a doll

“Mama, can you make me a dolly just like the one’s at playschool? And can you make him look like me, with yellow hair and browny green eyes?”

And so, I’m beginning the exciting adventure of making a very first Waldorf doll for my son, hopefully just in time for his fourth birthday at the end of June.

I’m using the pattern “Mitzi” by Mariengold (available on Etsy).

So far, so good. I now just need to pluck up the courage to embroider the eyes and mouth and attach the hair. And then there will be the close to make too. Wish me luck!


A close up from above of two skeins of handspun yarn in natural sheep colours of white and grey

Suddenly it’s May. Winter has slowly turned into spring, but for the most part the shift in the seasons has passed me by this year.

Mainly because seven weeks ago, I had a nervous breakdown. It’s only now, almost two months later that I’m starting to recognize myself again when I look in the mirror. Only just now I’m starting to come to terms with the diagnosis given to me by my midwife on the day of my birthday a few weeks after: severe perinatal depression.

Since then, little by little a web of much needed, specialized support has slowly been spun around me and my growing family. I have so far avoided being hospitalized, but I’ve come very close on more than one occasion.
It’s now only seven weeks until my due date, but I’m still feeling so very poorly. My hair is slowly growing back, but my symptoms remain severe and debilitating, leaving me exhausted and incredibly vulnerable. I spend much of my days quietly resting in bed or an easy chair, whilst I patiently wait for my mind and body to gain strength again.

It’s no coincidence this has happened around my 32nd birthday, which means I’ve now reached the significant milestone of twenty long years with Myalgic Encephalitis in my life.

A right hand resting on a white cotton background holds four tightly wound balls of light grey spindle hand spun yarn.

I’m sharing this today because by some strange coincidence it is both Maternal Mental Health month & ME awareness month. I have been finding strength reading honest posts generously shared by other folk in these squares. And so perhaps it may help someone else to know they are not alone too.

Those caring for me keep telling me that in time, with the proper care and support, I will get better. But for now, I’m still feeling very poorly. And I’m also learning to accept that it’s also okay to not feel okay.

twenty six weeks

A precious photograph captured by my love, of my forever swelling belly and the tiny bear I hand stitched for our littlest love a couple of weeks ago.
At twenty-six weeks, with every passing day (and little summersault or kick) I’m reminded that life for us, for me, is on the cusp of changing beyond all measure yet again.

Pregnancy a second time round has been a much more challenging season for us to navigate through, not least because of all the enormous changes that have accompanied it for our little family these past months.

As my thoughts begin to wander ever often to birth and beyond, I’m under no illusions to my physical capabilities this time around…and where my hand work is concerned, I am mindful that my work will inevitably come to a halt, for a good while at least. It’s a situation that I accept wholeheartedly…in all honestly, what choice do I have? But it is a reality which nonetheless fills me with some sadness (and much trepidation) too.

As I’m still yet to fully unravel all my feelings on the subject a topic I intend to return to here at a later date…but for now, bed is calling me…

a quiet place

handspun local yarn and wild spring flowers

Having been away from this journal for such a long time, I must admit I am missing it deeply. The desire to have a quiet place to call my own again where I can share my heart & hand work, explore my ideas and talk about life seems so appealing these days. I generally enjoy the hustle and bustle of other places, but just now there is too much going on in my personal life for me to easily manage being present there too. If you are reading these words, I suppose you too enjoy spending time in quieter places. Thank you for taking your time to come and have a look and I wish you a lovely start to Spring.

Mountain Views

Snow capped mountains tower over a narrow village street covered in a first sprinkling of snow.

This morning is still and cold. As usual, I am woken early by my son. But today, instead of lingering in play by the wood fire, we bundle on woollens and head straight out into the still deserted street. Today is the start of a new week. And this morning, there is fresh snow on the ground.  How could we resist?

Inching our way around the curve of the church, trying to avoid the invisible patches of ice, my little one stoops to pick handfuls of crunchy snow. I stop for a moment to lift my head from my feet and up towards the summits.   It is so many months since I last called the mountains my home. And yet here I am, once again back here surrounded by them. We are new to this valley, having previously called a village across the peaks our home. And yet, no matter how new, it is still a familiar view. A soon to be treasured view. A view that lifts my spirits, no matter how low they may have fallen.

High above the village, the hillsides are silent and still, covered in a dusting of overnight snow. The first of this new year. Even when though the winter sun is slowly waking, the moon lingers on in the still, blue sky. And the summits of the central Pyrenees are struck with the golden early morning light.

Making as Storytelling

A smiling Fran in a linen dress looks deep in coversation with Peter, a golden haired mohair teddy bear

I am increasingly finding myself drawn to the conclusion that the act of making is also an act of storytelling. A quiet and considered conversation held between material & maker, as an idea slowly comes into being. Once that idea has become material, that conversation then continues to flow, beyond the maker & the walls of the studio, out into the world.

In the past two or so years that I’ve been publicly sharing my bear making work online, I’ve experimented with various forms of storytelling, on various platforms. Starting by working through a variety of blogs, as I’ve struggled to settle on a name that sufficiently expresses all I want my work to encompass. And also experimenting with photography & video.

These past years, I have truly enjoyed experimenting with all these paths to self expression, most especially on Instagram. In that particular space, I have found both my self-confidence & my expertise slowly build and grow, nourished by an incredibly supportive community of folks spread across the world. I truly value the connections I’ve woven there, the friends I have made, the opportunities that have sprung forth from those little squares. But increasingly, I’ve also been feeling a growing niggle with the place itself. Whilst I find the excitement & buzz of that particular online gathering spaces to be a source of stimulation & inspiration, since falling pregnant again, I find myself becoming once again particularly fond of those smaller and quieter places of conversation, connection and sharing that can still be found in blogs. Over there it often feels like being at a very crowded, very noisy party, albeit one filled with very kind & lovely folk. There is an energy and a creativity to be found there in the thronging crowd, but recently, I’ve been finding it once again overwhelming and exhausting.

I remember with great fondness to a few years back when I first discovered the online crafting world. And how visiting a favourite blog feels more like being invited round a dear friend’s house for a cup or tea and a knit. A moment to share some meaningful conversations about life & knitting whilst we quietly work on our respective projects. Just as my own blog currently reminds me of an abandoned house, all dusty and untidy having been so long neglected, so sadly many of the online journals of friends & favourites have also been left to languish. And yet.

Despite the dust, I am feeling a deep urge to return to this space, draw back the curtains, fling wide the shutters and let some fresh air back in. My intention, is to come and make this space feel like a home again. And once the cobwebs have been banished, the grate swept and a fresh fire lit in the grate, to start telling some of the stories of making once again.

The tales of what I make, but also how that making enables me to enter into conversations with the world around me, weaving connections with the land base I currently find myself in and the people & animals that populate it.

As a toymaker, there is also an inevitable biographical aspect to my work, as I cannot help but reach deep inside myself finding inspiration in memories & lived experiences. And so over time, I’m sure there will also be stories told about those parts of me that inevitably get woven into my making too.

Within these pages (and also my monthly letters) you will find honest words written from the heart. My thoughts on intentionally slow & sustainable making, my passion for natural fibres (especially wool) and the gentle rhythm that brings the light & shade to our days, shaped by the seasons and guided by a desire to do more with less.

It is my sincere hope that this place will also allow for conversations to open up between me & you. It has been many, many months since I last had the desire, time or energy to regularly sit down and write. But I am so excited to finally settle back in here and begin finding a rhythm that suits.

I’m looking forward to coming here again soon,

Fran x

The last…and the first

A handmade linen rag doll, wearing a grey linen dress, hand knit cardigan and bobble hat
A tiny mohair bear sits cradled in Fran's hands

Last year ended with a sweet little rag doll named Poppy, cut and sewn from a remnant of calico naturally dyed with organic tea.

This new year has begun with the tiniest of bears, hand sewn from my all time favourite coffee coloured mohair.

After months of being kept away from my making for a variety of reasons, it feels so good to slowly ease myself back in.

On Packing Up & Moving On

a well loved antique mohair bear sits smiling on a threadbare armchair

A memory, from early December 2018

Today the sky is grey and the air thick with mist. The oak tree above the roof window has just a few solitary leaves still clinging to it’s otherwise bare branches. The flannelette sheets and woollen blankets have been on the bed for weeks. Back in the house, a fire is crackling merrily in the wood stove.

Here in the studio, there is no wood stove. So I’m staving off the cold as best I can. There are socks on my feet, a heavily cabled hat on my head and my favourite hand-spun shawl wrapped around my neck. There are so many woollen layers elsewhere that I’ve lost count. I’m also trying my best to stave off the runny nose and the prickling at the back of my throat hats been bothering me since yesterday. My boy has already succumbed so there is much soup sipping, eucalyptus balm rubbing, on the sofa cuddling, and nose wiping. We are in the waning days of late autumn, and here in Brittany they are mostly dark & damp.

Looking around my studio, cardboard boxes litter what I intend to become a usually tidy room. When packing up my old studio space a month ago, I had begun with the easy stuff, arranging my yarn neatly into boxes arranged by provenance, then moving onto my patterns, needles and notions, until I was left with all the more tricky things, the scraps of paper and notebooks. The half finished projects. The remnants and the scraps. If the early weeks of packing were easily dynamic and assertive, now things are a bit more tricky.

We leave this house in less than two weeks. Looking at the boxes and mess scattered around me, I am overwhelmed by how much is still left to do. And yet my heart is already yearning to be gone, to be flying south towards our new nest. Our year in Brittany has been such an enriching, wonderful experience. But the house we have called home these past months has been less than homely. And on a freezing, damp day like today, I am already aching to be elsewhere.

Woollen Hearted

Vintage Enamel bowl of freshly scoured wool

At my heart, I’m a maker. And at the heart of my making, there is wool.  Wool is the raw material I return to time and time again. Whether hand spinning, knitting, natural dyeing, felting or bear making, the golden thread running through my making is woollen.

And this work with wool feels somehow like an extension of the whole of me. When I work closely with this fibre in an intentionally slow & mindful way, I find some of life’s many tangles become unravelled, some of it’s creases become straightened out.

Working wool with my hands allows me to reconnect with myself and my values, my wildest dreams and my most cherished priorities. Each turn of the wheel, click of the needles, tiniest of stitches is an outpouring of my heart, as it were.

A Fresh Start

This coming spring, it will be ten years since I opened my first online journal. I’d need all my fingers and nearly all my toes were I to try to count the number of different blogs I’ve had since that first. Perhaps I should be embarrassed by this constant changing, this lack of consistency. But when I think about it properly, each new journal has coincided with a (big) change in my life: from fresher, to year abroad student, to final year student, to recently arrived foreigner, to fledgling freelancer, to aspiring spinner, to new mama. This past decade, these different notebooks, often public but sometimes private have been instrumental in helping me navigate my way through these different seasons of my life. A place to both make sense of the changes and to find my voice through the upheaval.

And now here I am, once again in a place of transition. We’ve recently moved both house and region, leaving the muddy hills of central Brittany behind to return to the mountains of the Pyrenees. Our three and a half year old son is on the cusp of childhood rather than toddlerhood…and there are other big changes for our little family waiting to greet us further down the path of the year.

And so as we settle into our new surroundings and unpack our belongings into our new home, I also feel a need to return to this little space and properly “move in” here too. Because despite a physically challenging end to the year, culminating in our big move, as 2019 begins I’m feeling surprisingly refreshed. And, much to my great surprise and relief, sparks of creativity seem to have returned.

Thank you so much for following along with me here up until now. I’d be delighted if you were to come and join me here from time to time.

Warmly, Fran