Friday 12 December 2014

Taking a break

I'm going to be a bit quiet on here for the next month or so, as we finally go away on honeymoon.  I've been looking forward to this trip all year and now it is finally here.
The idea of no knitting or making for a month is a bit weird, but I'm sure we'll be so busy I won't have time to miss it.  Of course I'll be keeping a journal and my sketch book will be coming too.  Once we're back you'll be able to read all about our adventures on my other blog - Not all who wander are lost.

So in the mean time, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and I'll be back in 2015.

Friday 5 December 2014

My first published words

I've always wanted to be a writer.  Even as a little girl I was writing little stories.  I'd still love to be a writer but now I understand how much time and effort I would need to put in, (time I just don't have right now) and so mostly I just write little stories to amuse myself or read out at the writers group, but nothing I would ever expect to be published.
Then came a request on one of the running forums I visit asking for 100 words on 'how running makes me feel' and some other subjects.  I love running and would encourage everyone to give it ago, so I couldn't help myself and submitted a paragraph about it.
This was months ago and I'd forgotten all about it when this arrived in the post!  My first published work.  I can't help but be a little proud.

Saturday 29 November 2014

Knitted dog jumper

So I know the title gives it away, but could you guess what this is from the above photo?

What about now?
Its a dog jumper for my sisters little dog, Ellie.  'im outdoors says it looks like a weird big sock.  Its taken forever to make! (a good 6 months)  I even had to visit my local knitting shop for help on a couple of occasions.  And very helpful they were too - you wouldn't get that in Hobbycraft.  My main problem was keeping the ribbing going round the leg holes, but I got there in the end.

The only problem with Ellie is she is a very black dog and impossible to photograph.  But I think you get the idea.  I'm not sure how much it will get used, but it was cool to make something with a purpose in mind and have it work.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Novembers writers group

So today was the last writers group meeting for me this year.  There is a meeting in December but I'll be somewhere else (more about that later).
Only three people got to read their work out as there was lots of discussion, but that's the point of the group and I think we all found it useful.

All three pieces were great, Avril's made me cry, but I loved the poem best of all.  A cheeky, rhyming, shocking piece which made us all laugh.

I didn't have anything to share today, and as I've got a bit of a cold, that's probably for the best.  I can't help but wonder if my writing phase is done?

This months homework: 
Use the following as either the starting line or the inspiration for a story or poem: Bah humbug!

Sunday 9 November 2014

Passing on the knowledge

I'm very busy at the moment.  Lots of different crafting projects (although nothing I can report on just yet) and a honeymoon to prepare for!
So it was really nice to spend a lunchtime this week passing on my knitting knowledge to a work colleague.  Her ultimate aim is to knit matching cardys for her little girls, and with a little practice I don't see why she couldn't do that.
But what was so nice was this was how I learnt to knit.  This time last year my very good friend Katie, sat down with me and some wool and got me started.  Before long I had myself a hat, and I haven't really stopped since.  I think one of the things I really love about knitting is how I can do it sat on the sofa while 'im outdoors watches TV or plays on the xbox.  I don't have to put down newspaper or wait for anything to dry.  I don't have to take a day off work to do it, I can just knit a single row while waiting for something to cook, and put it down again.
This year I have finally learnt to knit, and I can't really see me stopping any time soon.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Halloween pumpkins

My sister threw a halloween party last night.  Its not really my thing, but she needed some help with the decorations and as I love a bit of painting I agreed to help her out.  
It was pretty straight forward really - she supplied papier mache pumpkins from Hobbycraft and left me to get on with it.  They didn't look too bad and were a lot lighter than real ones.  I hope she keeps them for next year.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

October writers group

Wow what a turn out!  Its amazing what a little bit of advertising can do.
So on one hand not so good as less people got to read their work out - an hour isn't very long; but on the other hand we had some really good discussions, which I think can sometimes be more helpful.  After all although the group is here to help writers write better it is also here to help writers not feel quite so lonely.

The best past of the session, after all the good writing, was the comment from one lady who said she was stuck writing the big thing she's working on and starting to hate it.  But after the last session she started thinking about the homework and all these ideas came to her so she wrote them down and remembered how much she enjoys writing.  Hooray!  Now that is what the group is all about.

This months homework:  Use the following as either the starting line or the inspiration for a story or poem: And the blood red poppies flowed from the window and filled the moat…

Sunday 19 October 2014

Onion skin bookbinding

This weekend I did this year's craft course - Onion Skin Bookbinding.  I've promised myself that I can/should have one craft course a year, be it a day, a weekend or a week and this weekend was a real treat.
It look place at Otter Bookbinding where the lovely Marysa looked after us, while Ben of elbel libro bookbinding showed us how to create these amazing bindings.  With a small group of 4 and with everyone else being professional bookbinders I could have felt a little out of my depth, but everyone was lovely and happy to help if there was something I was unfamiliar with.  I even got to have a go with the beautiful guillotine - it made trimming the books effortless!
I had a brilliant weekend and as you can see produced some lovely little books.  I've learnt so much and its given me lots of ideas on how I can continue with my own books.
The square binding is my favourite and I can feel a project coming on - although I think I'll need a bit more practice before its good enough for that.
It's a shame it's back to work again tomorrow - I would happily stay home and make books...

Sunday 5 October 2014

Things to do with carrots

On Saturday 'im outdoors dug up all the carrots which have been busy growing all summer.  There were a lot and it felt like it took me all day to scrub them clean!
First I made myself some sweet carrot chutney although I cut this recipe by half as I wasn't sure how it would work out.  It smelt wonderful as it simmered, but I will have to wait a couple of months to try it at its best.

The rest have been turned into soup, an old recipe from one of my Dad's old cookbooks, or they will be by the end of the week.  Even my huge vat couldn't deal with all the carrots, and to be honest there isn't room in the freezer either.
There is something very satisfying about cooking with your own grown food.  You know exactly where it has come from, what has gone into it and it just tastes better.  I would have used home grown onions in my soup but we'd already used them all.  So one bag of potatoes and some beetroots left.

Sunday 28 September 2014

Running4Women Windsor 10k

This weekend I ran my 4th race this year, the Running4Women Windsor 10k.
I was due to run this with my sister but she had flu so I ran alone.
It was actually a really lovely little event.  We ran round Windsor Great Park on smooth paved roads and only the odd cyclist to content with.  The sun shone and in fact it was a little hot in places.
As I had been expecting to run with my sister I had not trained as hard as I should have, so to come within 18 seconds of my 10k pb isn't bad - 0:55:55.  Maybe with the correct training I'll beat it!
With less than 700 ladies running and a well marshaled route the whole race had a brilliant atmosphere.  I'd certainly be happy to run here again; maybe next time sister will be well enough to join me.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

September writers group

After a break for the summer it was great to meet up with the writers group again.
With lots of new faces we had a full room!  A little bit of advertising over the summer helped I think.

The last homework was to write about a celebration and it was great to see, once again, the great range in what was celebrated or not as the case may be.  I loved the story of a girl trying to win her last sports day race; although the lady who wrote it doesn't do much running, it felt like she'd captured all the things I think and feel when I race.

And I actually had something to share this time too, although it had nothing to do with a celebration.  Early morning writing really works for me.  I might have to start getting up at 5am and going to bed at 8.30pm!!  I think 'im outdoors might complain. 

With a little time left at the end we had time for an exercise, so we had 10 minutes to write from 'And then the lights came on...' which put some of our new writers under pressure, but created some intriguing starts; I hope they will revisit them and take them further.

This months homework:  Use the following as either the starting line or the inspiration for a story or poem:  A young girl walks down the High Street.  Clutched to her chest is a pair of bright red, extremely high heels...

Sunday 14 September 2014

Knitting patterns

If you've been following this blog you will know that I have just started knitting.  I feel I have mastered simple patterns so thought I would try something a little more tricksy.
The first part wasn't too bad - I have now made three button holes and they seem to have worked well, but then we got into a part of the pattern which needs me to decrease and increase stitches, but just says things like 'Cast off 2 sts, patt to last 3 sts'.  I can understand why they don't go into full detail - the pattern would be pages long, but it does leave me feeling a little lost.
Being quite a visual person it occurred to me that if I drew it out then I would know exactly what I should be doing and when.  Out comes the white board and 40 minutes later I have my pattern.  Assuming everything goes to plan I should have something to show for it soon.

Sunday 7 September 2014

Salisbury Contemporary Craft and Heritage Fayre

This weekend we went to the Salisbury Contemporary Craft and Heritage Fayre. We weren't really sure what to expect but there was a really nice selection of crafts and some cool heritage stuff too, althought I would have liked to see more. I think the chair maker and the chap making metal arrow heads were my favourites. 
In the craft marquee there was an amazing selection of jewellery, glass, wood, leather, wool and other things. Part of me was there as a customer, I bought a silver ring and a pair of leather ear rings, but a part of me was there absorbing everything and saving it for inspiration later. 
As always I was surprised at the lack of paper crafts. There seems to be a huge gap in the market, but I don't know if it's because no one is interested, so people don't buy it, (or they can't compete with Smiths) or if it just hasn't been tried yet?  I did see a really lovely book but it was the note pad of one of the exhibitors so not for sale. 

On the way home we stopped in Stockbridge and after watching the ducks and trout went to Broughton Crafts. I first visited this shop in 1991 and as a child I wanted everything in it, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that as an adult I still wanted everything in it, but now I have the money to spend if I want to!

A grand day out, I look forward to seeing what it inspires me to do.

Saturday 30 August 2014

Zen and the Art of Knitting

I've just been reading Zen and the Art of Knitting by Bernadette Murphy, which I was given for my birthday.  Its an interesting read, but the thing I found most interesting was that quite a lot of the knitters featured in the book, knitted because they enjoyed the process of knitting, not because of what they made.  Most seemed to give the finished article away either as gifts to loved ones or to charities.  

I found this so interesting because I love to make things too, but it is the making I love the most.  I don't mind what I am making as long as I am making something, but I also hate waste and a house full of rubbish, and so I either make things as gifts or to have a purpose.  I guess that's why I love bookbinding and paper making so much and why I've just started out on the knitting journey - at the end of all three processes you should have something of use.

I wonder what that means about beautiful works of art or things like my little hare?  Does the beauty of the item cancel out the need for it to have a use?  Its beyond me, but I know that I will continue to make stuff for as long as I can.

Sunday 24 August 2014

A felted hare

Years ago in February, me and my friend Katie when to Unravel, a festival of knitting.  It was amazing and full of everything you could possibly imagine that had any connection to knitting at all.  There was wool of every colour, needles of every size, buttons, kits, patterns and clothing.  I wouldn't have been surprised if there had been sheep outside.

As we walked around in wonder we came across Jenny Barnett and her wonderful felted creatures.  I fell in love!  But I couldn't really justify buying one of her ready made hares so I bought a kit instead, after all how hard can it be?

Actually felting isn't really very hard at all.  Its making something that looks like its really alive thats the hard bit.  Jenny's kits have everything you will need to create your creature - fleece and sponge and needles and instructions, its up to you to give it that spark of life.  I don't think I did too bad for a first attempt, although it doesn't come close to Jenny's work.  Defiantly something I will be trying again...

Sunday 10 August 2014

Making more paper

Last autumn while cutting plants back in the garden in our annual tidy up I deliberately kept some bundles and hung them in the garage to dry in the hope I would be able to use them to make paper with later.
Finally I have some more time for things like this so I had a go with the first lot - a bundle of Echinops ritro (globe thistles).

It's all very experimental at the moment so I wasn't sure what to expect.  My first learning curve was to find that the storks were just too hard to use.  Hours and hours of boiling did nothing so I settled for just using the leaves.  But I was pleasantly surprised by the out come.  A fine green paper with lots of small detail.  I used more cotton too which gave me lovely thick paper.  I can feel another book coming on.

Compared with the onion paper you can see its a totally different colour, but the texture and feel is different too.  I look forward to seeing that other garden fibres produce.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Using my own handmade paper

This week I've been book binding again.  A normal A5 book, but covered with my own handmade paper.  This is something I've been working towards for so long now, so to finally arrived at this point is really exciting.
The paper is one of the sheets of onion paper I made in February and not only does it look great, but also feels really soft.  It's probably a bit thin really, I'm not sure it will stand the test of time, but it proves the process works.
My head is now full of ideas and things I want to try out.  Such a shame I have to work too.

Sunday 20 July 2014

Basingstoke Brackenwood 5k

Last year I ran the Basingstoke Brackenwood 5K for the first time in 26:39.  Today I ran it again; my aim to beat my PB.
And beat it I did with a time of 24:52!  I am so pleased!

Having run a couple of different distances now, I think I prefer the half marathon where you can run it mile by mile, while the 5k I find just a bit too fast with no way to pace it, you just have to run as fast as you can for the whole thing.  But of all the races I have run, I have to say this is one of the best organised.  No queues for the toilets and the results printed out by the time you've caught your breath.  I realise some of this is due to the size, only 217 ran, but its things like this that make all the difference.
So run it again next year?  Maybe...

Tuesday 15 July 2014

July writers group

The day before the wedding I woke up at 6.30am from a really vivid dream.  I tried going back to sleep but the sun was too bright and the image from the dream wouldn't fade and I just had to get up and write it down as a short story.
I really like writing at this time of the morning.  It feels like its just you up and no one around to disturb you.  I guess that's why I like running at this time too.  The day feels like its just for you, with no one else about and plenty of unbroken cobwebs to run in to.

So having finally written something for the first time in ages, it was slightly annoying that turn up for this months writers group was so low we didn't run.  However if I look on the bright side it does give me a little more time to get my story polished.

This months homework:  
Seeing as I got married a couple of weeks ago and graduation is running at the university this week, write about a celebration.

Sunday 13 July 2014

Making a light tent

Having spent the last year planning a wedding and a few years before that studying I wasn't really sure what to do now I've got some real free time.
I would really like to improve the photos I take of the things I make, and seeing as 'im outdoors gave me The Crafters Guide to Taking Great Photos by Heidi Adnum for Christmas last year I thought I'd start there.
The book is full of really interesting examples and tutorials, one of which was for making a light tent.  The idea is to create even light and softer shadows.
I saved a huge cardboard box deliberately for this project earlier this year and its been getting in the way ever since.  But now it's had its sides cut out and lots of white paint and tracing paper added it should help me to take better photos of my books etc whatever the weather.  There is lots of useful advice in this little book and I hope to use lots of it to my advantage.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

The wedding

After a year of planning we finally said 'I do'.
We had the most beautiful weekend, starting with a small ceremony at our local Registry Office, before moving on to The Stag on the River, one of our favourite pubs, for afternoon tea.  The food (and company) was sooooooo good.
Then on Saturday we invited everyone we knew to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park for a hog roast, archery and camping.
We kept the whole thing simple and enjoyed every minute.

The dress was made for me by Larimeloom.  It was a bit of a last minute request on my part, but she did a beautiful job and it was perfect.  It looked great in the Registry Office but didn't mind a damp field either.

The flowers in my hair were a perfect match to the day, and the dress, and were supplied by Gardens of Whimsy. I adored the butterfly detail.

I made my own bouquet and 'im outdoors' button hole following Lia Griffith's template and instructions.  They looked great, and didn't mind when I dropped them, or that the event was over 2 days.

The postbox worked a treat, with everyone (big or small) enjoying 'posting' their cards and gifts to us, while it kept everything safe.

'I'm outdoors had done well when he chose my engagement ring from Honngaijewelry but it did mean we found it hard to find a wedding ring that worked with the shape.
In the end we went to Simon Pure and asked them to make one for us.  What came back was a perfect fit with a beautiful finish.

All our photos were taken by John, my old manager.  I can not tell you how pleased we were with the end results.

I'd never put much thought into imagining my wedding day - there doesn't seem much point when you don't know who the groom will be, but if I had, I think it would have looked something very like what we ended up with.  Now to plan the honeymoon…

Sunday 22 June 2014

Another knitted hat

A while ago, when it was still cold, I showed a friend my first attempt at a knitted hat.  They were suitably impressed and I promised to knit them one too.
It was still kinda cold by the time I'd finished knitting it, but I haven't seen them since.
However, today when it was nice and warm, we met up again and I could finally give him his hat.  He might have been happy with it, but I'm pretty sure its not really going to be worn for a while now.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

June Writers Group

How has a month already passed by?!
I couldn't attend this months writers group as I was attending ITIL training, however I still set the homework.  I hope to hear from them next month about what a good meeting it was.

Junes Homework:
Use the following as inspiration for a story or poem: ‘Write about a family secret.’

Monday 2 June 2014

A thin notebook

Last week I was asked to create a thin notepad.  I'm a bit tight with time at the moment so this was quite a nice challenge.  I've not made a book this thin before and this means there is no room for a hard spine.  It also means slightly less work to make, which meant I could fit it in to the time I had - it was quite a quick make.  Its always satisfying when something goes together so quickly.

Only a few months left then I'll finally be able to make a start on the huge list of things I want to work on including more books and some more paper.

(The cover is a close up of M.C. Escher's image 'Waterfall'.)

Friday 23 May 2014

May writers group

It was a very quiet writers group this month with only a couple of people able to attend.
Still we managed to have a chat about writing and life in general and I still set a homework.
I've got a few story ideas buzzing around in the back of my head but can't see me having time to write them down for the moment.  That was one good thing about the trip to Dublin last week, I found I had a little time between having a shower and going for breakfast which was great for writing in, in this case factual rather than fiction.  Its a shame I normally run at this time...

Use the following as inspiration or the start of a story or poem: ‘I never wanted to be a hero…’

Saturday 17 May 2014

UX Intensive - Dublin 2014

I've just arrived back from a week in Dublin for UX Intensive Dublin 2014 by adaptive path.
Wow they really didn't lie when they called it intensive.
Over the four days we covered Design Strategy, Design Research, Service Design and Interaction Design.  The days were long and our brains were filled with a lot of information while our hands were covered in ink from our sharpies; but it was fun, the people (about 104 from 22 different countries) were great and I learnt A LOT.
Luckily they gave us some handouts, so now I just need to work out how to put it all into use…..

Sunday 11 May 2014


Today I ran the AltonTEN running race.  (That's 10 miles not 10k.)  I hadn't been able to train as well as I did for the Reading Half Marathon, due to an injury and a mild cold, and so I wasn't sure what to expect.  I hoped I might manage maybe 01:30 so to do it in 01:28:31 (by my watch - still waiting for results on the website) was pretty amazing!  And into a very strong head wind at times!
But now if you look at all the races I've done you might notice that I haven't repeated a distance yet, a 5k, a 10k, a half and 10 miles.  Thinking about this I realise I'm scared of how I'll do next time.  Would I manage to get a new PB for any of these distances?  What I've managed so far seems quite amazing as it is.  Would it spoil it to do a slower time next time?  In a bid to find out I've signed up for the Brackenwood 5k again in July.  Can I beat 26:39 and does it matter either way?

After a busy weekend - a friends wedding and a 10 mile race, I have a busy week ahead.  I flight to Dublin tomorrow for the 4 day UX intensive conference.  I am very excited and can't wait to learn some cool new stuff.

Sunday 4 May 2014

Wedding post

I might be a little quiet on here as I get things ready for the wedding, but here's a little something I've been working on.  Its ages since I've done any painting so it was good fun, especially to work on something this big!  Hopefully it will make it pretty obvious where the wedding gifts should go.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Paper flowers

I'm back on to making paper flowers.  Todays are made from pages torn from a paperback novel following Valerie Lloyd’s paper roses design.  As you have to cut and curl each petal before sticking they are quite time consuming, but I do think they look amazing.  and they are big, they make me think of the really big smelly blooms you might find climbing up an old English country cottage in mid summer.
My only regret is the book I'm using.  I'd love to use the pages of something that really means a lot to me, but I just can't destroy something like that, so its a paperback from one of the local charity shops.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Another hat

I can not believe how much organisation is needed even for a small wedding.  It seems to be sucking all my time away.  I have however found time to knit myself a stripy hat using one of the patterns from St Mungo's.  As I'm still learning there are a few things I could do to improve it, but the stripes at least went to plan.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

April writers group

We met a bit early for the writers group this month as Easter gets in the way.
Only a few turned up which gave us time to do a quick exercise - start with 'Not one of them believed me when I told them...'

Here's how mine went...
Not one of them believed me when I told them that my dad was a spy.
Not one of them believed me when I told them I'd seen wolves in the woods.
Not one of them believed me when I told them the school was on fire.
Not one of them believed me when I told them I'd seen David Beckham.
Not one of them believed me when I told them aliens had taken me away.
Not one of them believed me when I told them my mum was the next PM.
Not one of them believed me when I told them there was a land slip on the train tracks.  You'd think they'd have learnt to believe me by now!

For something that had no thought before hand I don't think its too bad.

For the homework:
Imagine you are going to visit someone who has lost their memory.  What will you take with your to help them remember and why?

Sunday 6 April 2014

Ceramic painting

Yesterday I attended my friends Hen Do.  It was originally going to be something to do with tea, but that fell through and so we ended up painting ceramics instead.
Just like with the writers group where we all start with the same prompt, we all started with a plate, a cup and a heart on a ribbon, and just like with the writers group the variety was amazing.
I decided to keep mine simple, but the end results from people who 'can't draw' were all pretty good.
I'm not having a hen do, but this one showed me that they don't have to be loud drunken affairs.  It was good fun and hardy a willy in sight.