Friday, 30 July 2010

Regatta Week

I am going away for a few days to the seaside. Each year my husband sails in the Menai Straits Regatta and we go to stay in the pretty little town of Beaumaris. We meet up with friends there, some who sail, some who don't, and the family will join us for a day too. So I will be there soaking up the seaside atmosphere that I love so much, which often influences my designs, but I won't be able to write my blog till I get back. Sigh.

These are details from my Regatta Quilt, made a few years ago, with its fleet of sailing boats very similar to the one Mr P sails in, and some jaunty bunting to add a sense of occasion.

As I may have mentioned before - and no doubt will do again - I absolutely love the seaside so I am really excited to be packing to go there again...

Back in a few days. Have a lovely week.x

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Lavender Love

There are a few varieties of lavender growing in our garden. I like to add to the collection when I can, and I have to replace some of the bushes every few years when they get too woody.

During the summer flowering I harvest some of the flower spikes and hang them up in the linen cupboard to dry, then use the lavender for making little bags to give as gifts.

The lavender bag shown here is part of a project I did for Crafts Beautiful magazine. (It's in the September Issue, new in the shops now). I made the lavender project using a variety of techniques including sewing, cross stitch, rubber stamping and paper crafts.

The little bags are lovely to hang in the wardrobe or tuck into a drawer - a lovely old fashioned way to make things sweetly scented.

Do you love lavender too?

Monday, 26 July 2010

Hydrangea Quilt

Now bound, finished and in use, the Hydrangea Quilt, as it became known over the weekend, is a new favourite. It echoes the colours of one of the hydrangeas in our front garden which has bright pink and lime green shades (see previous post), very different from the other kinds we have that are the more usual palest powder blue and marshmallow pink. They are all quite yummy in their own way.

As well as finishing my quilt this weekend, I did some garden tasks, like sorting out the poppy seeds from this big bunch of poppy heads a friend gave me. I left them in the kitchen to dry out all week, then tipped them into a paper bag to collect the tiny black seeds - also managing to broadcast vast numbers of them onto the kitchen floor. I swept them all up and will scatter them in the right place next time and look forward to loads of poppies next year.

I'll keep the dried poppy heads for decorations later on - we crafters have to think ahead.
Today I'm making something new for a craft magazine project involving lots of lovely textured card and some pretty papers - this will keep me busy all week. Enjoy your crafting too.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Pink and Green

Bringing in these beautiful hydrangea heads this week to brighten up our hall, reminded me of something else that is pink and green - but as yet unfinished.

My pink and green quilt, yet to have a name, has been waiting for it's binding for a long time. I've brought it out from the quilt cupboard now and found some fabric to make the binding, so this weekend I plan to do a bit of cutting and sewing and maybe even a bit of finishing.

The pink and green combination works so beautifully in nature that it never fails in design either. I especially love the candy pinks and citrus shades that Heather Bailey uses in her fabric ranges, and the fresh contemporary shades of Amy Butler's designs - they always inspire me. I used some of them in the Little House Sewing Set shown here, from my latest book Home Sweet Home.

Have a great weekend.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Saving the Selvedge

For years I used to trim the selvedge off my cotton fabrics and regretfully throw it away, thinking that it looked really pretty but not knowing there was any way of using it. I liked the look of the multi coloured dots, numbers and decorative lettering. Then one day I saw a pretty bag made from recycled selvedge strips which looked a bit like ribbon when applied to a backing. I gathered as much selvedge as I could from the fabrics I had in stock and made a cushion and it worked well. I then made a pin cushion, shaped like a needle roll, which I use all the time in my studio.

I work regularly for the inspirational Crafts Beautiful magazine, and for one of their projects I had an idea for a selvedge cushion, incorporating bands of cross stitch flowers to make it more personal. I also made ribbon ties for the top from strips of selvedge.

This picture of my selvedge project is from the June 2010 Issue of Crafts Beautiful.

One of my friends told her sister I was using selvedge in this way and she kindly asked her quilt group to save theirs for me - so I have plenty now to make the quilt I'm planning: I'm thinking of a series of square blocks made up of strips of selvedge, divided by plain white sashing. So if you don't already save your selvedge, next time you trim your fabric, think twice before throwing it away - you might just want to upcycle it!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

In the Vegetable Patch

I've always loved the sight of a kitchen garden with rows of vegetables slowly growing into their recognisable selves. I love the sight of beans winding their way upwards around bamboo sticks. The plant supports, trellis, canes and so on in a vegetable patch are part of the decorative effect I like so much. And the pots - the old fashioned worn looking terracotta pots. I was so inspired with vegetable patches that I included them stitched into my Garden Notebook.

This summer Mr P has planted lots of peas and beans and a few other things, in our vegetable patch AND remembered to water them during the extremely dry spell. They are growing strongly and taste delicious as well as looking pleasingly decorative to me.

The beehive is one of our compost bins. I got it from Wiggly Wigglers and it has worked a treat, making enough rich compost over the last year or two to improve our soil for this year's veggies.
Perhaps it's time to go out and collect a few more tasty pickings.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

First Vintage China I Ever Bought

This little blue and white creamer is the first piece of vintage china I ever bought. It was in the Seventies and I was an art student in Manchester. I found the little jug (I didn't know it was a creamer then) in a junk shop near college, where (not very attractive) old furniture used to spill out onto the pavement. Sometimes they had records and paperback books we were interested in.

But one day I saw this little jug and bought it for few pence. It was roughly wrapped in a piece of the Manchester Evening News and I took it back to my room in the student house I shared with several others. There it joined the art materials, books, patchwork fabrics, records, clothes and general muddle I lived in at the time. It was the beginning of years of collecting vintage pieces - and I still have it with me today. It moved from flat to cottage and from house to house with me. In the Eighties I painted it for a book illustration, with cornflowers, buttercups and wild roses.

Today I've taken it out of the cupboard and filled it with a posy of clove-scented carnations or pinks, and a few other little garden flowers. It's a wonderful little bit of china for displaying posies and the memories it holds will always keep me especially fond of it.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Baking Buns

The recent hot sunny weather has made me less inspired to bake things, but until we became so sun kissed around here I would bake a batch of our current favourites each week. Sometimes it's flapjacks, sometimes it's scones, or maybe a tray bake - very easy traditional recipes, old fashioned home baking is our favourite. The latest craze before the heat wave, was rock buns. I don't know what made me dig out an old recipe and, finding I had all the ingredients in stock, begin to make these simple little cakes. They are called rock buns because of their shape, not (hopefully) their hardness. I love recipes where you throw it all in the mixer and it's done quickly and you don't have to wait too long for it to cook. These are so delicious and tempting - the lemon zest makes them really yummy.

Favourite Rock Buns
100gbutter, 225g plain flour, 2 level tsps baking powder, 1/2 tsp mixed spice (optional), pinch salt, 100g demerara sugar, 100g mixed dried fruit, grated rind of 1/2 lemon, 1 large egg, beaten, 1 tsp milk. Place baking parchment on two baking trays. Rub the butter into the sifted flour, baking powder, spices and salt until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar, fruit and lemon rind. Pour in the egg and milk, and mix until stiff and crumbly. Use a big spoon to drop the mixture onto the baking trays, roughly shaping the cakes into similar sizes. Bake in the oven at 200C for 15-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container and they'll keep for a few days - or maybe not......

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Flowers On The Window Sill

My last post was a week ago - not because I'm a lazy blogger but because our computer network router broke and we had to wait for a new one to be sent out to us! Today it was finally fixed and I'm dealing with the unanswered emails and work related matters, but also just had to make time to post on my little blog which I couldn't do anything about till this moment.

I didn't want to just rant about the stress/frustration of my internet- denied week in this happy little place, so I'm turning to things I HAVE enjoyed while other things were not so great - and one of them is flowers on the window sill (words from a Carole King song I think). Lots of window sills in this house, lots of flowers in the garden, plus alternating summer showers and bright sunshine that are constantly changing the light effects.

Back soon, with a yummy recipe, some reminiscence and a lot of crafting.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Flower Quilt

The Flower Quilt is finished! I had had the idea for this quilt in my head for quite a while, as often happens with design ideas - they sort of simmer there until you suddenly begin to make them. I'd just designed a cross stitch commission using a Flower Power theme, and I'm sure that influenced the idea for this quilt. I wanted lots of bright applique flowers on a white background, and the white background had to be quilted quite closely to provide lots of texture. I used Bondaweb to applique the flowers, leaves, hearts and circles and blanket stitched round each one with matching embroidery thread.
The border is made from random rectangles of fabric echoing the flower colours and the binding of sprinkled flowers on red tied it all together the way I'd hoped. I like the way a quilt almost designs itself, developing as you stitch and changing as different fabrics are worked into it, becoming more substantial when the layers are sandwiched together, and then, as you finish sewing the binding - there it is -a new quilt.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

A Bit of Knitting

I used to knit a lot and then I stopped completely for a few years, busy doing other crafts for work related projects. When my little grandson was born nearly three years ago I bought some wool and new bamboo needles and began making him a stripy hat and jumper from a lovely Debbie Bliss pattern. And that's when I remembered how much I loved knitting! How relaxing, you could just pick it up and put it down, do a few rows here and there, never be bored waiting around somewhere because you could just whip out the knitting and do a bit. Now I usually have something on the needles, and at the moment it's a cardigan in Rowan Felted Tweed, one of my favourite yarns - so cosy, and lovely soft colours and textures.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Fourth of July

The fourth of July has been and gone for another year, it seems to come round faster and faster. The birthday weekend was lovely, the sun shone after all, the cake was delicious and the flowers were blooming. Now the celebrations are over it's time to get on with some work and a lot more crafting. This week I'm putting the finishing touches to projects for two crafts magazines, making a new toy, sewing a flower quilt and doing a bit of knitting - and also reading a book which is fascinating me - Hancox A House and a Family by Charlotte Moore.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Happy Weekend

The weekend is just beginning, and promises to be a good one - with two birthdays to celebrate, my younger daughter's and mine! (She was my best present the year she was born!) My parents, sisters and families will be dropping in for tea and cake (possibly not made by me..) and there are already some cards and presents waiting which I have been very good and not opened early. There is rain forecast for the weekend but never mind, I'm sure it will be a happy time anyway, in or out of the garden.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Crafty Colour

This week I received a craft order which was so pretty and colourful I just had to take pictures of it before I began using it. Even the outer packaging was pretty and looked lovely with the contents. It was from Blooming Felt who supply all kinds of funky felt products - and have a really bright and colourful website to browse and choose from, a bit like a sweetshop to people like me. I've already used some of these items in a project today - very inspiring crafty treats.