Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Readings...February

Well, I'm still doing pretty well with my "Book a Week for 2012" challenge, having finished 10 books for February (well actually it's 9 2/3 because I have 100 pages left of "The Virgin Blue", but I will easily finish that this evening!).
So, this month I have read...
"Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen
"The End of Mr. Y" by Scarlett Thomas
"The Hours" by Michael Cunningham
"The Virgin Suicides" by Jeffrey Eugenides
"The Penelopiad" by Margaret Atwood
"Saturday" by Ian McEwan
"A Winter Book" by Tove Jansson
"Room" by Emma Donoghue
"Nights at the Circus" by Angela Carter
"The Virgin Blue" by Tracy Chevalier

So I'm up to 21 books for 2012 so far, not bad considering I was aiming for 48 for the year!! I'm not sure which book will be the first for March, but I've got a few nice things ready and waiting!

Buttons and Pom-Poms!

I've been in my little stall for about 15 months now, and I've always felt really settled - people come to see me with knitting/crocheting emergencies, or for advice (for example, one lady came up last week for suggestions on which colour buttons she should put on a knitting project - apparently I have "the eye"!) , or just to show me something that they have seen and think I will like, and it makes me feel really happy, and that I've been accepted into the local crafty community. Recently something new has been happening that has touched my crafty heart, and made me feel warm and fuzzy - a couple of people have brought me buttons, or ribbons, or fabric scraps that they don't need - because they know I can make use of pretty much everything! I feel so flattered that people have thought of me, that someone has actively thought about putting things aside for me.  It's really touching. 
So here are some of the lovely things that have been dropped in with me recently...
On Saturday I was given a big bag of buttons (because I have a "thing" for buttons!), which I promptly sorted into colours and filed away in the correct jars, ready for when they are needed! Mostly they were plain, but I found some really pretty ones - there were a couple of mother of pearl, and some really sweet flowery ones - that I am keeping to one side until I find the perfect project for them!
I also found this in the bag...
It says "Thou Shalt Not Steal". Not sure what to do with it yet!
Today a lady brought up a bag of fabric scraps, I think she'd been altering some clothes, and there were some off-cuts of t-shirt material, so obviously I knew what to do with that...
I have been absolutely desperate to try these t-shirt pompoms from  Craftaholics Anonymous after lovely Sophie Isobel over at Her Library Adventures shared the link a couple of weeks ago, and one quickly became two...
They will be hung up somewhere in my stall to brighten the place up, I think I need to make another one to go with them! I didn't have the computer to hand so I had to make up the sizes based on what I had to hand that was circular to draw around for the templates, and rather than making strips, I just made one long strip (there's a tutorial that explains how over here - Vintage Chica), but otherwise I used the same method. They really are quite fab!
So that's what I've been up to today - button sorting and pom-pom making - all thanks to some very kind and generous people! 

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Days Out in London!

I have been so lucky this year to sneak in so many trips to London! Hubby and I spent Sunday and Monday in the big city - we had a lovely time wandering around and visiting some of our favourite places!
We went down to Tate Modern on Sunday, with the usual stop at the South Bank book stalls - it was a fabulous sunny Spring day and we really enjoyed walking up and down the tables loaded with books!
At Tate Modern we went to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibition - we were really excited after seeing the Walking in My Mind exhibition at the Heyward Gallery a couple of years ago, and we weren't disappointed! It was fabulous, and full of weird and wonderful things!
We enjoyed our walk back along the South Bank, stopping to listen to buskers and there was even a cellist, I love that there is always so much going on! We also stopped to have a look at Trafalgar Square to see the Russian Festival which was in full flow, we didn't have a hope of getting into the square, it was so full, but it was lovely just to stand on the sidelines and see what was going on! 
In the evening we went to see "Carnage" at the Haymarket theatre.
Yesterday after delivering hubby to his meeting, I went along to Tate Britain for a look at the "Picasso and Modern British Art" exhibition, I spent an hour walking around and really enjoyed seeing some of the Picasso works that I hadn't seen before. I also had a look at the "Migrations" exhibition and saw the English National Ballet rehearsing in the huge Duveen Gallery space. 
I met up with my husband again after his meeting and we went along to The South Bank Centre to see the "David Shrigley; Brain Activity" exhibition which was as completely crazed as I had hoped it would be!
image from South Bank Centre website
We both really loved the exhibition, and also enjoyed the admission to the Jeremy Deller exhibition that was part of the entry fee.
We spent the afternoon wandering around Covent Garden, and had a lovely time mooching around the little shops before we came home. It was a fabulous weekend, and as always I have come home with a head full of ideas and excitement!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Shopping List Saturday

This week I wanted to share some of the pretty jewellery that I have spotted on my travels around Etsy...
Blue & White felt and silver Brooch by KarenMichaudJewelery
handmade sterling silver stud earrings - lotus - tulip by yebuf
Pale Simplicity - antiqued brass glass dome whimsical photo necklace with long chain by Susannah Tucker
Charming Vintage Bonechina Tea Cup Bracelets - StayGoldMaryRose

New Makings!

I've had a very busy morning so far! I popped into the stall before opening time this morning because I had some special things to make (and the laser cutter is a bit stinky so I like to get it done before there are any customers!). 
I had an order for two Spaniel brooches, which are a gift for the customers granddaughters - apparently they both like pink, but can't have the same colour brooch, so I hope they don't fight over the pink one!!
The other little thing I had to make was a prototype of a new design that I've been working on in my sketchbook, I'm revisiting mushrooms after a bit of a change of focus! I've been working on jewellery designs with layered acrylic for a while, so I've finally made one to see how it looks! I need to sort out a polisher so I can make the edges smooth and fancy, but this is general brooch idea, all glued up...
I think it's pretty cute and I'm excited to try all of the other little ideas that have been floating around my head!

African Flower Hexagons!

I've been busy working on joining my African Flower Hexagons after teaching a crochet lesson yesterday. 
This is what my little work table in the stall looked like yesterday morning in preparation for the lesson...
 All nice and neat, laid out ready for the lesson!
And this is today - since yesterday I have edged the last of the green hexagons, joined them all in a strip and then joined the green to the original pink hexagon strip! So I am halfway through the original 44 hexagons that I made, but I suspect I will need to make quite a few more before it could be made into a blanket!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Crochet Books!

My lesson this morning went very well - I have now shown a very enthusiastic African Flower Crocheter how to join them all up! At the end of the lesson we were discussing which crochet books I like and find helpful, and I thought I would share some of my favourites - these are just my personal favourites, ones from my collection that I use on a regular basis...
"200 Crochet Blocks" by Jan Eaton - a really great book to start out with for techniques - very helpful and has blocks for various stages, from beginner patterns through to pretty complicated patterns for days of crochet confidence!
"Crochet Stitch Motifs" Harmony Guides - another book that's great for beginners - really good for understanding how a shape is made, and how different stitches work, with varying degrees of complication for later on down the line!
"Cute and Easy Crochet" by Nicki Trench - this one is lovely for actual projects once the basics are learnt, some very pretty things to make, and good for a bit of inspiration!
"Granny Square Love" by Sarah London - lots of gorgeous things to make with the humble granny square - I always tell new learners that once they've mastered the granny square then they can do anything, and this book is perfect for projects with a bit more variety than a blanket (which was my first granny square project!). 
They're all really beautiful books, with plenty of ideas and little things to work on. They all have instructions for (at least) basic crochet, and are all books I own and use, and would recommend to a learner. 

Thursday, 23 February 2012

My Creative Space

This evening I am preparing for a crochet lesson that I have tomorrow. It's going to be really nice - I showed the lady how to make granny squares last summer, and tomorrow I'll be showing her how to join them! I can't wait to see how her squares came out - it's lovely to know that she kept going after our original lesson!
I will be taking a bundle of African Flower Hexagons to join, so this evening I am crocheting the white edges around some of the flowers in preparation. I thought it would be good to both be working on joining at the same time, and since the flowers have been sat in my "in-progress" basket for ages I thought it might be about time to do something with them!
For more creative spaces pop over to Our Creative Space

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Days Off!

I've had a couple of really relaxing days off - Sunday was spent with my lovely husband, drinking tea in our favourite cafe, reading, and watching cheesy re-runs of "CSI:NY" and "NCIS". Yesterday I had a lovely long lunch with my sister, as well as mooching around the charity shops and drinking lots of tea. Today I went to Wolverhampton, and had a look around the charity shops, the art gallery, reading in a bunch of the cafes, and yet again a whole bunch of tea!
I finished "Saturday" by Ian McEwan on Sunday, and "A Winter Book" by Tove Jansson today, but as always have managed to find some new stuff to read - I picked up Joanne Harris "Blue Eyed Boy" and Doris Lessing "The Cleft" yesterday, and Scarlett Thomas "PopCo" and Emma Donoghue "Room" today. I also got another copy of "Ariel" by Sylvia Plath - I was weak - it was 50p and it is a different edition to the one I already had! I started "Room" when I finished "A Winter Book", it's really well written despite the content (I'm avoiding spoilers because I suspect I will be recommending it!). 
I'm hoping tomorrow will be a productive day in the stall, I'm planning to make some fabric tote bags. 

Monday, 20 February 2012

Some Sweet Things...

I just wanted to share two things that have made me smile today...
One is this absolutely amazingly stunningly beautiful little animation  
It's called "A Tiny Tale" by Sumo Science at Aardman and it's one of the loveliest things I have ever seen. 

The other thing I wanted to share was this quote from "A Winter Book" by Tove Jansson (many thanks to my lovely mother-in-law for finding this beautiful book for me!)...

"You can close your mind to things if something is important enough. 
It works very well. 
You make yourself very small, 
shut your eyes tight and say a big word over and over again until you're safe"
Just beautiful.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Flea Market Finds

I came across this weeks Flea Market Find yesterday, wondering around my favourite charity shop after a busy day in my stall. For the last couple of weeks I've only really found books (no complaints here!), and I was delighted to spot this sweet little mouse in amongst all of the usual bits and bobs that I usually pass by - I happily mooched around the rest of the shop, mouse in hand!
Mouse has found a little nook in amongst all of the other little critters, guarding my books (and sweeping my shelves evidently!). I also found a very sweet v-neck coral coloured jumper, which I think will be nice and warm in these cold days - today we have snow!
For more Flea Market Finds, pop on over to see Sophie Isobel, who has a beautiful new typewriter!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Shopping List Saturday

It's a really rainy old day in my little town today, and I feel the need for a bit of sunshine - so this week my list is yellow, to bring me some cheer!

Yellow Heart, Paris Graffiti - Paris Photography by littlebrownpen
Lavender rabbit in olive and lemon by Pouch
Womens Wallet Mustard Yellow Botanic Print Fabricby TillyWhistle

I feel better already!

New Jewellery!

I've just listed some new bits and bobs in my Etsy shop - these things have been available in my stall for a little while, but now it seems they're ready for their Etsy debut!

 Poodle Brooches - available in Bright Pink and Fancy Purly Pink
 And Teapot Brooches - available in orange, green, yellow, purple, blue, black, pink and red (and also navy, not shown!)
I have also updated my listings for Kitty Brooches and Rhino Brooches because they are now available in a whole bunch of new colours!


It's been a busy morning - the rainy weather has been a bit of a hindrance but I have used the time wisely to make sure everything is all super-dooper and shiny-perfect! 

Thursday, 16 February 2012

My Creative Space

I am spending the day on the living room floor working on a couple of projects - my Chevron Blanket, pink socks and my cable knit scarf. I have been wondering about the possibility of working through a book of knitting stitches and making a bundle of cable knitting swatches, so that I can practise, and eventually stitch them all together into a blanket or something...Not that I need more large projects, the chevron is keeping me busy enough! I've been playing around with my yarn to work out which colours work together for the next couple of rows of my blanket - It's coming along quite well so far.

For more Creative Spaces have a look over here

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Knit, Knit, Knit!

I had one of those days today where I just couldn't settle on anything - I did a bit on my socks, figured out a pattern for cable knit fingerless gloves which I started knitting but halfway through the first one decided that I didn't like the yarn, and finally settled on trying out a pattern for a cable knit scarf. (I'm sure I'm not alone in my antsy-pantsy days but even by my standards today was bad. I'm not sure what caused it either, just one of those days I'm sure.)
So I have finally tackled my cable knitting phobia - this was similar to my sock-knitting phobia, in that it was also caused by some mean-spirited knitters that I have encountered over the years who like to keep things secret, possibly so no-one realises that, as with all things, practise makes perfect! (I have to state categorically here that most knitters I have encountered have been delightful, but there's always a bad apple...) So, these grumpy knitters encouraged the idea that cable knitting was terribly tricksy, and far beyond my capabilities, but I decided today that I wouldn't be beaten! 
This is my effort so far...

The pattern is from a book called "I love Knitting; 25 loopy projects that will show you how to knit easily and quickly" which was kindly given to me a couple of weeks ago. It is a very straightforward book that would be perfect for beginners, and it has really simple explanations of things like cable knitting, with some really quite crazy patterns to try. So I'm working on the Girls Casual Scarf pattern, and hoping that I'm doing it right! Rather than the suggested yarn, I have used a double thickness of dk yarn and 8mm needles so it won't be too chunky, and I think it will need to be stripey at some point because it's only an odd ball of double knit - I'm not one to worry about putting in a bit of colour though! 
So in my antsy-pantsy state of mind, I have started a project before finishing another. Under normal circumstances I think that would count as a violation of my New Years Resolution, but to be honest I think today I will plead temporary insanity and let it go - I really just needed something to keep me occupied. Hopefully tomorrow will be a more straightforward and productive day...

Monday, 13 February 2012

Some Cheerful Links!

Just so it doesn't look like I've fallen into a mountain of books, never to return, here are some bits of loveliness that I have been admiring of late...


Patterns and Tutorials

General Inspiration and Gorgeousness
I hope these links are useful - I have found them all thoroughly enthralling!

Readings...

I've had a really fun day with my lovely husband - we've been on a charity shop mission, and this was the result...
More books. I know, I have a problem. But in my defence, I am really getting through my stash of books quite quickly, and I'm mostly pretty good about passing books on when I've finished them (Bookmooch, for example, is a good way to keep my hoarding ways under control...). I am reading two books at the moment - "Nights at the Circus" by Angela Carter, and "The Penelopiad" by Margaret Atwood (obviously I'm quite addicted to her at the moment since I bought two more of her books today!). I don't tend to like to read two books at once, but "Nights at the Circus" is a loaner, and since I tend to read and drink tea at the same time, as well as cart books around in my bag all over the place, it would be inevitable that something would happen to this book just because it isn't mine! 
I have a list of books and authors that I'm on the lookout for, for future reading and to make my charity shopping more structured...
  • Scarlett Thomas - "PopCo" and "Our Tragic Universe"
  • David Nicholls - "The Understudy"
  • Ian McEwan - "The Daydreamer", "The Cement Garden", "First Love, Last Rites" and "In Between the Sheets"
  • Anything by Angela Carter that isn't "Nights at the Circus" or "Wise Children" 
  • Sara Gruen - "Ape House"
  • Esther Freud - "Lucky Break"
  • Andrew Kaufman - "The Tiny Wife"
Not a huge list really, manageable at least! 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Sunday Makings!

It's been the perfect Sunday - my lovely husband and I have been for a cup of tea in our favourite cafe, had Sunday lunch out, and we've had a chilled afternoon watching "Harry Potter" movies and I've been crocheting  snuggled up with the kitties on the sofa. 

Here's Brian trying out my chevron blanket. He seems to rather like it.
I'm quite enjoying trying out the colours from my new stash of yarn, they seem to be working well!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Shopping List Saturday!

My sock knitting obsession has become so all-consuming that it only seemed right that I share some of the lovely socks I've spotted on Etsy! They're beautiful!
Hand knitted socks. Elven by BoBoKarin
Hand knit socks, Estonian patternby Kampsun
Hand knit socks: knee high with cable pattern by Woolmint

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Famous!

Last Friday I had an interview with a reporter from a local newspaper, about how I came to be where I am now. I found it quite interesting to think how making peg-angels with doily wings might have started me on a path to making for a living. I've always liked making stuff - There was the under-the-sea scene with crepe paper jelly fish and a felt dolphin, and the zoo with trees made from kitchen-roll tubes, all housed in cardboard boxes that my dad used to bring home from work for me. I think one of my best childhood memories is of the day when I came home and my mum had bought me a huge pack of multi-coloured crepe-paper - I still remember being overwhelmed with the options for that lovely bright paper. 
I think that sometimes when there's pressure and deadlines and money that needs to be made, it's easy to forget the reasons for doing what I do (I don't want to sound like a spoilt brat, I know precisely how lucky I am, having been out in the world and having dreadful jobs) but this is a nice little reminder! 

More Yarn Shopping...

I've been working on a very snazzy chevron blanket for a while now - I started it as part of a plan to use up the ridiculously big yarn stash that I seem to have accumulated over the last couple of years. I had lots of odd stuff that wouldn't be useful for any large projects on it's own, but would do a row or two on a blanket. So I've been very good and used up loads, but them I had the problem that all I had left were colours that  either weren't suitable for the colour scheme that has emerged, or would have meant loads of repetition... Now as part of my New Years Resolution I decided I would finish each project before starting a new one, but my chevron blanket is one of those things that I pick up and put down when I'm in the mood, but hitting the point where I have nothing for the next row means it would come to a standstill and it would end up in a bag in the spare room (aka the graveyard of unfinished projects). So I did the unthinkable today and bought more yarn!
I think this will keep me going for a while! They're all lovely colours that I think will work well with the ones  I've already used, and I feel all excited about carrying on with my blanket. I'm sure I'm not the only crafter that hits a point with a big project where you wonder if it's going to get finished, and the chevron blanket is getting a bit like that because I've done fifty rows and I think it's easily going to need one hundred more...I'm sure it's going to be worth it though! 
Another yarn related highlight of today was this lovely book which was a belated birthday pressie from my lovely friend Amy! It's got some really good stuff to make, and just flicking through it over a cuppa I spotted knitted squares made on double pointed needles which look pretty fab! 

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Day Out!

I spent today in Wolverhampton, having a mooch around the charity shops, the art gallery and drinking a lot of tea! As usual I bought lots of books...
I am justifying the purchase of seven books with the fact that I am reading so much at the moment, and this whole stash cost less than £10, the big bargain of the day being the 1970s copy of "MoominPapa at Sea" which was £1!!

I love the Moomins, Tove Jansson's work is just so delicate and beautiful! I found the book on a stall that sets up in one of the shopping centres - It's not always there, and since I don't get to visit Wolverhampton as often as I used to, I didn't know if it would be on, and they have HUNDREDS of books, all in random orders, so this book was obviously meant to be mine!
As well as my charity shop finds, I had a look in the independent yarn shop, and feeding my sock addiction, picked up this very snazzy yarn!
When I went to pay the lady asked if I would like a free sock pattern. Well, who am I to turn that down?! I particularly like the cable socks with the kilt - very cute indeed!

Monday, 6 February 2012

New Display Stuff!

I was busy working on my order for Siop Cwlwm Croesoswallt  this morning when I started looking at my glass cabinets and thinking about what they needed to finish them off. I came to the conclusion that they definitely needed some pretty signs, so I got to work and this is what I came up with...
I thought this would be a good way to make it clear that the necklaces, brooches and earrings can be a set!
I also made this little heart, because obviously, I really rather like crocheting...
And here it is on the back of the cabinet, I think it looks quite pretty!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Flea Market Finds

I had a lovely afternoon out with my charity shop co-conspirator Vicky on Thursday, and we both had a couple of really good finds! In particular I like this coral coloured extending Tunisian Crochet hook, which I think would be long enough to use to make a blanket. It's been so cold here over the last few days that my mind seems to wander towards blanket making! 
As well as these lovely things, I bought a very pretty floral dress top, which I am wearing today. We are having a delightfully relaxing day - we've been for a cup of tea in our favourite cafe, and had eggs for lunch because our girls are steadfast in their laying, despite the freezing weather. We're watching "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" now - it's a classic from my childhood, I remember watching it over and over again, as well as "Alice in Wonderland". I think I drove my poor mother to distraction with my repetition of my favourite films!
For more Flea Market Finds pop on over to see Sophie Isobel!