Leopard’s Gaze – a finished object [Giveaway]

The last time I blogged about Leopard’s Gaze was over a year ago, in September 2016. There was a reason for this – and it’s not that I wasn’t working on it! The project was destined as a birthday present for my brother, and I don’t know whether or not he reads my blog…I didn’t want to blog about it and ruin the fact that I’d finished it! The worst case scenario was that he knew I was working on it, but thought it was never going to get finished, and if he didn’t read the blog, well, I was trying to cover my bases.

If you didn’t get it from all of that, Leopard’s Gaze is finished!

Pleased as punch! I've finished Leopard's Gaze!
Pleased as punch! I’ve finished Leopard’s Gaze!

Leopard’s Gaze – the inspiration

In December 2012, my family and I went on holiday to Zambia. While we were there, my brother took the most incredible photograph of a mother leopard. Her name was Alice, and she had a couple of cubs with her. We spent a magical hour or so watching them snooze in the sun before leaving them to carry on. We came away with this photo:

The original photo of Alice, taken by my brother.
The original photo of Alice, taken by my brother.

At the time I was working in Hobbycraft, and one of the Dimensions Gold Collection kits, Leopard’s Gaze, came in. It was almost a no-brainer. The kit came home with me.

The original artwork for this kit is a painting called “Light Being” by an American wildlife artist, Al Agnew. It can be found here.

Al Agnew's "Light Being", the painting Leopard's Gaze was based on.
Al Agnew’s “Light Being”, the painting Leopard’s Gaze was based on.

Completing Leopard’s Gaze

Since January 2013, I’ve moved house five times, and the project has moved with me. It’s travelled from Kent to Devon to London to Devon to Bristol, and had stitches put into it (more in some places, less in others) all along the way. Things really kicked off when we moved to Bristol. We arrived in June last year, and didn’t get any of our stuff until October. This meant that I only had the few projects I’d brought with me when we first arrived, and Leopard’s Gaze was one of them.

After two years of the odd stitch here or there, this is where I was at in 2015.
After two years of the odd stitch here or there, this is where I was at in 2015.

I got really into it. The job kicked my butt for the first few months – I hadn’t been in a corporate environment before, and it’s always hard being the new person, so I had a lot of spare time in the evenings! Before long I was steaming ahead, and I finished stitching on the 18th of February this year.

I’d decided to get it professionally framed – it had taken me four years to make and it needed someone who knew what they were doing. I washed it when I was done, and it warped pretty spectacularly, so it was a big job. It was framed at a place in Bristol, and after a demonstration, I chose to put Art Glass in the frame. This is specially coated glass that doesn’t reflect light as much as regular glass – in the below photo, the clarity of the centre of the pane comes from the Art Glass.

Comparison between Art Glass and regular glass.
Comparison between Art Glass and regular glass.

My brother’s birthday was in September this year. It was a big birthday, so we had a bit of a party, and I presented the leopard to him with something of a time-lapse. I filmed his reaction, which you can watch here.

No more Leopard’s Gaze

Our bedroom wall, which homed the leopard for four months, has seemed bare ever since it went to its new home. However, I’m so pleased I’ve managed to finish and present it to him, despite the fact that I miss it. I’m hoping it will be an heirloom.

Hanging on our bedroom wall when it was finished.
Hanging on our bedroom wall when it was finished.

The project got me back into cross stitch, which I got started on when I was about 13 and hadn’t really looked at since. I found out about FlossTube, the cross stitch community on YouTube. I learned a lot of new techniques and also got exposed to a world that I’d never known existed. It was a bit of an eye-opener!

If you like the project and are into cross stitch, I’m doing a giveaway for the pattern and remaining floss. The kit is extremely hard to get hold of now, but I never intend to stitch it again and want to give the pattern to someone who will appreciate it! The giveaway is open until the 30th of November 2017, so you still have a couple of weeks to enter for it. Head over to my YouTube channel and this video, which is where I’m holding the giveaway, if you want to have a go.

The back of my cross stitch.
The back of my cross stitch.

Life has been a bit emptier since this enormous project got finished. However, I’ve got plenty on the go and a resolution to finish all my WIPs, which you can read about in my last blog. I’ve got more FOs to tell you about from 2017, so watch this space!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Losing my crafting mojo

In my previous blog post I talked about how for the last year I’ve found it hard to find my writing mojo. Today I’m going to chat about the loss of my crafting mojo. Or, not the loss of it, but rather the way it changed. I’ve still been creating as much as I ever did – but the way I do it and my reasons for crafting are very different.

Where did my mojo go?

At the same time as Nanowrimo last year, I realised I’d lost my inspiration for crafting the way I had been for the previous six or seven years. For a really long time I was completely part of the knitting/spinning/fibre world. I went to regular shows, ran a podcast, blogged regularly, sold fibre and drop spindles at markets, and taught spinning privately. I went to knit nights at Loop in Islington, then Hulu Crafts in Modbury. I had friends who I could talk craft with non-stop, and every time I saw them, an inspiring show-and-tell happened. I was constantly exposed to beautiful patterns, yarns and techniques.

Spinning in Hulu at a craft night.
Spinning in Hulu at a craft night.

Since moving out of London, and more specifically to Bristol, I’ve done hardly any of those things. I had to give up the podcast when I spent a year in Devon in a place with Internet so slow I could barely upload photos on the blog, let alone upload audio files. When we arrived in Bristol I didn’t have a regular group that was easy to get to, and I didn’t know anybody I saw on a weekly basis to craft with. With a new job, full time for the first time in a while, I didn’t go to any shows for a really long time. I lost my writing mojo.

I have been doing YouTube videos (shameless self promotion right here) but even that has dried up in recent months because editing videos is hard. In July this year I also started a new professional qualification and am now finding my time is increasingly taken up by things that are not crafting, but rather studying relentlessly.

I somehow found myself without a community, lacking time, and with little motivation to talk about the things I was doing.

Why create?

The reason I make stuff has changed massively in the last two years. I used to love to create things for my friends and family. Don’t get me wrong, I still love doing this, but there are only so many hats, socks and scarves people want! It’s also been quite disheartening when I’m wearing something knitted and someone says “oh nice, did you make that”? The answer is normally no. I only have three hand-knitted jumpers! I hardly ever see my friends and family wearing my hand-knits, so all the energy that I’ve put into them seems to vanish the second something leaves my hands.

One of few handknitted jumpers.
One of few handknitted jumpers.

(Just as a caveat to that – I know they wear things, it’s just I don’t always see them so there’s less opportunity for me to see my creations getting used.)

Finally, I’ve been totally overloaded by projects. I used to be totally project and craft-monogamous, but somewhere along the way – probably when I was really inspired by all those activities I was taking part in – I became completely multi-craftual and polyprojectable (it’s a new word, go with it). I’d see something I liked – a new knitting pattern or a novel spinning technique – and immediately cast on or fill an eighth of a bobbin. I’d start a new thing, and halfway through get inspired or distracted by something else.

My WIP baskets (I have four), as a result, are now full to bursting.

A basket full of alpaca fibre to turn into a jumper.
A basket full of alpaca fibre to turn into a jumper.

From a non-knitting/spinning point of view, I have the same problem. My paper crafting boxes (two huge ones) and my fabric boxes (two huge ones) are full to bursting. I’ve become proficient enough at crochet to teach it. My spinning wheel collection expanded to three. I’ve also recently got into candle making in a big way. My various stashes are about the only things that haven’t massively increased, because I’ve made a concerted effort not to buy new stash.

This year I’ve worked mostly on really big projects that have taken a long time. It’s not that I’ve not been making – mostly that I haven’t been finishing anything that was a quick win, and as a result I’ve had time to reflect on the projects waiting to have some attention paid to them, not getting finished.

Return of the mojo

It’s really important to me that I’ve realised how overloaded my various WIP baskets are. In September this year, I decided I was no longer allowed to start any new projects, with a couple of exceptions. As a result of this decision, I started working on finishing or frogging, and also trying to journal my accomplishments. This list is by no means complete (I have 43 unnamed cross stitch WIPs as a result of Stitch Maynia last year), but it is helping me to manage my workload.

A cross stitch WIP started in May 2016 and not touched since.
A cross stitch WIP started in May 2016 and not touched since.

The use of that word has highlighted an important change in the way I think about my WIPs; because they are Work. They’ve become unpleasant, and I hate that.

In the last year I’ve completed three huge projects, two cross stitch and one quilted. I haven’t blogged about any of them (yet), but the significance of the finishes helped bring home to me the fact that I want more focus, more finishes with fewer projects in limbo, and to take more pleasure from the process of making.

So, here’s a mid-month, end of year and untimed resolution to see me through the coming months: whip those WIPs. The only new projects I’m allowed to start are gifts for new babies (of which there are many on the way!) – everything else has to come from stash, an existing WIP, or bought until I can get my load down to zero.

A final qualifier: I’ll allow myself one project per craft, because sometimes I don’t want to spin, other times the desire to cross stitch becomes everything. Other than that, I’d like to stop cheating on my projects with other projects.

We’ll see how long that lasts!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Something about finding inspiration

We live in a world where inspiration and information is literally at our fingertips 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a beach, in the desert, even in the middle of the African bush (trust me – I’ve done it). Ideas from crowd-sourcing, photos from around the world, scientific articles with know-how and information. Social media, of which I was once the biggest champion. It’s all available, all the time. On our phones, in our computers, even in our kitchens. (“Alexa, how many grams are in a pound?” I spent a lot of my candle-making session this afternoon talking to the AI.)

I took this photo after a few weeks of being on holiday in Zambia having spent a lot of time in the middle of the bush on my phone to John.
I took this photo after a few weeks of being on holiday in Zambia having spent a lot of time in the middle of the bush on my phone to John. Of course, I wish I hadn’t now.

So why have I been completely uninspired to write for this last year?

Inspiration to write

It’s quite ironic that my last post was about the Avon Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers, because that’s where I found my inspiration to write this post this afternoon. I was chatting to Ricky, who came to the guild for the first time, lamenting the fact that I haven’t written for so long. Nothing special happened, but somewhere in the catch-up we were having, I think I found something that’s been missing for a while.

Last November I did Nanowrimo – a 50,000 word novel in 30 days – and I think my problem started there. I was completely fatigued. I feel like that feat, which was an accomplishment no matter my personal feelings about the novel, sucked the words completely out of me. Churning that number of words out made all of them feel like hard work. I used to find it a breeze to come up with 600/800/1,000 words for a blog post, but suddenly having counted every single one for 50,000 of them, I couldn’t do that anymore. The novel wasn’t even that good!

When your words stop coming out....or your mean ma is just holding your mouth closed!
When your words stop coming out….or your mean ma is just holding your mouth closed! Poor Tonks…

I was also totally over-analysing everything I had to say, and getting what John likes to call ‘analysis paralysis’. There are no fewer than 32 drafts in that particular folder, half written and abandoned because I was so tongue tied and frustrated with my words.

There are some incredible writers in the crafting/blogging world, from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (Yarn Harlot) to Anna Maltz (Sweater Spotter), Sarah Knight (Crafts from the Cwtch) to Karie Westermann (kariebookish.net), and many, many more in between. They write funny, poignant, helpful, interesting blogs that are always a joy to read. I started to feel like everything I had to say had been written before, in a better, more interesting and more helpful way, by someone more qualified than me.

It’s so easy to measure yourself up against some one else and find yourself coming up short, especially when using any one of the many platforms I alluded to in my intro. It can be very disheartening if that’s what you’re using as your success metric. This was something I swore to myself I would never do when I first started Plutonium Muffins. Having had nearly a year off blogging give or take a few posts, I’ve realised my success mattered more to me than what I was actually trying to say. I don’t know how, or when, things changed.

Finding the inspiration

Chatting to Ricky and the ladies at the guild meeting today made me realise how much I’ve missed this. I never started this blog to try be a great writer – I started it because I enjoyed writing, and I enjoyed sharing photos of my craft. I didn’t care if nobody read it, and didn’t think of it as separate to craft – it was just the place I came to share my craft because I didn’t have anybody I could talk to about it. I wasn’t trying to make a statement with every blog post. I was just occupying my little corner of the Internet and having fun while doing it.

Back when I had a healthier attitude (and more inspiration!) for blogging.
Back when I had a healthier attitude (and more inspiration!) for blogging.

I’d love to go back to that. I’d like to stop feeling like I have to come up with Words of Value every time I put my fingers to my keyboard. Checking my WordPress metrics and realising how much work I have to do to make them perfect. As I write this, the post has got the below ‘readability’ points, and it’s red. Bad.

To this day, I don't know what the 'passive voice' is. WordPress has been telling me off about passive voice for years.
To this day, I don’t know what the ‘passive voice’ is. WordPress has been telling me off about passive voice for years.

I’ve about reached the end of this post, and I would now normally spend at least an hour crafting it so it achieved a green on each of those little points. I would then spend an hour more making sure the SEO (search engine optimisation) was top notch. Then I’d spend another hour editing photos. It usually only takes about half an hour to actually write the thing.

So, I’m here to make a statement. I’m going to go ‘backwards’. I’m going to start ignoring the ‘helpful’ pointers (maybe not completely – my spelling and grammar could certainly use some work!). I’m going to stop allowing myself to compare my words to other peoples. I’m going to stop trying to ensure my posts meet digital perfection against an algorithm’s judgement of what perfection is. I’m going to just write and enjoy my words again, without pressure to post regularly, or perfectly.

Much love,

Corrie xx


PS: I was finding my digital life so overcrowded and overwhelming that I’ve deleted Twitter, Facebook, and pretty much every other social media app except Instagram off my phone. I actually did it weeks ago, and I’ve been feeling so much better for it! If you’ve been finding you’re feeling a bit ‘off’, I recommend trying a digital detox.

No more Facebook.
No more Facebook!
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Avon Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers

A couple of weeks ago I went to my first meeting with the Avon Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers. This is something I’ve been meaning to do since moving to Bristol. It only took a year! I put all the meetings in my diary in January, but have had something come up every single month for that Saturday since. Even this month I had three other events I was supposed to be doing – but nothing was going to win, because I was Determined to go.

Stunning sample dyed using madder root at the Avon Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers.
Stunning sample dyed using madder root, shown at the Avon Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers.

I managed to vlog parts of the day that didn’t involve other people, which has a lot more information about the talk than I’m about to give you. Find it here.

Guilds

I’ve encountered guilds in many different ways and places. When I was in Melbourne a couple of years ago, the only place I could get fibre from for spinning was the Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria. John and I went on a guild trip to Wonderwool Wales with a friend a few years ago. The British Polymer Clay Guild display had some of the most mind-blowing polymer clay samples I’ve ever seen at the Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts Show. One of my goals for the year was to join my local one.

Before I tell you about the Avon Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers, I wanted to discuss what a guild is first. If you search “What is a guild” on Google, you get the below definition:

A medieval association of craftsmen or merchants, often having considerable power.

Obviously we are no longer living in medieval times, so this is a little out of date. However, this is how they got started, and the root purpose is still the same. Guilds exist all over the world for craftsmen of all ilks, and are organisations for people to gather and work towards a common goal. This often takes the form of education nowadays, with members of different guilds all over going to events to spread the news about their craft. They also host educational talks at meetings, which happen on a regular basis. That was the theme behind this month’s meeting at the Avon Guild.

Beetroot is not a great dye stuff! From a talk by Teresinha Roberts of Wild Colours
Beetroot is not a great dye stuff! From a talk by Teresinha Roberts of Wild Colours.

Avon Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers

When I went to Wonderwool Wales with Ricky, you’ll probably remember that I bought a new spinning wheel. The main reason for doing this was so I could take my spinning with me when I go places. I did this particularly with joining the guild in mind! The Ashford Traditional is lovely, but not easy to transport.

My new Kiwi 2 went in the car so easily that I basically popped it in, put seat-belts around it (safety first!) and set off. Monthly meetings take place in Long Ashton, a village just outside Bristol. The guild hires a hall in a community centre where they have a storage space for the guild library, a kitchen for tea and coffee, and a space to hold the meeting itself. I didn’t take any photos of the hall as I didn’t have permission from the people there, so you’ll have to use your imaginations.

My Kiwi spinning wheel is nice and easy to transport!
My Kiwi spinning wheel is nice and easy to transport!

As well as the guild library, people bring in items to sell including fibre they grow from their own sheep, equipment, even homemade jams. I was feeling very anxious about meeting so many new people.Everyone was very welcoming and I saw it through despite the anxiety! I had a great time sitting and chatting to some incredibly interesting people for the first couple of hours. Then it was time for the talk.

Allotment to dye for

The guild meeting was themed around a talk by Teresinha Roberts from Wild Colours. The talk was titled “Allotment to dye for”. Teresinha told us all about how she got an allotment, started growing stuff and got into dyeing. She’s a very interesting person with a fascinating background, with a great textile heritage. Read more here.

Tereshina was a great speaker. The talk was really well organised, starting with Dyson coloured fabric, moving around a table showing naturally dyed samples from yellows to reds to blues, through plants found in Britain to more exotic things including cochineal beetles. There were samples of all the plants, plus swatches showing the colours. There were so many little titbits of information along the way, from adding chalk to woad, to using madder. For the first time ever I didn’t have my notebook on me, d’oh! We had the opportunity to buy seeds to grow these plants. I declined this because John is going to be very angry if I bring any more plants home. One day…

Dyeing with dock root. I adore this and am going to go hunting for dock shortly.
Dyeing with dock root. I adore this colour and am going to go hunting for dock shortly.
Seeds for sale, be still my beating heart.
Seeds for sale, be still my beating heart.

I was very keen to learn more about mordanting, and she answered all my questions perfectly! One of the best things about the talk was how relaxed, friendly and open she was. People attending were interested as well, which makes such a huge difference. I left feeling incredibly inspired, while also knowing I just don’t have the resources to get into yet another type of making…yet!

PHD project

There’s a lot more information about the actual talk in the vlog mentioned at the top. I’m really glad I went to the meeting, and will definitely be going again. One of the things they do is a competition for PHDs – projects half done! I have to take a photo of my PHD, send it in, then display my progress at a meeting later in the year. I’ve gone for my brown alpaca, which I plan to make a jumper from. Watch this space!

A basket full of alpaca fibre to turn into a jumper.
A basket full of alpaca fibre to turn into a jumper.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day with the Avon Guild, and recommend you find your local one if you can!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Exploring | Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts Show

I spent my weekend exploring the Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts Show. I’ve already shared everything Bloggers Workshop in my first post on this topic here. You can also see my haul on YouTube here!

Now it’s time to show you one of the best things of any show – meeting people and exploring amazing things.

Exploring the Show

House of Zandra

Some of the stuff I loved most was among the things I bought. One of these included a purse from House of Zandra. The felt animals here super unusual, with colours, shapes and embellishments straight out of a Tim Burton film. I was blown away by them, especially two purses that I was asked not to photograph to put on the Internet as they aren’t currently online. This is one of the things I bought; I will show you the finished product when I’m done!

House of Zandra felt animals. Tim Burton-esque and stunning.
House of Zandra felt animals. Tim Burton-esque and stunning.
A very angry goose from House of Zandra.
A very angry goose from House of Zandra.

Inventors Asylum

I was intrigued by Inventors Asylum, an incredible company who combine craft with technology. The company started off as a way of educating children while exploring tech and craft. They’ve just moved to a new premises in a garden workshop, which sounds absolutely lovely. Ricky and I were both struck by their incredible rust dyed fabric, which has to be seen to be believed, especially the beautiful quilt.

A quilt and apron from Inventor's Asylum, dyed with iron nails.
A quilt and apron from Inventor’s Asylum, dyed with iron nails.
Absolutely stunning fabrics. I would love to do this one day.
Absolutely stunning fabrics. I would love to do this one day.

Toft Alpaca

I’m currently madly into crochet, and dragged Ricky past the wonders of Toft so we could chat to them and see their display, which is always lovely. One of their kits is at home waiting for me to get started on it, and I wanted to see the project in person. I’m desperate to get my hands on Edward’s Menagerie and Edward’s Menagerie: Birds, but am forcing myself to wait until I’ve finished my kit. They did give me a little card with patterns for a snorkel and flippers to add to my hippo. I love to imagine a hippo exploring an underwater world with prescription snorkel (their eyesight is notoriously bad)!

The Toft stand with beautiful yarn and samples.
The Toft stand with beautiful yarn and samples.
A crochet peacock on the Toft stand, obsessed with the eyes on this.
A crochet peacock on the Toft stand, I’m obsessed with the eyes on the tail.

Exhibitions and Lectures

As well as retail stalls at the show, there were small exhibition spaces and chances perfect for exploring to see innovative ways of doing things and stunning samples from creators. A knitted beach greeted people walking into the show, which had everything from an octopus to a rock pool, to a bottle of pop knitted out of plastic yarn! Ricky told me it was knitted and I absolutely did not believe him. It was truly impressive, if not entirely watertight…

Down on the Beach! This was incredible.
Down on the Beach! This was incredible and could have spent many more hours exploring the delights it had to offer.
A crab "Down on the Beach"
A crab “Down on the Beach”

Val Hughes

I managed to catch one of the lectures given in the afternoon with Val Hughes. Val is a felter who, given my current obsession with all things felt, I absolutely couldn’t miss. I met a fibre artist at Wonderwool Wales who for the first time (to me) described herself as an artist and not a crafter. Val was another of those whose work sits in the art side of arts and crafts. Each unique piece has a story, a unique inspiration and a name. Remembering the names of her Alice in Wonderland collection of dresses won me her book! I was absolutely thrilled. I’m going to be exploring some of the techniques she teaches in the near future, stay tuned!

Val Hughes with her incredible dresses and stunning felted hat.
Val Hughes with her incredible dresses and stunning felted hat.
Victorian and Alice in Wonderland inspired dresses from Val Hughes.
Victorian and Alice in Wonderland inspired dresses from Val Hughes.
"Topsy Turvy" from Val Hughes' Alice in Wonderland collection.
“Topsy Turvy” from Val Hughes’ Alice in Wonderland collection.

Richard Box

Richard Box was another painter whose medium happens to be the wonderful world of all things fibre. While training as an art teacher, he happened upon freehand machine embroidery and the work that he now produces is absolutely stunning. One of the best things about it was the progress panels he had in his booth, showing how a piece of fabric starts out with bits of colourful scrap scattered over it, and with varying amounts of machine embroidery becomes beautiful landscapes and life-like hares. The depth of colour and dimensionality each of these panels has is beyond anything a photo can show you, and this is very definitely someone to look out for if you want inspiration with your machining. Check him out here.

Richard Box's thread paintings.
Richard Box’s thread paintings.
Showing how a piece progresses from plain fabric to beautiful squirrel.
Showing how a piece progresses from plain fabric to beautiful squirrel.

 

More of Richard Box's work.
More of Richard Box’s work.

Polymer Clay Guild

One of the most jaw-dropping things I saw was at the stand of the Polymer Clay Guild, in the form of a necklace and miniature food. The flowers that make the necklace up look so life like that you feel if you touched the petals they’d yield to you. You can almost imagine how silky they would feel. This was made by Fiona Abel-Smith.

Absolutely incredible necklace from Fiona Abel-Smith.
Absolutely incredible necklace from Fiona Abel-Smith.

The food was also so small it almost boggles the mind. The cart in the front of the three is an astonishing 48 times smaller than real life! Allan Marshall, the creator of these, was tasked by his wife to make 1:12 items out of paper. An engineer, he was convinced he could do better and he proved his point! I couldn’t get my face physically close enough to the work to make it big enough to appreciate. I spent a disproportionate amount of time here looking at it!

Miniature polymer clay carts, from 1:12 scale in the back to 1:48 in the front. This had to be seen to be believed.
Miniature polymer clay carts, from 1:12 scale in the back to 1:48 in the front. This had to be seen to be believed.

The polymer clay guild, among more stunning creations like these, can be found here.

Polymer clay dragons and lizards. Love the colours here.
Polymer clay dragons and lizards. Love the colours here.

Jenniffer Taylor

The last thing that I did before heading off to a night in Coventry with Beth, was finding and chatting to Jenniffer Taylor. Jenni has just brought out “Girl with a Sewing Machine”, and I’d been itching to get my hands on it after watching her discussions about it on social media. It wasn’t on my list of things to buy! However, she was wearing a version of the “Dunga Dress” sewn out of pairs of old jeans and we had a lovely discussion about the dress. Many of the patterns in the book are based on body measurements rather than patterns, something I always battle with; so I had to have it.

Jenni Taylor wearing her dunga dress.
Jenni Taylor wearing her dunga dress.
Jenni and her dress from the back.
Jenni and her dress from the back.
A selfie with Jenni Taylor, one of the loveliest people I've ever met.
A selfie with Jenni Taylor, one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met.

To summarise!

There were so many things at the show that it would be impossible to talk about them all. I’ve mentioned the majority of things that I really wanted to mention, but I want to encourage you to go to this show if you feel the urge to. I’m sure I could have kept exploring for days and still not seen everything I wanted to.

There was plenty of window shopping to keep us occupied, and we both spent hours admiring cross stitch designs, quilt samples, the various artworks on display at the show, and the excellent variety of vendors. One of the things about the Stitches, Sewing and Hobbycrafts show that I really enjoyed was that it wasn’t too big. It took up most of a single hall at the NEC, but no more than that. I often find that it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by stand after stand of similar products, but that wasn’t a problem here.

I didn’t take many photos of designs and artworks because of the problem with intellectual copyright. Those that I did take were all with permission, and I hope you all understand why they’re limited!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this mammoth post! If you have any questions or would like any contact details I should have put all the links in..! I fully recommend the show and I am looking forward to the next one.

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts Workshop

This weekend I was invited to a Bloggers workshop at the second summer Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts Show was held at the NEC in Birmingham. For those who haven’t heard of the venue, it’s the National Exhibition Centre and one of the largest exhibition spaces in the UK. The last time I was here on Plutonium Muffins business was for CHSI Stitches. I was delighted to be invited back to enjoy the retail equivalent this weekend.

At the Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts Show with my gorgeous friend Ricky.
At the Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts Show with my gorgeous friend Ricky.

Bloggers Workshop

On Saturday morning, a Bloggers Workshop was held for those of us in the blogging world who like to talk about their crafting online. I was honoured to be included in the guest list, along with people including Jenni of #SewingRevolution, the lovely Hayley from Craftaholique, Julie from Sum of their Stories, among others. The workshop showcased two different crafts with a couple of guest tutors, and was an hour and a half of sociable crafting with muffins, tea and coffee galore.

Ricky in the workshop, about to get started on cutting paper.
Ricky in the workshop, about to get started on cutting paper.

Sociable crafting around a table on a Saturday morning is something that can be hard to find in everyday life. Although I do have a few friends who craft, few of them are as over the top about it as I am! We also all have those pesky lives that get in the way of creating, so the chance to engage in some making while talking about topics ranging from how hard it is to cut in a straight line, to winning the Australian Lotto, was utterly delightful.

Gift boxes with Crafty Devils

The first of the two activities was papercrafting. We were supplied with a template, some paper, glue and pens. We then set to work assembling a little paper gift box. Running the session was Crafty Devils, with a couple of samples, an excellent variety of decorated papers, and hair to make anyone jealous! I assembled my little box, and gave it to my friend Beth that night.

Ricky concentrating on cutting out harder than he's ever concentrated on ANYTHING.
Ricky concentrating on cutting out harder than he’s ever concentrated on ANYTHING.

 

Sample gift boxes during the workshop.
Sample gift boxes during the workshop.
And my effort on the gift box workshop.
And my effort on the gift box workshop.

It was fun doing a workshop in something I would never normally choose to do!

Tapestry with Tina Francis

The second activity was tapestry, run by Tina Francis. Having done a lot of cross stitch recently, this was much more in my comfort zone, and something I hadn’t tried out before. The canvas is very different to Aida or linen, and using yarn instead of embroidery floss was definitely novel!

My initial attempt at tapestry with Tina Francis.
My initial attempt at tapestry with Tina Francis.

My first attempt ended up so wonky that I couldn’t even fit it into the brooch we were provided with. More practice is required! The second attempt was much better, and I’ve got a brooch to be remind me of a lovely day. As a bonus, I’ve got plenty of ideas of what to do with all my excess yarn. 

The difference between my tapestry brooches...left done in the workshop, right done afterwards!
The difference between my tapestry brooches…left done in the workshop, right done afterwards!

Exploration time!

We were then let loose on the show. I’d taken along my lovely friend Ricky, of Wonderwool and felting fame, and we enjoyed walking around looking at everything on offer. His blog is here. We both have a problem when we spend time together at crafting events, or even just with the wonderful world of Internet shopping available to us. We encourage each other to shop, shop, shop!

Ricky, me and our stashes from Wonderwool (I'll be honest, half of mine was already in the car)
Ricky, me and our stashes from Wonderwool (I’ll be honest, half of mine was already in the car)

Luckily we both recognise that fact, and we were relatively restrained! I did come away with a small collection of items. At least I didn’t get a spinning wheel this time… These stashquisitions, as well as the gifts I got at the workshop, can be found on YouTube here.

I’ll post all of that another time. I think it’s time to actually do some craft rather than just talking about it!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Fuss Free Festival Shawl by Louise Tilbrook

I have a finished object – a Fuss Free Festival Shawl! I’ll wait while you all pick your jaws off the floor…it’s been a really long time! In my defence, I actually have finished a few more projects in recent months. However, I’ve been having an issue with Photoshop and haven’t been able to edit photos. I’m hoping to get to that soon, but then have to get around to blogging about them. Watch this space!

Fuss Free Festival Shawl

I started knitting my Fuss Free Festival Shawl off the back of Louise’s success with the shawl, which was the hottest pattern on Ravelry for a while! As a result, Louise ran a knit along in May, which I followed along in her most excellent group on Facebook Everyday Knitter.

Yarn and Excel files

I dug around in my stash and found 200g of four skeins of beautiful yarn that the gorgeous Linda from Kettle Yarn Co gave me a couple of years ago. They were four OOAK (one of a kind) colours in beautiful pinks. They made a lovely gradient and I was very excited about finding the perfect project for them. They’ve been hanging out in my trunk for a long time!

My beautiful OOAK Kettle Yarn Co yarn.
My beautiful OOAK Kettle Yarn Co yarn.

The pattern is super easy and is knitted in lovely, squishy garter stitch. I’ve had a really great relationship with garter stitch for the last few years because it lets me just sit and knit without thinking about it. The fabric it produces is also one of my favourite things to wear; warm, soft and very comfortable.

I was utterly determined to use up every ounce of yarn that I had. Being a nerd, I decided to figure it out mathematically. Maths and shawls is hard because the amount used in each row isn’t a constant. Struggling with it on a particularly gloomy Saturday, I weighed the yarn after every row and recorded the weight of the ball. I then presented John with my data and asked him to tell me exactly how many rows I needed to knit to use up all of my yarn. Yay, maths!

I always love how a shawl starts from the most basic place and goes on a journey with you as it grows.
I always love how a shawl starts from the most basic place and goes on a journey with you as it grows.

Finishing the shawl

It took me just over a month to knit the shawl. I started on the 1st of May and finished on the 11th of June. I then took a few weeks to block it, which meant it sat on the chair in my room staring at me accusingly for a while. Following a discussion with my lovely friend Ricky, I decided to film the blocking process because he has a scarf he wants to block, which helped kick my butt into gear. I blocked it and filmed it, and that video is here!

Blocking the shawl, pulling the picot edging out to get that lovely definition at the end.
Blocking the shawl, pulling the picot edging out to get that lovely definition at the end.

Knitting this shawl was a joy. It has very interesting to put in beautiful edging on both sides, and the picot edge is lovely. I had to block it really well to get the definition that I achieved. It was worth the time! The worst thing about it was sewing in all the ends, which was totally my fault for choosing to do a stripy shawl. The next one will be self striping.

Finished Fuss Free Festival Shawl

The finished shawl is better than I imagined. It grew massively when I blocked it, the fabric is so soft, the yarn absolutely gorgeous, and I’m really looking forward to putting the shawl into my daily rotation. This will happen when the weather in the UK isn’t as crazy as it currently is!

My Fuss Free Festival Shawl in all of its glory!
My Fuss Free Festival Shawl in all of its glory!
The shawl is absolutely massive.
The shawl is absolutely massive.
Lovely picot edge on the cast off of the shawl.
Lovely picot edge on the cast off of the shawl.

John’s spreadsheet was spot on – it was two rows out, which over the hundreds of rows I knitted was incredible. I’m going to employ his data skills more often in my knitting.

I’m super pleased I have a new FO to add to my closet, and all inspired, have already cast on a new shawl. Watch this space!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Wonderwool Wales Part Two – a major purchase

I had a hidden agenda while we were at Wonderwool Wales this year, and it ended with a major purchase. For years I’ve been lusting after a more portable spinning wheel than my Ashford Traditional. Every year I try out the wheels on various stands and tell myself “one year”. After a particularly miserable six months, and a renewed enthusiasm for spinning, I’d quietly and secretly decided this might be the year.

For my previous blog on our general experience of Wonderwool Wales, click here.

Woolyknit display - this was stunning, life size and wow I want it.
Woolyknit display – this was stunning, life size and wow I want it.
A quilted map of the UK showing all the coloured sheep in their locations.
A quilted map of the UK showing all the coloured sheep in their locations.

A major purchase

After lunch at Wonderwool, we walked past the Ashford stand and I asked Ricky if he minded if I tried out some wheels… One of the team gave me the go ahead to have a go, and I leapt in with enthusiasm.

Trying out wheels

The first I sat at was the Joy, a double treadle wheel that you can fold and put in a backpack. The movement was a bit cramped and it didn’t help that the person who’d used it before had spun in the opposite direction to me. If you’re not a spinner, this basically means it was unravelling rather than spinning the fibre I was trying to feed on. I’d always thought this was the one I would love, but having tried it…no.

Trying out the Ashford Joy at Wonderwool Wales.
Trying out the Ashford Joy at Wonderwool Wales.

I wasn’t thrilled with it, so moved on to the Kiwi 2.

This is a slightly bigger, heavier wheel. The speed they’d set it up to (it has six) was much better suited to my spinning style, and I felt a lot more comfortable. It also has a kiwi carved onto the right treadle, which although particularly idiotic as a reason to buy something, contributed. Although it doesn’t fold up like the Joy does, it’s much more portable than my Traddy.

I made up my mind to buy one, and we went on the prowl!

Finding a wheel

After doing a price comparison of suppliers at the show and weighing up the merits of buying one from someone who didn’t have it with them at the show, I decided to go with Wingham Wool Work. Theirs was instant gratification (aka no postage fees), and also very well priced. They also gave me a free tote bag and £15 worth of fibre. All round, a fantastic deal. I spent about fifteen minutes fondling fibre and making my choice, bought it all, and left with the most enormous grin on my face! (This photo makes me look much more red than I was in reality, according to Ricky.)

For those wondering how John reacted to me adding yet another spinning wheel to the collection….I called him first and gave him some time to think about it before making the purchase. He’s actually very pleased…because now he gets to buy a new music instrument! He also said “I know you’ve want this for years and you should do it.” I’m a lucky gal.

With my new spinning wheel!!!
With my new spinning wheel!!! My biggest purchase at a wool show in years.

Assembling the wheel

I put the wheel together the minute we got back home that night – you can watch the video here. Then I sat down to do some spinning, and I’ve been at it ever since. The wheel spins wonderfully, and I’m really enjoying working with it. There’s no doubt that it’s different, but in a really good way. It’s definitely going to help with my ambition to get more adventurous with my spinning.

Just a note on why I decided to go with the Ashford wheel, as opposed to another brand. One of the things I value in all brands is the ease of technical support and access to accessories. A well-known brand with lots of accessories that one can buy from most global locations, as well as plenty of interchangeability between equipment of the same brand, is something that appeals to me. These wheels may not be the prettiest, or have the most functions, but they’re affordable, good quality and very well known.

A stashquisition from Wingham Wool Work in merino and silk
A stashquisition from Wingham Wool Work in merino and silk
Some merino fibre - 300 g of it from Wingham Wool Work
Some merino fibre – 300 g of it from Wingham Wool Work

I’m going to go and make more plans for future spinning projects!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Walking through a Woolly Wonderwool

Last weekend I visited Wonderwool Wales with two of my favourite people. Although John didn’t actually come in to the show with me, he provided valuable moral support from the cafes of Builth Wells, in the form of encouragement and financial restraint. Ricky, however, did come in with me, and he made the day for me.

I haven’t really talked about Ricky much on here. He used to do my job, so we worked with each other closely until I found my feet in the role. We have similar personalities, a love of craft, and importantly a mutual appreciation of the fabulous fun you can have with fibre. When I decided I was going to Wonderwool, it made less sense not to invite Ricky than it did to invite John. (Try wrap your head around that, I think it means what I mean but I’m not really sure!)

With two of my faves in Builth Wells, visiting Wonderwool Wales.
With two of my faves in Builth Wells, visiting Wonderwool Wales.

This is a truly monstrous post, so grab a cuppa and enjoy!

Walking in a Wooly Wonderland

So, Wonderwool. Three massive halls in an agricultural showground, filled with all the fun one can have with fibre in its many forms. Trying to follow my rules for visiting Wonderwool, we did a first sweep of the place, trying not to get lost. This took from 10am to 3pm, so it wasn’t really a first sweep, and more an in-depth examination of as many stalls as we could manage before we dropped!

This is one of my absolute favourite shows. The size of the halls means that although there are tonnes of people, you don’t feel too overwhelmed by everyone. There are also loads of exhibitors, with a huge variety of wares. The animals that make it are also a big draw for me, although I do feel sorry for them. This year there was the most adorable nanny angora goat with her twin kids. They were incredibly cute and we had more than one visit with them.

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Llareggub

I particularly enjoyed one of this year’s curated exhibits, a felt Llareggub made by a group of 30 crafters, with an intense amount of detail protected under a huge dome. Llareggub is the village from “Under Milkwood” by Dylan Thomas, and the exhibit was put together in 2014 to celebrate 100 years since his birth. Each felt building is augmented with hundreds of additional bits and pieces made using materials ranging from Fimo, to painted toothbrush lids, to shrink plastic.

This is an astounding piece of work. Each building was crafted by a different person and we spent a long time chatting to the lady who made the sweet shop! Find out more about the group here. I’m all inspired to make little cottages for house warming presents now. Watch this space!

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Felt

Ricky is a felter, and as a result we paid a lot more attention to the felt than I would normally. I’m always astonished by what can be achieved with a bit of water, soap and time. The needle-felting also really caught my eye – this is probably why my photos are felting heavy! People whose stalls I particularly enjoyed included:

    • Ali Scott felt artist: I fell in love with her three musketeers piece and bought a souvenir postcard of this. Her colours were stunning.
    • Jenny Barnett: I learned the basics of needle felting from Jenny. She has a new book coming out…the first is excellent and I’m waiting with bated breath for the next instalment, which will include wet felting.
    • Black Dog and Ginger Cat: Someone who runs workshops, and has done a truly incredible project felting tiny, perfect bees.
    • The Makerss: Larger felt pieces that are incredibly charming, and very engaging owners. They also have a book that is excellent.
    • Iona MacKenzie Laycock: A truly unique artist, who I will dedicate a whole blog post to at some point in the near future.
    • Taylored Felt: Innovative ways of framing, as well as sheep heads felted from the fleece of the sheep depicted. She’s based in Stroud and does workshops there.

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Knitting and Spinning

My eyes were not only for the felt, obviously. We headed over to John Arbon first to nab some Alpaca Supreme, as every year I leave it slightly too late and they run out before I get there. I also got some cut silk cocoons from Oliver Twists to make some art yarn.

We also made a point of going to Debonnaire and admiring her sparkly selection. I didn’t want to just buy a skein that would languish in my stash. Instead, I spent some time carefully looking at the pattern samples and choosing one. The Silk Wave Shawl* is a simple pattern that only requires one skein of yarn. It’s also easy enough for TV knitting, and I left a bright purple skein of lace to make that in.

A new to me vendor was Siobhans Crafts, with fibre and handspun yarn from Manchester. The fibres are influenced significantly by popular culture, and Dr Who inspired rolags were what drew me in first. Siobhan had a bargain bin, in which a OOAK braid of fibre was languishing. I snapped it up when I spotted it!

Siobhans Crafts Dr Who rolags!
Siobhans Crafts Dr Who rolags!
Woven unicorns
Woven unicorns

Friends at Wonderwool

I also took some time to catch up with old friends. Louise from Spin City got a flying visit as we were desperate for lunch. I managed a longer catch up with Kari and Tracy at Purl Alpaca Designs (they have big news, read it here). We also popped in to chat to Belinda Harris-Reid, and Ricky enjoyed looking at her samples. I spent a small amount of time with Tanya the Knitting Swede first thing, but didn’t get to go back as we ran out of time. Finally, Wriggle Fingers got a visit as one of John’s best friends from school was on the stall exhibiting some of the fibre that she sells through Velvet Sixpence.

Wandering around with regular breaks for tea, lunch and a scotch egg took basically all day. Ricky had bought loads of fibre for his felting adventures, and as well as my yarn and fibre, I had stacks of fibre for the needle felting group I oversee at work. Having added a few necessaries like new felting and knitting needles to my burden, I was completely overloaded. We were exhausted, and the biggest purchase was yet to come!

Ricky, me and our stashes (I'll be honest, half of mine was already in the car)
Ricky, me and our stashes (I’ll be honest, half of mine was already in the car)

This blog post is already way long, so I’m going to leave it here for now! Wonderwool Wales Part 2 will go live soon. If you would like a sneak preview, I did video all my purchases for a haul video on YouTube.

Much love,

Corrie xx

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*This shawl pattern isn’t available online, but if you see Erica at a show, she’ll have it there!

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Pisa Socks – A (finally) finished object!

Today we are talking about….Pisa and socks! I have a huge blog post about my adventures at Wonderwool Wales to go up, but I’m keeping that to myself for now. Have you ever discovered that by making something public, it loses some of the shine on it? The day out was one of the best days of my adult life, and I’m holding the memories close to me before making them public so that I can cherish them for a little longer.

Calzepiu! My sock yarn for the Pisa socks.
Calzepiu! My sock yarn for the Pisa socks.

Pisa Socks

So, Pisa! Last September, our very lovely friends Patrick and Elly had a wedding of sorts. Although they’d already been married for a year, they got all of their friends together in Tuscany and we spent a weekend together. I took a few extra days off work, and John and I spent a couple of days braving terrifying mountain roads, eating glorious gelato, and traipsing through the delightful city of Pisa. The tradition of buying sock yarn as a souvenir continued, and when we got back I cast on a new pair of socks.

John at the Devil's Bridge, somewhere that was truly difficult to get to!
John at the Devil’s Bridge, somewhere that was truly difficult to get to!
Gelato, gelato, gelato.
Gelato, gelato, gelato.

I get an hour for lunch in my job, which still feels new after a couple of years of self-employment, even though I’ve now been here for nearly a year! I like to spend half of this time knitting, and the simplest thing to knit are socks! They were a bit of a trial to be honest. I cast on sixty stitches at the toe, knitted to my heel, did a fish lips kiss heel, and then all the trouble started.

The first time I knitted the cuff stockinette with a small ribbed section at the end. Didn’t like it, frogged back to the toe(!). Then I knitted a ribbed top of the foot, and fully ribbed cuff. Tried them on, didn’t like them. Frogged back to the toe(!). The third time was the charm, as I knitted to just about the heel, then did a 2×2 rib from there. Simple!

My finished Pisa socks!
My finished Pisa socks!

Project Details

Yarn: Calzepiu
Pattern: No specific sock pattern, but Fish Lips Kiss heel
Toe cast on: Judy’s magic cast on
Cuff bind off: Jeny’s surprisingly stretchy bind off 

Of course, it wasn’t simple. Working on them for half an hour a day meant that it took me months to get an FO. I started them on the 11th of October 2016, and finished on the 15th of April 2017. Now that they’re finished, however, they’ve joined the ever growing ranks of my sock drawer, and will make me think of my friends with fondness whenever I wear them!

The reprobates I call my friends!
The reprobates I call my friends!

Much love,

Corrie

Calzepiu

The story of the yarn is itself rather wonderful. Patrick used to buy yarn from this place as a teenager, and recommended it to me. We tried to go there around midday, but Pisa is very continental in that everywhere closes for like four hours around lunch. We hung out at the Leaning Tower for a while until it reopened.

Once successfully in, I realised they spoke exactly no English, and my Italian was limited to what I’d quickly learned on Duolingo before the trip. AKA, not much. Through pointing at my feet, miming knitting and holding out indiscriminate amounts of Euros, I managed to escape with a ball of sock yarn. I even, somehow, managed to match the yarn to my outfit, thoroughly unintentionally. We celebrated my success with yet more ice cream!

When your yarn matches your top completely accidentally!
When your yarn matches your top completely accidentally!
The leaning tower of Pisa with John
The leaning tower of Pisa with John

*Elly runs a rather wonderful blog from Sydney, which you can find over here.

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