A very productive weekend!

I have finished my hat! I am very pleased as I am not a fast knitter and had not expected to finish but I just have and am sitting wearing it as I type (sad I know but it is lovely). 

I sometimes struggle to find hats that suit me having very curly hair (naturally so which I know I am very lucky to have) and have avoided hat wearing generally. But it has been so cold recently that I have decided I really need one and it is now ready for the predicted snow this week. 

We have had a very lovely weekend – Ellie arrived home from Uni on Friday – she is staying for 10 days until her term starts again. We have made lots of soup (same recipes as last weekend) and done some baking and I have knitted lots! 

On Sat we made Nigella’s recipe for Yule Log again from her Christmas book – we did this at Xmas and it was lovely but a bit rich so this time we just made it into a Swiss Roll with pink buttercream (courtesy of Ellie) and a batch of fairy buns which we decorated with some left over Winnie the Pooh sugar motifs that I had in the cupboard. I love making this recipe – used to do it all the time as a teenager when we called it the ‘fatless whisked sponge’. It is quite good for you, only having eggs and sugar in it with no flour or fat so quite healthy (without Nigella’s frosting!) 

Cake 1
Swiss Roll and cup cakes

I started the hat at knitting on Friday. I used Noro wool to match my scarf and used the Seed (Moss) Stitch Beret pattern from a book already in my library – The Knitter’s Bible-Knitted Accessories by Claire Crompton. As you know I love Moss stitch and this looked like the right sort of slouchy beret to suit me. 

seed beret 1
The pattern illustration
seed beret 2
My progress by this morning

And it is now complete – forgive the quality of these pics – I have taken them in the hall and the light is not good – will have to get some daylight pics. A la Crazy Aunt Purl  have used the tried and tested technique of photographing yourself in a mirror while wearing said item …… 

seed beret 3
Me with beret ..... and camera

I really like the way that the Noro wool has striped – it looks even better on a circular pattern than on a scarf. It was a very, very easy pattern to knit with the decreasing very easy to do – and fast. 

seed beret 4
Another shot to show the stripes

I rather like this pic as well – despite the fuzziness – it looks like I am in Paris in a very old movie – maybe a romance or one of those old wartime movies where I am part of the resistance! 

These thoughts have obviously been inspired by the fact that my knitting last night was accompanied by no less than 6 episodes (back to back courtesy of the Yesterday Channel) of Wartime Kitchen and Garden – fabulous stuff – Ruth Mott was boiling pig’s heads and canning tomatoes like there was no tomorrow. A perfect way to spend a Saturday night! 

I do hope you have had a lovely weekend – thanks for visiting.

Blogaversary and giveaway – my 100th post (contains textiles – what a surprise – and cake!)

Well here it is at last my 100th post complete with giveaway. Please do leave a comment if you visit and I will put all comments into a draw to be picked on Monday 2nd Nov. Please let me know in your comment if you would like a stitchy gift or a non-stitchy gift.

I started this blog about two years ago and in that time have met (virtually)some lovely people through blogging and my recent foray into exchanging through blogs. I find fantastic inspiration from reading all the blogs I visit and am constantly finding new ones (note to self – must add more to Blog Roll) to enjoy. So thank you to the wonderful blogging community for all the happy hours I have spent reading your work. Special thanks to the people who have added me to their blog rolls as I know I get lots of visitors that way.

The first post I ever put contained my Xmas ornaments so I thought it was fitting that I start off with a pic of one of this season’s batch.I have still got a huge stash of lovely stuff from when I first started making these to fund raise to go to Nepal so am making them again to raise money for the project.

Addicted to buying Xmas fabric - who me ?
Addicted to buying Xmas fabric - who me ?

This was my dining room table yesterday – I just love getting out all the fabric and beads, braids and cute charms and just going for it.

The first bauble of the 2009 season
The first bauble of the 2009 season

I particularly love the little brass charms which I pin to the sides of the baubles – I get mine from Stitch Direct  by mail order. If you are interested in details of where to buy the book that shows you how to make them then this web site is where to go. Springwood House Designs is run by the very talented Sue Schofield and the book ‘Decorations to Dazzle’ contains patterns for far more complex and wonderful designs than I can manage at present!

Am doing very well with Xmas crafting for presents but sadly cannot post pics here – unless I create a page marked ‘family do not look’ ! However have been doing a few other bits in between gifts.

I also made a card for a friend’s birthday. This is a pattern from an old copy of New Stitches magazine (which is available from Stitch Direct site above).

Blackwork flower card
Blackwork flower card

I have also been venturing into unknown territory with my Creative Textiles class and trying machine embroidery! I use the machine for costume making though was always a bit unsure what to do but was experimenting the other week with my transfer painted flower and is has turned out rather nicely.

The appliqued flower with machined detail
The appliqued flower with machined detail

I now plan to sew the organza petals over the top and hand stitch and bead onto them.

The organza petals pinned in place
The organza petals pinned in place

Also finished quilting the fish we did by transfer printing on the first week. I have been doing some wholecloth quilting for one of my WIP gifts and am really enjoying it.

Am also rediscovering my inner domestic goddess and baking. Partly inspired by watching Economy Gastronomy on BBC which reminded me how much I really love cooking.

I did an O and A level in it but many years of providing family meals (and trying to remember who wouldn’t eat which food!) kind of dampened my enthusiasm. However it was one of the things I was always determined to do again when I had a bit more time. So here are two of my recent bakes.

My very fisrt banana bread!
My very first banana bread!
Good old gingerbread - everyone eats this!
Good old gingerbread - everyone eats this!

Am off now to make more baubles – happy crafting everyone!

Knit, Natter and Bake

Yesterday I went to my first Knit and Natter session at the new wool and bead shop that has opened down the road. Have wanted to go to one of these for years having read Crazy Aunt Pearl’s tales about Stitch and Bitch which is the US version.

Had a very lovely time – there were about 12 people there which I was not expecting – the wool shop is also a tea shop which is very nice so had two cups of latte while I made a start on a simple Noro yarn scarf.

Scarf using Noro Silk Garden Number 84
Scarf using Noro Silk Garden Number 84
I am planning on making most of my Xmas presents plus the usual ornaments as cards so have a very busy 3 months ahead!
It is our Embroiderer’s Guild exhibition this Sat so I am hot footing it from work tomorrow afternoon to take all my goodies to display. They are having a cake sale as well so we have all been asked to contribute for that and in the absence of my lovely baking daughter Ellie have had to make my own muffins!
Double choc and choc chip - yum yum!
Double choc and choc chip - yum yum!
They did not turn out too badly though only the back four and middle two on the left have got the classic cracked muffin top. The rest have all gone a bit sideways for some reason! Never mind I am sure they will taste nice.
Am going up to the exhibition on Sat after work so will take some pics then and hopefully post them on Sun.
Ellie is having a great time at Uni – she has settled in very well to her hall and has made lots of new friends. This week has been Freshers’ Week so mainly induction and partying – all the serious stuff starts next week!

Happy Mother’s Day – baking, beautiful stitching and a major life change!

I hope that you have had a happy day if you have been celebrating. I have had a very good day for lots of reasons.

First of all I got some lovely presents – my daughter had bought me some lovely presents as you can see from the pic below.

Mother’s Day presents

The candles are because I love having candles around the house – not that I light all of them as some are too pretty to burn and the Mrs Beeton cookery books are a very special present which I will say more about later.

I then decided to clean out the cellar – having promised myself a day of just embroidery and relaxing but I was in the mood to declutter and in the process of that we found a lost key and a lost phone so it was very useful. Next weekend it is the turn of the garage which we have some mice in. We have known for a while that we have mice as I was keeping the bird seed in there and it was getting eaten.

We found the nest today but as we were removing the box it was in two of them jumped out so are still somewhere in the garage. Not that I really mind them being there – I felt a bit sorry for them as they had made the sweetest little nest out of old magazines and bubble wrap but we have all of our tents stored in the garage including the expensive medieval ones and all the tapestries and hangings that go in the tent so we don’t really want them nesting in that. We have bought a (humane) trap but they have not been interested.

Ellie and I spent the rest of the day baking as she is having a bake sale at her college on Tuesday to raise funds for her Kosovo project. She is going to Kosovo in July with some other young people from her college to run a summer school for war orphans and they aim to raise about £3,000 through  various activities. One brave volunteer, Will, had his legs waxed last week and they raised about £90 from that. They are also selling books and Ellie has made some handmade cards to sell. Below is a pic of some of the cakes with the Mother’s Day card she made me and a pic of Ellie hard at work icing gingerbread.

CakesEllie icing

I have also finished my charity knitting and I am really pleased with the results – it is the first garment I have knitted for years and I did not have problems with any of the shaping or the neck.

Feed the children jumper

I have also recently acquired two rather wonderful pieces of antique embroidery from E-bay. I have bought a few things before but decided that I wanted to start collecting some things that I could display when I start trading at re-enactment events as a historical embroiderer. I am intending to do this in the not too distant future so have bought the items below.

Crewelwork pictureBed hanging

The crewelwork picture of the Tree of Life is absolutely gorgeous and was quite expensive but is really a museum quality piece – it is just as good as the things I saw on display in my recent visit to Gawthorpe Hall. I really had to battle to win the auction – was even checking bids while we were at the hotel in London! It is now hanging in the hall.

The other piece is not in very good condition but it was cheap and I had to rescue it as it is so sad when things that someone has taken so much time over get left to rot. It has some big holes in the top and smelt of mothballs but basically the rest of it is ok. I’m not sure if it is crewelwork but it is wool stitching on linen in various autumnal colours so I suppose that is the best category for it. I plan to take off the side pieces and remove the damaged area and put new backing on it so that I can use it as a table covering for my one of my display stalls in my trading tent.

Now back to the presents from my daughter which I said were very significant. As well as decluttering the cellar and various cupboards over the last few weeks I have also been sorting out some major re-arrangements of my life. I have been in my current job for the last six years – I work full time as a teacher trainer and anyone who teaches knows that full time really means all the hours God sends and overtime when it gets really busy!

I really enjoy my job but I have to work late till 8 or 9pm two or three evenings a week teaching and meanwhile that leaves me out at work all the time, stressed and tired when I am at home and the poor kids having to fend for themselves a lot of the time. Since they are only going to be around for a few more years (Ellie will be off to Uni in Sept 09) I felt very sad that I was not here especially as she is doing A levels at the moment and Jake starts his GCSEs in Sept.

I have worked full -time since Jake started school and have taught evenings for the last 16 years and like lots of women who are trying to build up their careers I have often had to miss things that they are doing at school as I have been at work. I have had fantastic child minders and my Mum lived down the road for four years till she moved to Spain but there comes a time when there is no substitute for parental support – after all proof reading Classics’ essays and helping with all the ‘what am I going to do with the rest of my life’ questions are not something that you can ask other people to do with your kids.

My job was not going to get any easier and I felt that I was really missing out on ‘quality of life’. I have seen other people at work get ill through being stressed and was always determined that it was not going to happen to me. So I have taken the momentous step of downsizing to a half time post from Sept this year!

Actually once I had made the decision it all seemed to be so clear and I have now had official confirmation from work that it is happening. I hope that everything will be ok for my colleagues as I feel very guilty that I have left half of my teaching and someone will have to be found to do that but I feel very much more relaxed already and very positive about the decision.

Which is where the books come in – I have been saying to Ellie for the last year or so about my desire to do more gardening , bake bread and devote more time to the craft and household activities so bless her she bought me the two Mrs Beeton books for when I go half time. I am really looking forward to being in the house more – I have a really lovely house and garden that I have seemed to be hardly ever in and we have done nothing at the weekends for months (apart from Project Nepal) as I have either been too tired or have been cleaning! So I am really looking forward to my new life in September. I plan to take my City and Guilds embroidery qualifications, as one of the things I would love to do when I retire is to teach embroidery and after Xmas plan to join a local Creative Textiles class at an Adult Education Centre.

I put it down partly down to my age (Ellie is convinced I am having a mid life crisis) and to reading all those lovely blogs from people who are at home and doing things but also that in the last few months we have lost two people from the medieval group – both sudden and very tragic losses and it really does make you put everything in perspective. One was a friend’s daughter, which really made me think about how little time you might have with your family, and the other a friend nearing retirement age who did the same job as me. It made me realise that I did not want to put off having quality time until a few years from now and that money is fine but does not buy you extra time which is what I have been sadly lacking.

So yesterday I went and bought  new baking equipment much to everyone’s amusement ( ‘what is wrong with re-discovering your inner domestic goddess I asked him?’) including a loaf tin for bread making and today I decluttered and baked. Yesterday glamorous, exciting and totally knackering career,  tomorrow (well 1st Sept really)  hello the new me!