Friday, June 24, 2016

The Return Of The Prodigal Pincushion

Back in April I sold an antique clock face pincushion to Helen, who blogs over at Bustle & Sew.  I can't tell you how excited I was about this, I've been reading Helen's blog for a long time and there is always something lovely to read and pictures to inspire.  I duly packaged up the pincushion, printed the label and popped it in the special blue parcel box at the Post Office.  

I tracked it to London and then it disappeared.  Nothing to worry about I hoped..... about three weeks later and with no further tracking updates, I contacted Helen and told her I'd send a replacement.  It was beyond frustrating when the same thing happened with the second pincushion!  

I called Royal Mail and USPS but both were uniformly unhelpful.  We waited and eventually Helen emailed me to say her pincushion was being held for payment of VAT. The UK has a especially low threshold for VAT on imported goods and while VAT is what it is and I can't argue with that, the Post Office charges an absolutely outrageous 8Pounds (Sterling) processing fee!!  That pincushion took about 6 weeks to reach her.  

Today I got the first one back in the mail. 

I have my own label I'd like to add, how about 


Actually my true sentiments are a lot stronger than that and more colorful.

But at least I know my packaging keeps things looking good!

Please do check out Helen's blog.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


It's a myth that greyhounds need a lot of exercise.  Sure they need walking but no more than any other large dog.  Most greyhounds are total couch potatoes, perfectly happy to rest the day away with short bursts of energy now and then if it's not too hot!  

Tia has a small collection of soft, squeaky toys which she is very attached to.  She carries them round the house, sometimes using one as a pillow.   She enjoys her walks but she is happiest following me round the house as I go about my business.  She supervises laundry sorting, likes to be one step behind me as I vacuum the house and needs to be near me in the kitchen just in case something should drop and need cleaning up.  Her very favorite thing to do is sleep next to me while I sew (often with her eyes and mouth open as in the last photo -  yes it's a little creepy when she does that!). 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday Afternoon

It was a day for making things, for collaborating and problem solving.  I ended up going shopping for yarn and then spending this afternoon finishing my weaving.  My daughter came shopping with me and found an incredible dot-to-dot book where the finished drawings look like proper sketches.  Each one has a thousand dots.  When we got home, she worked on that and another drawing project.  

I still have to trim the tassels and remove the weaving from the loom and knot it.  It was a fun project and I'm already planning what I might try next.  

Despite the heat, the men were working in the garage, cutting and shaping a sheet of metal into a box that will be part of the guitar amp my son is building from scratch.  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Weaving Progress

This afternoon I started working on my weaving project.  This is my first attempt and I found the repetitive motions soothing.  The yarn is soft, and feels nice in my hands.  It's a gentle craft. Most of my yarn is a bit thin for this project but I didn't really want to rush out and buy a whole lot of new materials.  I did a few rows of plain weave to anchor the project before adding two rows of long tassels.  I may trim these.  Then I wanted to experiment with some stripes and triangles.  I have since filled in the triangle shaped hole with some nubby pink yarn.  I'm liking it so far!  I think a couple of stripes of white wool roving would look good, and maybe some other white, chunky, textured yarn.  Looks like I'm going shopping after all!

Friday, June 17, 2016


I am embarrassed to admit that when January 2016 came around and I hadn't attempted any of the crafts on my "Things To Try in 2015" Pinterest board, I simply changed the name to "Things To Try in 2016". 

Fast forward to June and I still haven't experimented with any of these ideas.  However, when I was in Target a couple of days ago I spotted a very simple wooden loom for weaving and this is one of the things I've been wanting to try.  I even got as far as looking at looms online but they all seemed to be more than I really wanted to pay.  This Target version was inexpensive and so I tucked it in with the paper towels and groceries and here it is.  

For such an inexpensive loom, it is made of nice wood and is well finished, there are no rough bits for the yarn to snag on and it feels nice to touch.  The instructions however are completely rubbish.  The pictures don't show anything useful and there are no real instructions for how to string the loom - I don't suppose for one moment that that is the correct terminology! The first problem was that the side dowels were too loose in their holes and each time I tried to pick it up it all came apart in my hands.  I had to glue the dowels in and leave it overnight.  Of course now I'm stuck with it being full size but that's ok.  

Then I strung it, but it didn't seem right.....because it wasn't.  There were no instructions for this part so I had to google it and watched a couple of short videos before trying again.

There are so many beautiful woven art pieces on Pinterest so there is a lot of inspiration out there.  There are also tons of how to videos.  I've picked out a couple of color schemes from my very limited yarn stash and when I've chosen, I'll start weaving.  


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I Voted

Last week I voted in the California Primary.  No big deal you might think but you'd be wrong. When I get asked where I'm from with my lovely British accent, I used to tell people I was an ex-pat Brit but things are a bit more complicated than that.  I was born in Switzerland but grew up in England with a French passport. As a French national I was never able to vote in England (obviously!) but I also never voted in French elections either because it seemed irrelevant.  

Last year I became an American Citizen and now I get to vote.  Last week was the first time I voted, ever.  Huge Deal.  I felt quite emotional about it.  I was clueless about how to actually make my mark on the paper (not as straight forward as you might think) but the people at my polling place were super helpful and nearly as excited as I was about this being my first time voting!

And look at that cute little sticker.  I wore it proudly all day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Rainbow Of French Knots

I've had family visiting from England which has kept me busy for a few weeks and now, after their visit, I am settling into the different routines of Summer.  It always takes me a little while to adjust to a different pace with no school to govern our schedule.  

Ever since seeing this beautiful rainbow in the Spring, I've been wanting to make a rainbow of french knots.  It was one of those designs that just kept rattling around in my head until I did something about it!  I love french knots, they are my favorite embroidery stitch.  The colors of the actual threads are a little more vibrant in real life, my pictures don't really do this justice.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hedgehogs Are Back In Town!

I just finished up making a batch of these little hedgehogs.  They always make me smile!  

Turns out, they are curious little critters!

You can find these little guys in my Etsy Shop.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Fruit Season

We have family visiting so we have been busy doing lots of fun stuff which hasn't left me much time for keeping things updated here.  All our local fruit is ripening and it is lovely to visit our Saturday Farmer's Market and see all the fabulous fresh and perfectly ripe produce.  

These apricots though, are on the tree in our garden...well they aren't anymore but they were.  I first realized they were completely ripe when I found my greyhound wandering the garden with one held very carefully in her mouth.  She wasn't sure what to do with it but she surely wasn't going to give it up to me easily!  When I eventually got it from her, perfectly intact, I split it and removed the pit before offering her the juicy morsel.  She wolfed it down and spent many happy moments apricot hunting in the following few days.  I decided I'd better pick the rest!  They were perfectly juicy and sweet.  

We also picked the rest of the lemons on our trees.  I've made mouth puckering lemonade,  gluten free lemon drizzle cake and have plans for a lemon cheesecake with a hazelnut crust at the weekend.  

At the Farmer's market last Saturday one of the farmers I buy from had mulberries.  I'd never seen them before, let alone tasted one.  They look like elongated blackberries, about 2 - 3 inches long.  I bought a box so we could all taste them.  The flavor is like sweet cooked blackberries, almost like jam.   

They do look a bit like caterpillars though!

Also from the market were apricots, strawberries, blueberries, plums, nectarines, peaches and of course, cherries.  Over the next couple of weeks the fruit will just get sweeter and more perfect.  This is one of the things I love about living in California!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Winter Stars Pincushion

One of the things I like to do when I am up in the mountains is look at the stars.  Without the city light pollution I am used to, they are astounding.  They are so numerous there seem to more stars than night sky in between.  Sometimes it feels like I could reach out and touch them and gently outline the constellations in awe.  

I have a number of night sky books but my favorite way to identify stars and planets is the "Star Walk" app on my iPhone.  It allows me to point my phone anywhere and the sky appears with all the stars, planets, satellites and even the ISS.  If I'm using it at night, there is a red light version so that you don't mess with your night vision.  I can even point it at the daytime sky and still see the stars!  

This screen shot was taken this morning.  The one below was taken just now (lunchtime) and the one with the nighttime sky was taken pointing at the ground so is the night sky visible on the other side of our planet!  Mind boggling.

When my son was little we painted the Winter star constellations on his bedroom ceiling, because he was born in January.  He is 22 now and still won't let us paint over them!  This pincushion is inspired by the stars, by the Winter constellations and the meteor showers we are sometimes lucky enough to see.  

The stars are french knots of different sizes in white floss and the meteor or shooting star is silver metallic thread with a colorful tail.  I know we don't see colors like that in shooting stars but might we be able to, if our eyes could separate out the colors in light, like a prism? In my imagination, I see colors in the streak of space debris shooting across the night sky, like an artist painting a swathe of color across a piece of paper.  

Around the side band I have embroidered a fragment of a poem by Lord Byron, "Ye stars! which are the poetry of heaven"

I am hoping to get these finished and stuffed later today.