It is a grey damp day and the cats seem to have brought in quite extraordinary quantities of mud overnight, so I thought it was time for some more pictures from my summer garden.

These show the growth, down the years, of what is now a huge white hydrangea. It is in an enormous tub, but I am still amazed at what it can do in a container.

I never really liked the hydrangeas of my childhood, which always seemed to be small, unattractive plants with muddy pink flowers.

But this white hydrangea is glorious, even if I do have to go out in rain storms to shake the water off its huge flowers to prevent the stems snapping.


More Tatting

This is another one from my albums.

It is one of Jan Stawasz' patterns from Tatting theory and patterns.

Being such a large piece it took a good while to make, but I didn't get to enjoy it for long as I immediately needed a wedding present for a friend, so these are the only pictures I have of it.

It is on my list of make-another-when-I-have-time items, except that  there always seems to be something new in the queue. I never run out of ideas, just of time and energy!



Although I very much enjoy patchwork and knitting magazines, it is quite unusual for me to make anything from the patterns they include, but British Patchwork and Quilting for January 2011 has a pattern for what they call a sewing kit purse, but which I grew up calling a housewife, that I couldn't resist.

I already had the perfect fabrics in my stash. Recently a Malaysian visitor gave me a sarong saying she would show  me how to wear it. I think she was rather bewildered when my immediate reaction was to tell her not to bother as I would much rather cut it up for patchwork! I used that for the outside fabric and a another stash fabric for the inner fabric. Instead of  wadding I used a fairly heavy vilene to provide body.

Anyway, I cut out my fabrics on Boxing Day and started the quilting. Yesterday I expected to finish the quilting and be able to start the making up, but that was before the foot pedal on my sewing machine struck work. Now I'm stuck until a replacement arrives.

But I still needed my sewing fix for the day, so instead I made the little pincushion for inside the housewife. The only major change I made to this part of the pattern was the trick I use with all my pincushions.

When you use pincushions regularly you come up against the problem that putting the pins in in a hurry is apt to mean points sticking right through and out the other side. Then, when you pick up the pincushion you get stabbed with a pin end.

So for years I have been putting jar lids inside the base, between the fabric and the stuffing. Jar lids come in such a variety of sizes that if you save them you are almost bound to have the right size for the pincushion you are making. They give the cushion a firm base too, which stops any tendency to roll over.



This is one of my own bears, one of my first patterns. I made him for a friend.

And here he is again, in a different type of mohair, with a more traditional bear for company.



Japanese New Year Decoration

This time I did not make the item on show. It was made for us by  a recent visitor from Japan.

In England, our Christmas decorations are mostly on winter themes, pine, holly, mistletoe, snow and so on.

So I thought it would be interesting to show you the different approach of the Japanese to New Year decoration.

Instead of just winter, this decoration includes symbols of all four seasons of the year,  pine for winter, artificial cherry blossoms for spring, artificial peonies and a butterfly for summer, and, most important of all, the staff of life, real rice for autumn and harvest.

It is a wreath, just as we have Christmas wreaths, but of a very different nature, to reflect a very different culture.



Recently I looked round and decided that all our cushions were looking shabby, and as I am fond of needlepoint, I bought a pile of kits to replace them.

This is the first one I have finished. It is the Kasbah  kit from Ehrman.

I like it so much that I am planning to make a set of them.


Warm Shawls

The view from my window. We have only had about 10cm of snow here, but the temperatures are very low for London.

I am reminded of the very bad winter in the early 1960s. I forget the exact year as it was always known in our family as 'the year the cat sat on the rose bush'. We had a great deal of snow that year so the country lane where we lived had a snow drift that filled it up to the top of the hedges on both sides. It was 6 weeks before the road was open again.

Anyway, the garden was full of snow, and it had drifted against the back hedge so at that point it was over three feet deep ( a metre for those younger than me).

Our old cat, who had come to us because someone dumped him from a car over our front gate in the middle of the night, decided he wanted to explore this strange white stuff. My mother let him out and we watched to see what he would do (he had been old when he came to us and we didn't know if he had met snow before).

He immediately sank to his middle and looked confused, but he bunny hopped about a bit until he got tired and sat down for a rest . . . and immediately shot straight up in the air and headed smartly for home.

My father went out in wellies to see what had happened. You can guess, can't you! The snow had covered a row of rose bushes, and poor Cheety-pussy-catty-o had sat down on top of a rose bush! He never ventured out into the white stuff again!

It is weather for shawls. Not just lace wisps, but hefty shawls to keep you warm.

Here are a couple I keep for bad weather. A plain faroese shawl and a pi circular shawl.

And remember, there is no law that says shawls are only for wearing round the shoulders, one at a time. I often layer them, and I frequently put one or more over my legs as a lap rug. My present cats are all in favour of that too!


Snow and Tatting

Here is the view of the garden yesterday afternoon.

And here is my most recent piece of tatting.

This one is Saphir from Frivolite dentelle aux navettes by Pascale Provost.

This is a book which for some reason gets a rather bad review on tatting book websites. It is said to be difficult to follow. I heartily disagree with this opinion. It is definitely not a book for beginners, but anyone who is comfortable with using split rings to work through complex designs will find it perfectly straight forward.

I like the designs in this book because I like geometric designs (when I made bobbin lace I always preferred Torchon lace for the same reason).


Lap Rug

It is bitterly cold here with significant snow forecast. This morning there is ice on the INside of the cat flap.

I am reminded of how, as a child, there was often a thick layer of ice on the inside of windows in the morning. There was no heating at all upstairs in those days.

Indeed  although downstairs the kitchen was warm in winter because the anthracite-burning boiler that heated the water was there even it was let go out at night to save fuel.

The living room had a fireplace where coal was burned, but the rule was that unless visitors were expected (when the fire would be lit an hour before they were due) the fire was not lit until 4pm. In any case it was never lit before the 1st of November.

My primary school had a coal fire in every classroom (can you imagine what health and safety would have to say to that nowadays!)

But life was miserably cold. I had asthma, which the coal fires made much worse. I also had arthritis which meant I could not run about to keep warm as other children did. In an effort at warmth my mother made me wear a Liberty Bodice as well as my vest. A liberty bodice was a sort of miniature corset with several layers of fabric, so it did help a bit, but even in the 1950s it was old-fashioned, and I got teased.

I am so very, very grateful for central heating. A warm flat and even hot water on demand out of the tap is such a luxury!

Anyway, it is weather for lap rugs so here is one I made a good many years ago. It is in a cashmere and cotton mix so it is light and warm.

I love patterns in tatting that produce other patterns where the individual motifs meet, and this is the knitted equivalent.


Tatted Edgings and Ginger

Here is Ginger looking fed-up because it is so cold outside.

And here are a few of the many, many handkies I have edged with tatting down the years.

And here, because I'm snuffly with sinusitis and feeling crotchety this morning, is a picture of Ginger when he was a baby, with my husband's hand in shot to show how very tiny he was.

Ginger came from kitten rescue. He had been the runt of a litter of eight, born to a mother who was still a half-grown kitten herself, and who was seriously undernourished. When he came to us the vets all said unanimously that he didn't have the slightest chance of surviving. He was just a scrap of fur wrapped round some bones and he had reached the point when he no longer even tried to eat. I spent weeks coaxing food into him round the clock by smearing it around his mouth so he just had to lick it off. And just look at him now!


Embroidered Rabbit and Bear

These were based on patterns in Australian magazines in the late 1990s.

For the rabbit I think I used a good many of the pattern's embroidery ideas, but instead of using a variety of colours I used shades of brown.

For the bear I used my own ideas of embroidery, and included some little tatted motifs which I embroidered over.

 The fabric that I used, an extremely fine needlecord type, was a bit flimsy for the purpose so I backed it with a layer of calico and embroidered and sewed through both, treating them as if they were one fabric.


Knitted Log Cabin Quilt

My fondness for log cabin quilts doesn't stop with fabric versions. Here is a knitted log cabin quilt that I made some years ago.

Each block was knitted as a unit. The yarn was from 21st century yarns. The whole thing took a lot of yarn, I remember having to order more, and then more again. It is quite warm, but the one drawback is that I knitted it in a silk/wool mix which makes it surprisingly heavy. It does have a nice shine and feel to it though if I were to knit it again I would use wool and probably a finer yarn to reduce the weight a bit.


Hot Air Balloon Sweater

Thirty years ago I was living in Japan and was newly married. My husband was a keen member of a hot air balloon club and had his pilot's licence. So he asked me to knit a sweater with a balloon on it for him.

He drew the balloon and I had photographs as well so I managed to come up with a reasonable chart.

At that time, though this was a remote area of northern Japan, there was an extremely good yarn shop, with a surprising range of foreign yarns. And they had vicuna yarn (I should explain that this was well before there was any suggestion that vicunas were endangered). In those days, vicuna was just another exotic yarn, and not even especially expensive.

So I bought my vicuna yarn and settled down to create the sweater. It was probably the first one I knitted without a bought pattern and I remember struggling with it, taking it back and trying again until eventually we were both happy with the result.

He wore it a good deal at the time, but then we moved to Tokyo, where the winters were not nearly as cold, and it got put away. It moved to England with us and eventually to London. But then recently he discovered that vicuna is now a luxury yarn. So he got it out again and wears it to go shopping in on his days off.


Miniature room box

While I was looking for the photos below I came across my favourite photo of Tigger, so I put it in. Tigger spends his life looking at things, and he really does look. He's the only cat I've ever had who will look you full in the eyes with an air of calm interest.

Anyway, what I was really going to show you was this little room box which I made for a friend. I took the photos with the roof and the glass missing to get a clearer picture.

She was learning to make bobbin lace at a class and didn't know what to do with her short samples of edging.

I suggested that they would do nicely in a miniature setting so she bought a room box kit and I made up the display for her.

Making up the lace pillow was the biggest challenge and the bobbins are a little bit big but it was the best I could do.


Embroidered Teddy

 When I was working on things for my dollshouse, I discovered silk gauze. This lets you do cross stitch or needlepoint on a tiny scale.

I got so interested that I actually made a picture on it.

It needs a lot of magnification to work of course, but I found that once I had got used to that, it was not nearly as difficult as the finished result would suggest.

The design was an ordinary one intended for cross stitch, and came in one of those books of cross stitch designs one can buy. But it is a good number of years ago and I can no longer remember exactly where I got the design except that I think it was an American publication.

Worked like this, the teddy measures 6cm by 7cm.


Tatted Christmas Decorations

A good many years ago I bought this little metal frame. At the time it was marketed as a modern alternative to a Christmas tree and came with drop beads to hang from the arms. But, as soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for displaying tatted Christmas tree ornaments (I live in a tiny flat so a normal size tree was out of the question.)

The patterns are mostly just snowflakes or the centres of mats.

 The outer rings are those cheap metal bangles that little girls like. You reverse chain around them pushing the chains tightly together to cover the ring and catching in the outside picots of the snowflake at suitable intervals.

The inner rings are curtain rings, again tatted over in reverse chain stitch, but with picots or rings or whatever is needed for the start of the pattern worked at the same time.


Log Cabin Circles

Yesterday's picture of Ginger showed him on this off-centre log cabin quilt. And here is that quilt.

I love log cabin quilts of all types, but for some reason I always seem to end up making off-centre ones. Probably because I enjoy the optical illusion that turns a quilt made up of nothing but straight lines into circular patterns.

This combination of jewel tones and lights (the pale colours are actually all prints, white on white or cream on cream mostly) is one I like so much that I made two versions of it. You can see both versions in the photo below.



Tatted Doily

This is one of the designs from Jan Stawasz Tatting Theory and Patterns.

This one is made up of motifs with an outer edging and I made it to fit the top of my bedside cupboard.

For anyone who likes making large pieces of tatting, as I do, this is a very good book. I have made a number of things from it and hope to make more.


More Dollshouse Dolls

Here is an elderly couple arriving for the meeting of the Friends of the Museum.

In order to provide an excuse, in one small dollshouse, for lots of dolls in all sorts of costumes, my dollshouse is Ye Olde Tudor Rose Museum. That way, the dolls in historical costumes can be museum mannequins and the ones in modern dress can be the visitors.

Today the Friends monthly meeting is about to start on the top floor, and a visitor has dropped in with her children and dog.

More committee members.

 And here is the curator looking harrassed, talking to another member in a red dress.

The patterns were ones from Farthing Patterns and also Period Miniature Patterns.


Seed Stitch Cowl

This was the view from the window this morning. The temperature has not got up to freezing point either yesterday or today.

So it seemed a good chance to knit a cowl to add to the set I'm sending my daughter.

Although it is not easy to tell in the photo the two yarns differ in shade, one being pinkier than the other. Since I like to make complex colours more complex I have worked one round with one yarn and the next with the other throughout.

It is extremely simple to make. I cast on a moebius cast on so that half the number of stitches were enough to go over the head.

Then I just carried on in seed stitch until I thought it was long enough, and cast off loosely.