Handmade

Spring Meadow Handspun {handmade}

24/03/2017

If using sticks to turn string into clothes is magic, spinning is pure alchemy.  It’s not particularly difficult once you’ve got the knack, but taking fluff and coming out with good usable yarn makes you feel like you’re being very very clever.

My spinning wheel has mostly sat quiet since the babies started arriving; a spinning wheel in full flight has far too many little gaps irresistible to tiny fingers to say nothing of two rows of metal hooks whirling around on the flyer and it seemed far easier to stick with knitting and crochet for a while.  I’ve had it out for them occasionally; mostly to demonstrate ‘Wind the bobbin up’; if you’ve ever wondered what on earth that nursery rhyme it about, it’s spinning.  First you wind the bobbin up; the spin.  Then you wind it back again; plying.  Then you pull pull; after you’ve skeined the yarn and let it soak for a little you put your hands into each end of the loop and pull them apart to even the twist.  And clap clap clap; well to finish the yarn you grab hold of the loop of skeined yarn and thwack it against your kitchen cupboards or the fridge to felt it very slightly and help it all hold together.

Space for the Butterflies - Spring Meadows Handspun Yarn

I’ve no idea what the pointing to ceiling and floor is about, it’s probably weaving.

But the other day I realised that the children are old enough to be able to follow “keep your hands clear”, and I had an itching to do something even more calm and meditative than knitting and crochet, so I pulled out the wheel.  In my fibre stash I found a bundle of Falkland Merino, soft as butter and dyed into the Spring Meadows colourway by BabylongLegs.  I think I bought it at Wonderwool Wales years and years and years ago so it was high time it saw the light of day.

I had every intention of taking photos before and during the process but when the decision is between not spinning or no photos because all the best craft projects are started after dark, the startitis won out.  If you follow me on Instagram then you might have seen the work in progress on my stories.

Space for the Butterflies - Spring Meadows Handspun Yarn

I’m not sure what I’d planned for it at the time; most of my fibre was bought with the intention of turning it into sock yarn, and its true that the more you spin the thinner you end up spinning, and the more chance you’ve got of ending up with sock yarn, but for this I challenged myself to spin thicker, aiming for a DK-Aran sort of a weight.

Space for the Butterflies - Spring Meadows Handspun Yarn

I spun the whole lot onto one bobbin, then let it rest overnight and the next day Navajo plyed it back.  Chain plying is a lovely way to preserve the colour changes, although I’m never too precise about it and there are plenty of barber pole sections of brown into green or peach into yellow.

Space for the Butterflies - Spring Meadows Handspun Yarn

And once skeined and washed and dryed in the garden on a brisk Spring afternoon, it was finished.  I’m a little bit thick and thin on the spinning but it evened out in the plying and I’ve ended up with 124 yards of a gorgeous greeny orange brown that’s probably on the bulky side of aran at the very least.

Space for the Butterflies - Spring Meadows Handspun Yarn

So what is it to be? Well Kitty wants a hat or mittens, Elma just wants it to cuddle, and I think it might best suit the small Pip Squeak as the patterned yoke to a nice cosy jumper, possibly with cream as the background even if that is ridiculously impractical for a small boy.  I’m still waiting for the perfect inspiration to strike and then I’ll know exactly what it’s meant to be, so if you have any ideas, please shout them out.

Space for the Butterflies - Spring Meadows Handspun Yarn

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On

Family Photography {the ordinary moments}

Delightfully messy

19/03/2017

Space for the Butterflies - Making a mess

We sold our house.  It is frankly a phenomenal relief, just as long as we gloss over the fact that we’re due to exchange in May and we don’t have anywhere to move to yet.  We’re working on it, we’ve got back up plans (the tent!), and May is many many weeks away yet.

But the feeling of having sold is wonderful.  I don’t think you can possibly know what it’s like to keep your house to viewing levels of clean and tidy with three small children underfoot until that first week when you realise that you’ve a viewing every day except Tuesday.  We had 33 different people view the house between Christmas and selling, with a fair few second viewings thrown in there for good measure and that’s a lot of tidying up.  We are, to be honest, not people of the tidy variety.  I will always neglect putting away the toys in favour of a good book, or a new quilt, or just one more row, and to quote the photographer who took pictures of our very messy studio, our house is a “creative space”.  But in the interests of house selling we upped our game.  In the run up to a viewing we’d near enough empty the kitchen, moving the bin into the garage and the radio into a drawer and draping a spare tablecloth attractively over the bits that really couldn’t be moved.  In the lounge we’d put things away, and then have a mad run around and put the things that usually live out in sight into yet another long life carrier bag, many of which have yet to return from garage purgatory.

Space for the Butterflies - Making a mess

I doubt it’s easy when your household does not include a Kitty, and Elma and a Pip, but it was so hard to explain to them why we had to tidy up and tidy up now, and no that really amazing railway layout can’t stay down but we can take a picture and I’ll build it again with you later. Balancing that with trying to keep the kids enthusiastic about the move, especially when our multiple attempts at house buying have come to nothing, has been really really tough.

Space for the Butterflies - Making a mess

The day the sale was agreed I don’t think we let ourselves believe it, but slowly it’s sunk in, and we’ve celebrated with the little things; leaving the train track across the lounge all night, washing the laundry rather than hiding it in the boot of my car, and yesterday, doing the messiest thing we could think of: gloop.

Space for the Butterflies - Making a mess

Gloop is always an outside activity, but even then it’s usually pretty messy and needs a good heavy rain shower to wash away the resulting detritus, something that isn’t always guaranteed, even in England (I know!).  It’s the classic non-Newtonian liquid experiment, made with cornflower and water and then a blob or two of food colouring for good measure.  I make it the same way as in the instructions I wrote last year only this time we used green gel colour, blue liquid and a pink liquid that I found in the back of the cupboard and I’m pretty sure had seen better days.

The green was by far the dominant colour and as the kids mixed and swirled and dug their fingers in it all turned a pretty spring green, very appropriate if unintended.

Space for the Butterflies - Making a mess

All three of them enjoyed mixing it up and pushing it around, and picking it up to let it ooze through their fingers.

It’s such a weird but wonderful sensation, even if it does always end up on their feet, and the perfect excuse for making monster faces.

Space for the Butterflies - Making a mess

Space for the Butterflies - Making a mess

But most of all, it was a chance to reclaim our house from property selling perfectionism, and let it just be our home, for a little while longer.

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and Donna at What the Redhead Said for The Ordinary Moments

Handmade Quilting

Spring Forest – December(!) in the Sugar Block Club {handmade}

17/03/2017

Had I finished my SugarClub Blocks in December, Sugar Plum Forest, the final block, would have been gently seasonal, a hint to the Christmas decorations brightening up dark corners, adn perhaps I would have needed to find the darkest greens and blues to make them frosty and brilliant.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugar Block Club Sugar Plum Forest

But this is definitely a Spring sort of a quilt, and as it turns out, these threes are perfect for the month in which I finished the blocks.  They may be tall and pointy like a Christmas tree, but they’re covered in spring blooms and set on a carpet of tiny flowers and fresh new leaves breaking through into the sunshine.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugar Block Club Sugar Plum Forest

I love that some of my favourite fabrics managed to sneak in again right at the end.  The blue elephants that starts the year as a fat quarter is all but gone now, and the daisy tree trunks are the very very end of one of the first lengths of fabric that ever came to live in my stash.  Over the years it’s appeared in several quilts and other little projects and I’m both a little sad to see it go and glad that it’s in something we’re keeping.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugar Block Club Sugar Plum Forest

The tree blocks are all paper pieced, and with such skinny little bits as the tree trunks you really need it to stop the block skewing off to one side.  If I’ve got to grips with anything this year it’s the foundation paper piecing, and it does let you do some amazingly intricate work without too much hassle.  It’s also an amazing eater of fabric; I’m not sure I could ever make an entirely foundation pieced full size quilt but for a component part ….!

I think I’m going to say “never ever” and then I see things like the Forest Abstractions quilt and “never” becomes “quite possibly maybe”.

For now though, I’m finished.  Well sort of finished.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugar Block Club Sugar Plum Forest

24 blocks sit in a stack on the back of my desk.  A year and three months after I jumped into the SugarBlock Club on a whim, I’m finished.  That’s not a bad result for me, I’ve still got sock of the month clubs from before Kitty was born where I haven’t even wound the wool.

The next step will be to divide them into their two quilts, one block of each month in each, and then lay out their diamond shape.  What’s missing at the moment, aside from a lot of plain white blocks, are the blocks that will make up some pattern of little squares to break up the white.  I think I’ve got an idea in my mind as to how I want it to look but then I need to start cutting and sewing again and audition a few options.  I’m giving myself until Christmas to have these quilts wrapped up under the tree for the girls, which sounds like it’s a long way away but that’s two quilts, if I’m being fair then I really need to make three and do something for Pip too, and somewhere in all of this we’ve got to move house.

Space for the Butterflies - Sugar Block Club Sugar Plum Forest

Which is why the first thing I did once I’d finished these blocks was crack on with the rest pull out a box of Liberty print scraps and start playing around with an idea for the central block of a very delicate little lap quilt.

It’s going to be a busy year.

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On

 

Family Photography Siblings

Siblings 2017: March

15/03/2017

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

Each month I sit down to write about my little trio and my first reaction is usually along the lines of “well nothing much has changed”.  And in the grand scheme of things perhaps it hasn’t, but I love that in writing these posts, and in coming back month on month to record them just as they are right now, I’m mindful of the minutiae.  And sometimes the change is simply the evolution of something started months before, but to me that’s still worth recording and remembering.

This month it’s been in the relationship between Elma and Pip.  Ever since Kitty went off to school they’ve been each other’s near constant companions, and it was only when Elma started nursery in September that Pip spent any time without her.  They’ve loved each other and laughed and giggled and been entertained by the same things, and wound up by the same things, and had screaming abdabs over the same toy, but Pip was barely one when Kitty started school, and when you’re two and a half, a one year old is next to useless in the fun stakes.

Over the years I’ve watched Elma work out how to be a sister to Kitty, and been present for all of the wonderful award-yourself-a-gold-star moments when they’ve played lets pretend in gentle co-operation; and all the ones when they haven’t.  In that sisterly relationship both my girls work out how to create their own little worlds and bring their sister into it, and while they happily include Pip in their play, it hasn’t really mattered whether or not he got it.  Each of the girls got the recognition and co-operation that they needed from each other, and if Pip wondered off half way through being the baby they’d learned to cope.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

But watching them this weekend from the sanctuary of the sofa, where Kitty, John and I all fought off the same tummy bug I could see that Elma and Pip have found their own world of make believe too.  I’m not entirely sure what the game was, which is always the most fun sort to watch and try to figure out, but it involved them having to go to each other’s houses (armchairs) on Pip’s balance bike with Elma sitting on the front and Pip riding pillion and clinging on around her waist, and then they all got off and got on a boat.  All very adventurous and Pip was completely into the game with her; he could understand the story she was weaving, and was getting stuck in.

He’ll go on some amazing adventures with her too, because while Kitty will tell you about her day through her stories, and her favourite games involve mimicking the things she sees around her, playing schools, or mummies and babies, Elma is my storyteller.  If you listen to her playing with the dolls house, or making things up for her Lego people they’re all crazy and brilliant and completely outside the sphere of her experience.  I love listening to both of them, and I find it fascinating how differently they reinterpret the world around them.

These pictures come from a hill that once stood in for Kilimanjaro, on a day when it was decidedly calmer, sunnier, and less likely to pour with rain at any moment.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

The girls rushed up and down the slopes, and poor Pip felt his shorter legs for once, finding it hard climbing until Kitty came to give him a hand.  She is so incredibly sweet with him, a lovely big sister who dotes on him and cossets him and he thinks that she’s the best thing since sliced bread, if sliced bread had also run off with his most important lilac wooden block – or was that just yesterday?

He was starting to go down with a horrid cold that would see him spend the rest of the weekend, curled up in my arms, snoozing and nursing and generally reminding us all that I’m his indentured servant first and foremost, and then everyone else’s.  He was happy enough to sprint up the hill, but wore himself out before we got down to the bottom.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

I can’t work out whether in this picture whether he’s trying to tell me what a pitiable state it is to be outside when he’d rather be inside and located suitably close to my stash of chocolate buttons, or imitating Kitty, who would very much like you to know that she has lost not just that other big front tooth (which held on by a corner for eons) but another bottom one to boot.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

He’s definitely dreaming of something in this one, but I wanted to include it anyway because it shows so clearly their height differences.  So often when I take pictures of the three of them they’re sitting down or Kitty’s bending down and I forget just how tall she is, and all three of them are.  For point of reference, in this picture Kitty is 6 (and that’s an age 10 cardie from Frugi who’s sizes are usually pretty generous), Elma is 4 (and wearing age 5) and Pip is 2 (and wearing 3-4).  One of these days Elma’s going to stop growing at 5’10” and find her brother and sister call her shortie.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

All three have shot up over the winter again and it means that all long last, two more pairs of boots can reach the footrests on the “spinny spinny round” and all three can plan world domination as they twirl.

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

Two little sisters, and their brother too, pulling funny faces, in March:

Space for the Butterflies - Siblings in March

Do go and say hi to my co-hosts: Donna at What the Redhead Said Natalie at Little Jam Pot Life,  Keri-Anne at GingerLily Tea, Amber at Goblin Child, Katie at Mummy Daddy Me and of course the mastermind behind the whole thing, Lucy at Dear Beautiful.  And then link up your Siblings posts below, and if you’re joining in on Instagram if you use the hashtag #siblingsproject and tag @siblings_project_ we’ll be able to see them too!
The Me and Mine Project

 



 

Handmade Quilting

Hello Sunshine! – November in the SugarBlock Club {handmade}

10/03/2017

It’s March, so clearly it must be time for November in the SugarBlock Club! There are only two more main blocks after this so with these blocks it feels as if I’ve turned a corner and I’m finally on the home stretch.

When I ran races (many years ago now; pre-children and mostly pre-marriage) I would plod along at the end, certain that I was pushing myself as hard as I could go, and then we’d turn the corner and see the finish and my brain would spot that finish line, send the clear and certain message around the rest of me, “Get there and we can stop” and I’d take off, entirely without conscious thought of a final push.  I could see where I’d get to sit down and I was going to get to sitting down as fast as possible.  I’m not sure I could claim to have sprint finished a marathon, because nothing I do could ever seriously have been called a sprint, but it was fast for me (and is possibly why I hold the family PB for both half and full marathon despite John being a much much much better runner!).

It’s the same for my quilting, or knitting, or any other project; when the end is in sight it’s all I want to work on until it’s done, and so it’s proving with this quilt.  Watch out for December coming soon.

Space for the Butterflies - SugarBlock Club November

But first, November, and Dresden plates.

 

I have made a Dresden plate block before as part of a sampler quilt, and if I’m remembering it rightly it was pieced together, curved seams and all, rather than the plate block appliqued onto a base.  The Hello Sunshine block uses the applique method, and some clever fabric origami to boot, and it’s definitely the simpler of the two.

Space for the Butterflies - SugarBlock Club November

The rays of sunshine are made from wedge shapes, folded in half lengthways, sewn across the top, and then folded out to reveal a pointy ray.  You end up with a beautifully crisp point and perfect edges on the point and raw edges down the sides and across the bottom which you sew together to make the quarter circle and then applique on to a base block.  It was one of those bits of sewing whiztrickery that make you feel very very clever.

I joined the lower edge with a zig-zag on the machine, but to keep the crispness of the points I hand stitched them down, and found it a lovely change to do a little hand stitching and watch it all come together.

Space for the Butterflies - SugarBlock Club November

Two very similar blocks; you can start to see that I’m running out of original fabric that has any large pieces left but as I’ve decided to do two quilts I’m not bothered if they’re slightly more matching on this block than on some of the others.

Space for the Butterflies - SugarBlock Club November

And with two finished it was actually really hard not to press on and make more.  I love this block, and I know I’ve said that about at least half the blocks in the club, (sign of a really good club), but this is one I could seriously see myself making a quilt’s worth.  Not perhaps to do big Dresden circles, though that could look amazing, but even with two blocks, the side of the bookcase and some washi tape you can see the fun you can get up to in setting them at odds.

Space for the Butterflies - SugarBlock Club November Space for the Butterflies - SugarBlock Club November

The possibilities are vast, and if I ever make even half the quilts I have planned it will be quite the achievement.

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On