Saturday, 12 June 2021

Beech Bonsai

I've been learning about and trying my hand at bonsai.  With two little trees sitting in pots I was very happy, then 'im outdoors bought me a present.  A beech tree he had dug up at a job.

The poor thing must be at least 5 years old, but has been hacked back a few times and looks like it didn't have much room too grow.

So I potted it up and had a proper look at it.  I cut a few crossed branches off and cut its main branched back a bit as it was getting too tall for what I wanted it for.  There was one branch which cut in, but if I could convince it to bend out, it would much inprove the shape of the tree, so I wired it up and then left the poor thing to get over the shock.  

I was very happy to see it produce leaves at the end of May.  It looked like a proper tree!  But now two of the top branches crossed over each other so I added some more wires to push them out, much improving the little trees shape at the same time.

I know that I should really cut back some of that new growth to encourage more growth but it seems to mean.  Maybe later in the year.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Persian Tiles Eastern Jewels Crochet Blanket

 Last year I was given a crochet kit for the Persion Tiles blanket in the Eastern Jewels colour way by Jane Crow.  But then COVID happened and I couldn't deal with such a big project.

This year I was working on a knitting project when I ran out of wool!  In lockdown and unable to get anymore I looked for something else to do and came across the crochet kit.

I have to say I didn't really like the colours when I first got them out.  And even when making the sections I didn't really like some of them.  It proably didn't help that quite a lot of it was made in artificial light in the evenings.  I also hated making the little crosses.  They were so hard to get even!  I had to undo the first two octagons when I'd done all of them to redo the crosses, they were that bad!

The magic happened when I started to put the pieces together.  Suddenly the colours looked great and the whole thing sang!  Seeing them in daylight also made them look much better.  This is a summer blanket.

I really enjoyed making it and look foward to using it.  The sort of thing to drape over your shoulders while sitting in the garden in the evening. Maybe on one of 'im ourdoors new benches.

Monday, 31 May 2021

The Sky Blanket - May

I had hoped for a massive block of blue this month but instead we had near constance sunshine and showers.  

This meant I finished my first 2 balls of wool, one dark grey and one dark blue.

It's definitely getting more substantial.  I'm not really looking forward to sewing in squares over the summer, however in the autumn and winter it should be a nice warm treat.

Sunday, 23 May 2021

Fixing a Leather Bracelet

Years ago when I was a teenager and I finally had some money of my own and was allowed to go into town with my friends to spend it, I bought a pretty leather bracelet.  I chose this one because it was so soft to the touch.

But I didn't choose well and it didn't take long for it to 'break', where one of the leather strips had been fudged together rather than being a full strip.  It only cost a couple of pounds and wasn't the best made thing in the first place.

Being a teenager and with limited tools in my crafting armory I tried using a bit of PVA glue (at that point I used PVA for EVERYTHING) to fix it.  Which did work but left me with a hard bit in the middle of my soft bracelet and so it got stuck in my jewellery box and forgotten about.

While having a tidy up at Easter I came across it again.

I peeled the PVA off and had a look at what the actual problem was.  I have more tools in my crafting armory now.  Plus I had read about how the Japanese repair pottery with gold so you can see the repair.  I love this idea.

So I got out my favorite blue and pink thread and sewed the broken leather back together, I then wove the ends of my thread into the plaits of the bracelet so they could be seen, but would hopefully not come undone too.

So now my bracelet is fixed and retains its softness. And I have a bracelet that I can wear again.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Thuja Plicata Bonsai

As all my other projects seem to be taking an age at the moment, it's nice to have something to do that is a little more immediate, although the actual end results won't be seen for years!

Still facinated by bonsai I wanted to try my hand on another tree.  This one is a Thuja Plicata 'Little Boy', normally used as hedging plants but reduced to £2 at my local garden centre.

When I started cutting the bottom branches off I realised it has three nice strong trunks which give it great shape, once you can see them.

I pruned and potted it up, but I haven't decided about wiring it yet.  I'm not sure if it would work with this sort of leaf structure.  Still its interesting to see what sort of tree it turns into.  And I can always wire it in the future if I decide it is needed.

Friday, 30 April 2021

The Sky Blanket - April


The blanket is growing.  So big now that I had to put it on our bed to get a photo, the worktop is no longer wide enough!  And it no longer fits in the bag I have.

Above you can see how the squares compare with my speadsheet.  When I have completed a square I coloure it blue.  Once I have sewn it to the blanket I bold that line so I can keep track of where I am.

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Simple Flapping Butterfly

I keep a list of projects and ideas in trello for when I might have an opportunity to make them.  So while I was looking through the spring issue of Butterfly, the Butterfly Conservation magazine, it suddenly occurred to me that the photos of butterflies would be perfect for a Rob Ives project.

It didn't take very long to cut the photos out and then decide on which one to use.  I doubt very much that this type of butterfly would be this big for real, but wouldn't it be cool if they were.

The image is stuck to a clothes peg, so when you squeeze the peg the wings flap.  Delightful and so easy to make.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Picea Glauca Bonsai

As part of the plan for my big year I wanted to learn more about bonsai.

I love trees and have been facinated by bonsai ever since I was little and my dad had a horse chestnut tree that he kept in a tiny pot.  It can't have been more than 20cm tall and every year it would produce one large leaf.

I'd hoped to attend a course in person, but with lockdown and all the restrictions we're living with right now I decided to see if there was anything online.  Here I came across Bonsai Empire who not only had lots of information and advice but also a set of videos.

I worked through their Beginners course and some of their Getting Started course and decided to have a go for myself.

My first attempt was with a small Picea glauca 'Alberta Globe' which I bought from our local garden centre.  When I started it was just a ball of green, but I pruned it using the techniques I'd seen in the videos, then wired some of the branches, and potted it up.

It smelt a bit like Christmas as I cut bits off in the sun.  

It still needs some work, but that is part of the fun of bonsai, they are never finished, as a living thing they will continue to grow and evolve.  I look forward to seeing how this little chap gets on.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

The Sky Blanket - March


31 more squares added to the blanket.

It's a weird project.  I'm used to being able to just crack on with a project whenever I have time, but once the day's square is done I can't do the next one until I've decided on the colour for the next day. 


And I'm surprised how much its impacted other projects I'm working on.  30 minutes might not seem a lot but I guess it adds up over the course of a month.  Its probably not helped that I tend to miss Friday so have to catch up over the weekend which cuts into 'crafting' time.


I'm using Stylecraft DK in the following colours - light grey = "silver"; dark grey = "grey"; bright blue = "aster"; light blue = "cloud blue" and white = "white".  I bought 3 balls of each in Jan and so far they are fairing well.  I'm kinda hoping to run out of bright blue before I run out of grey.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Snowflake Placemats and Coasters

Well over a year ago now, I started a project to knit a set of placemats and coasters to replace the tatty ones we currently use.

In May 2019 I posted my first completed coaster and confidently suggested that it wouldn't take long to finish the rest off, including a table runner too.

Although they were reasonably easy to create they were also a little tedious, and while I wanted the finished thing I wasn't enjoying making them as much as I could have, so more interesting project kept pushing them down the pile.

However once we kicked off the new kitchen project (Jult 2020) I knew I had to get them finished in time for moving back in. Now I had some motivation it was easier to get on with it.  Plus I suddenly realised that without meaning to we'd chosen the unit colour to match the wool!  Perfect.

With a massive delay waiting for the new bifold doors to be installed I finally finished them with time to spare meaning they were knitted, blocked out and ready to go when we moved back into the kitchen (Feb 2021), a lovely set a placemats and coasters.  I gave up on the idea of a table runner knowing I'd never get it finished!

I used Martin Storey's Snowflack pattern and Rowan Felted Tweed. One ball of main coloured wool was enough for a placemant and a coaster.

Sunday, 28 February 2021

The Sky Blanket - February


And so the Sky Blanket continues.

Each square takes about 30 minutes to knit and then sew to the last one.  By sewing them as I go I hope to have far less sewing up to do at the end as it is my least favourate thing to do. 

The last 3 days have been gorgeous
I've sewn a button to the first square to help me remember where I started and hopefully put every square in the right place.  I've also got a spreadsheet with each square marked.  As I complete a square I colour it in and then bold the lines between squares to show they have been stitched together. 


Although I do look at the sky at lunchtime, I do find myself influences by what it does during the rest of the day. For instance in February we've had 2 rainbows!  I really wanted to include them in my squares, but rainbows don't tend to happen at midday - they happen when the sun's rays are at a lower angle, but I've included them anyway.


So far I'm managing to keep up, mostly due to the fact we are still in lockdown and I have nowhere else to be.  I hope I can keep it up once we come out of lockdown and life starts up again.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

New Kitchen


When we bought the house, 5 years ago now, the kitchen was a huge selling point for me.  Very spacious, with lots of work surface and still room for a table and a range cooker. 

I loved it.  My only ambitions for it was to add a decorative door to the freezer and kick boards to the cupboards. But to do that ‘im outdoors would need some space to work so we had to build a workshop first. 


However as we lived with it we realised there were some other shortcomings. It was very cold in winter, and there wasn’t a proper extractor fan over the cooker. The floor was getting very sponge, the kitchen door had gaps round it and we kept finding slug tails on the worksurface!


I can’t remember now which of us suggested bifold doors across the end wall, but once it was said it couldn’t be unsaid and I started thinking about how the layout would have to change to make it work, that wall currently having the oven and sink against it.


This was around the same time that I was sitting on the sofa with a fire going, thinking about running a marathon in Scotland as I watched the snow come down outside. 

Once I’d cracked the layout issue it was a case of working out if it was worth it. But we were going to have to do something in there, even if just to sort the floor out, so we decided we might as well do it properly.

This was a much bigger project than the others we’ve tackled so far and involved more trades too, meaning we’ve had to schedule work in rather than doing it all ourselves. However it’s been lovely to support our local community following on from lockdown when so many people couldn’t work, including ‘im outdoors, as much from lack of supplies as anything.  

So after 2 years of planning and then thinking it wouldn’t be going ahead due to Covid it was pretty exciting to start the project last June by having the roof replaced and 3 skylights fitted.  This all happened without taking the internal ceiling down so we could continue to use the kitchen.

At this point we could have stopped if needed, but everyone assured us that there wouldn’t be any issues, even with Covid, so at the end of July we empted the kitchen (turning the living room into a ‘kitchen’ with the utility room for water/washing up) and knocked the end wall out!

Things like putting in the underfloor heating and some of the electrics happened and then we had to wait for the windows and the massive doors.

They were due mid September but due to issues with supplies it was the beginning of November before they arrived and were fitted!  After all this waiting when we couldn’t do anything as it wasn’t water tight we swung into action, insulating, plasterboarding, finishing the electrics and getting everything ready so the plasterers could do their thing at the beginning of December.

Suddenly we had something that actually resembled a room again!  A lick of paint and before Christmas the kitchen units and appliances were delivered.  Best Christmas present ever!

We've tried to keep and re-use as much of the old kitchen as possible, so now ‘im outdoors had the fun job of fitting it all together like a massive puzzle.  


If that wasn’t enough we’d also decided to make our own worktops from concrete!  We had black stone worktops in the old kitchen, which I loved but wouldn’t fit in the new space.  Concrete would give us that solid feel and hopefully a nice finish.

They took a little more work than a normal worktop and had to be made one at a time in sections, but I really love them. 'im outdoors got such a good finish on them, they reflect the tiles!  But man they were heavy and I’m glad we only had to lift them a few inches to get them in place.

With the worktops in place we could tile the walls and do the last little bits and bobs.


Suddenly we had a kitchen and I could fill it up with all our stuff and a selection of plants and finally allow the living room to be a living room again.

The whole thing took over 6 months to complete and has been a little trying at times.  But we are incredibly lucky that we’ve had the space to allow us to function in a relatively civilised way and that ‘im outdoors has been able to do so much of it himself.  

I’d like some time to enjoy the house being back to normal, but rewiring starts next week - we decided it was best just to get it done.  Then we can start to think about the garden!