Needle wraps and remembered fabric stories…….

wool-coat-knitting-needle-wrap

One of the things I like so much about using re-purposed pieces of fabric left over from old clothes, family stashes when people used to dress make or odd/old curtains and cushion covers when an elderly relative moves house is all the memories and stories that are woven up and remembered each time you touch or see that cloth….having pieces of fabric all folded away means they can often get a bit neglected or just forgotten about…I love having a rummage through some of my scrap bags, pulling fabric down off shelves, and when I use them in my work I’m always reminded of the people who gifted me so much of my fabric hoard….remembering funny stories and loved ones whose faces I’m not going to see again are part and parcel of all the thoughts and time that go in to my patchworks and quilts and that is really special for me….those sentiments are something that I try to put into other pieces I make, whether it’s hot water bottles that are lined with soft and warm brushed cotton (like our nighties used to be made from when I was small) or tiny Christmas Stockings that are all full of dreams and anticipation even when they look empty……

This year while I’ve been knitting, I’ve been listening to a lot of knitting podcasts, time and time again when people talk about learning how they’ve knitted, more often than not it’s been their mum, grandma or nanny or an elderly aunt that has been there for those first wobbly steps…listening to a lot of knitting interviews made me think about my own knitting journey and my bag of scraps and handed down fabrics…..

I’d already been making wraps and cases for my own sewing clutter and knitting needles and thought this was a nice way to use fabric that owns our hearts with it’s memories, remembering the people that teach/taught us our craft who aren’t always still with us to thank… ( I hope that makes sense…soemtimes what is so clear in my head and heart comes out as a very rum jumble)

wool-coat-embroidery-detail

I’ve mentioned my friend Anne on here a few times before, she’s an awesome knitter and a wonderful friend, for the past some years now she’s been gifting me with beautiful hand knitted socks and from time to time she turns up with a bundle of fabric and goodness knows what else for me to re-purpose and sew with…. last year she bought over a lovely wool coat though sadly rather badly torn, it had been her mum’s and she wondered if it would be of any use to me…. the fabric was nice and sturdy but it wasn’t very soft so I didn’t think it would be suitable for hot water bottles …but I tucked it away until this Summer when I made her a series of needle wraps to keep all her knitting needles in and  a big project bag to store everything together….

I used some vintage crewel wool to embroider a series of flowers over the fabric to add a little interest to what was otherwise a rather sobre coloured cloth…

Anne is a wee bit older than me and has been knititng for all her life, she can’t really remember learning to knit but is pretty sure it must have been her mum who taught her….. anyway when she un-wrapped the present she knew straight away what the fabric was, and held the wraps to her face, breathing in the scent of mum which still lingered on the wool cloth….  it can get me quite throat lumpy and chest achey when I use fabric that holds all those memories and happy thoughts…..

inside-wrap-fro-claire

I’ve also had a couple of commissions for wraps this Summer, working with two awesome knitters so the wraps would cover everything they required…..this one went up to Scotland to lovely Claire who is an awesome knitter of beautiful shawls and cardigans….along the front row are spaces for needle tips and some are sewn short so she can store both short and long tips.  The fabric was mine and is some that my friend Sasha the toy maker gave me…..

blue-tweed-wrap

And this wrap was made for Eva in Italy, (she lives near Trieste so hope that it’s not too cold there already)……Eva likes her dpns and said she had a rather large collection of them in all sorts of sizes, so the wrap is made up of 3 layers of pockets…..the front row can hold the shortest little old Brittany dpns and cable needles and the back pocket can fit anything up to ones 20 cm long….the tweed fabric wasn’t vintage but was a beautiful pale and watery blue.

Yarny temptress Isla at Brit Yarn is currently running a British Yarn sock kal on Ravelry and she’s got one of my wraps to gift as one of the prizes, I hope whoever gets that one likes it…..I’m really enjoying this kal, first up as it’s organized by Isla it’s all about using British yarn, it doesn’t have to be sheep woolly (it can be alpaca alpac-ery or rabbity angora) but the yarn does have to be British, personally I think it’s great seeing all the different woolly yarns that people are using, quite a few I’m already now familiar with (like Blacker Classic and WYS Signature) and there are ones I’ve heard of but not yet tried out (like The Knitting Goddess’s  Brit Sock or her Wensleydale/Shetland blend*) … all these are available from Brit Yarn where Isla has sourced a wide range of British yarns for everyone’s budget….but I’m also scribbling down new names that I’d not heard of before that are all woolly and sheepy…. and then the patterns….so many I’d not seen before though I think Claire’s Gotland socks using Blacker Yarns Tamar have been my favourite, closely followed by these…….best of all though is the incredible support knitters offer each other, and the advice and suggestions given to help each out.

I’ve also got wraps and rolls for sale in my Folksy shop….if you’d like to commission your own wrap or needle roll I’m more than happy to discuss your needle requirements, whether you’re a dpn lover or prefer a circular needle……

*a very exciting review will be shared soon thanks to the lovely Knitting Goddess Joy.

Bunnies and floral prints to celebrate Spring….

pink blue and cream bunny face hangers

I think that’s been one of the fastest, flying by weekends I’ve known in a while….I just looked at my watch and was like how is that the time already…..most mornings I’m up pretty early (anywhere between 5.30 and 6) but I felt so completely shattered yesterday after doing the Spring fair in Holt yesterday (thank you again Ruth for all your hard work in organizing it) I forgot to set my alarm so slept right through til about 8 o’clock which is a proper lie in for me, and getting up late (and still feeling right tired) has meant I’ve felt behind for most of the day…..anyway I had a nice day in Holt and it was lovely to see some familar faces who popped by to say hello.

As I mentioned at the end of last week I’ve now listed some new pieces in my Folksy shop…more will be added in the next day or so but I thought these would be of interest if you’re buying presents to celebrate Spring……..

First up is a selection of children’s coat hangers….these are some of my favourite pieces to make….I’ve been using the bunny face motif now for more years than I care to remember…it started out adorning egg cosies, has been a brooch, a hair slide, and has appeared along the top of some baby blankets amongst other things.

grey face bunny

The coat hangers are made from vintage Witney wool blankets so are lovely and soft, (oh Witney wool blankets how I love you) …..they come in a range of colours including cream, a raspberry pink and a gorgeous orangey red. The bunnys and carrots are made from 100% pure wool felt and are hand sewn (even those tiny cheeks are sewn by hand)….then the hangers are filled with Norfolk lavender.

They look very sweet hanging up behind a bedroom door or from the architrave, especially when they’re displaying a party frock or a wee pair of dungarees….I also find it’s much easier to be tidier and to hang things up when there is a pretty hanger to hand.

I’ve listed  quite a selection and have left it up to you which two to chose if you want to buy a pair.  (Previously I’ve sold these as singles but the postage seems to cost so much for one that it makes more sense to buy two as that second one is pretty much pence then to post).

primrose bunny fabric bag

The second Easter item (though like the hangers you can use it all year round) are these draw string bags made from a soft primrose yellow vintage fabric with bunnies and ducks on it…..the bags are fully lined with a bright yellow floral print and measure about 10 inches by 15 1/2 inches.

floral print inside

They’re a nice size so you could use them to hold a selection of chocolatey Easter treats….but they also hold a book more than comfortably so afterwards could be used as a library book bag, or to hold soft toys and treasures…..

The drawstring tie is pretty sturdy so these can be hung up from door hooks or coat racks if you want to use them as tiny PE bags for ballet class or just somewhere to pop in bits and pieces when bedroom floors need a quick tidy up of toys.

flower embellished egg cosy

Along with the bag is a little floral embellished egg cosy…I grew up in quite a chilly house (and to be honest most of the houses I’ve lived in since have been pretty parky too, and egg cosies and tea cosies were part and parcel of cold kitchens)…..I made these a few years ago and am selling the bag and egg cosy combined at a somewhat cheaper price than some of my other pieces.

As a little Easter treat, I’m also including a free Mystery gift which I’m sure will appeal to Bunny lovers.

If you order in the next day or so then these should all be with you before Easter, after Wednesday then you may not be so lucky but I’ll try my best to get anything posted out on the day it’s ordered.

Both the hangers and the draw string bags are also pretty handy if you’re in the middle of Spring cleans and tidy ups…

Hope whatever you did this weekend, you had fun and got to enjoy a little Spring sunshine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone’s feeling perkier and a give-away winner…..

what what what

First of all can I say a huge thank you to everyone who has left a “get well soon Bernard” comment, your kind words and concern really has meant so much to me.  He’s doing nicely and is currently all stretched out napping on the carpet.  Bernard isn’t a fancy breed but he’s priceless to us and when he gets poorly (luckily it doesn’t happen often) it makes me so distraught I can barely tell if I’m coming or going.

Anyway, as a thank you I’ve decided to give away an extra stocking, all the names of everyone who commented on the “poorly pawed poppet” post got popped into a stocking and the name drawn out was……..(if the drum roll was being done by Bernard it would definitely sound all trumpety trump trump)…..Buttercup and Bee.  I’ve emailed you to ask if you’d be so kind as to send me across yur detials then I’ll endeavour to post out one of my little stockings to you tomorrow.

weeny blue stocking with red pom pom trim

All the names of people who entered the Christmas stocking give-away were then put into said stocking…given a right good shuffle and shake and the name drawn out was…….Sue Grubb.  So congratulations to Sue and I’ve emailed you as well.

And as it’s the season of good will and showing how much we appreciate people, I’d also like to say a huge thank you to Sharon over at Creativity and Family.   Before I blogged I don’t think I ever really thought about the amount of time that people spend writing a post, taking and editing photos, thinking about topics to write about or creating tutorials etc etc. Sometimes I’d leave a comment but for the greater part of the time I didn’t, mostly I guess I felt a bit shy…..Now that I have my own blog, I really do love reading when people comment, likes are lovely but a comment feels a bit more special.  I realy do appreciate the time someone has taken just to take a few minutes out to let me know what they think about what I’ve written or shared.

For nearly the past year Sharon has been a regular commentator on my blog, her words are always kind and thoughtful and have meant a lot to me…so I’m also going to be sending a stocking to her as a special thank you.

Thank you to everyone who entered the give away and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to send one out to all of you.  If you would still like the chance to own one of the little stockings and have it arrive in time for Christmas then the last posting date from my Folksy shop is on Monday so now would be the ideal time to order one.

 

 

Stockings and tit mice and Conductor 71….

weeny red stocking with red stars

I’m just finishing off a few last minute stockings for Clutter City tomorrow, I find it easier to sew the linings in by hand and tend to wait til there’s half a dozen or so stockings to sew in one one session, these all get piled into a basket then I sit and watch a Christmas movie or a black and white film, all the while trying not to drop pins on the carpet…..and budging Bernard away from what I’m ding….

green weeny sized stocking with blue ribbon

I’m really pleased with how these little stockings have turned out, especially the ones where I get to incorporate the original blanket stitching around the top of the stockings….sometimes keeping it simple works best and while I’m all for a little bit of pom pom trim, there’s something about the pared down stockings that makes me so happy when I see a pile of them all piled up around me.

I needed to go into town yesterday and it was so busy, I just felt so overwhelmed with the noise, people, gaudiness and buy buy buy what was going on….I didn’t need to buy much, but it still took me all day.  I was just happy to finally get the key in the door and get indoors, kettle on, squeeze and cuddle with Bernard, and then some quiet time knitting on the sofa before getting tea ready.

purple bird hot water bottle cosy

Along with finishing up the stockings I’ve also finished some more hot water bottles, like the stockings there’s a selection in my Folksy shop.  I don’t often make purple things but I had some dyed blanket left over from when I used to make fragrant bunnies (the bunnies were purple with lavender embroidery on their tummies and then they were filled with lavender and linseed)…..I’ve actually found some woolly templates for what looked like the start of my own little bunny warren that I’d all cut out and began embroidering but hadn’t finished sewing up so fingers crossed I’ll have them all ready for the start of the new year. (both the lavender and rose smell so nice and they look pretty tucked into drawers or under your pillow).

 

green hot water bottle cosie with brown bird applique

This was probably my favorite of the latest batch of cosies, I really liked the brown and green together and if it doesn’t sell this weekend may very well find itself tucked beneath my bed covers Saturday night…..it makes me think of the little brown birds we get in our garden, the sparrows and dunnocks that aren’t are flashily coloured as the chaffinches or tits but which can still keep me entertained for hours as I sit and watch them hop about under the raspberries or on the feeders.

I had some laundry to put out this morning and kept hearing the squeekiest chirp noise, I looked up at the big sycamore tree which overlooks our garden and the branches were filled with a right banditry of tit-mice..then about half of them flittered over the fence and balanced themselves on the raspberry canes, bird feeders and apple trees…one brave little fellow perched on the washing line and chirped at me with all his might…I’d put plenty of food out this morning so I don’t think it was a request for more, perhaps compliments to the chef….these are my favourite bird and it’s always so lovely to see them in the garden as Long tailed tits are nearly always in groups of at least half a dozen…..their colouring is so gorgeous all chalky powder white with rose tints and grey and black flecks of fluff…I can’t help but think of the powdered mice from Beatrice Potter books when I see them…or Conductor 71 from A Matter of Life and Death……(while David Niven is all dapper and charm, it’s Marius Goring who I really adore…)

The Clutter City fair is on tomorrow (Saturday 12th December) from 11 til 4 at Norwich Arts Centre on St Benedicts Street.

As I mentioned the other day there’s 10% off if you tell me the magic word*

(*the fluffiest, sleepiest, trumpety trumpster in the whole wide world)

Little stockings, baking bread and a lavender loving furry assistant

weeny stocking for weeny sized bears

I’ve just updated my Folksy shop and have included some of the latest small size stockings I’ve been making up over the past few weeks…..these are made from beautiful old Witney wool blankets which really have seen better days…..they aren’t always in the best condition when I get them but a few spin rounds in the washing machine tends to brighten them up….sometimes the fabric begins to felt a little but when they’re a bit thread bare I tend to find that a good thing.

Along with the softness of the wool, I love the delicate colours, mostly I find cream ones, blue or green but every so often I’ll find a lovely bright colour like this pomegranate red one….it’s a gorgeous orangey red.  A few years ago me and Sasha went halfsies on a really red blanket at a car boot, it was the exact shade of a smashing lipstick I used to wear by Yardly, which made me feel like Kathleen Byron** whenever I wore it….

 

red stocking with background of blue stars

All the embroidery on the stockings is done by hand, and I use tapestry wool and threads that I source locally from antique markets and vintage shops, carboots and the like. It’s lovely to sew with and the older colours blend together so well.

Inside, the stockings are all fully lined with a rainbow striped cotton fabric (it started life as a duvet and I think the rainbow stripes look perfect for Christmas stockings)…..

When I set up my stall at fairs I take along a couple of small bears with me to pop in the tops to show what can fit in there, but little “one ear” stays at home, he’s too precious to lose and is a little bit wobbly, his joints are too loose to cope with the constant picking ups and cuddlings which the other  fellows will put up with quite happily (they’re a bit more robust)…..

 

small sized stocking with original blanket stitch edging

I’ve tried to keep these stockings pretty simple in tone, I’ve left off the pompom trimming from other years as I like the bared down look and think it suits a vintage aesthetic a little better….also it’s very hard to find trimming like that nowadays that isn’t new.

Where I’ve been able to I’ve cut the stockings out right on the edge of the blanket, so they get to keep the original blanket stitch edging and I think that makes for a nice little nod to where the fabric come from.

Apart from the ribbon which I wasn’t able to source second hand this year the stockings are all made from re-cycled/vintage fabrics.

apple honey and linseed sourdough loaf

If I’m not careful, sewing can take over everything else right now, if it’s not craft fairs then there are commissions and gifts for friends and family to make…my sewing pile is in serious danger of toppling over and it doesn’t seem to be shrinking…. however, I was determined to catch some quiet time last week  and bake some bread….a slight variation on my usual recipe as I only used a handful of linseed along with some grated apple and oats.  It didn’t last long so I guess it was approved of…even when I know I could walk down the road and buy bread there is something so rewarding in rolling up my sleeves and baking my own, to be honest the actual making doesn’t even take that long, a few minute of mixing ingredients and allowing them the time to rise and do their thing..and it’s only the  kneading that makes a little bit of a mess but mixing everything together and feeling the dough form beneath my fingers helps me totally relax and unwind…you can’t feel stressed or anxious kneading bread dough…instead I feel a wave of calmness envelope me and within seconds I’m quite content.

I’ve also been making more dark and sticky gingerbread…our home smells lovely and spicy right now…I don’t notice it so much when I’m actually here all day but if I have to go out to the post office or into town then I’m very aware of the soft spicy scent when I turn the key in the lock and step indoors.

My last fair for Christmas is this coming Saturday at Clutter City which is held down at Norwich Art’s Centre.  There’s a listing of some of the stalls who’ll be there over at the Clutter City facebook page…if anyone goes who reads my blog if you say the magic word* then you’ll get 10% of any purchase.

oh Bernard what big paws you have

*no prizes for guessing what it is…magic word is “Bernard”…..he’s been my little assistant today which explains why there’s lavender everywhere…I don’t know what he does but within minutes of a bag being opened he’s suddenly covered with it and inevitably it’s soon to be found all over the house.

 

**she was the nun in Black Narcissus who wears that incredible red lipstick and then has a fight with Deborah Kerr and she was also in A matter of Life and Death but she didn’t wear lipstick in that…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woolly botanical embroideries, wee Christmas stockings and the cutest little bear with one ear……

its always easiest to tidy when you have an empty tin to chuck all the clutter into

It doesn’t seem five minutes ago that I was making lists of things I wanted to make this year for craft fairs and thinking I had plenty of time to make everything and then some..I’ve barely turned round and now find myself in the middle of a pile of sewing and am sorting out what to finish and what will have to be put to one side…I’m bewildered as to where the year has gone….my work table goes from absolute chaos with everything piled up around me, to what counts as order when a deadline is looming…..having an empty tin to hand helps, big things get put away but all the small pieces that I’m going to use again in five minutes can be swept up and for a minute or two it seems tidy (ish)…..loooking at my work table makes me laugh, even though I have umpteen needlecases I always revert back to using tatty old scraps of blanket fabric when I’m embroidering.

 

embroidering cats eye speedwell

At the moment I’m working on some little woolly botanicals, embroidering on pieces of vintage linen to make into glasses cases and brooches.  This Summer our garden was full of cat’s eye speedwell and it’s now creeping into some of my work…tiny blue petals with a fleck of white in the centre….

I’m not truly sure where this fabric is from, possibly it’s from my friend Sylvia, the orange is such a soft colour and it’s lovely to embroider on….the tweed is pure wool and is one of my favourite fabrics. Ideally there’d have been enough to make a nice nineteen thirties style waistcoat or a nice A-line skirt…perfect with a knitted tank top.

As well as using thumbnails and sketches I’ve made when I’m out walking, I also like referring to old wildflower books, their illustrations are often so clear and simple, they’re always a good source of inspiration.

embroidered goldenrod on linen

Along with the woolly botanicals I’ve also been embroidering on some soft linen, most of what I’m embroidering has been inspired by walks over the marshes and meadows that are behind where I live.  In the Summer the pastures were so full of flowers, in June one pasture was a mass of yellow and mustard, as all the golden blossomed flowers seemed to appear at once.

One of the most abundant growing plants has been goldenrod, there’s always lots of it about but this year was amazing…especially as so much of it was growing alongside the red sorrel, so it was all mustard and rust together….

The embroideries on linen are going to be project bags, something you can pop your knitting or crochet into to keep it safe from kitties and such like.

 

green Christmas stockings with tiny blue snowflakes

Along with the botanical embroidering I’ve been finishing off some more of the little stockings and putting them into my Folksy shop….these are probably my favourite item to make, I love seeing peoples faces at fairs when they see these…they really do light up and I’ve seen even the most sour-pussed old grouch beam when they see them, picking them up and often I get told how they either had one very similar when they were small, or had to have one of their dad’s old socks….eyes begin to twinkle and often I have to blow my nose after they leave…. (I’m just a daft old silly)….

As I’ve said before, we just have Bernard (I shouldn’t say “just” as he’s my treasure and I love him with all my heart) and don’t have little ones but when I make these I do get a bit broody…it’s hard not to as these are so cute and I imagine them getting filled with all sorts of tiny treats….but also they are so difficult for me to turn right side out, I’ve got very long fingers and there are times I wish Saski and Hania (the sister’s of Ivo who I made the quilt for) lived nearby so they could help me with the fiddly bits.

I like the wee green one on the left, I’ve left off the pom pom trimming as I wanted to make something really simple, but thought leaving the original blanket stitched edge makes for a nice little detail.

Little bear with Christmas Stocking

This little fellow hasn’t made an appearance lately, a tiny one eared treasure from Oxfam a few years ago….I love his little face and the fact he only has one ear means he once meant the world to somebody and now means it to me…..he often finds his way downstairs around now as I think he looks so Christmassy…perhaps he needs a new bow tie this year though as on closer inspection the one he’s wearing is terribly sun faded.

If you like the stockings and are local I’ll be at The Green Party Christmas Fair this Saturday (5th December ) and I’ll be popping one in to their Christmas raffle.

The fair is on between 11 and 3 and is at Chantry Hall in Norwich (if you’re not sure where that is, go up to Chapelfield Mall, and you’ll see  Wangamama’s Restaurant is on your right, walk round the back of there and Chantry Hall is front of you …..the regular walk way in from Theatre Street is having work done to it at the moment apparently)

My friend Ian will also be there and he sells produce on behalf of Zaytoun…their olive oil is really good and they also make a za’atar herb mix which is brilliant for winter casseroles or adding into dumplings.

 

 

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…..

 

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 cobwebs 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.

 

 

Every stitch by hand………the journey of two little star quilts.

finished arrangement

 

I wanted to write a round up piece about the two quilts I’ve recently finished making…a little journey of Peggy and Pearl’s quilts…….I’ve put in links to where I’ve waffled on about a particular part of the quilt before so I’m hoping I won’t be repeating myself too much.

The quilts were a commission by a very proud dad for his beautiful twin daughters Peggy and Pearl.  The hardest part of the commission was planning the design and overall feel of the two quilts….the design brief was one of those oh it sounds so simple until you try it kind of things…the quilts needed to be different but also similar (the girls will be sharing a bedroom so the quilts needed to compliment rather than clash).  I’d also made big sister Olive a quilt the other year and I needed to bring in a design element from her quilt too……

 

finished composition

 

After lots and lots of pots of tea, and many hours spent drafting out designs and colouring them in (even going so far as to paint up papers to create my own little paper patchworks to help with giving the work a sense of the fabrics) I arrived at two designs which I felt happy with….this was in fact helped by a few text messages with their awesome Aunty Ally who said their mum liked stars.  So I played around with different star blocks and incorporated one of the star designs with large squares to tie in with the quilt I’d made Olive.

 

fabric from Pretty Fabrics and Trims....

 

Then I set about choosing fabric.  I had a good idea of the sort of prints I was after, but I was seeing so many that I just couldn’t keep track so I made a pinterest board of all the fabrics I thought suitable….once I felt I had a really good selection of designs and colours, I went back through the boards and picked out particular favourites.

I also tried to limit myself to the amount of shops I was going to be purchasing from…it wasn’t an easy task and sadly I had to miss out a few gorgeous prints because perhaps that shop only had one print I liked, or only sold it by the half metre.  (Because I wanted to use lots of different fabrics I had to limit myself to only buying fat quarters)…..Anyway I whittled down some hundred different prints to about 20 that made my heart leap from three different shops.

 

fabrics from Sew and Quilt

 

I never stick to just one designer or company, (though Whistler Studios at Windham fabrics is a firm favorite of mine, and the Aunt Grace range from Marcus Brothers is very nice too)….I just prefer to really mix up the prints and colours for a better contrast.

I also ordered prints in different colour combinations as I always think that seeing the same print but in a different colourway adds extra interest to the overall look of the patchwork.

Once the fabric arrived it was all hand washed and hung on the line to dry. (I wash all my patchwork fabric, it still wrinkles and looks lovely and “antiquey” when it’s been quilted, but it’s also much easier to hand piece together when it’s had a wash first.)

 

lecien blue print star block

 

Then I spent a while combining the prints together to see which worked together the best.  This is a lot of fun because it means I get to spread out fabric everywhere, and can spend a coupe of days adjusting and moving prints back and forth until I’m happy and I feel the colours really sing. (this blue and pink combination is a real favourite)

I made a note of the fabrics which were being used and pinned tiny swatches to a work board so I could keep track of what was being used where.  Then the blocks were cut and I began to piece them together.

 

pinned star point pieces

 

All the patchwork was sewn together by hand, it’s my preferred method of working as it means whatever I’m sewing is nice and portable so if it’s sunny I can move my work basket out of doors, and it’s quiet so I can listen to music.

Once the stars for the first quilt were sewn I then set about pinning them together and joining them up to make the first patchwork top.

 

early moning shadows

 

The clocks changing and the sunshiney weather made a big difference to the light in my work room, several times I was treated to beautiful shadows dappled across the patchwork while the small squares were pinned on to a design board.

Once the “evening star” blocks were finished for the second quilt, I then had the challenge of arranging them so the prints and colours would sing and compliment rather than sit uneasily and grump. (trust me, if fabric isn’t sitting happy then it looks proper grumpy)

 

finished patchwork for quilt one

 

When the joined blocks are all finished it feels lovely….and I can begin to see the patchwork tops as quilts…I really think all the time spent playing with papers and painting them up to make the little paper patchworks paid off.   When I’ve explained to friends what I’ve been doing I could see them thinking “she’s off her rocker” but it was hard to imagine how the patchwork would look when you only use a solid colour…..the finished patchwork has come out just right, and captures for me…. sunny days, ice creams and lollies, day trips to the sea side…..an overwhelming feel of happiness and smiles.

 

all ready to quilt

 

I’d bought just enough of the back fabric to be able to use it as a border for the front of both quilts, this was carefully cut (one of the only times I used a rotary cutter while making the quilts…the other time was when I was making the binding)…and then pinned and sewed around the tops and sides.

Once the binding is in place, it’s time to baste the quilt. It’s a bit like making a huge quilt sandwich but instead of using bread you’re using fabric with the wadding as a soft and puffy filling.  I like to do this on our carpet and I also like to thread baste my quilts as I find this holds the layers together more securely. A quilt this size takes a few hours to baste securely, so it’s not too bad, though you might want to get up and have a shake about every 15 minutes or so as it’s a bit hard going on your knees and back.

I also sew some spare fabric (old calico or American muslin or curtain lining) round the corner sides and edges where the quilt doesn’t really have a lot of room to fit in the hoop.  I find it much easier (and get a nicer quilting stitch too) if the section of my quilt I’m quilting is sitting in the middle of the hoop rather than right at the edge.  Sewing the extra fabric round means you have a bit more room to move your hoop about, and it makes sewing those stitches easier as the needle isn’t being forced in a cramped little space.

Once you’ve basted your fabric layers together, your patchwork top suddenly changes…you’re now holding a quilt, okay the basting stitches are rather big and unsightly, but it’s definitely quilty looking.

 

needles in action

 

There are different ways to mark up your quilt, it depends a bit on the pattern you’re wanting to stitch.  For these quilts I thought a baptist fan pattern would help soften the edges and seams of the fabrics and different blocks.

In the past I’ve used silver quilter’s pencils and ordinary hb pencils.  I’ve used a water erasable blue pen for these quilts as I knew they were going to be quilted relatively quickly and the pen wouldn’t be on the fabric for a long time.

When I’m quilting the baptist fan I like to thread up a load of quilting needles all at once and then i can just keep quilting rather than keep stopping and starting threading up needles…also I find working a curve with several needles on the go at any one time helps give the arc of the fan a nicer, more even curve.

 

translucent patchwork and quilting

 

When the quilting was completed, I lightly spray the patchwork top with water to remove the blue pen, and allow them an hour or so to dry in the sunshine outside….I loved how translucent the patchwork looks, and the quilting is just ghostly and barely noticeable.

Finishing a quilt always makes me sad….something that has been a big part of my life for the past some weeks (or more often years) is coming to an end.

 

then continue slip stitching along the rest of the binding

 

I prefer to make my own binding, it allows me to chose exactly which print or fabric I want, and not rely on what a shop stocks. Sewing the binding to the front, carefully joining the edges, rolling the binding over and sewing it to the back and then mitring the corners…tiny stitches all by hand…..

Slowly sewing the binding around the edges allows me my goodbyes, and generally I get a bit teary which I know is really daft.  It’s very hard to actually present someone with the quilt when it’s completed…so much of yourself has gone into it….you hope good things for it…to be held tight by sticky warm hands …to be loved and snuggled and cuddled ….night time reads when it’s made into a tent and books are quietly read by torchlight…poorly beds on the sofa where it helps someone feel better……maybe it will be wrapped round favourite bears and dolls when they need their “nap time”……off on it’s adventures…a reminder of home and family……one day looked at and a voice asking “did someone really sew this all by hand?”…………………

 

pinned into place and slip stitching along the edge

 

If you would like to commission one for yourself or someone precious then both quilt designs are now listed in my folksy shop or you can contact me directly if you would like something even more bespoke.