Friday 30 December 2011


Two brilliant things have happened at Toad Hall over Christmas.
The best is we have a new member of the family, he is so lovely,
And I found my ribbons!!! All of them, I've counted, 24 were in a drawer in the sitting room, not as exciting as a new dog, but very good news.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

We ended  up spending Christmas at home. The upside, I know how the cooker works, the downside, half of Christmas is up at the cottage. This isn't Toad Hall but I love this nesting box.
This has meant my simple white trees are up there and already decorated and 180 miles away from our Christmas. Fliss came home yesterday and we set up the traditional tree. She told me her friends were very sniffy about fake trees. Now there fake trees and fake trees. These are the needles on ours. It doesn't smell like a real tree but it does take the weight of the decorations which a real tree cannot.

 And a couple of hours later it is decorated.

I'm writing this just after 1pm on Christmas day when most people are sitting down to their Christmas lunch. We don't do that, we've had a late brunch and shall have our Christmas meal at about 4pm with pudding at about 6pm if there is room...

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Saving you from watching paint dry.

I haven't blogged because I'm painting. Not anything creative, just the gloss work throughout the house. And when I'm not doing that, I'm making curtains.

We are getting some basic white wardrobes for the cottage. To customise them I thought it a good idea to put some fancy knobs on the doors. I learnt the hard way, it is not a good idea to Google Pink knobs. I will not make that mistake again.

My Christmas wrapping is done and dusted.

Thursday 8 December 2011

New studio in progress

 You know that Chinese curse, "May you live in exciting times". I think someone cursed me. Half my studio was already at the cottage and the other half was coming with a 'Man with Van'. Only it didn't arrive. Hours later we heard his gear box had disintegrated on the Motorway. So instead of Sunday, we eventually got it on Wednesday. Three damaged bookcases and as you can see a couple of the boxes have been squished. (I cannot bare to see inside them yet, my stress levels were through the roof.

 This was taken hours later and now I have had enough of sorting but there is so much more to do. Somehow I feel more comfortable calling it my studio on the ground floor than I did when I had one upstairs. Why is a room designated as a sewing room more acceptable as a studio than a room designated as a bedroom?

A slight nod towards Christmas.  I love my little forest of white trees with red and white decorations. I do hanker back to the days when decorations came ready threaded. These curtains are blue and white and I found a box full of them, they 'nearly' fit the windows so shall suffice until I get round to making them. It takes a little of the pressure off me and the room is so much warmer with them.

Friday 25 November 2011

My Accuquilt Go! Baby has arrived.

So happy. It arrived on Wednesday but I just had too much to do. Then on Thursday I had some time but couldn't find the fusing paper. (Never ever have your sewing room in two locations 120 miles apart).
I cut out some feather lobes and first tried them this way, with both the colours darkening in the same direction.
Then the other way and was happy with that.
I tried Patsy Thompson's EKG stitch on a sample but it didn't work with the only thread I had to hand (Never ever have half your studio 120 miles away from the other half). I ended up using the double blanket stitch, narrower and shorter than the set length, I am pleased with how it turns out. I just placed some batting behind the feather to do the stitching. I shall cut it out from the background for faux trapunto. Click on the image above to see the stitch.
This is the back.
Do I love my Go! Baby? Oh yes, I can see so much potential in using it in various ways. I so want to keep playing with it, but the move of the studio to the cottage goes on. I have reached the point where I don't care where the studio is as long as it all is in the same place (or even county!) and organised.

Did I tell you, I have lost all my quilt award ribbons?  I am trying to remain calm about this but it isn't happening.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Goodness so long since I posted

Whilst clearing the sewing room I found my old tech drawing school book. Year 9 which was about when I was 13/14. I think I might have been a patchwork designer way back then....

I also designed my own clothes. (and drafted the patterns). Ok not brilliant but it was the 60s.
And you know how I say I couldn't draw, well it seems I could, not well but not terribly either,

I went to B and Q this week and bought a bargain rug, 100% wool down from £98 (which isn't a bad price) to £30.
Firstly Rosie wanted it to play with her,
Then she decided it needed to cuddle her,
George thinks it's rather wonderful as well,
I will try harder to post more often but life is chaotic to say the least at the moment.

Did I mention I cannot find my quilt ribbons anywhere? I've been hunting them for 3 days now to no avail. Gulp.

Sunday 6 November 2011

There are other reasons for quilting.

Quilting isn't just to keep the layers together and give a decorative finish. It also strengthens the fabric. This is the front of a cushion cover for the cottage, all except the pale blue fabric with the flowers are strong heavy weight cottons, but that one is particularly floppy. I had to quilt it so it would stand up to the stresses and strains of being on one of the main sofas in the kitchen. And that meant the other fabrics had to be quilted too, to allow for the shrinkage the quilting brings to be even.

Good news, Ikea have some of the Rosalie fabrics back in stock at £4.99 a metre. Lovely and soft for quilt backs.

Autumn is in full swing and the crab apple has so many fruits we have had to trim back the little tree and strap it up to the fence post to keep it upright.
One more pair of the dreaded curtains made..... feel for me.

Friday 4 November 2011

I am a Winner!

I have won an Accuquilt Go! Baby fabric cutter on Esther Aliu's Blog. I am so excited to get playing with this new toy. I don't have a clue how long it will take to get here but already I have ideas spinning round my mind.
Now doesn't this look like fun?

I won three (cutting) dies to go with it and it took me simply ages to choose (I want them all......) Obviously I chose a bird, and feathers (I mean these have my name writ large don't they) and a Rose of Sharon which I shall use in all sorts of ways which are not Rose of Sharon but the elements in this die are more than useful in all sorts of things.

Meanwhile back to the curtains....... feel for me. Asking me to make curtains is like asking Picasso to paint walls.....
I did give in to the ridiculous expense and bought Roses by Kate Forman for one pair.
Isn't it wonderful?
I have more to write today but Blogger isn't allowing me to add any more photos at the moment... Bless it.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Fish soup/stew, extra yummy! (the cheats way)

Grab a large handful of frozen prawns in their shells. (these must be cold water shrimps or prawns to get the flavour). Bring to the boil and simmer for at least 20 minutes or longer.

I use frozen Fruits de Mer and I had some frozen cod.  Take it out of the freezer now (you don't have to wait for it to defrost). These are cereal bowls to give you an idea of how much. This will feed three or four people.
Finely chop one large (mild) onion (less if it isn't mild) and 2 or 3 stalks of celery and one clove of garlic.. Fry them very very slowly in butter or mild olive oil. This is more like sweating them than frying. It should take about 20 minutes, the slower the better with the lid on until it is almost a mushy mess.

Whilst the prawns are boiling and the onions and celery are gently cooking, get a few tablespoons of mayonnaise (I use Helmans but it doesn't matter as long as it isn't Tesco's own brand). Add a small crushed clove of garlic. Add a bit at a time until it has a flavour you like. Then add a little pepper sauce, not too much, you should almost not be able to taste it. 

By this time your prawns should be well cooked. Let them cool down a bit and then put them through a blender or food processor. Do this this in batches, otherwise it spits everywhere as it's hot.

Sieve the blended prawn and their liquor into the onion and celery mix, push with a back of a spoon to get some of the mushy prawns through.

Add some tomato purée, not too much as it's easy to overwhelm the fish with too much. Passata is good as an alternative, or even a couple of chopped tomatoes.

This should be the colour, or a little more red.

Add a couple of good teaspoons of fresh or frozen chopped parsley (never use the dried parsley, it's yucky).
Now slice up a long baguette of French bread and toast it. Grate some parmesan cheese.
 Add the fish to the stock and bring gently to the boil, (we're women we can do the toasting and this at the same time), low the heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Once the fish is nearly cooked add the shellfish, bring it back to the boil, turn off the heat. In five minutes the residual heat will have cooked the shellfish (you really don't want over cooked calamari if that's in your mix, it goes like rubber bands).

The cheese and mayonnaise go on the table with the toasted baguette.

There are  two ways to serve, our favourite is to have it one go. Spread some mayonnaise on a bit of the toast, sprinkle some cheese over this and float in the stew. I add some chilli oil, just a drizzle to mine, but DH doesn't. As the bread started to go soggy, you will be in food heaven.
The other way is use your ladle to serve the soup, have the bread, mayonnaise  and the cheese with this, then serve the fish as a second course.

I cannot tell you how yummy this is.
If we are feeling posh and I have the time for a dinner party, I make it with monk fish, shellfish and other white fish. I use the heads and bones in the stock as well as prawns.

Friday 21 October 2011

If I were Superwoman

I would be sewing these by hand.

But I'm not so they are all done on the machine with the blind hem foot. I have finished this pair and half of the next, so many to go.

It's amazing how you can procrastinate when you are not enthusiastic about a task.

We went to the cottage again last week and crossed the new Severn Bridge. I find this one so much less scary than the old one as it has these barriers which stop me feeling like I am about to drop off the edge.
It was a rare glorious autumn weekend.

Friday 14 October 2011

Make a Boob

I think these are brilliant Make A Boob!  I shall make one in between being saddled with making 21 pairs of curtains.....
not a happy Sally but needs must.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Feather on a Wire

 Dawn who writes 'Sweet as Cinnamon' asked why we have named our blogs what we chose.

What's in a name? Mine came from living in Greece at about the same time as Leonard Cohen. His song Bird on a Wire has always resonated with me and that's what I named my first blog. Finding a name for my new blog was easy, I'm known for my feathers and it became a natural follow on from that.

Go 3min 20 sec into the video if you wish to avoid the preamble.

I checked to make sure no one else had used this phrase ever online and took it as my blog name.

Some idiot on twitter who has not only read my blog but commented on it as well, has decided she can use it. Is that stealing, lack of imagination, impersonation, just down right rude or some other weird personality flaw?

Wednesday 12 October 2011

First borders

These two borders shall go top and bottom. I haven't yet decided whether to add birds at each end or to continue the feather....

This is a close up of the appliqué work. The line in the between the lobes shall be covered with the spine. Don't worry about the black lines, they wash out. If you click on it you will see a fine cat's hair but the stitches are still difficult to see. You can see the needle holes just. I used a 60 Microtex needle. Once it's washed, these holes will disappear as well.
The close up also shows the dress shirting fabric I've used as a background. That pattern is in the weave, it is not a white on white.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

It all takes time

If you click on these photos you'll see what I'm doing.
I'm adding a little free motion embroidery on some of the appliqués. Here I'm just adding veins to the leaves.
Then I changed threads and stitched between each of the red fabrics on the flowers. The effect is subtle. The ones at the top of this photo have yet to be done and the bottom ones show the difference.
And this is what it looks like on the back.

Just a little detail to the birds.

And then a little tip for when you come to appliqué borders or any long strips. Roll up the work at each end and fasten with a safety pin. This way as you turn the work through 360° you do not run the risk of getting anything caught under your work. As you move along the piece, just reposition your safety pins.

Autumn arrived today and the cats are happy to snuggle down on a sofa in the conservatory.