Sunday 28 January 2018

Looking forward to Spring

I like looking at Winter - snow enveloping familiar landmarks and creating a quiet atmosphere, dark branches silhouetted against frosty blue skies, winter sunrises and sunsets - but I don't much like the cold.  This winter in particular, my hands have been suffering a lot thanks to Raynaud's Syndrome, which I have had since I was fourteen.  It is where extremities are ultra sensitive to temperature and the blood vessels constrict, cutting off circulation.  My fingers go white and numb and I then have to work at getting the circulation going again.  Irritating and sometimes painful, but not life threatening, I am pleased to say. 
I am always cheered by the sight of snowdrops and other winter flowering bulbs.  My snowdrops in the garden are starting to flower and are a sign that winter will soon be over.
 Cyclamen coum will be flowering next month, but the buds are preparing themselves.
 As I have mentioned before (just once or twice), snowdrops are one of my favourite flowers as their delicacy belies their inbuilt toughness.  They don't seem to be worried by the winter weather.
I noticed more signs of life with the tips of some crocuses just starting to show above the extremely soggy soil - you can tell that it has been very wet!
I always want to add more colour to the winter garden and decided that I needed this plant; 'Nandina Domestica Firepower', which is a small shrub with lovely autumn and winter leaf colour, and white flowers in Spring.  
I was sorry to hear on last week's 'Gardeners' Question Time' (Radio 4) that Chris Beardshaw does not like Nandinas and rather dismissed them.  I shall enjoy my little plant, which has already given me a lot of pleasure through the dull winter weather.

Sunday 21 January 2018

Cards and flowers

 I have been experimenting and making again.  I recently bought a very versatile stamp set - the poppy in the photo above, which has two layers and which creates a lovely hand painted look.  I think this is one I will use a lot.  As you can see, its first incarnation was as a thank you card.  I was really pleased with the results.
 My friend had a birthday, so out came a card making kit and this card was duly created.  I hope she liked it.
 I have also been playing with my Brusho paints again, trying to create loose watercolour flowers.  I watched a video on you tube and thought I could manage it, but as with so many things, it didn't quite work as I had hoped.  I stamped the flower centres and then pulled the paint and water out to create the petals.  This is what I was aiming for:
(image from Sandy Allnock's blog )
 Hmm, I'm not quite there yet!  Practise, practise, practise!  The nice thing is a that practising something like this is a rather enjoyable occupation in itself.  I may try different brushes to see if that might help.
I embossed the stamens on some of the flowers and liked the raised texture it gave.  I shall have another go and see what happens.

Thursday 11 January 2018

A new Hare-y bag

 I didn't manage to do a lot of crafting over Christmas, apart from the odd card, of course, but the one  thing I did make was a bag.   I needed a bag to carry all the stuff I take when I go for a break at work (id card, glasses, fruit, mug, tea bag, book or kindle - you get the idea!) as I usually manage to drop something on the way at least once.  I had loved the latest animal screens for the Screen Sensation kit, so I had to get the hare one as I do love hares (I shall also get the fox one when it is back in stock - they all sold out really quickly).  I used some blue and white material from my stash to screen print  (and the very detailed image printed beautifully) on one side and the other side was calico.  I lined the bag with floral material from my stash and added fusible wadding to give the bag some extra strength. 
The handles and edges were made from Chris' old jeans and will hopefully be hard wearing.  I can report that the bag works really well and so far, I have not dropped anything!

Thursday 4 January 2018

Stitching Santa 2017

I took part in Stitching Santa, organised by Sheila at Sewchet, which was a new blog exchange to me.  We were given a recipient's details and our details were given to someone else, so it was a big surprise to all of us.  My sender was Nikki from SewingNikki and she was so incredibly generous.  I have been so lucky with all the swaps/exchanges I have taken part in and it is lovely to know that there are so many kind and generous people out there in Blogland.  My parcel arrived and I had to leave it alone until Christmas Day.
 On opening it, there was a beautifully decorated box, adorned with all kinds of pretty ornaments.
Inside was tissue paper, held together with sewing related stickers. 
 Inside that, was a beautifully made bag and under that...
 ...was all this!  What a treasure trove of sewing goodness! Stickers, decorations, wool, a pack of material to make a cushion, an embroidery hoop, a pattern to make bags, a tape measure, some flowery organza type material and a jar of trimmings.
 I love the sheep fabric for the cushion - just gorgeous.
 Definitely an embarrassment of riches.
Wasn't I lucky?
This was what was in the jar - an array of trimmings and haberdashery (I love that word!).  A HUGE THANK YOU to Nikki for her amazing gifts, her generosity and kindness.  I love it all and will enjoy using it over the next year(s).
My recipient was Kimberley from Creative Chaos, who lives in New Zealand.  I had been partnered with her before, so had an idea of the things she liked. I have already shown the fabric box I made for her.
 Here are the other things I included: a felt heart with a pearl charm, some hot chocolate, some red and orange patterned cotton material, some gingham ribbon, a spoon rest/tea bag rest, a reel of sewing thread, some notelets (as I knew she liked stationery) and a little notebook as I also knew she would be starting a teaching degree at University and thought it might come in handy.
Here are the parcels ready to go. They arrived safely and I received a lovely thank you card with two little gifts from her.
It was a lovely swap/exchange to be involved with and I really enjoyed taking part.  Thanks to Sheila for the expert organising.

Monday 1 January 2018

Happy New Year 2018

(Photos taken of the London fireworks last night/this morning from the TV - I was pleased with how they came out).
Happy New Year to all and I hope that in this unsettled world, 2018 will enable us to snatch some moments of joy and happiness.
 As has become somewhat traditional for me, today is the day I review my aims for 2017 and decide on aims for 2018.  So, what did I want to do last year?
  • Make more felt - I definitely achieved here.  I made a whole new set of heart decorations incorporating birthstone charms.  Even though they didn't sell, I was pleased with how they turned out.  I also started needle felting, making sheep, which were very successful and I will need to make lots more if I am going to the Craft Fair this year.  I have also experimented with screen printing and block printing onto felt and this is something to continue, possibly making smaller pieces and incorporating them into cards and decorations.  This aim is continuing this year.
  • Read interesting books - I smashed my previous totals this year, possibly due to the amount of reading I have fitted into my break times at work and the fact that in some cases, ebooks are shorter than real books.  I read 105 books in 2017; many of which were old friends which I enjoyed re-reading.  There were also some new ones including: the Miss Marple stories by Agatha Christie; a book about Anne Bronte, 'Take courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life' by Samantha Ellis (who obviously feels as I do, that Anne Bronte should take centre stage alongside her sisters, not hidden by them); 'When Marnie was there' by Joan G Robinson which had mysteriously managed to pass me by as a child;  'The Lady in Gold' by Anne-Marie O'Connor (which I had to read having loved the film, though the book is much more harrowing than the film);  'Lady Audley's Secret' by Mary Elizabeth Braddon; 'The Dark is Rising' sequence by Susan Cooper and all the Ruth Galloway novels by Elly Griffiths.  There have also been biographies, on the artist 'Gluck' and 'Mrs Keppel and her Daughter' by Diana Souhami, as well as Steampunk based novels; the Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann and a couple by James Blaylock.  Certainly an eclectic mix and an aim I shall try to continue this year too.
  • Be Creative - I have been creative this year and have enjoyed stamping, embossing, using Brusho paints and printing on felt).  Jewellery has become less of a pull, although I still make myself a few bracelets and pairs of earrings, as well as the occasional gift for birthdays.   I have curtailed my spending on gemstones, although paper crafting appears to be edging ahead now!  As I get older, I am realising how important creativity is to me, so I will certainly continue this aim.
  • Get rid of/donate things I do not want or need - I have continued to do this but only in a small way so I need to make more of a concerted effort.  I also need to use the things I have, such as my fabric or craft stashes.  I think this will be an aim for many years to come!
An extra achievement on a personal level is weight loss this year, after we joined Slimming World and I am feeling much healthier and better for it.  I have discovered the joys of Quark (a soft cheese which can be eaten with either a sweet addition, such as honey or fruit sauce, or a savoury addition, added to a sauce to make it richer or with something like marmite added to it.  It is high in protein and fat free and I usually eat it with a bit of natural yogurt and honey with a banana for lunch.  It is something I wouldn't want to be without.  I have also discovered chocolate frozen yogurt which I like better than ice cream (I didn't think I would ever say that!)  Then there are Slimming World chips and crustless quiche, which are also delicious and part of our diet now.  I don't think I have ever eaten as many vegetables as I do now and I really enjoy them. 
So all in all, a pretty positive review and aims that continue into this year too...  I hope that 2018 will be a good one for us all.