Remembering and helping

An unexpected absence from my blog and an unexpected return too.
Though I haven't been able to keep my blog up I hope there are still followers who will share a moment of reflection with me in tribute to Kathreen and her family.
As I'm online so little these days I only found out last night about the loss of Kathreen and her husband Rob. I had just received email from her the day before her accident which somehow made the news that much more unbelievable. The feeling of having been punched in the stomach hasn't gone away.
I "met" Kathreen in the early Whip Up days and was lucky to be invited to write tutorials and guest posts on Whip Up and create projects for Action Pack too. She was a major spoke in a mighty wheel that became a huge online creative community. On Whip Up she didn't court controversy nor did she shun it. And her voice always seemed to be her own right from the start, not an idealized version of the self she wanted us to see.
Our children are the same ages and my heart hurts for hers and Rob's. If you can offer support, a fund has been set up for their daughter Otilija and son Orlando, you can find the details here.
Thanks Kathreen for all you've given your readers and the wider community too, we'll miss you.
PS - If you've been under an even bigger rock than me and hadn't yet heard this news you can Google Australian news sites to find out more.

Magazines well worth a mention

The Green Parent

I can't believe it's already been four years since I became a regular contributor to The Green Parent. I love coming up with projects for this magazine. Not only are Melissa and Jez (the editor and art director) fantastic to work with, the topics and themes are close to my heart – and I get loads of opportunities to work with my favourite tools, found objects and natural materials. 

The website states "The magazine is produced by a small team of passionate experts who live and breathe the positive message of the magazine." And I believe this is what makes the GP such a quality read. 

It's a brilliant magazine for ecologically minded families, pick it up at Sainsburys, Waitrose, WH Smith, or Boots or ask your newsagent for it. Check out their back issues here. If you can't get yourself a copy, their website and forums are brilliant too. In addition, check out the blog, I like this list of ways to celebrate national buy nothing day which is coming around again.

COVERIssue7.SticksStones.60This next one is an e-mag, but I'm secretly hoping Action Pack will also be available in print one day. It's smart, creative and fun and nicely speaks to slightly older children as well as younger ones. Most kids mags seems to stop entertaining at around the 9 year old mark whereas Action Pack has loads to interest both my 10 and 13 year olds and that's a tall order.

Kathreen, invited me to take part in this latest issue and my helper and I loved every minute of jewellery making with sticks, we've been very into playing with drills lately. It was extra fun pouring through the latest issue and seeing two gorgeous projects from Margie too.


Another brilliant mag for children worth mentioning is Anorak. My two have now grown out of it but I highly recommend it for entertaining content and great, contemporary artwork. Update: Just found out Anorak is now available in French too.

Oh-Comely-coverLastly (in this post), a new find from the newsagents. oh comely. I hope this one lasts a long, long time - I love it. It's hard to define, which can sometimes be a publications downfall, but it covers a wide spectrum of art in a friendly way. In their own words "It's a magazine that inspires people to be creative, talk to their neighbours and explore new things, rather than buy stuff or lose weight. Imagine sitting down with a cup of tea and a creative friend to hear all the strange things she says, all the curious stuff she does, and about the things she loves." 

Inside this mag you'll find musicians, illustrators, crafters, film reviews, social observations, recipes... see hard to define. I think it also speaks to a wide age range, not just 20 - 30 somethings. The fact that the cover always has a 20 something girl on the front cover is, in my opinion, the only fault. I say fault because I don't think it visually speaks to the casual magazine peruser about what's inside – I wouldn't want that to stop people picking it up. 

I don't buy many publications these days but these are all well worth the investment.

Happy Tuesday,


A new pattern and more on the way


This is one of the many branch, twiggy things that has crossed my desk in the last couple of weeks. A festive little offering – I even have it out before the new year (patting myself on the back here). And now I'm slapping my hand because it's four in the morning as I finish this. It will take me at least a week to recover from getting so carried away into the very wee hours.

Partridge in snow

There's no question what, or who inspired this one. If you visit here often you'll know partridges are one of my favourite birds. They are so humorous, and friendly, sidling up to my window and pecking on it to say hello, but it has to be said they're a little stupid too. If a car drives up behind them they try and outrun it, seemingly forgetting that they have wings and can fly. 

This new pattern is part of a three page tutorial and pattern for large and small ornaments (small 1.75" ornament pictured). It marks the beginning of a new way of offering my embroidery and appliqué patterns. I'm now offering all patterns on a donation Pattern-samplebasis. In order to allow myself the many hours it takes to create each one, I'll ask for a voluntary donation for patterns in the future, but there are still dozens of tutorials here on NM that are free.

If I go way back to the beginning, I've given out hundreds of patterns, which I have loved doing, but accepting donations from now on might enable me time to tackle my giant binder full of sketches waiting to become patterns. At the moment I really do have to justify time spent.

I've had mixed feelings about the whole donation thing, I have never even accepted advertising here on NM so I may move them to a different site in the future. I'll think on it more after some sleep....

This new pattern can be found here along with several others – two more are coming soon.

Small hair pin picAnd to see another new twiggy tutorial go to Whip-Up today where I show how I'm using them to tame unruly hair. It's a real privilege to be guest blogging on one of my all time favourite sites. Thanks Kathreen, you're a star!

The Days, a real Dynamic Duo

Image from Pallant House, courtesy of Robin Day

We live on the border of Sussex, a county that has had more than its share of creative geniuses as residents. Robin and Lucienne Day were two that called Sussex home and yesterday I took myself to Chichester for the day to see the interiors exhibit dedicated to the pair at Pallant House, curated by Shanna Shelby.

Image from Pattern People

While the exhibit had a slim collection of Robin Day's furniture, the show had a great collection of Lucienne Day's pattern designs, including a set of dishes. Instead of becoming a painter, Lucienne's post-war sensibility led her to creating designs for utility though her sense of colour and stylized patterns had a very painterly effect. In fact, many of her designs, including her most popular Calyx pattern, wouldn't look out of place stretched on canvas and propped up in Kandinsky's studio.

Lucinene 2

And there were a few single colour patterns I'd never seen before, interesting because she's most associated with jolly, vibrant, post-war prints like the Calyx pattern on the chairs above.


The couple seemed to have a perfect partnership, each artist's designs enhancing the other though they rarely worked together on the same projects. They were incredibly prolific and were together nearly 70 years - both in their nineties when they passed away last year. 


97_2Lg The Days' innovative designs brought both designers early career success, probably in part because they were aware of a changing market. Post war Britain needed uplifting design that was inexpensive to produce for the mass appeal. Though I warm more to his wood based furniture, Robin Day's polypropylene chairs are a perfect example of this idea and they were built to last; they're still used in schools and village halls the world over.

Photo above from the Design Museum

Robin Day's polypropylene chairs and Lucienne Day geometric designs

The textiles in the image above are also a perfect example of how well these designers stayed on top of their game in terms of interior movements. The hard-edge geometric designs followed the loosely influenced nature designs Lucienne had given her earlier pieces.

I'm so happy I managed to get there to see the exhibit, it ends this weekend. As I walked around this gem of a gallery I was reminded of two other artists, a contemporary Canadian couple who work successfully with similar mediums, think you might know who I mean :)

Pallant house
Pallant House, the 18th century residence now makes up part of the gallery

I wish I had time to tell you more about my big day out, like also seeing the Mervyn Peake Centenary exhibit, but I'll save it for later. At the moment I'm darting between play performances, violin recitals, summer concerts and sports days; I'm sure many of you are doing the same.

Hope to be back soon.



Tin inspiration


There is so little time to indulge myself in stitching at the moment but this is one of the things I am eager to get back to. This vintage tin came in a big bundle of goodies from clever, kind Kay; it's inspired some freeform, hand stitching and it will be interesting to see where it leads me. It will most likely be a slow project, perhaps something to dip in and out of over the summer holidays.

Hope the sun shines on you today and if it does send a little our way. Our outdoor summer play progress is getting very, very wet - even inside a huge tent!

Sketching, stitching and inspiration

My mom has fed hummingbirds for as long as I can remember and they love her for it. My parents live on a hill and this led to the name of a wine that they were able to produce this year with grapes offered to them from a vineyard of my aunt and uncle's. Though the wine was meant to keep for another year before drinking, many, many glasses were drunk over our holiday to the sound of my father saying " a year it will be even better." It's already very great but I did bring back a couple of bottles to store for next year.

Ruby Throated hummingbird. This hummingbird ended up being stitched on the go everywhere: on the plane, while visiting friends and cousins, even while the family opened Christmas gifts. I finally handed it to my parents (the recipients) as I climbed into the taxi taking us to the airport to return back to England. My mom photographed it for me because there was not even time for for me to click a single picture. It's actual size, so it's tiny, but I did a lot of stitching and unstitching so it took time. It's hard to see but the ruby throat is made with lots of very small loops made with detached chain stitches. Silk thread would have been nice, but I use what I have on hand these days.

The wine label and the embroidery both started life as the first in a series of sketches of three different types of hummingbirds, remember these? 


I'm loving sketching with stitches these days and have several small projects on the go at once. I'm also enjoying trying more painterly styles. Here are two artists who are inspiring me, one in oils the other in crewel.

This oil painting in progress of Rick Beerhorst's is already gorgeous and I want it. I also adore the crewel work portrait stitching of Cayce Zavaglia; her pieces are extraordinary.

Image from Cross Stitcher magazine

There's a great interview with this incredible stitch artist here at Cross Stitcher magazine online. The latest print issue also happens to feature fabulous Nicole at Follow the White Bunny

Where are your sketches taking you these days?

Beautiful stitches and flying friends


High Texture Embroidery of the Moon, by Rachel, Average Jane Crafter
Grey Wolf, by K, Fog and Swell
Slow Felt, by Pat, zencrafting 
Bird brooch, by Geninne, Geninne's Art Blog
Stitched Tit, by Margie, Resurrection Fern 
Goldfinch WIP, gift for my MIL

The past two wet and windy weeks have been less than inspiring for photo taking but I've seen a lot of inspiring stitches in the little blog reading time that I've had. Above are a few of my favourite projects and this post was inspired by the first image, found on Rachel's site. If you haven't already read the many posts about this project that have spread round the web, do so now. The beauty in this moon piece is a perfect example of how the best art stems from passion. She LOVES everything space related and every stitch tells that story.


Update: This moonscape piece of Rachel's was entered in the Etsy, NASA craft contest. Though Rachel was originally told her embroidery didn't make it through the last round of voting, turns out errors were made and she has made it through. The voting is now open again. If you're an Etsy user and want to help Rachel along, vote for her here.


The second image is of K's Grey wolf, I adore her creatures, the materials and textures she uses.

Next, Pat's Slow felt stitches. The colours and the textures here are so inspiring too. Though I'm still using lots of linen for stitching, autumn is the perfect time to bring out the wool. Pat's gorgeous piece and its colours remind me of that.

Geninne's Bird brooch. These tiny stitches and the sweet little face just make me smile, like all the other art Geninne makes.

Margie's Blue Tit. I love the birds Margie has ben stitching on hankies; her sparrow is amazing! But I was reminded of her Blue Tit because lots of these little friends have active in our garden this week, wanting me to fill up the feeders, so I have. Not only that but I came home the day before yesterday to find one in our bedroom. Actually, I thought it was one but soon discovered it was a pair of them. Luckily I ushered them safely back outside, but they did leave reminders of themselves throughout our bedroom.

Lastly, that goldfinch pattern I've been testing (from the series of our garden birds) I'm happy with. This one will become a Christmas present for my MIL, lucky she doesn't read NM much :) I've been using a very loose rice stitch here because I'm running out of time for gift making and thought it would be quick, turns out it hasn't been all that quick. We have decided to head to California for Christmas this year, that means less time for festive preparations.

For some reason, this goldfinch stitchery has been making me feel like breaking out the oil paints. My mind does wander, it's no wonder why I will always have piles of WIPs, but I'm okay with that.


The wet, windy, wild weather we've had the last couple of weeks hasn't kept me indoors too many days. The leaves are gone but there's till amazing colour to be found. Many trees are wearing socks of moss helped on by lots of rain.

So much busyness around here at the moment which I'm sure is the same with most of you this time of year. Work being done on the house we live in, project deadlines, school shows to attend, and finishing patterns. It really will be done this week (I know I said that last week, this time I mean it... I think ;)

Hope you're enjoying Sunday and your week ahead has only good surprises in store. What have you been enjoying this weekend?


P.S. I just saw this beautiful bit of stitching on Margie's Flickr, made by Sonia - more inspiration.

More re-purposing and things

A lot of organizing has been taking place around here. Mainly the kind that bears invisible fruit, like figuring out how to get children to and from school through snow and ice packed roads. But there are a few other items checked off my list that feel somewhat more productive, like the repurposed jean project I'm just finishing for The Green Parent. It's quick, easy and super useful and after I finished the first sample Gracie snapped it up to claim it as her own (she's my personal barometer for success.)

I'd forgotten how lovely it is to work with old denim and I've fallen in love with the soft, worn-in utility fabric all over again; it got my head spinning on to more new projects using the garment remnants. But for now I have a new pattern on the go that I'm loving stitching up - this one is going on an under shirt for Gracie. The design is inspired by Tristan and the art of Mabel Lucie Attwell (lovely, chubby cheeked children.)

After several inches of more snow yesterday, today it seems the melt has begun. Our snow gal is trying to squeeze into her bikini, I think it will happen soon. We can nearly see the road again and the weather report says we might even see sunshine on Sunday.

Meanwhile, my thoughts are with two overseas friends this week who have both said good-bye to their mums, hugs to them from across the pond. Also, with the people of Haiti and the difficulties they're facing; I hope there will be a way for us to help in some small way from a distance.

Happy Thursday to you :)

Sprinting into year 3


Technically this giveaway should be in May, but we'll be away in Holland visiting some family next week during our school half-term break. I'll draw a name or do the number generator thing the evening of June first.

This contest is open to everyone everywhere, blog or no blog, from the UK to Kathmandu. Simply leave a comment on this post to enter. As usual, be sure to enter an email address not just a Typepad profile or I may have no way to contact you if you win (email addresses are not visible to blog readers.)

The winner will receive the following:

1. Grandma's bed pincushion, the prize cushion may not be the one pictured, I'm working on a couple more with the same materials. I will ship the winner my best version.

2. Ten squares of Liberty cotton fabrics (the ones pictured) all are at least 14 cm (5.5 inches) square.

3. Over a metre of antique, handmade lace trim; perfect for a pillow case or to edge a shelf.

4. A set of four large mother of pearl buttons (one inch) and two matching etched glass buttons.

5. A surprise gift from our trip to Holland (I can tell you it won't be cheese and as this is a family blog, it won't be from the Red Light District either.) The little Dutch doll pictured is not included in the prize package, she's simply a representative.

About Grandma: turns out it wasn't Grandma after all, it was a big, bad wolf. But Grandma is fine and the wolf won't be harming anyone, he's stuck up high on my sewing room shelf and can't get down.

Inspiration is a funny thing, here's the story of Grandma's bed.

If I'm sewing while sitting on the sofa I stick my needles into the arm of the sofa next to me but our sofa fabric is a perfect colour to camouflage needles.

After school one day recently, tired Gracie lay her head on the side of the sofa and got poked with one of my hidden needles. Feeling terrible, I decided to make a little mattress shaped pincushion that could sit nicely on the arm of the sofa and vowed never to stick needles into furniture again.

So I made the mattress but decided it would look sweet with a wire-work headboard. Then I thought the mini bed would be perfect for a little wolf dressed in Grandma's clothes; so then came the wolf followed by Grandma's night dress and cap. But of course the wolf, though clothed, looked cold so then came the tiny quilt.

The end

Note: Gracie was fine, no blood drawn :)

Incidentally, I usually get my best ideas while I'm brushing my teeth, when or how do you get yours?

Have a great Monday :)

A week of wow


Sunshine has appeared and it's warm enough to go out without a scarf and gloves, and today, even a coat!


Our new neighbours. Nothing better than watching them hop around the fields of sunshine. Underexposed shot but their mummy came and gave me the eye so I had no time to get a better one.


My ten year old boy played guitar at Canterbury Cathedral and is performing there again tomorrow with his school singing in a performance of David Fanshawe's African Sanctus. No pictures, they're not allowed. For me this one is a very big wow. He was only just a little seven pounder, born in a hospital a few streets away - how'd that happen?

And if the sun, the lambs and son's performance weren't enough, hubby and I were invited to see Snow Patrol in London on Saturday. It was a last minute offer of four free tickets with good friends and it was brilliant, actually better. They were on top form and seemed genuinely shocked at their ability to fill 20,000 seats - bless. THEN, we arrived at our seats to find they were in a suite with a free bar and dinner, clearly some good karma has been accumulated somewhere. And if you've paid for cocktails in London before you'll know it must be a whole lot of karma.

And while on the subject of amazing Celtic connected music, why is it this band isn't HUGE? Lead singer, Glen Hansard even has an Academy Award under his belt for his song from Once, one of my favourite movies ever, ever. At the moment I can't get enough of The Frame's Set List, live CD, just listen. If they don't tour the UK a quick trip to Dublin will be in order to see them on their home turf.

Www-18-3-09I just squeezed in under the wire for wwW here's a quickie; a favourite Noa Noa blouse and an even bigger favourite, my thrifted £3, 1950s cashmere cardie.

If I took ten minutes to figure out the self-timer on my little camera I might have less awkward shots, but where's the fun in that?

I wish all weeks could be this great, but if all weeks were I guess the truly great ones would just become average. Obviously I need to sleep now.