Monday 31 March 2014

Being a parent

 Here are some flowers for all the parents who read this.
Becoming a parent is such a massive, life changing experience. 

I didn't think it would be. At the age of 22 I honestly thought I would have the baby and leave it in the office creche so I could continue working. A bit like a handbag, carry it around a bit, put it down, forget about it, pick it up again. I had a massive shock when my boy arrived. I found I didn't want to be parted from him - ever. My world turned upside down and this tiny being was my new life. Everything centred around him. 

I think everyone feels like this with their first baby. But I also remember the pressure on me to work and leave my baby with someone to look after. At that time the government was urging all mothers to work and I felt guilty and inadequate being at home with baby especially when society didn't appear to respect my decision and gave me, a mother no status at all for having to admit to the role of 'housewife'. 

I thought then and I think now that women at home bringing up children should be paid to be there at least until those children start school. That would take the pressure off families who need two incomes. And nowadays that is most families. It would also prevent the farcical situation we have now where often all or nearly all of a mother's income goes to child care costs and unless women have a willing and able mum nearby to look after baby there is no choice but to pay for child care.

Once children start school working mothers have to cope with caring for their children in school holidays, half terms and 'inset' days.Not every woman can work in a school! 
Working from home is one possible solution but most women can't earn the kind of money working from home that they did pre-children. Job sharing; fostering community friendships so women can look after each others' children while the other mums work is another choice but again this doesn't pay a full time wage. 

 I still think one parent should be paid to be at home looking after young children. This job, surely the most important job of all, making good people to replace ourselves when we're gone, should have the proper status it deserves in society. We would then all be proud to say, actually I'm at home, being a parent.

If you agree or disagree please click the Comments below. I would love to hear what you think on this subject.

Saturday 29 March 2014

New present ideas in Handmade Happiness

Bunny egg covers £14 knitted by Sue Inglis
New mugs, bowls and  night light candle holders by Ali Cooper
Yesterday afternoon Ali Cooper came in with new things she has made. Some of those things are pictured above with a crochet blue tit and woolly lambs by Michelle Green.

 On Thursday Sue Inglis came in with these delightful bunny egg cosies she has knitted. 

Today will be busy in the shop with new stock to price and everything to get ready for this evening's party at Salon Sixteen

 I am lucky to have Kate Box, who makes the wonderful wrist warmers and baby blankets to help me tonight. She'll collect everything from the shop and set up at Salon Sixteen ready for the 5pm start so that I can be present in Handmade Happiness until closing time - also 5pm. Tonight Kate will be showing four new cushions she has made which I can't wait to see.
Now I must iron a big white sheet to go over the Handmade Happiness table. That takes me back to craft fair days...
Come to Salon Sixteen if you can 5-7pm. It will be fun - things to buy, people to meet, free drink and canapes. Several of Handmade Happiness' makers will be there. Will you? (Details in the post below.)

Friday 28 March 2014

An Invitation to Salon Sixteen, Saturday 5-7pm

Rosie Packham-Boyns who owns the hairdressers Salon Sixteen off Lavant Street, Petersfield is hosting a party tomorrow night (Saturday) and everyone is invited. Bubbly and canapes and a chance to see what local businesses have to offer.

 Handmade Happiness will have a stand there showing a selection of lovely handmade items; Stella and Dot jewellery will be there; NYR Organic beauty products; Forget me Not clothes; Paint, Pots and Parties and Claire Vennis artworks. Entry is free and Salon Sixteen is next to Swan Street car park so easy parking. Why not pop in? 

Thursday 27 March 2014

Permission to make

Michelle Green's needlefelted dog in Handmade Happiness now £60
 When you work full time whether it's for someone else, for your own business or in bringing up children your time is so structured and in demand it's hard to give oneself 'permission to make'. There's a tussle going on and it feels like there's no time for you to do anything some might see as unnecessary.  I still feel sometimes that making things is a kind of selfish indulgence that I have to give in to and I felt that much more strongly when I was younger. Do you relate?

Now we no longer have to use our creative powers to feed and clothe and shelter ourselves we are inclined to try to ignore that urge to make because we think we don't have time to indulge it; but I think it's still very much there and to use it whether it's in a workshop with others or alone at the sewing machine or drawing in a notebook is so very satisfying. It does us good.

 Being given permission to 'make' by ourselves or by someone else is necessary to maintain our balance and  self-esteem I think. And for 'make' feel free to substitute 'play' (an instrument or just play generally), write, draw, decorate, wherever your creative spirit wants to go. You need that time for yourself. Make time to be creative in your life.

A lot of people who visit Handmade Happiness tell me they aren't creative. But I know that everyone is creative. It might come out in different ways - in cooking a nice meal or in conversation but I do believe we are all born with the need to use our creativity. Perhaps some of us have repressed that need to be creative for so long in order to serve others that now they think they don't have it. Give yourself permission to make.


Tuesday 25 March 2014

Liberty, Fenwicks and Zara

Colours chosen by Amy at Liberty
Fabrics chosen by Amy at Liberty
Co-ordinating fabrics and yarns at Liberty
 This baby will be a fashionable baby with a sophisticated wardrobe! My daughter is quick to decide on what she likes and what she doesn't like. Not knowing what sex the baby will be means clothes made now mustn't be girly or masculine but equally suited to either sex.

London yesterday started at Fenwicks which has a Caramel baby and child concession.  We admired everything except the prices. This label specialises in unusual colours (tan and olive green for instance) in best quality fabrics and some things look hand-knitted.
We also love the 'Jellycat' supersoft white bunnies.

Zara, a Spanish company, has an interesting range of baby things, a bit different from other High Street companies. A white t-shirt with tiny pineapples and co-ordinating yellow leggings nearly got bought but first we wanted to see what Liberty had to offer.

By now we had noted that for such a tiny scrap of material needed to clothe a newborn prices were surprisingly high. And we were thinking about making the little tops and bottoms needed for a summer baby ourselves. 

The dark haired lady assistant at Liberty was super helpful. She had made clothes for her grandchildren and knew what was practical and what wasn't. Amy quickly picked out yarn colours for little cardigans, socks and hats and then chose fabrics to co-ordinate. (Only half a metre needed of each the  assistant assured us.)

 As soon as I got off the over-crowded train home I started on a little cardigan in the green size 0-3 months. It will be sweet. In fact I am thinking that if Handmade Happiness has womens' clothes why not a rail of handmade baby clothes as well? First I'll need to talk to the talented knitters that supply the shop and see if they are willing...

Sunday 23 March 2014

Making bags

Rich colours for an across the body bag by Jenny Stacy
This Jenny Stacy bag goes well with Seonaid Noble's orange cashmere cardigan
Cashmere cardigan by Seonaid Noble £95 with handmade bag by Jenny Stacy £20
I made this bag and two others - one blues, one greens on Friday in the shop, finishing them off yesterday. The blue one is my favourite - its all hand-felted with a toning velvet button fastening but I'd happily wear this one too. 

I see this as a travel bag; to wear close to the body with tickets, purse, lipstick and possibly passport in. The base material is a heavy duty felt which I've sewn into. It's a dark red, just visible top left corner. You learn as you go when making don't you and if I make more I'll know how to make them quicker.

Petersfield textile artist Pam Dew brought in a dress she has made. I really like it. Simple shape with long sleeves and button fastening in the front. It is short enough to wear over jeans or leggings but long enough to wear as a dress when the weather is warm enough. When Handmade Happiness starts selling womens' clothes I don't want them to be too expensive. Dress making is not quick but if I can help Pam source fabric that looks good, drapes well and is a reasonable price I reckon HH will be able to offer its customers really wearable natural fabric dresses this summer. 

Friday 21 March 2014

Needlefelted birds and dogs by Michelle Green

A wren and a bluetit in their nests by Michelle Green £38 each
Long-tailed tit by Michelle Green £29
Lurcher dog by Michelle Green £60
Long-tailed tit, barn owl and large owl by Michelle Green

Michelle Green's clever needlefelted birds are always popular in Handmade Happiness.
Her robins, wrens and bluetits are regular visitors and this week she has brought in long-tailed tits, owls and dogs. There is another dog but sorry, my picture was too blurred to share. I'll take another picture of him today.

My anti-ageing mission has back-fired lately what with pulled hamstring/ trapped nerve in leg from emergency yoga and the boiler has broken down so no heating and hot water. I'm told a new boiler will cost between £1800 and £1900 so no chance of that. I always wonder how other people cope in these situations. Perhaps they are prudent and have savings for life's emergencies. I've never been able to do that. I glide through life on a wing and a prayer and trust that nothing bad will happen. How dumb is that?

Right now the sun is shining in a perfect blue sky. How lucky I am. It's going to be a good day!

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Knitting chicks (or ducklings) for Easter

Chick with Cadbury's creme egg inside and bunny , knitted by Joyce Holland Hill with mini creme egg inside on blanket by Kate Box
Another knitted Easter duckling(?) by me on one of Kate Box's baby blankets
 The pattern for this Easter chick (mine have turned out more like ducklings) is easy to knit. My knitting friends say that charities are giving out the pattern in the hope that lots will be knitted and sold to raise money for charity. 

If you want to make your own click onto the bold words above. Then it is up to you whether you give some to charity or just make a few for family and friends. The pattern I have linked to is on the mothers' union website. There are similar patterns on the Francis House Hospice website and the Pompom Emporium website.

There are a few knitted chicks in Handmade Happiness for £2-50 each including the egg. The nice thing about them is that after they've held chocolate eggs for Easter they can be used as boiled egg cosies for the rest of the year.

I want to get up to the Country Living magazine Spring show which starts today. But my leg, which the doctor looked at yesterday and reckons is just a trapped nerve, is not reliable. I now plan  to go there on Friday assuming all is back to normal by then and I can find someone to shop sit. The show runs until Sunday at the Business Design Centre, Islington. The Spring show is more home and garden focussed and the November show is all about Christmas. 

Monday 17 March 2014


My dress by Cos
I love this combination of colours - green, blue, indigo, violet - half of the rainbow. The colours of a peacock's tail.
Some people have an instinctive feeling for colour and always get it right. It's not just about choosing which colours go well together it's  positioning  those colours to achieve a balance that pleases the eye. Witness Kaffe Fassett ... or Ruth Ellacott in Handmade Happiness, who no matter how many colours she uses in her rag rugs and patchwork always achieves a piece which looks 'right'.

I've realised recently (it's taken me a long time) that there are colours that look expensive and colours that look cheap. I would put neutrals - cream, grey, and beige into the expensive category and cold, harsh colours - puce, royal blue,emerald green and anything neon into the cheap looking category. There are 'safe' colours like navy and black and highlight colours like lime and shocking pink. Plus millions of shades of each colour. And then there's fashion. Fashion should not be allowed to dictate on colour since what suits one person is wrong for someone else.

Learning about colour could take a life time. All I know is that nature is the best colour guide. Not garden flowers as we have tampered with their colours too much but meadow flowers or animal colours or landscapes -infinite combinations that will always inspire and always look 'right'.  

Saturday 15 March 2014

Sheila Barrow's new embroidered pictures

In the New Forest by Sheila Barrow
Bluebells in the New Forest by Sheila Barrow
 Artist Sheila Barrow delivered four more of her embroidered paintings to Handmade Happiness this week.
 Glen Wellstead dropped by yesterday with more of her popular stacks of dyed wool blanket to make with and a brightly coloured cushion she has made with them.
 Kate Hackett came in with her ceramic egg plates to add to her display of mugs, plates and bowls.
 Carol Smith topped up her applique fabric cards and Penny Diggins, pencil artist extraordinaire brought in more of her cards and a poster advertising her drawing classes.

I am battling with a rebellious leg having slightly overdone the yoga this week! I call it 'emergency yoga' as I feel I should make a big anti-ageing effort before becoming a grandmother this summer.

 A yoga teacher who visits the shop says it's good to be upside down to reverse the downward pull of gravity. Being upside down used to be easy when I was young. I remember often standing on my head when in my twenties and thirties but now it seems too extreme. Apparently you get some of the same results by just having your legs up against a wall...

Another visitor to the shop said she'd just completed a course to become a nutritionist. During our chat she said she was looking for someone to practice on would I be interested? So my free consultation will be at the beginning of April. Perfectly timed. Emergency nutrition advice just before my birthday which is also in April and impending grandmotherhood!

 I am looking forward to finding out from an expert exactly what we should and should not be eating. It's confusing trying to follow the fads spread by the media. No sugar is the current message.

 Vegetables seem to be the only thing everyone can eat as much as they like of without feeling guilty or as if they're harming themselves. Carbohydrates and proteins dip in and out of fashion. And chocolate is sometimes thought to be good for you, sometimes recommended to be avoided. Porridge always seems to get a good press - that's what I'm off to make now for breakfast. But I can't eat it without sugar can I?!

Friday 14 March 2014

Penny Seume's lampshades and cushions in Handmade Happiness

At Contemporary Textiles Penny's stand sang out. I feel her sophisticated, 'now' look is just right for Handmade Happiness in Petersfield, an 'area of outstanding natural beauty' where people also have strong links with London, only an hour away on the train.
To find out more about Penny Seume and see more of her work visit

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Bits and pieces

Spring flowers
Seeing rag rugs in the shop prompts lots of memories. This one by Ruth Ellacott
Popular needle felted birds by Michelle Green. £29 each.
 This time yesterday saw me painting rag paper (paper with a high cotton content) in the colours of hydrangeas (pale green, pink, pale blue to cobalt blue, lilac etc) and in the shop I cut out petals. I want to have lots of petals to make into jewellery. Paper, protected with layers of matt varnish can, I hope make nice jewellery. We shall see. 

Sheila Barrow visited with four more of her embroidered paintings. Two views across the South Downs and two woodland scenes of the New Forest. As usual with Sheila's work these are pictures I would love to own.  Photo coming! Sheila also delivered lots more of her original art work cards which people love to buy to frame.

One of the artists whose work Amy and I particularly admired at Contemporary Textiles in London is Penny Seume. I am delighted that her lampshades and cushions will be in Handmade Happiness by the end of this week. Contemporary, abstract, tactile - her work has the 'Wow!' factor.

Pam Dew came in yesterday with an interesting cushion she has made. Known for her wonderful quilts and applique work, Pam is now combining her passion for sewing with her passion for cycling. This latest cushion is printed on with bike parts and embroidered bikes. She's also promised earrings from bike parts and possibly necklaces. I have every faith they will be desirable and wearable and only keen cyclists like Pam will recognise the materials she has used!

Monday 10 March 2014

New from Ali Cooper

Blue and white porcelain jugs by Ali Cooper
Blue and white bowls by Ali Cooper
The lovely faded denim colour of this delicate bowl by Ali Cooper
One of Ali Cooper's dog mugs
 Making ceramics is a long process. First there's throwing the clay on the wheel to achieve the shape, then leaving your mugs, bowls or plates until there have dried out sufficiently. Then after glazing and decorating there are two firings in the kiln.

 I love it when Ali Cooper brings in the latest things she has made. And if the customers waiting for pink spotty mugs and gold lustre decorated stoneware are reading this - those things are en route!

This year we're appreciating these sunny days more than ever after so much continuous rain. Sitting on a bench looking out over the Ashdown Forest yesterday with my mother beside me soaking up the warm sun was blissful. 

There's a sign on the road nearby giving the number of collisions car have had with deer in the last year. I noticed the number had gone up in the last week from 187 to 191 meaning four deer crashes in just a few days. I always look out for deer. Great to see them but not so close up that you have to hit one!

Saturday 8 March 2014

Contemporary Textiles event and Pam Dew's latest cushion

Pam Dew's 'The View at Elsted' cushion 
Flower shop tulips en route to Contemporary Textiles at Teddington
Last night I met daughter Amy in London and we sped to the feast for the senses that is the Contemporary Textiles show at Teddington. 76 textile artists.

 What I liked best were the painterly abstract printed velvets and silks made into scarves, cushions, lampshades, dresses even. Rich colours but never gaudy. I loved leaves pressed into wool making natural organic dyes. Texture - the nubbly delicate embroidery in silver jewellery. Vintage fabrics juxtaposed piecemeal to make interesting applique dresses. 

Talking of dresses, we also enjoyed looking round TCS a beautiful clothing boutique on Teddington High Street with imaginative clothes that would suit all shapes and sizes.
Amy and I agree there is a real gap in the market for lovely clothes for larger sized women - the designer shop she works in only goes up to a size 14 . Over our shared meal at Carluccio's we sketched out dress designs on paper napkins. 

I'm now going to contact three of the textile designers we chatted to last night. Fingers crossed you'll be able to see their work shortly in Handmade Happiness.

Thursday 6 March 2014

New from Jacqui Watkins - notebooks

Notebooks £3.50 each by Jacqui Watkins
Notebooks by lino cut artist Jacqui Watkins £3.50 each
 Regular shop visitors will recognise these notebooks as being the lino cuts of Jacqui Watkins whose square cards are so popular. Jacqui also sent coasters with her card designs on them but I can't photograph them because they sold the same day they arrived! If you're visiting the Country Living fair look out for Jacqui's stand on the mezzanine (middle floor) under her business name of Linen Prints.

I have a card machine in Handmade Happiness but until yesterday I hadn't I confess used it for payments over the phone. Now I have done and it was easy. So let me offer you this service.
 If there's anything you like pictured on the blog - and I'll do a special selection before Mothers Day on March 30th - ring me on the shop number 01730 267711 during opening hours with your card details and I'll put it in the post the same day. Small parcels cost £3-00 to send first class so this would be added to most orders.

I'm thinking a lot about my grandchild to be at the moment and how I would like to be on hand to help Amy once he or she arrives. So recently I've suggested to visiting makers that they might like to volunteer to work one day a month in the shop. The suggestion has gone down well so far and it's reassuring to think that by July I will hopefully have a schedule in place so customers have a chance to meet some of the lovely individuals whose work is sold in the shop. Makers will want to make while working so watching them and chatting to them will be another attraction for customers. 

Knowing that I don't have to work all the time the shop is open will also enable me to visit the exhibitions and shows I sometimes have to miss at the moment. Not tomorrow though. Tomorrow Pam Dew who makes wonderful quilts and applique cushions will be in the shop in the afternoon so I can go to the first night of Contemporary Textiles at the Landmark Arts Centre, Teddington. 76 textile artists. The show is also on Saturday and Sunday if you want to go yourself. I can't wait!

Tuesday 4 March 2014

The pencil drawings of Elizabeth Diggins

Cards showing the drawings of Elizabeth Diggins
Natural history detailed drawings by Elizabeth Diggins
Pencil drawings by Elizabeth Diggins
Handmade Happiness stocks cards by Elizabeth Diggins, natural history artist.

Occasionally I am blown away by someone's talent. Elizabeth Diggins, who has recently moved to the area draws with an assortment of pencils building form and texture in layers of painstaking detail. She uses all the grades of pencil (HB apparently means hard black) from soft to hard to make her pictures. The glass jar impresses me most but the more I look at these cards the more I like the mossy undergrowth contrasting with the smooth hard branches of trees in the card above right. The original drawing is huge she says. Originals that haven't already been sold can be bought through Elizabeth's website.Visit her website by clicking on any card above.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Seeing both ends of life

Painted silk, glitter and gold paper. Golden wedding card by Jenny Stacy
A tiny cardigan for my grandchild-to-be with old buttons
Same cardigan different view. The fabric behind is brushed cotton.
 I often think about this baby that is to be. What can I teach it about the important things in life. To be kind to everyone and to treat people as you would like to be treated by them? To never stop learning and to take every opportunity to learn throughout life. To try to do good and not to be afraid to speak out against wrong doing. And above all to listen, to really listen, watch and make your own mind up about things.

Today is Sunday when I see a lot of elderly people in the residential home where my mother lives. Seeing her there gives me heartache. The place is clean and the new building is light. But what is there for people to do? Sit down and watch television. I wish there was an alternative. It seems too big a change from living at home looking after yourself as much as possible with the help of visiting carers to living in an institution where everything is done for you and you are simply required to sit, eat and sleep. 

I must find out how our British system compares with what happens in other countries. Maybe the government can take its focus off education for a moment and consider whether there is a better alternative to residential care for  people living into their eighties and nineties.