Thursday 28 June 2018


You didn't think I would be back for a while did you, but I'm sitting here killing time and I've missed you! I know it IS going to suddenly go crazy round here but at the moment all is quiet. So quiet I have read two books in less than two weeks, both of them picked up at our local book exchange (in a decommissioned telephone kiosk)

I do enjoy a good Jodie Picoult and this one was no exception. As usual she does not shy away from tricky or controversial subjects and without giving too much away Small Great Things is about racial prejudice. An African American midwife tends to the new born baby of a white supremacist couple who request she is not involved in the care of their son. After a routine procedure, the baby dies and the couple are looking for someone to blame. This is largely about the aftermath and the murder trial that follows. But it is not just about the obvious racial hatred but also the covert racism that exists everywhere. Thought provoking and compulsive reading.

I also spotted At the Edge of the Orchard in the phone box, the only Tracey Chevalier novel I haven't read to date. I soon put that to right and read this in about three days, which is as much to do with the amazing weather we've been having, where I really don't feel much like doing any more than sitting in the garden reading with a pink gin, as it is about the quality of the book. Although it also happens to be a great read. It is set in America back in the days of the gold rush pioneers and is about family ties and loyalty, trees and apples. You'll just have to read it!

I've also been to London to teach a class on rag rugs which gives at least a couple of hours sitting on trains or waiting for them. Anyone else living in the south east will know how much time that involves lately with the numerous delays and cancellations. But the plus side means plenty of reading time, so much that I have almost finished the book I was planning to take to Greece with me. We fly off tomorrow night/early hours of Saturday so I'm just a bit excited... and I definitely won't be back here before then!

Friday 22 June 2018

I'm Still Here!

I feel I'm in a time warp. It's weird, the days are long and don't feel particularly rushed but the weeks are whizzing by with so much to fit in. Blogging as ever seems to have taken the back seat. We've had a birthday, well there have actually been four family birthdays in the past three weeks but only one for which I needed to bake. Stewart opted for a cheesecake over anything else so that is what he got. Lemon and raspberry which was rather delicious since you ask!

I am acutely aware that in two weeks time my home will be open for Cambridge Open Studios once more. At least I don't have to clean and tidy up, having the house on the market has done wonders for my standard of housekeeping. And Stewart has become quite the gardener. Weeding and grass cutting a speciality.

In between various other activities I have snatched moments at my sewing machine to make some small items for sale. Of course three months ago there were grand plans for all sorts of gift items to be stitched. But  they haven't really got beyond the planning stage. The bag of forty zips I bought for making a collection of little zipped bags will have to keep for Christmas... or possibly next year. There have been a few lavender bags finished off though.

However it is next week that it will be all systems go. I have a wedding cake to cover and decorate, no. 3 son to collect from Gatwick before we all head off to Greece for no. 1 son's wedding... Gatwick again at 5.35 am! We will be back home just in time (with three additional house guests) for my first weekend of Open Studios, then a small family only civic ceremony when son no. 2 gets married,  followed by punting on the River Cam and dinner. There is a small matter of 150 cupcakes to bake and decorate before we then have a big wedding party to celebrate son no. 2's wedding. And all this before 14th July! That's not even mentioning house viewings etc.

So when my lovely friend Terry asked did I want to join another couple of ladies learning to make mosaics with her, I jumped at a chance of a day out doing something exclusively for me. It was a lovely day where we worked in the garden under the shade of a tree. Not only did I finish this rather quirky bird but I managed to use up some paua shell that I'd brought back from New Zealand six years ago. If it had been the first time I tried mosaic I might have been able to clock up another 60 x 60 but it is the third time!

The first time was when I made this very well used, hence grubby, coaster that came as a free kit with Inspirations magazine. I used to love that magazine that was always packed full of fabulous stuff to make and interviews with really interesting makers. But it disappeared years ago. My coaster however lives on!

Then many years later I met Terry at Open Studios and a bond was formed over common interests of sewing and amateur dramatics. And she very generously gave me a one to one session where I made this plaque. It wasn't that long ago but I'd forgotten everything, despite wanting to make more mosaics (I never did of course), so it was lovely to spend Wednesday learning all over again.

And once again I would like to make more mosaic... although it's not going to happen over the next couple of weeks. I fact over lunch recently Terry said she didn't want to see me blogging over the beginning of July until all weddings etc are over. She has a point, realistically I probably won't have time but I might sneak back with an odd photo or two. You'll want to see photos of our gorgeous Mamma Mia wedding won't you?

I also found time to go off and do what will probably be my final 60 x 60 (although it is actually only no. 53) yesterday afternoon as my 61st birthday falls between these two weddings. I tried Circle dancing for the first time. It was outside in a beautiful garden where we spent a couple of hours dancing gentle rhythmical dances to lovely music, celebrating the arrival of midsummer. The whole chakra, lei lines, priestess, airy fairy floaty stuff wasn't really my cup of tea so it's not an experience I will probably repeat but I did thoroughly enjoy my afternoon. I won't mention the fact that I don't seem to be able to distinguish my left from my right. The strawberry and cake afternoon tea was rather good too!

And finally, I haven't forgotten... that Festival of Quilts ticket. I did a random names in a hat type of thing and the winner was Jee... I'll email you Jane.

Have a lovely weekend and you'll know where I am if I'm not writing here!

Tuesday 12 June 2018


I was reminded last week that one of my resolutions or intentions for 2018 was to finish off all those half finished or just started projects I have lurking around... and there are a lot of them which I'm not sure says much for my attention span!

Long time readers will know that I'm not really a patchwork and quilter although I'm often irresistibly drawn to beautiful piles of fabric and lured into believing that I will be able to make something fabulous with them. This was the case a few years ago at the Festival of Quilts when I bought these gorgeous shot cottons from Oakshott Fabrics.

My intention was to make a table runner with some place mats but I forged ahead without much of a plan and cut out lots of rectangular pieces to make log cabin blocks and at the time I may have even made up a couple of the blocks. And then it was all put into a bag and put away in a drawer while I plunged myself with enthusiasm into the next thing to grab my interest. Occasionally it would come out again and I would have to remind myself of the process all over again and try to remember if I had a plan for the end result but I never got very far until this week.

I finished all the blocks, twenty one in total and it was time to decide how to put them together. It was then I realised if I wanted a runner plus place mats I probably should have had more of a plan before cutting out the fabric in the first place. So instead I just stitched them all together and decided to see what I ended up with. To be honest I was just happy that things lined up and corners more or less came together.. for an ex-mathematician my accuracy in cutting and sewing up leaves a lot to be desired!

And so here it is... possibly the wrong proportions for a table runner (without mats unless I invest in more fabric), certainly too small to be a quilt but maybe it will end up as a wall hanging? All suggestions most gratefully received! Of course, there is still the small matter of quilting, lining and binding so I'm nowhere near having finished this project but possibly a little closer than I was.

And talking of quilts does lead me very nicely into what I really need to tell you and that is I will be back at the Festival of Quilts this summer teaching two one hour workshops for Husqvarna on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th August. We will be making little needle cases decorated with free machine embroidery - everything is supplied, you just need to show up!

And what is more... I have a free ticket for the show to give away. If you would like a chance to win the ticket then please leave a comment and I will pick a name at random this time next week. Leave me a comment even if you don't want a ticket... I need ideas of what to do with that log cabin patchwork!

And while you are about it please remind me that I do not need to buy any more fabric at the Festival of Quilts this year!

Friday 8 June 2018

In Other News...


Whilst moving house may be occupying most of our time and head space I  have been doing other stuff too. The wedding waistcoats are finished! Seven waistcoats, one for the groom and six for his groomsmen (although two of them are women) which involved forty buttonholes and forty self cover buttons. All I can say is never again!

But I am looking forward to seeing them all being worn at what will be our second of three weddings this summer. You would think that I would have had enough of dressmaking after all that but there was some fabric left over so I decided to make a top for myself.

It actually looks much better on than off and fits really well (Merchant & Mills Camber top) and as it only took about three hours I'm tempted to make another one in some different fabric. I wasn't sure whether the contrasting neck binding made it look like I had run out of fabric (I hadn't) but I think I quite like it.

I also made a rhubarb and orange Amaretti cake as a friend gave me loads of rhubarb from her allotment. It is so long since I've made a cake that I stared at the bowls and couldn't remember what to do first! There were also a couple of rhubarb crumbles for dessert and some rhubarb compote to go on our breakfast.

I have finished a couple more books. Every time I take a bag of books to our book exchange or charity shop I come back with another couple... so much for decluttering! I didn't really enjoy My Favourite Wife. It is about a young lawyer, Bill who moves with his wife and daughter to work in Shanghai. They move into Paradise Mansions which is full of 'second wives' in what can only be described as a concubine system. I didn't like Bill's character and thought the descriptions of life in Shanghai made it sound awful. I didn't find it funny or particularly sad, but just a bit pathetic.

I've really enjoyed Notes from an Exhibition however. It is not the first time I have read  it but couldn't remember anything much about it, which is a bit worrying given how good it is! I enjoyed the last Patrick Gale book I read so much, that I was keen to read this one again and I'm glad I did.

I've also been away for work for a couple of days. I gave a talk to the ladies of Worcester Embroiderer's Guild. This was while everyone was arriving and I was hiding in a corner behind my work! Well not really hiding... just trying to discretely eat a sandwich before we started!

The following day I taught a workshop and these were the eight fabulous landscapes finished during the day... such a lovely variety of work and a lovely group of ladies too, several of whom read my blog! So hello ladies... especially my no. 1 fan Sharron!

Back home I've been shopping today which was quite an achievement as I detest shopping. I needed shoes for the first of the weddings, something suitable for a Greek island, so I'm feeling rather pleased with myself that I've actually come home with something that I really like... and before I reached my boredom threshold too!

However I have reached my boredom threshold trying to write this post on my dying laptop so I'm quitting while I'm ahead. I hope you all have a great weekend!

Monday 4 June 2018

A Lick of Paint

I have been confounded by technology this week. After my last post I thought I had been totally abandoned by all my readers. Usually comments come through as emails to my inbox. I have no idea whether I set it up to do that or it just happened but following that last blogpost there was a deathly silence. No emails... and no comments, so I thought! Then yesterday I happened to check the blog directly and and there were 22 comments I didn't know about! It has happened since the new privacy laws so I'm wondering if that has anything to do with it. I also noticed something about open ID comments pop up on Blogger which I haven't checked out.

So thank you all for commenting. Of course it now means it is not so easy to reply by email which is my preference so I am gradually replying in the comment box. But is good too know that I haven't been abandoned and that I'm not alone in finding house moving stressful.

And now to make things worse my laptop is dying a slow and intensely irritating death. It still sort of works and I can just about access documents etc but everything is taking so long. It has just taken 20 minutes to save a document! So I'm trying this on my iPad... struggling with formatting but I'm determined not to be beaten.

We have just about got the house and garden as spick and span as we can
. Of course I realise anyone buying the house will want to put their own stamp on things but there has still been a lick of paint here and there. I've drawn the line at painting over the Jungle bedroom though... I just couldn't do it!

I know I have shown you photos before but I can't resist posting them one last time...


All done over twenty years ago because my then eight year old son (who happens to be getting married next month) was crazy about gorillas!

I was never too sure about giraffes in the jungle but Sam chose the animals he wanted to share his bedroom.

My favourite was always the salamander over the door!

However, one of the other bedrooms was still painted in decor which was the choice of a ten year old boy and I did feel that a quick makeover was called for before the estate agent came to take photos. Despite some precarious moments when I was balanced on top of the bunk bed with a tin of paint, it only took a couple of days and it also meant that the room was cleared of junk and tidied up. Of course it seemed so much brighter when I finished I wondered why I hadn't done it years ago, but you just live with these things, especially when you're not really using the room except for storage.

I would still like to paint the hallway, not because of the house move but to cover up all the scuff marks etc before I do open studios but whether I get around to that is another matter.

Meanwhile I need to sort out my technical problems as having started this yesterday it has taken forever to write it. I didn't manage to finish it on the iPad and it has taken all evening to finish it off on my laptop as it keeps freezng with a black screen... and then when I can see what I'm doing the cursor is jumping all over the place. Apologies now if there are lots of typos! I'm off to Worcester tomorrow to give a talk which I've had to change because I can't access the Powerpoint presentation on here. I'd like to tell you that I'll be back soon with news other than house moving but I'm starting feel that that if writing a blog post takes this long I might not bother again.