November 01, 2006

Halloween - Not a good time in UK

Hi everyone,

I have just paid my regular visit to Von's blog ( and was delighted with her wonderful photos and stories of how they celebrate Halloween in USA. If only we had the same ethos in UK! In recent times it has unfortunately been hijaked and using as an excuse to terrorise people in their own homes. Sadly, despite the fact it is meant to be a time for children, it is being misinterpreted and parents find it increasingly difficult to teach their children to "never accept sweets from strangers" and "don't ask for money from people" for 364 days of the year, and yet on 31st October, all those sound rules are effectively being ignored. So children get confused and youths, possibly having poor (or no) guidance from parents or being left to roam the streets, are using it to create mischief. I do hate to brand young people as "Yobs" because they are frequently the product of neglect and all they need is some boundaries and guidelines and, of course, LOVE!!!!

Enough of my rant - but go and take a look at the way Von has displayed those photos, they are great!!!

Here are a couple of long-awaited WIP photos:

About a year ago (or possibly longer), I stitched 3 of Michael Powell's Mini Cottages series (and I still have a Lighthouse of his to do in my stash pile). I framed them with some inexpensive wooden frames which I bought in HobbyCraft and now they are proudly hanging as a little group in the hallway so that when I come home, I see them and I do think they are cute. Michael Powell's style is so unique to him, I could recognise one of his pieces a mile off! I desperately want to start stitching his "Secret Garden" kit that I bought last Christmas as I love the way the wrought-iron gate is part opened, with the promise of entering the garden and seeing hidden beauty .... hopefully will get some time in the coming months - but next, I am still aiming for my "Road to a Friend's House" and, of course, the project that Margaret and I have planned for 2007, being the 12 Days of Christmas.

October 29, 2006

Update for the Weekend! Very Busy :-)

Hi Everyone - I hope you have been enjoying your weekend.

In UK, the clocks moved back 1 hour so that it is now dark by around 5.30 pm :-( Thankfully, it was clear and sunny today, so it did not seem as if Autumn had yet taken hold. I spent 2 hours in the garden trying out my new lawnmower for the first time (it has rained almost every day since I bought it and this weekend has been the first spell of dry weather for a while! The grass looks really green and even now!

I have also been decorating the front room this weekend, now that the fireplace is in place.

Here is a "before" photo showing the rather dated wallpaper complete with border at the top - very 1980's!

And below is what it now looks like with the door and rails painted (the paint is a cream called "Snowdrop") and the walls clear of paper.

My plan is to paper the walls in a plain textured finish that has the same effect as "raw" silk with the slubs on and then paint with emulsion. Above the rail will be a colour called Pure Water, which is a very subtle blue/green and below will be Burnt Almond which is a medium coloured mushroom brown.

Last weekend I received a lovely parcel of Gifties from Nela! As you can see, there are some beautiful objects, some that Nela made and other little extras like the sweetie bar. Thank you so much Nela for your generosity to have sent the parcel all the way from your beloved Zulia.

Unfortunately, Blogger has now done its normal "go-slow" and won't let me upload the photos of my seed sampler, so I will try again tomorrow!

Hope you have a good week coming up. Enjoy!

October 25, 2006

All About Books - Let's play Tag

1) One book that changed your life: (I do not have access to the book at present, as I am at work ... but I may have to come back and correct this ...) "Songbird" - forgot the author's name - DH lent me his copy of the book when we were "just friends" and I loved it .... and then came to love him.
2) One book that you’d read more than once: "The White Hotel" by D H Thomas - its a very harrowing book focussing on the Holocaust but with a storyline woven with references to Freud - really powerful and amazing. They have tried to make a film from it for the last 15 years, but have never been able to agree on a cast list due to the power of the characters .... its that kind of book.
3) One book you’d want on a deserted island: After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell
4) One book that made you laugh: "Neither Here nor There - Travels in Europe" Bill Bryson - I started laughing around page 3 and didnt really stop until the last page :-) He is wonderful and my DH loved all his books too
5) One book that made you cry: After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell
6) One book you wish you’d written: Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
7) One book you wish had never been written: The DaVinci Code - I thought it was too hyped-up.
8) One book you’re currently reading:"History of the Spanish Civil War" by Antony Beavor - its a really interesting read!!
9) One book you’ve been meaning to read: "War and Peace" Tolstoy - its sooo big
10) Tags: AngelSan, Christine, Nela, Stitch (sorry only 4, but they are the only ones I can think of who have not been tagged!!)

October 17, 2006

Sampler and Fireplace Progress

Well, today has been a really busy and productive day. I managed about an hour on my sampler - although it does not look like I have done much, the backstitching on the geranium seems to have brought it to life ... I think it looks a bit more like a proper geranium, now :-D

Apart from stitching I spent a lot of today dashing back and forth from the local timber merchants getting some extra pieces of wood for the builders to complete the skirting board round the side of the fireplace. It was easier for me to nip out than them, mainly because I know the area well and also it meant that they could keep working LOL!

So .... here it is, TADAAAAA! I am super-happy with it - it is amazing what it has done to the room - it is a real focual point now. They finished at 3pm and I spent about 3 hours cleaning up all the brick dust etc. Although they worked very cleanly and put down dust sheets, it is amazing how the little bits of brick get underneath :-(
The mantelpiece is a piece of old weathered oak which my friend managed to get from a timber yard in the local area. When it was finished, I coated it with one layer of dark Oak matt varnish and as you can see it is really brought out the grain beautifully.

DH's squash racquet on the hearth is symbolic ... I just wanted to make sure he knows I am thinking of him and I hope he likes the fireplace as it had been our plan all along to build it.

DIY and Stitching - What a Combination!

Here is a "Before" photo of the fireplace in my front room. It was used for years (by the previous owners of the house) for burning logs and coal, hence it is well-worn and rather tatty looking! I have always thought it was rather ugly and have wanted to rebuild it for a couple of years. So I have taken off 3 days from work so that my friend and his mate, who are builders, can rip it out and rebuild a new one.

I don't really want a "working" fire as I have central heating, so want something attractive that will be a focal point for the room. I plan to put a log-basket in with some decorative logs and maybe a set with brass tongs and shovel on the hearth. I suppose I could even cross stitch one of those lovely firescreens that I see in magazines and never bother with because I have not had a proper fireplace before :-)

Below is a WIP photo of the fireplace after the first day. The wooden arch template gets taken out after the mortar has dried (overnight). I will be able to post what I hope will be the final photo at the end of the day today. There will be a large piece of oak on top (cut into shape) as the mantelpiece.

The next photo is a WIP of my Seed Sampler (hope you aren't getting bored of me putting photos on - my progress is rather slower than I would want, I'm afraid!) I have finally done a bit of the backstitching and also completed the Bee's Seeds lettering above the picture. If I can work away at it for the next 2 days while I am off work, then hopefully it will be finished by the weekend (fingers crossed!). Apologies for the rather poor quality of the photo - it wasn't until I uploaded it that I realised how bad it was :-( Will hopefully have a much better one for you later in the week.

Bye for now!

October 16, 2006

Memories of a Beautiful Wedding

Centre Arrangement on each table

Wedding Cake Decorations

My friends' wedding was amazing - everything went like a dream .... people commented on the favours and as you can see from the photos, the table arrangements and cake turned out really well! I was really worried leading up to the day, as its such a responsibility doing crafts for someone's wedding - you just hope everything is what they want - in my experience, it always turns out fine, but its those little tiny doubts in the back of your mind "can I really pull this one off and make it all just as I see it in my mind's eye?".
Nothing much to report on the progress of Seed Sampler ... do I have an excuse for a couple of days, to catch my breathe?! I have 3 days off work to do some jobs round the house and get myself back into the real world again so will fit in some stitching during that "me-time" :-)
Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend!
Hugs xx

October 09, 2006

Latest WIP - Seed Sampler

Before I talk about my stitching, here is a photo of some beautiful flowers I received from work. I have been working on a Placement in the Personal Computing space in my company and I completed the project on Thursday, so my boss bought me the flowers to say thanks and to wish me luck in my new Placement which will be at a different site in a completely different IT group. I will really miss the team I have been working with because they are so friendly and have been incredibly supportive during my recent difficult times. I will of course keep in touch with them!

Now, onto Crafting matters :-D. Here is an update for you on my Seed Sampler - I have now completed the top left hand quadrant - as you can imagine it took ages due to all the colour changes and a bit of frogging due to badly aligned stitches :-( All that remains is the words of the little poem and backstitching. I am so looking forward to completing it now! I want to see it in a frame and also I am itching to start my Gail Bussi picture - I finally received the White Evenweave - it took so long to arrive because I originally ordered DMC but apparently because it is now supplied from France there are big order backlogs, so they sent me some Zweigart instead and it is just as good and slightly cheaper.

I am going to visit Hobby Craft at lunchtime today because I have to buy some silk flowers for the wedding cake - the wedding is this coming Saturday and I still have a couple of jobs to complete apart from this - I have a further 5 favours to do and also the place cards for the Wedding Breakfast so everyone knows where they will be sitting.

Enjoy your Monday ... if that is possible - hey just think, its a day closer to the weekend LOL!!

October 08, 2006

Traditional Craft Fayre

Yesterday I went to my local Craft Fayre which takes place twice per year in the field opposite my house. It is a 3 day event, set up in huge marquis, which takes about 2 hours to go round (if you want to see all the stalls).

Here are my purchases: A set of four Flower Fairies pictures. These pictures are unique in that they are all reclaimed colour plates from old books - I was firstly attracted to the Clover Fairy as this is my childhood favourite. Then I thought how nice it would be to have a set of 4 to hang at home. A complete impulse purchase but I am really pleased I bought them - the frames really do the pictures justice!

The other thing I bought was a sign to put next to the front door with my house number on and, of course, the squirrel relates to the name of the house :-)

October 02, 2006

Guest Stitcher Giftie

I recently took part as a Guest Stitcher, reviewing some charts in Cross Stitcher (I just hope no-one saw my photo in the mag, as its the most awful picture of me I have EVER seen - even though I sent through an "acceptable" photo to them to use!) - it was taken when San and I were at Stitch '06 and if I remember it had been raining, so I looked completely bedraggled AND no makeup - OMG a girlie's worst nightmare.

Anyway, enough of my vanity, beauty is but skin-deep :-) So, as a thank you, they send a £15 voucher to spend on the Superstitcher website. I have been completely undecided what to buy ... should I get some DMC threads (no, I have lots of them) or should I choose a kit (well, I have lots of them, but hey since when has that stopped us Stitchers? Big decisions, huh?

In the end, I have decided to go for a really cute Margaret Sherry design - its called The Hen Night and it does make me chuckle when I see it - aren't her characters just gorgeous? Not too sure when I will be able to stitch it, but its going in my Stash Collection as a future make! In fact, I have the chart for the Hens doing their knitting from a previous XS magazine, so it could make up the set :-)

Bye for now, Stitchy-Girls!

Ali xx

October 01, 2006

Wedding Favours

I have been busy making some wedding samplers for a member of DH's family which will take place on 14th October. The significance of the Mars bars is that the Groom's surname is the same the chocolate (except with a double 'r' ) and his nickname is even "Mars-bar" so the favours just had to be thus, didn't they? I have had to make 50 in total for all the people attending the sit-down meal after the ceremony which is taking place in Arundel on the South Coast. I have also made 2 special ones for the Mothers (of the Bride and of the Groom) which have a larger red rose instead of the small gold roses you can see - and also the ribbon is larger and is a sheer voile with gold threads it - they look really good (even if I say so myself).
The next task is to make a small circle of silk flowers (reds and pinks) which will sit on top of the wedding cake. I also have to write out the little place cards using an ink pen and my best handwriting, so I think I will try to do that next week.
It is going to be a very happy, but also a really sad day for us all, as DH will not be there in person, but will, of course, be there in spirit.
Love and Peace
Alison xx

September 29, 2006

25 Stitchy Questions

As many of you will know, poor San is having awful problems with her Blog and lost a lot of recent records - hope it all gets sorted out soon San, we rely on your brilliant Mag Reviews etc! I did take a look at some of her earlier entries about a week ago, before the nightmare started, and found this great series of questions - so thanks for the inspiration and if anyone wants to have a go, feel free to "steal with pride" as we say at work - hey why reinvent the wheel?

1. How old were you when you started cross stitching?
I started Cross Stitching when I was about 20, but have been sewing and making things since as far back as I can, so probably when I was 5 or 6 years old. My teddies and dolls were the best dressed in the neighbourhood :-)

2. Who taught you to cross stitch?
I taught myself, using magazines as a guide. I found it really easy to pick up the technique, but I must say, my work has become a whole lot neater over the years - its all down to practice and experience
3. What inspired you to begin cross stitching?
I sent away for a "Seaside" kit from a magazine and that got me hooked!

4. What has been your most difficult cross stitch piece?
A Brambly Hedge Wedding Sampler with a bride and groom mouse - lots of colour changes, backstitch, French knots etc!

5. Do you have friends that stitch?
I have several crafty friends and lots of global crafting friends via the Internet!

6. What is your favourite stitched piece?
My Welsh Sampler - really lovely colours and traditional style.

7. What is your favorite fabric?
I love Evenweave, and 16 count aida is ok too.

8. What is your favorite fiber?
DMC threads.
9. What is your favorite needle?
I just use the freeby ones you get with kits and they are fine!

10. Do you prefer black & white or colored charts?
Definitely coloured is much easier to track what you have stitched and what is still to do. I cant remember using any black and white charts.

11. How many Works In Progress do you have at this time?
Only 1 that I am working on at the moment - Lesley Grant's Seed Sampler

12. How many UFOs do you have at this time?

13. How many cross stitch charts/kits/mags do you own?
I have about 11 kits (2 traditional samplers, 1 DMC Garden Sampler with embellishments, Poppies in a Field scene, an Art Deco piece from Stitch '05, 3 Flower Fairies, a Country Companion set with 6 charts and threads, a Jane Greenoff Music Sampler called "If Music be the Food of Love" and 2 wildlife kits. I don't keep magazines for very long as they take up space, so I cut out the charts I like and keep them in folders, then try to give away some to people who advertise for Wanted's

14. How much fabric do you have in stock at this time?
Quite a few pieces of Aida and some Linen and Evenweave for specific projects that I have not stitched yet - if only I had more time!!
15. Where is your favorite place to stitch?
I have a chair in the living room which is positioned so that the daylight is on my left side - this sounds very exact, but it is because I only stitch in natural light and prefer the left so that it does not cast a shadow on my work.

16. What is your favorite time of day to stitch?
I like to stitch all morning on Sunday's - the rest of the time, it is a question of stitching when I get the chance, so sometimes at lunchtime sometimes about 30 minutes before work

17. How many pieces have you stitched in your lifetime?
I have lost count, but I guess 50 or so cards and maybe 30-ish projects - that isn't a great deal, but as I work full-time and have been studying for a BSc and now an MSc for the last 7 years, that is quite good going!
18. Do you give your stitched pieces away?
Yes, most of the things I make have been for special occasions, such as Weddings, Births and just birthday gifts.

19. How many different fibers do you have in stock at this time?
I prefer to use DMC threads but I use a few metallics and the new Light Effects as well.

20. How many pairs of scissors do you own?
I have about 20 pairs - that sounds a lot but I have dressmaking, soft furnishing, needlework, cross stitch and many different special effects scissors for making nice edgings for cards.

21. Do you use stitching enhancers (lights, scroll frames…etc)?
I have never got on with frames or hoops and I think that natural daylight is the only way to go!

22. How many pieces that have been stitched but not yet framed or finished off in some other way do you have at this time?
None - the one thing I am quick at is framing! I see no point in completing a project and then not displaying it - also if it is for a gift, of course it has to be completed in time for the special event!

23. Do you have a craft/stitching room?
Yes, I have lovely cupboards and shelves that my DH put in for me

24. Why do you stitch?
I love to create and also like to watch the picture gradually take form over time. Also it is wonderful to give a friend or member of the family something I have made myself - so much nicer than shop-bought goods. Where's the fun in that?

25. What is your most memorable time related to cross stitching?
I really enjoyed Stitch '06 with San and her Mom when we met Margaret Sherry, Maria Diaz and Michael Powell, but Ally Pally '05 was good because we did some classes - Japanese embroidery and a great Jane Greenoff Sampler stitch along.

September 24, 2006

Late Summer Gardening

I thought I would take the opportunity to 'snap away' in the back garden as the UK is enjoying some lovely sunny weather at the moment (albeit interspersed with some dramatic thunder storms). This time of year, one never knows how long sunshine will last. It seems as if my pots have suddenly regained some strength and are now bursting forth with a whole new crop of colourful flowers after a bit of a lull in Aug/early Sept. I also think that the rain fall we had this week helped a lot. I repainted the garden furniture with Cuprinol (wood conditioner) which has darkened the wood beautifully, so thought I would show off my hard work :-)

On Friday, we had rain in almost monsoon-like proportions. I was sitting in the library at University in the afternoon watching the torrents of rain falling down for well over an hour, with leaden skies and claps of thunder .... wondering how I could possibly get back to my car (which was a good 10 minutes walk across the campus) without being a complete drowned-rat with all my books, papers and writing materials spoiled. I was only wearing a pair of thin trousers, summer top and cardigan, as it had been mild and fairly bright in the morning. Thankfully by 4pm, the rain stopped sufficiently for me to be able to take a quick walk back to the car and I guess the blessing was that I did get a couple of extra hours' work done as I was "a captive" in the library :-D ...... Maybe Mike decided that I needed to get that extra work done and then at 4pm turned off the tap and let me get back safely without getting wet!

To Margaret, Ash and Carolyn, I have sent off your magazines - World of Cross Stitch/Cross Stitch Card Shop/Crazy - in the post this weekend so I hope you will soon be able to "feast your eyes" on the designs.

Happy weekend everyone
Alison xxxx

Review of Cross Stitch Gold Issue 43

I received the latest issue of Cross Stitch Gold yesterday and it appears that it is becoming very popular with people out there, so I feel I should review it for you quickly this month, notable because it has a mainly Christmas/Seasonal theme

Lesley Teare is prolific in this issue and has produced a couple of stunning projects. The first is called Plush Plumage, referring to a Peacock and is full of wonderful detail on the bird's feathers, as well as a mirrored theme on the border. I should also point out that it does not use any backstitching, so is ideal for those who prefer just stitching whole crosses without further need to outline afterwards.

Lesley has also designed a really cute Christmas Shaker-style picture, which is my favourite of this issue. It is versatile because you could actually stitch any of the smaller panels for special Christmas cards in a fraction of the time .... or else stitch the whole project for a present (even to treat yourself :-D
On the Santa theme, there is an advent calendar by everyone's fave, Maria Diaz, called Mother Christmas. The only thing that I find a bit confusing is that against each day, there is a small ring attached to the fabric, into which you put a sweet - but I am not sure what sort of sweets would fit in the ring ... hmmm a bit strange - but the design is still cute (although Mrs Claus' mouth could do with a bit of 'remodelling' as it does not look very natural unfortunately ....).

Karen Britton's style is instantly recognisable with her "Overlooking Evensong" picture. Those who love cats will be particularly keen on this. The colours are bright, and quite solid in style - the cat has got a very funny little smile, rather cute!

Other projects in the magazine are Winter Retreat, a Lilliput Lane style cottag with fir tree and some snow on the thatched roof, Stained Glass designs to make into Christmas cards, Seasonal Floral display with white lillies and a Westie dog with robin and poinsetta.

Well, its sunny outside today, so as normal at this time of year, its quite a struggle to start thinking of Christmas projects when we are clinging onto the last few weeks of late-summer, early autumn!

September 17, 2006

Latest Progress on Seed Sampler

Hope you are all enjoying an active or restful weekend (whichever is your preference!). I have spent this morning sewing my Seed Sampler and here is the WIP photo I promised. There have been lots of colour changes (and a bit of frogging unfortunately!!) but I have managed to get the lady sitting on her bench* reading a book looking right - I think I skipped a line in the pattern, which is where the frogging came in :-(( Eventually on the right hand side, there is a huge geranium (which is the picture on the packet of seeds) and a header at the top with some bumble-bees buzzing around - can't wait to start that bit! At the moment, all the colour changes are slowing me down but that's the Cross Stitcher's lot, I'm afraid :-)

**NB: I know it probably looks as if the lady is floating in mid-air at the moment, but once I have completed all the backstitching, she will definitely be sitting on a bench LOL!!

I have
been called upon to make 50 wedding favours for a friend's wedding coming up in about 3 weeks so that will be keeping me occupied each evening next week because I want to get them finished in time to hand the box to her when I see her in about a week's time. I am doing little choccies in some netting circles, gathered at the neck and fastened with gold ribbon and a tiny gold rose to finish off. I will take a photo when I finish them so you can 'inspect the work' LOL!

I am looking forward to starting my stitching project with Margaret at the start of the new year. We are doing the 12 Days of Christmas (MS designs from her booklet given away in Cross Stitcher). I am very honoured that Margaret has invited me to pair up with her on such a project and it is going to be something really special to look forward to after a year that has been incredibly difficult for me. I hesitate to say that I want to forget the year as the events, tragic though they have been to me, are a part of my life and one cannot separate oneself from life-changing experiences as they shape you into the person you are and will be in the future. Its just getting through and surviving that is the key thing now. However, it will be great to focus on our 12 Days project, as a way of being positive for the future.

I am starting to make a birthday card for my friend's DH whose birthday is just before Christmas - he is a very keen cyclist so I am stitching one of those "The World's Greatest ..." series from The Cross Stitch Card Shop magazine for him - of course its The World's Greatest Cyclist and I am going to personalise it with his club colours and even his bike and cyclists helmet will be the right colours. Will keep you posted on the progress, of course!

Happy Sunday everyone!

September 08, 2006

World of Cross Stitch November 2006

I have a spare copy of the latest edition of World of Cross Stitch which is full of Christmas designs, and includes a free Flower Fairies Calendar, a card containing extra charts and a pack of Christmas craft cards + envelopes. Click here to read what AngelSan says in her review of the magazine yesterday.

I was wondering if I could interest a fellow XStitcher in this issue, in exchange for a different Cross Stitch magazine or maybe something else "craft-related" - whatever you would like to swap.

I would mail out the magazine plus the additional freeby gifts in a padded envelope.

If you are interested, please let me know and we can exchange e-mail addresses!

September 05, 2006

STOP PRESS - No longer searching for Margaret Sherry Book

Nela says she has now received her copy of the MS freeby she wanted - in fact, I misread her e-mail and in fact she was looking for the Astrocats Calendar which finally arrived in the Post.

All's Well that Ends Well!

Does anyone have a spare copy of the Freeby from July/Aug Cross Stitcher mag - the Ultimate MS book. I have been asked by Nela (who many of you will know visit XS blogs, especially mine and AngelSan) as she lives in South America and due to problems with both logistics of getting issues of the magazine out to her (they keep getting lost in the post!) and also the language barrier, she has asked me to intervene and help her.

If anyone has a spare copy or can suggest anything other than eBay that I don't really like using, it would be great.

I would really like to help a fellow Crafter if I possibly can :-)

August 30, 2006

I Say ... and you think ...

I rather like "Word Association" games, and this one is a goodie! Picked it up from Stitch's Blog in case you wonder where I found it (thank you Stitch ;-)

... although I did not get tagged myself, I would now like to pass this on to San to let her know I am still thinking of her whilst she is away in France on holiday and also to Isabel because she is just soooo good with words!

The idea is to associate the word on the left with a word or two of your choice, which you think has a connection and captures that word's true meaning.

It is called "I Say ... and you think":

Visit :: Friendship
Cake :: Sweetness
Period :: Epoque
Triumphant :: Over adversity
Screen :: Protection
Neglect :: Disregard for
Guitar :: Sensual
Loathe :: Detest
Sugar :: Darling
Montage :: Collection

Cross Stitch Collection (issue October 06)

Well, despite my best efforts I did not progress very quickly on my sampler this weekend, mainly because I went to a couple of family events which seemed to take up a fair bit of time with the travelling etc, but I am not complaining because weekends at the moment are a bit of a trial for me, so it was nice to be able to spend time with people and catch up on news. This week is my holiday week from work so I can devote a bit more time to hobbies etc, although studies are also back on the agenda as I only have 4 more weeks until I am back at Uni for the final year of my MSc - I cannot believe that the past few months have slipped by without even blinking!).

I received my subscription copy of Cross Stitch Collection yesterday so I am pleased to review it for you.
For anyone who likes samplers, traditional charts, floral designs and cute cottages, this is the issue for you! As I was leafing through the pages, I realised what a great issue it is and that my To-Do list is even greater now, especially as this month's Cross Stitch Gold issue is also chock full of great projects. Still, I mustn't grumble, it is better than not liking anything in the magazine which is far more frustrating :-)

John Clayton has created a really pretty circular design called The Summer Meadow. It has poppies and daisies in the foreground and trees and a meandering river in the background. The colours are very "late-summer" with golds, reds and yellows quite prominent, together with the late summer green leaves on the trees. I really like the design, but recently bought a beautiful Anchor kit which was on special offer (I reviewed it in a previous entry in my blog in case you are interested - around April/May time), so would rather stitch that. As always, Collection also includes some details about John Clayton which is a very interesting read. Their editorial is undoubtedly the best quality of the magazines I buy.

Maria Diaz features prominently in this month's magazine - her first offering is "Garden Birds" and is an authentic and colourful 'sampler' of 6 different birds. I use the term 'sampler' loosely, to describe the fact that she has featured each bird with its name next to it (Song Thrush, Great Tit, Bullfinch, Blue Tit, Gold Crest and Robin). As always, you can rely on Maria to produce a top quality chart, a beautiful study of birds and some additional flora (Apple Blossom and Blackberries). Next month's issue will include Maria's companion chart called "Riverbank Birds".

The Historical Sampler Company's (HSC) offering this month is a beauty! If you would like to stitch a traditional family tree sampler, then look no further. As stated by Joanne Stellig of HSC, they have used fabric and thread colours that give it an authentic and 'aged' look. The magazine also includes the full alphabet in upper and lower case characters to enable you to include up to 3 generations. Collection also features 2 pages of information on other kits you can source from HSC, including a wedding sampler and even one for Christmas!

Sandy Littlejohn is famous for her huge designs featuring costumed ladies and gentlemen from bygone times. They normally span across three issues which makes for quite a spectacular end-result. This month is the final part of a 3 part chart called "The Summer Ball". I think her charts are probably the most requested in the "Wanted" adverts ... people end up with 2 out of the 3 charts and have to search around for the 3rd part if they go on holiday or forget to buy an issue one month! That's where a subscription is handy :-) I must admit I am not at all keen on stitching people - for some reason, I have always favoured more abstract designs, samplers and wild animals, birds and flowers, but that is personal taste as I know many people love to stitch humans!

Faye Whittaker has her normal nostalgic style with a Birth Sampler in the "All Our Yesterdays" range. It has 8 little boys and girls in a circle, each carrying a childhood toy: a balloon, teddy, kite or a doll. The middle has been left for you to add the name of the baby, date of birth and birth weight. This is definitely a chart I will keep for the future as it would look beautiful in a nursery and would be loved by the child and his/her parents.

Lesley Teare is one of my favourite designers as I love her colours and subjects. This month, she has produced 4 gorgeous cards, each with a "dream cottage" on. Around the edge of each design she has included flowers that climb around beautifully. They are definitely on my To-Do list, as they suggest you can either stitch them as House Warming cards, or stitch all four as a combined picture.

Samplers feature throughout this issue of Collection and Jane Greenoff (the Grand Ma'am of Samplers!) gives advice and tips about how to design your own. There is also a free supplement this month which includes a selection of Jane's flowers which she shows you how to stitch onto an afghan. There is plenty for you to read in her editorial as well - a real treat for all who enjoy her works.

Maria Diaz's second offering is a set of small pictures called "Fashion Accessories" using metallic threads. They feature glamorous fashion items like a dress, a handbag and shoes. All the colours are soft pinks, purples and aqua greens and use beading around the handbag. Very smart!

As you can see, there is a lot to keep you busy until next month - Happy Stitching everyone.

August 24, 2006

Finishing the Seed Sampler

Well I 'll make a promise here - I will finish the Lesley Grant Seed Sampler first, before going on to the Gail Bussi Road to a Friend's House .... despite the fact that managed to send me all the threads I ordered within 24 hours (which I was very impressed by). So you can imagine that the temptation to start the new project is quite strong ... but I think there are a few people out there who want to see the finished Sampler - so I will keep going with it and hopefully sometime next week, I will be posting a finished photo and we can do that Happy Dance!

Meanwhile, I could not resist sorting out all the threads into colours and marking up the symbols on my homemade thread sorter - this is just a piece of white card with holes punched in (I am sure most of us do something similar - very ecofriendly, reusing pieces of card rather than buying new ones in a shop!).

Happy Thursday everyone!

August 23, 2006

Pirates and Progress on my Seed Sampler

Here is a photo of my progress on the Seed Sampler. I can't wait to finish it, as it has taken quite a while now, mainly because it has a lot of solid blocks of colour to stitch which always seems to take ages! You know how impatient we stitchers get when a project lasts longer than a few weeks ... time to finish and get onto something new and exciting! In my case, I am excited about starting the Gail Bussi Road to a Friend's House chart.

My threads for that chart were despatched yesterday according to the e-mail I received, so I am hoping that if they arrive by the weekend, I will be able to start next week - I am trying to be 'good' and finish off the Seed Sampler first, so that it doesn't quickly turn into a UFO :-(

The part I am working on is top right, the hanging basket - I am now filling in the background in a creamy, ivory colour. Its a bit monotonous and I am eager to move onto the last part on the left, which is a woman sitting in a colourful garden wearing a traditional costume, with a bonnet and reading a book. Then I just have to stitch the small poem underneath and do the backstitching ... and Voila, ready to frame!!

As you have probably experienced, Blogger sometimes does not allow us to upload photos - this has been happening for the past couple of days, but today it is behaving itself, so here is a photo of Pirates which I wanted to post with my review of Cross Stitch Gold. I think its a really cute and humourous chart - there is lots going on and its great if you fancy stitching it for a young person's birthday or even for Christmas. I think it would suit a boy or girl as it captures the spirit of adventure at sea. They suggest that you can personalise it by adding the person's name in the cloud. On the photo it says "Shiver Me Timbers". For those of you who are not familiar with those words, its a very typical "saying" that a Pirate says - I am not sure quite how to explain what it means, but its similar to "Goodness me!", I suppose :-)

The weather in England is due to get wetter and cooler towards the end of August and September. I guess we should be grateful for the end to the drought which was beginning to worry many people, especially the gardeners amongst us! But it is sad that the end of the summer may be upon us. Fingers crossed that September and October may result in a late summer burst of warmth as sometimes happens.

August 21, 2006

In Search of Margaret!

Well the vote is out for my next Project and it looks as if Gail Bussi's beautiful Quaker design is a clear favourite.

In case you could not see it in the photo, the words in full are:

The Road to a Friend's House ... is paved with happy thoughts!

I have had quite a few votes by e-mail and blog to stitch this one next, so I think it is a clear winner, with the Traditional Sampler coming in a close second. I know I will get round to stitching all the different ones I mentioned, its just in which order to do them, Decisions Decisions, as Mayte said :-)

Margaret, there are quite a few of your blogging friends who would love to visit your blog and say hi, however your profile does not show your Blog link. Could you post the URL for your blog as a comment here and I will ensure other people get to know about it. We will also be able to update our links on our Blog to show you there. If anyone else has found out Margaret's blog/website URL (Stitch or No Stitch), feel free to share it with all of us as Margaret often visits everyone's blogs and it would be good to return the compliment! I have ordered the threads for Gail Bussi's design already!

I only have around 3-4 hours worth of stitching to complete the Seed Sampler so I don't feel toooo bad ordering yet more stash.... hey life is too short to worry about things, huh?

Stay happy, stay stitching.
Ali xx

August 20, 2006

Review of Cross Stitch Gold Issue 42

This is one of the best issues of Cross Stitch Gold in recent months - I would probably put most of the designs onto my Wish List of future To-Do's but realise I may be a bit unrealistic in being able to do all of them ... but that's cross stitching addiction for you, I guess ;o)

As you can see from the cover, there are some lovely charts to stitch. I have taken photos of the best designs so you can see for yourself!

My favourite, which will definitely go on my To-Do List is the Quaker-style design by Gail Bussi, called The Road to a Friend's House. As you can see from the photo, the dimensions are unusual, being a long narrow shape (may be a bit more tricky finding a frame for it, so it may need to have a frame made to measure). The design is gorgeous, with soft colours and wonderful detail (including the charms) and I can already picture it hanging up in the hall! Continuing with the embellishments theme, there is a page of charming Garden Greetings Cards designed by Debra Page. She has used Injabulo buttons which are Fair Trade merchandise. You can be sure of getting lovely original items to decorate your cards, and you are also contributing to a worth cause by giving people in in South Africa dignity and help to support themselves and their families. The designs are all of a Garden theme, with cute bird houses and flowers such as sunflowers, delphiniums and poppies.

Maria Diaz has designed a Woodland Fairy as part of a series. It is has a wonderful autumnal feel to it with rich late-summer cerise and purple flowers and fruits with beige brown foliage in the background. You will see a photo on the cover of the magazine (pictured above).

Finally, the 'cute' submission for this copy of Gold is The Pirates by Jenny Barton. Unfortunately, Blogger is playing up (AGAIN!) and I cannot upload the photo of it, but you can see a tiny one on the cover of the magazine above. Its such a humorous piece, I cannot resist it - and have it on my To-Do List. Probably not top ... as I have a lot of other ones, but I would like to do it for the bathroom :-) I think I would adapt the colours a little, by adding some turquoise colours to the sea, so that it coordinated with my bathroom which I recently decorated with "Cool Aqua" paint.

I hope you enjoyed this review!

Back to Blogging

I have been meaning to write a blog entry for about a week and somehow have not managed to do so - I hope you have missed me as much as I have missed you :-)

The month of August seems to be slipping away so fast, I don't know where the time has gone.

I received this month's Cross Stitch Gold, and there are some really great charts in there so I will do a review tomorrow and take a few photos of the best features.

As far as my crafting activities are going, I have been working on my Seed Sampler and will take a WIP photo tomorrow as well. It is probably quite near to completion except that there are some rather large 'blocks' of colour to stitch which take up a lot of time. Only 2 more sections to do and I will be able to frame it!

I have a couple of options for my next project, either:

1. The companion sampler to the Seed Sampler, called Garden Sampler, which is similar in style but quite different in content - it has a lot of greens as its theme shows an allotment with fruit and vegetables.

2. The sampler I showed you a few blog entries back, with the additional embellishments

3. A Traditional Sampler which I have modified to include some words of one of my favourite poems by Christopher Marlowe (its rather romantic!).

I enjoyed a nice evening at San's house with her and her DBF. We had very little time for stitching (as normal!) as we were talking and eating a lot of the time. It will be our last meeting for a while because she is away on holidays in France now, but we will get together when she returns to England in a few weeks' time.

I have found the energy and 'inspiration' to do some research work for my dissertation. This involves going to the University Library on a Friday and sitting there surrounded by books and academic papers on Knowledge Management. Yes, yes .... I would rather be stitching, say no more :-) !!!!

Hope you are all well, and enjoying the summer ... in England, we have gone from beautiful heat and long summer days, to an almost autumnal feel. The evenings are noticably shorter as it now gets dark by 9pm. I have felt saddened by the fact that I have not enjoyed this long, hot summer because I have not had my DH to share such happy times. He would have enjoyed all the warmth and sunshine ..... and now it is giving way to autumn already. Such is life, I suppose .....

August 06, 2006

Review of Cars (Pixar - Disney Studios)

I can recommend the new Disney film called Cars. I went to see it with a few friends from work the other day and I personally thought it was a really lovely "feel-good" film. The story centers around a bright red racing car called Lightning McQueen (pictured above - source: and his ambition to be the youngest car to win the renowned Piston Cup. After being involved in a dead-heat with 2 other cars, a re-match is called in Los Angeles so the cars have to travel there. En route Lightning rolls off his trailer lorry and ends up in a deserted town called Radiator Springs where he meets some new friends who teach him that there are other things in life than winning and possessions. Its a lovely story, with great characters (not a single human in the entire film - all cars, trucks, lorries and vans). I really enjoyed it!

August 05, 2006

The Happy Dance - Welsh Sampler (Framed)

Here, as promised, is a photo of my Welsh Sampler, from the design in Brenda Keyes' Traditional Samplers book. I am really pleased how it has been framed - as you can see it has a double mount in terracotta and teal green to pick up the two prominent colours in the border of the sampler.

The framing was carried out by The Framing Gallery in High Wycombe and the person who did the work, made a first class job of it, in my opinion!

This weekend has been very busy! I have decided to "declutter" my life, so to speak. In the week I ordered a skip to be delivered on Thursday (it is now on my driveway). So far, I have been sorting out the garage, removing a lot of junk that had accumulated since we were doing DIY etc. Also the front room had become a dumping ground for all our DIY materials (tools, paint pots and other assorted materials). Well, a lot of it has ended up on the skip if it is of no use and now it all looks very tidy in the garage (I think I will actually be able to get my car in it, finally :-) and the front room is very empty which is good, as I am getting someone to re-do the fireplace and then I am going to decorate. I think the colour scheme will be brown and turquoise which is a very popular combination at the moment and one I really think works well together. I will take before and after photos to post here in case anyone is interested!

Tomorrow I have a couple of friends coming round and we are going to take up the carpet in the hall, stairs and landing, and the living room. This will go onto the skip and then I am getting some new carpets fitted in the last week of August - I was getting fed up of paint-splodges and frayed edges :-) Thats all for now - with all this activity I think its time for bed!!

August 01, 2006

Another Gardening themed Sampler!

When I was in Hobbycraft yesterday, I saw the Garden Sampler shown above and liked it so much, I decided to treat myself. Its really cute, with additional embellishments - there is a rake, trowel and fork which you can stitch onto the canvas once you have complete the cross stitch part. And the fabric is a rustic colour 28 ct linen and threads are DMC - just perfect!

Seed Sampler updated photo

Here is an up to date WIP photo for you to see my progress on Lesley Grant's Seed Sampler. As you can see, I am now in the upper quadrant of the piece, stitching the hanging basket (shown with the bluey coloured semi-circular shape, which will soon look a lot more like a basket than it does at the moment).

Another update I can give you is that I decided to get my Welsh Sampler professionally framed. I have ordered a double mount (colours - turquoise and terracotta to pick up the tones in the border) and the frame will be a plain style (no embellishments). I chose the frame as I wanted it to compliment, rather than dominate, the sampler design itself. I have decided to hang it in the living room over the fireplace, so I think it will be a nice focal point for the room. The framer said he is going to have it ready for me by Friday so I should be able to add a photo onto my blog at the weekend.

The weather has definitely cooled down in England, much more comfortable than it has been recently. Hope its all going well, where you are!

July 22, 2006


Archie and Spot in training
I visited San on Wednesday for a bite to eat and to exchange our news as well as doing some stitching together. We had a lovely time as we had not seen each other for many weeks, since Mike passed away.
We realised that there has been some role reversal lately i.e. San now merrily stitches samplers, while I am interested in Archie - see above for my latest attempt.
We have decided to write an article about this strange series of events and sent it, with photos of our work, to WOCS and Cross Stitcher!
It has been cooler today in England because we have had rain which is good for the garden but not so good for my attempts at developing my suntan. Never mind hopefully tomorrow will be better.

July 20, 2006

Photos of My Trip to Wales last week

The start of the journey up the Brecon Beacons
Getting near the top of the climb - time for a breather and drink!

At the top of Pen y Fan (highest point of Brecon Beacons)
Looking back along the range
Descent from Pen y Fan
Nearly home (and the pub!)

July 17, 2006

My Flower

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

You have a sunny disposition and are normally one of the first to show up for the party. You don't need too much attention from the host once you get there as you are more than capable of making yourself seen and heard.

July 16, 2006

Happy Sunday everyone!

Hello there my Blogging Friends

I am back after my week's Leadership Training Course in Wales and I have a lot of stories and photos to share with you. There were 6 of us on the course, led by a Life Coach called Ben (who was absolutely wonderful!).

On Monday and Tuesday we had a personality profile done and then put this into action with a number of outdoor leadership activities. My personality profile is INFJ - Introvert, Intuitive, Feeling and Judging. I have to explain that the Introvert assessment is because I tend to think deeply first, before I externalise my emotions to other people (this is so true!!) and the Judging assessment is because I tend to like things to be somewhat orderly and organised rather than being too 'random' (again, I find this to be an accurate assessment of how I am).

On Wednesday we spent the day at the Amelia Trust Farm near Cardiff This is a wonderful place, a working farm full of animals (cows, sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs to name but a few) which is a haven of love and tranquility for young people who are on the margins of society. Most have been excluded (expelled) from school, have no family support to give them encouragement in their lives and hence often turn to drugs, drink or crime. The Farm is the only place where they feel they 'belong' and matter to people.

Our project for the day was to build a 150 metre rustic fence around the outside of one of their fields, so that their cow herd can now graze in safety and preventing them from escaping onto the main road. We worked with some of Amelia's young people and had the wonderful privilege of talking to them, involving them in the work and doing our best to raise their morale. Some of them would drift off, distracted, to have a cigarette or just sit quietly and observe, but then they would come back as we gave them encouragement that the work they were helping with was good and worthwhile. I befriended a young man (13 years old) called Mikey (a rather amazing coincidence that he shares the same name as my DH!) - he was from a family of 9, his father died when he was 3 years old and he had hardly attended school. He was big-hearted and caring and we had a lovely time together hammering staples into the wire fence. I gave him lots of encouragement and told him he was much better at the job than me, which I think boosted his morale somewhat!

I have told the Amelia Trust that I would like to return to help them for a week in October - they badly need volunteers to run activities, so I thought I could gather together some craft materials and run an activity to make cards and posters. October is sometimes a bit cold, grey and miserable so it would be a great opportunity to get some young people together to do some practical indoor activities.

I was reading the wonderful and, quite frankly inspirational, entry (27 June 2006) on Carto's blog about how her Mom advised her when times feel hard to reflect on those who are less fortunate in life. As you can imagine, this resonates with me in my current situation (for those new to my blog, please refer to the entry on 31st May) and mirrored how I felt during the day I spent at Amelia.

On Thursday we did some more class-based discussions and in the afternoon, we walked some 13km up to the highest point of the Brecon Beacons - this was an exhilarating (albeit, tiring!!) experience and, as I looked out at the wonderful view, I felt as if Mike was with me at that moment. It took us about 3.5 hours to complete the entire walk, which conveniently (!) ended up back at the pub, where we enjoyed a well-earned drink and evening meal.

== I have some photos on our walk, but unfortunately Blogger is doing its normal trick of not letting me upload them - so I will include them for you later ==

On Friday, we did a self-assessment of our performance over the week and the course finished at 4pm. Before the course, I arranged to visit my cousin and his wife as I almost passed their house on the way home from Wales. I had a wonderful evening with them, talking about Mike and sharing our news, as we have not seen each other for some time. My cousin is a drummer in a tribute band, so he showed me some of their latest concert material and their website Currently he does the week-day shows, with the other drummer doing weekends, but he may get to do weekends as well. We have made a commitment to see each other more often as we share the same nutty sense of humour and always have a great time together.

Well, that is the end of my week - I will find some time to visit your blogs later today, but I am going to get out in the garden and mow the grass which has grown long since I have been away!

Lots of love
Stay safe and happy,
Ali xx

July 08, 2006

A Tranquil Weekend

It has been quite a week for me. After a month of compassionate leave from work, I decided to return to work on Monday. All my colleagues were very supportive, many just came up and gave me a big hug without saying anything, which was helpful as it showed me immense support but did not start me crying again. Sometimes, the words are just not enough and its best to just show the moral support. People are wonderful, it gives me a lot of hope that this world may have some awful events going on, and yet the beauty of people's compassion and caring does shine through in a crisis.

I had a 3 day course from Tuesday through to Thursday which was quite hard, but was positive in that it gave me something to focus on. Whenever my mind wandered to other things and I felt upset during the day, I just left the room for a few minutes and rejoined when I felt better. This is all new to me, I am taking each moment as it comes and trying to do my best.

Again, thanks for the beautiful comments you have left. I have been connecting frequently to read everything people have written and feel so positive and loved when I read what you have written. It is great to get some new people visiting my site and I hope that you will continue to visit me - I will be visiting you!

Next week I am on a field trip in Wales with the other 5 people who are on the same Graduate Development programme I am on. It is called "Leadership Essentials" and we will have to complete a series of activities during the week and report on what we have learned. We will also spend a day helping out at a Centre for underprivileged children, which will be amazing. I will take some photos during the week, so that you can see the beautiful scenery where we will be located. It is called The Brecon Beacons and it is classed as a UK outstanding natural beauty spot. As we have some free time, I am going to take a walk on my own some days to gather my thoughts and spend time with Mike, who I feel will be all around me in that stunning location .....

I hope you enjoy your weekend, do some great stitching and look forward to talking with you about my field trip when I return.

Ali xxx

June 29, 2006

Beautiful Flowers

Here is a photo of the basket full of dried flowers I have saved from Mike's floral tributes. As Blogger has started to accept graphics again, I have also taken the opportunity to include some other arrangements that I captured when they were at their best

Rowyn, great minds think alike, my friend - I saw your comment on my blog and smiled, because I had spent about 3 hours the previous day carefully dismantling the tributes to ensure that I kept the best flowers intact for drying. It shows .... once a crafter always a crafter, we have to think of ways of making beauty where-ever we can :-)

I think this will be a project for me to devote myself to this summer ... making a framed picture with some of the many beautiful flowers that I dried. There are 4 different kinds of roses (the cream ones dried better than I thought as they have turned an "antique" sort of beige-brown), statis (purple, lovely for drying), baby's breath, sea holly and some loose rose petals which I may make into pot-pourri.

Roses and Sweet William (from Mike's Aunt and Uncle)

Lilies, Delphinium, Pink Roses and Statis (from some of my work colleagues)