Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Like I Never Left...

So it's been a really long time and I must apologise for that! I know all you cyber crafters love following your favourite blogs and I shouldn't have left it sooo long. The thing is, I've just been SO busy! I've literally not stopped and, for various reasons, my crafting horizons have been expanding beyond all recognition! I'm so terribly excited about this new phase I seem to be entering.

The countdown has finally begun for my Sister's wedding (4th September) so things have really started taking off in that department. The flowers are chosen, table linen has been ordered, the cake is waiting in the wings and we've -so far- had two bridal gowns (don't ask). The latter, and preffered, dress was in desperate need of taking up when we finally got our hands on it. My sister is only about 5ft, so even with skyscraper heels the dress was never going to be a perfect length. (Don't feel sorry for her - the jammy cow is practically perfect in every other way! Perfect white teeth, petite frame, gorgeous blonde hair and cheek bones that Julian Clarey would kill for! I, on the other hand, drew the short straw and took after my father. I got the round face, 5 o'clock shadow at 11am and hair that will, I am reliably informed, start to recede within the next five years!) Off we trotted to our local alteration place where Becky was asked to put the dress on so the hem could be pinned. The shop assistant merrily threw back the curtain of the 'changing room' to reveal a space about the size of a small espresso cup. Needless to say, the next five minutes were very hot as I wrestled my sister into the dress, pulling zips, hoisting the skirts in order that she could bend to do up her strappy heels, alternating between my denim clad behind sticking out between the drapes and her frilly red thonged one. By the time we catapulted ourselves out of the match box sized room, quite a large number of the shop staff had gathered together, supposedly to "look at the beautiful dress". Personally I think they were more curious about who the thong belonged too! One confused woman did look at me for a short moment with a slightly bemused expression on her face and a partially extended finger before quietly saying "The Groom?"...... "Nope, Gay Brother" I replied and the confusion vanished from her face. Anyways, that is all sorted now and I am pleased to report that the dress is exceptionally beautiful and ready for the big day....

There's not much else to report really. Nathan and I took a brief trip into London earlier this month. We were at a bit of a loose end so decided to go and have a rummage around in 'iKnit' London shop and then go for lunch. After eating, we felt too lazy to walk back to the station, so Nathan hailed one of those rickshaw contraptions that ride around all over the place. Have you seen them? I tell you, I've never felt so guilty about my weight in my entire life! Realistically, I'm not huge. 13 stone is, however, still overweight for somebody of my height. The entire duration of the ride, while Nathan giggled as we wooshed over cobbled streets and zipped in front of pedestrians, I was transfixed by the driver's calves! As his muscles pulsed and contracted under the effort of turning the pedals, I clenched my butt tighter and tighter in an effort to make his load lighter. Of course, the fact that I was already clenching came in pretty handy when we came face to face with a large black (insert car name here - I'm useless!) that seemed determined to run us off the road with nothing but a piddly bicycle bell for protection. Nonetheless, we arrived in one piece and while Nathan paid the fare, I managed a slight nod and a feeble apology for the beads of sweat that had formed on our driver's brow.....

I'd better turn to something crafty now - I don't wish to lose all of my followers! I've had a massive shift in perception these last few weeks and have discovered that, while I have a natural propensity to over-think EVERYTHING, I also have the ability to just jump in and get on with things. Having seen, and even featured here, various crafters that are in the business of making toys and softies, I decided that I wanted to have a go. In the absence of any tuition, I grabbed my sewing machine, a few pairs of socks and decided to muddle my way through making one of those adorable sock monkeys. All in all, i'm pretty pleased with him, and he has already been claimed by Nathan and re-homed in Richmond as the office mascot. There are a few things that I will be changing on subsequent chimps, but I love the fact that each monkey can have its own personality! There are endless opportunities to have fun with them! I may do an Amy Winehouse version with a huge beehive! What larks! Here he is before he was abducted:

I've also broken out of my comfort zone this month by having a go at making some jewellery. I don't intend to become a skilled silversmith and beading does not really hold an awful lot of interest for me. However, I do love a bit of quirky kitsch and so, having imported various beads and charms from China (thank heavens for Ebay!) and investing in sterling silver charm bracelets and split rings, I came up with my first design! I think this is so lively and fun, and would make the perfect summer accessory. This item is soon to be added to my folksy/etsy shop and there are more in the pipeline.

Nathan's mum was down from Scotland this weekend and stayed with us for one night on the way through to his Sister's. She is such an inspirational person to have around. I mentioned that I was starting to find knitting patterns a little too prescriptive and that I'd like to have a go at designing some smaller pieces on my own. While I'd have deliberated this until I was claiming my pension, Gill was very enthusiastic and suggested that we form a joint venture. Gill, as the founder of her own yarn company 'Artisan Threads', is looking for a few new patterns to be written using her latest range of yarn. The intention is for me to work on these with her to both highlight her products and develop my confidence with pattern writing. The patterns will remain my intellectual property, but as Gill has numerous contacts in the knitting world and spends plenty of time on the exhibition circuit, my designs should get plenty of exposure! All very exciting stuff. Thus far, I have started work on a crocheted choker and Victorian style lace gloves. It really is so liberating though to break out on your own, and with all the sketching and knitted swatches, calculating measurements and selecting colours, it does give you a real sense of validity and achievement, of legitimacy even. Who knows where this will lead but watch this space! Indeed, for my next blog, I am going to be constructing an entire feature around Artisan Threads and I hope to be able to give you all a really good look behind the scenes of the company, how the yarn is made, a sneak peek into the studio and a Q&A session with the woman herself! Feel free to send any questions to me that you'd like to put to Gill and i'll be sure to pass them on.


M xxx

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Diana, Vanessa, Whitney & Mariah.....

Ok i'm a bad blogger. And, evidently a bad person.

I know I haven't blogged for a whole week but I wasn't sure anybody would want to talk to me! I know I made the fatal mistake of mentioning the sunshine last week and since then.....nothing but rain. Mind you, it could have been beautiful where you guys are. Maybe I only jinxed myself? Nonetheless, thanks to that HUGE black cloud that followed me around all week, I've had permanently wet washing hanging on the line (it became a matter of principle NOT to bring it in and put it into the tumble dryer!), a constantly evolving pattern of doggy footprints on the carpets, and enough frizzy hair to keep John Frieda in business for the next decade. It hasn't been pretty! For seven days I thought i'd died and been reincarnated into a Diana Ross wig.... but more about her later......

As promised, I'll get the updates done. Here are some pictures of the work I've been doing recently. The first thing I'll show is this basic red tote bag that I put together for myself! Not often I make anything for me and this will get used loads. It really is very simple, more about utility than aesthetics. I didn't even bother to line it (well, when your hair has turned to candy floss, nobody will be paying attention to your handbag, will they?!) I used a basic red cotton, my fab new singer sewing machine and the thread that I picked up in LIDL!!!! El cheapo, but I love it!

These baby booties were crocheted using a worsted weight merino yarn that I had left over in my workshop. I believe it is Malabrigo. Anyhow, I was pretty pleased with them. The pattern wasn't very clear after making the soles, so I kind of made it up off the top of my head after that. Still, I'm sure there'll be a bouncing bubba somewhere that will appreciate them! [I've been desperately trying to convince my sister to have a baby for quite some time now. She said originally that she was going to get married first, which is fine as that is only in September. But I am so impatient. I did recently threaten to knock her out and throw the ...err.... 'swimmers' up there myself. None of my own, I hasten to add.....]

I also promised to share with you all my my preliminary designs for a new top that i'm working on. Please don't all laugh! I don't profess to be an artist! The idea is that the front panels will only be attached to the back at one side, holding at the other with shoulder tabs and large buttons thus making it into a wraparound. I originally had this in mind as just a very basic daytime summer top. However, it occured to me that to use either a contrasting or toning sheer fabric at the bottom of all of the panels and creating a ruffled effect could convert this into quite a statement piece. Especially with the addition of beading, ribbons and other embellishments... This, in my eyes, is much more desirable! Subtlety has never been my strong point. Love a bit of wow factor!

My final picture is of the pencil rovings that were gifted to me by Nathan's mum. I've started knitting with them now. I'm using 6.5mm circular needles and knitting double stranded. The rovings are really quite delicate because the lack of twist means that the fibres just come apart if too much pressure is used. Because of this, the knitting is quite slow but I don't care! The colours are just beautiful and I feel like i'm playing with watercolour paint on a fresh new canvas. It is so satisfying to see the colours blending as I knit, and a final felting will only enhance this. I have stayed with my original idea - that is, to knit a vintage style handbag. I'm just making the pattern up as I go along at the moment, though i'm happy enough to do this as I am going to keep the complexity of the actual knitting to an absolute minimum in order to better showcase the yarn itself. The reason I said that I would return to Diana Ross later is that, having listened to her greatest hits album throughout the knitting of this piece (please, no comments using the words 'cliche' or 'stereotype'! I am well aware of how snugly I fit into gay popular culture!) I have decided to name the final bag 'Diana'. Ok, so in retrospect that little tidbit of info was far less interesting than I had anticipated.

Talking of Diva's, I'm so excited! Whitney Houston's first studio album in SEVEN YEARS is due for release on Septemeber 1st! I'm a die hard fan and may have to take a week off of work to learn all the lyrics! Furthermore, Mariah's new album 'Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel' is out on August 25th! Nathan detests my taste in music, referring collectively to my favourite artists as 'the whingers'! Needless to say, he is less than impressed with my daily ritual of prancing around with the hoover whilst listening to my cd's. I can't be sure, but I would suggest that this may have been what sparked his sudden interest in growing vegetables! These days he has a perfect life - by the time he returns from the allotment, not only has he avoided doing any housework but also bearing witness to me acting like a twat (his pet hate is my lip-syncing Whitney's quivering mouth during 'I will always love you'!!!!).

To finish up for today, I thought you might like to see some pictures of Archie playing in the garden with my sister. These were taken BEFORE the rain started! I went outside this morning because I could hear him whining. After checking behind various pots and over my neighbours fence, I discovered that he was on the roof of my shed! The poor little thing was calling to me and gingerly stepping onto the guttering to get himself down.....or so I thought. I perched on the edge of our low brick wall, reached up and strained to reach him. He seemed to be moving backwards and forwards, towards and then away from me, through fear. As I inched closer towards him and teetered on the very tip of my toes, suddenly my foot gave way and I went crashing into the hydrangea below. Whilst extricating myself from the mess (it now looks like Vanessa Feltz has used my favourite shrub as a cushion) who should come trotting round the corner to meet me? Correct.......


M xxx

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Filling in some background......

Hello all my little darlings! I hope you're all enjoying the sunshine! Personally, i'm not keen on the heat. Neither do I enjoy the fact that every good looking, tanned, toned, gym addicted Adonis finds it necessary to strip down to the waist as soon as the sun comes out! I mean, it's not that they're not attractive to look at (though, it is somewhat distracting when driving! I've had some very close calls with lampposts/post boxes/cars/the elderly in the past!)) but they make me feel so bad about myself! When you have an arse that looks like two dogs fighting in a blanket it is expected that it remains covered. Well, why can the opposite not be true?!
Speaking of dogs, I've received a few requests to fill in a little background with regards the animals in my life, so i'm going to give you a little look at my babies.

These pictures were taken in May when Nathan and I took a trip to Devon with my Sister and her fiance. Denny, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, is about 3 years old now. We've had her since she was about nine months. Strictly speaking, Denny is my dog and Bruce is Nathan's. She's a complete softy and I swear she believes she is human. Indeed, at night, Denny sleeps beside me in the crook of my neck. I can't say it does much in the way of encouraging.....shall we say.....passion in the boudoir. But then after four years, two full time jobs and a lifetime of hoovering, I think Nathan and I are beyond that anyway! Often reminds me of that Victoria Wood song 'Let's do it tonight'.... if you haven't heard it, search on 'you tube'. A very amusing caricature! she is:

And again!

And again, this time snoozing away a sunny afternoon with Archie....

Now for the big fella. Nathan and I rescued Bruce about a year ago. He was, and still is to some degree, a stressed dog. But after tonnes of training, mopping up a million little accidents and losing more knitting needles and pattern books to his jaws than I care to mention, I think he is finally settling into a more relaxed maturity. Bruce is coming up five now and consistently behaves as if he's just taken a hit of marijuana. I've never known such a soppy hound! He is forever walking into walls!

Just last night I was merrily (I say merrily, I was actually cursing with every movement)bouncing around on my wii fit console ('bouncing' is definitely the appropriate word) and my little cyber instructor ( I hate her, the smug cow) ordered me to drop and do ten repeats of the 'Jack Knife'. Well, as I flailed around on my back trying to hoist my own body weight more than an inch off of the ground ("keep in time to the beeps now", "did you just lift your foot off of the board?", " your muscles wont train themselves, you know" Arrrggghhhh I hate her!) the doggies thought it was great fun and that Daddy Mark was having a game. Have you tried doing a 'jack knife' (why doesn't she just call them sit ups?!) with a 35kg Dobermann plonking his horse-like body on top of your stomach and a Staffy who is determined to sit on your face????

***Incidentally, I hope that my dear readers don't find my over-use of parenthesis distracting. In case anybody is wondering, I do actually often talk like that!***

Nonetheless, I was pleased to complete an hour of exercise (all the while Nathan kindly called support from the kitchen like "have you seen the bread knife?" and "we're nearly out of milk"........ ) before giving up and I had actually worked up quite a sweat. I've yet to decide whether that was due to the heat or actually exerting myself.

I had a great result last night too! After reading Sukhi's post on I dashed straight into my local LIDL and picked up a real bargain! 40 spools of sewing thread in assorted colours (100M EACH SPOOL) for £3.99!!! LOVE to get myself a bargain and this will be a great back up stash to have in my workshop! Furthermore, having finally got my hands on some red thread I was able to dig out my deep red cotton fabric and start work on a basic shopping tote. This is going to be the first thing that I've made for myself in ages and, while not particularly exciting or adventurous, it'll get used loads and will go perfectly with my new summer shoes! Wahoo!

Yesterday I made a fantastic discovery on the Folksy shop 'ClaraBows'. She makes wonderfully scented soy candles and pours them into vintage teacup and saucer sets, giftwraps them and offers them for sale! What a brilliant idea! I have a real thing about vintage crockery and have loads of tea/coffee services, teapots and cake stands etc. I love making a real 'event' out of having tea. Plus, it can be a great distraction when you have unexpected guests but little to no idea how you are going to entertain them. If you can produce a big pot of tea, a wacky tea-cosy and a cake stand stuffed with little delights, you are bound to get the conversation flowing and send your guests home feeling content and indulged! Here is my favourite tea service (sadly without a matching teapot) and a tea cosy I hand knitted from a pattern by The Natural Dye Studio.

Pretty, huh? I'm thinking of completely copying my good friend Hotdog and having a competition on my blog. The only problem is, I have very little idea what anyone would like to win. Does anybody have any suggestions? I can make something new, or use something from my existing stock.... Your wish is my command. Just my way of saying thank you to all the lovely people that have joined me and supported me thus far.
I'll close here as nothing much else to report. I should be back tomorrow or over the weekend to update on the progress of my makes. I really must get down to something creative instead of blogging all the time! Much as I enjoy it, soon i'll be blogging about blogging which wont be interesting for either party.... OH! And i'll scan in my sketches for a new design that i'm working on for a ladies summer top. This one won't be knitted but run up on the sewing machine! Very exciting stuff!
Love and light
M xxx