Break in the clouds

We’ve had sunshine today! And the children opted to go for a walk!  
I happened to be in the Cotswolds yesterday, razzing around in a friend’s fancy car, and spotted a place called Salford, which amused me no end, because it’s a far cry from the Salford I know of old… just compare those two skylines!!
Anyway, when I got home and looked up my new local Salford, I discovered there are Neolithic standing stones nearby.  So when the children opted to go for a walk, it seemed like the obvious choice.
So, no sewing to share today.  But I wanted to show you these, instead: 

These delightful families took a keen interest in us as we walked past.  In the other Salford, you want to avoid the interest of delightful families, on the whole.  Even here, I was very pleased for the two strands of barbed wire that separated us.  But aren’t they beautiful?

The other Salford has dangerous dogs, too.  My dogs are just dangerously stoopid…

This is the Kings’ Men circle, part of the Rollright Stones.  The legend is that this is a circle of courtiers, petrified by a witch.  They say that if you count the stones in the circle, you never get the same number twice.  We counted 70, 74, 75 and 76.

The blackberries are still so sour they’ll send your ears shooting round to the back of your head, but apparently some of us like them like that!

Colette Hawthorn

Sewing. In my pyjamas.

Well.  One of my very favourite sewists, Lazy Seamstress (who’s now famous! But I knew her first, so there!) raves about the Colette Hawthorn pattern, and made herself a very pretty version…  And so when she did, I thought “hmmm… shirtwaister. I could make me one of those” and bought the pattern.

Now.  I am a size 10 on top, with good old fashioned child-bearing hips and a plenty-of-children-borne tummy.  Which makes me something between a 12 and 14 from the waist down, despite my frequent, more fidgetty than dedicated best efforts.  So I knew this pattern would need some redrafting, but no matter.

The pattern calls for cotton or linen, or similar light and floaty fabric, and I found a lovely, retro-ish linen in my local fabric store.

I find it really difficult to fit to my own body.  Obviously.  It’s kind of tough to look, measure and pin behind your own back.  But I have a kind of semi-functional tailor’s dummy, and I have some pattern drafting fabric, and I haven’t made any clothes in well over a year, and what the fuck can go wrong, right?  Right.

So I measured.  With the help of teenagers.  You’ll notice the lack of the adjective ‘willing’ in the previous sentence.  Don’t forget that…  And I drafted.  And I worked out how to flare the bodice so that what I ended up with would fit around my hips, and I almost completely forgot to take account of the fact that my waist is high, and my tummy prominent and yet despite those two things, my hips are just where you’d expect them to be, and anyway.  Half circle skirt.  Not much need for additional ease in the hip department, sistah.

Proper cuffs!

And then I put it together, and it flew together like a dream.  The pattern is well drafted, the instructions are clear and it all went beautifully smoothly.  I love doing shirty things – collars and proper cuffs and fitting around awkwardly shaped torsos.  It feels like a real skill, and it pleases me greatly.

Sewing, for me, isn’t a quiet exercise.  It’s not a head down, breath quiet, concentrate and get on with it thing.  Not at all.  When it goes well, I hum distractedly to myself.  Or sing along with the radio, whether or not I know the words.  Kids and dogs lie low in a mildly embarrassed, despairing manner.  When it goes badly I swear.  Volubly and in fluent Anglo Saxon.  Kids and dogs hide, from sheer self preservation.

This was definitely a singing along with the radio day.  And besides, I was kept in good company on my bing-bong email, and for most of the day the sun kept Hurricane Bertha at bay, and the chickens clucked contentedly and it was verily the epitome of domestic bliss.

Beautifully fitting dummy

When I’d constructed the bodice, I tried it on.  It fit beautifully across my shoulders (well done, teenagers!) and boobs (well done, me!) and sat nicely in the small of my back.  Obviously, it’s difficult to gauge the final fit until all the parts are together, but early indications were that there was nothing to worry about.  A pattern re-drafting triumph.

I whizzed up the skirt, and stuck it onto the bodice, and put the whole onto the dummy.  All good.

It turns out that when you’re a little stumpy person with good old fashioned child-bearing hips and a plenty-of-children-borne tummy, what you really need is a dressmaker’s dummy with an adjustable back waist length.  Mine doesn’t have one of those.  And the dress fitted her beautifully.

So I carried on flying it together, and did the magic buttonhole thing, and sewed on the buttons and turned up the hem and BADA BING!  All done.

And then I put it on.  Not on the dummy. On me.

And lo! It was too long in the back waist, and not really all that brilliant around the actual waist, and generally made me look like a sack of spuds.  So I decided, for the safety of all concerned, that I’d leave it till another day, but I would fix it.  I.  Would.  Fix.  It.  If it killed me.

This morning, I got up LIKE A BOSS (which is lucky) and took the skirt off the bodice, and unpicked a buttonhole.  I opened out the facings, and unpicked the top stitching.  I took off two buttons, and an inch off the back waist.  And then I put it all together again.  And it was better.

Better, but not good.  I could lose another inch from the back waist, I think – bringing the actual waist up to the bottom of my rib cage.  And I could fit the back better, with larger rear darts.  It fits well – even really well – across my shoulders and boobs, though.  Well done, teenagers! Well done, me!

I have looked carefully in every mirror I’ve passed, today.  And I have concluded that (a) I didn’t really need to re-draft the bodice; (b)  I could have cut gores in the skirt pattern, and made the skirt wider (and that mightn’t have been a bad thing) but (c) really the problem with the fit on this is that it calls for a light fabric, and much of the weight of the garment is in the skirt.  So no matter how well you draft and fit the bodice, it will be pulled out of shape by the weight of the skirt, a bit.

I might try silk, next time.  Silk and a higher waist.  And perhaps a lined, stronger bodice.  I might even buy a proper tailor’s dummy.

Hiatus

Well, yes. It’s been nearly a year, hasn’t it? In my slight defence, I’ve moved house and been preoccupied with other forms of creative expression – there’s been a lot of decorating, some mural painting (below left), a little bit of curtain-type bodging, a new sewing area created – indoors! (below, right), some gardening and a lot of silliness involving – sometimes – making stuff. But not really sewing.

And there’s been some other stuff – the end of Mr P, and a return to singledom.  Lots of work wrinkles. And some life stuff – a child’s wedding; a parent’s fairly significant health issues; a funeral; a difficult and dangerous teenager.  All of which have produced a new tattoo and a fresh piercing – it’s like a grownup way of dealing with my issues.  All of which has meant that I haven’t really had time to do much in the way of creating things.  All of which has meant I need, desperately, to regain some of the inner calm and peace that creating things typically brings me.
And now, it’s Easter.  The house is largely decorated – apart from the very small places that I haven’t been bothered to do because it’s hardly worth taking the time to move the coats out of the porch and living with the clutter, because painting it will take *no time* (yes, there is some logic in there somewhere.  No, I’m buggered if I can find it either).  And the very significant places that I can’t afford to do because bathroom suites and tiles and all that crap so I need to save up.
At Easter, I take time off work and I sew.  It’s what I do. I typically knock up a quilt.  This easter, though, I have lost my mojo.  I really just want to sit on my sofa and drool a while.  But then I have this lush new sewing area.  Indoors! It would be silly to have spent the time making it, and then not use it.  Wouldn’t it?  Why yes, it would.
So I am tackling the wedding present quilt.  I say tackling the wedding present quilt.  So far, I am 2/3 of the way through making a (very simple) back for it.  Then I will baste it.  Then I know exactly how I want to quilt it. Problem is, I’m not sure I can actually sew, any more.  Not sure at all.  So mostly my tackling it involves a series of displacement activities, including this, and middle distancing while contemplating the cure for singledom.
Oh well.  Here goes nothing.  And hello, by the way.  It’s (kind of) nice to be back…

Sgt Pepper with a chintzy lining

So.  I admit it.  I have a bit of a girl crush on Amy Butler.  I love her designs.  Generally, I’m not a big fan of the floral chintzy girly type stuff, so it was something of a surprise to me to discover that Amy Butler can do no wrong.  Cath Kidston, on the other hand, you can keep.  She is the Kirsty Allsop of fabric designers.  And I don’t mean that as a compliment (to either of them).

Anyway.  Amy Butler.  I went to a talk by her at the Festival of Quilts in 2011.  And I bought a pattern for a long, fitted jacket.  And I bought the fabric to make it.  I got it home, I read the instructions, I got intimidated by the fact I had to know my bicep measurement – MY BICEP MEASUREMENT! – and I put it all away in a drawer.

But now I need to practise me some skills.  A jacket would be one of them.  Different types of hem would be another.  Linings (that fit) would be another.  And buttonholes yet another.  So I got the Amy Butler out of its drawer, and decided it was just the ticket.

I got Freya, my 13 year old, to help me with my measurements – particularly my bicep.  12″, if you were wondering.  Which is quite big.  I blame cake.

One of the fabrics is a big, swirly, flocked design in acid lime green, on a pale turquoise background.  The other is a pale green background with an oversized pink chintz design.  The first thing I had to do was measure the centre of the big flock design.  It didn’t help that the pattern thought the larger flock was in the centre of the fabric (Amy Butler Sandalwood) with the smaller designs down each side.  In fact, it was the smaller design in the centre.  So I got out my quilting ruler and my tailor’s chalk, and I drew a line down the centre of the small design.  Right down the middle, the whole length of the fabric.  And I resigned myself to the fact that the pattern wasn’t as accurately drafted as I might have liked it to be, and I was going to need to do some making it up as I went along.

The back piece was supposed to have a seam down the middle, to allow it to flare.  I couldn’t see how that would work, so in fact I cut the back as a single piece.  I made sure the centre back and centre front were aligned with the line I’d drawn down the centre of the design.  Effectively, I was using my drawn line as the grain, rather than relying on the actual grain of the fabric. I lined the fronts, back, and sleeve pieces very, very carefully on the fabric to make sure the pattern was completely symmetrical on both sides of both the outer piece and the lining (I wasn’t entirely sure which would be which).

The actual putting together of it was quite straightforward.  It pretty much flew together.  I checked the fit a couple of times, but because Freya was so amazingly accurate with the measurements, the fit was fairly much spot on straight off the table.

I cut the citrus fabric last night, and the paisley this morning.  When I did my first fit, this morning, my son told me the citrus made me look like someone out of Sgt Pepper.  And so Sgt Pepper it became.

 But it was far too nice a day to spend entirely in my shed.  So I allowed Mr P to lure me to Baddesley Clinton for some al fresco dining and newspapers… 

And suitably relaxed, and possibly a little sunburnt, I came home and put the finishing touches to the Sgt Pepper jacket.  I couldn’t decide which fabric should be on the outside and which should be the lining, so I did what any mature, sensible sewist would do.  I asked Twitter.  Twitter voted comprehensively for Sgt Pepper to be outside.  Here, just to show the beauty of a symmetrical, pattern matched cutting scheme, are the photos I gave them, to choose from.

The pattern allows for a tie belt – in the manner of a dressing gown.  I didn’t fancy that.  I decided to put a buttonhole in each side, and give it a chiffon tie.  I had a piece of chiffon knocking around in the shed, and some Gutterman variegated thread for the buttonholes.  And I needed to practice manual buttonholes.  So I whizzed in a couple of buttonholes, and fished out the chiffon.  which was a square.  Inappropriate.  I chopped it in half, slung a rolled hem around it (never used the rolled hem foot on my sewing machine before) and threaded it through one buttonhole.

And here’s the finished article.

Critique?

Well, the cutting is good.  The pattern is entirely symmetrical and the lining is as good as the shell.  Big bonus points there.

The hem (hand stitched) is a little tightly sewn.  You can see the line of it.  I should, really, take it down and do it again looser.  Maybe I will.

The chiffon idea doesn’t work perfectly.  In fact, it barely works at all.  I tied it in a bow to close the jacket at my waist, and Freya told me it looked poncey.  Better hanging loose, apparently – although to me that’s a little bit New Romantic, but there you are. 

 The pattern wanted the lining and shell fabric both to be the same lengths all the way down, which makes for a bulky hem – particularly at the wrist.  If I were ever to make it again, I’d make the linings a little shorter than the exterior to keep the hems finer.

Also. Big bum.  What can I say.  I blame cake.

And Freya asks me to point out that she took all the photos.  And the bicep measurements.

Home Alone

The children have gone to their father’s for Christmas, and I am seizing the opportunity, greedily, for some ‘me’ time.  I got a rather fabulous new job this year, which has meant a lot more commuting than I did previously, and that in turn has meant that I don’t have a huge amount of time for sewing, knitting, crochet, relaxing.  So my creative synapses are beginning to feel a little furred up.  Underused.  The chance to spend a week by myself, relaxing and crafting seemed too good an opportunity to miss.

So far, I’ve added the border I mentioned to the Japanese Geek Quilt I made in August.  No pictures, yet.  I’ll wait until I’ve basted and quilted, for that.

But the main thing I want to do is a wedding quilt.  My lovely sister got married in 2004, and I promised to make her a wedding quilt.  I intended to do a combination of the classic double wedding ring and New York beauty patterns, but with the benefit of hindsight, that was a bit beyond my technical ability (or ability to concentrate!) back then.  So the quilt was started, but never finished.  I did some more work on it the following year, but by then I’d gone back to work and didn’t have the necessary time to give it.  So – long story short – I’ve never finished my sister’s wedding present quilt.  I intend to put that right.  I have, finally, abandoned the idea of an ambitious quilt, and intend to do something much simpler.  But until last night, I didn’t really know what.  I could knock up a variation on a strippy quilt in the blink of an eye, but I’ve done lots of strippies, recently, and wanted to do something rather different.  The thing I’ve most enjoyed making, recently, was the granny quilt, and so doing something with triangles rather appealed.  Technical enough to be interesting, but quick to put together.


I’ve been watching Homeland, this last few weeks.  Last night was the season two series finale, much of which was set in a cabin in the woods.  Hanging on the living room wall was a quilt.  A flying geese quilt.  And I thought, hmmm…. I could do something like that.  I quite like the idea of flying geese.  But they’re a bit busy, organised the way they are in the link.  Sissy and her husband are more, um, subdued and restful than that.  So I got to thinking.  And then I did a bit of drawing.  And I reckon something built around a 9″ square block like this one might be interesting.  But with lots of plain white.  Or at least, lots of white on white.  Different whites, I think – not all one, plain and calm fabric.

And then I wondered how they might be arranged… because technically this is more like half square triangles than flying geese.  And I wanted to avoid the busy-ness thing.  And, you know, it’s good to have a plan before you start.  So I did some doodling.  I think the squares will be arranged in blocks of 4, separated by a 3″ sashing, at each corner of which will be a (probably single colour across the face of the quilt) 3″ square.  The blocks of 4 triangle squares will be in different fabrics, but follow a muted green/blue/purple colour scheme, and the little squares which, in my head, are anchors, will be bright.  This (on the left) is my design sketch for this.  The shaded big white squares are my triangular blocks, the plain ones are my white on white blocks, and the red squares are my anchors.  Which may or may not be red.  I don’t know.

Anyway, it’s a lot of thinking and quite a bit of calculation.  And inevitably, there will be an error in it, somewhere, which will mean the design has to be adapted on the hoof.  But I’ve measured and made templates for my triangles, reminded myself how to make quick and easy flying geese, and will try a test square in the morning.

Tomorrow, I’m planning to take the dogs up to the peak district, whether permitting.  But this should, hopefully, be well under way by the time the kids get home.

I’ll keep you posted!

Creating Christmas

I wanted substantial parts of this Christmas to be home-made.  And the bits that aren’t homemade are, by and large, vintage.  It just chimes beautifully with the way this year has been, for me.

So inevitably there has been a flurry of crafting activity which I just haven’t been able to photograph and blog, for fear of giving many games away.  However, since a number of you are asking about the Tank Girl quilt, which I have *just* finished (and since I’m bursting with pride at it, and pleasure at having finished it in time) I thought I’d put some pictures up…

 I can’t remember if I mentioned it, but this quilt had no central layer, and is backed with microfleece.  It’s heavy and dense and snuggly warm – just as well, as my son’s bedroom is one of the coldest rooms in the house.  Instead of simply tying the quilt, which was my first thought, I decided to outline quilt each square, using sock yarn.  I wanted it uneven and hokey looking – nothing too polished, in keeping with the ‘upcycled’ nature of the whole quilt.  So I didn’t mark the quilting lines.  I didn’t even baste it – I just pinned it with malenky great big quilting safety pins…  Which meant that the back wouldn’t stay flat by itself, and so in order not to end up with a blocky, wrinkly backing, I laid the whole thing out on my draughty wooden floor, and quilted it in situ.

Normally, when I’m hand quilting, I use a size 10 between quilting needle which is, tip to tip, slightly smaller than 1″ long, and very fine.  For this quilt, I used a size god-alone-knows yarn darner, which was about twice as long and four times as thick as my normal quilting needle.  My normal quilting needle is the top one in the picture over to the right.  For scale, that’s a cat hair it’s resting on!  The needle I used for this quilt is the threaded one just below it…  Ordinarily, you insert a needle in the tiny gaps between the threads of a fabric.  Microfleece doesn’t have any such gaps being, essentially, melted plastic and not woven at all.  So it required some force to get the needle through, and it often landed on the thumb knuckle of my non-needle hand.  Resulting, I have to admit, in a fair amount of swearing and a totally unreasonable amount of Twitter whingeing! 

Still, I persevered bravely, ignoring the pain in my knees from crawling over the floor, and the bruising in my left knuckle (pity me, interwebs!!)  And I think I *did* achieve the kind of uneven, ‘homespun’ effect I was looking for, as evidenced by the back of the quilt…

 A substantial amount of this had to be done while my son was at home, which involved locking myself into rooms in the wee small hours of the morning, and the long dark evenings, with threatening signs taped to doors… And then being very tolerant when the animals wanted to get involved.  The dog is a very old lady, and likes to snuggle up under a blanket.  She is the biggest fan of my knitting/quilting activities!

Anyway, the quilt is, eventually, finished.  I decided not to bind the edges – again, to preserve the ‘homespun’ look, but also because just overlocking them seemed to preserve the masculine flavour of this quilt.  So I ran them up in the overlocker.  Time will tell, I guess, how durable this edging is, but it looks good for the time being…

 Here is a final photo of Tank Girl in her setting.  As I type, the whole thing is going round the washing machine and my heart is, slightly, in my mouth.  I had originally planned to boil wash it and allow the blocks to felt variably.  But that was before Tank Girl who is on a fine mohair patch which I don’t want to shrink so radically that it distorts her.  So I’m washing it at 40 degrees, and will dry it slowly in a coolish tumble dryer… 

Other Christmas crafting has included knitting.  I decided late on that my mother needed an additional something under the tree, so I threw together a cowl using an aran weight wool yarn that I’ve got lying about (who hasn’t…).  I’m quite pleased with the result, although it’s a *bit* big for me: being new, it’s quite stiff, but I’m hoping it’ll soften down with wear.

The pattern was an online freebie, from f.pea, and knitted up very quickly.  I may do it again, in a lighter yarn, and see if that makes it lacier.  I prefer my own cowl, I have to say…!

So that’s Christmas about done, I think.  I hope you all have a lovely time!  

Silent night…

The problem with this time of year is that there are so many calls on my time, and so many secret projects, that it becomes difficult to find time to make anything that it’s safe to show you!

My father came to stay for the weekend, which was the first time he’s visited this house for a long time, and we’ve changed a good deal of it since last he was here, so it was nice to show him the new things – and to put him in the spare room, which has the crochet zigzag blanket in it.  It’s his favourite of the blankets I’ve made, so I wanted him to have the opportunity to use it (this isn’t entirely an open-spirited or generous gesture, since what *he* really wants is to take it home with him!!)

One thing I *can* show you is this monster, which I made for my nephew’s birthday a couple of weeks ago.  I also gave him some story blocks, painted by my friend Siobhan, who is not only an award winning journalist for BBC Coventry and Warwickshire, but is also a very talented artist.  She makes things under the name Matilda’s Mum, and really ought to have a website of her own, to link to.  Anyway, she made the story blocks (which I foolishly didn’t photograph) and I made the story monster.  The deal is, when my nephew can persuade the story monster to sit down and be quiet (with his mouth zipped, see?) then Mummy or Daddy will make up a story for them… The monster was a huge success.  Mummy and Daddy weren’t so sure about their ability to spin a yarn on demand, but there you go!

The monster is standing on a box of tissues in my workroom.  I took a couple of pictures of that, too, for a friend on twitter.  It’s a custom built work room, in my garden.  It’s effectively a *really* smart shed – with fully plastered and decorated walls, two double glazed windows and a front door!  It has full electricity (obviously) but no water.  I dye indoors!  It looks like chaos, but it is, in fact, quite tightly organised.  The cutting/design table is just visible (under a cutting mat) in the lower lefthand corner.  That’s at waist height, and has storage boxes underneath for fabric and some yarn.  It also has drawers with all my dye stuff – chemicals, fixatives, and salt.  In front of the cutting mat is a miniature ironing board, with a big bundle of felt on it.  The hanging basket to the left of the zigzag shelf is full of zips, elastic of various types, and binding tapes.  The sewing machine sits on a Horn cabinet which also has storage for thread and various notions.  The zigzag shelf contains boxes of thread, dressmaking patterns, and my own design patterns all filed away.  It also has dyed wool tops and a felting block for needle felting.  The walls are stuck all over with postcards, favourite pictures and various design inspirations, which I refresh from time to time!

This is the other end of the shed.  The  net bag in the lower left hand corner hangs from a bookcase, above the end of the Horn cabinet.  It is stuffed with usable sized scraps of fabric from several years’ worth of projects.  My friends delight in raiding the scrap bag – and Penny (from Rats as Big as Cats) has made beautiful things using my scraps!  There are two bookcases, in an L configuration.  They hold quilting books, surface design books, dressmaking books, various art and textile magazines I’ve subscribed to over the years, drawers of fat quarters (quilting fabric), drawers of buttons and beads and embellishments, index cards of dressmaking notes dating right back to my youth and all sorts of useful oddments – freezer paper, dissolvable stabiliser, tracing paper, and so on.  They also hold some of my art equipment.  The blue bag is a roll of interfacing.  The back of the door has a hanger of pockets which hold any number of embellishments – ricrac, chord, braid, ribbon, decorative yarns, and so on.  And then we’re back to the cutting table.

So that’s where I work.

And the final thing to show you this post is actually not my work, at all.  This wall hanging was made by Pat Nicholls. I bought it at an exhibition in 2002, or 2003.  It’s a lovely redwork angel surrounded by a variety of red and blue borders.  I love it.

Hung Parliament

Ha!  Do you see what I did there?!  I’m a little bit pleased with myself :-))

So, these are two little owls.  They’re made of commercial felt, based on a picture I glimpsed on a website somewhere, and I genuinely can’t remember where, but I think the person who posted them had taken the idea from the Christmas edition of Prima magazine, because I’ve seen something very similar there, too.

Apart from it being nice to sit and sew something cute(ish) in front of the TV of an evening, these have been an experiment in hand embroidery.  The blue one was my first attempt, and not terribly satisfactory.  The purple one has, I think, got a little better…. I will probably make a few more, since they only take a moment or two.

And, of course, it’s Christmas.  This year, we have unearthed our advent calendar.  The children and I made this when they were really very small.  The background is a log cabin quilt: a number of ‘shades’ of white log cabins built around a traditional red centre, with the tree made up of green log cabins.  The hanging has 24 star shaped gold buttons, and the numbers are either baubles, stars or Christmas stockings, cut out from red felt. 

I sat the small children – Dan and Daisy – down with some squares of white felt, and a red fabric pen, and let them draw Christmas pictures.  I guess they were two years and one year old, at the time – possibly three years and two years, but whatever.  Then I cut the shapes out of red and decorated white felt, and stitched them together with a decorative machine stitch.  And Moo, who would have been eleven or twelve, wrote the numbers on, in gold silk paint.  We used it every Christmas from then until we moved to this house, when it got lost and I thought I must have thrown it out by mistake.  I was heartbroken to think I’d lost such a treasure.  But it was unearthed when I emptied a storage crate, earlier this year – I think we’re all very happy to see it, and it certainly feels more like Christmas, to have it hanging in the living room.

 It’s Daisy’s birthday at the beginning of December, and so we can’t start Christmas until that’s safely over (apart from the advent calendar!)  So on Sunday, with birthday festivities firmly behind us, we put up the Christmas tree.  It’s a plastic one – but the children wanted a recyclable tree (in fact, they wanted to recycle last year’s cut tree, which is behind my shed in a very brown, dead condition, but I drew the line, there!) 

Every year, I practise letting go of my control freakish design prejudices, and absent myself from the tree decorating.  Left to me, it would be themed and minimalist – perhaps no more than lights and some angel hair – but the children still enjoy loading it with the baubles we’ve accumulated over the year.  So I poured myself a gin, and left them to it… They haven’t done badly, I have to (grudgingly!) admit.

I think the fact that I’d spent the weekend on a meditation retreat at a buddhist centre in Derbyshire definitely helped with the letting go, too!

I’ve finished off the decorations, this year, with some heart-shaped fairy lights over the fireplace.  I quite like these, actually – they may stay.  I might even make more owls to hang amongst them, in the manner of bunting.  Although, of course, when I finally get round to ordering some more firewood it will probably be way too hot there for anything so meltable.

And that’s it for Christmas decorations, chez nous – I’m not a big fan of the season, and we’re the wrong faith for the celebration.  I will bring some mistletoe in on the 21st as part of our solstice celebrations (not that we’re that faith, either, but why would you miss an excuse for mulled wine and sausages cooked on the barbeque??). 

But Christmas *is* an excuse for Christmas markets.  On Sunday, I found myself with some time to kill and so I headed to the Manchester Christmas market.  We lived in Manchester for – oh, about 20 years, and so it’s a bit like homecoming to wander around the city centre.  The market there is much bigger (and better) than the Birmingham equivalent, and has German, French, craft and art sections, as well as the obligatory gluhwein and nyummy continental food!  I grew up in Germany, so always enjoy the opportunity to stock up on German delicacies – lebekuche, and gluhwein and bratwurst – just scrummy!  This year, I found a fabulous stall (from Hebden Bridge of all places) selling Polish earthenware pottery.  The shop is Polkadot Lane, and I really defy you to click on that link and not want to buy *all* of it!! I constrained myself to the mug above, and a glorious earthenware yorkshire pudding dish, decorated with forget me nots.   Tomorrow is my first morning at home since I bought the mug, and I’m sure my coffee will taste extra delicious, drunk from such a beautiful vessel!!

And finally, here’s an utterly gratuitous photo of one of the cats.  Because hell, it’s my blog and I can if I want to!!