Thursday, 30 August 2007

What I Did on My Bank Holiday

Given that the weather has now returned to regulation overcast it seems like a good time to celebrate the surprise sunshine which blessed the bank holiday weekend.

Miles and I had a lovely weekend filled with cats and family visiting. Mum and Dad's kittens (well actually gangly adolescents now) came to stay with us on Saturday as part of our training programme which will hopefully mean that they can come and stay with us when my parents go away, rather than us having to up sticks to west London for the week. Pip and Agnes are getting very good on the tube (I think they've had 7 journeys on it now) and, thanks to a ballsed up Piccadilly line on Saturday, they've now done one bus ride too.

They seem to like our bedroom the most and the pictures show them not helping me change the duvet.
On the Monday we went round to Miles' brother's to view the bounty of their wedding list which had just been delivered. I was delighted to see that all the linen they'd asked for is blue and goes very well with the quilt that I made for them!

We spent the afternoon playing darts in the garden (so much harder than it looks!) and then Miles and I went blackberry picking with his parents in the wild little woody bit that covers one of the train tunnels.
Yesterday, I got round to cooking up our share of the Bounds Green Blackberry Bounty with some cooking apples and then used the puree to make a charlotte (so tasty we've almost finished it between the two of us!).

On the craft front, I'm plugging away at my ripple crochet blanket. I'd like to finish it by Christmas which should be possible - I think I have about one third done so far. Better get up some speed surfing those ripply waves!

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Quilting Green Paper

My first Japanese craft books arrived in the post last week from YesAsia. I got Machine Made Patchworks and then, because it seemed such a waste not to make the free shipping threshold, I added From Quilters Studio too. I had seen Machine Made Patchworks around but was finally motivated to buy it by this post from Manda at Tree Fall Design where she discusses the lovely red quilt she made for her daughter. I've been thinking about doing a quilt for our bedroom and have had some fabric in mind for it. I have a bit of a thing for log cabin designs and I think Manda's quilt with the single colour palette and solid centres is beautiful and really effective. This is the log cabin quilt which features in the book:

I'm planning to do a two-tone colour scheme in yellow and green for ours. I have seven patterns in each tone, mostly half yards and fat quarters.

I cut a few test strips so I could lay out some ideas I had for blocks. For the first one I mixed the colours, using a block of one colour for the middle rounds and the other for the outside.

This second one is a little truer to the book (and Manda's design): sticking to using one colour in the centre and one colour on the outside, I mixed up the fabrics within each colour area.

Although I really like the effect of the second design, I think I will stick to the first one: I like the idea of foregrounding the colour work and letting each fabric speak for itself. Also, Miles prefers symmetry and order so I know the first one is more to his liking. Since he has to share the bed with me, I feel it's only fair his taste is considered too!

For the overall design I'm planning to alternate blocks with green and yellow centres and then maybe join the whole thing together with plain purple borders. Could be a while before it's finished, of course, but the planning is almost as much fun as the making!

Food, Glorious Food

As I mention in my profile, I spend much of my day thinking about food. Since most of my time is taken up with reading, I find the mind needs to wander and food seems a legitimate channel! I made a couple of things I was really pleased with this week. The first was an Indian meal which was absolutely fantastic. I'm blowing my own horn here, but it really was! Apologies for the bad picture but the camera batteries died after only one shot and we were too hungry to mess about finding more! Here in all their fuzzy glory are steamed basmati rice with a spiced coconut dahl, green bean-sesame curry and beetroot salad.

I must hasten to point out that the dahl and curry are both from recipes so to be honest I don't deserve much credit, I just did what I was told! The dahl was from an old Waitrose magazine I think - basically cooking red lentils in stock, frying up some onion, garlic, ginger and curry powder, then adding these to the lentils (keeping a little for garnish) along with some coconut milk. By far the best dahl recipe I've found, and very easy. The real stars of the meal were the green beans which I made from this recipe posted by Indira on her Mahanandi blog. I've been thinking about using the sesame mixture on other vegetables, maybe courgettes...? I urge everyone to give the recipe a go - so so good.

On the other end of the food spectrum, I made some cupcakes for Saturday tea. I did the Brooklyn Brownie cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I didn't do the icing, instead I put a little maple syrup on the top and stuck on some chopped pecans. Now I know it's tantamount to blasphemy for someone who loves chocolate as much as I do but [whisper] I think if I had to choose, I'd take the green beans!

I'm going to lie down for a minute and hope the world gets back on an even keel.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

I Only Have Eyes for You

Having agreed, due to wedding savings, to keep birthday and Christmas presents on the small side this year, I decided to make a gift for Miles' birthday. He recently got contact lenses for the first time so he needs to carry his glasses around along with spare lenses and eye drops. In honour of this, I came up with the eyechart pouch which I thought could take any combination of these.

I found a vintage eyechart online which I printed out on a transfer sheet (but of course there was the obligatory wasting of the first sheet before I remembered to flip the image!).

Having ironed the image onto white cotton I made it up into a pouch using a lovely reproduction 30s fabric which I bought in the fabulously surreal Branson, Missouri last year. (It's a sort of Christian, middle-American Las Vegas. Here is the 'Hollywood Exhibition' venue.

Who exactly are the figures meant to represent, because, frankly, it's a little hard to tell?!)

I used Anna's excellent tutorial for making a pouch but modified it to include batting behind the front layer. I quilted these two layers together around the square frame on the front and along the vertical lines of the pattern on the back.

This was a really fun piece to make and reminded me of all the iron-on transfer possibilities. Maybe I can include some of this in my Christmas present thinking...

Monday, 13 August 2007

The Cardie, the Cake and the Oven Glove

Our friends Poppy and James had a little baby girl 3 months ago and in honour of Roseanna Maeve's birth I decided to make the Pea Pod Baby Set by Kate Gilbert. For once I miraculously had the specified yarn - Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere - in my stash, albeit in purple not green. I made the cardie without the hat on 4mm needles, and I have to say, it was a very enjoyable pattern to do: the lace panel gave me just enough to keep me interested in each row but not so much that my brain hurt!
What really sold me on it, though, was the wonderful detailing on the ribbing - so cute!

I was very pleased with the lace - I've only done small pieces before and this definitely helped build my confidence. I'm just not sure my propensity for knitting in front of the TV could cope with a whole lace project, though. I'll have to wait and see.

Roseanna seemed very pleased with her cardie but didn't model it - I made the 6 months size so hopefully she'll fit it once autumn sets in.

As well as going to see little Roseanna, we also got to see her lovely two year old brother, Daniel, who has taken a great big shine to Miles and insisted on sitting on his lap so they could read all his books together. It was definitely a heart-melty moment for me!

As if the new baby isn't enough to be getting on with, Poppy and James are currently renovating their first house too! We went to see them there, even though they haven't moved in yet. I made a quick oven glove as a (rather early) moving in present.

It's based on the Too Hot to Handle Oven Mitt pattern from Denyse Schmidt Quilts. It's one of those perfect gift projects that can use up left-overs. Eagle-eyed readers may notice that the binding comes from the Dominic and Carolyn quilt!

I also made a Pumpkin Loaf to take for tea. (As well as being polite, taking baked goods when we travel ensures Miles will always have a vegan tea option!) The loaf is from a recipe that Anna gave me a while ago and it's one of my absolute favourite cakes. I made this one with some frozen homemade pumpkin puree which I think made it extra-specially good. Between the four of us and Daniel we only got through about half of it but I figured you just can't ask to take back some of your own gift to eat later. Shame though!

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Square Dance

Starting this blog has got me thinking about all the older pieces I've made which I never managed to photograph and catalogue. With this in mind I finally got round to taking some pictures of this granny square blanket I made for my Dad at the end of last summer. He has always enjoyed a little TV watching and/or snooze on the bed tucked up under one of their various crochet blankets. As he was due to start his radiotherapy I thought he would probably be needing more snooze time than normal so I made this blanket.
It is very well travelled having been on a road trip from Virginia to Oklahoma (and back again) with me last summer whilst under construction. I finished it on the plane coming back and got blue fingers from the yarn on the final two rows! It was worked on a 6mm hook with various aran weight Debbie Bliss yarns. Anyway, with Dad's treatment done and dusted (successfully, thank goodness) the blanket has become a well used permanent fixture, and it's now ever so slightly felted as you can see in the pictures.
As I was taking the pictures today some investigative felines appeared: first Agnes...
who was soon followed by the loyal Pip.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Going through the archive

I spent the weekend at my parents' house going through my childhood bedroom trying to thin down some of the 'archive' (aka old tat). The flat was flooded in the heavy rain a couple of weeks ago and Mum and Dad are now staying in my room so I feel I should really sort things out.

No lost treasures discovered but I did come across lots of wonderful book covers, including these 50s Penguin editions of Raymond Chandler. Oh, and the beautiful Pip.

Friday, 3 August 2007

D & C Wedding Quilt

I made this quilt for Miles’ brother, Dominic’s, wedding last weekend. I had wanted to make a quilt which incorporated scraps as they are something I have rather a lot of and I think they can work well in a gift as the recipients can mull over it, choosing the fabrics they like best rather than being offered big swathes of what you hope they’ll like! I originally wanted to do a traditional double wedding rings pattern which uses small scraps against a light background. However time constraints and my own inexperience (paper piecing and curves, oh dear) meant that I came up with this modified design. I found a beige background fabric with a pattern of small navy blue fronds (that’s the best I can describe them!) called “Deja’ Blues”. (I love the romanticised names of the American Victorian repro fabrics: they often seem to be along the lines of ‘Confederate Star’ or ‘Belle of the South’. Funny how designers don’t go in for names such as ‘Toiler in the Cotton Fields’ or ‘Exploited Northern Mill Worker’, though…).
Anyway, back to the point at hand, I cut out scrap strips of various lengths then stitched them into long ribbons (lots of seam pressing) and pieced everything together using a sort of contracted log cabin which I think gives a woven effect from a distance. Obviously, although I have plenty of my own scraps, I decided that I needed more and bought a scrap bag from Alicia. I was looking for small scale, generally floral prints and her bag came up trumps. It’s nice to think that her off-cuts found a new home!
I included only one piece of plain fabric on the top, a raspberry taffeta, which I used to embroider ‘D♥C 28.07.07’ for Dominic and Carolyn and their wedding date. I’ve not tried to do letters and numbers in embroidery before (hence the heart not an ampersand – simpler lines!) and I think they came out ok, apart from being a tiny bit wonky!
I’m really pleased with how well the navy polka dot border picks up the blue of the fronds (loving that word). On the back I used the Heather Ross West Hill Matryoshka dolls print in brown, and, as I didn’t have enough for the full width, I put in a couple of edging strips in dark brown. Dominic has a wonderful sense of humour and, as the dolls make me smile, I thought they honoured that in a rather roundabout way (having consulted Miles on this point, he agreed). Although I would have liked to have done the quilting by hand the fact that I only had two days to do it and the binding meant that I machine quilted around each of the eighty squares (overall the quilt came in at about 170cm x 130cm). Bizarrely the quilting was really tiring: having to push and pull the whole fat sandwich through the gap under the machine arm took much more effort than just leisurely quilting on your lap!

Thanks as ever to Miles for being my glamorous assistant, glimpsed here holding up the quilt. I didn’t manage to get a picture of Dominic and Carolyn with their quilt but as they both looked so lovely on the day I feel they deserve a photographic mention!

Thursday, 2 August 2007

First steps

Ok, well, I suppose I have to start somewhere. So this is me saying 'Hello world, welcome to my blog'. I plan to use this space to record my creative endeavours, in both textiles and food, for me and for anyone else who wants to join me. Once I've done battle with the software some more, maybe I'll actually be able to post some handmade things!