Tuesday, 1 November 2022

A Christmas Pattern

Do you remember when I used to publish a series of festive patterns every December as a sort of advent calendar? Since being ill I haven't managed to do this (they're an awful lot of work) but ...

Two years ago, I decided to knit myself a Christmas wreath, based on my Woodland Wreath but with a few different leaves and decorations. I had no intention of publishing it as a pattern but I've had so many people requesting it that, this year, I've puzzled over my very sketchy notes, done a bit of re-knitting and now it's all ready to go.

The first pattern is available now on Ravelry and explains about the wreath I used and how to cover it with knitting. Then, in December, there will be five more patterns, each of which will have instructions for two sets of leaves or decorations. I haven't decided how to space out the publication of those patterns yet - one a day, every other day - what do you think? 

In other news (apologies for those who are getting bored with my endless craft room saga), lots of progress has been made. Having had two fit and able people here this weekend, the room now has actual furniture in it. Remember those 53 baskets full of fabric?

They don't look quite so daunting now they're on shelves, do they? There are a few that didn't fit but I'm pleased with how many we got on to these two sets of shelves. If you look closely, you'll see that the baskets are labelled with tatty yellow post-its. I have plans to replace these with pretty labels at some point. In the meantime, I've added a few of Mum's angel ornaments.

I made her the one with the long red hair and the other one is one of 'Sonia's angels', a friend Mum met at craft shows. She had several angels from her; here's another one ...

While taking this photo, I took another one of the light switch which is just next to the shelves. Does anyone remember these?

Yes, that's a Bakelite switch on a wooden mount. I have these in every room but, don't worry, it's modern wiring behind them. 

While I was faffing around with angels, my son and daughter were doing the heavy work. In case you were wondering, yes, it is possible to take apart a 5 x 5 Kallax unit, carry it up two flights of stairs and then re-assemble it.

To be fair, they did have a willing helper in Tolly the cat. He often has that puzzled look; the world is a mystery to him.

Tolly definitely knows the room exists now. No sooner had they moved in a comfortable chair for me, than he settled himself down.

The other cat, Linnet, still hasn't found the room. She's a very suspicious cat and and is wary of anything new, just in case it turns out to be a portal to the vets.

As well as these shelf units, they moved a table up from my bedroom and a set of basket shelves up from the front room. What with these and the table that's in pieces on the top landing waiting for me to sand and paint it, other rooms ended up with piles of stuff and nowhere to put it. 

So, after more bookcase moving, I now have things temporarily stored in the back room downstairs.

Lots of this stuff is destined for the craft room once I have more storage but, in the meantime, I can still use this room. I've even got space for photography (hence the big lights). 

One of the joys of living in an old house is that there's barely a straight line in the place. Did I say joys? There wasn't a lot of joy when I made floor length curtains for the bay window in the front room - there's a six inch difference between one side and the other, calling for gradually lengthening hems. 

Anyway, look at these two bookcases ...

They have to be propped up at one side so that the books and files don't fall over but, as you can see, the heights don't exactly match. And yes, those shelves are set the same distances  apart.

We're now working on an IKEA order for a desk and lots more shelves. I've been having ideas for prettying up the new room too. How about patchwork curtains? I think I might know where I can lay my hands on some fabric!

Thursday, 27 October 2022

53 Baskets

I have finally finished decorating my new craft room - every surface has been painted or polished and even the floor has had a fresh coat of varnish.

One of the messiest jobs was re-blacking and polishing the fireplace but it looks very smart now.

I have tried and tired to work out what furniture to get for the room but just can't get my head found it. This sort of thinking is too complicated for my Covid brain. So ... I have done this ...

Each of these pieces of folded sheets of newspaper, cut and stuck together, represents a different set of shelves or table or whatever. Some of them I already have and some are things that I could buy. My daughter is coming to help me this weekend and we're going to arrange them around the room in different combinations to help me see what will fit where.

One of the things I need to store in this room is my Mum's large collection of quilting fabric. And when I say large ...

This is just some of it, squeezed on to the top landing while I was still painting. It's taken me weeks and weeks to go through it all and decide what to keep and how to fit it into as many of Mum's baskets as possible. There has been an awful lot of folding and ironing. Which is where the title of this post comes in. This is what 53 baskets of fabric looks like.

I keep telling myself that Mum fitted all this into a craft room less than half the size of mine but it does look an awful lot on the floor like that. There are baskets full of scraps on the top landing too; I'm going to cut these into useable shapes and strips gradually before they're allowed into the room.

I have the two sets of shelves that Mum stored the baskets on and we're hoping to re-assemble them and get them in the room this weekend. Anything bigger than a small bookcase has to be taken apart to get it up my narrow staircases and then put back together again upstairs.

The only other things in the room so far are two chairs. 

One is an old kitchen chair that must be over fifty years old; we certainly had it when I was little. As you can see, it's got somewhat paint spattered over the years; every so often I re-cover the seat with new fabric. The other one is my tatty old black office chair - very comfortable but not really me.

So, armed with my trusty staple gun and two pieces of Mum's fabric, I turned them into pretty chairs, worthy of a new room.

The back cushion on the office chair was very simple to do. I just used a metal paint scraper to poke all the excess fabric in between the two layer of the plastic frame. I started off with a big square of fabric and didn't even bother cutting it to shape.

I'll report back once we've started putting furniture in the room. It will be nice to be able to actually use it eventually. The thing about creating a craft room is it doesn't leave you any time to actually do your crafts ...

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Making Progress Slowly

I thought it was about time I showed you how I've been getting on with decorating my Room of Requirement or craft room. I've been working on it every day for well over a month now. Because of the extreme fatigue of Long Covid, I can only do a small amount of painting a day and that then wipes me out for the rest of the day, making everything else that much harder. Gradually, bit by bit, it's looking better though.

This is what the room looked like when we'd cleared most of the furniture ... 

It's a big, rectangular room, right across the width of my Victorian terraced house. The fireplace is on one of the shorter walls and this shows the other side of the room.

As you can see, it was painted red with the woodwork in a buttery cream. I wanted to paint it white to bring in the light as there's only one, not very big window. But first I had to deal with the holes in the very old walls. This bit was a particular favourite ...

Before I filled this one, you could see through to the bricks. Once all that was done, I could start painting. As soon as I started on the ceiling, the original cream paint suddenly looked yellow. It's as if a heavy smoker had lived there for years - remember when all ceilings turned that colour?

Painting the ceiling was particularly horrible as I had to do one coat on the whole thing at a time and it was very hard work. I had to keep sitting down to get my breath back and then couldn't really do anything for the rest of the day. I got it done though.

The walls were more manageable as I could do one coat on one wall per day. Mind you, as you can imagine, it took a lot of coats to cover that red. This is what it looked like after the first coat on the long, window wall.

Despite using a good quality paint from Brewers, it took four coats and weeks of painting to get the walls done. The room looked bigger and brighter though.

After all that white, I was glad to move on to a bit of colour. I decided on a bright pastel blue for the skirting boards and door and, again, I split the painting up into small manageable sections. First I tackled the skirting boards, one coat on one side of the room per day. Several weeks later, they were done.

It was at this point that I realised how much my work influences everything. When I was looking at the paint chart for the sort of blue I wanted, I had in mind something like the Stylecraft Special Aster, one of my favourite shades. Remembering this, I went and found a ball of Aster to compare it ...

... who needs paint charts when you have yarn? 

Next was the door frame ...

... and, finally, the door.

This old door is seriously warped and, in all the time we've lived here, has never closed properly. It had long since lost its handle and we just shut it by pushing it until it stuck. It dawned on me that it might be time to do something about this so my builder, Paul, planed down the top and fitted a new handle. It's still warped but at least it shuts now (if you pull it hard) and the old push lock still works. 

These little locks are on lots of the doors and I'm rather fond of them. I need to touch up that black metal paint though.

The window and radiator are going to be painted to match the walls and, at the moment, I'm working on the window. This, like all the windows at the front of the house is on its last legs, being held together with nails and over a century's worth of paint. I'm hoping they'll last a few more years, by which time I might be able to afford new ones. Custom made wooden sash windows don't come cheap. 

I can't say I'm enjoying painting this window. Apart from anything else, I find the noise from the traffic below makes my head hurt. It's not a particularly busy road and I'm at the top of a three storey house but I think my Covid brain finds it hard to block out unnecessary sounds. It'll be better once I'm on to the frame and can mostly keep the window closed.

Meanwhile I've been having a major sort of all my craft stuff which, as you can imagine, is a huge task. Just sorting the yarn is taking ages and then there's all my Mum's quilting fabric ... My daughter came for the weekend recently and she and my son helped me with all the things I couldn't get at or which were too heavy for me. It's a lot easier sorting stuff when you don't have to actually move it around the house. Carrying things makes me breathless and so does walking upstairs.

I'm gradually assembling piles of craft stuff and books - mostly on the middle floor - with post-it labels on top with the name of the craft. The plan is that it will be easier to choose storage furniture once I know exactly what I need to store. The trick with major sorting like this is just to concentrate on 'Keep, Not Keep?' to start with (Rose has threatened to have this tattooed on the back of my hand to remind me) and I've found it surprisingly easy to get rid of things.

I've been keeping a tally and, so far, I have given away 158 craft books and 28 bags of mixed yarn and other craft stuff. Most of the books have gone to my local craft swap shop Orinoco, although Rose is selling some on ebay with all the proceeds going directly to the UK charity Blood Cancer. She started doing this with some of Mum's better quilt books that we didn't want. You can raise more money with harder to find books that way and it also means that they go to people who really want them. So far, we've raised over £100 like this* and books have gone to quilters from Poole to Orkney and lots of places in between. There are no ebay fees to pay if the money goes directly to charity.

It's probably just as well that I'm not well enough to do the walking that I was managing earlier in the year as all this doesn't leave me much time for anything else. I have a queue of patterns waiting to be written up and lots of designs that are stalled. it doesn't help that, every time I want a pair of needles, I have to find them in a sorted pile.

It looks like I'm finally going to be able to publish my Christmas Wreath pattern this year though.

I knitted this just for myself two years ago, not intending to turn it into a pattern but then people kept asking for it ... I've had to do a certain amount of reverse engineering to work out how I knitted some of the things but I've managed to write up draft patterns without re-knitting the whole thing which was more than I could face. There will be six patterns in all: the first one deals with covering the wreath and each of the other five patterns will have instructions for two sets of decorations. It should be ready by the end of next month.

This has also been ready to write up for weeks and weeks too ...

This is my mosaic crochet blanket and I'm very excited about it. It's going to be a long pattern though with lots and lots of photos (and a chart once I've worked out whether it's going to be useful or not). I enjoyed making it so much that I've started on a smaller one, using up the left over colours from this one. I've adapted the original pattern to make smaller stars with a sort of Art Deco feel to them - I think that must be those framing lines.

There's always another exciting project to start isn't there?

* Rose has just added up how much we've raised so far and it's actually £183.28.

Thursday, 15 September 2022

Autumn Bunting Pattern

After a glimpse of my new Autumn Bunting last time, you might like to know that I've got the pattern written up and published. You can download it for free on Ravelry. As normal, if you like it, I do encourage you to make a donation to the Children's Liver Disease Foundation, the charity that I support through my work. I started doing this back in 2008 and, over the years, knitters and crocheters around the world have helped me to raise over £25,000 for this very deserving cause. You can donate directly to the charity or via my fundraising page here.

So ... would you like a closer look at the new pattern? Like my Spring Bunting, there are all sorts of details to find.

It's a very long pattern - 24 pages - the proofreading alone took hours. What you get though is lots of little patterns: two sorts of flags, the knitted letters and then five decorations. These could be knitted separately and sewn on to scarves or hats or, in the case of the hedgehogs, used as toys or ornaments.

I got a bit carried away with the hedgehogs and, as well as the slightly flat one used on the bunting (think road kill, only less kill and more mildly squashed), I included a pattern for a smaller hedgehog too so that you could make a family of fatter ones as little toys.

I rather like the toadstool too. It's not easy to design something small and simple to knit that still looks like what it's meant to be. The trick with this design is not to make it too regular; it turns out that a leaning toadstool looks much more natural than a straight one.

My favourite part of this pattern though has got to be the fox's head. This was the most challenging thing to design; in the end I built it up in knitted layers and then added embroidery to bring it to life.

I hope people won't be put off by the embroidery; it's really not that difficult to do. Those fur-like little stitches around the edges of the knitted shapes make all the difference. Before I added them, it could just have easily been a deer's head.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this latest variation of my bunting patterns. Next year, when I've recovered from writing such a long pattern, I'm hoping to complete the set with some Summer and Winter themed bunting.

Saturday, 3 September 2022

Autumn Mantelpiece

I like autumn. It always feels like a new beginning to me. Summer is all very well but, by September, it's starting to look a bit frayed round the edges and I'm ready for the deep colours of the new season.

I've been enjoying decorating my bedroom mantelpiece to match the seasons this year, prompted by the series of cross stitch samplers that my daughter and I started stitching two years ago. I've just been through and added the label 'Sampler' to all the old blog posts that mention these samplers so, if you click on 'Sampler' under the list of categories on the sidebar, you can read all about them.

Anyway, back to my autumn mantelpiece ...

I think this is my favourite so far. Shall we have a closer look? I'm especially pleased with my new knitted bunting. I designed some Spring Bunting earlier this year and always had it in mind to knit versions for the other seasons too.

The problem with hanging bunting made up of eleven flags like this is that it's very long - far too long for my chimney breast which is really where I wanted to put it. I ended up having to tape the picture hooks to the picture rail for the Spring Bunting and it still fell down eventually.

So, after a re-think, I decided to split the new bunting into two lines and hang them together. All it took was a couple of lengths of thin dowel and some yarn to tie the dowels together.

Next year I'm going to hang my Spring Bunting like this too. I'm in the middle of writing up the pattern for the new bunting (18 pages and counting) and I'll show it to you properly once I'm ready to publish it. And yes, next year I'm hoping to complete the set with bunting for summer and winter too.

Back to my cross stitch sampler. The autumn designs were the first we stitched and I really like the finished picture. I'm particularly fond of the spider hanging from his web and that row of creatures and plants near the bottom.

In front of the cross stitch are a few little ornaments. Two wooden toadstools, one carved for me by my daughter and a pair of knitted hedgehogs (from the Autumn Bunting pattern).

On the other side is my conker made out of resin which I've had for years and a wooden vase of wooden flowers, bought from the Dansel Gallery in Abbotsbury on one of our holidays in Dorset.

Next to the flowers is a little red squirrel cross stitch picture by my daughter. It's actually a birthday card, framed just as it was. One of the many lovely designs from Textile Heritage.

And at the end of the mantelpiece is a glass picture of autumnal trees that my son brought back for me from the Lake District earlier this year.

There's nothing on it saying who made it but I think it might be from Borrowdale Glass.

At the other end of the mantelpiece is some of my lovely old Cottage Ware china. My late stepfather, Bob started me off with this by buying me the teapot and I'm gradually adding other pieces as I find them (or I was, until I became housebound). 

One day I'm going to design a cottage tea cosy to go over that teapot. This china brings back memories of my Granny's house when I was little as she had some of it. I remember sitting at her table playing with the fringe on the dark red chenille tablecloth. These were very common in the 1960s; Granny's was put on top of  a protective plastic covered cotton tablecloth which I think we called American cloth at the time. There was a white tablecloth too which I think went on top of the red one. Does anyone else remember tables being covered like this? I don't think it was just her.

Tuesday, 23 August 2022

Furzedown Gallery

I've recently had a new order of the little cards I use as notelets and I thought you might like to see them.

They are from Furzedown Gallery and are printed from original watercolours by the artist Kitty Herridge. Her subjects range from animals and flowers to dragons and gnomes - all set amongst beautiful countryside. You can buy the cards in various sizes but I always go for the smallest.

Ten of this size card are £10 and postage is free within the UK. This time I bought two sets of ten, including a set of snowy ones which I thought would be appropriate to send during the winter. Here are the non snowy ones ...

If you click on the picture above you can see the cards in more detail. Aren't they beautiful? I love them all; they're nostalgic without being too cute, if you know what I mean. As you can see, there are two cards with donkeys on. These will be sent to my daughter's partner who is particularly fond of donkeys. There is one called Clover who lives at Hackney City Farm, near where they live in London and, when he is well enough, they visit her and the other donkeys there.

Clover is the donkey at the back of this photo.

I haven't bought any of the snowy cards before; they'd make lovely Christmas cards, wouldn't they?

Only one donkey in this batch but Hedwig makes an appearance. I especially like the one with the red tractor; the artist lives on her family farm and tractors often appear on the cards.

I was pleased to discover that Furzedown Gallery is based on a farm of the same name near  Kings Somborne in Hampshire. As a child I lived in Longstock which is in the same part of the world. I went to school in Stockbridge and my Dad's family come from (and still live in) Broughton. It's particularly nice to be able to support and recommend a local artist.

In other news, I have started painting what will be my new craft room, although I'm tempted to call it the Room of Requirement as it can whatever I need it to be. Also, the cats aren't entirely sure that it exists as the door has been kept closed for years. When I go up there, they think I've left the house (I know this because they tend to stay indoors when I'm out and only venture out to the garden once they know I'm back).

Anyway, before being ill, I would have done a coat of paint on a room easily each day. Now I have to pace myself and can just manage one coat on one wall. So far, I've finished the ceiling and done the first coat on two of the walls.

The ceiling only needed two coats, despite the fact that the colour I painted it before turned out to be much darker than I remembered.

I suspect that those red walls will need three coats though. I shall get there in the end.