Friday, 18 September 2015

Slow crochet - a Loop giveaway

When I learned to crochet some three years ago I dreamed of blankets-huge ones to swaddle myself in and fall asleep under on a cold winter's afternoon,blankets I had made myself over many months and that one day I would perhaps give to my daughters when they left home: woolly heirlooms.

My first projects were modest and small: a coaster or two and a simple cowl for my smallest daughter. As my confidence grew I made the ubiquitous south bay shawlette and a baby guinea pig designed by Kati Galusz who starred in her own Vine and whom I named Delia Sniff. I was nearly defeated by Delia's amigurumi sit-me-down but I hooked on.

The idea of a blanket rumbled and simmered. I feared my craft attention span may be too short to complete such a long term, large crochet project. I worried I may begin with good intentions and abandon the woolly ship when it was no bigger than a placemat - that it might languish forlornly under some new shiny woolliness.

To guard against the risk of technical trickiness cooling my blanketty fire I decided upon a single  enormous Granny square: simple, reassuring and, hopefully big enough for a 5' 11" woman to nestle beneath. Then came the yarn decision. As my initial enthusiam waned I needed a backup factor to replace it. I reasoned that if my yarn with thick and voluptuous then my blanket would grow quickly and the excitement of seeing it expand with each row would prevent tragic blanket neglect.

Oh Loop how do I love thee, let me count the ways...

I had a meeting in London and found myself in Camden passage. Loop, arguably London's most beautiful yarn shop beckoned. Oh though, the yarn-filled shelves held almost too much choice. I plunged my hand into cube after cube of delicious fibres. I gathered my thoughts and focussed on the chunky options. The jewel-like shades and gossamer softness of Misti alpaca handpaint were hard to ignore. I stroked skein after skein in the colours of bluebells, faberge eggs, wintry lakes and then I spotted 'sky grey', like a watercolour of a Norfolk beach. Two skeins of this exquisitely soft, painterly yarn came home with me.

The granny square began to grow quickly and my fear of stitchy boredom was unfounded as the colour of the yarn shifted subtly with each stitch, from white, through aquamarine, cyan, grey and mossy green and back to white again. I hared through those first two skeins and my outsized granny square came to a halt. I yearned for more but decided to draw out the delicious process of making this blanket. Have you ever done this? It's the delay of woolly pleasure - luxuriating in the lovely process of hand making an object. I asked for a skein or two at Christmas and birthdays. I would buy one as a treat when we went on holiday, returning to Loop each time I was in London. The blanket grew steadily and I savoured every handpainted stitch.

I've been adding to my blanket for over a year and is not yet done. This may seem strange - there is usually guilt associated with unfinished objects but for me the end of yarn trailing from it holds the promise of more making joy, more beautiful stitches in the colours of sea and sky and rock. In fact despite the prospect of a deliciously thick, kitten-soft textile to swaddle myself in once it's done, I'll mourn the completion of this blanket slightly - I'll miss the sight of the yarn being looped steadily into clusters and each cluster into smallish duckegg blue bricks in the wall of the granny square. I'll miss each movement of my hook and each time I wind a skein around my thumb to make an exquisitely soft egg-like ball of yarn. Each small step of this project has been a sensory joy.

Loop's delicious interior

I'm utterly thrilled that Susan from Loop has offered a voucher for me to giveaway. £25 is a yarny spree, a skein of Misti alpaca and a beautiful crochet hook, a chance to visit this divine shop, either online or in person and dawdle over its beautiful shelves, knowing that you can skip off to checkout  with glee carrying a real or virtual basket of soft goodness. You may enter below in four different ways (I know!) and the giveaway will be open until next Friday, 25th September when the clever Rafflecopter shenanigans will choose a woolly winner.

Best of all yarny luck...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 4 September 2015


This humble yet exquisite group of flowers have long been my favourites, They're enduring design muses, the unsung stars of the British hedgerow and have made their way into my collections several times. Lucienne Day and Angie Lewin used them as the starting point for iconic surface pattern and print motifs.That delicate parasol-like shape stays stubbornly in my mind - I see it in the scallops of treble stitches in my current south bay shawl and it inspired my crochet umbel garland design.

I've written about this exquisite groups of flower species over on Emma Harris's blog aquietstyle today. My piece is here.

Postscript: my studio and I were featured in the Guardian this week - part of a piece on female entrepreneurs and their sheds. Pop over here for a read if you fancy finding out about the story of my small making space.

Monday, 31 August 2015

A month of photographs

Images by:
Heatheryounguk, Lillilivetandme, Lillalinaea
Lamiacasanelvento, b.o.sted, Idamagntorn
vjgarden, Lindathepotter, Celiahartartist

Back in May, despite my reservations and protestations to myself that I didn't have the time, I wandered over Instagram and began to be, for want of a lovelier phrase, a Regular User. I started posting every day and found that rather than being a bind, taking a picture or twelve and choosing one to post became part of my morning routine and something to savour. What's more, blogfriends of old are over there and each image is a mini post, a quick catch up with what they're making, baking growing or stitching. It's a very good place and I found I became rather hooked.

Image by Laura of circle of pines

Laura and I first met online in 2009, or was it 2008? Anyway, we first connected long ago in the days of blogging yore when my girls were very tiny and this online journal lark was still rather new to me. She commissioned a necklace, and it was an honour to make it for her. Then she moved blog home to Circle of Pinetrees, became an accomplished Instagram early adopter, and we rather lost touch. How lovely then, to have rediscovered her beautiful, restful images and begin to chat again via Instagram. 

Images by:, sewrecycled, maisondevere
littlegreenshed, meandorla, c_colli
happylittlefeather, maisondevere, wealdblog

Rather shyly I emailed her suggesting we run a small Instagram project together during July -a celebration of what makes those few weeks joyous: making, scampering, sandcastling, cake-eating, stitching, collecting, harvesting, growing and well, all the good things about that excellent holiday-ish month. She agreed, which was excellent, and I did a small dance of glee and then we shared our plan on the internet.

Around 1300 images were submitted for Making July. As an Instagram new girl I was utterly gobsmacked and thrilled. I barely knew how to add a hashtag (or as Kimmy calls them 'hashbrowns'). The Making July feed quickly became a truly gorgeous place to visit. 

Images by:
lp_lisalisa, canarychinasuerap_art
ceramicmagpie, lewesmap, sew_simone
janickeeline, bristol parenting cafe, anskye

In the last day or three (it has taken a w.h.i.l.e) Laura and I have chosen our favourite images from this joy-giving collection. It was almost impossible to decide and I fretted and machinated and paced for some hours yesterday. Finally I selected 27 beautiful pictures that capture the sheer summery happiness and then gnawed on my fingernails whilst struggled to whittle them down further to just two.

This image by @Lewesmap of cherries ready to be eaten and @vjgarden's wonderful picture of a little walnut boat were the ones that stood out for me. Frankly I want to scoff the cherries and then sail this little boat in a puddle or stream. My girls made similar boats, with sails made of ferns, at Cod Beck North Yorkshire two weeks ago. Oh summer, you fickle fiend. It's absolutely tipping it down outside our bedroom window as I type this. The cherries and sparkling water are nowhere. Grey, dreich skies and puddles are evident. I'm having a slightly wistful July-based reverie.

Laura has also chosen two exquisite favourites, by @lillalinaea and @harryandfrank. Images of small hands busily playing with shells and some heavenly-looking lavender shortbread. They're seasonal moments that capture July wonderfully.

I'll be making charm necklaces for the four winners - fine silver feathers perhaps, acorns or forget-me-nots, wrens or little autumnal twigs. It's their choice

Are you on Instagram? How do you find it compares to blogging? I'm @silverpebble2. It would be great to see you over there and I highly recommend it as a soothing place to forget stresses and find both inspiration and excellent like-minded folk...(oh and our new guinea pigs)

Note: Lewesmap, vjgarden, harryandfrank, lillalinaea, please email me on and we can begin to plan your necklaces.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015


This year we decided to stay right where we were for the summer holidays. We're saving up to make our two bedroom cottage a little bigger next year so exploring on our doorstep (with associated pyjama days with gargantuan pancake breakfasts, scampering in the garden and crochet) seemed like an excellent plan.

Have you been to West Runton beach in Norfolk? The rockpooling! The blennies! THE CRABS! Finding a sea anemone attached to a pebble, popping it in your bucket and watching its tentacles emerge is a source of rockpool joy. Youngest found a crab and called him 'Chicken Kebab'. Eldest caught a shrimp and declared that he was grumpy, so she called him 'Stinkeye'. Stinkeye, Chicken Kebab and two other crustaceans were placed in the same bucket. Unexpectedly a small pincer-ish melee ensued. Chicken Kebab did not fare well. I'll leave that slightly tragic story there...

Lenny blenny and Penny Blenny.

My very first crocheted shawl was a South Bay Shawlette. Have you tried this pattern? Its two row repeat is brilliant - it grows quickly and looks so fancy-ish and lacy that passers by are sure to ooh and ahh at your astonishing hook-ish skills. Also, you can channel Miss Matty to excellent effect whilst wearing it *adjusts day cap*. In reality it's quite a simple series of chains and clusters of trebles. I began a new South Bay during my staycation as a woolly treat. I skipped off to The Sheep Shop and bought three skeins of the beautifully soft undyed Blue faced Leicester chunky roving. It's coming along nicely and making my lap cosy as the evenings grow slightly chillier. 

During our holiday-at-home spent a fair amount of time in two very familiar yet excellent places.

The wood behind our cottage, where we discovered small clouds of butterflies during the golden hour and Minnie the dog (now 15 and in her sprightly dotage) pretended to be a top predator as ever, but in reality scampered about a bit and burgled blackberries from the bushes.

We burgled some too of course...

The garden and my shed/studio. It's a small box of holiday at the end of the garden. We always feel relaxed in this little space. There's been lego-ing, barbeque-scoffing, lolling, napping and sheltering from rainstorms up there. It may not be a beach hut but watching the dog dozing on the lawn next to my cutting patch (whilst eating a chunk of cake and sipping a gin) was almost as good as a view of the sea. Almost.

Finally I have been on a small baking odyssey during our break. I made scones for only the second time ever. Have you ever eaten a dense, baking powder-bitter scone in a teashop? I've had plenty and having made tragic pancake-like scones that tasted as though they were made entirely from neutrons on my first try 15 years ago I felt the scone fear. I tried a recipe involving a squeeze of lemon in the milk, added zest to the mix and used cranberries instead of rasins and they were a light fluffy joy with a delicious crust. In fact we had them for breakfast the next day, after which the entire batch had disappeared.

Despite my reservations we do feel refreshed and ready for the *whispers* A-word which I can feel creeping round the corner.

Have you ever had a staycation? What did you get up to?

Friday, 7 August 2015

The silver spitfire

One of the things I love most about taking on jewellery commissions is the variety and, sometimes, the quirkiness of the silvery requests I receive. Once I was asked to make a tiny 3 dimensional squirrel as the customer was so fond of them. Recently I made a little silver daffodil for someone whose grandmother had adored narcissi and had cherished them in her garden. I have made almost everything you could imagine, from a silver wren to buoy someone up whilst they received their chemotherapy, to a little silver primrose for a 25th anniversary present (the recipient adored Spring flowers) to a hopeful pair of cufflinks with the emblem of the AA etched into them. Most commissions have a story - the piece of jewellery I make is for a loved one. The design reflects their passions, their achievements, or is simply something that will cheer, fortify or spark a memory. Each one of my commissions is an honour to undertake.

When I received a message from Alex (we follow one another on Twitter) asking whether I could make a silver version of a tiny spitfire his grandad had made I was moved and thrilled. He sent me this small treasure a week or so later. It was created by painstakingly beating and rolling an old penny, then folding, sawing and filing it into the shape of a perfect little aircraft. The spitfore is one of the emblems of the battle of Britain, and, indeed, World War II as a whole. Alex's Grandad flew one. He was a crucial member of our winning team. He helped to ensure that Alex parents, Alex, and indeed all of us were free of Nazi tyranny. This man's respect for the onslaught and his fellow pilots and soldiers was channelled into a small piece of perfectly crafted metal. It's hard to express how beautiful this little artefact is. Alex's Grandad made it during the war. It is a bona fide piece of history and I was responsible for making a silver cast of it. Quite a responsibility.

I worried in case I would lose this tiny, precious, treasure. I fretted about the accuracy of the cast I made. I was filled with makey trepidation. I used the miraculous silicon casting gum we use in my silver workshops to make the silver replica. It allows the tiniest detail to be captured in the silver clay: the ridges and whorls of a fingerprint, the miniscule detail of a Victorian mourning button and the simple yet meaningful shapes of a mediaeval pilgrim's badge. Casting small found and antique objects is one of the most exciting and poignant elements of my workshops.

I finished the Spitfire, chased and burnished it. Alex had requested a bail loop so that he could wear it round his neck to remember his Grandad. I sent it off to him today. Rarely have I been more thrilled to be able to make a small silver replica of such an immensely precious tiny item. There's no doubt that this commission was one of my favourites to date.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

How to crochet cow parsley - free crochet pattern

We moved to our cottage in early May 2003. I remember the usual stress of moving house, but I also remember the green surrounding our new Fen-edge home, and in particular the hedges lined with frothy cow parsley. I'd never lived in such a rural place before. Prior to our house behind Tesco's in North Cambridge I'd lived in London for four years. What our village lacks in commercial outlets (there's one pub and no shops) it makes up for in wildflowers, owls, muntjac deer and even, now and again, nightingales.

I've been a keen amateur botanist since I was a child, when my Mum and Grandad taught me the names of wildflowers and trees. As soon as we had settled into the cottage I found a patch of cow parsley up the lane and examined it. I'd not seen any at close quarters before. It's a sort of tiny umbrella with green spokes, attached to which are tiny sprays of pale cream, exquisitely lacy florets. I've even seen bees sheltering beneath it during rain showers. When the flowers have finished the seedheads punctuate the hedgerows and remain until after Christmas, sometimes covered in frost. Their silhouettes make winter more beautiful. Cow parsley became an instant favourite of mine.

As time passed I realised that cow parsley wasn't the only species with this parasol-like flower shape. Hogweed. wild parsnip, hedge parsley, wild carrot and fennel are fellow umbellifers or umbels. I began to learn the exact few weeks when each species was flowering and realised that there are umbels flowering in the hedgerows and woods of various shapes and sizes from April until October. This is a cheering thought.

I've long been keen to find a way to crochet a version of this flower form. A three dimensional version would be a challenge, but I began to adapt a mandala pattern by making a semi-circular version, simplifying it and adding some double trebles as a cluster of stems and it began to look promising. After some tinkering, more simplifcation and a change from white to cream I think my umbellifer garland might be ready for others to have a try. I'd so love to hear what you think and if you make one. (I'm silverpebble2 on Instagram - message me there if you prefer)

How to crochet cow parsley/hedge parsley/hogweed/wild/carrot/the umbellifer of your woolly dreams (ish)

I used a 3.5mm hook with Sirdar Snuggly baby bamboo in 'willow' 
and a dk cream/ecru wool/cotton blend (although any white or cream dk yarn would be fine)


sk - skip that stitch/stitches
ch - chain
ss - slip stitch
dc - double crochet
tr - treble crochet
dtr - double treble crochet

To make a double treble crochet stitch yarn over twice, insert hook, yarn over, pull through (four loops on hook), yarn over, pull through two loops, yarn over, pull through two loops, yarn over, pull through the final two loops on hook. This makes a very 'tall' stitch, which I've used to make the slender, multiple 'stems' of the cow parsley.

To begin use the green yarn to ch6 & join with a ss

Row 1: ch3, 11 tr into ch ring (ensure your tr are close together so a semi-circle forms), turn

Row 2: ch9, *sk 1 tr, dtr into the next tr, ch5* rpt * * four more times, dtr into last tr, turn

Row 3: Switch to cream/ecru yarn: ch 1, *7 dc into 5 ch sp* rpt four more times, turn

Row 4: *ch 3, sk 1 dc, ss into next dc* rpt * * 2 more times, ss in next dc, *ch 3, sk 1 dc, ss into next dc* rpt * * 2 more times, ss in next dc, *ch 3, sk 1 dc, ss into next dc* rpt * * 2 more times,, ss in next dc, *ch 3, sk 1 dc, ss into next dc* rpt * * 2 more times,, ss in next dc, *ch 3, sk 1 dc, ss into next dc* rpt * * 2 more times

Break yarn and weave in ends.

To make a 'string' for your garland and attach your crocheted cow parsley flowers to it use your green dk yarn:

ch 30, take your first flower & hold so that it hangs downward with the green, straight edge along the top and the white lacy curved edge downward.

dc along that top green edge to attach the flower into the garland. I did the following:

* 2 dc into the edge of the 1st white lacy portion, 
5 dc into space made by dtr ( the first 'stem'), 
2 dc into the 'side' of the tr, 
2 dc in central ch space, 
2 dc into the 'side' of the tr
5 dc into space made by dtr (the fifth 'stem'), 
 2 dc into the edge of the 2nd white lacy portion,*

ch 22, rpt * * for as many flowers as you have made

ch30, fasten off

Hang your garland and add a bit of woolly hedgerow to your gaff.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Falling for my fountain pen

Might my fountain pen bird drawings seem familiar? If you've ever ordered a piece of jewellery from me you may recognise them. I've been meaning to share the story behind this little bird since I began my blog.

The inevitable end-of-term frenzy of hurriedly concocted costumes, crazed social schedules (the girls'), bonkers hair (mine) and importantly, The School Disco meant that the handwritten project - my revival of hand-penned letters and the use of fountain pens and typewriters went on hold for a week or two. 

Oh though, LOOK at the gorgeous snail mail I've received already, from Carolyn who attended  one of my silver workshops recently, dear, long-standing blog friends Moogsmum and Driftwood and lovely Louise  of Superduperthings (do pop over to her beautiful blog for a peep). 

The joy of receiving a hand-written letter is hard to explain. Not only is it exciting to open the hand-addressed envelope, but also the individually written words, doodles and varying shades of ink makes each letter a thing of beauty and rather a rarity since the dawn of hastily typed emails. Each envelope is a small paper present full of a friend's handwriting and thoughts - the words may have been the same if they'd sent me an email but the aesthetics and experience are very different. 

Now that the school holidays have begun and we've recovered from the *coughs* viral visitor that came calling on our first day off, the project shall begin in earnest. My fountain pen and I are poised for inky action and I intend to write several letters a week. 

I know Lesley has dug out her collection of old pens and Tess has even started using her elegant hand to write shopping lists but do you have a fountain pen stashed away? Might you have memories of relatives writing to you? I'd love to hear about it.