Throwing pots

Have you ever thrown a pot? I hadn't until a few months ago, when my brother-in-law gave Jim and I a session as a joint birthday present, and it was THE BEST FUN!

Backing up a bit, all three of us had enjoyed watching The Great Pottery Throw Down on BBC back in the autumn, and we'd been very taken with the show. It's the pottery take on The Great British Bake Off, and was surprisingly addictive watching. We soon got into a nice routine, and placed bets on whose work would make the lovely presenter Keith Brymer Jones cry. He was rather prone to being overcome by the contestants' feel for the clay! So when Ed gave us a voucher for the two of us to have a private throwing lesson at Enigma Pottery in Frome, we were both really excited about it.

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I've been trying to find some words to describe how much we both enjoyed ourselves, and to be honest I'm struggling a bit!

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There was something really magical about the feeling of the clay in our hands, and the air of quiet concentration as we both tried to make something functional.

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Jim in particular seemed to find a sort of meditative state, and created some great shapes. Our tutor, Jenny Barton, explained everything calmly and clearly, although we failed to bring a tear to her eye over our feel for the clay. We clearly need a bit more practice! We both left the workshop feeling that we might build a special pottery shed in the garden. We really did enjoy it a great deal!


Our 2 hour workshop included the firing of 4 pots each, so here they are waiting for glazing and the kiln. Can you guess who made what?

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Then we had the exciting phone call about 10 days later to say that our pots were ready! I bet you can guess which are mine now...

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Yes, that's right! The teal pots are mine. We chose glazes from swatches in the workshop, but I hadn't really understood the difference between the two types of glaze. Mine have a very high gloss finish, where Jim's are more grainy - an effect I really love.

In total I made a bowl for breakfast, a coffee mug, a jug and a small vase.

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All four of my pots have been in use since we collected them - here's the vase with some tulips in my office. I am still surprised that we made such useful pots at our first try.

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Jim made 3 pots and a mug with this lovely deep blue glaze, and he too has enjoyed many cups of coffee from his new mug.

If you have the opportunity to try throwing pots on a wheel, I highly recommend it! It's definitely top of my Christmas list this year.

Which new crafts would you like to try your hand at?

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Images © Jen Arnall-Culliford

FO: Summer Dress

I've made a summer dress! And bought fabric to make another one... I feel a sewing binge coming on!

The sewing pattern was Lisette for Butterick B6168, and I was booked to do a dressmaking workshop at Millie Moon on Monday evenings through January and February (a great Christmas present! Thanks family!). One of the lovely owners, Becky helped me to choose both the fabric and the pattern - she knows me too well!

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I knew that I was planning to make this more than once if it was successful, so I carefully traced the pattern out before starting the first evening session. It was fiddly and time-consuming, but totally worthwhile as the tracing paper was much thicker than pattern paper, so it stood up to being thrown into and out of my bag over the 6 weeks of the course. And if I ever want to make it again in another size, I shall be all set!


The great thing about doing evening workshops rather than just deciding to make this at home, was that I was committed. I needed to go out each Monday no matter what, and I found that really helpful. I have too many plans and not enough time generally, so it was brilliant to have dedicated time for sewing each week. Anna Vickery who taught the class was full of helpful tips and tricks. I've not sewn a dress since I was 18, so I was very rusty on techniques, but this dress felt well within my abilities.


At Anna's suggestion, I've used bias binding to finish as many of the seams as was practical. I want to be able to wear the dress without worrying about seams fraying, and it needs to go through the was without too much bother either. Fingers crossed the extra effort will be well worth it.

As I worked through the pattern instructions, I did find a couple of things that were missing (ever the editor I'm afraid!)... There wasn't anything to trip me up as I had Anna on hand to ask for help, but if you were new to sewing and working at home the following bit might come in handy:

In step 10, you're instructed to baste the centre front where the bodice pieces cross. There's no later instruction to remove that basting, so don't forget to do that at the end!
Step 28 shows the side seams of the front and back bodices to be sewn, but there's no instruction to do so. I sewed those side seams between steps 27 and 28.
There wasn't much suggestion of which raw edges on the inside of the dress needed finishing. Perhaps this is considered general knowledge one should have before starting a project at this level, but it wouldn't have been much extra information to add, and very helpful for less-experienced sewers.

It's not yet quite warm enough to wear my lovely finished dress, but fingers crossed the sun will be out before too long, and I can potter in the garden in style!


I'm thrilled with how it's turned out. And I'm looking forward to making time to sew up the fabric I've bought to make the shorter version, which I hope will look great over leggings.


I particularly like the bodice detail, and the fit in the upper body is great for my curves! I'm definitely inspired to sew more.

Jam Heaven

Or how to get blackberry jelly to set... I posted a smug tweet last week about how I had made 10 jars of blackberry jelly before 10 on a Monday morning. Well, it came back to bite me in the bottom, as that jelly failed to set, and I ended up hunting around for hints and tips on how to fix it. I had some great suggestions from friends on Twitter, and it was reassuring to know that many people struggle with blackberries!

I eventually found a great article from explaining how to fix jams and jellies that don't set. So off I trotted to buy a bottle of pectin, some lemons and more sugar; and having boiled it up again according to the instructions in that article, I now have set blackberry jelly! Whoop, whoop! And it's completely delicious.

However, I still had a dozen empty jars and half a bottle of pectin, so last Saturday I decided that I would see whether I could buy some fruit at the market to complete this year's jam collection. Boy, did I hit the jackpot! A 5kg tray of damsons for £2.00!! They were starting to go over, so we spent a fun 20 minutes picking through them and chucking the ones that were too mushy or already a bit mouldy, and still ended up with nearly 3kg of damsons.


And this is the result of our efforts - a shelf packed with home made jam, and an aspiration that it should last through until next year's harvest. This year we ran out of home made jam in February, so fingers crossed next year we won't need to call on the talents of the Bonne Maman at all.

Chocolate Chip and Everything Cookies

I first started making these cookies as a teenager. I used to make up huge batches, trying out all sorts of different combinations of fruit, nuts and chocolate. They didn't last long in the tin then, and they still don't today! I make up a large quantity of dough and then freeze a couple of portions, so that we can have cookies on demand at a later date.



225g butter
225g caster sugar
225g Muscovado dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3 large eggs
525g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
100g walnut pieces
100g raisins
150g dark chocolate pieces
150g white chocolate pieces


Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.

I use my mixer throughout, but you can equally use a mixing bowl and wooden spoon. Mix the butter, sugars and vanilla extract until they are paler in colour and smooth. Add a couple of tablespoons of the flour and mix well. Beat in the eggs one by one. Fold in the rest of the flour, salt, nuts, fruit and chocolate pieces. Mix until all the ingredients are well combined.

Divide the cookie dough into 3 portions. Place two portions in freezer containers and freeze until required. Spoon the remaining portion onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. I use an ice cream scoop and do half-scoops for each cookie.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes. I like to take ours out when they are still a bit chewy. Cool on the trays until you can move the biscuits without them falling apart. Place on a cooling rack until completely cold, then store in an air-tight tin, or just eat them all straightaway!

When you are ready to use the freezer batches, take them out of the freezer and defrost overnight in the fridge. Then spoon them out and cook as before.

Go mad with the different possible fruit, nut and chocolate combinations! I like apricot, white chocolate and macadamia nuts; dried cherries, walnuts and white chocolate; hazelnut and dark chocolate; date, raisin and milk chocolate; in fact pretty much any combination of what is sitting around in our baking cupboard and needing using!

Happy baking!

FO: A Quilt

I started this quilt at a quilting weekend back in July last year. It then languished in my sewing bag for months, waiting to be quilted. I finally got around to quilting it on a dedicated quilting day in October. And yet again, it languished, needing only the binding to be slipstitched, for months!


The quilt is made from 64 blocks, so it's a really good size! I added a filet around the edge, and decided against adding anything in the way of a border - it seemed like the quilt needed to be kept simple! I quilted a foot width out of the ditch, in long lines, just inside each block. Again, keeping it simple. I'm not great at any other type of quilting!


Last week I finally pulled it out of the sewing bag, and set to work on the binding. It didn't take long to finish it off! These things never do - WHEN YOU ACTUALLY WORK ON THEM!!!! Ha! Why do I never learn this lesson?!

Many thanks again to Mélanie for the lovely charm pack and fat quarters. They've made a great quilt, which will be loved for many years to come. :)

WIP: Quilt

It's been a while, but I'm back!

I've made a list of things I want to witter about, and hopefully over the coming months, I'll get some of that list turned into actual blog posts, rather than existing only as ramblings in my head at 2 in the morning...


I spent a happy weekend in July sewing a quilt based on disappearing nine-patches. I used some beautiful Moda fabric - a present from a knitting friend and fellow quilter, Lilysunshine. And I'm pretty pleased with how it has turned out.


I absolutely love chain piecing like this - the sewing just flies by and before you know it, you have a lots of blocks that look like a nearly finished quilt top...


So how is it that it takes another whole day to get to this point (which in my opinion looks barely different)?


And two months later, the quilt is still sitting on my dining room table in exactly the same state as it was at the end of the quilting weekend! That's how life has been for the last few months. Heaps of fun, but no time to sit still and do things that are just for me.

Here I am though, doing something just for me. Regular blogging here I come!