Cat and rabbits and pink silky cheeks all embroidered by hand…..

grey-bunny

I’ve mentioned my friend Sasha on my blog a few times now, I love her colourful creations and happily pile up empty chairs or sofas around the house with her handmade cats and rabbits…. walking into a room full of these never fails to brighten up my morning and it’s only because our house is quite small that I don’t have more of them…(I’ve even got them in the bedroom and my work room too)……

Each creature is completely unique so is a real treasure as Sasha makes them by hand using vintage fabrics from all over the place, more often than not there’ll be just enough fabric for one lone toy….which was the case with this lovely rabbit, the soft grey corduroy is so fine and she said it was a handful of scraps, but just enough to make a face, paws and feet…..

bunny-close-up

What I’m so excited about is that finally you can contact Sasha online…..she doesn’t have an online shop (yet) but does at least have a facebook page where there are photos of a small selection of some of her amazing makes, and you can contact her directly there….previously it was just a case of finding her at a few random craft fairs throughout the year so I think this will be much easier if you’re interesting in buying one of her beautiful creatures.

This lovely grey bunny is one of her very latest makes and I would happily have given her a home.  I love those delicate doiley cheeks and the hand stitched floral ears…..

Bernard and his friends

Like I say, I already do have a fair few of Sasha’s beautiful creations….and as you can see I’m not the only fan of her work in our house…….this is one of our sofas.  When we have guests I quickly lug all of these upstairs so there is room to sit as it’s a bit rude to expect people to sit on the carpet….the orange cat is huge, he’s about 4ft something tall.  He was one of Sasha’s very early makes but I think he’s great…there are also toys on here that I’ve had since I was right little, and a much loved elderly auntie knitted the bear in the orange dress (she even has lacy edged knickers on)….from time to time Bernard decides to cuddle down amongst them, he’ll throw a few on the floor to make room for himself and then just sprawl out quite happy….and often a good bit of time goes by before I realize where he is.

sashas bunny 004

Another favourite from my personal collection is this gorgeous rabbit, she’s so glamourous.  When Sasha first showed me her I just fell in love…..Her little fur jacket is a vintage dolls coat…I always think she looks like she’s off to a fabulous party where it will be just full of amazing people….she’s quite large, a good two foot as she’s got quite long legs….she also makes me think of music hall girls with those pink silky cheeks.

All the face details are carefully embroidered with antique silk floss and vintage threads, in the past Sasha used to use lovely old buttons for eyes but I think she even embroiders those nowadays too……

sasha toys 002

And these are some other toys she made from a few years back, they all live upstairs and keep me company when I’m sewing….it’s been really amazing seeing Sasha’s style evolve slowly over time, I know she always laughs when she sees some of her earlier toys on display here but I thik they’re brilliant.

All of her creatures are made by hand and more often than not are dressed in vintage doll’s clothes or are wrapped in delicate scraps of antique doileys or cloth.  Sasha doesn’t really do bespoke or custom pieces to order as the fabric she carefully chooses to use to sew the toys is already very unique as it’s been brought from flea markets and brocantes, antiquey type shops and carboots and it’s pretty much impossible to then make doubles of anything made…..sometimes her toys come with beautiful vintage accessories like painted beds or prams but sadly she says these are becoming much harder for her to source.

IMG_1039

My most favourite toy she’s ever made though is my darling Miss Enid……in part because she was a present from my boyfriend but I also know Bernard adores her….if we ever had a fire Bernard would be tucked under one arm and Miss Enid the other….I love it when he  snuggles up with his head in her lap, all purrs and contentment.

I hope you’ll pop over and say hi to Sasha, and have a gander at her beautiful makes.  As well as cats and rabbits she also makes ribbon cloud mobiles and very pretty bunting which would be ideal if you are decorating a nursery or bedroom and want that vintage aesthetic…she also makes the most incredible swan cushions but I’m not sure if she has any of those left for sale.

 

 

 

 

 

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….

 

 

 

Wrinkled apples and the sound of my knitting…..

jamieson and smith aran wool knitted up using 6mm needles

The cupboards were getting a bit bare of basics after the holidays so I had to pop down to the shops at the start of the week, after a proper damp,dull and dismal weekend weather wise, which was actually a rather nice one for us…boyfriend spent the time stripping his computer and tinkering with it on the table and I sat on the sofa half watching old black and white films while knitting my shawl with Bernard asleep in a windowsill or on the back of the nana chair supervising… Monday surprised us by being really bright, and splendid, all clear blue skies and birds chirping.  It properly felt like the start of a brand New Year,  clean and fresh and brimming full of potential and who know whats.

Walks to the shop involve strolling past the crab apple trees, skeletal and nubbly limbed with the odd mouldering leaf or fruit attached to twiggy tips.  I’m so happy I made the syrups and jellies with the apples, it feels like I’ve captured a small piece of warm September, all orange sunshine and sweetness.  Across the path are some bigger apple trees in a neighbours garden,a few wrinkled old apples still remain on bare leafed and gnarly branches, vinegary scented ghosts of Autumn, flame red, amber and golden yellow…..they’re the same yellow as my shawl.

stitch markers along the patterned section

I love this golden mustard hue so much, evocative of so many things I see out on my marshy meanders, yellow bottomed bees, gorse and broom blossoms when it’s all overcast, October leaves and lichen on trees and the goldenrod that grows in abundance around my favourite blackberry bush…..it’s such a warm colour and will even match my Ella Gordon gloves….As it’s wool the colour seems that much more warm, it’s a strong colour but it’s such a natural and familiar one, not eye aching and somewhat vomity coloured like some acrylics I’ve seen…..

As the shawl widens, rows become slower to knit and progress seems to dawdle along, but each time I get up to make tea I can see the fabric gradually growing.  When I knitted the shawl the first time I didn’t have a whole lot of idea as to what I was doing and whethe ri was knitting it wrong, so I kept close watch on the number of stitches each row had, writing down how many increases the pattern was making each time a new row was finished…and after a while I began to be able to count and work out how many sttiches I should expect to have on my needles……

stitch markers help me keep my place

When I first knitted the cloverleaf pattern I was rather worried I’d lose count and tied in bits of old wool every sequence of pattern, and that worked fine but I thought using beaded sttich markers might be a bit nicer….and I like the weight the beads give to the feel of my knitting (it’s the same with my pens, I always favour the heaviest lumpiest old fountain pens to anything lightweight and streamlined.)

glass bead stitch markers

Some Christmases ago my boyfriend bought me a box of delights, a little leather suitcase full brimming with vintage haberdashery pieces…along with a pair of beautifully sharp embroidery scissors and Dewhurst Sylko threads, were no end of little boxes and tins, and I felt rather like Howard Carter opening them all to see what was hiding inside…”wonderful things”…… one of the tins of wonderful things held a collection of glass beads all strung in a higgedly piggedly way, and I’ve always wanted to use them but have never really known what to make with them…..a lot of my fancy sewing or knitting notions have been presents from friends, family, people I  love who I straight away think of when I use these pieces….and so I thought to make some stitch markers with the beads then I’d be using them plenty rather than have them just sit all tucked away and half forgotten.

home made stitch markers

I was going to use jump rings as I’ve already got some stitch markers that use those, but they do snag a little if I’m not super careful, luckily the Jamieson and Smith wool is nice and robust and can cope with the odd catch or snag but I wouldn’t want to use those markers on anything too delicate..then I remembered an old jewelry fixing I had kept and ferreted away from a broken necklace, it was part of a toggle clasp and I thought it would be perfect, so I bought a little packet of them and spent some time over the holidays making stitch markers from the beads…so now when I use them I think of my boyfriend but also Ian* and his dirty little hands as I suspect it was him who had threaded up the beads originally.

The little head pins I used were from a local bead shop and they have tiny silver pearls at the bottom of the pin which fitted up against the beads perfectly…I’ve found the toggle clasps fit up to a 6mm needle fine….they feel so nice to use, and really do help me stop making some silly mistakes with my knitting.

What with the shuffling rapsy sound of the wool and the soft wooden resonance of my needles, the jingling of the markers is making me feel and sound somewhat like a one man band when I’m knitting…..

 

*inside the sewing box was a piece of carefully preserved card with rows of brightly coloured wool sewn in a running stitch…on the back was a note from a very proud grandma…..it’s become one of my most beloved treasures and I wouldn’t part with it for the 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…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

A day trip to Bungay

a day trip to bungay 004

 

On Monday I had a little day trip to Bungay to see a couple of very dear friends and also to purchase a few haberdashery items I’d become low on.

First up was a pop into Wightmans which is a lovely shop, it’s what is called a traditional store and by that I mean the staff are nice and friendly and they seem to stock a little bit of everything.  They have a nice selection of velvet ribbon and pom-pom trimmings which I was running short on (I use them for my  Christmas Stockings)…and I also picked up some green darning wool to mend my socks (not just any socks but hand knitted ones by Anne the queen of knitting….I’ve worn them half to death and the bottoms are becoming somewhat threadbare).

 

Photo

( picture is copyright Ruby Tuesday)

 

One of my favourite vintage stalls from Norwich Market, the lovely Ruby Tuesday has now moved to Bungay to a proper shop.   So had a little browse in there and it was vintage heaven.  Full of very swishy frocks,  vintage knitted woolies, (including a smashing selection of knitted tank tops which are always my favourite) and some lovely tweed jackets.  Along with the clothes there were some other vintage pieces on sale (there was a beautiful little red flask and some really nice pieces of china).  There was lots that I could very easily have bought, however, this close to holiday shopping and numerous family birthdays I had to be very good….however after Christmas….it may well be another story!  They also sell vouchers which is particularly handy if any of my family is stuck what to buy me as a present this year!

 

fabric bungay 004

 

After sewing the quilt for Miss Olive I needed to top up the fabric collection, and so bought some 1930’s inspired fabrics from Sew and So’s.  I really like the fabric with the little houses,  and then couldn’t decide whether I preferred the blue or purple flowers….so went for both.  I only really ever buy fat quarters (which for ages I thought were called fat quilters) so I wasn’t really going too crazy.

 

fabric bungay 006

 

The fabric in the middle is one of my all time favourites and have bought it before in green , in purple, and in this salmon pink.  However I only had a teeny bit left in the salmon so while they had it I bought it.  The yellow gingham is also a favourite and have been buying a variation of this fabric for over a decade.  It never fails to raise a smile with it’s cheery colour.  If a fabric could sing then this one would whistle as well.  Finally, I then saw the red floral fabric and couldn’t resist.   The colour is brilliant, a proper orangey red which reminds me of a Yardley lipstick my Nanny used to wear.  The print is a little larger than I normally like to use but I loved the colour so much.

I bought the lovely yellow roses from one of Bungay’s numerous charity shops…I think there are now 5 or 6 charity shops all within a few minutes walk (some are almost next door to each other).  These were sitting looking rather dejected and I almost passed them by but then I remembered the nice vase I’d bought which although pretty couldn’t be used for real flowers (tried it….and flooded the table as vase has a massive crack along the bottom so not waterproof!) and thought they’d look perfect together…

The rest of the time was spent in drinking lots of tea and eating lots of biscuits) including pink wafers which are my favourites….I don’t buy them very often because I can wolf down a whole packet without realising what I have done) and spending some time with two of my favourite ladies.

I also had my crochet bag, which was full of my Jamieson’s wool purchase and spent the bus journey crocheting little leaves ready to sew up in to flower posy brooches.  My Christmas craft fairs are less than two weeks away so any spare time is spent sewing and crocheting.