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Around the world blog hop!

September 29, 2014

I am a naughty blogger.  It’s very interesting (to me, at any rate) that I spend so little time writing here on my blog when, for so many years of my life, I’ve written constantly, whether it was business or study writing, fiction, poetry, or even blogging about writing – something I used to do several years ago, rather ironically!

I do seem to spend my time these days actually making things, or designing them, or learning how to make them, which I guess isn’t a bad thing, when that is how I’m attempting to make a living.  I do read a lot about other makers and their processes, but have never really thought through my own, never mind committed any of those thoughts to paper / screen.  So when the lovely and incredibly creative Manu of I ManuFatti tagged me to take part in the Around the world blog hop, I thought it’d be a good opportunity to do just that!

What am I working on?

Everything – all at once.  Seriously.  My head is ridiculous – there is a big tangle of thread, fabric, yarn, sequins and dreamy pictures of gorgeous things and cute animals in there.  I blame this to some extent on Pinterest, where I spend far too much time some days.  More of that later…

I almost always have at least one knitting project on the go at any one time.  At the moment, it’s this dreamily sparkling scarf, which I’m making in a quilted lattice stitch with Rowan’s Kidsilk Eclipse yarn – my new pash after the evil yarn discontinuer at Rowan wielded the axe over Kidsilk Glamour.

I first saw this knit stitch on the Purl Bee blog, where it was being used for a scarf but in a very different kind of yarn. I love that you can get so many different effects from knitting the same stitch by just changing the yarn, the size of your needles, the tension – pure alchemy!

I’m also working on a new cowl design using this stitch, but helplessly under it’s sparkly spell, I was desperate to see how it looked with this yarn and had to cast on the scarf first.

Deciding what to work on next is a daily struggle for me – there are just so many ideas and possibilities and not enough time!

I’m probably just over a third of the way through making the Eclipse scarf now and have promised myself that I will be making up the cowl design next.  I have some yummy Malabrigo Worsted Merino in ‘Simply Taupe’ to make that in (my shorthand name for this colourway is ‘Baileys’ – looks just like it!).  Here’s a peek at my swatch for it:

As well as a knitting project, I almost always have at least one crochet project on the hook at any one time…  I’ve just started a new wrap / shawl in my own ‘waves’ design using a beautiful silk and baby camel yarn in a glorious deep green, which the German dyers I buy this from have called ‘St Patrick’s Day Parade Gone Awry’:

I love their quirky colour names and some of the colours they create are just stunning.  Many of them are also variegated to some degree, which is something I love – adds such a lot of interest and life to a piece.  I’ve just put my order in for some new silks to make more shawls over the winter – look at these beauties!

You can find the dyers on Etsy – they have a couple of shops: DyeForYarn and DyeForWool.

Anyone who follows me on Facebook will know that I am also currently suffering from a bit of a zip obsession…  This all began when the lovely Leonor of Felt Buddies (trapped in her own current obsession with wool and knittingness) asked me if I could make her a project bag for her knitting.  She had a few essentials about the design – she quite liked the box shaped bags, it needed to use a certain fabric for the outer and it had to have a handle and a zip.  A zip?!  Up to this point I’d never tangled with zips except one time, not that long ago, when I decided to make an envelope clutch.  It turned out that the pointed zippered foldy over part of that design way past my sewing IQ!

If you’ve read any other posts on this blog, you will know about my troubled relationship with my £99 John Lewis sewing machine (John for short – when we’re on good terms).  Now we have actually been getting along a lot better since I treated him to new sewing feet (it turns out that many of our ‘tiffs’ were all my fault – using the wrong feet for the job etc.) – particularly the walking foot, which shed new light on our sewing adventures.  Anyway, I had bought him a zip foot and we had tried to use it on the clutch bag, but this exercise had ended in me quietly tucking the unzippered clutch bag pieces into a pile of fabric and refusing to look at them while I put one of John’s old feet back on and slipped on his cover…  Anyway, Leonor’s commission for the project bag was just what I needed to force me to face my demons.  I swear that John cringed when I brought out the zip foot again, but we got through it together and I made the bag Leonor wanted – plus another bonus one, just because I was so excited 🙂

So, introduced to the pleasures of zip insertion and top stitching, I got that darn clutch bag out of the fabric pile and finished it too – although it is far from perfect…  Would you look at that top stitching!  Lesson learned here – do NOT use heavyweight woven interfacing on heavy cotton canvas fabric – silly, just silly.  I adore these Echino fabrics though – just look at that shot of the open bag’s interior – like the inside of a wild pink petal fuelled crocodile’s mouth – ROAR!  Mmm, not sure if crocodiles roar…

And then, not satisfied with that, I started making lots of other zippered pouches in all kinds of sizes and in all kinds of fabrics.  I started with another envelope clutch in gold threaded denim and ginghams; but this time, I kept the foldy over part much more simple!

I’ve also made several simple zippered pouches, like this one in a cotton / linen blend Japanese style fabric:

My shop now has it’s very own bags and pouches section!  Thank you Leonor 🙂

So apart from the odd zippered pouch whenever inspiration and urge strikes me, I have several sewing projects on the go at the moment.  The first is a prize for a recent giveaway on my Facebook page to celebrate getting to 1,000 likes.  This was won by the very talented Sue Newlands of Clayton Bears, who makes the most adorable little collectible bears you have ever seen.  The prize was a £25 voucher to spend on anything I make and Sue’s chosen to have a zippered knitting pouch – talk about feeding my addiction!  I’ve started work on this but can’t share it with you just yet as I want it to be a complete surprise for Sue when she opens the parcel 🙂

My other current sewing project uses these lovely Tilda fabrics:

The pink lace isn’t part of the project – that was a very kind gift from the lovely ladies at Pretty Fabrics and Trims.  For this make, I’m going to be using lace, but it will be white broderie anglais for a subtle and thoroughly vintage look.  These fabrics are going to be made into a little pram quilt and pillow for Darcey – outrageously cute daughter of the lovely Nicci.  These are going into a gorgeous little wicker toy pram that Nicci’s bought for Darcey for her birthday, or maybe Christmas – I think when it’s gifted depends on how excited Nicci gets! 🙂

I love hand quilting almost as much as I love working with these pretty fabrics, so I consider it a treat to be making these.

Finally, I’ve just had a bulk order for some wool felt Christmas decorations from Jessica, a very good client across the pond who has had me making all kinds of Christmassy things for the new booth she’s opening in an antiques centre in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I am SO excited to see the pictures of her fully decorated booth when it’s done!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Now there’s a question!  I really don’t think I do have a genre – or maybe I have lots of genres?  I definitely don’t stick to one style in any genre either, although I guess you could say that I tend to lean towards the ‘pretty’ and feminine side more than anything…  Where I try to differentiate myself is in the quality of what I make and the care I take with each piece I create.  But having said that, plenty of other makers are the same as far as that’s concerned!

I can say that I always do everything to the very best of my ability, and where I don’t think I can make something to the standards I would want to make it, I’d rather refuse a commission than make something that was less than good in my own eyes.

As far as the genre of crochet is concerned, I’d like to think that my work there is quite different to the norm.  Whilst I can admire a good granny square as much as the next person, I try hard not to use those kinds of techniques in my own designs.  For one thing, other makers are far more proficient at that than I am and, for another thing, I think crochet is where I can express my own creativity best, given that I’m confident in a lot of the techniques.  I can’t explain quite how thrilling and freeing an experience it is to pick up a stick of wood with a hook on the end and a ball of yarn and KNOW that you can create something that exists nowhere but inside your own head.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making any claims to have done anything fabulous in the crochet design universe yet, but I love that I can make something wearable without ever looking at a pattern or a chart – like this shawl 🙂

The other area where I think I’m a BIT different is that I like to use hand rather than machine quilting in my makes, whether it’s a quilt or a Christmas stocking, or a nightdress case.  There are lots of other people out there hand quilting, but many more quilt by machine.  Using a machine is much more cost effective and means that you can sell quilted pieces at a lower price and attract more sales, but it’s more important to me to stick to my making ethos.

Quilting is an incredibly popular craft these days and I think it is such a shame that so many quilters seem to feel pressured to make a quilt in super quick time.  So many tutorials are about ‘speed piecing’ and how you can make a quilt in ‘no time’.  I know we all love a bit of instant gratification, but I feel sorry that many are missing out on the simple pleasure of the process of hand quilting, which for me is much more fulfilling simply because it feels more personal – nothing is more personal than using your hands.

Why do I create what I do?

This one is super easy – because I think it’s beautiful and I love beautiful things.  Of course whether things are beautiful or not is always subjective, but if you’re true to your own vision, you can’t fail to produce honest pieces that are well made, express your own views, and will be appreciated by others.

Having said that, I absolutely do have failures on a regular basis!  This is usually because my creative genius has been writing cheques my creative skills can’t cash – the clutch bag mentioned above is a great example of this.  I start out thinking about something that I like (often on Pinterest) and by slow degrees, I talk myself into the belief that “I can do that!”.  Invariably, I can’t – or at least not as well as my perfectionist streak insists I must!  But these are always very valuable adventures – I always learn something useful, even if it’s only: “handbag making is NOT for me” 🙂

My other major motivation is simply giving pleasure to the people you make the piece for.  Whilst it’s lovely when you make something and someone loves it and buys it, the commission process is definitely my favourite because it always involves a level of trust between the maker and the client and, at its best, is a genuine collaboration between you.  The client gets to know and like your work, recognises that you have a shared aesthetic with them and then they trust you to realise their vision or, if they don’t have any fixed ideas about what they want, to create something they’re going to love.  It sounds a bit happy clappy, but it is such a special feeling when it works well for you both.  I’m incredibly lucky to have several faithful clients who like what I do and trust me to make something for them or their loved ones that will give them pleasure.  What more can you ask for as a maker?

How does my creative process work?

As I alluded to earlier, it’s complicated…  I think a lot.  I think constantly.  I think too much.  The last of those statements is probably the most accurate.

I definitely can be a bit of a control freak and an anorak – both of which TOTALLY get in the way of being creative.  If you can’t let yourself be free, it is terribly difficult to be creative, so I have an ongoing inner dialogue where I tell myself to shut up on a regular basis.

I believe that we’re all quite contradictory in nature, although some people perhaps have more extreme contradictions to wrestle with?  All my school reports talked about me being lazy and a daydreamer – the truth was that I was frequently bored at school and longing to be off doing something that would be more exciting.  My absolute favourite thing to do up to the age of 13 was to run about the Yorkshire countryside pretending to be a horse, although I was always smart enough not to exhibit this behaviour in front of anyone other than fellow horse mad chums.  We had a few ‘strange’ kids at school who chose not to hide their true imaginative or creative sides and boy, did they suffer for it!

As I said before, my head is always jam packed full of ideas and images and I do find it quite a struggle to wrangle some of them into submission. These images are fed quite relentlessly by Pinterest, which is one of my very favourite places to while away half my life looking at kittens, bunnies, dresses, tutorials, funny / weird things and anything even remotely interesting to me for any reason whatsoever.  I’m up to 7,923 pins as at today, and still consider myself to be a rank beginner in the pinning world.  N-e-e-d m-o-r-e p-i-n-s…

What tends to happen is that I light on a particular idea or image and then become obsessive – as with the zips – until I’ve exorcised it.  It’s wonderful when this ends with me making something I’m happy with, but there are also several other alternative, less positive endings:

  • A total disaster with an ending – meaning that it really was a disaster and I won’t be doing that again
  • A total disaster with a future – meaning that it really was a disaster, but I haven’t given up on it entirely
  • A total disaster with a spin-off – meaning that I won’t do that again, but it has given me another idea to try out

All of the positive and negative endings are good to my mind – they all have the end result of getting the nagging thing out of my head so that I can move on to the next nagging thing.  The time taken for the whole process does differ massively – I will bang away at some ideas for years before I give up or succeed (I think they call that “closure”?).  I’m nothing if not pig headed 🙂

I’ve certainly seen an improvement in my creative process since I made my creative work my full time job.  My old salaried full time job was extremely structured and played to my control freak / anorak side in a big way so almost completely stifled my creative side.  I’ve been making this my (decidedly not salaried) ‘job’ for almost 2 years now, and I’m just starting to be able to let go a little.  Crikey I’m slow on the uptake!

Well, this really was quite a cathartic exercise for me, as well as being quite a long winded one…  I hope that it is an enjoyable experience for my three Blog Hop nominees who will be answering for themselves on their blogs next week in as many or as few words as they would like:

Felting, spinning and knitting artist supremo, Leonor of Felt Buddies & Co

Garden loving creator of the prettiest bunnies ever who, to me seems to live in a magic world in the Loire valley, Stephanie of Madame Millefeuilles

Needlework designer, fellow OU humanities graduate and woman of random passions, Maggie  of Maggie Gee Needlework Studio

I’m really looking forward to reading the blog hop contributions of these very talented, inspiring and interesting ladies during the week commencing 6th October, on their blogs.  Go girls! 🙂

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  • Reply Manu September 29, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Dear Deb, I’m so glad I’ve tagged you and that you’ve decided to take part in this! ❤ Your post is lovely, I’ve really enjoyed reading it 🙂 Thank you!
    Pretending to be a horse, I used to do that, too! And also to ride imaginary horses, haha 😀 Ironically, as an adult I find horses pretty scary, although I still think they are beautiful and amazing creatures

    • Reply crimson September 29, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      Me too! 🙂 Funny how some things frighten us more as adults – I’m looking forward to senility so I can regress – LOL! <3

  • Reply Maggie Gee Needlework Studio September 29, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Absolutely wonderful! …And I didn’t know we had our Degrees in common!!! …infact it seems to me we have pretty much everything in common! …Am off to write mine up ready for next week! Magsxx

    • Reply crimson September 29, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      I suspect we do! I loved the wide subject field of humanities, although I focused most on Classical Studies and Literature – it was a fabulous experience in self-discipline!

      Glad to have enthused you to start on yours – really looking forward to it! 🙂

  • Reply greenrabbitdesigns September 30, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Ah I enjoyed that Debbie, always good to know what goes on in someone else’s creative mind!
    Your work is very beautiful and of course as you know I so get the Pinterest thing! 😉
    V x

    • Reply crimson September 30, 2014 at 11:14 am

      Thank you my fellow Pinterest prisoner (and thank you for the 3 foxes peeping out of a hole in a wooden door the other day – loved that one!) – lovely of you to say so 🙂

  • Reply wendy September 30, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    it’s lovely to meet you through this hop and read your well-thought out answers to the questions. I too am a bit of a Pinterest addict…

    • Reply crimson September 30, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      Thanks Wendy! Will pop by your blog to meet you properly 🙂 I think we could start some kind of an ‘anonymous’ group for Pinterestaholics!

  • Reply Stephanie October 2, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Wonderful, wonderful! So much inspiration and food for thought. I am sure that your well-penned words (and beautiful creations) have echoed in the hearts and souls of many other créatives. Needless to say I am honoured to be one of the three elected to follow your lead in my own sweet way.

    Warmest wishes from France,


    • Reply crimson October 2, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Thank you lovely Stephanie! Looking forward to reading your piece next week 🙂

  • Reply Leonor October 9, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Hello, dear Debbie! Thanks for tagging me for this 🙂 It was really nice reading more about you, and to find out some other things we have in common (like those pesky school report things). I shall try to make you proud and reply to the questions the best I can, without getting distracted by those noises in my head that keep telling me to make new things…

    • Reply crimson October 9, 2014 at 4:47 pm

      I have faith in you! However, I also believe in those voices in your head… 🙂 Here’s hoping to read your answers soon, oh fair felter! xx

      • Reply Leonor October 11, 2014 at 12:25 pm

        It’s done! I can’t believe I managed to get my head out of fibre-related things, and sit down and write 😮

        I hope you like it, my dear. Thanks for the tag! xx

  • Reply Around the world blog hop… thing. | Felt Buddies (and stuff) October 11, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    […] having said all this, here it is, I’m being tagged by Debbie of The Crimson Rabbit to answer a few questions about myself. Although I am always curious about what others are up to, […]

  • Reply elizabethm October 17, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Wow! I am reeling a bit here from quite how many different things you do and how well you do them! It makes me very aware that my own forays into knitting and crochet are very much on the lower slopes of the mountain. I came to you via Stephanie and find a rather similar visual sensibility although in many ways I see that you are very different. Fascinating stuff, thank you.

    • Reply crimson October 17, 2014 at 7:10 pm

      Thank you Elizabeth 🙂 I take being compared (to any extent) to Stephanie as a huge compliment! I’ve really only found my knitting and crochet feet in the last couple of years when I made it my mission to learn because I suddenly found myself with the luxury of the time and space to really focus on it. I continue to push myself to develop my skills and knowledge all the time – it is a great way to exercise a butterfly mind like mine 😉

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