The Owl and The Pussy Cat

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea In a beautiful 'red and white'(!) boat, They took some honey, and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, And sang to a small guitar, 'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love, What a beautiful Pussy you are, You are, You are!What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Edward Lear

Thursday, 29 September 2011

First book on Etsy

Red and gold book with silver moon

Well, after a lot of encouragement from the wonderful Ren I've finally listed one book on etsy. It may not seem a big thing to some people, but it's been a surprisingly long build up for me, and I feel that weird mix of excited and scared.
So hopefully it's here..go and look at it, and tell me if I've made any glaring mistakes, or you think it's horribly under or over priced....

All I've got to do now is get some more out there, I feel tired just thinking about it, but I'm also encouraged by remembering how much work I used to find blogging, and how much easier it has become now.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Harvest Supper and lost rings

On Saturday it's the village Harvest Supper and I've volunteered to help decorate the hall which I did last year, along with Jenny. With the help of a few 'drapes', (mostly old curtains and some curtain linings that I dyed), a bit of moody lighting, lots of candles and flowers, it looked lovely....oh yes and there was LOTS of food!
See photos from last year here, click on 'Harvest Supper' on our village website if this link doesn't go straight to it.

Today I dug out the cloths again, and with the help of some food colouring, a paintbrush and some leaves I did this to a bit of old curtain lining.
Leafy patterns
can you spot the different tree species?

I've no idea if it'll be permanent, I'll try ironing it, but I have a feeling it will wash out. It doesn't matter really, it's just for the evening. I have got some proper fabric paints, but they are expensive, so this was a great way of trying out an idea. I might be brave enough to get the fabric paints out next as this turned out so well... might look good on book covers! I'm also scheming some crab apple 'garlands' as someone has given me bucketloads of them.
This is what my hands looked like after the painting...

oops I'm not a clean and tidy worker, well it was only food colouring.

Can you see that my wedding ring is on the wrong finger?'s why..

Last week I had noticed that my ring was feeling a bit loose when my hands were cold. I've done less gardening during open studios and wondered if my fingers were getting thinner as a result.
On Thursday I had a day at home. I burned up a big pile of hedge prunings in the field, pruned a wisteria and a clematis, did some raking and tidying up and helped Vince with some carpentry down the road. At the end of the day I washed my hands and noticed with a shock that my ring was missing. We spent the rest of the evening and the following morning searching, but it was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. A gold ring suddenly seemed a very small thing to find in a field of rough grass or a flowerbed. Worst of all it may well have gone on the bonfire, where it would probably have ended up as a small blob.
We gave up, it was only a ring and we would have to get another one. Three days later I came home from work, got out of the car and there it was, on the ground right next to my car, near where I had been pruning the wisteria. I was so happy I practically floated across the yard to show Vince. It's now safely wrapped around my middle finger until I can get into town and get it shrunk!

Oh, and I forgot to photograph the books, I will soon, they look lovely. That's the easy I have to try and sell them!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Colour in the garden in autumn

Although I've been a professional gardener for over 25 years I am fortunate to still love gardening. I've been out gardening (for other people) all day today, and what a lovely day it's been gosh I had my shorts on!
When I moved to this house 3 years ago there weren't many flower beds, and the ones that did exist were full of lots of weeds and strangled plants. So, in some of my spare time I've been clearing beds and creating new ones. I very rarely buy plants. Often people that I work for have too much of something as a lot of plants multiply by expanding sideways or self seeding. I hate throwing things away so I often bring home these unwanted lumps of plant and re-distribute them or plant them in my own garden. I also take cuttings, save seeds and grow things from seed. I do gardening on the cheap. Below are a couple of pictures from around the garden at the moment.
This is an area I only planted up this spring. I'm not sure if the rudbeckias are perennial or annual, a friend gave me the seedlings. They have been fabulous, flowering constantly all summer, and still going strong

Sunflowers, rudbeckia, some kind of polygonum
and a wild mullein which seeds itself around everywhere

Sunflower, aren't they fabulous

Below is a wonderful autumn show of pinky red colours, purely coincidence, as I just shove things in where there's a space!
Fuchsia, a very late michaelmas daisy and sedum

Tall yellow daisy!
This can be pretty invasive, but it looks fab here
I don't know what it is, not very professional of me!

Open Studios

A little p.s. on Open Studios.

Where do I start? I wasn't very pleased with what I'd made for the 'Organic Arts' Art Trail at West Town Farm. I had some great ideas, and I'll store them away to be acted on one day, but I ran out of time to manifest anything I was proud of. Anyway, I did exhibit some 'stuff', so I supported Organic Arts, and I did my rota duties. I kept quiet about which work was mine, and when it was quiet I got to do my knitting samples, so I was quite content.

The other venue however I found more traumatic. Whilst I'm completely fine talking to strangers, I'm hopeless at 'selling'. Now being hopeless at selling is one thing when you are trying to sell your own work, but being left  with the responsibility of selling someone else's work, hmm, that's much worse! I was so traumatised by it that when I tried to explain to my friend, who didn't really understand as she's quite focused and  comfortable with selling, she sent me home and let me off the rest of my duties. She'd rather be on duty on her own than have me moping about, which is completely understandable.

On Monday I went over and cleared away my books, dismantled the gazebo, took down signs and slunk home. I'll see her in a few weeks and I hope we'll still be friends! On the plus side I sold just over £200 worth of books.

Now, less than a week later I have recovered, tidied my workroom and put some extra shelves in....I didn't take any before pictures! The pink jacket on the back of the chair it to be chopped up for book covers

Oops, a bit blurred, can you see my lovely old press?

My desk, with a view of the driveway and garden

err..this bit's not so tidy
spare bed/futon/big pile of stuff corner
 And today I finished of this lot of half finished books. Slightly frustratingly I can't properly admire or photograph them until tomorrow when the glue has dried.

Stack of drying books
... and finally a couple of cookery books to repair. I haven't done any repairs for ages, and I try and avoid it, because it's not my thing really. But I was asked very nicely by a friend to repair the Mrs Beeton at the bottom, so I shall repair my Good Housekeeping book first to remember how to do it! There's also a book on the top that I didn't finish because I was a bit indecisive about the design.
Cookery books waiting to be repaired

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Learning to knit

I'm on a mission to learn how to knit.

If you are an experienced knitter you may find this dull, if you are a beginner like me you may enjoy this journey with me.

If you've read much of my blog and seen my jumper you may think 'what is she talking about..she can knit..'
Two people have recently said to me, 'oh if you can knit and purl you can knit' Well, on a very basic level I would agree, but when faced with this... hmm, that's a bit more complicated isn't it?

k2 tog I can work out, and 'yon' means yarn over needle, but which needle, and in which direction? And what does (s1) slip 1 mean, and what do you 'pass the slip stitch over' (psso)?
Well, I'm pleased to say that with a combination of a Book Of Knitting and some advice from a friend I did this....
Woh...impressive eh?! Well, impressive if you don't look to closely and realise that although the bottom half looks like the picture in the book, the top half looks like a variation on it...which it's not supposed to be, oops. I found it really difficult to follow all those instructions and this is one of the simplest patterns in this book. So anyway, my long term ambition is to understand why "k2tog, yon, k1, yon, sl.1, k1, psso" etcetera makes the pattern it does. Because, once I've understood the principles I can then make things up as I go along, which I'm much better at than following patterns. I realise this is pretty ambitious, so in order to be realistic and learn to walk before I can run I've also had a go at a couple of other patterns
That's lace wings at the top again, and 'ridged eyelet' and 'miniature leaf 2' at the bottom. Ridged eyelet was seriously easy, after having almost mastered lace wings anyway. I also did a couple more test pieces.
This is some bought wool on 4 different needle sizes. I was supposed to put a row of purl stitches in between each needle change, but I only remembered once. What hope is there for me following a whole jumper pattern I wonder?

And then I did two squares with my own wool. The top is 20 stitches and 20 rows on size 4 needles, the bottom is 20 x 20 on size 10, and err, no I don't know what that is in mm, that's just what is written on my new-to-me old needles.

I'm quite impressed by how different the knitting is on different needles in terms of both density and size, I'd never given it much thought before. I just used to think, bigger needles = knitting grows faster = good.
I can see I've go a lot to learn, and I think I'm going to enjoy the journey, even if it is slow and a little frustrating at times.
Many thanks to Ren for lending me the book these patterns came from. It is the 'Vogue dictionary of knitting stitches' by 'Anne Matthews' and it's really inspiring, as long as I don't look at the patterns that are 25+ rows, eek.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Collecting seeds and sewing birds

In case you think I spend all my time doing wooly stuff...well, I do spend a lot of my time at the are a few other things going on..
These are some beans I grew this year. A friend gave them to me and they were labelled 'Dalmation bean'' you can see why can't you, they're really pretty. They were also labelled 'climbing french for eating/drying' Well they weren't climbing..they stayed resolutely down at ground level at the bottom of the canes I put them next to! I didn't eat any as I wanted to build up my stock of seed, and I'm not sure if you're meant to eat the pods or dry the seeds for eating...I must ask her...or look it up on the internet!
Let me know if you'd like a few to grow. I've got some other fab purple climbing french beans, it would be good to share them around too.

Dalmatian beans

I didn't have a very productive year on the allotment because it was so dry and everything stopped growing in July. The beetroot are just swelling to about golf ball size now. Because the veg weren't doing well I let more free range poppies than usual fill in the spaces.
see photos of them here (oops, I've lost one photo!)
 It was very pretty, and I now have a HUGE harvest of poppy seeds to put in bread, cakes and puddings. This is the bowl of empty seedheads, so pretty.

Poppy seed heads

And finally here are some birds I made after a late night blog browsing session. They are stuffed with some not very good wool (oops, did I mention wool). I thought that with red breasts they'd make good Christmas decorations. I haven't decided if they need eyes or wings adding yet. I found the pattern here.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Wool again..

And so the wool theme continues.. 

carded candy floss
(or elderberry dyed wool!)

spun candy floss

miscellaneous bits of cloth
from the elderberry and onion skin dyebaths
 And finally I dug out this motley collection of single ply balls of wool. They are all leftover from my jumper project  and were spun on my drop spindle. There are all sorts of lovely colours and textures in amongst them, but I've no idea what they are now! I'm plying them together, and then all I have to do is wash and dry them and knit them into something. It's not a speedy process this wool thing is it...good job I enjoy it!
single ply balls and plied skeins
And talking of knitting, my friend Mrs Fairysteps, who is as mad about wooly stuff as I am has lent me some knitting books, they are simultaneously inspiring and scary. Between her and my mum and some local knitting groups I might learn to knit properly eventually... and maybe spin properly too, there's SO much to learn.

I've done a bit of sewing but need to find the credit for the pattern before I tell you about it, and I can feel some book making coming on, and have promised myself I'll get some books out on Etsy when open studios is over.

...and have you spotted that I've learnt how to do 'links'....I'm easily pleased!

Monday, 12 September 2011

more wool

I'm pretty busy being on duty for the open studios fortnight, but in every spare moment I'm now obsessed with wool.

This is a batch I've dyed. Yellow with onion skins, pink with a fresh batch of elderberries and blue with food colouring. I thought I'd taken more photos but this is all for now. The pink is now carded and ready to looks like candy floss! I threw some bits of cloth in the yellow and pink vats which have come out all different shades, and then I soaked a white t shirt in the leftover elderberry juice, which is looking quite purpley! I'm pretty random with it all, so I don't know how fast they will be. I might wrap some wool samples and leave them in the sun to see how much they fade. Just need to decide what to do with all this wool once I've spun it. A woolly hat might be useful in the months to come...

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Well, I've done some sewing and spinning, but I can't find my camera so this will have to do for now...
One of my many passions is chopping and stacking firewood, not very girley, but very rural living. Here is a picture taken a while's even bigger than that now.

 I'm so proud of it. Just in case you think I cut all this I did have a nice young man from up the road (one of our neighbours, who lives about a mile away) round twice for two hour sessions sawing and carting with his chainsaw and tractor. Apart from that yes, I have split and stacked most of this. I feel like a squirrel with a larder full, and I feel that whatever happens with the world we will have wood to keep us warm and cook on if we need to. We don't normally cook on the woodburner but we can easily put a pan on it and make a stew (bless you..!)

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Open Studion and a bit more wool

For the next two weeks my books will be on display in my friends studio as part of Devon Open Studios. There are 4 of us sharing the space, me, a potter and two painters. I feel very honoured as the potter and one of the painters are well established artists with a following of people who love their work, and the other painter (my friend) is also fast becoming a very popular artist too...and then there's little me with my books!
The first image is a big one, I think if you click on it you can see the paintings a bit better, tho the image itself is a bit blurry! To see some decent images of their work go to

general view of the studio

a table of my books
 and, although I've been very good and resisted the spinning wheel while I've been sorting signposts,duty rotas, pricing and stuff, I did succumb to dunking some wool and cloth in some elderberry juice that's been in the freezer since last year.

yummy colours (bit on right is an undyed bit)
 and.... I also dug out some old spun-but-not-washed wool from yonks ago and washed it. There's a yellow batch in there that I dyed with onion skins..

wool hanging out to dry
 And then the cat came to help me roll it into cats do...

Ahem...thanks mr pook..

Saturday, 3 September 2011

My 'Art' is growing!

The Art Garden is growing..
(did I mention that Organic Arts theme this year is 'Growth'?)

Wheat growing

Grass growing
Garden growing (in size that is)

And as you're probably bored of that theme now, I started a sketchbook, or notebook to get all my related ideas into
 I made a kind of collage map of my garden

and put it on display at the farm, only this morning, minutes before open studios actually opened, along with a map of the whole farm that I'd like to make in the form of a patchwork quilt or something similar.......
one day

Two maps on display along with my 'in progress' book on the table.

Patchwork flower trialling on my jeans

Concrete and grass flower

I'm also, simultaneously, exhibiting my books at another venue, and was 'on duty' there today. It was a great day and I'll write about that tomorrow.