My stay at home Norwich Yarn Festival…..

 

 

norfolk yarn windowA few weeks ago it was Edinburgh Yarn Festival and although I would have loved to have gone and join in all the fun and community and yarn squishing it wasn’t something I was able to do, so rather than sit at home and feel in the doldrums I decided to have my very own little celebration of yarn…a bit of a stay-cation crossed with a festival at home….it all coincided rather nicely with one of my local yarn shops (the very nice Norfolk Yarn) running a stranded colourwork/Fairisle knitting class on March 11th…ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved the look of this style of knitting, but never thought it would be something that I could actually do….however this past year or so has seen my knitting come on in leaps and bounds…. personally I’d still call myself a beginner, but an adventurous one and I’ll pretty much rush in where angels fear to tread….so when I saw the sign for the class I thought “yes please” and booked in…… then ,as it all tied in nicely with the dates for EYF I decided to have my own “festival at home”….really this was just a good excuse to buy a couple of books I’ve wanted for ages and perhaps order some new yarn and needles…….

This is the window of Norfolk Yarn at the moment, I love the blanket and those crocheted bobbles inspired me when I finished off my crochet blanket…..

my norwich yarn fest

A book I’ve really wanted even before I could properly knit was Yokes by Kate Davies, I love the patterns and am very much of the opinion that it does you the world of good to look at things to inspire you to get better at something, a bit like a woolly carrot dangling in front of you…..I think the hardest thing is going to be which to cast on first but there are a couple that I keep turning back to look at……

The purple knitting was some travel knitting, something to do on the bus and to have in my lap while drinking a coffee (more of this another day as it was some of my gift knitting which will be it’s own blog post) I’m finding that I like to start off most of my knitting on wooden needles, I love the way they feel and also I find small cables want to curl up under my chin which these long needles don’t do….

I’ve used West Yorkshire Spinners Aire Valley dk in the past to knit squishy socks for my boyfriend and I really feel it’s about time I made some for me…this yarn is slightly thicker as it’s aran weight but it was reduced and I like these bright colours….In case you’re at all interested you can find a nice simple pattern for aran/worstead weight socks just here…these make lovely comfy house socks and I think if you used a softer, fancier yarn then you could make some beautiful bed socks (I’m thinking to make some with eyelets around the cuff, then thread ribbon through them)….this yarn was purchased from The Crafty Ewe which is brimming full with a really wide selection of yarns, needles and books for every pocket…(they also sell KA needles which my friend Claire uses, (I totally trust her needle suggestions, so I’ve recently bought some of their dpns to try out and they are as smooth as William Powell in The Thin Man films… I can certainly see myself buying more in the future….)

Along with the yarn I also bought a packet of Hiya Hiya bamboo tips from The Crafty Ewe and a packet of Knit Pro wooden tips from Norfolk Yarn…..although I have plenty of metal tips I find I like the feel of wooden/good quality bamboo ones more…..

The Colman’s Mustard postcard is a nod and a wink to my lovely friend Eva in Italy, I noticed a Colman’s Mustard tin on her bookshelf in an instagram picture she shared, and Norwich is after all home to Colman’s…

Both yarn shops are located very centrally in Norwich and are just a few minutes walk of each other, Norfolk Yarn is on Pottergate near Head in The Clouds, and Crafty Ewe is just up past The Guildhall…..

stranded colourwork rowan tweed

The workshop on the Saturday was much easier than I was expecting it to be, I still need to work on my tension and not pull the strands too tight but on the whole I was pretty impressed with what I was able to do (I know I sound like a right old head swell saying this, but I really was pleased with these and to say otherwise would be silly)…..the yarn we used in the class was a Rowan one and while I know a lot of people do like this yarn it didn’t do a lot for me, I think I like those wilder yarns with a bit more baa ram ewe to them, all Gabriel Oak with a little Heathcliffe on the side….however the colours were very pretty even though I know the ones I chose are too similar in tone……

I managed to knit about a quarter to a third of one fingerless mitt in class and then finished it and it’s twin off at home during the week….they are lovely and warm to wear though I think now it’s all sunshiney I’ll be tucking them away until the Autumn…

The workshop was very well priced as it included materials including yarn, a pair of needles to keep and cups of tea and coffee….

 

my own yarn fest

I also made a few other “festival at home” purchases….I ordered some yarn from Isla at Brityarn,  because I knew I was doing the stranded knitting class and thought it would be nice to then have some sticky Shetland yarn to play with (and if I’d gone to EYF I would definitely have made a bee-line to the Jamieson and Smith stall )…..last year I bought this fabric and think it would be interesting to try and match the colours for a pair of mittens or wrist warmers to start with….I was really inspired by the Knitsonik Colourwork Sourcebook which I’ve mentioned here before, not just as a very inspiring resource book for knitting, but I’ve used some of Felix’s ideas and suggestions with my crochet, embroidery and patchwork…and as Isla is totally awesome she’s also ordered in some other colours of the Jamieson and Smith yarn so I’ve since been able to match the lighter pink in the above print….

knitting goddes yarn

The other book I’d really been wanting to buy was The Book of Haps, and I think my first cast on will be the Houlland Hap by Donna Smith, this book was just waiting to come back into stock when I did my workshop at Norfolk Yarn but I was able to pick it up the following week (which meant my yarny “festival at home” was able to last a bit longer….I’ve got some beautiful yarn my big sister bought me for Christmas and think that would suit the Houlland hap really well, but I’d also like to try knit it with yarn that I’ve hand spun…oh, but telling you all about that will need to wait for another day….

I’ve mentioned The Knitting Goddess several times before, I love the way she colours yarn and I was lucky enough to test swatch some of the St Kilda yarn she dyed for Blacker Yarns last year….when I saw she had released another limited palette which included this mid blue green I decided to buy two skeins as I want to knit a fancy shawl to take away with me on an equally special holiday in September….. Buying this yarn I was able to support my favourite yarn company and favourite dyer, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to thank them both personally for all their hard work in creating beautiful yarns and sumptous colours.

rob's handknit jumper

Another highpoint of EYF after seeing all the amaing pictures popping up on Instagram is wowing at all the wonderful handknits that people wear…..and I was even able to participate a little in this…..when I went to buy some vegetables on the market that Friday, lovely Rob from Folland Organics had his coat open and a peek of handknit was on show, so after kindly taking off his coat on what was quite a nippy morning, he let me take a picture of it….what is so nice (and not just becuase I really like the pattern and colours) is that this was knitted by his wife’s granny for her husband, and once he died the jumper was passed onto Rob….I love that there is a real sense of family and love in all those stitches, and how this didn’t just end up going to the charity shop…..I love the warm almost toasty and chocolate hue of the brown, and Rob said it’s super warm and cosy to wear.

devonia

And then, when I thought all the yarn excitement was over, this beautiful braid of John Arbon Devonia fibre arrived as a “sorry you didn’t get to come to EYF” present from the awesome Meg who writes a very interesting blog called Mrs M’s Curiosity Cabinet …. this is a real deep and eerie underwater green yet somehow makes me imagine those huge forests from the dawn of time in dinosaur films …It looks like a huge piece of green apatite quartz with those deep pine tree hues all swirled alongside silvery slate and gunsmoke……. Along with this stunning fibre Meg also sent me one of her beautiful handmade notebooks which is even fountain pen paper friendly inside… and while there is still a way for me to go with my handspinning before I dare spin this, tiny ideas at the back of my mind are thinking to try and find some knitting patterns inspired by Devonian fossils…thank you again so so much Meg, your kindness and thoughtfulness just blows my breath away.

I know this post was all about knitting, and that not everyone knits so hopefully it won’t have been too boring, but I think most people who read my blog craft in some way or another, and so will know about other festivals, and events, perhaps Quilting ones or The Knitting and Stitch show, which again might not be possible for everyone to travel to, having a “Festival at Home” is very easy to do and can be tailored to whatever your interest or hobby, and it means you can support local to you shops, especially if they are having a workshop that weekend where you can learn something new or perhaps support favourite vendors that you know would have been at the official do/show etc…. I know it’s not the same as going to the bigger shows, especially whre meeting up with friends is all part and parcel of the enjoyment, but at least it still feels like you’ve participated in a little way, especially when you can compare yarny or fabric purchases on Instagram.

 

 

A little bit of seasonal pottering in the kitchen and a round up of our favourite Yuletide recipes…..

almond biscuits 005

I know not everyone likes pottering about in the kitchen but I’ve always enjoyed using my time in there to mark the seasons…we try to eat seasonally with our vegetables and I find my baking or jam making shifts accordingly too…..I’m always happy to try out new recipes but over the past some years I find myself returning to the following tried and trusted recipes, which for us, have become a big part of our seasonal celebrations….I’m currently writing up a selection* of our favourite recipes as part of a Christmas/New Year present for some friends that live a really long way away which means we only get to see them very occaisonally… (I thought they could add to what we send with favourite recipes from their family)….I’ve gone through the things we like the most and thought I’d round them all up and put links to them here tooo which makes it easier to share them with other people too….

Citrussy almond biscuits…..(light and delicate and all citrussy, these aren’t only nice and refreshing but if you get a gippy tummy at all or wake up a bit nauseus due to overindulging rather the night before then they seem to very good at helping to calm down the flutters)

marmalade 006

While you probably won’t see the seville oranges pre Christmas, for some reason I always think of this as a Christmas make…..the smell of those oranges is so wonderful and fresh…just watch out for little bears who may want you to make them a sandwich…..

A slow simmering marmalade…..

gingerbread man 003

You can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man…sticky and dark or crisp and biscuitty…I love both versions of gingerbread…the spicier the better….

dark and sticky…slowly filling the house with good smells while it bakes….

crisp and biscuitty…good for building houses and cutting little figures from…

homemade mincepies

I love mincemeat, the smell of it wafting up throughout the house while the fruit is simmering away on the stove is such an evocative Christmassy smell….while I have a really silly amount of different recipes for making it, these are the two I find I use more than any other…..

mincemeat made with cider…..

mincemeat made with vegetable suet….

breakfast buns

And I don’t just save mincemeat for the mince pies….. a good old dollop or two of mincemeat makes for an instant fruity loaf if you fancy baking some bread, and if you enrich the dough with butter milk and eggs you can easily make a sort of panettone style mufffin…..I also like adding a heaped spoonful or two of mincemeat into a plum or apple crumble……

It also works well in this recipe for fruity breakfast buns…..so good with salty butter and a smear of dark jam…..but you could also use it in a dough mix for hot cross bun style buns…..

And if you have bits of pastry left after making any mincepies then this recipe for tiny spiced biscuits makes use of every last scrap……

cinnamon swirl biscuits…..

Hope you enjoy baking and cooking these as much as we do……….

*The book will include recipes that we regularly cook and bake such as casseroles and breads, cakes etc but will also include recipes for jams and jellys, furniture polish and hand salves…..

Vintage knitting and getting all inspired by some charity shop finds…..

charity shop knitting bag

I’ve mentioned before my love of second hand shops and bricety brac markets, while I normally regard general shopping with a deep sigh, I can always be persuaded to stick my head around the door of a charity shop and will happily spend several hours if I’ve got the time to spare.  I’m really lucky because Norwich has umpteen charity shops and while they aren’t as good as when I first moved here they can still turn up gold……  a case in point, I bought this gorgeous knitting bag for the princely sum of £2 a month or so ago….. it’s made really beautifully, fully lined inside with a very Autumnal gold fabric.  I thought the little star stitch detail worked over where the granny squares join up was particularly eye catching….and while I’ve got various fabric project bags which are home to needles and wips, I’m always particualry fond of this style of bag.

vintage knitting books

Lately one of the Oxfams (Norwich has at least 3 to my knowledge) has had a fantastic selection of knitting and sewing books….I bought some vintage sewing books at the start of the Summer and then last week when I went in I found these gems…..the cover of the Modern Knitting is a bit worse for wear but inside it’s in top condition (with the prettiest end papers) and there is a whole section on knitted underwear, including the best photshoot of three gorgeous and glamourous young ladies all kitted out in knitted drawers and camisole tops…the weather was really hot and scorchy so the thought of knitted knickers made me laugh out loud (I’ve noticed that this year’s Shetland Wool Week Annual will have a pattern for a beautiful Shetland spencer so while I’d be happy to knit one of those I’m not so sure about the lower undies)

The other book is a great little pamphlet full of rather cheesy knits but you know what, there’s more than a couple that I’d like to cast on, and the instructions all seem reasonably easy so perhaps I’ll try out a couple and share on here for fun.

Montse Stanley book

I’m currently taking part in Joeli Creates Designer’s Bootcamp, it’s a free on-line workshop and runs for 12 weeks…it’s now about 2/3 of the way through but you’ll get the previous emails that she’s already sent out so you can soon catch up.  There’s also a weekly question and answers session which is live.  While it’s probably really geared towards people who want to create patterns to publish and sell, the advice she gives has been really helpful and she’s so full of little tips and thoughts for making your knitting even better….I’m really enjoying it and think she’s been very generous to offer it free.

While I’m not particularly interested in creating something to publish however, so often now when I’m going for a walk over the marshes or meadows, having a poke about the hedgerows to see how the Autumn berries are ripening, I’m being inspired and would love to know how to incorporate some of that into my knitting or to work out what I need to do to cast on some of the things that are in my head, sort of “where on earth do I begin” and so Joeli’s Workshop has been particularly helpful in helping me make sense of some right tatty old scribbles and sketches.

And then in Oxfam, I saw this book on one of the bottom shelves of the charity shop…it felt more than a little heaven sent… I love Montse Stanley, she’s very thorough in her descriptions and I’ve got one of her other books which I find helpful for explaining particular techniques.   While some of the photos inside are rather dated with scary children, the information is great and I enjoy reading how she writes (she doesn’t waffle on and is straight to the point).

What’s so nice about the book is how it explains really clearly about putting a design together, from considering stitches and yarns to the shape of what you’re knitting…there’s a nice section on different buttonholes. She then shows a range of different styles of garment details including body, neckline,sleeve, collar and then along side them is a clearer diagram explaining what you need to consider to knit that shape. There is also a guide on where you need to take measurements for a garment  and whether you need to add an allowance for ease…..it’s very well written and was mine for £2.50.

 

 

 

Vintage sewing reads from the charity shop……

McCalls sewing book

After having both my head and heart proper turned over the past some months by the joys of knitting, the last few days have seen me pottering about in my work room, mostly it’s involved tidying up, sorting out, but there’s also been some sewing…..One area of tidying that needed to be taken in hand were my needlework books, they’d started to spread out around the house, a small pile here, another few there… so I tried to gather them up all into one place…there’s been a couple of new additions to the sewing reference library, they’re all oldies but goldies.

On Friday I saw 3 different editions in just one charity shop of this classic, it’s such a great book and was one of the very first sewing books I ever bought. There’s a few different printings but it’s pretty much the same information inside each time. It’s a really great book for beginners and it also has plenty of information for more confident sewers too.  As well as explaining how to draft (draw up and design) a pattern it then explains how the garment is put together, with chapters covering pockets, collars and a a very thorough easy to follow section on button-holes.

Clothes by Margaret G Butler

A little while back  I bought the More Dress Pattern Designing by Natalie Bray, I’d already bought the Dress Pattern Designing book by her years ago and had been on the look out for the sequel ever since but it’s one of those books that is hard to find or is really expensive…I must confess to a squeal of happy when I spotted it on the shelf of a local charity shop, an absolute bargain at £1.99…….it might seem a bit daunting to a beginner at first look but it’s certainly worth buying it if you see it cheap… all Natalie Bray’s books are so well written and as they were first written in the sixties there’s plenty of “vintage” lines/shapes to the pattern drafting.

Possibly a more easy to follow book for a beginner is Clothes by Margaret G Butler…(this is a 1975 copy) inside it’s full of helpful information about fabrics, threads, patterns, how to cut out, how to lay patterns on fabric….the chapter on zips and buttonholes is especially well written and has plenty of clearly drawn illustrations with easy to follow instructions….it’s handy to have if you’re working from a commercial pattern and aren’t really sure of some of the techniques…there is also a nice section at the back of the book about how to care for your clothes including laundering and repairs.  There’s no photos  so it doesn’t feel dated and the information inside is very sound.

vintage needlecraft books

Another two recent purchases (both bought for less than a posh coffee) was Mary Thomas’s Embroidery Book and Complete Needlecraft by Agnes M Miall.

The Mary Thomas book is such a wealth of embroidery know how, it dates from 1936.  The subject headings contain a bit of back ground information including some history and then the instructions on how to work the type of embroidery (it also includes quilting, patchwork and smocking) are very clear and easy to follow….there aren’t many photographs but it has lots of clean and well drawn illustrations.

Complete Needlecraft covers a much wider range of needlecrafts (including dressmaking, repairs, knitting and crochet) and has quite a lot of photographs (including a rather scary looking crochet bra) but no drawn illustrations. The copyright is 1945 and has a Book Production War Economy Standard brand inside, however it doesn’t read as make do and mend book in the slightest as there are suggestions for some rather swishy items inside.

 

Mary Thomas Knitting Patterns

Okay, I know this isn’t a sewing book but it’s another classic by Mary Thomas…..I nearly did a little dance of joy when I found this beautiful 1948 edition of Mary Tomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns…it’s very nicely written, pretty clear and reasonably easy to follow, but I must confess it was the charming illustrations that made me smile so much all the way up to the till with my money….my favourite and there are so many inside I love…( the stocking stitch /garter stitch illustration, the puppy with the un-ravelled knitting, the squirrels popping nuts into a stocking hanging onto a tree,the college professors having a quarrel over their knitting……) has to be this young girl winding her yarn off from the antlers of a reindeer…in real life it probably wouldn’t work but makes for such a sweet image…I’ve seen more modern day printings of the book for sale online but I don’t know if they have the illustrations in or not….

The knitting patterns are written out as well as having a little chart so if the instructions seem a bit complicated then the chart might make things a bit clearer….there’s also a very helpful texture index at the back which suggests some stitches which suit particular garments or knits..

zips and haberdasheries

One of my favourite past-times is having a nose around and poke about in odd corners and dusty boxes in charity shops or bric a brac shops, sometimes I come away all empty handed and that’s fine but other times I manage to pick up a gem, often for very little money and which becomes a much valued addition to my library or hoard of haberdasheries.  The above items were all sourced for very little money and generally I find the quality of older pieces to be a lot better than what I can  afford to buy new.

The zips were a real bargain, although I only bought one at first as I wanted to check for rust (because the zips were all in their original packaging it wasn’t possible to check without  undoing and tearing the cellophane) but it was all fine so the next week I went back and bought a few more….the zips are metal and the teeth are nice and strong.  They also run nice and smooth (which I was a bit concerned about at first)…the colours of the fabric are very nice…peacock, glen green, sage green are just some of the ones I ended up buying.

I prefer to do a lot of my sewing by hand and mostly use vintage Sylko Dewhurst thread as it’s such good quality, it’s brilliant for both hand sewing and machine sewing, the thread slips through the eye of a needle so easily.  While the above threads aren’t that brand, they are all still nice to use, and I’ll often use a finer cotton to use as a tacking thread….I also prefer using vintage needles as I find they are a bit stronger and seem to be finer, and sharper….

I love little packets of vintage bias binding, sometimes it comes with thread in a matching colour (not something companies tend to do nowadays)…depending what I’m sewing I might carefully wash and then press the binding before using it as sometimes it shrinks and then will make the seam it’s sewn to pucker up a bit…if what I’m making isn’t going to be washed then I don’t worry….

butons and trimmings

As well as having umpteen charity shops nearby I’m also lucky enough to have a wide circle of friends and family who’ll gift me bags of buttons, threads and sewing what nots…even my accountant has given me small bags of leather thonging and embroidery silks, bindings and lace trimmings…..I’d like to say everything is tidied away and is in it’s place…hmmm, for the most part that’s probably true but there are still little tins and and suitcases that hold an assortment of haberdasheries from all over….From time to time I like to empty a box of notions and doo dahs out onto my work table, more often than not I’ll find something I’ve forgotten all about and which can get me thinking about who these little treasures used to belong to…inspiring me with thoughts of a new dress or skirt….

 

 

 

Combining colours and when opposites attract….

selection of coloured grannies

Some time ago now, I wrote a post about how I go about choosing colours when I’m making quilts, crochets and embroideries…I always find it easier to go back to basics, and to think about the primary and secondary colours before giving any thought to how and why some combinations work and how others are a bit hmmppphh rather than “wow”.

colour wheel

Often before I start a project I make a colour wheel from all the  pieces of fabric using bits from the nearest scrap bag to hand…..with a couple of extra colours to the red,orange,yellow, green,blue,violet/purple…and that’s teal (bluey green) and pink…you wouldn’t normally get either one on a colour wheel as they’re tints  (pink being made by adding white to red, teal being created by adding white to bluey green) but pink is a tint/colour I find that I use a lot and personally think it combines well with most other colours.  I also like teal a lot as well.

green bow tie print star block

(Pink and yellow is a pairing I find myself using time and time again, but I also like pink with green for my patchworking, embroidery and even my wardrobe)…

mosaic 2

Thinking about it I like pink with just about every colour, about the only pink pairing I don’t like is with purple…..though orange can be a bit hmmm but it depends on the colour pink I use…..

contrary wife and others 011

I found by having a bit of a play emptying out a scrap bag or getting out a big selection of fat quarters* and making a colour wheel on the carpet, helps you to understand why certain combinations can look so good…it also helps you think about putting other colours together that you might not first think about.

variable star

I also like working with shades of the same colour,  especially where there’s lots of pattern in the fabric to compliment….the above block uses 3 different red prints….one is a bright lipstick red, one is a pinky red and one has red and pink together with highlights of blue…..while the pinks and reds used are different, they’re equal enough in tone to be pleasing to the eye…(if you took a black and white photocopy then the pinks would be one grey and the reds another)

garden square

Another example of using shades of the same colour is this little block….4 different fabrics are used, 3 which are blue based (one dark and two mid tones) then the other fabric which although has blue and pink in it is a “white” colourway of the print…..all the fabrics used are prints rather than solid colours as I prefer to work with those and often pick up tiny dabs of colours from one print and then work to match that with a contrasting fabric.

tulip print star

Analogous colours are when you pick colours that sit next next to each other on a colour wheel (such as red and orange, blue and green, blue and purple)…. There’s no jarring when you use them together, and they’re generally pleasing to the eye.

I tend to pick one stronger colour to be the main focus and then another to compliment it….the yellow print above is quite an intense colour, there are flecks of it in the floral print but the orange tulips are what the eye wants to focus on first.

gnarly tree bark and bluebells

You often find analogous colours together in nature which may be why they seem more restful to the eyes than colours that bounce off each other….(yellow and green daffodils or primroses…blue and green bluebell woods or forget me nots….)…when a blue and green look this stuning in real life then you know that when you pick these colours for embroidering or knitting or patchwork (or even a wardrobe choice) then that will look equally beautiful.

knitsonik book

I’ve mentioned the Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook several times before on my blog and it’s such an excelllent reference book for understanding colour choices, looking at depth of colour, lights and dark, creating movement that is needed for knitting (but which I find essential for patchwork too)…..and while I’ve yet to create any stranded knitting yet of my own (also known as Fairisle knitting) I’ve found it an incredibly helpful book to read regarding how I pick and chose colours for my patchworks….as an inspirational starting point it’s so good….it’s not a random book of pretty pictures (though many are really beautiful) Felix can see the beauty in patches of tarmac on the road or in Victorian brickwork, everyday things that often are overlooked……it’s the enthusiasm and encouragment that are found within the pages along with the colour theory and thoughtfulness about colour choices that help make this such a great book.

love in a mist

I know from past experinces that if I’m making ice-creams or am out picking blackberries and scarlet coloured haws, the colours I see in my kitchen or in the hedgerows (which then stain my fingers) soon crop up in my fabric choices…

corn beans and triplets 008

Sometimes my colour choices are suble, gentle tones that blend into one another… “the quilt police” would no doubt frown upon these as there’s not enough contrast, all light and no shade but I love that sun faded look these soft prints give…(generally speaking for a succesful patchwork, one where there’s a good overall balance, you do need plenty of contrast but time and time again I find myself favouring those lights…..and I’m never a great stickler to rules)

quarterfoils

Other times the contrast is there both in tone and pattern…a mix of delicate floral print combined with bold brighter hues…..

springtime inspired 002

I’ve not yet tried this with my knitting but I’ve enjoyed experimenting and playing with colour with my crochet…..I like using combining subtle shifts in colour and tone…..

crochet colourwork 005

…with swift changes that flitter back and forth…..

oooh my aching eyes....

Some combinations aren’t always so succesful but they only take seconds to rip out and start again…

A little exercise I find quite useful to do is to paint up a series of the same block (something simple like a churn dash or star), trying out one colour (or tint) with all the others……pink with red, green, blue, grey, orange and so on….different blues with purple,green,yellow,grey…..some you’ll love, some you’ll hate but I’m sure you’ll see some that you hadn’t thought would look all that but which are a very pleasant surprise….

*you could of course use wool, embroidery threads, tapestry wool but you might want to put a clean sheet down first as those tend to pick up carpet fluff a lot more than fabric.

Bread, books, socks and swatches…….

sesame and spelt

I’m none too sure what’s happened to the past week, it’s pretty much flown by without me knowing and I don’t feel I’ve got all that much to show for it….mostly I’ve been poodling, drafting up new patterns, mostly reworkings of pieces to go into my Folksy shop (hopefully they’ll be ready next week) but also I’ve spent a few minutes tinkering with a pattern for a dress based on a dirndl skirt I cobbled together a couple of years ago from a mustardy floral pair of curtains I’d bought at a car boot…the fabric was a bit faded near the hem but I didn’t mind that, it’s one of those nice and comfy skirts that I’d wear everyday given half the chance.  I don’t have a whole lot of tops that really go with it though so I thought to make a dress version which is why I spent an afternoon in the bathroom pinning bits of pattern cutting paper to my thermals (I do have a dress makers dummy but sometimes I find just pinning to me a bit easier) before drafting out something that hopefully will be wearable and which I can stash bust with……

garter toe sock

I’ve also been knitting more socks, well a sock…and if truth be told I don’t even have one of those properly finished to show as this was a test run to understand a new to me pattern….there is a sock knitting kal running over in the Joeli Creates group on Ravelry for knitting socks without nylon….my Shetland spindrift socks I made earlier in the year were knitted without nylon and are so warm that I really wanted to knit another pair of pure wool socks….though I didn’t want to just keep repeating the same pattern as I’d already made so I decided to try knit a pair of toe up socks…..lovely Julia (who knits truly beautiful socks) bought me this pattern for Christmas as part of a small gestures swop….Anne had already been round earlier in the year to explain short rows to me (I do seem to get on better with someone showing me and talking me slowly through a process then just reading about it)….anyway, this is my first attempt, the toe seemed a bit gapey at the sides so I un-ravelled it and had another go and second time it looked much better (not the fault of the pattern but me being a complete numpty and forgetting to wrap my stitches)….I used this yarn just as a tester “have a bit of a play” attempt, the real sock uses some beautiful homemade strawberry ice-cream pink Blacker Classsic woollen yarn I bought from Brit Yarn  (sadly this colour has now been discontinued but I’ve got enough for at least two pairs of socks)……it’s taking a few attempts as I keep turning the sock inside out as I knit it, I’m also finding it hard to start a section of pattern with a purl using dpns so I’ve unravelled again and am just waiting for a 9 inch circular needle to arrive in the post which hopefully will make knitting them a bit easier….

famous tales book

A couple of weeks ago I met up with my friend Debbie for a coffee and as I walked in to town quicker than I thought I would, I had a few minutes spare to have a browse in some charity shops I don’t tend to visit all that often, which I should really make the time to visit them as I nearly always find something of interest in them….I’ve mentioned my love of fairy tale and folk story books on here several times before so was very happy to find this one for a couple of pounds.  The illustrations are by a selection of artists…most of the pictures are quite small black and white drawings but there are also a handful of very pretty watercolours, a bit on the bright and gawdy side but I like them.

big book of knitting 1973

And I also bought this book which is such good reading…..it’s from the early seventies and all the things in the book have been made by Swiss children.  The pattern instructions are at times a bit sketchy and left up to you to decipher, so I think you’re supposed to have a certain mount of knitty know how…..but I just fell in love with those little blue booties and knitted pony on the front cover.

A scarf by Beatrice

The illustrations inside are rather miserable black and white photos which don’t do any of the knits justice but you can get an idea of what things are supposed to look like…..dotted throughout the book are these little letters and notes made by the children who’ve knitted the pieces…it’s interesting to read how young some of these knitters are, and also their notes on pattern making.  I don’t think I’m up to making everything in here but there are a couple of sock patterns I’d certainly like to knit, and I need someone to have a baby so I can knit those booties.

shetland heather swatch

More knitting news…..I’ve finished knitting the Unicorn shawl, which I made for Louise Hunt’s brilliant un-kal, it’s currently washed and blocking….I’d forgotten that tapestry wool is a bit rum smelling when it gets wet…it doesn’t smell anywhere near as nice as something sheepy and lanolin rich…..it’s had a couple of tentative pokes by Bernard but on the whole he’s leaving it alone, which is a good thing as the alpaca/silk wants to snag just looking at it.

I’m quite excited about what’s curently now on my needles though…my first ever cardigan….it’s the Ramona cardigan by Elizabeth Smith.  It’s knitted top down and has nice, clean and simple lines, nothing too fancy but enough to make me have to re-read the instructions and sigh little “pfhoo” noises when I’ve worked a row of increases and my number count of stitches is right…I’m not a quiet knitter and do seem to pfaff, pfhooo and rustle my pattern pages, scribble down notes and observations…tut and sigh as I realize I’ve made a right daft mistake…..initially I was planning to knit this in some beautiful Aran wool from Jamieson and Smith, and while I love the pattern and love the yarn, together….it wasn’t making my heart skip….but then I remembered the Shetland Heather wool I’d started to use for an Open Sky shawl……it’s a murky old grey brown, flecked with quite a cold, clear blue……doesn’t sound like much of a catch but when it’s knitted up in stocking stitch is very pretty….it makes me think of the sea when we used to go to Southwold or Dunwich…not for us the bright azure blue of the Mediterranean waters……there’s about two weeks in August where you can go to the beach without a cardigan or a jumper, the rest of the time, it’s a bit nippy and you need to wrap up, so I thought the pairing of the yarn with this pattern would be perfect.

I’ve learnt my lesson about not making a swatch so knitted up this big boy (just over 10 inches wide) and I couldn’t quite believe it but my tenson gauge is spot on….I washed and blocked it, allowed it a few days to dry nicely…..perfect.  I’ve had it pinned inside a dress and it’s not particulary scratchy, I know it’s there but it wasn’t unpleasant so now it’s all systems go.

fat paws

Weather wise the past week has been proper rubbish…the odd day or even hour of sunshine, and then just as we pull on boots and a coat to go for a walk, the heavens open and it pours down…sometimes rain, yesterday hail.  Loads needs doing in the garden but everywhere is muddy and wet……the birds for the most part are busy gathering up bits of what we call “garden fluff” (this is often bought into the house by Bernard, he rolls around and his fur hoovers up all sorts of muck which he then proceeds to drop all over the carpet and up the stairs)….I keep making trips out with handfuls of fleece* for the birds, I stick it in an old fat ball feeder which has a littel roof so it keeps pretty dry inside, and then go and sit and watch the tits pull it about for nesting.  It’s so much fun as they seem like they’re pulling the fibres ready to spin it…..they gather up huge beakfuls til they look like tiny Amish farmers and then they go flying off with their woolly beards.

natural shades and lichens

When the sun does actually make an appearance Bernard goes trotting down the path to find a patch of sunshine for some outdoors wriggling….often he mews until I go over and rub his tummy and depending on his mood (mischievious or tarty) he’ll purr and purr fit to burst or suddenly grab hold of my hand and fingers, holding on tight with his claws and teeth……

sun wriggling

He’s really showing off his very own Nature’s Shades here as he exposes his tummy….such a mass of Weetabix scented** fluffiness…..I love those splotches of lichen on the pathway underneath him, silver sage and mustard, white and gold……I’m really hoping at some point to use those soft subtle greys of Bernard as a starting point for some stranded knitting….what a great kal that would be….match the colours of your cat’s coat.

*I bought a load of fleece years ago or needle felting but figure the birds seem to make better use of it.

**I’m not sure why but his tummy really smells of Weetabix, but figure that’s way better to when he’s windy and musical of bottom.

When gobbledygook becomes understandable and dreaming of my knitting “one day when”…..

knitting up a dish cloth

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I’m not a particularly good or confident knitter, generally I find crocheting far easier, it seems so much simpler to un-ravel crochet and find my place again with a hook, than when I’m knitting…in the past there have been tears and a feeling of fraughtness, wanting to give up as I just can’t understand what the stitches are trying to do (or what I’ve done wrong)….

Some of my favourite blogs are by knitters, and when it all goes wrong and I’m un-ravelling yet again, I find myself looking at what they are creating, ….I never feel downcast or despondent by seeing some of the marvellous things they are knitting up, instead I feel inspired to try again, even if it’s just knitting a dishcloth.

However, like with all things, to get better involves practice and so I’ve been trying to knit for an hour or so each day.  Some years ago I bought a really nice book called “450 Knitting Stitches volume 2” (though it’s called volume 2, it’s the first volume covering a range of different stitches such as texture, cable and lace) and while I think this is a very helpful collection, it mentions stitches which I didn’t have the faintest how to knit.  I think volume 1 which explains techniques and stitches is out of print however I was able to pick up second hand the bumper sized “Harmony Guide to Knitting as a Creative Craft” (this is the first three volumes all in one big fat book)……I won’t say there’s been no stopping me but it certainly has helped me understand a bit better what I’m meant to do.

I find it easier to write out the pattern (in the knitting code) in my own hand writing as I seem to understand what the pattern is telling me to do better that way.  Lots of little pieces of paper are dotted about around the sofa where I’ve noted where I am in the pattern, what line I’m on…..

wool

So I’ve been practicing, making little samples and swatches of different patterns that take my fancy.

There’s two projects I’m trying to keep in mind, the first one is for a doily or decorative cloth for one of my sisters, I’d made her a dishcloth with the heart pattern in the centre and she’s decided it’s too pretty to be cleaning dishes and pans, and instead has it in her bedroom with a trinket box on top…I’ve told her to please use it and have promised to make her something a bit prettier for a bedroom.

And the second project involves this lovely Artesano wool I bought last year from my local knitting shop and I’d really like to use it to knit a scarf…(okay, ideally I’d like to knit it up into a big shawl but I think that’s a bit beyond me for now so will be happy with a scarf) I can sort of see it in my head, I’m thinking of something with a lacy pattern (though not too complicated as I’d like to wear it this year).

Alongside the wool are some of my Brittnay knitting needles…I love these so much.  They look beautiful and just feel so perfectly at home in my hands.  A few years ago I got very spoilt with a knitting shop voucher from my boyfriend’s parents and as it was a biggish birthday I really wanted to get something that would last and would be a nice keepsake so I bought a whole load of these knitting needles…I haven’t yet knitted anything to make the needles really proud or to do them justice, but I love holding them, and must admit to sometimes just sitting and imagining myself knitting wonderful things on them…..okay this is a good example of how daft I am..even before I can even knit properly I am worrying about knitting with circular needles, I hate metal needles (they make my fingers go cold very quickly) and the only wooden ones I’ve seen have been all swirly coloured, and even though I love colour,colour.colour, that swirly pattern gives me a headache.  I’ve seen them in shops and look at them and sigh…I feel like the king and the marmalade who only wants a little bit of butter for his bread…I only want a plain coloured wooden needle….

chevron rib sampler

This is the first of my samplers/swatches….this is called a “chevron rib” and I’ve knitted it using a linen yarn by Rowan (I bought it some time ago when John Lewis had a sale)….I really liked this pattern but felt it was a bit too loose and lacy for either of the projects.  The yarn itself feels lovely and light once it’s knitted, however I found it quite hard to knit, maybe I’m a bit of  a tight knitter as my needles kept poking through the yarn and I kept finding myself with more stitches on my needles than the pattern was saying I should have…..so there was a fair bit of un-ravelling and starting again.

At one point when the stitches were all wrong, I made the not to be repeated mistake of leaving it on the sofa while I made a pot of tea only to return to find Bernard had taken it upon himself to correct the mistake by un-ravelling it all.  (He’d only beaten me to it so I couldn’t be too cross).

eyelet panes sampler

This one is called “eyelet panes” and is pretty close to what I’m thinking of for my scarf, it’s not too lacy and it feels nice and squishy.  It’s another Rowan linen yarn and again I found it a bit hard to knit but I think it’s just me.  The pattern isn’t too pretty from the back so I’m trying out a few more swatchy testers before I start the scarf.

I like the names of the different stitches (I can’t help but think about the blocks I’m making for “dear ethel”) and was trying at first to look for stitches that had the most appealing names (not the most sensible way to chose a stitch) however I’m finding the ones that involve leaf and seed names (the scarf being for Autumn I wanted the stitches to be Autumny sounding) more than a bit tricksy.

all-over eyelets sampler

I changed from the linen to an organic wool by Rowan (another John Lewis sale purchase I’d ferreted away in a cupboard for sometime never)….and used a slightly larger needle…this stitch is called “all-over eyelets” and while it’s not what I want for my scarf I ‘m thinking it may be more suitable for my sister’s doily.

I think I’ll have to get the graph paper out and have a bit of a play around as I think it would look nice with a textured border. The pattern itself is nice and flat which is good if it is going to be used to put things on.

eyelet twigs sampler

Okay, at this point I want to make a little trumpety fanfare….oh if you only knew how many times I’ve un-ravelled this pattern…

I tried it in linen and was nearly pulling my hair out…then switched over to the wool and only one un-ravel later…such happiness.

The pattern is called “eyelet twigs” and I did have to un-knit one piece quite early on as I hadn’t yarn overed or something I was meant to have done (slowly and carefully each stitch taken back, to where I counted more than saw where I’d gone wrong) but then I was able to knit three repeats of the twelve line pattern…..I still want to laugh as I was so pleased I managed this.

At the end of the last row I was fair beaming from ear to ear…..the sample now keeps being placed over my arm where I’m thinking maybe one day a sleeve for a cardigan or perhaps fingerless gloves (they’d be pretty but not practical as I think the wind would whip right in)

There was such a wonderful moment a week or so ago when I was looking at the knitting book and suddenly, I could understand some of what the pattern was telling me to do…the gobbledygook of a few weeks earlier was making sense….and while I still need to keep checking if I’m yarn overing or should I be knitting stitches in the back or front the fog slowly seems to be lifting.

So while I’m still dreaming of the “one day when” and I’m able to show a cardigan or something proper fancy as a work in progress on my needles, these are the places I go to when the needles slip and fall off or aren’t passed over when they’re meant to….places of inspiration all.

Kate Davies…Kate’s blog is always a treat and if you look there at the moment you can read all about the wool she’s had made…the colours are stunning.

Ella Gordon….I was lucky enough to commission a couple of pairs of Ella’s gloves in the Spring…beautifully warm and lovely to look at…she’s also got the most envy inducing collection of Shetland knits.

Felicity Ford (Knitsonik)…if I ever can get my head around fairisle knititng and how certain colour plays work or not then it will all be thanks to this totally amazing lady and her awesome Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook…her Knitsonik blog is always brilliant to read and she also writes at The Domestic Soundscape.

Ysolda Teague…..Ysolda’s patterns are so beautiful, full of interesting details and her shawls…well I just love them all.

Tom of Holland.….Hours can go by so quickly when I’m reading Tom’s blog, lots of beautiful pictures of proper old fashioned darning and wonderful writing about caring for our clothing.

Stephen West (Westknits)…to be fair I probably look at Westknits instagram more than the blog, and his youtube is wonderful….because “boom…you’re in Paris!”……also his shawls are just incredible.

A Liebster award and some awfully long answers……

liebster2

This week I had a nice surprise as I was very kindly nominated for a Liebster award so a huge thank you to Zeens and Roger for that.  Now according the “rules” as they are, I’m supposed to nominate a selection of other blogs to now pass it on to, however as I explained to the lovely Rosina, I think all the blogs that I follow are more likely to have some thousands rather than the 200 followers a nominee is supposed to have and they’re all pretty busy people who may not have the time to answer my questions so I thought I’d just break the rules and open my nomination to anyone who reads my blog and would like to answer my questions which you’ll find at the bottom.

If you don’t want to answer then that’s fine too, or if you only want to answer one question then that’s fine too…all I will say is some of my answers to Zeens and Rogers’ questions are rather long, if you regularly read my blog then you’ll know I’m a chatterer and can happily talk the back legs off a donkey, so go pop the kettle on for a pot of tea and grab the biscuits as I think by the end of this you’ll be needing them……

The rules can be found here on Zeens and Rogers’ blog.

As well as answering the questions she asks I’ve also included a couple of the ones she was asked by Buttercup and Bee as I thought that they tied in rather nicely and also I figure, hey, if I’m going to break the rules then lets break them.

spelt and seed sourdough

What did you have for tea last night?

What are you having tonight?

(and she was asked What is your favourite meal to cook?)

Okay, well last night the boyfriend cooked (he does weekends and I cook during the week) we had a selection of steamed green vegetables and a fat wadge of Spanish omelette made with roast peppers and goats cheese.  Being a Friday (which counts as the weekend) we also had cider, half a glass of a Somerset cider, no more than that though or I’d be sliding off my chair under the table (seriously I am the world’s cheapest date)…what was pudding..oh yes, super sweet and juicily ripe nectarines from a vegetable stall on Norwich Market (we’re so spoilt, there are two fantastic stalls where we buy most of our fruit and veg from, Mike and Debs which is on the front (stalls 46 and 47), and then there is an organic stall called Folland Organics (stalls 40 and 41) owned by the lovely Robb who wears nice jumpers. The beloved one also had a pastry from…The Norwich Providore (stalls 44 and 45 on the market)…their pastries are really good and it makes me super grumpy that I can’t really eat things like that anymore.

Tonight he’s cooking again, and it’s Quorn veggie burgers with a couple of fat slices of halloumi cheese on top..I love these so much. It used to be a bit worrying as Bernard also liked them and he’d jump up on the table to try grab a bit (nothing worse than eating something that the cat is trying to pinch as it goes to your mouth…but luckily he’s stopped doing that.)..I’ve also got half an avocado and a handful of tomatoes from the garden….as it’s a weekend there may well be wine, but just the one glass.  We’re as bad as each other, and a bottle lasts us two nights if not we’d just be asleep on the sofa by nine.  Will there be pudding, yes, don’t ask a silly question. (Basically there’s pudding every night)…tonight it’s raspberries from the garden which will be hiding under an avalanche of thick cream.

While I’m happy to cook a meal, more than anything I love to bake bread.  For the past year or so I’ve been baking bread using a sourdough starter my friend Daisy gave me (she’s a wonderful cook and is off to Leith’s School of Cookery in a week or so…she made the most amazing chocolate truffles flavoured with masala spices and when we’d finished them I felt very sad.) and I’ve found it’s helped my bread making skills no end.  Mostly I like to tinker about and add different things, last loaf I made had spelt flour, oats, grated apple, sunflower and sesame seeds and honey in it and I think there’s barely enough left for his morning toast.  Even though I can’t really eat bread anymore (well I can but it leaves me feeling utterly wretched) the pleasure I get from making it for my boyfriend is immense.

pasture

What are you doing at the weekend?

(she was asked What do you do to relax and un-wind?)

Very little.  The weather has been nice today so we went for a gentle stroll across the pastures on the marshes that are just across from where we live.  We’d been hoping to forage for blackberries for the freezer (the rain has made them a bit squishy for jam) but we didn’t get as many as we’d hoped, so some are currently drowning themselves in brandy and the others will make a crumble for tomorrow night alongside a dollop of cream.

Probably the best way I can clear my head if I’m feeling all fraught and fed up or I’m feeling achy and shoulder crampy from sitting sewing to long is to get out, and head across the meadows, an hour outside and I’m back feeling brand new.  Even if it’s nippy I’ll happily wrap up and go for perhaps a shorter walk but just getting out of doors always does me the world of good.

Recently the pastures were so full of wild flowers, it was just like the old flake advert, and the flowers I see on my walks go on to inspire me so much with my work.

We came out here in the winter just after Christmas and a lot of it was all flooded so some parts weren’t cross able, however it felt like a proper adventure walking where the water allowed.  When the frosts came and the floods froze it was so beautiful, especially where the weight of the ice in the river pulled away from the bank.

inspired by flowering herbs in my garden

As a child, what did you want to be when you were a grown up?

Honestly, I have no idea…probably because I’m still deciding that.

I grew up in a lovely little village, it was quite rural being surrounded by fields and farms.  But it wasn’t a dead village, there were 4 or 5 little grocery shops including a post office and two busy village pubs. We had an excellent bus service there, buses on the hour which would bring us all the way to Norwich. If we missed one bus then our mum would just put the kettle on, and we’d have a cup of tea while we waited for the next one to come along….very different to when I then later lived in London and would get all grumpy if I missed a tube train and had to wait a whole 5 minutes for the next one.

My primary school in the village was really nice, and it makes me incredibly sentimental to think how 4 generations of my family have gone there…my dad’s dad, my dad, me and my 3 sisters and even one of my nieces have all been taught there.  My teachers there were always really encouraging so I can’t think they’d have been dismissive if I had some rum career choice ideas, but in all honesty, I really can’t remember what I wanted to be.

if you listen carefully you can hear him snoring

Mastermind Subject?

Blank face….pass…….seriously I really don’t have any specialist subjects and don’t think I particularly know much about anything.  I really love Jane Austen’s Novels (Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park not so much but the other 4 never seem to stray that far from my bedside table) so I think I’d be okay on those.

Failing that it would have to be the shenanigans of my cat Bernard, I can happily tell you all about his little adventures and what he gets up to…mostly this involves stuffing his face with chicken which he seems to flick all over the kitchen floor, playing with Bob from next door (a cheeky little black and white cat who has a pink nose,) napping in various different locations around the house and having wind.  For a little cat there is a lot of smell.

In the picture above he’s having forty winks on the quilt I made for my boyfriend’s birthday, the fabric is quite loosely woven so every so often I have to repair when he’s been plucking, and also on the crochet blanket which is taking me forever to make.

Buttercup and Bee herself was asked What is your favourite crafting project to date? and I’d have to say that mine would be this blanket…even if at times it feels like an albatross around my neck, sewing in the woolly tails on the back is never ending but it looks nice when a hexagon is completed. Each hexagon took around an hour to make, choosing the wool, crocheting the hexagon, joining it in and then sewing in the tails, there’s about 400 hexagons so it’s not a weekend make and I’m probably daft letting Bernard sleep on it but I never have the heart to move him.  The blanket has been made form tapestry wool that has been mostly sourced form antique/junk shops, car boots, jumbles, gifted by very kind friends, and some I’d kept from my Nanny’s work basket.  It weighs an absolute ton and is so wonderfully warm and cosy that the wildest winds can blow and bluster outside, if I’m snuggled under this then I just don’t care.

vintage threads

What do you collect?

I love vintage haberdasheries and am as happy as Larry when I find some tucked away in a forgotten box in a dusty corner of a junk shop….I love buying vintage sewing threads and my favourite brand is Dewhurst Sylko, I’m not fussed if they are on the wooden reels or the plastic ones, the colours are the same and are just gorgeous.  What I particularly like is when thy have the paper circles on the ends with the name and number of the thread, who can resist a purchase of Fiesta Pink,Jasmine Yellow, Cambridge Blue…..I try not to hoard them and use them a lot in my hand sewing, mostly when I’m sewing patchwork as I tend to sew most of that by hand, but recently when  made one of the dottie angel frocks I ended up using a vintage thread in my machine as it was the perfect match to the vintage fabric I was using.

I really try not to be precious about any of the haberdashery items I have, I’ll happily use turn of the century sewing needles (they were made so strong and sharp back then that they really do the job much better than modern needles) and my work box is half full of vintage pieces that I love to use (and which I’ve seen behind glass in more than one museum).

little bear and wee stocking assortment

Other things I can’t resist buying are bags of tapestry wool if I see them at car boots, junk shops, charity shops and jumble sales.  I ‘m not buying them for hoarding so much as for my work as i prefer to use them when I’m embroidering my Christmas stockings, the soft palette of colours the wools often are seem to suit my work and give the stockings that hint of yesterday I’m trying to create.  Vintage tapestry wool is often slightly fuzzy (Lady Penelope is my absolute favourite, it’s perfect for embroidering) and just blends into the wool fabric so perfectly.

button tin

And I can’t forget buttons, I just can’t help myself when I see a tin full of them (I have to sink my fingers in amongst them like Amelie and the sacks of beans and lentils…)

I’m incredibly lucky to have a wonderfully kind friend called Sylvia (eighty years young) and a couple of years ago she gave me a hoard of haberdashery and fabrics that I couldn’t believe…one tin was full of smaller tins, each filled with incredibly old sequins and beads, hooks and eyes…opening each tiny tin to see what was inside I knew exactly how Howard Carter felt with Tutankhamun’s tomb…”Can you see anything?”….”Yes,wonderful things”…

Amongst the treasure from Sylvia was a huge collection of beautiful vintage buttons, many of them glass ones which sparkle and catch the light, along with plastic and resin ones, bakelite and wooden toggles from children’s duffle-coats.

Holt 006

Along with collecting haberdashery pieces, I also love little china dogs.  It started off with some sulky faced Staffordshire singles in a wide variety of sizes but now my collection has grown to include small terriers, dachsunds and a chalk spaniel whose face has almost worn away but I love him all the same.

As much as I love cats I’m really not a lover of cat things (though I own the most awesome cat umbrella), most of the cat figurines I’ve seen are frightful but I think there’s something so lovely and friendly about china dogs.  I’ve never owned a dog (growing up we always had a house full of cats, rabbits and a very shrill squealed guinea pig) but I’d love to have silver and black cocker spaniel, I can just imagine us heading out for a walk on a windy day, all bundled up in a tweed skirt and headscarf (me not the dog)…however I’m all too aware the reality of a wet, muddy pawed dog jumping up onto one of my nice crochet blankets shatters that illusion pretty damn quickly…so the china dogs fill the gap of my dream dog.*

*I even have a name all ready in case the day comes I own one (having been a girl guide I know the importance of being prepared!)

house cosy

Adventure Time Yes or No?

Hmm…I’m probably have to say no as I’m pretty boring and am rather a stick in the mud and like to stay at home.  Me and my boyfriend couldn’t help laughing as I was recently stopped and asked by some teenagers doing a suvey if I liked Extreme Sports……if you know me this will also make you laugh, extreme for me is going out without a hankie or a bag of Werther’s Originals tucked into my handbag.

I guess I was a bit wilder when I was younger though, when I was nineteen I traveled by myself to Italy and when there took a night train from Pisa (a friend’s mum suggested I pin my passport and money to my knickers in case my bag got pinched so I by doing that  felt quite safe, not a care in the world…) which traveled all the way down the left hand side of the country, the train then came apart at the “toe” and went onto a ferry then it all joined together again before journeying on to Palermo. This was all in the day before mobile phones nor did I speak particularly good Italian, just the very very basics, please, thank you…enough to buy the most amazing tasting cheese and ham roll and a coffee on the ferry for breakfast….When I think about it now I can’t believe I did it, what was I thinking…probably not much….but I had such an amazing journey, the people on the train were just wonderful and incredibly kind to the silly English girl with her little dictionary and very bad sunburn….inquiring minds may be asking why I went, well I was all smitten with a boy so really all I was thinking about was going to see him. (the romance didn’t last but I had a beautiful holiday.)

charles de lint

Name a book that you read again and again?

My absolute favourite of all time book is The Ballad of Dr Richardson, it’s a graphic novel by Paul Pope and sadly it’s been out of print for a while.  I love pretty much everything that Paul Pope does (he writes and draws) and this was pretty early in his career.  It’s a romance about daring to disturb the universe and I love it…sadly I’ve now read my copy so many times the pages are one read away from falling on the carpet like Autumn leaves so I just keep it on the book shelf and touch it from time to time.  Paul Pope’s artwork is always so inky and black, like that oily sheen on top of espresso coffee and this book is his inkiest.

Other books (or graphic novels/collected comic books) he’s written include Batman Year One Hundred.  It’s set in the future (a lot of his books are set some years ahead of now) and in it Batman wears a ribbed jersey and leather gloves, there’s one scene where you see the gap between the jersey and the glove, a brief glimpse of Batman’s wrist and all of a sudden the “mythology”, and “mystery” of Batman seems to disappear and you are left with just a man, his human-ness is on show and I love that. (being a bit of a geek I even bought the little statue that came out to coincide with Paul Pope’s interpretation of Batman…and no, it doesn’t sit alongside my dogs.)

He also wrote a book (see above as yes, it’s a book with pictures!) called 100%.  Again it’s set in the future and is a collection of stories about a group of people who’s lives all connect.  My favourite part is where this girl is just laying on her bed, one leg bent over the other and wiggling her foot.  The way her foot wiggles is so perfect and beautifully drawn.

He’s possibly most well known for creating a series called THB which he began to self publish back in 1994.  It’s set in the future and is about a teenage girl called HR Watson, she lives on Mars, her dad is a robot designer and the Mars government is after him.  He’s made HR a bodyguard which is THB, it’s a small rubber ball but if placed in water explosively expands to become a huge purple (rather pointy headed and eared) naked man..with no genitals because he’s not a real man and ugh ..this isn’t Watchman with Dr Manhatten flapping his wing wang doodle about everywhere), they have to race across Mars to one of the safe cities where her step brother and his friends are, including The Jiggler (sigh) who is a Martian that HR has a huge crush on….along the way there’s coffee drinking, code rings, getting kidnapped by comic book publishers, letters home to her friend Lottie whose dad is an opera singer and who has  a little…pet? Pet isn’t the right word, anyway she has a thing called Mister Pig Dog, he’s got a moustach any hipster would go green with envy for, he likes chocolate milkshakes, oh yeah, the girls also get to have  bumble hip-shakes at a local gansgter’s night club when they fix a gangster car….phew….there’s about 15 issues of this in various sizes and it’s completely and utterly brilliant.

I’ve even bought a Spiderman comic (Tangled Web of Spider-man number 15) that he drew (I love comics but I just don’t like Spiderman) which happily didn’t involve too much of the old webslinger but focused more upon the teenage daughter of a crook who’s planning a big robbery.  When he goes into her bedroom (which captures perfectly all the mess and clothes strewn everywhere-ness of my own teenage room and makes me want to apologize to my younger sister for having to put up with my slumicky teenage ways) and she’s all bouncing up and down on her bed with a huge poster of Spiderman on the wall he gets all cross because he’s a robber and doesn’t like Spiderman, so he tears it down and she gets all sad, then he goes out and she listens to the radio after re-taping up the poster (it’s sort of funny because it’s all torn and she’s mended it so badly) and while she’s painting her toes in a chaos of pots and jar and mess on the carpet, hears about a robbery that has just taken place and Spiderman has been spotted nearby, so she sneaks out and actually see the robber (though he’s masked so she doesn’t know who it is) then Spiderman turns up and can’t find the robber but she points him to where the robber went and then sitting there all huddled up she realizes she’s seen the huge bag full of cash the robber was lugging along somewhere before…..didn’t her dad have one the very same…the expression on her face is so heartbreaking.

I guess you can tell i really like Paul Pope.

A book without pictures that I love about as much is called Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint.  I’ve wrote about this before here and it gets re-read very regularly.

I also listen to two audio books time and time and time again…Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell, and His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.  Both are un-abridged (I really hate books that get chopped about, they always take out my favourite pieces and would much rather listen to a book in it’s entirety).

Jonathan Strange is all read by Simon Prebble and as far as I’m concerned he is the best book reader for voices in the whole wide world…I keep hoping he’ll read the Jane Austen novels as his ladies voices are lovely without sounding like David Walliams (who is being utterly wonderful in Partner’s in Crime on BBC.)

(she was asked Name the last book that you read?)

Well I’ve literally just finished “101 Dalmations” by Dodie Smith.  I’d read it years ago but hadn’t re-read it for over a decade…completely lovely and the bit with Sir Charles reminiscing about his dogs made me cry..I’ve just ordered a copy of “The Starlight Barking” which I guess I haven’t re-read for 20 some years.  I read “I capture The Castle” by Dodie Smith at Christmas and had just been waiting to find a second hand copy of “Dalmations.”  I recently finished reading “Cold Comfort Farm” by Stella Gibbons.  In between that and the “101 Dalmations” was “The Dark is Rising” sequence by Susan Cooper which I hadn’t re-read for ages but which I’ve loved for the longest time.

crocheted cosy

What was your first job?

I was 14 and it was as a waitress in a little seaside restaurant about 6 or so miles up the road from our village.  I used to work weekends in school time and then I worked during the week as well that Summer, with some evenings thrown in too.

When the weather was nice I’d cycle there and back but if it was very wet I’d get the bus, though on a Sunday when the service wasn’t running I’d often just have to cycle in a cagoule and hope I wouldn’t see anyone I knew.  My boss had an eye for the ladies and would spend most mornings sunning himself down on the beach, but not before drenching himself in vegetable oil and vinegar as he insisted this helped him tan and not burn and indeed he was the shade of a beautiful teak veneer but to my mind always smelt somewhat of a bag of chips.

I’ve got a scar on my right calf where he flung a broken coffee percolator into a rubbish bag I was holding, it smashed and a shard of glass slashed up through the bag and my leg…being the eighties health and safety wasn’t much of an issue and so my leg wasn’t stitched just some cheap sticking plaster that was about 10p from the chemists.

Apart from that, and oh the swearing, the air would very often turn an intense shade of blue, he was actually an incredibly fair boss, he always made sure I’d have my lunch and if he felt someone hadn’t tipped me properly he’d make me run up the high street after them and return their 10 or 20 pence and to say with my best Oliver Twist face “sorry sir, I think you left your change behind” and then he’d slip a couple of pounds himself into the tip jar.

I used to like it as we had canned squirty cream and I’d carefully squirt out the tallest wobbliest towers of cream on my coffee that you could possibly imagine.  To my 14 year self this was the very height of sophistication (and could never understand why my customers looked so horrified.)

After that I then went to work in a little fruit and veg shop, it was a lot closer and I’d mostly work there on a Saturday with the odd half term holiday thrown in .  I stayed there 3 maybe 4 years and it helped me loads with my maths as we didn’t have a proper till and I had to add everything up on a piece of paper .  We had a couple of “characterful” customers including a lady who would come in and want to weigh all the lettuces.  My boss was quite a serious chap but there were a few ladies who’d come in and give him what I think of as “Carry On film” sauce…”ohhh Christopher, can I feel your plums” …or “do these look like a nice pear Christopher”… when another lady came to work there called Sadie who herself was very cheeky, if she heard this being said she’d look at me and I’d have to just nip out the back as she’d make me laugh too much.

a day trip to bungay 004

And these are my questions if you’d like to answer them yourself then feel free…I’ve ended up answering them myself as well.

If you could have a fantasy date with anyone who would it be?

Peter Ustinov, ideally when he was in Spartacus but I think he was still lovely when he was old so I wouldn’t mind (duh…it’s a date with Peter Ustinov, I’m not going to get all fussy)…it would involve browsing the book markets of Vienna followed by coffee and an obscene amount of little Viennese pastries at some pavement cafe with Anton Karos serenading us in the background.  I think he was so wonderful and funny and love listening to his voice that I can’t think of a more delightful date.

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What pieces connected with what you love to do, do you really treasure….

A red strawberry needle sharper made by the Royal School f Needlework. (it was bought with birthday money from a dear friend who sadly now is lost in a maze of dementia but when I use it I remember her very dearly)

A pair of Sajou embroidery scissors that my boyfriend bought me for valentines a few years ago.

A piece of cardboard that has been embroidered with bright woolly stitches which was in a gorgeous case of haberdasheries my beloved bought me some Christmas’s ago…it’s beyond precious.

quilts and crochet outside 019

What do you wish you were better at/could do?

I’d love to be better at languages, I can’t roll “r’s” and my pronunciation of anything in French and Italian is terrible…for anyone who can remember “ello ello” I end up sounding like the English Policeman that no-one could understand.

Possibly more achievable would be improving my knitting skills, I’m a very basic knitter, I can do dishcloths but only if everyone is quiet, and even the I need to be writing down what line I’m on, and often forget if I’m knitting or purling, but it’s something I truly wish I was better at as I’d love to knit myself a Prince of Wales jumper. (it’s what I’m wearing with my tweed skirt when I imagine myself out walking with my dog!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed what has become way more lengthy than even I’d intended.

Many thanks again to Zeens and Roger for the nomination.

A box of truck, two new frocks and two fine reads……

a box of old truck

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve tried to tidy up this case* of what at home we’d have called “truck”…an assortment of hooks, thimbles for the fattest fingers, spools of shirring elastic, leather cases for threads and wonderfully old hand embroidered needle-cases that almost fall apart as soon as look at them, and buttons, buttons, buttons….the last time I ended up just emptying in a whole load of them (lovely bright ones from the seventies on their original cards from Bex who used to write a really smashing blog, she’d write about her garden and being a vegan, loving crochet and so many other things…it was always interesting and I felt really sad when she stopped writing it, and buttons galore from my lovely Sylvia. Many of Sylvia’s buttons are really old, beautiful glass ones that weigh an absolute ton and which when I’ve seen them in fancy shops cost a proper packet.)

butons and trimmings

This was yet another attempt at sorting out and was yet another one that ended with everything being squidged back in (although this time the lid now won’t close and I’m pretty sure nothing extra has gone in…)  In part I was trying to find some vintage trimmings which I know I’ve ferreted away somewhere, one of those infamous safe places where it’s been tucked away for later and now I can’t find them for the life of me.

However it’s not like I’m really short of supplies, Norwich over the last couple of years has become an absolute mecca for vintage haberdashery needs.  Numerous vintage/junk shops seem to have at least a couple of stalls selling threads and trimmings, packets of binding (many often un-used and still with their original wrappings), needles, lace, fabric, anything your work box is lacking….and then there are the “events” …The Bead and Textile Fair I went to the other year at John Innes was amazing….I came home so laden with bags of tapestry wool, a huge stack of Golden Hands which made the beloved one sigh deeply, packets of hilariously named vintage sewing needles (Scientifically Designed)….my friend Anne (who spoils me with hand knitted socks and gifts of un-wanted linen) bought various knitting things which wobbled and rotated for winding wools…anyway, check in with their website for the next one…..Then there is The City Antiques Fair which is held at St.Andrews Hall about once a month….this is always amazing and a purse full of change is guaranteed to purchase you a wonderful variety of haberdashery treats.

vintage gold print dress

I have become a tad addicted to making the dottie angel frock….I keep twiddling and tweeking the pattern but I’m pretty much happy with how these look.  I’ve omitted the pockets as I’m sot so keen on them myself, and I wasn’t getting on with the front tucks so instead have sewn the ties in the middle of the dress (sort of under my boobs but not so high as to make complete strangers go “gracious me”) and then have sewn a fabric strip over them so the ties sort of run through that to shape the dress a bit, then those just tie together at the back.  I completely and utterly hate having my picture taken (too many pictures taken of me cutting onions wearing swimming goggles** and talking on the phone in green face masks, oh and lets not forget the picture of me where I looked like Paul Merton…really, I saw it and said “what is Paul Merton doing in my school uniform”) but I will try and persuade a friend to model the frocks I’ve made so you can view them properly….(no good asking my beloved as he’s somewhat shorter and I don’t think there is enough chocolate in the world with which to bribe him).

Of the frocks I’ve made so far this is probably the one I’m not so sure of….the fabric was the devil to sew, super slippy (even worse than the green) and I wouldn’t want to stand near an open flame in case I just go WOOSH……modled it in front of the beloved and Bernard and was asked “is that curtain fabric?” …….it isn’t.  It’s a vintage fabric from Sylvia that I thought was going to make me look all slinky minky but once sewn I apparently look like I’m wearing curtains so maybe this will be kept for when I’m at home or just popping down to Waitrose…not for going into town where I might meet bump into someone I know.  Though it did look rather splendid with an orange cardigan, and then I thought oh why not and tried it on with a gold sparkles yellow one…..it would certainly brighten up a gloomy overcast day.

The binding tape I sewed around the hem was a gift from my accountant.  Last year he gave me a bag full of vintage bindings, ribbons and skinny strips of leather thonging which are perfect for notebook ties…..his wife was having a clear out and he’d thought I might be able to find them a home……they’re coming in super handy for these dresses.

grey floral print dress

Possibly my favourite dress…this was all sewn on Dorothy so it holds a special place…plus when I wore it in town last week I got asked where I’d bought it so felt all big headed and happy.  I did have a look round to see if the boyfriend had bribed the lady who had asked but couldn’t see him hiding up anywhere.  The fabric was from John Lewis and was reduced.  Because I’d altered the pattern somewhat (and the fabric was a bit wider) I was able to get away with using 1 1/2 meters so the dress cost me just under £6.50, and I’ve got two nice sized pieces left for knitting bag linings or maybe a pair of handkerchiefs.

I pretty much lived in this all weekend, so nice and comfy without looking like I’ve given up on life.

vintage reading

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned these two little books before, they’re pretty recent purchases and both have kept me entertained while I’ve been reading through them…..

Encyclopedia of Needlework by TH de Dillmont covers pretty much everything you’ll ever need to know about hand sewing…lots of beautiful examples for different edges and hems including a simple but very effective scalloped hem formed by stitches alone, and a wonderful section on embroidery.  Lots and lots of techniques are shown which are pretty much all but forgotten but I think it’s always nice to learn a couple of new ways to do something.  There’s also a nice little section on buttonholes if you want to get all fancy and hand sew them rather than use a sewing machine.

Second up is Learning to Sew by Barbara Snook….I have to admit it was the gorgeous bright orange cover that made me pick this up. Mostly it’s a collection of things to make, some of which I don’t think I’d ever want to see made but then there are some nicer makes including a very simple but pretty little nightie for a small child and a selection of bibs and matinee jackets so I guess it evens out…as with all old sewing books I think you need to look and think “hmm, while that may be truly dreadful, I could use the technique for this wonderful and amazing thing”…..there was an interesting section on seams, stitches and binding which I felt was worth a pennies price of the book.

*the case itself is rather an unusual shape and I’d not seen one like this before, I’m guess it’s an old musical instrument case.

**goggles were worn as I thought they’d stop my eyes watering when cutting onions…but they didn’t.