Bees, Buttonholes and Bullions

I finally got a shot of a red-bottomed bee. This is Mrs Do-As-You-Would-Bee-Done-By. These little red bums are very industrious and barely sit still. Heard an expression on the telly yesterday: ‘Triple F’ – know what that stands for? Fierce, Fit and Fabulous. Suits these little furry firebums perfectly.

Hover flies enjoy the Hebes, too. This fine fellow is having a happy time below:

The heatwave continues and will, apparently, continue for another week or so. We were officially given a hosepipe ban a couple of days ago. The lawns are crunchy like cornflakes. Brown and parched like a desert bowl. Luckily the Hebes aren’t complaining about the lack of water and are thriving. Good job seeing how many visitors they get every day.

It’s been too hot to do any baking. I was thinking of getting the Christmas cake done and give it a good, long guzzle of brandy for a few months but the thought of making the kitchen any warmer than it already is puts me right off!

I’ve been practicing a couple of new embroidery stitches: Bullion and the Open Buttonhole stitch. One of my favourite places for inspiration and instruction is Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials. She offers the most fantastic resources for hand embroidery. Brilliant place to visit if you’re looking for new stitches and how to do them.

For some reason I always felt daunted by the Bullion Stitch and would never give it a go even though when seeing it worked into textiles designs always thought how pretty it was. You know what? It’s dead easy. Simpler than the French Knot. If you don’t believe me, just try it. 🙂

The buttonhole stitch is a sort of Blanket Stitch and made pretty cartwheels, carousels and whirligigs:

This is the end result of my practice. Happy Days! Colours are juicy like a summer carnival. I used some of my best wool felt that was bought to make Luna Lapin which was very indulgent… one day I will get round to making Luna Lapin and finishing the Tilda Hare… the mood for stuffies and dolls will overtake me some time. It always does. That’s the way of us all, I expect. And there’s plenty of that wool felt left to make Luna Lapin when that time comes so no penalty for the profligacy.

It might work as an inset panel for a cushion and justify itself but for now it will join the other disjectamenta and unfinished business in the cupboard of dreams otherwise known as the museum of broken relationships (relationships with projects once so passionately pursued but cast aside for others).

Just recently I used a hand embroidered and appliqued linen piece made ages ago in a similar way on a backing of yellow wool tweed:

The ‘Carnival of Stitches’ might work against this dark grey-almost-black flecked tweed:

We shall see – it might also turn it into a lumpen broody-moody article. Last thing I want is a cushion with bad attitude glowering at me from the rocking chair. Time will tell.

Reading the news this morning I stumbled upon an article about an abandoned lab in Tanzania that had a library with a reading section entitled: ‘Realm of Knowledge and Silence’. It kind of stopped me in my tracks and gave me food for thought. It’s so  perfect. Don’t know about you but when I become totally absorbed into something I’m reading or doing I enjoy a silence of the mind that is truly wonderful. That mind chatter just disappears and an almost spiritual sense of peace and oneness with purpose transcends everything. Funny how we can ignore cold, hunger, thirst and even calls of nature   🙂 … I believe it’s called ‘Hyperfocus’.

Anyway, chores to do, errands to run and an afternoon making a few primitive stars. Am I prepping for Christmas? Eek!

Threadneedle Bits

This is the second spool that’s been given a wrap in hand stitched embroidered linen. See the previous post if you want to look at the first.

The sun is blazing down and the lawns are looking browned off. I walked across it this morning and it made a crispy sound like walking on toast. Can’t believe I’m saying this but… I wish it would rain. One good downpour…

The lawn daisies are doing fine. They look like they’re enjoying the sunshine.

Gracie loves to sit and stare at this corner of the garden. On the other side of the hedge is my neighbour’s compost heap. I can’t tell her, she’d freak out and not in an 80’s disco kind of way, if I told her she regularly has mice living in it. Gracie knows. She pounces on them and loves to trot the poor things in all a-dangle by their tails. I’ve distracted her here. Normally she sits with a sphinx-like intense stare to pick up on the slightest mouse rustle or squeak.

The Hebe was attracting the bees, as usual. It was all-a-hum with their morning psalms. Here’s Sister Belinda singing to herself and collecting pollen.

Look at her lovely bottom! But then, they ALL have lovely bottoms. (BTW – I didn’t get picked to enter the Lovely Girls Competition last week. Two women and a man were chosen. The winner got a dinner for two – a couple of tubs of Pot Noodles, the two runner ups got breakfast for two – two individual mini packs of cereal. Great evening, great laugh).

Beatrice Bee

Dr Fitzpatrick got back to me this morning. Beatrice bee isn’t a Wool Carder Bee but one of the leafcutter bees:

That is a solitary bee – it’s one of the leafcutter species (Megachile). They cut circular bits of leaf or petal and bring them back to their nests to line the cells. They are cavity nesters – they make their nest in hollow stems or existing holes in wood or concrete. These are the kind that will use the bee nest boxes that you can buy in garden centres. We have 6 species of leaf cutter bees in Ireland. Unfortunately I can’t say which Megachile species you have from just the photo.

Not too disappointed. All bees are beautiful. I tried to get pics of a red-bottomed belle this morning but she wouldn’t sit still long enough.

Around the garden and back again

This is a picture of my house. Not MY house, obviously (I’m not that grand, 🙂 It’s a tealight house that sits in the garden surrounded by daisies. I was looking around to see how well the garden is doing in the current heatwave and making sure everything is well-watered in case there’s a hosepipe ban. Apparently reservoirs are getting low and we need to be mindful of how we use our water. I’ve been emptying my teapot on the potted flowers as they become dry as old bones very quickly. I need to take heed!

A nod to Bill in Beeston there – only meaningful to a handful of ex-colleagues I worked with some years ago… like references to Lorde (yes, with an ‘e’) Richard and Swirl Vision jumpers.

The grass seedheads are delicately pretty.  Look at the gorgeous shadows they cast on the white roof.

And here:

Yes, wild grasses are a pain in the bum but just sometimes we have to see the beauty in nature. Those judgy pants we all wear from time to time can get hoiked so far up there’s a danger that they’ll come out of our noses. (Snopes: FACT).

Beatrice, the honey bee, was busy gathering pollen on the daisies. I know all the garden bees by name.

She was very busy. Just look at those golden yellow saddlebags! Full of pollen. Here she is mid-gather, collecting the golden dust to take to the hive to make a pot or two of honey (Mary Beery recipe – can’t go wrong). Sorry (not sorry) for the pun. The heat is sending me a bit bonkers. This is Ireland -we’re not used to it.

There. She’s just finishing her shift. I think she’ll be back to the hive for some breakfast and it’ll be Beyonce taking over for the afternoon.

The bees also love this purple flower. I think it’s Purple Toadflax. Research tells me it’s a weed but the bees like it and that means it earns its keep in the garden. No further questions asked. I have patches of clover and lawn daisies galore (love, love love lawn daisies) that the bees love even more than I do, so they stay, too.

I hope it’s Toadflax. The name is great – sounds so medieval but am not finding much on its etymology. Most references to Toadflax are for the yellow flowering ‘bread and butter’ Toadflax but there’s more information if I use ‘purple’ in the search term. Apparently Purple Toadflax is a favourite nectar-plant with the Wool Carder Bee which is rare and becoming rarer 🙁  It’s a large solitary bee which likes to line its nest with hairy leaves like those of Lamb’s Ear! I would be over the moon to have one in my garden. I will see about finding Lamb’s Ear on my next visit to a garden centre and see if I can encourage one of these lovely ladies to make a home with me.

Anyway, back to Toadflax – I got this from the online Collins dictionary:

“The toadflax is any of various scrophulariaceous plants of the genus Linaria, esp L. vulgaris, having narrow leaves and spurred two-lipped yellow-orange flowers”.

Supercalifrangilisticscrofulariaceous! Very Mary Poppins. 😉

Apparently, scrofulariaceous is actually an adjective used to describe:

” a family of plants including figwort, snapdragon, foxglove, toadflax, speedwell, and mullein”.

And, it was actually used to treat scrofula, a form of TB. Learn something every day.

I have quite a lot of lavender all over the place. When I was having my eldest child I developed an obsessive desire for all things lavender and many years on, it’s still a firm favourite of mine and, luckily, grows well for me.

Most things are coming along well. There are some wild strawberries – tiny like only slightly bigger than blueberries but so red and pretty. They’re for the birds. The Hydrangeas are starting to outrageously burst out in riots of hot pinks around the garden front and back.  Mine are huge and become massive bushes of colour. They are gloriously ostentatious, enjoy being centre of attention and love that people comment on them if I’m out the front doing a bit of gardening. No modesty whatsoever. They would show their knickers through the letterbox if you let them!

I also have Petunias, Honeysuckle, Fuscias, Campanulas, Sweet William, succulents, Hebes and loads of others that I cannot name.

Hebes – coming into flower.

The daisies are doing brilliantly. My lovely old Tom, gone several years now (2011) loved to sleep in the middle of them in summer. When we moved house some five years ago, we planted daisies in the big planter that is home to His Lovely Bones. I could never leave him behind. The daisies have been transplanted to give them room to run free and I like to think there’s some of Homer’s intrepid, adventurous spirit in them. The daisies are the most honoured flowers in my garden. His Lovely Bones planter has been re-planted with Aubretia and other small spreading flowers that spill over the sides – he is not contained.

Of course looking round the garden hasn’t been all I’ve done recently. My interest in hand embroidery is re-ignited. I was tidying up the sewing room and found several pieces that I’d done on linen that were too small to do anything sizeable with but too charming (IMHO) 🙂 to throw away. Like this one:

Simple stitches – Fly Stitch, Running Stitch and, my all-time dimensional favourite, the French Knot. The wooden spool had some fancy twine on it once and was a nice thing to keep but very plain once the twine was used up. Now it has a delightful hand-stitched linen wrap – and doesn’t it look well?

I’ll be doing something similar for this smaller one. I enlarged the hole to sit the scissors in:

Off to give it a hand-stitched linen wrap and finish the job! That’s me done for the day.

Speak laters! Have fun and enjoy the weather.

***** UPDATE*****

I was contacted by somebody telling me that this bee IS a Wool Carder Bee! I’m not sure but there is a biodiversity site in Ireland asking for sightings of this bee so I’ll send a pic and a few details and hope it is. Úna FitzPatrick at ufitzpatrick@biodiversityireland.ie

Double Exposure PS

I’ve been seeing this technique on various You Tubes and followed a tutorial to see if it was easy. It is. This is the tutorial I followed: Double Exposure Effects | Photoshop Tutorial.

I could have spent longer choosing images and finessing it but first I wanted to try out the tutorial. So the free-floating head of Jess is filled with garden flowers – and? Lol! It works and is easy! Give it a go.

Using up fabric stash

My stash of craft cotton and other stuff was getting silly. There were off-cuts and remnants that would never get used so they got bagged up (a big bag) and taken to the Noah’s Ark charity shop in Kildare.

There was still a lot left so I made a quick pincushion. The original pattern for the pincushion had a circular base and top but attaching the sides to circles was too frustrating to be bothered with. I unpicked the circle leaving just the sides with their petals. Then I made a quick octagonal template in Illustrator and fitted the sides to octagonal top and base. The template is perfect. My sewing less so, especially as the petals weren’t proportionate to my new template, but it does its job and looks cute.

Here’s the template for the octagonal pincushion: Octagonal Flower Pincushion PDF

No instructions with the PDF but you can follow the steps below; it’s not complicated.

1. Sew the sides together along their lengths, press seams out then clip so that they curve easily.

2. Sew the petals right sides together two at a time leaving the straight edge open. Clip their curved edges and snip off the tip at the point of the petal.

3. Turn out and press.

4. Pin a petal to the top of each side panel, right side of petal to the right side of the panel, facing down.

5. Line up the seam allowances and stitch each side panel to each side of the octagon top.

6. Do the same with the base but leave an opening to turn the pin cushion right-side out.

7. Stuff then hand stitch (ladder stitch is great for tidy seams) together.

Ta Dah! A new pincushion made from the Octagonal template. So much easier to work with straight edges. It’s much tidier. In fairness, I was trying to re-use the sides and petals from the original template with the new octagonal template and didn’t make a great job of it.

Am very happy with it.

Then I made a few other bits and bobs: a couple of hearts with some left over trim. The house is a sewing case and is – yes, you guessed – inspired by Tilda. It was made a while back on one of my many other stash-busting campaigns but came in handy for these little projects.

A Tilda-inspired hedgehog just waiting for her paws and decorated with left over trim and rick-rack. Sweet.

Time for tea. Bye now!

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