Out to the west

Our first three days in the Outer Hebrides were spent on Harris and Lewis. We stayed at a very quirky site on Harris which I will devote a separate post to as there was so much to show you.

The area of Harris we stayed in reminded me a lot of trips to Sweden, similar rocky archipelagos and everywhere small lochs full of water lillies.

The first afternoon after the ferry crossing we drove to see the amazing beaches of South Harris. Even though I have seen them on other travel vlogs you cannot believe that the sea and sand are really that colour until you see them. They are so beautiful.

Our first full day was spent driving up to the top of Lewis, this island is very different as it is so flat, compared to Harris. We drove to the windiest place in the UK, I can confirm it lives up to its reputation!

The views of the Atlantic were amazing and it was even more exciting as we saw some seals playing on one of the rocks in the cove.

We also visited the Callanish standing stones, three Neolithic stone circles on Harris. There is lots of archaeological evidence of settlement on the islands including a reproduction of an Iron Age house near one of the beaches.

Day 2 was a trip to the little island of Scalpay, over the bridge between Harris and the island and a walk out to Eilean Glas lighthouse, we were so lucky with the weather the whole time we were there. I couldn’t believe the sky was so blue.

We also went out to one of the most remote beaches, Husinis, in search of otters. It was literally a roller coaster ride along the narrowest and bumpiest roads that I have ever seen.It was certainly an experience getting there!

I am not sure if we did see otters, they are very elusive but there may have been something in this bay.

The islands are unique and feel very different from each other. The light there is amazing and the colours seem so bright. This was even more so when we got to the next islands, another ferry ride away. I will tell you more about that in my next post.

I have been reading some biographies about island life, like much of Scotland land ownership has been an issue for many years with clearances by land owners that led to crofters losing their homes. It was significant that there are very few of the older houses left on the island and many people were forced to emigrate to USA and Canada.

Nowadays most of the area is owned by the community and there are various community businesses, such as the lovely cafe we stopped at for lunch in North Lewis.There was also a small museum and gallery where I was able to see one of the looms that made the famous Harris tweed.

I didn’t find many places that were doing weaving but did manage to buy this beautiful little purse which will remind me of all the colours of this island.

I will tell you more about island life in the next post. We are now back in England, after a very long 6 hour drive. I then drove back North through my first appalling weather to meet up with Ellen for more Steampunk fun in Lincoln. We were very pleased as this event has not been held since 2019 and a great time was had by all.

I hope that you have had a good weekend, especially if you are in the UK where it is a Bank Holiday. We are planning a quiet Monday sewing and watching movies.

Hope you all have fun anyway, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Over the sea to Skye

Many of you will know the song that has this line in, I have always loved it, even before it became the Outlander theme tune.

We did not go by boat but after many beautiful roads winding past loch after loch arrived at Fort William.

We had not booked anywhere to camp in Fort William as we were planning to use some of the apps to find a parking location but it was quite late by the time we arrived so ended up, with many other campervans in Lidl car park! Not the most glamorous of locations but it was much appreciated.

We did make a stop off to see the famous Eilean Donan Castle which is in such an amazing setting.

We took the road bridge over to Skye, it was very cloudy so no good pictures but the weather was glorious for the drive around the south peninsula that afternoon. We had a very good view of the Cullin Hills and the stunning coastline.

Our full day saw me able to tick off many of the things on my list that I have wanted to do for so long. We climbed up to the Old Man of Storr, a very steep and hot trek but so worth it for the views of the clouds over the lochs.

The Quiraing rock formations were equally stunning, even if the road up there was a bit of a challenge. Jacky has excellent driving skills and she has needed them on all these tiny single track uphill roads.

We didn’t far into the fairy pools sadly as the midges came out early that evening. We have been lucky and not had much issues with them and have been able to BBQ and eat outside some evenings.

The campsite was lovely, with gorgeous views of the hills and amazing cloud formations. We stayed at Camping Skye, a not for profit site run by the community. We have used as many community services as we can here, such as the excellent little cafe and craft venues.

We left Skye for Lewis and Harris on a mid morning ferry. The Outer Hebrides have been just as amazing as we thought they would be and I am so pleased to be here after so many years of watching my favourite You Tube travellers come here.

More from the outer islands next time, hope you are having a great time whatever you are doing. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Messing about on the water

I am writing this blog post from the shores of Loch Lomond on the most beautiful sunny day. It is still about 24 degrees even though it is 4.30pm so most of today has been water related fun. It is the most amazing location.

In fact most of the last week has involved water related activities as it has been gorgeous sunny weather. We left Blackpool on Monday morning and headed to the Lake District. We were camped at one of the most stunning sites I have ever been to, Castlerigg Farm, just outside Keswick.

The site is on a hill and so has 360 degree views over Derwentwater and all the surrounding hills such as Siddaw and Catbells. It was so amazing and the photos do not do it justice at all.

We arrived mid afternoon in time for a little walk down to the lake, we got a little lost and the 25 minutes turned into 45 but it was lovely once we got there and we had a little paddle. It was a very steep climb back up but well worth it for the views.

The following day we decided to have a quiet trip out on the lake on a little cruise and stopped off at the other end of the lake to visit a waterfall.

The scenery is just incredible, I could stare at the hills all day. I think Derwentwater is one of my favourite of the lakes as it is so dramatic.

It was a hot journey up to the site in Loch Lomond but so worth it, we are pitched right opposite the lake so we have these amazing views. We are at the Milarrochy Bay campsite another Camping and Caravan Club one.

I told you that Jacky has altered the van. She has removed the fixed bed and replaced it with bench seats that create a bed. It really opens up the van and gives a lot more space for two people, and for being inside to eat.

So far the weather has been really good and we are going to have our fourth BBQ in a row tonight, but it will be a great layout if the weather is not so good once we get to the islands.

Jacky went out this morning for a paddleboard lesson. I stayed and did some stitching on account of my very dodgy joints but she had a great time and didn’t fall in. This afternoon we have been swimming in the Loch, we also had a large rubber ring to play with.

We set off tomorrow with a stopover at Fort William so should be in Skye on Saturday which will be very exciting. I am so looking forward to finally seeing the places that I have only seen on other people’s travel vlogs.

Thank you so much for all of the comments and the likes on my posts. I will be back with more stunning scenery as soon as I can. In the meantime have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Loving my van life

I have now been on the road for a month, through the thankfully short heatwave of 38 degrees, and back to my old normal of 16 degrees and raining in the Peak District, and I am absolutely loving it.

I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to be driving in Katy, especially on roads that I have previously been driven on by other people. It is now just me and my little van going places!

I had been staying at campsites in the Upper Peak District and in Shropshire for 8 days before meeting up with my sister, and have had some amazing walks.

The Peak District is somewhere that holds many wonderful memories for me, especially of my time living in Marsden. The first campsite at Crowden was only 12 miles from my old house.

The layout of the van is working well, I have had the camping kitchen mainly inside the van for all of these last two camps due to the inclement weather. I have used bungee cords to attach it to the sides of the van for travelling. I do take all the rattly kitchen stuff out before driving though.

The chair bed is folded up during the day so I have a cosy reading nook. I have also sat there in the evenings with the back doors open watching You Tube van life videos on my tablet while watching amazing sunsets and stitching. This really is living my dream and I am so happy.

The second site I stayed at just outside Leek was near some fantastic rock formations known as The Roaches, so Katy and I had a little adventure out there one day and I climbed all the way to the top.

I also had a walk around the local reservoir in a beautiful pine forest.

On my last day there I drove back over the moors to Buxton for an enjoyable afternoon looking at the park and spa buildings which put Buxton on the map in the late 1800s. It is a very pretty place and well worth a visit.

One of the old buildings for taking the waters has been turned into an arcade and there is a small exhibition about the spa in its heyday. You can still see the original tiles and all the treatment rooms which have been turned into little shops.

Jacky and I have been having an excellent time here at Rebellion. Although most of the bands we have seen have been on the outdoor stage, some have been inside the beautiful Winter Gardens, which has some stunning architecture. We spent yesterday afternoon in the Spanish Room which has a stunning panoramic frieze below the ceiling.

We are off on our great adventure to Scotland tomorrow in her campervan, Eva. She has changed the layout again so I will get some photos of that for you as well as it look very different. I will post some of our travels as and when Internet allows!

Whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and as always thanks for visiting.

Back to the future

The Steampunk weekend at Whitby was the third time that we have been, the first was during 2020 when, although when we went there were no actual events on due to the pandemic. We had non refundable accommodation booked so went anyway, and had a lovely time, albeit socially distanced and wearing masks!

It is brilliant to be able to go to events now and to chat to people about the future in more confidence and we are looking forward to Lincoln as well in August. Although there did not seem to be as many people there as last year there were still lots of gorgeous outfits.

The new hat had its debut and I am very pleased with it, partly as it stayed put during our windy walks on the seafront. I also wore several of my older ones. I do need to remake the jacket for the cream outfit though as although I love the braid I am not as happy with the fit of it.

Whitby was beautiful as always and we had a lovely weekend just visiting all our favourite places, going on a boat trip and having a good rummage through all of the charity shops. I bought lots of books as I now have space to carry them. Much as I love my Kindle it uses a lot of power and as I am on non electric pitches when camping have to ration what I use.

We met up with one of my favourite hat makers, I have forgotten her name but we first met her at the Clumber 1940s event and she told us she had about 40 hats and there were two new ones put this weekend. I am keen to make more hats for myself, if my lovely daughter will allow me more storage space in her house as all the Steampunk and re-enactment kit lives with her now.

We will not be at Whitby next summer as there is another festival that I want to go to that weekend, a van life one which will be very exciting. I am so thrilled to be able to do all this and will post more about my adventures in my van next time. We did see a very cool Steampunk camper at Whitby which was very well done.

My sister and I are currently having a brilliant time reliving our youth at the Rebellion punk festival in Blackpool. Last night we saw The Stranglers which was amazing. Tonight it will be various delights such as Gary Numan, who I was very much in love with as a teenager.

I hope you are all enjoying your weekend and having a good time doing something fun or relaxing. Whatever it is have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Millions of needles …

As a keen seamstress I do have my fair share of needles for all purposes but have never really thought much about where they come from. At the Clent Hills camp site there was a brochure for the National Needle Museum in Redditch, just a short drive away, so I thought I would stop off and visit.

The museum was fascinating, it is housed in the original needle factory, dating from the late 1700s when the processes were driven by water. Redditch produced millions of needles, about 90% of the world’s production, and they were exported worldwide.

This meant that there were gorgeous displays made for national and international exhibitions. The companies also made surgical needles and fishing hooks.

There were also some great examples of how needles were used, from the textile group display of current craft on the first floor to examples of vintage craft.

It was fascinating to see the displays of needle packaging and needle cases over time.

If you are in the area it is well worth a visit. We are now back from Whitby where we had a lovely time as always and met some new people. I have bought lots of fab new jewellery for my latest outfits so will put together a post about the event when I can next access good internet.

I am about to leave Ellen’s now and go to my beloved Peak District for a few days. Normal UK weather has been resumed and it is forecast to be around 17 degrees and showers for the rest of the week!

Hope that you have a good week ahead, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Away from the motorway madness

Hello from sunny, indeed this week, very sunny England! You may know that we have been experiencing a heatwave, with temperatures of up to 40 degrees. Of course that is just a normal Tuesday in July in Spain but is a bit hot for here where it is usually only around 24.

And I have been in a tent, which has been a little warm at times. Of course I was supposed to be sleeping in Katy the campervan but as it has been so hot have been using her as a day van and using the tent at night. I spent a few days at Jacky’s sorting her out before setting off on my adventures. This photo shows how she looks in full indoor evening mode.

I chose to stay at two campsites near a couple of motorways that I have travelled down many times before, without really thinking of what was either side of the road. We were always in a hurry to get somewhere, to an event, or visiting family. As I wanted a little bit of practise at motorway driving it was a good opportunity to just go an hour away and explore.

The first campsite was in the Clent Hills, just off the M5, within sight of Birmingham, one of the UK’s largest cities. It was a beautiful site and Katy was soon happily settled in, amongst the larger motorhomes and caravans. I used my brilliant camping kitchen outdoors and it all worked very well.

The site was created in honour of the founder of the Caravan and Camping Club, then called the Cycle Camping Club and there was an informative display about the site. I am so glad people fought for access to beautiful places to stay. I went on three lovely walks in the area, including up to the viewpoint at Four Stones where there were great views over Worcestershire.

The second site was an hour further North, the other side of Birmingham. The place is called Kingsbury Water Park and they are a series of old gravel pits that have been turned into water sports areas and a nature reserve. I stopped off on the way at the National Needle Museum in Redditch which will have a post of its own as it was fascinating.

This campsite was a lovely place to spend the very hot days, sitting in the shade by the ponds reading a book while watching the geese, swans and moorhens. The M42 motorway runs right through the middle of the area so I have passed it many times not realising anything so lovely was there. I managed to be very creative with getting shade thanks to using a throw and my magnetic hooks!

While there I finished the third of the cute little caravan embroideries that I started in lockdown in March 2020. They look very good along with the bunting that I made in Spain. The crocheted rainbow was a present from Ellen.

I then made my way to Ellen’s, going on the third motorway of the trip, the M1. I am very pleased that I have been able to be confident driving, it has been 3 months since I passed my test in which I have not driven at all. I have so enjoyed all the exploring in Katy, it really is a dream come true. We are now in Whitby for the Steampunk event so are going to have a splendid time involving many hats!

I hope that you have all been having a good time, my next campsite is in the Peak District and then I will be heading South to Staffordshire on the way back to Jacky’s. Whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Another retirement project

Although I said the last one would be my final post from Spain I managed to find some time to achieve another one of my targets for this stay. It is nice to have targets, personal ones though, not the sort that other people set that are to do with pressure on you.

One of my long held wishes for my retirement has been to do some designing of embroidery and goldwork patterns. I don’t really consider myself a very creative person. I do make things, and I love choosing fabrics and embellishments. Although I think that I have a a good sense of what goes together, I only work with other people’s patterns so I want to develop my design skills as well.

I set myself the target of designing one piece from the many wonderful things that we saw at the Alhambra. I narrowed it down to three pieces in that post and choose this one below to develop into a design.

It is only a very small design, measuring 24 stitches across so it shouldn’t take me too long to stitch. I have very much enjoyed the design process. Although it is quite a simple design it took me about two hours to do, testing out various ways of reproducing the patterns in blackwork.

Notice I have been using my lovely Alhambra design rubber during the process here!

I have had to make quite a few compromises, as blackwork is all straight lines. I did initially try to work out something for the outside edges of the plasterwork, however it ended up looking at bit too messy. I felt it took away from the symmetry of the centre of the plasterwork as well.

The final design will include some filling stitches and some seed beads, denoted by the small circles on the buds.

I used one of my blackwork books for inspiration on design and filling stitches.

It contains a very useful library of filling stitches to choose from.

The design process was helped by using this free gift from a couple of years ago which was very helpful for structuring the motif.

I will be leaving this until I come back to Spain, I am packing some things to take on this year’s UK tour but they will mainly be cross stitch ornaments, got to get ahead with those for this year. I am planning to stitch it on some sparkly Aida from stash.

I am also going to set myself another target for designing for my next stay here in autumn. I am thinking of some goldwork based on the amazing chapel at the Ducal Palace in Gandia or the gate in Exeter cathedral. My inspiration will come from one of these photos.

I am not planning to do the angels in this photo but love the design framing it and am thinking maybe on blue silk with tiny beads for the stars.

I would not attempt the whole of this but maybe just the little motif below would be good to do.

So this really will be my last post from Spain, see you all when I get back across the border! Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Where did you get that hat, where did you get that hat?

I now have a lot of Steampunk hats and decorations for them but this is the first one that I have made from scratch. I was taught how to make medieval headwear by the very talented Kat a long time ago so I have used the same techniques here.

I was aiming for a small pill box type hat so first cut out buckram stiffening then lined it with wadding before sewing the outer fabric on. The lid was also lined with felt to give it an edge to help sew it into the top of the hat.

The blue embellishment was made in the same way with stiffening and wadding and then sewn to the hat. The ostrich feathers came from Ebay, they are just tucked in at the moment but will be pinned in when I wear it.

The lace came from stash, I think it is some my Mum may have bought here in Spain and I have embellished it with seed beads. The hat has been sewn to a headband covered in lace so I can easily wear it without pins.

I have blogged about the outfit pattern before but realised I had not specified which one it is. The pattern is Butterick B6305 and is part of their history collection, dated 1870-1880.

I have modified it a lot, as you can see the original pattern has a very fitted front with a bow at the back and an apron front. I am not very good at making fitted items, I blame my generous bust 😉

As I was quite short of time have opted to leave the front as fold over reveres, embellished with some lovely lace that I think I bought from a Steampunk market. I have a cameo brooch to keep it closed.

I just made my own pattern for the cuffs as the ones on the original pattern are very complex but I think they look pretty and showcase the blue fabric really well.

As it is a looser jacket it did not look right with either apron or bustle so I have just made a little drawstring bag in blue to complement the outfit. I still have a complete jacket minus sleeves cut and sewn, as I was going to use the same material to line it.

I also still have the front jacket facings in blue and additional material so may come back and make a more fitted blue and cream one when I have more time. Saying that I don’t have any time do I, even now I am retired and I still have two more lots of material to make outfits with that I haven’t even started, but you never know!

The skirt is very simple but I am pleased with the neat pleats and darts. I had to cut the skirt much narrower than in the pattern, the material is very stiff and so it would not drape with that amount of width.

The material is beautiful, but as it is very stiff I have had to hand finish most of the jacket seams so that they won’t rub but it should be fine to wear now. I do so love the fabric, and am so pleased that it has finally been used after a mere 16 years in stash! It will be lovely to have a new outfit for Whitby.

I have also finished some little felt and Liberty flowers that I am intending to add to my purple top hat for decoration for Steampunk and re-enactment events. I like to wear a top hat in the evenings when we go to the beer tent.

The templates for the flowers are free ones from here and I used the same ones when I was making my 1940s felt flower corsages.

I backed the Liberty with iron on interfacing so that I could use the flowers raw edged.

I am looking forward to some lovely celebrations here this week as it is my 60th birthday 🙂 We are going for afternoon tea on the actual day, one of the bars here does a gorgeous afternoon tea and they even do a really lovely gluten free one! We tested it out a couple of weeks ago with my sewing group and it was delicious.

shall miss Spain but my 90 days are nearly up so until I return will be thinking about the epic sunsets like this one the other evening.

The sky was an amazing colour and I was out for quite a while taking pictures. We haven’t had one like that for a while but they are always amazing in autumn.

I will be having an epic adventure in Katy though, so won’t be too sad. I will be back as soon as I can from the road via the miracles of the WordPress app, with hopefully some great pictures from our re-enactment events. Fingers and everything else crossed!

Have fun until I see you all again, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

The campervan cushions…at last!

I know that I have been promising you pictures of the cushions for the last couple of months and I finally finished the last one yesterday. I have been having a quiet weekend sorting things out and finishing up all my projects so I can finally share them. I thought it would be useful to do a little tutorial as well for the VW van. There are lots of pictures of these cushions available but I couldn’t find a ‘how to tutorial’, so thought I would share one here.

I drew my own template using the pictures I found for inspiration. My cushion cover is 14 by 14 inches so my backing fabric started at 16 by 16 then I trimmed it down. I drew the whole van and then used tracing paper for each individual part of the van. Then comes the fun part of choosing all of the fabrics!

I chose to use double sided interfacing to stick down the pieces onto the backing fabric. You could just sew them straight on but as I wanted to machine zig zag round the edges of some pieces and hand stitch on others it makes it more stable.

I did the ziz zags first, then the hand stitching and embellishments. The hand embroidery is all chain stitch. I have used a lot of different things from stash for these cushions, the cute little flowers come from the haberdashers here and I have them in different sizes and colours. The other laces and ric rac I have just picked up over the years, some of it is from The Range in the UK which always has great lace.

Once it is embellished it is time to make the back of the cushion. I always make envelope backs as they are the easiest method. The backing fabric is from Rose and Hubble, they have now stopped making it but you can still find plenty on Ebay. It comes in about 6 colours.

You need to cut the piece longer then the cushion by about 6 inches the give a generous overlap. I then seam both edges and then stitch the overlap together before stitching back and front of the cushion together. All cushion backs were made the same way.

For the second cushion I used some hexagons that I had in stash and just sewed them very carefully on to the backing fabric. This fabric was actually a cushion cover bought in the local Merca China homewares store. It seems a little illogical to buy a cushion cover then cut it up but it was the easiest and cheapest way of getting fabric.

The final cushion was a caravan pattern. This ended up being only a 12 by 12 inch one as I melted a bit of the fabric as the iron was too hot.. oops!

I have made smaller versions of a similar one from a free pattern by Flamingo Toes as embroidered hangings but this was a free pattern for a pot holder from Sewing4free. I combined elements of the two designs they had, and used the same tracing paper and applique technique as before. The only difference was the machine zig zag was done as the final step before making up the cushion.

I am so pleased with them and can’t wait to sort out the van when I get back. I also have bunting and fairly lights and a pretty throw that will double up as an awning/sunshade over the back doors. I have been looking at drive away awnings but they are really expensive and as I will have my tent with me for this year am going to wait and think about whether I really need one.

I will be back soon with a post about the new Steampunk outfit, am very pleased that everything is finished and I still have a week to go! Felling very organised 😉

I hope that you are having a nice weekend, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.