Sunday, 7 December 2008

Wood Sprites and Gingerbread Houses


This is my wood sprite. He makes things grow and looks after the garden, or at least he will do from next spring onwards. He's only a few weeks old and is still a little bit too vulnerable to be left out in the December frost. Until then he will be wintering on my mantelpiece, where it's safe and warm, and wherer everyone can admire him properly.

He doesn't have a name. He's a wood sprite - they don't believe in names.

And here is my finished gingerbread house for tomorrow's 'event' in the office. Apparently my house is too 'plain'. I disagree - I like it just the way it is (and besides, I've ran out of royal icing and the sweets just won't stick on with plain glycerine).

(I had a bit of a Photoshop moment with the sky there - I don't know whether your noticed. I didn't feel the kitchen cupboard was the right sort of background for my gingerbread house.)

Since this photo was taken, a car has been added which is brilliantly cute - a bit like Noddy's car except with Liquorice Allsorts for wheels, a chocolate button for a steering wheel and two Jelly Tots for headlamps.

Taking it into work tomorrow will be interesting, it's on a very large and slightly wobbly board. I'm torn between wanting somebody to help me take it into the building, and being a little bit ashamed of being seen...

I'm really looking forward to sseing everyone elses though - I've had a sneaky preview of a couple of them, and they're awesome - they completely put mine to shame! I will take photos to show you.

The first ever Cross Stitch Patterns Blog Carnival is now up at crossstitch4free.com, and my red mushroom is one of the ones up there. There are only a few patterns up this time, but I hope it will grow, as it could be a great resource for stitchers.

Speaking of cross stitch - here's a quick update of my current WIP - she's coming along, but I'm afraid I've abandoned all hope of getting her finished in time for Christmas!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

A new free cross stitch pattern

Ok, maybe it's not 'properly' new - but there is now a green version of the free downloadable Mario Mushroom cross stitch pattern available to download (over on the right, there).

I have created and posted it response to a request via etsy from Rachel (Hi, Rachel!).

A request! Can you believe it? I'm so chuffed... :o)

I will probably expand the collection with a blue one and/or a yellow one in the following weeks, depending on time and stuff.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Things I did in November

Can you believe it's been nearly a month since I blogged? I have loads of stuff I could blog about, but I've decided that my blog entries are far too long, so I am limiting myself to a very quick overview of some of November's highlights. With pictures, because we all like pictures.

Handsome J and I went to Paris for a 5 day break. It was lovely, Paris is lovely, the food was lovely (with the exception of a tripe sausage - which I will never be ordering again) and even the weather was lovely. Here is a photo of the Eiffel Tower, taken from a boat trip on the Seine.


Since my visit to Paris I've become super-conscientious with my French classes and homework, I'm reading french magazines and even a french book (a kid's book - Le Petit Prince, but it has more words than pictures so you should be very impressed.), I'm listening to french radio in the office on the internet when the boss isn't looking, and I've even found some french penpals. I have come over all keen and enthusiastic and am making the most of it while it lasts.

I haven't managed to do any more cross-stitching since the last photo I posted, and I don't remember the last time I did any knitting or sewing. However, I have finished a few more items in pottery, including:

1) Four dark blue glazed earthernware buttons. I don't know what I will use them for yet, but they're gorgeous and completely tactile - like polished pebbles. I can't walk past them without picking one up to hold and stroke. I should make more. J made the dish that they're sitting in.


2) Fairy-cake stands. These were turned in a single piece on the wheel and haven't yet been glazed. I need to sand them down a bit before I can glaze them to make sure they're as lovely as they can be. They've been sitting around the house waiting to be sanded for the past 3 weeks though - I must try to do them this weekend.

The cake stand in the front is a bit lumpy because of a failed experiement involving slip and a doiley. I reckon it'll be ok in the end.



3) And this is my favourite - a hand-built (i.e. not thrown on the wheel) cake stand, glazed using paper dolieys for resists which was (frankly) a genius idea that I will doing again and again.
The dish warped in the kiln during the first fire, which I think adds to its loveliness. Also, I might have used a tiny bit too much blue glaze, which resulted in a very, very, very dark (almost black) colour, and a bubbling overspill into the middle.
The spilt glaze looks a bit like a man, so I'm claiming that it was intentional, that I'm a very clever, talented and intuitive artistic-type, and that the man in the middle is looking out towards the horizon over a choppy sea, pondering the meaning of life.
The combination of its wobblyness and the bubbly, super-dark glaze gives it a bit of a gothic, almost Tim Burton-y look, which I especially love. It's the best cake stand ever. And I'm very, very pleased with it.

And finally - here is a picture of me. I was trying to avoid posting pictures of me because I always think I look much better in my head than in mirrors, photos and videos. (In my head I'm a taller, slinkier, much more attractive version of me). However, J has told me that I have to blog this one. I don't really want to, but here it is.


This is me and L at the ice rink this morning, after a session practicing our backwards skating (did I mention that I've taken ice skating lessons?). I'm the one on the left that looks like a big, frumpy polar bear. Hmph.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

The First Annual Office Ikea Gingerbread House Decorating Competition

I am becoming a tiny bit obsessed with my pottery at the moment - and I'm loving it! I'm afraid I still don't have much to show off, as I have several projects in different stages of construction / firing / glazing in the studio, and many of the pieces I have thrown on the wheel seem to have wanted to collapse while drying - or else I've pushed them too far on the wheel and had to duck as thick strips of clay fly off the pot and across the room.

I have completed my first cake stand through, and I love it despite (or because of?) its imperfections. I haven't brought it home yet to photograph because I wanted to show it off in my Tuesday class first.

I do have a small collection of thrown items sitting on my mantlepiece at the moment that have been biscuit fired and that I want to sand down and tidy up before glazing on Tuesday, so here is a picture of those...

As you can see, I'm not yet what you would describe as a 'skilled' potter, (what with wonky bases, wibbly edges and all...) but I'm having the best fun learning.

I haven't done much cross stitch this last week, although I did do a fair bit in the week previous, so she's starting to shape up now. I'll try to do more this week, as I'm keen to have it finished and frames in plenty of time for Christmas.


And in other news - we're having an 'Ikea Gingerbread House Decorating Competition' in the office this Christmas (well, on December 8th to be exact). The only rules are that only one Ikea Gingerbread House may be used (no supplementing it with other packs to build extensions and turrets!), and all decorations must be edible (with the exception of supporting devices such as cocktail sticks).

Not that I'm getting at all carried away with this idea, but I've already bought two kits to practise with, and have already completed a basic build on the first house. I've learnt some important lessons on construction (e.g. using a piping bag to control the icing is much more effective than a teaspoon and fingers), and have glazed each window with a different colour boiled sweet (you melt them for a few minutes in the oven) so I can choose my favourite for the final piece.

I agree that it's a bit dull-looking at the moment, but that's because I haven't begun to stick on the sweeties yet. I have to wait for the icing to fully dry before weighing the roof down with dolly mixtures, otherwise I may be faced with a collapse. I know that the window outline icing is a bit poor - I have no excuse for that, I'll try to do beter next time. I hope to be able to start sticking some decorations on tomorrow afternoon after my ice skating lesson.

Oh yes, haven't I mentioned? I'm starting a 6 week course of ice skating lessons tomorrow. I can't wait! (Jiggling around excitedly in my seat).

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Loupe

One of my most recent, most amusing and most useful ebay purchases has been a clip-on jeweller's loupe, consisting of two magnifying glasses on swivelling arms which clip onto my specs.

I love them because they make me look like Icabod whatsit from Sleepy Hollow (Johnny Depp's character in the film), and they've proven really useful for those times when the tiny, dense stitches in my cross stitch have been too much for me to cope with and I've been unable to find the next hole for my needle.



I don't think I'd recommed them for continued, prolonged use though - that would make you a bit squiffy-eyed.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Stitch-aholic!

I can't help it! I don't seem to be able to stop stitching...

My first was a mini-project, to stitch up one of the patterns I have for sale at Etsy, both to show it stitched up and to sell the panel itself (it's getting closer to Halloween, after all - somebody might fancy it). I gotta say - it was really quick to stitch up, it only took a couple of evenings and (if I do say so myself) it looks quite good.

I haven't put the finished panel up on Esty to sell yet, I'll have to get it pressed and take some decent photos to do that this week.


And just as I was finishing the pumpkin, lovely Mr. Postman delivered my ebay purchase of 28-count evenweave and a load (100 skeins!) of DMC. Just in time for me to get started on my next project - a portrait of Lil' Big Eyes, stitched 1x1 with 1 strand of DMC on the evenweave. It's to fit in an already-purchased photo frame, and I hope it will be fantastic.


I haven't really been able to put it down this weekend, but I'm thrilled with the progress. And look how tiny the stitches are! They're less than 1mm across!


I'm not sure how much time I'll have for stitching this week - we've increased pottery classes to twice a week (I will post photos as soon as some stuff's been fired), and I will be starting French evening classes this week, too. I've also agreed to convert a photo to a cross stitch pattern for somebody on Ravelry, but I'm going to have to spend a bit of time tweaking the photo first, because it keeps coming out too dark.

Hmmm..... Busy busy busy..... I couldn't be happier!

Monday, 22 September 2008

A day off

I had a day off work today to make up for my Saturday being taken over by work (boo - work!), and spend the day clothes shopping (yaay - shopping), going to the dentist (!) and finishing this little cross stitch...


Isn't it cute! It's my little Nintendo/Mario cross stitch pattern. I will update the pattern to put the cross stitch photo on the cover. I reckon I'll put this panel up on Etsy to sell, though - as I don't have any use for it now that I've finished stitching it.


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Going potty

We went to pottery last night. It was good, we picked up some of our pots from last term, I started to make a cake stand, and J's making a fish bowl. I think I'll have to make several cake stands before I figure out what it is I'm doing, but it's ok because it's all fun. And cakes stands are pretty. Especially with cakes on them.

These are the pots I collected from last term... Before I show you though - I want to make it known that this was my first ever time on the wheel. Ever. And I am very proud of myself.


From back left (going clockwise) are: Wobbly pot, which is off-centre and wobbly but I like its glaze; The pot which I didn't make, but which I glazed so I'm going to take some credit for it; The pot that was kind of ok (if you squinted), until I applied a glaze to the outside which is frankly sub-standard and which has completely ruined it; The little blue pot which I adore; The pot which fell apart on the wheel, but which I glazed anyway and now think it looks kind of cool; And the pot with the 'artistic' dribbly edge, which I had thought would be much redder (like blood), but which came out dark-blue, which looks ok.

We're going back to pottery on Friday. I can't wait. I have loads of ideas, and want to play and experiment with clay.

Here is a cheesy picture of a cuddly toy with the nearly-completed brown sock. I had to pose it with something cutesy because it's impossible to photograph a dark brown, stockingette stitch sock attractively. It can't be done.


Monday, 15 September 2008

Wow - it's been nearly two months since I blogged!

I have intended to blog, but the longer I've left it, the harder it's been to come back - kind of like if you haven't done your homework for an evening class...

We've had a couple of birthdays since my last entry. We went to Londong for my 33rd in August, went to see Spamalot and Avenue Q in the West End, met up with some friends, and did the whole tourist thing, it was lovely.

J lost me for quite some time in the embroidery section at the V&A museum - I took loads of photos for reference which was a bit difficult in subdued lighting without a tripod, but I coped by bracing myself against frames of embroidery and holding my breath for the long exposure times. I absolutely feel head-over-heels with one piece of embroidery, a detail of which is below.



A couple of weeks after my birthday was lovely J's birthday, we went exploring the west Wales coast in the camper van. The weather was a little bit less than ideal, but we had a fabulous time, and I would definitely go again. Here is a picture of Molly, on the dashboard, watching the rain at Aberystwyth sea-front.


Our gifts for each other were the holidays (hotels, camp sites, meals, etc.), but I couldn't resist making a little present to give him on the day...


video


Craft and hobbies-wise, I'm afraid I have nothing much to report. I've returned to a boring pair of brown socks which I've been knitting for over a year and which I WILL finish before the end of the month (I've nearly finished sock #1 as I type). After that I want to finish the green bag and a cross stitch of my mushroom pattern (there's a link to the free download on the top right on my blog), which I haven't touched since I discovered a mistake in my counting. Silly me.

Tomorrow is the start of a new term of evening classes, and the return to pottery. Yay! This term I will get good at working on the wheel, and I will make cake stands.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

She's finished!

I've been off work poorly for a couple of days, which has given me the opportunity to finish Kewpie!


She's hanging out to dry now after a gentle hand-wash to dislodge some the grime and biscuit crumbs that had found their way into the work during stitching. Next steps will be a good ironing over a fluffy white towel, and a trip to the framers on Saturday.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

House-selling frustrations

Weeks ago, probably about 4 or 5 weeks by now, I accepted an offer on my house. I don't think I blogged it at the time, for fear of jinxing the sale.

Time has passed, and we're no nearer completing the sale. The buyer has been having trouble getting a mortgage. There had been a mark on his credit record from a late payment on a mobile phone bill, which has apparently now been sorted out with Experian, but it seems he still doesn't have his finances fully in place, and we haven't heard anything about a surveyor coming round to value the property. I'm getting worried - the longer it goes on, the greater the chances he'll pull out of the sale regardless of whether he gets a mortgage agreed.

Aaaargh!

On the plus side, we spent yesterday at Lovely J's house. We mooched around the house, garden and the neighbourhood. We went for a walk round some of the villages, had a very nice meal out in a local chinese, and sat in the conservatory with some music playing to enjoy the last of the day's sunshine as I carried on with my stitching. I gotta tell you, I can't wait til my house is sold and we can move in to his!

Here is my cross stitch as it was yesterday afternoon. Nearly there! If I keep at it I might be able to prepare it for framing by the end of next weekend....

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

A day off

I have a day off work today - woohoo! :oD

I love flexi-time. I can take up to two days off work as flexi-leave every 4 weeks - that's an extra 26 days a year that I'm not in work! Yay! (Of course, I do have to make up the hours, but that's not too difficult.)

So - what am I doing with my day off?

#1 - Sheltering from the rain. It's peeing it down here, the man on the radio said that we can expect a month's worth of rain today - said something about the European Monsoon (never heard of it). So, no picnics on the beach for me today.

#2 - Going to the cinema. I went to the 11 o-clock 'Senior showing' of 27 Dresses this morning. It was fantastic. We were in the Gallery (posh seats), had free teas, coffees and biscuits, and it only cost £4. The film was lovely (I cried a teeny bit), and I have to say - old people make the best cinema companions. There was no talking, bag-rustling, seat-kicking, getting-up-to-go-to-the-toilet or mobile-phone-bleeping. Just a lovely, serene silence in which to enjoy the film.




#3 - Going to the Craft Shop. I stopped by Inkspot on my way home from the flicks to pick up some more stranded cotton (DMC 3347) for Kewpie. While there I popped downstairs to speak to the picture framer (Andrew, he was brilliant, very accommodating, patient and encouraging) about Kewpie.


I started our conversation with the inspired, "I have a piece of cross-stitch abouth this wide (hand gesture) by this tall (hand gesture) that I haven't finished yet, but when I do I would like it to be framed with quite a big mount, and in a big, heavy gilt frame. But I don't know which one yet. Do you know how much that might cost?"

Instead of scowling at my vagueness, he was lovely, and went through a load of options with me, and gave me a range of likely prices and timescales. It's not going to be cheap. It could cost anywhere between £90 - £200 to get if framed as I want.



Gulp.



#3 - Cross Stitch. Of course! I won't be able to do very much today, but I have already manage to fit in some stitching, and I daresay I will do some more before bed. Here she is so far...

Nearly there! Look how excited she looks, peeking over at the ever decreasing areas of nude aida...

#4 - Ballroom Dancing. Because my french classes have clashed with ballroom lessons over the past couple of weeks, we have arranged a catch-up session this afternoon. Lovely J's taken the afternoon off work especially. We will be off there shortly, so I need to hurry up with typing this post otherwise we may be late!

#5 - French Class. Yup - I will be parlez-vous-ing tonight again. It's great, I'm really enjoying it, and am considering taking it up in September on a one night a week basis (they do 2 nights a week too, but I could never fit that in around the pottery, dancing, stitching, knitting etc!)

So - all in all, a pretty fabulous day off. Hurrah!

Must dash - have to put my dancing shoes on!

Friday, 4 July 2008

Some sums...

This morning I timed myself doing a short row of cross stitch. I didn't rush, and I didn't dawdle, I just wanted a fairly accurate idea of how long the stitching takes.

I took 5 minutes, 35 seconds to complete one row of 20 stitches. This averages out at 16.75 seconds per complete cross stitch (both directions).

My Kewpie pattern measures 200 x 166 stitches. A total of 41,500 stitches.

On that basis, it would take me 695,125 seconds to stitch the entire pattern. (193 hours, 5 minutes and 25 seconds).

This estimation doesn't take account of the additional time needed to thread needles, bind off thread, count, un-pick and re-stitch, swear and re-count, un-tangle thread, etc. With this in mind, I have rounded the figure up to a very reasonable 220 hours.

If we were to consider a working week is 37.5 hours, it would take a couple of hours shy of 6 working weeks to complete the pattern.

Considering that the minimum wage in the UK is currently £5.52/hour, it would cost £1,242 in minimum wage man-hours to stitch this pattern (not including the purchase of materials, etc).

For the benefit of my American readership (I know you're out there - Google Analytics tells me so!) - this is US $2,462.89 at today's exchange rate.


Wow. I dread to think how much that would work out as on my actual salary. :oS

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

French, Kewpie and photos

This week I am taking French lessons. I'm doing a 2 week french conversation summer school at the university, 3 hours a night, 3 nights a week for two weeks. So far I've had two classes, and am thoroughly enjoying it. I'm finding it much easier and much less stressful than Japanese!

The end of my mammoth Kewpie cross stitch is in sight! Nearly. I have a lot of stitching ahead of me , still - but, look....



See! I'm definitely getting there!

Also - d'you remember a while back I mentioned that some Schamp, an online travel guide, was considering using one of my pics? Well, they did. You can see it here - mine's one of the pics of Blenheim Palace.

How awesome is that? But wait - it gets better... I had another email from them, letting me know that they're considering including another of my pics. Yay me! It's this one of Barry Island...


(Doesn't Barry Island look lovely!)

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Felting, Moos and Stitches

Quite a photo-heavy post today, I'm afraid. But not very many words, I have too much stitching to do!

I went to a felting class on Tuesday. It was brilliant fun, but was only an one-off class. I hope there will be more classes, but in the meantime I might have to try to teach myself. Because it was the best fun ever.

I made this...

Which would have been a bag, but we were running out of time, so it's just a spiral-y swatch. And I made this...

Which would be a bangle if it wasn't so big (I put the biro in the picture to show its scale). Apparently, if I continue to felt it it should shrink some more. I might do that over the weekend. And if I don't, or if it refuses to shrink further, then it was obviously always inteded to be this size, was never supposed to be a bangle - any fool could see that it's a bag handle.

When I renewed my Flickr Pro account, I was offered 10 free moo cards. They've arrived. I think they're fantastic. I want more moo cards. I'm just not sure what I'd do with them. Calling cards? I don't visit enough people to need any. Business cards? I don't have a business. As toppers on greetings cards? Perhaps, but I don't make a huge amount of them.

I might just have to have a box-full just because I like them.

And I've picked up the Kewpie cross stitch again. I've done loads over the past couple of evenings, but it probably wouldn't look like a huge amount - so I present to you some detail shots instead of the usual progress pics. Just for a change.

(A strawberry in the shade)

(An eye).

Monday, 23 June 2008

Bumble bees

I have a nest of bumble bees in my composter.




I think they might be the Buff-Tailed bumblebee, or Bombus Terrestris, happily they're fairly common, and are not among the endangered species of bumblebee. There seem to be a lot of them. They were coming and going every few seconds as I was stood there.
I like having bees living in the garden. It's reminded me of my ambition to keep a hive or two, and to have my own fresh honey for breakfast and my own home-brewed mead at suppertime. I would also like a goat, some chickens, and an orchard. And ducks.
I had intended to take better pictures than these for the blog, but I got nervous with the loud, buzzing, furry things which were barrelling past my ear. I know they're docile and are seriously unlikely to sting, but when you're right up close to the nest entrance, and the bees are getting nervous and beginning to show signs of dive-bombing, you don't tend to stick around too long for the perfect macro shot.
(These were taken from the other side of the shed, using zoom.)

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Alan Titchmarsh would be proud

I've been gardening. For reasons that I'm not yet ready to share (for fear of counting my chickens...), I have been taking cuttings and lifting my most treasured plants from the garden.

The first to be lifted was my beloved bay tree (back-right in the photo, with the droopy leaves). I know that it's the wrong time to lift it, and that it will sulk terribly and perhaps even die because of its uprooting, but it's a risk I've had to take. I've had this tree for 6 years, since it was only 8 inches tall, but I have to admit to have neglected it in its current location.

Assuming it survives and flourishes, I will start to take proper care of it, pruning it and keeping it in shape. It's a huge assumption though - only an hour after it was lifted all the leaves and new growth had drooped and wilted. I hope it will be ok.

Second to be lifted was my gooseberry tree (back-left in the photo). I've had this since I lived in Bournemouth, but is only about a foot and a half tall, because I once dropped a garage on it. It's a resilient little bugger though. I was delighted to find a crop of big, fat berries on it today, some of which I will be having for my pudding tonight.

Centre-front is a blackcurrant bush which I planted about 5 years ago, but which had been completely overwhelmed by the garden hedge to such an extent that I had to cut 3/4 of it away due to straggly legginess. I'm hoping it's relocation and severe pruning will help it recover and be much bushier, healthier and fruitful (assuming, of course, that I haven't killed it by lifting it!)

Front-left is a rose bush. Seriously, it is! I was going to take some cuttings because it has the loveliest fraganced white flowers, but this has also been very badly neglected. Due to a combination of a lack of pruning, a lack of dead-heading, greenfly infestation and caterpillars (there were over a dozen on it!) I only managed to pull 3 cuttings (of dubious health), and was left with little more than a leggy stump. So I cut that right back, lifted it, and potted it. With feed and water, I hope it will be ok.

I don't want to give the impression that everything in my garden is neglected and in decline. Those plants which need no attention from me do fantastically well! :o)

My honeysuckle, for example, is blooming and smells absolutely beautiful of an evening. I took 4 cuttings of this while I was at it, so we'll see how they take, too.

If these plants (my most precious, beloved plants) survive my clumsiness, I promise to look after them from here on in. I will even read some of the gardening books I have in my bookshelves so I can take care of them properly!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Pooped!

Phew! I am pooped!

I've spent the past 3 days on an extremely intensive course for work - which was both mentally exhausting and extremely useful. I'm glad I had the opportunity to do this course, but I'm happier still that it's now over (and even hapier again that there are only 2 days until the weekend!)
So I am now pooped. Properly, thoroughly and undoubtedly pooped. I'm talking about 'drooping-asleep-over-my-cup-of-tea' - tired.

But I'm not too tired to do a little bit of knitting, though. Here is my green bag - I haven't managed to do very much this week, but happily it's thick yarn on thick needles, so the little time I've had to spend on his has resulted in a fairly satisfying growth. I hope to be able to finish and felt it over the weekend, and to amend the pattern accordingly and pop it back up here.

Last night was the last pottery class until September. I spent my last lesson glazing the pots I showed you a few weeks ago, and I hope I will be able to collect them after they've been in the kiln - probably in a week or two. The other bits and pieces I've made are either waiting to be fired or waiting to be glazed, so I have no photos of them to show you yet, either. But when I go back in September, I should be able to glaze and fire them very quickly.
I'm going to spend the summer planning pottery projects, so I can go into my classes with a purpose, rather than just staring at a lump of clay waiting for inspiration. (I've found that inspiration can be elusive when you only have 2 hours to find it!).
So, no pottery next Tuesday. (Booo!). However - there will be a felting course next week at the same centre (Yaaay!) which I have booked onto, along with some of the ladies from pottery. I am looking forward to that bery much, and will try to remember to take my camera.
It will be fantastic.
Anyone on Ravelry.com yet? It's brilliant!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Two weekends ago....

I wrote a long, intricate and really interesting blog entry on the weekend, telling you all everything that I had done the weekend before, but something went wrong with Blogger and it disappeared without a trace.

I'm afraid I threw some of my toys into a corner and had a mini-sulk from Blogger. But I'm over it now, and I will try to quickly recap on the blog entry that was lost.

We went to a car-boot sale the weekend before last. We went to buy some specific pieces, but instead bought hair clippers for the cat, a huge bag of buttons for 50p (look at all the buttons!)...


... and a "Super Badge-It" machine for £2. I love the badge machine - it's brilliant! I did waste some of the fittings and stuff on my first attempts by putting the backs in upsisde down, putting them in the wrong bits, and putting the back and front in the same hole (I'm not always very bright), but after about half an hour, I made these...

And I think they're lovely! The fairies are from some Paperchase wrapping paper I bought about ten years ago, and the gingham is a scrap of fabric and a snippet of ribbon. I want to make more and more, but I've put it away for the moment, so I can think about what I want to make - the badge pieces are non-industry standard, so are too expensive to waste!

I've started knitting another bag. I'm using the green Rowan Spray I bought at the same time as the red Rpwan Spray (I showed them a few posts ago), and I'm using it as an opportunity to test and proof-read the knitting pattern up there in the corner. I've already found a couple of errors, so I will be updating that when I'm finished. I'm also making a couple of alterations to the bag's design. I've been able to take the red bag out a coupl eof times, and have come to the conclusion that the bag size and the strap length are perfect, although the flap needs to be longer, and it needs two chunky buttons to keep the flap down.


I'm now on www.Ravelry.com - take a look, it's awesome! And befriend me if you find me, I'm on there are as friendlyflamingo (naturally!)

Monday, 2 June 2008

Free knitting pattern

I've written the pattern and I've put it up. (Look over there on the right....)

Yay me!

I must admit that I haven't tested or proof read the pattern yet, though... If anybody knits this and notices any mistakes, or needs anything clarifying or explained - please let me know and I'll try to make it better.

And just for lovely Ruth, because you asked so nicely, and because I like you so very much, (frantic, cheerful waving), here is a close up of the bag to show some of the felting.
It hasn't felted absolutely and completely - maybe because of the amount of acrylic in the yarn, or maybe because I didn't felt it for long enough. Having said that, I like that you can still see the knit stitches, and it's a nicely dense and robust fabric now, that should be able to cope with carrying all my stuff without having pencils or car keys poking through and jabbing me in the leg.


One to cross off the list

I finished the bag! It was #1 on my "list of things to do", and it's all finished, sewn up and felted. Yay me!

The decision to felt the bag was all abit of an experiment. I couldn't really be bothered lining it, and I though if I felted it, it would be dense enough that I might be able to get away without having to line it. I diodn't know whether the yarn would felt, either, due to a high-ish acrylic content (Rowan Spray, 60% wool, 40% acrylic), and while it hasn't made a super-dense felted fabric, and it lost a lot of colour in the process, it's ok and I'm pleased with it.


I will write out the pattern when I have a moment, and post it here in case anybody's interested. I will try to do this by next weekend.


We spent the last couple of weekends at the Hay book festival, which was fantastic. The highlights for me were seeing Don McCullen discussing his photography career, Terry Jones lecturing on Richard II (the man's a legend!), Jo Brand, and the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, who were fabulous. I'm looking forward to next year's line-up now... Next time I'm going to book even earlier, because there were a couple of events that I would have liked to have seen but was too slow to get tickets.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Almost a nearly published photographer... kind of

I had a message in my flickr account this morning, telling me that one of my photos has been shortlisted for inclusion in the next edition of the Schmap England Guide.

There will be no fee if my photo's selected for inclusion, and many of the pictures they had for the last edition were hardly professional-looking, but nevertheless I'm chuffed. Very chuffed indeed. Yay me! I love the idea that from all the pictures on flickr, somebody looked at mine and kind of liked it. This was the photo...

I took it last summer at Blenheim Palace (near Oxford) on my miniviv (aka Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim).

In other news... I'm all pshyched for tonight's Eurovision semi final. I loved what I saw of Tuesday's semi final (I missed the first part because we were at pottery), and am absolutely thrilled that Boznia & Hertzegovnia are through to the final. J's making himself scarce tonight, so it'll just be me, the cat, Eurovision and a tin of lager. Awesome!

And tomorrow night... we're very, very excited about this... tomorrow night we will be going to our very first ballroom dancing lesson!

This will be us...

It will be fantastic, and we will prove to be naturals on the dance floor!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

So much to do...

I feel I've become very slack recently, both with my blogging and my crafting... So this morning I'm forcing myself to make a public note of where I am, what I've been up to, and what I want to do.

I am full of good intentions regarding finishing my unfinished - but newer, younger and shinier projects and activities keep attracting my attention. I am an activities / crafting / hobbies tart. I don't think I can help it. The best I can do is recognise my weaknesses and try to mitigate for them... or something.

The main work in progress is The Cross Stitch. It could have been long finished if I'd have continued with the same enthusiam that I had when I started. Of course, that level of dedication isn't really sustainable, and may have had detrimental long-term implications on the health of my neck, back and shoulders, my eyesight, and my relationship. But I haven't abandoned it. Here it is as of this morning, you'll notice that not much has really changed since my last post. But it will. For the coming week I pledge to dedicate a portion of time to the stitching every day.
(Edit: I pledge to try to dedicate a portion of time to the stitching every day.)


I'm afraid I have many, many hours of stitching ahead of me! :o)
Also above, is the bag I blogged about last week. It's getting there, but I'm caught in a cycle of knit/frog with the handles, which aren't quite working out for me. I want a cable pattern running the length of the handles, but I haven't settled on a pattern and width that I'm happy with yet. I may have another go at that this evening...
Below is my first attempt at embroidery. It isn't very even, elegant or refined, but I have an excuse already prepared - I didn't want to iron the vintage iron-on pattern my mum gave me, so I very cleverly traced it using and iron-transfer pencil, but I can't have pressed hard enough with the pencil because the transferred image is the faintest purple line I have ever seen in my life. Don't believe me? See for yourself! I was spending more time squinting for the line than concentrating on even stitches.
However, despite this, I am secretly a tiny bit pleased, and am even happier again that I've cracked the french knot, which has eluded me since childhood. Apparently it's all in the twist. No pic of my French Knots here today, though, sorry...

The next embroidery will, I hope, be a little bit less clumsy, and I will show it proudly on this blog as and when it is stitched.

Moving away from fabric and yarn for a moment... we went to pottery class! It was brilliant! We made these....


I think they're pretty ok for a first attempt at the wheel... The pots at North, Centre and South-West are mine, at North-East, South-East and South are J's, at East is the teacher's. The catastrophe located at the Western corner is one of mine, which I swear was an absolute masterpiece - the entire studio had gathered around to 'Ooooh' at my natural skills and ability at the wheel (at least they had in the fluffly pink warmth of my imagination), when something happened which had absolutely nothing to do with any lack of skill on my part, and it fell over. I tried to rescue it, but just made matters worse.

We're going again on Tuesday, I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

It was an accident... I couldn't help it

I popped into Dunelm Mill this morning to pick up a pot of oil for my sewing machine, and look what I found in the bargain bin...



The Rowan Spray I bought weeks ago was still there, and were still 99p each - and there were other colours and other yarns in there as well.

I'd come to a pause on the bag I was knitting on the other day, because I didn't have enough yarn to finish it just the way I wanted to, and have been mulling over an alternative that didn't feel too much like compromising. Happily now, I don't have to - because I accidentally bought a new ball of red, and three balls of green (because I quite fancy making another).

But I don't know whether I'll do any knitting today. I have so many projects on the go, and so many burning ideas for new fantastic projects, that I don't know where to turn. My list of projects to finish and start are...

  1. Finish the red knitted bag
  2. Knit a green bag
  3. Finish the Kewpie cross stitch
  4. Do the mushroom cross stitch (the one in my free pattern, link on the top right, over there)
  5. Make an embroidered notepad cover
  6. Make a key fob for my sister
  7. Design and embroider a banner for this blog
  8. Design and embroider a banner for for Etsy
  9. Make some stuff for Etsy
  10. Make a hessian shopping tote with felt applique
  11. Learn how to do pottery and ceramics

As it's now the weekend, I could make a good start on this list, but it's gorgeous and sunny outside, too warm for knitting, too bright to take my laptop out (I'm doing the Kewpie cross stitch straight from the computer because I don't have access to a colour printer), and impractical to take the sewing machine outside. So I might do something else instead. I don't know yet, I haven't decided.

(Wouldn't it be lovely if I could win just enough on the lottery that I would never have to go to work again, and could spend my days doing interesting courses, making stuff, pottering about and being happy. About £3million or so should do it.)

Monday, 5 May 2008

The things I did today

I dunno.... you'll get no blog posts for ages, and then three come along all at once! :o)

Look! I've been knitting!



I bought this yarn in Dunelm Mill some time ago - it was in the bargain bin at 99p a ball, and it was all I could do not to buy the whole load. There was some blue cotton-net Debbie Bliss yarn there too, but I was good and didn't buy any.

So I'm knitting a bag. It will be a lovely bag, and once it's finished and lined and pressed, I will show it to you properly.

I will probably also post my knitting pattern, just in case anyone likes it enough to make their own.

And here is a picture of Lovely-J looking devastatingly handsome in a medieval helmet and sword at Caerphilly Castle earlier today.

*Swoon*

Happiness in Barcode form

This is just a super-quick post to share the joy of this best-ever website that I have just found...

http://www.idautomation.com/java/linearservlet.html

It generates bar codes. I have coded my date of birth, his date of birth, my name, his name, the cat's name, my sister's name, my parents wedding anniversary....

Hours of geeky fun. :o)


I've been slack, but now I'm back.

Wow, how slack have I been? It's been over a month since I blogged... I seem to have been too busy to blog or to make stuff, but I can't for the life of me think what I've been doing with my time!

But I'm back now. And I intend to finish that blessed cross stitch, and I want to learn to embroider properly, and generally get back to playing with fabric and stuff. I might occasionally have some bits and pieces to show on here.

One thing I have been doing over the past 3 weeks is "losing weight". So far I have lost 8lb. (Yay!). My weighing days are on Fridays, so I might start posting my losses/gains on here as well - to shame/encourage me to stick to the plan.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Meet Maud

I managed to finish that little mini-project I grumbled about in my last blog entry. It was intended to be a little keyring to replace the almost (but not quite) ripped-all-the-way-through leather keyfob attached to my car keys.

The mini-project turned into Maud:

Maud is a very proper, kind and lovely lady, who keeps an eye on my driving and helps me find parking spaces. While she disapproves of any unladylike behaviour from me, she does (if she thinks nobody's paying attention) mutter rude words about inconsiderate drivers under her breath.

Maud is very light and deliciously squidgy. I have finally hit on the optimum amount of stuffing to retain form and squidyness. (Some of my previous softies haven't been particularly soft, due to over-enthusisatic stuffing.)

More news - I have made a new cross stitch pattern for Etsy, which I hope will do ok - AND, no sooner than I had re-posted the Kokeshi Doll pattern than it sold again! That's TWO patterns sold this weekend! (I still haven't broken even though -due to the Etsy fees to post the patterns and the money I paid for a showcase slot that got me no new viewings at all because I did it wrong!)

I still haven't repaired my sewing machine. I may have to look at that during the week, I don't think I have the inclination to pull it all apart this evening.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Time for a break...

All the house-stuff has been taking my precious "making-stuff" time over the past few weeks. I've done next to nothing on my Kewpie cross stitch...


I really must crack on and try to finish her - I've spent too much time and effort to risk letting her become an unfinished piece gathring dust in the back of a cupboard. (I have many of those, there are two one in particular that I keep being reminded of with a twinge of guilt... I might blog about them another time.)

Before the living room disaster last weekend I had tried to make a start on a little mini-project, with the intention that if it turned out ok I might make some more to put on Etsy. Unfortunately my sewing machine kept chewing up the fabric (the dust created by all the DIY-ing must have gotten in there - I need to give it a good clean, oiling and general overhaul, I reckon), so I resorted to some hand stitching. I only managed a couple of inches before I was called away to home-imprevement related duties. This is it so far:


Fantasic, eh? My one and only task this weekend is to complete this mini project. I won't be able to today, though - because we're off to Devon, nor tonight because my parents are visiting in Cardiff this weekend, and I hope to see them tonight. I'm sure I'll manage a couple of hours with needle and thread on Sunday, though. Touch wood.

Exciting news!! I sold a pattern on Etsy! It's my first Etsy sale, and I'm thrilled! I'm desperately keen to have some other things in my Etsy shop though - perhaps some new patterns, but I definitely want some "stuff" up there too.

A little bit of tastiness to finish off - a jar of salt butter caramel sauce my parents brought over from Britanny. Yum! It has to be eaten before this September - sounds like a silly challenge to me. (And look how pretty the jar is, too!)