Saturday 30 January 2010

Good Books and Happy Thoughts!

I finished another book this week - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It was gentle, humourous, slightly old fashioned and full of wonderful quirky characters but by the time I reached the end I felt as though I'd read something quite powerful that told the story of the German occupation of Guernsey during World War II. The unusual feature of the book is that it is written entirely as a series of letters between author Juliet Ashton and various members of the Literary Society and other friends. It is a charming book... do read it if you get a chance!

It immediately brought to mind another delightful book that is largely a series of letters - 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. I read this years ago but fortunately still have my copy and so I've been reading this again this week too and it is just as good as I remember it. The true story unfolds through a series of letters written by the author Helene Hanff to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross road... wonderful stuff!

It did get me thinking how sad it is in these days of email, text messages and various other forms of instant communication that the art of letter writing seems to have virtually died out. Will historians of the future be able to put together such vivid pictures of the past without these wonderful personal accounts and little snapshots of lives that are contained in letters? And what about diaries... how many of us keep hand written diaries now that we have blogs? With this in mind I sat and wrote a letter to a friend yesterday...

Which brings to mind a tag I was given recently by Pink Cat to list 10 things that make me happy and so top of the list (and then rather randomly):

  • Receiving a hand written letter or note
  • Reading a good book
  • Finishing a current knitting project and deciding what to make next
  • Waking up and noticing the mornings are actually getting lighter at last
  • Waking up on a Saturday morning and realising that I don't have to work this weekend
  • Waking up on a Saturday morning, realising that I don't have to work this weekend AND discovering that the sun is shining... and being brought a cuppa in bed!
  • Finding a warm egg in the hens' nesting box
  • Eating that egg, poached on toast, for my lunch
  • Having a walk in the sunshine after lunch
  • Receiving parcels in the post... which is good news because Pink Cat and I have both posted each others seven days of specialness swap parcels which should arrive at the beginning of next week.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend and I hope the sun is shining where you are!

Friday 29 January 2010

A New Lease of Life

It is a favourite cardigan. Nothing fancy... light, jersey, cheap but comfortable and perfect for brightening up an outfit. When the hole first started to appear I would push my sleeves up and hope no-one would notice. But it got bigger and trying to stitch the cuff back on seemed an impossible task. Time for the rag bag?

Then I remembered some rather beautiful Japanese binding, bought years ago and put at the back of a drawer for the day I would find a use for it.

It seemed like a good use use for it....

And my favourite cardigan has a new lease of life. Do you think I should cover the buttons too?

p.s. Sorry about the dreadful quality of photos - I'm having camera problems that are putting paid to several potential blog posts and I'm not sure what to do about it! I've tried with flash, without flash, various settings and even photoshop editing but nothing is working. Arrrgh!

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Another little woad trip...

Cast your mind back to the long drawn out story of the woad dyed fabrics.... there was a challenge... Jude and I were to make each other Christmas presents using said fabrics. In desperation, Jude attempted to saw off her thumb to get out of her side of the bargain and sent me a wonderful book on knitting for Christmas instead. Meanwhile I cheated and dyed my fabrics with indigo. But yesterday a parcel arrived. With her thumb on the mend Jude has made me this gorgeous napkin holder so I may eat my lunch in style...

In truth, it is so beautiful I would really like to wear it... but my hand won't slip through. Instead I shall just linger over my lunch and sit and admire it while I wipe my mouth with my crisp white napkin... which beats the back of my sleeve anyday.

Thank you Jude... most unexpected when you'd already sent a gift but very much appreciated. Do you think we've finally come to the end of the woad....?

Sunday 24 January 2010

A Long Day

We had a great workshop at Art and Stitch yesterday - very busy and productive. I took lots of close up photos of each individual book thinking I'd make a very arty looking collage... and they were all out of focus! So here are all the finished books plus a few in progress that the ladies made. Didn't they do well!

I got straight home, made an apple cake to take as a pud and then we got dressed up to go out to friends for a Burn's Supper...

Needless to say I'm feeling a little jaded this morning... and the wearer of the above is still in his bed!

Friday 22 January 2010

Tickled Pink!

I'm quite sure that a lurid pink cake stand might not be considered the best possible taste but I couldn't resist it... especially at the princely sum of £1.60. And I was rather hoping it was so awful it might be considered kitsch.

But frankly, I don't care because where else could I sit my lurid pink cupcakes?

And I feel tickled pink every time I look at it!

Thursday 21 January 2010

Hot off the needles...

Another pair of Maine Morning Mitts... but this time for me!

Because they are so very easy and quick to make...
Because I had a skein of Rowan Colourscape begging to be used...
Because a girl can never have too many pairs of mitts...

And because they really are so very warm and cosy!

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Fun Guaranteed!

Do you live within easy reach of Peterborough?
Are you free on Saturday?
Do you fancy learning how to make little books?

I'm running a workshop at Art and Stitch this Saturday, 23rd January to make small books with origami folded pages. The covers are bonded layers of fabrics with trapped leaves, which are then machine stitched. We will cover some basic free machining as well as learning to make braids on the machine and at the end of the day you will have completed your own little book to take home. There are still some places available so get in touch with me or Angela at Art and Stitch if you are interested. Would love to see you there!

Fun guaranteed!

Monday 18 January 2010

Blue and White

When Alice posted about her beautiful Hyacinth bowl I was reminded of something I did years ago when I used to do silk painting. The Blue and White China company where Alice's bowl came from are fairly local to me and I know Andrew and Olwyn who own the company. Several years ago I was commissioned to paint a tie in the Blue Italian style for Andrew's 50th birthday

It took me several attempts, I ruined numerous ties in the process and it ended up costing me more money than I charged... but I was quite pleased with the end result. However... I no longer try to earn my living by silk painting!

Sunday 17 January 2010

Reading for Pleasure.

One of the things I wanted to do in 2010 was to read more. I actually already read a lot, but since starting the degree most of my reading has been related to whatever module I'm currently studying. Reading purely for pleasure has started to feel like a clandestine activity! So this year... it's going to be different. The first book I've finished is Small Island by Andrea Levy.

I was a little disappointed to find it serialised on BBC just before Christmas but I still watched it and enjoyed it, even if it did spoil the ending of the book slightly. It tells the story of Hortense and Gilbert, fresh off the boat from Jamaica, interwoven with the story of their landlady Queenie and her husband Bernard. It's a wonderfully senstitive story of post war Britain, filled with humour and warmth, dealing with the subjects of immigration and predudice. I can thoroughly recommend it!

The Thoughtful Dresser by Linda Grant is non fiction and I suppose it is related to my current fashion module, although not required reading. I found it a little repetitive yet interesting in parts as she discusses the importance of clothes in our lives and dismisses the idea that clothes, fashion and shopping are trivial interests. It certainly made an interesting read and Linda Grant has a blog called The Thoughtful Dresser.

And the book I've just finished in less than a week (in record time for me) is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I wouldn't normally choose a thriller but I'd seen this recommended on so many blogs I was curious... and I couldn't put it down! Fascinating characters and a gripping plot, I thought it was great! Usually with thrillers, once it becomes obvious who has done what and why I lose interest but this has me turning the page to the very end. And I've just ordered the next book in the trilogy!

Much has been written about Haiti on blogs over the past week and there are many different organisations that are helping, but if you are not sure where to give, check out Pebbledash where there is information about Shelterbox, a Cornwall based organisation.

Thursday 14 January 2010


Despite a fresh fall of white stuff yesterday morning (anyone else sick of it by now?) I pulled on my thermals and fur lined boots and ventured out on the train to London where I met Vintagerockchick. We were off for a visit to the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey. Not a fun day out you understand... purely research for my fashion module. The current exhibition (open until 24th Feb) is about Foale and Tuffin, young 1960s fashion designers... and I can thoroughly recommend it for anyone with a remote interest in Fashion.

Lots of lovely original fashion drawings by Sally Tuffin.

Lots of exhibits of the clothes, like this fabulous lace dress. Gill and I both thought we'd love to wear it until we really thought it through... scale up the size to fit us and we'd look like a pair of lace curtains...mmmm, maybe not then.

Upstairs they have recreated their workroom with the original cutting tables, sewing machine, paper patterns and sample books.

I especially liked the boxes of buckles under the work benches.

But my favourite thing of all... this gorgeous knitted jacket designed by Marion Foale. I would have loved it anyway but the fact that it's called the Gina Jacket... well, it's clearly made for me don't you think?

I loved this detailing that creates the shaping. After a rather posh bowl of soup in a fancy coffee house on Picadilly we ventured up Regent Street... to do a little more fashion research of course! And it would have been foolish not to have checked out the new Anthropologie shop wouldn't it?

We were amazed by this whole wall (spanning all three floors) of living plants. I personally thought it looked like an ingenious solution to a damp problem.

And there were a whole collection of these amazing chandeliers made from old plastic bottles. In fact the whole shop was amazing. I don't usually enjoy shopping but I could have spent hours browsing around this shop. And I couldn't leave without just one tiny purchase...

I fell in love with this printed and embroidered tea towel. Stupid price for a tea towel but I don't think I'm going to use it for drying dishes. So after such a fun packed day of research... I've now got to get back to my workroom for some serious work!
It was a great day out Gill... thank you!

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Hot, hot, hot...

I wasn't going to do another post about our heating situation.

Passion by Margot Allen

But when this arrived this morning from a dear blogging friend, I couldn't resist. It sums up perfectly how good it feels to have the heating back on... and it put a very big grin on my face! Thank you Jackie!

Saturday 9 January 2010

We have heat!

The heating was switched back on at 5.45 this evening... and it feels wonderful! Thank you for all your kind comments offering encouragement, sympathy and help which were heart warming if not toe warming! Normal blogging will be resumed as soon as I've cleared the backlog of washing.

Friday 8 January 2010

I'M COLD!!!!

And I'm having a bit of a sense of humour failure...

I believed him... I believed him yesterday when he said "No problem, we should have heat back on by Friday evening." But he's gone home and we still don't have heat. What's more the water has been off all day too so I didn't even get the washing done... no clean sheets for me tonight.
Which is just as well really as I've not managed a shower today either!

The pub is beginning to sound like an attractive option this evening.

Good news, Bad news

Good news:
The new boiler is installed

Bad news:
It's not working yet

Good news:
The washing machine is fixed

Bad news:
I've got this lot to deal with and I've not even started on the towels and bed linen

(is this washing one's dirty linen in public?)

Good News:
Clean sheets and a warm house by tonight?

Wednesday 6 January 2010

We don't like snow!

And neither do I! Our new boiler was due to come at 9am today. Delayed by the weather, it arrived at 4pm - too late to do anything with it, so it's sitting in it's box in the garage. Looks like another night for wrapping up warm in front of the fire.

... maybe tomorrow?

Monday 4 January 2010

The Long and Winding Woad

Last August, you may recall my tale of growing woad in my vegtable patch, which was chopped up and boiled to make woad dye. You might also recall the subtle but somewhat disappointing results. Never one to overlook an opportunity my friend Jude suggested we split the fabrics between us and our Christmas challenge this year would be to make each others presents from the woad dyed fabric.

By October my pieces of fabric dyed during the summer were no longer subtle but had faded to the colour of sludge. Grey, mucky sludge requiring drastic action. There were still woad plants left in the garden, strong and green and so not to be beaten I decided to try again. This time I decided to try a different reducing agent and so I ordered a package of "Spectralite" thinking this might be more reliable. However while I waited for the spectralite to arrive there was trouble afoot!

And I know who the culprits were...

The hens having been given free range of the garden spotted the strong green woad plants and decided it was a feast for the taking! With no woad left I felt I was well and truely on a woad to nowhere.

You can run away but I know it was you!
So Art Van Go to the rescue...

And my sludge coloured fabrics were transformed to a lovely blue.

And so finally, a little later than planned (i.e. a little later than Christmas) and with a bit of cheating, I used the woad dyed fabrics to make Jude's Christmas present... a customised peg bag...

With a little message...

designed to hold these rather snazzy pegs!

Meanwhile, Jude tried to cut off her thumb to avoid having to do anything with her woad fabrics. A little drastic but it worked! Fortunately it is getting better.

Sunday 3 January 2010

Fresh start.

A new year and a fresh start... the Christmas decorations are down and packed away and I've been on a clearing up frenzy (mostly to keep warm) and I've transformed this...

into this! I still need to reorganise all that shelving but at least I can see the surface of my desk again and walk across the floor without tripping up.

Which is just as well because tomorrow I start my next degree module...

Embroidery for Fashion.

I'm looking forward to my bedtime reading!