The Wool Baa, Sheffield
I know I am on to a good thing when I walk into a wool shop and there are colours everywhere from floor to ceiling, with stacks of yarn threatening to collapse with the slightest draft. The Wool Baa is a small shop, but every square centimetre of space is used.
Jill is the proud owner of this lovely and friendly shop. She is colourful, helpful, funny and apparently prone to abuse her customers. There even is an abuse notification pinned on the wall, with a scale that goes from sarcasm to utter contempt. This sets the atmosphere nicely and the customers know what to expect! When I asked Jill if I could take photos to write a review for my blog she guffawed and said “Well that depends on what you’re gonna say!” The shoppers who were in when I went were friendly and happy to chat with me even though I was a newbie in their little community and a far from home, one-off visitor.
The shelves hold a good choice of yarns and I found some Rico cotton at a good price. I very much like the fact that in most yarns many colours are stocked, rather than a few arbitrary choices. I bought 12 balls for my project, in an array of 9 hues, 6 in harmonies of lilac, magenta, purple and lavender, 1 for a base colour of natural linen and 1 golden green for a bit of contrast. I was so excited about this new project that I started crocheting in the car on the journey back to Southampton. It took us 7 hours to get back home (horrendous journey with lots of traffic jams) so I made good progress…
Verdict: a great little shop that looks a bit messy, just enough to make you feel comfortable.
What did I buy: 12 balls of Rico Essentials Cotton DK
Will I go back: yes
Internet Link: www.thewoolbaa.co.uk
PS: Save the Sheffield trees!
Crochet Snowflake woolly hat
I have been trying to find a woolly hat that is not made of wool, because I am allergic to wool and on my head it’s even worse. I end up with a major rash on the forehead. So acrylic here we come. I quite like fairisle, so that was my first stop. I fancied a pompom, a grey/black/blue colour scheme, and quite chunky because fine small hats look ridiculous on me, or the other way round, I look ridiculous under them. It also needed to be properly warm, because its prime function is to keep me from freezing half to death at the Saturday Night Ice Hockey Match, supporting Basingstoke Bison. It’s really cold there. If they played on an outdoors ice rink we’d be warmer than this! Snowflakes fairisle perhaps? To register my grumpy, shivery disapproval with the ice rink manager? Perhaps a flashing battery-operated icicles garland around the rim?
With all that, I couldn’t find a single hat that made me think, “Yes, that’s the one!”
Then I went to Haskins Garden Centre to have lunch with a friend, and there was a hat (in the men’s department, so quite chunky) in grey and green, but no fairisle. I tried it on and it looked great. Well, better than most hats look on me… So what to do? Customise!
Instead of ready-made snowflake fairisle, I crocheted a snowflake myself and stitched it on the front side of the hat. I chose a pale grey because although any self-respecting snowflake should be white, I thought the contrast would be too much. Also, white is not my colour, especially this close to my face. The green and grey bring out the green in my eyes (and it’s also the title of one of New Model Army’s songs, always a bonus) but the white would make my face look pink, not in a good way.
Here is a picture of my hat on the Christmas tree (everything gets pictured on the Christmas tree at this time of year) and modelled on my rabbit Penelope, who’s a much prettier model than me.
After looking for my new hat for 10 minutes to share the pictures, I realised that it had been on my head the whole time I was writing the post, that’s how comfortable it is! I don’t usually write with a hat on my head but I was on my way from the bedroom to the garden and I stopped in the living room to write a post while Mr. Flora’s Patch was having a Sunday afternoon nap on the settee… Now I am going to wake him up, wake Penelope up as well, and we’re off to deadhead some Hydrangeas!
Yarn: DMC Petra, 100% cotton, col 5415, hook 2.5cm
PS: I can’t resist posting a picture of our garden companion, waiting for us to dig up some stuff to reveal an endless supply of goodies…
Christmas wreath with Liberty fabric
From the beginning of December I start getting all excited about Christmas. I would start the frenzy earlier, but I don’t think Mr Flora’s Patch would be able to cope with a longer Christmas fantasy world. From the 1st of December though, it’s fair game. The tree goes up (it’s a fake one because I decided when I was little that watching a tree die- even a tree all decorated and full of fairy lights- doesn’t ever make feel cheery), strings of lights appear all over the house and under the front porch in the various shapes of stars, snowflakes, flowers and colourful acorns. This last one sounds a bit random but the colours on that one are really intense, it’s beautiful. I also adorn the front door with a wreath.
This year I made my own. The base is a willow wreath that I bought ready-made. It has a strong metal frame behind the willow that should keep the whole thing in place for years. I tore some pieces of Liberty fabric from my scrap pile, which felt like I was committing a crime. Such a beautiful fabric to just shred… But I like the untidy, fringy edges it creates. I tied these ribbon pieces randomly to the willow.
The bird is made of felt. I did some appliqué on the wings and the head markings (I took my inspiration from a partridge, because of the Christmas song “Partridge in a pear tree”), also in Liberty fabric. I painted a partridge in watercolour and copied my painting for the bird design. For the first one I used tiny black buttons for the eyes but for the second one I used teddy bear safety eyes. I stuffed the bird, which sounds macabre, and used a blanket stitch all around. Then I took my rabbit Penelope for a walk in the back garden and together we collected some sticks from the birch tree. Well, I collected, she nibbled. She really likes birch. Branch, leaves, catkins, she would eat the whole tree if I let her. And if the tree hadn’t grown to an unreasonable 25 metres high (It grew from a seed that a sparrow had pooped into a terracotta pot in the patio!).
Back to the partridge… I sewed a ribbon to the back of its neck, sewed its underbelly to a stick and secured it to the centre of the wreath. I used another ribbon directly above the hanging bird to tie the wreath to the letterbox on the front door.
I hope you have a go at making yours. If you don’t have the time, I have listed a couple for sale in my Etsy shop here: Flora’s Patch
Launching my new Etsy shop
The first of December seems like a fine date to launch my new Etsy shop!
I would have liked to fill it more before launching but I will keep adding things on a regular basis. I am using this new platform to sell small paintings (easily sent in the post) and some of my crochet and textiles patterns and creations.
Here is a link:
I hope you like it and happy browsing!
Crochet pen étui
A few years ago my first book came out and I had some book signings sessions at various events. At the last minute I panicked: what kind of message do you write to complete strangers who happen to like your book? Presumably you have some things in common but at the same time, you don’t know each other. So I googled it. “What do you write at a book signing?” Surprisingly, Neil Gaiman, of whom I am a big fan, has written loads about the subject. His first piece of advice was to buy yourself a Sharpie.
I had heard of Sharpies, but I thought they were these big permanent markers basketball players use to sign autographs on basketballs. A bit over the top and slightly coarse for botanical painting… Then I found the fine Sharpies. Refillable in a metallic body. Pretty. It doesn’t bleed through the page, it is touch dry instantly even on glossy paper, doesn’t smudge when you close the book… perfect. (Honestly, they are not paying me for this; I really do like my Sharpie.)
Then obviously I wanted to share the love. I have a friend in France who is a comic book writer and has signing events too. Mr Flora’s Patch needs a pen in his breast pocket at work. My best friend likes everything I like, so definitely one for her. Soon enough, every stocking that year had a Sharpie on order. The fine refillable one with the metallic body.
Then what? It might be a good pen, but a pen just like that on its own is a bit boring. I decided to make étuis to hold them and make them more Christmassy. So I made these in crochet, with an organza ribbon fastening and a little satin rose. Except for the comic book writer. He is a man and not a man who would enjoy a crochet pen holder that includes a little satin rose. I bought him a faux leather affair in black. Had he known what he had escaped from, he would have been grateful.
The pattern is very simple: it is worked row by row, all straight, long enough to fit the pen front and back and to have a fold over flap at the end. Line the crochet piece in velvet, so that the pen doesn’t fall through the holes (the horror of losing your Sharpie!) and so that the body of the pen doesn’t get scratched. Use the same yarn to stitch the sides and a thin thread to attach the ribbons and the rose. It is worked in trebles all along or if you feel fancy you can add a few shells at the front.
Yarn: Patton mercerised cotton
(Copyright Sandrine Maugy)
Every year I choose a project and I make a thing for all my friends, in different colour variations to suit their tastes. This is the one I made last year. (I can’t blog about this year because my friends will read the blog and they’ll know what’s coming (apart from winter, but they already know that…)
Using different variations of Liberty, Tilda and Frou Frou fabrics, I made little apple pincushions. I like pincushions. Apart from actually being useful, they can look really amazing too. Some people are very creative with them…
Of course, being a botanical artist, I couldn’t help having to make them more or less botanically correct: the leaves are serrated, the stem has two different colours for the bark and the wood core, and the veining is anastomosing… That is, I thought they were botanically correct until some clever clogs pointed out that apple skins are not usually in segments of colourful ditsy flowers. Ha! Should have seen this one coming.
Anyway, my friends seemed happy with them…
During the year I made some more and I listed them in my Etsy shop here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/287237897/liberty-fabric-apple?ref=shop_home_active_9
Get Knitted, Brislington, Bristol
If you are around Bristol and you have a car, Get Knitted is worth the inconvenience of driving through a few miles of uninteresting cityscape. The area is not pretty, but the shop itself is pretty amazing.
The first impression getting past the front door is “Wow, this is huge!” I mean huge. It almost has the feel of a warehouse about it. The space is divided by shelves, counters and stands, so the visitors can weave their way through. There is also a coffee corner, which is nice, especially with the large display of magazines (past issues included) and so many patterns to peruse.
A hundred granny blankets are displayed and for sale, all crocheted by the staff, all in traditional heavy-ish yarns and bright colours. I also liked the old prams and perambulators covered in blankets and hosting hordes of crocheted and knitted toys. It looked cosy, especially coming in from a cold grey day on a grey street.
I did weave my way through, starting with the stands of knitting accessories. There were lots of interesting little things I had not seen before, like “Little gadgets that could be useful and I am not going to resist them much longer…”
The choice of yarns was vast, but I had difficulty finding anything without sheep wool in it. I am allergic to wool, which is a bit of a problem for a crochetteuse. I am ok with baby alpaca and cashmere. The modern merinos have yet to be fully tested, especially on my neck, but I have hopes for some of them, as they are really soft to the touch.
At the back of the shop there are a few fabrics but this is clearly not the focus of the business and wouldn’t be worth a sewing trip.
On the shelves against the wall are displayed a good range of gifts, made by local people, which is something I always like to see. The crocheted mice by Button Meadow were really cute.
Verdict: well stocked for yarns and knitting/crochet accessories. I like the fact that they stock locally made goods.
What did I buy: hand-dyed bright yellow lace weight skein (yes, with a hint of glitter!), a little tube of needles, a row counter and a shawl pattern.
Will I go back: yes
Internet link: http://www.getknitted.com
Great online shop
Last year I made a crochet amigurumi tiny dog in the image of my dad’s little Yorkshire terrier, Bulle. I made a keyring of it and my dad loved it. The only problem is, Bulle loves it too and every time my dad tries to use it she has a tantrum because she wants to play with it. Any toy that enters the house is hers by right, in her opinion, (actually , anything that enters the house is hers) but she would shred the poor thing within seconds. She isn’t spoilt at all.
For the pattern I used a classic amigurumi animal body shape, added an elongated ball for the head and some tubes for the limbs. I crocheted a half-ball for the muzzle and added all the long hair as if adding fringes to a scarf, or I suppose hair to a rag doll. Some seedbeads for the eyes and nose and a little bow in the hair and it looks just like Bubulle!
Yarn: Clea cotton for the body and Rowan Kidsilk Haze for the fluffy hair