Christmas bits and pieces

We bought and decorated a tree at the weekend and I do like having it in the corner of the room, smelling all pine-y and nice! We got a Norwegian spruce so the needles will drop everywhere, but it was cheaper, smells stronger, and looks bushier so I like it, though it’s a shame the thin branches can’t hold the weight of bigger decorations. I think it looks better in real life than in the photo.

Christmas Tree

The prosecco on the mantlepiece, by the way, was given to my husband allegedly by a pigeon, for rescuing it from the chimney of his office at work… something to do with it being stuck and him putting a light underneath to lure it down and release it, when the works department wouldn’t help. The tag is written in very small writing and says he – the pigeon – has 20 baby pigeons who would have missed their daddy at Christmas. Someone in his office has a sense of humour! (I think the prosecco was left over from an office function, maybe the one he missed when we got snowed in).

I finished a hat I started knitting when staying with my parents. The directional knitting was okay until right at the end, when there would have been a strange lump so Mum and I just cut it off in its prime and pulled it through the last few stitches to finish it off. I also had a big old to-do when it said to keep knitting until it measured 20 inches, but that that had  to be on row 14 – it was too long when I got to row 14 and no amount of fiddling about with stopping it on a different row worked. I pulled out loads and now can’t tell you whether I pulled it back a whole repeat, or knitted it up again with a tighter tension. The yarn (acrylic) was a brand called Bergat that I hadn’t heard of before. Anyway, it sort-of worked except that it’s too big for me so I have to roll up the brim and with my round face it doesn’t suit me at all! The last hat I knitted wasn’t great either, but I got used to it, then I lost it. Perhaps I should give up on hat knitting.


Lastly, I made this cross stitch Christmas card kit for my brother, with beads. I really like the design, it’s effective yet simple (if a bit fiddly). This kit was in a sale but still really more than I should pay for a Christmas card, but I’ve kept the pattern and it should be easy to get the fabric and threads to make again. The worst part was putting it into the card holder using double-sided sticky tape. Only in the photo (which is on my mantlepiece at home for display purposes before I sent it) have I noticed the top of the pot looks wonky, I don’t know how, perhaps the fabric stretched when I stuck it to the card. Oh well, too late now. It’ll remind him of me at Christmas, like I’d let him forget (hee hee)!!!



Work Christmas carol service tonight then drinks and nibbles. Maybe having it on a Monday is to dissuade us from staying too late!



Cathedral Windows Christmas tree decoration

I’m just back from a week staying with my parents in the home I grew up in Northumberland (for those who don’t know it, a county in the far north east of England, bordering Scotland, with hills and a beautiful coastline). While there I made a Christmas tree decoration using a pattern I bought on Craftsy months ago. I’ve never done cathedral windows before, and think the effect of them is stunning, but knew that when the pattern introduction said it would be ‘easy’, ‘quick’, and ‘simple’, that wouldn’t be true – at least not for me!

It’s a double-sided decoration, the ‘O’ shape on one side and ‘X’ on the other. I followed the instructions with not the least idea of where they were heading. It’s a bit like origami, but with sewing. At least I though to use spray starch, because the pieces are tiny.

Here are the two sides after the first stage was completed:


Can’t explain how I did it (and if I’d known what it would look like once unfolded would probably have positioned the left and right green triangles so the fabric pattern wasn’t facing the same way, but as it turns out you can’t see that when it’s finished); but the pattern if anyone would like to do it is by Shelley’s Studio. The green is scraps left over from the Christmas cushion cover I made for my brother last year. Hope he remembers to bring it out this year!

Then you sew a third colour on at the corners, and open up pieces to reveal the colours beneath, and sew them down. Rather like slits in Tudor gentleman’s robe, I suppose. This is one side mid-process:

O midway compressed

Unfortunately I forgot that I am hopeless at binding, at least the part where you have to get the beginning and end to fit together. I also definitely needed a longer piece of binding. I cut the pieces before going home and took them with me on the train, so when the pattern said ‘at least 14 1/2 inches’ I cut it to exactly that but should have made it longer. Although it’s a single rather than double binding I turned the edge up to stop it fraying, which the pattern didn’t mention though I think it looks better. But I ended up with not enough to make the fourth corner mitred like the others, and with a lump, not to put too fine a point on it, at the point where the start and finish of the binding met. So all I could do was make it as neat as possible and try to hide it under a thicker piece of velvet ribbon hanging than I would have chosen. Fortunately Mum had some I could use, because I forgot to bring any with me. I would have preferred to have the end of the hanging ribbon inside the binding, but even without the mess at that corner which needed to be disguised, couldn’t work out how to do that.

The overall effect of the finished item is nice, though the ‘X’ has come out better than the ‘O’. I would make one again, but be prepared to spend a long time on it. I wanted to leave this one with Mum and Dad so stayed up late, a Christmas ‘tradition’ I really must stop!

The ‘X’ in two different lights (to try and show the gold snowflakes):

X compressedX on wood


And the ‘O’:


And in situ (blurred I’m afraid, I was in a rush)!:

tree compressed

Changing seasons

We went on holiday to the North Pennines a month ago, but it doesn’t feel so long ago; so much crafting has been going on since then! Before we left, I finished this autumn jumper, in Rowan British sheep breeds boucle:


It’s perhaps a size too big (the last two having been a size smaller than I would have liked it seems this time I over-compensated), but I like it.

I took projects with me on holiday that I can’t do on the train so don’t get much attention unless I’m on leave… an ‘extreme knitting’ rug, the quilt back and leaf shapes to do applique, and my cross stitch cushion cover. Also the pieces for the next autumn block, the wool to knit snowmen Christmas tree decorations, and even some pieces to make cathedral window Christmas tree ornaments. Good to have a choice! In the end, I focussed on the cross stitch, though mostly when on the long car journey, and the rug. Neither are finished, but are close, if I could have continued to focus on them when I got back.

Had some nice days when away…

And some less nice…


… but it was great to be away.

When we got back, I did finish the autumn block:


This reused the dark orange fabric in the centre that came from a block I’d dismantled, and used most of what’s left of a fabric I bought on ebay at the beginning of the project and which is best used for ‘fussy cutting’ because the motifs aren’t close together. It is an old fabric, thin and frays easily, so I’m a bit worried about how long it will last in the quilt. It’s quite hard to sew fabrics of different thicknesses together and I know this has ‘issues’! The tan coloured fabric is Moda and is very useful for autumn projects.

A last burst of colour in a London park a couple of weeks ago  (complete with dustbin, sorry!):


Since then, I’ve been working on a Christmas present which I really need to have finished by this coming Friday, when I’m getting the train to stay with my family for a bit as sadly I won’t see them at Christmas, so if I have it finished in time I can take it with me rather than trusting it to the post. It uses the sewing machine so really I can only do it at weekends – evenings in an emergency but I’m tired when I get home from work and make mistakes – but these last few weekends have been busy, with my husband’s family visiting and other things, so it’s not gone as smoothly as I’d have liked. I should finish it by working on it these next few evenings, it’s just something I’ve never done before so I’m doing a lot of reading and re-reading of instructions!

Then these little fellows have kept me occupied… They had to be delivered to church yesterday, to be put with other items to be sold at the church Christmas Tree Festival next weekend. So early! I feel like Christmas is over with before Christmas Day is even in sight, it’s so confusing and the day itself a bit of an anti-climax, I guess that’s getting older but with no children of my own – sorry, that’s a bit depressing. I’ll have to get used to it, because that’s the way it’s going to be now, best make the most of it. My in-laws will come to us on Christmas Day so at least it’s not just the two of us. I’ll try not to stress out about the cooking, when people are older they have fixed likes and dislikes which take precedence and that makes me anxious, but I should calm down and try to get a sense of perspective, because it’s okay really. At least on home turf I can have a glass of wine with Christmas dinner, which they don’t do. Anyway, here are the finished snowmen, which took me an insane amount of time to finish, the earliest I went to bed each night last week was 11, past midnight some nights, and I get up for work at 5.50. Crazy little snowmen!





Different fussy-cut pumpkins (and more sparkle)

I feel more inspired now that autumn is kicking in.

I was looking for ways to re-use the green and brown fabrics here that I’d rescued from blocks that hadn’t worked and I’d taken apart, so after much fiddling about with different options – as usual – I eventually came up with this one. The pumpkin fabric is from a piece I bought in the clearance section of a website and at first I’d discounted it because most of the motifs are too big for what I’m doing, but then I thought I could do as for the last block and ‘fussy-cut’ small pieces out of it. It does lead to wasted fabric, but worth it for this and not so bad when it’s on sale. Maybe the centre square could have been a different fabric, but a big block of something plain in the centre sometimes looks a bit too stark. I do realise my pattern now seems to be to use these plain pieces in shades of tan for the background of the flying geese and don’t want to do too many of them, but I think it’s okay for now.


I’ve  made slower progress on finishing this block because I’ve been working on a machine-stitched project at home. Top secret so pictures after Christmas! I’ve got as far as making the quilt sandwich and doing one line of quilting, but ran out of thread! It was just as well because that was Sunday and this coming Saturday morning we’re leaving for a week’s holiday so I wanted to spend Sunday afternoon (after my driving lesson) choosing colours for the next block so I can sew it while we’re away, and if I hadn’t run out of machine quilting thread I might not have stopped then I would be holiday-block-less.

I’ve also bought the backing piece for the quilt. It came yesterday so I washed it and it is still on the dryer as we speak – it’s rather large so drying it on my free-standing electric dryer is awkward, but we don’t use the tumble dryer due to expense and have nowhere outside to hang things (it’s raining anyway). My plan is to applique leaf shapes on it which will be made out of autumn fabrics. That way I can use some that I bought online but have turned out to not be the right shade, or were early mistakes. I think it should look good and removes difficulties of the seams of pieces making up the back not lining up with quilting lines, but it will take a long time and is not exactly something I can do on the train, so I thought I’d get a head start and alternate doing that at home with making up blocks on the daily commute. At least, that’s the plan!

I think this is block 33 and I’m looking at a 8×10 block quilt… so only 47 to go! I don’t know if I can get my head round that.

The estate agent through whom we rent our flat is coming to do a flat inspection while we’re both out at work tomorrow. I don’t like people looking around while we’re not there but there’s nothing I can do. I’ve been on a washing, ironing, and dusting spree because I don’t want to have laundry hanging around while she’s in there, so more ironing tonight, hoovering, tidying of the baskets of fabric and piles of paperwork (and hiding of candles! Not that our contract says we can’t have them but you never know)… by the time I’ve done all that, then on Thursday and Friday actually do some packing, I’ll be so whacked I’ll probably be too tired to make the most of being away. Hope not, because we’re going north and I’m looking forward to fresher airs and if it isn’t cloudy every day seeing some stars. Too much light pollution as well as air pollution down south.

Autumn block with fussy-cut fun pumpkins

I like the term ‘fussy cutting’ that I picked up from Peggy Cooper’s lovely blog ( – it’s something I do occasionally but hadn’t thought about it having a name – now I know it I’m going to use it more! I’m not sure if using it as an adjective as in the title is the done thing, but I’m doing it anyway…

IMGP1042 comp

The flying geese round the centre square use the very last of the special autumn leaves fabric I love so much: they’re recycled from a block I didn’t like and took apart, and I’m so happy I did because they’re used much better here. I’m not convinced about the use of colour in the central triangles at the edge (where two flying geese are sewn together), but the number of variations I tried in order to get this the best I could was ridiculous! In the end I had it all except the four small squares at the corner of the sort of block-within-a-block, so when I found a remnant of the fabric that I ended up using I was really pleased. It’s one I’ve tried to work into other blocks because I like it, but it’s only ended up in one. Part of the problem is that the background’s white and bright, and the other is that the motifs on it are quite widely spaced. Hence the fussy cutting, so I could get a tiny part of the edge of a sunflower in alongside the leaf and pumpkin in two squares. I would have liked more, but there just weren’t enough on the piece of fabric. I kicked myself for cutting squarely round the pumpkin used on the top right, because it would have looked better at an angle, but I used it anyway because it’s nice to have the two pumpkins with different patterns. That fabric is very thin, not easy to work with, and a couple of the corners of those squares came out stretched when I ironed them so they don’t look their best. I now realise I should have starched them… too late!

One problem with having spent so long choosing the fabrics for this one is that I only finished sewing it together on Sunday afternoon and didn’t have time to choose fabrics for the next one, so have no sewing to do on the train for my daily commute, I feel bereft!

Sparkly leafy new autumn block


I’m pleased to have made this autumn block, as it uses my favourite fabric to best effect – albeit second (at least!) time lucky. I had 4 rectangles of it I’d never used and 4 that had been part of another block I’d taken apart, so I wanted to use them in the position in the photo along with less patterned fabrics so you can really see them. The only thing that really worked was to have a square of it in the centre, so I’m afraid I cannibalised another block to get to it. I wasn’t sorry to lose the one I took apart because making  it was a mistake really, too many very patterned fabrics and quite a bright green and a bright orange in the same block made it over-the-top. This is one of my favourites now, but re-sewing pieces that were already trimmed from having been in another block is difficult and I certainly wouldn’t choose to do it; better to have got it right the first time! To my surprise the sparkly orange fabric is going well in some blocks, perhaps because it’s a darker burnt orange, rather than some of the brighter ones I’ve bought in the past: it often isn’t easy to tell from photos online shops what things are going to look like in real life, and when I went to a fabric warehouse sale last weekend I couldn’t find a single one that would have gone well in this quilt, such a shame.

I went for a wander earlier and the trees are beginning to change colour:


Lots of berries on this piece of hawthorn:


I don’t know what this shrub in the area between fields is, but not only are the leaves very colourful, the flowers are extraordinarily bright… maybe if ever I have a garden I can find out what it is and plant one.

First machine-sewn garment finished…

At last! There’s a lot that’s ‘wrong’ with it, but it’s still wearable and I’ve learned so much in the process.

top cropped

I had difficulty finishing the seams and tried to use the overlocking foot but the edges of the fabric in parts got turned in, and the beginning and end of each row got tangled so I ended up doing those bits by hand using blanket stitch. I gave up on other seams and used pinking shears instead, so the inside of the garment is a real mishmash! The two halves of the back don’t line up by a couple of millimetres, it’s not much but it is noticeable if you’re looking – hopefully no one will be! I’ve done my first hem that’s ‘invisible’ from the front, which is just as well as it wobbles all over the place, and my first button loop, which again isn’t the most tidy but you can’t see that when the button’s fastened. So lots of fudging, but lots learned, particularly bias binding. Unfortunately it’s now too cold to wear it this year!

I’ll wait until next year when the memory of all the difficulties has passed before trying to make anything with the other fabric I bought on the same day. At this time of year I’m keen to be getting on with my knitting and the autumn patchwork anyway, as well as some Christmas gifts.


Speaking of the autumn quilt, here is the latest block, using parts of one that I took apart because the colours / patterns didn’t look right; I’d thought when I made it it would be fine, but now I’ve got a decent number of blocks I can see it doesn’t work.


The one on the right below is the one I took apart, it had too many big patterns in it and the small triangles on the flying geese round the centre square were the wrong colour, they just disappear into the other parts. The new one’s not exactly exciting, but I think it looks better because there’s more definition. I’m getting to be very reliant on that brown fabric, don’t know where I’d have been without it.


A few weeks ago I made some elderberry syrup for the first time, needless to say having to negotiate nettle patches to get to them, as elders and nettles seem to grow together. It turns out to be quite tasty, more subtle than you’d think; I’d definitely make it again next year.