Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Handkerchief Corners Quilt

I realised that I've been keeping this blog for just over a year, so happy blogging birthday to me! I started last year with the quilt I made for Dominic and Carolyn's wedding. It was the first, and so far, only, full-sized quilt I've made (despite many good intentions!). I had, however, made a lap quilt beforehand. Thinking back, it came to me that I'd never photographed it so here we have, well over a year late, my Handkerchief Corners quilt.
It was initially going to be full-size but I thought I'd better learn how to bind and quilt somehow before embarking on the quilt for Dominic and Carolyn so I stopped at lap size in order to get it finished. It now measures 106cm square.
I took these pictures in the garden on a very bright day, just before I went to New York. In actuality the colours are a little richer than they appear here - a combination of the sun and my bog-standard camera conspired to bleach them. I love the backing fabric. I'm not sure what it's called - I bought it with lots of other retro 30s fabrics in Branson, Missouri two years ago.
As you can see, Emily appreciates the burrowing potential of a folded quilt! She deserves a special mention today for having been a brave kitty and making it through her neutering operation with minimum fuss. She is back home, and, having got past the wobbly stage, is now in fully-fledged-chemical-madness-stage which involves knocking over all food and water bowls and then marching repeatedly over your humans, purring all the time but never settling down. It doesn't help that she isn't allowed to go out for a while - the vet said to keep her in for EIGHT days. I don't think the carpets (or the cat, or the humans) will be able to stand that! At least the madness is packaged in such cuteness:Going back to the topic of weddings - I heard today that my wonderful bridesmaid Abby is getting married (about time too!). I'm so thrilled for her and Misha. I wonder if this means more commemorative quilting is called for...

Monday, 11 August 2008

Wonderful Town!

I made it back from New York in one rather sweaty piece and am subsequently delighted with the Typical British Summer we have been experiencing for the past week! Since most of my time in New York was spent at various libraries I didn't manage nearly as many cultural activities as I would have liked.
I do have a couple of good recommendations, though: on the museum front, the Merchant's House Museum is worth a visit. A preserved 19th century home with recreated interiors and an especially good kitchen - water pump, a full cooking range and a pie-safe (pictured below) - I love all that stuff!
Also the Folk Art Museum was excellent - very varied and interesting. This detail is from an incredible papercut, made by a prisoner in the 1830s.
If you can catch it before 14th September, the Asa Ames sculpture exhibition at the Folk Art is really remarkable too, displaying amazing wooden portrait sculptures (good pictures on their website to give you a feel). Also, if you're in New York, definitely stop at Blossom in Chelsea, an excellent gourmet vegetarian restaurant (or it's sister branch, Cafe Blossom uptown): I took my very carnivorous host and she was impressed!

I stocked up on lots of ideas for the next visit as well - Governor's Island, the Cloisters, Morris Jumel Mansion, the Rockefeller observation deck, Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, the Highline Park (once it's finished) etc etc... Oh, and obviously, many more trips to Moo Shoes (they have live-in cats!) and Purl (where, just as everyone would have you believe, you DO feel like you've died and gone to tasteful-craft heaven). Can't wait to get back with Miles for a proper holiday, maybe 'autumn in New York' next time to avoid the heat, though!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

A Man Named Pearl

I'm currently in New York doing some research at the Schomburg Center. And it is HOT. The Center is actually quite cool, but outside it is boiling. It was 29C at 10.30PM last night: yes, it was basically as hot as the hottest we ever get in London AT NIGHT! Crazy weather. However, I've not seen kids playing with fire hydrants yet, but I'm keeping an eye out!

I'm staying with my friend Janet in Brooklyn and last night, at the insistence of her sister, we went to see A Man Named Pearl. It's a lovely little film about a self-taught topiary artist, Pearl Fryar, from a tiny town in South Carolina. We got a chance to meet him before the screening and he was very charming and interesting. His work is incredibly elegant and beautiful, and a true testament to the value of finding what you do well and having fun with it. Also, it's amazing to learn that most of the plants in his garden were salvaged from the dump behind his local garden centre. It made me think of all those crafts people out there producing beautiful work in so many mediums. There's a nice post here about a visit to the gardens and some great pictures. If you get a chance to see the movie I recommend it - a real one-off.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

A Fishy Tale

So, on Friday night I was walking home from the tube station about 11.15 - I rounded the corner into our road and something caught my eye on the street. It was a small fish tank with one dead goldfish and one live one. It seemed that someone had just dumped the tank (maybe because they freaked out at the dead fish?). Anyway, I couldn't leave the poor surviving one, so I enlisted Miles' help, and he carried the tank home. We flushed the dead one down the toilet (the appropriate funeral method for goldfish, I believe) and cleaned out the tank for the remaining chap. We had no fish food (obviously) but I found out online that fish are meant to like lettuce so I tried some nice organic stuff but did not meet with success. Fish food from B&Q on Saturday morning proved more popular. I had been thinking of contacting the RSPCA but Miles had the inspired thought that our sister-in-law, Carolyn, had mentioned that she'd like to get a goldfish. And that if she had a fish she'd have to call him 'Ramesses', because a small fish could walk/swim taller with such a grand name! Anyway, we asked, and she and Dominic said they would take 'Ram O'Seas' (as Dominic excellently renamed him). Unfortunatley they couldn't come till today so we had to hide the fish from Emily for a while. I ended up putting him on our chest of drawers in the bedroom as Emily isn't normally allowed in there, but, given the tank had no filter, the water began to smell really quickly! Well, we managed to keep Emily at bay, although she'd worked out something fishy (sorry!) was going on by today (in an unguarded moment I found her sitting on Miles' pillow, smacking her lips...). Dominic and Carolyn bought a spiffing new tank for Ram O'Seas and came to collect him this evening. So there is a happy end to the story of the rescue fish, and here he is in his new home playing with his own reflection.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Kitchen Cloths

After some experimentation I think I've found a fool-proof kitchen cloth pattern. Over the last couple of years I've made a selection of cloths for my mother and she has declared this pattern the most effective - and Mum's cloths take lots of punishment so if she says they do their stuff, they do!
I made this pair of green and pink cloths as a gift for a friend.

And this pink cloth for my kitchen. The pattern lends itself well to stripes and the pink cloth is made from a varigated and a solid pink yarn in alternating 2-row stripes. All the cloths are made from Peaches and Cream cotton.

I found the stitch pattern in my Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework.

Woven Stitch - Double crochet stitches worked in single chain spaces.

Unit of 3 ch plus 3

Row 1: miss 2 ch, 1 dc, *1 ch, miss 1 ch, 1 dc*, 2 ch, turn

Row 2: *1 dc in ch sp of previous row, 1 ch*, 1 dc in the turning ch sp, 2 ch, turn

Rep rom Row 2

Happy crocheting and happy cleaning!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Digging for Victory

This was our garden in March. Neater and tidier but still suffering from the broken fence problem. Having finally plucked up the courage to speak to our neighbour on the right, Sandee, I discovered that she'd been thinking about getting her Dad to repair the fence anyway. And repair it he did - he made a fantastic job of it, a million times better than Miles and I would have managed on our own. And they refused to accept any money from us! Sweet, lovely people.
The installing of the new fence meant I could finally start my vegetable plot. After much sweat and toil I managed to make a very rudimentary raised bed and felt, frankly, very pleased with myself! So here we have the veg plot and new fence at the beginning of this month.
After a halcyon period during which I convinced myself that some pellets from the garden centre would be enough to deter the cats, I gave in and installed some more forceful defences. Thank you, chicken wire.I have planted a few different things: (working backwards from the foreground) various salad, tomatoes, beetroot, peas, perpetual spinach, one pumpkin and two courgettes (under the cloches), pak choi and radishes. My containers of herbs and salad are doing well, with the mint and rocket trying to out-do each other. The little cat on the doormat is Belle, Emily's friend from downstairs and one of the many local cats who think that my raised bed is a giant toilet!
I'm also trying some chillies and aubergine but they're not looking very impressive. I planted them as plugs nearly two months ago and this is as far as they've got. Oh well, at least the cats leave them alone so maybe there's hope yet!

Emily Entertainment

After a request for some Emily updates here we have a selection of illustrative portraits (which I am finally able to load having found my camera cable. Hurrah!).
As a growing cat, Emily divides her time between attacking things
and sleeping.
The purple cushion is her joint-favourite spot (the other is on Miles' desk, tucked behind the curtain). She is also good at helping me work. Here she is sitting in a surprisingly human position and looking rather sleepy .
This pose, with the crossed paws, reminds me of those primary school portraits they make you have. She should be leaning on a prop pillar!

Saturday, 7 June 2008

The Ginger Giant or Kitty Kapers - part 2

Not much has been going on here apart from work, work, work. Now punctuated by sickness. Boo.

One of my many recent work things was an academic conference at which I had the excellent fortune to meet Maura of Paper Bluebird. After hearing rumours that she and a colleague were looking for fabric shopping opportunities in London, I felt like the bat logo (or pincushion logo, I guess) had been flashed on the sky and jumped to their aid! Once we got down to talking fabric I discovered that, apart from being a fascinating scholar with an interest in Victorian suburbia, she was a craft blogger who follows many of my favourite crafters too. Ah, serendipity. So lovely to make a new friend who straddles two worlds!

Away from the internet and back home, having Emily the kitten is making everything brighter. She is currently helping me mark A-level scripts by eating my biro. Being so cat focused recently, Miles pointed out that I really should share with the world the truth about Pip, my parents' ginger cat. He has been the cute kitten in the photo on my blog banner since I started writing lechatlunatique last year.

However, he is no longer a pip. He is, in fact, the Ginger Giant! Seen here with my father as a point of comparison!

He has truly become one of the biggest cats I have ever seen! Despite being the size of a small dog he is still utterly gorgeous and one of the most sweet-natured cats you will ever, ever meet. He continues to be devoted to his sister and her daughters, and takes his uncle role very seriously. He can be seen here with Emily's sister, Primrose. It's all too cute!

Monday, 5 May 2008

Kitty Kapers

Please say hello to our new four-legged friend, Emily.

Our big excitement on getting back from holiday was adopting one of Agnes' kittens, so last Sunday Miles and I went over to my parents' house and collected little Emily. She was good as gold on her tube and bus journeys, even going to sleep (I've never known any cat to do that in a carry basket!).
This week she has made herself thoroughly at home, and then this weekend she's started to explore the garden too. Although, like any kitten she spends most of her time bouncing around, scrambling up furniture and pouncing on anything that moves, she has also shown a propensity for curling up next to me while I'm reading on the sofa. Too cute!

Monday, 28 April 2008

Aloha from Hawaii

Ok, so we've actually been back from Hawaii for over a week, it's just taken me a ridiculously long time to do any posting. The island of Oahu was incredibly beautiful - just like all those pictures and movies would have you believe. We were very fortunate to be staying near what had to be the loveliest beach on the island, Kailua Beach, pictured top. From Kailua the bus took us into Honolulu in about 45 minutes. These shots are just a few from around Honolulu and Waikiki.

The flora and fauna were incredible - as just one little example, the plumeria flowers look and smell wonderful, and locals really do wear them in their hair!

A shop in Chinatown selling fresh leis.

On the craft front, there were a few examples of Hawaiian quilts in the art museum we visited.

The top fabric is cut like a paper snowflake then appliqued onto the base fabric. Typically the quilts are in bold, two-tone colours, with shapes often representing natural forms. The quilting is done in tiny, closely packed rows which echo the cut-out design. One description I came across pointed out that Hawaiian clothing did not generate scraps in the same way that 19th century American clothing design did, hence the Hawaiians did not develop comparable patchwork techniques. The echo quilting technique is incredibly time-consuming, with some designs taking up to a year to do. A possible explanation for this is that the quilts are only ever decorative - the crafts people did not have the pressing deadline of a snowy New England winter to work towards and thus could afford to take as much time as they liked!

One of my top recommendations would be Shangri-La, a breathtaking house built in the 1930s near Diamond Head by Doris Duke, an American heiress, as a home for her collection of Islamic art. This picture above just shows the pool house!

Looking at that view everyday wouldn't be difficult! If only I had a magnate's fortune!

Monday, 31 March 2008


The wedding was beautiful! In the end it went by in a flash. Wish we could do it all again.

One of the most impressive elements were the beautiful bouquets and buttonholes produced by the bridal party under the tutleage of chief bridesmaid Becca. Close ups on the bridal bouquet and one of the bridesmaids' posies:
We bought the flowers from the New Covent Garden Flower Market on the Friday morning then made them up into bouquets on the Saturday. The making was so much fun and made the flowers feel so personal. And they smelled amazing! It's a shame there aren't more opportunities in life for playing with lovely flowers!

Monday, 24 March 2008

Happy Belgian Easter

I hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend. These pictures are from my trip to Bruges last weekend (to buy booze for the wedding, which is now only 5 days away!). Obviously the Belgians are all about good Easter chocolate!

Bruges itself is best described as 'chocolate box' - very picturesque but also lived in (you can see a child's sandpit in the left-hand corner of this picture).

We visited Ypres and some of the WW1 sites as part of the weekend too - as you'd imagine, it was all incredibly poignant. This is Tyne Cot Cemetery.
And this is the Menin Gate in Ypres.

I didn't spot much of crafting interested except lots of impressive lace. A few things that did catch my eye, though: this great fabric used to cover a shop window undergoing a revamp (it's called 'Gourmandise' by Pierre Frey),
this lovely Pinocchio tape measure my Mum purchased;

and this excellent little storage chest.

What is it with European haberdasheries and lingerie in the same store? I've noticed that in France too - not very welcoming for any stray male crafters!