Friday, 19 December 2014

A Year in Review - Preserving the Harvest

As this was our first full season, it also meant we had the opportunity to preserve more of our harvest. We've made jams before and made one chutney but apart from that, not much else. 

Our strawberry jams have usually been successful, although last year's raspberry jam was a bit too seedy. This year we planned to make more of a jelly with the raspberries by straining out the seeds and I have to say this as been our best jam to date with a perfect set

The other jam we made this year was apple and rhubarb which had a nice tangy fizz to it

These have been a bit hit and miss. We had so many runner beans this year that we made a runner bean chutney. Possibly tried eating it a bit early as it tastes a bit vinegary 

Next up were a beetroot chutney, which I think is ok and a courgette and tomato chutney that we're yet to try but it looks promising!

As for the rest, the main crop potatoes are stored in hessian sacks and should last us well into next year. The excess runner beans are in the freezer. Onions have been strung up and the shallots pickled which was our biggest success; really crunchy!

And the main failure was the tomato ketchup but mainly because I put too much ground cloves in it!

And we are yet to sample the tomato sauce that's in the freezer....

So all in all I think we've done ok growing and keeping enough to keep us going!

Can't wait for next year!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Year in Review - the allotment

So as 2014 draws to a close, it's time to take a look back at the highs and lows of our first full year on the plot. Overall I think the year has been a success with a few lessons learned and a plentiful harvest.

Starting from the top, Bed 1 which this year was the root crop bed. We had initial problems with everything that germinated being nibbled. It was really frustrating until another plotholder advised us to cover them with fleece, which we did. Thereafter everything was fine. So not as many carrots or beetroot as we would have liked but still a good harvest, especially the Autumn King. 

Really pleased with the sweet potatoes which were an experiment 

They taste so sweet and mellow though so well worth it even if they aren't that big. 

Talking of big though, here's a parsnip. It weighs 875g!

Bed 2. This had our sweetcorn and tomatoes in together with a couple of courgettes plants and some cabbages. The sweetcorn were delicious and we had about a dozen good sized ones like these

The tomato harvest was enormous. We couldn't keep up, although we did get tomato blight late on. The San Marzano were great for sauces etc

We managed to keep on top of the courgettes luckily, mainly as we went down to one plant. 

We had trouble with the cabbages getting eaten before we covered them but finally getting some now 

Bed 3, this year's potato bed. Really good harvest. The first early Rocket potatoes were delicious and worth growing again. We had a total of 30kg of main crop spuds which should last us until next year easily!

Bed 4 the legumes. The onions were good, both the spring sown and over wintered ones and will last us until next year. They make a mighty fine French onion soup. The shallots made three jars of pickled onions which are lovely and crunchy 

We lost count of how many runner beans we harvested. They were lovely and long and not stringy. Froze loads. We kept some of the seeds for next year. 

The French beans were not quite so successful but tasty all the same as are the leeks which are still going strong 

And finally TK's pumpkins....let's just say the biggest was a whopper which he carved for Halloween 

So all in all a good year. We'll remember to cover things a bit more next year and maybe look forward to a few spears of asparagus!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

Welcome to my blog as the Around the World Blog Hop finally reaches my little corner of blogland! Thank you to Nina at BossyOz for nominating me. Nina and I met on instagram when we both joined the first UK ModernInstabee that I set up earlier this year. We're a group of twelve ladies making blocks from the Modern Bee book by Linsday Conner. We met for real at this year's Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham.
A little bit about myself for any new visitors to my blog. I'm a single mum (by choice having divorced my husband a few years ago). I have a teenage son who is now taller than me and have lived most of my life in East Anglia. I run my own online quilt shop, The Crafty Quilter, and I am also the editor of British Patchwork & Quilting, which is the job that pays the bills! In between my sewing and work I have an allotment which is my new love and somewhere for me to escape to, and enjoy the fruits of my labours a few months later!
I made my first quilt when I was 18 for my now ex husband ( I got to keep the quilt in the divorce) and really haven't looked back since then.
And so onto the blog hop questions........
What are you currently working on?
Obviously as a true quilter, I have more than one project on the go! I'm just trying to finish quilting a little quilt for someone who had a baby recently. It's a plus quilt and backed with cuddle but I'm not enjoying quilting it as I've managed to get a fold in the backing and haven't got the time to redo it.
My latest bee blocks for this month are done; Trellis Crossroads for the ModernInstabee and a scrappy Trip Around the World for the LBQB.

I have several long term projects that I am working on - a City Sampler designed by Tula Pink. I'm using a Robert Kaufman Remix stripe in every block together with matching solids.
And the other long term project is Sylvia's Bridal Sampler that I am making by hand. My mum and sister are also making their own versions of this, as is my son.
How does your work differ from others?
I'm not sure that it does that much. I am very much a traditional quilter at heart but have modern quilter leanings. I like using batiks but also like using fabrics where I can make them do the hard work for me and make a design look more complicated than it is. A lot of my quilts reflect this. I haven't got many recent finishes to show you but this is one I finished this year called The Red Cross.

Why do you write/create what you do?
A lot of what I do in my quilting recently has been to do with making quilt samples for my business. A few years ago I realised that in order to sell fabrics in my business, I needed to be more productive making quilts using those fabrics. And then that I need to actually quilt them, so I taught myself to machine quilt, kind of. However now that I have gone down that route, I have struggled a little with finding the time and inspiration to make quilts for myself and have lost my quilting mojo a little; something I need to try and rediscover next year I think!
How does your creative process work?
Like many quilters, I find inspiration wherever I go. I don't usually have the time to sit down and let these creative juices flow though so quite often I'll get a simple idea in my head and work with that. I can also get inspired by a fabric which will lead me to trying out a design. I will usually just do a rough sketch on paper or draw something in my quilt design programme, but often I'll just dive in having worked out some rough cutting instructions!
Next stop on the blog hop.........
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I hope you'll maybe stay a bit longer and continue to read my somewhat sporadic posts! In the meantime please take a look at my fellow LBQB bee member, Alison's blog at Patchwork Alley as the next stop on this Around the World Blog Hop.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Dreamin Vintage

I think I posted a photo of the quick quilt I made using fabrics from the Dreamin Vintage collection a while back. If you missed it, here it is!

The collection is designed by Jeni Baker for Art Gallery Fabrics and I was really excited this week when I read one of her blog posts, to see my quilt featured in her round up of quilts she found that used to her fabric. You can read the blog post here

I put together some instructions to make the quilt and you can find them in the September issue of Patchwork & Quilting


Thursday, 21 August 2014

Creative Mojo

I'm not sure if I've lost mine. 

I have lots of ideas. See inspiration everywhere I go. And yet I don't seem to be able to create anything with a wow factor at the moment. 

Most of my piecing recently has been done on the machine and usually involves pre-cuts or cutting squares and triangles. These tend to lead to more simple but effective designs. 
Most of my wow quilts have been hand pieced and quilted. So maybe that's it? I haven't quite got the confidence to make something more challenging by machine?

Or is it more that I don't know where I am as a quilter at the moment? I like modern quilts but I don't think I'm a full on modern quilter. I am still a traditional quilter at heart but with modern quilter leanings. Labels for the type of quilter that I am shouldn't matter, but somehow not knowing what type of quilt I want to make has left me in limbo. 

I think it's also because I have made a lot of simpler quilts recently to display fabric collections that I have got out of the habit of making more complicated quilts. Although of course even the simplest designs can be stunning. 

Or maybe I just don't have the time to be fully creative; to sit down and design and create; to let the creative juices start flowing?

I think I need to start a new project!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


If you follow me on other social media you will probably be aware that we have three new kittens in our lives!

Sadly we had to put our last cat Jacob down at the end of May. He'd been suffering from heart failure since the beginning of the year, but we'd managed to keep him going with pills and he was doing really well. However he went downhill very quickly that late bank holiday weekend so we took the emotional decision to put him to sleep.

It was absolutely awful being in a cat-free house. I'd come back home and wonder if he was sitting on the doorstep waiting for us......

So we decided not to be cat free and with my son's birthday fast approaching I started looking at rescue centre websites for kittens as a birthday present. I felt TK was the right age for looking after and appreciating kittens. 

Because we were going away in June for the Sandown quilt show we couldn't take any in before then but that very week three delightful balls of fluff appeared on the Wood Green Animal Centre's website. We dashed to the centre after school, literally, to go and see them. We had planned to get two kittens so they had each other for company; but in all honesty, could you leave one of these cuties behind?!

We went to see them every other day which helped them get to know us and we finally brought them home with us at the beginning of July. 

They've grown a lot since then but are still the cutest things. So say hello to Rolo, Smartie and Fudge, the main reason why I haven't done much seeing recently......


Saturday, 26 July 2014

July Update - Quilting

It's been a funny month. I'm sure I've done more than my July Bee blocks, but I'm struggling to think what!

Here's a quick update of my recent LBQB blocks.
Heidee chose the traditional Spinning Star block for her block for June. June was a really busy month for me so I only managed to get it done towards the end of the month. I tweaked it a little and made each of the points from little HSTs

Claire was Queen Bee for July and chose a block that has been featured in Love Patchwork & Quilting. Somehow I managed to forget to take a photo so I've pinched it from the Instagram feed

In our Modern Instabee it was Isobel's turn to be Queen Bee and she chose the Stacked Windmills block from the book. A lot of HSTs in this block but it avoided having bias edges all over the place. Isobel kindly supplied us with some of the fabrics for our blocks.

I've also been piecing with some wonderful fabrics called Terra Australis, but that's under wraps for now 

Monday, 23 June 2014

Quilting's about time!

Oh dear! How long has it been since I've done a blog post? Let alone one on my quilting antics?
Too long is the answer!
Well lots has been going on, mainly with the two bees I've joined. I think my last post about my quilting was a tutorial for my Wonky Churn Dash block. This was for the month of May when I was Queen Bee in the LBQB. I received eleven wonderful blocks from my bee ladies and now all I need to do is decide how to put them all together in a quilt. I'm thinking of white sashing but adding something wonky at the posts. Because of the variety of colours used, I'm planning on picking up a charm pack or two when I go to the UK Robert Kaufman distributor in a week's time.
I'll do a proper post on my bee blocks once I've joined them together into my quilt.
The other bee I've joined is Instagram based. We are using the Modern Bee book by Lindsay Conner. I love most of the blocks in it and change my mind every month about which block I want everyone to make for me when it's my turn to be Queen Bee. That's not until March so I dare say there will be a few changes before then!
In the first month we made the Painter's Palette block for Gina. She asked us to make them a little different so I made mine with pinwheel blocks.
It was Catrin's turn in June and she chose the Come Together block, requesting certain colours in certain places. I loved putting this block together. It's a big one but so quick and easy to make!
I got to use some of my new fabrics in this block, which made me happy!
I've been making more blocks for my City Sampler quilt but concentrating on the striped version now.
And lastly here's a quick quilt I made using the wonderful Dreamin' Vintage fabrics I've got in stock. This collection just oozes summer and makes me smile.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Allotment Update

Thought it was about time I posted an update on our progress on the allotment!

I'm also trying out the blogger app on my phone to see what the post looks like. 

So what have we been up to? Digging and planting! All the potatoes have gone in over the last month. The earlies are growing really well but we had a frost a week ago and even though a fellow plot holder covered them with fleece for me, they still got affected a little 

We planted out the sweet peas a couple of weeks ago after building a frame for them 

Most exciting of all the asparagus crowns arrived and started growing not long after planting them 

They've grown quite high now but again got affected a little by the frost. 

We've almost dug over the whole plot now and it's almost weed free, apart from the bindweed sprouting everywhere. 

Indoors we've sown tomatoes, sweet corn and Savoy cabbages. Last week the sweet potatoes slips arrived and it's exciting to see new growth on them already

So lots going on. And the most exciting news of all. . . . . . we have acquired a bench for our plot!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

LBQB - May

So the LBQB block for May............that's me!
I've been whetting the other Bee members' appetites with teaser tweets and mentions on Flickr, Instagram and Twitter but its now time for the big reveal..........
I finally decided on my block after swaying between a shortlist for weeks and decided to continue the wonky theme that we have going on and no pressure on subsequent Bee members to take it on further (although it would be nice).
So my block is..............a Wonky Churn Dash!
This is another of my favourite blocks and one I have used in several quilts. Its also quite easy to wonkify. In fact it should be possible to do it with any simple traditional block.
I looked up some tutorials and found a couple I found one I really liked but couldn't get my head about some of the piecing so I was going to go back to a basic Churn Dash like this one, but then I had a eureka moment and combined the best of both tutorials to make my own version!
Here's my trial block to see if it worked and also to find any potential pitfalls.
I was really pleased with how it came out! Really excited in fact!
So how to make it.......the tutorial bit!
The great thing about this block is you can use all kinds of small scraps, even those leftover from making Jenny's Wonky Log Cabin block this month.
Cut nine, 4.5" squares from a background fabric.
Join assorted scraps together to make a pieced rectangle 2" - 3" high and about 5" wide. If you cut angled strips it makes it a bit more interesting.
Trim the top and bottom edges so they are straight. Again they can be angled.
Position and stitch the pieced strip right sides together on one white background square ensuring that when it is flipped back over it will still cover the bottom edge of the white square. This is basically the same technique as we used in Lou's Wonky Star block.
Press the pieced strip down. Although a little trickier, it will look neater to press the seam towards the pieced strip.
Trim the bottom and side edges so that the unit measures 4.5" square and trim the excess white on the wrong side.
Repeat to make four side units, varying the width and angle of the pieced strips.
Make the corner units in a similar manner but make two pieced strips measuring approx. 5" wide by 6" high.
Trim the top and bottom edges as before

Cut the pieced strips in half across one diagonal to make triangles.

Position and stitch one triangle on a background square, ensuring again that it will cover all of the background square when its flipped back over.
Press and trim as before to complete a corner unit
Make four corner units. Each pieced strip will make two triangles.
Join the block pieces together in rows and then join the rows together to complete the block. If you press the seams in alternate directions it makes matching the seams a bit easier as there might be a bit of bulk depending on how many scraps you have used in your strips.
And voila! A finished block!
I'll post my actual wishes etc on Flickr. Hope you enjoy making it as much as I did!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

My Favourite Cake Recipe

I've finally found a sponge mix recipe that I really like on the BBC Good Food website so sharing the gist of it here so that I've always got it to refer to, and so I can remember where it came from!
The original recipe is for a lemon drizzle cake by Tana Ramsey which is one of our favourite cakes. We've made it both in a loaf tin and as small individual cakes.

I also used the base mix for some other cakes which came out nice and light and fluffy so this is the way to go. I think the difference must be the number of eggs used. In the past, I've probably used one or two eggs in a cake recipe and the results have always been a bit heavy and disappointing.

So here new go to basic cake mix.

225g unsalted  butter
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
225g self raising flour

Its the usual method of creaming the butter and sugar together, adding the eggs one at a time before combining it with the flour.

So on today's to do list we're going to make marble cakes!


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Day Trip to London

Its been a busy day today! And just as well really.
First thing this morning I took TK up to his Dad's place. They are heading off on a big adventure to New York City. I've been a bit daunted by this. Its his first trip to the States, longest flight and of course its without me. It will be the furthest and longest we have been apart since its been just the two of us. I know he will have a fantastic time, but its hard knowing he's doing it with his Dad and not me. Just another consequence of being divorced I guess.
I've been trying to persuade him to visit The City Quilter in NYC as its only about a dozen blocks from where they are staying. Don't think I have succeeded though.
I headed back home and then jumped on the train into London where I was meeting my friend and editing partner in crime, Emma, at a meeting of the London Modern Quilt Guild. They meet in Belgravia in a room above a pub in a private mews. I joined the meeting part way through as they were doing a show and tell. There were some lovely pieces shown by the members. Being my usual efficient self, I forgot to take any photos. Really must remedy that! They then had a demonstration by one member of curved piecing as they have a challenge each month and this month it was to make something with curves. A bit of chit chat followed and then we had a light lunch from of the bar downstairs, which was really yummy.
I had a great time and I'm tempted to join their guild as its my nearest one. I've thought about going down for a meeting on several occasions but being on my own and have childcare issues, its a bit difficult. I often feel I'm not in the right place when I go to regular quilt groups with my fabrics. But the LMQG felt a bit more like home. So maybe............just maybe!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Layer Cake Sampler Quiltalong

I've been having fun taking part in this quiltalong designed and organised by Amanda at Material Girl Quilts. Every Friday Amanda has been releasing two new blocks and we've just passed the halfway point.
All you need to make the quilt is a layer cake of forty 10" squares and background fabric. This is what the finished quilt will look like
I decided to use a Splash Cracker pack which is Hoffman's version of a Layer Cake. However, I couldn't decide which background fabric to use; light or dark. So I decided to be a bit different and use both

I like to be a bit different every now and then. I'm a kind of 'What if.........' quilter.

So here are my blocks up to block 12, in sets of four. The finished size of the blocks are 16" square and I don't have a design wall or space big enough for all of them at once!

Blocks 1 to 4

Blocks 5 to 8
Blocks 9 to 12

I'm loving how my points are meeting nicely, I think because you trim the HST units before joining them. And I'm quite pleased with how using two fabrics for the background is working. It is meaning that I'm needing to think about the best arrangement for the blocks each time. Amanda gives you a couple of alternative layouts for each block too.

So only eight more blocks to go!

And know I said I was a 'What if' kind of quilter? I thought I would make some more blocks using one of the Hoffman 1895 pre cut packs which are plainer fabrics and use a patterned batik for the background......and here are blocks 1 and 2 using Taffy

 Oh...........and I'm using a 5" charm pack instead of a layer cake so the HSTs are trimmed to 2" square making the finished blocks 6" instead of 16". I think they will all be quite cute!

Linking up with Amanda's halfway blog post and giveaway