Essence + Alchemy

For me, candles are a rare and special treat. In the whirlwind of my home life, I use them cautiously, worried an excitable moment from my daughter will lead to disaster. I like a lit candle to help me concentrate while I create, which often means candles are tucked into the hours of the day that are just mine. During these darker months, I'm finding that candles begin and end my work days even more than the rest of the year. I seem to work best if I wake a little ahead of my family, slipping downstairs for uninterrupted tea and a catch up on my emails. I will often light a candle to wake my senses and bring me out of my sleep time fog. Then, at the end of a day full of screens and chaos, I like to wind down for 15 minutes or so with knitting on my lap and a sleep inducing scented candle nearby. The gentle flicker and glow really helps me reframe my busy thoughts till I'm finally ready to let go and sleep. 

Essence+Alchemy

Recently, I've taken to using Essence + Alchemy to signpost my daily rituals. I had the pleasure of featuring this small batch producer a few months ago when I wrote about them for Project Calm magazine. Impressed by what I read, I reached out to Lesley, the founder, who sent two candles along for me to try. 

At the start of each day I've been enjoying the WINTER BERGAMOT Candle. This is a hand poured candle with a wooden wick that means it crackles a little as it burns, adding to the atmosphere as I sleepily sip my tea and see what I need to get done for the day. All Essence + Alchemy Candles are 100% natural, blending the finest rapeseed wax and pure organic essential oils with no added chemical fragrances or additives. The part I like almost as much as the comforting smell is the fact the vessel is hand blown by a British producer and can be reused after the candle has finished. Although, I'm trying not to dwell on the idea of it being gone. 

WINTER BERGAMOT by Essence+Alchemy

WINTER BERGAMOT by Essence+Alchemy

At night, I use the 'SLEEP' Utility Candles designed with travellers in mind. The candle is poured in a large amber glass jar (also with a woodwick), and comes in a fair-trade sustainable cotton drawstring bag, which can be used to carry your travelling bits in. My favourite moment is unscrewing the lid each day and getting a heady waft of lavender, sage, bergamot and howood. Delicious. 

I'm so thrilled to share a discount code for you here as I think these will make perfect Christmas gifts and totally work with my Shop Small Christmas goals this year. To qualify for 15% off your purchase, please enter code APD15 at checkout. You'll need to move fast thought as Lesley's last orders before Christmas are 12th December 2016. Direct link to the shop here:

 

Post created in collaboration with Essence+Alchemy who provided both candles. Opinions and words are all my own. All photography Kate O'Sullivan

 

Grown: Sophisticated Sweater Designs

10 sweater designs from a trusted knitwear designer? Yes. Let's get into THAT because it's cold and my knit fever is strong right now. 

Grown by Kate Oates

I've known knit designer Kate Oates of Tot Toppers for a few years now. I've read her blog and smiled at each new design as it released. I like her tendency to design things that don't need much finishing. Some would say that I'm a lazy knitter but I just like to say energy efficient and if it looks good, I'm ok with keeping it fuss free. In my mind Kate has always been a childrenswear designer but all that changed recently when she wrote an email, inviting me to be a part of the Grown blog tour. 

Grown is a collection of 10 raglan-style sweater designs with very little finishing and sewing. Each design was inspired by an original Tot Toppers pattern which means you could knit something for your entire family if you wished. The designs have been thoughtfully 'matured' so that they are flattering for adult figures and include options for customising. The collection is beautifully shot on a range of models so you get a different flavour with each design. I like this method actually as it means I don't get stuck on a collection only working for one particular person. It helps me to visualise how it might work for my knitting needs. 

My top pick from the collection is the Scholar Cardigan. I have a thing for these deeply collared, ribbed sweaters for men, children and women alike. This just ticks all the right boxes for me. I'm not going to lie, I want a slightly unisex version with elbow patches. Those elbow patches should be leather if you're wondering. 

Scholar Cardigan by Kate Oates of Tot Toppers
Scholar Cardigan by Kate Oates of Tot Toppers

Is it ok to say I'm completely in support of how preppy this pair are? I have a sudden urge to swap out my usual boxy style and get college cute all over again. If I wasn't in too big a rush to do that though, I'd probably play it safe with a sweater that I think was designed just for me, the Sidewalk Sweater. 

Sidewalk Sweater by Kate Oates

This is a great collection with plenty of options for different body types and if you're a hand dyed yarn fan, this will help you scratch that itch in terms of yarn suggestions. Here's all the important links if you want to check out more:

With thanks to Kate for kindly sending me an ecopy of her new collection for review purposes. Opinions and ideas expressed here are my own. 

Botanical Style & WipsandBlooms

If you caught the last Season's podcast, you'll know making a home has been a pretty big theme for me. Having just moved, I've now got a blank canvas to explore and decorate. I have a new garden and am surrounded by beautiful scenery that I'm delighting in getting to know each season. 

I wanted to be able to reflect the Nature Baby in me that rejoices with the changing weather, no matter what the season. I seek out new flora and fauna and I'm almost always called out on saying "those are my absolute favourite" to each new bloom. I love the way Magnolia heralds the entrance of Spring and thick blossom promises Summer just round the corner. It wasn't until I discovered Selina Lake's book, 'Botanical Style', that I realised I could bring all this joy into my home. 

Botanical Style by Selina Lake

Botanical Style by Selina Lake

'Botanical Style' is a celebration of nature, plants and florals in the home. The book explores Selina's love for botanicals and includes styling and decorating tips for your home. I love how rich in photography the book is, meaning I could leaf through, deciding options that felt more like "me" and my home when the world of interior design felt new and unfamiliar. The book is also helpfully divided into different style sections such as 'Boho Botanicals' or 'Vintage Botanicals'. 

It's meant that once the furniture started going into place, the next thing I turned my mind to was fabrics, plants and little details that brought that happy feeling I get outside, into my home. Things started creeping in...

And then some more things crept in....

Botanicals in my home

It seemed perfect then that this month, Katie and I will be hosting a giveaway for our #wipsandblooms monthly join in on Instagram, giving away a copy of the book. To date, this is my largest Work In Progress: an entire home, decorated to make me feel a sense of joy and security. I'm using a lot of Selina's tips and styling ideas as I turn my attention to places I can put a little texture and tone that reminds me of times spent outside, enjoying the best of the season. 

Find  wipsandblooms  on Instagram

Find wipsandblooms on Instagram

For your chance to win a copy of the book, all you have to do is post an image on Instagram that shows your current making and include a favourite bloom (or plant- keep it truly botanical style!). It can be big or small, styled or natural. It really is all about the process. Add the hashtags #wipsandblooms and if you like, tag Katie (@Ceramicmagpie) and myself (@aplayfulday). You can even let people know it's for a giveaway because that's just a nice thing to do, right? At the end of the month we will pick a lucky winner!

Happy Making x

My copy of Botanical Style was kindly provided by Ryland Peters, Selina's publishers. Views expressed here are my own. To find out more please visit the following link:

Return to the Wild

When you're tired out from moving house and feeling creatively low, driving 4 hours might not seem that appealing at first glance. This was me on Friday morning, breaking down the last of the cardboard boxes and journey planning for a getaway with friends. As I typed the postcode into Google, I let out a small groan and started to reconsider the icebox of local sausages, cheese and gin already stowed in my boot. 

What if I told you though, that at the end of that long drive would be a long track......

farm track to The Damson Cabin.jpg

.... that led you through an orchard where sheep left their wool on their favourite scratching post....

Wool on the scratching post

... and tucked into a meadow was the most beautiful cabin?

The Damson Cabin

I've just returned from a magical time away with friends this weekend at The Damson Cabin, a beautiful cabin located in Kidderminster, Worcestershire. When a group of us wished for a weekend away to celebrate a birthday, we all agreed it needed to be inspiring, soothing and if at all possible, remote. The answer came courtesy of Canopy and Stars, a company who specialise in properties with a little more.... character

What I love about Canopy and Stars is their commitment to helping travelers reconnect with nature and experience a holiday that's a little wilder than your average hotel stay. The choices of accommodation are pretty varied, meaning you can find a slice of adventure that suits you or your family's needs pretty easily. The cabin was typical of the sort of thing you might expect to find from a Canopy and Stars property, with a wood burning stove, fairylights to accompany evenings on the porch and eco features such as solar power. 

We spent our time treating one another to delicious meals, using lanterns to light our suppers and blankets to warm our legs as we sipped morning coffees on the porch. When we fancied stretching our legs we found easy walks through woods, orchards and meadows that gave way to stunning views across the Worcestershire hills. 

meadow walks
Worcestershire hills

Ambling back through the farm on which the cabin is located, we stopped to make friends with some of the local characters and all sighed happily at the roses in full bloom, the textures and above all, the quiet. 

farm friends

Sometimes the best thing you can do is step away from the world and let in just a few brilliant, bright and warm women who make your heart sing. When I recall moments from this weekend I think of smiles, time to indulge our crafts and the endless supply of favourite bakes we shared, gladly. Gatherings in which every participant wishes for the greatest of happiness for their fellow travelers are extremely nourishing for the soul. 

As are the oatmeal cookies and cream teas. 

Oatmeal cookies and scones

What's more, somewhere, in the midst of all this celebration of our friendship, creativity and the beautiful surroundings, I even found time to learn something new....

Learning to crochet

 

//// ~ Notes from a blog post:

Pattern- Tenbury Hats & Mittens, Kat Goldin for The Crochet Project

Yarn- The Plucky Knitter Primo in Classic Rock & Bottle Blonde

Damson Cabin via Canopy and Stars, booked and paid for by all guests. Loved and adored by all. 

The Gift of Making

One of my favourite things about being a maker is the powerful resources that I have available to me to show people in my life or community that I care deeply about them. There's a real joy that comes from selecting just the right small gift that communicates to someone "I remembered you got cold hands when you cycled to work to teach my daughter last week" or "You Little One is your most precious thing, they deserve to be wrapped in the rich natural fibres that I sourced just for them". 

Thanks to the ability to make, I can craft unique gifts that layer meaning so that not only is it just right for a problem the recipient might have been trying to solve but also has a little detail like the motif of a much loved flower. Rough gardeners hands and cold feet find perfect solutions and allow me to gift something that fits into the everyday fabric of their lives. It makes me smile to think of them reaching for those cycle gloves on cold mornings and remembering my gratitude expressed in knitted warmth. I love it best when I create a useful gifts but one with no less beauty for all its practicability and careful consideration.

'Chai' hat by Clare Devine awaiting its pom pom, Little Sprout Bonnet by Melissa LeBarre on the needles

'Chai' hat by Clare Devine awaiting its pom pom, Little Sprout Bonnet by Melissa LeBarre on the needles

When I launched The Maker's Year, I pledged to consume less which meant that gift times have prompted me to look around my home for resources that are ready to become something special. Two little friends birthdays this month meant that my eye fell on some newly acquired balls of Classic Elite Big Liberty Wool. Chunky and machine washable, this did everything I needed on the fast and practical front so that I could whip up two quick gifts for these tiny bundles of joy that I've watched grow over the past few years. 

Big Liberty Wool, KT Robbins Ceramic Succulent Pot & 'Chai' hat by Clare Devine

Big Liberty Wool, KT Robbins Ceramic Succulent Pot & 'Chai' hat by Clare Devine

To me though, the gift of making goes further than producing beautiful hand mades. Appreciating other makers need to create means that the gift of new resources can be just as vital. When I visited someone's family recently, I remembered that The Grandma (yes capitals, she's awesome) was an avid knitter. It's rare to see this matriarchal figure without knitting in her hands as she holds court amongst the huge volume of friends and family members who visit her throughout the day. Showing my appreciation for her need to make felt right for my visit this weekend.  

So before I set off to join the crowd gathered in her front room, I picked out some wool that I knew to be soft and durable. I wanted her knitting to be a pleasure as she worked and a welcome break from the squeaky acrylic that she so often chooses for its convenience. Having worked with Milla Mia before, I reached for a selection of colours I knew would soon bedeck tiny baby feet and heads as this wonderful knitter whipped up gift after gift of her own to bestow on friends and family. 

Milla Mia gift

Gifting resources and hand mades is one of the easy ways I'm managing the tendency to acquire yarn that I want to knit with "soon". Too many skeins have disappeared into plastic tubs as I wait for this magical time when I will knit faster and have more time to choose just the right pattern. Crafting with intention is something I've been enjoying reflecting on thanks to Felicia's Stashless Challenge at The Craft Sessions. If you've not discovered Felicia yet, I thoroughly recommend you spend some time getting to know her philosophy on craft and using your stash to enhance your making not weight it down. She inspired this post and I'm extremely grateful. 

 

With thanks to Love Knitting for providing yarns that feature in this blog post for review purposes. Opinions here are my own.