Sunday, 23 October 2016

Lakeside Walk

After a couple of weeks of feeling under the weather with one of those viruses which are so hard to get rid of at this time of year, I took advantage of one of those bright autumn afternoons and headed down to the lake for a walk.

I had hoped for some photos of the autumn colours, but there wasn't a huge amount of colour change. We have had wet and windy conditions on and off over the last few weeks and the leaves have been coming off the trees before they have a chance to change.

Instead, I took some photos of the view across the water, looking towards downtown Toronto.  The city skyline was a little hazy at times, but with a few breaks in the cloud.  I also captured this cormorant perched on a nesting platform and seemingly enjoying the sunshine.  It was lovely to get out and breathe some fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun after several days indoors.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Song of the Singer Sewing Machine

Yesterday, I listened to The Song of the Singer Sewing Machine on BBC Radio 4.  It is a fascinating history of a machine that changed the world, bringing the ability to sew to millions and being described by some as 'a factory in a box'.

My first proper sewing machine (after a miniature toy one, which wouldn't sew), was a Singer treadle.  I don't know where my mother tracked it down, but it was waiting for me one Christmas morning many years ago. I can't remember how old I was at the time, but probably around the age of ten.  I still remember the thrill of excitement when I realised that I had my very own sewing machine, and was eager to learn how to use it.

My mother chose a treadle instead of the more portable hand-driven machine because she said that it would give me both hands free to manoeuvre the fabric and do the actual sewing.  (Looking back, I'm sure that it gave my legs a good workout too, though I was too young to appreciate this at the time!)

Soon, I was happily treadling away and learning to stitch in a straight line.  I do remember that I had to learn to slow down on the treadling as I neared the end of a seam, otherwise the machine had a tendency to run away from me and just keep going, resulting at best, in a tangled knot of thread, or at worst, a broken needle and a jammed shuttle.

The bullet shuttle was a challenge to fill and load at first.  The long bobbin fitted in from the end and then the thread fitted around this clever metal clip, which held it securely.  The whole thing was then loaded into the machine by holding a metal clip on the bullet until it was correctly positioned.  Once in place and operating, the transverse shuttle moved back and forth (almost like a horizontal pendulum), producing a lock-stitch.  There were no complicated dials for stitch selection in those days, as this machine did only one stitch.

One of the most striking design aspects of the early Singer sewing machines (aside from the weight of the treadle models), was the quality of the finished machine with some stunningly beautiful decals.  Designs included flowers, leaves and various intricate designs.  For pictures of the patterns, do take a look at the Singer photo gallery here.

I don't remember the exact details of the decal design of my own Singer and sadly, I no longer own it (nor do I have any photos of it from that pre-digital era).  It was replaced by a more modern electric machine once I became a more experienced sewer and required a machine that could offer a wider stitch selection.  It was so heavy that I was unable to move it from place to place during various house moves, so it was sold to another novice sewer, who I hope had as much pleasure from it as I did.

Aside from a little cleaning and oiling, the only real maintenance required was a replacement drive belt.  These belts were made of leather and fitted with a hook to connect the two ends.  They needed to be sturdy to withstand the wear and tear of the rocking motion of the operator spinning the large wheel of the treadle, which in turn, powered the smaller driving wheels of the machine.

I like to think that my machine is still going strong and that it is loved and treasured.  I hope that it brings as much joy to another sewer as it did to me.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Anchors Aweigh!

The culmination of two months of regular needlework was the reward of finishing my coastal cross stitch in early September.  Even after I had finished the actual cross stitch, it took about ten days to add all the detail, working the back stitches to bring the design to life.

The piece still needs washing (it got a bit dusty after eight years!) and pressing, but as I have no plans to have it framed immediately, I am going to invest in some acid-free tissue paper and carefully wrap it up before storage.

For those of you who may be wondering, this is an Anchor cross stitch design, which was discontinued.  I wasn't able to buy a kit, but managed to purchase the charts online and I bought all of the embroidery silks and fabric required to complete it.  

I am delighted with the finished design and it was definitely worth the hundreds of hours I spent completing it.  My original intention had been to make this to go in my dream home by the sea.  This dream is on hold for now, but who knows?  If ever I find my dream home, I know what I will be hanging on the wall.

Monday, 10 October 2016

World Mental Health Day

I blog for World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day.  I'm showing support for all who suffer from mental health issues.  We all face challenges in our daily lives and we need to support one another.

Friday, 7 October 2016


One of the challenges of working a large piece is correctly positioning each element so that it comes together as a whole.  I don't worry too much if I am a stitch or two out, as it is 'counted' cross stitch, but it is always helpful to add some landmarks, such as the border around the central part of the design.

Once I got this added, together with the outer border, I finally had a perspective of the size of the completed design and it made it much easier to work the shoreline at the bottom.

The shell designs were another challenge, as they were worked in very similar shades of cream and beige.  I had to work on these for shorter periods and move to something else to give my eyes a break.  I particularly like the oystercatcher wading in the water.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Backed Into A Corner

After weeks of niggly detail, I finally felt that I was making progress, as I started to outline the boat in the corner of this design.

It was also a relief to my eyes, as I worked on some stronger colours, which made it much easier to see the stitches!  Although I have a good light with a magnifier for close work, it was far too hot to sit under it to work, so I had to work during daylight hours when there was adequate light.  I persevered and the boat and netting started to come together.  It took eight days to finish the boat - this gives you an idea of the amount of detail.

Thursday, 29 September 2016


The feast of St Michael and All Angels is known as Michaelmas and falls on 29th September.  Traditionally, Michaelmas was celebrated with the Michaelmas goose, but it was also considered the last day when blackberries should be picked.

Each year, I think about the tradition of serving blackberries on this day, but I struggle to find any worth buying, as the commercial ones lack flavour and are often not nice to eat.  This year, I had an idea and searched the Crofter's website, where I discovered a recipe using their Blackberry spread.

I tweaked the recipe a bit, but followed most of it, omitting the nuts and the ground cloves, adding sultanas in place of raisins, using milk instead of buttermilk (and less of it) and adding extra baking powder, as I mixed this cake in the food processor.  The result is a beautifully moist and delicious Blackberry Cake and you can find the basic recipe here.

The icing of the cake was my decision and I opted for vanilla buttercream.  I've received compliments on my baking in the past, but none like these - it was described as my best cake ever!  I can only add that this cake is the perfect flavour for autumn with the combination of seasonal fruit, spices and vanilla.  It tastes great with a cup of tea!