52 hours of train

So, Karen and I did the train thing to Johannesburg and back a couple of weeks ago. It’s 26 hours one way (from Cape Town, remember!) People said, “Are you insane? Why don’t you just hop on a plane?”, but we knew better.  We knew better because we’d made the same trip about 15 years ago, when we had small children and husbands and unpleasant jobs. That trip gave us uninterrupted peace and quiet, and ever since our code phrase for “my children are driving me mad” or “I never want to lay eyes on my husband again” or “what a foul day at work” or “the next person who asks me what’s for supper will get punched in the face”, has been “I wish I was on that _______ train….”


So we did it again.

It was fabulous. Even better than the first time.

Karen packed a massive hamper full of good food and coffee, enough to feed the entire train. We had books, music, phones, ipads, and crochet, but mainly we relaxed. Karen spent most of her time relaxing, actually, relaxing and looking out the window and resting and sleeping and dozing and reading and napping. And a small amount of crochet.

After my first big rest, I was happy to get some serious work done. We can’t all have a salaried job, after all!

I made nine hats. I cheated a bit because I didn’t use any patterns, so they went pretty quickly. The one with the five horns is my favourite.

train hat 6 train hat 2 train hat 3 train hat 4 train hat 5

I need to do a proper stock-take tomorrow, my market bags have got all mixed up and I don’t know how many hats are in each one. It could go one of two ways — bad, or very bad.

scrap bag smack smack

My friend Suzette makes stunning cushions, and she uses only the best quality fabrics from Hertex. Consequently, her scraps and off-cuts are not to be sneered at. I took four boxes of scraps off her this weekend (I know, right?!), and was overcome by an incredible urge to make a bag this morning.

scrap bag 4

scrap bag 1

It’s not terribly well thought out and I’m not sure what to do about a strap yet, but I did manage a lining.

scrap bag 2

scrap bag 3

Best part? Suzette’s scraps come in ready-made strips! Almost no cutting required :-)

PS. Rob will have a fit when he reads this post because I’m supposed to be making hats and only hats. smack. For Grahamstown. smack. Big Market. smack. Only 6 weeks away…….smack smack smack

Operation Revamp: Day #5

The worst is over: painting and cleaning accomplished, yucky old carpets and other stuff chucked out, decent but unwanted stuff sold on facebook or charitied, pile of stuff from patio back inside (thank you, strong Rob). Still more sorting of yarn and fabric necessary, but that will come later – because tomorrow I am going away for a week. Yes, bad timing, I know (story of my life). I didn’t fully comprehend the extent of the upheaval that Operation Revamp would entail, and I could do with another 1 or 2 days to complete the process. Also, I’ve lost more than 5 production days because of it. BUT I believe in the long run it will have been worth the expense and the effort – I definitely feel more positive about my living and working space, I have a better idea of the stock and materials I have banked up, and all mouse fossils and dust dragons from under the bed have been dealt with.

Here is a corner of my bedroom, the only 1-metre sq spot in the flat worth photographing right now.

pink chair
May not look like much to anyone else, but I’ve made me proud !

I’m going to Johannesburg tomorrow for a week to visit my mom. Karen and I are travelling together by train (her dad lives there, too) and we’re looking forward to a 26-hour journey across our wonderful country, with lots of crochet, music, pedicure tools and books to pass the time.

Back soon x

autumn cleaning day #3

We’re getting somewhere.

Nice white walls:

painting wed

Cleaning the crates that will be used for storing yarn supplies:

painting wed 2

Iced doughnuts for morning tea:

painting wed 3

But the patio is more of a horror show than ever – pic taken 10 mins ago:

painting wed 4
There’s a good chance I won’t be doing any crocheting tonight…

autumn cleaning Day #2

Day #2 is a lot less exciting than Day #1.

The current state of two rooms:

painting 3  painting 2

a bit of my sewing room, and a view through my office window of a pile of boxes on the patio with I-don’t-even-know-what inside them:

painting 4 painting 5

painting 1

And I won’t be able to get to my sewing machine before late tomorrow. I’m so behind on my production goal for Grahamstown that I’ve had to delete my counter widget in shame.

Autumn cleaning

Crafting for a living + being a natural hoarder + my innate boredom with domestic tasks = an extremely disorganised home (and while I’m being very honest here, I should say that that’s “disorganised” as in deep chaos cum pigsty.)

I realised I had to bite the bullet if I was to survive my own lifestyle and actually be productive and creative, so I hired my very own Dream Team: Feroz, Gatiep and Dollie, to help me with the overwhelming task of cleaning and painting. If I could locate my camera, I’d take a picture of them because, as I stagger and sway under the load of sorting out 34 boxes of fabric, 14 boxes of yarn, 8 years of teenage girl stuff, etc etc, these guys are jumping up ladders like monkeys and wielding rollers and brushes and singing as they go. It’s almost as if they’re enjoying it.  They certainly found it funny when a fossilised mouse was located way under my bed, and dust bunnies the size of warthogs.

So, I have nothing to show you. Perhaps you’ll like a pic of Rob and me taken at the Olive Festival this past weekend instead? You know how we like to model our products :-)


dare I use the f word?

I was a trader at a big event in Cape Town in February. In advance of the event, I read through the list of stallholders. Two other people would be selling hats, one as a reseller of mass-produced straw hats and fedoras, and one as a crafter selling her own makes.

During setting-up time, I introduced myself to the crafter and said I’d looked for her website or facebook page to view her stuff, but couldn’t find anything. She said she doesn’t advertise at all because she’s already so swamped with orders that she wouldn’t be able to cope if more people saw her products. Knowing the kinds of difficulties that a small hand-made production business faces, as I do, I was amazed and impressed by this. I couldn’t wait to see her hats, and thought perhaps I could even learn something from her.

The event opened, and I beetled off to ‘network’ as soon as I could. As I approached the row of stalls on the other side of the park, I saw a display of animal novelty hats and hoodies that I recognised from a school event last year, which stood out for their uniformity and unmistakable mass-produced nature and low prices. They are also readily available at various pavement stalls around Cape Town and in the Chinese shops.  So, no problem – you can buy and sell what you like. Good for you (and you’ll see below, I do it myself sometimes). — but it turns out that this was my fellow crafter! I greeted her and said something along the lines of wow, you’ve got quite a range here – are these the ones you make yourself? And she said Yes. And looked away.

I’m so mad that someone does this. Claiming cheap imports as your own work is – what? fraud? or just a big fat stupid insulting lie? And I don’t understand why someone would do this. There’s nothing illegal in being a reseller of hats, after all.  For a big event, working on my own, I’m not able to produce enough stock by my own hand.  I buy in about 30% of my stock, and either modify it by adding handmade flowers or a band or a crochet trim, or resell it as it is. If I haven’t made an entire item myself, I don’t put my label on it and pretend to have made it. I don’t not put a label on an item and pretend it’s my own work.  I point out which my own handmade items are, and which are not – and, frankly, the difference is very evident !!

I wrote this post a good few weeks ago, and was going through draft posts when I came across it and got all riled up again and decided to publish it. I’m trying to work out why I actually care about this – presumably Imported-Animal-Hat Woman wants people to think she is a creative genius, and what do I care if she is or isn’t?  People are still buying my hats and asking for special orders. There’s enough work to go around. Am I so morally above reproach that someone else’s lie rocks and jolts the foundations of my innately faultless nature? Um….no, hardly!!  hahaha    Is it because she’s just stupid and thinks everyone else is as well? Aha, could be that.

Okay, rant over. F is for fraud, by the way, not the four-letter word beginning with F and ending with K. But that too.