Saturday, 22 October 2011


A few years ago I sang with the band Shoormal.  The music doesn't really fit neatly into any genre, it tends to go under "contemporary folk", but has many influences including from folk, country and jazz with harmony vocals being a major part in each song.  You can hear the music on Shoormal's myspace page.

Gregg Arthur (keyboard, accordian, hammond organ, bascially anything with keys); Jonathan Ritch (bass); Freda Leask (vocals); Archer Kemp (drums); Trevor Smith (guitar); Me (vocals); Gordon Tulloch (guitar); Joyce Wark (vocals)
Photo: Heidi Pearson

We recorded 3 CDs, Indigo Skies, Migrant and Turning Tide.  The first, Indigo Skies was nominated for best newcomer in Mike Harding's Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2001.  You can buy Migrant and Turning Tide from various places including Amazon, and you can download various tracks from there too - it sems strange to think when we first started we used tapes to record new songs and ideas!  The first album Indigo Skies sold out but is due to be rereleased soon.

We travelled a little bit during our time as a band, the photo below shows us in the Hilton Hotel in Austin, Texas.

                                          Photo: Davie Gardner

We had many band practices and many laughs along the way.  Here are some of us at Gregg's before he revamped his sitting room.

Due to pressures of business combined with the fact I am not a bit fan of performing (not a good trait if you are in a band) I "retired".  The band has continued to play in a scaled down format and with one or two different members, and played at events this summer under the name of "Freda Leask and the Shoormal Band".  A facebook page has been set up so you can find out where they are playing, updates on re-releases and other music related news.  Hop over there and have a look! 

Shoormal: A Shetland dialect word meaning where the shore meets the sea.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Project - Peerie Breeks for Peerie Breeks

While England is baking in sun, in Shetland we are experiencing wind and rain (it is October after all), what better way to spend an afternoon like that than doing a bit of sewing while staying cosy inside.

A few days ago I made a peerie pair of breeks (a little pair of trousers) for Joseph. To explain the title in Shetland we would affectionately call a little person "Peerie Breeks" (little trousers).

I had a scrap of light denim left over from a coat I cut out but never got around to sewing (one of my UFOs, I must look for it) and used a pattern I downloaded from Make Baby  The pattern is free and can be printed on 2 sheets of A4 paper.

I added a couple of inches at the bottom of the pattern and straightened out the bottom so I could create turnups which could be turned down as Joseph grows.  Only 2 pieces are needed as the pattern is placed on the fold:

To add a bit of interest I added fabric stars to the knees by ironing some bondaweb onto a piece of scrap grey fabric, cutting out two stars then ironing them onto the denim.  I stitched around the edges of the stars with a zig zag sttich to finish them off and to stop the edges peeling off.

I thought I would attempt to sew the trousers with french seams, I have never tried this before but it worked out very well.

Firstly you place the wrong sides of the fabric together, stitch along the seam half the width of the seam allowance, turn the pieces outside in then stitch the seam again the width of half the seam allowance.  I found I needed to trim the first seam.  I turned up about a centimetre along the bottom then stitched them, once the rest of the trousers were finished I turned up about an inch and handstitched along the edge to create the turnups.

I wasn't sure what to do between the legs but it was obvious once I got there (although too difficult to explain!)

Once the seams were all sewn together I turned the waistband over twice and stitched along both folded edges leaving a gap of a couple of cm so the elastic could be threaded through using a safety pin.

Once the bottom hems were done I needed a lttle model.

He seems quite happy with them.  Altogether they only took a couple of hours, sometimes the planning and gathering the sewing equipment together takes the longest, so I hope to make a few more pairs during the rainy afternoons.  I hope I have inspired you to do a bit of sewing.

It is still lashing rain and howling a gale out there, so I am off to look out that cashmerino yarn I ordered to start the next project while drinking copious amounts of tea and I might just have to eat that bit of millionaire shortbread that has been staring me out all afternoon. 

Well, it is one of those nights!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Joseph William: the reason I haven't been blogging

He's here at last!  Joseph William was born just over 4 weeks ago now, so there hasn't been much time for blogging or anything else really!

He is lying on a beautiful hap (shawl) handknitted by my 90 year old Grandaunt from Shetland yarn.

I am planning to take time off from work until at least the new year, my head is brimming with new ideas so hopefully I will have some new products when I come back and reopen the online shop.

In the meantime, I am planning several projects for myself, I went a bit mad buying yarn to knit Joseph some cardigans, socks, hats....... so I will keep to posted with how that goes depending on how the time goes!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Pay it Forward with a Brooch

Earlier this year I signed up to a "game" on facebook and twitter, someone promised to send the first 5 people to comment on their post something handmade.  In turn you then had to do the same - a great way to receive some lovely handmade items!

I played the game on twitter with Anne Murray, an artist who works in ceramics.  She sent me this gorgeous brooch, which is very "me", she seems to have worked out my style well even though we have never met.

You can see more of her work on her website , I particularly like her design journal on the "my work" page, it's a really novel and quirky way to show off her products and ideas.

In the meantime, anyone who is waiting for something handmade from me - it is coming, sometime in 2011!

Monday, 11 July 2011

My work and my Mam

You might have noticed that I haven't been online for a few weeks now.  Lately my personal life has overtaken and there has been little time for blogging, twittering and the like.
My dear Mam, Betty, passed away a few weeks ago after a long battle with cancer and I took time off work to be with her both at home and at the hospital.  She was a big inspiration in my work, and worked for me occassionally a few years ago before she became ill.  She spent many hour herself designing and making her own clothes.

Here she is a couple of years ago, standing in my stall at the Shetland Arts and Craft Christmas Fair, wearing a jacket she had designed and knitted.  Many people asked her if I had made it, much to her annoyance and my amusement!

When I made my first felt bag Mam told me what she would like, so we designed it together. 
I named the bag the "Ursula Bag" which was her middle name.  When I came up with a new design I would usually ask her what she thought and would take it from there - she would very often even "aquire" many of the pieces!

 She will be a huge miss but I have to concentrate on the good memories and there are many of them. 

On a more positive note I am expecting my first baby, due on the 6th August.  I am on maternity leave now so my website is now closed and the last couple of orders for galleries will be sent out on Monday.  I am hoping to have some time to relax, get things ready, cook meals for the freezer etc.
I also have so many projects (for myself for a change!) going round in my head that I would like to do so I will see if I can get them fitted in.....

I will be back making and selling soon, but not sure when, I will keep in touch with news of new designs, I hope to have a new range of work when I get back into making.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Busy Days and Holidays

You might have noticed I haven't been blogging for a while - time seems to just have disappeared.  I have  been busy in the workshop working on various orders as shops got ready for Mother's Day and Easter.  I also had a lovely holiday at the end of March. 

We spend a couple of days in Edinburgh:

We wandered, drank coffee, had cakes, window shopped.......  I went for a visit to Concrete Wardrobe on Broughton St, one of my stockists, but unfortunately as it was Sunday it was closed.  However, I was delighted to see that they were displaying some of my work in their window:

Then we headed down to St Ives.

I have wanted to visit there for years, and it didn't disappoint.  The town is packed with quaint little lanes stretching up from the harbour....

There were lots and lots of galleries to spend many an hour browsing:

We stayed in a cosy fisherman's cottage in one of the lanes just minutes from the harbour:

While in Cornwall we had to visit the Eden Project:

It was an amazing place and we spent much more time there than we had planned; it was very inspirational as well as being informitive.  I came back with lots of gardening ideas:

But think I might pass on the suggestion of what to do with my old shoes and handbags (not that I have ever had any like these!):

I came back feeling inspired which I think is always a sign of a good holiday, my head is packed with new ideas, I just need that time to do something with them now!

This week I will be making lots of felt covered notebooks including several of these:

Well I suppose I must go - they won't sew themselves.  Have a good week all :-)

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Crofting and Crafting

These last few day has seen a variety of activities, as well as the usual felt cutting, sewing and sticking I have been chief crofter since Dad has been away.

It is only a small croft with a few hens and several sheep but they all need fed in the morning.  They wait at the house at the top of the hill and we all walk down together.  Tib, the border collie doesn't "do" sheep; they casually wander past her, and sometimes offer the odd head-butt.  She prefers rabbits (never catches them) and will spend hours with her head down the rabbit holes:

I love being out first thing in the morning, it sets me up for the day.

Is there any for me?

I have been doing a little bit of designing new products for spring.  I have used the same bird shape as the felt version of the bird notebook but have appliqued it using floral fabrics to co-ordinate with the felt.

Fabric and felt brid notebooks:

The notebooks have a removable cover and refills can be bought from artists shops, the notebook is made up of plain paper and can be used for sketches or notes.

The fabric birds on the felt close up:

These notebooks have been sent, amongst other felty things to the Newgate Gallery in Surrey for their next exhibition., the Spring Contemporary Craft Collection.  I will hopefully get them on my own website before too long!

I am working on other new notebooks and brooches using the floral fabric and applique, and I will share these with you as soon I am happy with the designs and get some pictures taken!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

If it stays still I will paint it

You might recall back in October that I was painting my kitchen units, the doors were lying on the kitchen table getting their treatment. You can see a picture here.

Now it is more or less finished at last (except for the new cooker and taps).

If you look very closely in the picture below you will spot a deliberate mistake - the bottom cake tin is upside down as it still has the remains of our Christmas cake.

The cooker has a brass handle which doesn't go with my new off-white and brushed chrome look, so in the meantime before I get a new cooker, the handle will be covered by a strategically placed dish cloth.  This one was from Rachel Taylor designs, she is a designer and textile artist turning her patterns into a lovely range of of textiles, cards, paper and mugs among other things.  You can see her website by clicking here.

I have my eye on a purple Aga cooker......I'd better get saving!

I used Farrow and Ball paints, the units are Clunch, the walls are Stoney Ground and the facings and skirtings are Hardwick White.

One of my favourite things in the house is the rayburn - a steaming kettle always on top meaning copious amounts of tea!

It all started when I changed the colour of the walls last year, then it was the table and chairs, shelves and then I took on the massive job of painting all the doors, which were originally pine.

Work in progress:

I am really pleased with the results which is just as well as it would be a lot to redo!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

It's Back to Work....

Belated Happy New Year!  I am a bit late but I haven't been blogging since Christmas and am trying to get back to normal.  Trying is the word to describe it, I seem to be finding it a struggle getting back to serious work.

I think it was so busy before Christmas that I tired myself out!  I was thinking it was just me, but I have been reading other creative blogs and have found many people are saying the same thing, so I don't feel so bad.

I have so many things I need to do, new designs, updating the website, accounts (arghhh!!), paperwork, invoices......and that's before I start making anything!  I also need to finish my big tidy up in the studio so I can find space to lay things down!

One of my desks in desparate need of a tidy up:

This was the state of my paperwork at the end of last week - it is all filed away now thankfully.

I sat down on Monday and wrote a list.  That always helps and puts everything in perspective, it usually doesn't look so bad when it's in writing, and it's always good to cross things off as you do them.

One of my main things to do is to upload my product photos on Not The High Street, I was accepted as a selling partner in October but because of the Christmas rush I decided to delay selling with them in case I couldn't keep up with orders.

The die-cutting machine is sitting waiting patiently to be used:

I need to be making lots of these:

and these....

and these (and thats just the beginning).....

Maybe by next week I will be in full flow again (well I can always hope!), I need to get going so I don't get behind before I have even started!