new things in the shop

There are a few new things in the shop today - market bags in beautiful, washable, soft green and white cotton, handpainted christmas decorations, and garlands made of vintage sheet music...

The decorations and garlands come in cellophane bags and are perfect for popping in with a Christmas card for a little extra gift.

There are still a few everlasting wreaths, sturdy hand-embroidered denim bags, pure organic hand-crocheted facecloths and embroided linen hearts to buy too, but hurry as stocks are thinning out. Don't forget that postage and packing remains free to anywhere in the world!

Shop link here.

a very special hankie

If you are a properly trained museums, libraries and archives person, it's probably best to look away now, as this morning I have been having a lovely time playing at textile conservation, and I'm quite certain that I haven't done anything 'by the book' at all.

This souvenir handkerchief was produced in 1894 to commemorate the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal, and it needed to be mounted and displayed for an exhibition that we are doing here at work.

Ever since visiting the Textile Conservation Centre in Hampton Court as part of my degree course over twenty years ago, I have harboured a secret desire to become a textile conservator, so it was all play and no work to bring in my needles and thread this morning, having been tasked with the job of mounting it on a backing board ready to be sent to the framers. I was very worried about not using archival quality materials or doing something irreversibly dreadful, but after a bit of self-education online, some careful preparation and a lot of teeny weeny stitches, I think that in the end it was a fairly credible effort. I thoroughly enjoyed myself anyway.

apples and mistletoe

Yesterday we returned from a winter weekend in Herefordshire which was spent mostly underneath a blanket of cold fog. It was a time for roaring fires, mulled apple juice and some time looking inwards.

I love the slow disintegration and sparseness of this time of year. At Croft Castle we saw apple trees pruned hard, their branches reduced to gnarled stumps, yet still bearing rough-skinned, golden eating apples with soft sweet flesh. We picked a bag of fresh windfall walnuts, their green cases leaking deep brown dye onto our fingers.

Mistletoe is everywhere in Herefordshire. I love its bare shape, the palest creamy green colour of the berries and its ancient magic and symbolism. It grows in the most perfect balls like ethereal baubles high up in the trees.

Or sometimes low down in the trees, low enough to kiss under.

Piles of prunings surrounded the orchard trees. This is a time for trimming, tidying and sweeping and then leaving things alone to rest quietly for the short cold days and long dark nights.

This is the cottage we stayed in for the first part of our honeymoon in June 2007. It was the wettest summer in living memory and like many others in the country we were flooded out and forced to relocate. You can see pictures from that summer here.

These apples were waiting to be pressed for cider, although they did look a bit grubby. But I expect that all adds flavour. Their sweet heady smell in the fresh afternoon air was wonderful.

One of the things I read while we were away was this astonishing article about the painter Sargy Mann. It is a remarkable tribute to the human spirit and the force of creativity and I found it a tremendous inspiration.

the winter shop is open!

Many of you have very kindly asked if I will be selling online this year, and I'm pleased to say that the answer is a resounding 'yes!' The shop is now nicely stocked with goodies and will stay open for the next four weeks. The first ten orders will receive a little packet of twenty-four advent gift tags (as seen above and below) completely free, so it may be worth your while ordering early if you are the sort of person who might wrap up little presents for your family (or yourself) to find and open in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas. Not only that, but there is FREE postage and packing to anywhere in the world for the duration of the opening.

Thank you also to all those who wished me well for the craft market yesterday. It went fairly well and I managed to survive both the jolly skiffle band and the lack of tea with creditable stoicism. However, I do think, for what its worth and in case there are any event organisers reading this, that on the whole craft and vintage don't make a good business mix. Vintage-seekers love a good bargain, and that's not necessarily the right frame of mind for buying handmade quality craft items which are often a person's livelihood and deserve to attract their true value.

Anyway, do please visit the shop and see if anything takes your fancy. Only five-and-a-half weeks to Christmas, and did I mention that postage and packing is FREE?! (That's shipping to non-UK readers. Free shipping! FREE!)

suffolk puffs

I won't tell you what my husband said when I mentioned Suffolk Puffs, but if you know anything about the inclinations of East Anglian-dwelling mid-century English composers and their mellow-voiced companions, you'll be nearly there. It was all in the best possible taste, of course - we are big fans in this household. *

I made this to wear tomorrow at my first market of the season, as I was suddenly seized by a compulsion to wear a tiny splash of red together with my new red lipstick. I'm a firm believer in following these sorts of urges and so in between packing stock into boxes and eating supper, this got made. Suffolk Puffs have been on my mind recently, as a tutor on my degree course is retiring, and her ex-students have been asked to each contribute a puff for a presentation piece for her. The Liberty fabric I have used for Isabel's puff and this little flower is actually a piece of the dress I wore to my Embroidery degree show twenty-two years ago in 1988 - now sadly a wee bit tight around the middle! I pulled up the puffs tightly five times around the centre to create the stubby little petals.

Everything is finally ready for an early start in the morning and I'm currently in that strange kind of adrenalin-fuelled yet foggily tired state that follows several days of intense creativity and preparation. It's the same way that I feel late on Christmas Eve. I've no idea what to expect from the market, but I am hoping that people will have at least a few pounds in their purses to spend on pretty things despite the recession.

I did take some photos of everything but poor light and camera shake rendered them all useless. Hopefully there'll be a moment to take a few snaps tomorrow. I know some of you are hoping to come along - I'm really looking forward to seeing you there!

*If you have the faintest idea of what I am on about and would like to see one of my favourite all-time clips, click here. Sheer class.

winter market dates

I definitely have a problem with piles at the moment... piles of music garlands, poetry snowflakes, little golden crocheted snowflakes, tree decorations, bags, everlasting spruce wreaths, ribbon, tissue, card, labels... on the table, on the floor, on the ironing board, on the chairs, windowsills, shelves and on top of still more piles of fabric, magazines and boxes... all these are gathering together in my artroom for last-minute assembly and packing up.

I'm really pleased to say that I have been accepted for two winter craft markets in South Manchester this year, as well as having the opportunity to present a selection of gifts and pretty things for sale at my friend Anne's gardening classes. I'm really hoping that these wintry offerings will sell well and help to fund art and craft materials over the next year. I would absolutely love to see you if you live nearby and are able to come to either of the markets... details are below.

Finders Keepers Craft and Vintage Fair

Sunday November 14th 10am-4pm
The Moor Suite
35 Heaton Moor Road
Heaton Moor

Christmas Craft Fair
Saturday 18th December (all day - times to be announced)
Whitworth Art Gallery
Wilmslow Road