If I were to say to you that there’s something in the water, what would you think?
This year has seen a mega baby boom at my work! There are several great things about this and one sad one. I’ll break with tradition and start with the sad thing – it means that a lot of my favourite people at work are leaving for a year! Cue sad Corrie, slightly offset by the fact that there are going to be a lot of young’uns to craft for.
Reveal over the water
Sometime this summer I walked to get some lunch with one of my lovely friends (J) from work, and on the way we paused on the side of one of the canals. I can’t remember what we were talking about, but for some reason I said something about getting pregnant, and she revealed “well actually, I am!”
I was bowled away and after the initial shock had worn off, very excited. When we returned to work I snuck to one side and suggested to one of my other friends (M) that we should crochet a blanket for the baby. She was really keen on the idea, but there was one problem – M had never crocheted before. Undaunted, we bought the yarn and when it arrived, spent a few hours on a Friday after work going through the process.
Another flaw in the plan was that M’s sister was also pregnant, and due much more immediately than J. Full of enthusiasm for the new craft, M decided to first crochet a blanket for her new nibling, and then do her half of the blanket we were going to do together. It took an astonishingly short amount of time, and the results of her industry were this gorgeous blanket that looks slightly different to this colouring when you remove the brightly coloured blocking mats from behind it.
We then had a few months to complete our squares and blanket, and in true “I’ve got loads time” style, left it until the night before J’s last day at work to finish the blanket with a good blocking. However, we did manage to finish it, and it looks absolutely brilliant if I do say so myself.
The granny square pattern is one that lives in my head following the Knitting and Stitching Show a few years ago, and the yarn we used was Sirdar Snuggly DK in Lemon (252), Whisper (313), Oatmeal (344), Eeyore (460) and Happy Hippo (469). There are about two balls of each colour overall, and the blanket came out a really good size for a newborn without absolutely swamping them. We are still waiting for the happy arrival (the due date is today!) and I’m looking forward to seeing the little one wrapped up in our efforts.
With four other pregnancies in my life, I’m definitely staying away from the office water, and picking up my needles!
A couple of weeks ago I spent quite some time feeling like I was forgetting something. You know what I mean – that niggling feeling at the back of your mind, which forces you to walk into and out of rooms and pause, wondering how you can kick yourself into remembering what it is. Then, at the end of the Guild’s Christmas party, I was driving home and like a thunderbolt from the sky, it hit me…
Plutonium Muffins is six! The date ticked past on the 5th of December and I utterly forgot about it! I was absolutely stunned when I realised, and have been meaning to sit down and write about this ever since. Of course, life has got in the way, but now that I’m finally off work for the year, I’ve got a minute.
This moment definitely marks how this year has changed my ability to focus on the blog. I’ve not explicitly written it before, but in June this year I started a new job and am now training to be an accountant. It’s certainly a change of direction, which will bring bigger and better things in the future…but I’m finding it incredibly tough, and quite often I get home and the last thing I want to do is get back on my computer. In line with my previous blog posts, I’m not worrying about it, and finding that my crafting time is much better as a result.
I tried to do a bit of a ‘look back’ on my posts, and instead got side-tracked by numbers. So, here are some of them:
2,206 days of blogging
655 Facebook likes
589 blog posts
311 balls/skeins of yarn stashed
145 projects recorded on Ravelry
128 YouTube videos
20 drafts that will be published…one day…
19 podcast episodes (probably never to be revived unfortunately)
11 press passes to knitting shows
7 house moves
3 spinning wheels
1 very happy Corrie
What a ride it’s been! I wish I could show you all how much appreciation for the amount of time you have spent with me over the last six years. I had debated doing a giveaway but everything I could offer on this one blog post felt so cheap in comparison to the enjoyment I get out of it. I looked at gift vouchers, costed up some options, even looked through my stash to see if there was anything in there that I wanted to send to a new home, but no one thing jumped out at me.
Rather than wasting any more time, I’ve decided that in 2018 I will gift one knitting pattern per week to…someone. I haven’t really figured out exactly how I’m going to do this as if I limit it to Ravelry and you’re not on it then I don’t know what I’ll do. Keep your eyes peeled and I’ll let you know in a blog post next week. In the meantime, thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart for taking time out of your day to listen to my musings. It means a lot.
Here’s to another six!
PS the blog title is my favourite lyric from “Oh Me, Oh My”, a song by Noel Prior Band in the album “Hazards”
In February 2016, I blogged that I’d started a Doctor Who scarf. This was a major undertaking, and I hadn’t really realised what I was taking on when I started! I knitted the scarf as an anniversary present for John, started just after our fourth anniversary. I’m pleased I did it – will I ever do it again? Almost certainly not!
Doctor Who Scarf
The pattern for this is a free one from the imaginatively named Doctor Who Scarf.com. There are four variations, but not knowing as much about the show as John, I didn’t recognise any except the original. It was an easy choice, really. I went for Cascade 220 Superwash as my material, which was really quite hard to find in the required colours. I tend to try avoid superwash yarns, but the decision was quite a considered one, and I outlined my reasons in this post. I didn’t regret it!
One of the reasons I really wanted to knit this project was because I discovered a major love for garter stitch in 2015. You cast on 66 stitches and end up knitting a grand total of 68,904 stitches. I started off strong, but the project well and truly cured me of my desire to knit vast swathes of garter stitch!
It took nine months to knit, and for the last few months of working on it I trekked it around the country in an attempt to get it done before our fifth anniversary! I’m blogging about it 360 days after finishing, and got it done with five weeks to go till the next one.
The scarf introduced my colleagues to the fact that I was a majorly enthusiastic crafter, which lead to all sorts of fun and games at work. (I’ll tell you all about that at some point – to whet your appetite, the words “life-size felted swan” come into it.)
Tips for making a Doctor Who scarf
I think the scarf is quite hard to wear. If you decide to make one for anybody, I would definitely check with them first! I don’t think it would have worked if I had just made the scarf for John and given it to him. I would have wanted to put tassels on it (who doesn’t love a good tassel?!) but John definitely didn’t want any! He also only likes wearing it with certain clothes – I think you need a good coat?!
One of the most rewarding things about letting John know I was going to knit this for him was also the bragging. Seriously, he was unstoppable! Everywhere we went, I was lugging this massive project bag along with me, pulling it out in the cinema, at dinner, on a five minute bus ride…and every person we spoke to, John was telling them how many stitches I was knitting for him. It was really lovely – it’s not often people who make throwaway comments like “could you just make me…” realise how much work actually goes into this stuff. I would definitely tell the person you’re knitting it for how many stitches are in it…round it up to an even 70,000 if you want to!
Definitely, definitely wash the scarf when you’re done. It takes such a long time and experiences so much life with you that by the time you finish, it’s almost certainly filthy. However, if you don’t want it to expand too much, don’t block it, just lay it flat in a really, really long passage and let it dry.
Finally, sew in your ends as you go! You can not underestimate how long this takes, or how annoying it is to finish the scarf and still have hundreds of ends to dispatch. I think it took me a week of evenings in front of the telly to get rid of my ends.
I’d love to know who else has taken this on, and what your top tips would be. Did anybody experience the same things?
I probably won’t be knitting John a big project like this for a while! For our fifth anniversary, I took him to see an astronaut doing some public speaking…no knitting involved!
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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 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.)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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!
I thoroughly enjoyed my day with the Avon Guild, and recommend you find your local one if you can!
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!
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.
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)!
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…
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!
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.
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.
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!
The polymer clay guild, among more stunning creations like these, can be found here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!