21 April 2017

A Cracking Good Read

I have always read in bed before going to sleep, I find it really helps my mind to switch off; lately I have been sitting down for a little after lunch and reading, I cannot nap during the day ( I have tried!) but I find even 20 minutes of quiet with a good book really helps to re-charge my batteries. If I can read in the garden then even better!

I also enjoy listening to audio books while I am sewing or prepping appliqué etc

Over the last couple of months I have read quite a few books, the ones below are those that I really enjoyed.

If you have any suggestions for books I might enjoy then please comment :) I am always searching for good reads!!

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.

It is about opening your eyes.

What is the difference between friendship and love? Or between neutrality and commitment? Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in 'neutral' Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem a distant echo. But Gustav's father has mysteriously died, and his adored mother Emilie is strangely cold and indifferent to him. Gustav's childhood is spent in lonely isolation, his only toy a tin train with painted passengers staring blankly from the carriage windows.

As time goes on, an intense friendship with a boy of his own age, Anton Zwiebel, begins to define Gustav's life. Jewish and mercurial, a talented pianist tortured by nerves when he has to play in public, Anton fails to understand how deeply and irrevocably his life and Gustav's are entwined.

Fierce, astringent, profoundly tender, Rose Tremain’s beautifully orchestrated novel asks the question, what does it do to a person, or to a country, to pursue an eternal quest for neutrality, and self-mastery, while all life's hopes and passions continually press upon the borders and beat upon the gate.

It is March 30th 1924.

It is Mothering Sunday.

How will Jane Fairchild, orphan and housemaid, occupy her time when she has no mother to visit? How, shaped by the events of this never to be forgotten day, will her future unfold?

Beginning with an intimate assignation and opening to embrace decades, Mothering Sunday has at its heart both the story of a life and the life that stories can magically contain. Constantly surprising, joyously sensual and deeply moving, it is Graham Swift at his thrilling best.

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.

Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.

Chris and Julia – from the moment they meet Chris is dangerously close to love. But their very first date in Lübeck’s Grand-Café Elzas is interrupted by S.A. Brownshirts. It is 1937 and Hitler’s manic oratory is driving Germany towards war and fanaticism.

The independence and freedom of thought that Chris finds so attractive leads Julia to emphatically reject the Nazi regime. It is not long before her courageous stance brings them both to the Gestapo’s attention.

Soon he is forced to make an impossible choice, the outcome of which he can only regret.

From the author of the critically acclaimed What Alice Forgot comes a breakout new novel about the secrets husbands and wives keep from each other.

My Darling Cecilia
If you're reading this, then I've died . . .

Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret - something so terrible it would destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others too. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive . . .

Cecilia Fitzpatrick achieved it all - she's an incredibly successful business woman, a pillar of her small community and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia - or each other - but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband's devastating secret.

Annie McDee, alone after the disintegration of her long-term relationship and trapped in a dead-end job, is searching for a present for her unsuitable lover in a neglected second-hand shop. Within the jumble of junk and tack, a grimy painting catches her eye. Leaving the store with the picture after spending her meagre savings, she prepares an elaborate dinner for two, only to be stood up, the gift gathering dust on her mantelpiece.

But every painting has a story – and if it could speak, what would it tell us?

For Annie has stumbled across 'The Improbability of Love', a lost masterpiece by Antoine Watteau, one of the most influential French painters of the eighteenth century. Soon Annie is drawn unwillingly into the art world, and finds herself pursued by a host of interested parties that would do anything to possess her picture. For an exiled Russian oligarch, an avaricious Sheika, a desperate auctioneer, an unscrupulous dealer and several others, the painting symbolises their greatest hopes and fears. In her search for the painting's true identity, Annie will uncover the darkest secrets of European history – and in doing so, she will learn more about herself, opening up to the possibility of falling in love again.

Irreverent, witty and sharply sweet, The Improbability of Love explores the confusion and turmoil of life and the complexities of love, loss and hurt – revealing the lows to which human nature can stoop and the heights to which the soul can soar.

Pulitzer Prize winner and American master Anne Tyler brings us an inspired, witty and irresistible contemporary take on one of Shakespeare's most beloved comedies 

Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she's always in trouble at work - her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don't always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner. 

Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There's only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost. 

When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he's relying - as usual - on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he's really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men's touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?

12 April 2017

A Little Bit of Stitching

The reason my desk looks like this...

Is because I have being selecting fabrics, cutting fabrics, glueing fabrics over paper, and putting all the little pieces into little baggies...

So that I have some sewing ready whenever I feel like making another one of these little blocks...

I am really happy with the pink/brown colour scheme I have decide on for my Dear Jane; I have lots of scraps in these colours, so I am hoping for a lot of variety in the blocks to stop me from getting bored!

I don't know how much sewing I will get done in the next few weeks, Spring is here, the garden is exploding into life, and my husband is off work for two weeks; If the weather holds, I will be alternating between long walks, weeding and reading in the garden :)

30 March 2017

17 in 2017 - March Progress

This is my list for Meridith's 17 in 2017 Challenge


Mixed progress this month, Spring has finally arrived and I have been in the Garden :)

No. 4 Estonian Lace Scarf

I made so many mistakes it was laughable! I have ripped it out and will start over, I think I need to take a class in Estonian Lace knitting when I have time as I love the pattern

No. 7 Stonefields

I have a plan for the hexagons :)

No. 11 Baby Cardigan

Finished :)

No. 13 Goldfinch Silk Shading Embroidery

Progressing slowly...

No. 15 Down The Rabbit Hole

Centre lollipop flowers are basted ready to stitch...

I also started a DJ quilt :)

20 March 2017

None of the Above

Thank you to everyone who took the trouble to comment on my fabric choices for Dear Jane.  I decided to go to back to basics and look again at what attracted me to this quilt in the first place. I quickly decided that I really loved the warm antique looking feeling of it. I knew that as much as I loved some of my options on my previous post, they would not work for this quilt

Browsing a new book on colour selection for embroidery, I came across this picture

Who doesn't love chocolate covered marshmallows! One of my favourite quilts is this lap quilt I made several years ago, I loved the colours then and I still do

I also love this hand quilted one...

I think it is fair to say I like pink, brown and cream quilts :)  I have pulled all my pink and brown scraps

I have a big drawer full of ivory tone on tone and shirting scraps that I can mix in. I think I will use this warm cream for the sashing.  I have stitched a couple of blocks and I like the colours

I have a few more ready to stitch but I think this will work

16 March 2017

17 in 2017 - The Baby Cardigan

No. 11 on my 2017 list of UFOs is The baby Cardigan.  Strictly speaking it shouldn't really count as it's not my WIP !!! Just before she went on maternity leave, my embroidery teacher brought in a bag of yarn and a half finished baby cardigan; her mum had given up on the pattern and she didn't know anyone who could knit, I said I would take a look...

The yarn was a gorgeous eco baby cotton by Debbie Bliss and so soft

But the pattern, my goodness! It was a cute wrap style cardigan with rosebuds also by Debbie Bliss

The garment is tiny to fit a new born and each rosebud needs it's own bobbin of yarn or there would be lots of trailing yarn for little fingers to get caught in :( each row was taking about 30 minutes and I had to constantly check my tension.  We quickly decided that life was too short and I put everything back in the bag while I finished my surprise gift for her

Modelled by the gorgeous Ivy :)

The yarn was too lovely (and expensive!) to waste so we decided I would try and find a simpler pattern to use it.  I chose Playful Stripes by Alana Dakos 

What a joy it was to knit :) the finished garment is so wonderfully soft, and blocked beautifully

There was enough yarn for the second size so plenty of growing room!

I like the little details Alana has included, like the picot edging on the bottom and sleeve cuffs

I can't wait to see the gorgeous Ivy wearing it!

06 March 2017

My Love Affair with Jane

Shortly after I learned to quilt in the late 1990's I came across a newly published book by Brenda Papadakis 'Dear Jane' The book contains line drawings of the blocks in the Civil War Sampler quilt by Jane Stickle

It does not unfortunately contain any instructions, and for a newbie like me it seemed impossible.  A few years later finished quilts started appearing all over the internet, and through them I discovered the hand piecing method using freezer paper beautifully explained by Linda Franz in her 'Quilted Diamonds' books. I started piecing some blocks...

They were a bit too bright for me and I only made a few before turning them into a bag and gifting it to a friend.

I still wanted to make a full quilt and decided a few years later, that I would join a BOM using Civil War fabrics and fast machine piecing. I made about 60 blocks and then started seeing literally hundreds of Civil War Dear Janes appearing; deciding that I didn't want a quilt that looked like everyone else, I turned these blocks into a lap quilt, which is in regular use ...

Fast forward another few years, and I thought it would be a good idea to use low volume antique looking fabrics and started again in 2103...

However after a few blocks I thought these were too wishy washy and so put the fabrics back into my stash.

I still love the original quilt and I really liked hand piecing the small blocks, the problem was that the preparation for the method using freezer paper is very time consuming; the machine piecing/paper piecing method described in the BOM was not very accurate and ate fabric :)

I have for some months, been enjoying watching Frances's progress on her Dear Jane using the English Paper Piecing method; so when I saw that Simply Solids were offering a monthly package of pre-cut paper pieces without fabric, it seemed the perfect solution. I really like EPP as it is very portable and accurate.

The only problem was to pick a colour scheme.  I knew I wanted scrappy, so that I would not have to worry about running short and the fabrics had to be interesting enough to keep me motivated.

I thought about 1930's, I have a small collection of scraps left over from another quilt, but if I use these then I will have to buy lots more...

I have seen several beautiful two colour quilts, red and cream? - I have plenty of fabrics in these colours :)

or Blue and White? However lots of Blue fabrics don't play nicely together? I think I would have to stick to greyish civil war muted blues or go clear and bright...

This will be a very (!) long term project so maybe I should go with something I really love? I have quite a few pieces of  Liberty fabrics leftover from my 'Happy Days' and it wouldn't be that terrible if I had to go up to London to buy some more would it? :)

It's a dilemma! What would you do? Any advice from those of you who have a completed quilt?  I really would like this to be the final Dear Jane I make!

28 February 2017

17 in 2017 February Progress

I am linking up with Meredith over at Pomegranate and Chintz to share my UFO progress for February

I have had a very productive month! My full list of projects is here:

(If you click on any of the photos they should enlarge )

No. 3 Remember When

I completed another block, it felt good to work on this ancient WIP...

No. 4 Estonian Lace Scarf

I have knitted the sections for January & February

No. 7 Stonefields

I have a plan for the hexagons :)

No. 8 Berry Cardigan

I finished knitting the last sleeve and have started stitching everything together

No. 10 Wedding Quilt

I have sorted the fabrics from my stash that I want to use

No. 13 Goldfinch Silk Shading Embroidery

Progressing well...

No. 15 Down the Rabbit Hole

January section finished