Studio Transformation (still in process) Update in Talking Across the Pond . .

Hi Nora,

Don’t worry about being quiet. Sometimes life gets in the way of things and takes on a path of its own making. New bags and an expansion to your workshop are both huge undertakings. We’re merely building a shed at the bottom of the garden and thats taking far far more time and energy than I’d anticipated. Just as I think we’re almost done something else crops up and the finish line moves that little bit further away. I can see progress every day whether its the re-appearance of another bit of floor or a bootload more junk to the tip.

I’ve listed loads of the unwanted and outgrown stuff on E-bay so I won’t feel quite as bad about splurging at AndyFest which has the potential to be an awesome knittery day out as well as raising money for a a local hospital which specialises in the treatment of brain tumours. Rather looking forward to this and am hoping to get a chance to try a few spinning wheels out whilst I’m there. The girls are more excited about the hog roast and giant picnic and D is glad hes working because there are only so many hen wragedd a ffyn (old women with pointy sticks) in once place that he can cope with without the constant clickity clack driving him round the bend.

We’ve finally collected the last of D’s toys from the store and bunged it in the shed. It sounds simple enough but had the added complication of  weighing almost 200kg. This meant borrowing a trailer, loading it on a fork lift, craning it out when we got home and then the arduous task of loading it onto a trolley and winching it slowly down the steps to the shed before finally craning it into position. Means the rest of the stuff can now be positioned round it and work surfaces can go in along with all the storage units. Hoping to move the last of the boxes from the dining room and the family room and the breakfast room (my soon to be craft room) in the very near future.

Like Soma (glad he liked his hat), the girls stayed up incredibly late to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony and have stayed up late to watch the games most nights since. The events so far have been spectacular. Just watched Michael Phelps win his 19th Olympic medal. What a guy! So modest and good humoured too.

The school holidays seem to be whooshing by in a whirlwind of activities. The girls spent a day at the local sports centre trying out waterpolo and a few other team sports. B. is currently camping at her riding school and will be there for another few days. In the rain. Rather glad she over-packed. I suspect she’ll need rather more dry changes of clothes than were on her packing list.

F. is spending the week at football school which she was quite excited about but after two days its dawned on her that they do nothing but play football and talk about football and footballers. It’s not something she’ll be in a hurry to repeat next year. She likes a little more variety in her day. Still her football has improved quite noticeably, as has her ability to boss her team mates around.

Other highlights of the week included the retrieval of a fledgling sparrow from the cat, much to his disgust, and a manic week at work where I had a visit from the bouncy castle inspector who might have the worlds greatest ever job title but doesn’t actually get paid to bounce up and down on bouncy castles all day long. I have school to myself the rest of the time which means I get loads done but tend to loose track of time in the process. Some days its because I get a bit too engrossed in whatever I’m painting and forget about lunch until my tummy growls, other days its because I realize I’ve managed to read 130 pages of a novel in what should have been a 30 minute lunch break.

Looking forward to seeing the new bags and reading whatever you choose to blog about as and when you choose to blog. Its always interesting to read about other peoples lives, especially when they’re very different to my own. I doubt you ever find yourself having to retrieve a banana from a toilet U-bend for the third day in a row thanks to some delightful child deciding to flush his break-time fruit rather than eat it.



Dear Amanda,

No, indeed, I have not had the banana adventures you describe! But I have to say they made me laugh out loud when I read those lines! There is always something you don’t expect, isn’t there?

I’ve been spending my time working on the studio. If I’m not filling an order for the new bags, I’m arranging something, adding to the recycle pile, working on labeling and organization, thinking about how I want the final retail/gallery space to look. It is still going to take some time to get things where I want them, but the whole plan is coming together.

Last Saturday, my husband, Soma, and I spent the day at the studio. Soma did a few jobs for me (he’s a great purse chain inspector) and was quite lovely (most of the time) about finding activities with which to occupy himself. He had fun playing with a pile of magnets and purse chains with lobster claws that were not attached correctly.

Here is a picture of the new shipping space in its “before” state:

The new shipping space has a bit of an L shape, so I am taking this photograph from the hallway door . . . I had a doorway cut from my office space into the shipping room, so each room (retail/gallery, office/creative, and shipping/receiving) now have their own spaces.

Here is a picture of my office in a very chaotic state. Since I have had this studio, the office has always had to share space with something else. In the beginning, it shared space with shipping, but as my hardware offerings have increased, the shipping area has needed more space. I moved office and shipping into the gallery and the gallery into the red room. . . but that didn’t work for long because I didn’t like being out of the red room for creative work.

I moved my office back into the red room, but was so busy that things never got organized (as you can see).

Here are before pictures of the shipping wall and the “gallery/workshop table” while I was putting W and 6-8-10 kits together. Talk about chaos!  Yikes. It always gets worse before it gets better.

So, after two weeks of almost constant work. . . you know how it is with the work on the shed! You inspired me not simply to move piles but to go through each pile and make decisions about all the things that have been hanging around. I have a few more piles to go through, but for the most part, I’ve done some sending this and that hither and thither, yarn to charities, pitching paper and useless things. My spaces are more stream-lined, clean, refined. Everything I could label is labeled.

Here is my new beautiful office space–my dream of what I’ve always wanted my office to be like. Of course I spend more time in here, can sit and have a fabulous espresso (really! If you every happen to come over here and drop by the studio, I’ll make you one so delicious and chocolatey).

And part of the new shipping space . . . after much thought and planning.

So, this is what I’ve been up to lately. This and getting Soma ready for this first day of First Grade.  I’ve been watching the last lotus bud unfurl, watching the ruby throated hummingbirds battle as they fatten up for their journey down to Central America. Soma and I had a cucumber stand with our last big harvest of cucumbers for the season. We had nine to sell and sold out in 20 minutes. The best thing was the repeat business from last year. Our once-a-year stand has a reputation!  I got to explain to Soma how important it is to develop a good reputation–worth it’s weight in gold.

This weekend I travel to California to teach a couple of workshops–one an Art of Knitting Noni Flowers at Nine Rubies. The other workshop is in Auburn California in a shop called Auburn Needleworks. There I’m teaching a bag finishing workshop followed by an introduction to flower knitting. I’m not only looking forward to the workshops themselves but also the long flights and some uninterrupted knitting time.

More soon about the studio and other adventures!

I’m keen to hear (and see) your update!



Noni Q & A: Cutting Down a Zipper to Fit

Zippers need not be feared nor loathed.

There seems to be a lot of negativity that surrounds zippers and putting them into a sweater or felted bag by hand. It is, however, not as difficult as it looks and I am of the opinion that fear and loathing should be abandoned in favor of persistence and knowledge. . .

Thus, I present to you instructions on how to cut down a zipper by hand and set it into a static opening, such as a bag opening or the opening of a pillow.


Always look for zippers that are at least slightly longer than you need

A too short zipper will never work. . . and if you try to make it work, your knitting will buck and buckle–not a great look. So, that slightly or much too long zipper is perfect. . .


Determine the best zipper for your needs

Best for bags are zippers that have 2 closed ends and 2 sliders.

Best for jackets, a separating zipper.

Best for dresses and skirts, and invisible zipper with a closed bottom end.


Materials you will need

Scissors (rough & tough ones that can cut through plastic or metal zipper teeth0)

Pins to mark the spot (and later to hold the zipper in place as you set it in)

Sewing thread

Sewing needle

Measure the opening into which you will set the zipper.

Once you have laid our your materials and are getting to the business of cutting your zipper to fit, measure your opening carefully. Then measure the zipper and mark with a straight pin where the zipper needs to be cut.

For zippers that have closed ends (for the openings of bags and pillows, for example), you will recreate 1 of the bottom stops with thread.

For a separating zipper, but to cut down from the top stops and you don’t want to interfere with the separating portion of the zipper.

For zippers that have one closed end, such as those for dresses, skirts, and pants, best to shorten the closed end bit.


Make a thread “stop”

To make a thread stop, thread your needle with a double strand of sewing thread, then ‘wrap” the zipper teach multiple times with the thread at the place you marked with the straight pin.

I recommend wrapping the teeth of the zipper as many times as you need to to feel confident that the stop will hold. I’d say 5 wraps is about the minimum with which I would feel comfortable. If you are a comfortable with a sewing machine, you can perform this step with an appropriately size zig zag stitch.


Cut the zipper down once stop is complete

One you have completed your thread “stop,” use your heavy duty workhorse scissors to cut the end of the zipper you no longer need. I recommend leaving about 1/2″ beyond the stop.

If you have any other zipper questions, please post them in the comments to this post and I will answer them in a future Noni Q&A.


Breaking Silences: Talking Across the Pond Again. . .

July 17, 2012

Morning Nora!

Power outages and fires in residential neighbourhoods sound dire. At least things here are just wet, its not like we’re not used to that, just not in the vast quantities we’re having a the mo.

It did stop raining briefly on Sunday, just long enough to get a few loads through the washing machine before breakfast at which point we abandoned all pretense of any interest in domestic drudgery and legged it to the country park.

It makes a bit of a change from walking through fields because there aren’t any sheep which means the hairball can run for miles without feeling the urge to round any up, although she still herds the children (both mine and other peoples). The other added bonus is that both parking and footpaths are solid which means no wheel spinning in mud wondering why the heck I chose that particular parking spot. It also reduces the amount of laundry I have to do on our return, or at least it would have done had the girls not run through every muddy puddle they could find.

We walked for miles and miles managing to spend half a day there, only leaving when the rumble of tummies outweighed the need for fresh air.

We finally managed to put the finishing touches to D’s shed which meant we could start moving his stash of things out of the house. It’s amazing what a difference moving a few boxes makes. It was also a heck of an incentive for a ruthless clear out of outgrown toys and the detritus of everyday life.

The rest of the week was pretty much spent dodging rainstorms or avoiding venturing outdoors unless essential. The road outside the house is a couple of inches deep in water, the lawn is waterlogged and very squelchy and the chickens are knee deep in mud.  Fortunately it will eventually dry out, in the meantime we’re making the most of indoor activities. In Fs case this means revising for her pony club theory exam, B is sitting the same exam but is rather more blasé about the whole thing.

I’ve had more time than ever to do crafty things which is always good. I dug out the drop spindle I bought last month but never seemed to find the time to try out and gave that a whirl. Several hours and one small blister later I had a teeny skein of yarn. Was most chuffed by this and rather relaxed at the end of it.

I did a little knitting, well ok rather a lot of knitting. Anouk was a dream to knit, the pattern was a doddle to follow, intuitively written and most surprisingly it felted to precisely the dimensions given in the instructions. Am itching to add the hardwear but she’s taking an eternity to dry. Wondering if that’s because the thing that makes sheepy wool water repellent also stops it drying easily or if that’s just because its so cold and damp here.

Also managed to block the shawl, neglecting to instantly tidy up after myself, went back to do that sometime later and found my blocking mats transformed into a den. The imagination of a small child never ceases to amaze me.

B ended her academic year with a deluge of awards which included the Head Teachers Award for effort and the School Governors’ Award for outstanding attitude. I can’t begin to put into words just how proud we are of her.

F and I have three more days to go before school shuts to pupils until September. Fortunately it’s three days of bouncy castles, parties and art classes rather than traditional lessons. It’s quite possibly my favourite week of the year.


July 31, 2012

Dear Amanda

Please forgive my long silence, both with you and with the blog. I have been swamped and overwhelmed and rather enjoying not talking into the dark which is the way the blog feels to me a lot of the time (not our letters!).  Plus spending a lot of time getting things ready to launch my two new bags—you’re going to LOVE them.

But without further ado, THANK YOU FOR THE PRESENT FOR SOMA!!!  O Wow!  How very cool!  He was so excited that he put on his official London 2012 Olympic T-shirt and cap to watch the Olympic opening ceremonies. When we sit down to watch the games in the evening, he puts on his cap. I’ll take a picture one of these nights to send.  So adorable.

The heat wave/lack of rain has broken here, and it looks from pictures on TV that the rain has finally stopped there, though I did see the archery competitions took place in the rain!  How are things going weather-wise now? Your on-the-ground reports are better than googling the weather . . . I like the pictures of the walk in the countryside. Beautiful and soothing. Here, it is almost impossible to find such a vast space with such great sky. We are always down in the trees, the landscape (at least where I am) hilly enough that the sky gets small. We are always enclosed.  I was recently out in Texas where the sky is very big and even in the Hill Country (I was near San Antonio teaching in a WONDERFUL SHOP called The Tinsmith’s Wife that is, truly, in an old tinsmith’s.  Across the street, rumor has it, was the forge itself. Next door was the tinsmith’s residence. More pictures posted on facebook later.

D’s shed looks amazing and makes me want my own! I know what you mean about how a bit of moving things around, ruthless decisions about what to donate, pitch, or save feels as though a weight lifts from your shoulders with each decision. How much of the time do we walk around feeling the weight of decisions not yet made? I’ve recently taken on a bit more space at the studio. I have hopes that this will help with efficiency if I set things up right at the outset. I’ll have three rooms now, each connected to the other by doorways (without doors, just walk throughs, really). The largest room will be devoted to display, retail (such as it is . . . Very little foot traffic here, which sometimes seems quite nice as I am always very busy and involved in a project of some sort of another–but don’t let that stop you if you are in the area! It’s always nice to stop and show everything), and teaching. I’ve got a great big table that comfortably seats 8 so very nice for an intimate class.  The light is fabulous as there are two great windows at one end.

The second room is my office. Painted a lovely red as I’ve always wanted a red room. It’s a long skinny room with a single great window at one end.

The new room is long and skinny as well but with a bit of an L shape toward the windows. So, I’ll have 2 great windows in that room. This new room will be devoted to all my shipping business and bins of inventory (all that right now is in the big room so makes for a bit of a mess and confusion in the place that is supposed to be tidy and welcoming).

The fellow who is moving out is a photographer who is moving into a space with other photographers upstairs. As soon as he moves his things, the door will be cut and the make-it-and-fix-it guys will start creating a doorway and put up unattractive but functional lights—the photographer is taking his fancy lights with him . . .

Perhaps I’ll post before and after pictures and blog about the move on the Monday blog. . . What do you think? I won’t feel so much as though I’m talking into a dark closet if I know you and my friend Mary E. are reading. [If you are reading this and want to see the big studio transformation captured in the Monday blog, say something in the comments . . .]

The summer is winding down here. I can feel the change in the air, the quality and temperature. I’ve watched the lilies come and go, the gladiolas. The Ligularia flower stalks get longer by the day. Every day Soma and I check for tomatoes—there are green ones and flowers, but no fruits to eat yet–we were a bit late with the planting as you might have guessed from our late harvest. We did make our first eggplant harvest and I cooked a dish I have not made for a long time: sauteed eggplant with sweet onions and ground turkey. A little garlic. A savory brown sauce. Over rice. Delicious.  Soma loved it.

So happy to hear about the accolades of your daughter!  Three cheers!

And so happy to see lovely Anouk! I’ve just read through your notes and love them love them love them. Delightful and thank you for saying such lovely and kind things about me! If you love Anouk, you’ll love the new bags I’m coming out with this week. Take a peak at them:

Introducing W in small and large size (large is the dark grey with longer body and slightly bigger).

And 6-8-10. The perfect beginner bag: 3 sizes. The hardware is spectacular! Kits are beautiful. Pester your local shop to bring them in and all your friends to knit them!  They will make the best gift ever.

And here is 6 in red:

Let me know what you think of these new beauties!.