With the promise of spring, warmer weather and vaccinations around the corner, I'm sure many of us are starting to feel a little more hopeful about the times ahead, and looking forward to eventually being able to see loved ones again.
For now though, we are still spending much of our time at home so it is important to try and keep body and mind as active as possible, whilst also finding enjoyment in what we do. It is with this in mind that I wanted to tell you a couple of things that have been happening recently, and hopefully give you some alternative ideas for Mothers' Day and Easter if you are looking to send gifts that are a little out of the ordinary.
A bit of backstory first...I mentioned in the last blog post that Ebony has now left Japan Crafts in order to pursue her own business. This business isn't entirely out of the blue when you consider our family history!
The photos above are of me, circa 1982, helping out in my Dad's plant nursery in the Yorkshire Dales. Dad grew alpine plants which he sold twice a week on Masham market. My childhood Saturdays were spent behind the stall, sneaking free sweets and carrots from other stalholders and with the promise of a bag of chips on good days (as long as I brought some back for Dad).
Later, aged 8, I started my first business, picking daffodils from our land on a Friday night, then selling them for 20p a bunch from a bucket at the side of Dad's stall the following day. All good training for Festival of Quilts!!!
As Dad's stall grew, Mum joined in by growing and drying flowers to sell. My teenage pocket money was earned by wiring thousands of helichrysums in the 'flower barn' whilst listening to Metallica on my Walkman!
Although the work was hard, Dad can now look back fondly on those days and the good reputation he built amongst stallholders and locals. He recently told the anecdote about how the locals felt sorry for him on bitterly cold days and brought a hot water bottle for him to tuck into his jacket. On a hot summer's day, this was replaced by a can of chilled lager!
So how does all this connect to Ebony? Well, the entrepreneurial spirit obviously runs in the family (my brother and sister have also had their own businesses), and much of Ebony's childhood was also spent in my parents' magical garden which - as a mill house garden - had a natural waterfall, stream, cave and many other fantastic features which my Dad and brother laboriously maintained for over 30 years.
When Ebony was little, Mum used to love taking her along when she gave flower arranging demonstrations, where Ebony showed a real aptitude from the age of about 3 (unlike me. I'm lucky if I can get the flowers in the vase the right way up). I believe all these experiences helped to sow the seeds - if you'll pardon the pun - of Ebony's new business...
During the last year many people have had the time to reconnect with nature and explore the joys of growing their own food. Man and I tried this last year - rather unsuccessfully since we didn't really know what we were doing, except for the courgettes which became Godzilla-sized marrows and took over the garden! The day the mini greenhouse blew over in a gale with all our seedlings in it is another story...if only we had a bit more guidance before taking the plunge!
With amateurs like Man and I in mind, Ebony has created - Seedology! Simple kits and all the other bits you need to grow your own food, in one box.
The 'Vegetable Plot in a Box' would make a perfect gift for those who want to dabble in growing their own food, and is also a great activity for families with children. You never know, they may even eat the veggies afterwards!
Ebony has sourced the very best, easy to grow organic vegetable seeds and packaged them beautifully to make a kit, along with other handy bits and bobs needed, and written a well-researched booklet which gives you everything you need to know to start your own veggie patch.
The Seedology website is very informative and includes links to the Etsy shop, where you can buy kits and other related items.
Ebony uses the permaculture approach, working with your garden as a whole and integrating plants which work together, without the need for pesticides or too much human interference. In a nutshell, easy-to-grow, tasty food without any nasties! She is also planning more garden kits for the future, so it's definitely worth giving her Instagram and Facebook pages a follow, too.
In Japan Crafts news, I've been busy stitching a sample of the ever-popular rabbit sashiko kit in a brand new colourway. I felt it was time to update this favourite design with some fresh colours, and what better excuse than Easter to launch the new colourway?
This sashiko kit is perfect as an alternative to chocolate Easter eggs whether the recipient is into crafts or not. If they love crafts, send them the kit. If they are not so keen, stitch it up yourself and make an item with it for them!
As ever, I would love to see your creations.
Oh, and if you're wondering what Dad is up to these days, check out his website www.fabulousfollies.net/
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I started Japan Crafts in 2006 and have been bringing wonderful fabrics and techniques to people in the UK ever since.