Thursday, 18 December 2008

Christmas Traditions

This year we are spending Christmas Day at my brother's home.  We are taking my mother there and it will be a quiet family occasion.  This will be the first time that we have done this.  My brother and his wife have only been married for a couple of years, and last year my mother was not well enough to make a journey of 60 miles in one 'sitting'.  This year, although very frail, she will manage it, and we had a 'dummy run' of the distance last week just to see how she managed.

When we were children our family home was always filled to overflowing.  My mother loved company, and visits from Grandparents were always top of the list at Christmas.  My uncle and aunt would also visit on Christmas Day and again on Boxing Day.  What fun we had.  Presents under the tree! Delicious food! Always a walk after lunch, probably not as long as necessary to walk off all the excess food, but long enough to build up an appetite for delicious Christmas Cake and Mince Pies......

As my mother grew older the mantle slipped in my direction.  For many years the we had a similar scenario at our home.  But circumstances change, and now there are times when sons and daughters must visit other families!

If you followed the link above you will have read about the arrival of my grandparents.  Very soon after my maternal grandmother arrived it would be time to make 'Yule Bread'.  This is a very special recipe that has been handed down through several generations of our family.  It has the usual ingredients of  flour, eggs, fresh yeast and butter, but also stacks of top quality raisins, glace cherries and crystallised fruits.  Made in advance and allowed to 'mature' (much like a Christmas Cake) it was duly wrapped in waxed paper and stored in tins.  No tasting was allowed as it really did imrove with keeping.  The first loaf was cut on Christmas morning and served buttered for Breakfast.  It has an unusual texture and is truly delicious.  We always knew that it was Christmas when we saw it on the plate.

Regrettably, although we still have the list of ingredients, the method for making this delicious bread died with my grandmother.  We have tried a number of variations but have not yet managed to find the one that makes the perfect loaf.  Sadly it was a failure again this year.  No, I won't share the full list of ingredients, or the quantities, but if we are ever successful I can guarantee that I will post that fact somewhere!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Winter Flowers

Sometimes pictures say more than words! The first two are flowers that traditionally bloom in the winter. The daffodils were the first of the year last year, pictured on a lovely sunny day. The Veronica was a little sparse when I took the picture, but later became a mass of soft pink blossom that is a joy in winter.
This rose never ceases to amaze us. It flowers in profusion from June until early February, this picture was taken in late December.
And this poor Magnolia is flowering in spite of snow in April. Maybe the next question should be 'when does winter end?'

Sunday, 16 November 2008

How are you going to prepare your business for the holiday rush?

I have decided that my main preparation for the holiday season will be to introduce gift vouchers. Our business isn't really influenced by the holiday season, custom is steady throughout the year, and for that I'm really grateful.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Work outside Etsy

Sassa Lynne is not my only concern. I also have a textile art supply business called Winifred Cottage This is partly a mail order shop, but most of our time is spent travelling to colleges and courses to supply the students. As such it is fairly unique, and I love it.

Once a year we attend an international show at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham UK. Here is a picture of our stand, my DH is posing behind the counter, and we have yet to finish our setup!

Your can also see one of the hand-dyed cloths that we use, and some of the dyed threads are displayed on the wall to the right.

I also teach, and travel back to some of the colleges at which we sell to do this.

Friday, 19 September 2008

In Summery

Summer has come and gone. The Metrological Office announced that the arrival of September 1st officially opened the season of Autumn. So, where did summer go? Did we have one? This would mean that officially summer belongs to the months of June, July and August, and workwise these are some of our busiest. Officially, then, I spent the summer working.

So, what does 'working' mean? It means dyeing, selling, teaching, writing.

Dyeing means building up stock for my etsy shop, and also for our mail order and selling venues. During busy times I dye each day I'm home. Unless it's for a wholesale order (here is just one of our suppliers) I dye in small quantities to get as large a range of colours as possible. My Serendipity range is dyed using a technique that I discovered by accident, and which, to my knowledge, no-one else is currently using. It takes about 24 hours plus drying time from start to finish for each batch.

So, on to selling. Apart from the Etsy shop, which only features our Serendipity range, we have an unusual way of getting our stock out to the customers. Our main business is called Winifred Cottage, and the website is here, but painfully under stocked! We actually have HUNDREDS of items that aren't listed, and I just can't seem to find the time to update it on a regular basis. Our main way of selling is to take our stock, by invitation, to Guild branches, mini exhibitions and also into Colleges and Courses. We frequently attend places like Missenden Abbey, Urchfont Manor and West Dean College. All of these offer wonderful residential short courses in a wide variety of subjects and are well worth considering if you are looking for somewhere to learn. The summer is the time for them to offer a Summer School, so each week during this time we will make a visit. At other times of the year we visit at weekend. We also attended the Festival of Quilts, and as this is an international show lasting 4 days it took an awful lot of preparation.

More and more days and dates are taken up with teaching, too. I teach a variety of stitching techniques, but also an easy dyeing technique (no, not the Serendipity technique, yet!) and of course the Embellisher. My textile life changed for ever when I purchased my machine, and then again when I published my first book. I now travel around the country, and also teach a regular once a month course locally.

Finally, writing, I write the occasional article for magazines, but am also preparing my next book. This is a slow process, I'm determined not to jump on the bandwagon and get another out there against all odds, I have a specific goal with this one, and it is well under way.

There were family highlights too. Firstly, in spite of failing health, my mother reached the grand age of 90. We had a family party for her which she thoroughly enjoyed.

DSC02272 90th 1

She loves having the family around her, and this was no exception. June was also the month that our youngest grandson learnt to crawl. You can see him in the arms of our daughter in law in the same photograph, with proud father behind. Our daughter and other grandchildren are also in the photograph, as is my husband, uncle and aunt, brother, sister in law and niece. We had fun.

The end of August should have been a time for holiday, but circumstances caused us to cancel, and no doubt there will be more about that if we have a summary of autumn!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Pick a favorite color, and show it in your work

What a question to put to a dyer. How do I begin to choose!

The truth is, my favourite colour is the one I dyed last.

So, working on that principle here is the last one I dyed:


This is a actually something slightly different from my usual lines of yarn. It is a lovely soft boucle yarn in a viscose wool mix. It is fantastically soft, and I was very tempted to knit myself a scarf with it, but I listed it on Etsy instead. It's here if you want to see more photographs.

Now the truth is that if I were about to stitch I would use much more vibrant colours. Probably something like these:


but then again it could be something like:


I suppose I'd better admit it. I don't work in a favourite colour at all. I work with whatever takes my fancy, and it could be as vibrant as above or as natural as below:


This is a rust dyed fabric, such beautiful markings and colours.

Are you any wiser than you were in the first place? This must be the most confusing post you have ever read........

So much for blog carnivals.............. ;)

Saturday, 23 August 2008

“Something You Did When A Child That You Will Always Remember”

This theme for the Etsybloggers Blog Carnival is really hard as I have so many happy memories from my childhood. I've chosen this one, as it is slightly different.

As a child my grandparents lived in Brecon. Many a happy hour was spent in their house, along the river that passed the bottom of their garden and in the Beacons. I love the area still, and it always feels like home when I visit.

Another place we visited was Llangorse Lake a beautiful spot, and still unspoilt. One day we drove up through the hills to reach the lake. Now there are car parks and paths to the spot, but at that time it was just a mountain road which meandered right and left as it rose towards the lake and we could stop and park at will. We (my mother, father and brother) got out of the car and started our walk. After about a quarter of a mile we stopped to admire the view. The lake was just visible and the vista was stunning. There were a few large flat rocks there, and we sat down to just drink in the view and the fresh clean air, the sun was shining and it was quite warm. My brother, younger than me and neither of us unable to sit down for long, began to run around, and I began to chase him. We ran around the rocks and then came to a sudden stop when we saw a rifle. Without thinking about it my brother picked it up and ran back to show my parents. They were horrified to see him with it (he was only 4) and some discussion took place as to what to do with it. For the time being it was left at the spot and we carried on with our walk.

It was a couple of hours later that we began the walk back to the car. We hadn't gone very far when we saw the figure of a soldier running along the road behind us. He was loaded up with rucksack and full uniform, and as I said before, it was a hot day. He caught up with us, and was very short of breath. He had lost his rifle! We were able to take him to it and he was so grateful. Returning to camp without it would have resulted in a Court Martial. He had run several miles to find it, and now had to run the same distance back to barracks.

It may not seem much now, but was really exciting and different at the time.