Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Harvest, cooking more than sewing!

It is autumn again, and the damsons have been long disposed of- into damson pickles... I made some in 2014, and then, as you do, I forgot about them. Then, this summer I came across them, when I had friends staying for the weekend.
With four years to mature, oh, wow! but they were good. 
So, almost all my damsons that had not been made into jam, went into pickle... If you never made damson pickles, and you have a glut of damsons...

Wash and prick your damsons. A kilo or so... believe me, you cannot have too many pickled damsons!

prepare some sweet spiced vinegar, Why does cider vinegar come in such small bottles?

Ok, 2 bottles of cider vinegar. Do not be over fussy, you could use wine vinegar, and if all else fails use distilled malt vinegar.  These go into your saucepan.

Add around a pound and a half of sugar. Yes, I used common or garden white, but I think brown would add a depth of flavour.
Add some spices.
Maybe, cinnamon , cardamom, star anise,allspice, what is in your cupboard that you love?

and the zest and juice of an orange or a lemon.

Bring that lot to the boil. You can be pricking those damsons while you are bringing that up to boil. Boil it for 5 minutes or so. , and allow to cool a little.
Add the damsons now, and bring back to the boil.

Let them simmer gently for a little to ensure they are tender, and then pack the damsons into sterilised jars, use a slotted spoon, to drain most of the vinegar off.
Now bring that vinegar back to the boil, and boil quite hard to reduce the liquid.
Pour this over your damsons and seal those jars.

Hide them for about 4 years and then they will be glorious!

No, seriously, let them mature for about a month, or two,.

I was told they are good with cheese and cold meats. They are also gorgeous with two or three dropped into greek yogurt, with a drizzle of that vinegar liquor.... ahhhh. Good stuff!

So this year my little pear tree also decided to produce a crop! I got two whole kilos of pears!

So I have also made pear pickles. An adaptation of Delia's recipe...

 11 little jars of pear pickles...

And there is the left over sweet spiced vinegar, which I cannot bring myself to throw away...

I have come to the conclusion that with just two of us at home now, all children having left the nest, small jars are the way to do it. They are big enough for a good taster, but not so big that the stuff goes off before being eaten once opened.
Also a perfect size for mini gifts!

Sunday, 9 September 2018

belated- yes I went to FoQ this year...

Well, I am sure you have seen the pictures elsewhere, so you will excuse my lack of them sooner. If you are bothered at all.
I did take some pictures of these jackets. Which I was rather beguiled by. Yes, a bit of me covets this, but I could make something like it if I wanted, but when would I wear it?  I am just not sure.

 Here is the back. so much work went into this lovely item. I love it!

And this is striking in it's red and black drama. less wearable somehow than the previous one, but still amazing. 

 I saw many, many quilts. Lots of talent, lots of imagination, almost nothing I felt I wanted to take an image of. But this one, I liked the flow, and the feel of it.

I attended a lecture by Ricky Timms. I was not sure what to expect from it, but he was excellent- a good and entertaining speaker, with some intriguing ideas to bring into play sometime... If you get the chance-go!

I took a class while I was there. Jenny Raiment was doing a twiddle workshop. It was only an hour, but you came away with a 'good start' on a patch suitable for a small cushion cover.

I came home and finished it. Quilted it some, and did a back. I also bought the bits fro a second one while there. Jenny had cut too many, and sold three spares to us, for a very reasonable fee- thanks Jenny. So I got one, and made up the front of that. 
My DD2 came for the weekend, and promptly adopted the first, so I finished the second and it also went off to hers. She has a couple of cushions, supplied with her furnished flatwhich she was not loving the covers of, so these have brightened her life a wee bit. 

The quilting on the back was just me, playing and taking whichever turn I fancied. She likes it, so that is good. I used a variegated thread, which just lifts the whole thing withouit screaming at you.
I need a LOT more practice with piping, but DD2 will excuse my inadequacy there!

Following from that, I started a belated gift, for a friend.
I used Jenny's technique for the corners, and appliqued a heart in the centre.

A simpler approach to the back

I think I got good value from that workshop? 

Wednesday, 8 August 2018


First, may I apologise to anyone who has commented and got no response. Blogger, in their infinite wisdom, have stopped forwarding comments to my email, so I do not always register they are here! I should be able to catch them eventually, unless someone comments on a fairly old post- I do love to know you have been here, and enjoyed ( or hated, even- I do not always love what I have done) some of my projects..

Now to the point of the post!

Some things take their own time. I think the Brazilian Post office comes in to that category.

Last year we did a swap. It was a Winter/Christmas swap. I drew they loveliest of ladies for whom to make. Sil, who lives in Brazil. The last day for posting was on November, but I knew I had lots of making to get on with, so I got my parcel off early. So my package went in the post towards the start of November.

I had pretty sparkly frosty looking fabric to give the 'chill factor'. and with some blue and crisp white on white, I thought a little scene would appear- Birdies in the snow, a few left over leaves, and we are set.

A wee play with borders,  some careful mitring,  fairly simple quilting, and I had a result. 

sorry about the 'Freds' in the picture... 

I know Sil loves all things Christmas, so I popped in a home made ornament, for her, reckoning 6 weeks in the post? Max, she will have this for her tree... 

And I sat back to wait..... and wait.... and wait!

Eventually I contacted the swap mamas. What should I do? Should I start again, now months later, and send another one? Or should I leave her in the lurch- no swappy quilt on her doorstep? Either option feels unfair, but what could I do? Post office here cannot trace it past our borders, Brazilian post is notorious... 
Mamas said leave it. So, reluctantly I left it. 
Then, this week, a whole 9 months later, News!

The package has arrived! 
Sil's beaming face is all that I could have hoped for, she is such a joy to give to, as she shows all her delight in the offerings . 

So, that is now home, and I think, after 9 months we should call it a baby!

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Wedding fun!

I cannot show all the people in this, as I do not have permission, but I had a ball making these dresses

This is the beautiful grey lace laid out on my bedroom floor being cut. As the fabric is one directional- though would anyone have noticed if I had cut panels upside down? Possibly not, but I would have known- I had to cut each piece on it's own. 
Why my bedroom? Because it has a large floor area, and is carpeted. If I am crawling all over the floor to cut, please have some sympathy for my knees!

The dress has an under layer of pale antiqued pink satin. again has to be cut all in one direction- how come I did not know that before?  I have made stuff up in satin previously, and cursed it as it snags and pulls, but this heavy satin from Watson and Thornton in Shrewsbury was a dream. Is sewed nicely, hung beautifully and was just amazing. The gentleman there was really helpful too. Great stock, and knew what to tell us. I recommend it!

The pattern was a vintage Vogue 2903 and in common with a lot of Vogue patterns was slightly unusual in construction. 

The dress is a princess seamed dress. All very straightforward there, yes, but, there is a yoke under the neckline, and the sleeve is hung from the yoke, and the side panels, without being stitched to the centre panels. So the centre panels are effectively sleeveless, and float free, - and hang beautifully I may say- so the original instruction tells me to construct the dress and form the sleeveless bit before putting on the yoke. 
Having made a toile I decided it would be simpler to make the centre panels and do the shoulder straps before adding the side panels. And it was. Much easier, and gave me a better finish. The other bit I changed, was the facing construction. In the original pattern the front and back facings are each in two pieces, which are then stitched together at center front and back. I looked at it carefully, in case there was a non straight of grain seam there, but it looked to be straight, so, I cut these on the flod instead. This reduced the bulk at the centre necklines, which helped a lot. 

In this image you can see how the shoulder 'strap' sits with the side panel sewn on. 

I had cut the under layer and overlocked to the lace before I started construction. This gave me much more stable fabric to work with, and seemed to be a good move. 

The instructions tell you to tack the pleats in place. I did this by hand- shows just how dedicated I was, hand sewing , even tacking, is not my thing!

As the lace has a very pretty border, we wanted to use that around the hem of the dress.So this border was carefully trimmed off, and stitched on at the end, onto sleeve hems and onto dress hem.

The sleeves have a slightly unequal underarm length, which is gathered to fit on the long side. The end result looks lovely, though I had not met this before. 
As the dress is very heavy I added ribbon loops from the underarms to help hang it up. It also has very wide neckline, and without these the dress wuold have fallen off the hanger in no time. 

This is just before doing the lace trim on the hem, when the lady tried it for a fitting. 

 We then made a 50's style net petticoat to go underneath.

She reported back from the wedding- so many compliments, she was thrilled with the result, and especially that the dress was unique!

So, the other dress?
Was the littlest bridesmaid's dress.

It started over coffee and cake.
The bride could not find the right dress for her youngest bridesmaid. She wanted her to be a 'mini-me'. I am familiar with this, as my daughter requested her youngest bridesmaid be a 'mini me'. In this instance though, the brides dress was quite sophisticated, off the shoulder, and not what you really want a 9 year old in.  However, covered buttons, yes we can do that, collar detail, yes,  and can we tie it in with the adult bridesmaids, who are in a pastel rainbow of colours...

I made a few suggestions, and it was decided the dress should be made.

They found an ivory crepe which matched the bride's dress perfectly, told me what was wanted, gave me measurements, and left me to it!
I found a bodice in one place, invented the skirt, sorted the collar, which was to mirror the brides dress detail, and I was given ribbon to use.
 The ribbons on the waistband are the same colours as each of the bigger lasses, the collar mimics the bride's dress.

and there are little hooks on the back of the bow, with hand whipped eyes on the dress, so they are all but invisible, to support the bow, or it will drop funny.

The bow is invented, and sewn together, so it did not need to be tied, and the ribbon tails left to flow free. I have seen the photos and she looks beautiful!

The skirt is part circular, and sadly the crepe stretched unevenly, despite being left to hang for a bit, It ended up nearly straight... Ah well, you cannot win all the time!

Tip for a bow like this- The sash is 3" wide, but a 3" bow looked wrong. So I made the bow 5" wide. Much better! I graded the ribbon out to the edges to look right.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

and done!

That quilt is now bound, and is ready to land in it's intended destination. I am very happy with how the binding went on.
Any quilt police looking?   no?     well, I overlocked all round the edge before putting the binding on.

As the overlocker's 'bite' is just on 1/4" it gives me a neat finish, to which I can then apply the binding, and as long as my seam allowance is just a tiny tad bigger, the overlocking is hidden, and I have a neat secure edge to work with. 

And here is the back. There is a fun play of reflected sun from my windows on these ones, with the morning sun in my garden. 

I think I can call this one DONE

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Adventures in FMQ

I have admired peoples FMQ for a long time. I have wanted to have that skill, so I could FMQ and feel, well, happy with the end result. But it takes practice. And I do not want to have to practise.

However, I had a little project just for me. So I am not inflicting my substandard work on another unsuspecting body. So, is this not the perfect time to get on with it?

I am going to pop this little fellow in my car- that emergency blanket you are meant to carry? Yes, this will be the one.  So, as it is for me, I could carry out the plan, to FMQ.

I started by doing one line of an old pattern that I like, seemed suitable, and that is adaptable. This first one is not FMQ. It is done using the walking foot and a blend of manipulation, organic line, and stop start while moving stuff around. I have used this leaf and vine pattern a few times, I lay no claim to it, but I always just did it off my own bat, without thinking too hard. That is the left hand vine on the photo above. 

Then, I put on my quilting foot, put my feed dogs down, and went for it with the FMQ version. The first try is that vine on the right in the photo above. 

 And then I did more lots. Some are better in some places than others are in other places. That is what practice is all about, though, isn't it?
Yes, I can pick fault all the way down the line, and there are some bits which would benefit from pulling out and restarting, but, the whole effect seems to me to be acceptable, if not perfect anywhere. I finally feel I have started to FMQ in a very rreal way. I have ended with an item I can be not too ashamed of!

Now, don't you be pulling too many holes in my work, I have very tender feelings just now!

What have I learnt? 

Reduce the pressure on the presser foot, even though you do not see that it should be needed as the quilting foot doesn't really hold the quilt down- It still helps!

Perhaps a broader sweep of pattern would be an easier start. I should have worked up to those fiddly leaves a bit more.

Be content with 'acceptable' do not insist on 'perfect' . 

For the lines across the bottom, which were done after the leaf pattern, I FMQed those too. There I found a better result with 'pedal to the metal' but trying to keep my 'feed' fairly slow and even going through. Still not perfect, but it will do!

I still need to bind it, but shall have to go and buy the fabric for the binding, I just do not quite have enough to do without.  Ho hum. 

Any thoughts, folks? How did you get on with FMQ? Have you tried it? Are you still too wary? 

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Design issues

Confession time. Ok, I bought fabric. I needed a particular type of design for that birdie swap.

But, yes, but. I loved the colours, and the design, so I got rather more of it than I strictly needed. Apart from the fact that they were not exactly going to sell me just three or four motifs, now were they?

And I got some coordinating fabrics too.

And I had an idea for a quilt top using these with some solid alongside.

And then I got to planning.

So, the next thing is to look at how the motif will fit in the item, and to measure the repeat.

This is where it all starts to go pear shaped.

( Interesting reflection from the window there almost looks like a pattern piece... )

The horizontal pattern repeat  is 6". In other words, Quilt-Speak as it were, 5 1/2" finish, maximum. 

Then the vertical repeat is 3 7/8", so that puts us into 3 3/8" finished, maximum.
What on earth can I do with those figures?

Apart from that, either the pattern is not quite printed straight, or the fabric had warped, so it is not quite cut straight. There will be some waste.

So, watch this space, I am working on it! I have some ideas, but.....

Any suggestions out there? Please?

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