Cream Tea

At this point in the camping proceedings, it is necessary to take a small break.

The generals are planned, the large issues ironed out: the time for the minutia has almost arrived. Before that, though,to prevent the scrambling of brains and confusions of the writer, a rest is required. Preferably accompanied by something good and wholesome to feed the little grey cells. Hard work, planning.

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Mark turned up at my campsite with scones, freshly made; clotted cream; and jam, raspberry. What better way to feed a brain than with cream tea!

I believe the earliest records of such a thing as a cream tea come from Tavistock Abbey, when the monks would provide their workers with fresh bread, cream and jam for mid afternoon. Scones are not, it has to be said, really a West Country delicacy. A split is more the thing for a proper cream tea. Or simply a crusty white bread roll. Nothing better.

Just remember: cream, then jam.

Camp NaNo Catch-Up: Gardeners and Architects

Apparently, there is a George RR Martin quotation out there about how writers are gardeners or architects.

Some writers have an idea and run with it; others have an idea and plan the story. Of course, as with all things, most people are not really one or the other, but a mix of both. Normally, I get about half way through the planning stage and then start writing and see where it takes me. I’ve never been very good at endings, though. I might be seeing things, but I suspect there’s a link between that and where I cease to plan…

It’s been an interesting time for me, this month, with my focus being on planning; every now and again I get the urge to just start writing, I have enough notes and plans, and anyway that part of the story won’t happen for ages, and by the time I get to that bit I’m stuck on, an answer should have presented itself. Right?

I’ve written before, with just an idea. It was a struggle. Especially when I got stuck, and all I had for inspiration was how the entire story was supposed to end. Not knowing how to get there – not really a good way to write, I found. Led to a lot of writer’s block. I don’t, yet, know if writing from a comprehensive plan is going to be any different – no doubt I shall meet with other problems causing the same effect – but I’m not going to know until I try. And the hope is that I’m going to be addressing the most major plot-holes in the planning stages, and not half way through the writing. Starting over is never fun.

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I find, with the planning, that I enjoy it more. It’s easier to see progress and to feel optimistic about the story. I’ve found a couple of things which help me. They might be simple; they’re the sort of things you already know, but kind of ignore.

The first is good old pen and paper. I carry my notebook around, and write on any old scrap of paper to hand. Ideas, plot-points, problems, they’re all ticking away at the back of my brain, figuring themselves out. My brain is always half away with the fairies.

The second is my desk. Or, if I decide to work on the sofa, my table-top ironing board, which makes an excellent substitute. And means that it finally has a purpose, since I think life’s generally too short for ironing.

How do you write? Are you a gardener or an architect?

To-Be-Stitched: Keeping Track of Future Projects

I have the same problems with cross-stitch patterns that I have with books: Quantity and Time. My TBR list is longer than my arm, and I have a box full of cross-stitching magazines and a drawer full of kits. And not enough hours in the day.

I don’t help myself, either, buying a new magazine each month, usually full of many patterns which I want to stitch. And then by trying to design my own patterns, too.

About ten magazines into my collection, though, I came to a decision. I was marking the patterns I liked by folding down the corner of the page, but I wasn’t really keeping track of them, for suitable occasions in the future or just-becauses. So, I did what comes naturally to the planner.

I began to note each pattern down, in a notebook, complete with the edition it was in, the length of time it supposedly took, and a complete list of all threads and fabrics required to complete the pattern. My Project Notebook. I also make a note of potential recipients.

And when it’s made, it gets ticked off the list.

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Do you have a To-Be-Stitched list? How do you keep track of it?

Birds of a Feather

For a few months each year, I have a lull in birthdays, and I get to spend some time working on other projects. Projects for me.

Fortunately, my lull in birthdays happens in consecutive months through the summer. Of course, the summer does bring other distractions in the stitching world. For one, it is wedding-season, after all; for two, it’s about time to start thinking about Christmas cards, if they’re to be done in time to make the post…More on them anon.

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This year, though, I’m combining a wedding-project with something I’ve been umm-ing and ahh-ing about for the last few years. Well, OK, in my hunt for a suitable wedding-gift, I came across a pattern I designed back when I worked in a card-shop. I never did anything with it, beyond sketching it out and making a stab at picking colours. With a little adaptation and personalisation, I think it might be just right.

As I go along, I’m making changes to the original colours, for the better, but no doubt I won’t really know until I’ve completed it. It’s not going to be a huge project; in the 16-count aida I’m using it won’t be more than a 6-inch square. But I have ideas about mounting it on a sort of quilted background. We’ll see.

Simple Stitches

It’s easier, I find, to discover simple,  good, recipes than simple, pretty, cross stitch patterns.

This, I consider a crying shame in my current time-poor life. Same goes for the crochet, although that’s more because my tired brain can’t quite cope with the concentration required for my monster projects. I’m hoping this will change shortly.

However, and for which I will be very grateful because my April is full of birthdays, a recent edition of CrossStitcher held within its pages simple, but effective, birthday card designs.

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There was another design similar to this, but a smidgeon smaller with the words ‘With Love’ picked out. I have a strong suspicion that these designs will be my go-to birthday card patterns. Especially since they only took an hour or two each.

Have you any favourite simple cross-stitch designs? Where did you find them?

Scrapbooking Cross-Stitch

I collect notebooks. I like paper and the idea that this new notebook will have a purpose. It will be home to my next Big Idea.

Whenever I go into Hobbycraft, I look at the scrapbooks and I think about getting one. Only, I don’t really understand what scrapbooking is all about. It looks like making a book of collages, or gathering pictures and things for inspiration. I’m not much of a one for collage and if I found my bits and bobs for inspiration and stuck them down, my brain would probably think the job was done and move onto something else. So I’ve looked at the pretty scrapbooks and moved on, unable to justify getting one.

And then, while packing up for a move, I realised how many little cross-stitch projects I had. Doing nothing. Like the Mouseloft kits. Once complete, I don’t always know what to do with them, so they get put away and forgotten about.

So I joined a couple of dots.

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From the beginning

The first page of my cross-stitch scrapbook, with the hedgehog which started my cross-stitch habit. The swallow was supposed to become a brooch but since it’s been a couple of years and I still haven’t stuck the pin on, it’s probably safe to say that won’t happen…

This year, my cross-stitch plans involve filling my scrapbook.