Thursday, 21 January 2010

"Shards Of Light"

*Insert Drum Roll here*


Laydeez and Gennulmen - following some mumbles of support from people who liked my stuff (and whose arms I absolutely did not twist very much) I bring you today news of my newly opened Etsy shop!

It's called 'ShardsOfLight' and  I set it up purely as an outlet for what I have now decided to call 'window jewellery'.

At the moment there's just one very large star (pictured above) and one large heart (pictured below):

But there are three hearts that are half the size:

Yes, I know the picture makes it look larger but that's because it's a close-up.

They're all made from clear and dichroic glass that have been heated enough so the glass has started to fuse but not so much that all texture has been lost.  In other words, it's lumpy but that just means there's more edges for the sun to catch = more shiny goodness!!

The edges are not sharp but because they are glass, rather unsurprisingly they will shatter if dropped on the floor so I'd suggest not putting them anywhere young kids (or not-so-young but stupid kids, i.e., pre-pubescent boys, especially if they're like the ones I know...) can get hold of them.

Anyway, I'm pretty pleased I managed to get them made, especially the heart ones, in time for Valentine's Day - and don't forget I've gots lots of other luvverly stuff available at my jewellery website!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Happy Hooker update

I've been crocheting like mad.  This has really got me and I'm so enjoying the quiet rhythm of moving the hook through the wool to create something so very colourful.  I'm thrilled that my hugely pregnant sister-in-law likes the baby blanket I've made for their latest so I guess I will continue to make things.  I've also discovered the most fabulously inspirational blog written by Lucy up in Yorkshire called Attic24.  It's astonishing to think she only learned to crochet 18 months ago because what's she created is just mindblowing - the colours, the COLOURS!  I want to make things like she does.

But, at the moment, I've got two projects on the go - I'm making differently sized circles to join together into a blanket or throw or something.  Making the circles and joining them is no problem, but what to do in the gaps was a conundrum.  I'm sure there's some way of filling the gap with straightforward crocheting but I tried it a few times and just made a complete dog's leg of it so I thought about it some more and decided that I'd look into making crochet stars to fill in the gaps, so found a tutorial online, made some, sewed them in between some of the circles and it kind of works:

There are many more circles and stars to go, so it's going to take me a while, especially as I'm alternating making the circles and stars with teeny, tiny granny squares, just two rounds big, which will end up being a cushion cover (with the back made from an old jumper, as per Lucy's tutorial although hers is in 'normal' granny squares and mine will be in 'solid' granny squares - this is a technicality - but the effect should be the same, fingers crossed!).  Apparently I'm going to need 72 or so of them, I have this many so far:

There's some way to go...

Friday, 15 January 2010

Coprophiliac? Me?

I had a massive craving yesterday.  I realised that I'd not had any for over two weeks now - the void since Christmas had been filled with any amount of dried fruit, but dried fruit was no longer enough.

But what to do?  Everywhere would be shut now.  I tried not to think about it but the incessant pounding in my skull was saying "must....get....some....NOW!!!!".

Then, sweet baby Jeebus, I remembered that there WAS some - I rushed to where it was and gazed at it lovingly.  Its glistening brown-ness, the texture, the SMELL - I inhaled deeply.  It was as fabulous as I remembered.  Then there was the taste - dear God - it was a heady rush to the senses and more, so much more than I could have imagined.

Dear reader - I was eating some plop.

Yes, that's right - plop, or rather 'Plopp', the actually really rather amusingly named Swedish caramel-filled chocolate bar that TLH had brought back the last time he'd been to Sweden.  The chocolate craving got so bad last night that I ended up eating it - and now I wonder why it took me so long because I can quite categorically state:

That shit tastes GOOOOOOD!!

PS.  As you can guess, there is endless comedy potential with this (that is if you have the sense of humour of a three-year old, but then they're some of the funniest people on the planet so perhaps it's not such a bad thing).  TLH came back from Sweden yesterday and greeted me with, "I've brought back a suitcase of Plopp for you!".  My, how we sniggered.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Happy Birthday, TLH

It's my best beloved's birthday today.  The Lovely Husband is abroad in the foreign on business for the rest of this week and no-one there knows it's his birthday.  He doesn't want them to know because he can't bear any kind of fuss. In fact, 'low key' is a very good description of him, as well as being the absolutest loveliest person on the planet (and also the bravest for taking me on in the first place as I'm not known for being a shrinking violet).

I love this photograph of him - he'll berate me for putting it up but I don't know why, I find him pretty easy on the eye and this picture was taken as a quick, random snap in order to test some new photographic manipulation software I'd got hold of a couple of weeks ago (thanks, Peevish!) and this was the result - it's fabulous!

So I can truthfully tell him that I put this up as an example of what I think a really good portrait photograph looks like, but really it's to celebrate the birthday of the person I love most in the whole wide world.

Happy Birthday, mush.

Will the snows never cease......

Ho hum, here we go again.  Yesterday the snow had more or less gone from the trees, all the icicles had gone from the gutters, it was still piled up in corners but life was getting back to normal.  We were able to get to Heathrow for a mid-morning flight (TLH is away for the rest of the week on business) and it was fine. The neighbours in my close spent quite a few hours digging away the compacted ice on the road and even went so far as to go to a local builders' merchants and buy some sharp sand to shovel onto the paths and road.  We have a yellow bin at the end of the close (there's a slight incline from the main road to get into our close) but for the last two years the council hasn't put anything in there, so I guess we have to do it ourselves.

But all the hard work was all in vain because we woke up this morning to this:

We've had another couple of inches overnight.  The pic below shows the handrail on the bridge and you can easily see the new depth lying on top of the previous week's that hadn't yet melted:

The cats had got used to going out in the snow that we had last week so were taken a bit by surprise at the sudden increase in depth overnight.  Sylvester ventured out, only got so far, decided it was a bad idea and came back in again.  Smart cat.

I'm supposed to be having new carpet laid today.  It was originally scheduled for a couple of days ago but the carpet fitter got his van to the end of our road and couldn't get it up the slight incline so had to go away again.  But at least he tried.  We've rescheduled for today when he's going to get a 4x4 but that was before the new snow fell, so we'll have to see.  Still, it would be nice to finally get the decorating finished!

PS.  For anyone who's now caught the crocheting bug from me, you might like to have a look at Carina's craftblog and then clicking on the 'Tutorials' button, and looking for video tutorials on YouTube and Videojug.

PPS.  The carpet fitter arrived!  He did an absolutely fabulous job and we now have the most gorgeous ruby/claret red carpet up the stairs.  Will take pictures when it's daylight.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Finished cot blanket and the next project

I finished the blanket last night - crocheted all the squares together and then did a border round the outside in a dark purple.  I'm pretty pleased with it:

Each square is five rounds and there are 30 squares here altogether, which is about the right size for a cot.  I hope my brother (C)and his wife (S) actually like it now!  The baby's due on 31 January but S has an inkling that it might well arrive on 17 January along with the full moon.  She's planning on a home birth in a large pool.  Jolly good luck to her, I say.

As I'd finished this yesterday afternoon, I thought I'd like to have a go at making some circles now instead of squares so went searching for instructions but I got side-tracked when I found these images of 'circular' blankets:


How unbelievably inspirational are these!  Granny squares (i.e., the cot blanket's made of) are very nice but can be a bit, well, old-fashioned (and that's where you jazz it up with interesting colour combinations) but those circular/amoeba shapes are utterly fantastic, and as for the colours......

I think I've found my new crochet project!

Monday, 11 January 2010

New Craft Projects

I come from a line of women who make stuff - my mother always has something on the go, and always has had.  I can remember back to the 1970s when she used to do flat pewter work, embossing the dark grey metal to create placemats and mirror frames.  Then there was upholstery and a brilliant thing she used to do with large brandy glasses - she would glue stuff into them like bits of natural cork that looked like miniature tree trunks, dried grasses, seed heads, dried flowers and then add real (but dead, obviously) butterflies, then glue a clear round flat piece of glass over the top to seal it all in.  I can remember we used to have to travel to Brighton to a shop that sold these butterflies (also beetles, that sort of thing) that people could then put in frames, or maybe they were already in frames...whatever....  The butterflies would be flat when she got them but she worked out that if you held them in the steam from a boiling kettle, the wings would start to fold back up, so she would hold them there until they looked more naturalistic.  They were lovely but I can't remember if she sold them or what she did with them.  I don't think she even kept any herself otherwise I'd put a picture up to show you but I'll ask her when she's back from snowbirding around Florida and Jamaica.

At the moment she takes picture frames, mirror frames, small chests of drawers, flowerpots, wooden trays, metal trunks, pieces of furniture, and decoupages them.  This is extremely laborious and involves painting everything cream, then cutting out designs from wrapping paper, napkins, anything paper-based, gluing them onto the item and then varnishing it several times over.  Look:

Bedside Cabinets

Galvanised watering can

Wooden tray with Hydrangea design

Metal trunk with ivy design

Lovely, aren't they?  She sells them at craft fairs but also through Black Sheep, a shop in Midhurst, West Sussex (you can get my jewellery in there too).

One of my mother's sisters, Marg, who lives in Canada is also extremely 'crafty' and has done most things over the years - I believe she's focusing on quilting at the moment.

I have a cousin, Karla, who is currently growing vegetables and herbs, then making oils and such-like from them to sell at farmer's markets.

My maternal grandma was also very hands-on and used to sew, knit and cook fabulous meals.  So there's definitely something in the genes (but seemingly only on the female side for some reason....)

Over the past few months I've taught myself to crochet - I bought a 'kit' off eBay for a couple of quid which consisted of a crochet hook, a ball of violent lime green wool and some photocopied pages of a teach-yourself-to-crochet manual.  I took these with me to Budapest to keep myself occupied.  I persevered but found it quite difficult to understand what I was meant to be doing via written instructions, so I just practiced doing knots? what do you call them?  Stitches, I suppose.  Well, anyway, I just kept practising them just to get used to manipulating the wool and the hook, regardless of what I ended up with.  What I ended up with was this:

Somehow I kept losing a stitch at the end of each row and, if I had continued, it would end up being triangular.  So I put it all away and didn't think about it for a few weeks.

Then, just after christmas, I wondered if there were any instructional videos on YouTube or Videojug (this is a website that has nothing but instructional videos on it, for practically anything you can think of - it's great for recipes). Of course there were!  So I started again and can now make a mean Granny Square.

I'm almost done making a cot blanket for my new niece/nephew (due at the end of January).  These are the squares laid out - I'm currently crocheting them all together but you get an idea of what it will look like when finished:

And, hell, yeah, I'm feeling pretty smug about it!  The whole thing has become quite addictive - I'm having to force myself to do other stuff first, with the promise of more crocheting as a reward.  I wake up in the night thinking about colour combinations.  This is what it was like when I first started making jewellery - ideas would suddenly occur in the small hours and my brain would start spinning.  I think I'll do a blanket for our bed next....

And the other thing I'm doing now is making what I've decided to call 'window jewellery'.  This is glass that has been full-fused and tack-fused using a combination of clear and dichroic glass to make light-catchers that you can hang from window catches or dangle from the knobs of kitchen cupboards, in fact anywhere where the light falls.  I started a few weeks before Christmas by making an abstract, vaguely snowflakey/xmas tree-y sort of shape:


This shape is mostly clear glass but dotted about are small pieces of clear dichroic glass which show colour when the light shines on/through them:


I then experimented with making 'proper' star shapes and using dichroic glass that has a black base.  This works nicely but has to be hung where the light shines on the front in order to show the colours properly.  I made three of these to give to family and friends (including the ever-lovely Katyboo - she posted a picture of the one I sent her, which is just as well because I forgot to take a picture of it before I sent it, d'oh!).  This is the one I kept for myself:

I'm now having a go at different shapes - I made a large heart shaped one:


Then thought it might be a bit too big, so have done a couple smaller. This is one of them, I realise there's nothing to give an idea of size, but it's about half the size of the bigger one:

The concept works well but my kiln is not happy in this very cold weather.  A kiln is basically nothing more than a small oven that gets fucking hot.  Not just 'hot', you realise, but 'fucking hot'.  I cannot overemphasise just how hot that is.  But, like an ordinary kitchen oven, every kiln gets its hot and cold spots.  In mine, the back left corner is most definitely hotter than the front which is against the door.  This means stuff can fire unevenly.  If the ambient temperature of the room the kiln is sitting in is quite warm, this shouldn't be a problem.  But mine lives in the garage where, currently, it is fucking cold.  Not just 'cold', you realise, but 'fucking cold'.  I cannot overemphasise just how cold that is.  This is resulting in glass fusing too much at the back of the shelf, and not quite fusing enough at the front of the shelf, so I have a couple of glass hearts that are too smooth and rounded at the top:

but the edges of the bits of glass at the other end (the pointy bit) are too sharp.


I will put them in again, but facing the other way in the hope of evening it all out, but it's a bit of a pain, nonetheless.

Never mind, I have to get it right because 'pain' is not what I want to be causing my customers because I have decided to open an Etsy shop to sell these lovely things.  I've got a name and everything but I'm not telling you yet because, until I get the firing sorted, there's no stock.  But watch this space and I'll make a big announcement when it's all up and running.  And then I'll close it all down 6 months later when I don't sell a single thing.....!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Snow and the human psyche

Snow does funny things to people.  TLH and I were discussing how different people are when there's snow on the ground and I thought it would be an interesting idea for a post.  Then today I read this wonderful post by Fennie about the effect of snow on the human psyche and figured she'd already written my post for me and I'm just too lazy to try and do it myself when she's encapsulated everything I was going to say!  So go over there and read that, then pretend you read it over here and marvel at my insight.

I wonder if I've just stumbled on a post-modern method of blogging - decide on a subject then go and find someone else who's already written about it, and just link to that one....  Would save a lot of bother, wouldn't it?

But, here, have some pictures instead, taken over the last couple of days:







Wednesday, 6 January 2010

It's Snow Joke (No? Oh, please yourself......)

I really hate having insomnia - it keeps me awake at night.  I've always been quite a light sleeper but it seems, these days, I rarely go through a night without waking at least once and, when that happens, it can take a jaw-clenchingly long time to drop back off again.  It also doesn't help that TLH, through no fault of his own, often does a passable imitation of a one-man-band when asleep so I find myself lying there, staring into the dark, in the wee hours listening to him tooting, trumpeting, puffing or sleep-eating (seriously, he chews in his sleep) and wondering what's coming next and from which end.  If you throw into the mix an overweight, snoring cat sleeping on my feet as well, it's a wonder that I share a bed with any of them.  So frequently I don't, at least, not the whole night.  I start off in the marital bed but then I'm lucky enough to be able to adjourn to the spare bedroom which is blissfully silent (it's also by far the coolest bedroom during summer - I mean, temperature-wise, not looks-wise because we've made it look like a hotel bedroom, all wooden floors, dark wooden venetian blinds and pale coffee and cream colourways.  The main bedroom is far more colourful and is my favourite....)

Last night we got snow.  It started at around 6pm and is actually still going now, at 11am the next day.  We got about 2 inches in the first two hours and the weather forecast was for a possible 16 inches of snow overnight.  How exciting!

Text messages between myself and my brother, who lives in Wokingham, tracked the progress of the snow and Facebook conversations were all about how the supermarkets had been rammed to the gunwales with people panic-buying provisions.  I'd made sure I'd done my own personal panic-buying (otherwise known as the normal weekly shop) on Monday this week and didn't notice there being more people than usual but yesterday I'd decided to walk into the nearby town to the bank (which is 1.5 miles away), pop into the wool shop to get more colours for the baby blanket I'm crocheting and swing by Waitrose to pick up some nice bread for lunch (I love Waitrose's bread, but I could quite happily take a machete to its customers in my local store - a more self-centered, ill mannered bunch of poshos I've yet to find....).  The streets didn't look particularly more busy than usual, I did what I needed to do at the Bank, then spent a very pleasant 20 mins choosing beautifully coloured balls of wool in an extraordinarily old-fashioned wool shop, that doesn't take debit cards, credit cards or cheques - only cash.  I can't decide if that makes them archaic or cutting edge, as many shops these days won't take credit cards or cheques.  Plus 'needle crafts' (as I believe they're called), i.e., knitting and crochet, have become desperately hip these days as people rediscover the joy of making things for themselves rather than buying straight off the shelf, so this little dowdy-looking shop might just be at the forefront of modern life.  Or perhaps not.

Anyway, I sauntered into Waitrose to get bread and Welsh cakes and couldn't believe the amount of people in there - more than for the pre-christmas rush!  Took at least  half an hour to get through the checkout and start on my way home.

At the very least I'd hoped that a 3+ mile, 90 minute walk would give me enough exercise to allow me to have a full unbroken night's sleep but, to be honest, I think my stupid subconscious had got all excited about the snow and kept making me want to get up and look at it.  Stupid subconscious.  It does the same thing to me the night before every single bloody craft fair, even those I'm not bothered about.

So I'm lying there at about 2.30am this morning, listening to the bonging and wheezing of cat and husband and decide it was pointless, I might as well get up, go downstairs and look at the snow, to get it out of my system.   It all looked rather alien outside, white ground and dark orange sky from the street lights, so I took some pictures, a couple with flash:

 In the second picture you can see something very reddy-orange in the distance (click on the pictures to make them bigger), so I zoomed in on it, it was a snow covered tree lit by a street light and looking very unearthly:

I was up for about an hour or so, eventually heading off to the spare bedroom at about 3.30am or so where I proceeded not to fall asleep.  I've managed to train myself over the years not to get angry or frustrated about being unable to sleep as that's counterproductive - even if you just lie there and close your eyes and try to relax, you'll gain some benefit and may just drop off.  It got to about 4.15am when I heard a loud scraping and a 'crump' outside - sounded like a load of snow falling off the roof.  I managed to drift off finally but woke again just before 7am and I decided to rejoin TLH.  There was no more sleeping then but only because he decided to talk to me and then get up, not what you were thinking, eh?

I got up as well and came downstairs to find it a proper snowy, wintery wonderland out there so whipped out the camera to take more shots before it got spoiled.

It took me a while to realise something was missing from the bottom picture.  Here's a photo of the same scene, taken in February 2009 when we last had a big snowfall - see if you can spot what's missing:

I hadn't noticed that the Forsythia had gone!  The weight of snow had caused it to keel over, and that was the noise I'd heard just after 4am this morning:

Unfortunately it's lying right on top of my very expensive Dicksonia Antartica Tree Fern.  The fronds have been pushed down but hopefully the crown hasn't been damaged, but we have to wait until it's stopped snowing to see what's happened because the Forsythia was large, very heavy and will need cutting up.  This is quite a major job and more than a bit of a nuisance.

I then brushed the 10 inch deep snow from the bridge and cleared a pathway through to the bird feeders - nothing starves on my watch.  I dunno what the cats are going to do, as far as I know they've not been out of the house since the snow started so their little bladders must be fit to burst by now.

Anyway, I think I'm going to try and get a couple hours kip now....

Friday, 1 January 2010

So how was it for you?

New Year passed as it always seems to - anticlimactically.  For this year's I seem to have gone into granny mode, sitting on a sofa next to a large, snoring cat and a large, snoring husband, glass of wine to hand, crocheting squares to make into a blanket for my new baby niece/nephew. Over the last few weeks I've taught myself to crochet so figured I ought to put it to good use:

 It was, however, 'Graham Linehan Night' on one of the telly channels so rather than bore my way through any amount of endless Reviews of the Year or Jools Holland's Hootenanny, I spent it in the company of Father Ted, Black Books and the IT Crowd (I'm sorry but I think the links only work if you're in the UK).  Then all the fireworks went off outside, we wished each other a Happy New Year and went to bed!

This morning opened bright and shiny - sun was beaming down and we'd had enough of a dusting of snow overnight to make everything look like confectionery!  I dropped a hint to TLH about wanting to go to the beach but, to be honest, I think we'd rather stay in the comfy warm (and there's the BIG Dr Who changeover to look forward to - I'll try not to cry....).  Plus, I have another christmas lunch to enjoy!  Because I had such a shite time over Christmas proper last week, I felt I missed out on the food, so we're going to do it all again this afternoon, except with a chicken (a turkey is too big for just the two of us) but with everything else - roasties, sprouts, mashed swede & carrot, parsnips, stuffing, sausages, gravy, Buck's Fizz to drink - yum, yum, yum!  We went shopping for everything on Tuesday evening but the only thing we couldn't find was Christmas pudding!  Very odd.  But we were given a huge traditional Christmas cake so we'll have that instead.  Although if I ever eat another raisin again it will be too soon...