If You Love Noni, You Must Read This

100_Books_home_imgA page is turning in my life and I have decided to close Noni Designs (for the most part-I will still design and add new pdfs to my website) to follow a strong pull toward new and exciting opportunities. I plan to return to school for another advanced degree, spend more time writing, possibly on the knitting project people have asked for for a long time: new bags and flowers all in one book – I am working on the book proposal right now! I have other books in me, too.

New-Chapter-in-my-lifeI plan to spend more time having adventures with my son, Soma.

My son enjoying the ice cream left on the dasher after making ice cream the old way with my father.

My son enjoying the ice cream left on the dasher after making ice cream the old way with my father.

I am excited about these new paths and where they will take me.

My-path-to-somewhereNevertheless, I will miss Noni and all of the wonderful and talented people I have had the pleasure and honor of meeting, teaching, working with: you, your stories, feed-back, projects, enthusiasm and support have made for an unforgettable 10 year chapter in my life.

I do have some great news for all of you: news I’d like you to share with as many knitters and bag-makers and bag-loves as you know: help me get the word ot that I will be selling many of my one-of-a-kind bags. This process may extend beyond the studio close date of January 31st. More on these small releases as we get closer to the first one and those following: it will be soon.

Delicious little bags . . . one could be yours

Delicious little bags . . . one could be yours

The other exciting news is that I will be designing a small fare-well collection that will include updates to some of my classics: look for my these exciting designs.

Possible_new_designs_2Possible-New-Bag-DesignsLOOK FOR MANY TASTY PROMOTIONS ON VARIOUS PRODUCTS EVERY WEEK STARTING THIS TUESDAY until the studio closes. Keep up-to-date on my latest activities, discounts, and special promotions via e-mail (make sure you sign up at the bottom left of my home page), Noni Designs Facebook page, blog postings, and Ravelry announcements in the groups associated with Noni. As inventory is sold, except for yarn and some essential products, it will not be replaced: In other words, shop early and often for patterns and kits containing everything you need to make those projects that have been on your mind for a time. Add them to your Noni queue.

Thank you for bringing me and my work into your creative life, and for making Noni such a wild, fun, beautiful, and rewarding journey for me.

It has been a great run. Help me make the last months of Noni just as wild and fun.

Thank you all. I've had so much fun!

Thank you all. I’ve had so much fun!

Also Better: Adding Cabochons as Ornaments

As I mentioned previously, ornamenting your felted bags need not be time-consuming or expensive. I have taken a liking to cabochon rivets and use them to decorate bags, my ready-made clothing, my knitted coats, my boots.

They are a nice, quick way to add both interest, sparkle, and a pretty cool look to almost any bag. Here, I’ve used them in an off-set pattern on the front of the little bag we’ve been visiting for a couple of days now met. This is, in my opinion, like the flower we saw yesterday, an example of better. And for some bags, this would be the BEST.

2014-02-10-17.09.25While you can go hunting for specialized tools with which to set these special rivets (and I even sprang for the expensive tools, I confess, but didn’t like using them and found the setting process to be frustrating and laborious), you don’t have to. I have experimented with a few different methods and find that superglue works really well to attach these rivets.

Here’s what you do:

Get a little bottle of Locktite Superglue. I prefer Extra Time Control. Place all the rivets where you want them and satisfy your eye that they are just right. If not, re-locate. Snap the front cab part (the female part) to the back (the male part) and wait for the click. They are placed, at this point, but not set. To set, I twist off the cab front, put a drop of glue in the receptacle and click back in place. Hold for a few seconds. I work systematically so I know which rivets are done and which are not.

Let sit for a bit and you are done!

Where do you get Cabochon Rivets, you might be wondering?  Noni has cabochon rivets in 3 finishes: antique brass, gunmetal, and nickel (pictured above). Call to place your order.

Better: Adding a simple flower to a tiny bag for a big statement

 

Red-Bag--better-with-flower

Above you can see our little red bag dressed with a single Camellia flower. I love this look. Simple, big statement, quick knit. If you’d like to knit this flower yourself, you can buy the pattern from the Noni store or buy the pattern now on Ravelry To make the flower as pictured, I used a size 6 needle and a single-strand of worsted weight feltable yarn. I made 5 larger petals (as written) and then 4 smaller petals.

Check out my post about another Better dressing idea for this little bag.

Good, Better, Best . . . Dressing a little bag for business cards

Sometimes I don’t have time to go back to a particular bag and dress it the way I would like. I tend to like little bags that are crusty with beads and flowers and ribbon in swirls. Such ornamentation takes time. And, well, for the knitter looking at my bag, such ornamentation might be a bit off-putting or intimidating.

But ornamentation need not be intimidating or time-consuming. My aim with Good, Better, Best is to show how easy it can be to turn a bag from “It’s nice,” into “I love it!” into positively “WOW!”

Here is a picture of a cute little bag that is perfect for business cards or those tiny fold up into nothing glasses that fit in a tiny case. Right now, it’s fine. It’s good.

naked-red-bagTomorrow, I’ll show you better. . .

 

 

 

 

Noni Q&A: Beaded Hearts on Heart on My Sleeve

2-Hearts-2Noni’s Heart on My Sleeve Purse is embellished with beaded hearts . . .they are beautiful, but took a bit of trial and error before I hit upon the right technique for getting a solidly beaded heart that was a pretty shape.

I rejected a bunch of lop-sided hearts (all of which got undone) before I came up with a plan for beautiful hearts every time.

Find a clean, well-lit place to work, of course: Lay down a piece of clean of paper or other material on your work surface – when beads are involved, sometimes it’s nice to put down a slightly damp towel so if beads go astray they don’t roll everywhere.

Gather Your Materials: No. 8 seed beads, a small dish in which to keep them, a beading needle, nylon beading thread, your almost finished purse, and scissors or thread nippers.

Decide on the Location for a Beaded Heart:  If you can’t decide, just pick some place with abandon. Start on the inside of the purse with your double-strand of thread knotted on the end.

Zinnia-Heart

First, Outline The Heart with Thread:

As you can see, I used a modified running stitch. A backwards running stitch will also work. I use the outline to guide the beading process.

Outline-the-Heart-with-thread

Second, Outline The Heart with Beads:

You can see above that I have started to follow the thread outline with beads. I go all the way around and then decide how much of the heart to fill in. Sometimes, I only filled in part of the heart.

Christmas-Red-Heart

Others, I filled the hearts completely with beads.

hearts-at-the-bottom-of-the-bag

Fill the Heart With Beads:

I have no scientific method for my beading process, only that I keep traveling (like a mole under the surface of the garden) through the felt until I push the tip of the needle up and out of the felted fabric again, put a bead on the needle, and then go back into the felt (rather than all the way through it to the inside of the purse). In this way, I stay working on the outside of the bag, catch a bit of the felt, and out comes the needle somewhere else ready for another bead. I do not feel that I must start at the bottom and fill in from the bottom up or the inside out or the outside in. My only concern is that I stay inside the lines.

Questions?  Post them here and I will answer in the comments or add to this blog posting.

Noni Q&A: Turnlocks 101

Bettie-Boop-resizedI have had a number of inquiries as to the best way to put a turnlock in a felted bag. In fact, in a workshop last year some of the participants chided me for not having done a video or blog tutorial on this subject. I took the pictures below at that workshop as we were working through the steps. So, thank you to the participants in the bag finishing workshops at Ann Marie’s shop Yarn Diva. What follows is a step by step explanation of the method I taught in that bag finishing workshop, and the same method use in the bags I make myself.

First, gather your materials: The turnlock flap can either be the flap of a bag – the Dinner Party Backstage, for example, could sport a turnlock instead of a fancy magnetic snap – or a narrow flap made specifically for the turnlock – this is the case here.

Materials-List-CompleteYou will also need newspaper to protect your work surface, a damp paper towel for clean-up, a bottle of fabric glue or Locktight Superglue, specifically the Extra Time Control formula (sorry, not pictured!), a pen to mark the turnlock flap, a small screw driver, scissors. and, of course, the turnlock itself.

Step 1: Place the turnlock

First, you should place the turnlock in the center of the turnlock flap. You may want to measure with a tape measure to make sure it is where you want it.

Measure twice, cut once.Measure Twice, Cut Once.

Step 2: Mark The Spot for the Lock

I recommend using a black pen or Sharpie to mark the location of the turnlock on the front or back of the turnlock flap. While we show it on the front of the flap here, it may be better to mark up the back just in case you need to revise the placement.

Mark the spot where the turnlock will sit with a black pen or Sharpie.

Mark-the-spot1aMark-the-spot2Step 3: Cut Out the Marked Space

Now you will need to cut the felt, so be very careful and deliberate. The image will you have drawn on the back of the turnlock flap will be just slightly smaller than the actual hole needs to be. Cut to that marked size and then slowly shave a milimeter at a time until the lock housing fits through the cut out without any buckling or tightness.

Cutting-out-the-spotStep 4: Apply Glue to the Turnlock Front

The turnlock will be held in place best if it is glued in place. First, apply your fabric glue or Superglue to the “front” of the turnlock housing as shown below.

Put-glue-on-the-back-of-the-turnlockAbout this much glue.  Be thorough but conservative. It is not necessary to take the glue all the way to the edge of the turnlock face because then it may show on the felt – not a good look.

About-this-much-glueStep 5: Glue the Turnlock Flap In Place on the Lock Face

Put the front (right) side of the turnlock flap down on the wrong side of the turnlock face. Press in place with your fingers for a good stick.

Put-the-flap-down-on-the-turnlockStep 6: Apply Glue to The Back of the Turnlock Flap

In order for the flap to be thoroughly held in place in the turnlock housing, apply glue to the cut edge of the felt once the front side is face down on the turnlock front housing.

Put-glue-on-the-backside,-tooAbout this much glue. Again, too much and it will be a difficult mess.

About-this-much-Glue2Step 7: Put the back of the turnlock housing wrong side down on the newly glued surface and press in place. Line up the holes for the screws with the screw housing.

Put-the-turnlock-back-on-over-the-glueUse your little screw driver to tighten the screws.

Screw-those-super-tiny-screws-tightStep 8: Clean-up turnlock with damp paper towel.

Use the damp paper towel you have at the ready to clean-up any glue that got squeezed out and then polish the exposed metal front and back of the lock until shiny and free of glue.

Looks-greatStep 9: Lock the lock and Press Prongs Through Bag.

Before you put the turnlock flap on the bag itself, lock the lock and then position the flap on the bag. Only at this point do I actually baste the flap itself in place on the bag.

Once the flap is basted in place and the flap itself allows to fall to its resting place on the front of the bag (with all parts of the turnlock on the flap–that is, the lock, too), press the prongs of the turnlock “lock” into the bag (so that the prongs are now on the inside of the bag) where you want the lock to sit.

Next, unlock the lock and, holding just the lock itself, press the lock prongs the rest of the way through the bag front. Put the little metal sleeve on the prongs and press the prongs toward the center to secure.

With the lock still unlocked, now you can rivet or sew the turnlock flap in place permanently.

This part of the process is finished!

Still have questions? Ask them in the comments section below and I will answer either in the comments or another blog posting.

Hearts on My Sleeve: Seasonal Favorite Now in Crochet!

Hearts-on-My-SleeveJust in time for American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day: Noni’s  . . . Heart on My Sleeve Bag is available in knit from Noni and a Noni version of the bag is now available in the popular book edited by Laura Zander of Jimmy Beans:  Crochet Red

CrochetRed_BookCover_HiRes For the crochet version of this design, I teamed up with Janet Brani to translate the knitted bag into crochet. I love the resulting tiny purse, perfect for Valentines Day, for any fancy party, or (picture this) in white or in an ensemble of brights for a Bride and Bridesmaids.

CrochetRed_BeadedFeltedBag_NoraBellows_JanetBrani_HiResIn next week’s Noni Q&A, I will be exploring how to do the hand-beading and make beautiful beaded hearts or other images (almost like applique) on felt, but get your bag started now and you’ll be ready to follow along with my step-by-step tutorial in next Friday’s blog. You can purchase Crochet Red for the crochet bag or buy the pdf for the knit version of the pattern by clicking here. Call me at the studio or write to me to order your hardware kit and yarn.

For those who are interested in the ways this sweet little bag can be used for occasions other than St. Valentine’s Day, consider this lovely version of the bag:

Hearts-on-My-Sleeve-with-FlowersHere, I used the Hearts on My Sleeve instructions as written, but I also made cherry blossoms and the cherry blossom leaves from Noni Flowers.

Noni-Flowers-Book-cover-finalSpecifically, I used the flower instructions on page 43 and leaf instructions found on page 152 with the information about the project Cherry Blossom Pauper’s Purse.

Paupers-Purse2

Paupers-PurseAs you can see, the Pauper’s Purse was not a felted bag but worked in Tilli Tomas Plie and Beaded Plie. Nevertheless, the instructions for the knitted leaves and flowers need no adjustment for the wool/felted versions. After the blossoms and leaves are felted and beaded, the results are delicate and romantic in true-to-life shades. They would be dramatic and daring if the flowers were red and the leaves black. Subdued if worked all in shades of grey and white and black.

Check back on Jan 31 for more in the Noni Q&A and share your own versions of this bag on the Noni Designs Facebook page and/or ideas here in the comments.

Noni Q&A: Sewing Purses into Purse Frames

I have gotten a few questions about how to put felted purses into purse frames (6-8-10, W, Lipstick & Change, Big Flirt . . . and so many others). Here is a step-by-step photo-tutorial that shows how to put a purse into a sew-hole frame that has a slot.

Essential Materials

First, Gather together the necessary materials on a clean, well-lit working surface: a clean paper towel to protect your work surface, your slightly damp purse, fabric glue, purse frame, beads, beading thread, a sharp thin-gauge needle, a pair of thread nippers (pictured here) or scissors, and a metal double-pointed needle or tapestry needle (top poke the purse into the frame slot).

Essential-Materials

Gluing The Purse Into The Frame

Step 1: Apply the Glue to the Frame one side at a time. The first step is to put a line of glue into the slot of the purse frame, particularly on the “solid” side of the frame that does not contain sew holes.

NOTE: Do not put glue in both sides as it is very easy to end up with glue on your purse where you don’t want it. Also important: DO NOT USE TOO MUCH GLUE. In other words, it is not necessary to fill the slot. Just a single slim line of glue on the non-hole side will more than do the trick. More important than getting a lot of glue is that you are using the correct glue. Use fabric glue (Liquid Stitch is a good choice). The bottle you see here is Liquid Fusion. I like it very much. It has a nice consistency, stays put, and works on fabric and other materials for a good hold. Elmer’s Glue is not strong enough. Gorilla glue makes a mess.

Place the frame, front side down, on the paper towel. Then arrange the first flap (right side down on the paper towel) so that it is ready to be poked into the frame.

I like to begin by poking one side of the purse and then the other into the frame side with the tip of a double-pointed needle or tapestry needle. I do this so that I know how much of the purse flap fabric needs to be distributed evenly across the frame.

In the first picture, the middle part of the purse flap is positioned to insert into the frame. In the second picture, I have started to insert the frame has not yet been poked into the frame. As I poke it in, I make sure that the fullness of the flap is distributed across the entire frame. It is easy to move the tip of the needle from left to right or right to left in order to distribute the fabric evenly. Below is a picture of this process once it is complete – NOTE that the folds of the flap are spaced evenly across the frame top. We can still do a little adjustment if necessary at this point and again during the blocking process.

20130103_113204

You can check that the purse flap fabric is secure within the frame by turning the frame over so you can see the right side/whole side of the frame. If the purse is “in” the frame, you will see the color of the purse fabric through the sew holes. Dark holes, holes in shadow, mean that the purse flap has not been sufficiently poked into the slot. Simply poke the fabric in yet again.

To ensure that the purse stays put inside the frame as the glue dries, baste the purse in place using a double-strand of sewing or beading thread and a sharp needle. For good results, simply baste around the entire frame. It is not necessary to go through the sew holes at this point as you can see below.

A close up of the basting stitches: you want the stitches to be snug around the frame.

Next, place a line of glue inside the second frame slot, again careful that you put this bead of glue on the non-sew hole side of the slot.

I sometimes find that poking the second flap into the frame is more awkward than the first. Mainly because the purse is in the way, you may have difficulty laying the frame down flat. . . so, I try to follow the same procedure: first, poke the sides in, then the top of the flap, distribute the fabric evenly . . . I console myself that the second side is the awkward side and just get the job done any way I can without making a mess. Deep breaths. That’s my advice. And do what works. Sometimes you’ll be very glad the glue dries clear.

 

Don’t Skip the Gluing Step: Here’s Why

I did see a posting somewhere that a Lipstick and Change maker had skipped the gluing step . . . I do not think this is wise. She seemed to think it would save her time or that she was giving in to laziness. The gluing step is possibly the quickest of the finishing steps. AND it is essential for keeping the purse in the frame should the “sewing in” part of the purse construction be compromised in some way.

I would not want to be be walking down the street and have a corner of my purse come undone with no glue to keep it in place.

The purse will be held in the frame by the glue alone if you have done this step properly. You will see that gluing and basting may take as little as 15 minutes. It’s the sewing that will take more of your time.

 

Sew The Purse Into The Frame While The Glue Dries

You may be tempted to glue one day and sew the next. I do not recommend this. It is both necessary and easier to sew the purse into the frame using the little beads while the glue dries. As the glue hardens, it becomes much harder to push a needle through it. So, what would normally take an hour can take considerably longer or prove impossible altogether.

 

Begin Sewing at The Hinge On One Side

The First step is to begin at the hinge of one side. With your double strand of nylon beading thread already on the needle and a knot at the end, put your needle into the purse frabric and then into a hole from inside to outside. You will have to angle your needle somewhat to get it through the hole. Getting the right angle sometimes is awkward and annoying. Sometimes, one might be inclined to think she is doing something wrong . . . this step requires a bit of muscle memory, so have patience as you internalize the needle angle.

Once you have come through the hole on the front, put a bead on the needle and then go back through the same hole out of which the needle just came.

Repeat this process around the entire frame. You may also want to catch a bead on the inside of the purse in the same manner as you have done on the outside. It makes for a pretty finish on the inside. If you do not want to do this, you should nevertheless put the point of your needle almost in the same place on the inside of the purse, angling your needle toward the next sew hole so that your stitches are more or less invisible on the inside of the purse.

I sometimes prefer to have beads on the inside as well as the outside, because it is prettier.

Finish off your strand of thread by making a dress-maker’s knot and then traveling inside the felt (see images below) so that you can cut the thread off at the purse with no unsightly ends sticking out.

Once both sides are sewn in place, you can cut the basting thread, pull out the stitches, removing all the basting thread. The purse is now secure in the frame.

If you have questions about how to put stiffener in the purse bottom and apply the purse feet, consult the blog posting on the topic.

Your QUESTIONS provide the material for this particular blog column, so keep asking and I’ll keep answering.

 

 

 

Noni Q&A: Cutting Stiffener to Fit & Putting Bag Feet On The Bag. . .

I mentioned in a recent blog that Fridays would be Noni Q&A. Any questions you have about the Noni Flowers, or finishing a bag, or making a bag. . . bring them on. I invite questions in the comments. If you are a bit shy, you can always send questions to my regular e-mail or through nonipatterns.com.  Please do.

I recently received a question about bag feet. I first posted about this a bit ago, and then preparations for a trip, a bad storm (spectacular storm, in fact, with garden consequences, trees down all over, and massive East Coast power outage including in my neighborhood (and my house) and the neighborhoods of family and studio, the actual travel, etc., caused me to miss a week of Noni Q&A. I have since added to the original post, both in content and pictures.

Question: I purchased the stiffener you recommend and I have my bag feet, but the prongs on the feet are too big to go through the stiffener. Do I just put the prongs through the felt and then open them? What is the best way to do this?

Answer: I recently developed a new and improved way of putting the bag feet through the stiffener and it works for most bags.

You will need the following materials:

  1. Size 6 double pointed needle (only 1) If you have size 7 or 8 or 5 these will also work. In other words, use what will do the trick.
  2. Paper hole punch (handheld)
  3. Ruler (possibly but don’t go hunting for one)
  4. Noni Extra Stiff bag stiffener
  5. Scissors
  6. Noni 24mm (or, for smaller bags 12mm or 16mm) bag feet in nickel, antique brass, or gunmetal

Here’s a picture with the bag feet but without the ruler. . . I couldn’t seem to remember everything in one picture!

Here’s what you do:

The first step in putting bag feet on your bag is to cut your stiffener to fit the bottom of the bag nicely and snugly. This is easier than it looks. I always begin by holding the stiffener up to the outside of the bag.

The outside of the bag is larger than the inside, so if you cut the stiffener to fit the outside, it will necessarily be larger than the inside. Shave the stiffener a square at a time until it fits within the ‘slot’ formed when the side of the bag and the base come together.

If you feel the bag body of the bag bottom curving around the stiffener then the stiffener is too large or small respectively.

Perfectly fitting stiffener makes the intersection of bag bottom and body feel perfectly crisp, a sharp corner. Use the holes in the stiffener to guide your efforts for straight cuts.

Once the stiffener is the correct size, use the hole punch to punch holes in the stiffener.

I have found that 3 – 5 holes from side and end is optimal (that is, instead of using the ruler you didn’t hunt for, count the holes in the stiffener: count 3 – 5 holes from end and 3 – 5 holes from side and you’ve got the perfect corner). I punch the end/corner holes first on both ends. Then gently fold the piece in half to get the midpoint and punch a hole in the middle (both sides).

I now have 6 holes, 2 on each end, 2 in middle.

When all 6 holes are punched (I really think 6 bag feet is usually best, but your taste trumps mine, so pick your number according to your preferences!), then put your stiffener in the bag.

NOTE: Usually, a bag should have 2 layers of stiffener for a nice crisp shape AND allows you to line the bottom even when you have bag feet. . .SO, if you want 2 layers, use the first layer as a pattern to cut the second. Saves going through all that figuring again.

You may want to tack the stiffener down with big ugly sewing stitches/running stitches to hold it in place while you put the bag feet in. If the stitches show on outside, take them out later, or simply tack with invisible stitches from the get go.

From the inside of the bag, with stiffener in place, poke your size 6 double pointed needle through the little hole you made with the hole punch (needle as straight as possible), until the point is visible on the outside.

THEN, pull the double point to the inside of the bag and follow it with the prongs of the bag foot so bag foot prongs go through felt and then through small punched hole in stiffener. Once the bag foot is in place and you like its placement, then open the prongs on the inside.

I often “set” one bag foot first and then place the rest, see if they all look good, and then set the rest. This ensures that they all are in the correct place with no foot in some crazy off line place. Let’s imagine, however, that one foot is off, you didn’t notice until you set it.  Simply fold the prongs back up, take the foot out, and re-do.  The felt will close over the first hole you have made and no harm will be done.

Continue to set feet in the same manner as above until all are set.

Questions?  Bring them on!

Anouk & Vianne . . . and The First Winner of Bag Naming Contest Introducted!

If you participated in the Ella Coat Knit-a-Long you know her as Moo2Moo, the fascinating lady of notable wit who made an amazing Ella Coat AND wrote the charming, funny notes that kept us all reading to the very end.

She beguiled me with her description of the 2 bags I offered for naming in my recent bag naming contest. . . I thought of the two bags (known to you then as Bag No. 3) as good enough to eat, sweet candies, and Moo2Moo (her name is Amanda) captured not only the sweetness of these bags but the relationship between them. [For those of you who wrote descriptions of the other bags, I have not forgotten about you. I will announce those winners when those patterns are released.]

Without further ado, I introduce to you Anouk & Vianne!

Here is the description of these delicious bags:

Mythical chocolatier Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk were weavers of magic, capable of transforming simple, every-day ingredients into mouth-watering works of art. Ginger, salt, cinnamon, gold . . . elements previously disparate surprise and delight the senses. These bags, like the chocolate confections of Vianne, are more than the sum of their parts, more than simple chocolate, simple bags: Anouk is small and playful, teaming with vibrant energy; Vianne is more refined and formal. You admire her across the room though she has said nothing. She is captivating. Both move with ease through cities, through gardens mysterious with fog, through windswept landscapes.

I have put the pattern up on Ravelry if you are interested in purchasing the PDF. If you would like the whole beautiful kit for Anouk, including the paper pattern, I have it available (domestic shipping included) for $90. I also have kits for Vianne–perfect knitting or everyday bag! Write to me for information at orders@nonipatterns.com

After reading Moo2Moo’s/Amanda’s notes, her lovely description . . . I started to wonder, just who is Moo2Moo/Amanda? I scoured her Ella Coat page for clues and couldn’t even figure out what she looks like. I asked her for pictures. .  . and she sent me a portrait of herself.

And I asked her some questions to try to get a little peek into her life. I asked her the typical knitterly question of when did you learn to knit? Here’s what she said:

My great grandmother taught me to knit cotton dishcloths when I was somewhere between 6 and 8 years old. It was boring as hell and something I quickly abandoned, preferring to spend my time with my nose buried in a book, any book, something I’ve never grown out of. Last summer [my emphasis!] a friend came to stay bringing with her a scarf she was knitting. She wanted to knit a tea cosy as a gift for her sister and so we surfed and found Ravelry and a veritable deluge of tea cosy patterns. I fell in love with Debbie Birkin’s Owl Tea Cosy despite not having knitted anything in about 3 decades, nor owning a tea pot or even being a tea drinker.  We took a trip to Hobbycraft (a craft department store) and came home armed with the necessary materials (and quite a lot of totally unnecessary things). After that I watched quite a lot of YouTube videos in order to learn how to cast on and to remind myself how to knit. With each new technique I’ve needed I’ve found a YouTube video to suit.

Where are you from, I asked her next. . . and tell me your story:

I’m originally from Yorkshire (bleak rolling moors, huge mills and lots and lots of sheep – parts of it are just as they appear in Wuthering Heights) then I moved to Bristol (the worlds greyest city) for University where I emerged with a BSC. Hons Microbiology and a rather unexpected biological development of my own.  Six weeks after siting my final exam the OH and I got married and two months after that (daugher no. 1) arrived in the world. After that we moved to London which served only to confirm that I hate big cities, I’m not overly keen on small ones either. Shortly after that we moved to a cottage in North Wales where our closest neighbours are sheep, sheep and more sheep. The garden is full of chickens and we’re surrounded by green fields. Best of all you can see the stars each and every night. Birds sing all around us and at night you hear the hoots of owls and the swift whoosh of air as you’re buzzed by the local bats. The house is heated with coal stoves and warm and cosy all year round. This is my forever home.

Take a look at the landscape behind Amanda’s lovely daughters and cute dog! I’m ready to move myself!

What do you do when you are not knitting?

When I’m not knitting (which is the vast majority of the time) I take the dog for long rambles through the countryside, occasionally I remember to weed the garden, spend time with the children and make tons and tons of jam from pretty much anything I can get my hands on, I even joined my local Country Market Co-operative to get rid of the surplus. In between times I work full time at a local primary school which is the single most fantabulous job in the world….. although its a bilingual school and I’m not [bilingual], so I spend a fair amount of time improving my Welsh so I can reply when children ask “Gallau mynd i’r ty bach os gwelwch yn dda?” (can I go to the toilet please). My first school outing was to a Jamborii where the staff had to go up on stage to sing the Welsh National Anthem……. which meant much crash revision on the coach trip….. even with the words on paper I was scuppered, especially when one of my co-workers told me the first couple of lines were My Hen Laid a Haddock, one hand oiled a flea. Even now that’s the first thing that pops into my head.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DFVLDVwzj8&feature=related

What is your favorite food?

My favourite food has to be Mexican, although chocolate comes a close second… and bacon crisps (which my husband finds hilarious because I’m most definitely vegetarian).

And your favorite flower?

Honeysuckle. They seem to survive no matter what the weather is like here. The wind rips the heads of pretty much everything else. I like crocuses too just because they’re so cheery and hint at spring weather.

Favorite place?

Any windswept green open space with nothing but granite outcrops for miles on end – it reminds me of my childhood. Failing that, the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls–its a truly magnificent place and like stepping back in time a century or so.

I asked her with whom she would like to have coffee (famous person, famous deceased person?). I confided that I want to have coffee with my Uncle Henry, my grandmother, and Cesare Milan. This was her response:

Cesare Milan? He reminds me of George Michael back in the Wham days.

And her answer to the question made me wish I’d confessed different people because her answer was so intelligent. I thought maybe I’d like to have coffee with Milton, but I think I would rather be a fly on the wall when my professors from the grad school days (Ted Leinwand or Marshall Grossman–they, after all, can quote Paradise Lost by book and line!) had coffee with Milton. . . Here’s what Amanda said:

If I could have coffee with anyone it would be Marie Curie – how on earth did she come up with the idea that zapping people with radiation would be beneficial to them? I’d also love to have met Jim Henson (creator of the Muppets) but I doubt I’d have drunk anything for laughing.

When I asked her for some pictures, she sent me these. . .

I was delighted by these pictures and asked Amanda where they were taken. She answered thus:

They were taken on a photoshoot for WightLink Ferries which came about totally by accident after I filled in a questionaire pretending to be a dog whilst very bored on a ferry crossing.  If you download the following brochure we’re on Page 3.

http://www.wightlink.co.uk/isle-of-wight-guide-and-events/walking/pawprint

The castle itself is a magnificent motte-and-bailey dating back roughly 1000 years. It has breathtaking views and a working donkey powered water wheel. Its a fabulous place for long walks and great for your thigh muscles as there are several hundred steps to go up and down as you wander along the ramparts and through the gardens. The day we visited co-incided with an English Heritage re-enactment weekend so we got to see cloth being woven, hand spinning and a very early spinning wheel in action. [My] daughters were more taken with the working black smith forge, which was set up in the middle of a field, and the gentleman in full battle dress wearing boots handmade by the chap who makes boots for the Yeomans guarding the Tower of London. The level of craftsmanship demonstrated and the sheer passion for history made this a superb day out and rekindled a childhood desire for a spinning wheel….. which I’m in the process of sourcing, not that I’ve let on to [my husband] yet. I’m waiting for his workshop and lathe to arrive before I drop that particular bombshell.

Amanda sent pictures of her chickens which you can picture in her garden:

I thank Amanda for answering my questions, sending such great pictures, and writing such lovely project notes and bag descriptions! I know we are all looking forward to her next set of Knit-A-Long project notes!