Pattern gold

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Newlywed birds made for a sweet couple of friends who recently married.

After a long hiatus, I'm back with a few blog design changes and that overdue pattern recommendation. Typepad are very slowly coming around to responsive themes. This one I'm using (still in beta) is the first I've found that works properly. What do you think?

Artist, Ann Wood's Little Bird pattern was perfect for a couple of gifts I wanted to make. I've always loved her designs, it was a real treat to find that she's now selling her patterns, including her amazing ships. Ann has a lovely style to the way she writes her tutorials.

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This one was for a robin loving friend.

I'm pleased with these little birds but I'd do a few things differently if I made them again sometime. Getting better wire for one thing and stuffing until the seams nearly burst for another. The newlyweds in particular have kind of saggy bottoms.

These birds are quite small so they're perfect for using up scraps. They're so easy to customize and make your own yet retain the sweet face the Ann created.

Today I noticed Ann added a post to her website where she recommends her favourite tools. If you're a softie maker or trying out one her new patterns you'll probably find tips there you've read about nowhere else.

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Shadowplay on a sunny day.

And today is Mother's Day in the UK. So happy Mother's Day to all mums everywhere.

Here is a link to my favourite UK flower shop feed on Instagram. I send you all a virtual bouquet.

Happy Sunday :)


Behind the scenes

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Hedgerow grasses

Our house is like many others, children going here, going there. Me taxi, boot polisher, roadie, and a few other titles too. School holidays officially started today, sadly we have only six short weeks of a loose schedule and no clock watching for going to meet the bus. I'll still be working but we have a family visit to California coming up and we'll be squeezing in day visits to other places too. Right now though we're taking a little breather and enjoying the warm weather we've been having for the last several weeks.

I've been working out how to fit this blog into our new life and make it more relevant to where we are now. It remains a good personal archive of what we've done and where we've gone as a family and also how enormously our lives have changed, which is natural. 

I considered leaving Typepad, wishing they'd catch up with competing platforms and offer more contemporary design solutions and better security. You may notice closed comments on old posts and monitoring of new ones – all down to outrageous amounts of spam. When I voiced my concerns and thoughts on leaving Typepad to their support staff they offered me a free upgrade which I appreciated, this will give me the option of using HTML and CSS to personalize it more.

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Trying out a sweet pattern

So for time and financial reasons, I won't be migrating to another platform, I'll be giving Typepad another year, hoping they up their game. The site I'm developing for my work is on WordPress.org which is more important for investing time and money in. I've also designed sites on Squarespace for clients and have been really impressed with it. Importantly, their customer service is outstanding, great for small businesses who are a bit tech-shy and won't want to handle upgrades themselves down the road.

For the longest time I couldn't decide what to do, stay or go. So I thought I'd voice my reasoning here in case others are contemplating the same jump. I know Sonia did and moved over to Squarespace with beautiful results. She incorporated her Big Cartel shop in the new design really nicely too. Abby from While She Naps recently moved from Typepad to a WordPress.org site and has some great blog posts about her experiences; here's her latest which discusses going from Blogger to WordPress. Abby's new site is a real triumph, clearly worth the time and financial investment.

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Finding shade on a hot day

Though I intend on getting back to this space more regularly, I can be found on Instagram almost daily. I will be back here very soon to show my results with a sweet pattern I recently purchased, you'll want to try it out too.

I hope you're loving summer as much as we are. 

Jx


Dawn

Morning

I love morning. I go to bed at night excited to get up in the morning. As soon as it becomes the slightest bit light out I'm up, in winter I get up in the dark. I begin to make coffee in my French Press, put away any clean dishes from last nights dinner, organise my day and my thoughts.
 
While coffee brews I stretch, and calm my mind, usually the mind calming part is harder than I like. My favourite part of the morning is when the sun just peeks over the barn next door and floods my face. I realise then that there's still at least an hour before I wake the children which means 3,600 seconds are still all mine.
 
Morning is the time of day when I function best. I usually get two hours of work done, good and productive work. Never the same thing. Sometimes letter writing, copywriting or sketching ideas - I save boring, administrative stuff for the afternoon when I'm less alert. 
 
I find my days are now highly scheduled, little time for relaxed blog browsing and catching up with friends online, maybe one day that will change, but it won't be soon. Now, my mornings are my refuge, even on days when the sun doesn't come out and peek over the barn.
 
Since I was last here we've moved house, the children have grown a whole lot in just these few months and we've been getting accustomed to new routines. We are really well and hope you are too.
 
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A few things I've enjoyed recently and you might too:
 
Today's Desert Island Discs with Alison Moyet. I love hearing an artist's own perspective, she's fascinating and her music choices are great too.
 
The Story of Women and Art  So much food for thought in this series, amazing, wonderful and desperate all at once. 
 
Painting with gouache. I haven't used it much since art school but have found it my medium of choice when I steal away minutes for painting. If you follow me on Instagram, the quick little studies I've done of birds in our new garden are with gouache.
 
Today I'm sending off my French Knot pieces and doily drawings for this project by Lisa Solomon. It's easy to take part, if you have a moment take a look, she's still taking contributions.
 
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Have a lovely weekend.
 
Jx

Reflecting on goodness

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It's February 1st, and I'm getting around to reflecting on 2013. I don't want to forget because it was mostly a really big year for us.

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Gracie left primary school and began secondary school. Her team won their regional rounders championship and her love of sports has become even greater. This year she's played on every team: hockey, netball, rounders and track and of course riding at weekends.

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I keep on walking and enjoying the hills that surround our tiny village but soon we'll be moving again, outside the village a couple of miles away. Walking makes everything clear for me, can't do without it.

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We enjoyed two trips to California, thanks Grandma and Grandpa. The first a fantastic reunion, this time in the Wine Country with some of the family.

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Tristan turned 15, and went to see Green Day in London with friends.

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Gracie turned 12 and grew a whole lot of inches!

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I turned.... a year older too. And went back to design work to help improve finances around here.

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I still always start with pen and paper. It was fun working with lovely Jan on this one.

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Tristan performed several times and played live on radio for the first time. I'm still trying to get that recording linked, my heart swells when I listen to it. This year I'm looking forward to hearing both children perform together on stage.

Tris performs

We had a prolonged Autumn, mild and magical too.

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Very little making was done, though three dolls were finished for some of our littlest family members.

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And we ended the year in the warm embrace of family, again back in California.

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I hope 2013 treated you well. And big warm wishes from us for a glorious 2014!

We will move house at the end of February but not get broadband until middle of March. I'm hoping to come back with regular visits after that. I want to share some of my new adventures with gouache, so fun!

Jx


Fabric gift box or bag, tutorial – in time for Christmas!

Fabric gift box
Fabric box/bag with unfinished edges

I made a necklace for a friend recently and had no spare box or bag to package it in so I thought it was a good time to try out making a gift box I'd been mulling over in my mind for a while. I used buckram to support this box, which really has more of a bag look to it.

Inside gift box
Inside the box is lined

I'd bought buckram to use for making fairy hats for Gracie when she was younger and somewhat girlier and I massively over bought the stuff. The type of buckram I bought is used for making roll-up shades; it's white, thin and foldable (not sure that word exists). I've thought of many uses for it since then but haven't followed through on any ideas yet apart from this one. I know it exists in heavier, more hessian style weights and I'm sure that would be a great support material for larger jobs.

This box is just a few inches tall. I sandwiched the buckram between two layers of fabric using fusible webbing and I left the edges unfinished. I've created a quick template in the actual size I used but it could easily be scaled up or down. As I uploaded these images the box has reminded me of fabric lunchbags so there are probably similar templates around. If you'd like this one here is the Fabric Box Template and tutorial in a PDF file to download.

I also thought they'd be easy to make for wedding favours, they could be dressed up or down with lace or flowers, buttons, rubber stamps...

Grace car driver

Yesterday was spent on some belated birthday present activity, as you can see, Gracie is way beyond the fairy hat making stage, now she prefers being a "Gracecar" driver ;)

Children went back to school today after half-term break, time to catch up.

Have a great week.

Jx


autumn views and new workshop

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So many pretty views right now, looking up or looking down. This Picasa collage is not great but I'm being lazy at the end of a long week.
Dog & butterfly

 

Naomi and I are back at Moorish for another felt workshop soon. She's over committed on commissions for Christmas already so we'll be teaching people how to make their own pets from fleece. As the Spring Grove Alpaca and sheep herd has grown so has the colour range. Find out more about the workshops here.

I've gone through my current stack of books and recently returned to classics. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by, Carson McCullers and Sweet Thursday by, Steinbeck. I loved them both so much. It's astonishing that McCullers was only twenty-three when she wrote The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. And while reading Sweet Thursday I was struck by how all the issues in the novel are so relevant today, especially concerns about overpopulation. I've always loved Steinbeck and Sweet Thursday made me want to re-read Cannery Row, as Steinbeck revisited the same characters.

Do you have any favourite classics?

Tonight the BBC were recording here in our tiny village and visiting our monthly music club that Tristan has performed at several times. I usually go but a silly cold kept me in tonight. Rumour has it they were here to record the local brother duo Ben & Alfie. They are brilliant to see live and they were just shortlisted for the BBC2 Young Folk Awards – have a listen.

And speaking of listening, Matthew Oomen's new music has been helping me through some creative yet sometimes tedious jobs this week; it can be downloaded here.

I'll be back soon with that template and tutorial mentioned previously.

Have a great weekend. x

Updated - Forgot to mention the dog and the butterfly were made by Naomi Stannard.



 


29 Sep 2013

I've had a lovely birthday morning with my daughter and pup. We've already had breakfast in bed and coffee and pressies. She's spoiled me :) As a sign of the times, teenage son is still asleep, that's okay with us, we know he really needs his sleep!

I had a new tutorial and pattern template planned but a rather gross cold and deadlines too got in the way. Then my photos were crap, so it will come soon. It's a quick and easy sewn item that might be handy for the gift giving season.

Hope you've had a lovely weekend.

Jx

29 Sep 2013

29 Sep 2013

29 Sep 2013


A fun macro lens to play with

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Seed pods with an Easy-Macro Lens

I've coveted a nice macro lens for my DSLR for years but I haven't been able to splurge. When I read about the Easy-Macro lens for camera phones I thought at $15 that's an investment rather easy to risk should it turn out to be rubbish - wish I wasn't so slow to the party, it's been out since 2011.

I was so surprised at what this tiny lens on a rubber band could achieve. While there's not much depth of field and you have to get very close to the subject to focus it, I found it really fun to use. It takes a little practice and it's important to be quite still but I managed to snap some pretty good shots with it anyway. In the process I even discovered tiny, unwelcome creatures living on one of my stalks of dried seed pods – they've since since been released to the wild.

The spider wasn't easy to shoot because I kept getting jumpy every time I got close enough to snap him (you must almost touch the subject to use this lens) but again, not too bad a shot. The snail was very accommodating though and even posed for me.

The Easy-Macro doesn't have the crisp, high definition of a £1500 macro, but at £15 (plus £5 shipping) I've already enjoyed more that my money's worth with it. I've also discovered one of the best things about it is that it's one of those tools the kids can really explore with too. Not only is it easy for children to attach the lens, it's also a great learning tool.

I noticed a Kickstarter campaign was launched to help finance the next version of the lens, unsurprisingly they've reached their goal with time to spare. If you need a budget lens that you can slip in your pocket when you run out the door, give it a try.

Happy Monday!

Unknown seed pod
Snail shell
Snail friend
Spider macro
Dandelion


the magic of mist

One misty morning
View from a misty morning walk

Autumn is drawing in and mornings are becoming cooler and the mist heavier. Last week I snapped a few pictures of magic the mist brings by showing off another sign of the season, web building (the arachnid variety).

The day before, these webs would have been invisible to passerbys. But this misty morning they were visible every step of the way. Here are a few varieties of constructions I saw, oddly, most of the builders were hiding at the time.

Crystal web

Ground webs

Delicate web

Fishing line web

Fine web

Diamond web

Spider flats

This last one is taken of a holly section of hedgerow and looks like a block of flats to me.

I long for the day when I have time to remember to take along a decent camera and stop relying on my phone for images. Having said that, my DSLR is in need of a serious upgrade so until then I'll enjoy what I have to hand and keep in mind it's better than no visual reminders at all.

Speaking of visuals, I took really subpar video of Tristan's performance at the art week that kicked off this weekend, I really must find a better way to record. He was asked to perform a whole set and in spite of the base player getting cold feet at the last moment, he and the drummer still took to the stage and gave a rousing performance, including one of his own compositions this time.

Tris was also interviewed and performed live on local radio which I'll link to as soon as I can sort out the audio file – I'm not sure how, but I'm quite sure I held my breath through the whole thing!

Hope you had a fantastic weekend too, what did you get up to?

x