Tuesday, 16 May 2017


In all the years I've been designing I've never had trouble coming up with new ideas ... until now. In the last few weeks I've got stuck on several new designs and all the new things I've tried to work on have failed. This was bothering me until I realised what was causing it - deadlines.

As many of you know I design a big series of Christmas patterns for December each year so I'm used to that hanging over me but this year I've added to the pressure with the mini quilts. I was coping with that all right - after all it's only one small pattern each month - but then I had an idea for an even bigger series to run throughout 2018. So I'm now working to three lots of deadlines which is getting in the way of designing new stuff.

It's a difficult balance to strike. The big patterns like these are very popular and therefore bring in more donations but ... they do make the whole exercise feel more like a proper job. I prefer working on designs that come to me out of the blue, just because they seem fun - drifting from one to another as the fancy takes me.

I think next year I shall go back to just doing the Christmas series. I like all the big stuff I'm doing this year but it's just too much work!

As I can't show you a picture of any of these things I'll leave you with another favourite picture book.

This is one of the Frances books written by Russell and Lillian Hoban all of which are wonderful. Frances has a witty and mature style of language for a small child / badger; in this one she's put out at the arrival of a new baby and so runs away to live under the table (as you do). I also love Bread and Jam for Frances which includes the best school packed lunch ever, complete with a little vase of flowers. Any other fans of these books out there?

Monday, 8 May 2017

Cat Meets Dog

Poor Linnet had her first run in with a dog yesterday. My neighbour came round to explain that a visiting dog had gone for her and that she was now at the top of the tree in my garden, hissing and growling.  So, after standing on top of a wobbly ladder for about twenty minutes talking to her, I managed to get her out of the tree. The concerned neighbours had to pretend not to watch as she's frightened of people so that of course made it worse.

I then tracked her down to the top floor of the house and added insult to injury by sponging her with warm water. She had blood on her fur and I was trying to work out how badly she was hurt. In the middle of this tricky procedure the kitten arrived and started hissing at her. I think he could smell how frightened she was but it didn't help! I couldn't find any obvious wound so I left her in peace to calm down.

She spent the evening in the hospital wing (my daughter's bed) and this morning seems fine. She ate her breakfast and then finished off the kitten's too so there can't be much wrong with her. As yet, she hasn't ventured outside again. At least she will now know to treat dogs with caution which isn't a bad thing.

Friday, 5 May 2017

I don't get out much ...

... but when I do, I go to the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) at Stratford-upon-Avon. It's only about half an hour's drive from here and my son and I go to all the Shakespeare plays.

Absolutely every play they put on is brilliant. The acting is wonderful, as is the music, the lighting ... you get the idea. I've particularly enjoyed Paapa Essiedu as Hamlet and Michelle Terry as Beatrice  but there are so many outstanding performances it's hard to choose. 

Last week we went to see Antony and Cleopatra and then we're going to Julius Caesar in a few weeks' time (wrong order, I know). The first Shakespeare play I ever saw was 'Antony and Cleopatra'. I was studying it for A Level and came on a trip up from Hampshire to Stratford to see it. It was 1978 and Glenda Jackson was playing Cleopatra - not a bad introduction to Shakespeare on stage!

If anyone is thinking that Shakespeare sounds like hard work, I recommend going to see one of the plays; they're easy to follow when acted. If you can't get to the theatre, the RSC is bringing out DVDs of their productions. I would recommend the two DVDs of Love's Labour's Lost and Love's Labour's Won as an excellent starting point. They're dramatic, funny and full of brilliant songs.

The Shakespeare films made by Kenneth Branagh are also really good. There's an excellent Much Ado About Nothing (my favourite play) or how about Love's Labour's Lost staged as a Thirties Musical? A couple of year's ago I was lucky enough to see Kenneth Branagh in The Winter's Tale at The Garrick.  It was wonderful.

I shall leave you with one of my favourite speechs from Much Ado - not Benedick or Beatrice but Don John, railing against his brother whom he is forced to follow after an unsuccessful rebellion.

'I had rather be a canker in a hedge than a rose in his grace, and it better fits my blood to be disdained of all than to fashion a carriage to rob love from any: in this, though I cannot be said to be a flattering honest man, it must not be denied but I am a plain-dealing villain. I am trusted with a muzzle and enfranchised with a clog; therefore I have decreed not to sing in my cage. If I had my mouth, I would bite; if I had my liberty, I would do my liking: in the meantime let me be that I am and seek not to alter me.'

Act I, Scene III.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

This and That

Yesterday I published the fifth pattern in my series of mini knitted quilts; each one is about the size of a postcard and together they make a lovely woolly calendar. So, here's the May Quilt ...

As you can see, I went for lots of saturated colours with this one. England is very green at this time of year - the grass is a wonderful luscious colour and all the trees are coming into leaf - so I thought I'd reflect that in this little quilt. Mind you, it's hailing at the moment but we'll gloss over that. The tiny butterflies are very quick to knit but they took a-g-e-s to design. The smaller something is, the harder it is to make it look like anything other than a blob.

I haven't make the matching fabric quilt for my daughter yet (sorry about that Rose) but I'm hoping to get it done this week. I'm also behind on the big Christmas pattern and next year's KAL but never mind. There are baroque trills to be wrestled with on the violin and other crafts to do.

Speaking of which ...

... I've finished my Double Ended Crochet Scarf. Isn't it lovely? I really like the way the two sides are so different; even the edges are pretty. I really enjoyed making this and am resisting the temptation to start another project until I've got a bit more time.

I spent the evening yesterday rooting through lots of old picture books to find some of my favourites. The Federation of Children's Book Groups is celebrating National Share-a-Story Month in May and are asking people to tweet about some of their favourite children's illustrators, working through the alphabet one day at a time. Today is 'B' and I've found these three:

Jan Brett, this is one of our favourite Christmas books
Nicola Bayley
Raymond Briggs

There are so many wonderful books illustrated by Raymond Briggs but this is one of the best. I've got a big pile of books ready to photograph for the rest of the alphabet, although some letters are harder than others. I have yet to find a book illustrated by anyone whose last name begins with a 'Q' or an 'X' ...