Cushions again?!?

September 19th 

On Tuesday I drove over to my MIL to collect some of my FIL things.  It is always a difficult and raw time after you loose someone and touching their belongings too seems both right and wrong.  Mixed emotions.

On return home, I could not lift some of the items out of the car and so there they stayed until the children came home and helped me, but I did look through one bag on Wednesday morning and my whole day suddenly changed.  That which I had planned flew out of the window and nostalgia took over and the sewing machine had to come out.  What did I find?  My FILs old shirts...  I knew that they were coming into our house, but I did not realise the effect they would have on me.  I had a day full of memories and began to cut up the old shirts and make cushions for the grandchildren out of them.  Something to hold and snuggle, something of their grandfather.

As I was making five cushions out of six shirts I had to be a little creative in how I used the shirts, but think they turned out well.  The two that have received theirs certainly appreciated them and have pride of place on the sofa.  I still have three to finish, the fronts are made, but I am waiting on cushion inners and then I will make the backs up and hope to post them to their new homes next week...

Each letter had a template made up first

Trying to keep the stripes in line!

Good old zig zag on the machine

Attaching the 'J' was the hardest letter of them all

The pink and blue looked particularly good, I thought

The three cushions still to complete

Completed shirt cushion
I used an envelope style pattern, so no zips needed and
incorporated the breast pocket of the shirt too
 on the back side of the cushion

This shirt back was so soft and very tactile

The children loved their new cushions and
snuggled up with them immediately

Even the cat loves the cushions,
 they hold memories for us all
Memories are important and this little thing I did on Wednesday made me look back on happy days but also forward.  Life has to go on...

Hoping you all have a beautiful weekend

Cushions, cushions and more cushions

September 18th 

Putting the drawn pattern behind the
material made it easy to embroider
any shape or pattern
At present my days are filled with crafting and not earning and I love it!  My work load is often quiet at this time of year and I have learnt to embrace it with both arms and make the most of it.  Knowing that this does not tend to last very long, I begin so many new projects and this week seems to be bursting with new things to try and do.  The first of this weeks makes was an embroidery cushion which was quick  (my favourite kind) and very therapeutic.   

How did this project begin?  Well, my son seems to be in a growing spurt and has jumped two year sizes in school shirts, having asked a couple of friends if their sons wanted them and being politely refused, I decided that the charity shops probably would not want them either, so it got me thinking...

...maybe I could use the back of his shirt as a front cover for a cushion...  I set to straight away.

I knew immediately that I wanted to base it on Scandinavian red embroidery work and so began googling various patterns, the Internet is full of free patterns and you could spend forever on there and not actually do anything!  Not one pattern was suitable, but I amalgamated a few and cobbled something that I was happy with. I drew out the design and then placed it behind the cut up shirt which was placed in an embroidery hoop and began to trace the pattern onto the material.  I have one of those disappearing ink pens for fabric which should in theory disappear after some time.  Mine must be old as the ink began to disappear within five minutes, meaning I could only trace a small section of the pattern at a time.  It was a race against the disappearing ink!

Embroidery and traced pattern,
beginning to disappear already

Progress was quick and I was able to sew
and sit with the children whilst they watched some TV

Front and back view

Almost finished, after a second evening

I had intended to back the cushion with a red fabric,
but instead opted for another section of a school shirt!

The cushion was lovely but looked lonely
on my sofa, so I have begun a second

This will be the main section of the second cushion,
 hope to finish it tomorrow...
These cushions would not win any awards, the stitching is uneven and they are not symmetrical, but they have cost me nothing except time as I had in house everything already. 
I think they make better cushions then they did school shirts!

It is almost the weekend,
cannot wait for the family to be together.

Blogging - why do it?

September 13th  

Why do you blog? Why do I blog? Why do we read blogs? What's the point? What's the fascination?  Well I cannot answer all of the above but I can answer from my perspective. I would love to know your views and thoughts too. 

I began blogging ten months ago at the beginning of last December. It happened quite by accident. For some time leading up to the first post I had been comtemplating writing a note book/diary for my children  about all the things we do in our household leading up to Christmas. Tradition is important to me, the old ones we have had for years and embracing new ones too. I love the festive season and the Scandinavian part of me has a field day. I wanted to put this all down for the children for the future. 

It suddenly dawned on me as I was sitting down thinking about this diary log that I was about to begin how much work it was going to be and that it might be easier to type it up rather than hand write it and would be so much easier to add in photographs too using the computer. Slowly slowly the penny began to drop that maybe a blog would be a good idea.  Just for the month of December. Bearing in mind I had not even read a blog before (my husband and children had had one for a while, but that was my only foray into the world of blogging) so I was not really sure what it entailed but it seemed like a good solution to my needs. 

Without really researching or thinking too much about it I set up an account with blogger and I was off.  And boy was it fun, but wow how time consuming, I had no idea. 

The thing with a blog is that not only do you have to have an idea, you need to often research, take photographs, make or do the item you are discussing and make sure you do it stage by stage if you are trying to be informative and THAT takes so much longer than if you were normally doing it. Add to that the steep learning curve of setting everything out on the page, the tears and frustration when the page doesn't look as you wish and the hours trying to sort it out only to find it hasn't worked!!!  December is always a busy month but last December in promising myself to post everyday was almost insane. But do you know what? I loved it and became hooked. 

So my blogging days began out of a desire to show and keep a record for my children but as the month of December passed by and I had fulfilled my wish, I chose to carry on. Why?

For me, the interaction of people commenting and friends talking to me about it, meeting new 'virtual' friends was addictive. I love receiving comments on the blog and welcome lots more. Unfortunately I  seem to have some sort of an issue with several people not being able to comment for one reason or another and that upsets me. Who else whom I have yet to meet has not been able to comment? Consequently I set up a Facebook page called eclectichomelife as well, whereby people can comment without trouble. If you have tried but not succeeded please drop me an email to:  eclectichomeandlife (at) gmail (dot) com. Please note that the email address has the word ' and ' in it also!

So far other than last December when I knew what I was to blog about, each month has been ramblings of the things I make and do. But for the first time I am now beginning to think ahead with the blog and am starting to write a list of items I wish to blog about. I too would like to build on my followers, but how to do that, so I may even dip a few toes into the internet to see how that maybe achieved.  I hope my enthusiasm shines through and my positive outlook on life. This blog has become my friend and my little bit of 'me' time in an ever busy world. I hope you can and want join me on my journey. 

Do you have any blogging tips or advice? Why do you blog? What made you begin? If you do not blog, why do you read them? What do you want from a blog? Any thoughts, comments, advice gratefully received. 

Crocheted fingerless mittens

September 12th 

Hot coffee and crocheted mittens a good combo
Before sitting down to write a blog post I make myself a coffee.  Today was no different, except that I made the coffee a tad strong and therefore needed extra milk.  Not leaving enough space to add the extra milk did however not stop me.  Some uncontrollable urge to fill the cup to the brim until the liquid within produced a perfect, held within the cup, did not flow over, dome shape.  Question was now, how to move said cup without spilling?  I couldn't!  So I lent over and slurped the coffee which of course was still far too hot for me to drink, I do not have an asbestos mouth as some people appear to have and consequently burnt my lip and tongue.  I feel and look a fool, does anyone else have uncontrollable silly urges that you just can't stop even though you know the idea is pants?!  No?!?!?  Just me then.  (At least I still didn't spill any!)

Yesterday I saw a post on one of the Internet crochet sites I belong to of some fabulous fingerless mittens.  I have secretly been harbouring an urge to knit a pair after my daughter received a lovely neon knitted set.  But my knitting skills are not up to much, so I have been thinking perhaps I should start with something more simple.  But salvation came with this pattern in regards to the mittens.  Again using just stash busting yarn, I set to.  The pattern called for chunky yarn, of which I had none, so I doubled up and used two strands.  What do you think?

The pattern is designed by a young Australian called Olivia and her blog is delightful, she has such a fresh and open view of the world.  I am her latest subscriber to her blog.  If you have not found her yet, I urge you to have a peek here

So to make her mittens, a quick photo journal of my creations, but pop over and see her pattern, link below the photographs.

Chain 32 and for the second row single stitch from the second
loop from the hook till the end of the row.

Row three same as row two.  Row four is where the button hole is
created. With four stitches left at the end of the row, chain two, miss two
stitches and single crochet the last two stitches.  See photo above.

Row five single crochet the whole row, remembering to
crochet into the two chains also.

Row 6 & 7 single crochet each row. 
Row 8, creating a second button hole, repeat row 4.

Row 9,10,11,12, single crochet, fasten off. 
Then make a second wrist cuff.
Sew buttons onto the wrist cuffs.

When ready to create the body of the mitten fold over the wrist and
crochet both layers together.  I overlapped my cuffs with four
stitches.  Continue round the whole cuff with single crochet.

Row 1 of the main body should end up looking
as in the above photograph.
The main body is made up of puff stitches, you need to yarn
over, insert in stitch, yarn over, pull through the stitch only, you should now
have 3 loops on the hook and repeat this again in the same stitch, making
sure you end up with 5 loops on the hook and finally repeat again making
 a total of seven loops on the hook.  then yarn over and pull through ALL
seven stitches.  this is a puff stitch.  there are good you tube tutorials if you need help. 

After each puff stitch, chain two, miss a stitch and then puff
stitch in the next stitch.   Continue all the way round.
 Repeat for row 2 also.  Row 3, I then reduced the number of chains
between each puff stitch to one, Olivia does not do this I her pattern,
 but I felt it made it a more snug fit.

Row 4, continue with puff stitch till the half way mark where you would like your
thumb to be, put it on to check you have the correct location.  After the puff stitch
before you would like your thumb hole, chain four, then double crochet into the
next space and puff stitch in the same space.  This creates the thumb hole.  See above.

Row 5 & 6, puff stitch all the way round with
one chain space between each. 

Row 7 & 8 double crochet around the mitten to finish off.
 Once finished fasten off and weave in all loose threads. 
Repeat for second mitten.

 Yesterday I made all three pairs of mittens, they are fun and quick and really addictive to make.  I shall be making plenty more.  Are you tempted?  Let me know how you get on and thank you Olivia for such a great pattern.

 For Olivia's pattern see here

♥Thank crunchy it is Friday, have a great week end!♥

Simply messing about in boats

September 11th

"Is it so nice as all that?" asked the mole, shyly...
9ft clinker built wooden boats
"Nice? It's the only thing," said the Water Rat Solemnly, as he leaned forward for his stroke. "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." "Simply messing...about in boats -- or with boats... In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not." "Look here! If you've really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together and have a long day of it.?"  An extract taken from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

Preparing the garden for the invasion of boat loving people
For the past 14 years along with family and friends we have held a regatta on the river Thames in late August early September.  It sounds posh and fancy but in reality it is not.  But what it is, is chaotic, fun and inclusive.  We usually cover at least three generations and everyone mucks in and has fun, it is simply one of the highlights of our family year.

The beginnings of this 'regatta' began long ago on Christmas Eve in Barbados in the early 90's.  Six of us, all unknown to each other had one way or another sailed across the Atlantic that autumn and had landed on the beach for Christmas.  It was here that friendships were cemented and have become long lasting and true. Two of the six on return to the UK the following years decided to return to education and became  students at Lowestoft boat building college.  It was here that skilled craftsmanship was learnt and these beautiful clinker built boats you see here were made.

Most people Spring clean their homes in the Spring, but I tend to do mine in the days between returning home from summer holidays and the regatta.  Friends and family descend from the Friday (although notoriously one year, several turned up on the Wednesday, that threw me a bit!) and stay until Sunday.  No part of the house, garden or sheds are left empty and there is no where to hide my mess.

Remembering to add some colour too in the early autumn garden

Almost ready for everyone to arrive, just a few bits left to do

Final preparations, everyone gets roped in
Borrowing glasses from the local super market

Some of our numerous prizes

The boats begin to arrive

We take it all very seriously ?!?!?

The house and garden begin to fill up
Friday night tends to be more mellow as not everyone comes
for this evening.  But cocktails are a must!

Dinner on Friday tends to be a fun dish, we have had
paella, mussels and sliders to name but a few.
Friday night puddings

Even the dog helps with washing the dishes!

Down at the Thames we take over a small section for the day
Over the years the racing has become less competitive?!?!?

There was very little wind to sail this year

So little in fact, one sailor decided to tow his boat

As the children grow, they become the
more serious competitors on the river

We put all sorts of boats on the river, not just the wooden ones

Lunch is always important and year on
year it becomes even more sumptuous

Lunch time rest for the boats too
After lunch the rowing races begin

Singles, double and anything that goes!

The obligatory splashing seems to begin earlier each year

We have had some interesting moments over the years
and need to remember to keep a good look out!

There is always time for a snooze by the river
...or reading the paper

...or playing

We even have an anything that goes race,
and often anything does!

But we always take safety on the water seriously
and wear buoyancy aids
We have racing marshals

Who seem to just make up their own minds as to who has won
and nobody really knows who will win
the trophies until presentation time!
On returning back to the house, showers are had and the adults begin to prepare the food, now helped by the children.  The great joy of this week end is that everyone mucks in and helps.  Before everyone turns up, jobs are dealt out and shopping lists given along with the ever growing invitation, this year it was 12 A4 pages long, including in the later years a section on nautical fashion, last year is was all about fur and leather?!!?  Everyone has a purpose, everyone contributes an no one person is left out or left to manage it all, I love it. 
Helping out with the tapas
...or just playing
Each year the tapas selection is outstanding

Whilst waiting to eat even more food,
we partake of a few cocktails
This year we had Icelandic Brenvin too!

The tapas always looks so colourful
and tastes even better

Everyone crowds round the tapas
Sometimes if one of us has made an unusual journey to far off lands,
we are a motley crew, so this happens quite often, we have a slide
show and all dream of doing something similar very soon

At some point during the evening we have prize giving,
 always an interesting turn of events, with much hilarity

For the past couple of years we have tried to be in touch with those who cannot make
it back to the regatta for whatever reason. We use Blue jeans as a means of communication
 and it has served us well.  This year, those abroad were able to sit in on the presentation too!

But sometimes the day and evening can get a little too much for some...

After the presentation and tapas, we always have a great big BBQ, looking through all the photographs from all the previous years, there is not one of the BBQ!  I shall have to make sure to rectify that next year.  The evening continues with much talk and drink and people peel off to whichever corner of the house, garden or shed they have been allocated for the weekend.

Sunday morning dawns and everyone needs feeding again.  Each year, someone different is given the job of cooking for the masses, not an easy task.  The smallest number we have been is 30 and the largest was 48.

I hope you have enjoyed a snippet of our home regatta weekend, I used photographs from a selection of years to try and give you a feel, however the majority were actually taken last weekend, when we held the 14th Classic Regatta.

♥Have a great week and enjoy♥