Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and Do

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Interview: creative mending with Flora Collingwood-Norris

Flora Collingwood-Norris is a knitwear designer and maker based in Galashiels in the Scottish Borders. She designs colourful knitted accessories and also offers a visible mending service. Her aim is both to create pieces of knitwear that last, and extend the life of others. Her knitwear is made either by herself on a vintage knitting machine in her studio or made in small batches at a local mill. She uses high quality natural fibres, mostly lambswool, that can last for decades if cared for well, and will biodegrade at the end of their life.

“My love of making started when I was very young. My mum started teaching me to knit, sew and embroider when I was six. I have lovely memories of sitting in the window of my granny’s workroom sewing with her. Every year my grandpa organised a large book fair, and he would pass any knitting and embroidery books on to me, and I would teach myself new techniques in my free time. During my time at university, I combined knit, crochet and embroidery in a lot of my work. I think the visible mending I’m doing now is a really practical and creative way of bringing some of that back into my work.”

The mending started after Flora got a puppy, an apricot cockapoo called Leni, with a taste for jumpers!

“She loved chewing on my sleeves, and suddenly I had a few quite holey pieces. I was aware that I would almost never be able to find an exact colour match for my mends, so decided I might as well make a feature of them. Over the last four years or so I’ve spent more and more time mending, exploring the creative side of it, and now offer a visible mending and creative knitwear repair service, as well as workshops, digital mending guides and darning wool. I always wanted to have repairs as part of my business, as the aim has always been to create pieces that are made to last, to encourage people to wear them for years and care for them- it just took me a few years to find a way of doing it that feels right to me!”

The first lockdown provided Flora with the opportunity to spend more time working through her mending pile, and tackling some of the more challenging pieces she had.

“I have quite a few old second-hand cashmere jumpers that I’ve been wearing for years, so lots of them needed a bit of care and attention. Visibly mending them has meant that they now feel like new pieces in my wardrobe, and I’m excited to start wearing them again.”

Flora has put together a tutorial showing exactly how to make mending a decorative statement, which you can find here. She also has a creative mending Instagram account with lots of examples for inspiration.

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This weekend the valleys were full of mist - great screeds of it swelling up as the afternoon lengthened and the air cooled.⁠⠀
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This is a rescue horse who now lives a couple of fields down - if I happen to be passing his gate around 4, he is up  stretching his over it, looking for friendly scratches and food. ⁠⠀
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A perfect time keeper.
It doesn't take much . . . . ⁠⠀
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These stems were picked in the five minute walk from the house to the Studio.⁠⠀
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A teasel head, some rusty dock seeds, a bleached shell of columbine, bright rose hips.⁠⠀
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None looked very promising outside but indoors, tucked into test tubes, they look wonderful.⁠⠀
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As they would in bottles . . . .⁠⠀
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The rose hips are the last of the berries to go from the hedges - the birds strip everything else as soon as it gets cold, the elders and rowans first, then the haws.⁠⠀
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Inspired by their bright longevity I have ordered a small clutch of rosa moyesii 'Geranium' - with their spectacular bottle shaped hips - to make an informal hedge down by the airstream.⁠⠀
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My plan is to plant them amongst crab apples to keep back the dull green march of the Scots broom. ⁠⠀
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I have honeysuckle in mind too.⁠⠀
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This is the Studio - nestled into the dip of the valley, surrounded by wild meadow and trees.⁠⠀
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At this time of year it is a cosy den, the stove lit, the fabrics piled up around me.⁠⠀
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Today I am finishing off some large embroidered wool cushions and sending out lots of craft kits in the post.
This was taken last week when we had snow. You can see Dixie’s dachshund toy abandoned in a drift.
A winding path, a bare tree reaching up, blue sky above ribbons of mist, patches of scruffy frost in the rough grass.⁠⠀
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I have walked this road more days than not this year.⁠⠀
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It never gets old.
I said I wasn't going to make a wreath this year.⁠⠀
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But then I saw one @talenamaria made on behalf of @jamjarflowers for the @papier Instagram feed and I was smitten.  The glorious mess of the hedgerow encapsulated in a twiggy ring.⁠⠀
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The birch twigs from further down the grid were still in the hall  and I had some dried hydrangeas left over . . . .⁠⠀
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(I also say I never watch video tutorials as I get distracted too easily and find that they are often too long - but Talena's is good and short and easy to watch and follow.)
A snowy gate, photographed last week, snow piled up on rungs and branches.⁠ ⠀
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I loved how the field on the other side was completely untouched. ⠀
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A fresh sheet of paper. ⠀
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A new week. ⠀
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If you want to make a little wool tree like this one the step by step instructions are now on my website - www.snapdragonlife.com.⁠⠀
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If you want it to look exactly like this one, you can also buy a kit with all the bits to make three trees ⁠⠀
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I first made these trees for a Country Living Fair in Glasgow back in the mid 2000s - raiding my button box for the decoration and dyeing old blankets for the wool. ⁠⠀
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Sometimes I still see the trees from that generation appear on people's Christmas windowsills and it makes me very happy.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

 

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