Monday, 31 August 2015

Tea at KitTea

I am not a tea drinker. But were I to be one I would never go to any cafe except KitTea. It only opened a month or so ago and I finally got there at the weekend.
KitTea Sign
The cat cafe I had been visiting in Oakland is an hour each way including a 20 min walk from the metro when you get there. So although I love the set-up I was more than ready to get some cat time closer to home. I only booked 30 minutes since I wasn't sure if it would be any good but in future I'll definitely be going for the full hour. Even if you haven't booked a session with the cats, the cafe is very nice and has a huge picture window.
Inside KitTea
You get as much tea as you can drink during your booking plus there are cakes and things to be bought. When my time came I got to spend time with such a cute gang of guys and girls.
Sleeping Tuxedo Kitten
This tiny fellow came to sit next to my legs...
Tiny kitten by my feet
...and when I squatted down to stroke him he decided to take shelter underneath my derrière.
Kitten between legs
Then when I did sit down this little one came over and got straight into my lap.
Cream Kitten
He was heading off to his new adoptive family later that day as this is also a place where you can adopt the cats there. I would have loved to take them all home with me!


Sunday, 30 August 2015

Walking Haight Street

"Haight Ashbury" is a phrase that comes up as soon as you start reading about the history of San Francisco. The area was swinging in the sixties and has been the centre the hippie culture of SF ever since. It is kind of like Camden used to be when I first moved to London but with more smoke shops. 
Haigh St Shops
Haight Street is long - really long. The hippie bit is near where it crosses with Ashbury St but back towards the city centre there are some amazing houses. 
Haight House
Haight Houses
Haight House
I knew beforehand that there were a few shoe shops in the area and I had planned on just some window-shopping until...
Mermaid Shoes
That is just them in their box but you should have seen them in the window. It was like seeing the glisten of mother of pearl in the midst of a load of dull shells. I went into the shop and made straight for them. They were...expensive. I toyed with them and the assistant came over, looked into my face and said she knew just how I felt. Did I want to try them on - just for fun? Oh my. I had hoped they'd be uncomfortable, but no. They are wonderful. And now they're mine - squee! One or two other things are now mine too. 
 Shopping Spoils
There is a lovely craft shop there called Mendels and they have an awesome selection of pretty much everything, including quilting fabric which they sell in quarter yards. I only chose two but then I saw this slightly heavier, slightly lineny cat print. 
Cat Fabric
The colour is actually a dark grey-green and I got two yards so now I need to decide what kind of top to make out of it - since I feel it does need to be a top. 

One of the things I like about this kind of area of SF is the locals don't feel constrained to just decorating the walls of the buildings. 
Pavement Graffiti
I rather love this "Love Thyself" one I spied on the pavement. It just goes to show how much you can gain from looking where you leap. 


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Finished Item Round Up

I seem to have only been making things for other people for quite a while now. Not that I'm complaining, but perhaps I should do a little 'me' sewing. Despite that, here is the mini quilt I made for the Pusheen Swap that recently concluded on Instagram.
Finished Alliance Pusheen Mini Quilt
The explanation behind this quilt is a little complicated. The Pusheens are on the applique'd fabric and are the ones I printed and mentioned in my last post.
Detail of the Alliance Mini Quilt
The lion's head of the symbol of the Alliance on World of Warcraft (a massive computer game), the unicorns are...unicorns and the most like colours of the recipient are purple and grey. I combined all of these references into one mini and accompanied it with this one-hour basket...
Finished Unicorn Basket
...because the recipient is also a big Labyrinth fan. So having included elements of Pusheen, WoW, unicorns, purple and Labyrinth I then forgot to tell her which swap it was for and she had to puzzle it out by herself. She seem to have liked them though! These are the basket handles.
Printed ribbon handles
A dotted cutting line with scissors and 'cut here' printed on the ribbon.

I have been very much enjoying participating in the SF Quilt Guild for the last few months and at the July meeting they were asking for volunteers to bind some finished Community quilts. I stepped up and was given a *very* brightly coloured one about the size of a single bed.
Adding binding to a community quilt
I duly delivered it back at this week's meeting and asked if they had any more. They didn't but they did need some more tops so I was handed a bundle of fabric and told to make a baby quilt. 6 hours later and ta da!
Finished Sheep Quilt Top
I was a little unsure about the black but they had included it in the bundle so off I went. I basically made it up as I went along but I knew as soon as I saw it that the sheep would have to be a focus.
Block of the sheep quilt
Overall I am pretty happy with it and will hand it over at the next meeting.


Saturday, 15 August 2015

Swaps and Bees

I mentioned the Pusheen Swap in my last post and here is part of my main swap item - a mini quilt. I designed and printed my own Pusheen fabric using my home printer. It's something I've done a few times and it works well as long as you don't want to wash the finished item. 
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I printed two letter-sized sheets and then used them for applique. Here is part of the design...
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It is quite an intricate design which I am applique-ing to a plain white background. 

For the Simply Mini swap (another one from Instagram) I had a big scrap dive using the hexagon fabric on the left as the main fabric. 
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I'm trying some reverse applique portholes for this so I'll have to see how it goes. This palette is quite unusual for me as there is no red. Makes it a bit more of a challenge!

Something else unusual and slightly challenging was this pencil case. Isn't it adorable?
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The fabric comes from Spoonflower with the design ready printed and instructions included. I got it completely free by combining a free-shipping day with some Spoondollars I had earned by selling my own design. 

Finally I said a few posts ago that I was going to join the 30's Farmers Wife Sew-A-Long, and had a crazy idea I might do it in Liberty fabric. Yeah. A bit of surfing showed me prices and brought me to my senses. Mind you, I did then splurge somewhat on Etsy, and add a few long term stashed fabrics, to assemble this lot. 
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The inspiration behind my colour scheme is one of my Somerset-from-the-train photos a la this:
View from Cheddar Gorge Tower 1
Lots of blues, greens and bit of brown. Lovely!


Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Babe With The Power

There have been further experiments with my embroidery machine. I am trialling a handy piece of software called Sew What which looks a little old school in layout but allows you to put together your own designs to embroider. There are a few stitch options so I decided to try out a little applique, since I haven't used the machine for that yet. 
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I ended up making this coaster for a friend out of some Cotton and Steel charm squares, an offcut of batting and some scraps of bias binding. On the software it was very simple - decide on one of the set alphabets in the software (there are about 30), get the size right and select "Satin Outline". I had to try a few experiments to get the outline thick enough and I still think it could have gone a lot thicker but it looks ok. 

The second thing I tried was a simple phrase. This is for part of my Pusheen Swap parcel and the recipient is a fan of all sorts of things I know nothing about. A bit of research told me she would like this. 
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This one came out OK but it taught me that variegated thread doesn't really work on this kind of design. Having said that, I am still really happy with the way this basic design came out and the suggestions it offers for future development. 

There is one set of designs that I have been eyeing up - chalkboard type ones by Anita Goodman that I first saw on Instagram which you can see on this blog. I'm not sure where I can buy them from though so if anyone knows share that with me!


Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Goodbye England, Hello America

England from above is truly a patchwork, and specifically a crazy patchwork, of fields.
English Weather
America, or at least the bit I flew over on my way back to San Francisco, is not so crazy.
American Fields from Above
You can imagine putting a quilt of that together with a jelly roll of pre-cut strips whereas the England one would definitely be a chance to use up scraps.

I have blogged several times about how much I love the view from aeroplanes. On this trip I saw a few startling and interesting things. It took me a while to realise these 'steaming' mountains weren't some sort of active volcanoes no one had mentioned to me.
California Wildfires from Above
Wildfires - I'd missed hearing about them on NP Radio but now I'm back I know that they are burning large parts of California at the moment.

One thing no one who has spent any time in California in the last year or two can have missed hearing about is the drought here. These pictures of a lake show how much it has shrunk by - see the whiteness of the exposed rock around the water.
Shrinking Reservoirs from Above
Pretty shocking.

Of course as well as the shocking, there is the breathtaking.
Blue Sky Over California
Isn't that beautiful? I never tire of looking at the sky. Even at work I can look up and see it through the skylights and get lost for ages before remembering my to do list is a mile long.

It was heartbreaking to leave Sian, Jasmine and the rest of the family behind. On Saturday my Dad and Brother came to visit and we had a great time taking Jasmine to a playground before heading to a cafe. "Grumps" rendition of Meg and Mog brought the house down.
Jasmine and Dad
While Jas and I got to exchange some final words of wisdom.
Jasmine and Me
Isn't she beautiful? And so clever. She talks in phrases and often in sentences now, although sometimes the latter are not so intelligible. You just have to listen and if you don't get it the second time say something like "Wow, really?" to which she responds with a highly affirmative "Yes".

The downside to getting to experience a different culture is leaving your family and friends behind.


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Joining a Quilt-A-Long

I am going to join the 1930's Farmers Wife Quilt Along!

verykerryberry

I am not committing lightly to something that will take about a year but I have been wanting to try this kind of project for a long time now and since I have all the blocks I need (for now) for my Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses Quilt it seemed like a good time to start a new thing. This one is being run by Very Kerry Berry and there are details on her blog

The key thing now is what fabric to do it in. This is the full quilt. 
This image is from Quilting by the Bay who have a block of the month club for the quilt. I did consider something like that but then a crazy thought entered my head. Liberty. Liberty fabrics. But that's crazy. Right? Sheer crazy. I mean...who would even think that. Yep. Too crazy. 


Monday, 27 July 2015

Catching Up With My Ickle Niece

I am back on the right side of the pond, which is to say back in England, my England. The view from one of the three trains I got form the airport to my sister's in the south west.
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Needless to say, it has rained pretty much non-stop since I arrived. I love it!  I have really missed proper clouds and rain.

I gave Jasmine the i-spy quilt I made her and she took to it immediately.
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Another thing she took to was the glitter wand thing I picked up on some shopping trip. I have been hit - mainly in the face - by that thing more times than I can count in the space of 48 hours.

Since I saw her last Jas has started saying phrases and attempting whole paragraphs of conversation. She has a very precise way of saying "Yes" which she combines with "Let's do that" or some other random phrase she's heard someone say and has stuck in her little head. She is just as inquisitive as ever but now, rather than simply emptying and refilling whatever bag she finds, she wants to know what everything is. I thought I might be able to use this to my advantage when she found my EPP pouch.
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I explained what all the pieces were as she held each one up and then asked whether she wanted to try sewing. "No" was all I got in response. Very disappointing. I'll keep trying, although possibly using the lace-up cards Jan from SewandSowFarm suggested first.

Yesterday we went into Bath and got Jasmine some new wellington boots - not an easy task since the first pair she tried on caused her to howl with anguish. No doubt that it is not easy being two years old. Fortunately Clarks had some rabbit ones as well as a number of women to measure her feet.
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Jasmine wore one of her patent "what's this woman doing to me?" looks through the whole thing but her enthusiasm about the wellies was the real indicator. While paying I asked the woman at the counter whether most children were happy about buying shoes - since when I was young I hated it. She said it was completely random and sure enough, as I got back to Jas and my sister, Jasmine was beside herself with woe because she was once again wearing the wellingtons she'd been so keen on 2 minutes earlier. Luckily by the time we got back to the house she was in love with them again and has hardly taken them off since. I even got an impromptu drawing lesson from her in them.
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Today saw us arriving at a family friendly spa in Worcester which is a wonderful place. It's clearly been a country home for a family in the past and the set up is of that ilk circa 1910. Velvet covered sofas cover the ground floor rooms, decked with multiple cushions in all sorts of patterns. A huge carved mahogany fireplace sits nicely with the ornate grandfather clock and bar. I feel like we've done nothing but eat since we've got here although we did go for a swim this afternoon and Jasmine and I explored the large gardens earlier while Sian had a snooze. She got onto a trampoline for the first time and after some hesitancy was bouncing all over the place.
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Because the place is aimed at families with small children there are some very nice touches like free milk and the place settings which echo those for the adults.
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I am loving it - especially high tea this afternoon.
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My sister is not quite as relaxed. There is a listening service so the little one can go to bed and you go back and have your dinner and, perhaps (she says with one at her elbow), a cocktail. However, Sian is convinced it will be Madeleine McCann all over again if she leaves Jas in the room by herself so I will be dining alone tonight. Not that I'll be eating that much. Not after that tea.


Thursday, 23 July 2015

Slow and Fast Stitching

It has been a good week on the sewing machine. Yesterday I finished this i-spy blanket for my ickle niece.
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The back is the very soft minky fabric I got from fabrics.com with the stars embossed in it. It should be good for cuddling when she's poorly and hopefully she'll enjoy looking at all the different pictures and making up stories about them.

I also finished the top of my latest decorative mat - this one for the chest of drawers in the bedroom.
It needs sandwiching and quilting of course but at least this bit is finished. Those y-seams! I will not be rushing to do that again.

Then my ongoing sewing has been on the blue EPP quilt for my Mum.
I've drawn a line to show how far I have got with the hand quilting.
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Clearly I've got a loooong way to go - but I can only do it every other day because it makes my finger tips hurt. Ah! How we suffer for our craft!


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