Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Moving times

We've moved house. We've been packing for what feels like months and a few weeks ago was M-Day. I've been so pre-occupied with this move that blogging has been out to the back of the agenda. Then I remembered my blogging bonanza of August. I loved it, so here we go, blogging via e-mail, how did I forget, it's so much easier.

In between the moving (quite literally) I've also had two great workshops. The first was a Granny Squares beginner workshop at the Vintage Retreat. We were looked after very well with copious amounts of tea & cake, the tea rooms at VR are lovely.

The second workshop was at 78 Derngate. We were treated to a fantastic tour of the Rennie Mackintosh designed house, a scrummy afternoon tea not to mention several hours of really good crochet & yarn chat. In fact it was so good and the ladies were so engaging I forgot to take any pics!

This month has also been busy because I've been, commissioned I guess is the word, to write the UK Hand Knitting Association's newsletters. It hasn't been terribly smooth sailing but I think we are now there and I'm really enjoying the writing and photo editing. 

Last month also went to London to meet up with my Uni ladies (plus a few hubbies & bubbies). We went to the National Gallery's Facing The Modern exhibition. Not only was it a rare opportunity to see lesser known works by Oskar Kokoshka & Klimt, it also btought back lots of university memories having been curated by one of our old (she's not old quite the opposite, but it was a while ago, you know what I mean) professor Gemma Blackshaw.

I'll leave you with a photo of the big blue cock of Trafalgar Square.


Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A Retreat into Vintage

Northampton is not known for it's shopping or the prettiness of the town centre, but the cultural quarter goes someway to rectify this with The Royal & Derngate Theatre, the new Errol Flynn filmhouse (popcorn, wine and gin brought to your chair, thank you please) and 78 Derngate all being 'musts' if you are in this neck of the woods. In the same area there are in fact some very good independent boutiques to be found like Dychurch Lifestyle, St Giles Cheese and Berties. But another fantastic independent shop can also be found outside of this cultural quarter, it is The Vintage Retreat. The idea behind this shop is to rent out spaces to small independent sellers of the vintage, handmade and unique all under one roof.  Most of the sellers have there own distinct style and sell beautiful items such as goat leather handmade (and fairtrade) bags and satchels, a large brie box made into a clock, vintage clothes and records and upcycled furniture.

Stalls at the Vintage retreat Northampton
Some of the stalls (courtesy of Vintageretreatnorthampton.co.uk)
The staff are helpful and it's clear that they are keen on vintage and enjoy working at the shop which has found it's own 'scene' and fan base in Northampton.  Although not limited to a particular crowd by any means, 40s up-do's, creepers, tea dresses and vinyl lovers of all ages would not go amiss here.  To top it off the tea room selling delicious cakes and tea make The Vintage Retreat a go-to location for a relaxed potter in unhurried surroundings and it certainly pulls in the customers, which is to their credit since it isn't in the centre of town.

Loving the colours of my crochet granny squaresAfter a few Facebook messages with them I had a meeting at the weekend and agreed that I would run some knitting and crochet workshop sessions in part of the tea room, beginning with a Granny Square workshop in the morning of Saturday 26th October. Details will follow once we've ironed them all out but needless to say I'm really excited about this new venue for workshops, we came up with lots of ideas within just a few minutes of meeting!  As with all the venues I've approached it has the perfect atmosphere in which to inspire creativity. I decided that Granny squares would be a great topic to kick off with because they can be as simple or as complex as you decide, thereby suiting both beginners, rusty once-crocheters and old-hands.  I've recently become a little obsessed with them as I attempt to create a blanket for our new house.
My crochet workshop will be help in the cute Vintage Retreat tearooms
The Vintage Retreat tearoom (courtesy of Vintageretreatnorthampton.co.uk)
Three vintage books I brought whilst at the shopWhilst I was at the shop I just couldn't help taking a peak at the stalls, well it would have been rude not to.  A vintage but new to me sewing box (from Timeless Attic) and several Agatha Christies might have found their way home with me.  Along with three brilliant self-help books from the 1930s I think, although there is no date inside them. I wanted to buy them all but I settled with The Home Entertainer, The Practical Way to Keep Fit and Real Life Problems and Their Solutions. They are terribly quaint and matter of fact in true 1930s style.

We take such books and the similar 1940s and 50s public information broadcasts completely tongue in cheek now, but it made me wonder who once owned these books and whether they used them as serious items of reference, I kind of think they must have.  Here are just of few of the many quaintly amusing pages.  I'll have to get Mr P practicing his balancing skills for our next soiree and don't get me started on the fun to be had with human croquet! As for the one in the middle, I've no idea how it fits into The Practical Way to Keep Fit but I just love the lady's volumous dress - no wonder she's on the floor, there isn't a chair big enough for her.

Page 143 of 1930s book The Home Entertainer shows you how to juggle & balanceAnother illustration from The Home Entertainer, Human Croquet.Illustration from The Practical Way to Keep Fit

Thankfully I had room to fit all my purchases in the car, unlike one family who left just before me with their newly acquired record player. They left the shop minus Mum who had to walk home - putting the kids in the boot was considered but they're can be so picky about their human-rights these days (it would have been a whole other story circa 1930).

More details on my workshop at The Vintage Retreat coming soon.

A beautiful wooden sewing box I brought at a snip from The Vintage Retreat.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Review of iMake Magazine Issue 1

I have long been a fan of Martine's iMake blog and podcasts so when she announced that her new venture was a magazine I couldn't wait to see what she came up with. I've been lucky enough to review the magazine this week and thoroughly enjoyable it is too. 

I think I first met Guernsey based Martine at Knit Nation in London several years ago. I then listened to her podcast a few days later to hear her talking excitedly with followers of the show about their gorgeous yarn and fluffy (pom pom) purchases.  It was like taking part in a crafty conversation with knitting group friends who perfectly understand the need to purchase that beautiful ball of yarn you just had to have - needless to say I loved it. I then had the pleasure of meeting Martine and the lovely Kate (it's a show rule that this is her pre-fix) over a year ago when they visited Toft Alpacas where I was working at the time.  The podcast following this visit was a great listen, okay so I might be a tiny bit biased as they were both very complimentary, but have a listen.  So I've been a fan of the podcast for a while and I regularly indulge in a listen whilst having some lunch at my kitchen table with a cup of Earl Grey.

Front cover of iMake Magazine issue 1Now to the magazine.  Of course it combines Martine's inimitable style found on her blog and in the podcast, featuring friends of both, including the lovely Kate and foody Charles, brought to life in a longer, content rich format. The design is fun, informal and classic, mirroring the look of the blog and inviting creative types to enjoy a good read with more than a side portion of inspiration. An article on foraging for example by fellow Guernsey dweller Jen Merrit, must be the first I've read on the subject.  Whether I'll be brave enough to pick nettles and use them instead of spinach the jury is out, who knows, it would certainly be one way to clear up the garden!
See the how to on making retro looking bowls from old records.
Record Bowls, photo courtesy of iMake blog.
Along with a delicious pesto recipe (that I plan on making this afternoon) and a how to on making bowls from old records, there is Today's List featuring 10 external websites and how to pages on various creative things to try your hand at - Tunisian crochet and writing a song for example, not the usual suggestions to be found in a craft magazine.

The magazine balances smaller lifestyle pieces with indepth articles. One such article about rare breed sheep by Clare Devine (who also designed the layout of the magazine for Martine) struck a particular cord with me.  My experience of yarn from animal to ball of yarn is mainly with alpaca. So although I have seen and been intrigued by the seaweed eating North Ronadlsay sheep for example, I'm quite a novice when it comes to the rare breeds we have here in the UK.  The article has certainly made me want to get out there to discover and support UK breeds and check out the work of Nude Ewe, of whom I'd never heard. In fact I've been inspired to make contact again with a lady just outside of this very village about her co-operative of rare breed sheep owners. I'd nearly forgotten there is potential for local craft materials right on my own door step, thanks to this article I can't wait to learn more.
Chewing over the seaweed with some North Ronadlsay sheep
North Ronadlsy sheep, photo courtesy of Orkney.com
I also enjoyed the piece by Kate Ellis about her new volunteer position with P/Hop who raise money and awareness for Medecin Sans Frontieres/Doctors without Borders.  Martine's piece about starting your own podcast is very informative, she's pretty whizzy technically so I wouldn't have thought it was something I could do easily, but it's made me consider the possibility of podcasting in the future.  For me I think Audioboo's could be very useful to accompany 'how-to's' for example.  Lastly I will leave it to you to buy the magazine and discover the topic of Jo Milmine's Golden Toilet article!

I did think that some of the articles could have been balanced with a few more photographs, particularly as the photos that are used are of such a high quality.  Martine tells me that future issues will have even more photographs, this was down to a small teething issue with embedding photos that is all fixed now.

So there you are, iMake issue 1 is available on Etsy for a mere snip and I highy recommend it. Click here for links to purchase and sign up to be notified when new issues are released. Supporting this issue means that not only are you supporting a fellow creative maker who has more than enough ideas and inspiration to go around, you are also ensuring issue 2 sees the light, so go on, you know it makes sense...!

Monday, 26 August 2013


A few years ago I went on a pattern calculating course run by Amy Twigger-Holroyd, look her up she's an inspiring (soon to be Dr in knitting) knitter. It was a great two day affair held at her Keep & Share studio in Hereford. It culminated in a pub lunch with the other very interesting & eclectic students.

I haven't used the technique for a while, but essentially it uses calculations & observations on construction of ready made items (why reinvent the wheel as Amy says). So I dug out my course notes & got on with working out a pattern for a cardigan given to me a knitting group friend. It's for her elderly mother-in-law who loves the cardigan but has lost the pattern. My "Yes! moment came when I finally cracked it this afternoon & I could send the pattern to Julie.

Thanks to Amy Twigger-Holroyd for teaching me this fab technique. Knitters are great people; I'm so pleased to be in their collective. Now that I've revised my knowledge I shall certainly be using it again soon, watch this space.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

August days roll into one

Time with friends is sacred, to share experiences, hear them laugh & catch up with those I see often & some less often is such an important part of my life, especially given that I live far from family. They have become family.

So here we are, Sunday afternoon enjoying a wonderful afternoon tea in the countryside made mostly by Sarah - notice the 5 tier cake stand! I did contribute some buttermilk scones made from a Peyton & Burne baking book recipe, which I was really happy with, they are so light & fluffy.

It wasn't at midday or on Sunday morning (see suggested August Break themes) but it was sacred time out & i figure, hey it's okay to go off piste for a few days.

Friday, 23 August 2013

August Break Mash Up

After a few busy and stressful weeks I'm so happy to have the bank holiday weekend at home with very few plans, including an afternoon tea and a BBQ with the best neighbours in the world (it's their offical title). I've also been having fun putting together my new schedule for the next 6 week children's craft club starting September 7th. Take a look at my workshop pages and Leicestershire Craft Centre website for more details.

Since we returned from our hols I've been to an English beach which was stunning after a week of too hot to bear sand in Portugal and I've caught up with lovely friends from our days down south. I've been knitting like a demon and this week I had news of even more babies arriving in the next year so back to the knitting straight after this entry. This gorgeous knitted and felted deer head by Claire Garland is right up there on my list!

I've been loving the August Break photo challenge but what with the holiday and very little internet access my days have become a bit messed up. So to just about catch myself up, here are days 17 to 21 with 15 thrown in there for good measure.

Day 15
Whilst we were on holiday I read a great Agatha Christie and most of the new Dan Brown.  Now I know many people hate and laugh at his books, but I don't care, they are good, interesting and sometimes thought provoking stories.  Okay so his plot techniques and twists and turns are rather contrived and perhaps even getting a little predicable but hey, I couldn't do any better. That said I didn't photograph either book and instead this is part of my book cabinet at home- many other lesser titles are used to partially hold up our bed.

Day 17 & 18 Touch & Looking down
Taken whilst having a leisurely Sunday stroll on Poole beach with my lushious buddy Jules.


Day 19 White
Not quite white sand but just look at those beautiful white tipped clouds and the cute gulls, both of which I missed in the heat of Portugal.
Day 20 Taste
Living in a village has many, many benefits which I bang on about a lot here, but in the summer one of the best is coming home to find a bag of local alloment grown veg left on your doorstep by a kindly villager, it's just lush!

Day 21 Something Old
My favourite old thing (besides my Gran ;-) is my antique wedding ring that belonged to a wonderful lady I was lucky enough to call Great Aunt Grace. It's a constant reminder of my family, where and who I came from.
Tomorrow I'll do Midday and Sacred, hmmm I feel a doubler coming on again, namely photographing my LIE IN which is both sacred and may just end about midday!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

August Break 14th to 16th

Stillness, books & floral, hmm... Stillness is evading me somewhat. Holidaying with the out-laws & petit monster-P is not very relaxing or calm but Mr P & I have snuck in a few quiet hours together
Books; I'm reading something trashy & besides that life is devoid of books just now.
Floral= tick! I enjoy taking pics of flora & fauna & I really like the results. All but one of these pics are without a filter, just for a change.

Home tomorrow- yippee!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

An actual break in August

We're on holibobs. We caught up with the out-laws & the petit P so it's not entirely relaxing, but I write this whilst sipping a spritzer looking out over an Algarvian golf course & mountain-scape, so I don't feel too sorry for myself.

Here is an August Break blog pics catch up.


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Day 7: Skyline

Ploumanac'h, Brittany. Where Mr P & I got married over 4 years ago. Such a beautiful place.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Day 6: Diagonals

I struggled with today's suggested theme but here goes. I'm more of a vertical stripes kinda gal.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Close Up - Day 5 The August Break

This first pic is of my latest crochet Mandala, inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for a workshop I'm running at 78 Derngate, Northampton on 2 November 2013. (See Maker Workshop page for more details).
The beautiful orchids on my kitchen window ledge. I always have orchids in the kitchen and luckily my Mum is magician at getting them to re-flower.
This close up was taken during our Monday night knitting group.  It features my great friend Sarah Cant (milliner to royality although she'd never boast about this, I do...frequently) completing another beautiful piece from her new 2013 collection.  I'm lucky to have had a sneak preview and I have my eye on several hats. Three of Sarah's hats were featured in Vogue's top 100 hats a short time ago and she also features in this slightly less read (!) blog in my first ever post The Milliner's Assistant.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

August Break Day 4: Love

Percy & Tabs are our 7 year old Siamese cats, we've had them since they were kittens & since before we were married, they are so precious to us. They somehow embody very many wonderful memories of our relationship, we'd be lost without them.