Sunday, 27 February 2011

Going to the Fair…..


Today I went to the Essex Bead Fair in Tiptree with a friend.  We were a little later arriving than expected as some helpful Road Repair people had put ‘Road Closed’ signs up and a diversion.  Thing is the diversion just took you round in circles, and to get to the venue you had to ignore the signs and go down the ‘closed’ road.  So what should have been a short journey from her home became a magical mystery tour of north Essex with an increasingly grumpy driver.  (The grumpy driver would be me by the way)


Anyway, once there we fortified ourselves with tea (always a good way to calm me down) and headed off to see what we could find.  One of the ‘stalls’ was a display stand of some amazing pieces created out of beads where I took I these photos.  (Sorry about the quality – I only had the camera on my mobile)


Don’t these chocolates look good enough to eat!


Or a drink which definitely looks alcoholic…


Tinny anyone?


These beautiful cuddly looking toys weren’t so cuddly when you realised that they were made completely out of tiny beads.

I have mixed feelings about beading.  On the one hand you get amazing pieces like these where the artistry is plain to see.  There were some stunning beads you could easily imagine forming part of jewellery in a select little boutique.  Gorgeous semi-precious stones, freshwater pearls and cut crystal.  Unfortunately, alongside all this beauty was stuff that looked like it had been found inside a really cheap Christmas cracker.  Of course I guess it’s the same for any craft.  Does beading have it’s own version of a ‘yarn snob’ I wonder?

That said, I didn’t come home empty handed as I bought a couple of pendants, but I’ll blog about them another time.  In part because one is a fossil my inner geek wants to research more, but also because I’m feeling the urge for another cup of tea… Hmm… Time to put the kettle on again.

Friday, 25 February 2011

A Place on the Web

After a lot of encouragement (and a bit of arm twisting), Fantasia Yarns now has it’s own website.


I’ve also uploaded some new yarns to the Folksy shop.  However, since I’m uncomfortable with self promotion, I’m going to end this post with some photos of a few yarns in the shop update before my cheeks go completely red, and simply ask you all to forgive me the shameless plugging….



Thursday, 24 February 2011

Those cushions again

Remember those patchwork quilted cushion covers?  Well the project has kind of grown a bit… But more of that later. 


I’m really rather pleased with them even though I know that they are far from perfect.  I have to say that the patchwork was by far the easiest bit.  Quilting the ‘pads’ to form the fronts was ahem ‘interesting’.  But attaching the cushion backs was a nightmare!


If I was to do them again I would choose a different wadding – this one was definitely to thick for the job.  Also investing in a ‘walking foot’ for my sewing machine would be a good move.  I’ve never used a walking foot before but I know that they are designed to help compensate for problems with differential feed.  This is when different layers of fabric move through your sewing machine at different rates which leads to all sorts of problems.  Everyone I’ve spoken to who has one has raved about it, so onto the shopping list it goes.


Now remember I mentioned that the project has sort of grown a bit?  Well the cushion covers were made from some charm squares I bought off the internet.  The seller only had squares of this particular fabric so it was only ever going to be cushions.  At least that’s what I thought.  Then I walked into one of my local fabric shops (one which I don’t go to much because I don’t like the atmosphere) and there sitting on the shelf were two rolls of fat quarters, one in the white and one in the cream.  You know what happened next don’t you.


Yup they are now at home in my fabric stash.  I’d like to say at this point that my fabric stash is tiny compared to my yarn stash so the addition of two rolls of fat quarters is a major thing.  I’m now imagining the cushions on my bed with a matching runner across the bottom.  Hmm……

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


swift-7I’ve got a shiny new swift!  Ok ok it’s not shiny, and it’s not new, but you get the idea.  A swift, for those non-yarn obsessed among us, is a sort of spinning thing that you can use to help you wind yarn into balls or cakes ready for use.

If you don’t have one you end up draping the yarn over the back of a chair, using a friend to hold it, or in my case wrapping it over your knees which then have to be held an at unnatural angle so it doesn’t fall off.  Not an activity to be done in a skirt or in front of people (unless you don’t mind looking more than a little stupid).

Anyway after using a beautiful wooden swift belonging to a friend, I was sold and wanted my own.  However, a quick internet search revealed that unless I wanted a metal one, (my heart was set on wood), I might have to part with a little bit more money that I’d anticipated.  Enter the ebay stalking.


Eventually this one came up for sale.  It was listed as ‘vintage’ but the photos made it look remarkably new.  The price was right and so I clicked on the ‘bid now’ button.  Soon it was winging it’s way to my eager hands.


I’m still not sure about the ‘vintage’ bit as the wood looks remarkably clean and unused, but, I don’t care.  It’s pretty and I love it.  No doubt the next few days will involve lots of yarn winding hehe…

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A New Experience

cushion-squares-1As I mentioned in my last post I’ve been thinking about giving patchwork quilting a go.  Nothing ambitious to start with, just something small for the cottage.  However, two things kept putting me off.  My sewing machine was stuck underneath a pile of stuff (that’s sorted now and I have a sewing table again), and cutting out the pieces.

Speaking to a couple of friends who quilt I was advised this is usually done with a cutting mat and a rotary cutter.  I own neither of these and since I had no idea if I would enjoy this new adventure, was reluctant to purchase them.  Then while browsing online I wandered onto some sites that sell pre-cut fabric ready for patchwork sewing.  Hmmm so perhaps here was a way I could try it out without a large financial outlay.  I had no idea you could buy the fabric pre-cut as my friends always seemed to buy it off the roll.

So out came the graph paper and measuring tape.  I decided to make two cushion covers for my bedroom in a cream/white scheme.  I don’t own any books on quilting but in true Top Gear style I decided ‘How hard can it be?’ and got stuck in.


I quickly had some squares winging their way to me through the post, and when they arrived spent a little while playing with different orders.  Then there was pinning and sewing…


And before long I had the patchwork bit of two cushions done.  Now I’m sure experienced quilters will be able to point out numerous mistakes I made and places I could have improved.  Miss C also sent me numerous tutorial links for the internet, which I ignored because I was two busy playing with the fabric, pins and my machine!


This bit hadn’t been pressed when I took this photo (I really should learn patience with my camera) but you get the idea.  I’m rather proud of my first attempts, and most of all – I had a huge amount of fun…

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Calico Dragon

I’ve recently been thinking about doing some patchwork quilting.  This is something I’ve not done before and unlike knitting, sewing or crochet, isn’t anything I’m aware of anyone in my family doing when I was little.

However it did trigger a memory of my father who sadly is no longer with us.  While growing up I would often go and hide under the table in his den while he messed about with his cine projectors.  When he died and we finally managed to do an inventory (including the ones he hid in the garage) he had almost 200.  To go with these was a large collection of films, the majority of which were early animations, Warner Bros, Disney, Hanna Barbera, MGM, Walton and many others.

Many happy evenings of my childhood were spent cross legged under that desk watching these cartoons.  One of his favourites (which took him quite a while to find) was called The Calico Dragon.

It’s about a little girl with a patchwork quilt who reads a fairy tale about a dragon to her toys at bed time.  Then, when she falls asleep, the toys come alive.  The Knight, his horse and dog decide to go off into the land of Calico to fight the Calico Dragon.

This memory took me by surprise and led to a flood of others, all based around my father.  By the time of his death he was very ill with both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.  If fact for the last few years of his life it was hard to believe that the increasingly incoherent shell of a man actually was my father.  Even after all these years those memories quickly reduce me to tears.

But the memories of those cartoons are associated with him as a younger healthier man.  So I decided to go online and look up The Calico Dragon.  I even found a copy of the film which, (if I’ve done this correctly) should be embedded below.  I hope you like it.  For me this will forever symbolise some of the happiest memories of my childhood.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Stuck Inside.

Given my current ‘stuck inside’ status looking out at blue skies and sunshine is akin to torture.  Spring is desperately trying to make an impression in the garden and I simply can’t get out there.


My garden is not very big, but I love it.  There is nothing better than coming home on a lovely summers evening and heading out onto the patio to drink tea and relax.  Ok, maybe there are some things better…… but you get the idea.


The thing is, all gardeners will tell you that you don’t get those lovely wonderful relaxing summer evenings surrounded by natures beauty without laying the groundwork earlier in the year (or should that be spadework).


I’m simply itching to get out there and get stuck in, but since I can’t, I’ve been looking back at previous years and making plans.  These are all photos taken in my garden last year.


My garden has gone through quite a few changes in the last 3 years or so.  When I first moved in it was left to it’s own devices for quite a while.  I needed to prioritise my time and the garden was too far down the list for anything beyond keeping the patio relatively weed free.  However as things have been knocked off the list the garden began to crawl up there.


So about 3 and half years ago it was finally time to get stuck in.  The first incarnation of the ‘new’ garden basically involved clearing the debris away that had been building up and removing the 25 leylandii.  I had no idea what possessed the previous occupant to plant these as they were stupidly large for the garden.  Interestingly, I received a letter about 2 months after taking them outs from a neighbours estate agent ‘requiring’ me to remove them as they were damaging her fence.  I replied rather snottily that they had been removed some time ago, that the fence in question was actually mine and in fact was being damaged by one of her trees!


This incarnation of the garden lasted for about a year before version 2 came along.  This involved removing the small lawn at the side of the cottage and putting in a fruit and veg area.


I had never grown my own food before so this was a new venture for me and I loved it.  First in were strawberries.  Remember the dreaming of those summer evenings?  Well in that dream I’m eating freshly picked strawberries (or cherries) hehe……


Unfortunately that’s when it all went wrong again.  Why?  Hmmm…  One word…… Pebbles! That naughty puppy destroyed everything.  She would steal things from inside, chew them up outside and burry them in the veg beds.  Everything was chewed and she even ate a lilac tree!


And so was born version 3 with Alcatraz.  About a third of the patio was screened off with a raised bed and fence forming a doggie area.  The dogs can go out there whenever they want and any precious plants were moved out of the way.  The fence has been raised a few times but currently seems to be containing Pebbles.


This leaves the rest of the garden for me.  But as I sit here gazing out of the window longingly, I can’t help but start to make plans for version 4.  The fruit and veg area could be better organised and I’m sure I could do something better with the front garden.  Just exactly what I’m not sure.  Hmm perhaps rather than seeing this enforced confinement as torture I should view it as plotting and scheming time hehe……

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Someone Please Remind Me

Could someone please remind me why I love my dogs?  I mean what is it that convinces me to put up with all the mayhem they cause?

Why am I asking this right now?  Well I’m just recovering from being ill.  In fact I currently can’t even pop the kettle on without having to sit down from the coughing and dizziness.  (But believe me this is a vast improvement on the two weeks I looked like an extra from a Zombie movie)  So you can imagine how overjoyed I was when Pebbles decided to go on the rampage this morning.  There were casualties, my favourite lamp, two duvets, my sanity……

There was also doggie smell making.  I’ll spare you the details as I’m sure you can imagine.  Mind you, the cats were funny at this point, haughtily demanding to be let out the front away from such offensive gases.

So I come back to my original question – why do I love this fur spreading, possession destroying, attention demanding creature…….

pebbles 2

Hmmmm….  must be that cute little face and her ability to convince me that her entire world revolves around me.  At least until her next rampage…..

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Branching Out…


Recently I decided to have a look back through all the patterns I’ve bookmarked or highlighted as ones I want to try, and came across this one.  It’s a free pattern from called Branching Out.

It’s a pretty easy pattern and given how my brain has been befuddled by my sickness I decided it looked perfect.  So I dug out some silk yarn and cast on.

branching-out-1The pattern is free and is in written instructions and chart form.  I’ve been using that chart and it’s really easy to follow.


Like a lot of lace patterns the wrong side rows are all the same (knit the border and then purl the rest) which makes this a 5 row repeating pattern.


Of course you can do as many repeats as you like and my plan is to just keep knitting until I run out of yarn.


Then I’m going to try spray blocking, which I’ve never done before.  Come to that I’ve never tried to block silk either!  I’ll let you see the results when it’s finished.  Unless of course it’s a complete disaster, in which case I’ll pretend it never happened and the scarf doesn’t exist hehe…

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Red Rose Cushion

Last year I bought some James Brett Marble Chunky yarn.  I’m a big fan of this stuff although I know it’s not to everyone's taste.  It comes in 200g balls and you get about 320m per ball.  It is an acrylic but I’m a great believer in there being a place for every type of yarn.  In my case the place this was destined for was home decor given the number of beasties I live with.  Jake the dog in particular is partial to a snuggle with a cushion.

So the plan was to knit up some cushion covers and perhaps a throw to go over the back of the sofa.

Well I finally managed to get started (it’s not my fault I was distracted by other pretty yarns….) and thought I’d share the first result with you.


Now at this stage I would like to point out that the actual yarn isn’t the sort of pink normally reserved for highlighter pens.  It’s much more red in real life.  However, given how tired I have been getting from my recent illness, I simply couldn’t be bothered photoshopping to get the correct the colour.  So you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I started by knitting the main cushion envelope with some rib at the ends to help keep it together at the back.  I’ll admit that this took a lot longer than I’d anticipated probably for two reasons :

  1. The cushion I was planning to put in there is much larger than I originally thought
  2. I’m knitting very slowly at the moment.  Again I’m blaming the recent flu illness.

Once completed I folded it over, sewed it up and voila - a plain cushion cover.

cushion-roseNext I made a much larger version of the knitted flower design that I used for the silk flowers.  I cast on a much longer row (but still in multiples of 6 stitches) and off I went.  The main difference was that I didn’t pull the yarn through after the last row, just cast off as normal.  This allows much more flexibility on the shape of the final flower given it’s size.

Finally this was sewed onto the cushion cover and placed on the sofa so I could see what it looks like.


The whole thing took one 200g ball and above you can see the tiny scrap of yarn left over.  Oh and Jake the dog snuggled straight up to it…

Friday, 11 February 2011

Basket of Yarn

Tomorrow is one of the (roughly) quarterly Saturday get-togethers at Frating in Essex which is organised by people from the local groups.  It’s a fabulous day that involves knitting, cake, spinning, cake, chatting, cake, tea and cake.  Did I mention the cake?


Well unfortunately given my current lergy infected state (I can’t stand for very long without going all faint) I can’t go.  However one of the other ladies has kindly agreed to take some of my yarn along.  Hence my basket of yarn.


basket-5I really do like seeing them together like that.  This is mainly sock yarn in BFL and a Merino/Silk blend.  I’ve decided to keep the Alpaca that’s left for myself.  But it doesn’t make up for missing all the cake….