Saturday, 6 February 2016

Farewell, Alfie

Farewell, Alfie
Alfie: 2002 - 2016

Last night Mam and I took Alfie to the vet for the final time.  He'd been diagnosed with kidney disease late last year but this week he took a turn for the worse and, a couple of days ago, he stopped eating.  He had a brief hurrah yesterday afternoon when he ran through the house after the sound of the doorbell signalled my arrival to pick him up and bring him to my house for a bit while Mam went out, but he was never going to get better and was going downhill fast.  Within two minutes of going in the consulting room, the vet told us that it was time and he was right: Mam and I looked at each other and nodded our agreement, she signed the forms, said goodbye and took Archie out to the waiting room (we'd left my house in a hurry and so had to bring Archie with us), while I waited with Alfie and kept him company while he left us.

Alfie, you were a right s*d when you first came into our lives: around nine months in the rescue centre combined with being a dominant/high-ranking dog meant that you tried to exert dominance over your new pack, but you were very loving and one look in those sad brown eyes was enough to stop the telling off being quite so severe.

Alfie in 2003 or 2004 (ish)

You took us for fools for the first eleven years we knew you, making out that you'd been behind the door when brains were given out.  As it turns out, you were right at the front of the queue for brains, cunning and dominance, as you were for loyalty and insouciance.  The moment you went upstairs and brought down your extra specially fluffy and warm night time blanket and put it in your daytime bed was the moment I knew we'd been conned.  I have a sneaking admiration for how well you fooled us all and how well you continued the charade once you'd been rumbled - you still insisted you couldn't nudge open a door with your nose or arrange your bed to your exacting standards and you often got away with it with Mam.  You knew I wouldn't let you get away with it, though, and altered your behaviour when I came round - you would ruck up your bed, look at Mam, half open your mouth in preparation for a single, indignant bark and then catch sight of me staring at you and change your mind.  It never failed to make me laugh!

Your search for the perfect patch of sun was constantly on-going and, like the rest of your whippet clan, you were cat-like in your adoration of warm patches and beds.  And if a warm bed in a patch of sun wasn't available, you'd create your own:

Alfie in the flowers

Oh, I think this wall is dodgy.

You had to be kept on a lead at all times when outside as your sight hound instincts were honed to perfection, we think by your previous owners who, after spending quite a lot of money getting your ankle fixed after a bad break, tied you up outside a small local rescue centre one night and crept away.  We think they realised you'd never have the stamina you once had, and decided to leave you somewhere you'd be looked after.  You were the only dog we'd known who could be on an extending lead and weave round lampposts and trees without getting snarled up.  You were also the only dog we'd met who could keep pace with galloping horses, even when they veered into the shallows to get away from you.  You weren't hunting them, you just thought they were big dogs who would chase you, unlike Archie who couldn't even really be goaded into wrestling or playing with you - it didn't stop you trying, though!  (You were also the only dog we knew who pinched raw meat out of the wok, while the burner was on underneath it, and then proceeded to pinch the replacement, frozen meat when it was briefly left on the draining board next to the microwave.  Your cheek knew no bounds, especially when it came to food which wasn't 'dog' food!)

Go on, you know you want to play with me...
You could scale seven foot fences without a backwards glance and once you were in hunt mode, we stood no chance of getting you back until the spell was broken and you came looking for us.  Several times you had me and Dad (and other dog walkers) searching for you and guarding the entrances to the railway line and roads.  Seeing you leap effortlessly over a five bar gate, mere feet behind a deer was a magnificent and terrifying sight - you wore a muzzle so no harm could come to the deer but we hated the thought of you scaring it.   As a deerhound/whippet cross, you were built to run for miles and miles, and indeed there were times when you did, with us after you!  You paid equal attention to field mice and voles, searching for them in the long grass with your slender snout and keen eyes and there were times when we only knew you were still in the field because we could see the disturbances in the waist-high grass as you raced around after your quarry.

Your love of warm patches and beds meant that you were always trying to pinch Archie's bed, and would deliberately goad him into getting off his bed just so you could get in it.  Even when the bed was plainly too small for you, you still wanted it:


And why pinch one bed when you can pinch two?

I've got both now!

There were times when you managed to settle down next to Archie without shoving him off his bed, but they were few and far between:


You both managed it again yesterday, too, just hours before you left this house for good:

P1000950 (2)

You were fascinated by Archie's ability to play hide and seek in his bed, but you never quite got the hang of his near-perfect camouflage:

Even yesterday, when you must have been feeling rotten, you lived up to your reputation and pinched the bed Archie had been warming all day:

When  I took this photo, I thought the caption was going to be 'Someone's been sleeping in my bed, and he's still in it!', but now it seems as though Alfie was saying 'I'm poorly, I'm entitled to the best bed, get over it.'

You loved a good fuss and thought you were a lap dog, except when you were pogo-ing in front of someone in an attempt to give them a 'kiss'.  You'd climb on a warm lap, take your back feet off the floor (you were always trying to get them on the settee but you never got away with it!) and have your whole weight perfectly balanced as your deep ribcage would counterbalance your powerful hind legs.  If you really wanted to make yourself at home, you'd put your front paws on the lap-owner's shoulder and attempt to lick them.

You loved playing with a tennis ball, but only in the house and only on your terms.  There were many times when you would watch the ball roll off your crossed paws and it seemed as though you were convinced it was alive; no matter how closely you watched it, you could never catch it in the act of being alive or initiating movement.



In common with other big dogs, you never stood when you could lean, preferably against someone's legs, but a wall would suffice if no people were available.  You were never comfortable sitting because your backside was too bony, but you did love to curl up in a tiny ball or collect all your legs in front of you, perhaps because you wanted to count them all and check you hadn't lost any.


You were terrific with children of all ages and tolerated being fussed over by toddlers or being read a story by a young and adoring girl - you even put your paws on her lap so she could cuddle you while she read, just as her parents do to her when it's bedtime.  Young children would always point at you in the street and shout 'it's the big bad wolf!' or be scared because your muzzle made you look fierce.  You never minded stopping your walk to calm the little ones and show them your kind eyes.

In most photos you look dignified and handsome, but last year I managed to take one where you looked slightly less dignified than normal:

Alfie, you were adored and you are missed.

I always loved that Mr Majeika tuft of hair...

Goodbye, Alfie.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Quilting Progress - Christmas Cherry

For some reason, I decided that I wanted to finish (hand) quilting the giant star in this quilt by the end of January.  Perhaps it's because that's the latest I felt I could be working on a Christmas project which doesn't necessarily shout Christmas from across the room and, like my penguin cushion, it would have to go away at the end of January.  Or perhaps it's because I like to think that there's a slim possibility of having this finished by the end of the year (oh, to sit binding it while watching a film on Christmas Eve - that would be wonderful!).  Anyway, no matter my reason, I decided to see if I could make a decent fist of it and set to with lots of telly to catch up on and an increasingly bent needle.

It's been a while since I last showed this quilt in its entirety as it's hard to photograph due to its size (78" x 110.5", I think) and it's a bulky and heavy quilt, particularly when you add in the brushed cotton backing so I struggle to lift it high enough to get it draped over a fence.  That's why all the photos of it as a finished top have been taken inside!  For those of you who don't have memories like elephants a dog an Archie who has been promised a biscuit, here's what the quilt looks like:

Christmas Cherry quilt layers, about to be tacked

By last Christmas (the one in 2014, not the one in 2015!), I'd quilted just over half of the horizontal arcs and the finish line wasn't in sight.  This year, for some reason, the quilting has gone a lot faster.  The only thing that's changed is the position of the light I have on when sewing (it's now behind my right shoulder rather than my left) and I can't believe that's had much of an impact so I'm putting the new-found ease of sewing smooth(ish) arcs down to Christmas magic - from the first arc I quilted this year (well, I picked it back up in November, but you know what I mean) I could tell things were going to move along faster as I was doing far less pulling out in order to get a smooth curve, which was quite a relief as I remembered it as being a complete pain to quilt!

Here's how it looked when I wrote my current FAL list - you can see that all the horizontal arcs (although, confusingly, they're vertical in this photo!) have been quilted and I've made a start in the other direction:

Christmas Cherry

And here's a (night-time, sorry about that) quilting photo:

The pattern is starting to emerge!

I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to find somewhere to keep quilts when I'm hand quilting them as they need to be kept close by (there's no way I'm going to fetch it from upstairs every time I want to work on it!) but I have a small front room so there's nowhere to keep it where it doesn't get in the way.  In the end, I happened across a perfect solution and I don't know why it didn't occur to me before:

I've found...
A friend had a washing basket going begging and gave it to me.  It's the perfect size to 'store' a quilt in progress and is easy to carry!  The tin with my needles, thread, etc. is under the quilt and the hoop slots down the side.

I've managed to take a few photos but I'm afraid they're not very good (a big quilt combined with inside light and a very tired me (with especially tired arms) doesn't make for good photos), but they'll have to do!

Quilted star

If you look closely peer at it, you can just make out the orange peel quilting.

Quilted star

My next step (later this year) is to machine quilt the background - I'm going to quilt (unevenly spaced, I think) straight lines (in white thread) echoing the angles of the star and then more straight lines going round that inner border.  I'll go back and add in hand quilted lines between some of the lines in a variety of colours - I think I have red, orange, yellow, pink and green.  Then I'll need to decide what to do with the rest of it, but it'll probably be a mainly machine quilting with a bit of hand quilting thrown in.  I'll be asking for ideas when I come it, never fear!

I used perle 12 (Anchor 400 - dark grey) and an embroidery needle (a number 9, I think) for the quilting.  Initially, I marked the lines with a hera marker but then swapped to a white chalk wheel for most of the fabrics and a pink Sewline ceramic marker for the rest - I didn't test the pink but the quilting covers it well (and I marked it lightly) and I think a scoop of Vanish in the first wash will get rid of any marks which haven't rubbed off by then.

Quilted star

You can see that the arcs aren't perfect, nor are they identical, but the overall impression is what I was aiming for, so I'm happy!

Quilted star

I forgot to take a photo of the back once the whole star was quilted, so just look at the top half of it in this photo and imagine the whole star like that!

Three-quarters quilted

Despite his protestations, I think Archie is going to miss having this quilt around all the time:

I quite like this quilting lark...
I don't mind this quilting lark...
...but not when I'm upstaged.
...but not when it's upstaging me. 

He can't quite understand why the camera isn't always pointing at him, though!
I don't know why you're bothering...
I don't know why you're bothering taking photos of that thing when we all know I'm the star of this show.
See?  I knew it was me you wanted.  And that quilt didn't even remember to put a biscuit quota in its contract, how daft can you get?

Thanks for popping in!  I think I'll be back on Saturday to share another four Summersville blocks, unless you're all bored of seeing them?  Just say and I'll stop!  Or do a giant post with the remaining 28 (29?) blocks and finish you all off in one fell swoop!  What say you?

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Summersville Saturday: Blocks 17 - 20

This series of posts is my attempt to catch up with myself - I embroidered all the blocks for this project over a couple of years (I finished the final one at the back end of last year) but haven't really blogged about them.  The other blocks and more information about this project (which will be a quilt, eventually) can be found in these posts: 1, 23, and 4

Block 17:
Summersville square 17
Blanket stitch round the inside of the wheel, chain stitch for everything else.
Block 18:
Summersville square 18
Satin stitch for the doors and windows, back stitch for everything else.
Summersville square 18 - back
Block 19:
Summersville square 19
Split stitch
Summersville square 19 - back

Block 20:
Summersville square 20
Split stitch
Summersville square 20 - back

This morning, Archie tested out the temperature in the conservatory.  He didn't last long!
I don't understand...
I don't understand: the sun is shining but it's far from warm in here.  In fact, my favourite wall is freezing!
I then tried to persuade him to curl up in a cosy bed and go to sleep (or at least stop whinging for me to make the conservatory warmer) but he wasn't having any of that, either:
But I don't want to go to sleep...
But I don't want to go to sleep. Can't you conjure up a patch of sun for me to lie in?

That's it from me, thanks for popping in!

P.S.  Sharon Lozano (Grann616) - I'm afraid I can't reply to your comment as you're a no-reply blogger (go here to see how to fix it).  Summersville was printed quite a few years back (2012, I think), but I've managed to find some of the prints in Eternal Maker  The designer (Lucie Summers) also has an Etsy shop where she sells her hand printed fabrics; she doesn't have any Summersville left, but there are some lovely fabrics in there.  Happy hunting!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Summersville Saturday: Blocks 13 - 16

This series of posts is my attempt to catch up with myself - I embroidered all the blocks for this project over a couple of years (I finished the final one at the back end of last year) but haven't really blogged about them.  The other blocks and more information about this project (which will be a quilt, eventually) can be found in these posts: 1, 2, and 3.

Block 13:
Summersville square 13
Split stitch for the name on the lorry, colonial knots for the tree tops, back stitch for everything else.
Summersville square 13 - back

I embroidered this square in May 2014 (when I said I'd been rubbish at blogging about this project I really meant it!) and thought it was finished, but once all the blocks had been embroidered I went back over them all and this one stood out as needing more work.  This is how it now looks after some more back stitch:

Block 13 revisited

Block 13 revisited - back

Much better, I hope you'll agree!

Block 14:
Summersville square 14
Satin stitch (outlined with back stitch) for the chimneys, cross stitch (dark red) over back stitch (mid grey) for the beam between ground and first floor, colonial knots for the door handles, back stitch for everything else.
Summersville square 14 - back

Block 15:

Spot the embroidery!
Summersville square 15
Back stitch for everything and then cross stitch over the top of the back stitch on the pole.
Summersville square 15 - back

Block 16:

I think this one is easier to spot!
Summersville square 16
As block 15.
Summersville square 16 - back

It won't be obvious to you, but I had to stop typing (I've scheduled this post for tomorrow morning.  Which, now you're reading it, is this morning.  Or yesterday.  Or whenever.  Not important!) to attend to a situation:
It's been 63 minutes since I had my treat...
It's been 63 minutes since I had my treat (tablet; shhhhhhh, don't tell him!) which means my tea is three minutes late.  Now do as my bowl commands and feed me.
You might try to stop me getting to my food...
You can try to stop me getting to my food but you won't succeed!
(I don't think he wanted to stand the other side of the cupboard door, which was open because he was so keen to eat his tea that he didn't give me chance to put the food box away, because he doesn't really like standing close to the clothes horse in case it attacks him.  Or something like that!)

Thanks for popping in!

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