Well, that's Christmas done and dusted for another year! It was a quiet one as Andy still hasn't kicked the cold and cough that he brought back from his last business trip and our visitors had to cancel due to family issues too. C'est la vie! Suffice it to say that we ate very well indeed and emptied quite a few bottles of very nice wine!
I made this cardigan for my niece in Australia .. it's a Drops pattern and I made it using the specified yarns. She seemed to really like it, although with 30+ degree heat down there I doubt it will be worn for some months yet. I don't think any project has ever taken me so long - I started knitting in April and then what with holidays and arm problems, it was only just finished in time to post it at the end of October to avoid the black hole that is the Australian customs department during the Christmas rush!
Contemplating making another one (for me) at some point and my sister says she likes it so much that she's thinking of knitting one too! This pattern doesn't look like much until it's blocked - as I think I proved in an earlier blog post!!
My in-laws requested a throw for the foot of their bed and chose the yarn. The pattern I selected is Greenway by Donna Yacino adapted to the dimensions of a standard double bed. I've wanted to use this pattern ever since I saw it here on Paula's blog.... it looks completely different in two colours, but I really like the textured effect in a single colour and I'm sure Paula would have approved.
And this is what it looked like on the end of our bed before I packaged it up and sent it off to the UK!
Life is too short to iron duvet covers ...sorry!!
Those were the only two presents I managed to make this Christmas - it really hasn't been a productive year!
I made this on Saturday and it's taken until now for my arm to stop hurting - the rest of the blocks for my afghan (four or five more, I think) won't be completed by the end of this year as originally planned, but I can live with that. The afghan is for me, so it doesn't matter. I won't be starting any more crochet or knitting projects for a while - it just doesn't make sense with all the problems I'm having.
I seem to be able to sew without too many problems, so I'll be concentrating on the quilt over the next few months instead.
Blogland is such a great resource. No sooner had I posted about my test block being slightly smaller than it was supposed to be than I received lots of encouragement and some very helpful tips on how to get perfect seam allowances. I spent some time this morning working out where to sew to get the right seam allowance, marked up the bed of my sewing machine with some electrical tape (thanks Andy!) and sewed up a quick test using off-cuts before having another go at the basket weave block from The Farmer's Wife sampler quilt.
This is a much better size (a smidge less than perfect but well within my tolerances!!) - a good half inch bigger all round than the last block. Sadly I placed the fabrics in a different order to last time and didn't notice till it was too late, but in the scheme of things I don't think it's a major problem and I draw the line at trying this block for a third time!!
Off to plan my next block and probably to douse my ironing board with even more spray starch! Hooked!
This is the basket weave block (no. 4) from The Farmer's Wife Sampler quilt. I figured it was a nice easy one to start with and to ensure I knew what I was doing.
Sadly all is not right with this one ... looks like my 1/4" foot is slightly wider than 1/4'. Having cut very, very carefully (lots of spray starch and pressing!) and sewed very slowly the block is almost half an inch shy of the intended measurements.
Even if it is too small, it looks good I think.
Off to work out exactly where I have to sew to get a perfect 1/4' seam allowance and mark up my machine accordingly.
I've been indulging in some online retail therapy at The Cotton Patch!! Always good and it's quite a while since I bought any fabric or did any sewing.
The plan is to do some quilting - more specifically to make a sampler quilt and learn how to put together HST's, pin wheels, flying geese, log cabins ....it's a whole new language!! I have never tried machine quilting and I think it's time I stopped procrastinating (and stalking quilt blogs) and had a go myself. Hence the arrival of 18 fat quarters! Not yet sure if I'm going to use the two ranges together or not - some of the Cocoon FQs go quite well with the Amy Butler range - and there are some fabrics in my stash that could be a good match. Of course, I've realised I need a more neutral fabric as well or the quilt will be a bit too busy (oh dear ... more shopping!).
I've got my rotary cutter and spray starch ready ... I just need to wash these fabrics and get a new bulb for my sewing machine so that I can see what I'm doing (the old bulb lasted 27 years and survived countless moves including two trips across the Atlantic ... not bad going!). Some planning might be in order too - I've got a wonderful book of quilt blocks (The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt) and some instructions on how to construct some of the standard designs from my quilting group plus some handy online tutorials, so I need to think about which blocks to make, what size to make them and get cracking.
I hoping to be able to finish the blocks for my afghan too. I'm many months behind now and haven't so much as picked up my crochet hook in the last month (ongoing problems with my neck / arm and too much work which also explains my absence from this blog). And I want to get started on some hairpin lace as well (I was given the loom for my birthday, but haven't been able to try it out yet).
Lots of plans ... now to find the time, but it is winter and there's no better time to stay indoors away from all the snow and do some crafting!!
Did you notice the sunshine in the photos above? A rare commodity these days!
Hoping that it's going to warm up a bit this weekend to melt all the snow that's been hanging around for the last ten days or so - it would be nice to get the road clear before the next lot arrives (no snow ploughs or gritters ever come down our road which can make getting to the main road quite interesting!).
It really is hard to get a decent photo at the moment - this week has been very, very grey and dull. Typical November weather.
The quilt above is hand-pieced and is now in the process of being hand quilted (yawn!). My turn this time to babysit the quilt between our fortnightly quilting meetings and I think this means I'm actually supposed to dosome quilting ... haven't so far, but I thought if I got the quilt out of the bag there was more chance of it getting done. Our next meeting isn't until next Wednesday .....!
I've got the perfect excuse though ... I had to finish a blanket I've been crocheting as a Christmas present (got to get your priorities straight!). I sewed in the last ends last night, so now I'm free to do something different.
This quilt is going to be auctioned for charity in February, so we really do need to get it finished!! I think I can safely say that hand piecing and hand quilting are a bit too slow for me ... when I eventually get round to making my first quilt (and I keep saying I'm going to!) it will definitely be machine sewn!
Typical Tuscan starter ... with gluten-free bruschetta and a porcini / truffle topping. Yum!.
I love going to Italy - it has everything: great scenery, history, warm weather and fantastic food. Not only is the food fantastic, but they totally understand what it means to be gluten free. I've read that all kids are tested for gluten issues before they go to school. Awareness of coeliac disease is high and this means it's the one country I know I can travel to and eat well and safely.
Gluten-free bruschetta with tomatoes.
In every restaurant the waiters understood. You just have to say 'sono celiaco' and they know what it means. Sure, the level of response varied - they could tell you which items on the menu to avoid everywhere; some had gluten-free pasta available and a very few catered brilliantly for coeliacs and had gluten-free bread baskets, pizza dough and more!
Gluten-free pizza - this was amazing!
It's going to be a little bit expensive going back to Florence every time I want this pizza ... but this was so good it is almost worth the airfare!
Apologies for the blurry and/or dark snaps - all taken with my phone and mostly in dimly lit conditions!
In my experience you can eat gluten-free just about anywhere in Italy, but I thought I'd share some addresses / websites of the places that we went to:
This is a family-run business and had the best gluten-free bread, pasta and pizza imaginable. You have to order the pizza dough the day before you go, but they always have the bread and pasta available. All of my food was brought out on different coloured plates to 'normal' food and separate from Andy's food. The pizza was the best I've had since my diagnosis (that's seven years now!) - you'd hardly know it was gluten-free (Andy tested some to be sure!). The chef won a gluten-free pizza making competition and I can see why. I'd love to have this restaurant just round the corner from where I live!
It's a little bit of a walk from the town centre on a hot and humid day, but we visited this dedicated gluten-free patisserie on my birthday! I got some lovely glazed apple tartlets in lieu of birthday cake and some biscuits for the rest of my trip (see the note about breakfasts below). Worth a visit and they have outlets in other towns too.
This lovely restaurant has its own gluten-free menu! They gave me a basket of gluten-free bread and they were prepared to make fresh pasta for me. I felt truly spoilt but, as I'd already eaten a lot of pasta on this trip, I had the gnocchi instead!
Everywhere else we went I simply avoided the items I was told (or common sense dictated) contained gluten.
It's maybe worth noting that breakfast can be a bit difficult, so I always take something with me from home to tide me over until I can buy something locally. The Co-op supermarket chain sells some gluten-free food and every pharmacy has a gluten-free section too. In Florence our B&B didn't do breakfast but gave us vouchers for a local café which didn't have any gluten-free pastries - coffee and a pastry is a fairly typical breakfast! Where we stayed in a larger hotel there was usually a buffet and just once I found some gluten-free bread available as part of that buffet.
This block is the Crocodile Flower by Joyce Lewis I had to stop before I added the border as it was getting too big for my afghan, so I may just add the border and use it for something else ...
... a cushion, maybe? This is another favourite design!
And this one is Shape Shifting in 12 by Aurora Suominen. A little bit wonky but given that I had a hard time with the instructions I'm just pleased to have finished it! I should be able to block the wonkiness out!
So, I've finished the blocks for August and, as we're now in November, that means I'm still 3 months behind. On a positive note though, the cardigan from last week's post got sewn up and parcelled off to Australia successfully and I've now started another blanket.
Yes, I remember saying never again, but ....!
It's another Christmas present and there is a slim chance that it will be finished in time to post. Fingers crossed! I guess that means I'll probably never get up-to-date on my afghan, but I can always finish it next year!
Our last stop before the airport was Pisa. We had had enough of churches, bell towers and baptistries by this point and didn't join the hordes queuing for tickets this time. Instead we walked through in the rain, stopped at a nearby restaurant for lunch and headed back to the car just in time .. those dark skies above were the approaching thunder storm which broke just after we got into the car!
Duomo, Santa Maria Assunta, Pisa with the leaning tower (campanile) in the background
Well, that's it for my tour round Tuscany. We visited many other lovely places, but I think I've probably shared enough photos!
View of the Piazza del Campo from top of the Duomo's facade
After Perugia we went on to Siena and stayed for a couple of days. Siena is famous for the Campo - a large medieval square which is the scene of a horse race every two years ... it's a very large Piazza!!
Palazzo Pubblico, Piazza del Campo
It's a bit difficult to get a photo of the main building on the Campo ... but I just managed to get back far enough for my wide-angle lens to get it all in. The building above houses the civic museum which was well worth a visit - lots of great frescoes!
There are lots and lots of steps in Siena ... it's steep!
Romulus & Remus statue in front of the Duomo
Duomo - front facade miraculously without hordes of tourists spoiling the shot!
Side view of the Duomo from the top of Duomo's facade
In the middle ages there were plans to extend the Duomo and work was started on the walls for the larger structure. The plague put a stop to the work, but you can climb up some of the remaining walls and look down on the city and get a good view of the Duomo (yep - more steps!).
Piccolomini Library Ceiling
Most of the Duomo's interior left me cold ... completely over the top (decorated walls, paintings, statues, elaborately tiled floors - all too much when put together) and overcrowded with tourists. However the Piccolomini Library was stunning - there were illuminated manuscripts on display and some stunning frescoes.
We saw an amazing number of frescoes on this trip and we were rarely allowed to photograph them. In the Duomo the policy seemed to be that you could photograph anything as long as you didn't use flash or a tripod ... guess they're betting on most people not having the technology to take decent handheld photos in low light, but our cameras seemed to do OK.
After Siena we only had a few days left in Italy. We headed north ... next stop a very brief trip to Pisa!
The last of my July squares for Ravelry's 2012 BAMCAL. I think this is another of my favourites and it was really easy to make. This is Julie Yeager's Eight Pointed Flower (Ravelry link). Now I'm just three months behind!!
The good news is that progress might be a bit quicker soon as I have something resembling a cardigan ready to sew together (I hate this part of the job) and be sent off on its way to Australia, hopefully before the last posting date for Christmas.
And look - there's evidence of sunshine in this photo!! I'm happy to say that we've got an Indian summer starting here. My weather station tells me it's 17 degrees (balmy!) and it's still climbing ... so later this afternoon I'm going for a long walk in the hills round here. Looks like it will hold over the weekend too and into next week - maybe not quite as warm, but definitely sunny!! Makes a nice change from all that grey, damp, muddy weather we've been having.
Possibly my favourite stop on our recent trip to Italy was Perugia. It's the capital of the Umbria region (next door to Tuscany) and was just beautiful. It's one of the few places that Andy has been to on business and said he absolutely had to take me back to .... it took a while, but we finally made it.
Cattedrale di San Lorenzo
The weather was a little bit iffy for the two days we were there, so we bought a ticket to all the museums and went and looked at some amazing frescoes. Sadly no photography was allowed and this was strictly enforced, so I can't show you the incredibly vivid colours on some very old art. Believe me, it was stunning - especially the frescoes in the Nobile Collegio del Cambio (Guild of Money Changers!).
Via dell Acquedotto
The heart of the old town is on top of a hill and is quite flat to walk round which was a relief as my legs needed to recover from climbing the towers in Florence! But wander away from the centre and there were lots and lots of steps!
Looking down at the view from Porta Marzia
Perugia's other claim to fame is its chocolate (Baci). The town holds a chocolate festival every year ... in fact it's on this weekend, so we timed our visit very badly indeed! We didn't go and do the factory tour because Andy's already seen the factory (part of his business trip) and the probability was I wouldn't be able to eat the chocolate!
Florence skyline - Ponte Vecchio on the left and the Campanile and Duomo on the right.
We came back middle of last week from a 10-day trip to Italy - 4 days in Florence and then we hired a car and drove round Tuscany and Umbria. Great food, fabulous wine and wonderful scenery. Thought I'd share a few photos!
One of several copies of Micheangelo's David around town... we didn't join the queues to see the real thing in the Accademia.
There are lots of churches - this one is Santa Maria Novella.
Don't think we've ever visited so many churches in such a short time!
And we climbed both the Campanile (bell tower) and the dome (above, seen from the Campanile) in one day ... that's a total of 878 steps!! (Good for the glutes, I'm told!)
Italy being Italy there were Vespas everywhere!!
More photos from Italy soon! I've about another 500 to go through!
Sadly having had some of my photos pinched and used on other people's websites without being credited to me, I've been forced to add watermarks.
This project has driven me to screaming point and is now officially parked. I thought I'd just quickly do the last two seams today - sewing the lid and base onto the body of this vanity case, but I'm calling it quits after problems with the lid and putting this one at the back of the cupboard. I will finish it ... eventually.
The frustration today has been getting the piping right. I have to admit the pattern hasn't helped me in that respect (it's from Lisa Lam's new book), but neither has my zipper foot. A while back I lamented the lack of a piping foot and everyone advised me to use a zipper foot instead. Well, that would be ideal if my zipper foot didn't place the needle further away than if using a regular foot. I don't use it for zips either - it's totally useless. So I need to re-do the seam attaching the lid to the body and then go through the same process for the base. Just two little seams - should be easy, but it isn't!
And I'm not sure I'll ever be able to tie those two ties at the top into a pretty knot to make a handle ... I think they're too short (they're not tied in the photo - just draped!).
Oh well - off to make something I know will work: mushroom soup! It's that kind of weather ... damp, grey and cool.