Hens and Chickens

Hens and Chickens

Friday, 30 November 2012

Blue Ribbon Sampler, Week 1

I am quietly pleased with my progress on my BRS this week.  I have completed a third of the left hand border, working from the amended chart, with no major hiccups.  I did learn though not to stitch when I am tired, because that is when I make silly mistakes.  I had to unpick a flower and a leaf which I had placed incorrectly, but in the grand scheme of things, it really wasn't a problem.

Then it was on to the top border, and that is when the headaches began!  The first flower is charted on the amended chart for the top left border.  The rest of the top border is charted on a separate page (page 56) and it soon became clear to me, after placing ten leaves, that four of them were in the wrong place.

This is due to the top border chart not carrying on where it should from the top left border chart.  If you stitched the chart as seen, you would end up with two pink flowers both the same at the beginning of the border, and three light green flower bases in a row, when you should have one light green, then one dark green flower base alternating across the top of the garland, and the same on the bottom of the garland of the top border.

The top border chart doesn't affect the placement of the dark green garland at all.  However, if you follow the chart as seen, some of your leaves will be in the wrong position, as are mine.  The difference in placement and pattern is a very subtle one, so subtle that I can't help but wonder if that is how Olwyn really intended it to be, or if it is a charting error. There is also a stitch missing from the second leaf on the chart.  On the fourth flower on the top border chart there is what appears to be an extra stitch but again, is it or isn't it?  And in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?  

My lesson learnt this week is to carefully study the chart before I start to stitch.  I am lucky I only have to unpick and restitch four leaves.

Ms Divers x

Friday, 23 November 2012

A Scarlet Letter Challenge

I am tremendously excited and inspired today!  A couple of days ago I found a wonderful blog which inspired me to unpack my Blue Ribbon Sampler and continue with it, in the hope that one day very soon, I will be able to hang the completed work in my home.

That blog was Nicola's Stitching by a Cornish Seashore.  This morning when I went to see if there were any new pictures of her Blue Ribbon Sampler, which she is also stitching, I found a new post, inviting readers to a Scarlet Letter challenge.

To participate, Nicola asks that you start or resume one of the many wonderful Scarlet Letter Samplers, as seen here and available from here in the UK, between now and February 20th 2014, and regularly share starts, progress and finishes on a new blog which is being set up now. 

I have never felt so inspired in my life as when I found Nicola's blog along with all the many photographs of her completed work.  I have spent the last three evenings plodding on with my Blue Ribbon Sampler and I have enjoyed every minute of it.  I am now awaiting my Millenium frame and Necessaire floor stand, both of which I hope will speed up my stitching, as presently I am stitching in a fiddly hoop, which is not at all convenient when working with such a large amount of fabric.

So I have decided that I will (bravely) take up the Scarlet Letter Challenge, not only that, but I am resolved that this will be my first sampler stitched with silks.  I love a challenge so much that I have decided to stitch "Dorcas Haynes".  

Dorcas Haynes Sampler

According to the website, this 1720's reproduction sampler is the most symmetrical, balanced counted thread sampler....and also one of the most satisfying, challenging and beautiful samplers in the world.  I hope I aren't being too ambitious....

Ms Divers x

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Olwyn Horwood's Blue Ribbon Sampler

Olwyn Horwood's Blue Ribbon Sampler
This is a photograph of Olwyn Horwood's famous Blue Ribbon Sampler.  This is a huge piece, worked from several charts, mostly in cross stitch but with some nice filet work in a couple of the panels.  It is not for the faint hearted!

I bought Olwyn's book many years ago, with the intention of one day stitching this beautiful sampler for myself.  Time and tide wait for no man though, and in the blinking of an eye, twenty years had passed, and I still hadn't started it.

Last winter, whilst enjoying a respite from garden work, I finally resolved to wait no longer, and I started the piece on 36 count raw linen.  Ten years ago, this would not have been a problem for me, but now, in my diminishing years, my fading eyesight meant that I needed a very strong magnifying lamp to stitch on such fine linen.  Inevitably this led to very slow progress on my sampler. 

Summer came and my sampler was packed away, thanks to my all consuming garden which takes all of my attention in the warmer months.  But along with November, dark nights and dismal weather came the opportunity to unpack and restart my project - inspired by this lady who is also stitiching the Blue Ribbon Sampler. 

I realised immediately that a hand held circular frame would not do, in fact it complicated my stitching so much that I resolved to treat myself to a Millenium frame and Necessaire floor stand, which would enable me to stretch the whole expanse of fabric evenly whilst I stitched. 

Millenium Frame

I can't wait for it to come so that I can set up my sampler properly and share a photograph with you all.

Ms Divers x

Saturday, 4 August 2012


This blog post is a little late -very late.  Somewhere between my last post and this one, I lost my dolls house mojo.  

That's not to say I haven't been diligently sticking on even more brickslips.  I have stuck on so many that all I could see if I closed my eyes was brickslips.  When I went to sleep all I dreamt of was brickslips.  Sweet dreams or nightmares - it started to become a waking nightmare!

My husband and son became throughly fed up of me asking the same question over and over - are they straight?  Yes, they assured me, but still I couldn't see it.  The brick rows went up, they went down, in fact anywhere but straight.  But they had to be straight, because I had already marked a grid of straight lines before I started working.  My eyes began to play optical illusions on me.  It was time for a break.

I put everything away and didn't look at it for two weeks.  It was the best thing I could have done.  When I somewhat reluctantly started to work on my basement again, I found that I could instantly see that yes, the rows of bricks were straight.  So I slowly started where I had stopped, and found it so much easier as the fog cleared from my befuddles brain (and eyes).  

So this is where I am at the moment.  After the front is finished, I have both of the sides to do, lay the crazy paving in the walled garden, lay the flagstones in the hall and kitchen, quarry tiles in the scullery, and modify the paving which I put down in far too much of a hurry on the pavement.  Then everything has to be sealed and then grouted.  At times I feel daunted, at others I love the challenge.  But the thought of bricking the main house is worrying me a little.

So why was I sidetracked?  Well about eight weeks ago, three little whirlwinds came into my life.  Elena, Stefan and Damon.  Full marks for spotting I am a Vampire Diaries fan!  Who are they?  A picture is worth a thousand words, so let me introduce you to Stefan and Elena (Damon was feeling a tadge camera shy).

Ms Divers x

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Little things.

I've been spending a lot of time on EBay in the Doll's House Miniatures section.  I've been amazed at how talented some of the listers are.  You can literally find anything in 1/12th scale - I found a miniature Seabrook's box of crisps - my sister works there!

As I am currently working on the kitchen and scullery parts of my basement, I admit to being tempted more than once, much to husband's amusement.  

After working so hard on my walled garden, I felt a few flowers were in order!  I couldn't resist the hanging baskets, and the picture really doesn't do them justice.  Tulips are also a favourite of mine, but I never have much luck with them in my heavy clay garden.  I'm hoping I can't go wrong with these.

The detail on these miniature vegetables is amazing, and the mixing bowl is so delicate.  I bought the baskets to fill myself with vegetables.

And on to the inevitable soft furnishings! My eyesight won't allow me to crochet or knit so finely now, I am in awe of anyone who can.  I hope to make a miniature patchwork quilt, and might even stitch one or two rugs, but that will be it, my eyesight isn't what it used to be.

Work is continuing on the brickslips, and I have finally decided on a colour for the hall part of the basement.  The brickslips continue to confound me at every turn, but I am sure they will be worth it when they are done.  However, I have to say the whole experience has somewhat put me off attempting the same on the exterior of the house.  I've had a break away from them for a few days, as I had come to the point when I could not see what was level and what wasn't.  I'm starting to feel a bit better about the whole thing though, and if it wasn't for the sun which has made an unexpected appearance today, I would be beavering away at them again.  

Ms Divers x

Monday, 16 July 2012

Two thousand bricks...and counting!

The last few days have been spent laying brickslip after brickslip, until the inevitable happened.  I ran out. When I first calculated the amount of slips I needed, I never thought to include the inner walls.  Of course, once I had started, it was obvious that they needed to be done.  I couldn't miss an opportunity to make a walled garden after all!

Huge thanks to the wonderful folks at Richard Stacey who rushed my order through to enable me to continue - and hopefully finish.

Here you can see the walled garden is coming on well.  I am really pleased with it, all I have to do now is to grout it in, but I want to wait until the crazy paving is laid on the basement floor.  

You can also see the flagstones on the pavement here.  Unfortunately, I rushed into this job, without thinking it through properly, so some of these are going to have to come off and be redone.

This  is the current view from the front.  I am working on bricking around the bay window, which is quite tricky, and I can't help but think that there must be an easier way.  I'm working on it.....

Lastly, here are some of the interior panels painted up, ready to be glued into place at some point.  The kitchen's colour scheme is green, and the scullery is cream.  I haven't decided on the colour for the hall, so it looks like another trip to Homebase is in order. 

I've also been spending a lot of time on the 'Bay. There are some very talented minaturists on there, selling their own handmade creations.  

Oh, and I managed to bag myself a bargain - my next project - Springwood Cottage.

Happy days!

Ms Divers x

Thursday, 5 July 2012

New arrivals

It's been a bit quiet here lately, all thanks to the rain which has put paid to any outdoor pursuits such as weeding and gardening.   Don't mention the slugs. Please don't mention the slugs.  The devastation they have wrought on my garden has to be seen to be believed.

This week my beloved had a milestone birthday.  I bought him a Spotoscope.  His friend bought him.........

......SIX KHAKI CAMPBELL DUCKS!!!   Say hello to our new babies :-)

Ms Divers x

Starting the exterior decor

Having managed to paint the sash windows and front door, my thoughts turned to the exterior of my Holme Lodge basement.  Many years ago, when I decorated my Georgian dolls house, there was little choice as to what to decorate with - paint or paper!  However one of the first things I discovered on re-entering this hobby, is that there are now a myriad of products with which to finish the exterior of my basement.  Brick compound, versi tiles, brick slips, some very realistic papers, even pebble dash or sandstone.  My husband would probably have been happy if I had just stuck to paint, but oh no, that was no longer on my agenda.  I wanted bricks - real bricks!

After calculating the amount of bricks needed for the exterior, I sent off my order to the lovely Richard Stacey, and two days later a rather large and heavy parcel arrived.  I think I might have forgotten to mention that I just had to have the flagstones, random flags and quarry tiles too - what else could I possibly put in my Victorian kitchen and scullery?

Never having done anything like this before, and as someone who cannot even hang a picture straight, I quickly realised that I would need spacers to help me achieve nice straight even lines.  I found that the little sticks which came with my sash windows (and which I didn't need) were just perfect.  I started on a small area - the garden wall, and I found it relatively easy and strangely therapeutic gluing and laying the slips,

Of course, I quickly realised that I had under estimated the number of bricks needed, as I now had plans to brick the interior garden walls to make a walled garden.  This led to me half bricking the stair walls, also meaning that before I knew it, I had glued and placed 2000 brickslips, and needed more.  It wasn't long before my husband realised what I already knew - this hobby isn't cheap!

Ms Divers x

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

More Paint, Less Speed

Suddenly I have become Homebase's best customer.  I spend hours in their paint aisles - in fact so long that I suspect the shop assistants suspect that I am up to no good.  Unfortunately for them, I am not, I am simply perusing all the many tester paint pots and trying to decide what colour to use to paint the sash windows, the door, the "sandstone" window surround etc etc.  These decisions do not come easily to an interior decorator challenged old fogey like myself. 

First I had to decide on the colour of the "sandstone" bay window, pictured above.  I settled on what I thought was an appropriate colour, although I have to say that now it is out of the pot and onto the wood, I am not so sure.  The sash windows were to be painted two colours - dark brown and off white, and I was relieved to find that the windows came apart so that I could remove the perspex for easy painting.  After a couple of evenings, all was painted.

I think it looks suitably Victorian.  What do you think?

Ms Divers x

Sealing and Painting

With the dry build all done, the missing part received from Dolls House Emporium (very quickly, I must add) it was time to get on to the job of sealing and painting the basement before gluing it together.  I had already decided that I would paint all the ceilings before assembling, as I well remember how hard it was to do once the house is assembled.  Plus I am a little old to be standing on my head.

So I duly mixed up a 50/50 mix of PVA glue and water and started to paint each MDF piece.  This really didn't take long at all.  Once dry, I decided I would give each piece a coat of white matt emulsion.  In reality, I gave two coats, and three or four for the ceilings, sanding in between coats to give a nice smooth finish.

Here it is all undercoated and ready for the next stage - adding some of the finer details, starting with the bay windows. I had already spent two evenings gluing on the detailing around the bay window, which wasn't as easy as I thought it would be.  Next job is painting the (working) sash windows, and then picking out the detail on the bay window in a suitable colour.  

At this point I am very happy with the way the house is shaping up, but only just beginning to realise that this is not going to be a weekend project!

Ms Divers x

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Here I go again!

I couldn't wait to unwrap my new acquisition, but oh dear, oh dear, delight gave way to despair as the realisation dawned on me of what I was taking on - a mammoth task!  I couldn't believe how big the house was, and how heavy!

My first hurdle - finding somewhere to construct my gigantic "minature" house.  Since we downsized a few years ago, space for hobbies has been at a premium, and to date all available space has been bagged for music, sewing etc.  There was nothing for it.  I would have to commandeer the conservatory.  

The first thing I did was open the boxes, find the instructions and read from cover to cover.      
I must say, they were surprisingly good.  The first recommendation was that I check each package, and identify each part.  Although this took quite a while, I did discover that one (yes, just one) door corbel was missing.  Not bad considering how many parts make up the whole.  A quick phone call soon sorted this out, and the missing part arrived the next day.

I decided to pack away the house and concentrate on just the basement for now.  My head, at this point, was teeming with ideas, but I had to be patient, as the first thing to do was to "dry build" the basement to check that it all fitted together properly.  This didn't take long, and gave me a glimpse of how it would look when finished. I'm afraid you will have to use your imagination a bit, but I can already see it in all it's Victorian glory!

Ms Divers x

Friday, 29 June 2012

A New Project

The Postman came today.  Three very large, very heavy parcels.  Yes, oops, I've done it again.

Fifteen years ago I built and decorated a Georgian Doll House.  I lighted it too, but the lighting never worked properly.  I recall the minature light fittings cost as much as full size ones, and I can also recall the beautiful 1/12th scale Georgian doll that cost more than an arm and a leg from the legendary Covent Garden Dolls House Shop.

For some (daft) reason, the minature bug has bitten again, and I am now the proud owner of a three storey Victorian house and basement.  For once I concur with my husband - what was I thinking?  We shall see, won't we?  

Ms Divers x

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Digital Photography

One of the first pictures I took with my new camera. Did I mention it is a Canon EOS600D? I did? What's that? Several times? Ooops, sorry, but I love this camera, it is so user friendly, has an 18 megapixel cropped sensor, and the ability to take full HD movies. I bought mine with the standard kit lens, the EF-S 18-55 IS and the EF-S 55-250 IS, which gives me good coverage of the focal lengths. I am of course hampering after some "good glass" (thanks to Scott Kilby for that quote).

Anyway, it was a lovely Spring evening, the dogs needed a walk, so my camera came too, and this is my attempt at an artistic landscape. I think I need some more practice!

Ms Divers x

The Joys of Diversity

From making a quilt for my grandkids to planting my potatoes to digital photography - how did my life become so diverse?

Well, I have always liked sewing and quilting, so it's not surprising that my new freedom has given me more time to design and sew.

But I'd never planted a spud in my life until we bought our country home, and happily retreated there four years ago. Now I have a very productive veg plot which just keeps growing and growing.

And it's a long standing joke amongst my family and friends that I am rubbish with a camera, but my anniversary present - a Canon EOS600D - will hopefully change that.

My philosophy is simple - "Never give up... never surrender!" (Thanks to Galaxy Quest for that quote - oh umm, yes, I am a bit of a film buff too). To bravely go into my twilight years fit and raring to go, ready for any challenge, and when I slide into my grave, it will have been one hell of a ride!

Ms Divers x