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 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