Category Archives: Handmade Monday

The Hand-Stitched Home – Book Review

The Hand-Stitched Home - Cover

I promised you a lovely book to coo over and The Hand-Stitched Home by Caroline Zoob ticks all the boxes.

I’ve had very little time to exercise my sewing muscles lately and had rather forgotten how much I enjoy it so leafing through Caroline Arber’s beautiful photographs discovering the projects within was a real pleasure.

Do you hand sew?  Is it something you love or do out of necessity?  Sometimes it’s so easy just to get the sewing machine out and wizz around a few seams, or as I did over half term to piece together a spectacular tear on some nearly new tracksuit bottoms which had come off worse in a tree climbing related incident!

I had a very mixed introduction to the craft of stitching.  Being left handed my school experience was almost entirely negative.  Whole lessons miserably stitching a ‘blind’ hem with a length of thread grubby and grey from countless pulling out.  And, being made to wear a thimble on my right hand because that was where they were worn!  (I was nearly an adult before I found out what they were actually for!)  However, during the school holidays I stayed with my left-handed grandmother, Bam-mum (who never used a thimble)  and she introduced me to a love of stitching which has never gone away despite school’s best efforts.

Caroline Zoob’s book is all for pleasure, little hand-stitched treasures giving a new lease of life to vintage fabrics which then become part of the fabric of the home.  From tiny projects such as this Heart Key Fob…

Heart Key Fob - The Hand-Stitched Home…delicately stitched shelf edging…

Shelf edging - The Hand-Stitched Home..and pretty egg-cosy made from felted wool blanket fabric…

egg-cosy - The Hand-Stitched Home

..to larger pieces such as cushions, curtains and table runners there are plenty of ideas which you can use to inspire you to use and recycle pretty fabrics, trimmings, buttons and precious scraps of fabric.

Be aware that the instructions for some of the more complicated pieces do presume a fairly sound knowledge of basic sewing skills. However, this is book about hand stitching and embroidery and there is a lot of help and inspiration  for even a novice at decorative stitching.  And of course the joy of a book like this is that it is positive encouragement to go off and brush up on or learn new skills!

Vintage scraps - The Hand-Stitched Home

And what was my inspiration?  Well, it was daisies.  I’m planning to feature daisies in the next blog post for reasons which will be explained, but this was the image in the book which inspired me…

Daisy tree - The Hand-Stitched Home

It’s so pretty and simple.  I had a frame which I bought months ago in a closing down sale, and a remnant of linen so I spent a happy evening with my box of embroidery threads and this was the result…

Daisy tree 2 - Then Hand-Made Home

So, I’m sure you would love to get your hands on a copy of this book.  And you can because the lovely people at the Aurum Publishing Group have a copy to send to one lucky person.  It could be you!  I’d love to hear your sewing story, what got you stitching?   Was it love at first stitch, or a gradual blossoming?  Simply share your story in the comments, and next weekend you could be the winner!

This week I’m linking up again with Handmade Monday over on Handmade Harbour so follow the links there to discover lots more creative people and ideas.

I’m off to the studio now to get ready for the last day of Open Studios.  If you are in the area we’d love to see you, but if not I’ll be back here soon…x

 

Sunshine and Flowers

Suddenly it’s Spring!  It’s such an overwhelming change too, after a winter which seemed to go on forever.  The daffodils at the side of the road, resolutely green and tight budded, responded to the sunshine so immediately you could practically hear the sound of popping as they opened.  There’s now a definite green tinge to the brown twigginess of the hedgerows, in a few days Spring will really be busting out all over!

It’s been another busy week, which started with a trip to London.  I went to meet the Pinterest Team, who came over from the US to organise a campaign with selected bloggers.  And they selected me!  Very honoured by that, and very surprised!  Anyway, it all happens in May and I look forward to telling you all about it then.

With a little time to spare, I wandered round and went off to see St Paul’s, knowing that  in  a couple of days I would be seeing it on the news during the coverage of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.  I was too late to go inside, but it is a very beautiful and imposing building, especially with the blossom and late afternoon sunshine.

St Paul's Cathedral, blossom & sunshine

Back home, Open Studios is fast approaching.  We’ve picked up boxes of brochures and postcards and tomorrow we’re off to the Forum in Norwich with our pieces for display in the Taster Exhibition which is on from Tuesday to Friday.   I mentioned in this post that I was making a website for our Art Trail so if you would like to know more about us call over to the Two Rivers Trail (and watch out for the gorilla!)

I’m longing to find time to get out in the garden like some others I could mention…

miniature dachshund sunbathing

…and Higgins isn’t the only one enjoying the sunshine out there either…

butterfly in sunshine

…but at the moment I tend to just wander round with a cup of tea and a camera in my tea breaks.

grape hyacinths in sunshine

These little Grape Hyacinths have survived remarkably well considering they are on one of Higgins’ routes round the garden and he’s trodden on them regularly for months!

cowslips & aubretia in sunshine

forget-me-knots

daffs&grapehyacinthsI’ve done nothing in the vegetable patch, so this little pansy has taken advantage and moved in…

pansy in the sunshine

I skived off from working for a couple of hours this morning to visit the beach.  We’ve not been for ages as we’ve had weeks of Arctic winds blowing straight of the sea and I didn’t think it would do my sinuses much good!  It hasn’t done the beach much good either, as our miles of pale gold sand has been scoured off and deposited elsewhere.  The level of the beach must be about 15 feet lower, and there are pools and stretches of clay.

clay exposed by coastal erosion - Norfolk

The huge chunks of granite which are part of the sea defences and normally partially hidden in the sand are exposed, and it was quite a feat of mountaineering to get over the top and on to the next stretch of beach.

Norfolk beach in sunshineHiggins really enjoyed the pools…

dachshund in the pool..and also discovered the most revolting bit of flotsam…or even jetsom..in the shape of a baby’s dummy.  He smelt it from about 20 feet away, made a bee line for it and carried it all the way back to the car to put in his toy box!

miniature dachshund

So this is why I haven’t finished the project that was going to be my Hand Made Monday feature!  I’m sure you don’t begrudge me a trip to the seaside though, and I will get back in the next few days when it’s done.  I have also taken deliver of a fresh batch of Planet Penny yarn which I need to get back on to the Etsy site so it really is busy, busy, busy at the moment.

Don’t forget, there is still time to join in with draw for a copy of The Knitted Home by Ruth Cross.  Just visit the post here, and leave your knitting story in the comments.  Do take a moment to read some of the stories which have already been left, some of them really raise a giggle.

Back soon…x

 

The Knitted Home – Book Review

The Knitted Home - jacket
Every now and then I am asked if I would like to review a book, and I have to restrain myself from biting off the offering arm in my delight at the chance to see a new crafty publication!  This one, the Knitted Home by the talented Ruth Cross arrived to fit in very nicely with the subtle, monochromatic vibe I embraced to produce my  needlefelted sheep.  This book is a visual delight, and feels gorgeous too!  (Am I the only person to love the feel of the thick matt finish which seems to be used more and more for books and magazines?)
Throw and Cushion from The Knitted Home - Ruth Cross
Although some of the projects in this book are quite challenging, there are excellent clear instructions at the back of the book so even a completed beginner could get to grips with some of the easier patterns.  Ruth’s explanations of creating textures with stitches will soon inspire  the adventurous, and for many of the projects the main requirement is the patience to see a big project through to the end.
Footstol, The Knitted Home - Ruth Cross
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cable throw  -The Knitted Home - Ruth Cross
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textured knitting panels - The ~Knitted  Home - Ruth Cross
The project I’m looking forward to trying is this beautiful table mat.  I love this crushed raspberry colour, but I’m also dying to see whether it will work in Planet Penny rainbow colours.  It starts off with 24 stitches and ends with 360 stitches, so even that is a challenge in itself!
circular place mat - The Knitted Home - Ruth Cross
But there is also a neat little pattern for beginners which is also a great way to make use of experimental squares when you are getting to grips with stitches and patterns.  Turning them into lavender bags means you don’t have to accumulate a big bag of knitted bits to stitch into a blanket, just two little squares and you have the makings of a little pretty to hang in the wardrobe or drawer handle.
Stripey Lavender Bags - The Knitted Home - Ruth Cross
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Stripey Lavender Bags close up - The Knitted Home -  Ruth Cross
And now the even more exciting bit…would you like to win a copy?  I have one right here, sitting on my desk  and it could be yours!
 All you have to do is to leave a comment on this post and tell me what or who got you started with knitting.  If you haven’t started knitting yet, well you can tell me about that too!   You can comment up until Saturday 28th April, then I will put all the names into a virtual hat (Random Number Generator actually, I’ve tried getting Higgins to do it and he either eats the slips of paper, or the hat!) and announce the lucky winner on Sunday 29th April.
And if you can’t wait, you can purchase a copy of The Knitted Home at the special price of £16.00 (RRP £20.00) details below.
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To order The Knitted Home (9781906417727) for £16.00 including p&p*, telephone 01903 828503 and quote offer code JS190. Or send a cheque made payable to: Littlehampton Book Services Mail Order Department, Littlehampton Book Services, PO Box 4264, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 3TG. Please quote the offer code JS190 and include your name and address details. *UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.
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I’m linking up again with Handmade Harbour and Handmade Monday again this week and I’m looking forward to hearing your knitting stories.  Also, I would like to thank everyone who left such encouraging comments about my sheep in the last post.  I always read your comments although I’m afraid I don’t get time to answer as many as I would like and they are always much appreciated.  Thanks so much.
I’ll be back soon to tell you about my next adventure.  I’m off to London tomorrow to find out about a campaign just for bloggers.  Intrigued?  So am I, because that’s all I know about it for now.  Who knows, maybe I’ll meet some of you there.
Back soon…

All Sheep Shape…

daffodils in the sun for a Sheep shape post

Have you heard the sound of birds singing and  sheep dancing on Planet Penny this week?   It’s all because the sun is shining and I have finished my piece for the Norfolk and Norwich Open Studios Taster Exhibition at the Forum in Norwich….yippee!   I’ve just looked back and found I published my Ta-daaa moment for the last piece almost exactly a year ago today, you can read it here.   And I said “This has existed in my head for so long it was rather a shock to realise that I hadn’t actually made it yet, so I’ve been working on it all week” And I can say exactly the same this year.  It’s amazing how a deadline focuses the mind!

But first, the sunshine.  It’s still not very warm, but it was a relief to wake up yesterday morning and realise the wind was not whistling in the chimney which it’s been doing for days.

frosty gardenI’ve had the doors open into the garden for the first time this year (and kept my fleece on) to let some fresh air into the house and Henry and Higgins have appreciated being able to wander in and out as they please.  Henry has a spot on a warm paving slab where in a few weeks he will be able to get spaced out on Cat Mint…

Tabby cat in the garden

…and Higgins parked himself under the bird feeder to make sure no pesky birds could get at the little dish of water I  put out for them.  He found it was particularly delicious, so much nicer than the inferior water in the dog bowl!

miniature dachshund

There’s a lot of bare earth in the garden, even the weeds are holding back, but there are patches of Spring to enjoy…

purple crocus

white crocuses

mixed crocuses

frilly daffodilAnd so to my big project for this week.  I really wanted to do something completely different this time, to step away of the bright colours, the crochet, the small things.  Also to challenge myself on the needlefelt front and make something much bigger than little birds and mice.    So I’ve used a very subdued palette…

sheep fleeceNatural Merino fleece with a background of charcoal grey.

So can you guess what I made? Well, of course it’s a sheep!

needlefelt sheep for NNOS 2013It’s actually quite hard to photograph and get the angle right…

needlefelt sheep for Taster Exhibition NNOS 2013

It’s called ‘How to Knit a Sheep’… (but please don’t ask me for a pattern!)

'How to Knit a Sheep' NNOS 2013

The knitted part starts off as unspun fleece and gradually reduces in thickness until it becomes  undyed 4 ply to knit the lacy part.

Needlefelt Sheep for NNOS 2013

knitting for 'How to Knit a Sheep' for NNOS 2013This has been a rare moment when the finished piece is almost the same as the picture in my head, hence the singing and dancing!  As you can imagine, I haven’t done a lot else this week but there are exciting Planet Penny things in the pipeline which I hope to share with you soon.

It’s Handmade Monday again this week so I’m linking up with Wendy for Handmade Monday over on Handmade Harbour  and I’ll be back very soon…x

 

 

Waiting for Spring

Happy Easter!  It seems strange to start a post entitled ‘Waiting for Spring’ that way but we are really stuck in some topsy turvy weather at the moment.  Hard to credit getting up on the first morning after the clocks change for British Summer Time to a sprinkling of snow!  We’ve actually got off lightly here in Norfolk as far as snow goes, the pictures of devastated farmers digging their sheep out of snowdrifts in other parts of the country have been heartbreaking.  We’ve just got the Arctic blast coming straight off the North Sea and hitting us sitting on the exposed lumpy bit sticking out of the East of England to contend with.

So I’m sharing a pretty Spring like picture to cheer us up…

lollipop broom bush for Spring

Higgins is not a fan of going out in the cold and I’ve had a running battle with him over the building of dachshund ‘nests’ out of the soft furnishings.  He’s only really happy when he has buried himself  and if he finds himself on the sofa with no available ‘blankie’ he will grizzle until he’s been covered up.

Since he’s eaten the corners of all the old cushions he now has a cushion of his very own, and a fleece blanket he can do whatever he likes with.  Unfortunately, he feels these are just not good enough, and compare very poorly with the fluffy throw I have draped over the back of the sofa, and the new velvet cushions in anemone colours I rashly bought a few weeks ago.

Every time my back is turned, this happens…

miniature dachshund keeping warm

…and he might look guilty…

Miniature dachshund looking guilty

…but that doesn’t mean he’s going to move!

I’ve reached a bit of a hiatus on Planet Penny just now.  It’s always slightly problematic judging  stock levels with the Planet Penny cotton because I don’t have a huge amount of space to store it.  Unfortunately an unexpected rush of orders has coincided with a couple of colours being out of stock at the suppliers so it’ll be first come first served on the few packs remaining until the middle of April.

But…

There are some changes afoot.  I’ll be trialling a new pack, which some of you have been asking about for a while AND I have a new venture in the pipeline which I will tell you about later on in the year, so I’m not standing still by any means.

Meanwhile, Open Studios is on the horizon and I have started an ambitious needlefelted piece for exhibition so a lull on the cotton front is probably a good thing.  There are only so many hours in the day!   It’s refreshing change to be doing something creative and challenging  just for me,  I hope it turns out looking at least a little bit like the image in my head.

Just a reminder, the Bunny crochet pattern offer ends tomorrow, Easter Monday at 5pm UK time.  After that it will be available through the Etsy shop, but for now it’s still yours for FREE!

I changed the yarn to make this version, a big soft squidgy version as a baby toy…

big spring crochet bunny

big crochet bunny for Spring

I’m off now to dig Higgins out of his latest nest, put on his coat and march him round a field or two…

Norfolk Field - Spring

…and then get back to my felting needle.  Don’t forget to nip over the Handmade Harbour to see what’s going on for Handmade Monday this week.

I’ll see you soon…x

 

Challenges, and the Easter Bunny

daffodils in snow: no weather for the Easter Bunny

I think we’ve all been a bit challenged in the UK this week, by the weather!  What’s it been like with you?  We haven’t had huge amounts of snow here in Norfolk, but we are very exposed to the biting wind heading our way across the North Sea: it seems to have been howling down the chimney for days.  It’s hard to believe it’s Easter next weekend,  the poor old Easter Bunny is going to have to wear his thermals to do his chocolate egg deliveries!

My main challenge over the week was a talk I had promised to give, months ago.  You know how you agree to these things and they seem so far away in the distance and then suddenly, it’s here and you are wondering why on earth you agreed to it!   I headed off to Beccles, which is just over the border into Suffolk to give a talk to the Spinners and Weavers Guild about Needlefelting.   I sort of had a feeling I might be teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, as the saying goes.  Then I found out there might well be over 30 people there and…ooo-er…!

As it was, it was fine.  After I got over my initial dry mouthed panic as I was introduced and stood there with no notes, no script but lots of props it went very well.

needlefelt demo

They were a lovely audience and very keen to set to with needles and fleece to have a go themselves after I’d finished the talk.

needlefelt class

As they were all textile practitioners they were happy to be experimental rather than being given a project and although there wasn’t a huge amount of time – and needlefelt is very time consuming – they came up with some jolly pieces and all seemed to have fun.

beginners needlefelt

However, I also had another challenge, and that was definitely down to the Easter Bunny!  I’ve been feeling so bad because I have been promising to write up the pattern for the bunny I made last Easter and my goodness, haven’t I got myself in a pickle with it!  And all of a sudden, there’s only a week to go!  I am sorry, aren’t I rubbish?  I think I’ve just been over thinking what I was doing, and seemed to spend ages ripping out and redoing the same piece.  Then suddenly, it all fell into place and the pattern is finished.

I’m on the way to having a complete Bunny Brigade…

crochet bunny backs

colourful crochet bunnies

As you can see, they each have their own personality, right down to a challenger for Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer’s title! (Percy, the Pink Nosed Bunny?)

So I’m thinking of an Easter present for you.  From now until after Easter the pattern will be available FREE as a downloadable PDF right HERE! (This offer has expired, but the bunny will be available soon via the Etsy Shop)   There is a Planet Penny Bunny Brigade group board on Pinterest so if you would like to add your version of the bunny just let me know and I can invite you.  You obviously have to be on Pinterest yourself and I have to be following at least one of your boards (but that can easily be arranged!)  Although I’ve made the Bunnies using the Planet Penny Cotton, they can be made using any yarn oddments, just match your hook to the yarn.  You can find out more about that in this post.

This is a limited offer, but I’d like to give my followers and customers a head start.  Although there’s only a week till Easter, they only take an hour or two to make so I’m sure we could have a wonderful board full of bunnies on Pinterest very soon, let me know what you think.

Finally, for those of you who read last week’s post about delivering Clovis, the Mad French Cat to his home by the sea you might be interested in a follow up tale (tail?) from his new home.  Visit Thomas’s blog to find out how he’s settling in, and have a chortle.  Tom seems to think there’s not a lot of call for cat stories, so if you disagree do leave a comment with him.  I need more pictures like that!

I’m joining in again with Handmade Monday over on Handmade Harbour so do pay a visit to see what’s going on…

Back soon…x