Monday, 27 July 2015

Falling for my fountain pen

Might my fountain pen bird drawings seem familiar? If you've ever ordered a piece of jewellery from me you may recognise them. I've been meaning to share the story behind this little bird since I began my blog.

The inevitable end-of-term frenzy of hurriedly concocted costumes, crazed social schedules (the girls'), bonkers hair (mine) and importantly, The School Disco meant that the handwritten project - my revival of hand-penned letters and the use of fountain pens and typewriters went on hold for a week or two. 

Oh though, LOOK at the gorgeous snail mail I've received already, from Carolyn who attended  one of my silver workshops recently, dear, long-standing blog friends Moogsmum and Driftwood and lovely Louise  of Superduperthings (do pop over to her beautiful blog for a peep). 

The joy of receiving a hand-written letter is hard to explain. Not only is it exciting to open the hand-addressed envelope, but also the individually written words, doodles and varying shades of ink makes each letter a thing of beauty and rather a rarity since the dawn of hastily typed emails. Each envelope is a small paper present full of a friend's handwriting and thoughts - the words may have been the same if they'd sent me an email but the aesthetics and experience are very different. 

Now that the school holidays have begun and we've recovered from the *coughs* viral visitor that came calling on our first day off, the project shall begin in earnest. My fountain pen and I are poised for inky action and I intend to write several letters a week. 

I know Lesley has dug out her collection of old pens and Tess has even started using her elegant hand to write shopping lists but do you have a fountain pen stashed away? Might you have memories of relatives writing to you? I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Spotlight on the shed

Thankyou so much for your lovely encouraging comments on my handwritten project. It seems the idea of returning to fountain pens, ink and typewriters appeals to many and there are several projects across the internet attempting to revive the joy of writing by hand.   

I have received some truly lovely emails and even some handwritten letters (looking at you dear Moogsmum) this week in response. Sorry if I haven't got back to you yet - there are quite a few to get through. I'll be exchanging old fashioned correspondence with several longstanding and some new online friends. There's a list of just a few of them below.

I plan to illustrate my letters as the temptation to draw with my Lamy (safari for those interested) is too strong. Here's a sketch I'll be sending to Ben at Higgledy Garden.

Meanwhile it's been quite a week for my shed and I:

Here is the episode of Love Your Garden featuring my shed on ITVPlayer.

Fancy reading story of my shed over on Standard Issue magazine? Pop over here for a read.

Handwritten project participants

Ben Ranyard is on Twitter and here are his blog and little seedshop.
The stories behind Celia's illustrations (including her thrilling new commission by the Telegraph) are here and here.
You can see Sara Tasker's restful & beautiful photos on Instagram & in her online diary.
You probably already know Laura of Circle of pines but if not her muted and soothing images are here and here.
Have a peep at Marit's wonderfully charismatic crochet on Instagram

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Craft nemesis

Next week is quite an important one for me. Two things are happening: a meeting in London and a meeting of sorts in my studio. Both require a mass of preparation and one may need a new frock so it's ever so slightly frantic round here. Writing, planting, pruning, spider rehoming, photographing and weeding have been going on for a couple of weeks. The need for the odd twenty minutes of down time is more important than ever. I'm thrilled that I'm able to turn to crochet for relaxation. It took me thirty years to become familiar enough with those intricate loops that it stopped being a source of frustration and is now like yarny meditation.

Crochet was my craft nemesis for decades and I've written about how it eventually became part of the everyday and a kind of woolly yoga for me in Standard Issue magazine. I made my first how-to video too. It's here if you'd like to learn how to make a foundation chain - it's the casting on of crochet.

Have you heard of Stitchlinks? Betsan Corkhill runs this excellent organisation, working with the medical profession to investigate the beneficial effects of yarncraft. There's no doubt that in recent months when my Mum in law was unwell and I was rather overwhelmed by the task of promoting the Comic Relief craft magazine crochet came to the rescue. The combination of hook and string seemed to drive down adrenaline.

Does cow parsley grow where you live? It lines every field and hedgerow here and the three or four plants that have found their way into out garden are about to flower. This photograph was taken last evening as the sun began to dip. I wondered whether I could make some with crochet for a friend's belated birthday. I think it worked (see top image) and this is the project I've been working on in between hacking at nettles, although I may try it on a smaller scale too. This will become a garland eventually. Do let me know if you'd like me to write out the pattern...

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Creative medicine

I was rather taken by surprise at the Spring fluey cold that crept up on me three weeks ago. It seems funny time of year to be feverish and confined to bed but I hear that it's been clobbering people across the country. It slowed everything down, including my giveaway announcement. Thankyou for your entries. As ever Mr Random Number Generator came to my aid in choosing the winner. It's CJ of Above the River. Congratulations! Drop me an email with your address CJ.

Between healing naps my concern about my neglected inbox and the three British bird commissions that had to be made were eased by crochet. There's a soothing joy in each loop that can distract from an unfortunate nasal situation.

There's no doubt the shawl I was making was medicinal and as it got larger I was draping it around my shoulders as an extra layer of cosiness.

There was another source of creative medicine whilst I sat amongst wool, quilts and antipyretics. Instagram has been something I've dabbled with but I decided to hop on board and explore it a little more (I'm @silverpebble2). Each image is like a miniature blogpost and it's lovely to catch up with friends over there. Some images are highly styled, some have filters and effects added and some are untouched. I've been experimenting with what I post. I admit that it may seem daft to fiddle around with flowers or pebbles but I confess I love to make images that echo one of my lifelong favourite books: Keble Martin's concise British flora in Colour. This is my version of patchwork and it's as soothing as crochet or weeding for me.

The images in this post are ones I've posted on Instagram. Have you tried it? Does it lure you away from blogs or do you find it too frenetic? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Friday, 24 April 2015

It is time

I've written about overcoming my fear of them (just about), Val once held my hand whilst I wrestled one into submission in the pursuit of some pyjama bottoms and my yearning for a barcelona skirt I've made myself is still strong. I've reached a crossroads -I think it's time I had my own sewing machine. 

I have to admit I'm still rather wary of the needle and the calculus-like workings of these miraculous machines but the potential for making small twirly skirts for small twirly daughters is undeniable and very alluring. Crochet was my craft nemesis for thirty years. My urge to make a woolly flower was so strong that my treadle trepidation was forgotten. I'm trying to design my own crochet shawl just now and last night I crocheted part of a slipper boot so I think the hooky hurdle may be conquered. 

I think I've chosen one. It's basic, several people recommended it on Twitter and, well, it's duck egg. blue. DUCK EGG BLUE. 

Admittedly it does not have a nifty fan attachment like the spectacular number below.

What advice might you have for a person embarking on such a crucial craft relationship? Do you have any sewing machine-related tales (please omit any involving smoke, flames or stitched fingers until I'm feeling a little more brave)

Images from here

Note: I have drawn the winner of my Country Living bookazine and antique necklace giveaway and will announce it in my next post, Many thanks for all the entries x

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The canine Judi Dench

Our dog, known variously as Hairy P, Four-legged Pebble, Pog and Minnie Mitchell is quite a hound. She was born in a stable in August 2000, has had a road traffic accident, a drug-related misdemeanour, has stolen innumerable cakes and sausages, knew I was pregnant before I did and has a spidey sense for all soft furnishings. She barks wildly at Countryfile as she thinks the sheep are ALL IN THE ROOM WITH HER and despite being over 100 in dog years still flirts with a dog called Des from down the road. If you'd like to read more about Minnie pop over to Standard Issue.

This online women's magazine is just a few months old, contains frank articles about everything from crochet to IVF and its writers include the lovely Chetna Makan from last year's Great British Bake off who shares original recipes, Jess Fostekew whose 'hoovering' column about eating out is excellent and Sarah Millican. I'm super honoured to be writing for this ace publication and it's a bona fide antidote to many women's publications that offer little more than discussions of 'beach bodies' and the latest vertiginous heels. It has substance and wit. Oh and if you like any of the articles you might find over there a 'recommend' click can really help us to know if our content is being enjoyed. 

Huge thanks for all your lovely comments on my Country Living bookazine and antique button necklace giveaway. I'll be keeping it open until Friday so it's not too late to enter.Just pop a comment on my last post.