Thursday, January 22, 2015

A photo for today

A really quick photo taken last night. I noticed we had a fingernail moon and the first star was out. When I looked at the photo the outline of the full moon was visible.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

New Year..New Fabric

I was tidying up the workshop,  well really eating biscuits and looking at my fabric and decided I MUST have some more fabric. So for me that means

1. I go for walk down the road and stop at Hanleys Mills and root through the remnants section
2. A trip to IKEA
3. A drive to Maeve and all her staff at The Limerick Quilt Centre.

It was quilting fabric I wanted so Limerick it was.
The Limerick Quilt Centre is located in Maeve's back garden but that doesn't stop people finding her. In fact she often has buses of quilters visit her for fabric and the day I arrived the road outside was full of cars and I was thrilled to discover that she had a sale on (until 19th January).

Lots of colours and fat quarter bundles

There is a vast selection of fabric to choose from and it is sorted by colour and also by collection.  If you are a fan of Moda fabrics then this is the place to go. I was particularly attracted by Kaffe Fasset's collection and will get some next time to make a simple circle skirt as featured online by Sew Magazine.

Kaffe Fasset collection

Beginner (or lazy like me) quilters will find lots of pre-cuts such as charm packs, layer cakes and jelly rolls. They also have fat quarters bundled by collection with feature fabrics and blenders.

I came away with two batik charm packs, 2 yards of something wonderfully spotty, a bright orange blender and 2 big spools of random dyed quilting thread.

Maeve runs classes for all levels of quilter and has very popular visiting specialist classes. The centre is also a great place to go for notions and quilting equipment, patchwork advice and a cup of tea and chat.

You can find The Limerick Quilt Centre at Winander Road, Limerick City (beside Musgraves)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hot Tea and Cool Crafts

After all the hustle and bustle of Christmas I finally got to spend a day in Limerick last week. As a crafter it is obvious that I always need more supplies and these included lots of fabric, modge podge, beads and an ironing board...the usual stuff. I got hungry and decided to drop into Ruth at The Stormy Teacup for a toasted sandwich and tea.  Now tea at Ruth's isn't any "aul tae" shoved into a pot, nope, you get a menu with a huge selection of black, green and herbal teas to choose from.

Just a small selection of the herbal teas
And the tea doesn't come in small cup but in a pint, yes a PINT mug. Ruth serves the best teas and coffees, and all the coffees are double shots. She has toasted sandwiches, fresh homemade soup, savoury muffins, sweet scones and other treats.

Giant scones for the hungry
The layout is eclectic and eccentric and the atmosphere conducive to just hanging out with mismatched chairs and cosy couches.

Some of you may know Ruth from Nice Day Designs so it will come as no surprise to know that this is a combined teashop, second hand bookstore and craft shop. Craft downstairs and tea and books upstairs. I heard on the grapevine that the craft shop is due for a spring clean so expect lots of new treasures for sale before Easter.

Speaking of treasures I found this one painted inside the bathroom door.

It was strange for me to see Ruth behind a tea counter instead of her usual craft and book stall at The Milk Market but Ruth has taken to this with the gusto and determination that she throws into everything and I have to wish her the absolute best of luck with this venture.

The Stormy Teacup is located in Foxes Bow, Limerick and you can contact Ruth here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Designing with nature

I love colour, I love strong and bright colours and because of this tend I to use bright colours most of the time.  But I have to remember when making things for others or for sale that not everyone has the same taste as me. And some rooms, such as bedrooms, need "calmer" colours,  This is important when making quilts. 
I want to make a new quilt and would like it to use more natural colours than I would normally pick. So I use a technique that I have spoken about before, taking photos of nature and breaking down the colours.
I was by the lake last week and was attracted by a view of a marshy area against the sky and lake.

A marshy area by the lake

The next thing to do is to pixelise the photo to break down the colours. I use a picture editing program called IrfanView to do this but many free programs are available, most digital cameras come with free software of you can download an App.

I decided I didn't want all of this and zoomed in on an area with the colours I felt worked best.
The next stage is to find fabrics in these colourways so I went to to search for fabrics. I searched for Blenders by colour. Blenders are fabrics that have one main colourway over printed with a similar colour or pattern. I find plain fabrics too "flat" and use blenders a lot. And it can be easier to match them than multi colours or prints.  Remember the purpose of this exercise for me was too use less colour and be more natural.  One of the features of is that you can add fabrics to a design board, this means you can put them alongside each other to see if they match well.  I searched  for blues, greens, beiges and browns and came up with the following fabrics.
A selection of blender fabrics
The next step is to buy the fabrics and design a quilt.  I like simple shapes, just random squares cut out and sewn back together.  But the point of the exercise is not to replicate the pixelised picture above but to use the colour and the saturation of each colour in the quilt.
Now to get started.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A photo for today

I got a new camera for Christmas and spent 3 days reading the instructions and two days playing with it. It has LOTS of buttons and I now know how to use half of them.

Anyway I spotted this little guy when I was out for a walk today and he was happy to pose for me.
I liked the picture and started to play about with it and came up with this, possibly a Christmas card for next year.

Monday, December 29, 2014

An end to the year

2014 is almost over an it has been a busy year for me and one with plenty of changes.
For the first time ever we became a host family for Wwoofers, Worldwide Working Opportunities on Organic Farms. This means we had people staying with us that helped in the garden, we provided food and board and they gave us 5 hours work a day. Now we are not a farm but are a food producing garden and I use our produce to make preserves to sell and also sell the eggs and salads at the front gate. We are not certified organic but have used no chemicals in the garden since we have had it and spoke the farmer who had it before us  and he hasn't used anything on it for the 20 years he had it. So we had Anabel from Spain, Clement from France, Eloi from France, Grace from Canada, Eoin from Mayo, Remy from France, Ander from Basque Country and Anais from France all stay with us from March to September. It was a great experience for us, we got to pass on skills and learn new things and I would recommend it to anyone needing help with their garden or farm. For further information you can contact Wwoof Ireland at I found the forum a great help and full of advice before we made the decision to become a host family.
Ander and Anais taking a break at a festival

Remy working at a show with me

With all this gardening I didn't have much time for making any crafts over the summer at all. Then in September I went back to working in adult education and this left even less time. However a new opportunity opened up for me when a room in our building became available to me, I moved all my craft paraphernalia into it and The Stitching Room was created. The Stitching Room is a dedicated craft room where anyone can come and learn a new skill. I have all the equipment you would need including sewing machines, rotary cutter and mats and a small die cut machine.  Crafts covered include knitting, sewing, patching, quilting, felt work, card making and paper craft. It is great for me to have a whole room to keep everything in and somewhere I can drop into during my regular working day as it is located in the building I work in. You can see more about The Stitching Room and details of classes here

The fabric corner
Busy at work
We had a lot of classes planned but the most enjoyable were the ones were we made felt and fabric wreaths for Christmas and some hanging decorations. It was good to see people other than me get excited about odd buttons and tiny beads.
Essential equipment
A finished piece
This then got me back to making some small hanging decorations for myself and we ended up having one Christmas tree (one of three) full of handmade decorations.
A Gingerbread house with no calories
A not just for Christmas heart

Sunday, December 28, 2014's cold out there.

I woke up this morning and could feel the chill in the air. There is a heavy frost out there and everything is white and shiny. I really want to go out for a walk but it's a bit slippery so will wait and see if there is a thaw at all.

I have been feeding the birds in the garden and they come up close to the window to eat. I am trying hard to identify them all using this great website RSPB Bird Identifier. I know we have robins and blackbirds, a missal thrush and lots of little birds that I wasn't sure of.  I have now identified a bluetit, a great tit and I think a coal tit. They flit around really quickly pecking at the food and keeping well away from the two cats Socky and Simba.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Christmas 2014

THREE HOURS, THREE WASTED HOURS ....trying to log back on to my blog. I lost all my passwords to emails and other accounts and it took 3 hours to get back here.

We finally seem to be out of a cyber black hole and I hope to be back with a bang in the new year. With new posts, new photos, new crafts, new recipes and new ideas.

The year is coming to an end and work and teaching has stopped now for the holidays. I have new classes booked for next year.  It is also time to start planning the garden and markets for next year.

But right now it is all about Christmas, the trees are going up and the decorations are out.

So far I have two trees up, one in the sitting room and one in the dining room.

The table is also set in the dining room with my own homemade patchwork table mats. I have had these a few years now and think it's time to make some new ones.
I've asked Santa for a really nice camera for Christmas, fingers crossed I get one and will be back in the New Year with some lovely garden and craft photos.
I hope you all have a Merry and Peaceful Christmas

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Back at last

I can't believe it, it has taken this long for us to come back into the land of internet.  I feel like I was 10 years behind the rest of the world in a no media, no connection, no nothing land.  Finally I can get back to blogging, back to online selling, back to online buying (just a bit) and even back to being able to communicate with my daughter who has emigrated to Canada. That was the hardest part, not being able to chat to her.  It has taken me about three hours to reactivate accounts, change passwords, remember accounts I had and sort it all out.
Still a few to go but I will be back this week with news of Farmers Markets, cookery classes with Down Syndrome Ireland, Tweety the Christmas Turkey, new crafts online at Etsy and Wwoofers.
Talk again. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Random catch-up

Thankfully I have been really busy lately and not had a chance to blog. Well that was partly because I have had IT problems aswell.   Ages ago I managed to trip over my laptop cable and broke the connector part in the laptop. It means I can't charge it now.  Once a week I work in a centre with the same laptop and I use that one to charge my battery, so I only have about 3 hours battery a week.  Now if only I knew someone who works it IT that could fix it for me...oh wait, yes I husband.  But well you know what they say about the cobblers children.

Craft catch-up, nothing to report.  Nothing at all. I haven't made anything since christmas.  I did start to knit myself a sleevless jumper but haven't bothered with that for a week or so.

Market catch-up: This has been keeping me busy. I have Nenagh Market on Saturday and Borrisokane every Friday.  Along with selling local cheeses I have been working on some recipes of my own to  make food.  We have hens and ducks producing eggs and soon (if the weather improves) we will have loads of fresh veg aswell.  So I have been looking at what I have and trying to add value to it.  I am making barley cous cous salad, buckwheat tabboulah salad and quiche.  I have tried a few variations and settled on four quiche varieties; bacon and cheese, tomato and cheese, brie/onion/cranberry and thyme and finally spinach, goats cheese and peppers.  I have regular and gluten/wheat free available. For the Borrisokane market I also make brown bread and banana bread.  I need to find another market each week to go to and have been talking to local county councils all week to find a suitable one.

Garden catch-up: The tunnel is up but no work done inside yet. The hens and ducks have been living inside and done a great job clearing out all the weeds.  I am waiting on raised beds to be dug and we have a pile of manure and a pile of topsoil waiting to go in.  I got some grow bags and have salads, radishes and beetroot sown in them.  I also got some IKEA bags, each can hold 1 bag of compost, and they have carrots and potatoes growing in them.  Outside potatoes, garlic, onions and more carrots are growing.  Inside I have a huge amount of seedlings all over the house; tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, chillis, peas, cabbage, sprouts, pumpkins, courgettes, cucumber, sweetcorn, physalis, melons, bulb fennel, random mixed squash, parsley and coriander.  I haven't sown any root veg as I really prefer to sow them direct so am waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the weather to improve.

That's it, the sun is out so I am off to the garden.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A garden discovery

It's the 1st of February and I haven't managed to make one single craft during January.  It's not because I am lazy, or lack ideas, or run up the walls with work. No! It's because this has arrived in the garden.

30 feet by 18 feet polytunnel so that we can grow some great veg to eat this year. We have had a veg garden for 5 years now but last years weather was so bad that we managed to grow nothing at all.  So after dropping big hints (well okay just right out begging) and 13 months after been promised, the polytunnel arrived. 

Right now it is home to 4 hens and  2 ducks, the plan being that they clear the ground, dig up all the grass and eat the slugs.  They are loving it and all laying giant eggs.   I have been kept busy digging the garden, weeding and sowing seeds.

I need to fill it with wonderful veg plants and as part of my search for good seed I discovered Irish Seedsavers in Scariff, Co. Clare and made my second visit to them 31st January and viewed the gardens to see what was growing and to get inspiration.

A view over the gardens
As a member I get 5 packets of seeds, 3 bags of seeds potatoes, an apple tree discount and free entry to the gardens.  Well yesterday was a cold but dry and sunny day so with a heavy coat and a pair of wellies I wandered through the gardens. Now I am so jealous. The site is on two slopes and they make the best use of this catching sun and providing shelter.  The garden is divided into different sections; orchards, terraces with vegetables, tunnels growing plants to produce seed, woodland, nursery, apairy, childrens section and loads of paths to wander through.
The orchard with old heritage varieties
Already the tunnels have salads, mixed greens, broad beans, peas and chard growing.  This gives me hope for us to have food growing through the winter months next year.  I also found some Delaware Cabbage growing in the terraces, this is a cut and come again cabbage and one I had not heard about before.  I was glad to see it growing because this is one of the seed varieties I came home with to try.
Salads growing in the tunnel
Bright coloured chard

The philosophy behind the gardern to is to save and distribute old seeds, heritage seeds and endangered seeds.  It is to keep a diverse range of open pollinated seeds. This means that left to go to seed the plants will reproduce again and again.  This is the way it happens in nature but due to hybridisation, genetic manipulation and plain greed this is not always the case with major seed manufacturers.  The benefit of open seed pollination to me is the wide variety of foodstuffs I can grow, being part of encouraging biodiversity and of course cost.  With any luck I only need to grow each seed type once and then can save my seed from year to year.  Also many seed enthusiasts are also willing to swap seed...this encourages even more biodiversity and is a great way to increase your variety of produce.  I myself have received seeds from other growers in Canada,the UK and my own family here, I am looking forward to see what they produce and how different they are to what I normally grow.  If you are interested in seed or plant swapping then seedsavers has a swap day organised on March 4th, see the details in ezine here.

Leah from Balbriggan pictured with The Balbriggan Sprout
Well, as usual I became preoccupied while writing this entry and it's now 18 Feb and I have been back to the seedsavers garden again.  This time I brought Leah, my ten year old niece.  It was Valentines day and though a cold February Day we had our first picnic of the year in the gardens.

Spot the Leah

I am sure I will make many more visits through the year but for now I need to get on sowing these seeds and chitting potatoes so we can be fed better than ever over the coming year. Along with the Delaware cabbage I also got The Irish Pea, Tipperary Turnip, Chocolate Peppers, Prague Celeriac and Black Russian Vine Tomatoes. As well as seed potatoes I got another tuber called Oca, I have never heard of this before so will be interested to see how it grows.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Christmas is coming

Only 41 days left to go (yep, really, it's THAT soon) and November is normally a great shopping month.  I love the build up to christmas, I love the sparkle, I love the baking, I love the planning and plotting and I love making the Christmas decorations and food.  Yep, I love all the planning but quite often get started early on plans and then most things get left to the last minute, like the tree and decorations. 

And then I hate taking it all down again, I feel the house looks "sad" with all of it's finery gone.  Last year I made mats and a wreath for our table..I loved it and wanted the table to stay looking like this forever.

Well I don't live on my own and the family insisted that by the end of January the Christmas decorations needed to come down.  So I decided to make "non Christmas" decorations.  I would make a seasonal wreath for the table centre. The first season was the season of love and so the Heart Wreath  was made.
Then I decided to make non specific wreaths, ones that have no season, to be used on your table, on a wall or on a door. One of my favourites was the Night Owl wreath.
Obviously many still consider wreaths a Christmas item so this year for my Etsy shop and Limerick Craft and Design I decided to make loads of Christmas ones with snowmen and gingerbread and trees but also a range of "Not Just for Christmas" decorations which includes wreaths and tree hanging decorations. I am not suggesting keeping a christmas tree up all year long but many of us have a large plant or a bundle of twigs that can be prettified.  I also like hanging decorations on netting or muslin tied to a bed post. In fact these were one of the most popular sellers I had in the pop up shop in Clifden this summer.
Baa...Connemara sheep

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Meet the....wool shop lady

Sinead Lee has the job that I would love...she owns and runs Blacksheep Wools in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.  Now it is no secret that I love wool and knitting and so you could assume that I pop into the shop regularly to buy wool...well I do, but that's not the main reason I go in.  I normally just pop in when I am passing for a chat and a sit down and a catch up on any news. She has a table and chairs in the middle of the room and sitting here I have had the opportunity to chat and learn from other knitters and even meet wool suppliers and talk about new products.

I spoke to Sinead about knitting and wool and things in general.

I assume you love knitting when did you start and why?
I think I was always going to knit. My Mother was a primary school teacher in a rural school. It was at a time when the headmaster would take all the boys to play hurling and the female teacher would take all the girls for knitting or sewing.  Mam was my teacher for three years and so I would knit at school and at home.  I think the first thing I knit was a teddy bear.  Knitting was seen in school as our Friday afternoon treat.

Did you continue knitting after school?
No, not really. In third level I studied European Studies which took up a lot of time, I think maybe I knitted the odd hat and that was it.  Perhaps a baby cardigan or two as I had my own children.  Knitting only came about again for me a few years ago with the formation of the Nenagh Knitting Group started by Margaret Spelman and Valerie Foley. I joined the weekly group in Nenagh Library and enjoyed not only the knitting but the camaraderie of the ladies in the group.

So, how did the shop come about?
Twofold really.  I have always worked and enjoyed it.  I was working in a corporate environment commuting to Limerick and I was made redundant.  Being out of work was very alien to me and I became very unhappy, there was a huge void in my life. Meanwhile the knitting group was going very well but we had no local wool shop. There hasn't been a wool shop in the town for 15 years, the closest shop was in Limerick 25 miles away.  So the thought was milling around in my head and I knew I would have some customers.  Then I was on a girly trip in Yorkshire, a bunch of us were in a car singing the theme tune to All Creatures Great and you do when in Yorkshire...when I spotted something and asked them to stop.  It was the UK headquarters of Sirdar.  In I walked and met Maureen their senior sales lady, I told her that I was considering opening a shop and that was the beginning of it...a shop was born.

And how did it go for you?
Slowly at first, I opened in a backroom in Kenyon Street, it was a small shop and didn't hold much stock.  But I think that was good as I had no experience of running a business and no experience of retail. It was a steep learning curve.  Looking back I probably made many mistakes but I am an optimist so just dealt with it, "Suck it Up" is my mantra and so I did.  Dealing with sales reps was the hardest thing so a lack of space made it easier for me to say no. Also I became aware that customers wanted more than wool and I began stocking notions and haberdashery items.

You are currently located in The Nenagh Shopping Centre, why the move?
Well I wanted more space to stock more items, ansd also wanted a better streetfront location. I was offered a unit here in the shopping centre and felt it would suit me well particularly with the car park located at the front.  I opened here 10th December 2009 and it has been good since. The majority of people know what they want but I do have browsers aswell which is always good for business.

Unfortunatly the shopping centre closed down last year, has that had an impact on you?
Of course it has, that was one of the saddest days I have seen here in town.  No one was aware that it was closing and all the staff turned up for work and were told the centre had closed and they had no jobs. For me in the shop it has meant a loss in customers.  Many of my older customers would come into town on Fridays and Saturdays for their shopping and drop into me, I have lost some of this custom.  But I still have my regulars and they seem to be knitting baby cardigans mostly and some baby blankets.

Can you explain the resurrgance in knitting?
I'm not sure, knitting is no longer taught in our primary schools due I feel to time constraints within the curriculum. Also many of the teachers themselves don't knit so cannot teach it. However with the economic downturn I feel it has raised the value of a handmade gift, it is more special that shop bought. From a physical point of view I feel knitting or any small handwork is very benefical for concentration and handwriting and should be taught to every child.  In broader terms we are all rekindling the satisfaction and pleasure of making something ourselves.

Do you think groups and organisations like Raverly and Stitch and Bitch has had an impact on younger people knitting?
I'm not sure about them specifically.  I know knitting groups have always been popular in the UK but are a pretty new thing here in Ireland.  We are very lucky in Nenagh to have the facility of holding groups in our local library.  Our weekly knitting group has members from ages 6 to 83.

I have often been in the shop when customers ask for help with patterns and stitches and so I asked Sinead what is the most common question she is asked?
Well it's not about stitch or pattern help it's about converting  needle sizes to metric.  The most unusual question was about some raw wool fleece. I often advertise for others for fleeces to buy or sell so that in itself is not unusual it was what the cutsomer was going to use it for...she swears that a piece of raw wool fleece does wonders for her bunions and often comes in for a fresh piece.

What have you knitted recently that you like and do you knit for youself?
I knitted a stripey jumper for my daughter Audrey when she was two and I loved it...or maybe I just loved her in it as she looked so cute. I liked one of the Sirdar summer patterns and knit myself a cardigan in rose pink.

Sinead organises a charity knit in lent to make "Born to Soon" baby wraps for the Irish Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society ISANDS for which she donates the 4ply white wool.  She said it is a sobering and thoughtful time for all involved but that as a group they get much more out of it than just the knitting.  Her shop wall has many photos and letters of thanks from ISANDS. 

She asked me to say that her window display and shop samples are all done by friend and knit-a-holic Margaret Spelman.  I know Margaret quite well and she said that if she doesn't do it then it won't get done...oops halo slipping Sinead.

Finally, and knitters will understand this, Sinead had a sign on the door saying "For knitting emergencys call me at 087 *******".  But she has since taken it down saying she was always getting calls Sunday mornings by women that had run out of wool and were knitting gifts to be delivered that afternoon.

Blacksheep wool on facebook

Irish Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society

Born to soon baby wrap patterns