Friday, 13 November 2015

Fifth Stallaversary...

Today marks the huge milestone of five years in my little stall. From humble beginnings with a little bit of stock in a tiny corner of my counter, to the point now where I have very little room for anything new, this stall has been my world for the last five years. I have made friends, had more neighbours than I can remember, and lost and found my creativity more times than I can count. I've seen so much change, both inside and outside my stall. I've had so many good times, and some pretty rough ones too, but this little place will always be in my heart. 

I will be closing my stall doors (ok, putting up wooden shutters)for the last time on Christmas Eve. The decision has not been an easy one, in fact there have been sleepless nights and moments of terrible uncertainty, but the time has come to think about the future, where I want to be in another five years, and to be honest, I don't see myself making progress if I stay here. I need flexibility to take my work out into the world, and structured opening hours just won't allow that. And I need new eyes to see my work, because I just can't keep waiting. 
There are people I will miss. I will miss my little stall and all of it's quirks. I will miss the familiar faces that pass by every single market day, hearing about their families, the relief when I see them again after unusual absences. I will miss the stories. I will miss the gossip. I will miss visitors - the dear sweet lady that brings me a mice pie every Christmas, the Christmas cards and well-wishes. So much to miss. 
I make it sound like it's perfect. It's not. But the things I will miss will outweigh the bad stuff. I hope I will always think fondly of this place - the first home of gemmipop designs, my first toe in the pond of self-employment and the place that has given me the confidence to try. 

Brooch Workshop

An evening of crafting is not really unusual for me, but last night I opened up my studio for a crafty brooch making evening. 
I was joined by two lovely ladies, and we had a jolly productive evening making fabric puff brooches. We had a lovely time picking fabrics, drinking tea and admiring our finished brooches - we each finished three! 
I'm so excited to be able to offer these evenings, I genuinely enjoy sharing skills and ideas and I am always so happy to know that my visitors enjoy it as much as I do. My next evening session is a second Crochet Christmas evening, I'm already looking forward to it!

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Crochet Cowl... or The Tale of the Rescue from the "Never Going to Happen" pile...

These lovely granny squares were made in a fit of enthusiastic crocheting, and sadly ended up moving from the "work in progress" pile to the "I'll come back to it" pile and eventually landed in the "never going to happen" pile... me being me, I never made a note of hook size, and the yarn I used ended up sucked into another project, so all I had left was a sad looking bundle of unused squares, waiting patiently for re-discovery.
 Ten little squares were never really going to be very useful, and so they were picked up and put back in the "never going to happen" pile repeatedly, until a couple of weeks ago when I looked at them with fresh eyes and inspiration struck - cowl...
And so, I began stitching them together, a nice little invisible join, and when they were all joined to each other in a nice long strip, I put the ends together and they became A THING. I worked around it with a nice simple double crochet edge, and now it is ready to begin it's life as a cosy winter-woollen, just at the right time of year. And so I have hope again for the "never going to happen" pile, because it would seem that it has treasure lurking below the surface, waiting for a good idea to come along...

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Christmas Crochet Evening

Last night I hosted a Christmas Crochet evening up at my lovely new studio. We made tree and star decorations, using patterns that I've adapted from the Royal Sisters blog. I really love teaching crochet, this was the first time that I've had such a large group, and they all did wonderfully. 
 I picked out my best Christmassy coloured yarns, including some rather splendid sparkly stuff, and unpacked my loveliest tea cups and saucers, and we had a fabulous crafty time!

I have a head full of ideas for seasonal makes for next year, I'm hoping that these little group sessions can be a regular thing. 

Monday, 2 November 2015

A Crocheted October...

In October I joined in with the Lazy Daisy Jones Crochet Hook Up on instagram, a daily photo to go alongside the theme for each day. I am proud to have managed to actually post something every day, and thought I would share the month here...
Day One - Hello - me, obviously...
Day Two - Work In Progress - my 2015 blanket
Day three - Colour combination - several of my favourites
Day four - Blanket - my first ever blanket
Day five - Chunky or lace - brooch with tiny doilies
Day six - favourite hook - my 'go-to' hooks
Day seven - square or circle - squares, always!
Day eight - future project - Sarah London pattern
Day nine - Fave Stitch - puffs and popcorns
Day ten - cushion - sunburst with Brian modelling
Day eleven - border - I like a scallop
Day twelve - fave book - 200 crochet blocks by Jan Eaton
Day thirteen - scarf - chevron scarf from last winter
Day fourteen - fave make - bundles of blankets
Day fifteen - storage - cupboard in my studio 

Day sixteen - where? - my cosy spot on the sofa
Day Seventeen - Fave yarn - cotton in lovely colours
Day Eighteen - Christmas Crochet - glass baubles made last year
Day Nineteen - Who taught you? - my first ever square, made with the help of a fellow student at uni
Day twenty - Vintage pattern - my great grandmother's crochet book
Day twenty one - pastel or bright? - always bright
Day twenty two - amigurumi - unicorn from Simply Crochet
Day twenty three - crochet blog - Meet Me At Mike's, Emma Lamb, Twinkie Chan and Dottie Angel
Day twenty four - Flowers - my rosebud brooches
Day twenty five - yarn stash - my sock yarn, the neatest of my stashes...
Day twenty six - gift - teacosy from the pattern on the Crochet With Raymond blog
Day twenty seven - stitch markers - Yummy Doughnuts 
Day twenty eight - inspiration - galleries
Day twenty nine - local yarn shop - RKM in Oswestry
Day thirty - crochet toy - Groot from Twinkie Chan's pattern
Day thirty one - Halloween Crochet - my 2015 blanket square

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Books... October

October has passed me by in a blur of adventures and busy-ness, and I only managed to finish two books. Unusually for me, I am also in the middle of three others, I don't really know how that happened...
October Books - 

  • Posy Simmonds - Gemma Bovery 
  • Robert Newman - The Entirely Accurate Encyclopaedia of Evolution

Saturday, 31 October 2015

My Week...

Such a fabulous week. It started with a visit to see Lucy Rose, supported by Billie Marten and Jake Isaac. They were all really very talented and had such pretty songs. 
Monday was our trip to London, to deliver the Big Knit hats, followed by a whistle stop highlight tour of the British Museum and the National Gallery and a couple of cake stops! 
Aside from the big adventures, there was a Christmas shopping trip to Liverpool, and lots of lovely time spent at home. The cosy dark evenings are bringing out my usual need to make blankets and read books in front of the fire, the typical late autumn/early winter hibernation thrill that will no doubt quickly descend into cabin fever. For now though, I'm enjoying it. 

Month in Makes - October

October has been such a busy month, full of hat making and pompoms for the Big Knit, as well as a bit of Christmas Robin making, but I've managed to find some time to experiment with some cross-stitch jewellery, first playing with some Cath Kidston patterns, and progressing onto my own little bee design! I like the frame brooch, but I think the necklace maybe needs a little more work... 
Of course I have continued with my Granny a Day blanket squares,  I've just passed the 300 mark, and my favourite make of the month - my special Halloween Pumpkin Brooch!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Hat Delivery Day

On Monday, we woke up early and packed up 5830 little tiny hats and went on an Adventure to the big city! 

 We were made to feel so welcome at Fruit Towers, and I was so pleased to be able to take my lovely mum along! We were shown the pen where all the hats will be kept, and had photos taken, and we were loaded down with lovely juice for the journey home. 
 (The hat pen - Before and after our hats were added...)
We also had a little mooch around London. It was just a lovely day.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

My Week...

Last week was dominated by one thing - going to see Jack Off Jill. I have loved them since I was about fourteen years old and it was the most amazing experience to see them live on their final tour. I still just don't have the words to explain it properly.
The other highlight was my lovely dad's birthday, a splendid afternoon spent with my dear family, chatting and laughing and munching. It was just lovely. 

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Taking Stock

Thanks as always to lovely Pip at Meet Me at Mike's for this bit of inspiration every month, it's been good to stop and think in a month that has been so very busy!

Making : jewellery, little robins, granny squares and my 2015 blanket
Cooking : autumn comfort food
Drinking : tea - regular and Twinings Strawberry and Mango
Reading: Nick Frost's Autobiography "Truths, Half-truths and Little White Lies"
Wanting: to go and see Jack Off Jill again every night for the rest of my life...
Looking: at my diary and seeing how alarmingly little time there is between now and Christmas!
Playing: Jack Off Jill constantly
Deciding: what to put on my lovely board in my studio
Wishing: I could be in two places at once
Enjoying: My lovely dad's birthday and spending time with my family
Waiting: to go to London to deliver over 5000 Big Knit hats!
Liking: my lovely yellow PlayPurse
Wondering: what to read next
Loving: cross-stitching
Pondering: "Back to the Future" day!
Considering: planting wallflowers in my lovely raised beds
Buying: mini Sunjellies bags
Watching: "Brooklyn Nine-Nine", "Heroes", "Big Bang Theory", "Agents of SHIELD" and "The Blacklist"

Hoping: everything works out...
Marvelling: at how much a tiny cut on my finger hurts!Cringing: at people...
Needing: quite a lot of sleep
Smelling: Autumn
Wearing: wintery-woollens and cosy tights
Following: every opportunity!
Noticing: that photography is harder than it seems!
Knowing: that things are ok
Thinking: that I'm going to try out the new Italian Bakery in town very soon
Admiring: polka-dot fabric for Christmas Robins
Sorting: out the arrangements for Christmas Crochet Crafternoons
Getting: excited about the future
Bookmarking: The Lazy Daisy Jones Crochet Hookup on instagram (#ldjcrochethookup)
Coveting: Beautiful Cath Kidston dresses and skirts
Disliking: the dark evenings
Opening: my studio door for visitors!
Giggling: at silly things that I see
Feeling: a bit of pressure about the festive season, but excited too!
Snacking: all the time, I'm hopeless...
Helping: where I can as always
Hearing: the sound of Jack Off Jill ringing in my ears...

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Little Lessons

My favourite part of being a full-time crafter is sharing skills with lovely people. I know I've said it before, but I get so much from seeing people start their crochet adventure. 
I had a visit from Sharon on Wednesday, she came along to try out some new stitches, we had a go at crocheting rows, and varying with front and back loops, and we did a mitred square. 

Rita came popped up with her lovely daughter Jess, and we went over granny squares, then onto Sunburst squares. They are both naturals!

I was thrilled to hear that they'd spent the afternoon practising...
And on Saturday Tarloke visited for a beginner lesson, and made his very first square. 

 The days fly by when I have such lovely company. 

Monday, 19 October 2015

My Studio

My beautiful little studio is taking shape, starting to feel like a work space, wearing a little of my personality and becoming comfortable and homely. My name is on the door, my work is on the walls, my lovely magazine bits and bobs are framed and my desk is starting to look busy. 
My little corner is full of pretty pictures, postcards, colour samplers, and jewellery bits that I've been working on. It is bright and inspiring, I have my notebooks and crochet and my head is full of ideas. 

I introduced the first visitors this week - I hope they will be the first of many. 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

My Week

As weeks go, this one was pretty memorable - Wonderful Wool Day, meeting Nick Frost and the preview evening of the lovely Vintage Magpie shop, the neighbour to my little studio. 
I caught up with friends, walked in the autumn air as much as I could and taught lots of crochet lessons. Life is pretty sweet. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Oswestry Makes 2015

Oswestry Makes is a crafty festival that has been held for the last three years in our little town. I help where I can in the organisational stages, and as always offer crochet lessons over the weekend up in my little stall. This year it ran from Friday to Sunday, culminating in the Wonderful Wool Day. 
Friday was pretty quiet, but I had a visit from lovely Kitty, who is new to crochet and wanted to give crocheting in the round a try. 
I think she did rather well...
Saturday was very busy, starting with a visit from Rita, Jodie, Natalie and Kathryn. Rita and Jodie could already crochet so I only really helped them out with some pointers, but mum and daughter Kathryn and Natalie were completely new to it, so we started at basic chains and then moved on to granny squares. Everyone did really well and left with a little square and a smile! 
Then I was joined by Hannah and Freya, who is ten years old - she was an absolute natural, and was working on the second round of her granny square by the time she left. So proud! I'm hoping we have some new crochet addicts in the making!
Sunday was Wonderful Wool Day,  where there were stalls, things to learn and try out, lots and lots of tea and cake, and a Back-to-Back, where a fleece went through all of the various processes and stages to make it in to yarn, which was then knitted into a hat and a child's cardigan. It was amazing to see a row of spinning wheels all lined up and and everyone working away! 
I had a little stall selling a some of my jewellery and handmade bits and bobs, as well as kits, hooks and needles and supplies for people to take away. I think it went pretty well, I met so many lovely people, all so excited to be there and enjoying bonding over mutual interests. 
I even managed to find a moment to have a little look at the Orphan Lamb table, where I found some mermaid coloured Shetland wool, and also some cream Aran weight wool, a 15mm crochet hook (I met the man who made them - he finds bits of branches in the woods to make them from) and some vintage metal sock needles. A Wonderful Wool Day indeed.

Monday, 12 October 2015

My Week

Wowee, this week has passed in a blur! I've had lots of work things on - teaching crochet, visiting the Loudwater Studio in Ludlow, Make on Monday in a lovely cafe with fabulous cake, a day in my studio making everything pretty, and my usual days in my little stall. This time of year is always so busy, but I managed to have a little bit of time off too - we had a night out in Manchester, at an Anti-Austerity gig and saw Public Service Broadcasting, who were ace. Their new song "Go!" is just amazing. The highlight of the week was that we had a little visitor, a little hedgehog, he was so cute. 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Jam Making...

One of the highlights of last week was making Jam with my mum. The fruit was all hand-picked - the plums and apples were from our garden, and the Blackberries were from the hedgerows local to my parents. I must confess that I'm not really much of a baker, it's not something that really comes naturally, but I really rather enjoy making jam, especially because it means I get to spend lovely time with my mum and dad. 
 We made Plum Jam first, in two batches, this was the recipe from mum's old cook book "the Dairy Book of Home Cookery"...

1.4kg (3lb) washed plums
450ml (3/4 pint) water
1.4kg (3lb) granulated sugar

(It also says to add 15g of butter - apparently it's to remove the "scum" from the top, but we did't really have any so we left it out)

Put Plums into saucepan and add water - we had already cut them up and removed the stones

Bring to the boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer gently until fruit is tender (about 15-20 mins, but I think we gave it a little bit longer than that)

Add sugar and stir until dissolved

Bring to the boil, and boil briskly or 10-15 mins (again I think we gave it a little bit longer) until setting point (we did the saucer test here)

Remove from heat (this is the point where you'd add your butter if you were going to)

Pot and cover - we did the usual sterilising thing here, wash the jars, pop in the oven to warm for about 20minutes.  

Next we made Blackberry and Apple Jam, this time from mum's Jam and Chutney book

1kg (2.2lbs) Blackberries (we were a tiny bit short of that, but it didn't make any difference)
750g apples, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks
1.5kg caster sugar (we used granulated and it was fine)
125ml water

1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon (we left these out, and it's still yummy!)

Place the apples and blackberries in the pan, add the water (it doesn't look like much but don't add any more, it's plenty) and simmer for 10mins until fruit is soft

Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. (Add the cinnamon and nutmeg now if you're going to) and boil for 20 minutes, stirring often until set (again, the saucer test works here)

Remove from heat, take off any scum and jar up. 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

My Week...

My week started somewhat sadly, with the sudden departure of my dear budgies. They were about a year old when we adopted them, they came as a pair, they used to smooch and cuddle up together, so it seems fitting that they they passed within hours of each other, Kate first in the morning, and William in the afternoon (we didn't name them, but they came to live with us at the height of Royal Wedding fever...)after he had apparently sat over her little body all day and refused to let my poor husband take her away. It was so sad, and although they were really rather vocal and loved to spread their feathers everywhere, we miss them. 
The rest of the week improved somewhat, we picked Plums and Apples from our garden, and my dad and I went Brambling and found a huge hoard of Blackberries, so there's been jam making, which is one of my favourite Autumn activities! I love the idea of squirrelling things away to last through the long winter months. We had a little city adventure last night, popping along to Home in Manchester to Robert Newman's book launch. He's one of our all-time favourite comedians, and it was lovely to hear him read bits from his book "The Entirely Accurate Encyclopaedia of Evolution" and to have a little chat with him afterwards, such a thoroughly nice man. He even signed our books. Such a splendid evening, can't wait to read the book.
(The puppy isn't ours by the way, his name is Ozzy and he belongs to my dear friends, he is the most gorgeous little chap)

Friday, 2 October 2015


One of my favourite things about knowing how to crochet is helping other people learn. I love seeing people go from the first tentative swoop-through-the-loop, the first saggy-looking chain, the first treble, to the first finished round, the next round, the quiet concentration as they slowly start doing it all by themselves, the moment where this odd jumble of knots begins to look like SOMETHING. I always begin with Granny Squares - my all-time favourite thing to make and, in my humble opinion, the best place to start. They are perfect for beginners for lots of reasons - they have the basic stitches, which you repeat over and over again so it stays put in the grey matter, and they grow ever so quickly so there is a tangible *thing* to take away at the end of the session. It's a proud moment when there is an exclamation of "it looks like a square" or "I did it!" or "I'm going to the wool shop RIGHT NOW to get more colours". I love the 'ping' on my phone when an email full of photos arrives, so much pride and hard work. It is a joy. This was a square from a session yesterday - when I left it was only three rounds, so it was pure happiness to see the forth!

I have so enjoyed starting people on their crochet adventure - this is my lovely friend with her very first bit of crochet... 
which looked like this less than a week later...
 So proud!
This is Gemma with her first square...
And lots of lovely folks with their squares at the Wonderful Wool day last November...

And lovely Louise at her first lesson.
I really hope that at least some of the people that I have taught will continue, and will remember me fondly as the person that got them started. I so worry that these amazing skills will be lost, and I hope my enthusiasm will be contagious and help in some small way to encourage people to give it a go! 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Reading... September

I am a self confessed creature of habit, and although I try to always read things that I've never read before, I am always drawn back to the Harry Potter books. I read books five to seven earlier this year, in preparation for our visit to the Studio Tour, but I've started the series again. It's like coming home to visit old friends. I also read the short story "The Collectors" from Philip Pullman, and as much as I enjoyed "The Dark Materials" trilogy, I don't feel the same emotional attachment that I do to Harry Potter. 
I have followed "Fine Little Day" on Instagram for some time now, and was thrilled to find that Elisabeth's book has been translated to English. It's a lovely, lovely book, inspiring and filled with beautiful images and words. It's pure happiness.
So my September reads were...

  • JK Rowling - "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"
  • Elisabeth Dunker - "Fine Little Day"
  • Philip Pullman - "The Collectors"
  • JK Rowling - "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"