Friday, 30 October 2009

Model customer #4 and book #29

Drum roll please... da da da da da da daaahhhh...
Please put your hands together for my Model Customer number 4 - Laura from Aberdeen!

Laura is wearing my Funky Scarf; a lovely soft and fuzzy scarf in dark purple with bright pink stripes. Laura said, "I love this scarf - the colours are fab and it's SO warm!" Doesn't she look great? Thanks for shopping at Bliss Knits Laura!

If you've bought anything from my Folksy shop or from one of the craft fairs that I've attended, and you fancy being a 'Model Customer', please get in touch!

I finished 'The Memory Garden' by Rachel Hore today, so that's me up to 29 books read this year. Definitely nowhere near my record of 53 books in a year (but that was when my bus journey to work was much longer!).

I  found this book a bit slow going at times, but that's probably because I'm used to more fast-paced crime novels. It was an enjoyable light read though.

The book is set in Cornwall (a well-loved holiday destination of ours) and tells the story of a lecturer who takes a sabbatical to research and write a book on the famous artists of the area of Lamorna. It tells of how Mel falls in love with this part of Cornwall, and Merryn Hall in particular. Here she stays in the gardener's cottage and builds friendships with the local people in the present, and learns about the inhabitants of the past (the story moves effortlessly from one era to another). She helps the new owner, Patrick, to start renovations on the overgrown and neglected gardens, and a relationship starts to blossom - but will the past get in the way of their future? And will Mel uncover the truth about the mysterious artist PT?

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Christmas is Coming...

Over the past week or so I've been getting into the festive mood, making decorations for the Christmas tree.

I want to have a good selection for the November craft fairs that I'm booked in for (Emmanuel College, Gateshead - 7 Nov, and Grainger Market, Newcastle - 14 Nov) so the knitting needles have been put away for a while.

Previous crafty pursuits that have been put on hold for a while include embroidery, and patchwork and quilting. I've amassed a huge selection of fabric and threads, which have been safely packed in storage boxes in the spare room, ready and waiting to become the craft-of-the-moment again.

I'm also a bit of a magpie for beads, ribbons, sequins, etc. so I've always got a good selection of embellishments to choose from.

It's been lovely to get out my sewing needles for a change. And I could easily spend a few hours hunting through all my supplies, looking for the ideal thread to go with the sparkly beads to embellish the perfect fabric...!

So that's the decorations that I've made and managed to photograph, so far - there are a lot more waiting in the wings!

I'm not sure whether to list them in my Folksy shop yet or if I should wait until after the craft fairs to see what I have left. In an ideal world I'd have hundreds of decorations to sell, but the time I have to make things is limited with having a day job to go and I've always sold better at the fairs. I'm afraid I'll miss the boat though if I post them too late and people will have already bought their decorations, so I'll probably pop a few in the shop and see what the interest is like.

I'd love to know what YOU think of them - please leave a comment if you have the time. Thanks!

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Big Knit - Little Hats

Today I'm showing off my mam's knitting skills for a change. In between the baby knits (for her soon-to-be-arriving second great grandaughter) she's been beavering away, knitting little hats for smoothie bottles. Last week she sent off 30 little hats for the Innocent Big Knit campaign which, in a collaboration with Sainsbury’s, aims to raise thousands of pounds for charity. Each little hat is place on a smoothie bottle, and for each one sold Innocent and Sainsbury’s will give 35p to Age Concern and Help the Aged.

(Here's a selection of the hats that my mam made. She knitted 30 in total, all with little bobbles on top!)

Every year the deadline date for donated hats creeps up on me and I manage to make only a few; this year, with making items for my shop and craft fairs, I completely forgot. Luckily mam was on the ball. I must remember to put it in my diary for next year and start knitting early!

In the UK, 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 are malnourished. So this year the money raised from the campaign is going to be used to fund projects offering advice on healthy eating, cookery clubs and social events where older people can enjoy a meal together and a good old chat.

The Big Knit campaign started in 2003 when 20,000 hats were knitted, raising £10,000 for Age Concern. Things have gone from strength to strength and last year 506,738 hats were donated and £253,384 was raised. This year, so far, the total stands at 437,509 hats; but due to the postal strike the closing date has been extended to 30 October so they still have a chance to beat last year's total. Have a look at The Big Knit website and see if the Hatometer has increased this final week - also check out the weird and wonderful designs that people have knitted - and read about the people that the campaign has helped in previous years.

However much money is raised, it's going to a fantastic cause, and the advice, concern and companionship will mean so much to thousands of older people this winter.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Winter Woollies

I didn't get as much stitching done as I would have liked on Sunday. By the time I tidied the spare room (my craft room) and sorted out which fabrics were suitable for Christmas decorations it was after one o'clock - then lunch - a bit of stitching - and then the Grand Prix (Wow, what a race! And well done to JB!!!).

I'm still fiddling around with the Christmas tree decorations, but I think I've decided on a half dozen shapes which I'm going to do in various colourways, with some lovely embellishments and embroidery. Hopefully I'll get a lot more done this Sunday, and then I can show you some nice photos!

In the meantime, a couple of items which I've finished in the last few days are these fingerless mitts - something which I've not made before, but I think they came out quite well. I've added a couple of buttons to each cuff as a bit of an embellishment.

A couple of people at the Grainger Market craft fair that I attended recently asked if I sold gloves so I thought I'd give them a go. I've got another pair on the needles now so I hope to have a few pairs to sell at the next craft fair in November.

The other recent 'make' is this gorgeously soft, stripy scarf. I've added long tassels to the ends of this scarf because I think they give a lovely drape and movement to the finished item.

I love the variegated green stripes in this yarn and the textured stitch - so simple, but very effective.

I hope to take some better photos at the weekend when I can get outside in daylight (and hopefully no rain!), and then I'll list them in my Folksy shop.

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Creative Crafts for Christmas

I had a great day at the Creative Crafts for Christmas show at Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena today, along with my mam, sister and one of my nieces.

A lot of different crafts were catered for at the show (knitting, patchwork, paper craft, cross stitch, beading, parchment craft and so on) and there were demonstrations and workshops too. There were also a lot of stalls selling ready-made gifts: from chocolates to jewellery, and secateurs to soft toys!

There were a LOT of people there, shopping for Christmas pressies and supplies to make their own handmade goodies. Unfortunately many of them left their manners at home, as there was a fair bit of shoving to get to the stalls and very few apologies. Why are people so impolite and selfish nowadays? I thought crafters were better than this!

Ok, rant over. Aside from some gorgeous Christmas pressies, which I bought but can't show you yet as the receipients may be reading, I also bought some lovely black/white/grey mixed yarn - another scarf will be on the needles soon...

And a gorgeous blue mixed yarn (though it looks more of a grey here) - for another scarf, no doubt...

Some neutral, chunky buttons, which always come in useful but some of these are destined to be fasteners for scarflets...

Some sparkly beads in lots of delectable colourways - I have a tonne of beads already but I couldn't resist buying these as they were such a bargain price and will be perfect for embellishing Christmas tree decorations...

And finally, some bargain-priced ribbon in pretty colours, for my floral brooches and possibly Christmas decorations too.

Everyone who pre-booked a ticket for the show received a cheaper entry - and a fab goodie bag from the organisers.

The bag itself is big and strong, with a flat base so it doesn't fall over when you put it down - but that advertising is pretty major so I'm not sure if I'll be using it on an everyday basis! It was great for using at the show though - unfortunately I went along with the premise of 'It's a big bag so I may as well fill it up!'

And these are some of the goodies that were inside the bag. There were also some decorative papers, ribbon roses, small paper flowers and a tiny travel sewing kit in each bag, but the girls in my party did a bit of a swap for the items we'd find most useful so I managed to get all of the lovely ribbons and buttons.

And not being one to resist other people's Christmas decorations, I bought these two sweet wooden reindeer.

I love decorating the house for Christmas and can't wait for 1st December when all the boxes and bags get dragged down from the loft. The tree in our living room is covered in handmade decorations only (mostly my own) and each year I enjoy making a few different ones; it always draws appreciative comments from visitors.

This year I'll also be making some to sell in my Folksy shop and at local craft fairs. So, after getting lots of inspiration at today's show, I'm hoping to spend a lovely day tomorrow surrounded by all my fabric, buttons, beads and ribbons, making some festive decorations that I hope you'll love. I'll keep you posted with what I come up with...

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Gardener's autumnal delights

After a fairly crafty past couple of weeks, I've neglected the garden somewhat. I managed to clean the pond of fallen leaves and clear away all the decaying hosta leaves on Sunday but the weeds are multiplying on the drive and patio, and there's all sorts of seedlings growing on the bark path (some which I'll rescue and pot on to make into nice big plants). Aside from the multitude of weeds though, there's still a lot of colour, texture and interest in the garden.

It was gorgeous and sunny on Sunday and I really enjoyed pottering in the garden for a couple of hours. I find the ever decreasing sunlight quite depressing at this time of year and I hate not being able to come home from work and just sit outside and enjoy the plants growing and the bees buzzing.

But I do still enjoy the pleasures that autumn has to offer. I love the ripe fruits and the wispy grasses, russet leaves and shiny conkers, crunching through fallen leaves and harvesting plump tomatoes and juicy onions from the garden. The colours are so much richer and the textures more apparent in the low autumn light. I really seem to appreciate the delights of autumn more than any other season; it's almost as if my senses need to take in every scrap of colour and texture and pattern because I know that it's not going to last, and the cold dark days of winter will soon be on their way (but then winter has it's own delights too!).

Pyracantha 'Teton'

Cotoneaster horizontalis

Aside from the juicy berries and rich autumn colours and textures, there are still a few bright blooms around, determined to survive for as long as they can. This is the gorgeous Rudbeckia 'Irish Spring' which I grew from seed in the spring. It's flowered non-stop from July so I'll definitely be growing it again next year.

After the weekend sunshine, today we've had a day of horrible drizzle. The plants do look really pretty though with droplets of water settled on their leaves, and I managed to capture a few photos tonight before it got dark.

Leucothoe axillaris 'Curly Red'

Plain old ivy

Spirea japonica

Stipa arundinacea

I hope you're still finding some pleasure in YOUR garden right now!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Craft fair number 1

It was my first time selling at the Arts & Crafts Fair at Grainger Market in Newcastle yesterday. It went really well. I only sold a few items (three scarves, a keyring and a corsage) but it covered my costs with a bit extra. And I also got two commissions (a scarf and a floral brooch) - and lots of lovely comments from the public and other stallholders.

My table was massive (much bigger than I've had at previous fairs), so it was great to get all of my stock out and on show (people won't buy it if it's sitting in a box where they can't see it!).

The bunting looked great. Not many people noticed it, but those that did loved it.

The stallholders were lovely and friendly. Most of them seem to come every month (and have done so for years) so they all knew each other - but were very welcoming to the 'newbie'. They all thought that this fair had been quite quiet so things will hopefully pick up at the November and December fairs; if that was quiet I'm really looking forward to the busy ones!

Predictably though, people asked for things I don't sell - hats, mittens, tea cosies, shawls... (and I could have sold my wooden cat model about 50 times!) so I may attempt a few new things for the next fair, if I find some spare time. I want to make some more of the ribbon scarves that sell so well at Christmas time, some sparkly corsages too (perfect to wear with that 'little black dress'!) and I thought some Christmas bunting would be fab - plus I have those two commissions from the fair, a commission for some bunting for a nursery (from a blog reader), baby knits for my great niece due in a couple of weeks, Christmas pressies for my family... oh dear, I better get a move on.

Thanks for all the lovely comments on the bunting (and other posts!) - your thoughts are always very welcome and appreciated!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Goodwill Bunting

Hurrah! The bunting for my craft stall is finished. The photos here don't really show off the colours very well but I'm really happy with it. (Click on the photos for a close-up.)

The plan was to crochet some individual letters spelling out BLISS KNITS and stitch them individually to each flag but I haven't got time to do that for the fair on Saturday - I'll do that in the 3 weeks I've got until the next fair in November.

Sorry this is such a short post but I'm spending every spare minute when I get home from work making extra items for the fair.

I'd love to know what you think of the bunting - please leave a comment if you have the time. Thanks!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Preparations for Grainger Market craft fair

My first craft fair of this year is next Saturday (10th Oct) at the Grainger Market in Newcastle. The Grade I listed building was Newcastle's first indoor market. Designed by John Dobson and built by Richard Grainger, it was considered 'the most spacious and magnificient market in Europe' when it was opened in 1835.

The Grainger Market is still a very lively place, with around 250 shops and stalls, in two distinct areas:

The old 'Flesh Market' is largely still in its original state, set out in a grid system the stalls here sell everything from meat, fish and vegetables to pet accessories, haberdashery and books. The classically styled market also houses the oldest surviving branch of Marks & Spencer - the Penny Bazaar which opened in 1895 is thought to be the smallest M&S in the world!

The roof of the old 'Vegetable Market', now known as the Grainger Arcade, was destroyed in a fire and the present steel girdered and glazed roof dates from 1901 (see photo below). Here you'll find local nurseries selling their plants, an oriental food store, and cafes, as well as the Arts & Craft Fair which is held on the second Saturday of each month. I'm really looking forward to this fair; it's in a lovely setting and I'm hoping that the shoppers will be in a buying mood!

More info here and here and lots of photos here.

So this morning I sorted out everything I need for the fair: business cards, leaflets, shelving, stand, table cloth, cash float, tissue paper, sellotape, bags, paper, pen, and stock! There's still a few things that I need to do, but essentially I'm ready and raring to go. One thing that I do need to finish though is the bunting. I think that the bright and cheery bunting will look really attractive draped across the front of my stall, and hopefully it will attract some prospective customers to come over and have a closer look. Here's what I've done so far:

A half-knitted flag showing the SSK decreases on the right (stitch slants to left), and K2tog on the left (stitch slants to right). The pattern for the bunting can be found at Green Mountain Mama.

A finished flag (curling up at the edges!).

Ten colourful flags, all ready to be flattened!

Flag slightly stretched and pinned out.

Ironing the interfacing to the back of the flag.

A nice, flat flag - no curly edges!

Attaching the flags with a little bit of crochet.

I've nearly finished the bunting now - only two more flags to attach. I'll post a photo of the finished bunting in my next blog. Watch this space...