Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Oh my

Can it really be so long since my last post! Suffolk seems to have exploded into a blaze of sunshine and colour in the last week or two. The villages are full of ice-cream coloured houses adorned in wisteria, their twisted boughs heavy with blooms, from palest lilac to deepest purple, perfectly complimenting the pale colours of the cottages. Those wide Suffolk skies, clear and blue above a landscape of bright yellow rape, deep green shoots of wheat and sandy ploughed fields. All of it achingly beautiful.

And there are cherries appearing on the local market stalls, cherries forming on my trees. Oh how I love the cherry season.

All this sunshine and fresh growth fills me with energy and a wish to create so Jane's new book, The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making arrived with perfect timing. When I first discovered the Yarnstorm blog I was already visiting a number of knitting and craft related blogs but Jane's was something different. The other blogs I visited were useful resources, filled with tutorials, pattern and yarn reviews and various finished projects. Jane's blog was more of a celebration of beauty, her zest for enjoyment in the details of everyday domestic life was a revelation. She was not a designer or artist but an enthusiast, she was like me. Her posts ranged from literature, painting, sock yarn and fairy cakes with dozens more in between. It made me realise that this was something I could do too. Jane took the complicated bits out of craft blogging and filled me with "can do".

And now she takes the complicated bits out of quilting. This book is a celebration of fabric, a joyous delight of colour and pattern. Jane's enthusiasm gathers you up, she makes it seem simple, she does not over-complicate the issue with secret quilting terms, talk of colour recipes and mysterious sounding blocks. She does not make you feel that you cannot quilt because have not had any lessons, instead she fills you with a desire to just begin. Buy fabrics you love, work with what you've got, trust your instincts and do it.

My very limited quilt experience has stayed clear of florals and patterns, much as I love to browse through my Kaffe Fassett books I always felt too overwhelmed to actually begin. I did not have the confidence to see how to adapt the patterns I saw in those books into the fabrics I liked, the precise instructions and fabric recipes terrified me.

Jane's simple, confident approach is rather different. She talks of just putting together fabrics and playing, no need to plan too far ahead regarding size, just work with what you have and let the quilt lead you, her step by step methods are very refreshing. Fear removed and feeling inspired I finally cut into fabrics that have been teasing me for several years.

I just recklessly cut out some squares and then began to play with layouts. I didn't draw out designs on graph paper and spend hours being bewildered by maths. I just cut and placed, moved and played, it reminded me of the patterns the children and I used to make with coloured blocks. It was fun, really, not scary, just fun. A few evenings of laying out different patterns and gazing at them through the day soon resulted in more definite decision and I knew the direction I wanted to take. I'm not sure I've thought of the border or the backing but the beauty of Jane's methods are that I don't think it matters. Because I don't have to make all the decisions beforehand, I can just start to piece and see how it grows. I can change my mind and move things around.

I think it goes without saying that this book is a visual feast. The quilts within are differ widely, there are riots of colour, luxurious silks and even quite a masculine quilt of tie silk and suiting. All photographed rather fabulously.

My favourites, in case you were wondering, include the Sample Book quilt,

and this gorgeous candy coloured Beach Hut quilt.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Task avoidance therapy

I believe I may have written before on my excellent ability to stick my head in the sand and sing tra-la-la-la.

I have a very great deal to do today.

We have guests arriving tomorrow and the necessary clean-up has revealed a lack of deep cleaning around these parts for too long. Vaccuming the middle of carpets and plumping cushions in the style of Flylady's weekly one-hour home blessing is all very well as long as one follows the rest of Ms Flylady's programme. But as the sun streams in through my dirt streaked windows it is quite apparent that I have failed to follow through.

So there is cleaning to be done, furniture to be rearranged, bedding to be located, a smelly dog to be washed, grass to be cut, weeds to be sent marching, cakes to be baked, menus planned, food shopped for. Yes, a lot to do.

So much to do that I feel a little overwhelmed, I feel like pointing my head downwards and singing tra-la-la-la-la.

So instead I thought I would write a blog post and that required a coffee and a restorative glance at my favourite magazines, in the finally a little warmer, spring sunshine.

It was an excellent exercise, for I discovered that if I turn the chairs in the right direction there is no need to look at the weeds so that's one less job already.

Thank you all for your wonderful comments on my last post, I am having difficulty responding to comments and indeed commenting on blogs at the moment due to the sort of internet connection difficulties that make you want to scream at inanimate objects. This long week of exams is finally at an end, thank you for all your supportive comments and I thought you might enjoy my alternative shoe-tight clash combination. And now I promise, no more pictures of my shoes, for a while anyway.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Things to smile about

Today I am searching for things to smile about.

The sight of my new shoes combined with my purple tights and the pleasing crash of colours certainly makes me smile.

Drinking coffee in the morning sunshine. The sunshine was short lived but the memory of it still makes me smile.

A cake tin full of Blondies, specially requested by my boy.

I am searching for smiles because I am worried. Worried about my anxious ten year old boy who is sitting his Year 6 SATS this week. Dylan has been losing sleep over these exams. It seems to me that a ten year old should not have to worry about such things. It seems to me that sometimes the world is a little crazy and if I am fretting so much about his exam worries at ten then what will it be like when he gets to GCSES. It will take some pretty spectacular shoes and a very great deal of baking to keep us smiling through those.

Friday, May 07, 2010


As I write my eyes sting with the effort of staying wide, my head feels a little fuzzy; like many of us here in the UK, I found myself staying up a too late last night. I watched the television coverage, entranced by swing-o-meter diagrams and the impressive statistic filled software programmes which responded to a delicate touch upon the giant screen. Election night. When common sense took over and I laid my head upon the pillow it seemed all too soon that I was waking up with bird song in my ears and sunlight piercing through a gap in the curtains. Instead of sensibly going back to sleep The Technical Advisor could not resist reaching out for his Blackberry and it wasn't very long before we gave in and put the radio on, eager for news of losses and gains, unsurprised by the results coming in but still in wonder at some of the surprises thrown up.

On to more soothing things. It seems a long time since I started this small blanket, indeed, if truth be told, it is a very long time ago.

In the beginning I crocheted obsessively, around and around I went, circle after circle. It took a while to master, my crochet skills are all self taught from books and a few rather wonderful U-tube videos.But before very long the little piles grew and I got to the exciting stage of laying them out and evening up the numbers, deciding that I probably had enough circles. I gazed at them spread across the floor and felt pleased, I imagined them all joined together and laid across a little lap on a cool evening.I gathered up a little pile and set to blocking them neatly. I loved how blocking transformed them into neat, crisp circles and I eagerly set to sewing them together.

End of joy.

Sewing them together was not so much fun.

I very much wished I had thought to join them as I went along.

It would have been very much less daunting.

But they nagged me from their corner of my knitting bag. Every so often as I rummaged for a tape-measure or a needle they could be heard to murmur, I felt their sadness.

So eventually I steeled myself and set to joining the circles together and I am glad at last, my conscience clear. For the joining was not fun at all but as the blanket grew I felt that same sort of smug satisfaction that one gets from completing non-fun activities, the feeling I get when completing a Davina McCall workout.

This is the Bon-Bon blanket from the Lucinda Guy book, Crochet Designs for Girls and Boys The pattern is written for 4 ply yarn but I used a slightly heavier weight yarn and adjusted the number of circles accordingly. The book is full of rather lovely patterns incidentally, including the cutest little crochet coat.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The garden surprises me

I was taken a-back on my trip to the washing line last week when I spied strange cauliflower like growths emerging from rhubarb patch. I have grown rhubarb many times but have never witnessed it flower before.

A quick google revealed that flowering rhubarb was not to be encouraged so I stopped admiring them whilst hanging out the washing and cut them off sharply, in their prime.

And now I can admire them indoors, their strange stately posture rather pleases me, other members of the family were less than entranced and wondered why I was displaying cauliflower in vases, "for my blog?" - they supposed.