My Ramblings 2023

Welcome to my ramblings, my version of a blog.

Review Of 2023


I’m not sure I really need to write a review of 2023 after all I have written a few rambles – fourteen, but I feel that I need to look over the year.

We will start at the beginning of the year – January, this started out perfectly normally, well as normal as life tends to be. I was jogging along with work on book four and then mid-January Tony’s Mum, Pat collapsed on the Sunday evening, never regained consciousness and died five days later. Things changed, I know they constantly change, the clock ticks constantly on but this was a big change.

Maurice my father-in-law was on his own after 63 years of marriage, he was lost. Pat had run the house, she had her way of doing everything and she did it all. Maurice could make his breakfast and sandwiches for lunch, but he had never cooked a dinner or used the washing machine and as for the housework…..This was when Tony really felt it being an only child, there is only him, no siblings to help or understand. Both his parents were also only children, so there are no aunts or uncles or cousins. Tony’s family was his parents and Laura and I. We have all stepped in to help and support Maurice, Tony has become his prop in so many ways, I took on teaching him how to cook his dinners, well put things in the oven, and he comes round three or four nights a week to eat at ours. I have taken on baking him cakes, he does like his Bara Brith or cherry loaf cake each day. As for the housework, well an 85-year-old man isn’t going to learn how to do that, so I go round and do it on a Friday. He has learnt to do the laundry!!! Mostly….

As all this was happening Tony got diagnosed with Long Covid. We had both caught covid in October, neither of us had been particularly ill, it was like a heavy cold, with me I had lost my sense of taste and smell – which Tony said was a good thing as apparently, I have an over sensitive sense of smell!!! and with both of us it had left us really tired and breathless. I had slowly recovered but Tony was still struggling, he was having a nap every afternoon and most days we weren’t going out for our lunchtime walk as he was too tired. Tony was also diagnosed with Diabetes, given tablets and told we will send you on a course. That is a whole another ramble, but lets say after fighting for blood tests and reviews, he finally did get put on a course in November – I guess better late than never!!!

February went in a blur of adjusting, supporting and for me researching and reading on Long Covid and diabetes, brain fog, sleeplessness, fatigue, symptoms of both long covid and diabetes. I had an O level in Food & Nutrition, I had learnt all bout specialist diets including for diabetes – but the thoughts have changed in forty years. The more I read, the more conflicting information I came across, the more I found I need to find out about and this is something I am still reading about all these months later.

March, we went to Devon, a much needed few days down there, walking the moors, I wrote a long Ramble about our trip. And the other big thing in March on the 31st was we published the fourth book Quilted Postcards the Art Edition. I don’t know if the thing about not having favourites, applies to books as well as children?

Well, the Art Edition is my favourite. It was a dream for years to write and publish a book, I never thought I would do it, but with a lot of ‘nagging’ from Tony and a steep learning curve for us, we published a book, the first one in 2020. Then we did book two and three. And then four, this one was harder to write, more complicated, has more photos and instructions as the Postcards are more complicated. I am so proud of this book and the postcards that are in it, these are some of my favourites.

I can’t remember what happened in April, my camera roll is just full of photos of Tulips, more tulips and more tulips!!! So, life must have just jogged along. As did May, the only thing in May was as we were clearing out the garage – we do this every year, pull everything out, sort it and put most of it back in, as it ‘may be useful’!!! well I tripped over a piece of wood and landed on my knees and then my elbow!!! Ahhh, the pain in my knees especially my left one, I did wonder how much damage I had done. Two rather swollen and bruised knees and a huge bruise on the elbow, I iced and rested them, and eventually they stopped hurting, just occasionally they ache.

The end of June saw the end of term for me, I had lots of plans, I wanted to complete the Jelly Roll quilt I had been teaching and the long summer break, as not back till mid-September, stretched ahead, so many ideas and plans…..

Then in July we went on our main holiday, a cruise. There are three very long Rambles all about our cruise, where we went and what we did. Even the Ramble on tiles I guess is about our cruise! The rest of July once we were back, was a scramble to get our house and my fathers-in-law’s back up to my level of tidy and clean that I like, Laura had kept our house ok (Laura here: mum’s version of ok is everyone else’s clean, she’s a bit OCD about it so I’m taking ‘ok’ as high praise!), but she was working long days, and housework isn’t her thing. And also, our garden, three weeks away in terms of garden is a lot, the grass was hugely long and things had either gone mad or died!!! Except for the weeds they just flourish!!! The garden is certainly not Laura’s strong point, she really hasn’t a clue and she had watered the plants, the important ones I had asked her to. As I mostly garden in pots it was move things around and sort out.

August, a month of jogging along, looking after the houses and our garden. It was also the month of the funeral of my Aunt, the last of my Dad’s sisters, the oldest, my Dad died 22 years ago, then his youngest sister, my aunt’s passing marked the end, the last of the siblings and their generation of our family.

Then in mid-August I realised that all my ideas and plans for a summer of creating just hadn’t happened and I was rushing towards the start of term and so much needed doing. I had got out of all the good habits of stitching that I had built up before the summer, the half an hour a day of cross stitch and quilting. Through the last weeks of August I had a mad dash to finish hand quilting the sections of the Jelly Roll quilt and put it together before the start of term. There were rewrites of a couple of old instructions for pieces I use, plan new designs and also class plans to rough out.

Then we were suddenly in September and as the schools went back, we headed to Derbyshire for a week’s holiday in Hope. Back from a lovely relaxing holiday and start into teaching…. both morning and afternoon class. The last time I had taught both morning and afternoon was in February 2020. When we were allowed to return to classes, we decided just to have the morning class, because of the numbers, but they have slowly built up and the morning class has been full for the last couple of terms, and so we decided to add in the afternoon class, especially for beginners and those starting their creative journey.

I also, after talking to Maurice and Tony, made the decision in September that I would take on the looking after of Maurice’s Garden. Pat had been the gardener, they had both done the allotment, but Maurice had decided to give up the allotment, it had become too much and had been for a while. We both thought that Maurice would enjoy doing the garden, we even suggested making a small allotment bed at the end, but he wasn’t interested. He didn’t have to worry about the grass as that was artificial, but by September I had realised that really Maurice wasn’t very interested, he had just about pulled up the weeds. He is brilliant with his orchids and building his steam trains but the garden like the housework isn’t his thing!! So, the garden is now down to me, it will change, it is a garden of an era and the age of the gardener – plants perfectly spaced and trimmed with lots of soil around, lots of soil for weeds to grow in!!!! Not my type of garden at all!!! I had already put some dahlias I had got given free in and I will fill it with more plants and those that give interest and colour next year. The garden is different to mine, which is very shady (and damp) and I grow a lot of plants in pots, plants that struggle in mine will be happy in Maurice’s sunny flower bed. I have already decided that my dahlias will be happier round there and I have taken cuttings of a number of my shrubs and I will in Spring grow some seeds and also take more cuttings!!!

In October we had another short break in Devon, a relaxing time in the Country House hotel and spa, visits to National Trust properties and walking on Exmoor. And of course a visit to Trago Mills, were we bought new net curtaining and some Rose & Hubble cotton poplin to make a skirt and dress for Laura and also a dress for me!!!

That brings us to November and the end of the term for both classes, I feel that they both went well. With the morning class, it started with the finished Jelly-roll quilt, moved onto crazy patchwork frame purses, quilted jacket, and lots of Gingerbread Houses inspired makes. For the afternoon, it was beginner’s hexagon pin cushions, then the Eve square that goes through the basics, finishing with the Annie bag.

Also in November Laura finally got a diagnosis for the pain in her lower back and right hip, plus all the problems with her right ankle, knee, wrist….. Laura has been under the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital at Stanmore for some time, she had already been diagnosed with scoliosis at the top of her spine which has caused her shoulder to be out of alinement, but she had been referred to Rheumatology for the bottom of her spine and hips – its not rheumatism, she has Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder. And once I started reading the information available it explained all the sprains, ligament problems and fatigue that the doctors had told me were growing pains!!! Now she has the wait for physiotherapy but at least we understand the problems more.

And finally we are at December, again I had plans to get lots done over the break, creatively but time has flown!! Or maybe I haven’t managed my time that well, I do spend a lot on housework and cooking, and I have been ‘out’ to the V&A, and the theatre – twice, plus Christmas Shopping!!!

So, in review, its been a year of adjustment for us all, our roles have changed, we are Maurice’s family, his support both physically and mentally. Priorities change. For me, ‘cooking’ is in my DNA, the need to provide homecooked balanced food has become more important, to give the best food I can to help with three generations and their medical and dietary needs. Between everything else, I fit in being a ‘creative’, working on ideas for class and my own creative work, I still need to find the balance and carve out the time better and I hope to find this in 2024.

Advent Calendar


Ok, I know it is after Christmas and it seems an odd time to be talking about Advent Calendars but…… I oh so enjoyed Laura’s advent calendar!!!!

A little bit of family history first, Laura’s advent calendar from us has never been one of the chocolate types, as a toddler, then small child, she didn’t like chocolate. So, a chocolate one wouldn’t have worked. For many years we bought 24 small presents, often silly little puzzles or novelty erasers, these would be wrapped and then tied onto a string hung along the picture rail in the hall. Eventually I bought and made up a fabric advent calendar from Makower, which we found small gifts and mostly Haribo’s!!! to fill it.

You may also, if you follow me on Facebook be aware that Laura loves TOFT and crochets her way through loads of their designs. I have loved their kits for years and I started buying the odd kit and slowly, when I had time, crocheting them, I am incredibly slow doing them, I ended up with a lot of them sitting in a big project bag. Laura decided she wanted to try to make them and one Christmas we bought her the turtle kit she asked for but…. She couldn’t learn from me showing her, nor by watching the videos that TOFT had. Till one day Tony gave me the latest book that had been published as a present, and Laura disappeared with it and a while later….She returned with a completed turtle, she had learnt to crochet from reading the book! Yes, just from reading the book, certainly I have never come across someone learning to crochet or any other craft from reading but that is how Laura learns best!!! I did write a Ramble about it, ages ago – Learning 24.04.2021!!!

Since then Laura has crocheted loads of the TOFT kits, she has taken most of the ones I bought myself, all the books I had and then had the rest as presents. Her birthday and Christmas presents tend to be all TOFT kits, she buys herself the dye club subscription, we gift her another subscription for Alexandra’s Flora society. Laura crochets flowers, veg, monsters and animals….we are running out of space!!!!

But up to this year, Laura hadn’t wanted the secret advent calendar, but when it was announced earlier in the year, we both read it and it sounded really interesting, it wasn’t a bird – it’s the one thing Laura hasn’t been interested in crocheting the bird patterns. I got Tony to buy it for Laura as a present.

There is something so pleasing about getting a TOFT delivery, the boxes that they arrive in, nice solid brown cardboard box with their logo and drawings of balls of yarn, the parcel man puts them in the porch. I think I get as excited as Laura about their arrival, I put them on the sofa and send a photo to Laura of them when she is at work….then I have to wait for her to get home to see what goodies are inside. Once the box is opened, Laura carefully removes the tissue paper and then has a look, with me hoovering, excited to see….the lovely yarn and find out what she is has!!!

Before I go any further let me explain, the boxes don’t often go into the recycle bin, No!!!, they are good strong ones, most end up in the loft holding our creative bits – all the bits and pieces we use for the mantel shelf displays, the artwork, pin cushions, embroideries. Each box is labelled with the theme – January, tulips, Easter, Halloween, autumn, Christmas…… and stacked. One of the bigger boxes is in the kitchen used to hold the potatoes and other root veg!!! The tissue paper is flattened out and reused, as it the ribbon on the flower kits and the card bowls are used to hold my current stitching projects on my desk – nothing goes to waste!!!

All the kits go up into Laura’s bedroom, little slips of paper with each kit’s name is put in her mug, and she pulls out one to crochet, no particular order. Laura crochets on the train, at work, at appointments and at home, often she has two projects on the go!!!

So, back to the advent, in November, it arrived in a specially designed, themed brown cardboard box (and yes it is being kept to store bits in!!!), ohh it was exciting!!! Under the tissue paper was a moss green fabric bag with TOFT embroidered on it and lovely dusky purple drawstrings with rose gold ends. Inside …… twenty four boxes, from bigger ones to smaller ones. Two of the bigger boxes make up a picture of a grandfather clock and the others make up a fir tree. The smaller ones are a deep plum colour with the advent logo on. Its all beautifully designed and co-ordinated with the contents.

Laura was away visiting family for the first few days of December and so took the boxes for those days with her, the email patterns where sent out each morning and Kerry Lord posted both photos and a video on Instagram on the days crochet on Instagram. Even though it was Laura doing the crochet, each morning I would go onto Instagram to see the next bit. Each day Laura would do the next bit – the colours of the yarn were lovely soft lilac, deep rich plum, black and cream, there were beads to add in. As part of the advent you got centralisers and a mini ruler in rose gold colour.

For the first few days it was what will it be? And then we started to think Nutcracker…..a little ballerina in a lilac outfit, the Nutcracker and the Mouse King were finally finished on Christmas Eve and placed on the shelf.

It wasn’t my advent and I didn’t crochet it, but I loved to see what Laura had in each box and how the project grew, it was all so special from the box arriving through to finishing it, everything was beautifully designed and co-ordinated and …..well it was…..special and I think we both thoroughly loved it!!!!

PS, and yes Laura still had the fabric advent hanging on the wall with Haribo’s and a couple of mini chocolates!!! She might be in her mid-20’s but …… she still wants her advent and stocking!!!

How It All Works


Or maybe that should be how it doesn’t all work but how I get to finish pieces and written instructions….

I don’t think I have ever gone through the process, for me, of creating pieces and then how I end up with the instructions written and them being taught in my classes or very occasionally turned into patterns to sell.

There are a lot of stages and work involved by me before having a finished package that I am happy with, and that I walk into class and go ‘we are making this and here are the instructions’. Probably the best place to start is the beginning.

The idea – ideas bubble around all the time in my brain, sparked by a photo, image or even a conversation. They can sit there for ages, I will often leave them stewing away, occasionally going back to give them a stir. Other times I have a more fully formed idea and that I just must get out of my brain and make!!!

Rough Drawings – once an idea needs to get out of my brain, I do a rough and I mean a rough drawing, sometimes in my ideas book but more often than not on a scrap piece of paper that I have on my desk. The drawing is very rough, a very bad drawing and a few notes. If its an idea I will come back to, that I haven’t got that urgency/need/desire to immediately make then the roughs will be filed, either in my ideas book, which is bulging with ideas and scraps of paper, pushed into it and held together with elastic bands! Or if it is for a Quilted Postcard then they go in a separate plastic folder, so when I have the time to create them, they are all together waiting for me to choose what I am going to do next!!!

Other times like over the last few weeks with the Gingerbread themed pieces, I will jump straight in and make the idea up. Sometimes I just have to create a piece there and then, it’s a need to do it and get it finished, and get the satisfaction from completing it.

Working Drawings – I will often draw up a working drawing from my rough one. My working drawings, if a smaller project anything up to cushion size, it is to size with straight lines and details, this isn’t a finished drawing as I will often take things away or add things. Once I have a working drawing I am happy with in pencil I will go over with black pen, they are dated and initialled.

I will often write rough instruction down the side or on the back of the drawing. Sizes of fabric, measurements, order of making.

With quilts, I will sometimes draw components to size but mostly I will work with the rough drawing and lots of notes.

First Make & rough working notes – the first make, or rather a working out how to do it make, is it going to work, do I like it make?!!! This make is usually when I am working on something different or new that I haven’t done before. I will write notes as I go along and it is at this stage that I will often change things or add bits. When I have finished something I am happy with then I will decided if I am making it to teach.

The first make doesn’t apply to quilts, I know how I am going to do them. Well usually and I will only make them once, taking all the photos as I go along, often a lot more than I need.

With teaching a project I have to consider if the classes will like it? Is the making process one that everybody could do? My classes are mixed abilities and so something has to suit everyone, are there alternative ways for it to be made for the hand stitchers? Am I able to teach it, so that they can create it and get a good result?
Second Make with Photos – I don’t always make a second version of the item, sometimes when I know that a project will work, or is a follow on to another thing I have been teaching. Then on the first make I will take all the photos as I go along.

The Second make is for when I am making a new idea and I have needed to understand it and make changes. Only when I have ironed all the creases out and understand a technique and how something works, will I make up a second/clean make. There are always projects that don’t get past the first make, because they don’t work on some level.
Photographs – I have to remember to take photos as I go along. I don’t have a dedicated area for photography with the lights set up. When we were doing the last book – The Art one, then the kitchen table was permanently set up as a photographic area, with the backdrop, lights and tripod ready. We did this as the postcards needed to be photographed at each little stage, sometimes every day.

But usually we don’t have anywhere set up, and I take photos usually on our bed, I put a cutting mat on top of the latest quilt that is on our bed and take the photos using my little camera. I am not a very good photographer and trying to get things straight and focussed and the light right is never that easy. In winter it is harder as the natural light is not good. I try to use natural light and take the photos in the day, hoping for it to be bright. If the light isn’t good enough, then I will clear the top of my work desk – which is a bit of a pain as there are lots of bits on it!!! and photograph using the work lamp by my desk with the daylight bulb in it.

I guess for me, there are two levels of photography. The first one, is the ones I take myself as I go along with my little camera on auto, which aren’t that brilliant, sometimes because of the light, sometimes because I am not a very good photographer!!! This level is for the instructions that I write for my classes. The second level is when I ask Tony to take the photos and the lights etc get set up on the kitchen table and he uses his big camera and sets all the twiddily bits and gets a far better photo. This level is for the books and also for the patterns I sell, possibly why I never get round to writing up the patterns to sell, as I am not happy with my own photos!!! And Tony is busy with his own day job.

Finished item – at this point I have a finished item, sometimes two!!! A rough and working drawing and a collection of roughly written down notes. Its time to sit and put it all into order and make sense of it all.

Instructions and drawings – The first thing is a cup of tea or coffee next to the laptop!!! And I have to have a working brain, some days I can’t write the words, they don’t run right and gobbledygook comes out. Other times are fine and I start by going through the notes and write out the instructions, from the introduction/inspiration to the ‘What you need’ to the detailed step by step instructions, with hints and tips. Once I have written it all down, and gone through checking it, triple checking the measurements and then checking again. I add in Notes for Tony on where I want the photos to go. I often have two or three photos for him to choice from so the note will say something like ‘photo 4567, 4568 or 4569’.

Once all the writing is done, then I carefully draw up the templates and design sheets. They go into a plastic folder with a note of what they are for.
Proof reading – I will always try at this stage to get Laura to read through my instructions and make sense of my poor spelling and grammar and just make sense of how I have written something. Laura has been doing this task for years. Sometimes Laura isn’t around and so she only proof reads when the instructions have been through the next stage but its better if she can do them first, less changes for Tony to deal with!!!

Editing and formatting – when the writing, and all the drawings are done, everything gets handed over to the computer wizard Tony. The Word document is on the shared drive, the folder of drawings are put on his desk with the note and the camera. Then Tony does his thing, editing the photos, formatting the whole thing, scanning and adding the drawings. He puts the footer and watermark on the instructions.

He does this as years ago a friend discovered, by accident, while mending a photocopier, that a member of my class was taking my instructions and using them to teach elsewhere!!!! We did have the foot note on the bottom but she was still just copying them!!!

When Tony has done his magic, he prints me out a copy to read through and check, I will often ask Laura to check through it again as well. When we are happy its added to my folder to send out to my classes.

If it is going out to be sold as a digital pattern on Etsy (which isn’t very often) then I have no idea how that happens – another area of Tony expertise, along with my website!!!

Sending out – I either send out the instructions the day before the class by email or for a few I print out copies to give to them in class. And then I teach the item, if something small over one class, with a bigger or more complicated one over a few classes or if a quilt over one or two terms.

So, behind every make or creation there is a lot of work from all three of us, the hidden world!!!



I have finally got round to actually writing this Ramble, its been rattling around my brain since we came back from our Cruise in the summer but I just haven’t managed to put it down in the written word, I have to be in the right place to write or it all comes out as gobbledygook!!! Even if I am in the right place, Laura still has to edit it to get the grammar and spelling right!!!

Walk into an old church, or a Victorian Gothicised Church – the Victorians loved redoing churches and making them more Medieval looking, or what they thought a medieval church looked like, properly called Gothic Revival. Look down when you walk in these places and there on the floor are tiles, encaustic tiles, a certain style, a style associated with medieval churches – how many people have walked across these floors?

Look at the walls of most London Underground stations, think Aldgate East station, and the walls are covered with creamy yellow tiles, some are relief ones. Or the outside of the station like Covent Garden.

Walk through parts of the V&A museum and there are tiles, just part of the building, then there are the tiles displayed in galleries. Oddly enough I never really walked through the South Asia and Islamic Middle East until last year, when I dive into the V&A, it’s the fashion gallery or the British galleries and I love the Ironwork ones, Tony likes the Cast gallery. Then last year we wandered into Asia and Islamic galleries and found the tiles and beautiful textiles.

Then there is Leighton House with its tiled Halls.

In a domestic setting, in our homes bathrooms and kitchen are tiled, and, if Victorian, front paths, all have tiles. I can remember, in certain roads, when I was a child, looking through the wrought iron gates up the house paths to front doors, the paths were tiled and sometimes even the area around the door. Then there were the red tiles of the 1930’s houses!

I can remember going into an old Swiss chalet as a child to visit and the beautiful dark green tiled stove in the main room, I had seen nothing like it, I was used to mock Adam style fireplaces with an electric fire!!!

Tiles are an everyday part of our lives, we often don’t notice them, especially in places that we use all the time, they become part of the background. For years tiles have been something I have noticed, not only ceramic tiles, but slate tiles, both those used on the floors and slate roof tiles – especially the good Welsh ones, they have a richness of colour and a certain patina. And marble floor tiles, those that create beautiful designs, Kedleston Hall’s Marble Hall comes to mind. It is the designs that interest me, there are so many.



I have finally got round to actually writing this Ramble, its been rattling around my brain since we came back from our Cruise in the summer but I just haven’t managed to put it down in the written word, I have to be in the right place to write or it all comes out as gobbledygook!!! Even if I am in the right place, Laura still has to edit it to get the grammar and spelling right!!!

Walk into an old church, or a Victorian Gothicised Church – the Victorians loved redoing churches and making them more Medieval looking, or what they thought a medieval church looked like, properly called Gothic Revival. Look down when you walk in these places and there on the floor are tiles, encaustic tiles, a certain style, a style associated with medieval churches – how many people have walked across these floors?

Look at the walls of most London Underground stations, think Aldgate East station, and the walls are covered with creamy yellow tiles, some are relief ones. Or the outside of the station like Covent Garden.

Walk through parts of the V&A museum and there are tiles, just part of the building, then there are the tiles displayed in galleries. Oddly enough I never really walked through the South Asia and Islamic Middle East until last year, when I dive into the V&A, it’s the fashion gallery or the British galleries and I love the Ironwork ones, Tony likes the Cast gallery. Then last year we wandered into Asia and Islamic galleries and found the tiles and beautiful textiles.

Then there is Leighton House with its tiled Halls.

In a domestic setting, in our homes bathrooms and kitchen are tiled, and, if Victorian, front paths, all have tiles. I can remember, in certain roads, when I was a child, looking through the wrought iron gates up the house paths to front doors, the paths were tiled and sometimes even the area around the door. Then there were the red tiles of the 1930’s houses!

I can remember going into an old Swiss chalet as a child to visit and the beautiful dark green tiled stove in the main room, I had seen nothing like it, I was used to mock Adam style fireplaces with an electric fire!!!

Tiles are an everyday part of our lives, we often don’t notice them, especially in places that we use all the time, they become part of the background. For years tiles have been something I have noticed, not only ceramic tiles, but slate tiles, both those used on the floors and slate roof tiles – especially the good Welsh ones, they have a richness of colour and a certain patina. And marble floor tiles, those that create beautiful designs, Kedleston Hall’s Marble Hall comes to mind. It is the designs that interest me, there are so many.

A tile or design will interest me and over the years I have read about different designs, from the Encaustic of the churches, which inspired the tiles for the House of Parliament, which has led me to read about Pugin and Charles Barry, and then onto Gibert Scott. To the tiles of William De Morgan. Really the starting point for all I know is from the Arts & Crafts movement and the Victorians, which meant there are gaps in what I know, I have heard of Middle Eastern and the tiles of the Iberian peninsula, in the sense of the Moorish Palaces and Gaudi’s work, and I vaguely knew about Delft styles but not really about the history of tiles. So, being me, I started looking for a good book, there isn’t many out there, but I did get The Tile Book, published by the V&A and Thames & Hudson, it’s a 6” square book – tile size. It starts in the 13th Century and works through early European, Middle Eastern, Portuguese, Spanish, to Dutch to the modern designer ones. So, many designs.

Then we went on a Cruise, I had a new understanding of tiles and we were heading to Portuguese and Spanish lands, both countries have a huge rich history of tile making. Our first stop, if you read the Ramble about our cruise, was Maderia. We visited the Monte Palace gardens, there they use decorated tile panels along the main path to show the timeline and history of the island and there is a huge collection of tiled panels, apparently the biggest in Portugal. These tiled panels, decorate the walls, they are integrated into the garden, surrounded by the lush plants and are fascinating, from the Moorish to Dutch influence. The ones I liked and the designs interested me the most were the panels in blues with very occasionally yellow, with a border, geometric or stylised floral and vases of flowers in the middle. I can imagine these redrawn and appliqued in fabric to make the centre panels of quilts, maybe one day when I have nothing else to do!!!!

Another destination on our Cruise that tiles dominate was Lisbon, here tiles have been used to decorate the outside of the houses, especially in the old quarter. Most of the patterns are geometric and when you look at the individual tiles then they are fairly simple patterns but when you see them as a whole wall, it becomes a hugely complicated interlocking design. Occasionally there were floral panels by the front doors and on the wall of one of the churches in the courtyard was a big scenic panel of the town Square but mostly they were geometric. They were fascinating and stunning.

Down from the Big square is one of the ferry terminals, from the outside a plainish building but wander in and amongst the white walls above the original ticket booking are tiled panels painted with the destination that the ferry was going with patterns all round.

We popped into a couple of shops that sold old tiles and tiled panels, some of the cheaper ones are commercially produced and others are complex panels of hand painted tiles, Tony did offer to buy me a couple of tiles but the ones I really liked were the expensive tiled panels that were framed and I have nowhere to put it up. Our walls are full up with embroideries both ones Laura has stitched and also I have, quilt wall hangings, framed ‘art’ photos that Tony has taken…. basically we have run out of space!!! Instead in a tourist souvenir shop we bought two fridge magnets, a canvas tote bag with tile patterns on and a cork & tile trivet.

I came back from our Cruise wanting to know more about the tiles of Lisbon, but really there are no books available, well not in print. There was one book that was out of print but Tony managed to get me a copy on Ebay. I have spent hours looking at the patterns, both the individual tiles but also with them covering walls creating interlocking, complex designs. And I have dreamt of taking the designs and creating quilts…….

Maybe one day.



So, I feel that after a lovely week away in the Peak District that I have jumped into the new term and Autumn with two feet, straight into a huge muddy puddle after the rain of the last few days!!! Autumn has seemed to suddenly arrive, cool, misty mornings, big fat slugs dotting the lawn and swaths of spider’s webs around the garden. Shutting the curtains and putting the lights on earlier and earlier. Leaves changing colour and pumpkin makes from fabric, knitted and crocheted ones on every social media post!!!

But like always I seem to have already rambled off in a different direction from where I was intending on going – my appalling sense of direction!!! At least this holiday I didn’t get us ‘lost’ while out walking as I have in the past.

So what I was really going to write about….. we spent a week in the Peak District, in the Hope valley. I love the Peak District, it feeds my creative soul and is a place that I can relax and breathe, I feel comfortable there, but would I want to live there?

If you had asked me that twenty or ten years ago, even possibly five then I would have jumped at the chance to live in the Peak District, in the country, away from suburbia. But now, No would be my answer, things have changed, I have changed, I don’t dream of moving to the countryside, living in the Peak District. I have realised that I need the countryside, to visit it four/five/six times a year for holidays, to feed my creative soul, be that Devon or the Peak District, but I am essentially an Outer London borough dweller.

I was born in this area, sometimes called Essex, sometimes outer London, often now East London, ahhh….. East London was around the London Docks, Mile End that sort of way, or it used to be, now Havering is called East London. I have lived around here my life, Tony is from around here, we live in the next street to where he grew up, where his Mum lived all her life. Laura was born here, Laura works in London, she feels that she is a Londoner!

From here we can, in about an hour (if the District line is running ok!!!) get to the theatres, and we go often to see different musicals, as Tony is always looking for special offers and never pays fall price for them, we love Les Mis!!! Seen it a few times!!! It takes a little longer to get to South Kensington to go to the museums – my favourite is the V&A!!! or to the Royal Albert Hall to listen to some classical music, it’s a brilliant place to sit and listen to music. London is a city rich in history, from the Roman wall to the Medieval – Tower of London, through to the Tudor – St James Palace, on through to the Stuart and the rebuilding of London after the fire of 1666, just how many Churches did Wren build? Through the Regency period to Victoria – the V&A, and onwards to the rebuilding after Second World War – not that I like the Brutalist style of architecture, to the boom of the 1980’s and weirdness of the Lloyds building (all to their own) and then to the modern buildings. It is a jumbled mixture, modern beside medieval and Victorian, just stand by the Tower of London, and view it all, the Roman wall, the Medieval Tower, the Victorian Tower Bridge and warehouses to the modern office blocks and every era in between, it’s amazing. And don’t get Laura and I started on the street names!!! From Copper’s Row, Carmelite Street, Arundel Street to Gutter Lane, Limeburner Lane and Shoe Lane, the evolution of London is in the names.

So, no I wouldn’t move to the Peak District, I am an Outer Londoner. But my roots (my paternal Grandmother’s family lived in Derbyshire for centuries) are buried deep in the land. It feeds my soul, standing on the top of Lose Hill, even in the rain, looking down across Hope and Edale valleys to the landscape shaped by industry and farming, crisscrossed by dry stone walls, a patchwork of green fields, farms that feel that they have evolved out of the ground as the buildings are the local stone.

Staring along the ridge from Lose Hill, along Back Hill and up to Mam Tor or standing on Stannage Edge looking at the huge stones and boulders. Looking closer at how small plants have managed to grow in little cracks and soften the edges. And I love the trees, single trees that have survived and grown in windswept places, often twisted but still growing, nature is wonderful…..

I need these ‘wild’ places, they are my inspiration but I also need London, its history, theatres and museums.

Cruise Part 3


Our cruise seems ages away now, we have been busy since we came back and the days have disappeared, I suddenly realised that I really needed to write the third and final part about it!!! So, here goes…..

From the Canary Islands we sailed on and had a nice relaxing day at sea, after the busy days before, our next destination was Cadiz. All I knew about Cadiz was that it is in Spain and that in the Tudor times Sir Francis Drake raised it to the ground!!!! And it was an old port. Not a lot then!

We did our usual and set out to walk the town, it was hot & humid and got more so as the day went on, and already there was a heat haze that got heavier and heavier till the sky had the look of a heavy yellow cloud. As we wandered, it was quiet, not many people about, we saw the Monumento a la Constitucion de 1812, in its square with plane trees. Then we wandered past a fort and along the edge of the old fortified town along the promenade to the gardens, with their lush planting and tiled fountains and paths with the colonnades covered with flowering climbers. From there we wandered to the larger gardens with the central waterfall and pond, and avenues of strangely cut trees. After that we carried on past the curving bay of the beach, along the causeway to the old fort of Castillo De San Sebastion.

We then headed inland, through narrow streets, this was where the people were, just wandering, we then came across the local fish, fruit & veg market. This was proper fresh fish, lovingly laid out and all different types of fish and shellfish, Tony loved it – taking loads of photos and kept saying I would love a piece of that or look at that!!!! We certainly don’t have a fresh fish market or even shop like that around here in Outer London. Where Tony fell in love with the fish, I wanted the fruit & vegetables – it was beautifully laid out and so fresh, the cauliflowers had big creamy heads!!! Why can’t we have something like that here?

We carried on down narrow streets past alleyways with wrought iron gates that lead to central courtyards for the apartment buildings, past old churches, into small squares, one of which we decided to have a few minutes sit down on a bench in, only to have parakeets and pigeons in the trees to throw leaves, nut casings and breadcrumbs onto us!!!
We finally wandered back to a beach, it was full of locals as it was school holidays, big family groups with umbrellas and chairs, chatting, socialising and then swimming to cool off. Tony wanted to go swimming and he had been wandering around with his swim shorts on under his walking trousers, he left me at the top of the beach, sitting on the concrete edge while he headed off to the water. I don’t do water, sand or beaches (or the sun!!!) and I probably looked like a mad English woman, with my boots, linen trousers and big linen shirt, that completely covers me and hat, while everyone else was walking around in flip flops and skimpy swimming gear!!! Then Tony had the fun of trying to dry off and remove wet swimming shorts wrapped in a not very big towel and not expose himself to the whole beach!!! The locals make it look easy, possibly a lot of practice and maybe a bit bigger towel!!!!

From the beach, we decided to call it a day and headed back to the ship, for a nice cup of tea and a sit down!

Our final port of call was Lisbon, we had been here on another cruise back in September 2019, but that time we had gone on a bike tour, through part of the town but then out along the river edge to the old fort. This time we didn’t book anything and decided to just walk. They were offering a free shuttle bus to the central square, which was about a 20 minute walk away, we decided to get it as it seemed a good idea to start from the centre. The bus set off and turned right, along the front, the opposite direction to the square, did the driver know where he was going? Had we got on the sightseeing bus? It had definitely said shuttle bus on the front and the shore experience staff were directing us to this bus. It then turned left straight up the hillside and then left, up, left, down, right, through the out skirts of the city, then back in and finally to the square. Well, we saw lots of the town we wouldn’t have seen!!! We saw the whole architectural history of Lisbon, from the old, tiled building through to the Art Deco ones and then onto the modern ones, we peered down streets on our 40-minute mystery tour!!!

From the central square we wandered off down through the shopping area, stopping to take photos of the buildings and then the Santa Justa lift made from cast iron in 1902, then down to the big triumphal arch and square by the river, from there we wandered back along the front, stopping to go into the local ferry terminal to take photos of the tiled panels. Eventually we arrived back at the ship, just in time for lunch and a quick sit down.

We headed back out into the heat and bright sunshine in the afternoon to wander even more of the town, heading up alley ways and flights of steps, eventually coming out to an old church and the main old town area with the trams. Tony was fascinated by the trams, and took loads of photos, sometimes standing in the road to get a photo of the front as it headed towards him!!! Coming down from the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, there was a tram jam!!! A tram had hit a tuk-tuk and stopped, there was lots of gesturing going on and heated words, but everything on the narrow streets had stopped, trams were lined up behind with tuk-tuks and tourists milling about and walking between all adding to the general chaos!!!

For me the big thing about Lisbon was the tiles, the old houses have tiled fronts, those built in the 1920’s have Art deco tile panels along the top, there are tile panels in the ferry terminal and then there are the patterns in the pavements and the stones of the squares. Many of the tiles are blue and white, they are geometric and also floral patterns, from simple to more complicated. So many patterns. We also come across the tiles in Maderia, in the gardens. Ohh, so many patterns, hugely fascinating….I think I will need to write a Ramble about tiles or my wandering off on a tile hunt.

We sat on our balcony as the ship sailed away from Lisbon, down the Tagus river, full of thousands of jelly fish, many somersaulting around in the wash from the ships engines, down past the statue of Christ, inspired by the one in Rio, then under the suspension bridge that very much looks like the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, past the Belem Tower and finally out to sea, taking lots of photos on four different cameras!!!!

We had two final days, both sea days, to finish off the holiday before arriving back in Southampton on the Saturday morning, getting in before the high winds and rain hit the UK and delayed all the sailings for that afternoon and evening!!!

The Canary Islands


Carrying on with our cruise, from Madeira we sailed to the Canary Islands. Did you know that they aren’t named after the birds, canaries, those that in this country were used down mines as an indicator of toxic gas build up? Although Canaries did originate in the Canary Islands. But are believed to be named after the word dog as in the Latin Canariae Insulae (Dog Island) as the Romans found dogs/wolves on the islands when they arrived.

Our first island was La Palma, Tony had booked to go buggy driving, up through the laurel forests we went to a viewpoint, but there was no view as the clouds had got stuck on the volcano tops and covered the island!!! We drove down to a lower different viewpoint, this gave views of the sea and bays and then also back up to the cloud covered centre of the island. Here the Guide spoke of the volcanos and the fact that they are still very active, La Palma had a massive eruption in 2021 (and wildfires in the last weeks). I hadn’t thought about the Canary Islands as other than a holiday destination, a place that people go for winter sun, I knew it had volcanos, but I hadn’t thought they were active and that the people live with earthquakes and eruptions, that it is all being constantly monitored, that homes and land have been devastated. Standing on the viewpoint looking at the island it gave a different perspective to the Islands.

In the afternoon we walked the old town and along the edge of the black volcanic sand beach, the wind had built up during the day and it was whipping across the beach sending the sand dancing through the air.

In the evening we sailed for the next Island, Tenerife. Here we had booked to go on a trip to the Gardens of Puerta de La Cruz, on the other side of the island. The first garden was the Jardin Botanico, full of lush planting, trees that grow up and also down, spikey plants, weird bright coloured flowers, bananas and pineapples, ferns and palms, plants growing from trees and in the middle a circular pond with waterlilies, a cool, green and damp – as the gardener was watering with a fire hose!!!!

The second garden as Jardin Sitio Litre, a privately owned garden started in the 18th century by Archibald Little and owned by British families ever since, there are the typical plants and trees of the area, the possibly oldest Dragon Tree on the island, along with the Fire trees, palms and bright sprays of bougainvillea. It has an orchid garden, a colonnade walk with the pots of orchids displayed. Over its life it has had many famous people stay there, Agatha Christie being one of them. But as we wandered around I came across a column with a bust on it, on a smaller side area, the bust was of Marianne North, an independent Victorian botanist and artist, who’s artworks can be seen in a dedicated gallery in Kew Gardens (or in the book, that I have, on her artwork) she too had stayed in the Villa, to me far more interesting than Agatha Christie!!!

We were then given free time on the sea front of Puerto de la Cruz – not my thing, shops, bars and people!!! Unlike the gardens that I find fascinating. After that we headed back to the other side of the island and the ship at Santa Cruz. In the afternoon we took a walk to the Auditorio de Tenerife Adan Martin – the concert hall with its curved overarching wave created in white, covered with pieces of tiles, it’s hard to describe as it is reminiscent of a number of different things and other buildings, it has an organic feel and the shapes and angles created ‘art’ against the blue skies.

We spent time sitting on our balcony watching the activity in the harbour, the Fred Olsen Express ferries arriving, backing in with speed, offloading, reloading vehicles and speeding off again and also the Armas ferry. Then we watched the ship sailing away from the island.

Heading to Las Palmas in Gran Canaria…..the highlights according to the Daily pamphlet of the ship are the beach and big shopping Mall, oh dear neither of them are my thing!!!! We did our usual thing and set out on a walk, through the town to the beach, it was a beauty golden arc of sand, with a wide promenade lined with unopened cafes and bars, they were just setting up when we walked back!! At the end of promenade is the solid, almost fortress looking, Alfredo Kraus Auditorium, built of stone with a wooden box on the front and sculptures, all angles, shapes, a work of art in itself. The Islands seem to like their structural Auditoriums. The thing that struck me, was how deserted the complex was, from the busy beach area before it. From the auditorium to the square behind, with its empty shops, cafes and the practise halls, it felt deserted, unused, forgotten, a sleeping beauty…..a total difference from our auditoriums, there is always something going on at The Royal Opera House, the Barbarian, Festival Hall and The Royal Albert Hall, there are people and life.

Las Palmas is a working city, spread out from the cruise terminal, which has been created fairly recently with the big shopping mall, behind it is a huge working container port, warehouses with working boats moored and the Naval base. Then there is the town, old concrete apartment blocks, with shops below, many wrapped in nets – it looks like nylon tights have been pulled over the buildings, we had noticed this on the other islands but in Las Palmas, so many buildings were covered. It’s their solution to bits falling off the buildings, the concrete had cracked and deteriorated, so wrap them in net!!! Slightly odd, but it works, I do wonder if they will ever repair the buildings?
We got the Sightseeing bus in the afternoon, it took us through and round the main area, past the concrete apartment blocks and shops, out to the auditorium and then climbed up and round to the old town and then back along the coast main road to the cruise terminal, it was all too spread out to walk round. It was a pretty place, just a working town, not somewhere I think we will go back to.

We sailed to Lanzarote overnight and arrived as the sun was coming up. Tony had booked for us to go on a Camel ride and then on a trip round the Fire Mountains, Timanfaya National Park. I really wasn’t too keen on the idea of a camel ride. These are the two hump type that are the descendants of the camels that were brought to the island to work, these ones just give rides to the tourists across the black volcanic dunes. It’s a pannier seat arrangement, that goes across the camel’s back and you sit either side in a wooden seat, reminds me of a baby’s swing seat, your feet rest on a piece of wood swinging below and you are held in place by a piece of webbing!!! The camels are sitting down and you stand either side and both have to sit at the same time, or the camels may get upset. Then as the camel stands up you hang on tight, it lurches forward and then backwards and up!!! It’s a strange oscillating walk, you are going up and down but also from side to side, all at the same time, no wonder they are called ships of the desert as the movement is somewhat like a choppy boat ride!!! The camel ride was not very long about 30 minutes, up a dune, along then back down, at which point you hang on as you slide forwards on the seat!!!

The coach then took us round Timanfaya National Park, through the extraordinary volcanic landscape, I’m not even going to try to explain it, I don’t know how to, I don’t have the words or vocabulary. I have seen photos of it but they really don’t do its bleak, strange weirdness justice…..



Before I get into writing about our cruise, let me explain, my husband Tony loves boats/ships and water!!!

When we first were together we visited an old harbour on the Norfolk coast, I can’t remember which one, but I think it was Great Yarmouth or Lowestoft or it may have been somewhere else!!! I know we went to Great Yarmouth at some point, as we went on the old wooden rollercoaster – I slid around on the hard wooden seats and came off with bruised hip bones!!! I really don’t like roller coasters be they modern or old wooden ones, Tony loves them!!! So, back to the old working fishing harbour that Tony took me to, he spent ages looking at the boats, to me rather old, beaten up and frankly horrible boats in a smelly harbour, I can’t say I was in any way interested or impressed, that’s when I first realised, he loved boats!

Fast forward through the years and I have looked at numerous harbours, both working, historic and pretty tourist ones, to container ports and general shipping ones to boats & ships of every shape and size to oil field support vessels. I have learnt to look at it all in different ways, how the cranes are silhouetted again the sky, to the colours in rusting piles of chains, to the quirky colours that old working boats are painted. There is a beauty to be found in them all.

Our first proper holiday together was on the Norfolk Broads on a tiny old two berth boat, with a toilet/shower cupboard, Tony had to go in backwards to sit on the loo!!! He dropped the soap in the shower and just couldn’t bend down to pick it up, there wasn’t enough space!!! It also had orange Formica cupboard doors and table!!! Luckily we have had bigger and better boats on the holidays we have taken on the River Cam and the Broads since that first time.

So, going on cruises was probably inevitable!!! A big ship on the sea, going from place to place, looking at different ports and other ships and then exploring different countries. It works as well, as I don’t like flying, I hate airports all that waiting around, it makes me anxious, as for take-off and landing!!!! Being packed in with lots of people….. ahhh!!! Cruising works for us, on our terms, both of us are, the best way to put it is…. anti-social, we don’t mix or want to talk to other people and many people that know us think it’s odd that we go cruising, its seen as a social, join in, holiday camp on water thing!!! Not for us!!!

We arrive at Southampton, unload our cases, pass the car keys over for the valet parking and head for the terminal, and drop our cases off, they are whisked away – well put on a conveyor belt through the building to the dockside, where they are loaded into cages, these cages are then loaded two at a time into an orange-coloured cage. These cages are then forklifted onto the ship and the smaller cages wheeled off, emptied somewhere on board and our cases are left outside our cabin.

Once through all the terminal, onto the ship and our holiday starts. This cruise was the longest one we have been on – fourteen nights and we had booked a cabin on the back, seeing where we had been. It was a mix of sea days and visiting seven places. It started with three sea days along the channel, across the Bay of Biscay, which was just a gentle swell. People were complaining how ‘rough’ it was!!! It really wasn’t!!! Tony was frankly disappointed – he loves it when the ship is rocking around!!! The seadays are a time to unwind and relax. Unfortunately, we have both lost the ability to lay-in, all through the holiday we were waking up at our usual home/working time, for me that’s around six, usually about 5.45 – the time our cabbie neighbour goes out!!! We tried dozing but … we often got up and started the day earlier than most people.

On the sea days we would go for breakfast, have a wander up to the top decks and a look round – admire all the blue towels and other possessions that were saving the sun loungers and trying to spot the free ones!!! Then wander down ten or so decks and have a gentle stroll round the prom deck. Back to the cabin and we would sit on our balcony, Tony would read or just sit and watch the sea. I had taken loads of crafty bits, embroidery and crochet, both a TOFT tulip kit and my Granny Square blanket, and I would do these and read. Reading in large chunks of time is a luxury, at home I read while eating my breakfast and cooking dinner, plus I try to read for 15 to 20 minutes in bed at night. We would head back up to the buffet for elevenses, and again for lunch and obviously afternoon tea, then down to the restaurant for dinner, between that we would walk the promenade deck and sit on the balcony, or after afternoon tea Tony would head up to the top deck to find a free sun lounger and lay up there for a while. After our evening meal and a gentle wander, we would return to the cabin and sit on the balcony as the sun slowly went down and read, before heading to bed. A slow gentle relaxing pace of life.

Our first stop was Funchal in Madeira, we have been to the island before on a cruise a few years ago and on that visit, we had headed up the cable car, then up the next one to the top garden, before coming down and wandering to the market and the gardens by the front. This time we started at the gardens along the front, tiny lizards were warming themselves on the walls and as we walked near, they shot off into the crevasses and among the plants. There were beds of agapanthus is full bluey/purply flower, when we left home the agapanthus in the front garden were in tight bud and are only just beginning to flower now. From the gardens we wandered through the town to the Farmers market with the fish market and its array of fruit and vegetables, dried fruits, spice, plants and cork bag stalls. After the market we headed for the cable car to take us up the mountain to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden.

Monte Palace Tropical Garden is a lush green garden, of palms underplanted with plants we know and think of as houseplants, beds of agapanthus in shades of blues and white, and amazing huge headed hydrangeas in white and shades of pale blue. Stone walls, carved stones, arches, big terracotta vases, a Chinese garden, water features and rills and tile panels all winding its way down the hillside and filling the ravine. You twist and turn, go up steps and down slopes, working along paths and turning corners to different vistas, from plants taking centre stage to water troughs to the central lake and big waterfall. For me the highlights were the huge flower heads of the hydrangeas, they were amazing, heads way bigger than Tony’s hand. And the panels of traditional Portuguese tiles, mostly in blue and white but also coloured ones.

Tony’s plan had been to go part of the way down in the sleds known as Carreiros. I’m not sure if you can really call them sleds, more a wicker basket with a seat with two wooden runners on the bottom, that are guided down the steep hill on the road by two men, a road that has cars coming up and down it!!! When we got to where they set off from, the queue twisted up the path and round the corner and continued on, we joined onto the end, after 20 minutes we had shuffled forward about ten paces. We worked out that we had about a two hour wait!!! So, we decided to ride the cable car back down, the clouds had started to come down and there was a haze across the hills. We wandered back to the Market and bought me a cork rucksack!!! And then worked our way back to the ship and a nice afternoon cup of tea and quiet sit down.

We sailed on…..

Round Old Places!


It’s been a while since I last wrote a Ramble….life has been plodding along, days have disappeared, I am constantly busy running our home, and with the garden bursting into life pottering around in that. Creatively I have been working on postcards for Father’s Day and birthdays, including a commission for one for an 80th birthday. Then I have been fitting in making some shirt dresses for myself – I would have liked to make a couple more for summer, but I just have run out of time – other things to do, including a few days away.

We used to, a couple of times a year, choose an area to go and book a Travelodge for a few nights and then visit National Trust places. That was before Laura went to Uni, worked the summers, Covid and generally life. I thought with Laura being an adult, all grown up and working full time that we wouldn’t have these types of holidays again. But Laura asked if we could have a few days away, just the three of us, before the mad rush of tourists and summer holidays and her dealing with them all. Of course, we said yes!! We let Laura choose where we were going – remember Laura is a historian, medievalist!!!

We booked to stay at Alcester just above Stratford Upon Avon, Laura picked out lots of places to go….

Our first stop was Stowe and its landscape designed by Capability Brown, for a lovely walk, round its grounds and its many temples from Venus, Gothic and Temple of British Worthies, to us a slightly odd mix of characters but it reflected Lord Cobham’s political beliefs. And of course, we had to cross the famous Palladian bridge. Followed by a nice pot of tea, and of course a scone with jam and clotted cream!!!

We headed to Chastleton House and Garden, the house is Jacobean, so lots of carved wood, and fantastic plaster work ceilings – this isn’t a small, dark roomed house, the ceilings are higher than many Jacobean houses and there is a huge bright long Gallery at the top of the house. Laura would have happily moved in … except for the fact that there had been a lot of woodworm in the past that had munched their way through a lot of wood!!! I loved the plaster ceilings with their intertwining patterns and stylised flowers, lots of roses, they would make great embroidery designs!!!

That was our first day over with. On our second day we started off at Baddesley Clinton, built in the late 1500’s and continually added to, this rambling moated house was again full of carved wooden panelling, with low ceilings and doors this time! Outside it had its Stew Ponds for fish for the strongly Catholic families that lived here – and of course it had its priest holes inside!! There was also its walled garden filled with long borders and rose beds, it also had its wilderness area, vegetable garden and a cutting garden.

We travelled on, to Packwood House, another Jacobean House but restored in the 1920’s, here the gardens were spread across the road, one side the kitchen garden and the café and the other around the house was dominated by the orchard and the yew tree garden.

Our final stop of the day was Coughton Court, just down the road from where we were staying. This house is over 600 years old and was the Throckmorton family home – can you see the threads of a pattern for where Laura chose to go? Tudor and Jacobean houses with strong Catholic families, all interlinked, that all plotted against the Monarchy over many years!!!

The absolute highlight of Coughton Court was the gardens, especially the walled garden – filled with roses, but not roses on their own, mixed with lots of different cottage plants, from alliums, lupins, delphiniums to foxgloves and hardy geraniums. We spent ages wandering around the paths, sniffing the roses and taking loads of photos of the views through the garden plus all the plants. We then wandered to the long borders, one side the hotter shades of reds and oranges and the other the softer, cooler purples, blues and soft pinks, here we sat for a while on a huge wooden seat before wandering back through the walled garden. We visited both churches on the Estate, the Anglican and the Catholic next door before wandering back through the walled garden – for one more look at the roses on the way to the car.

The next day, before heading home, we stopped at Charlecote Park, the car pack and visitors centre is across the road from the Estate, we were early so we started to wander through the park land in the spitting rain, which turned to heavy rain shower, we sheltered under one of the many oak trees dotted around. It can’t be a Sparkes holiday without rain!!! The estate may have been in the same family for 900 years, but this is a Victorian house, with the grounds edging the river Avon. We have been here years ago in heavy rain with the Avon flooding and reaching up to the stone terrace at the back of the house!!! This time it was slowly flowing past.

Our final stop, was Upton House and gardens, a house remodelled in the 1930’s and full of paintings and porcelain. The gardens here were all on terraces with a mirror pool at the bottom but it was full of beautiful waterlilies!!!

So, from our two nights, three days away we visited Seven places, took lots and lots of photos…..over 1000!!! Tony had his camera, Laura had my big camera, which she suddenly decided to borrow, after I asked her to hold it for a minute!!! and I used my little one, plus our phones. We have whittled it down to 697 keepers!!!

We discovered that Laura enjoys photography as much as me!!! Neither of us could beat Tony, he takes brilliant photos and sees different things. I take for inspiration and there were lots of gates (at Coughton Court the gate was especially good, that differently will be a postcard!!), medieval doorways, plaster work ceilings and flowers. Laura has discovered flowers especially foxgloves, lupins and roses – maybe its fuelled by TOFT crochet ones that she is doing?!!! We had cream teas and enjoyed our days…..

PS I would so love more roses, with lupins, delphiniums, peonies, poppies, foxgloves and hardy geraniums mixed in with them – but unless I dig up part of the grass and clover (Tortoise food!!!) I haven’t got the space!!! One can dream…..

Rabbit Holes, Research & Ideas


I ramble my way through the days working on different projects, sometimes one, sometimes another, depending on what needs doing and also my mood. Sometimes I need a simple, soothing, rhythmic stitching of a hand project. I have lots of projects on the go, just for teaching in class I have two at the moment – the Jelly Roll quilt, that I am hand quilting and then also the Pocket Books.

The Pocket Books/Housewife/Huswif whatever you wish to call it, is a project for teaching but it is also one of those that has expanded, and I have gone down rabbit holes chasing information. The idea started ages ago when I read the book The Pocket – this was a tough book for me to read, it was very wordy & a bit dry, the author had written originally about Pockets for her Dissertation and the book was an expansion of this – and after just reading Laura’s dissertation numerous times I could tell!!! I did find it interesting, and it did send me looking at other related ideas.

Then Laura mentioned Queen Charlotte’s Pocket book (can be seen at the current exhibition at the Queens Gallery at Buckingham Palace) and we headed down that rabbit hole and I began to draw up ideas and research more about the history.

At the same time, I was working on Crazy Patchwork for teaching, and this has led to me ‘playing’ with ideas, from drawing and painting to creating some of the ideas in Quilted Postcards, I have a folder of ideas and I am sure I will be doing more related pieces!!!!

Another path I have been slowly rambling along for a while is wood block or lino prints. I started by looking at old railway posters a few years ago and adding them to a board on Pinterest then I fell into looking at wood or lino prints and added a board for them. I haven’t really done much but look and add the odd idea, till the last month and with the book published and having a bit more time, not much as life has a way of throwing stuff in the way, I have started to really look.

And it is about looking, I don’t want to try wood block or lino printing, but I feel there is a lot I can take from this form of work, and work it into Quilted postcards, paper and textile art. I have started to do research into how it is created and bought a couple of books with prints by lino print artists that I am reading and looking carefully at the images.

And it is about looking at the colours, very simple limited palettes, colours I could create in plain or small self-patterned fabrics or even paint fabric to get the softer sludgy colours or maybe try my hand at dyeing with coffee or tea! And looking at the lines – the simple pared back lines used to create the images, for all the simplicity of the lines it is easy to see what they are representing, we don’t need complicated details to ‘see’ things and understand them. Lines that could be replicated in stitch, from quilting stitches to embroidery stitches. It is looking to see the subject matter – I do love the nature inspired ones of plants & trees and landscapes, all of which are areas that I create postcards in.

I am falling down rabbit holes of artists, places and plants that inspire the lino print artists I am reading about, following, or looking at their work and learning so many different things and wandering down new routes. There are so many ideas filling my mind.

Soon, once I have ruminated (like a cow or a giraffe) for a while, I will refine what I want to create, be that drawing or textile…….

What Next?


So, what am I going to do next???

For the last four years, I have been working on a book, constantly continuously, one after another, there has been ideas/plans/stitching!! and now, we have finished book four The Art Edition and I have no plans (at the moment!!) for a fifth or a book on any other stitchery thing.

Actually it is more than four years, the idea for Quilted Postcards Little Quilts of Creativity was around for a number of years before I started working on finishing it at the end of 2019 – I was going to give up on the pipe dream of publishing a book, I really felt I couldn’t do it, my work wasn’t good enough, no one would be interested in it and how could someone like me? with dyslexia actually write a book.
Ok, the dyslexia isn’t formally diagnosed, I don’t have the piece of paper to say I have it, but….yes I have mild dyslexia and also dyscalculia (basically problems with numbers!!!) and I also had imposter syndrome….after all I don’t have any qualifications in textiles, design or art, I’m self taught, I create because I love it.

After being nagged by Tony & Laura and a steep learning curve and lockdown, we published the first book, followed by the second The Flower Edition and then we had a mad scramble to do book three The Christmas Edition, to catch the making for Christmas market!!! And then we have been working on this last book, possibly the most complicated to create both from the designing and stitching but also from the photographing and putting the whole thing together.

Now, well its finished, done, and I have time for other things. The questions is What Next? Well……firstly there are a lot of bits I need to do, complete, the Jelly roll quilt from last term in class, being rather important. But there are also two other quilts I would like to finish this year, both are slow stitching projects that I have been picking up occasionally when I can, but neither has been touched this year!!! One is a rose quilt for Laura, it has a hand quilted rose design and the second another hand quilted one using a Layer Cake (10” pre-cut squares).

My priority for the next couple of months is to make myself a new summer wardrobe, well, 5 or 6 shirt dresses to replace those that I made, possible 8 years ago that have finally fallen apart. I’m not rushing these, I am doing them in short bite size pieces, cutting out the fabric one day, then stitching the body sections another, collar and button front on a third day, sleeves another, if each garment takes me two weeks to do, that’s fine. But I do need to get them all done by the end of June.

I also have on my list cross stitch, crocheting my TOFT kits – including two tulips!!! And then there is also to sort all my fabric out, tidy it and work on organising the scraps and leftovers and working on using them up…..

And on that, it sort of links in with the theme for this terms class – crazy patchwork…..creative stitching/embroidery using scraps and recycling other bits and I have a tiny kernel of ideas for Quilted Postcards working in this area. And I want to create some landscape Quilted Postcards inspired by our break on Dartmoor – just to be creative for me!!!

The What Next? list has a number of things on it and it will grow as I work on ideas but it doesn’t at the moment have another book on it and I have absolutely no ideas and am not even trying to think of an idea for another one, I need to do other things for a while!!!

(Well, this is Laura and I have edited this so you can hopefully understand what Mamma is trying to say. And there might be a little project in the future book wise – turning my Masters dissertation into a full-scale book which is going to be a joint effort from both of us… In about five years time…)

Dartmoor Part 2


So, we had arrived in Devon for a few much-needed days away. It might have been wet and windy but we had the right clothing and we headed out on the Thursday to Haytor Rocks on the moor. There was hardly anyone about, in this big open space, with large grey weather worn lumps of rocks sticking up out of the ground, gorse and heather with the occasionally wind twisted trees clinging onto the land and then tracks of russet dead bracken in the distance. Up close the rocks had life, lichen and mosses in the cracks.

We walked up and round Haytor rocks, buffeted by the wind and occasional splatters of rain, and watched the rolling dark rain laden clouds sweep across the vast sky. We then went down passing through a gate into the disused Haytor Quarry, the wind dropped as the sides of the quarry came up and round and at the bottom was a pool, parts of old rusted machinery showing. Here it was quiet and peaceful, a place away from the world, just the splash of water and birds, the trees were all hung with lichens. The path wandered round the pool and then climbed back out of the quarry back to the moor and what was left of the tramway built to carry the mined stone away, some to London and the building of London Bridge and also parts of the British Museum, we followed the tramway back to the car park.

We decided, afterwards, to go and visit Hembury and Holne Woods, described by the National Trust as ‘lichen-clad, ancient oak woodland valleys following the River Dart’……mmmm, well the directions to it were iffy, but we found it, then we discovered the signage was just as iffy to know which way to walk but we followed a couple of dog walkers down a path, which then had a small wooden sign with arrows to the river or fort. We decided on the river and wandered down the path trying to find the lichen-clad trees, we couldn’t find any of them, there were wild daffodils and lots of moss, but no lichen. When we got to the river, we couldn’t walk along it as many trees had come down, it all was a bit disappointing, it was also muddy and wet and getting wetter as we walked as the rain began to come down, heavily, and settled in for the rest of the day. Thank goodness for a nice warm hotel to return to!

On Friday we set back off to walk a bit more of the moor but we didn’t go far as it was incredibly gusting wind, it was fine on one side of the rocks, protected by them but when we tried to walk round…it was all I could do to stay on my feet, so we stayed in the protection of the rocks and had just a short walk before heading to Castle Drogo.

We have been to Castle Drogo twice before, the first time it was covered in scaffolding, and we did the roof walk to see how they were working on making the castle waterproof for the first time in its life. The second time most of the scaffolding was down but only a small part of the inside was open. This time it was all finished, a shiny bright clean stone castle sitting at the top of the cliff looking over the rain clouded valley. As it wasn’t actually raining when we arrived, we wandered through the gardens first, just small bits of colour from the hellebores, hyacinths and daffodils and the promise of the tulips and some way in the future the roses. Then the rain came, and we headed into the castle, to wander round this modern, well 1920’s castle, with its mod cons of electricity, heating and lots of indoor bathrooms – Sir Edwin Lutyens certainly knew how to design. He also designed the Cenotaph and the memorial at Thiepval of which there is a model in the Chapel at Castle Drogo.

It was lovely seeing the castle dressed as it would have been, in the drawing room there was a lady volunteer playing classical pieces on the piano, we sat for a while listening to her, while the rain absolutely hammered down on the castle. I guess it was a good test of how weather proof the castle finally is – all the work on the roof was to make it watertight for the first time in its life, apparently the roof has always leaked even when first built. Tony kept inspecting the windows, these had had work done to them but a few were still letting water in around the edges between the metal window frame and the stone surround!!

After a nice pot of tea and we shared a scone with it, we gave up on the idea of going for a walk around the estate as it was still absolutely hammering it down and very windy, gusting across the valley, we headed back to the hotel and the spa.

We woke the next day, to sunshine and the odd spit of rain, we headed for Parke – a small Estate that the National Trust owns on the edge of small market town of Bovay Tracey. When we got there the park run was just finishing, lots of very muddy legged runners. We had a lovely, slightly muddy walk around the Estate, passing lots of trees with lichen on them, and with wild primroses flowering underneath, then down into the valley and along the edge of the river. Eventually coming to the walled garden, which had a really lovely wooden gate!!! And also the gnarled old orchard, then back to the car park.

As the weather was sunny we decided to go and walk on the moors again, heading for Saddle Tor this time, the sun and the blue skies made it look different, the colours had changed and the huge lumps of rock didn’t look as dark and menacing and the Dartmoor ponies had appeared from somewhere and were happily eating whatever they managed to find in the rather barren landscape, they weren’t short of water – the ground was waterlogged and pools had formed all over the place.

The next day, Sunday we headed home, stopping at Stourhead house and garden, another National Trust property in Wiltshire. As it wasn’t too busy we headed into the house first and then wandered round the garden, with its follies, grottos and temples, and of course lake. There isn’t an incredible amount of colour at the moment, the daffs were coming to the end and the magnolias and rhododendrons have yet to start to fully flower. Most of the trees were bare, with just a tiny hint of growth. But the ferns and mosses growing on the stones of the grottos and follies and the trees were adding bright touches of green.

From there we headed home, a slow stop start drive to get on the M25 and then a slow drive round it to home, it was nice to be home, but it had been a lovely relaxing, inspiring few days away.

By the way we took between our two phones and two camera 1099 photos!!!!

Dartmoor Part 1


So, we have had a few days away in Devon, we booked this just after Christmas. It started the end of last year, November, Tony had to go down to Devon to do some training and his company booked him into a hotel for a couple of nights, he had expected a Holiday Inn or similar, but the Islington Country House Hotel & Spa was the nearest one on the approved list and so this is where he stayed.

When he got there, he was impressed and sent us photos of his room and also his meals – Tony does love his food!!! He stayed there for two nights and then drove up to Birmingham for a meeting and stayed in Holiday Inn Express – a bit of a let-down after the Islington!!!
Tony thought it would be a nice for us both to go and have a short break and we booked the four-night Dartmoor Explorer package, for last week. I finished the class for the term on the Tuesday (new term starts 18th April), came home and tidied everything away and then we did the packing and left on Wednesday morning.

We like to break our journey when we go away and had searched for a National Trust place to stop at on route. Now this sounds fairly straight forward, search the NT app and go there!!! But no, at this time of the year lots of the places aren’t open – they don’t open till Easter!!! But we decided to do Montacute House, a late Elizabethan House in South Somerset.

Montacute House is definately a little gem for inspiration – I know we have just finished the fourth book – the Art one, but it doesn’t stop me looking for new inspiration for Quilted Postcards and this House & garden certainly had some – from the pots outside the Orangey to the weird wavey ancient yew hedge and some very nice gates!!!!

Also there had an exhibition of samplers – The Goodhart Sampler Collection, only a few were on display but they were very interesting and in such good condition. You can search the National Trust site for images of the whole collection.

What I shouldn’t forget to mention is the Montacute tapestry, this is a French tapestry created somewhere around 1470 – 1480 of a knight in armour on millefleur background, its very heraldic and what you think of as typical medieval chivalric image. It has just returned from being conserved and cleaned and its amazing to see something so old and still bright and colourful.

We were going to go for a walk round the wider estate and we headed off along the path, but when we got to the gate where the gravel path ended it was to be faced with a sea of thick squelchy mud and a rather water logged field ahead. Know I don’t mind walking through squelchy mud if I am wearing wellies but not in my walking boots…it was just too wet and squelchy!!! So…. We headed for the café and a nice pot of tea and a piece of Victoria Sponge, then we headed off on the rest of the drive.

The thing about driving to Devon is it isn’t the fastest place to get to, some of the route is dual carriage way but then there are the bits, like by Stonehenge which are single track and very slow moving as everyone slows right down to peer at this tiny pile of stones in the distance!!! And once off the main roads nearer to the hotel it is very interesting little windy roads, going up higher towards the moors.

We eventually arrived at the hotel and it didn’t disappoint, we had a lovely room on the first floor – with deep purple accents!!! Not too dissimilar to the deep purple in our bedroom at home!!! There were lots of little details that made it special from a Kilner jar with homemade flap jack – if you eat them, as we did because they were absolutely delicious, they got replaced with more the next morning!!! To the Kilner style bottles of their own water. And then the towelling robe for you to wear down to the spa.

The hotel had a couple of comfortable lounges with wing back chairs and deep sofas, one had a real fire and a fish tank, there were no tv’s, just board games, if you wanted to play them, from chess to Trivial Pursuits. They have a bar area, that you can eat in, but we booked the main restaurant. We would come down to one of the lounges, and get a drink – they had a very nice cider – Wildsider from the Ottery Brewery, and they would also bring the menu, our order was taken in the lounge and when the starter was ready they would take you through to the restaurant. The food was brilliant, Tony loves his food and would have all three courses, I tended to go with just main and dessert, every dish we had was really good, there was nothing we could fault – the meat was tender and the Risotto, I had it twice as it was so nice. All the meat and fish are locally sourced.

The breakfast was served in the restaurant and this was help yourself to cereals (more Kilner jars), fruit juices and croissants, then you could order cooked items – from traditional English to smoked haddock and poached eggs and scrambled egg and smoked salmon. The service was really good and the staff very friendly.

Before I finish this Ramble – I must mention the spa – now I don’t like water, I can’t swim but I had promised Tony I would go to the spa with him, he loves water. The spa was a lovely quiet space, with chairs round the edge of the pool, where I could sit while Tony splashed around in the pool and went in the sauna and steam room and then came out and tipped a bucket of cold water over himself!!! I also promised I would try the hydrotherapy pool, which I did with trepidation the first time, I’m seriously not comfortable in water, I don’t even like baths – much prefer showers, I don’t like it near my face and being my height, when sitting on the bench in the hydro pool it was up round my neck, but it was warm and I will say relaxing and soothing to my muscles. I didn’t go down to the spa on the Wednesday that we arrived but the following three days I joined Tony in the spa. I still don’t like water and I still don’t like walking round the edge of the pool but I found I don’t mind a hydrotherapy pool!!!!



Its already March!!!

I have been meaning to write a Ramble for the last couple of weeks, but….life has got in the way and my brain hasn’t been able to concentrate on one thing, well not on writing a Ramble! It would definitely have rambled in all different directions and fallen down too many rabbit holes – I don’t think Laura would have managed to edit it into a readable whole!!!

My mind has been flitting from one thing to another, trying to balance everything I need to do with everything I want to!!! I have piles of creative bits all waiting for me to sort out – from writing the next couple of instalments of the Nine Patch Stories. To the very large pile of postcards, those that are made and those in progress, drawings, templates and notes for the book. Then there is the Jelly Roll quilt that I am showing how to make in class – I really need to start on the next stage and write the notes for the next few classes. Then there is the Mother’s day postcard to make and the Easter ones I need to design & I need to finalise the ideas and designs for the Summer term….

Those are the creative bits I must do!!! Then there are the ones I would like to do, the half crocheted TOFT Donna the reindeer and the half done cross stitch…. then there are the bits I need to do for about three months’ time, like make a number of shirt dresses for the summer.

And on top of all those things there is my mind running on other ideas like what should my next knitting project be, bear in mind I have only just started knitting a blanket, so it will be a while till I want to start a new project, but….. maybe I could go back to knitting a simple garment? I have a couple of knitted hoodies that I bought a couple of years ago – maybe I could knit a hoodie? So, off I have been researching (falling down rabbit holes of knitting patterns!!!). I have seen a couple of hoodie knitting patterns I like, but both are a bit shorter than I want, but I could knit them longer – ones a basic plain knitted one in self patterning DK yarn and the other is in Aran weight in an Aran cable pattern – that would take a lot more concentration. So, I’m thinking….maybe I will just get the patterns….

Then there is running the house and also helping my Father-in-law, trying to get everything sorted and running smoothly.

And as the Spring is rushing towards us, there are things in the garden that I need to get sorted. Its lovely to see all the bulbs coming up, the pots of dwarf narcissus especially the Tete a tete ones are beginning to explode into flower, creating colour. Unfortunately the hellebores have been disappointing, only one plant has done well this year and has lots of blooms. The other three are rather sad, I don’t think they are happy in the pots, they are meant to be ok grown in pots but … I think I will plant them in the front garden.

And that needs a lot of work to sort out!!! Late Spring last year I dug up a huge amount of grape hyacinths from the front garden, buckets of them, as they had gone everywhere. Well, they have exploded and multiplied even more, they have covered the whole bed, you can’t see the other plants. I am going to try to get rid of most of them. And then put the hellebores out there. Plus, I got a ’free’ gift of some dahlia tubers when we ordered some other plants, I want to put them out in the front as I have lots of dahlias in pots in the garage already, waiting to go out when its warmer!!!

Then the grass needs raking to remove the moss and the path needs weeding…

I think you possibly see why I have been struggling to write a ramble, my mind is just flitting from one thing to the next and my lists seem to be getting longer…….

Maybe I need to stop and breathe for a few minutes….calm my mind and prioritise!!!...........



They say life is a journey and I think it’s a good way of looking at it. Sometimes the journey is lovely wandering along a smooth path through beautiful scenery and at other times it uphill with massive boulders and you think you are almost through it and something else gets thrown into your path, like a field of gloppy sticky mud!!!! You just have to carry on, putting one foot in front of the other and eventually you make your way out the other side to a different view and scenery – the world constantly changes.

Here I go rambling off down a slightly different path!!! I can remember when we went to prenatal classes and we all had to sit on very hard chairs and do breathing and relaxing exercises. You had to sit comfortably – on hard chairs while pregnant??? With your eyes shut. And starting at your toes and working through your body flex and relax your muscles and then the Midwife would say imagine walking along a lovely sandy beach with the sound of waves. At this point I would tense, I am not a beach person, I have never liked sand and for me it is not enjoyable to walk along a beach, the only beach I went to as a child was Southend and let’s say I never liked it!!! and its left me not liking beaches. Rocky cliffs and sea like Baggy Point in Devon, that I love. But for me that imagined, relaxing scenery is a mixed tree wood, different greens of the leaves and dappled shade and a gentle breeze making soft sounds through the leaves with a stream and then leading to a wildflower meadow – with no cows or horses!!! That is what I would imagine walking through to relax.

So, back to what I was going to say, my best friend since moving has started to go to a sewing/dressmaking group once a month, but she feels inadequate and its making her doubt her abilities and not enjoy it. My friend is very capable, but her skills are rusty, it has been a long time since she did any dressmaking, her Nan taught her, so its over 35 years since she really did any. I feel rather sad she is feeling that way, no class or group should ever make anyone feel inadequate and doubt their ability or skill. We are all individuals and each of us are on our own journey through our life/skills/creatively. I hope I never in my class make anyone feel that they can’t achieve something or doubt themselves.

I am a long way along my patchwork creative road, I have been creating patchwork for over 35 years, I started off with no skills, yes I could sew, I think I had learnt it by osmosis from my Grandmother!!! But I had to learn so much, one step at a time. I have rambled along, learning new skills, going off in different directions, sometimes in directions and worked on styles that I don’t really like, but they were what my classes wanted to learn or were the current trend in patchwork. And in the last few years I have wandered back to a road that I love, I have found my style of patchwork quilting, the one that brings me joy to create. It doesn’t mean I am at the end of my patchwork journey, I will continue to learn and grow my skills, try new paths, life changes and grows and it wouldn’t be good creatively to sit still in the middle of a wildflower meadow, eventually it would die and so would my creativity, it would get boring and rusty.

Each of the areas of my creative life have a different road and I am on a different stage of the journey with each one, from the crochet, I’m at the toddling stage and probably never get further than that!!! My knitting, someway along but I have taken the path back to simple relaxing/therapy garter stitch knitting, that is what I need from it. My cross stitch journey just slowly rambles along, never really changing, never really getting anywhere, but that’s fine. Dressmaking, well that journey stalls and then I have a sudden fast walk along the path, picking up bits as I go along.

Then there is the Quilted Postcard Road, the skills of my patchwork, applique and quilting but thrown in with embroidery, painting and drawing, here I have learnt new ideas and skills and found my style, but that a road I am still wandering along, it’s a long road and I detour off to try new ideas.

And that’s the thing which ever road or journey we are on creatively or in life, it is different for everyone, we are all individuals, we are all at different stages, from the baby steps, to toddling, to running or just rambling along. Each of us will go at our own pace, we all need to find the things that speak to us, learn the skills we want, we shouldn’t compare ourselves to other people’s work, we aren’t them.

This is our journey through our life both in the world and creatively.

Nine Patch Designs


In my Ramble on the 1st January I mentioned that I would be starting a new series!!! I have been playing with ideas for ages, I love the idea of daily/weekly/monthly stitch alongs – be that embroidery ones, crochet, knitting or patchwork ones.

I can really admire people that manage to do daily stitchery all 365 days of the year!!! like Karen Turner of Stitchinglife. I just know that I would be hopeless at it, unless I was really really disciplined and said ‘this half hour is my time and I am going to lock myself in the cupboard and just stitch this’!!!! and even then, I don’t think it would work for me!!! I struggled with doing the October daily challenge of embroidering a tree leaf that StitchDoodles did!!! I was ok while we were on holiday but when we were at home …..I kept forgetting about it, getting wrapped up in other projects, not finding the time and then hurriedly doing it very late afternoon, when I should have been starting to cook the dinner!!!!

Then I thought about a weekly stitchery thing, maybe an embroidery or my other idea was appliqueing a leaf each week and then embroidering that, I thought about it and thought some more, I really liked the idea, challenging myself to a weekly thing and sharing it with you and I love leaves, so this seemed like a good idea. And here is the big BUT, yes I love the idea and maybe one year I will do it but this year, 2023 – NO. What made me decide not to? I sat at my work desk, as I am now and looked at all the project bags hanging on the cupboard doors, at the boxes of fabric, scraps, half finished quilts, orphan squares, quilt tops waiting to be quilted…. and all the stuff I have waiting to be finished. I know I say every year to myself that I really need to work through a lot of the projects and I really do.

And in that vein, the series I am going to be working on and sharing with you is fulfilling a number of my aims for this year – the starting point of the project will be using a few squares that have been sitting in the orphan square box. The squares in question are all Nine Patch designs. The other thing is that all the squares that I am going to make will be made using a lot of the smaller scraps of fabric from all those lovely patchwork cotton to the lots and lots of scraps of calico!!!

I want to share this project with you, and maybe inspire you to have a go and create the squares, it won’t be weekly but I would like to try to share a new pattern fortnightly from the beginning of February, I want to share the design and the story behind it, from the history, to my use of the design and quilts I have used it in, to the fabrics that I have used….

New Year


May I wish you all a Happy 2023!

You may have noticed that I have been absent from all social media since Christmas Eve, I decided to take a break. Social Media isn’t something that comes easily or naturally to me, and I like to have a space to breathe, think and not try to work out what I should/need to post!!! As I have said many times before I am an introvert and so sharing/shouting about what I am doing is not something I really feel comfortable doing. But I know as a creator/maker that I need to do social media to showcase what we do, from the Quilted Postcards and the books we have published to the quilts I teach and also all the stitcheries that Laura creates – without social media and all the online platforms that we are on, we would not get our creations out there.

But sometimes I need that break, like when I go on holiday and occasionally at other times during the year when I just haven’t got the energy or head space to think about social media and posting. And from Christmas to New Year has been one of those times.

If you follow me on both Instagram and Facebook, you will notice that I often post different things – Instagram is more about finished items we have designed and made. While Facebook I will post about my garden, sky & cloud watching and also what I am creating, both things I design myself but also things I make from other patterns and kits, it is about my teaching work and things I do, places I go, inspiration.

Although I have had a break from social media, it doesn’t mean I have had a break from creating. I haven’t had any big project on the go, not since I finished the two quilts for Christmas presents – I will be posting Quilt Stories about them. It’s been a slow gentle creative time, while being with family over Christmas, I have been getting on with knitting my huge multi colour blanket and hand stitching hexagons and letting my brain wander through ideas!!!

From the many ideas I have, I have picked over them, working through ideas and then settled on what I am going to be working on…. my priorities for 2023….

Firstly, there is book no. 4, this is top priority and we are hoping to publish it in late Spring – but we have a lot to do to get to that stage.

Secondly, there is what I am going to be teaching this term in class, I have been preparing, ready for the start of term on the 10th January. And I am ‘playing’ with an idea, trying different things, in a mini test form, for a project for the summer term.

Thirdly, I have a new project that I will be sharing online, both with stories and patterns and I hope that you will be inspired to join with me in creating some of the squares – all I am going to say at the moment is Nine Patch, scraps and going back to the basics of designs – watch this space and my social media platforms for more later in January.

That is the creative fabric, thread and stitching side, except I will be doing some dressmaking this Spring to create new shirt dresses for the summer. I am also thinking on the garden, and also going back to baking…..