Author Archives: pennygj

A Tale of the Unexpected

Great Dixter Gate

Hello!  I didn’t intend to be away for so long…in fact most of my intentions have flown out of the window this month and keeping up with the blog is one of them.

When I was last here, I was off to the South Coast for a few days with the family.  Any time away from home is fraught with complication because of having to make sure that everything is in place for someone to take over my role in caring for my mum, so I don’t actually go away very often at all, and never for more than a few days.

To be fair, my mum really appreciates this fact, and is always very keen to reassure me that she will be fine, nothing will go wrong, and to have a lovely time.

So the last Friday in August saw us wandering around the gardens at Great Dixter, me with my camera in hand, enjoying some peace and relaxation.  And then my phone buzzed with my sister’s ringtone and there was a message…’Where is mum?  The house is all locked up and we can’t see her’

(To put you in the picture, my mum is very disabled, can only just walk round the house and has to have a lot of assistance to get out through the door.)

Of course the phone signal was poor, my battery low and it took a panicky gallop back to the car to plug in before I could respond, which I did by phoning my mum, because it couldn’t be true could it?  It was all a mistake and she’d be sitting in her chair like always.  But her neighbour answered, and yes it was true, they were in the house, the bed was made, the washing up done and there was no sign of mum…

And I was miles away in Sussex…

Several phone calls later we had established that she had been taken to hospital and had a broken ankle after slipping off her bed in the night, thank goodness for the alarm button she was wearing round her neck, and the help of the people who turned out in the night to help her and call the ambulance. (Which arrived so quietly that the neighbours didn’t hear a thing!)

And the one thing in her mind was ‘Don’t tell Penny, it will spoil her holiday!’  I can’t believe that I had been out of the county for less than 24 hours when it happened.

She apparently thought she had sent a text to my sister from the ambulance but a combination of shock and a bumpy ride meant that it disappeared into the ether, rather than getting delivered.  Her first response to me when I sent her a message at the hospital was a text to say ‘I’m really cross you found out!’

I didn’t rush home( I would have been told off!)  she was safe and cared for at the hospital and we returned as planned on the Sunday having had our lovely family time, albeit a little subdued.

But now I’m spending a lot of time behind the wheel, visiting her in hospital which is about 3/4 of an hour away.  All things considered she is doing well, it was a clean break and while there were a few bruises they have nearly gone.  There is a huge question mark hanging over the future now because her ability to cope living at home was getting increasingly problematic even before the fall…

While I usually try to keep Planet Penny an upbeat place trying to pretend that big things  aren’t happening in the real world would make things fake, and that isn’t what I want just here so that is why I’m posting about it.

Now you know I hope you will bear with me if things are a little erratic.  This was the quiet (ish) slot in the year for which I had booked in my Photocraft Course, which is great, but very intense.

I have this stuck up on my wall…

If Plan A doesn' work, the alphabet has 25 other letters!

It seems like it’s the only way to keep going sometimes…

Off to the Seaside!

This is a very quick little post as I’m running around getting ready for a couple of days away.  I had hoped to email all the lovely people who had kindly volunteered to be pattern testers, but time is galloping away as ever, so thank you so much for getting in touch, you know who you are!

I will get back to you after the weekend with a plan, (she says optimistically)

We are having a family get-together, which never happens often enough, down on the South Coast.  Also we are planning another trip to the beautiful gardens at Great Dixter which I’ve wanted to revisit for ages.  I’ve just looked at my post about it and it was five years ago…FIVE!  where does the time go?    Long border - Great Dixter

I shall be taking my new camera and getting a bit more familiar with it ahead of my Photocraft Course, but hopefully I will have some reasonable photos to share with you despite being an SLR novice right now!

See you soon…x

Writing and Testing a Crochet Pattern

One of the aspects of writing a crochet pattern is the constant niggle in the background of accuracy.

I don’t know about you, but I rely heavily on my spell checker when I’m using a keyboard, my spelling is much worse when I’m typing (and it can be a bit erratic when I’m using a pen, I must confess!)  However, that’s no help at all for typing crochet abbreviations so it’s quite a slow process.  And that’s after dreaming up the idea to begin with and then making it a second time so the pattern can be recorded.

By the time you get to the point where you make the item again from what you have written down it’s hard to judge whether you have explained yourself properly. By then you know the pattern inside out!

My latest make is a granny square cushion cover using the Planet Penny Cotton Colours with Snowdrop yarn which I backed with one of the PP fat quarters - jolly red and white spottiness.

Granny Square cushion - Planet Penny Cotton Colours

Granny square cushion - crochet pattern

cushion back for crochet pattern

I’m very happy with it, but now there is the question of the crochet pattern, and the making up instructions, and making sure it all makes sense.

What I need are some testers, and I’m trying to work out the best way to make it work.


…if you are a Planet Penny customer with a Rainbow pack of yarn who would like to make a cushion, I’ll provide the pattern, the fat quarter and a ball of Snowdrop yarn in return for trying out the pattern, giving constructive criticism, and sending photos of the finished article.  How does that sound?

If you could help test the Granny Square Cushion crochet pattern I’d love to hear from you. You would need to have some crochet experience, be used to working from a pattern, have basic sewing machine skills, and be able to produce a clear photo of the finished article.

You can leave a comment, or get in touch via the contacts form with some details which will help me choose.  I need 2 or 3 people to get a good cross section.

I’m really looking forward to hearing from you and hearing about your crochet pattern skills!


Everyone Needs a Crochet Skirt Guard!

Actually, I’ve only just realised that I personally need a crochet skirt guard even though I don’t know whether one would survive many journeys down our muddy lanes!

I spotted one in Mollie Makes a few weeks back in pale, subtle colours.  Did you see it?  Definitely not mud friendly!

Crochet Skirt guard

Crochet Skirt Guard - Mollie Makes – issue 41

But it was a conversation I had with one of my Planet Penny customers which set me thinking…

(When you live on your own little Planet in cyberspace it’s such a treat to actually meet up with one of you lovely people out there!)

Debbie bought a pack of Planet Penny yarn when she visited for Open Studios and mentioned making a skirt guard as she left. I pleaded with her to send pictures of the finished piece.I love to see what people do with the yarn after it leaves me as I never seem to have time to be as adventurous as I would like with my own yarn.

My day was made yesterday when an email popped into my inbox with the most gorgeous picture, worthy of Country Living magazine!  How fabulous is this…?

Crochet Skirt Guard made with Planet Penny Cotton Colours

The unusual colour combination is stunning and it looks a real labour of love.  Debbie used a pattern from JustDo who sells her patterns on Etsy…

Crochet Skirt Guard from Just Do

Crochet Skirt Guard Pattern from JustDo on Etsy

…and had to be a bit ingenious to make it fit her own bike but it worked beautifully.  Thanks Debbie, for allowing me to share, just too good to hide away!

I’ll be back soon…x


A Grown-up Camera, a Digital SLR…


Yes, after umming and ahing for ages, I now have a shiny new digital SLR Camera, and I’m really quite excited about it!

It all began because I spotted fellow East Anglian and Sheepy person Penny, of Penny Lindop Designs, talking about how much she had got out of an online photographic course she had just finished.  I’ve always been slightly intimidated by ‘real’ photography and ‘proper’ cameras, with all the acronyms and numbers, lens and zooms, exposures and depth of field.  These days the automatic setting on a digital compact or the camera on a smartphone can take you a long way.  And having my little Canon IXUS 125 HS (you see, all initials and numbers!) tucked in my handbag is really handy.

However, it’s quite hard work getting the right sort of photos for Etsy, and occasionally for magazines. I end up having to do quite a lot of fiddling around in Photoshop before I’m happy with the result.

So I investigated the photographic course, read my way through the website and had a good chat with Penny about her experiences and decided it’s exactly what I need right now to get my creative juices going.  A new challenge.

You can do the course using a compact camera, but the advice is by the time you’ve got to the end you would be ready to move on so it seemed sensible to learn the ropes whilst getting used to new equipment.  And the bonus was that the recommended digital SLR camera is also a Canon, a make I’m really happy with.

I’m still a little reverential in my handling of this new and (to me) sophisticated bit of kit and it hasn’t been off automatic yet, but I love it!

It makes Higgins look extremely shiny…

Mini Dachshund…and the flowers in the garden look more beautiful than ever…

Flower Montage Digital SLR camera parcticeThe Course is aimed at Designers, Makers, Crafters and Sellers who want to photograph their products, and get to grips with styling, lighting and presentation and I’m really looking forward to learning all about it.  I’ve been having a play and just having the new camera has made such a difference already…

Planet Penny Products photo practice digital SLR camera

 I’m really looking forward to starting the course in September, it’s never too late to go back to school!

If you are interested in the course I think there are some places left, you can find out about it here at Photocraft, and do let me know if we are going to be classmates!

See you soon…x

Art Therapy Books – And the Winners Are…

Art Therapy Giveaway…Art Therapy Books - Mandalas and  Stained Glass

What a lot of wonderful comments arrived for the Art Therapy Book Giveaway review from last week! Jacqui Small Publishing had kindly offered a copy of each of these books to two lucky winners. I asked you to tell us about favourite places to relax and they all sound lovely!

Gardens and water feature strongly, several people like the beach.  Summer houses were mentioned and hammocks (the hammock under the cherry trees is my own particular haven) and craft rooms, crafty corners and sofas.  Makes you just want go off and curl up, doesn’t it?

In the end I couldn’t possible choose only two and turned to the Random Number Generator to decide, and the winners are Sarah Ellis, who chose the Mandalas book, and Janice Perkin who plumped for the Stained Glass Designs.

I really hope neither of the ladies actually need Art Therapy as it were, but find the books as relaxing and fun as I have.

I’ll be back soon…x