Sunday 16 August 2015

Freemotion embroidery birdies

I went to Josie's Funky Needlework evening class. Just to make clear, this is an informal class, where you can get guidance or just enjoy the company and do your own thing. I had never, ever managed to do freemotion embroidery with my machine. I think I first bought a presser foot that was wrong and then just could not figure how to install the correct one.

The class then seemed a good thing to do as I could ask Josie for help. I managed to install the foot, but the stitching did not really go anywhere. After Josie had had a play with it and a few beard stroking moments, she had to admit that she did not know what on earth was going on. I was happy with that too. It just meant that it was not only me who could not do it. I don't know how I worked it out, but I did in the end and got to do my first "picture".

Now, if you start with this first time and you need to play around, what would you draw. A flower? A cloud? Something pretty basic, I guess. At this point something in my brain OBVIOUSLY short circuited and I decided too draw a bird. Not a simplified, folksy bird, but a birdy bird. See above. I was quite pleased as it was my first attempt. I made a couple more and am now in the process of using them for a project, which I will show later, when it is finished.

It was quite good fun, when I got going. I did draw the birdies with indelible pen first and then followed those lines as best as I could. I like the feeling of "line drawing" the freemotion sewing gives for the embroidery.

Monday 10 August 2015

Harvesting the goodies from our allotment

Ta-dah! Here are the pictures from the allotment. I am already apologising for the amount, but I want to keep some sort of record of how far the things have come at this point of the summer.

I am showing the allotment from the far end going towards the gate.
Here are my beetroot and cabbage/kale beds with nasturtium mingling with them.

Next to them are the pea cage (oh dear, the cage!) and runner beans on their teepee. 

The following bed is a narrow one holding our bean fence. There are some beans, but they got rather miffed by the cold start in the spring and I won't have a bumper crop like the last year. I hope the runner beans will make up for this though.

Just in the front are some courgettes and very overgrown red lettuce. That has now been removed. My courgettes were struggling too in the beginning and when a friend offered some extras, I took them. This was a mistake as her "courgettes" are the UFO pumpkins! They are lovely too, but I will have rather many of them.

On the other side of the fence I planted some yellow-orange-maroon coloured flowers to beautify my patch. What do you think?

The beds on this side of the fence have some shallots and leeks and the bed beyond it was planted with garlic, but has planted again with some bush variety of borlotti beans (fingers crossed) and more beetrooot and some lettuce.

Here is a closer look at the flowers

Just another view, this time towards the tunnel. The big scraggly things against the fence are our artichokes. Beyond the trolley is our potato bed. The tops have been cut down following the blight yellowing them overnight. As they were earlies, no harm done. We have the potatoes in the ground and will keep eating them.

In the front of the tunnel is an odd mummy. Look:

This is how I grow carrots. I don't sow at all in the spring when the fly is rife, but a bit later and even then I protect them with fleece. The container is a stylish addition; an old tumble drier drum.

The view from the tunnel door. I have since tied the tomato canes up and cut the growing tips, so we are now starting to get some tomatoes.

Cucumbers have been producing for a while already. Here is one of the long ones:

I have chillies growing in growbags as well as peppers. I am contemplating on keeping one of the chillies over winter on the window sill in our house.

The grape vine has grown LOADs this summer and I have trained it along the side wall and over the arch of the tunnel.

There are even some grapes and next year I will be even better at leaving only a few and in right places.

The bit between the potting shed/green house and the tunnel is taken up by my salad bed. At this point I have some spinach, which seems to be growing without bolting. (We are past the hot summer months and the days are shorter)

Otherwise there are the currant bushes and the strawberry field and the asparagus. Oh, the asparagus. I let it be this year and hope to harvest the coming year. All the feathery fern like growth is asparagus.

Behind the hut is the cutting garden. Here is the perennial sweet pea taking over the world.

The flowers are a tad smaller than the annual sweet peas, and rounder. They do last well as cut flowers and there are lots of them.

I'll show more of the flowers another time, here is the view round the corner though. I can see that it is hard to see in these pictures how many flowers there actually are.

Inside the hut I have more tomatoes (silly, not to be repeated next year), peppers and aubergines.

On the shelf and also on the bench is basil.

We have only one rule about growing basil in our family and that is that there can never be too much basil!

I tried to grow cucamelons this year. I have them also in the tunnel, but they seem to be doing better here. These are very small beginnings of the fruit.

I was down with gastroenteritis for a week and that has put me behind both with house keeping and gardening. Luckily it is Elf husband's holiday now, so I can sneak out in the morning after six o'clock and garden for an hour or two. It all helps. I also attempt to harvest something every morning, so I hopefully won't need to panic later on. Yesterday I brought in my second batch of mint and lavender harvest. I rigged a pin on kitchen shelf brackets and dry them there.

Today I cut a big bunch of chives, which I chopped and put into the freezer. I also brought the first lot of my beetroot harvest in.

Note to self: this is slightly too much to fit into my 10l pot. Next time slightly less, please. I filled ten jars with these. My neighbour invited me to take some of his because his wife cannot stand the smell of beetroot cooking. He added with a wistful look that he grows them for giving away and then hopes that he might get a jar of something. He will certainly get several jars from me.

I love this time of the year, when we need very little from the shops. It feels also very satisfying conserving the produce, ready to eat during the winter. 

Have you harvested anything? Harvest is also cutting herbs from a pot on your window sill!

Sunday 9 August 2015

Order in fabrics and flowers

I like order. I like systems for keeping order. For me the orderly things are beautiful, but that is not why I like it. OK, maybe 5%, but the rest is about easily finding things and easily putting away what I have used. I ran into Marie Kondo and her Konmari type of tidying on several blogs. I have not read the book and although I have decided to read it just to see if there might be more useful stuff for me, I think I have already extracted the best bit for my purposes: The way she folds and stores clothes, towels and in my case now fabrics, is genius. At the same time it is so logical that I wonder why I have not thought about it before.

Basically she has everything stored vertically in draws or boxes. You see everything at a glance and it is easy to extract what you need without disturbing the rest and equally easy to put it back.

My coloured cottons have lived in old grocer's mushroom boxes since we moved. The colours have been sorted, but I had them stacked in piles inside the boxes. This resulted in a mess after couple of rounds of sewing. Getting to a certain piece of fabric always meant disturbing the whole pile.

These still live where they were before, but my system is improved vastly, because I can seewhat I have. My neutral cottons are in a different place, more about those later.

I also have couple of boxes filled with knit fabrics for doll making.

My husband and son claim that I am OCD with my wish to have order and this might come least borderline. I visited Josie's shop&studio and needed a small scrap of certain colour. She directed me to her scrap bags, which were in colour families. I edit my scraps about yearly and while I was at it I thought that Josie's system would make it easier for me to find that certain scrap I am after.

Did I tell you I have a cutting garden on our allotment? I am enjoying having pretty flowers in the house and suprising my friends with them. Here is my living room bouquet today:

Do you have ways of keeping your sewing/craft supplies in good order? Leave a link if you have blogged abut this, because I LOVE to see other people's work spaces and ways of organising their supplies.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Messenger Bag

I needed a small, over the shoulder bag, which could hold my purse, phone, keys and folded fabric shopping bag. I had some oilcloth, traditional, real, oily, oilcloth and bag hardware, so I made this:

I had also visited a leather heaven in Newcastle, so I had scraps of leather to use. The result is not tidiest and there are several things I will do differently next time.

I will definitely put the zip on the top and not try to hide it. The idea was good, but to look neat it needs a magnetic close and that becomes too fiddly. I installed the plastic snap after I had used the bag for a while, but it doesn't have the gumption to keep it together.  I am talking about the main zip here, not the front pocket one you can see in the picture above.

I will also make sure that I have good quality zips to use. These were bought as a job lot, cheap and cheery ones. I think in hindsight one should never try to economize with zips.

I love the lining I used. I also made a divider for the main pocket in addition to a little pocket. The divider was waste of effort, it would have been better to add a flat outside pocket. The little pocket inside is good though.

Do you have a good purse/phone/keys bag? Which features make it good? I am always eager to refine the functionality of the bags I make and any input is helpful.

Monday 3 August 2015

Laptop Bag

My sister-in-law asked for a colourful laptop bag for her birthday. I obliged and when Elf husband saw the result he commented that the bag indeed was so colorful and bright that it almost hurt his eyes! This gift did not go without mishap...I slightly underestimated the need of seam allowances, so it was too small for the laptop it was intended for. Oh the shame...

This was to be a bag where she just slipped her laptop into, when not in use, rather than for transporting it.

The pocket is for the charger.

Sorry about vomiting pictures...not awfully lot to say about this project otherwise.

Sunday 2 August 2015

Here I am, computer restored and ready for show and tell

Firstly BIG APOLOGIES for those who have commented, I have been truly absent and will now reply. Thank you for taking time to comment.

I have had a great big blogging hiatus, partly because our allotment took all my free time in the spring and then my computer stopped running the picture editing programme I am using. Hmph! It is now fixed thanks to Elf Husband and I can blog again. I have lots of things to show you all and since everything is slightly wonky in this end what you get and when will be a bit random. The picture above is from the one and only truly warm week we had in the beginning of July. I had to take my bird's nest hat from Tanzania in use while gardening.

In the allotment news I used much of the spring building up the allotment and getting rid of the rubbish. I gave a lick of wood preservative for the shed, so it also matched the greenhouse attached to it.

We built lids for our coldframe, which was there when we took over the allotment, but obviously not much use without the lids. I now have a whole new appreciation for the coldframe and am
SO grateful that I have one. I use it beyond the normal season to grow constant flow of salad seedlings, extra peas and root veggies.

All the pictures are at least one month old, so what you see here is far bigger now. The picture above is from June. The herb bed looked like this a month ago:

You see how the French tarragon has taken off and is for the world domination. It came from a friend's garden via our old garden and is according to my friend in better shape than the mother plant. In the other end is my mint collection and in the left bottom corner my new chives, which I grew from seed. The greens in front of the blue box is oregano, also raised from seed and in the back thyme is flowering.

The concrete path marks the separation of my neighbour's and our allotment. I have planted scented plants along the path, here it is chamomile. In the picture is part of our strawberry plot and a couple of ferny whisks of asparagus. The black currant bushes on this side of the tunnel were heavy with berries and Elf Son and I harvested about 6 litres of berries this week. They are still young bushes, so I assume that in coming years I will get more.

on the other side of the tunnel lavender takes over:

The tunnel looked like this a month ago. We had a slow start in the spring and especially cucurbits suffered and died as I moved them into the tunnel far too early.  We are normally past night frosts after second week in May, but had some really chilly biting nights this June. We are getting both tomatoes and cucumbers, but slightly later than anticipated. I am not sure that our peppers and chillies make it this year, but so much depends on the autumn. A warm, mild autumn can prolong growing season here immensely.

I like making my work as easy as is possible ans thus make use of companion planting. I always plant my cabbages and kales with nasturtiums. When I have had kales without their pretty flower companion they don't seem to thrive as well. It also keeps weeds down.

This is how kale bed looked in June:

...and this is a shot of the abundance now:

I had a great "Monty Don" moment when I used twigs to support the pea plants in the spring. They looked nice and kept pigeons from pecking the pea shoots.

Great, I thought, I've done it and it was easy. After a few weeks my peas started to look a bit sad with holes in them. I thought that flea beetles had had their fill and took it easy. Certainly the mini critters could not touch that size of plants I assumed as they were well under way. Unfortunately the peas did not seem to grow, actually they were shrinking! Look:

The day came when I realised what was going on; sparrows, unlike the pigeons, don't think twigs as any hindrance. They rejoiced my arrangement of feeding platforms to the delicious pea shoot buffet.

I don't like netting any of my plants if I can avoid it. I happily share our strawberries with the birds as long as they leave some for us. (Although the slugs annoy me carving the strawberries into inedible baubles. I hope that the birds take some of them too!) I did end up with a huge pea cage as otherwise there would not have been a single pea to eat. This again is from May, the cage is now choc-a-block with peas. The tepee supports runner beans.

I will come back with new pictures soon. I think I stopped taking pictures as I could not do anything with them.

I will also write what I have been doing since the garden went into its  mid-summer hiatus, you know when everything has been planted and there is very little to harvest. We have now entered the harvest season, so writing will be in between the bottling and freezing and eating, hmmm, eating all the lovely vegetables.

In addition to the edibles, I made a cutting garden in the shed end of the allotment and am now enjoying fresh flowers in the house and binding and giving bouquets to my friends. Bliss! You can see the beginnings in the shed picture. An early morning picture from July:

The wilderness against the wall is perennial sweet peas. They are in full bloom now, I promise to show!

If you have pictures and stories of your garden, leave a link in comments. I love to see other people's gardens both in real life and on the net.