Friday, 29 July 2011

I can do it too. But I promise I won't

Do you read Cats. Where They Do Not Belong? It's the captions that fascinate me, I find myself making my own up. Indulge me briefly, I won't make a habit of it.
This cat was FURIOUS and told me off for taking his picture
Get out of that raised bed cat. Although it is called a bed it is not a cat bed, that is merely an example of linguistic ambiguity. Also I do not think you are going to provide me with homegrown organic vegetables which will enable me to demonstrate my eco credentials and also cook chocolate beetroot cake and ratatouille, are you cat?
Not asleep. Pretending
That is not a sleeping place for cats, cat, that is a doorstep and you are impeding the free flow of visitors to this house. Do you care what you are doing to our Feng Shui cat? No, because you are self-centred and solipsistic and not bothered about the flow of life energy.
The satire, it burns
Get off that graffiti, poster about missing cat named Spencer. That is special intellectual Cambridge graffiti and you have destroyed the irony by obscuring the T in therefore. I do not think if Spencer is found he will be able to equal the profound insight into modern society of R’s graffiti, although I admit he is probably more fun and better company. PS I hope Spencer is found soon.

I am counting this as a Finished Object and no-one is going to stop me


Readers, you are lucky, because I am brewing within me a post about Why Supermarkets Are Bad, and I have taken the photographs and everything, but then I remembered it was Finished Object Friday, thank you Tami you have saved us all. So you have got a reprieve until next week when I may be able to treat the subject with more humour than just doing a rant about inadequate planning processes in the UK, although until then you can look at the Stop Sainsbury's On Mill Road song (Mill Road is the main street with independent shops in Cambridge) and tell me if you think it's going to bring down global capitalism. Anyway, who wants to read a rant about inadequate planning processes in the UK when they can look at a knitted item? Exactly.

Before I start, though, I think (serious face) we need to think briefly about what constitutes a Finished Object. Something that is ready to wear? Hmmm. Something that no longer has the needles in it? Hmmm. Something that is blocked and has all the ends woven in? Oh, ha ha ha ha ha. For the purposes of this post I would like to propose a new definition of a finished object, namely, an object might be classed as finished enough for FO Friday if the balls of wool are no longer attached. So I have snipped them off and photographed them, look, so that is proof.
Separate, discrete, severed ERGO item is finished and there is no argument. {Fingers in ears}
And now here is my FO.
There'll be no Second Mitten Syndrome and other effeteness in this house
You might feel those needles will cause problems when the mittens are being worn, I choose to see them as an additional feature
Pattern: garden gnome mittens, available here. I used KnitPicks Palette, and I do believe this is your cheapest option in terms of price per yard for stranded knitting, but they have come out quite large (I am a loose knitter, and used 2mm needles because I am just beyond hardcore,) so sock yarn might work a bit better. They will look much more even when they are blocked, but I have to say, I quite like them even at this point. I think I like following colourwork charts more than I like any other kind of knitting, and I wish I had realised you could knit stranded with two yarns in your right hand 5 years ago, as I would now have a stack of fairisle socks and mittens with mad things on them but never mind, onwards and upwards as they say and I hear a Steek calling me in the future. ‘Suuuuusie’ it whispers, seductively. ‘Do not be afraid. I am your path to Bohus jumpers. Heed my call’.

Although, as a brief break from stranded colourwork, this is what I am going to knit next. I have the yarn (again, thank God for KnitPicks! Cheaper than everywhere else!). I have printed out the pattern. But do I have the courage? We will have to see. If you wish to send vibes, they would be much appreciated. And if you wish to see more finished objects, some of which may not even still have the needles in them, get off to Tami's blog, where there will be a plethora!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Giveaway Winner and thoughts on food for free

Hasn’t it been an awful week for news? It just gets worse and worse. I would say, it makes me feel quite depressed, but that might be a bit self-indulgent and I imagine quite a lot of people in Norway feel a bit worse, so I won’t, but yes, what an awful week. Anyway, despite global awfulness, I have chosen (not me, the randomizer thingy) a number for my Spell Book Giveaway, and it is Comment Number Three, which, I believe, is Mumma Troll. Congrats, Mumma Troll! I shall email you your prize and I hope you enjoy it. Use your power wisely ;-).
As a black cat, I walk between the worlds. Also I stare at Susie with my yellow eyes when she walks home from Yoga and make her think that I suspect her down dog of being inadequate
I have booked to go on a herbalism guided walk in Milton Country Park (not till September) because it is an excellent bargain and also I am considering getting into foraging. If you are going to forage in Cambridge you have pretty much got to do it in Milton Country Park, because we are a city and there is not really much countryside, so I have been scouting possible opportunities while doing what we laughingly call ‘running’, and I have found quite a lot of blackberry bushes and apple trees. I am just concerned that when they are properly ripe in a few weeks suddenly lots of other opportunistic foragers will appear and I will be elbowing them out of the way. Perhaps I will do it by dead of night; but, that might risk me getting enmeshed with the local coven, as Milton Country Park is where they perform their rituals (as I say, it is our green space). The last thing anyone wants while they are casting a circle skyclad and invoking the four elements is me with a basket nudging them and saying, excuse me, could you just reach that branch for me as I would like some more blackberries to go in my pie, saucy wink. Anyway I have high hopes for the herbalism guided walk and perhaps less obvious plants will be pointed out to me for which I will have no competition in my foraging. Who knows? Have you ever tried foraging or getting food for free? (Not by shoplifting in Waitrose, obviously. By partaking of Nature’s Bounty in a wonderfully thrifty fashion!).

Monday, 25 July 2011

Normal for Norfolk

I am back from North Norfolk but fairly dopey, so I am closing my giveaway tomorrow because I don’t trust myself to be able to draw a number out of an electronic hat until another day has elapsed (I know that’s feeble). So if anyone wants to enter my giveaway for a spellbook you have 23 more hours (give or take) to do it! Hooray!
Have you ever noticed how bees have fuzzy white bottoms?
Has anyone ever been to North Norfolk? It is one and a half hours and a whole lifetime away from Cambridge. I love it, even though for some reason we kept getting caught up in tour buses of octogenarians and having to queue for cups of tea. Norfolk Lavender is apparently the place to be on a Wednesday as it does special meals for the Over 65s and let me tell you, there was so much demand, they couldn’t cope. It was like McDonalds on Oxford Street but with more bees. By the time we got to the front of the queue my mother had done a trenchant and fearless time-and-motion analysis of the queueing system and was about to submit a revised plan for maximising the efficiency of predicted footfall. Then she had a baguette and it took her mind off it.
Next time I am expecting Partner to find the lion lying down with the lamb
We saw wonders. This was in Houghton Hall. Partner appeared excitedly while I was looking at a plant, insisting he had seen water and fire together. Sometimes Partner is right in his interpretation of things he has seen, and sometimes he is not. However this time he was and I took a photograph to prove it.
Hmm, suddenly I feel the need to stock up on buckets and novelty tea towels

These cliffs had some Very Loud Birds nesting in them
This is Hunstanton. If you are coming to Cambridge as a tourist, I really would not, and I would go to Hunstanton instead as it is quite an experience and is a combination of kitsch and unspoilt. Also if you come to Cambridge as a tourist, be warned that on the evidence of what I saw earlier when I popped in for some potatoes, they seem to make you all wear matching shell suits in a fetching shade of grass green, I do not think that would add to your experience of walking round in a long tourist crocodile past the fascinating historical Boots and Accessorise and being unable to find a seat at Starbucks.
Please admire my restraint in not doing a Shop Local Boycott Tesco!!! post although I do feel one brewing
Samphire in Burnham Market. I spent the holiday explaining to my mother what samphire was but when I thought I had nailed it she would forget again and there we were, back at the beginning. For the uninitiated: samphire is some kind of a green vegetable which grows in the salt marshes, you have it in fairly small quantities (because it is salty) with fish. Our fishmonger sells it and it is cheap only he spells it ‘Samfa’ because presumably that is how you are supposed to pronounce it, I pronounce it though to rhyme with Vampire because that is how they say it on Hairy Bikers.

Here is the touristy bit: if you are in North Norfolk, you should go to Cley Next The Sea, because it is my favourite place and it is very pretty. They do tea in the old windmill, Partner says it is not as good as it used to be when it was in a different room but Partner always thinks things have gone off so don’t listen. There are very few shops but there is a bookshop so that keeps my dad happy. Also, as we were driving into Cley, we saw these alpacas being taken for a walk by a family with two teenage girls. Now, I do not have teenagers but I hear family holidays with them can sometimes be a challenge, so I pass on the information to you that the expression on these girls’ faces as they clutched their alpacas was pure joy. Pure joy. So my traveller’s tip is, if you find yourself on holiday near the salt marshes and perhaps there is a bit of an atmosphere – perhaps some in your party were expecting nightlife closer than in the next county, perhaps there have been arguments over how long to cook the samphire – sneak out of your holiday cottage, get out the hip flask, light up a fag, and ring the Norfolk Trekking Alpacas. ‘Harness up Machu and Pichu’ you can say, grimly. ‘Give Pedro a good brush. We’ll be there in half an hour with our chopped apples’. And all will be well.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Please Knit These Mittens For Me

Could you possibly say the title to yourself to the tune of, Save All These Kisses For Me? Thank you. That's very helpful.

Now, here's the thing. Since I started with the colourwork knitting thing I have this mad obsession for mittens. One of the things you do not realise if you are not a knitter is that there is this subculture of things which are popular to knit because either they are fun or showcase techniques or patterns etc (like lace shawls. Non-knitters, have you any idea how popular lace shawls are? Don't talk to me about neon or colourblocking or pencil skirts or whatever. Lace shawls are where it's at). Anyway, mittens appear to be another popular thing to knit and I love them. I favourite them, I queue them, I am never going to have time to knit them all, so I want to share some of the amazing mitten patterns I have found with you and then someone else might get the mitten-knitt'n (see what I did there?) bug and I can live vicariously through them. Look: it's mittens, not ketamine, I'm a good person.

This is a selection of my current favourite mitten patterns. Note: THESE ARE NOT MY MITTENS, I have not knitted them, the mitten designers have very kindly allowed me to use their photographs (if they were mine they would look a bit wonkier). I'll tell you where they come from so you can download the pattern if you want to. Also, it occurs to me that I've mostly picked pay-for patterns, I went on Mittens I Think Are Cool At This Moment, but there are also lots of free ones out there - can I point you towards Mystery + Manners by Spillyjane, for example? Or these free Cthulu mittens which are on my list to knit next?
Skulls & Flowers Mittens, by Jennifer Thompson
OK. Now, I am on my third pair of mittens and that makes me an expert, so I am going to give you some Mitten Knitt'n Tips. Firstly, the easiest kind of colourwork chart to knit is one that has repeats, like the delightful Skulls & Flowers mitten above, because this also makes it easier to see if you have gone wrong and then you don't have to undo as much and swear. However, look at that cuff: three colours in a row. Ladies, this is the PhD, the zenith, the Nobel Peace Prize of colour knitting, and I think these mittens would be an excellent way to learn three colours in a row. You are only having to do it on the cuff, it looks very effective so that would motivate you, and also there is a special two-colour-cuff option for if you are a big girl's blouse. Look at Jennifer's Unalakleet as well, isn't this beautiful? I wish I had more hands.
Kaleidoscope Mittens by Meghan Jones
Aaaah, these Kaleidoscope Mittens I love. This is colourwork for those of you (do you exist? says she, imperiously) who don't like stranded colourwork, as I strongly suspect those honeycombey sections to be done with a slip stitch technique which is straightforward. These are made with KnitPicks Chroma which we can't get in the UK but you could sub with Mini Mochi or something like that. I like the idea of knitting everyone in the family matching bright mittens like this and making them wear them when they go out together. Those of you who are my vintage may remember Howard and Hilda in Ever Decreasing Circles, well I think we have had enough of Audrey Hepburn as a style icon, yawn, and should look further afield. (Not Richard Briars though as I find him sinister).
Top Mittens Evah. Hippocampus by Torirot Design
These are Hippocampus, The Mittens Which Made Me Learn Colourwork. I have knitted one and the pattern works and is easy to follow, unfortunately my mitten looked like an alien not a seahorse due to my appalling colour choices, if you use nice colours which go together these mittens will look lovely. I love the lace cuff particularly, also note the tasteful use of 2 contrast colour-changing yarns, this is Kauni Effektgarn, which you can get here and is not too dear so I just pass on that information. This is a free pattern too, yay, thank you Torirot Design (look at her other patterns too - I also like the crochet/ knit cowl).
Deep In The Forest Mittens by Tuulia Salmela
How cool are these Deep In The Forest Mittens, hey hey? We are now entering the realms of complicated pictorial charts with no repeats, and, I will not lie to you, you will not be able to knit these very quickly as you will be glued to the chart. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing, you may really enjoy it. I find I (despite having no patience) love a really, really complex colourwork chart, I sit there knitting away crossing rows I have done off with my biro, and having an excuse to not listen to Partner's artless chatter. These mittens have a braided cuff which is also a technique I want to learn, and I think the idea of trees against a winter sky is just fabulous. If you look at the project page as well, there are some really interesting interpretations, with graduated-coloured backgrounds.
Kissing Koi Mittens by Lisa Perusse
Koi fish! Kissing! I am increasingly suspecting this is the closest I am going to get to a tattoo. I love these mittens and I have some yarn that would work for them, bites lip. I think the cuff is kind of turned under and knitted up, so that would be yet another mitten technique I could learn and possible justification for starting these lovely mittens.
Sluggish Mushrooms by Jessica Fielder
I am loving these Sluggish Mushrooms ones too because they are so unusual, and because the picture works so well with the shape of the mittens. I have not shown these to Partner but he would like them very much. After I cocked up the seahorse mittens with my mad colour choices, Partner has appointed himself Stranded Knitting Colour Consultant despite being very colourblind and also (says she tactfully) having Very Different Taste To Me. Anyway Partner has suggested all colourwork should be done in black and white 'like those charts you print out' so the combination of proper colour choices and a slug would pretty much finish him off.
Owlie Owl Mittens by Betsy Farquhar
Look, everyone loves owls, and you will be excited to learn that you can also have these Owls on an Owlie Owl Cowl. I am unable to resist this designer's patterns and am currently knitting her gnome mittens, I can say to you truthfully it is the most fun I have ever had with double pointed needles in my hands, if she has turned me into a process knitter I shall be cross and may sue. (Joking). Look at her pillow patterns as well, lovely. I looked very carefully to see if that was woodchip on the wall in the above photograph but sadly I must conclude it isn't and that I remain alone in my affliction.

Does anyone have any mitten patterns they want to share? (They don't have to be colourwork). Because, you know, I don't have enough on my list. Bring them on!

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Friday Interview: Niccy from Scrapunzel Pixie

OK, I have another interview, you see, I am back on track with the Friday interviews although I will not be on track next week as I will be in Norfolk which, for those of you who have read Vivianne’s robust opinions in the comments here, is a more extreme version of Fenland. Anyway, enough about me, says she modestly. Today’s interview is with Niccy from Scrapunzel Pixie, who makes beautiful reconstructed clothes, pretty brooches, armwarmers and purses. I am pretty much in love with Niccy’s fairy coats, I think they are beautiful (indeed I love all her stuff, so much in fact I've just bought a jumper, oops). Also, she has 30% off in her shop at the moment as part of etsy’s Christmas In July promotion, so everything is amazing value, go and stock up on your armwarmers now. It won’t be July forever, you know. It’ll be getting nippy soon, you’ll be wanting a lovely reconstructed jumper.

Take it away, Niccy!
Niccy, hard at work. I am encouraged to see a rainbow mug encouraging proper colour combining
What of the things you make are you most excited by?
I love all the things I make but custom orders really are great! Making an individual item for someone is always very exciting. Quite often, people will ask for something I might not have considered so the end result is perfectly individual and that kind of collaboration feels very special. I also love the challenge of creating something new - learning a brand new process can be a tad frustrating (because I never use commercial patterns of read instructions) but that feeling of 'Yes! Sussed it!' is always rewarding.
Brooches. Adorable
How important is being green in what you do?
Very! About 1 million tonnes of textiles goes to landfill every year, 50% of which is recyclable  - those are scary figures! When I first learned how much is regularly thrown away I was shocked and horrified, then I decided I wanted to do something about it. Scrapunzel's just one girl with a sewing machine, but more and more people are beginning to see the beauty in recycled clothes. I take a special delight in making something pretty or useful out of what might otherwise have been rubbish - one girl's junk is another girl's joy!
Charity shops are like treasure troves for me - I can easily spend hours and hours just looking and whenever I visit a new town the charity shops are always the first thing I want to look at! I do have to be a little bit strict with myself, otherwise I'd probably buy more than I can carry!

Do you have a target customer/muse in mind when you make your clothes?
Not really. My customer base is so wide-ranging it's practically impossible to name a demographic! There are dreadlocked mamas, students and grandmothers proudly wearing their Forest Fae jumpers. [And now me! ;-)]. I've had enquiries for coats for the 3 Wishes Faery Festival and I've just made a coat for someone to wear to Whitby Goth Weekend in November so maybe anyone 'alternative' or green-minded. Perhaps it's because patchwork is part of such a long-standing tradition or maybe it's just that people like to be individual. My proudest moment happened when James Strawbridge (of BBC's It's Not Easy Being Green) bought a pair of wrist-warmers for his mum - I was star-struck for days!!
My muse is ever-changing - I love Victorian-style tailoring and I'm always influenced by the costumes I see in films and magazines. As a Star Wars geek, I'm quite keen to make something inspired by Princess Leia or Queen Amidala's wardrobe - maybe something with a crazy head-dress! But I can be just as inspired by someone who passes me in the street; so many people have such a unique way of combining styles and colours.
Look at that, wow. What a kerfuffle this would cause if I wore it to Waitrose
Your elf coats are absolutely stunning. What's the process of making one, and how long does it take?
Thank you! It's quite an involved process - I scour charity shops for just the right kind of materials, wash and dry them all and then I spend a bit of time familiarizing myself with the fabrics - checking for stretch and weight and then I start cutting! Because I never use a pattern, the individuality of the materials often dictates certain features so the method varies from coat to coat which is part of the joy of making them! Everyday in my workshop is an adventure! The time-scale can differ quite wildly, too - if it all goes well without any hiccups and I don't have any interruptions, I can make a coat in about a day (excluding the time to source the materials and prepare them), but a larger or more intricate coat will take longer. I also finish all my seams by hand, which takes an absolute age but it reassures me that those seams are there to stay!

How do you feel about the way commercial fashion is produced?

Hmm, this is a tricky one! I love clothes; it's almost magical the way the right clothes can completely change the way you look, feel and are perceived by other people. But I really don't like the way clothes are produced and sold. Should I give a rant warning here? At it's very worst, I think the fashion industry is highly exploitative on almost every level: the underpaid, unprotected people (often women) on the production line; the models who have to maintain a certain shape/appearance at all costs; and the women who are manipulated by advertisers and magazines into purchasing.
And some of the practices of High Street stores are truly shocking; I've heard that damaged items (even if the damage is minimal, eg, a garment has a poorly sewn-in label or is wrongly sized) are often simply thrown into skips and disposed of. Okay, rant over!
[Niccy, rants are welcome on this blog, in fact I’m always glad when someone other than me has a rant ;-)].
I think the more rainbow things in life, the better. This one is my favourite
I love your blog project, 52 ways to leave your high street retailer. What inspired it?
See above, ha ha! In all seriousness, my inspiration is quite entirely selfish - I need more clothes! Because I make clothes everyone thinks my wardrobe must be absolutely bulging but it really isn't - I'm always making something for someone else! Deciding to make rather than buy is probably a bit militant but the idea of purchasing from the high street just doesn't feel right. And the best thing about sharing it on a blog is that other people can join in if they want to - I'd love to hear how they get on! And perhaps I can finally learn how to follow patterns! Eeek, I'm a bit trepidatious now!

What are your upcoming plans for your lovely shop?
I've just bought some fabric labels with my brand new logo on them - stitching them into place puts a big smile on my face! Etsy do a 'Christmas in July' promotion each summer and I'm taking part this year. There's some new purses and wristlets in my shop too (and some surprising new items to come soon!).
Most excitingly, I've been working on a new development for my Faery Coats so I'll be launching that very soon!


Thank you for this, Niccy, your interview was great and I completely agree with you on the hating the fashion industry but loving the clothes bit. I wish you the best of luck with your shop, and (gets on soapbox briefly), I just think it’s wonderful that there are more people making alternative, recycled clothes for a range of sizes, and that non-high-street fashion is becoming more accessible. I find it very cheering.

OK, have a lovely weekend everyone (that’s an order). I shall hopefully see you all on Monday xx

Thursday, 14 July 2011

I struck the board and cried, we must have a giveaway

OK, don't say I never do anything for you (joke), because, I have a giveaway! And it's not only the gift of not boring you with what I think about the whole News International scandal (I think it was all orchestrated by a furious Vince Cable. Partner says if Vince Cable had that much cunning we might have noticed it in other contexts, I say he's cutting his teeth on this and next he's going to bring down David Cameron and make the World Cup be in England or something. Anyway I'm not boring you with this). Nor is it the gift of not telling you about how my overlocker hates me (but if anyone living in East Anglia wants to call round and kick it for me then you're very welcome and I'll give you a cup of tea and a biscuit. For those of you in Chatteris, do feel free to bring the shared donkey, we'll tether him to the fence. Vivianne you are very bad).
Image from The Spellcasting Picture Book
You can read here where I did an interview with Diana from Magickal Realism, who makes beautiful and unusual perfumes, and also wrote the Spellcasting Picture Book, of which I bought the first edition.
I don't know how often Mercury goes retrograde but this happens to me most Mondays
Now, I am going to say this carefully and at the risk of alienating everyone, but: with regards to paganism, hedgewitchery and everything, I have read a great many books, and I have to say to you that in this respect the devil does not have all the best tunes. No. Indeed I sometimes think that a prerequisite for being interested in modern paganism is the complete inability to write good poetry. I have read some things and thought, we have a centuries-long tradition of fine devotional verse and here is this author wibbling on about lovely lovely trees or whatever in a line which does not scan and ends with a rhyme worthy of McGonagall, how is this honouring the Goddess because I imagine she is cringing and opening a bottle of Merlot (on the astral plane) just like I am. Anyway I only say this to you because Diana's spell book is NOT LIKE THAT, it is very different, I think it is excellent and punchy and with spells which feel like they have power. If you like spell books, have a passing interest in modern paganism, or the power of words, or just want to have a look, then I have one PDF copy of the new, expanded, revised edition to give away! If you leave me a comment at the end of this post saying you want to be in the giveaway I will enter you in the draw, as it were, and get the computer to pick a number at the end of next week (24th July?) after which I will email the book to the winner (so could you make sure you leave a link to your blog or your email or give me some way to contact you). If you can't wait, though, here's how you can get hold of the book – it's available on Kindle and Nook (I don't know what Nook is but I presume if you've got one/ it, then you do ;-) ).
Grounding. More difficult than it looks
Also on this subject, my mother is thinking of getting a Kindle, which will be a technological leap on the level of the moon landings. If anyone has any thoughts as to whether my mother is likely to like having a Kindle or not, could you share them, as if she spends money on it and then decides the money might better have been spent on a handbag we will never hear the end of it. And, do check back tomorrow as I have an interview with Niccy from Scrapunzel Pixie, and she is a woman who I suspect can thread her overlocker without having to get Pat from the shop to do it, so I shall be looking and learning ;-). À demain.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Things I am not going to bore you with

I am not going to tell you about how my drive home yesterday, which should have taken 2 1/2 hours, took 5. 5 hours.

I am not going to tell you how much I hate the ^^&*^*$%$ A14 even though I hate it so much I would rather have dinner with Rupert Murdoch than go on it ever again. Even if the dinner was at one of those places where you have to eat sushi off someone’s naked body. And the naked body was Rupert Murdoch’s. No actually perhaps I don’t hate it quite that much. I nearly do, though.

I am not going to tell you about how, having triumphantly done an epic drive that took in most of Fenland, my Punto this morning gave up the ghost and the exhaust pipe dropped off and the oil filter just, like, exploded.

I am just going to be thankful that the exhaust pipe did not drop off while I was circling the outskirts of Ely which might have meant I never got home at all and had to start a new life in Chatteris, which I think might have been a challenge,

And I am going to show you some photos of Stuff I have just listed in my etsy shop because I think they are pretty. And then I am going to go and feed the huge birds who have become dependent on my nuts, and sit and stare into space. Then I might do a bit of crocheting. Probably will, actually.
Lavender bags. Small but very fragrant

I thought this was a cool photograph. Sadly this is not my chair. Also it is not my wall. So it may be difficult to repeat. Do you know what's just out of shot? An eager Husky

Please note use of space and shadow. Thank you, you may now go about your business
Wishing you all better transport luck. I’m never leaving Cambridge again, so that’s the end of my problems. Perhaps I may buy a horse and cart? I see no problem with keeping a horse in a small suburban garden with inadequate fencing, and I am confident it is not prohibited by any bylaws. I shall feed him carrots from the veg box and Polos.

*PS, breaking news! In my last post I was a bit worried that a box of left-handed gloves only might be difficult to sell, but apparently my cousin John has got a friend with only one arm who might want one! So John, tell your friend to go to Masson Mill for a marvellous bargain! (Only if it's his left arm, though. Just don't mention it if it's his right one. I don't want him to be disappointed).

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Brief dispatches from Derbyshire

Things are becoming difficult, please send chocolate (as the saying goes).
Stop it naughty animal. No chardonnay for you
I have been the victim of a Very Bad Cat. I think this cat is even worse than the Cambridge cat which tripped up the old lady. This is me, with the help of Big Fat Hairy Ginger, trying to open an ebay account for Aunty Kath, which necessitated opening a Paypal and a Hotmail account as well. Can you imagine trying to get three lots of user names, passwords and secret questions out of Aunty Kath? By the time we had got to the end she was swigging back the Chardonnay, shouting 'I don't care anymore!' and throwing cocktail sausages about with gay abandon.
Because you never know when an amputee who has a cold hand in July may be wandering past
I am fending off constant exciting shopping opportunities. It is a good job I have no money.
I don't know. Modern sanitation
This needs no explanation. You will be relieved to know that you can flush the toilet if you put your hand into the cistern. I sometimes think the most useful thing for me to do would be to retrain as a plumber as bathroom issues follow me wherever I go, I don't know what this means in terms of Feng Shui but I suspect it isn't good.

Back in Cambridge on Monday when normal service will resume.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Quick post to say

FAMILY DO NOT LOOK (presents).

No, really, family, do not look. Go away.

First, non-family readers, look, made a mitten, didn't iron the duvet,
It's a gnome. It will look better when I've blocked it
Who hates knitting thumbs? I hate it so
Second, while I'm dashing about trying to get myself together to go visit family for a week and failing; there is a guest blog post by me on Ros's blog tomorrow in case you want to go and have a look. She's going to send me those Louboutin shoes for doing it, I hope we are the same size, I am UK 6 Euro 39 but I can get into a 5 if I have to. Also, Ros, I can walk very well in heels so you do not need to worry that you will be giving me a white elephant, no, I will be able to wear those Louboutins for my glamorous life of watching The Real Housewives Of Orange County while hoovering, and going to talk to the fish man. No that was a joke, do not worry, thank you for having me xoxo.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Dear man who I met in the centre of Cambridge yesterday,

Cambridge is a tiny city with medieval streets. This means, when vans have to park to drop things off for shops, it causes problems, doesn’t it? That was why, seeing that a van was parked half way on the pavement, making it impossible for two people to pass, I stood in the road politely and waited for you to go past. I was the woman in the grey tshirt who you completely ignored and who stared at you furiously in a pointed fashion. I have not got to the point yet where I actually stop and tell people off in the street when they do this, so you are fortunate. I am saving this for when I am forty. I will enjoy it very much. I may print flyers.

I live in the part of Cambridge which makes people suck their teeth, man who had lots of expensive carrier bags, and when I go to pick up my paper from the shop in the estate I meet a lot of young men wearing hoodies, and sometimes walking pitbulls. I also meet a lot of people speeding along the pavement on their bikes, because part of the pavement turns into a cycle track (yes! This is inconvenient for all of us!). The young men wearing hoodies/ cyclists invariably stand aside to let me pass, and, when I do the same for them, chirrup ‘thank you!’ cheerfully. The pitbulls look cheerful too, but pitbulls always look as if they are smiling to me. I am sorry that you have not had their opportunities and good upbringings. This is very sad.

It is, however, possible you are just a little socially awkward and not a great big entitled git, and, in case that is so, I have prepared a little etiquette guide for you. This will make you more popular than the new clothes in your carrier bags will. If someone stands aside to let you pass, holds a door open for you, lets you go first on a bus etc etc, this is what you do. You make eye contact very briefly, you smile, and you say, ‘thank you’. Then you go on your way. This discharges your social duties. I do not need to be invited to dinner, to receive a written thank you card purchased from Primavera, or to be presented with your firstborn. It is a small thing, but one day I will turn into the She Hulk when this happens, rather than just writing passive aggressive letters on my blog. Do you want to be the recipient?

No. I thought not. So, you get off, and get practicing your thank yous.

Yours in joy and friendship,

Susie xoxo.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Friday Interview: Lisa from lisaghove

OK, I’m on an interview roll, and I’ve got another interview for you today. This one is with Lisa, who makes the most stunning cushions and bags out of vintage fabrics. I just love her style. Go and have a look at her etsy shop and tell me you’re not tempted. What I think is great about her things is the boldness of her colour combinations, because they’re adventurous but it all looks coherent and somehow a bit cool. And of course I always love anything patchwork, the idea of a tiny scrap of something being given a new lease of life in something else is wonderful. I mean, it does mean I can never throw anything away but that’s fine. I’m sure we could just move into a bigger house, especially as property is so afforable here, this is irony.

Take it away, Lisa!
Lisa with her stunning cushions, I love them so. Also that sofa is just like ours
What really hits me about your shop is the lovely way you combine colours. Do you have favourite colour combinations?
thank you! oh well, yes i am obviously rather fond of colour, yep! And indeed, it is combining colours that i find exciting - especially using unexpected combinations and crazy clashes, sometimes it just makes me giggle when i put some wacky pieces together! That said, it depends on my mood, some days i find myself going for muted or jewel tones. Turquoise, blues and greens with mauves is rather irresistable too... And somedays i can't keep away from the kitschy pink and yellow combinations, modern prints with vintage lace, bunny rabbits and bluebirds… I've gotten bolder with my combinations since i've been making the cushions, aided be the fact that my fabric stash has grown splendidly (happiness!).

The vintage fabric you use is fabulous. Does it take a lot of searching out?
oh yes, i have phases of seriously obsessive fabric hunting to boost my stash. And i get a tad miserable when i am coming to the end of a favourite piece. I hunt in boot sales and charity shops which i love to do - often what i find in these places are interesting textures, prints, wools etc from clothing. The truly mod floral type i mostly bid my socks off for on ebay - i figure if it ends up quite expensive then i can always sell a bit on, and keep a bit for my cushions, but i have a limit - some pieces are way out of my league. [Lisa, I am a fellow ebay-vintage-fabric stalker. I shall try not to bid against you. And yes some things are v expensive, Eames I’m looking at you].

Do you have a typical customer?
Hmmm, i guess i don't know the answer to that. I mostly sell on etsy of course so i don't get to meet my customers, though some i get to know a little through the process - especially those who make custom requests as we have more dialogue together. I have also just started selling at fairs and also an Open House event in the Brighton Festival, which i greatly enjoy. Some people will just love my work and i guess because we have a similar taste then we make a connection - i really like that. I think often that my customers are those who have been dreaming of making themselves a lovely patchwork but just haven't had the time or whatever, then they find that i have made one for them and we are mutually chuffed!

What do you like about the whole patchwork aesthetic?
Well, it's great that i can recycle old fabrics and bits of clothing, that pleases me to be at least a little green. Mostly i think i just love the opportunity to play around with the pieces i have and experiment with putting colours and styles together, mixing old and new. And i think theres just something so 'homey' and comforting about a patchwork, i like that too!

Are there other patchwork artists you admire?

Well i completely and utterly adore the work of design store Squint - you know those stunning upholstered patchwork chairs and sofas - i WANT one sooo much - i am quite sure one day i shall own one of my very own (probably not soon though!). And there are a lot of sellers on etsy who have superb traditional patchwork skills and make very exact and intricate items - respect. [Note from me, Squint are fabulous and I want one too now, perhaps I need to buy a lottery ticket].

What of the things you’re making at the moment are you most excited about?
I'm printing my own fabric!!!!!!!!!
ooh yes, i have been taking a course to brush up on my textile and screenprinting skills, at the moment i'm working on some gorgeous christmas decorations with intricate lacey prints on them (coming to my etsy store - um, soon) [Note from me, let us know when they come in, these sound really exciting!]. And i'm also working on some bird prints - this is a longer work in progress and i am working on them whenever i can find the time - but i doubt they will be ready till next year...
and i am trying to be very efficient and get lots of stock ready for christmas - last year the rush kind of took me by surprise, a big whooosh of activity in nov/dec - so this year i'm gonna be ready - i am, i AM!!
Oh, and some cute brooches are on their way,
and i am working on some painted backdrops to improve my cushions photos on etsy - constantly trying to improve my photography - its quite an uphill climb as i am resistant to 'technical' but it is my sincere aim to make it to the Etsy Front Page - oh yes..


Thank you, Lisa! Loved your interview and love your work, and I wish you all the best with getting on to etsy’s front page (your photographs are very nice. I hope you get spotted!). And get that screenprinted fabric in your shop (I mean, no pressure), it sounds great.

Have a fun weekend everyone x

A nice new-to-me shop

We found (when I say found, I mean, it has obviously been there for years and years it’s just that I never went there before) a nice charity shop. With ALL THE THINGS. It was excellent. Partner’s eyes lit up and he bought books, because obviously we don’t have enough books and need to increase the amount as a top priority, before we sort out the garden or paint the bedroom or do anything like that.
The founder of Emmaus. ++ I am glad to see proper health and safety is being observed with that fire extinguisher
It is Emmaus, which is a community which supports people who have been homeless. We managed to miss the shop and walk round the bit where they put the furniture they are sorting for 20 minutes, until one of the companions took pity on me and directed me firmly into the correct bit. Once inside it was like an Aladdin’s cave.
Stuff. No need to go to Argos!
Partner was thrilled to see some nice sturdy bookcases which we might go back and have a look at. I believe we once had a bookcase with some space on it, briefly for a few days in 2003, since then we have been playing Bookcase Catch-Up, so how thrilling to have a new source. (OT. I don’t think people actually make bookcases that you are supposed to put books on. When you see bookcases in magazines they are shown with one book and a vase on them, this is because if you put anything substantial on them the shelves bend. It drives me mad. Who buys a bookcase to put a vase on? If anyone does please let me know and I will rent some of your shelf space for Partner, he will turn up at your door at dead of night inappropriately dressed and muttering, can you fetch Lucan, I want to check a reference. Quick!).
Want. Shall I go back? Stop me
I was this close to buying this tea set. This close. It is very lucky I have no cupboard space otherwise I would have a plethora of questionable seventies pottery.

I always think there are some nice places in Cambridge if you know where to look (i.e. not the centre of town on a Saturday in July. That is not a nice place. It is more of a mental endurance test and eventually a resident will crack and strangle one of the people who try to make you go on punts and then there will be a big fuss).