Saturday, 26 December 2009

Happy Christmas snowmates

This Christmas has been memorable because of the amount of snow we've had. It is beginning to go now but I thought we weren't going to get to Walworth Castle for our Christmas lunch but we did. We went out on Christmas eve for a meal with friends and I thought they would need to roll me home I was so full. Christmas day meal though was with the family and we thoroughly enjoyed that too. I must have put on pounds - good job the sales are on so I can go and buy some trousers that fit round the waist!! Christ and Cindy sent me these two cards based on the poem theme, not quite a poem but close enough and very seasonal.

I hope santa was kind to everyone and you got lots of lovely gifts. I must have been very good this year I not only got a watch, pandora bracelet and a new ipod but lots of lovely books and a couple of games for my DS so lots to keep me amused in the days to come.
I had every intension of give the house a good clean but we seem to have had so many people popping in and out over the last few days I decided it wasn't worth the trouble. I'd much rather have the company.
Keith and I both missed our Mum's this year but we wished them a happy Christmas at midnight on Christmas Eve,
Three (well more like two and a half) sleeps before we leave for Austria. Still not sure what I'm taking but I always have this problem and in the end I just throw in whatever I can get it. It always works out that I've taken far too much.
Yesterday was the last of the Advent Swaps, not had time to take photos of the last two the light has been so bad and its very difficult to scan an empty tin.
It struck me tonight that I should have done some snow dyeing so tomorrow if there is enough clean snow left I might just give it a go, if I can remember how.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

More advent swaps

The Advent Swap is coming to a close now, only two days and it will be Christmas Day and four days after that Keith and I will be on our way to Austria for New Year. Not sure what 2010 will bring but we both look forward to a fresh start, 2009 has been a difficult year for our family.
In the meantime I want to catch up with the Advent Swaps: Day19 brought emery boards with a picture of a ballet dancer on the front. It was difficult to make out what the picture was at first, we thought it was mountains!! on turning them sideways though the true picture emerged. I'm always short of emery boards so they'll come in handy.
Day 20 is a magnetic fridge notebook and pen, my old one is getting a bit bare so this also is a timely gift.

Day 21 brought this lovely coaster and mug warmer. I need to adjust the mug warmer a bit as our mugs are slightly shallower than the warmer.

Day 22 and a new diary for 2010, this one is useful as it also has an address book and spare note pad.

Today's gift is a small metal handbag picture frame with a photo of Iris Joy. It's lovely to put a face to the lady I've been swapping with.
I had a hour to pass this afternoon between finishing the ironing and rewashing the kitchen floor (Buster has feet that hold the mud!!). I decided to do a bit of clearing out of some of my stuff and came across these quilted blocks I did years ago. They are machine embroidery blocks done when I first bought my Brother Galaxie several years ago. I had completely forgot them but decided to sew some together to make a cushion. Unfortunately only four were the same size so I'll need to put my thinking cap on to finish the cushion.

These are two more blocks but they are sewn in a different colour and slightly heavier thread than those above so wouldn't look right together.

I suppose I could always turn them into coasters.
We're going out to dinner tomorrow night with friends and family. My brother and his wife were due to go to New York for Christmas but their flight from Newcastle airport was cancelled at the last minute. Their tour company did try very hard to get them to Heathrow in time for their flight but without avail. They are very disappointed but at least they will get the total amount of their tour back so that at least is something. Just hope we don't have similar problems next week.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Matty's present

My grandson Matthew and his girlfriend called this evening to leave me a present. His picture is below:
They'd been making a snowman for Matty's young brothers and decided to leave me a minature one as well - he's about 9" high and cute. We've had quite a bit of snow over the last 24 hours and just as Keith had shovelled it off the path we are expecting more so I guess we might loose Mr Snowman if it gets too high but at least he won't melt.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Poorly paws is now pesky paws!!

Have you ever tried taking a dog for a walk in the rain and snow when he does not want to go? He suddenly developed a limp, sad look, shivered and ran for home!! When we got back (all of ten minutes later) he jumped around the house with a look on his face that very clearly said "fooled yer!!". He's been full of beans all day but absolutely refuses to go outside for any longer than it takes to relieve himself. Our poorly paws has become a pesky paws as he's got so much energy he's plagueing us to death.

This month's challenge for the private group was to create a postcard based on a favourite childhood poem. I searched long and hard for this one as I had so many of them. The Night Mail by WHAuden with its trainlike meter, Alfred Noyes "The Highwayman" who came riding up to the old inn door or Walter dela Mare's "The Listeners" that scared me when I tried to learn it in bed in the dark. But in the end I decided on Lewis Carroll's "Father William" because as a child it made me laugh.
Jennifer fell in love with her poem when visiting the National Garden Museum. It's "My Garden Gate" by anon (C1875). I admit I'd not heard of this one but Jennifer sent me a copy of the poem and it's very relevant today. The garden gate is seen as shutting all the bewildering politics of life out and keeping the peace within.
Doreen's poem was another one I'd not heard but think I would have loved if I'd heard it as a child. Memories of Childhood (don't know who wrote it must look it up) paints a picture of neighbours gathering to chat and taking it in turn to make the tea and bring out the biscuits.
It's snowing hard here and just to prove me wrong Sy andJulie have just brought in a very wet but happy dog covered in the stuff!!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Poorly paws and pressies

I've been very remiss this week in showing the advent swap goodies I've received but we are going to blame it on the dog. But here they are, there are several bags, shopping, hot wheat and lavender bag (although I had to throw the lavender away as it made me sneeze and cough). I'm fine with the flowers in the garden but dried it becomes an irritant. Still Joy wasn't to know that and I do love the smell. I also recieved a lovely little scissor angel which has already had some use;a glass ornament and I think a stoneware vase.

The postman also brought me three stars, one of which was meant for another person so I shall have to part with it. It will go to Maureen who is its rightful owner tomorrow.

The stars are part of the 'star' swap on MixedMedia-atc group and they are really more beautiful in 'the flesh' than in the photo.

A couple of friends are having a hard time with stress at the moment so I decided to make them a 'Dammit Doll' each. I made one of these when I was working and it got a lot of use. They are very easy to use, lots of examples on the web. I just used a cookie cutter for the basic shape, sewed a sad face on them and a few strands of hair, stuffed them and they are ready to whack when you feel the need to shout 'dammit!!!' Try making one they are fun and effective.

On Sunday we went to Castle Howard, one of the UK's grand houses. The house was all dressed up for Christmas and they were wood fires burning in all the rooms. The atmosphere was wonderful, warm, welcoming and beautiful.
There were several trees throughout the house, all decorated by the Howard family.

Someof the baubles looked good enough to eat. What helped to make it festive was the music, in several rooms small ensembles of musicians were playing carols or Christmas music. The music ranged from jazz to choral to brass. We came home tired but happy and beginning to actually feel as though Christmas is upon us.
Now for the poorly paws bit - Buster has been in the wars. First his arthritic hind quarters have been playing him up due to the cold weather. We had no sooner got medication from the vet for this when he split one of his nails and it had to be removed. We had one very cross, very sore pooch for a few days but he's well on the mend now and beginning to enjoy his romps in the woods again.
New of the errant sewing machine. Bernina finally agreed the machine was faulty and gave me a new one. So far everything seems okay, although I did get an error message shortly after beginning to show but when checking it was my own fault. I was using the BSR and forgot to reduce the foot pressure. I must admit quilting is easy with the BSR but I find lettering a pain and its much easier just to digitise the text than use the, what I feel, is a rather cumbersom way of adding lettering to whatever you are sewing. But there is probably an easier way to do it.
I don't really have much time at the moment to play with it as it gets closer to the big day. Still trying to chase the dust bunnies out of the house but feel sorry for them as its so cold outside.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Advent days 4 to 7

Day 4 of the Advent swap brought a teaspoon with a picture of a Galah bird and a boomerang. Day five a pencil box and a magnetic bookmark with an Australian flowering gum picture. Not really sewing related but certainly representative of the country of my swapper and I shall treasure them.
Days 6 and 7 presents were a hankerchief envelope and a 'gypsy' pencil case. Rather an unusual shape. The sewing on both articles is very skillful and I'm looking forward to opening tomorrow's surprise.
The last of the November "Wish you were here" cards arrived this morning from Cindy. Cindy spends part of her year in Seattle and the fabric she's used on the card is very picturesque. It
Shows various well known beauty sites and tourist attractions and the blackwork centre design of a Seattle.
I've not done a lot of sewing this week as I've been trying to get my cards in the post and do the last bits of Christmas shopping. I'm earlier than usual this time, mainly due to not having my main machine.
Now for the ongoing saga of my Bernina 830 (8 series). As a mentioned in a previous post it has gone back to Bogods in Cardif for the third time for repair. I got a phone call from Alan on Friday. I must say Alan has been very forthcoming and kept me up to date with what's happening. On Friday Alan had cracked my problem and was going to sew for a bit longer then service the machine and reset the counter. After that the 830 would be coming home. He rang today to tell me that half an hour after we spoke the machine broke down again. This time the machine is being replaced but he's decided to open the packages and test them before sending them to me. So third time lucky!!! I hope.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Advent swap goodies

My partner in the Advent Swap is Iris Joy Fechner of Australia and its obvious from Day one that she is a skilled quilter. My Day 1 gift is a bag with a large front pocket made from charm squares produced by Paperbark Woman have a look at her site. I love the aboriginal design fabrics the ones in this bag have lovely names such as 'Bush Onion' Bush Tucker, Freshwater Lifecycle and Honey ant.

Day two is a shoe bag which I will put into use when we go to Salzburg just after Christmas.Close up of the stitching on the shoe bag.In the meantime I've been using up some of my jelly roll strips to make book covers. I made six stars for the star swap on Surface Design when I should only have made two. Ah well I have a couple free if anyone wants one.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Zentangle Swap

I lost track of this swap and had to create the zentangle ornament in a hurry, I had missed the deadline date. I bonded some white cotton to a piece of pelmet vilene then took my micron pen for a walk, filling in the gaps with pattern. Next I used Derwent Inktense pencils to colour the design in and finally ran a damp brush over the whole piece to brighten the ink up.
I drew round a cookie cutter for the bell shape, cut them out, sewed two pieces back to back to make a double sided zentangle ornament and made a look to hang them.
Then I blundered, I should have left them as they were but no I had to try and gild the lily. I thought I'd put a glaze on them by coating them in acrylic wax. Bad move, they soaked up the acrylic wax like nobody's business and left the bells looking a little dull. Next I thought I might bring back some of the sparkle they'd had by painting a very thin coat of interference paint. Another bad mood, some worked okay others it was too thick and almost obliterated the pattern. As I was running late I had to send them out (I send two to each person in the hopes they might forgive my blunder) but I may yet redo this swap and send out ones I'm happy with.
These are the zentangle ornaments I received back.
A lovely tree from Chris.

And a great bird and wood ornament from Jan and Joni.

My fabric postcard group theme this month is "Wish you were here" and for it I used a photo taken on holiday in Tuscany. DH and I both love Italy, its not just the sun and the people but the art, landscape and sense of 'coming home' we both feel. I've used Photoshop and digital scrapbooking techniques to create my memories of Tuscany - don't you 'wish you were here'.

Our new participant in the group Doreen has created a digitised version of one of her holiday photos taken in Egypt. Chris on the other hand attended a Bingata dyeing course whilst on holiday in Okinawa and has used a piece of Bingata dyed fabric.
Now for the continuing saga of my Bernina 830 - having broken down hours before we went to Bruges its been back to Bernina and returned from them repairs. After using the embroidery module for just under 3 hours it broke down again and so is now back with Bernina for them to try and get to the bottom of the problem. All I can say is thank goodness they were able to reproduce the problem using my embroidery module on their machine otherwise there is a tendancy to put it down to 'user error'. I am though begining to lose confidence in the machine and if it is returned and breaks down again you will be able to hear me throwing my dummy out of the pram across the pond.
It has poured with rain all day but despite needing webbed feet we are off tonight to see "Christmas Carol" in 3D. Just hope we don't have to row back.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Beer, Chocolates and Lace

I can't believe its over a week since we got back from Bruges, time really does tempest fugit. We were lucky with the weather which was for the most part dry and sunny. We spent the first day wandering around the old part of Bruges, along the canals and testing all the things that Bruges is famous for - beer, chocolate and lace. Well we didn't actually eat the lace but it was so luscious we could have. We stopped for lunch in this canalside pub (left hand side) and ate waffles covered in chocolate and drank beer. The tower in the background is the Belfort tower.

The pub had a wall dedicated to all the local made beers, some 720 different types. If you drank one a day it would take you two years to sample them all. Keith wanted to stayand see if he could get through them all. The photos shows just some of them I couldn't get the full wall in the frame.

There were lots of lovely lace in the shops.

This shop with the lacemaker mannikins in the upper storey windows made lace to commissions. I doubt I could look at the prices nevermind order any but Idrooled.

I seemed to drool all the time, this is my mid morning snack of waffles, strawberries, cream, ice cream and hot chocolate sauce........ to hell with my diabetes for one day.

I did buy one or two samples of lace, well I couldn't come away without any could I. The top picture shows lace trims, the bottom one a small piece of lace curtain, the type that you put a pole through the holes.

We really enjoyed the few days away, it was very relaxing. Which was just what I needed as my my brand new Bernina 830 broke down a few hours before we left!!! This is the second time in the six weeks I've had it that the embroidery unit has given problems. Despite Bernina exchanging the first, after using the unit for around 8 hours (not all at one) the "Fatal Error" warning was displayed. This was the same error message I got with the original embroidery unit. I emailed David Drummond with all the details, even sent the log file and photos of the displayed errors. I did this on the Sunday night just before we left for Bruges. I did not expect an immediately response but I did expect that he would have at least opened the email before we got back from Bruges. Having said that it didn't take long for Bernina to pick up the machine and take it to Cardiff for repair. It's been gone a week now and though I've not heard back from them I hope to very shortly. To be fair I think I've been very unlucky they normally are very good machines but I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

All packed up waiting to go

We can't make up our mind whether to stay up or go to bed for a few hours. We leave for Bruge at 04:15 hours which means we'll need to be up by 03:00. Guess I'll have a cuppa and think about it. This is the trip the boys bought for us as a surprise when they thought we needed cheering up. The postman has cheered me up though he brought the latest two 'Flower Pages'. The green felt one is from Wendy Kirk who has felted the flowers onto the background and written 'flower words'
Julie Mackinder's Flower Page is very different. I love the way Julie has created a background with white spots and filled in the spaces with flowers, both machined and hand embroidered.

Jennifer McCormack sent me this lovely atmospheric picture its the first I've received with the November theme of "Wish you were here". Not sure about the bike, don't think my old knees would cope with all the peddling but apart from that I'd love to be there.
The Surface Design group are holding a "Zentangle Ornament" swap. Now if you (like me) had never heard of a Zentangle have a look at those on the Zentangle site but be warned they are addictive. I've been practising...... these are from my sketch book.

They are very easy to do,its like doodling with pattern. Start by making four dots, then join them up, no you don't need a ruler if they aren't straight it makes a more interesting outine. Then take your pencil/pen/brush for a walk and fill in the spaces with patterns. Have a go its very calming.
I mentioned in my last post that I'dbought a Supreme Slider and I was asked how I got on with it and where I bought it. I tried to buy one in the UK and Franklins do have them but the the US price of $29.99 retailed here at £29.99 plus p&p so I bought mine in the States for almost £10 less (including p&p). There are a few sites in the States where they are sold just Google it and you'll get a list of them.
As for how I got on with it, well apart from leaving it on the machine when I tried to sew normally, great. I set off like a duck landing on ice!!! eventually I managed better control. On the whole though I like it and am pleased I got it. I had great intensions of doing all the 365 quilting patterns that Leah Day is videoing but must confess to beginning to feel a little bored with them now, although I do still watch the videos.
My good friend Jenny gave me a fright yesterday when her husband rang me to say she'd had a slight stroke. Oh no I thought, not another friend but it was very mild and she is recovering well. I just hope she takes things easy - Jenny if you are reading this - put your feet up and rest.