Wednesday 25 December 2019

Not quite going to plan

Merry Christmas one and all, welcome to the last New to Me link party of 2019.

I hope that you are enjoying a lovely day wherever you are, I shall be celebrating our grandson's first birthday today so have an extra reason to be joyful!

As it is the 25th of the month it is also time to celebrate our attempts at trying out a new technique or activity in December.

New to Me's have been thin on the ground here as we have been having some work done to the house so I have essentially been confined to the kitchen for the last couple of weeks :) Finding your way to the sewing machine barred by a pasting table puts a bit of a dampener on the enthusiasm I have found!

 I did manage to escape the mess and head off to Kirsties Flowers for the evening with my son's lovely partner, Zoe, to create a festive table arrangement. This is what we were aiming for!

Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of the final arrangement for some reason, that might have been something to do with the consumption of Prosecco on the night :)

 I have also been trying my hand at "Furoshiki" gift wrapping with middling success it has to be said! I bought the wrapping square (and a book on Furoshiki wrapping) when we were in Japan in October with the full intention of wrapping all of our Christmas gifts with fabric! Needless to say that plan went by the board when I realised quite how many gifts needed to be wrapped. I did, however, pull out the book for this gift bag for a daughter-in-law using one of the fabric squares we bought in the most gorgeous shop in Kyoto.

All of the fabric squares were laid out like this, how could I resist??

So, that's my New to Me's this month now it is your turn to share what you have been trying out in December. The link party will remain open until the end of the month so if you have been trying something new for gift giving link up once the gift has been given and received. I look forward to seeing what you have been up to in December. As always, please visit our linkers to encourage them in their new endeavours and add the link party button (on the sidebar or above) to your post to help others find their way here.

Finally, have a great Christmas I shall join up with you again in 2020!

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Sunday 22 December 2019

A bit of housekeeping

One of the joys of my sewing room (yes it is almost finished!!!) is the pull-out ironing board set in to a cupboard. I know I am easy to please :)

Given the punishment ironing boards take around here I wanted to make a cover for it to make sure that the nice, fawn surface wouldn't get ruined when I inadvertently iron fusible wadding the wrong way round!

So, I grabbed an old shirt of my DH's cut one side out of it and added a part of a sleeve to give me the length that I needed. A rough  measurement of the dimensions of the opened out ironing board gave me the pattern and I then stitched a 0.5" channel all around for the drawstring. Job done :)

The ironing board folds over on itself, then swivels to slide back on the runners for storage. The cover stays on throughout that manoeuvre thanks to the drawstring tie.

I am happy now that any ironing mistakes will not result in a ruined board and happier still that the whole thing was put together from my (large) stash of shirts for recycling - win-win!

Wednesday 18 December 2019

This little piggy went to Market

This year the destination for our annual Christmas Market trip was Prague and because of the flight times from Glasgow I had to spend a day longer there than my fellow Marketeers, it's a tough life :)

We arrived in Prague the evening before the main market opened, what can I say we were keen??

So our first port of call the next morning was to check out the main market in the Old Town Square, which as you can see was appropriately festive for the weekend ahead.

Prague's Christmas markets are spread out throughout the city with stalls set out naturally in Wenceslas Square as well as in other areas of the city

including in front of St George's Basilica next to Prague Castle.

We ventured off the beaten track a bit to visit Namesti Miru Christmas market, which is held in front of the Church of St Ludmilla. This market had a much less touristy feel with stalls selling mistletoe branches and Christmas trees as well as Czech sausages and hot drinks.

There has been an open-air market at Havelska street in Prague since 1232 when Wenceslas 1 was the ruler, so it was definitely on our list of must-visits!

Of course as well as sampling the delights of warming svarak (mulled wine) we had to try the local speciality of trdelnik, or chimney cake, which as you can see above is a pastry wrapped around a roller and baked over coals. It is then rolled in sugar or cinnamon and can be eaten as is or filled with fruit, cream or chocolate. You will not be surprised I am sure to know that we went for the filled version, with a delicious Apple Strudel filling!

For the first time on one of our market trips we stayed in an apartment rather than a hotel and it worked out really well. We were a 5 minute walk from this view from the Charles Bridge to the Castle and Cathedral,

We spied this very patient donkey in the live tableau at one of the markets in the city.

We were, however, rather underwhelmed by the Christmas markets in Prague to be honest. The majority of the stalls were selling food or drink which was fine but there is a limit to how much mulled wine and cake a girl can eat and drink! The market in front of the cathedral, for example, had 29 stalls and all but 5 of them were for food or drink.

One of our pleasures from visiting markets in Germany is collecting the ceramic mugs that the mulled wine is sold in, the particular stall we buy from is often determined by the novelty of their mug :) In Prague, however, the drinks are all sold in paper cups which had the benefit of making the cost of the wine cheaper but wasn't quite so appealing.

We had hoped too, that as our visit was at the beginning of December that we would be able to find different to the usual Advent Calendars, we have very fond memories of the Gingerbread Advent Calendars that we found in Aachen. Again we were disappointed as there were no Advent related gifts or calendars at any of the markets we visited.

One of my youngest son's favourite foods is Stollen, the fruited yeast bread with a marzipan centre, and he is often the happy recipient of several Stollen items from these market trips but we couldn't find anything like it in Prague either. The chimney cakes weren't for travelling unfortunately.

We enjoyed our trip and saw lots of lovely parts of Prague, but I could not in all honesty recommend it as a Christmas Market destination. It will be back to Germany, hopefully, for us next year!

Sunday 15 December 2019

Secrets revealed

In the last week I have been out for Christmas Lunch or Dinner every day of the week, which is good for reducing the washing up at home but not so good for the figure :) Two of the lunches included the need for a Secret Santa gift to be produced on the day.

For my first project, where the intended recipient is an embroiderer, I pulled out a long-term orphan block and set to incorporating it into this Embroidery pouch. The pattern is from the book Patchwork Please by Ayumi Takahashi which I had made before and you can read about here

The original pattern calls for a slightly different patchwork block for the front cover but I had only to add a border to my orphan block to make the pattern work.

I fussy cut these sewing motifs from some scrap fabric for the applique on the back of the pouch

and added a small cross-stitch pattern, some needles and pins and a reel of metallic thread to the inside of the pouch to finish off the gift.

My second Secret Santa gift was another pouch but this time a boxy pouch and the pattern was again from Patchwork Please.

I have also made one of these pouches before and if I had read about my earlier attempt at this pouch I could have saved myself some unpicking! Once again the instructions for adding the zipper panel to the front and back of the pouch had me thoroughly confused, so my first attempt just didn't work. After thinking about the construction method overnight I realised what was needed and redid the stitching. This time, though, I have written my own instructions in the book so that when/if I attempt another of these pouches I will not make the same mistake again :)

I was keen to use up my stash for these projects so the exterior of this pouch is made from some lovely lilac linen fabric that I brought back from Latvia a few years ago and have come across again in the sewing room re-do.

The interior of the pouch is a floral cotton light furnishing fabric that has been in my stash for ages. I added a nice wooden button to the front, popped a scented candle and sewing-themed pin in the pouch and wrapped it up ready for distribution.

I am happy to report that both of the recipients of the pouches seemed pleased with their gifts, and appreciated the fact that they were handmade, which is always nice to hear!

These two projects are the only two that I have made from this book and I have now made both of them twice, maybe next time I ought to think about trying a different project although it is always tempting to fall back on the tried and tested, isn't it? 

Saturday 30 November 2019

Ready for Market

By the time you read this I shall be well into my annual Christmas Market trip with my lovely daughters-in-law and our youngest son's lovely partner. Well I hope I am as I am writing this the night before I head off very early next morning!

This year we will be tasting and testing the delights of Prague's Christmas Markets.

I last visited Prague in February 2014, where I took this photo of the Charles Bridge. I think it might be a bit colder in December :)

To get us in the mood for Christmas shopping I made some small gifts for the girls for the trip.

Snowflake earrings

Let it Snow earrings (it will be -2 but the forecast is not showing any snow whilst we are there)

Santa in the Chimney earrings. I couldn't resist these charms as last year our grandson entertained us all with his Santa getting stuck in the chimney song for hours :)

And for me, these polymer clay Christmas tree earrings.

All of the charms for these earrings are from Beads Unlimited, they had a great selection of Christmas themed charms and beads and on the day I ordered them 15% off all charms!

In years past I would always bring my Mum back some scented decorations from whichever Market I had visited. This year, I will not be able to do that but as I came across this beaded Santa brooch that she had made when I was clearing out Mum and Dad's flat in February I will be wearing it on the trip instead.

So, if you happen to be in Prague at the weekend and you see a group of females bedecked in Christmas jewellery testing all of the various Mulled Wine variations and sampling all of the many cakes on offer give us a wave :)

Na zdravi!

Monday 25 November 2019

First time woes!

Time to reflect on the New to Me activities and experiences that I have attempted in November.

For a change this month, most of my New to Me's are actually sewing-related but as you can probably tell from the title of this post they haven't been entirely successful :(

First up, my local Quilters group hosted a Christmas themed sewing day at the beginning of the month, where we were making origami gift bags and hexagon star table mats. I didn't get to the group on the day as I was still furiously stitching away on my "Wynken, Blynken and Nod" piece for the Endeavourers Challenge, so I had a go at them both later at home.

This double-sided gift bag is made from two 18" squares and as you can see it turned out pretty well :)

So encouraged by this success I pulled some 10" squares from a long ago Christmas layer cake fabric swap and made these cute little bags!

On a roll now I pulled more Christmassy fabric to have a go at the Hexagon Table mat.

I thought it was all going swimmingly until I looked properly at the pieced top

and discovered that my prairie point stars were not quite as accurately placed as I had thought :( Time to get out the seam ripper! As of now the strips are all ripped out and I am debating whether to start afresh with new fabric or try and put this back together again with accurately placed points. Starting afresh is the favoured option as I type :)

Whilst I was debating what to do about the wonky points I decided to get a head start on the Christmas baking and set to making the first of several Christmas cakes needed for the festivities. My daughter-in-law has been following a gluten-free diet for most of this year so I decided to try out a New to Me recipe for a gluten-free Christmas cake.

The recipe sounded delicious with the dried fruit being soaked overnight in a dark stout reduction and chunks of dark chocolate added to the mixture before it was baked. All was well until I followed the instructions for baking rich fruit cakes in a slow oven in the AGA! Five hours into the cooking not only was the cake nowhere near cooked but some of the liquid from the cake mixture had leaked all over the oven floor :(( Not quite the outcome I was hoping for.

The second attempt is in the oven as I type, but this time in a hotter oven so that all that lovely dark stout goodness stays in the cake rather than in a pool on the oven floor. Fingers crossed for a better outcome this time.

So, that's my mixed New to Me experiences now it is over to you to share what you have tried for the first time this month, and as you can see it is not just about the successes we are also here to share the failures too! As ever the Link Party will remain open until the end of the month so you have plenty of time to write up that post to pass on that hard-won knowledge with your fellow bloggers. Please keep the posts current we are not here to commiserate over past failures but rather to offer advice and support on current problems! As always too check out your fellow linkers posts as they could do with lots of encouragement and support for their bravery in trying something new.

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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.
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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!

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