Category Archives: crafts

Crafting in the Country

It’s the 14th January and I have managed to do two weeks of work towards my monthly ambition of knitting one of these great boules de Noël…

af4a3-arneogcarlosjulekuglerI started to knit one and found it impossibly difficult. My wool was tangled. My rows were back-to-front. They’re knitted on five needles to a Fair Isle style pattern and oh my word they are fidgety. But I am not a girl to flinch from a challenge. If two Norwegian men can knit them, I’m sure I can. Let’s just say it’s extreme knitting though… colour charts and making stitches and going in the right direction. In all honesty, I doubt that men knitted these balls without supervision. It involved a level of multitasking that I personally believe men to be incapable of.

Anyway, I went bigger (like the big training needles they give you when you are learning) and practised with some scraps. So the scraps were size 5 wool and size 4 wool, I didn’t care. I wanted to see if I could knit anything that looked remarkably like the pattern in the book…

IMG_0344This was my very first attempt at knitting with two wools, Fair Isle style. I’m quite impressed, despite the problems with two sizes of wool. I notice now some dog hair has got into the design. So much the better. Yesterday, my crafty friend revealed she has needle felted a small cat. That is quite cool. She needle felted it out of cat hair. That’s bordering on weird.

Weird but not unusual. Yesterday, I was watching a youtube video by someone whose channel is called ‘Iknitwithcatfur’. I bet there are people who regularly needle felt with worse substances than cat fur.

I guess cat fur is not so weird. Wool is effectively sheep fur. It’s funny why one thing seems normal and the other seems like a bizarre fetish.

Anyhow, we had a craft day yesterday. Crafty friend was mosaic-crazy and had got out several boxes of shiny stones and lovely glittery, precious things. She is so crafty that she was mosaicking her bread bin. I don’t know anyone with a mosaic bread bin.

I made it my mission to knit a plain ball.

And it was definitely not knitting for the faint hearted!

At one point I was going to colour code the needles and see if I could make it any easier. No. I persevered. Once the first three or so rows are on the four needles, you’re off. All you have to do then is remember to make a stitch here and there and count lines and tick things off. Later, it started looking incredibly big (the pattern asks for 2mm needles and I was using 5mm needles) and a bit like a baby’s hat.

Then I started getting a bit ridiculous and thinking I might just knit randomly and see where it took me.

But I reined it back in.

By the time I finished, I realised it was a lot larger than the example baubles, but I’m unperturbed. Here is my first finished ball…

IMG_0378I don’t know about you, but Gene seems to be enjoying it.

My stitching was a little loose from needle to needle, so I have to tighten that up a bit, but I reckon I am now ready for a big version with a pattern. I’m ready for it. That will be my weekend knitting project.

I am also onto the sock bit of my yearly project list. I have another crafty friend whose mother knitted me this fine pair of socks last year:


I am having a sock knitting lesson with her next week and so I have started to knit the leg bit. It’s on the smallest needles I’ve ever knitted with, which are 2.5mm, and some sock wool I picked up – and so far, so good. They aren’t perfect like this fine pair, but they don’t look like a five year old knitted them, which I appreciate my first ball does. I’m half of a mind to cover the ball with sequins and turn it into a knitted disco ball.

So I’ve cracked my mini-project #1 and have made in-roads to mini-project #2. The month might have only just begun, but I’m very glad I had a day to get it under my belt. I’d still have been faffing around with those balls come February, otherwise, I reckon.

2013: from the top

Last year, I made this crazy resolutions tree and hung my resolutions on it. Then I put it on a windowsill near the bathroom and left it. Thus, it has been a year without any kind of focus or purpose and I am quite prepared for the fact that I will not have done half the things I wanted to have done in the last 365 days.

So, what went on the tree? I couldn’t even remember!

I have decided that I am going to continue with the tree this year, but that I am going to keep it on the mantelpiece and refer to it often. Obviously.

And I’ve also decided that I am going to have 12 mini-projects and have one to do each month. That way, I don’t have to focus as long. I am a terrible enthusiast and have all the gusto required to get a zeppelin off the ground by sheer willpower alone, but all the commitment and staying power of, well, a person with zero staying power or commitment. Fact: I just finished a scarf for a Christmas present that took a little longer than expected, and though I have another scarf I am knitting for myself on the go, I immediately was overwhelmed by my mini-projects.

My twelve mini-projects are these:

1. Knit a ball from Arne and Carlos’s book. This involves several things I haven’t done before, like knitting in French and knitting in different colours, as well as knitting to a pattern – so it’s going to take my knitting up a notch I reckon. I must be frank. I’m a little terrified by Carlos. I don’t know why. He looks so severe, I think. Still, can you go wrong with knitted Christmas decorations?

2. Knit some socks. I’ve been dying to do this. My friend bought me some patterns last year and I have been too inept to follow them (and a bit busy!) but now I have access to expert tutelage as long as I get in there quick. But I reckon if I can knit a bra, I can knit anything now.

3. Plant 6 seeds a day through February and March. That’s 61 days so by my reckoning, that’s 366 baby plants. Of course, this doesn’t cover my big plantings for April and May. But it’s one vegetable a day for a year.

4. Shift Much Love Monday to Wednesday Whoos! I must be honest. I love writing Much Love Monday posts. They fill me with loveliness. But as Wednesdays are my most full day, I’m sure I could do with a little bump to get me over the hump. In place, I am going to do a 52 Mondays project. One place. 52 photographs. I’m not kind of decided on the place yet, but I have a few in mind. So I’m stealing someone else’s ideas? I thought it a lovely way to celebrate both this place I live in and the great new camera I got last October. Monday is the day I’m most likely to have off. It’s also the day the shops are shut here in France (and Sundays. And possibly Saturday afternoons…)

5. Sewing project: make a patchwork knitting needle organiser. I have my eye on some lovely beauties on Pinterest. It will not only be a useful thing for my favourite of hobbies but also my first proper patchwork thing. Lord knows, it’s time. I have a box full of patchwork fabric and I need to do something with it!

6. Sewing project mk II: make a patchwork tote bag to carry my knitting in. A matching one, even. I saw some great sets but I am far too mean to buy a pattern, so I am going to wing it. It’s what I do best.

7. Felt hearts embroidery chains. I’ve started these – I also have got a huge piece of felt to work with. They are quite lovely and really easy to do. I’ve done a different embroidery stitch on each one so far.

8. Japanese embroidery project. I have a piece in mind that I want to do. It starts with a botanical zentangle and then becomes a jungle of colours. You can pick it out on my Craft page on Pinterest…

9. Photography project. I plan on following the divine inspiration of wordpress photography themes for this one. Probably, this is a good one for August on account of work and responsibilities. Having my super-duper new camera makes it a lot easier to be giddy about photography.

10. Zentangle pots. I’ve got a series of pots now that I’ve painted with geraniums in them. I think it’s time I take it up a notch and do something a little more intricate. Zentangle designs are usually black on white paper, but include variations. They take doodling to the next step!

11. Another knitting one to take me back into winter… cable knitting! Having mastered patterns and double pointed needles, I reckon this one should be a cinch! I’m thinking I’ll start with something simple and then once I’ve got the hang of it, something more complex!

12. As it will be back to Christmas, I have set myself the challenge of finding something from my Christmas Crafts board on Pinterest to do. Though really, I have a gazillion Christmas things I’ve started and never finished. Might be nice to finish some of those off! So I am allowed for my twelfth project to start one thing from my Christmas board.

Given that I have twelve projects, you would think it would be one a month, and it’s almost that. Some are longer projects and hopefully some will be a little shorter. I have scheduled the last post of each month to be about the project I have undertaken that month and to have a look at the things I’ve been up to. Nothing like being productive!

And if you think I am alone, I am not. One unnamed friend was painting her already attractive house this afternoon, saying she was tired of everything looking grubby. She needs to spend a week in my house and then she will realise what muck really is.

Resolutions 2013

Well, I confess I’ve been procrastinating because I hadn’t finished this project. Hence no blog. However, I have finished lots of other things and I feel a big sense of achievement. Whoo!

First, I saw this super-cute idea on Crafting a Green World for displaying your resolutions

And I thought that was a great idea. I was all set to cut out the circles when an idea caught me. I say an idea. In actual fact, it was laziness at not wanting to cut out all the circles. As a child, I could never colour inside the lines, or cut out a perfect shape; as an adult, I’m little better.

I decided to do leaves.

I like the leaf idea because, as the year progresses, the resolutions will ‘fall’ off the tree as I do them, and just like in winter, I will have bare branches ready for ‘leaves’ next year. Also, I will be able to see them much more easily. Also, as the year goes on, I can add to it and take away.

Oh, the cleverness of me

resolutions 2013 lady justines blogAlso, I thought that it would be a really organic idea, both literally and metaphorically. I cut some branches of hazel, which made me miss my old twisted hazel in my garden back in Bolton. I shall have to plant another. Then I used up some old wool, threaded a tapestry needle and poked it through the shapes. Leaves are easier than circles because it doesn’t matter if they’re wonky.

I read a lot of stuff about not having resolutions, but to be honest, I like doing it. It’s a big part of my new year. They’re also less of a list of resolutions and more a list of things to do. That way I keep moving. If I don’t, I’m like a shark. I’ll just die.

Frankly, that is my approach to everything. There are people who live without destinations in mind, living from one place to another, but I like to know where I’m headed. Not to the detriment of places I might stop on the way, but I’m too lazy not to have goals. If I didn’t have a to-do list, I’d sit around, eat sweets, watch old movies and turn into Jabba the Hutt in my onesie.

I like to know where I’m headed, roughly. You can’t chart your progress unless you know where you are. It gives you something to look back upon, watching your starting-point drift away as you sail towards a new destination. You can also work out how far you have to travel, like those countdowns on planes and ferries that tell you how far you have yet to travel, and you can see your destination drawing nearer. Plus, planning can be fun. It’s like when you get out all the seed catalogues and think about what can be and what your garden can bring you. There’s nothing wrong with a little visualisation to kick-start the process.

resolutions - lady justines blogSome of these things are just habits to change. But instead of putting them in a blog post I don’t revisit all year, I thought this was a cute way of putting them up so I can see them.

My big one this year is to finish what I start. About six years ago, all the people I worked with had to complete a Hay Group leadership analysis on me. Nice. It’s like being under a microscope, professionally. They have to fill out all kinds of answers about you and identify where your weaknesses are. It’s a 360° analysis by the people who work for you, those who work with you, and then the people you work for. Talk about intense.

Anyway, apart from my obvious lack of modesty, which strangely did not come up, the only thing people said I had as a fault was the fact I don’t always finish what I start. This is true. I am an enthusiast through and through. What I always liked about being an enthusiast is that I get fired up, inspired, then off I go. It’s a great energy burst. Call me an activator, a divergent thinker, whatever you will, but my one great habit this year to build is to finish things off. Properly.

Hopefully the Resolution tree will remind me frequently about my challenge this year.

Two things I’ve finished this year include a present for a friend that I can’t show yet because I haven’t given it to her yet, and this truly mixed-media picture I made for Mme. V.


* like Peter Pan, who originally uttered these words, it is not my own cleverness at all, but somebody else’s. Also like Peter Pan, it didn’t stop me claiming the accomplishment as my own even though it is so not. In fact, even before it came from Crafting a Green World, it came from a Thanksgiving Tree on Make Them Wonder. I love how ideas travel. And meh. When I saw it was leaves in the original, it totally made me smile. Even my own adaptation was just an inadvertent rip-off. Such is life.