Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Some Thoughts on Fabric

Last week, while in The Eternal Maker, I bought two metres of this fabric - Peaceful Cooing, by Nani Iro. I was drawn to the summery pattern and the colour, which reminded me of cornflowers and deep blue skies.

It is a 100% cotton double gauze fabric, and it the softest fabric I have ever felt. It has a very pleasing drape and weight to it that I think would lend it particularly well to clothes.

The trouble is, I am not a very able or confident seamstress and I have never made clothes before. But I really want to use this fabric and am determined to have a go.

I need your help. Can anyone recommend any patterns or books for easy dressmaking? My ideas for this fabric are either a swishy, knee-length summer skirt, a top to wear with jeans, or pyjama bottoms. Pyjama bottoms are particularly appealing because this soft fabric would make dreamily comfortable bed wear, but also, and more importantly, is doesn't matter if it all goes horribly wrong. Thank you in advance!

After only three days we already seem to be back in the whirl of school and work routines. Dropping off, picking up, cooking, eating, practicing spellings, reading books, washing, ironing, dentist appointments, feels quite all-consuming and I am already wishing for Friday. I hope you are having a good week, wherever you are.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Shiny Pretty Things

Today, while the house was too quiet and the were children in school and nursery, I played with my birthday presents. The sky was grey and the list of chores did not tempt me, so I unpacked all my treasures and had fun pottering, arranging and photographing them.

I know that love does not show itself through things, but isn't wonderful when someone who knows you well gives you something utterly perfect, so very you? Something that makes you grin when you unwrap it and hug the giver. John bought me a new cookery book that I'd dropped heavy hints about and then gave me an envelope containing a voucher for a belated birthday present of my choice in Copenhagen. Lovely boy. And do you see that little bird brooch above? I admired that in the Leeds City Art Gallery shop in May of last year while my friend Sam and I were choosing a leaving present for another friend, Debora. Sam remembered that I liked it and later went back to buy one for me but they had sold out. Never one to be defeated, Sam found out the name of the small, independent seller, rang her, found another stockist nearby, rang them, made them hold one for her, then went to buy it. All for a brooch, for me. 

So many nice things, such good family and friends; it's enough to make a girl feel quite blessed, and makes up for the fact that it's Monday, the holidays are over, spring still has not sprung and I still have not vacuumed the stairs or done the washing up.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Half Full

The half term holiday began with a Big Event - on Friday Bella lost her first tooth and the tooth fairy visited our house. A pound coin was exchanged for a tiny (oh so tiny) tooth and I found myself sad and marveling at how it seems like only last summer those sharp little bottom teeth broke through those baby gums. How time flies.

On Saturday we traveled down to the South Coast and on Sunday we caught up with old, good friends, the very best kind, and three small people flew (or tried to fly) a kite on hill.

You can see the London skyline in the distance and just make out the new Shard building above the white tree trunk in the middle of the picture.

Monday started well. My parents got up with Bella and Angus, took them downstairs for their breakfast (Coco pops) and brought John and I cups of tea in bed. I sat propped up with pillows and read this and it was a rare and special treat. Fortunately our children are not especially early risers, any time between 6.30 and 7.30 is their normal waking time, but it was very nice to be off duty for an hour.

The sun shone and the beach beckoned.

We went with my parents and my sister, Katy, and her children, Alicia and Jeremy. Boys do like throwing stones into the water an awful lot.

I've written before of my love for the coast, particularly the places which are familiar and special to me, but really any seaside place makes me happy, whatever the weather. 

I feel restored after spending time by the sea - not just in the sense that you head feels clear after some fresh air, but emotionally restored. Better. Happier.

The cousins played in the sand. Despite the freezing wind we had to drag them away from their digging and sandcastles.

Tuesday was the day of the Big Family Lunch. My mum promised to "keep it simple" and went on to provide soup, two types of bread, salads, smoked salmon, assorted cheeses and cold meats, and then brownies with ice cream for dessert. For fourteen. The lunch was one of those long affairs which goes on all through the afternoon.

On Wednesday I turned thirty five. I can no longer tick the twenty five to thirty four age bracket on surveys. I am in the Next Age Bracket. I dealt with this by buying fabric, naturally. We went to Chichester and I visited The Eternal Maker, a shop selling all manner of wonderful crafty things; fabric, buttons, ribbons, threads. I don't think I've ever visited somewhere with such a wide range of beautiful fabrics. I was quite overwhelmed with the choice and the kids were starting to take the place apart button by button, so I bought a few fat quarters and half metres that caught my eye and two metres of Nani Iro fabric that I have absolutely no idea what to do with at the moment.

My mum made me a birthday cake. We joked about it -  would I like a princess castle? Or a fairy tale cottage? Or a mouse running up a clock? But I know she enjoyed baking it and I liked that she wanted to make a cake for me. The morning of my birthday I asked my Dad what he was doing thirty five years ago to the day and he said that after I was born in the early hours of the morning he went home and had a shower, then got on the London train and went to work. This was in 1978, long before paternity leave. When he arrived at work his boss took one look at him and told him to go home. That's nice, I said, did you go back to the hospital to see Mum? He said no, it was snowing, I went tobogganing with my sister. Err...

Thursday brought a blissfully child free morning of shopping and lunch in Wagamama. Delicious noodles are pictured above. I love my children, but it was very nice to shop without them. Behold, a funky new dress (hurry up, summer) and new jeans!!

Then there was a birthday party for Eleanor, the youngest of my sister Anna's girls. I love watching my two with their cousins. There are six of them altogether: Bella (6), Alicia (5), Jennifer (4 "I'm nearly 5!"), Jeremy (4), Angus (3) and Eleanor (very nearly 3). I wish very much that I saw them more than two or three times a year.

On Friday we traveled home then tackled unpacking, washing, sorting, emails, admin, bills. Saturday consisted of food shopping, errands to the library, bank, picture framers and pharmacy, and some bagels.

Tomorrow will bring housework, then a big pub lunch with two other families and their children, and most likely the school uniform will be ironed, reading books will be read, PE kits checked and other chores ticked off the list. Such is the warp and weft of life.

Half term. It was a glass half full.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...19/52

The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.

What a bumper week of happy times! I've just looked through all the photos I've taken over the last week and I've struggled to limit it to four. We're are enjoying a week of glorious sunshine, quality time with family and friends, and birthday celebrations. Joining in with the lovely Jen at little birdie, I give you this week's happies:

1. A spectacular roast dinner on Sunday. It was good to two reasons: the food and pub were perfect (we ate roast beef - I'm pretty sure it was beef, but if is was horse, it was very tasty horse) and the company was even better. 

2. A sunny and cold walk on the beach on Monday. The kids associate the beach with ice cream, regardless of the freezing temperatures.  Four children wrapped to within an inch of their life in hats, mittens and scarves ate bright blue bubblegum favour ice cream. The only nice thing I can say about the ice cream they chose is it was as blue as the sky.

3. Wednesday was my birthday (more on that later!) and my absolute best gift was these handmade cards from my small people. Yes, I am very sentimental.

4. Celebrating my niece, Eleanor's, third birthday. The 250 miles that separate Leeds from the South coast make it tricky for Bella and Angus to attend their cousins birthday celebrations and so it was extra special for us to join in today.


Thank you all SO MUCH for you warm and kind words about my blanket. You are all very lovely, you are. We return to Leeds tomorrow and I will make time to stop by your blogs and say hello, something I've not had a moment to do this week. Our half term break is coming to an end, but fear not, I will put together a bumper holiday blog special, just for you, with photos of EVERYTHING I've done, seen and eaten this week and truly bore the pants off you all. No really, you're welcome.

Monday, 18 February 2013

A Rainbow Baby Blanket

I really did enjoy making this little blanket - choosing the yarn, watching the piles of squares add up, crocheting them together - but not as much as I enjoyed seeing it wrapped around a delicious, smiley twelve week old baby girl. What I like about making gifts is how much I think about the person it is intended for while I'm making it. And it saves money too - after all, my passion for crafting was born when I stopped work and we were suddenly on an extremely tight budget.

I used the Summer Garden Granny Square pattern from Lucy's Attic24 blog. It really is the most joyful blog - colourful, happy and full of an impressive array of inspiring patterns and clear tutorials. I joined my squares "on the go" which I find much quicker than sewing or crocheting them together, and you can find a tutorial here

Here is the blanket before the border...

and after.

I crocheted one row all the way round of treble stitch clusters, as you would in a granny square, but followed Jacquie's method of decreasing stitches for a non-ripply border, details of which can be found here. Jacquie's blog is also a wonderful place, packed full of her love of crochet and craft and enjoying the outdoors. Isn't blogland just the most fantastic resource of information and advice? Anyway, the border...I then worked another round of granny square clusters, followed by a round of triple stitches crocheted into the top of each stitch, and finished with a little row of double stitches in pink cotton. I think my favourite part is the neat (ish) row of pale pink stitches around the edge. I wanted a simple border because it's a busy pattern, and I am happy with how it turned out.

But the border was an experiment and not without it's mistakes...I wasn't sure how by much to increase the stitches in each corner, so just added a couple more in the corner points where I though they were needed. It is still a little rippled but after I took this photo I blocked it and it looked a whole lot neater after that. 

It measures 50 cm or 20 inches by 60 cm or 24 inches, so it is small. It is quite lightweight and weighs just under 200g, and it is all made from cotton yarn.

While I was fretting over the border, John said "Gill, it's a baby blanket, it will soon be covered in sick", and bless him for his blunt Northern perspective, for he is totally right. It is a blanket to be used everyday, to go in and out of the washing machine and tumble dryer, to be pegged on the washing line and blown about by the wind, to be thrown over car seats, prams and cots, to be dragged in and out of the house and tossed into the boot of the car.

And, judging by the photos I snapped on my phone, baby seemed happy with it.

I hope you are all well. We are currently staying with my parents on the South coast. We've been having a rather lovely time, catching up with friends and family, eating, walking on the beach, flying kites and relaxing by the woodburning stove in the evening. Thanks as always for dropping by and a big, warm hello there to my new followers - it's good to have you here.

Friday, 15 February 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...18/52

The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.

Joining in with the lovely Jen at little birdie, I am celebrating this week's simple happy moments, which are:

1. A beautiful scarf made for me by my friend Rachel. It was part of a craft swap we agreed to take part in months ago. I think I gave Rachel an embroidered tea towel and some jam. I can't help thinking I got the better end of the bargain there. The scarf is light as a feather and incredibly soft as it is crocheted with the most seductive silk blend yarn. Thank you Rachel!

2. Pancakes with Nutella. So good. I blame the children. 

3. The post office found my missing parcel! Too late for the blanket and the Valentine's cards but welcome all the same. I now have enough green cotton yarn to open a small shop.

4. A card from John. The design reminds me of old fashioned gypsy caravans and I like the way it looks next to the Russian dolls. Also, he gave me this and this. He knows me well.

Also making me's Friday, next week is half term and we can all have a rest after a very busy few weeks. We are going to spend the week with my family and I cannot wait. I need some sea air!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


It's snowing. Again. I very nearly got stuck in the car this afternoon and was late picking up Bella from school. I don't know about you but I am desperate for some colour and light and warmth. And I thought a colourful post might be just what we all need right now. It is bitterly cold, the temperature hardly seems to get above freezing and the skies are so grey. You know what I really, really want to do? I want to open all the windows really wide and prop open the kitchen door and feel a warm breeze wafting through the house. I want to smell cut grass and flowers and hear the buzz of bees...spring, come soon, please.

Such a nice thing happened a couple of weeks ago and I completely forgot to tell you about. I admired a skirt I saw on an blog, and my blogging friend Mel from Coal Valley View happened to see my comment. She sent me a lovely email out of the blue saying her daughter had outgrown that very same skirt and, as she had no use for it, she would be happy to send it to me. How lovely! I said yes please and a week later a beautiful rainbow skirt came all the way from Tazmania for Bella. It's long and swishy and perfect for summer. Mel, thank you so much. One of the many reasons I love blogging so much is the way you can connect and form friendships with people on the other side of the world who you would otherwise never meet.

In other rainbow news, the blanket continues:

I had a bit of a nightmare with the green yarn. I ordered all the cotton yarn ages ago and was a bit unsure of the shades of green I'd chosen but didn't have the energy to keep searching. It'll be fine, I thought. Then the yarn arrived, and I was even more unsure of my selection - they were too bright, too khaki. Horrid. Stupidly, I made up my little granny squares anyway and thought to myself once they are all together it will look fine. But it looked worse. I ordered some more cotton yarn in different shades of green from another website. The post office are "unable to locate" that parcel. So on Saturday morning I drove over to my nearest yarn shop and prayed that they would have some acceptable green cotton yarn that I could use. Luckily they did. I made more squares with the new shades of green. Such a difference. I am happy. The "wrong" greens are in the left hand picture and the "right" shades are the right hand picture above. It's still not perfect but a it's big improvement. The moral is - if you think the colour is horrible when you buy the yarn, the colour will still be horrible when you've crocheted it.

All the squares are now joined together and the ends woven in and the next step is to crochet a nice border. A simple one I think, as the blanket has quite a busy, colourful pattern. 

And now I have to tackle this particular rainbow pile...

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A Card For Your Love

Card, buttons and glue - all you need to make a simple card for your love. I had fun playing around with a few different arrangements but decided in the end that the simple, off-white heart shape was my favourite. I like the way it turned out. I will give it to my love on Thursday.


Thank you for all your very kind comments lately - they really do make my day. I haven't had much time to visit your blogs this week but I will get around to it, I promise. Every spare moment I have right now is spent frantically crocheting for Operation Finish Baby Blanket. It will be finished, but it will be close. As usual. And hello there new followers! It's lovely to have you here and you are very welcome.

Sunday, 10 February 2013


Thank you, THANK YOU, for all your wonderful ideas and suggestions as to how to cover my cardboard letters. All brilliant, every one of them. It seems my options are endless...decoupage with paper - patterned, newsprint or pages from a book, decoupatch with fabric or felt, cover with washi tape, glitter, sequins, buttons, yarn... Clearly, I need to buy some Mod Podge, which many of your recommended. I like the idea of using a different covering for each letter but keeping to a unified theme or colour. Thanks also for suggesting Craftgawker and Pinterest. 

It was a hygge weekend, the very best kind. A mixture of busy and quiet, family time and alone time, out and about and cosying up at home, eating and drinking. 

Some of the highlights:

:: Finishing a birthday present (I'll show you more when the recipient has opened it).

:: Bowling - so much fun, even though I am hopeless at it and need the side bars up if I have any hope of knocking down a pin. 

:: Teaching Bella how to bowl.

:: Eating fish and chips.

:: Choosing what to have for dessert. I opted for a "Brandy Snap Surprise". The surprise? It was the size of my head and I couldn't finish it, despite my best efforts.

:: Bouncing on our bed. Sunday morning snuggles that begin with books and quiet and descend into shrieking and jumping.

:: Brewing coffee as the sleety rain blew against the kitchen window.

:: Watching the steam curl.

:: Listening to Graceland, one of my all time favourite albums.

:: Crocheting a rainbow baby blanket for a very good friend's baby.

And now the children are bathed and in bed and there is a chilled bottle of beer and a plateful of chilli that urgently needs my atttention.

Friday, 8 February 2013

The Yarn Letters That Never Were and Some Coasters (Mollie Makes Magazine)

Hello there! I hope you've all had a good week. I have to say I am very glad it's Friday. I seem to have spent this week depriving myself of fattening food and alcohol and tonight I am very much looking forward to opening that nice bottle of red wine which is sitting in the kitchen. Not all for me...I will let John have one glass. Maybe.

In between my endless to-ing and fro-ing to school and nursery, shopping, chores, the school disco and other exciting events, I have been doing a little crafting. My Mollie Makes challenge continues but, my goodness, issue twenty was a tricky one. Everything was either too difficult or too time consuming. One little project did catch my eye though, some yarn covered letters. These plain, cardboard letters are quite easy to get hold of. I bought mine in Hobbycraft for a couple of pounds each. And I had the perfect yarn scraps to use up - some gorgeously soft Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino left over from this cushion in the most beautiful colours.

I was all set and ready to go.

The letters stand for Gillian, John, Bella and Angus...I know, I know.

And then I started wrapping the pink yarn around the letter B and I slowly started to lose the will to live. The colour was indeed lovely, and the yarn so soft and silky looking on the letter, but it became clear 1. it would take hours to make these and 2. I would need more yarn.

The whole point of a project that uses up scraps is not to go and spend another twenty pounds on four more balls of yarn. And John, who never really has an opinion on matters crafty, made it clear that he thought what I was doing was bonkers. So I will find another use for my leftover wool (I'm thinking striped garter stitch knitted scarves for the kids) and another use for my cardboard letters. Ideas anyone? I still love the yarn-covered idea but I'll need much thicker yarn, which I don't have. Paint? Fabric?

So I had to find another project from issue twenty and I settled on the free crochet coasters kit which came with the magazine.

This was actually a bit of a revelation - I'd previously looked at these and thought they looked much too complicated for little old me. But actually, they were really easy. You start with a central ring and work outwards, crocheting into the spaces. They are just fancy granny squares! 

It was a bit of an a-ha! moment for me, and boosted my hooky confidence no end, I can tell you.

What are you planning for the weekend? John is not working so we will enjoy some family time. We may go bowling - I am very excited! I see cooking, eating, crocheting and knitting in my weekend too. And maybe a lie in? I'm getting ahead of myself now. Have fun whatever you are up to. Welcome new followers, it's very lovely to have you here, and thank you for stopping by and reading. x