Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Making the Seasons: October

Can I just start by saying a heartfelt thank you for your comments on my last post. As always I am bolstered and warmed by your friendship, support, encouragement and interest. Thank you.

Ok, it's time for the final Making the Seasons post, the end of the most wonderful year long partnership between myself and my friend Lucy of Attic24. The initial aim of Making the Seasons - to find a little time and space in a busy life to spend on something creative and seasonal - has never felt as relevant to me as it does at the moment, as I juggle work, family life, blogging, friendships, housework, cooking and craft. Oh, and the whippet. Focusing on the seasons brings me so much happiness, whether it's getting out my crocheted pumpkins to put on the mantel in the autumn, making Christmas presents, or bringing bulbs and greenery into the house in the new year. I find it grounds me somehow, connects me to the month we're in, to what's going on outside, the weather. 

This month's project is a wall hanging, woven on a small loom that I bought about a year ago. I don't know that there's anything particularly October-ish about this project, but I do know that as the weather gets colder and the days shorter, I find I want to work with yarn more and needle and thread less. I was a little apprehensive when I finally unpacked the loom, opened the book I bought over the summer holidays and actually engaged with it all, but once I got going there was no stopping me. I cannot recommend this craft highly enough, I think it is just a wonderful way to create something unique and personal. 

Once you've purchased (or made) your loom, it is a very thrifty craft and a fabulous way to use up yarn scraps, especially very small amounts of nice, expensive yarn that you don't want to throw away but don't know what to do with. I didn't buy any yarn for this project, but just used a mixture of cream acrylic DK, cream aran weight, and leftover chunky yarn in mustard, pink and cream, and a very small amount of roving wool that I bought some time ago.

Providing you are making your wall hanging this size, and you are using a fair amount of chunky yarn in with your DK, it's very quick to create. I started and made the whole thing in just two evenings, although it did seem to take a while to darn in all those ends on the back.

It's also exceptionally easy. There is a reason why looms are often aimed at children - all you have to do is weave over and under the warp (vertical) threads and tie the odd knot.

The most fun part was hanging the weaving on a small piece of wooden dowel and cutting the long threads at the bottom. Sooo satisfying. Snip snip.

I've hung it in the living room for now, and I like the way it adds texture and warmth to an otherwise stark white wall 

I bought this loom which I think it sometimes called a "lap loom" since it's about 30 cm x 40 cm so can sit on your lap while you work, although I found it much easier to sit at a table to weave. The area of woven work is slightly smaller but you can make the finished piece as long as you want by adding tassels. I would very much like to make a large wall hanging, and am toying with the idea of turning an old picture frame into a loom by removing the glass and banging nails into the top and bottom of the frame. 

The overall size is 24 cm wide by 52 cm long, but at least half that length is the tassels. 

There are many books on weaving out there, but after a long browse in Foyles in London, I bought Modern Weaving and thought it was very good. There is a lot of inspiration, and it's not just wall hangings but all kinds of other projects like cushions, mats, coasters, bags and phone cases. I didn't follow any one pattern to the letter and made up my own wall hanging as I went along, but I think the instructions on how to prepare, start and finish your project, as well as different types of stitches, are very clear.

I absolutely love it. It's very soft and tactile, and I love the imperfections and the way the different types of yarn are so distinct. I am already planning two more like this, as gifts, and then I might pluck up the courage to make my own large weaving. 

I really hope you've enjoyed these posts. I know I've loved the challenge of creating something each month, whether is sewing or dyeing or gardening, or weaving. Please do pop over to lovely Lucy's blog to see her final Making the Seasons post

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Self Care

Hello! Everyone ok? Thank you for your comments on our newly decorated living room, I am glad you like it. We're just coming to the end of our week long half term break here. It's been busy and inevitably dominated by the decorating which is progressing slowly because we are doing everything ourselves. What was just "knocking out a wall" has turned into quite a major renovation project involving plastering, laying a floor, restoring a stair case and a lot of painting. I heartily wish we could have just paid a builder, carpenter and painter-decorator to do all this, but never mind. the feeling of satisfaction will be immense when it's finally over!

DIY aside, it's been a lovely week. No big, expensive days out or trips to theme parks, but lots of pottering around at home, walks in the woods, baking and catching up with friends. The weather has gone from one extreme to the other over the week; last weekend it was unbelievably warm, still t-shirt weather, and on the beach on Sunday people were actually swimming in the sea, whereas today we woke up to a hard frost and 2°C temperatures. I think there may even have been snow showers in the north! It meant that it was finally cold enough to light the wood burning stove last night though, and we all cosied up on the sofa to watch old Pink Panther films.

I've been thinking a lot about self care lately. By that I mean deliberately and consciously making time to do something for myself, for my mental, physical and emotional well being. It's something I am really bad at - I'm sure most of us are - but it's incredibly important so, over half term, I have been trying to do something for myself each day, big or small. It can be as simple as getting outside in the fresh air or going to bed early, something I am hopeless at doing. 

I have gone back to bed with a cup of tea and book on the occasional morning. Just making time to read in the day feels like such an indulgence. Whippet optional, but he is very good at cuddles and very happy when he's allowed on the bed. 

I am still crocheting this Goldenrod Sweater. I crochet almost every day anyway, but in the evening and usually when I'm tired. It's nice to work on a project in daylight.

I have made time to bake, then sat down with a cup of coffee and a magazine to enjoy what I've made, rather than cramming it in standing up in the kitchen while rushing on to something else. (These are pumpkin and carrot bars from Have Your Cake and Eat It. I do like a bit of seasonal baking.)

I have made time to get outside, every day. Walking Ziggy makes this a necessity but our daily walks in the woods have been delightful over the last week. 

I have also made time to learn a new skill: weaving. It is hugely enjoyable, quick to do and very addictive - I predict that wall hangings will feature heavily in my handmade Christmas gift repertoire this year. 

Add to the above: coffee and laughter with your dearest friends, sitting in front of the fire in your slippers, playing monopoly with the children, painting your nails, reading crime fiction novels....

In other news, a couple of things have happened lately which, while wonderful, have pushed me way out of my comfort zone. Our home was featured in November's issue of Home Style magazine, which went on sale at the start of October. I am so sorry that I forgot to tell you about this sooner (this is indicative of the usual state of my mind, ie, very forgetful and distracted) and I think it's still on sale, but I have photographed the pages and included them in my Press and Sponsors page for those who might like to look.

Yes, I am on the cover. No, I'm not very comfortable with it.

The other thing concerns the Amara Interior Blog Awards, for which I was shortlisted for a fourth year in a row.  I decided this year to attend the awards ceremony as, for the first time, we were actually able to make it. I didn't win (I am forever to be the bridesmaid as far as the Amaras are concerned, I suspect) but John and I got dressed up and ready for an evening in a swanky venue up in London. It was all a bit of a mad rush, not helped by South West Railway's industrial action resulting in packed trains and a reduced, late running schedule, and we got lost and were almost late, but it was so much fun. I got to meet a couple of blogging and Instagram friends in real life, always a treat, and avail myself of the free gin bar, not to mention the goody bags handed out to John and I on the way out. I felt a bit lost amidst all the London marketing and PR types but after a couple of G&Ts it was all good.  But, while I was there, it hit me like a ton of bricks that nights like that are most definitely not the reason I blog. I do it for the connection with you lovely lot.  I like the idea that I am just sitting here at my kitchen table, sharing my thoughts and makes and family life, and that there are others - bloggers, readers, friends - who might sit at their own kitchen tables and read it and smile, and that's the connection, right there. Thank you all so much for reading. I know I blog infrequently, answer emails tardily and comment sporadically, but my heart is still definitely in it. 

Friday, 19 October 2018

Room Tour: The Living Room

I am so happy to be able to call the living room finished (for now!) and to show you some photos of how it all looks. It's come together really nicely and we love it. 

The main change we made was to change the flooring from a dark brown, high gloss laminate to something lighter and warmer. Engineered oak was sadly out of our budget but we are really happy with the laminate we chose. It is well made and textured underfoot and looks almost identical to the oak we have in the kitchen and, most importantly, very forgiving of dog hair. It's much easier to clean and bounces so much more light around the room without creating the horrible glare caused by the shiny surface of the old flooring.

We also painted the light grey walls white and swapped a few pieces of furniture around to different areas. Where the sideboard and gallery wall used to be, we now have bookcases in that corner. 

And where the bookcases used to be, the sideboard now sits. I had thought about hanging the same pictures back above it but decided to move them elsewhere and will keep that wall empty - it's plenty busy enough with all those candlesticks and plants.

Small chairs sit either side of the window next to an old trunk which holds games and jigsaws. It's a kind of reading corner, and the light is good there.

The mantel is as it was before, although it looks so much better for being freshly painted as the paint work was quite scuffed from the log basket.

Aside from the flooring, the only new things we bought were a chair and a lampshade, both to replace items which had really worn out.

The chair is this one and is so comfortable and springy. In the shop I took off my shoes and sat in it cross legged, and then with my legs tucked under me to one side, to check it was wide enough for my favourite ways to sit white crocheting and watching tv. It's perfect.  

We took advantage of the high ceiling in that part of the room and hung a new gallery wall above the chair and over the wall. 

I don't think the colour palate is that different; it's the wood tones and white and grey I love so much, with pops of colour through the books, pictures and accessories. It's funny, we didn't really intend to decorate this room, it was more a side effect of ripping out the old porch wall and changing the floor in the hall, but I am so glad we did. I'm really proud that we did so much of it ourselves too, with a lot of help from family. There's just the hall to finish now then I think I should invite everyone round for a party to say thank you. 

Monday, 15 October 2018

Autumn Feels

The weather has been cheerfully, unrelentingly, mild and sunny so far these last few weeks. I'm not complaining - it certainly saves on the heating bill - but I've had to work pretty hard to create any kind of autumn feeling at home, and it is mid-October. I have jumpers and scarves that would like to see the light of day before Christmas, and we haven't even lit the fire yet, so imagine my genuine delight when Sunday was cold and wet and we had to put our wellies on to go for a walk in the woods. Autumn, this is what I'm talking about!

At home I am celebrating the changing seasons in my usual way; faffing around with displays on mantels and shelves, hunting in the back of cupboards for handmade pumpkins and garlands, getting outside as much as possible. working on crochet projects like the sweater pictured above, and cooking. So much cooking.

The children and I made gingerbread. I had great fun cutting the dough into leaf shapes while Bella and Angus had just as much fun decorating gingerbread figures with some out of date icing pens they found in the back of the cupboard. 

I made the baked oatmeal with pears from Smitten Kitchen Every Day and enjoyed eating that for breakfast ever day last week, and last Saturday's waffles were elevated to a new level of deliciousness with the addition of cinnamon to the batter and stewed apples served on top. I love fresh fruit on my pancakes or waffles and usually buy soft fruits or berries, but as we move away from the summer fruit season I try not to buy the overpriced, imported, often tasteless berries and instead aim for locally grown apples, pears and plums instead. John picked up a recipe card for this apple, ginger and honey cake and I made it yesterday. We ate it warm with custard for dessert.

I have optimistically filled the log basket next to the wood burning stove and both John and I have invested in new welly boots. I have yet to buy any pumpkins, but I know it's only a matter of time before some pretty artisan squash fall into my shopping trolley to decorate the table over the coming weeks, before I remember that it would be quite good to cook with them too. 

Dog walks continue to be a necessary and welcome part of my day. I have started to walk Ziggy alone when I get in from work, leaving the children at home for a short time. It works out so much better this way; they are tired after a day at school (and Bella has already walked a couple of miles to and from her secondary school) and they just want to eat a snack and watch a bit of TV, not be dragged out for a walk, and I would rather walk alone with my thoughts or a podcast for company than listen to them moan. After a day surrounded by people, where I talk and am talked at almost non-stop, half an hour with my thoughts is bliss. 

I'll leave you with a photo from our walk yesterday, between the heavy rain showers. My little gang.