Sunday, 30 June 2013

Canoeing on the Nene

Today I went on a family day out, dog in tow, brother at Glastonbury, to a little village the other side of Oundle called Waddenhoe. My dad's new obsession is canoeing and so we thought we'd have a paddle on the river Nene and a picnic on the river bank. For our base we used a lovely pub garden which ran right down to the river, called the King's Head. On a day like today, where we are blessed with blue skies and sunshine it really is a magical spot.

I had a wonderful time with my dad out on the water and it's a shame I couldn't take my camera out with me, but I fear that could have ended in disaster. It's lovely to see a familiar landscape from a different angle. The river was teeming with life, from fish and birds, to plants and insects. We saw swans with their cygnets, a moorhen with its chick, ducks and ducklings and even a heron. The edges of the river were lined with tall reeds tangled with some form of water lilly with beautiful yellow flowers which protruded through the surface of the water, while underneath bloomed a forrest of freshwater weed. Among many other insects, there were amazing blue dragon flies with opaque black wings that danced across the water, the motion of which couldn't be caught on camera.

I think this may well be my favourite hobby that my dad has adopted so far, sailing and mountain biking were less successful, while skiing remains a constant. I would really recommend taking to the water, along the Nene there are various places to hire canoes, and lots of pretty spots to stop at along the way. I've decided that in the future I rather fancy having a house that backs on to a river, or taking a holiday on a narrow boat.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

My First Ever Patchwork Quilt - Part II

As many of you may know, my main activity this summer has been making a patchwork quilt, mainly because my other plans were cancelled due to illness. You can read my first post about this here. I thought it was about time I gave an update on my progress, which has been slower than before as I have been up and about and seeing my friends.

The patchwork top was finished last week and so I went over to Jenny's Patchwork Studio, to buy the wadding and the fabric for binding my quilt. I went for the wadding that Jenny recommended as she is clearly the expert, and was able to get two more metres of the binding fabric. As ever Jenny was very helpful and her studio is really lovely with a great set-up and classes running throughout the week. I went to John Lewis for the backing fabric, which is also really beautiful.

I chose to bind my quilt using this technique, where the binding is wide, so that I could make the most out of the pretty pattern of the fabric, also in the hope that it would bring together the rest of the pattern and make my quilt look more cohesive. Im pretty please with the result, though I wish I had been more accurate with my measuring and cutting as my corners don't quite miter properly on the reverse side, however I don't think this is too detrimental to the overall look.

At the moment I am working on sewing the back of the binding to the backing by hand which is a lengthy process, and then I need to decide the best way to sew all three of my layers together. There are places around the country where you can send your quilts to be machine quilted, although the designs available here are more beautiful and intricate than anything I could achieve on my own machine, this is a very expensive process which could be up to £150, which I simply can't afford. I may try to quilt on my machine, or simply do it by hand, and I also haven't decided what sort of design to go for, whether to sew in the seams or to do something more complex such as a floral design.

Hopefully next time I post about my quilt it will be the finished article, perhaps even in situ on my new double bed in my university flat up in Edinburgh. I'm excited.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Brick Lane

I've been going to Brick Lane in the East-end of London for about five years now, both with my friends and with my family. Then, I was a self conscious fourteen year old listening to emerging 'nu-folk' music and making some rather dodgy outfit choices, though I still stand by some of them, and Brick Lane was one of the most exciting places on the planet. Now I have friends who live near-by, frequenting its boutique cafes, celebrity spotting and making regular purchases from its plethora of vintage shops. While I could say that this has made the magic wear off for me slightly, it really hasn't. Brick Lane still remains one of my favourite places in London. The market is on a Sunday and so this is the most vibrant, if tourist-y, and exciting day to go.

As far as shopping goes I would recommend getting there early, not early early as the stall holders won't be about of bed, but I try to get to the pop-up vintage market under the Sunday-Up market (they're right down Brick Lane - you can't miss it), by about ten o'clock. This means you can choose from some of the best items and you can see them properly as you don't have to elbow your way through hundreds of dawdlers. I really recommend this market, I always find a bargain here. Today I bought a larger denim jacket, a floral sleeveless shirt, and a thick checked shirt. The other place I always seem to find success is Beyond Retro, the successful international chain, which can be found just off Brick Lane on Cheshire Street. From here I bought two funky shirts, one white lace shirt and a pair of stripy shorts. This shop is awesome.

My advice would be steer clear of Rokit and Blitz. Although Blitz is wonderfully laid out and a huge store, in general both are very over priced, that is of course unless you find that must have item that you've always wanted then who's stopping you splash out?

It's lovely to have a wander around and visit as many shops as possible, as well as making the most out of the markets, many of which are artists selling their unique creations. Despite an overcast sky and spitting rain there is always a great atmosphere on a Sunday, the vibrant street art, buskers and local characters means the street buzzes with life.

At the Sunday Up market and in the Truman Brewery you can get food from every conceivable country you can name from around the world, think of a country and you're sure to be able to find its national delicacy somewhere between the bustle of hipsters and tourists. On top of the variety, more often than not, the food is great. Today I had oriental chicken dumplings and noodles, like the ones that come as a starter in Wagamamas, but even bigger, yum!

Here is my haul for the day. I did really well, as it usually takes something big for me to part with my cash. I'm pretty pleased, and had a great day, so thanks to my parents.

Monday, 10 June 2013

A Myriad of Quilting Marvels

On Sunday my mum and I took a brief trip out to a local quilting show in the village of Wing, to get some inspiration and just to see what was going on really. We were both quite surprised to be greeted with such a wealth of talent. You can read about the Wing quilting group here in the Rutland Times, but neither this article, nor the attached photo do the ladies justice. Every pew was draped with a large, brightly coloured and beautifully crafted quilts. It made me feel a bit embarrassed about mine, but everyone was nothing but supportive.

In the village hall there were a variety of stalls selling fabrics, knitted goods and other oddities. We chatted to a lady called Jenny, who runs quilting classes and sells fabrics (here is her website). She advised me on what wadding I should use in my quilt - 80% cotton and 20% polyester, to keep the softness but allow it to go through the wash. Apparently the only brand you should buy is Hobbs. Unfortunately this wadding is quite thin, not quite what I wanted to keep me warm on those chilly nights up in Edinburgh, and too expensive to double up, at £12.50 a metre. I'll have to investigate if Hobbs make any thicker wadding, or just follow the expert's advice. From Jenny I also bought some fabric that I would like to use for the border and binding of my quilt. It is from a collection called Prairie Home by Two Friends, Jenny only had a metre but I will see if I can find anymore online or take a visit to Jenny's workshop.

The whole event was in memory of the former teacher of the group Alison Maudlin and in aid of the Rutland Stroke Club. I won a lovely handmade cushion in the cushion tombola, and the ladies were also raffling a quilt that they had all helped to make. 

My spoils of the day - My appliqued and hand quilted cushion (I really lucked out with this one) and the fabric I am hoping to use as binding for my own quilt.

Along the same lines I also wanted to share a quilt I completely fell in love with on a trip to one of Stamford's many antique shops yesterday. It was reversible with pink paisley on one side and blue on the other and it was gorgeously thick and heavy. Unfortunately I don't have £199 to spend. We can dream (or make our own).

Sunday, 9 June 2013

My First Patchwork Quilt - Part I

Since I've been ill I have had a lot of time on my hands and being the type of person that gets bored after three days of lounging around, I inevitably had to find something to do with myself. This happened to be patchwork. While it isn't the most youthful, nor fashionable hobby I have really enjoyed myself so far.

I have had a huge bag of fabric remnants for as long as I can remember, made up of past projects, donations from both of my grandmas and different pieces of clothing from all the members of my family. Therefore some of these fabrics have great sentimental value and have been wanting to make them up into a patchwork quilt for a very long time.

I decided to throw myself in at the deepend somewhat wanting to crated a large quilt for a double bed, out of pretty small squares and I must say that I am a complete novice and any expert quilter (such as those demonstrated in my next post) may shudder at my wobbly lines and uneven seams. However, this being my first quilt and something I'll keep on my bed at uni I don't really mind.

I made my squares 10cm by 10cm as I wanted to use some of my smallest scraps. I read somewhere that you must try to cut with the grain of the fabric, which is pretty challenging with ikea pillowcases where the grain is nigh on invisible, so I ended up with some pretty wonky squares, but I didn't want to waste them.

If anyone is making their own quilt, or thinking about it I would really recommend you purchase a rotary cutter, some kind of edge - for example a long metal ruler, and a cutting board. It will make things so much easier. I was cutting freehand using scissors so it's no wonder some of it went awry.

I threw myself in there really, starting with some of my favourite fabrics that I had very little of. I laid out my design for the centre and decided to work outwards. I used a sewing machine to make my quilt.

A selection of my squares many of which will be left over

While I feel like my complete lack of expertise means I cannot make this a How To post just yet, I would like to offer some tips, having learnt with experience:

  • Rotary cutter - so much easier for cutting straight lines
  • Have some kind of pattern to your design - I found it looked prettier than if if was completely random
  • Aim to layout as much of your design as possible before you start sewing
  • It's all in the ironing - iron your seems flat at every opportunity to get the best looking results
  • Aim for right angles and straight lines - but don't beat yourself up if you go a bit off piste
  • Sew your squares in groups rather than lines and then attach them together eg. once I'd realised that lines didn't work too well I sewed my squares in groups of 9

Left to do, I have to finish sewing together the final three layers of squares and then attach them to the main body of the quilt. Then I need to bind the quilt with some kind of border, which I will need to research how to do. Finally I must back the quilt with some kind of sturdier fabric, sandwich a layer of wadding in between the top and the bottom and somehow quilt all three layers together. As you can see, I'm really making it up as I go along.

Where I'm currently up to - it's become rather challenging to photograph!

I was inspired by mainly my grandma, but also Kirsty Allsop and her "vintage home", Cherry Menlove and various vintage quilts I've seen. Fabrics came from all over, but the ones I purchased new came from a rather pricy Cath Kidston bundle and from a lovely shop in Stamford called Callyco.

Please forgive the quality of these photos I only kept track using my iphone camera, I can assure you there will be nicer photos when the final result is uploaded.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Picnic by Rutland Water

Yesterday I met up with a couple of my friends for an impromptu picnic. The original aim was to go and pick our own strawberries and then picnic in the bluebell woods. However, because of the really cold spring we had the strawberries weren't ready, and to top it off the bluebells were over. But who can really complain when the sun's out and there are views like this, it was one of those days that reminded my not to take for granted the beauty of the countryside I've been brought up in. My friend Emily made some fantastic strawberry ice cream, the recipe for which I shall post a link when she uploads it to her blog, while Jenny made some awesome brownies. Now it looks like we can look forward to PYO strawberries later in the summer.

Here is Emily's recipe for her Skinny Strawberry Icream, seriously tasty. With the post you can also find some photos of my friends and I, and a particularly funny one of myself and a sheep. Enjoy!

Monday, 3 June 2013


Despite the cheesy name, why not give it a go and follow my blog with Bloglovin?

I have been told that Bloglovin' is the place to be for all bloggers, so I thought I'd give it a gander. There will be a new post up tomorrow about today's activities - a picnic in the sun. Perfect.

The Rutland Show

There are definite advantages and disadvantages to living in the countryside. Perhaps at this age the disadvantages outweigh the advantages - crappy phone signal, slow buses and a general lack of excitement. However, there are also advantages, crazy countryside traditions such as the one I experienced today. While this post won't be as exciting as I'd have hoped (having had my Ryanair flight jetting off to Malaga without me this morning), and won't detail the historical excellence of Granada's Alhambra, or Sevilla's cathedral, it's me making the best of the situation.

I think the last time I went to the Rutland Show was about 10 years ago and ideally it is suited to kids, with a larger that life robot strolling around inflatable slides and whirling teacups, and of course it is also for horsey people - one of which, I am not. However I managed to find some really great stalls, selling lovely baked goods, craft items and antiques, and my parents came home with some new garden furniture. Marvy.

I took some photos of my favourite stalls to share. The first stall that really caught my eye was a cake stall, giving away free samples, obviously. I tried a piece of chocolate cupcake, and it really was delicious, no exageration. Not only did the cake taste great, but the decorations were wonderful too. Really worth looking at if you're thinking of placing a big cupcake order anytime soon.

Cakes made by Yumi Cupcakes in Grantham. 

Carrying on with the country theme, loved these wonderfully decorated cupcakes.

Another stand that caught my eye had a variety of items, but what I really liked was this collection of ceramic, all hand painted by Rutland based artist Katie Almond. I definitely prefered the delicate floral patterns, compared to the larger paper inspired motif, however, overall the mix of colours and patterns worked really well. Lovely extra touches included delicate floral patterns found in the bottom of the cups, and golden handles. Really lovely stuff. 

My favourite stall though, has to be Old Bakery Antiques, from Wymondham, Rutland (unfortunately their web address does not appear to be working but you can get an idea of the shop here). The stall had ceramics, tiles, furniture and garden ornaments, and was beautifully decorated with cow parsley. If I had a house to decorate and a bank balance to match I could have easily come home laden with antique tiles, plates and furniture.

So in conclusion, at the Rutland Show there's everything from classic cars, falconry shows, jousting by what I've heard are real knights, prize farm animals, horsey things, farm machinery, and a bunch of nice stalls. If you want a taste of what country life can be, a country show illustrates everything mashed together in one field with an extra hint of crazy. If my blogger account will let me, I'll make another post, with some extra photos from my day.