Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Baby Blanket - Ta Dah Moment

The baby blanket that has been in progress for the last few weeks is now finished.
Although it is perhaps not really done to say so ones self, I am pretty pleased with it.
There was no definite plan or pattern just a desire to create a blanket from different patterned squares. The five patterns I used were

Heart shaped bobbles

Double half shells

Crossed trebles

Corner to corner

Single half shells

I made four of each pattern to make a four by five square blanket. Big enough for a pram (sorry 'travel system' I was informed the other day!) or car seat without being too bulky. The yarn used is a mix of cotton and merino.

Blocking came next in an effort to get the squares to approximately the same size. My tension must be questionable as some squares of the same stitch had to be coaxed to match each other. They took several days to dry thoroughly, which led to some impatience, humming and tutting but finally they were ready for stitching together.

It took a number of changes of mind and moving squares around to decide on the final arrangement before stitching them all together.

It had been my intention to do a foundation row of double crochet (uk terms) and a border of bobble stitch but it just did not look right. After a little more experimentation I used four rows of double crochet and a final row of half treble shells.

The border finishes it off neatly and blends in well with the five different patterns.

The baby is due at the end of next month so there is still time for a few more makes before he/she arrives. We do not know what it will be as my niece and her husband have chosen not to find out, so it will be a lovely surprise for us all.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Five on Friday - A Pair of Pears

Joining with Amy at Love Made my Home for Five on Friday

This week a number of projects have started to to come together and one or two have actually been completed. The napkins I have shared before are now finished and ready to be used. As a Five on Friday topic they will have to be fudged as there are only four of them, but an extra photo makes five!

As mentioned previously I made place mats from left over fabric sometime last year. I toyed with the idea of making napkins to match and found some simple plain cotton napkins in the Christmas section of a store last October. They sat in a drawer along with several other WIP's until January this year. I wanted to keep them simple as they will be used daily, so decided to use a pear motif to reflect the fabric pattern on the place mats. To make them a little more interesting I changed the design slightly and used different embroidery stitches for each napkin. The leaves and stork stayed the same and were done in back stitch.

1. Chain stitch outlines and seed stitch decoration.

2. Stem stitch outlines with detached chain stitch 'pips'

3. Coral stitch outlines with french knot decoration

4. Twisted chain stitch with split stitch and detached chain core

5. Four pairs of pears


Knitting and crochet have been my main activities this winter so it has been a pleasant change to do some embroidery. As the days get longer and lighter the plan is to do more embroidery if I get myself organised and a few more WIP's finished.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Puppy Love JETS February 2017

It was very busy at JETS last Saturday with lots going on. There is a fine balance preparing activities that will last 2 hours with no one getting bored and having too much to do so projects are not completed. I over egged the custard on Saturday and we ran out of time BUT everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and went home happy - clutching bits of thread and embellishments to finish off at home.

The activities were a soft toy puppy stitched on the sewing machine and finished by hand and a scrap fabric heart brooch.

Learning to stitch round curves

Cutting out ears and a tail

Stuffing your puppy

The heart brooch was made with pieces of fabric scraps, lace and sparkly threads bonda webbed to a piece of felt and covered with a piece of voile. A heart shape was drawn onto the "new" fabric and embroidered.

This was to be cut out and placed on another piece of felt for the backing with a pin attached. Stitched together and the excess backing cut off your brooch is ready to wear. 

Only we did not manage to get that far!

Everyone created their scrappy fabric and started the embroidery but the puppy-making took longer than I had expected. So everyone went home with a puppy and a part made brooch with bits and pieces to finish them off. Well, it is half term here this week so hopefully it will have been a good activity to complete on a grey day like today. 

The puppies were much loved and all seemed to have their own character.

Some of the puppies have button eyes, while others have beads or french knots. It is lovely to see the children developing their skills and make their own creative choices. 

It just remains for me to develop my skills in balancing the right amount of work to keep everyone busy and interested and not overwhelmed!

My grateful thanks goes to our band of volunteers who happily oversaw the machine sewing, stuffing, cutting out, ironing bonda web, embroidery and button stitching. Hopefully next month will be a little less hectic with a combined machine and hand stitched project.   


Friday, 3 February 2017

Five on Friday - WIP's and a Ta Dah moment

How did it get to be Friday again so quickly????
But it is lovely to be joining with Amy at Love Made My Home for the Five on Friday roundup.

There seem to be rather a large number of bags around my house that have WIP's in them and I am trying to reduce that number before starting, or dare I say, purchasing more yarn/fabric/pretty embellishments for new projects. There are lots of ideas buzzing around in my head - that's the problem/temptation with Instagram and Pintrest, with all the lovely, creative projects going on in the crafty community. Well so far, so good, the only purchases I have made recently have been sewing thread in colours I had run out of and they were half price so that doesn't count does it?

1. Pear Napkins

I made some table mats last year using left over fabric from another project and the plan had been to embroider a set of napkins to match. The napkins were purchased, threads sorted and that's as far as I got. Earlier this week I met with stitching friends from the Embroiderers' Guild and decided it was time to finally get started.

It is ages since I have done any hand sewing as knitting and crochet have been my preferred crafts during the winter evenings. I had forgotten how much I enjoy hand stitching and the rhythm of the needle is very soothing.

2. Preparation for JETS

Not so soothing is preparing materials for the JETS (Junior stitch group)! The volunteer helpers met last Saturday and we have planned the monthly activities up to the Summer holiday. As mentioned in a previous post the group now has a sewing machine so often two activities are going on, a hand stitched project and a machine stitched one. In February we will be making embroidered heart brooches and a soft toy puppy. As the purpose of the puppy project is to learn to machine stitch round shapes it was decided the pieces should be cut out for the students. I prefer them to cut their own patterns out but this can be tricky for the younger members of the group. A set of puppies are all cut and ready in a range of coloured fabrics so the bonus is not having to transport a whole box of fabric to the session. It limits decision time on what fabric to choose too!

3. Baby Blanket

Work has begun on the crib/car seat blanket for my niece's baby, due soon. Ooh, it is getting exciting now. The yarn is a mix of cotton and merino and is soooo soft and lovely to work with.

So far there are four heart squares and three and a bit cross treble squares. I was originally planning to make the blanket 3 x 4 squares in these two patterns with a deep border on it. I am now leaning towards 4 x 5 squares in five different patterns - four squares in each pattern. I have enough yarn to do the larger size but will probably have to get more yarn to complete a border. 
Who knows? I'll let you know the final decision later.

4. Long Socks

These socks were started at Christmas but had not been out of their bag since New Year.

I was delighted to discover the heel had been turned on the first one when I pulled it out of the bag to photograph this morning! A good incentive to knit to the toe and finish it. Another good incentive was finding all my hand knitted socks in the wash this morning so I had to put on a shop bought pair.

5. Ta Dah Moment!

Completed shawl
The Close to You shawl that was taken on holiday and very little done is finished - hurrah!

I really enjoyed making this and love the colour blend of the hand dyed wool from Abstract Cat Yarn on Folksy. The pattern by Justyna Lorkowska is simple and straight forward but really effective.

The picot edge complements the pattern beautifully.

Blocking was completed on Tuesday and I have been wearing it ever since. There is something very satisfying about wearing something you have made - especially if you are happy with it. (A few disaster have been recycle or found themselves in the bin!)

Well, now I have shared my WIP's I am going to have to get on with them so there can be a few more Ta Dah moments. There is a deadline attached to the blanket so that will take precedence but the socks may have to take a back seat - it will depend on how chilly my feet are........

Friday, 27 January 2017

Five on Friday - MK50

This is something of a record for me 4 blog posts in one week! 
Joining with Amy and  Five on Friday for something completely different to the previous holiday posts. Sadly Milton Keynes is not as attractive as Madeira or as warm and sunny.

Happy Birthday Milton Keynes!

On the 23rd January 1967 the formal designation of a new town was set out in Parliament.  So this week Milton Keynes, named after one of the existing villages within the designated area, celebrated it's 50th Birthday. There have been a number of events and celebrations this week including a birthday party and cake. It even reached the National news on Monday.
I came to MK for a job never intending to stay but here I am 26 years later and my mother joined me 5 years ago.

Milton Keynes is often the butt of many a joke, usually involving concrete cows and roundabouts. Yes there are concrete cows, a great arts project led by Liz Leyh in the 1970's and many, many roundabouts.
 (Pictures and information about the concrete cows and be found here.)
 For Five on Friday here are five things that I like and enjoy about my adopted home.

1. History

Surprisingly, amidst the many roads, new housing and modern industry there is a lot of history in the area. The Milton Keynes Development Corporation who oversaw the development of the new town, worked hard to preserve and incorporate historic site and buildings into the new town plan.
There are more than 1000 listed buildings in the MK area

 This poster from the celebration exhibition illustrates some of the Grade 1 buildings of "exceptional interest". It includes my local church St. Mary's

St Mary's Church

One of the original farmsteads in the village

The Dower House dating from the 1600's

The grid square where I live was one of the many small villages absorbed by the new town. The historic centre of all the villages have been preserved and conservation areas established to protect them. Planning for these areas is very strict.

2. Green Spaces

A great many parks, lakes, woodland and landscaping was all part of the original plan for MK. The Parks Trust established in 1992, are now responsible for up to 5000 acres of green space. Over 22 million tress have been planted in Milton Keynes and in the drought of 1976 residents were asked to "adopt" a tree to keep it watered and alive. 
There are many lakes which not only serve as nature reserves, they also provide a complex network managing water levels preventing flooding. Two of the larger lakes are also used for recreation with sailing, windsurfing and paddle sports available to residents. Views of my local lake can be found here in a previous post. 
These two green spaces are just a short distance from my home

Field Boundrey of the Conservation area

I pass this area everyday on the way round to visiting my mother and yesterday I noticed the snowdrops that carpet this area are just beginning to peep through.

The beginning of the Woodland area on the next development 

3. Roads and Communication Links

Milton Keynes is famous for its Grid roads and roundabouts. At the last count there were over 130 roundabouts but the number grows all the time. Love them or hate them traffic, flows well through the grid system and although there is some queuing at peak times of the day, it is nothing like the grid lock of many towns and cities. The grid system can be very confusing as the tree lined roads and many roundabouts all start to look alike and there have been times when I have got completely lost! 

Less well know are the miles of paths, redways and bridleways. The redways are pedestrian and cycle routes which are made of red tarmac, hence their name. It is possible to get about the whole of MK by foot or on bicycle without going on any of the main roads. The footbridge seen in the picture above is part of the redway system.

This path leads through the centre of our development to the local shopping centre on the other side of the grid square.

There are also bridleways for horse riders

This bridleway passes the back of my house and I often hear horses cantering by when I'm in the garden, which seems bizzare in a largely urban area. 

4. Art and Sculpture

The Development Corporation had an ambitious public art programme and this has continued since the Council took over several years ago. Many works of art have been created by residents and arts groups in partnership with artists, such as the Concrete Cows. Others have been specially commissioned from leading modern artists.

One of my favourites is The Whisper by Andre Wallace

It sits outside the Central Library and I like to imagine the secrets they are sharing. What are they plotting or are they just gossiping about the people walking past?

I came across this natural sculpture created from a fallen tree when out in my local area yesterday taking photographs.

The details of the hedgehog and leaves were a lovely surprise on a bleak, cold day.

There are many local centres, sports arenas, arts centres, museums and theatres with plenty going on for varied interests, young and old.
(Goodness, I am sounding like an advert for the area).

5. Friendships

In the 26 years I have lived in Milton Keynes I have made many good friends. Perhaps that is a feature of a "New Town" - many people come from lots of different places and are thrown together. Many did not grow up in the area and are a long way from their families so traditional support networks do not always exist. I know some people can find MK isolating and lonely but if you can have the to courage to join a community group I have always found people very friendly and welcoming. I met one of my good friends at the interview for my first job in MK, we hit it off immediately and have been close ever since. Other friendships have developed through work, art groups and the Embroiderers' Guild. 

There are things about MK I do not like such as the increase in littering that has occurred over the last few years; the increased density of housing on some of the newer developments and the abandonment of the grid road system in the new expansion areas. A big mistake that I think will come back to haunt the current planners. 

There are plans to continue celebrating MK50 with lots of events, festivals and activities throughout the year. Any excuse for a party sounds good to me.

Part of the programme of events

Life is never perfect but I enjoy living in my adopted home and wonder what the next 50 years will bring for Milton Keynes?  Do you enjoy the area you live in?

Thank you Amy for hosting Five on Friday.