Thursday, December 31, 2009

Onward and Upward

The last day of 2009 seems as good a place as any to look back on the last year.  I'm adding to it slowly throughout the day, it would be a shame to miss something that  was important.

We began the year with a visit to the theatre and a promise that we would do it again soon.  Of course, the latter didn't happen, but I'm sure we'll do something like it this year.  Frankly there was nothing that took the eye, and time sped by too fast to even take the train to town apart from a quick pass through on my way to visit my lovely friend.. 

February was a busy month, and I have to say that looking at next year's diary (it's the last time I can say that!) the month will be busy again.  As usual we went to Textiles in Focus and had a thoroughly good time.  Don't forget to make your plans asap if you want to go in 2010.  February was also the month that we had the first inklings of something that happened later in the year, but frankly we didn't believe it!

March was a month of teaching and frustration.  However out of frustration came a lot of learning and new colours, so there was certainly a silver lining to that cloud.  I even managed to do some stitching

April was a month of birthdays, and, of course, Easter.!  We saw family, and I continued to teach and dye.  No time to rest, but that came in May when we visited our little hideyhole.  June was also busy but we all got together for a very special birthday

We were so grateful that Mum was still with us to celebrate her birthday as only the week before she was close to death's door.  We have had more scares since then (and we enter 2010 with great uncertainty) but we will hold that day in our memories for a long time.

July arrived as the culmination of what was promised in February!  At the beginning of the year we had no inkling, but now we were filming an episode of 'Talking Threads'.  I have to say that when it was first mooted I honestly didn't think that it would happen!

August passed with more teaching, dyeing, Summer School and the Festival of Quilts, and we were very relieved to get to September and a lovely visit to France followed by the filming of a Christmas DVD.

And so into autumn.  October saw the first epidode of  Talking Threads and more selling, dyeing and teaching.      November continued to be busy and included my episode about dyeing and then the filming of a new DVD. Autumn, of course is followed by winter, and this year the winter seems to have been especially suited to comfort food.  December was exciting with a course at Missenden Abbey, preparation for Christmas

and then the release of the new Embellisher DVD which has been selling well.  

Christmas came and went

and although the days before had been spent suffering from an unpleasant virus we were able to enjoy it with family and friends.

And so to New Year.  Tonight we plan to celebrate with friends and neighbours and look forward to stepping into the unknown of a new decade.  Regrettably Mum is heading towards a new crisis, but we will weather whatever storm that brings.  January will see us recording Level 2 of Inspired Embellishing, and that is something we certainly could not have foreseen in January  2009

Thank you for following the blog over the last year.  I wish each and every one of you a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2010.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve

Not a very original title to the post, I have to admit, but it's the best I can do in the time available. It is indeed Christmas Eve tomorrow, and how ready are you? I'm almost there, and I'm not about to admit, in public, to what I have forgotten in case the person in mind reads this post, so you will just have let your imaginations wander! However, it is a time of year when memories begin to filter back through the years, and today is no exception.

As a child we often spent Christmas in Wales. My Welsh grandparents lived in Brecon, a delightful town which still retains all its old charm and well worth a visit. They had a small house, and at the time in question even had outside 'facilities'! We would travel down from Surrey via the A4 and the A40, through Abergavenny and Crickhowell and the journey would take hours. Literally a whole day. Speeds would rarely be above 30mph, and it was very tiring for small children. We would be so excited to see Tretower Castle as it would mean that we were nearly there, although there were still several miles to travel. And so, finally, we would arrive to a hot meal and a house warmed by a coal fire and range in which the meal had been cooked. The kettle would hang over the fire and was always on the boil, ready for tea. Grandparents delighted to see us, and us, although pleased to be there, really ready for bed and needing to sleep.

And so it was the particular Christmas that I have in mind. We arrived and there was the tree in the corner, bedecked as usual with the traditional family baubles and of course some tinsel. No fairy lights, but there were candles and little gifts hanging and scattered beneath. Before long my brother and I were tucked up in bed, all cosy under a beautiful Welsh quilt that unfortunately is now long gone. The journey had made us very tired, so we slept soundly, completely missing the sound of Rudolph's hooves as he landed on the roof, and how Santa got down that chimney with the fire still burning in the grate I really don't know, but he managed it, and before long it was Christmas morning.

It was very quiet. There were sounds downstairs, but the coutryside had a different feel about it, and the light was so bright. We both crept down the twisted staircase to find the adults up and busying themselves. What a shock! There had been a snowfall overnight. The snow was at least halfway up the door and it was impossible to get out either at the front or the back. As already mentioned the 'facilities' were not inside, so it was essential to dig a way out as soon as possible. My father and mother did this, and fortunately it wasn't far. I don't remember if the water was frozen, but it wouldn't surprise me. We huddled around the range for breakfast, and then we were allowed to open some of our gifts. The funny thing is that I don't remember what mine were. I do remember, however, that my brother had a set of lorries, all in green and red. He lay on the floor and played with them for hours. At some point during the day I was allowed to use my grandmother's treddle sewing machine. This was an especial treat, and I'm sure that in this lie the seeds of my love of machine embroidery.

It was a happy time. One of the few Christmas Day memories that I have of us all being together. Shortly after this my father was promoted and from then on always had to work on Christmas Day. Although our celebrations were always happy they were disjointed, him leaving home at 6am and often not back until 9pm at night. We would have presents, but our real celebration would be a couple of days later when he was home all day and everyone would gather. Our trips to Wales for Christmas ceased too. Grandparents had to travel to us. They came by coach and we always collected them at Reading bus station. I used to wonder what happened to the range when they were away. Did it look after itself? Did Rudolph still call with Santa and find no-one at home? Who knows.

Happy Christmas, friends, whether you celebrate or not. However, somewhere in the midst of all your hustle and bustle please try to remember at some point that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


This has been an exciting but busy week.  On Monday we took delivery of our first supply of the new DVD on embellishing. 

The first ones have already been sent, and more are going out today.  If you would like a copy you can find it here and here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Textile in Focus - Don't miss out

February is the month for Textiles in Focus.  Held each year at Cottenham just outside Cambridge in the UK it is the highlight of the textile year for a number of people.  It has a good mixed selection of traders, interesting exhibitions and 2 hour workshops to give you a taster of a number of crafts etc.  The next show will be as much fun as the last, if not more, and today is the day that information is released.

The dates for your diary are 19th - 21st February 2010, but if you want to take part in a workshop etc you need to get the details NOW or all the places will be gone.....

Full information can be found here.  Don't miss out, and come and say 'Hi' to us at Winifred Cottage as always we'll have far more with us that we have online including all sorts of Sassa Lynne bits and pieces.  (I'll be teaching a workshop too)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Little Bookies Part 2

I've been going to blog about this all week since I came back from Missenden Abbey, but somehow other things got in the way.  I needed to download the pictures first, that's done now, so here are a few glimpses at what we got up to.

It was a fun weekend, but I made them work hard!

We made a mess at times, so those cat litter trays were useful.

We coloured lots of papers using several techniques

Of course they had to keep their heads down and just get on with it!

We created fun surfaces

And made a variety of covers.  Some bright

And others not so bright.

Some had pockets for fun but others didn't

We'll be makng little bookies at Textiles in Focus next February, how about joining us?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas is coming.

I am spending the weekend finishing my Christmas cards. I have 250 to make this year, some for family, friends and aquaintances, but also on behalf of my mother, who also used to make all her cards until her sight became too poor. I've nearly finished, and if I hadn't stopped to write this I could have made at least another one! DH is helping too. He's addressing all the envelopes and will take them to the PO too. We no longer share the stamp licking! Thanks to Royal Mail they are all now self-adhesive.

Then what?

Well, the gift wrapping of course, and this is a chore. Many moons ago I would design individual wraps for family recipients - for example one year I wrapped a TV to look like - a TV ! Not this year though, it will be wrapping paper for most but for some it will be a little different.

Now in theory there should be a video for you to watch next showing you a brilliant and reusable idea, but as I've not added one before I'm not sure what will happen. Let's see.

Furoshiki gift wrapping from RecycleNow on Vimeo

What will you be doing with yours?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Food

When I woke this morning it was cold, damp and grey.  It was foggy, and it looked as though it was going to last all day.  It looked as though it was just the sort of day for comfort food to chase away the blues, so I thought I'd make a nice warming pan of soup.  It's one of our family favourites, and is really filling.  It can be served with chunks of crusty bread, but frankly it doesn't need it.  We call it 'Orange Soup', but that refers to the colour and I promise that there isn't an orange in sight.

This version is a sort of 'throw it in the pan and see' type of recipe.

First, prepare your lentils!  I use red lentils (they add to the colour) but you can use any lentils you like or happen to have.  I use about half a cup for 4 servings.  Let them simmer or partially cook if this is needed while you  prepare the rest of the ingredients.

You will need -
peeled sweet potatoes cut up into chunks,
peeled squash cut to the same size,
an eating apple well washed and cut into chunky slices (I leave the skin on - but that's up to you
a piece of fresh ginger about the size of your thumb up to your knuckle which I peel and slice fairly thinly

When the lentils are ready for the 'long' cooking I transfer them to my slow cooker and add the rest of the ingredients along with some hot stock.  If you haven't got any stock it works just as well with water.

So, pop the lid on and wait for it to cook.  This recipe works well on the top of the stove too, but remember to turn it down to a simmer after it has all come back to the boil.

Now, how do you like your soup?  If you like it 'with bits in' you can crush it with a potato masher.  If you want it a little finer push it through a seive - the apple skin won't go through, though, and the ginger will struggle as well.  I usually whizz it with the blender, until it is smooth, with jus the odd fleck of apple skin to give it some texture.  Don't forget to taste and season at this point.

To serve I grate a little hard cheese (preferably a good cheddar) into the bottom of the serving bowl. This melts as the hot soup is poured in and creates creamy whirls within the colour.  You can also add a little chopped parsley if you have some.

So, mine is happily simmered away - and guess what?  The fog has cleared the sun has come out!  Told you it would chase away the blues!

 Yum.  There's enough for you too.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Little Bookies

This weekend I'm off to Missenden Abbey. I intend to have a lovely time making little books, and hopefully the students will enjoy it too! I know they will make several, so, with their permission, I'll be able to post some pictures of theirs too, next week, but by way of a taster here are a couple.

Can you tell that I'm trying not to give too much away?

Well, just for good measure, here's another - in the process of construction.

Half the fun is colouring the pages.....

PS, don't forget that you can find the thread of the month here.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

From this.....

It's hard to believe, but ....

From this

To this...

Sorry they aren't better photos - but HAPPY BIRTHDAY anyway.