Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas Crafts unveiled

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all had a lovely peaceful time with friends or family, the girls have had a present-tastic time and on the crafty side, I was very pleased to finish all the projects I started!

The above dolly was for my youngest, it's taken from the book 'Made by Me' by Jane Bull, which I have now bought as it's got lots of easy crafts for young girls (and their mums!) to try. It's a simple sleepy/awake dolly with knitted hat and simple dresses. I then made a simple cover, pillow and mattress from Ikea fabric and wadding to fill an old dolly bed/basket we picked up at a jumble sale.
The verdict? Was good, thankfully! I made a small drawstring bag and added in some extra dresses so she had fun dressing/undressing her. I made the neckline with elastic instead ribbon for easier changing and used pinking shears to cut as there were no hems in the pattern.

For my eldest I made the Lily doll and Pickle the panda from the Emma Thomson series of books, the were a bit fiddly, the patterns are available in two of the story books and worked up quite quickly.
The monkeys are from the Patons Colour Works Aran pattern book, I made one and my Mum made the other and it's really interesting to see the differences between our styles!  The sizes are different and the features make them really unique!
The last bunnies were not homemade, but came from the lovely stall at Vintage & Handmade by Donna Flower and have been loved and taken to bed already.

I also completed gifts for my family, but stupidly forgot to photograph them!  I'll see if I can a photo at the weekend.

So I was very happy to be able to stick to my pledge of homemade gifts and second-hand presents for the girls, as the majority were, eBay supplied a lot of the presents, marble run and more lego were a hit.
The new items were making kits like Hama beads...

Both the girls like these and they're a nice quiet activity!  This one is a mobile making kit, the youngest needs a bit of a hand but it should look good when it's finished.

Well, it takes ages to get ready for but quick as a flash Christmas is over!
Better start thinking about New Year resolutions now, the first will be more regular blogging I hope, I think I'll try to set a day of the week for a regular posting, perhaps I should take part in a challenge to keep me motivated?!

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Sunday, 5 December 2010

Christmas Fairs

Well here we are then, December!  The month where the days run away from you!
Time for a quick update on last weekend's visits....first on Saturday was the Handmade & Gorgeous Fair at Oxford Town Hall...after fighting through the shopping crowds (I remembered why I very rarely go into Oxford for shopping!), me & the girls got there and it was very quiet, there was no large adverts outside, so no real chance of passing trade I thought..
There were lots of stalls, but not as many as last years Handm@de Fair and there was a distinct lack of a 'buzz' when we got there, which to be fair was after lunch so we probably missed any rush.  The stalls were a mix of items, but in my opinion there was far too much jewellery, I am biased as I don't buy jewellery but it weakens the effect if there are too many competing vendors doing the same items I think.  The best stall I thought was Homespun, they had some lovely hand-sewn items, like bags, decorations & bookmark's, I can't seem to find any links for them at the moment..
I also got (another!) corsage, this time in a lovely dark mix, black & dark aubergine, again no info on the stall I'm afraid, the listing from the event wasn't very illuminating, lots of people didn't have web-sites to look them up later and most of the stalls didn't have any contacct info, like moo cards to take away.  I know they're an expense but they can be very useful, I know I always go back home and check out any web-sites and bookmark my favourites.
So after a shorter than expected mooch, we went round the corner to Darn it & Stitch, Oxford's slightly new and only sewing shop down on Blue Boar Street, which is a very small space (especially if you have small people and also not good for buggies as there are steps down inside the door, but it's quite quiet outside so you could leave it outside and keep and eye on it!) but it's crammed with loveliness, great selection of sewing & knitting supplies, I especially liked the giant ric-rack and the selection of quality fabrics.  They were having demonstrations upstairs of quilt-making, corset making & lace-making as they run all these and more as short courses, my eldest was fascinated by the lace-making and we had a lovely explanation of it as the sight of all those bobbins was quite off-putting, it actually seems quite methodical and logical the steps involved, a bit like plaiting/braiding.
I got some lovely cute animal retractable tape measure's for the girls stockings which hopefully they didn't see me purchase! 

Sunday, we we're up early in -4c weather and off to Chipping Sodbury for THE Vintage & Handmade Christmas Fair!  In stark contrast to the day before, it was absolutely heaving!!  I think we got there at about 11.30 and it was manic, lots of people and lots to look at, once you got to see the stalls!  There seemed to be more types of general shoppers on this occasion, not just vintage fans, which meant there were (in my opinion) too many large buggies and lots of 'other halfs' milling about which meant access to the stalls was a bit challenging!  The sheer amount of goodies on offer was hard for my small brain to take, it was like a small child being in a sweet shop!  Hence I completely forgot about taking pictures and only managed one!
There were the usual lovely sellers and also some new ones, such as The Devil Makes Work, with lovely applique items and the moving of the tea-room upstairs meant there was more room in the first room for more stalls.
The tea-room upstairs was a bit disorganised when we went to grab a well-deserved sit down!  There was only one poor girl serving and there was quite a queue, there was also stalls upstairs but as the queue was blocking the door I'm not sure a lot of people managed to get past and find the stalls at the back of the room, so a slightly different layout next time would be better.

I got some lovely fabric from Donna Flower and Sal's Snippets, I didn't get much Christmassy stuff, I think all the good stuff goes early!  The Vintage Magpie had the most gorgeous little elephant on her stall:

Lilac Elephant Needs a Home ...

Such a lovely soft lilac colour, she's still looking for a home on Etsy I believe, I so wished I had the cash to take her home with me to join my little Magpie bunny!

On the V&H site there's a great selection of photo's to browse through and hey, I think I recognise that lady  with the stripy arms?!!

I'll try and get some pics of my purchases once the sun comes may take a while!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Handmade & Gorgeous Fair

List of exhibitors is now on their site, looks like lots of sellers, so should be good.  Must remember my camera!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

An early purse warning & a WIP round-up

An early notification for this week folks, this upcoming weekend is officially 'Spending Weekend'!

Not only is the very fabulous original 'Vintage & Handmade Christmas Fair' on Sunday in Chipping Sodbury, but also on Saturday at the Oxford Town Hall is the 'Handmade & Gorgeous Fair'.  This is a newly run fair this year as sadly the original 'Handm@de Oxford Fair' could not take place, so it's a bit of an unknown as to what sellers will be there (there doesn't seem to be a listing on the web), but I shall pop along and show support and report back!

The good news of the week is that I finally found my camera, for reasons unclear to me now it was in the tea & coffee cupboard in the kitchen!  Goodness knows what I was thinking, though I did try and put the corn flakes box into the fridge yesterday too!

So I can show you where I am on my WIP's...

First wristlet finished, hurrah as it was VERY boring to knit!  Now I've just got to get the motivation to do another one!!
But I've got a different knitting project on the go first, yes it's the start of the Christmas crafting!  After the success of the knitted mice last year, I am attempting yet more woolly gifts for the girls.
First on the list is the Patons monkey as seen at Ally Pally,

It's going quite well, very easy pattern but each piece is individual so there will be lots of seaming later!  My mum is going to do the rabbit pattern for the second daughter so I don't have to do two!

The yarn is Paton's Colour Works Aran, I've gone for the purple and blue shade (00083) and it's actually very soft, it's 65% acrylic, 25% new wool and 10% polyamide.  I'm using 4mm needles as suggested but I
did try a small swatch on smaller needles as on Periwinkle's lovely blog she made the rabbit pattern and found the tension too holey, so that may be something to be aware of.
I shall try and get a quick pic of my progress tomorrow as although I'm knitting in front of the girls they haven't asked what it is yet and I don't want to arouse their  curiosity!

The other lingering WIP is a very simple seat pad cushion for my daughter's dining table chair, I got this old wool blanket from the charity warehouse ages ago waiting for a project to do with it.
I've made a paper template of the seat and just cut round it adding an approx. seam allowance.  As it's bound to get filthy and need washing I've just made the bottom layer in two pieces for a basic envelope opening and then I'm going to add some ties at the back.  I would have finished it today but I'm umming & ahhing over the ties, think I'll pop into the local sewing shop tomorrow to see if I can find something I like better than the bias binding in the picture...

Monday, 15 November 2010

Counting down....

Counting down the days till THE Fair....Sunday 28th November - Chipping Sodbury...start saving!!!

(I was hoping to post photos of WIP's, but I seem to have lost my camera!  It's around here somewhere....keep your eyes peeled for me!!)

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Happy Halloween!

Hope you're having a good Halloween! 
At 6.15pm I have now run out of treats to hand out and I bought loads more than last time! Still the pumpkin pie is cooking and my kids are still out, they have been dressed as a witch and cat all day, you'd have thought it was Christmas they were so excited!
I don't know about you but I was never allowed to go trick or treating, it seems to only recently have taken off as a new holiday celebration and only because the shops are happy for another marketing ploy.  I do remember dressing up as a witch and apple bobbing with friends though, nice tame excitement!
The girls have cut out some pictures to decorate the front door with, the pumpkin got carved and we made some great hanging ghosts.

We scrunched up some paper and stuck them to a line of sellotape, which we then rolled over to make a big ball shape.

Then we decorated some white bin bags with black eyes (permanent marker or black card glued on)

Then we tied a bit of string onto the paper ball, put a hole in the top of the ghosts head and threaded it through,you can then hang it up..

 Pumpkin expertly carved by Daddy!
Right better check the pie!  Hope you've all had a good evening.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

It's Autumn, crack out the Breadmaker

I've hardly used the breadmaker all summer and then suddenly I have a yearning for some fresh rolls and soup, it must be Autumn! 
I haven't made rolls before, just loaves, but it wasn't too much bother, trying to find somewhere warm to put the dough to rise once shaped into balls was the biggest headache, I tried warm sunshine from the kitchen window, the airing cupboard and a slightly warm oven.  From the look of them after rising, the warm oven got the biggest results!!
Very nice they were too, the girls weren't mad on the soup though, should have been homemade really, fingers crossed for a hand blitzer thing for Christmas, I used to have one for pureeing baby food but it died shortly after and the food processor just doesn't get things pureed enough.
I'm hoping to make my first pumpkin pie tomorrow for Halloween, I'll post a pic if it's successful!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Fun in the Forest

It's a lovely sunny autumnal day, it's half-term and we need some fresh air and cheap entertainment....where shall we go?....oh of course, Harcourt Arboretum, or as we call it 'THE forest'.

We took some paper and crayons to do some bark rubbing and a plastic bag to collect leaves and other finds for future gluing/crafting.

We had a fair few grumbles along the way at times though.  Sometimes I wonder about my kids, you'd think that going for a walk is a punishment!  They do love being outdoors but I guess their stamina is set up for about an hour!  Is it because they're girls?  Do boys just automatically want to be outdoors and run around?!

You can't beat a sunny autumn day, I think I like them better than hot summer days.

And to finish off with, my WIP...

It should be a simple wristlet I hope, I'm not following a pattern (!) I just thought I'd do a long rectangle and leave a thumb-hole when seaming!
I'm using some Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply in teal that was in my LYS in the reduced bucket and have cast on 60 stitches using 3.25mm needle.  I'm aiming for a length of about 8-9", but I have to say doing this much stocking stitch has quickly become a chore!  It's quite mind-numbing, I should be up for tackling some thing a bit more challenging afterwards!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Blenheim Palace

Had a good day out at Blenheim Palace yesterday, it's not far from us so it's easy to pop to and enjoy a walk. We all have annual passes which helps, all you need to do is pay once for a Palace, Park & Gardens ticket (adult £18, child £10) and then you can convert it in one of the on-site booths to a 12 month pass, which is much better value than £18 for one day out!

The architecture of the Palace is stunning, everywhere you look there's another amazing piece of detail that you haven't noticed before.

 The gardens are stunning, all very well manicured and the grounds are extensive, we wanted to do the walk to the cascades, which was quite a trek for our 4 year old, especially as she was hungry for the picnic and all the benches we came to were taken!  We made it eventually though!

We finished off down at the pleasure gardens, with a walk round the butterfly house and of course some time in the playground!
A tiring but happy day with fresh air and family!

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Knitting and Stitching Show, Alexandra Palace

Well after lots of Umming and Ahhing, I did head off to Ally Pally on Thursday, mostly the hesitation was due to me not liking public transport (not for any snobbish reasons!  I've just developed an irrational fear of small places/buses/trains etc recently) so if me and my Mum were to go it would mean driving, which doesn't bother me it was the parking issue that worried me and as guessed when we did get there (12.30pm - which meant it took 2.5 hrs from Oxfordshire!) the 2000 parking places were full!

So we had a drive down some side streets and thanks to Google maps that I'd looked at earlier and saved on my iPod touch, we were able to navigate down to Dukes Avenue, where we luckily found a space that was just by the cut through path into the grounds.
 It was very lucky and we were very grateful!  I would definitely recommend having a drive down that street and then even going left at the end into the The Avenue, as in the week it looked possible to park, there didn't seem to be any parking restrictions.  The cut through path with black gates is just opposite the junction of Grove Avenue.

I've never been to Alexandra Palace before and going in was a real 'wow' moment, the roof and decor inside was lovely, very old regal elegance!

The luck continued as a very kind lady sold us one of her unwanted tickets for £10 rather than the on-the-doorprice of £14!
The programmes were only £4 but I don't think they were really needed, they weren't really informative and there were several maps dotted around the rooms anyway.

So as we were on a strict time restraint, we headed straight into the Resource Centre on the right of the West Hall, walking past the lovely Morsbag stand, where tuition was being passed on and also there was a lovely display of competition bags.  I really must make some more, the freebie I got from the NEC is now my favourite shopping bag and I finished up the ones we made on the day so they are always in my stair basket where I keep the re-usable bags ready to pick up when needed.  The choice of fabrics really brings them to life.

In the Panorama room, there was a great display of stitchers/knitters/organisations, it was small and very crowded in here though, very warm!
Here is the Stitch London stall, after voting in the week via Twitter for my favourite 'crafty' slogan I was pleased to be able to pick up a 'Knit Calm and Carry Yarn' badge!

Near to this was a wonderful stall of Sarah Kenny who I forgot to take a photo of as I was mesmerised by the deliciousness of her knitted biscuit cushions!

Have a look at her site as they are truly lovely, wool and biscuits, it's a natural combination!

This stall was beautifully laid out, very organic and natural looking, lots of cardboard and wood accents, it was on the Selvedge stand.

Then in the other hall, the Textile Gallery there was a mix of artists work and sellers.
This was the Toft Alpaca stand, which was a feast, I'm really liking the grey yarns at the moment, very cosy and wintery.  The great thing about shows is that you get to touch these yarns/fabrics you've heard about.  Everyone raves about how soft alpaca is but until I'd actually touched this you can't really experience it, it's also illuminating to hold it, to feel the weight, feel how it feels against your skin, all these factors that need knowing before you'd even know whether to use it.

 They seemed to have a great idea of selling the items ready made or in kit form, these bags were so gorgeous and the chunky scarves were really tempting, I shall peruse the interweb later nearer Christmas to look at them again me thinks!

The Coats Craft stall was a bit disappointing, quite small with not much selling going on, it was more of a display, they had a few Amy Butler fabrics and a few Rowan yarns but nothing much, not like at the Quilt show where they were heaving with shoppers.

Me and my Mum liked the Paton range of Colour Range Aran and tried to get the pattern book, but it seems they must have only had one as when we went back earlier, this stand copy had gone!  We'll be searching for that on the web later too!

Beyond Fabrics had an amazing stall, beautifully laid out and I meant to go back and choose one of their corsage making kits but completely ran out of time, another one for the online shopping!

Then in the Great Hall it was the market place, with rows upon rows of stalls and traders, the layout was quite tight and it seemed quite intense trying to go round them all, rather than a leisurely stroll past.
Lots of fabric to see, lots of fat quarters, I like the retro prints but didn't want to buy any without a project in mind.
The Eternal Maker stall had some lovely prints, I really must sit down and choose a couple for some dresses for the girls, as their selection is wonderful.

Magnificent huge stained glass at one end, I believe the organ is at the other, but the swishing area blocked that.

If you're planning on a visit, I have a few tips, wear short sleeves, it got very hot and take plenty of water! The food facilities are a bit basic we should have taken our own really.  There are food places in each of the halls of varying types, not extortionately pricey but the seating is a bit oversubscribed, stairs and outside steps are mostly utilised!  Toilets are basic, with queues and again are in most of the halls and some out round the side to the right apparently, if you want to avoid the overcrowded ones in the main foyer!  The facilities are definitely not like the NEC for example.

So I am glad we went, but I'm not sure I'd go next year, apart from the lack of yarn I preferred the Quilt Show at the NEC.
We did have to make sure we left by 3.30pm to try and miss the worst of the west-bound traffic, so we were rushing by the end, but I did manage to purchase the quilting ruler I forgot to get at the NEC, on the advice of the Jelly Roll Quilt's book by Pam & Nicky Lintott I was looking for the 6.5 x 24" Creative Grids one.  Which I found for £14.95 on Coleshill Accessories and I'm glad I bought it from there as the lady serving was really nice and helpful. So now I think I have all the tools for tackling my Moda jelly roll...

I also loved the felt corsages on the Felt Works stand and got two for £10 which I thought was good value, all the felt is lovely and thick and is also fair-trade, the lady serving was really nice too, which I always think should be the first criteria for people manning a stand!  I shall try and get a pic for you tomorrow.
If you went I'd love to hear what you thought, did anyone do the swishing or a workshop?