Monday, August 18, 2014

Some finishing up

It's been a busy busy few weeks here, making the most of the school holiday with a spot of camping and catching up with lots of friends and family. We've been having a very sociable time and it's been lovely.

I don't think we've had a single day this holiday without something going on and, although our home is looking a little neglected and I never seem to get anything straight, I'm making the very very most of these few weeks off work, especially as this will be my last long school holiday - more about that later!

In between our various holiday doings I've found time for some sewing. I seem to have discovered a new found love of hand sewing. It's been the perfect crafty something for those little moments when I have time to sit and do. There's been a bit of embroidery and some English paper pieced patchwork and plenty of handquilting.

Finished just the other day - my scrappy log cabin quilt.

The log cabin squares were made back in April using some long skinny strips of Amy Butler fabrics that I picked up ages ago from the Cottonpatch in Birmingham.

You can't see it in the photos but the quilting thread is some lovely variegated cotton in pinks and greens that picks up the colours in the blocks. My basting and quilting leave an awful lot to be desired but I love it anyway.

I actually love the back just as much as the front, especially that centre panel print that looks, to me, like patchwork blocks.

I finished it off with a pretty scrappy binding.

After finishing that one, I decided the time had come to quilt my Basic Gray Blush quilt - the top of which had been made for over a year! The little squares in this one are from a design by Basic Gray, a company I first discovered when I fell in love with their scrapbook papers many years ago.

When I found out they were bringing my favourite papers out as a limited edition quilting fabric I just had to have some. I've had these little squares for years and, as I can't get this fabric anymore, had to make up the border with all sorts of bits and pieces.

The cream and white border is from dozens of scrappy strips - again bought as scraps from the Cottonpatch.

I set about machine quilting this one but, after 14 long rows of quilting, I discovered my little sewing machine  had fallen out with the walking foot and it was puckering like a bugger so I swore a lot, unpicked every last bit of it and settled down to handquilt, this time using perle cotton - something new to me but I love it!

Here's the back, with puckers aplenty but it shows off the pattern (or lack of) of the handquilting. I was very strong-minded and dug through the stash for some fabrics to make into a scrappy binding - I teetered on the brink of a trip to the fabric shop but knew that could prove costly!

 I absolutely adore these fabrics. I could quite happily sew with these fabrics and nothing else for ever and ever. Shame they're no longer in print!

 I've had so much fun with these quilts and am about to put another quilt together ready for more handquilting. Then, it'll be onto making a Christmas present quilt for mother-in-law.

This quilting thing seems to have taken a bit of a hold!

As I mentioned at the start of this post, this will be my last long summer holiday off work. The reason why? I've handed in my notice and start a new job in the middle of September!

I'm having a complete change of direction, working two days as week as a Dementia Support Worker for Alzheimer's Society. It's less hours and less money but a permanent contract, so no more worrying every year about whether or not I'll have a job after March. I'm also really looking forward to the challenge of taking on a brand new role, with a really worthwhile organisation and although I'll have to work in the school holidays I will have three days each week to do my own thing and that is going to be soooo good!

More time for sewing, knitting, crochet, spinning, weaving,
housework...


Moogs xxx





Sunday, July 20, 2014

Scrappy do


 Last Sunday, Mr Moog took the Minx out for the day on his motorbike. They went to a ride-in day at Beaulieu Motor Museum with hundreds of other bikers. Although I don't want to be an old worrypants, I must admit I never relax or feel at all able to settle to anything until they're home safe and sound again.

To distract me from myself, I decided to ignore housework and spent the day playing with my box of scrap fabrics. There was no plan and I had no idea when I set out what I was going to make. By the end of the day, I had a floor full of skinny trimmings and 48 little 4.5inch scrappy squares and it totally took my mind off things.

 

 I'm still not sure what they'll become, as I need to make more if I even want to make a lap quilt, but they do make me very happy.
 
There's been plenty more sewing over the past couple of weeks. I managed to finish my  English Paper Pieced apple cores and got them stitched together - through gritted teeth, I might add, thanks to me being a bit too generous with the basting glue. They were somewhat tough to stitch together but have ended up becoming a very sweet little scrappy cushion cover.

Another cushion received a makeover when I dug out some of the scrappy squares I made back in April, and combined them with some scraps of grey linen, from the Scrapstore. I'm so pleased with this one, which now sits on my favourite armchair.
Earlier this week, on my way home from work, I called into a local patchwork shop that I recently discovered, Jolly Stitcher, tucked away on an industrial park in Fareham. It's a lovely shop with a great selection of fabrics and yarn too.
 
I needed some thread and hadn't realised how hard it is to find a decent sized spool of 100% cotton thread on the high street these days. Hobbycraft had nothing bigger than 100m, and the same went for my little local sewing shop but Jolly Stitcher had a great selection. However, it must have had special magic magnetic properties as it attracted all manner of other things into the basket with it.
 
One of those things was a new rotary cutter. My old one was very old and I'd been unable to find a new blade for it and had started to struggle with accurate cutting. Well, the new one - an Olfa rotary cutter - is a complete revelation to me! I had no idea just how good a sharp rotary cutter could be and what a difference it makes to your cutting.
 
I spent Wednesday evening, once again playing with my scrap fabrics, cutting little 2.5" squares and then carefully piecing them together with my new 1/4" sewing foot. I'm surprised and delighted at what a difference these two new toys have made to my piecing.

By the end of Wednesday evening I had nine pretty little nine patch squares. By the end of Thursday evening they'd been joined together with some skinny charcoal grey sashing, with little strawberry print highlight squares and thus became...another new cushion cover!

 







This one is my absolute favourite and I still can't believe I did such neat and tidy piecing!
 
In other exciting patchworky news, I got my copy of Issue 1 of Quilt Now magazine this week - edited, of course, by the very brilliant Katy Monkey . Not only is it a beautiful magazine, with bucket loads of inspiring projects but it's also so exciting to see someone who I've known in blogland for several years, taking on such an incredible venture. It's been great to share her excitement on Instagram, where I've been lurking rather a lot lately.  
 
So, now we're onto today. After a busy day yesterday, hosting a little family bbq, and a bad night's sleep last night thanks to the heat, I opted to stay home and potter today, while Mr Moog took children and dogs to the beach.
 
I waded through a mountain of ironing, whilst listening to sewing podcasts, and once done I rewarded myself with a very quick bit of sewing, attaching flags to some tape to make 10m of bunting for my friend's upcoming 50th birthday bash. Of course, being bunting, it's a pain to photograph but here's a snippet.
To those of you who left lovely comments, and emailed me, after my last post about Minx's 'friend' problems, thank you so much! I'm very pleased to say things did settle down, almost as quickly as they erupted. Her friend, completely uncharacteristically, apologised and suggested they put the whole thing behind them.
 
Although Minx wanted to tell her to shove her stinky 'friendship' I talked her down off that little ledge and she went into school happily enough on the Monday, with a view that she may as well say yes and have a more peaceful last couple of weeks of term!
 
Here's her latest loom band creation - no signs of this little craft obsession abating just yet :)
Only three more days of work and school and then the summer holidays begin - bring it on!!
 
Moogs xx
 
p.s. Recipes!
linky link for my favourite falafel recipe - falafels (I added a pinch of cayenne pepper too).
 
Easy peasy tasty houmous:
1 400g can chick peas
3 tbsp tahini paste
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 crushed garlic clove
salt
 
chuck it all in the food processor and whizz until smooth - add more lemon juice if you want to. Yum!
 


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Random Saturday


It's been a glorious sunny and warm week and I've been dying to get out in the garden and potter but our garden is still a weed-ridden tip, leftover from last year's building work, so I've been consoling myself with little views, like this one of my Narnia lamppost against a blue blue sky under which is my bird table, full of sparrows and baby starlings.

We have big garden revamp plans but Mr Moog has been having such busy, stressy weeks at work lately that he's done in by the weekend, and I've been extra good about not 'nagging' as the garden will still be there when we're ready.

I've been getting my flowery fix by pouring over gardening magazines and playing with flowery fabric. This week, I had a day off on Thursday and once I'd got the children off to school and walked the dogs, I had a very sudden and unexpected urge to stitch up a quilt top.

I've had this fabric for years - it's Chocolate Lollipop, Anna Maria Horner's first fabric range and I'm not even sure if it's still being made. I'd been saving all those fat quarters and quarter yard pieces for something and now its time had come.








It's my first attempt at half square triangles and I've since found out I should have trimmed them before piecing the whole thing but hey ho, it scratched the itch and I had a lovely day putting it all together. I'm now shopping for a very dark chocolate brown as it needs a border to make it a more useable size.

The leftovers are being put to good use with some English paper-piecing.
In fact, I do seem to have developed a bit of a thing for EPP patchwork just lately. I got an urge to do some apple core patchwork and spent far too much time on Pinterest looking for just the right template but nothing was quite right. Minx and I went shopping last Saturday at a local patchwork shop in the vain hope they might have a template, which they didn't.

So, I came home and had a play with a compass and a protactor but nope, still didn't quite get it. Then I Googled a bit more and all of a sudden I found the PERFECT tutorial on how to make your own template and actually laughed out loud when I followed the link - to my dear friend Thimbleanna's brilliant tute on making your own apple core template in any size you like!


I dug out a whole load of scraps of leftover fabric in reds, pinks and blues and so far, so good. They might be easier to piece had I been a little less generous with the basting glue but I'm getting there and these are destined for either a cushion front or a mini-quilt. That itch is nearly scratched.

This itch is ongoing and likely to be for some time.

 I seem to have decided to only do white hexies from now on, with the odd coloured hexie thrown in as and when the feeling takes me. This could be years in the making.

















I seem to be amassing a nice little pile of summer holiday projects here....two and a half weeks left before we break up...not that I'm counting or anything...















In other news, the meat-free meals thing is going surprisingly well. Last Saturday we had aubergine lasagne and I was genuinely shocked that everyone loved it! My lot love a proper minced beef lasagne and this was a risk but it was obviously one worth taking. This was the least burnt looking photo of the dish in question - it wasn't photogenic but it was very very tasty.





Tonight's dinner was even more surprising. My lot don't share my love of blue cheese at all, not even a little bit but apparently gorgonzola risotto is the best dinner ever and a repeat performance has been requested!

I do plan on sharing some of these recipes but as most of them are from books or are slightly tweeked versions of online recipes I'm going to try to put them in PDFs to make it easier to print them off. That will take a little time as Mr Moog has upgraded various things on our PC and I seem to have lost my PDF making gizmo....amongst other things, like all my six years' worth of work folders and dozens of knitting/crochet/sewing files, ahem.

To round off a pretty random post, here's what my girl is up to right now - loom bands.


They're everywhere. I hoovered up several (dozen) today. She loves them and has made at least thirty bracelets so far. They're also helping her get through a pretty crappity and emotional weekend, all caused by one rather noxious little b**ch who claims to be her friend but has been anything but for the past couple of days, especially when cloaked behind the forcefield of Facebook personal messaging.

This child lives her life like it's an episode of Jeremy Kyle. Nuff said. She obviously doesn't realise that our girl can and does talk to her parents about things that worry her so we're onto her.

Teenage girls are horrible. I know because I once was one and I wasn't even keen on them then!

Moogs xxx

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Seasonal crafting

Do you find your preference for different crafts changes with the seasons? I've noticed a distinct pattern with my making over the past couple of years and it seems to be a seasonal thing. When autumn arrives and we move into the short, dark days of winter I begin to hibernate and seem to choose cosy, woolly knitting and spinning as my favoured crafts.

As the days lengthen through spring I gradually slow down on the knitting and seem to find myself with a hook in my hand, crocheting as if my life depends on it. It's a more immediate craft as it seems to grow so quickly and gives the instant gratification that I don't seem to need in the winter. As the summer comes on I lean away from anything yarny and seem to prefer crafts involving fabric.

So it is that in the past couple of weeks I finished off the last few bits of crochet that I just HAD to do - you know, HAD to do it or the sky would fall in... 


It seems my thing for rainbows shows no signs of diminishing. Several people have admired these little bowls that are now nestling on my kitchen island unit and all have asked what I use them for. I didn't realise I had to use them for anything :)

Whilst on my crochet binge the seedling of an idea had germinated and once it took hold there was to be no stopping until it was done. So with this:

 and rather a lot of this:

and the addition of a bit of cardboard and some moving parts, I made me a crocheted clock for the kitchen, complete with flowers placed not even approximately where the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock points should be. Still, I like it being approximately something o'clock-ish.

Having exhausted my crochet fixation I dug out some paper-pieced patchwork that I started ages ago. I hadn't got very far initially but it's been growing steadily over the past week or so and I have over 100 more hexagons ready to add to it. I love just picking it up whenever the fancy takes me and doing a few hexies.

I've also machine pieced a couple of lap quilts and both are ready for hand-quilting. This one is still waiting whilst the other is under way but unphotographed:

It's been a bit warm of late to sit stitching under a quilt but with a cooler weekend on the cards I'm planning on plenty of quilting fun.

In other news, I'm currently conducting a culinary experiment on my family. 

During a chat with my work friend she told me she'd seen a very disturbing film about the terrible impact of meat production on climate change - I think it was this one Meat the Truth. She then told me she and her family had taken the decision to stop eating meat as a result of seeing the film.

My first instinct was to say we couldn't possibly do that as Mr Moog loves meat and would miss it too much and the children would too. Then, after one particularly meaty filled weekend with the in-laws down to stay
(father-in-law is a total carnivore, has sausage and bacon every morning for breakfast, and has at least one more meat centred meal a day on top of that) during which we'd had a barbeque and a huge roast lamb dinner, I felt it was time for a change.

I know I'm not the only one who gets thoroughly bored cooking every night, trying to come up with different meals that everyone will enjoy but usually sticking to tried and tested favourites and lacking variety. 

So, after that meat-fest of a weekend I pulled out my recipe books, poured over foodie websites and set the family a challenge to each find a meat-free recipe they liked the look of, which I would cook for them. I wrote out a menu plan for two weeks of evening meals and have surprised myself by sticking to it!

We've had some delicious meals, which everyone has enjoyed, and I'm thoroughly enjoying, planning, shopping for, and cooking our meals. Favourites so far have been Spinnachio Pie from the Abel & Cole cookbook; tomato, thyme and goats cheese flan, and feta & pesto stuffed peppers from River Cottage Veg; and homemade savoury rice from Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook

Tonight we've had a Middle-Eastern feast of pitta breads, with homemade falafels, homemade tsatsiki and the best homemade hummus I've ever made:
Everyone tucked in and it was a resounding success which will definitely be repeated. I found these recipes somewhere online and wrote them into my recipe book, so have no idea where they came from! Let me know if you want the recipes and I'll do a recipe post.

I'm amazed at how well the family Moog have taken to this change in diet, and we're now down to one or maybe two meals a week which contain meat or fish and the meat is no longer the star of the show but a small addition to add a different flavour. I've got Aubergine Lasagne planned for Saturday - I'll keep you posted!

Moogs xxx

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

She's hooked again

After my last post I was fully expecting to crack on with more weaving and some sewing, using my woven fabric. I had a plan and a head full of ideas.

However, my lovely niece came to stay for a week, as she was working down here and as a recently self-taught and now thoroughly addicted crocheter, she asked me to show her how to crochet a granny square.

This led to me hauling out my stash of acrylic yarn, which happened to contain a work in progress - my rainbow circles that I started last November.

Being me, I immediately got thoroughly obsessed with finishing this blanket, forgot all those other things I had planned, and in just a few days it was all done.


 Naturally, whilst busily hooking away at my rainbow circles, my head was already racing ahead to my next project, which turned out to be a super-bright and colourful patchwork of a blanket, based on the Babette blanket pattern on Ravelry. I started this on 25th May, hooked all the way through the half-term holiday, and finished it on 5th June. Fairly safe to say, I was a little absorbed in this project!

Both of these blankets have decided they want to be draped over the back of the armchairs in the kitchen, where they really brighten things up.
 
As is always the case with me, one thing leads to another and all of a sudden all of my cushion covers were looking a bit tatty and jaded, so I set about revamping them.
 
Cushion #1 - in pretty shades of blue. This is my favourite :)

Cushion #2 - a ripple cushion cover in subtle muted shades. 

Cushion #3 - bright, in your face, colourful African Flower squares. I wasn't expecting this to turn out quite so garish!

I did all three of those covers over four days/evenings. When I get obsessed I really do get properly obsessed!
 
I'm still planning to do that sewing and weaving and have a million things I want to make but this crochet thing is ongoing for now. Rather than get stupid and stressed about all the other things I want/ need to make or finish I've chosen to just go with it and see what happens.
 
I do have quite a few other little bits and pieces of crochet that I've made this week but they're as yet unphotographed. I have one project in my mind and I'm waiting for something to arrive to finish it off, so I'll be back with that one soon. 

 In other news, the Wobbly puppy has been recovering from being spayed. Having her spayed was a condition of her adoption (as was having Merlin Moog's boy bits lopped off) and our vet does this procedure from six months onwards. Wobbler was seven months old a couple of weeks ago.

She's been a real star about being forced to wear the cone of doom and is now once more lampshade free. A reaction to one of her sutures has led to two short courses of antibiotics but all is now well.

Merlin and I, however, are still recovering from the severe bruisings we received when she ran full pelt into us with this thing on her head - we ended up wrapping the edge with sticking plaster to soften the blows, which didn't work!

 As you can see, it totally messed her hair up and she developed a fetching pair of devil horns through wearing it. How apt.
 
Moogs xxx

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Warped

As mentioned last time, I accidentally bought myself a new toy which arrived last Tuesday. It arrived at 9.30am, which is rather good considering I only ordered it on the previous Saturday evening. Anyway, it had to sit there in its box for several hours as I was having a meeting at home with my two lovely colleagues but as soon as they'd gone I tore open that box and got building.

Here it is, my beautiful Kromski Harp Rigid Heddle Loom...

 I seem to remember some years ago saying to myself that I'd never spin my own yarn. Three spindles and two spinning wheels later I then told myself I'd never take up weaving. Oops.

It didn't take me long to get my first warp on the loom, using some Regia sock yarn that had been marinating in the stash for several years.


 This first bit of weaving was so much fun and I learned loads, especially about trying to get the selvedges nice and even, which they really weren't on this first attempt. However, I was thrilled with the fabric that came off the loom and the way the self-striping sock yarn used as the warp created pretty long stripes.


 This was off the loom within a day and I was ready and set to go with my second attempt. This time I used a pretty turquoise sock yarn as the warp and some leftover turquoisy handspun for the weft.



 The middle photo of the weaving is the closest in colour, it reminds me so much of bluebell woods and I love it!

Now, when I was in denial for so long about weaving one of the main reasons was that everything I'd heard or seen about weaving at the Guild or on Ravelry, made it seem like an extremely technical skill, involving lots of maths, complicated charts and vast amounts of new weaving language. Although I was impressed by the weaving I'd seen from Guild members I was also intimidated by it and not always very inspired. I didn't want to weave superfine silk cloth that looked (to me) like it was not hand woven as it was so flawless.

It didn't sing to me.

It seems I'm all about the texture and the colour rather than the technical aspects of weaving. I have no desire to weave a houndstooth check (yet), although I completely admire those who do.

Whilst mooching about on Ravelry I came across the Saori Weavers groups and was immediately captivated, just as I had been by the talk at Guild. This was the kind of thing I wanted to do. Here's a link to some information on Saori Weaving and a quote from that website:

What is Saori?
Saori is hand weaving that emphasises creativity and free expression. No rules, no fear – just pure absorption and immersion into weaving and working with yarn and threads. This ‘non-technique’ is meditative in nature and aims to build self worth from the process and the resulting textile'
 By now I was itching to give it a go and as soon as we got a busy weekend out of the way, the loom was warped and a bundle of handspun and ribbon yarns had been chosen.


















This grew really quickly as I just couldn't stop playing and it was the perfect soothing project for a week which started with me being a bit stupid and stressed about crappity work stuff.





















This proved impossible to photograph well but I'm hoping to get some better pictures soon.

So, what are my plans for all this weaving? When I started I imagined hundreds of scarves, tablemats and table runners. I've since changed my mind and am now dying to get the scissors out and start cutting into it!

My head is full of ideas for handspun, handwoven bags, cushions, purses, brooches, lavender bags - I don't intend to waste even the tiniest scrap if I can help it.

In the meantime, weaving number 4 is on the loom and nearly done and Mr Moog is very happy at the rate at which my yarn stash is diminishing :)

I'm convinced getting the loom has been a good idea, especially as all of a sudden Mr Moog has started talking craft studio plans with me again!!

love Moogs xxx