Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Another Christmas Make

I almost forgot to post details of this final thing I made for Christmas. This little cross stitch lavender sachet was a kit I bought when we visited Ely cathedral (I think! Although it could have been from another cathedral ..... I forget!). The design just appealed to me and I couldn't think of a better reason to buy it!

I started it when we were on holiday back in July as a little project to do in odd moments. It was so small it fitted just right in my handbag.
In the run-up to Christmas, it suddenly occurred to me that it would make a nice additional present for my Mum. Mum has made some lovely things for me over the years and I really treasure them. I thought it was about time I made something for her. I personalised the back using the same free back-stitch lettering that I used on the heart sachets.
What you can't tell is how wonderfully pungent is the lavender that came with the kit. It smells fantastic and she loved it!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

A Sad Anniversary Date Today

Although Christmas has been lovely so far, spending yesterday with John's side of the family, it was sad in that it was the first Christmas spent without John's Mum, Rose, as today marks the first anniversary of her passing away.

I'm afraid that Boxing Day is going to have very sad memories for many years to come. She is very much missed by everyone. Continue to rest in peace Rose.


Festive Season Thank You Presents

Christmas has been quite 'lazy' for me this year as yesterday was spent at our Niece's house and today we will be at my brother and sister-in-law's house. In fact yesterday, when going to get some milk out, I couldn't help but remark to John that we must be the only house at Christmas that had a pretty empty fridge!

As a last minute thing, I decided to make some thank you scented pouches for our Christmas hostesses. These were actually freebies with the Cross Stitcher magazine a few months ago and I just liked them and had been stitching the white and red cross stitch hearts over a few weeks whilst sitting in bed of an evening!

The cross stitch front is stitched on gingham material, which is actually harder to cross stitch on than I thought it would be. The back, which you can't see, is red felt. I sewed them up on Christmas Eve by sewing machine. I decided to make them scented following a post I'd read on The Unbroken Thread. I took a stick of cinnamon, a couple of tablespoons of cloves and a nutmeg and whizzed them round in my food processor. However, this is clearly not the thing to do with the nutmeg! From time to time it got stuck on one of the food processor blades, so in the end, I just grated it. I then made two small pouches from some very thin material I had in my workbox and put the chopped up and slightly powdery mix in them. These then went into the hearts with ordinary polyester stuffing around them.

I have to say, the room smelt wonderful whilst doing this!

The little 'labels' were my own idea. They are just oblongs of aida with back stitch lettering. I then used iron on interfacing on the back to both stiffen them and cover the reverse of my stitching. A simple line of running stitches with embroidery floss then attaches the labels to the ribbon.

Claire loved her one yesterday and Rowena gets her one later today.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

James Loves the Firefox Pouch :)

Result! James loves the pouch! In truth, although I was very pleased with how it came out ....... can I confess to being ever so slightly 'worried' that he may be ...... well ...... underwhelmed by it? After all, it is 'only' a little pouch! The materials weren't all that expensive to buy ...... just my time investment!
However ...... no need AT ALL for any such thoughts. He was totally wowed by it! When someone just out of being a teenager uses 'awesome' as a description ...... well, guess that's a serious result :)

Even as I type, he has posted photos of it here, there and everywhere. I guess all I can say in turn is that his response is totally awesome! I am so glad I made it for him :)
I realise I didn't get round to blogging about the final bit of making the pouch up. However, firstly, I definitely owe the Radical Cross Stitch site another big Thank You for posting the free cross stitch pattern of the Firefox logo. I posted about stitching the design in an earlier post.

Making it up was much easier than I thought it would be. I hunted round loads of sites on the Internet looking for a pouch-like pattern but nothing really 'hit the spot' until I saw a Kindle cover tutorial at The Sometimes Crafter. I have based my pouch on her approach.

When I set about making the pouch, the idea was to make it somewhat bigger than the hard drive. We 'borrowed' it from James when he was out and I took the measurements. I used felt for the outside and used thin fusible polyester batting to pad it out for the protection of the hard drive. Now ...... I hadn't used my sewing machine for a VERY long time. In an earlier post, I mentioned how back in September I had to have the poor beastie repaired/serviced. So, did I feel brave enough to start with the pouch itself? Might it be better to have a trial run on something else? Oh .... blow it! Just go for it! Thankfully, my nervousness was unfounded ...... I decided using a sewing machine must be like riding a bike ...... not something you forget :)
Then another snag...... the felt I had wasn't really big enough to make it bigger than the drive in the way I initially intended. So, a quick review of the measurements ...... a bit of light maths ...... a bit of wetting a finger to test which way the wind was blowing ..... even a tiny prayer? You will notice that there is a 'design feature' of a seam where the flap folds over. Well ..... 'design' my eye! That was actually because I had to join two bits of felt together :)
The lining material was a nice bit of modern material I bought from Gone To Earth which was also where I bought the fusible polyester lining. Incidentally, the only place in the UK I found who sells fusible, not too thick batting.
The self-covered button came from Blooming Felt, covered with the same material as the lining material ...... and also with a little bit of the batting to pad the button out a bit. Doing the button was an experience! I had wanted to produce a self-covered button for some time as they look so cute! This project was an idea opportunity! These buttons were much cheaper than any I'd seen anywhere else and as I was also buying some felt from them, it seemed like a good idea to buy the buttons at the same time.
However, the little tool required to actually cover the buttons didn't come with any instructions. Still ...... how hard could it be? So, I carefully cut out the little circle of the lining material ...... ironed on the little bit of batting ........ got the tool ........
Could I work out how to use it? Could I hell!!
Consulted with my engineer husband ........ he couldn't work it out either! Sent Blooming Felt an email, but then went away and had a lie down in a darkened room and thought ........ this can't be this difficult, surely? Let's approach this logically ......... managed to work it out but discovered that what I was lacking was some serious muscle power to 'click' the backing in place ....... the husband came in handy here!
So ...... stitched on the badge. All done! But ....... remember, I had to reduce the size. Would the hard drive fit? A small white lie to James as to why I needed to 'borrow' the drive and, miracles of miracles, it is a lovely snug fit!!! Phew!
PS You may wonder how on earth I have had the time to write all this on Christmas day? Well ...... no cooking for me today :) Going to our niece in a little while. I have made her a little surprise present as a 'Thank You' for 'doing' Christmas. If I get the same response from her it will be a seriously awesome day for me :)

Friday, 24 December 2010

Wishing Everyone a Merry Christmas

I'd like to wish everyone a Happy and Peaceful Christmas. This time last year, I hadn't discovered the world of Craft and Needlework blogs and so I'd like to express my thanks to the wealth of talent and inspiration so freely shared by so many people around the world.

I thought I'd share with you a few items I made many years ago that form a set part of the Christmas tradition in my family. The cross stitch stocking in the photo above I made for James when he was about 3 years old from a kit from Readicut. It is 16 inches from top to bottom and 10 inches across at the 'foot' part of the stocking. It is stitched on 11 count Aida and the backing is a cream coloured cotton material. It took me ages to complete, primarily because the black and white chart that I had to follow was the most difficult one I have ever done! It had obscure Greek letters as the chart symbols and the pattern was very faint in some areas. I'm sure it was a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy!

In the following photos are the tent stitch Christmas tree ornaments that I did so long ago, I can't remember exactly when they were made. Again, it was a kit from Readicut and they are stitched on 10 count plastic canvas. They vary in size from 2.5 to 3 inches. However, they were fun to do and they are lovely and colourful on our tree. One added advantage is that they can't be broken! This is useful when you have two cats who think it is great fun to 'hook' things off the Christmas tree :)

A VERY Cold Training Walk on 27th November 2010

Other people stop blogging over the holiday period, but I find the holidays give me time to post! This is a very over-due post on our last training walk on Saturday 27th November. I can't forget the date as this would have been my mother in law, Rose's, 87th Birthday. John was walking wearing his Mum's silver ingot in memory of her and he commented on how very cold the silver ingot was against his skin. We started very early at about 7.50am and it was very, very cold. I have no idea what the temperature was, but it was cold!! I even wore a woolly hat, borrowed from my son ....... and I don't usually 'do' hats!

We decided to do a long circular walk, going south towards Theobalds Grove and then crossing over the A10 on the recently opened footbridge you can see here. We must have looked odd up on the footbridge to anyone driving underneath.

The bridge is stark white and a very modern design. I guess you either love it or hate it but it certainly eye-catching!

This was definately a walk for taking frosty pictures! But on a day like this, I always find myself wondering just how the little birds manage to survive. I guess, in truth, they don't! I was only reading the other day that in the hard winter of 1963/4, the population of wrens in Great Britain plummeted so may I take this opportunity to encourage anyone reading this to put food out for the birds.
Having crossed the footbridge, we made our way across to the New River and followed that northwards. At the point where this comes near to Broxbourne Town Hall, we saw a Green Woodpecker. It was more interested in looking for food than worrying about us, so we got quite a good view of him as he hunted for food on the grass.

Looking at these frosty pictures and thinking back to how cold we were, it makes me thankful for having a nice warm house. In weather like we've been having just recently, I can't help but think about those souls who are living rough.

We carried on walking north along the New River until we got to Rye House. At this point, we joined the Lea and walked south to home.
In total, we walked around 14 miles in a time of 5 hours.
Since then, the weather has been so bad, we haven't been able to go out ..... so roll on better weather.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Do Blog Entries Really Need Photos?

I always feel like I'm 'cheating' if a blog entry doesn't have a photo, especially looking at the fantastic photos that appear so regularly on the miriad blogs I follow.

However, are photos really always necessary?

I have just stumbled on a blog called My Own Circle of Confusion and it really breaks what I had almost come to see as an unwritten rule that you must have photos. I have only just started to look round her blog but, as yet, I haven't found any photos in her entries. However, to be honest, she doesn't need them! I just love her original style of writing, especially her musings on goings on in her family.

That's not to say she doesn't have any photos .... she does! But they are in separate blog entries entirely. If you have a spare moment (or ten), it's a blog worth visiting.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Time, Time ..... Need More Time!

I do so admire people who seem to keep down a job, make loads of things .... and still find time to take photos and add blog entries almost every day! I take my hat off to them ..... or perhaps not in the current snowy weather :)

I actually have lots of things to report on, but processing the photos and actually creating the blog entries seems to elude me! As it is, I'm quickly typing this in a 'lull' period at work, hence the lack of photos!

What's there to report on? Well, there's a very cold training walk from a couple of weeks ago; about 14 miles and I dread to think what the temperature was. On the 'making' front, I've finished making the external hard drive pouch for James .... and I'm very pleased with how it's turned out. I've completed the little cross-stitch sachet I started as a fill-in project back in July. I've personalised it by adding a cross-stitch message for my Mum as it's going to be a little extra present for her. I've made an extra Christmas decoration based on an example from Betz White, using the felt I bought from Blooming Felt recently.

Not forgetting getting all the Christmas presents! Oh ...... and John decided as a last minute thing to turn one of his photos into a Christmas card.

So, very busy all round :)

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

St Andrew's Day & James' 20th Birthday

Today is James' 20th Birthday, born at 9.25am. Seems amazing how 20 years has just whizzed by :)

Hopefully, I'll get a photo of him later today to post :)
I may even scan a baby photo to post as well. You know, the sort Mums always drag out to the embarrassment of their children :)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Blooming Felt

Thanks to the Sew, Mama Sew blog I was alerted to a really lovely looking Christmas Ogee ornament made from felt on Betz White's blog.
For reasons I can't quite fathom, I really want to make things for Christmas this year .... no idea why! However, this lovely ornament and Betz's very good tutorial really hit the spot!

So ..... I started to try and track down a thick wool felt supplier in the UK that wasn't too expensive. After a little digging around, I found a company called Blooming Felt. I really like their website. It is so bright and colourful. Not only did I order some felt but I also bought some DMC soft cotton thread. This looks suspiciously like the thread I used when I was a little girl on my Needle case, so I'm having a bit of a nostalgia trip with that one! However, I'm thinking of using it to do some embroidery on the Ogee ornament to jazz it up a little.

I also ordered some self covering buttons as this is another thing I've always wanted to try ..... and I will probably use one on the felt pouch I'm making for James.

I am so impressed with Blooming Felt. I placed the order late last Friday and it was delivered on Tuesday! Really fast service. The felt is also very nice and I can't wait to try it out :)

In my general search for felt, I also found some websites explaining how felt is made. Although I was aware of the process, I was especially interested to find websites explaining how to turn an old woollen sweater into felt ...... as a deliberate thing, rather than the accident we all may have made when washing a woollen object at the wrong temperature :)

I really want to have a go! Trouble is though, I have no jumpers that have 80% or more wool content. I'm afraid I am one of those people that can't wear wool .... it makes me itch :)

I must be the only person on the hunt for an old sweater :)

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A Short Walk? Perhaps Not!

Last Friday evening, we went out for a curry to celebrate a friend's Birthday. We didn't get home and to bed until 1.30am on Saturday morning.

Now ..... I really don't 'Do' late nights any more :)
So, such a late night was only possible because of a little 2 hour sleep as soon as we got home from work!

Was getting up early on Saturday to go walking a possibility? 'No' is the short answer! I did leave my alarm on for 6.30am but getting up then just wasn't what my system wanted to do. Still, we did get up at 8am and thought we'd do a smaller walk .... or at least that's what John said!!

We left home at 9.40am and walked west from our house to join the New River at Cheshunt and then followed the New River north to Broxbourne. The path alongside the New River was very muddy so we made quite slow progress. At Broxbourne, we then followed the signs to the Lea Valley and joined the Lea at Dobbs Weir, where we've been before. We then walked south along the Lea and got back home by 2.10pm. Not quite the short walk I thought we were doing!

I checked on the map ..... we'd walked 11 miles! I think I need to quiz John a little more vigorously when he says 'short walk' :)

Still, I'm not really having a go at John! Despite the muddy conditions, it was a nice day for walking and I am getting so I miss walking if we don't go out!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Closer View of Cross Stitch Christmas Cards

A closer look at my finished Christmas cards. As I said in an earlier post, these were freebies in the Cross Stitcher magazine. I added a few additional touches to one or two of them. For the one above, I used a metallic thread for the straight stitches on the middle bauble.

On the red snowflake, I attached the sequin in the middle by using a tiny seed bead. I was going to sew the other sequins in place but decided in the end that was too fiddly and just stuck them down.
Really like the Christmas pud card. Again I used metallic thread for the straight stitches. I also sewed the sequins in place with tiny seed beads and also did this with the Christmas tree below.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Might have made me go blind!

This project is possibly a salutary lesson in how not to do something, although I am pleased with how it has turned out!

One blog I like to regularly check out is the Craftzine Blog. This blog is fantastic as it alerts you to a wide range of interesting projects on all sorts of websites and blogs. One of their entries described a Firefox Logo cross stitch pattern at a site called Radical Cross Stitch.

As soon as I saw this pattern, I immediately thought it would be a good design to do for my son. James sometimes (gently!) ribs me that IE sucks and that Firefox is much better. I thought I'd make him a felt pouch for his external hard drive and embroider this like a badge to sew onto the closure flap.

So ....... how did I approach this one? Well ..... having decided that I didn't want it to be too big, I decided that using some 28 count linen and stitching each cross stitch over one thread would make the logo about 2 inches in diameter ..... ideal! I bought all the flosses at the Alexandra Knitting and Stitching Show. I then hunted round at home for a small embroidery hoop! Now, for many years I have always used frames! Could I find a hoop? Could I heck! Found a large one that proved to have broken at some point! Further digging ....... found a rubberised one that is supposed to double as a frame but found that hard to stretch the linen over. I'm sure I have a small one somewhere ....... heaven knows where!

In the end, I used a freebie from the Cross Stitcher magazine from a couple of months ago!

OK ...... ready to go! Now to decide how many strands of floss to use? Did a couple of stitches using two threads. You can see these little red stitches in the second photo. This seemed to be OK, so two threads it was! However, sewing over just one thread makes each stitch VERY small! In fact, the stitches are so small, I don't think you can even see that they are cross stitches! I'm not entirely sure what I looked like, but the stitching was done with me peering over the top of my glasses! I must confess to feeling a little bit of eye strain so doubt I'll do something this small again! I did mis-count the pattern at one point and didn't discover until much later! Never mind, I just slightly adjusted the pattern and I don't think anyone will ever notice. Having completed the design, I think I could have got away with only using one strand of floss for each stitch. However, it makes a very firm badge and I am pleased with it.

How long did it take? Well, I think it took about three weeks.

Having finished the design, I want to cut away the excess fabric but obviously don't want it to fray. What to do? Well, another blog I love following is by Ruth O'Leary. Ruth's work is stunning! At the moment (2010) she is working on an amazing project to produce a St Cuthbert's Banner for use in Durham Cathedral. She is making up the design on the banner by individually sewing the motifs and these will then be sewed to the main fabric of the banner. Because each motif will need to be closely trimmed, she's using blanket stitch round the edge of each motif!

Eureka! Of course! Use the humble blanket stitch!

Having completed the cross stitch, I decided to use the dark blue floss and with three strands, make tiny blanket stitches all round the edge as close together as I could. You can see in the second photo that I also sewed a small little blanket stitch circle and cut out the centre, just to see if it really would stop the fabric from fraying. It appears that it does!

However, as you can also see in the second photo, I didn't get the blanket stitches quite close enough, despite my best efforts. Initially, I thought this looked OK, but the more I looked at it, the more I realised that I wasn't happy with the gappy look to the edge. So, I went over the blanket stitch by over sewing with three strands of floss as you can see in the first photo. This looks much better I think.

I now need to pluck up the courage to cut the fabric as close to the stitching as I can! Oh .... and make the felt pouch to put it on!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Cross Stitch Christmas Cards

Another late post! On Saturday 30th October, I put the finishing touches to the cross stitch Christmas cards that were a freebie from the Cross Stitcher magazine.
I did change a few things when stitching. Primarily this was to use some sparkly threads for some of the back stitching. I used a mixture of DMC Light Effects in gold, silver and multi-coloured and some red metallic Kreinik thread I treated myself to when we visited The Work Box shop in Norwich. I also sewed the sequins in place using some tiny seed beads rather than sticking the sequins.

I didn't find the DMC Light Effects thread to be very easy to work with. When you cut the thread, the individual threads that make it up start to unravel which makes it quite dificult to thread on the needle. Also, when you are working it, the thread breaks where it is passing through the needle requiring you to trim the thread whilst working with it. Although this was manageable for small amounts of back stitching, I don't think I'd like to use it for large areas of cross stitching. By comparison, the Kreinik thread was lovely to work with. Nevertheless, perhaps it's a case of, you get what you pay for! The Kreinik thread was much more expensive than the DMC Light Effects thread.
Mind you, I should have had a look on the Internet for advice! On the DMC site, there's information about the best way of using their thread, so I will have another go with another project and see how I get on. The sparkly effect the thread produces is well worth any extra effort. As an added thought, I wonder what it might look like couched down to cover an area?

On The Way To Sorting The Boots!

For this walk, on Saturday 6th November, we got on the train to Roydon aiming to walk from there to Bishops Stortford along the river Stort. This is only a distance of 12 miles but so long as we walk at least 12 miles on any one walk, we're happy!

Additional saga with the boots! I aught to explain that the problem with my boots is that they're a little bit too big. They were given to me when I was a Cub leader by a Scout leader to do short walks with my Cubs. You see ..... I hate new shoes/boots as they always give me blisters. However, these nicely walked-in boots seemed ideal and for the short walks I used to do with my Cubs, they were! However, this is not the case for the distances we're doing. Even with three pairs of socks, my feet are obviously moving around and causing blisters on my heels.

However, found some insoles with curved bits in the heels and thought I'd see if these would help. They do! However, to continue the saga, these aged boots today objected to me tightly lacing them up and two of the loops came off!! Heath Robinson eat your heart out ..... ended up with the lace tied round my ankle and I'm thankful that John knows how to repair this sort of thing!

At which point, they say an army walks on its stomach ..... shouldn't it be on its boots :)

Still, one highlight of the walk ..... between Sawbridgeworth and Bishops Stortford we again saw the flash of a kingfisher. This time, it went on ahead of us along the river so we saw the flash a few times. Never close enough to get a good look, mind you. Still, a brilliant sight.

How long did we take this time? Well, although the train got us to Roydon by 8.10, we got stuck on the wrong side of the level crossing for 35 minutes! At this point, a lorry driver also stuck there said he thought there must be a problem! So, at 8.45 we decided to head across country up to the A414 (not that pleasant to walk along!) and then back down to the Stort and carry on from there. We got to Bishops Stortford at 13.40. So, quite a bit slower than previously which may have been because of the couple of stops we had to make to sort out my laces. It was also quite muddy underfoot for a fair way.

Still ...... a result! No blisters on my feet! But John, my boot repairer par-excellence has a job to do before our next walk :)

These Boots Aren't Made For Walking!

To pinch (almost!) some of Nancy Sinatra's song :)
My boots proved to be a pain, quite literally!

I'm rather late reporting on this particular training walk which was on Saturday 30th October. We started a little later than planned; about 8.50 aiming to walk between Cheshunt and Sawbridgeworth. A distance of approximately 14 miles. Here's the first lock on the route that hasn't been photographed before; Feakes Lock along the river Stort.

Here I am at Sheering Mill Lock. Although I look like I'm smiling ...... it's a grimace really! The skin covering the blisters I developed under my heels in the first week of our training walks came off during the previous week. So, new ones developed during this training walk ...... and boy did they hurt!
Even so, we got to Sawbridgeworth by 13.20 which was pretty good going. We are averaging 3 miles an hour. However, I was certainly not doing that by the end, so I can only think we are walking much faster at the beginning. Also, despite the blister problem, we both felt really strong by the end of this walk, so the training is paying dividends! Mind you, I still find myself thinking that we've 'only' done 14 miles ...... primarily because we need to be strong enough to do 42!.
Still, it was also a glorious day for walking and I'm beginning to find it really addictive.
However ....... sorting out something with my boots is now a priority!!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Runner Up Prize for Great Dorset Steam Fair Photograph

Great news yesterday! John entered a photograph he took at the Great Dorset Steam Fair into a competition being run by The Vintage Spirit magazine. They contacted him to say that his photograph (the one above) has won a runners up prize of one year's free subscription to the magazine.

I am totally chuffed for John! The photograph will appear in the next edition of the magazine, although it is certainly a publication with a pretty limited readership I would guess!

So, he'll be able to sit on the train with this magazine in true geeky style :)
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