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Friday, 8 December 2017

Internet can-do

It's a funny business growing up in the digital age, awash with information on any subject you care to google. Emi, affectionately known in the family as Sprocket - owing to his love for fixing things, or at least taking them apart so that they really need someone else to fix them - is soon to be 12. He came home from school yesterday with a sore throat, a headache and a high temperature.


Back in the analogue age that would have been a recipe for me to collapse onto the sofa and leave my mum to minister to my symptoms. But things run differently now, and I'm a lot more easily distracted than my mother ever was.

Poor Sprockers, I said absent-mindedly, not really paying him much attention. I got a brief grunt of appreciation for my sympathy, and he settled down beside me to get on with his homework.

I carried on working and paid little regard to the snuffles from behind his computer screen as he made a start on his maths prep calculating internal angles in triangles. For reasons that I don't understand he loves trigonometry. And whilst he'd never admit to enjoying homework, I knew he was happy to get on with it regardless of how he felt.

I could hear him adding up internal angles and minusing them from 180º. Ignoring the odd wheeze and snort I felt fairly confident that he wasn't about to expire.

At length a small voice inquired whether we had any camomile tea.

Camomile tea?

No we didn't. Mummy doesn't do herbal teas; she only drinks builders' tea the colour of creosote.

He got up from the desk, went into the kitchen and came back with the towel that hangs on the radiator wrapped around his throat. I ignored him, thinking that he was being dramatic.

Several angles were calculated without further comment.

I'm going for a hot shower. 

He shuffled off upstairs. I passed no remarks. He often takes a shower when he comes in if he's been playing games.

Do we have honey and lemon? His voice croaked down from the landing.

Honey and lemon? 

It finally dawned on me that he was acting a bit weird: normally he's more of a chocolate and juice guy. I peered over at his laptop, and there it was, the Google search results for how to get rid of a headache and a sore throat. Having not received much attention from a mother who'd been more concerned about meeting a deadline of her own, he'd been working his way down the list of suggested steps on the Beechams' cold and flu relief page.

And that struck me as a commendably practical, thoroughly 21st century response to the situation. If your mum fails you, keep calm and google the answer.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Succumbing to the C-Word ...

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas ... We've even had five flakes of snow in London today!

I know. I know. It's still November. But if I can just hold my nerve for another day we'll be there: December with Christmas (almost) the next stop.

December is a busy month for me. I've got our wedding anniversary, Emi, my son's birthday and my husband's birthday as well as Christmas and trips back to the family in Ireland to fit in. And, of course, I've not done nearly enough preparation for any of it. Crazy days.


To distract me from the madness that is almost upon me I've worked up a new pattern for a mid-sized project bag. I've got one made up, and a few more cut out and ready to sew.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Black Friday

It's Black Friday, which sounds more like an apocalypse than a retail event to me. Are you busy shopping? Or are you safely tucked up at home whilst all the hurly-burly takes place somewhere else? I'm not an enthusiastic shopper at the best of times, so I'm afraid it would take rather a lot to get me to venture forth on a day like today.


We didn't used to do Black Friday here in England. It's a very recent thing, and I have to say I don't understand it. Why do shops discount their goods in the run up to Christmas when they ought to be selling more stuff anyway? I understand that the term Black Friday is so called because it was the point in the year, just after Thanksgiving, when American retailers finally broke even: from here to year-end they were in the black. But cutting costs, and therefore margins, as you move into your busiest five weeks of trading sounds like the turkeys voting for Christmas: it simply can't be in the retailers' interests to do so. What am I missing?

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Ivy Leaves

My friends, after beavering around in my garden, and brandishing my garden secateurs with malice, I give you Ivy Leaf Yellow, which is really a muted, slightly acid-green. It's an odd colour, but I like it.



Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Networking ...

Forced networking is something that I loathe with a passion. I've got lots of unhappy memories of feeling uncomfortable at corporate events, where I was supposed to be working the room and building a contact book to galvanise my career. Don't get me wrong: I'm no shrinking violet, but I guess you either take to that sort of forced bonhomie, or, like me, you recoil from the insincerity of it all. Suffice it to say that networking is not a theme that I would normally have chosen to dwell on in my leisure time. 



However, personal prejudices to one side, I've just read a really fun book: The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson, which is all about the role that networks have played throughout history, and where we stand with network behemoths such as Facebook and Google today. 

Friday, 17 November 2017

All the purples ...

This week I've had a lot of fun using logwood chips to create a dye-bath that's given me a lush spectrum running from inky purples to airy lavenders as it has gradually lost its strength. I've been playing with it for several days now, allowing each hank of wool time to absorb its fill of the dye before mordanting another hank, and dropping it into the bath.
Costa Brava Botanicals: Logwood Dye
Logwood Dye

Monday, 13 November 2017

And a big thank you ...

... to all my lovely customers at Festiwool.




It was a fabulous friendly fair, showcasing lots of marvellous yarns and yarn-related knick-knacks. I had a super day, and I hope everyone else did too.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Festiwool 2017

Looking forward to Festiwool this Saturday, 11th November from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Priory School, Bedford Road, Hitchin, SG5 2UR. Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Channelling your inner avocado ...

Remember back in the day when anyone mentioned avocado in the context of colour and it summoned up images of drab, sludge-green bathrooms from the 1970s? Well, for me, those days are very firmly yesterdays. Now when anyone mentions avocado I start to channel visions of warm apricots, dusty salmon pinks and rose-tinted light browns.

No, I'm not dropping acid. Honest, guvnor.

This is what happens when you use your discarded avocado skins and stones to make a dye bath. And let's face it, with the current vogue for mashed avocado on toast with optional chilli flakes for heat, most of us have plenty of skins and stones that are destined for nothing loftier than the compost bin.

Well, hold onto your re-cycling for just a moment: you've got the makings of the very easiest and most environmentally friendly dye bath since the invention of the colour wheel. The thing is there's enough tannin in them there stones to act as a natural mordant to make the colour attach to the fibre so you don't need to go messing with any nasty chemicals that might go on to pollute the water table.


Monday, 6 November 2017

Reflecting on a seasonal change ...


Last week I was pootling around in the sunshine, feeling as though summer hadn't really gone anywhere, and could safely be relied upon to hang around for the indefinite future.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Happy Halloween!

A very Happy Halloween from sun-kissed Catalonia.


Today Emi has been busy carving pumpkins. The above beauties are all his own handiwork. I should explain that the chap in the centre has just been violently ill, and as a result his innards have been vomited onto an obliging sheet of kitchen paper. The sad fellow on the right has an eyeball dangling out of its socket, whilst his friend on the left has some random stickers that used to spell out welcome - as in ... welcome to the Bates hotel ... or one of the outer circles of Hell.

It's nice to see that the young chap has a suitably ghoulish imagination. I found him searching around on Pinterest and Google images for inspiration.


Friday, 6 October 2017

Dyeing to tell ...

I've been having so much fun. The autumn sunshine has added unexpected joy to the season here in London. And a couple of life-enhancing changes have recently overtaken me, which have also added to my little quota of joy and happiness.


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Dealing with a burgeoning yarn stash?

Many of us yarn-aholics have an enduring, perennial problem in the storage department. Our stash has a tendency to grow quicker than our capacity to consume it by turning it into gorgeous hand-knits.

It's a complaint that I hear again and again on the knitting holiday circuit. My guests all seem to have the same nagging problem: cupboards and closets that were not designed to accommodate the outsized proportions of their stash. And, given my own line of business, I've got a yarn stash that would fill a small room.

So, what are we to do?

Well, if you've got stuff that you know you're not going to get to for a while, I may have an answer for you: vacuum storage bags. You can buy them on Ebay from 99p a pop.

Just lay all your yarn out nice and tidy inside the bag. You'll have a deliciously fat, squidgy parcel to start off with.


Friday, 29 September 2017

Just hanging in there ...

Happy Friday!

I'd like to share a fun shot that Mr B sent me yesterday. This was the scene outside his window whilst he was eating lunch at his desk down in Canary Wharf:


Wednesday, 27 September 2017

London Bridge Sheep Drive and the Pop-up Wool Fair

I'd like to say a big thank you to all my lovely customers from Sunday past, who came along to the pop-up wool fair that popped up for the London Bridge Sheep Drive. The sun shone, the sheep were driven, and everyone had a ball.

Way back in medieval times the Grant of the Freedom of the City of London was a right allowing individuals to carry on a trade within the city. They would have taken the grant, and joined one of the trade guilds that flourished in ye olde London towne. The right to drive livestock across the bridges into the old city without paying tolls was an important privilege that came with the Freeman's grant. And it's a right that is still practised every September, but now the Freemen receive their grants as a civic honour in recognition of outstanding achievement and the event raises money for charity.



Friday, 15 September 2017

Toddler's cardigan - age 3

It's taken me the longest time to get this little cardigan off the needles - and then to get the pattern written up. I started work on it way, way back in May, and I really struggled to get it finished on time for Fibre East at the end of July. Here we are in the middle of September, and I'm only now managing to write up the pattern. There's been an awful lot of procrastination going on at this end. The truth is that I've spent all summer playing a form of tennis called Padel. I've had classes with the loveliest and most patient of instructors, and I've been out on court practising my shots every chance I've got. It's been more than slightly addictive. Anyone who came to visit me this summer has HAD to play Padel. No ifs no buts no coconuts - it's been down to the Padel court at every opportunity. And as a consequence all the patterns and knitting and stuff that normally occupies my time has ground to a halt.


Anyway back to the project in hand.  It's knit in our own-label Costa Brava Knitting 4 ply cotton, working in 2 colours: Post Box (red) and Tangerine (orange) using 3.25 mm needles (US size 3/ UK/Canadian size 10). It knits in stocking stitch to a tension of  [23 stitches x 32 rows] on a 10 cm x 10 cm square. I've taken my sizing from Ralph Lauren size 3T, and knit the jumper to match. You'll need around 150 g of wool to knit this size - 100 g of Post Box and 50 g of Tangerine.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

End of season adjustments ...

By now the Sant Feliu summer season is over and most of the tourists have packed up and gone home. Only the locals and a few stragglers remain. The atmosphere in town has changed. During the height of the summer season there's an element of hedonism in the sweep and fall of the day. The repeated kerching! of the holiday trade echoes loudly around the centre of town. Hoteliers, waiters and shop owners walk around with a pronounced sense of purpose.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Catalunya
Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Catalunya

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Alien Invasion

This morning we woke up to an alien invasion. Sunny Sant Feliu has been overrun by brown jellyfish - medusas, as they're known in this part of the world. Emi assures me that they're not too bad. For one thing they don't sting as much as the white ones do - or so he tells me.


Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Sail away with me ...



... to somewhere where it's always summer.

Tragically, I can feel summer slipping through my fingers, and I really, really don't want to let it go.

All the best,

Bonny x

Monday, 28 August 2017

La Santa Market ... shopping by moonlight ...

There's something about open-air shopping in the moonlight on a balmy summer night that really appeals. And when the venue is as pretty as the Santa Market in Santa Cristina d'Aro you'd be crazy not to trot along and try it out. It's being held at the riding stables just outside the village, and they've got a great line-up of music and gastronomy to tempt all the senses after a hard day on the beach.

We pottered along the other night with some good friends who ride at the stables.

Santa Market, Santa Cristina d'Aro, Costa Brava, Catalonia
Santa Market, Santa Cristina d'Aro, Costa Brava, Catalonia

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Lazy summer days ...

I LOVE summer. Totally, utterly and absolutely! It's the best time of the year by far.



 We've got into the rhythm of summer living. Emi is having a ball on the high seas, sailing every day in his little Open Bic, which is really a surf board with a sail and a boom. We play lots of tennis at the tennis club. In my case I play Padel, which is a variation on lawn tennis played on a smaller, walled court with a hard racket. I have classes with a lovely coach, who has more patience than the prophet Job. The WonderDog is out and about all the time. In truth he enjoys more walks than he really wants to go on. He's developed a strong preference for snoozing on the cold marble floor under the sofa on especially hot afternoons.


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

El Celler de Can Roca

Last week we had a special dinner date, a very special dinner date indeed. All the planets aligned and we were offered a table at the celebrated Celler de Can Roca in Girona. We've been trying to get a reservation there for ages. Normally you have to book 11 months in advance. Yes, that's right. Almost a full year ahead of when you want to go out for dinner. Mr B has been trying each month, on the first day of the month, when they open the bookings for 11 months down the line, to wrangle a table. But here's the thing: they open the booking line at midnight on the allocated date, and within ten minutes all the tables for the entire month on offer are gone.

El Celler de Can Roca

As we knew we were going to be on the Costa Brava for all of August we put our names down for a cancellation - any cancellation. And last week, when our besties, P and A were in town, we lucked out with a table for four.

So what's so special about this Celler de Can Roca? you may well ask.

Well, they've got 3 Michelin Stars for starters, and if you check out the World's 50 Best Restaurants you'll see that they're up there - right up there at the very top. In 2013 Celler de Can Roca was voted the world's Number 1 restaurant, in 2014 it fell to number 2, 2015 saw it return to the number 1 spot, in 2016 it was number 2 and this year, 2017, it's number 3. In anyone's gastronomy it's a very special eatery.


Thursday, 10 August 2017

High Summer in Sunny Sant Feliu

We've finally made it home to Sant Feliu. It was an epic adventure getting here via the Panzer Museum in Munster: 3 days in the car, more traffic jams than I've suffered in years on the M6, a couple of audio books and a lot of lively discussion in between times.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols
Our town beach here in sunny Sant Feliu de Guíxols

And it's high summer. The place is full of people. We've got the Porta Ferrada Music Festival in full swing, parking is nigh on impossible and the weather is sunny and bright.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols
Sant Feliu de Guíxols: the port

Emi is beside himself as all his local friends are in town, and he's got a full compliment of amigos down at the pool. In addition he's had some good friends from London staying with us this week.

How do you like his new snorkel mask? He thinks it's the business, especially given how he can hang his go-pro on the front.


He's already had several sessions filming the sand on the sea bed 👀 and the fish darting around in the depths. He's always had a tendency to gild the lily when it's come to recounting all the amazing things he's seen in the water, which is now catching up with him as we review his video footage. It's amazing how elusive those huge lobsters and mean scorpion fish have become since he's started filming ... They used to be two-a-penny, every day sights 😜.


Walking the WonderDog in the cool of the evening has its own special charms. I enjoy being out and about when the heat of the day is spent, and the tourists are drifting off to change for dinner.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols
Sant Feliu de Guíxols in the evening sunshine

All the best for now,

Bonny x


Monday, 31 July 2017

Fibre East: Thank you!

A big thank you! to all the lovely people who stopped by to say Hello! and buy wool at Fibre East. The weather was a bit of off-putting, but inside the big tents, summer reigned unchallenged, and the mood was warm and sunny.


Friday, 28 July 2017

Fibre East Tomorrow ... see you there!

We're off to Fibre East tomorrow. You can find us in the Leicester Marquee. We've got our fingers crossed for nice weather.



Emi's made a Lego sewing machine to bring me luck and celebrate all the sewing I've been doing recently.

Hope to see you there!

Bonny x


Thursday, 27 July 2017

The White Lough on a sparkling summer evening ...

When we're back home in Ireland our default dog-walking venue is the White Lough, which is just a hop, a skip and a jump away from my parents' home. It's a firm favourite for an after-dinner romp on bright summer evenings when we need to walk off a few calories.


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Evening Daisy ...


I happened to be in the garden last night at the bewitching hour when the sun was setting and the garden was filled with the most amazing golden light. Here in Northern Ireland, at this time of the year the days are longer than they are back in London, and it's a joy on a sunny summer evening to sit outside and admire the play of light and shadow under the foliage canopy.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Who needs Carcasonne when you've got Caernarfon?

Now I have to 'fess up to having driven past this place dozens of times, dashing back and forth from the Dublin ferry, without ever stopping to have a proper look. I've gasped and sighed over other medieval citadels here and there and further afield, but I've never given Caernarfon a second thought. I'm a numpty! And that's official.

Just stop and take a look at what I've been missing. Isn't it magnificent?

Caernarfon Castle, Caernarfon, Wales
Caernarfon Castle, Caernarfon, Wales 

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Hay-on Wye ... a Welsh Timbuktu ... sort of ...

I love Hay-on-Wye. It's totally my kind of town. Mr B and I are in the habit of going there on a fairly regular basis to shop, shop, shop. We love it.

Friends will be puzzled by this shop, shop, shop business because neither of us is the type to hang around aimlessly in shopping malls, or to partake of retail therapy with any kind of glee or gladness, but Hay-on-Wye is different. It's the Timbuktu of Mid Wales: a town that's totally devoted to books!

  Hay-on-Wye Castle
Hay-on-Wye Castle

Friday, 14 July 2017

School's out ... and it's officially summer ...

It's been a long time coming, but, finally, Emi's got his summer hols. Not having to get up at the crack of dawn this morning was blissful. And today is quite possibly the best day of the year: this first day of the summer holidays, when we can wind down from all the day-to-day stuff that usually has us rushing around trying to keep up, and savour the several weeks that lie ahead of not having to do very much at all. Call me lazy, but from where I'm sitting right now, that's a sweet, sweet prospect.

Hollyhocks
My black hollyhock -  summer on a stem ...

Friday, 7 July 2017

Ode to June ... and TGI Friday ...

Crumbs it's way too hot down here in the Big Smoke. It's been like this for ages, and for some reason all this hot, hot weather has inspired me to sew. Perhaps it's because I've felt the need of some relaxed summer dresses - the kind that fit loosely, and help keep you cool when the mercury's way up. This is what I've been up to this week:


I rustled up these summer dresses over the course of the last few days. They're all pretty easy, and made from wonderful summer cottons that I bought on the Goldhawk Road. The red one was cobbled together when I discovered that I didn't have enough of either the red or the green flowery cottons to make the entire dress, and I have to say, necessity being the mother of invention and all that, I'm really glad that my erratic fabric buying forced my hand. I'm rather pleased with the not-so-matchy contrast.

My purple dress just involved following a pattern. And, whilst it's perfect for hot, dusty summer days in Spain, it doesn't enthuse me as much as my improvised dress does.

It's sewn from a fabulous Liberty Cotton that I bought on my favourite shopping street last year. And it's an absolute delight to wear: really light and floaty. I know I'll wear it to death from here on in.

As I've sewn, and ripped, and pressed out seams and tacked up hems I've listened to the wonderful alternative version of world history that I mentioned last week. It's an epic read (or listen in my case) that runs from the days of the mighty Persian Empire to the fall of Saddam Hussein. Maybe I got so much sewing done because I was totally engrossed in the narrative.


It's been a busy old week all things told, and I didn't get around to much restrospection on what I got up to during June. I've been trying to take a review of the month just gone as each new month of the year kicks off. It went really well for January through March, but then my wagon came off the tracks as other demands on my time left little energy for retrospection of any kind.

But June deserves to be treated differently. June was a big month for me. You see Mr B, my husband, had surgery to replace the ligament of his left knee in June. It wasn't a huge deal: it was never going to kill him. But it could have turned out badly. He could have been left with a long, painful recovery, or a permanent limp. As things went he's made a splendid recovery, and I'm feeling really blessed that he will be restored to full health and will be able to do all the things that he used to do. We're tennis buddies for one thing. We both play a really rotten game of tennis: he's a bit portly and I'm as blind as a fruit bat. But that doesn't matter because we play as badly as one another, which means that we're perfectly matched. We have epic battles on court. Any decent player would destroy either or both of us in the flash of an eye, but pitted against one another we're stiff competition for each other, and every victory is hard won.

Together we ski, cycle, hike and swim. None of it is done to any great athletic level, but it's fun and it's life-affirming. It would have been sad to have lost all of this from our lives. So I'm feeling very grateful.


And I'm also feeling grateful for long summer days with nothing very pressing to do. For lazy walks in the park, the locomotive panting of the WonderDog who invariably finds the coolest, darkest corner of every room we enter, the semi-meditative delights of cross stitching, the soft berries ripening in my garden and the long stemmed beauty of my hollyhocks - I can't tell you how much I love my hollyhocks. Summer totally rocks!

All the best for a fabulous weekend,


Bonny x

Thursday, 6 July 2017

T-shirt Up-cycle - a patternless pattern ...

I've been mulling over the idea of using a simple T-shirt as the beginnings of a summer dress.  I started off with a small, white vest-top from Primark for a little girl aged 3 - 4 years.  It cost me the princely sum of £1.30, and then I used bits of left-over lawn cottons from other projects to make the skirt, which cost me nothing. What do you think of the result?



Just read on for my pattern-less pattern:


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Mid-Summer Meadow of Cornflower Blue ...


Last night I took a short-cut through Walpole Park on the way home. As I was steaming along I came across the most beautiful sight: a mid-summer meadow of cornflower blue. I was enchanted. All I needed to complete the scene was for Puck and Bottom to wander in stage left ...

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Pink Clematis Pin Cushion ... how-to

I have to say these tapestry pin cushions have become a bit of a habit ...
This is my latest creation:





I've worked this design half cross-stitch on a 10 mesh interlock needlepoint canvas using 4 ply tapestry wool.

Here is my stitch-pattern:


I started from the black-lined square in the centre, and counted stitches from there to fill in the other colours. I finished off the white background in dark green thread.

When I'd finished the tapestry I trimmed the canvas to 1 cm of the stitch work, cut out a square of the same dimensions in short-pile velvet for the back. I found a dusty pink velvet at my local fabric store, Ealing Fabrics, that was perfect for the job. And, as luck would have it, the lovely lady behind the counter was able to pull out an upholstery trim that was a great match for the backing velvet.


Having overlocked the edges of the velvet I sewed it to the tapestry, right side to right side, around 3 of the sides of the square that they created. Then I turned the work so that the right sides were out, and the worked seams were inside. I stuffed the cushion with some toy stuffing and sewed up the final side of the square.


Now the only thing left to do was attach the upholstery trim around the edge. This type of trim is known as gimp braid, and it's got a marked tendency to unravel. I tried to end-stitch it, overlocking the ends to keep them intact, but my efforts were a bit of a failure. The only way in which I could keep this braid together was by securing the ends with a fabric glue. Using a paintbrush I dabbed some fabric glue, front and back, on the cut ends. The glue dried clear, so it wasn't very noticeable where the fabric had been treated. I sewed the braid around the cushion using an invisible stitch, taking small stitches from the wrong side of the braid, and sewing those to the cushion, pulling the thread taut after each stitch to pull the braid against the edge of the cushion. When I got right round to where I'd started I finished off the trim with a little bit of fabric glue so that it overlapped slightly, and sat snugly on top of where it started. 

All the best for now,

Bonny x



Saturday, 1 July 2017

Loganberry & Lemongrass Jam ...

Yesterday I made some Loganberry & Lemongrass Jam, and it was a big hit with the troops, a really big hit. Just read on for my recipe:

Loganberry & Lemongrass Jam
Loganberry & Lemongrass Jam