Saturday, 31 March 2012

Buckets and Bonfires

The Bee-keeping year officially starts on 1st April .  However, due to the vagaries of the British weather it isn't always possible to actually start bee-keeping.  Bees don't really like to play out when the temperature is under 12'c so the roofs stayed firmly on the hives at the Apiary today.

As a beginner bee keeper all the apiary house keeping jobs were new to me and an opportunity to learn so I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in.  
First job of the day to fill 100 1oz taster pots with honey for prizes on a fundraising stall at the Surrey honey show in a few weeks time.  A bucket ( yup a whole bucket!) of honey was provided and a jug was the tool of choice....

 Can you smell all the golden sticky yumminess coming off those super cute taster pots?

After such a wonderful job it seemed only fair that I got a mucky job next.  

Clearing the shed was next on the list.  I'm not fond of sheds ... generally they involve too many spiders for my liking.  There were lots of old brood and super boxes that had been put away at the end of last summer .. sadly one had attracted the attention of a mouse, which had then moved in and made itself very comfortable over the winter.  Sadly it had caused a huge amount of damage...

Which meant there was nothing else to be done but destroy the box and damaged frames and as killing off potential sources of disease is key ... that meant a bonfire.  The smell of burning wax and cedar wood filled the air....

Final job of the day was to cut old wax out of frames and put it in the solar wax extractor.  Left in the sun for a few weeks it will melt down into a block that can be made into candles or recycled into new foundation wax next year.

It wasn't the day I'd hoped for, certainly wasn't the day I'd expected but wow - what a lot I learnt at my first practical day in the Apiary.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Needle turn applique - Shirley rules!

There's something quietly satisfying about hand sewing at the end of a workday.  Something about the rhythm of the needle going through the fabric and the gentle ssshhhhhh of the thread following.  
Perhaps that's one of the reasons I've long admired applique as a sewing technique.  The best results are achieved by hand sewing and some really quite dramatic effects can be achieved with some careful fabric choices and placements.
A real expert in appliqué is Shirley Bloomfield. 
Shirley has taken appliqué to a whole new level.  Hugely inspired by American "Baltimore" style quilts she found her niche re-interpreting the flowers from her English country garden...

So when the opportunity to attend a one day workshop with Shirley arose I jumped at the chance, completed the application from, signed the cheque and and crossed my fingers as I posted it all off.  Two weeks later I was accepted and raring to go.... One whole day's tuition in needle turn appliqué to make Hydrangeas. 
We started with a tracing of the pattern onto Presse  - a light weight interfacing from America that doesn't stretch and hence provides a very nifty way of always having the pattern in exactly the right place at the moment you need it, with the extra bonus of not having any marks to wash out later!  Nothing like a top tip to start a workshop!
Then it was a case of auditioning the fabric for the pot.
Here's where time and patience really pay off.  By making a window pattern piece it is possible to audition not just the fabric, but the exact placement of the piece on the fabric....
Then pop the actual piece you want back in the window, trace round it to create the sewing line, snip it out and there you go - a perfect pot to tack in place ....

Once in position, all that careful 
preparation work really pays off and 
the raw edge is simple to tuck under 
and neatly stitch in place to create 
smooth curves...
Then the same auditioning process is repeated for leaves....

There are 15 leaves on this pattern and there was no way anyone in the class would have got them all sorted in one day.  Thankfully, though she is a thorough tutor Shirley let us move onto the bit that really makes this design..... the little raised flower heads that leap out and give the texture you just want to stroke..

They are, however, a little bit fiddly...... and there's over 50 of them ..... can you guess how many I finished?
Yup - one!

Never before have I been so chuffed and proud to come away from a quilting workshop with so little a thing to show for a day's work!  :)
I can't begin to explain to you just how much I learnt and how determined I am to go away and practice this technique, you see, I already have a bigger project forming in my head and its determined to come out and show itself!
And in the meantime here's a few more inspiring shots of Shirley's quilts....

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