Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Traditional Christmas?

Well I'm not sure. Just what is a traditional Christmas anyway?With so many variations on a theme it's difficult to know.
Do you start with an advent candle, advent calendar (with or without chocolate) or an advent wall hanging? When do the  decorations go up, as soon as December arrives, 12 days before Christmas, Christmas Eve or any date in between when you can find the time? Is the decorating part of the festivities, a joint family effort scattering tinsel liberally while tippling on eggnog or mulled wine, singing carols at the top of your voice. Perhaps its a task performed with all the planning and precision of a department store display team, or maybe its a solitary activity that takes most of the day as each item unearthed triggers a new memory of Christmas past.

Me, helping with the decorations, many, many years ago!

And what about the tree? Will it be a fresh fir, an artificial spruce or a colour phasing fibre optic?(as a child of the 70's I have a vague recollection of a silver tinsel affair with red berries on the end of the branches,... nice!)
When it comes to presents do they all get wrapped and put under the tree for little fingers to poke and prod at, the pile getting larger as the big day draws closer? Are only some put under the tree, those that arrive from 'Santa' being kept in a safe place until required ( and does Santa wrap them or not? ), or are there no parcels under the tree until the actual day dawns? As to stockings,if there are any,will they be shop bought, hand made or scavenged from dad's sock drawer, hung from the bed, the mantle piece or the back of the sofa, opened in private before anyone else gets up or saved until last. 

The latest addition to my Christmas ornaments, a fantastic snowman from Fiddley Diddley Pottery

Then on to the cooks highlight of the day, the traditional Christmas dinner, or is it lunch? Starting with soup, or smoked salmon, or should that be prawn cocktail, perhaps pate. Main course has to be the traditional turkey/goose/duck/glazed ham/venison and for dessert it's obviously going to be Christmas pudding, or a Yule log, no, a trifle. Phew!

I grew up with 3 older sisters, all following the same routines and rituals at Christmas, but as adults with families of our own we now all have new customs, a blending of the habits of two households, ours and our husbands. We have created our own traditions, suited to our families and lifestyles that in later years will no doubt be moulded by our children to suit their families, as it should be.

A traditional Christmas? No thanks, give me a personal Christmas every time.

Merry Christmas Everyone.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Normal service will resume shortly

Phew! Saturday saw my last craft event of the year ( hooray ). It ended with a run of 5 events in a row, something I usually try to steer clear of but is unavoidable at this time of year. Needless to say the last few weeks have been a bit of a making marathon, trying to replenish stock before the next fair or 'At Home'. 

These little 'angels' are one of my best sellers. Unfortunately they also take a bit of time to make. I feel as if I have spent the last 4 weeks glueing on hair and cutting out wings.

A Host of Angels 

A homespun angel

A calico angel

An organza angel
So now I can put the glue away and leave the scissors to wait patiently with the Christmas wrapping paper while I catch up on a months worth of housework. Aaarghh!

When C.P.Snow came up with an easy way of remembering the three laws of thermodynamics I'm sure he was talking about housework.

1. You cannot win
2. You cannot break even
3. You cannot get out of the game

There are times when I have considered opening up my house to the scientific world as a perfect example of the second law of thermodynamics. In this closed system there definitely is a tendency to randomness and chaos!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A break from blogging

I will not be blogging for a while. The loss of a close friend, my step-dad and then our dog within the space of 3 weeks has left me a bit frayed around the edges. I'm going to take a little time for myself and my family to get back on track.

I hope to be back soon.

Best wishes to you and thank you so much for following my blog this far.

Friday, 5 November 2010

A moment

There are times when life gets hacked off about being taken for granted. It needs to give us a reminder about just how precious it is, that it's about living, not just existing, enjoying not enduring.

Sometimes the reminder is a gentle nudge, a tap on the shoulder and a discreet cough. At other times its a punch square in the solar plexus that sends you heading for the deck, and while you are lying there, gasping for breath, taking a moment to regain your composure, it delivers a kick to your head, just to make sure you are paying attention and get the point it's trying to make. 

So, there you are, dizzy, disorientated and in pain. But hovering in the background, waiting for your focus to return, is a renewed understanding, an appreciation of what you have and the desire to make the most of it. 

Great gestures of gratitude are not required, no daring deeds or record breaking feats. Just a nod of acknowledgement, a breath, a smile, a moment, a small indication that we have received the message loud and clear.

I think this song, in particular this version by Hothouse Flowers,  says it all.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A Rose by any other name........

Today dawned dreich and dismal, a stark contrast to the frosted glory of yesterday. The boys went back to school amid sunshine and breath, and while they were leaving I spotted this rose, one of the last of the season. The icy crystals clinging to the leaves and petals would be the ruin of it, but what a beautiful way to go.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with roses. There is an early memory of bending to inhale the fragrance of a full blown cabbage rose, so heavy that it had begun to trail on the ground, only to be confronted with a wicked looking earwig *shudder* How could anything so alluring harbour something so menacing? I didn't encounter cultivated cut flowers until much later in life so developed a habit of shaking the heads of all that came in to the house to dislodge any unwelcome visitors. No, it doesn't do much for the rose but I can't begin to tell you what it does for my peace of mind.

Felt roses

Many youthful Summer months were spent with friends trying to distill the rose's heady scent. Soft, silky petals were mercilessly jammed into jars filled with water and pounded with whatever came to hand in an attempt to encourage them to release their coveted aroma. Unfortunately the results were more often than not a brown, foul smelling sludge that did little to enamour me. Where was Patrick Suskind when I needed him?

Knitted roses with folded fabric leaves.....
..... and crystal dew drops

Their fragile grace and sweet smell were to elude me until I let nature take its course and allowed roses free reign in my own garden. But even that was not without it's pitfalls. While I would be able to appreciate their delicate beauty unfurling on a daily basis I would also have to participate in a routine of dead-heading, pruning, spraying and the inevitable blood spilling. What price to pay for perfume!

Ribbon roses

So now I content myself with rambling roses. They require little attention but reward me with a stunning summer display and release their subtle fragrance on the evening breeze (they also make a great security hedge!). For the rest of the year I settle for rose inspired  brooches, made from whatever comes to hand, stored in boxes scented with rose oil. Not a patch on the real thing I know, but it keeps me going until next year. 

Friday, 15 October 2010

Kinda like Marmite

Town mouse or Country mouse? That was the question that sprang to mind when I overheard a conversation between my boys and their cousin (he is staying with us for a few days during the holidays). They were discussing the merits of being able to leave school at lunch time which their cousin can't do.
"We can do that because Moffat is such a small, safe place " my sons said. 
"Yeah, but Glasgow is more exciting" their cousin replied.

And there it is, the basic trade we make when choosing where to live. 

The view from my old studio, looking towards the Devils Beef Tub

Do you give up all night shopping and accept the fact that when you run out of milk after 10 p.m. you're just gonna have to drink your tea black until morning, that the midnight munchies need to be planned for in advance, that even if there were any shops open the chances of getting anything more exotic than soy sauce are slim? In return you get a corner shop whose staff can tell you what your boys bought on their street lunch day, a butcher that knows you (and your dog !) by name and will happily share cooking tips, and a shoe shop where she doesn't even need to ask 'What size'.    

The floor of the Annan Water valley

Do you give up night clubs, wine bars, restaurants with Michelin stars and make do with home cooked dinner parties? Do you miss out on premieres, plays and star performances choosing instead to support the local am. dram. society, never quite being able to look at your doctor or solicitor in quite the same light again. 
Can den building in the woods and dam building in the streams be as character building as having access to museums, galleries and libraries?

Riverside walk, Annan Water

I live in Moffat, a small town in south west Scotland (population about 2500). It's probably just like any number of other little towns across the length and breadth of the country. It's not perfect but for every fault it has there is an advantage, you just have to be in the right frame of mind to look for them. I suppose it just comes down to what kind of mouse you are.

At the top of 'The Tub'

So yes, small town living is a lot like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. Personally I love living in one, but then I'm quite partial to marmite..... and broccoli.... and a Brussels sprout or two!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Something wicked this way comes.....

Sometimes I feel the need to be naughty.

I want to put aside motherly things and remember that once I used to wear short skirts and tight tops ( not just jeans and a jumper) That my high heeled sashay was a lethal weapon ( and not because I risked a dislocated hip ) and my midriff was as taught, toned and tanned as the rest of them ( not stretched, saggy and sallow due to non exposure to sunlight!) I want to remember I'm a woman.

Fortunately I've found just the thing for a bit of feminine reinforcement and grown up fun......

Impossibly pretty pasties by Sex on a Stitch

or tassels if you prefer

These wonderful crochet creations by a very talented Canadian can be found at or at Sex-on-a-Stitch on facebook

with beautiful butterflies

or sparkly stars

Aren't they just fabulous ? Not only do they tempt the wanton in me they appeal to the crafter too. Who would have thought amigurumi could be so sexy? I think the pasties are my favourite,I doubt I could get the tassels to twirl! 

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Bag Making Bible

It's finally arrived! After weeks of waiting  the postman delivered my copy of the much anticipated Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam on Friday morning and I have been engrossed in it all weekend.(Serves me right for buying through Amazon, along with half the bag making population. They kept running out and sending me delay notices while they ordered more stock, great news for Lisa but I'm not sure my tenterhooks will ever be the same!)
The long awaited book

I've bought quite a few bag making books over the last couple of years. Some for basic techniques, well we all have to start somewhere don't we, others for inspiration and new ideas. Sort of like cookbooks for the crafty. And, as with my cookbooks, I have my tried and trusted favourites, ones that have broken spines, bent covers and dog ears through constant use (but without the gravy stains and grease marks....)

Well, I'm sorry to say that my nice new book isn't going to stay that way for long. Within minutes of opening it I knew it was going to be one that I would be constantly reaching for and will be well worn in no time. I could rave about this book for ages, about how it ticks all the boxes for beginner and accomplished bag maker alike, about the traceable patterns.. to scale, about the easy way it's written, but I'm not going to. Instead I'm going to encourage you to buy the book and find all of that out for yourself. 

Lisa Lam, talented author, bag maker and owner of u-handbags

And once the bag making bug bites make sure you stop off at u-handbag for all of your bag making needs. Just try and order a number of things at a time or the drumsticks will take their toll!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Angel v's Fairy

I found myself in a bit of a dilemma at the weekend, a quandary brought about by a new Christmas decoration I had made for a local craft fair.  
This is the culprit.

Yes, she's cute, yes, she's sweet and yes, she's pretty, but what is she?I hadn't really thought about it until I had to make a label for her and her companions. Is she an angel or a fairy? How can you tell the difference?
I looked to the dictionary for guidance.

fairy |ˈfe(ə)rē|
noun ( pl. fairies)
1 a small imaginary being of human form that has magical powers, esp. a female one.

angel |ˈānjəl|
1 a spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God, conventionally represented in human form with wings and a long robe

Hmm... no real help there then, those definitions could equally apply. What about her purpose, as a Christmas decoration would she be more likely to be a celestial being or a seasonal sprite? I felt a straw poll coming on. Leaving her label blank for the moment I consulted those attending the event at Hightae, sure of obtaining an answer by the end of the day. Unfortunately it wasn't to be, both angels and fairies can be found at the top of a Christmas tree, no particular preference given to either.

So for the moment she is without a label, uncategorised, refusing to be pigeonholed, free to be whatever she wants to be. Who would have thought a vintage doily and some lace could produce something so liberated?

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Pinecone Pals

At this time of the year it is almost impossible for me to come back from walking the dog without a pocket full of pine cones.I can't stop myself from picking them up, no matter how many I already have at home. Some get put on the fire, scenting the room with outdoors, but most get made in to pinecone pals. They are one of my most popular items in the lead up to Ch******s and I thought I would share them with you, just in case you have the same compulsion for collecting that I have.

Some Pinecone Pals
The pine cones don't need any preparation other than leaving them alone for a few days. This allows the seeds to be released and any unwanted inhabitants to vacate the premises. I use a 2cm diameter untreated wooden bead for the head, I coat this with a PVA solution in order to seal it so I can draw on it later.

This is a great way to use up any scraps of fabric you have. The hat template has a radius of 4.5 cm. The scarf can measure from 12 - 16cm in length with a width of about 1 cm. It really isn't a precise science, these are just the measurements that work for me.

Hats and scarfs cut out in advance

Hat piece and cord/string( about 22cm )

fold in half and stitch along side seam

Insert knotted cord and secure with a few stitches

Use cord to help you pull hat right sides out

Smear PVA round the edge of the hat, this helps to prevent fraying, and place on the wooden bead, covering one of the holes

With more glue ( I use a glue gun for this )secure the bead on to the pine cone, using the stalk if possible. 

Fray the scarf at both ends and tie around the join, hiding any glue that might have made a bid for freedom, draw a face, and you have your very own Pinecone Pal
I try to make all of my pals unique, different hat and scarf combinations, a smile, a wink, a yawn. I've used festive fabric scraps here but they work equally well with homespun.
I'd love to see what you do with yours.

Monday, 27 September 2010

A place for everything......

I had a serious look at my workroom recently and decided it was time for a revamp. Since moving into the garage space was no longer too much of an issue for me, but storage most definitely was. Over the years I had been recycling my boys toy boxes, cramming them with crafting paraphernalia, piling them high in any corner that was available. Chests of drawers that were too small to cope with the increasing dimensions of their clothes were filled with my fabric stash.

But the drawers became so full that the bottoms began to break, and whatever I needed for a particular project was always in the box at the bottom of the pile. I forgot about half of what I had, being out of sight definitely was out of mind, and when I did go looking for anything my workspace ended up looking as if a hurricane had just hit.

So this week, after saving my pennies, and after much measuring and calculation, I took a trip to IKEA in search of suitable storage.


This was the start of my construction marathon. I have to point out that the drill was a gift from my husband a few years back. It might not be the most romantic offering but I like to think of it as his recognition of my ability and my independence (although the sceptic in me sees it as his way out of doing all the odd jobs!)By the end of the evening I had created an area that provided a more visible display with easier access, and I'd done it all by my little self. I was chuffed to the gutties.

Billy book cases used as open shelving that allows me to see what fabric I have. Plastic boxes and glass jars are used for greater visibility. Lightweight cardboard boxes offer high level storage that's not too heavy to lift.

My painting table and easel are to the front of the room, the window providing natural light. A tall Billy book case holds paints, pastels and canvases

Various fabric,used mainly for linings, folded and kept in drawers. This one holds 100% cottons. 

I can't say how long it will stay this tidy, probably only until I start my next bag( and I haven't taken a picture of my work table as it's still covered in the stuff I haven't found a home for yet)   but I'm happy with it for now. However, I'm always open to suggestions for improvements. 

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Fabric Addict

I was doing so well, keeping my addiction under control. I only fed my habit 2 or 3 times a year, a binge session at Hobbycrafts and Creative Stitches and the occasional trip to the city. Okay, so I had the odd fix in between times, but only if I needed something specific.

Now however it's out of control, I'm off the wagon, hitching a ride to textile paradise. I can no longer curb my desire by spending days searching for fabric on the Internet, gradually losing the will to buy as the hours pass. I blame it all on Very Berry and her big list of UK fabric shops.

They're all there, on that list, with more being added every week. All available at the click of a button, all pushing the most delicious fabric and all complicit in my decline. How am I supposed to turn away from temptation when it comes so beautifully presented?

After removing the inconspicuous outer packaging this was how my recent purchase from Seamstar looked

With a handy little bookmark with all sorts of useful info on it

Not forgetting the fabric

I know I'm weak, I really shouldn't give in. I should call on my resolve, repress the need to own more fabric, cease to be swayed by pretty packaging. 
But Oscar Wilde had it right, and as the Borg would say "Resistance is futile"

Monday, 20 September 2010

Weekend wash day

I'm no lover of housework, anyone who knows me will testify to that. I see it as a necessary evil, a series of tasks to be endured rather than enjoyed. Except for one. Dare I admit it? Yes I will.  I relish days when I can hang out a washing.

Some of my earliest memories are of helping with this chore. Watching my mum carefully as she prepared the line, pulling it taught as she went, the intricate weaving of the rope around the poles to secure it. Handing out colourful plastic pegs , making her wait patiently while I searched for ones that matched, 'helping' her carry the wooden clothes pole to prop up the sagging line.

Then I would watch as the laundry would put on a show depending on the weather. Sunlight bouncing off the brilliant whites, blouses gaily waving in the gentle breeze, the snap of sheets in the strong wind as they fought for freedom from the line. When everything was dry I would help gather them into the waiting basket, being the extra pair of hands required to fold the sheets, never quite getting the folding direction right first time! 

And oh, the smell of clothes that have been dried outside, a clean, fresh smell that no laundry product will ever truly be able to imitate. Then the rope would be loosened and I would watch in awe as my mum would wind it round her arm between thumb and elbow then neatly wrap the end around the middle. It took me years, and many tangled ropes, to get that action right.

The joys of back to school laundry

I get the same sense of satisfaction now as I did then, probably more so because it is my washing, my line, although I did give up on the colour co-ordinated pegs. I'm just not sure whether the warm fuzzy feeling I get as I glance out at the laden rope is about the washing and a job well done or more about the memories it conjures.

What's that? What about the ironing? Ah..., well..., that's another matter entirely...... 

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Not quite making hay ......

Cumulus, cirrus, stratus, I never could remember which cloud was which, one of the many and varied reasons why I never pursued a career in weather forecasting . My prediction yesterday proved that was a wise decision.

The sun did make an appearance today, several in fact. Instead of the dreich day I had expected I was treated to a meteorological game of hide and seek. Every time I reached for my camera to take the promised pictures the solar joker would nip behind a cloud, of one sort or another, not re-appearing until I had gone back inside. Fortunately for me, having spent many hours entertaining my boys in the same fashion, the sun got bored of the game long before I did.

So here is what I created with one of the fabulous fabrics I received.

A combination of tweed and suedette in green and lilac
The new fabric as lining
Part of the 'Weekends' collection by Erin McMorris 

Bag detail, badges with a little bit of added bling

Hope you like it.

Happy Bunny

You know how some days you dread the postman arriving? If it's an early delivery you lie in bed, eyes closed, just waiting for the squeak of the letter box and the ominous thud that follows, or there's the dive behind the sofa that precedes a later delivery in a vain attempt at avoiding the inevitable.

There was none of that for me this morning. Oh no, I greeted our postman halfway up our front steps, his surprise at seeing someone stopping him in his tracks. The reason for my eagerness? Well it wasn't the usual offer to clean my guttering or the free trial of a discreet hearing aid that had me all of a flutter, although I'm sure at some stage in my life that will be considered a high point. 

No, this morning would see the arrival of two packages for me and I couldn't wait for him to climb the 13 stairs to the door. And arrive they did, some glorious new fabrics from Fabric Rehab and a new set of speakers for my i-pod. I was such a happy bunny.

I've discovered that I can't work without music. Strange really because music was never a big part of my life before. When I worked in retail the piped 'musak' that had to be endured daily led me to appreciate the hush of being home. Now I find the silence quite oppressive and will find any excuse to escape it. My work rate increases when there is music playing, and even if it's a bit ropey at times at least it's my choice.

Snow White definitely seemed to be on to something. The woodland animals of Moffat might not be participating in this particular scenario ( you can never trust a squirrel to be there when you need it ) and I wouldn't advise whistling if you want to avoid lip lines, but a jaunty tune or two does get you through the day.

Oh, by the way the fabric was also put to good use, but poor light this afternoon meant I couldn't take any decent photographs. I'll get them on as soon as we have another good day, maybe next Spring some time :o)

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Best laid plans....

When spontaneity was being handed out to those who just happened to drop by I was obviously busy tidying my sock drawer. Yes, it can be a bit of a drag not being able to do things on the spur of the moment, but at least when I do get around to doing them the preparation before hand means I'm usually equipped for every eventuality.

The downside comes when your plans get obliterated by fate. 

I'd had great plans for last week. September sunshine was seeping in to every corner of my workroom, filling it with light and me with an energy and desire to make that had been missing throughout the summer. I had it all worked out in my head, what bag would be made on which day and how much time could be given to working on new designs. Unfortunately while the sunshine lasted my energy didn't. 

I only managed to get these two bags completed.   

An 'A' line bag that tucks neatly under your arm
 Bold floral lining
Bag detail

Messenger with asymmetric  flap

Detachable brooch

Guess I'll just have to re-adjust my plans for next week. It's not called spontaneity, it's called contingency ;)

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