Monday, January 31

meet a maker

being the inquisitive little feltmaker that i am, i thought it might be interesting to hear about other maker's stories. if you would like to be featured, please leave me a comment and i'll get in touch with some questions for you.

so, grab a cuppa, put your feet up and lets meet elissa of not just handbags ...

Please introduce yourself
Elissa, living in the North West, 39, married with 2 girls.

How would you describe your work / style?
Eclectic with a vintage twist.Who, or what, inspires you?
Anything from a work of art to a piece of clothing that is feeling unloved and wants to be transformed, like a butterfly into something more beautiful.

Do you sell your work? If so, what helped you decide to start selling your work?
I sell my work online and through local stockists. After retraining for 2 years in art and design my plan was to go and study graphic design, however, the colleges had other ideas. At one of the interviews the lady was admiring my handbag and said that it would be worth selling them as they were different from others that were offered. I thought well considering your not going to give me a place on the course what did I have to lose!Where can I buy your work?
I have shops on Folksy, Etsy and Facebook (please see links at end of interview). I also have some local stockists which will be listed on my website when I get around to tidying it up!

Do you have a website or blog address?

How did you learn your craft?
I have always loved to sew from a young age. My mum caught me once nearly cutting up a handmade lace christening gown as I wanted to make clothes for my dolls! At college I really enjoyed the textile modules and my love of sewing came back to me. I have a love of fashion design and handbags and combined them all and voila!

How long have you been creating?
For as long as I could hold scissors!

Is there any other craft skill you would like to learn?
I would love to be able to knit or crochet and have upmost admiration for those that do but I simply do not have the patience.

Anything exciting planned for 2010/2011 you’d like to share?
I have just launched a new range of homeware that I am particularly proud of. I am also looking to add to my list of stockists and some exciting plans in the pipeline although I don't want to tempt fate!

Have you had any work featured in magazines/books/galleries?
Not as yet but fingers crossed.

If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be …
I can't answer that question as this is what I do for a hobby, so I would always be creating something in some form.

I couldn’t do this if it wasn’t for …
My lovely supportive hubby who has had faith in me from the start and encouraged me and had to put up with a lot of moaning when I didn't think things were going to take off. The man is a saint!

Describe your perfect day.
Fabric shopping, followed by fish and chips by the sea!What do you do to relax?
Create! This is why this all sometimes feels slightly surreal as like I said I would be doing this and making creations from fabric anyway so I sometimes cannot believe I get paid for it.

Marmite … love it or hate it?
Hate it!

What’s your weakness?
Fabric and buttons, it has turned into quite a serious addiction. I hide fabric like some women hide clothes and shoes.

How do you keep motivated?
The thought of going back to being bored out of my mind behind a desk is what keeps me motivated.

What do you wish you’d known when you first started out?
I think the learning curve has been part of the fun and I am still learning on a daily basis.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
To keep the faith, if you are promoting like crazy the sales will come but it takes an awful lot of time and patience.

Find Not Just Handbags at:-

folksy shop

thanks for taking the time to chat elissa and good luck with your lovely new home furnishings range :)

Saturday, January 29

celebrating ... rabbie

as it was burns’ night on tuesday i decided to have a bash at making a ‘traditional’ meal. we normally eat ready-made veggie haggis so i thought i would have a bash at home-made and i’ve always wanted to try making cranachan since i had it in a restaurant ages ago.

it took a couple of hours of prepping and cooking and i’m quite surprised but delighted to report it was a success! no more shop-bought veggie haggis for us.

m completed our evening by reading me some of rabbie’s poetry (my english tongue just can’t enunciate some of those scottish words in the same delightful way that m can!).

here’s the recipes in case you fancy creating a little piece of scotland on your dinner table.

(you'll notice that the photos are all taken pre-cooking ... that's because once they come out of the oven, i'm usually too hungry to be standing around taking pics!)

veggie haggis

> ingredients
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 carrot
6 to 10 mushrooms
small piece of turnip
350ml vegetable stock
7tbsp red lentils
4 to 5 tbsps red kidney beans (slightly mashed/chopped up)
7 to 8 tbsps of chopped, mixed nuts
3 tsp soy sauce
(i also added 3 tsp of mushroom ketchup)
juice from one lemon
1.5tsp thyme
1.5 tsp rosemary
pinch cayenne pepper (i used chilli powder as a substitute)
1.5tsp mixed spice
ground black pepper to taste
1 egg
250g oats (i used the remainder of the pinhead oatmeal i bought for the cranachan)

> method
put the oven on to 190oC, gas mark 5, 375oF.

finely chop the turnip and one clove of garlic, mix with the chopped nuts and a sprinkling of black pepper. pop into the oven to roast for 5 to 10 mins.

finely chop one clove of garlic, onion, carrot, mushrooms and saute.

add 250ml of the veg stock, lentils, kidney beans, roast nut mix, soy sauce, mushroom ketchup and herbs and spices.

mix well, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins.

add the remaining stock mix if the mixture looks a little too dry.

add the oats to the pan, cover and simmer for 20 mins, add a little more seasoning if required.

add lemon juice, then stir in a beaten egg.

mix well and turn into a greased loaf tin, baking tin or roasting tray.

cook for 30 mins until firm.

serve with ...

(i'm not sure if this is the traditional recipe, it's more like our version of it!)

> ingredients
single cream
grated cheese

> method
peel and chop the turnip and pop in a pan of boiling water,

allow to cook for five minutes and then chop the potatoes and add to the pan. i don't peel the potatoes as i like the extra texture from the peel.

allow the turnip and potatoes to cook until soft.

add the butter and the cream and smash, rather than mash the mixture together. you're aiming to have a texture like a lumpy mash.

mix through half of the grated cheese until it melts.

you can add so herbs at this stage too.

turn out into a baking tray and top with the remaining grated cheese.

pop in the oven (or under the grill if you're in a hurry) until the cheese on top has browned nicely.

and then for dessert …


> ingredients
60g medium oatmeal (i could only find pinhead and it worked fine)
150g raspberries
4tbsp malt whisky (we didn't have whisky so i used cognac which was lovely)
4tbsp honey
600mls double cream

> method
mix the oatmeal with a little brown sugar and toast lightly.

blend 75g raspberries until smooth.

whisk the double cream until stiff.

stir the honey and whisky into the cream.

fold in 50g of the oatmeal and all of the raspberry puree.

serve topped with the remaining raspberries and oatmeal.

i like a little shortbread biscuit on the side too, so here's a recipe for that as well ...


> ingredients
250g butter, softened
250g plain flour
100g golden caster sugar

> method
put the oven on to 190oC, gas mark 5, 375oF.

beat the butter and sugar together until smooth, i find this easier to do if i warm the butter slightly in the microwave first.

sift the flour in a little at a time and mix together until smooth.

turn the mix out onto a floured surface.

roll out to 1cm thick and cut into your desired shape

sprinkle with a little sugar and chill for 20 minutes.

bake for 15 - 20 minutes.

and here's a little robert burns' to accompany your meal ...

oh, my love is like a red, red rose
that's newly sprung in june
oh, my love is like the melody
that's sweetly played in tune

as fair art thou, my bonnie lass
so deep in love am i
and i will love thee still, my dear
till all the seas gang dry

till all the seas gang dry my dear
and the rocks melt with the sun
and i will love thee still, my dear
while the sands of life shall run

and fare-thee-well, my only love
and fare-thee-well a while
and i will come again, my love
tho it were ten thousand mile

you can find some more here

Friday, January 28

take an hour off to enjoy nature

i'm really looking forward to this weekend, not least because i get to sit (guilt-free) for a whole hour and watch the birds in the garden, with the added benefit that it's all in a good cause.

this weekend (29 to 30 jan) is the rspb's big garden birdwatch. if you're interested, here's what you need to do ...

1. watch the birds in your garden for one hour.
2. record the highest number of each species you see at the same time (i.e. not in total over the hour - you may get the same bird visiting several times).
3. don't record the ones you see flying over, only the ones that land in your garden or park.
4. send your results to the rspb at (code BG47).
5. feel great because you've had fun and helpd the rspb see how garden birds are doing this year.

even if you don't have birds visiting your garden, why not pop out to your local park to get spotting and counting?

and if you're not uk-based, why not start your own annual survey?

i predict a big cup of tea, perhaps a little slice of cake, a big snuggly blanket and one hour of bird-watching bliss :)

Thursday, January 27

do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.


Wednesday, January 26

Monday, January 24

meet a maker

if you've been following my little blog a while you may remember i used to regularly feature fellow makers. after a while of very intermittant blogging, i'm now pleased to re-introduce these features.

being the inquisitive little feltmaker that i am, i thought it might be interesting to hear about other maker's stories. if you would like to be featured, please leave me a comment and i'll get in touch with some questions for you.

so, grab a cuppa, put your feet up and lets meet sophie of trinket box.

How would you describe your work/style?
I would describe it as pretty and feminine with a bit of a vintage edge.Do you sell your work? If so, what helped you decide to start selling your work?
Yes. I'd been making jewellery for a few years and my friends/family kept saying that I should open a shop online or something, and I eventually caved!

Where can I buy your work? :)
My jewellery is also stocked at The Gift Gallery in York's Shambles.Do you have a website or blog address?
As well as my folksy shop, I also have a blog -

How did you learn your craft?
I'm mostly self-taught - books, magazines etc! But I have done an art clay silver workshop.

How long have you been creating?
On and off since I was about 8!Is there any other craft skill you would like to learn?
Fairly recently I did a silversmithing class, so would love to maybe do more of that, but I'd also really like to learn knitting! I tried it as a child, but could never 'pick it up', and it's something I've always wanted to learn how to do.

What do you do to relax?
Read, go to the cinema, shop[!], watch films, sleep :) The usual.Marmite … love it or hate it?
Love it.

What animal would you be, and why?
A cat! I just love cats, and all they do all day is eat and sleep. What do you wish you’d known when you first started out?
How difficult selling online is, and how much promotion you have to do!

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Promote, promote, promote! And don't expect sales straight away - it took me 6 months!thanks for taking the time to chat sophie, totally agree with you on being a cat - what a life? :)

Saturday, January 22

ladies and gentlemen

please allow me to introduce you to ... (drum roll please)


believe me, it might not look like much, but this has been a long time in the making. i'm not very good with the interweb technology mcgubbins so, even if i do say so myself, i'm quite chuffed at my attempt at a web presence for my felting business.

i'm always keen to learn and improve so any suggestions and (constructive) criticism (please be gentle) will be made most welcome. i'd love to know what you think ...

Thursday, January 20

he who plants a garden plants happiness

chinese proverb

Wednesday, January 19

Sunday, January 16

the birds

the hungry birds ...
as well as the usual mix of garden birds that have been enjoying our home-made bird cake, apple, seed, and fruit mix, it seems that the gulls have found us! i think they may have come from the harbour and are possibly having to come further and further to find food. the pigeons did seem a little put out by them though!

grabbing as much as they can before the gulls return

when we first moved here, five years ago, there weren't any magpies in the area but just recently i've seen a few flying around. given that corvids are a bit of an obsession of mine (encouraged by reading esther woolfson's, corvus: a life with birds), i've been delighted to see the magpie starting to get braver and take some food from our temporary feeding spot (out of the way of the neighbour's cats), we even had two the other morning - cue not a lot getting done, other than me gazing out of the window at the myriad clouds of birds coming and going, and changing throughout the day.

if i go reeeally quietly, they might not notice me ...
the grab and run approach

Friday, January 14

for hawthorn

so, these are kind of made-up-as-i-went-along and cobbled-together 'recipes' but they seemed to work!

i used a small baking tray (20cm x 30cm x 3cm deep) which i lined with baking paper for both.

oaty bake thingies

100g butter
150g sugar (leave out if you prefer your slices chewy rather than crunchy - it caramelises the syrup)
8tbsp golden syrup
200g porridge oats
100g chopped, mixed nuts
100g raisins
100g chopped chocolate

> method
pre-heat the oven to 190oC.
melt the butter, sugar (if you're using it) and golden syrup gently in a pan.
stir in the oats, nuts and raisins.
allow to cool slightly and add the chopped chocolate.
spread the mixture onto the baking paper lined baking tray.
pop into the oven for about 10/15 mins.
allow to cool.
pop in the fridge for 5 mins and slice.
eat (lots!)

crispie cake slices

100g rice crispies
50g chocolate, chopped
50g sugar
6 tbsp syrup
25g butter
25g cocoa powder
250g chocolate for the topping

gently melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan.
remove from the heat and add the 50g of chopped chocolate, cocoa and rice crispies, stirring well.
scoop out onto the baking paper lined baking tray and level with the back of a wooden spoon.
allow to cool.
pop in the fridge for 5 mins.
slice and eat (lots!)

... if you want a layer of chocolate on top (why not make some with, and some without?)
place a pan of water on the stove to boil.
find a heat-proof bowl which fits on top of the pan, but make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the surface of the water.
break the 250g chocolate into smaller pieces, add to the bowl and place on top of the pan.
once the chocolate has melted, very carefully (hot bowl, hot melted chocolate and steam!) remove the bowl of melted chocolate and pour over the crispie mix.
allow to cool.
pop in the fridge for 5/10 mins, slice and, well, you know what happens next ...
yikes ... it wasn't until i was typing these up that i realise they seem more like recipes for heart disease! but, i did make them for m, for energy and sustenance during a 24 hour cycle race in the forest, in january, in scotland. given the amount of these i've consumed it looks like i've got a lot of cycling to do!

Thursday, January 13

it is a piece of folly merely to value things because of their distance from the place where we are born: thus men have travelled far enough in the search of foreign plants and animals, and yet continue strangers to those produced in their own natural climate.

martin martin, 1698
a late voyage to st kilda

Wednesday, January 12

Tuesday, January 11

if you watch nothing else this month ...

watch this ...

still folk dancing after all these years

it's availble for the next five days on bbc i-player, where it's described as "Northumbrian folk-singing siblings Rachel and Becky Unthank take a journey around the towns and villages of England to experience its living folk dance traditions in action" which in reality, does not convey the genuine loveliness that is this documentary. never mind one hour, i could have watched a whole series of this!

it's nearly that time again

that time of year when m cycles around a forest for 24 hours! in scotland!! in january!!!

we gave it a miss last year and spent the weekend in oban with one of m's friends, we stayed in, we enjoyed the log fire, we went for walks when the wind and rain held off long enough, we ate good food, we had a lay-in ... but not this year!

the day before the race, we'll be heading north, hoping the snow isn't as bad as it is here and setting up camp for the weekend in the forest. in a strange kind of way, i think i am looking forward to it. i love camping out in the forest and even though it is going to be pretty extreme weather conditions, each year we have been better prepared - i'm taking as many layers of warm clothing as we can pack in the van, plus i've bought some half-sized hot water bottles ... one to tuck in the front of my salopettes, one to tuck in the back :)

i really don't know how all these brave, foolhardy cyclists manage to keep going through the night - it's usually freezing, muddy, wet, icy, snowing, windy and it gets dark soooooo early.
energy gels have a rather unfortunate effect on the digestive system so this year, i've made some syrupy, sugary, chocolatey, nutty, fruity goodies to give m that energy boost he needs. well, to be honest, i've made a few extra, you know, just in case i get peckish during the night!

Monday, January 10

i always feed a little sad when the decorations come down.

i had a very different from usual christmas and new year but it was lovely. i love the christmas tree lights shining in the dark mornings and evenings. and while i'm looking forward to all that this year will bring, i can't wait for the excitement of next christmas ...

Sunday, January 9

Friday, January 7

fellow gardeners

put down those seed catalogues, grab a cuppa, and head over to
the inelegant gardeners almanac for 2011, for a hilarous read. it's quite reassuring that i'm not alone in the over-excited buying of seeds!

Tuesday, January 4

new beginnings

so, for one reason or another, 2010 wasn't really a great year for me. don't want to mump and moan about it, would rather try and learn some lessons and move on to the new year.

i wrote a little while ago about how i struggle with self-discipline and maintaining balance. i'm also giving myself a hard time about not being in the moment enough. this, i think, is why i feel like 2010 has pretty much passed me by.

i feel like i've neglected friends and family, my relationship, our project to become more self-sufficient from the garden, i've probably not slept enough, i've certainly not read enough, we've not been out and about having enough adventures, i kind of lost sight of where i wanted to go creatively, and the housework ... well, that's always a little behind schedule.

but funnily enough, it only just dawned on me the other day that amongst all of this, the one thing that i had really neglected was myself. i've never really seen it from that perspective before! i get so much nourishment (not sure if that's the right word, but hopefully it puts across what i mean) from spending time with the folk i love, from working on our plot, from just hanging out with m, from being me and just playing and having fun.

ah, fun ... that was pretty much missing from the heavy work schedule i had been giving myself. the problem is, i feel guilty if i don't feel like i'm achieving enough in each day, so i give myself a nigh-on impossible to achieve to-do list and then give myself a hard time if i don't complete. or i stay up till all hours to complete and then turn into a tired, grumpy version of me that i really don't like.

aaaanyway, as i said, i'm not going to mump and moan!

so, for this year, i am going to try and look after myself a little better, strive for balance and really work on the self-discipline thing.

i know that what i probably need is a 'routine', but bleurgh to that! i don't work well with routines, they begin to grind me down after a while and something which is supposed to be fun can feel like a chore, plus, m works crazy shifts which are all over the place so i can't really plan too far ahead, perhaps more structure would work better?

to-do lists really do help me though, i find if i sit down at the start of the year and then review it each month, it helps me focus on what i really want to achieve and which direction i want to go. plus, on those days when i feel like i really can't be bothered and don't know what to do with myself, i just need to pick something from the list and i know i'm moving forward (even if i don't feel it at the time!).

so, this is my draft list for the year:

visit family more often.
have days off with m, where we get to just hang out.
spend more time creating with other people.
regularly bake new things.
keep an eye on the foraging season and make elderflower cordial; nettle soup; raspberry coulis; blackberry jam; hawthorn jam; rosehip syrup; sloe gin.
make this the best year yet for home-grown fruit, herbs, veg and flowers.
create a schedule for the housework.
get outside and exercise.
finish off the half-started diy projects around the house.
put time aside to read, without feeling guilty.
create a dye garden and practise with natural dyes.
finish the half-started projects.
use up my materials stash.
learn new techniques.
work on new projects.
practise new techniques and try out new ideas.
keep shops well stocked.
give myself a break from time to time, be kinder to me and remember to have fun!

so, i'm pretty optimistic about all of this, except perhaps the housework part!

what's your resolutions and plans for this new year?

Monday, January 3

walking off the christmas excesses

well, we may be getting a little fed up with the snow and ice when it comes to trying to get things done. but, there's really nothing better than going for a walk to enjoy wonderful views like this ...on top of the snow is a layer of these huge ice crystals which were glowing in the sun, it really was a beautiful walk.

Sunday, January 2

happy new year!

i wish you a year of peace, hope, health, happiness and love :)

to welcome in the new year we sent up some paper lanterns and were really surprised and delighted to see we weren't the only ones. the sky around us was dotted with so many lanterns, it was really quite something. we were too busy enjoying the sight of them all to actually take any pics though! so here's some of ours ...

let's all be a little more ...

generous in 2011 :)

this is a fab website where you commit to making small changes to your daily life which will have positive effects on you/your family/your community/and hopefully the world in general!

you can sign up to actions that other folk have already posted, some of the most popular ones just now are: stop taking plastic bags from shops; turn off the tap when brushing your teeth; switch off and unplug appliances and chargers; shop locally; give your unwanted or unworn clothes to charity; compost your leftovers; shower more and bath less, or you can suggest your own if you prefer.

it's free to join and you can register using the link above.

sometimes, despite my best efforts, the day-to-day stuff gets in the way of my best intentions! this site is a really good reminder of the little steps i want to take towards the life i am striving for. if we all do a little, it can really make a big difference.

plus, i also find it quite heart-warming and re-assuring to read the 'news' section, it's a re-affirmation that there are lovely folk in the world and it's not all the doom and gloom you can read in the newspaper or see on the tv news.

and here's a few words from generous ...

"Small Steps Taken Often by Many People Mean Big Changes for the Planet and All the People who Live Here.

At Generous we're building a global community of people who believe in changing the world for good … one step at a time.

Every action unknown to everyone else - from unplugging appliances to dumping bottled water, from sharing your car journey to buying Fair Trade -incrementally shifts history in favour of the planet and its people. The more of us who go Generous, the greater our impact."