Saturday, 31 December 2011

Julian the shrimp and a junior knitter

How was it for you then? Was the festive season all you might have wished for? I do hope so. We had a lovely family Christmas break 'up North' and are now home to chill and play with our presents. Speaking of presents do you like Julian? I knitted him from one of my goodie bag books. He was for my now absent friend Claire who seems to be developing a collection of kitsch shellfish and I can do nothing but support her. I will knit up a bit more bonkers food and review the book in good time, when everything calms down a bit more....and when I can pick up knitting needles without a certain little cutie wanting to 'help'.
Anna seems to be taking to the needles like a duck to water, which is tear jerkingly nice. Simon did point out that it wouldn't be long before she was 'better' then me which stung a bit, because I think it's true. Anyway I've been all grown up and ordered her a book for more ideas, which includes finger knitting so I've been playing with that too. Have you ever tried it? It' super easy and nice and tactile.

I realise that I have been less disciplined about blogging since the city and guilds and that there may be considerably less of you out there reading my drivel but I would really love to get back into the blogging swing with a swap. I would like to know who might be up for it. I am thinking that this will be a thrifty kitsch swap, posted in time for Valentines. Four items, one handmade, at least. A real fun one, within the U.K perhaps to keep costs low.
So who's up for it? I strongly suggest you sign up or I may just bomb you with knitted shrimp and glittery flamingos anyway- because the fun's in the giving!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

More toggles than Paddington's duffle coat!

Toggle-tastic! Here they are in all their impractical glory. I think some of these would be fairly functional, others I can see as a notebook closure, something like that. So here's a run down; I knotted some plaited paper string at either end,
next a strip of felt wound and beaded, also a small tube of fabric, stuffed, gathered at either end and beaded.
I struggled and broke a needle making this rolled leather toggle, but I do love the texture, and the smell. I remembered making these fire lighters as a child from newspaper, this one is made in posh paper and rubbed with a gold ink pad.
I wired and beaded a bead for a very spiky toggle. I also found some narrow plastic tubing which I packed with threads and pierced. I really liked this toggle and the contrast of textures, I will definitely be returning to this idea.
Finally I went bonkers with some silk cocoon strippings. I wrapped it in ribbon, added some buttons and used scobidou to make a loop for attaching. This is deeply impractical, very frivolous, I'm not sure it's even a toggle- but I do like a little pink stupidity!

On this very theme I am planning a swap for the new year. It will be my blogversary in January and I hope to have a 'Flamingo's for February' swap. This will be a KITSCH swap. So how about it....hands up for a spot of deep winter tackiness!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

A grand day out

Do you like my new books- cool huh- crochet decs, knitted decs, knitted food. I am very excited about the prospect of knitting my mate Claire some shrimps- who wouldn't be?
Do you like my sparkly pink wool? It has that smell, that fresh real new wool smell. I have no idea what I will make with this wool, it doesn't matter. Do you like my lovely smooth wooden double ended needles- tell me; when did a set of double ended's become 5 needles, rather then 4 (I'm not complaining!)?
So where did I gather all this treasure? I went to London. Yep little ol' 'scared of the city' me. To be fair I did get my Mum to meet me there. Who else could I take with me for such a heady day of w-o-o-l? We wended our nervous, slightly lost, way to I knit. This is a wool shop WITH A BAR (If I swore here there would have been an 'F' in their- I don't seem to generally so feel free to insert one if you like that kind of thing). When we had got our bearings we had a tiny mooch and found a vintage shop, which was seriously lush. We found the toy exhibition at the OXO tower gallery, then headed for the Tate. Now I know lots of people head 'up to town' quite regularly but this really was a great adventure for me and Mum. So why? Well it all came about because of the lovely Mary at Search Press.
So after all out tiptoeing through the city we headed back to I Knit for 4pm when we had been invited to meet Arne and Carlos of knitted Christmas balls fame. And fame if definitely the word for it! These guys are HUGE- not literally, they are actually of a very pleasing petite stature- unlike myself who's fat grey arse draws my eye every time I look across at the picture! You may remember from my review here that I thought the guys came across as pretty darn cute- and they ARE! Hooray- for integrity- for being bloody lovely-for knitting in a shop selling cider-for knitting balls with red ribbons on to raise money for an H.I.V charity. Hooray!
I had a really really magical day all in all. I chatted to some ace people, I had my mojo topped up just by seeing the joy on peoples little faces as they clicked their sticks and relaxed. If you have the opportunity for a big exciting day out- some time for yourself, a chance to spend the day with someone you love, wherever it may be- take the chance won't you? I have realised I am not very good (read crap) at taking care of myself and doing something indulgent and brave is just the kind of thing I need to do now and again.

Massive thanks to Mary and Search Press. The books, plus one more, were in a goody bag they gave me on the night. I will review the knitting ones in time but realistically the crochet one is beyond me. Leave a comment if you're in the U.K and you'd like it. It will be first come first served.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Button it!

The buttons have been signed off- yippeee! I could actually have kept on buttoning forever. I had to produce at least ten different samples- here are some of them. I started with making simple fabric covered buttons, one embroidered first. I added a chain stitch around the rim to cover over any creases.
Next I free machined a heart for a covered button ad added some beading.
My absolute favourites next. My first attempt at Dorset buttons. I don't know if it's because I'm a Dorset girl but Oh My God- how much fun are these?
I cracked out the Fimo and teeny tiny cutters for some seriously girly flowers and butterflies.
I also made some more grown up Fimo buttons, playing with texture. I also needle felted and used shrink plastic so ended up with quite a nice variety of buttony samples. I have also completed toggles which were fun too.
I am trying to get through my texture design module, I really have to force myself to do it....step by step....grit my teeth. That's what being a grown up is all about perhaps? No wonder I struggle!

I haven't just been City and Guilding day in day out though, oh no. On Wednesday I had a grand day out. it was V V special, not least because I shared it with my lovely Mum. I promise another post with all the glorious detail very soon.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

This is a no smocking area.

Well clearly it isn't really! I now have smocking both traditional and contemporary all ticked off. This is good huh? I liked smocking, it was fun. My traditional sample on the red and white gingham turned out very teeny tiny, I don't mind that, I can do teeny tiny. I struggle more with 'contemporary' I wonder what that means really.

I think what is required is the use of unusual materials, a different scale perhaps. This isn't a problem right? Well maybe a tiny problem- because I like tidy and neat. I like things to be practical and useful- washable, long lasting. I need a glass of red at least before I can contemplate sewing with......I don't know....entrails or something! Talking of entrails do you like my little monsters? Will had a Halloween disco to go to this year. The whole school of eight classes danced to 'Thriller' on the back playground. What a sight 200 odd zombies all twitching and writhing in the flood lights. Anna was not the only younger sibling to get a little freaked out!
I have just sent photos of buttons to my tutor to see if they pass muster- then I can show you too. I hope you are all feeling happy and chipper, and none of you got nibbled by vampires! xx

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Deck the halls with balls of fair isle!

‘55 Christmas Balls to Knit’ is probably the cutest Christmas knitting book…ever. Not cute little fluffy angels and snowmen cute, not that kind of cute. I mean cute as in the guys who wrote this book are just about the most charming pair ever and that shows in every stitch. I want to live next door to Arne and Carlos. I want to play in their doll house. I want to have snow ball fights with them and make them hot chocolate with marshmallows in. You get the feeling these guys are super friendly- that they’d be totally up for all sorts of old fashioned silliness, knitted and otherwise. The patterns in the book have an old fashioned kind of feel and indeed some of the fair isle designs are sourced from vintage patterns. The balls are knitted on four needles which meant that I handed the book to Mum to actually knit the balls (I am such a four needle wuss), she made these three balls. As she didn’t have any pure Nordic wool she did the first with some double knitting which was kicking about and the ball came out a little, ahem, large. She switched to 4ply and got a much more sensible sized decoration. She says the patterns actually ‘work’ really well, they’re nicely laid out and she had no problems following the charts. I really like the idea of doing these in black and a variegated sock yarn or some such-I’ll have to ask nicely, but not too much grovelling will be required I don’t think as she really enjoyed knitting up these darlings. I have also put in a request for a scarf, nice and wide and long, with balls at either end. I think that would be ‘cute’ in the most charming way ever. If you are wanting to rustle up a set of decs which reflect a kind of vintage Scandinavian feel, and who wouldn’t, this really is a lovely book. More than that if you want a peak into the whimsical world of Arne and Carlos they put a lot of themselves into this book which makes it Nice- with a capital N!

Monday, 24 October 2011

manipulation, oh manipulation, manipulation that's what you need

Here are my latest efforts, and another little section ticked off on the course. I burnt my little fingers several times fiddling about and ironing the pleated samples, and almost set light to some calico trying to get a fold to stay in, but it was amazing to see the different effects achieved pretty quickly.

I absolutely loved making the rolled beads and I can certainly see myself weaving fabric again. I remember doing some manipulation for GCSE textiles and recollect enjoying it then too. I can see me going to town with colour next time but the discipline of using neutrals has been good and it has been really good to see the textures.
I have been working on smocking this week, which kept me occupied on the train journeys home. I went back for my Aunts funeral, I don't know what to say about her loss- it was sad- too soon- not fair-when someone dies in their prime it is always the same sentiment. She leaves my Uncle and two sons one of 20 and one of 23. She didn't want to leave them, and no one wanted her to go. There, I'm sure it will all soften with time- but we won't forget- she was too damn great to be forgotten.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

1,1,2,3,5,8 are the magic numbers

Gosh haven't I been quiet lately? I haven't actually been quiet, I've been yapping away nineteen to the dozen with my pals. There seem to be some pretty dark times going on around here. Some gnarly horrid stuff and some trials of modern living. The big drugs company which is sited here and at which Simon worked up until taking VR, is closing, all but completely. This has meant a stressful time for friends who are having to sell up and relocate. Thankfully they are clever people and all seem to have found alternative employment but I think the knock on effect for the local economy might be harder to recover from. It has also changed the demographic of our tiny medieval town much more in favour of the wealthy retired weekender. Anyway if am looking for silver linings it comes in the benefits f friends clear-outs. I am better off by four pieces of Thai silk and the offer of the contents of a drinks cabinet....but poorer soon by a nearby friend- at least I can drown my sorrows in style! So sorry to offload, but things change don't they and my constant refuge is in creating. The rather bright sample is for the city and guilds. It is a padded piece, sewn with lines using the twin-needle in the machine. These lines are then drawn together in a pattern to give these diamond pockets. It is referred to as mock smocking and I rather like it.
The cauliflower is really interesting, well to me anyway! I am starting to work on my experimental pieces for assessment. I bought this Romanesque cauli as I love it's texture and recognised it's structure as probably being one that fits the universal formula of natural objects. I vaguely knew that shells, snails, ammonites all obeyed the same ratio, I vaguely thought there was something about fir cones in there too. Who knew that my research would have me returning to the graph paper and lying in bed working out if numbers followed any patterns. Basically it all comes back to the Fibonacci series of numbers and the golden spiral. It started here, yesterday I was blowing my mind with talk of Fractals. I wasn't bad at maths at school and I am finding this really exciting. (I don't blame you if you unsubscribe to this blog now you know I'm a whinging geek!) I ave no idea where my other experimental pieces will take me, my Pomegranate studies are mostly historical for now, and the work on conkers perhaps Psychological about protection and concealment. All I know is that whatever school subjects my studies return me to it is very unlikely I will be suddenly all wistful for P.E!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Worth a bunt

I love the ‘Twenty to Make’ series, this is not a secret, I’ve raved about them here before. I was a tiny bit sceptical when I received this title to review. I mean bunting yawn yawn, been there done that, made metres and metres and metres…… wrong can a girl be? ‘Twenty to Make Bunting and Pennants’ by Kate Haxell is a gem. The general instructions at the start are well written and then the journey begins from simple pinked bunting to nursery bunting stuffed with lavender= genius! As the name suggests there are twenty ideas here; really truly absolutely something for everyone. Magazines are not much shy of a fiver now so to have twenty well designed projects for £4.99 is ace value, there’s also an offer on the Search Press website, don’t blame if you get carried away! I had a go at the pleated fan bunting. It was very quick to make, light on fabric and looks so Victorian parlour. In other fabric it would look French, or Rococo, you see the list is endless. I did think at first, before a proper look that this would be a giveaway book…but no, hands off; it’s just too good to giveaway. This isn’t really a review, it’s an unreserved recommendation!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Eye eye-lets be 'avin you

So everyone is back to school. Will has started at the junior school and is doing so well, he is so full of enthusiasm and curiosity- it really makes me proud. That's my job right? As a mother we are allowed to be proud yes? It seems to be proud of ourselves is unacceptable as adults- but it still makes me glow in a way nothing else can when my parents tell me I make them proud- how nice! x
The return to routine has allowed me to attempt some more City and Guilds catch up. I have now been ticked off for eyelets and cutwork. I had a nice time playing with various ideas and materials.

I also bit the bullet and had a go at space dying. The children helped and we dripped different cold water dyes onto various materials and threads. We managed not to make too much mess- though when I blew my nose later I ended up with a purple present! This was an exercise in learning a technique rather than trying to achieve a particular end product so I can use these materials for stitch samples etc. if I want to. I think I would do it again for something very special but it was a bit of a palaver. I wonder if painting with a large brush and watered down fabric paint would have had a similar effect?
Finally I also had another outing with the sketchbook and challenged myself to work with charcoal to make my marks more definite. I am pretty pleased with the outcome. The children came with me and also worked in their little sketchbooks, it was nice to see their results showing the freedom which I am trying to find. I need to do more design work for my course .....unless I can get the kids to do it!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Well hook me a corn cob!

75 birds, butterflies & beautiful beasties to knit and crochet by Lesley Stanfield is full of the sublime to the knitted slug! Honestly this is a book with patterns for the world’s best nature table. The book has a nice clear techniques guide at the start, a gallery of beautifully images of the finished items, instructions split into knitting then crochet patterns and finally there are suggestions for how the little knitted what-nots can be used in a larger project. My only comment for improvement of the gallery might be a discreet ‘K’ or ‘C’ symbol so that one doesn’t get all excited at the prospect of rustling up a leaf (sorry) to find that it’s been knitted if one can’t knit very well. I myself am not a confident hooker so tried my hand at a knitted caterpillar. I found the instructions required a little care, though concentrating for the short while it took to complete the critter wasn’t too demanding.

I am not usually one for ‘sensible’ but I am struggling

to see where I might put knitted beasties to use. If you go in for novelty knitteds or cunningly crocheteds I would say this is a must for your library. At £10.99 for, well, 75 patterns I would say it’s a reasonably priced book and would be a jolly gift to while away the winter evenings looping up spring.

Little Arabella Miller
Found a furry caterpillar
First she showed it to her mother
Then her little baby brother
Both said;

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Bored yet?

We honeymooned for two nights a week after the wedding in north Somerset at Porlock Weir. We stayed at an old hunting lodge, now Millers. It was bliss. Porlock Weir is tiny, a pub, a cafe or two, some tiny gift shops and the hotel. We didn't want for anything though. Great company, fantastic food, gorgeous Gin, who could want for more? Apart from eating well and 'enjoy
ing each others company' we spent hours playing on the beach.
Simon started by stacking stones in
to towers, the rocks were perfect for this and he made quite a few structures
which reminded us of the Easter Island statues somehow.
Next he looked out for rocks
with right angles chipped from them, he gathered four to make a square. He also made a very subtle rainbow, sequencing slightly coloured rocks. It was really funny watching Simon so engrossed, he is a scientist always reading and fascinated by new ideas and concepts
but playing with natural materials seems to be his creative calling, he enjoys the temporary nature, the hard nature of the materials the

I tried to do some sketching, everything came out rather

weak, a reflection that I am out of practice. The pen and ink study was the last page I worked on and I am much happier with this, I think working in ink demands a braver, stronger approach. I want to use the sketches and photographs and some studies of pieces of wood and shell I bought back to form the basis of some work for my City and Guilds. So our honeymoon was short but perfect and the images we have bought back mean so much to us- we will never forget our time at Porlock Weir.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Gifts from the heart

Our wedding had a lot of handmade going on. I made mine and Anna's button bouquets. Mum, Dad and the kids helped make the flowers whilst we on holiday at Haven. Gran did 'matchy matchy' whilst Anna and I went all 'clashy clashy'. It was a sod to form into a bouquet but of course it was inexpensive to make and can gather dust for the rest of our married life!
We received some really gorgeous gifts too. Gwen received a tiny little package from me when I did a Pay it Forward ages and ages ago. She felt, rather sweetly, that she wanted to pay it backwards too and these simply beautiful pillow cases arrived from the U.S. I am so touched.
Maria had made some really cute heart themed decs for me in a swap a while back. They came to the wedding and hung down the front of the tables now this one is adorning the dining room door.

Also hanging there is this delightful stitching. A good friend and good person made it for us and I shall be making sure it is displayed prominently to ensure that our anniversary is never forgotten!
Another quilty pal made me 6m of bunting for the wedding in all the wedding colours and fabrics. She made a smashing job of it and it has become the family birthday bunting to be hung over the fireplaces. You can also see a cardboard ball I made (one of four), I found the instructions through Pinterest, which I think many people have found and lost themselves in by now! I love Pinterest and have found the images there very inspiring. I have used a couple of ideas and find it a bit like pulling pages from a magazine. Who knows when these sparks of ideas will be kindled and it's lovely to see themes emerging in the images I've pinned so see a summation of what makes me tick visually. I caught some of Kirsty Allsops series being replayed a while back and though she grates a little (as she seems to think she's being thrifty spending out ££££££'s ad £££££££'s on making and doing- because it's jolly, rather than a necessity) she did do some interesting bits and bobs. She visited Cath Kidstone, now I used to really like Cath.....and then she became obligatory, ranges in Fenwicks, features in all the broadsheet colour supplements, I guess I'm perverse but the more people think something will be 'my thing' the more I kick against it. Anyway Kirsty visited Cath and it was really refreshing; her kitchen was nothing like a room set in her shop. It was sleek, she said that that was because that was what she wanted and liked and it's practical. Some kitchenware was from her product range other bits were vintage and mis matched. Her message was not to worry too much about making things 'go' together but that if you buy/collect/make what you really love then your character will show through and your house will have a cohesion based on the fact you selected an item. A decorating theme of 'Things I like'? Sounds good to me!
Gosh that got a bit waffly didn't it? Next I will share some memories and images from the honeymoon- don't worry, I'll keep it clean!