love letters

A very happy Monday to everyone. You can quickly see what has been holding my interest this weekend. I have used up page after page of my sketchbook, practising with my new calligraphy nibs and have been enjoying myself hugely. My favourite nib isn't one of the fancypants italic ones with a brass ink feeder but a little mapping tool called a Hunt Imperial 101. I do also kind of like that it sounds a bit like a piece of military hardware from the Death Star.

My other weekend buy was a corner cutting punch. FUN has been had...

I dug out these ceramic tiles that I made about ten years ago when I did a part-time course to relaunch myself into the world of art and making. As you can see, I was obsessed with letters and symbols back then, too...

slumdog millionaire

You all must go if you haven't been.

It's brilliant.

Very sad and hard to watch especially if you are a mum but a beautiful ending. Brilliantly crafted, gorgeously shot, makes you think and think and think... I've hardly slept.

It's not often I go to the cinema let alone see Oscar-winning films, largely because I'm so often disappointed, but this was superb.



Has anybody got any ideas how I can stop a handbag strap slipping off my shoulder?

I have a lovely leather bag which is the sort you can wear over your shoulder or carry like Tinky Winky, but the strap is too wide and won't sit in the dink of my shoulder so it keeps slipping off.

I have tried those silicone pads you put in to make shoes comfy but they get unstuck and then curl up and I find them hanging off my clothes like slugs.

I feel certain there must be some non-slip product out there that would do the trick without ripping holes in my clothes...

Any ideas?


finding a handwriting

Pages from my sketchbook this week... trialling pens, brushes, colour, techniques... finding a handwriting both literally and artistically...just doodling, playing, seeing...

beautiful words

I love words and especially words which form part or all of an illustration or design. Yesterday I bought myself a set of nibs and I've been playing around with ink, pens and brushes to find a style of lettering that feels comfortable and contains possibilities. I've become a bit obsessed with it all, as you can see... these images almost make me weep with appreciation and joy... I just love them, don't you?

Thanks to all on Flickr for sharing their work.

1. etc, 2. hoekje, 3. perhaps, fresh haircut do the trick with my headache, 4. 0301pinks, 5. Wrinkles , 6. Parfumerie, 7. leaf, 8. Like a beginner 4, 9. practice before breakfast, 10. "huxtable" style - pen & ink, 11. gg, 12. modern, 13. alphabets for illustration friday, 14. The Blue Letter, 15. "hello" hand lettered envelope seals, 16. tentativa de alimentação saudável

birthday treat

Birthday grape hyacinths on the windowsill at our little cottage

Well what an amazing time away we have had. Thank you all for your kind wishes. The weather has been just perfect: sun every day, hardly any wind and not a drop of rain. It's hard to remember the last time March was this lovely. We have been walking on the fells in t-shirts and wearing sunglasses nearly all the time.

A row of cottages in Cartmel overlooking the Priory

Highlights of the trip included...

Walking through beautiful woods and fields to Holker Hall and sitting outside to eat a delicious lunch in the sun before an afternoon's walk by the saltmarshes along the Cumbria Coastal Way, stopping now and again to pick up driftwood and odd things washed up by the tide.

Visiting Cartmel Priory, beautiful Furness Abbey, the very strange and quirky Roa Island, and other crumbly remains of the monkish past of the South Lakes.

Cartmel Priory

A birthday drive into the 'proper' Lake District along the exquisitely lovely Dunnerdale, lunch in the sun again at Chesters in Skelwith Bridge... in Ambleside, and a lazy late afternoon ramble along the shore of Windermere, watching the sun go down and making little boats out of sticks and leaves.

After a long impatient wait, the excitement of watching five beautiful badgers trotting out of the semi-darkness and scoffing a bucketful of kitchen scraps at the Glen Rothay Hotel in Rydal. The fulfilment of a long-held dream for me to see badgers in the wild.

No badger pictures sadly but I liked these lovely cobbled walls of a fortified building on Roa Island

A lovely drive home that took all day: along the beautiful shores of Ullswater to Penrith and lunch at the Village Bakery, followed by a visit to Long Meg and her Daughters, a look round Little Salkeld watermill, and wholesome afternoon tea in hand-thrown cups. Winding home through the pretty Eden Valley via Appleby and Orton, then a blast along the M6 as the sun dipped behind the fells and we remembered all the lovely things we had done.

Align Centre
Long Meg and some of her Daughters

Two important footnotes:

1. I often think that blogs can make our lives appear deceptively perfect. You should know that at times during our week away I was horribly grumpy and premenstrual, and on the last morning we had a stonking row.

2. Cartmel Priory isn't Cistercian as I mistakenly wrote in my last post, it's Augustinian. The Cistercians did build Furness though, and were generally very busy in the South Lakes, which has sparked my curiosity and I'm longing to find out more.


Tomorrow we are going away. We are going to stay in a little cottage in the lovely village of Cartmel in the South Lakes for five delicious days. We are not taking any teenagers, and the cottage has not one but two wood-burning stoves, plus a large squishy sofa and a little courtyard garden with a view of the Cistercian Priory. Can you guess how much I am looking forward to this?

wrong side right side

This is the back of an embroidered bag* I've been making for my mum. I promised it to her at Christmas so it's a bit late, but it's in time for Mother's Day at least. I'm not showing the front as it's a surprise, but I couldn't help photographing the lovely messy 'wrong' side...

I am always drawn to the backs of things and often feel that there is more energy and life on the reverse of embroideries. I really want to introduce more freedom to my stitch work and drawings... I need to be brave.

Today has been a day of finishing off projects that have been waiting patiently for far too long. Not just the bag but also the binding on my baby patchwork quilt and some pink embroidery on a tiny tiny pair of jeans... this seems like as good a time as any to tell you that I am going to be a Grandma in six weeks' time...

I find this amazing and wonderful and incredible and frightening. I am going to have to be brave in many different ways...

*My Mum's bag is a special long-handled version of my Mouse Everyday Bag which you can find in the shop. There's only one left at the moment so be quick!

a trip to ikea

Today, bright clear sunshine against a steel-grey sky. Everything soaking wet, the birds madly busy, the bare branches budding and the moss on the garage roof a vivid lime green.

I took my big son to Ikea and we bought some bulbs and notecards as well as his bookcase, and a big bag of Swedish meatballs for tea for everyone.

For once, I didn't see any fabric I wanted, but perhaps that's a good thing ;-)


I just had to show you these beautiful butterflies. They are making me feel very happy and flittery and full of hope.

I found them on RianRae, which has a lovely and very true quote at the head of the page:

"Each day is an opportunity to make a new happy ending."

Have a happy week everyone.

a day of books

No energy or reason to do anything other than snuggle under blankets with a pile of books, today. At work yesterday I picked up Quentin Blake's brilliantly fascinating account of his working processes, Words and Pictures, and brought it home to read. I love his Punch cover from 1962 (above). The quality of his line and expression is superb.

I also love his gentle observational humour.

His use of handscript and restrained colour in his early commissions for the Spectator is exquisite.

I always find myself drawn to late fifties and early sixties design, illustration and typography, and thanks to Melissa's recommendation, I've also been really, really enjoying Swedish Embroidery by Eivor Fisher, a gorgeous 1953 publication full of traditional and modern embroidery designs. The original paper patterns are still tucked into the back.

This design for a door curtain covered in hand embroidered Viking ships on grey linen is my favourite.

The detail is so lovely. I am very inspired!

When I have finished browsing through these I have a new book about Dorothy Wordsworth to devour. Light the fire and put the kettle on, someone...

As usual, the images I've used are copyright of the artist/publisher, so mustn't be used for anything except your own personal reference.


Guardian Weekend did a great double page spread about Neisha Crosland's design sketchbooks on Saturday. It's not featured on the online magazine so I've photographed it (badly) for you - if you click on the photograph it will take you to my Flickr page where you can see a bigger image of the whole article.

I love seeing other people's sketchbooks, it feels like such a privilege, and it's often the best part of visiting degree shows. I also love to look through my own old ones - it is amazing how the same ideas crop up again and again in different guises.

I have included a couple of shots of mine - doodling for the perfect bird shape, and a study of some flowering ivy.

I have been thinking about my work and identifying areas which I need and want to develop. For me, there are five important aspects to what I do creatively:

  • Ordinary domestic textiles - sewing, knitting, crochet. A simple love of fabric, yarn, and a clean pretty house, not necessarily profoundly expressive, but rewarding nonetheless.
  • Drawing and painting - observational work which develops my skills and can be a end in itself.
  • Sketching and notetaking - like breathing to me - I am never without a notebook - doodling, pattern-making, collecting references, photographing, jotting down ideas.
  • Textile work - my love of handstitch - development of ideas and themes through expressive 2-D fabric pieces.
  • Objects, paperwork and 3-D work - exploration of print, decorated surfaces, construction processes.

There is also a sixth group - the things I make to sell - these grow out of the other areas and will be constantly changing and developing depending on what other creative work I am doing.

At the moment, my drawing, painting and expressive textile work is still very undeveloped and I feel the lack of these keenly. For me, to produce this sort of work requires serious concentration and determination, neither of which come naturally to me, and yet I have a strong need to work in this way. Part of my creative journey this year will be balancing these different strands of my work.

everyone's a winner baby

Congratulations to Ginny of Sweet Myrtle who has won the patchwork hexagons! Well done Ginny, I hope you enjoy making the quilt with your little daughters.

Mal and Lisette are the winners of the second and third prizes and they get to choose something from the shop as a consolation.

As a special thank you to all those who took part and left a comment, there is a nice big discount available on all Mouse goodies for the next two weeks. There are one or two of you who I've not been able to contact, so if that's you and you'd like the code, just email me and I'll pass it on to you to use.

BUT, just like on Crackerjack, nobody goes away empty handed at Mouse! I have decided that all my faithful readers will receive a 10% discount on all shop items as well. After all, it is this brilliant community we all share that makes blogging such fun and so rewarding.

To take advantage of this offer, just enter the code NOTEBOOK at the checkout and your discount will be taken off your order.

Thanks once again to everyone who joined in with the giveaway. It has been great to put some faces to names and discover many lovely new blogs. I've really enjoyed 'meeting' you all.

PS I know many of you will understand my excitement when I tell you that we had two transit van-loads of logs delivered to our driveway this afternoon for the measly sum of only twenty quid! We now look like a suburban outpost of the Forestry Commission, but who cares... that is a lot of warm fires. I found them as I was cycling here this afternoon and outrageously batted my eyelashes at a friendly Irishman... do you think it helped that I was wearing my new crochet hat?