Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mr Fox

Last week a student set up a table outside the local library. She had a list of books that people felt had influenced their lives in some way. She'd written the individual titles onto strips of paper, folded them and dropped them into a box. The idea was that passersby would randomly select a title from the box - a bit like a lucky dip - then go in to the library and borrow the book.

I drew 'Fantastic Mr Fox' by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake. I decided that somehow this was serendipity and that I should borrow and read this book. Maybe something joyous would happen. So I did borrow it and read it. And I enjoyed it. I'm sure if I were seven years old I probably would've loved it.

I'm not sure of the purpose of the student's project. If you borrowed the book you were meant to return the slip to a different box inside the library - presumably for the student to collect later. Anyway, I think it was a nice gesture. It was an opportunity to read something you probably wouldn't normally read. Maybe even broaden your experiences. It lead me to rediscover my own Mr Fox and to borrow the DVD. So... not bad at all. Thanks.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Take five eggs

Today was my brother's birthday and I was charged with making the cake. I used a new favourite recipe, chocolate almond cake, from a New Zealand cookbook - 'A year's worth : Dunsandel Store' by Sam Mannering, Annabel Graham and Rebecca Law. It's an easy recipe that's gluten-free and delicious. What more could you ask for in a cake? I decided to go a bit mad with the decorations getting as many lollies as possible on the top. And sides.

The quilt is progressing. I've now completed 30 out of 40 rows of hand quilting. That's 75% done! This obsessive counting and calculating makes the project sound tedious but I actually enjoy hand stitching. It's quite soothing - sitting and sewing and listening to the radio. Time just flies by. But it's also satisfying to track my progress.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A small, useful thing

Finally I have a needle case and it is a joy. I no longer have to rummage around trying to find the right needle. It gives me pleasure to pick up my needle case and turn the felted wool pages. And, when I'm finished with it, I love to slip the needle back into its place.

I'd been meaning to make one for some time but because I'd never actually seen one I wasn't sure how rigid the 'cover' needed to be. Did it need some sort of stiffening like wadding or cardboard or interfacing? Or was it almost floppy - made from just two layers of fabric? In the end I used a lightweight wool, lined it with a cotton print and stitched a layer of a firmish interfacing in between. I'm quite happy with the result but feel there are infinite possibilities for development/improvement. Maybe a squarer shape would be nice. I'll definitely need to make more. Apparently this is the downside of the needle case - you can never have just one.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

China and orchids

I collected an assortment of china today that I won in an on-line auction. It included this adorable children's cup and saucer. It's Beswick and has images of characters from an English children's book series that I'm not familiar with.

On the cup are two bears, Teddy and Cuddly, standing arm-in-arm in a garden of red flowers. Katie Country Mouse is on the saucer, surrounded by forget-me-nots.

But the cutest are two tiny characters: a guinea pig on the back of the cup and a chipmunk on the saucer.
This is Gulliver Guinea-Pig setting off to travel the world in a blue hat with a yellow feather.

And my favourite - Charlie Chipmunk dancing in the daisies and looking like a little fat Buddha.

Its so cute. I'll keep it to bring out when small guests come to tea.

This is an orchid given to my husband for his birthday last year. It's had a hard outdoor life. I am hopeless with house plants. To our surprise its flowered. I've brought it inside so that we can enjoy its loveliness.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The scarf

The scarf is finished. It's right in so many ways. It has cables that I love. And because it uses chunky weight yarn and is really only a scarflette or 'neck wrap' it knits up quickly - great for a last minute gift. I used this free pattern from Kaleidoscope Yarns.

The blocking was brilliant. I'm a convert. I only wish I'd taken a 'before' photo so you could see the difference blocking made. It flattened the scarf out so that it didn't curl in on itself and sort of eased it into its correct dimensions.
This is a birthday gift for my mother - something to keep her warm through the end of winter.

My poor dog has not been well so I stayed home with her today and we had a really nice time. It was such a brilliant day - cold but sunny. She got lots of attention and I got lots of washing dry and even had time for a bit of quilting.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I've been a knitter for a very long time and I have never blocked a piece of knitting. However, I've just finished knitting this little scarf and the instructions say "block to size". As it's a birthday gift I wanted it to be near perfect so, for the very first time, I'm blocking. The scarf has cables and I was worried that blocking might flatten it and destroy the texture of the pattern. (The photo shows the back of the work). Of course, I had to look online to find out how to block.

There are various methods: wet blocking by spraying, wet blocking by soaking, and steam blocking. Wet blocking by spraying seemed to be the method most likely to result in the least amount of damage. So, again, following instructions, I pinned the scarf out to size on a towel on my ironing board and sprayed it with cold water. It needs to be completely dry before removing. I left it overnight but it's still slightly damp so I don't know how successful or worthwhile blocking is yet. But how badly can it turn out? Eek!

And while I'm knitting wintery things, spring is erupting in my garden with these gorgeous freesias. It's nice to bring some inside out of the rain and wind. Their perfume fills a room.

I should clarify from my last post that the baby I'm making the quilt for is not MY baby but the grandchild of friends.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Quilt update

My good intentions and self-imposed quilting schedule flew out the window almost as soon as I started. But I've completed 24 out of the 40 rows of hand quilting required for the quilt I started in May. So I'm 60% done!

I have till October (baby's due date) to get it finished so I still have time.
I've calculated I need to complete at least two rows of quilting a week to meet the deadline. This doesn't sound like a lot - and it isn't - except I'm slow and time starved. But determined.

A bit like Mr Mingus who sits on the quilt at every opportunity. What is it with cats and quilts?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pat and the gentle arts

My darling Pat died last month. He was almost 18. He was such an affectionate cat and I miss him terribly. Just thinking about him makes me weepy.

from 'The gentle art of domesticity' by Jane Brocket

from 'The gentle art of knitting' by Jane Brocket

So... I have let myself become absorbed in Jane Brocket's books:
  • The gentle art of domesticity
  • The gentle art of quiltmaking and
  • The gentle art of knitting
I can't recommend these books enough. Not only are the photos beautiful and the projects desirable but her writing is inspirational. And I love her 'give-it-a-go' attitude.
I want to buy and possess all of her books, give up work and embrace domesticity.
See more of Jane Brocket here.