Monday, 14 October 2019

A weekend spent sewing (part 1)

Apart from a quick trip to the supermarket I spent the entire weekend sewing which was lovely, and indulgent, and great creative fun, and extremely sad.  I could pretend it was all happy and quilty, but I've decided to have a bit of a cathartic waffle to myself.

After FINALLY pulling a green/floral top together and putting away the far-larger-than-will-be-quick-to-deal-with supply of squares which remain, I was energised enough to dig out another set of fabrics which had been sitting for years and years.

For the sake of sanity, I concentrated only on the 'small' box, there is a larger box which can wait for another few months/years/decades.

The collection of brushed cotton & homespun type fabrics started back in (guessing here) approximately 2000 / 2001 / 2002 - whenever Anne Walker's wonderful 'Piecemakers' shop closed down.  She had the clear-out sale to end all sales and I came away with yards and yards of beautiful material, and lots of "bits" too.  One of which was a massive bag of brushed cotton scraps.

Indulge me in a little detour please:   A few years earlier, one of my first ever finished quilts was made from a pack of brushed cotton squares.  It was not brilliantly made and originally quilted on the domestic sewing machine,  Ollie 'adopted' it and the amount of use the quilt received meant I re-quilted it on the longarm to give the fabric more stability.

He loved the quilt so much I always meant to make him another 'snuggly' from the Piecemakers scraps.  I always regretted I never got round to it (although the dear Hairy Boy did have a lot of other quilts to snuggle into) and sadly I cannot find any photos of Ollie with the quilt, it was a pre-digital time and there are just not so many images.  But these are dated 2008, and the wear is already starting to show.

Fast forward a few years and Daisy inherited the quilt;  it was already faded and worn, and by the time Little Miss Perfect had finished with it, I think it's fair to say the quilt had been totally loved to death.  The crazy thing is I cannot find a photo of Daisy with it either, but the state of this quilt is proof positive that it has had a long life keeping our pups warm and cosy.

The centre section where they lay is completely worn out; vintage quilts in museum collections have more material remaining in them than survives here.  I did contemplate repair, restoration or conservation.  For the time being it is going to be wrapped in acid-free tissue and put safely away.

But the reason it is relevant to this weekend's quilting is that in the bottom of the long-abandoned box from Piecemakers are the scraps left over from this old quilt.  And it all combined to make me dreadfully, dreadfully sad.

So, side-trip down memory lane over, back to this weekend:  the only progress I had made in the last 15 (?) years was what were meant to be the centres of Log Cabin blocks.  But of course, I don't want to do that any more 🙂

So I made some more 4-patch units with side strips, and when everything was put together found myself with an interesting collection of 16-Patch blocks.  Completely different from anything I've made before - previously the wonkiness of these fabrics had given me fits and my need for perfection meant I couldn't happily work with them.  Clearly I am now over that 😀

With 15 images that's quite enough for one post, I'll come up with Part 2 later.

Friday, 11 October 2019

A break from the garden

In outdoor news we continue to make progress on cutting back hedges which have not had proper attention for too many years and are generally much taller and wider than they were ever intended to be.  As weather allows, we do a couple of hours here, three hours another day and slowly we've just about brought the front under control.  It will take a couple of years of kindness and attention for some areas to thicken up as I'd like but gardening is not a quick project.

Neither, it would appear is quilt making.  There has been woefully little fabric action in 2019, the last time I touched the longarm machine was shortly after Daisy died and the Autumn 'Trip Around the World' which just missed being finished for last Halloween last year is likely to miss this year's deadline as well . . .

I've got as far as getting the top out and looking at the backing I made, does that count?

The table in my sewing room continues to be a dumping ground with 'great ideas' that never get past being piles, so everything has been put away for now.

One of the slowest projects of all time is a 'green & floral' quilt. I cut out every piece for this quilt back in 2007 (that is not a typo - 12 years ago).  Life and moving house got in the way and it was abandoned.  By the time I returned to the project I didn't want to make it any more, but with a couple of thousand squares cut, no way I was wasting that much fabric.  Over the years some of the blocks have become a table runner, possibly some placemats but I think I gave them away, and the fabrics have been rearranged and reorganised more times that a Downing Street Cabinet.  The last outing was so long ago even I cannot be bothered to search back through the blog looking for a link;  sheesh.

Any more more sensible / practical / ruthless than me would have admitted defeat and thrown the whole lot away but I am not that sensible.  And I really hate wasting perfectly good fabric.

So there were a few days of moving endless 3" squares around the design board - "random" is extremely difficult!

When I had got to the point of "that will do" the actual sewing took relatively little time, which is typical.  I plan on a green binding of the same value as the green triangles and that should frame the quilt and finish it off.

I'm still not finished though, the picture below is only some of the remaining fabric from this it-was-a-great-idea-when-I-started-all-those-years-ago project.  But the lid is back on the box for a while.

Thursday, 3 October 2019


Thank you for such gentle and thoughtful comments on yesterday's post, we are somewhat fragile at present and kindness is much appreciated.

The day started with a delicate but lovely sunrise, please click and have a look at the large version.

Before the next weather event arrives we had another dry day.  Very high cloud and hazy at times, it was a perfect opportunity to try and finish cutting the big laurel hedge which fronts the New Garden, Fruit Cage and Cottage Garden.  I chopped, Management shredded and despite a leisurely start, and a coffee break in the middle, we were just about done by lunchtime.

Having been embarrassed by seeing how filthy my loppers were, both they and the secateurs have had a very thorough clean and polish this afternoon ☺️

Still needs a bit of tidying up but there is now a great deal more light in that part of the garden.  We do not shred everything - a lot of the prunings get stuffed directly into the bottom of the hedge where they can rot down naturally and hopefully provide cover for some of the wildlife that continues to call Bag End 'home'.  We regularly see hedgehogs (yes, plural - our best count so far was four) and I know there are numerous Robins, wrens and dunnocks who nest and forage here.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Day out at Sizergh

Life can be hard;  not trying-to-survive-in-Syria hard, but even my supposedly warm, comfortable, secure little life at Bag End can be difficult, very, very difficult.  As some of you know, the last two weeks have been awful; we are shattered and hurting.  Management prescribed getting away from the house and he is right, it is a long time since I had a day out and Sizergh Castle fitted the bill on a few counts.  The first is the (finishing at end of October) display of an absolutely exceptional Jacobean coverlet & an amazing set of tapestries and the second is the gardens.

So off I went to take advantage of a brief gap in between storms, rain and high winds.  It was a lovely place to come to, although the gardens are small and limited compared to, say, Castle Kennedy.  I travelled 'light' with only a small compact camera, and did not take many pictures.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Seeing does not mean believing

Whilst the In-House Trip Hazard (I really thought that was Daisy’s special skill) is an utter joy, as she gains in confidence there is frightening potential as an escapologist, not that I think she particularly wants to leave home, but she is both easily distracted (has the attention span of a newt) and very determined when she wants something.  Last weekend a couple of attempts had to be thwarted at great cost to my stress level.

The scary stuff only happened when we were all working on the drive and I went out onto the road, and Lunatic Lurcher decided to try her damnedest to get to me.  I remember Daisy trying to do exactly the same thing and LP and I rushing to put up netting to stop her.  We did the same for Millie.  Netting did not stop her.

So here's the background - at one corner of the drive, near the compost bins, the soil level is about 60cm higher than the actual drive so there's not much between the ground and the Large Brick Wall which surrounds the front of the garden.  With Millie's proven ability to worm her way through impenetrable shrubs with thick branches we knew this was a risky spot so I put up dense netting to keep her safe.

She jumped over it.

I put up more netting.

She got her teeth into the bottom of it, tore a big hole and wriggled straight through.

So we decided:  "Right, you little monkey, we'll stop your happy games" and bent a large piece of STEEL weld mesh into a right angle, and fixed it in place blocking not only the access through the laurel hedge, but preventing Millie from getting to the wall.  I replaced the netting as well.

That worked until Management said "err, she's behind the laurel trying to work out how to get over the next bit of wall".  So we added another section of weld mesh, and thinking we were SO CLEVER to block every possible exit route, he carried on working on the drive and I carried on pruning the hedges next to the pavement.  These hedges are not accessible from inside the garden, and therefore - neither was I.

Ten minutes later, Millie had joined me on the road-side of the hedge.


So we laid a trap:  Management hid behind a section of wall where he could watch but not be seen, we set up the Bushnell camera and I went outside and called her.

And within a few minutes the little Madam was out again.  And if we had not seen it, and had photos to prove what she'd done, there is no way anyone (including the Homeless Hounds Aunties) would believe she can squeeze through a 20cm steel mesh.  But she can, or rather, she could, until we covered it with chicken wire which is buried in the ground to stop digging.

The photos are not the clearest, sorry, but what she did was put her front legs through, then her head & shoulders and wriggle, turning her chest sideways (because the diagonal of a 20cm square is 28cm, about 11 inches, and that is about the depth of her rig cage), and slither through looking like a foal being born.

It was a lot easier for her to wriggle in here than it was for me, but that is how the chicken wire was added.

Dratted little dear girl - came to see if she could help:

I don't know about "Gone in 60 Seconds" but if you watch the timestamp on the bottom of the GIF, once Millie had worked out how to get through she accomplished her goal in about ten seconds.

I'd love to say that was the end of our problems, that we packed up and went inside for a nice cold beer . . . chance would be a fine thing.

I turned my secateurs to the hedge the other side of the gate, for Management to tell me "she's got all of her front legs up on the wall and is trying to work out how she can haul herself up there".  That meant another significant piece of weld mesh cut and bent into shape.  I shall tell any neighbours who are silly enough to ask that I did it in order to provide support for the adjacent ivy, they won't believe me any more than you do!

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Alcatraz? Belmarsh? Guantanamo?

When we had our 'home check' as part of Millie's adoption process, the lady who visited agreed that Bag End was a lovely, dog-safe garden and would provide a great place for a four-paws to play and run around.  We certainly believed that to be the case, otherwise there's no way we would have taken on another dog.

However, that assessment was made by normal measures and standards, on the assumption that we would be adopting a 'normal' dog.  Millie is not 'normal', she is a part-Saluki sighthound and people who know more about this than I do keep confirming that!

The Honourable Lady Millicent is blisteringly fast, as skinny as a racing snake, and potential death on legs to the blackbirds whom she loves to chase out of the hedges (she has not caught one yet, but I already fear for next year's fledglings).  At some point in the future I would not be surprised to find she can climb - I am trying not to worry that lurchers have been known to perform death defying feats of almost cat-like articulation & agility to get to their quarry.

Millie has not escaped, run away, got loose, or left the garden without us.  However, and it is a huge however, we both felt there was the potential for her to get up to goodness-knows-what mischief in a garden the size of Bag End, and we have been busy working to shut down anything we could think of which, at some point in the future, SHE might think of . . .  Our first couple of weeks living with the Honourable Lady may have lulled us into a false sense of security, but as Millie began to trust us and grow in confidence her ability to rummage around in almost inaccessible parts of the garden grew too.

And then there was the matter of Management watching her squeeze through a space that was physically too small for her to fit through - yes, we measured it.  In Millie's defence, she only did it to get to me, who was the "wrong" side of the fence and she wanted to see what I was up to, but it still scared the crap out of us, so much so it gets a post of its own (that will be tomorrow).

But the stuff we had already considered included an area I felt she might be interested in excavating - which has been covered in chicken wire the way you'd edge the bottom of a chicken run to stop a fox digging through .

Additional gates have appeared inside the garden so that we can limit where she is at any time, and existing gates have sprouted an extra metre of height . . .

(In Millie's defence, I set up this picture with a bit of her favourite treat on the horizontal rail)

We made adjustments earlier in the year to the trellis divider alongside the Vegetable Patch, but that has gained a height extension as well.

But the biggest change has been another massive delivery from the local builders' merchant and Management getting busy with the angle grinder.

It never occurred to Daisy to go into this large bed:

but Millie sees it as her own adventure playground and we've added considerably to the height of the fence (which is how I got badly damaged by the hawthorn).  You can hardly see what we've done, the hedges were already thick and high but I now feel a little more relaxed when I cannot see exactly where she is.

I may have already mentioned how fast and slender skinny Millie is 🤣  and her ability to get into places that you and I would not even call places . . . we tried not to laugh when she got herself between the greenhouse water tanks and the fruit cage, realised she couldn't turn round and was stuck.  Actually, that's not true - we did laugh, a lot.  It helps that despite having legs like Bambi and looking all skinny and fragile Millie appears to be robustly tough.  She eventually wriggled free on her own and was completely unscathed by the incident.

Not content with doing so much work outselves, we have also finally accepted the inevitable and will be getting someone to do a lot of additional work for us . . .

We are getting quotes to replace a significant quantity of Bag End's fencing - the sections which we inherited with the house that have been heading towards their Use By Date for many years.  Best guess, seeing as one of the quotes is from the chap who originally installed the fence is that it is 30 years old, so does not really "owe" anyone anything.  One of those jobs we have always known we'd have to face at some point and always had a good reason to put off.  The quotes are going to be horrendous.  😱☹️😭