Tuesday, December 29

Festive Bounty

Jennifer's hand painted Christmas card to us

Stunning jewellery made for ME! by Frances

Nutmeg walnut shortbread biscuits

A handmade birdie hook holding a pressed metal birdie heart

My Christmas window dressing, with plenty of
snow visible outside,
and one of Amanda's
glass doves on the mirror

Wednesday, December 16

Quality will out...

In the absence of any great creative masterpieces emanating from this humble abode, I bring you a selection of my favourite blogging artist friends' work to admire and check out in more detail.

From the top, Gretel's truly unique needlefelted menagerie, seen here as view from her 2010 calendar.
A dinky little handknit jingle purse from Monkey and Sofia, which is the home of Maureen and Phil living a simple life in Spain.
The festive green sock yarn is one of Helen's richly hand dyed treats from Ripples Crafts
And who could resist a treasure chest like this red Secret Stash box from Katie's shop

Me, I've been primping the cottage in readiness for its official assessment today by VisitScotland. Nice man came and did a thorough job, and it should not be long till we get our 'stars'. We have visitors is the cottage over New Year which will be very fine. There's a wee decorated tree in the porch to welcome them.

We have 'rescue' trees this year. In the cottage is one of the titchy self-seeders which spring up along the forest roads. As soon as it is that forest's turn to be felled, the first thing to happen is that the roads are widened and surfaced ready for the huge machinery and logging trucks to gain access. And that means the wee 'wild' trees are squished to pulp. Not so this one, which has roots on and will get a new life in early January.

The tree in our house may just about last till Christmas Day! It was one of several which were sawn down and discarded at the plantation up the road and lay in the ditch for weeks.... Hugh rescued ours, trimmed the worst of the dying bits off and brought it home. The living room is so cold that the needles are only falling by the dozen, not the hundreds but it is touch and go whether it will be completely bald by this time next week...!

Wednesday, December 2

One Day Workshops

Let me tell you what I have planned
for February and March!

A series of one-day workshops in
the comfort of my cottage.

Read on and sign up!

Pick a theme and try your hand at creating bright paper banners
and bunting, goodie bags, invitations and more

Learn how to design and make your own cards and envelopes from scratch, as well as bags and boxes and other ways of packaging. You'll never be stuck for presentation ideas again!

Try several different methods of making simple books and albums, for gifts or for yourself. Clever folds, attractive covers, smart designs and lots of recycling ideas to inspire you.

Embellish with relish! Explore ways to tart up your clothes, cushions, accessories, make trimmings and twiddly bits and generally imbue your 'stuff' with your own unique style

Never knitted or crocheted? Dying to learn what all the fuss is about?
Learn the very basics and get started on your first handmade creation.


Friday 19th February Party Prep
Saturday 20th February Delivered in Style
Sunday 21st February Jotters to Journals
Friday 26th February Rehash your Stash
Saturday 27th February Party Prep
Sunday 28th February Absolute Beginners
Tuesday 9th February Rehash your Stash
Wednesday 10th March Delivered in Style
Thursday 11th March Jotters to Journals
Friday 12th March Absolute Beginners

Workshops are for over 16s
They cost £48 and run from 10 am to 4 pm
A light lunch and all refreshments
(that means home baking and lots of
tea and coffee and all the rest of the essentials
for creativity...) are included.
Only 4 participants at each workshop so that
you can have space to spread out and enjoy the day,
in the comfortable setting of
the cottage.
If you would like to book a personalised or bespoke workshop
for 4 people for another date I will be happy
to accommodate you and your friends.

To book or ask any questions just call me on 01450 860275

Tuesday, November 17

Full of good intentions...

..... just failing to deliver
I had plans to post photos of my new goodies, to make a new blog banner, and so on but I've just not managed it. Hugh is off south for a few days and has the camera with him so that's one of my excuses. I have been making luscious edibles to sell at the Christmas Fayre at the village hall this Saturday, and spinning more yarns too. But it has all been a bit of a battle as I am fighting off a bug/virus/general decrepitude and feeling pretty feeble.
Off to wrap myself round another hot drink and thank my lucky stars it's not swine flu..

xx L

Wednesday, October 21

Coming soon, to a venue near you..

Well, OK, only near a few of you really...

First off, I'll be participating in another lovely St Abbs Wool Festival, on Saturday 7th November. Organised by Louise of Woolfish (groovy yarn shop in St Abbs), it will be better than ever with the Alpaca Buyer (as he is known on Ravelry) and Jeni of Fyberspates both bringing their wares as well as Natalie from The Yarnyard, Janis of Flight Weaving and Laura Brittain with her stylish felt and there will be lots of 'stash sellers'.

On Saturday 21st November it's time for the small but perfectly formed Christmas Fayre at Southdean Village Hall from 12 noon till 4pm. All sorts of Scottish sweeties and home bakes at Ma Broon's Larder, lovely items by a very local wood turner, quality craft books, felted accessories and cards by Fiona, and very stylish stitchery by Ali and Janet, mulled wine and me (in that order...)

Meanwhile, I thought I'd share these picture with you - proof of a grand visit by Fiona and Amanda and me to see Katie, whose blog we all rather enjoy. Poppy is taking centre stage and smooching up to me even though she is not strictly allowed on Katie's shed sofa.

And look at the tea table! - Katie had gone into overdrive catering for overnight guests and we scored really rather well from her culinary talents (so did Hugh - I brought a few sample home!)Finally, just a mention for anyone who may be interested that Janice is selling a drum carder and a lovely little Ashford Kiwi wheel - you can find her here.

Sunday, October 11

A Wee Treasure

Life in Chesters is one merry round of events and social gatherings....even if most of them involve hard work by the village hall committee. On Friday night we gathered to watch 'A Streetcar Named Desire' in all its black and white glory. I had forgotten how scary Blanche DuBois was and at least some of the audience found this oldie not worth reviving. Most of us were glad when it was over.Attending the film meant I was on hand when a 'new' pile of books was dropped off at the hall. There's a couple of bookshelves there for folk to recycle their old tomes for the good of the hall's coffers. Rosie is moving house and had had a clear out. Thus I found 'The Getabout Bird' by Madeleine Collier, published in 1944 and with these delicious illustrations by Jennetta Vise. You can read more about her illustrating career on this fascinating blog
Meanwhile, there's much spinning, stitching, paper-cutting and chutney making in evidence as there are a few events coming up for the Border Tart... more soon..

Friday, October 2

A New Leaf

Well the Open Studios weekend was grand! The weather was bright and sunny which cheered everyone, artists and visitors alike. People came and viewed and chatted and bought and stayed for coffee and cake or home made soup and chatted some more, and dallied in the sunshine and said what a lovely spot Chesters is. Using the village hall to display our wares worked well because there was lots of room to move about or linger without feeling under any pressure.

I had a fine time with my mini workshops, encouraging friends and strangers to make little books with pockets, like the one above, and envelopes and bags and decorative bits and pieces from scrap and salvaged papers. Several discerning women bought my handspun yarns. And I may have acquired a new pair of earrings and commissioned a stylish 'paper clay' bowl (getting delivered on Sunday) and more from my fellow artists.I showed off some of my recent albums - this first one is a record of those lovely hand knitted socks I have been amassing (and wearing). It is a stab bound book with a page devoted to each delightful style.I also took delight in showing off this concertina album made to display the fantastic drawings done by Denholm Primary School children after I demonstrated spinning for them earlier in the year. The pages are bright colours and I've recorded each child's first name with their drawing and attached my favourite quotes from their 'stories' on the back.The very long booklet folds up into a neat cover and is secured with a handspun string

Monday, September 7

It'll be alright on the night...

Friday 11th to Sunday 13th September
Across the Borders and North Northumberland
and even in Southdean Village Hall

I am cool, I am in control, everything is planned
I am cool, I am in control, everything is planned
I am cool, I am in c...............................................
Yeah, well, that's the theory....
I am really looking forward to the three days of sharing a space with other artists, meeting new people and hopefully showing them how to have fun with the simplest of skills and tools.

It would be lovely to see you all if you can come along. And remember there are nearly seventy of us spread around the Border area, all happy to welcome you in for a blether and look around. Check out the new look CROSSING BORDERS website to find us and open an interactive copy of the Art Trail booklet

Wednesday, September 2

Clock's ticking...

Friday 11th to Sunday 13th September
across the Scottish Borders and North Northumberland
Rather alarmingly, there are only nine days till the Art Trail. I am lucky that the artists who are sharing the space with me at the Village Hall are all proactive folks, happy to get on and do stuff like make posters, sort the layout of the hall, decorate it and so on. We intend having a ball for three days so get along if you possibly can and join in the fun!

I am really looking forward to running three mini workshops where you can drop in for half an hour, pay a tiny fee, and try whichever takes your fancy.... They are all strongly based on recycling - whether it's magazines and newspapers, rescued envelopes, used wrapping paper or out-of-date road atlases, they've got a future here!

Tuesday, August 18

I Can't Sing a Rainbow!

But I can spin one!
I've been pedalling away whenever I get the chance, in between less creative chores, and feel happier to have some stock made in time for the forthcoming Open Studios event and November's Woolfish Festival. I've been experimenting further with needlefelting too, though nothing that will ever come close to the excellence of Gretel's menagerie!
I feel I should be reporting on lots of other creativity but the reality has been huge piles of bedlinen to iron for the cottage, form filling for more online 'presence' for said cottage and for the new website being built for Crossing Borders, and picking a steady stream of courgettes!
Fast approaching is the annual Southdean Show SATURDAY 22nd AUGUST where we will be Hurling a Haggis (no animals will be hurt, only surgical tubing filled with cooked rice!), making puppets, eating pancakes and trying to win dodgy bottles on the tombola - and I'm on duty in the tea tent this year. Ah, the rustic life....

Sunday, August 9

Progress Report

Progress indeed! As I write this our very first let of the cottage is underway - and the sun is shining on our holiday makers so all is right in this corner of the world.
Construction is happening too. This house has a slightly silly carport/covered entrance way which is not big enough to get a car under. It has a proper pitched slated roof, like the rest of the house, and one solid wall. Those have been its only attributes; most of the time it has taken misplaced pride in acting as a wind tunnel.
But not for long! Hugh is busy forming a front and side to it, which will be weatherboarded to match the porch on the cottage and before long we will have a wonderful store adjacent to the house. No more tripping over wellies and wet waterproofs in the rainy season (!), no more jam packing the hall cupboard with everything from a sack of dog food to a Kenwood and spare tins of tomatoes. Order WILL prevail.

Do you like the two images above? They are by the Morag Muir and I saw more of her gloriously coloured and detailed works at Pittenweem Arts Festival last Sunday. It was the best day out I have had in a long time. Good company, great picnic, sunny day, picturesque harbour village and masses and masses of open studios/houses/garages/church halls with fantastic work to view and buy. We were each tempted by different pieces and now that I know what to expect, I am determined to have pennies in my pocket next August...

From the sublime to the slightly ridiculous,
I just had to show you a couple of pages from a quirky 1950s embroidery book [Contemporary Embroidery Design by Joan Nicholson] given to me by Janis. It is very dated and curiously lacking in, well, sense really. I love the ideas and the dinky little drawings but the same images occur throughout the book and there does not seem to be any sequence. Ah, but so what? You can't help but smile at the illustrations, and the enthusiasm for oddly shaped animals...

Saturday, July 18

Poison arrows

Now, I know you have all been desperate to see what a bumble bee poison arrow froggie looks like so here's a lovely shot which I borrowed from iPhotograph's flickr page. Isn't it a beauty? Sadly quite deadly and not at all cute in real life, but stunning design! This sort of bee is rather more common round here, fortunately.
I've been reading TLC's blog and marvelling at the range and quality of fruit she has growing in her Washington garden - puts my strawbs and few rasps to shame. I have high hopes for my first attempt at blueberries, though. Here they are looking refreshed after a day and half of torrential rain. It is still drizzling now but at least we can venture out in it without fear of being washed away...
And now a tasteful shot of my Lakeland purchases. Star of the show is my Herdy sheep bank, produced by these stylish folk who introduced Herdy mugs at last year's Woolfest. I coveted a sheepy bank this time but due to a regulatory hitch they could not sell them to us then and there. So I took advantage of the money-off voucher I was given to buy one on-line. I chose original Herdy grey but they are available in wilder shades too. The website is full of lovely images and all purchases help to conserve the Lake District - it's not just for tourists. after all. The delicious handthrown bowl, bought in Hawkshead, is made by Mary Chappelhow. It's a very neat shape and allows for my morning meusli/granola to have milk added without drowning any fresh strawberries sitting on top. I shall endeavour to take care of it, but sadly my 'enthusiastic but clumsy' attitude to dishwashing does lead to frequent chips and cracks.
Underneath is my new buff - also sheepy. Buffs are great in this part of the world - they stop rain dripping down my neck and cover the gap between jacket and fleecy hat in cold weather. Handknit cowls are lovely but need rather more care than I generally treat my clothes to.

Wednesday, July 8

A walk in the Woods

Our walk around the Sculpture Trail in Grizedale was done in steaming hot weather - quite uncomfortable for us northern types! Fortunately it was too hot for midges to be out, otherwise we would have just travelled direct from car park to cafe... Lots had changed since our last visit a century ago and several of the older creations are damaged or gone but this wonderful flock grazing by a stream were waiting to be stumbled upon. There were giant metal spiders too but I thought you might appreciate them less. There's a huge new visitor complex nearing completion so the air was rent by Stihl saws and the like. However, inside this very posh cafe was another treat (not just the cakes). An exhibition of work by Edward Acland (environmentalist and small holder who lives in the Lake District) who has used old double glazing units and, well, rubbish, as his medium. The windows are framed in wood, as you can just see, and he jam-packs the gap between the panes with layers of all sorts of discarded items. There are layers of, for example, sawdust, sheep's wool, soot, baler twine, toast (!), swarf (the tiny corkscrew metal shavings off lathes), dust and other sweepings. They make abstract shapes and are inspiring in concept and appearance, in my humble opinion.

I have not photographed my haul of dyed wool tops from Woolfest but I may yet do so, or better still, gather together my other few treats from our holiday to show you. Time has been in short supply the last few weeks. I have been very busy behind the scenes with Crossing Borders as we have been applying for grants, and inviting companies to tender for the further development of the website. And we have new permanent display and selling space for members' work at Paxton House near Berwick which we all take turns to look after for a day. I was there on Tuesday this week and as it was a quiet day for visitors I got lots of spinning done!

Tuesday, June 30


Woolfest was the excuse but we managed to escape for a few days to the Lake District, towing the trusty ol' caravan (which I have named Bessie). We arrived at the Ritz of caravan sites, Skelwith Fold, just west of Ambleside. Situated on a wooded hillside, completely invisible from all roads and with lots of landscaping within the site, it was quite an eye opener. At the site shop you can order croissants and petit pains au chocolat to collect at breakfast time the following morning - now that is seriously posh.We had the oldest caravan by decades, no hook-up, no fancy schmancy satellite dishes, barbeques, remote control parking gadgets - no siree. But we did indulge in quite a bit of people- and 'van- watching on the site. Hmmm, I bet they said a few things about us too!The weather was fantastically hot (too hot for us softies) and so on Day One we indulged in a cruise down Windermere to the Aquarium of the Lakes. This involved four different vessels and was pretty fine relaxation. We visited the aquarium ten years ago and one of the attractions we wanted to watch again was the sight of ducks diving underwater. You are situated at the bottom of the 'lake' and can watch through the glass the ducks propelling themselves down to search around for food among the carp and other fishes. Other tanks hold scarier stuff and a slightly curious collection of 'non native' critters like scorpions, and tarantulas and fantastic 'bumble bee poison arrow frogs' which were my favourites. Another day found us beside Coniston where we resisted the temptation to take one of the delightful old steam gondolas across the water to Brantwood - one time home of Ruskin. We had been to Grizedale to walk the sculpture trail - but I'll show you some images from that next time...and I may just mention my Woolfest purchases.

Saturday, June 20

Woolfest beckons...

A week today I shall be surrounded by happy smiling people and lots and lots of wool; on the hoof, in the fleece, dirty, scoured, bagged, combed, carded, dyed, felted, spun, knitted, on the cone, in skeins, balls, oh and on and on - textile heaven - and all this in a Cumbrian auction mart.

Woolfest Rocks! For those of us who cannot justify a major trip south, the fact that the Woolclip took the plunge a few years ago and launched into the relative unknown by holding a wool festival in the north west of England is a decision we are heartily thankful for. And it has grown and grown in popularity. We love it! You get to see old friends and make new ones, to learn fascinating skills from Europe, the US and beyond, to take classes, and see and feel and smell and discuss the merits of every item on show or sale with enthusiastic and knowledgeable folk who are happy to share their experience.

Last year I bought delicious fibres to spin with and this time I am going back for more. I'll probably also succumb to beautiful buttons, some interesting yarns to dye up, useful tools and bits and pieces, a few presents and maybe some luscious sheeps' milk ice cream. Hugh may join me- he's not averse to a bit of colour (or ice cream) or he may explore the delights of the area before gathering me and my haul of goodies up and heading back to our wee caravan. Yup, we're making a mini-holiday of it and soaking up some Lake District sights for a few days.

Ash and Midge will be well catered for - their very own high class dog-sitter is coming to stay!

Once I am back I already have another list of things to do. First up - what can I sell at the Curly Kale and Cream Cakes day? The first Sunday of July, August and September, we're holding produce days at the village hall - if you make it, bake it, sew it or grow it you can come along and sell it at the hall (no charge for stalls) and enjoy a cream tea too - or just buy the products of others' hard work! First date is from 2.00pm on Sunday 5th July.

I'll also be turning my mind to the Crossing Borders Art Trail - I'll be running mini-workshops but I'll tell you more about them another day.

Sunday, June 14

Taking Time

This little corner of the world is bathed in sunshine again today - the dogs are happy, Hugh is off-road driving over in Lanarkshire and he's happy. I am in the middle of a few domestic chores to be followed by a period of reading a book and drinking a cup of tea, so I will shortly be happy too!
In this household we are forever trying to reach a destination instead of enjoying the journey - you know, endless lists of stuff to be done, either written down or in your head, items scored off, but more always being added.
Today I am just in apprecation mode - of all the wild birds making their homes in the garden, of the impressive number of courgette and tomato plants growing well in the polytunnel, of the wonderfully spoiled life of Ash and Midge, of the hens scratching away in the grass. As I type this I see I have an audience of no fewer than seven sparrows lined up on the edge of the guttering, peering in.
Here's something else for me to appreciate! These stunning socks, knitted for me by the Jess, my sock star! I dyed the main yarn and Jess used scraps I gathered from Janice to do the toes and heels and tops. The cabling is fantastic - she tells me the sock pattern is called Paraphernalia. The colour scheme is quite 'old school tie' I think, though the wearer is anything but.

And finally my kantha work birdie cushion is finished. The bright and cheerful one behind it is the real thing, which I treated myself to a few years ago.

Monday, May 25

May flies by..

Well, Ash has updated her blog after many months' absence, so I'd better get on and do the same...

The cottage is finished and ready for visitors. It has been thoroughly tested out by Hugh's aunt, cousin and dog and a few minor additions made (like, how exactly did I expect anyone to clean the laminate floor without some sort of mop..)
David B has PAT tested all the electrics this morning so we are all proper and correct now. A bit of tidying and planting at the front of the cottage would not go amiss but comfort-wise, it's pretty fine (said she, modestly)
My spinning wheel and I have been reunited lately and we are working well together to make lovely new yarns. I've got a guest spot at The Crafters' attractive shop in Melrose for June so I want to make sure I have tempting goodies to offer.
Before that it's Woolgathering time on Sunday and I am looking forward to catching up with everyone over needles and pins and biscuit or two.....

Saturday, April 25

Waylaid in Blogland

Still here, still paddling furiously to keep head above water...
No textile masterpieces to show off, just paint spattered clothes and a headache from some very smelly floor tile grout today!
VERY SOON, the cottage will be finished. Meanwhile, if you promise to give useful feedback, you can read all about The Old Tearoom right HERE!
There will be more pics on the site soon, just need to iron some curtains, concrete a ramp, paint the corridor, find some...

Sunday, April 5

Rainbow Daze

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz. I've seen my first primroses, the snake's head fritillaries are out in a wee corner of the garden, I've had a birthday and I still have not planted any seeds.

Today was a Woolgathering and we managed quite a few stitches between us, in all sorts of different projects. I came away with more yarn, and a knitting magazine, sold eggs and fibre, ate cake and biscuits and drank tea. The sun streamed in the window onto a big jug of daffodils gracing the work table.

I feel altogether lighter after a day like today (in mood, not in body, due to the cake and biscuit element). Mind you. with socks like these to have and to hold, can you blame me? Knitted by the lovely Jess from yarn dyed by Wild Fire Fibres, they remind me of rainbow drops sweets we bought when we were kids.

Thursday, March 26

A whole new experience

by Tamzin


by Matthew

by Evan
I had a lovely couple of hours on Monday. One class at Denholm Primary School are studying how the Vikings lived and they have been doing some simple weaving with wool yarns. I was chuffed to be asked to come along and demonstrate carding and spinning so that they could understand the process from fleece to yarn.

This was my first viewing of the new school - the old one was demolished by fire a few years ago and the teachers and children had to make do with a very few temporary buildings in the yard of another school in Hawick until the great day when their brand new school was opened. This one is so well designed that it is a treat to spend time in. Great facilities for the four different classes and views of the Borders countryside from every window.

Anyway, teacher Diane was very gentle with me, and the children were impeccably behaved and sat crosslegged in a semi circle as I talked them through the process. Later they divided into little groups and we had some 'hands on' with fleece and tops and carders.
Then yesterday what was waiting for me when I came home but a thank you letter and a little drawing from each and every one of them! Here's a small sample of their wonderful artwork. I'll save you from viewing the accompanying photograph of me spinning.