Monday, 28 November 2011

Knitting and Stitching Show Treasures

(A treasure of rainbow lovely~ness)

Yesterday, I went to Harrogate; to the Knitting & Stitching Show...

If you are lucky enough to have ever been to this eevent, you will understand why I am writing this basking in the afterglow of utter Inspiration Overdose.  Not having been before, we weren't sure what to expect.  We knew it would be good, but not as good as it actually was.  We knew it would be big, but not that big (we were blown away by the actual Bigness* of it ~ *a totally made up word to convey just how big it was).  We knew we would see things that would charm and tempt us and on that score we were completely right.

We set off on a cold November morning, with the sun behind us rising in a crisp blue sky over hills and fields - at least it was until we got to Leeds!!  Navigating that city isn't for the faint hearted - I feel like such a country bumpkin as urban driving (one way systems, sudden lane changes which mean zipping across four of them to get to a swift and sudden turn off etc etc) is not really my cup of tea these days.  Still, we got there eventually and celebrated a whole day of wandering, gazing at yarn, thread, felt, textiles, gallery exhibits and the like by going for a large mug of coffee and something sweet.

Having neglected to take any pictures of the event itself (silly me) I can only entice you with the handful of beautiful goodies I chose to bring home with me:

Buttons, felt balls and yarn...

The felt balls are for a piece of felty jewellery I'm going to be having a go at creating.  I will post pics as soon as it's done, but in the meantime please feel free to gratuitously drink up those terrific rainbow colours - don't they just pop and zing??  Don't they make you feel just ridiculously happy?

(Ocean Blues...wonderful sea colours, I'm quite in love!)

The buttons, they're just wonderful.  I'm not quite sure what they're made of, but they seem to resemble polished coconut shell on the underside, and a smooth, polished ceramic on the top in dreamy ocean shades.  I don't quite know what to use them for as yet but they had to come home with me, I knew that for sure!

Of course, it was probably inconceivable to imagine coming home without a bit of yarn..and oh, the Yarn...oh my.  

The yarn I chose is by a delicious company called Nimu Yarns.  They are a family company based in East Kent and create the most decadent and beautiful hand dyed, hand painted yarns you may have ever set your eyes upon.  Ever.  In the whole world.

After much 'oooh~ing' and 'aaahhh~ing' I decided to treat myself to a skein of Aira in the Grasholm shade.  It's 400 metres of pure, unadulterated silk in the most divine shade of mermaid oceany turquoise.  And I am saving it until I find the perfect pattern for it.  At this point in time I'm sitting with a vision of a slim, drapy kind of scarf which can be worn in the warmer months...what do you think?

Another deeply inspiring moment was to be had when I wandered past the Selvedge Stand.  Something caught my eye...and I glanced again...quickened my pace and was all of a sudden standing before a real life Sophie Digard masterpiece!!

(photograph ~ Sophie Digard at Selvedge)

For those of you who are familiar with Sophie's crochet work you will perhaps understand why I went into a trance like moment as I stood before one of her scarves.  The tiny stitches, the colourways and detail is like nothing I've ever seen on earth.  I understand that she has a team of highly competent women who crochet up her designs somewhere in South America (I think!) which would go some way to explaining why there are so many amazing designs available as it would surely take a Very Long Time to create even one of these pieces don't you think?

I then moved on to gaze longingly at her jewellery...oh my goodness, heart stopping moment - for two reasons; the first one being the absolute beauty of a necklace made intricately from yarn, and secondly, the price tag...which I think it was £127.00...

One day I would like to think I'd have the patience to try and make my own Sophie Digard inspired scarf, but in all honesty I think I'm one of those souls who just isn't made to create teeny tiny faffy pieces of work.  Fortunately I am one of those people who never say never, so one never knows...but for now I think I'm best (and happiest) at gazing adoringly at the stuff from people who can.

'Til next time, thanks for coming by
Julia x x x

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A Story About Making Old Furniture Lovely Again

We have a new addition to our family.

Actually, we have two but i'll tell you about this one first; our new Welsh dresser.

Way back in February my other half happened to mention that there was a Welsh dresser for sale.  It was being advertised in the little cafe over the road and he'd had a look at it and thought right away how it could be done up and made to look lovely.  As this is something I have long wished to have in my home I went to have a look at it.  Standing in the corner it was very tired, shabby and 80's looking with it's awful dark varnish, but I could see the potential same as he had and immediately got rather excited, envisioning it standing in our little house adorned with all our favourite bits and pieces.

We bought it for £25.00 and got to work sanding back that nasty varnish...

I'm afraid I don't have an actual before shot of it to show you just how dark and awful it really was, but you get the idea...

However this renovation business was not plain sailing.  After choosing and buying the undercoats, primers and paints we got to work making this old bit of furniture look good as new, but we hit a problem:  Staining.  Yes, the lovely milky white shade of paint we had originally chosen turned a rather sickly yellow as the old varnish leached through.

It was left a while as we worked out what to do.  I contacted a furniture restoration specialist who suggested sanding it back and then coating the whole thing in shellac.  It seemed like there was a light at the end of the tunnel but as some of you may know, shellac is not the cheapest product to buy and we had a heck of a surface area to cover.  Back to the drawing board then!!  My Dad had a lightbulb moment and went up to see his old friend John Carrack (brother of the famous Paul) who has run their family paint business in Crookes for years.  John sent him home with a tin of some special sealant and my Dad took over the project of re-sanding, sealing, re-undercoating and the like, whilst I danced off happily to buy pretty coloured door knobs and some new paint!

After months of hard work and nothing happening, it was ready:

It has moved into our little house and looks as if it's been there forever.  Typically I got rather excited and immediately started to adorn it with bits and bobs...(and did I mention that it needs bunting?  I didn't?  Oh it so does!!)

I found the toadstools in John Lewis recently, they're actually tree decorations but for now I'm liking them just sitting companionably together on my new dresser :)

The paint I chose was Porcelain Blue by the Craig & Rose 1829 paint company.  The door and drawer knobs came from a selection at Chatsworth House and a lovely little shop in Holmfirth called The Gift Horse.

Prior to my Welsh dresser moving in, I finally got myself a proper desk to work from.  For absolutely long enough I have been working and painting away at my dining room table and this has been fine up to a point but I was feeling that I'd really like a little chunk of my home where I could do my computer work and smaller pieces of art; a work space I could call my own, that I didn't have to clear off to serve meals etc.  Now as some of you know we live in a very SMALL house, there really isn't space for an individual studio and so I have chosen my favourite corner, by my inspiring bookshelves and back window for my new desk.

I found my desk in an antiques centre in Sheffield, I saw it just over a month ago and I fell instantly in love.  I saw it in my mind as being the perfect desk;  it was big enough for my bits and pieces, but small enough to fit in our room without overpowering it.  It has an unusually long drawer that opens from the side for keeping all my Important Things in.  I also get to leave my painting stuff on it, and I love doing that.

I think it's important that we cultivate a creative space that makes our hearts sing, that bring us joy.  A good place to work from is good for the soul.

It's also a dream to sit here and work, glancing up to see the birds fluttering about and watch the sun orbit our riverside garden.  Although I'm still in my little house, working in the same room, having my own desk here gives me my own little sanctuary to retreat to for work and painting stuff.  I love it.  It's all mine.

So!  Before I go today, I'd just like to thank all of you for your lovely comments about my crochet work ~ you're so kind and I do appreciate the time you spend reading my blog and writing your thoughts.  I also appreciate all of you lovely folks who read and leave quietly, thank you too for stopping by :)

Well, I have a few Christmas Card orders I need to be cracking on with now, so I'm off!  I hope you're all having a smashing week, sending love and mugs of warm gluhwein to you!

Julia x x x

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A Rather Hooky Ta~Dahhhhhhhhhh!

It's finished!!

At long last, my Japanese Flower Scarf is completed!  I finished it last week but the weather has been so drab and grey here for days on end it has been difficult to photograph it.  Anyway, today the fog cleared for a few glorious hours and I managed to take a few pictures for you.  It was made from remnant balls of wool that were left over from my Rainbow Ripple Blanket; it's mostly Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk DK with the odd bit of aran here and there.  It's lovely and soft, and surprisingly warm, what with all those holes!

It's a feast of colour...

...I am smitten!

And I am also pleased to share with you that my other scarf, my Stripy Rainbow Bliss one is also completed.  I spent a long while the other afternoon sewing in all the ends; you may recall me not so long ago sharing some WIP photographs with you:

To be fair, it doesn't look that much different now it's actually finished off properly, it's just a little bit longer than it was.

I'm well and truly kitted out for the cold weather now, lots of soft warm woolly goodness to wrap around myself...I'm actually kind of looking forward to the colder days now so I have an excuse to wear them!

And of course with two projects done and dusted, it doesn't stop there.  I have embarked on another Japanese Flower shawl! There is something so lovely and cosy about shawls and I've developed a bit of a need for them around the house; they're so practical and yet so comforting.  I trawled the internet for a while, looking for another pattern but something kept on bringing me back to the Japanese Flower one.  It's so easy, so quick...and it wasn't long before I remembered something Vanessa did here.  I was all fired up with enthusiasm for this idea and before too long made an excuse to visit my local yarn emporium (aka John Lewis).  I came home very happy with a brand new yarn stash...isn't that one of life's little pleasures?  No, it's actually a Great Big One.

And so here are my colours ~ a dark peaty grey, a vanilla cream and soft purpley heather shade.  The wool is a gorgeously soft, chunky merino by Wendy.  I'm rather glad it wasn't super expensive either as it seems to disappear quite fast (it been made on a No.6 hook).  I haven't used this particular brand before but I'm quite happy with it so far, and the shawl (due to the thickness of the wool) is growing at a satisfying speed!

It's been a pretty creative time here this week what with all this hookyness and my on-going purges of decluttering.  In the middle of said decluttering a favourite painting was rediscovered.  Tucked away for safe keeping during our decorating renovations a couple of years back I had actually (believe it or not) forgotten all about it!  It's an acrylic painting on a box canvas, and goes by the name of Yorkshire Snow:

I am wondering if it may make a rather nice Christmas Card, as an alternative to the illustrative ones I have on sale...?  

...I could perhaps temporarily re-name it, to make it more appealing to everyone...maybe 'Winter Snow' instead of 'Yorkshire Snow' - what do you think?

And it may also work rather well as a print.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!

Anyway, I've just noticed that I shouldn't be here - I need to be getting my bod off to Zumba!!  Thanks so much for popping in to see me! 

Sending love to you

Julia x x x

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Christmas Tiptoes In...

Before I go any further, I had better warn you that this post includes some rather gratuitous pictures of Father Christmas and Reindeer.  It also includes several mentions of the 'C' word and if you shudder at the mere thought of it in November then do feel free to depart and come back again next time! (I won't be offended - honest now!) ;D

Being in the art business though, I seriously have to keep up with what everyone else is doing (or get left hopelessly behind) and so, I'm going to give you a quick peek into the festive part of my gallery!

Some of you may already know that my little Christmas Card Emporium is now open - I haven't liked to shout too loudly about it up 'til now because a lot of people are (quite rightly) allergic to All Things Christmas until at least December the 1st but now Bonfire Night has passed, I thought I'd just let you know what's in store...

Christmas Cards are available both individually and in packs of eight...each one is created by hand, titled and signed by myself.  The individual cards are presented in a cello envelope, and the sets are finished with a festive red raffia bow and tag.  10% of all my card sales go towards the Down's Syndrome Association which I am so pleased to support; my nephew Oliver who is now 5, was born with DS and it is a pleasure to be able to give something back to such a wonderfully supportive organisation. 

You can find out more about the DSA here.

My Christmas card shop features the return of some popular designs...

...and also my newest one; Christmas Kiss...

There's also free P&P for customers within the UK but I do ship worldwide too!

I'm really pleased to have my cards and prints in several lovely shops already this year, including the gorgeous Andrea Willis Designs in Scarborough, and The Rowan Tree in Devon.

(Andrea's gorgeous shop)

And on the subject of Christmas, my original paintings and fine art prints would make a wonderful gift ~ sign up for my newsletter to receive an exclusive discount!  

You are welcome to visit my online gallery by clicking here, and you can sign up to receive my newsletter by clicking here.

Thank you so much for visiting me today, and if you've got this far then thanks again for putting up with so much Christmassy~ness! 
Next time, light permitting (it's been dank and awful and photographs nigh on impossible to take) i'll be sharing not one, but TWO Ta~Dahhh moments of the hooky kind with you!

I do hope you'll drop by to take a look!

Sending love
Julia x x x

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Enjoying Autumn


We've been enjoying a weirdly warm November here, although I'm not complaining, there is something rather nice about wearing just a t-shirt and cardigan when you're meant to be swaddled up in scarves and winter coats!

This last weekend, we took our annual chestnut gathering jaunt to Clumber Park.  It's a little tradition that we began a couple of years ago and makes for a nice day out with a tasty picnic, flask of hot tea and forest walks.  After a damp start, the day turned out to be fine and sunny, just the right kind of day for romping about in fallen leaves, gathering up those shiny brown nuts and dealing with cheeky squirrels.

Someone seemed to be having fun, dancing in the leaves...

...and it's amazing what you find when you're searching for chestnuts!

This little fella came right up by our feet, and helped himself to some of our haul!

We had a lovely walk through the forest; I love being near trees, I find them very peaceful, they have a lovely calming energy...

...and the colour of the leaves this time of year is breath taking!

I think nature is good for the soul; watching the seasons unfold, seeing wild animals and birds in their natural habitat is a lovely antidote to the often busy and full lives we lead.

Talking of busy...and I'm going off on a right old tangent here!  Remember a couple of posts ago I told you I was finally making a start on getting rid of four years worth of accumulated junk?  And you might remember I showed you this corner of my bedroom (*shudders at the sight of it again):

I confess to being pretty alarmed at the thought of tackling that lot, I can tell you.  But as I sat and looked at it (as it looked back at me, all momentous and impossible) I had a thought: take it all to bits, and then do it one bit at a time.

I gave myself half an hour.  Three bags of really good baby toys, unused cushions and throws for the charity shop, and one big bulging bin liner for the rubbish later and it now looks like this:

I cannot express how light and happy this made me feel.  In fact, I did a little jiggy dance and squealed a bit.

I've also got a few nice toys that I'm going to have a bash at selling on ebay too - you can't see those though, I've made a fresh pile of stuff to the right of this photo (lol).

It really does help (when clearing out and clearing up) to repeat the mantra 'I love my home' instead of 'damn I hate chores'.  It kind of has a calming effect, and creates an urge to actually make your home nicer (or it does for me!).  I'm not after a perfect showroom style house, that would never be us in a million years as we like our trinkets, colour and lived in feel a bit too much to go minimal!  But I'm certainly feeling happier at how things are coming along, and much relieved that so much unused stuff will be hopefully finding new homes, with owners who actually want it!

One last thing before I go...

(a recent watercolour sketch from my sketch book)

I realise it might have been some time since I wrote about anything arty or woolly.  I want to reassure you that there will be some hooky posts on the horizon, and some arty ones too.  I'm in the middle of working on some ideas (painting wise) which will hopefully see a new range of artwork available for children and families.  I'll be sharing more of this with you soon, but for now let me just say it's an idea that has been percolating for many months and I'm looking forward to starting it!

On the hooky front, my lovely scarf just needs those pesky ends sewing in and I'm kind of contemplating another blanket...a stripy sort of blanket, which would be good to have going alongside the little squares one I've got on the go already.  What do you think?  Let me know your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you!

Sending love,
Julia x x x

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Being Creative Gallery ~October


I hope the 1st of November finds you well ~ the theme for the gallery for the month of October is Fire...I have a feeling this may have been a tricky one, but all the same I will look forward to seeing what you have created, or hearing about your ideas.

'Fire' for me conjours up many images and ideas; the colours of fire are so inspiring and are so in tune with our current season: burning ambers, golds, oranges and reds...but the heart of a flame can also be blue and green and white.  
Fire can also mean passion - a passion of the soul, a fire in the heart...I wonder if any of you chose to take the theme in that direction, and create a piece of work based around that?

The Being Creative Project has so far being an eye opening journey for me, and even on the months where I don't actually create anything I find myself still thinking about ways I could tackle the theme, and I'm being inspired in new and different ways.  I see this as positive growth ~ as artists it is easy to become comfortable within the boundaries we create for ourselves, to work with what feels OK and familiar.  It sometimes feels a little scary to push beyond that, to consider something new, to have to think about something we may not ordinarily do so.  I am pleased that from this project I have been able to work with clay, have rediscovered embroidery and also considered getting into linocut print work again.  I wonder what avenues it may have opened up for you?

If you have a piece of work you would like to post in the Gallery this month, then you are welcome to add your link using the widget at the bottom of this post.  The link must lead back to a picture of your work, either on your blog or on your Flickr or photo hosting account (I do ask that you please don't link back to any online market place, such as Etsy or Folksy, thank you).

The Flickr Group is also open to post your images on a daily basis, while this gallery will be open from 1 - 30th November.  You can easily access any of the gallery pages from the link in the right hand side bar.

Don't forget, you can still sign up to receive the Being Creative Newsletter, which I send out once a month.  You will receive a free mini Being Creative e-book with this, along with links to some blog entries that you may find inspiring, and which may help you get started on your creative journey.  Although there are only two more themes this year, you are still welcome to sign up and join if you haven't already by clicking the tab at the top of the page.

The theme for November is: VINTAGE - I hope you'll have fun with this one and I look forward to once again seeing all your creations!

Thanks for taking part,
Julia x x x

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...