Thankfully, thankfully, things have quietened down a little in my life just now. Illness has subsided, sleep is usually possible, I have more time to myself, I am feeling brighter and have more energy at last. Who is to say how long this may last, but I am very, very grateful for this time to breathe.

I am enjoying finding the time to keep a clean and tidy house, to plan and make nutritious food for us all, to exercise and stretch and get strong again, to improve my posture and my back problems, to read a little more, to get out in the sunshine and think about pruning and maybe growing some beans. My granddaughter is becoming a little easier and more fun and there is more of a dialogue between us, with the promise of more to come. There are birthdays and visits and other nice things to look forward to.

So, nothing major is getting done, no great works, no daily programmes of activity have begun, there is no particularly creative buzzing going on. This will come I think. I will always need to create and eventually there will be more time to devote to this. Meanwhile, there is always crochet.

My latest project is a stripey blanket worked in aran weight yarn. It was supposed to be a way of using up old half-balls and oddments, but along the way a 'few' more balls have found their way into my wool basket and into the blanket. I chose the colours to remind me of the sea and of the shore... sand, water, wood, rock, seaweeds, shells, shimmering light on the wings of birds. I love the sea and the shore and this is for wrapping up in and dreaming.

It is about halfway through and a lovely thing to do in the evenings... it is still chilly enough for a log fire most nights and there are lots of great things on tv... have you seen Sacred Music and The Wonders of the Solar System? If not, do try to.

she is not dead but sleepeth

Despite the recent lack of posts, I'm still here, taking things slowly, recovering from a cold and spending a few days in beautiful Richmond, Yorkshire, where we had the great pleasure of staying at Millgate House with its beautiful garden.

Although it had only just emerged from several weeks of snow, the garden was a delight, and we were lucky enough to stay in the garden apartment which has its own little door onto the terrace.

Everything in the apartment was understated elegance...

It was a very nurturing place of warm fires, old wooden furniture, linen armchairs, worn stone flags and shelves full of books... even the kitchen drawers were lined with more and more and more books.

Unfortunately the cold virus prevented me from doing much other than drink a lot of soothing tea and work my way through the library. But that was fine.

Now we're back in Manchester I'm spending my time getting to grips with my birthday present, spring cleaning, crocheting (a new project... news of that soon), making time to continue my experiments with drawing and embroidery techniques and cooking delicious things to eat. I always feel that spring arrives with my birthday and so I will hear no more of winter. Green things are unfurling and poking their noses skywards, the birds are singing until nearly 7 o'clock and it's getting lighter every day...

in the end is the beginning

My hexagon patchwork quilt is finished! A few weeks ago I wrote about the need to finish various projects that had been hanging around for months or years and now another one has been removed from the pile of things to do and set free into household use. It's a lovely feeling... a freedom... a sort of decluttering that somehow unblocks creativity and leads to new things.

I wrote a lot about the quilt once before, so I'll only offer a brief introduction today. If you'd like to hear the story of how it began, over fifteen years ago, and read more about my Granny who inspired it, have a look here.

It's almost certainly the most labour-intensive and time-consuming thing I will ever make... nearly a thousand hand-stitched hexagons and probably a hundred thousand little stitches holding it together.

New and old fabrics including many vintage pieces from family and friends... a pieced binding from the same fabrics... backed with plain white cotton sheeting and cotton batting and then quilted on the machine... otherwise it would never have got finished. Then washed and dried to achieve a lovely, slightly shrunken softness.

It's already much loved and enjoyed... not an heirloom treasure but a proper part of the linen cupboard, a domestic textile to be used and washed and worn and snuggled into.

As a coda to last week's paper giveaway, my mum gave me a huge pile of unwanted art paper today... I love every bit, and it has more than replaced the bundles I gave away. I like how life provides, if we let it, and if we keep things moving round.


Just a very quick post this evening to announce that the winners of the paper giveaway are Jill, Gina and Carolyn who have won bundles one two and three in that order. I'm off out in a minute but will hopefully be back tomorrow with a longer post about a recently finished project.

*Jill - please email me with your postal address so that I can send you the papers*

another giveaway

I have decided not to buy any more art materials in 2010.

Despite my best intentions I find that I am often quite wasteful with some of the things I buy. Even though I have a relaxed approach to use-by dates, I certainly throw more food away than I would like through bad planning, laziness and unexpected time constraints.

Unfortunately this also extends to art materials which I frequently 'need' in a desperate hurry and then find myself stashing away in the cupboard after a brief experimental session. Since I am trying to streamline my accounts this spring to prepare myself for a change in my income - something I have known would come but is now here - I want to be a better housekeeper in lots of ways, and that includes using things from my art cupboard before I buy more.

This ought to be good news creatively as it means I should be doing some printing, lots of drawing and quite a bit of collage. I am hoping that as well as a much-needed frugality, a welcome abundance will emerge as I try not to hoard stuff but to use it... the loveliest cloth, the best paper, the nicest inks.

At this stage, what this means in practise is that I am getting rid of stuff that I probably won't use, and today this means three bundles of paper which I would like to go to a good home...bundle one is pictured above and bundles two and three below... if you fancy one, leave me a comment letting me know which one catches your eye and I will pick some winners at the weekend. They aren't massive stacks, but certainly enough to have a play with and maybe inspire something new.

Bundle One is mainly neutrals, beiges and blues... some handmade paper, some with bits in, Japanese origami paper, Laura Ashley samples and some Chinese paper with silver on.

Bundle Two is nearly all Chinese and Japanese papers in bright colours, lots of scraps and printed pieces.

Bundle Three is quite a big stack of handmade paper which I made a few years ago... whites, pinks, purples, lots of it with scraps of silk in... all about A5 size.

I'm happy to post them out to wherever you are... hopefully somebody will want them! Otherwise they will get recycled which isn't the end of the world but it would be nice to pass them on.

*Please note this giveaway has now finished*