Thursday, 13 April 2017

Lenten Stitches

Hello, how are you? I haven't been here for many days. I hope you're all well
and the kids are enjoying their holidays. The girls were still in school this week, today's
their last day. It's been an overly long spring term and they've trudged on through it
 mostly happily but now we're all glad that school's finally finished. We'll go for ice
cream later and, weather permitting, a nice long walk in Derbyshire tomorrow
morning, and maybe a picnic. No school and no school runs, just days to enjoy spring,
see friends and family and time for the girls to rest and just play. Hopefully it will be
a fun and restful sort of holiday and we'll all be in good health. I'm emphasizing
the health bit because by some weird coincidence, I've been ill over the last two
Easter holidays- with a nasty ear infection in 2015 and the horrible flu last year.
I'm feeling absolutely fine today so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Anyway, this is my square of fabric for our church's 'Garment of Suffering'
 this Holy Week. Everyone contributes a square piece of material, 6x6inches in size,
each piece representing our worries, anxieties and prayers. They are all sewn together
to make a patchwork panel and we'll be taking it to the altar tomorrow during
the Good Friday liturgy. 

This is the fourth year that I've brought in a piece of fabric to add to the garment
and I've done a bit of embroidery on all my contributions. It's not necessary but as
I've said in previous years' posts, it makes it more personal and meaningful for me.

This year's square has a very simple design inspired by spring flowers. Their
beautiful colours make me think of sunshine, hope and all good and happy things
and I've tried to depict that here. I used fabric scraps and appliqued them with
running stitch and straight stitch. The dots are French knots and the stems Portuguese
knotted stem stitch. The latter is new to me and I enjoyed learning it from my book
of embroidery stitches. I think the whole picture could have been more colourful
and I wish I've added butterflies. All the same, I'm grateful to able to take part and
I'm looking forward to joining in the church's Good Friday commemorations tomorrow.

Thank you for all the lovely things you said about my tapestry crochet project.
I wish you all a lovely Easter weekend. Enjoy the rest of the holidays!

(You can see last year's square here and there's a link there to see the ones from
2014 and 2015)

Friday, 31 March 2017

Tapestry Crochet Cushion

Last month I wrote about stepping out of my crochet comfort zone and trying
something new. That something new is tapestry crochet and I'm pleased to say
that I've really enjoyed learning this new technique. I'm also pleased to show you
my first finished tapestry crochet project - this harlequin pattern cushion cover.

If you google images of tapestry crochet, you'll get a lot of harlequin patterns.
Their bright colours and geometric shapes were actually the ones that first
drew me and made me want to find out more about this type of crochet. As soon
as I got the handle of working with multiple yarns and crocheting in reverse,
I wanted to try making something with a very simple harlequin pattern.

I drew a basic pattern on graph paper, a triangle with a base of ten double crochets,
and made the rest up as I went along. It was quite easy once I've made a row with
five of these triangles using off-white and green mercerised cotton. Seeing the shapes
forming as I worked every row was exciting (I'm doing colourwork! Yay!) and
I pretty much maintained my stitch tension throughout, usually a bit of a challenge
for me when I'm making something flat.

You'll notice that the upper half of the cushion has off-white with coloured yarn while
the lower half has plain white. I ran out of the off-white yarn halfway through but
didn't really want to buy some more so just used what I could find in the house.
The plain white is also cotton but not mercerised, so it split in almost all places and
wasn't as nice to work with, but it got me to the last row and joined up the front and
back together, so it's not too bad, I guess.

The back panel is very plain compared to the front, just rows and rows of double
crochets using leftover Drops Muskat yarn. It was joined to the front cover
with good old double crochets and I made three loops for buttons at the opening.

I am really chuffed with this. It's a fantastic technique to learn and you can work
as many colours into your design as you like. I have many ideas for my next project;
I'd like to try round shapes next, like maybe fruit or flowers. I've been mulling over
another cushion with lemons or pears. It will be great fun!

Thanks to everyone visiting here. I'll see you soon. Have a great weekend!

Monday, 27 March 2017

Raindrops on Roses - March

It's nearly the end of March, time to join in with Jo and list a few
of my favourite things this month:

My flowering cactus. It's only tiny but it has flowered four times over
the past year. There are always several buds emerging at the same time and it
takes over three or four weeks for them all to bloom, so I get to enjoy its dark
pink flowers for quite a long time. It's pretty low-maintenance too and this really
suits me because I'm not green-fingered at all. A sunny spot and a drop of water
occasionally (once a month over winter) and it's happy. So am I.

Sunshine. I like that the days are getting longer and we are getting more sunshine.
Last weekend was glorious and most of last week was sunny as well. I really enjoy
sitting outside when it's warm enough and the girls can spend most of the afternoons
after school playing in the garden. It's such a lovely change from being cooped up
indoors over most of the winter months. Today it's grey and a bit nippy again but
hopefully we'll have less and less of this sort of weather as the weeks progress.
I'm so ready for spring's mild, sunshiny days.

Flowers everywhere! I'm loving all the spring blooms - crocuses, daffodils, all of them.
It's the earth waking up from its winter sleep and smiling again. Just brilliant!

A visit to the Emma Bridgewater factory in Stoke-on-Trent. It was only a very short
stop, about an hour or so, but it was enough to wander around the courtyard, browse
at the gift shop and factory shop, and enjoy some Staffordshire oatcakes for lunch
at the café.

I like Emma's colourful and playful designs and it was great to see them showcased
 as well as the limited edition ones she had created for various special events and
occasions over the years.

I have to say though that my absolute favourite was the display along one wall of
the café of framed tea towels designed by her mother-in-law, Pat Albeck. If they
were selling replicas of these at the shops, I'd be first in the queue.

Sadly, we didn't have enough time to join the factory tour but I'm hoping that
we can go back at another time and visit there again, as well as the other pottery
factories around the area. It would be interesting to learn more about British pottery,
its history, and see how it's all made.

Another favourite this March is a radio play - Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte,
dramatized on Radio Four. The only book I've read of the Bronte sisters is Jane Eyre
but I enjoyed this so much, I've looked and found a copy of the novel and it's the next
 one I'll read after I've finished my current book The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
by Joanna Cannon. I've also found out today that there's a two-part series of one of
 Alexander McCall Smith's The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency stories, also on
Radio Four. It will be a great companion while I do the ironing this afternoon.

Those are some of my favourites this month, I'll see what April has to offer.
I hope you've had a good weekend and wishing you sunshine and good things
for the week ahead. See you soon!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Salted Caramel Flapjacks

Salted caramel is a flavour combination I love and recently I've found
a really easy way to add this flavour to flapjacks, a baked treat I make quite
often for the family. I've looked at a few recipes for salted caramel flapjacks
and in most of them you have to make the caramel. It seems to be a bit of a faff,
I just use shop-bought salted caramel sauce. It's easy and quick and the result
has that nice combination of salty and sweet which is what I'm after. I've had to
tweak my recipe a few times but I'm finally happy with it and I thought I'd
share it here with you.


175 grams   unsalted butter
150 grams  demerara sugar
                     1 tablespoon    golden syrup                           
          3 tablespoons   salted caramel sauce*
350grams  porridge oats
1/2teaspoon   sea salt flakes, plus extra to sprinkle

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C degrees. Grease and line with baking parchment
a square 8x8inch baking tin.

In a bowl, mix together the oats and sea salt flakes. Set aside.

Melt together the butter, sugar, golden syrup and caramel sauce in a saucepan
over low heat. Stir in the oats and sea salt. Mix well and turn into the prepared
baking tin. Press flat with the back of a spoon and sprinkle a pinch or two
of sea salt on top.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown.
Leave to cool for a few minutes then mark into 16 squares. Leave to finish
cooling in the tin.

*I use salted caramel sauce from Aldi and Waitrose. They're both good.
I've tried this brand before but for brownies. I think it would be great, too, but
I haven't been able to find it in any of the local supermarkets lately.

Thank you for your lovely comments on my previous post. I hope we'll have
 a really good spring season this year - lots of blue skies and sunshine and
not too much rain.

See you soon! x

Monday, 13 March 2017

Hello Spring!

I took these photos while out walking in Carr Wood last week. I really enjoyed
seeing all the early signs of spring - the first small buds poking through the ground,
fresh new leaves on tree branches, bright yellow flowers and snowdrops in bloom.
Little, wonderful things growing, bringing light and fresh new colours into every
corner of the woods. At home, I've re-potted some ready-grown primroses and tulips
 from the supermarket and tidied up a bit in the garden. I am dreaming of dahlias
for the summer but I'd be happy with geraniums and petunias again. I'm just glad
 that spring is finally getting here. Sunshine, flowers, mild weather - yes, please!

I hope you've had a good weekend. We didn't do anything new or exciting here,
just the usual things. Yesterday, while we were at my in-laws, it was sunny and
warm enough to sit outside and we did, with our coffees and cakes while the girls
ran around in the garden. It was really nice, a simple pleasure I'm looking
forward to enjoying more in the coming days and weeks.

Have a lovely Monday, see you soon!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Making in March

Hello, how are you? I hope you're well and March has started off all right for you.
 For today's post, I'd like to share with you the progress I've made with my two
ongoing projects. First off, my tapestry crochet.

I was only a few rows in when I last showed you this but it has now grown
and I'm actually not far off from finishing. I'm really pleased with how it's going.
I still have a lot to learn about this technique but I now feel quite confident with
the basics, including crocheting in reverse, and I think I'm ready to try new
patterns and designs.

I had a peek at the latest issue of Simply Crochet magazine while I was at the
supermarket and interestingly, they're featuring various colourwork techniques
including tapestry crochet. I think it's a fun skill to learn and it's great that it's getting
some attention. Hopefully more people will try it, too.

My other project is my Spring-themed cross stitch sampler. I've had to unpick and
change my motif for the letter 'S' - the dustpan and brush were supposed to be for
'Spring clean' but I was told they looked more like a comb and an upside down mirror
and they were not at all colourful like the other motifs, so they had to be replaced
with a pretty snowdrop. My two critics are happier with this and I have to admit,
so am I. And now that's done there's just one tiny motif left to stitch and then,
fingers crossed, it will be at the framers at the end of the week.  

So those are my two projects and I'm looking forward to having them both finished soon.

I haven't been around here much lately, it's been a busy old week with one thing after
another. Hopefully the rest of the week - and month- will be a little bit calmer, with less
mishaps and dramas. I'll be catching up with your blogs in the next few days -
take care and see you soon!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Snowdrops, the seaside and sewing

Half-term here has come and gone. The girls had ten whole days off school
and I think they've enjoyed themselves and have rested and recuperated. They
kept me busy most days. I had felt tired and frazzled at times and had craved
for some quiet time on my own during the day, but that was all off set by lie-ins
in the morning. the alarm clock not going off at 6:30am (hurray!), and doing fun
things with them like going to the cinema and meeting up with friends. It was nice,
actually, the whole half-term, and now that they're back at school, the house
has felt unusually quiet this morning. I miss them.

The weather was mostly rubbish throughout the school break. We were
looking forward to the sunny and mild days that were forecasted but what
we got was rain, grey skies, cold weather and on Thursday, the storm Doris.

When the sun did make an appearance, we tried to make the most of it. The girls
played outside and we went for walks down in the woods. We were on the look out
for any spring flowers on the ground and were disappointed to find only one clump
of snowdrops in bloom. Maybe in a few weeks there will be more of them flowering
and other flowers will appear, too. What we saw, and we keep seeing, are brightly
coloured crocuses in front gardens and we're a bit jealous. If I get myself organized
this year and have some bulbs planted in the autumn, we'll also have some colourful
blooms in our front yard next spring. Hopefully.

Tuesday last week was one of those rare dry and sunny days and we decided
to go on a day trip to Whitby. We love a day at the seaside, even if it's just
a short one. We played crazy golf, had fish and chips on the pier, mooched around
the Shambles and bought some kippers which we had for breakfast the next day.

Mostly, we stayed at home and pottered. I showed the girls how to sew one
rainy afternoon. They were very keen and were quite stoic with needle pricks
which surprised and impressed me.

It was Markie who first wanted to learn to sew and she specifically wanted to make
these felt birds. I was happy to oblige. I learned to sew when I was about her age, from
watching my mother, and then we were taught in school when I was about 8 or 9. It
pleases me that they're interested and they're both actually really good. Lulu, who's
four, now knows running stitch and straight stitch and 'gets' how buttons are sewn.
Markie pretty much did most of it by herself, including the buttons.

They're planning to bring their finished birds to school this week to show their teachers
and classmates. I'm all for it. I think they did a great job and should be proud. I'm
looking forward to making them pancakes for tea later. We'll have sweet and savoury
toppings, although I have a feeling Nutella, their latest favourite, will be most
in demand.

I hope you enjoy your pancakes too, if you haven't already. Thanks for reading
and for the lovely comments on my attempts at tapestry crochet. I have made progress
with the second pattern and I'm looking forward to showing you next time.
Have a great day!