Thursday, 26 November 2015

Secrets and finishes

So near to Christmas and still working hard to get items ready.  I have worked hard on my smocking and this is all I can show you as it is a secret!!
Blocked smocking
Took this to show teacher Jo and was told that I had not blocked it properly so I have had a retry but cannot show more at this stage, so watch this space!!

Mini mania Churn Dash block is finished and this is all I can show you because the big reveal is not until the end of November.

I can show you my embroidery that is progressing slowly.  I go to two classes a month and we all do our own 'thing' and after all the delicate sewing I have done in the past I thought I would have a go at Mountmellick but I am not enjoying it very much.  However I am learning new stitches which is interesting.

In July 2015  ....

and now in November!

I am getting there slowly and my latest 'new' stitch is Wheatear Stitch that you can see on the extreme right and also where I am outlining with chain stitch in the centre.  I have also done Coral Stitch, Bullion Knots that look like little maggots, French Knots, Whipped Chain Stitch and Herringbone Stitch.  A long way to go but I will make progress over Christmas!!

This weekend I am going on a proper Christmas wreath making workshop using all sorts of evergreens and anything else I fancy using so I will be able to let you see it next week.  Very excited about this.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Victories and disasters!!

This week has been mixed with highs and lows.  I have finished two items and am having a disaster with something else.

However first let me show my Apple Chutney which is absolutely delicious. 
This recipe came from a friend's Parish Newsletter and has raisins and dates in it and I cannot officially start eating it until Christmas as it has to mature.  This will be difficult because it looks so good.

In my last post I was working on a fabric Christmas Wreath and I have now finished mine.  I have enjoyed making it and have adapted it to my personal taste.  If you go to the Higham Piecemaker's blog there are plenty of photos from the group with so many different ideas.
Hanging inside the front door
I have used different ribbons folded into prairie points round the edge and my Dorset buttons in the centre as I wanted something to fill the space.  I did think of crocheting a Robin but didn't think it would fit in with the design because I wanted it plain and simple.

For what seems like months (it was actually!) I have been making Attic 24's Cosy Stripe blanket and at last it is finished.  I did change the edging because I didn't think I had enough wool to concentrate on one colour per round so I used it all and I love it. 
Lucy has such an eye for colour and they all blend so well. I can do this with patchwork because I have been sewing for so long, but cannot always get the toning right with knitting wools.  It is soooo warm!!  It will keep my poor old bones warm in the winter months.

Before I mention the disaster I must show you a photo of my very clever grandson -

He has TWO, yes two Blue Peter badges.  Apologies to anyone not in the UK, you will not have a clue why this is so important but everyone here was brought up with Blue Peter.  He was awarded one badge for writing a review of the programme and suggesting someone who should be invited onto the programme.  The other one was for doing a drawing.  He was so proud and even wore them to bed!!

And so to the disaster!  It is the medlar jelly and what has really upset me is that I had picked over 2kgs of the fruit.  I made it on Sunday according to the recipe I used last  year and when I looked at it on Monday morning it had not set.  So back into the pan with some pectin, that has always worked in the past and it had still not set when it was cold on Wednesday.  What to do - more pectin?  So I bought some more today and tried again.  I have only got four jars now from all that fruit and it is runny and I don't know what to do.
Looks good but it will pour out of the jar.
Any ideas??  On this sorry note I close the blog and may take up drink to compensate for this failure!!!!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

More Christmasey things

As the month of November approached I looked at my calendar and was quite pleased that it was fairly empty.  What has happened?

Really busy until the end of the month and then only about three weeks to Christmas!!  HELP.

However I am really pleased with my Studio as I have four WIPs (Works in Progress, not UFOs; they are at the bottom of the wardrobe) and I am able to leave them out and just work on them as and when I feel like it.  Of those four I have two that I cannot 'show and tell' yet as they are presents but I will give you a sneaky peak of November's Mini Mania.

This is a group that I joined on Flickr in September and I have shown you in previous posts.  November's is Churn Dash and to be no bigger than 20" (51cm) which I think is quite large.
Sorry LB, copied your idea of sepia!
Anyway this is progressing and will be finished in time but I cannot show you until the end of the month.

However, I can show you the next stage in making the Christmas Wreath, but as I discovered at group on Wednesday evening I was only given half the instructions so I have absolutely no idea where the original design came from and I am making a public apology if this is your design.

We have received two florists' rings and taped them together to make them rigid and this weekend I will put a small amount of toy stuffing on top and bind it in place with thin wadding.  It must not be too thick otherwise the fabric will not cover it.
The rings are 12" (30cm) and 14" (36cm) in diameter

In the last post I showed the prairie points being sewn into place and here is my finished ring of fabric -

I will finish it off tomorrow and must decide what to put round the edge and in the middle.  Decisions, decisions, but all should be revealed in the next post.

I can always tell that Christmas is approaching because my decrepit, neglected and very elderly Christmas Cacti always flowers.  I have had it years, forget to water it even though it is the bathroom and yet it struggles on.  How forgiving of it and this photo does not do it justice as the flowers have been brilliant this year.
Old ad gnarled but it still has some buds on it
BUT this year I was given one in January that has eclipsed the one upstairs -
It sits on the kitchen window sill and is absolutely brilliant.  It is entwined with an orchid that I was given a year ago and which has flowered continuously since;  I must be doing something right as I am not very good with houseplants.

At embroidery lesson (yes, I am still going and still doing my Mountmellick) I picked up a recipe for Apple Chutney and have now made two huge batches from the windfalls in my garden.  I did have a taste and it was delicious but should be kept for a month to mature - can't wait.

My Medlars have bletted at last and tomorrow I shall be making Medlar Jelly so the next post will have some finishes and I will show the latest photo of my embroidery so watch this space ........  BUSY, BUSY, BUSY.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Christmas preparations

I had to go out into the garden during the week and noticed how many apples were lying on the ground.  My next door neighbours have an apple tree with three types of apple grafted onto one rootstock and the branch that hangs over my garden is a Bramley cooking apple that I love.  There were some that were easy to reach and so I picked three and had one of them baked in the oven with mincemeat - and that gave me an idea.

So out came the trusty Delia cookery book to find her Mincemeat recipe:-
and within about 30 minutes all the ingredients were in the bowl.  I gave it a good stir -
and left it overnight.  Next morning early, I popped the bowl into a very low oven which melts the suet and coats the ingredients with the fat thus preserving it.
I think the warmth 'fogged' the lens!
When cold I packed this lovely smelling mixture into 6 jars ready for baking.
At the same time I decided to make my Christmas cake and give it time to mature before icing it.  Most of it is given to my son who always says "Christmas is cancelled" if I don't make one!!  The recipe is well over 50 years old as the state of it shows.

It was one that I used when I first started working and was given to me by a colleague and I have used it every year since.  I halve the ingredients as you can see from the pencilled margin!!  I have absolutely no idea what these are in cups or grams as I cannot do the conversions!!!!

Higham Piecemakers have an 'all day' group meeting on the third Monday of the month and though I don't always make what the Monday ladies do this month there has been a big take up from the Wednesday  evening Ladies. It is a fabric Christmas wreath and I have started to make it.

First of all cut out 64 x 3⅛" squares and 32 wedges -

The squares are folded into prairie points and inserted into the wedges that have been folded in half -

and that is all I am going to show you for the moment as I am being taken out to a posh lunch and I have to get ready!! 

I will show more later in the week.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

October's Mini Mania Challenge - the Reveal

October is a bittersweet month for me - probably more bitter than sweet if truth be told.

I love the colours from the trees and this year seems to be particularly beautiful.  Last weekend I led an Autumn Walk for the 50+ Adventure Club  and it turned into one of the wettest walks that I have ever done.  It was fine when we started but after about an hour the rain started; initially a light drizzle but getting heavier as we progressed.  I had my hood up and this interfered with my glasses that steamed up and started wobbling as I walked and in the end I was so p****d off that I took the hood off and just got a very wet head!!  We passed a group of men shooting, who broke their guns and took out the cartridges until we had passed and at that moment a hare ran onto the track in front of us and they couldn't shoot it - lucky hare!!
Wonderful Autumn colours in the rain
A very wet group eventually made it back to the pub where we had an excellent lunch.  We had had the best of the weather though because the rain lashed down on the drive home!!

The following day, Sunday, I was on the coach to the Malvern Autumn Quilt Show and it was a glorious day with wall to wall sunshine.  I call that 'Sod's Law'!

The show was smaller than the Spring Show held there, but I enjoyed the display of quilts.  One group was quilted wall hangings of the Saints of Cornwall and I was amazed at how many different saints landed in the county and where they had come from - St Rea, St Martin of Tours, St Elid, St Mylor, St Roche, St Morwenna, St Meriadoc, St Cohan etc etc.  This display was originally shown at Truro Cathedral.

I loved the mini quilts:-
Just a small selection
some of which may give ideas for the Mini Mania, so I haven't shown them all as that would be cheating!

Anyway back to the October Mini Mania that had to be appliquéd, have some orange in it and have some personal connection to the month - oh and had to be no bigger than 14 inches.

I thought long and hard about this, surfed the net, lay in bed thinking (I get my best ideas there!!) and eventually came up with this.  My late husband and I had a lovely holiday in South Africa where there were beautiful, colourful flowers and 28th October was our wedding anniversary - it would have been 50 next year.

I used what I call 'backside appliqué' but is reverse appliqué. I am sure that I have explained this somewhere else on the blog but I cannot find it! However this link shows it reasonably well but I use muslin to draw on and the wadding is in place as this helps to give a good clean zigzag line of stitching.  Appliqué scissors are essential here to prevent cutting through the base fabric.  I used free motion quilting which I love doing.

Here is the finished result -
The background fabric is a dark bottle green
I hope you like it but what will November bring?