Residency Day 5 – The Loppis

I’ve already mentioned how great the Swedish ‘ Loppis’ is – a second hand shop which you find on the side of the road. But Helen and John had told me about a really big one which is about 10 minutes away from Bergby Konstcenter. As I am now at the point of thinking about how to ‘ back’ my sea juggernaut picture – and there was only so much fabric I could bring – a place where I could pick up recycled fabric would be great!


A homage to the Loppis.

The Loppis we visited was inside a large barn – wish I had taken more photos – and an absolute treasure trove. For me, I got excited by the colourful fabrics, handmade lace, embroidered and crochet work. But if you needed any kind of household equipment, toys, clothes, furniture, books, etc, you were sorted and they were all good quality.


Today’s purchases from the Loppis.

Some of my finds are beginning to make their way into my work.


Tiny ship’s wheel that I found on the floor outside the Loppis in Bergby.


Anchor button bought as part of a collection of blue buttons. The anchor is the symbol of this area.

This idea of sensible thrift really works with the whole feel of my ‘Häxors Trosor’ project. Humanity generates so much waste. I found an interesting quote a couple of days ago when making a new ‘ Green Pledge’:

“Earth provides enough to satisfy everyman’s need, but not every man’s greed.”

Mahatma Gandhi.


Call out for ‘Green Pledges’

Over the next four months, I am working on a environmental art project to be finished and exhibited at Bergby Konstcenter in Sweden. As part of my artist residency, I am asking people to make ‘Green Pledges’ which can be made into a small pennants to be sewn together and hung in the trees at the center. Some of the examples below have been made by members of the 86th Newcastle Guides, who are working on a craft badge, they have designed their mini pennants using fabric pens on cotton, which they will then further embellish with embroidery, recycled fabrics, ribbons and buttons.


86th Guides Veg

Made by a member of 86th Newcastle Guides ‘Grow Your Own Veg’

If you would like to get involved, you can either get in touch with me, telling me of your ‘Pledge’ to live a greener life OR you could even make your own ‘Green Pledge’ mini pennant (I haven’t set a size for the finished piece, but the largest we have made so far are 20x30cm).

Recycle by 86th Guides

‘Recycle’ pennant made by a member of the 86th Newcastle Guides.

The pennants can be made using any textile technique and can be as simple or as sophisticated as you wish or have time for.

Look after your planet.

‘Take care of our Planet’ by a member of 86th Newcastle Guides.

If you just wish to make a pledge, get in touch and I can develop you plan of action into a ‘Green Pledge’ pennant to be hung in Sweden as part of the exhibition.

'Green Pledge' mini pennant

‘Green Pledge’ mini pennant.

This weekend, you can also pop into my studio for Late ShowsStudio 11 at the Biscuit Factory, Newcastle, between 6-11pm on Friday and Saturday night (13th & 14th May, 2016), where you can see some of the pieces I am currently working on.

Exhibition at Gateshead Civic Centre

I should have blogged about this sooner, but I have only just been able to get images of the pieces up and the lighting was quite heavy, so the photos aren’t great. So, I do apologise.

I was asked if I could put together some pieces of work that reflected my love of the natural world. It was a pretty quick turnaround, so I was unable to make any new pieces. My work was to accompany the winners photos from a national Nature Photographers Exhibition, which has some fabulous close-up photos including amazing spiders and puffins flying!

Three of the pieces are made using hooky matting technique – which I love as it’s a great way of using up bits of fabric, has a lovely texture and has a great long tradition.

Red Poppy, Yellow Poppy. Made using hooky mat technique.

Red Poppy, Yellow Poppy. Made using hooky mat technique.

The two pieces above, I intend to be part of a seasonal set. They are inspired by the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, which I have seen many times but absolutely fell in love with when we went to visit Hill House at Helensburgh.

I also included ‘Caretakers of the World, UNITE!’, which is inspired by the Lindisfarne Gospels carpet pages, introducing nature elements into the design.

'Caretakes of the World, UNITE!'

‘Caretakers of the World, UNITE!’

And of course, my ‘Portrait of a Green Man’.

'Portrait of a Green Man'.

‘Portrait of a Green Man’.

I also included some of my bird lino prints, which worked well with the photography exhibition. Copies of the lino prints are on sale at the Civic Centre reception desk.

It has been lovely have the opportunity to display my work at the Civic Centre in the Bewick’s Cafe, which is a busy café used by visitors, local families and the council office workers.

Lino prints of birds.

Lino prints of birds.

Whilst visiting Gateshead Civic Centre, I was also able to visit their printing department, as I am hoping to get some prints made of my now finished William Morris portrait – ‘The Maker’ – and of my War Poets. I am looking forward to seeing the samples next week! Exciting and ready for the ‘Late Shows’ which I shall be taking part in, in the middle of this month.

Birthday on a Budget/Best Present Ever!!

A Unitopian Birthday!

A Unitopian Birthday!

At the weekend my youngest daughter turned seven. For a long time now, she has been obsessed with unicorns. In fact I think many of her presents from previous birthdays and Christmases have involved unicorns. So much so, it can be very difficult to get in her room for them. When asked what she would like this year for her birthday, unicorns were once again her answer.

This year, as I work as an artist, money has been more tight than usual. There has been massive cuts in the sectors I traditionally work freelance for and I need to ensure I can still pay my studio rent, insurances etc. So spending on day to day has tightened and certainly what we would normally spend on our girls for birthday presents has cut right down.

Luckily, as you may have seen on my previous pages, I can turn my hand to most craft/making/arty thing. So, I decided to hunt out some unicorn related crochet patterns and make her seven unicorns for her seventh birthday. Which was quite time consuming, proved inexpensive. The pattern I used is Amigurumi by Lan-Anh Bui and Josephine Wan, published by GMC Books. I’ve used this book before and it has great, simple instructions for outrageously cute amigurumi creatures. I adapted the horse/zebra pattern by adding a unicorn horn, plus using very bright colours.

First crocheted unicorn, in sparkly wool.

First crocheted unicorn, in sparkly wool.

Each unicorn took about three hours to make and the wool we already had around the house or was topped up from our local Poundland. The fun part was choosing the colour combinations!

Unicorn with fairy-tale house.

Unicorn with fairy-tale house.

Over a couple of weeks, I worked on the unicorns.

Five made, two in pieces...

Five made, two in pieces…

Once the unicorns were finished, we decided it would be even more fun to make a unicorn head band! So, mixing three wools together, I crocheted a triangle shape which could be sewn into a cone shape and attached to a headband.

Crocheting the unicorn horn.

Crocheting the unicorn horn.

On her birthday, her two elder sisters had created a treasure hunt for her unicorn presents. She was given her unicorn headband to where and the first clue to find them. Then she was off, racing around the house to find all of her seven new friends. Since then, they have not left her side and great fun has been had, giving them all names.

A new uni-tastic friendship has begun!

A new uni-tastic friendship has begun!

All in all, I probably spent about £15 on buying more wool, stuffing and the headband. Not bad for the Best Present Ever’!

How to: Yarn Bomb a chair!

WARNING!! -This is a really fun one and could possibly get addictive!

Finished yarnbombed chairs.

Finished yarn bombed chairs.

You will/may need:

Knitting wool – double knitting and above in thickness, and lots of colours!

Crochet hook or knitting needles,

Wool needles,

Foam/seat pad,

Fabric for patchworking,

Webbing and webbing stretcher if there is not ‘seat’,

Tacks/small nails,

Hessian or similar fabric for underside of seat.

This is a great way to recycle an old chair you/friend may have or that you’ve found down a charity shop. Firstly, you need to clean your chair and tighten up any nut and bolts. If your seat has wicker for the ‘seat’, strip this as close to the wood as possible.

Strip wicker or any fabric/wood from the seat.

Strip wicker or any fabric/wood from the seat.

If you have a wooden seat, check there’s no nails etc sticking out, which could be dangerous. If you have a seat which was a woven wicker, which you have now stripped, then you will need to ‘web’ a seat – YouTube has many sites explaining this method.

Finished 'webbed' seat.

Finished ‘webbed’ seat.

You are now ready for the fun stuff! Using either crochet or knitting, make narrow strips according to a rough estimate of the width and length of you chair. I started with the legs. I calculated roughly by first crocheting a chain which I wrapped around the base of the leg and worked in treble crochet, making brightly coloured stripes.

Striped lengths of crochet for chair sections.

Striped lengths of crochet for chair sections.

When I had reached a ‘joint’ in the chair, I would slightly decrease the number of stitches to work around the joint, then increase again after. (When two joints meet the crocheted sections will be sewn together to cover the join.)

Once, the crocheted length was the correct size, I would cast off, then sew the section to around the leg of the chair, pulling tight to ensure the wool stitching is discreetly disguised.

Continue working this way, making lengths of crochet to wrap around the different joints of the chair.

Stitching the 'joints' together.

Stitching the ‘joints’ together.

If you have webbed the seat, stitch the lengths of crochet through the webbing. If you have a wooden seat, using small tacks, nail the crochet length around the base of the seat, ensuring your tacks will be covered over with your seat pad later. Also, ensure all tacks are safely hammered in.

Wrapping the length of crochet around the webbed seat.

Wrapping the length of crochet around the webbed seat.

Once your chair is fully yarn bombed, you will now need a foam seat pad which you can either buy pre-cut from a shop. Then, you will need to decide how to cover it. I choose to cover my seats using my daughter’s skirts and trousers they had grown out of. These were in great fabrics – ideal for upholstery – such as cord, velvets and denims. I decided to cut them and sew them into ‘crazy patchwork’. This is a traditional technique, which uses up small pieces of fabric. But, you could choose to continue with the crochet/knitting and make a cover or use a full piece of fabric to cover the cushion pad.

Chair covered in crochet yarn bombing.

Chair covered in crochet yarn bombing.

The fabric, with the pad positioned underneath, was tacked around about 1cm from the top edge of the seat. I then, made a crochet binding to cover the tacked edge, by crocheting a long length in two rows of double crochet. This was then discreetly sewn onto the patchwork and the chair.

Crazy patchwork seat cover, with crochet binding.

Crazy patchwork seat cover, with crochet binding.

You’re now almost finished! To make your chair look neat and tidy, it’s always best to cover your working, so that there’s no little wool ‘tails’ dangling from your chair. I would, therefore, recommend to now cover the underside of the seat with hessian to hide your working. This can be done with a small square of hessian, or another fabric you have at hand, and tack that to the underside of the seat.

Underside of seat, with the 'working' of your chair hidden underneath.

Underside of seat, with the ‘working’ of your chair hidden underneath.

Now, you can enjoy your most gorgeous and fabulous seat – invite your friends round and maybe make another!

My finished chairs on display at Ouseburn Open Studios this weekend.

My finished chairs on display at Ouseburn Open Studios this weekend.

Finished chair.

Finished chair.

Recent finished projects

It’s always great to report that you’ve actually finished something, as often I have many W.I.P’s (work in progress) but I thought I’d do a little catch up – mainly to make me feel better – about some of the things I’ve finished recently and a couple I didn’t blog about at the time. Like the socks below, which I had speculated about finishing in time for Christmas to be my present to myself – which I did – but I became so caught up in the fun of family Christmas stuff and my jazzy, stripy socks were left forgotten in the blogosphere.

Christmas present socks

Christmas present socks

This week, I also finished another pair of socks for my birthday! This is not like me, I hasten to add, normally every pair of socks I make are usual given to friends and family, so to have actually made myself two pairs of socks in three months is pretty good going! Sock knitting is something I do a little of, often. I have a very cute little bag a friend gave to me a couple of years ago and it always contains my current socks in progress, so that if I have to hang around for a while whilst the girls are at a party/swimming lessons, the bag is taken with me. Below are my lovely new, very bright, slouch socks.

Slouch socks, a present to myself!

Slouch socks, a present to myself!

Now, I apologise for not up dating on whether I’d finished my Stash Buster Challenge in time during February! Well, I did, literally the night it needed to be finished to complete the challenge in time, at about 30 minutes to midnight, my tank top was finished!! I had made my own pattern up for the tank top and I probably could have made it a size smaller as the lovely wool I used, ‘Click by Sirdar’, was quite stretchy and forgiving. But it’s lovely, soft and cosy!

Stash buster challenge tank top February 2015.

Stash buster challenge tank top February 2015.

Last week, I was busy preparing my studio for a visit by a local satellite TV channel Made in Tyne and Wear to discuss Ouseburn Open Studios and my work. So besides tidying, I decided to make a lovely Spring Wreath to go on the front of my studio door.  It is made using freeform crochet and has now got me in the mood for more crocheting – so I may yarn bomb the street where my studio is – or even just a few of my chairs!! My interview will be on the TV next Monday and I may – depending on the results – try and embed it into my blog… we’ll see.

Spring Wreath in Crochet.

Spring Wreath in Crochet.

Well, I said I was inspired to go a bit mad with the crocheting, and after seeing another crocheted gnome house on Facebook, my daughters have decided we need to make a village! This was last nights Gnome house and we now even have designs for the rest!! Still, when your youngest daughter is 6 years old, your allowed to not take life too seriously sometimes! And going off on a slight tangent today, I also made her a crocheted unicorn but that’s for her birthday and hopefully there will be a whole blog post infested with unicorns soon!!

Gnome house!

Gnome house!

Another future idea, developed from the mad gnome house, crocheting craziness, as we have an allotment, I may also make some gnome houses using plastic garden twine, so that they can stay down there in the vegetable beds!! Might make a spring wreath like that, too…

Craft themed lino Prints

I really enjoy lino printing and the last two days I have been hand printing more copies of my existing craft prints and hand cutting some new ones. Each print, as they are hand processed, can work beautifully or be a complete disaster, so it can be time consuming. Plus, each letter is individually hand printed, so each print is quite unique in it’s design.

'Knit' Lino Print

‘Knit’ Lino Print

The series of ‘Craft’ lino prints are, as you can imagine, inspired by my love of making in so many senses of the word. The ‘Knit’ print above symbolises not just the preparation for knitting but also the tradition of ‘gansey‘ knitting. The letters of the word ‘Knit’ are set out like a compass around the spokes and steering wheel of a boat. I have knitted, just squares, symbols from ganseys in the past, as they were to form part of the Shipley Art Gallery’s handling collection. Working on such fine needles, with extremely dark blues, with such intricate designs is extremely hard work and many of the women and men who made them were often also trying to do other jobs at the time – I take my hat off to them!

'Hooker' lino print.

‘Hooker’ lino print.

I think I have discussed this before in one of my posts about ‘hooky’ and ‘proggy’ matting. ‘Hooky’ is the term used for ‘hooking’ the loops up to make a hooky mat. And, when I teach workshops on mat making, there’s always a joke made by someone that we are ‘hookers’ – which we are in the crafty sense of the word… It is a great, traditional technique which recycles old fabrics and often brings friends and family to work together on the mat.

'Patch' lino print.

‘Patch’ lino print.

The crochet inspired print below, I hand cut yesterday. Crochet is a very tricky technique to draw out and, like the other prints, the design is representational rather than a true illustration. But, as I find on many of the sites I follow, crochet – like many crafts- is addictive!

'I Am Hooked', crochet lino print.

‘I Am Hooked’, crochet lino print.

Tomorrow, my new prints will be up on my obsesivcreativ Etsy page and I am hoping to approach some of our local craft/gift shops to sell them… as I am very pleased with how my ‘Heart’ prints are now selling at the Sage Gateshead.

‘All We Are Saying’, Call out for Blanket for Peace textile squares.

As part of a very exciting series of exhibitions to be held in September, ‘All We Are Saying’ is an international “shout out” for peace with a series of exhibitions in Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Gateshead, Newcastle and Sunderland. It is the idea of Sunderland based artist Barrie West, who has co-ordinated and inspired many creative people across the World to become involved in this amazing project.

The ideology for these exhibitions is apolitical, non-religious, non partisan or nationalistic, and (as far as possible) zero budgeted and non profit making. This is not a commercial exercise but a cry from the heart.

Alongside the All We Are Saying exhibition to be held at The Holy Biscuit in Newcastle upon Tyne and leading up to it, we are also encouraging members of the worldwide community to collaborate with us in creating a ‘Blanket of Peace’: evoking the comfort, safety and security of the community by bringing together handmade textile squares to produce a blanket. The squares will visually evoke the meaning and feeling of peace; producing a blanket that becomes a collective symbol of peace. The Blanket for Peace will be on display at The Holy Biscuit when finished.

Blanket for Peace square 'Happy People'

Blanket for Peace square ‘Happy People’

Call out for squares:
We would love people to submit squares to be stitched into our blanket. These can be made in any textile media, including crocheted, knitted, embroidery, beaded, fabric painted, patchwork and quilting. They can be as detailed as you have time for and we are very happy to encourage as many young people and children to be involved in this, too. When designing your piece, please remember that this is an optimistic and positive project and we do not wish to offend anyone with the wording or imagery. The squares should be 20 x 20 cm, with an extra 1cm for seam allowance.

These squares can either be made in the gallery during the exhibition in September or can be posted to:
Blanket for Peace,
The Holy Biscuit,
1 Clarence St,
Newcastle upon Tyne.

Please send your squares before the end of September to ensure their inclusion in the ‘Blanket for Peace’.

All the squares will be posted on our All We Are Saying at The Holy Biscuit Facebook page, so please let us know, who you are and a little bit about your peace square.

How to: Broomstick Crochet

Broomstick Crochet is a traditional technique dating back to the Victorian period. It is a very decorative technique which can make the finest mohair’s, to the cheapest polyester and the chunkiest wools, look beautiful – whether by giving them a spider web feel or an architectural structure.

Finished Broomstick Crochet Scarf

Finished Broomstick Crochet Scarf

To make this scarf, I used some beautiful wool my husband bought me for Christmas. It is called Jitterbug, made by Colinette, 100% wool, 4 ply and 400yds in length. It’s not cheap, but the colours available are fabulous! He bought it in a lovely wool shop called Woolaballo in the pretty market town of Hexham.

To make this scarf you will need:

1 x 4mm crochet hook (larger if using chunky wool)

1 Ball of wool, sock weight/4ply

1 x 15/20 or 25mm knitting needle (the larger the needle, the bigger to loops)

Wool needle to finish off the ends.

Stage 1:

Cast on in multiples of 5 (for each loop series). I usually cast on 40 chain stitches, plus 2 for turning.

Crochet cast on

Crochet cast on

Stage 2:

Crochet 3 rows of double crochet (40 stitches on row)

Foundation of Scarf

Foundation of Scarf

Stage 3:

Using your crochet hook, slip stitch one loop from the top of each stitch from the previous row and hook it onto the large knitting needle. (Not lady like – but I do find it helps to place the knitting needle between my knees to do this!) If you started with 40 stitches, you should aim to have 40 loops. (The odd one more or less is fine as you can correct it later*).

Loops onto the knitting needle.

Loops onto the knitting needle.

Stage 4:

Next row. Pick up 5 stitches (loops) together with the crochet hook and double crochet 6 times into them (first set of stitches only). Continue picking 5 stitches together across the row, but now just crochet 5 double crochets into each set. You should now have 40 stitches on your row again.

Picking 5 stitches together with crochet hook.

Picking 5 stitches together with crochet hook.

Stage 5:

At the end of the row, you should now have a pretty ‘fanned’ effect across the top stitches.

Fanned and twisted effect caused by Broomstick Crochet.

Fanned and twisted effect caused by Broomstick Crochet.

Stage 6:

Now, double crochet 2 more rows. Then, as before, make slip stitch loops into the tops of the 40 stitches and place them onto the knitting needle.

Making new Broomstick Crochet loops onto the knitting needle.

Making new Broomstick Crochet loops onto the knitting needle.

Stage 7:

Continue this way until you have reached a length you are happy with for your scarf then cast off last stitch and fasten in all your ends.

Keep working further rows.

Keep working further rows.

The beautiful fanned, texture of Broomstick Crochet.

The beautiful fanned, texture of Broomstick Crochet.

Besides making scarves, I have also used this method to make lovely warm neck collars for the tops of coats and small, more fitted snoods which work well as a roll neck on a jumper. Once you know how to achieve the technique, there’s lots of beautiful things you can make.

Below, is a ‘figure of 8’ snood which I made for my niece. This was made using organic, aran weight, Welsh wool. As you can see, this weight makes the Broomstick Crochet less ‘spidery’ but it gives it a lovely architectural look.

Broomstick Crochet Snood

Broomstick Crochet Snood

*Occasionally, you might find that you end up with 39/41 loops. Don’t worry about this as you can amend this by picking up a batch of 4 or 6 loops to correct the number and ensure you still crochet in a multiple of 5 double crochet stitches to rectify the mistake – no-one will know.

In the orginal photo of the scarf you can see at the top of this blog post. I wrapped the scarf round twice, then placed the two ends of the scarf over each other and pinned it with a brooch. This creates a cowl/snood, very warm effect.

The brooch was made using the last length of the wool. To make it, I French knitted a length, folded it into a flower shape, which I stitched together. Then I decorated it with a piece of broken jewellery in the centre and stitched beads around the edge. This can now be used to keep my scarf together (which doesn’t have to be just an outdoor scarf) or used to decorate a jacket or bag.

French Knitted brooch.

French Knitted brooch.

Handmade Christmas presents

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope 2015 brings health, happiness and plenty of creativity to sooth the soul!

I thought I would post photos of the many gifts that we sent and received at Christmas that had been handmade with plenty of love. Some of them you may have already seen, others will be new to you. I hope you enjoy looking at them all!

Lion applique drawstring bag.

Mini OC’s Lion applique drawstring bag.

This one I just love! My eldest daughter, who’s 11, made this at school as a Christmas present for her cousin (19), who she adores. She received a special merit for it at school, which I think she rightly deserves as it shows great creativity and design.

Mini OC's Francesca Fox and Molly Pup

Mini OC’s Francesca Fox and Molly Pup

I know you’ve seen this one before! But so cute!! My middle daughter, who was 9 when she made these fab creatures, made Francesca Fox and Molly Pup for both her sisters for Christmas. Her sister’s were both delighted with their new animal friends!

Mini OC's Kitten lino print

Mini OC’s Kitten lino print

My eldest daughter has enjoyed learning to lino print. She cut, printed and framed this lovely picture and gave it to a couple of her close friends, her Grandma and her little sister – who it was originally created for. She has chosen a lovely colour for the print, which she mixed herself.

Mini OC's stocking for her TedTed

Mini OC’s stocking for her TedTed

Mmmm! When a certain someone gets an idea into her head, she really can’t be stopped. My 9 year old decided that her teddy might get presents for Christmas if her also put a stocking out! So, she went ahead and knitted this stocking with no pattern, all by herself. She knows how to increase and decrease, so all I did was recommend some wool – another Poundland purchase!! Ribbon was found in the ribbon tin and she plaited the tie top.

When she realised there may be a chance TedTed may not receive Christmas presents, as Santa doesn’t normally give them to teddies, she made him a set of hat, scarf and gloves to go in the stocking! Again, no pattern or parental involvement!

Broomstick Crochet Snood

Broomstick Crochet Snood

I plan to blog a ‘How to:’ about Broomstick Crochet over the next few days, as it’s a beautiful technique and can make any wool/yarn look fabulous. I made this broomstick crochet snood for my niece as she’d seen a similar snood which she wanted me to make for her. Which, as a good Auntie, I did. She also received the lino print of a Crested Tit, which you can see below.

Lino Print Crested Tit

Crested Tit, lino print.

I also made some of my close friends some lovely applique cushions, like these I was selling in my studio.

Inside my studio - cushions, crocheted hats and chocolates!

Inside my studio – cushions, crocheted hats and chocolates!

Besides Christmas, it was also my middle daughter’s 10th birthday and I finally finished knitting her the Triceratops I’d started last year for her birthday!! (It feels good to finish a W.I.P!!) She absolutely loves all things to do with dinosaurs and so she absolutely loves her – she’s been called triSARAHtops!

Knitted Triceratops

Knitted Triceratops

I’m sure I’ve missed a couple of other handmade gifts out but he’s my husbands very important contribution to our handmade Christmas. He made our lino print Christmas cards, which are simply delicious!

Mince Pie, lino print, Christmas Cards.

Mince Pie, lino print, Christmas Cards.