Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Truffles Part II (original title, huh!)

You know, I really don't enjoy writing 'how-to's'. Whenever instruction is required, no matter how vague, I always find myself struggling to avoid slipping back into the writing style that five year olds adopt and believe to be both original and unique to them - you remember:  'And then', 'And then', 'And then', 'And then', 'And then' (usually building, I recall, to the shocking climactic revelation "suddenly I woke up and it was all a dream"!) It is so hard to energise instructions, to imbue them with some sense of ones own personality. Or perhaps it isn't - perhaps it's just me (this sentence is applicable to more areas of my life than I care to acknowledge). I know my problem boils down to the fact that I am innately selfish. I don't make any attempt to conceal the fact, nor do I make any apologies for it. Unfortunately, multitudinous aspects of my torturous  childhood were not conducive to forming a well-rounded, altruistic individual. I am, ulimately, far too preoccupied with my own 'well-being' (something I find increasingly difficult to attain). Thus, I make a far superior student than tutor. I am practical and diligent if trying to learn a new skill or follow somebody else's pattern because I expect to gain from it. Yet, finding myself in the situation where I have the opportunity to impart some knowledge or share an exciting idea and almost without warning the magic dissipates. I cannot train myself out of privately thinking to myself 'why would I explain this? I already know how to do it'. See - selfish! I'm not like this out of spite, I can assure you! And I do have some (read 'limited'!) endearing traits.

So, bearing all this in mind and (hopefully) not thinking too badly of me, here are my less than exciting, less than comprehensive, less than I had hoped (ain't that the story of my life) instructions? Nay, explanations, of how to complete the truffles!

You will remember that the flavoured ganache had been chilling in the refrigerator overnight? Well, the next step was to scoop spoonfuls of this sublime mixture into balls, rolling them gently into perfect spheres smooth balls 'bite-size' lumps and coating with fine 70% cocoa powder from 'Green & Blacks'. [Goodness knows, for what is essentially brown dust, this powder smells absolutely sensational. If asbestos smelt like this we'd all have killed ourselves years ago!]

This was, as you can imagine, a highly messy job! The problem with a ganache, I've discovered, is that it has a pretty volatile reaction to temperature. Ok, so not exactly volatile, but for somebody that spent their childhood years refusing proffered bags of crisps in the school playground lest they cross-contaminate or pick up some hideous disease designed to kill the pre-pubescent, this was quite an adventurous task:

Strangely, hubby's truffle filling did not seem to melt like mine. I was reminded of my Grandmother repeating the saying 'cold hands, warm heart' and suddenly felt slightly insulted....

100 balls of gooey and not-so-gooey later, we had several lined trays that looked like this:

The final part of the equation is where I get slightly lost. We'd agreed that we would leave some truffles as they were and coat others with either melted plain or white chocolate. Nathan assured me that to do this we had to 'temper' the melted chocolate. Upon learning what this entailed, I asked if it was strictly necessary and was courteously informed about what a heathen, what a reprobate, what an entire waste of life I was. Of course one needs to temper the chocolate, daaaarling! How could one not know such a thing! Evidently, it is the process of sloooooowly cooling the chocolate to avoid splitting of the fats. If you say so. My reluctance to get involved can be explained by this picture. Would you want this mess in your kitchen?! Though admittedly, it would be a delicious excuse to redecorate....

After much dipping, rolling, coating, dusting, packing, candied peel adding, switching to white chocolate and starting all over again - we were left with our finished truffles. A brief spell in the chiller and this is what they looked like:

And it's weird, you know. In textile based crafts, we all strive to create items that look commercially produced, professional, flawless. And yet, the handmade appearance of these beauties did nothing but enhance their appeal. Far superior to a slab of moulded, mass-produced Cadbury's, don't you think? I enjoyed packing some up into a cute glass jar and adding a ribbon -these are for a very special friend's birthday and will be gifted this evening.

Go on - treat yourself!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010


Normally, I would not venture into the kitchen under my own steam. I am very lucky to have found a man that not only cooks, but cooks well. Owing to the fact that I literally cannot fry an egg (no honestly - I do not have to exaggerate my culinary ineptitude to amuse my readers, I really am that bad) Hubby has always done all of the cooking. Yesterday evening, however, I was lured into that tiled den of strange stainless steel instruments, steam and surface cleaner by two of my favourite things - Gin and Chocolate! I'll start at the beginning - take a look at this:

For his birthday last week, Nathan was given a copy of the book 'Adventure's With Chocolate' by Paul. A. Young. I'm (clearly!) no expert, but he assures me that the book is fantastic and he has very much been looking forward to trying out some of the recipes. Yesterday he came home with a massive bag of goodies and announced that we were going to make flavoured truffles! Nathan chose to make an orange and chilli flavoured ganache and I, predictably for those that know me, chose Gin and Lime.

Here's what we did:

Break 250g of chocolate into small pieces and leave to one side in a bowl.

Next, mix 250g of double cream with 100g of sugar in a saucepan and heat. Stir constantly while you bring the mixture to the boil. As the yummy, oozy, syrupy liquid warms up, you can add your non-alcoholic flavourings. I threw in my chunky lime zest and Nathan his chopped chillies and chunky orange zest. Nathan tells me that you cannot use actual fruit juices but, for an explanation of why this is the case, you will have to refer to a proper cookery resource I'm afraid! Once the mixture reaches boiling point, gently simmer for one minute.

Remove from heat and stand to cool for one minute. (at this point I added one LARGE shot of Gin)

Sieve the mixture to remove the lime zest and pour warm mixture onto the chocolate that you prepared earlier.

Whisk/stir until the mixture achieves a glorious, smooth, glossy texture, like this...

And then? Well, I have no idea at this stage! Hubby told me to cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. I will be finishing the chocolates this evening when I get home from work! I'm very excited and cannot wait to see how they turn out. It is a very close friends' birthday on Wednesday and I intend to gift some of these handmade chocolates in some divine packaging.

Usually when Hubby spends time in the kitchen, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to knit or sew, uninterrupted, for a few hours. I think the moral of this story is not to get so wrapped up in any one form of creativity that it has a detrimental effect on your opportunity to try new things. I never cook but these are grrrrrreat fun and so easy! I love anything that gives maximum results with minimum effort!

I'll be back tomorrow to show you how I finished the choccies!

N.B - I would like to mention that there is no intention of infringing any copyright legislation with the above. My information about making truffles is not exactly detailed and making a ganache is, I imagine, no different to making a sponge cake and I'm pretty certain that nobody has rights over that! It should be noted though that Paul's bok was the inspiration behind flavouring the ganache with unlikely ingredients.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Detritus, Big Birds and an Exotic Bloom....

When I first started crafting I lived in just a small two-bedroom apartment. Space wasn’t really a problem at that point. Having only just stumbled onto the crafty path that I now follow, I hadn’t yet developed the enormous stash of yarns and fabrics, books, patterns, UFO’s and equipment that I have since come to own. When we moved into a much larger house, however, I thought it sounded terribly grand to refer to our unoccupied box room as ‘the studio’ or ‘the workshop’ and as I began to accumulate more and more stuff it did, indeed, start to feel like a truly bohemian, Aladdin’s cave of creativity and artistic promise.

Sounds good right? Wrong….. Just look at it now – and please don’t judge me!

N.B. Apologies for the poor quality of the pictures. I am having a little camera trouble at the moment (shopping opportunity?!) so these were taken on my blackberry.

I am only showing you the chaos that confronts me whenever I enter this room as I am desperately hoping that the saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ will, by some miracle, mean that 50% of this terrible mess will be cleared up by the same fairies that still have yet to re-arrange my sock drawer, re-carpet the hallway and repair the garden fence! Can anybody offer some words of encouragement? I really must sort this all out at some point this weekend! The only solace I can find in the situation is that, at the very least, the disarray proves that both the room and my crafting equipment are well used and well loved!

Now, forget all that and look at this cutesy cushion that I started making last night. As with most things I do, you won’t be overwhelmed by technical ability or groundbreaking construction -the cushion is a very simple unadorned square with a zipper inserted along one side in order that the cover can be removed and washed. I do love how this is turning out though (still to complete one edge), but I am sure this is more to do with the fabric that anything else.

It is a large-scale print that I got from IKEA several months ago. I forget now what it was called, although I do remember that there was another one in the range in a gorgeous azure blue with little goats on it! I’ve got a real thing about birdie fabric at the moment (seriously never saw that coming!). I’m also pleased because there is quite a sizeable chunk left over so I am hoping to cut out some of the key images (the birds and the city skyline) and appliqué them onto some simple tote bags. What do you think?

Frustration reigns at the moment – I am still waiting to receive the fabric that I ordered from ‘The Cotton Patch’ over a week ago. I think perhaps it is time to find a different supplier. Fabric Rehab has some beautiful prints on the site, so I imagine they will be getting my next order! I’ll finish today’s post with one final ( I know, I know, low resolution) picture.

Nathan keeps one of his multiple orchids on the windowsill in the hallway and just recently it has started to flower again. This morning as I rushed downstairs to leave for work, I paused for a moment to take a quick photograph of the bloom. I felt that it was worth sharing with you all. Pretty, huh?

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

I think it's gonna rain today.......

I know that the moment I mention what a beautiful day it is I will be startled by a large thunder-clap announcing the re-opening of the Heavens and that, come 5.30pm, I will be stuck in a mile long queue of traffic, wipers hurling themselves backwards and forwards across my windscreen and cursing to myself that nobody is prepared to venture over 12 and a half miles-per-hour in the rain. It’s always the same way; let’s not pretend that it isn’t. Earlier in the week I tentatively hung my washing out on the line before going into work. All day I looked forward to taking that washing back in, crisp and fresh from the first warm day of spring and I very nearly got my wish until Mother Nature, the teasing, artful, pi**-taker that she is, decided that it would be amusing to unleash a small, short shower at 5pm. Back to the tumble dryer….

AND YET, I’ll take my chances! Just look at the sunshine that we’ve got today! Even I, the perennially miserable, cannot help but feel elated when the sun shines, the air clears and all the myriad colours of the world that surround us become thickly vibrant and saturated. I don’t like the summer - the heat makes me feel ill. I don’t enjoy sitting on a beach all day and the whole concept of a BBQ is lost on me (who wants to carry the entire contents of their kitchen outside, just to have to cart the whole load back inside a few hours later?! Why not just put your kitchen-cooked meal on a tray and eat al-fresco?), but these early days of renewed warmth and growth do make me grin with pleasure. No longer do I rush home in the evening to shut the world behind thick curtains but, instead, I find myself standing at the back door, taking deep, sweet gulpfuls of air and sniffing at the breeze like some flashback of a primordial version of myself. Like a lizard lazing on the surface of a rock, this time of year heats my blood, re-animates me, reminds me that I am alive.

Suddenly, it seems, optimism is not beyond me…..

You’ll remember that earlier in the week I was working on my new ‘lunch-bag’ from Sew Hip magazine. Well, I’m pleased to say that it’s finished and being used! Admittedly, there was not much more to do, simply attach the lining to the inside of the outer bag. Mind you, easy as that may sound it came with a whole set of problems. Funnily enough, these only seem to arise when I DON’T follow instructions! The pattern called for two coordinating prints in lightweight cotton, but I, in my wisdom, decided that I was going to use some faux suede for the lining that I’d rescued from the bin after shortening a pair of curtains for my sister. For some reason, my machine was really unhappy about sewing together the two different fabric weights, though perhaps it was due to the nap of the suede resisting the tug of the feed-dogs as I stitched? Nonetheless, completed it has been! I didn’t have any poppers as were suggested, so I made use of the one-step buttonhole function on my sewing machine (still can’t get over how CLEVER that is!) and added a glorious vintage button! Here it is:

I have to say, I would recommend this pattern to a beginner sewer like me. I don’t like making things merely for the sake of it, but this project was simple, stylish and, above all, useful! My banana and ‘Shape’ yoghurt (mmmmmm Danone!) were thrilled to be taken to work in this gorgeous Amy Butler mean machine!

Now what?! Well…..this leads me to my next subject. I hinted briefly last time that the next post would cover temptations and confessions. In all honesty, they are really one and the same. After all, giving into temptation is usually what one needs to make a confession for!

I particularly like the saying ‘The Devil Makes Work For Idle Hands’ these days, as I am sure that is what leads me to spend so much time crafting. I am possessed. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! And it’s for this reason that I have been overwhelmed by, enraptured with, transfixed upon yet another crafty pursuit.


Never before had I thought twice about this art form. But now I am desperate to give it a go! I don’t know what happened, what changed, what magic was cast upon my poor, weak soul, but I have been inspired! It goes without saying, of course, that this new aspect to my creative life necessitated some considerable shopping. This is where the confession comes in. I cannot…hear me CANNOT (are we really friends? Truly? Well, don’t tell Hubby…….. Ok…so Will Not) stop buying fabric….or books….or equipment….. More on this later – I’ll show you all of my gorgeous new things when they finally arrive (the only downside to internet shopping!). My intention is to begin the ‘Mod Sampler’ quilt from Oh Fransson as I am hoping that, having been designed as a ‘quilt-a-long’, the instructions will be simple to follow.

On the subject of quilting I have some more exciting news! My friend Zola and I are to attend the Quilt exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Musuem this Sunday! Ha ha! How exciting! I daresay we’ll stop somewhere fabulous and retro for afternoon tea and a mahoooosive slice of cake afterwards. Provided that I am allowed to take some nice pictures, I promise you all a good, long blog post next week for those that are unable to attend themselves (the exhibition that is, not afternoon tea!!!)


Already the clouds are beginning to build as my finger hovers over the ‘publish post’ button……….

Monday, 22 March 2010


Ok…… so, in retrospect, throwing back two large cosmopolitans before we even reached the restaurant may not have been a good idea.

Following them up with two bottles of red wine was probably not very clever either.

Rounding the evening off with a shot of something clear (possibly Meths?) and a liqueur coffee was, admittedly, pushing my luck.
The evening started off well enough. Dashing around the house grabbing clean clothes, towels, playing traditional ‘getting ready’ music (“I wanna dance with somebody, I wanna feel the heat with somebooooooody…wo-hoooooa I wanna dance with somebody…..) and dipping into baths that, having only been allotted 23 seconds to run, just about touch the back of ones thighs! What with the dogs to look after, lack of funds and a generally lethargic interest in socializing Nathan and I don’t get out much. All the pre-evening excitement was a nostalgic reminder of my early teenage years which, looking back now, seem to have been one long party. How I managed to hold down a job, start a relationship with Nathan and work my way through college & university is beyond me.

Once ready (Nathan assures me that I look ‘fabulous’ so I waste a few seconds scrutinizing his face. Is he mocking me? Perhaps not……for a change……..) and we’re out the door, in the car, up the road and parked! I’d been insisting all afternoon that a Cosmopolitan was a deep necessity owing to my limited social airings in recent months and so we started the evening off at the ‘Ha Ha’ bar. Who knew that drinks could be so expensive? A Cosmopolitan, a Long Island Ice Tea and a Lynchburg Lemonade was roughly equivalent to a yard and a half of Amy Butler fabric! Second round? Fine….I’ll just kiss goodbye to that skein of hand-painted sock yarn….. Nonetheless, I was determined that I would make the most of this night. This night where the air crackled with electricity and the early evening aroma was a heady combination of the last rain of winter and the first fresh grass of spring. This night where my armchair and knitting had been swapped for dim lights and clinking glasses. This night, populated by faceless crowds of laughing girls in glittering tops and too much makeup. This night… night.

Alas, there, right there….is pretty much where my night ended. It didn’t of course – we walked to the restaurant and joined our friends/family and tucked into a mass of Greek food. Unfortunately, however, the additional alcohol that I consumed in those hours served to somewhat tarnish the magical, expectant atmosphere and replace it with what felt to me the following morning to be a much more seedy, over-indulgent ‘why-on-earth-did-i-do-that’ one. The evening was fab, the food was fab and Nathan had a wonderful time. Yet, for one who so rarely gets out, who was so determined to make an impression on the world for those few hours, the whole event seems, thanks to those alcohol units, rather vague to me now!

Nonetheless, through the thick fog of yesterday’s hangover, I did manage to place my hands upon some fabric and started making a super-cute lunch-bag from a back issue of Sew-Hip. The bag is inspired by the rolled down brown paper bags that have become synonymous with ‘American Grocery Shopping’. It’s not finished yet but I’m pleased with how it looks so far. I chose a bold, graphic print from Amy Butler’s ‘Midwest Modern’ in blues/greens/yellow and twinned it with recycled chocolate brown faux suede for the lining. I’m hoping to finish the bag tonight, so I’ll post pictures soon. (I always say that don’t I?! Honestly, this time I will!)

Next time – temptations and confessions….

Friday, 19 March 2010

The Big 'T'

So....tomorrow Hubby turns 30.





Nope, it's no good. However you articulate the thought, there is no getting away from the fact. Thirty. I mean, that's a proper age....

Friends of mine often joke that I am like an old woman trapped inside the body of a young man. I go along with it. Indeed, in many ways I encourage it. I appreciate the connotations with stability, wisdom and reflection. My friends, of course, are actually referring to my inability to use public toilets, my being miserable and grumpy, my prediliction for button-up cardigans and my insistence on saying things like 'when I was a child' at the, apparently tender, age of twenty three. But THIRTY.  That really is like....a proper age......

Nathan and I have been together for over five years now. He was, when we met, only 24. And while in so many ways, neither of us have grown up (last nights game of arm wrestling the very minute we got into bed and turned the light out is testament to this ((nothing erotic - don't get excited!))) and yet, where have those five years gone? We must have done something with the time? Thirty..... I have friends that are thirty who have been married for several years, own their own homes, have one/two/three children and a time-share property in Devon! When were we supposed to grow up? I don't for a minute suggest that we're irresponsible or foolish, just that I dont really feel any different than I did when Nathan and I met. And the last five years have simply disappeared in a puff of smoke! How do I measure those five years? The number of times we've laughed, or cried? The number of skeins of yarn we've knitted up? The number of skeins of yarn we've purchased and NOT knitted up? The number of times I've said "will you please hang your coat UP" or "if you don't turn your sleeves the right way out when you take them off then I'm going to stop washing your bloody work-shirts".

You see, while Hubby grins and shrugs his shoulders at the big 'T' word, I am in a panic about the next five years! Will they too pass in what seems like a matter of minutes? Am I going to doze off for a moment and suddenly awake to find that I am now thirty?

I've always been a bit ahead of myself, but even I cannot believe that my mid-life crisis has started already..............

In an effort to relax, I have, in the last couple of days, cast-on for these GORGEOUS little lace gloves from 'The Purl Bee' which I am making in a variegated grey yarn that looks remarkably like storm clouds. The pattern is beautiful, easy and quick! Check out the link and start a pair of your own!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


I'm not usually the smug type. Especially not where my creative life is concerned. Normally I am preoccupied with comparisons between myself and other crafters, painfully aware of how much less (less everything) my work is than theirs.

And when I make a mistake, I make a proper one. No slight hiccups here, thank you very much. No, Mother's Ruin makes big, ole stinkin' major F**K ups!

Picture the scene then, if you will....

Saturday afternoon I had decided that I would cast on a simple project, suitable for the approaching season, that would use up one of my odd balls of yarn and be pretty enough to pop onto the Folksy shop.

Mistake No 1: Test Swatch

Being both impatient and a little arrogant, I thought that I quick test swatch (as in, an inch square) in stocking stitch would be sufficient to correctly gauge my...err....gauge.


Not knowing this, I decided that the delicately variegated orange yarn from would make a very fine retro-looking headband and could easily be embellished with a crocheted flower and some beads. Perfick!

Mistake No 2: Owing to test swatch - cast on incorrect number of stitches.

Immediately followed by....

Mistake No 3: Cast on even number of stitches when stitch pattern calls for odd number....

Having abandoned the stitch pattern, I decided that the project was going to be an example of pure, unadulterated, brilliant simplicity..... (that is, 2x2 rib and stocking stitch!).....

On I knitted.....over lunch, whilst chatting on the phone, through LOVEfilm's latest offering - 'Julie and Julia' (has Meryl Streep ever given a poor performance?! I don't think so and can highly rec. this title!).

Aha! Knitting COMPLETE!

Mistake No 4 (or rather culmination of mistakes no's 01, 02 & 03): Project too big!

Massively too big!

Enormously too big!

 I don't know a) how I managed to miscalculate to quite such a massive extent and b) how I didn't notice as I was bumbling along knitting the damn thing! Admittedly, Ms Streep was slightly on the distracting side, but come on! Common sense prevail!

Now what?

Mistake No 5: Felting

Of course - the yarn I've used is a high quality pure blue-faced leicester wool! If I chuck it in boiling water and then into the tumble dryer with a couple of those spikey dryer balls then the whole thing will felt, shrink and come out looking even more gorgeous than I had anticipated!

Except........... When one felts something that is longer than it is wide, the result is often that the item gets THINNER but LONGER.

So...... unless I manage to find a shopper on Folksy with a head circumference directly proportional to Katie Price's bust measurement, I'd say I'm pretty stuffed......

NO no no no no no no NO NO NO NO   NNNOOOOOOO

I will not be beaten!

 Up to the workshop I rush.......... a quick delve into the boxes of odds and sods that I've collected .......what have we here? Some sewing thread? Some glass beads? A bit of old lace?


Back down the stairs I scuttled, grabbed the needles I'd used to knit the headband together with the leftover yarn. Some swift knitting on the bias followed and.....

TA DA (this is where the smug bit comes in).

Like a phoenix from the flames, my screwed up retro headband became a Victorian Inspired Scarflette, complete with GENUINE VINTAGE lace!

Good save, huh?

N.B Finished item now available on my Folksy Shop!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Wear it your way.....

In some ways I feel slightly embarrassed to be blogging about this item for the simple reason that it is not exactly an adequate demonstration of my skills. Indeed, this is entirely a beginners pattern. Nonethless, for all its simplicity I absolutely adore the end result. Let's start at the beginning....

Many, many months ago I was glancing through a friends copy of Monika and Deborah Simmons' "Double Stitch" when I came across this design. Well, I say this design, but in actual fact I am claiming this design as my own!  I remember that the Simmons twins had crocheted a lengthy belt, attached masses of colourful fringe and fastened with a large button. I recall being very taken with the idea of using fringe to create such a striking effect, but, as I was already engaged in several other projects, I forgot all about it.

Cut to about three or four weeks ago and, whilst giving my stash its bi-annual up-ending (basically just bringing everything that has become buried back to the surface so that it may fairly compete against newer purchases for a place in my next projects), I came across multiple skeins of sari sailk yarn. Now, I adore this stuff. Not only is it a luxury product, hand-spun by a womens co-operative in India, but furthermore it feels like such a quality product. The yarn has a good weight to it, fantastic movement and drape, has more vinbrancy than the moment Dorothy steps out of her Sepia dipped farmhouse and into the full technicolour shock that was Munchkinland and, perhaps most compelling of all, cannot free itself of all those romantic connotations of magic carpet rides, Asian Princesses, the monsoon and any other stunning images that are immediately projected into ones mind when one hears the word 'India'. My only problem though was this - i'd tried using Sari yarn before but found that its uneven gauge, indeed its very character, was not conducive to a pleasant knitting experience. This yarn does not like to be constrained by a pattern, calling instead for freedom, for liberty, for ( I realised now) THIS design! Approx 200 gms are used in the belt, but the majority of this is reserved for the fringe. You see, the project acts as a vehicle for showcasing the yarn instead of the other way round. It is not the design that makes this item sing - it is the unapologetic, in your face, MASS of sari yarn!

This particular example will be for sale on my Folksy shop within the next few minutes, but if you'd like to make your own then this is what you need to do:

Materials & Tools:
200grams Sari Yarn
1" button (mine was handmade from polymer clay)
5mm Crochet Hook
Darning needle

Step 1: Chain a continuous length of sari yarn until you can wrap it around your waist comfortably. What you want is to be able to wrap it around your waist, hold the length of chains together at your hip with the two ends dangling along the front of your legs. (see pictures for a rough idea). Stop chaining when the length of chains is the same length that you wish you finished belt to be.

Step 2: Tr crochet in every chain along the length. Ch2

Step 3: Repeat step 2

Step 4: Chain 5 & join with sl st through the tr space. Repeat all the way along. You are creating a continuous series of button loops along the top of the main belt.

Step 5: On opposite side to the button loops that you have created, add fringe all the way along. I suggest 2 lengths, folded in half. The fringe is attached between each of the tr. spaces of the first row.

Step 6: Weave in ends, attach button in a place that makes the belt comfortable for you and your style.... Wear it your way!

Try wearing the belt as a scarf or as a sarong on the beach!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Pulled in every direction...

You know, sometimes I find crafting to be quite stressful.

It can be difficult to know where you ought to focus your attention. I sew, knit and crochet so, in itself, choosing the medium in which I want to work can be hard. Yet, even then there are so many other considerations. I had recently decided that I was only going to make things for myself which, as a stand alone statement, posed no problems. I have multitudinous projects backed up in various online and real-world 'to-do' lists and who doesn't like to expand their own wardrobe?! Yet, having knitted to the mid-way point on a chocolate brown sleeveless waistcoat I started to feel restless and dissatisfied. Perhaps I should start a second project?

Then, of course, I was faced with the stash problem. If I was only knitting things for myself, then what on earth was I going to with all the odd skeins of yarn that are stuffed on shelves in the workshop, each one representing yet another failure to control the fibre guzzling, impulsive yarn hoarder buried not so deep inside. They gaze at me in silence - voiceless, reproachful.....neglected. Row upon row of beautiful, wasted opportunities. Like performers who have failed a final audition. Good....great even....but not quite good enough. I am not ashamed to admit that my resolve weakened. I cannot possibly knit all of that yarn up into useful projects for myself (I draw the line, for example, at wearing peach!). How many scarfs/hats/tea cosies/ipod covers etc etc could one household possibly need? These were the early fruits of my labour, the projects that I made to learn and hone my skills. I had already gifted a million and one similar items to friends, family and work colleagues, would they be able to cope when the second wave hit in? Perhaps not.

But of course - the Folksy shop. A conscious and sustained effort would reward me with a profusion of little trifles, just perfect in their one-skein cuteness to sell on to happy browsers. But..... spring is just around the corner, who wants to wrap themselves in swathes of wool, alpaca and mohair when the buds begin to bloom and the opportunity to allow sunlight to gently caress pale skin finally presents itself? Spring and summer are the seasons for cotton, silk and lace knitting and, having barely considered these before, where would I start?

Moreover, if I was to spend my free time resourcing and making suitable patterns for the Folksy shop, how would I have any left to develop my own design skills? Throughout the last couple of years I have developed an acute awareness of the lack of decent mens knitting (and sewing for that matter) patterns. Apparently, the world assumes that gender dictates taste and therefore men cannot appreciate anything that is not heavily cabled in brown/black/blue or grey wool. I had anticipated that with some hard work and continued practice, I would be the guy that could redress the balance.

I realise now that I have, perhaps unfairly, presented this as a story with a punchline. But as you sit here reading, I am afraid to advise you that no 'Eureka' moment is to follow. I cannot show you how best to split your time to achieve optimum results in every area of your crafting life as I am none the wiser myself! I have just completed one small project (details to follow tomorrow) and cast on another, my waistcoat has grown a few more inches and my stash is now heaped on the floor looking, if it's possible, more hostile than ever and STILL I find myself pulled in every direction.

Procrastination, they tell me, is the thief of time.

I, dear readers, am losing entire days!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Spanish Inspiration

On a recent trip to Barcelona I came across a fabulous clothing company called 'Desigual' and was completely mesmerised by their style. Unfortunately, I have to put my hands-up to being less than adventurous with my own. Don't get me wrong - I love to wear something a bit different but as that type of gay guy I tend to be drawn to things that are a little too effeminate to pull off with any measure of success, especially with my burgeoning weight(been dieting for three weeks now and no better for it!). When my love affair with crafting began I was, as I think people invariably are, immediately drawn to the potential to make things for other people. One's knitting career usually commences with several scarf length pieces of sweaty, gnarled yarn complete with dropped stitches and poorly woven yarn tails, which are generously offered out as gifts before being hastily forgotten by both giver and receiver. This, for me, was a trend that continued far longer than necessary and so here I am, 2 and a half years later, and only now am I beginning to realise that I am actually allowed to make things for myself! This is what prompted me to get my act together and figure out how to use my sewing machine. I'm still in the process of doing this but I am part way through sewing a 'practice' shirt with the aid of David Page Coffin's brilliant book "Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing" and a Burda mens pattern (which are very few and far between I have since discovered!). I do not have any pictures of my efforts thus far but I will be posting some soon. My intention (read 'aspiration') is to eventually sew my own casual shirts in the style of the fabulous designers at Desigual. I love the fact that those guys are not afraid of colour, nor of using wildly contrasting patterns/fabrics on the same item. Take a look at some of these beauties and tell me that you're not inspired!:

And it's not just shirts. I came across the most fantastic jacket made up of about 7 different types/colours of tweed! I know such statement pieces are not to everybody's taste, but I was delighted when I saw what could be achieved with just a little imagination. And it doesn't stop there! Ladies - feast your eyes on these:

But STOP! Before you dash off to Google and order something gorgeous for yourself, take a look at how well Desigual can manipulate denim fabrics:


I was also particularly drawn to the...err...accessories presented in this photograph.


After pondering my ability to make such garments myself, I decided to just jump in and give it a go. Hence the 'practice' shirt (constructed entirely from a particularly revolting stunning pair of rotton old vintage curtains)! As for the final product - I've just taken delivery of my first order of fabric from the lovely people at and I am very impressed with my own choices! I threw caution to the wind and selected two vibrant fabrics that I would not normally have gone for. Wild, but I think they work!

 To the left is an Amy Butler print, and the fabric on the right is by Kaffe Fassett. Both well-known and highly respected artists in their own right - so here's hoping some of the magic rubs off on my own creation! What do you think?

Despite all this encouragement to sew, sew, sew, my artistic appetite was still not entirely satisfied. "Please finish just one project before you move onto another" I hear hubby say. But that's a battle we all have to fight! I was determined to re-create for myself something similar to the funky waistcoat of mis-matched denims that I've shown above. Another online shopping trip sees me armed with a 'New Look' waistcoat sewing pattern and a few less pennies in the bank.

Inspiration? Check
Fabric? Check
Patterns? Check
Sewing supplies? Check

Now if I can just get that time machine running, I should have a new outfit by the weekend...........

Monday, 8 March 2010

A six month hiatus and a fresh start...

So…… I had a blog once. I loved it. And then I messed it up. Like fad diets, exercise regimes, conversational German & parallel parking I eventually gave up and moved on. I didn’t want to but it was all such an effort! You see, you know how some people have ‘champagne taste but lemonade pockets’? Well I have a perfectionist’s outlook coupled with idleness and disinclination! I aspired to be a successful, articulate blogger with hundreds of arty photographs, a new lengthy post every hour on the hour and thousands of readers on every continent. I wanted my blog to be captivating, inspirational, amusing, and motivational. I wanted hoards of new crafters rushing out to buy yards of fabric, balls of yarn and more knitting needles than you could…err….shake a pointy stick at….. simply because of the epiphanic moment that they had experienced whilst browsing my blog. Alas….. Reality strikes. I’m only human. And I can live with that. So here it is – the new blog. Luckily my creativity has increased at the same rate as my waist measurement, so I can promise you some interesting posts. I warn you though, this is going to be a ‘warts and all’ blog from now on. You get the good with the bad. And I love a good moan just as much as the next person so I’m afraid that ‘cheerful’ and ‘optimistic’ cannot be guaranteed. If I make something and it turns out to be hideous, if I try a new technique and it all goes wrong, or if I use a new product and loathe it – you will get to hear about it! I will no longer strive for perpetual perfection! The second change that I intend to make is to include my darling partner in the new blog. Nathan also has a deep interest in all aspects of the craft world but he will add the interesting dimension of spinning to the blog. So look at that – whether you’ve moved with me from the old blog (and sincere thanks if that’s the case) or are an entirely new reader you get more for your money! TWO different sets of skills, TWO different projects to read about, TWO gorgeous gay guys to whisper in your ear about the joys of crafting!!!! WE ARE MOTHER’S RUIN AND THE FUN STARTS HERE!