Thursday, 10 September 2015

Long time no see

The Needles
The last time I had a blog break this long, I had a book to show for it. The time before that, there was a baby. This time, I don't have an awful lot to show for my absence, unless you count an ironing pile of epic proportions! I'm wondering whether there's any hope I'll ever be able to work through it all and am seriously considering offering it up as a home to overwintering hedgehogs where they can lie undisturbed till Spring.

Last year, my youngest started school full-time, so I was waiting for all that elusive 'free time' I've heard about to begin. Fat chance! As most seasoned parents know, that gap between ten-past-nine and three-thirty disappears within the blink of an eye. My working hours have also expanded, almost without me noticing. Then there was eldest, who began her final year of primary, which seemed to precipitate a headlong dash through the academic year - last this, last that, leavers' assemblies and parties - making the terms fly by with a gathering momentum.

Steephill Cove
The Summer has been lovely, even though I've worked a lot of it (I'll always find it hard to forgive my husband his teacher's holidays!). We've actually managed three stays away - a week camping on the Isle of Wight with a visit to family in Dorset and Exeter tagged on to the end, a long weekend with the tent on the edge of the Chilterns, catching up with friends from our old home in Slough, and a few days in London staying in my sister's house.

Home Farm campsite
South Bank
Back to school now and I've got that 'new year' feeling - I feel slightly cheated that I don't get a new school bag any more, but my metaphorical pencils are sharpened, a fresh page turned over in a brand new pukka pad, and I'm ready to go. This September, I'm resolved to stop frittering away time and try and keep on top of the house whilst also carving out a bit of sewing time here and there. I've got a list and everything, with hand-drawn check boxes to tick off as I go.

the study-o

 I've made ever such a good start - Friday saw me ruthlessly clearing and cleaning the study-o to within and inch of its life, Monday was the day I emptied and cleaned the kitchen cupboards, tackled the oven, and steam-cleaned the floors, then Tuesday I set to work on a task of the greatest importance - making some bunting for the tent. Got to keep up with the Joneses after all.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

I saw a mouse


I saw a mouse
Where? There on the Stair
Where on the Stair?
Right there.
A linen mouse with Liberty togs on 
Well I declare, you've got to start blogging again somewhere.

Mouse pattern by Jenny Dixon
Pattern by Jenny Dixon
The Comic Relief Crafternoon
(special edition of Mollie Makes)

Sunday, 12 April 2015

I've got chicks, they're multiplying...


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.

which came first?

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.

chicken in a basket?
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!


Hope you had an eggcellent Easter!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Needled no longer

embellished needle book

Not being one to procrastinate and delay, when confronted by the inadequacy of the pincushion as a needle-holder in August 2008, I immediately decided to set to work on a needlebook to keep my needles safe. Having made that decision, a mere six-and-a-half years later I actually set to work on said needlebook.


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. 

needlebook embellished page

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. 
paper pieced mini quilt

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).

paper pieced patchwork

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!).

Monday, 19 January 2015

First finish of 2015

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.

Bunty mittens

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!

Bunty mitten

The full details are over on Ravelry where you'll find the Bombella Designs pattern store.

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 ...

Monday, 12 January 2015

Happy New Year!

Brean Down 

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.

Brean Down Brean Down

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 ...

Monday, 24 November 2014

30 Totes and Bags to Sew - my new book!

30 Totes and Bags to Sew

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)!

my new book
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.

projects from my book, 30 Totes and Bags to Sew

a few snaps of the projects from the book

I am selling the book through my new online shop over at (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!

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