Monday 28 December 2020

...a hand-made Christmas round-up

  • Lavender sachets - pieced together using hand-painted fabric panels and remnants. My only expenditure was on the dried lavender, a bottle of lavender essential oil for extra oomph, and a little pot of gold fabric paint; everything else came from the craft hoard. I highly recommend making lavender sachets for Christmas presents. Even if you find yourself racing to get them finished in time, it's impossible to feel anything but serene when labouring under a fragrant, lavender-scented cloud. 
  • My new favourite go-to/quick-knit gift pattern - the Miss Marple scarf. Fits snugly round the neck, looks neat and tidy, and knits up in an evening or two - what's not to like?
  • Solveig wristlets - bought in kit form earlier in the year to support a local yarn shop, with vague ideas of Christmas gifting in mind. They are a little less garish in real life (the red is more of a deep cherry than a scarlet), and the circular fair-isle was fun to do, but having made them I couldn't think of anyone who might actually want them. What is the point of wristlets? Are cold wrists even a thing? Lovely as these wristlets are, what possible use could anyone have for them, other than as the finishing touch for an elf costume perhaps? So many questions...
  • ...and one obvious solution to the wristlet conundrum - add a thumb, keep going a little further, and turn them into fingerless mittens! Some might say these are equally pointless garments, since they leave the extremities exposed, but for a camera-phone-fiddling, shell/pebble picker-upper like myself, they are wardrobe essentials. Such an elegant design, too.
  • A nail-biting, right-up-to-the-wire, cast-off-25-minutes-before-a-socially-distant-gift-swap, classic Antler Toque for my brother. Photo courtesy of my sister-in-law when they got home! Variegated sock wool held double with some navy DK from the craft hoard.

Saturday 14 November 2020

...the birthday Snork Maiden

The good thing about close friends is that they accept you as you are, with all your little quirks and foibles, and sometimes these are even the things they cherish about you. So my closest friends know all about my (work in progress) doll's house...
...and Blanche, the little needle-felted mouse, who lives in it...
...and the little 'wrought iron' bed I made for her following Ann Wood's fab instructions...
...and the little patchwork quilt I made from the tiniest left-over mask-making fabric scraps...

...and when they need a special birthday present - perhaps for a Moomin-loving older sister who likes all things tiny too - then they know just who to come to to get the job done.

As I'm still waiting (increasingly impatiently) to find out if my application for early retirement  is being accepted, I'm desperate to distract myself from the hamster-wheel worries that are constantly filling my brain. So for the past week, and most of last weekend, every spare moment has been given over to the creation of a little needle-felted Snork Maiden (about the height of my thumb) complete with a rose tucked behind her ear and her signature gold ankle bracelet, sitting up in her very own 'wrought iron' bed, propped against the pillows on a lace-trimmed patchwork quilt, busily knitting with her cocktail-stick needles. 


💓 So.Much.Fun.💓

Tuesday 3 November 2020

...Seahouses VI

The week before last we spent four nights (and three perfect days)  at a self-catering cottage in Seahouses. Over the past couple of years this has become such a special place for me, and all through lockdown I've been dreaming of returning to the freedom of the wide open space on this beautiful mother-of-pearl beach. 

Although I knew we were simply transferring our little household "bubble" of three (me, my husband and my daughter) from one self-contained location to another, with the threat of a Tier 3 lockdown looming I hardly dared to believe it was actually happening until we were passing the Angel of the North and properly en route to Northumberland.

I was so happy to be back on Day One, standing on the wave-dappled sand, gazing across that endless expanse of blue, discovering pirouetting Matisse-cut-out seaweed ladies...
... crystal clear rockpools (with the colour saturation set to "psychedelic")...

...and prehistoric fish along the shore.
Day Two took us along the beach near Bamburgh castle. The hint of a rainbow, seashore springtails in a miniature swimming pool, landscapes within pebbles, and a truly dramatic backdrop for crab tragedy on the sand.

Day Three. We walked "there and back" along the full length of the huge crescent sweep of Beadnell beach. 

Slate grey clouds full of rain...
...passing swiftly overhead to reveal blue skies, autumn sunshine...
and finally a picture perfect rainbow.
Sheer heaven!

Au revoir Seahouses.

Saturday 17 October 2020


Time is expanding and contracting constantly these days. 

During the week Time expands and drags. I'm still "working from home", but this work bears little resemblance to my actual job (bringing families and their extended support networks together in joyously chaotic, face-to-face planning meetings). Everything is now done by phone, or email, or via "Zoom", and it's exhausting, and slow, and a poor substitute for the real thing, and I constantly feel like I'm working blindfolded, with my hands tied behind my back. During weekends and evenings, on the other hand, Time contracts, seeming to fly past me in the blink of an eye. There are never enough hours for the sewing and knitting and making, or the gardening and walking, or even the housework and odd jobs and grocery shopping!

So I've applied for voluntary early retirement, or, failing that, to reduce my hours, because lately all I can think is that time is more precious than money, and life is too short, and there are so many other things I want to be doing...and if we can manage on the income I'd get from my pension, or a reduced wage, plus what my husband earns, then what's stopping me? Hopefully I will find out whether either of these options are viable within the next month or so, and Time will then start to move at a steadier, more predictable pace.

Meanwhile, another quick catch-up is all I have time for!

  • A tiny water-colour doodle for a friend's birthday card. Trying to capture the soft, frilly prettiness of scabious "pincushion flowers".

  • My daughter commissioned me to make two pretty heart-shaped pillows for her best friend, who is having a double mastectomy at the age of 27, after testing positive for the BRCA gene. The pattern can be found here. The pillows are designed to fit comfortably under each arm to help take pressure off wounds/drains etc. I can't really say much more about this simplest of sewing projects, other than that it made me feel very sad.

  • A huddle of mushrooms spotted in the woods at the park, on a long, autumnal, weekend walk. When I experimented with an 'Accentuate' filter (using Snapseed) the green leaf in the foreground suddenly "popped", and I rather liked the slightly psychedelic effect!
  • This photo doesn't really do justice to the "Thea Rachelle Raglan" tunic I made from my recycled duvet-cover fabric. It's really well-designed, with darts to make the raglan sleeves sit nicely on the shoulders, and handy side pockets with a curved opening (photo below). It's a very versatile pattern - different sleeve/body lengths, with/without pockets/pleats - and came with easy-to-follow instructions. It's a bit on the roomy side - I'll probably go down a size when I make the next one (there will definitely be a next one!) - but it's perfect for layering over long sleeved T-shirts in winter, and  has a nice, crisp cotton feel to it (making it even more comfortable than it was in its former incarnation as a duvet cover). My daughter said, "Hmmm. Quirky." when I wore it last weekend, but as I told her, I'm surrendering completely to sartorial eccentricity, and from now on will mostly be wearing kaftan-like garments fashioned from defunct soft-furnishings.

  • Another Snapseed-enhanced photo. The unfiltered version didn't quite capture the brown-woodiness of the acorn cups, or the dull-green-and-yellow-oakiness of the leaves that caught my eye when I stopped to take the photo. I'm often too impatient to stop and  fiddle around with light/colour settings manually, to arrive at a really accurate version of what I think my eyes saw, but I find I'm often drawn to the "poppier", more "technicolour" end of the spectrum in the pre-set filter options!
  • Hot off the needles is this iconic Love Note sweater, designed by the wonderful Tin Can Knits. Light as a feather but wonderfully cosy and warm (ok, maybe even a tad too cosy and warm for mature ladies at a certain time of life, but probably fine for long, cold, winter walks, or working from home when the central heating is off during the day). Because I basically live in jeans (and assorted comfy tops and tunics fashioned from defunct soft furnishings) I wanted to make it in a denim-like colourway. So this combines a light grey, slightly flecked 4ply sock yarn with a fluffy, denim-blue alpaca/silk laceweight yarn. Sounds expensive, but I already had the sock yarn, and only needed 4 balls of the alpaca/silk, which went an incredibly long way, so I reckon the whole thing cost around £16 (I know, we're not factoring in the cost of the sock yarn, but I almost certainly bought it in a sale years ago, so just humour me). I am a bit worried about the handwashing it will need. I have never, in my entire life, managed not to shrink hand-wash-only woollen garments, but I'm (optimistically) hoping that the superwash sock yarn will counterbalance the intrinsic shrinky-feltiness of the alpaca/silk, and I am going to be oh-so-very careful...
  • Finally, yesterday's 'Leaf of the Day'. Covid restrictions permitting we will be travelling to Seahouses for a couple of nights in a self-catering cottage next week. This 'First Excursion From Home Since February' is so close now that I can almost smell the salty sea air, and if all goes well I will have some 'Shell of the Day' photos to share in my next blog post, because all I want to do is walk and walk and walk on that beautiful mother-of-pearl blue beach. But I'm holding my breath and crossing my fingers until Monday, because the only thing that's certain at the moment is that nothing is certain, and one can't count any chickens until they are hatched.

Wednesday 23 September 2020

...catching up

A dog-walking hat for my friend's birthday
A half-finished Baby Surprise Jacket
A Frattali shawl blocked and drying in the sunshine...
...and artfully draped against the garage door - really hard to get a decent photo of this lovely, floaty thing!
Raindrops suspended on spider's web beneath wet leaves and a scattering of montbretia flowers creating a "goldfish pond" illusion. My photo of the month!
Late summer blooms and early autumn seed-heads.
Sewing with rope, the latest experiment...
...dip-dying the finished rope bag. So many projects, so little time.

Saturday 8 August 2020

...Wiksten tops

A few weeks ago - after I bought my new sewing machine, and in and amongst all the mask-making - I downloaded the Wiksten shift dress and top sewing pattern, ordered some fabric from e-Bay, and rustled myself up this comfortable top. I found it to be a well-designed, simple pattern - the only adjustment I made was to the length, as I don't really like cropped-length tops. I added a couple of inches at the hem so that it falls a little below my waistline (or the place where my waistline ought to be), and lowered the pockets an inch or so too, but other than that stuck to the instructions and was really pleased with the finished result. My only regret is that I ignored the good advice to wash the fabric before cutting it, so the top did shrink a little after washing. It still fits perfectly well, but the sleeves now skim the elbows, rather than falling just below.
It was so much fun to be making something other than masks, and all my old 'O' level needlework skills came flooding back. I really took my time with it, even going to the trouble of matching the fabric pattern on the pockets. 
As we had a week off work booked for the beginning of August I decided to treat myself and ordered some more fabric to make a couple more tops - a lovely mid-blue cotton chambray and some Indonesian Batik cotton. Both went straight in the wash when they arrived (life-lesson re.fabric shrinkage learned).

First I made the chambray version. This time I added several inches to the sleeves and the body when cutting the top out, so that I could play around with placement of the hems. I had a fat quarter of pretty blue floral fabric that I'd held back from the mask-making stash, and I used this to make the pockets and line the bottom of the sleeves to make them three-quarter length with a turned up cuff. This longer version is more like a tunic/smock, and it is an absolute dream to wear. Cool and airy in the heat, with room for a long-sleeved T-shirt underneath in colder weather. I love it!
Next came the Indonesian cotton. Finely woven, beautifully cool and smooth to the touch, in a vibrant shade of turquoise which the photo doesn't really capture. With this one I added side slits and a deep hem, but made it a similar length to the first. I lined the bottom of the sleeves again, to have the option of turned up cuffs. This time I waited until I'd completed the top before adding the pockets, as I wasn't sure if the fabric design was too 'busy', but after a lot of deliberation decided to keep them - carefully matching the fabric pattern again. 
Yesterday was spent tidying the airing cupboard, sorting through bedding and towels and various other bits and pieces that get shoved in stored there until it starts bulging at the seams and has to be dealt with properly. Three sleeping bags went to my friend, whose grandchildren will be going camping for the first time this summer. Several duvet cover and pillow case sets were put in the "for the charity shop" bag, and I salvaged the fabric from a couple more to use for - you guessed it - some more Wiksten tops! It might seem odd to be making so many versions of the same top, but it makes sense to me. They suit me, fit nicely, and are comfortable and practical to wear. On that basis, what's not to like? Besides, if re-purposed curtains were good enough for the Von Trapp children's clothes then a re-purposed duvet cover will be good enough for me!

The one on the left is possibly a little curtain-like in design, but it's a lovely crisp cotton and I'm becoming eccentric enough to really not care. The one on the right is a poly-cotton blend, but I think it will still be quite wearable - if not, it was only destined for the dump anyway (one side had ink-stains on it, so it wasn't really good enough for the charity shop bag). 

Watch this space...

Wednesday 1 July 2020

...WOYWW - The One With The Poppies

This morning the workdesk is in a tidied up, in-between state, with nothing much to talk about. I'm fairly certain that other desks (available via Julia's weekly workdesk tour) will have a lot more going on!
Meanwhile, a bit like Big Brother's Little Brother, here is the big workdesk's little sister workdesk, tucked neatly into the corner of the spare bedroom next to the shelves where all the toys and materials that I use for Work work are kept. So technically it's a Work desk, not a workdesk at all. I'm finding that the chair, chosen primarily for its space-saving qualities (and ability to pass as "reasonably comfortable" during a 30 second trial in Ikea where my main goal was to get in and out in the shortest time possible), is actually quite punishingly uncomfortable by the end of the working day. I'm not quite ready to admit it was a total mistake yet, mainly because my back is permanently grumbly and sore these days no matter what chair I sit in. It's too much sitting that's the problem, not what I'm sitting on (or so I keep telling myself).
So it was a relief  to have a complete break from sitting last week and meet up with colleagues for an outdoor, socially distanced, team get together at Lotherton Hall, near Leeds. Even though we couldn't hug each other, and had to abide by the "two metre rule", it was still lovely to see everyone properly, in living 3D, rather than catching fleeting glimpses of them during the weekly video conference call. The icing on the cake of this outing was the discovery that there is a creamy yellow version of my favourite "pincushion flower" (bottom centre, below). Sadly they were still at the flowering stage, rather than the "pop a couple of seeds in your pocket stage".
Back at home, my optimistic sowing of an ancient packet of poppy seeds has paid off. Half a dozen plants, are just coming into flower - one in this rather fetching shade of bubblegum pink... with just the faintest hint of a rosy blush...
...and one in the more traditional red, having trouble getting rid of the creases in its petals, after being crammed inside a tiny seed for far too long!
On the making front, I've been having fun with some custom-painted rainbow masks for two little friends who wanted to match each other on the bus journey to school...
...and a tiny cardboard cupboard for the mouse house, complete with some teeny-tiny tins (little finger-tip size) of lockdown staples. My grown-up daughter, who is still too young to appreciate the joy of revisitng childhood pastimes, is beginning to think I've taken leave of my senses. You don't have to be mad to entertain yourself in lockdown, but it certainly helps!