Friday, 3 February 2017

A freshly made bed


We all take things for granted. Our lives become busy and those little things that make everything worth living, slip pass unnoticed. #tinypleasures2017 is and Instagram photo challenge for February set up by Tammy Strobel
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I started on Wednesday and already I've slowed down and tried to appreciate what is around me. In fact for the whole of 2016 I tried to slow down I look around a bit more. I'd write my to do lists and then re-examine them to see how many of the tasks I actually had to do. I tried monotasking which is a total challenge for me because my brain is constantly on to the next and then the next and then the next, before I've even had time to breathe. So here I am on February 3 appreciating a freshly made bed.














Leisure activities such as sewing and knitting and drawing are, in Theory, supposed to be relaxing. I however make them pressing engagements that loom over me waiting for me to address them. The idea of working stitch by stitch, mindfully enjoying the making process has previously been lost on me. So I'm working on this and January was set aside for repairing the first quilt I ever made.

This is the final large square I needed to add it was inspired by Yumiko Higuchi










There is still a little bit of dog damage where Sherlock, having been excluded from kiddy games, has attacked the quilt in protest.









But for now I am considering the repairs complete. Small dog bites add to the character and at some point there will be a little moments when I want to do some embroidery and dogbite repairs will be the perfect size.

I am now going to enjoy my freshly made bed by sitting on it and knitting.













Friday, 16 December 2016

The art of dressmaking


It was in Wovember 2015 when I discovered that woad was a plant that could easily be easily be grown in the garden and used to dye textiles. Not only was it a natural dye, but it was blue in colour, a beautiful blue. We all love an internet journey, those timewasters where you get sidetracked here, click on the link there, and boom there is an explosion of ideas. From learning about the joys of British wool from the Wovember web site, I investigated local yarns and discovered Southdown Yarns. I wanted to know the whole story and I was curious about hand dying. I wanted to know how the stuff worked and someone was there to tell me. Let's internet-hop over to Jenny Dean. It wasn't enough for me to just read the articles, I wanted the book. It was the start, owning the information and words to help me to obtain my new crazy dream; gardening and sewing a handmade homemade ethical garment. People who don't garden might not know that the winter is spent planning next spring's growth but I certainly do. I found the woad seed, I discovered that you could wee on then to fix the dye and I even had my own boy, ready and willing to do this.




From tiny seeds grow great plants so in my little greenhouse I set about planting the future. Oh it takes a long time for seeds to grow but  I cared for them throughout the summer. Of course not wanting to follow the rules, I did not harvest my dye stuff at the correct moment, being the height of summer. Timing is always difficult with plants and to create my dye bath I needed there to be no distraction from tiny people. So I waited until that imaginary kid-free day in the future.

Meanwhile, on this truly marvellous adventure to homemade, handmade, meet the maker, non-commercial, independent, ethical dress, I needed to find the perfect pattern. We have an annual excursion to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace and following last year's success of "you must make what do you buy", I went with an agenda. As yet I have not written about my fraught journey to the simple life, my experimentation with minimalism or my new zero waste aspirations, but had these ideals in the forefront of my mind when it came to purchasing goodies at the show. I wanted a dress that matched my new-found values and Sew Me Something was there to fit right in with my new lifestyle choice. Not only was the dress darling but the designer of the pattern and the dress in the fabric were there. Perfect! My number one requirement in a dress is pockets. This dress has them. It also needs to be roomie enough to move in, I'm going to be gardening and possibly climbing trees and doing stuff. The dress is also pretty and the pattern is made out of actual paper.  It's not flimsy, easily wrecked, ridiculously fragile tissue paper, but proper quality paper that you can stick a pin through without creating a hole. Check it out  here


I love the pockets, every plant needs water, it was a "hooray it's raining" tribute. Inspired by an article from Flow Magazine questioning our negative response to rain and the thoughts of one of my students. He believes that there can't possibly be good or bad weather as it is after all just weather. These pockets are well thought through pockets. They capture and express significant moments from 2016 and will continue to do so as the neverending story of my handmade wardrobe.

Anyhow, I have the dyestuff, pattern and the visualisation of a future free from exploitation. I'd like to say I've bought ethical known sourced fabric, but actually, I just got calico from eBay. I guess you can't be perfect. Then finally at the beginning of November (I know nowhere near Midsummer) and made the dye bath and dyed the dress fabric. Dying with woad is magic. There's a few chemicals involved and the liquid eventually ends up this yellow colour. It doesn't look very attractive. The fabric goes in and then it comes out reacts with the oxygen in the air and as if by magic turns blue. Then to accentuate the subtleties of colour and shades of imagination, I dug out my old friend Gac 900 and the fabric art appeared.




Sometimes I get a bit stitchy and I like a bit of embroidery so I thought it was about time my vintage threads made an appearance in my project. I designed a pattern based on my favourite plant: cow parsley. It isn't my total absolute favourite but I do love it. 



The stitches took a long time but slow fashion, that's what it's all about. I could have bought and discarded a whole wardrobe of fast fashion in the time it took me to stitch that pattern. 25 different seasons materialised and became obsolete on the high street and still I sat there needle in hand.



This dress is more than clothing. It is a documentation of discovery, it is so personal that you know that unique barely describes it. I've worn it once (I only finished it on Sunday) but we already have a history that goes back over 12 months. Love and care and thought and creativity have been crafted into this a dress.



Saturday, 3 December 2016

Window 3 - Frankenadvent socks



Handmade stuff is more than just bits and bobs you throw together because you can or maybe it's cool or cheaper or more ethical. These Frankenadvent socks are a wearable diary, the fabric of my life with each stitch attached to the memory of a moment.


Friday, 2 December 2016

Window 2 - Frankenadvent socks

The kids have now got Where's Wally chocolate advent calendars so it's time to get out my incomplete Frankenadvent socks.


I started my Frankenadvent sockslast December and then got overwhelmed by the whole preparation for Christmas extravaganza. Basically they are a mish mash of random yarns and crazy patterns. I have absolutely no idea where I left off last year so I have gone for a simple rib in the same grey as sock number one.


I don't believe there are any Franken advent socks police and therefore don't envisage any problems other than perhaps not being able to finish them again. Well here we go work in progress/ unfinished project/ Christmas advent tradition.

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Thursday, 1 December 2016

Window 1 - All of the lights

So after my epic mum fail of not purchasing chocolate filled advent calendars before they sold out, I had to do something to make up for it in some way.


The light is beautiful in December. The sun sets into a milky yellow horizon as the first star shines brilliantly.



At the beginning of December, each year, we head off into the city centre to see the lights.



It's a bit of a tradition now, the spotting of the lights and the Jesus Sets.



We never miss this one. This year the donkey appears to be having a quick nibble of the baby's tootsies.



It's always a bonus to get some coffee and gingerbread.



Charlie reckons he can always manage chips so I imagine having got them once on our annual advent jaunt, next year it will be an expectation.


Finally the Jesus set outside Canterbury Cathedral. With its life sized characters of ethnically appropriate colouring and a basket of baby chicks under the manger, the children, who have seen this every year of their lives, briefly discuss the nativity, turn and walk the short walk home.

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Friday, 25 November 2016

Buy nothing day

For some people today is just Friday. There are others however who have been hijacked by consumerism, the shiny, sparkling promise of happiness through the purchase of crap they don't need destined for next year's landfill, trapped in the endless hunt for a bargain. And then there's another group of Friday 25th November 2016 people, those celebrating Buy Nothing Day and that's the gang I'm in.

But how about the saving money, the kick starting the Christmas shopping and the greedy over consumption of Black Friday, I hear you ask. Well don't worry friends, I'm not tragically behind in the preparations for the crazy season, I have completed a handmade homemade Christmas gift for my nephew. He's too young yet to have his own opinion about what makes a decent gift so I can quite easily pass off anything as acceptable as long as it has an aeroplane on it.

Of course I did actually spent most of yesterday and today working on the little placemat so although it is not commercially mass produced in a factory by children paid in less than peanuts, it is crammed full of love and unique one of a kindness. 

I did offer my own little darling boy one very similar but he very politely declined.


Even though it's got a tiny bird on it, I guess that it isn't the same as a branded product.

I suppose the trickiest thing with the whole gift giving shabang is balancing what you'd like to give (ethically) and what they'd like receive, because there really is nothing more pointless than buying something unwanted. 

 And then finally to finish off my Black Friday Day of buying nothing, I darned the socks that I made for my husband last Christmas. With all the craziness in a world gone mad for the latest must have can't live without it , it's comforting to know that I have atleast two people in my life who will buy into my homemade handmade Christmas. 

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Autumn Skies



Sometimes it's impossible to ignore the weather. Today the heavens have opened, the sun has shone and the sky has changed from the bluest of blue to ominous grey. Rainbows have appeared and vanished after filling the skies with colour.




It's also noticeably colder. Hats, mittens, fingerless gloves and scarves are at the ready in fact I have had them on several mornings since October started. Since having Sherlock I notice the weather more. The rain is not a problem. He is not keen but once we get going a walk is a walk, rabbits are there to be chased, squirrels are there to be barked at and foxes are there to be discovered.




Autumn has arrived and with it the end of the growing season. My dahlias enjoy the colder mistier mornings and are showing no sign of giving up yet. However the summer lettuces have been replaced with those that will with stand the winter and the planting of seeds will now wait until the spring. Small seedlings of climbing beans, field beans and sweet peas are growing in the greenhouse and secretly growing within plain sight are the stars of the autumn, my chrysanthemums.