Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Yarn Along

Happily joining Ginny and the gang over at Small things for this weeks Yarn along.
I talked about this pattern in last week's Yarn along post. Having burned a hole in my pocket with such luxurious yarn, I'm on the far more sensible cotton version now ; ) I'm just having fun with these really, they're for me so I can play a little. I wanted something lightweight enough to wear indoors, especially with three-quarter length sleeves which I seem to have a lot of. Doing a bit of my own research, I want to see how the cotton will wear and hold up over time.
The pattern works in straight edges from the bottom up, this time around I wanted shaping so I started at the wrist and worked into both sides of the chain. I just kept trying it on and the increases for the hand came very easily. It's good for me to have to figure these things out as I go, I guess that's how you move on when you learn a new skill, and I've been really wanting to move on : ) It fits me very well, so I hope I can remember what I did for the second one!

This week I'm leafing through Heal Your Body  A-Z, the mental causes for physical illness and the way to overcome them by Louise L. Hay. It's a reference guide to the possible mental patterns behind health and well-being issues. Her earlier book 'You can heal your Life' was quite a ground-breaking study for me when in my twenties and grappling with many things. I haven't used affirmations for many a long day now and I'm not at all sure about her approach any more either. I don't see things in such a simplistic way, I think there are probably many many reasons why our health falters at particular times, some of them complex. Still its interesting to dip into and see what resonates, and some of the affirmations really spark nostalgia, take me back to that other time. I'd definitely rather be here, that's for sure!

Thanking you for visiting this week, and for all your lovely feedback last week : )
Looking forward to seeing what you've been working on and reading, M

Saturday, 21 January 2012

the fabric of our lives

I swear I really am going to take the Christmas decorations down after this weekend ; )
You see a certain small someone turns seven tomorrow(what? that can't be!) and wanted to keep them up for this one last event. 'Suits me' I found myself saying.
Truth is, this year was the first that I really entered in to the Christmas tree tradition in my own home.
I can't bear the getting up in the dark of these early Winter mornings and find myself wanting to turn the tree lights on as I'm going through the motions of making smallie's porridge, makes it easier somehow, warmer. And I find myself getting attached to our little collection of decorations, especially the handmade ones.
My lovely Aunt in Kerry has a personal tradition where she writes a little note when its time to take the decorations down (usually the 6th of January in Ireland) recording current family news, what all her children are up to at this time, and what she hopes for them all in the coming year...then she slips it into the box as the decorations get tucked away for yet another year. She mentioned this simple ritual in passing, and I was really struck by it. When she takes her decorations out of storage next December the note will fondly be found and read.

Our house has been a work- in-progress for some time now, ever since we moved in here two and a half years ago and so I never quite felt comfortable having people over. Either there were power tools permanently plugged in to charge and I worried about visiting children or there were mice, never ending dust and areas of chaos that I preferred not to share. Finally last summer after all this work, time, and expense we arrived somewhere, phew! It's far from finished still, but feels like a home.. after Christmas it was a joy to have some very special friends over with thier children to share a meal and just be together. Particularly special as the Mamas all share my passion for handwork and we've all worked together at one time or another in workshop situations, sometimes in the role of mentor, sometimes student... kindred spirits to treasure surely : )

Little Christmas gifts from my woolly friends, they know what a girl really needs ; )

And around that time, two lovely musicians in Oregon chose one of my Christmas illustrations for the cover of their CD. We've been happily listening to it : )

I love the optimism, hope and faith that people seem to so easily hold at the beginning of a brand new year. I loved seeing all the texts and posts on facebook saying, 'I know this years going to be a good one'. Reminds me of the resilience of humankind. The feeling that things do keep on deepening and progressing, despite difficult times.
And I too feel there is So so much to look forward to. and to feel blessed for.

I was driving down our road today thinking of when I used to travel a lot, and ended up moving quite regularly... and lived a life of relative freedom, though I had no idea of that at all at the time. Man, I do now. I think I used to feel that if I had to get up at the same time every morning, five days a week and drive down the same road, five days a week, I'd go insane. Guess what? I'm doing it and have consistently been doing it now for all of  2.5 years and it ain't so bad! Last time I checked I was feeling more solid and more myself than perhaps ever : )

The lads meanwhile, just planted 78 garlic cloves in the polytunnel, a year's worth apparently.
So, no matter what else fails, there will be pesto!

Thank you for reading, M

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Yarn Along

Happily joining Ginny and the gang over at Small Things for this weeks Yarn Along.
 I got an order for a pair of gold arm-warmers. With all the patterns out there, it always amazes how hard it is still to find a really appealing crochet pattern! I wasn't inspired by many of the patterns that I trawled through, that's why I hold tight when I find one, and file it away for another incarnation of it, at another time. The ones you know you'll come back to when you find a yarn you just love, or when the birthday of a dear friend rolls around. This is one of those : )

I bought this pattern from an Etsy shop I stumbled upon. It's ultra clear and really well written, and easy. Oh the joy and satisfaction of being able to follow patterns now : ) I just made a couple of minor changes to it and added the shell edging at the top in bamboo.

Arm warmers were not something I ever wore or thought of before learning to follow crochet patterns. I've come to really love them now and when I end up going out without them at this time of year, I miss them ; )

This yarn's 35% silk, 65% baby alpaca, warm and soft. I got into silk when I started to explore nuno felting, got completely fascinated by the cocoons, its qualities, its creative potential  and the whole thing really. Then I started to crave silk, to work with, to wear and to watch it shimmer behind smallie when he runs up the garden in his play cloak. I sourced most of it from charity shops. I uncharacteristically put a silk pillowcase on my wishlist this Christmas(being usually very practical). I dream on it these nights and it is indeed very lovely.

Drawn to its presence in yarn too, I'm curious to see how it wears over time. Still very much learning about the different fibres and their qualities in a knit or crochet fabric. 
 Friends, can any of you tell me if you think mercerised cotton DK would work for such a project and purpose..? That's what I'd like to try it in next, the pattern is designed for a fine yarn so its not the weight I'm concerned about but the elasticity, or lack thereof...whether it would hold it's original shape? I'd love your thoughts on it please : )

Nollaig na mban which we celebrated recently, inspired me to re-visit this book Woman: a celebration Amazing collection of photographs in this beautiful cloth-bound book, all black and white with the exception of one. I always marvel at the resilience, strength and courage of women. Basically, I think we rock! 

As always I look forward to checking out what ye are making and reading out there.
Thank you for reading. M

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Yarn Along

Happily joining Ginny and the gang over at Small Things for this week's Yarn Along.
I made this for the thirtieth birthday of one of my lovely woolly friends ; )
Just thinking this is the very first time I've given one of my own crochet wearables as a gift, which is in itself a gift. So delighted to be at the stage of being able to do that. Working from the same pattern two or three times makes it come so easily. You can see the first one I made here.
I tell you this Manos merino/silk yarn is luxurious beyond belief! 
It literally slips through your fingers as you almost seemed to crochet itself : ) The cowl is lightweight enough to be worn indoors. I'll definitely be filing this pattern as a wonderfully do-able, wearable for any age-group. My Mom's up next!

I found this little old book in a charity shop and we've had great fun leafing through it and appreciating its beautifully detailed illustrations. It's  an english book from the early seventies. The language used in the description of each bird's call is wonderful! Have I told you I have a weakness for birds..?

Thank you for your lovely comments on last weeks post and I look forward to checking out what's on your needles and your reading list. M x

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Christmas vignettes

So its New Years day. No resolutions for me, too much pressure ; ) Just hoping to ease in to this brand new year with a little grace and remember to breathe a little more. In my line of work just time itself, looking ahead at any future time is an exciting prospect as it represents the possibility and potential for more art-making and for new learning, that being one of my deepest joys. 
Speaking of learning, I got an order for a Nativity Donkey just before Christmas...Requests like these I find daunting, but I'm up for a creative challenge. It always amazed me when I worked as a painter how people presumed that meant you could, and would paint anything. I've found the same with feltmaking. So when a potential customer sees your work then asks you to make a specific thing for them, how can you say no..? They believe you can do it, so that must mean you can, right?! Up until these past few weeks I'd no desire nor idea how to go about the process of making a four-legged creature in felt. But I'm beginning to figure it out : ) I've learned that with all such things, you've just got to get on with it. You start by taking a single wisp of wool in your hands..

 I seem to have mixed feelings when it comes to this time of year somehow. I guess my resistance to the commercialism and consumerism is part of it. Although I'm not religious, I do believe in the need and the potential for a warm spiritual aspect to this time of year, in a quiet understated way. And that's all I can try and create simply in my own home and family.
 As it's my busiest time of year for work, I miss the sweet, atmospheric lead-up to the day and sometimes I regret that. Luckily though, living in such a rural area it's easy to avoid the madness, I don't make it in to the cities so we get to bypass that part. 
What I did love this year was the making of Christmas decorations with the children in the last couple of handwork lessons of the term. And I value the reuniting of my family. How our children love those days and nights spent with their cousins again!
 We were all together this year, all eighteen of us spanning three generations gathered in my parent's house for five days. Very grateful for the mild weather and clear roads. I didn't sit behind the wheel of a car the whole time. Feeling very allergic to being in the car at the moment. As we live quite a distance from the school community, the driving is intense and I'm relishing the break from it.

The joy of waking up without the gruelling early morning ring of the alarm clock! I left my computer behind, and set my mobile phone aside. We don't have a television at home so it was fun to watch some films with the gang late at night, and feast!
 I cherished the opportunity in the evenings to work on some projects, in front of my father's roaring open fire.
When I was younger I would spend ages figuring out what clothes to pack for a trip, now that's easy but I spend a lot of time packing a handwork bag! Filling it with all the possible threads, needles and other bits I might need to work on different small projects while on the road. Inevitably, I get far less time to work on these things in reality. But not so this time! I packed several small projects that needed finishing off, this is never my favourite part ; ) and a crochet pattern to make (sharing this in an upcoming post) I got through them all, a first for me and satisfying.

 I had fun the previous days making presents for loved ones. I put small bags of materials together for the older set of my sibling's lovely children..

Little easy to make for, no?

I'd really recommend this idea of gifting a crafting kit that you can easily put together, and having a couple of  fun ideas for what can be made from the contents. Contrary to what people may think I reckon a crafting session is still a major draw for any children, in spite of any screens that may compete for their time and attention. These little Christmas trees are an ideal way to use up all your scraps of wool felt which I always keep, no matter how small! I happenend upon this this tutorial on Julia Crossland's blog. I made some changes to the method for cutting the circles, had the children do it all by eye. We made these in school too. 

I reckon you can put pretty much anything together with glue. But I'm interested in what you can make with children, what they can make, without using the stuff. Kids of all ages get such a kick out of realising they can stitch. I was so impressed with our gang, my nephews and niece made a wonderful job of these...

And I loved what my Mom and sis did with her Child of Christmas : ) 

I'll be back here on Wednesday for Yarn Along and after that with more seasonal pieces to share.
The very happiest new year to you and thank you for reading. M

Yarn Along

Happily joining Ginny and the gang over at Small Things for this first Yarn Along of 2012! 
I'm not ready to let go of Christmas yet ; ) 
Liz our lovely crochet mentor at the Woollygatherings brought along this pattern for a tree decoration, a snowflake with a flower centre at one of our last sessions. It was tricky enough to begin with... I finished it at home and very happy to be conquering the art of following crochet patterns. Very satisfying to work in this mercerised cotton with a small hook.
I have such a block about blocking these days ; ) no idea why. I've a stack of crochet pieces waiting. It's vital for this little piece, as the six corners get pinned out to lovely points. The pattern calls for spraying starch to stiffen it for hanging and I haven't been able to find such a thing in our local shops yet. I'm envisioning this hanging at the top of our christmas tree next year : )

I'm doing very little reading at the moment, just getting caught up with all my favourite blogs. It's so much more fun to talk about childrens books at this time of year, no? My sister gave this charming book The Story of the Snow Children to smallie for Christmas and we've been enjoying it, such a seasonal read. The illustrations are really darling. Sibylle von Olfers died almost a century ago, she was only thirty four. There's a captivating photo of her at the back of the book, complete with crochet collar (a little obsession of mine these days, sharing these in an upcoming post) and what looks like a silk smocked dress. She was born in a castle, was stunningly beautiful and became a nun. Fascinating, I really want to read more about her. 

Thank you for lovely comments on last weeks post and look forward to checking in with what you're all up to in this much calmer time for stitching. Warmly, M