Thursday, 24 February 2011

Half Term Crafting

Well hello lovely ladies and gentlemen of Blogland - it's nice to see you again. I've been away much longer than I intended.

It took four days of intense crafting to get the secret project into something that could be given as a gift - an hour before the party started! My fingers were sore, my back bent and my eyes crossed. The gift was held together with wonderweb and had a (smallish) key ingredient missing, but it was good enough. Dominic was thrilled. I was thrilled. Everyone was thrilled. It was all good. I shall post pictures tomorrow, if it's sunny. We've not had much sun, although this afternoon was nice. Fingers crossed.

I did not want to post pictures here until it was finished properly but, hoorah, I put the last tiny handstitch in yesterday! There was a good few days of behind-the-scenes hand sewing left to be done, but thankfully it is now complete.

I got a blog block. I feel a bit silly now I've just properly got on and JFDI, but there it is! I did not want to post until I could do my 'Taa-daa' post, and it took much longer to complete than I expected. I have also had six orders to make for Mrs Bee (three hats, one newborn hammock, one bookmark and one beehive sponsorship). I've also had a bit of an ME flare up which took a couple of days out of the equation whilst I slept / lazed around feeling sorry for myself.

Bedsides all this, it's half term. We've been quite lazy (again!) despite good intentions, but everyone is so tired at the end of each school term that it seems foolish to run headlong into big chores. So, we've been a bit lazy, eaten out a lot, seen friends, done some crafting.

Charlie made a stained glass 'window' and did a very good job of it indeed! He meticulously painted every bit (it was painting by numbers, but he didn't stick to that!) I helped a little too. I have put it away carefully and will frame it as a birthday present for my Mum.

Today we went pottery painting! We go to a cool place near York called Langlands which has the most delicious restaurant, and some pretty lovely things to look at. We had hot chilli chicken wraps with homemade chips and they were deee-licious.  We love going to 'Pottery Painting with Claire' (no, not me!) and this is one of our regular holiday activities. It's well worth a trip out if you're local.

This was Dominic's mug, he was very proud of it:



He has been spending a lot of time spinning honey this week, so the bee mug was very apt. He has reserved it for garden tea.

I had in mind a hand painted striped affair - wobbly, uneven lines, but thin, in shades of blue, white and pink. Oh fate, how you laughed at me:


Each time I got somewhere near what I wanted, the table wobbled, my arm got knocked or I just plain buggered it up. When it's fired these powder tones will become ultra bright. Even so, it looks a bit, urm, special, doesn't it? I have said I shall reserve mine for those times we have no guests. My fugly mug will be banished to the back of the cupboard at moments of celebration and sharing. Pottery painting fail.

Charlie looks rather pleased with his robot 'piggy' bank, doesn't he?!


He did a good job, but whizzed through the painting and had to be encouraged to go back and add more coats and touch up the white bits. He had a veeery long wait whilst Dom and I got stuck in and pretended we were there for Charlie's sake. Ahem.

I'll collect them in a week or so. I'll take some photos then and show you how they came out. Even though I wasn't overly thrilled with my efforts today, we had a lovely family afternoon, which is what counts I think.

Hope to see you again soon

Claire x

Tuesday, 8 February 2011



Happy Tuesday bloggers. I'm sorry I didn't get to post yesterday, I'm in the middle of a secret project.

A scary project.

A project that is going awry.

I can't be too specific, but I can drop some hints because he doesn't read my blog anyway (I don't think!) A certain somebody in this household is 40 this Thursday.

40, wow. That's quite accomplished isn't it? Distinguished. Wise. Or elderly... I am three years behind my husband, so I can pull his leg mercilessly about it. Until I get to 40 and then it won't be so funny. But I am going to enjoy it whilst I can as he just loves to tease me.

Dom  has had a lathe for his birthday, bought from some lovely internet friends we met at the weekend. All the family chipped in, and he's as happy as can be. In fact he's spent several hours this weekend reading books about wood turning and is planning what he can make to add to the shop. As this was a costly present, I am scouring about trying to find him something more meaningful, and less *ahem* expensive. I wish it wasn't this way, but it is.

So I am making him something, on a deadline. It's something I have done before, but not often. I am nervous as a rabbit in the headlights because I want it to be perfect - and it's the content as much as the crafting that's bothering me. I'm currently a day behind where I want to be because one key element failed spectactulary, and I've had to find an alternative which has taken about 3 hours so far - 5 with trying to adapt the original thing. 5 hours that I badly needed.

I'm going to leave it there for now, because I need to go into town to sort The Thing. I shall be so pleased come Friday when I can do the Taa-Daa for this Thing. I am sorry to be so vague and keep you all in suspenders; it'd be a shame to go to so much trouble though and give the game away.

Crikey, I'm sick with nerves about this one. It's very unlike me. I just want him to have a wonderful, memorable day (and if I'm honest I'm a bit gutted I couldn't whisk him off for an exotic break, as appears to be the norm for big birthdays these days).

I'll let you know some more tomorrow. Mum's the word <tapping the side of my nose>

Claire x

Friday, 4 February 2011

Going Up and Coming Down (parental advisory!)

I haven't blogged about my depression for a good while because, to be perfectly honest, it's been in check for the last six months or so. Not a day goes by when I don't say a silent 'thank you' for this, because depression truly is a bitch of an illness. What happened to me was that my physical symptoms seemed to galvenise and become worse, resulting in the diagnosis of ME. However, my mind began to clear.

Looking back, there were a few things that really helped:

1) My close family. Without the love and routine of my boys, I think I would have become nocturnal. I hated the routine at the time, but I think it did help to keep me on track.

2) A good therapist. Therapy was really tough, but it did help. I am sure it's probably something I'll drop in and out of over the course of my life.Rather than walking the old, worn down paths in my mind, it set me on a new path and I ended up in a different place. It takes practice to keep those new paths from getting overgrown, but it has helped enormously.

3) Crafting. I've always made things, but the intensity has varied at different times in my life, as has my craft. The deep, soul rendering desire to make stuff started six months before my breakdown. I would literally hide away, turn off my phones and email and treat myself to making time. At my worst, the crafting was the only positive thing I could think of and it helped to give me some structure and something to look forward to. Last time something similar happened to me, when I had Post Natal Depression, I cooked.

Over the last year the hobby has become more of a business requiring routine and self discipline. Last summer I sorted myself out a space to work, and I started to go there to work every day. That helped. It kept me focussed, it put me in touch with people. Through crafting I've had to face my demons (anything to do with organisation or anything official; using the phone.) A year ago this would have been impossible. Now I can do it.

4) Finally my lovely friends. They are mainly internet friends, but they have been wonderful. They've listened to me cry, offered sympathy and hugs, made me laugh and challenged me when I needed it. Thank you.

I'm writing this review because I'm coming off my antidepressants. This is a huge goal for me; I'm excited about life after medication. It's also one of those moments when you can say that the depression is now in the past.

About 3 weeks ago I started to reduce my ADs from 20mg (escilatopram) to 10 mg. It's been really tough! I was a bit blase about how well I would manage, because I'd forgotten quite how hideous the depression is. My weaning off the drugs has been hard - and I've felt anxious and depressed too. It's getting better though. But hats off to those of you who've been through this before me.

I'm also going to sneak in here a 'Taa-daa', because it's relevant.

I am part of a fab online community and have been for about eight years now. One of my friends from there, as a new mum, was getting very stressed about not coping and her house looking a mess. Oh haven't we all been there (my kids are 5 and 13, and I still am. That's probably just me though). Lots of more experienced parents gave their reassurance that it was quite normal and she shouldn't worry. She was not convinced; she'd expected it all to be so much easier. Eventually another friend told her to "fuck the fucking housework." This made me laugh and I have mentally referred to it on numerous occasions since. Quite. I like that sentiment.

So, last week when I was messing around looking for creative inspiration, I made this:


Tuesday's Work

Now I'm happy to admit it's a bit rough around the edges. Machine embroidery didn't work, so I went over with hand stitching. If I were to do it again, I'd screen print, I think. However, perfection was Not The Point. It was about creating and learning.

Whilst I love the sentiment, I knew that my mother Would. Not. Approve. So I made a little modesty panel to whip on when you have guests:


Tuesday's Work with modesty panel

Et voila! A cheeky little number that you can either keep covered up, chuckling to oneself about the sentiment underneath, or leave exposed for all the world to see and then cover up when older guests (or children) arrive.

Well, it made me smile. Speaking of which, please PLEASE check out this link. Each time I have visited I have ended up crying with laughter. Just don't do it if you're in the office or out in public; you'll get funny looks.

Lots of love

Claire x Enjoy!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Corners of My Studio

Being a Proper Nosey Parker, I really love to see other people's working spaces, especially when they're annotated with little explanations. So I thought I would share mine, in the hopes that you lovely Blogland ladies are minded to show me yours. Oo-er.

I've finished a couple of projects recently - bedding for Charlie's new bed (pictures to follow) It was time to have a clear out and reorganise of my studio. I'm a messy worker and need to be strict with myself between projects otherwise everything very quickly decends into chaos. So here you are, whilst it's looking pretty neat.

My Storage System

My storage system

This is my storage system. I've posted a similar picture before, but that's because this area of my studio is so important to my creativity. When you're in the middle of a project it's great to be able to put your hand right on the thing you need, otherwise you lose the flow of ideas.

From the bottom up, left to right this stores:

rolls of fabric, my scrap bag, my business cards, postcards and stickers, ribbons and odds and ends of bags and other wrapping.

Next shelf: new yarn boxed by colour, my journals, cotton, buttons and other findings, embroidery threads and hoops.

Top shelf: Odds and ends of yarn from past projects. They're all sorted into similar colours in bags within. I use this for patchwork mainly. Then tins in which I keep postal receipts and things of sentimental value (usually cards). Finally is my overspill box. This has yarn and buttons that don't fit where they should. Ideally this should be empty, but it's quite full with cheap yarn I bought last winter. I thought it would make good business sense to keep my costs down. However, experience tells me that most people don't like handmade products made from cheap materials, and I don't like working with them. It wasn't an expensive mistake really, there's probably less than ten pounds worth of materials in there. It was, however, a bulky mistake and I don't really want to give them to Freecycle just yet, in case I can think of a project they'd be perfect for ...


The Top Desk Drawer

My Top Drawer

This is the top drawer of my sewing desk and when I am working, I'm in and out of this like a fiddler's elbow. In fact, to be honest, I tend to sew with this drawer open so that things are more easily to hand. In here are the following:

Bobbins and tape measures; nice pens that the children are NOT allowed to have (mwahahaha. This does take some policing, though); sewing machine needles; scissors, pom pom makers, Mrs Bee ribbon, pins, templates,fabric glue, a bias binding maker (that I've not yet used); one of each of a metal, wooden and plastic ruler plus a sewing marker that fades, and one that sponges off. I prefer the fading one.


The Bottom Desk Drawer

My Bottom Drawer

This is the bottom drawer of my desk. The desk was rescued from a school who had dumped it in a skip. It's not the sexiest desk in the world, but it does what it needs to. And it's recycled, so it makes my heart happy.

The bottom drawer includes:

My knitting needle tips - which are bloody brilliant and have been a great investment (see Knit Pro - mine are metal)
Bias Binding
The quilting arm for my sewing machine
Quilting templates, from Freecycle.
My glasses (they're broken, I sat on them and snapped off the arm)
Sewing patterns which I bought last year to make my own clothes. Total so far: one top.
Bicycle clips. I read online that this was a nifty way to roll up your excess quilt and keep it in place whilst you're machine quilting. I am not sure if that's true as I haven't used them yet, but they were 99p from Ebay so I thought it was worth the risk. I'll report back.


The Bobbin Box

My Bobbin Box

The more astute among you will notice that this is a Ferrero Rocher box and I can confirm that this is the PERFECT receptical for bobbins. They don't roll around and shed strings and you can see at a glance what colours you have got, and where your empty bobbins are. Within this handy system I also keep my measuring tapes (which also have a habit of snaking open in a messy drawer), my thimbles and a system for making covered buttons. I've not managed much success with that yet. but I think it's a thing of practice.

The beady eyed amongst you will notice chromatography paper. That's for an upcoming project <taps side of nose>


The Needle Case

The Needle Case

This is a rubbish photograph, even for a camera phone. However, I have taken it to remind myself where I put my sewing machine needles. This is a new home for them, as they were previously rattling around homeless in the drawer. Last Christmas I persuaded Dom that what I really needed was this gorgeous, purple leather, magnetic knitting needle case from Namaste. However, what I soon discovered was that even my knitting needle tips don't fit in here. How disappointing! Let's hope the needles make this a happier and more productive part of my craft drawer.

PS That is not a nipple ring, it is apparently a stitch marker for knitting. It's too thick to use properly though, hence it reclining in The Useless Case. The thing to its left is a device for tightening and unlocking knitting needle tips to their cords.



So there you have it, some of the corners of my working space. I'd love to see yours. If you do a blog about your working space, please leave the URL in the comments, I really want to see!

Lots of love

Claire x

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Wednesday Sneaky Peak

I'm not feeling very brilliant today - I have a sore throat, painful limbs and a feeling that I'm sat in a rocking chair in the back room of my head. Typical ME / CFS for me; it's not really about feeling tired.

I'll be fine, I'm learning to just go with the flow whenever I am feeling under the weather. So here I am, under a blanket, listening to Radio 4 and crocheting something for my new summer range. It's not so bad.

Wednesday Sneaky Peak

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Taa-Daa - Homes

Well, here it is, my first set of pictures for children's rooms!

Home collage

I've been thinking about redecorating Charlie's bedroom for some time, but I wanted to get it right so I haven't rushed into anything. He's a bit of a girly boy at the moment (well, I say at the moment, but this phase has lasted several years so far...) and I keep expecting it to fade into a riot of Doctor Who and Transformers and the like. I'm not sure whether to decorate now, whilst I still have the chance to buy something I adore, or to wait and not risk him insisting that his room is too babyish / girly.

Anyway, all this dithering has made me think about having semi-permanent features in children's rooms, be they bedrooms or playrooms. This is where the idea for the pictures came from.

Although they are framed, the pictures have no glass so that they can safely be touched. As well as using a bright colour palette, I wanted to use a mixture of textures so that they are interesting and inviting to touch. The gnome's hat has a bell, to add a multi sensory element. This is something that I'm keen to develop in future projects.

This first series is called 'Homes.' The idea originated from pondering on what makes children feel safe and secure. Home gives a sense of permanence and comfort, which seemed appropriate. Alongside the word 'Home' is the home of a gnome (how does he fit through the door of the magic mushroom?) and a bluebird. As well as being pretty I hope it will serve as an opportunity to open up discussion about the child's home, as well as the different homes of others. I also hope it will be the inspiration for much impromptu story telling and imaginary play.

So here they are:


Home The Bird's House

Wow, that got a bit serious, didn't it?

I think it's important to convey some of the thought processes behind the products; I hope I don't sound too grand. I do think about these things and try to respond in a thoughtful way, that's one of the elements of crafting I enjoy the most.

Speaking of Charlie's room, there was much excitement over the weekend. The new big bed arrived!


<a href="" title="The boy who wanted a princess bed by Claire Boynton, on Flickr"><img src="" width="375" height="500" alt="The boy who wanted a princess bed" /></a>

The boy who wanted a princess bed

Until now, Charlie has still been in his cot bed. I wondered whether I should mind, especially as various relatives started to comment. However, he still fitted in comfortably and so it seemed silly to buy another bed until the first one was no longer fit for purpose. I was quite sad to pack away the cot. I doubt we'll use it again, and it's been part of our family for such a long time.

Can you see the wall behind the bed? That's the one I want to wallpaper. If you have any suggestions, please let me have them as I'm running short on inspiration. We had to move the bookcase in order to fit the big bed in, which is why there are now holes in the wall that need filling.

Charlie was quite insistent that he wanted a Princess Bed. In fact, he wanted a pink bed. Given that he's not likely to have another bed frame until he leaves home, I was a bit reluctant to say the least. In the end we compromised - a gender neutral bed with a pink pillowcase (made by moi) and a pink undersheet. His duvet is white. He insisted on the flowery blanket, but I like it too so who cares? He's happy and that's the main thing.

The opportunity to have a shuffle round in his room means we got to make this:


Charlie's Reading Corner

A reading corner! Woohoo! I am very, very excited about this as we are a rather bookish household. I intend to cover that chair. I also intend to make a series of textile pictures themed around reading. Oh yes, that sounds good to me!


Claire x

PS. I've just found Annie The Felt Fairy's 'A Make A Month' project, which I've joined. This is my make for January. Click the icon if you want to join too, it looks fun.