Easter Saturday..

It’s been a lovely couple of days.

Mr T came home early on Thursday and has the whole Easter weekend off with a late start on Tuesday morning so he is pretty happy.  Even though his presence Thursday evening meant he had to join with my Stitch and Bitch group.  He seemed to enjoy himself anyway, just him and five women.

I love our Stitch and Bitch.  We are not good at having a bitch at all, mostly we laugh and talk about anything and every thing.  We always have supper, bikkies and cake and I so enjoy getting my old china cups and saucers and cake plates out to get used.  Mr T however was allowed to use a mug because my tea cups were too small for his giant man hands.

I felt very low energy on Friday so after walking Toastie we had a mammoth t.v. session – the latest series of Endeavour, Moone Boy (if you haven’t heard of this Google it – it’s brill), The Hairy Bikers in Asia and Blandings.

Today started with a trip to the New Rags Craft Market at the Town Hall. There were lots of local Wairarapa crafts people and I spent a lot of time talking with friends both stall holders and customers like myself.   I couldn’t leave without purchasing a few wonderful things, a old framed jigsaw and a china sugar bowl.  The camel pin cushion came from the previous Christmas New Rags Market.

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After the market we had a big walk around Henley Lake so Toastie could have a free run and a swim in the river.  She had been in disgrace because she had found the pastrami for our lunch, which we had foolishly left in the back of the car while we were shopping, and had hogged the lot.  I told her that she would be sick but all that happened was she drunk a hell of a lot of water – the Ratbag..

This evening is going to be another quiet one, with more T.V. time I think, and crochet on the side of course. So cozy now it’s getting dark much earlier..

Keeping toastie..

It’s a bit like this today..

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Toastie is in her second favourite spot (the first one being in front of the fire) – the back of the sofa, behind which is the largest radiator and the front window – you’ve got to keep warm whilst watching out for intruders and of course, her arch enemies – the evil neighbourhood cats.

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To keep out the gloom I have made an enormous one of these –

Sprinkled with cinnamon
Sprinkled with cinnamon
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Latte Coffee in my favourite mug.

Then I plan the rest of my day, which unfortunately requires me to walk out in the Weather with my terriersaurus who will need airing.

I will be doing some more work on this..

A la Alabama Chanin long sleeved bolero.
A la Alabama Chanin long-sleeved bolero.

Finishing the Cretin Stitch edging, which I have finally got the hang of and am now really enjoying.  I had been going through that part of the learning curve where I did know how to do the stitch but it really didn’t make a lot of sense, now it’s clicked and plain sailing, whew.

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I am also finishing the second part of Stephen Fry’s autobiography which I have just loved to bits – his utter honesty about his inner demons is so touching and so brave, while his reminiscences of his career set in the media cultural landscape that I grew up in are fascinating, rude and hilarious.  Everyone from my hero Douglas Adams to Rowan Atkinson, Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie of course, Ben Elton, Paul McCartney and the Queen Mother – just a few in a cast of hundreds of famous people to write your life around.

Later tonight we shall be going to our friend Leslie’s birthday party – supposedly dressed as Pirates but unfortunately we will be very crap Pirates as nether of us has a costume.  Hopefully Leslie will forgive us and just be happy that we are venturing out to her place in the snowy night.

making, making, making..

I have all three Alabama Chanin books.  I know that most of you won’t have heard of this Southern American clothing design house and if you are not of the sewing/making persuasion you might want to go off now and descale the kettle or sit about gazing blankly or what ever else you non-makers do in your sad, sad down time ;-).   That’s just me trying to justify my absurd need to always be doing something even whilst watching a movie.  If I could sew/draw/crochet/knit while reading a book my life would be perfect.

Natalie Chanin is a designer and maker who lives in Alabama and heads the company that sells utterly gorgeous, hand made clothes out of organic jersey cotton (t-shirt material), you might want to check out their website now and see just what I am talking about. The unusual thing about Alabama Chanin is that not only do they support their community by employing local people to make their clothes (and pay them a living wage), they actually encourage you to make their clothing yourself – it’s the whole handmade DIY aesthetic and to that end they have published three books with instructional how tos, and patterns.

I bought the books last year and got slightly obsessed about making her clothing – creating a set of fingerless mits out of a double layer of jersey and a sleeveless bolero out of an old t-shirt.  I learnt two important things from these experiment, firstly – I would need to scale up the patterns to fit me if I was ever going to get serious about making these garments, and secondly – don’t make handmade anything out of old or poor quality fabric, too much time and effort for a finished project that bobbles quickly or just looks plain crap.

In saying that, I was immensely pleased with myself for making these things and until the mitts started to bobble I just loved them to bits.  Sewing by hand is a whole different ball game from using a machine, the act can become a contemplation, it’s slow (although you do get faster, just like every thing) and  a lot more comfortable for me, possibly because it is so portable, you can sew watching telly or wherever you want really, and if you make a mistake, it’s ultra easy to unpick.  With this style of sewing the stitches can become part of the design, like drawing on cloth – not something to be hidden and I really like that.  Sewing for me has always been pretty scary, I was very bad at it in school and never really thought I could get good at it.  Plus I guess I never saw anything I really wanted that much to sew – until now..

I stumbled across the Craftsy website the other week,  I was aware of it but had not been attracted to any of the courses they offer, and then I saw a course to make this Alabama Chanin jacket run by Natalie Chanin herself – how cool is that! I had to sign up.

Alabam Chanin jacket

The pattern is free with the course and arrived last week, I have the two layers of jersey yardage, one of which I have yet to dye.  I have a shit hot pair of sewing scissors and am partway through cutting the surface design stencil into milar.  I have yet to get the textile paint (next week) and I will be ready to go soon.  I’m scared..

To help me conquer the fear I have already practised by cutting a stencil and negative reverse appliqueing my favourite t-shirt and I have made a long sleeved black bolero from the book Alabama Studio Sewing and Design, which I enlarged and it fits me, hurrah and amazing.  I am up to attaching the edging with cretan stitch and then I will take a photo and show you the finished product.

So that is me at the moment.  Or part of me anyway.  What are you lot up to?  Is there anything you are all excited about at the moment?

ahem..

So my friend Yvonne said to me on the phone a couple of months ago “Please update your blog” – I agreed and then proceeded to procrastinate with a vengeance…

It is far to scary to attempt to recount all that  I’ve been up to in the many months since I last posted so I am just going to start with the here and now..

Out my window as I am writing..

The view out my window is lovely and green – that is because we have had eleventy million litres of rain bucketing out of the sky all summer.  Believe me this is only a slight exaggeration.  Now normally I like rain – specially heavy rain, but I like it to be appropriately cool – rain and cold, they go together don’t they?  Instead we have had rain and hot – so sweaty hot that the obligatory walk with the dogs ends up with me as wet as they because it is far to warm to wear a coat.  I hate that.

The other small thing of note in the photo is the surprisingly lovely and incredibly long lived pom pom flowers which grew from our neglected leek plants.  Well worth growing just for the flowers.

The last thing I note from this photo is the card celebrating the 1st of August – Lammas, the first harvest festival. We have had so little sun it seems a bit of a swizz that we are already on our way back into the dark half of the year.  Ah well, at least I will get the cold as well as the rain that I am moaning about.

This morning I spoke to my Mum in New Zealand for about an hour.  She told me about her week – playing bowls, outings with friends, her renewed interest in Coronation St  (oh yuck) and I told her about the amazingly wonderful effects of HRT that I have finally twisted my GPs arm into prescribing.  I feel like a ‘normal’ person again, truly incredible and I wish so much that I could have started taking them years ago.

I did do some research before swallowing the first pill – and amongst it all I found this article from the New York Times really interesting if you are trying to make your mind up about it yourself.

The rest of my day has been filled with house work, walking the dogs (one Toastie and one visiting aged and quite lovably stupid Springer Spaniel named Alfred, whose elderly owners are both in hospital.

Alfie the Great

My other job of the day has been to revive my Etsy shop and start to list some of my new creations.  Not that I think that anyone will actually buy them but more that I have to justify continually making new ones and purchasing the yarn to make them.

Also – a couple of months ago I committed to go to Rome for four days the last week in September with some friends and the trip has worked out to be a lot more expensive than I expected. As Mr T did not want to come and I am spending vast amounts I need to show willing and at least try so sell some of my wares.

Here are the ones I listed today..  They are great fun to make – partly because I am not using any pattern so there are no rules and I get to use whatever yarn I want, including strips of tee shirt.

Also they look good on me so they will look good on anyone!

New ragged scarf

That is my day so far – I am off now to feed my furry friends and settle down for my currant fave True Blood and a little hooking.. Have a good one all..

crochet post alert – look away if allergic to hookers..

So most of you out there will not have heard of the Japanese flower motif, and there is absolutely no reason why you should have.  Except that this crocheter has been amazed by the way word has spread in the hooky internet world in the last couple of months.

I saw my first Japanese flower courtesy of Lucy at Attic 24.  She had been looking for some time for a suitable motif to make a shawl with – and being picky it was taking some time.  Finally she came across two French blogs this one  and this one from which she downloaded the (french) PDF file and then she blogged about it.  Lucy’s blog is extremely popular and I and about a thousand other readers of Attic 24 also downloaded it – the pattern had gone viral.

It then occurred to the French woman who had put the PDF file up for download that maybe there might be a small copyright problem with doing that.  Being that she had originally taken the pattern directly from a Japanese crochet book – Pattern Book Vol 4.   She had the pattern on her blog for the last two years but hardly anyone had paid much attention to it so it all seemed ok – now every person and their hook was visiting and it all seemed to be getting out of hand – so she took it off.

But it was way to late, way, way ,way too late.

And now it is everywhere – like some weird weed that keeps popping up month after month.  And what a beautiful weed..

One would have thought that now the only way to get the pattern would be to buy the original in the Japanese crochet book (expensive) or to know someone who had got in on time and downloaded the PDF,  BUT  the wonderful Elizabeth Cat stepped in and posted a tutorial on her blog – slightly different from the original but it looks pretty much the same.

Since then I have seen references to this motif on many  blogs including Crochet with Raymond, one of my absolute favourite crochet blogs whose author hails from Wellington, New Zealand – my home town.  Also  I have found a Ravelry group who have been making this shawl for the last couple of years. If you are after inspiration check them out.

I am not going to comment on the copyright issue except to say that hopefully once all those thousands of crocheters get exposed to the incredible lovely crochet (and other craft books) that come out of Japan, support for the designers will go up hugely.

One of my favourites - this one is by Adelaide and can be seen on Ravelry

The motif was originally created by Mayuko Hashimoto (橋本 真由子) and pretty damned cool it is too.

stir the stumps..

It’s late.

Late for me anyway, it’s usually pumpkin time around ten – ten thirty.

But I’ve been an eBay listing fool for the greater part of the evening as well as cooking a chicken dinner for His Nibs when he got in.

So what with one thing or another, blogging got pushed to up to the time where my eyes are sand paper  and I keep making mistakes… CONCENTRATE!  Ah – that’s better..  I’ve just been handed a mug of tea.. enough to keep me going at least till I have finished this.

Now I have the eBay listing out of the way I have only one day of work tomorrow and then my time is my own until next Wednesday.    I have a possibly mad hope that I will get all the flower motifs of my shawl sewn together some time soon.  It really is a pain in the bum to have to do and next time I make something like it I swear I will join  them as I go along.  The thing is I suspect that it is going to look fricking fabulous when it is all put together and also – once you have actually crocheted 34 motifs it would be a crying shame  not to finish it.   Sooo..  I need to stir my stumps..

Two photos for you before I hit the hay..

Thirteen joined up so far 🙂
Mother Clanger

I have a small obsession for Wombles, Moomins and others of that ilk, including The Banana Bunch.  From another age when I was A LOT less cynical about television.  Anyway, I found this fair maiden at Past Times in Hereford the other week and just had to have her.  She even whistles when you squeeze her tummy – how cool is that!

A Fine Start to a Year..

Question

What has three bedrooms, one of which is the entire attic area with velux window, which will make a mighty fine studio.  A large bathroom (well large compared to the closet which we have at the moment).  And A BATH!  And a wood burner. And a dog door. And a garden, with a glass house and an apple tree and a walnut tree. And it backs on to fields and Mouse Castle woods.  And it has its own car park. And it is furnished so we will have proper  double beds in all the rooms, And has walls so thick you can’t hear the neighbours hoick.  And costs exactly the same as the one we are in now ???

Answer – Our new house, of course!

Yes we are moving yet again, only this time it is just about as close as can be to where we are now –  five minutes walk away in Cusop Dingle.

This is the New Years Good Things post, and about time too.

I feel bullet points coming on

  • I am really loving our Stitch and Bitch group.  Just getting together with a lovely bunch of people purely for the sake of sitting and crocheting and talking and laughing.
  • A British winter – well, what a winter!  It’s still grey and manky outside BUT the signs of spring are already here, snowdrops, lambs, budding plants.  And I can smell it in the air.  Our town has got ridiculously quiet, almost empty pubs and streets.  It is amazing to think that this is the same town that just six months ago you had to walk off the pavement to get around all the people.  And soon it will be like that again – perhaps I will just enjoy the quiet for the moment.

  • A week after we move we are to be visited by our friends Julian and Kath.  This will be their first visit to us in Hay and I am just so happy that it will be at our new house.  Not only will we have a spare bedroom to put them up in BUT also we will have a proper bed for them to sleep in.  Hurrah!
  • Books – oh the books.  I try not to go into the book shops here to often, just because it is torturous to the financially embarrassed person but – sometimes you just have to.  On one of my trips I came across Paper Cutting Techniques by Sharyn Sowell which I just had to have as I have been wanting to have a go at the craft for some time now.   Then I found Shoot the Damn Dog by Sally Brampton, an account of the writers journey through and out of severe depression.  This book is well up there on my list of best depression books and reading it has helped me hugely.
Paper cut by Julene Harrison. Just imagine cutting this! There are some amazing people out there
  • Carol Shields’s Unless, is another book I just had to own.  I think Shields was one of the best novelists in THE ENTIRE WORLD – sorry about yelling but golly.  If you haven’t read this or the sublime The Stone Diaries, well then – you should 😉
  • After she threw the baby in, nobody believed me for the longest time. But I kept hearing that splash...     These sentences  come from my best read of the new year so far –  The Well and The Mine by Gin Phillips.  This doozy flew across the sea to me at the behest of an American friend Robin who I met last year at my local pub Kilvert’s, just up the road.  She was on her first solo trip around the UK and being a book seller, had to pay a visit to Hay-on-Wye.  The lovely Robin along with my friend Jenny and I spent a fabulous evening bonding over real ale and in the process I found out that not only was she from the southern states where I would just love to visit, but she was also a huge fan of Fanny Flagg, author of Fried Green Tomatoes as well as some of my other favourite books.  Robin, sadly, had to leave the next day but we have been in email contact since she got home and just after Christmas a package arrived from her.  Not only did it contain the latest Fanny Flagg hardback I Still Dream About You but a copy of The Well and the Mine which is the authors first novel – I can’t wait till the next.
  • Just before Christmas I had received another package in the post – this time from Amazon.  I hadn’t ordered anything and so I gave it to T who promptly put it away.  It turned out to be a rather wonderful, and strange book entitled The Complete Book of Retro Crafts which I suspect was sent to me by blog buddie Katyboo.   Full of the most wonderful, crazy stuff that humans can make it includes how tos on every kitsch craft you can think of – including glitter encrusted pine cone elves, Bottlecap man, Pantyhose Poodle and festive Reinbeer.

  • On Saturday afternoon I was in my kitchen making a Spiced Apple cake, the first baking I have done since we came to this country, and listening to Graham Norton and then Tony Blackburn on Radio Two, grooving away to 70’s funkiness when I suddenly realised just how happy I was feeling, one of life’s golden moments had just enveloped me and given me a big kiss.  I believe you must have had depression or been through some other terrible stress to understand how incredible it felt.  I am getting better…
The best cake I have ever made

We are moving on the 11th Feb and I have packing to do.  You have no idea how much I am looking forward to having a garden again.  I have to try to not get too over excited about it all otherwise I will have to go and sit in the corner, cover my head with a towel (remember you should always carry a towel – check your Douglas Adams)  and squeak.