Thursday, 31 May 2012

Open Studio and Garden Stitching

                                      Open Studios, Quilter's Cottage, Marham, Norfolk.

I was out and about yesterday, visiting an Open Studio and re-acquainting myself with a quilting buddy from way back. Jane and I were both members of Samphire Quilters, one of the earliest and largest West Norfolk quilting groups, during the 90's and early 2000's. (Founder Member is...ta dah: our very own Pam from Stitch and Bitch!) We probably haven't seen each other for more than ten years, and in that time Jane has re-invented herself as a polymath! Anyway, I drove across county and spent an hour at her log cabin studio, amazed at the colour and texture and simple.... ABUNDANCE all around me. I decided there and then to ask Jane to let me 'interview' her at a later date for the blog, and just pop a few photos up for you in this post.

The header photo is an action shot of Jane on the deck - sorry, Jane, but I liked this one so much better than the posed one we did seconds later! It was a bit difficult to get a full width picture of the cabin as it is REALLY big.

                                                             Long shot of interior.
Imagine stepping out of your house each day to come here to work! That is, when Jane isn't whizzing about the county teaching at various other venues.

                                 Some of Jane's hand-made stamps, and her litho-prints.

         In the interests of honest blogging I  reveal - the Glory Hole !(tidier than my sewing room!)

I'll have lots to show and tell you about Jane and her work in a later post. I came away buzzing with her energy and motivation - and mentally exhausted by the visual overload!

I spent a lot of the glorious weekend out in the garden, quilting - yes, quilting! As long as the quilt was spread out on the table it wasn't getting me overheated and I could just stitch away in the shade - blissful! I have 20 days to finish this.....

I'd been thinking about the Boro I wrote about the other week, and remembered this quilt I made using some of my hand-dyed indigo fabric, and others from my 'blues' collection. I hand quilted it in varying weights of yarn and threads, altering the stitch length accordingly. It quilted itself, it was so soothing to stitch. You can see a bit along the bottom hem which I haven't quite did that happen??

     Sorry, awful photo, but it's difficult to get the whole quilt in shot. Apols re orange fence - it's new!

               Ahem. (Arrrrrgggghhhh, NO PUN was intended, just pointing out the unfinished bit.)

                                            My nod to boro patching and overstitching.

I did get on the sewing machine briefly, to make a start on the Naive Baskets and Squares quilt (working title). All I managed to do was surround each appliqued block with a row of squares, but it means I have the blocks out in front of me now, and it is now a work-in-progress rather than an unfinished symphony!

              Bad light, crumpled fabric, sorry, but had to do this fast as it started to rain!

The blocks won't be put together quite like that - there will be much more 'squareage' between each block. Took this today, dull skies and showers. So to brighten things up to finish here is a shot of the 'patio herb garden' ! I can't bear to waste those lovely olive oil tins so I thought I'd pop the basil in - doesn't it look nice, nestling among the mints?

                                                                 Poshed - up basil !
So I'll leave you, hoping we haven't seen the last of the lovely weather. Are you getting geared up for the Jubilee, or, like us, will it just be taking place in the background? Catch you next time.


Saturday, 26 May 2012

A spot of Sight-Seeing

                                               Dappled shade in the Herb Garden

Just a quick post today, mostly photographs, as I've been up to my eyes writing some other stuff for Somewhere Else!The sunshine encouraged me out into the garden, where buds are unfurling, blossom is springing and the greenery is amazing.

I love these Columbines, Granny's Bonnets, or Aquilegia depending where you're coming from.

 These are a very old fashioned species; I helped myself to a handful of seeds from the overgrown garden of the dilapidated house my brother-in-law inherited about fifteen years ago. They have self seeded themselves all over our garden and are so at home here. I love the colours.

       These lovely blue, spikey flower heads of the centaura cheer me enormously every year.

Oh, and the sage flowers are JUST about to burst forth! I would grow this herb for the flowers alone, though I do use the leaves in cooking and for sore throats, with honey!

 Here are some succulents. I popped them in for Marisa - not a patch on her multi-hued varieties.

Someone else was out and about today - and not just OUT, but UP! Yes, invited by our builder to check out the chimneys, J was up the scaffolding before you could say vertigo. Or even acrophobia. With his trusty little camera in his mitt. When he re-appeared on solid ground he presented me with a load of roof-top views' for your blog'. Gotta love that man. So here they are. Well, some of them.

                                                        Up the lane to the church.

                                                                Down the lane.

                                                                        Our back garden

                                                           Looking left from the back.

                                               Looking right from the back.

                                            And finally back round to the church.

Gosh, I hadn't realised I live in such a pretty place! It's all the old stone and greenery, isn't it?

And last but not least, here is the quilt pattern I promised you in my last post.

I'm sure you'll agree it's a corker, and well suited to those gorgeous Japanese Taupe fabrics.Not the best of photos, I'm afraid the 'large' view unfortunately had the shadow of my bosoms along the bottom, so I thought I'd delete that one! There is an outer border of diamonds. I'm all fired up to start it but feel I should really keep going with the small squares that surround the Jan Patek blocks already finished and waiting. AND.......there is K's quilt.............
Enjoy the sunny sunny sunny weekend! (I'm so thrilled we're having one I had to triple it!)

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Japanese Fabric Collection

                                             Some of my Vintage Kimono Pieces

Whenever I feel embarrassed about the size of my fabric stash, I justify it to myself by 'reframing' the situation. That is, I call it a 'collection of collections'. There, you see! From indiscriminate picker-upper-of-cloth I instantly become transformed into a Textile Collector. Sounds a bit grander, doesn't it?
But truthfully, amongst the piles of fabric there ARE some distinct groupings, and the one which is interesting me particularly at the moment is my Japanese collection. This is broken down into sub-groups. (OCD? Moi?)

                                                             Unadopted hexagons!

First there are the small pieces of vintage kimono, which I pick up, a few at a time, whenever I go to Quilt Fairs. I started to cover hexagons with these some time ago, with no real idea what to do with them. They are so small and delicate I almost don't like to cut into them. They would make lovely Suffolk Puffs (Yo-yos) .

Next are the gorgeously textured woven fabrics. These are a much heavier weight, and include some lovely indigo dyed cloth. I buy these because they remind me of the wonderful "Boro" about which I could write a whole post. Much better that you go and read about them yourselves, and see these incredible examples of patched and re-patched working clothes. I'm eternally saddened that I didn't make it up to York a couple of years ago to see the travelling exhibition. Friends tell me it was amazing.

 There is a definitive book. Boro: Rags and Tatters from the Far North of Japan ed Yukio Koide & Kyoichi Tsuzuki, researched by Chuzaburo Tanaka. This is even more expensive than the Edrica Huws book was ; I don't think I will ever own a copy. And talk about coincidence; having written the bare bones of this post two days ago, I bought a copy of Quiltmania magazine today - and there they have an article on....Boro! Headed, no less, by a poster depicting the very book I've mentioned above.

Then there are my Taupe fabrics. And the reason I began collecting them was  reading the blogs of Jan at Be*mused and Marisa at Quiltotaku. You can find their blogs from my blog list. They have some stunning photographs.These girls have a fascination with Japanese quilting and I have learned a lot from them. I first read about the quilter Yoko Saito in their blogs and from there it was a small step to buying a few(!) books and starting to collect taupe fabric. I mostly buy them from EuroJapan LinksLtd, an English firm who attend all the big quilt shows and fairs, and who also sell on-line.I buy my indigo fabric from them as well.

Now Taupe, as we all know, is another word for...let's face it....beige.  And I do have a friend who can't get her head round the fact that not all taupe fabrics Originally they were, or close variations of the hue, but then Yoko began her own line of fabrics which all had the same greyed effect overlaying other colours, which somehow pulled them all together. Other designers followed suit and a whole new contemporary genre was born. Usually woven, these fabrics are often textured and embellished in something similar to intarsia - you can see the floating yarns on the reverse side.

                 A quilt from her book 'Past and Present: My Quilting Life by Yoko Saito

For a few years many of the quilts hung at the Tokyo International Quilt Exhibition were in the Taupe category, which, along with the meticulous stitching and attention to detail, marks them out instantly as Japanese quilts.
                                  'Times Passed Away' by her student Nobue Ishimori

About eighteen months ago, I spied an old English medallion quilt on-line. I fell in love with it and wondered how quickly it would take some enterprising designer to come up with a new pattern for it. Sure enough someone did. Corliss Searcey brought out her lovely 'The English Basket Quilt' and I bought the pattern, thinking I would love to use my taupe fabrics to make a pared down version of my own , I decided I didn't want to make it as large, nor use all the templates. I mainly want to make the baskets of flowers! Because of various domestic events, plus sewing for the craft fair, I've had to delay making a start, but it's now back on the to-do-soon list! Foolishly, in my hurry to photograph the fabrics and pictures for this post, I clean forgot to take one of the Basket Quilt. And I've not got time to do it now so will rectify that next post.

                 The squares are still in strips, I haven't sewn any of it together yet.

In the meantime I have finished four chunkier baskets, designed by Jan Patek, using many of the non-taupe Japanese fabrics, which are another little collection all on their own. I'm going to surround each block with myriad small squares. Just to make life a little more difficult. And no, I haven't forgotten K's quilt!

                             Can't begin to tell you how many more squares I've got to strip!

             These baskets are more naive than those in Corliss's quilt, but I loved stitching them.

Unfortunately, now that you've made me get all these lovely fabrics out to show you, I'm having a quiet drool here, and can feel that impatience to begin that basket quilt nibbling away, too much other stuff to be going on with. Resist! I hope you've enjoyed the show!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Tabbouleh. Bless you!

                              Actually will probably dollop a bit more oil into this.

J....u.......u.....s....s....t a little bit annoyed with the grey weather, the not-exciting -enough-to-be-a-proper-storm wind and drizzle. Had been hoping against hope - the weathermen can be wrong sometimes - we might have a bit of sunshine, so mentally planned for a salad of some kind for supper tonight. Well, tough. That's what we're having.

                                     Oooh sorry, dreadful photo. Basic ingredients.

So it's going to be a kinda tabbouleh. I call it that because the purists would baulk at the stock I moisten it with, and probably the extra virgin olive oil. And the four very fat garlic cloves crushed into the oil mmmmmm! All this goes in while the tabbouleh is still steaming, but with the stock fully absorbed into the grains.

                                       Just enough stock to cover the grains.

 Lid goes on....would be best of all if it rested gently in the fridge overnight but I haven't got time. Couple of hours will do the trick. Can I just say here, in contradiction to many cookery books which really should know better : you do NOT have to cook couscous! The heat of the stock/boiling water which you add will steam it soft if you cover it with a plate, or cling-film. But you SHOULD give bulghur wheat a flash in the microwave once the liquid goes in. I've read recipes where they say moisten with COLD water and cover to let the grains swell. Well, I'm afraid I wouldn't like to trust my teeth on a mouthful of unsteamed bulghur wheat! No sirree! It's like tiny bits of gravel for heaven's sake. No, add stock to cover, pop lid on and microwave for a couple of minutes, that'll do the trick.

                                Pop a plate on top and leave to steam in its own heat.

Meanwhile off I trot down the garden path to cut mint - plenty of that and it's doing really well this year. Parsley, hmmm parsley is sparsley (giggle to self) so will make up deficit with some lovage - there's loads of that. And some chives.

                                                       I do love these herby shots!

As I'm chopping I'm furiously trying to think who famously said "parsley is gharsley" but it's gone. Google to the rescue. AH! Ogden Nash! Sheesh! All that for a sentence in a blog-post!

It's amazing how a large bunch of herbs chops down to this little pile, isn't it? I'd put double the amount in usually, as tabbouleh should be a mass of green dotted with pearls of white couscous, not t'other way round. No matter, it'll taste absolutely fabulous, dahlinks!

Gratuitous piccie of J's arm, a knife and a dead fish (sorry, veggie friends) which was swimming about happily til about 3 hours ago. Mmm, I love trout.

                                                                 The finished dish.

The tabbouleh will be accompanied by a  salad of leaves, cucumber, tomato, avocado and tarted up with mozzarella balls, roast peppers, sundried toms and olives care of the local supermarche'. Oh and some chunks of chorizo and salami. My, what a international feast this is turning out to be! Bit of a hotch-potch, if you ask me, but we shall enjoy it, with a glass or so of some rosy vino.

Last episodes - I think - of The Bridge tonight, we'll watch the first hour then we 'll be skypeing. The time difference when our clocks go back / forward always throw us out for a get together at a decent hour with the Kiwis. It'll be 10pm here for us, but 9am Sunday for them. Have to give them time to get up and breakfast on the go, often one or other adult has been on night shift so they have to get home and showered. Still it is a Godsend being able to see them regularly, I don't know what I'd do without it now we use it so often.A two-hour skype brings it up to midnight here.........

Oooops, silly me, I had meant to photograph the salad and the finished meal.....doh! Too late, it's'll have to take my word for it that it looked - and tasted -  great. As you've realised by the change of tense, the previous bit was written last night and now it's Sunday morning. Lazy breakfast, then we are picking my mum up (no, not off the floor) to take her out to lunch with some old friends of ours. So a silver lining to this yet-again grey day. Hope your Sunday is brighter than those dreary skies.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Finding Your Blogging Voice

When TT took to the blogwaves, I was was writing for two of us, and with the very specific remit of describing the process of preparing for our first craft fair. It had to be very textiley and promote the work and thoughts of two very different people, yet speak with my voice. I think it failed on all counts, as on one hand I was told there wasn't sufficient textile content, it was too much 'my' voice, on the other I had friends telling me that they were waiting for the blog to develop and I should let my own voice come through more. What do you do? Well, that resolved itself when the partnership dissolved and I was able to let the blog go its own sweet way.

However, there still remains the issue of how to pitch the blog. I think of the blogs I best like to visit. You can see them in my blog list - there are others, but these are the ones I visit most often. They have several elements in common. Their content is based generally around food, textiles, with a little family,  and gardening thrown in.They are colourful, entertaining, and pretty straightforward, being, I would hazard a guess, fairly representational of their writers' personalities. They don't present the world through rose tinted spectacles, but neither do they dwell too much on the downside of life. They can occasionally present a serious topic for discussion without it ever becoming too heavily philosophical.

Yesterday I followed a few threads to other posts and came across a discussion on exactly this topic, which side(s) of yourself do you expose for public scrutiny on your blog, and do you present yourself warts and all? The comments were fascinating, with the consenus being, I guess, that balance is all, be yourself, if something really touches you don't hold back if you feel comfortable about talking about it publicly, and write for yourself - if people like it they will come back, if not, they won't.The comment I left said more or less that, and I added that if my blog-posts generated such quality discussion I would feel blessed.

So I'm hoping I'm more or less hittng the spot, I hope the blog is entertaining, and informative ( I'm sounding like the BBC now!)and I hope that I can continue to please myself. I'd like to write more about books at some point - not the embarrassingly huge numbers I possess, more review-like.I'll probably get round to doing a bit about folk/acoustic music. I'd like to introduce the non-bloggers among you to more of the blogs I enjoy reading. I'd also love to do a post based on the Somerset Studio magazine "Where Women Create", perhaps taking a Textile Jaunt out and about to visit people and find out about where they stitch, bake, pot, get down and dirty in the soil - who knows....once you start taking a thought for a walk it's amazing what you come up with! I realise, of course, that none of these ideas are exactly original, but I'm sure they will bear being given another airing.

I'd just like to say something about comments. Pre-blog, I left the occasional comment on other blogs. Usually, I felt that I was a total stranger who wasn't 'one of the girls' ie one of the frequent commenters and that the blogger probably wondered why on earth I was bothering to say anything. Now I realise that it's important to comment, for me, because I know the blogger wants to engage in debate - however lowly - and that comments are really appreciated. Especially if they have something to offer in the way of opinion, suggestions, and personal experiences. It also gives you a sounding board, and lets you know that you are not blogging along to an empty room! So comment away! I do reply to each one, and I have to say that I have met some lovely people, bloggers and non-bloggers, by engaging in this way.

 I don't see me ever having an on-line shop, I won't be advertising and I'm not into awards and stuff like that, so what you see is what you get, I have no commercial agenda. I do have a warped sense of humour and it gets the better of me sometimes, but I try and keep it in check, mostly, on the blog.

So that's it, really, this post. It's been a bit self indulgent, I suppose, being in a rather more thoughtful frame of mind than usual. The photos have no rhyme or reason, they were just sitting about in the files, uploaded to break up the text, give it a bit of colour. If you have any thoughts on the topic, I'd love to hear them. Catch you next time.