gates.

As well as pleasant avenues,

the Walled Garden contained an apple orchard and a meadow garden.

Between the Walled Garden and the Castle sits the magnificent Camellia House. The 10th Earl certainly knew how to splash the cash around, didn't he?

We decided not to see everything in one day so have left the Swan Pond, Ice houses and Pagoda for another visit.

Instead, we indulged in coffee and cake in the Stable Coffee House and enjoyed the view (and the rare glimpse of sunshine!).

Sunday, 6 August 2017


On a recent visit to a local Farm Shop I came across a basket of china dishes for sale.

Closer inspection revealed this stamped on the lips at each end.

 And this message stamped on the inside.

I have no idea what these were for or, indeed, what the Patchwork products referred to in the inside are or were, but, really, I couldn't not buy one now could I??

Friday, 4 August 2017

Stag do!

I have had a Reverse Applique project on the go for ages, it has been taken apart and re-done at least three times.

First of all the patchwork back for the applique didn't fit the applique outline, so needed to be reworked to fit the frame. Then, I really struggled to turn under some of the allowances on certain parts of the design. All in all it has been a complete pain in the proverbial, but I am delighted to say that I have finally completed the Reverse Applique!

You will not be surprised to know that the antlers were where I really struggled to turn under the allowance. I discovered when I compared this to the magazine photo that the antlers on my version are a lot narrower than in the pattern version. I do remember taking the pattern to be enlarged at a local printers (don't you just hate patterns that need to be enlarged!) and have a vague memory of having to compromise on the final size, so that presumably accounts for the difference.

Having seen these magnificent beasts on a recent visit to a Deer Park, I think the antlers in the version above are pretty accurate though, don't you?

I did not help myself by picking a linen blend fabric for the top fabric, as it was fraying where the applique points are narrow before I had even got to stitching it down!

So, I went for a belt and braces approach by hand stitching the turned applique and then machine topstitching. Next up an application of Fraycheck to be sure, to be sure :)

The piece will become a cushion eventually when I have sourced some Deer Horn buttons for the back!

Linking up to

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Ready for the sunshine

Since we have moved to the coast one of the joys in life is sitting outside with a cup of tea (or glass of wine!) watching the passing parade, weather permitting of course, it is Scotland after all!

For a while now I have been wanting to update the tablecloth for our garden table, as it was cotton and purchased before the table, so didn't have a space in the centre for the parasol pole. I did cut a space out a while ago, but as we tend to leave the parasol in the table it meant that the tablecloth had to stay put too. That parasol is too heavy to be lifting in and out on a regular basis :)

I did start to make a new tablecloth a while ago, using some plasticised cotton that I had lurking in my stash. Sadly, I completely messed up the measurements so had to ditch that particular project. However, on a visit to cuddle the gorgeous grandson a while ago, I came across Flo-Jo boutique, which had a great selection of oilcloth. So, after lots of calculating and re-calculating between the staff, my daughter-in-law and myself we worked out how much fabric I needed (lots!) and the purchase was made.

Then the bag sat in my sewing room for several weeks as summer sewing for the boy took precedence, but with a visit from the gorgeous grandson and his parents on the horizon I thought that I had better get cracking with that tablecloth as baby mealtimes are not the most tidy of occasions :)

I measured the radius of the table, cut a piece of string to that length then attached a tack to one end and a Frixion pen to the other and with the oilcloth fabric folded in half lengthwise I drew out a half-circle for the tablecloth. I added an overlap at the middle edge so that I could add hook and loop tape to one of the radii to make the tablecloth easily removable. The weather changes so quickly here that it will be good to be able to whip that cloth off at the first sign of rain!

The measuring and cutting proved to be the easy bit of this process.

As oilcloth doesn't fray I could have just left the cut edges raw and, indeed, that is what I did with the centre cut out for the parasol pole, but I wanted to finish the tablecloth off with a bound edge. Just call me a glutton for punishment :)

My rather rusty maths proved my undoing as I discovered that my order of green bias binding was about 0.5 metres too short. Fortunately, rifling through my ribbon bag uncovered sufficient of this deep pink bias binding to bind the tablecloth and still have some left over.

So, with the Teflon foot attached I set to work.

Boy, was it tough going. The oilcloth wasn't very easy to manoeuvre around and the weight of it kept knocking the needle off centre when I stopped to straighten the fabric under the needle. By the time I had finished stitching the binding to the front my poor arms had had a thorough workout, and I still had to go around again to stitch on the back.

Fortunately, the hook and loop tape that I had purchased along with the oilcloth was the adhesive type not the sew-in, as I really wasn't looking forward to trying to sew that on. I have had enough trouble in the past stitching it to fabric, I can only guess how much more difficult it would be trying to keep to the small margins at the sides whilst wrestling with the oilcloth and using a Teflon foot!

Eventually my tablecloth was complete, but I couldn't rush out to try it out as this was the view out of my sewing room window.

Our forecast for today was sunshine and showers and we have definitely had the showers but the sunshine hasn't been very much in evidence. As I write I have been waiting for hours for the rain to stop and the sun to come out so that I can finally get a photo of the finished tablecloth. If the photo below is of the cloth on the kitchen table you will know that my wait was in vain!

 Five minutes after I finally took this photo the rain came back!

I could do with ironing the tablecloth particularly where the seam is but I am a bit wary of doing it, so if you have any tips I will be all ears :)

So that's my finish for this week's TGIFF, now it is your turn to link up and celebrate your finishes this week. As ever don't make this a solitary celebration click on your fellow linkers and leave a congratulatory comment on their fabulous finishes. Grab the blog button and add it to your post so that your readers can join in the fun too.

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