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October 2014

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October 23, 2014

It is very strange how I seem to attach myself to one craft at the expense of another.  I started my working week sewing zipped pouches and it was all I could think about.  However, things didn’t go so smoothly and after unpicking just about every line of sewing that I put down over a few hours, I just knew that I needed to stop and go and do something else, regardless of how much I didn’t want to.

I picked up my knitting instead on Monday afternoon and am now deeply entrenched in it.  Not that the knitting went that smoothly to begin with…  I already had a design idea for a new cowl and the yarn to make it with.  Inspired by the Purl Bee’s trellis scarf (which I’ve already made a sparkly version of with Rowan Kidsilk Haze Eclipse), I was planning on making a cowl in that stitch pattern, using Malabrigo’s Worsted Merino in ‘Simply Taupe’, which I like to simply call: ‘Baileys’, because it’s pretty much the same colour as that delicious beverage.  My plan was to work in the round and I’d already swatched and converted the stitch pattern, so I simply wound the first skein of yarn and got on with it.  Sadly, after working a 4 row edging and 2 pattern repeats of 8 rows each over 300 stitches, I decided that I didn’t like how the stitch pattern was looking – or at least how it would look when worn.  By 6pm, I was ripping it all out…

Purl Bee’s trellis scarf:

Refusing to be cowed by my cowl fail, I started Tuesday in a positive mood and cast on the trellis cowl with straight needles and a provisional cast on.  By yesterday, I was on my second skein and the cowl was over 20 inches long – hurrah!

Now I haven’t given sewing another thought since quitting on Monday, and I’ve told myself that this week can be all about knitting.  Having thus given myself permission to stay in the knit zone, my mind felt free to wander around in it and, hey presto, I have another idea for a new cowl design.

Ever since knitting several stitch block cowls (here’s Emma’s):

(and Joanna’s):

(and Sue’s):

(and Joanne’s):

I was quite taken with the ‘tweed’ brioche stitch pattern from the 3rd section of the cowl and always wanted to use it in another project, but with just one colour, to see how it looked. Here it is from the original Purl Bee cowl design, worked in 3 colours:

Apart from being a pretty stitch in itself, it works up quickly.  For another thing, it creates a kind of airy and light fabric – even using a lovely lofty yarn like Malabrigo Worsted Merino.  So my first thought was: “Hey, why don’t I make a cowl with that one stitch for the whole thing – bet that would look nice”.  Of course, the natural next thought was, which yarn to use, and it didn’t take long to work that out since I love the quality, softness and colour range of Malabrigo Worsted Merino.  Then, which colour to use?  Do I really want to use just one colour?  True, I could use a semi-slid or a variegated to add lots of interest, but was that enough?

Enter another Purl Bee project the Cashmere Ombré Wrap:

Now, I can’t afford the cashmere to make this and the idea of so many rows of seed stitch makes me want to scream, but I love the idea of lots of shades of one colour, so off to the Malabrigo site I went and I decided on a range of beautiful yellows – from creamy to orange shades.  I’ll start with ‘Butter’:

Move on to ‘Pollen’:

Then ‘Cadmium’:

And, finally, I’ll finish with ‘Sunset’ – which is fitting!

Really looking forward to these yarns arriving and starting another cowlicious project – always assuming that my knitting doesn’t go haywire and send me back to the sewing machine 🙂

Cashmere Ombré Wrap.
Cashmere Ombré Wrap
Cashmere Ombré Wrap
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The mill, the rake and the mouse

October 18, 2014

This week, Mark’s been on holiday from work so we’ve had several trips out, walking and visiting various places.

On Tuesday, we were incredibly lucky with the weather and had a lovely walk in the autumnal sunshine around Flatford Mill, taking in Constable country.  When we first walked past the famous mill scene, all looked so calm and lovely and it was easy to imagine Johnny Constable with his sketchbook in hand:

But then, after our 1st walk around the fields full of cliché ridden grazing sheep (cute and fluffy, all the same), we walked around the back of the mill thinking we would have a walk across the Dedham Vale, only to find a lot of it under water and bullocks having a paddle.  There had been a lot of rain and, to compound the problem, the National Trust are in the process of renewing the lock gates.  The sky was also pretty Constable-esque:

On Thursday, being relatively confident that we should have another fine day (we believed the weather forecast –  you have to live dangerously) and wanting to get our moneys worth from our annual National Trust memberships (we are from Yorkshire, don’t forget), we planned to visit a couple of National Trust houses in Suffolk.  We started out at Ickworth, which is an incredibly imposing place with a lovely park (picture from the National Trust site):

Explore the orangery and unusual rotunda which dominates the the house © Rupert Truman

We arrived before the house was open so decided to do the 4 mile walk through the park and woods.  It is a lovely walk, but was a little muddy – especially in the woods.  It also felt like more than 4 miles but as we didn’t track it, I can’t say for sure – maybe we were just slow sliding through the mud.  This photograph of the rotunda was taken from the woods we were walking through, across the park.

Sadly, by the time we finished the walk, I was splattered with mud, a bit over heated and looked like a tramp – just the time to join lots of clean tourists for a look around the house!   I have to say that I wasn’t that taken with the house – can’t really put my finger on why specifically – perhaps because it was built to be a showpiece by the Hervey family, rather than a home (they lived in the east wing and just displayed their treasures here).  I would have liked to have had a little more about the infamous Lord Hervey, Georgian rake and lover of Stephen Fox.  I read and thoroughly enjoyed Lucy Moore’s biography of him (Amphibious Thing: The Life of Lord Hervey) some years ago, but he didn’t really feature at the house – perhaps they’re trying to live down his inflated reputation!

One thing I did enjoy inside was that we were just in time to see a couple of costumes on display from the ‘Connecting Threads’ exhibition, which ends at the beginning of November.  This is a lovely 30s bias cut evening dress in gold.  The bias cutting is mind boggling!

This beautiful jewel encrusted dress from the House of Worth was from an earlier age, but just as lovely:

We then moved on to our second house of the day – Melford Hall at Long Melford.  This was a truly lovely place and one we will certainly return to.

It started life as a monastic hunting estate and was visited by Elizabeth I in 1578.  After being sacked during the civil war, it was requisitioned during World War 2 and the north wing was burnt down in 1942.  The Hyde Parkers, who still live in the house, brought it back to life and their famous cousin Beatrix Potter visited them there.  She would bring a menagerie of animals with her, who stayed in a little turret room, just off her usual bedroom, the ‘West Bedroom’ (photograph from the National Trust site):

Melford's West Bedroom where Beatrix would have slept

The original Jemima Puddleduck stuffed toy is on display and I admit that my heart leapt a little when I saw it, even though it is being displayed in a little room that has been made up as a mock nursery rather than the ‘real’ one.  There are also a number of Miss Potter’s watercolours of the house and several of her well known animal characters.  Unfortunately, these are all displayed in a corridor near her bedroom, which isn’t the ideal place to view them… This one (again from the National Trust’s site) is a self-portrait she drew to amuse her little cousins – she was said to do nothing but sleep when she visited:

Beatrix Potter's Sleeping Mouse

This little picture hangs in the actual bedroom she used.  The bed hangings at the time were obviously also a yellow silk, like the ones that the National Trust have there today.

I think my absolute favourites were these lovely little place settings on a dining table.  The way they are set out on the table makes it look as though Beatrix has just that moment walked by and placed them there, to amuse her cousins when they come in to eat – so much nicer than seeing them in a glass case 🙂





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The creative urge

October 7, 2014

If you make things – any things – I’m sure you know the creative urge.

Without the urge, I guess we wouldn’t create very much at all, so I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but why does it frequently turn up at the most inopportune times?

My creative urge frequently shows up just as I’m dropping off to sleep, or more often for me, when I first wake up early in the morning (usually due to a visit from a cat).  Once it arrives, it refuses to leave until something has been done – as does the cat, I might add…  First you have to get awake – properly awake – you will NOT be going back to sleep for some time, if at all.  Then you have to focus in on what the urge is and begin to refine it: what is it I want to create; what will it look like; what will it be made from; what colours will I use, what are its dimensions, what will the finishing touches be?  These are just a handful of questions that must be answered – NOW!  In these circumstances, I don’t usually take the process much further than developing a mental picture of what it is and deciding when I will create it, although I know other makers who would have to immediately write everything down, or even go and begin making it.

The other circumstance when I am most often struck with the urge, is when I have a million and one other things that I absolutely have to get done and have no spare time for ‘playing’.  This was what happened this weekend when I was struck with the dreaded but essential urge.

Amongst several other pieces I’m finishing off, I am trying to finish an order from the lovely Jessica for 14 embroidered and embellished wool felt Christmas star ornaments to decorate her tree in her antiques booth in Charlotte, North Carolina.  On Friday, I got together everything I needed and, in the mood for a little sparkle, I made up a little mood board from all my materials and took a photo:

Looking at the white felt and the iridescent sequins, I was reminded about a half thought out idea I’d had for an embroidery whilst cruising Pinterest.  I had a stern word with myself and pushed the thought away, tidied away the mood board and got started on Jessica’s stars.  When fully awake, the urge has to work harder to take control!

By the end of the day, I’d cut out all the star fronts, traced out the main elements of the designs, basted them to the fronts and completed the embroidery for half of them.  By Saturday afternoon, those 7 were all embroidered and embellished:

But, during all that time, the Pinterest inspired embroidery idea was nagging away at the back of my mind.  I told myself that I wasn’t allowed to play and would give way to the urge only when I’d finished Jessica’s stars, but that urge is an untameable beast and will not be denied!  By Sunday morning, despite wanting quite badly to go for a morning walk in the woods, I found myself on the couch at 8am, surrounded by embroidery threads and with my inspiration picture in front of me.  Here it is:

Isn’t Foxy lovely?  After first seeing this picture, which was ages ago, I kept thinking about it and somewhere along the way through the cables in my mind, the image  found itself on a white wool felt background and surrounded by iridescent sequins.  So I stitched like a fool until lunch time (and lunch was late as a result) and finally created what the urge had driven me to create:

Somewhat amusingly, after all that angst and effort, I’m not really that happy with the result!  It’s okay, but other than the colour, I think Foxy looks more like a Wolfy and the little line of sequins at the bottom that were intended to suggest a mound in the foreground, are more suggestive of a row of sequins sewn on a bit crooked than the intended mound…  But this isn’t a bad thing!  I’m not unhappy about it at all – I had an urge and surrendered to it.  Sometimes it comes out good, sometimes not so good, just as long as I keep having the urges, that’s okay with me! 🙂