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Saturday, 29 March 2014

Spring walk through an English village

Just the most amazing day. A cloudless sky arching overhead, and we'd made plans to go for a walk followed by tea at a village tea shop. Perfect! It was an advance Mother's Day treat for me and my Mum.

We headed to the prettiest Northamptonshire village of Wadenhoe. It is a very small village, composed of mostly old thatched houses. There is a pub, a village hall and a tea room and that's about it. It's one of those untouched villages, with no modern developments, which appears to be folded into a nook of land. 

Blossoms everywhere and purple aubretia growing on the limestone walls.

We walked across the fields.

First you cross the bridge past the old Mill.

Over the fields on the banks of the River Nene to this little church which stands alone.

Next to it is a garden, it is semi-wild, but someone obviously cares for it a bit. At the end of this garden is a beautiful, faded old red brick wall.

I love all the gates!

And another one!

The light was magical today. Bright, but without the harshness of a summer sun.

We finished off with a big pot of tea and slices of lemon cake, coffee cake and home made cinnamon tea cakes with butter and jam at The Old Barn. 

A beautiful spring day to remember.

* I've been given some more info about these beautiful donkeys! Their names are Corkey and Bruno and they are working boys, appearing on the beach at Skegness each summer. Bruno, the dark brown donkey, won an award in 2006 for beach donkey of the year. It looks like they have earned that beautiful pasture.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


A good Saturday at home. Baked a lemon and polenta cake.

And cut a few hyacinths which had been flattened by the wind.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Come outside

This week I've been writing an article about wild swimming. As well as being absolutely fascinating, it has made me think about the joys of being outside, and every chance I've had, I've been in the garden, or nipping out with my camera to take photos of blossom or flowers. Today, fittingly, I found this little Brexton picnic hamper in a second hand shop. It is a bit rusty, but the green flask, china cups and saucers with a green stripe and tiny salt and pepper pots swung it for me. It'll be a lovely prop in some photos for the local magazine I work on, I've already got plans for it. 

I also spotted this beautiful hamper in my local antiques centre. Didn't buy this one (too expensive!), but it is a cracker. 

As part of the wild swimming article that I'm writing I've been digging out quotes from books about the joys of river swimming: The Wind in the Willows, Swallows and Amazons, Three Men in a Boat, and less innocently, The Go Between and Women in Love. It has transported me back to a golden age. I am fairly sure that I took my first tentative swimming strokes in a local river, Maxey Cut. Anyway, those halcyon hot summer days are some way off, although we've had some beautiful sunny ones here recently.

The trees are loaded with blossom.

I took this one of our village church today with the Magnolia blossom just starting to come out. I thought it looked quite celestial.

An avenue of blossom covered trees. Reminds me of Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery, when Matthew is driving Anne home from the station to her new home (and she is unaware that he and his sister Marilla were expecting a boy orphan instead). 

And finally, daffodils. I am not a huge fan, but I can't deny that they are a cheery sight.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

And finally....

At last. The quilt is finished. I put the final stitches in this morning. I am soooo grateful to my friend Lucy for helping me with the final stages, as I had got completely stuck. I think making a very large quilt as my first was a bit ambitious. But with Lucy's guidance, I got there in the end.

 The backing is a piece of linen. We have a brilliant market stall in nearby Stamford where you can buy thick linen for £10 a metre. Because my quilt was a double, and I hadn't bought quite enough fabric, we had to join two pieces together on the back to make the square large enough. 
The quilt is not bound, as many are, so to finish it, I had to put the right sides of the fabric together, then I sewed around the edges, and turned it inside out, just like a large duvet cover without the duvet in the middle. Every stitch has been done by hand, apart from the joining of the backing fabric.
It is far from perfect, I have wobbly lines, the corners are not razor sharp, and there are some strange puckers and gathers in some of the squares, but I still feel a real sense of achievement. 

It started out like this. I sewed the squares everywhere. On trains when Jack was going to his uni open days. In the car and while waiting anxiously for a friend to have tests in hospital...happy times, sad times.

The best bit was collecting all the fabrics together, and then as the number of squares grew, setting them out on the floor and seeing how they fitted together. I had a break last summer and then all through the last winter, I would stitch while watching TV. Breaking Bad, The Bridge, Borgen, it's seen me through them all!

Most of the fabric is second hand. I had a theme of red and then it was a case of anything goes. I found scraps at car boot sales, in charity shops, and at antiques fairs. I have a few favourite stalls which always had a fabric treasure to add to the mix. 

Even the cottons I used were second hand. I just bought some new quilting thread to do the quilting stitches and some quilt pins, which were very useful.

I 'signed' the quilt...not sure it will last long enough to become an heirloom though!

 The tools of my trade. I've become really fascinated with quilts now. And although I said I wouldn't do another one, I just bought this children's book which explained all about quilt blocks, and how to make them....

Hmmm, it's sorely tempting....if I did it again I would:

* try to be more accurate in making templates and cutting out
* make a smaller quilt 
* finish by binding the edges

But it has been hugely enjoyable, and I am very pleased with my happy red quilt.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Sunday morning cushion

A few weeks ago I went on a sewing course.  It was a basic course, designed as an introduction to dress making and I had been invited along so I could write about it for the local magazine I work for. Our teacher started right from the beginning, showing us how not to be afraid of using a sewing machine and offering some simple but really useful tips. They are probably just common sense to most people, but I need to be told! I have been waiting for an opportunity to practice what she said, and this morning, I had a few hours to myself. I decided to make a patchwork cushion, by machine. It was a practice project, as much as anything.  

I used some scraps of fabric to make a front cover for my cushion, measuring 47cm square. I then used an old candy striped tablecloth from Oxfam to make the envelope backing, two pieces 47 x 31cm. I tried to work more methodically and neatly, finishing off properly, but my natural urge is always to bodge something together any old how. Still, at least my tension was correct for a change!

The cushion was soon finished, and now sits on the old pink Lloyd Loom chair that belonged to my Gran.
I shall be returning to work on my big patchwork quilt on March 11th, when I shall hopefully be getting some help with attaching the backing and finishing off. 

One thing I did yesterday was go to the village table top sale, where I found a lovely old clay pot with a lid for 50p (pictured far left). It has a local tradesman's name written on it.  It's my first sale of the new season so I was pleased to find something. I've used it in my new header!