Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy Hogmanay!

   With very best wishes to you all for 2010!


Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Merry Christmas to you all and thank you so much for your wonderful comments, your support and friendship throughout 2009 - you're great!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Sitting on the fence

Snow in the East of England has turned the garden into a winter wonderland and scared the living daylights out of the hens!   Oh dear me, they do not like snow.   Well out of their comfort zone, probably not so much the cold (although I don't think Fanny's very keen), but just because it's white.  

             "Who put that there?!"

Last night I felt so sorry for them that I tried to warm up their Eglu with two old stone hot-water bottles, but as usual, something new was a bit too much for this reactionary trio.   Fanny wouldn't go in at all, Madge went in, gingerly,  and Hilda got stuck in the entrance as Madge had turned round to come straight back out again.   So I opened the egg door and removed the bottles, which probably let even more cold air in.   I must learn not to interfere, I must learn not to interfere, I must learn not to interfere.    Nope, it's no good ..... one New Year's resolution I know I just can't keep.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A 'horticultural perambulation'

Hope you were wrapped up warm against the snow!


Monday, 14 December 2009

Getting in The Mood

I'm not sure if this really qualifies as an Advent Calendar.  You can already see every date, the pretties are in situ all the time and, worst of all, there's no chocolate involved.   But it comes out every year and holds some precious memories.   My late sister Jacqui gave me the idea and spurred me on by providing the backboard.   Well I say "spurred me on", it was more of an imperious royal command.   The deal was that she would make one too, so I felt compelled not to let the side down.  I fossicked about until I found all the necessary pleasing gewgaws, glued on the red cord, printed off some numbers from a font that looked suitably festive, wheedled out some teeny mother-of-pearl buttons and pearl-headed pins and proudly hung the finished article on a hook in a prominent position.   She would see it as soon as she came in the room.   She kindly cooed and loved it, but added, "Oh I didn't ever get round to doing mine ....".   Sisters, eh?!

Nearly time to bake some big cookies.

Our eyes were a bit bigger than our tummies, when it came to chosing our Christmas tree from the farm by the windmill in the village this year.   Someone else was eyeing it up and I was a bit scared they would buy it before we'd really made our minds up.   But we love the shape and with a little judicious rearrangement of the furniture, and if you breathe in and stand sideways when you go out of the patio door, it's really not at all in the way!

Like the Advent Calendar, lots of our tree decorations have sentimental attachments and will probably be pressed into service year on year until they fall apart.   Our Christmas tree will never be one of those one-colour, minimalist lovelies, with just a few sophisticated silver baubles and crystal drops!

Some of you will know what a misery I was about a recent 'craft fair' experience - well I had my faith restored on Saturday.   I had been asked to take a basket of Christmassy things to display for sale in a lakeside cafe nearby.   I made some fabric decorations, garlands, that kind of thing and put in some felt bangles and those "not cheap" lavender bags.   In between setting out my hamper and eating my yummy rustic sandwich, just about everything had been bought in a mad flurry!   There were lots of lovely compliments, which was both humbling and gratifying.  And truly surprising!

Hope you'll have a great week!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Christmas goody-bags

No surprises being given away here - these were last year's efforts for my neices.  I transfer printed some old Christmas cards, zhoozhed them up with some glitter glue (thank you Anne!) and appliqued them to the goody-bags made from my stash of fabric.   The baubles were old glass ones which I got for 5p each at my favourite op-shop and gathered up with a vintage ribbon bow to complete the festive feel.   I've got some ideas up my sleeve for this year, something a bit more minimalist and modern ......  and pinkpinkpink.   Maybe.  Don't want to spoil the surprise....

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Makes-me-Glad Mosaic

1. Détail broderie, 2. Poudre de riz, 3. Old bowls , 4. Montre à Gousset Famille, 5. red and white tree (finished), 6. ..., 7. December bouquet~, 8. Christmas stocking, 9. antonia

I love Flickr.    The rain is lashing against the windows like a scene from Moby Dick, but I'm snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug with my new efficient central-heating system, a nice warm laptop and access to the most fantastic photographs from all over the world.   Hope you like them too.

Today seems like a good day to stay indoors and continue reinstating my workroom, now that the floorboards are back down.   I'm being completely and utterly ruthless about what is welcomed back from exile.  There's a limit to how many hairless paintbrushes I shall need for poking things, for example.  Four should be enough.   Don't you think?

Have a lovely day, whatever you're doing!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Advent calendar

Sorry folks if you think your eyes have gone funny, I'm messing about with different effects on Picasa (which I've just discovered is installed on my laptop)!   The heating engineer is still huffing and puffing installing our new boiler and flushing out all the radiators, so my workroom remains out-of-bounds and I'm trying to amuse myself ...   I'm afraid there's probably more of this to follow in future blogs, so be warned!

Yesterday I went with a couple of friends to Fleetville Vintage Emporium, in St. Albans, which I had read about on VintageRockChick's blog.    Lots of gorgeous vintage clothes which, if I was a slip of a girl, I would have loved to have owned.   We did wrestle our petite mate Anne out of her liberty bodice (it was a cavernous place with NO HEATING  - AAAARGH!) to make her try on a couple of things, but even she wasn't little enough to fit them.   But I did buy a basket, the last thing on earth I'm short of, and Charlotte bought a sweet pressed-glass cake stand.   When we got back I was in serious trouble with the plumbers, who, left to brew their own cuppas, had only been able to find Earl Grey teabags in my cupboard.   When I'm feeling stronger, I'll share with you their views on perfumed tea .....

Monday, 30 November 2009

Big Thank You and roll on 2010!

I'm really grateful to everyone who so very generously took the trouble to share their own experiences of 'craft fairs' and to help me clarify my thoughts about the meaning of (crafting) life!  You're all so kind and it was genuinely helpful.  

As with most of you, 'making stuff' has always been a part of my life.   One of my earliest memories (maybe I was about 5) is of constructing little gardens in the mole-hills on the village football pitch.  Then I'm sure I got badges in the Brownies for knitting or somesuch thing!   My mum showed me how to embroider and I've still got a tablecloth I decorated with satin-stiched flowers when I was about 10 - goodness that would certainly qualify as 'vintage' now.   

And over the years I have dabbled in all sorts, loving to make things for my home and for presents.   Kind friends and relations encouraged me to make-and-sell, which I did in a very small way.   When I gave up my proper job I had more time to indulge my creative side and opening an Etsy shop seemed to be an easy way to answer the often-posed question, "Have you got a website?".   The shop wasn't ever meant to be the main focus of my crafting, just somewhere to refer people to see the kinds of things I made.  The selling thing was a handy way of financing my new-found love of felting and bought me the freedom to 'play'.  But I can see now, with your help, that the cart is now before the horse, as the old saying goes.    I seem to be making simply to keep my shop 'shelves' filled and to try and make things that will appeal to people at these 'craft' fairs.

So the New Year will bring a different approach.   I hope to take part in one or two strictly handmade fairs next year, in the expectation that visitors will have been attracted by that title and will have a realistic vision of what will be on show.   And I want to spend more time experimenting with felt, perhaps creating natural dyes and doing more three-dimensional work and nuno felting.  

So I'm sorry this is such a droney post, but I wanted to say a big thank you and demonstrate that I had used your kind input to help me make up my mind where I go from here.  

The next few days will be a bit of a write-off on the crafting front, because, (as you do in the cold depths of winter) we're having a new central-heating boiler installed and my workroom is now scattered over several spare bedrooms while the floorboards are up, the water is turned off, every outside door is wide open and it's perishing!   Oh dear, I don't do cold ....

Monday, 23 November 2009

Damp Derbyshire

Derbyshire is really not too far from home for us, so we went tootling off there with a couple of friends for the weekend.   We stayed here for BandB and received a real welcome in the cold and dark - a roaring log fire, squashy sofas, bouncy big puppy and our host even laid on Scotland beating Australia at rugby!   What more could we ask.

We'd spent a rather damp day at Chatsworth, but escaped the rain by touring  the house, which was decorated lavishly for Christmas on the theme of candles and a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale.   Here's some grainy photos which will help inspire your own Christmas decorations, no doubt!

As luck would have it, they were also having their Christmas market that day and if we had so chosen, we could have staggered up the length of the stalls drinking mulled wine, cider, eating award-winning sausages and Bakewell tart (more of than anon).   One absolutely delightful stall (called Made in the Shed, but no web/shop link available sadly) were having their first outing.   I adored everything the talented ladies had made:  they had sourced some fabulous fabrics and made lovable big bunnies and teddies, dreamy romantic hearts of every kind and irresistibly tempting goodies of all sorts.   I just had to make a purchase and (here I go again...) tell them that they were not charging enough for their goods.   They all agreed that they had had sleepless nights worrying about how to price and insisted that it was impossible to charge realistically for their time.  I have seen things not nearly so charming in CL and other magazines which are priced way way higher.   Hmm, more food for thought!   Anyway, not sure I can show my purchase to you, as it might be a pressie!

We must go back to Chatsworth, in the dry, so that we can spend some time walking around the extensive grounds and admiring the fountains and water features - but the main 'water feature' on Saturday was descending from the leaden skies.   So we took off for Bakewell in search of Tart.   And we certainly found some here!   It's a tiny little place, behind the bakery, but it had the most mouthwatering Bakewell Tart in the world and worth a 2 hour journey just for that alone!  But, no need, they'll even post them to you at home....

And, to my joy, Bakewell has some fantastic little independent shops and even in the pouring rain and dark, we had a delightful time dashing from doorway to doorway exploring.   My favourite was Chalet home, which was a little cottage packed with Scandinavian and French things, all decked out for Christmas and smelling divine.   More purchases made, I'm afraid!

I'm going to skip very quickly over the fantastic steak pie and great pint of beer we had at The George in Alstonefield in the evening - we all completely overdid the consumption, being full of Bakewell Tart already!   And then Sunday with a Full English Breakfast at the BandB, the only thing for it was a walk from  Milldale to Dovedale and back (in the rain) along the valley of the river Dove.  Only five or so miles, so not nearly enough to walk off all the weekend's calories, but we got rosy cheeks and felt slightly less guilty!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Mosaic in the Meantime

Having a serious think about all the kind comments and support I received in response to my last post and things are a bit clearer now, though I'm still mid-ponder!

Here's a little mosaic to enjoy in the meantime, and 'thank you' to everyone for their generosity.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Craft (un)Fair

Well just in case you thought I'd gone AWOL, here's some stuff I've been making since we got back from Scotland and the Australian returned to her home down under.     

I was going to start off my missive today with a moan and a bit of heartsearching, but I thought that might put you off altogether.   However, now that I've got you reading, I'm going to subject you to it anyway!    

I've been felting and sewing away like crazy for a while, trying to get some things together for a couple of craft fairs that I said I would do.   One for a local infant school and another for the county Women's Institute.  

The infant school was a fair success, despite the fact that I had a table between the pink tutus and a very popular brand of greeting cards!   The WI, however, didn't go quite as I thought.   There was a large influx of elderly ladies quite early on in proceedings, but they were mainly there for a cup of tea, a slice of home-made cake and a natter with their friends.  Nothing wrong with that!  But a large number of stalls were not 'craft' at all:  imported socks, hessian shoppers with naff sayings printed on them, jewellery made in goodness-knows-what-sweatshop, that kind of thing.  

My lovely talented friend had brought along some beautiful quilted items that she had made during the year and I tried not to be too strident and bossy in pointing out to her that her prices were ridiculously low - but I could hardly get a word in because she was so busy selling her wonderful wares to hordes of purchasers eager to snap up truly great bargains!  She did agree that her husband had said the same thing to her, but she just felt she 'didn't want to go home with them'.   Her prices would barely have covered the cost of the materials - no thought of pricing her time into the equation.  And there's the rub, the age-old  argument about crafters not being able to charge a realistic price for their handiwork, because people can't then afford to buy it.  

I do try and stick to my guns a bit with my prices - after all, it's not just a hobby for me, I do want to try and make some money from it.   If I didn't, there are so many other things I could sensibly be spending my time doing (e.g. the ironing).   I've been thinking a lot about this since yesterday, particularly because one excited group of ladies were billing-and-cooing over some of my lavender bags until they saw the price tag.   Said one, "Oh £4, not cheap, then".   So why would it be 'cheap'?   Did she just mean, "Oh that's more than I really want to pay for a hand-made, linen and vintage lace, organic English lavender bag with lovely old button and ribbon".   Or was it, "You're having a laugh at my expense, expecting me to pay this vastly inflated price for your old tat, when I can get one in poundland".    

So I have been pondering these things in my heart and will continue to do so.   I need to take a step back and examine why I'm doing it - do I need the money?  am I actually making any money?!  am I just fulfilling a creative need?  do I need the affirmation that what I'm making is saleable?  should I carry on, but on a smaller scale, i.e. no Etsy shop?  scale up and do more self-promotion?   Oooh er, what a headache!   I'm sure you've all had more-or-less the same thoughts from time to time - care to share them?!

In the meantime I need to clear up the almighty mess in my workroom.   We're having a new heating boiler installed very soon and they have to take up the floorboards right underneath my storage shelving, which has now extended several feet into the room with a rat's nest of detritus piled up against it.  When things are a mess, I always say, "It looks like the Wreck of the Hesperus" - no idea what it means,  but I get a mental picture of an old sailing ship dashed against the rocks and its cargo bobbing around on its way to rest on the shore. Oh, just looked it up on Wikipedia, now I'm not at all sure I have the right expression ...!