Wednesday, 29 February 2012


This post is just an excuse for another playlist and to talk about one of my favourite jewellery designers for a bit. However, if you haven't seen serial superlative-surpasser Carrie Brownstein's show, here's a taster:

Someone else who makes a living from putting birds on things (but in a less deranged way) is designer Helen Shere. She works almost entirely in silver, and cuts and stamps designs into small but perfectly formed pendants, rings, earrings and bangles. I love the simplicity of her jewellery and clever Dave bought me one of her necklaces for Christmas a couple of years back.

Although her work predominantly takes its inspiration from nature - think plants, foxes, trees etc. - I also love these these tiny house earrings and this 'leave room for cake' ring. I'd buy the lot if I had the money, but I don't, so I'll sit here looking wistful instead and listen to this playlist:

1. I Like Birds - Eels
2. Black Swan - Thom Yorke
3. Pigeon - Maps & Atlases
4. Crane Your Neck - Lady Lamb the Beekeeper
5. Take the Box - Amy Winehouse 
6. Two Doves - Dirty Projectors
7. Easy to Be Around - Diane Cluck
8. Steak for Chicken - The Moldy Peaches
9. Vulture - Micachu & The Shapes
10. Bird - The Knife

Saturday, 25 February 2012


Earlier in the month, I wrote about my small-scale ambitions for the year, one of which was knitting socks. I am pleased to announce that I am now the proud creator of my first pair!

Overall, I found it surprisingly straight forward. I'd read so many things online saying how turning the heel is feared by those new to sock-knitting and, whilst in the same breath they'd insist it was nothing to worry about, the idea became a self-fulfilling prophecy in so much as I thought there must be some foundation to this anxiety. Because I am young and a bit impressionable, I instinctively became a little terrified. Fortunately, turning the heel really isn't the part to worry about. No, it's the bit immediately afterwards when you have to join it all back together again.

Fortunately, there's plenty of instructions and videos around to set you back on track when your confidence wanes. I also found it really helpful to keep notes of what I was doing to ensure the two socks were as identical as I could make them.

After having a gander round online, I settled on this 'Crusoe' stranded stitch pattern on Knitty. The resulting socks are more-or-less a size 4, which is perfect for me/my sister, but could be a little tricky if your feet are of the size of any normal adult. Admittedly I didn't test my gauge, but I still used the larger pattern and there does seem to be a bit of a consensus online that it comes up rather small. But as I said, with our child-feet that wasn't really a problem, and it's an easy enough pattern to increase (you just need to work in multiples of four).

I used King Cole's ZigZag 4ply (shade 745, apparently) which cost me £6 for 100g/493 yards/448 metres. I was slightly surprised by the price (probably because I'm a bit of a stinge) but it's worth bearing in mind that I've not even used half of this, so plenty left to make another pair. The more I knit, the more I realise that you don't always do it to make something that costs less (especially if you're partial to soft, fancy wool) but to create something that's more than just the sum of its parts. This is a case in point - I don't think I'd ever buy a £3 pair of socks as an impromptu gift (bit weird on several levels), but making a pair for the same price seems like a smart thing to do. It's not too ostentatious, but just big enough that you know there's been some real effort put into them.

So, verdict on making socks: good. They're really satisfying to knit and exactly the right size project to keep your interest piqued throughout (I finished these in a week without too much effort). I could also feel myself improving as they progressed, which is always nice. So don't be afraid, try socks today! A-thank you.

Thursday, 23 February 2012


I've got some more substantial posts on the way, but I thought I'd just share this first:

The band are called Widowspeak and the song above is the opening track on their self-titled debut album, which was released last year. I bought a copy a couple of weeks ago and it's ace. They build up songs brilliantly and this track in particular makes me feel like such a don when I'm marching around town.

One article I read drew comparisons to Mazzy Star and Cat Power, which is mega kudos in my book. They're clearly very influenced by the sound of the 90s, no more apparent than in singer Molly Hamilton's too-cool-for-school vocals, which are layered beautifully with heavy reverb and busy, trebly guitars. They actually really remind me of the Howling Bells or, rather, what the Howling Bells might've sounded like if they'd been trendy Brooklyn hipsters (in a good way).

The one criticism I could make of the album is that, whilst Widowspeak clearly know how to layer and build songs, the shoegazey style of the vocals sometimes comes across a little too impassive, which occasionally causes the build-ups to fall a bit flat. As a listener, I got slightly frustrated at times because the band seemed almost too cool and detached; in tracks like 'Harsh Realm', for instance, i just wished Hamilton could've sounded a bit more... pained?

These are pretty minor grumbles though - the whole album is very smart and I'd love to see it live. I also really like the Rennie Macintosh-influenced cover art, which definitely fits well with the sense of nostalgia Widowspeak's sound evokes.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


Eggs! Flour! Milk!

Make lovely pancakes today!

Ironically for a cake fiend as myself, growing up, I couldn't actually eat pancakes because I was allergic to eggs. Not to be deterred, my Mum would make chapatis instead which, while not quite as pliable as the real thing, made a really good substitute, especially when dredged with the usual sugar and lemon combo.

I rarely cook pancakes outside of Shrove Tuesday (I am rubbish at not burning them), but I remember having them quite a lot when I was in Russia a few years ago. Whilst in Irkutsk, the girl we were staying with made some for breakfast one day. This prompted us to explain that, in the UK, we usually eat them drizzled with lemon juice and sprinkled with sugar. She nodded, and proceeded to roll full slices of lemon, rind and all, into her pancake. Obviously not convinced that this was a pleasant way to enjoy them, she managed a polite smile, while at the same time clearly making a mental note to ignore all future culinary suggestions from her English guests.

Whatever. Here's to a flippin' good pancake day!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


You're probably sick of Valentine's Day themed posts already. I definitely am. But I'd like to think that the focus of this will be something a little more absorbing than giant balloons and washi tape love hearts.

This post is inspired by some graffiti that's become a bit of a monument in Sheffield. I first saw it whilst having a nosey round one of the city's most famous constructions - Park Hill - as part of a module I was studying at the time. Today, it's a Grade II listed building - supposedly the largest in Europe - being partially redeveloped by über-trendy Urban Splash, but the estate has gained a bit of a reputation over the years. Built between 1957 and 1961, it replaced the neglected tenements common in pre-war Britain, rife with crime and poverty, with 'streets in the sky' - aspirational, modern living spaces with front terraces wide enough to drive a milk float down.

The area went into serious decline with the financial recession and dwindling industry of the 80s and 90s, and once again became notorious for its high levels of crime. Although council housing, the local authority had real problems tenanting the flats and it wasn't until 1998 when the Grade II listing was awarded that the area began to see its fortunes reverse.

When I visited the partially-derelict site in early 2010, one of the things that struck me was the sheer number and density of empty flats and how, most poignantly, all of these had once been homes. Not to get all sentimental, but seeing curtains still hanging from some of the windows and television aerials and satellite dishes still strapped onto balconies was really disquieting.

Aside from the distant hum of the renovation works, the area was totally silent and, on such a sunny day, the peace of the whole place felt weirdly out of sync when you consider the number of people that have lived here over the last fifty years.

But it wasn't a history lesson that I wanted to give you! Well, a little one. But whilst this is all essential knowledge, the focus of this post is not the buildings but something which was written on them. Look closely at the photo below! Do you see the two walkways stretching between the buildings? Good. Can you make out the graffiti on the top one? No?

Well, don't worry, because I took a closer one for you:


I'd forgotten all about it until I heard a documentary on Radio 4 over the summer; it's still available to listen to online here. They try to find the couple behind the graffiti and the story it reveals is incredibly  poignant (even if the presenter's enthusiasm verges on fetishism at times).

Urban Splash have immortalised the graffiti in neon, but they've missed off 'Clare Middleton' and, as you can hear from the programme, the people who knew her have mixed views. Hearing the tale behind the graffiti and the tragedy that befell the couple, lighting it up feels a little tawdry; on the other hand, being unknown for so long, people have naturally come to identify it in their own way. It's a tricky one - do we recognise it by the story that made it or the emotion it represents? The presenter also suggests it's become an artwork, but the narrative behind it is so flawed and human that I think viewing it in this was risks stylising beyond all reality. To me, the permanence of the writing seems to serve as a way of holding on to a particular moment - bringing people to reflect on the stories that the places around us hold, romantic or otherwise.


So, now, a playlist to acknowledge that, while love is undoubtedly brilliant, it doesn't always work out. There'll always be something to remind us of the good times, though - just like the graffiti at Park Hill. And this playlist (sort of).

1. Piazza, New York Catcher - Belle & Sebastian
2. An Anniversary Away - Reverie Sound Revue
3. Put a Penny in the Slot - Fionn Regan
4. Baby Birch - Joanna Newsom
5. Rose Gives a Lily - Yuck
6. It's Okay - Land of Talk
7. Hold On - Angus & Julia Stone
8. Dance to the Morning Light - Slow Club
9. Last Broadcast - Doves
10. The Desperate Kingdom of Love - PJ Harvey

Image via Painted Sparrow

Monday, 6 February 2012


A topical knit if ever I saw one. Using this pattern from Paper Sensei, I created this rather cosy little snood (cowl?) for my lucky, lucky boyfriend. It's the first time I've properly used intarsia for an entire piece and, whilst the tension was a bit tighter than I would like, it worked pretty well.

I concede that it does look a little 'handmade', but I'd like to think it's more Cath Kidston than About A Boy... right? Right.

I'll get some more pictures up soon... yes, that is an Instagram photo. Find me @nicrodge !

Friday, 3 February 2012


We usually go to a couple of festivals rather than a beach holiday, and tickets are already going on sale so there's finally a weak, summery light shining at the end of this icy wind tunnel!

Green Man tickets are available now and, having been the year before last, I can say with confidence that it's a cracking weekend. Being a relatively small festival, they're pretty lax about bringing booze into the arena, and there's not the same scramble for tent space that you get at Glastonbury; it's also family-friendly without leaving you feeling like you're at a kid's club. The whole site is really well thought out, with lots of cool little areas and tiny make-shift stages. And obviously, they burn a giant wicker man on the Sunday night, which is definitely worth watching. Also, the toilets were really well looked after! Whilst the year we went was a little marred by the (torrential) rain, the scenery is incredible and, to be fair, there was some sunshine on the Sunday afternoon... before the heavens opened all over main stage headliner Joanna Newsom and her glittery harp.

Things to consider: aside from the weather implications of a festival in Wales, if you live any further north than Birmingham take a train! Living in Sheffield at the time, we made the terrible mistake of travelling to my Mum and Dad's in Manchester and catching a coach from there. Never again! It took us nine hours (NINE HOURS!) to get there, apparently visiting every small town and city along the route. Fortunately, living in the South West now means that it only takes an hour to get to Abergavenny, and they run shuttle buses from there. Hooray!

Apparently Charlotte Church is a fan too.

This year's line up (confirmed so far) includes Feist, The Walkmen, Yann Tierson and others, including Alt-J. I heard the song below on Steve Lamaq's show on 6Music a few months ago and it's good. So good that I almost forgot about it until just now. I don't like to make comparisons but, just to give you an idea, the harmonies sound like Bombay Bicycle Club, the driving drums and jerky bass sound like Interpol and there's just enough of the quirkiness of tUnEyArDs to keep it interesting. Just like the hair on those ever-ubiquitous VO5 adverts, it's simultaneously textured and messy and slick and I like it. I'd definitely go and see them.

And a bit of Feist for good measure. She is headlining. She is good also. 

This year's festival runs from the 17th - 19th August with adult tickets selling at £145 and students' at £125. There's also teen and child concessions available or, if you don't really want to pay anything, they're currently recruiting for volunteers and stewards to help out. Plus, if you want to make a proper week of it, they sell camping tickets beginning on Monday 13th for an extra £40.

With the sad absence of Glastonbury this year, another festival I hope will be filling the void is End Of The Road. Held in North Dorset, not far from Salisbury, it's taking place between 31st August and 2nd September and confirmed bands include Grizzly Bear, Beach House and The Antlers, so it's already looking like an ace line-up with 8 months still to go. I've never been, but I've been hoping to for the last couple of years (the list of bands playing last year was incredible) and it looks like a brilliant little festival, all at the fairly standard price of  £150 per ticket.

Another I've always fancied the look of is The Secret Garden Party and also the gloriously indie and delightfully twee (it's the kind of festival that could only succeed in the north) Indie Tracks. Now all I need is a bit of cash!

And if spending a long weekend in a tent isn't sounding very appealing, here's always a ton of free, inner-city festivals to look forward to. More on that later...

Thursday, 2 February 2012


(See also 'The Janopause')

This post has nothing to do with drinking. It is referring instead to the definite lack of anything on Crayon Maison recently, and more tellingly, my inability to think of a better heading. But this is a new year! And these are all things we (I) can work on.

EVERYONE makes resolutions, and blogs seem to be covered in posts outlining what it is they intend to improve and include over the coming year. Since this blog is quite apparently still at the dummies and nappies stage, any projection of what I intend to improve this year would be of little merit; perhaps the best thing would be if I could actually post with some kind of regularity. But let's not be hasty.

Given that today is the 2nd of February, we are now past January entirely, so many well intentioned resolutions will already have fallen by the wayside. Call me a coward but, now I've got past the first month, I can actually state my intentions for self-improvement this year with some certainty (see, I tricked you! It is a resolutions post after all!)

1. Learn to crochet

I consider myself a fairly competent knitter, but I have no idea whatsoever how to crochet. My attempts so far have been... mixed. I understand the stitches, but since I'm not really familiar with how a crocheted piece should look, it's proving a little tricky. 

As we speak, a copy of Stitch 'n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker by the very clever Debbie Stoller is finding its way to my little Bristol home, care of Amazon, my bank account and Royal Mail (possibly).

I already own the original Stitch 'N' Bitch and, whilst some of the patterns aren't exactly fashion-forward, the instructions and techniques are so clear and comprehensive that it's a little knitting bible. No doubt my crochet skills will come on leaps and bounds! We can only hope.

2. Knit socks

Let's be honest, this isn't a million miles away from the first resolution. But I've got it into my head that socks are the thing to make this year, and that I'll have completed a pair to send to my sister in Germany before she moves back to Manchester in the spring. This is furthered by the fact that, after a fairly mild winter, it has suddenly become FREEZING round here, so I can only imagine what the temperature will be like in Bonn (I checked, it's currently -5ºC, with a low for the week of -14ºC). She definitely deserves socks.

There's an abundance of excellent (free!) patterns on (4,720 on my last check), and I am brilliantly supplied by two great shops - Sew 'N' Sew in St Nick's, and Katze, 2 minutes away on Gloucester Road - to pander to all my wool and needle needs. I initially tried making a pair on circular needles, but realised almost immediately that the length I was using was only going to work for someone with calves the size of a cow. Fetch the double pointed needles!

3. Paint and draw more

Pretty self-explanatory. I used to draw a lot, now I don't. Maybe I'll join a life drawing club?

4. Watch less rubbish television, eat fewer Wispas etc. etc.

What?! This is a general resolution; today is my day off.