Tuesday 24 February 2015


Beware! Long post ahead!
On Saturday my friend and I abandoned our menfolk and children, and skived off from all domestic duties, to go to Unravel, the yarny craft show that is run every year in Farnham. We hadn't been before, in fact we'd never managed a craft show together before .... there was always a football match or choir rehearsal or something that at least one of our children would've had to have gone to. What made it even better this time was that the children were going to a party so the menfolk would have to the taxiing around (for a change!). Joyous indeed :)

Anyway, we leapt into the car and before you could say "Mum, will you help me with my homework" we sped off. Sat-nav took us by a scenic route (3 times round Farnham town centre anyone ?) but we got there eventually, found a perfect parking spot, and scampered off towards the venue like a couple of nutters who'd been let out for the day (actually that pretty much sums it up).

Unravel describes itself as a knitting festival, but the first stalls we came across were spinning, weaving and felting, so really it's just one big happy jolly yarny love-in. We booked ourselves onto a felting workshop running later in the day, and went off exploring.
Well. Oh. My. Golly. Gosh. There was soooooooo much to see. Yarn, yarn, crocheting, yarn, knitted items, more yarn, buttons, more yarn, yarny accessories, yet more yarn, and did I mention the yarn ? 

As I said, almost the first thing we saw was this lovely lady spinning. So very calming to watch. "Would you like a go dear?" she said to me. "Would I like a go ? Try and stop me!". So, I sat down, and with a little instruction, I had a go. A really bad go. It turns out I am seriously totally CRAP (sorry, but it has to be said) at spinning. Yes I could push the pedal but I was too fast, not keeping it even enough, I kept forgetting to let the yarn go in, it all sort of overwound, tangled itself all up, snapped, eurgh. The stuff I did actually spin ended up so tight it was like wire. My little spinning lady was so lovely ... "you're doing ever so well dear, keep trying". But it was no good. I was dreadful. I have now found a craft I won't be taking up. I shall leave it to the little old ladies and anyone else who can manage it, and will just watch in admiration from the side-lines.

Next up was The Great Hall. Yarny heaven. Serious, I-have-died-and-want-to-stay-here-forever heaven. Lots of stalls with merino tops (I know what is thanks to the felting lady), oh my gosh so soft I just want to lie in a bed of them forever. There were yarns of all colours, shapes, sizes, and lots of crafted produce on display showing the yarns crocheted or knitted up. And what's more, lots of the attendees were sporting hand-made items - I loved this lady's button necklace.  She thought I was a bit bonkers when I asked if I could take a photo of it :) Isn't it marvelous :)

We had a lovely chat with Louise Walker who was showing some of her fabulous animal creations. I just LOVE the name of her book "Faux Taxidermy Knits" - how brilliant! I wish I'd taken some pictures of her creatures, they really were fab. Louise was really lovely, so bubbly and enthusiastic, I am sure she will go far :)

There was room after room after room of stalls of gorgeous fibers and yarns. My favourite though was Amanda's yarns, at the Natural Dye Studio stall. Amanda, who also hosts a blog amandascrochetblog.blogspot.co.uk, hand-dyes her yarns, they are the most amazing colours, truly DiVine.

On display at her stall was a Zodiac crochet blanket of Amanda's design, made by her crochet group. I kept coming back to gaze at it, the colours were so mesmerizing, and knowing that right alongside, on sale, was all the yarn needed to make such an object of beauty, was almost too much to bear.

And then there was the fact that Amanda is winding down the dyeing side of her business, so this was the last of the yarn. Waaaaaaah :( However, if I'd come home with all the yarn required, hubby would have sent me out to work, and we'd have needed an extra room to store it in, and a spare year to do all the crocheting. It just wasn't to be. Let's just have another look though. Sigh.

Just outside the Great Hall we noticed this very strange thing hanging down from the ceiling, like the drawings in Dr Seuss books, or some weird blue seaweed. Hanging from various points were random balls of blue wool with the occasional knitting needle sticking out. We wandered over to see what this was all about, and discovered we could be part of Sarah Filmer's Blue Project - you can read about it here. (www.sarahfilmer.com/blue-jumper).

We grabbed a pair of knitting needles (or the one-and-only crochet hook - shameful!) and got busy putting our own little stamp on the blue-jumper. This was my bit. Not my finest crochet hour, but lots of fun :)

Soon it was time for our wet felting workshop. We were a small group, just of 4 of us with an enthusiastic teacher.  Here's our kit all laid out .....

We started off with this lovely fluffy stuff ....

.... then we made into a soggy heap ...

.... rolled it and bashed it about a bit ....

.... and somehow managed to get it to look like this! Miraculous!

Here are all our flowers together :) Really very pleasing, don't you think ?

There were some really fun stalls of vintage sewing and knitting patterns, and bits and pieces. We had a LOT of fun giggling at ancient patterns for men's string vests and things :) 
I did bag a wee bargain though, this gorgeous vintage cross-stitch book for £1.50 ........

There are some really great designs which have probably come full circle back into fashion since its first publication decades ago. 

And so the time has come for me to share some photos of the yarn I just had to buy.  We wandered around a lot but I kept coming back to this luxurious number by Manos del Uruguay. It is heavenly. A silk blend, it's amazing to the touch, I have no idea what to make with it, I couldn't possibly do it justice.

That was the buying floodgates opened then, and I went a bit mad! One stall had some samples of woven fabric (on an Ashford Rigid Heddle like mine), made with a variegated yarn on the warp, and a single colour on the weft. And so I bought this to do my own version ....  it's silky soft. Because it's silk. Soooooo gorgeous :)

And then I had a rummage in the sale box (which was still waaaaay dearer than I would normally spend on yarn - oops) and bought these Louise Harding balls as a 4-pack. More silky softness.

And since I couldn't make it my mind which of these skeins of squidginess to buy, I bought all three. And two of each.

And here it is altogether. Yummy yum!

All that ohh-ing and ash-ing at yarn makes a girl rather puckish and very thirsty, so we headed off to the cafe for a rather late lunch. We were standing having a sandwich and a cuppa (there were no seats left), and I was generally looking around, when right next to me I spotted this ....

... yes, a random little white paper bag, stuck on a pillar, saying "Take me!" with a "Have a nice day" sticker. I had a look around for the hidden camera, and after checking with my friend that I wasn't about to really embarrass myself (she thought I was) I tentatively peeled it off. The lady at the next table also thought I was mad, I think. I checked that she hadn't put it there and was waiting for an unsuspecting yarn addict to made a complete idiot of herself. She insisted she'd had nothing to do with it.

On the other side of the paper bag was this ....

Even more intriguing!  And when I opened it, iI found this little leather key fob thingy .....

Isn't it gorgeous! A total "pay-it-forward" type gesture. The little business card didn't even have a business name on it so there was no one I could thank for such a thoughtful gift.

We'd had a really fabulous day at Unravel, and this was the icing on the yarny cake :)

Monday 23 February 2015

Half-term at Centerparcs

Half-term brought a lovely surprise - a last-minute mid-week break to Centerparcs in Longleat, Wiltshire. And I mean last-minute. We booked it at 11am Sunday morning, and left 9am Monday! The weather was very kind to us, only a little rain, with crisp clear blue skies for most of the time.
If you don't know, Centerparcs is a (not inexpensive) way of combining a villa holiday with activities and restaurants all on hand. I believe it began in Holland, and in fact we've been to a Dutch Centerparcs 3 times - it's much cheaper than the English ones, though more of a pain to get to, obviously. 

Your holiday price includes full use of the "Subtropical Swimming Paradise" which is pretty much all we do whilst there (it's great but I wouldn't go as far as "paradise"). That's not it above - that's just the boating pond :) The pool area is all under a bio dome type thingy, loads of slides, rapids, wave machine and so on. Perfectly heated and no risk of sunburn. 

It's a great holiday for us. Little Man knows exactly what to expect and we can keep the routine the same each day. This also works for me as I get to chill for a lot of it :)

Our routine goes like this:-
- waken up, Dad does breakfast, Mum has lie-in with book, Little Peeps play/draw/watch DVD.
- amble via play areas to central area
- quick lunch
- pool for hoooooours, Dad is chief entertainer. Mum is provider of drinks, snacks, towels, cuddles and again reads book.
- get dried, dinner, home. 
- small people to bed, Dad and Mum watch a DVD while Mum crochets :) Everyone happy.

Whilst away I read 3 books, and I crocheted half a scarf. My Year in Books post will be looking pretty healthy next time.

I've only got a few photos as I left my fancy camera at home, and only took my phone out with me one day. The squirrels kept running away, and despite looking I didn't see any spring flowers emerging. So you'll have to make do with leafy things, ducks and children. And crochet of course :)

Sunday 22 February 2015

100 Posts Giveaway Winners

Thankyou so much to everyone who entered my 100 Posts Giveaway. What a wonderful response :) There were 27 entries, and I had decided in my head that if it was over 25 then I'd pick two runners-up as well as the main winner.

Naturally such an important task as randomly picking winners required the assistance of a Helper. Little Miss volunteered and she had the genius idea of using her Squinkie (teeny small figures that come in a little clear ball) gum ball machine to pick the winning names. 

I wrote them out and my Helper folded them and put them in their balls. We then jumbled them up and loaded them into the gum ball machine. 

The lights were dimmed, their was an air of suspense and we held our breath as the plastic yellow coin was inserted into the garish pink and purple plastic machine, and the green plastic turny-thing was turned.

Out of the purple plastic door there rolled a clear plastic ball. (Lots of plastic around, eh). We opened it, unfolded the paper and .....

..... the winner is (drum-roll please) ........

..... the very lovely Anne of Crochet Between Two Worlds :) Hurray! Congratulations Anne :)

We repeated the whole exciting coin-inserting-green-twisty-thing-turning drama twice and two more names rolled out .....

Teresa from knitbakecultivate, and Gill :) Hurray hurray!

Helper (Little Miss) then decided it was only fair to personalize the hand-written names by allocating a Squinkie to each ....

If you lovely winners can send me your contact details I'll get your goodies packaged up and sent off. I have a feeling my email on my profile won't let you email me, but give it a try and let me know what happens! Sadly Squinkies are not included as part of the prize package. Bet you're gutted.

Love Jill

Saturday 14 February 2015

100 Posts Giveaway

Hurray! I've finally managed to write 100 posts! I can't believe that I've made it this far, I really wanted to try and stick at it, but wasn't sure if I would, or if I could find either the time to write, or the "stuff" to write about. I didn't really have any kind of goal or plan in mind, I just hoped to enjoy a bit of crafting and maybe take some not-too-awful photos as a sort of virtual scrapbook :) As it turns out, I've really loved writing my posts, the desire for my content to be of even mild interest to anyone has opened my eyes to the smaller details of everyday life. Bits and pieces of nature, random happenings at home with my Little People, fun days out. My crafting has definitely increased, and having lots of positive feedback has been amazing. That first morning, the day after my first post, when I saw I had some comments on my was soooooo exciting!

In fact, for me, comments from my lovely readers is the very best bit about blogging. Not because of how lovely the comments are in themselves, it's more the feeling of community that exists, and the (albeit virtual) meeting of kindred spirits. I've made lots of lovely bloggy friends, and had the privilege of discovering so many other wonderful bloggers and their blogs, lots of amazingly creative people, who not only share their knowledge and ideas (and gorgeous photos), but who give their time to read and comment back on my posts. Lovely readers from all over the world, from Iceland to New Zealand everywhere in between. Bloody marvelous isn't it :) Just makes you realize people are people, and what's more are lovely people, the world over. Thankyou to each and everyone of you who've read my posts or left me comments  :)

Now down to business. There's only one way to celebrate 100 posts and that's with a GiVeAwAy .... yippee !!!! I've gathered together a few craft bits and bobs for one lucky winner.

There's a few stationery bits ....

... including one of my fabric covered notebooks (I'm hoping to be selling these soon) ....

.... and a selection of yarny stitchy goodies ....

I made the lined pouch, you could use it to hold pens, glasses, or crochet hooks of course! The yarn is a wool-acrylic mix and there is enough to make a pair of the Ombré Mitts from my last post? And I'll also include a printed copy of the pattern for the mitts (totally bigging it up, it's very easy!). There may be a couple of little extras thrown in too that aren't in the photo :)

There will also be 2 surprise runner-up prizes (surprise because I haven't decided what yet lol).

At this point I'm thinking "I will be so mortified if no one enters, because that will mean everyone thinks it's a load of old tat" ....

Anyway here are the (for want of a better word) rules ....
1. To enter all you have to do is leave a comment below. If you feel like telling me what your favourite emerald cottage post was, that would be lovely.
2. If you mention my blog, and the giveaway, on your own blog, that would also be lovely, and will get you a second chance of winning :) Just make sure you tell me you've done so :)
3. The closing date is midnight next Saturday night, 21st Feb 2015. Midnight my time. (London time!)
4. The winner will be chosen highly scientifically by one of my Little People pulling a name from a hat (this is why there are runners up, I have to allow each child to select a name, otherwise an argument will ensue).
5. Please do make sure to leave some contact details, and in the unlikely event that I can't contact you (after a few tries), should you win, then another name will be chosen.

I think that's it! If there's sufficient interest I may even be tempted to do another giveaway on my first blog birthday which is just round the corner :)

Thankyou all my lovely lovely readers, and Good Luck !!!