Archive for August, 2011

Kirsty at the Leopard Anchor has had a rather splendid idea. She’s hosting a monthly photo scavenger hunt – she posts the topics and you have the rest of the month to take the photos. Clever, eh?

Me being me, I signed up a few days before the deadline, but here are my photos.


I’ve posted before about my love of the library, and it continues unabated. I love the library, the pleasure of picking up a book just because it takes your fancy. Our library has a great stock of inspiring books for the crafty sort – here are the ones I have on loan at the moment:

The top one is the River Cottage Bread book, by the way, which despite my wheat allergy, has inspired me to make all sorts of bready things (there are lots of not-wheat recipes) and Mr S&S to contemplate making a clay oven. No, really. Some of these books were fetched from libraries in the far reaches of the county – a little van brought them to my library – which cost me nothing. Libraries are brilliant, and if we don’t use them, we’ll lose them. Join your library and borrow books, people!

Ahem. Next heading:

Something I made

Yeah, bit of a cheat here. I have made things this month but for various reasons I can’t show you yet. And the stuff I made before this month I’ve already shown off. So this morning, I made this cup of tea:

It was very nice. And the chickens on the mug lead to the next category:

Motifs: Birds

I bought this fabric at the Festival of Quilts. It’s slightly baffling as it’s not my usual taste at all – I dont’ usually go for the very cute and pastel – but something about it really appealed to me.

Then we have Supplies
I was in a hurry, so I grabbed the yarn that came to hand in about 2 minutes and piled it up. So many possibilities!

And finally, Holiday

I haven’t got round to posting much about our holiday – Dance Camp Wales; it’s a camp, in Wales, there’s dancing – but here’s a picture of the Little Girl joining in with the evening dance:

I recommend you have a look at Kirsty’s blog, not just because there’ll be a list of all the other scavengers, but because the blog is lovely. She’ll be posting September’s categories soon if you want to join in!

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Mary chose another great word this week. The puzzle we’re grappling with at the moment isn’t one with a conjectural answer, but is intricate and difficult.

It is this. What do we name our new guinea pig? Our elderly pig, Mallow, died while we were away on holiday, so I asked the animal rescue lady for a new female to keep Maisie company. She said she had a ‘young female’ looking for a home, so I went to get her – and young she certainly is! Look:

She just fits inside my cupped hands. She’s very sweet, if a little timid; we’ve just about convinced her that we don’t want to eat her. She has long fur with only one rosette, on her head. I love the big white eyebrows!

Our previous pigs all have had names beginning with M. There’s no real reason for this and we won’t reject the right name if it starts with another letter. So, before you pop off to Mary’s place to see the other weekworders, leave me a comment and tell me, what do you think we should call her?

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I finished this ages ago, but have only just got round to posting about it.

I am very proud of this, as it’s my first ‘proper’ crochet project (I don’t count granny squares and an easy-peasy scarf). I wanted to make something for my friends’ baby and, somewhat rashly, decided on a crochet blanket. My friends didn’t know the gender of the baby when I embarked on the project, and are, let’s just say, not really ‘pastel people’. So I went for gender-neutral unpastel and an unusual shape. And I think it turned out rather well:

It’s actually quite an easy pattern, and when you’re used to knitting, crochet grows really fast. It arrived with the new family the day mother and baby arrived home from hospital, so I was pleased with the timing too!

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I’m a bit late posting about this, but thought you might like to see some pictures from this year’s Festival of Quilts, held at Birmingham NEC last week. We took the train up, and despite delays, we had a lovely time.

The lighting was much better this year, so I was able to get much better pictures of the Traditional Quilts. Last year I was totally blown away by the art and contemporary quilts, but this year, although there were some amazing quilts on display, I found myself satisfied with a quick glance at most of them. Talking to others, this was the general impression. Maybe last year was an exceptionally good year. However, there were still some lovely pieces of work:

I really liked the colours in this – and the techniques and shapes in the quilting were lovely. (They should show up if you enlarge the picture).

I’m not really one for the Union-Flag-everywhere trend, but I did think this was clever – it’s made up of lots of smaller Union flags, in all orientations. It doesn’t really show in the picture, but the fabric choice is really clever.

The picture didn’t come out brilliantly, but I just loved the colours and movement in this.

I loved this one. I heard some people commenting that ‘it didn’t make sense’ and helpfully pointed out that it was a Welsh alphabet quilt, and did make sense if you spoke Welsh. It was gorgeous – beautifully done and some lovely pictures.

I especially loved this little chap, for ‘Dd is for Ddraig’:

Again, great colours, amazing cutting and sewing and lovely fabrics:

The art history student in me appreciated this one:

And this one was lovely – my second favourite fish quilt of the show.

Because this was my favourite:

Here’s a detail:

I love the combination of shiny, plain and the odd unexpected floral.

But if the art quilts weren’t perhaps as good as last year, the traditional ones (which I adore anyway) were mindblowing. Absolutely amazing. There were also big crowds around some of them, which meant I couldn’t get good photos, but I hope the following will give an idea of what I mean!

I only took one photo of the quilts as they’re displayed – don’t know why as it gives quite a good idea of the scope and range of quilts on display:

The work on this was meticulous.

A lovely take on the traditional hexagon flowers:

This was utterly traditional but the colour choice makes it look fresh and modern, I think.

I love this. I want it for my bed:

Again, great colours and absolutely meticulous cutting and stitching:

I love – and admire – wholecloth quilts, and there were a few on display. They are just breathtaking, in an unassuming way:

And this was the winner in the traditional quilts section. And I can quite see why.

Here’s a detail:

But possibly my favourite quilt was this one, called ‘Becky’s Dresses’:

Beautiful, hand made, hand-smocked dresses, incorporated, very cleverly, into a quilt.

And after the quilts, was the shopping. And oh my, the shopping. I bought quite a bit of fabric that I didn’t need but that I definitely wanted. Including some uber-synthetic black taffeta spangled with multi-coloured shiny stars. I love having kids as an excuse to buy things like that. I hope to be able to show you what I’ve planned for my purchases…

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A corking word choice this week, from Mary.

My favourite current example of tenacity can be found in my garden. There is a lovely rose growing up the side of the house. I don’t know how old it is, but it’s got to be at least 10 years old, and very possibly more. Last year, I noticed some blackspot. And then, on closer examination, saw that it was really, really bad. So I sought advice, and the two options I was given were a) dig it up and burn it or b) prune it savagely, and hope it makes it through the winter – but it probably won’t.

Reasoning that a small chance was better than none, I went for option b). And then we had a hard winter (with temperatures of -22C on Christmas Eve) which killed several of my healthy roses. So I thought the savagely pruned elderly one stood no chance, and for most of spring into early summer, it seemed that I was right. Fortunately, I didn’t get round to digging up the roots, because look!

It’s come back beautifully – there are tiny, tiny traces of what could be blackspot, but nothing like it was last year, so I hope that if I carefully cut out the affected growth, it may be treatable.

Pop over to see Mary for a list of the other Weekworders.

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Taking stock

My knitting/crochet mojo, long missing, has resurfaced. I have been looking at knitting books borrowed from the library, and thinking about what I might knit as Christmas presents (yes, I know it’s only August, but I start my Christmas knitting in September, to avoid the ‘knitting frantically on Christmas Eve’ panic I have experienced in the past) and the urge to pick up my needles and hook has returned.

So I’ve been stocktaking. Before the knitting mojo deserted me, I made a pledge that this year, I would use at least as much yarn as I bought. This seemed, at the time, realistic. I wasn’t saying I’d buy no yarn (because we all know how that would work out) and I wasn’t committing to knit with the exact yarn I bought (because that would be stifling). Just that there’d be a bit of a ‘one in, one out’ principle applied.

So, having had a few yarn-craft-free months I thought I’d better see how much yarn I’d bought that was still unknitted. I think, to be fair, I have to look at length, not weight – 100g of chunky yarn is much quicker to knit than 100g of laceweight. And the slightly shocking total is, um, 5649 metres. And that doesn’t include the stuff I’ve already used this year (quite a lot). In fairness, one seventh of this is contained in a single skein of laceweight yarn, but still. I think it’ll be a bit of a tall order to get through over a kilometre a month between now and New Year. But I shall make a valiant effort, and shall keep you apprised of my progress!

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Aaaand I’m back to Weekword! It feels nice.

This week’s word is defined thus:

1. (sometimes initial capital letter ) resembling or befitting Don Quixote.
2. extravagantly chivalrous or romantic; visionary, impractical, or impracticable.
3. impulsive and often rashly unpredictable.

The weather in the UK is never predictable. Never ever. I do sometimes think it must be nice to live somewhere where you can plan a barbecue for a certain date and know it won’t rain. Or even to get up, see what the weather’s doing and know it’ll keep doing that all day. I wonder sometimes if there are other countries that have so many weather related proverbs and sayings and old wives’ tales. Off the top of my head I can think of a dozen – most to do with the presence, or absence, or quantity, of rain! The weather is, famously, a British obsession (and one of the few topics it’s safe to discuss with strangers).

Today we’re going to a wedding and I’m going to layer my summer dress with a cardigan and a wrap and take wellies (and an umbrella) as well as my sandals. It would be nice to just look outside and choose my outfit accordingly – but on the other hand, I think I’d miss the variety and unpredictability of the British weather. It does mean you always need a plan B (‘inside if wet’) but it also means I appreciate sunny days enormously. And of course, without the rain, there wouldn’t be my beloved green everywhere.

Our little valley is especially quixotic – we look at the weather forecast for the nearest town and take it as a guideline only, because quite often we find ourselves in a little microclimate. All around us is being pounded by rain – we’re out in the garden sitting on blankets. Or the heavens will open and the rain will pound on our roof – and later on, neighbours a couple of miles away will say they haven’t had a drop.

Pop over and see Carmen for links to the other Weekworders.

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Being boring

I had an email from a dear friend, in which she asked me what was new in my life. And the answer was: not much. Life here plods on and nothing much happens. For a while I wondered if this was a problem, if I should be chafing, but actually, I’m not. And then I remembered a poem by one of my favourite poets, Wendy Cope, which seemed to be an absolutely perfect description of my state of mind.

If you ask me ‘What’s new?’, I have nothing to say
Except that the garden is growing.
I had a slight cold but it’s better today.
I’m content with the way things are going.
Yes, he is the same as he usually is,
Still eating and sleeping and snoring.
I get on with my work. He gets on with his.
I know this is all very boring.

There was drama enough in my turbulent past:
Tears and passion – I’ve used up a tankful.
No news is good news, and long may it last,
If nothing much happens, I’m thankful.
A happier cabbage you never did see,
My vegetable spirits are soaring.
If you’re after excitement, steer well clear of me.
I want to go on being boring.

I don’t go to parties. Well, what are they for,
If you don’t need to find a new lover?
You drink and you listen and drink a bit more
And you take the next day to recover.
Someone to stay home with was all my desire
And, now that I’ve found a safe mooring,
I’ve just one ambition in life: I aspire
To go on and on being boring.

Some people are very sniffy about Wendy Cope, because her poems are a) accessible and b) often funny, (as though humour was incompatible with poetry) but knickers to them – she still manages to deal with the big subjects and does so with verve. (Although like a lot of poets, she is not at all good at reading her work aloud – I saw her at Hay and although she was witty and engaging and interesting, she read her work very stiltedly. I wished more poets did what the late UA Fanthorpe did, and got someone else to read for her.) So I think this happy cabbage will go and dig out my copies of her books and make a cup of tea. Not the most thrilling way to spend an afternoon, but then, I don’t aspire to thrills.

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I have been on holiday. I went to Dance Camp Wales again. You may remember that I posted about it last year and so I was really looking forward to going again. And it was wonderful. As well as the exhilaration of the camp and the dancing, I also had the added joy of meeting my friends from last year (and making new ones). I took it a bit easier on the dancing this year (although I still did plenty) and spent some time in the Creative area, and in my camping circle, and in the creche with the kids. The (slightly) slower pace was just what I needed to get myself together and start to recharge. I’ve mentioned several times recently that my energy and creativity have been at a bit of a low ebb for the last few months. I’m still not sure why it happened but I think things are starting to hit an upswing now. I came back from camp with the start of a cold, to find that our beloved pet duck had disappeared, one of our guinea pigs had died, and our dog had weed all over the floor, but the feeling of positivity remains. I shall post more about camp later – and show you some things that have been bubbling away. Fingers crossed that normal blogging service may just be resumed…

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