Thursday, January 29, 2009


...was how the orange trees of Valencia looked after a weekend of hurricane force winds. 80% of the fruit is lying on the ground and it is doubtful if much of the commercial crop can be salvaged for the simple reason that the farmers are only equipped with machinery to gather their crop directly from the trees and do not have the manpower to collect the fallen fruit before it rots in situe on the ground. This is not the case in this house of course; visiting offspring are roped in to gather the windfalls, and this is the result of the first batch, made with 2 kilos of blood oranges, and therefore will be labelled Bloody Marmalised. I am not a traditional marmalade maker. I do not cut painstakingly thin slices of peel and float them in a crystal clear jelly. My method is straightforward and simple. Wash 2 kilos of oranges and a couple of lemons, put them whole, with a litre of water, into your largest pressure cooker and give them 10 -15 minutes at full wack. When cooked, they will have split and released more of their juice into the pan. Use a colander to strain them over a jam pan so that the juice is in the jam pan and oranges are in the colander. Leave the oranges to cool a little while you add the sugar to the juice in the pan, turn on the heat and give it a quick stir. Leave this to bubble away until all the sugar has dissolved; it is so much easier to see that it has dissolved in the clearish liquid than it is when you have added the fruit. Set up your mincer with a large bowl ready to catch the fruit as it comes out. I like to tip my ancient orange Moulinex mincer at an angle so that the juice runs out of the mincer tube rather than back into the mincer mechanics. Start cutting your oranges into quarters. I usually start off handling the hot fruit with a knife and fork, but it soon cools enough to use hand and knife. Poke about in the flesh to check for pips, and remove any that you find. Today I found only three pips in the whole 2 kilos, but it does depend on the variety; Sevilles are usually more pip than fruit! Feed the de-pipped quarters through your mincer. I use the finest plate because Bossman likes it that way, and he eats most of it, but if you like a lot of texture, use the coarser one. By the time you have finished mincing, the sugar should have dissolved. Just tip all the orange pulp into the jam pan and give it a good stir to break up the lumps. What was an opaque whitish mess transforms into a translucent orange scrumtiousness when it hits the hot syrup. When you have brought the whole lot back to the boil, test for setting. I kid you not! The fact that the pressure cooking uses a lot less liquid that conventional cooking means that the pectin content is very concentrated, and I have never failed to achieve a good set within minutes of reaching a good rolling boil. Jar up as usual, then wash the pots ready for the next batch...but not before you have scraped out all the sticky bits and enjoyed them on a crust of bread.

Awards and Fairies

I have received three lovely awards in the last week or so, but have delayed showing them until I found time to change the blog background to a better match for the season. Here they are; the One Lovely Blog award from Faye, and the Marie Antoinette Award and the Love Blog Award both from Marion.

I know I am supposed to pass them on to another set of people, but most blogs I visit either already have them, or don't accept awards for one reason or another. If you don't have them, but would like them, please consider them yours!

Friday, January 23, 2009

On the Rocks

I have a dozen or so blogs in the Embroidery section of my Blog Reader. Most of them I just use as eye-candy; admiring the work, but realising that I can never reach their level of expertise. When I see work by Hideko, Judy, and others of their ilk, I am full of admiration, but I am not really inspired. On the other hand, when I make my almost daily visit to The Beauty of Life, a blog that started off in the Embroidery folder, but now promoted to the Must Read "A" list, I always come away inspired by Paula's handiwork, or entertained by her writing. On Tuesday, she showed some embroidered paperweights she was making for a PIF, and referred to others that she had made in the past. In her usual generous way, she shared how she made them, and from where her inspiration came. I couldn't wait to try. My first thoughts were of lichen on rocks; the pink marble outcrops in my garden have their patches of bright yellow and silver grey, but a search of Google Images found the photo above, showing much more varied colours, although on an equally pinkish rock.

I didn't have any pinky grey felt, but I did have a felted pinky grey vest in the depths of my duster bag. My camera has its own weird take on colour. I have had to play with the following photos to get the thread colours to look anything like the real colour, but take my word for it, the pebble is covered in a bit of Gran's pink vest...

I have only used French Knots. The tapestry wool is DMC Colbert, given to me by a friend who had a few odd part skeins left over from a project. It is thicker than ordinary Anchor or DMC tapestry wool, and so ended up in a bit bag of thread I used for making needlepoint spectacle cases, rather than in the boot box that holds regular gauge needlepoint threads. I rummaged around in my stranded threads for matching colours and added a few more knots, but it all looked rather flat, so around the grey knots, I tried using a variagated lavender coloured floss, and I felt much happier with the result.

Five or six years ago, I brought some Dylon Cold Water dye back from the UK, and had great fun dying cheap white embroidery floss. Most of it has now been used, but I have some odds and ends left. Suddenly, lichen went out of the window, and I had rock garden in mind! When it became clear I would need more greens, I decided variagated was the easy way to go, but I didn't have any, so needs must when...etc.

I have some Cromotex fabric painting felt tip pens. They are cheap as chips, but they do what they say on the packet; colour fibre. I used a shallow plastic tray, scribbled patches of all my colours onto the tray, sprayed them with water and pressed odds and ends of green floss onto the resulting wetness, spraying as I went until the thread was damp enough to absorb the colour and blend it. A quick blast from my heat gun dried it and set the colour, and a swift swipe with the iron smoothed out the kinks and restored the shine. I think I need to find a source of Dylon again...I feel this may only be the first of a series of Rock Gardens...

Monday, January 19, 2009

All I did ....

...was to send my friend Pam some stamped images with her birthday card, and look what happens; she sends me this wonderful RAK of charm squares, some silver love stickers and this card with an iris folded cat. Aren't there some lovely people in the world? It is especially appreciated because I know Pam isn't feeling too good right now, but she went to the trouble of making me feel good! Thank you Pam.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Just under the wire...

...for the Papertake Weekly Challenge! Here's my Sunday night take on Dawny's Sketch #6.

Papers are Artylicious, base card, ribbon, corners and peel-off text from stash. The image is one of my hand-carved eraser stamps, inked up with a freebie four colour mini pad, and stamped onto textured card from a recycled Christmas card.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thursday Challenges

The challenge this week at Cute Card Thursday is to "Have a Giggle", and this Sugar Nellie image of Cheddar reading his book of Big Cats always makes me smile. Then when I read on This Thursday, it's all about... that their challenge #36 was "Something with Whiskers" I realised I had killed two birds with one stone, or two mice with one cat....

Cheddar was coloured with watercolour. All papers used are Funky Hand.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I've signed up for one of the February ATC swaps on a Group I have been dormant on for a while. The theme is postage stamps, and there has to be a minimum of three stamps on each one. In an effort to tidy my desk the other week, I sorted all the postage stamps overflowing from a Ferrer Rocher box into subject matter, and put each group into a seperate zippy. I found Mole in the Birds and Beast section, and the words molehill and mountain immediately sprang to mind. I looked for mountains in the landscape zippy, scanned in the US stamp at high resolution, and used it as a background. I added the text in my graphics programme before printing it out. The second background was done in the same manner. I used a 4"x6" photo card to print the two ATC backs, cut them out, and then added the stamps and embellishment. Just in case you make the same mistake that I did at first, the turquoise stamp below shows an ice racing skate, and not a submarine with an odd shaped sail...

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


I haven't made an ATC for ages, and as this blog was originally set up with ATCs in mind, I thought I would make an effort. The first one is my version of this Ismaki Challenge Sketch. The tree stamp is home carved, the swirl is Inkadinkado and the snowflake is a peel-off. The papers are scraps from my bit drawer.

The second ATC is supposed to be for a Christmas card collage swap on FAPATCs. As it is the twelth day of Christmas, the large decorated tree fading away into insignificance seemed quite appropriate! At the moment there is only one other name down; the person who suggested it, so this may be a one to one.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Möbius Neckwarmer

The front view.

The back; or is it a hat?

I have had a small ball of eau de nil Jaeger silk and merino hanging around since the 1980s. I shredded a small amount of it to felt into leaves and seed case for a poppy, but I thought there wasn't really enough for anything useful. I came across a reference to Möbius scarves, and went blog-hopping and web-surfing to find out more, and decided I probably had enough of this soft non-itchy mixture to knit a neckwarmer version.

I hadn't realised until I had done 8 or 10 rows, just how much stocking stitch would roll, so I did another 8 rows in purl, then 8 in knit, so I ended up with quite a pleasing Michelin man effect.

Just for the fun of it, I used a hairy caterpillar yarn to continue for a round and to cast off once I ran out of the Jaeger.

If you fancy trying the magic of möbius, here are a couple of links;
Cat's cowl scarf pattern that explains her method of casting on, and Linda's version that shows you another way to start.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Get ahead; get a hat...

Just a quick post of one of the odds and ends that slipped off my knitting needles over Christmas. It has been so unusually cold here over the last month or so that I needed another hat as an alternative to my frog green fleecy pull-on, so decided to try the free bucket hat pattern designed by Amy Swenson for Make One Yarn Studio. I found it at Indiknits. There is a provisional cast on, then you knit to the edge of the brim, on a circular needle, increasing as you go, make a purl row to define the edge, then knit the outside of the brim decreasing again. You next pick up your provisional cast on, knitting two together to make a double brim. The pattern stated Aran weight wool, but I used what I had in the box, a thickish red yarn called Lana, chosen because it was the nearest thing in colour to my red gloves. It is produced in China, but without any statement of content, so it is probably Acrylic. Not surprising as it cost €1.50 for 100 gms and was bought for knitting Gnomes. The Spanish word for wool is lana, but is used just as vaguely as wool is in English, to mean yarn for knitting...
Edited to add link to pdf for hat.

Friday, January 02, 2009

And my heart will go on...

....and on...and one day may get where I want it to go..but in the meantime, Paula's suggestion that I embroider pansies in the left hand patch was an excellent one, but I had already bitten the bullet and repeated the buttonhole wheel. I have unpicked the orange fly stitch from the seam on the left, and it already looks better, but I still have a mish-mash where that seam meets the stars. I think the time has come to pin it up where I can see it and let it brew for a while.

Yesterday was a downer, as first thing in the morning we had a phone call to say that a dear old friend had died bang on midnight. I say bang, because as her son later told us, being determined to last the year, she went just as the fireworks started. I'm not sad for her, as she has had a painful few months, and said she was ready to go, but I am very sad for her husband. They have been married for 62 years, and he is going to find life very hard from now on. I just hope he can forgive me for wishing him a happy new year when I picked up the phone.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

I'm not happy...

...with the curved Herringbone seam to the left of the centre. I think I shall unpick it. I added some shiny orange Fly stitches, but they haven't improved things, just made it more of a jumbled mess...I think it needs something more regular in its spacing.

I am happy with the beads on the bush, and I decided on a buttonhole circle to fill the left hand patch's space. I still need to do a chain stitch border like this around it and the third fan. I have added some straight stitch arrows in a single strand of black, and may add something or other to the centres.

The stars at the bottom have had another layer added, and some black French Knots. I'll finish off the third star when I decide what I am doing with the centre left seam. I used the scanner to produce these pictures. I can't complain about the focus, but the colour is a bit off; in real life the colours are warmer.

Happy New Year Everyone; Happy Crafting!
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