I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!

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Thursday
Aug282014

Fiddling about

 

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I’d been admiring the work of Angie Lewin and the St Judes Print Studio for some time and when a friend sent me a card along similar lines, I thought I’d take similar shapes to build a design to play with.  I began by drawing a quick sketch and considered what techniques and processes I could incorporate.  I wanted to put some of the things I’ve been learning from the Bernina Workbooks in there, but also, to try and put a little Silhouette trick or two in there as well.

 

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There’s no point in making things easy if I can build a little difficulty in there, is there?  So, I took a photograph of my drawing with my Note and then used the Samsung Sketch app to trace the design in layers and then copied it to my pc by means of dropbox.

 

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I fiddled about with the layers and tidied the drawing up a bit in Photoshop Elements before importing each shape into the Bernina V7 software and digitising them.

 

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I discovered that much of the detail is lost when importing a .png file.  Like all of it!  From then on, I stuck with .jpg files.

 

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I imported the solid shapes to the Silhouette software and arranged them tightly in the corner so I wouldn’t waste any of the precious rubber stamp material, because here I was going to cut the shapes out so that I could print them onto the fabric if I wished.  All the time, I kept an eye on the relative sizes – it’s so easy to switch resolution settings and so on when moving from one program to another.  So far, it was looking ok though.

 

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I hit “go” and four rubber stamp shapes were cut.

 

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Whilst I was at it, I cut three sets of shapes from some lutradur I had on hand, thinking that I could spray that any colour later and maybe applique them in the design.

 

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I continued to work my way around the design, fiddling about with the settings, trying to change the order of stitching so that the machine would stitch an outline in which to place one of those applique shapes before it went on to do something else over the top.

 

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Just before we went for a spot of lunch, I thought I’d print out the design and discovered, quite by chance, that doing that creates a perfect sewing plan.  Yes!

 

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After lunch, things began to get exciting.  I realised that I could use the grid supplied with the embroidery hoop to line things up, and using the print out (which had markings for the centre of the hoop and for both axes marked, too) I carefully marked my gridded stamp block and lined it up…

 

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Time to begin sewing.  In no time at all, a lovely oval shape was being filled with a delicate blackwork pattern.  Was that green paisley stamp going to be in the right place?

 

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Too early to tell, but sure enough, the machine stitched those placement shapes out and stopped for me to put the sprayed bits of lutradur in place.  I used a bit of Pritt stick to hold them down for the time being.

 

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As it happened, that green paisley wasn’t in exactly the right place but I don’t think it mattered one jot.  Everything had fallen into place otherwise and I was feeling pretty pleased with my day’s work!

 

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Once the sewing was finished and all the joining threads cut away, I felt even more delighted with the outcome.  Not only had everything remained in the right place, but the silhouette cut shapes had fitted in perfectly too.  There’s a bit of a muddly area in the centre, where the grey flower head overlays the paisley shape but that could be easily sorted.  I particularly love the blackwork filling though and will stitch this one out again in different colours, swapping around the applique pieces and the stamped areas, too.  Having saved all those stems individually, I can also move them around and create a different arrangement as well.

I also think that this design doesn’t look quite so “manufactured” as my earlier efforts.  Just that little bit of (inaccurate!) hand printing and a little bit of flappy fabric not completely stitched down makes all the difference, don’t you agree?

Tuesday
Aug262014

How unfair

 

It wasn’t fair that it tipped it down with rain on the Bank Holiday Monday yesterday.  It was disappointing for everyone who hoped for a last blast of Summer before the long stretch of Autumn with no more days off until…well, you know.

 

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How unfair it was that after so much hard work, the organisers of Winchcombe show woke to the heavy skies and pouring rain with not much better forecast. 

 

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At least people were turning up, prepared for the weather.  We are English, after all.  We can cope with rain!

 

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The situation looked rather more fair in the competition marquee, thankfully, as we judges set to and worked our way through a wealth of extraordinary entries brought in that morning.

 

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I had some lovely things to keep me happy for a couple of hours: this cute lamb was set amongst the greenery with the cutest of sheepdogs waiting behind, wondering who was going to take the prize.  The coloured cards tell it all, though – sadly, the lamb had been stuffed just a little too comfortably for the strength of his seams, so the cheerful fellow in the red neckerchief won through – in spite of not visiting the grooming parlour that morning Winking smile

 

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It always thrills me to find exquisite traditional craft skills on a show bench and yesterday was no exception.  A couple of beautifully knitted things, including this soft pullover for a child, knitted without a single seam.  All too often, we judge knitted children’s wear which we know will never be worn; old fashioned cardigans knitted in rock-pink acrylic yarn or scratchy woollen pullovers with tightly worked necks and cuffs which a child would never choose when a comfy sweatshirt was on hand.  On this occasion, however, I think that someone will love to wear this comfortable and fashionable design, don’t you?

 

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It wasn’t the only piece of skilful craftwork.  On the next bench, in between a neat crochet tablemat and another beautiful piece of knitting (steeks on a village show bench!) a terrific, solidly constructed basket took the honours.  There might not have been hundreds of entries here, but my goodness, the quality more than made up for that.

 

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Just as I was leaving, I turned to take a quick photo of the crowds and was delighted to find I’d captured the expression on the faces of these two young visitors as they surveyed the results.  Was one of them a prizewinner?  I hope so.

 

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Meanwhile, a couple of entrants were sitting outside, canvassing for votes from the visitors.  At least they didn’t mind the rain.

Thursday
Aug212014

Time to play

The days fly and in no time at all, it will be September and a new year of fun will kick off.  For now, we’re enjoying some days at home and for me, it’s a great opportunity to play in the studio.

 

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There was time to get out all the printing stuff and do a bit of Gelli plate printing.

 

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Though I had my ipad there and could watch the inspiring videos as I worked, next time I must remember to watch them through first and prepare one or two things.  Going rooting through drawers and cupboards with painty hands is never a good idea.  Anyway, mission accomplished and several new inserts for my Project Life were prepared.

 

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Another item on my list of intentions was to explore the applique function on my sewing machine.  Thinking – wrongly as it turned out – that it would be better to try a purchased design before having a go on one of my own, I downloaded a couple of cheapies from OESD and set to work.

 

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Well, these files come with a minimum of instructions and involved the cutting out of fiddly shapes, because although they were complete with files for the Bernina cutwork tools, I don’t have that particular accessory.  I do, however, have the amazing Silhouette!  Still, for now, it was scissors and spray glue to the fore.

 

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The end result wasn’t bad but my cutting wasn’t very accurate, was it?  I felt I ought to have been a little more prepared and at least known what to expect.  Maybe I should go back to the drawing board and start from scratch.

 

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So today, I began at the beginning and opened up the Bernina Software Workbooks Hannah had kindly sent me, following our conversation at the Festival of Quilts.  I didn’t really start at the beginning of course, but in book three, page 14!  In a little less than an hour, I had worked through the process and had an applique apple ready to sew.

 

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But hang on a minute, we don’t like to make things easy around here, oh no.  What if I do a bit of jiggery pokery and get that shape into my Silhouette?

 

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Well, of course, I couldn’t wait to try it out, so zoomed through the process so quickly, I didn’t even take a picture!  Needless to say, it wasn’t great.  Not only did the cut shape not quite match up to the stitched one, the thread kept breaking because I’d used the wrong backing fabric.  I didn’t even attach the fabric shape in place as it stitched, so it moved around as it sewed!  I stopped, told myself to slow down, to do things properly and not expect instant perfection.

I was going to make this work, though.  I began by changing the imperial units in the Silhouette software to match the Bernina metric, thinking that at least I’d be able to keep an eye on the size of the motif.  It was a start.

 

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I then tracked down the correct Silhouette interfacing for sewn in shapes, hoping that it wouldn’t gunk up the needle as the other type had.  I cut the shape with the Silhouette and carefully peeled it off, doing my best not to distort the shape.

 

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Having sewn the outline, I took the hoop from the machine and placed the shape on top.

 

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The little Clover iron came in handy to fix the shape in place.  This one wasn’t going to move!

 

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I couldn’t believe it when the stitching didn’t turn out perfectly in place once again.  Now what?  I thought about it carefully and realised that, although I’d checked the sizes of the shape as I’d rebuilt the design from scratch once more, I had foolishly forgotten to update the stitch file on the USB stick.  Duh.  I cut out another apple on the Silhouette, sewed out the first part of the design using the updated file then, rather than place the apple straight on the shape, I thought I’d check the relative size.

 

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Suddenly the clouds parted and I saw the clear blue sky.  Rather than line the fabric shape exactly on the stitching, it should be centred to overlap it evenly all round!  Leaving the “hole” in place, I lined up the cut shape and ironed it in place.

 

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All would be revealed when the shape was tacked down.

 

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Sure enough, it was perfect.  It had been a case of “user error” all along.

 

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Result of almost a whole day’s efforts. 

Now I know it works, I might feel brave enough to fiddle a bit.  Maybe reduce the size of the cut file by a tiny amount – 1% perhaps – to avoid the slightest little frayed edge showing around the shape.  But hey, getting Silhouette and Bernina working together offers huge potential and I’m eager to explore further.

That was all the ironing I did today, though  Winking smile

Wednesday
Aug202014

Aaaah, the memories.

 

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Perusing the TV schedule last evening, a familiar name leaped from the page.  Could it really be that Gordon Ramsay was going to pay a visit to the Meson de Mesilla?  The origin of so many of our “travellers’ tales” and scene of one of our most memorable road trip experiences?

 

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Indeed, he was.  We set the programme to record in case Mary couldn’t see it in the USA, then sat back and watched as it all came flooding back. 

We were there in June 2008, on our way from San Antonio to Santa Fe, and spent one night at the hotel.  At the time, I was having camera trouble, so didn’t take as many photographs as I would have expected and as a result, I made only a passing reference to it in my blog post.  Neither did we write a Trip Adviser review – how surprising, when there was so much to say!

 

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I did, however, make reference to some of the individual idiosyncracies of the Meson in my journal.  Like the “evil woman manager” and the total lack of food on offer there that night.  Actually, that’s not strictly true, because we were offered tapas in the bar, which prompted a comment from my hero that he hadn’t  “driven eight hours across a b*****y desert to sit down to a plate of tapas”.  So there.  As recorded in the journal, we went out in search of food, eventually finding pizza in a nearby town because everything in Mesilla closes on a Monday!

 

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What wasn’t mentioned last evening was the extraordinarily high beds.  We had a small step to help us get in, but dear Mary’s room was step-free.  This called for – shall we call it a helping hand? – from my hero and that particular action has been referred to as “the Mesilla Lift” ever since, proving useful on Swiss trains too.

 

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The rooms were indeed beige and furnished in a peculiar style.  What concerned me most, however was the security of the place, because for all there was a standard, locking hotel room door into the corridor, there were also unlockable French doors onto the balcony.

 

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The balcony which wrapped all the way around the building, and overlooked the car park.

 

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Which was right on the main road from where any Tom Dick or Harry could have strolled in.

 

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I think the swimming pool was possibly more secure than our room!

 

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Breakfast was offered in a charm-free venue and was recorded in my journal in the form of a list.

 

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We assumed that there was one other guest overnight, not that we saw them in person and the blue shaded box records my hero’s reaction to the offering.

He harrumphed.

 

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We left.

Early Tuesday morning didn’t appear to be any better a time to find food in Mesilla than Monday evening and though we’d normally reject a place like Denny’s in favour of some cute coffee shop, on that particular morning, Denny’s hit the spot.  Whether or not Georgia the waitress recognised the work she had to to to lift our spirits or whether we were, by that time, responding maniacally to the experience we’d just had, I don’t know.  But it was one of the best breakfasts we’ve enjoyed and it continues to prompt an “Aaah, Dennys” comment when we pass one by, even though I don’t think we’ve eaten in one since.

So many memories – and we didn’t even hear Cher sing.

Monday
Aug182014

We live life to the full

 

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It wasn’t really the dead of night when we arrived at the Bristol IKEA this morning, but just after 9.30am. 

(The car park is under the store)

 

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We’ve been shopping at IKEA since the early 1980s, before their arrival into the UK.  Our dear German friends spoke enthusiastically about a new home store which had opened in their area, south of Frankfurt, and on one of our visits there we made it a family outing.  Oh my goodness.  It fitted our tastes (and our pocket!) perfectly and appeared to be targeted at people just like us – young, married a few years and ready to begin replacing the hand-me-downs we’d used to furnish our first home.  A trip to IKEA was a must-do whenever we were there!

 

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Fast forward a few more years and the first UK stores were opening around the same time as we were building our current house, which wasn’t leaving us much spare money with which to fill it.  We made several trips up the M5/6 to Warrington in hired Transit vans and came home with beds, bookshelves, sofas, dining tables and chairs.  Gradually, however, we’ve moved on from IKEA and our visits have become fewer and further between.  These days, an IKEA trip is a rare event and something which needs careful thought and planning, because our patience and tolerance of that potentially hair raising experience isn’t quite what it was.

As can be seen from the evidence above, Monday morning is a very good time to go IKEA shopping!

 

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We had one thing on our list.  Well, TWO things on the list – a pair of Alex drawers, one to sit by my sewing machine and the other one to sit on the opposite side of the table by my papercrafting table.  We chose the grey colour, checked they were in stock and our mission was accomplished.

 

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I couldn’t help but take a little look at the £45 sewing machines!

 

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Neither of us could quite believe that we’d managed to stay focused, get around so quickly and still have the store almost to ourselves.

 

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So it was really rather funny that our trolley looked like this when we checked out!  Well, that’s the IKEA magic, isn’t it?  Coathangers, plastic boxes, crispbreads, a plant and two warm cinnamon buns…but no chest of drawers?

 

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For the first time, we had to drive to a different location to pick them up, just around the corner.

 

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Oh yes, this is where the queue’s going to be, isn’t it?

 

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Ermmm…………..no.  Not here, either.

 

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And what’s more, when my Hero put the first one together just now, all the pieces were there  (and I don’t think there was anything left, either).

The IKEA experience just isn’t what it used to be, is it?