Saturday, 28 March 2015

Rag Rugging

The H&R U3A Handicrafts Group met at my home this week and we were lucky to have a friend of mine Linda M, who is an enthusiast of this craft, come and show us some of her work, some made by her sister and also a member of her own Rag Rugging Group.  The rugs can either be for the floor, or used as cushions or made into wall hangings.

The blog is full of pictures of wonderful rugs and before I show any I have to say that none of these are my work and the only reason that 'Once upon a thimble' is on the photos is purely for copyright purposes for the photos and not for the work. Linda agreed they could be shown on my blog.

The rugs are either made by 'prodding' which is worked from the back - the design is sketched on the back - or 'hooking' which is worked from the front, with the design sketched on the front. When prodding you use small pieces of your chosen fabric - literally anything - and hooking you use a continuous piece of fabric. Linda uses old wool garments which she felts in the washing machine on a hot wash, cotton T-shirts, plastic bags, in fact anything, and she scours charity shops for 'fabrics' and if she sees a neighbour wearing an old sweater or cardigan in colours she wants she asks for it!!!. Her sister has access to a market that sells 'bling' type fabrics with lots of glitter etc.  
Plenty of photos to follow:-
Linda's first rug

A Work in Progress (WIP) for a cushion - Linda sitting on husband's, T, right hand!!
When Linda came to Higham Piecemakers years ago, she was working on this 'piggy' wall hanging based on a wall tile in her kitchen!
WIP being hooked from the front, of a squirrel

Picture taken from a drawing by Linda's grand-daughter of Linda!!
What a wonderful picture though Linda's hair is not red!
The following have been made by Linda's sister who started rugging as an aid to recovery after an illness.
Lots of bling on this early piece of an elephant.

Design from a colouring book

Design taken from a card
We all fell for this owl rug.  Aren't they so cute!  The background is made from cut up pieces of a patterned T-shirt.

This final wall hanging is made by a group member -

The group are hoping to be demonstrating Rag Rugging at Fibre East in July, though Linda won't be there as her daughter is getting married that weekend!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

'Walking' in all weathers

 It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I met a friend in the supermarket car park on Friday and asked if he was planning to field walk on Saturday. ; He said he was so I said I would go as well. So whilst the men marked the area into 20 metre squares I looked at some of the small 'finds' from previous walking in this field.
Too complicated for me to understand the maths!!
A minim
The minim is one of the smallest Roman coins and apparently about 2,400 of these would buy a loaf of bread!! Anyway after viewing this I set out to find something similar BUT the wind blew a gale from the North, the field was exposed and I got colder and colder until my right hand could hardly pick anything up. Needless to say I didn't find anything like this, only bits of Roman pottery and brick; at least I think it was!! I got home and turned the heating on full blast and didn't get warm until well into Saturday evening.

Sunday I completed my Christmas Challenge for Higham Piecemakers and now have to string it before mounting in the photo frame that we were given. I will show you the finished article after 'Show and Tell' next week. It has worked out well I think, but was not easy; and that is all I will tell you at this stage!!

Yesterday I had agreed to help a friend plan the 'Out of County' walk in May for the 50+ Adventure Club.  So complete with an Ordinance Survey map of the area we chose to walk in and around Ampthill in Bedfordshire taking in some of the Greensand Ridge Walk. It was a lovely day and very soon we were taking our coats off. We had great views over the Bedford Plain, not very attractive as you can see warehouses in the distance, but the chimneys were a reminder of the brickmaking which was a huge industry that I can remember from my younger days.
A bank of gorse bushes coming into bloom - lovely sight
We stopped for a short lunch break at Houghton House with it's views over the plain.  John Bunyan featured it in his 'Pilgrim's Progress' as the 'house beautiful'.

On our return we stopped at Katherine's Cross that stands on the site of Ampthill castle and this is where Katherine of Aragon lived from 1531-1533 before her divorce from Henry VIII, who was a frequent visitor, and before being moved to Kimbolton castle for the remainder of her life.
Katherine's Cross
There is also a memorial to the training camp and hospital which was set up here during World War 1.
Memorial to WW1
By this time the weather was looking quite stormy and we had walked 6.5 miles so we decided to head for the café for a welcome coffee and in my case a bun. A very successful day as this is the walk which the club will do. They want 'Good views, somewhere for a picnic lunch - Houghton House' and we will throw in a bit of culture on the way!! Oh and there are plenty of nice looking pubs in the town for afterwards.

Friday, 20 March 2015

The Eclipse and other things ....

This has been a busy week for me - back from Tenterden on Monday, a day with baby Will and his Gran'ma (my sister) who has just returned from a month's holiday in Mexico and Costa Rica and so a lot of catching up on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday I spent the whole day sewing. At our Wednesday evening of Higham Piecemakers were going to have a 'Three Corners Evening' and my 'corner' had nothing finished and were winging it!!!

I decided that we needed to show something that evening so I made a scissor keeper -
Really useful
.. with pattern piece beside it

.. and I started a small sewing pouch. One of our group had won one in a raffle and so in true patchwork fashion we decided we could do better so two or three of us made an attempt at it. I am hoping to show this on a new 'tutorial' page when I have mastered it. However in the course of making the pouch I needed to make my own bias binding and this got me thinking again and so on the 'tutorial' page I will show how to make continuous bias binding. I learnt this technique years ago when you wrote on a stencil and then it was put through a roneo machine and my copy is still referred to when I forget how to do it!!

Thursday I went to Cambridge to work on the kitchen garden and managed to plant early carrot and beetroot seed under fleece. This will warm the soil of course but will also prevent the b****y muntjac nibbling the seedlings when they come up. I picked some purple sprouting broccoli but I think this will be the last if the weather doesn't warm up a bit.

Today I was up bright and early to see the Eclipse - so exciting, except the cloud cover was quite thick first thing in the morning, but suddenly I saw the sun through the cloud cover and could see the Eclipse starting. I decided to have a go at taking a photo and these are my attempts!
For this photo I covered the lens with two pairs of sunglasses so it showed up, hence the brown colour. 
However I am quite pleased with this photo. It was not a total eclipse in the UK, but the light cloud cover helped me to get a better picture.

Roll on 2017 for a full eclipse.

Sunday, 15 March 2015


I am writing my blog on my new computer, so that is the first first, so to speak.  I am staying with my eldest son G in Tenterden for Mother's Day weekend and my other son M and his family have been with us as well, so it has been a very noisy time with all the children; but great fun.
However getting here was not without incident. On Wednesday I smelt diesel when I left the car, so hot footed it round to the garage where they disappeared under the bonnet and then told me that it was alright to drive the car locally but not long distances. "Why does this happen when I am going away - can I hire a car locally?" I asked and then the lovely people at the garage said I could use their courtesy car for free!! Brilliant and so here I am in Kent.

Another first was seeing this on my son's bird feeder:-

G said that he had never seen a Jay on the feeder before and I certainly have never seen one so close up.

I was given my Mother's day gift early and don't my son's know just what I like (actually suggested by daughter-in-law, H) as they gave me a gift voucher to my absolutely favourite shoe shop, Moshulu, so of course I had to spend it.  I bought a lovely pair of shoes in my signature colour, red.  When I worked I wore business suits but always tried to wear red shoes just to be different and this has continued even into retirement.  I have got rid of all my black and brown shoes as to me they are so boring!!

Anyway after buying shoes I walked down the High Street in Tenterden and took these photos in the Spring sunshine.
Crocuses planted round all the trees
I go home tomorrow ready for a very busy week, but suitably refreshed after a long weekend away.
Thank you to my sons for their present.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Happy 1st birthday William

Today is baby Will's first birthday and as promised in the last post I am going to show the cushion that I made for him, but first I must show something unusual that I saw yesterday.

Tuesday is my 'Bedford' day to look after Will and with the Spring sunshine so warm I decided to take him to the park where he enjoyed a swing and walked about on the children's adventure equipment. Afterwards I took him down to the river bank that is a beautiful feature of Bedford. The daffodils were out, birds of all sorts were sitting around in the Spring sunshine, Bedford School's rowing teams were going up and down on the river with trainers on bicycles rushing along the path beside them and in the distance a couple were feeding the ducks.

As we got closer I took a photo - 

 and there in the middle was a black swan, that is NOT a native species to the UK. They come from Australia but were imported to this country for their looks and though I have seen a large flock at Leeds Castle in Kent I haven't seen one in the wild before.

Anyway back to the cushion. I have shown you the pictures of 'Charlie' and 'Lola' in the making in this post and the books I used
I had to decide what other pictures to make and you can see from this picture what I chose and and the embellishment that I used.

I made 10" finished blocks (25 cms) and then sashed between them before sashing all the way round. I always use wadding and an inexpensive fabric (this time it was calico) on the inside of the front of the cushion and I quilted each square 'in the ditch'. The back then had a zip inserted - remember to leave it partially open - before sewing the sides together. No quilting on the back at all.

I had trimmed the wadding and backing back from the edge as I didn't want a great thickness because when the cushion is turned through I don't want it too thick. I always iron this outside seam as flat as I can because it gives a sharper edge for finishing off. Personally I don't use piping or ruffles to give a neat edge, I use a fancy machine stitch around the edge to give a crisp finish.


The cushion pad is the largest that this store stocks -about 25" square (63 cms).

Finally wrestle the cushion pad into the cover (not easy!) and there you have one floor cushion to give years of service, completely washable, suitable for dragging around by a toddler and often used by adults as a large backrest or pillow

Monday, 9 March 2015

Communications failure

Thank goodness the weekend is over as I had a complete communications failure from Friday lunchtime until about an hour ago. Internet failed AND the television, but luckily the telephone still worked. I have a cable package with Virgin Media and had a broadband failure about 4 weeks ago when I knew it was something to do with the 'cupboard' down the road. Apparently this time they disconnected me completely said the engineer after a lot of sucking in of air and tapping bits of equipment. I asked him to leave a message in the 'cupboard' not to disconnect me again because otherwise I will go over to another provider. He has done that.

Luckily I was out Saturday afternoon at the Spring Quilt Festival at Duxford, with Higham Piecemakers. I had organised the half day trip with a smaller coach which was easier to fill and the show, though small was easy to get around, no scrums around stalls and we had plenty of seating in the refreshment area. A lovely afternoon.

As a result of the enforced crafting weekend, I was able to finish Will's first birthday floor cushion and I will show photos of that next time.

However I did have a go at this:-

Just out of the box

my new Sally Stanley pleater for smocking!! - See the last post for more on this.

I read the instructions, remembered what J at our class had done and had a go. It worked though I realised that I had made a mistake by not straightening the edges and the first piece went though at an angle and without enough lines of threads. So I started again.

The machine is so easy to use if all the edges are straight and this helps when rolling the fabric onto a piece of dowel that keeps it taut when turning the handle.

So here is my 'Tah dah' moment for a Sunday afternoon's non-internet and non-TV day!

The edges still look a little wobbly
Not much to show but I loved doing it. Now to turn this piece of green fabric into a Christmas bauble. Oh and I read the instructions for the bauble after I had produced this and I only needed 75 cm (30 inches) width of fabric and I have used the full width so some will need trimming off!!!!

Next time I will take more photos of the process of pleating.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Oh what a busy week and it keeps going on!!

Monday was my usual Nordic Walking morning at Stanwick Lakes and the more open stretches of water had 'white horses' as it was blowing so hard.

Look very carefully and you can see the water splashing up onto the bank. We saw these cormorants in the distance and I had to use the zoom to see them. I am surprised it has come out as the wind was blowing the camera.

My group thought I was quite mad when I quoted this at them - the only piece of poetry I remember from school!!  Written by Christopher Isherwood I found out today -

The common cormorant or shag
Lays eggs inside a paper bag
The reason you will see no doubt
It is to keep the lightning out
But what these unobservant birds
Have never noticed is that herds
Of wandering bears may come with buns
And steal the bags to hold the crumbs.

Why does one remember such nonsense!!

We also saw an egret in the distance that is becoming more popular on these lakes
White egret
Back home I have started Will's floor cushion for his first birthday.  

I have decided to use this book and this book and chose these two to start with as they have two cats called Charlie and Lola. This is the first stage.

Well I still have not had time to sit down and try and get to grips with my new laptop, mentioned in my last post, but my son said he will help me.

BUT he can't help me with this ........... !!!!!!!!!!

I bought it on Ebay and it was due to be delivered by last Monday and it had not come, so I got hold of the supplier who said it should have been received by me two weeks ago!! The couriers advised the supplier that they had delivered it and it had been signed for at my house!! Wrong, wrong. The couriers then said it had been delivered at another house in my road, but the man had not left me a note saying where it was, so it sat in the neighbour's house for two weeks - wouldn't you have done something about this, cluttering up your home. 

 Well anyway I have it now and I must learn how to use it but not until Will's cushion is finished. Too much to do and so little time to do it in.

I am now writing timetables of what I have to do and by when otherwise i can't cope!!  I thought retirement was supposed to be relaxing!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

A frustrating day!

Before I explain I would like to thank this lovely lady who has kindly sent me one of her stands so that I can display my Christmas decorations. Thank you Josie.

The reason for my frustration is my new laptop. I went to Cambridge yesterday to buy it and also see my son and the family. The laptop that I am writing this blog on is getting very slow, some of the keys are sticking and I have had it four years now. BUT I love it and for the time being will carry on using it until I can understand the new one. I know that I will get the hang of it but I just do not have the time to spend trying to discover how it works. Baby Will's first birthday in ten days and I haven't even started his cushion yet.

Apart from buying the computer I spent lots of time on the kitchen garden and came back home with leeks and purple sprouting broccoli - yum. Mind you the d****d Muntjac has eaten the tips out of the autumn sown broad beans so I have had to take swift action to stop it. Hope they work. He has decimated the spinach but he doesn't like the autumn sown onion sets and has left them alone so they are coming on well

Meanwhile my son, M, was doing his own gardening - pruning and hacking back bushes. He has molehills all over his lawn (if of a squeamish nature read no further!) and so he had put down mole traps and was jumping around with delight that he had caught and killed two! I am always surprised how small they are- no more than about 6 inches (15 cms); those were definitely full grown and we were able to show them to the children. I did not see one until I was an adult.

Smocking on Friday afternoon was full on for me and I wondered where the three hours went. I am working on a special project that is top secret, that took up some of my time but I was able to start putting the finishing touches to my Christmas bauble that I hope will be finished soon so photos will follow.

Sorry this post is so short but put it down to having to learn about a new computer!!