Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Well I didn't mean to leave you all hanging for quite so long but it turns out that blogging pales in comparison to (a) gazing adoringly at my daughter and (b) sleeping.  There has been a lot of the former but not so much of the latter!

So let me tell you all about our little girl.  Well you already know she took her time in making an appearance. I finally went into labour on Sunday night and I'll never know whether it was the glass of prosecco or scrubbing the kitchen floor that did the trick (for future reference I'm claiming the prosecco).  We were due at the hospital on Monday morning anyway to be induced and as I wasn't quite far enough along when we turned up they added the induction on top.  It turns out she must have been really comfy because it wasn't until Tuesday evening that this little gorgeous girl finally made her entrance.  I'm told that that's about average for an induction but when you're sat there with a tiny minutes-old baby gazing up at you, you really don't care.

What I do know is that my team of midwives were superb and I cannot thank them or praise them highly enough.
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But enough of her arrival, what about the little girl herself. Well first of all she does have a name; it was ready and waiting for her and seems to suit as much of her personality as she has made known at 1 week old.  I haven't decided on her level of blog anonymity just yet so for now I'm taking a leaf out of Daphne du Maurier and simply promising that she has a beautiful and unusual name.
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She was born with a shock of dark brown hair and these beautiful big dark eyes which gazed up at me with a fairly puzzled expression as if to say 'this, this is what you brought me out for?'
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Her hands are tiny and delicate with strikingly long fingers, rivalled only by her lanky long legs - truly my daughter.
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For the most part I think she looks like her Daddy although the grandparents, prompted into reminiscing all of our baby photos claim a look of me and a look of H's sister (who looks very like H ). Mostly she is her own sweet self; she has Daddy wrapped around her little finger and I am of course her adoring slave.

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She is truly the best thing we ever made

Thursday, September 23, 2010

the best news

We are  delighted to announce that we have a daughter! Born 21 September at 7.41pm 8 lb 5 oz after a mere 48 hour labour. More news and pictures later. all very well

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A good foundation

Well the raspberry leaf tea hasn't had quite the desired effect.  Maybe it would have been more efficient if I'd taken up Mandy's suggestion and added the rum?

On the side of silver linings this did mean that I got to go to this month's block of the month class, so after a little bit of finishing things off this afternoon, I'm a whole block nearer a finished quilt:
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I don't think it has an official name so it's now christened 'Anita's star' because she made it for the class. 

It looks far more tricky than it actually is by virtue of the wonders of foundation piecing.  Having never tried it before I am now completely converted to its merits; well what's not to love about a method of piecing that gives you precise and beautiful points without having to be precise and beautiful with your seam allowances or ability to sew straight lines.

The only slight down side is that the magic paper that we were using isn't the easiest thing to tear out afterwards, but I suspect that as with all things there is a knack and it's just a question of practice. 

This is the ninth block so even if the bear decides that my attendance at any future classes is a bad idea, I've got enough blocks to make a quilt of sorts (although I hope I do get to finish).

The problem with all of this fun quilting is that it just tempts you into more - I've got serious cravings to the Oh Fransson Tokyo Subway quiltalong which I keep having to rationalise every time I find myself sat in front of the fabric stash eyeing up the scraps by colour.

I do have another temptation thanks to a wonderful and generous gift from the lovely Jiva who sent me a copy of her baby blanket pattern which is stunningly beautiful and a very clever construction; when I'm not watching the fabric stash, I'm eyeing up the yarn ...!

I'd like to think that all this good fortune is of the sort that comes in threes and that this is therefore a good omen for an impending arrival, but as 'our county' just won the cricket, I think I've just hit my three for the day!

Friday, September 17, 2010

La Piscine

I'd try to write a whole post en francais but I know my limitations!  My quilt is finished, christened, and photographed in a rare burst of September sunshine.  Et voila:

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The inspiration is the Swimming Pool quilt from Jane Brocket's book, The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking, with slightly smaller squares in the centre to make the best use of my fabric which included a whole heap of 10"x10" squares from Cotton Patch sample packs.
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The centre 'pool' has free motion quilting to give a rippled texture and look,
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and for the border I quilted straight lines about 1.5" apart to give the feeling of a tiled edge to the pool, although if anyone has tiles like these around their pool I'm deeply jealous (and not just because it means they have a pool!).  The border fabric is a Free Spirit print designed by Valori Wells called Chandelier which just happens to be in my favourite blues and perfect for the colours of the quilt. 

To do the lines easily I filched H's roll of masking tape from his studio and taped up against each line of stitching:
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and then used that as my guide to sew along it with a walking foot.
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Easy as pie and the masking tape comes off the fabric nice and cleanly and I got (for me) pretty straight lines.
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For the backing and binding I used the same fabric, Kaffe Fasset's Persimmon Blue print - I like to think it's what you see if you were floating on your lilo, sipping a mojito in my fictitious pool, staring up through the trees to a deep blue sky.  Clearly I envisage my pool as being somewhere nice and hot, and it would be an unforgivable blast of realism to recall that this pool is in fact in an autumnal Warwickshire.

Happily, I am not alone in my wanderings into the realms of fantasy, because as soon as my back was turned and I popped inside to put the lens cap safe, I found a few friends had dived into the enticing depths of my pretty blue water:
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Miss Violet was the first to don her frilly bathing dress and take the plunge,
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And her charms soon ensured that she was joined by a gentleman friend.
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Somehow I suspect from her expression that Violet is more focused on her length times than the optimistically 'accidental' encounter with her fellow swimmer - he looks far too hopeful to be instantly successful in winning her over.
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Meanwhile the local family of ducks have gathered to cool off and to do what they can to alleviate what appears to be a nasty case of love-pox in littlest duck.
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And in all of this, the portable bar chugs around, topping up the drinks!

Carie's Pool, opening in the south of France soon!

And why France you ask? well it all comes down to a little matter of these two blocks, and a few more like them:
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Cut from fat quarters bought for me by H in Paris on our first wedding anniversary, and put to perfect use in this quilt big enough to wrap both of us and a baby bear.

Speaking of which:
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Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Frustration thy name is quilting thread

Abandoning all pretence at housekeeping and good wifeliness after the meatballs extravaganza, I've been passing the waiting time with a little quilting.  Well actually, a big quilting.  Over the weekend I added the borders to my swimming pool quilt and pieced the backing and the binding and on Monday I swept the usual accumulation of detritus off the dining room table and set up the sewing machine.

The boy has been eating his cereal off a very small corner of the table ever since but he has learned to suffer for his art/my art/his snuggly quilts and raised no complaint.

Last time you saw the quilt it looked a little like this:
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Well a lot like this if we're being perfectly honest and acknowledging that yes that is a photograph and not an artist's impression of said quilt.  It was also May, and I looked like this:
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Such a cute little bump - I bet I could still touch my feet and everything.

Anyway, I digress.  The point is, this swimming pool is not too far off a king size duvet now that it has borders added which makes it the largest thing I've ever tried to quilt with my lil ole machine.

The plan was to free motion quilt the middle in a swirly pattern to look like water, and then straight line the borders to look more like the tiled edging on a pool.  I threaded the machine, loaded the bobbin, loaded the spare bobbins, changed to a fresh needle, remembered to set the bobbin tension a smidge higher, lower the feed dogs and take the stitch length down to zero, and off we went.

For 10 inches of quilting.

Then the top thread broke.

In a shredded, fizzled out sort of way.

I re-threaded, re-set and started again. 12 inches maybe this time.  Then the top thread broke.  Again.

I tried changing the needle, resetting the bobbin, playing with top and bottom tension settings, consulting the manual, all to no avail.  I'm not sure whether I'm going to tell myself that I've proved that I have perseverance in spades, or that I'm just ridiculously stubborn when I admit to you that I quilted half of that quilt, and got to Tuesday afternoon before I admitted defeat and, in a finely balanced judgment call, chose a trip to Quilters' Den in Warwick above cutting the quilt into lots of tiny pieces, burying it under my back patio and denying all knowledge.

Only the facts that it was raining and I haven't got a waterproof that fits and I can't bend over to accomplish the interment efficiently swung the vote.

Happily Anita was full of sympathy and suggested another new sort of needle, as well as helping me pick out a spool of thread from every variety she sells (or thereabouts) so that if all else failed, I knew I'd have something to quilt with.

The new quilting specific needle seemed to work for a little bit but then we were back to the same old problems so I switched thread.  And the sunshine came out after the rain, angels sang and bluebirds danced a chorus line along the whirlygig washing line.

I finished the stippling last night and the border quilting this morning and all that's needed now is a good podcast or two and a few hours to sew down the binding and tidy up the gazillion loose ends and we'll be done.

So my note to self for today (apart from 'try not to be a prat') is: the sewing machine loves not the Cotty thread.  Buy it not no matter how pretty it is.  The sewing machine loves muchly the YLI machine quilting thread.  Buy it all and make the machine purr.  That is all.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

When Ree met Jamie

I'm in a less tricksy frame of mind today so I'll start by declaring no baby news.  At least, the news is that the baby is very comfortable where it's been for the last 41 weeks, despite my best efforts and some old wives' tales. [NB the champagne yesterday was really good though; ineffective but good!]  I am perhaps not the most comfortable that I've ever been but as with all things, this too will pass (not least because the baby will be served with an eviction notice before too long, so I'll get a longstop date at the very least).

In the meantime, and in the absence of a small person to pamper, I'm focusing on pampering the lovely H which mostly consists of cooking his favourite but marginally labour intensive suppers; the ones that might disappear from the menu for a few weeks/months once this little one makes an appearance.

Top of the list (after steak and chips which I delegate to my sous chef and thus rather negate said pampering), is Spaghetti Meatballs.  We have for many years followed a Jamie Oliver recipe, and it's delicious, but thanks to a tip off, I think we've just surpassed it.

We tried the Pioneer Woman recipe for Spaghetti Meatballs a week or so ago, and it too was incredibly moreish so the only logical conclusion was to combine the two. Et voila:
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The PW recipe for meatballs, added to Jamie's sauce and topped with mozzarella and freshly grated Romano and baked for half an hour - it was heaven, pure heaven in a pasta bowl.

Actually, having discovered this particular rabbit hole I've fallen down it pretty hard.  I can't match the photography, but I can recommend the cinnamon rolls:
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Mine were made for H's Friday treat (with lemon icing rather than maple) and this is one of three tins's worth made from half quantities of the recipe.  They are incredibly moreish, and possibly at their best when still slightly warm, but perhaps also not entirely healthful. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


 There's a little someone I'd like you all to meet ...

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Oopsie the Octopus.  Sorry Mandy, couldn't resist getting your hopes up.  On the plus side, you were correct in your guess that my latest project was a little octopus cutie.

I'd hoped to finish him yesterday but although a lot of the day looked rather like this:

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my quest for stuffing and a yoyo maker took a little longer than expected, and although the first stages of Oopsie fly by, handsewing is by it's very nature a little more time consuming.  But here he is, of considerably shorter gestation than a human baby, and very cute to boot:
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The pattern is a free tutorial by Melly and Me for Moda Bake Shop, both of which websites should come with a time and credit card warning if you are at all into quilty, sewing type activities (there's a pattern for fishies that I hanker after).  It is a superbly written tutorial which I found easy and fun to follow, and I'm not the best or most accurate of stitchy people.  
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The idea behind Moda Bake Shop is that you can use a variety of their prep-cut fabrics (Jelly rolls, charm packs etc) to make some of the projects, and although this is written for a few strips of a jelly roll, it was easy to find scraps in the stash.  Actually I think I could make a whole family of Octopi from my scrappy stash with no noticeable indent but that is more a reflection on said stash.

Suffice to say that we have a little Amy Butler, a little Kaffe Fasset, and a whole heap of slices off fat quarters that I bought because I thought they were beautiful.

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I will happily accept that I am a much better knitter than sewer, straight lines and accurate quarter inch seams frequently proving a tad challenging, so I'm really very pleased with how this little fellow has turned out.  If you are at all interested in sewing soft toys, the Tuesday Tutorials at Melly and Me are invaluable - I learned a new way to sew up the stuffing gap so that it looks as much like the machined seams as possible (here).  I've also learned how to make yoyos the old fashioned way thanks to this tutorial, which turned out to be much less fiddly than I expected.

Oopsie is notionally for the little bear - although if the babe continues to take his or her time about making an arrival into this world, we may we find that Oopsie has been claimed by someone just a little bit older.

Well after all, you never know, he could be able to predict the results of international football matches ...

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Well two are still one, and as I managed to get the house cleaning done in an uncharacteristic burst of virtue yesterday morning, I got to spend the day playing with fabric and thread while I decide whether to cast on a jumper or knit something that's already on the needles.

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First on the list, to quilt up all of my finished blocks so far.  I am now absolutely as up to date as I can possibly be with my block-a-month quilt; and as we get further along in the month, I may even make it to this month's class - stranger things have happened!

This afternoon I could have got my swimming pool quilt out to add the border and start quilting it, but some random pootling around the internet last night swayed me in a completely different direction.
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And a bit of furreting in the fabric stash produced exactly what I needed for this little mini project:
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It's very addictive sewing and I'd probably still be at it were it not for having run out of stuffing - and this from the girl who usually has oodles of stuffing in the bottom of the wardrobe.
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So until tomorrow, when I'll have to take a little trip to Hobbycraft to pick up some more fluff (and possibly a yo-yo maker if they have one), you'll just have to guess what it is that I'm making.
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The only clue I'm giving is that it's something for the baby.  And yes, that giant red bump is the current incarnation of the bear - he or she makes quite a useful extra shelf until I'm sewing a long seam and I realise that the reason that the fabric won't feed into the machine is because I've lent forward and wodged it between the bump and my legs!

Monday, September 06, 2010

To Do Today - Updated

  • Clean House -check
  • Do Laundry - check with the small exception of the towels on the line that got an 'extra rinse' over night
  • Buy Groceries - check
  • Make Quiche - voila
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  • Have Baby - I knew there was something I'd forgotten ....!
Chances of acheiving 5/5 - not a hope; I hate having to go to the supermarket.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Just in case

Well you never know how much truth there is in the rumour that babies wait for their knitting to be finished.  Even knitting that isn't for them to wear and has only a vague connection to their arrival.

So for my own peace of mind ...

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I finished my team Girl socks.  They are now tucked into my hospital bag next to H's socks and the little pink cardie and hat ready for a little girl bear.

The yarn is Lorna's Laces in Tickled Pink, a present from my sister from a while ago when she decided (following I believe an intensive blog review) that I clearly didn't have enough pink socks.  She's quite right, I don't and these are gorgeous.

I wanted a pattern that wouldn't be overshadowed by the yarn variegation which runs all the way from palest whisper of pink to deep purply magenta, and although I eyed up (and Rav queued) lots of really sweet girly pink sock patterns, in the end I went back to a pattern that I've made before, Cookie A's Kai-Mei socks from Sock Innovation.  I think it was the butterflies that caught me; my baby shower had a butterfly theme so it seems somewhat fitting.

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Kai-Mei socks (or in this case, Carie-Mei) are shown to their best advantage on actual human feet because then you can see the lines of flutter-byes dancing across the toes, but my feet and ankles are currently gargantuan little poofy sausages, with those mini Christmas sized chipolatas on the ends for toes, so they're staying well clear of the blog for the moment.
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Trust me when I say that they're pretty socks.

As H's aunt sent us the cutest little knitted bear in the post this morning, wearing a little jumper with the initials of Baby Our last name and I can't think of anyone else who could possibly be knitting me into a lengthy pregnancy, I think it's time for this little one to make an appearance, if for no other reason that I now have to choose either to cast on something new, which I'm itching to do but I want to knit a jumper and I have no idea what size I am, or I have to finish one of the three remaining projects on the needles, namely a shawl edging, the socks from my Cookie A Knit Nation class, or the socks from the Tsock Club that I started about two years ago - any suggestions?

Friday, September 03, 2010

The Beautiful Walks

If you've ever read Roald Dahl's autobiography you might remember that his father had some rather wonderful and unusual ideas.  Forget playing the baby Mozart or whatever else it is that's supposed to make your precious bain super-smart, Mr Dahl senior believed that by exposing his wife to beautiful sights and sounds late on in her pregnancies, her children would all be born with an inherent sense of natural beauty. 

In this spirit, and to celebrate today being the first day of my actual maternity leave (I've been on holiday until now), the bump and I went to visit the second on my list of 'National Trust Properties I would move into in a heartbeat' (the first is in Devon, it's a bit too far to go).

Upton, on the other hand, is about half an hour away, and, well, I don't even have to show you a picture of the wonderfully huge cream and green kitchen with two Agas to make my case.
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The back garden has this lovely great lawn, perfect for tennis, or badminton, or a really long game of roly-poly, and you might think that was it:
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But there are surprises in store all around in the form of a wonderful terraced garden, full of late summer flowers:
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That's the lawn at the top of the wall!

And these next few are for Mum (and to prove that I was neither still in bed, nor having a baby when you called earlier)
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I love agapanthas (and so do the bees) but despite their apparent reputation as virtually unkillable, I have the dubious honour of having been the owner of several ex-agapanthas.  Ah well, by sheer neglect I manage to grow a mean pink Clematis - you win some, loose some.
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It's been so damp and dreek here until this last week that I think in my brain I'm still waiting for summer to happen; the last properly hot day I remember was Knit Nation, and that was more to do with the humidity than the sunshine, given that it kept raining.  The garden seemed similarly confused, on the one hand we had pure summer daisies peeking through the balustrades:
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But then the vegetable garden was in full on autumn mode, with runner beans getting ready to bean
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and the cutest little inverse ladybird
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To say nothing of the berries
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and the apples in the orchard.
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I spent a little time walking around with the camera (and trying to stalk a pair of cabbage white butterflies), and then adjourned to a comfy bench under a tree with yarn and needles.
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The house is 'paused' as a 1930s house party, and as the gardeners are working hard to keep up, restoring the swimming pool, and even the original planting colour schemes, it seemed only appropriate to be listening to Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love on the Ipod.

And as the coachloads of grockles started pouring through the gates towards the house after a late lunch, and I trundled homeward in the opposite direction it struck me that Mr Dahl may have had a point.

I've just got one question for you - which way up should this picture be?

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