Farewell 2016 (or the shite year that woz, leaving a legacy and street/river art arrives in Bishop’s Stortford)

Hello Blogland. Over the next week or so I’m sure you will be inundated with annual roundups and messages of new year resolutions so I thought I’d get in there early in order to draw a line well and truly through this frightful year and focus fully on the new challenges that 2017 will present. Despite the title (and of course you will already be fully aware of my leanings in this matter) I am leaving politics out of this post so please do read on.

This morning’s dog jog gave me some quiet time to muse over the latest sadness to hit our social media streams today, that of the death of yet another of the performers who, along with Prince and David Bowie, formed the musical backdrop to my teenage years. RIP George Michael.  Personally I don’t remember a year of celebrity loss that has been so affecting and I am wondering whether it is because of my age (i.e. I am older therefore statistically those entertainers and musicians who were significant to me whilst I was growing up are also older and therefore more at risk), or whether the rise of Celebrity and social media have made us feel both like we know these people personally because they live their lives under a spot light, and links us to others who are mourning their passing thereby generating almost a sense of self promoting “hysteria” when faced with news of the death of someone most of us have never met (apologies to any actual psychologists out there, these ramblings are purely personal musings and not an attempt to explain anything scientifically). Of course it could also be that 2016 was the year of unprecedented loss that we actually think it was.

Of course, regular readers of my blog will also be aware that I said goodbye to two very important men from my personal life this year and those of you in similar situations will sympathise with how family and friend centred celebrations such as Christmas can highlight these bereavements. So where am I going with this post I hear you ask. There is a link between loss from this year and planning for next. As you may have gathered from previous posts, I don’t do New Year resolutions as these tend to be statements of intent with no real planning and are therefore often doomed to failure. However, I do find the end of a year a great time to focus on what went well/didn’t go so well in the year I am about to leave and let these feed the goals for the one ahead. A planning technique that has been brought to my attention recently is the use of a word to guide, inspire and motivate. I have been struggling to come up with a single word for my business planning but have come up with a word to guide my life generally inspired by a letter that I read from an old work colleague of my Dad’s in response to the news of his passing. The first word that this man, like so many other people who interacted with Dad used to describe him, was “kind” (“I remember him as such a kind man”). While he may not have had a wide circle of social interaction, particularly after his retirement, I find it so moving that those people who did share him with us did not refer to his achievements, material possessions, hobbies etc but instead used this somewhat mild and greatly undervalued adjective to sum him up. While those celebrities we have lost this year leave behind them memories of their respective talents through their fame, music, writing and entertainment, for me, to leave “kind” as a legacy is such a noble and worthwhile thing to aspire to so for 2017 and beyond, my motivation shall be the word “kind”.

Right, bitter sweet indulgences over, here are some pictures to brighten up this post. While pulling into Bishop’s Stortford station last week I noticed some rather colourful and attractive graffiti so armed with Mum and her crazy Labradoodlepoodle, we went on a photography treasure hunt along the River Stort to find out more. And here they are.

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Ella and Mum duck watching

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Bright and colourful wall decoration 

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Still wondering how they did this, from a boat perhaps (no path on that side of the river)

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Decoration on a warehouse wall

I have so much wonderful visual inspiration from my treasure hunt I can’t wait to get started on some work. In the meantime, goodbye 2016. I (and many others) will remember you but not so fondly.

Wishing you all a healthy, happy, peaceful 2017. I’ll see you on the other side……….

The “C” word (or being ahead of the curve for the first time and a little bit of bling brightens up the day).

Hello blog land (Mum), it’s been a while, but what a productive while it has been and I am feeling just a little bit smug. For the first time I have Christmas designs before November and am now a little bit embarrassed to mention them for fear of offending some of you lovely people who find the “C” word used before December highly offensive.

There was a reason to be super prepared this year (and not least because I only managed a hand full of Christmas cards last year which sold out within two days of receiving them back from the printers) as I have a stand at the Let’s Make Christmas event on the 20th November at the Ashcroft Arts Centre. So, with these festivities in mind I have been beavering away to produce some new stitch kit designs which thoroughly embrace the season with red and white, blue and white and a little bit of bling (although personally I would be happy to stitch in these threads at any time of year but then I also have fairy lights on in my kitchen all year round).

So here they are. First up is Christmas Kitty Skittle, which takes one of my most popular stitch kit designs and reworks it in folk patterns and gold highlights.

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Christmas Kitty Skittle  limited edition embroidery kit by Nicky Barfoot

The next kit design is Sam, a new character to add to the collection, who is dreaming of the treats Santa will be bringing him on Christmas morning.

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Sam limited edition embroidery kit by Nicky Barfoot

And of course I had to include a canine character and this one is modelled on my favourite muse.

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Seasonal Sas limited edition embroidery kit by Nicky Barfoot

I shall have these kits with me at the Ashcroft Centre if you are planning on coming along but for those unable to partake of the fun I have also listed the cats in my Etsy shop with Sas to follow in the next few days.

So, that’s it for now folks. I’ve got some very exciting stitching on the hoop at the moment which I can’t tell you about just yet. More on this in a future post so until then……..

A Christmas themed legend: Nisse and Tomte

As promised in my previous post and in the spirit of Christmas, I would like to share a little research I have done recently regarding the legend of the Nisse and Tomte. Thoroughly ignorant of Scandinavian folklore the existence of these beings was only brought to my attention during a recent West Dean workshop, sadly not because I managed to see one myself but because one of the other attendees created a fantastical sculpture of one and I was prompted to do a little reading.

Both the nisse (usually Norwegian and derived from the name Nils which is the Scandinavian form of “Nicholas”) and tomte (usually Swedish and a word for “homestead man”) are small (anything from a few inches up to 3ft tall as legend has it), solitary, domestic sprites who look after and protect farmsteads and are responsible for the care and welfare of the farm animals. They have long white beards and wear colourful clothes, often red. They are known as “gift bearers” and are therefore considered to be one of the Swedish and Norwegian versions of Santa Claus although not the same thing. While they appear to be caring workaholics who have a particular fondness for pigs, legend has it that they are not easily managed, do not tolerate interference or rudeness from the humans they work for and have a reputation for throwing their toys out of the pram if they don’t get a bowl of Christmas porridge (with butter) on Christmas Eve (sounds a little like me when I used to work in an office environment!) Woe betide any human who does offend one of these beings as their retributions range from small pranks, to killing livestock, and packing their bags and leaving (a sure way to ensure your farm becomes a failure and you are resigned to a life of poverty!).

These sprites appear to have little respect for human law and social niceties, and are not beyond stealing from neighbours to aid the prosperity of the farm in which they are currently residing (so where exactly did that gift come from?). There are also stories of people being driven mad by these mischievous sprites and of poisonous bites resulting in death if magical healing isn’t quickly received. It is also thought that they may be spirits of previous generations who resided in the homestead and possibly represent the “soul” of the first inhabitor.

Looking at modern, popular images of nisse/tomte, they remind me of the painted gnomes that my grandparents used to have in their garden, all rosy cheeked and jolly. However, reading some of the stories about them, I am visualising a more sinister character and I rather like this depiction “Nisse” by Johan Thomas Lundbye (1842).

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Some of you (particularly if you are Scandinavian!) may be more familiar with these legends than myself so please feel free to comment below if you have anything to add.  As my regular readers will be aware I find myth and legend fascinating and am always keen to learn more.

I am now settling in for a relaxing Christmas break of knitting, audiobooks and a bit of naughty food and drink. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your company in 2014 and to wish you all a happy holiday and a creative 2015.

“Caught on Calico”

Apologies to those of you who don’t “do” Christmas until December, but I couldn’t wait any longer to show you my 2014 Christmas card designs.  These three hand embroidered doggy doodles all show dogs (and cats in two of them) caught doing something naughty (hence the name of the series “Caught on Calico”) in a Christmas setting.  The names of the cards are: “The Christmas Party”, “Wreck the Halls” and “The Night before Christmas”. No prizes for guessing which title belongs to which doodle.

"embroidered Christmas doggy doodles"

Nicky Barfoot 2014 Christmas card designs: “Caught on Calico”

These embroideries have been transferred to printed cards for me by Moo on their lovely 340gsm paper.  They are for sale and are proving to be so popular I’m on my second print run.  If you have doggy mad friends or relatives who would appreciate a limited edition art card for Christmas, I’ll have them with me at the Harrogate Knit and Stitch show (20 to 23 November) so do come find me on stand A600 where I will once again be exhibiting my knitted dog heads as a finalist in the UK Hand Knitting Association’s Knitted Textile Awards.  Hope to see some of you next week.

Pink Poodles

I have just put the finishing touches to a new cushion.  Pink Poodles is hand knitted in a mixture of luxury yarns including cotton and bamboo wool blends, and linen.  Available to buy in my shop it would make a perfect Christmas present for a doggy person.  Tres Chic?

"Nicky Barfoot pink poodle cushion"

Hand knitted cushion in luxury yarns, including cotton, bamboo, wool and linen.