Sunday, May 01, 2016

Oh what a week...

Oh my, the work just doesn't let up. 

Here I am, on a Bank Holiday weekend, on a Sunday morning, sitting at my laptop, preparing a lecture on the Netflix and the Post-Television environment. It's interesting stuff, but I'd still rather do something else on a Sunday.

It's been quite the week, to be honest. There has been work, of course, and hospital appointments, and pottery, but undoubtedly most exciting is the arrival of Betty:

Isn't she a beauty? 

For ages I used to drive past a little pottery workshop on my way to work. Every time I thought 'one day I'll stop and have a look', but of course I never did. Then, one day, a 'For Sale' sign went up on the house, and, well, I might have panicked a bit, because I HADN'T YET HAD A CHANCE TO LOOK AT ALL THE POTTERY! 

D suggested that I just drive there, not on my way to work, when I'm always too busy to stop, and knock on the door, and well, that's exactly what I did, and let me tell you, I'm so glad I did!

It turned out that the workshop was not currently seeing a lot of use, because S., the potter, had had quite a rough few years, with a few close family losses. Because of that she hadn't done much pottery, and now she was downsizing and moving house. As we were chatting she revealed that she was quite anxious about what to do with her two kilns. Kilns are heavy (very heavy) things, and she wasn't sure who'd take them away for her. She also didn't have room for them in the new workshop she was getting ready, so she wanted to be rid of them.

To keep the story short, she offered me both kilns FOR FREE, as long as I was prepared to have them removed from her workshop. I was speechless.

In the end I convinced L. the potter who runs the pottery classes I attend, to take the gas kiln, which I thought was beyond my capabilities, and I decided to keep Betty, who is an electric kiln. 

So far so good, but as it turns out, getting kilns moved anywhere beyond a few inches is really not an easy thing to organise. Kilns are not only heavy, but fragile - they have brittle fire bricks inside, and they can't be tipped onto their side. The drive leading to the workshop was fairly steep, and made of gravel, both not things that are fantastic for pallet trucks. There were trees overhanging the drive - not great for lorries. 

It took me quite a few weeks to find a local company who was brave enough to take the job on, and let me tell you, getting them out of that workshop, and getting Betty unloaded and into my workshop at home was high drama. Initially two guys turned up with a lorry and a pallet truck, but they had to admit defeat and call in help. In the end it took four men and the pallet truck to shift the kilns out of the workshop and onto the lorry and to unload Betty at our end. Apparently unloading the gas kiln at L's was far less dramatic so I'm sure the poor removal guys were very relieved. 

They did a fantastic job though, and, throughout the ordeal didn't lose their cool or their good humour. If I ever have any other unwieldy items to move I will definitely contact them again! 

Betty needs a bit of work, and she also isn't connected yet. If I get a chance I'll try to get an electrician to connect her up sometime next week, but really, I'm just glad that the move went OK and she is safely tucked up in the workshop. :)

In other news, I've been crocheting a bit. The CAL has started and unlike some other CALs I've taken part in over the years this one has quite a comfortable pace. There are four squares to complete each week, which, despite my crazy workload at the moment, has been just about achievable. It's quite fun so far. :)  

Not the greatest picture and the colours are a bit off, but it's a grey day today so the light isn't fantastic for taking pictures...

Close up of Week One - popcorn stitches

Close-up of Week Two - star stitches (I loved these - so much fun, and the resulting texture is lovely!)

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Just pottering about...

Weekends are just great, aren't they?

We have a ritual here, which starts with coffee and biscuits, while the boys are allowed to watch a programme or two on the laptop, all tucked up together in bed. We usually have a cat or two in there with us too, but the more the merrier! ;)

Weekends are for doing nothing much, for enjoying each other's company, for playing, for pottering... Of course there are things that need to get done (like the laundry - though I have occasionally forgotten about that, which gets a bit awkward on Monday morning when you realise that the school uniforms are non-too-clean...), but most of all it's for doing whatever you think is fun.

This weekend we spent some time allotmenting (I had some fruit bushes to plant), and since the weather was good we also played in the garden quite a bit. I also practiced a bit on my concertina. I'm still very much a beginner, but D managed to accompany me on the Banjo for 'Danny Boy', so that is a minor success. It didn't even sound completely awful! 

Most of all, though, I played with clay. After being so busy for so many weeks it was such a joy to spend a few hours pottering. I made a few houses (a commission for a friend), and then continued right on and made some more. 

And last but not least, I managed to plant up this little fella. 

Isn't his new haircut fetching? So trendy... ;)

He was a bit of an experiment, and because of that he isn't at all tidy. As I was planing I managed to break one of his legs off. Oops! 

I like him, though, and as a proto-type he works well. There will be more like him, I think.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Spring is here...

... and I'm back (I think).

Goodness me, that was a long hiatus. And I hadn't even planned on having one! Honestly, it just happened. 

Coming up to Christmas I was so busy, and then we had family over, and after that it was the New Year and I just kept on being really busy. My teaching resumed after the sabbatical that I'd had in the autumn, and then all the little ones were ill, and so were D and I, and well, I think you get the picture.

For a while there I was so busy that I had no time for crafting. None whatsoever.

Fortunately I'm back on a more even keel now and I have, ever so slowly, found my way back to all my projects. There are still a lot of WIPs around here from last autumn, I can tell you that, but I think my crafting mojo is coming back. A mum I know persuaded me to join in a blanket CAL - The Scheepjes CAL for Last Dance on the Beach, which is in memory of the late Marinke Slum, or Wink from the A Creative Being blog . You have to buy the yarn kit from Scheepjes, but the yarn is nice and the kit isn't too expensive, and some of the money will go to a mental health charity, so it's for a good cause. My box of yarn arrived a few days ago - there were three colour combinations to choose from. Since I have a lot of very bright-coloured blankets I went with the most neutral option - Dance in the Rain:

 Unfortunately the box of yarn has already been claimed as a cat bed. I may have a fight on my hands when I come to start the blanket...

In preparation for the CAL I felt that I should at least put one of my crochet blanket projects to bed so I focussed on the Weekender blanket that I had started oh so many months ago. After frantically crocheting and sewing on hexagons for a couple of weeks the blanket is finished. I added a thin dc border to finish it off and it's already in constant use by the boys, who love to snuggle up in the blankets on the sofa. I'm pleased with it, even though it's not a stylish project (a lot of waste yarn went in there, so there is no real colour scheme at all), but if I never crochet a hexagon again it won't be too soon. Honestly, I was so sick of them by the time I finally finished the last one!

Right now I am trying to make some progress on the Spice of Life blanket, also sadly neglected for months now. The new CAL starts on 20th April so I have little hope of finishing the blanket before then, but it would be nice to add a few inches so I can feel that I'm a bit closer to the finish line than before!

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Car boot treasures

I've been meaning to show this car boot find for ages now but never seemed to get around to it, but finally getting the larger pieces washed seemed like a good opportunity to take pictures.

A while ago I discovered a quilted patchwork cushion and a rather ratty looking plastic bag at a stall at our local car boot.

I thought the cushion was quite cute, and the quilting was clearly done by hand, and very skillfully too, so I felt I needed to make the effort to 'rescue' it and asked for the price.

I was half expecting some huge price tag, but instead the stall owner glanced at it briefly and then said, 'well, if you give me £2 for the whole lot you can have it'. She meant the cushion and the plastic bag. 

I bought the lot and only when I arrived at home did I realise what a treasure I had found. The bag was full of quilting fabrics and started projects, including a number of other cushion covers and a large blanket, all of it beautifully stitched together by hand.

There were needles and a magazine from which the hexagons had been cut (from the early 1980s, so that dates start of the project!), and various fabric scraps for the different pieces.

In a way I felt quite sad, because this surely was the work of someone who must have passed away, because otherwise you wouldn't give up a project that advanced - there must be years of work in this - and clearly the people who acquired the project, whether they were family or whether it was part of a house clearance, had no appreciation at all for the skill and love that had gone into this work. 

I'm feeling quite humbled that this is now in my hands, and I am intending to treasure and finish the work that was started all those years ago. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

uh uh...

I didn't really mean to disappear like that.

This time of year is... crazy around here. Three kids birthdays, Halloween, St. Nikolaus Day, Christmas with all the family coming... There is a lot going on, and it's been really hard to keep up with everything, you know?

By now we have two of the three kids birthdays behind us, and Halloween is obviously also done, so I can refocus a bit on getting the remaining birthday and the Christmas festivities organised. 

I'm not complaining, really - it's all been great fun, and I'm also very much looking forward to the remaining family parties, but it can be difficult to find time for anything else this time of year. Every week I am determined to at least post a weekly update but well... it's been a while, hasn't it?

That said, I have been working on things. I'm currently in the process of getting Christmas presents on their way, so a lot of my knitting and crafting has been quite focussed on that. Perhaps I'll manage to snap a few shots of the Christmas knitting tomorrow, but for now, just so I can report on something, here is a little snippet of recent pottery projects:

Little ceramic houses for incense cones or tea lights (although probably best with electric ones, because they can get quite hot). Some of those will be presents, others might end up in the Folksy Shop. There are more of them, but this is a selection anyway. :)

Large platter. I glazed this twice - once with Iron Oxide, and then with a top glaze that was called 'Honey'. I really like the depth of the colours this has created.

Vase, lime green on the inside, glossy white on the outside:

That's enough for today, I have to get on with designing photo calendars as stocking fillers for the family...

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Friday, October 23, 2015

FO Friday

Look, fingerless mitts!

Since I'd never actually made any mitts I thought these deserved their own post. 

I used this simple pattern HERE and it's pretty much perfect. They fit snugly but not too tightly, and I adjusted the length a little because I quite like it when they are a bit longer and go up the arm under your coat or jumper. 

I'm not keeping them, alas, they are a Christmas present for one of my stepsisters. I'm making two more pairs of mitts, but I'm using different patterns for them.

 I've never really given knitted gifts before, so I'm a bit nervous. I hope they like them... 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

WIP update - on a Thursday!

I normally try to update on a Wednesday, but this week is kind of getting away from me. I don't really quite know why, but I feel frazzled and tired and sort of drained. Perhaps I'm coming down with something? Or is it the colder weather that's getting me down? 

On the upside, I do have some progress to report on. I'm still crocheting the Spice of Life, but the fifth pattern piece is a bit of a monster, because it's basically a repeat of all the previous pattern pieces in order to add length to the blanket. Well then... this may take me a while! I'm plodding on with it, but in the meantime I've also been dividing my time between this project and my Christmas present plans, so I've made a pair of fingerless mitts (I'll introduce those tomorrow) and have already cast on for another pair of mitts, this time not fingerless. I am using aran yarn, which makes these projects satisfyingly quick and I'm hoping to crank out this other pair by the end of the week. I'm planning on knitting another pair after that, but I'll stick with these first so I can add them to the 'done' pile and feel good about my progress. :)

The pattern I'm using for these is 'Maize'.

I've also got a whole lot of glazed pottery back this week. Honestly, I had forgotten how much of it there was. I was pleased to see that a lot of it came out looking OK, despite the fact that I'm learning something about myself - I don't enjoy glazing. I find the process kind of tedious but nerve-wrecking at the same time, because you can ruin a perfectly good pot by applying glaze haphazardly. Overall I think I might be more interested in shape than in colour... 

That said, here are a few examples that I felt had turned out well:

And last but not least, the bowls that the boys made and told me to glaze according to their instructions were finished too - they are absolutely thrilled with them. :)

If I continue at this rate I'll run out of room soon, even if I give gifts to family and friends, so my plan is to set up a folksy shop to sell some pieces. 

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Is it Wednesday already?

Time for another Year of Projects update!

I'm lagging behind a bit with my Spice of Life blanket. Not desperately so, but yesterday a new pattern piece was released and I haven't quite finished the previous one yet... It's not too dramatic, though, I 'm only about 6 rows behind and I'm hoping to catch up tonight.

Autumn always seems to fly by around here. It might have something to do with the three (!) kids birthdays, and Halloween, and Nicholas Day and then of course there is Christmas too. We are hosting it this year, and since we are an English/German household this might well mean not one but two celebrations - one on Christmas Eve, as is the German tradition, and another one on Christmas Day. The boys obviously think it's fantastic...

With Christmas in mind I've turned my attention more firmly to Christmas presents. I'd like to give quite a few handmade gifts this year, in particular for my step sisters, because we have agreed to not get into the habit of spending lots on each other. In previous years this has translated into little gift sets of cupcake forms and recipe book, or mug and hot chocolate mix, but once you've done that you can't really gift the same again, can you? 

This year I decided that instead it's going to be pottery and knitting. I've already introduced the chunky hat that I'm hoping to give to one of my stepsisters, and I've also completed my niece's little flower hat:

Boy #1 thinks it's a 'granny hat'. I'm choosing to take no notice...

Yesterday, while binge-watching the work of a director I'm working on (I love my job...) I managed to get a little production line going and made a number of little houses for tea lights or incense cones:

Cute, aren't they? D thinks they look industrial, like old Victorian factory buildings. I quite like the idea. By glazing them in different colours you could achieve a very different look - black or grey for a slightly sinister Halloween look (Haunted House!), or white, for a more Christmassy feel. I think I'll go with white, since they are supposed to be Christmas gifts.

I'm also contemplating a Tunesian Crochet scarf for my step mom. When I opened my email this morning I found an email from Purl Soho with a free pattern for this scarf:

Isn't it lovely? I'm not sure I'll get away without ordering some yarn, since most of the wool yarn that I have left is a bit too scratchy for a scarf, but you never know... 

My dad will also get a handmade gift this year. About 10 years ago, when I last took part in a pottery class, I made a platter which he liked and he asked me if I could make him a bowl that was large enough for his big dining table. I agreed, and then promptly had three babies and went to pottery class no more. ;)  Since I've now taken it up again I thought I was running out of excuses, so I made this bowl:

I wanted to recreate the ripple effect you get when water drops into a still pool. I'm hoping to glaze it a simple matt white and have already ordered some glaze for it. Unfortunately, when I rang Potclays this morning to enquire why they hadn't sent the glaze yet, they informed me that it's out of stock and only expected back in on 21st October, but since right now the bowl is not even fired yet, this shouldn't hold me up too much. Hopefully it will be ready for Christmas!

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Wednesday, October 07, 2015

WIP Wednesday - a Spice of Life update

Since I am still in the firm grip of my current pottery fever, I have not been doing a lot of knitting and crocheting. I've also been fighting a cold, meaning that I 've not been terribly active in the evening, which is my usual time for crafting. 

That said, I have been keeping up with the Spice of Life CAL, and I'm enjoying it immensely. This is such a fun project, and all those colours are making me very happy. :)

Inspired by my recent quick project success with the slubby yarn hat, I've also cast on for a little crochet hat for my neice. I found this yarn at the car boot and got it for £1 for all three balls and I love the scrappy look of it. I judged it to be DK, but looking up (and crocheting with it), it works up as bulky, which is fine by me, as it makes for another very quick project. 

I cast on yesterday, but then seem to have lost the crochet hook - I assume it was in the waiting room at the doctors yesterday, but in any case I can't find it. I've ordered a new one, but it means that this project has now stalled until it arrives.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Pottery mania

I've not posted much about it in recent weeks, but suffice to say that my pottery obsession continues unabated. The only reason I've not posted much about it is that I've been too busy making pottery to take pictures of it. I want to try to be a bit more disciplined about it from now on, because I do like to keep a record of what I am making and when I was making it, and what better place than the blog to do that, after all! I may have to pick a day of the week to share some pottery - the rigidity of having a specific day for a task seems to keep me on track!

I'm quite fascinated by how, as you are pursuing a craft, you quickly, and almost unthinkingly, gravitate towards something that speaks to you. Clay, as such an organic material to work with, seems to encourage that more than other crafts I've worked with, even, and sometimes it feels as if I can start with only a  vague idea in mind of what I'm trying to do, only to find that my hands find a way to form something quite different, something much more specific. 

Of course it doesn't work without technique, so at times I need to stop to think about how I might achieve a certain effect I am after, and I also spend some time making quite utilitarian things that I just think we could do with around the house. So this week I spent some time making a succulents planter for the mantlepiece. 

I like cacti, I always have, really. Their quiet stubbornness appeals to me, clinging on to life where most other plants would give up, and ever since I can remember I've kept cacti on my windowsill. As a little girl I had a wooden shelving unit to perch on the sill, given to me by my grandma, just for that purpose. Later on, as I went to university, a lot of the cacti got neglected because I couldn't take them with me and especially after my mum got ill my dad didn't really spend a lot of time looking after my plants. I don't blame him, he would just always prefer a plastic plant over the real thing, haha. 

In recent years I've come back to my cacti love, and the boys seem to take after me and often ask if they can bring home a cactus if we are dropping in at a garden centre. The thing is, though, all those little pots can be a little unsightly, and with the top-heavy cacti they are prone to falling over too! With that in mind I've decided to repot some of them together into a planter with a matching saucer so they can be displayed in style. 

This is obviously not fired yet, but I think you can get the idea, no? I quite like a non-fussy look, so the squareness appealed to me.

I'm planning a few more of these pots.

Other things I've been making are less functional and more ornamental, and I am finding that with these in particular I seem to gravitate towards organic but also quite simple shapes; curves, folded,  origami shapes, forms that suggest crumpled up paper or fabric. Pods and forms that are inspired by nature, such as this seed pod shape, or the slab-built shapes below:

I have other ideas too, that I can't wait to explore. I'll keep you posted. For now it's all packed to take to the studio tonight for firing.  :) 

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