Monday 21 December 2015

Christmassy Days Out

Isn't this warm weather weird? When I went to the Post Office to post the last of my Christmas orders I didn't even need to wear a coat! In late December!! Crazy.

Despite the lack of "proper" winter weather, I have been doing my best to enjoy the festive season with lots of Christmas-themed Nice Days Out...

The absolute highlight so far has been Christmas at Kew: a one mile illuminated trail through the gardens. I have to admit that (with an eye on my budget which, like most peoples, is a bit squeezed at this time of year) I ummed and aahed about buying a ticket to this as it looked a bit pricey and I wasn't sure if it would be worth the money but oh my goodness you guys it was so wonderful.

Look how amazing the Palm House looked all lit up!

There was so much loveliness to see along the trail...

... including a garden of fire...

... and fun installations like a choir of singing holly bushes (you can see a short video of them here, make sure you have your sound on!) and a fabulous colour-changing curtain of lights to walk through:

I had a huge grin on my face the whole way round, nearly cried with joy a couple of times and positively skipped home (where I proceeded to talk loudly about how awesome the evening was to anyone who would listen).

This year's Christmas at Kew trail runs until 2nd January, you'll find all the info here. In case you hadn't already guessed, I highly recommend it!

I've also visited a few of the big London Department stores Christmas departments, and took an after-dark walk down Oxford Street to enjoy all the bright and cheerful window displays.

Selfridges have a Zodiac theme this year:


I also rather enjoyed the woodland-themed windows at Accessorize (those owls!)...


... and the explosion of stars at Debenhams:


My fave windows so far this year though are probably those at Liberty (just off Regent Street) - they're absolutely jam-packed with beautifully arranged, lovely things.

Other festive outings have included a trip to the cinema to see Die Hard on the big screen (not exactly a traditional Christmas movie, but a very fun one all the same!) and a visit to the Geffrye Museum in East London.

The Geffrye is a fab (and free to visit) museum with 11 period rooms showing how the English have lived, from the 1600s to the present day. For their annual Christmas Past exhibition they decorate the rooms, showing how we've celebrated Christmas through the centuries. This was quite delightful! I also learned a lot about how our seasonal traditions have changed and evolved over time, which was rather fascinating. The Christmas displays at the Geffrye run to Jan 3rd, click here for all the info.

Finally, I'm planning a visit to Windsor Castle, which is currently decorated with a Regency-themed display to show "how the Prince Regent (the future George IV) celebrated Christmas at Windsor Castle in the early 19th century". Windsor is always worth a visit but it was especially wonderful to see it decorated for Christmas last year - I'm really looking forward to seeing this year's decorations!

You can enjoy a Regency Christmas at Windsor until Jan 5th, click here for all the info & a short video.

I'm taking a short break from blogging to spend time with family, etc, over Christmas but I'll be back soon! Best winter-y wishes to you all xxx

Thursday 17 December 2015

Patchwork Plans - Knitted Blankets In Progress

My patchwork blanket has grown a lot this year!

This is a slow, ongoing project using yarn left over from other knitting projects. I knit mini moss stitch squares from the leftover yarn, then sew the squares into blocks... then add the blocks to the blanket. It's been really fun seeing the blanket take shape almost organically over the many weeks and months I've been working on it.

Earlier this week, while watching lots of made-for-TV Christmas movies, I added a whole stack of squares to the blanket. I'm weaving in the yarn ends as I go along - here are just some of the ends from this week!

I love the controlled randomness of the pattern and the jumble of colours.


I've not been following a plan, just going with the flow and seeing how the blanket developed over time. I started with a few different sections (so I could spread the colours evenly across the blanket without having to wait until I had hundreds of squares to work with) which I've been gradually joining together... and this week I finally joined them all up to make one big piece.

I laid all the pieces out on the floor, worked out the final size of the blanket (30 x 30 squares), decided how the already-knitted pieces would best fit together within that, then added more squares to join the sections together.

I thought it would be fun to draw a chart to record all the squares I've knitted so far, so I could easily count them and clearly see the pattern that was emerging. It took a while to colour in all those squares, but it was totally worth it.

It was great seeing how the squares will look within the final shape of the blanket, and it's actually given me an idea for how to finish the blanket!

Instead of spending the coming years slowly knitting another 400+ squares from more yarn left overs and eventually (likely many, many years down the road) ending up with a colourful but fairly ordinary patchwork blanket... I've decided to stick with this central sweep of colour and to keep the rest of the blanket plain white.

I'll work from the outside in, filling up the space with white squares. In the meantime, I'll use any new bits of left over yarn to knit more squares for the central colour explosion. It's still going to take me a long time to finish this blanket but this way I'll actually end up with a finished blanket before my 40s!

In other blanket-y news, I finally planned the layout for my rainbow blanket! Yay!

I'd just been building up a stash of squares along the rainbow spectrum, without any real plan as to how to arrange them, so I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to put together an arrangement I liked (I just need to buy some more green yarn and knit squares for that missing row). 

Even from that blurry, dark photo you can see what a riot of happy rainbow  colour this blanket is going to be! It's the perfect project to be working on in these dark winter days.

Monday 14 December 2015

Pressing Pause on #Crafting365

My crafty mojo seems to have vanished!

After lots of busy, happy, crafty days of my #Crafting365 project I've found myself beset by a case of the winter "ughs", wanting to just curl up under a blanket in the evenings instead of flexing my creative muscles.

I did a bit of blanket square knitting on day 74, finishing the bright squares for my rainbow blanket and starting the blue yarn...

... and on day 75 I stitched a few flowers onto my floral cushion:

I was poorly on days 76 & 77, and only managed to knit these few rows. Not much, but better than nothing, right?

On day 78 I knitted some more blue squares and took some photos to celebrate the rainbow loveliness of all those colours together.


Then all I did for the next five days (days 79 to 83) was knit more blue blanket squares!  

(Including one which, rather annoyingly, I had to unravel and re-knit as the yarn had a small flaw which I'd not noticed while knitting squares in the gloomy evenings)

Again, this was better than nothing, and I was excited about moving towards finishing my rainbow blanket one square at a time...  but: ugh. After many days of having no urge to make stuff other than knit simple blanket squares, I was beginning to really want that creative spark back again!

I gave myself a week off from my 365 project, but a week after that all I'd done was knit yet more blanket squares in the evenings (mini ones this time for my scrap yarn blanket).

With almost three weeks without taking a daily crafty photo, I think I have to admit to having paused my #Crafting365 project. This is kind of embarrassing! But hopefully it will only be temporary.

I'm pressing pause for the moment and will (fingers crossed) re-start my daily making and photographing challenge sometime in the New Year. Taking a break mid-way through the year may seem antithetical to the idea of a year-of-daily-crafting project... but I think it's actually in keeping with the spirit of the project.

I set myself the #Crafting365 challenge to help kickstart my creativity and lately the small amount of crafting I've been doing has not been at all creative. The point of #Crafting365 isn't to force yourself into doing some crafting every day for a year simply for the sake of it, it's to encourage and spark creativity and at the moment that's just not happening! Much better to take a break, then re-start the project when I can actually do it properly.

In the meantime I'll still be making stuff and working on work and personal projects (of course!), just at my own pace until it feels like the right time to re-start #Crafting365.

Thursday 10 December 2015

Renegade London 2015

About a month ago I headed to East London for one of my favourite autumn/winter events: the Renegade Craft Fair.

Renegade is always amazing (though not for my bank balance!) They have hundreds of designers, makers and artists selling their wonderful wares and I discover lots of new-to-me awesomeness every year.

As with any good craft fair it's great being able to buy from sellers in person, to chat to them about their work and say hi to people whose paths I've crossed online. I've bought lots of Christmas gifts at Renegade in the past but this year I mostly just stocked up on an assortment of gorgeous birthday and other cards to send to friends in the coming months.

Here are some of the stalls that caught my eye at November's fair...

Happy, colourful cards and prints from Cactus Club:

Fabulous textiles by Georgia Bosson:

Illustrated cuteness from Jo Clark Design:

Papercut gorgeousness from Sarah Louise Matthews:

Homewares and stationery decorated with bugs, birds, dinosaurs, butterflies and more at Chá com Letras:

Quirky stationery and gifts from Oh Squirrel:

Striking porcelain jewellery by Alice Shields:

Cards and prints with a folk feel from Dorry Spikes:

Mega cuteness by Revestreker:

Incredible embroidery by Sarah K Benning:

Prints and stationery from Charlotte Farmer (who also designs delightful homewares for New House Textiles):

Charming brooches from And Smile, creator of a secret society for stationery addicts:

Gorgeously detailed linocut prints by Jeremy Wills:

And last but by no means least, magical miniature worlds by Isobel Cortese: 

So much creative goodness!

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Clearing Out Some Magazines...

My decluttering and destashing continues!

This time round I'm clearing out a stack of magazines which I very much enjoyed but sadly don't have the space to keep.

You'll find photos and more info over on my Facebook page.

If you're interested in any of the magazines you can leave me a comment on Facebook, or send me a message here.

Thursday 3 December 2015

Book Review: Evolution: A Colouring Book

Colouring books are everywhere at the moment, as I'm sure you've noticed. I'm a big fan of the trend (I do love a nice bit of colouring in) so I was delighted to get a copy of this one to review...

Evolution: A Colouring Book, by Annu Kilpelainen "takes the concept of a colouring book and, well, evolves it a bit."

The book covers topics such as natural selection, continental drift and the mystery of what killed the dinosaurs.

It also includes lots of interactive elements. There are flaps to lift up, sea creatures to draw...

... and faces to mix and match to explore how our facial features have evolved over time.

There's also an experiment to follow and, of course, lots of great drawings to colour!

I tested the pages with colouring pencils and pens, and they both worked great.

The pages of the book are nice and thick so the pen didn't show through at all, hurrah!

This isn't something I'd buy for myself (it's not really part of the "adult colouring book trend") but it is the sort of colouring / activity book which I would have loved as a kid.

Dinosaurs + colouring in + science + fun interactive pages = an excellent combination!

Evolution: A Colouring Book is published by Cicada Books. RRP £9.95. It's available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA, the Book Depository and many other bookshops.

Please note: I was sent a free review copy of this book. The Amazon and Book Depository links in this post are affiliate links.  

P.S. for more colouring goodness, check up my round-ups of awesome colouring books for grown ups - part one and part two.