I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










A morning out




The weather appeared to be set fair for the day and with neither of us committed to anything today, we decided we’d put the National Trust cards to good use and visit Lacock Abbey. 




We rather liked the sound of this outdoor exhibition, thinking (hoping) it might be rather similar in tone to the marvellous Fresh Air shows we love to visit in Quenington, near Cirencester.  Anyway, a morning out in the fresh air sounded good after a few days indoors.




Whilst my hero sorted out the parking, I did a quick spell check on the information board.  Oh, National Trust, how could you describe Lacock as a “traditional medieval village layed out in a square” ?  




Moving right along…

A surprisingly large number of people were around considering the house was closed today and January wouldn’t normally be the choice month to visit a garden.  The exhibition appears to have attracted interest and though we’d have liked to have had the place to ourselves, we soon shook off the crowd!




The twelve exhibits were spread around the fairly large gardens, all easily accessible from a gravel path which was showing signs of fairly heavy wear in places.  The National Trust do seem to have hit the spot with this exhibition, for sure.




We thought it was the larger, more striking exhibits which worked best.  Those which caught our eye from a distance and invited a closer look.




Some smaller, more dangly things had mirrored surfaces which glinted in the light as they twirled in the breeze.




But other, smaller, more traditional painted glass works didn’t seem to work quite so well in this setting, we thought, especially since there were other, more successful dangly things in trees.




The magpie in me was immediately drawn to these colourful pieces, especially when I realised what happened when they turned around slightly.




I rather liked these panels, too and could see why they’d been chosen for some of the exhibition’s publicity shots.  I was pleased to see something a little different and more imaginative, too.




But my favourites were the two lotus flowers, standing on either side of the front steps




Each about a metre in diameter, the glorious blue of the surface lifted the spirit on a winter day.  Had they fitted in my bag, I’d have been very tempted…




Though the exhibition was the main attraction and clearly, what had taken us to Lacock in the first place, other small features caught our eye, including this little quiz in the botanic garden.




And though we passed a couple of cats mooching about by the pathway, neither was quite so placid as this one.




We had enjoyed wandering around the Abbey, admired the beautiful vaulted ceilings and learned something new in the bakery.




Apotropaic marks.




I think we earned our lunch at the Red Lion, then.  Very good it was too!






It was a beautiful morning to potter around Cirencester and shop local.  I had a few things on a list; we needed to buy meat, vegetables and stuff for the weekend and neither of us felt much like going further afield.  We were out early in the dazzling sunshine, noting the vast difference in temperature between the shops in the sun and those in the shade.




It was especially noticeable in the Market Place, where the stallholders in the Farmers’ Market were cloaked in deep shade until almost lunchtime.




When I get the chance, I love to shop like this; to visit the greengrocer, the butcher and the baker.  It’s fun to chat with each of them and of course, to observe our fellow customers.




Like the chap in front of us in the greengrocer who wanted to know the source of the dates on sale before buying them.  “Tunisia” appeared to be an acceptable answer…so off he popped and filled a bag.  We’d have liked to know more about his reasoning but of course, we’re English and wouldn’t dream of asking!  We were buying root vegetables to put in the pot with the rather tempting shin beef we’d just bought, imagining a spot of comfort food for supper tonight.




Who can resist bringing home a little Spring sunshine?  They won’t last very long but for a few days, the kitchen windowsill is a little brighter and the sweet scent makes washing up that bit more pleasant.




Wrapped up warm and with beef stew and dumplings on our mind then, It’s hard to imagine that just a year ago today, we were boarding our lovely cruise ship to set off on an exciting adventure having just enjoyed a few sunny days with our sweet friends in Florida.  We have to wait a little longer for our 2015 adventure, but looking up to the blue sky in Cirencester, it reminded me of those palm-tree fringed skies even if we are wearing several more layers of clothes today than we were this time  last year!


Guess what




I found the knitting mojo.

I think it was behind the sofa, hiding from a sewing machine with a cutwork attachment fitted.


With renewed determination


I opened the Designworks software this morning to complete the next exercise, the Cutwork Border Design.  The objects of this exercise were:

  • Working with Create Shape tools
  • Circular Array
  • Horizontal and Vertical Alignment
  • Sequence Manager
  • Tips for sewing out

Hmm, I could have used those last tips before now, but hey, I’m starting the project with a positive frame of mind and an air of confidence!  I created a new file and began the exercise, starting by drawing a circle with a diameter of 15mm and a 15.6mm x 13mm trapezoid below it.




Bearing in mind the relative sizes of those shapes and that the design fits in a hoop which is 255mm x 145mm, how would you interpret the instruction to adjust the positioning of the trapezoid so that it’s centred 73cm below the circle outline?   Yes, I imagine that, like me, you thought “oops, typo there” and made it 73mm instead?  But a little further consideration and I realised the most sensible measurement was 7.3mm.  Not one typo but two for the price of one!




But it didn’t end there.  The next row of shapes was to be positioned .5mm from the previous row.  Now, I admire precision, but .5mm?  I think that was supposed to be 5mm.

(I thought the Swiss were pretty accurate in such things but I’m beginning to reassess)




By now, I was getting used to the typos and the inconsistencies, so I immediately adjusted the instruction to position one small shape 5cm away from the tip of the trapezoid to 5mm, but with each mental adjustment, I lost a little more confidence in the likelihood of a successful outcome.


Fullscreen capture 18012015 161533


Anyway, I completed the design, so I saved it and exported to the USB stick.  It was my intention to cut it several times from the same fabric but to vary the starch/stiffening method to identify which worked best.




Having cut it once, however, my plans were revised.  Once again, the end result was sub-optimal though actually, the cutting of the shapes had been pretty accurate and rather neater than the photo above suggests.  What made it look especially raggy was the satin stitches on the edges – or just off the edges in some areas.

I thought I could do better.


Fullscreen capture 18012015 161341


Firstly, I created a smaller design to fiddle about with.  What’s more frustrating than watching a huge shape being stitched out having recognised within the first five minutes that it’s not going to work as hoped?  So, I used the basic idea in the Bernina workbook to create something similar and worked my way through it whilst thinking carefully about the suggested settings.  Where the exercise stated a cutting offset of 0mm, I made sure the stitching line was offset by 1mm so the machine didn’t stitch in thin air.  I created a wider satin stitch around the cut areas and watched the “slow draw” of the design very carefully to make sure the edges were going to be covered.  I included a couple of extra passes around the shapes to create a stronger edge to each cut out area and held my breath as it stitched out.




The end result isn’t perfect but it’s far better than before and I feel that at last, I’m getting somewhere.

My problem lies with the prescriptive instructions in the workbook, from which I’m supposed to learn how to create successful designs and understand how to manage the settings.  I don’t learn well from being told to “set x at 0.5mm” without an accompanying explanation of why I’m setting it at 0.5mm and not 0.7mm….that’s assuming there isn’t a typo in that instruction anyway. Without an explanation of these settings how can I understand why it might be better in some cases to adjust x or y depending on the fabric/the design/whatever.  By simply following the step by step instructions slavishly, I learn nothing except confirm that I can follow a sequence of written instructions – something I’m pretty confident about already.

So, as the afternoon draws to an end, I feel that I am getting somewhere at last and I’ve learned a fair bit.  Mostly, that is to ignore the workbook and use my own experience/common sense to work it out for myself!


Today’s masterpiece




Is nothing to write home about (as my Mum would have said).  I’d hoped for better, I’ll admit.