It looks as though we might have a large plum harvest this year - if the tree gets enough water! Plum blossom is lovely to use as inspiration appearing as it does before the leaves, it is easy to see the full shape of the flowers.
...... but first I wanted to tell you about our Easter egg/bunny hunt. The weather was kind to us and the bunnies were hidden outside. I was carrying out one or two tasks inside when a Brownie was brought to me with a splinter on the end of her thumb. I think she had said something like 'Snowy I've found a splinter'. I looked at it and told her she'd be going home soon and should show Mum. She looked doubtful and I told her we are not allowed to use anything that is not in the First Aid box - but said I would check for tweezers - knowing I wouldn't find any - we're not allowed to go poking about in children's thumbs! I repeated that it would have to stay where it was and she should show Mum. "Why Brown Owl?" Well I'm not allowed to remove splinters and its stuck in your thumb isn't it? "No. I've just pulled it out of my leg!!" Not for the first time I marvelled at how easy it is to get at cross purposes with young children, and some adults for that matter!
And now my pretty and practical little pincushion from recycled materials today. A plastic bottle top for the base (I hate sending them to landfill whilst recycling the rest of the bottle). The fabric for the covering is a re-purposed child's T-shirt. A liberal sprinkling of embroidered daisies, some lace trimming and a ribbon bow complete the design:
... well actually the intention was to have an Easter egg hunt but my local shop offfered me foil wrapped bunnies instead this year.
Now something of a tradition for the last Brownie night before Easter. I hope for nice weather since our Scout hut (our meeting place too) is not very big and hiding places are limited. Even the 10 year-olds can't reach very high, and the obvious places usually get over filled. Last year I had to place objects, which we didn't other wise need, round and about to create 'egg hiding places'. Then there is always the problem of not retrieving all the eggs which have been hidden - they usually turn up eventually, but not always found by the Brownies and not always in a fit state to eat!
Last year I bought the eggs as soon as they appeared in the shops, put them away at home and then couldn't find them again! ( We are short of storage space here and I try to pretend that the bags and boxes under the stairs are not multiplying and are not Brownie-related!). Anxious not to repeat last year's mistake, I thought I would wait for a few weeks - only to find my choice has been restricted to bunnies.
I try to make the process take as long as possible, and place emphasis on the fun of hiding as well as seeking the bunnies. I divide the Brownies into two groups and one group hides the bunnies whilst the other group is 'somewhere else'. This is where good weather becomes almost essential. Our hut consists of one main room and a very small kitchen (also store rooms and loos). In order for 12 Brownies to hide the eggs in the main room the other half of the pack need to be in the kitchen or preferably outside. Last year was bad weather and squeezing 12 Brownies and two leaders into the kitchen was more of a challenge than finding egg-hiding places for the other 12 in the main hall! Anyway, the hiding and seeking cycle being completed, we reverse the roles and repeat. Only then do we permit any consumption of chocolate! Its so hot here today we may be in danger of eggs hidden outdoors actually melting.
A beautiful sunny day, yesterday both our Scouting children were busy for 6 hours, but we were lacking a little in energy. We trundled over to Bala, had a leisurely stroll through the town and along part of the lake shore and then drove up to Llyn Celyn for a picnic. Quieter than Bala and with a picnic site allowing us to sit a little way from the road, Llyn Celyn is a reservoir between Bala and Trawsfynydd. The dam controls the flow of water down a mountain stream, providing white water for kayak enthusiasts and finally entering the River Dee just a little way below Bala Lake - where the Dee rises.
A peaceful picnic, a little progress on a knitted lace bangle - eventually to be embroidered and it was time to come home. Llyn Celyn:
I have just finished stitching this brooch for Lynwoodcrafts Etsy shop:
..... my parcel of hand-dyed felt and lace, from a fellow Etsy seller, arrived very promptly yesterday and a garden chair, with a cuppa and my work basket beckon. My 18 year old now has a revision timetable on his bedroom wall - a little lacking in detail at the present but its existence is a little miracle. 15 year old is naggy having stayed up to watch all of Sports Relief, and then got up for percussion practice while her brother is out 'mending a climbing tower'( as you do when you're a Scout Leader). I think her homework is up to date. So, if I can turn a deaf ear to the younger one banging doors and try to dredge some recollection of 'A' Level chemistry from my memory for the older one - a reasonable day should be had. (Although we have got the tedious Dof E expedition food shop to do - we wander round the supermarket with a notebook keeping a log of the calories we have accumulated for each day - increasingly difficult to find calory-rich stuff nowadays)(I have also promised to try and get my stash of yarn etc under control - have decided to use vacuum-pack bags for duplicates or yarns I don't plan to use soon. Quite a spectacular reduction in volume - I may even be able to sneak some more in! I had best pack/shrink a couple more bags )
Both kids are busy with Scouts tomorrow - so hopefully some relaxing stitching. I may pop back to show you the results.
A few hours later....
The first embroidered brooch from the hand-dyed, vintage lace - mentioned above:
I have always had quite a fascination with miniature craft items. Scaled down furniture etc for dollshouses is not really my sort of thing, in terms of having a go myself, but I love to see other peoples' work. Tiny items of needlework usually require 'tiny materials' - fine gauge thread/yarn/needles, finely woven fabric, tiny buttons and beads. One big advantage is that a 'project' bag or box, enabling work on-the-go, or whilst having a day out/week end away camping, fits into a small bag. Miniature projects also appeal to my love of recycling and using precious scraps of fabric, reclaimed beads etc from my 'family archive' of materials - now going back three generations.
As a child, I was given a beading loom and painstakingly followed the patterns included - producing a reasonably passable beaded amulet bag necklace - I still have it somewhere - perhaps this will find its way into the family textile/craft archive for the future! Bead-weaving produces lovely results, but is not really a craft which I enjoy. I have been experimenting with stitching some tiny amulet bags or purses. I enjoy producing hand-made cord and, in this way I can produce a means of suspending the amulet which 'blends with/grows-out-of its construction - in the same way that a beaded necklace might be used to suspend a beaded amulet.
I am becoming more enthusiastic about one or two ideas as I type.
This is my first amulet bag, in the form of a charm, to be listed on Etsy (off to rummage through my stash of lace etc....)
Our garden is far from perfect. The forget-me-nots are not supposed to have seeded themselves into the edge of the path against the side of the raised beds, a properly pruned rosemary bush would not display all these delicate flowers ( we do have a cutting which we intend to swap for the huge one - when we get round to it) and I had to move the old toothbrush, which was loitering in the herb bed, before photogaphing the hyacinths. 'Toothbrush in herb bed?" The herbs are planted facing more or less south alongside our garage wall. Two fruit trees are trained against the wall. The apple tree has been troubled by woolly aphid and the plum tree by some un-identified bugs which appear from over-wintering about now and start multiplying. We don't use chemicals in our garden so the remedy for these pests has been brushing with a toothbrush - particularly now, when I'm not at risk of damaging the blossom and consequently our fruit crop. Each tree has its own brush, in case I introduce the aphid to the plum tree - although the trees are so close I have sort of assumed that they just prefer apple!
The quality of the photos has also suffered from my reluctance to faff around with the tripod. The images will serve me well as inspiration for embroideries.
There are several flowers here which I have not yet attempted in needlework, but the daffodil, jasmine and heathers have appeared several times.
I always like to try to produce items which are 'made from scratch'. I am a little flexible in the way in which I judge whether or not I am achieving this, since I don't produce 'raw materials' - don't have a flock of sheep, grow my own flax etc. Neither do I dye basic yarns, fibres and fabrics. However, I do like to consider the 'background' for my embroideries as part of the design - rather than just the 'support' on which the design sits.
I have a stash of fibres - merino and other wools, silk, mohair, mostly hand-dyed - although not by me. These might be felted, (wet-felted, needle-felted, or felted on an embellisher machine), they might be stitched on to a background (couched or - if the fibres are long enough, held by a 'web' of stitches), been bonded as one layer amongst sheer fabrics......
Yarns - and I have a very extensive stash ( mostly very small quantities of each) - commercially produced but also hand-dyed/ hand spun including some 'art yarns', rare breed wools and some from a local flock - which is lovely. I have wool, alpaca, silk, cotton........ and their blends, all 'weights', some vintage, most colours imaginable ( although often find that I don't have the colour I want in the fibre I have in mind in the required weight - but I'm not supposed to be buying any more?!!?). In order to produce backgrounds from yarn, I have knitted, crocheted (both with/without felting of fulling), woven (using several different techniques), couched or felted ( most recently using my embellisher machine).
Fabric - new or up-cycled ( and some vintage in both categories) - which may be hand-painted, torn into strips and then used as yarn (see above), bonded (particularly layers of sheer fabric), appliqued or patchworked.
Lace and ribbon - both new and vintage - used layered over another fabric or as a central panel.
Scrim - hand-dyed (although not by me), layered over another fabric.
Hessian - well this one is ongoing - having found a scrap under a box whilst looking for some more lace - I really am easily distracted! I may have a finished piece to show you later!
(31/2 hours later)
I love the effect I have achieved with the hessian (although it was so time-consuming that it will be impossible to make many brooches this way). Here is the background:
The hessian has been stitched over red felt, using tiny cross stitches at the 'intersections' in the weave - alternating metallic red and gold threads.
I then framed the brooch in twisted strands of 'un-ravelled' hessian - stitched in place with the metallic gold thread. Finally, I was able to stitch the rose design in a mixture of woven parcel ribbon, silk and organza ribbons, with other details added in embroidery thread.
The brooch shown to the right sold almost immediately, so it has been replaced at Lynwoodcrafts on Etsy by this one in a similar style. Neutral shades of ivory this time - it would team with any summery outfit:
Not what I was looking for in the 'lace drawer' but having re-discovered it, I knew how I wanted to use it. You can see the results in Lynwoodcrafts' Etsy shop.
A day of catching up after the day before beckons me. I set of to file an untidy pile of paperwork yesterday morning. I flicked through some insurance documents as I came across them, found some details were not as I expected, and, after a lengthy phone-call, spent a couple of hours seeking alternative cover. Not how I would have chosen to spend yesterday but, finally, a happy outcome. I seem to have found a much more comprehensive policy (and cheaper too!).
The pile of paperwork still awaits, and other jobs are accumulating but, a little afraid of uncovering more administrative glitches ( I hate paperwork - other than the craft-medium variety), I have persuaded myself that I needed a little more of a chill-out morning. Not usually possible on Tuesdays due to preparation for Brownies but someone else has offered to take the lead tonight!
Off to 'put' (cram, persuade....) the lace back into its drawer. None of my storage facilities seem quite adequate!
...... "Where's my ........" , "I need.........", "Why can't I find......."
Their school timetables don't vary week to week, after school is busy but pretty much the same each week. Monday always follows Sunday and is usually the start of the school week. How any of the routine takes them by surprise each week I have no idea. My son just needs books, food and cash each day. My daughter has complicated days with netball kit, saxophone and sometimes art portfolio in addition to her school bag all to be accommodated on a crowded bus - but Monday is just a standard school bag. My daughter wears a school uniform, her brother wears the same clothes for school each week - no lengthy decisions to be made there then. So why do I end up screaming 'Its quarter past and I'm not driving just because you two are too lazy to be organised!!' - pretty much every week?
They dash out, after the bus should have left, relying on it being late - and I spend the next ten minutes wondering if they are going to reappear begging a lift. If not, I finally, get chance to start my week.
My first item of the week is listed on Etsy and I am about to embark on a huge clearout at home - long overdue and very necessary in preparation for some tradesmen we need to help us with some improvements - nothing very major but time has stood still in this house for 18 years and we need an update!
.... was the solution we agreed upon to Yesterday's dilemma of 'what to do with a Saturday'.
Only about 45 minutes away from us and yet somewhere we tend to drive round, rather than visit. I was half wanting to watch the rugby, but I gave in to the idea of an afternoon out.
A traditional market town, with lovely architecture - one or two 60's buildings in the 'wrong places' excepted - Shrewsbury still has a lovely atmosphere. I'm not really someone who likes large, in-door, piped music, piped air, artificial light, all shop-fronts-the-usual-chains, sort of shopping centre. Shrewsbury has one and, on popping in in search of a loo, we were faintly pleased to see so many empty shops. The lovely network of side streets, with a beautiful patchwork of buildings - timber-framed, black and white onwards, has many lovely individual shops. We spent a couple of hours strolling around - we should have taken the camera. A couple of birthday gifts and some Easter gifts were purchased. I couldn't resist a yarn shop and bought 5 or 6 six balls - all different - my small items don't need large quantities!
Unfortunately, the car radio was turned on for the 6 pm news. Our daughter had managed not to reveal the match results - the BBC were less considerate - at least it was good news. A quiet evening was spent knitting a purse, which may remain mine, and which will be felted and embroidered (when I have finished the knitting). I only obtained access to the TV at about 11pm - so watched the match then.
Saturday's seem to have one or other of these characteristics, largely depending on the week we've had and the plans of our two teenagers. Last week was a little hard going at times. None of us has been feeling completely well, we have had a couple of extra evening meetings thrown into our usual schedule, 15 year old has been sitting some exams ( including her first proper GCSE paper and accompanying a friend in the friend's GCSE music exam), and we all feel quite tired.
Our 18 year old went out to help with his Scout group as usual last night, before going on (late) to a friend's 18th. I should feel quite pleased with him, he did his voluntary work first and wasn't too late back. Already 18, he seems to have got the hang of drinking for enjoyment but not to excess - quite an achievement for an 18 year old these days. He was quite 'chatty' when he got home but was sober enough to help pack the disco away first. He's now down at our local Scout campsite - refreshing his skills in setting up and helping to supervise the various activities - abseiling etc. Now, if we could only get him to study in between these other worthy pursuits we would feel as though all our parenting efforts had been worth it.
I haven't seen his sister today yet - she really is quite tired. Since we were on taxi duty for our son at around midnight, and again this morning , we're tired too.
All-in-all today feels like the end of last week to me. I would be quite happy to catch up on some housework and sit and watch the rugby this afternoon. My husband is trying hard to make today feel like the start of the weekend. He wanted a long day out walking, but I really haven't enough energy. Plan B is an afternoon out - probably into the evening. Our son is camping tonight so we don't have to collect him. Our daughter will not want to walk with us, accompany us on a scenic drive ( I must admit I try not to burn fuel for the sake of it), or anything else we might suggest. (She does walk - with her Explorer Scout Group but NOT with her parents!!! - hopefully she'll return to being pleasant company in a year or two!). I'm stuck in the middle again, and not too sure how to keep everyone happy.
Another cup of tea, set the rugby to record (in case I'm not here), and find a craft book or two to browse I think.
OK - I still haven't managed to get back to regular blogging. I always seem to feel I should have 'something in particular' to say and spend too long thinking about the possibilities to get anything done. I have decided to try a 'diary' approach, sort of 'Twitter ++', with more profound or interesting things thrown in if anything occurs to me.
Trying to recover from a virus-type thing with following throat infection. I keep thinking I've beaten it and then it comes back. We only had about 1/2 a voice between us at Brownies this week - almost had to resort to sign language. 18 year old is struggling to recover, spent a few hours in A&E on oxygen last week (2am onwards - obviously. Seems to be some sort of rule that we don't get there during daylight. We are having an on-going 'discussion' about his Scouts commitments this week end - he is supposed to camp but I want him to sleep - he's just missed 10 days of school and I daren't look but I'm fairly sure A2's are only about 12 weeks away).
Back to my world of craft! My Etsy shop now looks respectably stocked with around 100 items listed. I am enjoying the embellisher machine which I treated myself to earlier this year. I still hand finish the felt which I produce but I love the effect which I can get from 'stripes' of yarn. It does speed up the initial part of the process of producing a background. I keep thinking that I should lower the listing prices slightly as a result - no wonder I'm not rolling in money - I have to keep reminding myself that my aim must be to recover the money I spent on the machine.
A few of the backgrounds that I began yesterday - 'seascape onshore', 'seascape off-shore', 'cornfields', moorland.......