Hens and Chickens

Hens and Chickens

Friday, 30 January 2015

Bags, bags and more bags!

It's been five months since my beautiful Bernina 750QEE arrived, courtesy of one wonderful husband (mine).  I haven't had a chance to try out the embroidery module yet, as I have been too busy sewing.
Yes, I know.  Sewing machines are for sewing.  So what's the big deal?  Simple. I couldn't sew on my last sewing machine.  Although it sewed fine on a single layer of fabric, add in another layer, some fusible fleece, double it all up for a handbag and sit back and wait for the crunch which would tell me that no way was my machine going to sew through all those layers, so here's a huge gouge on your bobbin case and that will be £25, thank you very much.  Not what I expect from a sewing machine which cost me nearly £4K four years ago.  I tried so much to like my machine but the truth was, I was frightened to even turn it on.
Fast forward four years, and my beautiful Bernina has changed all that.  She is the most wonderful sewing machine ever.  I love sewing on her, and no matter how many layers I throw at her, she handles them beautifully, with style, grace and effortless efficiency.  I LOVE her!
As soon as I realised how amazing she was, I pulled out an unfinished project, which I had had to put to one side due to "layers".  My Oversized Fashionista handbag is out of Lisa Lam's The Bag Bible book.  I bought some Harris Tweed in red, and a light blue polka dot for the lining.  I decided to embroider my initials on the inside lining, for a little bit of personalisation.  Oddly enough, my old sewing machine handled embroidery fine.
Monogram embroidered on lining pocket

All cut out and ready to sew

Back and front sewn together, spot the cat!

Just need to add the handle

Bag and hat which matches perfectly!

I still need to add the grommets for the handle but I am toying with using smaller ones than Lisa did in her original pattern.  My hubby found the matching hat on line and decided that I just had to have it!
 My two small grandsons loved my bag so much that they asked me to sew one each for them.  They are really into anything to do with Transformers, so when I found this fabric, I thought it just right for a small messenger bag each for them.
Transformers cotton fabric and black needlecord

Two messenger bags all ready for two little people
These were very simple to sew and both were done in a couple of hours.  The boys keep their Transformers in them, and also put their conkers in them.  Typical boys!
Their mum also wanted in on the bag action, so I was promptly presented with two metres of cotton fabric and a request to do another one of Lisa Lam's bags from The Bag Bible.
Front, back and flap exterior cut out

Back Lining in Orange

Exterior, lining, fusible fleece and interfacing

Piping on front exterior

Just need to add the leather strap

All ready for daughter!
I never could have sewn this bag without my Bernina, it handled all the many layers and piping with ease.  I have since purchased a special Bernina piping foot and hope to try it out on some cushion covers soon.
Until next time,
Ms Divers x

Thursday, 29 January 2015

A New Start.

A lot has happened here since my last post in August.  Life has not been kind.
My father passed away after a lengthy illness.  His brother, my uncle, had died earlier in the year.  My mother's brother, another uncle, also died shortly before my father.  At the same time my husband's favourite uncle also passed away.

2014 is not a year I will look back fondly on, and as Xmas approached, I was so looking forward to seeing the back of 2014, and the start of a hopefully happier 2015. 

It was not to be.  Another Uncle passed away on Xmas day, which brought back all the pain of our previous losses.  Then, completely without warning, we woke on the last but one day of 2014, to find our beloved Xena dying of heart failure. 
Our beautiful Xena
She was only eight years old, the same age as Ozzy, and had shown no symptoms whatsoever of being unwell.  Thankfully she died quickly and peacefully, and is now back with us, on the dresser next to Ozzy, whom we lost the year before.
Xena's Casket

2015 is a new start in so many ways. Firstly, I finally finished all the x-stitching on my Blue Ribbon Sampler!  Wow, three years off and on so far to stitch this, but now I only have the filet panels to stitch, add my name and hey presto! Finito!

My Blue Ribbon Sampler so far

I have enjoyed stitching my BRS sampler, but the mistakes in the charts are many, and do not contribute to a happy stitching experience.  Nevertheless, I persevered and I am so happy I stuck with it.

I toyed with starting a Scarlet Letter sampler next, called Dorcas Haynes, and which is stitched in AVAS silks.  I chickened out.  I have never used silks before, so I felt I ought to practice a little.  I put some 32ct Linen on my Millenium frame, and started Moira Blackburn's Time and Season sampler.  So far I have found the silks a joy to work with, and have experienced no problems whatsoever.  This is my progress after a couple of days stitching:

Moira Blackburn's Time and Season Sampler


The silks glide through the linen so much easier than cotton.  I think I am hooked in spite of the cost. 

I have also been busy quilting and sewing bags on my beautiful Bernina, but I will save these for another post. 

Ms Divers x

Sunday, 31 August 2014

My new not-so-small baby.

Retirement so far has been wonderful.  Wet windy days spent piecing and quilting, and generally catching up on all of my UFO's.  Hot sunny days in the garden, mostly weeding, sometimes helping OH to paint the newly acquired summerhouse.  But suddenly, summer has disappeared, and the wet windy weather has returned with gusto - which can only mean one thing - sewing time!

I bought a Husqvarna 500 Computer sewing machine about 23 years ago, which in truth has seen very little wear.  After completing my first patchwork quilt for my then teenage daughter (she's now married with two children), I embarked on a second one for my younger daughter which to this day remains unfinished.  Life somehow intervened, we were so busy building up our own business, that there was no time for hobbies. 

My first patchwork quilt 

After we moved house several years ago, I decided to start sewing again, and about three years ago, I treated myself to a Janome MC11000SE.  Right from the start I found her to be oh so very temperamental.  Although I could stipple quilt by hooping my quilts, I could not sew anything which had thickish seams, hence no bag making for me.  After quilting my Autumn Table topper and my Xmas quilt, I started stipple quilting my Jolly Jelly Roll quilt.

Jolly Jelly Roll Quilt (pattern by Christa Quilts)

Although not a particularly large quilt, I still needed to hoop it 80 times.  All went well for the first 75 hoopings, but on the 76th, disaster struck, my bobbin case ended up deeply gouged and something went very wrong with the top tension.  After speaking to my dealer, it was arranged that I would drop it in for repairs.  Whilst there, I couldn't help but notice the many different sewing machines on display, especially the Berninas.  The very helpful lady demonstrated the many features and answered all of my questions.  Can it deal with thick layers?  How does the BSR work?  How good are the feed dogs?  How many presser foot pressure settings?  Can I unprogram the locking stitches at the beginning and end when quilting in the hoop?  And so on and so on. Then I test drove it.  I was sold.  This machine (750QE) just oozed quality.  Better than that, my husband was also sold, and promptly ordered it for me along with the Embroidery Module.  He says it's worth it just so he won't have to listen to me whinging about the shortcomings of my Janome.

Here she is, not even unwrapped.

The accessory cabinet (Barbie wardrobe)

Awesome LED lights
I cannot sing this machine's praises highly enough.  She is quite simply fantastic, and an absolute pleasure to sew on.  In just one week,  I have finished handbags on her, one for my daughter, one for myself, and two children's messenger bags for my grandkids.  I no longer have to be afraid to press the start button.  No bobbin case disasters, no crunches, broken needles or spoilt projects. This baby sews everything  I put under her.  She laughs at the thickest of seams, layers of harris tweed, fusible fleece, interlining and dec weight cotton.  Add some piping in - no problem, she handles everything with such ease and precision.  She is such a quiet machine too.  The BSR is amazing, and I have been eagerly practicing my FMQ. It's just so easy.  Never having owned a Bernina before I wasn't sure if I was doing the right thing in buying her, but she is just so easy and intuitive to use.  The needle threader has taken some practice, as it is not fully automatic like the one on the Janome, but I soon got the hang of it.  I can't think of one negative thing to say about her.

I am now busy planning projects on her.  Alas she is far too big for my Horn Nova cabinet, so I had to order a Horn Maxi Eclipse for her, which should arrive in the next couple of weeks.  Then I should be able to try out the embroidery unit.  I have already purchased some redwork designs for some cushions that I am planning for the new summerhouse.  

Ms Divers x

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Hanging head in shame!

I can't believe it - it's been a whole year since I last wrote anything here.  Oh the shame!

You may have noticed that my Blog name has changed.  All will be revealed (hopefully by the end of this post)!!

I'm still working intermittently on my Blue Ribbon Sampler.  It's so close to being finished now, just a wee bit in the bottom right corner to finish, plus the two filet panels, and then I can finally get it off my frame and onto my wall.  I never thought I would start, let alone finish, this massive sampler. It's not challenging stitch wise, but the sheer size of it - well, it's big.  One more thing nearly off my bucket list!

Blue Ribbon Sampler by Olwyn Horwood
I have also been busy piecing and quilting again after a break of many years.  I do enjoy my sewing, my favourite part is hand sewing the binding on to my quilts. Come February I started a quilt for my OH.  The fabric is Makower Mocha, it's coffee themed which seemed rather appropriate given OH's love of coffee.

Assembling the centre blocks

I love the colours especially, and as there was no complicated piecing to be done it came together very quickly - until I got to the mitered borders.  I found these tricky because of the pattern match, but after a bit of practice, I managed a respectable mitre.

Mitered corner, one down three to go!
This quilt is now all sandwiched up and waiting for me to quilt her.  Unfortunately she will have to wait, as my all singing and all dancing Janome sewing machine is at the repair shop, never quite having managed to sing and dance for me :-(  

I managed to finish off a couple of table toppers before disaster struck though.  I have to say how great it is to be able to finish off all my UFO's now that I am retired.  Both of these quilts had been in the works for a couple of years (hangs head in shame again)...

First a little Xmas table topper, made out of a charm pack in a disappearing nine patch.  You can't see from the picture but I stipple quilted her in YL1 gold thread.

Next an Autumn Table Topper.  This was a first for me, as instead of using polyester wadding, I used Hobbs 80/20 cotton batting.  I wasn't sure if I would like it at first because the loft is so much lower than polyester, but now that she is complete, I love how soft she is.  I used the same YL1 gold thread to stipple her too, as it went so well with the autumn colours in the quilt.  The fabric is Moda Awesome, and again I used a charm pack and good old disappearing nine patch again.  I must have been in some sort of disappearing nine patch phase.

Retirement continues to be a wonderful adventure.  We are still very busy as the garden takes such a lot of looking after at this time of the year, which obviously cuts into my sewing time.  I have also reassembled my three knitting machines - a Passap E600, Brother 950i and a Brother 230 Chunky.  I did a huge amount of machine knitting when the children were small, but I can't remember a thing about it, so it looks like I will be re-learning from scratch.  I should have more time at the end of the year when the garden has gone to sleep.

I have lots more projects to show you, but I will end this post now by explaining the new blog title. On our way to our friendly sewing machine repair man, we passed a car on the motorway and on the boot was a sticker saying "we are having an adventure before dementia".  It made us laugh. Somehow it just seemed appropriate.

Ms Divers x

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Catching up!

It has been such a long time since I wrote anything on here.  So much to do, so little time to do it all in!  

Not that I hadn't been busy.  Life had decided to deal some heavy blows.  In May we were devastated to learn that our eight year old Doberman, Ozzy, had an untreatable heart condition.  

Reading up on his condition (DCM), we were somewhat comforted that it was possible for us to have around six months together.  Sadly this was not to be, and our beautiful dark muzzled boy deteriorated so quickly that he had to be put to sleep just one week later.  Our remaining Dobe, Xena, has shown no signs of missing him at all, and has quite simply become another dog.  No longer does she feel the need to assert herself constantly as top dog.  She is now just content to simply be. 

We were lucky to find a wonderful cremation service locally, where Ozzy was  dealt with in such a kind and courteous way.  It was without doubt one of the saddest days of our lives when we went to collect his casket, but he now has pride of place on the dresser, just behind where his bed was, and we are happier knowing that he will always be with us in one form or another.  The thought of him still reduces me to tears, but we can now laugh about the silly things he did.  How he tried to move home when we put the insectocuter in the kitchen.  He didn't mind the blue light, but was absolutely terrified everytime a fly was zapped.  We found him in the farthest corner of the garden, quivering under a bush.  How he would sit and guard his chewie all day, then inevitably, after a brief session of tossing it in the air, he would relinquish it to Xena, and then come begging for another one.  He rarely ate them, just played with them.  How he would stand back and let Xena eat his food, and how he never minded sharing his food bowl with the cats or the kittens.  Xena still leaves a space for him on the rug at night, and I like to think he is there, exactly where he always wanted to be, with us.

Progress on my Blue Ribbon Sampler has been nil, I'm afraid.  I am on the last third of it, but due to kittens, and now building work, I have packed it away until things return to normal.  I have found it hard to sit at night without actually doing anything, so I pulled out some wool from my stash and started crocheting - first a couple of wraps and then onto a shawl in Cashmerino wool. 

First wrap in shades of blue and grey

Second wrap in purple and red

Shawl in Debbie Bliss' Cashmerino in Lilac

We also have some new arrivals here.  After losing our chickens at Xmas, thanks to Mr Fox, we decided to wait a while, and bring their living quarters a bit closer to the house to hopefully deter predators.  We needed a new coop, so we decided for ease of cleaning and maintenance to buy an Eglu Cube.

Delivered and installed in around an hour by the Omlet people, it should hopefully be nice and warm and snug for the chooks in winter.  We decided to opt for bantams this time around, as I had heard that they could free range without causing damage to flower beds - the rabbits and slugs cause quite enough damage!  Hopefully they will also deal with the massive slug population too.

Our Pekin Bantams at around eight weeks old.

I collected a gold laced frizzle Pekin cockerel and one buff and two cuckoo Pekin hens locally, and they were duly installed into their new home, where they were quite freaked by their first experience of the outdoors and grass.  A couple of weeks later, they were joined by three Polish Bantams, sex to be determined.  I hope they aren't all cockerels!  The Pekins were pretty awful to the Polish for about a week, but finally they all settled down together.  Plans to free range them have been put on hold, thanks to the unhealthy interest my two cats have taken in them.  Perhaps when they have grown a bit more?

Having a root around in old storage boxes, I found this rust coloured chenille yarn, which I must have bought around twenty five years ago and never used.  I am now using it to crochet another shawl.  The texture is different, and it is not particularly easy to work with, but I think all will be OK.  

I also found some lovely yarn on eBay, 75% lambswool, 25% silk - unfortunately I didn't notice that it was also chenille - but at £1 per 50g ball, I can't complain.

I love the deep aubergine colour, and it has slight flecks in it.  I think it will be easier to work with than the cotton chenille.  At least I hope so!

We have also been busy with the garden, and have had some super new potatoes, cucumbers, onions, lettuce and garlic so far.  The peas and beans have just started cropping, which is a miracle considering how the rabbits damaged them after I planted them.  We have also just had our first tomatoes.  This year, for the first time ever, I made strawberry jam, and now the blackcurrants are ready, I will be making blackcurrant jam too.  The hot weather kept us busy watering the vegetable beds and all the pots and hanging baskets, but we now seem to be in the midst of a wet patch, so only need to water the greenhouse.

In the house, we have finally managed to pin our carpenter down, and our long awaited media centre/shelving is finally going in.

 Martha inspecting the new shelving.

We are very pleased with them, although we still need to paint them.  They are not at all intrusive in the room, and finally I have somewhere to put my burgeoning collection of DVD's, Blu-Rays and books.  Thanks to my new Kindle, my book collection will not be growing much in future.

With the doors on.

We bought a TV bracket to wall mount the TV, and inspite of being assured it was only a ten minute job, it took us three and a quarter hours.  Never ever trust a built in spirit level, that's all I am going to say!

We have still to decide on the new sofa and chair.  We would ideally like a sofa bed, so that our daughter and her family can come and stay, but so far we have been disappointed in the quality of the ones we have seen.  Hopefully the redecorating will be done soon, and then I can finally get back to my Blue Ribbon Sampler, with a new sewing chair to sit in.  

Outdoors, we decided on a weave three piece suite and a coffee table and parasol, which is just perfect for lounging in on a summer evening.  We also decided on a chiminea, which we really like, as it just takes the chill of the night air and is handy to dry off by after coming out of the hot tub.

Things finally seem to be coming together here after six years.  The top garden should hopefully be finished this year when the seating area is completed, just leaving the bottom garden to be redesigned and landscaped.  That is then officially the end....or is it?!!

Ms Divers x

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Looking ahead already!

I've had such a wonderful time stitching my Blue Ribbon Sampler, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed my sewing.  In fact, I have enjoyed it so much that I already have my next project in mind - Dorcas Haynes, Scarlet Letter Sampler, which I hope to start soon as part of Nicola's Scarlet Letter Challenge.
Another sampler I have wanted to stitch for many years is Moira Blackburn's Time and Season Sampler, so I have finally got around to buying the chart and kitting her up in silk - wow, expensive compared to stranded cotton, but I hope will be worth it.

Next on my to do list is the Rhapsody in Red Sampler, again in silks, using just two shades of reds.  This sampler reminded me ot BRS in layout, but I liked the idea of the limited palette.

I also treated myself to some charts to add to my stash.  I picked Chatelaine's Egypt Garden, as I love the country and the history so much.  The Chart arrived with one page badly copied so that I could not see any of the speciality stitches, but a quick email to Lisa at Sewandso and a freshly scanned copy was on it's way to me - superb service!  I highly recommend SewandSo.

I also found a nice French Openwork Band Sampler, which was just different enough to the Just Nan charts I already have in my stash.

Lastly, I fell in love with this Bagatelle Chart, which is whitework but all done in Cross Stitch and Holbein Stitch.  I think I would have preferred the challenge of some speciality stitches though!

I am now going to try to be good and not buy anything else......for a week or two!

Ms Divers x

Friday, 1 March 2013

Blue Ribbon Sampler progress.

I have been working on the satin stitch section of my BRS Sampler, and have nearly finished block four. Just need to do the eyelets, I will save the filet panel until I have finished the sampler. Unfortunately I have run out of stranded cotton and had to order some more, along with some super sampler charts to go in my stash. I have also ordered a selection of stretcher bars for my Millenium Frame, and they arrived very promptly. I am now all prepared for starting my Scarlett Letter Sampler, Dorcas Haynes, as soon as I finish BRS.

Ms Divers x