Sunday, 30 October 2011

Making winter week

The temperature reached 19 C in the Southeast of England today, around 8 degrees higher than average for this time of year. It does not feel as though winter's nearly here. Yet the clocks changed back to GMT this morning, marking our passage into the new season and bringing dusk forward by an hour. 

There was a definite sign of winter last week. Hundreds of redwings and fieldfares flew over and into our village as they arrived in the UK from Scandinavia. It was a dramatic sight (you can see beautiful images of it here).

Starting today, Mrs Thriftyhousehold and I will be hosting Making Winter week around the beginning of each month until February. We'll be sharing what we've been making and baking. I will be dragged outside for lovely walks, apparently. We may knit things. She will be trying to convince me that this season has good things to offer. 

The ceremonial first lighting of our open fire is, I have to admit, quite a good thing. Recently I remembered Diana's beautiful homemade pinecone firelighters. I was lucky enough to receive some in the post from her a year or two ago and I was keen to make some for myself. Mrs TH had beeswax, old candles and an astonishing array of essential oils. I had a huge bag of pinecones. 

We melted the wax and added a few drops each of clove, orange and black pepper oils,

dipped the pinecones and left them to dry on some newspaper.

They smelled wonderful, as Diana says they looked rather 'frosty' after their dipping and the whole process took just half an hour.

Yesterday there was a nip in the air and I built a fire using our homemade lighters. The pinecones flared up, crackled and the smoke was scented. They made made the whole process a joy.

It was a good start to the new season.

These pinecones firelighters make such good presents (I was thrilled when I received my little bagfull). I think they would be great used to light small campfires and outdoor firebaskets too. Huge thanks to Diana at Pebbledash. She shares a full tutorial here.

I have been taking a few other steps to embracing the approaching winter:  

Kristina has been helping me to find a cowl pattern suitable for knitty beginners.
I spied and tried a warming and delicious Nigel Slater recipe last week
I baked Rebecca's apple cake recipe and will be doing so again. It's perfect for the cold weather. 

More on these stories later...

The Making Winter flickr pool is beginning to look rather seasonal and lovely.

If you'd like to share any creative wintry doings this week then I will be posting a linky list in a day or two. That way we can all hop over for a peep.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Making winter

It's no secret that I'm less than enamoured with winter. The recent unseasonably warm weather has lulled me into a false sense of security. It feels for all the world like Spring around here (I saw an iris flowering in a friend's garden today!). I know it's temporary though. The steely skies, cold days and winter grumps are coming.

Last year I hosted the Splash of Colour project, designed to distract from the greyness, trigger happy brain chemicals and help us through from November to February. I think it worked. Close to a hundred bloggers joined in with eye-popping blogposts and images. Peep here for the final beautiful mosaics from the flickr pool last February.

My good friend Mrs Thriftyhousehold adores winter. It seems bonkers to me, but she even has a list of good wintry things in her sidebar.

Our polar opposite attitudes to the approaching season helped us to hatch a New Plan. Instead of distracting myself from the winter, she thinks she can help me to embrace it, with wintry handmade projects, delicious (probably pastry-laden) recipes, fireside time (with Mrs TH's homemade fruity liqueurs, see above), brisk frosty walks and learning to crochet (something other than a sad, tangled little beard).

I am sceptical but I'm very willing to give it a go. 

The new plan is called Making Winter. We will be sharing tutorials, seasonal recipes and lovely wintry images. 

Once a month, starting on Sunday 30th October (the morning the clocks return to Greenwich Mean Time here in the UK) we will both host Making Winter week, including a blog hop, and hope you might like to join in. We will be blogging about winter's good things and hopefully about the positive effect the craftiness will have on my winter blahs (all my fingers are crossed here). It would be fabulous if it helped other bloggers a little too. For those who are already sold on winter then blogging the good things about this season would be ace. You may even help to convince the winter sceptics amongst us.

There is a new flickr pool here for sharing beautiful landscapes, seasonal makes and winter's goodness. We will be uploading into it but if others join in then we'd love to make some mosaics each month.

Note: If you live in the Southern hemisphere then we think that the sight of a sweet pea would definitely help a grey January day over here. I promise not to feel too grumpy if you post images of sunny beaches and summer dresses. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

In print

At 5.15 last night I rang up Heffers the bookshop. Yes, they had just taken early delivery of that particular book, would keep a copy aside for me and they were open until 6pm. 'Go, go!' said Mr P, so I went. I got there with 5 minutes to spare, panting and huffing, and bagged an early copy of Kirstie Allsopp's 'Craft'

I legged it out of the house like that because I contributed a tutorial to the book.

I am resisting the urge to type a lot of 'e's in a row, ending in a 'p' at this point. It is tricky. I am excited.

My tutorial explains how to make little silver button medallions out of silver clay using vintage buttons to imprint patterns on their surface. Silver clay has shot up in price in recent months so I tried hard to keep the cost low and to replace expensive tools with everyday household items wherever possible. The clay can be fired on a camping stove or ordinary gas hob so no fancy kilns or fiery furnaces are required.

There are 49 other craft tutorials in the book from willow weaving (I WILL be making the nest box below) to needle felting; soap-making to applique. It's a very lovely book and perfect for Christmas present ideas (or as a present itself). I am thrilled that my little project was included.

The book accompanies Kirstie Allsopp's new series 'Kirstie's Handmade Britain' in which she is taught to make a variety of lovely craft projects and submits them anonymously into Agricultural and Country shows to be judged by the likes of the WI and NAFAS. Apparently she won at least one first prize with a cake decorated with beautiful frosted flowers. The first episode will be screened on Wednesday 19th October at 8pm on Channel 4. I expect I will be glued to it.*

The styling is beautiful and I love the sheer range of crafts in this book. I think it will help to raise the profile of our wonderful Agricultural and County shows too. They are creative, quirky and fabulous events that celebrate our countryside heritage and I always make a beeline for the craft and display marquees. What's not to like about a pampered pig or a perfectly baked Victoria Sponge?

I have two copies. You've guessed it - I'll be giving one away. Stay tuned....

*A small selection of the tutorials made it into the programme and my button project was not chosen but I am truly and thoroughly excited that it was included in the book. My grammar has flown out of the window. I'm not going to worry about split infinitives today.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Small stuff

The unscheduled blog silence was due to an unscheduled illness. I couldn't drink tea for six days! This was unprecendented. Tea and I go back a long way. We have never been parted for so long before. Thankfully we were reunited last Tuesday.

Whilst I was poorly it was the small stuff that helped. The little ones, the Mr and the dog visited, told me jokes and cheered me up. Despite the sign, a pig arrived on a Vespa.

Once I'd recovered I realised that the Indie Love Market over at Poppytalk Handmade was galloping closer very quickly (it begins tomorrow) so I had things to make. I went for a walk, looking out for new designs for the Nature Table Series and wasn't disappointed.

Honesty seedpod,

shepherd's purse,

and feather designs have all been added to my etsy shop and Poppytalk Handmade virtual table. Click on the link from tomorrow - it's the 5th anniversary market over there so it should be a good one.

In other news I am THRILLED to have been invited to have a stall at this year's Selvedge Christmas Fair at St Augustine's Church Hall, London on the 10th December.

I would love to see you there.

Finally, something will be arriving in the post this coming Thursday that I'm in danger of becoming rather squeaky about. Kristina has already seen it.