Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Oh calamity!

Well, given the title of my last post, you'd be forgiven for thinking that I had been on strike for the last week or two. I have, of course, been amazingly busy and, er...lazy in equal measure. The two Bearwood Handmade fairs, that I had a share in organising, were out of this world successful. I'm in awe of the supportiveness of my local community, who once again came out in force. There were some fabulous artists selling their wares too and I'd like to thank everyone who was involved with both days for being tremendous. When not organising Bearwood Handmade or making owls and embroideries to sell, I've been thinking about Christmas, but sadly not making much progress. I've barely made anything, not even a card and now catastrophe has struck. Ok, it's not that bad. Well actually, it is. Our main computer has broken, we fear, for good, this time. And initially I'm all, hey ho, never mind, we can cope without a computer. BUT...I'm supposed to be running an online business here (and blogging about it). I've more or less sold everything listed in my Folksy/Etsy shop which is great. But now I probably won't be listing anything anytime soon. I'm typing from a borrowed IPad, which has several limitations. Notice the lack of photo here. I've lost a lot of photos. Everything is so difficult and frustrating. Plus, the music has gone. I mean, most of it (like the photos I think) was backed up on a hard drive about six months ago (back up regularly people) but it's no good to me there. I can't just select a good tune to suit my mood and hit the iTunes genius button and have a perfect soundtrack to my day. To add insult to injury the CD player is also on the verge of giving up for good. And what's really annoying is that these things aren't even old. The stereo system we bought when I was pregnant with my eldest, so about 7 years ago and the Mac is only 3 or 4 years old. I've got jars in my fridge older than that! So, basically I'm saying that for the immediate future till I work all the technology stuff out I' going to be a little quiet. I have no idea what the solution to this problem is...we cannot afford a new computer and the fault, we think, makes repair too expensive. It may mean the decision to get a job or carry on with my making/selling adventure is made for me. I might have to finally get a proper job and start earning some money. And that'll be easy with the economy in meltdown! This is possibly the most moany thing I've ever written and I hope I'll never have cause to write anything quite this moany again. For now, I'm going to wish you all a happy Christmas, along with good health and long lives, and get back to enjoying this most festive of seasons in the best way I can. The chocolate gingerbread is just out of the oven, we're collecting our tree this afternoon, I have cards and presents to make and my lovely family to cook a nice warming dinner for this evening. Who needs a fucking computer.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

If I still worked in the public sector I'd be on strike today

Many, many years ago I worked for the local council. Worked very hard too, in a front-line service. There was a time, when we'd had our conditions and pay squeezed time and time again that I went on strike. For over four months. We didn't win the battle but I'd do it all again because we did it for all the right reasons. I just read this piece by Frances O'Grady in The Guardian and thought I'd share it with you. In solidarity.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Due South

I just posted on the Crafty Muthas site again. Busy getting prepared for another craft fayre in lovely South Birmingham, in the suburb where I spent some of my very early years and from where my beloved hails. It's Kings Heath of course.

Me and Ceri will be representing (I get all street when I'm in 'mutha' mode) this Saturday 26th November at the All Saints Craft Fayre in the All Saints Community Hall, 2 Vicarage Road, B14 7AA.  It's on from 10.00am until 2ish.

As well as all the handmade goodies there will be seasonal refreshments, free mince pies (they're mine, all mine), a prize draw and entertainment by the Moseley Village Band.

Hope to see you there. Please tell your friends. Thank you and Goodnight. I've got Masterchef to watch!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Crafty Ranty

It's currently all happening over on the Crafty Muthas blog. I've been hanging out there for a week or two as we've all been posting about our makes for Saturday's Bearwood Handmade. Please take a look and of course, if you're local, I hope to see you there.

I've also been furiously sewing (I don't think that's even possible, embroidery being the most relaxing, calming thing ever) for a whole raft of upcoming craft fairs elsewhere. On Sunday, you'll find me in Newcastle under Lyme at Staffordshire Handmade again. 

So please, if you're celebrating Christmas this year and you're in need of gifts, buy handmade where you can and support local creatives instead of lining the pockets of greedy shareholders peddling tat. And don't even get me started on big companies totally destroying classic songs for cheesy Christmas ad campaigns....I'm getting furious now because I'm busy and stressed. Time for more sewing. All will be calm again by Saturday morning.  

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Fine Romance

My old friends, Mark and Helen, got married in October. We had a lovely day at Birmingham's Fazeley Studios (stunning venue) and there was a bit of a handmade element to the day - amazing cake by my good friend and Crafty Mutha, Rachel, flowers were casually but artfully arranged in vintage vases by Helen's 'knit club' friends, silk hankies were made for the groom and his main men by best gal Zoe and even I got in on the act - making teacup candles for the tables. 

Photos by Lorna Rose

I'd been thinking for ages about presents for the happy couple. The first part was easy enough actually. Mark has long admired some prints I have above my fireplace by artist Sophie Blackall. They're from her Missed Connections series. I saw them on Etsy a few years ago and my mate Nat was sweet enough to give me three for my 40th birthday. I love her imaginative drawings and her colour palette but most of all I love the story telling quality of each picture. I chose this one for Mark and Helen because in it, there was the tiniest suggestion of them. I can almost picture their heads on top of the shirts.

Floral Jacket by Sophie Blackall from Etsy

Of course, I had to make them something too. I had been wondering what, but then on Helen's hen weekend (yep, we had a whole weekend in a tipi at Ash End House Farm in Tanworth-in-Arden) a sort of 'Mr and Mrs' quiz had been arranged. One of the last questions was "What celebrity couple does Mark think you're most like?" Drunken cacklers shouted 'Posh and Becks' and 'Brangelina' but we were way off. Helen failed to guess, but Mark's answer had been 'Laurel and Hardy'. I thought it was the sweetest, most appropriate answer anyone could have come up with, because they're such a sweet and funny couple.

So I had my theme, but what to do with it. When the idea came to me I was both pleased and relieved. Of course, a hoop was involved. And embroidery. I googled the famous duo to find a suitable image to trace. I thought this recognisable pose would work well for a silhouette. Then I re-traced it and added the words. Then re-traced it again onto muslin and just stitched it using tiny stitches and fine thread. It just worked straight away. The quote I used is a famous one but actually a mis-quote. Turns out Ollie actually said "nice mess" not "fine mess" but I like the look and sound of 'fine' more. So there.


At the reception, Mark revealed he'd had a secret tattoo done a couple of days earlier, so that he'd always have Helen close to his heart. The guests whooped with joy and laughter when he opened his shirt to Helen's amazement. And best man, Andy, had captured this awesome photo of the tat that morning. Only thing is, looking at this, I think maybe Posh and (definitely) Becks is a more appropriate comparison now! Looking good my friend. Looking good.

Photo by Andy Conway

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

I would go out tonight but I haven't got a stitch to wear

I'm stitching another one of these at the moment....they're proving very popular. I'm not sure if people just love The Smiths, or whether they do in fact have nothing to wear. I'm pretty sure it's a combination of the two. Actually, I think most people do have a 'stitch', it's just they're always finding new excuses to buy a fresh outfit.

Well, not me. Financial constraints and a general dislike of big shopping malls mean that when it comes to kitting myself out for big occasions and nights out, I just borrow clothes. I know. You've heard about borrowing, surely? We do borrowing really well round here actually. Just recently friends have popped round to borrow eggs, sugar, syrup, food colouring, vanilla, (it was different people, not just a neighbour making a cake with the contents of my kitchen) toys and pins. I have a sewing machine here on pretty much permanent loan (thanks Rach) and now, plenty of people willing to lend me the shirts off their backs so that I can look presentable at parties.

I've borrowed dresses for the last four weddings I've attended. I literally had nine dresses to choose from last time. It was like a remake of Pretty Woman in my bedroom. (With a shorter, heavier and less smiley woman) And people have offered shoes, bags, jewellery, wraps and coats too. My friends are so generous and I'm obviously not afraid to ask. I also like to think that the clothes are happy too. I don't want to anthropomorphise individual items of clothing, (I probably do) but if you think of all the work that goes into creating and selling a dress for instance. The design, making the materials, making the dress, shipping, packaging, selling - all the people and processes it goes through. Then we wear it once or twice and hang it in the wardrobe until the next clear out. The dress deserves better.

So if anyone has a big occasion coming up and needs anything to wear, you know who to ask. My mates. Not me, I haven't got a stitch to wear.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The fox-ness of the fox

I'm drawn to foxes, particularly those that live amongst us in our busy streets and tiny gardens. I don't see them as a nuisance, more brave vanguards of their species, daring to live amongst us crazy humans. I'm planning to do more of these embroideries, using the other wild animals and birds that share our environment. I'm enjoying the intricate stitching and it's nice to freestyle. I draw the faint outline onto muslin and then just stitch away from it in any direction I please, building the geometric shapes from triangles as I go, ocassionally changing the pattern to cause a bit of chaos.

I just had a thought about a favourite poem and decided to share it with you. I'm not a massive poetry reader but I studied Ted Hughes at school and liked him enough to buy his collection of poetry, 'Birthday Letters', a few years ago. This poem has always stood out for me. It's a great story for a start. And so sad. And now, re-reading it, I think I've created a bit of a 'cosmic derangement' for my little fox.

Epiphany by Ted Hughes

London. The grimy lilac softness
Of an April evening. Me
Walking over Chalk Farm Bridge
On my way to the tube station.
A new father – slightly light-headed
With the lack of sleep and the novelty.
Next, this young fellow coming towards me.

I glanced at him for the first time as I passed him
Because I noticed (I couldn't believe it)
What I'd been ignoring.

Not the bulge of a small animal
Buttoned into the top of his jacket
The way colliers used to wear their whippets –
But its actual face. Eyes reaching out
Trying to catch my eyes – so familiar!
The huge ears, the pinched, urchin expression –
The wild confronting stare, pushed through fear,

Between the jacket lapels.
    'It's a fox-cub!'
I heard my own surprise as I stopped.
He stopped. 'Where did you get it? What
Are you going to do with it?'
    A fox-cub
On the hump of Chalk Farm Bridge!

'You can have him for a pound.' 'But
Where did you find it? What will you do with it?'
'Oh, somebody'll buy him. Cheap enough
At a pound.' And a grin.
    What I was thinking
Was – what would you think? How would we fit it
Into our crate of space? With the baby?
What would you make of its old smell
And its mannerless energy?
And as it grew up and began to enjoy itself
What would we do with an unpredictable,
Powerful, bounding fox?
The long-mouthed, flashing temperament?
That necessary nightly twenty miles
And that vast hunger for everything beyond us?
How would we cope with its cosmic derangements
Whenever we moved?

The little fox peered past me at other folks,
At this one and at that one, then at me.
Good luck was all it needed.
Already past the kittenish
But the eyes still small,
Round, orphaned-looking, woebegone
As if with weeping. Bereft
Of the blue milk, the toys of feather and fur,
The den life's happy dark. And the huge whisper
Of the constellations
Out of which Mother had always returned.
My thoughts felt like big, ignorant hounds
Circling and sniffing around him.
   Then I walked on
As if out of my own life.
I let that fox-cub go. I tossed it back
Into the future
Of a fox-cub in London and I hurried
Straight on and dived as if escaping
Into the Underground. If I had paid,
If I had paid that pound and turned back
To you, with that armful of fox –

If I had grasped that whatever comes with a fox
Is what tests a marriage and proves it a marriage –
I would not have failed the test. Would you have failed it?
But I failed. Our marriage had failed.

Monday, 17 October 2011

the crow road

I've been wanting to take the embroidery in a new direction. And I needed a little project to take with me for an evening of babysitting last week. Erin and Tim lit a lovely fire for me and I happily sewed away all night, whilst watching the fab Stephen Fry series Planet Word. This is what I came up with.

And I love it. I've wanted to use negative space for ages and as you can tell from that Etsy treasury post a couple of weeks back, I'm loving geometrics at the moment (like everyone else). I can feel a few more of these coming on...in fact I'm itching to get started on another one right now.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

hoopy birthday

It was a friend's 40th recently. We had a lovely time - dancing, drinking, sitting outside till midnight on a balmy October evening! The words are Neil Diamond's. The card was made using a piece of old measuring tape.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

the wall

I hit a bit of a wall last week. In a mad panic to make before the Christmas craft fair rush starts, I had the crafters equivalent of writers block. Stuck and trying to think up new ideas, my head started to fill with questions. What could I make that would sell really well? What do people really want to buy? How can I crack the male market? I know. In the space of a day I turned from happy maker into sales obsessed hack. Suddenly, I want to please everyone. There are a couple of reasons for this. Now I'm relying on the crafty stuff to earn a living I really need the things I make to sell. And of course, if people buy your work, well, they're saying they like what you do. It's validation. And a nice ego boost. Fortunately, my friend Erin was able to knock (very gently) some sense into me and she wisely advised that I calm down and stick to making what I like. Don't search for sales, just trust what you do.

Well, I'm trying. I've been a little bit more productive. I made this little framed owl piece with a vintage doily moon to start with. I've embroidered a few stars onto it since I took this picture.

I've also made up some more owl mobiles because I sold out of them at the last fair. And some of the owl mini-pins. I've spent some quality time experimenting with a couple of new projects but I'm not sure that they will be ready for the weekend. And yesterday, just for fun, I made a couple of cute little hoops specifically for the lovely people of Fillongley. (Click here for info about this weekend's Fillongley Craft Fayre) Will they sell? We'll have to wait and see, but if they don't it's not the end of the world.

In other news, my online shops are doing ok. The Folksy one has had regular sales, though not nearly enough. I need to do more some networking and publicity drives. I can't imagine a time when I won't. You just have to keep plugging away with the online stuff. The problem is though, that time in front of the screen sucks the life out of me. Fair enough, surfing the blogosphere can be quite inspiring - there are so many talented designers, artists and makers out there, but it's also very easy to get carried away. Before you know it, you haven't showered or eaten and it's almost time to pick the kids up from school. (Well that's how it is for me anyway) And I haven't even mentioned Twitter. Or Facebook. Or Pinterest. Just writing this blog takes an age....

So there we have it. I hit a smallish wall. I climbed over it. And now I'm hurtling downhill towards Christmas madness. But Christmas or not, I know I've got some much bigger ideas, lots of plans and some new techniques to master. Plus lots of support from friends and family.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

treasure this

'We are Home' illustration by Virginia Kraljevic

I did my first Esty Treasury last night. If you're a seller or customer on Etsy (an international online marketplace for all things handmade and vintage) you can spend many happy hours browsing through beautiful things to pop into a collection (Treasury) that you post on the site for others to look at. I can spend many happy hours browsing Etsy as it is, but particularly in Treasury world. People put together some really lovely assortments, taking the most beautiful, edgy, well photographed images, often within a theme, and giving them a lovely title. Before you know it you're imagining spending all your pennies on things from Industry and Nature or Mod Glam Halloween or Bible Verses on Canvas (maybe not!) I say 'imagining spending' because that's all I'm likely to do. Actual spending won't be happening until there's some actual earning. But I did spend some time last night putting the finishing touches to my own little treasury. Geometrics are big at the moment, but there's a slight folky twist on them too, which appeals to me. So, here it is....i wish geometry was like this at school.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

hoops of fun

If you're looking to create a personal gift for a loved one or fancy crafting a cute display for an empty wall, why not come along to my next workshop and I'll take you through the whole process of making a unique piece of embroidered art, ready to hang and be admired. I'll be running the workshop with the C.O.W gals at their lovely studio in the Jewellery Quarter on Wednesday 12th October. I'll be making some basic templates or you may already have an idea of what you'd like to do - someone's name for example, or a simple illustration. For more info and booking click here.

Last weekend I had my first table at the Staffordshire Handmade and Vintage Fair. It was a lovely day, I met lots of very talented and inspiring artists and crafters from around the Staffordshire area and also some very lovely customers. Thanks to Lauren and Julie for inviting me. I'm looking forward to going back. If you fancy a trip to Newcastle-under-Lyme for some really top Christmas shopping, well away from the hustle and bustle of the high street then take a look at their blog for future fair dates.

Two of my fellow stall holders. Top left, Emily Notman and bottom left/top right, Maxine of Little Peche

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Thank you


Been meaning to write a thank you to all the wonderful people who have left comments and words of support on my blog since it started just a short while ago. I love getting comments. They really do brighten up a bloggers day, so please keep them coming. Also, I wanted to say a big thanks to some lovely people who have featured my little makes on their blogs or Etsy treasuries.

Firstly thank you to Deanne at Quirky Boots who featured one of my owls in her blog.

And thanks to these Etsy peeps...

Leslie at palimpsest blue with her treasury treetop adventure

Amy O. from greyish bleu with the leaves are fallin'

Melike from a cup of sparkle with husbands and wives

and Sarah from sentimental objects with unorthadox embroideries.

If you have a chance, click on the links and check out their work. And for a real treat take a look at the Poppytalk Lookbook at the top of this post. Some true gorgeousness in here.

I've been busy sending out application forms for our Bearwood Christmas Fairs this morning. By email of course. So my shoulders are a wee bit achy from being hunched over the computer whilst sitting in a draft. Time for coffee. Then on with the making. Designing some embroidered hoops for another workshop.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Antimacassar and me

Here are a few stitched works in progress. I actually discovered a new word recently. I was on a hen weekend in a tipi (!) talking to a friend about what I've been making lately. I was trying to describe the decorative cloth people put over the backs of chairs to prevent greasy marks. Your granny probably had them. Or maybe you do? Anyway, it is called an anitmacassar. A pretty amazing word for such a mundane piece of cloth don't you think?

I found these gorgeous vintage linen antimacassars at a local car boot sale in the summer, along with the hand-crocheted doily in the picture below. The lovely vintage rose fabric came from a friend. I'm thinking of stitching "I never promised you a rose garden" onto it.

My priority this week is to prepare for the Staffordshire Handmade and Vintage Fair. If you're around, or fancy a trip to Newcastle-under-Lyme on Sunday then do please pop along. Over the next few days I'll be running up some garlands on the machine and trying out a few new pieces that I hope to launch at the fair. I'll post about them later in the week. In the meantime why don't you pop over to their blog and see who else will be at the fair.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

"I'm Scor-tish"

I wouldn't dare bore anyone with the 500 photos we took on our recent trip to bonny Scotland, but here are 12...and they tell some of the story. I made some notes, a brief diary of our trip, every night when we were all snuggled up cosy and warm in Fleur, the campervan. We had the most amazing family holiday. We have some truly great memories that cannot be captured in pictures. Here's the abridged version:-

day 1: Pick up Fleur the van in the Lake District. Drive to Lochmaben. Rain. Sonny loses coat. Chicken and haggis for tea. Howling wind threatens to blow down nearby tree. Jez gets upper body wedged between bed and roof of van.

day 2: Swan and five signets come to say good morning. Fleur won't start. Fleur starts 2 hours later. Lunch at Loch Lomond. Accident ahead of us temporarily halts our journey. Get to Oban as the dazzling sun starts to set. Baked beans for tea.

day 3: Up early to catch Oban-Mull ferry. Problems with Fleur losing power. Miss ferry. Buy replacement waterproof coat for Sonny. Catch ferry. Slow, stressful drive to Tobermory. Discover amazing echo on walk to campsite. Kids dance to Tears for Fears and Cat Stevens. Late night visit from mechanic. He goes home because it's too dark.

day 4: Early morning visit from mechanic. Not good. We'll have to be towed back to England. But first we'll hire a car and see Mull. Rockpooling on Calgary beach. See deer, highland cattle, a black pig, hundreds of sheep, maybe an eagle, buzzards, waterfalls, lochs and mountains. Simply stunning. We eat out - langoustines for me, crab claws for Jez and mussel and smoked haddock broth for the kids.

day 5: Shipwrecks and castle ruins. Ranger led trip to forest hide where we spot 2 white tailed sea eagles. Boat trip to Bloody Bay and back. "Bloody bloody bay" chant the kids.  We see heron, seals, porpoise, a salmon farm, another pair of sea eagles. The best fish and chips ever for me and Scout. Boys have fun in the pub. Pick-up truck picks us up and drives us to the far side of island. We see deer, otters, highland cattle, black sheep, and Sonny spots a golden eagle. Spend the night on oily garage forecourt surrounded by sheep in the middle of nowhere. Sonny has a slice of cheese, a scotch pancake and a banana for tea. Jez has nothing. We have nothing else left apart from a packet of biscuits which we save for breakfast.

day 6: Early start to catch ferry. Dropped in Hamilton services for rendezvous with AA. Kids are happy to be rescued by "the 4th emergency service". We mostly eat sweets and biscuits. Arrive in Lake District after 10 hours in the back of a recovery van. We're offered a full refund on the van hire which almost makes us cry. We find a pub, eat some hot food and drive home.

We miss Scotland. We even miss Fleur.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

everything changes

I don't have the words.  Well I do, I'm never short of something to say. But I don't have the right words today, to describe how I'm feeling. Sick, that's one. My stomach feels hollowed out like a big hollowed out thing. Confused, definitely, in a giddy, shuffling sort of way. Why? Well my oldest started his new junior school this morning and my youngest, well, she started school too. Oh no, you're thinking, not another bloody mum whingeing about her kids going off to school. Well, not really. I've stopped my afternoon child-minding so when I pick them up we'll have plenty of time together. I think it's more the 'what now?' And I sort of know the answer but that's what is really scary. This is my first official "make a go at this craft thing" day and I'm wondering whether I'm just completely nuts. We're skint, living in a house that's too small for us (I'm not complaining. We have a perfectly lovely house, but with a boy and a girl, a room each would be preferable), my husband's on temporary contracts and I'm attempting to live my dream by not signing up to the 9-5, refusing to work for 'the man'. Can I really make this work?  Who knows, but one thing is certain. I'll be blogging a whole lot more.

Of course, the summer holidays are over for us. We drove over a thousand miles and took just under a thousand photos so I have plenty to work with for that post which will be coming up very soon....but here's a quick taster!

Great news is that I've been accepted onto the Poppytalk Handmade online marketplace, which is just brilliant. There'll be more to follow on that too but in the meantime you really should check out their website

Also next week I'll be running a workshop with the lovely ladies from COW. If you fancy making a fused plastic garland or maybe a mobile then do book a place here. I'll be going through the whole process and you'll get to take away a crafty piece of loveliness like this.

The diary is also filling with craft fairs. I'll be having my first solo table here, on 25th September in Newcastle under Lyme. Hope some of you will be able to make it. We're also starting to plan the Crafty Muthas Christmas events, which I'll be shouting from the rooftops about nearer the time.

And of course I've got tons of making to do. I've been scribbling ideas down for months, repeating to myself that I'll have plenty of time come September. Well September has indeed come. And change is a good thing. Isn't it?

Thursday, 4 August 2011

midges, here we come

So, we're very excited in our little house because we've booked our holiday. The six year old got to have his way, which in no way sets a precedent for our future holidays or anything else come to think of it. Six year old boys should not rule a household. I've heard it's teenage girls actually. So I'm safe for about another ten years at least.

Anyway, we are being very brave for city dwelling, city break loving types and we've gone and hired a very cute 1972 VW campervan called Fleur from a lovely company called Rainbow Camper Hire. I've even 'friended' Fleur on facebook. What is the world coming to? We are planning to tour around the west coast of Scotland, looking for eagles and eating fine Scottish fayre. We're currently going through the kit list to see if we need to bring any home comforts. My husband wants to take his laptop (!) but I'm considering some embroidery. Just a little worried about rain and mud and cooking smells ruining anything I do. Lots of plastic bags is the answer I think. Also I am very worried about the midges. I found this ace site online which I'll be checking constantly. If you have any tips on tackling/avoiding the little pests then please pass them on. 

Before the holiday I've got the six year old's birthday. In previous years we've had a Scooby Doo haunted house, an Ice-Age glacier and a sandcastle (we were in Cornwall). This year, it has been determined, is a Toy Story year. So I've just spent £16 on roll-out icing. That's a lot of money on sugar. My teeth hurt just thinking about it. I'll post a picture when it's done and before it's turned into the inevitable cake massacre/play scene for many, many tiny Toy Story characters.

Nothing craft wise to report today, but I'm hoping all of this outdoors time will give me lots of inspiration for future projects.

Monday, 25 July 2011

For an excellent woman

Amazingly, my husband has taken the children out again, for the second day in a row. T'is the season to be picking people up from the airport it seems. So here I am again. Just uploaded some photos onto the computer and remembered I hadn't posted anything about this hoop I made for a friend's recent birthday.

The lovely Jo, who blogs, quite beautifully, here, adores tea, Brown Betty teapots, Cath Kidston gorgeousness and Barbara Pym novels (amongst other things obviously), so I thought I was on pretty safe ground when I found this ace quote from the Pym novel 'Excellent Women'. For good measure I used a piece of vintage fabric (she doesn't know this but it's actually from a little vintage stash that Jo bought me for my last birthday) and appliqued it onto the muslin in a Brown Betty-ish teapot style.

I'm really proud of this embroidery job. That's a lot of words to hand-sew and looking at it now I have to say, it is neater than I could have hoped for. I know she really loved it because she told me and later texted me and almost cried at one point and I'm really pleased because she is a true sweetheart who deserves more and any gift giver wants to feel that their gift is appreciated. Especially when you have spent many pleasant hours working on the gift and thinking fondly of the recipient.

That's what hand-made is all about isn't it? Taking time out to think about who you're making the thing for, or why you're making it, just caring really. I'm not sure if over the years all of the people I've made things for have really been that pleased. I'm sure some people would have rather had something, you know, normal, bought from a reputable high street establishment. But, well, I can't afford to do that and I've got myself into the situation where I won't actually let myself anymore. It's like I've let them and myself down dreadfully if I lower myself to spending actual money (beyond materials) on a gift.

Last Christmas I was doing a lot of handmade markets so I did actually buy some Christmas presents from other handmade craftsters just to take some of the pressure off myself and to give my poor family a change from felt corsages and owls. It was like getting myself a present really. I still made loads of edible treats and a tea cosy and a cushion and a poppy garland but buying hand-made presents gave me real pleasure. Especially as I was using money I'd earned from selling my own hand-made things. Oh, it's just like one big happy circle of love isn't it? Am I making you want to vom?

Well, there is a lot more to hand-made to tell the truth. Environmentally, ethically, politically...which brings me to this recent Folksy blog post by Tash Goswami. It is a serious bit of writing, championing hand-made on many levels, so please take five minutes to read it.

And afterwards feel free to stop off at my Folksy shop! Thank you.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

summer holidays

Antiques Roadshow has just finished, the kids have popped out with their dad, which means I have a few minutes to update this blog on my crafty exploits this week. But the computer is making that funny whirring noise it does sometimes, which coincides with it failing to upload photos.......wait.....there you go. I only had to quit itunes and wait ten minutes...

But it was worth it, don't you think, for this rather sweet photo of two owls and their little lady friends? (Thanks Erin)

This week I've been mostly making lyric hoops for my 'bezzie mate' Ms Jones but as they're birthday presents I can't show you them, just in case. Now the summer holidays have started my life is pretty much going to be about entertaining kids, feeding kids, listening to kids, shouting at kids, feeding them again..... It's pretty damn good truth be told. I love the summer holidays - well any holiday really - if it means I don't have to get up early and do the school run and if I also get a chance to spend happy days with my beautiful babes. Here they are...

Just. So. Gorgeous.

Some good news this week is that the lovely ladies at C.O.W Studio have asked me to run a couple of workshops in September/October so I'm going to be spending at least some time over the next few weeks thinking up fun things I can show people how to do. At the moment 'tortoise' is the best idea I've had. Seriously, just that one word. Tortoise. So, stick with me and see where that one goes. Or doesn't. And check out C.O.W. They're based in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter and they run loads of fab workshops all of the time.

Friday, 15 July 2011

I don't want to be...

the sort of blogger that just posts when they list things for sale in their shop. But here are four owls. You may recognise them from a recent film they starred in. I've listed them in my Folksy shop. They are the first of many. The vanguards. I won't blog about all of them but it feels important enough on this occasion to do so. I'm particularly fond of the one with the leather eye. And the blue cashmere one. The charcoal one is very nice. Hope the stripey one doesn't get a complex.

I'll also be selling owls, garlands and hoops at the 10th Annual Warley Woods Picnic in the Park on Sunday. That's this Sunday 17th July. The one where the weather forecast is heavy rain. All day. But hey, if we're there and you're in the area, put your wellies on and come say hello. I'll be on a stall with my lovely Crafty Muthas crew. Or should that be Soggy Muthas? Probably Sobbing Muthas if we have to put that bleedin' gazebo up in the wind and rain again. So send me positive vibes people. Make the sun shine.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

owls from the wood

So this is a very quick post, because the lovely Erin Power sent me these images last night, having spent the best part of the afternoon shooting my owls. No stuffed birds were harmed I promise. I was so excited about her suggestion to make a little film out of all the lovely photos that I have just gone and done it without really having a clue. I'm not sure how my old mac is coping either so I'm just going to press the publish button and see what happens. Also I haven't showered. So I'm off to do that now.

Friday, 8 July 2011

A garland, The Decemberists and two Carsons...

Well, we have another dreary summer day here in Bearwood. My favourite photographer and great friend Erin Power was going to shoot some new photos for my Folksy shop today, but the lack of good light meant that the plan was abandoned. So I got my sewing machine out to sew up a garland or two. I haven't used my machine in ages and it took me a long while to unearth the foot, buried in a knitting basket for some reason. I've made so many promises to myself about being tidy and organised but I doubt it will ever happen.

I made this garland from the plastic discs I wrote about in the last post. Made it about four metres long so it can be hung or draped around pretty much anywhere. I'm guessing because it's plastic it would even make an all-weather decoration for your garden. Though I've only used a standard thread to stitch it together.

I hung it in a window so you'd see the lovely transparency you get when some of the bags are fused. I personally think that a window is the best place for these little garlands for this reason. Light, even the smudgy light of an English summer, totally brings them to life.

While I made this garland, I was mostly listening to the fantastic album 'The King is Dead' by The Decemberists. I particularly love the song June Hymn and meant to tell you about it in June. Only a month late. I'm still not sure about internet etiquette on this sort of thing. The band's own youtube site only had a live video recording of the track, which is still amazing, but obviously not the same as the album version. But you're here, so I'm pretty sure you can find the album online somewhere and listen to it yourself.

Also I have to mention that the album cover was done by a great artist and blogger, Carson Ellis, who you should really check out. I think she's the lead singer's partner (I'm not stalking them, honestly). I stumbled across her blog the other day and loved her illustrations and then spied that she'd done this cover work, which I'd always admired. I find album artwork really inspiring generally and I've been wanting to share some of my favourite covers for a while. I'll try and get around to that soon.

While I'm talking about Carson, I'd love to think she was named after one of my favourite writers, Carson McCullers. McCullers herself had a fascinating and tragic life and the characters in my favourite book of her's, 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter', are both extraordinary and totally real at the same time. Especially thirteen year old tom-boy Mick Kelly who is just so strong, but vulnerable, thoughtful yet instinctive and a total dreamer, out of necessity more than anything. I love her.

Okay, so maybe that was all too much information for you in one blog post. No? It's just how things seem to work for me....one thing leads to another. I'm off on a tangent before I know it. But they're good tangents I hope. Not totally annoying. Not like those bad boys of geometry, equations. I'll never mention them, I promise.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


The grey clouds are gathering as I type. Teeming rain battered my insubstantial windows for most of the night. But a few days ago, when the sun was shining I took the opportunity to get out into the garden with my iron and an assortment of plastic bags.

Previously, when I've taken to ironing plastic bags, I've been worried about the deadly fumes I'm probably inhaling and then I always feel a bit giddy, like when I've had an over-long conversation on my mobile phone. Do you get that weird tic in the side of your head too? The fresh air was a definite improvement, but maybe I'll invest in a mask one day. Before I kill all of my brain cells.

The process is quite simple: take a hot iron, sandwich a plastic bag between two sheets of baking paper, iron until bag shrinks. It's trial and error as each bag shrinks in a different way, but you end up with an interestingly textured piece of material that you can use in a whole range of sewing projects.

Now the weather has taken a turn for the worse, I can happily sit inside, cutting out discs until I run out of plastic. Then I'll sew them together to make long, colourful, upcyled, decorative, dotty garlands. Feeling all eco-friendly and virtuous. And just a little bit light headed.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Mock Off!

This is going to be a rambling, unfocussed mess of a post because my kids are staying with their granny and as soon as they are out of my sight my mind is filled with big ideas, small doubts, plans long forgotten, whimsical notions, lists of things to do and of course, a great big chunk of it is wondering what to have for tea.

The answer to that last one is easy actually - it'll be something egg-based. Probably a chilli omelette.

I wanted to show you the mockingbird embroidery but sadly, half way through, I decided it really wasn't working. I'm going to do it again, but differently. Once I stopped struggling with it I did have a bit of time to start thinking over new ideas. Now I feel I've got a few good ones and I've written them down in one of the many little books I write things down in. They'll get lost no doubt, in an unused bag or under a pile of craftiness, where they'll wait to be discovered in a few weeks or months. Actually, I emptied out a bag I found in the cupboard under the stairs this week. Stuffed with papers and lollipops, unused tampons and used wet wipes. The big wodge of receipts I found were dated 2009. Where is this going? Do you see what I mean? This is how I'm feeling at the moment. I've been way too unproductive and it's time to get back to properly making...

Gustave Caillebotte - Les Raboteurs de Parquet
But in lieu of making (because straight after my chilli omelette I'm heading down to the pub) I wanted to at least show you my favourite two pictures of people toiling hard. I have them on my bedroom wall and whenever I'm feeling overworked, which isn't very often I admit, I look at these solid, strong, respectable workers and feel glad that's not me. But when I'm feeling lazy and like I've been procrastinating too much, I look at them for inspiration. I'll be channelling floor scrapers and the lovely ironing lady all of next week.

Fernando Balbeuna - Planchadora

Saturday, 25 June 2011

To Sew a Mockingbird

I've stitched a lot of treehouses lately, amongst other things. (For the whole story about my inspiration and the making of the embroidered treehouses take a look at my post on the Crafty Muthas blog).

I wasn't totally happy with the Charley Harper inspired bird at the top of this picture, maybe too simple and stark even for me. But I want to do birds because, a) my son loves birds and b) everyone else seems to love birds so I might stand a chance of selling them. (Cynical old bird talking?) I tried doing some bird-on-a-wire type sketches but wasn't happy with how they'd translate to stitch. So I fell back on a familiar theme for my family. The Harper Lee book 'To Kill a Mockingbird' has been in our lives for...a while. I studied it for 'O' Level, my husband named his bar Atticus, our daughter is called Scout...

So yesterday I drew this little mockingbird and I'm planning to start stitching him any minute now.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

songs to sew to (1)

when i'm sewing i either like complete silence (a rare, rare thing in this house - seeing as my husband is actually noisier than my kids and they're quite loud) or i like to listen to familiar music. i'm not averse to something new, but if it's new to me i have to play it over and over again. this bright eyes track has been played many many times over the last few weeks. i liked their previous albums, they were more folky, but whenever this pops up it makes me sit up and listen. i know! it is 7 minutes long... there's a spoken preamble first, which is very soothing and then the music kicks in at about 2'30". love his voice. have no idea what he's banging on about. but love it.

so while i've been listening to firewall i've been making these little chaps. little summery owls from a donated jumper that had an accident in the wash. 

also this embroidered lyric hoop for my friend and crafty mutha, nat. we're off nightclubbing, eighties style, on saturday night to celebrate her birthday. she loves the stephen 'tintin' duffy song 'kiss me with your mouth' so i embroidered a suitable lyric from the song - she does give me lots of laughter, the hope comes with knowing someone honest and good and wanting them to be your friend for a long time, and while she's never given me a sock in the eye, i know if i pissed her off she probably would.

i sealed it with a kiss. just felt like an 80's thing to do.

the owls and more embroidered lyrics will all be popping up in my etsy/folksy shops soon. i'll let you know when. x