The Sky Blanket

by D Sharon Pruitt

And so after almost an entire year thinking about it, I've decided to knit a sky blanket.

I first heard about the sky blanket from Laura at Bugs and Fishes, who in turn was inspired by Lea Redmond's sky scarf.  Now it isn't that I'm not a fan of scarves because I am in a big way, it's just that I have an awful, awful lot of scarves and can't see myself being committed enough to finish a year long project that would end with something I have far too many of to begin with.  But I would love a blanket for Chloe's bedroom and the sky blanket idea really clicked and it's been niggling at me all year.

At first I thought "oh sky quilt, I could sew it" because I'd fallen out of love with knitting after making far too many of the really big daisies.

But since I've had my hands on some new yarn I'm back to enjoying it again having started with a few mindless and simple pattern repeats to get me going again.

I'm not exactly short of a blanket or six around here either.  I'm not sure if I ever mentioned it but my granny on my dad's side woke up one morning with what looked like a cold sore just underneath her nose, what quickly followed was an infection that somehow spread to her brain and caused complete memory loss.  You'll have to excuse the lack of details, I got the Chinese whispers version but the gist is that when she was finally discharged from hospital having regained some basic memories (who each of us were etc) she was a bit shocked to find there was no yarn nor tools to work it with in her home.  Somehow, and we've no idea how because she'd never done it before, she could crochet and not only that but she's a demon with a hook.  I don't know, maybe an old buried memory of being taught as a child or something surfaced but my house, all our houses are coming down with crocheted blankets.

I've never made it through a whole one myself though, often starting and rehashing them into smaller projects, but I will have a bash this year.  I have my diary at the ready and will make a note of what the sky looks like each day at noon and then knit the squares, I'll either be well behaved and do one every night or I won't and I'll be left rushing at the end of every week/month/year to catch up.  We shall see.  I should probably also make sure I always look out the same window when I'm at home, more than once this year it's been sunny at the front of the house and raining at the back but then that's Ireland for you, it ain't green because we paint it:)

Now I just have to choose the shades and buy the yarn ... it's a good thing I like grey.

What I've been up to

Awful blogger, promises to make more time, yadda yadda, it's Christmas and you know how it goes:)

So just what have I been up to lately?  Well, truth be told not an awful lot.  After the slightly frantic Christmas last year it's been much more chilled and relaxed this year.  I didn't take any more custom orders than I was comfortable with and they're all very nearly finished now.  I'll be popping all my shops in holiday from the 18th December until the New Year which should give me a few clear days before Chloe finishes school to take care of any little last minute things and generally make the house nice and neat and tidy should anyone rock up to my front door over the holidays and I won't feel like the cleaning elf while everyone else sleeps in front of the telly:)

In the meantime I'll be beavering away as usual;

Working and packing orders

Sewing in anything that even vaguely resembles sunshine;

And making some time for things just for me and the family.  In between wrapping the presents ...

And whipping up a little bit of festive bunting for the kitchen so that it doesn't look like the room that Christmas forgot ...

I've made a new bag just for me, a little more Winter proof than just plain cotton I have to admit I'm quite pleased with it and my new Dottery Pottery bag charm finishes it off nicely.

I whipped up a fat stack of new bandana style bibs for my little (I say little, he's 28) brother's eagerly awaited new arrival ... Edit:  in hospital as we speak, I'm telling you any nails I'd managed to grow have been bitten to the quick this morning!

I also treated myself to a couple of skeins of beautiful yarn from Wharfedale Woolworks and have been busy knitting myself a snuggleddy, strippeddy cowl which I may or may not get finished this side of Christmas.  I hope to.

And I managed to tolerate Chloe's aghast looks that the scarf wasn't for her for a grand total of about 8 minutes before popping on t'internet and letting her choose something for herself.

She went with the plumberry, which is very much the yummiest of all colours but her scarf will definitely not be ready for Christmas.  One for the dark nights curled up in front of the fire with an old movie and a full belly I think.

And I couldn't resist another little skein for myself while I was at it (it would have been rude to just order the one), but I've no thoughts on what to make yet.

I'm open to any ideas, it's a lovely chunky yarn, oh and the colour screams candy corn ... Yes I know we don't have candy corn here but I bought a bag from Harry and David in Vegas over 8 years ago and I totally remember what it looked like ... right before I ate the lot:)

And in my quiet moments, they're precious, few and far between, but they're there to be found if I look hard enough, I'm fiddling and faffing with the pattern for the tri-fold purse to make it a little more blog friendly.

Up and Running

All of my shops were closed for a little while, but you'll be glad to hear that both my Etsy and Folksy shops are now back up and running again.  I'm still working through my Wow Thank You shop but it's getting there (oh for a 30 hour day).

I had a large order to work through and decided to taken the time to reorganise all of my shops whilst they were closed and kill two birds with one stone.  For a while I have been making the kindle and tablet cases to order but I wanted to have ready to ship cases in stock for the Christmas period.  I'm not a patient person so I always think twice (three times) about whether or order something that needs to be made to order, partly because the item I get may or may not be exactly like the item I ordered and partly because when I order something I like it to arrive and be able to tick it off my list, especially at Christmas.  You know when you just like to know something is done and you don't have to think about it any more.

So anyway, all the custom orders I've been making happily fall into three sizes, all right more than that if you count ipads and phones etc, but the Kindle and tablet cases are now available to buy in three sizes and all are ready to ship.

The Size 1 Cases, suitable for Kindle Nook and Kobo Touch, Kindle 4 & 5 and the new Kobo Glo and Kindle Paperwhite.

Designer Handmade Fabric Kindle Touch Case, Kindle Paperwhite Case, Cover, Sleev, Kobo Glo, Kobo Touch, Nook Touch
Paddington Lime

Designer Handmade Fabric Kindle Touch Case, Kindle Paperwhite Case, Cover, Sleev, Kobo Glo, Kobo Touch, Nook Touch
Paddington Raspberry

The Size 2 cases, suitable for the Kindle 3 Keyboard (wifi & 3G), the Google Nexus 7, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 and the new Kobo Arc.

Handmade Designer Fabric Kindle Keyboard Case, Kindle 3, Galaxy Tab 7.0 Case Cover, Google Nexus 7 Sleeve Case
Notting Hill Raspberry

Handmade Designer Fabric Kindle Keyboard Case, Kindle 3, Galaxy Tab 7.0 Case Cover, Google Nexus 7 Sleeve Case
Kaito Red

And the Size 3 cases, suitable for the Kindle original and the Kindle 2 as well as some of the other larger tablets.

Designer Fabric Kindle 1 Case, Kindle 2 Case, tablet, ereader, made in the UK
Book Store

Designer Fabric Kindle 1 Case, Kindle 2 Case, tablet, ereader, made in the UK
Scratched Vinyl

These cases and more are now all available to buy from both my Folksy and Etsy shops, but please feel free to still get in touch if you would like a custom made case in a different fabric ... I haz many!

Hardback Notebook Needlebook Tutorial

Remember these little books?

They're little needlebooks that look like hardback books ... cute right?  Well I went on a notebook making bender a few years ago but I've had a few requests for a tutorial on how to make these recently and, my apologies, it's taken me a while to get round to it, but here they are ...

For starters the ingredients ...

You will need:

8 pieces of felt measuring 9 x 6.5cm each
2 pieces of card measuring 10 x 7cm
1 piece of card measuring 10 x 2cm
1 piece of white paper measuring 9 x 16.5cm
1 piece patterned paper measuring 13 x 20cm
bradawl or something pointy
suitable adhesive (gluestick)
grubby old cutting mat or something you don't mind getting glue on

  • The white paper is regular printing paper.
  • The card should be reasonably heavyweight but not corrutgated and recycled is fine
  • The patterned paper is scrapbooking paper
  • You can cover the book in fabric just make sure to use the right kind of glue
Right, onwards ...

I've used two colours of felt for this little book.  Start by pairing your felt pieces, one of each colour (or whichever way suits your chosen colours) and straight stitch around the edges.  Feel free to trim the edges of the felt afterwards so they're pedantically perfect, or you can just leave 'em as is.  Whatever!

Next bar tack all four 'pages' together on one of the long edges.  Place the bar tacks roughly 2cm in from each end.  If your machine won't manage the thickness you can hand sew this part.

Next line your stack of felt pages up with the 2cm strip of card and mark the position of the bar tacks.

Using the bradawl or something pointy that you won't hurt yourself using poke three holes on the marks you've made equally across the width of the strip of card and apply glue to the card strip between the holes only, leave the two ends unglued for now.

Fold the piece of white paper in half along the long edge to mark the centre and stick the strip of card in the middle.  You're going to need to stick your patterned paper underneath the white paper later, that's why it's important to not stick the white paper down at the ends yet.

Next up thread a needle with some strong thread and poke through the holes in your card strip to make holes in the white paper too.  Then stitch back and forth neatly to secure the felt pages in place.  Come up through the first hole at the top of the card strip, catch the bar tack between your first and second felt page and back through the same hole again, then move along to the next hole and repeat catching the bar tack between the second and third pages and so on.  Three or four stitches through each hole is plenty.  Repeat for the holes at the bottom of the card strip.

Next fold your piece of patterned paper in half along the long edge to mark the centre, apply glue to the back of your card strip and stick it in the middle of the patterned paper.  Apply glue to both the remaining pieces of card and stick them down firmly on either side of the card strip leaving a 0.5cm gap in between the spine and covers.

Trim off the corners of your patterned paper getting close to, but not touching,  the corners of the card.

Then work your way around the book, glueing and sticking down the over hanging patterned paper, making sure to fold the white paper and felt pages out of the way when sticking it down to the spine of the book.

Finish by glueing down the white sheet on the inside of the book.  Start close to the felt pages and press the white paper into the gap between the spine and cover pieces of card then carry on glueing out to the edge of the cover.

Then just fold your book closed and leave it somewhere safe over night to dry thoroughly.

Fill with pretty pins and you're all done.

These would make great gifts for a stitchy friend, you could even use a copy of a favourite photo or book page to cover the book to make it more personal.

This tutorial is for non commercial use only.  Feel free to make these for yourself or as gifts but not to sell.

The post Hardback Notebook Needlebook Tutorial first appeared on See the Woods and the Trees

For Annie - A bike on a boy on a bike

The real photo of the real bike on the real boy on a real bike ... WITH AN 'L' PLATE!!!

Seriously, who would do this and think "cracking idea, don't know why more people don't do it"!

It's like every Irish joke I've ever heard all rolled up and popped atop two wheels.  Do the bikes have ashtrays, does he play darts with an inflatable board, is he off home to pop a brew in his favourite chocolate teapot?  Who knows:)

Back to square one ... and happy about it!

For those who don't remember last year was one of our worst.  We've had some real stinkers but last year's bar was world record limbo low.  It sucked!

Robert, after being coaxed away to work for what turned out to be a Mickey Mouse company run by a scummy dying liar, found himself out of work for most of last year.  I could be civil and bite my tongue about it at the time, I'd bigger things to worry about after all, but now!  Well let's just say heaven help the man if I ever pass him in the street, but anyway ...

It was a horrible year, we had little help with anything and quickly found ourselves sinking further and further into debt, we had no money, not a little money, none!  The mortgage wasn't paid nor were any utilities, luxuries like insurance went out the window, the car was taken off the road and rotted in the drive.  At our lowest we owed £500 in gas, £1200 in electric, who knows how much to my parents who helped with Chloe, had a car that would cost £1000 to make road worthy and ... the big one ... a repossession order had been issued for our home. 

Now if you remember all this, you'll probably also remember that I went on holiday last year, I didn't pay anything for it my mum did and it was only because they wanted to take Chloe  with them and knew it would be easier for me to tag along.  Imagine scrimping just to get by, not putting the heating on in winter because you're still trying to pay for last, consoling your husband that none of this is his fault, getting a repossession order in the post on Thursday and the last thing you do is make sure your husband has a solicitor to talk to before taking his daughter and getting on a plane.  Not my finest hour!

At the end of last week I got a statement to say that we now owe our electric company £22!  The last debt to be paid and I could have cried.  We're now back precisely where we were 2 years ago and even though I wish none of it had ever happened I still couldn't be happier for so many reasons.

My husband's a happier man, whether he realises it or not there has been a heaviness about him the last 18 months even since returning to work and I can finally see the happy in him again.

Chloe's picked up on it as well. We tried not to let her see the stress but she's not stupid and when an ice cream van goes down the street and your six year old just doesn't even bother asking any more it cuts you to the quick.

I can even start to try and scrape my business back together again.  While Robert was out of work I couldn't do anything  The fact is every spare penny had to count so even when I did sell something I couldn't replace it, I couldn't reinvest any money back into my business because we just couldn't afford it  I'd spent so long, so many hours, days and nights building myself a little business and could do nothing but slowly watch it die with each sale.  It was a horrible feeling and one I felt guilty about.  With everything else going on I had got so low I'd actually bought into the crap attitude about craft and home based business ... how dare I worry about my silly little online 'thing' when my husband had lost a "real" job ... and I was angry for feeling guilty.  It was mine, I'd worked hard for it, why shouldn't I be devastated at nearly losing it. 

This is what I do, it's how I earn my living, it's how I keep my sanity, it isn't just a hobby, me fannying about with fabric when the wee one is in bed for the night.  It's a job and a hard one at that, I work from 5am, usually I don't go to bed until well past midnight ... sometimes not at all, I work all day and all night and many full time crafters are exactly the same and the really twisted thing is, do you know why we work nights as well as days and bank holidays and public holidays and every spare second in between?  Because somewhere in every one of us a little speck of the crap attitude has crept in and set up camp so if we don't push to the point of exhaustion, we feel guilty about it!  "Do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life" - someone said that, clearly someone with lackies for all the stuff they didn't enjoy because every great love comes with a downside, one you have to work hard at.  In any given day I put on the shoes of every employee in every big company I've ever worked for.  I'm everything from the boss to the marketing director, the secretary to the post girl, the cleaner to the tea lady and everything, and I mean everything in between.  And do you know what, I wouldn't have it any other way.  I love what I do, even when I'm keeping one eye on Chloe in the shower while unblocking the loo with one hand and marking orders as shipped with the other (tmi?) I still love it, it challenges me, I've learnt so much in the past few years that I surprise myself with random little golden nuggets of information that a legal secretary who got her job by pure luck would never have had a reason to know. 

This is not my hobby, it is not for a bit of pin money and its not a passing Christmas fancy.  I don't have a back up, a full time job to fall back on if it all goes wrong.  With every single sale I put my reputation on the line which is why I either get it right and by right I mean perfect or I don't do it all.  Negative feedback could ruin me, well that might be a bit dramatic but it wouldn't do me any favours, its why I'm just a teeny wee bit anal about what is and isn't better than good enough not just because I have to be but because I want to be.  I've known every penny to be precious, how a customer chooses to spend their money is entirely up to them, but I'm privileged when it's with me and never do I want to think that a customer has been in any way disappointed or felt let down by a purchase.

I keep calling it a job, but its grown to be much more than that, its a life - my life and I'm finally ready to take it back:)  Today really is a new day and I feel good about it.

The Swimming Lessons

Just coming out the other end of a week long swimming crash course for Chloe.  It didn't go just as well as I had a hoped (I really shouldn't get my hopes up so much) but it did go well.  She didn't pass the class which means she will have to retake the beginner class and pass it before moving on to the next level.  The sticking point ... putting her head under the water willingly and confidently.  It's what caught a couple of the kids out so she isn't alone in having to take the class again.

I feel awful for her at the minute because she's actually ok about her head going under.  On the first day she managed to put her face in the water by herself, only for a second though and she slipped off her aids a couple of times and went under too and didn't freak out, she just stood up, wiped her eyes and carried on.  What she needs to do is stand in the middle of the pool with her hands on top of her head, fingers locked, and bend her knees until she's under then stand up again and she just can't bring herself to do it and after a day of trying it started a hinder her in a couple of other things as well.  She did learn to swim a few lengths of herself but not the prone 3 metres she needed to pass, she could float on her back on the first couple of days but by testing day so great was her determination to keep her head out of the water, even the back of her head that she couldn't manage to float.  The one good thing though is that it isn't fear stopping her from doing it, she's just decided that she doesn't want to and that kid's nothing if not stubborn as a mule!

Rather than book the next set of lessons again straight away I'm going to spend a bit of time taking her to the pool myself and my brother is going to do the same and we'll try and get her to put her head under, then she'll start proper lessons after Halloween in school which she can "pass" and the leisure centre will accept that as a pass and let her take one of the higher levels at that stage.

The lessons at Ards Leisure Centre are fantastic though if anyone in the area is thinking about taking their kids to learn to swim, I really can't fault them.  The instructor, Shaun, is great with kids, understanding but firm and turned out quite a few little swimmers this week.  One girl in particular who sank like a rock, couldn't figure out what to do with her arms and legs, and tensed so much with the floats that she went down like the Titanic on the first day was knocking out widths of the pool by Wednesday and she wasn't the only one.  The kids were all great too, really nice and encouraging and cheering each other on when it came to things like jumping into the pool.

So now I need to find a swimming costume ... you have been warned!!!

In other news I've finally set up a shop on Etsy and I've joined the lovely Crafty Folk Team over there who are kindly showing me the ropes and not getting annoyed when I ask yet another really stupid question that has a really obvious answer.  I'm learning, be nice to me:)

It's one of those things that has been on the to do list for ages now and I just never seemed to get round to it, but I sent the husband to bed with a beer and tv the other night, put my head down and got stuck in.  At the minute I'm duplicating across both shops but once I've settled in and have a better feel for the place I'll start to divvy up.

I've made a start adding a few listings to give me something that resembles a shop and I'll be able to carry on with the daily listing club in the Crafty Folk Team.

To celebrate my finally getting my finger out and getting some work done on the shop I'm having a little opening weekend offer.  You can use the code "OpenDay20" to get 20% off your order until the end of this weekend.  As I say I'm still adding stock a bit at a time so if there is something you've been after and I haven't got round to listing it yet, give me a shout and I'll pop it in there for you.   I'm nice like that:)

Handmade Designer Unisex Case for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Nexus in bright deckchair stripe available from Leanne Woods Designs on Etsy
Kindle Case in Deckchair Stripe on Etsy

Designer handmade case for amazon kindle, kobo, nook and nexus 7 in lemon yellow and lime green citrus cotton available from Leanne Woods Designs on Etsy
Kindle Case in Lemon & Lime on Etsy

handmade designer case made in the UK for kindle, kobo, nook and nexus 7 available from Leanne Woods Designs on Etsy
Kindle Case in Aviary Birds

Summer Wrap Up and Shop Update

I never really did get the hang of Summer.  Some people are so organised and go into it with a handful of kids and plans for days out and holidays and trips to the beach and they do this with a clean house, a well stocked kitchen, a mountain of stuff in a rainy day box and with a camera in hand so they can show you how much fun their beautiful kids are having every day.  I fail on just about every level.  I end up running head long into it without so much as a notion scribbled on a napkin let alone a plan and my camera has been plugged in for use the last handful of times because I just don't seem to have gotten round to charging the batteries yet ...

Summers are disorganised chaos here, put it that way, but despite lots and lots and lots of rain we've still had plenty of fun.

I can't quite believe we're into the home stretch already.  Just two short weeks and Chloe will go back to school.  This week is the start of her crash course swimming lessons so even though it's tipping it down again ... oh aye it is .... I've actually got something planned, so there, neener neener and all that:)

She starts swimming classes in school this year and although she's pure water baby (it could have gone either way, I love the water, her dad ... not so much) and she's very comfortable in the water so should take to swimming, the last time we had regular access to a pool we didn't seem to get too far beyond this;

Chloe in Pool in Tenerife

See, having far too much fun and none of us thought to maybe whip the armbands or rubber ring off her and see what happened.  With a bit of luck this week will give her a good start at least and then the school swimming lessons will take over and, save us all, I'll even dig the swimwear out and take her myself a few times.
The shop has been quite tricky to manage this year too.  Way back at the start of Summer I was asked by Folksy if I'd like to be one of the beta testers for the new plus account.  Stupid question .... of course I would.  I figured it would be a great incentive to keep me on track and let me add lots of new stock ahead of Christmas.

Christmas is never a bundle of laughs for crafters, even if we're just making for friends and family as gifts we somehow manage to think we've planned a butt load of time to get everything done and still end up sitting hunched somewhere under the world's smallest table lamp, with the sewing machine on a towel so we don't wake the family at 2am.  I loved the idea of a head start!
And cue Summer when I typically get nothing done.

I have managed quite a bit though ... I've surprised myself, but then I've had a huge amount of help from my mum and dad this year as they've whisked Chloe away almost every weekend to let me get on with a few things.

I've really been enjoying making the Kindle cases over the summer, they're a great size so I can cut a few at night ready for sewing the next day, and they're easy to pack away if need be without anything getting so badly out of order that I can't find where I left off.  I'm looking forward to getting back to some larger projects once Chloe's back to school and I've more time and space to play with.

In the meantime I have been motivated by the plus account and have added lots of lovely new kindle cases.

Handmade Designer Kindle Case in Coffee House Canvas for Kindle Nook and Kobo ebook and ereader available to buy from Leanne Woods Designs
Kindle Case in Coffee House Canvas
Designer Handmade Kindle Case in Cherry Blossom for Kindle Nook Kobo Ereader available to buy on Folksy
Kindle Case in Cherry Blossom
Handmade Designer Kindle Case in Harlequin Kaito for Kindle Nook and Kobo ebook and ereaders
Kindle Case in Harlequin Kaito
Handmade Designer Kindle Case in Honey Gold and Flambe Pink for Kindle Kobo and Nook ereader and ebook by Leanne Woods Designs
Kindle Case in Honey Gold and Flambé Pink - New Season

Feel free to click over for a browse, these are only the very tip of an ever growing iceberg!

Girl's Brigade Ribbons - A Quicky Tutorial

It's nearly that time again ... the GB Parade! Everything else is perfectly manageable, the white shoes, the right socks, those awful PE knickers, no problem! Even the ribbons aren't a bother. Ribbons in the hair ... well that's different. Hair and ribbon is like oil and water, the two just don't mix. Even Chloe's mass of curly hair manages to shrug them off in no time. Mothers of straight haired kiddies, I feel your pain. The simple answer is to use a regular bobble or hair elastic and tie the ribbon over it, but the ribbon still falls out and you're left with a bobble which gets you marked down, so I've knocked up a quickie tute for making a ribbon think it's a bobble ... a robble or a bibbon even:)
Click to Enlarge
I went with the collage to save you getting scroll fatigue.
  1. You'll need red and white ribbon in your preferred width, I've used 3/4 inch, and elastic a little bit narrower than your ribbon. I've used a 1/2 inch elastic.
  2. Cut your ribbon into half meter lengths and carefully melt the ends with a match or lighter* to prevent fraying.
  3. Cut a 2 inch length of elastic for each ribbon and again carefully melt the ends. You'll end up with a little singe on these, its just the nature of the material don't worry about it. Fold each length of ribbon in half and use your fingernail to crease the centre.
  4. Measure 2 inches out from the centre crease of your ribbon and, folding the end of the elastic under slightly, pin the elastic in place at each end.
  5. Place one end of the elastic under your machine foot and secure in place with a bar stitch.
  6. Stretch the elastic out in front of your presser foot and with a long stitch length, zig zag stitch to the far end and add another bar stitch to secure. Trim threads.
  7. The elastic will gather the ribbon a little.
  8. Make as many ribbons as you need in whatever colours you happen to need. These will work just as well for things like Irish dancing, gymnastics, whenever you happen to need a ribbon for your girl's hair.
Then just tie the ribbons as you normally would. The idea is that the ends of the elastic should just get caught in the first part of the knot as you stretch to tie it, but not the bow itself. The elastic then tightens and grips onto itself, the ribbon and the hair to stop it falling out every five minutes. *Go easy when melting the ribbons, a bit of discolouration on the elastic is no big whoop but you really want your white ribbons white so go slow, it takes surprisingly little heat to melt ribbon holding it half a centimetre away usually works for me without scorching or discolouring the ribbon. Next up: Matching bow hair clips


New in today

Designer Kindle Case handmade in harlequin cotton featuring a large bird
Kindle Case in Harlequin Aviary

Designer case cover sleeve for kindle, kobo and nook in teal and silver kingfisher fabric
Kindle Case in Kingfisher

Handmade Kindle Case in Designer red floral cotton accented with charcoal grey
Kindle Case in Red and Grey