Thursday 26 November 2009

Onwards and Upwards

Dear souls, Ive been rather absent from blogland of late due to the aforementioned cold turning into a rather unpleasant chest infection. I finally had to succumb to visiting the docs after trying lots of self medication (like echinacea drinks and afternoon naps) and realising it wasnt going to plan when a silly dry cough began to be followed by a rather strange pain in my lungs. But dont worry!! Things seem to be on the mend!! For the first time in several days I have been out in the fresh air, tackled a small mountain of ironing and began to sort through my stock for the impending fair which is this very saturday!!

Im getting there...however the illness has impeded the progress somewhat and as a result, the house is a mess and dust bunnies are having a fandango under the dining table having not seen the hoover in several days but Christmas decorations are emerging...(hoorah!! and that at least, is a Good Thing :) are boxes of cards and pretty fabric hearts...

Its very exciting, and Im hoping that come saturday morning I will waken with enough 'Umph' to get me through the day as currently energy levels are still quite low (Im seriously looking forward to it though, its going to be very festive with lots of fabulous stalls - please, please click the 'Candy Cane' link on the right side bar to find out more and if you are able to make it, I promise you will not be disappointed!!)

So, despite wheezing and coughing and the obligatory eucalyptus steam inhalations under a towel, I have somehow in the midst of the mayhem found time for a little creative fun time and made some pretty granny bunting, which is now adorning our window!

Im afraid the light isn't too terrific for photographs, but here's a close up...

What do you think? Isn't it cheerful? I was making this at the weekend whilst staying with my sister. Its very quick to make and rather addictive too - Ive already had a request from the Little One for some - 'Mummy can I have flags in my bedroom too please? and can I have pink and brown and blue and green and white....'
Seems Im going to be busy with bunting again very soon!! Well, I figure it will make a nice stocking filler for her so Ive plenty of time!
In some respects, once the fair is over, it will really free up alot of time for me - time to read more books, time to watch good old movies (like High Society, or White Christmas) snugged up on the sofa with hot chocolate and ALMOST COMPLETED BIG BLANKET!!! Oh yes! Did I forget to mention that? Its not far off being done!! Yes, the new pattern is working out a treat and already its big enough to get under and so Im testing it out, just to make sure it works alright...
Im also going to be able to get back to painting, thats what I ache for at the moment...we went to Blackthorpe Barn Christmas Craft Market whilst in Bury St Edmunds visiting sis, and I came away itching to paint after seeing some beautiful work by fellow artists (also went a bit wild and bought a wonderful linocut print, by the extremely talented Penny Bhadresa - do check out her work its stunning).
So, Im all fired up and Im wanting to send more work off to the Literary Agency, and I must tell you - its quite exciting and another mini milestone for me - that my work was circulated around Oxford and London recently and there is interest from a couple of publishers, one of which is Penguin...!!!
Will keep you posted on that, but suffice to say I was delighted to receive that bit of feedback!
Anyway - Ive just remembered that Im meant to be recuperating!! I think a nice cup of tea and a nice rerun of the Darling Buds of May is in order...I do find that when Im not working in the afternoon I get sucked into watching repeats of classic tv shows like that, they are very comforting and make me feel so much better!
I hope you are all well, will try and catch up with you all soon, once the fair is over and done with!
Til then, mulled wine and tiny iced lebkuchen to you!
Love Julia xxx

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Head in the Clouds

Yuck. I have been struck down with a head cold. I am languishing in a fuzzy cloud at present and I therefore apologise for any untoward ramblings that might unfold as this post progresses, but I wanted to chat to you, and say hello, and show you another blatantly Christmassy picture of what Ive been up to this week...all of those who are offended by little bearded chaps in red suits, do look away NOW :)

So as the fair draws ever nearer, I am now working like a desperado through the fug of a cold printing up my Christmas cards. I am putting together some boxes of A6 size cards, 10 to be precise which are all individually hand titled and signed. I feel at this point that I have to say to you that whilst the cost of them might well be a tad dearer than what you might pick up in WHSmiths, I am donating 30% to the Down's Syndrome Charity. And they are splendidly handmade.

And there are only a certain amount of them...which makes them a bit extra specially special don't you think?

Anyhow, yes, Ive decided (after trawling Folksy and Etsy and other artist's and illustrator's websites to get a feel for what these things might sell for and being cross with some for not charging enough for what is lovely work that has obviously taken time and effort to produce, to being downright shocked at 8 cards for £16.00 which made me gasp out loud) - to charge £10.00 per box, and you can buy them here.

Look - all hand titled and signed!!! You don't get that in M&S! ;)

So, before the fog of the head cold descended, sometime over the last couple of days I found time to make some stitchy Christmassy decorations, and here is one for you to see:

He is made to a very simple pattern (which I made myself which means it has to be simple!) from lovely Tilda fabric and felt and beads. You will find him at the Candy Cane Christmas Fair, along with various festive relatives who will hopefully be emerging over the next couple of weeks!

Last night, I took out my Big Blanket. The one that I began several months ago after being inspired by Lucy at Attic24 (naughty woman, she's responsible for a total wool addiction and a birthing of crocheted cushions and the like sprouting up all over our house! Bless her, don't know what I would have done without her to tell you the truth!). Anyway, there I go again - I told you it would be like this today, absent minded wanderings!

Well anyhow, out it came - there were 15 blocks in all sewn together in 3 columns with one block over and I sat and looked at it and suddenley I didn't want to be making just more blocks anymore.


Total change of plan.

After an hour of un-knotting and frogging (I think thats the correct terminology for unravelling reams of sewn together crochet isn't it? Please correct me if Im wrong!) I decided to re-stitch in a big square of 4x4. Here's a bit of it to show you what it looks like:

Instead of making a Big Blanket of blocks with an edge all around, Im going to edge my 16 blocks with a few colours and then go around with lots of individual summer granny squares and then edge those. And I think Im going to join as I go, which I have found to be much simpler and faster than the tedious and often mind numbing job of slipstitch sewing along the backs.

It makes the whole Blankety thing feel exciting again. I must admit to having felt a little tired of it, and for a few weeks now, despite having topped up some depleted wool stocks and being mildly excited by the prospect of getting into it again, it remained shoved in a bag under a chair.

I will keep you posted with photographs when it gets to the interesting bits!

So, thats about it for now. Im off to get a drink and take a couple of paracetamols...there is a Craft Candy meeting tonight in town that I am meant to be attending - I desperately want to go, to see everyone and hear all the news before the fair etc, but I feel a nap coming on and its already almost quart' to four!

Onwards and upwards....

By the way, did you know that there is an idea that the common cold is the cure for overdoing it? Its the only way to make our little bodies stop, sit down, sleep or rest isnt it, so that diagnosis makes perfect sense to me, but at the same time it is highly annoying when you have so much to do...but then again, I suppose thats the whole point...

I know by now some of you will be thinking Ive totally lost the plot, got a terrible fever or worse so Im going to cut my ramblings short and go for a cuppa! Thanks for stopping by, see you again soon!

With love

Julia x x x

Friday 6 November 2009

Cottage Industry

Little Red Riding Hood Illustration
I have been very busy again this week. Something registered in the far off reaches of my creative mind a couple of days ago, that things needed to be made and stock needed to be replenished for the Craft Candy 'Candy Cane Christmas Fair' which is fast approaching...seems I have done it again, left it all 'til the last moment, and whilst you may think that 3 or 4 weeks is ample time to make and do, then I have to tell you that for me it is sailing far too close to the edge. I like to make crocheted things, sewn things as well as printy/arty things and these all take time, and time is what I generally have not got oodles of, due to the fact that as a Mummy, I spend most of my time entertaining the Little Daughter with baking, play dates, library trips and the like.

Not that Im complaining, I love her to bits and that side of my life is what makes my creative life so enriched.

So it seems my dining room is being turned into a small production room where Christmas cards are printed, boxes of cards are put together, pictures are painted or stitched and sewn and finally, when my bottom can no longer endure the hard wooden chairs I retreat to the living room and the comfort of the squishy sofa to dig out the crochet bag and create little one-off decorations....want a peep? Of course you do!

This little fellow is quite jolly, with his festive hat and scarf, finished with a wooden bead and a hanging cord (which I think you can just make out by my fore finger) - he's the only one though - my theme this year is to create completely unique decorations so once they have gone there are no more! It means its alot of fun too, coming up with lots of individual designs and hopefully, my lovely customers, should they be tempted to purchase, will be going home with not only a cute little handmade dec, but a warm fuzzy feeling that theirs is the only one in the world!! :)

Inspired by a post on Attic24 lately, I decided to make a little bird to add to my decoration stash. I have a thing for birds (I love drawing them with fat little bodies), and last night using a circular crocheted template (you can see Lucy's pattern for more info) I came up with this little chap. His eyes are made with sequins and swarovski crystals which should capture the glow of the fairy lights and twinkle beautifully! He hangs from a crocheted cord that has been adorned with two colourful wooden beads.

So, all this takes place as the nights draw in and the rain hammers on the windows which makes me feel jolly glad to be tucked up indoors with my art and crafts. But its not all work, oh no!! Not that I actually feel that it is work you understand, anything that I make or paint is the nicest thing to be doing and very rarely a chore - but you know what I mean in that sometimes we have to tool down and get outdoors!
Last night was Bonfire Night (officially) and there were plenty of us who gathered for the annual spectacular in my Mum's village. Fortunately, across the road from the field where the bonfire and fireworks are held is a nice little country pub with a great area for viewing not only that display, but many more all over the rest of Sheffield and beyond to the east! We stood clasping our warming beverages, gasping in delight as posies of glittering light exploded against a dark sky - it never ceases to amaze the child in me and this year was especially nice as our Little girl, who is now 2 was absolutely enraptured with it all and didn't cry not once, not even when the very Loud and Spluttery fireworks went off - no, she applauded and shreiked with delight! Fabulous child :)
Bonfire night wouldn't be the same without special tasty things to eat now would it? I made a batch of flapjack, adding a handful of roughly chopped brazil nuts and about 100g of milk chocolate chunks, squashing it gently into the top of the flapjack mixture. Its very nice.
Flapjack, to me, is one of those flavours of autumn - like bangers and mash, roast onions, tart tatin...I love those syrupy, smoky, dense flavours that seem to appear in seasonal recipies at this time of year. It makes me feel decidedly cosy!!

Well, I had better press on! I have the house to myself this afternoon as the Little One is being entertained by Nannie and Grandad and I have not a moment to waste!! Another decoration is beckoning and there is much to do before I feel satisfied with my stash!

I hope you all have cheerful weekends, for us its a trip to a village Christmas Fair - yes, I know its early but you never know what lovely things you might find at these places and I love being able to give someone special a gorgeous handmade something.

See you again soon,

Love J xxx

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