Monthly Archives

September 2008


Falling Leaves


If I am truly honest, my favourite season is whichever one it is right now. In the winter I keep an anxious look out for snow and revel in it if it arrives, I enjoy the nip of the early mornings, the need to wear hat and mittens and the cozy feeling when it starts to get dark at 4 and you can see the office lights shining out into the darkness and the fairy lights strung up in the trees around Birmingham.

In the spring there is the series of firsts; first snowdrop, first daffodil, first tulip, first day without a coat, possibly even first day in sandals. For summer, and I mean real summer, not the washed out excuse for a swimming cozzie we had this year, I love the smell of hot sun cream on tanned skin, cool breezy evenings, the crash of surf around my ears during the first swim of the season, birthdays and vanilla sponge cake.

At the moment of course, my favourite is Autumn. I know this because I’m wearing orange. Again. Autumn is all about crisp mornings, the first frost, wearing socks again (I stopped in May), particularly all the socks I made over the summer, favourite jumpers and cardigans coming out of the bottom drawer, and peerless sunny days with trees flaming copper against a deep blue sky.

We look out onto a deep brick red wall only a couple of metres away, five floors above a little alley. At one end of the alley is the churchyard and every now and then my eye is caught by a flash of green and yellow skittering past my window as the trees wave farewell to summer.

It really isn’t that much of a surprise then to discover that my knitting matches the season:
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These knitted diamonds are part of something much bigger which has yet to be revealed so for the moment, they are falling leaves, dropping from my needles and catching round my ankles, waiting to be swept up to be made into something special.



Another weekend, another wedding. We’ve just got back from attending H’s cousin’s wedding oop north and I am delighted to say that we have now finished the marathon of ‘weddings we have been to’.

The wedding was a blur of uncles and aunts and cousins, only a few of whom I had met before, and then it was at our wedding but I feel I have got a little bit more of an idea as to who is who. H has 15 sets of uncles and aunts and around 40 cousins. He can name all of the uncles and aunts on a good day and about a third of the cousins so you get an idea of what I’m trying to get to grips with!

Being nothing if not consistent, my knitting for the weekend was this:

Another BSJ, this time a more successful interpretation of gender neutral. The multicoloured yarn is some Opal which I had leftover from making these socks; I have no idea what the colour is but it’s pretty. When that ran out I switched to green Baby Cashmerino which picks up the flecks of green in the Opal. All I need now are some buttons.

The flower is from the wedding, each lady was given a white flower to wear, and each gentleman wore a red buttonhole.

As a little extra, this is my favourite picture from Saturday:


London Calling


Even during the couple of years I spent living in Wimbledon, I never considered myself a Londoner; geographically misplaced Devonian maybe, but Londoner, no! I liked the wide open spaces, the sea and the coastline, and rolling hills. Not noise and traffic and the diesel belch of a passing bus which grits in your teeth.

However, whenever we get a spare day it is to London that we go, but to our favourite spaces, shops and views. And that is precisely where we went on Thursday.

It is a family joke that whenever my father plans an expedition, the list of sites to see in that day will stretch the ordinary family and yet there are little extras built in on all sides, “just one more”, “just up this hill”, “just…”.

I am nothing if not my father’s daughter. I also adhere to his maxim that you see things best on foot. H has learned to wear sensible footwear.

From Warwickshire you arrive by train into Marylebone which crosses off one Monopoly square for starters, and we took shanks pony down into Marylebone itself. Marylebone High Street is a picture of upper middle class shopping, there’s no other way to describe it. It is perfect for window shopping all the gadgets, odd arty furniture, and hand painted china you could ever need. We did however, fall victim to the Cath Kidston shop. Secretly I love Cath Kidston prints in the same way that I love Martha Stewart Living. I know that however much I aspire to have my home look like that it will still be full of hockey sticks, fragrant sports clothes, golf clubs and bags and boxes of yarn and fabric, but I girl’s got to dream.

H, loving as ever, and with a fairly recent recollection of the interaction between a pin and the sole of his foot, bought me this:
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And a pinny covered in strawberries which I fell in love with. The reason for our heading in this direction was to pay a visit to the legendary VV Rouleaux. I wish I’d taken a picture of the outside of this shop because the window displays were lovely and the shop itself is a great plummy colour but I was hypnotised by the wares beckoning me in. If you have never heard of it, VV Rouleaux sells ribbons, from the finest gauze to the heavy cord tassels needed to hold floor length curtains in place. We found a rack full of embroidered ribbonsSeptember 226

and as you see, a few came home. The pink at the top left is little girl ribbon, then the orange stripe I want to turn into knitwear somehow, the green is elephant ribbon, then there are blue boats and three different colours of butterflies – inspiration ribbons one and all, these will turn up as trims on quilts or tiny clothes, or wrapped around very special parcels. Or maybe I will keep them to look at and play with and love.
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Our meanderings took us past Harley Street (where we paid homage on behalf of the medical members of the family) and past this:

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A cow. On a first floor balcony. Lest it not be obvious from the picture I should stress that this is not a real cow, which would be very lost, but I suspect it to be part of the Cow Parade. It’s at the end of Wimpole Street behind Oxford Street if anyone knows which one it is.

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Need I say more or shall I just show you the buttons?
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Five pretty little flowery buttons to go on this piece of knitwear:
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Before I give you the impression that this was simply a very girly shopping trip which I dragged my husband on, our next stop (well after the bead shop at the bottom of Carnaby Street) was his choice – The Royal Academy:

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This sculpture is called Promenade, originally intended for the Tuilleries gardens in Paris, but instead set up in a courtyard in London. During the week, and without any special exhibitions on, there is not that much to see as a lot of the galleries are closed. However, we found plenty to enjoy including, A Quiet Corner, which I can’t find on the internet but which has a girl in tudor dress curled up in a sunny windowsill with a book while the fire burns brightly next to her feet. She isn’t reading the book but has looked up to see someone coming into the room.

Oh and we found a painting with knitting – Alone by Amy K Browning. In the flesh the lady’s face is far more detailed than the rest of the painting, drawing your eye in to her expression – she’s too sad to knit.

H is a keen and fairly talented artist and for him, Mecca is three floors of art shop, Cass Art in Islington. “Islington!”, I hear you say, “surely there’s a knitting shop there!”. And you would be correct.

Fortified by a slow pint in a pub near the Angel we made it to both Loop and Cass Art. Loop is small but crammed full of yarn and books and lovely things which I hadn’t seen before and would find it hard to get anywhere else. For example, Autumn Vogue Knitting (with amazing mittens) and the Norah Gaughan books, which just might have come home with me!

We made it back to central London as dusk fell, and we sat in Trafalgar Square to watch the world go by

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before heading into the National Portrait Gallery which has late opening to 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays. I don’t think I’ve ever been in before, I’ve always gone for the familiarity of the National next door, but although much smaller it is more concentrated. We say pictures of the Tudors (always a favourite period in history), the portrait of Shakespeare that always pops up on the back of the textbooks, the Stuarts, William and Mary, naughty Queen Caroline, right through to Vera Brittan, Beatrix Potter, and our modern Olympians. Walking through the chronology either painting ability/style has improved or people looked really funny in Tudor times!

After a delicious supper nearby and a stroll around Leicester Square to play with the hand prints (I’m smaller than Arnie and bigger than Maggie Smith), we came home. But there was one last surprise:

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Miniature fairy cakes from Fortnum & Mason. Perfect.

The knitting requiring buttons was this:

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The first of a conveyor-belt of Baby Surprise Jackets for the onslaught of babies due in the next few months. I was hoping that this one was going to be gender-neutral (yes, I can hear you laughing) but by the time we arrived in London it was clear that this jacket was for a girl so I capitulated and bought the Liberty buttons to match.

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It might have been for today’s baby, born this morning, but as his name is Oliver, I think we shall have to find something else for him!


A star, so bright


All the stars are coming out tonight
They’re lighting up the sky tonight

It will be no surprise to anyone who knows me to discover that I frequently underestimate time and overestimate how much I can achieve in that time. Accordingly, shortly before I started this wonderful holiday week I made a list of everything that I wanted to accomplish; suffice to say that it contains enough quilting, knitting, embroidery etc to occupy a week each. However, one true aim was to finish putting together my Star-along quilt.

I finished the setting blocks on Tuesday afternoon and did all the cutting for the sashing blocks. I like the cutting but I really need a higher work surface to cut on and that’s not something that I can make from shoe boxes and sellotape – I’ll have to give that one some thought.

Yesterday I devoted myself to fights with my sewing machine over the bobbin and the thread tension, which I still don’t really understand. I was getting little locks on the surface of the fabric where it looks like the top thread is not actually being pulled through the fabric. The manual said loosen the top thread tension which at one point I could take down to 0 with no discernible difference save that the back was a jumble of loose thread. I think it has something to do with the bobbin so I just kept resetting the bobbin until it worked but it was all very frustrating.

Anyway, I have a quilt:
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And it’s massive – I was trying to take pictures last night but I just couldn’t get it all in!

This is over a king size bed, and it’s only slightly smaller than the duvet:

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And here we have the quilt smothering our comfortable two-seater sofa

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It wasn’t until this morning that I could take this photo, by laying it on the lawn and leaning out of the bedroom window:

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It is I think a classic beginner level quilt, if you look closely there are blunt triangles and lines that don’t quite match up but I don’t really care. AmandaJean has done a fantastic job with her second quiltalong and I highly recommend it. My massive quilt is not going to get much bigger, I thought about adding a border but I don’t have enough fabric so instead it will get a simple blue binding to match the setting blocks when I’ve quilted it (when!!! eek). I need to practice on something a little bit smaller first and then we can try this one.

I’m contemplating quilting down the diagonal lines made by the setting blocks and then outlining each star or something like that – any suggestions?

My second quilting project for the day/week (yes, I know, see above under reference ‘obsessive’) is also taking inspiration from another tutorial from AmandaJean, this time a good deal smaller,

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This isn’t quite finished but you can get the idea of what it will look like. Underneath the fabric is a cheap pinboard from Ikea (I think it may have been called Chris) which I bought for my library/study/who-are-we-kidding-sewing-room. It is pinboard brown in a tasty pine frame, not the thing for my haven.

So, I cut strips of fabric 2″ wide and sewed them together and then cut three patches at different angles 4.5″ wide, and the square strips. The pieces in between are some relatively heavy grade calico.

I love the fact that from a distance it looks as though it might be slightly floral, and then close up:

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Sparkly cake. The child within me is alive and well.

H has a plan for attaching the pin board cozy to the pinboard which involves one of his palette knives and a staple-gun. Apparently a staple-gun is a useful thing to have around so he is quite pleased to be getting one. My role is clearly to stand by with bandages and check it goes on straight!


Hopscotch in the Park


Sunday is a day of rest. Occasionally, rarely, it is in the UK a day of peerless sunshine in which everything becomes bathed in a golden glow and the world slows down for the afternoon, fulfilling every criteria for English rural life, including the ice-cream van.

Anxious not to waste any part of this unexpected gift Mary and I abandoned our respective other halves and headed to the park for a little tea, a little cake and a little knitting. We had ice-cream and hot chocolate and basked in the sunshine on a bench up above the river and watched people passing by, people sculling precariously up the khaki muddy river, and knit socks, second socks to be precise; Mary a warm heathery blue pair for toasty toes in the winter and me, well Hopscotch:
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I meant to blog about these socks part way through creation but as is so often the case, the blog post was in my mind but never actually made it onto the ‘page’. These socks are the fifth installment of the Socktopus Sock Club, started as I headed down to the second spinning class on the 14th, knit on a business trip to London on Monday, knit with the girls on Tuesday night, knit on the way to the dentist on Wednesday (but not on the way back which speaks volumes), knit to work and back on Thursday and Friday, abandoned for a wedding on Saturday, and finished on Sunday.
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These socks have seen courtrooms, waiting rooms and tea rooms and seem none the worse for it.
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They have even seen a very unusual car:
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An orange car; part of a parade of unusual cars lined up in the park on Sunday.

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I keep saying that each new pair of socks is my new favourite pattern but it’s true – this is definitely a pattern that I will repeat. What I really love is the way that it looks all innocent, a slightly bumpy ribbed sock,

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and then you spread the sock around your foot and you get this:
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