Friday, 1 November 2019

Twas a dream they'd dreamed

Today is the next reveal in the Endeavourers Quilt Group, this quarter the theme for our quilts was "Dreams" and it was a bit of a struggle I have to say. My original plan for the challenge was to create a Dreamcatcher but I could not get what I wanted, something transparent and flimsy, to work as a quilt, so with a week to go to the deadline, it was time for a rethink!

Wynken, Blynken and Nod!

Thinking about dreams got me to thinking, naturally, about sleep and then to the rhymes and songs we used as parents, and now as grandparents, to encourage our children and grandchildren to sleep. One of the first to come to mind was the lovely image of Wynken, Blynken and Nod fishing from their shoe boat. I am not sure that our boys were particularly taken with the poem, but they did like the names :)

When I came across the image of this black and white illustration for the poem I had my inspiration for the challenge, so, fishing from a shoe boat it was.

Like the illustration I wanted to create a shimmery, dreamy feel to the quilt so I covered a piece of black fabric with a layer of white voile and used that as the background for the applique and quilting.

The silvery moon was stitched behind the voile but everything else was added on top of it.

In contrast with the usual order of things I started with the quilting for the rippling water, which was quilted in three different shades of silver and grey. The lightest shade was used to represent the frothy tops of the waves.

Once the quilting was finished I started on the figures. They turned out to be a somewhat involved process!

I have been wanting to try stumpwork for a while and decided that this was my chance :) Dusting off my copy of Stumpwork Embroidery by Kay and Michael Dennis, I set to work. First up were the heads of my figures, which required wrapping and gluing calico around a cardboard shape and then stuffing the tiny shapes with toy stuffing. That was very fiddly, but not as fiddly as creating the hands! They were in a class of their own for fiddlieness :)

The hands and arms are made by wrapping and gluing thread around a paper-wrapped wire, then wrapping four wires together and adding a fifth for the thumb then continuing to wrap the thread around to create a wrist. Fortunately I bought several different thicknesses of paper-wrapped wire in Japan so I had all the supplies on hand but holding the wires, wrapping them and trying not to get glue everywhere was challenging to say the least :) The result does at least look like a hand even if it is not a particularly child-like hand!

I wanted the only real colour in the piece to be from the figures so they are all wearing nightshirts, made from old cotton shirts, and have felt nightcaps to keep their heads warm. (It also saved me from having to create hair!)

Looking at the image now though I might add a line of stitching to the third figure to suggest an arm as he looks a bit strange to me without one, and there isn't really any room in that boat for another stumpwork arm!

According to the poem Wynken, Blynken and Nod were fishing for herring fish, that were the stars in the sea, so my herring fish were created from fusible web backed shimmery voile and some of the dyed habotai silk left over from the sail. Above the shoe boat the stars twinkle and below it in the sea the stars become twinkling fish.

It was difficult to photograph but the net embroidered with the very apt net stitch also twinkles as it is made with one strand of embroidery floss and one strand of metallic embroidery thread.

I enjoyed trying out lots of new and different techniques for this challenge, and I am pleasantly surprised with how this turned out. It is backed and bound as a quilt but I might put it in a box frame to give to a grandson for Christmas with a book of rhymes.

And in case you are wondering how the rhyme of Wynken, Blynken and Nod goes head on over to my post on the Endeavourers blog where you will find it and all of the other amazing quilts that this challenge has inspired!

Friday, 25 October 2019

Exploring a New to Me Country

Welcome to October's New to Me link party.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram will already know that I spent the last three weeks enjoying the sights and tastes (!) of Japan, so there have been lots of travel New to Me's this month, and not a single sewing N2Me :)

My first ride on a bullet train, followed by several more over the course of the three weeks. They were a very pleasant change from the usual service here in the UK, I can tell you. Immaculate inside and out, punctual and fast what more could you ask for?

 Our first introduction to Japan was the Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo, which was just across the road from our first hotel. As it turned out visiting the Temple was a great start to the holiday as it is Tokyo's oldest temple and is, apparently, the most widely visited spiritual site in the world. The temple sits at the centre of a complex of buildings that included a five-storey pagoda and an avenue of small stalls selling assorted snacks and souvenirs. The stalls are apparently handed down through generations and began when the street cleaners outside the temple were granted the right to sell goods to the visiting pilgrims. A steady stream of pilgrims willing to part with their money is always going to be too tempting isn't it?

Everywhere that we visited there was a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new and nowhere is that more evident than here in the Hama-rikyu Gardens in Tokyo, which are surrounded by the towering skyscrapers of the modern city. The Gardens were originally created for the hunting lodge of a wealthy potentate in the 1600's but now stand as a tranquil space for the public amidst the hustle and bustle of a teeming city.

Equally tranquil but very different was another New to Me, the stunning Zen Rock Garden at Ryoanji Temple. It is apparently the most famous Rock Garden in Japan and it is not hard to see why, it was absolutely beautiful. In a trip that took us to lots of amazing places, this Rock Garden was my favourite of them all. Even although we were surrounded by other tourists there was a real sense of peace at the Rock Garden. It was not difficult to see how easy it would be to spend hours just contemplating the meaning of life here! The Rock Garden is even older than the Hama-rikyu garden as it is reputed to have been created around 1500, that is a lot of contemplation!

The trip wasn't all about ancient structures though, we also took a trip on the quirky Dotonbori Ferris Wheel in Osaka. The stretch across the top was a bit nerve-wracking but the views across the city more than made up for the tense time :)

Fortunately, there was always a tempting snack to be had! We loved the food all over Japan, and even had a cookery lesson in Kyoto, where we made all of the elements of our own Bento Box (another New to Me), and you can see the results above! Chicken Teriyaki, Spinach Salad with Sesame Dressing, Prawn and Pumpkin Tempura and Sushi we were very proud of ourselves :)

One of the highlights of the trip for me was the abundance of textile and textile-related activity in every place that we visited. These Kimono offcuts were being sold at a Flea Market we visited in Nagoya. I am sure you will not be surprised to know that the bundle on the left might have found its way into my case :)

So, that's my New to Me for this month, now it is your turn to link up and share any new experiences that you have had this month, successful or not. The link party will remain open until the end of the month and I would love it if you included a link back or the blog button at the top of this post in your post too.
You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Saturday, 28 September 2019

A Glorious Garden

On our recent holiday in France we came across a wonderful garden in a small village and enjoyed our visit there so much that we resolved to bring the big and small gorgeous grandsons there when they came to visit.

The "Jardin du Coq" starts as a series of small rooms, the boudoir had a dressing table and chair with this striking blue mirror above it.

Propped up outside the trellis of the boudoir was this equally striking blue bike.

Beyond the rooms (and a child size maze, which our grandson loved and I forgot to take a photo of!) the garden opens out into a set of themed gardens. The "Dame Blanche" garden above was laid out like a chequers/drafts board with card suit ironwork in the surrounding path.

When we first visited the lavender had not been cut and visitors were invited to cut their own bunches. Sadly we had not come prepared and on our second visit with the grandsons the lavender stalks had disappeared :( The scent on the warm, sunny day of our first visit with the lavender in bloom was glorious! Next year we will go prepared.

 Our favourite part of the garden and the one that we were keen to show the gorgeous grandsons, was the wild wood. To enter we had to tiptoe past the sleeping crocodile,

 and introduce ourselves, very gingerly, to the woodland dragon! Our grandson was not too sure about him at first :)

 He loved counting the magic hoops

 was reassured by the Samurai warrior guarding the Dragon

 and had great fun finding and counting the faces hidden amongst the trees!
The adults had fun reading the messages written on roof tiles scattered around the paths

 and treating themselves to a couple of bottles of Rose and Lavender water distilled from the bushes in the garden :). The Lavender tea from those bushes was delicious too, although my DH was not so keen.

 In the tiny museum above the entrance to the garden  I came across this sewing machine and, of course, had to share the photo!

We had two lovely afternoons here and even though it was at the end of what has been a long, dry summer in France, the garden was still beautiful and we cannot wait to visit again in the Spring.

If you have visited somewhere New to You this month too link it up to this month's New to Me link party. I am always on the lookout for recommendations!

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Feathers and Faded Grandeur

Have you tried anything out for the first time this month? If you have, you are in the right place to share your triumphs (or tribulations!) as another New to Me link party opens for submissions today.

My New to Me's in September are a bit of a mixed bag, but aren't they always :)

I used a New to Me "fabric" - cereal packet inner - to provide "crinkle" for my ribbon tag toy for the smaller gorgeous grandson.

I had a go at creating a hat for the bigger gorgeous grandson to go with the woodcutter's outfit I also made, but as you can see whilst it sort of fits it wasn't exactly what I had hoped for, so that one might have to be revisited!

A while ago I came across this tutorial from Pillar Box Blue for making denim feathers and finally found a chance to have a go this month.

The tutorial uses Jute twine for the spine of the feather and thanks to our trip to Dundee and the Verdant Works earlier in the year, I had the exact supplies needed on hand :) Another New to Me too, as this was the first time that I had used Jute twine, and as you can see I have enough twine to make a an entire pillow of denim feathers :)

I found the tutorial really easy to follow and as I have a whole stack of used denim waiting to be upcycled I am sure that I will be making more of these soon.

My final New to Me was my first visit to the once magnificent Chateau de la Mercerie above. The Chateau, which was originally a 19th Century hunting lodge, came into the possession of two bachelor brothers, Raymond and Alphonse Rethore, in 1925. The wealthy brothers then set about extending the original building, to the grand structure that you can see in the photos. According to the guides, however, the brothers were notorious for becoming bored with projects so many of the planned developments were never fully completed. The structure to the right of the terrace, for example, is just a facade, albeit a fairly spectacular one!

After their deaths in the 1980's the Chateau changed hands a couple of times and eventually fell into disrepair, whereupon the local Mayor negotiated a deal to lease the Chateau for a nominal sum for the local community. Work to restore the Chateau and grounds is now undertaken by volunteers, who have themselves become experts in the crafts that they employ to repair and restore the building and interiors.


 The tiled paintings above adorn the entrance hall and are apparently unique in France. They are up to 6m in height and were made in Portugal and then shipped to the Chateau before being reconstructed in their final location in the Chateau. There are over 30 of these painted panels in the house and gallery, although they are not all of the same quality as some of the smaller panels were fabricated in France in the style of the original Portugese tiles. 

The Chateau was an extraordinary place to visit and a project it will be interesting to follow in the coming years. 

So, that's my New to Me's this month now it is your turn to share your trips (successful or not) 0into the uncharted territory of new places or experiences in September. As always, the link party will remain open until the end of the month and please visit your fellow linkers to encourage them in their endeavours! I would love it if you mentioned the link party in your post too :)

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Sunday, 22 September 2019


As well as stitching up some soft toys for the littler grandson I have been having some fun stitching up some play outfits for his big brother.

We have a castle shaped playhouse for the boys to play in so what else could I make but a knight's tunic and helmet? I was lucky enough to come across a fabric shop with bolts of felt when we stopped in Rouen, so snapped up enough to make this tabard.

I used this book again for the pattern, although I changed it about a little. When I had cut out the tabard, I felt that the gap for the head was a bit neat, and our grandson is not a big fan of squeezing clothes over his head at the best of times! So I opened up the shoulders and added tabs to create a wider gap which, hopefully, he will be able to pull on and off without feeling smothered! There are Velcro tabs at each side which should make a speedy change easy too :)

Then I decided that with all the trees around us the ideal outfit for playtime was a woodcutter's costume. I "persuaded" my DH to surrender a t-shirt and proceeded to hack away at the hem and sleeves :)

I found this scarf brooch in amongst my costume jewellery and commandeered it for the belt buckle, with a belt made from some brown cotton fabric that was lurking in my stash.

Finally, I had a go at a hat, but I think there is more work needed on that!

Didn't stop the gorgeous grandson having fun "chopping" trees down though :)

Friday, 20 September 2019

Toys for a Boy

Our gorgeous grandsons joined us for the last week of our recent holiday in France, so I stitched up some toys for their amusement whilst they were there.

First up a ribbon taggy for the littlest grandson, I thought that the Babar fabric was very appropriate for the location :) The ribbons were bought in the local market so there was a distinctly French flavour to this taggy.

Can you spot the deliberate mistake? Sadly I didn't realise until I had stitched the opening closed (twice!) that the gap between the yellow and green ribbons on the right hand side was because the orange ribbon that was there is still on the inside!! I am sure that the tiny grandson will not notice :)

Next up some soft blocks for the same little man. I didn't have a lot of fabric to hand so used as many bright coloured fabrics as I could and added bits of the leftover ribbon from the taggy blanket.

I wanted to add some different textures to the blocks so this square was made from a scrap of fleece that I had on hand.

This square crackles when squeezed

because both it and the taggy blanket are backed with some of this, the inner bag from a cereal packet! I was trying to find a way to make the block and taggy "noisy" when I came across this post that mentioned using a washed cereal bag and realised that it was the ideal solution.

I am pleased to report that both were well used on the holiday!

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Markets and Martyrs

Instead of hurtling down the motorway to our destination in France, last week we took a more leisurely journey and stopped off overnight in Rouen.

We have driven through Rouen several times as it is on the most direct route from the Channel Tunnel to our ultimate destination, but had never before stopped there other than accidentally because of roadworks!

Finding our hotel for the night, which was on a pedestrian street in the Old Town was our first challenge, and negotiating the car lift to the underground car park was our second! Once settled though we headed out to explore.

Although it was early evening the market place was busy and there was still a considerable amount of produce available to purchase.

Those peppers were particularly tempting!

On a more grisly note, this cross next to the market place marks the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake on May 30th, 1431. Joan was only 19 at the time of her death and a later re-examination of her trial pronounced her innocent and declared her a martyr.

A modern church commemorated to St Joan and completed in 1979, now stands at the spot too. The sweeping curves of the roof are said to be a reference to the flames of the execution.

Rouen is famous for it's centuries old half-timbered houses, many of which have been restored, and some of the examples in this street of the Great Clock are thought to pre-date the burning of St Joan!

Rouen is also a city of magnificent churches and this one, St Maclou, is one of the prettiest I think.

St Ouen Abbey church is pretty impressive too!

And just when you think that can't be surpassed then you come across Notre-Dame Cathedral!

Have I whetted your appetite for a visit to Rouen? And I haven't even mentioned the restaurants:) Just let me say that I will never look at smoked beef in the same way again :)

Linking up to Wandering Camera

If you have visited somewhere New to You this month link up your post to this month's New to Me link party here I am always on the lookout for new places to go!

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