The stuff of legends

The festival at Caravaca celebrates a legend that dates from the 1200s, the period in which Spain was occupied by the Moors and there were constant battles. This legend says that the people of the town were trapped in the citadel by the Moors and they had run out of water. The Knights Templars at the bottom of the hill in the town, couldn’t find any water that hadn’t been poisoned, so they tied skins of wine to the horses and they ran up to the citadel. The people there dipped the Holy Cross in the wine which cured all the sick and dying.

Caravaca’s full name is Caravaca de la Cruz as there is still a cross there, Vera Cruz, the True Cross and it has been designated a holy city by the Pope. Approaching the city by coach we had some amazing views, the citadel and the basilica stand on the top of a mound, dominating the landscape. Since I don’t have a drone I have found this picture to show you what it is like.

I did get a nice shot from the car park though.

We did not have chance this time to visit the citadel or the basilica so a return visit is definitely something we will do as I would love to wander around the town a little more. There were some stunning squares and churches and I always enjoy visiting towns outside of their fiesta days.

The first thing that we encountered was the parade of the horses, accompanied by lots of very enthusiastic supporters and bands. The fact that they sell a special wine for the occasion and there are lots of stalls selling beer obviously helped with the general mood, so I had a can of Estrella just so I blended in with the locals 😉

The horses are decorated with beautiful coats, I am not sure if they are embroidered or some other technique, but many featured people. The horses, around 60 of them, parade through the town and up to the citadel. We watched a few come through and made our way up the back streets to the base of the citadel to get a good view.

We were a little concerned to see so many ambulances arrive a bit later, unusually for a Spanish fiesta there were warning notices so we knew it could be dangerous but the ambulances were thankfully just kept busy with people passing out from the heat. We were waiting for people to fall off the hill just below the citadel in front of us as it got more and more crowded.

Before the horses run there are parades of the monarchs and their armies up to the citadel. As always this is wonderful, I do love a good Spanish re-enactment, with marching and swords! I wasn’t able to get any clear pictures of the kings and queens and their armies in the parade. Next time we go I will stay at the bottom for a bit longer to see these as it was fantastic to see them all parade up the hill to the finish line. The Catholic queen looked as if she was wearing a similar outfit to the painting of her retaking Granada that I shared in a previous post. You can see the outfit more clearly in in this news report.

The Moorish king and queen were equally splendid, there are some more detailed pictures of them in this blog post. We will see more of this type of fabulous costume when we visit the Moors and Christians festival again in Alcoy next year.

The horses run a 80 metre course up to the citadel, one team at a time and their time is recorded. The team of four have to keep one hand on the horse at all times so we could hear the the groans of the few teams who didn’t manage that. We were helpfully right opposite the film crew who were display live footage and all the team times on a big screen. We then had a quick wander back through the town before getting on the coach.

The journey back was quite eventful as we had a hailstorm fiercer than any I have ever encountered in Yorkshire as we came back through the mountains. Luckily we had a great driver who kept on going, though many people were pulled up on the hard shoulder it was that severe.

A brilliant day out and I am so glad I have been able to see it, it is one of the fiestas that Mum has always wanted me to go to, but it was never the right time of year for me to get leave. I so love the way that the Spanish celebrate life and it was brilliant to be in the middle of things again, as obviously most fiestas haven’t run for a couple of years.

I have been busy this week with working on cushions for Katy, I have still got to do some hand sewing on the last one and then I can share those but I am very pleased with them. I also ran a little workshop at my sewing group on English Paper Piecing which everyone said they enjoyed. They are such a very talented group of people and it is lovely that we take turns sharing our skills.

I had my first sea swim at the weekend, it is a lot hotter now, about 28 degrees so it will soon be pool time as well. Bike rides are having to be done only in the evenings now as it is too hot for me otherwise, but I have had fun discovering some new routes along the back roads that run next to the irrigation canals.

Hopefully this weekend I will get chance to work on the outfit for Whitby that I started last year, in January as it turns out, before life got very busy with driving, doctoral submissions and house selling! There are now only five weeks until I return to the UK, away from my sewing machine so I really need to crack on! I hope that you have all got some nice things planned, whatever you are doing, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Driving through mountains

Many years ago, before I had even thought of moving to Spain I read a book called, ‘Driving over Lemons’ by Chris Stewart, in which he talks about his life in Andalucía on a farm. It is a wonderful book, full of humour and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to experience more of real Spain.

We have spent lots of time over the past few weeks driving through Andalucía on the way to and from Granada and I am looking forward to returning to the area one day. These latest coach trips have been more local, and more about driving through some spectacular lower level mountain scenery than the Sierra Nevada. There haven’t been any lemons but some wonderful views!

It is hard to get good pictures from the coach, I have tried to capture the scale and the beauty of the mountains but to see the splendour for yourself you can look at the following websites that have the most glorious photos. We visited the town of Javea (or Xabia), which is a really beautiful town set on some stunning coastline. I would love to return to the area for further exploring, hopefully in Katy someday, as there are some amazing natural parks in the mountains.

The first trip was to visit the gardens at L’Albarda, set high up on the hills overlooking Javea. This is a new coach trip that the local company has just started doing and we passed many stunning villas on the way there.

The house is closed to the public but we were able to wander around it and it is absolutely stunning, with a very inviting pool. It definitely looks like a film set for a very glamourous Hollywood movie.

The gardens themselves are a beautiful mix of formal and more wildflower, with lots of shady spots, really appreciated as even though it was only 17 degrees that day, it felt hotter. There were the more formal water features that reflect Spain’s Moorish heritage, as well as more natural looking pools and waterfalls.

The views from the gardens over to the mountains were amazing, there was one stone seat in a shady wooded spot surrounded by lavender with the most stunning view, I could quite happily have stayed for hours with a good book!

We particularly loved this amphitheatre, within what we thought was an ordinary conservatory. The symmetry of the pots, plus the beautiful cascade waterfall, was really unusual.

After the garden visit we went to Javea itself for a delicious lunch with the prettiest salad I have seen for a log time, and a rather nice sea view.

We just had time after lunch for a little wander along the seafront and some fabulous Spanish ice cream, I always have the fruit flavours then it counts as one of your five a day 😉

The sea was the most wonderful turquoise. Javea is a very beautiful town, and is very unspoilt, with few high rises, possibly as it has a pebble beach so has not suffered the fate of other places on this coast that have been very overdeveloped.

It was a truly wonderful day, another one of those I keep having where I have pinch myself that this is actually happening, and on a school day as well! I have never been able to be here at this time of year and it is lovely, just the perfect temperature for me. It is around 23 degrees, so I have been able to take the bike out and sit on the terrace in the evenings reading. I did get some very bad mosquito bites the night I was out with friends, so it is not all perfect in my little paradise, but thankfully a friend from sewing group gave me some good spray to take the swelling down.

We are now going to have a few quiet weeks before our next trip. I have spent a lovely weekend, apart from a quick trip to the beach and a deep paddle, (it is not quite swimming weather yet), making the first of my campervan cushions for Katy. A few more bits of hand stitching and then I can show you the results. I have had great fun doing it and so will be making a couple more at least. I am taking them back flat so they won’t take up much room in the luggage!

We have had exciting family news as well as my latest great-niece arrived safely on Friday! You may remember I posted about her baby shower and the rabbit and Moses basket covers I made. Willow is home from hospital and safely tucked up in the basket. We are all very happy and can’t wait to meet her in July.

I will be back soon with another fiesta, this one involving horses with the most stunning embroidered coats and head dresses. Until then have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Poetry in plaster

The Alhambra, in particular the Nasrid Palace section, is such an amazing place. This was my second visit and to be able to go again, and to see the exhibition in the museum there, answered some of my questions about how the palace was decorated and what some of the designs mean.

I found this very informative post which talks about how the building was designed and what some of the inscriptions mean, many are poems or sections from the Koran.

The ‘muqarnas’ in the ceilings, which you can see in the middle picture in the bottom row, are fascinating and the museum had a display of how they are put together, an eight piece 3D jigsaw of plaster pieces. The relief plasterwork, as seen below, was so regular, we wondered if that had also been done using moulds.

The sheer scale of the carving, mosaics and woodwork is incredible and you get a real sense of the work that goes in to conserve it as there is live conservation going on everywhere, which is fascinating.

We were really lucky with the weather as well, although rain was forecast it was just dull and we were able to see the Generalife gardens, where I tried some ‘arty shots’ looking past the flowers to the palace.

An absolute must see if you come to Spain, such an important part of the history of this region.

Now for my very difficult task of choosing something to turn into a design. One of the aims I had for retirement was to create some designs based on the many architectural features I love to take photos of, and I have challenged myself to do one by the end of this visit to Spain. I have lots of ideas for possible blackwork, goldwork and quilt designs but have narrowed it down to three pictures. I think I would like to do blackwork as an homage to Catherine of Aragon, and as I have not done any blackwork for a long time.

These are some of my favourite blackwork makes from previous times. The first two are a picture I made for my aunt, not sure where I got the frame but love it. The last one is a needlework set I made for a re-enactment friend. These were all patterns from stitching magazines so I would really like to have a go at designing my own work this time.

So I am thinking of turning one of these plaster motifs into a blackwork design. For the first picture it will be the bottom motif. The second picture it would be the central one with star and fruits. The bottom picture it would be motif on the lower left (or right as they are both the same).

I can’t promise to have the whole thing stitched by the end of June, as I have costumes to make for re-enactment and Steampunk, but my aim is to at least have the pattern drafted. If you have a favourite please let me know in the comments.

We have lots of exciting textile related things coming up with my sewing group as well, the group are having some outings and social events which is lovely. I am so happy to have met another group of like minded people who are so enthusiastic about all things textile related!

It is looking as if it might be a sewing day tomorrow along with the second session of my writing course. I am working on one of my quilt WIPs as well as costume so am looking forward to a few crafting days in over the next week. I will be back soon with the coach trip to the gardens. I hope you all have something nice planned for the weekend. Whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Two kings and two queens

It is easy to forget how closely linked England and Spain have been throughout the years. Especially in today’s political climate when the UK has left the EU, when many people may be feeling that we have less in common with Europe than ever before. However, things change constantly throughout history and a longer perspective is often helpful.

I remember watching the Michael Palin series, and reading his book, ‘New Europe’, about all of the changes in both membership of the EU at that time and the changes in countries such as the former Yugoslavia. I was reminded of this again during my new writing course this week as we were reading an extract from a book written about memories of that country by a former citizen living in Germany. The course is all about writing about place and identity and we have started with thinking about our own identity.

At the weekend I was out with a French friend, who now lives here in Spain, and a Dutch friend of hers. We were talking about all sorts of topics, including our own identity, empire, and how we had all ended up here, in a little bar halfway down the Spanish Costas. I love the very multicultural nature of my new life. Yorkshire was also very multicultural, but in a different way, and I like the fact that I am spending time with people from lots of other parts of Europe as well as Spain. It is so nice to meet lots of different people here as well as on my travels.

Our recent visit to Granada really brought home how closely England and Spain were connected, and in particular, for me, the very fascinating period of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, and their daughter Catherine of Aragon and Henry the Eighth. You will know if you have read some of my previous posts that Catherine is someone I am very interested in, both from a historical viewpoint and from a textile one as she is credited with bringing blackwork to England.

I know less about Ferdinand and Isabella and need to read more, but Granada is so important to their story, with their reconquest of Southern Spain in 1492, when they captured the city from the Moors. The ‘Reconquista’ is celebrated every year in Spain in many places and we have been lucky enough to visit several of the spectacular fiestas that celebrate it.

Our final day in Granada was all about catholic heritage, with a visit to a monastery, the cathedral and the chapel where Ferdinand and Isabella are buried. The chapel is so beautiful, an amazing testament to the stonemasons who built it.

No photos were allowed in the chapel but I have managed to find some information and pictures from various sources. This blog has some additional information and a copy of this painting which was at the entrance to the tomb.

It shows a glorious depiction of Isabella and Ferdinand as they have the city surrendered to them by Bobadil, the Muslim ruler. The first day of our visit we went to Bobadil’s mother’s palace and the Alhambra visit and the chapel tour completed the story. I think it is a wonderful piece of art, so full of detail, from Isabella’s gown to the Alhambra and the Albaicin in the background.

The chapel itself is wonderful, the tombs are very impressive, as to be expected but there is also a very good interpretation and a wonderful collection of medieval art there as well, which we loved. There is lots more information and pictures on the chapel web site.

The most amazing thing for us was that underneath the marble tomb there is a crypt with the coffins inside, picture from Pinterest. There are also the coffins of their other daughter Joanna and Philip and the Prince of Asturias. I think this was the most amazing thing about that day for all of us, the tombs and the gold altars were all stunning but this was very poignant and something that I have not seen with other memorials.

The monastery, Cartuja de Granada contained many paintings detailing what happened to Catholic monks in England after Henry’s split from the church while trying to divorce Catherine. I didn’t take pictures of them as it was rather gory but the architecture of the monastery was beautiful. I loved the simplicity of the cloisters and the refectory buildings.

The chapel there was just unbelievably ornate. I don’t think that we have ever seen anything like it and we have seen a lot of Catholic churches! There was a main larger chapel area and then behind the mirrored altar a smaller chapel.

Our other visit, to the cathedral, was also stunning, as much for the many books of music on display with their gorgeously illustrated pages, as for the altar, organs and other grandeur.

I loved the ceiling of the cathedral altar space, not my best ever Spanish cathedral ceiling, as that honour goes to the one in Valencia with its musical angels, but still very beautiful.

My next post will be about the Alhambra itself, once I have decided which of the many pictures I took to include! So much wonderful architecture and decoration in the place it is a difficult decision.

We have also just been on a couple more day trips, to a wonderful garden on a lovely sunny day, and to another fiesta, so will post about those soon as well. The weather has been variable, so one of our trips has not been able to take place, due to the event being cancelled, but we still have one more to come this week.

We are then going to be having a quieter few weeks, which gives me chance to get out on the bike and visit the outdoor pool when its sunny. If it does rain there is the opportunity for more sewing days, watching the clouds!

I hope that you have all had a good week. Whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Granada, mother nature and man

I am firmly convinced that one of the reasons that Granada, and specifically the Alhambra, is so stunning, is due to the contrast between the man made splendour and the amazing beauty of the Sierra Nevada backdrop.

This is the second time I have visited the city, both in the same season with snow on the mountains and it is the most amazing sight. My first trip, around 20 years ago, was going to be my only trip to Spain as an adult but I fell in love with the beautiful houses and coastline here and the rest is history!

We stayed in a beautiful apartment, Apartamento Capitania found on Booking.com, in a fantastic location near the cathedral, with shops, tapas bars and taxi and bus stops all minutes away. It was also excellent value for money, costing us each 30 euros a night. It had a gorgeous view of a small church and a square with a few bars around.

As always the architecture was stunning, so many beautiful ‘wedding cake’ style buildings, balconies and wonderful doors!

On our first day we went to the Albaicin, in itself a World Heritage site for its steep winding roads and Moorish architecture. This trip was for Mum’s birthday so she had planned everything that she wanted to see.

The houses are, as often in Spain, amazing in the way that they have been constructed on top of each other up the hillside, with beautiful roof gardens and lots of wonderful tiles and doorways. We were aiming for one of the royal palaces but stopped off at the numerous miradors, or viewing places to get closer and closer to the views of the Alhambra with the snowy mountains behind it.

This was the view from the restaurant where we had a delicious mango and goats cheese salad and fried aubergine with honey.

The Palacio de Dar al – Horra was lovely, a very understated version of the Alhambra, with again amazing views across the Albaicin and the Alhambra.

After that we wandered down into the valley, with the assistance of Google maps, and around the mountain to the area of Sacromonte, famous for its cave houses and the flamenco venues that the gitanos or gypsies who have been here since the 1700s developed. We are now quite knowledgeable about cave life since our visit to Ben and Amanda so really enjoyed looking round the cave house museum there.

The best bits were all the textiles and the old photos of the people who lived in this complex. There was a perfect little one person cave that I would be very happy living in, complete with sewing area! In this cave there was the most fascinating rag rug, made from triangles, unlike the other strip ones I have seen and it was wonderful to be able to see all the different fabrics that had been used.

An amazing day and a perfect start to our trip. We had pre-booked tickets for the Alhambra for the following day so to see so much of it beforehand was just perfect.

I will be back with part two of the trip soon. I have made a promise to myself that I will develop a design from one of the Alhambra pictures so if you have any favourites in the next post let me know in the comments.

As always have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

The rain in Spain …..

It has been raining this afternoon. This is a rare enough event in this part of Spain to cause much discussion, although this year has been wetter than any other for 72 years. Having lived in Yorkshire for 37 years I keep telling people here that this gentle rain that they get most of the time is nothing to be concerned about 😉 I was actually secretly quite glad that it was raining as otherwise I would have felt as if I should be weeding at the front of the house, or washing my paintwork or some other useful household task.

Instead I spent all afternoon sitting watching Netflix and sewing, finishing off the project we started this morning at my sewing group here. It still feels very naughty to be doing this kind of thing on a school day, I haven’t quite got the hang of this retirement lark meaning I can do anything I like at any time but have had a thoroughly lovely time.

My new sewing group, and the knitting group that are some of the same people are lovely, so welcoming and friendly. We alternate between our own projects and workshops led by one of the group and today we were doing one of my favourite things, making a pincushion. I mentioned previously that I don’t have many left and couldn’t resist this gorgeous design. This is one of the demo versions made by Eileen who led the workshop and the pattern and an instructional video can be found here.

What I love about this is that they can be so easily customised. Eileen’s version had the apron having little pockets for scissors etc as her apron was finished using pinking shears but as I don’t have any I finished mine with lace and left out the pockets.

You can also stitch a little necklace on but I decided to trim the neckline with ric rac instead. All of the material came from my stash, all Liberty fabrics for the coloured sections. You just need some toy stuffing, rice to give it some weight, and a small circle of both felt and card for the base.

A really lovely make, I am so glad that I found this group (through an advert on the local Facebook page) as we have other exciting things planned in the next few months. It also gives me an outlet for other makes as the group do a lot of crafting for charity. I have completed the Jubilee outfit for Luna so will share that with you soon.

Granada was wonderful, I have hundreds of pictures to sort through and then I can do some posts about that. We have three other day trips in the next two weeks as well so I will be able to share lots of lovely Spanish architecture with you over the coming weeks.

This week I also start another creative writing course so I am very much looking forward to that. I am not sure if I will get much writing done until autumn as want to make the most of the time here being outdoors but am looking forward to spending time with more creative people.

I hope that you have all had a good week and are looking forward to the weekend. Whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

A very special dress and a pattern review – Simplicity 1045 dress

This post has been a very long time coming, I first wrote it two years ago as my friend Sarah, the very talented knitwear designer from Marsden, had asked me to make her wedding dress. The celebration was originally scheduled for April 2020 and the dress was finished on March 16th, just in time for her to tell me they were going to have to postpone for a bit 😦 Poor Sarah finally got to have the ‘official’ ceremony in August that year with just two witnesses, but the party only got to take place this last weekend, two years to the day that it would have been.

I am so glad that she finally got to have her celebration, the theme was Lord of the Rings as she and her partner Alan are huge fans. I wasn’t able to go, as knew I would be back in Spain for Mum’s birthday, but Sharon very kindly sent me some photos and she looked amazing in the dress. I will hopefully have some more photos of every else at some point as well as everyone dressed up.

Sarah's dress - large 1

Sarah's dress - large 2

When Sarah first chose this pattern for her dress I looked for reviews of it but didn’t find any so I thought it might be useful to write one in case anyone else wanted to make it. I have also talked about fabric choices as well.

Choice of garments in the pattern

This is a good value pattern as you get different choices of sleeves and necklines. I made a combination of view A for the sleeves and the length of the dress and View B for the centre panel with braid and the cording loops. View A also has three panels at the front, but in the same fabric they are not as obvious.

Sarah's dress 1

Sarah's dress 2

Sarah's dress 3

Fabric choices

The pattern calls for light fabrics so we chose a beautiful blue polyester art dupion for the main body and a heavily embroidered grey silk for the centre panel. I trimmed the loose threads from the silk before using it.

Sarah's dress 9

The centre panel fabric did cause a few issues as it was quite difficult to sew the tabs for the front cording onto the panel. The tabs were made of the braid we chose for the edging and it was a really good match with the embroidery as it had the same kind of sequins but they were quite stiff to sew on.

Sarah's dress 6

Sarah's dress 11

The front seams needed redoing several times as they would not stay still. If I made it again I would use a less textured material as the embroidery was very difficult to stitch through in places although it is a gorgeous fabric. The dupion was beautiful to work with, it was very easy to handle and didn’t crease easily so didn’t need ironing.

The sleeves were made of  an organza with tiny sparkles on rather than a chiffon which meant they were a little stiffer. I think this looks good as they hold their shape more easily without having to hold your arms out all the time as the model is doing 🙂

Sarah's dress 8

They do take up a lot of fabric as there is a lot of waste on the layout. If you want to save money you could have shorter, narrower, sleeves and be able to get two cut out of each width. They would still be very pretty being a little smaller.

We bought extra fabric than that specified just to be on the safe side but due to an issue with the dye on the dupion ending up cutting all panels horizontally out of the width of the 60 inch fabric so could have got away with much less. The length was fine, although we had to cut 3 inches off each pattern piece to do that. My friend is of medium height but it was a good length with just a tiny hem.

Sizing

As with all patterns it bore little relation to shop sizing, I cut it out at size 16 for the bust as her bust inch measurement was 1/2 inch more than that for the size 14 and I am glad I did as it fitted really well. It gives 2 inches of ease on the finished measurements but there didn’t seem to be that much ease.

Sarah's dress 4

The waist was cut at size 16 as well although the inch measurement was a size 14 as the hips needed to be a size 18 and I didn’t want it to end up too tight on the waist. It is a very flowing design so does not need to be too specific in terms of the hip sizing.

Sarah's dress 5

I made a toile out of an old bed sheet which was a similar weight to the actual fabric and there were no real fit issues. I did take the shoulder seams up by half an inch to give a better fit on the bust line and cut half an inch from the bottom of the armholes after the final fitting as it was a little tight there.

Instructions

The instructions were clear, I didn’t need to really follow them in detail as the dress was very easy to work out, it has seven panels and since they are all different shapes it was clear what went where. There were no complicated techniques.

The pattern had two pieces for each sleeve which would have meant a seam on the top which given the sheerness of the fabric I didn’t want so I cut it out using only the back piece (as it was slightly larger) on the fold and it was fine. I used French seams as instructed for the seams of the sleeves. This was all hand stitched and I also inserted the sleeves by hand as the organza was quite slippery and the sleeves so large I thought this was easier than trying to get it all through my machine.

Sarah's dress finished 7

Sarah's dress finished 2

I wanted to line the dress which wasn’t in the instructions so we bought some lining fabric and made another dress for the lining. This was then sewn to the neckline then hand stitched into the armholes and next to the zip.

Sarah's dress finished 8

There was a facing as well which I made and attached as instructed but it showed through the dress fabric and looked bulky so I trimmed it back to 1/2 inch, zig zagged it and then used that to attach the dress lining to.

Construction notes

All body pieces were zig zagged after cutting before sewing up which was a good strategy as the blue fabric frayed a lot. The sleeves were not treated in this way, they did not fray too much when cut so I left them raw and the French seams and the rolled over hem at the edges hid the raw edges of the fabric.

We did not have an invisible zip due to wanting to match the colour exactly so I inserted the zip leaving an overlap each side which was then sewn with small stitches so that the zip was hidden.

I cut the cording loop tabs at 7 cm according to the instructions but they looked too big so cut 2 cm off each. The pattern also asks for 1/2 inch cord but that looked too bulky so it was swapped for thinner cord.

Sarah's dress finished 9

Overall feelings

This was a very easy pattern to work with, the only issues we had in construction were to do with a few glitches with the fabric. I am not sure why they split the sleeve in two pieces but other than that and the removal of most of the facing everything worked well. I would make the pattern again and think it would be suitable for someone with little sewing experience as it is a straightforward make.

Sarah's dress finished 3

Sarah's dress finished 5

Sarah's dress finished 4

Sarah's dress finished 6

Time taken was around 50 hours in total but about half of that was hand stitching so if you were machining sleeves, lining etc it would be far less. I hand stitched the hems on both lining and main dress as I prefer the finish and enjoy hand stitching but if you are just making a costume you might not do that and the braid could have been machined on as well.

I hope that this has been useful, as I make more things with commercial patterns I will review them as I find it very helpful to read other people’s thoughts about what they use before I decide which patterns to buy.

I will be back in a while with more travel pictures, in the meantime, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Sewing with a view of the sea!

I have had a very lovely first week back in Spain. I have been out a lot as we have had family visiting from the UK so have spent a few evenings with my cousin and her children and been busy sorting the house and garden. It always takes me a while when I get here to remember where everything is, as I keep discovering things I had forgotten I owned !

I spent yesterday sorting out my new sewing space in my bedroom, and had a lovely afternoon using the new machine with a view of the sea and the windows open so that I could smell the orange blossom. It is a beautiful time of year here, they have had a lot of unseasonal rain and some dust storms over from the Sahara but that has meant that many more wildflowers are in bloom.

I do need to buy some more furniture for storage but have just got this lovely little drawer unit which is perfect for when I am at the machine as it holds all of my threads and tools and has enough space for the essentials on top.

At the moment the wardrobe on the left of the first picture holds all of my sewing and knitting supplies in some plastic drawers and hanging units but I would like something more custom with easier access so that I can keep everything tidier.

I am currently using my table from the dining area which is brilliant as it folds out to a really large space which is perfect for cutting out so I will buy another one for the lounge and move this one permanently into here.

The first job was to make a new pincushion for this area, I gave most of my sewing supplies to Ellen for her upcycling project, including nearly all of my pincushions which is a great excuse to make some more! I found this piece of applique when I was sorting my WIP pile.

I stitched it last year as a postcard for the Crafting During Coronavirus research project that I took part in but due to the general busyness of life at that point never managed to finish it and send it off. I just backed it with one of my favourite Liberty prints and stuffed it with cushion filling, et voila a nice big pincushion! It is pictured here next to the little scraps basket Facebook helpfully reminded me this morning that I made 6 years ago.

I think the sentiment I stitched is perfect for my new sewing room. I have been thinking a lot about that time as we have just had the second anniversary of lockdown. I was so worried that my family would be badly affected and that all my plans to retire and move to Spain could go wrong, so it is good to have a reminder of not to lose hope when things look difficult. I am so grateful to be here and for everything that has happened in the last nine months.

I have also kept some of the stitched gifts that I have been given over the years and this beautiful needlebook is now in place to hold all my hand stitching needles. It was made for me many years ago by a very talented friend, Barbara, at my old embroidery group.

I am working on a new outfit for Luna at the moment. I really enjoyed making the Luna and clothes last year but then got a bit stuck as to who to give them to. My cousin’s children are a little too old for those kind of gifts and though the newest member of the family is expected any day now, it will be a while until she can have one.

Moving to Spain and joining a new knitting and sewing group has meant that I have whole new outlet for things in terms of donations to charities that other members support here. This Luna will be going to raise funds for the local food bank in a ‘name the rabbit’ competition to be held at the Jubilee celebrations in June. She therefore needs a new outfit in red, white and blue, which I am hoping will be finished this afternoon. Having all the windows open made it a bit breezy so I was glad of my pattern weights that my very talented daughter Ellen made last year.

I have also been replanting all of my pots so the terrace is looking bright and colourful again. I have spent the last two evenings sitting out there reading with my candles and solar lights lit. It really is my happy place and I love the quiet and peace there in the evenings, especially after all of the excitement of the last month!

We are hopefully off on a trip this coming week, it is my wonderful Mum’s birthday tomorrow and this is her birthday trip, to Granada. We will be going by coach so will get chance to travel through the mountains again which will be wonderful. I will of course take lots of pictures and will have so much to share with you when I get back.

My next post is going to be a very special one, over two years in the making but everything finally came together this weekend so I can share that with you now. More will be revealed next time!

Until then I hope that you have a lovely weekend, and enjoy the celebrations and Easter Bank Holiday if you have one. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Fitting out the micro camper – first purchases

As I mentioned in my previous post about Katy I have started getting the things together to turn her into a ‘no build’ micro camper so I thought it would be useful to post about some of those and my thoughts on how it is going to work. I have used pictures from Amazon, Ebay or the purchase sites to illustrate as everything is at my sister’s at present but am not sponsored for any of my purchases. I have put links in case anyone would find this information useful.

Due to the lack of time to sort things before my return to Spain I only had a day with her after she was delivered before leaving Worcester. I spent a lot of time measuring and sitting in her with various combinations of boxes to try and work out what space I had. This is a good tip that I picked up from watching You Tube videos and it helped me work out what head room I had and what would be suitable.

Katy has some very useful little airline type overhead lockers, which you can see in the picture above. I had seen these on other vans and was really pleased to be able to buy a van with them as not all models have them. I plan to use one side for food storage and the other for toiletries as there is quite a bit of space in them.

Last year’s UK camping tour was also very useful in getting me to think about minimal kit. I had everything I needed for 5 weeks travel, including the tent, all cooking stuff and all clothes, in one large bag and a rucksack so knew that I was set up for living. I now just have more space to put things away in!

My plan is to book camp sites this summer as a tent and to pitch the little tent I used last year as well as have the micro camper set up. That will give me additional storage and I will still probably sleep in the tent some nights as well. I will always love camping so will have the best of both worlds.

At the moment there is no flooring in the van. The area is luckily very clean so my temporary solution is a boot liner and a boot carpet. These will cover the majority of the area and I will just need to add to that to cover the footwells.

The seats will be removed and I am going to buy plastic storage boxes to fit into the footwells to make it level with the rest of the boot. I may create some kind of removable floor next year but for now this should work.

Later on I may buy a folding chair to sleep on like the one below, we had one of these for guests in my old house and they were great.

For the moment I am planning to use my air bed and existing sleeping bags (I have a normal and a lightweight one), plus some additional fleece blankets and cushions. I have this very cute fabric, that I have previously used for the backing for a campervan cushion for my sister pictured below, to make another version for me!

In fact I may make many campervan cushions as I still have my inspiration photos from Pinterest like the ones below. One of the reasons that I love having this blog is that I put together posts of my inspirations, like this one all about my campervan obsessions.

I also have my cute little appliques, made during lockdown two years ago, when I could only dream of learning to drive and buying a van. They will come with me on my travels, as a reminder never to give up hope!

Lot of people do make their own window covers out of reflective material, and I did consider that. However the windows are all odd shapes, and have lots of bits that protrude so I have treated myself to some custom made ones from Simple Camper Vans. They have blackout material on the inside and the silver material on the outside. They come in a great storage bag as well and though they cost more than making my own I think that is money well spent. I am planning to make some curtains as well.

It has been very helpful being able to stay with Jacky in her campervan as well, that has given me lots of ideas of kit that is essential, and what I can do without. I have decided that fixed power is not needed. Katy has two 12 volt sockets, one at the front and one in the boot, that I can use to charge my phone and tablet. I have two power banks that I bought for last year’s trip which are re-charged through a main socket and since I will be away for only 2 weeks maximum at a time before visiting people, and at campsites with facilities, that should be fine.

I bought a re-chargeable lantern at the motorhome show, and have also got some cute little battery operated magnetic lights so should be fine for power and light.

I have bought a very handy electric hook up with plugs, that I saw on someone else’s van conversion video, so may choose to book pitches with electric hook up if I need them.

I also have a little fan heater, that is more for when I will be using Katy next year in the spring, as I found I was fine last summer in a tent with just lots of fleeces. On our recent trip to the Peak District I bought some new thermals which are great as an underneath layer.

One of the things that Jacky has that is very useful is some collapsible storage boxes that can also be used as seating. I have bought one single version at present which is just the right height to sit in the van on when cooking.

I have chosen to keep my existing cooking set up, I have a single ring gas camping stove, and Jacky has very kindly given me an additional one. I can then have two rings if I need them. For my cooking set up I have my mini table from last year which is about 14 inches high and also I have bought a camping kitchen unit.

This will travel flat pack with me and then I can set it up either inside or outside. It gives me lots of storage for cooking equipment as well as a great surface for food prep. Since I managed very well with just the small table and my lap last year I am sure it will feel very luxurious this summer. I will still use my very cute and comfortable mini folding chair from last year for sitting outside and plan to use the front seats as ‘sofa’ and additional storage.

I have also bought a little table that hangs from the steering wheel, which I thought would be great for my tablet for watching even more van life videos 😉 It even has a cup holder for my wine!

I will also have running water, of a sort! Last year I managed really well with a small folding water carrier, which I am still using but have also bought this nifty little 5 litre water container that can sit on my unit and which has a tap.

I have two very useful collapsible bowls as well. Most of the time I used campsites with washing up facilities anyway last year so just need the bowls to carry things.

Other purchases that have been recommended are magnetic hooks, useful for a variety of things and some back of the seat storage hangers which will fit over driver and passenger seat and be for additional practical items such as bin bags, though I may add a fluffy bunny as well 😉

The one thing that always fascinates people about van life is toilet and shower arrangements. I will be using facilities at campsites most of the time but Jacky has very kindly offered me a spare porta potti which I may take if I have space. My alternative is I am trying out some bags that are filled with crystals from this company. Those will just be for emergencies if I am off in the wild somewhere or at night if it is raining too much!

My last purchase was a little present to myself. I love sitting round a campfire so have bought this wonderful little mini fire basket. It folds up so small, about 12 inches long so I am looking forward to being able to use that at some campsites.

I also bought some map books, much as I love Google maps I also like planning trips with a paper map, and it is always handy where you have no signal. My sister also has a journal to record her trips so I bought one of those as well.

Total ‘no build’ costs so far are about £475, in addition to the around £150 I spent on new smaller camping kit last year, which I am pleased with. The van came in well under budget and most of these purchases can be used when we are tent camping as well, or would have been bought for it as a car.

I am so looking forward to putting it all together properly in July and going off and having my first adventures as a driver. I still can’t believe that I have been blessed enough to be able to realise this final part of my dream for retirement. I am so lucky.

I have arrived safely back in Spain and have been spending time unpacking my additional craft purchases and catching up with family. We have lots of fun trips planned, starting this week as there are the amazing Easter celebrations here. I hope that you have all had a good week. I will be back soon with more adventures so until then have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Spiritual stitching

One of the things that was so brilliant at Exeter was the level of information given about all of the textiles on display. As well as a dedicated display of ecclesiastical garments in the centre of the cathedral there was information all around the site about the work.

The Company of Tapisers was formed in 1933 and although the individuals are anonymous there was a real sense when visiting of the human hand behind the work.

Some of the interpretation was very poignant as with this beautiful banner piece of the Virgin Mary.

This was a stunning and very unusual piece, seating along the length of the chapel telling the history of Exeter.

Everywhere there was so much lovely work, from kneelers to altar frontals. It really enhanced the experience for me to be able to read the additional information and I gave my thanks to the staff after the visit.

One thing that I am passionate about is the human story behind textile creation. The novels that I am writing are all based around individual pieces of textiles and the women involved with them. The history of textiles is the history of people, whether it be to celebrate, or simply to keep us warm. It is just so fascinating to me how all of these things are made, and why they are made.

I am so pleased that I have so many friends that share my passion for textiles, and that Ellen is so keen. She has made some stunning things recently, one being a very lovely crochet cushion cover that I am keen to learn how to make as I think it would look great in my new van.

I went to her crochet group last night and that was lovely. She is helping to run workshops with a friend of hers, Vic, who is a very talented creator so are you are in the Nottinghamshire area I can thoroughly recommend Made by Torty B. Her workshops can be found here and are great for beginners or more experienced crafters.

It will have to have a very good sort out of all of my new craft space soon as the machine will have to be found a new home and there might just have been a few purchases made while I have been in the UK. Some storage shopping is on the cards I think!

I hope that you are all enjoying life. I am so looking forward to the next few months of beautiful spring and summer weather. I have promised myself that there will be a new outfit for Whitby and a new dress for Tewksbury so need to get organised and fit all that in.

Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting and commenting, it is always lovely to meet my readers!