Thursday, 23 December 2010

Happy Christmas and Archie in the snow

Those of you who have been following a little while may remember that I'm a great advocate of the 'buy yourself presents' way of doing things - that way you get things you are truly happy with.

I've been trying hard to support other craftspeople and artists by buying from Folksy this year, even though I still haven't quite managed to set up a shop of my own, so was delighted to find these beautiful Christmas Robins from the Linen Cat shop - and I ordered a set for a friend. Well, when they came I just hated to part with them, such lovely deep rich colours and so cheerful, so I sent them off and then promptly ordered some more just for me. They came so quickly and were beautifully wrapped with great details on the labels and packaging, and this morning I hung them up on my garland.

I finally got round to putting a few decorations on our tree too, but Archie was un-decorating it as fast as I was getting them on, thinking it was a great game. In the end I had to leave a lot of bare branches at the bottom of the tree with things hanging further up. We also had to move a couple of bags of presents which had been lovingly wrapped by my friends in lovely rustly tissue paper, There are few things more attractive to a cat than rustly paper AND a bag to stuff his head in, so my presents are now ontop of the wardrobe - in fact there's not very much we've left under the tree at all.

Archie is loving the snow - it seems to be making him a bit skippy and mad, and he's been staying out for ages despite cold toes! Here he is nearly up to his knees:
And here he is all black, skipping about in the white snow, just like a young cat should. He starts tentatively for a little while then pounces on it before trotting off!

I hope all of you have a very Happy Christmas and are able to enjoy some rest and time for yourselves. We are struggling as my mum is deteriorating drastically each day mentally, so it's very tough, but we will make the best of everything and spend some time with good friends and family, and I'm finding that being with my boys is so helpful as I can think about my life going forward despite all the difficulties.
Thank you for all your friendship and support this last year which has meant so much to me.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A very cold Craft Fair

I'm very behind with posting about this as it was a few weekends ago when we had all that ice and snow. Now of course we have more ice and snow and I can't actually remember it getting much better in between, it seems to have been fairly seamlessly bitter and cold, at least it's pretty.

Anyway, my craft fair was in this beautiful building which is Leicester Guildhall - I was so busy I didn't get photos of all the rooms but here is where I was, the Lord Mayor's Parlour.
Behind me was very old stained glass - in some panels people had scratched their name and the date, so it was a fascinating place to be:

Last year I'd had a look round as a customer and it was supposed to be one of the best local fairs to sell at, this year someone had taken the decision to charge people a pound to come in - not a lot but that charge featured on all the publicity and I wonder if it put people off coming, that and the weather. So it wasn't as busy as previous years, but a couple of my things went to very good homes. When you've spent a couple of hours or more making a unique piece you do feel a part of yourself has gone into it, so it does make a real difference to sell to someone who actually says how much they like it.

Unfortunately there's no getting away from the fact that it was FREEZING! We had to have the door to outside completely open so people knew to come and see us, so we really were shivering - on the Sunday I brought two hot water bottles with me - one to keep and one to give to someone else. I managed to stuff mine up under my dress and put a belt and my money belt over it to hold it to my tummy - all was going well until about lunchtime when I was in the middle of talking to a customer and it slipped out and fell onto the floor with a big sloppy thud!

Craft fairs are so varied - I've really enjoyed the ones where people want to ask me about how I make felt as I like describing the procedure, but this was one of those ones where most people seemed to walk straight past me, sometimes I think it's a question of perhaps not having quite the right products for the exact customers that come through the doors - the photographer next to me was constantly busy and his pictures had such a wide-ranging appeal that he did really well. I said that I blamed him for my lack of success because as soon as people got half way along the room, level with me, I could hear them exclaiming 'What fantastic photos!' and speeeding past me to get to him! He was lovely, kept getting me cups of tea, and of course knew I was joking! His photos were indeed stunning and he deserved to be really successful.

I was initially disappointed with sales, because let's face it, it is a lot of effort to do a two-day fair - not only your time standing, but all the packing up and transport too, and you do always hope to do well. But what I remember most was what a lovely group of people there were in our room, and indeed in the other rooms, and a good friend gave up a large part of his Saturday to come and sit with me and help out, so I say it was a complete victory for Community Spirit!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Christmas Wrapping with Archie, by Archie.

I'm finding this is a great time of year to help my mum with lots of things. It's my very first Christmas and I'm very excited about all the decorations. I like the things that look like bits of trees best - I've managed to run off with small pieces of those and hide them under the kitchen table for later. I quite like trying to chew the fairy lights too but my mum says I'm not allowed.

Let me tell you how cats can best help their humans at this time of rustly paper and ribbons.

First you will need to hide behind any rustly paper ready to get all big-eyed and spring out at your human just as they may be trying to stick a piece of sellotape on a present, so that they are so surprised they stick the sellotape to the wrong bit.

Then you should see how well you can sharpen your claws on the end of any spare paper you can find - my mum did take a photo of me doing this but it was very blurry as I was sharpening very fast. This helps add decorative perforations in the edge of the paper to make it extra special, here is my suggested design:

Then you should roll over and over on the paper as it is spread out and start chewing any nearby curly ribbon.

This helps unpack the ribbon ready for your human to use.

And then finally don't forget to demand constant attention, this helps by ensuring your human feels needed.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A follow up about John Lewis

Now, where were we all that time ago, before life got so complicated?
You may remember, or probably won't, ages ago at the end of this post, which came in my previous crisis-free life, that I'd left a load of stuff in John Lewis. Well following on from that I would like to say how fantastic the store can be. There are many reasons for this. Obviously it has many pretty, shiny, stylish and desirable things all laid out in attractive displays. It has many departments on many floors containing virtually everything you could need in all areas of your life, and, of course, it has a haberdashery department. Only in a parallel universe could I dream of being able to shop there regularly.
But it's so much more than the products they've got - it's the way they treat customers. I feel like I matter to them - nothing is too much trouble and so far all the assistants I've met have been unfailingly attentive and helpful without being pushy. It seems to be how shopping should be, and used to be in the past when people had time and a smile for you.

But I wasn't prepared for what happened following my experience of losing my stuff in my brain-less daze. Well I did ring up the day I lost the bag and there was no trace of anything, but even if there had been I'd have had to go and get it, or replace it all, so off I set on an 8am bus (that's very early for me on a Saturday) and got there just as the store was being unlocked the next day. I made my way to an assistant to explain brainless daze and forgetfulness and she took me to haberdashery to see if anyone had handed my ribbons in, but they hadn't. But the manager was there and overheard and told the assistant to take me up to Customer Services and.....if my bag hadn't been handed in he told her to ensure that all my items were replaced free of charge. Can you believe it? Of course he had heard me say 'small bag' and knew it was haberdashery rather than Jaeger/Jigsaw (as if) but even so I'd spent getting on for £20 and was quite overwhelmed at their offer to replace it all when I was the one who'd lost it.
In the end when we got upstairs yes somebody had indeed handed my things in - I couldn't really imagine anyone wanting to run off with tailors chalk, embroidery threads and a thimble but you just never know.
So faith in human nature is restored, and I like John Lewis even more. And so I bought these very nice mugs from them - I fell for the bird as always.

Archie liked the unpacking of them as you can see from the first photo. He's been enjoying wrapping Christmas presents as well. I haven't enjoyed this as much as he has.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Happy birthday to Archie!

My beautiful Archie is now a whole year old - in fact his birthday was a couple of weeks ago but in the middle of the chaos of life I didn't manage to post anywhere near the day itself.
I know from the lady who owned him and his mum that he was the first one of the litter of five to be born. He has been the sweetest kitten we've ever had, no bad temper at all and so cuddly even as an adult. Hard to believe he has changed so much from the tiny black-with-tabby-stripes fuzzy ball of fur here:

to his present sleek self! He is still very stretchy and bendy as you can see:

I couldn't work out how to post videos when we had him, but here are two short ones from when he was tiny - I love the second one where he topples over but pretends it was nothing to do with him!

Now of course he is so much more sensible and grown up. He likes to watch TV with us - Frasier and Grand Designs are his favourites so far, we don't know why:

It's proving to be a pretty grim time for us. My mum is still in hospital, mentally much worse than ever, it's unclear how much she'll recover so we're just trying to take a day at a time and see what happens, while clearing what we can from her house bit by tiny bit. Archie is keeping me going with lots of cuddles!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Felting with silk fibres

Firstly thank you for your lovely comments of support on my last post - it does feel like a grim time but I'm trying to look for some good things in each day, and if you're actually looking for the positives I think you find them more easily.

As well as the situation with my mum's health over the last few weeks, I also had a committment to what was supposed to be a very successful craft fair, so I did push myself to make a good selection of things. I made a lot of felt incorporating dyed mulberry silk fibres and was really pleased with the way they showed up and shimmered against black or other deep colours:

I did this flat piece first to make into a notebook, and liked it so much I made a seamless bag too:

The photo at the start of this shows a shoulder bag I made - I chose the colours of silk in blues and purple to match the fairtrade ceramic button I'd bought earlier, a friend of mine was owed a bag as a present and chose this one when she saw it, so I was pleased it had gone to a good home!
I also used some more dyed silk hanky to make other notebook covers in different shades, as well as a bit more sari silk - that's always a bit difficult to felt in securely but the wispy silk fibres have been really enjoyable to work with and I'll try to think of even more ways to use them in the future.

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