Friday, 31 March 2017

The Patchwork Rabbit

When my daughter was staying with me a few weeks ago, we had a day out at our favourite needlework shop. Cross stitch is her main craft and I always find myself wanting to cross stitch when she's here (she says I'm easily influenced). Anyway, the shop we love is called The Patchwork Rabbit and it's in the village of Bromham in Wiltshire. We'd been online customers for several years before realising that the actual shop was near enough for us to visit.

The drive down took us past Silbury Hill and several White Horses which reminded me of my childhood - I grew up in North Hampshire where ancient history is never far away. I remember going to watch the archaeological dig at Danebury Ring in the 1960s and it was a favourite spot for days out and picnics. Anyway, back to the cross stitch ...

The Patchwork Rabbit is only a small shop but it's crammed with all sorts of needlework supplies. There's patchwork fabric (naturally), masses of embroidery threads by Weeks Dye Works and Classic Colorworks, tools, buttons - treasures wherever you look. But, most exciting of all, there are cross stitch charts.

Hundreds of beautiful designs, from the best American companies - Little House and Country Cottage Needleworks and Lizzie Kate, to name just a few - and many more. I love the designs by the French company Jardin Prive and there were lots of those to ooh and aah over. While my daughter worked methodically through them I flitted here and there, getting thoroughly over-excited! the shop owner, Karla, is very friendly and helpful, even when you spend hours choosing and keep her from her lunch.

In the end we settled on a few charts each and then chose the special threads to go with them. I got this one ...

I like designs in one colour like this and the abstract, spiral pattern is just my sort of thing. As you can see, I bought some of the lovely fabric hand dyed by Weeks to stitch it on. I've never seen this fabric here in the UK before and it's lovely. 

I also got a Christmas chart, there are so many wonderful Christmas designs we could easily have just bought those. This one makes me laugh every time I read it.

I bought the special dotty fabric to stitch it on and some of the threads. By the way, these have wonderful names, the three here are called 'Brown Bear', 'Lemon Grass' and 'Licorice Red'.

I don't have pictures of my daughter's charts but  they were lovely too. She even managed to buy one that wasn't Christmassy! We thought we'd been quite restrained but that was only because we've got so many projects at home to work on already. Also, now that we've decided to make regular visits to the shop, we can afford to space out our purchases a bit.

I can really recommend a visit to The Patchwork Rabbit and, if it's too far away for you, do visit the online shop. As well as all the things I've talked about here, Karla offers several Autoship or Monthly Projects where you can sign up to get a new pattern each month. You can opt for just the pattern or add in threads and fabric - even the special little buttons that add the finishing touch.

Santa's Village - just one of the Autoship Series

Some of the autoships run between specific dates but, often, you can join in at any time. One day I shall treat myself to one of these.

All that shopping had made us hungry so we followed it up with a (very cold) picnic in Savernake Forest, another of our old haunts. Normally I just drive through on my way to visit family in Andover so it was nice to be able to stop for once. We then had a quick look round the charity shops in Marlborough where I found an absolute bargain ... but that had better wait for another post.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Craft Sunday

Yesterday was Mothering Sunday here in the UK and I decided to have a craft day. I spend so much time working on knitting and crochet designs that there often isn't any time left for all the other crafts I like to do. When my daughter was here last week we had a craft day when we both made a little felt doll.

That's mine at the back and hers in front (her doll is hiding the fact that mine has wrinkly legs!) These were old kits from Mollie Makes Magazine; we used our own felt and threads but followed the pattern. They turned out to be quite detailed and took us most of the day to finish - it didn't help that I got carried away embroidering the tiny pockets on my doll's dress. The dolls are about the size of an adult hand and have pipe cleaners inside so that they can be posed.

Anyway, I had a lovely day yesterday working on various different crafts. There was some of this ...
Weaving a scarf with glittery sock yarn on my rigid heddle loom

... quite a lot of this ...

Hand piecing snowball quilt blocks

... a little bit of this ...

Pin Loom weaving

... and, finally, this ...

Cross Stitch

I thoroughly enjoyed it all - as did Tolly the kitten who got so excited by the big loom that he had to be sent out in the garden to play. There really isn't room for a kitten on my lap underneath the loom, especially one who keeps trying to catch the shuttle.

It did make me think of other projects I'd like to get out again though. There are several lots of needlepoint and what about those snowflakes that I started crocheting from 100 Snowflakes to Crochet by Caitlin Sainio?

Maybe next Sunday? By the way, you might notice that there are Belle and Boo tins in two of these pictures. I love them, I've got another one somewhere with some English Paper Piecing in. Both of the tins you can see here feature snowy scenes - very appropriate for snowball blocks and crochet snowflakes.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Socks, Socks and More Socks

I love knitting socks. I nearly always have a pair on the go; they're very handy for train journeys as they don't take up much space. I knit socks in various sizes, ranging from the small (which fit me) to the frankly ridiculous (he knows who he is).

All of these are variations on my own basic sock pattern which I've been thinking of turning into Frankie's Knitted Stuff patterns. Would anyone be interested in a plain sock pattern? In case you were wondering, it is possible to knit a pair of socks to fit someone who takes size 12 shoes with 100 g of sock yarn - just. That little ball of  yarn is what I had left. 

At the other end of the scale I've also been knitting these little polka dot stockings lately.

These are just 9 cm tall and I shall be attaching them to Christmas presents later in the year. I knit mini stockings to go on all my presents every year and put little chocolates in them. I've used my Mini Stocking pattern up until now but decided it was time for a change this year. This new pattern will be published in the autumn.


I think this notice, which may or may not have appeared at a tube station, says it all really ...

Apparently it is a computer generated image but none the less appropriate for that.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

In The Bag

There's nothing like planning ahead and that's what I've been doing a lot of lately. First, I have a big bag full of Stylecraft Batik yarn. This is a lovely soft yarn which comes in a range of beautiful colours, all with a hand dyed look. It isn't an expensive yarn though, it's 80% acrylic and costs less than £2 for a 50 g ball. This is starting to sound like an advert - no, they haven't paid me to say this!

Anyway, I designed a simple slip stitch cowl with this yarn a few weeks ago.

This is Ribbon Cowl and it was such fun to knit that I thought I would use the yarn again. This time I've chosen ten shades and combined them with the aptly named shade Biscuit to make ...

... well, I can't actually tell you that yet as this is a big project I'm planning for 2018. It will run as a free KAL throughout the year - or it will if I can finish it in time!

I've also been busy planning my big Christmas pattern for later this year. I know it's barely Spring but these big projects take forever to get ready. Again, I can't tell you what it will be but it will be much simpler than last year's three dimensional scene. 

I'm looking forward to revealing these big projects in due course. I always worry that, after all the build up, nobody will want to knit them but so far that hasn't happened. Fingers crossed ...

Monday, 13 March 2017

Knit Circus Yarn

The lovely people at Knit Circus Yarns have just sent me some of their beautiful yarn to play with.

I chose fingering weight yarn in two shades- that's 'Knit the Sky' on the left and  'Renegade Unicorn' on the right. Isn't Renegade Unicorn the best name ever?

Knit Circus hand dye their yarns, using a range of different Yarn Bases; mine is 'Greatest of Ease', a combination of merino and nylon but they also do one called 'Fairy Dust' which comes with extra sparkle and 'Lavish' which contains cashmere. Do go and have a look at their Online Store; I spent a ridiculous amount of time wandering through it, trying to choose what I wanted.

I shall probably turn each of the yarns into something shawl-like but that's as far as I've got so far. The blue one did remind me of the sky in some of Turner's paintings but I'm not sure how much help that is.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Craft Books

Since re-decorating my bedroom I've been slowly unpacking boxes of books to put back on the shelves. There are nearly thirty boxes and each one has some craft books in.

After taking this picture, I found another six boxes to sort through.

There are embroidery books ...

... spinning and weaving books ...

                                                                     ... beading books ...

... and two big pies of quilting books that I couldn't get near enough to photograph.

I've really missed these books while they've been packed away so naturally I got distracted looking through them. I thought you might like a closer look at a few of my favourites.

I've had this series of design books for many years now and have used them a lot. There are four books in the Needlecraft Source Book series, published by Anaya but now all out of print. Copies are quite easy to find on Abe Books though. Each book is full of inspiration; here's one of the pages in the Countryside one.

I used the little ducks to embroider the collar of a denim dress for my daughter when she was a toddler. And I didn't stop at the collar ...

There were animals all round the hem and a butterfly and caterpillar on each side of the collar front.

Needless to say, this was her favourite dress.

I also love my collection of Jane Bull books. Don't be put off by the fact that these are aimed at children. They are full of brilliant ideas and inspiring photography and, yes, they'd be great for children too.

These books all feature a mixture of needlecrafts - sewing, embroidery, knitting ... Just look at these Dude Dolls from Stitch by Stitch.

A strip of knitting with different colours for the legs, body, head and hat which you sew together and gather to make a doll. How clever is that? I really wish I'd thought of this idea.

And how about these little felt creatures that she calls Minimals? These are from Crafty Creatures and each one has its own little matchbox bed. Now you know where I got the idea for my Pocket Ted toy pattern.

This is getting to be a long post so I'll just show you one more book for now.

I bought this book, by the wonderful Jean Greenhowe more than 20 years ago from WH Smiths in Peckham, after spending weeks looking at it and wondering if I could afford it. This was what tempted me.

A little house for felt dormice, made to look like a cross section of a tree trunk. It's entirely made from fabric and unzips to reveal two rooms, complete with detailed furniture. Jean Greenhowe is particularly good on detail and all her patterns work beautifully.

In the end I did buy the book and eventually made the house, again for my daughter. I have made things for my son too - honest! It was a bit battered when I finally unearthed it and tricky to photograph but here's the inside. 

The outside is just the same as the one in the book; I didn't think it could be bettered.

I think that's enough for now. I'll show you some other favourites another day. And just in case you're wondering, my knitting books are kept in a different room. I shall have to show you those one day too - there are some real treasures. Anyone like to see my early Victorian knitting books?

Monday, 6 March 2017

Frankie Sews Stuff

I thought I would start sharing some of my simple sewing patterns, beginning with this one.

This is a pattern for a Reversible Tote Bag made out of four squares of fabric (two for each side) and some cotton webbing for the handles. All the seams are topstitched which makes the bag keep its shape - however much you stuff in it! The finished bag measures about 14" tall, 12" wide and 4" deep.

These make good presents - I've made more for other people than for myself - and are a great excuse to buy that lovely fabric you don't know what to do with.

Let me know if you'd like more sewing patterns like this and I'll write up some more.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

The Outside World

Tolly:      Hey, Linnet - come and see this. Human Number One has opened the back door!
Linnet:    All right young kitten, I'm coming.  What's she doing?
Tolly:      She's just standing there shivering. What do you think she wants?
Linnet:    Difficult to say - odd creatures, humans.

Tolly:     Smells different out there, should we go out?
Linnet:   Careful now, it might be a trap.
Tolly:     I think I can just get get my front paws down on to the step ...

                       (Small gust of wind, runs back inside)
               ... perhaps I'll leave it for another day.
Linnet:   Good idea, let's go and see if she's put any more food out.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Big Yellow Friday

Today is Big Yellow Friday, the annual big fundraising day for the Children's Liver Disease Foundation. This is the charity I have been supporting through my knitting and crochet designs right from the beginning. With the help of many lovely people, I have raised over £15,000 so far for this very worthwhile cause.

Two children in the UK are diagnosed with a liver disease every day. The causes are unknown, there is no cure and these diseases are life threatening. Treatment involves a lifetime of care and medication, often including one or more transplants. The CLDF raises funds for vital research and supports the whole family of a child with liver disease, including after the death of a child.

I chose this charity to support because of Alex, my friend's son who was born with biliary atresia nearly nineteen years ago. Alex has had the 'normal' childhood of someone with a liver disease - lots of medication and a school career interrupted with regular stays in hospital - but is now in his first year at University. I know that CDLF have given his whole family a great deal of support over the years, as they do for so many.

You can donate to the CLDF on their Website or via my Fundraising Page. Any amount, however small, is gratefully received. Together we can really make a difference.

I thought I would leave you with Harry's story ...

Thursday, 2 March 2017

A Favourite Book

As it's World Book Day today, I thought I'd tell you about one of my favourite books.

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge tells the story of Maria Merryweather who goes to live in the mysterious manor of Moonacre, home to people and animals that all seem strangely familiar. At first it reads like a classic story of the orphan sent to live amongst strangers (Frances Hodgson Burnett was one of my favourite authors when I was young) but elements of fantasy creep in as she learns about the secret from the past that haunts her new world. 

I read this book many times as a child and it's still a very special book for me. From Maria's little attic room with its child sized door and biscuits on the mantelpiece to the wonderful Robin, 'the best companion in the world' - I loved it all. 

Books were a big part of my life when I was growing up, both owned and borrowed from the library. In the school holidays I would borrow three books one day (the most I was allowed to take out at any one time) and take them back the next. The librarian never believed that I'd read them! When I exhausted the children's library in town, my Mum asked for an adult ticket for me. They refused to give me one so she gave me her ticket to use. One of the many things I'm grateful to her for.

What are your favourite books?