Tuesday, 20 September 2011

That Time of Year Again!

'Dad will you get my sax and art portfolio from the sitting room please?'

'Why can't you get them yourself L-----?'

'I'm not going back in there!!!!!!'

Usually this happens to us most frequently in October, but as with many seasonal events it seems to be creeping a little earlier each year. The problem is it is nice and warm today so it was moving very quickly -  up to the point where it fell off the wall and plopped very audibly onto a bag of magazines. In our experience those which are large enough to make noises - either bodily as thy fall, or absolute horror (and my toes are curled up as I type!), have large enough feet to make a scraping noise on a pelmet, or in an attempt to make an escape from a water glass in the bathroom - are definitely best avoided.

Now I am in the house on my own, I have a real problem. My work is in the conservatory - accessed by the sitting room??

I have tried to tell myself that we share our home with many - mostly remaining unseen and just because we know this one is there - somewhere, it won't be the only one and we usually carry on inspite of this knowledge. Its not working terribly well so far.

Those of you who share our seasonal anxieties don't need me to put a name to this creature. Suffice it to say that the conkers which have been gathered for tonight's Brownies' meeting may find other purposes in the meantime. Yes, I am a scientist by training, and yes I am not aware of any evidence as to the efficacy of this remedy - the fear is somewhat irrational and I fear it needs an irrational solution. Wish me luck!!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

To everything there is a season...

...a time to every purpose under the heavens.....

I love to look at embroidery in historical collections. The fine Elizabethan collection at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire is probably my favourite. Produced by the ladies of the house as ornament for textiles and soft furnishing, often using gold thread, the pieces are finely detailed. I have found myself thinking that I am pleased to have the benefit of daylight in our conservatory, daylight bulbs in task lighting, the internet and a library of books for research...... So many 'benefits' of modern living enable my participation in craft work.

I am overlooking the most obvious benefit of the time in which I live. Had I been living in Elizabethan times, or even Victorian times, I would have been conducting my tasks by candle-light, certainly. I live in a small village. There were once many large country houses in the surrounding area. If as my great grandparents, I had been in service at one of these it is possible that my needlework skills may have found some use in helping the housekeeper with mending tasks. If, however, I had other work, and perhaps a family to care for, I would have been repairing hand-me-down clothes and trying to get a few more months of life out of near thread-bare items.

I love rag rugs. I am too busy really, and although I have a number of vague project plans, I have yet to start them. I found myself thinking  - if only I lived 100 or so years ago I would be almost expected to make rag rugs, rather than having to justify the time!

I am lucky indeed that my '..time to be born..' has placed me into a society in which access to education, transport, materials and 'leisure time' ( although now employed in my business - my needlework skills were acquired as 'hobbies) has enabled me to indulge my creative interests - hard work though a small craft business is!

A short post today - I have a camel without ears and need to do a little research!!!

Monday, 12 September 2011


... a compulsion I seemed to have long before it was fashionable! Thrift, sentimental attachment, 'saving the earth', appreciation of vintage designs, and, in some cases, a lack of currently available alternatives have all influenced me.

I find 'having a clear out' a difficult process. I can happily empty a cupboard, re-fold, re-stack and replace the items which belong there and are currently needed. Misplaced items are efficiently placed in boxes or bags each with a more appropriate intended destination. All this has sapped my energy and it is only now that it is possible to start the difficult task of deciding what to do with everything else.

Charity bags, delivered to be filled for home collection have been marvelous. Hoping that I am not ultimately contributing to landfill, and wanting to help a good cause, I find it quite easy to part with clothes the kids have outgrown if they are little used. Books are very tricky. I may have been given the odd one or two which I no longer need, but books which I have bought, fiction aside, are impossible to part with. Household items, other than some received as gifts, are, generally, chosen to last and are not fit for purpose when we have finished with them. We find it hard to contribute to car-boot-type collections for Scouts. We don't usually buy things we don't need!

Textiles usually cause the greatest anxiety - just how much is it reasonable to keep. Sports socks pushed inside each other, make great window polishers - I have enough for the street. They also seem quite good for polishing son's bike - he doesn't do so very often though! I now have enough and must be strict in the future. Towels descend to the realms of 'cleaning' cloths (when cut into smaller pieces) before being thrown out. Almost all cotton fabric is recycled. Shirt buttons are removed and I have been known to knit the shirt fabric into a yarn basket or two - now you begin to see the extent of 'my problem'. I have a drawer full of fleece jumpers to recycle - hardly worn, I plan to 'patchwork' them with some new fleece scraps, bought as off-cuts, and embellish the items with embroidery. These are intended for my use, not for sale. I have planned a jacket (but not yet located the pattern I want to use) and a throw or two. Now the jacket will be unique. Fleece throws, however, are cheap to buy and will be time-consuming to make. Perhaps this is the root of the problem. Many textiles are just that - too cheap.

I have three 'stacking crates' of discarded T-shirts. These are destined for rag rugs (hooked, prodded or woven - on my peg loom), or will be used for storage baskets (knitted or woven). Having watched me weaving, my sister-in-law now kindly sends their discarded T-shirts - brilliant since their family colour preferences are different to ours and they are extending my palette - and my storage crisis!

The smallest, and most precious, scraps of cotton fabric are the off-cuts from clothes my sister and I wore as children, and items which were made for our grandmother. The use of any of these, and I do use them, always merits long and careful consideration!

Antique quilts, when needing restoration, often reveal their true identity. Beautiful to look at, the culmination of hours of painstaking hand-stitching, they are to serve the purpose of providing warmth. Those worked as patchwork, incorporate recycling into the quilt top. The 'wadding' often reveals hidden secrets - recycled blankets and even hand-knitted shawls and similar items. Produced in an age when many people lived at subsistence level and all textiles were valued.

We had a trip to France this summer - the sort of holiday which has not been possible for us for many years. Having brought back too much wine for our kitchen rack I searched the garage for the spare one which used to be on top of the freezer, then was consigned to the garage - since we did not buy enough wine to need it, then was........... given to the last collection of items for a Scout group car boot!

My view that throwing things out is just as important a decision as buying them in the first place is now confirmed!

Friday, 9 September 2011


A little addition to my Folksy shop:

I hope you like him!

This Little Piggy - Folksy Friday No 39

Having added a couple of little pigs to my shop yesterday, I thought I would show you some others - I had fun picking them! I hope you like my choices - click on any item to see it on its Folksy shelf. If you have a moment to spare, have a peek at my other recent posts - more followers are always welcome.

I hope you like my choices:

Thingy-ma-Pig Milliebead
felted fluffies Jules' Little Gems


Gill Bloom



Felted Fluffies

Jules' Little Gems

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Why don't blackbirds....

..... eat strawberries in September?

( this post will be a little footnote to one or two others posted in the last few days)

re - 'Seasonal Uncertainty'
Our strawberries are cropping again. Last year, the plants produced a large second crop but they did not ripen before the first heavy frost. This year, as more fruits formed, we wondered about lifting some and re-planting the strawberry pots in the greenhouse. Dithering about whether or not this would damage the crop, we ran out of time. The first crop always requires protection, in the form of netting, from the blackbirds. Lifting the netting to pick is tedious and I had been wondering about planting some in baskets in order to get them into the fruit cage - 'ground level' being too full! Weekends away would then pose a watering problem. Now even I can smell these latest strawberries as I pass by en route to the washing line - yet not one has been pecked by birds! Do they have some sort of peculiar dietary aide memoirs of the sort which prompts us not to eat oysters in the wrong months? and if so what harm do 'September-consumed strawberries' do since I don't intend to let them go to waste!

re - 'Serendipity'
A fellow folkster very kindly advertised the free availability of some wool fibres - left overs from producing hair falls. I was delighted when they arrived! Those which have been partly processed into hair falls are felted "ropes" of wool about 1 cm in diameter. Absently fiddling about with them I came up with the idea of using a textile centre to my chunky bangles. The present examples have a rolled fabric core but I plan some based on a center of felted wool. Thank you to Jane of Folksy shop GaiaNoir for the lovely gifts of wool and ideas!

re 'Cataloging"
I spent the latter part of yesterday happily thinking, in an unstructured way, about my 'New Venture'. Today I am just as happily planning, having resisted the impulse to rush in ill-prepared. A shop front will appear during the next few days with a message about the opening date. Items will be loaded in draft and then, hopefully, will be displayed with little additional effort on the date in question.

Now doesn't that sound neat and easy - I  wonder......... Off to stitch a banner - literally!!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


... filing, storing, retrieving - fabric, threads, yarns..... AND products!

I have many, many fabrics. Some by the part roll, others by the metre, some fat quarters and others scraps. Then I also have fabric for recycling - T shirts for rag rugs and rug weaving, cottons for applique, children's much-loved baby clothes for memory quilts etc. Embarking on a new project I open drawers, tip out wicker baskets, reach down prettily coloured boxes, scrabble under my desk for plastic stacking crates; make a cup of tea to revive me; select fabrics and then what? I fold the selected fabrics into a work basket, the phone rings, I respond to an email, and still I have a mountain of fabrics to tidy away. I need a fabric (and other materials) storage and retrieval system. I have tried grouping by colour, fibre, weight, purpose (this has proved the most inefficient for retrieval as designs evolve and I move on!). I have bought pretty baskets, efficient plastic, recycled and pretty cardboard. I have crocheted baskets from plastic bags, re-cycled T shirts and yarns. I have woven boxes. Countless bags have been stitched/appliqueed/embroidered/patchworked - and the result is always the same. A labour-intensive period of 'harvesting' materials and a frustrating, usually partially completed, and tedious, task of re-storing.

I suppose relative simplicity would be found by producing a limited range of items from a limited palette of materials. I'm afraid that Lynwoodcrafts' Design Department (ie my cluttered imagination) doesn't function in that way. I like to shop in the stereotypical 'Aladins' Cave'- a surprise at every turn - variety, novelty.....I'm sure that it is a monumental mistake in marketing terms to imagine that my buyers share my personal shopping preferences. I do hope, however, that, both in decoration and purpose, my shop-browsers find a pleasing variety of items to muse over. A virtual shop is never too full of shoppers - the isles never too crowded and everyone is welcome.

Whilst the storage and retrieval of materials is a problem which my family would certainly like me to solve, I have become more concerned about the miss-match of items in Lynwoodcrafts' Folksy shop. I have filed by 'purpose of item' - brooches, pendants, needlebooks etc. The number of available departments is limited by the system but is perfectly adequate. Or at least it used to be. I felt that a variety of needlework styles - landscape, floral, abstract - using varied techniques (embroidery, felting, applique...) sat happily alongside each other - each benefitting from the contrast.

The addition of cute animal designs has been one variable too many. Popular and receiving many views and generous compliments - they are sprinkled in amongst the other items - a pincushion here and a brooch there. Difficult to find and looking a little lost. I have so many design ideas ready - featuring different characters, a variety of techniques. I would like them to adorn a range of items. All this creativity and the potential number of items which would be fighting for display space require an extension to my shop; the creation of a new department - or in 'Folksy terms' - a new shop.

You are witnessing the birth of a new venture. The name is in my mind - recognizable as being 'of Lynwoodcrafts', a banner and avatar are under consideration and sooo many products are clamouring to be stitched. Progress will be reported over the next few days - you will be the first to know!

Now where on earth have I seen the printed cotton with small sprigs of blue flowers which I last used for  one of Millie Mouse's frocks...........

Monday, 5 September 2011

Seasonal Uncertainty

A trip to Winchester (handy for open day at Southampton University), revealed a strange mixture of over-lapping seasons.

I'm not really one for very large crowds of people, queues, etc (unless at an interesting exhibition - ie craft related!!). Glad to escape from the open day but with only a few hours of daylight left, we found a trail guide to a local nature reserve and put our boots on. The map lead us up onto chalk downs, along one side, and then back along the other, of a gentle ridge. The views, also very gentle, were a pretty mixture of stubble and freshly sown winter crops.

The hedgerows and grassland had been sown with the most glorious mixture of wild flowers, such food for thought for my embroidery. I struggled to find a flower-free, 'bottom-sized' patch of grass on which to sit and admire the view - not wishing to squash any. At this point it would be great to show you some photos -  however, still feeling stressed from the open day, I had committed the dreadful crime of leaving the camera in the van. Both my husband and son did their best with their phones - perhaps they will send me the results later today - but I am sure these won't compare to the results from an SLR. My one consolation is that there was a strong breeze and most of the blooms were dancing merrily - and so likely to look blurred even with a decent camera. The bottoms of the hedgerows and meadows were dressed for summer - a little too breezy for many butterflies, but definitely a lovely summer scene. However, look a little higher up and the bounty of autumn was prevalent. Rosehips, hawthorn berries, sloes (gin beckons!), elderberries, blackberries...... Conkers! Why are horse chestnuts perfectly ripe and waxily shiny on the first weekend of September? I was intending to have a sweet chestnut gathering in October and have a trip to harvest bilberries - so do I need to set out now? A pity, if so, since we don't have a free weekend for a few weeks!

I have listed my first autumn item in my shop - but will also continue with summer themes for a little while longer:

Thursday, 1 September 2011


.. a program which I seem to remember as a child, a sort of craft-based magazine program. I think a 'finger-mouse' glove puppet featured in every issue. Painted pebbles and something lovely with drift wood and shells, seem to come to mind. I know something was encapsulated in resin - but can't remember what. The main 'theme' was a re-working of found or tired objects with occasional new materials - or at least, that is my recollection - a little hazy after many years!

A quick google search results in the following definition of serndipity:

"the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for".

So it was with my new purse design. We spent a very enjoyable Bank Holiday weekend in Cardiff- the subject of a future blog. Having unpacked our 'van' in a somewhat random fashion - miscellaneous armful at a time, I was clearing the table of some assorted deposits. One of these was a small jewellery pouch - provided as a complimentary gift wrap with a necklace which my daughter bought for me. Small, soft and closing with drawstrings it is ideal for use over a weekend. Its shape has caught my attention several times this summer - something like a fat garlic bulb with a very wide stem. Absently fiddling with it whilst waiting for Folksy images to load, I loosened the drawstrings and folded the top down. That created a pleasing shape and, since the top was double (rather than a flap), was likely to be secure. Extending the 'neck' gave enough room for an embroidered design. A 'prototype' was stitched and passed around the family. It worked well - one button closing the purse effectively. A slight problem was that so long a 'neck' made it a little difficult for adult hands to select from the contents. The solution was to reduce the underside of the neck. The top portion forming a lining to neaten the reverse of the embroidery. A slit, the width of the 'neck', and a little way below the folding line has been the answer. The purse is deep enough and the opening still folds over - 'simples!' to quote a famous furry character. I have now listed three of these purses and hope you will like them!