Stitchwort sparkles and the scent of honeysuckle in the morning……

the palest most delicate wisp of petal

It’s been too warm to wander off very far this past week so walks have been short ones before the day has really started…..the grass is damp and dewy and the morning is still rubbing sleep out of it’s eyes, but it’s the best time to get out of the house and head off over the marshes, walking slowly back along the lane behind our home.  The trees either side almost touch overhead so it’s nice and shady and the sunlight casts flickering patterns on the ground.

We’ve been noticing scatterings of bright red poppies over the last few weeks but I particularly liked this very pale pink poppy…..it’s rose tinged petals were so delicate, almost translucent.

marshmallow

Just round the corner from our house there’s a huge clump of mallow growing and turning the corner to see them in the sunshine they’re a proper treat to see….bright mauve flecked with a deeper almost Imperial purple.

Most mornings when I walk past them the air is filled with fat bees, tumbling and rolling over the flowers, clambering out from between petals all pollen dusty and golden.

marshmallow by the shed

The mallow is growing by a neighbours’ shed which is a bit tumble downy, last Autumn I took some pictures of a bright red creeper which was growing here so it’s nice that it’s also home to another burst of intense colour.

Even though it’s a wild flower and grows somewhat higgledy piggledy, I think it’s still a somewhat grand and stately plant (maybe it has posh relatives somewhere along the line….) I like it when the mallows grow really super tall like hollyhocks.

honeysuckle

Walking home along the back of the golf course means I pass by this little metal archway, I have no idea where it’s come from, how long it’s been here….but every year it gets covered in the most sweet smelling honeysuckle which is visited by butterflies and an assortment of softly buzzing bees.

The hedgerows along here are good for foraging, in a month or so the hedges will be full of jewel bright blackberries.  Come September and I’ll be picking crab apples and sloes (I’d like to make some crab apple jellies for winter gravies and am already noting where I’m seeing the biggest apple trees.)

honeysuckle growing up over the metal archway

It’s nice to look at either side of and it’s one of the “markers” we notice every time we come out this way for a walk…right now the honeysuckle smells so lovely, very scented and if I close my eyes I’m taken back to my Nanny’s bathroom when she used to use a talc by Yardley that smelt just the same.

wild roses

The wild roses are also doing well this year, these ones didn’t seem particularly perfumed so to appreciate them I had to stick my nose right into the flower, all too late seeing and then not quite managing to avoid the vicious clump of nettles that are growing all around the bushes.

starlight speckles of stitchwort

In the pastures the grasses are waist height and I can never resist running my hands and fingers through them as I walk by, allowing the grass heads to bunch up and pull off from the stem before I scatter a thousand seeds up in to the air…the motion of the seeds makes me think of when Bernard is helping me with my knitting, stitches un-ravelling everywhere…..even the dainty stitchwort is growing high and seems to sparkle in the sunshine like tiny stars.

When I’m sketching and jotting down new embroidery ideas I keep coming back to the stitchwort, everything seems to look better with a handful of small white petals flickering around the designs edge.

first sighting this year of tufted vetch

And I saw the first of this year’s tufted vetch, the intense blue of a bluebell, trailing up other plants with delicate twirling tendrils….along with the ragged robin it’s one of my favourite wild flowers, finding it amongst the grass makes me happy each Summer when it appears for just a few months.

Summer is properly here now and the wild flowers are changing, forget me nots have all been forgotten and even the yellow rattle isn’t quite as bright as a week or two ago, flashes of mauve appear further back, orchids and some straggly ragged robin.  But as one flower fades another seems to appear to take it’s place and I’m starting to see the first of the rose bay willow herb and now I’m watching out for the water mint which goes very well in cocktails and cordials.

a garden of soft and soporific blue………..

lavender hued rosemary blossoms

Sadly these soft dreamy inducing hues are now but a distant memory, a struggling to remember dream when the garden was gentle and blue….while the rosemary flowers  last they’re gathered to use in the kitchen, delicate tasting  blossoms are picked and scattered over warm pasta dishes and salads… each year I think about making biscuits (and always forget) …..now the rosemary is bare for another year but on hot days there’s almost a haze of scent around it…pungent and strongly perfumed oils fill the garden from one, not even particularly large, little bush.

When it all gets too much Bernard (and now Bob from next door) will inevitably wriggle themselves underneath and flop out in the shade it gives…the patio feels cool beneath it and they’ll happily nap together out there all morning.

purple blossoms on the catnip

The first of the Summer catnip has been harvested and I’m keeping my fingers crossed no-one will nibble the new growth so I’ll be able to cut more in September….we used to have a nice big patch under our window which the bees loved however it suddenly disappeared and I’m suspecting Bob knows something about it.

I love the scent of fresh catnip…(and while I’ll put my hand up to being a crazy cat lady I’m not that crazy…it’s much more heady than the horrible old dry stuff sold in pet shops, the smell is quite herby, a bit like a mint crossed with oregano…….it’s a nice smell dad smell and one that is always hard to place…)  It can have a bit of a soporifc effect on people and in the past I’ve used a little in a herbal sachet to have under my pillow ….though not such a good idea if you have a cat that is effected by “nip”.

forget me not flowers

Even the little forget-me-nots have gone, it’s too hot for them now and they’ve wilted quicker than I have, but within another few weeks they’ll appear again, it’s a very rare Summer when they appear just the once.

At the start of each Summer we get a blanket of blue all along the sides of the steps, poking up between cracks in the path and patio, softening edges like an artists thumb smear of pastel.

I took the pictures a few weeks ago now as I had some ideas for more botancial embroideries but I got all distracted and head turned by a work basket full of hexagons so these have been sitting all forgotten about, however when it’s all hot and sticky, too sunny and bright like today, then it’s nice to look at them and think of cooler hued blossoms.

soporific blues

Seeing this little assortment of blue threads yesterday in one of Norwich’s many junkety/antique/you never know quite what you’ll find in there shops, made me smile as they reminded me of the above forgotten flowers and embroidery intentions….. though the shades themselves are very different to what we had in the garden, I couldn’t resist buying them as the colours made happy and my heart leap…also they were £1 for the lot and you can’t get a lot cheaper than that….some of the heavier threads are really more suited to use for embroidery…and even if it’s a bit on the thick side to get through the fabric it’ll look wonderful whipped through some herringbone stitches on a border.

Too many colours and too many textures….too much for some but perfect for me.

using a light weight interface on the back of silky fabrics

In between feasting on home-made ice-creams and sorbets  (all in an attempt to keep cool rather than me being a greedy pig), I’ve been sewing more little hexagons together for another cushion (though I’m also thinking about making a new bag using any which are leftover)…I found up another scrap bag which was home to some pieces of blanket silk, soft subtle shades which had originally been used to trim the edges of vintage blankets which I’d cut off when I was using the wool fabric for Christmas stockings and hot water bottles…

Rather than throw pieces away I’d just been tucking them away (for a rainy day or for when you never know when they might come in handy)…I tried making them into hexagons because the different coloured silk were a beautiful vintage palette, however the silk was quite fragile and started to split and tear as I began to join it…..I’m not one for giving up that easily though so bought a piece of a medium weight iron on interfacing and carefully positioned all the cut silks shapes onto the Vilene and just pressed them together with a low set iron…..the hexagons are a little puffy but I quite like the effect, and it means I can use up pieces that would otherwise have been made into stuffings (which was a shame to do when the fabric was so pretty).

mixing prints and fabric textures and weights

This new piece of patchwork is a proper old jumble of fabrics, no end of different patterns, prints, colours and then there are the different textures, lightweight tweeds, barkcloth, cotton, silks and satins, soft feeling chintzes and brushed cottons…

My favourite part of the day is first light, sewing when it’s early, when the shade and sunshine is dappled and dancing over my work table…sometimes I’m joined by Bernard, other times himself is still asleep and he’s all sprawled out on the bed, faintly snoring and wiggling his paws while he dreams.

a complete jumble of textures and prints

I love how this patchwork of hexagons is coming together, I know it’s not for everyone, too many colours, too many textures, too much of everything…and then the time…hand sewing is always a bit slow…it’s not a fast way of working, even though the hexagons are reasonably haphazard where they fall, some are moved along, nudged over to where they shine and sparkle a little bit brighter.

It’s fun to play, tipping out a work basket full of fabric wrapped papers and spreading them out over the carpet….it reminds me of rainy afternoons when me and my sisters were small and we’d set out a huge jigsaw puzzle on the table or carpet, it would keep us quiet for hours on end….I’m very aware of when I’m hand sewing I’m less talky, concentrating on the stitching rather than chitter chatter and nonsense …(I’m the first to admit I’m no Jane Austen heroine but instead know myself to be Miss Bates)…..

wild cherries and a raspberry sorbet for breakfast…..

wild cherries

I don’t want to grumble about the weather, it’s sunshiny and warm, and it’s lovely not to be all cooped up indoors out of the rain…however, it’s somewhat more than pleasantly warm and in true English weather form has gone from still pippy in the evenings to “phew what a scorcher” almost overnight……the last couple of days has seen me slowly melting, looking all pink cheeked and frazzled by mid morning…..

The last few mornings I’ve been up and out of bed about half five, then I’m outside watering everything and tending to plants in the garden before I need to wake the household for breakfast…any chores are done as early as possible,groceries are shopped for first thing and by eleven I’m all pooped out, too warm to do much more than sip cold drinks and sit in the shade.

Walking to the shops I’m always peering in hedgerows, and up in trees, seeing what’s ripening and this morning I picked a huge handful of small wild cherries from one of the many fruit trees that are dotted along the hedges and walk ways around our home….the cherries are smaller than the ones from the shops and are slightly sharper but no less lovely tasting, just perfect for eating when I’m sitting on the back door step when I get back home.  The cherries are hard to pick as the trees are rather tall and the fruit is all quite high up but with a bit of stretching I was able to harvest some fruit for a free snack.

homemade raspberry sorbet

I’m a bit like a hobbit in that I like a second breakfast, first breakfast is eaten not long after I’m up, and then second breakfast happens around ten.  As it was so hot today I thought I’d finish up the raspberry sorbet I made at the weekend, intensely fruity and syrupy sweet like a squash drink, it’s been one of the nicest sorbets I’ve made.

I’d half forgotten about the raspberries still in our freezer and was wondering what to use them for (we’ve still got jam and I don’t like cooked fruit puddings)…I was toying with the idea of an ice-cream but then decided to make a sorbet as I thought that would be a bit more refreshing……this was perfect for using frozen fruits that have been forgotten about and after reading about a peach ice-cream in a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall book that uses tinned peaches, I’m now thinking to try a sorbet with those…or tinned pears for a pear drop flavoured ice pudding.

Raspberry Sorbet

1 lb of frozen raspberries (this is their frozen weight straight out of the freezer)

150 g caster sugar

juice of half an orange

juice of half a lemon

*you can also add a little egg white but you don’t need much, I used about half of one as I was using the yolks for an ice-cream and then put the rest of the whites in the freezer)

In a large plastic sieve which is sitting over a big pyrex bowl, tumble in the frozen raspberries.  cover with a clean cloth and allow to thoroughly de-frost (you can put them in the fridge over night)….save the drained liquid

Puree and sieve the raspberries so all the seeds are left behind…I then sieved the puree a second time but you don’t have to do that. (It’s rather hard going on the elbows but it’s like doing a little exercise workout…goodbye “bingo wings”)

Bring the reserved raspberry liquid and the castor sugar to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes.  Allow it to cool and then add in the orange and lemon juice.

Stir in the raspberry puree.  Freeze for around 4 hours.

Whisk the egg white if you’re using it so it forms stiff peaks.  Carefully fold in the frozen raspberry puree a bit at a time so it becomes a lovely intense pink foam.

Re-freeze until the sorbet is firm (another few hours).

Just using the drained liquid from the frozen raspberries rather than adding water means the sorbet is incredibly intense and fruity…we had some with a homemade dark chocolate and it was the best combination.

When broccoli goes to seed and puffy chive flower clusters…..

broccoli flowers

A very early wake up mew this morning meant I was up and out in the garden well before 6 o’clock, watering everything in sight before it gets too hot to do much more than sit in some shade and drink something nice and cold….I had a little assistant, Bernard trotted around behind me, having a bit of a nose at what I’m doing and watching any trickles of water forming on the pathway and patio…..it’s always good being the first one outside, it’s so quiet just bird song and the soft droning buzz of bees already about their business.

yellow broccoli flowers

While I was carrying round our watering can I remembered these pictures I took a few weeks ago when the broccoli had flowered and started to go to seed….we left the broccoli out as the insects seemed to enjoy being on the flowers and I liked seeing the interesting shapes that the plants were forming especially the little seed pods growing along the stem and particularly those tiny specks of colour forming at the tip of the seed pods.

It reminded me at the time of some of the wild mustards I’d been embroidering and I thought to take some pictures to use as inspiration for more botanical embroideries…..(although my current obsession with sewing wee little hexagons has meant I’ve not picked up any embroidery for a couple of weeks, I’ve still been looking at plants and jotting down notes and reminders for future projects)….

chives and a tumbling bee

And even though the chive flowers have all been used or faded now to almost translucent wisps of grey (they’re more like the ghost of chive flowers) looking through these pictures and I’m straight away reminded of their pungent sharp scent when picked, beautiful bright colour and that incredible globe of petal clusters….

chives and rocket

The chives were a big hit with the bees, they were nearly always covered with fat fuzzy bumbles tumbling around on them, pollen laden pantaloons drenched in yellow and gold, but they were also popular in the kitchen where I sprinkled them into sandwiches or scattered them on top of melting sheep and goat’s cheese under the grill, in a humble pie, or with a few torn leaves as a quick salad….

flowering chives

I love the round puffy shape of the flower head, a cluster of bright petals….when I’ve made notes and thumbnails in a sketchbook I’ve tried to imagine how these will look embroidered…combinations of short straight stitches, lazy daisy stitches and bullion knots (a stitch I’m not great at but was practising a lot and like all things was getting better at with practise,until the hexagons took over)….

But while the embroidery has for the moment been put to one side, it’s nice to still take note of flowers and plants in the garden, scribbling down ideas and sketches of how the flowers slowly change and take on new shapes, making a little library of reference for days when inspiration seems somewhat unwilling.

Wisps of torn fairy dress silk and a halo of plantain blossom…….

ragged robin in the pastures

Finally it seems that Summer has arrived, after weeks of only so so weather last week was filled with lovely and warm sun-shiny days, afternoons where it was all hot and sticky, and home made cordials and ice-creams were made and quickly eaten…..

When it’s cooler I tend to go for an afternoon walk but now it’s hot I tend to pop my shoes on and head out in the morning, sometimes it’s a detour, the long way round to the local shops, but more often than not it’s going outside just for the sheer pleasure it gives me to be outside and taking in the beautiful scenery.

Right now the meadows and pastures over the marshes are in full flower, the cows are still on other fields so the flowers this year have been allowed to grow undisturbed…. they seem more lush than in previous years and certainly I’m seeing such an abundance of flowers.  Many of the flowers I remember from learning their names when I was younger though some have been forgotten, but the countryside is a bit different here to where I grew up and so last year I decided to learn the names of as many of the wild flowers that grow near my home as possible…not a resolution but something I wanted to do.  It’s lovely walking and rather than just thinking “flowers”, I’m seeing names now along with the different coloured flowers and plants.

Most days when I go out I take a couple of books with me and a small sketchbook in which to scribble flowers and grasses, taking notes for future embroideries and the odd colour combinations for patchwork.  I also tuck a few pieces of blotting paper between the pages so I can take the odd cutting as a keepsake.

ragged robin

Ragged robin is one of my favourite wild flowers, tiny wisps of petal that look like torn fragments of fairy dress silk….I love the colour and the way the delicate, barely there petals flutter and dance in the slightest breeze…..last year I saw barely any on here but this year the small meadow as you walk in on the marshes is a feast of mauve and rippling blossom.

buttercups and red clover

The red clover is everywhere, huge swathes of soft purple covers the ground.  I love the fat round shape of the flower head, a plump ball of petals….perfectly shaped for embroidering with a mass of bullion stitches.

red and white clover

I love seeing where big patches of white clover grows in amongst the red…..a real mix of colour with the buttercups

stitchwork looks like tiny stars

Like tiny shining stars scattered amongst the grass and vetch….speckles of the brightest white stitchwort almost gleams in the sunlight.

meadow buttercup

The meadow buttercups are growing so high this year….in part I guess because the cows haven’t moved on to this part of the meadow so the flowers are allowed to grow as they please…another few weeks and they’ll all be munched down.

Right now the meadows are waist deep in golden blossoms.

yellow rattle

The meadows truly look golden with all the yellow blossoms, amongst the meadow buttercups yellow rattle is growing thicker than I’ve ever seen before….unlike some of the other flowers it’s not limited to one or two areas but it’s growing everywhere, each meadow is as sun-shiny yellow as the saltiest English butter.

plantain

Plantain…another favourite flower…It can look a bit boring to start with, just a dull, khaki green colour but then it slowly begins to blossom and the head erupts with a halo of delicate tiny white flowers which move up the lozenge shaped head….

speedwell on the marshes

Amongst the shorter grass worn flat by years of dog walkers and people just out and about like myself there are carpets of germander speedwell….some people call it forget me not but in truth it’s a speedwell, sometimes it’s called cat’s-eye speedwell, or bird’s-eye speedwell…..  Tiny petals which are the most intense blue, each one flecked with white stripes.  We’ve had this in the garden, growing around the rocket in a raised bed and also appearing near the compost bins…it’s such a pretty and dainty little flower and apparently is a good luck charm for travellers….. if I was a sock knitter I’d want to knit socks with tiny speedwell blossoms over them to wear when I was out walking.

Gorgeous goosgogs and a refreshing cordial.

fragrant elderflower blossoms

When I’ve been out walking I’ve noticed the abundance of elderflowers this year, while all the heads may not be huge, the flowers are rich and heady with pollen and scent, they smell gorgeous and I thought to pick some during the week to make some ice-cream and cordial.

One of my friends gave me some strawberries and gooseberries from her allotment and while I’ll happily eat strawberries until they come out of my ears, I’m not the biggest fan of cooked gooseberries unless they’re in a jam…..however we’ve still got a pantry full of preserves made last Summer (since I’ve had to stop eating bread I realise just who it was eating all the marmalades and jam on toast…me) so I thought it would be a bit daft to make more, and then I found a recipe for gooseberry and elderflower ice-cream and thought it would make a nice pudding now the weather has turned almost overnight from wrapped in woolies Winter to scorchy Summer .

The ice-cream is very easy, and was nice although I think I should have used more elderflowers as the taste was very subtle (the heads I used weren’t huge so maybe I should have bunged more in)….I used the recipe from Sarah Raven’s Garden cookbook….this is one of my favourite recipe books and I’ve seen it quite cheap on a few on-line places…..she’s a great cook and there are some nice “foraging” recipes using food you can find in the wild.

The fruit and flowers are cooked with a little water to which you allow to cool and then you beat egg yolks and sugar together, whip some double cream, and then whip the egg whites…the cooled puree is mixed in with the yolks and then you add the cream and the egg whites before putting it in the freezer…..the full recipe and quantities are in the book.

It’s great because you don’t have to keep taking the ice-cream out of the freezer to whisk…….using the freshest eggs and best cream will make a big difference as will using home grown fruit.

and the assistant helps out

And as you can see, I had a little assistant to help me….the bowl wasn’t down two minutes while I got my camera but someone had to stick his nose in to see whether there was anything interesting inside……the lovely bowl is one of the few remaining kitchen items I inherited when my nanny died, I love the yellow glaze inside, and I’ve not seen another one like it.

The elderflower cordial was ridiculously easy to make and has come out tasting so good that even my boyfriend is drinking it (and he’s not normally a cordial kind of guy)

Elderflower Cordial

1 un-waxed lemon

10 big elderflower heads

1 kilo of granulated sugar

25 g of citric acid (you can buy it from Boots)

750 ml water.

Put a kettle on a boil the water….put the sugar into a large bowl (I used my jam pan* as it’s nice and big)……and then pour on the water…stir to dissolve the sugar.

Grate the lemon rind and finely slice the lemon.

Add the grated and sliced lemon and the citric acid to the sugary water….stir

Give the elderflowers a gentle shake making sure sure there aren’t any little creepy crawlies or eggs attached to the flowers…..immerse in the syrup and cover with a large clean tea towel.

Leave for at least 24 hours…stir occasionally.

Sieve the mixture through a large square of muslin, and pour into sterilised bottles** and then seal.

This should keep for up to 6 months in a cool dark place or you may refer to keep it in the fridge…you can also pour the syrup into ice cube bags and keep in the freezer.

Next batch I make I’m going to add some crushed lemon verbena leaves…..

strawberries growing where they please

The past few weeks our wild and alpine strawberries have been ripening in moments of sunshine, because it’s not been great weather-wise they’ve had to work hard and the berries are even more intense flavoured than ever this year. As always it’s the plants that grow where they please that have produced the best tasting berries and although I normally have a small handful scattered over yoghurt for breakfast I’m thinking to adapt the cordial recipe and try and make a strawberry one.

We’ve also had the very first of the raspberries (no pictures though as I was too busy cramming them into my mouth to worry about getting my camera) ….this is very early as they’re a late season variety (Autumn Bliss)…the plants are already laden with berries so perhaps we’ll have a bigger first harvest….. (last year we only had a few in the first crop followed by a few weeks of nothing…but then our second harvest was the best ever…thankfully I’ll never get fed up of eating warm raspberries picked just minutes before).

* not the fancy copper pan but a cheap one I bought some years ago from a local department store.

** We’re somewhat addicted to Lorina lemonade, and always save the bottles for cordials as they have lovely tops and are a fantastic size….or we give them to friends who make fruit drinks.

A hexagon how to without sewing through the papers…..

threaded needles

What can I say…it’s like an addiction, little 2 inch wide hexagons have started to take over all and everything…there is a pile of ironing draped over the bannisters upstairs that is threatening to tumble at any moment and a list of chores as long as my arm but all I want to do is make hexagons and sew them together…..

I’ve become like those ladies at Bingo with all their cards spread out before them…instead of cards though it’s umpteen needles all threaded up with different coloured basting and tacking threads, to keep stopping and starting to thread a needle is an interruption to the hexagons so I like to thread up nearly two dozen assorted “sharps” and applique needles and pin them to the cloth on my sewing table…nothing is coming between me and my hexagons.

pin over the first corner

The other day I wrote about how I like to empty out a scrap box of fabric and make hexagons from a proper old assortment of prints and fabrics…..for the most part I don’t fuss too much about ironing the fabric first, I’m happy to just pin and cut round the papers.

When I sew the fabric around my papers I do it a bit differently from how you may have seen other people do it, I don’t sew through the papers but just through the fabric. I don’t have any problems with the hexagons dropping out while I’m working and it saves me the bother of having to un-pick all those tacking stitches.  For the most part I use a generous 1/4 inch seam allowance, veering towards 5/8 of an inch, but even then it’s only guessed at.

I wrote about this briefly the other day but was later asked if I could explain how I sew the hexagons in place so that they aren’t loose and liable to drop out when you pick them up….

I start off placing a hexagon on the fabric, pin though the centre and cut around the fabric leaving the seam allowance…..then fold the fabric over one side of the paper shape and then carefully down over from the top, you want the fabric nice and tight around the paper…and then pin into place, going through both the paper and fabric.  Depending on the type of fabric I’ll sometimes pin every other corner or even every corner if it’s particularly slippery fabric…..however after a while of making the hexagons, you may find for some fabrics you don’t need to pin all the corners but instead can fold the fabric over as you sew round….always pin the first corner though as it keeps the fabric that bit more secure. (it also helps if you have long nails to hold the fabric in place…if not you may find using pins easier)

fold and hold corner into place

Fold the fabric down along the top edge and the bring the fabric over from the side so you have a second corner covered, hold the fabric securely with your thumb nail (apologies for my grubby nails but I’d been weeding earlier in the day)…just like before, you want the fabric to be nice and tight around the paper template.

secure the fold with a series of small stitches

Using a fine sharp needle make a series of small stitches through the layers of fabric but not thought the paper to hold the corner seam in place….

make the stiches as small as you can

Start at the bottom of the fold and carefully make 3 or 4 stitches upwards to the top of the fold…try to use small stitches and insert your needle almost directly under the line of where the fold edge lays….work up to the top and then make one or two stitches back down to the bottom again….keep working round in this manner.

Keep the end pin in place until you are ready to sew the last corner, and keep the central pin in place until the last corner is actually sewn.

finished patchwork hexagon

As you sew the fabric, the hexagon is rotated clockwise however as you move your hands it feels like you are working anti-clockwise so it feels a bit odd to begin with.

Using really sharp and fine needles does help a lot as does using good quality tacking thread….I tend to favour vintage cotton thread as that seems to be less tangley, but more often than not I just pick out what thread is in my sewing basket.

I also find it easier to use a contrasting coloured thread to the fabric so I can see my stitches easier.

For hexagons that have sides wider than an inch, you may like to run your thread along the fabric in a series of small running stitches, still avoiding going through the papers.

I’ve found this method works fine on hexagons with sides of up to 2 inches (4 inches wide across the centre of the hexagon)…when they get bigger than that then you may prefer the security of sewing though the papers themselves as the sides do begin to gape a little.

It’s also better for your needles, we all know cutting paper with fabric scissors will blunt them quicker than anything so sewing through all the papers can’t be good for needles, some needles can be sharpened in a bag of emery but the Clover Black Gold ones won’t like that treatment one bit (the black coating comes off…..

Chintzes, silks, psychedelic nylons, worn pinnies and caravan curtains……

patchwork sewing outdoors

Yesterday was gorgeous, after a weekend of rain and a gloomy, overcast start to the week, the sun shone and it was so nice and sunny that me and Bernard spent most of the day out in the garden doing some sewing (okay, he wasn’t sewing, but instead curled up on my lap which felt somewhat like having a hot water bottle on my knees as he’s a very warm kitty)……I’ve become rather obsessed now with making more hexagons, the cushions from last week were intended as a way to use up the hexagons I’d found whilest tidying but as they began running out I couldn’t help myself and began to make more…..

One of the many things I love about making hexagons is that they are so portable which is why I sat out in the garden slowly turning pink with a pile of pinned papers on the little table in front of me…..and Bernard much prefers me to hand sew when he’s all cuddled down on my lap…he’s not a fan of my sewing machine.

hexagons ready to make a square cushion

I finished up the third cushion cover, a big square one this time which will go on the nanny chair (Bernard was pulling the other two cushions about so I thought to make one for what is really his sulky chair….he tends to sit there when he’s not feeling so cuddly)…..such a mix of fabrics, colours, prints and patterns…..as always there are some proper favourites that I use a little of in nearly all my patchwork, but there are also fabrics used which normally I’d wrinkle my nose up at…just small pieces of prints I find less than appealing seem to work when they’re cut down and mixed in with a selection of fabric more in tune with my tastes.

When I’m hand sewing the patchwork for my quilts I’m really fussy about which fabric I’m using,  I tend to shy away from using “vintage” sheets as I find that a lot of them aren’t 100% cotton so don’t feel nice to sew or they bobble or the fabric has worn really thin….even though I’ve seen some really bright and cheery quilts made from them, using them isn’t for me….however their mix of print and gaudy colours is ideal when I’m lining Christmas Stockings or hot water bottles and have found small scraps of them work fine when I’m making hexagon patchwork….

I love the back as much as the front

And it’s not just old scraps of sheets that can be used, all those small pieces that aren’t big enough to dress a mouse with seem to be perfect for wrapping around a hexagon paper….I’ve used cottons and chintzes, silk edgings from vintage blankets, lining satins, polyester scraps from Sylvia which I think were originally pussy-cat bow blouses from the seventies, lightweight needle-cord, psychedelic nylons and bizarre folk patterned brushed cottons, fabrics that probably started out as curtains for a caravan and pieces from old and worn pinnies…..a mix of pattern, print, texture and weight……

I really like how the patchwork looks from the back…..I sew my hexagons a bit different in that I don’t sew through the paper template but instead stitch the fabric securely to itself at the corners, making a little pocket for the paper to sit…..the papers come out pretty easily and it’s a lot less pfaffy than having to cut all the basting stitches out….but also the hexagons keep nice and neat on the back, giving a bit more structure and stability to the patchwork as a whole.

hexagon cushions

These are the three cushions on some patchwork which is waiting to be basted (I bought some fabric at the start of the year for the backing but then decided to save it for when the dottie angel frock pattern becomes available*…..so need to re-think what to use for the back)

A lot of these are fabrics I wouldn’t dream of using for a quilt patchwork but I love how they combine together when sewn over papers….there’s something nice about about being able to use up pieces form a scrap bag and making something from nothing.

Using up scraps doesn’t end there…I hate putting things out, I think I’ve inherited this from my dad as he was a proper old hoarder, always telling me and my sisters as we were growing up “blast, don’t put that out, that’ll come in right handy”….so even when I’ve used up scraps to make the hexagons, tiny snippets from trimming round the papers get saved and used as cushion stuffing (my nanny used to use old pairs of tights and I can remember sitting with her on the sofa helping to chop up old laddered stockings for stuffing to make long sausages she’d put by the doors to stop winter drafts whistling in.)

I love how each cushion is different yet they sit together beautifully, they’ve all got fabrics in common but also have one or two exclusive to themselves.

*believe it’s September in the UK but is available now if you like in the US.