When one of my children's teachers mentioned a fundraiser held at his old school, selling knitted chicks stuffed with cadbury's creme eggs, I was full of enthusiasm. I'm a great jumper on bandwagons, especially if they are knitted bandwagons. One quick pattern search later (oh Ravelry, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways), and I had found Chloe Blunn's free pattern .Quick to knit up in cheapo acrylic DK, with a 3.75mm needle giving the perfect egg-hugging fit, I had 100 of these made within the fortnight. Okay, so my hands were like gnarled claws by the time I'd finished, but that is a minor point, and I did eventually regain the use of my fingers.
With a team of other knitters and beak 'n eye stitchers on board, we soon had several baskets brimming over with Easter chicks, which were a sellout by the end of the week and raised a nice chunk of money for school - the most garish chicks were the quickest sellers amongst the children, with stripey chicks knitted from random remnants a huge hit. And no, the creme egg controversy didn't seem to put anyone off! Best of all, I was able to come up with a raft of ridiculous egg- and bird-based puns about 'eggcellent Easter tweets going cheep' for the school newsletter, and I do so love a terrible pun.
anyone for chicken-in-a-basket?
And next year, it looks as if I shall have another little knitter on board, in the shape of my four-year old - what she lacks in speed, she more than makes up for in cuteness with her little face set in concentration!
Here at Definitely 100% Historically Accurate Costumes R Us, we play fast and loose with terms like 'historical' and 'accurate', and sometimes even 'costumes' is putting it a bit generously. Where there is a fudge to be made, we shall fudge all the way. This year's world book day event at school had the theme 'A Right Royal Read', so we came up with princess Tiger Lily from Peter Pan (or Pocahontas, according to eldest, as apparently no-one knows who Tiger Lily is), King Arthur, and the Princess and the Frog.
The fancy dress box was duly raided for one Native American-style tunic, a golden cloak made for an erstwhile Wise Man, and a Disney princess frock (sorry, world book day, but life is too short to speed-sew a new non-Disney dress at the eleventh hour, but I did trim off the sleeping beauty cameo).
King Arthur's costume required the most work, with a tunic stitched from blue sheeting and a shield cut from mounting board, each emblazoned with the three crowns of Arthur's coat of arms. A strictly authentic medieavlish crown was cut from gold card, and my old girl guide belt held his wooden dagger at his waist (I ran out of time to make Excalibur, but you can't [can] feel guilty about everything!).
Youngest's frock was of course prêt-a-porter, and the toy box provided us with a much-loved velvet frog, however I did have to illegally break down an Easter egg to its component parts in order to get the correct coloured foil to make the princess's golden ball. The little princess needed quite some persuasion to take her frog and golden ball to school with her as 'I'm not allowed to take toys to school'!
Tiger Lily carried a bow and quiver of arrows purchased from the castle gift shop by her brother on a recent school trip, and her hair in long bunches braided with leather thonging did a lot of the work. A crazy flash of inspiration saw me quite literally cobbling together the finishing touch, by hand-sewing some handmade fringing to an old pair of suede boots.
And the final tally?
Bleeding fingers: 2
Shields stuck to the living room carpet with PVA glue: 1
Golden balls dropped out of the car door, down a grass verge and onto a muddy field: 1
And so it's all over and done with again for another year. As much as I always leave it till the very last minute, I really do love getting them all garbed in fancy dress. Such fun!
In a mission to tackle the overflowing scraps bin, I strip-pieced the outer cover, made a little pocket trimmed with Japanese sewing-themed ribbon gifted to me by Joanne many moons ago, and pinked some inner pages from brushed cotton. The little embroidered 'needles' label was made in my enthusiasm for the project back in 2008, and has since been languishing in my workbox; I pinked the edges and attached it to the cover with fusible web and running stitch.
There's a small pocket on the inside cover, and a felt patch on the back
inside cover for tucking in needles mid-project. The idea for the
embellished inner pages came from this sweet needlebook tutorial seen over on pinterest. I so enjoyed prettifying the pages and can see this being an ongoing work in moments of boredom.
In other news the paper-pieced mini quilt is taking shape. The piecing is now finished, the paper pieces have been popped out (basting stitches removed with the aid of the marvellous pushy/pokey/stuffy/thready tool that is 'that purple thang'), and the whole thing has been pressed and slipstitched onto pale grey linen (it was also slipstitched on to the leg of my jeans in the process, and swiftly removed before dashing out of the house on the school run).
For the quilting, I've picked out the hexagons with a running stitch in grey stranded cotton (and how easy it was to find an embroidery needle in my trusty new needlebook!). This evening I shall be hand finishing the binding in front of Death in Paradise, because that is how I roll (and also because it is much easier to combine handsewing with something sedate like Death in Paradise than with our other current viewing, The Killing, where somewhat greater concentration is required!).
In the name of having a thrifty January after the excesses of the festive period, I'm trying to rein in my natural inclination to start on new projects and finish off some of the old abandoned works-in-progress instead. First up, a pair of mittens which my Ravelry notebook incontrovertibly states I cast on back in November 2012. Ella, of BomBella Designs, kindly gifted me the pattern and I bought some gorgeous hand-dyed Skein Queen yarn in Regency blue to knit them up.
Mitten one was finished quite swiftly, but its pair was not cast on until the end of 2014. Once I got going again I wondered why I'd left it so long - even with superskinny yarn, the mittens come together very quickly. These were knitted with one strand held in the right hand and the other held, continental style, in the left, so not too much dropping and picking up balls of yarn. The stranded colourwork has the added bonus of making the mittens extra warm and cosy on the inside, which is pretty handy with the sudden drop in temperature since Christmas!
I wore the mittens for the first time to walk to collect the children from school this afternoon. Eldest immediately spotted them and complimented me, but followed this up with the slightly puzzling observation that they reminded her of quiches ... hmm, not quite sure what to make of that one ...
It really seems as if 2014 has gone by in a flash. It was a particularly busy time for us, with the book-writing process and busy work schedule taking over somewhat. We had a lovely Christmas with a houseful of family, doing nothing but chatting, cooking and eating . I don't run a particularly tight ship, it has to be said, so all the festive preparations took place in a slightly haphazard fashion. This is not a precision-timed-turkey kind of household - ours was left in the oven whilst we went on an impromptu walk on Christmas day and was served (none the worse for its abandonment) a couple of hours later than planned on our return, with the extended family crammed around our dining table on a variety of ad-hoc seating.
As a last hurrah before the start of the new school term, we set off to Brean Down last week for a perfect walk full of sky and sea, on a gloriously sunny day. It proved an ideal walk for the smallest one too, muddy in places but not too demanding for little legs, though I imagine it would have been quite bracing had it not been such very still day.
We saw in the new year in Dorset with my husband's family, and happened upon the annual spectacle of the Lyme lunge on new year's day, which saw a couple of hundred hardy souls braving the freezing waters in fancy dress. Apparently I was the only one in our party of eight who was thinking 'I really wish I had my bathers and a towel,' as my suggestion that we should take part next year was met with ridicule. It's going on the new year's resolution list anyway, and I've a whole twelve months to bribe persuade the rest of the family to join me.
With the husband and children back in school this week, I have grand plans to restore a bit of order to the house, but am also keen to start on some new stitching projects. January (what's left of it) is going to be a month of finishing off long-standing projects and clearing the decks in the study-o before I launch into anything new. Well, that's the plan, anyway, although I am not especially known for the strength of my resolve ...
Well finally, and undeniably, it seems I have written a book! Not being a great counter of chickens, I haven't particularly announced this to anyone beyond close friends and family - those who were close enough to spot the eye bags, and the trail of loose threads I left in my wake over those frantic months of stitching and writing. And having sent off those final drafts and stitched samples back in February of this year, all of a sudden I am a bona fide published author! It started to feel a bit more real when I took delivery of my author samples, then came the extra copies I had ordered to sell in my shop. Today though, reality really hit home when I popped into Waterstone's in Cardiff and found my book on the shelves (I used to work for Waterstone's, so it's particularly nice to find my book there)!
I didn't realise when my husband was taking this photo that I had positioned myself right next to Gyles Brandreth in his novelty jumper.
Obviously, this is entirely the kind of authorial image I aim to project.
The book focuses on the Tote bag, that's to say a bag with two handles, and I really wanted to include as broad a range of designs as possible, so inside you'll find projects ranging from a teddy bed tote for young children, to an oilcloth car caddy, to a velveteen evening bag. There are also lots of techniques covered such as reverse appliqué, kanzashi flowers, embroidery and freezer-paper stencilling. I'm so pleased with the final appearance of the book; the team at Quintet and my editor Julie Brooke have done an amazing job with beautiful photography and layouts - it has a spiral binding with hardback cover which has to be my favourite thing as a consumer of craft books as it means you can have the book open flat in front of you whilst working through a pattern. There are also plentiful colour photographs to illustrate the steps, as well as full-size pattern pieces in an envelope at the front of the book.
a few snaps of the projects from the book
I am selling the book through my new online shop over at www.angharadhandmade.co.uk (thanks to my talented web-designer brother, the brains behind Rootsy) and signed copies are available on request (I find it frankly hilarious to be saying that!). You can also buy from the usual places like Amazon: 30 Totes & Bags to Sew: Quick & Easy Bags for All Occasions
(this is an affiliate link so I will be paid a 5% commission for any orders made by clicking here), and Waterstone's, as well as independent bookshops.
There is also a US edition of the book for any readers who live across the pond - it's called Tote-ally Amazing Bags in its American incarnation, and is published by St Martin's Press, who have kindly featured me as their author of the month over on the SMP blog.
For a sneak preview of the book, I've posted a video thumb-through on youtube, and you can also see a few images of the inside in my online shop.
I would love to see any photos of anything anyone makes using the patterns from my book, so please do get in touch if you have any to share and I'll put together a blog feature in due course!