Thursday, 12 December 2013

Apparently, fluent in polish...

An ordinary month ending in a very bizarre way.
And I'm still trying to figure out how it happened!

Three months ago I answered an email to join a rural action for small businesses group, a token gesture which involved nodding occasionally and consigning emails to my spam folder.
However, when an email arrived inviting me to a freebie shopping trip to Bath I broke the habit of a lifetime and replied immediately.
 Call me fickle, but shopping in Bath was infinitely more appealing than invites to bee keeping lectures and rural issues.

On 30th November I turned up for the bus to Bath expecting to recognise at least a few passengers.
It seemed a little odd that I was being asked to give my national insurance number and handed a large folder - which I assumed was a welcome pack - or that everyone was speaking polish or chinese. However, it was only when the bus pulled out and I opened the ''welcome pack'' that I realised it contained four basic english assignments for people learning english as a second language - and my name was on the list!!!

By now it was too late to get off the bus and I assumed - wrongly - that I could just hand in blank papers and no-one would be any the wiser, but it appeared to be compulsory, and papers kept getting returned to me to ''correct.''

By the time we eventually pulled in to Bath - via a service station to complete assignments and with the threat of another assignment filling in session in a coffee shop - I have never run so fast!!!

 I still have not got to the bottom of how that happened, although I have the distinct impression that I was set up.
I am eagerly awaiting the results of my learning english-as-a-foreign language assignments and may just frame the certificate...
Especially if I've failed.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

An orange aura. Tis the season of the fox.

Funny how we are subconsciously influenced by the seasons when it comes to colour.

For the last fortnight I seem to have surrounded myself with tones of orange.
Most odd, as it is neither a colour I wear or, if put on the spot, would name as my favourite colour, and I am notoriously fickle when it comes to colour!

In London last week the orange theme continued.
A trip to Brick Lane unearthed a 1960s fantastically retro cotton fabric in the autumnal hues of brown and orange.
And South Kensington yielded a photo opportunity in the form of a carousel, which morphed into a rainbow of orange tones.

I loved the lighting on this carousel, and the contrast it made against the darkening night sky.
Thankfully, the very photogenic Nadal didn't continue the orange theme at the 02, which was rocking a blue theme. 

But my 21 year old son was unexpectedly rocking crutches and freshly torn ankle ligaments, which did not bode well for London via The Underground. 
That, and a hotel room on the third floor of a Georgian townhouse ...
with no lift!

Returning home, the first item I made was a snoozy fox.
Soft, tactile and looking for a door to prop open.

I've been wanting to make a shaped fox for a long time, and this worked really well in the orange wool.  
Move over owls, it's the season of the fox!

There is something very special about London.
Shoreditch, Brick Lane - Liberty.
The V&A, the galleries...the arches.

There is a particular archway at Shoreditch that draws me in every time.
The dark gloom under the tunnel set against the vibrant graffiti art beyond.

This is a photograph I took last week.
Beneath the Arches.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Dear Diary...Monday, 7th December 1989. Ramblings of a 21 year old backpacker in retro Aswan.

Monday, 7th December 1989.

The trip down to Aswan was sheer hell.
20 hours in a second class carriage on a cockroach infested, Egyptian train.  Oh my God!!!

On the platform we appeared to be the only tourists waiting for second class.  
As soon as the train pulled in it was like a stampede - a solid mass of people with baskets and chickens and hubble bubbles - all trying to get through the doors at the same time. 
Hands everywhere, groping, touching, and when we eventually found our seats we all collapsed in a sweaty mess.
And cursed the Aussie girls who'd assured us second class was fine.

We eventually made it to Aswan, and, wandering around in an exhausted, sleepless state, were horrified when we realised Lance had led us to a Youth Hostel.
A Youth Hostel!!! After the state of the hotels in Cairo!!!
Luckily he just wanted to pick up mail and we ended up at The Rosewan, just round the corner.
And the markets!!! 
Real markets, with sand and donkeys and silver and hubble bubbles.
And apparently beer too, though I have no idea where that came from.

The next morning we had to register with the local police, so they could track our movements in their country.
Then we met a crazy Nubian called Eden,who invited himself to lunch, before whisking us off to an Island on his felluka. 

My favouite memories of Aswan are the mad, crazy parties on the boat, me and Dave being bundled into a taxi mid silver browsing by Eden with no warning, to be whisked off to a nubian cafe for a dinner we hadn't known we wanted, painting the sail  and the bazaars...the wonderful, silver filled bazaars.
I love Aswan!

But all good things come to an end, and the morning we were supposed to be sailing to Comombo disaster struck.

EDEN HAD GONE!!!  While Kay and I were taking a last look round the bazaars, Eden had been arrested - FOR ATTEMPTED MURDER!!! - and was in jail!!!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The appeal of hibernation.

When the nights draw in and daylight fades; when village life grinds to a 6pm halt, I often feel that squirrels have the best idea with sleeping through winter.
Although I'm pretty sure that welsh squirrels don't hibernate, as they're always round my ankles when I stalk them with a camera.
But, with hibernation not being an option, I've resorted to a blanket, chocolate magnum and a very scented candle.

I love all the winter fabrics around this year.
The tweed, the vibrant shades of wool...velvet.
Velvet is a recent rediscovery and I'm planning on using it for fabric cuffs, with linen and lace.

Going with a warm blue and chocolate theme Prudence is my newest owl, resplendent in tweed and wool.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Dear Diary....the ramblings of a 21 year old in 1989.

Oh my goodness gracious me - dusty old diaries from the 1980s!!!
This is an entry from my misspent youth....

Dear Diary...
Thursday 3rd September, 1989.
Guess who turned up at Gardner Merchant last shift?  Aussie Dave!!!
It was so embarrassing - he was talking to Michael in the washup and when he said hello I didn't even recognise him - and we went out together last year!!!
Granted, it wasn't for very long, but even so - still, it shows what sort of impression he made if I can forget him that quick.
When I did remember who he was - and I blame his facial fluff - it was nice to catch up. He leaves for Canada on Sunday so we went for a drink up the Village Inn this morning , before collecting my wages and dashing up to London, where I'm writing this while waiting for my coach to Swansea.
I haven't seen my family (except Dad) for more than a month now and I'm looking forward to it - and seeing the house now that they've moved in.
I'm getting into so much trouble at work at the moment. I'm going to have to be careful now, I think.
I haven't been coming out on time,  been banned from talking to Andy at the bar - and got caught round there by Tim, slagging hm off - after he'd told me twice about going round!!!  I couldn't believe it when he appeared, and it was a good job it wasn't five minutes earlier or I'd have been caught red handed with a double vodka! I was so lucky not to get a written warning.
And then there was the last night of shift, when I was so pissed off with Jean-Michel that I slipped round the Oasis about midnight to talk to Andy for awhile - and when I got back he was so mad he docked me my ten minute break!  I was fuming!!!

Tuesday 8th September, 1987
Well, this time next month I should be back in Israel!
Time's going so fast now and because it was all planned on the spur of the moment I can't believe it's really happening, though with just £7.77 in the bank and a one way ticket - not to mention a passport that expires in March - I really ought to get my act together.
I'm supposed to be working 12 night shifts on the trot now, which should help, but I've got to sort some new contact lenses too.
P.s....Simon appeared in the canteen last shift to talk about Israel and - GUESS WHAT?
He's bringing TWO suitcases, an electric shaver and a HAIRDRYER!!! What a peacock - he's taking more than me and Amanda put together!!!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Winter wool, the odd pirate and a distinct lack of chocolate hobnobs.

Storm clouds are brewing, my laundry basket is overflowing and I'm tempted to just seek solace under a blanket, with daytime TV and a packet of chocolate hobnobs.

Unfortunately, my hobnob supply appears to have shrunk to three biscuits. Just three, solitary biscuits.
I'd like to think there was a hobnob thief,, but as it's just me and two cats, I think it was probably me.
What is it with chocolate hobnobs and will power???

So - hobnob free - I'm going to finish stitching an owl.
This one is a tactile mix of tweed and powder blue wool.
Powder blue is so not a colour I'd normally choose, and I will admit to rolling my eyes when the idea was muted, but the contrast with the tweed is beautiful.
It's very easy to get caught up in reproducing old favorites and safe colour schemes, so I am very grateful to the customer who requested this blue, because it's opened my eyes to new combinations.  I'm still loving pinstripes, which I'm moving on to foxes.
Having lost my grey pinstripe to the Dr Who production team, I was so impressed with LeeMills in Swansea for unearthing this chocolate brown pinstripe.
Tweed and powder blue...who would have thought!!!

Particularly as it involved rummaging under hundreds of precariously balanced bolts of wool amongst the dust.

I love this shop.
A fox in need of whiskers.
The owner is a 70 year old with magpie tendencies.
 Despite having to squeeze your way up and down overflowing aisles, where releasing a single bolt of wool involves circus like contortions and risks an avalanche, LeeMills is apparently short on woollen fabric and ordering more.
It makes my own fabric stash seem minimalist....

Soon to be listed on Etsy.

Friday, 18 October 2013

From Brick Lane with love. Urban grit and creativity.

My love affair with London stretches back over three decades.
Moving to Sussex as a 12 year old in 1979,  I remember numerous family trips to London.  They included trips to Hyde Park, the landmarks, the museums, but what I really fell in love with was the wonderful London Underground - and Covent Garden.

When I went to Art School, my focus changed - along with my dress sense!
Now, it was all about Oxford Street, Carnaby and the odd dodgy club.
Gallery trips with Art School meant in through the front door, a cursory look round, then off to the Kings Road.

I missed London when I started my 21 year rural stint in Llanrhidian.
And I still miss it 21 years later.

This time around, my love affair is with Brick Lane, and Shoreditch.
I love the quirkiness, the raw creativity, the vintage edge.
I love the laidback, maybe 11, maybe later openings in the side streets, the way there's a photo opportunity round every corner and, of course, it's home to my absolute favourite vintage treasure trove on Cheshire Street. 

The urban grit and creativity of Shoreditch is both refreshing and inspiring.
And I've already booked my next trip back in November, for the Renegade Craft Fair.

This trip to London has opened my eyes to new ideas, and I feel completely rejuvenated.
I also feel cash poor but fabric rich, after the mecca that was the Knitting and Stitching show at the Ally Pally.
Oh, my goodness -so much beautiful fabric, so many gorgeous trimmings.
And a newly aquired penchant for linen.

It has also completely convinced me to make moving a reality, although that may be a long term project...
And call me fickle, but it won't be to Manchester!

Monday, 7 October 2013

The lure of London and life after 8pm.

The last time I was in London was more than a year ago.
It was the summer of 2012, when I managed to avoid the Olympics and seek solace in Brick Lane and the vintage paradise that is THE SHOP.

And - yes - that really is the name of this treasure trove of vintage, tucked away down a side street and devoid of a till, a telephone and other trappings of technical life. A shop stuffed full of vintage fabric and clothing, with a (working and in use) wooden Singer machine tucked around the corner.

A definite OH YES  for Saturday!

I am so looking forward to London.
 I've reached the end of the line with rural.
There may be green space and beaches and a relaxed pace of life, but there is also the 8pm curfew, when the only shop for miles is closed, public transport has ceased an hour before and the fridge contains no milk.
And 21 years of rural has made me lazy.

So...London on Thursday, the wonderful V&A in the afternoon,  Earl's Court,  The Ally Pally Friday, meeting a very old friend in the evening and the welcome novelty of no public transport curfew!
Invitation to all Folksyers/Etsyers for an AllyPally meetup this Friday!

This week the nights have been pulling in, the dew is heavy on the grass and summer is a distant memory.
Flowerheads are minus their petals and leaves are dropping.
Perfect light for photography!

                                             This set of three cards is called ''Summer's End.''

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Pirates of Suburbia.

Two weeks in, and I'm still loving the pirate theme!
From London pinstripes to Tokyo treasure maps, with a sprinkling of skull and crossbones,  there are some fantastic fabrics around.

I've fallen in love with this Kokka design from Tokyo, made even more special by the envelope completely covered in whimsical stamps.
Who says you should never judge a fabric by its cover?

While the fabric above is a pirate in waiting, I rediscovered a nautical fabric I never knew I had.  This has lain unloved at the bottom of a box for more than a decade, but has now become my new Pirate of Suburbia.
Have I really been impulse buying fabric for so long?
Surely not :)

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The orange glow of Autumn, with a hint of tangerine.


Rustling leaves and warm scarves. 
Impulse buying of woolly things.
Bonfires and scented candles.
Autumn is a season of texture and colour, of yellow light in the evenings and delicate spiders webs encased in dew.

 It is also the season of orange, which I have used on this Ditzy Dachshund cushion.
A vibrant tangerine orange, which contrasts really well with the flower power 60's dachshund.

I seem to be veering between the wacky colour combinations of The Magic Roundabout and the charcoal grey embers of pinstripe for current projects.
Now I just need to find a cinnamon candle.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Pirates in pinstripes.

With autumn nights closing in and Halloween around the corner, it's time for a revamp.

Having taken inspiration from my recently rediscovered and fantastically retro Adam Ant vinyl collection, it's out with the florals and in with the skull and crossbones, for a pirates in pinstripes theme.

I've never found boy themed fabrics particularly inspiring within the UK, with the numerous toy car and aeroplane patterns being much of a muchness and the blue-for-a-boy colour schemes not being particularly imaginative.
But that was before I discovered a wonderful Etsy supplier in Tokyo, who not only has a fantastic array of fabric designs, but decorates her packages with the most amazing Japanese stamps.
The fabric also consistently arrives within a week of ordering.
Highly recommended, and link below!
Scientist owl has been made with a particularly wonderful Kokka fabric from this shop.
It features a whimsical take on a science lab.
I love this fabric, and nobody does whimsical design quite like Kokka!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Jumping onboard The Magic Roundabout.

While Adam and the Ants was the musical backdrop to my teenage years, The Magic Roundabout is the tune of my childhood.

The tinkling theme tune, the flower power screen, Dougal, Zebedee and Florence were ever present in my 1970's childhood.

...and this week have inspired a range of flower power cushions, thanks to a gorgeous 1960's fabric that will always bring a smile to my face!
The material came from a treasure trove of vintage loveliness just off Brick Lane, in London.

Both the dachshund cushion and Hamble, in glorious 1960's flower power, are available to buy at both my Etsy and Folksy stores.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Sun, sun, sun...

Happy Bank Holiday!

By the law of karma, bank holidays in rural Wales are awash with grey clouds. 
Particularly summer ones, but not this one.
 This weekend has been wall-to-wall sunshine - great for photos, for al-fresco sewing...for baking. 
I have gone through more butter than I care to remember, with a lemon drizzle cake and chocolate brownies.
When my son goes back to uni next month I will miss the baking. 

Lemon drizzle...the taste of summer.

  Saturday, via a vintage fair for fabric and china, I found myself in a funfair - or rather three rides, three stalls and an oversized sandpit.
But there was a very photogenic helter-skelter, and a big wheel.
I loved the helter-skelter, and have fond childhood memories of sliding down on a scratchy coir doormat, over and over again.

I particularly like this shot of the big wheel, which has a magical quality of a bygone age.
I have just listed it as a print in both my folksy shop and Etsy store, and am working on a set of greetings cards.

The Big Wheel.


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Snoozy fox - inspired by a very snoozy cat.

I love making Snoozy Fox.
A soft, charcoal wool base and tactile, woollen fox in contrasting orange.

Now available to buy at my Etsy shop.


....inspired by a very snoozy cat.

When thoughts turn to autumn and my hand reaches for tweed.

Much as I love summer, I have to admit that my favourite clothes are all winter.
I love the layers, the tactile softness of wool, the scarves...
And I love tweed.  Not to wear, but to work with.

Sydney is my latest owl, resplendent in tweed.  A very British owl, and very tactile.
And sitting outside, there is a definite yellow light to the evenings, now that they are starting to draw in.
Although it's a shame the same can't be said of my tomatoes,which are looking decidedly green.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Commission orders.

Some of my favourite owls are the ones made to order, as these are one offs, made using a colour scheme of the customer's choice.
I love pick 'n' mixing with different fabrics and textures, and it's often the most unlikely combinations that work the best.

Below is Starburst a recently commissioned owl cushion.

Starburst stands 35cm tall on her plump, polka dot feet.

Commission owls can be ordered through my facebook page,

 or by contacting me via my Etsy or Folksy shops.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Memories stirred - by a humble, A1 mounting board.

How does it happen?
I arrived at Hobbycraft sane, sensible and sporting bunions.
Until I found myself in the art department, eyeing up A1 mounting boards.
And then - BAM!!! - stepping outside, clutching my boards and being buffeted by a gale, I was immediately transported back to Art School, circa 1984.  
Minus the bunions and infinitely younger. 
How does it happen?  How can such mundane activities trigger such vivid memories?

My teenage bedroom, a work in progress.
Art School.
I remember my first day, September 1983.
I was just 16, and wearing cropped trousers, a mohair tanktop and a beret. 
I remember how laid back and incredibly cool it all seemed, how we all had our photos taken by the tutors, who insisted we'd be unrecognisable by the end of year one.  
I didn't believe them, but - oh my goodness, how right they were!
I grew up in Art School - my mum would say ''off the rails'', but I prefer to describe it as a particularly rocky road through adolescence...
It was a time of dodgy fashion, dodgier boyfriends...a lecherous tutor who kept trying to get me to model for him...of unrequited love on a mohican clad student who had just as big a crush...on my friend!  
Of Adam Ant and Boy George, of parties, of London - of the infamous trip to Cornwall.
Yes, I packed a lot into those few years - and for some reason never actually finished the course.
But I did get given the book that would shape my life.

It was called  ''How to be a kibbutz volunteer.''

My first boyfriend.

Hazel...where is she now?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Restoring my baking mojo...

I am definitely more a lover of savoury than sweet.

On the rare occasions that I do eat out I would never agree to share a starter, but can take or leave a pudding. And when it comes to hot, buttered toast there is no contest - marmite wins over jam hands down. 

However, there are some days when I just crave chocolate - chocolate is the exception to the rule - and today, chocolate comes in the form of millionaires shortbread.  
Homemade millionaires shortbread.  
And the shortbread aroma is wafting around beautifully as it bakes.  
(I'm just not thinking about the 450 grams of butter lurking in the mix!)

There is something very therapeutic about baking, and I don't do it enough.
I used to, but I lost my baking mojo.

Me and chocolate...we have an affinity.

And on a completely different note - how sweet are these spool mice!
Reminiscent of Bagpuss.  (I was a child of the 70's!)

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Mañana, mañana. The quirks of rural living.

Mañana, mañana.
This appears to be the new mantra of my village Post Office.

First thing this morning I traipsed up to the Post Office with an owl needing a flight to Australia.
I was greeted with the closed sign at the counter.

As Saturday is also half day closing and Birdsong had a flight to catch, I queried this, and was told the counter would be open in ''half hour, maybe two hours'' due to computer failure.

Two hours later the counter was still closed, but was magically opened for me to post my parcel -  now it was closed ''due to paperwork''.

Birdsong - enroute to Queensland.

Also of a quirky nature are my misshapen vegetables, grown in the weedy, overgrown jungle that masquerades as my back garden allotment.

While the cucumbers are monsters, the broadbeans and courgettes are decidedly stumpy and malformed.

And my dad is doing an awful lot of tutting about my abundance of weeds.  
I'm just not feeling sufficiently motivated to do anything about it.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Chasing that elusive eight inch square.

When I was at secondary school I had camera envy. 
 It was the early 1980's, and my friend had a 120 film camera, which produced square photos. This was a definite step up from my Kodak 110, with its bulky, clip on stick flash. 
And both cameras are now on display in museums.

Tanbridge House School,  1982.

However, in 2013 I have rediscovered the beauty and symmetry of square photos, particularly for micro and creative photography.
Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for the square photo is not shared by mainstream suppliers of both photo frames and beveled picture mounts.  And not just in Swansea.
Apparently, these picture mounts attract a premium price as they are made to order, whereas the traditional, rectangular aperture is readily available.  
And as for square picture frames...

Which amazes me, as the square photo format is one of the most popular print sizes available for sale on

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Musing on Manchester and pondering roots.

When I mention upping sticks and moving to Manchester the initial reaction appears to be...
Manchester? Are you mad???

No-one seems able to quite get their head around me wanting to swap the very scenic,very rural North Gower for very urban Manchester.  Not at first.  But they do come round eventually.  Most of them.
Particularly friends who have known me - erratically - for decades.

I will always have a soft spot for Gower, but I don't have roots here.  Family, but not roots.  And although my parents have lived here since 1987, their home has never been my home.
Infact, having moved between England and Wales and back again, via Israel, in my youth, I don't know where my roots actually are.
Gower is where I have lived the longest, but I'm not originally from Gower - or Wales.
I consider myself English through and through, was born in Richmond, spent my teenage and early 20's in Sussex, but haven't lived in England since I was 23 - which is exactly half my age!
Whereas my son, who is 21, has always lived on Gower, considers himself welsh through and through (despite having an australian dad and english mother) and has roots well and truely anchored on Gower.

Having just returned from a trip to Urban Manchester, catching up with very good friends and with a head spinning from numerous estate agents, my mind is still set on Manchester.  Although this visit has made me realise how unwilling I am to compromise on what I want.  Not a bad thing.  My list includes:  cat friendly, neighbour friendly, outside space, however small - character, victorian, side street - no hoards of teenagers with cans or oversized England flags....the list goes on!
And I'm looking forward to a return visit.
And checking out houses around Whittaker Lane.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Summer rain.

The delicate beauty of summer raindrops on a fragrant sweet pea.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

The plain daftness of Customs and Excise.

I have recently discovered Monaluna, and their organic cotton.
Gorgeous designs, gorgeous colours and alot cheaper to order from the USA than within the UK.

But customs and Excise, in their wisdom, have slapped a paltry £15 limit on the amount of goods I'm allowed to ship in before being clobbered by customs duty.  Not to mention the Royal Mail handling fee.

That's £15 per order, so if I get a job lot of material sent in one package, I'll be stung.
However, if I make more than one small order, that's fine - nothing to pay.
And the postage from the US is - bizarrely - cheaper than a supplier I use in the UK!

Customs and Excise do not make things easy!

Apple, a large owl cushion,  made with a gorgeous organic cotton by Monaluna.