Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Driftwood Christmas Wreaths and Don't Do's for a Craft Fair!

It was my Christmas Fair at the weekend. Sales weren't amazing, but were respectable. Enough to have made it financially worthwhile to have done it (the stall was very cheap to start with!), probably not enough to make it feel financially worthwhile for the hassle/stress/time on the day, but then if I take into account the fact that it made me get my act together, open up an Etsy shop and print some business cards (that was maybe the most exciting part - they make me feel quite important!) then it was definitely worthwhile.

It was also good experience in actually having a stall again - I did lots of things wrong! Like:

  1. Not taking any photos of my stall, Venetia did take a few for me.
  2. This was largely due to not being organised enough (surprise, surprise!) and frantically attaching price tags as the Fair was due to start, rather than being able to calmly check the front of my stall and take wonderful photos myself!
  3. If I had done this I would have seen that I'd managed to hitch up my table covering unevenly!
  4. I had far too much 'stuff' out on the table. Basically the table was pretty small and cushions take up lots of room. And I find it hard to 'choose' what to have out, or more accurately I find it hard to leave anything out!
  5. I kept forgetting to hand out my beautiful, new business cards! A few people either took one or asked for one, but I'd meant to give them out with every purchase and I did not remember once!
  6. Certain items need improved ways to display them - particularly pixie hats and wreaths. Not quite sure how I could have displayed them wonderfully on Sunday given the space I had, but they definitely need more thought for any future stalls.
  7. I think I'll avoid doing such a local Fair again. I really don't feel comfortable selling to people I know. I'm sure two people bought things just because they felt they ought to, and I had to stop the fruit and veg man buying something he clearly didn't want, just because I buy fruit and veg from him every week and he felt he should reciprocate!
  8. Not taking a drink with me!

Venetia's photo!
It was also interesting to see which things were the most popular. The mice got a huge number of 'ahhs' and comments, not so many sales but they did OK. And the wool generally was much admired and stroked, with the non cream backgrounds being far more successful than the paler backgrounds. From what people said I think there's a high proportion of pets locally (especially dogs), who jump up on sofas and would get mucky paw prints on cream cushions!

There was one cushion I made late the night before the Fair, and my only photos of it are Venetia's from on the day, but I have to show it to you anyway because it was such an amazing piece of embroidery.

Two gorgeous, colourful cockerels pecking for food. I found the embroidery in a Charity Shop quite a while back, I think it had originally been made as a tea towel - can you imagine spending so long creating such a wonderful piece of embroidery and then wiping crockery with it? I hate to think how many hours of work went into it. Anyway, it had been sitting there waiting for me to turn it into something more decorative than a tea towel, and late Saturday night I decided it might very well be something that would sell, so it quickly became a cushion with a simple, envelope back from wool. And it did sell, hurray!

Something that didn't sell at all was my wreaths. I'm sure that was partly because they weren't displayed brilliantly, but maybe there's more to it than that.

They're simple driftwood wreaths, with a little fabric decoration added - either holly or a robin.

Or both!

And possibly my favourite, a Partridge with a Pear. We have a lovely book of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas', with really beautiful illustrations which inspired this one, Maria has to read/sing this every night at the moment with me.

So I've added all these to my Etsy shop now, and hopefully they might be more popular there.

So what about you, have you got any 'don't do's' for Craft Fairs?


Thursday, 3 December 2015

Hickory Dickory Dock Cushions

I am loving the pink and cream ones, they remind me of sugar mice that used to go into Christmas stockings.

The mice are breeding! If they carry on at this rate our house may soon be overrun! And the situation was not helped by finding this bargain old, grey, wool suit the other day in a Charity Shop - think how many mice could be made from this!

Anyway, these 3 were too squished in the basket and wanted new homes.

So I thought I'd better oblige...

Teacup cushions make perfect mouse homes.

And then my favourite mouse house - a clock.

Vintage mother of pearl buttons make the best clock digits, I think I need a real clock with them!

And once I'd made that clock, I had an urge to make a Grandfather Clock...

The proportions didn't work so well for this one, making the clock big enough to look Grandfather like took up too much of my cushion space really, but it wasn't a complete disaster.

Ignore the pencil marks still on here, I obviously took this photo before I washed it.

And I'm feeling a strong sense of achievement this week because I finally opened an Etsy Shop - hurray for me! It got done very late at night, and has not been given quite the time it deserves necessarily, but at least it's done. At the moment it's not overflowing with items (10 there!) and I've stuck with just posting to the UK, hopefully I'll get braver in time! If anyone does go and have a nose over there and spots improvements needed then please shout out. Or if any of you are experienced Etsy sellers (or buyers!) and have any top tips generally for me then they would be very welcome. 


PS Link to shop - WonkyPatchwork, which is, surprise surprise, its name! Hopefully there'll be a permanent link up on the right margin near the top too.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

More Deer Cushions

This week has been up and down. The pithy, easy to recount lows being a dodgy handbrake leading to a car stuck in the mud, and an escaped snake - again! And the corresponding highs - a very helpful neighbouring farmer who towed said car out of the mud, and a snake finally (after 3 days!) back in the tank! (And that sentence really does not begin to do justice to the efforts we went to in order to retrieve that stupid snake!) Another, not to be underestimated, high was Theo washing his own PE/Games kits of his own accord - straight from bag to washing machine and then, drum roll please, also hung up to dry, with absolutely no prompting from me at all. Those with teenage boys (girls too?) may appreciate the enormity of this. I think perhaps it may be connected with the escaped snake and his extreme contriteness at the snake-on-the-loose stress it caused!

Anyway, in amongst these ups and downs, and the many others too long winded and boring to recount, not a lot of sewing has happened. But I still have a couple more deer cushions to share.

A simple silhouette...

And the same silhouette, but also with simple circles sewn onto it...

Christmas is now under a month away, and my Christmas Fair is just a week away - aaagh! I'm off to sneak in a bit of making!


PS I actually did a bit of dreaded 'Black Friday' shopping yesterday! Big Little are having a sale over on Etsy all weekend, 30% off with the code BLACK, so if you fancy making some pixie hats or wild thing scarves as Christmas presents, then now's the time to go and buy the pattern. Very quick, easy makes! I might have just bought the slippers, childrens' cape, and possibly even a grown up coat pattern too!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Doves of peace

I've been struggling to motivate myself to post anything here this past week. Since events in Paris last Friday, the thought of posting pictures of more deer cushions or more mice related making has felt a bit too trite. As much as what happened on Friday itself was horrific and sickening, it's been the growing response to it over this last week which disturbs me even more. Part of this is obviously the calls for 'war' and revenge. Clearly a very predictable response. Isis appear to want to polarise the world into 2 sides and propel us towards war, and their tactics seem to be incredibly successful in this. I have no idea what the answer is as far as military intervention or not is concerned, or what kind of intervention, any which way it's a mess. But it's the hatred and fear which the attacks have invoked which disturb me the most. And particularly the hatred and fear of the refugees fleeing Syria.

It feels more important than ever at this time to show our compassion and common humanity and love, rather than deepen lines of division. And if we don't do this, how much more will we fuel the conflict which seems to be building alarmingly fast? How much more will we push others into taking the path of the extremist 'side'. Take a minute to watch this short video: Don't forget Syria.

This video is from a year ago, I have no idea how genuine it is. But I have no doubt that there are thousands of boys and girls this hungry and hopeless both in Syria, and fleeing their homeland. Here are some statistics from the charity 'Save the Children'.
  • 11,000 children have been killed in Syria and 7.5 million have been affected by the conflict. 
  • 2.1 million Syrian children are now refugees, living in overstretched camps, cramped temporary accommodation or on the move. 
  • More than 10 million people have been forced from their homes and 13.5 million need humanitarian aid. 
  • More than one fifth of the country's education buildings have been either destroyed or damaged, or are being used for military purposes.
These are the children we seem to be turning our backs on, persuading ourselves that they're not our problem, or that it's too dangerous to reach out to them. Even apart from their desperate need right now and how it's incomprehensible that we can ignore that, lets think about the future, not just their future but ours too, and our children's future. As they grow up, these desperate children, full of fear and unwanted, which side of the conflict will they choose? Which 'side' will give them the most hope? Which 'side' will offer them the most appealing future? At the moment I don't feel our 'side' is really offering much at all to them. What will they have to lose? Surely we are creating perfect conditions for increased and continual radicalisation.

I didn't really mean to go into full political rant mode here, it's just kind of hard to restrain it! But this space is more for making. So before I get round to posting more deer and mice, I have a couple of other cushions today.

Some doves, hopefully a fairly universal symbol of peace and love.

They're made from beautifully soft, repurposed wool, and they've been surprisingly calming and comforting both to make and just to look at now. I say 'surprisingly' because they don't actually change anything, or provide any logical reason for comfort or calm. And yet I feel the need to have one on my sofa for their irrational comforting and calming properties!

But I made these 2 for my Christmas Fair stall, and, if they sell, the money from them will go to the Save the Children Syrian Crisis Appeal.

Hopefully, even if we are incapable of resolving this conflict, our children, and all the children across the world, will manage better in the years ahead and they will get it right. We just have to get it right for the children, right now.


Saturday, 7 November 2015

Take 5

1) Did you know that the collective noun for mice is a 'mischief' of mice?

Following very wise advice from Penny and Sarah (thank you both!), to try and have some small things on my Christmas Fair Stall, I've been making lots of mice finger puppets from scraps of wool. I could be slightly addicted to them!

2) I really don't know what the collective noun for pixie hats would be. Perhaps a posse? But there have been lots more of those made too. Some plainish...

And a couple with some applique...

Difficult to see in a photo but the wool for these stars has a lovely sparkly metallic look to it, and they're sewn on with silver thread.
3) Things in the garden have changed a little since the last update (quite a bit tidier, all the blueberries planted, lots of leaves gathered to compost...), but my garden is not pretty enough, nor my garden photography skills good enough, to merit more photos. Instead, I thought I'd share a recipe. We're not generally big fans of butternut squash or pumpkins here (except the seeds, love the seeds roasted!), so I've been searching for inspiration for using them. Last week we had Shepherd's Pie, and they worked really well chopped up finely in that, but at the same time I also made an Indian version of Shepherds Pie and apparently (I'm a traditional Shepherd's Pie kind of person so I'm taking the non traditionalists' word for it here!) they were delicious in that. The original recipe is from 'Curry Easy' by Madhur Jaffrey, here it is:

3 tbsp olive oil
2 cinnamon sticks
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 tsp peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
900g minced lamb
3 tbsp natural yogurt
3 tbsp tomato passata
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp salt
285g potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, when hot put in the cinnamon sticks and let them sizzle for 5 seconds, then add the onion, stir and fry until it just starts to brown at the edges. Add the ginger and garlic, stir for 1 minute. Add the lamb, stir, breaking up the lumps until the meat loses its redness. Add the yogurt, tomato passata and the remaining herbs/spices. Stir for 1 minute. Add the potatoes and 475ml water. Stir and bring to the boil. Cover, lower the heat and cook gently for 30 minutes.

I've made it just like this before and it's always been really popular. It's actually a very mild dish and even I, a complete non curry eater, can manage a mouthful of this, though I much prefer a non spiced version personally, but the curry lovers in the family appreciate it. This time, with several butternut squashes from the garden to use, I did half the potatoes and half cubed squash, and the curry lovers were very happy with it.

And since I have no photos of that, I'll pop in a photo of a few of our pumpkins. If you ever have a green pumpkin that won't turn orange before Halloween, then the girls reckon the perfect thing to do with it is to carve it into a frog.

You knew that middle one was supposed to be a frog, right?

4) Maria has had some thank you cards to do for a while, and there's been a serious lack of motivation to get them done. So last week, I decided to tempt her into doing them by suggesting some sewn cards. Of course it worked!

Perhaps with echoes of Halloween still in our heads, we went for a black cat design. Happily it was also very simple and effective.

Just some green felt eyes cut out and sewn on to the black card with matching green thread. You might be able to see 2 triangular ear shapes sewn up the top in metallic black thread, but they do show up better in real life. And then some white whiskers. Possibly easier to see the sewing on the reverse actually.

I had to work the pedal (Maria's legs aren't long enough!), but with the sewing machine on its slowest setting Maria managed all the turning and guiding of the card herself. It felt like an excellent, simple introduction to machine embroidery skills. We did a few cats and now Maria has plans for some different designs.

5) Near the end of the Summer we had a lovely day out, swimming and picnicking, at a place called 'Salmon Leaps', near Castle Drogo, on Dartmoor.

The river was dammed back in Victorian times to create a large, deeper fishing stretch, and 3 graduating pools were then built into the drop in level, to help the fish when it came to swimming back up stream in the Autumn for spawning.

In the Summer, everyone swam, but Theo in particular loved tumbling down the pools. 

Personally I tried out the pools once and hated being in them. Despite the fact that they were only chest deep at most I really struggled to find my footing in them with the torrent of water knocking you around, and I felt a momentary panic that I could drown in them. Needless to say the girls were not allowed to give them a go!The rest of the stretch of river was lovely for swimming and perhaps I would have enjoyed the pools if the river had been a little less high and fast. But the thing I most wanted to do was to visit again in the Autumn and see if we might be lucky enough to spot salmon leaping up the pools.

So we headed off that way again last week. And there aren't many places I'd say this about, but it was even more beautiful in the Autumn than the Summer! The leaves were just gorgeous.

The water is beautiful and clear, but it has, in the Summer as well, a very rich, peaty brown look to it. Which just seemed to emphasise the reflections of the amazing colours. And the leaves floating downstream really shone out of the water like jewels. There was something quite mesmerising about watching them drift down the current, and dipping a hand in every now and then to pluck out a particularly special one.

A heart shaped leaf!
Theo contemplating a swim!
He couldn't resist, but it was proper cold!

But best of all, we did see salmon leaping up the 3 tiered pools! I found it such a magical sight. I'm afraid they were far too quick for my photography skills, but they were pretty big fish, and there was a steady succession of them as we sat and watched. The river was quite a bit higher and faster than in the Summer when I found it so hard just getting down the pools, so I was full of admiration for those salmon getting up them! Of course gills do give them a huge advantage over me, but even so they were seriously impressive!
There's a slightly camouflaged Sam sitting and watching the salmon leaping in this photo.
It's definitely going to become a regular Autumn outing from now on.