Thursday, 11 December 2008

Boxed up

Having listed another Midnight Blizzard cuff yesterday, I decided not to rush making another brooch or cuff to get it listed in time for my North America Christmas deadline. I could have managed something I think but it would have been a rushed job and being the persnickety thing that I am, I don't want to list anything that I've not taken a reasonable amount of time making.

Having told myself that there was little sense in hurrying to get anything more listed (for the sake of my sanity as well as quality control!) I spent the evening watching my old video of Love Actually. It was the first time in a long while that I've sat down and not been thinking about making things or doing my accounts, and I think I needed it. This film always makes me feel festive and recall the day I met Richard Curtis, outside Somerset House, filming a snippet of a skating rink for the opening sequence!

I was woken from my peaceful post-relaxing-evening sleep by a very early (8.30 am) visit from the postman delivering a parcel I've been anxiously awaiting. At last, I have my new jewellery boxes!

I'm really pleased with them, though a little disappointed that Royal Mail managed to take a week to deliver them. Any earrings or necklaces sold now will come packaged like so:


Plus a little raffia ribbon or suchlike to finish it off. The great thing about the boxes is not only are they a more practical way for me to package jewellery, they're also made with recycled card and covered with paper from sustainable forests.

I'm going to slow down production for the next week while I get ready to go away for Christmas. Lots of exciting new plans for the new year though, so watch this space for more of my scribblings and ramblings!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Decembrrrrr!

Winter is well and truly here and I'm feeling the temptation to build myself a nest out of fabric and hibernate until the swallows come back. This isn't a good time to be sleeping though, and I'm full of plans and ideas so I get the feeling if I were to huddle down under the duvet for the next three months, at the very least I'd have to take my sketchbook with me, and a torch!

Alternatives to hibernation are:
Good food (gallons of spicy parsnip soup!) ... check
Hot water bottle ... check
Fluffy slipper socks ... check
Official designated 'making things' hat (see pic in previous post) ... check

There are many things I'd like to get completed and listed on Etsy before Wednesday's Christmas shipping for North America deadline. I'm back in work at my day job at the weekend, so realistically I don't think I'll get absolutely everything on my list done. I'm determined though to have at least one more cuff made and hopefully a brooch or two.

I've ordered some lovely eco-friendly boxes for my jewellery which will hopefully arrive early next week, as well as a new (to me) crafting product that I'm really excited about. Its silk habotai that you can put through an inkjet printer - like the cotton I use for my care labels. Since my lack of space at home means I can't try my hand at screenprinting yet, this is going to be a simple alternative. I'm going to design some abstract line-drawn patterns that will work cut up for my brooches, earrings etc.

Some of the patterns will be based around the sorts of shapes I already use in things like my 'shoal' designs. I'm also really inspired by Indian patterns, like those used in Mehndi designs painted onto hands. Check out these stunning ones:
http://www.colourlovers.com/blog/2008/11/22/the-colorful-art-of-mehndi

Thursday, 27 November 2008

I don't want a lot for Christmas...

...there are just a few things I need...
So - friends, relatives, mysterious wealthy benefactors (I can dream, can't I?) - if you're reading this, I'd like...

An obi belt from loobyloucrafts - she's right here in Cornwall and you can't get better than handmade AND local now can you?
Pretty much anything from PrinceDesignUK - gorgeous ceramics there
Again, almost anything by the wonderfully talented AnneJulie
Snuggly wuggly armwarmers by Overcast (dark blue maybe?)
Pretty print of a bird and a nest by Geninne - aren't the colours gorgeous?
I love the brooches and tea sets by EstherCoombs - she buys crockery from charity shops and draws onto them with special ink - such a wonderful way of reinvigorating old china!
I've been wanting a kimono wrap from MeandD for soooo long. Charcoal blue sounds especially lovely.
Anything by Rob Ryan. He's my all time hero.
Beautiful legwarmers from adventuresofjr
One of ellembee's pretty t-shirts
A posey ring from KathrynRiechert - I love the hand stamped lettering, though I can't choose the best word... 'dream' maybe or 'create'
A steampunk bee from tinyminds - I love the idea of clockwork insects!
Umbrella earrings by clevergirl - I've been eyeing those for a long time too. Of course there's the small matter of me not having pierced ears anymore...but that can be remedied. Especially considering I'd also love some bird earrings from Tillybloom. I wonder if my shipping coupon from her is still valid...
These applique rabbit maryjanes from Anda at stopsandstarts - if they were only in my size (curses, large feet!)
And this lovely artwork from HidenSeek.

That's the top most items on my etsy wishlist (I could have added more, trust me!) Other things I want for Christmas are boring-to-look-at-on-a-blog non-handmade things (Stardust on DVD, for instance...) and of course I want to see friends and family for Christmas. One friend who I won't get to see over Christmas has just been to stay - so that was like a mini Christmas present in itself :D
This is Paula - banana cake baker and illustrator extraordinaire.

And, since I managed to persuade Paula to take a picture of me, I thought I'd finally bite the bullet and show the world my face...
After many attempts that had unfortunate blinking, strange facial expressions etc, I settled on this one of me in my stylish burnt orange hat (with inevitable seagull flying out of my head, seemingly!)

In other news, I am planning on adding a couple of pendant necklaces to the shop on Friday :)

Monday, 10 November 2008

In the works and in the oven

A few days ago, I started gathering supplies for some new things for the shop. Hopefully coming in the next couple of days will be some lovely navy blue cotton jersey - thicker than the cotton lycra jersey I've been using for scarves and ideal for chillier weather and snow themed scarves. :) Its a new supplier for me so I've hedged my bets and only ordered enough for two scarves - which puts me in a quandry. If this fabric proves to be as ideal as I hope, at first I will only be able to make two of my three designs. Ohhhhhh which to make first?! The blizzard scarf is a definite, since my blizzard cuffs have proven to be popular. But peacock feathers or dusky petals? Hmmm.

In addition to the assorted scarves in the works, I'm developing another exciting new product for the shop that I think will make great gifts...

Pendant necklaces, made in a similar way to my fabric earrings. I'm just waiting on some sterling silver bails, which are the part that connects a pendant to a necklace, and then after I've made some scarves I'll start on the pendants.

I'm adapting my 'fish' design, originally for earrings, into a pendant design and a brooch design. The name has always niggled at me - the idea of adorning yourself with sealife is obviously not too appealing! For my necklace featuring lots of 'fish', I decided on the name Shoal - I like the sound of the word, and it's relevant without sounding too mundane. For the earrings I had felt that 'Shoal' sounded odd, since there weren't so many 'fish'. But I'm veering towards it as a name for all my fish inspired jewellery. If you have time to vote on my poll on the right, I'd love to know what you guys think of the new names I have in mind.

Feeling a little bit like hibernating today, I treated myself to one of my favourite cold weather dinners. Since people liked my apple toddy 'recipe', I thought I'd share the recipe for my Savoury Crumble here. I got the idea from a pub restaurant that I frequent with my parents when they're visiting, and I adapted it for my own storecupboard.

Ingredients to make two generous portions
Filling:
One large sweet potato
Two carrots
Half an onion
One garlic clove
1 pint of stock
A little olive oil or sunflower oil.

Topping:
100g flour
80g butter or margarine
A handful of porridge or rolled oats (optional)
A handful of sunflower seeds (optional)
Herbs (rosemary and coriander are both nice with this)
Ground black pepper

Method:
Set your oven to about 190 degrees celsius.
Chop garlic and onion.
Peel and chop the potato and carrots into cubes. Put them on to boil with the stock.
Put the flour and butter/margarine into a bowl and make into 'breadcrumbs'. You need to use the tips of your fingers to rub the butter into the flour so it forms little breadcrumb-like pieces. Next, add the oats, seeds and seasoning and mix together.
Fry the garlic and onion until soft.
By now, your vegetables should have boiled for about 15 minutes and be almost cooked.
Put the onion, garlic and vegetables into an ovenproof dish. You should have enough stock for the mixture to be quite moist, but not swimming in stock. Then, put your crumble topping onto the vegetables in a thick, even layer.
Bake in the oven for about half an hour to 40 minutes.
Serve as a side dish or as a filling vegetarian main course with broccoli or peas.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Cosiness

Brrrrrrrr it's cold!

You can really feel the nights drawing in for winter here. I went to the post office this afternoon to send a scarf on its way and it was so dark outside, I asked the postmistress if she was closing soon - it felt much later than it was. Luckily she wasn't about to close and the recipient of the first ever Treacle Toffee scarf should have their parcel soon.

I'm going to be adding more scarves soon (likely next week) - another Shoal one methinks, another Tree Rings one definitely...and I think I may have found the perfect dark blue cotton jersey for these...

The 'Dusky Petals' design will be the first thing in my shop in quite a while to feature a colour other than blue, grey, brown or green! It will be layered circles of a gorgeous dusky raspberry linen I got a while ago, along with some nice rose silk. I was going to make the scarf base with a shade of raspberry pink jersey (and I may make a version with that as well at some point) but I think the colours I have would look rather striking against navy blue. What do you think?

Cold weather accessories are definitely going to take priority for a while - scarves for necks and cuffs for wrists (jewellery that helps keep you warm!) I really wanted to make some bags (the initial sketches for which I posted on the other blog many moons ago) but I am going to need to dedicate some time to making the design as good as it can be - hopefully I'll have more on that in early 2009.

Stay cosy, folks!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Results Day

I tend to stick to the rule of never mixing business with either politics or religion - you never know who you might offend.

But, contentious as it may be, Wednesday is a big day. Even Brits like me (and no doubt people of many other nations) are following this election with interest, since it will have an impact of some kind on all of us. On Wednesday, all this waiting and wondering will be over, the results will be in and America will have chosen a new president.

For now, nothing about Wednesday is certain.

Well...one small thing, actually. You can be certain that on Wednesday, Treacle Toffee will have a lovely shop update*. Sure, it's not going to change the world. But maybe it'll change your wardrobe ;-) I hope it puts a smile on your faces, whether you're happy with the vote count or not.

Happy November!

* The size of this update is slightly dependant on my back injury (see other blog) not worsening drastically, but I'm confident I'll have something new for you.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Opulence

A little over a year ago, I went to a zoo, and while sitting in the outdoor cafe with a lemonade, this fellow nonchalantly walked by, two metres away from where I sat. He kindly posed while I took his photograph, before strutting on.

Peacocks have always been one of my favourite birds - such wonderful colours. I'm always a little amazed when I see them flying and can't help feeling a little envious of those who live in warmer climes where you can find these creatures in the wild. It's a treat to see one in the zoo (especially if he shows off his tail for you) but to have them out and about in everyday life from time to time must make life feel that little bit more special, more glamorous...

Inspired by the opulence of peacocks, I'm working on some brooches based on the 'eyes' of their tail feathers. We all need a little glamour sometimes don't we?

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Fall for you

Sigh.
I've had one of those frustrating days of doing errands, where all the errand-locations are far apart and require scurrying in drizzly rain for hours on end. It's been a grey weather day, but it's also that lovely time of year when all the leaves fall off the trees. So, my scurryings were brightened up by carpets of golden yellow, rich brown and vibrant red. Nothing better to get me in the mood for making more autumn leaf brooches!

I'm pleased to say I've also completed my tree rings scarf. Stitching the semi-circles on by hand took quite a long time but I'm pleased with the effect - I know it wouldn't have been the same with machine stitching.



Home at last after my errands, I made my favourite autumn drink to give me a little boost. I call it a hot apple toddy - though since it doesn't have any alcohol in it I'm not sure toddy is the right word! It is very warming and comforting all the same.

Take one big mug...fill to about half way with chilled apple juice (the real kind is best, though this time I had to settle for 'from concentrate') ... sprinkle on a teaspoon of ground cinnamon... and fill to the top of the mug with hot (not quite boiling) water. Oooh lovely :D

Monday, 29 September 2008

Wishing for the cloths of heaven

He wishes for the cloths of heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.

-- William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

These were good trees

Hello,
I'm going to start this brand new blog with a fancy word...

Dendrochronology. This is the big long fancy name for the study of tree rings (aka growth rings) - the concentric circles you see on the top of tree stumps.

Ever since I was a kid I've found tree stumps simultaneously sad and beautiful. Sad of course because the tree is gone, but beautiful in the way each one is unique, like a thumbprint. There's something intriguing about how you can tell not just how long the tree grew for but what the weather was like each year...in a way, what kind of life the tree had. Looking at a cross section of a tree, there's a sense of looking backwards through time...kind of the opposite of a crystal ball. I find it sort of comforting when I see a tree stump, to count the rings to reassure myself that it had a chance to grow and think to myself "this was a good tree".

Tree rings are one of several themes for the shop this autumn. The original idea was for a scarf (which I plan to make very soon)


...and then I thought oooh they'd be good as brooches too...

So I cut out circles in textured cream and chocolate brown silk and very carefully stitched lots of circles on to the top layer...


Stitched the pin back and labels onto the backs of the brown circles, then sewed them together...ta-da!


These are more delicate than some of my previous brooches, and being smaller and lighter makes them great for pinning to clothes (my bulkier brooches are more suited to coat lapels, bags and suchlike). I think they'd look sweet on my tree rings scarves too :)

They should be up in the shop quite soon, plus some more new things, so keep watching!