Last year, the most terrible of my life, also saw one of my life ambitions fulfilled. With ghastly irony, the offer from Harper Collins to commission my first needle felt book came just two days after Andy died, in January 2013. What should have been a joyous occasion was like ashes in my mouth. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered any more.
Yet this book was part of my future survival; I was left rudderless and precariously positioned financially. Somehow the mortgage had to be paid, the electric bill, the water rates, the council tax and now it was all down to me. So having been given a deadline extension and much sympathy from my publishers, I began designing the first patterns in March.
Believe me, when you have lived through your worst nightmare, when you have howled into the snowy night for your love to come back to you, dreaming up cute toys seems like a monstrous irrelevance. And so the years of professional working kicked in and I immersed myself in making the best book I could, under the circumstances.
Somehow I found the strength to get this book finished by summer last year, despite having to take a break to organise Andy's woodland burial. I worked seven days a week, 8-10 hours a day. I often found myself crying as I sat alone in my studio, just me and my felting needle. But I did it. And in the end, I rediscovered my love of toys, as I surrounded myself with more and more of them.
Most of the designs were new.
Some were old favourites, like the Roly Poly robin, who I've made many, many times.
And I was able to include a good section on techniques, including how to sew in eyes and how I get that firm, smooth finish people are always asking me about.
I also wanted to produce a book which had more challenging patterns in - there are plenty of 'simple' needle felting books out there, and while I do have some very easy 'roll it up and stab' patterns, such as the Rainbow Mice, there are some more tricky designs for seasoned needle felters to get their teeth into. Over the space of four months, I produced a heck of a lot of creatures.
Although it is great to finally have my own needle felt book out, the person I wanted to do it for is no longer here. So these two lines are, for me, the most precious part of it.
"This book is dedicated to the life and dear memory of Andy Macauley, 1971 - 2013. My Forever Love."
I have three signed copies of my book to give away - if you'd like to have the chance to win one, leave a comment here so that I know who you are, and I'll do the draw next week, when I return from my workshop at Oxford Fibreworks. I'll also pay the shipping costs to wherever the winners are in the world. so all you have to do is enter and keep your fingers crossed!
If you don't want to leave it to chance, then it seems to be available in major book shops all over the place, as well as Amazon UK and Amazon.com. It's also available as a Kindle edition and iTunes. Harper books in the USA have also published it, so my American friends should have no problem in sourcing a copy. I do hope that people like it.
*GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED NOW!*