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Sunday, 28 November 2010

Ta-rah November

When next we meet, it will be December. This time of year tends to be a heady mix for people. For many it is a time of anticipation of a well earned break, some quality family time and fun and frolics over the Christmas holiday while for others it can be a pretty bleak time of dread and despair over family fallouts, or an overwhelming sense of loneliness and isolation. However the advent period feels for members of A Crafty Coffee, we want you all to feel welcome and loved and able to come and share.

With that in mind, we'd like you all to know that we are planning to meet on both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Clearly we expect very depleted numbers, but even if I (Crafty) sit and knit alone, I will treasure two hours of relative peace in what I anticipate to be a somewhat hectic schedule.

Back to the Friday we just had. I woke up with such a bad headache that it was making me feel sick so I dosed myself up and rocked up an hour late. I know I say it every time I turn up late, but I am not sure I can restate this enough ... listening to the hum of chatter that comes from the area of Trago that A Crafty Coffee occupies, while you stand at the bar ordering your peppermint tea, is so pleasing and satisfying. It is a comforting sound and for me, it really makes the effort of 'making the group happen' 100% worthwhile.

I didn't properly take in who was there, one of the first things I did notice was that Sarah was back! Woo Hoo, welcome back Sarah. I could see that she was still struggling with the tiredness but she assured me that she was coping well painwise. ME is a really difficult condition and I think that listening to your body is sound advice for any of us, ME or not.
So Sarah was knitting and chatting with Sue A, the long table was FULL of people (I don't know who though - sorry) and I plopped myself down next to Dee H and Thaya. Dee is counting down the days to her 6 week Caribbean break, Thaya is quietly counting down the weeks until she emigrates to NZ, Ali is counting down the weeks until she has a fully functioning, sparkly, new kitchen, and I sat quietly with my thoughts and my knitting.

***I MUST take this opportunity to apologise to Celia, I think.***
Last post I described her sock project as 'rather brave'. I did this on the basis that she said she was no sock knitting professional, that she has previously knitted one and a half pairs of socks and that these ones were going to be a Christmas gift for her father so she wanted them to be spot on (hence the gauge square). This week, spurred on by my comment, Celia had quite a length of beautiful sock on teeny tiny dpns to show off. I think I may 'insult' people more often if they rise to the challenge this successfully.

I am knitting a hat for my youngest at her request and to her exacting specifications. I am knitting it in the round and was on dpns until Ali pulled out her circular and persuaded me onto it. I won't use circular needles for a small garment again as it is really quite hard work and I need to go back to dpns for the decreases anyway. Nonetheless, it is another string to my bow.

Eddie and Cecile were back again, I can't wait to put their skills and knowledge to good use, along with those of Isobel and Karen and many others within the group who make excellent teachers because they love to share what they have learned themselves. Isobel was seen dishing out gold stars to people who had gone away and done their crochet 'homework'. I am really looking forward to learning to crochet under Isobel's expert tuition in the new year.

Last night saw an event for 100 ladies co-run by A Crafty Coffee and a group called Women@8. It was called A Handcrafted Christmas and was an opportunity to see craft demonstrations, try and buy handicrafts as well as socialising over a mince pie and a lovely glass of mulled wine. I was unable to be there but popped in to give Coffee the float for our stall, I was SO impressed with how the place looked and would love to be involved next time, perhaps roping in some of the wonderful crafters I have mentioned above.

Anyway, enough from me for now, I believe Coffee has a proper William Update blog post planned for you so I shall leave that to her.

Have a fun week and see you IN DECEMBER!!!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Progress and frogging.

Hello peeps,

Last week I spent my time at A Crafty Coffee blogging about the sale the week before. This means that I omitted to tell you all about Eddie and Cecile who have joined us. Eddie has a couple of blogs that I've added to the 'blogs we like' list, and they are a proper crafty pair. Cecile increased my Ravelry knowledge and usage in a few easy steps and Eddie has opened my eyes to the world of dying with berries. How lovely then, that they returned this week with their knitting and spinning and great conversation.

This morning I was running late, in a terrible mood as I had forgotten my knitting bag and generally in need of some quality time and company. What a lucky girl I am, I managed to nip home for the knitting bag, get a parking space out the back of Trago Lounge and be only the third attendee to arrive! Jilly and Maryam (sp?) were debating on whether they were likely to be the only crafters there today, but over time the group grew to its usual number of around 15-20 people. Maryam is piecing together the lovely aran jumper she started 15 years ago ... yep, that's what I call a WiP! Jilly is crocheting a border on the granny square cushion cover that we all interfered with a few weeks ago.

I am writing a pattern for some wrist warmers on two needles. I do now know how to knit in-the-round but I find that I prefer stripes knitted flat and seamed as they match up better. Mind you, my finishing leaves a lot to be desired but that will come in time.
After the buzz of the sale, I picked up my knitting sticks pretty quickly to finish the scarf that didn't quite make it thinking that it was like coming off a bike, and that if I didn't get back to it quickly I may never knit again. Excitingly, I posted a picture of the finished scarf on Facebook and was made an offer for it of £30! I was terribly upset to part with it, but to be able to add that to the total more than made up for it.

I was also commissioned to make two more of the aprons that I made for the sale, so that netted another £20! And that is the reason for the pattern writing, a friend who could not make the sale has ordered a pair of wristwarmers for her eldest and how can I not oblige when we stand to take our total even higher?

Now, back to this morning. It was simply lovely to have Isobel back with us. She is back for a while now but was away working on a huge local history research project for Remembrance Sunday. Anna was chuffed to see her as it meant she could pick her brains on the advent calendar she is whipping up for Naomi. Karen and Penny were in the corner on the newly rearranged seats, Marion and Ruth were with us, Celia was knitting a gauge square for a rather brave sock project, and then, some distance away there was Coffee (Emma), her Mum, Lesley and a couple of others.
A lovely lady called Jo graced us with her presence, apparently she found us on Ravelry (hooray for Coffee knowing what she's doing on there) and it turns out she is a bit of a celebrity in the jewellery making and teaching world. We welcomed Jo with open arms as we do every new member to our fold, but she made a point of saying she felt so welcome and would come back next week. For me, this is proper heart warming stuff and just reinforces what the group is all about.

The new additions to the group and the large volume of work going on covers progress, but why have I given this post the title 'Progress and frogging'? Because sadly, everything I did today in terms of making up the left wristwarmer from my own pattern was frogged back into the ball ... because I didn't like the effect of the yarn I was using. I am such a yarn snob, it really irritates me. I am so determined to find a use for this lovely soft, bobbly yarn, it knits up to a really cool texture, but I don't know what kind of item the texture would be right on yet. It may be a good toy yarn?

Anyroad, enough of my blithering on for now. I am full of cold and flippin' miserable to boot so I shall leave you all for the week in the hope that you are well and happy and that bounce back to my usual self by then.

Love to you all,

PS, Just to update you on W, having said he'd got through all of his treatment without incident, last week he was admitted to hospital with an ear infection that his body can't fight off on its own yet, he is doing well, showing NO signs of being unwell and responding to the antibiotics. As far as I am aware he was coming home this afternoon.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Thank you THANK you THANK YOU!!!

Having gone to bed after 1am, knowing I was still awake at 2.30, waking properly at 6am and turfing myself out of my pit ... I showered, applied make-up and set off to collect Coffee for an early start at Trago Lounge.

A Crafty Coffee have been beavering away for some weeks now creating stunning, covetable items for us to sell. After a pricing session at Coffee's flat (which I will miss when they move) we knew to expect great things from the sale as we had about £650 worth of goods from only five donors.

Upon our arrival we were greeted with Pip's sunny smile and the challenge of rearranging heavy furniture to make the sale clearly visible from the door.
We were sweating buckets by the time the first of A Crafty Coffee's members arrived to help us.

Sadly, the start of the sale was blighted by tragic and difficult news. One of our number's partner has died unexpectedly, she altruistically came and donated items before going to register the death. This generosity in such an impossibly difficult time really crystalises all that is precious about the community at ACC. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family as they come to terms with this.
I hate to have to share news like this on what ought to be such a positive post, but it would be inappropriate not to.
One of our other dear members is suffering with unmanageable pain owing to her ME. She brought her donation along despite this and went off to rest up at home. We are so very grateful that both of you gave, even in your own trials.
The final piece of difficult news will have affected our community through our links with the local church. Many of our members also attend this church and we are stunned to hear that a couple who we know and love have lost their little girl at full term. She was stillborn. Again, our thoughts and prayers are with them and those around them.

Now, let's try to shift into a more positive place to share the wonderful news of the success of A Crafty Sale.
By 10am the tables were crammed with knitwear, jewellery, greetings cards, gift tags, container candles, hanging hearts, hair accessories, cross-stitch kits, tea-cosies ...

You name it, we had it there for all to see. The array of colour was literally astounding. Bless Chantal who kindly came and took photos for us so that we had something to share with our blogging community here!

At the official start time, the Lounge was literally heaving. People were several deep at the sale tables, we'd managed to rope Alison in to come and serve behind our 'counter' and we were starting to sell sell sell.

Stunning, handcrafted items were flying off the tables, winging their way to becoming Christmas gifts or personal accessories faster than we could get them up from under the table. By lunchtime, we were seriously ready for a break. I (Crafty) had finally stopped shaking enough to sit down with my amazing friend Alix to COUNT the money.

We decided to count and bank the larger notes & cheques, keeping back the coins and £5 notes for change.
So, at some point between one and two pm we zipped off to bank a grand £1082.50!

It was only two days before that Emma (Coffee) and I had spent an entire day sorting and pricing and had audaciously set our target to smash £1000. Having done that by 1pm, we could properly relax and enjoy the afternoon session. We took a relatively leisurely lunch break, enjoyed Trago Lounge's tasty soup offerings and mustered the energy to rearrange the sale tables to make the knitwear look more enticing.

We used height, vintage table cloths, baskets, wooden hangers and various other items to give variety and lead the eye through the sale but we had no idea how much 'stuff' people would donate. We have learned an enormous amount about what sells, what doesn't sell and how to display items to maximum effect.

Nonetheless, having rearranged the items for the afternoon session, we awaited the influx of after school customers. We were pleasantly surprised to have quite a number of punters, large and small. The big sellers for the afternoon were the smaller jewellery items, hair accessories and scarves. There were numerous requests for tea cosies which had all sold in the morning so that has gone down as a note to self!

Speaking of tea cosies, LOOK at this little beauty! The marked price on this Rowan cotton, hand knit, moss stitch, fully lined, Elvis print fabric cosy was £28. I was holding out to get the highest possible price on account of the fact that I WANTED it for myself. I failed, well, I got the full £28 for it and it will be very well used and loved by its new owner but I can hardly imagine anybody loving it like I would have done. To describe myself as envious would be putting it kindly.

Naturally, what you're all waiting for is the grand total, right?
Well, after a huge amount of effort, and ridiculous levels of generosity on the parts of both crafters and customers alike ... I was THRILLED to be able to email the fundraising managers at both Piam Brown Ward and CLIC Sargent (Southampton) to inform them of the grand total of £1446. For the ward, to add to that we have £120 from a cake sale held by Coffee's sister and there are monies still coming in. As things stand this morning, the ward will receive £858 and CLIC Sargent will gain £723. ***ThAnK YoU***

To describe ourselves as exhausted after the sale may be an understatement. Particularly Coffee, who has to contend with the emotional exhaustion and upheaval of completing her time on the ward with W and readjusting to life outside hospital as well as having worked her butt off at the sale. The family have a precarious time ahead of them, this is very definitely a journey into the unknown for them but they are very open and honest and thank God for the fact that W has been SO supernaturally well throughout all of his chemotherapy. It almost never happens that a child endures such toxic treatment without incidence of sickness or infection, they are so very grateful that this has been the case for them.

Right, that's me signing off now, it has taken a full week to get to the stage of being able to complete this missive and I have crafted much of it this morning at ACC while people knit, crochet, cross stitch and breakfast around me.

Do check in next week and see what we've been up to.
Love to you all.