Sewing Bee … bzzz

Hi All

I am still getting used to being in full-time paid work as you might guess by the sporadic nature of these posts. But never fear behind the scenes I am still keeping time for crafting. The last few months have seen more sewing than yarn crafts. And now we here in the UK are into the full flow of the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee my sewing endeavours have been given a push.

Pre Sewing Bee I was working slowly but surely through a special quilt for oldest granddaughter Peanut and also managed to finish a top for myself, the Merchant & Mills Ellesworth Shirt. This pattern was marked as intermediate and did test me in places, does anyone love a placket? But I am very happy with the finished item, placket, binding, cuffs, French seams and all. Nonetheless I will make it longer in future as it ends in just the place my mother called your avoirdupois (that is your heaviest bit!). Hey ho, this lovely shirt will be paired over long loose sleeveless dresses so my ‘avoirdupois’ won’t matter. Here’s my tale of the Ellesworth in pictures:

Sorry no completed shirt picture. When I feel confident – you might be waiting a while – I will have a picture taken in the finished item.

Before more sewing, there was a special first birthday for youngest granddaughter Shrub. You would never have known she had chickenpox. Surrounded by her cousins and family she rose to the occasion and was a perfect hostess. I think the cake (best cake ever) might have helped!

One happy little one year old ensued. But did I mention the cake?!

It was a lovely weekend bringing all the family together. Thank you to No1 Daughter and Son-in-law and everyone who came.

Back at home, this weekend I gave myself a Sewing Bee Saturday Challenge. On the Sewing Bee I always marvel at how quickly they make things. Sometimes the cutting out takes me as long as they have to come up with a finished garment. But in for a penny in for a pound I decided to find an old duvet cover – it was recycling week on the Bee- and make a child’s jacket in an afternoon.

I ratched through the airing cupboard and sure enough right at the bottom was a single duvet cover – I think it was my mum’s! – one tsunami of clothes later I had my cloth. Enough to make the Burda child’s jacket. Head down and away I went. Here I go ..

All done in 5 and a half hours. It would have been faster but Jolly Janome threw a wobbly at the middle buttonhole which led to disaster and about thirty minutes of tears. Despite the Frankenstein (sob) buttonhole and repair that resulted I was happy with the pattern and the recycling of the long forgotten duvet cover. I even have enough left over for quilting. What more can I ask … except to be less clumsy with the unpicker!

Lesson? Handsew buttonholes in future. But then don’t expect to meet the challenge deadline! No worries, I will definitely return to my pre-deadline ways.

Well, time to sort out the airing cupboard swamp that has engulfed the landing.

Happy crafting,

Mx

Slow down Saturday (and Sunday) … ribbit!

Happy world frog day! No frog-y visitors today in the back porch, I expect they are busy putting up the water lily bunting and getting ready for an evening of partying … ribbit…

For me it has been a weekend of slowing down after a busy working week. Since the end of Covid lockdowns (fingers crossed) I enjoy sociable Saturdays, a chance to catch up with much missed friends and touch base with family. This week I was delighted my good friend KS could come over – with the beautiful elderly cocker spaniel that is Bagel – for plenty of chatting, food and crafting. Bliss.

Hi folks – remember me?

KS and her husband are spending this year – in addition to their day jobs – fundraising for Cumbria’s children’s hospice, Jigsaw. I am full of awe, they both have incredibly stressful jobs yet they are dedicated in their efforts to support this special charity.

On Friday 15 April KS is organising a coffee and cake morning at Melmerby village hall. Along with refreshments there are stalls including one with woolly makes. I am behind the curve here, I need to get cracking on my crochet baby boots, but KS is of course on this (as well as organising the whole event). She finished a gorgeous baby matinee jacket while she was here along with starting a second knitted baby bootee. So if you live in or are visiting the stunning Eden Valley and the village of Melmerby on Good Friday do drop in on KS at the village hall and bring plenty of cash!

Now a quick crafty round-up from me. I paired chatting, listening and cooking with Lucy at Attic 24’s crochet-along (CAL) Harbour Blanket. I am only just finishing Week 2 of the original CAL but no matter the easy rhythm of the ripple pattern make it the perfect accompaniment to being sociable. I might just get it finished for next Winter. Here’s how it looks today:

In other crafty news: my polar bear panel has now been joined by panda.

Think the bears are enjoying the company.

Counter Intuitively – because the weather is fabulous – I decided to carry Slow Down Saturday into Slow Down Some More Sunday and enjoy tea, leftovers and books. I don’t know about you but I always have a few books on the go. This suits my restless … I mean butterfly mind. Off the shelves this weekend are:

Ed Winters is often known as Earthling Ed and what I love about him is his gentle discursive way of talking to people about veganism. As this book shows he knows his stuff and references all the research he has used. Of course while Ed appears a gentle soul what he talks and writes about is often violent and brutal. I squeamishly read through the section on how meat, milk, eggs and fish get to our plates and confess I am actually relieved to be on the section devoted to the environment! Even though I don’t think that will be an easy ride either.

Pleased to have a little bit of light relief I smiled at the book mark I am using. A much treasured reminder of my friends’ wonderful bookshop, Fireside Bookshop, that has recently relocated to Stroud in Gloucestershire. This is my favourite of favourite bookshops please have look see either online or in person. The selection is superb and contains specialist rarities, many of my books on archaeology and ancient history are from Fireside.

Ooh I hear the gentle whisper of a fritillary’s wings. Book number two:

I have loved Kate Atkinson since reading ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’ years ago. She has the rare gift of conveying how life changing events occur in a heartbeat. She has certainly given me a few ‘I didn’t see that coming’ moments. Book three:

Inspired by our recent visit to the Quaker Tapestry here in Kendal and sadly by the way of the world – in Ukraine and the many other war-torn parts of the globe – I thought I would again re-visit the ‘religion’ of my English grandmother, Quakerism. This famously pacifist community seemed to me the antidote to the violence of how we humans often speak and act.

It is very difficult to pin down what a Quaker is. I recently heard that if you ask four Quakers what a Quaker is, you will get five different answers. Love a group with a sense of humour! I am agnostic, I just don’t know what (if anything) is ‘out there’. But I do love the idea of a kind way of life where there is good (God if that is your belief) in everyone. I will keep on reading but while I read I must eat, so to my last books;

These two well thumbed cookbooks will help me use up everything in my veg box. It’s looking like that remaining Savoy Cabbage will be roasted with peppercorns … yum.

Please keep safe and be kind,

Mx

Christmas Bear Quilt No.1 – Polar Bear

Hi All

It’s a very breezy day here in the Auld Grey Town so a good one to keep away from tree branches, roof tiles, signage … etc …. and hunker down to finish the Polar Bear panel for Peanut’s Christmas quilt. You might remember me mentioning Christmas 2022 back at the beginning of January. Oh the madness. But I have at least twelve bear panels to make so never to early to start, right?

This is a quick post to keep you up to date on Christmas Bear Quilt stage No. 1 the polar bear.

I had a scale drawing and an idea of the colours I would use.

If you look back to the first post and the drawing I did then you can see a dramatic change of style!

With the help of good old Bondaweb – which allows you to cut out pieces and then stick them to another fabric – it was really a task of cutting, sticking, zig-zag stitching and layering.

And hey presto! One finished (bar the quilting) polar bear panel.

Okay, okay my zig zag went a little wild at times but I like that it suits the bear and gives a fuzzy furry-ness to her.

One down, eleven and extras to go … I am thinking the Peruvian Spectacled Bear will be next in honour of the Paddington Bear exhibition that has been held at Tullie House Museum in Carlisle.

Mx

PS where are the marmalade sandwiches?!

Cosy Crafts

Hello All

It is still winter here and Spring is some way off so a cosy craft is needed for the cold evenings spent sitting as close to a radiator as possible without suffering third degree burns . Remember the cowl I recently knitted using Stylecraft Batik yarn? Aaah all those subdued yet luscious colours…

I may not be a swan-neck, more of a narwhal-neck, but I still had quite a lot of yarn left. Something better than a stash buster was needed for this wonderful colourful yarn. Then along came Lucy at Attic 24 with the perfect project, her Harbour Blanket CAL (crochet along for the uninitiated).

See how the wool is going down.

Every week Lucy gives the colours for the next 15 stripes (30 rows) for this gently rippled blanket. I didn’t have the right yarn and colours – the pack for Lucy’s yarn selection is available from Wool Warehouse in their Attic 24 shop – so a little re-jigging was involved although I tried to keep to a similar colour palette.

I have only just completed Week 1 of the CAL – pesky work just gets in the way – but Lucy is incredibly generous with her patterns which are free and all remain on her blog … f-o-r-e-v-e-r. So I can chug along at my own pace. By the by having said my yarns called for something better than a stash buster please have a look at Lucy’s Attic 24 blog as there are some FABULOUS ‘Harbour’ blankets being made to reduce those sneaky little piles of yarn we definitely NEED to keep. It’s good for the environment don’t you know? Shhhh yes we could buy less ….

I may be running/crawling behind the CAL pack – thankfully a very safe place with no need to look over my shoulder like an impala watching for large cats with big teeth! – but I am pleased with results so far.

Happy hooking all.

Mx

Toddling into town

Hello all,

I hope your New Year is getting off to a good start. For me it is back to the normal run of things. This no criticism it is the mundane that allows some occasions to be cherished as special and there is also comfort to be had in the routine. I am happy to be ‘bored’ it gives me chance to reflect, look ahead or just switch off.

Off course not all reflections are helpful. Yesterday as I toddled into town to get some chores done I pondered: how come I am Cumbrian yet I hate walking up hills? Who said that?! I will have you know I am r-e-l-a-t-i-v-e-l-y fit and only just on the cuddly side.

My walk starts with a short uphill section, puff wheeze:

I am half way up here

Followed by a quick stroll across a field with a long (dare I say it dull) walk UP the next road …. can….n’t….sp…ea…ck …gasp:

Mmmm, not looking that much of an uphill struggle

Obviously to my Cumbrian kith and kin I don’t know a steep road when I climb one:

Anyhoo after pondering the imponderable (you at the back again! I said ‘cuddly’), and feeling much warmer than when I set off, I arrived in town. Food shopping out of the way I wended my way to my favourite store, Reticule.

Cosy, snug and full of crafty promise

I am about to embark on a new quilt which I am sewing for granddaughter Peanut for … wait for it … next Christmas! Do I get a prize for being the first person you know to mention the C word this year?!

Peanut is the only one of my three granddaughters not to have a quilt. Here are Munchkin and Shrub’s:

I had not embraced my inner quilter when Peanut was born. I am making up for lost time. Peanut is a keen supporter of Animals Asia so I decided her quilt should be dedicated to bears. As there are 8 species of bear to which I can add a few sub-species I am going to create twelve panels each devoted to a different type of bear. Ursus Ianuarii is the polar bear.

I had made a small sketch:

How do you spell ‘grey’ Moke?

I had then checked my fabric stash but came up with only one useful piece … erm dark grey/gray. But with this visit to Reticule, a chat with the super helpful owner Jane, I am polar bear fabric ready.

The loveliness of a walk into the ‘Auld grey (flippin’ heck not that word again!) town’ of Kendal – hills not withstanding – did not end there. Friend ACk had given me the gift of a book token for Christmas and it was burning a hole in my imagination, what new book would be joining the shelves, tables or other flat surfaces at Casa Moke?

Missing our independent bookshops though I am, it is still enjoyable to visit Waterstones (the UK’s ubiquitous seller of tomes) and browse their two floors of stock. Having cried at the beauty of Madeline Miller’s love story ‘Song of Achilles’ last year and loving Natalie Haynes BBC radio classical comedy ‘Natalie Haynes Stands up for the Classics’ I went for a Natalie Haynes’ novel “The Children of Jocasta” which was recommended by Madeline Miller. Win win.

Adding a 2022 diary to my purchases rounded off my sortie onto the high street. Bearing two bags of veg and other essentials I walked home to enjoy a relaxing read and contemplative updating of the new diary… but with arms at least a few inches longer, blast those hills!

Keep safe and well in 2022,

Moke x

Something to keep me warm

Brrr. There is a nip in the air. Thicker jumpers, scarves and gloves have been taken out of mothballs and I need a woolly project to keep me warm with the click click of busy needles in the evening. It must be the start of Winter.

A couple of weeks ago after running out (yes running out!) of knitting and craft projects I cracked, visited one of my favourite bloggers, Phil at ‘The Twisted Yarn’ and downloaded one of her free patterns. Soon I was happily working my way through a colourful stranded cowl called ‘All that Jazz’. Pattern link here.

With my wool and pattern in my hot sweaty mitts I couldn’t resist getting started. I had meant to snap the yarns before I cast on. But who could combat the lure of the mouth watering range of Stylecraft Batik yarns? They called to me like Sirens. Listen carefully, can you hear them?

Come knit with us, you know you want to.

The pattern was beautifully explained. I am newish to stranded knitting and this was the perfect project to get my teeth into. At only 88 rows a few days of after work knitting meant I had a snug, cosy, colourful and finished cowl. Soooo warm and comforting …

One job that I find a chore is sewing in – and this gorgeous cowl creates many end threads with the frequent changes of colour – so I made notes on the pattern as to when would be a good row to sew in the cut threads and joining tails. By my last casting off row all I had was one strand to sew in, bliss.

I admit my cowl is not perfect. I couldn’t get hold of a few of the colours I needed and don’t think I placed the substitutes to best show the Fair Isle patterns. Never mind Winter has shown a really ugly face up here in Cumbria: trees are down, paths are slippery and it is cold. Time to have more fun and start playing with colours. All That Jazz Mark 2 here I come.

Keep warm and safe – if you are in the Southern Hemisphere keep safe and sun screened.

Moke x

PS Phil at ‘The Twisted Yarn’ will be bringing a pattern book out soon-ish. I am sure it will be full of do-able and wonderful knits. I cannot wait! Mx

Waggy tailed visitors always welcome

It is lovely to get together with old friends. These visits have been in short-supply lately so I was over the moon when KS braved the atrocious weather and possibility of floods to come to mine for a crafty morning and catch up. She also brought a bonus guest, one of her three cocker spaniels the elder of the pack, the gorgeous Bagel.

Spaniel eyes anyone?

As you can see in the background KS brought the travel blanket she made for Bagel so that he would be comfy and cosy. He is an older gent and deserves every creature comfort.

Made of re-cycled tea towels and quilted for extra snugness, Bagel was of course keen to show off his transportable bed.

My human is so kind and clever.

It was difficult for me to stop admiring the wonderful Bagel (you can see why, those eyes!) But at least one of us managed some crafting.

KS – being far more industrious than yours truly – is knitting a beautiful cable scarf for a friend and had brought it along to get a few more rows done. I love the colour and the cabled texture. Someone is going to be very happy when they receive this superb handmade present.

As you can see we had cakes and nibbles to keep us going. The lemon and berry cakes were scoffed before I got to taking pictures. They and the remaining boxed cakes were from Ginger Bakers at Plumgarths and were super delicious.

We must have chatted a lot as Bagel got back home and straightaway curled up with his favourite toy for a well earned snooze. He was no doubt dreaming ‘knit two, purl one”.

Cast on … knit two … purl one ….

Shhh let’s leave him in peace ….

Mx

Giant Christmas Doughnut!

I have said it. The ‘C’ word. I am sure for the crafty community the ‘C’ word has been a big part of their endeavours for some time now.

I have made a couple of things for my granddaughters and one project (which is enormous) has been benched until next year. My Christmas 2021 crafting seemed finished. Happily I had something waiting in the wings.

Last year I spent much of the run up to Christmas making the Clothkits quilted jackets for Peanut and Munchkin. I had no time to use the bundle of pre-printed fabrics that had been given to me by friend JG.

This year because of the aforementioned ‘benching’ I found myself with a window to complete a Yuletide project that got left behind last year.

Amongst the festive pre-printed fabrics donated by JG was one that looked like it had the makings of a large door garland. It was already cut out and ready to go.

All that was left to do was:

Sew.

If you are ever confronted by such a design remember do not sew up any part of the middle circle – I mean what idiot would do that … – as you won’t be able to turn it out to the right side.

Press.

Those tailors’ hams certainly proved invaluable for this one.

Turn out.

I added a ribbon tab as I was planning to hang it on my front door.

Stuff it and stitch up the middle hole.

At that point I discovered – having already used copious amounts of stuffing – when hung up the would-be garland pulled on the panel at the top! It looked rather saggy (know how it feels). Not wanting to use even more stuffing it was time for a re-think.

Despite the fact that the Giant Christmas Doughnut reminds me of the type of cushion you might want to sit on after a painful piles operation it appears to be destined to be an addition to my sofa during the festive period. That seems a bit of a waste. Have you dear readers any better ideas?

Looking at it now I am wondering if I took out one panel it could become one of those horseshoe cushions you wear around your neck on long journeys. Now there’s a thought. What a way to travel to Yorkshire this Christmas! Whether my son and daughter share the same view when they ferry me too and fro – there being very little public transport – is another thing …

For their sakes I hope you come up with something better!

Mx

Gifted

I have been a lucky person of late. I have been gifted things that have improved my life no end.

During the Covid lockdowns we gained some new neighbours. And great neighbours they proved to be. Ja and So jumped straight into the neighbourhood efforts to keep everyone – especially the more vulnerable residents – in touch by writing and editing ‘The Surreal Times‘ a superb community newsletter crammed with useful contacts, information, good health ideas, book reviews … the list goes on. But sadly for us Ja and So have moved on. You two are already missed! Sob.

Because they moved themselves they found not everything would fit in their car and that they needed to leave a few bits and bobs behind. I gladly gave them a home. This was not a hardship. These bits and bobs were all useful to me and included a beautiful Le Creuset shallow iron casserole. I know. Amazing. Right?

For years I have wanted a hob to oven pan and now thanks to my erstwhile neighbours I have got one. Thank you Ja and So. The casserole has already been put to good use because I have also recently received just the right cookbook.

“One Pot, Pan, Planet“ by Anna Jones was also a gift. A birthday present from my friends AC-K and JC-K. I told you I was lucky!

“One Pot, Pan, Planet“ is actually much more than a cookbook. True it comes with a mouth-watering collection of recipes. The dish in the picture is ‘Broad bean and green herb shakshuka’. It was delicious. The book also brings the reader environmental information – how to eat healthily and sustainably – and gives many ways to help us stop wasting food. It is fascinating and packed full of useful and planet/money-saving tips. I can’t recommend it enough.

They say good things come in threes and sure enough along came gift number three. Good friend JG makes superb small bag sized notebooks from old cartons and postcards.

I love them and use them for shopping and ‘don’t forget to do’ lists. These small hand-stitched notebooks fit perfectly in my teeny tiny handbag along with a pencil. By doing so they bring an element of order to my little old life. But woe is me, I had run out of pages, all the above were full. I sent a plea to JG. And like a book-binding caped crusader (no cape actually worn) she came to the rescue with a new batch.

Phew! The relief. Scribbling can recommence. Toodle-oo for now I feel a shopping list coming on …

Mx

Ripple Effect

Been a busy old week with preparations for my new job rippling as I look into how I will get to my new workplace through the depths of Winter. Shout out here to local MP Tim Farron who has supported my call for a request bus stop nearer to my new employers.

On my way to my interview I discovered that the nearest bus stop was almost a mile from where I needed to be. That would have been great if that meant a stroll along an easy pavement or footpath BUT the walk was along a narrow sliver of vaguely trampled tall grass between a verge and a busy road. It was a very wobbly walk where I needed to step into said busy road in order to walk around the trees. Infact when a police car drove past I thought someone had called me in as inebriated and looking likely to fall in front of traffic!

Walking boots will be needed. It is certainly an unsuitable walk for any less sure footed travellers. Don’t get me wrong I am definitely not calling for the verge to be trampled down or even worse put under tarmac! Eeeek. THE VERGE MUST STAY. It is a wonderful habitat and home to all manner of plants and wildlife. However it should not be ‘home’ to commuters, visitors nor revellers. All that is needed is an extra request bus stop.

If the new stop is possible and is agreed it will benefit not just me but anyone working at or visiting the nearby cafe, small shopping hub and rather splendid hostelry. Never fear I still plan to cycle but when the weather turns nasty – and it inevitably will – it would be lovely to know that there is a snug, safe bus to rely on.

I would not dream of forgetting my trusty steed Hecate, unless of course there are high winds, heavy rain, snow and ice, overwhelming laziness ….

Phew. That was one long, drawn out ripple effect. Here is a much more homely and crafty ripple ready to be picked up.

This is the second baby blanket I have made using this Debbie Bliss pattern designed by Emma Varnam. The first was for my first granddaughter Peanut. It is satisfying to see the ticks appear in my project book as I roll along the rows.

This blanket had to include the colour orange and meant me working with a colour palette I am not used to. I was not sure about it at first but it has really grown on me. It is almost ready for the border and I think that will set it off very nicely.

This is one ripple effect I am pleased to see grow.

Until next we meet,

Moke x