Thursday, 31 December 2015

The final walk of the year.

This morning was bright and sunny but colder than the weather has been this month so we decided to end the year by walking on Wimbledon common. Scamp thought this was a great idea and couldn't get himself and us ready fast enough. We headed for the windmill car park and then down through the trees to the lake - Queensmere.

The lake was a busy venue for birds with 4 cormorants, mallards, tufted ducks, coots, moorhens and lots of black headed gulls

We like to follow the bridlepath that circles the common. This gives us a walk of about 4 miles which today was very muddy.  Scamp was trying really hard to catch a squirrel but he just isn't fast enough. He also looked very small as he run through the mud and puddles. I thought a puddle might swallow him up but  fortunately he managed to jump clean over most of them.

When Lucy had visited last night she had told us she gathered holly for Christmas whilst walking her dog over the common. This had lead to a discussion of 'what would happen if everyone did that?' So today I was laughing when we reached an area where the undergrowth had been cleared. A notice told us that they had been clearing out the holly which was encroaching all over the common and preventing other species from flourishing.

Scamp, like all dogs loves to run ahead, and then stops for us to catch up.

Once home and with clean dry paws Scamp settled down for a nap. I totted up the miles I've walked this year. Last year John and I took part in the challenge to walk 1000 miles in a year. We achieved that and decided to try to walk 1500 miles this year. I didn't manage that but did manage 1245 miles.

I got the sewing machine out and pieced the back for my 9 patch quilt. I used this fabric and some solid white. The machine was a bit grumbly having not been used for a while but I gave her a gentle stroke and cleaned all the fluff from around the feed dogs and she started to purr along beautifully

I also made the orange and lime blocks for the rainbow scrap challenge. I didn't really have any lime fabric so I just used the green I had.

I think I've nearly caught up but I need to check as I'm not sure I made the brown blocks.

I was given a book on quilting history for Christmas. I'm looking forward to reading this. So far I've only browsed through the pictures. The book was published to support a major exhibition at the V and A museum in London in 2010. I didn't get to the exhibition but I'm planning on visiting their textile collections this year. I also want to visit the current exhibition 'The fabric of India' as it looks really interesting and the fabrics are so beautiful. I need to get a wriggle on as it ends on the 10th January.

Several bloggers I follow keep track of their stash. I decided to let that look after itself so long as it fitted into the space I had to store it. However Sharon at Vroomans Quilt totals her thread usage each year and I thought this would be fun. Here is this years usage.

The two large spools hold 876 yards and the smaller grey spools hold 328 yards making a total of 5,032 yards used. I have used more as I'm only counting the completed spool and quite  a few of my quilting thread are quite low. . Not a great distance compared to many quilters but I'm happy with it  I wonder if I'll travel further in 2016?

Are you staying up to let the new year in? We usually do but I might go to bed as I'm feeling very tired. Richard is working and probably won't be in until 3 or 4 am and it's very quiet here with just me and John. Tomorrow we have Kathryn and Olly coming over for a New Year's dinner which will be fun and if the weather's good we'll take Scamp for a walk.

Hope you enjoy your celebrations.


Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Results of December goals.


December was rather slow for goals but I did complete one item.

1. Complete the advent calendar for Kathryn.
I finished the advent calendar but I didn't finish in time for it to be used this year, but it's all finished and ready to use for Christmas 2016. I also forgot to take a final photo before it was gifted so this will have to do.

2. Baby quilt for baby Lucas
Not completed  I chose this pattern from Today's Quilter issue 3.

So far I've made one block but I'm going to work on this tomorrow.

3. Quilt for Buddy
This is still at the thinking about stage. I will get it started in January. I bought him treats for his Christmas present instead.

4. Finish the hexie quilt top.
The top is still short of its outer border as  I need to purchase the fabric.

I'm linking my dismal finishes for the month with A lovely year of finishes for the final finish party of 2015. I hope you achieved more than I did this month.


Goals for 2016

2016 Quilting / Blogging Planning PartyVal's Quilting Studio

It's that time, when ahead of New Years Day we start thinking of our goals for the coming year. I like setting myself goals and I also like lists. Both help me to get things done, and also help keep me sane as I don't have to remember everything I need to, I can just refer to my list. So here goes for next year.

1. I want to lose weight and generally improve my health.

I would like to lose 2 stone in total but even half a stone would be good (that would be what I put on over the holiday period!) I also need to sleep more when working. Holidays and weekends are great as I get a lie in but when I'm working I need to get up at 5.30 or 6 depending on where I'm based that day, That would be OK if I then went to bed at a sensible hour but often it will be after midnight. I have been using a Jawbone tracker for over a year now and generally walk between 3 and 5 miles a day but at times work gets in the way and my distance drops dramatically. Over the next couple of days I'm planning the strategy I will use to achieve this goal. The Jawbone lets me keep track of activity, sleep and food but I have to follow the rules I set myself. Does this mean the cakes must go?

Fortunately this isn't an everyday cake. One of my students made it to celebrate the end of their course back in July. The trouble is I do love a good cake.

2. I want to do more craft work for charity donation..

Last year I was going to make a couple of quilts for donation but I then took on more work and time became short. Add in a lot of my colleagues had babies so I made several baby quilts that hadn't been in my plan for the year and I simply run out of time to make anything else. This year I will keep it simple and try for 1 quilt and anything more will be great. I will also knit hats for the innocent smoothies bottles if they are doing it again in 2016. The bottles with hats are sold in February and for each one sold 25p goes to AgeUK. The hats range from simple bobble hats to really creative elaborate hats. I took this picture from the AgeUK big knit website. I also have some baby wool that needs using up and some patterns for prem baby hats. At Guides Lucy and I want to get the girls making quilts or something for their community action this year. 

Knitted hats on smoothie bottles

3. Finish some works in progress

In particular I must finish the millennium sampler, after all it is going to be 2016 and I was given it as a Christmas present in 1999. It needs to be finished, framed and on the wall.

I also want to work on my Double Wedding Ring quilt. This quilt is for me and John and although I started it ages ago (I think in 2013 but I need to check) it hasn't moved forward at all this year.

4. I want to try some new techniques.

When reading blogs and surfing the net I have come across many techniques for quilting and sewing that are new to me. This year I want to try new things and one of the first will be using the binding technique that includes a flange. I like the way this looks on the quilts and whilst I wouldn't want to use it all the time it will add variety. Richard bought me some new quilting rulers for my birthday and I want to try these out. On my craftsy account I have some classes that I haven't finished and some others I have yet to start which look at various techniques I want to learn. Amongst them is FMQ. I already do this at a basic level but I would love to be more proficient. I also like drawing and want to try out some new ideas in this areas too.

5 Read more, write more

I have always loved reading and writing. Over the last year I found it hard to keep up to date with the blogs I follow without trying to read books. I'm not even talking the classics, just those easy read books you take on holiday and finish in a couple of days to forget the story in a couple of weeks. It's not that I don't read, I do, but it's mostly work related such as students essays and dissertations or research papers and policy documents that I will be discussing in class. I'm hoping to read at least one book a month, nothing highbrow, just a book that takes my fancy. I could start with the lot I've got on my kindle and haven't started to read yet.

I love writing my blog but again I don't always keep up the posts. I want to be more consistent. When I started blogging I posted a minimum of twice a week and built the time into my diary but recently it's happened when and if. So I'm going back to planning my time so it can happen.  I also want to start writing letters again. Email is fine but I use it so much at work I don't enjoy using it to contact family and friends. Plus there really is nothing like receiving a long newsy letter that you can enjoy with your tea or coffee. Letters can also be kept and enjoyed years later. I have one or two letters from my mother that I kept and they are a great comfort.  I know you can keep emails but it just isn't the same (is my age showing a little too much?)

If half of these goals happen I will be very pleased but with a little care and planning they should all be possible. I'm looking forward to 2016 with a positive outlook and I'm hoping it's going to be a fabulous year.

I linking this post with Val at Val's Quilting Studio where her Blog archive post has been taken over with goals for next year, and with Quilting Jet Girl for the goal planning party. Why not go and check out plans for next year. It's a great source of inspiration.


Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Best of 2015

Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs is hosting a 'best of 2015' linky party and you know how I love a party so I just had to join in.

So what are the best 5 things around here this year? 

1. Finishing Richard's Star Trek quilt. 

This is a big quilt and I quilted it on my home sewing machine which only has a small arm aperture so it was quite a struggle and took a long time to finish. My aching arms and shoulders were very happy when it was finished and Richard was really pleased with his quilt. As one of the comments relating to this quilt said 'Trekkies never grow up'. Richard had wanted a quilt or something for his room like this since he was 7 or 8 and he is now 30.

This was an opportunity to practice my FMQ so the ships on the center panel were outlined, I did a pebble pattern on the sashing and a meander around the blue background of each block.

2. The red work 'It's a dogs life' quilt top.

As well as quilting I enjoy hand stitching. I saw this design at Bird Brain Designs and decided I had to make it. It took many months to finish all the hand stitching but then the top went together very quickly. This will be quilted in the new year. I have the backing fabric and need to get on and make the quilt sandwich.

Trying to show you the individual blocks is rather difficult but I hope you get the idea. In the New Year I'm starting some stitching involving cats. The dog's quilt was made from a kit but I'll be choosing the fabric and quilt blocks for the cat quilt.

3. Taking part in the Rainbow scrap challenge. 

Like anyone who quilts I generate a lot of scraps and I also love turning the scraps into something beautiful. I have been joining in with the 2015 challenge and I chose the churn dash block for my pattern this year. I make 4 blocks a month. I'm a little behind with my blocks so need to make a few before the years end.

Last year I made 4 nine patch blocks each month and a hexie block. Recently these were turned into quilt tops.

The hexie quilt needs its borders added and the 9 patch is waiting to be prepared for quilting.The 9 patch will be going to my younger daughter Lucy/ The nine patched will have a pieced back made of 9 patches. I hope the blocks made for this years challenge will finish up so pretty. The blocks this year are for a charity quilt.

4. Taking part in a blog hop.

I love blog hops as I have to work to a deadline which means I definitely complete something in a year but also I discover blogs I haven't visited before. This year I took part in a couple of hops and also visited several more.

5.  Advice, help, support and friendship from the blogging community.

This has been the best part of 2015. Quilters are so good at sharing and supporting. When I've needed advice  e.g a good metallic thread to use or how to do a tricky technique you have all been there to offer help and good advice. You have left lovely supportive comments on my blog and you have been visiting lots. Thanks to you all I am having a great time with my quilting and stitching but also with my blogging. I'll try to be a little more consistent next year as this year has been disrupted in places due to work. 

So that's my choice of the best of 2015 and I really did leave the best bit till last. I'm looking forward to a great 2016 with lots of quilty goodness, embroidery, dressmaking and quiet time catching up with what you are making and doing. Mmm now I've written this I think it's time to make a cup of tea and settle down to catching up with reading through the posts on my blog feed.


A bit of this and that and an ouchy

I hope you had a great Christmas. Ours was very enjoyable and very peaceful. We had younger daughter and her boyfriend Richard for Christmas day plus their dog Buddy. Scamp likes him but is a little worried that Buddy may squash him.

He made himself comfy on the couch and settled down for a nap. They'd taken him for a long walk before they came over so Buddy would be tired and so wouldn't be so bouncy. He's a mastiff labrador cross and weighs in at 40kg and could possibly grow a little bigger as he isn't yet 2 years old.

Apart from this picture I didn't take any others as I was too busy enjoying myself. In the evening after dinner, we played some card games and Articulate. We were all cheating like mad and my sides ached from laughing so much.

On boxing day we went for a long walk with Scamp  The London Plane trees down the one side road on the way to the common had all been cut back to the old wood to stop them getting too big for their situation.

The bark of the London Plane is very odd. It comes off like scales and as you can see in the photo the bark is one colour and then you get patches of various shades where the bark has fallen off at different times.

Over Christmas I packed my sewing machine away and I've been working on the Christmas tree cross stitch. I will continue to work on this until twelfth night. I completed all the sky on the one side as this was easy to work on whilst watching TV. I have also counted across the left side for the sky so I can now do some work on this. Before I start that however I need to add the gold star, then I can just work across the rows and not have to worry about counting the stitches. There are some stars to back stitch in the sky but that will be done later on.

Last night I had been doing some stitching and having put my work down on the coffee table went off to make a cup of tea. When I sat down a little later to enjoy my tea I felt this intense pain at the top of the back of my thigh. I slowly lifted myself up as I realised that I had dropped my embroidery scissors in the chair and they had stabbed me. I pulled them out and through my jeans applied pressure for a short time before I went to the bathroom to inspect the damage. Two small wounds showed that the scissor blades had been open but fortunately they only have fairly short blades so they hadn't gone in too deeply. Also they had caught the seam on the pocket so had to pass through several layers of fabric which also helped reduce the depth of the injury. It is still red and painful and I'm being much more careful with the scissors this evening.

Tomorrow I'll be getting the sewing machine out, well I will so long as Richard has finished putting his lego model of a ferrari together. At the moment there are lots of teeny tiny pieces of lego over the table. There are over a thousand pieces so it should keep him busy for ages.

I'm linking this post with Kathy's Slow Sunday Stitching. 


Thursday, 24 December 2015

Busy catching up.

I love Christmas and always look forward to getting the tree decorated, the presents wrapped and the food all organised. This year is no exception, and I'm very pleased because I've made a gingerbread house, a christmas cake and the christmas puddings.. The presents are wrapped but I still have a couple to buy but hopefully that will be sorted on Wednesday when Lucy and I finish up the last little bits for the holiday. Oh I must remember I need a tasty special veggie menu for Lucy for Christmas dinner.

In the run up to the holiday I tried really hard to complete everything for work but I have a few things I need to do. The good news is I don't need to go into the office to do them. So last Friday was my last working day of 2015. We go back to work on the 4th January 2016. Wow it seems strange writing that.

I need to have a major sort out and reorganise of all my sewing bits. I have so many scraps that I must make some scrappy quilts this coming year. I started the process of using some scraps by making a block for the baby quilt. This is from a pattern in Today's Quilter issue 3. 

This is a new publication in the UK that started in the Autumn. I came across issue 3 one day whilst scanning the magazine section in our supermarket. I bought issue 4 and have subscribed to the magazine as I like what I've seen so far. I often miss them because the shops don't seem to stock enough for the demand.

Anyway this cute baby quilt was in the 3rd issue and as I needed to make another baby quilt I thought it would be perfect. 

I already had a lot of  2 and half inch squares so I just had to find 27 squares for each dog. That hardly made a dent in the box.The block went together very quickly. John couldn't see the dog shape at first but he had just woken up from a nap.- this being on holiday is very tiring!

Kathryn and Olly visited last night-hence why I wasn't able to finish this post. They were both tired having hosted their first Christmas party in their flat. Their flat is small so there weren't huge numbers of people but they had a lot of fun. They're hoping to make this a yearly event. Kathryn wanted to make a couple of gardening kneelers for Olly's mom for Christmas. She has allotments as well as a garden and Kathryn and Olly enjoy the results of her labours. We had to visit the sewing shop to get some oiled cloth to make them. Such a hardship! I took the opportunity to buy the sashing and backing for the baby quilt plus some fabric for a couple of backings.

There wasn't a big choice of oiled cloth so Kathryn chose these two. Before she went home she had made two kneelers but I forgot to take a photo.

Over the last week I've been enjoying stitching the Christmas tree cross stitch. My only complaint with cross stitch is that it doesn't grow very fast, oh and I forgot it is also quite tiring on the eyes especially when working on the bits where you have to keep checking the pattern and counting the thread to get the stitch in the right place. Still it does look different to last week.

I  hooped up the first pattern for the cat quilt I'm going to make next year. The cat is Brutus and they are free patterns from Red Brolly My main problem with getting started on the stitching is I've put my embroidery thread boxes somewhere and I can't find them. I remember thinking 'It would be more logical to keep these with..' but it isn't at all logical now. Also moving something to a new storage place after many years is only encouraging disaster. I could lay my hands on them in seconds before. I know I'll find them soon so till then I work on the Christmas tree.

I hope you are all ready for the holidays, presents bought, food organised and some hand stitching or a good book for those quiet moments. I need to browse the TV listings to see if there is anything worth watching  and some tidying and a little cleaning is needed before I'm all ready.

Wishing you and your families a very Happy Christmas. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you facing the bad weather.  Stay safe and take extra care if travelling.

Love and hugs


Monday, 14 December 2015

Slow stitching , fast cleaning!

This week has been rush rush rush with no time for getting the machine out. First I was working every day which was a little annoying as I'm supposed to be part time. There was also meetings to attend in the evening which seriously affected my stitching time. Finally having celebrated my birthday it was time to get the house all clean as a new pin ready for Christmas. Over the weekend I've been vacuuming, polishing, putting things back to their proper place and in between times I've iced and decorated my Christmas cake and made a gingerbread house.  

I was given a kit to make the gingerbread house. The instructions for the gingerbread itself and for using the templates to cut the pieces before baking were fine and all worked well. There was some gingerbread leftover which I cooked and it was very tasty with my tea this afternoon. The problems started when I put the pieces together. I don't like really hard gingerbread so I baked it for the minimum time but of course this made it slightly more difficult to put together. I also had the icing too thick when I tried to make icicles. I could have added a little more water but I didn't have any more icing sugar so decided not to risk it. As a first attempt ever I'm happy with the messy result.

Of course it's not a patch on the gingerbread house we saw at Anglesey Abbey last weekend.

I put the Christmas tree up this afternoon and also got the nativity set up. Earlier in the weekend Richard had put together this little Lego Christmas train. It is so cute.

Although there hasn't been any machine stitching this week I have been working on the christmas tree cross stitch piece. The last time I showed this it looked like this.

It hasn't grown a huge amount but it now looks like this.

The blue sky really does go on and on. Later on I have some stars to add to the sky but I'll leave that until everything else is done. I will continue working on this over the Christmas period but it won't be finished this year. The little donkey is going to be very cute when I finish the stitching on him.

I'm linking this post with Kathy at Kathy's Quilts for Slow Sunday Stitching. Why not pop over and see what everyone has been stitching. 


Tuesday, 8 December 2015

A busy weekend.

John and I went to East Anglia for the weekend and had a great time. Tomorrow is my birthday and we usually try and go away for the weekend before my birthday and then the day after my birthday we declare our Christmas celebrations open. It all adds up to a great week. I don't know which is more exciting, the weekend away, my birthday with our family and of course presents or decorating the tree on the 9th of the month.

For our trip away we travelled to Ely in Cambridgeshire. We had visited it before and toured the cathedral but the octagonal tower was closed so we wanted to visit it this time.

In the end we didn't go up the tower as it was quite windy. Instead we enjoyed looking at the shops and the stalls in the market. There was a nice quilt shop and I bought some fat quarters and also some fabric for my next stitchery. I'll start that later this week. After enjoying pizza for lunch we headed out to Anglesey Abbey.

Anglesey Abbey is a country house in Cambridgeshire now owned by the National Trust. Most of the house was closed for the winter but they had the kitchen quarters and the dining room open and displaying a 1960's Christmas. It was very strange to see the games and treats I remember from my childhood christmases on display. I was amazed by the gingerbread house made by one of the National Trust staff.

Anglesey Abbey in gingerbread. Mmmm tasty.

The gardens were open and later in the evening they turned the lights on for the Winter Wonderland. There weren't any tickets left for the winter wonderland but we were able to walk round the gardens before it was fully dark. Anglesey Abbey is famous for its snowdrops in early spring but there were some in bloom now.

As you walked round coloured lights had been placed to highlight some of the areas.

I loved the colours on the white trunks.

I loved this old trunk.

 The coloured balloons in the tree were fun.

The house itself was also lit up with changing colours.

On Sunday we spent the day at the the wetland and wildfowl trust centre at Welney. There were so many swans, it was amazing. . They were doing the count this week but were expecting to have several thousand of them visiting, mostly whopper swans. They are huge birds with the adult male weighing up to 11 kgs which is 24 pounds 4 ounces. There were also a lot of other birds to watch. Late afternoon we headed home having had a restful and enjoyable weekend.

This weekend in the north of England and Scotland there was widespread flooding as a result of storm Desmond. My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the storms both here and in other parts of the world. Take care and stay safe.