Tuesday 31 January 2012

I Wish for Spring

I don't like to wish my life away, but I wish for Spring.  I wish for warm air as I open my back door and step into a new morning.  I wish for a scent of promise and optimism in the morning breeze as I hang out my laundry, a wish for that feeling of contentment as the sun arcs the sky like a splendid white gold ball.  I wish to sit outside on my bench with a cup of tea and a magazine and close my eyes to feel that warmth on my face, and to open my eyes to a blue, cloudless sky.

I long for days when colourful flowers open their tender buds and share their colourful beauty, and I wish for the days that are cerulean blue and forever posted in my memory like hazy snapshots that makes me feel deeply happy whenever I remember them.

I look around my little home, my tiny, crochet strewn home and I feel grateful for it's warmth and cosy interior on this cold Winter day; the sky is the colour of dirty dishwater and even the skeletal trees that stand like sentinels on the riverbank seem sullen and miserable.  I buy a bunch of Spring flowers and they instantly cheer me, remind me that Spring is just a whisper away, that already we are flying into February at the speed of sound and the first month of our new year is almost over.

We take walks in our nearby countryside, the air is cold and bites your skin, and there are icy puddles for jumping in.  There is a weak sun, and at a lone farmhouse someone is burning wood; fingers of blue grey smoke curl up into the still air and hang like fine gauzy ribbons along the valley.

We wander through enchanted forests and hear birdsong from the treetops. Now and then something small and unseen flits between the branches, we sense movement and life, but see nothing.

We come across a gaggle of geese on one of our jaunts, their bright orange feet a cheery contrast to their snow white bodies and the hard white frosty ground.

We admire the frostbitten seedheads, wintery sculptures that line the side of the river before turning towards the cafe to warm our hands around fat mugs of hot tea.

Winter is making the most of the crisp outdoors, and cosying up indoors with gentle projects and crocheted blankets.

There are lots of things to cherish and enjoy in the Winter...but oh, I wish for Spring.

J x

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Here Comes the Bride...

No, not me, in case you were wondering! :D

In November 2010 (which seems a hundred years ago now), I was approached by an American magazine ~ Her Nashville ~ to create a cover for their bridal edition...and here follows a story full of twists and turns and angst and upset and frustration and finally, a Happy Ending.

The art director of the magazine had seen some images of my textile work somewhere online, and liked the style.

I think it was this kind of thing that she had seen...

So I got busy sketching brides...

...and sent in some samples for her to see.  She really liked the second one so I got to work with their colour scheme, choosing fabric and embellishments like tiny pearls and vintage buttons.  It felt like quite a challenge to be commissioned to do something like this, as my usual commission work involves paint and canvas!  Still, I love a good challenge, love stepping out of my comfort zone to explore new ground and all that so it was full steam ahead!

The first job involved making templates, cutting out the figure and laying it all out, then I began to freestyle embroider the first pieces with my sewing machine...

It was quite a project, and I found I was thoroughly enjoying myself.  I had to get the piece ready for dispatch shortly after Christmas (2010) so that it would arrive in plenty of time for their January deadline.

Details were added when the Little Person was tucked up in bed asleep...

...little buttons and hand sewn pearls...


You'll be pleased to know I trimmed her hairy arms before she was sent out!  Anyway, the bride was soon finished and ready to be packaged carefully up for posting.

And that's when the trouble began.  

The bride was taken to a small village post office on our way out to somewhere else right after Christmas.  It was quiet, there was hardly a soul about and I remember feeling under par, that feeling you get when you think you're coming in for a cold and your head's a bit fuzzy and you're not quite with it.  So the parcel was dispatched and off we went for a pub lunch or something like that and I felt delighted to think of it finally winging its way across the Atlantic to the magazine offices.

It must have been a few days later I was tracking its progress online...only to find there was no progress.  There was no news about my bride at all.  

And suddenly it dawned on me.

There hadn't been a customs label attached to the parcel!!!!!!

Have you ever had that dreadful sinking feeling in your belly, like a ten tonne stone has just settled there and a doom laden feeling clouds your head? 

What should have been roughly a five day service to the States turned out to take four weeks.  There were strong restrictions in force at all US customs offices back then and things were being delayed by days if not years.  What chance did my parcel stand without that Very Important Label?  I felt so annoyed at the Post Office woman, she ought to have known an overseas parcel needed one of those, but at the same time I felt annoyed with myself - I knew from previous experience that international parcels needed that label but feeling under par had entirely overlooked it.  Perhaps otherwise I may have had the forsight to mention it...but c'est la vie!

The parcel arrived at the latter end of January and missed the deadline for the February edition.  I was gutted.

However, all the way through this awful problem I had a great communication with the Art Director.  Between us we contacted US customs, the American postal service and Royal Mail with umpteen phone calls and emails to try and find the AWOL package

It finally arrived, and although it was late, they decided it was better late than never and decided to save it for THIS years bridal edition!!  Hurrah!!!  But oh what a wait!

You are welcome to take a look at their digital edition here.

So there we have it!  I'm proud as punch to have my textile art on the front of a mag, and it's one of those moments that's up there with the time my 'Harbour' painting was featured here.  I am forever in awe at the way the internet can bring the world into your living room, how it opens up opportunities and doors that may otherwise never open.  I am eternally grateful to it and feel quite blessed sometimes by the things I've been asked to do or be involved with.

Talking of bridal related things makes me think of Valentines day which is creeping ever closer.  I'm contemplating a design for a card and hoping I have the time to do it!  One thing I've discovered since my little girl went to school is that despite her been gone until 3:15pm, there doesn't actually seem to be any extra time to do things...this baffles me slightly, but on I trot, making art as and when I can...and I recently made this which I hope you'll like.  It's something new, a bit different...

It's called 'Three Little Words' and I imagine it would make a lovely romantic gift for someone.  I have plans for a sea themed one next and am enjoying working on these little mixed media art boxes enormously!

You can find out more about my new work here.

Well I think I've waffled on long enough! What a lengthy post it turned out to be!  Are you still with me??!!

Thanks for reading and visiting, I feel a BIG cup of tea coming on...

See you soon,
Love Julia x x x

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Anyone for Crochet?

Hello :)

Do you remember quite a while ago I started a blanket from that lovely book by Nicki Trench ~ Cute & Easy Crochet...

I had a stash of acrylic wool (a mixture of King Cole and Stylecraft Special DK), and started in earnest to make four hundred or so little squares...

...well it's been a while since I did any little squares, but at the weekend I decided to dig the yarn bag out and crack on.

Thing was, I felt a little bit burdened by the idea of making four hundred squares.  I know I could have made a smaller blanket, I suppose you can make any shape or size you like with a pattern such as this one, but a New Idea presented itself.  Just as I was thinking 'well if I'm not making my little squares blanket, what on earth can I use all this wool for then?' the answer to that question popped in my head and there was no going back.

I would make a cushion out of the little pile of squares for my little girl's bedroom, and I would use the rest of the wool to make a Granny Stripe! blanket

So that's what I did on Sunday.

As luck would have it I already had a small square cushion pad, and I had sixteen little squares already made up which fitted just right.
Sunday afternoon was spent crocheting them all together, along with many cups of tea and spontaneous games and lego building in between.

I made the cushion envelope style, and sewed on some sparkly pink buttons to fasten it together.  Needless to say, my little girl is over the moon with it, and it now sits with Bunny on her bed.

But you know how it is, when you've got the seed of an idea blossoming in the recess of your mind, you want to get cracking on it.  Well, I do at least.  I was itching to start my Granny Stripe once I'd made my mind up to do it and once Small was in bed, I got busy.

Out came those gloriously sweet shades of wool...and out came the hook...a couple of hours of delicious hooky bliss ensued...

I confess to being in love with Granny Striping; how easy it is, how lovely and rythmical...how soothing it is to work up and down those colourful rainbow enriched rows, and how quickly it seems to grow!

I can heartily recommend doing a Granny Stripe blanket to anyone - it is one of the most satisfying things to have in your WIP basket.  I've decided to make this blanket for my daughter, the colours are so sugary bright and just right for a little girl.  As for the wool, I think I've mentioned before that as far as acrylic wool goes they seem pretty good, not overly greasy or squeaky, and the colours make it a very happy crocheting experience. 

I'll keep you updated on my progress, if I carry on at this rate it might be finished in just a few weeks!

Before I go, I'd just like to thank you for your comments and enquiries from the last post, you're very kind and it's much appreciated :)

I hope you're enjoying a bright sunny week, thanks for popping in to see me today...

Love Julia x

Friday 13 January 2012



Remember me?

Many moons ago I used to write a little Blog (*gigglesnort) but have recently fell off the rails and not written at all.

I thought it high time I popped in to say Hello, wish you a very belated Happy New Year and to let you know that yes, I'm still here.  And how about you - are you well?  Did you have a nice Christmas?  Goodness me it's been a while hasn't it!

It's nice to be back although I'm up to my eyeballs in all things new.  My little girl started Big School last week and I have gently been acclimatising myself to 5 full days of being practically child free.  I confess to finding it a derailing experience, yet in some ways it is ridiculously exciting to find myself with just me for company, to have all this time at my disposal to do with what I will...bliss yes, but in many ways I do miss that dear little ball of energy and am practically dizzy with excitement when it's time to go and fetch her home.

So..although I have all this extra time, I'm still getting used to it and can't say I'm getting anything extra done.  However, I have been busy on a commission which I've really enjoyed doing - it's been a while since anything like this bobbed along...

Surprisingly, from showing this picture on my Facebook Page yesterday, I've had rather a bit of interest from people...so this morning I have been beavering away to create a New Page on my website...

...which makes the whole process heaps easier for everyone.  You are most welcome to take a look if you like by clicking here.

As an antidote to work related things, I have made a New Year Goal to start walking more this year.  Before I had my little girl, we would walk all over the place, disappearing for hours on end up mountains and the like.  It was glorious.  Now she is older we have discovered after several short(ish) excursions that she too enjoys walking, as long as it includes falling down small ravines, jumping in mud and leaping about in streams.

We like all that, so off we went last Saturday on a little 3 mile jaunt not far from our house.

We didn't realise that there was a gale force wind blowing at the top of the hill, the poor wee slip of a thing nearly took off, it's a miracle we managed to grab her before she sailed over the hills to Manchester.

But still, it was a lovely way to spend the afternoon and we look forward to more walks as the weather improves.  Have any of you noticed that the evenings are slowly, ever so slowly getting lighter earlier?  Isn't it just the best thing ever?  It fills me with such excitement, makes me think of all the nice things waiting just around the corner; drifts of snowdrops and crocus, warm evenings sat in the garden, trips to the coast, camping....ahhhhh...lovely!

Anyway, it's time I was off - a cup of tea calls me before I have to head up the hill to collect the exuberant Small, I hope you all have a smashing weekend and look forward to catching up with you and your blogs again soon.

With much love
Julia x x x

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