Monday, 9 December 2013

Let it snow

I would be a very mean mummy if I didn't let my own children get involved in designing their own Christmas paraphernalia for me to make.


Josie has designed a simple classic that she tells me she can keep forever because it isn't too young.


So far I've done the basics and have started crocheting the numerous snowflakes with which it will be adorned. I'm not sure whether all the snowflakes are to be individually hand crocheted or whether their might be some felt ones. I guess I'll just have to check with the designer

With each snowflake needing to be blocked and starched, I'm quite glad this stocking is not flying off around the world and I have until Christmas Eve to finished it.


Saturday, 7 December 2013

Monstrous Designs

Felt is so easy to work with that it's fast becoming my new favourite. I haven't even crocheted anything for the past two days. I've been busy making up Christmas orders for stockings and monsters. I love children's drawings and I just thought it would be a lovely idea to have children design their own monsters and for me to make them.

A very nice friend of mine agreed with my idea and got her two boys to draw their own monsters and I have been working on them this week.

This monster is called Sam, designed by the younger boy. Apparently he's a sea monster and he was actually quite easy to make.

Her older son designed a far more complex project with the most incredible detail. Garjydoodle even has knuckles and what I can only assume is a monster style six pack.


Following the success of my stockings on Etsy ( I count two orders as a success), I thought I may as well add design your own monsters to my shop, so if you are stuck for a Christmas gift, you could order one here.


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Christmas orders

I am very excited to say that I now have Christmas orders. I received my second request for a handmade stocking today, I have felt monsters to make, along with numerous other Christmassy orders for my own loved ones on the go.

I have finished Naomi's stocking and I am pleased with it. Wouldn't it just be so fab to spend every day making stuff? Today I worked my normal day job and then spent the rest of the day working on Christmas orders. I loved it. I am totally envious of these crafty people who've got their studios, orders and making based days. One day .... And I will also be needing a vintage caravan to work in
Picture curtesy of

Monday, 2 December 2013

Red and white Christmas

Each year my fondness for the classic Christmas combination of red and white increases. It looks so festive , bright and brilliant. I like the Scandinavian style and might be collecting a whole dr host of inspiration from another red and white favourite, Pinterest.

I'm still working on a Christmas stocking order ( I like to talk as if I have loads but I do only have one) and even that fits in with my red and white theme.


I went for a spot of machine and hand quilting.




Sunday, 1 December 2013

Christmas crafts - stockings

Christmas is my favourite time of year for crafting. It's cold outside, there's presents to made and I just so love the holiday theme. After a bit of a break from blogging, I thought it might be nice to get back into the whole collecting of thoughts and ideas by spendding December recording all my favourite Christmassy things.


I recently made stockings for my brand new nephew's first Christmas and his bigger sister (I didn't want to leave her out) and it was such fun. I decided to post them in my Etsy shop as a made to order item and I got an order. I was so excited, someone in Canada wants a stocking made by me!

This is how it's looking so far. There's a bit of hand quilting to do before I can put it all together and then it's got a long journey to Toronto ready for Christmas Eve.


Sixes and sevens

Life seems to have been so full lately, that there has scarcely been time to indulge myself in blogging. There's always a slight feeling of aniexety for me when I don't get around to writing a few words about how wonderful life is or capture some snapshots of the beauty that surrounds my world. A sense a guilt gently nags at the back of my mind, a little like a forgotten to promise to keep a diary and I have this irrational fear that my happiness will be taken from me if I don't reflect on moments. I suppose November always has a bleakness which is confounded by the loss of our baby Jack and although time makes the pain less intense, it is nevertheless a heartache that will remain constant.

There is however much hilarity in being the parent of a small child, often more than I bargin for with Charlie. A typical conversation goes something like this:

Me: Are your teeth clean?

Charlie: Yes

Me: As clean as a whistle?

Charlie: Mum, whistles are dirtier than the North Pole

November was of course Charlie's birthday month and the count down started in earnest after Bonfire Night. Many weeks were spent preparing presents (his Minecraft quilt was no small undertaking) and organising his survival party. For his birthday Charlie had requested a Swiss Army Knife and a bushcraft / survival style party and after researching what is or more to the point isn't available locally for an affordable price locally in November, I designed my own. I took inspiration from here, advice from a good friend and her boys (who were automatically invited for their knife skills) and Charlie contributed a number of ideas.





Saturday, 2 November 2013

Half term highlights - Dressing up


Where do you stand on the nature / nurture debate? Is it something we do as parents or is one of my children naturally designed to lose everything whilst the other has the innate gift of destruction? Why were sticks always wands for my daughter when she was little and for my son they have and always will be weapons? I was quite surprised after what seemed like a never ending journey through the land of pink where princess dresses, wellies, wings, tiaras and all the hair accessories in the house were normal daily attire, that Charlie didn't want to wear his Spider-Man pyjamas to the supermarket. He has never ever wanted to dress up whereas I had to introduce the notion of black shoes long before Josie's first day at school as I knew they would be "too dull - too boring - too black".




When Charlie showed me the zombie costume he wanted for Halloween, it didn't take long to establish that is was the camoflauge fabric he liked and that he wouldn't actually wear it. He was happy with me buying him a green coloured top printed with skulls and camoflauge welly socks, which worked out cheaper than the costume and he has worn every day since then (apart from when they are washed).

Josie's costume was also based on less purchasing and more using what we had or what she actually needed. She chose the Neil Gaimin character Coraline. The transformation required a fair amount of makeup to create the button eyes and me quickly whipping up a crocheted Coraline doll.


Not wanting to be left out on the make-up front, Charlie (who usually avoids face painting) decided he would like a half face zombie makeover. I wondered whether his decision was influenced by our journey on The Train of Terror or perhaps he is beginning to change his views on dressing up.



Friday, 1 November 2013

Half-term highlights - Train of Terror

Josie has always enjoyed things a little scarry: the dark, spooky stories, Halloween. She is a bit of a thrill seeker and likes to go that extra bit higher / faster / scarier. I had to tell her off when she was six for frightening her friends by showing them the scariest part of Jaws the movie. Charlie is a very different and up until this year, he would have made all number of excuses to avoid going near something called The Train of Terror.

The Tran of Terror is a special from East Kent Railway, an old mining service that has been kept alive after the death of the coal pits in Kent at the end of 1980s. The old style carriages with very bouncy seats and windows that actually open took me back to my own childhood train rides.

It does make me laugh that both children have developed a penchant for drinking tea.


The journey started with a short film to set the scene and start the story which continued on the brief journey from Shepherdswell to Eythorne. The carriage was filled with eerie smoke, spooky flashing lights, classic Halloween hits and scary shadowy figures.

There was a brief stop at Eythorne where the children turned into Zombies and Charlie had us in fits of laughter as he launched himself at his dad and started eating him.

Back on the train things got even more frightening so much so that Charlie did want to confirm that they were actors from Pheonix performing arts college and not the undead. I don't wish to ruin the narrative for anyone who might head off up there this weekend, but it was a fantastic performance made even more realistic by the use of a real train and features of the original train track.

It was a beautifully sunny Autumn day and the staff at the East Kent Railway are a credit to the memory and romance of rail travel. The station master was happy to proudly pose in front of the ticket office.

There was a mini museum where the children were to get their hands on ancient levers and learn about a life which is a long way from their own.

The Train of Terror runs for two more days 2nd and 3rd November and if your children are as grown up as Charlie (age nearly 7), it comes highly recommended from our family. Get there early though as our train (11.15: the first of the day) was packed.


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Endangered words

Have you ever wondered what happens to the words that are no longer used? They become classed as obsolete, confined to only the largest of dictionaries by lexicographers (those guys whose job it is to compile dictionaries.) As new words are created to fit with our new fangled lifestyle, old words are inevitably pushed out and lost. You can't really be a literacy teacher without spending a large amount of your time thinking about words but it wasn't until last week at Ally Pally when I saw a collection of endangered knitted specimens that I started to worry about their fate. Some might say do we actually care but I'm with Safia Shah and I'll happily join the campaign to bring words back to life especially if it involves knitting them.


Who better to involve in such a virtuous adventure than my own child, along with a friend, especially as they were off school today due to teachers striking. The girls embraced the idea of saving these dejected words and with very little encouragement from me, set about composing their very own dictionary.

Along with words featured in Safia's website (jargogle, ninnyhammer, brabble), they unearthed many other delights:

Jollux - 18th century slang for a fat person

Elflocks - tangled hair, as if matted by elves

Twitterlight - an alternative word for twilight

Hugger-mugger - to act in a secretive manner


And even more apt for any 10 year old girls - twattle - the act of prattling on, talking idly and gossiping (as if that needed any explanation).


But what to do with such a fascination of words and how best to save them from extinction? Fortunately I know a lovely lady with her own ceramics painting cafe, delectable glazes and a kiln in which to fire everything into an everlasting memory.


Thank you very much to Catherine and Gail at Espressions

Not only did they have the whole kit and caboodle for preserving the moment but Catherine also had a pile of ancient books overflowing with a superabundance of words clambering for that second chance.


Safia's book Carnaby Street's The Great Uninvited is released on 31st October and will be eagerly awaited by my two wordsmiths and I will be able to collect the tiles next week.


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Learning and education

Today I asked Charlie what he learnt at school.

He replied "We didn't really learn anything thing today. It was science day so we just did science." I do love how clearly he seperates learning from doing.

For my little six year, if you haven't learnt some facts about a subject then it doesn't really count. The facts can be as random or specific as you like. For example did you know that more people are killed each year by dogs and pigs than sharks? No? Neither did I until Charlie told me.

I'm in the business of education. Yes that's right, the business. I am employed by a corporation, our college is branded and everything in my working life is driven by targets. However from deep within my paperwork based uniform almost extinguished by performance related statistics, you will catch a small glimmer: a spark to light the fire of possible of cognition in my students.

Ask anyone who their favourite teacher was and why and I doubt very much that they will use the words like retention, attainment and achievement, but this is how us teachers are measured these days. A lot of what truly inspirational teachers do is impossible to measure just as it is equally unreasonable to judge a pupil's learning by an assignment, test or exam.

This is R A Butler. It was his vision, shortly after World War II, to make secondary education a lot fairer. Wishing to move away from the class system where only the rich were educated, he introduced the 11plus as a way of establishing which of the three secondary schools would be most suitable for children to attend. Unintentionally this resulted in a "pass or fail" scenario for 11year olds due to there only being a choice between two schoolsin most areas. The grammar schools selected those who passed the test and with the lack of secondary technical schools, the other children attended secondary moderns. The whole system was mostly abolished in favour of Comprehensive schools in 1976, but in some areas including Kent, the selection process is still very much a part of our children's final year a primary school.

So on the eve of the Kent test results day, I'm very much preoccupied with how tomorrow's outcome will affect the path of Josie's education and influence her learning.



Friday, 11 October 2013

Ally Pally knit and stitch

Once a year, I get to go back to London to my beloved Alexandra Palace for the Knitting and Stitching Show. It's the mecca for all stitchy ladies (very few boys I'm afraid), like a giant magnet pulling us in by the knitting needles, armed with shopping bags and packed lunches. There is so much to see, I feel like a child in a sweet shop, dizzy with excitement and slightly battered by the hardened elbows of veteran bargain hunters. Despite manners being slightly amiss amongst the crowded aisles of the great halls of the palace, I challenge even the shyest of people not to make a friend when they sit down for a drink and the stall holders and exhibitors are the loveliest people in the world.

Habu Textiles is an old favourite now and it's my first port of call. I love the colours, the texture of the yarn and the exquisitely delicate garments created using their products. Mostly I like the linen and the paper threads and this year discovered a new stall, Namolio, fab for linen crochet thread.

Felt was also on my shopping list because I would like to make a stocking for my nephew's first Christmas and I can't leave out his sister. There were plenty of stalls selling felt wares but in the end I got some from The Eternal Maker because the colours were delightful.

Picture courtesy of Bella Leonard

Out of all the enchanting exhibitors, I was drawn to Bella May Leonard's pieces but as I don't have permission at the moment to use any of her images yet, I will have to leave photos until later. The use of perspex and thread reminded me a little of my own degree show all those years ago and I do think that once you have spent hours and hours exploring a medium in your art space, you never lose that love.

Another textile artist after my own heart was the inspirational Mandy Pattullo. Since arriving home last night, I've already spent some time researching her influences and previous work. Although I love the accuracy and pure genius of the amazing winning quilts (see below),

 Mandy's pieces rescue the sad and rejected treasures of yesteryear in the spirit of what she calls her "Thread and thrift vision". A thread and thrift vision just sounds so akin to my own ideals and that's without even starting on how much I would like one of her quilted skirts.

Jennie Atkinson was just as stylish and wonderful as her elegant finely knitted tops. One day I will knit something from a pattern and hopefully it wont be a disaster but until then I will just have to make do with flicking through Jennie's book and dreaming.

Other highlights for me included so many threads in so many colours at the handweavers studio
Pom Pom trim and Pinterest greatness at Caro London, super screen printing, mini style from Thermofax Screens and a new blog to explore Dolly does.....

The Knitting and Stitching Show is on at Alexandra Palace until Sunday 13th October after which it heads off to Dublin and Harrogate. You should seriously go if you get a chance, if not, maybe see you next year at Ally Pally.