A sewing project for the future

Now this post is likely to confirm a certain level of craziness you may never have realised I had. And that's ok, because when I saw this partially (in fact barely) completed embroidered tablecloth when we visited Snape Maltings over the summer, I knew there was no way I was going to leave this in the shop. I also knew that there was a high chance that I wouldn't do anything with this for quite a while and that's ok too (and now that I've found crochet, it could be even a bit further down the list, but the good news it's still on the list!)

Now isn't it beautiful?

My linen tablecloth embroidery project - someone else has made a start

And it has the potential to be a stunner. Even though it's been many years since I've done any embroidery. And there is no pattern or colour chart. And I don't have any threads, or actually I may have some but that's reliant on me finishing another long-held cross stitch project. I've dug that out again since we've been back from Suffolk (this one that I shared on Instagram), so that's a good sign but quickly realised I needed my eyes testing as the count was a bit smaller than I remembered.

My linen tablecloth embroidery project - just a leaf started in this corner

Predictably MOH was on hand to ask what I needed this tablecloth for and where I could possibly use it. Of course knowing this was coming I was ready for it and my answer of "on that old French table in the garden" was clearly said confidently and assertively enough that it was accepted.  Must remember that for the future. It's true though it will look great on that table, and one day I may even get around to re-painting that too.

My linen tablecloth embroidery project - a completed corner

I think there's enough clues in the work that's already taken place to carry on, and make the tablecloth my own. I'll worry about what the stitch is when I'm closer to starting I think, unless you can identify it from these photos.

My linen tablecloth embroidery project - a completed yellow rose

There's a pink and peach coloured rose in each corner, or rather that will be my aim. There's one completed yellow rose midway between those, so there's another three to do, and there's a central section which hasn't been started yet, but again the colour for that isn't something that needs deciding now.

I told you this post might confirm a certain level of craziness, but for ten pounds, it really did need rescuing didn't it?

The Blagger's Guide to Gardening...

Gardening could be something you grow into, or maybe it's something we all need a little help with along the way. I first got into gardening through a case of having to when I bought my previous house that came with a Very Overgrown Garden. I had no idea what I was doing, but luckily dad was on hand to guide me - and do a lot of the work. 

Many of you tell me you have no idea on where to start with gardening, sadly I can't lend you all my dad. He'd be very willing you understand (and at times mum would be happy to send him your way too) but I have the next best thing for you and that's this Extremely Busy and Important Person's Guide to Gardening.  The Scotts Miracle-Gro company created this "blagger's guide to gardening" because 61% of Brits say they avoid gardening as they deem it too complicated. Or maybe it's because they don't have my dad on hand to help get them started... 

Photo credit: The Extremely Busy and Important Person's Guide to Gardening

Photo credit: The Extremely Busy and Important Person's Guide to Gardening

It's true that there is a bit of gardening lingo that those in the know often try to bamboozle you with, but this guide aims to help you overcome that so you will be able to "talk the talk" with neighbours, friends and family and well anyone really. 

It's designed along the lines of those popular Ladybird Books for Adults which always make me smile and it also draws on a range of gardening guides from author and botanist Dr D G Hessayon, and as well as the guide there's plenty more useful information over at www.lovethegarden.com/littlegreenlies 

The guide is split into three sections: lawns, plants and weeds.

Let's start with my speciality, weeds!

Every gardener and every garden has weeds. Don't let them tell you otherwise. Really. Even the most preened National Trust gardens have them, I know because I look out for weeds when we visit gardens and it's always reassuring, and I might just do a little dance of joy.

Photo credit: The Extremely Busy and Important Person's Guide to Gardening

Photo credit: The Extremely Busy and Important Person's Guide to Gardening

Scotts Miracle-Gro sent me products to tackle each section of the guide, for the weeds there was this rather large vat of Weedol Pathclear. And it was perfect to help us tackle our front garden.

Weedol pathclear

It's powerful stuff and prevents new weeds appearing for up to three months, which even in my book is a big win. As with any chemicals it's important to read the instructions carefully and avoid getting it onto yourself. 

Here you can see MOH taking it all very seriously. 

Reading the weedol instructions, something I'd always recommend

Now if you're wondering what the toothbrush-like attachment is for (tip: it's not a toothbrush) then this is another fabulous work saving innovation, the power sprayer. While using your forefinger to operate a manual spray doesn't sound overly onerous, I think it depends on how many weeds you have, and how much of a workout your forefinger wants.  This device is battery operated and makes spraying weeds easier for your forefinger, and helps you to get the weedkiller exactly where it should be, with three 'flow' settings.

Getting to work blitzing those weeds

It's worked well on these smaller ground level weeds and some moss which started to grow on our driveway, and if you have weeds that you want to zap I'd recommend getting them early. I have a few larger weeds and they've been a bit more resistant to its charms, but not for much longer I hope.

So, moving onto plants

With the weeds under control it's time for the part of gardening I find the most rewarding. The plants. The bits that make our garden look like a garden, rather than an outdoor rectangular space. They're how we can stamp our personality on a garden, and my tip here if you don't know what to grow is to take a look at gardens near yours. You'll start to see plants cropping up regularly in those gardens, and that's a good indication that this plant will also grow in your garden.  

Your next challenge is to work out what it is. The easiest way is probably to take a photo and either search for it online or show a friendly person at the garden centre and ask for their help.  Everyone likes to share their knowledge, right?

Photo credit: The Extremely Busy and Important Person's Guide to Gardening

Photo credit: The Extremely Busy and Important Person's Guide to Gardening

Where the Miracle-Gro All Purpose Plant Food comes in is that it's the easiest way to feed and water your garden so you can grow spectacular flowers, bigger vegetables and so on. I mean imagine if you were a happy plant in a garden centre being regularly fed and watered and then you were bought, planted in a new space and then left to fend for yourself. Exactly.

Using Miracle-Gro all purpose plant food in the greenhouse

You'll not be surprised to know that dad's a fan of feeding his plants, and as he has some spectacular results in his Norfolk garden, which can't just be put down to "good soil" I think he's got a point and we should all feed our plants, and give them the help they need.

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And so to lawns

You'll know grass - and circles - have been a major project for us this year, and grass, or lawns, are very important in our gardens. Whether they have bald patches where the goal has been or maybe the dog has been, or in our case where the squirrel has started digging, they can prove to be very emotive things lawns. 

Photo credit: The Extremely Busy and Important Person's Guide to Gardening

Photo credit: The Extremely Busy and Important Person's Guide to Gardening

Grass quite happily grows in most places, and often ends up growing in places you don't want it to as well.  We've got some bald patches in ours where we need to give it a bit more attention, but generally it grows, and often there's weeds and moss in there too.  There definitely is in ours.  This EverGreen Complete 4 in 1 Lawn Weed & Feed aims to help making it easy to feed lawns for thicker, greener grass and killing weeds and moss all at once.

Miracle gro complete 4 in 1 lawn feed and all purpose plant food

As with any pesticides it's important to read the label and follow the instructions. My challenge here has been the weather and enough good weather when we've been around. After all the rain, the grass has grown, so understandably MOH has wanted to cut it, that's meant no lawn feed for 2-3 days and then of course the rain has been back, or we've been out.

So I've yet to try this but I am keen to see how it goes. The pack says the moss and weeds will go black, so that's something to be aware of, and that any grass blackening is temporary. I'm running out of potential good days to try this out, but I'll be sure to let you know how this goes.

So if gardening scares you, take a look at the guide and let me know what you think, because gardening really isn't - or shouldn't be - an exclusive world for the knowledgeable, and if all else fails perhaps you can open negotiations with my mum to borrow my dad!

* This is a collaborative post but all views are my own

Reflecting on my week #3

There was a definite theme to my week last week, and that was getting crafty. My working week was nicely interrupted by a visit to Fellowes in Doncaster to join their blogger craft session, and keen to find out more about the company, meet the people I've been speaking to in person and spend some time crafting on Wednesday I was up early and at Kings Cross before I usually leave the house.

I don't go to either Kings Cross or St Pancras stations regularly but each time I do I'm always amazed at their structures. Whether it's the restored roof over the platforms at St Pancras or the modern structure above the concourse at Kings Cross (above). The sunlight was streaming through it that morning and it really did look quite special. As I was early, that in itself is a bit of a rarity, it was great to find a place to sit and people watch while I tucked into my Leon breakfast pot - poached egg, smoked salmon and avocado - which was seriously good.

Settled on the train, out came my crochet and the newspaper on the iPad and the 1 hour 38 minutes passed in no time. Two more granny squares were completed too on each leg of the journey, so that was a bonus.

You may have seen my Facebook post from the day or seen my halloween and Christmas crafts on instagram. I don't know what it is but colouring, laminating and cutting shapes out proved to be very relaxing. And very productive.

I'll be sharing more about the crafts in a separate post, so look out for that.

I'd not been to Doncaster before, and I didn't see much of the town as we headed straight out to the huge iPort on arrival, but I got the feeling that it's a strong community. That was reinforced on my journey home as the train was full of footballer supporters, mostly Doncaster who were playing Arsenal that evening, but also Arsenal and Chelsea too. It almost felt as if the town were escorting me home!

Then the next day there was more crafting, but this time at work as part of the Street Fans exhibition at The Fan Museum in Greenwich.  They currently have an exhibition which they bill as "a unique liaison between street art and fan making" and I think it could be pretty special.

With the equipment above - and the artwork provided by Nathan Bowen - with guidance I set about making my own fan, and learnt that while it's precise, it's not as tricky as you'd imagine.

As you'd expect it starts with folding the artwork by placing it between two cardboard "pleaters" which are fan shaped and provide the guide on where to fold.  It took a few folds to get the technique, but who knew that it'd make use of the edge of the table.

With the edges of the artwork trimmed, next up was trimming the spines before attaching the paper to them.  This was the part where it was easier to get into a rhythm, with the artwork to the left and the spines to the right, a small pot of PVA glue applied to the spines with a cocktail stick,

And this was the result, pretty impressive isn't it?

My Nathan Bowen fan made with help from experts from the Fan Museum in Greenwich

This weekend we escaped London and headed up to Norfolk with our bikes and hoping for nice weather. We couldn't have been more spoilt. Our plan wasn't as ambitious as usual, just a cycle to nearby Thornham for a pub lunch and back again, but we still managed to clock up twenty miles, and a rather nice lunch too!

Along the way I stopped to take a picture of this magnificent magnolia tree on cycle route 1 just before Choseley. It's a pretty tree at most times of the year, but it looked particularly good with its autumnal colours against the blue Norfolk skies.

A magnolia tree on route one in Norfolk

Yesterday the weather was equally as good and Hunstanton was busy, but we couldn't help but pop into town for an ice cream - these are particularly good, as the queue testifies.  Yesterday's flavours were capuccino (MOH) and mango for me, and both were enjoyed with a brief bask in the sun.

ice cream in sunny hunny

Quite a difference to today though, as I sit here writing this it's chucking it down. Ah well, umbrella it is, and a more autumnal wardrobe too.  I've another busy week ahead of me, and I'm sure you have too. Mine includes a couple of evenings out and a haircut, and reminders for me to book a doctors appointment - I keep forgetting, and to work out how I'm going to fit in some blog reading.

I'm sure I'll manage at least some of it!