Knitting, sewing, gardening

I’ve been working on and off on sewing a top using fabric I bought in a sale a few years back without a plan other than I’d use it to try and teach myself how to sew. I bought three lots of fabric in that sale and have made simple tops with two of them, neither of which turned out brilliantly but I’m learning. They don’t have sleeves so this is my first attempt at sleeves. I haven’t got as far as the sleeves yet… first I had to do a ‘facing’ for the first time. There could be a long-term problem with this top because you were supposed to cut the facing piece against the grain and I didn’t have enough fabric, nor could I find it on sale anywhere. I tried buying a contrasting piece but when the fabric came it was the wrong shade of red so I’ve given up and am just making it, thinking I can use it as a prototype or practise piece, because it’s unlikely to work out according to plan anyway.

Here it is so far. I’m working on it slowly because finding time is a problem, I’m working on the allotment during daylight hours at weekends and the sewing machine and tv are in the same room so evenings if husband’s watching TV I don’t like to start noisy sewing (though he doesn’t vocalise an objection I still feel bad). Anyway, there you go.

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I find seeing where the stitching’s going difficult when sewing close to the edge so had a couple of pull-out moments and the sewing’s in two parts.

Knitting’s going okay. I finished one side of the neck in the annoying lace-knight cable jumper. Second side of the neck you’re supposed to rejoin yarn with right side facing, but the end where the yarn is it would have to be joined wrong side facing, so again I need to concentrate on it. The acrylic mix self-striping one’s racing along although I don’t love the mustard yellow:

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I had great fun at the weekend trying to list my ‘stash’ on Ravelry (it’s still not all there!) and breathed a huge sigh of relief at finding the pattern I decided a long time ago I wanted to use for the Rowan Calmer yarn I bought at a Knitting and Stitching Show. That was one colour and the pattern I found has two more colours and I remember spending ages searching the internet to find some contrasting yarn – and of course having to pay full price and so counteracting the effect of buying yarn cheaply at the Show – so it would have been a pain to have lost the pattern.

The allotment’s doing well though we’ve had problems bringing on squash from seed this year for some reason, don’t know why. Also, May’s had some cold snaps which delayed when I could plant them out. We’ve made a new flower bed this year (a long and narrow one with rose bushes in it, the one with the lovely magenta alliums here we made last year). In the new bed we’ve planted a combination of plants grown from seed indoors and some sown where they are to flower – I’m looking forward to seeing how they come on, we’re just getting to the stage where it’s possible to tell which are weeds and which are wannabe flowers!

Autumn quilt: block 43 and taking stock

I designed this simple block just before I went to stay with my family last month, so that I had two to do, even though I always take two but only have time to do one, and so it proved on this occasion! But I’d rather have too much than be ‘caught short’ with no sewing to work on. The purple fabric is from Moda’s Thistle Farm range, called Primrose Thistle, so tones with the tan fabric from the same range. I’ve made just a few blocks with dark purple in them, partly because that is the main colour in Lewis and Irene’s harvest mouse fabric I like, and partly because I think of the purple in berries and on copper beech trees as being autumnal, or at least the prelude to autumn.

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On Sunday I laid out all my blocks on the sitting room carpet and am now glad I have these few purple blocks, as they are the ones that ‘pop’ and stop the rest blending into such a mass of orange and brown, which was a problem I had. (Taking apart approx. 12 of the blocks which were too ‘busy’ and reusing the pieces to make simpler blocks also helped, though talk about reinventing the wheel the hard way!). I didn’t place them carefully so they aren’t lined up and the two designs aren’t placed alternately as will be the case with the finished item, but it gives an idea of where it’s going.

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As I’m past the half-way mark (or perhaps the two-thirds mark, we’ll see) I also wanted to see what needs to be made. I decided I needed another with the cartoonish owl that you can just see at the top left, as it’s an oddity and one stands out too much whereas a second will balance it but be more than enough. I’ve designed that one and am working on it this week. I’ve also got one to make using a fabric that’s been rescued from a dismantled block but is otherwise not to be found anywhere. Then I think one more with the stag from the naturalistic woodland fabric in the central square, as I’ve two with the fox from that fabric and one with the stag, so that will balance out; then at least one more with the fussy-cut pumpkins in the four small squares in the middle of the block. So that’s a few where I’ve got something to work on rather than a blank canvas, which at the minute I think is good. I think I’ve got 43 blocks completed (the one I’ve just finished is at the front of the picture but without the last row sewn on, which is why it looks badly proportioned to the eagle-eyed observer). Plus one in storage I’m undecided about.

Down on the allotment, we’ve problems with the fruit trees which we’ll just have to ignore until October, but otherwise we’re doing lots of watering to combat this prolonged spell of dry weather, and have our first potato crop! Very exciting, for me at any rate.

Squash are doing well, though I mustn’t speak too soon…

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They’re a newish thing in Britain and I don’t think they’d grow too well in the north of the country, though maybe they’ve bred varieties that would cope, I don’t know. There’s a lot that we planted too late this year because we didn’t have time to prepare the soil, but we’ll hopefully do better next year.

And the flowerbed is looking good, due to an injection of new plants at the weekend and a pick-up in watering now that I’m over my fear of drowning them and recognised that there’s not much chance of that in this heat! I managed to kill a lavender plant, maybe two as one’s on it’s way out, I think, through underwatering, so it’s been replaced and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Be great if the sweet peas flower, and if the lupines and delphinium make it through the winter be even better next year when they’re taller. Good to have things to look forward to, and jobs to do that don’t involve dusting and ironing!

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New block and a new hobby

That’s the second blog post title in a row with an ‘and’ in it, I think I may be squeezing in my crafting around other things at the moment. This is the first block finished since we moved flats, though I started it before we moved, so I reckon this one’s been nigh-on two months in the making, yikes.

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I’m pleased with it, though, particularly being able to use the last of the dark brick red fabric in the centre. These are pieces I salvaged from an early block I took apart because I didn’t like it so I’m glad to have put them to good use and to have used more of the acorns and berries fabric (brand unknown), it’s one of those I discovered belatedly falls into the ‘less-is-more’ category! It’s got a fair bit of purple in it which I’m afraid I try to cut round so there’ll be some wastage but it’s too much of an in-your-face purple for this quilt. Again, the Moda Prairie Cactus has proved its worth, and the brown fabric that I rely on but is discontinued. This is block 41, but I had to go back to the last blog post¬† wrote featuring patchwork to work that out.

The new hobby that is taking me away from both patchwork and finishing unpacking the flat is the allotment we’ve rented. When I knew where we’d be moving to I was a bit anxious, as you are when moving somewhere not of your own volition and under some time pressure,¬† so it’s not like you’ve got time or more importantly the budget to look for your ideal place, but woke up one morning and remembered there are allotments in the village we were moving to. This cheered me up immediately, as I grew up with a garden and had been really missing having somewhere outdoors to go, particularly in the summer. I like walking, but being outside for a different reason, having somewhere to cultivate our own plants, would be fantastic. Looking it up online, I saw they are on the street where we live and there were some available to rent, which is amazing because in many parts of Britain there is a waiting list for them, and as we’re in commuting distance from London that could have been the case for us too. We looked round with the deputy clerk to the parish council and chose a half-plot, more manageable for two working people. It was overgrown and hadn’t been cultivated for some time, and unfortunately the previous occupant had left some ugly plastic waterbutts and other big bits of rubbish we can’t get rid of ourselves, so that’s an eyesore until the council organises removal (which could be a long, long time, if ever), but we’ve put them at the far end of the plot and it’ll be a while before we work our way up to that end anyway.

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This is a quickly-snapped ‘before’ shot. You can just see the edges of some fruit trees to the right of where I’m standing, and there’s a bit of ground behind. What you can’t see is how hillocky the ground is, and all the bits of wood and broken paving slabs the grass has grown over. Don’t know who that strange bloke at the far end is.

Later, the lovely apple tree to the left of the plot was covered in blossom.

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That was before we’d got the petrol lawn mower and my husband had mowed the grass. In the background is our neighbour’s tidy plot!

Since then, we’ve planted potatoes and the lovely weather means they’re growing well, so far. I’ve been out most nights watering them, and am just sorry there’s still grass growing through in the bed so we should have dug it more thoroughly, even though we’d done lots and lots of digging and put about 3 bags of compost on it. Yesterday I planted marigolds round the edges, they’re meant to be more attractive to potato bugs than potatoes are. I’d be so sad if after caring for them the bugs got to them first.

Potatoes and marigolds

Under the group of fruit trees the previous occupant had put plastic sheeting to keep the weeds down, but the grass had grown through it and the plastic was visible for some inches round the edge of it, really ugly, and I did want to plant flowers under the trees. It took ages, but we got the plastic up and have planted a wallflower, some dahlias (some as plants in flower, some as bulbs to come up later) and some pinks / carnations, and covered the rest with two boxes of wildflower seed. I’m curious to see what comes up (and how to keep the grass down while letting the flowers grow).

Potatoes and flower bed Sunday

In the little greenhouse are some seedlings that if we’re lucky will grow into butternut squashes and purple sprouting broccoli. We grew them from seed on the kitchen windowsill. I’m impressed by these mini greenhouses, it’s worked well so far. Last weekend we started digging a bed that I’d started in the course of the week, and I dug over again on Thursday and Saturday to try to get more grass and other roots out, and yesterday planted it with carrot seeds and onion sets.

Carrot and onion bed

Again, can’t take credit for the smart plot in the background! My husband bought these little polytunnels to protect the carrot seedlings from carrot fly, though the test I believe comes when it’s time to thin them out.

I’ve been really enjoying it so far, particularly checking each night to see how the potato plants have grown, I can’t believe how quickly they’ve come on. It’s lovely having a robin come to check on our progress as worm-providers, too!

Next weekend we’ll just keep on top of weeding and watering and devote a bit more time to sorting out stuff in the garage, as we need to try and put our car in it and it’s now not only full of ‘stuff’ but there are also gardening tools and a lawnmower, whoops! But I mustn’t forget my patchwork with all this new excitement, or it would be the mother of all WIPs, so I’ve opened my boxes of fabric and will start planning the next one, promise!