Go With the Flow…

We have been partly in a state of semi-hibernation here this winter and partly it has been a time of learning new things for all of us, which I hope will continue during the year. Jeremy and Ewan have been taking guitar lessons at The Old Town school of Folk music and I have decided that I want to improve my sewing skills. I had learned the basics at school – thanks to Mrs. Neil, but I hadn’t sewn much in a while and was out of practice. I was also getting increasingly fed up of not being able to find clothes that I liked that fitted me well. I’m only 5ft 2″ish and standard sizes are often too, long, but petite sizes can sometimes be too short.

I decided that I wanted to put together my Christmas money from family together this year and to buy myself something that I have wanted to buy for quite a while. I ordered a dress form from PGM, through Amazon. Her name is Audrey, partly after Miss Hepburn and partly Audrey Tatou. As well as helping me to fit clothing and designing jewellery, I think she will also be useful for photographing my jewellery and knitwear as well. Ewan is very amused by Audrey, he kept saying “she has a butt”, over and over.:)

Both of us have been watching lots of you-tube videos on sewing and how to drape on a dress form, particularly those by Sten Martin Jonnson and Nick Verreos, both have very different presentation styles, Sten is quite quiet, shy and methodical, Nick is bubbly and more gregarious, but the enthusiasm both have for the subject shows through. Nick may be familiar to those of you that watch Project Runway, I wasn’t familiar with that – I tend to watch The Great British Sewing Bee more. I have been trying out making my first drape on the form, which hopefully will become a muslin, then perhaps a summer top, if it works out. I will post again once i have more progress on my current projects.

This side of the Morning…

One of my Facebook friends, Andrew Thornton, recently challenged his friends to blog more again, he had always enjoyed blogs, but had noticed that many of his favourites were not blogging as often as they used to. I’m terrible at keeping up with mine, but I thought it might be fun to try posting about what I’m working on, especially as my focus is changing a bit. I hope you will visit Andrew’s blog too, his work is gorgeous:

Ewan and Jeremy were away with our friends Tim and Henry over the weekend, so I had my first day where I could just do my own thing in the studio for months. I wasn’t working towards a show, or anything for a website. The last thing I wanted to do was bead. sometimes when a hobby becomes work, then something else has to take its place when you need something to both relax and inspire you.

A lot of my recent crafting time has been spent either knitting and spinning a sweater, or sewing I think I’m becoming addicted to French seams, it hides all the gubbins and loose threads inside the garment! I want to learn to make more of  my own clothes, so I have a few patterns I want to work on over the winter including 2 shirt patterns and even some underwear. If I want basic plain black and white it is fine, I love my Marks and Spencer’s basic t-shirt bras, but my size is difficult to find, in anything other than those colours. Most companies skip right past it, or they are over $40 for a bra if I can find them.

Stop the World, I’m Getting Off…

With everything going on around the world in recent weeks, I found the one way to stay calm and to unwind was to spin on my new wheel. I’m now finished with the singles for my shawl for the Windy City Knitting Guild challenge. I have plied about 2/3 of it and will do some more tonight. Now I have to decide what to make with it. Do I design my own, or do I pick a pattern that would be suitable for this gradient yarn?

When I got into spinning a few years ago, I started with a Purple Heart wood supported spindle from Wanton Woolies. I love this spindle for very fine, short fibres, but sadly this company don’t seem to be around anymore, so I can’t post a link. The little bowl I use for spinning with this spindle is a little sauce bowl, I have a bead crochet project sitting in it just now, waiting until I have the concentration to work on it.

My second Spindle is a Rosewood mini Turkish spindle from Subterranean Woodworks. This one is tiny, it fits in the palm of my hand and weighs 0.56 oz when empty, but it holds about 1oz of fibre if you layer it on well. I love this one when I go traveling as it easily fits into my lovely knitting bag that my friend Doris made for me. I have some white alpaca on this spindle just now.

My third was a Scott Snyder Turkish spindle, this one is about twice the size and weight of the other Turkish. It can spin various weights of yarn and I love it for plying as well. I will often take 2-3 turtles from the smaller spindle and ply them together on this one. At the moment I am spinning some hand dyed silk hankies on this one, but this photo shows a previous spin of a Merino silk blend from Ashland Bay:

Denim Blues

My fourth spindle is a beautiful drop spindle made by Mike King at Spanish Peacock. It is both beautiful, light and very easy to use. I love it for lace weight singles as it spins like a dream! This photo is from an older project, some of my own rolags I’m spinning up for a woven scarf, but it shows the steampunk style design quite well.


In my next 2-3 posts I will post about some spinning and knitting podcasts that I love and I’m thinking of maybe adding a little bit about one or two books that I love – note, these mini reviews will be based on books that I have bought with my own money and have found helpful, or I have enjoyed unless otherwise stated.

The title of the post comes from the lyrics of this Stone Roses song, so don’t be too worried! Sometimes I need to take time to zone out, to work on something that feels comforting. Is there any of the things that I do that you would like to hear more about? Knitting, spinning, beads, crochet? I want to get into more regular craft blogging, but ideas would be welcome.

New Year, New Wheel and Groundhogs…

I started spinning a few years ago, at first on a supported spindle and I now have two Turkish spindles and a drop spindle as well. I love them for their fine spinning and their portability, but I also wanted to buy a wheel. When I started working again this summer, I started putting away the money I earned every month, in order to buy my wheel.

Jeremy, my Mum and Dad and Margaret and Peter all gave me Christmas money this year and so I was able to go up to the Fold in Marengo, Illinois to buy my wheel. I can recommend them to anyone looking to buy a wheel, fibre or a loom as they were very friendly and helpful and let me try it out before I bought it.

I had originally intended looking at three wheels – the Schacht Ladybug and Flat Iron and the Lendrum DT. They got out the Lendrum first and I didn’t even try the other two, it just felt right straight away. They gave me a big bag of fibre to try the new wheel out, I chose some white BFL, brown BFL and some light sand coloured Shetland, I haven’t tried spinning Shetland yet, though I have knitted with it.

After that we went for lunch. As the Illinois Railway Museum we often go to was closed for the season, we took a trip over to nearby Woodstock. Woodstock is where they filmed many of the scenes in the Bill Murray film Groundhog Day. Woodstock’s square stood in for Punxsutawney and Gobbler’s Knob:

We went to Ethereal Confections for lunch which is wonderful if you love chocolate, everything is made in their kitchens and they have gluten free options as well:

Then after that we took Ewan to the Volo Auto Museum. I think he liked the Ghostbusters Ambulance best, followed by the Batmobile:

We didn’t get the wheel assembled until the next day, when we had got home from Woodstock and the car museum, I had just wanted to nap.

This was my first try, using the white BFL. Thick, thin and decidedly wonky, but the second try was better and by the third I was able to replicate the singles I had been making on my spindles.


Ewan and I had dyed some fibre on the last Friday of his school holidays, he dyed some Corriedale with food dyes and I dyed some Merino with my Dharma and Jacquard acid dyes, some of them will become a shawl for the Windy City Knitting Guild shawl knit along:


I n-plied my first batch of singles last night on my drop spindle. I was a little bit unsure of plying on the wheel yet as I haven’t had much of a practice run, but it came out well, I now have to spin some more over the next week, or so. I’m hoping I will be able to post an update over the weekend, if I can get some more spun up.




On My Table

Four done,six to go. One of the things that I do when not working on my own projects, is repairing jewellery and custom design work. The pieces on the left are knotted on silk, or nylon threads and the pieces on the right are netted necklaces from South Africa that need minor repairs to the beadwork.

Talking Stick

Talking stick #1

Talking stick #2

Talking stick #4

Another interesting repair job came into work this week. I’m trying to find out a little bit more about these pieces while I’m repairing a few missing beads. At first I thought they maybe Yoruba beadwork from Nigeria, but now I think they may Masai talking sticks from Kenya. If anyone knows, I would love to know more about them.

I have repaired the netting stitch on the first one and I will work on the other one later today and I’ll post another picture later.

Do you think there is a theme going on?

Ewan has been going to an Art camp at Lille Street Art Centre this week, so I have had my mornings free and I have been working on a few things in between laundry and other tasks. When I was picking him up after class the other day, when I saw the interesting old lino floor:

Floor at Lille Street Art Centre

So I decided to mix up some beads and bead up a chenille stitch necklace in similar colours, slowly graduating the colours from dark at the ends to lighter shades in the centre:

Floor at Lille Street Art Centre
Then I dug out a knitting project I started before I went back to Scotland, the colours were very similar! I may have to frog this and restart it, I love how it looks, but it may be too small and I want it to fit me, not Ewan!

I like the way this looks, but it may be too small...


I recently started working at Ayla’s Originals again, in Evanston Illinois. I worked there before my son Ewan was born. Part of my job is to redesign, or repair customer’s jewellery when it comes into the store.

This piece was one of those, when it came in it had been tied in a knot at some point in its life in order to shorten it and the sharp edges of the vintage 3-cut beads had sliced through the original thread in several places. So the decision was made to remake the necklace from scratch and to replace the knotted bundle of beads with a beaded bead. The bottom two photos show the necklace as it came in to the store and the middle photo and the mugshot of me show the finished piece after I had completed the restoration. I hope my customer likes it and enjoys wearing it!

IMG_20160630_174604-01IMG_20160630_102450IMG_20160626_101138 IMG_20160626_101122

Studio Day #2

I haven’t had a proper day in the studio for a few weeks now. Ewan no longer goes to Ellen’s, but it will be a few months before he starts pre-school as well. This week he is going to an art camp every morning, so I have an extra 3 hours to experiment and bead that I wouldn’t otherwise have had.

I have been taking time to try out a few new (to me) beadwork stitches – Hubble Stitch, Albion Stitch and Kumihimo with beads, but with varying rates of success. I love working with Hubble, which was originally developed by Melanie DeMiguel, I can see me using this one a lot as it has a lovely open texture and works up quickly:

New Tricks #1

The second one is Albion Stitch developed by Heather Kingsley-Heath, I don’t have a photo of the piece I have been working on yet, but again I want to play with this one some more, tension is important, or the the thread can show more than I want it to.

The third technique is Kumihimo, but I’m not doing so well with the tension on this one, the beads want to lie on their sides instead of flat and I just decided to quit before I chuck it across the room! I was like this with odd count peyote too, lots of frustrating attempts and samples before it finally clicked for me, I just need to stick with it.

New Tricks #2

If all else fails then this: