fair isle baubles

Harriet’s cowl is coming along nicely but I really did fancy a change.  Strangely enough I have only one other WIP!  I apologise if I have caused any injuries as readers fell to the floor in shock, hitting their heads on sharp objects on the way down.  Arnica for bruises and comfrey for healing, turmeric, ginger and chilli for inflammation and pain control (recipe here).  Back to the knitting.  Apart from Stuart’s socks which I was going to take to Glasgow with me this weekend, but I really do want to finish my cowl, so his feet will remain chilly for a few more days, I have no other UFOs/WIP, call them what you will.

However I do have a very long list of projects waiting for me to start and one of them is this, or to be more grammatically correct, these.

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Christmas baubles for the Shetland MRI appeal.  Perfect, an evening project that is a change from the cowl but will not become a UFO!  Out came the box of shetland yarn and it was on the needles.

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I knit pretty much everything in the round and even now I twist cast ons.   When there are hundreds of stitches I blame the fact that there are too many stitches.  But when there are only 12?  There are too few.  Believe me, when you have more needle than stitches there is a twist waiting to happen.

I used this pattern for my first attempt.   The pattern calls for 4.5 needles.  I tend to knit fairly loose and wasn’t going to bother with a swatch for something that is about the size of a swatch when completed so just went down to 3.5 needles and spindrift yarn from Jamiesons.   Apart from my inability to count to three (as evidenced by the number of times I had to tink back …) it was a dream to knit.

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And within no time at all I had a flat bauble.

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Some stuffing, an icord hanger and it’s bottom sewn up and we have a Christmas bauble. Hopefully the first of many.  I may pop my 3.5s into my bag this weekend in case I need a break from the cowl again!

Love Gillie x

 

 

do cows have cellulite?

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The answer is, I have no idea, but it was a question that came up during the discussion about leather quality and type at the beginning of a fabulous day with Suzanne Treacy at a belt making workshop at Linnels Farm.  I have taken so many workshops with Karen and her team of talented craftsmen and women that I am sure she has wondered if I am about to move in.

The options were to make a dog collar (the leather not liturgical variety) or a belt.  As Poppy already has two rather smart Masai beaded collars and I do not have a decent belt to my name I understandably went for the latter option.  If you are faced with the same decision at any point in the future do note the one key difference – there is a lot more leather in a belt (unless your dog is the size of an elephant and you have a 15″ waist)!

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Tea, coffee, delicious snacks and chit chat (Suzanne knows two people who have recently moved to Shetland … is this a message from the ether?)  and it was down to work.  I do love a good set of tools.

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And that is the leather that we were going to transform.  First step was to choose our dye.

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And then cut (that was immensely satisfying).

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and prepare our leather.

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Look at all those lovely shavings.  I couldn’t possibly let them go to waste, I’m sure they could be incorporated into some kind of embroidery project.

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And then the dye.

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As you can see, belts take a little bit longer.

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Suddenly it was time for lunch.

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Andy from Papaya  once again pushed the boat out way beyond the harbour walls.

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It looked like this and tasted even better.  Sorry you’re missing out.

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Then back to work.  Burnishing.  I could burnish all day.   Smoothing those edges, bringing up a shine.  The satisfaction is huge and the process almost meditative.

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This was called skiving, no I mean it, the thinning of the end was called skiving … I wasn’t actually skiving.

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Buckle in place it was time to make the stitching holes.  Look at the holes left in the cutting mat.  Those tines are SHARP.  It was jolly hard removing the “fork” from the leather but I wasn’t going to argue with anything could leave holes like that in a self-healing cutting mat!

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Belt in place in the stitching pony and away we went.  Saddle stitch, sewing with needles at both ends of the thread is also very satisfying (a much used word today but describes the whole process so precisely).  As a side note I have discovered that saddle stitch is also used in bookbinding.  I have a little bookbinding project on the back burner so I’m looking forward to giving those double needled threads another go.

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And Ta Da!  From this to this in a day!

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From now own my waist is no longer going to be hidden under loose tops and jumpers.  I have a swanky new belt to show off!  And if I have a bit more time maybe I could graduate to one of these!

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Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

 

 

scanner, bears and hats – MRI Appeal Shetland

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Gorgeous isn’t it?  This is currently on my needles and I can’t wait to try it on and show it off.    But I am even more excited about telling people where the pattern came from.  Read on.

F9A2BF8D-061A-473D-B955-E1E27E5BD00EMeet the two Billys.  You may never have heard of them, but they, along with the eponymous Harriet of the cowl above,  are two of the leading lights behind a huge army of knitters who are edging closer to changing the medical face of living on the Shetland Islands.  Here they are at Loch Ness Knit Fest with patterns and products for the Shetland MRI appeal.

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Three million three hundred and forty six thousand MRI scans are performed in the UK each year.  Of these precisely none are performed on the Shetland Islands because the nearest MRI Scanner is over 200 miles away in Aberdeen, an overnight ferry trip or a flight away.  For the 675 people on Shetland who require an MRI scan this is considerably more complicated than even a three or four hour drive to your nearest MRI scanner and can be further complicated by weather that cancels flights and ferries and the time involved (two overnight ferries and possibly a stay in Aberdeen requires three days off work, complicated childcare arrangements and so on) even before the cost of the transport itself and the possible need for somebody to accompany the patient.  An MRI scan is not just a hospital appointment, it can be a complex and expensive logistical operation.

In July 2018 NHS Shetland launched a £2m appeal for an MRI scanner for the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick.  The savings made in patient travel will be used to staff the scanner which will be in a stand alone unit at the hospital.  You can read the full details, follow the appeal and donate here.  So where do the two Billys fit in?

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(photo credit:  MRI Maakers Shetland)

Meet Harriet Middleton, Billy the human’s (as opposed to Billy the Bear) mother.  Harriet, like many Shetlanders, is an expert knitter and collected up some of her yarn scraps and designed and produced a beanie hat (or toorie as regular readers will know is the Shetland term) which she began to sell at craft fairs, Sunday teas  and anywhere she could persuade people to let her put up a stall.

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The hat sold like the hot cakes at the Sunday Teas.  Eventually it became clear that even super-fast knitter Harriet couldn’t keep up with demand on her own and so she started a Maakin and Yaakin (doesn’t that sound so much better than Knit and Knitter?!) group where people could come along with their own yarn scraps and knit more hats.

Like the proverbial Topsy the hat grew and grew and became

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Gloves, fingered or fingerless.

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Mittens

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A headband.  And finally, the cowl that is currently sitting on my needles.  It rapidly became clear that the patterns themselves could become fundraisers, Jameieson & Smith and Jameisons both put wool packs together and soon knitters all over the world were proudly wearing their MRI Maakers knitwear. Patterns are available from shops across Shetland and the rest of Scotland (Wool for Ewe) and even in the USA (The Woolly Thistle, Northfield Yarns,  The Spinnning Room) as well as directly from the MRI Scanner appeal website.  Some of the patterns are even available in Norwegian!  If you are a LYS or knitting group you can purchase patterns in bundles of 25.

73413128_2095205527455846_6312859235080208384_oBilly Two was created for the appeal by Burra Bears.  Here he is with Billy Middleton on his way to Loch Ness Knit Fest.     He even has his own Instagram Account where  you can follow his busy life.

So how successful has Harriet’s knitting project been in helping to reach the appeal target?  Are you sitting down?

……  by the end of Loch Ness Knit Fest the MRI Maakers fundraising total stands at £62,000.  Pretty darn good eh?!

Finally, you may have noticed that there is a festive season approaching, can  you knit a bauble?

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Patterns are available for free here or the sheep pattern is on Ravelry here.  Send  your completed baubles to Jamiesons of Shetland where they will be displayed over Christmas and then sold to raise funds for the appeal.  Personally I think we can knit enough baubles to cover all of Commercial Street, not just Jamiesons …..

Lets get knitting.

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

oodles of colour

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Don’t you just want to dive in?  Delicious Batt from Sealy MacWheely  This was just a tiny fraction of the colour explosion that is Loch Ness Knit Fest .

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Not everything comes in skeins or balls.  Sometime you need to buy a socking great cone from Kincraig Fabrics.

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We were practically queuing up to photograph this wonderful top and take down the name of the pattern (Sashiko btw).  Discovering new patterns, yarns and designers is part of the fun.  Everywhere you turn there is another piece of stunning knitwear.

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Time for a break maybe? The Singleton

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A friend from closer to home.  Love Handyed from Stanhope.

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The lovely Claire from Cookston Crafts holding the yarn that will (eventually) the Ranunuculus.  I do love a burst of colour!

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The burst of colour that is Katie from Sealy MacWheeley     She did explain the construction of the jumper but she lost me after the instruction to block the Japanese lacework and pick up the bust stitches!  It is pretty impressive and I will look it up as I rather fancy having a go …. goodness knows when!

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The guilds that provide advice, helping hands, support, tea and sympathy and everything else required to introduce weaving, spinning and dyeing to the uninitiated.

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If you didn’t dive in at the beginning, feel free now!

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And finally.  This is the face of the future of knitting.  And she is a jolly good Roadside Beanie model too.

Maybe I’ll see you at Loch Ness Knit Fest next year.

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

puppies, trains and slip, slip knit …

It ain’t over yet …. !

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Poppy unpacking her toys as fast as I try to pack them.  I have rather tortured memories of packing to go on holiday with three toddlers and this was a momentary throwback upon which I would have been happy to pass.

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Eventually I managed to pack everything (well not quite, I forgot our coffee cups and my water bottle …) and once again there appeared to be some fishing in the offing.

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And we were finally ready for the off.

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A casual observer would think that we were preparing for a fishing trip.  A more experienced knitter would understand that this was the luggage required for a knitting festival.  One dog and plenty of fishing paraphernalia is all that is required to occupy and distract the non-knitter.

Shetland Wool Week was a wonderful experience, not just the yarn, not just the classes, not just camaraderie, but the island, the people, the scenery, the air, the light, the craic.  I didn’t expect to be able to follow that up with a long weekend in Inverness at Loch Ness KnitFest.  But never underestimate a Scottish fisherman with the opportunity to head home for a weekend and bother a few fish at the same time!

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Poppy is a seasoned rail traveller, a quick hop to Newcastle on the Transpennine Express, and then a more leisurely ride up to Inverness.

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Initially Poppy was happy to help with the yarn holding for the Susan Crawford Twageos Tam.

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But after a while all that adoration from the LNER crew was a bit overwhelming and she was happy to nod off.

Up bright eyed and bushy tailed and who should I meet at the door but Anne Stevens Frost.  Known to many as the podcaster  I thought I knew how, although known to Stuart as the knitting wife of his new Shetland fishing buddy.

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Note the knitwear!

First up class wise was Brioche with John Glen aka The Beardy Cheil.

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This was the last chance saloon for me as far as Brioche was concerned.  If John couldn’t make me and brioche see eye to eye then I was prepared to walk on by.  And forego the chance of ever creating a thing of beauty such as this.

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Or even this.

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Reader, forget the croissants, it’s brioche all the way now.  Very similar to Fisherman’s Rib (the method is slightly different although the result is pretty much the same) brioche is a wonderful soft squishy rib.  Increasing and decreasing is not subtle but, particularly when using two different coloured yarns, produces beautiful zig zags, waves and tree like designs.

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The afternoon was all about the tippy toes.

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I suffer from second sock syndrome.  I have yet to resort to chopping off the legs of family and friends, but I do struggle with starting the second sock. The joy of finishing sock one is immediately dampened by the need to start sock two.  So signing up for Deborah Gray’s Two Socks at a Time workshop was a no brainer.  Well the signing  up was…

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The set up was a tad fiddly…

But once we got going it was all smiles.  The advantage of toe up socks is that you can try them on as you go along, both socks will be the same size (assuming you want them to be), there is no risk of playing yarn chicken (will I have enough to make it to the toe?) and you can really play around with the toe design, creating an asymetric toe that is in line with the shape of the foot, or perhaps a separate big toe for socks to wear with flip flops if that rocks your boat.

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This method is also good for any pair of circular knitted items.  Sleeves, mittens, gloves.  I imagine somewhere there is a hardy soul with giant circular needles who has tried to knit two jumpers at the same time, but that won’t be me!

It may be a while before I am knocking out a pair like this.

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But practice makes perfect, and now I am going to leave you and get on with a spot of practice!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

 

 

the craic was 90

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It’s not all about the classes.  As any knitter will know, whether you are just learning to cast on your first row and filled with disbelief that this row of irregular knots on your needle can become a beautiful scarf or you can knock out an Italian twisted cast on and twenty rows of dual coloured brioche whilst holding an in depth conversation about the state of the economy, knitting is about the craic.

I will knit anywhere, I always have a small knitting bag with me.  I have knitted in long queues, polling stations, every conceivable form of transport, school parents’ evenings, cinemas. I’ve knitted socks dressed as an Edwardian for a WWI re-enactment (and put a stainless steel knitting needle through my hand, be careful, your granny’s needles really are dangerous weapons!).  I’ve knitted and even spun on stage (did you know Joan of Arc’s mother was a spinner, when I played her she was!). I can’t imagine hanging around somewhere without my knitting to keep me busy, and when you whip out your needles people start to talk to you.  A lovely lady and I caused a state of panic on the tube from Kilburn to Baker Street.  I noticed her fine yellow cable socks, clearly hand knitted and she noticed the needles sticking out of my back pack.  Reader we started a conversation.  Two strangers on the tube,  the rest of the carriage was aghast!

The best yarn festivals have a knitting area.  Key elements for a good knitting area are:

  • lots of space, not everyone knits on circulars and needles can be a weapon (see above!)
  • A mixture of seating.  Some people want comfy chairs, some people like to curl up on a sofa, some people, particularly if they are doing a complicated lace pattern or colourwork, want a table on which to lay out pattern and yarns and of course the essential tea (or coffee)
  • Seating arranged in areas conducive to chatting and making new friends.  No lines of tables and chairs please.
  • Occasional tables.  We will be drinking tea (or coffee) and we have big bags full of our classwork, exciting new purchases and the jumper we promised ourselves we would finish this week.  We don’t want to put our drinks on the floor.
  • Good lighting.  We don’t care for mood lighting and we are not remotely interested in the interior design.  We want to be able to see what we are doing, especially when we were having such a good time that we have to undo the previous two rows.  Lights and lots of them please.

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We came from all over the world.  Even Antarctica!

  • Easy access to tea and coffee.  Getting up and leaving our knitting and our new friends is something we only want to have to do in extremis.  Please don’t make us walk upstairs to get a cuppa.  On the same basis, loos nearby are good too.  That tea doesn’t half run through you.
  • Food.  And as above, we don’t want to have to go a long way to find it.  Maybe not in the knitting area (though I have been to festivals where the two are combined and haven’t seen a chocolate cake/fine lacework disaster yet).
  • Information.  We don’t always remember our festival guides and when somebody mentions a really interesting workshop it would be good if we could borrow a guide  or see a timetable on the wall.  Information about other local events (heaven forbid even non-yarn ones!),  a list of local restaurants, taxi phone numbers, bus timetables etc. are all really helpful to the stressed knitter who has been knitting right up to the wire and now has precisely 15 minutes to get something to eat and cross town for their next workshop.

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Samples of the patterns available in this year’s Wool Week Annual

  • Entertainment.  Talks, music, demonstrations.  I discovered Mawatas when Katie Seal of Sealy McWheely gave a talk at Loch Ness KnitFest.  I also had my first spinning lesson with her a few months later.  You never know what you will learn or which new musicians you will discover.

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These were just what was on offer in the Hub

I can confirm that SWW achieves all the above with bells on.  The hub is a knitters dream.  Even Stuart quite happily came and sat with me and chatted to people, admired knitting and tapped his toes to the bands.

That was of course, when he was not bothering the fish at Muckle Flugga.  The record catch, a 40 lb cod.  Fish and chips will be on the menu in several friends houses this weekend!

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I have made new friends from all around the world.  I have laughed until I could hardly speak.  I have watched in awe as knitters create the most beautiful work. I have discovered new yarns and new patterns.  I have learned to knit with a makkin belt.  I have watched spinners turn wool into gold (Rumpelstiltskin eat your heart out).  I have listened to the most talented young musicians and I have enjoyed just being somewhere where I felt so utterly at home.

Enjoy your weekend

Love Gillie x

clean sweep

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I started this blog in order to be transparent about our decluttering journey.  That was six years ago.  We have a lot less unnecessary stuff now than we did then and are quite a lot better about what we let across our threshold in the first place.  But one area where I have always had a problem is my studio.

It doesn’t usually look like this!  This is the “I have pulled everything out and now need to sort it” photo.  Which is the method that works best for me – get it out, sort it.  I know it doesn’t work for everyone but each to their own and if I had to give advice I would counsel choosing one area (a room, a cupboard, a drawer – the size doesn’t matter) and emptying it all out.  It does look a mess, it may seem insurmountable, but seeing it all in one place both shocks you into action and, strange as it may seem, is easier and quicker to address than pulling out items one by one and considering them individually.  You can make sweeping sorting decisions and then tackle each pile in more detail.  Also when you see it all in one place it is easier to spot multiple duplicates and far easier to let go of the ones you don’t need.

But back to craft rooms/studios/cupboards.  For me this is always an area of rapid accumulation because I can always justify keeping fabric oddments, clothes that are past repairing but the fabric is gorgeous, yarn ends etc. because I may be able to use them in a project later and hey I am upcycling/reusing so that’s good isn’t it?  No it isn’t because nine times out of ten those oddments never do get used by me.  They (a) take up space  and (b) could be taken by somebody who actually will use them.

Taking up space: my kist was full of fabric and yarn.  Not only was it a nightmare trying to find something I knew was in there, half the time I didn’t know what was in there.  I found both distressing and stressful and made me feel terribly guilty.

Somebody else will use them:  I hope that the people who did take them (via Freegle) will use the yarn and fabric and it won’t just fill up one of their cupboards, but I can’t police that.  I hope that somebody gets some pleasure out of them, I hope that they find a new life and new use and are appreciated.

A couple of samples of the oddments that went to new homes.

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Everything from cashmere to acrylic.  Including several balls from the same dye batch.

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Hi-Vis to Harris Tweed.

My kist is now half as full.  I know what is in there and am shocked by how much yarn I have accumulated and didn’t really know about because it was buried under bags of stuff .  I went to a wonderful wool festival last weekend and had a fabulous time admiring the indie dyed yarn and batts.  I attended two extremely good workshops and had a fun time with friends at the evening event, but I bought nothing.  I have started to allocate my yarn stash to specific projects and not only do I not need any  more yarn, actually I don’t want any.  I want to use and appreciate what I have first.

My studio now

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Finally fired up by success in my studio I spent a day whizzing around the house and removing the stuff that had been in my eyeline for departure for far too long.  My friend’s charity is very pleased to have received all this, and my house is breathing a little more easily now.

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Love Gillie x