Saturday, 31 May 2014

Photo Scavenger Hunt: May

Time once again for the monthly Scavenger Hunt organised by Greenthumb at Made with Love. This time all of the photos are from our holiday to Verona.

Gadget : For weighing luggage so that I don't have to pay any pesky excess baggage charges.

L is for...: Torre dei Lamberti, or Lamberti Tower.

Tiny : Everything looks tiny when you're at the top of a tower.

Puzzle : It's a puzzle how I completely overlooked this category until I saw it in the other entries! Cue frantic searching through photos last night to find something suitable. This is La Casa di Giulietta and I'm sure there were jigsaw puzzles for sale in the souvenir shop. It's a puzzle to me why so many tourists flock to Juliet's house when she was only a character in a play. But yes, of course we visited. Several times.

Letter:  Letters to Juliet stuck to the wall with chewing gum - eww!

Reflection: In the mirror of the Cafe Ebrius.

Fresh: Vegetables for sale in the market in Piazza delle Erbe.

Hidden: Can you see the cross and other patterns hidden in the rafters of this building?

Antique: A shop somewhere in the historic centre of Verona.

Demolition: This was such a difficult category. Even back in England I struggled to find any kind of demolition but more so in Verona where buildings are restored and preserved, not knocked down. Here's what I came up with: this is the Ponte Pietra, originally completed in 100BC. Four of the arches were demolished by German troops in World War II but the bridge was lovingly rebuilt using the original materials as far as possible.

Left: Turn left for the police station.

7pm: 7 May, waiting for the flight home to Manchester.

I really enjoyed working to a theme although some of the categories were trickier than others! Next month it will be back to normal service. Why not join us - you can find the list of June's categories here. x

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


A while back, I showed you fabric drying on the washing line and said it was destined for a particular project. Well, it's now time to reveal all.

Late last year, Clare, a colleague at work, forwarded a news release from NASA, the US space agency with the headline 'NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg invites quilters to contribute a star block'. Karen was on board the International Space Station and spent her limited spare time sewing. The invitation was to contribute a block to add to Karen's and they would all be combined to create quilts to be displayed at the International Quilt Festival in Houston this November.

In this video she explains the difficulties of sewing in space and sets the challenge.

How could I resist? Not only is this the only chance I'll ever have to exhibit something at IQF but it had that amazing link to the ISS. I'm regularly to be found in the garden watching it pass through the sky and find it incredible that I'm seeing something orbiting the earth thousands of miles away. There's a Spot the Station tool on the NASA web site where you can find out when it will be visible in your part of the world. It's really easy to spot - a bright white light moving quickly through the night sky.

And so, onto my block. I first saw the design in this post on Red Pepper Quilts. However, it was actually designed by Carol Doak and appears in her book Simply Sensational 9-Patch Stars. There are 50 blocks in the book, each representing an American State: this one is New Mexico.

It's foundation-pieced and I drafted the block to be sure it fitted the 9" size requirement.

The hardest part was deciding on the background fabric as nothing seemed quite right. Eventually I settled on the reverse of a grey spot. Here you can see the 'right' side. I learned the trick of using the reverse from a speaker at a quilt event who said it was a way of having 2 fabrics for the price of 1!

And this is my finished contribution to the challenge! What I'd really like to do is make a mini-quilt using the same block as a memento of taking part. However, knowing my time commitments and long list of other projects, if I don't get around to it, at least I'll have this post.

The block is going on its way this week. If you'd like to take part, all the details and requirements can be found here. You'll need to be quick though as all blocks have to be submitted by 1 August 2014. Otherwise, why not try to spot the Space Station as it passes over and imagine an astronaut with needle and thread in hand!

Fair skies and happy quilting! x

PS Something else astronomical - my last post was my 200th and I completely missed it!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Bank holiday woods

As promised, the weather has been fine today so Chickpea and I headed to the woods for a quick walk. It felt much more lush and green since the last time we were there gathering wild garlic, and the tree canopy has started to close over. Chickpea was disappointed that the garlic is now well past its best as she'd been hoping for more of the pesto.

We followed the cobbled path upwards towards the light.

In places it's almost disappeared as the grasses and flowers take over.

Cow parsley, red campion and buttercups - so, so pretty.

Emerging at the top is a buttercup-filled field. There's a public footpath past the farm and horses but we were headed back down into the woods.

But not without a last look back at the buttercups before we left.

We were headed to the pond in search of wildlife. We were unlucky though, not a butterfly or dragonfly to be seen.

I did spot a moth which, after trawling through my guidebooks, I think is a Silver-ground carpet.

We were also delighted to see that the iris are in full bloom.

They glowed bright and golden in the sunlight. I don't think they'll last long though. Can you see the dark patches on the iris on the left - they were covered in tiny snails.

The other flower in full bloom was Common bistort.

The bees absolutely loved it. I'm hoping one of you can tell me what these two varieties are.

As we headed back, we stopped for a paddle. I think this was my favourite moment - it was so calm and peaceful stood in the middle of the stream with the sound of the water trickling over the pebbles, the birdsong and the cool scent of damp greenery.

All too soon though, we had to make tracks but not before a Speckled wood butterfly finally made an appearance. There's always something to see and discover in what's really a very small patch of woodland.

Last but not least, and hot off the camera, the first clematis flower of the season has opened. Seems a nice way to end a bank holiday :) x

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Russian dolls

When I showed you my little birds quilt a couple of months ago, I mentioned that I'd attended another workshop with Elizabeth Wall. The subject this time was Russian dolls and Liz brought along all these examples to inspire us.

The first step to creating our own was choosing the fabrics for our dolls. Initially, I was drawn to the pinks, purples and blues which are very much 'my' colours. I really liked the red dolls though and spotted these 2 red and gold fabrics which would work well as a pair.

The faces were traced from the pattern and coloured in with fabric pens. Even though we all used the same template, it was amazing how different the faces were.

And then the best bit, the decoration. Liz tipped out a big bag of fabrics onto the table and we dove in - a fabricaholic's dream come true!

I had a crisis of confidence halfway through the day. The others had been cutting out fabric shapes and placing them on the dolls as they went, whereas I'd just concentrated on cutting out lots of motifs. When it came to adding the decoration, I felt overwhelmed by all the random bits and pieces and colours. Nothing seemed to look right and I was all for packing in and starting again with my comfort zone colours.

Liz was brilliant; she took me in hand, sat me down and talked me through. 'You chose these colours for a reason', she said and helped me start placing the pieces on the dolls. The eureka moment came when she pointed out that the navy and white motifs made everything 'pop' and brought it all together. By the end I was completely excited again and could have gone on for hours more.

Liz has a saying that 'no-one leaves without feeling they've succeeded'. Well look what we all achieved that day!

You might have glimpsed mine up there on the left, so, here's the finished quilt...

Ta-dah! After my minor wobble, I was really pleased with the way it turned out. The background is very simply quilted, following the pattern in the fabric.


I hope you've been enjoying the weekend, which is a long one here in the UK. Chickpea still has assignments to finish so it's been a quiet one for us. The weather hasn't been great either but that's ok as I had housework and crafting to catch up on.

Today I've been making progress on my quilt which has been sadly neglected lately. I added the sashing between the rows.

You can really start to see what the finished quilt will look like now. I also cut out all the pieces for the back which was very nerve-wracking as it had to be cut a certain way to make sure I had enough fabric. I measured and measured and measured and then measured some more. Then I laid it all out on the floor and measured again. Now I just need to decide on the quilting pattern. At this point I'm planning to do machine quilting but I've only ever gone in straight lines or followed the pattern in the fabric as I did with the dolls. I'm really nervous about messing it all up at the last hurdle but also feel I need to push myself or I'll never master machine quilting.

I've also done some baking and finished my Yarndale mandala and will share both with you soon.

My oriental poppy has just come into bloom. This was it yesterday morning in all its glory though it's a much sorrier sight today after being battered with rain. Tomorrow looks more promising so I'm really hoping we can head out for a couple of hours. Fingers crossed. x

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Garden bargains

I've been really disorganised with my gardening this year and didn't get around to sowing any flower or vegetable seeds apart from carrots and a courgette. That was ok until I watched the Big Allotment Challenge and the urge to grow kicked in. As it's a bit late for sowing most veg now, I decided to pop into our local diy superstore to see if there were any seedlings left. Well, look what I found! Tomato and chilli plants reduced to 30p and yellow beans for 50p. I bought Dad a few plants too. I love a good bargain!

I think I've said a few times that I don't have a lot of space for growing, so the beans and tomatoes have been put into pots. I've always had far more success with tomatoes in pots anyway as they don't seem to appreciate being in the ground with the regular splashing they get during our typical English summers. The chilli plant will stay in the house: I've never grown one before so it will be trial and error.

My carrots are coming along nicely too as is the single courgette. I was so worried it wouldn't germinate and, now that it has, I'm obsessively checking it every morning to make sure it hasn't been demolished by slugs and snails overnight. I've been watching the blackbirds snacking on them and really didn't want to use pellets. However, the birds just aren't eating enough as the slimeballs have almost completely destroyed my echinacea. To give it any chance of survival, drastic action was needed so I scattered a few pellets. Next morning, it was surrounded by 11 dead critters - 11!

As well as the vegetable seedlings, I picked up another couple of bargain plants. The purple scabious ('Kingfisher Blue') was £1 and the dianthus ('Fire Star') was £1.50 - it smells heavenly.

I also splashed out the full price on this lovely miniature dahlia, 'Louise', which is such a pretty colour. It doesn't show up so well in this photo but the colour darkens from the centre outwards to give an ombre effect.

This was the view along the side fence in the back before I started planting. Yes, the patio desperately needs weeding but some of these are alchemilla mollis and campanula seedlings which I'm going to leave in. I like the scruffy-round-the-edges country style of garden anyway - well, that's my excuse!

Still loving the ladybird windmill too which sparkles in the sunlight and sends dancing light through the house like a glitter ball. If you haven't seen it yet, a video of it in action is on YouTube.

The chive flowers are just starting to open but we've been using the leaves for several weeks.

The geum has half a dozen flowers open with more to come. I'm loving the vibrant yellow which is a real shock of colour in the otherwise very muted palette in the garden.

In the front garden, I have lots of aquilegia, mostly pale pink and which self-seed everywhere, but there's also this crimsony purple beauty which appeared from nowhere.

The ceanothus is also in full bloom and buzzing with bees.

There are also flowers on the blueberry bush planted last autumn. It's still tiny so I'll be lucky to get a handful of berries. Nothing as yet on the red gooseberry though.

However, the most exciting things in the garden are these spotted leaves. In my second ever post in July 2012, I wrote about the flower I'd found emerging from a pot of hostas, and which turned out to be a common-spotted orchid. Last year there was no sign of it and I thought I'd somehow disturbed it/killed it when weeding the pot. I can't describe my relief and excitement when I noticed it a couple of weeks ago! There seems to be a flower spike in the middle so I'm optimistic I may have something to show you later in the summer. Fingers crossed!

We had a really quiet weekend as Chickpea had an assignment for college. Other than nipping to the supermarket, the only time we ventured out was for a quick wander round our local market town for ice cream and to gather StreetPasses. Street whats? There's a feature on Nintendo 3DS which allows you to 'collect' people as they pass you by on the street if they have the same feature switched on. When you collect someone, it tells you their name, where they come from, which game they've been playing and another random fact. Now I'm the world's least interested person in video games but this one has me fascinated. In our tiny market town on Saturday we passed someone from the Canary Islands! You can imagine how exciting it was in Verona passing people of all nationalities! Though, Andy from the United States, you really need to include your State so people can tick it off on their collectors map. OK, I'm sounding like a bit of a geek now but it's really interesting, honest!

Speaking of Verona, I haven't made much progress with sorting out the photos so you'll have to be patient a little while longer and put up with these ramblings instead. Enjoy your week. We were promised thunder and lightning today and I'm so disappointed that it seems to have passed us by - I love a good storm. x