Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Colour Collaborative: November: Leaf

I do wonder if I sometimes take leaves for granted, only really noticing them fully in the autumn months. But their very absence and presence mark the rhythms of our year; some months are quieter than others, granted, but there is always a beautiful shape to observe, a colour to appreciate. 

I like to look up at the leaves, craning my head as far back as I can towards the treetops and the sky. In the spring there might not be leaves but there are layers of frothy pink blossom.

In the summer we enjoy the shade provided by the lush, dense canopy of leaves in full green splendour. I especially love the dappled effect of sunlight filtering through the leaves and was thrilled to discover that the Japanese have a word for precisely this: komorebi.

Looking upwards in the autumn is just as rewarding. There is less dappling, but more depth, more structure.

And in the winter? No leaves, just the monochrome, arterial look of bare branches reaching towards the sky.

Each full of drama and colour in their own way.

But autumn. Oh, how I love being in the woods in the autumn.

I think it's the smell, and that's down to the rotting vegetation. Whether I'm kicking dry leaves or squelching through wet ones, I don't know when I ever take such a childlike delight in the moment, or feel so fully present in a season.

Almost every sense is catered for; the smell of decay, the feel of the cold air on your face and ground underfoot, the visual delight in the of the leaves, the sounds of birds or the wind in the trees, a rustle in the undergrowth. Ok, maybe not taste. You'll have to take a picnic for that one.

But right now, it's a rowdy display of colour, a rainbow put on by nature. Something to store up in the sensory-memory bank to nourish us in the more subdued months ahead. 

* * * * *

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

Annie at Annie Cholewa
Sandra at Cherry Heart
Jennifer at Thistlebear
Claire at Above The River

What is The Colour Collaborative? 

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

How To Make A Feather Garland

As promised, here is a quick guide to making a feather garland. 

You will need feathers, some card in the colours of your choice, some yarn or string, glue, scissors, and cocktail sticks

First, make your feather templates. I roughly copied the outlines of four of the feathers I found, choosing shapes and sizes I liked. I used cheaper, thinner card for this.

Now draw around as many feather templates as you like, on as many different types of card as you like. I aimed for maybe ten altogether, a couple in each colour. 

To create the central fold, I drew a curved line freehand onto the feather with the point on a pair of scissors, then gently pressed the crease into shape with my fingertips.

To help reinforce the quill part of the feather, and to make the tying of string easier, I glued cocktail sticks to the straight ends.

Then, rather than try and attach the feathers directly to the horizontal string on the garland, I tied individual lengths of string to each feather. This meant I could easily move them along and vary the length.

Once the string was knotted, I glued the loose end flat against the cocktail stick to keep it tidy and out of the way.

Then it was a question of sitting in front of the mantel and attaching each dangling feather to the garland. 

The whole process probably took a couple of hours. The more feathers you make, the longer it's going to take. Happy garland making!

Monday, 17 November 2014

On The Mantel: November

I tend  - perhaps a little unfairly - to think of November as a bleak month. It doesn't have the bustle and sparkle of December and seems full of wet days and dark afternoons. But it's a month of great beauty too; after the clocks change, the sunrises are spectacular, and the last few leaves cling to the trees like little coloured flags waving in the gloom. Christmas discussions and preparations are ongoing, but not yet at full panic stage. 

I'm continuing my monthly mantel project, marking the seasons and rhythms of family life with pieces that were found inside and out, the bought and the made, the old and the new.

For this month's mantel, I wanted warmth. Soft warmth and glowing light, but not the Christmassy kind. I found this in copper and pink tones, in feathers and tassels. I'm ridiculously delighted to have something from the garden in a vase in November; I cut these these allium heads in the summer and put them in the garage to dry out. I hung my tasseled wall hanging next to the bird print. Bella's Diwali pot sits next to a favouite pink Ken Eardley jug. I like the way the bird on the jug echos the print and the feathered, fringed feel.

I made a garland from a mixture of natural, found feathers and ones I made from cardboard. I just love the wavy, irregular shapes. John thinks it's a bit much, he said "Err - less is more, Gill" but I like it. I'll put together a quick how-to for you tomorrow.

I'm thinking about December now. I feel an alpine theme coming on...

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Saturday Happies

1. After last weekend's disaster, Key Lime Pie round two was a great success. No more broken pie dishes and marital harmony is restored.

2. This clay tea light holder was made by Bella at school as part of their Diwali celebrations. I always treasure the bits and pieces the children bring home from school, and some light in the gloom has been welcome this week.

3. Tunnocks Tea Cakes. I like to unwrap these really carefully, smoothing out the wrapper as I go. It pleases me greatly.

4. I made a batch of my cranberry chutney. I always find this kind of kitchen activity very relaxing and love the feeling of seasonal preparation it evokes. 

And, for me, faffing with labels is as enjoyable as the cooking. I saw these here last year and thought they were charming, and downloaded them from here. There are all different kinds, I'll do some more nearer Christmas for other edible gifts. I just love this kind of present making!

Well, there you have it. High sugar snacks, candlelight and kitchen pottering have been my simplest pleasures this week, and given the weather we've had this does not surprise me in the least. Grey days, low light levels, rain and drizzle - my energy levels are always non-existent in this kind of weather. Today dawned with very thick fog and ended the same way, damp and dark, and so I spent this afternoon making a feather garland and baking brownies while listening to last week's Archer's omnibus. Some gentle kitchen time and some crafting, my preferred way to chase away the November gloom. John has made lasagne for tonight's dinner. There is wine in the house. It occurs to me that I might gain a little weight this winter.

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement on my blanket - it will be finished soon, I promise! 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Random Versus Order

I've been thinking a lot lately about creative processes lately, about why I work the way I do, why I dislike randomness so much. As you know I'm making a blanket. A really big blanket. You know, the sort that takes a year. (I don't believe I've mentioned it here before....)

I told you about making my 225th square. But I forgot to tell you that, just before this, I realised I'd actually miscounted and, when I came to lay them all out on my bed, found that I only had 224.  


I was so annoyed! I kept searching in my crochet basket, upending bags, looking under the sofa, refusing to believe that I'd made a mistake. I mean, I counted them so many times. I had to quickly crochet one more. 

The Grand Arrangement Of The Granny Squares was actually quite a casual affair by my standards. I cast my eye over them, made sure there were no two colours together, re-shuffled some clusters that didn't work, then left it.

But how to remember which square goes where? I wanted a way to work on the blanket without having to lug the whole thing around with me wherever I was. So, I divided them into nine smaller squares, which I then gathered up and secured into bundles with safety pins. Each needed a label (Square A, Row 1 etc) and Bella was my scribe. Her handwriting is really a lot neater than mine, I'm not joking.

I know this seems like a huge amount of work, but really it isn't. It was the best way I could think of to attach the squares in their chosen order. 

Now, when I'm ready to start a section, I take out all the bundles labelled "A" or whatever, and lay them out. I attach them together with safety pins, then off I go, crocheting them all together. This means I can just forget about the arrangement and relax, whizzing up and down the rows, not worrying that I've accidentally attached one back to front.

A finished square looks like this.

A bit lumpy and bumpy, really. But after blocking...

Much better! I think the pattern stands out more afterwards, and the darker colours benefit from the extra white around each motif. Also it makes the whole square a couple of inches bigger all round which is no bad thing as I intend this blanket to go on our king size bed.

So far I've done six of the nine sections. They have a satisfying weight to them.

Would you do something as ordered and systematic as this, or would you just randomly grab the first square you came to and trust that it will all work out? I know this must seem like lunacy to some, but I can't bear the thought of spending all that time (and money) on a blanket, all that thought, that planning, that effort, to then look at it at the end and feel disappointed. To think, oh, why did I put those two squares next to each other? 

Honestly, I think a small part of me will be relieved when this project is done. I'm not cut out for blanket making, it's exhausting!

Monday, 10 November 2014

A really normal weekend.

:: After a day of rain on Friday the sky cleared and we went to our local fireworks display, swaddled in probably too many layers (I made the kids wear leggings under their trousers), sweating slightly and carrying a thermos of mulled wine in our backpack. Sparklers were waved. Angus refused to wear his glow-in-the-dark gloves to hold the sparkler, as predicted.

:: I had my first experience of that Yorkshire bonfire night tradition, Pie and Peas. It is a pork pie - served hot - and smothered in mushy peas with mint sauce drizzled on top. I realise that everything about that sentence sounds disgusting, but it was good. Mind you, when you are cold and hungry, and you're eating something warming outside while waiting for a (reluctant, damp) bonfire to be lit, anything is tasty. But still, I really enjoyed it. I'm proper Yorkshire now.

:: Maths is fun! That's what they're always telling us, anyway. Well, if maths homework involves whiling away a wet afternoon flicking through old issues of Ideal Home and Country Living, looking for examples 2D and 3D objects, then yes, I will concede that maths is actually a lot of fun indeed. And I learnt what a hemisphere is too.

 :: We ate really good bacon rolls.

:: Angus is a pro at lounging, a skill he inherited from his equally talented father.

:: Sylvanian Families are currently the toy of choice in our house. I do love Sylvanian Family products. The retro touches, the lack of an obvious gender bias, the gently old-fashioned feel of it's charming. I was probably as excited as Bella when she unwrapped her car and caravan last Christmas. This year Angus has asked for the motorbike and sidecar. 

:: And talking of Christmas, I bought the patterns for Miss Dandelion Doe and Mr Basil Fox. The rabbit was a huge hit last year and so I let Bella and Angus chose a softie each for Christmas. I am already anxious about sewing that teeny, tiny shirt for the fox. I haven't used my sewing machine for about six months. Making the softies is easy, but the clothes....agh. Also,  while we're on the subject of the clothes for the toys, I'm not ashamed to say that I'd happily wear this entire outfit.

:: When I took this photo of the kitchen, I was thinking how happy I was. I was making chutney, John was making a key lime was all so domestic and lovely. Fast forward an hour. The finished, baked key lime pie is cooling on top of one of the hob rings (a stupid place to leave it, John!) because our tiny kitchen is a mess and we ran out of worktop space. I am trying to ladle my chutney into jars and cook the kids' tea at the same time. You can guess what happened, can't you? I switched on the wrong hob ring. Ten minutes later, I wonder what the burning smell is then jump, when the ceramic pie dish makes a loud bang as it cracks into lots of pieces. 

Also, hot pie dishes make bin liners melt. Just so you know.

Some weekends are exciting, others drag. Sometimes you get to the coast or the woods, for a walk or a day out, you throw parties and see friends. Other weekends are lost to illness, work, DIY, homework, chores. Some are full of photos, other times the camera sits untouched from Friday night till Sunday.

But this weekend, it was just really, really normal. Nothing amazing, nothing terrible, just busy to-ing and fro-ing, a bit of fun, a bit of lazing. A bit of pottering. 

I'll take normal.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Friday Happies

1. The light. I've been watching it's play in the house as I go from room to room, doing my chores, loving the shapes the shadows create. 

Soft and golden first thing in the morning:

Bright and sharp at midday:

Gentle and warm in the late afternoon rays:


2. The weather for most of this week. Cold, really cold, and mainly dry too. Creating those gorgeous shadows above, and giving us beautiful sunrises and pinky-peachy-lilac skies. How I love winter skies!


3. Wednesday morning, coffee and crochet with my dear friend Rachel. I dug out my precious bag of cashmerino yarn, a mixture of scraps and half-balls leftover from many different projects, and started a scarf in the v-stitch pattern, which I've not tried before. 


4. Angus has new gloves. They have glow in the dark bones on them and he loves them. He has insisted on wearing them indoors to do everything, even brush his teeth, and he looks completely ridiculous. Of course, contrary and stubborn child that he is, I'm sure he'll flatly refuse to wear them outdoors in the cold.


Hello Jo/Joey from Bristol, who won the Cable and Cotton lights giveaway a couple of weeks ago - please can you email me your address and choice of lights? I haven't heard from you! I can't seem to see your email address anywhere on your blog or blogger profile page. If I don't hear anything from you by this time next week I'll re-draw another winner. Please do get in touch! :-)

I hope you all have a great weekend. It's raining here this morning and I'm very much hoping it stops before this evening, as we're off to our local bonfire and fireworks display. I think I might take a flask of mulled wine...