It can’t possibly be mid-August already! How the heck did that happen?? I couldn’t believe it when I checked the last time I had blogged, and saw it was the 7th of July. The month has been so busy. It’s been so hard to adjust to full time work in an office that isn’t at home! The ‘commute’, a twenty minute walk to and from work, seems to take a lot out of me. In a good way – although I’m sure you now understand the reduction in blog posts!
That’s not to say this will become a ‘one post a month’ kinda place. My craft room is nearly open for business, and once my laptop has a home I will be able to get on it more regularly!
In general life, things sprint along at a pace I can barely keep up with! Work is great, Bristol is great, I am feeling generally great. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of what went on in July and the beginning of August:
I celebrated my birthday with many of my friends, a number of whom bought me a silver-smithing course as a present. I was flabbergasted and delighted, and cannot wait! It starts in September – watch this space.
I had my mum to stay and she helped me sort my house out. We went nuts with succulents.
I taught spinning at Sidmouth folk festival – my pupils were very accomplished and went on to crochet flowers and make necklaces using beads they had carved out of soapstone during the same craft workshop.
I went to a hen do dressed as an 80’s rock chick, and thought my eyes would be black for the rest of time. We had a wonderful day at an activity centre, bouncing on trampolines and playing dodgeball. It was amazing, and highly recommended!
My team and I decorated our desks for the Rio Olympics – using origami butterflies! It took hours and hours to make them all and put them up, but looks just stunning.
I went on holiday to Cornwall and used my wooldar to find the only shop in Porthleven that sells drop spindles. My souvenir spindle collection is growing nicely!
In terms of a July Resolutions Update, I had a relatively successful month, although I also spent a lot of time in the evenings collapsed in an exhausted heap in front of Big Bang Theory.
Finish knitting John’s Dr Who Scarf – I reached the halfway point and now can’t find a ball of yarn. I need to order a new one. He might get it before our fifth anniversary in January (bearing in mind it was his fourth anniversary present. I don’t do well at deadline knitting.
Finish knitting mum’s birthday present – errr…I plan to get this done this weekend. It’s sitting next to me. Waiting. This is also late, sigh.
Finish page one of my cross stitch leopard – yessir I did indeed!
Bearing in mind that we are already halfway through August, I resolve to:
Finish mum’s birthday present
Complete another row of the leopard cross stitch
Pick out a fabric for curtains in the lounge – in the photo below you can see my curtains. They are awful – I got them in a charity shop for £3 and they were only a stopgap while we needed privacy in our house. We’ve been here for two months now…it’s time to replace them!
I’m sure by the end of August I will have finished binge watching Big Bang Theory. If anyone has recommendations for what to watch next, I’d love to know!
I’m tardy on my July Resolutions, I haven’t updated you on my June ones, and I’m just a bit tardy in every respect. Sorry! Work is fun…but oh my goodness I just want to relax when I’m at home. While I find blogging enjoyable, it’s not really relaxing because there’s a lot of process that goes in – photo editing, copy-writing, making sure the thoughts that spew from my brain make sense to you…
I’m going to have to figure out my blogging schedule, but for now here are some resolutions.
July 2016 Resolutions
I really don’t want to start anything new, and I have a lot of projects on the go that I need to get done and dusted and out of the way. So here are my lofty ambitions:
Finish knitting John’s Dr Who Scarf – I’m a third of the way through, hurrah!
Finish knitting mum’s birthday present – I just have to pick up stitches along one edge. You haven’t seen or even heard about this before! It’s now two months late. Ugh.
Finish page one of my cross stitch leopard – I’m so, so, so in love with this guy – my latest video update on him is here. I finally did the eyes this weekend, and I am really enjoying stitching every stitch.
Fix Garland – I’ve got a problem on one of the bound-off sleeves and need to fix that. Not entirely sure what happened, but the stitches are starting to run.
All written down they don’t look like too much, but they really are. It’s going to be interesting!
One of my colleagues has a birthday this weekend, and we celebrated at work today with a little quiz! The colleague in question like gingerbread and buys a gingerbread man to go with his lunch at least once a week, so I decided to bake up a batch. I haven’t really done much baking since university, which is insane cos I used to be really in to it! I had a lot of fun, and they looked great – so I think I may have to get into the swing of baking again.
In other life news, it’s my birthday on Monday! I’m not very excited about it, I’m starting to feel that dread of “errrr I’m getting older” that people have been warning me about for years, even though I’m probably not even going to officially be in my late 20’s. Ah well. But I’m looking forward to giving myself some “it’s my birthday I can do what I want to” crafting time. I mention my birthday so that I can post this video, which I took on my birthday last year. We were in Sydney and went whale-watching. Can you believe it’s been a year already??
It’s time for the next Plutonium Muffins update…we’ve moved to Bristol! I started a new job on the 10th of June, and while it’s going well so far, I am absolutely shattered! It’s been a while since I’ve worked full time, and as well as that we’ve also moved into an unfurnished house. You can probably imagine how much there is to do, and how little time I have to do it!
My main excuse for the utter silence around here is that my laptop has been in the shop for repair (not my fault!) and we only got connected to the Internet last night.
Living in Bristol
A few weeks ago, John and I came to Bristol to look for a house. I’d been applying for jobs for months, and we decided to just come to the city and find a home because it was taking a long time to get anywhere on the job front! By a wonderful chance, I got asked to an interview that same week. We saw a lovely house that we loved, returned to London to wait while my interview was analysed and our offer on the house considered…and within ten days my life was turned upside down as I walked into my first day on the job!
We moved at the beginning of June and are now in a house in the south of the city. I have a twenty minute walk to work and better than that, a five minute walk to a nearby craft cafe (Craftisan). You just know I’ll do a review of that soon!
Our house has three bedrooms – and you just know one of them is going to be a craft room! Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to actually bring most of my crafting stuff up yet. I’m most sorely missing my sewing machine, as with the Sewing Bee and a lack of curtains, I’m feeling really inspired to sew at the moment! Bristol also has a lovely fabric shop that has very reasonable prices close by…watch this space.
I have been doing a bit of cross stitch, and I’m also (finally) working on my Dr Who scarf again. The Dr Who scarf is in Cascade 220, and is absolutely beautiful. Sometimes you just need the monotony of row upon row of glorious, squishy, simple garter stitch to decompress after a hard day of learning about corporate tax, hours of taking minutes for meetings, and meeting over 200 new people in one fell swoop!
I’ve been particularly enjoying knitting in front of the football. Living with my parents, it was impossible to watch football as they are so not interested in it…I’m loving having my own home in which I can watch the national sport and spread my cut ends of yarn everywhere knowing that I’m the only one who has to worry about cleaning it up!
I’ve got lots of crafty resolutions to share with you – as is always the way, now that I have less time to craft, my ambitions are loftier than ever!
Stitch Maynia 2016 is over! I had intended to post weekly updates of my progress….I didn’t get to posting the photos, as you may have noticed! I’ve been job-hunting and house-hunting in Bristol for the last few months, and the big news is…I’ve been offered a job! So next week I’m moving to Bristol, into a house with space for a craft room* (OK it will be a ‘spare’ room, but you all know what that means) and a shiny new job.
I did keep up with my Stitch Maynia starts, and here they are for you!
Stitch Maynia Starts for May 2016
May 1st: Cross Stitcher Needle Case – this is a free kit that came with Cross Stitcher Magazine Issue 304. I’ve been obsessed with needing to keep my needles safe recently as I’ve lost a lot of them, so this is my attempt at that!
2nd, 10th, 11th, 14th, 15th and 31st: Plum Street Samplers Days 2 – 7 – I started this sampler in April and decided that starting a new day could count as a new start. More information on the actual samplers is here. I had originally planned to only do Days 2 through 6, but I had to change up my plans slightly because I went to London and forgot to take a couple of the kits I had planned to do. Day 7 replaced the Durene Jones Peacock I had been planning to do.
3rd: New Zealand Bookmark, a kit I bought in Arrowtown. This was my first experience of blackwork, and oh my goodness I loved it! I finished the piece the same day I started it, although I haven’t yet washed it.
May the 4th be with you: A little “I Love You” kit I bought from Hobbycraft. I stitched this in the pub, and didn’t get anywhere near as much as I wanted to do finished.
5th: The Liberty building, a cross stitch kit I bought at Liberty two years ago when I was with Melanie! I was really unimpressed with this kit – a lot of my framing allowance on my fabric is taken up with selvedge, the needle had burrs on it that frayed and cut my floss, and the pattern is hand-drawn and poor quality. I got a small amount done as I did this start just before bed and was tired!
6th: Bunch of Dandelions – this was another ‘pub job’, and as you can see I got loads done! It won’t take me long to finish this one.
7th: A lovely Sailing Boat kept me company while listening to the Outlander series. I ‘read’ a lot of books via Audible as it allows me to get my literary stimulation while also keeping my hands busy – in the chapter I listened to while stitching, Jamie and Claire were sailing across the sea and it was a very appropriate start.
8th: This was a free kit that I got years ago. I did so little it’s almost laughable. I was tired.
9th: On the 9th of May I was even more tired than the previous night! I literally forced myself to turn my light on, put in four full crosses, then turn the light off again. This was the hardest start for me in the whole month.
12th, 13th and 21st: Things started to get easier, and three separate Durene Jones patterns were started on one piece as an intended decoration for when we move house. I am loving how these are stitching up, and have already nearly finished the whole thing. Stay tuned!
16th, 17th, 18th, 20th and 22nd: Similarly to the cat piece, only Durene Jones also has little doggy patterns that I decided to combine into one piece. There was a lot of boring grass.
19th: I love penguins, and I loved the bright colours of this guy. This start happened while I was watching something very upsetting on YouTube (bring the tone down Corrie) so it was a welcome distraction!
23rd: Another beach hut! I left Devon for the rest of May at this point, so I was confined to kits and pre-prepared packs that I had sorted out. We stayed in a flat owned by a bit of a surfer dude – again appropriate!
24th: I had a job interview and just could not get on board with the Gingerbread Man. It was another hard stitch.
25th: This was a really fun stitch. I was really on board with DMC Mini Kits by this point – they are excellent, and I definitely recommend them to everyone.
26th: This was a free kit I got at CHSI stitches. You can probably see how different the kit is with comparison to the picture. I was not impressed with the fact that it’s not the same – I was looking forward to stitching up Tatty Teddy! The birthday cake was cute though. I entertained the idea of finishing this for John’s birthday the following day…but didn’t follow through on that one.
27th: I cannot for the life of me imagine why I bought this kit. The best that can be said is that I got a lot done in 20 minutes.
28th: I chose to start Box of Delights today – using the gold and black colour scheme. This is a free pattern by Elizabeth Almond. I was scared of it (hence avoiding it for ages) but once I started I just LOVED it. Blackwork is my jam. The first picture was one nights progress, the second another nights progress that I did on the 30th after starting that day’s start, as I just loved it too much and my light was too bad for the Queen Bee.
29th: I had intended to start a Christmas ornament kit that I got with a magazine last year, but I forgot the pattern at home when I left for London, and didn’t have it! So instead I started and finished a butterfly that came with Cross Stitch Crazy in April 2016. This was beautiful and an addictive stitch.
30th: I put off starting this all month, and by the 30th had no option. The Queen Bee Needle Case is by Primitive Hare, and I fell in love with the pattern when an image of the final product was shown in her promotional material, and had to wait literally months to buy it. I wasn’t too sure about my fabric choice – it’s so small that I literally can’t count the HPI as I lose count each time! But I did eventually start it, and it’s not as bad as I thought. I don’t love it yet, but once I’ve sat down and actually had a go at it I’m sure things will be better.
I’m so behind on my blogging because sorting out real life has been hard work! Stitch Maynia starts have also taken up the time I would normally spend blogging – so although I really enjoyed the month, I won’t be doing a start a day challenge for anything other than Maynia again, as I value my blogging time! It was great fun, and I will participate next year – even if it’s an effort to finish this year’s starts by the end of May 2017!
Did you have a go at Stitch Maynia? Were you successful?
I’ll catch up with the blogs as and when I can. I have some super exciting craft shops to tell you guys about!
*For those of you in the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to John, he has a spare room to himself too so he can have a nice office. Although he seems to think this will also eventually become a craft room. He’s probably right.
I’m super excited about my Stitch Maynia challenge, which I started on the 1st of May and will continue till the 31st. The idea is that you start a new cross stitch piece every day – the actual challenge runs from May 1st to 15th, with 15 new starts, but I’m expanding it. It was started last year, and is centred around the Facebook group of the same name – if you’d like more information, let me know or search for “Stitch Maynia” in Facebook, and you’ll find it!
Stitch Maynia – The Challenge
Although the actual challenge is meant to be 15 starts during May, a lot of people are changing it to suit their own desires. There are people who are just ensuring they do a few stitches in one cross stitch piece every day, some who want to finish a particular number of stitches by the end of the month. Some people start a new motif on a piece made of many smaller motifs every day, others are doing 31 starts – one for every day of the month. There’s even someone doing two starts every day for the entire month.
As a community, everyone is pulling together and having a really good time sharing their work towards the challenge. This is something that I love so much about crafters – on the whole, we are a supportive, friendly bunch for whom the sky is the limit!
My Stitch Maynia
Although I’m doing weekly updates on my YouTube channel, I know that not everyone who is interested in the challenge wants to watch me ramble on about it in video form – so guys, this one’s for you!
I’ve done 12 starts so far, and I am honestly loving every one of them. The incentive to put just a few stitches into a piece every day is brilliant, and I’m going to continue making sure I make time for just a bit of stitching every day going forward beyond the end of the month. I’ve turned it into my ‘just before bed’ activity – when no screens are allowed, and I give myself twenty minutes to unwind (ten minutes of which are spinning…stay tuned for that blog post…). Sometimes it has been more, sometimes less. There have been days in the last two weeks where I’ve just been so tired that more than five or six stitches has been too many – but every one counts!
I’m not sure when all of these starts will get finished, but as another chapter in my cross stitch journey, this is one of the highlights. Are you participating? Do you think you would be able to? I’ll talk about my motivation for it in the next blog post!
Last year I converted some emoji into cross stitch patterns because I was doing workshops teaching people craft, and I wanted something topical that they would enjoy stitching. I’ve just reached 500 subscribers on my YouTube channel, and as the majority of my subscribers are crafters, I’ve released these patterns!
Free Emoji Cross Stitch Patterns
They’re free to download, and can be found at THIS LINK. I would love to know if you ever stitch them, if you teach your kids how to stitch with them, or if you have any other emoji that you would like to stitch. I had a lot of fun with these guys, and have used them to adorn things from tea towels to baby bibs…there’s a lot of versatility in them!
Thank you all ever so much for supporting my crazy videos, there’s a lot of noise from dogs, cats, tumble dryers and boyfriends, and a lot of other, better stitchers do a lot more amazing, impressive things. I really cannot thank you enough for spending a few minutes with me every week!
This wasn’t meant to be a ‘buy my stuff’ post, but I do want to mention that I also have a few other free cross stitch patterns, and some paid ones too – if you ever feel like supporting Plutonium Muffins, head over to my Etsy shop to check them out.
My Stitch Maynia challenge continues apace, and if you want to check up on my progress then stay tuned – I’ll do a little show and tell for you later. In the meantime, I’m off to go stick my hand in my ice bath and see if it’s time for me to start knitting again…
May Day is without a doubt my favourite holiday of the year. There’s no preparation required, I don’t have to worry about buying or making presents to tell everyone I appreciate them in a material way, and best of all, it celebrates using the best of the UK folk traditions across the United Kingdom. It’s a chance for everyone to have a big ole party with their whole village, enjoying each others company for the sake of the company alone, and it also heralds the fact that spring has sprung!
May 2016 Resolutions
I didn’t set myself any April resolutions this year. I was feeling overwhelmed by everything that had to be done, my mum was away, I didn’t have any idea what I was going to be doing about life, and I just felt like I could barely plan four hours ahead, let alone four days or four weeks. Sometimes, it’s OK to just accept that the best plan you can have is none at all. It worked! I’m back and raring to go.
I’m also bullet journalling again – it has been about two years since I did this, and I’m enjoying it a lot. As part of this, I’m working on my hand lettering. There’s a way to go yet.
I’m also going to be doing a challenge this May! I’ll be starting a new cross stitch project every day of the month. Hundreds of people around the world are participating in the challenge, and if you want to find out more then I suggest you head over to YouTube and type in “Stitch Maynia”! I’ve prepared my projects, and these will be previewed on YouTube when my video (finally) uploads. Yesterday I started working on a needlecase, a free kit that came with the last issue of Cross Stitcher magazine.
You’ll find out more about this later on, but I wanted to mention it so that it doesn’t come as a total surprise!
I unexpectedly came across YARNS of Tavistock on Monday morning, and absolutely loved it. I sometimes go in to yarn shops thinking I might do a review of them, and then realise there is nothing to distinguish them from the myriads of others…well, I spent all of a minute in YoT before realising that this was a definite yes when it came to a review!
YARNS of Tavistock
This weekend marks the 18 month anniversary of YARNS of Tavistock. Run by Sue, the shop came about after an injury gave her plenty of time to do some knitting and crochet, and dream up her ideal local yarn shop. Within just a few months of having the idea, the doors to YoT opened to the public, and it’s gone from strength to strength!
Hopefully the pictures give you a great idea of what the shop is like, but I’ll add my two pence in here. You walk into space, something that is unusual in a yarn shop, and really lovely. Sue maintains enough room for someone with a pram to bring their child in and turn it around easily – nobody leaves their kid outside, after all! There’s a lovely sofa to sit at for a quick knit (or for hubby to relax while you shop), and the back room has a large table for workshops. The number of workshops held here are immense, and they’re not just for knitting, but range from using polymer clay to dyeing fibre!
The shop also has plenty of spinning equipment on sale, and the fibre is to die for. There are a few spinning wheels, drop spindles, even things like handmade orifice hooks – something I’ve only ever seen on Etsy! The selection of yarn is amazing, with many of the good quality ‘regular’ brands such as Debbie Bliss, James Brett and Opal, as well as more specialist yarns such as Manos del Uruguay, Juniper Moon and the Natural Fibre Company.
Sue prides herself on stocking local products, and has a number of shelves in the back of the store where local souvenirs, supplies and artwork can be picked up. From tea cosies to baby clothes, cushions to painting, these shelves alone kept me absorbed for ages.
In case you can’t tell, I was so excited about the shop, and if you’re ever in Tavistock, I urge you to go find it. YARNS of Tavistock is located on the high street, but far up one end, so keep walking! The address is as below:
69 West Street
The shop website is here, and Sue maintains a very active Facebook presence on the page here. Go check it out, and let me know what you think!
I’ve been doing a lot of designing recently, and one of my current obsessions is lighthouses. There’s a very specific reason why this has become a thing that I’m interested in, which will all be revealed later – but I just thought it was time to share this little story with you as it’s been the theme to my week.
I’ve always thought there was something romantic about lighthouses. The first time I ever really encountered the structure was in “Five Go To Demon’s Rocks” by Enid Blyton – one of the Famous Five books. Living in a landlocked country in the middle of dry Africa, I couldn’t really imagine what a lighthouse was, and how it manifested itself.
Moving to South Devon at the age of 10, I encountered my first one. We spent a lot of time on the beach, and this became a more late-night occurrence through my later teen years. Beach parties were usually punctuated by that pinprick of light, while trips to Plymouth, the local city, normally involved a climb up this big ole landmark.
I think part of the charm for me is the history of the thing. Long, long, long before there was GPS, sailors needed to navigate tricky passages through water channels around the globe, and the lighthouse was the structure that made this slightly safer. The Wikipedia article on the history of the lighthouse is quite interesting – if you fancy a read, it’s here.
Handily, the Wiki article brings me to the lighthouses that are of immediate interest to me! The Eddystone Rocks are in Plymouth Sound, which is just down the road. These are a major hazard to boats in the English Channel, and are particularly tricky to build on because of the sea conditions in the area. As a result, the Eddystone Lighthouse designed by John Smeaton had to be super creative, and his development of the structure brought the design of lighthouses forward by leaps and bounds. (He also essentially invented modern lime cement by rediscovering the Roman method of using lime to set things. What a dude.)
The lighthouse that Smeaton designed stood in place until 1877, when the rock it stood on started to erode and it started to look like the whole thing would vanish into the sea. Dismantled* and reassembled on Plymouth Hoe, it is now a landmark of Plymouth…bringing us back to a teenaged Corrie, climbing the lighthouse and dreamily staring out across the Westcountry and the English Channel. Smeaton’s Tower is now John Smeaton’s memorial, and is also a Grade I listed building. Visitors can climb the 93 steps for under £5…come to Plymouth, we have the best attractions!
When I was given the opportunity to design a sea themed cross stitch, I immediately thought of lighthouses. What better way to honour the romance than spending hours staring at my needlework?? You’ll see the finish piece next week…
What do you think of lighthouses? Romantic piece of history, or something else? I now have plans to make John trek up the steps with me the next time he’s in Devon. We do the best things!
*In case you’re worried for the sailors around the Eddystone Rocks, Douglas’s Tower was built and replaced Smeaton’s Tower in 1879. The base of Smeaton’s Tower stands next to the modern lighthouse as it was cemented so strongly to the rocks that the Victorian Engineers couldn’t lift it. Go Smeaton!
The Twelve Days of Christmas…in APRIL?! I started a new cross stitch piece last week, and yes it is Christmas themed, and yes it is indeed only April…
The Twelve Days of Christmas
The new piece is a Plum Street Samplers freebie by Paulette Stewart, which was released over ten weeks starting in November 2015 as a Sunday Mystery Sampler project. The original motif was released in Just Cross Stitch in 2011, the second in 2012, and then Paulette had an realisation about the time scale she was working with and decided to just finish them all in time for Christmas 2015. I’ve paraphrased all of that – there is loads more information on her blog here.
Fast forward to December 2015, and I was feeling the frustration of the RSI getting worse, my existing cross stitch projects stagnating, and the joy of watching a ton of FlossTube videos. Everybody was suddenly talking about the Twelve Days of Christmas, and I decided to get involved! I followed along with great interest, fully intending to start one day…and then just didn’t.
So back to last week – I was in London with John, having stayed for a few days longer than originally planned and hence without any stitching to do. He packed me off to John Lewis with instructions to find something to occupy myself, and after half an hour of browsing their kits and options, I decided to just get some fabric and floss. I couldn’t access Paulette’s website because my Internet was too bad, so I just got red, green and black, and a large piece of 16 count Aida. I would have liked to have gone for evenweave, but they didn’t have any, so that made that an easy decision!
I got home and excitedly started stitching. I worked on it pretty much non-stop for about three days, and have nearly finished the first motif.
I’ve not done a two colour piece like this before, and I am really, really enjoying it. As good as shading and realistic colours are in many of the patterns I’ve done in the past, this is allowing me to just go back to basics and enjoy the process of forming cross stitches. The colours I picked go well together, and it has certainly kept me well occupied!
The sampler is free, but it can also be quite hard to find in Paulette’s website, so here are some handy links for you.