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!










Wednesday, with Mary




We had lunch in a yurt today.

As you do.

It was jolly nice.


Clever women




I joined the black and grey clad army of travellers on the 0805 train to Paddington this morning, doing my best to add a little seasonal colour to the platform.




Arriving in London on platform one, the bronze of Isembard Kingdom Brunel seems to have been replaced by someone else.  Looking at that container behind,  I do hope he hasn’t built himself in somewhere*.  (sorry, couldn’t resist!)  Anyway, not only Paddington was there to greet me, but it was great to see Mary waiting on the platform too, having arrived from LA yesterday morning.  She’ll spend a few days with us but was joining me today in her WI capacity.




We were going to meet the members and students participating in the NFWI/Kingston University Knitwear project again and was looking forward to seeing the progress they had made in the last six weeks or so.  We were meeting at NFWI HQ on New Kings Road and soon, the room was buzzing with creative energy.




I can’t show you too much at this stage but suffice to say that each group had done some remarkable collaborative work which made the most of everyone’s technical and creative skills.  I was especially in awe of the fashion illustrations created by the students.  Each one had their own distinctive style and their design sheets and mood boards were works of art in themselves.  The concepts are incredibly exciting and inspired by a wide range of source material celebrating a century of the WI.  The clever ways in which traditional skills such as Dorset buttons and knitted lace have been included in contemporary knitwear makes these collections very special indeed and there was all round respect for everyone involved.

The next step is the making of the outfits.  For the members, it will be time to bring their experience to the fore as they realise the student’s vision.  For the students, it will be particularly stressful to bring these project to completion amidst their final degree collections, ready for the in-house fashion show in May.

I can’t wait to see what materialises!




We caught the bus back to Paddington station later this afternoon but were surprised when it stopped suddenly, somewhat short of our destination.  Never mind, we walked the last part of the way, stopping for a few moments in  Norfolk Square Gardens, to take a photograph of the Paddingtonscape


Christmas Cards


Well, since our Christmas cards have all been released into the hands of the Royal Mail, I know some early recipients are interested to learn a bit about how they were made.  I always make our cards and spend much of September refusing to give them a second thought, most of October wondering what on earth I’ll do this year, a good part of November hoping inspiration will strike and then December is a time for telling myself to make them in January next year.

2014 was no different.

Whilst in Washington, I bought a couple of seasonal magazines and in one, my eyes fell upon a cute little Father Christmas on skis.  Immediately before we went off to Washington, I’d spent those two days at Bogod in London, learning about my sewing machine, so of course, that was the technique which was uppermost in my mind.  Maybe I could do something along those lines for our card?


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I opened the software and drew the small figure as I remembered it, then digitised a few stitches around the outline.  Had I been making just one card, then I could have included some fancy fills, a few sparkly baubles on the little tree and so on, but I was making quite a few of these and so I’d better keep it simple, I thought.




So I simply saved it to a USB stick, transferred it to my sewing machine and tried a few options.  Hmm.  Not bad but a bit, well, dull, when placed on the card. 




I wondered about pinking the edge for added interest, but still, it didn’t really work for me.  Perhaps it was too big?




So I tried stitching it out smaller but it was still not really floating my boat.




Then I remembered.  I could draw directly on the screen and create a sewing stitch (as opposed to an embroidery design).  Not quite confident of my ability to draw a skiing Father Christmas at 90 degrees (I’d forgotten that I could have drawn it straight and then turned it around later)  I taped my drawing to the screen and carefully began to draw on the screen using the stylus.




Once I’d got the basic shape down, I could fiddle with each individual stitch to get it into place.  It was important, too, to make sure the stitch ended at the same level as it started, to make a continuous line of sewing.




Hee heee…..now we’re talking!  Each little row of skiing Father Christmases was formed beautifully and I was pleased with it so far.  But was it enough?

I decided to sleep on it and woke with a small development.  What if Father Christmas skiied a few words.  Like  “Happy Christmas” or  “ho ho ho” ?  I quickly came down and wrote “ho” on the screen, then stitched it three times.

Ho Ho Ho!!

I decided one Father Christmas and one HoHoHo was enough for each card and drew a bit of bumpy snow as a kind of filler stitch.




I linked them all together – {filler stitch + ho + ho + ho + Father Christmas + filler stitch} and saved it all as a pattern in the sewing machine.  I saved it on the USB stick as well, just in case!




My goodness, I couldn’t believe that our card had come together quite so easily!




But actually, when I came to sew out a few, another dilemma struck me.  If I sewed on plain fabric without a backing, the fabric distorted and it didn’t look good.  Yet if I used a backing of some kind, then the whole thing was a bit thick and lumpy.  Anyway, it would be the backing fabric which would be stuck down not the top calico layer, and then the whole thing was messy.

Back to the drawing board?




I slept on it (again).  Sometimes, these things take time to percolate through the grey matter!




The next day I looked again at some of the backing fabric – stabiliser – I was using and the thought struck me that it looked kind of frosty.  Of course that wouldn’t distort at all (well, not  much) if I sewed on it directly, so I gave it a try and liked what I saw.




I cut a few strips of the stuff and found I could sew three pattern repeats on each one.  So, I set the machine to sew three repeats, pressed the button and sat back, offering a hand from time to time when it needed a little guidance.




A bit of a trim and a lick of glue later and our card is done.  The strip of sewing wraps around the back of the card a short way, too.

So there we are.  Here’s wishing all my friends a very Happy Christmas!


And if you made it this far, then surely a reward is in order?  Maybe you’d like to download the stitches?  They are all .exp files, suitable for Bernina machines (of course) but I’m happy to try and change the file format for friends with different sewing machines.

Bumpy snow

Ho  (repeat three times!)

 Father Christmas

Let me know how it goes x


PS  I discovered since I did my card that I could have designed the sewing stitch in the software on my PC and wouldn’t have needed to draw it out on the screen, but hey, who takes the easy route?


In which the parish magazine leads me astray




The day after I wrote about our St Nikolaus tradition, I sat down for five minutes with a cup of coffee and the parish magazine and came across a reference to this painting by Jan Steen in there. It’s one of several works of his on the same theme and I decided I wanted to find out more.

So I did what we all do now and googled.

I found several references to the work, including this one, which informs me he was born in Leiden.  What a good job I didn’t know that before our game of Trivial Pursuit the other night, for one of my  questions was “Which artist was born in Leiden?”.  I delighted my family and surprised my friends* by answering correctly, “Rembrandt”.  But had I read about Jan Steen before now, I might have answered differently – a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.


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Anyway, I thought I’d go to what looked like a reliable source of information, the Rijksmuseum website and oh my goodness.  What an invitation to fun lies there! 


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Who knew the parish magazine could be so distracting?  Needless to say, it’s a huge temptation to explore that site but as the washing machine needs emptying, the ironing basket overflows and the Christmas cards sit looking at me, awaiting some attention I really mustn’t allow myself to look now.  But when I get a few minutes to myself, I’ll open this link again and see what lies in store.

And now I’ll go back to what I should be doing…after I’ve blogged, of course Winking smile  Well, if I don’t, I’ll forget all about it, won’t I?

*one of my favourite quotes from a much loved source


Around here




There’s been much jollity in spite of leaden skies and decreasing temperatures.




Our decision to downsize both cars this year meant that we borrowed a friend’s Land Rover to collect our Christmas tree last week.  That was quite an adventure and brought back memories of our Land Rover owning days, though neither of us were sorry to climb back into our rather more comfortable vehicles later in the day!




Christmas in Tetbury features one or two surprises in the shop windows this year and it was lovely to wander around and enjoy the spirit of the season before my WI Christmas lunch.




The spirit of the season was evident at the lunch party too!  Happy times spent in the company of good friends and a bit of traditional silliness – lovely.




Meanwhile there were lists to be made, last year’s lists to be referred to and a bit of party planning to do.  Would I remember everything?




The tree was decorated – rather early this year, we both agree, but with the Stuart Singers Christmas Concerts this weekend, we were expecting a houseful.  Sorting out the lights is another story and deserving of a blog post later!




Peace and calm was regained later and we settled to complete one or two last minute jobs.




Edward was due home on Saturday morning, St Nikolaus and since Amy was coming with him, there were two gingerbread houses to decorate.  We took it on trust that they and other friends arriving for the weekend would have clean shoes in expectation of a little sweetness too Smile

We have always marked the day following the traditions of Edward’s sweet German Godparents, putting out clean shoes on the evening of the 5th December, ready.  Every time it comes around, though, I think back to how Edward’s friends quietly latched onto the idea of leaving their shoes out too, to see what happens.  There usually followed phone calls from panicky mothers later: “OK, then, so what am I supposed to do now?”   Thankfully, at this time of the year, most households have a few sweet things to hand, but oh my, I occasionally felt responsible for a “little local difficulty” and sent something sweet to share to school the following day, just in case.




Paddington and Aunt Lucy were changed and ready for the occasion, too.




By Sunday morning, two successful concerts had been sung and all party preparations were in place.  Olaf waited with mistletoe in paw, for the fun to begin.

Neighbours and friends sat around the table chatting whilst younger friends snuggled on the sofa and looked through some of the Christmas journals in the basket.  Needless to say, some never left the warmth of the kitchen where the chocolate fountain flowed, provoking squeals of delight from Samuel, our youngest guest of all. 




Somehow, in the midst of the chatter and laughter, his sister found a quiet corner to sit and enjoy an old favourite.




Later, when everyone had gone home, when the washing up had been done and things were almost back to normal, the “home team” sat down with an assortment of goodness around for a game of another old favourite.  Except it hasn’t worn as well as we have and after far too many questions about Dallas, Dynasty and the 1980s, we consigned the box to the recycling pile.  As is always the case, we marvelled at how quickly the party passed by and wondered how it was that we never got to chat to this particular person, or how we forgot to ask another the question we’ve been wondering about all week.  We’d missed our sweet neighbours from across the lane and hoped that they would have had calls from everyone as they passed by.


This morning we took friends and family to the station, Edward and Amy each carrying a gingerbread house as well as their suitcases.  For the next few hours we had frequent texts from the train which was unexpectedly terminated in Swindon and then further delayed along the line into Paddington due to signalling failure or something.  Both our friends in First Class and Edward and Amy in steerage had to stand the whole way – a packed train was not quite the end to the weekend any of us would have wished.  Hopefully, they are all home safe and sound now as my Hero and I reflect on what has been a lovely start to our Christmas season.

Maybe we can relax now?  Hmmm…once the Christmas cards are written, the presents bought and one or two other things have been done perhaps!