Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Yarn Along

Great to be joining Ginny and the gang over at small things for this weeks Yarn Along. Last one of 2011, right?
 Many thanks for all your sweet comments on last week's post.
Hope you had a wonderful, warm time over Christmas. Hard to believe that the heart of it has passed for another year. Over the next few days I'll be posting favourite vignettes, makings and doings from mine : )

Since the weather's turned cold I've been craving a cosy neckwarmer. I was delighted to find this Cardiff Cowl pattern on Ravelry, it looked so wearable and do-able. But it threw me when I read the reviews, as they are very mixed indeed. The pattern seemed to confuse many. I consider myself at the intermediate stage with crochet, so it felt a bit daunting. Having completed it now here's what I think, it's rated Easy and I do think it's a deceptively easy pattern once you get going, but the pattern is poorly written and unclear in parts. I worked it out from looking at an image one of the reviewers had posted of her finished piece, once I saw that all the shells and other motifs simply lined up, mystery solved.
From my favourite local Yarn shop this Manos fairtrade Merino has become a firm favourite in our Woollygatherings. It falls outside my budget but is indescribably soft, and I needed something festive...the marbleized colourway is lost in translation here. And as these pieces are all for me to learn and experiment on, I couldn't resist adding my own edging. I've just worn it for the first time and did not want to take it off : ) I've just finished a second one now in different yarn, more on that in an upcoming post. Thinking what a lovely present this would make in two evenings work, if you knew someone well enough to know their colours. 

Still reflecting my way through The Four Temperaments which I wrote about previously here.

I look forward to seeing what y'all are up to this week. Thanks for visiting : ) M

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Yarn Along

In festive mood, joining Ginny and the gang over at Small Things for this week's Yarn Along. I am crocheting for small felt babes. I made a collection of these, most of which you can see in a recent post here. Just working through the last couple of orders for these 'Child of Christmas' in the white, and beside her one of my leaf babies I'm making for my niece... I'm working on a design where children can wear these as a pouch : )

Along with the Christmas decorations, we've hauled our little collection of treasured Christmas books out of the crawl space. We bought Little One, We Knew You'd Come for smallie for Christmas a couple of years ago now, it's a beautifully produced book, one of our favourites for this time of the year. The tender illustrations rendered in watercolour and gold leaf are magical and evocative.. Perfect for snuggling up and reading with your wee ones on Christmas Eve. 
I look forward to seeing all the lovely gift-projects being finished up out there. Wishing you all a warm time with your loved ones at this special time of year. M x

Saturday, 17 December 2011

This Time

Truly hoping that this is my last couple of days of intense work before the Christmas break. Got some late orders that I need to fill. Ever grateful for the work, but so looking forward to slowing down, catching up with my siblings and their children. I have some fun handwork projects planned for the little ones : ) their handmade presents sit waiting to be finished or put together.
My head has been so full, with lesson plans, trying to meet orders...crochet projects, while trying not to think too much about the ever-increasing pile of laundry that waits, the piles of wool scattered around our living room and the Christmas cards written in my head and heart, but not actually making it onto paper ; ) It may well have to be new years cards this year, and how bad. Time to let go of certain things and focus on the fundamentals. 
We've been invited to a glam new years eve party this year...know what I really want to do? Sit by the fire and crochet.

 I am struck these days, reading through my favourite blogging-sister's words, how far we working moms tend to push ourselves. The deep need to do our creative work for many reasons, fulfilling our role as mothers, and domestic tasks that simply have to be done sooner or later ( later in my case ; ) ) and how to strike that balance.What a fine balance, one I've coped better with this year than last, one I hope to manage even better next year, for that I wish.

Have I said that pretty much my all-time favourite thing to make in felt (apart from grandmothers of course) are little gnomes? Wish I'd known to make more of these ones, at the fair there was more demand from mothers and teachers than I could meet!

The kindergarten needed a duck and duckling for their puppet play..

This is part of  our seasonal table in the handwork room. I set it up thinking it would bring something really elemental to the space, I realise now how important it is also for the teacher. While teaching or preparing for a class, I get a glimpse of it and it so helps me remember the magic of this time of year, and what an honour it is to be working in the world of the child. 

Thank you for reading, and every warm wish for the Christmas season. M

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Child of Christmas 

You know that feeling when you get a real kick out of something you've just made, because it's a little departure from what you typically create, a bit of a stretch..? And it's your own design from start to finish...
I haven't felt that in a while, but it happened with these : )

I love to combine fibres that are at different stages of processing, so I really enjoy integrating stitching and felting in my pieces. Spun and unspun side by side. This yarn is actually cotton. I've been combining crochet with needle felting in my work for some time now, and I still love to switch between the needle and the hook.

These babes were part of my Christmas collection this year, I wrote in the previous post about making work for this years Advent Fair. I had a snow-white moment while working on these, stabbed my finger and red blood threatened the white wool ; ) I know this is what turns many crafters off the process of needle felting but I just take a deep breath and needle on : ) I couldn't keep my mind from wandering to this though, and how the image imprinted itself on my mind as a child:

Once upon a time in mid winter, when the snowflakes were falling like feathers from heaven, a beautiful queen sat sewing at her window, which had a frame of black ebony wood. As she sewed, she looked up at the snow and pricked her finger with her needle. Three drops of blood fell into the snow.
 The red on the white looked so beautiful...

I always have to haul myself back to the present moment ; ) such a daydreamer.

And back in my present, I was
asked to make a fox for the kindergarten to accompany the story happening there at the moment. I'd never attempted a four-legged creature in felt before and this one had to be really robust, hardy enough for play. It took a lot of felting but I got there in the end.

There are lots of these elusive red foxes around these nights, we've been lucky enough to spot a couple, much to smallie's delight. Having made this I will look with a much keener eye next time!

.. I'll be back here later this week to share photos of the rest of the gang, gnomes and other characters recently made. 

Thank you for reading : ) M

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Yarn Along 

Happy to be joining Ginny and the gang over at Small Things for this weeks Yarn Along.
I'm very in love with crochet these days. It's a madly busy time, and as I'm working away to fill orders, what I really want to be doing is this. This is another simple project I'm trying out to test its suitability for students. The bag pattern is so easy it's a seaming whatsoever, you just crochet into both sides of the foundation chain. Magic, perfect for beginners. This is of course Noro yarn and these would not normally be my colours of choice at all. But this random ball has been lingering in my wool basket and I was curious. I plan to make a spiral braid for the strap, I've not yet tried this technique so I'm interested to see how effective it is and wonder how the children would do with it. I'll post when its all done. I've a mad notion to add long fringes and wooden beads to the end. The closet cowgirl in me ; )

I'm excited to get stuck into this little book The Four Temperaments by Rudolf Steiner, where he discusses how inner self and inherited traits combine. I do find it fascinating to observe how the various temperaments manifest themselves, and how as parents and teachers we can meet and respond to them. I'm just beginning, I'll let you know how it goes.

Looking forward to seeing what y'all are stitching and reading out there. M 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

March of the hedgehogs

 My son and I moved to County Clare three years ago expressly so he could go to the Steiner school. (They are few and far between in Ireland). I so wanted that for him... I'm not sure I ever imagined how much it would bring to me, on many levels, and the countless quiet ways in which we have grown towards the ethos, and settled so naturally and comfortably within its folds.
  A whole new chapter of my life, of our lives began with this move. 
Marked by a very tough first year of missing the Dingle Peninsula we'd left behind, the stunningly beautiful coast and good, old friends. To top it all I was driving a car independently for the first time, something I had avoided 'til then, something that scared me. Initially I felt land-locked and isolated. But never once considered going back.
After that first transitional year passed, my boy had come of age to be welcomed into the kindergarten. A whole new like-minded community seemed to open up before me, a feeling that has only deepened since. How blessed do I feel. 

I arrived here as a painter. I had not yet been touched by the world of craftwork, the wonders of wool, of felting needles and embroidery thread. All that changed with my association with the school, initially through my enthusiasm and commitment to the parents craft group and eventually through our woollygatherings and my own personal journey with it all, beavering away, overcoming blocks and limiting beliefs like 'I can't sew' and 'I don't know how to knit'. It completely renewed my love of learning...I now find myself a part-time handwork teacher at the school and learning ever more. It has enriched my life, incredibly so.

 Knitting needles lovingly crafted by the children in the first of our handwork lessons, yarn   
kindly gifted to us by one of the teachers

I used to feel an element of guilt that I did so little art with my small child at home. It amazed me how people presumed, that as I was an artist it was a natural activity for us at home. But it wasn't at all. For I felt so desperate to make my art, and child-free time was so so limited and precious, that it was a separate thing for me. Gladly, that too has changed. Now my son is older and (most of the time!) I'm more relaxed about creativity happening at home, it seems to happen quite naturally. Who knows exactly why or how or when these small changes come. But through osmosis...witnessing fleeting scenes of the children crafting at the kindergarten, working around the table with other moms showing each other how to make things, standing before a group of children learning how to help them learn, how to knit or crochet. Small changes bring great changes, that I have seen.

The annual Advent Fair happened on the day that I write this, and its a funny thing for me because I feel like I've never really experienced this wonderful event and all its child-centred ventures, as I am a stall holder on the day. My kindly family come quite a way to join in the day's activities and care for smallie. 
And gladly I run my stall in one little area. Leading up to this year I really wondered, questioned, doubted whether I could pull it off, if it was worth it, whether during an already busy time it would send me over the edge into total overwhelm. I am prone to feeling overwhelmed on the average day! And wouldn't it be lovely to spend the day wandering with my own child..? Yet I couldn't seem to let it go : ) It traditionally provides a timely boost to my income at a spendy time of year. But there's much more to it than that. The work I make meets a a niche market. I know all you artists and craftworkers out there can relate to the deep feeling of wonder and satisfaction when you see someone walk away from your table with a bag containing something you've handmade, that they've handpicked. 

There is something very meaningful in being part of those who, like the wonderful parents craft group, provide natural toys for children that encourage imaginative play. Not easy to find in these parts and not always affordable.

All told, between the jigs and the reels what with teaching and other commitments, I found myself with all of two weeks to make new work in the lead-up to this. And out of the blue I was smacked with a brutal toothache that lasted a week.Yikes! Funny how that happens. Work began nonetheless, with the making of a community of hogs ; ) I wrote about these in a previous post. And with my partner at sea for these few weeks, I had wondered what would smallie do all this time as I beavered away all the rainy weekend under my work lamp. Why, he did what all six year olds are wont to do. Imitate : ) He got busy with his own pom pom production. 

He matter-of -factly moved a small table right beside mine and asked for a lamp of his own. And when he'd made a pom pom in every size his holders would allow, he went off and played contentedly with them : )

 I try to be cool about mounds of coloured wool moving in and taking over our living room as smallie and I dine off the very end of our long table and work takes over the rest ; )

There was magic about on that fair day, smallie had a brilliant time with loved ones, and me..? I was pretty much in my element : ) With me hard-earned christmas money in my pockets
I am already dreaming up next years stock ; )

Over the next couple of weeks I'll be posting more photos of some of the rest of the new work I made, thankfully mostly gone now.
A heartfelt thank you to everyone who visited and supported my stall that day.
And to all of you reading this. Wishing you a wonderful Advent season. M