Sunday, 17 November 2019

Colourful Craft Classes (ft Beading for Beginners)

My nearest village is a very colourful place.

Summer 2019 displays thanks to Meldrum Amenities Improvement Group
One of my favourite shops in the village is pretty colourful too - as you would expect with a name like Rainbow Fabrics!

For a maker like me, having this cornucopia of yarn, fabric, thread, needles and notions on my doorstep is a craft lover's dream.  Forget your Amazon Prime, just about everything you might need for your textile project is available same day!  Not only does shop owner, Pat, curate an amazing array of supplies, she also produces a regular and varied programme of classes.  Over the last decade, I've attended quite a few.

I've learned to felt and this wee bag was created using the wet felted technique over a number of sessions in 2010.

I've learned to needle felt as well, making this Italian landscape at a class where we took our inspiration from a holiday memory.  It still reminds me of two happy weeks in Tuscany in 2011.

I've also tried felting with silk threads - these felted hearts, made at a class in 2016, became the front of the cushion I blogged about here and the backing fabric also came from the shop.

I'd never crocheted until I attended a course at Rainbow and I'm so grateful to have the skills for a craft I now love.  These pieces of textile wall art were also made by me at a variety of machine and hand-embroidery day classes I attended at the shop.

I even made this quilt which hangs above our bed (and I say 'even' as the sewing machine and I are not always best friends!)

So I've tried quite a lot of fabric, thread and yarn based classes but I'd never tried beading, though beaded projects crop up regularly in the class programme.  Assured that the snowflake dream catcher class at the start of November was suitable for a beginner like me, I decided to give it a go.  Clearly it's quite a serious business...

I chose all my beads at Rainbow ahead of the class, opting for a cool palette of wintry colours from the large selection available.  Following a pattern, the super-duos and faceted beads were threaded onto strong fused line favoured by anglers, using a slender beading needle characterised by its sometimes frustratingly tiny eye.  The central motif was attached to a fine silvery hoop and edged with more seed beads making a pretty picot design.

Classes at Pat's are always sociable events and her kettle certainly earns its keep!  My fellow beaders were a friendly group of ladies, generous with their supplies and experience, tolerant of a newbie like me, and helping me when I got stuck.  It's always a pleasure to see what each person makes.  Though we started with the same instructions, our choice of beads made the results spectacularly different.  Mary, our approachable and patient tutor, had prepared several snowflake samples before the class for us to follow - they're pictured in the centre and are surrounded by the ones we made on the day.

It's testament to Mary's clear written instructions that I was able to make a second snowflake dream catcher at home the next day, with the beads on the edge the right way round this time!

I'm going to enjoy hanging these with our Christmas decorations this year, and for years to come.

I wonder what the 2020 programme of classes will have in store and what colourful creations might adorn our home in future thanks to the kaleidoscope of crafty treasure in Rainbow?

Monday, 28 October 2019

Stockholm Souvenir Strickning

For our latest mother/daughter mini-break, Eilidh and I headed to the Swedish capital for a few days in early August.  Stockholm offered us culture, coffee and cake - the usual prerequisites for us -

and so much more, with thought provoking exhibitions, eclectic art on the streets and in the subway, friendly folks and fabulous food.

No tour of a new city would be complete for me nowadays without a trip to a local craft shop - and I managed to visit two whilst in Stockholm.  We'd factored Svensk Hemslojd, the Swedish handcraft store, into our shopping itinerary but we happened upon Klara Tyg & Garn by chance.  Stockholm really is  a lovely city to wander round.

Svensk Hemslojd on Norrlandsgatan promotes traditional Swedish handicrafts and sells beautiful Scandinavian home-wares, including hand-carved wooden spoons, colourful glass vases, linen table runners, woollen throws, embroidered mats and pretty espresso cups.

It also sells the cutest toys,

everything an embroiderer might wish for,

and, of course, wool - my particular happy place!

Klara Tyg & Garn is a fabric and wool shop, crammed with material, yarn and notions.  The very friendly proprietor kindly stayed open beyond her usual hours to allow us to browse her wee shop in Klara Norra Kyrkogata.

I purchased one ball of wool in each shop and set about knitting with them as soon as I got home.

'Strickning' is Swedish for knitting so here's what my souvenir yarn has become in the weeks since our wee holiday.

I  made another On The Edge Shawl, a pattern I love by Joy McMillan, The Knitting Goddess, and used virtually every scrap of the beautiful Hjelholts Uldspinderi colour-changing wool I bought in Svensk Hemslojd.  See how much I had left after the pretty picot bind off?

I'm not renowned for my sock knitting but I purchased a jumbo ball of Jarbo Raggi aran weight self -striping sock wool at Klara Tyg & Garn.   Looking for a straightforward pattern, I found Darling Socks by Silvia, which she's generously provided free on Ravelry.  I'll be making more of these as they were a fun knit and great on-the-go project.

But none of this souvenir strickning is staying here - both the shawl and the socks are destined for other homes.  The shawl will be a Christmas present and I chose the colours with the recipient in mind.  I'm sending the socks to a friend in the Borders who collects hand-knits to gift to the homeless in her area.  The joy for me has been in the making and I'll always remember our trip to Stockholm and the special wool I bought there.

Besides - I hope to visit Stockholm again and there are several other wool shops in the city that we didn't get to visit this time!

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Second Hand September

Last month Oxfam challenged us all to think about our clothes and refrain from buying anything new for 30 days.  By highlighting the enormous amount of clothing which ends up in landfill - estimated by Oxfam to be 11 million items each week - the charity hopes to change the way we think about clothes shopping for good.

One of Aberdeen's Oxfam shops in Chapel Street
I love to browse in charity shops so I decided to join in Oxfam's worthy initiative by showcasing the pre-loved clothes in my own wardrobe and sharing them on my Instagram stories throughout September. This involved a lot of dressing up and taking ridiculous selfies.  Clearly I have no idea what to do with my hands!

It turns out I own quite a lot of second hand clothes.  I've got jackets...

Lightweight jacket by Joules and cosy down-filled outerwear, from my local Cancer Research and Barnardos shops
and dresses....

Oasis dress from Cancer Research again and Tu at Sainsbury frock from Crisis in London
and separates for work...

Next skirt with M&S jumpers - all from Barnardos in Inverurie
as well as lots of charity shop tops and tee-shirts.  Definitely partial to stripes!

There's also some beautiful knitwear.

This gem is from Cabbages and Roses by way of Cancer Research
My top tips for seeking out charity shop finds:
  • pop in frequently to your favourite charity shop as stock changes often
  • search out quality brands - generally, better made clothes last longer
  • look at the label as you can often tell a garment that hasn't been worn very much by its pristine label
  • try things on - seems obvious but something with no appearance on the hanger might look great on you
  • ignore anything excessively pilled, stained, ripped or worn
  • a bit of home laundry tlc works wonders on everything
More knitwear - all charity shop sweaters from Woolovers, Whistles, Cos, Eastex and M&S
I've also been lucky whilst perusing the pre-loved rail of local dress shop, Cat Walkers in Ellon.  These gorgeous cardigans and the beautiful dress I wore for our silver wedding party are now enjoying a new life in my wardrobe.

Throughout my childhood, Mum was very actively involved with the local Oxfam group in Ayr and our house was frequently filled with items she was laundering for the charity.  Buttons and zips were removed from unsaleable goods then cleaned and labelled for re-sale.  Recognising the value of second hand was second nature to a generation brought up with rationing in the austere post-war years, long before the modern trend for up-cycling.

Many of my clothes came from the shop, something I was less keen on as a teenager!

I credit Mum for imbuing me with a respect for charity shops, and the potential treasures within, something I'm glad to have passed onto my own daughters.

Eilidh  and Maddy both agreed to share some of ther favourite outfits from London.  Eilidh's black and white dress came from a vintage second hand shop on Brick Lane.  Her red denim jacket and print shirt are from the Marie Curie shop in Crouch End whilst both pairs of jeans and her black silk shirt came from the TRAID charity shop in Dalston.

Maddy's bucket hat and jacket, festival shirt and oversized suit are all second hand staples from her London wardrobe.

Just in case you thought I spent all my time taking self timer photos in my daughter's bedroom, here's some of my extensive charity shop wardrobe items in the wild.

I hope you've been inspired to take a second look at second hand clothes and know that my own shopping habits to reduce fashion waste will continue beyond the month of September.


Saturday, 21 September 2019

The Levada Shawl

I don't always know why I make what I do.  

Sometimes the catalyst is beautiful yarn and other times, the pattern is the clincher. 

When I decided to knit the Op-Art Shawl*, (which is a free pattern from Blacker Yarns designed by Sonja Bargielowska) I believe it was a fusion of subliminal factors bringing together special skeins and the perfect pattern imbued with happy holiday memories.

In April this year, Geoff and I went on a walking holiday to Madeira to celebrate our silver wedding.  Madeira's an autonomous region of Portugal though it's over 500 miles from Lisbon and directly west of Morocco in the Atlantic.  We both love Portugal and aren't sit-on-the-beach types, so a bit of a hike each day whilst being pampered in luxury hotels was a combination which suited us both!

As well as walking, we had a hurl on the famous Madeira toboggan in the capital, Funchal!
Blues and greens suffuse the landscape and Portuguese influences are evident throughout the island.

Greenery abounds in the lush forest-clad mountains.  Natural waterfalls and man-made water channels create ever-moist habitats, encouraging abundant plant life and ferny foliage.

Levadas are the sinuous water channels created to irrigate the drier more populous south of Madeira from the wetter north of this mountainous island.  Originally hewn precariously by hand as long ago as the 15th century, some levadas were made as recently as the 1940's.  Still providing essential water supply, and now hydroelectric power, they create a network of breathtaking paths for walkers.  A head for heights certainly helps!

Can you see where this is leading?

My stitches echo the winding levada paths.

And the colours of my wool evoke the beautiful landscape of Madeira.  I began with a deep turquoisey blue from Ripples Crafts, hand dyed by my friend Helen.

Helen and her special anniversary edition Cochrane yarn
I required lots of green so incorporated two colours from Caroline, my knitting buddy, who spun and dyed the gorgeous shades on the left and gifted them to me at Christmas.  The vibrant emerald skein on the right came from local yarn shop Baa in Stonehaven where lovely Lindsay (pictured below with a basket of her gorgeous handspun) sells her yarn and handknits in aid of cancer charities.

I still wanted more green and met up with Tania at Aberdeen Yarn Fest in June and chose her Shorelines and Strata yarn to add to the shawl.

I held Lindsay's emerald merino together with a strand of Helen's Ripples Crafts Laceweight  to enhance the widest edge. 

So my knitting begins and ends with ripples of stitches from Ripples Crafts - what could be more appropriate for a shawl evocative of the rippling levadas of Madeira?

Ah, happy times!

* The Op Art Shawl from Blacker Yarns plays with perspective in simple shapes like the art movement from the 1960's. It's a large asymmetric triangle ideal for wrapping around yourself, complete with classic old shale lace patterning, short rows to create a shape within a shape and an elegant i-cord edge.

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