Thursday, 27 June 2013


I seem to have added another project to the list....  Its not my fault, By Hand are doing a sewalong on their blog. But its OK, I got the fabrics in the Abakhan 70% sale - the grey is the outside, and is a lovely soft crepe (I'm a bit concerned that it's too lightweight, but we'll see how it goes), and the pattern for the lining is a gorgeous cotton lawn that was labeled 'Vintage Lavender'. I'm really kicking myself that I didn't buy more because I absolutely love it!  And you even get a lovely woven label from the girls at By Hand London with your pattern. Isn't that cool?

And in other news, I finished the latest baby quilt top at the weekend - I think I'm going to call it Snowy Owl (there are owls and it's a snowball pattern, so obvious really, right?).

The weather was so dismal here this evening that the only place dry with a bit of light was the polytunnel, so you get lettuce and sweetcorn as well!!  I love the bold fabric patterns in large blocks, and how quickly it all went together (and less cutting!).

I have an idea about the quilting, but I'm not sure I can describe what's in my head.  It's going to be bright threads for a start, and I might use a couple (or maybe three) different colours, and the general trend is going to concentrate on the white fabric in vertical lines, but bulging out into white octagon/snowball bits. Does that make sense?  I did see on Kaffe's quilts that the colour block snowballs were quilted in circles to make them appear more circular but I'm not sure it would work with mine as they've got the sashing/larger white areas.  Hmm....

Editied to link up with Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


I am lost.  The beautiful beast is making a worrying sound much like a coffee grinder, and telling me its not going to play because there's something wrong.  And the sewing machine Doctor is on holiday.

I suspect the problem is my lack of maintenance, and the fact that prior to my ownership it was stuck in a room unused for +5 years.

Hopefully its not terminal.

So last week I cut all the fabric for the Snowball quilt, and bought a skirt and blouse pattern (from Tilly).  Then the printer ran out of ink. It's really not going well is it....

At the weekend down at my folks I picked up the old sewing machine, and yesterday I printed out my patterns and started sewing together some of my snowball blocks.  I haven't got any pictures of that, instead you've got a very disappointing phone camera picture of the mess next to the polytunnel.

What should be there is windbreak netting, then a one year old hedge, then a strip of grass, then the tunnel... and tonight I decided to do something about it.  Little mower and hand shears came out and I carefully cut down the weeds/grass and tried to find the hedge plants.  Some I did, some I accidentally chopped, and some have disappeared without a trace.

The problem was that the hedge was planted at the beginning of last year (or maybe the end of 2011) and then it rained. Constantly for the next 12 months.  On heavy clay.  A number of the hedge plants got flooded out and never really took, or couldn't handle the neglect!  I have got a few mature plants in pots, so once I've cleared the area I'll put those in to replace the ones we lost.  Might mean we end up with a buddleja hedge though - least the bees will be happy!

I made some progress then I gave up because I was sneezing and couldn't breathe, and as usual my skin reacted to whatever I was cutting through and my arms went bright red, blotchy and itchy.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Rhymes with safe asset

Lots of people had been posting about the Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the London Fashion and Textile museum on FB so I decided that I wanted to go.  In the end with other activities and holidays etc. it turned out that the only date I could make before the exhibition closed was last weekend. Conveniently this co-incided with my Mum's birthday so I could combine the trip to London with a trip to the folks!

I asked a friend who was in the industry in London where to go to buy fabric, and was informed Goldhawk Road was the mecca! So I headed there in the morning.  Amy was right.  Unfortunately we turned left out of the underground station and completely missed all the fabric shops first time round, then spent a while wandering around before going back to the tube station and turning right.  Then there was a stretch of shops both sides of the road just at the end of Shepherd's Bush market.

Initially I was in shock.  I didn't know where to turn and what to look at - there were so many shops and they were all crammed full of loads of different types of fabric.  I didn't have a plan or shopping list, just the knowledge that I was looking for dressmaking fabrics for a few patterns I've got in mind to try.  After wandering around a few shops, I recovered a bit and started to pick out fabrics that caught my eye - I was trying to stick to cotton or cotton mixes as I think I need to practise a bit with these easier fabrics before attempting some more of the challenging ones.

I picked up and number of cotton prints, a cotton lawn print and some super cheap silky stuff which I think was a cotton/poly mix.  I don't know why but I always gravitate towards blues and purples when I'm looking at anything (this applies to plants as well as fabric) and I wanted to expand my palette a bit so I told Mal that I wasn't to buy those colours.  He was very strict about not letting me buy anything with blue in it! It was torture! 

But then we went off to LFTM to see Kaffe's exhibition and I got to see what colour was all about (see what I did there?!).  It really was quite cool, as you can see from the pictures.  I don't know how he does it but he manages to mix lots of bright and bold colours together without making it look overpowering. He seems to have a fascination with Snowball quilts as well (although I don't seem to have any photos of them...).  My favourite was the diamonds quilt - I think because of the fabric and colour combinations.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Jutland Tour, Part II: Skagen and Aalborg

And relax..... Finally a rest day.  I think we were both a bit tired of bicycles by this point so a train ride to Skagen was in order. Fortunately the guy at the campsite in Hjorring was very helpful and looked up the train times on the internet for us, so we knew we had an early start.  But we dozed and read eBooks on the way so it was OK (we probably should have been admiring the view or something...).

Two seas

Skagen is on the northernmost tip of Jutland where the North Sea and the Baltic Sea meet, and is the Denmark's most popular seaside resort.  What we didn't know much about was the Skagen Painters movement which was influenced by the French Impressionist with a bit of realism thrown in - fortunately the excellent Skagens Museum told us all about them and they even had a cafe in the studio of P.S. and Marie Krøyer.

The Krøyer's studio in the garden of the Skagens Museum

Garden of the studio looking out to Brondums Hotel
I really liked Skagen (that might have been influenced by the weather!) - it was quite small and very tasteful in the village, with most buildings in the traditional yellow walls and red tiled roofs.  None of the modern brash touristy stuff that you get elsewhere.  In fact, everything in Denmark was like that, even the significant Viking monuments were not over-the-top touristy.

Yellow and red

Skagen Lighthouses

Big sky and sand dunes

The day after Skagen, we cycled south.  All the time we'd been cycling north the wind was in our faces, and we were hoping the change of direction would mean we'd be pushed along by the wind.  But it changed! How unfair!! Fortunately the distance from Hjorring to Aalborg wasn't huge and really there was no route choice.  It was just straight down the road.

Our shorter day meant that we made it to the viking burial site of Lindholm Høje on the north side of Aalborg by lunchtime.  The museum there was excellent, with tonnes of interesting info on the history and use of the surrounding area (and most of it with english translation).  The cafe was run by Brian Blessed's Viking cousin - complete with jolly belly laugh, and a most impressive viking beard.  We had  gorgeous pulled pork sandwiches... which was a relief after days of pizza, burgers and steak.  I don't know where the Danes eat out, but we couldn't find it.  Unless you want mexican italian.  There seems to be a Danish infatuation with mexican pizza (meat and chilli as far as we could work out).  Most strange!

The approach to the Museum takes you past the burial site itself and you get a glimpse of the field - it was quite distracting.... Then when you enter the site you get presented with the view of the whole site.  It is absolutely incredible, the size of site just blew me away.  In much the same way I was in awe of the Callanish Stone circle in the Outer Hebrides, I was completely surprised about how impressive it was.

So far they think there are over 700 graves here dating from around the 5th Century through the Vikings in around 1000AD, and they've recently found evidence of villages on the site.

Triangle grave
The design of the stone settings around the graves gave some indication of their ages.  Earlier ones were laid out in triangles or created mounds, and later ones were ships with larger stones at the prow and stern.

Ship grave

Even Morag Coo was impressed

The following day we had another rest, and spent our time wandering around Aalborg.  First stop the city museum, which wasn't great (but free entry so that's ok!).  There was an interesting exhibition about the tobacco factory but that was it.  We did however find a leaflet for a walking tour of the city....

C18th houses

Aalborg Slot (castle) - now home to civil servants

Jens Bang's House - renaissance architecture at its best!

My favourite bit was the Franciscan Monastery Museum.  The Monastery remains were found when building on the main streets of Aalborg, and still remain under the shopping district.  The entrance was this elevator, unassumingly placed on the side of the street. This was it, put your money in the slot and the doors open and you descend into the depths...  It was all quite surreal.  Amusingly entry to the museum was by weight - if there were too many people in the lift, it wouldn't move!

Hjorring - Aalborg, 42.9mi

Monday, 10 June 2013

Jutland Tour, Part I: The race north

OK it wasn't really a race but one of the aims for this tour was to make it to Skagen on the northern tip of Jutland, so we decided to try and get there as quickly as possible, then spend the rest our time in Denmark working our way back south, ticking off all the sights that we wanted to visit. I'd already done a rough route plan using the excellent map on the Danish Cycling Federation website which gave us suggested overnight stops and daily mileages (or kilometre-ages as its mainland Europe!).

We met a german guy at the ferry terminal in Harwich who was towing a trailer around the North Sea Cycle Route (now that is crazy). He said it was great for storage and security but way too heavy.  He'd been defeated by the British weather and was going on to Denmark where it was flatter and hopefully less wet/windy.

German style touring

The overnight crossing from Harwich to Esbjerg was hideous. Gale force winds do not make for a pleasant crossing and my tummy was not too impressed. Once off the boat around lunchtime, we headed into Esbjerg and the Tourist Info to buy the missing two maps for the tour.  We had a brief panic as the Tourist Info building was covered in scaffolding and builders, but the lady at the post office pointed us in the direction of the temporary Tourist Info office.

Strapped down and ready for the off
Getting out of Esbjerg wasn't too difficult and we stopped off to have a look at the strange 'People of the Sea' statues... I don't remember much about the route apart from the wind. The storm winds from overnight had continued and trying to keep a loaded touring bike moving was ridiculously hard. I remember when we were on the country lanes, surrounded by fields and no hedgerows - you came out from the shelter of the farmstead and were practically brought to a standstill by the force of the wind.  I think we were both having second thoughts about the whole adventure at this point - if the wind continued to be that bad we wouldn't be getting anywhere....

People of the Sea

The plan had been to get to Skive, but the reality was that we gave up when we got to the end of National Route 2 at Olgod. So we ended up doing only 36 miles the first afternoon.

Day two aim was to get to Viborg (or beyond if possible). To make up time/distance we decided to take the road as far as Herning, as it was more direct than the cycle routes. I wasn't sure about this but it turned out that the roads are quieter in Denmark and most of the time the vehicles give you more room than in the UK.


Random building in Herning

The wind had slacked off a bit and we made good time in getting to Herning for lunch. After that it was on to the Local Route 21 - the old railway route.  This was the first experience of the proper Danish cycle paths - lovely smooth tarmac, no potholes, and not a road in sight.  As it was the route of the old railway, the path was raised up on an embankment and you got a great view of the surrounding countryside (mostly grass and arable fields).  Going through some villages you could even see the remains of some platforms and station buildings.
What cycle paths should look like.

We got a first experience of Danish village/town churches today as well (the first of many photos).  Iconic whitewashed buildings with red roofs, sometimes with some exposed red brick and a bell tower.  What struck me most was the graveyards, they were so pretty.  Each was beautifully manicured - divided into (family) plots with small hedges and then filled with small shrubs and flowers.  All lovingly maintained.

Karup Kirke

Viborg was lovely.  Situated on the side of two lakes, with the cathedral on a rise above the city.  We arrived and collapsed in the park next to the south lake before working out where the campsite was, and the first thing that struck me was runners.  They were everywhere, single runners and packs of them.  I think that every time we wandered away from the campsite, we saw somebody out running!

Viborg at Sunset

The aim for day three was to get from Viborg to the other side of the Limfjord so we could visit the Viking fortress near Aggersund. Looking at the size of the villages on that side of the fjord, we revised the plan as we didn't think we'd end up being able to find somewhere for dinner.  So the new aim was Logstor, on the south side of the Limfjord.

Big sky

The 'interesting' sand/gravel track down by the Fjord
We used a combination of signed Cycle routes and normal roads.  On one section early on the cycle route went away from the main road and on a minor road down towards the edge of the fjord, so we decided to check out the scenery down there.  The minor road degenerated into a gravel track, which degenerated into a sandy track.  At this point Mal's bike attempted to go sideways and traction disappeared, so we had to get off and push.  The sandy section was only short and before long we were back cycling on gravel.  That was still a bit skittish though and there was a lot of concentration involved in trying to keep the bike upright and moving forward, and trying to pick the line on the track that had the least gravel.

Spot the intrepid Traveller?
Given that we did 60 miles, I'm not sure how we managed to get to Logstor in time for tea and cake.  But we did.  And we had 'speciality of Denmark' cake, which was described to me as having special egg foam.  Turns out that's a very posh Tunnocks tea cake.  They were very nice though.  The tea however.... It's best to stick to coffee outside of the UK I think....

Post tea/cake we mosied on down to the campsite and set up the tent, then decided we had enough time to cycle across the bridge over the Limfjord to check out Aggersund (better than trying to fit it in before the next day's epic cycle).  Photos don't do it justice...

Aggersund Viking Fortress
OK, so it is a big grass covered circle.  But it's big.  And you can see why that clever Harold Bluetooth built it here - the narrowest point of the Limfjord and some cracking (strategic) views!

The kirke at Aggersund

By day four of the big push north, I think we were both feeling a bit dazed.  The original plan had been to go to Frederikshavn on the coast, and then get the train to Skagen the following day as our rest day. But that was quite a long way, and after some studying of the Lonely Planet guide Mal discovered that Hjorring was closer, nicer (Frederikshavn = industrial port, Hjorring = pleasant historical town), and we could still get the train to Skagen from there. We used mostly main roads for the route so it was more direct, and I remember it being hilly (for Denmark) and windy, but not much else.  


Esbjerg - Olgod, 37.9mi
Olgod - Viborg, 65.1mi
Viborg - Logstor, 60.7mi
Logstor - Hjorring, 55.2mi

Thursday, 6 June 2013

New WIP!

Really needed to crack on with this as its a Baby quilt for a due date of July, fortunately my planned design shouldn't take too long to piece together (no HST's!!).  So this morning I've cut four 9.5x9.5'' squares from 4 fat quarters of Michael Miller fabrics.

The plan is to make snowball blocks with plain white fabric on the corners, then have white sashing between the blocks.

Haven't been doing much really as we've just got back from two weeks in Denmark (more on that later), and before that was a frantic week in the garden to get everything prepped for going away.  Next-door's teenager was tasked with looking after the tunnel whilst we were away, and I have to say he's done a great job.  Everything I've planted has germinated, and it's all looking really healthy.  We may well have a glut of sweetcorn at some point.... He knows nothing about gardening, and was somewhat confused about the flowers on the potato plants! Bless.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced, especially as I've started something new!