It's reassuring to know that while I was beavering away with all the christmas gifts, my friends were also busy crafting and creating on my behalf, resulting in some wonderful christmas and birthday presents for me! (Yes, I was a christmas baby - don't ever let anyone tell you that having your birthday and christmas all come at once is anything other than a great big pain in the backside)
But leaving that aside, let me show you a few of the gifts I received, and tell you a little about the crafters!
First up, check out this wonderful knitted sheep - a gift from my friend Dee who until a few months ago hadn't picked up knitting needles since childhood! She called on my help with a christening shawl which her terminally-ill mother had started knitting for the latest grandchild, and which Dee had been given the responsibility of finishing when her mother was unable to continue. At first Dee saw it as a duty to her mother, to carry out this final wish even though she could barely remember how to knit. But over the course of the evening she started to get the hang of it, and by the following day she was hooked! This gorgeous little sheep is just one of a growing menagerie which includes more sheep, pigs, and even a knitted John Deere tractor. I have demanded photos of the latter, the only knitted tractor I know of.
My friendship with Sally dates back several decades to the days when we went to the same school and lived five minutes' walk apart (our parents still do!). As well as being in full-time employment and mother to two scarily well-adjusted teenage boys, she is a baker extraordinaire as she proved with her beautifully-presented gifts. The spicey christmas biscuits shown above were a joint effort by Sally and her youngest son; I didn't get a photo of the packet of biscotti she also brought (they didn't last long enough!) and she also proved a worthy competitor in the technique of chutney-making. She feared she was bringing coals to Newcastle, but her spicey chutney was very different to my own home-made versions, and made a tasty contrast.
Lisa and I have been friends for almost as long, and I was particularly delighted to be the first recipient of her handcrafted jewellery. She has been taking evening classes in silversmithing for about 18 months now and has developed a very personal style which comes through clearly in these gorgeous earrings. It's lovely to see how much she sparkles when she talks about her jewellery making, it's obvious that she has found a craft that she can really connect with. Much as I'd love to convert everyone in the world to knitting, it's so much more fun when everyone does different things - much greater potential in terms of gifts for a start!
One of my closest friends, my walking buddy and long-time sufferer of my appalling jokes and bad puns is Gareth, who also gave me a very touching gift. There's no picture since it would be a photo of a photo, which would somehow feel a bit wrong and perhaps even insulting to the original photo! He gave me a lovely print of a photo he took when we spent the weekend at the Folkestone Triennial arts festival last year; a picture of a faded building on the seafront which looked like it had been created for the label 'ripe for redevelopment'. Not only is it a great photograph, it brought back lovely memories of our weekend, which was blessed by lucky weather and full of laughter and good food (oh and art of course). Gareth makes his living through photography, but this hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for his art one little bit and he is rarely seen without a camera secreted somewhere about his person. Check out his other work on his blog, including some photos of our new year South Downs yomp!
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