a proper old pickle and a sleepy shawl stealing cat……

it's all a bit of a pickle

This is the current state of play in one corner on my work table….it’s a proper old pickle as I’m on “craft fair countdown” mode…..next Monday there’ll be a quick tidy up then chaos will resume within hours….I always try and be neat and tidy but it never lasts for long…as soon as I start putting things away I always then need them straight away or just forget where I’ve put them.

Little piles of embroidery silks tumble over scraps of wool felt, I try to snip up the smallest pieces as I go along so I always have a ready supply of stuffing to hand….strands of silk I’m using for applique sewing float around everywhere and my footsteps down the stairs have become rather rainbow coloured the past few days…..

There’s a pointy tipped heap of skinny black pins, they were part of a birthday present, they come from Merchant and Mills and are wonderful to use…very sharp and they don’t rumple or bulge the felt as I lay out my applique…they’re also nice to use in finer fabrics as they’re so fine they don’t mark the cloth in the slightest.

work table chaos

I had the devil of a time yesterday trying to buy red velvet ribbon in the city…neither little haberdashery/sewing stall on the market carried it which is fair enough, but then when I went into a larger shop the girl in there looked at me like I’d asked for something really bizarre…to be honest she didn’t actually know what it was and then when I explained, said no she didn’t think they still made it. Sigh…so I ended up trekking down to Anglian Fashion Fabric on Magdalen Street which never lets me down, but was a bit further out then I’d intended to walk….I had a roll of lovely vintagey velvet ribbon from a car boot and now I’ve used it all up, I never thought it would be so hard to replace.

And I found 5 minutes to quickly pop into St Gregory’s Antique Centre as I was nearly all out of cream thread for sewing in the linings of my hot water bottles.  There is a very good haberdashery stall in there run by a lovely lady called Jenny, and it’s a rare old trip that doesn’t see me leave without a few brightly coloured reels of vintage cotton thread in a paper bag…memories of leaving sweet shops with a little bag of penny sweets always come to mind when I step out into the cold air.

detail of hand sewn applique

I’ve been sewing up hot water bottle cosies all week, hand sewing and embroidering little birds made out of pure wool felt onto vintage blanket fabric…at least with a pile of these on my lap I’m not feeling the cold.

detail of red bird applique

They’ve just gone into my Folksy shop as I’m trying to keep that nicely stocked up now til Christmas….

Originally the birds began life as brooches, just a couple of inches across, then slowly they grew a little larger and began to appear on notebook covers before they found their final home on tea cosies and hot water bottle covers.

I really like sewing using wool felt, it costs a bit more than the wool mix which a lot of shops seem to sell instead so I have to buy mine online…Handmade Presents is very good, they also sell wool felt which is plant dyed.  And the other place I buy from is Myriad (I’m also really tempted with their lovely wooden animals….

paws for a kitty toy

This is a bit of a secret sewing share now….between us (that’s me and my boyfriend)  we have five nieces, the ones on my side are all grown up now but in the past when they were all small and chubby of knee I’ve made them fairy dolls and mermaid ones (including one that came out so big she looked like she could have wrestled Moby Dick), but our other two are still pretty wee….I’ve made them both stockings and crochet blankets, but only Maggie has had any dolls made for her.  I ran out of time last year but this year I wanted to make Eliza an animal doll…her mum told me she really likes cats so I’ve started work on what I’m calling “licky paws”…(when I was asked for baby names licky paws was one of my suggestions and thought it would be a good working name for this little kitty).

The body is made from a Llama hair coat I bought years ago in Wells, it’s lovely and soft, yet the fabric is nice and robust and you can stuff it really firmly….the kitty pads are hole punched pieces of wool felt, made from the tiniest of scraps I get left with after cutting out my applique birds.

Turning the arms and legs right ways out always makes me feel like I’m going to bust something and have a hernia pop out…I seriously do not know how Sasha manages to make her dolls without doing herself a proper mischief as she often uses blanket fabric and I can’t turn that for toffee.

For now I’ve sewn the arms and legs, and need to stuff all of them before wedging them in the body but I won’t have time until after the 12th of December which is the date of my last fair.

the sleepiest cat in the world

The weather here has been pretty rotten…Bernard seems to dash out, do the world’s quickest wee then is back and nestled down in my shawl (it’s mine, not his even though he’s covering it in cat licky smell, and the look he gave me the other night when I went to put it round my shoulders was hilarious…puffed out cheeks and whiskers right forward….)

He’s feeling all sorry for himself at the moment, the kittens from next door beat him up…well we think it was them as they don’t seem to get on too well.  Bernard’s face is all scratches and he’s a bit flinchy when we stroke his head…the kittens are like 4/ 5 months old max, so he’s a bit of a wussy really.

He’s still jumping up on the sofa and cuddling alongside me in the early hours though the time is now spent embroidering snowflakes on stockings rather than knitting….but he’s been very good with the knitting wool.  I’ve been knitting up a couple of swatches for the British Breed swatch kal on Ravelry and the wool I used was lovely and sheepy scented so maybe he can smell the animal so leaves the wool alone…he sniffs it, rubs his face on it and there was a bit of licking at first…but he’s not run off with it or thrown it on the floor like he’s done in the past…..anyway, this one is for mon ami Celine….

The calming scent of gingerbread and finding pieces of wool felt stuck to my elbows…..

AHXF15AdJpeg.jpg (620×874)

It’s all a bit chaotic here at the moment, those precious early first hours of the morning of the past month are no longer for knitting but instead have given way to embroidering and hand sewing (too early to use the sewing machine as I’d wake half the house) … in between trying to keep my Folksy shop stocked up and the weekly Christmas fairs about to start, I’m getting a bit fraught and frazzled, feeling I’ve not made enough but barely being able to carry what I have made with me when I do a test run….and my first fair (which is a two day affair) is only a week away.

sewing the snowman scarf

Tiny pieces of felt cut out and all ready to applique on the stockings and snippets of embroidery thread are trailed around the house, pinned pieces are put down in between making pots of tea only to wonder where the devil I’ve put them (the times I’ve checked my elbows to find the wool felt stuck to a cardigan sleeve)…when it all gets too much I head outside, the marshes are bit boggy so I have to keep to the path rather than go off over the meadows but it’s just enough to  blow the bobwebs away, get a breath of air before another sewing session…

When I’m sewing early in the morning I’m aware of every noise, every creak of the scissors or the clink of them being placed down on the table, the delicate clutter and scrape of pins moving about…even the sound of the thread being pulled through the thick wool blanket fabric, a low dragging sound which I never seem to notice in the day time….trying hard not to wake anyone else….

hania's stocking 009


In the middle of all this I decided to make some gingerbread and a couple of days later I can still smell a faint waft of spices and treacle in the kitchen….the gingerbread came out really well, very dark, sticky and so spicy scented (I use both fresh and dry ginger, plenty of cinnamon and a good dash of clove go in too….and rather than chop the fresh ginger I like to use a ginger grater which you can buy at health food shops or at an Asian foodstore.  There’s something about making it which calms me right down, just opening the cupboard doors and seeing those familiar tins of golden syrup and treacle…green,gold and red tins which I grew up seeing in our pantry and also when I’d go up the road to Nanny’s house, she’d also have them tucked away on a shelf. Tins of comfort….oh Tate and Lyle please never ever change them.

gingerbread man 003

(gingerbread man made by my friend Sasha)

The smell of melting butter, syrup, treacle and sugar, the soft warm aroma of spices from far far away (well to be fair I buy all mine from Gareth and Jane on Norwich Market but it’s lovely to imagine the hot and exotic lands they come from)….lining a baking tin, mixing in cream and eggs, flour….stiring and making wishes (I always make a wish with gingerbread)……then just letting it sit quietly in a warm oven where it slowly rises and fills the whole house with the smile inducing, “this is the smell of Winter” scent of spices and sugar…..

pinning branch

I’m very generous with the amount of spices I use, evoking proper old European spice cakes (rather than an insipid flavouring added in high street coffee shops) and then make a thick lemon juice icing to be spread on top (in my eyes gingerbread is medicinal, it doesn’t count as cake and the more spices and lemon juice in there , well the better it is for you.)…I also add a couple of tablespoons of dried rose petals which are ground really fine that I can dust them in like icing sugar….no one ever can tell they are in there but I’m aware when I don’t use them.

In my mind I associate gingerbread so much more with The Brothers Grimm or other European folk and fairy tales than Christmas time really, it’s the smell and scent of those stories…..I only make it in the Winter months (I can’t imagine eating it in the Summer…nope, just tried and screwed my face up with the very idea of…) and once I make the first sticky, spicy scented batch of cake then I feel like my Winter has begun, we might not always have snow, but I’ll always have a batch of dark, treacley gingerbread in a tin in the kitchen.

embroidered bird

So the first “spell” of Winter has been cast…the gingerbread is out of the oven and as the scent of spices and warm baking fills the house, so does the feeling of calm and happiness. The pace of the sewing slows, becomes a little less frantic, a little less fraught.



Inspired by warm walks and odd corners of the garden…….

dried flowers for an embroidery

Well the weather outside is wild, wet and windy, proper Wintery and cold, with leaves skittering along as they get blown around the garden…..walks over the meadows and marshes in the June sunshine seem a very distant memory…luckily I pressed a lot of small flowers during the Summer so a quick shake of a couple of books and my work table is covered in little coloured sprigs…..I’m using them as inspiration for some floral embroideries that I’m currently sewing ready to make up in to project bags and pieces for the Craft Fairs……

wild flowers of the wayside and woodland book

As well as using actual dried flowers I also like looking through old flower and plant study guides, their illustrations are always beautiful and help me lots in identifying something I’m not familiar with…often they capture a particular quality of the plant I overlook at first glance and help me when I get to embroider it.

I tend to be most inspired by what I find growing in an odd corner of our garden or when I’m out on a walk, and take lots of little notes during my jaunts, tiny sketches and thumbnails, jotting down what’s come into blossom…some years there are plants I don’t seem to notice, another year it seems to be everywhere I look…..some of my favourite plants for embroidering are tiny speedwells, forget me nots, and stitchwort, wild mustards and jack in the hedge….fluffy grey catkins as soft and velvety as a kittens paw……

inspired by flowering herbs in my garden

At the moment my work table is a jumble of linen squares, old biscuit and toffee tins spilling over with embroidery silks, scatterings of dried flowers lay like a floral print in one corner……over everything is a mist of lavender scent (the project bags I’ve been sewing have a spoonful of lavender between the linen and lining)……sometime in the Spring I made a series of little lavender sachets with botanical embroideries on the front, some were just embroidered and I just needed to fill them, so the lavender jar has been out and Bernard has managed to flick it out everywhere….he’s not such a great one for cat-nip but does seem to love lavender, honestly he’s turning into a proper granny cat what with the shawl nestling and lavender loving…

selection of botanical embroideries

Some of the botanical embroideries have gone into my Folksy shop, and I’ll also be bringing a selection with me to The Assembly House Christmas Fair on the 28th and 29th of November….

Where possible I try to use as much re-purposed fabric in my work, nearly all my embroidery silk has been sourced from vintage shops and flea-markets, carboots or gifted by elderly friends and even my favourite needles for hand sewing tend to be those that are found wrapped in black paper and are older time…..however after embroidering on a beautiful shirt that Anne had made (but had decided wasn’t right so I got to chop it all up and use the fabric) I’ve become rather fond of using linen so have bought a selection from Merchant and Mills to make into project bags and pieces for your sewing box…..the feel of the linen mixed with heavily embroidered French knots or the lay of flat silky stitches is very pleasing….

inspiration for a botanical embroidery

Walking home from the shops at the start of the week I noticed this shrub, I liked the pink berries, they were so bright and colourful amongst all the green leaves….initially picked as a small posy for the table I’ve been trying to sketch them and work them into some botancial sprigs on some of the linen……

pink berried rowan

Also, just down the road is this rowan, it’s a different variety to the regular one with orangey red berries…these ones are pink…..the tree itself is a rather grey brown colour, and I never fail to stop and admire it when it’s covered in berries…there’s a traditional rowan in the background and the birds always strip that of berries by Christmas but they leave the pink ones well alone…

Some years there are barely any berries at all but this Autumn it’s been fair heaving, it’s looked beautiful and I never seem to remember to pop my camera in my bag however on the day I did bring it with me the sky was rather overcast and the pictures I took weren’t doing the tree justice, but I think you can see how striking the pink colour is.

Christmas stockings, snowmen and a pensive faced bunny……….

Christmas stocking for Constance

In between embroidering and sewing like a whirling dervish all ready for the big craft fair at The Assembly House in a fortnight’s time, I’ve also been sewing this Christmas stocking for a little girl called Constance and it’s now about to go off on it’s way to her mum to tuck away somewhere safe til Christmas Eve…….

Cutting out the motifs and then arranging the pieces of wool felt to see where they look best takes me back to when me and my sisters used to play with fuzzy felt……once I’m happy the pieces are pinned into position and then hand sewn into place…..it’s a bit fiddly but anyone who reads my blog knows I’m happy to work to work small and so fiddlesome is like my middle name.

Christmas stocking with snowman applique

The snowman is probably my favourite motif, his cheeks are sewn into place, his scarf is crocheted and his features are embroidered with tiny french knots…I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real snowman in a top hat, perhaps I should try one out with a bobble hat like we used to squish on top of the ones our dad used to help me and my sisters make when we were all very small.

A stocking for Anne

I’ve mentioned my friend Anne before, she’s a wonderful knitter and has helped me out over many a knitting drama, and my eyes nearly popped out when she said “oh there are times when I have to un-ravel a few rows…” I could hardly believe it. She’s lots of fun and although I’ve only known her for about 5 years she’s fast became one of my dearest friends.

A few years back she drove me off out into the Norfolk wilderness so I could do a craft fair (I don’t drive and so have to rely on public transport or the kindness of friends) and happened to mention that she’d never had a Christmas stocking growing up so I made a quiet note to myself and that year made her a stocking of her very own…..her face when we gave it to her was a picture, and it wasn’t reallly filled with anything pricey…a handful of quality street, a miniature Bailey’s, a couple of satsuamas, walnuts in the toe, chocolate coins, a bar of nice soap, a couple of small things I’d sewn….she laughed so much and took it with her to her dad’s for Christmas day….each year I ask for it back and it gets filled pretty much the same way, which is part of what I like about filling a stocking, it’s supposed to be old favourites, traditons, and I think they work better when they’re filled with simple gifts.

The gorgeous bunny who has become one of my Christmas stocking props was made by my friend Sasha, I’ve got a house filled with these often pensive looking little creatures (largest is some 4ft tall and my boyfriend didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when he came home and saw it)…..so this one really only comes out at Christmas….Sasha will be over at Holt on the 5th December at Glory Days where she’ll have a whole array of toys and bunting and cushions…then a couple of weeks later you’ll be able to find us both at the Christmas Clutter CIty on December 12th at Norwich Arts Centre.

a stocking for Chloe

And this stocking was part of a commission I had a couple of years ago from Chloe Owens (she creates the most incredible appliqued cushions and also has published two books about sewing)……there was a stocking for Chloe, one for her boyfriend and one for her cat Twiggy….which just goes to show that I’m really not the only one who thinks stockings aren’t just for children.

Looking at these pictures is really making me crave a mince pie…….

No twirlin’ in the streets just yet……

Open Sky Shawl end of row 6

Well the shawl is finished…sort of.  But sadly there’s no tah dah moment or pictures of me twirling that shawl like someone in a Stephen West video…..it’s not come out right (totally my fault not the pattern) and …deep sigh….I’m feeling more like a dropped stitch as I’m going to have to un-ravel it.  I’m writing this rather shoulder slumped as I’m a bit disappointed but at the same time I know it’s really not the end of the world.

row 9 of shawl

Firstly I’ve gained so much knitting confidence this past month, and the fact I’ve even got a shawl to un-ravel is actually pretty good in my book.  This was my first time on circular needles which I’d always been a bit worried about using in the past…now I love them and am currently testing a few different interchangeable ones to see which I prefer.

Open Sky Shawl row 17

In the past when I’ve made mistakes and knitted stitches wrong I’ve normally just unravelled everything regardless of how many rows I’d knitted, but while knitting the shawl I’ve been learning to correct any wrong stitches made, slowly but steadily un-knitting stitch by stitch, figuring out how to work back and make that y/o or psso I’ve missed…. and apart for a couple of phone calls to my lovely friend Anne I’ve been able to solve any errors myself, in the past when I was trying to knit a tea cosy she regularly got to see a fat woolly lump of knitting and was told “it’s all gone wrong” and she’d magically sort it out….

Ahhh the tea cosy….perhaps this is the best place to start with what has gone wrong with the shawl…some years ago when I first met Anne she showed me a lovely tea cosy she’d made from a pattern in a Family Circle magazine, it’s brilliant… she lent me the pattern to try and knit one myself as I’d said I’d like to try knitting it….how hard could it be……first up I didn’t have any skinny 4 ply wool wool but I did have some lovely pure wool Aran wool I’d bought for pence in a charity shop so began to knit on that….any knitters reading this will now be shaking their head and if you don’t knit….well it’s like being told to put on a delicate ballet slipper and you turn up with gre’t big old clod hopper work boots……unsurprisingly the “tea cosy” soon became a little (cough cough) larger than I’d expected.  When I’d substituted Aran for the 4 ply I had no idea that the size would change so much….no, I don’t know what I was thinking…probably not thinking at all….

open sky shawl in scotch brrom end of row 41

And it’s a similar story with the shawl….. I’ve used an Aran weight wool and on the label of the original wool I started with it said 4 mm needle, but the pattern suggested a worsted weight wool on a 5 mm…..for some reason I ‘d thought that Aran was a finer wool and worsted was like chunky bulky or whatever…but in fact Aran is just a cat’s whisker bigger than the worsted so knitting it on a smaller needle was so not the right thing to be doing for a nice drapey shawl…and so what I’ve got is some pretty sturdy old fabric which doesn’t have a lot of drape as I’ve knitted it up so tight.  I spoke to Anne yesterday and she asked me about the gauge…Gauge…poop….I hadn’t even thought to do that.  I hadn’t really thought about how  when you knit you’re really creating an actual fabric and before you start knitting your “item” you really need to knit up a swatch so you can check how many stitches you’re making to the inch, I hadn’t done this, so had knitted away quite merrily without realizing something wasn’t quite right……

marked where I missed a yarn over and will pick up in the next row

Now I’m doing what I should have done in the first place, knitting up a swatch piece on bigger needles and the knitted fabric seems much more bouncy (my poor old squashed stitches will breath a sigh of relief once they’re unravelled)….

Auld Gold joins Scotch Broom

So while I may not yet be twirlin’ down the road with a hand knitted shawl draped round me, I’m not too down hearted. I’ve learnt loads these past few weeks, knowing that I can follow a pattern, trying new stitches, just believing in my own ability to do something woolly….yes, it would have been nice to have something to show now for all the hours spent knitting, but in a way I’ll be doing that when I knit the next one. …I truly believe every cloud has a silver lining so yeah I’m feeling a little bit sad but nothing a pot of fancy tea won’t cheer.

Knitting it again also means I’ll be able to just use the Jamieson and Smith wool so the shawl will be a gorgeous streak of “auld gold” rather than a mix of two mustard yellows (I’d started the shawl using a flecked yellow from Jamieson’s of Shetland then switched to the gold from Jamieson and Smith) …..learning to do something properly doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and patience and I’m happy to take it slowly…..and those early morning moments with Bernard’s paws perched on the edge of my knee have been lovely…..though I could have done without the times he played his little trumpet and produced a most unpleasant smell.

Scotch Broom and Auld Gold

*the “tea cosy” is currently all bundled up in the top of a cupboard however I’m planning to ferret it out once all the craft fairs are over and then to knit up some swatches to determine how many stitches I’ll need to knit the roof (the original pattern uses DK and if I double up the Aran It’s going to be far too fat for my fingers to cope with so perhaps a little tweaking is in order…..I’d quite like to see the size of tea pot it would now fit, but am thinking it’ll make a rather nice cushion for the sofa.

Because I’m not a waffle or a quitter……

Open Sky shawl knitted in a mustard coloured wool

In a few more weeks it’ll be a mad flurry of Craft Fairs so daytime knitting has been put on the back burner, though I’m still getting up early to have those first precious hours of the day to myself….slowly waking up with my knitting on my lap, a big pot of tea by my side and generally Bernard squidged up alongside me.

Once we’ve eaten in the evening then the hours before bed count as knitting time as well…but mostly the time I seem to be enjoying the most is first thing in the morning and I think I make less mistakes then too…..the most I’ve had to un-knit has been 4 rows (when there’s over 150 stitches on your needle it’s liable to make you feel a bit cross when you have to unknit 4 rows but not as cross as when there are 225 and not 226…one stitch at a time and mistakes are sorted out and slowly I’m gaining more confidence…I’ve now made a Pinterest board of lovely knits I’d like to make rather than just dream about making, noticing delicate stitch patterns that I recogonize has made me so happy and has given me another small boast  to feeling I can do this.

close up of my Open Sky shawl

The shawl is coming along fine…..I’ve now knitted up the main part and though it’s a bit tricky wrapping it round myself in case it comes off the needles, it is very nice to hold up to my face and breath in….I know I keep mentioning this with the Jamieson and Smith wool but it smells so wonderful, all warm sheepyness….this is wool that has been grown (I’ve just read the latest Wovember post which is why I say grown) and feels real, alive….rich and beautifully tactile….not the softest billow of fluff and air but exciting and so touchable……

In many ways this wool is reminding me of the quilt I made the other year for my beloved one….the fabric chosen wasn’t the prettiest, all brown woven Japanese linens and the patchwork was very simple, big squares which I was inspired to make in part by paper framed walls inside traditional Japanese homes, and also being practical because the fabric frayed like the devil……the patchwork was then laid over wool wadding and hand quilted using the baptist fan pattern, chosen because of the similarites to a Japanese design I’d seen at the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge on a piece of ceramics……nearly a mile of quilting thread later and it was finished…..running my fingertips over the fabric, and bumps and ridges of the quilting is one of my greatest pleasures….even now it’s still something that I love to do….and this wool makes me think of that so much……

The yellow I chose isn’t as bright as the Scotch Broom, and doesn’t have the same flecks of colour in it, tiny daubs of gold and mustard, in fact it’s a much more flat colour, (a bit like a screen printed poster by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec for the Moulin Rouge) nor is it so floppy and drapey once it’s knitted up, however there is something about it that my hands can’t leave alone……and then there is the heavenly waft of sheepy aroma everytime I pick it up and cuddle it on my lap ready to knit some more.

Scotch Broom and Auld Gold

If you’ve not headed over to Wovember yet then you are missing out on so much sheepy wool reading….there’s about 3 posts a day and the day is started off with pictures of the dreamiest little lambkins, yesterday there were pictures of some rams (or tups…one was called Boris which made me laugh out loud so much…)…the posts are a brilliant mix of “oohh lambkins” but also the realiities of life on a farm (a caesarian birth), some background history about wool (wool smuggling was great to read about)…and also some places where you can source your wool if you want to buy it from a small producer…buying wool in this way must make such a huge difference to the people who “grow” it….I know myself how nice it is when things I’ve made sell, all my hard work isn’t in vain, and stories of how peoples children won’t go to bed without their quilt or cuddle blanket makes me fair beam, so it must be the same for the people who work so hard caring for their sheep, and having people be all excited and wanting to give them money for their beautiful fleeces must be very rewarding.

This past month has been full of small moments, coincidences that have come together in a most serendipitous way….practising those small samples and swatchs…seeing Andrea’s shawl on Instagram and losing my heart, reading Felix’s piece about British wool, and the articles she links to, finding out about Knit British and then the wonderful wonderful Wovember itself …..(whenever I say wonderful wonderful I can’t help but hear this in my head…)

someone is a fan of wool shawls

Early morning moments with Bernard so wedged in close to me he’s often half in my lap…(he’s currently obsessed with a shop bought shawl I wear first thing as the house is a bit nippy…he reaches up and half pulls it off me then tunnels himself under it to make a little nest….within minutes there is the sound of him snoring and thankfully he’s been a lot less windy so he’s not too bad smell wise)…we’ve had a few words about the milk jug and how it’s not for him to dab his paw into ….he thinks otherwise and my fingers are now all scratched to tell the story.

As I mentioned at the top there’s been a couple of minor mistakes, nothing some quiet time couldn’t mend, and where as before it would all have been unravelled, I’m learning more and feel confident to take a step back, study my knitting and think “what the bue blazes is wrong here”….however yesterday there was a bit of a melt down moment…I’d just started knitting the edge section, and the boyfriend was talking to me and I had stitches on both needles, stood up went over and found what he was looking for, and then when I sat back down thought something didn’t look right….I think I’d knitted 2 stitches together (on purpose non knitting readers) but had caught up part of the stitch below (not what I had wanted to do) so I un-knitted but then in trying to fix my stitches I thought I’d dropped some stitches so was picking up all over the place then realized the yarn was still like 3 or 4 stitches back on the left needle…..I had no idea what I’d done or whether everything was now “ruined…I’m so stupid…it’s all ruined”…

The next hour saw the biggest strop, tears in the kitchen and a wobbly voiced phone message to my friend Anne (she knits me socks so I call her Queen of Knitters…she’s been knitting since she was 5, when she was 12 knitted herself a jumper while watching the 1966 World Cup when England won….I think she’s brilliant and though we met only about 5 years ago by happenstance she’s become one of my dearest friends)…then I had a bath (a few more tears and sniffly noses)…..and I calmed down…..and thought to look at a few of my favourite knitty instagramers…..

then I saw this…..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwmfP0PNOLg……….   Totally brilliant, very funny and I had to play it a couple of times so I could sing along to it……then spoke to Anne and she said if I’d dropped a stitch I’d have a ladder…didn’t have one so she advised counting all the stiches, knitting back and if I wasn’t able to fix it she’s come round at the weekend……another listen to Stephen West…..felt my knitting mojo returning and then carefully counted the stitches on the left needle (which hadn’t been played about with), then really looked at the rest of the knitting, tracing up to where the stitches form and I saw where something looked a bit not quite right…..unknitted up to that point and with a crochet hook and a piece of string acting as a lifeline (just in case)…picked up dropped the offending lump on my needle…….gave the knitting a gentle little tug and no ladder……so I hadn’t dropped a stitch at all but had created one while scrabbling about getting stitches on to my needles…then I knitted everything back and you wouldn’t have known there had been an upset just an hour or so earlier……..

So thank you Anne for your wonderful knitty advice and thank you Stephen West for making me laugh and reminding me I’m not a waffle or a quitter. (I’m just waiting now to put on my shawl and do a twirl)

It’s beginning to feel a lot like…….

A stocking for Charlie

I’ve spent the past couple of days quietly playing Christmassy music while I update my Folksy shop with Christmas stockings….and while it’s still too early for Johnny Mathius to be playing, I’m happy to listen to a little Enya* and Kate Bush** to help me feel a bit more seasonal…..

One of my favourite things I’ve made over the past few years have been these Christmas stockings…originally I made wee ones for my sisters and mum, filling them with a variety of old style gifts, walnuts, a handful of quality street, chocolate coins, a tiny bottle of Baileys, satsumas, a couple of hand made presents squished in there too….but I also make these proper big ones which if you’re little you can almost wiggle right down to the bottom of.

Kornelias stocking

These are some commissions that I had last year, Charlie’s stocking went off to Ireland, and Kornelia’s went to Norway.

ivos finished stocking

This one was made as a gift for our friends Adam and Goska, Ivo was the latest addition to their family of poppets….(I’m waving a big hello to Saski and Hania at this point….I think Hania can eat more pink smarties than anyone else I’ve ever met)

All the embroidery on the stockings is sewn by hand using a selection of tapestry wools.  The applique is all stitched too (yep, even those pink cheeks are sewn not glued)…I only use pure wool felt, the colours are lovely and soft and the felt itself is much nicer to work with.

little pink stockings

These are probably my favourite ones….I really like the small size, I think they’re ideal for filling with little things to keep anyone who wakes up too early entertained while you go and get the kettle on….crayons, tiny colouring books, a couple of chocolates or a satsuama….and I’ve checked, they’re also a perfect fit for posh bottles of scent or those little boxes that are lined in velvet and which have something expensive and twinkly inside.

stockings for the boys 005

These stockings were made for my friend Debbie’s two nephews Kielan and Nate…..I like to incorporate the soft stripes at the top of the vintage blanket but then I try not to overwhelm with too much applique…even for me, sometimes less is more.

All the stockings are fully lined using either recycled or vintage fabrics….

When I have a big pile of these on my table, embroidery wools and scraps of wool felt around me, I feel a bit like an extra from Santa’s workroom (I’m sorely tempted to make myself a hat like the elves wear in Elf….)

Christmas Dec 2nd 019

I’ve also made them for friends who like vintage things…it’s not hard to put together a nice present that doesn’t cost the earth (literally and for your purse)……admittedly the book didn’t quite fit but everything else fitted in fine, along with a little bottle of “Christmas Spirit”, nuts and a satsuama.

The first of the Christmas fairs where you can find me is a two day weekend event at Norwich Assembly House on 28th and 29th of November, on the 5th December I’ll be at Chantry Hall in Norwich for the Green Party Christmas Fair, and on the 12th December I’ll be at Norwich Arts Centre for the Clutter City Fair (and my friend Sasha who makes the wonderful toys will also be there, she’ll also be at Glory Days in Holt on the 28th November with a selection of toys, bunting and cushions.)

cat napping

And a quick picture for my friend Celine…here is your darling Bernard…he was my little assistant yesterday though he seemed to spend most of the time just napping, gently snoring and thankfully no trumpety tunes from his bottom.

*Enya …And Winter Came

**Kate Bush…50 Words for Snow

While the lark is still sleeping and the sheepy scent of my knitting……

I missed a psso

For the past week I’ve been waking at five, “up like the lark” but I suspect quite this early the lark will still be sleeping if it has any sense…. quickly pulling on as many layers as possible (we’ve not put the heating on yet so the house is a bit nippy) and then I creep down the stairs trying not to step on Bernard or trip up as he runs down the stairs along side me, it’s bad enough in the daytime when I can see properly…..I try not to turn too many lights on while my boyfriend is still sleeping…I light the gas under the kettle and the day’s first pot of tea gets made, then it’s into the front room, make myself comfy on the sofa, big shawl goes round me and Bernard then jumps up and squidges himself next to me on a cushion I have to plump and lay flat for him, he sort of tunnels under the shawl so its half pulled off me and covers him so he looks like a little grandma but as long as he’s happy….then I pick up my knitting and lose myself for the next couple of hours in the gentle, rhythm of making stitches ……

two shades of yellow

The absolute joy and feeling of contentment I’m finding in this early hours knitting is worth the first few minutes of feeling cold and a bit sleepy eyed…if I sneakily try and fit in a few hours in the day time for knitting I feel a bit guilty as that’s my allotted time for making items for craft fairs and commissions, but these early morning moments belong to no-one but me.  If I make a mistake I don’t get fraught, stitches are un-knitted back to where yo’s didn’t happen or they happened in the wrong place….it’s all good practise and I’m becoming more familiar with how my stitches are supposed to look,

This is my knitting time, no music or background noise apart from odd sounds the house makes while it’s quiet….it’s good for allowing the jumble of ideas in my head a quiet place to settle and sort themselves, shift and slowly come together……I tend to always keep a little notebook nearby to jot down new thoughts, scribbles and thumbnails, not all of them will be made but jotting them down allows space for more that may…….

Auld Gold joins Scotch Broom

To me, progress on the Open Sky shawl is going remarkably well….however I’m all too aware I’m not a fast knitter but I’m getting better and can now knit while a film is on…before it was only with quiet or gentle music…..nothing too rocking or stitches would fall rather than fly off my needles…..there’s been a few mistakes and I’ve unknitted a few rows…..sometimes it’s easy to see what I’ve done….I’d missed a pass one over (or what I think of as a leap frog stitch) and had knitted over the row before realizing my mistake….the stitch count was off and I slowly, carefully counted along and then saw what I’d done, so the top row was un-knitted then I marked with a piece of spare tapestry wool where I’d erred….at first I thought I was going to have to unknit half that row too but then thought about how the psso was formed, felt a bit foolish for un-knitting half a row before that I hadn’t needed to, and managed to fix the mistake…….seeing how the stitches sit is much easier on the cable between the needles and I’m rapidly loving knitting on circular needles……at the moment I’m in the process of buying a few odd interchangeable needles and cables, testing out which ones feel most comfortable before buying a fancy set.

Auld Gold and Scotch Broom

Once the Scotch Broom wool from Jamieson’s of Shetland had ran out I joined in the what I think of as Auld Gold from Jamieson and Smith…the most noticable difference (apart from a change in colour which I’m fine with…it just makes me think more of the different colour lichens I see on our walks, or the pastures of yellow and gold in the Summer…) is the scent.  A warm sheepy wonderfulness sits like a mist or a fog over my knitting…and as I fold and wrap over my knitting once the sun is up, then the smell permeates the first wool….

I wasn’t 100% sure how to join the wools together so I sort of felted them (I tried using a bit of spit and rubbing them in my hand but that didn’t really work so I used a dab of Ecouver laundry liquid and a little warm water and rubbed and twisted for a minute or so then let the wool dry…..it’s a little bit fatter where the two wools join together but once it’s knitted in I think it looks fine and you can’t really see where the joins are….there are flecks of other yellows and gold in the Scotch Broom and while on one hand I wish I’d had more of that for the whole scarf, I am loving using the Jamieson and Smith wool so much…I keep smelling it, sticking my nose right in to the centre of a ball and inhaling, closing my eyes and just drifting off into sheepy scented bliss…..this is real wool…..

I like the bands of pattern between the stocking stitch

Actually it’s my experience with using this wonderful, tactile and gloriously scented wool that has got me to re-think completely any future wool purchases…..you can blame all this on the latest Knitsonik post...I got so excited and all inspired and fired up after reading what Felix had written…it fitted in so much with how I’d been feeling after knitting with the Jamieson and Smith wool…I guess I’d only been thinking about that first touchy wonderful softness of wool without giving any of the rest of it much thought…..(when I’ve crocheted I’ve used brightly coloured acrylic* for granny square blankets, or vintage tapestry wool, when I made Tif’s warm and woolly scarf last year it was with more fancy wools** but though they were soft were sadly completley scentless)…….over the past few days I’ve been reading as much as I can…about Wo-vember and knitting with British breeds, along with a post by Rachel Atkinson that made me so furious and heartbroken all at the same time…. this just can’t be right.

Although I’ve not been doing it for long, I’ve fallen pretty hard for knitting….(even think my beloved one is liking it as I’m not dropping any pins on the carpet for him to stand in)….it’s such a beautiful tactile world of delights for the senses…wool looks so beautiful, even the simplest stocking stitch looks gorgeous with real wool, stroke your fingers over it and there’s a whole world of delicate pleasures for your fingertips…or drape what you’re knitting around your shoulders…warm and wooly and safe and comforting…..the sound of knitting, whether it’s that low, deep like a cat purr sound of wooden needles or a lighter clickety click of metal needles, the coarse swoosh of wool being pulled up from the ball and onto your needles….and the scent…..when it’s sheepy it’s eye closingly wonderful…….

I’m currently trying to source what I think of as “prapah lohcol woohl” (my Suffolk accent now tinged with Norfolk) so I can join in the British breed swatch along with wool both British and local.

* I’ve never had much joy knitting with acrylic, it’s so squeeky and I end up knitting it so tight.  I’ve found it better for crochet blankets for little nieces that can be thrown in the wash if they get dirty…but my palete is getting more refined and even for crochet I now prefer using wool…tapestry wool is a cheap option if your’e making blankets.  I’m always seeing bags of it in charity shops and vintagey tit tat junk shops…do check for moth though a lot is “moth treated” apparently…..

** I used some balls of Rowan tweed that I’d had left over from some other projects and some Artesano dk wool that was like a woolly cloud.

On birthdays and grey hairs, wrinkles and knitting, baking bread and getting covered in cow lick.

the blanket inspector strikes again

So another year older, not so sure I’m any the wiser…though maybe learning to knit new stitches should count.  It was my birthday on Sunday and where I’d planned an extra long laze in bed, what with the clocks changing and all, I ended up waking really early, crept down the stairs and made a pot of tea and spent a few quiet hours on the sofa knitting…at some point Bernard jumped up along side me and cuddled right up with his paws and head on my knee (he loves the sheepy smell of the Jamieson and Smith wool, and to be fair so do I).  As it was a bit chilly I’d got a shawl wrapped round me that I bought from a nice boutique in Norwich about 11 years ago (it’s a Noa Noa one and it’s so soft and drapey and lovely…I should wash it but it smells so familiar and comforting, fancy bottled scens and woodsmoke, incense and me I guess….anyway, Bernard managed to tunnel himself under it as he cuddled along side nudging me right into the corner…I don’t know which of us looked more like a little old granny…him or me.

Auld Gold and Scotch Broom

After a couple of hours I remembered about the clock change, and where I thought I’d got up at 6, I’d in fact got up while the lark was still sleeping….but I really enjoyed those quiet hours while the house was still sleeping, just the soft tinkle of stitch markers on my needles, the slow swooosh (like the quietest corduroy thigh rub) of the wool being pulled out of the ball, the warmness of Bernard half in my lap all purrs and deep rumbles while he sleeps, together mixed in with the scent of the wool.  The sheepy scent is so warm and drowsy feeling (not really making me lose my count like the Shetland Heather….though I know that’s just me blaming the wool for my inability to concentrate…)…my knitting is soft and is such a pleasure to keep touching…..when I lift it up to admire my work so far, I can’t help but think of Tom Tit Tot (you may know him as Rumplestiltskin)….it’s like the wool is slowly turning into gold.  It helps that my wool is lichen coloured, all mustardy and auld gold, but it’s not hard to see where that story comes from (especially if you’ve ever seen flax whipped and beaten and then spun…if you haven’t then it’s in one of the excellent Ruth Goodman Farm documentaries….I think it’s in the Tudor one…)

natural leaven and yeast bread

I had such a nice birthday, very leisurely and where once I would have wanted to go out, party, be a bit wild, I was more than content to dawdle and potter about at home, do a little knitting, make the sponge for bread, put meringues in the oven (oh my goodness, I’ve been making the nicest meringues…when I was making the ice-cream in the Summer I put the left over egg whites in little bags and popped them into the freezer. Then when I want meringues*, which is a lot of the time as it’s one of the few puddings I can really eat anymore, I just take a bag out of the freezer the night before, that way the whites de-frost and also come to room temp, then it’s just whizz whizz whizz so the whites are fluffed up, add some sugar and cream of tartar, a splash of cider vinegar and then into a cool oven….open the door and you’re greeted by billowy clouds of beautiful meringues, crisp and golden on the outside, all gooey deliciousness inside)…..

october o

The weather was perfect, a little bit nippy but after a wet old Saturday, Sunday was sunshiney and bright, so we went for a good walk over the marshes and common, the cows were out in two different fields which made me happy as I’m a cow cuddler, I love cows (and always say I should have married a farmer…) and happily rub noses and scritch behind ears, pat necks and tell them how beautiful they are…there was a couple of younger cows who stuck their tongues out, hesitantly licking my fingers and then nudging me when I had stopped skritching…one russety flamed coloured fellow (I could have taken him home he was such a darling) was so friendly, he had the palest pink nose with a tongue to match and after he’d licked my fingers and hands, started on my tights so at that point I thought it time to go wander back home as I was getting a bit covered with his runny old nose…..While I’m there fussing and coasing them, the boy stands a good distance away….he’s very wary of farm animals where I love being around them having grown up in the the countryside, not on a farm but I was used to them being in fields near our house….though to be fair if it was a field of geese I’d avoid them like the plague….I don’t really care for them as they properly give me the willies. (I was chased by geese as a little girl until my dad came to the rescue, swinging me way up, high above his head, then sitting me safely down onto his shoulders…my hero.)

crocheted cosy

Then home for lunch and an afternoon of pots of fancy tea, Miss Marple films (the Margaret Rutherford ones…she’s my Miss Marple of preference…I know she’s very different from how Miss Marple is in the books, but I love her so much, she’s one of my favourite actresses)…knitting and a small box of geranium, lavender and rose cream chocolates within easy reach by my side…..although I’ve not had a tasting for chocolate for ages I still love these delicate floral fondants…there is a lovely Chocolate ship in the Royal Arcade in Norwich, called Digby’s Fine Chocolates…..the ladies there are lovely especially Anne and Jean. A couple of years ago one of my birthday presents was to go there and chose my own chocolates….picking them out one by one…all my favourites and a few chosen for the boy who oddly isn’t a fan of the floral creams….then having them to eat while I spent the weekend sprawled on the sofa, crochet or sewing in hand watching Cagney and Lacey……heaven…..the smell of bread baking in the kitchen and wafts of sheepyness from my knitting mixing together for warm homey happiness.

grannies paperweigh scarf

So a few more wrinkles, certainly there’s a few more grey hairs…at some point I reached the age where dyeing my hair was no longer about colouring my what I look back and think was actually perfectly lovely chestnutty brown hair but at the time I thought the very height of “bor-ing” into exciting blacks and henah reds (I was 15 and couldn’t be told any different)…..but now has become about holding back the grey for another year or so….I don’t really mind them but colouring the grey makes me happy, I don’t do it for anyone else…..and wrinkles….well I don’t think I look like my mum in the slightest, (she’s very petite and I’m more like an old cart horse, tall with what I’m told are “good child bearing hips)….I take after my dad, I’ve got his eyes, his whole colouring really, and I share the same lower face, chin, jaw-line and mouth as one of my younger sisters….which when I looked at an old family photograph, is something we’ve both inherited from my dad’s mum’s mum….we never knew her, she died years before I was born….I wonder if it’s something my Nanny ever thought about when she saw us growing up “well that’s mother’s face….” we also have the same forehead, the same frowns and expression when we’re concentrating….but I have my mum’s wrinkles…just under my cheeks, just up from my mouth…they lay like a soft mist, a veil of cobwebs just past the corners of my mouth, when I smile or laugh I know they’re there, I see them when I look in the mirror and pull faces as I apply make-up or face creams…it’s been odd to see those lines appear a little more pronounced over this Summer…everything else about us is quite different..but wrinkles are a common bond, like a map of footpaths and ley lines showing where and who  I’m from…

*I like the Sarah Raven recipe from her Garden Cookbook…perfection everytime.