Dear Annie,

I just love a good Jumble Sale. It must be hereditary, because my Dad loves them too. My parents were visiting us this weekend, and when I discovered that there was a Jumble Sale at the local church on Saturday morning, it didn't take much persuading for Dad to come along. 

I'm glad he did, because he spotted this for me:

Such a pretty little jug, for only 50p! 

At Jumble Sales, I always head straight for the table with the fabrics and linens on - I've picked up some fantastic pieces of vintage fabric over the years. This time, however, the bric-a-brac table had the best finds.

I fell for this unusual painted bowl with its fairground design. We thought that it was perhaps 1950s, judging from the clothes.

I think this may have been a punch bowl, but I am planning on using it for trifles (mmmmmm!). All in all, a pleasing (and at £1.50 jolly cheap) little outing.

Like you, I've been busy sewing in my ends. I have fourteen squares all complete now, and ready to be blocked when the time comes. Now I just need to set about making the other sixty or so! I have been managing to supplement my evening craft time by crocheting a round here and there whilst the children are happily playing, so slowly but surely I'll get there.

Love from,


PS: Readers, look out for a very special post tomorrow. We have decided to try and make the first post of each month a guest post, showcasing the work of some of the talented crafters that we know. Tomorrow's post will be written by our lovely friend (and clever knitter) Sabrina, so do pop back then and have a read. L x



Tying in the ends

Dear Laura,
It has been snowing all week here in DC, I love the snow so much. Sometimes I wish I worked for the federal government as they get so many snow days. Even though I have to go to work I do enjoy the empty metro ride and the car free streets. As I was leaving work on Wednesday I saw my bus outside the door and ran to catch it, as I approached I saw that it had been completely abandoned no driver, no passengers, lights out, just stopped in the middle of the street. I love how this city operates when we get more than an inch of snow.

This week I decided to add a new colour to my blanket, not content with all the colours I already have I have put a mustard yellow in. I wanted to brighten it up a bit and also warm it up a bit, the white and blue make the blanket feel quite cold. I also tied the ends in on this square.

This was a brilliant piece of advice, it takes a little bit of time but to do them all at the end would be terrible. It also gives a sense of satisfaction especially when you lay them all out to see how they are looking. So before I crochet another stitch I am going to tidy up the squares I already have. One down eleven to go. 
Unfortunately this is going to have to wait, there will be no sewing, knitting or crocheting for me this weekend we are going to tackle the bathroom, yikes!

Lots of love



moving swiftly on

Dear Annie, 

Our crafting syncronicity  is beginning to get a little spooky! When I logged on to my computer on Wednesday to upload the photos for this post, I checked for your latest post. Now, this Christmas, we both treated ourselves to a yarn swift and ball winder (aka 'knitting turning winding thing'), so it's probably not surprising that, come January, we both decided to have a little try. But on the same day? Spooky, I tell you.

As you said, using these exciting pieces of equipment is trickier than it looks. In our house, we decided to work together. One of us is newly crawling, one a very lively almost-three year old, and one was trying to take copious photographs. What could possibly go wrong?!

If you look closely at the above picture, you can spot both of my able assistants (and maybe even notice that the yarn on the ball-winder is starting to tangle because S is turning it the wrong way...)

Despite occasionally having to rewind a little, this was a wonderfully therapeutic activity. The yarn swift may seem to resemble a brittle and malformed umbrella but it is strangely beautiful. As the ball winder turns, the yarn swift follows suit, and its gentle sound and movement are both compelling and mesmerising.  Even busy little S was entranced by it. There is some elementary magic involved in turning this...

into this...

A gorgeous ball of Cascade 220 ready to be cast on this weekend. It's destined to be a Ripley lace-edged hat. The perfect pattern for dipping my toe into the lacy water. 

I wonder what your newly-wound yarn is going to become?

Love from,


PS: I love your bag! And to think, my poor little swift will be getting so cold... Oh, and I think the plastic thing that you threw away is probably the handle to use if you want to hold the ball-winder in your hand. As long as you keep attaching it to the table, you won't need it. (Phew!)


New toys

Dear Laura,
For christmas, or well before christmas I got myself a new toy (as you know because you got one too).  It is wonderful although I am not 100% sure yet how to use it. It is a knitting turning winding thing. I am pretty sure that is the official name. I was all over confident when I bought my skeins of wool from the shop and when the lady asked if I would like it wound I said "no no I can do it at home". Turns out it isn't as easy as it looks. Luckily with every new purchase comes a project to make a bag to store it in. 
I used some of the fabric I brought back with me from my trip to the UK you can see it in this post
I am going to double it up as a bag to store my crochet squares in as well. I am also going to take the advice of Clairy who commented on your playing with colour post that we should start tying the ends in now otherwise we will be cursing ourselves later on. 
I do have one question about my wool spinner/winder. When I opened the box there was a piece I didn't know what to do with. It looked like a plastic handle, I just went to find it to take a picture to show you and it looks like I threw it away in a fit of tidiness, I hope it wasn't important. If anyone knows what it was or what I was supposed to do with it please let me know. I might be trawling ebay looking for a replacement. 
Lots of love



the hat fits!

Dear Annie,

Finally! An Aviatrix that fits Baby R.

After my disastrously small version , I made sure that I did a gauge swatch before casting on, and it turned out that with this yarn, I actually needed to go up a needle size! 
Three lessons learned with this project:

1) Always do a gauge swatch
2) My children have very large heads (he's 8 months, and this is the 12 months size!)
3) It's uncommonly tricky to take a photo of a baby modelling his new hat...

Love from,



Drape Drape Dress

Dear Laura,

A couple of weeks ago I was faffing around on the internet when I saw this dress and I fell in love with it. I thought to myself I must have it, NOW... So I started my investigation, how was I going to make it? What was I going to make it out of? and seeing how it is mid winter when was I going to wear it? Luckily, there were a few clues on the Jorth blog. The first being where she got the pattern from, it is from a book called "Drape Drape 2". Apparently a Japanese book and from first search not available to buy on Amazon (not that I had the patience to wait for the book to arrive anyway). 

In order to try to figure out how the dress was made I searched the internet high and low to see if I could find any more information. Low and behold someone else had also made the dress, Nikki-Shell. So now I had three photos from that blog, two from the other blog (she had also made a small one for her daughter) and the picture from the book. Oh and a final piece of vital information, the dress was made from one piece of fabric. 
With all of this in mind I set about thinking of how to make a pattern for the dress and for the first time ever decided to make a mock up so I could ruin it before making the final dress. I began with some very small dresses, ones that would fit on my wrist. This however, didn't really provide the draping I was after, so I just went for it and laid my fabric out and cut.
Sewing it together roughly, I was having real trouble with the draping, I was pulling and pushing and squeezing and adjusting the dress on myself in the mirror (no sewing mannequin for me!) and I just couldn't work it out. Most of the time I just looked like a Roman Senator. A flattering look I know but not really the one I was going for. I put the dress down for a week, slightly deflated because I couldn't work it out. Then eureka! I put the dress back on and pulled at the top, suddenly drapes similar to the ones in the pictures appeared.
Flushed with success, I quickly cut around the seams to produce the pattern I needed. Then I folded the dress up scared to unpick and cut out the real one. Finally I got up the courage and carefully unpicked the dress, lay it out on the red jersey fabric and cut and sewed and smiled. It was really quick once I had figured out a pattern of sorts. Only a couple of hours.

Oh, do you want to see the dress.... well I don't have a great picture of it yet, flat light... winter time... Oh never mind... here it is. 

I changed the neck and capped the sleeves other than that it is pretty much the same as the ones I saw in the pictures. Don't look to closely because I haven't hemmed the bottom yet, that is the task for this afternoon! I love it so much.

Lots of love



playing with colour

Dear Annie,

This blog is no longer just a tale of two friends, two crafts and two cities; it's now a tale of two blankets, too!

There's been a strange synchronicity to our first foray into crochet. Almost simultaneously, we decided that we wanted to learn. We were independently inspired by this fabulous blanket  (made by Sue over at The Quince Tree) and each decided that we wanted to crochet our own granny square blanket. At this point, we decided to make it our joint new years resolution and we both set to work developing our skills. You helped me out with this tutorial and I inspired you to have a go at this pattern.
We both experimented with using white as a border. Like you, however, I decided that I would prefer to make a more randomly colourful blanket. 

This is not just my first ever crochet project, it is also my first ever project using acrylic yarn. I am usually rather a purist when it comes to yarn, preferring natural fibres. For this project, however, I decided to give acrylic a try. It was vastly cheaper, light, and most importantly, washable. I want to make a blanket that we can use, and that means a blanket that I can wash easily! The yarn that I am using also comes in a fabulous range of colours.
Using Sue's colour palette as a starting point (but adapting it to include purple, of course!), I ordered seven balls of Stylecraft Special DK ; six different colours and white.
Each square that I make uses three different colours, plus white. I've been surprised by just how much I have enjoyed experimenting with the different colour combinations. It's fascinating the way in which a colour can seem to change, depending on which colours are placed next to it.
My favourite colour combination to date is the red, yellow and purple squares:

Like you, I've found it seriously addictive! As you may be able to spot, though, I haven't yet woven in any of my ends. I've vowed to do so before I crochet another square, and hopefully I can do them as I go along from now on.  

I have been having a read of a tutorial by clever Lucy at Attic24  (who also inspired my choice of yarn). It shows how to join Granny Squares. I think, though, that before I join any, I will have to finish all my squares, lay them out, and experiment with the different combinations. 

It's such fun, playing with colour!

Love from,



Dear Laura,
Thanks for making me think again why I sew and knit, it definitely has a lot to do with the process itself. In fact the process of crocheting was the only thing that I have been able to do this week. As I wrote on Saturday I was completely knocked out with the flu for the long weekend and other than faffing about on the internet and watching TV there were few activities I could do sitting almost perfectly still and quiet. 

Luckily I thought about my blanket. Crocheting was excellent. It kept my mind occupied enough to not go completely insane and gave me little goals and accomplishments in days dominated by pajamas, sleeping and addictively switching on the next episode of Mad Men. 
I was a little disheartened because I didn't like the colours I had chosen or the pattern that much. But I loved the crochet square you showed me in your last update and I couldn't resist I decided that that was that, this is the blanket I am going to make. And it worked. I am crocheting happily, however, I have discovered that I am going to need more wool which means I can include even more colours. I have already raided my stash for wool similar to the stuff I am already using.
When I showed R my squares, all with a white boarder, his comment was rather strange, he said "I find the white boarder a little creepy". What he meant by that I haven't a clue, this did get me thinking though and I have decided, along with the fact my white was running out really quickly, that it is going to be multicoloured goodness all the way. I have also decided to lay off the Mad Men for a while. I think two series straight has addled my brain a little as I was expecting to see lots of very handsomely dressed men sipping whiskey at work today (not so it turns out). 
Lots of Love



it's all part of the process

Dear Annie,

Since Christmas, my good friend A and I have been making a conscious effort to give S and his much-loved friend G more opportunities to experience a range of creative activities. On my part, this was fuelled to some extent by this post from Sew Liberated. Of course S and G are often involved in messy play, art activities, baking, etc, but we felt that a more structured weekly session together dedicated to this type of play would be beneficial to us all. To date, the boys have enjoyed wet-on-wet watercolour painting and baking cookies.

With both of these tasks, it was clear that for an almost-three year old, it's the process -not the product -which is important. Tactile and visual exploration; experimentation and the development of new skills were what the boys found fascinating. Their abundant creativity was focused on the journey, and the end product was largely irrelevant to them.

 As a result, I have been reflecting a little on my own creative endeavours, such as they are. When I knit or sew, crochet or bake, is it the process that interests me, or is it the end product? I think that the difference between myself and the boys is that I imbue my actions with an expectation of success. I expect (or hope) to produce a cake that rises, a hat that fits, a seam that is straight, and if I don't, then it's easy to feel that I have failed. What I hope the boys can teach me is that the creative process has it's own intrinsic value; even if the end product isn't perfect, it can be successful if I have learnt new skills along the way. 

In fact, when I think hard about why I knit, or bake, or sew, my motivating factor is rarely because I want a hat or a cake or a bag (although there is a definite joy to be found in producing the exact one that I fancy), in fact, it is because I enjoy knitting, baking and sewing. The product is a gratifying outcome, but it's the process that I find soothing, uplifting or pleasurable.

Having said that, after the lengthy creative process that involved much unpicking whilst I taught myself to W&T, and learning the hard way to always do a gauge swatch, I was very happy last night to cast off an Aviatrix as a baby gift for the new daughter of some friends (baby R, I promise that yours will be the very next project on my needles). 

Love from,

edited to add: I've finally managed to get enough natural light to take a flash-free photograph of the hat so I have updated the picture.


A Winter Coat

Dear Laura,

I have the lurgy so I haven't been able to finish my dress sewing this week. I will have to show it off to you next week. Instead I am going to tell you the story of a coat I made a long time ago. 
About 10 years ago I bought a coat for one shinny English pound from The Real McCoy (a lovely vintage clothes shop). It just happened to be far to big for me and far to short. Originally I think it was supposed to be ankle length. I wore it anyway because I lived in Scotland, was a student and needed to keep warm. 

After my student days I realised that I really shouldn't be wearing clothes that didn't fit at all anymore so I decided to alter it and so began a very very lengthy project. At first I pulled in the sides to make it less bulky, pulled the buttons to the side rather than down the middle and fiddled with the back to make it look more fitted. I took off the arms, and adjusted them to be more tight fitting at the top to give the coat a sleeker look. Finally I took the collar and messed around with it until I liked how it looked. 
I wore the coat like this for some time, but still I was not totally happy with it, the arms were still too short and the buttons were too military looking. When I moved to London I lived fairly close to Portobello market and there is a lady there who just sells the most wonderful buttons and too my joy I found just the ones that would be right on the coat. The very last touch on the coat was adding some red corduroy from a skirt I bought on sale in Glasgow to the sleeves to lengthen them to fit. 
For me this coat is a reminder of my life. I bought it in Devon, wore it throughout my undergraduate years, fixed it in Bristol, bought the buttons in London, fixed the sleeves on the Isle of Coll and relined it in Nottingham. Every part of the coat reminds me of a part of my life and now every time I wear it in DC it makes me feel at home.
I love the circle granny square you crocheted and I think I might now snuggle under a blanket and try that today.

Lots of love



too small (but perfectly formed)

Dear Annie,

A couple of nights ago, I finished baby R's Aviatrix. Once I had the W&T stitch figured out, it knitted up incredibly quickly. I was delighted with it. I loved the shape and style, I was pleased with the colour and the softness of the yarn and I was thrilled that some vintage buttons I had hoarded away were the perfect colour-match. Oh, how proud I was of my accomplishment!

The next morning, when baby R woke up, I looked at his head...then I looked at the hat... then I looked at his head again. The hat was too small! Far, far too small. Now baby R is four months old and I had made the twelve months size, so I was very confused. Until, that is , I looked again at my needles. Not my 5.5mm needles as I had thought. No, I had actually been using 5mm needles. Hmmm. Knitting School Lesson One: needle size affects gauge. Knitting School Lesson Two: always do a gauge swatch. Ooops! Straight to lazy knitters' detention for me!

Still, too small it may be, but it is nevertheless very sweet. I'm sure we have a teddy bear who will look just lovely in it! Luckily for baby R, I have over a ball of Lima left, so I can cast on forthwith and make him a new one before springtime arrives, and yes, I will be doing a gauge swatch this time!

Thankfully, I have been having more luck with crochet. Your impressive progress spurred me on to pick up my hook again, and your suggestion to check out Meet Me at Mikes was genius! Thanks to the excellent tutorials there, I have finally cracked it and in just one evening my grannies went from this:

to this

and then -after some searching around on Ravelry for just the right pattern- to this:

I can't resist it -the obvious crochet pun- I'm hooked!

Love from, 
Laura x

PS: Thank you kindly to Erin, who has also kindly given us an award. We're so glad that you enjoy reading and it's been lovely to visit you in return.
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