Tuesday, 17 November 2015


There is something about pinecones that I have always found very appealing. Perhaps it is because, despite an amazing variety of sizes and shapes, each one fits together so beautifully. One of nature’s most intricate seed pods. Have you every really studied one? They are worth a good look if only for pleasure of seeing their unique tessellations and myriad colours. As they ease open to release their burden they reveal a smooth inner surface which contrasts the rougher, matt exterior. This inner surface itself has range of subtle colours from deepest brown to a rich red.
If you just thought a pinecone was a pinecone, think again. Next time you are near a pine tree, have another look.

Friday, 30 October 2015


Well it is actually rather prosaic, on our boat the first rule isn't anything nautical like always obeying the captain, or wearing life jackets on tidal waters - important though both those are. The very first rule of boating as far as we are concerned is ALWAY USE SOMEONE ELSE'S TOILET! Like the majority of boaters on the inland waterways, we are not on mains drainage. Seems obvious when you point it out, but many people who live 'dry side' don't give it any thought - and why should they? Whether it's 'bucket & chuck it' or a black water holding tank, one way or another it has to be got rid of. This is not a job either of us relish so the fewer times we have to do it the better.


That's much better; GET THE KETTLE ON! Not just because a constant stream of hot drinks always makes the day seem brighter, but unless we are cruising every day, we do not have an unlimited supply of hot water. If we want to shower on board (which is entirely feasible we have two shower cubicles on the boat, but since they also contain sink and loo, too, they have to be wiped down afterwards - easier to shower ashore when such facilities are available) any quantity of hot water necessitates the use of the immersion heater. Spontaneous showers are a thing of the past, it takes at least an hour to heat the water for a shower. Another reason for getting up early on the boat.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015


‘An anchor for my soul’ and ‘Afloat on the ocean of life’ are two lines from a song called ‘Land Ho!’ by British rock group, Supertramp. This song really resonates with me for some reason and I find some of the lyrics particularly poignant. I think we all need an anchor for our soul; a calm centre of being – something that brings peace and contentment – something the roots us (and routes us) in the world. Personally I don’t think this is something centred around a person or place because these are things that ultimately we have no control over. This is part of who we are and what makes us happy. Sadly some people may never find that inner core of happiness, some may never even know to look. I am lucky enough to have found my anchor.

 Sewing is the anchor for my soul.

Rarely does a day go by that I hasn’t seen me sewing something. If I can’t actually get to my sewing machine, I am hand sewing, or designing, scribbling and planning the next project. I even take sewing on holiday with me. At the moment I am making boat curtains – much the same as house curtains only these generally aren’t more than 2 foot long, but they are some really odd shapes, and there are lots of them – the boat I am doing at the moment has 26 curtains! That’s bread and butter sewing, the stuff I really love is patchwork. I love the way everything fits together and take great pleasure in making things as accurately as possible. I am not so good at random or spontaneous stuff – I leave that to those who excel at such things. I particularly enjoy foundation piecing which is an excellent method of reproducing complicated blocks.

This pattern was from PAPER PANACHE in the USA

Wednesday, 14 October 2015


Can't believe we actually finished it or that it has all fitted in! We spend this weekend moving all our personally belonging out of storage in Yorkshire, and into our storage in Norfolk.
One overloaded (!?) truck
Storage unit packed to the roof
It took 6 hours to load up the large truck we hired, and almost 10 to get it all stowed away once we got home. Yes, we definitely have too much stuff.

The whole operation was made more interesting by me snapping my car park entry card so when we got back to the marina with the loaded truck on Saturday night, we couldn't get in! We scratched our heads for a while, then remembered we had a set of step ladders on the truck - with them and help of a piece of carpet over the very sharp spikes, we managed to break in and retrieve the other car park card from the boat. Could have done without that in the dark at the end of a loooonnng day.

I hope it is a very long time before we have to move this lot again - I guess we will be staying on the boat until we can face it!

I haven't sewn anything for four days and I am getting 'didgy' I must go and get my fix.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015


In patchwork we are always reminded that accurate measuring is vitally important, and in all areas of our lives we are constantly measuring something: ingredients for cooking, the speed we are driving, even how long until home time. Many of these everyday units of measurement are the same the world over, which makes modern life much easier than it must have been in the past. Time, for instance, we didn’t have a truly standard time until the advent of the railway system. (An hour was still an hour, but when that hour started was a matter of local opinion.) Before global standardisation, many industries used their own forms of measurement. Some of these we are familiar with; should you be in the market for a diamond, they are still sold in carats (about 0.2g)

Many of these old forms of measurement had quaint names – sadly words which will soon be lost from our language as standardisation becomes paramount

Morgen The area one man and one horse could plough in a morning
Firkin 6 ¼ lbs (pounds) soap or 56 lbs butter
Peck 14 lbs of salt
Fother 2184 lbs of lead or 120 lbs steel
Stone Could have referred to 8lbs of fish, 5 lbs of glass or 32lbs of hemp
Even a pound (lb) wasn’t always a pound – the apothecaries’ pound only had 12 ounces instead of the more common 16 ounces (but then apothecaries apparently have scruples!) From this confusion you can understand why some form of standardisation was needed.

In patchwork, as you probably know, we still use imperial measurements. I am not quite sure why. Is it because the Americans, who have a huge patchwork following, still work in imperial? Or because many of us in Britain were taught imperial in our childhood? I am lucky enough to be of the generation who learnt both imperial and metric measurements since I grew up during the period when Britain changed from one to the other. Strangely enough, although I would measure in millimetres from choice, I still reckon in feet & inches. If asked “how long is that …..” I would answer “oh, about three feet” or “about six inches”. I don’t know if other people of my generation find the same, but I cannot visualise a metre (3 foot 3”) or 150mm (6”).

I wonder if by perpetuating this insistence on the imperial we are closing the patchwork door anyone under the age of 40, since by then they would probably not have been taught this archaic form measurements. I know there are metric quilting rulers available, but most of the patterns I have seen is written in imperial. You would have to be pretty determined to take up a new hobby if you have to learn a whole new system of measurement before you start. Where does the answer lie? A knotty problem which I am sure the more forward thinking members of quilting groups would like to find an answer to. We need young blood to keep the traditional skills alive, but we also need fresh young ideas in order for those skills to develop and move forward into the modern era.

Despite all this, why does Britain still measure road distances in miles and beer in pints? (Please don’t think I have any inclination to change this, I am just curious to know why!)

Saturday, 3 October 2015

BLUES BROTHERS HEAVEN with obligatory dog photos (ODP)

Oh, joy, just come in from sharing a lovely meal with the in-laws and switched on the TV for an hour's mindless entertainment before bed to find that the Blues Brothers has just started. One of our favourite films and, although we have it on DVD, we have to watch it when it is on the TV (even with the advert breaks!) Why do we do this? I am sure we are not the only ones who do! Not only that, but of course we are now going to have to stay up and watch it to the end. D'oh!

I first saw this film at a late night (very late) showing at what was then 'Wycombe 6'. One of my earliest dates with what is now my long-term partner who, being a couple of years older than me probably saw it the first time round, and was using it as some kind of test situation - if I liked his kind of film, perhaps I was worth sticking with?

Well we did stick, and so did the film. So much so that our first dog was called Jake, and the current one is... you guessed it, Elwood:

Jake (James Belushi)
Elwood (Dan Ackroyd)

Friday, 2 October 2015


I am often asked if there is anything I miss now we are living afloat (let me think now; paying a mortgage, cutting the grass, noisy neighbours, mmmm…nope) the only thing I really miss is the dishwasher, I hate washing up by hand.
Master Cabin - island bed!
Galley - no dishwasher!
We are relatively new to the game of living on board our boat, although we have owned it for over seven years. We used to live in a 'real' house - well a large flat, actually - and downsizing to a 41ft long cruiser as been a challenge. There's no doubt about it, we had far too much 'stuff', but what to get rid of? The furniture was the first, and easiest shedding - what didn't go back on eBay, went to local charities or on FreeCycle. However, we had a collection of over 3,000 penguins (yes, 3,000 – I told you it was a big flat!) from a tiny ½ inch high Murano glass ornament to a 2 foot tall papier-mache ‘waiter’. John Lewis’ did us a favour last Christmas with their penguin based advert – we sold a lot of the soft toys at car boot sales while that was running.
Wheelhouse/saloon - it is never this tidy now

Twin cabin - now larder/office/store/wardrobe
Some would say we are not proper ‘live-aboards’ because we have had to take a storage unit locally for our overspill. We blame this on the fact that we closed a business down when we moved on board, and are selling off the stock from this, but we also have some (quite a lot) of personal stuff we are not yet ready to shed (his Granada spares, my craft stuff). Perhaps eventually we will be ready to let that go too!

A year on and we are car-booting and eBaying like mad, but we still love life afloat.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

I understand that it is fairly 'obligatory' to have photographs of your pets on a blog, so let me introduce you to the most important member of our family:
September 2013: aged 9 weeks
September 2015: aged 2 years 3 months
This is Elwood J. Blues, our lovely - but challenging - Chesapeake Bay Retriever (we very soon found out what the 'J' stands for: it stands for TROUBLE. This has given rise to a new saying in the family - "trouble with a capital 'J'")

Elwood (aka Chesepi Rock Creek, and various other names such as 'oi, you, get off that sofa' and 'what's he done now?') was hand reared. (I am sure I heard a sharp in-take of breath then, from anyone who knows anything about dogs!) Although the breeder, Molly, did a great job, hand reared dogs are always a challenge. Chessie's are a challenge. The combination of the two has been hard work. We were used to docile Labradors not this manic whirlwind. In the early days our one relief was the fact that, like most gundog breeds, he slept, a great deal. The only downside was that having been hand-reared his default comfort position was in a lap - quite sweet at 2 months old. Not so funny now, hence the strained look on my face. Admittedly the lap thing is rare now, and we don't let him do this often, but every now and then he will have a go.
Nearly made it
Puppies will sleep anywhere

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

It always amuses me when I hear someone say 'I just haven't got room to do my patchwork' or 'quilting' or 'crafting'.

Where there's a will there's a way! You can always find room if you are really determined and, believe me, I am one pretty determined crafter.

I live on a boat which means space is at a premium; the majority of the space (and things) we have on board has to double up its uses. The six foot by eight foot (triangular!) space I have as for crafting should look like this:

This is our spare room, when we have visitors - it takes some work to get it back to a useable state. Usually it looks more like this:

I am currently running a business from this space, and although I will admit I do have a stash of fabrics at the 'in-laws' place (they live dry-side) this where I do all my creating and working.

I must say that I draw the line at attempting to quilt a queen size quilt in this tiny space, but even if I lived ashore I would send something like that to one of the excellent 'long arm' quilting services. Other than that, I will tackle just about anything, and from here I produce my stock of bags, totes purses, pouches and small quilts as well as writing patterns for patchwork.

Apart from all that I enjoy beading, papercrafts, doll making, dress making and I love to learn new things. I recently enjoyed a fascinating half day course learning Coptic Bookbinding - guess what everyone's getting for Christmas this year!. I spend much of my spare (huh) time walking our large dog and thinking of the next thing I want to try or make.