Thursday, 28 January 2010

Our Handsome Alli Cat

A lot of crafters - and a few gardeners! - are owned by cats, so today I thought you might be interested in some photos of our lovely cat Alli who passed away a year ago today, at the age of just three.

He was such a handsome cat.

Who could always find a nice spot for a doze.

Getting himself into all sorts of comfy positions.

He loved to play with his toys.

He had his favourites, and they took quite a battering!

He was very quick and athletic, and he had very sharp claws!

But his greatest love was the garden.

With lots of vantage points and hiding spots, perfect to leap out from.

And places to relax in the sun.

He was such a loving and playful character, and we miss him dearly.

Our gorgeous little boy, Alli. xxx

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Saturday, 23 January 2010

Double Sunshine Award

Last week I received this lovely Sunshine Award from Charlotte of Charlotte Hupfield Ceramics, but never got time to blog about it. And then this week I received the same award from Kate at Glamourpuss Jewellery! The Sunshine Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspires others in the blog world, so I'm thrilled to receive it. Thanks so much girls!

However, there are rules for accepting the award. You must:

1. Put the logo on your blog or within your post;

2. Pass the award onto 12 bloggers;

3. Link the nominees within your post;

4. Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog;

5. Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

I've found it quite hard picking twelve blogs, and some of my favourites have already received this award, but here's the list that I came up with - all blogs that are positive, creative and inspirational, whether through their photos, their words, their crafty makes or their gardens.

So, in no particular order:

Uniquely Snowflake
Coco Rose Textiles
Owl Tree Cottage Crafts
Blooming Writer: Gardening in Nova Scotia
Swirly Thoughts
Dung Hoe
Tweed Thoughts
Linden Grove
Dinky Daisy
The Beauty is in the Detail

I hope you find someone new to follow and be inspired by!

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Monday, 18 January 2010

Baby Bunting Arrives in Oz

Regular readers may remember me mentioning some Baby Bunting that I was making for a friend of a friend - to give to her friend who had just had a baby girl. Well it's all finished now and hanging on a nursery wall in Sydney, Australia.

This is the lovely soft DK yarn that I started with, in delicate pastel shades to match the baby's nursery.

I knitted nine flags in all, in shades of light and mid pink with alternating white; with a crocheted edging around each flag in mint green. I then crocheted some letters for the baby's name - CECILIA - also in the mint green yarn; these were then stitched onto the relevant colour flag. The flags were then backed with white felt to secure the stitching further and to make each flag more robust, and then they were all attached together with some more crocheted cord, in the mid pink yarn.

And here's the final bunting hanging on my living room wall.

Angie, who commissioned the bunting, wrote me a lovely email once it had arrived two weeks later (not bad considering it was over the Christmas and New Year period). She thought that the bunting was '...absolutely fabulous. Honestly, it's even more gorgeous than I had expected and I know Ali is going to really love it. I can't wait to give it to her!'

It would be great to see a photo of the bunting in situ, but really I'm just so pleased that Angie loves it - and hopefully Ali and Cecilia will too. It's lovely to think that my work may be gracing the walls of Cecilia's bedroom in Australia for years to come.

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Thursday, 14 January 2010

Looking forward to spring in the garden

After being at work all week and the craft fair on Saturday, I finally managed to see the garden in daylight on Sunday. I had wanted to take some photos of the fantastic icicles that I'd seen in the past week,  however the great thaw started on Sunday morning and they were mostly gone by the time I got up!

There was still plenty of snow lying on the ground, though it had already been shaken off by a lot of the plants - and I'm sure after a couple of weeks under their heavy white blanket it was a great relief.

We've had more snow in the last two weeks than I can remember. I've enjoyed seeing the garden in its white winter finery but I've not enjoyed trudging to work each day through the snow then ice and slush, and it's amazing how little snow it takes for the country to come to a standstill.

It's Thursday now and we've still got quite a bit of snow left in the garden, and piled up at the sides of pathways, but it's definitely on its way out. We've got a couple of months before the warmer weather comes, but I'm really looking forward to spring now. The seed and plant catalogues are coming through the letterbox thick and fast, and it's time to plan and prepare. I have a lot of shrubs and perennials in the garden already but I have left spaces for the odd pocket of bright annuals. One such space is in front of the garden bench; it's lovely sitting here in the summer with the bees buzzing around, watching the blackbirds splashing in the pond - hopefully this snowy cushion will be gone by then...

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Sunday, 10 January 2010

New Designs, Quiet Fair, Lovely People

Yesterday, hubby and I did our monthly stint at the Art & Craft Fair in Newcastle's Grainger Market. As you can see from the photo it was a very quiet day. After three weeks of snow - most of it still lying - and a bitterly cold winter, it seemed as if most people were being sensible and staying at home in their warm houses. We did have a few looking at our stall though and they seemed to like what we had (especially the new designs), though we only had a couple of sales all day.

Over the years I've tried out various crafts and have amassed a huge stash of fabric, buttons, beads and the like, so I thought I'd spend some time over the Christmas holiday period experimenting with new designs and using my sewing skills to produce some items using applique, patchwork and embroidery techniques.

As a bit of a change from the usual Bliss Knits range of knitted and crocheted accessories, I was really keen to see if anyone would be interested in these new textile products. I even designed some new display props to show the brooches and fridge magnets off, which I think worked very well.

Crocheted corsages sold really well prior to Christmas so I made a few more for this fair; they are all one-of-a-kind items using differently textured yarns, buttons and beads. Great on bags, coats, scarves, hats, etc. for an individual, hand-crafted look.

These fabric brooches are part of my new range. Again, they are all unique - using padded layers of patterned and plain fabrics, with button and beads embellishments. This photo doesn't do them justice really - they look gorgeous in real life!

For a more fun and funky look, check out these brooches. The various shapes were cut out from fabric that I had previously dyed using marbling paints; they were then attached to the backing fabric using various embroidery stitches, with beads and extra stitching for added detail.

I also made some fridge magnets using the same designs.

As the fair was very quiet it gave us the chance to have longer chats with our fellow stall holders. They're a really nice bunch of people, always ready with advice and encouragement. This is Alan from Twisted Nature, modelling one of my cowls that he bought at the fair - even though we were under cover it was absolutely freezing cold. So, not only did Alan acquire a cosy and warm cowl, but he also received the honour of being my next 'model customer'!


Alan is an artist/illustrator who is inspired by the natural world. Check out his beautiful bird portraits and his humorous take on British wildlife at his website, Twisted Nature. Alan also undertakes private commissions for pet and people portraits, and corporate work for his wildlife images. Alan has exhibited his paintings all over the region, and his work has been featured in various publications including a monthly cartoon in the BBC Wildlife magazine. His prints, keyrings, bookmarks, etc. are sold in various local venues as well as through his website, and you can find him at the Grainger Market fair each month.

I really enjoy attending the craft fairs. It's great to get sales online but at the fairs you get to meet and chat with your customers. It's interesting to hear what the public has to say about what I sell - whether it's good or bad, it's all constructive and useful to know. And of course it's lovely to chat with the other stallholders too; finding out about their experiences with making and selling. In December I was lucky enough to meet a fellow Folksy seller, Natalie, aka Lissi. She bought one of my corsages and then commissioned me to do three more for Christmas gifts. It was lovely to chat to her about her work and life in general. Natalie produces gorgeous silk scarves, unusual necklaces and greetings cards, dyed using natural plant-based materials and recycled objects; each one is truly unique. Have a look at her website here to find out more.

Right, well, I'm off to do some knitting now - red cabled mittens, I think. After all the crochet and embroidery work that I've been doing lately I'm starting to get withdrawal symptoms!

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

Whiteout in the Garden

My last post showed you some quite colourful photos of the garden that I took in mid-December. However, just a few days later the garden looked like this with the first snow of the season.

The garden looks so different with a scattering of snow on it; colours are lacking but textures really comes to the fore.

Plants are transformed into icy white patterns.

The birds are grateful for their easy-to-eat patio lunch...

...once the plants have been stripped almost bare of their berries.

And then they create a little bit of art with their delicate footprints in the snow.

I think the garden looks quite enchanting under a coating of snow. It has the power to transform ordinary things into something much more dramatic and interesting.

However, the snow has kept on coming...

...and coming.

...and coming.

And yesterday we had even more snow; so now the garden is a complete whiteout. The pots in the photo above are nearly buried now, the garden bench has a cushion of snow up past the arm rests, the pond has completely disappeared, and most of the plants are now just white fluffy mounds.

I'm astonished at how much snow we've had in the past two weeks, and there's more to come according to the forecasts. It will be interesting, come spring, to see how the plants have fared. There will be some broken branches due to the weight of the snow no doubt, but it's insulating properties should protect the plants from the low temperatures and hopefully they'll survive to grow another year. Watch this space...

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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A bright and sunny December day in the garden

A couple of weeks ago I had a quick walk around the garden and I'm happy to report that there was still a lot of detail to look at even though we're in the depths of winter.

I've tried to plant a garden with year round interest and it's lovely to see the local wildlife enjoying the garden as much as we do. We don't have any exotic visitors to the garden, but it is the welcome home of frogs, mice, various insects and birds. There's lots of plants to take shelter in or under, grasses to use for bedding material, there's berries and seeds to eat, plants to perch on, water to drink and bathe in, and so on.

I haven't posted any garden photos in ages so I thought I'd show you the ones that I took that cold but bright and sunny day mid-December...

The following week, however, all that bright colour and warm texture was transformed with a blanket of snow and the scene changed completely. I'll show you those photos in my next post...

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