Scandi Christmas Table Runner

IMG_4861

Enough doodling and gardening. I was itching to get back to some serious sewing. The perfect project for getting back in the groove was the promise of  a festive table runner that I’d made my sister back in the summer. With Christmas creeping up it was time to get going.

Christmas fabric spotting begins IMG_1623in the summer so my sister was wise to mention it back then.                        I spotted this on one of my regular drop-ins at Aberdashery well before our departure for our travels in September. Scandi is such a trend at the moment and the Makower Christmas collection really appealed to me, I love reindeer right now. I chose my reds and greens and liked the idea of adding in a couple of the neutrals from the range.

I had the seeds of a plan in mind, it involved irregular strips across the width of the runner. I was slightly undecided about having white sashing between each coloured stripe but of course I decided for. I love the crisp, clean, modern look that it gives.

Once decided all that was left to do was get on with sewing strips together, as they were to be random there was very little planning to do and I just chose whichever fabric I thought should come next.

I’d also chosen a red and a very dark green solid to make it a little less busy. Joining the random strips was quick and easy and then all that remained to be done to the front was to trim the sides.IMG_1642

The back was to be plain red. Briefly. I started to think it needed something more so I sewed together some two and a half inch wide strips and cut them into two and a half inch strips then cut the red backing to create a patterned reverse. IMG_1637IMG_1644

I decided on a horizontal strip l strip at each end. Once I had put it all together it made the runner pretty much reversible.

I used cotton domette as wadding. I find it a good weight for table runners, mats and such like. Not too bulky or puffy.

My quilting plan was to have strings of stars and after a bit of doodling decided on this design . The stars are irregular in six, shape and spacing. Simple.IMG_4862      Lastly I gave the runner a solid red binding and it was ready to join my sister’s Christmas scheme, she has some lovely decorations. I hope it comes to to scratch!

IMG_4875

IMG_4860

Round and round the garden.

IMG_4882
This post has been a long, long time in the making and there were times I doubted my wisdom in starting;  project ‘slate circle’ has taken a good deal of energy of every description. I’ve thought and re-thought it so many times. I’ve stared at it through the kitchen window with my problem solving hat on. I’ve lain awake at night visualising the necessary steps. I’ve searched local building outlets for just the right resource. I realise now that I began in June and finished in December! I know I’ve done a lot in between but it’s been on my mind in one way or another for over half of the year!

This latest garden project has been by far the biggest, probably the most ambitious garden project I’ve ever taken on. Back at the beginning of June I began the search for just the right circle. I found it on the internet after a lot of searching and speaking to sellers about the quality of the slate. I was pleased with my eventual choice it really does match up with Dai’s dry stone wall. I was even more pleased with the delivery guy who was really helpful.

ground I’d already got the plants for the surrounding bed, many of them gifts from  two of my friends from a great nursery we found during their visit. I think that Gwynfor Nursery in Pontgarreg will become a much frequented nursery over time. Such an an amazing selection of plants grown by lovely, helpful people. With the coming months in mind I needed to get planting so I marked out my circle and started to dig and plant the bed.

stonesAs ever It was hard going digging  out at least a proportion of the larger stones. The bed was a large one so this stage took a long time. I seemed to be digging and planting for a long time.

Digging on the slope didn’t help much and there were some very hot days (not ideal for planting but since I wasn’t going to be here in the autumn I had to take my chances) and I drank gallons I  even had to buy a suitably  floppy gardening sun hat! It did help.  My fork constantly jammed  against stones that I now know are going to be a constant in the gardening here, the quarrying label remains! When I eventually got down to the bottom digging became just impossible! I had discovered the reason for the wet-weather saturation! IMG_1427The rock bed we had found under parts of the patio ran this way. I explored and realised just how extensive this rock is!                      I didn’t really need a lot of encouragement to keep the new rock ‘feature’ and I began using some of the stones I’ve dug up to make my own little dry stone wall around the back of the rock base. There were plenty of them!

Now came the really hard part of the project – levelling the area for the actual slates. I had seriously underestimated the angle of the slope, there was at least a foot difference between the back and the front of the area to be levelled. I could have dug into the slope but I had, probably unwisely,  set my heart on how I wanted it to look. I knew I didn’t want the retaining wall behind the circle and I knew I wanted the circle level with the higher level. So I stuck in there and got on with it.

I used the large stones that were found when we were digging out the patio to give the slope some stability and then built up a retaining wall of blocks and layered  the turf I’d taken off the area to raise the front of the circle. I tamped it down and generally jumped up and down and danced on it. Anything to make sure it was firm. I filled little gaps with soil and sand and some of the shale I was digging out from a border I was making along the back of the dry stone wall. Actually I lost count of how many times I built up the blocks and then pulled them out again! Staring at it through the kitchen window every time I sat at the table made me realise I had to keep working at it until I was satisfied, madness lay in a future of catching sight of anything less than satisfying day after day. Frustration set in more than once, had I bitten off more than I could chew? Would the whole thing slide down the garden in a stony, muddy mess?IMG_4653It was hard labour!IMG_4883 Although I would have liked see it finished (or more like put an end to my agony) before going off to Spain for seven weeks early in September, in reality it couldn’t have been better planned. It gave the base time to settle, it got  soaked and dried numerous times and it felt a lot pretty solid underfoot by the time we got back at the beginning of November.

So now it was time to start laying the slate. I was excited and nervous, I procrastinated over getting started. What if it didn’t fit; what if a bit was missing; what if there was a broken piece or worse still, what if I broke a piece? And, of course, what if after all the work, my base still wasn’t right and the much dreaded avalanche actually happened!

But I was determined and with the help of some fine grit and sand and a lot of patience the slates were laid.  And by the time I laid the last couple of pieces there was ice in the garden.

I know it isn’t as level as a professional job and I’m waiting for some better weather to make adjustments to two sections. I know that a professional could have knocked it out in a week, but it’s all my own work and all in all I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.   And I don’t think it’s going anywhere.                                                                                                                          And I’m especially looking forward to seeing how the planting comes along next year.

Lazy Beach Days

FootprintOur seven weeks in the Spanish sunshine seem distant now that winter has really arrived, but I haven’t blogged a thing in ages and wanted to fill in at least some of the gaps.

Spain was fabulous, we travelled down to Javea on the Costa Blanca. It’s become very familiar to us over the years and although I used to think it so boring to return to the same place year on year I kind of like the familiarity these days. Despite it’s  ex-pat reputation  Javea  has a great deal to offer and you are left in no doubt as to why the whole area  has become a destination for so many Northern Europeans .  There’s the seaside area, the Arenal (lots of English voices here), with a sandy beach and a busy promenade. A great place for young families and lively in the evenings. The port area; older,  quieter and more Spanish with a fresh fish market when the fishing boats come in. We love to cycle down here in the morningIMG_0457 for a coffee overlooking the sea. And lastly the old town, which is very much a typical Spanish town with a wonderful daily market in the traditional market hall and a colourful weekly market, shops that stick to the traditional timetable and a maze of narrow lanes to wander. All three areas have great restaurants and bars, traditional and modern.  Much very pleasant time is whiled away eating, drinking coffee or wine and just watching the world go by.

We played plenty of golf on some of the fabulous courses of the Costa Blanca, mostly with our good friends who make our trip to Javea a must.

We enjoyed our beach time too, but when I wasn’t  reading copiously (until I lost my kindle on the beach!) or taking the occasional dip before a wander up to the chiringuito that I found myself thinking about crafting or the garden. I played around with stones and and found myself doodling on the lovely pale,  smooth pebbles of the  port beach. I ended up with quite a collection, some of which were left with our campsite neighbours and others which made it home and are now scattered amongst the Welsh slate and granite in the garden.

Jeff the chef joined in the stone fun too. His creations were numerous towers, like these ones on the picturesque beach  at Portichol – if you ever find yourself here wander up to the beach restaurant, La Barraca. You’ll step back in time at this rustic building built into the cliff where you round the corner of the bay. Just look for ‘bar’ painted on the rock face!

Beautiful mediterranean blue and white.

We did manage a little IMG_4823bit of culture  too and visited the ancient and historical city of Salamanca with it’s amazing medieval and gothic cathedrals and stunning old university buildings.

We had a great campsite here, part of a hotel complex  and just a cycle ride away from the city centre.

P1000265Another stop-over on our homeward journey was in the Northern Rioja town of Haro. Here we indulged ourselves in a tour of the Muga bodega. A really interesting tour with a real insight into the making of one of my favourite beverages. Bringing back a couple of Christmas treats from here was an absolute must!

Well back home and let the crafting begin. After restoring the garden to order and getting back to my somewhat ambitious  unfinished garden project of course. I might just have to make that my next post!