Friday 31 August 2007

A Recipe

For Leanne and anyone else who might like to try it:
2 tblspn olive oil
A butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 red onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp ground tumeric, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
100g unsalted cashew nuts
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
200g pot of creme fraiche
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
large handful of chopped coriander leaves
Preheat oven to 200 deg C (400 F). Heat the olive oil in a large roasting pan and add the onion and squash. Stir in the spices and keep stirring for about 1 minute. Add the nuts, chilli and garlic and keep stirring for another minute. Remove from heat and cook in top of oven for 20 - 30 minutes until tender.
Meanwhile mix together the creme fraiche, lime zest and juice and the coriander and set aside.
When cooked serve the squash with fresh linguine (I've used dried linguine and various fresh pasta all with good results) and dollop the creme fraiche on top. It's that easy!
I don't eat any meat (although I do eat fish) and Sam is totally vegetarian so I'm always looking out for good veggie recipes that will satisfy the meat eaters in this house and this fits the bill perfectly. Let me know if you like it.
Tonight Ben is cooking and we are having Monkfish with a runner bean stew - he was watching Jamie Oliver this week! And a glass of Prosecco as it's the weekend!
This is starting to sound like a cookery blog... which is just as well as there's not much stitching going on the past couple of days!

Thursday 30 August 2007

Blinkin' Big Mushroom

When Ben was only 3 years old (well over 20 years ago) we used to live in Boston, Massachusetts. One morning he had gone grocery shopping with his Dad and returned home with a large butternut squash. Coming from the UK I was not used to such exotic fare at the time, never having seen one before let alone eaten one - although they are not the least unusual now - and my reaction was "What on earth is that?" To which this tiny little boy replied "It's a blinkin' big mushroom!" Hence the name has stuck in our house.
And the point of which is tonight we are eating a favourite dish - Spicy roast blinkin big mushroom with cashew nuts and fresh pasta! Yum!

Wednesday 29 August 2007

Are You Lonesome Tonight...

..Well, I did promise you Elvis!
On Sunday I was chatting to Sam who is still in Epsom rehearsing his play and he happened to mention he needed an Elvis costume as a prop (for a skeleton to wear apparently - I didn't ask!).
"No problem, Surely you can hire one?" says I
"Well... We've sort of run out of money"
expectant silence where I felt it was my turn to speak...
"I suppose I could make you one" (gosh did that come out loud?)
"Would you? That would be great, thanks Mum!"
And so here it is - a cobbled together jumpsuit made from various charity shop finds very gamely modelled by Jacob... what a star he is!

My rust dyed experiments from last week are finally done. I wanted to dye some kunin felt which took a lot longer than the other fabrics to take up the colour. Presumably because it is acrylic and not a natural fibre but I quite like the soft and subtle results.

The other fabrics really took the colour well... a piece of silk, some pre-dyed scrim and some plain scrim. I also stuck in a skein of white cotton as a bit of an experiment and I'm really pleased with the way that has turned out. Looking forward to stitching with it.

Lots of reading to do tonight as this...

and this arrived.
Which is lucky really because I'm trying to plough my way through "Swann's Way" by Marcel Proust. Not through choice, I might add but it is another suggested text for the Opus summer project. I'm finding it incrediably laborious and not in the least inspirational. In fact I've not touched my summer sketchbook since I started reading it!

But best of all, there is this to read. The first issue came out yesterday and it is packed full of wonderful articles to read and loads of things to try out. Well done to everyone involved in its publication... you've done a fantastic job!

Tuesday 28 August 2007


It has been such a lovely lazy bank holiday weekend with lots of shared meals with family and friends, time to read the papers and even time for some knitting. I'm sure "sock yarn" has been around for quite a while but I'm a recent convert. I'd never knitted a pair of socks before but when I first discovered the yarn I had to make a pair. I'm contantly amazed at the way a single ball of yarn produces such a fantastic fairisle effect. I finished my first pair a few months ago and Stewart immediately claimed them for his own. Then Joe (son no. 3) decided he would like a pair, so I started again. Joe has rather large feet so I had to do a bit of pattern adapting which proved to be a challenge now and then, but I finally finished them on Sunday. Joe was away all weekend at the Reading Festival so on arrival home yesterday I made him pose in his new socks. He was tired and grumpy and didn't want to do it....

... But the natural exhibitionist in him took over...

...And then there was no stopping him!

The next pair I knit are definitely for me... although I don't really wear pink... and Joe rather liked this colour too!

Today I've been working on my article for Fibre and Stitch. It has been really interesting trying to break down a process into small chunks of instruction and to take photographs to illustrate the process as I work through it. Obviously I can't say too much more without giving away the content but this is a little teaser of what is to come...

Tomorrow an Elvis costume I'm working on... but more about that later!

Sunday 26 August 2007

Lazy Sunny Afternoon

After what felt like the onset of autumn on Friday we've had a gloriously sunny weekend in Cambridgeshire and what better way to spend the afternoon than lazing around in the garden sleeping off lunch. No thoughts of sketchbooks, rust or anything else remotely craft related. My Mum and Dad joined us for the day which was lovely too. Now off for a walk to make the most of what's left of the sunshine!

Friday 24 August 2007

Season of Mists...

The wonderful thing about owning a dog and living in such a beautiful rural location are the daily walks. I'm far more aware of the changes that herald the seasons than I ever used to be. This morning there was a low mist and a damp chill which despite the weeks of wet chilly weather still felt more like autumn was on its way. Leaves too are starting to turn and I picked up a beautiful specimen that was a riot of colour - a rusty leaf (can you sense a theme here?) I had to paint it in my sketchbook as soon as got home... and that was before breakfast!

The other thing that heralds autumn for me are the spiders! We had our first huge specimen on the bedroom wall this week which filled me with dread as I know there will be more. I have a real phobia and I'm quite irrational about them. I can't kill them so that have to be captured (preferably not by me as I prefer to be in another room at the time)... in a glass so we can see thay have not escaped... and then released in the furthest reach of the garden. There is a tree in this spot which Stewart calls the "Spider Tree"... needless to say I don't venture there often.

However... there are good things about autumn too. Today I picked this wonderful bowl of damsons from the hedgerow. (The sloes and blackberries are not far behind)
Which meant of course I had to make some of this...

Which cried out for some of these....

Which was just in time for afternoon tea! And I wonder why my waistline is expanding!

It has not been all domesticity in our household today and I've managed some stitching. I made another ATC using the rust fabric from last week. There is not an awful lot of stitching as I had trouble sewing with the machine through the areas that had been printed with the metal effects paint. Not too bad with the foot on but great difficulty free machining. The first effort was discarded.

In the second sample I was playing with some layers of painted Lutradur to see if I could reproduce the rust effects from my sketchbook. The colours need some adjusting (they haven't photographed well either) but I feel I'm on the right track. I would like to carry on experimenting but we have friends coming for supper so it's back to the kitchen for me... or perhaps they would like to eat scones and jam? Now that's a thought!

Thursday 23 August 2007


Although I have been quite happy creating pages in my Opus summer sketchbook I couldn't really see where I was heading with it until today. I've finished reading the novel "Perfume" which I found very disturbing but it kept bringing me back to the idea of layers so I've spent the last couple of days focusing on another of the words from the list - tarnished. I'm thinking layers of peeling paint, layers of rust etc

The following page was made with layers of tissue, shredded paper and scrim - painted with Dragon's breath Ink and Iron Gall ink (thank you for introducing me to these Lynda.) I then overprinted with metal effects paint and rust activator and this was finally rubbed over with gold treasure wax giving the impression of tarnished metal.

The whole thing was given a layer of acrylic wax and then I found these old beads which seemed to fit perfectly.

I then remembered I bought a Gwen Hedly CD "Surfaces and Structures" at last years Knitting and Stitching show, which is full of images of rusty surfaces like this one and it occured to me it would make a lovely edge to a vessel or some other 3D object.

So now I'm rust printing kunin felt and other fabrics in preparation for some samples. I'm not sure where I will end up with it all but I'm finding it very exciting (It doesn't take much!) Don't you just love it when an idea takes hold and you can run with it... and of course it fits in with the other work I was starting on rust. Just got to wait for the fabrics to turn rusty!

Wednesday 22 August 2007

Cultural Overload!

We're back home after a lovely weekend where we have walked for miles and miles and have been totally immersed in the most amazing artwork. After a very early start on Saturday we spent our first day in Amsterdam just strolling along the canalsides, exploring the streets and soaking up the atmosphere.

We had a lingering lunch in what we named the "Bloomin' Market" ... actually the Bloemenmarkt, where the colours on the many floating flower stalls were just dazzling. We bought several packets of tulip bulbs to plant in the garden, so that next spring we can remember our trip.

Sunday we took the train to Den Haag, solely to visit the Mauritshuis, a small but exquisite gallery with the most amazing collection of Old Masters. My two favourite paintings were these by Vermeer and Rubens. The light captured in both was truely amazing. I had thought I might be disappointed with "Girl with a Pearl Earring" as it such a well known image but that was not the case. It was stunning! Worth the journey for that alone.

Back in Amsterdam on Monday we spent the morning at the Rijksmuseum for more work by Rembrandt and another masterpiece from Vermeer. Again these were absolutely stunning.

And finally in the afternoon we visited the Van Gogh Museum where there are 200 of his paintings on display as well as drawings and letters. The vast majority of the paintings are well known images and are fabulous to see close up. We had an audioguide which had readings of Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo accompanying the paintings which made for an incrediably emotional journey as it charted his struggle with illness through to his suicide and explained so much of what he was trying to achieve through his work. Fabulous work but so sad.

I became very excited by this self portrait (one of several on display) as I could see it translating beautifully into stitch. All that wonderful build up of colour and mark making. I'm sure I'm not the first person to have thought this.
I didn't get very much done in my own sketchbook while we were away - just a few quick sketches while we sat having lunch but I'm working in my Opus sketchbook today so maybe more of that tomorrow if I get anything finished.

Friday 17 August 2007

A Perfect Day

I had a lovely day out at the Festival of Quilts yesterday. There is so much to see and take in that one day is almost not enough. So much beautiful work and all so inspirational... and of course... the shopping! I didn't really intend to spend much but so much for good intentions! As well as stocking up on some plain threads and fabric for dying I also bought these fabulous Japanese fabrics - not sure what I will do with them but I loved the colours and patterns.

And then I spotted this book which I felt I had to buy as it has lots of little projects for beautiful Japanese fabrics... when I get a spare few minutes!

Staying with the Japanese theme I then found a kit for this dear little bag which came from here. I don't usually buy kits (or "project" books) prefering to make from scratch or use my own ideas/designs but this was perfect for the purpose. And it was so easy to make. I finished the bag in under two hours this morning and that included the fifteen minutes it took to thread the cord through the holders because I'd made them too small! I did have a moment of panic when the instructions said "quilt to secure wadding" but think I got away with it by stitching straight lines in red thread. Somewhere I have a walking foot which I believe is designed for such a purpose but I've never used it and couldn't find it!

And here it is fill with supplies which will be just perfect for this weekend as Stewart and I are off to Amsterdam for a bit of sight seeing, sketching and generally relaxing!

As well as the wonderful exhibitions and tempting selection of goodies to buy I also met up with Julie and her friend Lynne for a cuppa and a chat. It was lovely to meet "in person" as we've been chatting on our blogs and via email for a few weeks now. Really good to meet you Julie! And then when I got home there was a package from Julie full of these lovely goodies! We'd arranged a swap and I was expecting a piece of fabric but there was this large piece of really scrummy fabric which I can't wait to use plus some fabulous fibres which I intend to use with the embellisher.

And as well as all that this beautifil little ATC. It's the first one I've ever received so it will be treasured! Big thank you Julie!

So yesterday was a perfect day! As for today... I need to finish packing as our flight is at 7 am tomorrow morning and I would like to fit in some time on my Opus Sketchbook this afternoon too. Before I go... the results of the rust printing I did with the metal effects paint on Wednesday... it really does work! All it needs now is some stitching. Watch this space... (but don't hold your breath!)

Wednesday 15 August 2007

All work no play....

...not entirely true! I've spent most of today planning for classes that start in September but have managed a bit of playtime too. I finished another ginkgo book this morning, smaller than the first with a bit of added foiling. Prefer this one.

As I had cut away a lot of the red fabric (smaller book!) I used the left overs with some strips of gold sweet papers and made a little ginkgo ATC. I've only recently discovered ATCs but they aren't they just the perfect size for samples!

I've also been doing some messing about with rust dyed fabrics and metal effects paint in preparation for one of the forthcoming classes. I've printed onto rust dyed calico with the paint and have painted it with the rust activator but as yet nothing has happened. Patience was never one of my better qualities! When I get results I'll post some pics.

Tomorrow I'm off for a day of all play no work... the Festival of Quilts at the NEC. I'm not a quilter and have never made a quilt in my life but I do love looking at them. And of course... all that shopping...

... back on Friday!

Tuesday 14 August 2007

Braids and Books

A slightly frustrating day today. I didn't feel inspired to work in my sketchbook, nor did I feel much like stitching anything creative so thought I would play it safe, stick to something familiar and make up some more little books. I was making braids on the machine for the ties, something I've done dozens of times before - nothing too difficult, foot on, feed dogs up - but I was having real problems! The thread kept breaking and snarling up in the bobbin every couple of inches. I re threaded the machine, I cleaned the machine, I changed the thread, I changed the needle... all the sort of good advice I give my students but to no avail. Then suddenly after nearly an hour everything worked like clockwork! Still don't know what caused the problem.

Can you spot the tangled threads! Anyway I finally managed to finish a book... using the ginkgo leaves that I painted just over a week ago. I love the shape of them - like mini fans and very exotic.

Some more student's work to finish... they made SO much!

Oops! Bit out of focus!