Thursday, April 30, 2009

Beautifully neglected

Our little cottage sits in some small amount of land, to the front of our home we have a modestly sized garden containing three apple trees, a mossy lawn, some un-inspiring flower beds - redeemed only by plenty of lavender, several vegetable beds. We are south-facing and the garden ends in a pretty stone wall which frames views of the hills and mountains beyond; the views are another redeeming feature of the garden.

Behind the house our "wild garden", a small wooded area containing a mixture of oak, sycamore, ash, beech, holly and various others which I am unable to name. It is a big enough area to allow the children to have wonderful adventures and small enough for me to feel happy about them playing out there. The grassy slopes of this area are unkempt and wild and yet they offer me the greatest pleasure of all the garden. In the height of summer we sometimes take a blanket up there and read books amongst the long grass.

This bank offers me the first signs of winter ending when the snowdrops and crocuses begin to poke their way through. This year the snowdrops were followed by a blaze of yellow as the daffodils took over nodding and waving at me and now they have faded and been replaced by a gentle haze of blue interpersed here and there with pale yellow cowslips.

This haze of blue really makes my heart sing, it is heavenly to turn the bend of the drive and see the little blue tinged dip below the trees. As I sit here at the dining table I can turn my head at any moment and enjoy the blue dotted grassy slope behind me, I love how it looks in the sunshine, soft and dappled and I love the strong deep contrast of green and blue when the sky is cloudy and the grass damp. I wish I could do it justice with a photograph but a landscape photographer I am not. I cannot remember a better year for bluebells, maybe it is because there have been no marauding sheep or cattle this year.

Now all I have to do is hide the strimmer before The Technical Advisor returns for the weekend.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A little road trip

I enjoyed reading the comments on the last post so much, it was good to see that as a procrastinator I have some excellent company and thank you all so much for the good wishes for my venture into the world of selling. I am afraid I am terribly behind in responding to comments and this has been worrying me and, no surprise, causing me to procrastinate even more. So please accept my apologies, I am trying to get back on track and please do know how much I appreciate and am inspired by the comments I receive here.

We are still trying to find our routine and this weekend was a little thrown by my entirely self-centred decision to nip down to Wonderwool in deepest mid-Wales on Saturday. I say nip, but an almost 3 hour drive each way is hardly nipping I suppose. Given that it is pretty much a case of leaving my house and turning left then continuing along the same road for 100 miles or so, it really never seems that far in theory and I think to myself, really, it's only 100 miles, it won't take that long. It does though, because the A470, which I think I have mentioned before, is a long, winding, rollercoaster of a road. I set off bright and early as I wanted to arrive first thing and then set off home again by lunchtime in order to spend some time with The Technical Advisor, and iron his 14 or so shirts.....

I begin my journey in the Conwy valley and before long I leave the lush, Spring greens of the valley behind and begin to climb upwards. The scenery becomes sharp edged and craggy, wide open windswept spaces dotted here and there with raggedy looking sheep. My aging 4x4 takes the climb up to Blaenau Ffestiniog slowly giving me plenty of time to soak in the scenery and be thankful for the recent improvements to this part of the road which make the sheer drops a little further away! I know that many people find Blaenau a particularly depressing part of the country, a tiny town in the shadow of huge piles of slate but there is something so beautiful about this landscape, I love the way it constantly changes colour, muted shades of grey are transformed by a little rain into shining black and then the sun breaks through the clouds and they instantly begin to sparkle and glint with flashes of bronze and silver as the light bounces off them.

I manage to take a small wrong turn (I know, it's one road, how could I?) and know that I am hurtling downwards in the wrong direction as the scenery begins to change once more, lush greens let me know I am heading for the sea and as the road plunges I am thankful for my breaks and relieved when I finally reach a signposted junction which sends me climbing back upwards.

The road starts to open out now and I climb higher and higher into the mountains, the views are incredible, this is the stuff that makes you glad to be alive and sends your mind off into the past wondering about the hardy people who settled here and there and the difficult lives they must have led. Eventually I begin to leave the mountains of Snowdonia and once again the scenery becomes gentler, and I drive through thickly forrested hillsides where the light is soft and dappled. It is no longer dramatic but no less beautiful, it rolls and dips and there is colour everywhere.

And was it worth it? Did I shop? Why yes, of course. Arriving early meant I was able to browse in comfort and I did have a short list which I intended to stick to. The first requirement was a bag of roving for stuffing my little mouse toys and I found what I wanted at a good price. The only other thing on my shopping list was something for Whisper.

I fell upon this blue Alpaca, it's so soft, I am a little worried that it may not be quite right for Whisper but it was not horribly expensive so if it has to become something else then so be it.

Naturally, as always seems to happen when yarn shopping, I came back with something that was not on my list. A skein of the most buttery soft, colour saturated cashmere from Knitwitch Yarns. It's good I tell you, really good. I have no purpose for it as yet but I may even swatch this one for Whisper too and if not then it will be lace, something light and airy to wrap around my neck and feel indulged by.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I identify with Hamlet because...

One of my greatest failings is procrastination. So many hours of my life have been wasted as I interminably go back and forth in my mind, paralysed by the weight of decision making. Unable to commit. Unable to choose. What to do for the best?

When choosing a kitchen for our first house I ended up with quotes and designs from no less than 14 different companies and of course I pretty much designed it myself in the end.
When painting the interior of my second house white I bought no less than 16 different samples of white. I spent weeks gazing at different squares of white, terrified of choosing the wrong one.

Biscuit fired pottery sits gathering dust while I mull over glaze and decoration choices, even though I was pretty much set on a particular finish the entire time I worked the clay beneath my fingers and experience has shown that I almost always go with that initial choice. However, when the moment arrives to take the decision I panic, I delay, I procrastinate.

On purchasing fabric and yarn, even fabric and yarn purchased specifically for a particular pattern, I become suddenly and totally pulled up to a halt when faced with my purchase, unable to cut, unable to commit. I will begin to research alternatives, I will delay and procrastinate, wasting hours and hours, finding other things to do rather than make the decision.

Some time after Christmas I took a decision, I suppose a sort of New Year Resolution, although obviously a procrastinator like myself cannot commit to actually making firm resolutions; I decided that this year I would try to make some things to sell. I sketched and planned, I thought and pondered, I made list upon list of things to do. I even began to say it out loud now and again. I began to mention it here and there and I even began to finalise a pattern and do a little sewing, no finishing of course, no actual decisive action and the earth continued to turn and time continued to tick.

Then Bethany contacted me about Hatch. Bethany is a lady of action, a decision maker, someone who get things done and she has made Hatch happen, putting her creative ideas into action and achieving so much. Bethany asked me if I would like to contribute some of my work and this made me smile so much, I was so thrilled to be considered. I needed to make the things, they needed to be perfect, so I have been drafting patterns, trying them out, re-drafting, I have been making decisions, making my sketches and following them through and I have a little pile of finished pieces growing slowly but steadily.

It feels good to have taken decisions, to see things completed and I am even beginning to think of it as "my work". I have finished my pieces for Hatch and I am building another little pile of things to offer for sale sometime soon. I have to sort out the website "where and how" (OK, we all know that is a complete fib, I mean to say, my Technical Advisor will sort out the website "where and how" and it will need to be fairly idiot proof too if I am to be in charge of operating it) but I have finished procrastinating and the details will be finalised soon. I think.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dipping my toe in

My gosh, it's grown very still and quiet in here! An un-intentional blog break- the presence of children, my father and for a short but precious while, The Technical Advisor rather got in the way of blogging. Easter is always one of my favourite breaks, two glorious weeks of not having to rush about in the mornings getting ready for school and that long bank holiday weekend with a family dinner and without the pressure that Christmas brings with all it's shopping...

The weather has been mixed but the good days have been splendid, we even managed to picnic by Llyn Geirionydd last week, action man took a raft out on the icy cold water but the rest of us just watched and the braver amongst us dipped their toes into the clear waters.

It was very sad to say goodbye to The Technical Advisor last week and my Dad left a day later, they seemed to take the sunshine with them and the weather turned grey and dark however my mood was lifted by the incredible gift I received from the lovely Flurina.

I first came across Flurina when knitting Ruby, her Ruby was the very first one to appear in our virtual world and of course, if you pick the same patterns to knit then you must be on similar wavelengths. Flurina is another example of how very, very nice knitters can be, she promised me a pick-me-up from Switzerland and I really cannot imagine a better pick-me-up.

I was absolutely blown away when I opened up the parcel with its exciting overseas stamps and found this scarf. So beautifully knitted and exactly the sort of scarf I love, light and drapey, warm but airy enough to wear indoors too. Clever Flurina matched my red beret and nail polish perfectly and I just cannot find the words to say thank you properly. How did she know that every time I put my beret on and fasten up the red buttons of my coat I sigh and wish that I had made a scarf to match! Well, I guess the fact that we both knitted the same pattern is a clue, we are cut of a similar cloth.

And the chocolates? Well, I don't need to tell you how very, very good those chocolates were. I let the children look, not touch, not even smell. I ate every single one myself, slowly and decadently, whilst picturing a snowy corner of Europe the lovely knitter who lives there, I thought how nice it would be sit and have coffee and discuss knitting patterns and how much we would have to talk about.

Thank you Flurina, thank you.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Loving linen

I have always had a soft spot for linen, especially Irish linen of course. I really don't mind the creasing, I think it adds to its charm. I
n it's natural shades I find it soothing and calm. In the past I have painted walls in pale linen shades, I have linen covered sofas, which where far too large to fit into this little house and have been languishing in a storage container for longer than I care to think about but I dare not get rid of them because one day I may live somewhere larger or at least with larger door and window frames and those sofas will be perfect. I know that I will not have tired of their look and the wonderful thing about ecru coloured linen is that it is so very accommodating. It is very happy paired with rich chocolate or palest blue, chintzy prints or bold and modern, it will always be polite and compliment whatever hue you care to throw at it.

I have been sewing with linen a lot of late, various gifts and items of clothes. Tilly has been wearing the little navy smock top such a lot that I thought there should be another, this one a little lighter, more spring like. No embroidery, just a bias trimmed pocket and armholes, trim chosen by herself of course. I made this one quite long thinking it might be nice with leggings too.

Tilly's favourite part is rummaging through the button jar to select the right button.

These smocks are cut with such a lot of swing that hemming can be rather tricky but I came across the perfect solution on the Oliver & S blog: a hem facing. It gave me the excuse to use a bit more of that dotty print and it gives such a lovely, clean finish.

And of course it is rather nice to get a little glimpse of it now and again.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Chasing the blues away

The weekend came and went too fast. The Technical Advisor was expected early Friday but surprised me by arriving very late on Thursday instead. The sun shone for us all weekend and we made the most of it by travelling into the mountains for ice-cream on Saturday. It is a wonderful, winding drive through breathtaking mountain scenery, green and lush one minute, bleak and forbidding the next. As for the ice-cream, it's definitely worth it.

My Advisor returned South all too soon on Sunday but thankfully not for quite so long as he will be back on Friday for the long weekend and in the mean time I have something rather wonderful to keep me company.

The lovely Ulli sent me a parcel of cheer. This gorgeous Madeline Tosh yarn is a buttery soft merino & silk mix and the sheen and lustre make me smile every time I walk past it. I plan to wind it and cast on tonight, something small and light to go around my neck I think, perfect for those cooler Spring days. Ulli popped something sweet in the box too, Chocolate Marshmallow which has yet to be sampled, but I have promised hot chocolate for supper this evening and these will be the crowning glory. Vanilla Caramels too, which it turns out, are the perfect bribe sweet. Tilly makes "mmmm" noises each time she has one and Dylan is eager to visit California and seek out this particular sweet shop at the earliest opportunity.

Thank you so much Ulli.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Some baby sewing

I usually knit for babies and I certainly haven't given up on baby knitting, indeed there are two of my usual little sweaters awaiting finishing but hot on the heels of last weeks little shorts for a baby boy I bring you bloomers for a girl.

These are still basically the same format as the needle cord bloomers I made a while ago but somewhat tweaked. I now use elastic in my bobbin thread to gather the legs, I had no idea how much fun that was! OK, naturally
the first ten attempts where not fun but once I got the hang of it.... I used french seams and sewed them down for reinforcement which should make these bloomers pretty indestructible for even the most wriggly of babies.

My favourite part, even better than the elastic as bobbin thread thrill, has to be the grosgrain ribbon trim. This was born out of necessity, I had made the little liberty print top from leftover fabric but there wasn't enough left to provide matching bloomers or even to make a bias trim to tie it all together. A search through my ribbon jar produced just enough grosgrain and it works really well as a method of hiding the raw edge of the hem. In fact, it works so well that I cannot stop myself smiling every time I look at it, I feel rather smug and need to go and buy yards and yards of grosgrain trim immediately because I suddenly need to finish every hem this way.

Along with the elasticated frill.

Hmm, I think a new obsession may have been born.