Expect the unexpected

Sparrowhawk, image by Hiyashi Haka via Flickr

This morning I saw a sparrowhawk carrying off a young bird in it's talons. That bird was probably hopping along minding it's own business, pecking the frozen ground in search of loose seeds and grubs when suddenly two giant feet appeared out of nowhere and whisked her away.

It's easy to feel like a small, defenceless bird when things happen unexpectedly. Lately I've been involved in lots of quick action to take control and minimize nasty surprises. It's been busy and a little scary but mostly empowering. I've got an even busier time ahead with lots of personal changes over the next few months but I'm sure the outcome will be good.

Pippi's patches
Though I haven't been around here on the blog there's been a lot of fun stuff happening behind the scenes. We fashioned a Pippi Longstocking hairstyle for Gracie for a book character day at school, it involved aluminium wire bending and wrapping and plaiting and pinning and it worked! She created her own outfit to match the hairstyle.

Gracie has also decided dipping lollipops in chocolate is culinary genius and so do her school friends who nearly knocked her over to buy them. The children are being encouraged at school to create a business to fund a charity; selling out her lollies two days in a row in a matter of minutes means she's off to a bloomin good start.

Shuffle Board - All 3
And on one of our recent subzero days Tristan invented an indoor shuffleboard game with one of my empty ribbon spools, he'll link to his own tutorial soon but it's super fun to play – it's been our post-dinner entertainment this week.

Patchwork mending
I've been hand stitching some patchwork strips to repair my ageing linen duvet cover. I'll probably need to bring in the machine though to speed up the process because the tear is becoming too big too fast. 

Blue tit feast
The birds in the garden (especially the blue tits) have been acting as if it's spring, nasty shock they had with the big freeze this week. We added an extra fatball feeder before the serious cold set in to help out.

And we've finally had enough snow for snowman building this week but a little more tobogganing action before the winter ends would be nice. Our snowman likes cuddles, see? He's asking you for one now (careful though he gets all melty).

 Happy Wednesday, hope to see you soon,


Two winners

Sorry to be so late for the contest winners, our crappy Internet service is down again so I'm attempting to post this via the Typepad phone app.

My two helpers and I have used a number generator to choose two winners. The winner of the first prize is Margie Oomen. Margie winning is both fantastic as she's the driving inspiration for me and my friend the hook getting together again, and funny because she could probably crochet anything she wants with her hands tied behind her back. It's also lovely that the winner listed "friends" at the top of her favourite makes this year, that's Margie :)

The winner of the pattern and fabrics is Evelene Sterling. Evelene has been enjoying making ruffled aprons for herself, friends and family, I hope she enjoys making a tunic too!

I will be in touch with the winners.

Thanks to all who entered and to all who have stopped by and said "hello" over the past four years.

Have a great weekend, do something you love, spend it with people you love.


PS, I'd show the number generator results but can't figure out how to from a phone.

Two winners

Looking back to look forward and a giveaway

Prize necklace1

Birthdays are the only times I look backwards and forwards. Normally I just focus on what's in front of me at the moment and don't contemplate the past or future much, that tends to lead to disorganization, maybe it's worth it for the sake of a little more peace of mind.

Celebrating a fourth birthday here on NM has made me realize how much I depend on this journal to document family life as well as creative endeavours. If I were to plan the next year, amongst the many things I want to do is return to documenting more in print, not just digitally. 

Pattern bundle

This past year I've loved squeezing in crochet time. I tried mixing this new crush on crochet with my old love of found pottery fragments. Inspired by Margie's sea glass and crochet necklaces, I realized I could show off some of my favourite pieces using crochet so I've made a few necklaces for myself and for gifts.

The piece above was found in our garden, it's probably Victorian. I loved finding this little bunch of flowers and knew I wanted to pair it with some vintage blue cotton and antique glass buttons. The necklace will be my first blog birthday prize.

A second winner will receive the Anna Tunic pattern by Amy Butler along with a few pieces of fabric (pattern details here). The fabrics aren't large enough to make the Tunic but they're not small enough to call scraps either. The pattern was a surprise gift when I renewed my Selvedge subscription and though I like the pattern, I know there's a whole lot of other sewing I want to do before I'd ever get around to making it for myself.

To enter this giveaway, leave a comment on this post telling me what you've most enjoyed making over the past year. The contest will end on Friday, June 3rd when I draw the name of two winners. I will post each prize anywhere in the world so it is open to everyone. Please make sure your email is entered when you comment.

Bunny-pattern,-small And not to leave out another of my firm favourites, embroidery, I will offer this free pattern to all who request it. It's inspired by Gracie and the dozens of bunnies enjoying our overgrown garden at the moment, including a baby bunny that's entirely black!

On a side note, in addition to bunnies, I'm loving drawing, stitching and photographing birds right now and caught site of a pair of bullfinches yesterday - fantastic, nearly neon red breasts. Speaking of amazing birds and amazing Margie, look at these. Wish I could see the show she's curating here which features five incredibly talented, bird-loving artists.

Have a happy Monday.




Rambling thoughts

Tree canopy

Being back on a school timetable means fitting in my morning hill walk once again. I love the familiar path my feet take each morning while Pippi trots alongside stopping at her own favourite spots here and there. I was amazed on Tuesday to find the same paths I trod three weeks ago now covered by a thick canopy of leaves. These walks give my brain a chance to ramble, it's very good at rambling, even when I don't want it to. Here's an example.

Copying is bad. Whether it's school work, peoples' art or an author's words. A person who copies another person's work not only acts immorally but also robs him or herself of the chance to grow creatively. I've had work copied, and believe me, it's more than a little heartbreaking to open a book and find a project I created on someone else's printed pages; but I chose to do nothing because I'd rather move on than fight. It seems nowadays more people than not have had a similar problem, maybe I should have had the heart to say something. It's good to keep in mind that there are positive ways of trying to correct these wrongs and that some people just need educating about online courtesy and copyright practices. Pat has an excellent post about the subject and World Intellectual Property Day and Pam has a very well worded letter that she has generously offered to share here.

When I chose to make this online journal public, I decided from the start to keep my most treasured projects to myself, my friends and family or for paid publication; as I discussed with a friend recently, my very favourite things don't make it onto this blog space. The Internet is a wonderful place where anyone can find almost anything but it can also be a terrible place for the very same reason.

Etsy is a well known hotbed of talent, but also an open sourcebook for copycats and it seems there's little Etsy can (or will) do about it. Two friends, Lisa and Sonia, each for their own reasons, have left the Etsy umbrella and are now selling with Big Cartel. For a seller of handmade work it's important to look long and hard at the pros and cons of various selling platforms. Sonia gave a detailed and eloquent explanation for why she made the move, it made me think (and of course ramble;) I currently pay a monthly fee to a very good e-commerce company for my neglected Stitch Village shop but I will probably change to Big Cartel myself, it's templates are neater and it's less expensive for a small time seller like me. I'm working towards selling more items soon.

Quickie gift
Quick chain stitch gift

Last night Gracie asked me to make a quick birthday gift for the older sister of a friend, she's turning 11 today. I put together this necklace using just a chain stitch and vintage beads. Gracie was so happy that we could create a present in such a short space of time (about 20 mins); I'm lucky G values handmade gifts.

There are many more subjects for my ramblings that I wanted to share but this is getting way too long. I'll save my love of the RAC who saved me on Easter Sunday, my link to a new favourite site found via Erin, recently found treasures and fun WIPs for later. I end with another thank you for more unexpected gifts that have come to me in the post. I'm so touched by the thoughtfulness of friends.

I hope this hasn't been too long and dull but sometimes links to the mundane stuff is helpful to me, thought it might be for you too.

Happy Friday!


P.S. Happy wedding William and Kate.

Walking paths, new bag and giveaway too

A new favourite path

I have many images from the couple weeks I've been away, and many more stored up in my head. I've been doing a whole lot of walking, exploring paths and discovering new places to roam. The path above is reached by trekking from our house and over a few fields with countryside views. 

Multi-trunk tree

Tristan has always enjoyed long walks, now Gracie has grown to really love them too. Showing her this place I smiled inside as she stopped to point things out to me along the way, gnarly trunks, pretty lichen, an the shapes of fallen branches. 

This tree is still growing!

 I've also been exploring in a big country park up on the South Downs. The geology there fascinates me. One section I pass through is littered with white, flint nodules, I love their crazy shapes and sometimes I just have to pop them in my pocket; like this one.

White flint nodule

And imagine my joy when I took it out of my pocket and find a clam shell fossilsed on the other side. Click the image to see it larger.

Clam shell fossil

Finally, I've been writing up a pattern for a bag I've been meaning to get around to for a long time (it's nearly ready Becki!). I've been using my first sample continually since I finished it. I wanted a bag, that I could toss all my foraged finds into that also has a zippered pocket for keys, a phone & things. I also wanted it to be breathable, so damp things like seashells don't make it musty that's why I gave it a hessian base. 


Gracie took this image; see her in the shadow. We're collecting bundles of sticks for winter fires but there's also a large water bottle in the bottom (making it saggy :) I've been ultra-simplifying the pattern so that anyone can make this. I've also been refining the shape a bit, the flap fits better than the one in this first sample. It's very nearly ready so I'll give more details about it soon.

And the giveaway


BookletThe new bag has also been useful at the Wednesday boot fair I've visited recently. I've had fairly good luck there finding vintage sewing and crochet supplies - some of the bounty is included here for the promised giveaway.

The prize includes:

  • Two rolls of unused, vintage Coat's crochet cotton
  • 12 vintage, bean shaped green glass beads, (probably Czechoslovakian)
  • Two crochet hooks, one metal 2mm and a bamboo 4mm
  • One large flower shaped wooden button
  • A bag of new, small glass beads (similar size to those used on the futuregirl bracelet here)
  • One large mother of pearl button
  • A vintage needlework magazine 

I will ship anywhere and the prize drawing will be on Monday, November 1st. I'll have another, non-supplies related giveaway coming up soon too.

UPDATE: Forgot to say, just leave a comment on this post, thanks.

Flickr will have more images I've taken while away. The rain just started pouring down and we have a wood fire ready to snuggle up to. Enjoy your weekend!

Because it's warm and sunny

Tip toe

What do you do when you have three deadlines, a husband with a client on the phone and children who have homework? Go to the beach, because it's sunny and warm and it is Sunday.

Sand flare

It wasn't long after arriving that a bit of sand got lodged behind my lens :( See it up there on the right ruining my nice gentle flare? I hope I can disassemble it and clean it myself. Lucky it's just my pocket camera - of course if I didn't toss it in my pocket there'd probably not be sand behind the lens.

Sandy lens

Soaking up the warm sun on a breeze-less day while the kids were wading and the puppy happily cavorting... a real treat. I even stole a minute to make a quick shell necklace for little G.

Sunset & silouhette

Then back home for a quick dinner, a return to the homework, baths and early bed. But the evening sun streaming through this window stops me in my tracks every time.

Tomorrow it's back to a busy week ahead so I won't be around much. And I just found out my dad is having heart surgery on Thursday, the type of news that brings life back into perspective and makes me happy to have spent the afternoon with my little family on the beach, ignoring deadlines for just one more day.

Have a lovely week. I hope you give yourself the time to soak up a little sun and if you're lucky enough to be able to, give your dad an extra big hug.



WIP, WIP hooray...

Crochet necklace, this one's for me 

Another busy few days in what we thought would be a lazy-dazy summer. We had a fun visit with a lovely friend, and her family, an early birthday celebration for Tris that lasted a couple of days and today, finally an attempt at cleaning house (but here I am instead.) 

I've been enjoying playing with bits and pieces to add to crochet necklaces; experimenting with different ways to add beads and different stitches to strengthen the chain for heavier beads. And when my sweet mama was visiting she bought me one of these fancy tools to grind down sharp edges of found objects I'm crocheting around. Am I the only one whose mother would prefer to browse hardware stores with me than shoe shops? 

Comma on a buddleja (butterfly bush) in full bloom attracting visitors

Also, the buddleja bush is in full bloom and hundreds of butterflies are flocking to it. There are peacocks, red admirals, commas, painted ladies, common blues and brimstones. And probably many more that I don't recognise. Loads of honey bees are also attracted to it and we're seeing many more bees this year than last. If you have a garden and are without a buddleja, plant one, the butterflies are so entertaining. I've read they're easy to grow from cuttings, so there you go, free entertainment.

Lace anniversary

Yesterday was also our 13th anniversary. Apparently it's lace this year, a card and bookmark, but not much of a photograph - neither are as wonky as they look here. I can't say it's been the easiest year for hubby and I, maybe it's the curse of number thirteen. I'm sure 14 will be much luckier.

I'm just adding a clasp to the necklace above, back soon with to model it around me neck.

Happy Monday!

If I can do it, you can too...

Blue covered stone I made, white stone and standing mushroom, by Margie 

I could hardly believe that just seconds after putting up my last post the purl bee posted this tutorial by Margie. I swiftly grabbed a stone, thread and hook and started stitching. I'm not sure I followed the pattern exactly but it's okay, I still love it. I made this one as a mate to the sweet white one Margie made and I'm so excited to have made my very own. 

The stitches really are simple so if you're in the process of learning crochet give it a try. Really, if I can do it, you can too.

In the garden of a nearby pub

And these are some images from our day at a pub nearby. This pub has the nicest garden we've ever been to and as you can see, doggies are welcome too. There's a beautiful kitchen garden and little nooks where you can curl up with a book, the Sunday papers, or in my case, a bit of crochet. I'm hoping the sun will shine brightly tomorrow when we meet our lovely Sonia and family in this very place - I can't wait!

If you visit Hampshire and are in the Petersfield area, email me for directions to this special spot. Oh, I forgot to mention, the food is all local and amazing and the regional brews are definitely worth a taste as well.

 More images of our favourite pub on Flickr.  

Sharing inspiration

Hand embroidered luncheon table cloth, only £3 !

When I happen upon antique lace, embroidery or old linens at boot fairs, I find it impossible to haggle over prices. The work and love poured into every thread is always worth so much more than the price being charged. A couple of weeks ago I bought this large, luncheon-style, hand-embroidered table cloth from an elderly woman who stitched it herself when she was 11. She nearly apologised for charging me £3. I wanted to give her a little extra but she wouldn't take it. When I told her stitching crafts are popular again and that I love teaching little ones to embroider it warmed her heart more than a few extra pounds would have done.

Though embroidery is probably still my favourite type of stitching, I'm still really enjoying my quest to crochet. Admittedly, it hasn't been the easiest task, so I thought I would share some of the individuals who have inspired me to persevere.

Crochet covered stone and crochet+Liberty stone mushroom by Margie 

I've probably said it before, but Margie is one of the cleverest people I know and she's inspiring in so many ways. Her pretty, lacey, crochet covered stones and creations are gorgeous and highly coveted. I feel lucky to have my very own to look at every day. She also kindly offers many, many tutorials on her blog, crochet among them. Little G has been begging for a tiny pocket necklace like this for one of her stones (we have no pretty acorns around here so a stone it will be.) I dream of one day sitting on Margie's big porch, stitching with her side-by-side.

Grey Crochet Motif Necklace, un jardin de hilo 

Olivia, from un jardin de hilo, has such perfect looking stitches I can only marvel at the beauty. I love her colour choices too, maybe grey wasn't the best example, but I really adore this motif. Her Etsy shop is definitely on my wish list - I can't decide on which piece, really any of them would please me very much thank-you! If you crochet, Olivia also offers a few tutorials (in both diagram and instruction form.) Scroll through her site to find the tutorials, you'll be glad you did.

Porcelain lace, by Kristen Wicklund, Photograph by Laure Joliet

Found via Design for Mankind, this porcelain lace may not be soft to the touch but it is sweet and so pretty to behold. I fancy having a whole wall of Kristen Wicklund's porcelain crochet, just like the one hung at her solo show at Heath Ceramics in Los Angeles. 

Reincarnation, a work-in-progress crocheted from used plastic bags gathered in New York

Kristen also works crochet on a very big scale. I've seen plastic bags re-purposed in many ways, but I've never seen them looking this pretty. Maybe she'll exhibit in London one day - I'd love to see her work in three dimensions. To view much more of her work in two dimensions also see Kristen's Flickr photostream.

Nanou's Forest Little Miss

Nanou's Forest Friends combine two of my favourite things, wood and crochet, in the most magical way. I love the way Nanou brings fallen branches to life then dresses them up in fancy crocheted clothes. See more of Nanou's friend's on Flickr.

If you'd like to get "hooked" too it's definitely worth mentioning again two other people whose sites helped rekindled my interest in crochet. Alice, from Futuregirl; I tried her bracelet pattern early on with success, and Lucy of Attic 24. Lucy's hexagon pattern encouraged me to try new stitches and stretch myself, I even managed a scarf.

I hope you've all enjoyed the weekend as much as I have. Today was spent in the beautiful garden of a local pub (yes the whole day.) It was our last full day with my visiting mom and dad and we were bathed with warm sun while sipping long cool drinks. It was so pretty I had to take a few photos, they may make it to my Flickr at some point soon. 

Have a good week!