The Night is a Big Black Cat

The title of this month’s blog is taken from a poem by G Orr Clark:

The Night is a big black cat
The Moon is her topaz eye
The stars are the mice she hunts at night,
In the field of the sultry sky.

Gorgeous, isn’t it?

When I left you last month, I was preparing the materials for Night (With Her Train of Stars) – this took nearly a week to do and then I launched into the stitching using the SQ App from Scarlet Quince, now that I have a modern tablet to use.

Given that I am stitching this piece with the left edge at the top (as it is too wide for the frame), I open up the app in portrait, switch off Auto Turn, then turn the tablet to landscape and, hey presto, stitching begins. I also turn my needle store to match the symbols on the screen. This way of doing things was not as difficult as I thought it would be – hurray!

Now that I have some tech, I also have access to statistics:

  • Total Time Stitching: 43 hours
  • Total Stitches: 5,411
  • Average Stitches per Hour (so far): 125
  • Amount Complete: 3.5%

So, on the days I stitch, that works out to an average of 2.5 hours!

Here’s a link to the gallery for the weekly photographs, and here on the left is where I am up to after three weeks – remember, you are looking at the left hand side of the main picture: the pale blobs are cherubs and the white blobs are stars. I almost re-named this 50 Shades of Blue for obvious reasons! However, it is so soothing to stitch because of all the blues.

We had about seven inches of snow last week, which was great fun as our little bit of England looked like it had turned into Narnia. The cats stayed inside most of the time and the only outside visits were done in double quick time! I absolutely love this picture of George as it captures his personality – very languid!

Here are a couple of photographs of the local wildlife and one where you can really see the extent of the snow:


Ring Out, Wild Bells

Happy New Year everyone. I hope that you all had a lovely Christmas with family and friends and have girded your loins for all that 2019 may bring.

In a great start to the year, I have a finish! Ta dah!!!

2019-01-03 – Watergarden by Chatelaine – Finished

I started Watergarden at the end of June 2017 and, in amongst The Watch and a couple of small Chatelaine Christmas Tree mandalas, she took 28 weeks to stitch. The things I have learned from this pattern are:

  • Count, count, then count again
  • I am not particularly fond of Nymo to attach the beads but it does the job well, slippery critter that it is.
  • If you are going to bead, then you really need to use tacky bob or something similar: in my case, I jerry-rigged a couple of lint roller pages – job done!
  • It’s worth taking the time to backstitch.
  • I absolutely love stitching with silk and I love the sparkling effect of the beads.

All I have to do now is find a local framer who can do Watergarden justice!

Next in the rotation will be Watch from Scarlet Quince which you recall I left in the wings so I could finish Watergarden. For Christmas, I bought myself some new tech, namely a Samsung tablet and I have installed the SQ’s stitching app as I was getting fed up with joining paper patterns together. It’s a great bit of kit and I have now got the hang of highlighting and finishing stitches within it.

This all means that I have a gap in the rotation and that will be filled by Night With Her Train of Stars.

Night With Her Train of Stars, Edward Robert Hughes (Scarlet Quince)

I am busily preparing all the materials I had stashed away. Because Night is so wide (fabric requirements are 38 x 25″) I’d like to stitch her with the short side at the top. This leaves a bit of a conundrum as the SQ stitching app doesn’t turn the symbols the right way round so I have asked Meredith if this is something that can be provided. Otherwise, I think a quickish, non-technical solution would be to turn the needle store symbols on their side so I don’t become befuddled when stitching and mix up the symbols. Let’s see what Meredith can come up with.

That’s all for now folks. Have a great January (dry, vegan or otherwise – just find what feels good) and I’ll see you in February.

Progress is only Possible with Change

Hello and welcome.  I’m trying to get to grips with WordPress’ new typesetting system (Gutenberg for those who are interested).  It’s a bit different; however, I really don’t want to move to another platform and change is good for the brain, so they say.  On the other hand, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!

On to cat news.  Tuki has absorbed her babies and is no longer pregnant.  We are sad about that but grateful in equal measure as more than seven cats really is too much.  We will be making arrangements this week to have Tuki, Marmie, Casper and Ragnar neutered so they will be free to roam outside next spring.  Ragnar is already sitting on windowsills with his nose pressed to the window looking at the big outside world!

The integration of Marmie and the boys went extremely well and they now have the run of the house.  I think because Marmie’s scent was known to our crew before she came to the house, it wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it would be.  What a relief!  Here are some cute pictures of Marmie and the boys and a bonus one of the Matriarch of the house, Kiki – she sees all.

As you can see, the boys are happy to have their food in the kitchen with the rest of the colony; however, Marmie still prefers hers upstairs.

Now for the stitching!  The end of the stitching part of Watergarden is in sight.  Here’s where I left you last month:


And here is where I finished on Sunday:


There are just a few balustrades, one flower pot, one corner gate and some water to go then I am on to beads, beads, beads!

I am sorely tempted to start prepping Night With Her Train of Stars but I mustn’t let myself get distracted 😮 

Night With Her Train of Stars by Edward Hughes (1857-1914)

I will see you in January for a brand new year.  In the meantime have a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2019.  Much love to you all.

Autumn is the Hush Before Winter

Gosh, I am so in love with the Chilterns – the autumn days have been still and sunny, albeit a lot cooler.  The trees are turning bronze and everything is getting ready for winter.  It is so, so beautiful and I just love living slap bang in the middle of all this nature.

Ragnar and Casper are growing up fast and they are now four months old.  Here is a photo of Ragnar – I couldn’t get a decent one of Marmie (Marmelade) and Casper as they were moving around too much.

2018-11-06 - Ragnar - 4 Months

2018-11-06 – Ragnar – 4 Months

Look at that sassy swish of his tail!

Now that I can pick up Marmie and have a brief cuddle on my lap without her struggling, it is time to start the integration process.  We have been letting them out of their rooms onto the landing and giving access to our bedroom, where Tuki and Kiki are usually to be found.  T & K are interested in the kittens but the kittens run off before T & K can get close to say hello.  No hissing involved, I’m pleased to say!  Marmie stays in the background and gets intel from Casper and Ragnar 🙂 .  Tiggy just runs away when she sees the kittens.  We are keeping George well away for the time being as Marmie is in heat yet again which is sending him a bit nuts.

Tuki’s pregnancy is proceeding well and she has filled out a bit now.  She was such a skinny Minnie before that she now looks like a proper, well-fed cat.  I should say that we felt her abdomen really gently and it felt like there was a walnut on either side – let’s see what the next four weeks bring.  Welcome to Cat Central!

2018-11-06 - Tuki

2018-11-06 – Tuki

As you may know, my DH is self-employed and the stress has ramped up considerably over the last year – he manages it really well, but I don’t.  In our previous location, I used to attend a yoga class once a week but hadn’t got round to picking this up again.  After mucking around with some HIIT training, which turned out not to be my cup of tea (too tightening), I found this wonderful lady: Adriene Mischler at Yoga With Adriene.  She is a lovely Texan with the most soothing voice and sense of humour.  Her yoga videos are fantastic and there are a ton of individual yoga videos and playlists on her YouTube channel.  If you like yoga and want to do more, have a mooch around her YouTube site and (in Adriene’s words) see what feels good.  I am currently doing a daily practice entitled True with an average length of 30 minutes – it feels so good, is an anchoring point in the day just for me and I have noticed more mental and physical flexibility in myself as we approach day 26.

Stitching also provides some calm in my life and Watergarden will be my project until I complete her.  Here’s where I left you last month:



and here is where I got up to at the end of last week:



I just love those blues.  Mmmmm mmmmm.  I reckon I have a couple months of stitching to do, then it’s on to beads, beads, beads!

Have a great November and I’ll see you at the beginning of December. xxx

Sometimes a Little Change is a Good Thing

Now, do you remember the title and first paragraph of my last post?  Here we go:  “Every Life Should have Nine Cats.  Yes, absolutely, except we have drawn the line at seven.  Not tempting fate at all – tee hee!”

2018-05-01 - Tuki

2018-05-01 – Tuki

Well, it turns out that Tuki was not spayed by her previous owners and she was on heat 3 weeks ago when she, ahem, had her dancing shoes on and disappeared for three days.  Because all our other cats had the operation, we had not experienced a cat in heat before and did not realise what it was: we thought it was a reaction to the visiting Beast of Bodmin (a distant neighbour’s very large, very dark long haired cat).  Anyway, we will know one way or another in about 2-3 weeks’ time whether we have some more babies on our hands as Tuki will start fattening up at that point.  It appears that her previous very poor diet meant she could not get pregnant or, if she did, the embryo was reabsorbed.  It just goes to show what a lot of loving and a good bone and raw food diet will do.

Casper and Ragnar are 13 weeks old and we have lots of lovely strokes with Marmelade.  This has been helped by the fact she came into heat again in the last two weeks as cats are *very* affectionate when in this state – see paragraph above, hahaha.  The kittens have seen she enjoys being stroked and they are much more receptive to this activity.  The next stage is to pick up Marmelade which will be a prelude to letting her and the kittens roam the house when the other members of our colony are out playing in the garden.

Here are a couple of mugshots of Casper and Ragnar in one of the few moments they were still:

2018-10-02 - Ragnar - 13 Weeks

2018-10-02 – Ragnar – 13 Weeks

2018-10-02 - Casper - 13 Weeks

2018-10-02 – Casper – 13 Weeks

On to the stitching.  Here’s where I left Watch at the end of July:



I worked on it for a couple of weeks and finished it at this point:



Because Watch is so wide, it is impossible to get decent tension using just the bars of the scroll frame.  The piece is almost square, so turning it sideways was not an option.  After some thought, I added in the hoop to make sure I kept the stitches even.  Then I was annoyed with the hoop and the colours so I decided to hop on over to Watergarden.

Here’s where I left you with Watergarden last:



And here is where I finished with her on Sunday:



Working on the soothing blues and greens is lovely, so much so that I have decided to stay with her until she is complete.

A couple of framed finishes.  These are the two Chatelaine Christmas Tree Mandalas which will be making an appearance this Christmas:

The detail is quite hard to see, but click here for a bigger view.

That’s all for now, folks!

Every Life Should Have Nine Cats

Yes, absolutely, except we have drawn the line at seven.  Not tempting fate at all – tee hee!

Since we last spoke, Marmelade has been an eating and feeding machine and it wasn’t long before the kittens made it out of the bathroom and into the bedroom, where they have been playing on the scratching posts, running between the mouseholes in the long middle leg of the bed and generally sleeping.  We believe they are boys and have called them Casper (after the friendly ghost and because he is so gentle: he even has a heart on his side) and Ragnar (after Mr Lothbrok of Norse fame as he is into everything and is usually at the head of the queue).  This photo is of them at 6.5 weeks.

2018-08 – Ragnar and Casper

Here is a gallery of the family taken today, at 9 weeks:

Marmelade now has her tail up when she comes for food and is happy to sniff an outstretched finger and take a treat from my hand, but we are not at the stroking stage yet.  Casper and Ragnar are happy to be stroked, although they would much rather be playing and running about.

After all that cuteness, let’s get on to the stitching.  This month, it was the turn of Watergarden.  In all the hot weather, it was really lovely working amongst the cool colours.  Here’s my starting point for the month:



And here is where I finished at the end of last week:



I absolutely loved doing the special stitches of the wall around the ponds (brick red) and the triangular pieces around the main pond in a variegated thread.  The other bit I loved doing was the black backstitching around the golden gates: (1) it was easy to do and (2) look at how it makes the gates pop!

That’s all for now folks – have a lovely September and see you in October when Autumn will have sat down at the table and made herself at home!

Time Flies

Time does indeed fly – slowly, quickly, steadily and I have been making the most of it this past month.

First up, let me introduce you to the newest addition to our home:


This is Marmelade: no, not a spelling mistake.  Her name is pronounced “marm-uh-lay-the”, which is Danish for jam or, umm, orange marmalade.  That’s DH’s influence at play!  She is semi-feral and we had been feeding her for a couple of months with a view to domesticating her over the summer.  We realized she was having difficulty squeezing between the wall and the gate in the middle of June and thought she was either fat (unlikely) or pregnant (highly likely).  We decided to trap her so she could have her kittens in safety.  With the help of a local charity, who loaned a cat trap, we caught her – I have never before seen a cat so angry – all teeth and claws is no exaggeration.  Anyway, after a quick visit to the vet, we got her back home and into our guest bedroom/bathroom.  The vet thought we had a 4-5 weeks before she gave birth so we concentrated on feeding her up and developing trust between us.  However, she gave birth on 4 July, just 2 weeks after her arrival.  She produced 3 kittens, which is normal for feral cats, but one died.  We named him Ginger and buried him in the garden.

Because we did not want to distress her by constantly looking in on her, we set up a couple of cameras so we could (a) see a live feed and (b) capture photographs every 30 seconds to review what went on while we were away.  This did a lot to allay our fears as new ‘parents’ and allow Marmelade to exhibit her normal behaviour.

Marmelade has kept the kittens in the nest for the last 4 weeks, but yesterday we saw this:

Kitten walking with Marmelade-2018-07-30-17.21.07

Aren’t they just adorable!  No names as yet because we don’t know their sex.  The one outside the nest also managed to climb up on top of it, although his descent was less than elegant!

Given that we moved to the countryside, the flies have been a nuisance in the kitchen – urgh!  I bought a couple of electric fly killers: basically a unit with a blue light and a square of sticky card on the back.  These were OK and caught the smaller flies and some moths, but 3 blue bottles were persistent and managed to dodge the modern version of the fly tape.  A friend at work suggested getting some venus fly traps.  I thought it a genius idea and so we marched off to the garden centre and bought two venus fly traps and a pitcher plant.  Problem now solved!  If any do dodge all the modern technology and nature’s own pest controllers and I have to kill one or two with a flick of a tea towel kept expressly for that purpose, they get fed to these guys!


They are beautiful!

As many of you know, it’s been a tad hot in the UK (and pretty much elsewhere in the world, for that matter) so we have spent a lot of time in the garden.  As it’s only a rental property, I have tried hard not to fall in love with it, but I rather think that ship has sailed!  I have had a wonderful time reading in the shade of the apple tree.  Yes, I know the book is lightweight but it was the only fiction book I had to hand as the Kindle was dead.  This is also the book I read to Marmelade while lying on the floor as part of the getting to know you process.


George had also been enjoying the hot weather and has a delightful version of corpse pose to cool off:


Now to the stitchy news.  In amongst all the lovely weather, Watch was out on the stand.  I managed to finish off back-filling and correcting where I went wrong last time (see the previous post) and got to the end of the second row.  I am now officially two-thirds of the way through – yay!  Here are the progress pictures for the month of July:

I will work on lovely, cooling, Watergarden for August.

I hope you are all having a lovely Summer.  See you next month!