Monday, 27 August 2018

Unexpected opportunities

Unexpected opportunity #1.   A friend came round Friday afternoon and we settled down in comfy chairs with big mugs of coffee for a lengthy natter and a catch up.  I'm not very good at just sitting so I picked up the denim Picnic Blanket and made a start on hand-sewing the binding.  The quilt was finished after supper and it's lovely, I am definitely going to be fighting with Daisy as to which of us gets to snuggle under it on chilly evenings.

Unexpected opportunity #2.  Saturday was lovely - blue sky, fluffy clouds and completely dry, so Management and I had a big sorting out session with the log store.  We started out planning on fixing a small section of the siding which had some rot in it, and ended up replacing the nearly whole side with leftover metal sheeting.  There's one more piece of timber to fix at the top, and it could do with some dark green paint.

Few photos of my clambering around on the top of the log mountain; it was precarious and at times unpleasant as we got rid of old tarpaulin and fitted a new one to weather-proof the timber supply.

Unexpected opportunity #3.  On Sunday morning the effects of tricky balancing and contortions were obvious the minute I tried to get out of bed and found myself with an incredibly sore knee that does not want to walk far or bear much weight.  As the weather had gone back to grey, damp and blustery, I took the opportunity to spend nearly all day in front of the TV catching up on BBC Four.    Just like Friday, I'm not good at sitting with empty hands so I tackled the big Irish Chain quilt.

Took all day, with lots of very necessary breaks to stop and stretch, but by supper time I had another quilt finished.  YAY!   And there I was thinking there might not be any complete quilt finishes this month.

"Who said you could jump on my best quilt?"

Friday, 24 August 2018

Autumn in August

Honestly, there's no pleasing some people:   after bitching, moaning and generally complaining my head off about three months with no rain, I'm now frustrated because we have had rain every day for nearly a fortnight.  Actually, I don't really mind - it is not raining all the time, and the showers we are having are mostly fairly gentle, proper "gardeners' rain" which soaks the soil but does not flatten plants.

What I do mind is that just about all my perennials have gone over weeks earlier than normal, there is very little in flower in the garden (which could say more about my inability to master succession planting than the weather) and that I really need to be getting on with cutting down and tidying up.  But I cannot do that whilst everything is so wet because it's just not fun.  And I need the garden to be fun which it is not at present, my gardening mojo left with the sunshine and I am finding it very hard to get into "prepare for next season" mode.   We managed to get all the lawns cut on Tuesday which was a tiring job because the grass was so damp it kept clogging up the lawnmower chute.  I hate cutting grass that is not completely dry but it had to be done.

Water levels in all the ponds are restored but the rain and warmth has lead to burgeoning growth - some of the Big Pond beds badly need thinning out.

The cyclamen bed which I thought I'd lost during the drought seems to be recovering, but the flowers are much smaller than normal.

Our first attempt to grow new lawn at the back of the house failed miserably - when it was obvious we were going to get no rain we stopped watering the newly sown seed.  A couple of weeks ago I re-seeded and things have gone much better this time around :)

In other places plants are very confused, I have a lilac blooming near the Coppice and Clematis Nelly Moser, which took a year off in 2017, started growing in the heatwave and is now in flower.

I worry for our wildlife:  for example the autumn heathers which I don't expect to see in flower until well into September have been blooming their little hearts out for most of this month.  They will be over soon and there's not a lot to follow on, so what will our bees, wasps and hoverflies feed on between then and hibernation time?

The answer in one small instance is that the wasps will feed on our blueberries - we've had a massive crop this year, and the wasps have moved in much earlier than usual.  Normally they don't start on the fruit until late September and I am able to pick berries into October.  This year I reckon our harvest will be over within another couple of weeks and I will leave the remaining smallest or overripe fruit for the insects.

The nights are drawing in, table lamps on timers switch themselves on before supper and I am closing the curtains for the first time in months.  No-one here likes the house to be cold (still remembering Christmas and New Year without heating - shudder) and the heating has been on for half an hour here and there.

Daisy is coping admirably with the change in seasons:

We have taken advantage of being indoors to get on with the long-overdue task of sorting out years and years of pre-digital photos.   This is only some of the backlog, but we've made progress with throwing away packets containing out of focus views or people we don't recognise!  Scanning what is left might take rather longer.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Three quilts quilted

Goodness, it has been a few years since I worked through three quilt tops in one week, and whilst I am very glad to have got so much done, I certainly needed a rest afterwards.

The big Irish Chain quilt ended up being an absolute dream to quilt - which left me feeling sad/guilty that I had not done it before.  But I know why I put it off for so long, so there endeth the self-flagellation.  The actual quilting was finished last weekend, then Management and I had a couple of slow days whilst we sneezed and sniffled our way around the house.  But during that downtime I put the binding on, and arranged the quilts in a pretty pile just for the sake of taking pictures.

I won't add any of them to the (abandoned since Spring) "Quilt Finishes" page because they are not yet completely finished, however with all the rain we're having this week it is impossible to get into the garden so there's a slim chance that at least one of them will be totally done before the month end.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Coming up for a breather

Quilting is going well on the big Triple Irish Chain.

This is not the stereotypical relaxing quilting of a bygone age where one sat in front of the fire gently pushing a needle through fabric.

No, matey; this is standing up all day, often at a strange angle despite trying not to, concentrating on a large piece of potentially temperamental machinery which, when combined with fabric that will flex, stretch, have variances in weave, and thanks to the act of patchwork itself, has seams all over the place which might cause unevenness, oh, and throw in thread which will be affected by humidity or how it is woven on the spool or the very quality of that year’s cotton harvest, not forgetting the consistency of the batting, how the bobbin was wound, and combine that all with your backing fabric, and you have a delightful and varied cornucopia of things to concentrate on which could make it all go pear-shaped…

Remind me why I think this is an enjoyable hobby???

I am seriously considering getting back out into the garden for a rest, but every time I look outside we seem to be in the middle of another short shower . . .

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Turning into a nice "quilty" week

The damp and drizzle continues and I am delighted about that 😊.   The rain we're getting is gentle, not the sort which flattens plants, and it is making a lovely difference to the soil.  All this damp means I can stay inside and play with fabric every day without feeling guilty that I am shirking my horticultural duties.

Monday was an absolute "belter" of a day.  Having already got the Trip Around the World quilt pinned up and ready to go, a good sleep provided the solution to my quilting dilemma.  So often the answer for me is to get out a pattern from either Keryn Emmerson or her equally clever sister Meredith.  Every single pattern from the talented twins works as it should and "does what it says on the tin", not like a recent (not to be mentioned) pantograph that was Terminated With Extreme Prejudice as soon as I got the quilt off the machine!   The answer was Formal Garden from Mereth, and it sewed up without a single hitch.

Management looked after Daisy and kept out of my way - he knew I was concentrating hard and didn't want to say anything that might jinx proceedings.  No "in progress" pictures, but I was finished early afternoon.

After a bit of a rest I had a binding blitz, and by supper time both the denim Picnic Blankie and the lovely Trip Around the World were trimmed, bound, and ready for hand-finishing.

Daisy and I road-tested the picnic rug after supper when it got a little cool, but was too late to bother lighting the woodburner.  The bright blue fleece backing is lovely and soft, and Daisy always prefers the feel of it to regular fabric (Ollie was the same).  As this is only a blankie I did not use batting, and it has worked really well.

Today has been more restful, but still extremely productive.   The longarm got a very thorough clean-down and tidy-up after two quilts in two days.

This afternoon has been spent wrangling the huge quantity of yardage involved in the next project.

This beautiful (but very large) quilt top was a surprise gift from my dear friend J. in St Louis, it's too big to get a complete picture of it anywhere in the house!  For far too long I have been stroking the quilt top trying to pluck up the courage to do a full custom job on it (feathered wreaths, lots of cross hatching).  I am not ready to do that sort of quilting at present, and have finally managed to get over myself and accept that it is far better to quilt an all-over design and have a lovely quilt to use, than a folded top on the shelf.

Backing and top loaded     ✓
Batting sorted     ✓
Thread selected     ✓
Bobbins wound     ✓
Pattern chosen     ✓

Everything set up and ready to quilt tomorrow morning      ✓

With the weather forecast for the rest of the week set to to be damp and grey, Management and I continue to have a "holiday at home" week - he's in the garage most of every day making progress on bike building and I am finally making some inroads into the Shelf of Shame.  It's all rather lovely  😊

Sunday, 12 August 2018


Years ago I remember some ladies at a quilt group saying they only made quilts in winter and gardened in summer.  I am slightly ashamed to remember I thought they were bonkers - why on earth would you not quilt all year round?  Those were the days when I was much younger, and had considerably more energy.  Those were the days I had a new-build house which required virtually no maintenance, and a very small garden which required very little time.  These days I have far less spare energy and far less free time . . .

Which might be why I haven't touched the quilting machine since (embarrassed to admit this . . . ) mid-February.

And that "dream" I had of catching up with the quilt backlog and 'Shelf of Shame' has languished as not much more than a dream.  This morning, happily, I felt a "quilty day" coming on;  we had a respectable amount of rain last night so the water tanks are full and plants that need cutting back are far too wet to mess with.

First up, the denim Picnic Rug I pieced in March.

Working on the basis that Finished Is Better Than Perfect, I have quilted this completely freehand, something I've not done for years.  A few months ago I discovered Wanda Hanson's lovely blog.  A professional and prolific quilter, with a longarm machine, it was a revelation when I saw that Wanda usually finishes her quilts with very simple freehand quilting, often just lines like this:

COPYRIGHT Wanda S. Hanson:
and she has a fabulous purple quilt (click here) finished with what appears to be a big freehand meander.  The quilt is absolutely none-the-worse for simple stitching, and on the basis that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I have gone the same route:

It was not all plain sailing; I am woefully out of practise and there were more than a couple of rookie mistakes at the beginning.  However, a couple of hours later we had a picnic blanket, far from perfect and I am sure certain members of The Quilt Police would sniff at it, but it's not for them, it is for Daisy and us to sit on!

Encouraged and enthused I pinned on another quilt - the original Trip Around the World top.  I was ready to stitch another freehand pattern, and talked myself out of it and loaded a pantograph.  Then I talked myself out of that and toyed with various freehand ideas.  Then I talked myself out of that and loaded a different pantograph.

At which point I knew it was time to call it a day.  If I cannot see the finished quilt in my mind then there is absolutely no way I should start stitching - to do so is a guaranteed way to ruin a thoroughly nice top.  This is not a 'precious' quilt, it will not become a family heirloom or a show winner, but the amount of time I have put into the piecing, and how much I like it, means it deserves to be quilted nicely.  So it is all ready to go when I make my mind up.

Instead of more quilting, I trimmed the picnic blanket and made a binding, but which time the day had completely disappeared and it was time to start supper..

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Episyrphus balteatus

It's OK, I struggle to pronounce it properly as well.  But I can pronounce Marmalade Fly, which is what was having a lovely tea yesterday on an Echinops flower head.

Not a bee or wasp, but a hoverfly;  much maligned through ignorance because they mimic bees and wasps, but terribly important as pollinators and devourers of aphids - definitely a gardeners' friend.  Absolutely beautiful chap 🙂

Some excellent information at this Microscopy website, a fascinating place that is likely to consume HOURS of my time.