Tuesday 31 January 2012

A Nice Way to Spend a Cold Morning.

Burnt offerings? Not quite - they are malt loaves made with dark sugar so are very dark anyway.
They are slightly overcooked even though I checked on them after only 40mins when the recipe said to bake them for an hour. Luckily they haven't dried out and still taste good.
I just had to taste the malt extract and it took me back to early childhood when I was given a spoonful every morning - lovely stuff - I had forgotten it's glorious gloopy stickiness.
My next effort was more successful but I have made this recipe several times and on the first occasion had to reduce the cooking time drastically and cover the cake with foil to prevent overbrowning. I really should get my cooker thermostat checked - my cookery books are full of little scribbled notes about reduced cooking times.
This mornings cookery splurge was on account of two over-ripe bananas which gave rise to this banana bread and then one thing led to another.

I found an interesting little cookery book in a charity shop and came across a recipe for Yorkshire Curd Tart. I remember how delicious it was when we stopped for tea in a little tea shop in Yorkshire on holiday years ago. This one seemed to turn out well though here again I checked before the alloted time and found it was ready. It's delicious and incase any purists out there think it doesn't look quite right, blame it on the cottage cheese which was low fat. I'm not sure how authentic my recipe is and a proper curd tart would probably be made with real curd cheese.

I shall slice the loaves in a minute and pack them in boxes and freeze them - out of harm's way! I'm not sure that the curd tart will freeze successfully - what a shame!!

Sunday 29 January 2012

Spring IS on the way, inspite of the forecast.

I have been enjoying these white hellebores since Christmas - although they are known as Christmas roses they have never flowered at Christmas for me before.

Then, this morning I noticed a clump of these lovely pink ones and just had to get out there with my camera. On the other side of the garden there is a large clump of dark pinkish red ones which are still well hidden under their leaves and usually appear later in the year. There is also a clump of creamy yellow ones swamped by some tazzy dead grass, but I am loath to cut it all away incase the forecast for severe weather is correct.

I even spotted tiny catkins forming on the contorted hazel. I love the shapes made by the twigs. There is a tree-lined footpath beside our house and I can see the early signs of silver birch and alder catkins through the window, and the buds on the willow tree are just beginning to form with promise of pussy willow catkins before much longer.

We have lots of snowdrops now, all acquired from a small clump from our previous garden when we moved here many years ago. I'm so pleased they are happy in our soil and love them. It always surprises me that such a tiny, dainty, delicate plant can survive some really harsh conditions.

These are the first crocus to appear in our garden, with what could be more just to the left of them in the photo. I have almost given up trying to grow yellow ones as the birds eat them as soon as they flower.

I thought this post would give us all a lift in the event of the UK being under a layer of snow next week! I hope winter gets a wriggle on and does it's bit as I want to get out there and tidy up as soon as I feel a bit more lively - I think I must be the custodian of the National Collection of weeds!

This, or the phone, is the safest way of communicating with people at the moment, though I am so much better than I was. I've had real flu twice in my life and it's nowhere near as bad as that, but it is more than just an ordinary cold and I'd hate to pass it on.

Keep safe, keep warm and if you see a germ coming your way, hold your nose and duck!

Thursday 26 January 2012

Sniff, sniff - cough, cough - glub, glub!

Four more pages from my book - sorry they are rather dark but the light has been awful for the past couple of days.

I have an absolute stinker of a cold and really need at least one extra hand while photographing - two for the photos and one for mopping my nose almost continuously.

I have to keep the pages pinned together so that when I come to assemble them, they will be in the right order. A great deal of muttering goes on as I check and double-check that they are all where they should be.

I wondered why I had kept that skeleton holly leaf all this time!

I should be doing more course work but don't think I can concentrate at present so might just do a bit more page edging which doesn't require much imagination.

Avoid the germs and keep healthy!

Sunday 22 January 2012

My little tatty book.

These are the first four pages of my Tree Ogham book. It is a little more colourful than appears in these photos and is taking on a character all it's own. It is nothing like the way I first imagined it. It was never going to be elegant - I can't do elegant - but it is quite a bit more rustic than I planned.

I am limited by the size of the pages, which started out as one very long strip cut to size for another project which didn't come to fruition. I need ten pairs of pages for this book so here again the size was determined for me.

The tattiness really took shape when I was looking for an edging cord or binding and found some sari yarn which I couched down. Originally I had planned to stitch a neat machined edging but with some of my more chunky embellishments there was not enough room for the foot of the machine to get all the way round, so I had to work by hand.

I have joined each pair of pages, wrong sides together, with buttonhole stitch. What a good job I like handstitching so much - it takes ages!

I have also discovered that I am becoming less nervous of drawing if I tear an irregular piece of paper to the size and shape I need, distress the edges with Tim Holtz Distress Ink, and then start to draw. I colour the sketches with water soluble pencils which blend beautifully and add a little water to bring out the colour. I always got better results from doodling on the back of an envelope than from trying to draw seriously and 'properly'.

The fabric I am working on is a firm calico which I painted while wet. I have ironed it many times to get rid of the creases, without success. They do however give an interesting visual texture and add to the general tattiness! I had plans for a rather grand cover, but need a tatty one now to be in keeping with the pages.

I am off now to finish work on the first chapter of module 2 of my online course, then I can post that on my other blog.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Stocking up for winter!

I had a parcel from Rainbow Silks yesterday, and among run-of-the-mill but useful stuff like calico, muslin and Bondaweb which I didn't bother to photograph, were these lovely machine embroidery threads. Nice to know that some of the products The Thread Studio sells are available here in the UK.

Also yesterday, I downloaded Module 2 of my coursework, so I shall be kept fully occupied for the next two or three months.

I bought this book a few weeks back and Lynda now offers free online courses for those who have it. I downloaded the first one today. More hours in each day please!She is very generous in explaining her techniques, and there are several ways of achieving wonderful results, so sure to be something for everyone.

When we were out on Thursday I came upon these gorgeous paints at such a good price I went a bit mad. I think the shop must have been clearing it's stock of them as in the past I have paid far more.

Some of the colours look a bit garish here but in fact are gorgeous and all intermixable. They are manufactured especially for use on fabric but seem to work on many more surfaces and go a long way.

In the same shop I found this little packet of wood slices - they are about an inch and a half long and quite thin. I think that two of them may well find their way onto a couple of my book pages.

We chose the perfect job for the coldest day of the year so far, and had to anchor one of the pond plants which I had repotted. It had been in a special floating pot but went missing until we found that it had sunk and was at the bottom of the pond! It definitely wasn't the morning for messing about in ice-cold water trying to fix things with frozen fingers. All seems to be well and our fixings will be hidden once the plants start putting on growth.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Another week bites the dust.

Where does the time go? At least I have managed two short spells of gardening this weekend and tidied up a little. Today's efforts were spent on trying to eradicate the oh-so-pretty-sounding little white alliums that I planted a few years ago. They should come with a warning! For the past two years I have thoroughly dug over various parts of the garden and thought each time I had seen the last of them but each year, up they pop again, and usually in the middle of a lovely clump of something precious. I shifted another bucketful this morning. I daresay I'll find more as the year progresses.

I haven't been able to enrol for the next module of the Creative Sketchbooks course yet, owing to a computer glitch, so I have been amusing myself with a bit more hopefully creative recycling.

I recently read a fascinating little book by Karen Cater called the Ogham Sketchbook and thought it would be nice to make a much simplified fabric version of my own.

Karen writes: 'In ancient times, our Celtic Druid ancestors devised a system, part alphabet, part calendar/zodiac, which could be carved using simple notches onto wood or stone. Each character was a number and a letter. The consonants were time periods - mostly Lunar months - and the vowels were the soltices and equinoxes. Each symbol represented a tree or shrub, around which grew an extensive mythology. To the Celts, the whole landscape was alive with meaning and wisdom - the wisdom of the trees.'

Below is the first page of my book, the background of which was to have been a backing for another piece of work, and the other fabric components also started life being prepared for something else. B in the Ogham alphabet, stands for Beithe or Birch and represents the first Lunar month - 24th Dec - 20th Jan. It represents 'new beginnings' and the number 1.
I plan to add either a drawing of a birch leaf and catkin(s) or fabric and stitch versions to the right hand side of the page and there will be some kind of narrow border round each page. As usual, with all the handling, the pages get rather crumpled and will need a good press when they are completely finished.

The second letter of the Ogham alphabet is L for Luis or Rowan whose dates are 21st Jan - 17th Feb. It's meaning is 'quickening' or 'magic'. I have found several variations among the various books I have used to research this project, which can be confusing, but I shall try to stick to just one source for my information.
There are twenty letters in all as the vowels represent only one day each and not an entire month.
I played around with various ways of making the letters as I wanted each page to have it's own identity and not look like all the others. These below didn't make the grade although the shapes are alright. I like the B and M but the thread I used to create them didn't look right against their pages.

I wanted each letter to be more or less the same size, so cut a piece of cereal box into 2" squares and drew them on those. Having a template for each one makes life much easier as I can draw round it on the back of a piece of fabric with no lines showing on the front, or mark out my area on a piece of soluble fabric before machine embroidering the shape.

Plenty more to get on with! Eighteen more to do plus the leaves, fruit, catkins or whatever, to think about.

And I haven't given a thought to the cover yet.

Sunday 1 January 2012

Making a colourful mess.

I had a lovely time yesterday, painting various types of paper. I spread sheets newspaper over a large sheet of plastic to protect the dining table, then put my pieces of assorted paper, etc., on top.
Above is Bondaweb which goes into lovely ripples when you paint it with very watery acrylics.

Then I did a couple of sheets of Tyvek which, in case you don't already know, has a plastic feel to it and distorts drastically either with heat from an iron or heat tool. It makes lovely beads if cut into narrow strips and rolled up before heating.

Things get a bit tricky now, as I can't remember exactly what papers I have here. I am hoping these are heat distressable tissue which I have never used before. The piece on the left has a lovely crinkle to it, the other two are smooth but the central one refused to come away from the newspaper it was lying on. I wonder why, when I managed to lift the others off. I shall still use it as the colours are so lovely.

I don't know what this piece is, though it does have a plastic feel to it and I think it will do strange things under heat. We shall see. I really must be more efficient and keep things labelled in future.

These two pieces are lightweight Lutrador which has a lovely filmy look. I do like the way the runny paint has gathered here and there.

When I was clearing up, I found that I had bonus sheets of colour where the paint had gone through the very thin pieces onto the newspaper below...............

................ making some interesting patterns .............

............. which I am sure .........................

................... will come in very useful for something one day.

I also noticed this readymade image of standing stones in a misty landscape. The newspaper had stuck to the Lutrador in places and this is what I saw on the reverse! I wasn't planning a piece based on standing stones, but I might have to now.