Saturday, 26 September 2009

In the mail

On Thursday this package arrived for me from Crocus. Inside are 40 spring bulbs - a mixture of lily-flowered tulips, grape hyacinths, and two types of daffodil.

Last year I introduced a herb garden; this summer our gardening attempts have focused mainly on veggies. Now I have a hankering for more spring flowers. I'm going to plant these in the spaces vacated by the runner beans and cornstalk.

I also have a vision of gooseberry, blackcurrant and raspberry plants along the right hand side of our garden. The fence there is due for replacement, so I'll wait until after that is done before making any soft fruit plant purchases.

On Friday the postman brought this bone china 4-cup teapot. I had a teapot just like this which dh and I bought when we first moved in together. Ten years ago, I dropped it on our quarry-tiled floor and it smashed to pieces. I've kept an eye out in charity shops and the like in the hope of eventually replacing it, but never seen another, so I was charmed to come across it on Ebay last week. The closing price was only 99p.

Thanks for the cross-stitch suggestions. I think a cushion could be a good solution, and I could perhaps make a patchwork border for it in coordinating colours. On my to-do list, so goodness knows when I'll do it!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Lack of progress

I had intended to do some crafting last week. However, very little has actually been achieved, owing to:
  1. a terribly tendency to fritter time away on t'Internet. I like looking at other people's projects; too bad my own crafting productivity has dwindled to zero in September :-(

  2. Having to go to work. Ugh yuck. I wish I had more annual leave. But although I grumble about my job (a lot!), I won't be giving up work without a struggle, as we need the money.

  3. Distracting children and their requirements, which this week included spelling lists, reading books, orthodontics appointments, arguments about hair-dye, blazers, skirt length etc... you get the picture. One of my children is in Year 2, the other is in Year 10, and the age gap takes some accommodating, I can tell you.

I see no-one had any suggestions for my unfinished piece of cross-stitch, and I can't say I'm surprised. I don't think I'll ever start another piece.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Counted Cross Stitch - What is it for?

I blogged previously about my unfinished projects, including this one:

I bought this as a kit a few years ago, tempted by my cousin, who had completed several very pretty cross-stitch designs. Only I found it rather unsatisfactory when I started. It was easy enough, but what is it for? I like my craft output to have function.

I did a bit of it, and then stopped. It sat in my sewing box for the next few years. Picked it up again earlier this year and worked quite a lot of it in the course of a week's sewing machine absence. Still find it unsatisfactory - I'm at a loss to know how I can use this heart sampler when complete, apart from framing it to hang on the wall (no, not really).

Card making? Far too much effort for something so ephemeral. Embellishment? yes, for a tray-cloth (if I were the sort of woman who did pretty trays), but that would mean starting with a bigger piece of Aida. Am I supposed to stitch it on top of something? And if so, what?

If anyone has any good ideas for what I can do with this piece, do let me know.

That way I might be inspired to actually finish it!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Jam today

We have two apple trees in our garden. Although they are allegedly eating apples, we've found them more useful in cooking - once picked, they have a very short bowl-life:

These blackberries came from the local market:

I used the blackberries and a few apples to make jam using this recipe from Lakeland.

I'm lucky to have a traditional jam-pan - another item I inherited from my granny. I love making jam, although I don't do it often. Particularly I like the way the whole house fills up with the smell of simmering fruit, and the way not very much effort (cutting up some fruit, a bit of stirring, testing for set) results in beautiful ruby-coloured jars on the shelf.

The recipe had only five steps:

Soften the apples with a little water:

Stew the blackberries separately:

Pour the blackberry mixture in with the apples, add sugar and heat gently till dissolved:

Bring the mixture to a rolling boil for 25 minutes:

Test for set, and when ready, pour into sterilised jars. I sterilise my Le Parfait jars by heating them in the oven for 15 minutes, and scalding the seals with boiling water.

The recipe said there would be enough for 4x 2lb jars, but I found there was only enough jam to fill 3x 0.5L ones:

Home-made jam will not last long in our house!

If you want more blackberry recipe ideas, try looking here.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Sew Read

I bought issue 3 of Sew magazine last week.

I blogged previously about issue 1. Where I reserved judgement: not great, but not awful either. Later I bought issue 2. My teenage daughter looked through it, and asked "Why on earth did you spend £5.99 on that, mum?" Which was a good question, and not one I could answer.

But Issue 3 is much, much better. I like the vintage-style dresses in the accompanying paper pattern, the knitting needle roll and the baby shoes pattern:

Maybe I'll try my hand at a pair of tiny shoes next time I need a new baby gift.

My daughter also likes the recycled jeans skirt, so we're going to look for a pair of suitable jeans in local charity shops (she only has Top Shop jeans that fit her, and we are not cutting those up!)

However, I do have a couple of ongoing niggles, mainly to do with the quality of the instructions.

If the magazine is intended to be suitable for beginners, as they claim, it would be preferable if their instructions were accompanied by step-by-step photos. At the moment, the only patterns with in-progress illustrations are those which are book excerpts rather than original patterns. I'd like to make the household tote bag in this issue, but I've never sewn a bag with a gusset before, and I don't understand the instructions. I would have to cross-reference with instructions for making a gusseted bag in the latest issue of Sew Hip (where there are illustrations to accompany the explanation).

Also, when projects in denim, stretch jersey or other harder-to-sew fabrics are included, these should be accompanied by some explanation of how to handle these types of fabric on a sewing machine. At the moment the magazine gives no directions about this at all, and I think it is an omission.

Just my 0.02p.