Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Ice Cream Baby Blanket

I've been crocheting some more little squares.

Lots of little squares in pretty ice cream colours.

I really enjoyed making the blanket for my friend's new baby and the new parents loved it too, so I thought that I'd make some more in different colourways and sell them in my Folksy shop.

I've chosen these colours with a baby girl in mind - soft pink and lilac, and fresh white.

I'm undecided as to what pattern combination to use though.

Concentric squares? Stripes? Diagonals?

I've nearly finished all of the squares now so I better make up my mind soon. At the minute I like the diagonal stripes - but I'd love to know what you think.

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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Plants for Free

I'm not a sports fan. Hubby is. If he's not tuned into the World Cup, he's watching Wimbledon. In fact he has been known to be watching one on the TV and the other on the laptop at the same time - quite often whilst listening to the radio too (who says men can't multi-task?!).

Anyhow, along with the fabulous weather we've been having this past week or so, it's given me a great excuse to spend more time in the garden. I've been taking cuttings of quite a few shrubs in the hope of furnishing my hoped for new garden with some much-loved plants, like the Cistus (rock rose) above - aren't these blooms just so bright and cheery?

...and the gorgeously-scented Philadelphus (mock orange). This plant was grown from a cutting that I took from a huge old shrub from our old garden in Glasgow and I'd love to plant a new specimen in our new garden too; the smell is amazing and it carries across the whole garden (such a shame they haven't invented scratch 'n' sniff computer screens yet!)

I've also taken a few cuttings from this Erysimum 'Bowles' Mauve' (perennial wallflower), not just because it's another plant that I want to take with me but because it gets quite leggy after a couple of years, so unless you want to buy a new plant it's best to reproduce it through cuttings. It flowers for weeks and weeks and it forms such a lovely colour combination with the silvery grey foliage of the Santolina (cotton lavender).

Two more plants which I propagated and moved from our Glasgow home are the Hypericum (St. John's Wort) and Hardy Geranium (cranesbill). Both have long seasons of interest: the Hypericum has pretty buds, flowers and berries and the leaves take on pink tinges in autumn; the Geranium has delicate, veined flowers, seed heads and beautiful leaves which also turn russet later in the year. They're both common plants but I think they look lovely, and no doubt I shall be taking their offspring with me as well!

I also love the combination of this deep purple Aquilegia (granny's bonnet) against the bright lime green Euphorbia (spurge). I grew these plants from seed so I'll do the same in our new patch and just leave these plants as they are, with the pale pink delicate flowers of London's Pride behind.

A few stems of the Euphorbia look fab in a blue vase too (though the sap can be an irritant for some people so be careful).

I love cutting flowers for indoors; they really brighten up a room and bring all of that lovely colour and texture (and often scent) inside to be enjoyed further. I enjoy having a play with different colour combinations especially, and I adore this bright and bold selection - it really makes my heart sing!

Arranging flowers in a vase has other benefits too: it gives me the chance to try out new plant combinations without actually moving any plants in the garden. It's hard to tell from photos in books what exactly goes with what, and of course the timing may not be quite right, but this way I can see which plants are in flower at the same time because they're actually doing so in my garden. However, the chosen plants may prefer to grow in different conditions (sun/shade, rich/poor soil, etc.) so they may only ever look good together in the vase.

I'd love to know what your favourite plant combinations are - and maybe it will give me a few more ideas for my dream garden...

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Friday, 18 June 2010

Bright or Subtle? You decide!

Enough of this gardening and house moving lark… So what crafty things have I been up to lately?

Well, I finished the baby blanket that I was making for my good friend Emma. I really enjoyed making it as the little squares are quick to make and very portable, so I could pop my yarn and hook in my handbag and crochet away happily whenever I go the chance: at home in front of the TV... in the garden enjoying the birds' antics... sitting at my desk during my lunch hour when it was too cold/wet to wander out... sitting outside in my lunch hour whilst enjoying the occasional sunny spell... relaxing on holiday in Whitby... (yes, the crochet goes everywhere!) Even the making-up process wasn't too bad, and the stripy border just finishes it off perfectly, I think.

I was so pleased that the parents-to-be loved the finished article – and hopefully baby will too! I've spent a couple of lunch hours at work this week sitting outside and soaking up the sun whilst crocheting some more of these little squares. I'd like to make some baby blankets in different colourways – and hopefully sell them in my Folksy shop. Watch this space.

Other, smaller projects that I've been doing are these pretty floral corsages. I love the bright, sunny colours and the contrasting buttons, and the shaggy texture of the blooms. I'm going to do some more of these but I can't decide on colourways: I like bright, contrasting colours but hubby prefers the more subtle, complementary shades. Guess I'll have to do both! Do you have a preference?

These flower corsages are a bit of a change for me, but I think they turned out really well and I'd like to do some more of these too, in various colours. They consist of layers of felt, with free-style machine embroidery and sparkly bead embellishment. I've made a prototype purse using the same technique which turned out really well so that's something else to add to the 'more things to do' list.

And finally, I've tried my best to avoid the World Cup but failed miserably. So if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. We had a stall at the monthly Grainger Market Art & Craft Fair last Saturday and it was the perfect time to sell these England heart brooches, what with England playing their first game that night. They were very popular at the fair and I managed to sell a few, but I still have some left. Hopefully England will do well and I might sell a couple more in the next three weeks!

As ever, click on the highlighted links if you're interested in buying and want to know more...

Have a good weekend - hope the sun keeps on shining!

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Saturday, 5 June 2010

Gardening Inspiration Aplenty

Did you watch the TV coverage of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show? Or even better, did you actually visit the event in person? I religiously watched the programmes every evening last week, and I've been inspired to start filling a little notebook with ideas for our new garden: plants I want to grow, features I'd like to incorporate, views I'd love to create. (I've been having a browse of the BBC website and they have an amazing selection of photos downloaded by visitors to the show; capturing lots of little details that you missed when just watching the TV pictures.)

(Photo: Jane Benge)

I particularly liked the Laurent Perrier Garden (above) by Tom Stuart-Smith; it appeals to me in so many ways. I love the idea of meandering along a pathway with rich planting either side, opening up into a sunny seating area rather like a woodland clearing. I've always liked big gardens that incorporate small gardens of different styles (Newby Hall is a favourite), so the relaxed planting style of the woodland walk contrasting with the area of more formal topiary and reflective pool is something I'd like to try. And the limited colour palette looks so relaxing, using plants with lots of movement and texture to create interest; however, I love bright colours in the garden too so I think I'm going to have themed 'cool' and 'warm' areas - and I'll try to be more selective than I have in our present garden which has a slightly more eclectic mix!

(Photo: Kendra O'Shea)

The M & G Garden (above) by Roger Platts was on a similar theme: a garden full of tiered planting and lovely old brick paths giving a real feeling of enclosure and a 'secret world' setting, with a gorgeous formal pool and seating area. I'm definitely going to have at least one water feature in our new garden; we really enjoy watching the birds and frogs splashing about in the wildlife pond we have at present, but I'd love to build a more formal feature too.

See? I've got it all planned out already. Hmmm, all I need now is the new garden...

I didn't get to Chelsea, but Mam and I are off to the RHS Show at Tatton Park in July and I'm very excited! We've been to Tatton before, and to the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, and loved every minute of it. Of course this year I'm hoping that I'll be well on the way to having a new garden by then so it will be all the more inspiring. I took a tonne of photos on previous visits and I'm sure this year will be no exception!

(Photo: BBC Tyne)

And the week after the Tatton show is our very own Gateshead Summer Flower Show. There aren't the huge show gardens that the big RHS events have, but a lot of nurseries and associations build beautiful smaller displays and gardens, and of course there's a huge array of plants, furniture and gardening paraphenalia to buy, as well as a craft marquee and farmers' market (link to blog post about last year's show). Gateshead Council will be recreating their Silver medal winning Chelsea garden there too. The Active and Healthy Gateshead Garden (above) celebrates the Great North Run and the Great North Forest, with the main part of the design being a 1/9th scale replica of the Tyne Bridge and 55,000 viola heads - one for each runner! (Click on the link to find out about the garden's design, its history, planting plan, and a fab time lapse sequence of the Chelsea garden being constructed.)

So, there's definitely a lot of inspiration around at the minute. Are you planning any changes to your garden this year? Growing any new plants? As our dear gardening guru Alan would say: 'Whatever the weather this weekend - enjoy your garden!'

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