Saturday, December 15

Winter Chills

Hugh and I have both succumbed to colds which is lousy timing with so much to do. At least we should be clear of them by Christmas, though. Lots of work has been going on in the kitchen next door - as in ripping the old one out and fitting a new one - mainly done by Hugh with the aid of the plumber and the electrician (who just happens to have a lovely chocolate lab called Muddy and to have a penchant for Hugh's paintings....say no more). A new kitchen SO POSH, by the way, it has an extra sink for handwashing so we can keep the Environmental Health officer happy and be allowed to sell food we cook in there. My tablet and preserves plus Hugh's bread will become legitimate once the EHO says OK and once we have done our Food Hygiene courses. Flipping bureaucratic nonsense but rules is rules, I guess. Meantime, we need to move next door for good in the coming week so we can spruce this house up for some visitors arriving at the weekend.

Looking forward to a festive rest - after the Christmas Eve carol service at our wee kirk then mince pies and mulled wine at the hall, of course. Well, you would expect nothing less of village life by now!

Other stuff? Well, I braved the frosty garden to take pics of the fancified waistcoat, then decided that the indoor pics were better. Herewith the back and a detail from one of the fronts - the colours in it are truer. And I have been washing and preparing and spinning fleece for a commission which ought to be done by Christmas. One of those jobs that I regretted taking on the minute I'd said it - wet fleece - winter - coughs and sneezes - ho hum, soon be done.

Sunday, December 2

Draughty December

Hmm, all the bits we were going to improve in the cottage this year have not been worked on so at times there's a howling gale blowing under doors and whistling down the chimney. It makes you want to stay about two inches from the stove of an evening rather than working in another (chillier) room. I should have been spending evening times on preparation for a demonstration I am doing on Thursday evening to Berwickshire Arts Society but I allowed myself to be side tracked into 'fancifying' a waistcoat instead.

The garment started out as a labour of love - hand spun and knitted as a marled navy/white sweater for Hugh some years ago. It fell out of favour so I felted it in the washing machine and added it to the stash last year (or maybe the one before that...) Anyway, last week I attacked it with scissors. Off came the arms, off came the neck then the side seams were hacked at too. I blanket stitched all round, restitched the side seams and then set about some fairly wacky chain stitch with scraps of hand spun to create a complete one-off. If I had had the sense to take a pic I would have attached that but I'll add it soon.

Suddenly it's Sunday evening and I had better get busy with fibres and carders in belated preparation for the demo.

Already there has been another event in our busy village hall - two short plays with supper in between last night - and next Saturday we are having a village party. I tell you, life in the country requires stamina!
Since being the lucky recipient of a SOSF package from Sarah, I have been admiring her work. I love her site at Miskellaneous Design and this image in particular - it seems so appropriate with darkness falling in the middle of the afternoon these days. She's got some wonderfully nutty stuff in her shop

Sunday, November 18

The Festive Fayre is next...

I'm stitching and baking in readiness for the Festive Fayre we are holding at Southdean Village Hall on Saturday (24th November) . There will be stalls with jewellery and cards and hand drawn prints as well as The Border Tart, and Linda's famous (in these parts) mulled wine, and Reindeer Hoopla, plus a bran tub for the younger visitors, Christmas trees and wee wooden deer, handmade wreaths, no doubt a raffle and probably a bottle stall and all this excitement washed down with coffee and shortbread (oh, and more mulled wine...) - what better way to spend a late November afternoon?

Saturday, November 10

All things bright and beautiful

Hello! I am just back from a lovely day at the Federation Show where lots of wonderful women (and a few discerning men) came and bought up the supplies I had taken along. So there are thousands more beads in the Borders, heaps of Christmas card making kits, reels of cotton and metallic threads, fibres for spinning and felting, all getting tucked into stashes! The array of talent at the Show was amazing - you would not believe how many skilled crafters and bakers and knitters and stitchers there are out there, mainly hiding their lights under bushels (or whatever!).

Back in breezy Chesters, the shop is restocked with shiny new things for Christmas and beyond. Do have a look and let me know what you think. Postage is free anywhere on orders under £10.00 from now on, and there are lucky bags of goodies on offer too.

Tuesday, October 30

Happy Halloween!

Well now, it's been a busy week, incorporating the arrival of a new sink (!), a meeting with an architect, one with the Forestry Commission, a Body Shop party, a wedding and a Wool Gathering - what a social whirl we country folks enjoy....
The Wool Gathering was a lovely informal day incorporating only modest cake consumption but lots of work by all parties including the two junior members who made jewellery happily all day. I stitched some kantha work, Anne prepared squares for a quilt, Alison stitched, Anke knitted, Janet knitted and Lorraine fretted over a part knitted sock. Helen came to the rescue and got her back on track (even though the sock was quite a lot shorter when she left than when she'd arrived...) Anke brought honey from her first ever harvest and talked about selling pork from her next year's pigs. We also pondered the possibility of running a Textile Fair or Exhibition in the Borders next year - I am sure you'll be hearing more of this from me.

The Autumn Fairy timed it beautifully for Halloween - I'm all kitted out now courtesy of the lovely Miskellaneous - I've received my very own felt Crump, and badges and a handstitched pumpkin pin and beautifully illustrated recipe cards, and stickers and a delicious chocolate skeleton (I know coz I ate it) all liberally sprinkled with mini Halloween sequiny things (technically correct description, I think you'll find). Great fun and altogether mood enhancing!

Saturday, October 20

Rainbow's End

Been gazing rather wistfully at the talents of others online tonight - always a sucker for signs, I am pleased to have found the Keep Calm Gallery, where you can purchase the above, among other delights.

And wonder knitter Maureen has been busy stocking up for the Christmas rush at Monkey & Sofia - these penguins and crocs are lovely but check out the kangaroo and giraffe too!

Dottie is a limited edition print from Thing of Beauty - an online shop whose home is also in the Scottish Borders.

This wonderful painting which I covet is from the talented artist Sue Hoppe, also known as Arty Farty

Thursday, October 11

Woolly Thoughts

Creativity presently extends to moving furniture round and winding myself up to make some curtains, though there have been forays into jelly making with this year's feeble apple crop, and seeing how much brandy one mixing bowl of mincemeat can absorb...
The spinning wheel was dusted off for the Crafternoon Tea and is back in easy reach - so why have I not sat down at it since? I think I need to schedule in a whole day of 'making things'. With that in mind, I am pleased to say there is another Woolgathering on the way - I reckon 28th October is near enough the actual date to give it a Halloween theme, and Anne has suggested we bring UFOs along. Of course that presents another dilemma - do I take the unfinished kantha work, the unfinished baby sock or the wheel with the beautiful dyed tops I bought at Woolfest?
The invitations have gone out to all previous participants but if you want to know more and would like to come along just shout - I can guarantee that the only level of skill to be publicly judged at such an event is your capacity for coffee and cake.

Monday, October 1

Woolly Wallpaper and more

Isn't this a delicious image? You need to check out the lovely work of Mrs Hello Yarn. She even offers this and other yarn shots for you to use as wallpaper - check out the skulls! And her Blog is full of great knits and useful information too. Oh, and while I am at it - do you know about Marilyn at the Toy Workshop? Another great site, with delightful free downloads, wonderful for kids of all ages....
My life is destructive rather than creative again at the moment - barrowfuls of prunings in the garden, stripping glue off a laminate floor, pulling off wallpaper, so I may just shout about others' blogs for a while. Have had a plea from 'tricia at Teddies for Tragedies, though - 500 teddies are going off to Roumania but they don't have anywhere near enough bags for them - have a look at the site if you can and stitch a few simple bags.

Monday, September 17

Jute, Jam and Journeying

Been off in the glorious Perthshire countryside for a week with Hugh. We stayed in the little village of Kirkmichael which allowed us to explore in lots of different directions. Most days we clocked up a good few miles walking, split into two or maybe three outings. The village is situated on The Cateran Trail - a 64 mile circular walking route 'in the footsteps of the marauding clans and cattle thieves of the Highlands' and all the footpath signs have dinky little red hearts on them - not quite the image you associate with marauding cattle thieves but easy to spot!

On Wednesday we drove to Dundee where we played tourist. Dundee is of course known for jute, jam and jounalism. Jam because the countryside surrounding Dundee is gently sloping quality growing ground for soft fruit. There are acres of poly tunnels and fleece-protected strawberries and raspberries everywhere you look. Journalism - Dundee is home to D C Thomson, publishers since 1905, with over 200 million newspapers and magazines each year. Jute is your lesson for today.

First we explored Her Majesty's Frigate Unicorn, built in the Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham in 1824. Although she did not put to sea in wartime, she was in constant service in the Royal Navy till 1968. It was fascinating exploring below deck, and deeper and deeper below water level to where a poor ship's carpenter would have had to run round a tiny gantry over the open hold, plugging holes in the hull whenever cannonballs found their target. And what about the fact that traditionally the deck where the officers had their qaurters was painted red so that the blood did not show up so much as the wounded were laid out?

Then we visited Verdant Works .

Verdant Works was built in 1833 for a merchant and flax spinner. By 1864 it had 70 power looms and 500 people were employed there. In 1991 the Dundee Heritage Trust purchased the derelict site and set about restoring the jute mill as a working museum. Jute is obtained from two varieties of plant native to Bangladesh (Bengal as was). In 1820 the first twenty bales of jute were unloaded at Dundee docks. The city was already an important weaving and whaling centre. So the local workforce could weave and they had access to whale oil which was needed to soften the raw jute fibre and make it workable. The enterprising merchant community was quick to see the possibilities. During the 19th and early 20th centuries jute was indispensable - its uses included sacking, ropes, boot linings, aprons, carpets, tents, roofing felts, sand bags, sailcloth, scrims, tapestries, horse covers, cattle bedding, electric cables and even parachutes. It was cheap, durable and very versatile. Between 1841 and 1901 the population of the city tripled. By then 50,000 people were employed in the mills and Dundee was the jute capital of the world. Most of the workers were women and children (cheaper to employ), working conditions were appalling and accidents common. The workers lived in overcrowded squalor and the mill owners got richer and richer (sound familiar?) However, the Jute Barons did spend some of their riches on parks and libraries, swimming pools and theatres and dance halls, so that the workers' brief leisure time was varied and enjoyable.
The death knell of the industry was the growing competition from India itself. The Indian jute industry was established by Dundee's own engineers and mill managers who were lured out by higher wages and a better standard of living. Dundee held its own through two world wars but the advent of polypropylene finally killed off the Scottish jute business.
OK, history lesson over (cribbed from the guide book, I admit). Hugh and I paid our money and took the tour - first into the accounts department and the manager's office, then a little history section and straight into see the process for ourselves. Batching and softening, carding, drawing, roving, spinning, spool winding, beaming, weaving and finishing. Wonderful words, I love 'em, they remind me of my time at textile college (any fellow students reading this, do not snort with derision, it's unbecoming...) We had a real live guide all to ourselves who explained the process and ran each of the machines in turn, and gave me wee samples to take away and cherish. The final pics here show two from a series of lovely little models illustrating the uses of jute.

Friday, August 31

Fancy that!

I've been having fun, and blunting sewing machine needles, making these new cards which are heading for the shop. They are paper based with ribbons and silks and yarns and a few glitzy bits and are suitable for all sorts of people and occasions, in my humble opinion!

Wednesday, August 15

New kids on the block

Some of these new faces have arrived in the shop - Floyd and Maximilian and Horace. The next step is to introduce some new items in the stationery department but first I have to continue with re-decorating and more scheming and planning on the house front.

While clearing out the endless stuff of generations of family I came across a book I made for a major wedding anniversary for my parents - I've scanned a couple of the pages for you to see my designs. Must try the plum butter this year.

Saturday, August 11

After the Show was over...

The entire hall committee collapsed in an exhausted heap!

The local show nearly didn't happen at all - Foot and Mouth saw to that - but the trusty few worked long and hard to make it a good day, albeit on a reduced scale. There were scarcely any raindrops, youngsters were seen to have a good time, there were no serious tears, much cake was consumed (and even more tea), books and bric a brac were snapped up, home grown produce and baked goods were purchased, the bran tub proved a hit with the tiddly children, the correct weight of the fruitcake was guessed (4lb 1oz) and the doll's name was guessed too (Hannah) though not by any of the pink-clad young girls and others who laboured hard over their choices and opted for names like Milly or Molly or Polly or Lolly. My cheese scones won a first prize (am I proud? - you bet!) and Hugh won us a great big box of fruit in the raffle. And we had the ice cream van lady there again - summer summed up!

Saturday, July 28

Yarn Ahoy!

At last the Tart's Shop has a yarnstore - check it out and see what you think. My most recent creations are these scrumptious sock yarns which are all natural dyed and you'll find some of them in the shop. I have shut the door to Granny's Attic for the moment while I play with yarn making. I'm scheduling in some more spinning in September when we will be in a cottage in Perthshire for a week. I said I would take my wheel so Hugh is threatening to take his guitar.....
Another treat arrived through the mail for me - handmade teabags from the herbs in Tara's own garden - how posh is that?! Together with a delicious bag of lemon geranium scented sugar which I am going to convert into shortbread very soon. Wonderful treats all the way from the US of A - thank you TLC!

Wednesday, July 18

Hidden Treasures!

Blimey, a fortnight since my last post. Some of it spent with Hugh's lovely aunt - we had a ball, went to the seaside and had chips, went round Floors Castle and tested the tearoom, went out for dinner one night (notice a theme here?) and walked and drove through the glorious Borders countryside. Since then, more sorting of stuff, working in the garden and making another rag doll because, yes folks, it's local show time again very soon!

The old photographs have been dragged down from the attic next door for good. The one above shows how we spent our summers when I was a child, fishing for lobsters off Ardnamurchan Point. Here's a family friend, me, little brother and Dad with an impressive haul - the latter three all in sweaters knit by Mum, of course!
And this must be The Lost Children - Big brother and me at seven and two years old in Granny's garden- well, that's what it said on the back of the photograph but I can't say I remember looking that clean and tidy.

Today a delicious parcel arrived from a Secret Fairy, aka Kajsa, full of fancy teas strung up like bunting, embroidered cloths with ladybirds and bees, handcoloured cards and envelopes, lavender, cedar chips and a wonderful ball of coloured wool tops all ready for spinning. A real treat - and Ash thought so too, as you can see...

Wednesday, July 4

Confidence Boost Day!

Today is a good day.

One : We collected Hugh's aunt from the station last night and plan lots of touristy things every day of her stay - we started off by having lunch at the great little Turkish cafe in Hawick (yes, really!) and showing off our exhibition where Peggy decided she needed to buy one of Hugh's paintings.
Two: Cue trumpets - The Border Tart makes it into print in BBC Homes & Antiques this month.
Three: The Craftsman has been re-launched as Craft & Design Magazine, issued bi-monthly and I was interviewed for a forthcoming issue today by the lovely Hazel Reid who is an embroiderer and journalist and hen keeper!

Friday, June 29

Natural Dyeing

At last, a wee report on the joys of natural dyeing the easy way!

A small but dedicated band of coffee drinkers/cake testers met to explore the dyes sold by Alison at Pure Tinctoria.
I had followed her suggestions and pre-mordanted all our yarns with alum. We then dyed five different 'straight' shades before modifying them with various substances - like water with rusty iron in it, water with copper piping in it and citric acid.
Although some of the pure shades had seemed a bit over- bright (could have been my measuring of dye powder...) the modifiers soon softened them down and we ended up with some lovely colours. Everyone went home with twenty different shades to make a shade card and enough of a couple of their chosen shades to knit a small project with.
Meanwhile tomorrow we are off to Woolfest - I missed last year's and am really looking forward to a textile extravaganza - who cares if it is STILL raining...

Friday, June 15

Sad Stuff

As Ash has reported on her blog, no posts for a while till we are sorted out again.

xx L

Monday, June 4

Dyeing Day

I have been busily preparing for a natural dyeing workshop I am holding on Sunday. We will use five different dyes from Pure Tinctoria and then modify some of the dyed wool yarns to produce related shades. If all goes to plan we'll each have a record sheet with twenty different shades on it, and know how we got them! Each participant will also choose a hank of dyed yarn to take home that is big enough to make something with. We are mainly using Blue Faced Leicester yarn but there will be a few others in there for comparison too. Hopefully, then, I can show off after next Sunday and post the samples here.
So far I have printed out the record sheets (and managed to list a dye we are not even going to use) and to mordant all the yarns with alum (including one batch which I stupidly threw some old yellow wool into - the yellow ran all through the virginal white which rendered it useless for producing accurate samples from). I eventually got it all done and dried on the washing line...then counted it out only to find I was one set of yarns short for what we need. Bad Day at Black Rock.
Meanwhile I have been working on exhibition stuff. The image is one of a series of ten linked small canvases of leaf shapes combining acrylics with stitchery on silk.

Sunday, May 27

Just for fun

As a change from running stitch on the kantha work I got my felt out for a play. These new wee flower badges are going on the Border Tart in the next few days. Each flower has a butterfly or a rabbit or even a hen and chicks in the middle. Badge fastenings on the backs.
As it is a rainy day here so no garden work, I have been dyeing some cottons ready for more kantha work (definitely hooked now). Also decided to add prints of Hugh's work to the Tart's Titchy Etsy shop so that needs attention too now. Probably need a lie down to think about all this.....
All creative types - please check out Urban Cowboy which Arty Farty has just posted about

Saturday, May 19

Just a bit of nonsense

You know how it is, you look at someone's blog and they have downloaded one of these blogthings and you try it and then another one and before you know it, you are falling off your seat with laughter at the description of yourself that appears before you.... so go on, who should paint you?

***Who Should Paint You: Gustav Klimt***
Sensual and gorgeous, you would inspire an enchanting portrait..With just enough classic appeal to be hung in any museum!

Thursday, May 17


When the self doubt about my acrylics and mixed media creations gets out of hand, I have been retreating to an armchair with my stitchery. The pics here are of cotton fabric dyed and then stencilled with a lemon juice and flour paste which bleaches the colour from it. There are a couple of layers of muslin behind the cotton so that when I do the kantha work - basically masses and masses of parallel(ish) running stitch - the fabric pulls into ripples.
Ultimately I will embroider the shapes too, and maybe add mirrors, but it is very pleasing in its simple form here. The stencil shapes are ones that the embroidery tutor had made up based on stylised tree of life and elephant shapes seen in Indian textiles. Once I have finished these samples I have lots of ideas of my own to try out.
Next on the agenda, though, is to organise a small dyeing workshop using natural dyes from Pure Tinctoria. The colours are deliciously soft and they should result in some lovely yarns for us all to experiment with.

Thursday, May 10

Too much stuff...

Too much stuff to do - need to paint, need to sew, need to market self better, need to keep on top of the garden, need to find space to store work, need to stop gathering 'junk' of one sort or another to restore/remake/renovate/re-invent, need to stop baking as a way of avoiding addressing any or all of the above....

Uncovered photograph albums in the attic last week - could not resist this lovely pic of my Dad and my big brother taken nearly half a century ago - how handsome my pa looked! (and how mortified my brother will be when I run this off for a card for his forthcoming major birthday...)
Spent two days on a great course at the end of April, learning Indian embroidery techniques. Theoretically I now know how to sew on shisha mirrors and I have definitely mastered my version of kantha work - I'll photograph the WIP to post here soon.

Friday, April 27

Teddies for Tragedies

There's a link on The Border Tart to a very simple and sensible comfort source called Teddies for Tragedies. I've just had an e-mail from Tricia there - there's been a huge demand for these simple knitted or crocheted teddies from several different charities including Cambodia's Dump Children and Mercy Ships.
She is going to need 700 teddies by the end of June. Can you help? Do you know anyone who would make some simple teddies as described on the TfT site? Or even make bags for the Teddies?
Please spread the word.

Wednesday, April 18

Eternal Sunshine ...

Boosted by the weather, I have been busy in the garden, planting veg plants and tidying up the latest shed acquisition. And I have been here and there in the Borders and beyond. Helped Hugh setting up pictures at a new local gallery which is opening on Friday, checked out a charity shop and acquired some linen trousers for the summer - they need a bit of adjustment but they are in my favourite RED and could not be passed by!

Met up with a watercolourist friend south of the Border and had a good joint whinge about why we choose to make our livings in creative endeavours instead of toeing the company line for a steady wage.

Met Cairi this morning to discuss the next Woolgathering and to plan a separate small workshop using delicious natural dyes from here. Since then I have been planting carrots, washing hand spun yarn and updating the shop. New stuff includes this lovely cuddly Robin and some felted pinballs! Now I am off to make nests for bluebirds - they should be in the shop by the weekend!