Sunday, December 30, 2007

Flat, Flowers, and The Dark Side

I've been feeling as flat as the Norfolk landscape the last few days. It's probably something to do with the helter skelter month of December being over. Too busy to think, until now. And it's winter. And I hate the retrospective of New Year. It really annoys me. And the feeling I really can't do another year of the same; treading water.
Anyway, on a cheerier note! I got this beautiful material from CottonPatch yesterday.The orange Roman Glass by Kaffe Fassett I liked so much when I made Bette's coaster and placemat from it, I decided to buy 2 metres to make a dress!! Ha ha. The green Roman Glass I only bought a quarter metre to make either wash bags (lined with shower curtain material) or a paperback tote bag for carrying one's paperback to the cafe! I have one myself, which I love, and it also doubles as a sock or mitten knitting bag. Likewise with the Carla Miller gerbera material. Gerberas are my friend Janie's favourite flowers so I'll be making her either a wash bag or a paperback tote bag, not sure which yet. She works away from home sometimes, therefore a bespoke wash bag would be useful, but she also reads paperbacks and enjoys trips to Starbucks. Hm.

I just watched the documentary on JK Rowling and I'm so glad she has her success because she seems like a properly decent person.

Sometimes I struggle with what to write in this blog. I severely edit out of it anything that is not entirely happy and good and beautiful: illness, death, the Dark Side generally. Because this is my happy place, where nothing bad happens. I have considered slashing and burning the blog and starting afresh, anonymously. Because even though almost nobody leaves a comment, I know a wide range of people read it, from my sister and husband, to friends, to work colleagues. Maybe I just need to have more courage of conviction. BUT this is not a New Year's resolution, which I also hate. Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Meg's Christmas

Playing with a Christmas star (to stop her wrecking the rest of the tree).
Helping to unwrap the presents.
And finally, finding somewhere comfy to sit on Christmas Day:
Both couches, her beanbag, and her rugs obviously weren't comfy enough.
I'll post properly soon; but these seem to be the only photos I took on Christmas Day!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday Sickness

I finally succumbed to some pre-holiday illness, after congratulating myself on missing out on all the sickness bugs and colds that were going round the office, striking everyone down. I got the sickness bug, along with the rest of my family who I had just visited in Scotland this weekend. The only good thing about having this bug is that I haven't eaten anything for two days, which, for someone as 'cuddly' as I've become, is a good thing (we constantly tease my nephew Stuart about being 'cuddly' - he was cuddly as a baby and is still cuddly now. I must get that photo of him wearing his blue tights to publish in the blog). Luckily, I managed to finish Bette's Christmas present before the lurgy struck.I used embroidery transfers from Sublime Stitching; the lovely material in the centre is Kaffe Fassett's Roman Glass. Absolutely gorgeous. The placemat and coaster are backed in this material too.
It was lovely seeing my family in Scotland, though I think most of us now have, or have had, the bug. Keigan is an unstoppable climbing-machine, and it took about seven adults to herd him away from the more dangerous climbing routes in the living room. This is him attempting to scale the back of the chair, with my dad holding onto him.

My sister and I managed to visit a couple of coffee shops while finishing our Christmas shopping, and I loved this star on top of my decaf mocha so much I didn't want to disturb it (I'm easily pleased).Meg has ignored the Christmas tree for the last week and a half, until this morning when I found her hiding behind it, before she launched herself into it, scattering baubles and tinsel. I had to move some presents round to the back of the tree to stop her returning there again and again, to do the same thing.And finally, Keigan and my brother-in-law Robin playing at swings: video

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Red and White

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These are my finished mittens from the Folk Mittens book. I absolutely love them. The red is RYC Cashsoft 4-ply, the white is Jaeger 4-ply. I think using two different types of yarns caused a little bit of tension between them. They've turned out okay but not as even as my Scandinavian mittens, where I used Jaeger 4-ply for both colours. The RYC Cashsoft has less elasticity than the Jaeger. I think I'm going to give them to Hagos's mum, Bette, for her Christmas. She's knitted loads of things for me and Hagos over the years. I must photograph her garish (deliberately) Kaffe Fassett waistcoat she gave me a few Christmases ago. Kaffe Fassett knitting is already OTT, but Kaffe Fassett interpreted by Bette Haggarty is off the scale!
The Make-it-Yourself Secret Santa present I made for Anna. I'd been obsessed by placemats and coasters since I got the Bend-the-Rules book in the summer. And when I saw the John Lewis Christmas material I couldn't resist. It's different on both sides so she can choose if she's in more of a red mood or a white mood. Beautifully modelled using my own table, cutlery and glassware.
I got a really sweet email from Anna saying she really liked it (it was obvious who'd made it), which makes making things worthwhile. Altogether I used a metre of fabric and some medium interfacing. I had expected to get four placemats and four coasters out of the fabric, but eventually I decided to make two generous-sized placemats and four coasters instead, so they can be special Anna-and-Chris placemats. I was off the day the presents were opened so I have no idea what anyone else got or what I have.
I finally caved in and bought The Gentle Art of Domesticity. And just to prove how domestic I am, my mittens just happened to be beside the book when I took the photo.
I saw this photo on someone else's blog. It's from a kntting magazine, I think from Germany. I SO want this dress. Actually I want the whole look, the wellingtons too.

I seem to have been in a red and white mood lately, looking at all the photos in this post. Except, of course, there's always a bit of ginger in whatever I do. Hagos is in France this week with MF and Meg always becomes more clingy when he's away. Maybe she's worried I'll go away too. This is her playing in her box.

Action cat!

And finally, a gratuitous photo of decaf mocha, which I enjoyed yesterday while listening to a children's brass band playing outside the library in Norwich. They were so out of tune and out of time it was fantastic.
I was straining and willing them to keep time and hit the right notes.
Well, that's all for now. I don't feel very effusive. Will hopefully feel happier when Hagos comes home.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Jane Brocket Envy

Before I went to bed last night I looked at Jane Brocket's blog, Yarnstorm, in which she describes her latest book she is working on. It's a recipe book based on the food that appears in children's books, like those written by Enid Blyton. And I think it's such a great idea, I wish I'd thought of it myself. I recently had some acupuncture done, to help combat tiredness, and one of the unexpected side-effects of the acupuncture was that I recalled vivid feeling memories from my childhood. So it wasn't particularly memories of things that had happened, but more how I had felt within the memory of things that had happened. When the days stretched, and I had all the time in the world, and all the space in the world and I read a lot. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a very safe and supported environment. My parents had moved into a newly-built housing estate when my sister was very young, and all the other houses were occupied by other young couples starting out, with small children. All the children in the neighbourhood were looked after by all the adults, and we were in and out of each other's houses all the time. It was a very social place to live. The kids were friends, the mothers were friends, the fathers were friends, it was great. We also had extended family living fairly nearby too, so there was lots of visiting of cousins and aunts, and we visited my Granny every Saturday.

My favourite author when I was a child was Enid Blyton, and because the acupuncture evoked these childhood memories I recently re-read most of 'The Mystery of...' series, which stars The Five Find-Outers, and Dog. Again, it's a safe world, where the children solve mysteries, with a regular smattering of outings to cafes for macaroons and ginger beer.

I'm not a great cook. Hagos does all our food shopping and cooks all the main meals (he is a great cook - he can find an old onion in the fridge and turn it into a delicous meal) but I am a good baker and have made many gorgeous cakes in my time, which is why I'm so envious of Jane's idea and book deal. To spend every day reading favourite children's books, make a list of recipes found there, and then make the recipes and write the book sounds like heaven to me. What a truly lovely way to spend time. I'll definitely buy Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer when it's published.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Picture Stamps and My Boy Jack

It isn't something I think about much, but I really like picture stamps and always ask for them when I buy stamps at the Post Office. I think I like them because they tell a little story in themselves, and they're much more colourful and interesting than the bog standard Queen's head stamps.

This year I'm trying to be ahead of myself with the whole Christmas thing (presents, cards) and so in October I looked on the Royal Mail website to see when this year's Christmas stamps were being issued (Nov 6th), and put a note in my diary to buy them. Last year we had snowmen, this year it's some kind of angel with 'peace' written across it in a banner. I like both, though I prefer the snowman.

I also really liked the Harry Potter stamps and bought a full set and also the war stamps. I used them all except these two, which I realise I'm keeping.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my favourite Harry Potter book. I kept the stamp depicting the 'Observer Royal Field Artillery 1917' because lately I'm more interested in the 1st World War, partly because of programmes like Who Do You Think You Are, and because I believe my papa fought in Palestine in the 1st World War (I really must find out more about that), and because I like the 1st World War poets.

I watched My Boy Jack on Remembrance Sunday, a drama about Rudyard Kipling's son Jack. I knew the story already but thought the drama was really well done and even Daniel Radcliffe was understated and pitched it just right. At the end of the programme the actor playing Rudyard Kipling spoke the poem 'My Boy Jack' and it was heartrending and so powerful.



My Boy Jack (1916)


'Have you news of my boy Jack?'

Not this tide

'When d'you think that he'll come back?'

Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.


'Has anyone else had word of him?'

Not this tide.

For what is sunk will hardly swim,

Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.


'Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?'

None this tide, nor any tide,

Except he did not shame his kind

- Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.


Then hold your head up all the more,

This tide,

And every tide;

Because he was the son you bore,

And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Cosy Night In

I got the new edition of the Selvedge magazine. It's about Scandinavia and it's lovely. There's so many things to look at and websites to follow up. All very beautiful and gorgeous and inspirational. I love it.

I have a day off today and really felt the urge to sew something, but I don't have any material. I want to make a Simplicity dress, from the same pattern I made my two tops from. I design it over and over in my head. From a straightforward Amy Butler or Kaffe Fassett material, to plain material with embroidery round the rim. I thought about polar bears or even a poem! Or the beginning of a poem. A war poem perhaps. Or something written in a foreign language. In the Selvedge magazine one designer designs an Advent skirt every year, which I like the idea of. I also really want to make the lounge pants in Amy Butler's In Stitches book.

Hagos is in London today, so I decided to watch Brigadoon! It's a film I remember from my childhood. I haven't seen it for at least 20 years, probably longer. I just remember something about a Scottish village (it's an American film, with GREAT Scottish accents) that only emerges from the mist every hundred years for a day(?) then disappears again, and Gene Kelly falls in love with a Scottish lass (understandable) and has a dilemma whether to leave or not before the mist closes in and he's either trapped there forever, or can never go there again. It's great! I love old singing, dancing films. Or just old films that are about relationships and gentleness and love.

This is what I've been knitting for the last wee while. I love Scandinavians at Christmas. They do it really well, and these are Scandinavian colours. I was considering giving them for my make-it-yourself Secret Santa present, but I made something else instead. I'll probably give these to a friend for Christmas.
Meg looking lovely by the fire :)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Secret Santa/Silly Slippers

I finished my Secret Santa present at the weekend. I can't unveil it until I've given it to the recipient but above is the material it's made from, with some ginger help as usual.

On a whim I decided to make a pair of slippers. I just had enough scraps of material left over. Voila le results! They're very snug. I like them!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Trop Belle Pour Toi

I think that was the name of a film Hagos and I went to see years ago when we lived in London, and it came to me when I was photographing my Japanese stationery. Too Beautiful For You, or indeed anyone.
I visited Japan about twelve years ago with my husband's band. I was ostensibly selling the band's merchandise, but in reality the Japanese are so organised I barely had to do anything at all. Which left a lot of time for shopping. I have a thing for stationery anyway but the Japanese stuff is by far the most exquisite I've ever seen. The notelet above came from a pack that had writing paper, notelets, envelopes and stickers. They each had funny little translated phrases on, such as 'Love is one of my important nutritions', and 'I feel so elevated my cheeks are turning pink', and 'There is the time when your heart is warmed up'. So sweet and something slightly lost in translation but all the more potent for it.
I used to do a lot of letter writing, before email became everyday, and I still love getting letters, especially those written on lovely paper in special ink.
Trop Belle Pour Toi surely relates to this beautiful shell and sea paper. And this:
It would have to be someone so special, in such special circumstances, to warrant writing on this.
In fact, the last time I used my Japanese stationery was five years ago, using the set above. It was after Hagos and I got married, and my Aunt Peggy sent us a card and some money afterwards (we got married suddenly with just two witnesses and then told everyone after). My Aunt Peggy was my favourite auntie when I was growing up. She was always good fun to be around and everyone liked her. Because I moved away from home when I was 19 I lost touch with her and didn't see much of her over the years, though I kept up with her news through my mum. So I sent her a heartfelt thank you letter and soon after, next time I was visiting my folks, I went to see her with my mum and sister and we had a really good evening. Soon after Aunt Peggy had a stroke and had to go into a nursing home. I never saw her again. She died about a year later.
Anyway, that's an example of how important a situation it has to be to use the Japanese writing paper! Above are two of the hotels we stayed in when we were in Japan, The Shinjuku Prince and The Osaka Grand. I would love to go back to Japan. It's my number one place I'd like to revisit from all the places I've been. My number one place I'd like to visit from places I haven't been is Iceland. I love remote, cold, mountainous landscapes. And kooky people.

After photographing all of the above today, I tried photocopying the cat writing paper and notelets, and it worked out rather well. So I'll be able to extend the life of one of my writing sets!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

An Adventurous Week....


This week our friends Pete and Lynsey, and their children Nate and J, came to visit from Edinburgh. They stayed in a converted railway station about ten minutes' away. On Monday we went to the Dinosaur Adventure Park, which was much better than I expected. It was really nice to spend the day outside, walking around, seeing dinosaurs (why are children so obsessed by dinosaurs?) and watching the kids running around and climbing and shouting.
I was working three days, but the others went to Banham Zoo one day, and Great Yarmouth model village and Seaworld another. We spent a couple of evenings eating at home, a couple at their station and a couple eating out at Wagamama's and Pizza Express. The kids were keen to stroke and poke and prod Meg, who forbore it all rather well.
We had a couple of evenings playing games once Nate and J had gone to bed. I won at Monopoly, though Hags and I were accused of an illegal move when Hagos gave me a property so I could start building houses and hotels. Then we played Super Cluedo and Lynsey won. Hagos and I are keen games players and are really happy when we come across other people who like playing games too. We both played a lot of board games when we were kids.

It was really nice to see them all for the week. There's something about old friendships that is really comfortable and easy.

Today Hagos and I went into town and did our usual Saturday. I had meant to go into John Lewis and buy some Christmas fabric to make some placemats and coasters, just to satisfy my urge to make something. But we didn't quite have the energy to walk that far, so I think I may use my Kaffe Fassett Paperweight Algae to make one of my Simplicity tops tomorrow/Monday.
And just for posterity: a photo of Pete in his Shirt.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Embroidered Coasters

I finished my coasters today and feel very satisfied with them. I bought the interfacing at John Lewis this afternoon and it only took me about an hour to do all three. I had to unpick my first one as I put the interfacing between the fabric! And only discovered the mistake when I went to turn it inside out. My least favourite is the owl. I think I used the wrong colours. I love the teapot and the cupcake.

I thought of using the Kaffe Fassett paperweight algae (top) for the underneath of all three coasters, then decided to use the scraps from other leftover fabric as well. I think the paperweight algae suits the coasters best though.

John Lewis has really lovely Christmas fabric instore at the moment. At only £5 a metre. I considered buying 1/2 a metre of two or three of them to make Christmas placemats but I'm on an economy drive and decided to leave it for now. I'll probably buy it next week instead. So much lovely fabric in the world!!!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Holiday, A Great-Nephew and Embroidery

I went home to Scotland at the weekend, returning yesterday. This is my view from the plane. I flew to Glasgow, which is much more pleasant than getting the train. I had a really nice time with my family and got to see my great-newphew, Keigan, again: I love this expression. And his smile: He has a lot of people caring for him, which is really sweet to see. Everyone adores him.I took some embroidery and knitting to do when I was up there. I'm planning to make these into coasters, from the pattern in bend-the-rules-sewing. I think they'll be fun to have around. I quite like the material I'm using. It's plain greenish cotton, which I got from John Lewis fairly cheaply. I thought about buying more to make one of my tops, with long sleeves this time, and embroidering it with something. Not quite sure what yet. I considered random embroidery all over, or cakes along the bottom, or cats or polar bears. We'll see! When I went to the station to book my ticket up to Glasgow for the flight back, I walked past this old building: Ewart Library, where I used to go every Saturday morning for a new book to read. Just inside the entrance is a huge marble staircase and a very shiny handrail. I loved walking up to the children's section, and the sound of the echoes inside the place.

My nephew's girlfriend, Dayna, is an illustrator. Check out her website here. There's a really good caricature of my sister and her husband, with their dog, Spike. Jacqueline has a bottle of Champagne in her hand, and Robin has a bottle of whisky in his.

Well that's all for now. I was really pleased to see Hagos and Meg when I got home. And I'm looking forward to the Haggarty weekend.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Christmas at Reepham Station

I went to Reepham Station today to blow away the cobwebs, and these are some of the delights I found in the Christmas section:
How lovely.