Sewing, stitching, baking, cooking, gardening, shopping and general homemaking.

Monday, 30 November 2009

A New Tablecloth

The patchwork design on this tablecloth isn't very good I know.  I bought a fat quarter of each of the fabrics quite some time ago because I absolutely loved the colours and designs.  I cut out the patches you see at the front and the back of the table but then realised I didn't really have enough left to do more with, so, as usual, it got put away.  Occasionally I would get it out and look at it, wondering what I could do.  Yesterday I decided I would just go for it and make it all up into a tablecloth for my kitchen table.  That way it would actually get used up and I would be able to admire the fabric every day.  The binding doesn't quite match the other fabrics but it's good enough - I'm not trying to win any prizes with it and I won't be entering it as an exam piece, I just want to enjoy it.  (Not that I take exams in anything any more!!!)

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Winter Flowering Jasmine

This scrawny looking climber is in a pot and is growing up the fence outside my back door, what I like to call my back door patio area.  All summer it just looks like bare twigs with maybe a few small, pointed leaves on it.  Then suddenly it will start to flower.  One day there is nothing then I'll look outside and it has these beautiful, bright yellow, flowers on it.  It will keep flowering right up until the rest of the garden starts to wake up and it will go back to sleep again.

We thought we'd try begonias in the hanging baskets and window boxes this year.

Yes, the flowers were spectacular but the leaves soon ended up a tattered mess.  I think this was because of the torrential rain that we kept getting, it battered these poor plants and spoiled the look of the baskets.  Most years we have fuchsias in our baskets, tubs and troughs but we do like to have a bit of a change.  Each time we get to the end of a summer when we haven't used fuchsias we always say that next summer we'll go back to fuchsias.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

My Stitching Chair

This is where I sit and stitch.  I spend a lot of time in this chair, stitching and messing around on my computer.  I love my computer and would miss having one.  It's like having a huge library, anything I want to know about I can find somewhere on the web.  I feel lucky that I have a whole room to keep all my crafty stuff in, though I could do with a room twice the size!  I recently got rid of loads of stuff I knew I didn't want to do any more.  Now I'm just down to stitching, sewing, card making and maybe, if I feel like it a bit of watercolour painting.  I used to do quite a bit of painting but not very well.  When I had my clear out I threw loads of my art away and didn't feel a thing!  I could still do with a bit more organization in here, I'd love to have cupboards for everything so that it looks tidy all the time.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Baking and Stitching

My photography gets worse - think I must have a bit of a shake on just lately, maybe I should get a tripod for my camera.  I baked shortcake again yesterday, a very useful item to have in my cake tin.  If I make six at a time that means we have puddings for three days and none get wasted.  If I make more than this we get fed up with them.  This time I used the silicone muffin pan (can't call it 'tin' anymore!).  It feels really weird to put this soft, floppy pan in a hot oven.  These shortcakes turned out a lovely colour and rose really well, mainly because I used double the amount of baking powder by mistake and because the mixture was a bit dry I added a drop of milk at the end and didn't mix it in thoroughly.  They were very light and fluffy.

I'm still doing freestyle embroidery.  The light this morning was terrible until a few minutes ago and I struggled to see.  I've got my lamp with the daylight bulb on and the ceiling spotlights but it was still a struggle.  Now the sun has come out and it's much better.  This time I'm stitching what vaguely looks like cow parsley/Queen Anne's Lace, or even giant hog weed.  It'll be made up into another little pouch.  I love making these pouches, the bigger ones are useful for storage, the small ones are mainly made because I just like them.  I have several of them, big and small, scattered around my craft room and bed room.  There are several scattered around the world too!!!  I love the thought that my work is in so many countries.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Embroidered Garden

I'm in the mood for a bit of freestyle embroidery.  My favourite is flowers and I've stitched several variations of the little garden scene you can see on this pouch.

I can't get a decent close up that shows the detail, probably my camera but more likely my photography skills.  I wanted to show what stitches I'd used, all there is on here is mostly straight stitching and French knots, with the occasional detached chain stitch - easy.  I find this kind of embroidery really quick to do and, as I've said before, I usually stitch on calico.  I have got some proper silk fabric that I keep meaning to use but when I decide to do freestyle I just grab a bit of available fabric and stitch, then afterwards wonder why I didn't get some of the silk out to do it on.  I don't use a hoop or a frame while I'm stitching.  It's kind of like doodling with needle and thread. Have a go and just stitch, you'll be surprised at the result.  Don't worry about being perfect and don't unpick anything.  Start off with some stems and add French knots, then embellish from there with a few scattered stitches.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Is It Lost?

This was mailed two weeks ago, so it's either lost in the post or not acknowledged - I think I would rather it be lost than not acknowledged!!!  If it is lost it doesn't make any difference that I show it on my blog because the recipient won't be receiving it anyway.  Oh well, never mind.

Look at this poor little dog, he's got to lie on a plastic bag - aaaahhh!  Dogs certainly know how to make you feel guilty, he wanted to sit on my knee but I was stitching at the time and it's very difficult to stitch with a dog on my knee, I know because I've tried it.  You should see him when he curls up on a small carrier bag, it's really pathetic then.  There are four dog beds for his convenience around the house but if they aren't within two inches of where I sit he insists that he has to sit on me.

Friday, 20 November 2009

A Mouse

Using the same humbug shape as the chicken, I made this mouse.  So far I've made pincushions, bags, Christmas decorations, chickens and now a mouse from the same pattern.  Now that is what I call a versatile pattern!  If the battery on my camera didn't run out so quickly I'd make a tutorial for my blog like some generous bloggers do.  I wish I had a camera that I could recharge on a plug-in charger, but I haven't.  Batteries that you can charge are next to useless too, a couple of pictures and they run out.  If anyone knows of good batteries that you can charge let me know.

I'm not sure what I'll be doing today.  We are waiting in for a spotter scope to be delivered.  You can guarantee that if we go out for five minutes it will arrive and we'll have to arrange for it to be delivered another day.  We've got binoculars but I've always fancied a spotter scope.  Graham did a lot of surfing the web looking for bargains (I think this is a hobby of his but he doesn't realise it, he's a much better shopper than I am).  We did order the same scope from another company and when it hadn't arrived after about a week he phoned them.  They were out of stock and hadn't let us know - I just hate it when that happens.  We might go to Willington tomorrow, depending on the weather.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Swap News And Other Stuff

I had to borrow the pictures of this extremely tasty Damson Chutney from Nipitinthebud because I forgot to take a picture of it immediately and we ate is so quickly it was all gone in no time.

I'm not a chutney lover but this was just perfect for me, not too sharp and vinegary like some chutneys can be, or completely tasteless like an expensive bought one we had.  We ate it with soda bread and cheese but it was gorgeous just on it's own with the bread.  I recommend this chutney if Nipitinthebud ever sells it!!!

I'm still in my Christmas decoration making mood.  The recent humbug swap I'm in started me off making humbug shaped chickens, bags and now bowl fillers.  First I used the printed panel I bought then I decided to try this shape with other designs of Christmas fabric.  I'm pleased with how many home made decorations I've made so far this year.  The cats in the picture were made a couple of years ago, I think they look good with the other stuff in this basket.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

First Swap Received

Mangocheeks at Allotment 2 Kitchen sent me this delicious mulled wine plum jam in exchange for a chicken in a bag - that was quick wasn't it!!!  As soon as I'd unwrapped it Graham had to try it, he mostly said "mmmmmm"  so you can imagine, he loved it.  I was going to have some with bread but decided that it would do very nicely as part of our desert this evening and served it with a frangipane tart and ice cream, gorgeous!
I've got the packaged chicken and bag ready to be posted tomorrow, I wonder if it will be welcome in it's new home?

Monday, 16 November 2009

Fancy A Swap Anybody?

Chicken in a bag looking for a new home!!!

In fact I have several of these chickens, so if you fancy a swap I'm up for it.  It doesn't have to be sewing related either.  What have you got that you could swap?  Email me 

The weather is terrible this morning, the wind is howling and the rain is rattling against the windows, what better way to spend the day than sewing.  What do you do when you can't get out and about?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Lovely Stuff

I know I shouldn't but I just can't stop myself.  I went to Leicester today because it was the open weekend at The Fabric Guild.  There are other shops selling fabric in my area but none can beat the good old Fabric Guild for variety and price.  The two large pieces above were only £3.75 for 3 yards and the fat quarters ranged in price from 60p to £1.75.  Fat quarters are usually at least £2.50 in most places.  I've got no idea what any of this fabric is for but I know that one day it will all be just perfect for some project or other.

I couldn't come away without some calico, 5 yards for £10.  I use tons of this stuff so I must always make sure I have plenty in stock.  It's great for so many things, linings, adding to fancy fabric as a contrast, embroidering on and just on its own, I love it made into a bag or sachet with lace and filled with lavender.  Then there are the printed fabric panels, I like the ones that have the designs in squares as show above.  This way I can cut out individual designs for all sorts of projects - £2.50 per panel.  Last but not least I buy my sewing machine thread.  I like their polycotton, a very economical thread at 60p, I don't know how many yards of this I must use in a year!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Soda Bread

We're having salad for tea today so I've made some soda bread to go with it.  This size loaf is just right for us, the full size one always gets wasted.

150g wholemeal flour ( I used rye flour as I didn't have wholemeal)
150g plain flour
1teaspoon baking powder
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon caster sugar
half teaspoon salt
1 egg
200 ml yoghurt

Mix dry ingredients together.  Mix egg with the yoghurt then combine well with the dry ingredients.  Knead on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes then shape into a round.  Place dough onto a baking tray and mark a cross on the top of the dough.
Bake for 35 minutes at 190C/375F/gas mark 5

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Chocolate Cake

This cake is from a new recipe I wanted to try.  It's rather dry in my opinion but still nice, I do like a very moist cake.


200g (7oz) Self Raising Flour
225g (8oz) Caster Sugar
half a teaspoon Salt
25g (1oz) Sieved Cocoa Powder
100g (4oz) Butter or Margarine, softened
5 tablespoons Evaporated Milk
3 Eggs. beaten
5 tablespoon Water
few drops Vanilla Essence

Heat oven to 180C, 350F, gas 4 and prepare two 8 inch sandwich cake tins.
Mix all dry ingredients together, add butter/margarine, eggs, evaporated milk, water, vanilla essence and beat for about two minutes using an electric hand mixer.
Divide between the two sandwich tins and bake for 35 minutes.

60g (2.5 oz) Butter, softened
1 tablespoons sieved Cocoa Powder
250g (9oz) Sieved Icing Sugar
3 tablespoons Hot Milk (I used evaporated milk)
Half teaspoon Vanilla Essence

Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix well together until combined.  Use to sandwich cake together and spread over the top.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

One Of Those Days

I just can't get myself going today.  Don't know if I'm just tired or if I've got a bit of a cold.  On Sunday I shared a stall at a craft fair with a friend.  We've had a stall at this venue several times this year.  It is a total waste of time!!!  I did manage to get the stall fee back plus a couple of quid over.  Think I'll stick with swapping and giving gifts, so look out for items next year.

I finished this Christmas decoration yesterday evening.  I didn't do the cross-stitch, have I mentioned before that Graham does fabulous cross-stitch?  Can't remember.  Anyway, about twelve years ago he wanted a new hobby and said that he remembered his grandfather doing some sort of stitching and wondered about having a go himself.  Well he really took to it, first of all doing needlepoint but then trying cross-stitch.  Now his work would win prizes I'm sure.  It is so neat, back and front.  And the projects he does are usually huge.  He does the cross-stitch and I will make this sort of design into, for instance, a hanging.

Sorry about the poor photography.

We had hoped to get into the garden and do some clearing up and planting but neither of us have felt much like it.  We did clear the sweet corn and runner beans from the raised bed.  The sweet corn did fairly well considering the terrible summer weather we had.  The cobs weren't as well formed as they should have been but at least we got some.  It was supposed to be baby sweet corn but turned out much bigger than I expected.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Best Friends

The other day I mentioned that I had a photo album of my dogs but I also have lots of pictures not in albums.  The pictures here were taken about fourteen years ago.  Jack the Manchester terrier (deceased), Doobry toy apricot poodle and Perkins a blotched tabby cat (deceased).  They all got on really well and would often sit together - the cat was in charge of course.

We would often end up all sitting together like this, Perkins always had first choice of where to sit, then Jack, then Doobry.  I had no choice!!!

If I wasn't available to sit on these two would lie on the floor.

I have lots of pictures of my first two dogs that I will show another day.

While I was looking at these pictures it reminded me of how much work we were doing on the house at that time.

Graham working on the kitchen, what a mess!  It nearly drove us round the bend.

Me cutting out the wall to make a doorway for the new, upstairs, bathroom.

The stud wall we built when we converted part of a bedroom for the bathroom.  Apart from plumbing we did all this sort of work ourselves.

The house is now nothing like it was when we first lived here.  We've done a lot of work on it.  It was built in 1908 so takes quite a bit of maintenance.  When we moved here it had been 'modernized' quite badly so needed a lot of work doing.  We put the bathroom upstairs and changed the downstairs bathroom to a wc and laundry room and moved an internal wall so that there is an annexe to the kitchen for my fridge/freezer and further storage cupboards, replaced all the windows and external doors, replaced the floor boards in the main bedroom and built fitted cupboards and wardrobes, installed central heating, replaced the roof and did tons of other stuff.  I still don't count it as finished though.  Currently we have a problem with a leak over the bay window, I think rain is getting between the rendering and the bricks (why it was rendered I'll never understand).  What attracted me to this particular house was that it had a proper entrance hall, the kitchen was big compared to a lot of houses of this type and the size of the garden.  The garden is one of those really long, narrow types, it's split into several sections, the back door patio then a gravelled area where my greenhouse is, a slabbed patio, a lawned area with flower borders and old apple tree, the shed and garage area, then my veg plot area.  Also it is a few minutes walk from a fairly decent shopping area and our doctor is about two minutes walk away.  There is a very good bus service too.  All in all it's a great place to live.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

50 Days to Christmas

Once the clocks go back I start looking forward to Christmas.  I've got everything ready for the Christmas swap I'm in, plus an extra set for myself.  I've got one more of the gift bags to finish then I can decide what my next Christmas project will be.

Join me for a cup of tea and a cake!!!  I'm still practising my cup-cake skills.  The piping is looking better and the chocolate truffle centres worked better than the Rolo centres.  I think the piping still needs refining, I can't seem to get the icing right to the edge.  I bought some blue glitter to sprinkle on them too but I don't know if I like the look of it, I just sprinkled a few with it and when I opened the cake tin I panicked, for a minute it looked like mould!!!

I enjoy reading other people's blogs and love the ones with pictures and writing.  That got me wondering why I do my blog.  Several years ago I had an online picture album but the provider did away with them, probably switched it to another option, I can't remember.  So, I think my main reason for doing a blog is to have a picture record of what I do.  We've got tons of photos hanging around our house that never get looked at.  I have a photo album of Colin from when he came home from hospital to the age of about two.  I have a little album of the dogs I've had and Graham has one of his walking adventures.  Also, I make such a lot of things that I forget what I've made so a blog is a good way for me to keep a record.  I've never been one to keep a diary either, I tried a few times but quickly gave up, somehow typing out my blog is much easier.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Our Garden

During the summer I took quite a few pictures of our flower garden.  Graham is in charge of this area, I'm in charge of the vegetable plot.  Because he was in hospital and was very ill, I took pictures to show him when I visited in the hope that it would encourage him.

This is the area near our shed, this year the geraniums didn't do well at all, it was just too wet.

This tub was my favourite, a couple of weeks after taking this picture it was even more beautiful.

The scented stocks in this picture were a much brighter colour than shown here.  At the back of them is a laurel, it was supposed to be just a small bush but grew so much we pruned it into a tree shape.  Each year a bird nests in it, I think it is probably a dunnock but it might be a blackbird, I don't poke around too much so as not to frighten whatever bird it is.  I know that dunnocks live in the hedge just here.

We planted this up this year and it started to fill out really quickly.

I can't remember the name of this plant.  The perfume from it fills the surroundings, it's been in this planter for several years now and has survived the winters.

Even though it was a very wet summer all the plants did well and we had some beautiful displays.

One picture of my veg plot, this is a raised bed and is crammed with plants each year.  There are three other raised beds that we didn't do much with this time.  We've got big plans for them next year!!!