Monday, 14 April 2014

It's all happening!

Walking round the garden over the weekend it seemed to me as if everything is bursting forth and plants that don't normally flower until May are already coming into bloom.  I love the little blossoms on our crab apple tree and the way that they gradually fade from deep pink to almost white as they develop.

Another favourite is this red sycamore.   For weeks I watch the twigs for signs of those little red buds and suddenly the weather warms up and they have popped to reveal these golden sprays of tiny flowers.

When I got out of the car in the drive this morning I found myself looking straight down into these yellow tulips.  I love their centres with that little ring of black diamond shapes.

 The angelica has shot up in such a short time and is already taller than me.   It's lower leaves are shading my rosemary which fortunately is in a pot so I can move it into the sun.

The kingcups are beginning to go over so I must make the most of them.  They have been in flower for almost a month.  I divided one plant into two the year before last - it looks as if I need to divide them again!

I am intrigued by the theory that planting and sowing seeds on a waxing moon gives better results and put it to the test recently.  It seems to work and most of the seeds I sowed just over a week ago have all germinated - those that haven't are the long winded ones which take three or four weeks anyway.  I have sunflower and courgette seedlings on the kitchen windowsill getting larger each day, so I need to get outside and do some weeding to make room for them.  It's my favourite way of giving myself the incentive to go and do some serious gardening!

I hope this lovely weather lasts a bit longer - there is plenty to do out there.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Getting hooked.

A few posts back I showed these granny squares that I have been making.   I have made dozens of them now and they are gradually beginning to look like this. 
I am still not quite sure about the blue border but couldn't find any yarn in the right shade of red/pink.  The colours here are not accurate and are much richer and lovelier in reality.   I had no pattern to go by and no idea of how many squares I would need for a waistcoat in my size, so just made as many as possible out of three skeins of wool.  I limited myself to three skeins as it was rather expensive.  I have spent ages drawing little diagrams of squares in various arrangements as well as arranging the squares themselves and I think I will have enough.  I can always crochet wider or deeper outer borders if a little more width or depth is needed.

I was too impatient to stop and press these joined squares before I photographed them and no doubt they will look better for proper attention.
It's taking ages to join them all and weave in the little ends of wool.   If I'd been knitting a waistcoat it would be finished by now and being worn!   However, it is good to learn a new craft and one day I might even be able to follow a pattern and make something complicated.

It felt like April several times last month, but on my morning walks recently it has felt decidedly like March.  There's a nippy little breeze out there so don't pack your winter woollies away just yet.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

It's Addictive!

You may remember I bought myself one of these recently.  I have at last had time to play with it and am in danger of filling the house with sheets of printed paper - there are quite a few more that I haven't photographed - I can't leave it alone.
Above are some of the things I have used to make my prints.  I find the wooden Indian printing blocks give excellent results and scraps of lace are pretty good too.  I like the cog shaped thing also, but have no idea what it is.  It came off something which had been broken.   I think the plastic comb came out of a Christmas cracker years ago and is perfect for creating swirling wavey lines.

My first attempt was far from excellent - probably because I used the cheap craft acrylic paint which comes in plastic bottles.

I quickly switched to the better stuff in tubes and found an improvement.

I even plucked up the courage to do a bit of doodling around the lace prints on these two.

With my late summer course with Frances Pickering in mind (the theme is black and white) I introduced leaves this time and used black paint.

Finally, I used two dabs of yellow and one of blue paint and an unwashed brayer still with black paint on it.  I rather like the dark colouring.  I quickly drew the design on the left and used a little fabric doiley for the one on the right.
Nothing is now safe from being pressed onto a painted Gelli plate if I think it will make an interesting pattern! There should be a warning with these things.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

This and That.

I have been thoroughly spoilt by my children today, it being Mothering Sunday.   Our son has a ridiculous sense of humour and I couldn't resist showing you the envelope of his card, obviously written in his 'bestest' writing!  He can be quite sensible but is a 56 year old lovable loony!

I have been pondering for ages on whether to buy myself a Gelli plate and finally succumbed last week.  If I'd been an impulse buyer I could have saved myself nearly £5 - the price has shot up since I last looked at them.   I haven't had time to try it out yet but am looking forward to some messy playtime.   I had also looked at a Big Shot embossing and cutting machine but they are very expensive and I'm not sure I would make the most of one.   Also, I think I would find it limiting having to use the dies and plates that someone else has designed, rather than creating my own.    The Gelli plate is quite a different tool of course, but it will encourage me to develop my newly found drawing skills and create my own designs.

Friday was such a cold, wet and miserable day - I couldn't believe the weekend forecast was for warmth 
and sunshine, but it arrived right on time.   I hope it continues a bit longer - I've become a fair weather gardener and want to get out to sow some seeds in the garden and the greenhouse.  

I hope you have had a lovely weekend too.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Spring has sprung.

It's been quite a week so far.   It was my birthday a few days ago and my husband gave me this very smart and comfortable if rather scary chair - it reminds me of the Mastermind one.  My old one had become very wobbly and I was convinced that if I kept using it the seat part would snap off and I would end up impaled one day!   We took a trip to Ikea to buy it and in true Ikea fashion it had a name - Malkolm.  It was love at first sight and I soon found that Malkolm was the most comfortable of all those on display.    My husband, who shuns modern trends,  found the experience quite traumatic and vows never to go there again!   The trauma was not quite over, as he had to assemble the chair when we got it home, but all's well that end's well and here I sit in splendour.

Other gifts included this beautiful machine embroidered blackbird..........

................. some lovely balloons ....................

and this beautiful box.
I had various other gifts including scented candles, art supplies, and chocolates from two of my grandsons.   My children called my grandmother White Granny, my own mother was Sweetie Granny and my husband's mother was Granny Dolly.  I think I'll probably end up being known as Fat Granny!

Even in the garden there were treats waiting for me.    Frogspawn at last - I had begun to give up hope of having any this year.  I hope the newts don't eat it all.

The kingcup is blooming with at least two more buds to look forward to.  I divided it a couple of years ago and it has taken a while to recover.

And the pulmonaria is out - always a welcome sight.
I have also seen buttercups, daisies galore, dandelions and even forget-me-nots in bloom.  It seems a bit early for them and I always think of them as April or May flowers.  Everything is bursting forth.

We have had some lovely days and I've even had lunch in the garden two or three times though I did need a jumper and jacket to ward off the chilly breeze.   There have been loads of butterflies - Clouded Yellows and Small Coppers I think and even a couple of Peacock butterflies - ladybirds, and plenty of bumble bees so I think it's official and whatever the weather does now, Spring has really arrived.

I think that my second cold virus, which came hard on the heels of the previous one, is on the way out and the awful lethargy which came with it is beginning to lift at last.   Hopefully I'll get the greenhouse up and running this weekend and do a bit of tidying among the herb pots on the patio.

Monday, 10 March 2014

It's never too late to learn!

I recently saw a photograph somewhere of a lovely crocheted coat made entirely from granny squares.  I thought 'I want a coat like that' but the only way I would get one would be to make it myself.  Unfortunately I can't crochet but have set about learning.   I fell in love with this beautiful yarn which is more vibrant than it appears here, and have decided to make a waistcoat first to see how I get on.  The yarn is 4ply and quite soft.  It will be fine for a waistcoat but already I can see that a double knitting yarn would be better for a coat and make a firmer and more practical fabric.

Granny squares are the simplest type of crochet so I bought myself a little book of designs and started with the basic one.

I am slowly building up a nice stock of these.  What a pity I'm not a size 12 - I wouldn't need nearly so many to make a garment!    I found that I could work out what I was supposed to be doing better from the photographs in the booklet than from the written instructions.  Not the best way to learn perhaps but our local wool shop runs classes for beginners in knitting and crochet which should enable me to learn the terminology and follow a pattern.   I shall put my name down when the next ones are announced.

It is a lovely therapeutic pastime and this weekend I have even sat in the garden making my little squares.  I have also got dirt under my fingernails at last and done my first gardening of the year.  The front garden looks as if it has had it's hair combed as my husband has cut the grass.  There was quite a chorus of lawn mowers from all directions around us over the past few days - the sunshine has obviously stirred all us fairweather gardeners into action.

It has been so lovely to sit outside in a sheltered corner and I have seen several butterflies, ladybirds and bumblebees.  I hope the weather doesn't turn colder again and take them by surprise.   The snowdrops which were such a joy a week ago have suddenly disappeared, but all sorts of other things are arriving to take their place.   It really is a lovely time of year.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Rain, rain, go away!

I nipped out into the garden yesterday to take these photos, and not a moment too soon as it has rained nearly all day today, getting steadily heavier as the day wore on.  This evening the gutter over the front porch was overflowing and even though it is under cover, the rain was reaching the outside doormat.  I hope it hasn't battered my precious hellebores - I love them so much and they were all looking their best.
It's only in recent years that I have been able to grow them, and now they are nicely settled and even beginning to spread so that I can transplant their babies.
I love this delicate pink one - there is also a yellowish green one which I was unable to reach owing to the wet soil.  Parts of the garden are on a slope and it gets very slippery in places.

This one with the lovely freckles is one of my babies which I transplanted last year.  I'm so pleased it likes it's new location.

I must plant some yellow crocuses next autumn.  I used to have some but they have all disappeared.  I think there may be something in the yellow petals that appeals to birds and have noticed that my yellow primulas go the same way.  Just as they come into flower something pecks away all the yellow petals.  The very pale lilac crocuses always flop in wet weather so goodness knows what they'll look like tomorrow.  The purple ones are a little sturdier.   Everywhere was beginning to look springlike yesterday.  It's two steps forward and one back all the time, but at least I'm not waiting for floodwater to recede from my home.

I have seen a wonderful crocheted coat made up of granny squares and would love to make it.  The snag is that I don't crochet!  I must have a word with the lovely lady who runs our local wool shop - I think she gives classes in knitting and crochet.  I shall need a quantity surveyor to work out how many squares I'll need to make a coat in my size!    If it gets too much it could always become a waistcoat, or a cushion, or a potholder!!