Cross Stitch

Changes and Challenges

The readers of this blog may have noticed a new theme – bear with me, you may notice different ones over the coming weeks. I have yet to decide on the one that I feel comfortable with. The reason for this sudden appearance change, is no more than I feel like getting the broom out and sweeping through everything. I feel like I have many things on the go and nothing being accomplished.

For my reading world - The challenges I set myself at the beginning of the year are bumping along nicely. I seem to be lacking in the Wodehouse department, but I am reading one currently. The 12 random reads is over half done and I think it is a good way of reminding yourself what you have on your bookshelf.

I have my Mary Stewart book to read for Mary Stewart Reading Week which starts Sunday 14 September. I have perhaps foolishly, put myself in a position to read and review a book in a week.

Going into October is the Margaret Kennedy Reading Week and I have bought a book ready to go for that.

Plus I have my Book Group book to read and the November book also ready to go. I have just bought the new Hercule Poirot and very excited to be reading that. Trouble is I am already reading a book – The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House and it has just got good. I know as readers we all say SO many books SO little time but oh gosh it’s true.

I set myself the challenge to review every book I read way back in 2007 and in the main other than some rereads of Enid Blyton, I have done just that. Lately I have struggled mainly because I read so much during August and I felt I was never going to get on top of it all (I did and I have) but because I felt the reviews were rather lacklustre. I am merely no doubt just suffering from a bit of self-doubt and can’t see the light out of this particular tunnel. I have made a change and now have a little notebook which I scribble down thoughts about a book once finished, as it sometimes is a while until I get to write the review. This notebook has been a godsend as it is full of all sorts now – as I think of things and I need to scribble them down.

I point your attention to a new page at the top of my blog – Author’s List of Works. This is certainly a new challenge and work in progress. Because I read so many books by the same author, I wanted to consolidate that information into one place and so you will see that I will list their works and also with links to my reviews. Three authors are up there so far, but this will increase as time goes on. Do tell me what you think?

So that is the reading, but there is also all the other things that I enjoy doing. I have too many projects on the go and I need to start finishing them. Trouble is I see something and I want to have a go at that… then something else pops up and so on.

  • I have some cross stitch I have not picked up in months (if not over a year) and it has not that much to do on it but yet it remains untouched.
  • There is a bookmarker which I enjoy making which has yet to be finished.
  • An ornament I made just needs its ribbon re-stitching on there.
  • There  are some knitted hearts that I need to do something with
  • Knitted juggling balls just need finishing off and bells attached
  • A purse needs finishing off and the crochet by my mum needs attaching
  • A pom pom explosion has happened and I have had a fanciful idea of making a rug… it has waned somewhat.

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  • Then I saw some entralac knitting and wanted to have a go…..

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  • But I am in the middle of knitting a cowboy

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I think I need to finish some of these nearly finishes!

I need to treat it all as mini challenges. But I am sure as the nights draw in and there is more interesting things on the TV (well I can dream) I can concentrate on some of them.

Another challenge I am working on in the latter part of the year is to lose weight. It is not something that I ever if at all go on about on here, but I am trying and so far so good. Breaking away from a well known slimming group and going it alone with a group of friends, still following the same principles in two weeks has worked out quite well. Early stages and I want to get to the 6 week stage, as I know a lot of it is to do with habits and breaking them.

With the push for weight loss, comes the change I need in my exercise routine. I am stuck in a rut with it and whilst I enjoy it, I need to do something else as my body is becoming too used to it. So I have decided to change it around, and mix it up and as of this morning, puffed my way round a little circuit in the gym, something I have not done for ages and ages. I will push myself swimming and concentrate on not lifting my shoulders out the water and breathing correctly and not straining my neck.  So far so slowly, however I have noticed that my neck is not so strained but I keep holding my breath!

Sometimes we need to just shake everything up a bit and as you may have noticed I have not exactly set myself anything specific, just sorted of laid it all bare for me to see (and you if you have read this far). I wonder how I will feel in a few weeks time? In the meantime ….. ever onwards.

 

Unravelling….

It is a yearly outing in October that mum and I head to the Knitting and Stitching Show held at Alexandra Palace. I have mentioned many times on this blog and looking back it is almost like Groundhog Day.

2010 Visit

2011 Visit

2012 Visit

I won’t bore you with the same old details – but rest assured there were some very familiar noises on the coach. The two ladies adjacent to us, commented on every bit of driving, direction of travel, journey, the M25 and gave the poor coach driver earache no doubt. These coach drivers at the particular company we use have the patience of saints. They did come unstuck at one point when they were asking him personal questions and he said he did not see his children anymore…..silent did ensure….but no for long. Their main complaint was that there was not enough cross stitching.

Well to be fair to them, they were correct. However, everything has fads and is cyclical I am sure and therefore if you know that is the case then don’t bother coming if only to save my ears! In the years that I have been going I have seen it decline, and it is definitely knitting and other wool related crafts which are coming back in fashion. One particular stall used to be huge, as they sold so much cross stitch material, both aida and evenweave. Now though you could have walked past them and not noticed, it was that small and also they had branched out into selling other things. The lesson is if you want to stay in business then you have to go with the changes and what the market wants. The market wants at the moment, wool and material.

I will say there was a plethora of sewing machine stalls, nicely complemented by where you could by plenty of material and some wonderful material at that. I blame the Great British Sewing Bee and in fact one contestant (male) was there from that programme. I am sure this has something to do with the current economic climate and in trying to make do and mend, or create something which is unique.

Creatures of habit we did exactly the same thing we do every year, go round the outside then up and down the stalls in the middle and then split up buy what we want and then meet back together and get a second opinion on some of the things we have seen.

I know all you want to see is what I have bought, so here is the obligatory photo

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So what do we have -

To the left of the picture there are some weaving boards. You wind the wool round the jagged edges then you weave with something contrasting. I have made an attempt but I want to get it right first, as one of them is going to be a Christmas present. There is also some lovely Oliver Twist threads there too.

Then following across the picture is a pin cushion from Sue Hawkins who has been a favourite of mine (and mum) for many years. It is thanks to here I have made oodles of the bookmarkers she does that have been sold and also given out as presents for many years. I have got many of her items over the years, and this is another one to add to the collection, which was bought for an early birthday present.

Then it is a plethora of felt. Two bundles of different felt sizes in different colours. Felt Fantastic is a book I have had my eye on for a while as it comes from the lovely people at Blooming Felt. There is also some felt bird shapes, a bag of felt balls and a felt iPad cover.Not sure if you can see the little black dog at the bottom right of the picture – he is a Scottie dog. He could look good on my  cover although not to be mistaken for a Radley I am sure. I need to get on the website and buy some more stuff with the 15% voucher I got at the show too! I need to buy some more red circles to make poppies with. I like the felt things, although I am not interested in needle felting or sticking my knitting in the wash to felt that up.

Not bad considering, but what I have come away with is oodles of ideas and an itch to want to try them all. Always the way, but in the meantime I will keep plodding along. I have some items that need finishing and I must crack on with the Christmas presents for this year to.

I did make a list of things to look up at home, one particular stall there sells all the wonderful Lizzie Kate, Waxing Moon Designs, Twisted Thread, Pine Mountain designs as well as many other American designers. Trouble is they are priced quite expensively and the two ladies that run the stall are very snooty – they always look down their noses at you and it puts me right off! They are a bit pushy in their sales technique. It is funny what puts you off buying from different places.

I wonder if the show in 2014 will be exactly the same? Of course it will.

Another A to Z….

A is for Antiques Roadshow. It is coming to The Royal Marines Museum in a couple of weeks and I am off with some mugs/cups that my late Nan had, which I chose to keep. I don’t think they are worth much, but I can always live in hope. Plus might see Fiona Bruce too. Though I won’t tell Elaine at Random Jottings, who is not overly keen on her tv presence!

B is for Bank Holidays – we have two in May. I do love a four-day week!

C is for Canasta. One particular friend has got the rest of us into playing this rather long but thoroughly enjoyable card game – it has become addictive. And nights and afternoon’s out are based around us playing a few hands. 

is for Diet.  The last time I did one of these posts, D was for diet then – it still is. So perhaps the next letter down should be glossed over?

E is for eating out. I have been once to The Fish Factory at Littlehampton with friends, last year. Recently I went with my parents, and it was just as good. They liked it to and the choice of fish is wonderful, the chips delicious, the cheesecake for pudding divine and the portions ENORMOUS!

F is for future things to look forward to. London trip to include Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Masons. Another Spa break, weekend away with the girls on the Isle of Wight. Readers Day at Winchester. Portsmouth Bookfest.

G is for Rosie Goodwin. I have never read any of her books before and was sent her latest Home Front Girls to read. I loved it, and it reminded me very much of the novels and sagas of  Maureen Lee.

H is for habits. It takes three weeks to break one apparently. I need to break the going down the biscuit aisle and buying biscuits and eating them all habit. It might help with the diet Jo! It worked this week – only 2 weeks to go then.

I is for Inferno – Dan Brown’s Inferno to be precise. It seems to have rather a mixed bag of reviews, page turning but not going to set fire to the literary world! As I still have The Lost Symbol to read, I think I might refrain from buying this one!

J is for Maggie Joel I have been sent The Second-Last Woman in England to read and review and she will be featuring on my blog towards the end of June.

K is for knitting. I have done a few characters lately, and have pictures on my iPad which I have now put into a post. Look out for them coming soon.

L is for Lego. I am a huge fan and if I had the room, it would all be out and built as it was when I was a kid. Then we had the space and I had a whole town set out, complete with train track that went round the perimeter. But in the interim I do have a wonderful shop that I was bought a couple of years ago for Christmas. When I opened this huge box, the sheer pleasure on my face apparently upset my dad, he could see the child in me still! It is still made, it took  me a couple of days and despite the dust I love looking at it. I am coveting one of the new exclusives ‘Palace Cinema’ but in the interim, I spotted this book Brick City - a Lego lovers dream – I bought it because it was half price in WHSmiths but if I had the money, the space and the Lego bricks…..

To celebrate the Royal nuptials of Prince William and his bride, Kate Middleton, four Adult Fans of LEGO built a giant scale replica model of a wedding ceremony at Westminster Abbey

M is for Money back from the gas man. I overpaid the last 6 months and did not use as much gas. It has been cold, for a lot longer than normal. But I love cosying up on the sofa or under the duvet with an extra blanket or two – and knitting invariably keeps you warm and saves money it turns out too.

N is for Nexus the new computer system at work. Don’t you just love a new computer system with a wire that goes into the wall but is nowhere near the computer and trails right across the office and is fixed down with black masking tape! To resolve it I was allowed to buy a longer cable – I went for pink. So what – I work in an office full of men.

is for Offer.  Work this one out if you will – 1 x  500g tub of Cottage Cheese is £1.90. 1 x 250g tub of Cottage Cheese is £1.45. That in itself is rather a rip off – then add in the buy 2 of the 250g tubs for £2.50 So that is £2.50 for 500g or £1.90 for 500g. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.

P is for Pointless. The tea time programme on BBC1 is entertaining and informative. Both Richard Osman and Alexander Armstrong make me laugh – and people really do not know stuff!

Q is for Quentin. Caroline Quentin and her National Parks TV programme. She has been in Scotland, Wales and in her final programme into the New Forest. Her delivery and enthusiasm for all she does is rather good and the humour underlying is subtle as well. I have only caught the odd one or two of her Cornwall shows but I hope she does more discovering Britain programmes soon. It is what makes our country so unique.

R is for Running. I have been sneaking in a few little and short runs. But I really think running is not for me. Shin splints, despite proper footwear leave me aching too much. I am not getting the adrenalin kick that I do from this as I do from  swimming, Body Pump, Zumba and even walking. I am a walker not a runner.

S is for Sunday Roasts. Whether it be Chicken, Beef, Pork or Gammon. (I don’t like lamb) you can’t beat a roast with all the trimmings, surprisingly even though I rarely cook one. I decamp to my parents every Sunday where one is probably 99% guaranteed. And amazingly all cooked the slimming way too – and you could not tell. Well perhaps the lack of crispy potatoes but apart from that.

T is for Transworld. One of the lovely publishing houses that send me books galore and the chance to read books I would have avoided in a bookshop.

U is for Uniform. New company (currently same job!) but now I have to wear a fetching black and white spotty scarf! Along with the white shirt and black skirt that I have been wearing for aeons!

V is for Vesta Churchill. A character in Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan (review coming soon). A young black female in Fifties Britain. An interesting idea which the author I am sure will develop as the series goes along.

W is for Winter it is still with us.

X is for X back swimming costumes – the stringy variety – I hate you! Give me a proper back if you will and something that does not get tangled up and tries to garrote me half way through a swim. I have now disposed of all said garments. Mind you what can you do with swimming costumes when the lyrca has gone on them other than throw them in the bin?

Y is for Yes there are some things repeated on this list, compared to my last one back in March! Not intentional, but I have just gone back and looked – funny how certain stuff stays in your conscience.

Z is for Zips. If you watched the Great British Sewing Bee then you will know putting in a zip is a difficult yet clever thing. When you spot a knitting pattern that has one in, I tink it is best to avoid it!

Thanks for persevering to the end. It felt like lately that I had not really been here on the blog, despite the book reviews and so I wanted to rectify that. I am here and in the coming days, weeks, months; there will be some knitting posts, there will be some book reviews and I also have a couple of books to giveaway – so there will be that too. Do pop by whenever you can, I really do appreciate it.

Knitting and Stitching Show 2012

If you have been following my blog for a while or even dare I say the beginning, you may know that I have a craft creativity streak within me and I do share some stitching, knitting and other crafts on here. I get lots of ideas from magazines and websites but also from my annual visit to Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitching Show. This is where there are not just stalls full of wonderful goodies to buy,  but lots of ideas and displays of what you can do with very little or a lot from, thread, materials, wool, beads, paper, wood the list is endless.

Ironically enough reading back from the last two posts about this in 2010 and then again in 2011 there are some striking similarities and 2012 is no different! So in summary, knitting is still very much the ‘in’ thing. Stitching is currently on the wane. The stalls with wool were mobbed, those without were very quiet. Ideal for me who is in the main a stitcher!

Yes, the waste of stall posts were there – the wonder mop and the magic iron! Leather handbags and chocolate! It sells the space and when you have a business head on, you realise that makes sense and it is better than empty stands but still…..

So what did I buy, not that much to be honest. Money was spent at The Blooming Felt stall which is so bright and colourful that I wanted to spend a fortune. But I got some more felt circles to make poppies this year for Remembrance and some felt purses which will end up as Christmas presents I am sure. Some buttons and flowers for decoration and I am good to go.

Decopatch is relatively new craft to have hit the stands, but there are so many things that you can glue patterned paper on to, that you could go mad with it! I didn’t, just bought a Christmas sign to decorate, and some Christmas coloured paper to decorate it with as well as more paper for the Christmas tree that I have been building from the cardboard tubes that you get from tin foil. It is a work in progress because I need a lot of tubes and don’t go through that much tinfoil!

When there is progress in some of these things, then I will update you with the odd picture or two! When the weather changes and the nights draw in, it is lovely to settle down with some crafts. And I really need to settle down with what I bought last year! It has not been touched since I got it, apart from me moving it in and out of my way in the living room.

But I could have this to keep moving round the living room:

 

This is a joint piece of work from many knitters round the country to form a Knitted Village. What can you spot from this small selection of pictures?

Craft is a wonderful thing that brings lots of ideas and people together. My mum and I included.

Oh and if you are wondering about the coach journey, as rereading my previous posts I do mention it! We sat in front of two ladies that did not draw breath from the moment they got on to the moment they got off on the way there….. and on the way back. I know everything about their medical conditions, their dislike of their doctor, what books they read (that was fairly interesting I admit), what their families are doing for Christmas, one daughter’s trouble with working shifts, granddaughter’s love of sweets, what food they eat, where they buy it, Buckingham Palace, how late they will be home…..on….and…..on…..and….on. They never once mentioned whether they enjoyed the day!

But the best of the journey has to go to the lady who asked the coach driver about the possible delays around Wembley Stadium (England were playing a home match that evening and it may have effected the journey back ).

Lady “You would think that Wembley would contact you and tell you that there will be heavy traffic on such a day”

Coach driver “they expect us to keep up to date with traffic, not inform us”

Lady “But it would be much easier if they told you”

Coach driver silent.

I am sure Wembley have the time, money and people to ring up every coach company up in the UK (or should that be Europe?) and warn them that their will be a football match and traffic might be bad, on the off-chance that one of their coaches might just happen to be going past Wembley. I am with the coach driver on this one silence.

And so until next year…….

Swimming and Sewing

From the title you could be forgiven that I have gone mad, and that these two activities do not really go together. But there is a way to combine the two.

I am a swimmer, nothing too adventurous and may I say not to the wonderful standard that the lovely Verity swims who I admire. I do it to help with weight loss and keeping fit. It mixes the week up with the other stuff I do like, PT, Body Pump to name a few. It is also something I share with my dad, who taught me and has done some brave lifesaving acts in the past as well as swim on a regular basis pier to pier at Southsea. We both actively support the local volunteer lifesaving team as well.

Normally I average twice a week and was doing so before Christmas for a long while, it is always 40 lengths which is 1Km (25m length swimming pool), on the odd occasion I have pushed 50 lengths but that is a real push. I was going after work which is not an issue because I finish at a reasonable time, sometimes later but the pool got busier with children after 5pm and there are already swimming lessons going on in two of the lanes, which limits space slightly. Time I was getting in from swimming, I was not having time to cook, well I could but I would have been eating at 8 and when you go to bed at 9 that does not leave a lot of time for digestion. I then had no time to do anything for me in the evenings so I reevaluated what I was doing.

So I thought I would give going before work a go rather than after. I am a lark not an owl so getting up in the morning is relatively easily but it requires preparation the night before otherwise it can all go wrong and you start the day playing catch up. I challenged myself this in December and thought getting up when it is still dark, getting to the pool for when it opens at 0630 and being at work by 0730 and it not getting light until gone 0830 was probably the worst time to start this. But I achieved it and I am pleased and continued this into January. Now when I come out to go to work the sun is starting to rise and I am greeted to a lovely pinky blue sky.

So I know I can get up early and do it I needed a new angle on this so challenging myself to swim an extra day than the normal twice I set myself was the order of the day. I did not go mad and just picked a particular week and said this is the week to swim 3 times – and I did. So in January I swam 11km (Last year I swam 98km in 12 months) and so far in February I have swam 3km.

So what is the point of the stitching – well as you may have realised, going swimming in the morning means you have wet costume and towels hanging round all day before you can go home and do something about it. Getting cold in the car and smelly! I am fortunate to work in a place with some lovely accommodation managers, cleaners and valets who kindly (once I had gained permission from my boss) to let me use the dryer to dry them off. Bless the lovely ladies they go one step further and actually wash them and dry them and even fold my swimming costume so precisely. They even call me ‘their little tadpole’ now! I wanted to get them something to say thank you but rather than the normal biscuits or chocolates I thought I would make something for their office and so the result is above and below

I thought the picture rather apt, the blue watery material good and the ric-ric edging matches the colour of the costume and hat! And the cake well that is why I am swimming so much – I have eaten too much cake in the past!

They loved it and why because I had thought about it, and they are more than happy to help this little tadpole out!

The Last Christmas Card

I was not very good this year and made hardly any cards (Christmas), however I did make and send one to the little girl of one of my neighbours. I had made her mum one for her birthday and she was enamoured with it, so thought it would be a nice little gift.

That was not my intention when I was finishing the back stitching, as it is meant to say ‘Merry Xmas’ but with a sudden flash of inspiration I changed it to her name. I hope she liked it.

All the Cross Stitching magazines out at this time of year say now is the time to start making the cards for next year, and perhaps I may well do when I feel like stitching something small. But I have got back into my stitching work which is called ‘The Library’. Checking back the last picture I showed you was in July 2011 (shock horror!) but I took it with me to my mum’s over Christmas for something to do on Christmas Eve and it has grown a bit more. I have picked it up since then as well but I am going to have to buy some more thread soon, as I have run out of some colours but want to make my order worthwhile, so going to keep going until I have exhausted the threads I do have left.

The Library - July 2011

And so for a more recent update

The Library - Dec 2011

Seeing the two pictures, makes me want to try and get it finished in 2012 at least! Although I might have to intersperse it with other knitting and the like, so much choice, so little time.

Christmas Cards & Presents

I have good intentions of making lots of Christmas cards but I get quite easily distracted because there is always something new to try, but eventually I do settle down to something. I have somewhat neglected my larger project for many months now, so to get back with the stitching I thought I would try a little free kit of a magazine. One to stitch because it is by Margaret Sherry and I love her designs, and stitched many before and have a lot more stitch as well.

It tested me, as the material I could tell was cheap and the amount of back stitch started to get on my nerves, however it was worth it in the end. Now I have to decide who to give this to.

And while we are on Christmas, thoughts turn to presents so having finished some scarves with some funky wool one or maybe two of these could end up as so.

The black and white scarves, of which there is two in the photo was wool from last year. The purple/blue wool (bought this year) one was a pain to knit and took a couple of goes to get into the rhythm. Not a wool I would choose again to be honest.  Wool from last year which was my mum’s choice has arrived at my needles so more scarves are imminent.

Hopefully this will produce two scarves.

From my sojourn to Alexandra Palace back in October, felting was becoming a growing craft.  I have already experimented with the poppy which I wore with pride leading up to and including Remembrance Sunday. Many people stopped and asked about it, and perhaps if I could have got hold of more of the red circles (they were out of stock) I would have a lot of orders. Next year perhaps with any profit going to The Poppy Appeal.

Keeping with a flower theme, I bought some flower shapes already cut out and beautifully thick felt, not the thin stuff from childhood although that has many uses. I wanted to decorate some bags and this was what I came up with, following no pattern this was the result. (Please excuse the wonky photography) I have since bought some more bags (brightly coloured) and more felt flowers.

So on with the knitting, the flowers and bags, the stitching…..