Thursday 30 April 2009

Research, relaxation and reading

The latest issue of Australian Bear Creations dropped through my letterbox a few days ago and naturally, I flicked through to find my advertisement first! Once I'd satisfied myself it was in print, I put the kettle on for a coffee and then settled down to more serious study ... there's a lovely pattern for Sandi Smith's 15" panda 'Chun Chen' in this issue, a pretty bear and bunny pattern from Linda Benson, a tiny bear from Jenny Lee and for those who like to crochet, there's also a cute panda pattern designed by Christine Healey and a beary mobile phone strap designed by Berta Hesen-Minten ... all that and articles galore! It's a great magazine for collectors and makers alike.

A little light reading!

The most important focus for the current issue is of course the 'Australian Bear Creation Awards' and believe me, there are some terrific entries this year. I wish I'd been able to join in the fun and send an entry - ah well, there's always next year! The nominees are waiting anxiously for the final public vote, so please support their efforts to create aspirational teddy bear art by purchasing your copy (Vol 15/No 1) and sending in your choices. Susan at Bear Basics has several copies of the current issue available from and if you would like a subscription to Australian Bear Creations, please visit for further information.

Advertising in Oz ... All Bear's latest quarter page ad

After the perfect sunny weekend, typically we had quite a bit of rain and grey skies this week, so between bouts of sewing, I've been quietly relishing a dip into a couple of novels and a little dollcrafting delight, while the rain beat against the conseratory windows. I thoroughly enjoyed 'The 19th Wife' by David Ebershoff' and even found myself reaching to read another chapter or two on the mornings I woke early. I have now moved on to another of 'Richard and Judy's Bookclub' recommendations, 'The luminous life of Lilly Aphrodite' by Beatrice Collin and I'm happy to admit the first hundred or so pages have hooked me into 'Tiny Lil's' life beautifully!

'The Complete Book of Doll Making' by Pamela Peake

Escapism aside, I found Pamela Peake's 'Complete book of doll making' online for only a few pounds (the wonders of the internet - I do love a bargain book!) and it arrived a few days ago. For a novice doll maker like me, this manual contains an absolute wealth of information, most of which would take me forever to unravel for myself, so all in all it was a very good buy as far as I'm concerned. On the subject of dollcraft, my subscription copy of 'Soft Dolls and Animals' also arrived earlier this week (yes, postie has been a busy bee here in Allington!) ... another useful read for anyone with an interest in dollmaking.

20" Florentine

I also finished a couple of lovely bears this week. 'Florentine' above was created as a commission order for a collector and I have another bear waiting for me in my sewing room ... I'm toying with the idea of holding a small online gallery show on my website later this month, but as you know, I love to show the new bears as soon as they are finished, so am not convinced I'll be able to keep schtum for long enough to prepare a spring show collection! I'll definitely have to give this plan more thought ...

Monday 27 April 2009

Allington, a pint and a ponder ...

The weather was too beautiful to stay indoors this weekend, so yesterday we stepped out for a mooch down Castle Road, towards Allington Lock, our destination the Malta Inn public house garden. I really enjoy this walk - most of Allington is given over to modern housing development, but Castle Road holds the key to Allington's tiny historical heart!

Castle Road, Allington: turn right at this beautiful property, to head towards Allington Castle (I think this may be the castle gatehouse, but I'm not certain and have been unable to find any information to confirm my guess) but beware, all you'll find is a wooded walk and a big gate with CCTV peering down menacingly at you, at the end of it! Alternatively, if like us, you fancy a pint, follow the bend in the road left, stroll past the old church and onwards, to Allington Lock.

An intriguing glimpse of Allington Castle, shrouded from view by dense woodland.

An aerial library photograph of the mysterious castle - now privately owned and in 1951 home to an enclosed order of Carmelite Nuns.

I haven't yet had time to learn much about our parish's historical detail, but since moving here, I have discovered that on our side of the river lies a twelfth century castle, (frustratingly privately owned, closed to the public and shrouded behind dense woodland) a lovely old church (also now a private dwelling, so all we nosey parkers can do is peer past wrought iron railings and employ our imaginations!) a magnificent property called 'Lockwood House' set in sprawling lawns gloriously populated with wild rabbits and an eighteenth century Lock, still very much in use today.

No time to ponder history further, as we cross Allington Lock thirsty for our Sunday afternoon pint!

A few steps across the Lock bridge is the Malta Inn, a great spot to sup a pint in the warm Spring sunshine. Shown here, boats mooring alongside the pub for a pint!

I found the following snippet of historical information about Allington Lock at:

"Very little is known about Allington in early history. It was never a village and very few people lived in the area. Allington came into being on the banks of the Medway, where the castle was first built. Charles Igglesden in his books 'Saunters through Kent', written about 1900, describes it so - 'A tiny Parish, no village, no main road passes through it. The easiest way to see it is to saunter along the Medway tow-path.' He mentions the water fowl, fish, barges and that it is best seen from hillocks on the Boxley side of the river.

Charles Igglesden continues: 'To cross the river we pass over locks. Up to this point the Medway is tidal, but not beyond. Originally it was tidal as high as Maidstone, and only a few years since were the old locks near All Saints' church removed'. During the reign of George III the lower Medway Navigation Company were given the power, by an act of Parliament, to dam the river at Allington, to make towpaths and to render the river navigable at this point. The Allington Locks had come into existence towards the end of the 18th century. Previously there had been only a ford, possibly at the site of the present Malta Inn."

The Civic Opening of Allington Lock in 1937. Built in 1792, the Lock was enlarged in 1881.

And finally, the old Allington Lockhouse dated 1833, taken on our stroll homewards, yesterday afternoon.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Raggy decorum

'Saucy Sal' 13"

Well I couldn't leave her starkers could I?
Even the cheekiest of raggy dolls should respect her modesty when all's said and done!

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Bad head day ...

The title for the post should have read 'Dolly Day', but no, today has definitely been a 'bad head' day. Three raggy heads have been hurled unceremoniously into my waste paper bin and now they are looking up at me accusingly ...

Bad head day bin!

I'm determined to master my raggy dolls - I know they are supposed to look primitive, but honestly, the messy mistakes I've been making today would fit in perfectly at a paint sploshing day for four year olds! I've successfully wrecked heads through the silliest of carelessnesses ... a smudge here, a splot there ... I really must stop being so impatient with things if I am ever to achieve consistent results!

Nekkid 'ner, ner, ner, ner, ner' doll! (Name pending!)

So, my raggy doll count is limited to a single doll today; note the lack of paint on this nekkid wee doll ... frustrated by my artistic ineptitude, I opted to sew on vintage utility buttons for eyes rather than paint them - much safer on such a curmudgeonly day! With luck, tomorrow I'll be sufficiently calm and collected again, able to dress this disrespectful miss without cursing her! (By the way, is it just me or does she look as though she is poking out her tongue at me in 'ner, ner, ner, ner, ner' fashion?! Hmph!)

Friday 17 April 2009

Hubble, Bubble!

When I was first invited to create this special bear by a dedicated collector of artist bears, I wondered how I could ensure the bear would be the perfect colourway ... my collector loves brightly coloured bears and as intense mohair colours are more often than not, difficult to source direct from suppliers, I knew it wouldn't be easy to find the perfect colours 'off the shelf'' for this particular bear. So I put my thinking cap on, sought advice from other bearmakers and found myself pointed firmly in the direction of Woodland Witch (in the nicest possible sense) Rita, who is the font of all knowledge regarding such matters!

Rita's Rainbow Dyes

I arranged to have a chat with Rita at the Hugglets show in London earlier this year, to discuss how best to proceed and she kindly spent a considerable time prior to show opening (!) guiding me through my options to achieve the perfect hand dyed mohair with her 'Rainbow' dyes, created especially for use with mohair.

I mixed the carrot dye with hot water as directed and after dunking a small sample of mohair to test the colour strength, (one Marigold glove is inadequate by the way - I couldn't find the other one and consequently dyed my other hand!) plunged my mohair into the dye and left it for about twenty minutes to achieve the colour I needed.

Then I dunked my other piece of mohair into the pink potion - by this time I'd given up using the single rubber glove and dyed my hands shocking pink!

I rinsed both pieces of mohair in clear warm water, with a little fabric softener ...

At Rita's suggestion, I stored the leftover dye in a screw cap container when it had cooled, for use another time ...

... let my mohair dry in the breeze ...

... and finally, hubble, bubble, a little toil and not much trouble, here's my very colourful bespoke bear 'Calypso' a few days' later, ready to fly to the US to meet his owner!

If you would like to learn more about hand dyed mohair using Rita's 'Rainbow' dyes, please visit

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Glaserner Teddybar 2009 Competition

I am delighted to share a little insider news with you today ... I have been invited by Teddy Bear News Online Magazine, to be a jury member for their "Gläserner Teddybär" 2009 competition!

The first round of public voting for the 'Beginners' category will be open until 25th April, so please spare a moment to support the competition entrants by casting your all important vote ...

Thank you!

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Our Birthday Boy!

Man of the moment!

I hope you all enjoyed the Easter Break ... it flew past didn't it?! I took a complete break from crafting over the weekend and instead had a lovely time pottering in the garden, making it ready for a burst of summer colour and yes, I even mowed the lawn!

Then we shared another birthday celebration on Bank Holiday Monday, when my son turned 24 ... someone please tell me, where do the years go??????!

1985, me 'n' my baby boy

1986, a cuddle with his Mum

Growing up in 1989 ... (definitely the late '80's judging by my hairstyle!)

And in 2009, I take the pics while lovely girlfriend Hannah bakes her Ants a magnificent birthday cake!

Birthday boy ... Ants and his Han

Happy Birthday Blossom,
With much love always,
Your Muva xxxxxx

Friday 10 April 2009

Happy Easter!

I'd like to wish you all a very Happy Easter by sharing this lovely Easter postcard with you - it was sent to me by an 'All Bear' collector who lives in Finland ... thank you Harriet! Thanks also to everyone who sent me Easter E-cards to brighten my Bank Holiday this year.

Have a Happy Easter!

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Shop exclusive Sophia!

20" 'Sophia', my new shop exclusive for Edwina's Friends

I'm so pleased with this new bear! 'Sophia' is my latest shop exclusive for Edwina's Friends and she'll be making her way to Kathy's webstore over the Easter weekend. If you'd like to visit Edwina's Friends for an Easter treat, please pop over to:

Monday 6 April 2009

Getting down and dirty ...

Raggy number 2, a simple pancake cloth doll, turned out a little less than cutie pie, but you know me, I can't resist trying another technique in my mission to learn how to make these little dollies look primitive, so this lass, who started life as clean fresh calico, jumped in a bowl of coffee grouts, paddled around a bit and was then baked in the oven on a low heat for a while, poor thing!

13" 'Grubby Gerta'

The heat from the oven really draws the coffee colour to the surface of the fabric and makes it very grungy indeed ... even more so than I anticipated! 'Grubby Gerta' has on her Sunday best now she's all finished ... it's a little tatty these days, but Gerta takes a pride in her laundry, if not in her personal hygiene, so her frock at least, is pristine clean!

Nekkid after her coffee grout paddle!

Saturday 4 April 2009

Getting crafty!

I don't know what it is about these raggy dolls, but they are keeping me very entertained! I sat in my armchair tying yarn into little bundles late last night, just so my little 'Annie Apples' could have her hair done before I went to bed! She's the first finished of the four raggy dolls I cut out last weekend and I will quietly admit to being absolutely thrilled with her. She might be only 12 inches in height, but she certainly packs in a whole heap of character!

12" 'Annie Apples'
A 'Sweet Meadows Farm' pattern,
interpreted and handmade by little 'ol me!
Oh dear, now it's 'Paula's Confession Time': Yes, despite strong resolve to be good, this little fellow looked so lonesome on Ebay, I simply had to invite him home. 'Tatty' is a dear little chap (and I do mean LITTLE at just 5"!) made by lovely Laurie Wicks, who first introduced herself to me when she bought one of my bears for her collection and who I have subsequently come to know a little better through the bears shows we both attend and enjoy a good 'ol natter at!

5" 'Tatty' created by Laurie Wicks - nestling among a few of my perfume bottles

How on earth Laurie manages to fit in bearmaking with six children, horses, cats, dogs and heaven only knows what other animals to look after, I'll never know, but fit it in she does and her gorgeous little minis are especially cute! If you would like to see more of Laurie's work, please pop along to and tell her I sent you!

It's a beautiful Spring afternoon here in Kent today - the house is quiet (son playing footy, other half out watching footy - it must be an age thing (!) and daughter napping upstairs after a night out on the tiles) so, all in all, I can see absolutely no reason for me not to indulge myself in a little more raggy dollcraft ... it is Saturday after all! Hey, don't worry, I'll get back to the bears on Monday!


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