cats, craft, crochet, knitting, music, Uncategorized, yarn

Top Ten Review of the Year

Well, another prolonged absence due to work – I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, but next year I will make more time to post on my blog as I have missed not being able to post so regularly.  Getting organised is half the battle I think…

This year has been an interesting one (in all senses of the word!) – a new addition to my family (OK, so he’s a kitten) and a rebranding of my blog and business as well as opening my Etsy Shop.

Add to that the most manic year of my (full-time) working life and major changes within my working structure – which are all still in a state of flux!

But in many ways a fantastic year, much love and laughter with friends and family, and finding a kindred spirit in crafting in my friend Anna (and her five-year-old Mikey who’s favourite phrase is now “let’s get crafting!”)

So here is my Top Ten Review of the Year on looking back through my blog, I do hope you enjoy it!

One – The arrival of Sir Patrick of Naughtiness

As an Astronomy geek, I managed to persuade Anna and Mikey to name their rescued kitten Professor Brian (Cox) after everyone’s favourite physicist and ex-popstar.  I was amazed they went with it…

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I was even more amazed that I ended up rescuing his brother, whom I named Sir Patrick (Moore) after the famous and much beloved Astronomer and BBC Presenter (RIP).  It particularly helped that he had a squinty eye in which I could imagine the real Sir  Patrick’s monocle.  I met the real Sir Patrick once, he was absolutely delightful, and was very kind to me when another celebrity was very rude to me (you know who you are, Michael Fish!).

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Two – Opening my Etsy Shop

This was a long-term aim over the year and was delayed many times due to factors outside of my control!  In the end it was opened in October and I had my first sale within 24 hours.

I haven’t quite had the time since then to promote it as much as I would like, and I have exciting plans for my Etsy shop for 2016, so my upcoming week off in February will be spent at home getting things sorted…

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Three – Vintage Shopping at the Car Booty

Regular readers will know that I love a bargain.  Most Sundays I can be found at Frome Car Boot Sale, rummaging around in other people’s junk.  For several months this year I had an amazing run on vintage notions and patterns and went a bit overboard buying them.

I have now decided to offload some of them in 2016 when I take part in a Craft Fair which also lets you sell related goods.  Some, though, I cannot bear to part with!

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Four – Yarn, lovely Yarn

I wrote about my yarn addiction on several occasions, it has perhaps got a little out of hand, especially after I visited the Kensington Olympia Knitting and Stitching show in March – but I did get some beautiful yarns, including the cashmere / cotton blend to make this lovely shawl on my Etsy Shop.

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Five – Devon knows how they make it so lovely

Through my lovely friend Anna, I’ve had the chance to visit Chagford, in Devon on the edge of Dartmoor, twice this year for Craft Fairs.  Such a beautiful place and the people are so friendly and welcoming, it’s a real treat to visit there.  Bonus treat – the tiny ponies and other cute critters at the Miniature Pony Centre nearby.

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Six – Holidays-a-go-go!

I’ve been extremely lucky this year with holidays – having a gorgeous week in Marbella in March, with Mum, and then again in Bayeux in June with Mum, Dad and my brother.  The first time we’d all been away together for several years.  Both were fabulous holidays, much needed and much enjoyed, and allowed me to expand my stash even more with some really lovely yarns and notions (as well as some cheeky goats producing the softest mohair)

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Seven – My first giveaway of Crochet Patterns

In October I gave away the pattern for my first designed project, some mini Halloween Treat Baskets – to fill with yummy chocolates.  I had great fun designing the different faces and putting together a beginner’s project which I was happy to share for free.  Although a simple design, it has given me a taste for more!

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Eight – Geek Loveliness

A fabulous year of nerd-dom has been bookended by Star Wars.  In May I posted about my trip to Marbella and the surprise of hearing a youth orchestra starting up with the Star Wars soundtrack – I have never departed a cafe in such a hasty fashion before…  In May I also posted a cheeky geeky guide and then followed up with a visit to the Doctor Who Exhibition in September with my family.  There is an adventure to go through which is rather interactive – I was more scared than the kids!

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Nine – Animals A-Plenty

It never surprises me that my most popular posts tend to be around my two black cats, Ella and Sir Patrick.  After all, they are endless sources of amusement to me!

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Ten – Art and Crafts

And back to my main loves – art and crafts.  In April I visited Standen, a home filled with delights from the Arts and Craft movement which I so admire.  Moving on to June I waxed lyrical about Salvator Rosa, one of my favourite artists, and in July I wrote about the beautiful lace that I encountered on my goaty adventures in Bayeux (and of course the famous Tapestry).

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And finally, throughout the year I have been extolling the virtues of crafting, thank you for joining me on my journey this year, and here’s to 2016!

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Wiltshire and Somerset Travels

I am very lucky to live in the beautiful county of Wiltshire.  Within a few minutes of my home is beautiful countryside – heading north, the beautiful Bradford-on-Avon and the spectacular Roman city of Bath.  Heading south there is the world-renowned Stonehenge and Salisbury, dating back to the iron age.

To the west, my best-loved town, Frome (OK so it is technically in Somerset!), with its arts and crafts and to the east the even more magical stone circle of Avebury and the up-market Marlborough.

This weekend has been a wash-out so far (typical British weather!) so I have been limited to a quick trip to Frome.  Visiting Mary Kilvert’s fabulous shop I bought a few goodies (can’t spoil the surprise on those by posting piccies!) and enjoyed my chat with her very friendly and helpful staff.  I also visited a little Italian cafe called Paccamora opposite Mary’s shop, which was full of character, and the tea’s not bad either…

I also just happened to, ahem, pop into Marmalade Yarns, which is fast becoming my go-to yarn shop.  Maxine very kindly offered knitting advice, and I got a sneak peek of her latest ideas for the next window display.  I treated myself (quelle surprise!) to some lovely yarn – some for more makes for my forthcoming Etsy shop, some to make a fancy scarf for Anna, and a bit of beautiful lace to perhaps make myself a wrap or shawl.

My camera has given up the ghost so I have no piccies sadly, but have now treated myself to a new one – yay!  So that means I will have to go back.  And, perhaps, buy some more yarn?

Despite the current inclement weather, over the last week or so, I had time for a couple of trips to one of my favourite local destinations – The Courts Garden in Holt – a National Trust venue.

 

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The borders were jam-packed with beautiful specimens – unfortunately I only had an hour to walk around so i didn’t get to enjoy it fully.  The pond is my place of solace and reflection (well, not in it, you understand!)…

Another day I met up at the local Country Park, for a long walk in the sunshine, with my friend Anna and her little boy Mikey, amiably and ably assisted by their bonkers dog, Dave (known to me as Dave-a-roo).

 

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As you can see Mikey is incredibly photogenic.  Dave, on the other hand, is a Rottweiler in a Chihuahua body whilst out and about.  I have promised him that I will never reveal his secret.  When at home he is known to me as Shaky Dave – he literally quivers at the slightest approach of my cat Ella or anyone else.

Oops Dave – sorry – the secret is out…

Happy weekend all!

 

Lou x

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The naughty Neapolitan Salvator Rosa

Ever since I was a wee nipper (well since I lived in London in my 20s) I have been rather intrigued by the Italian painter, poet and philosopher (can I have a ‘P’ please Bob?) Salvator Rosa.  I first met him – well, his oeuvre, since he’s been dead over 300 years – in the National Gallery with the brooding, enigmatic self-portrait Philosophy

 

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Always having been a big fan of the dark, passionate type, I find his enigmatically grumpy face quite alluring – especially teemed with the inscription which loosely translates as “be silent unless what you have to say is better than silence”.  How true, I tell myself!

So, having again visited him recently, why do I like Rosa?

  1. He was mega talented.
  2. In his time he was incredibly popular and famous, yet no-one knows who he is – don’t we all enjoy having something secret that we don’t share with anyone – oh bugger, you all know now…
  3. His life (and paintings) are dark, brooding, mysterious – I like!
  4. He eschewed dull biblical paintings – on the whole – in favour of bandits, creatures of the dark, mythology and witches.
  5. Rosa was a rebel and refused to conform to popularity, causing arguments and localised stomping off and slamming of doors etc.
  6. Amazingly he was also an accomplished poet, philosopher, actor and musician.
  7. He scares schoolchildren (see below!)

In my latest visit I vox-popped (oo-er) the public and the guard on duty told me that schoolchildren are either terrified of, or intrigued by probably his most famous painting – Witches at their Incantations

 

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This painting does really need to be seen in the flesh, as a rather lovely beardy Frenchman told me “très creepy” – well actually that’s not what he said – rather “dark, interesting and creepy”.  Just like me, I wanted to add whilst gently stroking his beard (but I didn’t).  He then proceeded to gesticulate (in a Marcel Marceau-style mime) what I could only describe back to him as “droopy witches boobs”.  How disappointing…

Some other hippy-dippy folk thought it was “a conversation piece” and “nice to see something dark and disturbing for a change” – other than The Levellers perhaps?

The Dutch chap I spoke to was tremendously knowledgeable about the use of light as a positive juxtaposition of the dark subject matter.  I just stared and nodded as if I understood him.  I didn’t feel able to share with him my favourite part of the painting, the hideous frog-like apparition in the bottom right hand corner, who bears more than a scary likeness to Steven Tyler from Aerosmith.

 

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So if you are in Londinium pop into Room 32 of the National Gallery and have a look at these two paintings (not Steven Tyler though, but if he’s there see if he can spot the family resemblance).  At this time there are two other Rosa paintings there, so you will be spoilt for choice!

Happy art and crafting!

 

Lou

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Devon, Crafting Genii and Tiny Ponies

Well, what a lovely weekend it was!

Spring had definitely sprung and I had a wonderful time in Devon.

My friend Anna and I packed up the car and left at 6am – getting in there for 8.30 ready to set up our stall at the Craft Fair.  It was reasonably busy in the morning and I did pretty well.  Then, a mini disaster…

The drains in the hotel blocked up and they in turn blocked off the front door (where we were) so we had much less passing custom in the afternoon.  So we had to make our own amusement!

I had an impromptu drop spinning class from the brilliant Jean and Martin from Kaeravel Krafts and made just a few purchases of their gorgeous products, and one day I will understand the terminology – carrier rods, silk noil, burrs and nepps!

 

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I also met Richard Albon, a phenomenally talented artist, and bought a few things (which I can’t share here as certain people may see them!) but I really do recommend his site, particularly for those amongst us who are animal lovers.

So, a lovely, but not quite so productive, day was had by all.  And I did learning something interesting, again I have managed to sell all of my girls’ headbands – this was one line I was going to give up making when I sell online, but now I’m not so sure!

 

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I crawled into bed at 9pm, absolutely shattered!  What a comfortable night I spent at the gorgeous Farleigh Cottage B&B in Chagford, run by the lovely Lyn, who looked after us so well and furnished us with the most wonderful cooked breakfast on Sunday morning.

Just enough time then to pop to the Miniature Pony Centre Dartmoor on the way back, what a well organised and fun place to visit.  We arrived at the perfect time, bottle feeding time for the lambs.  Let me introduce you to the delectable Snowy, (my disembodied arm giving him his much-needed grub) – he was such a character, he made a bolt for us the second he was let out.  His wool was so thick, fluffy and soft – I was tempted to offer to borrow it and knit him up a waistcoat, but for once I had to put my woolly tendencies on hold!

 

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We then met the donkeys and ponies, many of them rescued.  As well as horses, donkey, ponies and lambs, they have a wide variety of other animals and have activities throughout the day.  Just follow the chap ringing the bell…

 

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I do rather like the fact that this final picture includes a tiny pony or two seeming to stand on top of another rather small pony.  That makes my random little brain very amused!

Happy crafting…

 

Lou x

 

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Standen delivers…

I have had a really busy couple of weeks, planning for a Craft Fair I will be doing in Devon on Saturday.

It involves a long drive and a very early start, but hopefully then an evening in a nice Devon pub and a glass or two of tipple to warm me ol’ cockles!

In the meantime I spent a lovely weekend with Mum and Dad over Easter, we had lots of fun and I was thrilled to see Mum knitting, she has developed quite a taste for it!  We are going to Spain again soon so hopefully will take some projects with us…

We visited a National Trust property – Standen – which is absolutely wonderful, and well worth a visit.  Sadly I hadn’t charged my camera so I couldn’t get any pictures.  Standen is a beautiful arts and crafts house, built in the 1890s and is filled to the brim with the most wonderful arts and crafts architecture, furnishings and art.

 

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Most of the textile furnishings are from the unspeakably talented William Morris & Co, which are still running today, now owned by Sanderson.  Some of their wallpapers on sale today bear the name Standen.  The rich greens, russets and golds are a joy to behold.

William Morris was a designer, artist, writer and activist and was a dominant force in the Arts & Crafts movement – closely linked to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – whose works are also dotted around the house.

Both groups had a huge social conscience and were concerned about the rise of industrialism and wanted beauty and purpose from items, reflecting a return to the handiwork of previous ages.  There is a very famous quote attributed to William Morris – “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

How true that is, this is something that has always inspired me – I am yet to fully achieve it I think, but this is certainly the dream for most of us!

Some of the textiles at Standen were made as kits by William Morgan and the family themselves (well, I am rather assuming, the ladies of the family) completed them.  The design was pressed onto the fabric almost like painting by numbers, not dissimilar from the tapestry kits you can buy today in any haberdashery!  You can see the differences in the quality and individuality of the work between different family members and some pieces must have taken several people many months or perhaps years to complete.

Another artist and prolific ceramics maker was William de Morgan, who became friendly with William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  His name was not so well known to me, but his tiles, vases and other ceramics were so beautiful and evocative of the Persian style and colour palette which he loved so well.  This is one from the de Morgan collection, but there were many similar at Standen.  Rich opulent colours which always hold me in rapture…

 

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There is much further evidence of these two social / art movements in William Morris’s house – the Red House in Bexleyheath – on the South London / Kent borders, again an inspirational National Trust property well worth a visit.

My favourite of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood is Dante Gabriel Rossetti – mainly because of his work, but also the rich stories you hear of his excesses, including a love of exotic animals, which he rather took to the extreme by having a Toucan riding a Llama around his dining room as a party trick.  This is one of his most famous paintings, ‘The Day Dream’.  And who was the muse and lover employed here as a model?  None other than William Morris’s wife, Jane.

 

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And if you fancy delving more into their stories, albeit slightly embellished, the BBC series Desperate Romantics, with the gorgeous (and now rather famous) Aidan Turner plays the dashing and delicious Dante…

 

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Happy (arts and) crafting!

 

Lou

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