Good times!

I do enjoy Christmas. The run up is always a little crazy with school nativities and activities, parties, planning and shopping, decorating, preparing and wrapping. I’ve had rehearsals for two different shows as well as taking part in my church carol service – learning the harmonies for various carols has been a particular highlight!

I also ended up with various creative projects on the go too. Along with the apron for my nephew which I showed you last time…

20171211_234120

There was a fair isle hearts hat for my niece. I used the TinCanKnits Clayoquot Toque pattern as the starting point, but changed it up with a folded brim and my own design for the hearts.

20171222_213959

And a wheat bag for my sister in law, which I made from a little corduroy skirt I found in a charity shop. I used my mum’s sewing machine to sew it – she’s got an all singing, all dancing Janome machine that took a little getting used to, but sewing machine aspirations right there! – and filled it with wheat and homegrown lavender.

20171224_205147.jpg

There’s also been a fair amount of baking. Vanilla shortbread and slightly experimental apple and cinnamon cupcakes with caramel buttercream (I’ll be making those again!). My first ever meringue kisses made in a hurry to use up some egg whites before we went away for a few days, and my first ever Christmas pudding which fed the family on Christmas Day.

Fortunately, Christmas itself is a time to chill out and spend time relaxing with family and generally not doing too much except eat and wash up and eat some more and keep the kids entertained!

When we travel up to spend time with my family, Mr Jack and I like to spend time on the journey reflecting on the year past. It’s been a good one, with lots of things falling into place following the last couple of years of upheaval with house hunting, moving, school uncertainties etc. The boys are well settled at their new school, and we feel better rooted in our new house and town. I’ve surprisingly become a runner over the last year. I’m loving parkrun, and though I didn’t quite officially meet my target of a sub-30 minute 5k parkrun by Christmas, I have done sub-30 training runs and I’m not far off that at parkrun. I’ve also shed nearly 2 and a half stone thanks to Slimming World. I aimed to be at target by Christmas and was just a couple of pounds away. Technically that’s within the target range anyway, so I’ll call it a win! I feel very boring going on about food and pounds but ultimately I feel so much better for having done it and just for me!

I’ve been involved in some great theatre this year too and am so excited for what’s lined up for next year already. My first turn in ¬†Shakespeare in February followed by a fun musical in March and then I’m booked to see both Harry Potter and Hamilton in London during April.

Then of course there’s also Unravel in Feb and the Knitting and Stitching show in March too. Plenty to be looking forward to.

For now though, I’m going to enjoy a few more days of food and family and a chance to not do much. Maybe I’ll manage to get this second crazy sleeve done before the year is out. Now that would be an achievement!

20171229_212754

 

Advertisements

Collective crafting

Tonight I had an impromptu craft evening with my best friend and fellow craft enthusiast.

We had a lovely chilled out evening, listening to music and chatting over her dining  table; me with my knitting, and her on the sewing machine. Check out the cute cupcake pouch she made for me!

20171127_215937

I took my cardigan and we looked at the sleeve length and decided it needs a couple more rows before the cuff. I should be able to get that done in the next couple of days as long as I don’t get distracted, (I may have cast on another colourwork hat…) and then on to the second sleeve. The end is surely in sight now!

I’ve even done quite well out of the evening. She’s tried knitting and crochet, but sewing is definitely her forte, so she handed me a bag of the most gorgeous alpaca fluff to finish off a scarf she’d been working on, and to knit her a matching hat! Lucky me!

20171127_231717

Treasure Trove

A random comment I noticed on a Facebook group last night sent me off on a treasure hunt this morning. It mentioned a fabric shop I’d never heard of, just a short drive from where I live. I’ve been on the lookout for some cheap knit fabric so I can practise the Renfrew top pattern I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show, before I let myself loose on the spensive fabric I bought with it.

The fabric shop itself was much smaller than I’d hoped and didn’t carry a vast amount of stock. Most of it was printed cottons suitable for quilting, but I did find an end-of-roll offcut of a pink floral-printed jersey. I didn’t measure it, but it was only three quid, so I bought it anyway and hope it might be enough for a first crack at a Renfrew.

20170429_172105

The treasure was to be found in the adjacent barn. It hosts a selection of small businesses, almost like a small indoor market – vintage clothes, art and papercraft supplies, a small haberdashery, a petfood stall, fruit and veg, even a yarn shop, but the crown was the most amazing Aladdins Cave of a cake decorating supplier. They stocked just about everything you could possibly want for cake decorating – tools, toppers, food colourings, fondant icing, edible glitter, boxes, cake boards, stands, and a huge selection of cake tins for hire. I know where I’ll be heading next time I need some serious cake supplies, and it’s much nearer than the place I used to go to!

I think I’ll have to keep looking for a good local fabric shop. I discovered a great one a few weeks ago when I visited a friend and her yarn shop in Essex, but sadly that can hardly be considered local! Still, if you’re in the vicinity of Braintree in Essex, Blake House Craft Centre is definitely worth a mooch. They have a whole range of shops there though I’ve only been in two of them myself. And Sew On stocks a wide variety of fabrics and haberdashery supplies. I could have lost hours in there and left with a considerably lighter purse had I been in the mood for indulging. Just next door is my friend’s shop Sconch, which is just yarn heaven. It carries probably the biggest range of yarn types I’ve ever found in a single yarn shop. They have a great space for running Craft and Cake sessions several days a week. The staff were friendly and helpful. They also run an online shop which I’ve ordered from in the past and they have excellent customer service. I’d definitely recommend stopping by if you can.

I’m resisting buying any yarn at the moment as I have several projects lined up already, but I couldn’t come away completely empty handed, so I bought these cute stitch markers.

20170429_174713

What’s your local yarn or fabric shop like? Have you ever come across a crafty treasure trove?

Spring Knitting and Stitching Show

I had something else in the pipeline to post about, but I fell off my shoes at a rehearsal the other day and injured my wrist, which has put both crafting and typing about it slightly out of the picture for a few days. It’s nearly better now, so I’m just popping in to say I’m off to the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show at London Olympia this weekend, and having just perused the website, I’m now rather excited about it. I hope I’ll remember to take a few photos while I’m there this time. Is anyone else going? Do say hi.

In the meantime I’ll just drop this little teaser of what I’ve been up to recently. The stripes have been temporarily abandoned!

20170225_134702

ALL the crafts.

Why is it that when there is stuff you really *should* be doing, like, y’know, packing and cleaning your entire house, sorting, sifting and culling vast amounts of junk and generally getting ready to move house, THAT’s when you most want to just do ALL the crafting?

I’m slowly working on my Stripes Gone Crazy. I’m almost down to the first colour change, which is exciting stuff. I’m not 100% convinced my sizing is quite right – it seems like it might come out a little narrow at the shoulders, but I’m not quite sure, so of course I’m just ploughing on regardless. I haven’t quite figured out the problem of not having quite enough yarn yet either, but I think I can contact the seller I bought it from at some point when I’m more sure what I need.

I had a great conversation over lunch with a friend the other day, who is just getting started on crochet. I think she’s already a perfectly competent knitter, but she wanted a bit of advice on a new project which I was only too happy to help her with. I ended up coming home and immediately casting on (would you say casting on for crochet? Looping on?) a hat for her little man. She actually wanted booties for him, but they can be part of a set, right!?

imag3349

I’m also hankering after a sewing project or two now. I cracked my sewing machine out briefly in the summer to do a couple of mending jobs. Firstly I searched high and low to find a new backpack for a trip I was taking and couldn’t find anything that was quite what I was looking for, so I fixed up the tear in the top of my old one. Good as new!¬† Then I repaired a couple of worn patches in some jeans. I used iron on patches for one area, but got a little more creative on a hole in the pocket.

imag3299

I placed a small patch behind the fabric and did some long stitches in zigzags to hold it together. It’s not the neatest thing ever, but I quite like the look of it.

I’m not sure how much longer this pair of jeans will hold up for though, and honestly, trying to find some new trousers or jeans that I like and actually fit me well is proving to be a tough and tedious job. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried on around 20 pairs of trousers in various shops in the last week. Which has got me keen on the idea of attempting to sew myself a pair.

I’ve ordered some fabric online (I’m never quite sure how wise it is ordering something like that online when you can’t accurately judge either colour or texture) and am scouting out patterns. I think the Sewaholic Thurlow Trousers pattern is top of the picks at the moment. I’ve never sewn a garment before, so it’ll be a whole new voyage of discovery for me, but I’m up for the challenge. Well, I will be, once I’ve moved house and unpacked and done all the things that need doing to get the new place shipshape…

And then there’s cake. Pumpkins birthday approaches, so he’ll no doubt request some crazy cake creation once again. I’m definitely not doing Toothless again!

 

Woolly Welsh wonders

We have just returned from our mega family gathering over in west Wales. It’s usually an every-other-year holiday, but we all enjoyed it so much last year that we decided to do it again sooner this time. There were nearly forty of us this year, and we just had a fabulous week. The boys absolutely loved it! We have a great site that we use, with several houses grouped together, as well as grounds to explore. Pumpkin, being a little older, was granted freedom to roam the site with other cousins his age and older. There was a playhouse in the woods, a climbing frame and swings, woodland dens and trees to climb. Pickle mostly stayed within the courtyard garden, playing with younger cousins and a variety of bikes, balls, frisbees and pushalong toys. Every so often, he would sidle slowly towards the gate, wanting nothing more than someone to accompany him simply to throw stones in the small stream.

Day trips were had, to beaches and gardens, houses and museums. We went off for coastal walks and train rides, picnics, ice cream, and of course Fish and Chips for tea on the best little beach on the last day. Bliss!

Our first day trip of the week was to Llanerchaeron, a National Trust property, which had a sheep shearing demonstration on, as part of their May Half Term activities. The man demonstrating was very interesting to listen to – before beginning the shearing, he showed various tools and items traditionally used in sheep farming and shearing. He had great knowledge and a witty style – I could have listened to him for hours.

Sheepses awaiting shearing

Sheepses awaiting shearing

IMAG2558

Trussing the sheep up ready to be shorn.

IMAG2561

Mid-shear

The full fleece

The full fleece

As well as the shearing, there were also members of the Ceredigion Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers on hand, demonstrating just about everything involved in taking the fleece from sheep to yarn to finished object.

IMAG2565

I quite fancied having a go on a spinning wheel, but the closest I got was a drop spindle. Pumpkin wanted to try it, so I helped him. He found the drop spindle a bit tricky, but loved vigorously twirling a different, sort of helicopter style one, while the lady drew out the fibre. He was very pleased with his little bag of wool straight from the sheep, and ball of hand-spun yarn, and excited to take it to school with him to show his teacher.

I also got a little bag of freshly-shorn wool, and was given a beautiful handful of fluff by one of the ladies.

IMAG2566

Natural, and indigo-dyed Wensleydale wool

This is apparently from a Wensleydale sheep, and the blue was hand dyed using home grown indigo from the lady’s own garden. The picture doesn’t really do it justice – it’s pretty and shiny and wiggly! I want to know what to do with it!
I’ve just weighed it, and there are just over 25 grams there. Not much, but useable. I’m going to have to go off and investigate exactly what I need to do with it so I can knit it into something small but nice. Unless any of you lovely readers have any clue or suggestions?

FO: The little desk that refused to give up hope

Once upon a time, there was a sad little desk tucked away in a junk furniture shop.

IMAG1814

The little desk was desperate to be pretty and loved, so it was overjoyed to be offered the chance of a new home.

The little desk was sanded down in the summer sunshine in the garden, and enjoyed the feel of its first fresh coat of paint.

But the weather changed, and the garden was no longer a safe place for the little desk, and neither was the garage. It took up its place in the hallway, but felt sad at being only half finished and poorly used. It looked on forlornly as its screws and fittings were misplaced, its wax overcoat was stashed in the coat cupboard and its beautiful paper dress was left in a roll on a bedroom floor.

But, eventually, time was found and the little desk was coaxed out for its final makeover. The fittings were found and screws were replaced. The paper dress was made bespoke, and the wax overcoat completed the look.

Just as the little desk was almost ready for its photoshoot, a small ogre came and pushed the little desk right over! The poor little desk feared that all was lost, but it was soon picked up and its wounds tended to, before being invited to take its rightful place.

It was still feeling a little grey…

IMAG2392

…but it soon realised that this was home, and gradually it bloomed…

IMAG2393

…into a beautiful thing.

IMAG2397

Baskets were found to fill its shelves and give it purpose once more.

IMAG2415

And the little desk lived happily ever after.

IMAG2403 IMAG2405 IMAG2404

The end.

Paint: Autentico Vintage Chalk Paint, Pigeon Grey and Antique Turquoise

Wax: Autentico Furniture Wax, Clear

Paper: Opera Wallpaper, Retro Leaf Teal/Green (glued with Mod Podge Matte)

Handles and Fittings: Original

Baskets: IKEA

Sneaky peek

Pumpkin and Pickle have been packed off to their grandparents for the week. I took them up and stayed a couple of nights, and just look what greeted me on the side table in my room.

IMAG2355

My grandmother’s bowl of cotton reels.

So, aside from rehearsals in the evenings – I should really tell you about those some time – Mr Jack and I have the best part of a week of child-free time to ourselves. Bliss! Well, if bliss involves wading through piles of paperwork and attempting to reclaim the house from under piles of unopened post, children’s drawings (many many many of them!), and general stuff. I’m sure it must be breeding.

But! On the plus-side, it has given me the opportunity to return to my little desk that I started painting way waaaaay back in the summer, and still haven’t finished.

IMAG1815

So here’s a little sneaky peek at what I’m working on, and hopefully I’ll have some finished pictures to show you by the end of the week.

IMAG2359

IMAG2361

Do you have a project that you’ve been desperate to finish but just unable to find the time to dedicate to working on it?

Speaking of which, I’ve finally tracked down and purchased another ball of yarn for my cardigan, so I may have another finished object to show you before long!