Friday, 29 April 2011

Pay it Forward

Do you remember my fab spinning wheel?  Well it came to me from Nikki at Sew Quine and recently she posted about Pay it Forward.  This sounds like a great idea so I thought I’d join in.


How does it work?

  1. I will make a little something for the first 3 people who comment on this post. It will be a surprise and it will arrive when you least expect it.
  2. I will have 365 days to do it in. What's the catch? To get a handmade present from me, you have to play too! This means YOU pledge to send a little handmade something to 3 readers of your blog. It doesn't have to be quilty, or knitty or anything - just handmade.
  3. You must have a blog.
  4. Once you receive your "little something", you must post about your Pay it Forward on your blog to keep the fun going - be sure to use the Pay It Forward badge.

Go on leave a comment and join the fun.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Oooooo an Award!

Oh my, I’ve been nominated for a blog award!  My flabber has never been so ghasted.  The nomination comes from Nicola Foreman who makes the most amazing quilts.


Now as I understand it, as part of this I am to share 7 facts about myself you wouldn’t know and I can then nominate five other blogs.

Ok then here goes – 7 facts you never wanted to know about me…

  1. I grew up in the mining colliery where they filmed Billy Elliot.  It’s a little place called Easington Colliery right on the coast of County Durham in the North East of England.  I have many fond memories of walking along the beach and cliff tops there with my grandfather as a small child.  The beach was black with coal from the colliery (called sea coal) and now when I go home seeing a normal coloured beach seems wrong somehow.
  2. I love all animals except spiders.  Don’t ask me why, phobias don’t have to be reasonable or rational.  In fact when at university some friends tried to ‘cure’ me of my arachnophobia by taking me to see the film of the same name.  They later said they were impressed there were no screams coming from my direction until they realised I was literally paralysed with fear.  I only lasted a few minutes after the opening credits when they kindly helped me out.
  3. One of my most prized possessions is an old furry blanket.  It’s double sided and shows two horses heads on it.  This is not because I’m a horsey person, but because it was bought for me when I was very small by my grandfather.  It’s lasted remarkably well considering it’s been my favourite blanket for as long as I can remember.  It’s not just hidden away in storage either, I use it all the time.
  4. Speaking of horses, I’ve always wanted to learn to ride.  I’ve haven’t though as I can’t really afford a horse and if I started riding I’d want my own one.
  5. I have been known to read Norwegian when drunk.  Don’t understand a word of it when sober, but I seem to have the ability when intoxicated.  I assume it’s something to do with hearing the strong northern dialects while I was a child.  I know these owe much to the Scandinavian languages so I’m guessing that’s the connection.
  6. I find it difficult to sleep alone.  I can usually manage it for one or two nights but after that insomnia sets in.  Fortunately Fire the cat selflessly sacrifices himself and agrees to sleep on the bed.  I’ve always been like this and could only sleep as a child if the dog was allowed to sleep at the foot of my bed.  This was an arrangement that Rufus the dog was happy with as well.
  7. My favourite cartoon character is Marvin the Martian.  I just love him to bits and have several Marvin animation cells including a production cell which hangs on my wall.  I also have two production cells from Carrotblanca (think Warner Bros does Casablanca), one of which was exhibited for a while in the Museum of the Moving Image, London.  In fact prompted by this list of things I’ve found Carrotblanca on the web and hopefully posted it below.

So there we have it.  Seven things you never wanted to know and will probably be hoping you can forget as well.  Now onto my five nominations…

So to borrow a line… ‘That’s all Folks!’  (well for today anyway)

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Crafting or Needle Roll Tutorial

Recently, when my mother was visiting, she expressed an interest in a ‘roll’ to keep some of her card making and crafting equipment in.  So on a visit to Quilters Haven I asked her to pick out some fabric and I would make her one.

roll 6Between us we picked out two fabrics, one for the outside and a matching plainer fabric for the inside.  The idea then formed to write down how I made the roll as a tutorial which I hope will be of interest.  This is also the first time I’ve tried to explain one of my sewing projects so I hope it makes sense.

Firstly you need to decide upon the overall size which you want your roll to be.  I went for 10 inches high by 21 1/2 wide.  This allowed me to make the whole thing out of two fat quarters (which I asked to be cut straight across the roll).

To make things easier I’ll call the outer fabric A and the lining fabric B.

roll 1

Cut two large pieces 1 of A and 1 of B.  10 1/2 inches tall by 22 inches wide.  I’m calling these pieces 1A and 1B.

Next two smaller pieces, again one out of each fabric.  One each 22 inches wide by 5 1/2 tall (called 2A and 2B).  Then the final two pieces 22 inches wide by 3 1/2 inches tall (3A, 3B).

You should now have 6 pieces of fabric in 3 pairs.

roll 2

Next it’s time to make the pockets.  With the right sides together sew 2A and 2B together along one of the long sides.  Do the same for 3A and 3B.  These can then be turned the right way round and pressed along the seam.

roll 3

Place these on top of the right side of 1B  (that’s the big piece of the lining fabric).  So at the bottom you have 1B, then the combined 2A/2B and finally 3A/3B on top with all the raw edges at the bottom.  I varied which one was visible so that once the flap (more of that later) you would have two stripes of fabric A at the top and bottom.  I’d spend a bit of time at this point checking out the exact positioning of the pockets.  I decided on a range of different sizes to give some flexibility on what goes into the pockets.  Once you’re happy then sew all 5 layers of fabric together in vertical lines to form the pockets.

Once this bit is done it’s time to put the outer fabric on.  If you do that before this you will have the sewing for the pockets visible on the outside, hence leaving it till now.  Place the wrong side of 1A and 1B together and sew round the edges and trim so that you have a nice neat edge.  I used a 1/4 in seam allowance.

roll 9

Next it’s time to put the edging round.  I picked a black satin bias binding and matching black satin ribbon.  There are different ways to do binding and you can obviously chose the way you prefer.  I chose to sew round the outside with my machine (adding the ribbon underneath to allow the rolled up roll to be tied shut with a nice bow), then hand stitched the inside.

roll 8

A few other thoughts……

It’s worth going over the stitching in a few places such as the tops of the pockets and where you attach the ribbon for added strength.

roll 5

I also sewed a line of stitches 3 inches from the top which helped to form the flap.  This flap stops things from sliding out when you’re carrying your roll.

roll 4

Then take a few piccys and hope the intended recipient likes it.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Yay for Ann

A little while ago I blogged about a friend who had some sock designs accepted for publication. Well the first has now appeared in print.

The design is called Amy by Ann Crick and it's in the current issue of Let's Knit.

Ann is currently working on some new designs which are being test knit in some of my Fantasia yarn - how exciting hehe...... I love her designs and seeing them knit up in my own yarn is extra special!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Investigating a new edition to the family….

I’m sure I mentioned last week was rather busy.  One reason for this was my mother was visiting, and together we went Caravan hunting.  I’ve been talking about it for about a year now and it’s finally happened.  Yes, I have officially joined the ranks of Jeremy Clarkson’s most hated people – Caravaners!


Fire getting comfortable during the ‘inspection’.

She’s a beautiful old girl in excellent condition and I hope she’ll help to liberate me from the cottage with the dogs.  I’ve stayed at B&B’s with Jake (who is in general a good boy) but the thought of taking him AND Pebbles filled me with dread.  In fact the thought of them together in that sort of situation has been enough to stop me even trying to visit places on my ‘must see’ list.

Fire-van 2

Checking out the view from the door

So a little mobile home of my own with an awning for the doggies seemed perfect.  Of course the cats wanted to investigate as soon as it arrived.

Last night I went to sit in the van, which is on the drive, and try to get a better feel for her.  Naturally she needs new upholstery and things like that making.  Not because there is anything wrong with the condition of the current fabric, but simply because I have two large furry people who will track dirt in after walkies.  Removable and machine washable covers seem like a very good idea.  It’s also a good excuse to do some crafting hehe…


Showing a friend (Salem) the new pad

Fire was the first in and quickly started investigating.  In general he seemed to approve and was quickly showing Salem around like an old pro.  Salem was a bit more interested in having a snooze on my lap though, much to Fires annoyance.  In fact he’s actually on my lap in the photo above (you can just see the green of a hand knit sock about half way up on the left).


Checking out the emergency exits

The windows open quite wide which is perfect if you’ve a cat who prefers not to use doors.


and of course the mandatory rear end shot

So I’m now dreaming of all the wonderful throws and things I can make.  Of course before I can do that I need to decide on a colour scheme.  A quick mooch round some local fabric shops last week with my mother and Maytheweed showed that finding the perfect ‘base’ fabric is going to be harder than I first thought.  I'm looking for something more contemporary than the existing fabric, but not so modern it looks silly.

No doubt whatever I choose will be carefully inspected by Fire……

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Knitting Daily iPod app review

I’ve taken the images off this post because of an email from Interweave.  I emailed them to let them know I had done a review of their app and that I had just used their screen grabs from the app store since I don’t know how to take screen grabs from an iPod.  Seemed like a common courtesy.  Unfortunately I’ve now received an emailed back saying that they are forwarding it to their legal department for ‘Follow up’.  I’m not exactly sure what that means but as a result I’ve taken the images down.  - edit done on 22nd April 2011.

One of the reasons for buying an iPod Touch was to play with some of the apps available.  Are any of you really surprised that some of them are knitting related?

I soon found plenty to choose from (unlike for my Blackberry) and thought I’d do some reviews.

First up is knitting daily by Interweave.  They have a website which can be found here.  If you don’t already know it then it’s worth checking out.  This is a free app and so there was no financial risk if I didn’t like it.  I clicked on the install button and waited to see exactly what I would get.

I also wondering about the reviewing bit.  I have no connection with Interweave so I can be completely honest about it all, but I’m a little worried that will lead to me waffling on and on.  So I decided that it would be best to try and answer four questions.  Then I could use the same format for any future reviews as well.  Ok then here we go (drum roll please)……

1.  What is the point, what does it do?

It appears to be aimed at complimenting a knitting life style and providing some useful reference information.  To do this the app comes in four parts.  ‘Latest Blogs’, ‘Latest Videos’ ‘Glossary’ and ‘Join Now’.

The Latest Blogs and Latest Videos will bring up lists (no surprise there) and tapping on an option brings up either the post or the video.  You can then favourite, comment or share.  I did get a little confused (yes I know it doesn’t take much) as the symbols for these appear on the main page, but only seem to work once you’re on the individual blog post or video page.

The content of the lists obviously changes over time and it was interesting to have a look through it all.  However, both these features require you to be connected to the internet.  If there is a way to download the information I didn’t see it.  So it’s not very convenient for knitting nights out.  It would be handy if this information could be stored in some way to be accessed while you’re offline.  I’m imagining showing blog posts to friends at knitting groups, or if you would like to refer back to a video on a new technique while away from home.

The Glossary was much better and you don’t need to be connected to access the information (much more useful on the move).  As you’d expect it’s a list of terms with definitions.  There are handy drawings included with some entries which clearly show some techniques such as Whipstitch or a Tubular Cast-On.  This bit I was impressed with.  My only quibble is it would have benefitted from a search option.  Naturally it would be nice to have more terms included but to be honest for a free app I was rather impressed.

The fourth part takes you to a page where you can sign up for the Knitting Daily newsletter.

2.  What did I like about it?

The Glossary without a doubt.  In fact I’ve already shown that part to a friend as a recommendation for a novice because of the drawings.

3.  What didn’t I like?

That you need to be connected to get all the functionality.  It would have been better if you could download the blog entries or videos to take with you on the move.

4.  Would I recommend it?

Yes.  At the end of the day this is a free app with some good information for both novice and more experienced knitters.

Unfortunately I haven’t yet worked out how to take screen shots from my iPod so these are screen grabs from iTunes.  I hoping they don’t mind……

Monday, 18 April 2011

My Beautiful Javert

Javert was my baby boy, a stunning Blue Point Balinese who was my constant companion for 10 years.  A while ago I met a wonderful local artist, Doreen Lazell, and commissioned some paintings of my long lost furry children.  Javert is the only one to have two paintings done.


This is from a photograph I took of him when he was only 6 weeks old and it’s always been one of my favourites.  The other painting (which was the first I commissioned and is already on display) was of him towards the end of his life.

Because I left quite a few images with her, I never know which one is finished when I walk in to collect.  Seeing this painting up on the wall took me completely by surprise and even though I tried, I couldn’t hold back the tears.  18 months after I lost him I still miss him every single day…

Sunday, 17 April 2011

It was a busy week…

Last week was a busy for me.  My mother was visiting so there were day trips and things to do.


Supplies were bought for future projects (I’ll blog about them later) and after I dropped my mother off in Cambridge to catch the coach home, I decided to visit the Cambridge University Botanic Garden.

My favourite part was the glasshouses where I photographed these pretty little flowers.  I just can’t resist a beautiful bloom.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

A Mention on Folksy

Hi all…  Just a quick little blog to say that my Ariel Sock ‘Polly’ has been used as part of an article on the Folksy blog.  How very very nice of them…


You can visit ‘Polly’ at our Folsky shop and many of my other yummy yarns that have all been dyed using only natural dyes.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Things I’ve learnt about quilting

Recently I embarked on a Top Gear style ‘How hard can it be!’ adventure into the wonderful world of quilting.  I’m still very much just setting out on this journey but thought I’d share a few thoughts with you anyway……

  1. First time out it’s much easier to buy a Charm Square pack.  These are pieces of co-ordinated fabric that are already cut to a size you can use.  I’m glad I did this first time…. Why?
  2. Cutting out the fabric is a little harder than it looks at first.  Especially if you’re trying to do it on the floor.  This is a bad move and it’s much easier if you use a table or kitchen work surface (obviously with a cutting mat underneath)
  3. If you’re using a rotary cutter roll it away from yourself.  This is a hot tip from Nicola Foreman rather than something I’ve learnt from experience.  The reason is that you have major arteries in the groin area of your leg and a rotary cutter is sharp!  (You can imagine the rest of this one)
  4. Buy a ruler the right size.  I wasn’t to sure about which size to buy so just took a guess.  Now I wish I’d bought one slightly wider as it will make working out the sizes a little easier.  Still buying the wrong size simply means you have a reason to go shopping again hehe…
  5. You can never, NEVER have to many pins….

and on that note since the sun has gone in, I’m going to fire up the sewing machine and liberate some of the pins currently holding pieces of fabric together whoop whoop…..

Sunday, 10 April 2011

When is cheating really cheating?

When is cheating really cheating?  When is it just bending the rules?  When does it go from being clever to deceitful?  It’s a tricky one isn’t it…

I ask because the last few weeks have been making me think.  I’ve been part of a few discussions on the subject and it’s interesting how peoples views differ.


HDR image of the inside of the Natural History Museum.

Two comments got me think about this in relation to photography.  The first was made by the friend I visited the Natural History Museum with.  When he saw one of my photos he commented, ‘Wow that came out well didn’t it’.  My initial reaction, which I didn’t articulate, was why wouldn’t it!  Then later when Maytheweed was looking at a few shots she asked, ‘How many of these are HDR?’.  I replied all of them which didn’t seem to impress.  I immediately felt the need to justify and defend myself.

This got me thinking about the cheating it.  Is HDR cheating?  For those of you who don’t know HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and is the fairly loose term given to describe digital images that have been manipulated using something like Photoshop with the aim of allowing the scene to represent the range our eyes can see.


The original shot.

Normal photographs don’t show the same range of colours, light and dark etc as our eyes and brain can process.  So in the case of the images May was looking at I had taken a single image capture from my camera and manipulated it so that a greater range of light and dark can be seen.  The result resembles what I actually saw much more closely that way.


The single RAW image was used to create 5 more images with ‘different exposures’.  These were then combined again to create the HDR image at the to of the post.

So was that cheating?  I don’t think so.  I didn’t Photoshop things in or out… No one has suddenly lost 3 stone in weight due to airbrushing etc.  There is crucially no intent to deceive, just a desire to represent the scene how I perceived it.  I’m sure some will argue it’s not pure or some such, then point to black and white images by a master such as Ansel Adams.  Well I’m fairly sure that the world wasn’t black and white in his day, and I’m also fairly sure there will have been some darkroom techniques used to create those beautiful images.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Playing with a new toy

Those who know me well will tell you I love my little do-dar's, thing-me-bobs and uffa-doofas. In short little technological gadgets. Well I now have a new one, an iPod touch.

I've had an iPod Nano for ages but it's becoming pretty obvious that it's getting ready to go to silicon heaven. Enter the new iPod Touch.

I ordered it online from apple (to get the free engraving) and spent an anxious few days worrying about if I'd spelt the engraved message wrong and looking for deliverymen. Unfortunately it didn't arrive before the weekend so I told few myself I could manage till Monday without something I'd never had!

Monday came and I scampered home from work as soon as I dared and there it was, the 'we tried to deliver but' card on the mat. Excitedly I picked it up and looked to find out where the depot was and if I had to call to tell them I was on my way to collect it. That's where it all went wrong.

The card gave me a website to log onto to arrange to collect in person After what felt like forever trying to navigate a website so un-user-friendly it might have been designed by Martians, I discovered my 'local' collection point was an 80 mile round trip. Hmm, they must have a different definition of local. More time spent searching for how to change the delivery address - the card said I could do this online - led to more frustration. Eventually I phoned (premium rate number and kept on hold for ages) to be told they couldn't do that and I had to phone apple.

I'll admit that I was fairly grumpy by this point, but reports of stomping round the cottage ranting about it are overly exaggerated. I'm simply not able to stomp very well in my stocking feet!

So I phoned apple (0800 freephone number which helped to improve my mood) and the operator was really nice and happily changed the delivery address to my works address. My new toy would be with me the following day.

Except it wasn't. UPS tried to deliver it to my home address again. Another call to apple.

Fortunately it did arrive the day after that. Then the playing began hehe....

So far I've added a couple of photography apps which fall into the 'toy' category and some geeky stuff. Then I added a rss reader for reading the blogs I follow. Which naturally led onto wondering if I can write and post blog entries from my iPod.

A search of the app store said yes, but checking the reviews suggested many of the apps didn't do as they claimed. Eventually I found one that the reviewers agreed worked with blogger (it's called blogger+) and I'm tapping away on it now. I hope it works....

So I'm hoping I'm using the app correctly. I've just tried to add one of the 'manipulated' images from last weekend which I've been using to play with the photography apps. Now it's time to try publishing this post and returning to the serious business of searching for knitting apps....

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

More images…

Some more images from the Natural History Museum…


I’m on a bit of an ammonite kick at the moment so was delighted when I found this.  You can’t see the scale from the photo but it was about two and a half foot across.


T. Rex is everyone's favourite which is probably why it was chosen to be made into a full sized animated model.  Can you call something the size of this a model?

Monday, 4 April 2011

The Natural History Museum

It never ceases to amaze me that places like the Natural History Museum are free.  So, spurred on by my visit to the Science Museum, I was up early yesterday to visit this wonderful place.  I won’t mention the horrific journey in and out of our nations capital, except to say it’s no wonder our rail service has such a bad reputation!


Anyway I just love these amazing old buildings and once there we set out exploring.  I had my camera grasped in my grubby little mitts much of the day and thought I’d share my favourite bit with you.


It’s part of the Earth science area and satisfied both my inner geek and my inner child……

Saturday, 2 April 2011

A nice day out…

Today started badly as I decided to use my new cutting mat and rotary cutter to cut some squares ready to make a patchwork runner for my bed.  It did not go well. In fact the phrase ‘pigs ear’ springs to mind.

However, things started to look up as I met up with a friend and headed to Quilters Haven for a spot of shopping.  This it turns out was a good move.  Perhaps not good for my bank balance, but after a stressful week I figured it was ok to spoil myself.

Fortunately between Debs (very friendly sales lady who was a fount of helpful tips) and Nicola Foreman (waves ‘Hi’ at Nicola) I came home much more confident and ready to have another go.


The results were much more respectable and I’m even vaguely confident that they may be useable!

This was my first visit to Quilter Haven and it was full of yummy fabrics, many of which were shouting ‘buy meeeee, buy meeeeeee’ from the shelves.  In fact if anything the problem was too much choice.  I mean, how do you decide?


I think part of it is that I’m used to thinking in terms of one or maybe two fabrics for a project.  Suddenly my brain was confronted with having to process 5, 6, 7 or even 8!  Add in my inexperience with quilts and it was hard to visualise what I could turn some of these beautiful fabrics into.


I did buy some lovely things which I’ll blog about separately, but I couldn’t resist taking a quick photo of one of the fat quarter packs I bought which my mind is telling me should be a throw for the armchair in my bedroom.  I think I need to get a bit better at the cutting out first though……