Tuscan Inspiration

I’ve just returned from a holiday in Tuscany! A week crammed full of culture, churches, coffee, cake, gelato and pasta!

Cake and coffee

Lemon tart and coffee for elevenses!

Such a beautiful time touring medieval towns and hilltop villages and marvelling at the intricate detail in the artwork and architecture. I did take some crochet with me but only made one 6 inch square as I was so tired every night from sightseeing I had no energy to craft! I did however, get plenty of Tuscan inspiration!

We’ve always enjoyed looking at ancient sites and National Trust properties in UK so the decorative churches and stylish architecture in Tuscany were very appealing.  I loved these floor tiles in Siena Cathedral – they reminded me of the patchwork block which joins diamonds to make what appears to be tumbling blocks!

Tuscan blue and cream tiles with a crescent moon decoration

Each diamond has a crescent moon and makes a 3 moon box!


This table was so pretty – much more so than the photo captures

Pretty, pink marble table top

This table was in a the Viti Palace in Volterra – I loved the colours.

We had fun on the day trip to Pisa!

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Silly selfie!


On our last day we walked part of the Pilgrims’ Path – this runs from Canterbury in UK all the way to Rome, including the area of Monteriggioni in Tuscany where we stayed.

Green grass and wildflowers

I love the mix of colours with the flowers and the grass

Field with wild flowers

Wild flowers along the Pilgrims’ Path


So back home I have plenty of photos and memories for inspiration – I think a flower quilt or blanket project design may be taking shape, or an English Paper Piecing Diamond shapes quilt even!

Abakhan Secret Sale!

Well you can tell from the title where I went this weekend! Yes, the Abakhan Secret Sale again! It all started with this in the post:

Abakhan Sale ticket golden coloured

Secret Sale Golden Ticket

this exciting ticket entitles the bearer and guest to enter the Abakhan Secret Sale an hour before the general public. I was lucky enough to be sent one again and as my friend and I had enjoyed the last one so much we couldn’t wait to get to this one!

This time the sale started earlier and was in a much larger building with more space to look through all the lovely things. There are boxes and boxes of craft bits and bobs as well as fabric bundles, rolls and bolts. There are also slight seconds of things like foam, wadding and cushion inserts which don’t seem to have more than a few dusty marks on them or a small piece of foam pulled off. I especially like the uphostery ex-display fabrics which hang up on a rail as there are some real bargains £1 a display hanging which has fabric priced at £15.99 a metre in some cases!   It was also lovely  to meet Will Abakhan who had sent the tickets out and was on hand to greet customers as well as helping in the cafe later in the day!

Fabric on the roll

Some pretty fabric – few metres worth

Bacon bap

Our complementary refreshments after an hour of bargain hunting!


As a golden ticket holder we were also provided with a hearty bacon bap to aid our recovery after athe early start (8.30am) and bargain hunting!

After a very tasty bacon bap and coffee we embarked on the next bit of the day – buying things from the ordinary shop with our 15% discount! This proved far too tempting as every time one of us found something and wondered whether it would be suitable the other was all encouraging and ‘yes it’s perfect’ type thing – so we egged each other on until we had to go back to the car to offload all our stuff! The staff were fantastic all day – they carry things to  the car for you and are very helpful all round.

I think Mostyn is the best Abakhan branch of all and I am so lucky to live near it.  In fact I can easily get to the Birkenhead, Liverpool and Chester branches as well which seems unfair when lots of people don’t have a branch at all!

I havent ant got any pictures of our special dessert which we received after our second shopping spree but it was delicious!   It’s definitely worth looking out for the next secret sale in a few months, especially if you keep an eye on their Facebook page and spot the chance to win a golden ticket.  It’s a smashing day out for crafters!

Bacon bap

Marilyn enjoying our breakfast baps



Linking up with Handmade Monday again this week!

Abakhan Secret Sale and an E Course!

The Abakhan Secret Sale! Wow!  I am so lucky as I live in the middle of 4 Abakhans!  Chester, Mostyn, Birkenhead and Liverpool!  Yesterday was the much advertised ‘secret’ sale at the Mostyn branch.  I have been really hoping I would be able to walk enough to get round the fabric shops again and although I can’t go for long without pain I am so much better than I was two week’s ago!

Being a lucky golden ticket holder I, and a friend, were  able to access the sale at 10am (an hour early) after having a complementary bacon batch and coffee in the café.  We didn’t rush off at 10 although as other golden ticket holders were getting moving we didn’t dawdle over the coffees too long!  There’s something about a sale which makes you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t get in there quick and get rooting!

We weren’t disappointed – there was plenty of fabric and yarn and some ex-display items to purchase, like wool holders.  My favourite place was the ex-display hanging upholstery fabrics  which were £1 a hanger, and the big box of cut- offs which was ‘fill a bag for £10!

cream,red, fabric with leaves on

the red leaf upholstery fabric

red, brown and cream fabric

the red shades


purple fabric

Purple shades!

pirple fabric

the purple shades


rainbow of fabric shades

Folk Collection – love all these shades for patchwork!


small coloured pieces in varying fabrics – ‘Folk Collection’

I managed to get loads in my £10 bag and found some useful pieces like this cotton with sweetie jars on it!

fabric with pink sweetie jars on

Sweetie-jars fabric


other fabrics from the ‘fill a bag’ box

So, as you can see I have plenty of fabric to keep me busy!  It’s not like I don’t have a big enough stash already, I just couldn’t help myself when the prices were so low.  We were very lucky to be the early ones in though as when we left to go and recover in the café there was a queue right round the whole site!

It’s definitely worth keeping a look out for the next one and registering interest for a discount ticket.  We had 15% discount to spend outside of the sale as well.  Finally at around 3pm we bought some more drinks, had our complementary chocolate pudding and went home!

Fabric shopping, coffee, chocolate and a day out with a friend – what a lovely weekend!  Sorry if I’ve overdone it about going out but after months of pain and limited mobility it was wonderful and worth it even though I limped round the last bit and back to the car!

As well as going to have my days filled with lots of sewing in the near future  I’m doing the Create and thrive e-course which Vicky recommended to us a couple of week’s ago!  I Think the lack of constant pain has gone to my head and I can’t stop wanting to do stuff!  So far the course is really making me think about Patchwork Fairy and how I want things to eventually progress.  It’s a 30 day course and we’ve only had 7 days yet so I am excited to see where it takes me…

Anyhoo – time to link up with Handmade Monday again at Lucy Blossom Crafts – wonder if any of the Handmade Mondayers were at Mostyn? Do let me know if you were!

Crochet en France

Well we’re back after a lovely week en vacances dans un gîte in the Normandy countryside in France.  It was very quiet and peaceful, we could just about see one neighbour’s house  over in another field.  The weather was very hot though, too hot for us really as neither of us are sunbathers.  We prefer sitting in the shade reading or doing crochet (me) or dozing (him) !

french gite

happily crocheting on first da

I bought a crocheted hat on the ferry over and so the first thing I did when we arrived was to crochet some flowers on the side to make it my own.

crochet hat with crochet flowers

two little crochet flowers

It’s very cool and comfy to wear and only 12 euros from  the Ferry boutique.  The flowes are crocheted in lilac, cream  and brown as the hat is a coffee and cream colour.

As well as drinking lots of café noir and eating yummy crêpes we visited the D Day landing sites and also the Bayeux Tapestry Museum which was very interesting to view.  It’s almost two feet in height and 230 feet long and is displayed in a long glass cabinet at head height.  You are given a hand held recorded commentary to listen to as you walk along past it and the scenes are numbered so you can look at what the numbered recording is referring to all the time.

I remarked to my husband that it looked more like embroidery than tapestry to me and so was interested to see a reference later to the fact that is actually embroidered linen not tapestry!  It’s a really clever piece of work and depicts the lead up to, and the actual Battle of Hastings in 1066.  Sadly we were not allowed to photograph it although I did buy a paper replica to bring home – just got to figure out how to display it now!

On our last day we went swimming on Omaha Beach on the northern coast.  On the way to the beach café we passed these rather charming French beach huts – not at all like English ones. From out of one of them came the oldest couple I have ever seen in swimming gear!  She hobbled down with a stick in one hand and a beach chair in the other then went back to help the old man down and into the sea.  They didn’t swim but stood there waist height just taking in the scenery!  – there’s dedication in ‘taking the waters’ eh?  I love to swim in the sea but not sure I’ll still be making that kind of  effort in my 90s!

White wooden French Beach Huts

French Beach Huts

Well I’m off to Handmade Monday now to catch up on the blogs I’ve missed whilst away.  There was hardly any signal during our holiday which meant very limited internet time!  Hope everyone is enjoying the summer wherever you are.  x


Birthday Weekend and Wonderwool 2014!

Well one year one it’s my birthday weekend again and I’m back in mid Wales for Wonderwool.  I loved this place last year and this year I have enjoyed it all over again although it’s never quite as good the second time around!  It’s full of lovely, tactile, woolly goodness, intricate tools to make things with and unusual and individual clothing!

We arrived on Saturday and stayed in the same B&B as last year – Guidfa House at Crossgates, Llandridnod Wells. This is a very warm, comfy place to stay and the hosts, Tony and Ann are very friendly and helpful. We were given tea and date and walnut cake on arrival which we enjoyed in the peaceful guests’ lounge.  Our room had 2 comfy chairs and coffee table – something that I always appreciate in hotel rooms as I don’t like having to sit on the bed all night. Oh the joy of relaxing by the window, looking over at the hills while doing my crochet, watching TV and drinking a glass of wine…, wait …actually that’s a pretty standard Saturday night for me … albeit without rolling hillside for a view!! Oh well I do know how to enjoy myself anywhere!!

Early this morning we arrived at the Royal Welsh Showground and there was plenty of parking and it was not too crowded inside at all,  though with lots to see and buy and lots of people showcasing their crafts – I love watching the spinners, in fact last year I really wanted to buy a wheel and go on a spinning course and I just realised it’s a year ago and I still haven’t learnt to spin!

It’s actually quite similar to Yarndale but more spread out and much easier to see what’s on offer as the stalls are in bigger spaces and more spread out. There are also live sheep, lamas and angora rabbits!




I did really love this rug below though and this wall hanging, both by Gill Curwen of Bapple and Jo Jo – It’s a craft called ‘Quillie’ which is sort of rolling felted wool strips cut from blankets or clothes into Swiss Roll shapes and then sewing them together to make mats and rugs in beautiful shapes and toning shades. I am looking forward to perusing her website now I’m back home!



I was talking to my daughter about Wonderwool before I went and she asked what her dad was going to do while I was engrossed in the woolly world I told her he follows me round then goes and reads his book in the cafe area – she said there should be a ”long suffering partners’ ” area with comfy seats, internet access and various reading material! Wouldn’t that be good?!!

Beaker-button-kit  I didn’t spend too much at all – just some felted wool and this handmade button kit from Beaker Button, which once you’ve learnt how to do it you can upscale it and make giant hangings in embroidery hoops and even hula hoops!  The information in the kit explains that Dorset button making was a huge cottage industry from the 1600s until the Great Exhibition of 1851 when a new button making machine was showcased.  Families were left destitute and starving and many were forced to emigrate!  It is the WI and others now keeping this craft alive – I am happy to become one of them!

Wonder if I’ll spend next birthday at Wonderwool?

Over to some other wonders now – at Handmade Monday!

Fabric Shops and Coffee Stops!

Well as I mentioned last weekend, I had a trip to Blackpool recently as DH likes to go to the annual Amateur Radio Show in much the same way as I like to go to fabric shops and events like Wonderwool and Yarnfest!  Now that our children have all left home we have a hobby room each – mine is full of fabric and yarn etc and his is full of radios, components and model railway parts!   Last time we went to the Blackpool show I was very disappointed with the ‘craft centre’ I had found on the internet – basically it had lots of empty units and most were closed!  This year however my internet research showed that things had improved!   Having dropped DH off at the radio show I excitedly drove to the March Mill Craft Village in Thornton.  It’s still not as good as it could be but it’s sooo much better than it was, as it now as a lovely coffee shop called ‘Tiffin’ which sells good coffee and homemade cakes,  🙂 and  a wonderful fabric shop called ‘Grace and Favour’.

Fabric shop in Blackpool

Grace and Favour Fabric Shop

Having forced myself not to run straight into buying fabric  I settled down to  scrumptious millionaires shortbread and an Americano in the warm coffee shop and contemplated the peaceful hour or two I would have before DH ‘phoned to arrange his pick up!  I was not disappointed – I didn’t even get in the door for about 10 mins as there were baskets of fabric packs outside to browse through.  I entered the shop with two of these already chosen!

Linen colour fabric with vintage rose pattern by Clarke and Clarke

Vintage Roses Fabric by Clarke and Clarke

Green and lilac cotton lawn

Cotton Lawn Fabric

It’s a lovely bright shop, not very big, but well laid out so you can enjoy a good browse working your way round the well stocked walls and then perusing the craft shelves in the centre. I was in their well over an hour – browsing, choosing, re-choosing and chatting to the friendly assistant Jess, who is also a sewing tutor at their sewing school ‘The Sewing Sanctuary’ in the same craft centre where they hold social crafting and run courses!  Wish I lived nearer!

inside-grace-and-favour-shop blurred-fabric-sidewall

I was very pleased to get these fabrics – only £1.50 a fat quarter!

red and pinky-red floral fabric in fat quarters

Far Quarters in lovely Cotton

I also got some trimmings for various projects – this is for my upcycling projects using the vintage linens I have acquired – I think it will make a beautiful addition to the dresses and tops I am designing!  I am going to make these out of a mix of vintage and contemporary fabrics and trims and it’s very exciting gathering the various bits and bobs and starting the designs!

beige lace flower rim

Lace Flower Trim

By a happy serendipity I got the ‘I’m ready to be picked up’ call just as I was paying for my items – so off I went to collect him and see who had spent the most!

And so to link with Handmade Monday!

Bye for now, Ali xxx

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Wool, Coffee and Cake, a dream day out!

Ooh I had a lovely outing this last week!  Mum and I went for a drive in the countryside (well down the M53 amd M6, then the countryside!).  We went to Black Sheep Wools Craft Barn in Culcheth!  My dream day out! – it included wool, coffee and cake!!  (and my mum 😉 )


Black Sheep Barn entrance

Entrance to Black Sheep Craft Barn

The craft barn is set back off the road in a lovely countryside setting,  but it’s even more lovely inside!  As you step through the door you can see shelves of pretty, delicate spring coloured wools and cottons on one side, shelves of beautiful variegated purply pink yarns on the other and a central stand with crafty items and gifts!

inside Black sheep wools Craft Barn

craft items and gifts



different yarns on shelves

coloured yarns

Noro wools on shelves

Noro Yarns. I love the variegated colours of these Japanese yarns!


view of shop

view down shop

















I was hard pressed to actually move through the shop as I kept getting distracted by yet another shelf of lovely yarns!  They sell a wide variety: wool, mohair, cotton, silk, viscose, acrylic, bamboo and various mixes of these in plain and varigated colours.  There is also a large section of Cross Stitch kits and threads, a wide selection of craft books and patterns and various notions to purchase.

Mum and I always suss out a coffee stop wherever we go and so thoroughly enjoyed the onsite cosy café serving light lunches and cakes.  We had a very nice panini and a slice of Victoria Sandwich cake with fabulously strong coffee, just how I prefer it!  I’m quite happy to travel to visit new craft places but I do like it when there is a café so I can stop and reflect on all the things I’ve been browsing through before I make my purchases, especially when I’ve driven a while to get there!  It’s the sort of place you could enjoy visiting with friends or a knitting/crochet group.

I was very taken with a crochet designs book by Nikki Trench called,  ‘Hooked on Noro’, Now although I like the look of Noro yarns some can feel a bit harsh and are quite pricey so this time I bought the book but chose an alternative yarn – Fusion Cotton – a soft, cotton and viscose mix yarn by Patons, very reasonably priced for the quality, with which to make the fingerless gloves from the book.    Mum wanted to know why I would want to have fingerless gloves?!  When I said they would be handy for texting, she just raised her eyes to the ceiling and said, “you could just pull off  a normal glove!” – Eh?  I don’t think so! I love the pair I’ve just made and actually so did Mum once she saw them finished!

fingerless gloves in brwon cotton and viscose mix.

Fingerless Gloves!

They are very comfy and soft to wear and the pattern in the book is easy to follow.


The final thing I bought was one skein of Rowan’s Kidsilk Creation Stripe.  Now this is pricey,  but absolutely gorgeous!  It looks and feels like a high quality product.  It’s  actually mohair and silk mix and it already partly knitted into a long mesh, which can be stretched out widthways if desired.  I noticed there was a  pattern on the label to crochet a scarf with it  but I couldn’t understand how you would do it!   Luckily there are plenty of nice friendly staff to ask for help and one of the ladies explained I needed to crochet it  up the long edge.   However,  I was completely flummoxed at first when I got home, but once I understood what to do it was very easy to make up in about three quarters of an hour!  It ends up as a twirly, twisty floaty pretty scarf! I’ve taken some pics and will post a tutorial about how to work with this yarn as it’s certainly worth it!   I chose a pinky purply mix and the finished item has now been posted to my very stylish Aunty for her 70th birthday!

Mohair and Silk yarn

the kidsilk creation stripe yarn before crocheting

Purple and pink mohair and silk crochetd scarf.

Scarf in Kidsilk Creation Stripe

So all in all we were there just over two hours – it was long enough for Mum who by now was trying to nudge me to the exit! It’s the sort of place where you could keep going round and round oohing and aaahing and patting large balls of pink and purple wool!

Well I’m off for another visit now – over to Handmade Monday to visit some lovely blogs!  If anyone lives near Black Sheep Wools Craft Barn and fancies meeting for a coffee n’ cake I’m always up for another trip!!  🙂


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Flowery hat making!

It’s been half term this week so my OH has been home.  I don’t seem to get as much crafting done when we’re both here as we have been out doing things.  One day we had a lovely trip to  Llyn  Brenig.  It’s a reservoir with a very peaceful stillness about it and a beautiful place for a walk across the reservoir or in the surrounding forests.  Until this occasion it was also the place where I had my second best ever piece of Victoria Sandwich cake, however they have redone the café and I think they might be trying to recoup the expense through the catering.  Suffice to say this is no longer somewhere I have fond memories of afternoon tea, although the atmosphere for walking is still wonderful!

I have managed this week to do  just a little bit of the ripple blanket and more of the same mitred squares – neither is worth posting a picture about – but I have managed to complete a new flowery hat!  I bought some amazing new wool online last month and it arrived this week  – it’s called’ Flower Colour Wool’ by Grundl and is very pretty.  Here is what it looks like crocheted into the base circle for a hat.

flower wool for a new crochet hat

right side of crocheted hat base

and here is the reverse side which is also very pretty as you can see the colours more:

flower wool reverse side

reverse side of treble crochet

It’s a mixture of treble crochet and back post stitch and easy to do once you get the hang of working round the little curly bits which form the ‘flowers’.

Here is the finished hat – I love it but it’s quite an eccentric hat my daughter said so I haven’t been out in public in it yet!

purple and pinky flower wool hat

Flower Wool Crochet Hat

And here is the reverse side:

flower eff3ct of using flower wool

back of hat showing the flower effect


So what do you think?

Linking up with Handmade Monday again!   And with Lily’s Quilts Thank you for all the comments – please do leave them – the name and site box do record your text even though it doesn’t appear.  Also if you uncheck a box called ‘authenticate’ on some browsers it makes it work.  Thank you – I hate missing out on all the conversation.


London Journey = Crochet Time!

Four hours in the car to London and then back again – great opportunity for some cosy crochet time!  Shame I had to offer to share the driving but good that OH likes driving so does the main bulk of our journeys!!  I started a new beanie which hopefully will be completed tomorrow!  I took my wool and hooks away in a lovely little project bag I made to sell but decided I couldn’t part with as it’s so useful!  It has 3 compartments so I can keep 2 different coloured wool balls  separated and keep the hooks/scissors in the other pocket.

The fabric has old fashioned sewing machines on it so is perfect for sewing related projects.  I saw it for sale at Minerva Crafts  this week and so have now uploaded a picture of the bag to their Look what I’ve Made project sharing site.  It’s a really  interesting site and easy to use – you join and upload your projects and can have fun looking at other people’s too!

sewing bag

3 pocket sewing project bag

and here is latest ripply-progress!

ripple blanket progress

Week 4!

Well I am very tired after trip to London so signing off now to go for a stroll round the blogs at Handmade Monday!


Bunting and Bouquets!

Well I am a little late with my post this week as yesterday was my daughter’s BIG DAY! I got carried away enjoying myself at the event and neglected to photograph the wonderful wedding bunting I made for her which I wanted to post a picture of  here! I did manage to find this on facebook taken by a guest though!

Wedding Bunting with Mr & Mrs on the flags

Wedding Bunting with Mr & Mrs on the flags

Now it’s all over  I am delirious with tiredness and looking forward to a couple of days of rest before starting to do anything at all,  so pictures will follow!

As well as making the bunting my daughter and I decorated all the table vases with ribbons and then bought the flowers and arranged these too on Saturday, the day before the BIG DAY!  After this I went home and made her bouquet and the bridesmaids’ bouquets, put them in water until 7.30am on the BIG DAY when I finished them 0ff with ribbon.  I love making things myself and we had a special mother and daughter day choosing, buying and making up the flower vases so much so that we wondered why anyone would pass up the opportunity and pay someone else to do it?  But I suppose if you don’t enjoy creating then it’s not fun, it’s a chore.

My mum had been asked to do a reading at the wedding to pass on some ‘words of wisdom’ to the newly weds as part of this she talked about the fashion for initials in today’s ‘textspeak’ – OMG and LOL for example, but pointing out that her generation had done it all before  with their ‘SWALK’ and ‘ITLY’ which they would write on the back of envelopes of letters to their boyfriends – (Sealed With A Loving Kiss and I Truly Love You).  She concluded by saying she had some of her own to pass to the newly weds  – ‘CEO’ – no not chief executive officer!  She said it was something to remember for the rest of their lives and also something for all of us  in any  relationship – ‘Cherish Each Other’ and then she presented them with a small plaque, made by guess who!

Cherish Each Other Plaque

Cherish Each Other Plaque





I’ll finish with a pic of the Bride and Groom  and that lovely bouquet 😉 then head over to Handmade Monday at Handmade Harbour

Bride and Groom kiss under a tree

Bride and Groom