Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas all, I hope it was a joyful time for everyone! I have had a brief but welcome break from the day job, and recovered from the furious making I was doing for the rounds of the Christmas fairs (more on which later).
But that's not to say I've been idle; in the last two weeks I've squeezed in a bit of selfish knitting (a lovely stripey snood, all for me!)...
....finished 2 dresses for a customer, with a bag to match, altered a vintage dress of my own that's been on the to do list for ages......
....and after a Christmas Day walk on the beach....
...successfully made a feast for me and my boyfriend on our first ever Christmas away from the parents, including Delia's Boeuf en Croute, which I chose to wrap like pressies, with bows and everything! (stopped short of making individual pastry gift tags with our name on)....
All in all a very productive time!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Learning Curves

We all know Christmas gets earlier every year, but for the last two years I haven't minded at all. Us handcrafters need to get the prep in if we're to make a success of the festive season and this last month has seen me tied to my knitting hamper churning out baubles by the tree-load.

I started my little business last November and one of the first things I had for sale were my knitted Fairisle motif baubles. I LOVE those baubles, they get a lot of attention when I've had them at fairs and I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I've got them completely finished. But they take a long time to make an they're very easy to cock up, I can't count the times I've had to stop and unpick rows of work that took me an age to do in the first place. It's been an important learning curve, realising that sometimes the most beautiful things aren't the most sale-able things. So this year I've been finding new ways of making beautiful baubles that's don't drive me crazy or take an entire day to finish. My Number 1 Bauble Revelation this year has been: Colour Slip Patterns.

Why have I only just discovered this fantastic technique?! Colour slip patterns work by knitting individual rows in different colours and using slipped stitches to bring the previous rows colour into the current row, if you get me? You can probably tell from the picture on the left how it works, and it's AMAZING. With Fairisle colour techniques you have 2 or more colours of yarn in action in each row, with colour slip patterns like the one I used you only have the one colour per row, so much less tangling but just as much fun! These Chevron Baubles are some of my favourites and they're so easy to change up between colour schemes and sizes.

My other Bauble Revelation for 2011 has been the Unexpected Benefits of Mistaken Ordering. That is, I ordered a load of wool, it was the wrong colours, but in the end they were better colours.
I had been using some not so great 100% Merino Wool yarn from Abakhans, nice finish but quite splitty to work with. So this year I decided to try out Cascade 220, it was important for me that it was all wool (more on this in a future post) and coming in larger skeins and a better price it seemed a good deal all round. But I can't find it in shops in Liverpool, so I had to rely on internet stores and PDF shade cards to make my choices. What I thought was a lovely midnight-y blue and a paler sky blue for snowy night snowflakey scenes turned out to be teal and turqoise. PANIC I thought! What do I do now?! That's not Christmas!

When I started playing round with the other colours I'd bought I realised that what I had was actually much more interesting and, dare I say it, on trend? Let's hear it for happy accidents!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Grand Days Out

Last weekend was a very inspiring one for me, with trips to both the Liverpool Design Show and Capstans Bazaar, how great is it that both these events were happening in the city on the same weekend?
Hand printed linens, woven in Burnley, by Thorody.

I will admit I was a little apprehensive of the Design show, I tend to associate 'design' with a harder, more clinical aesthetic, as opposed to the obvious human input in works we describe as 'craft' or 'art'. But that's just my own prejudice, and how wrong was I?! The Design show was a great mix of furniture, jewellery, fashion, textiles and home wares, from individual designers, makers and studio groups, some of whom were there in person presenting their own work.

The standout exhibitors for me were mainly textile practitioners. Orwell and Goode, who's beautiful stag print fabrics, prints and home wares make me drool every time I see them, had a beautifully abundant stand with a huge range of products on offer, if money were no object my flat would be a shrine to all things stag. Thorody had the advantage of being the first stand you saw on entering the hall, and also had the joy of being situated by the exposed tile flooring the hall is famous for. The colours and textures in their hand printed linens looked beautiful beside the Minton tiled floor.
One of Katie Heeks' beautiful 3d gardens.

North-West based designers Katie Heeks and Faye Power both had beautiful work on display, and both had special interest for me as they were using fabric designs I've used myself, it's always interesting to see how other people use the same materials in different ways. Katie Heeks' beautiful  3D scenes, made of fabric laminated plywood were magical and fragile looking in kaleidoscopic colours and textures. Faye Powers textiles and ceramics were beautiful combinations of hand illustration and collage techniques, simple but striking.

Slightly outside of my usual sphere of interest was the jeweller Alice Bo-Wen Chang. Alice's mind-blowingly intricate, sculptural designs appealed to the bit of me that enjoys making 1:25 scale models of tables and chairs (not just for fun you understand, but for my secret life as a theatre designer). Her training as an architect is apparent in the precision and rigour of her work, as well as the manipulation of space and line.

I made a comparatively brief visit to Capstans Bazaar I'm afraid, might have been the lack of cake in my system, or the ill boyfriend I had dragged along with me, but a quick whizz around was all I could muster, that's not to say there wasn't some great work on display here too though. Purlesque, Becka Griffin, Snap and Dazzle and Panda Perdu to name a few. Next time I will make a day of it, drink copious tea, get my weekly cake ration in (preferably Leaf's amazing chocolate brownies, or cheesecake, or lemon cake....) and enjoy a leisurely stroll round!

Friday, 7 October 2011


First post! Like walking on fresh snow, or breaking that papery foil seal on a new jar of Nutella! (it's been far too long since I bought a jar of Nutella and I may now have to rectify that). Hopefully I'll be able to keep this blog rolling along with some interesting posts about the things I've seen and the work that I'm making, and perhaps someone will even want to read it!

I've been making and selling things for just over a year now, via my Etsy store, and also doing commissions for friends and family, and family of friends, friends of family, you know how it is. This September I took part in my first 2 craft fairs, which I think went pretty well, it's a very rewarding experience, being able to talk to the people buying your work and to see the reactions of people browsing. Hopefully I'll be fitting a few more in as we get going for Christmas, have to wait and see!

I feel very lucky to be living and working in Liverpool at the moment, there's a lot going on and a great network of other designer-makers who I've been meeting over the last few months. This weekend I'll be taking myself to see the Liverpool Design Festival at St Georges Hall, which I'm very excited about, I'd been meaning to go last year but never got round to it so I'll be taking full advantage this year. And on Sunday I'm hoping to get down to Capstan's Bazaar at Leaf and see some of the other Merseyside Etsyans and perhaps have a sneaky bit of cake while I'm there!

So next week I may well have lots to share about my excursions, but for now I'll say good bye!
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