Sunday, 20 December 2009

Crotchety Crochet

Last week when I visited my mum she showed me how to crochet. Well she showed me how to make a chain, how to hold the wool and then she began to show me how to make a granny square. I managed to make two little bits of something ( in the picture above) which do at least bear some resemblance to crochet.
Turns out I wasn't listening to my mother carefully enough ( oh how many times I have wished I had listened more carefully!). Today I was unable to construct anything more than a wobbly chain. My fingers felt like feet, I couldn't hold the wool, the hook kept falling out. It was a disaster! There was much under breath muttering and foot stamping. I gave up. 2010 is Crochet Year!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Liberated Table Runner

You know how sometimes you just get seized by the notion that you must immediately throw yourself into a project? Well last night as I sat contentedly looking at my finished Santa Sacks for the kids and lazily contemplating my lately neglected knitting, this rather inconveniently happened to me.

You see after my 'office' lunch the other day I was putting away the laundered tablecloth and as it went into the draw I found myself thinking about my Christmas table setting, and it occurred to me that I have never really liked my red (and a bit shiny) Christmas tablecloth. In fact I quite dislike it. But the thought usually only occurs to me once a year, and then when Xmas is past the indulgence of a new red table cloth always seems a bit rich in the belt tightened atmosphere of January.
I have been a bit obsessed with a little pile of red fabrics that just haven't found their perfect usage yet, but last night inspiration hit. I would make a Christmas table runner that could sit over the top of my usual tablecloth. I knew I wanted stars ( I love them), but I was a bit bored of fiddly piecing and knew I needed stars fast! I remembered in Collaborative Quilting by Freddie Moran and Gwen Marston there was a technique for Liberated Stars. I decided I need some liberation, and by bedtime I had a Liberated Table Runner.

Now it needs to be a bit longer so I think I will add a pieced section at each end with little squares of all the much loved reds to give it a bit more patchworky look. Now I am fighting the desire to make it reversible and do Gwen and Freddies Liberated Trees on the back in green? For Boxing Day? Just turn it over et voila?! Hum, time may be against me!

However the snow lies deep and crisp and even outside this afternoon so perhaps it will get done!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

"Office Xmas Lunch"

When you are a stay at home mum, one of the few things that you do miss with a pang is the excuse to have a good old fashioned, guilt free knees up at work at Xmas. I have three lovely friends who all had their 3rd child at the same time as me and we meet up weekly for babycentric fun and games. Today we went mummy-centric! We had a lovely 'Office' Xmas Lunch in my kitchen (my official office of course), there was a proper linen table cloth (not laminate!), there were candles, there was Winter Pimms with orange and cinnamon, then Bellini Cocktails and grown up nibbles. There was of course also raisins all over the floor, spilt drinks and mid meal nappy changes for our smaller guests, but heh, we mums had fun! We awarded ourselves a great appraisal, we deemed ourselves to have hit our stretching targets, so we had a bonus - Raspberry Pudding Cake from Nigellas How To Eat book - it's a classic. Sadly I had stopped photographing and started eating by that stage in proceedings so no photo. Sorry.

I also promised you a little secret look at my Elf Project. All things related to Xmas secrets are known as 'Elving' in our house and this is firmly in that camp. I am making Father Xmas sacks to hang at the end of the beds of the Smalls. I found the perfect linen, french style material in The Axminster Quilt Store, in Axminster in Devon. Lorette always has the perfect bolt you have searched for elsewhere. I'm hand sewing appliques of the Smalls names and hearts and stars. Obviously I'm on a bit of a immovable deadline on this one so I had better stop messing about on the computer and use this kids-in-bed-time to get on with them! Bye!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

OOh I do love the promise of snow. I know that when one is a Grown Up one is supposed to mutter about trains not running and gritting, and slippery pavements for the old folk. But I confess I ADORE it when it snows! You see as well as the sheer joy of it, snowy weather here in the UK where we tend to make quite a fuss about it, counts as a Genuine Disruption to Normal Life. And genuine disruptions to normal life that involve being all nice and warm at home whilst the world turns without you means more time for Making Fun! Today the snow has been flurrying (great word! Not used nearly enough in daily life), and whilst insufficient for a complete halt to the proceedings that is school runs and groceries etc. I have sat all day (in between cold walks to and from school) looking out at the grey sky and knitting, and sewing Xmassy things. What could be nicer?
I'm knitting a woolly cushion cover with this gorgeous shimmering Manos Del Uruguay wool. It's going to be stripy and chunky. I have started knitting it in stocking stitch, but i think i like the knit side best at the moment as the colours kind of merge into one another. Will resist my usual Mid Knit Crisis and push on!

I am also midway through a little xmas sewing project for the Smalls which necessitates stealth sewing so no pics yet as too dark, will show you tomorrow if I get a chance!

Oh and the very indulgent bunch of tulips in just my fav shade of Damson were a present from my lovely Make Club as last night was our Xmas Make Merry night, and a fab time was had by all, just a teeny bit fragile today so knitting therapy just what was needed. Thank you Lovely Friends!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

You can't beat the English Seaside on a crisp winter day, in low sunlight with a stiffish cold wind whipping about. We have had the loveliest weekend by the sea, in fact my weekend was full of the best things in life;

1. The Seaside
2. Family
3. Knitting a new skill ( I learnt to knit flowers)
4. Visit to favourite Quilt shop and purchase of exciting new stash items.
5. Ice cream

I also tried my hand at learning to crochet under the patient tuition of my lovely mum. Humm. I was not a natural, more practise needed. Think crochet will be my 2010 new years resolution!

Until then I will be knitting flowers and adorning all knitted items in sight!

Aren't these beach-hut-fingerless-glove-tastic?!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Moments of Material Inspiration

I do love the day my Country Living pops onto the doormat each month. It does feel kind of wrong to read the January issue when we haven't yet had Xmas, but just look at this irresistible cover shot. Every now and again a colour combination just seems to keep popping up and asking to be used. A couple of days ago I was reading this at Crazy Mom Quilts and admiring this beautiful xmas quilt Figgy Pudding. You see such a lot of red and green together at xmas, but I just loved the pairing of the mossy green with the smokey red.

But as is often the way, with this colour combo in my head, I started to realise that I was already pairing them;

The choice of wine coloured berries on my mossy green front door...

Father Xmas sitting happily against my mossy green living room wall.........
So the inevitable little fabric pile has now been compiled to sit on my desk and call to me whilst i twirl like a dervish in the last weeks before xmas making nativity costumes, wrapping presents, making lists, wishing I was sewing!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Quilty Snugglers

My son has always been one for a raggie or vooovoo to snuggle in bed. The loved items have usually been rather rag tag and included an old baby sleeping bag, a muslin square, and a pillowcase. I noticed a couple of weeks ago that his new Sailing Boats TV Quilt has been finding it's way upstairs into bed, it's soft quiltyness making it a near perfect snuggler, so I decided to turn my hand to creating the perfect Quilty Snuggler.

I mentioned my new task to a few friends who all agreed that a Mini Quilty might make a great first quilt project for the nervous! So I have spent the last few days cutting a few kits, and packing the most delicious little square Quilty Snuggler Boxes with kits.

I am off to my first fair tonight, the More Than a Mama Xmas Fayre at Berkhampsted in Herts, so will see if they find homes there! Come along if you are in the area, it looks like it will be a great evening. It is a group of Mums who Make, exhibiting for other mums to come along and shop, I'm very excited. Anyway better go and pack some boxes!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Ducks in a Row

It's finally ready! My Ducks in a Row Quilt Kit, the newest addition to my little Make Do & Mend Quilt Kit business is finally ready to waddle off to a new quilter to be handmade into a cherished heirloom, and hopefully to convert a new quilter to the fold!

I wanted to make something very graphic, but simple to piece, as I have found that my new quilters fall into the hand applique camp (less chance to get run away with by the sewing machine), or machine piercers camp ( I need fast progress!). So this is my fast progress for modern results kit! It will be available on etsy and folksy later this week when my final piece of backing arrives for the kits.

I have been so frustrated by the weather in trying to get a great shot for the front of the box. It has been so grey and rainy, and so getting a break in the clouds and some decent light has been a month long challenge! As Baby Button is not the worlds best photographic assistant yet, it's a whole family weekend kind of a job, and it takes so long to get three kids under 6 out the door in the winter that any sunny days have long clouded over by the time we make it out!

Finally we got lucky on a trip to the Hambledon Valley, which is between the Chilterns and the Thames, and it a beautiful spot where time seems to stand still, but just 25 miles from London. There are about 4 or 5 picture postcard villages nestled in rolling hills. It's where they film the Vicar of Dibley and I think Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was also filmed here as well as all sorts of period dramas looking for a lovely brick and flint background. Go visit it if you ever get the chance and take a walk along the river, you may feel the need for a parasol!
The picture is taken on the churchyard wall of this lovely church at Fingest. The Norman tower is from the 12th century. A fittingly old background for this modern quilt. I hope you like it.

This is a pic from their website, take a stroll around the villages in the Hambledon Valley and their churches and their history here.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Little Knitting Bag

Look! Look what the postman bought for me today! It's just the most perfect marriage of form and function realised in a knitting bag for carrying your knitting with you in your handbag! It comes from Sarah at Plain Jane Textiles and I bought mine on Folksy here in the UK. Sarah designs and hand prints all her own textiles then makes them into lovely things like this.

I had been wrestling with the problem of tangly handbag knitting for a while. Since I have embraced the dpns too this is compounded by the problem of losing the naked(?) needle (is there a proper term for the one left over???!). Given that my knitting window when watching swimming lessons (my usual travelling knit venue) is a very tight 20 mins all in after you've finished wrestling them into swimming costumes/hats etc then turned all their clothes back in the right way for the even more troublesome wrestle back into clothes! So you see you can't waste time winding balls and hunting in the black hole that is my handbag for a needle.

So this is the perfect solution, but it is so so much more than just that. It is a thing of beauty don't you think? I need to get out more just to show off my knitting bag! It's a Knitting It Bag!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The medicinal effects of bunting!

Oh, we have had some fun with the xmas stencils this week. It's been quite a handmade production line. I have had a small person suffering with a fluey bug as my special helper. He selects stencil and draws around the shape, I cut out the felt, he adds embellishments, eyes, buttons etc, I sew them all on, he arranges, and re arranges and arranges again the eventual bunting order. It's amazing how quickly a day can pass when under the influence of the medicinal effects of bunting!

Monday, 30 November 2009

Christmas Craft Countdown!

The Christmas stencils are out!

The Christmas fabric piles are inviting!

I have a little ill -home-from-school-craft apprentice to amuse. I feel a Christmas Craft Frenzy coming on! Got to go and trace and cut and stick and sew...............!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

No Such Thing as Too Much of a Good Thing.

I finished my PurlSoho gloves yesterday. Baby Button is under the weather so an enforced day at home meant bonus knitting time. I had reached the beginning of the wrist, was looking longingly at the gorgeous dusky pink wool, wishing it was time to swap colours. I just enjoy knitting more with the colours I love the most, don't you? Anyway, Michael Palin was being interviewed about the book of his diaries and Alan Titchmarsh asked him what he had learnt about his younger self and what advice he would give himself. He said " I would tell myself that there is no such thing as too much of a good thing. I'd say do more of what you love".
I decided that this was a message that should be heeded, and changed to the dusky pink even though it wasn't 'time to'. I love my wonky gloves, it kind of reinforces the fact they are handmade and totally mine I think. Am now deciding whether to try and embroider a flower on just sew on these silk ones pinched off of my gorgeous hydrangea.
Clearly my children already subscribe to this way of thinking. This is my superduper birthday cake they spent the afternoon constructing! I love it!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Sunshine in a Rainy Week

Yesterday was quite horridly like this..............

So we decided we needed to be doing this..................

Today it is quite deliciously sunny, so off for a walk into town. You see I need a walk and a think. When you have a small person (or two, or three) around, proper thinking can be in quite short supply. I find walking is the best time for cogitating.
You see I have a lovely problem. This pile of fabric, the beginnings of a Big Idea, and a parcel of lovely grey background fabric winging it's way from Hancocks of Paducah after a moment of quilting serendipity when reading this yesterday. Ummm I love having a Big Idea on the boil on a sunny day!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Mid Knit Crisis

Does anyone else suffer this affliction? I seem to find that about a third of the way into any knitting project I suddenly get the heebie jeebies that I'm knitting on too big/small needles or I haven't cast on enough stitches and it will never fit, or the wools too thick/thin. Then I have this sudden 'I can solve this, I know what I should do, I know best' rush and suddenly I'm ripping out rows.....! No stop! STOP! TRUST THE PATTERN!

You see I'm a complete improv quilter. Even if I start with a bit of a pattern, I just change it around as I go. Quilting is kind, it lets you do that.

I haven't quite got my head around the fact that knitting needs more discipline (at least when learning I think!).

Anyway, after you would not believe how many false starts and reknits, I have one lovely glove from my Alchemy Temple wool that I have been loving. I had promised myself I would knit my next gloves in tandem so that I finished both gloves at the same time and did not suffer this glove-longing period where I want to wear them, but I only have one! Unfortunately the other glove succumbed to Mid Knit Crisis, got pulled apart. Then I was struck by a 'Making Moment' when looking at the little oddments left over from my stripy baby blanket.

In a moment of frustration and weakness with my own glove knitting I found I had used the dpns to start another glove for a small person. Oops. Aren't they going to be lovely? They are a kind of homage to the crochet ones of Lucy's at Attic 24, I wonder if she has made small person pair too?

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Love Handmade Friday

Yesterday I had a very handmade day. In the morning I visited the More Than a Mama Christmas Fayre in Berkhamsted. It's a great shopping event run by mums who make and sell items for babies and kids. Everything was lovely, from hand painted Keepsake boxes, to cushions and xmas decorations. It was a really fun buzzy morning, the place was packed out (with a few buggy traffic jams going on!). They have an evening shopping event at Berkhamsted Town Hall on Wed 9th Dec from 7.30pm - 9.30pm - we have been promised twinkly lights and mulled wine so if you live near Berkhamsted I would recommend it.

I indulged in a Lovely LOVE cushion which was destined for the armchair in my kitchen, but when I just went in search of it to photograph it, it seems it has relocated itself to The Big Little Ladies bed, fancy that.

Then in the afternoon whilst doing a speed buggy dash through John Lewis I was stopped in my tracks by a mini craft event going on! I met Pippa North who makes the most exquisite felted creations, I indulged in this gorgeous flower for my new Navy and Fuchsia Pink coat, doesn't it look fantastic. She was telling me all about her mother and daughter teaching days that she runs - what fun, I'd love to do one.

After all that excitement, I did also get a bit of knitting done and my buggy gloves are now a happy pair, meaning I can start knitting my lovely pink and purple wool for gloves to go with Navy Coat and new flower!