Sunday 30 August 2009

The Good Life

Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments left about Jacob. He really has appreciated reading them all.

Despite my injuries of last weekend it was no use... I was going to have to venture back into the vegetable patch...

Which meant of course I had this lot to deal with (not to mention the carrots and runner beans)

I started by pickling the beets...

And then made some bruschetta to be enjoyed in the garden with a glass of prosecco. I might not have got back to Italy this year but I can dream.

Then the plan went horribly wrong. Continuing the Italian theme there was meant to be a courgette frittata but after a second glass of prosecco I couldn't be bothered! So instead we had a tomato salad with Friday night's left overs.

I did make cookies though!

Thursday 27 August 2009


Those of you who have followed my blog for a while will know that my youngest son, Jacob, has Asperger's Syndrome. An autistic spectrum disorder, Asperger's affects communication and social interaction among other things.

Over the years while Jake was growing up we experienced a range of problems most of them to do with his behaviour. Any form of change or uncertainty caused him to become anxious and frustrated which invariably led to major tantrums. Holidays, birthdays and Christmas were a nightmare!

School, as you might imagine was often the trigger for these outbursts. He started at the same village primary school as his three brothers but problems started from almost day one. It was obvious to me he needed extra help and so the long process of getting a diagnosis and a statement of special educational needs began. Over the next three years we experienced endless problems but with no viable alternative, mainstream school was the only way to go. Various tactics were employed - one in particular involved Jacob being taught within the main classroom but surrounded by screens to isolate him from the rest of the class. I wonder what "expert" thought that one up! Jake soon put an end to that by posting a notice outside the screen which read "Jacob's office. Please knock before entering." Another teacher had the affront to tell me I didn't know what it was like having to deal with him... try living with me lady!

Eventually after an extended period in a special assessment centre Jacob was permanently excluded from our local school and the formal reason I was given by the then headteacher was that "Jacob will never access the national curriculum and we don't have the expertise to adapt the curriculum for him." I might add that particular teacher apologised to me several years later and admitted there were mistakes made.

We had an extended period where Jacob was taught at home - I was given one hour per week of private tuition from the local education authority. During this time I was offered two alternative schools - both boarding - one in Norfolk for children up to the age of 16 all of whom had severe behavourial difficulties and the second in Essex for severely autistic children. I was seen as a difficult parent as I refused to send my eight year old to either school. But I truely believed he did not fit either category. Eventually another primary school in Cambridgeshire took Jacob part time and for the rest of his primary education he only ever attended three days per week.

When he transferred to secondary school there were more battles as I fought for him to come back to our local village college where his brothers had attended. They agreed to take him on the condition that he was full time, took the full curriculum and was expected to behave and be subject to the same rules as all other pupils... and it worked.

I'm not claiming it has always been easy, or that he has always enjoyed it but he has got through the past five years without major incident or without a single day of exclusion. Much credit must go to the school but most of all credit must go to Jacob. He has overcome many obstacles, including the onset of type one diabetes last year and has matured into a delightful young man with a great sense of humour and a good circle of friends.

And today he came home with nine GCSEs and a place at sixth form college... not bad for someone who would never access the national curriculum!

Well done Jacob, I'm very proud of what you have achieved. You are a star!

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Cake and Corsets

Thank you all for the kind messages of concern about my eye. I soon gave up the pirate look when I realised that I couldn't sew with only one eye working. Instead I went for the celebrity rock star image. That didn't work either... I couldn't see at all!

So there was nothing for it but to forget all about sewing and do some baking instead - orange and carrot muffins with a cream cheese topping. It did mean venturing into the vegetable patch to dig up some carrots but I returned unscathed.

Today my eye is much better with no pain and only slightly blurred vision, however some insect has bitten my hand this morning whilst I was walking the dog and it is now very hot and has swollen so much my knuckles have disappeared. Now I'm taking antihistamines as well as antibiotics!

It doesn't stop me eating cake though. I wonder what tomorrow will hold?

Just in case you haven't discovered this yet, go and take a look at Sew Curvy Corset Kits from the lovely Julia of Marmalade Kiss. If you've not seen Julia's corsets before... prepare to be amazed. They are wonderful!


Monday 24 August 2009


I had a lovely day at the Festival of Quilts on Friday and spent most of my time meeting friends and chatting to people rather than looking at quilts and spending. There were a couple of purchases... some gorgeous new Rainbow threads for finishing off a secret project.

And some fabulous yarn for the making of another secret project.

And a roll of Worn and Washed fabrics for a project that will probably never happen! Much as I can admire the amazing skill of so many of the quilt makers I'm still not that taken with the majority of the quilts... they just don't really do it for me. However I was drawn to the gorgeous soft faded quilts on Kim Porter's stall. Kim collects fabrics from charity shops etc and washes and recycles them into quilts... so the fabrics are for my very own quilt. Don't hold your breath!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch I decided to do a little gardening on Sunday morning. Whilst diving into the undergrowth to cut off a courgette I managed to stab my eye on a jagged stalk of corn... "Oh dear that hurt" were not my exact words but I'm sure you can imagine the response... I looked something like this...

I ignored the stabbing pain in my eyeball and the feeling of having small boulders lodged under my eyelid for most of the day but by evening it was apparent that it was not easing so we had a quick dash to A & E where it was confirmed I had a cut above the pupil, was given antibiotics and told go home and keep my eyes shut! That's all very well but I've got projects to finish and work to get done so today I'm going for the pirate look. Do you think it will catch on?

Blimin' dangerous this vegetable gardening!

Thursday 20 August 2009

Jake's Cake

The novelty of being off school since the end of June is starting to wear thin. After dinner tonight Jacob announced he wanted to make a cake, having never having shown any inclination towards baking in the past! It just so happened that Mavis had emailed me a recipe for an Apricot and Marscapone cake earlier this evening and I happened to have the ingredients to hand. (Well, I didn't actually have marscapone but I had regular cream cheese which seems to have worked.)

And so Jake made a cake!

And a very good cake it is too!
I can't see it lasting very long around here. If you've not visited Mavis before do go and say hello. I've known her for about a year since she first visited my Open Studio and she is lovely. She has also been on one of my courses although I don't know why as she is a very talented embroiderer. She gave me this card in the summer - she sketches people from behind and turns them into these super little embroideries. Aren't they wonderful!

Wednesday 19 August 2009


Whilst I enjoy the creative process that produces work with depth and meaning (see last post!) there are other days when I just want to make something... anything! Yesterday was one of those days so I decided to try a patchwork chicken from instructions sent to me by Angela.

I fell at the first step. Requirements: Two log cabin squares (instructions not included)
Now if I'm honest (and I could upset a lot of people reading this) I've never felt I liked patchwork quilts much so I've never bothered to learn the techniques. And the thought of all that measuring and cutting just makes me want to lie down. But then if I really think about it, I do like them quite a lot but I just don't like them on walls. I love the colour and I love the pattern but I like them on beds, thrown over sofas, wrapped around people... anywhere in fact except hanging on walls! And I do own this one and only patchwork book... which I love! Such glorious colour combinations.

So I carefully read the instructions for paper foundation piecing... and wow... it worked! I was very excited let me tell you. I couldn't believe how simple and yet how clever this method is. (I know all you quilting types probably wonder what all the fuss is about.)

I was very thrilled indeed with my first ever log cabin square. Okay it might have been sensible to iron the fabrics first.... and to be a bit more careful to stitch straight lines... but details, details!

I obviously got too carried away with my success and my second square didn't quite work... I'd stitched the pieces in the wrong order in my over excitement. But hey... it was only for a chicken...

Which I have to say... I was rather pleased with!

And although I know nothing about patchwork I do know about prairie points. For some obscure reason not known by me, prairie points are are on the machine embroidery City & Guilds syllabus! So my chicken has a prairie point tail!

Totally carried away, I made a second version... this time using "courthouse steps". Have I told you how excited this has made me... I'm completely hooked!

Now I want to make quilts but I obviously don't have enough fabrics in my stash so it's a good job I'm going to the Festival of Quilts on Friday. Any else going one fancy meeting me for a cuppa... and to stop me spending too much?

For those of you who asked about the bag and mitts pattern from a couple of post ago: The patterns were by Amanda Crawford and they featured in issue 3 of "Knitter Magazine"

Monday 17 August 2009


I'm only a couple of weeks away from the end of my current degree module - Personal Specialism. After playing with the idea of knitting trapped in water and water trapped in knitting, I trapped some more "water" in the form of glass nuggets, into layers of felt. Ignoring the fact that they look like some form of alien bug eyes, I was intrigued by the reflections contained by the protective layer of felt.

One of the other directives in this module was to make our work "site specific" and I chose to work with my garden or more specifically my vegetable patch. Many photographs and drawings ensued including these sketches of my Purple Podded Peas.

Playing with the idea in drawings, I trapped the glass nuggets and the reflections within the pea pods.
They seemed like cells contained within a protective cocoon... but what happens when they emerge and break free... floating awat like bubbles.

At last this was becoming "a personal specialism" and I started to link back to previous ideas of protection, relating to my children. The idea they they start enfolded within a protective pod or cocoon and gradually break free, still tied together, tied to the family until we finally have to let go, seemed to have potential. The strong feeling of maternal protection is closely connected with the need to give them freedom to break away. (In theory anyway... three of mine are still at home!)

Individual cells, cocooned, wrapped and connected together... possibly by knitting? I made some more resin beads, this time containing text as well as knitted fragments... some were fragments of knitted wire. The idea was that they were like cells containing information, secrets, memories...

and even the names of my children. (The text was cut from the old bible pages sent to me by Julia)

I didn't want to join the beads together with anything too obvious or obtrusive and decided knitted wire might work. Which is how I ended up with an ebay purchase of an extra large knitting dolly... and a weekend spent french knitting with wire.

Which I'm happy to say really has worked... at least it's how I envisaged it!

The next problem to solve was how to make the cocoons or pods. My tutor suggested I might link back to the garden theme and use paper made from plant material. I collected corn husks, chopped them, boiled them, blitzed them in the blender and made this quite interesting looking paper which I haven't a hope of moulding or stitching as it is so fragile! The colour was all wrong anyway!

Keeping with the idea of cocoons, I thought about using silk and I made several sheets of silk paper using different methods and supports. I thought I'd found a solution and liked the results but it s not strong enough to contain the beads and loses it shape.

So this morning it was back to knitting. I knitted a pod shape from pure wool... bunged it in the washing machine with the towels... and YES... this works and what's more I like it. The softness yet strength of the felted wool works perfectly for the protective cocoon.

Now I've only got to work out how to put it all together, knit some more cocoons and make several more yards of knitted wire tubing... I've got a couple of weeks! I'll let you see the finished results.

Friday 14 August 2009


Oooh err missus! I bet that hurt!

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday 12 August 2009


I have been the lucky recipient of some rather fantabulous gifts of late! For my birthday last month I got a parcel from my very dear friend Jude... I quote her when I say we share the same sense of humour and taste in good food and red wine! I couldn't believe the loveliness inside. This amazing bag, beautifully hand knitted and just look at all those bobbles! I'm in awe that anyone would make something this special for me. I've linked to Jude's short lived blog because you will then see that she also has a talent for knitting shrimp!

As if that wasn't enough, inside was a pair of gorgeous mitts... almost lovely enough to make me wish for cold weather!

I love you very much Jude... but not enough to knit that many bobbles for your birthday! (only joking!)

Another gift that turned up out of the blue was this beautiful little badge from Maria... to welcome me into the chicken club... isn't it cute!

And then last week I received a parcel from Jenny... to thank me for being the winner on my last giveaway. Now I thought the idea of a giveaway was that I sent the gifts - not that I'm complaining! I love chocolate eclairs and the little bag that the sweets and tissues came in was lovely.

Thank you all!

Today it was my turn to be the bringer of gifts. Jacob and I went to see my Mum and Dad for lunch so I packaged up their very own organic veggie box filled with home produced goodies.

And when we got home I made us our own gift... some mini sized blueberry muffins. A week away at summer school also meant a week of cooked breakfasts, two course lunches and three course dinners... and somehow that has made my clothes shrink. I thought that by having smaller portions... hence mini muffins... I might solve the problem.

But I guess not if you eat them three at a time?