The end of term report

School breaks-up for the Easter holidays on Friday. With her usual dark sense of humour, Mother Nature has scheduled the unseasonal March heat wave to come to an abrupt halt first thing on Saturday morning. 

Weather complaints aside the holidays can’t come soon enough. The monkeys have spent this week on the edge of outright exhaustion; Barbary Boy goes for silence, punctuated by occasional outbursts of crossness. Miss Marmoset is both owl-eyed and prone to sudden unexpected bouts of wailing, ‘I saw a beeeeeeeeee!’. 
I am looking forward to adventures and fun with them these holidays. In many ways they develop so quickly during term time, (Miss Marmoset is reading a bit, Barbary Boy is immersed in learning about electrical circuits), we need the holidays to remind all of us that they are still only four and six years old.

I won’t be doing much in the way of stitchery whilst they’re off – they are both unnervingly interested in my lovely Janome, but I do have some projects for finishing at a gentle pace in the evenings. First up is this Dr Seuss pillow cover for Barbary Boy. Barbary Boy doesn’t get an enormous amount of sewn things from me. But he has approved a big, comfy reading pillow for quietly snuggling up in his room with a pile of Encyclopaedias, Animal Atlases and Dr Seuss books. I’ve chopped up a Dr Seuss panel and added various solids, some pindots and some lovely linen. The linen is a dream to sew with, especially now I’ve learned that a touch of starch before sewing stops it squirming under my sewing foot like Miss Marmoset under the nit comb. I think a bit of bright perle quilting will finish this nicely.
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These English Paper Pieced stars are slowly coming along too. This project is definitely a happily meandering journey rather than a determination to finish and show. I think that rather than attempting to stick to any particular colour scheme it will just be a record of what’s in my stash right now. There’s a few prints I wouldn’t use again that are too large for the diamonds, but I don’t dislike them enough to be bothered unpicking them all.
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Finally there was a big planting week last week and whilst I’m eagerly awaiting buds and shoots appearing the hyacinths a filling the garden with their heady scent.

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Wishing you all a wonderful Easter break,

Thanks for reading,
Helen
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The lament of the gardening tenant

As regular readers are no doubt aware, the lovely Kiwi and I are tenants. We rent the house we live in. We’d love to buy if we could, but right now, we can’t. So it goes for us and thousands of others like us. I mention this as a preamble because I love to garden. This always seems to surprise home-owners who wonder why I’d bother with the garden when I’m ‘only’ a tenant? (The ‘only a tenant’ thing is a rant I’ll spare you for another time). Gardening tenants aren’t all that common I grant you – so many people are ‘passing through’ properties as they climb the housing ladder. However for a long-term renter like me, it’s perfectly simple, I garden because I like to, and although our names aren’t on the mortgage deeds, right here and now this house is mine, the lovely Kiwi’s and the monkeys home – and I take a certain amount of pride in my home.

That said I clearly can’t just go yanking things out of the ground a rattling up a pergola where I fancy it – but within certain limits I can breath some new life into a garden that’s probably had precious little thought given to it in some time. I thought I’d take you through the garden that I have to work with right now and some familiar bug-bears which will be in most tenanted gardens all over the country.

  • What are we working with? A good sized but slightly mossy and weedy lawn with a path running all the way round. There are beds circling the garden and a high hedge of conifers at the back. It’s a practical garden. Plenty of space for the monkeys to run around in and a decent sized paved area. This will be great for al fresco dining later in the year. The house itself is only ten years old, my abiding first impression of the garden when we moved in last summer was that there was hardly anything in it, and what was there was madly overgrown. The soil was still full of building rubble from when the estate had been built and the soil looked a bit thin and stony to sustain much plant life. You can see at the back the brown straggly growth of long-established clematis plants. It was a revelation to me that I could dislike a clematis but I’m not fond of these. The old growth looks ugly and the actual flowers are an acid yellow which fades to looking like dusty cotton wool when they’re over. It’s also climbed all the way into the conifers above.
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  • The all too common ‘why’ plants? As in ‘why stick two largeish, hungry shrubs bang on top of each other here?’ Of course I know the answer why, the idea is to fill the garden up with big plants – therefore no fuss. However I’m hoping my Dad will confirm this shrub is no longer with us so I can justify digging it out and popping some hostas and lily of the valley in instead. It’s a very shady corner here, which is clearly why the other shrub (a rhododendron maybe?) looks so miserable.
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    The same thinking applies to this bed, which is full of a kind of geranium that quickly covers the ground and is a woody, deep-rooted ‘mare to dig out. It’s a shame, I think this bed looks as if it would make a perfect little veggie bed.

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  • So what will I be planting? Essentially heaps of sweet peas. I love sweet peas, the fragrance, the colours, the handy way they happily clamber all over established ugly plants I’m not justified in digging up *eyes the clematis meaningfully*. I’ve germinated loads this spring having lost a good number of young plants last year to slugs and I’ve got another couple of packets of seeds as back-up if necessary. If I’m lucky with them there’ll be colour in the garden and flowers in my house from May to October.There’s also strawberries to go in and hopefully some tomatoes in pots. 

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Hopefully for my next gardening update I’ll have some beautiful blooms to show. One day I’ll have my very own spot to wreak havoc/establish my own aesthetic on. In the meantime I’ll just have to make do with what I have – wherever we are.

Thanks for reading,
Helen
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Hi Dad – I made it for you! Do you like it?!

Oh dear – this week’s post it brought to you by the letter ‘F’. F for FAIL, and ‘FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE JUST BUY SOMETHING FROM A SHOP!’ Ahem, I had planned this week, to make my Dad a little something for his birthday (which was a good week ago, but I won’t see him until next week, which means definitely not late in my book). 

It’s so rare you find a good stitchy present idea for a man. Really, all the cute totes, clutches, tea cosies etc – are essentially very feminine. Pinterest had even guided me to this fab tutorial for a great boxy toiletries bag. Perfect for getting lots of kit in ready for the big cross-country walk he’s taking on later this spring. It looked so nice and simple that even I, the world’s worst bag maker, who has never inserted a zip, sewn with oilcloth or in fact made anything that wasn’t intended for sitting on or snuggling under thought I could manage it. 

I’m pretty sure if I’d just stuck to the original pattern it might just have turned out just fine. Instead, I decided to tart it up a bit (it really didn’t need it – I just panic when there’s no patchwork or perle stitching required).

The linen is beautiful to sew with, perfectly softened, great colour, flows through the machine a treat. The oilcloth was really a tablecloth fabric and far too stiff for such a small project. It really didn’t get on well with the linen, which went all slippy and coy and kept refusing to co-operate. Not one to lose heart, even in the face of a blindingly obvious imminent fail, I pressed on, finally producing…this.
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Yes Dad, this misshapen, lumpen construction (rapidly fraying where the linen refused to associate itself with the oilcloth on one end) was very nearly your birthday present! Aren’t you proud of your little girl?! 

Sigh…I will not be beaten by a fabric box. You and I will meet again boxy toiletries bag, but not alas for Dad’s birthday.

When’s Father’s Day again?

Thanks for reading,
Helen
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