Upton House & Garden 

Well hello! I know, it’s been a while… I never really do much crochet or knitting during the summer, but this year I haven’t sewn yet either. I thought you might be interested to see somewhere I recently visited and found fascinating. I admit there are a lot of typewriter photos, I just loved them!

Upton House and Gardens in Warwickshire, is a National Trust Property with a current exhibition called: Banking for Victory. It once belonged to Lord Bearstead, whose father founded Shell Oil. (More information here.) In 1939 the family moved out of the house and the family bank relocated from London, for the duration of the Second World War. Mary Berry opened this exhibition last Autumn. I finally got around to visiting earlier this month.

This is the film tent with a little introductory film to the exhibition…      



The exhibition is superb. The great thing is that the NT do not want you to treat it as a museum, you are actively encouraged to open drawers, sit on chairs and sofas and basically be the nosy Parker that I you always want to be, but feel you can’t in most NT properties. Needless to say I sat and typed a paragraph at one of the typewriters, what no spell check? I opened some filing cabinets, rifled through the in/out trays and read some correspondence, read some Wartime newspapers and sat in the Bank Manger’s chair!

The attention to detail in the house is fantastic. For example: there are toothbrushes and hairbrushes in the dormitories, and much more, open magazines and knitting which seem to have been put down for a minute in the staff room, postcards displayed from local villages and towns and maps of cycle routes.

The bank staff left families and friends in London to live and work at Upton. It seems that they had a ‘good war’ living in the relative safety of the countryside, but lived with guilt knowing their loved ones were in danger and suffering in the war-torn city.

This doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to me, but different times perhaps?!

Knitting! I found knitting!

The project is something you can become involved in, if you fancy. See here for details. You have until 30th September deadline if you want to send some bunting. What really impressed me, while I knitted a bunt (is this the singular of bunting?!) and chatted to one of the organisers is that at the end the finished triangles will be stitched together to make blankets for charity. What a great idea and a practical use of the knitting at the end. I often wonder what becomes of things after yarn bombs and record attempts. I didn’t take a pic of my knitting. I’m not sure why, but you really didn’t miss much!

Today was a return visit to Upton as it poured after the tour around the house, so the gardens had to wait. I’m glad actually as the herbaceous border is now stunning with all the sun we’re enjoying. It was a lovely hot day.

Are you crafty during the summer, or more like me?

Yarndale 2015 (again!)

So, as I said yesterday Yarndale was a blast; a jolly happy day. And, that was that for another year. Until the next. No. No? Well, although I’d sensibly booked a Saturday ticket and my train tickets some weeks ahead, I woke early on the Sunday morning with a strong sense of ‘I have to go back’. This only increased as I scrolled through my Instagram feed and saw lots I hadn’t seen. No angora bunnies. No alpacas. Not enough yarn. And – oh my goodness – I’d come away with only one card, which is for someone’s birthday anyway. I’m not a huge shopper generally. I prefer to buy yarn for specific projects, but even by my standards this was pants.  As I was due to meet friends in Leeds for dinner, after they’d been to Yarndale, it seemed sensible to drive to Skipton this time and hope that I could park. Actually there was a marked difference on the Sunday; when I arrived there were plenty of spaces and much more room to move in the mart. This time I was focused, not so much chatting and more looking.
  This gorgeous make is called Like a Leaf on the Wind by Sharon Jane. It’s free on Ravelry, in case you want any inspiration for your Yarndale purchases or stash. It uses one skein of 4 ply (fingering weight) yarn and is definitely now on my long list of ‘things to make’.

  Ah! I found the rabbits. And had a stroke too.
  Isn’t this stunning? It’s by Jane Crowfoot.
    This is really for me because I’d love some, but you might fancy some gorgeous charcoal yarn in your life too?
  As I caught up with my friends from Leeds in the Knit and Knatter lounge, and Heather and I shared our yarn purchases, some sheep came trooping into the space! I think they’re going to be part of the puppet festival in Skipton, next month.
  Naturally they were followed by their sheep dog, who just would not stand still until I used my best “Stay! Stay dog! Stand still!” and s/he obeyed. Good dog!  And now faces to fall in love with…

  Just look at these two. This could be a Valentines Day card.  It felt a bit mean to swoon over the bunnies and alpacas, so I snapped this calm sheep and quietly thanked them all for giving us their wool.This one just blinked and sniffed the hay in an ‘you’re being embarrassing’ kind of way.  I sat outside in the warm sun admiring my shopping, after doing a final loop of the mart. By other people’s standards it’s not a huge pile of goodies, but plenty to make me smile, and keep me busy.

I’m so glad I went back for another day. Someone I overheard on Sunday said: “You need a day to peruse and a day to buy.” I need a day to chat and another day to see all I missed.

On Monday morning I sat up in bed knitting a few more rows of my second Hitchhker scarf, musing on all I’d seen and the wonderful people I’d met, already making plans for Yarndale 2016 (a hotel in Harrogate or Halifax or Skipton?) And then I headed off to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. And that was another good day.

Yarndale 2015

I came back from Yorkshire last night, after a fantastic 4 days there. I really love that part of the country! I’d booked a ticket to go to Yarndale on Saturday and felt really excited. I didn’t go last year but went to the first Yarndale 2013 and was interested to see how the festival might have developed.

When travelling to Skipton what really amused me was the sheer number of Cath Kidson bags on view on the train. There weren’t as many woolly items being worn as I see en route to the Knitting & Stitch Show every March; as we’re enjoying a late Summer at the moment. I love anything Cath Kidson and so loved seeing them all. There was such a party atmosphere on the Leeds – Skipton train, with everyone talking about crochet, knitting and yarny matters, that the conductor asked where everyone was off to? He said he was absolutely loving seeing people talking to each other, not staring at their phones!

  I caught one of the red double deckers from the station and this was the mandala hanging in the window. It was amusing to see people in town doing double takes as the bus passed by. I noticed a few taking photos of it too!

When I arrived at the auction mart at 1030 people were streaming in. There seemed to be many more exhibitors this year and it was more spaced out than in 2013, which was a good thing.
  Once again I went to Fiona of Marmalade Rose gorgeous stall, where she was showcasing her felted wool pictures. They are works of art. I bought one of her cards. She is so talented.
  Some of the fabulous bunting! I tried to spot the ones I’d made, but it’s a few years ago now and I’m not sure I’d recognise all of them. I’m pretty sure I saw one or two, but wouldn’t put a bet on it!
The stunning Flowers for Memories displays were a real WOW. Here are just two panels. They were sent from 22 countries according to Lucy. Incredible isn’t it?


  This is just a section of the auction mart, you can imagine how busy it became over the day. It was very good to go upstairs for a bird’s eye view of everything, and to take a few minutes out. There really were fantastic stalls; such a variety of goods on sale and really, really stunning displays. I don’t have any photos but keep an eye out for any of Eden Cottage Yarns since it was definitely one of the best. If not the best.

This year I’d decided I was not going to take any photos (ha ha, failed I think) so there aren’t masses of yarn porn pictures. I was too busy staring greedily at it all, and trying not to smoosh it too much. But if you look on Instagram and search for #Yarndale2015 you’ll see plenty to satisfy you.
  
  I chatted to people all day: said hello to bloggers I’ve long followed, fellow instagrammers, anyone who started to chat about yarn or craft related things and designers I admire. It was so good to finally meet Kat Goldin, though due to my rubbish sense of direction I kept passing her and Joanne Scrace‘s The Crochet Project stand; as I went around in circles, rather than up and down all the rows. By the end I must’ve looked like a deranged stalker.

Yarndale felt like one giant, fizzing, happy party. I loved it. But by mid-afternoon I felt completely overwhelmed and decided to head back to town, it had been great but I was ready for a quiet wander. I jumped off the Yarndale express in the town and spent a huge £1 on a wooden door wedge at the market. I explored some of the lovely little independent shops and then popped in to Cooper’s Cafe, on the way back to the train station, and headed upstairs to Lucy’s studio. I felt a bit of a stalker again (and heard another saying the same) but it didn’t stop me looking around and taking some photos to show you.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s take on this log cabin inspired blanket, the combination of colour possibilities is endless.

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So familiar from Lucy’s blog, it’s a treat to see them once again in ‘real life’.
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And there we are – my Yarndale experience. Or is it? Might there be more? Watch this space tomorrow…!

Make it, Wear it

See, no look of an egg cosy here, I thought it would look gorgeous on my friend. The slouchy beanie with pom pom is a success. It’s a Birthday present and definitely lives up to the book’s name: Hook, Stitch and Give. It’s all come out of the marvellous brain of Kat Goldin. No, I’m not being paid to promote. I’m simply a happy reader / maker.

We’ve just had a day out at Excel, London at the Stitching, Sewing & HobbyCraft show.

It was too hot during the morning, before the air con was turned on, crowded and overall we felt it was crammed into too small a space. I don’t think the Knitting & Stitch show at Olympia has any serious competition, but we had free tickets, so didn’t feel we lost anything. We probably won’t be going back though.

I took a few photos….

               Menai Bridge by Liesbeth Williams 

Horizons

Layers of the Anglesey landscape, the colours, lines, details and the ever present skyline inspired this quilt. Liesbeth overlaid sections of strips, highlighted by deliberately messy black stitching. The fabrics were hand-dyed, mono and screen printed, then painted. 

I love the colours of this quilt – as you can imagine, they look even better with the naked eye than in these photos. It’s also given me hope. Perhaps I could also overlay sections of strips and do ‘deliberately messy stitching’ with my sewing skills, that definitely seems doable!

At the weekend

It’s been a lovely weekend, the kind where you pack lots and lots in and enjoy it all. The washing machine is whirling around as I type, the carpet needs hovering and dust is floating but it can all wait.
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On Saturday I went to ExCel, at the London Docklands, with a good friend for the Simply Christmas craft show. I haven’t been before and imagined sparkles, tinsel and decorations galore. It all began with a bit of a bang as we entered the space; a woman with a lot of bags was trying the dodge the staff on the way out. A member of staff was shouting that she couldn’t leave until security had been called. Apparently the woman had been caught stealing a few items and had more bags that hadn’t been searched. When my friend bought fat quarters from a few different stalls none gave receipts, so how to prove you’ve paid for items? We decided you’d need to make memorable comments, or talk with a really weird accent, during purchases just to make sure of being remembered.

The sleigh and everything you see above is made from sugar. The Grotto was full of sugary Christmas scenes and smelt absolutely delicious!

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The main focus seemed to be paper crafts and fabric. Black Sheep Wools had a stand and there were a few other small yarny tables, but not many. It’s probably for the best. Most of the show was just plain stalls selling what they might sell at any other time of year. The majority hadn’t decorated at all and there was a distinct lack of any sign of Christmas. We weaved from the beginning, along the stalls in row A, and so on, and by the middle we found a decorated tree and a couple of singers performing seasonal songs. Things seemed to be morphing into Christmas.Then we saw the sugary grotto and the display of Christmas makes above.

I particularly enjoyed watching some art workshops. Two or three fairly large groups of people sat imitating the artists who stood at the front with a fixed camera showing their techniques as they worked. This was shown on a large screen so the participants could listened to explanations and paint or draw along, using watercolours or pastels. They all ended with their own representations of the same picture, it was rather impressive. I wish I could draw!

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Mmmmm chocolate. But I’m not buying any until we go to Brussels on a jaunt to the Christmas market. I’ve never been on the Eurostar train which travels under the English Channel, it’s going to be fun.

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After ExCel we headed to do the really cool thing we’d run out of time for last time; The Fan Museum in Greenwich. Maybe it’s not the most exciting visit, but there is impressive painting and workmanship. If you’re really clever and concentrate you can name all the parts of a fan and explain how they’re made. As you walk inside the rather lovely town house you can imagine the Upstairs, Downstairs lives played out there in the past.

We’re both a little addicted to Groupon, Living Social and Amazon Local deals so anything gets seriously considered; especially if it’s under £5 or £10. This year we’ve done all sorts of outings and activities, as we take it in turns to book the next thing. My friend bought the Fan Museum deal as it was £2 (it’s £2 if you’re a National Trust member anyway, by the way.) The next deal I’ve booked for us is a Charles Dickens London walking tour. We’ve been on the It’s a Ripper and Ghost walking tours this year, and I figure we’ll need the post-Christmas exercise in January.

We then went for a wander in Greenwich park as the light began to fade and wondered where we fancied going next.
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Generally, if in doubt, a pub is always a good choice. I haven’t drank in The Gypsy Moth for ages. It was still light when we arrived and only 11 degrees, so we sat in the garden looking at the twinkling lights as the light fell. There was more, but I’ve run out of photos and it really involved more tube travel, the O2 and dinner. And that, was another good day.

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On Sunday the Mr and I went to Blenheim Palace to see the Christmas decorations and rather speed walked through the rooms as we’d already seen the Ai Weiwei exhibition. I bet the attendants thought the pair of us were philistines, only there to visit the shop.

The stilt walker was hilarious, Someone wondered how he ties his shoes…

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I wouldn’t mind eating Christmas Dinner at the Marlborough’s table.

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And home for a mug of tea and some crochet. I promised myself that when all the ends were all darned I could download and read the new Inside Crochet. Apparently I always say “Next time I’ll darn as I go.”
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And she’s off….!

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I’d planned to finish the zesty raspberry ripple by the end of the month. I was soooo close. Last night I did darn in the rest of the ends, and trebled along both sides. Tonight I’m going to complete the rest of the border, if it’s only a day off that’s not so bad, is it?

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This was taken last night under a lamp, so the colours are rather muted. It’s so soft and warm, I know it’s going to used lots and appreciated. I’ll do a ‘FINISHED’ post with all the yarn details soon.

How was your weekend?

Not quite 10 Random Things

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Oooh I thought when I saw this shepherd’s hut a while back. I parked and walked back to have a peer at it. Actually it’s only got that tiny little window so wouldn’t be a great craft hideaway, which is probably a good thing as in a nanosecond I was already planning where to park it in the back garden and musing about taking it to the seaside. Mad. And no, that’s not expensive at all. Is it? Ha!
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I went to a food and craft fair a few weeks ago with a friend. We were a bit disappointed to find the craft part was really just a few tables with jewellery, homemade cards, decoupage kits although one had these rather lovely vintage fabric owl cushions and things. The food part was redundant as we’d already eaten mystery sausage baps at mine before leaving. Mystery for her as I made her guess the flavours as I chose them from my super local butchers (homemade meaty sausages. Yum) This time they were pork, celery and Stilton. She liked them too.

Tiny confession: The food wasn’t 100% redundant as I bought homemade fudge and I think my friend chose pick ‘n mix. I can’t be sure as my eyes were firmly fixed on my slices of fudge.

We each bought raffle tickets to support the local cause and later she had a call to say there was an arty raffle prize on the way! Lucky duck…not really as it turned out to be an Usborne book on Modern Art, for children. I’m going to give it to my nieces.

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Six rainbow trout freshly caught in a Wiltshire lake. One bartered for cider at the local shop, one to a neighbour, two smoked to be eaten as potted trout or just as they are with salad. Yum. I bought a Fladen home smoker so the fisherman’s experimenting with whisky, hickory and applewood smoking chips. I like the whisky (cask) chips best so far. The other fishes are in the freezer getting in my way as they are solid slightly curled forms so hinder neatly stacking tubs. (Before you leave ‘Urgh’ comments on my behalf about finding trout in the sink, I don’t mind at all. I vacate the kitchen, after opening the window and door then let the cleaning begin. The only issue last Autumn was the windows being left open during the first home smoker test. The house stank of hickory smoke!)
A few days ago the shopkeeper gave us a leg of pork as another thank you for the (unbartered) trout he’s had over the last few years, and the neighbour bought some German Friendship Cake batter around. I love this type of thing!

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My Bondaweb finally arrived so I could have a second go at applique. The blue bird was my first go, then I adjusted the stitch and felt happier with the other, though went a bit off track on his head.
This bag is all ready to applique. I fixed the petals on with Bondaweb, at the same time as I prepared the birdie tea towels, but it doesn’t entirely like the canvas. They’re pinned as well now; just in case I find petals on the floor. I might applique them by hand, it depends how I find the thickness of the canvas. The fabric is from a pack of fat quarters I bought from Amazon. It turns out not to be a good idea to buy fabric online, unless it’s a brand you know. It’s very thin.

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Here’s my unplanned and unexpected find from yesterday. We were mooching around a smallish and not particularly lovely little town we once lived for a year. It was a stick a pin in a map at a halfway point kind of decision then, and it worked. There are so many charity shops now. The vintage style flowers caught my eye, then the 100% cotton label. I bought it purely for the fabric. How about a flowery tote bag for the Summer? It’s thin enough to sew with my little machine, thick enough for shopping or carrying books. It cost £2.95!
I’ve spent several years reading blogs where someone’s visited their local op, thift or charity shop and picked up a real find. Well I think this is mine!

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This morning’s crochet for a few minutes. It’s the final edging row, I’m halfway around and then another blanket bites the dust!
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The tomato plants getting some sun toughening up outside, jogging on the spot and doing crunches (whatever they are?!) before they go into grow bags. Hopefully we’ll have bowlfuls of red Gardener’s Delight cherry tomatoes and some yellow Golden Sunrise. I need a really good crop as I’m competing with a friend this year. Greenhouses are for sissy tomatoes!!!!

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I hope you’ve had a restful Sunday too. If you plan to post your own 10ish Random Things please leave a comment or link below, I’d like to read yours.

The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett – The American Museum, Bath (part 3)

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Even when the stunning Kaffe Fassett exhibition is no longer at The American Museum, Bath, (after 2nd November) it’s really worth visiting. As you see I wasn’t exaggerating when I described the beautiful Wiltshire countryside. What a stunning location.

The museum has a collection of over 250 American quilts. A large proportion are displayed in impressive racks which you can flick through like you used to be able to do in The Poster Shops of the 1980s and 90s, albeit on a huge scale. The last three quilts are hanging at the top of the house and were created by Kaffe Fassett, aren’t they beautiful? There are also his sketches and swatches too, dotted around the main museum building. So if you visit the exhibition don’t pass the main house by; it’s full of interesting American folk and decorative arts, as well as furniture and original interiors bought by the museum’s founders before demolition in the States.

I bought a few treats from the shop too. Some edible (naughty naughty Reeces which I grew up eating courtesy of American rellies and friends, and some of those OTT flavoured Snyder’s of Hanover honey mustard pretzel pieces – love ’em), a sweet patchwork log cabin patterned tin and a few cards which will be posted to friends in the future. The shop is always a really fun last thing to do on a special day out isn’t it?

 

The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett – The American Museum, Bath (part 2)

 

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The pics above and below is the flooring of the green room, very cleverly, and expensively according to one of the curators, created for the exhibition.

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20140410-160156.jpgOh dear you can really tell that this was a windowless room, despite my clicking the ‘enhance’ photo button. But isn’t this a stunning display? After leaving this part of the exhibition I really felt as if I had spent time in a garden. There seems to be something incredibly refreshing about being surrounded so many shades of green. It’s strange but I’ve never chosen to wear green ever; if you asked me pre-2011 I would always have said it was my least favourite colour. Since I learnt to crochet in 2011 I’ve found myself inexplicably drawn to green. It’s really odd. At times after reading about those who’ve had strokes and discovered they now love eating vegetables that they previously couldn’t bear, I wonder if I’ve experienced a small one which changed my colour perception and tastes. This is not meant to be disrespectful or flippant, I am completely (if oddly) serious.

There is going to have to be a part 3 about the exhibition. I took so many photos. I don’t look back at my blog much at all, it’s very much of the moment and I move on to the next thing, but the two posts I’ve revisited fairly frequently, when I want a jolt of inspiration, are my visit to The Fashion and Textile Museum last June to see Kaffe Fassett: A Life in Colour and last year’s Spring Knitting and Stitching Show.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite quotes from Kaffe’s publications from a display at the exhibition:

 ‘Working with colour is not an intellectual game. You should see what the heart feels, that way you will stumble across more and more personal excitement in your work.’ Glorious Inspiration (1991)

‘The main thing is to have a go at trying 0ut colours, the wilder the better. None of us designers really know what works until we see it, so sampling becomes wonderfully exciting as you stumble on really unpredictable and interesting colouring.’ Pattern Library (2003)

‘My first lesson about design – when in doubt, try it!’ Glorious Knitting (1985)

‘Since I was such a freak – a six-foot-three Californian man who was knitting – I got a lot of attention from the press.’ Dreaming in Colour (2012)

‘Purple or red cabbages are fabulous objects, with deep, mysterious colours. I once heard of a garden planted with rows of purple cabbages and lined with chunks of black coal – how elegant it must have been!’ Glorious Needlepoint (1987)

The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett – The American Museum, Bath (part 1)

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I’ve long been an admirer of Kaffe Fassett’s work since the 1980s when Mum introduced me to some of his books. The colour! The tapestry vegetable cushions! The knitting! The handsome man with the cheeky twinkling eyes! (I had rather a crush on KF.) I’d loved visiting his exhibition A Life in Colour last June in London and couldn’t wait to see more.

Well as you can see I had a fantastic visit to The American Museum in Bath yesterday. There’s been such a buzz about the exhibition online and in craft magazines that I just had to go SOON, although it’s on until 2nd November. I loved reading Kaffe’s take on the display. The exhibition’s housed in a separate building from the main museum, which has existed for 50 years in the renovated Claverton Manor. The American Museum is worth visiting simply for the grounds alone. If you want to sit, or walk, in warm Spring sunshine while enjoying a view of verdant rolling hills and stunning English countryside this is the place for you.

While driving to Bath I fleetingly wondered if I should keep my iphone firmly in my bag and simply look, exclaim and take it all in. But, during days out like this, I just think how much you’ll, probably, enjoy seeing such an explosion of colour, design and inspiration. Especially if you’re the other side of the world and unlikely to be able to visit. I experience a very strong urge to share. There are many, many items exhibited and I’ve shared just a selection of my favourites. The last photo is not great (there wasn’t a huge amount of natural light in the building, which you’ve no doubt gathered and flash photography is a no-no) but I’ve put it in as a cheeky hint of amazing things to come. Really. The exhibition was grouped into areas by colour and I’ve saved my favourite until last. I arrived just after noon; only twenty minutes into opening so was lucky enough to see the green room alone for some minutes. Bliss.

More to come tomorrow….

The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show 2014, London

I can’t believe it’s that time again already! Last year I had such a good time at the show that I just had to go back again.
When I was thinking about the show I decided my iPhone would stay firmly in my bag, and I’d just wander without taking photos. Then I saw the skeins of wool and knew that you’d enjoy seeing some pics again. So here goes, prepare yourself for much loveliness. I really enjoyed this feast of colour.

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I missed Mr X Stitch again. One day I will catch up with him to say hello!
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I was really tempted to do this and hung about the table for a little while watching a few women stitch, but time was ticking and I wanted a good look around before my sewing workshop. It was £5 to have a go at this embroidery kit. The flower design was printed on the fabric, then a piece of gauzy material is placed on top which you stitch through. What a lovely prettifying technique!
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The quilts are always a wow. There are women who are available to chat about the techniques which have been used. I noticed they wear gloves so they can show people the backs of quilts and handle them without leaving marks. I like this level of respect and care.
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I spent some time in the Wilderness! It was the same last year; I got intensely itchy fingers to craft after the profusion of colour, texture and sheer inspiration. I hadn’t taken any crochet and there were 40 minutes before the workshop, so I joined a table and started to crochet a strip to add to the chains to gradually decorate the area. A textile artist who goes to festivals and teaches knitting was running the project, along with an intern or two from Toft.
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I chatted a novice knitter from Leighton Buzzard who told me about the forthcoming Canal Festival she and her knitting group from Nutmeg Needlecrafts will be involved in. They have a canal boat which is to be yarn bombed and are currently searching for squid patterns. Excellent! I love this kind of thing.
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That plastic crochet hook was the worst I’ve ever used. I looked such a beginner struggling with all its bendyness that someone asked if I was just learning to crochet. It took every ounce of self-control not to say about Simply Crochet. You can imagine!  It was a relief to switch to what seemed like super-long knitting needles, after my recent circular knitting.

The grandmas who came on a coach trip from Stratford Upon Avon looked sidelong at me as I started knitting, but without comment. You do, I do; we all love to watch people knit and note how they hold the needles and wrap the yarn. And the loud Essex ladies (I’m sure they were knitting bunting with me last year) settled down to knit alongside us too. I do enjoy social crafting and meeting new people.
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I like to do my own thing, so rather than knit a tiny row and turn, turn, turn I went for a longer row for my chain. It’s smaller than others but the lovely intern from Toft said she always likes different and going against the grain. Hurrah! So do I.
Here she is crocheting mine to join it above the yellow.
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Time to sew! Last year I hadn’t signed up to any of the workshops and because I went at the weekend they were fully booked. As I’d got a half-price ticket to the show (from an Amazon Local deal following a quick Google for discounted tickets) I felt I could definitely sign up for one. It’s funny how we justify our treats, isn’t it?
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Janome seems to be the machine of choice for sewing classes and workshops.
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I was the only one who took off their boot/shoe. Ah well. Like Patch who commented last post about this, we are also a shoes-off house and so I’m not wearing them when I sew anyway. I do take slippers off though too. I just think I can feel the pedal and control it better.
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This sew a mini storage basket hour-long workshop was for any level of sewer. Ho-hum. I’m not sure how a complete beginner would have managed. It was fast and furious with experienced sewers racing far ahead of us less speedy ones, so the next step (or two steps ahead) were demonstrated before we were ready to take it in. My slower timing wasn’t helped by the fact I hadn’t realised there were pins so I had to take my first bit of spotty fabric off the interfacing and resew a section as it was skew-whiff. Still, I was pleased that I re-threaded an unfamiliar machine without an issue. I also used interfacing for the first time (the experienced “I’ve been sewing since I was 10”) helpful lady next to me said mine was much thicker than hers which maybe didn’t help. I’m not sure I could have put the teeny dressmaking pins through it and the fabric, let alone taken them out.
It’s a fun way to make a storage basket and very ingenious. I want to make another. However I will NOT be using the same materials. The hessian frays and moves around. You can see where it’s not sewn properly on the bottom left. But I liked the shaping where we sewed the corners so they flare it at the bottom and the basket sits flat. I can’t remember the term. Oh, we also ‘nested’ our seams. That’s another new thing.
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Here’s mine. It’s not bad for the speed of the making. During the sewing I had a text from Someone asking if I was having fun.
‘Wasn’t when you text. Was furiously sewing a storage basket, argggh never sewing hessian again!’
‘Bet you never thought you’d write that sentence. :-)’

That is very true. All in all it was fun, albeit slightly stressful. When the tutor Sandra Togher, from the Bowery Gallery in Leeds, said “You have five minutes left” I thought of the stress experienced by the GBSB contestants, with the cameras and pressure of competiton etc! But I’ve learnt some new skills which I can practice and refine. Good value for £10, don’t you think?
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Here is my neighbour’s basket. Perfect isn’t it? She’s so good that she altered the way you sew the top and so hers is much neater than anyone’s. The interesting thing was that when Sandra asked if she sews professionally the answer was no; she works with her husband selling cars, doing the accounts, but it’s been a long term dream to teach people to sew. She really should do it. I’d go to a class.
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I stood and watched a machine patchwork demo, and then bought a few sweets from Henleys of Gloucester as a post-hessian stress treat. Any excuse for liquorice comforts.
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I also went back to the Wilderness to check on the chains. Rather than the lone chain there were now a jolly collection hanging from the stand. Can you see mine?
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At 430pm it was so much quieter, I reckon the coach parties had left. I enjoyed another mooch around both halls and did some shopping. The show is huge and there’s something for everyone. Cats Protection were there again (I don’t really get why, is it that crafters are often cat lovers? Mad knitting women with cats? I do know one or two, or six of those actually…) Interestingly there were arthritis relief and massage stands too. That’s the shape of the things to come, maybe.
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The fabrics are what were making me swoon. I loved them last year but wasn’t sewing. This time I just had to buy a few half metres and some fat quarters. Yippee!
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Here are my buys. I keep being attracted to chicken fabrics, this is my second lot.

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There were a few amusing events on the tube home, but I’ve waffled enough now. If you’re near enough to London why don’t you go to the last day of the show tomorrow? It’s a lovely day out, and even if you go alone people are so friendly and chatty that you won’t be silent for long at all. You can play my shopping bag weebles game too (you remember? Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down?) At the end of the day you’re constantly bumping into, or swinging around and hitting, each other’s bags; bouncing off their packs of yarn and fabric. It’s funny and all good natured.

Are there similar shows where you live? Have you been to one and if so, what makes you swoon?

Homemade London: Mystery Workshop

A few weeks ago my friend and I had to cancel our long ago booked Mystery Workshop at Homemade London. The tube strike was in full force, the weather was stormy and traffic in Central London was grid-locked. We rescheduled and the evening came around again yesterday.

You book a place, paying £12, and basically have no idea what you’re going to be doing for the hour until you arrive. Apparently they’ve run Mystery Workshops since May and haven’t repeated one yet.

When we arrived I was slightly dismayed to see a table laid with jewellery making pliers and fixings. I’ve enjoyed the jewellery workshops we’ve done, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for an hour last night. Then I popped downstairs to the loo and discovered my idea of heaven set up downstairs; a table lined with posh Janome sewing machines. ‘I guess they’re ready for tomorrow’s classes’ I sighed.

Wrong!

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A dainty glass of something vodka based with several raspberries (only wafted near a vodka bottle it has to be said, but that’s probably not a bad thing before handling jewellery pliers) before we started to make earrings. There were 10 in the workshop in all which was a good number. The girl running the workshop was lovely, bubbly, really helpful and fun.

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The atmosphere was good and great fun as we laughed, groaned and muttered all grappling with jewellery links, trying to open the chain links to make four separate chains (from a choice of silver, rose gold and gold) and affix shells (pearly or blue/black.) The girl opposite forgot to breathe as she concentrated hard, prompting concern from her friend as she turned slightly purple!
Half an hour on each activity of the workshop meant we had a little time to play with those super sewing machines; making little bags for our earrings.

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We shared the machines in pairs. It’s the same as G has, so she cranked up the speed and whizzed along.
My sewing’s definitely getting better. My little seams are pretty straight now.

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We’re getting a bit more cocky now that we’ve sewn a few things and think that the basic little bag design could be better, rather than having raw edges at the end of the ribbon seam. But I did enjoy having the chance to use a sewing machine. Before meeting in the afternoon I’d spent some time chatting to the sewing demonstrator in John Lewis, Oxford Street, discussing buttonholes (last week’s revisited skill along with another friend. I need some practice so I haven’t shown you!) The chat had whet my appetite to do some sewing. Good timing all round. We stayed to chat after the class for a few minutes talking about machine embroidery which I’d really like to try sometime. The book below was recommended…

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And that, was another good day.

Polymer Clay Bead Class – London Jewellery School

A couple of months ago I noticed that London Jewellery School had started following me on Twitter. Emboldened by the recent invite from John Lewis to their Open House Blogger Event I cheekily tweeted LJS and asked if they offered any free workshops for bloggers. They replied promptly saying I was welcome to attend a taster class from the very tempting list. “And a friend can come too?” I wondered. “Yes, no problem!’ I know this was even more cheeky but I’m glad I asked. We chose to go to the polymer clay bead class and waited a few months for the date to come around.
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First we looked at samples of the types of beads we could make. I really liked the bracelet above and decided to make my own version.

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This clay is very, very hard to work –  but fortunately there is a secret weapon which you use to ‘condition’ the clay…

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…a pasta maker! We each had one clamped to the table. I suffered some teasing about being a pedant from the tutor for unscrewing the G-clamp to straighten my machine but it was worth it not to have it on a wicked slant. I kind of got my own back by having a friend who whistled and sang her way through the class to Absolute 80s on the radio. Ha! (If you’re reading this –  it really was delightful. Louder whistling next time the tutor calls me names please!!!!)

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There is a pasta maker under our stairs – it’s been quite a while since we made fresh tagliatelle so I’m very tempted to requisition it for polymer! (Someone will be reading this in Brussels and wincing.)

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Roll out two colours, try to make them a similar size, lie them on top of each other, cutting the raggedy ends very carefully with the razor edged cutter. If you want square or rectangular beads then cut to the desire shape and size and you’re done. Spherical beads take a lot of handling, but I enjoyed chatting to the group while moulding mine. One woman has been taking classes with LJS for years, she listed a huge number of different skills she’s learnt and items she’s made.

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Tricky this making a hole business – you want to be gentle and twist the braddle (?) so the beads don’t split open at the ends and also you want them to be as centrally placed as possible. I started off slowly, and carefully, but time was ticking and so the remainder ended up being pierced quickly so they could go into the oven and we could begin making the next batch.

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We could make what I termed ‘swiss roll’ shaped beads next but I was quite taken with the spheres, so made some smaller and more purple versions just by rolling the slices around, and around, and around…. If there’s not enough of a pattern, or one dominant colour, just add small pieces of the other colour to the outside of the ball.

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When out of the oven the beads were plopped into a bowl of water to quickly cool. Aren’t they delicious looking? Just like liquorice allsorts and humbugs. Luckily we all chose different colour combos so there was no confusion about whose were whose.

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A quick dry with some paper towel and then the tricky bit. I found choosing beads from the beautiful range the hardest part of the whole process.

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My rather 80s style beads…a necklace fit for Five Star?!

This bracelet used some of my larger beads. Spot the mistake?!

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Our class tutor was Anna. Here’s her website – be prepared to crave sweeties after viewing!

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The evening taster class lasted 2.5 hours, was a fab experience as I’ve never made any type of beads before, and great fun. I probably need to say that no one asked me to write a blog post or referred to blogging at all. We all completed a standard feedback form at the end of the class (others were paying customers I believe) and that was that.

If you can get to the London Jewellery School, based in the Hatton Garden area, I thoroughly recommend it. I’d definitely like to book some more classes sometime. I’ve just thought – if you’re struggling to buy a present for a crafty person then why not buy them a place on a class, preferably you should go with them!

Wool Window

As part of Wool Week last week John Lewis set up one of their windows as a plainly decorated room and invited various knitters and crocheters to take part in a living display. Passers by could watch them sitting knitting and crocheting, which must have been fun to see as well as being a bit bizarre for both sides.

The yarny creatives gradually yarn bombed the area  (silly term isn’t it? Decorated seems more apt.) I watched it all develop through photos during the week on Twitter which can be an excellent news-service, you often find out about events long before seeing them elsewhere.

I stopped to see it before meeting Emma on Sunday and took so many photos because I found that every time you looked you noticed more woolly items! I found it genuinely inspiring and particularly loved the flowers in the vases, the cat and the covered pink chair. Somebody’s moving pretty fast this week – I think he’s worried he might be covered with crochet or knitting if he stays still for long.

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John Lewis Open House Blogger Event

Recently I received an email telling me that I had been ‘hand-selected as an outstanding blogger in the craft sector’ – this is a very promising start to any email, though I have to admit that I scrolled back to the top of the message just to check it hadn’t been sent to me in error! I’d been invited to the John Lewis pop-up shop in Islington, London to attend an exclusive lifestyle, fashion and craft blogger event, with workshops instructing us how to customise and personalise household objects in their new HOUSE range.

The invite included a plus 1, a friend, partner or someone else from the blogging community. I invited Emma from eskimo*rose  as we’ve been in touch for a few years now. It was lovely to meet before the event and have a good chat, something at which we’re both excellent!

Here’s a selection of photos from the afternoon. Because we were seated in an area near one of the shop windows I noticed quite a few members of the public taking our photo – I guess we were a living sewing group window display….eek!

Click on an image to view a larger size….

I had been hoping to meet Lisa Comfort from Sew Over It but she wasn’t able to attend as planned. Freia and Tugba represented the Sewing Cafe instead and showed the group some simple sewing techniques. They chatted and sewed along with us during the afternoon which was nice. It’s amazing how long it takes to sew a strip of ribbon to a cushion cover when you’re chatting, stopping to drink bucks fizz and eat delicious sandwiches and cakes. At the end of the afternoon we were urged to take buttons and ribbon home, so I’m going to carry on adding some more to my cover. In fact I staggered out with 2 bath towels, the customised cushion, and a goodie bag. It really felt like Christmas had come early!

The other bloggers who attended apart from Emma and myself were: Aimee of Clones ‘n’ Clowns blog and Lisette of Lisette Loves. Holly from the online marketing department of John Lewis couldn’t have been sweeter or more helpful in looking after us.

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On Saturday we came across Disney filming scenes for Cinderella at Blenheim Palace. Although Kenneth Branagh (directing), Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham-Carter were there we didn’t spot them, apart from the many costumed extras including riders on highly groomed horses, different carriages and four white horses with golden bridles, we did come across this beauty…

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As weekends go this was a pretty good one.

Yarndale 2013

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I drove to Yarndale from Leeds on Sunday as I had another event over the weekend. The drive was sublime; I can’t tell you how many times I shouted “Wow!” at the stunning scenery. I really do love Yorkshire. As you can probably tell the weather could not have been better either; on Saturday my friends and I were wandering around Leeds in t-shirts.

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Doesn’t this look lovely? What a great way to welcome visitors.

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I had felt a little sad not to be able to go to Yarndale on Saturday, but after hearing of the queues, people trying and failing to access some stalls, along with traffic issues I was relieved to have gone on Sunday. As it was the main car park was full when I arrived and so I was directed to an overflow car park a short walk from the auction mart.

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20131001-202504.jpgCan you see your bunting?!

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So I walked in deciding therein madness would lie trying to find any of my bunting, looked up above my head and…

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Look at that! That multi-coloured triangle with the blue centre is one of mine. This made me laugh – out of over 6,000 triangles mine’s right by the front door.

I wandered into the main room and the brass band starting playing, I truly got the shivers. The sound was absolutely gorgeous. I’ve made some recordings of the music to play at home. They really remind me of the jolly, warm atmosphere. You can also hear snatches of conversations in broad Yorkshire accents as people walk past, music to the ears!

An amused local told me that in Yorkshire you can’t go anywhere without tripping over a brass band, well in my neck of the woods it tends to be Morris dancers…

I headed for the crochet, knit and natter lounge as I just wanted to say hello to Lucy. We chatted for a little bit, then I introduced myself and we had a big hug. She’s as lovely as you’d expect, a petite and pretty lady. I honestly don’t think she had a minute to draw breath all day as so many people came to chat to her, but she seemed to be incredibly relaxed and enjoying being there.20131001-214916.jpg20131001-203931.jpgIt wouldn’t have occurred to me to get my bag signed except a group of four or five women asked Lucy to sign their bags. They were pretty over-excited to meet her and I heard her saying “Calm down ladies!” which did make me smile. After we’d chatted for a while and properly met I asked, with a little shyness, but am glad I did as it’s a sweet souvenir of the day.

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Here are some really special bunting triangles. I love the sheep’s head.

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There’s something very cool about seeing items that you’ve seen on a blog. I’ve felt the same when Natasja of Crochetime and I have met and she’s worn items I recognise. It’s a crochet nerd thing isn’t it?

Lucy said to “do us proud won’t you?” when I said I was going to take lots of photos. Well, no pressure at all then! I’m wordy and equally so with my photographs – this is just a selection of many. There are a good few photos of skeins of the wooly stuff, oh the range of colours and the feel of it! Bliss. I’m just glad they don’t charge you for stroking it.

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After a few laps of the building I settled down to do some crochet and realised I was the only non-knitter in the lounge bit, amongst a lot of people. This surprised me rather. I was amused to see I was at a little table with Lucy’s covered tuna tin flower pot – I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on Someone’s face when I talked about these when they featured on her blog.

Funnily the other individuals who came, one by one, to where I was sitting were also in education; lecturing, teaching or having worked in an advisory capacity. That was curious, it was like education corner. We covered a lot of ground, there were some fascinating stories.

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It was very very tempting to buy these circular needles, except I wonder if my iffy elbow would disintegrate after a few rows.

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Isn’t this girl’s scarf gorgeous? She was a star for letting me photograph her using the mega needles and then her scarf.

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Lynne Rowe, designer, crocheter and knitter had recommended I find the Skein Queen stall, so I made sure I found it. You can almost feel the softness can’t you? Good enough to eat…

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One of my favourites – a knitted and crocheted picnic.

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A slice of battenburg pretty please.

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Chips and pizza…

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Naughty – unpeeling a banana and leaving it…

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Angora bunnies, pretty aren’t they?

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On my final loop I noticed Heather of Little Tin Bird blog’s yarn bomb. It was such a clever idea to copy Lucy’s blog header.

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As I trudged back up the hill to the car to head into Skipton the sun was still shining. What a lovely day.

The Big Knit

I’ve just popped to the post office to send my small contribution to The Big Knit. Last year a few of my friends joined in but I didn’t have my knitty head on at all at that point. This week I decided to try the basic pattern and found it really fast with minimum sewing up, so I’ve made a few for the project.

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The Big Knit raises money for Age UK. Take a look at The Big Knit site, linked above, there are some amazingly impressive hat designs! People are posting pics of their finished hats on Twitter using the #bigknit hashtag – if you want to see them.

The number of hats that Age UK are tweeting about receiving just today is incredible.
It’s too late to join now as the hats have to be received by Monday, but you can look out for a hat adorned smoothie to buy and contribute to the fundraising that way.

By the way The Mile of Mice fundraiser and record setting attempt in aid of The Alzheimer’s Society has achieved their goal of over 7,000 mice! The official measure and record setting will happen at the end of next month. I really love all the current charity crafting, it’s a really fun way to raise money and awareness of various charities.

An Etsy craft party

Tonight I’ve been to my first Etsy craft party. I think I heard about it through Twitter several weeks ago. That was a funny thing; there were others who also couldn’t remember how or where they signed up to go.

Mollie Makes have been publicizing Etsy craft parties, it’s a big thing apparently and they’ve happened all over the world today. Have you been to one? Ever heard of an Etsy craft party?

It was a very relaxed evening with various tables set up for craft activities: bunting to make for the venue who work with Crisis, friendship bracelets, card and stationary making and china decorating. There were drinks, nibbles and cakes – always a good thing.

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I don’t think anyone’s going to spot my chain stitching on the 2, but it was relaxing to do. Of course I should have used a contrasting colour.  I must have been tired, or too busy chatting to think (or too much Buck’s Fizz?!)

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My table’s bunting (photo’s a bit fuzzy, sorry.) They look pretty with ready-made crochet flowers and sequins etc sewn on.

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While I was embroidering, my friend was busy decorating a bowl. I love it.

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She then moved on to card making and created this for her sister and family who are emigrating to Australia next month. My photo was taken before it was finished, she added some text too. Love those thumb print people!

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Yes well, no comments required about this piece. The purple line down the middle was an end of evening ‘what was I thinking?’ mistake that didn’t completely come off even with some rubbing with a baby wipe. I’ve donated it to my arty friend to clean and decorate.

Who knew you could use Sharpies on china? The ink will come off with washing, but I’m told you can bake it in a low temp oven for 30 mins to set the pen, then I guess you just don’t use it for anything other than for decorative purposes. I liked the idea of having a lovely bowl for my ends when I’m darning, perhaps I’ll hint a bit when we next meet.

The space was light and airy, it’s obviously used by ongoing art groups as there were many works in progress.

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It was a relaxed time with no pressure to craft in a certain way. The resources were ready, we paid our £5 (raising money for Crisis) grabbed a drink and chose where to start. I’d definitely attend another Etsy craft party and hope that the tentative suggestion about meeting again as a group happens in the future. I’m always up for social crafting and love meeting new people, especially when it’s going to be in a pub next time.

Kaffe Fassett: A Life in Colour

Natasja of crochetime and I met yesterday at The Fashion and Textile Museum in South London to ogle Kaffe’s designs and use of colour. I used to be a huge fan of his tapestry (aka needlepoint) and have owned a copy of Glorious Needlepoint for a long time. Mum reminded me, over Sunday lunch, that she has several of Kaffe’s knitting books and heard him talk in the early 1990s.

It was great to see my favourite tapestry designs in 3D, especially the vegetable cushions. Radish anyone? Or perhaps you’d prefer a beetroot?

I know that many of you are not near London, or even in the UK (if you are then the exhibition is on till 29th June) and so here is a good selection of what I loved. If you like tapestry you’ll probably be swooning along with me.

Click on any image to view a larger version.

“Colour themes that run throughout his textile work include the historical hues from early-medieval and Renaissance decorative arts, traditional pairings of blue and white, and the rich inspiration of China, India and international travel. In 1992 Fassett visited India as part of a charity delegation to explore what handicraft might be produced there to sell in Britain to raise money. The experience was profound and sparked a shift in his use of colour.

‘India proved to me that colour is a vital ingredient in life.'”

Mouse crazy

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Gerald.

Someone rather silly says he looks like a mouse wearing a jumper.

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Charlie

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The gang

I might have gone a little mouse crazy because this morning I found myself Charlie mouse sending an email to a friend, wishing her a fun time away in Sweden over the weekend!

I’ve always winced a bit when toy makers state each “have their own character” or authors insist “the characters tell the story, I just write it down. ” But these mice? They definitely have their own characters (one is excellent at flying) and each seems to come ready-made with their own name.

If you’re interested in knitting or crocheting a mouse, or ten, to raise funds for The Alzheimer’s Society and to set a World Record, for a mile of mice around a football ground in October, please see the Mile of Mice Facebook page for more info. Alternatively you can join the Mile of Mice Ravelry KAL (knit along) group I’ve started.

There are many knitters/crocheters taking part around the world who are sending their mice to England. If you simply want to make a donation the organiser Libby is currently in the process of setting up a ‘Just Giving’ page.

A Mile of Mice

Do you know what these are? I’ll give you a minute…..

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Did you guess?
They are little mouse bodies of course!
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This is as the pattern instructs with M1 increases, going into the bar between stitches and knitting into the back. Hideous! Somehow I nearly stabbed myself in the eye a few times when trying, and failing, to stick the needle into the back of the picked up bar. My friend and I were knitting along together last night, albeit in different counties, but using the power of texts, FB messenger and photos to compare our techniques. In the end she made her poor husband stop watching his tv programme and video her knitting the inc. in what we agreed is the easier ‘old way’.

How do you make neat increases with the M1 method? It’s supposed to invisible but mine are certainly not! In my defense I’m new to this method.

The body below was knit using a traditional increase; knit a stitch, then knit into the back. There’s a fairly nice neat line of stitches along the back.
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Why mice? Here’s a link to the Make & Craft magazine website which tells you all about A Mile of Mice charity project and plans to attempt a Guinness World Record in October. You can also download the free knitting pattern and sponsorship form.

If you fancy knitting a mouse, or a Mischief of Mice(!) and want to join in a KAL to share your creations then please let me know in a comment below. I’ll post links to your mouse photos when we get going. You don’t need to be a blogger; I can link to Ravelry, Facebook, Flickr or Instagram etc. It’s a fun project for a good cause.

I’ve started a KAL Mile of Mice group on Ravelry. There is a Mile of Mice group on Facebook, which has presumably been set up by the organiser of the project, Libby. If you have any questions head to Facebook. :-)

Now I need to buy some 3.25mm needles otherwise my mice will be ear-less!

Wool House, Somerset House – London

Yesterday I met the lovely Natasja of Crochetime blog for the first time, and  we had a great time wandering around the rooms of Wool house, an exhibition in Somerset House, London. This was my first time visiting Somerset House, despite walking past many times. Wool House is situated in just the West Wing, so you can imagine the scale of the building.

So what it is all about? Wool house has been developed by high-profile designers working with The Campaign for Wool which was launched in 2010 by The Prince of Wales. Their aim is to promote real wool as it is a sustainable and natural fibre for use in fashion, interiors and the built environment. The designers were given a brief as to the type of room and a description of the look; such as a country feel or bright and bold. I loved something about all of the rooms, they are wonderful.

Click on photographs to view larger sizes (see the whole crochetdermy bear’s head for instance!) Or let the mouse hover pictures to read my comments, some are admittedly fairly inane.

A wonderful visit. Wool House ends this coming Sunday, so you still have time to visit. It’s free – if that’s an incentive!
I also recommend meeting up with fellow bloggers and turning virtual people into real-life friends. It might not always be successful, you might not click, but who knows? You have every chance of meeting a like-minded friend, but you won’t know until you try. Natasja and I will definitely be meeting again for more crafty events and chatter. :-)

The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show, London

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I’ve had a very good day. Very good indeed. I tried not to take hundreds of photos but did bear in mind that quite a few readers have said they are looking forward to hearing about the day.

On the tube journeys to Kensington Olympia I played a little game to guess who would be going to the knitting and stitch show. It wasn’t too hard. Do they have a: knitted/crocheted hat? Knitted/crocheted scarf? Handmade item(s) of clothing? Colourful bag? Flowery rucsac? Anything Cath Kidson? All were complete give-aways. I followed a couple of women for two parts of the journey and then bumped into them by the ribbon and button stall where we had a chat, as you do. I tend to chat to people wherever I am, whatever I’m doing and there were some very friendly people at the show.

In case you’re wondering; I wore my knitted lacy purple scarf, it’s warm but I also had a feeling it’s de rigueur at crafty events to wear something handmade. I was right. I saw a divine cabled top, really nice chunky wool, it just fit and suited the wearer so well. I had to stop myself from rushing up to ask for the yarn details, pattern and needle size. 019021

The lady in purple is Lara (mid cough, oops) the editor of Mollie Makes who was later running a VERY popular crochet flower workshop throughout the day. I tried to find a spare chair, but each time I passed they were all occupied, with spectators standing around too! I’m so glad crochet is so popular. When I said I really like MM Lara seemed genuinely delighted, she seems very sweet. 024Wow. Just wow! A lady and I joked that you’d have one very muscly arm from using these hooks!

025Perhaps knitting would give you an equally balanced upper arm workout?027This is where I made my resolution, yet again, to relearn to sew. Aren’t the fabrics beautiful?

028029The next two photos really, really made me want to visit the Mrs Moon shop which speaks volumes for the beautiful layout of the wools, patterns and samples. The women looked so elegant as well.

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Rowan Big Wool. Mmmmm I feel a snood or scarf coming on sometime, in a berry red or grey perhaps.033

The next two pictures were part of an area with a table of free-form crocheters who, I think, were making pieces to decorate costumes. There were some women in huge dresses, painted faces and high-high-high-up hair, or wigs, like the aristocrats during the French Revolution. The area was labelled The Garden of England Royal Museums Greenwich.The show is turning into a good way to check out new places and visit other exhibitions, rather like following a trail of bread crumbs.035039

I was forbidden to take a photograph of the felting and silk artist Yulia Badian in her Woodland Boudoir fetchingly dressed as a woodland fairy, but drinking a can of red bull. She was quite attention grabbing I can tell you.041042

Deebie Hall’s ‘Lady Spring

I’m always partial to willow art. 044

Sue Stratford’s The Knitting Hut was also one of my favourites. Just look at those chicken kits! Several were purchased as I browsed. I took a photo of her knitted meerkats but sadly it’s a fuzzy one.047

Just when I was beginning to flag I spotted a spare chair at The Knitter/Simply Knitting table, opposite the full to bursting MM crochet area. Half an hour knitting alongside friendly people felt equal to a session of meditation. I can’t describe how relaxed I felt after that pit-stop. I liked that you could take the whole ball of wool, needles and pattern away all for free.

Something funny happened during the session. Eight of us knitters sat around a circular table and I noticed that seven were ‘throwing’ the wool. The eighth was an older woman who knit sliding her hand up and along the needle. The rest not. One of the magazine editor demonstrators complimented the neatness of mine which led to discussing techniques and the feeling that persists which says I’m ‘not doing it right’. All agreed it’s an individual thing; there are many ways to accomplish the same end. All good, all rosy. I’m feeling pretty confident showing off my technique in public while hoards flow around the area, some taking photos of us (eek!) THEN a group of Grannies come along and make quite a deal of the throwing technique and actually take one woman’s knitting away to show her how to ‘do it properly.’

“Look, you wrap the wool round your fingers like this, see? You hold the needle under and do NOT take your hand off…blah blah.” The lady took it quite well but I’m just so glad it wasn’t me.

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This was my favourite quilt from the exhibition, it’s so country home in style.052

On the tube home I heard fragments of people’s conversation:

‘I spend my limit then I stop. Do you remember last year when I didn’t have enough money left for a cup of coffee?”

“He’s expecting me home later than this but will come to get us when I tell him what time the train gets in. Umm NO! I haven’t told him how much I’ve spent!”

“Next time I’m gonna take a wheelie bag to fill, and probably get right in people’s way.”

“Bugger! I’ve got me wool stuck in my zip aint I?!”

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I’m very pleased with my Clover crochet hook, bought from Jane Crowfoot. She’d sold out of 4mm but this was one that was lurking in an under the counter box. She did say she might be in trouble with her Mr for selling too many and not having enough for online customers, but they’ll just have to wait eh? Lucky me!

I’m off to drink a large glass of red wine, finish my bunting with my beautiful alpaca wool, or maybe unravel it to crochet something with my NEW HOOK!

Happy weekend everyone.

Tunisian Crochet

It’s a beautifully sunny and warm Spring morning. I’ve been sorting out a stack of mostly new crafty inspiration.
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So many books, so much to try!IMG_2226The Knitting Answer book is brand new, the other two are library books. I want to learn to knit different types of cables after my first try the other week. But then I also want to learn how to do lace knitting. Apart from a couple of wool scarves I designed a few years ago, one purple for me and a green for my sis-in-law, I haven’t done any lace patterns. In the Knitted Homestyle book there are three lacy sachets designs for lavender bags, I thought they might be a good start.purple scarf

I also want to work my way through the knitted effects section, maybe making a selection of blocks to make into a throw. A collection of knitted leaves appeal too, for some reason. I’ve no idea what I’d do with them.

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The new Mollie Makes arrived yesterday. Cute bunnies but I’d prefer to find a pattern rather than cutting up old jumpers. There must be knitted bunny patterns by the million online.

I always save MM till I have the perfect time to read it, preferably cover to cover without stopping or speaking. Someone else loves the oasis of silence craft magazines create.

The Cath Kidson Stitch book was for my birthday and the Sublime transfer books were Christmas presents. I must find things to embroider on, more linen t-towels perhaps. Maybe I should be going to the Sewing for Pleasure show the weekend after next? But it’s the Spring Knitting & Stitch show on Saturday and then I’m going to the Wool House with Natasja next week. AND I’ve just heard of a new yarn shop which must be checked out.

It’s sooo funny to remember that when I learnt how to crochet a few years ago, because of a childhood ambition, I accidentally discovered the world of crochet blogs when googling crochet techniques. I found Attic 24 along with a host of other craft blogs but still felt pretty solitary during my crafty adventures. Then over the last year or so there’s been an explosion of magazines, new craft shops both on the high street and online, craft shows, knit, crochet & natter groups (did you see what I did there?!) I’m hearing many ‘I think I’m going to become more crafty’ resolutions from friends too. Hurray! I hope this trend for all-things-craft lasts a long, long time and doesn’t fade away again.

IMG_2230I didn’t get on very far with my plan to embroider this cushion,as you see, before going to a workshop at the Make Lounge in Islington, London with my cat mad friend last September. Crochet and other yarny projects have taken over. I must use the Sublime books for inspiration and sew.

Ok, enough of the chatter and stop linking to everything PLeeaAsE….

Last night I dug out the 5mm Tunisian crochet hook I bought last month along with Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet and some left-over wool from the jewel baby blanket I’m currently finishing (Stylecraft Special DK.) I’ve been busy with other things but -LAST ONE I PROMISE- Matt’s last blog post prompted me to get on and try crochet Tunisian styley.

My cousin and I often send photos of what we’re up to, here was mine last night at the beginning of my first Tunisian Crochet lesson. (In case you’re wondering hers were of various cats peering into the lap top webcam and pics of her really long Tunisian Crochet hooks. Apparently she had lessons at school and crocheted a stripy neck-tie! I didn’t know.)20130314-115012.jpg

So, here are the four little stitch swatches I made last night. IMG_2238Tunisian Simple Stitch

Easy! Easy and fun. I like making all the stitches so it looks like a knitting needle full, then reversing down to one stitch again. Ingenious. If you can crochet you can do it Tunisian style.  Kim Guzman puts instructions for lefties into each pattern. Kudos to Kim Guzman I say! The book is a goodie. I contacted her to say so and straightaway had a nice reply.

It felt more natural to hold the hook on top, then when I came to this paragraph: ‘When working in Tunisian Crochet, you will always use an overhand hold. Imagine yourself holding a bicycle handlebar” I felt a real flush of pleasure; it’s fab when you just guess a technique and it’s right. Sorry. Getting all giddy again, more photos less chat ahead.

IMG_2243Tunisian Knit Stitch

Easy and it makes such a thick fabric. It would be excellent scarf material apart from the curliness. There is a scarf pattern in the book where you fold it in half lengthwise and sew the seam end of rows, that might be the solution.IMG_2235Tunisian Purl Stitch

I did go to YouTube for extra tips with this one, searching for ‘Tunisian Crochet left handed purl stitch’. There’s a video on there by a woman with a really nice American accent but the filthiest fingernails! Yuck! She was too fast for me to gather how to do her technique of putting the yarn in front of the hook, but I developed my own thing. Not my favourite stitch because of the yarn in front thing.

IMG_2231Tunisian Reverse Stitch

This is basically the Tunisian Simple Stitch but going into the vertical bar from behind. It’s fiddly but I was tired; it was nearly 11pm and I need to try again. It’s probably very easy.

The next lessons are to increase, decrease and change colours. It’s like starting with crochet all over again. Learning those  skills are going to have to wait because I’ve got very achey shoulders this morning. Ooops, but when I’m enthusiastic I tend to go at a million miles an hour.

Overall holding the hook overhand doesn’t feel as comfortable and speedy-easy as crochet but like everything you get faster the more you practice. I’m not sure TC will replace crochet for me, though I like the smooth knit-like look, but it’s nice to have a new skill.

Tempted to try Tunisian Crochet too?

Are you going?

K&S show Olympia

To The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show  which is this week 14th-17th March at London’s Olympia?

I’ll be there on Saturday and can’t wait since it’s years since I went to a big crafty type of exhibition event. Maybe we’ll see each there? :-)