Thursday, 30 July 2020

Another sewing day

I know all this rain keeps the garden lush and growing strongly but bluuuuueeergh.  It feels as if it has rained for nearly all of July and I am cold - even if it's only 2 or 3 logs I should not be lighting the woodburner at suppertime, but I am.  When it is finally dry enough to cut the grass the job will be a hard-work nightmare and Management has already been warned he's going to be involved in helping me.

Another day of simple sewing yesterday.  With a few tweaks I now have my preferred face-mask pattern*  adjusted to fit.  Having already lost the first one I made I know these are going to become like gloves, hats and scarves:  I have "speshul skills" when it comes to misplacing all three, might as well add masks to the list of disappearing accessories.

Back to the scraps now, that is quite enough Grown Up Sewing for one week.

*other patterns are available (thousands of them!).  This works for me:  Dhurata Davies

Wednesday, 29 July 2020


All around there is Covid, or cancer, or economic catastrophe.  Which rather puts a cut finger into perspective, yes?

It is frustrating that I cannot get on with tidying the garden because it's definitely too soon to do anything with my left hand that might risk splitting my little wound, and the weather is wet more than dry so I would find it difficult to do much anyway.  A couple of days ago I saw a blackbird extracting worms from the compost heap and bobbing off to a thick mass of unpruned foliage - whilst there are definitely still babies around hedge-trimming is off the agenda.

Therefore since the weekend my world has been, and continues to be fabric-centred.

Saturday:  I thought I'd play with an idle idea - I love the Trip Around the World quilts but sometimes you can have a little too much of squares.  I wondered how it would turn out if I sewed the strips as usual but cut the sections to make rectangles.  It seemed promising on paper.

Dug around in the 2½" strips box and pulled a few that sort of went together.  Trouble is, I ~always~ forget that these strips are old and I did not cut many of them, so they are not all exactly the same width, makes for some very wonky seams . . .

A bit of cutting up, unpicking and resewing (typical Trip Around the World then!) and I had the beginning of a possibility.  What I did not have, sadly, was any more than one strip of each fabric so the design was unceremoniously truncated.

Rather than waste everything I had done to that point, I added some quick borders with lovely (cheap) old-fashioned calico and the piece ended up a very strangely proportioned 22 x 65";  it is destined to be a practice piece on the longarm and who knows what will happen to it after that?

Unfortunately that did not make any dent in the scrap fabric collection, so I pulled out two boxes from the massive cutting up session last November.  I am pretty certain I sorted all these scraps in order to use them up, not to have them live for years in tubs 🤣   No plan, just the aim of keeping things in colour families and wasting as little as possible.  I sort of have a vague-likely-to-change-18-times idea of where this might go, but for now that does not matter.  It is relaxing and strangely therapeutic to sew without any plan and to know I was finally using some very old bits of the stash.

At present I am done with all of the smallest "crumb" pieces and working through the "strings".  I've also been able to rummage in the 2" strip box when I have needed more of a particular colour, so that's another small dent in the scraps.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Pesky blackbirds

Those dratted birds - now they have found the Rowan berries there will be nothing left in a couple of weeks.

I deliberately planted a self-seeded Rowan sapling near the sewing room window  because it is my favourite tree and I wanted one as close as possible (sorry about the water on the glass, and it's a dull, damp day so the light is awful).  Proximity to the house does not seem to bother this blackbird:

As he flew away I realised, sadly, that Autumn really is not that far off:

Friday, 24 July 2020

Sick note?

A quiet week - because I did not have any choice in the matter.  Thankfully I seem to be healing fairly well although my finger is still incredibly tender and I cannot put even the slightest (accidental) pressure on the wound.  Hence the very large dressing which might make the injury look far worse than it is, but is really there for protection.  I know 'opposable thumbs' are all the rage when it comes to discussing evolution and the ability of homo sapiens to do things which other creatures cannot but do not ever (ever, ever, ever, ever, ever) under-estimate the importance of an index finger!

So it has been a week of bimbling around, no gardening except for watering the greenhouse and much reading,  But today two of my babies are back from their "spa-week" so today I resolved to do things fabric-related.  It should have been simple:  I would like to use less kitchen paper towel when I am in the campervan so I cut up an old 'dog towel' and wanted to overlock all the edges to make a set of wipe cloths for Bill.

That was not as easy as it should have been - I had "thread issues" which is something [nearly] everyone with an overlocker dreads.  Despite owning the serger for some years I confess to finding the machine something of an unknown quantity.  If I could get my head around exactly how the stitch is made, and what each of the four threads are doing I would find it a whole lot easier to troubleshoot when there are problems.  Much of the day vanished into YouTube land and there was considerable irritation at not finding what I was looking for.  But I fixed it, although that was not particularly satisfying - if I do not know what caused the Lower Looper to go bat-cr*p crazy in the first place I have not learnt how to prevent it happening in future,

At one point I knew exactly how a miserable toddler felt - I was so frustrated with the dratted thing that all I wanted to do was have a hissy fit and some tears, but I resisted the temptation because it would not have solved anything.  A job which should not have taken all day did, and made an unholy mess at the same time.  But now I have a lovely pile of cloths to use in the van, which was always the aim.

The chances of there being gin after supper?


Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Not all doom and gloom

Despite the preponderance of steri-strips and sterile dressings at Bag End, it is not all doom and gloom this week.

Does the accidental arrival of these beautiful poppies in the vegetable patch make it a Potager?

The clematis are fabulous:

Not sure what sort of bee this is, but together with a lovely Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, the buddleia was a busy place.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Autumn 🍁 😉 🍂

My suggestion that the more unruly parts of the garden get an early Autumn sort-out was no idle threat, and one I made a start on yesterday.  The staggered beds near the house were a mess, and nothing more was going to flower or be interesting for the rest of the year, so that's where I started.

The tulips were over months ago, and the self-sown aquilega had finished flowering and was at the tatty stage, so out it all came.  I was rather pleased with myself (which is always a dangerous place to be  . . . . as you will see shortly) and broke the job up differently to how I usually work.  As this area is three individual sections I weeded one part, then added compost, then mulched and had a glorious TA DA of something - however small - being completely finished before I moved onto the next bit.

So one section done, break for a late coffee.  Section two done, oh this is going so well, let's weed section three and stop for a late lunch.

Which is where the wheels did not come completely off but the axle got rather buckled.  A second of inattention whilst slicing some vegetables and my very best knife demonstrated just how well it cuts and nearly removed the top of my left index finger.

I am pretty good at first aid and blood does not bother me.  In the past I have calmly dealt with such injuries as a Stanley knife through someone's hand and a scaffolding pole almost removing a builders' forehead and displaying how pretty the skull is.  But with a tea towel wrapped around my elevated hand and as much pressure as I could apply to try and stop the bleeding it was a little while before I wanted to look at the damage I had done.  Let's just say it is bad enough that in a pre-Covid world I may just have suggested Management take me to A&E for stitches, but I don't fancy that these days so we made do with the nice, sterile contents of a well-stocked first aid kit.  It took six bits of Steri-strip to close the cut whose depth makes it borderline for this treatment - ouch!

When everything had calmed down we went back outside and he helped me finish the last bed.  So happy day - a WHOLE TASK STARTED AND FINISHED IN ONE DAY.  Not often I can say that 😉.

The rest of the day was more relaxing, apart from finding all the things which are tricky /painful /impossible without an index finger - try eating your supper and holding a fork properly without your left index . . .

Typing is pretty rubbish as well - you should have seen this before the spellcheck!  There will be no gardening today, I have scheduled a few hours alternating between my book and the pile of photos to be scanned.  I also need to have a think about what to put in these beds long-term . . .

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Hit the buffers?

Goodness, where has another week gone?  Disappeared into a damp gloom, mostly, which means there has been much indoors, little outdoors and to my surprise, I rather liked it.

On reflection, I think by early July I had "hit the buffers" after using the glorious weather which accompanied Lockdown One to work very hard at bringing the garden back under control.  Day after day of physical work with the underlying stress of all the pandemic unknowns and economic concerns - has to catch up with you eventually.  Happily I have not keeled over in a flat-out woe is me, this is more a gentle slowing down accompanied by much "oh, sod it, cannot be bothered and it does not matter"!

Have I finally learnt how to slow down and chill out?

There has been a little sewing of the mending/alteration kind but I am not in the mood to do anything patchwork related.  And anyway, at present I cannot because I sent all three machines off for their bi-annual service and holiday and they're not back yet.  Clearly having far too much fun without me.  I always seem to have sleeves to shorten - unpicking 4-thread serging on knitted fabric - grrrrrr.  Now if only I could remember WHERE online I found some really delicious cotton tape, and get it ordered, I could finish the job.

With generally gnarly weather it has been easy to concentrate on indoor stuff and progress has finally been made on the decades old 'digitise all the printed photos' project.  It's a slow job that is incredibly mentally tiring: decide what to keep, set each one individually on the scanner bed, scan, repeat, check all the files, rename, move to the right folder, repeat.  I've done over 300 images in the last week and am trying not to think about how many more there are still waiting.  Despite it being tiring I am having a lovely time and I have found a few pictures which have been missing for years; there has been much remembering and reminiscing.

There has been very little garden activity other than watering the greenhouse.  In truth, there are a few bits of the garden rather p*ssing me off at present and I am reminded, once again, why I don't generally grow vegetables.  The perpetual spinach which is meant to be a bomb-proof variety has bolted and gone to seed, the peas which promised to be TALL (I checked the packet) are barely 18" high and the second planting of climbing french beans went outside just before the weather turned cold, wet, windy and (did I mention?) cold and the poor things have turned their toes up in disgust and are barely hanging on.

But I forgive the opium poppies for invading because they are just beautiful.

In the bulb bed the bloody slugs have had most of my Love-in-a-Mist (not content with munching sunflowers in the vegetable patch), and the cosmos are not bulking out much either.

We had an unexpected visit from the tree surgeon and an additional 1½ loads of freshly chipped brash & branches now adorns the driveway, which would (if I got on with it) help me mulch nearly all the garden.  Which is an Autumn job . . .

But in some ways it feels like we've jumped directly from a gloriously sunny and extended Spring to an early Autumn.  The blueberries have already started producing which I don't generally expect them to do until the end of the month, and the beautiful thug which is Crocosmia "Lucifer" is flowering her heart out, and I don't expect that until late Summer either.

I am not ready for all these Rowan berries - they definitely say "Autumn" although I know from experience that the blackbirds will have away with everything as soon as they are ripe.

So I might just tell the garden "oh, sod you" and make a VERY early start on mulching and tidying up.  Very soon it will be August and theoretically safe to start work on the hedges . . . oh stop laughing at the back, I know I say every, single dratted year that I am going to "get ahead" and "make an early start" on pre-wintering the garden and it never flippin' happens.

It is not all doom and gloom.  Despite the wasps moving in early and finishing off the strawberries before I was ready for the crop to end, I have more redcurrants in the freezer than ever before and the gooseberries are likely to contribute the same.

But today I have not done anything horticultural; after an early morning dash to Asda I went back to my new book and declared little interest in doing anything but reading it all day.