Monday, April 28, 2014

Playing with fabric and torturing myself with knitting

 After visiting my brother and his family in their caravan in the Dales at Easter, I came home inspired to make sister-in-law a little caravan warming present for her birthday next month.  So, I made her a cushion.

With a little picture of their 'van, complete with the resident pheasant who stalks them, and their little spaniel Tess, peeping out of the window.

I edged it with some strips of Amy Butler prints, that I bought years ago in bundles of scrap strips for £1 from the Cotton Patch, a lovely patchwork shop that I used to pop into for a bit of a break when I was up in Birmingham visiting my dear old Dad when he was very ill.
I had quite a collection of these strips, about six bundles in all and taking them out to make s-i-l's cushion got me thinking, and the thinking led to a lot of time on Pinterest, a bit of playing and rather a lot of sewing...and the whole island unit and the dining table covered in my playthings.

I tried scrappy log cabin blocks for the first time and love them! These are from scrappy bundles of Kaffe Fassett prints - I'm rather partial to Kaffe Fassett's fabric designs.

Then it was onto quarter log cabins.

Next up was scrappy Courthouse steps.

Then just some tiny 2.5" scrappy squares - the fabric strips are between 1 and 1.5 inches wide before piecing so become very skinny when stitched together.

...and a bigger version of the same (this might be my favourite).

Some random scrappy strips, that I was rather pleased with.

During my play with scraps I unearthed a bundle of 3.5" squares leftover from a fabric flower making session from ages ago and decided to throw them together and see what happened. Certainly not planned but I quite like it for it's complete randomness.

And finally, some scrappy log cabins made with the Amy Butler strips.
None of them have been made up into anything other than squares just yet and I'm not sure what I'll do with them but I lost myself so completely in all that happy stitching and it was so much fun to just do it for the sake of it.

I don't know if you're the same as me but I rarely let myself sit down and play for playing's sake, because I seem to feel I need a definite end product in mind when I set out to do some sewing (or knitting, crochet etc etc!). This can mean that I end up completely stalled, spending a good deal of time thinking about things I'd like to do but not actually doing them!

In other news, I had a lovely day out at Guild on Saturday, in which we were treated to a very interesting and inspiring talk by Ritta Sinkonnen-Davies, a Finnish textile artist, who now lives and works in Pembrokeshire.

Her talk about using fabric strips in weaving really struck a chord with me, especially in light of my recently playing with scraps adventure, and for the first time I felt properly inspired to give weaving a go. It's never really appealed before, partly because many of the fantastic weavers at Guild seem to be very technical and I felt a bit intimidated and that it wasn't for me. However, that may well have changed and I may have had a bit of an accident in Wingham's and there might be a new toy winging it's way to me soon....

Mr Moog took the news of my accidental purchase rather well really. His eyebrows only slightly shot up.

Every September the Hampshire Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers has a stand at the Romsey Show, a one day agricultural and countryside show. I went last year for the first time and we did a 'Fleece to Finished' challenge, in which we carded, spun, plied and knitted some jacobs fleece into a child's sweater in the course of the day. It was great fun and I've signed up again for this year.

This year's show is to have a World War 1 theme, what with it being the centenary of the start of that terrible war and all. We're going to be spinning in Edwardian costume this time around - should be interesting!

As part of that we're having a display of knitted items that are like those that would have been knitted at home for the boys on the front-line. We were given a choice of things to knit, including socks but I plumped for a helmet and came home armed with a copy of an original pattern and this wool.

This is not only a revolting pooey khaki green colour but it is also the harshest, itchiest, most sandpapery yarn. It's utter torture to knit with, like parcel twine, although it's doing a grand job of making my rough old-lady hands feel smooth - I'll be all set for spinning silk after this....or committing the perfect crime, what with the fact that I'll have no fingerprints left!

The thing that has struck me most, however, is that this is completely authentic yarn of the type that would have been used back then. That makes me feel nothing but admiration for the thousands of knitters who spent the war knitting many thousands of scratchy, wire-wool garments to keep their soldiers warm and it makes me feel a profound sense of pity and sadness for those poor, brave men who as well as dealing with the horror of fighting, and the dreadful conditions within the trenches, also had to spend the war encased in torturous, itchy clothing that probably made them wish they could peel their own skin off!

That's keeping me going. I'm knitting it in remembrance.

So, two posts in a week. That must be some kind of record for me! Let's finish with something soft, pretty and not in the least bit itchy. This week's spinning project that I started at Guild - some gorgeous, rainbowy shetland and silk from my favourite fibre shop


Moogs xxx

Friday, April 25, 2014

A long post on life, dogs and lifting clouds

Last time I blogged I was getting very excited about starting my craft business. Sadly, very little progress has been made in that direction.

Over the past few months I've become more and more fed up at work, lots going on that I won't go into here, and I have to say, there have been times when the stress has really got to me and I've felt as if I was going mad - not sleeping, 'comfort' eating, not settling to anything productive. Ridiculous really as it's just a little part-time job that I enjoy and that really isn't meant to be stressful at all.

We're just about hanging on at work and have had another extension to our contracts but with many of the funding partners withdrawing it's really just a matter of time, and therein lies the problem. I can't afford to just hand in my notice. I've been there 6 years and now qualify for redundancy, which although a small amount of money, is enough to stop me just walking away but I'm ready to go.

Ironically, the past few terms have been some of my busiest and the demand is very definitely there, and that mixed with lots of other things going on have given me excuse after excuse not to just go for it and get cracking on with my business ideas. All things combined left me feeling as if, for the first time in my life, I was slipping into a real depression.

We've just had a wonderful two weeks away over Easter (more in a bit) and that has given me time to take stock and put things into perspective and the clouds are starting to lift.

So, on a much more positive note, let me update you a bit on one rather major and life-changing thing that happened to our little family back at the end of January.

The thing:

That there cute and timid little bundle is Willow, or Willow Wobbler as she's mostly known. This little girl found us at the end of January, aged 11 weeks, via a puppy rescue centre and all of a sudden our world, and especially Merlin's world turned upside down! We think she's a collie/spaniel cross or as my Dad used to say she's a doormat crossed with a kipper :)

She didn't stay timid for long...about two days and then the real Willow came out. She's naughty and bossy and sometimes shouty and bitey and a dreadful thief! She's also the cuddliest, sweetest, most lovable little pup so, on the whole, her crimes and misdemeanors are forgiven immediately.

She's been my little therapy dog as this is one puppy whose whole day gets off to a good start once she's been out for a good walk. Her big brother is much more laid back and was happy to fit in with my day but Willow NEEDS a walk in the morning or everyone will be made to suffer! It's done me and Merlin good to have Willow here as it's got us all out of the house, in the fresh air, getting some exercise when I might otherwise have stayed indoors thinking too much!

Having said that, it's chucking it down right now and Willow is curled up in her favourite armchair so we've agreed an early afternoon walk might be preferable today.

All of a sudden that 11 week old puppy, who I meant to blog about back in January, is now 6 months old and she's just been on her first holiday. 

On New Year's day Mr Moog sat down with his notebook (he's needed to take constant notes about everything since this happened) and asked me if there was anything I particularly wanted to do or places I wanted to go this year. I told him this: I want to go up North, to take the children to Northumberland and Yorkshire, I want to go to a fibre/knitting event, I want to go to a quilt show...I want a craft room built at the bottom of the garden, I want a £6000 sewing machine, I want to win the lottery.

Well, back in February along with my friend Dawn from Spinning Guild, and our girls, we headed off up to Farnham for a lovely woolly day at Unravel, coming home laden with stacks of gorgeous new fibre to spin, so that's the fibre/knitting event bit taken care of. 

We've just arranged to go and have a weekend with the in-laws in the middle of May, which happens to provide a very useful halfway house to the Malvern Quilt Show, so that will be taken care of too.

Then there's the Northumberland/ Yorkshire thing and my lovely Mr Moog agreed that a holiday up North was a good plan, so that's what we did this Easter and it was truly one of the loveliest holidays we've had. Northumberland completely captivated all of us, with it's stunning endless white sandy beaches, huge sand dunes, castles galore, and breathtaking scenery but especially the people - the people were so friendly and welcoming and made it a real pleasure to be a visitor to their beautiful part of the world.

Talking of people, while we were up there we got to spend a couple of days with Mr Moog's cousin and his family, as they were en  route to Scotland with their two border collies. 

Even better than that though was getting to meet up with my lovely friend Lucy Locket!! When I realised we were going to be up North for Easter I very excitedly 'spoke' to Lucy and we very excitedly arranged to meet up. Lucy and Mr Locket and the two smallest Lockets (who are no longer small at all!) were having a mini-break in a wooden Wigwam not far from where we were staying and Plan A was to meet up for a beach walk at Alnmouth, followed by tea and cake.

Unfortunately, that was the one and only rainy day of the week, so Plan B was put into action and the Lockets met us at Sainsbury's in Alnwick and came back and spent the day in our cottage with us. Lucy and I got to do what we'd wanted to do for ages - we sat and knitted and chatted! We kind of left everyone else to their own devices and they sat and chatted and played cards and the boys played computer games.

Have a look at this gorgeous bundle of goodies that Lucy presented me with, aren't they lovely?! The little selvedge pincushion is exquisite and I adore the quilted pouch and the drawstring bag - they are all now being put to good use and make me smile every day. Thank you Locket :)

As well as getting to spend time with some of our favourite people (and dogs) we also had a fabulous time exploring. We didn't really venture far as there was so much to see and do near to our cottage but the beaches won us all over completely! Ready for some holiday snaps?

Sigh...I want to live there...

So, that was week one of our holiday up North. For week two we ventured down and across a bit for a week in Wensleydale in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales and I have some photos to prove it!

As I mentioned before, there was much castle action over our fortnight away, we visited several that were dog friendly and looked wistfully on from outside at those that weren't.
Wensleydale was very beautiful but with the dogs it proved to be a little frustrating, especially after a week of running for miles along those white white Northumberland beaches, as it's obviously a much more agricultural area, with tiny lambs in every field and so it was very much 'on lead' for much of the week. Still, we found a couple of pretty riverside walks where they could run free and let off steam.

Our last day in the Dales was our best. Just before we went away my brother told me he'd just bought a caravan that was going to be permanently pitched in the Dales, about 4 miles from our cottage,and that they were going up for the Easter weekend.

Therefore, on Good Friday, we drove through the Dales and met up at The Coverbridge Inn, where we had a swift pint of Old Peculiar and set off on a gorgeous walk along the river. The very best bit was that I hadn't realised my three beautiful nieces (plus two boyfriends) would be with them and that made it even more special. We walked and chatted and sat by the river and then walked and chatted all the way back to the pub, where we got to sit outside in the early evening sunshine enjoying the best pub meal we'd had all holiday. Perfect.

Still here? Have you made it this far? Well done! Only a little bit left!

Our cottages for each week were both lovely and very different. The first was beautifully decorated, spacious and very comfortable and in a nice village very close to all the amenities we could need. The one in the Dales was much older, also very comfortable and very quirky and in a tiny village with no amenities but I feel in love with it as soon as we walked through the door and saw all of these:
Needless to say, I felt right at home! That quilt at top left has me stumped - I've been trying to find out what block pattern it is and failed. Any ideas?

Before I go, let me share my souvenirs with you - after all, what's a holiday without a few souvenirs to remember it by?

The fog has clearly started to lift from my brain as I've been sewing. Typically for me, not with any of those gorgeous new fabrics up there but with some bundles of scraps. Just playing. I'll be back with photos once the rain has stopped.

Oh, and as for that list of what I want to do this year, I'm still working on the other three!

love Moogs xxx