29 October 2013

The friendship quilt.

I have talked on here several times about how much I love the blogging community and how amazing it is to have found friends across the world whom I have not met but have so much in common with.

I was excited when Fiona initially posted about the idea of a friendship quilt. I have really got into quilting and liked the idea of sending pretty squares of material to other people.

What I didn't realise when I signed up for the friendship quilt was how happy it would make me to receive those parcels most weeks.

How blog friends go above and beyond just sending a square of material. I have had american candy, english chocolate and beautiful cards and tags.

I didn't realise how blessed I would feel when reading the words of those women in the letters and notes they sent with their quilt blocks.

How each piece that arrived was so unique. No two designs have been the same and each is as personal to me as it is to the creator!

I didn't realise that the quilt blocks would remind me of their creator. Even before they are put together they have a story. For instance the block Sian sent me has images of little houses and I at once think of her writing "high in the sky".

When I joined this swap I had the end project in mind. What I didn't realise was that the process is just as wonderful. The emails I have had asking about colour schemes, the thought that has gone into the square, the stories that have come back about blog friends pulling out their sewing machine for the first time in ages, they are all wonderful to hear and receive.

I also never realised the opportunity I would have to tell my housemates about blogging, about quilting and about a community of women around the world who are all crafty.

Thank you dear friends who have sent me quilt blocks. All are beautiful, all are personal and I can't wait to put them together. Thank you too to Fiona who initiated the swap. I can't wait till I can start sending my own blocks out (I have enough jiffy bags now to keep me going all year!)

Quilt block creators top to bottom:
Deb (paper Turtle) 

27 October 2013

Let's sit and have a cup of tea

Come in, come in out of the cold.
The wind is blowing a gale and the rain is starting to sputter in from the North. We are expected a storm sometime tomorrow.

It's good to see you in Durham again. Here, take the comfy red sofa and I'll pop the kettle on....

If you were meeting me now I would sit down next to you on that soft sofa, feet curled up around me, hands cradling a mug of tea.
I would apologise that it is a bit cold in the lounge. We haven't yet put the heating on, being students and all that. We would laugh together as I told that you that the quilts are definitely coming into their own.

Speaking of quilting I would quickly rush upstairs and come down with a very special box in my hands. I would tell you all about the friendship quilt that Fiona has initiated, about the lovely parcels that arrive most weeks and the beautiful squares that have arrived in the post. We would pour together over the patterns and colours. I would tell you how lovely it is to be a part of this worldwide creative group. That every time a parcel arrives I get to chat to my housemates about blogging and dear blog friends. You would give me suggestions for how to quilt it together. I would tell you that I want to incorporate the creators initials onto their squares and may embroider them on when the quilt is finished.
I would carefully move the layers of material to find the square I am looking for, which is very relevant today. The lovely tea cup that Deb sent me all the way from the states!

Thinking of tea, do you want a top up? No? I have a spiced pound cake just out of the oven which is truly scrummy with a bit of butter. Can I tempt you?
As we dived into the cake I would tell you about how the last month has been. How I forget what a whirl student life is. How it really is one thing after another and that I can only really look at a day at a time. I would confide that all the things I am involved in are good. That I am loving my course this year, that I am doing more children's work and that I have the great blessing of leading a home group from church. That said, these things take time along with looking after our dear little house.
I would ask you how you manage it? How do you juggle work and cooking and housework and for many of you children?
This adult lark takes quite some doing!

But enough about me. How are you? How has your October been? Ours has been soggy and windy. I crave those crisp and sunny days with crunchy leaves though they have been few and far between. I am hopeful for what November will bring! How is your blog? I am interested. It feels like a few of us are taking more of a break between posts. I certainly am. Maybe it is this time of year, more hunkering down and creating than time spent online? Or perhaps it is the business that preludes Christmas.
You would probably laugh at me for discussing christmas so early! I would tell you that I am involved in another lovely creative swap with Miriam, sending decorations to other bloggers.

I am going to pop the kettle back on. You can never have too much tea in my opinion.
You would ask me how I am enjoying living out and I would tell you that I still love it. I still like having a place to call home, I like my little room in the top of the house and the view over the chimney pots. I would tell you all about our little dinner parties. Of the joy of having friends over on a saturday night to share food.

I look at my watch and realise we have been talking for most of the afternoon. How time flies with friends. Durham will be packed on your walk back. Many families come and visit in this first half term. Is it half term for you? What are you up to? I am working in a school at the moment one afternoon a week so this week will be a bit more relaxed for me too, even though lectures continue.

I would lead you to the door, passing you your coat from the peg. We would hug tightly and I would make you promise to come for tea again in a month when I have a feeling that it will feel slightly more wintery! Isn't it lovely that we have been meeting like this for nearly a whole year!

I would wave you off as you walked down the hill calling goodbye as you rounded the corner.

If you were meeting with me now, what would you tell me? 

If you would like to write a "tea" post please add it to the linky at the bottom so we can all sit and share with you! The linky will be open for a week so you have plenty of time! 

25 October 2013

Bring out the tea...

It's that time again and again I wonder where the month has gone!

Here is an invitation for tea with me on Sunday 27th. I would love to bring you in from the wet and blustery weather which is a Durham Autumn and into our cosy little house where the kettle is boiling and my housemate has made fresh cakes.

If you are new to my little corner of the world, welcome. If you are an old friend, I can't wait to catch up with the goings on in your life. On Sunday I will be sitting back and posting about student life, balancing work and play, crafty endeavours and maybe  a few funny stories...

So grab your cup of tea and join in in anyway that feels comfortable. Sit back and listen to me, add your voice in the comments or maybe go the whole hog and write your own tea post and come back here to link it up. It's always fun to see how many continents and homes we can visit one day a month!

A "tea post" doesn't have to be long. It can be a few words, it can be a photo, it could be half a dissertation (although we may need something stronger than tea if that is the case). Simply, what would you tell me if we were sitting and having tea together?
Funny, short, deep, trivial or a total mixture, we love getting to know you better over a cuppa.

Over the past few months my ramblings have been accompanied by some beautiful conversations and posts from readers. The tab on the right sidebar contains links to all the "tea posts" and then the links to everyone who has contributed. If you have a spare moment, grab your favourite beverage and take a look- you are sure to be entertained. 

23 October 2013

My favourite iphone apps

I love using my iphone. When I first started using it I was overwhelmed with the choice of apps and asked a lot of people including lovely blog friends what they suggested.

There were some apps that got mentioned again and again and a few I have found since. So, because I like talking about iphones and because it's always good to share, here are a few of my favourites.

Camera +

So many people suggested this app. I have to admit I was skeptical at first but it blew me away and was well worth paying for.

The depth of field is ace, you can manually control exposure and focus and I think it just takes lovely photos.
I use this camera for every photo I take on my phone. I am won over.


I ummed and ahhed about getting this app. I don't really like paying for apps unless I know that I am going to use them a lot. This is a problem as you can only really find out when you have bought them!

This app's name kept on coming up again and again, on many different blogs, in your comments on my first iphone post, in newspaper articles so I thought it was worth a shot.

I love it. I don't say that lightly. There are a huge number of good camera filter apps out there. This is the only one I feel that I can get the effect I want every time I use it. The reason for that is the sheer number of filters this app contains. Added to that there is a slider to adjust how much of that filter is used on the photo. I also like how you can add an infinite number of filters over the top of each other. I tend to use up to ten filters each at around 10 or 20%.

The possibility of getting bored with the filters is small when there are so many combinations and adjustments you can make. The app can also save the selection of filters you have chosen for a photo and store it as a "recipe" so you can use the same combination on another photo. Clever.

As a big instagram fan  I also appreciate any app that makes sharing easy. Pic tap go allows you to edit a photo then move it straight to instagram either as a square photo or keeping the ratio and adding white boarders.

I now use this app on every photo I post to instagram.

I like it. A lot.


I used this app frequently before I purchased pic tap go. It has really lovely filters as well as sliders to control the amount you use each filter.

I personally prefer the subtler filters on pic tap go but the ones on afterlight are a really good base point.
The app also has lovely controls for editing exposure, contrast and cropping.


A very addictive little game. The aim is very simple, join dots that are the same colour, as many as you can in sixty seconds. My mum has got very into this game because of its simplicity and the "just one more go" factor!

A Beautiful Mess/Over/Rhonna designs

I am in two minds about these apps. I love the font collections, the graphics, the doodles. I love what I have seen people do with them.

I just don't think writing on photos or doodling is for me. I gave it my best shot and just couldn't make my peace with it. Funny, all I do in Project life is write and doodle on photos!
I think these apps are great though and if I was inclined to writing on my pictures these three would be my go to apps.

I really enjoy collecting new apps so if you have an iphone or even an android, what are your go to photo apps/ games/ organisational apps?

I am cutting myself a bit of slack with blogging at the moment. Keeping up the pace of work, living in a house and maintaining this little slice of the web is hard. I am visiting your blogs and commenting when I can and I continue to thank you with all my heart for still visiting my place even when I am sporadic! 

21 October 2013

Project Life week 41

Catching up and chasing my tail. A lot of this going on at the moment in my little word and it applies to Project Life too.

We are so close to the end now that I am very determined to see this project through. Once I get down to documenting the week I love the process. With only eleven weeks left (eleven!) it is finding inspiration that is proving tricky.

I am learning that the longer I leave project life each week the harder it is to make because the memories are just not so clear. So this week I am determined to have finished the spread by Wednesday. Nothing like a deadline to get me going!

So this was week 41...

A nice mix of instagrams and big camera photos. I had a great selection from the sorting ceremony as well as snapshots through the week, including our first little dinner party.
I am missing using my big camera and am thinking I need to make more of a concerted effort to take it out with me rather than just relying on my phone.

The blog came in very handy this week. I used my simply a moment post to document the sorting as well as my twenty words for that photo of the parcel my mum sent me. I also wanted to record my thoughts on settling into studying again. The blurred out card contains journalling about a new job I have volunteering in a local school one afternoon a week. It's lovely to be back in the classroom!

I really enjoy making photos into graphics. That Harry Potter one came together really quickly. I also knew I needed a Dumbledore quote this week so pulled up the trusty chalkboard and added two simple fonts. I really like how this one has turned out.

Anything else: 
Before I start a page I visit some of my favourite places for Project Life inspiration. With a notebook at my side I scribble down ideas for photo placement, text and graphics. It is nice to build a library of ideas and I hope it keeps my pages fresh and interesting.
My go to sources of inspiration are:
Elise Blaha Cripe
The creative team on the Project Life website
The blog at Paislee Press 

I also gain inspiration through pinterest. I search for anything pinned from my blog, specifically project life pages. I then visit the board they have been pinned to. More often than not this is a dedicated project life board and my layout sits amongst many others. This often means that the layouts are of a similar style to my own and I in turn can gain inspiration from them just as the pinner gained inspiration from my layout!

Week 41. This book is becoming more of a reality every day.

18 October 2013

One photo & twenty words

Amy posted this yesterday. It really resonated with me. Blogging ebbs and flows and at the moment I am in an ebb. I am shying away from posting because I feel I have nothing to say.
I want to remind myself that this is my slice of the web and I can go at whatever pace I need to.

I feel I need to slowly ease myself back in again. Little posts, a few memes, back to where the words flow out naturally.

I'm starting small. A fun challenge I started last month. I think a few of us out there are feeling in a similar dip. This is a no pressure post. If you want to join in please do. If the words aren't coming it does not matter.

Go find a picture and choose twenty words.
Here is mine:

I love that she writes in green pen. She sometimes sends chocolate. This time she sent me hoover bags too.

17 October 2013

Simply a magical moment

After the comments on my "hello monday" post I figured that quite a few of you were intrigued by the Harry Potter module I am taking. It is a module that is part of the education course at Durham and it really is all about Harry Potter and the key themes within the books. I think at some point it refers to education systems and illusion in childhood but mostly it is about immersing ourselves in the world of Potter!

If i'm honest it feels totally bizarre to be studying Harry Potter as part of my degree. On the other hand in a city like Durham it is easy to think you are walking around Hogwarts.

The first lecture is always the sorting so I thought I would use this as my "moment"- albeit a very unique one- this month. Hope that's ok Alexa!

Simply a moment:

We walk through town in our gowns and get some odd looks from the tourists. Gowns are worn to most formal dinners each week so students wearing them isn't too unusual a sight but I guess at three o clock on a Friday afternoon, we do look slightly strange.

My friend and I flap along to our destination. We are headed for one of the collages, University college, affectionately known as Castle owing to its placement- in the castle itself.

We are greeted at the door by a "prefect" who checks our campus cards and ticks our names off on a list.  We are in. We move through the gateway and into the courtyard. It is definitely one of the most impressive colleges. It really does feel like we are in Hogwarts now, especially with the red and white bunting still left from Freshers week.

We are moved into the Great Hall and we can already hear the music from the films being piped into the room. The atmosphere is amazing, there is a buzz of excited chatter, shrill giggles, wide grins.

We are seated on tables at the back of the hall. The lamps shine brightly and at the front of the hall is a table raised on a dais, a sorting hat, a stuffed owl and the gleaming house cup. The four house tables are in front of this, each covered in their respective colour. Blue for Ravenclaw, Yellow for Hufflepuff, Red for Gryffindor and Green for Slytherin.

I sit down at the back. How silly that I am feeling nervous. It's all just a game, just a piece of drama. But still, here in this hall it feels strangely real and important. Our lecturer makes the way to the front in his red gown. A hush falls over the hall as he welcomes us to our sorting.

The music has stopped, you could hear a penny drop. Another "prefect" comes forward holding the list of names. Slowly she reads the first name and the student walks in the silence up to our lecturer who places his hand in a velvet bag and pulls out a coloured marble. It's Blue and he calls the name of the house, "Ravenclaw" as we applaud.

I know that I am soon. It is in alphabetical order after all. This is so surreal and ridiculous in many ways but I am excited and nervous as I stand up when I hear my name. The walk to the front is long. There are many many eyes turned towards me. The hand reaches into the bag and pulls out a yellow marble. I'm a hufflepuff.
A sigh of relief and I fall into the chair at the hufflepuff table.

For a moment there, it was easy to believe that I was being sorted into the school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Today I am joining in with Alexa's beautiful meme, "Simply a Moment." Do stop by her blog to read both Alexa's words and other bloggers as they record their moments. 

14 October 2013

Saying hello

It's monday and it's the first time I have joined in with this meme.
I'm saying...

Hello to horrible cold drizzly weather.
Hello to lovely walks with friends along the river bank and up the cobbled street

Hello notepads and fineliners and piles of books.
Hello to starting a Harry Potter module and getting sorted. I'm a Hufflepuff!

Hello to scary moving shelves in the library which seem to have been put in over the summer just to frighten me.
Hello cooking. Toad in the hole is on the menu tonight.
Hello to indulging in creamy hot chocolate.

Hello to term one and the feeling of constantly catching up.
Hello little blog. I will be back soon I promise!

10 October 2013

In the top of the house

So far I am really really enjoying living in our sweet little terraced house at the edge of Durham. 
It is slowly but surely becoming a lovely cosy home. 
The pot plant is in the window, the fridge is full of fresh vegetables (I live with all girls), the bunting is up and and tv is now working. 

I didn't think I would enjoy living out this much. I enjoy coming home to our house after a lecture. Of having space to flop on the sofa as well as my own room to be quiet in. 
I love having my closest friends around me, of cooking for them, of laughing as we wash up and just chilling in the lounge with our work and big cups of tea. 

One of my favourite parts of our lovely little home is my room in the top of the house. Each morning the early sun shines through the skylight and as I open the window I can hear the city waking up. 

At night as the cold starts to creep in I lie in the dark with a quilt wrapped around my numb feet and listen to the city shut down for the night. As my eyes close I always listen for the late night freight train that thunders over the viaduct, rumbling right through to my bed. I know for some this would be annoying but it is something that makes me smile, imagining who has lived here before and has been lulled to sleep by the passing trains. 

This little house that is becoming home. I can't wait to record more memories and stories of this place because from what I can gather from your lovely comments, we don't really forget our first home. 

8 October 2013

the student makes- how to make quilting cheap

If you follow my blog you know that I like quilting. You will also know that I am a student.
Those two things don't tend to go well together. Material is pretty expensive and a quilt uses a lot of it. 

But there are ways to make it cheap or at least cheaper...

1. Be sure of what you are buying
Fat quarters look lovely, come in beautiful designs and are pre cut. Win, win? Maybe, but the fact that they are pre-cut into that nice square size means that they are often more expensive. 

Have a careful look before you commit to making a quilt out of fat quarters. Over here fat quarters retail at around £4.00. That would make a metre of fabric £16.00. Have a look around and do your maths, is there a metre of fabric straight off the bolt that could be less? Buying straight off the bolt and asking for a quarter of a metre, or half will often prove cheaper than buying a pre cut. 

When making quilts I will often choose several bolts of fabric and then as a treat throw in a few fat quarters. 

(This isn't a hard and fast rule that fat quarters are more expensive but if you do your maths they tend to be quite pricey. I suggest going into a dedicated fabric shop and looking at what they have on the bolts first.)

2. Pick up fabric as and when you find it
In other words make a stash! 
I went to France this summer and whilst looking around one of the lovely markets came across a fabric stall. The fabric was a lot cheaper than the UK so I picked up a few pretty looking pieces. 

I didn't have a project in mind but went with fabrics that I know always appeal to me, neutrals, spots and stripes. 

3. Do the maths! 
More maths I know but if you are keen to save money, working out what size blocks you want to cut out of your fabric is really important. Try and use as much of the fabric you have bought as possible. That often means having to measure each piece and working out how many squares/triangles of a certain size you can get out of it. 

It may seem frugal but you will waste far less if you take time to do the measuring first. It also pays (pun!) to be accurate with your cutting. I am useless at this and it is something I am still learning!

4. Quilt as you go
A quilt is made up of a sandwich of layers. The patchwork quilt top, a layer of batting/wadding and then the backing fabric. 
There are many ways to secure these three layers together. I personally choose the quilt as you go option. 
This means I make my patchwork top in sections. Each bit is about 12 x 12". I then cut a piece of batting slightly bigger than this and sew the two layers together. 
The quilt therefore develops as a series of quilted squares which are then put in order and stitched together. 
A really good tutorial can be found here. 

This saves you money simply because you can use scraps. There is no need to buy a large piece of batting/wadding and cut it to size. You can use what you have as you are only working with a small bit at a time.

5. Think outside the box
For my most recent quilt I had a collection of patterned material that I was keen to use. I knew though that simply using this would not create a big enough quilt.

I therefore decided to pair each coloured square with a neutral one. This required a large amount of plain fabric and to keep costs down I visited a large branch of a supermarket. There I found cheap bed sheets for around £10 in a huge variety of colours. For this quilt I used a double sheet made of beautifully soft brushed cotton.
Sheets provide a huge amount of material for very little cost. I
n this instance I cut up the sheet and used it as squares for the quilt top but in the past have used sheets for the backing fabric too.

Don't think that just because you are making a quilt you have to buy quilting fabric! I have used old curtains before as a backing fabric and cut up old shirts to use as patchwork squares.

Quilting really doesn't have to cost the earth. Build a stash, collect fabric as you go, find cheaper sources of fabric and do the maths!
At the end of the day making something beautiful is worth far more than the supplies it cost to get there.

What do you do to keep crafting cheap? 

6 October 2013

Storytelling Sunday- the perfume bottle

This little dust covered bottle sits on my dressing table at home. 
There is a tiny drop of scent left in the bottom. 
I don't know if I will ever finish it. 

It was my sixteenth birthday and we were a new couple, learning each others quirks. 
That September was my birthday. I can't think what it must have been like to have to come up with a present for a girl he was getting to know, but he did good.
There was a pink box wrapped in ribbon. 
Inside was a collection of hand cream, body butter and then nestled in the corner a little pink bottle of scent. 

It meant a lot. It was the first bottle of perfume I had for myself. 
I wore it a lot those next few months and he always realised when I did. 
It became part of our story, "Cassis Rose, Eau de toilette''. 
I sniff that bottle now and that first year with him comes flying back. Memories of walking along the river, secret kisses in the dark and hand holding in the cinema. 
Memories of catching his eye across a french classroom, lifts home with his family and a New Year at the farm. 

We have exchanged many presents over the last few years and they too are precious. None though can bring back such a flood of memories as one sniff of this little perfume bottle can. 

Some day soon I will wear it again and see if we can add some new memories to the bank of ones that are already evoked by its scent. 

Today I am joining in with the lovely Sian and her Storytelling Sunday- pick your precious. Do pop over to visit other bloggers and read about their precious things.

5 October 2013

Project Life week 39 and a free download

Thank you for all your kind words on my last project life post. I really do love creating these pages. There is so much inspiration out in the blog world and each week I write down a list of new techniques I want to try! 

So in the spirit of catching up here is week 39...

It was my birthday week so I had lots of photos and quite a few taken with my lovely new lens. I love weeks when the photos are abundant, the pages seem to come together easier although the pages I love most are the ones where I have had to search around for the pictures. 

I also wanted to include photos of moving into our lovely new student house. 

I copied the text from my blog post on my birthday straight into that yellow journalling card. I like including blog posts in PL, especially when I am behind and am struggling for the right words. Going back to the blog posts can really help. 

I also included some sad journalling about the loss of our second cat who was hit by a car. It was really hard news to receive last week and it was hard to get that journalling down. 
PL is about keeping it real though and just because it was sad I didn't want to leave it out. Life is yuck sometimes and I think it's important to recognise that. 

I played around with those two photos of me on the right hand spread. I wanted lots of white space on the journalling cards and just a simple line of text. 

I also created a new journalling card, "you make me laugh every single day". I love how it turned out and so have put it at the bottom of this post as a free download (for personal use only). 

Anything else: 
I can't get enough of that Laura Ingalls Wilder quote, "home is the nicest place there is". I used it on the spread I made when I came home for the summer and liked the circularity of using it again to document coming back to Durham. 

I'm all caught up now and boy does it feel good! 

The 3 x 4 card can be downloaded here. Enjoy! 

3 October 2013

Project Life week 38

So I am playing catch up with Project Life. I hate being behind with this project but sometimes life gets in the way and it just happens. Before I know it we are at Saturday and I haven't touched the photos from last week.

But I had some lovely pockets of time this week and managed to catch up. I also haven't posted PL much on the blog recently so today and tomorrow I'm going to share my latest pages starting with week 38:

This was the week the boy took me to London for a pre birthday treat. We ate at my favourite American chain, five guys which has just opened in London. I wanted to include the photos of that as well as photos from a weekend babysitting three little girls.
That feet and arrow one is a current favourite so I knew it had to be big.

On the weeks when I am catching up I just try to keep it simple. In this case photos blown across several spaces and that simple Instagram template.

I wanted to record thoughts on seeing Matilda the Musical (totally recommend by the way!). I also wanted to include that quote from the boy which I stuck on the bottom of the photo in five guys.

The hard thing with catching up is that writing about the week is very difficult so the journalling here is more fact based than what it normally is. I did though include a journalling card about upgrading to ios7. PL for me is about every aspect of life and upgrading my phone is as much a part of that. It will also be fascinating to look back on!

Again, in the spirit of keeping it simple, I used those techniques which I know work. A simple quote card, a quick homemade graphic and a filler card. I also extracted the colour of that arrow and used it as a paint effect on the quote card- the joys of photoshop!

Anything else:
The further I get behind the more overwhelming it can be. I'm learning though, getting it down is the main point. The thought of a full book at the end of it is another motivation too!