Posts Tagged ‘Leeds’

Well! I’m back!!!!!!

And thankfully with a clear head; Rested, focussed and busier than ever after a short break en Ecosse with Mr OH and the bullies of the bus – Even though Scotland was a tad damp at times to say the least it was still aΒ well earned bit of time out after a hectic few months…… πŸ˜‰

On the old Edinburgh road in our trusty T5. There is a mountain hiding away under that low lying cloud - Honest!

On the old Edinburgh road in our trusty T5. There is a mountain hiding away under that low lying cloud – Honest!

So, let’s have a recap and look back at what flattened my batteries for a while…..

Firstly, there was an invitation back in early March for me to take part in an event called ‘The Handmade Alternative’ in Bradford, West Yorkshire; The brainchild of Jane Wynn of Wildheart. It was her vision to bring together a whole host of independent designers, artists and craftspeople who cater for alternative tastes and showcase their work in a fabulous pop-up shop in Bradford city centre. An idea that proved to be incredibly popular and was much welcomed by a whole host of customers eager to sample the assorted wares on offer.

I took the opportunity to debut a collection of alternative baby wear I’d been working hard on – skulls, crossbones, zombie bunnies, kitties and Game of Thrones inspired goodies.

Even the tiniest of tots can look uber cool - Appliqued  baby bodysuit featuring a sugar skull and crossbones design.

Even the tiniest of tots can look uber cool – Appliqued baby bodysuit featuring a sugar skull and crossbones design.

Faux tie baby bodysuit with hot pink skull detail.

Faux tie baby bodysuit with hot pink skull detail.

Zombie Kitty!

Zombie Kitty!

Zombie Bunny - Go on! Give him a cuddle; I dare you!

Zombie Bunny – Go on! Give him a cuddle; I dare you!

Awwwwh! So cute :)

Awwwwh! So cute πŸ™‚

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I loved making this custom design over and over again using ditsy florals, vintage Seventies prints and classic polka dots.

I loved making this custom design over and over again using ditsy florals, vintage Seventies prints and classic polka dots.

This applique design looks great when used on covered notebooks too ;)

This applique design looks great when used on covered notebooks too πŸ˜‰

The Handmade Alternative was due to run for the first two weeks in April and even before it opened for business I had already begun work on another project for an event taking place on May 4th in a shop called Kyro, at Morley Market, Leeds. Talk about there being no rest for the wicked!

Now there are probably those of you out there currently reading this blog post that will instantly recognise the significance of this date; Likewise, there’ll be a fair few that would see it as just another day…….

May 4th? It’s Star Wars Day!!!!! An event I need no prompting to take part in or promote πŸ˜‰ So…………… lots of Amigurumi Star Wars characters courtesy of Lucy Ravenscar’s fabulous designs , a few ideas for more appliqued goodies …….. and a chance to come face to face with the Darkside!!!!!

Possibly the cutest Jedi master you're ever likely to meet!

Possibly the cutest Jedi master you’re ever likely to meet!

Luke & Leia - Designs courtesy of Lucy Ravenscar.

Luke & Leia – Designs courtesy of Lucy Ravenscar.

Wicket the Ewok - Design courtesy of Lucy Ravenscar.

Wicket the Ewok – Design courtesy of Lucy Ravenscar.

Beware - Jawa!!!!!

Beware – Jawa!!!!!

Ben 'Obi Wan' Kenobi - Design courtesy of Lucy Ravenscar.

Ben ‘Obi Wan’ Kenobi – Design courtesy of Lucy Ravenscar.

Stormtrooper Applique design worked in my own inimitable style - For an adult t-shirt option.

Stormtrooper Applique design worked in my own inimitable style – For an adult t-shirt option.

Darth Vader - On baby bodysuits through to adult t-shirts and hoodies!

Darth Vader – On baby bodysuits through to adult t-shirts and hoodies!

The little green guy was definitely a popular choice with the customers.

The little green guy was definitely a popular choice with the customers.

All in all it was a great day at Morley Market – with over Β£400 raised for charity πŸ˜‰ Everyone entered in to the spirit of the event with opportunities to have your photo taken with Darth Vader, assorted stormtroopers, Chewie etc, children’s fancy dress, tombola and loads of other activities. Traders got dressed up too and had a whale of a time; It was brilliant!!!!

Smile for the camera!

Smile for the camera!

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Chewie guards my little amigurumi figures - But still folks couldn't keep their hands off of them! Need; Want; Must Have!

Chewie guards my little amigurumi figures – But still folks couldn’t keep their hands off of them! Need; Want; Must Have!

That time when the paperwork needs doing - Even the Darkside has to engage in the odd bit of admin from time to time ;)

That time when the paperwork needs doing – Even the Darkside has to engage in the odd bit of admin from time to time πŸ˜‰

The traders really entered in to the spirit of things.....

The traders really entered in to the spirit of things…..

As did the customers.........

As did the customers………

Sherridan of Hellraiser Records succumbs to Vader's mind tricks.

Sherridan of Hellraiser Records succumbs to Vader’s mind tricks.

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Darth interrogates a likely member of the Rebellion.

Darth interrogates a likely member of the Rebellion.

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The next event has been planned - Super Heroes Day!!!!!

The next event has been planned – Super Heroes Day!!!!!

Phew! And finally……….. on the same date that I had really bad news (blogged about in an earlier post) I had started the day on a high after a meeting with a potential new stockist of some of my goodies that confirmed I had a little spot in a prime retail space in the heart of Leeds city centre.

So……….. the last few weeks has seen me working hard to create wonderful things worthy of a place in ‘The Handpicked Hall’, with a regular weekly slot for me to ply my wares and the opportunity to come and say ‘Hello’ in person :0)

Needless to say that a lot of my current designs have focussed on a strong VW theme and notions of summer festivals and glamping trips – lots still under wraps for the big unveil but here’s a few snippets to hopefully whet the appetite…..

Stylised bay window camper applique design - for adult tees and hoodies.

Stylised bay window camper applique design – for adult tees and hoodies.

Essential home accents for the budding VW enthusiast.

Essential home accents for the budding VW enthusiast.

Teeny weeny bug applique on a baby bodysuit.

Teeny weeny bug applique on a baby bodysuit.

T25 Hi-Top inspired adult ladies' tee.

T25 Hi-Top inspired adult ladies’ tee.

VW themed faux tie baby bodysuit.

VW themed faux tie baby bodysuit.

Add a little Glastonbury glamour to your wardrobe with a dippy hippy flower corsage ;)

Add a little Glastonbury glamour to your wardrobe with a dippy hippy flower corsage πŸ˜‰

Crikey! No wonder I needed a bit of a break………

Now that this week’s blog post has been written and can be ticked off of my usual long list of stuff to do it’s time for me to go and make something lovely for the rest of the day……….. DEFINITELY no rest for the wicked πŸ˜‰ Β Oh well, Happy crafting folks!

Have you ever heard that saying? It actually refers to the weather in March – Big, bold, huge and roaring at the beginning of the month and meek and mild towards the end. Spring is nearly here!

Not that you would have thought it when Mr Other Half and I went shopping in Leeds city centre a few weeks back………….. and ended up having a rather splendid adventure that neither of us had expected. Here’s what happened………..

The Observation Wheel - Leeds

The Observation Wheel – Leeds

The plan was to visit Leeds Kirkgate Market so that I could replenish vital supplies of fabric, thread and sewing machine oil whilst Mr Other Half diverted his attentions to devouring a platter of fresh oysters. All bases were set to be covered as we’re lucky enough to have the biggest indoor market in Europe right on the doorstep; Our mission was clear and simple……..Β Or so we thought.

And everything would have been perfectly straightforward, had it not been for the erection of a huge Ferris wheel right outside the main market hall doors just a few days before our visit………

On first spotting this Mr OH’s eyes lit up. …………Β ‘Let’s have a go.’ says he,

”I think not!’ said me………….

It's rather tall!

It’s rather tall!

Less than a minute later I was dragged nearly kicking and screaming to take my place in the queue of people waiting patiently to ride on the aforesaid beast whilst Mr OH reassured me that there was nothing to be worried about – despite my great reluctance and even greater fear of heights …… To add insult to injury, it started to snow. I was not exactly happy!

Our carriage awaited....

Our carriage awaited….

Very soon the wheel slowed to a halt as people got off and the next folks got on – this included us. I was absolutely terrified!

Shakily, I made my way into the carriage and then sunk my nails deep in to Mr Other Half’s bulging biceps in sheer panic at the thought of our ascent before starting to squeal rather loudly to register my displeasure with the situation!!!!

We started to move…..

The beginning of the ascent.....

The beginning of the ascent…..

I sat shaking……. whimpering……… shivering…….. 😦

Mr OH clicked the commentary button to try and distract me – I did my best Β to listen to a rather amusing, potted history of the fair city of Leeds whilst all the while practising deep breathing techniques in an aid to keep calm……… although I have to admit I may have sworn a few times when my breaths obviously weren’t quite deep enough πŸ˜‰

Getting higher!

Getting higher!

Flipping 'eck!!!!!!

Flipping ‘eck!!!!!!

Mr OH pointed out the emergency escape ladders as further means of reassurance…….

If it all goes wrong they expect me to climb out on to those ladders to make my escape to safety.....

If it all goes wrong they expect me to climb out on to those ladders to make my escape to safety…..

I was still not happy!!!!!!! We went up, and up, and up……..

Right at the very top - The man in the carriage next to us was having a whale of a time.

Right at the very top – The man in the carriage next to us was having a whale of a time.

For a few moments we seemed to come to a complete halt….. the snow flurried, the wind howled, the carriage rocked alarmingly! A panic button was spotted on the control panel…….

Making the descent........

Making the descent……..

I know what you’re thinking at this point; You are very much mistaken!!!!!!!!

There was something very reassuring about knowing we were no longer in the highest position and were heading down towards terra firma.

There was something very reassuring about knowing we were no longer in the highest position and were heading down towards terra firma.

It wasn’t me who hit the button; Mr OH had had enough!!!!!

Mr OH makes a hasty departure - He got in like a lion and left like a rather speedy lamb; Haven't seen him move this quick in ages!

Mr OH makes a hasty departure – He got in like a lion and left like a rather speedy lamb; Haven’t seen him move this quick in ages!

Like the girl in ‘Jurassic Park’ I sat in stunned silence; ‘He left me!!!!!’

Then it was up again for a second time, ALL BY MYSELF, whilst watching the not so brave one complete his escape.

Off he goes!

Off he goes!

He stops in a moment to look up and wave ;)

He stops in a moment to look up and wave πŸ˜‰

The weirdest thing about all of this was the fact that I wasn’t a bit bothered; I’d actually settled in and was enjoying the ride. I even managed to swap over to the other side of the carriage to get a more panoramic view of things, laughing loudly at my cowardly counterpart who was now sat watching and waving whilst indulging in a steadying cigarette to calm his frazzled nerves.

Had the weather been a little better the views over the city  would have been magnificent.

Had the weather been a little better the views over the city would have been magnificent.

Leeds Kirkgate Market - Largest in Europe. This is the colour coded outside market with the roof of the lower market hall  in the bottom tight of the picture.

Leeds Kirkgate Market – Largest in Europe. This is the colour coded outside market with the roof of the lower market hall in the right of the picture.

Nearly back on solid ground after the third revolution of the wheel......

Nearly back on solid ground after the third revolution of the wheel……

Finally, the ride came to an end….. Dare I say that I had enjoyed it? Yep, I really did! I want to go on it again when the sun is shining!!!! Don’t think Mr OH can be persuaded to join me though………..

Oh well!

Did I get everything I went shopping for? Absolutely! And Did Mr OH get his oysters………?

Fresh Oysters at Hayes, Leeds Kirkgate Market.

Fresh Oysters at Hayes, Leeds Kirkgate Market.

The Observation Wheel at Leeds – What an adventure!

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I’m being a bit quiet again aren’t I? Let’s remedy that right now!

Tusky - Weird stuff in't it?

Tusky (rhubarb) – Weird stuff in’t it?

In truth I’ve been a bit busy with the old sewing machine type thing recently. Lots of ideas to try out, plenty of lovely things to be made and then a rather odd request from a friend this morning……….

‘Can you make me something to wear in my jacket lapel this weekend?’ said he, ‘ It’s the rhubarbfest and I want to be suitably attired. I know you’ll come up with the goods. Help; Please!!!!!!!’

Well how can you resist such a polite ‘ask’? I know I couldn’t…….. πŸ˜‰

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And what is this ‘Rhubarbfest’? Why would someone be wanting a rhubarb related accessory so desperately?

Now would probably be a good time to go make yourself a coffee before you kick off your shoes, sit back and listen to my little tale. Let me try to explain the reason behind his predicament……

Forcing rhubarb - Listen carefully and you can hear it growing.

Forcing rhubarb – Listen carefully and you can hear it growing.

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I’ve mentioned at least once that I live in Leeds; A biggish city located in the heart of West Yorkshire. What I may not have mentioned before though is that this was once part of a mighty empire – The Rhubarb Triangle!

The Rhubarb Triangle - Not quite the same as it's Bermuda counterpart, but possibly just as strange.....

The Rhubarb Triangle – Not quite the same as its Bermuda counterpart, but possibly just as strange…..

Geographically, this triangular plot of land covered an area of about 30 square miles and united the major conurbations of Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield in the production of 90% of all rhubarb grown in Britain – if not the world! When the industry was at its height, up to 200 tonnes of this weird and wonderful vegetable would be transported to the nation’s capital on a daily basis via the ‘Rhubarb Express’, a train service created specifically to get the product to market quickly and efficiently to meet the phenomenally high demand for it – Rhubarb grown in the ‘triangle’ rapidly became known for its exceptional quality and some would say that traditionally forced Yorkshire Rhubarb did for the rhubarb industry what champagne did for the wine industry.

Yorkshire forced rhubarb - packed into baskets and ready for market.

Yorkshire forced rhubarb – packed into baskets and ready for market.

And why did it grow so well in this little triangle of ours?

‘The soil was good; there were plentiful
and cheap supplies of coal to heat the forcing sheds; there
was lots of manure and composting material available from
the horse-drawn traffic of the town, the sewage works and
slaughterhouses, and particularly the woollen mills for shoddy
and other by-products all of which contributed nitrogen. And
the climate was perfect for rhubarb. A touch of frost in the
autumn would get the roots into top condition for bringing on
in the sheds.’

an extract from ‘Rhubarbaria’ by Mary Prior. Prospect Books 2009

Champagne Rhubarb wit the 'Grown in Yorkshire' endorsement :)

Champagne Rhubarb with the ‘Grown in Yorkshire’ endorsement πŸ™‚

This ‘forcing’ that I speak of – Sounds a bit barbaric doesn’t it? Let me explain……..

The main growing season for Yorkshire Rhubarb is in the depths of Winter. The whole process starts outside and then gets moved into huge, low ceilinged, candlelit sheds – here it’s much warmer and the rhubarb plants are fooled into thinking that Spring has arrived; They start to grow in this near darkness producing long, pale pink stalks with a delicate taste – Champagne Rhubarb; Available from late December through to the end of March.

Grown in candlelight and harvested in candellight -the traditional way to pick forced rhubarb.

Grown in candlelight and harvested in candellight -the traditional way to pick forced rhubarb.

And who came up with this marvellous idea of ‘forcing’ rhubarb to grow in purpose built sheds at odd times of the year? That would be Joseph Whitwell of Kirkstall – In 1877 he was documented as being the first person to have the idea of building sheds that would be solely used for growing this magnificent vegetable. And all that happened less than five minutes away from where I now live!!!!!

As children, my mum and dad would take us on long rambling walks to various places in the locality. A popular stopping off point on the way back home from our adventures was nearly always the rhubarb field just a short trek down the road from where we lived for a spot of ‘Tusky kipping’ – pilfering stalks of rhubarb to take back home and make into a pie, crumble or just to dip raw into sugar and munch until you had stomache ache! Who would have thought that we could have been nibbling on the remnants of an important piece of local history?

This photo was taken in the early seventies and shows the edge of the rhubarb field we used to love pilfering from. The structure in the distance is Marshall's Tower - part of Kirkstall Abbey. I grew up within spitting distance of this and still live only five minutes away :)

This photo was taken in the early seventies and shows the edge of the rhubarb field that we used to raid as kids. The structure in the distance is Marshall’s Tower – part of Kirkstall Abbey. I grew up within spitting distance of this and still live only five minutes away – but now on the opposite side of the River Aire πŸ™‚

Sadly, I don’t remember any forcing sheds from my younger days – they were probably already long gone. Eventually the tusky field made way for lettuce crops before the land was purchased by Leeds Metropolitan University. These days it’s mainly used as a training ground for our city Rugby team, The Leeds Rhinos. Not a single sign exists that would indicate that it was once the hub of a thriving industry 😦

I read somewhere that the only way to go when you’re at the height of your success is down; This appears to have been the case for Yorkshire forced rhubarb. Once a staple food for so many, it saw a decline during the second world war when sugar became an increasingly scarce commodity – Rhubarb needs sugar to make it more palatable! With the opening up of overseas trade and an increase in the number of imports of exotic fruit and vegetables during the fifties and sixties the deal was finally sealed. Rhubarb was no longer King! Businesses closed and land was sold; The once mighty empire shrunk considerably and now covers a mere 9 square miles of land between Morley, Rothwell and Wakefield.

When Rhubarb was King!

When Rhubarb was King!

But all is not lost! On 25 February 2010, Champagne Rhubarb grown in the triangle was awarded protected status under the product name of ‘Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb’. Basically, if it’s not been grown in that tiny little plot of just 9 square miles then it hasn’t earned it’s stripes πŸ˜‰

These days, the forcing sheds at Wakefield have become a bit of a tourist attraction and every February there’s a Rhubarb festival in the city to honour and celebrate the once mighty vegetable. This year, the festival takes place between 22nd and 24th February; Hence the eleventh hour request for a rhubarb related accessory for my friend who plans to attend the event πŸ™‚

You can find out more about the festival here:

http://www.experiencewakefield.co.uk/events/FoodDrinkRhubarb.aspx

And finally, what of that rhubarb related accessory? Did I manage to ‘come up with the goods’? I don’t know; You decide πŸ˜‰

Free motion machine embroidered, Rhubarb themed applique; Crossed stems of Rhubarb against a heart shaped background. The perfect rhubarb themed accessory for the gentleman around town to wear in his lapel!

Free motion machine embroidered, Rhubarb themed applique; Crossed stems of Rhubarb against a heart shaped background. The perfect rhubarb themed accessory for the gentleman around town to wear in his lapel!

Phew! We’re back in one piece but in desperate need of a nice hot bath after four days of hard core camping.

A quick set up of the tent on Thursday…

The trade tent; Bursting at the seams with fabulous goodies as usual πŸ˜‰

Followed by a nice relaxing walk around the grounds of Harewood House the following morning to look at the birds and admire the gardens…

The Courtyard at Harewood House; A great place to grab a cup of coffee and a nice slice of cake.

All finished off by a bite to eat in the Courtyard…

Lemon drizzle cake for me; Coffee & Walnut for Mr Other Half πŸ™‚

It was a great weekend with lots of new faces and a fair few familiar ones stopping by to say ‘Hello!’ ; A fantastic bunch of folks as usual πŸ˜‰

Now that bath of mine is just about ready……… more piccies to follow tomorrow πŸ˜‰