Troobs in progress

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I have given myself permission not to fret about fitting in any sketching or painting ’til November is out, so as to catch up with crocheting and sewing gifts for Christmas.

I have two crocheted cupcakes to complete (intended as play food to accompany my daughter’s tea set … I offer this as justification for what sounds on the face of it like an insanely silly undertaking, even to me, and I’m the one doing it), three pairs of fingerless mitts to get started on, another crayon wrap to sew, a sketch to frame and a number of cards still to make. Next year, by some miracle I might start planning the handmade stuff about six months earlier …

The project pictured – Danielle Kassner’s “Troubador Socks” from the Spring 2008 issue of Interweave Crochet – is my first attempt to get to grips with fair-isle crochet. I’m already doubting my choice of yarn, but after getting about seven rows into the toe and unravelling three times, I am just about at the stage of no longer feeling I’m wrestling with spaghetti, and instead, enjoying the process. These will be what they turn out to be: no expectation, no deadlines, no stress.

This isn’t, of course, one of my Christmas projects.

I’m such an idiot.

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A handmade’s tale

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Inspired by Amanda Blake Soule’s delightful book The Creative Family, I decided it was time to put my vintage sewing machine to use. My aunt, who sewed so lovingly for forty years on this machine, died last month – just six weeks after I’d become its proud new owner. This has spurred me on to try and surmount my technical ineptitude, and get to grips with this formidable beast.

The first project in SouleMama’s book is a pencil wrap made of felt; perfect for a beginner, since there are no hems required. My version is smaller – a wrap for crayons, for the son of a close friend of mine. Happily I am confident that both she and her little boy will see past the imperfections of my first sewing project and enjoy the bright colours, and the fact that it’s a handmade gift.

The wrap ties shut so that it’s easily transportable …


… and there’s a flap to help keep the crayons in place …


… with the crayons themselves tucked into six little pockets.


I plan to make one of these for my little girl, who is already aware of the importance of having her art materials always to hand!


As for SouleMama, her blog is full of beautiful photography, a visual hymn to the comforts and creativity of a rich family life. Congratulations, Amanda, on the gorgeous new addition to your family.

November, November, the fifth of Remember …

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… or something along those lines.

I present a handful of November sketchjournal pages – with minimal blog commentary, I’m afraid, because that’s the sort of mood I’m in. It has been an unusual month: my little girl and I have been suffering and snuffling for two weeks now with the cold that just won’t quit; and having returned from Australia, Paul is now in the US; and I would like the viral unpleasantness and the incessant work trips to cease and desist, thank you very much.


Pen, watercolour & Starbucks wrapping in Canson journal


Pen & gouache in Canson journal


Staedtler pens, gouache & silver thingummybobbies in Canson journal

Up to eleven

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Eleven years, the internet reliably informs me, marks our “steel” anniversary. Steel? Does the average couple experience a sudden, inexplicable need for a new stainless-steel cutlery set after eleven years of marriage? Or is it meant as a joke? “Steel married after all this time? Haw haw.”

Eleven years of marriage (or eleventy, as you put it – for which you’ll pay) means a lot; of course it does. But somehow, each year, I find myself smiling mildly indulgently at this anniversary of being your wife, knowing that it competes in vain with other dates inscribed on the calendar of my memory – 18 years of being your lover, 20 years of being your friend – and with the comparatively short, but completely overwhelming, two years that we have been parents to our astonishing little girl.

Graphite pencil on paper, 1993

Conté pencil on black paper, 2002

Conté sticks on La Carte sandpaper, 2004

I will miss you tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that … and then the day after that I will stop missing you, because you’ll have come back home, and we will get on with another eleventy years of marriage.

As Dolores Hfuhruhurr so aptly put it: “You – man of steel! I can’t wait … ’til next Thursday.”

I love you. xx