Monday, 28 October 2019

Blogging, Life and Art

I never intended being away so long but somehow blogging no longer feels like it is up there at the top of my list of priorities. I still enjoy writing but there is always so much else to do and life just feels busier than ever. I know I have felt this way before and yet have never quite been able to give it up. I have been writing this now for over twelve years and have seen many old blogging friends come and go, but I have carried on because it felt like something I needed to do, but it no longer has that same pull. And of course, the longer between posts the more there is to write about and the longer it all takes. There has been so much going on since my last post for instance...


I have come to the end of the ten week painting course I was taking and can't quite believe how much new work I have made... and so different to anything I have ever painted before. I really am loving it and want to do lots more, so it was tempting to take the six week follow up course but I was finding it really hard to keep up with the modules (and I haven't finished them all) so thought it was best to concentrate on finishing and trying more of what I have already been doing. These are just two of my recent pieces on paper.


I spent a day at the knitting and stitching show as an Artist in Action for Art Van Go. I had a lovely day working with Maria Boyle and Jenny O'Leary.


Whilst there I took some of the paintings I had been working on and deconstructed (i.e. tore up) and stitched into them, something I would quite like to explore further. I also managed to spill hot wax everywhere because I am so clumsy but that's another story!


I constructed some of the stitched pieces into little folding books.




I finished knitting a scarf from some variegated sock wool and took about fifty selfies trying to get a decent photo for Instagram. I always end up pulling ridiculous faces so I've cropped my face off this one. You really don't need to see me pulling a funny face. I think I'm the wrong generation for a selfie... no plumped up lips and painted on eyebrows for a start! I like the scarf and it matches lots of my tops but I wouldn't recommend the pattern as it's a very peculiar shape. It is the only new thing I've had this month and made from yarn I already had so I'm still on track for no new clothes for a year... ten more months to go!


I spent a brilliant day learning how to carve a spoon and was actually allowed to use an axe which was rather exciting given how clumsy I am.

I also got to use a very sharp knife for the final whittling and managed to get away with just a few small nicks in my hand. I was more upset that I was getting blood on the spoon than about anything else.


It doesn't bear close scrutiny but for my first time ever working with wood I was quite pleased. I've started a list of 100 new things to do before I'm 100 and this was one of those things. I'm tagging the posts with them in but not necessarily writing them all down in a list like my sixty by sixty. I have an axe and a whittling knife on my Christmas list now!


Did I mention I have been in a play too? Eight weeks of rehearsing and learning lines so I guess it's little wonder I've not had time for blogging. The performances were last week and it seemed to be quite well received. It was all a bit ridiculous being a typical farce and I think really I just like dressing up. I loved the pink boots... and  I dyed my hair pink to match! It was lots of fun but it's also quite nice that it's over.


So you can probably see why there has been no time for blogging, although I'm on Instagram most days. A post on Instagram takes just minutes and can be done on my phone. You can find me at gina_ferrari_art although it's not all art...


But then if all life is art I suppose it is. There are paintings but also stitching, knitting, food, walks... and even the occasional dodgy selfie.

I'm not saying I will stop blogging altogether... not just yet because it's hard to stop something you have done for twelve years... but you are more likely to find me on Instagram!

Saturday, 12 October 2019

A Feral Weekend

Last weekend I headed up to the English Lakes for a spot of feral spinning (I didn't know it was a thing either!) and rustic camping. I admit I hadn't the faintest idea what I was letting myself in for and I decided to go on a bit of a whim. To be honest the lure of the Lake District was enough - it's been far too long since I was last there, plus the weekend was being organised by the lovely Lucy Locket, a long time friend and blogger and the chance for a get together sounded too good to miss.


After a long seven hour drive I eventually arrived at the beautiful Dodson Wood on the east side of Coniston Water. Our home for the weekend was this amazing off-grid eco barn. No electricity, no washing facilities and compostable toilets but surprisingly cosy and comfortable. After depositing my bags and picking out my mattress I headed back to the lakeside with a couple of the other women where we paddled in the cool water as the sun set. After a delicious meal and an evening getting to know each other (I had only met Lucy before) we put out the candles and turned off our solar lights and settled down in our sleeping bags to cries of "Good night John Boy..." , each of us hoping we might make it through the night without unzipping, finding a torch and venturing outside for a wee. None of us managed it!


In the morning we split into two groups and I went out with the amazing Debbie Zawinsky author of In The Footsteps of Sheep, who took us on a circular walk foraging for dye stuffs such as lichen, heather, gorse flowers and oak leaves etc. We cut our own hazel sticks to make spindles and gathered sheep's wool from the fences. We also climbed a few gates and stiles and let's just say I'm not as young and agile as I used to be!


It was great to be out with someone so knowledgeable about the trees and countryside.



In the afternoon we swapped groups and I had an afternoon soap making with Maria from the Soap Dairy and came back with a bag of deliciously scented natural soaps.
In the evening after another hearty meal Debbie showed us how to cut and whittle our sticks to turn them into spinning sticks, nostepinnes, spindles and niddy noddies!

The next day Debbie demonstrated how to use our collected dye stuffs to make dye baths for the fleece we had collected and we produced a range of colours from yellows, to olive greens and browns. At lunchtime we ventured on a short hike up the hillside where we were rewarded with magnificent views.



At the top of the hill we arrived at Low Parkamore Cottage, a grade II listed 16th century farmhouse where gathered around the wood burning stove and Debbie demonstrated spinning using our hand made tools. It was like taking a step back in time.


On our last evening a few of us ventured back down to the Lake where three brave souls actually went for a swim. I was very tempted, never having tried wild swimming before but I didn't have a cossie with me and although I would have happily swum in underwear more importantly I had no cosy towel to dry off with. My small hand towel just didn't really feel adequate. Plus my niggly cough that I had come away with felt like it was building into something more than just a niggle! So I rolled up my trousers and made do with another paddle.

The rest of the evening was spent eating and singing when Debbie and her friend each a produced eukulele  and entertained us all evening with their songs and playing. We joined in and sang, we knitted and spun and there was even some basket making but most of all we laughed. I can't remember laughing so much.


I came home on Monday after a much better journey armed not only with a new skill - I have never tried spinning before - but also with new friends and lovely memories. I have spun two tiny skeins of yarn but I think it might be a while before I manage enough to knit a pair of socks. At least I have Debbie's book to inspire me.


I also treated myself to a couple of Lucy's beautiful knitting kits


And of course, I have my lovely soaps to try too.


I might have left my voice behind, it was full blown laryngitis by the time I arrived home, but it was a wonderful weekend and I am so glad I went. Although I have to admit the flushing loo and a hot shower at home were heavenly!

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Mending, Upcycling and Random Stuff!

Hello!
I can't believe that it is October already. The weeks are whizzing by with no time to write blog posts, nor read them either lately. I managed to get through September without buying any new clothes which really wasn't much of a hardship, but it did make me take a look at what I already own. I decided I would mend a small hole in a favourite pair of jeans by adding some Boro style stitching.


The hole was patched with a square of cotton fabric and then I added the running stitch with a variegated thread to add strength to the patch.


 I like it so much that I was tempted to add extra patches where they weren't needed and I'm now on the look out for more items that need mending.


I thought that if I am going to spend a whole year without buying anything new it might be a good idea to browse the charity shops now and then to see what bargains might be had. I didn't expect to find anything I wanted to buy but then I spotted this red cotton cardigan that still had an original label attached so had never been worn. I have been looking for a plain red cardi for quite a while so I snapped it up and all for a bargain price of £4!


I wasn't over keen on the black ribbon trim or black buttons but an evening with a seam ripper and my button box soon fixed that.


I didn't quite have seven matching buttons but I had three of one type and four of another so I've alternated them down the front and don't think anyone will notice... well, not unless you've read this blog post of course!


I was slightly tempted by a soft shirt for sale in the supermarket. Although I don't buy that many new clothes it is the sort of thing I might have happily popped into my shopping basket without a second thought... but I resisted. Then just a couple of days later I spotted this lovely soft denim shirt in the charity shop for under a fiver instead. It has a really unusual cut on the back with a diagonal pleat. I tried photographing it but it looked rubbish, not helped by the fact it needed ironing. I wasn't going to get the iron out just so I could get a decent photo so you'll have to take my word for it.


Once again I decided to add my own twist and so have embroidered the pocket flaps. Actually no, I have embroidered one pocket flap and I'm half way through the second but they will get done because I like them. I was thinking about a single little yellow daisy on each collar point too but maybe that is too much... what do you think?


In other news we have had Stewart's Mum staying with us for a long weekend which was lovely... a bit like a mini staycation for us with lunches out and a punt tour on the River Cam courtesy of son no. 2. I know I have sung his praises before but he really does give an amazing tour with a full hour of humorous embellished commentary on the history of Cambridge,  the university and its inhabitants. You don't just have to take my word for it... last month we had a punt trip with our reading group where Sam wasn't our guide for reasons I won't embarrass him with (although I'm thinking of buying him a diary!) When the guide we did have found out that I knew Sam his reaction was "Sam, he's a legend on the River, he gives an amazing tour."

So if you want the best trip ever on the River Cam... book with Cambridge Punters and ask for Sam (just remember to send him a reminder in the morning!)


We almost dodged the rain but not quite!


I also finished the blinds for the bedroom. It took us almost as long to put them up as it did for me to make them but here we are three months after moving and we finally have some privacy in our bedroom. I think the neighbours are probably relieved!


This week the garage has been demolished to make way for a studio for me, which should be ready by the end of November. |I am just a little bit excited. And at the weekend I am off on a wild retreat... no electricity, no hot water in the middle of a forest by Lake Coniston. It seemed like a good idea when I booked it but I'll let you know!

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Tulips in Amsterdam

I mislead you... there weren’t any tulips (except for masses of artificial ones in the flower market) but we have been in Amsterdam for the weekend. On Friday morning we were up at 4.30 am to catch a five o’clock train into London. Is it just me or is there something exciting about getting up in the middle of the night to go on holiday. I’m sure it goes back to my childhood when we would be bundled into the back of the car before it was light to make an early start down to the West Country for our annual camping holiday. As children I’m not sure we arrived any earlier but on Friday we were on a direct train from St. Pancras by 7.15 and in Amsterdam by midday. So much easier than flying.


I had pre-booked tickets for the Anne Frank house as we missed visiting on our one and only other trip to Amsterdam. I read her diary when I was at school probably at the same age as Anne when she went into hiding but I'm not sure how much it meant to me at the time. However actually seeing where the family spent two years hidden made it seem so much more real. I am always concerned that visiting somewhere like this might feel a little voyeuristic but it was certainly interesting and worth doing, if only to serve as a reminder of the atrocities of the past and how easily it can be for a society to embrace racist and fascist beliefs. A lesson for today I feel.


As with any city break there was also much walking, eating and drinking. Amsterdam is such a picturesque city that there are plenty of spots just to sit with a drink in hand to watch the world and boats go by!


We stayed at an AirBnB, a lovely apartment to the west of the city but withing easy walking distance of the centre. On our first evening we ventured out to a bar for our supper, recommended by our AirBnB hosts. The meal was lovely but we probably raised the average age of the rest of the clientele by about twenty years. We felt particularly old when the waiter asked us if the music was too loud for us! We actually enjoyed the mostly 1960s/70s music and watching the crowds of young people out relaxing and enjoying themselves on a Friday night. When I sent a message to our hosts to tell them we enjoyed their recommendation the response was "Ah yes, Friday night is party night at Cafe Thuys for young people - but typical Dutch experience". Perhaps the fact that our hosts looked no more than early thirties from their photos should have given me a clue, but we enjoyed our evening so much more than if we had gone somewhere touristy.


The following morning was a slow start and after brunch and a vist to the Oude Kerk (Old Church), rather ironically situated in the middle of the Red Light District, we met up with our friends Janet and Pete who moved to the Netherlands about a year ago. With them as our guides we spent another delightful afternoon wandering along canals, exploring markets, stopping for the occasional beer and just generally enjoying a sunny afternoon in the city. 


On Sunday morning we caught the bus out to Janet and Pete's home in Edam, a beautiful small city just 20 km north of Amsterdam.


After sampling some rather good Dutch apple cake, we spent another fine day wandering down to the lakeside, via their allotment, past many typical Dutch homes.


After a refreshment stop we returned via a different route and found ourselves back in the city with time to vist De Knijp (The Nip) a tiny little pub full of character, only open seven hours a week.


Whilst there we sampled the local liqueur... the Dutch way. The little tulip glasses are filled to the very top so full that the only way to move them is to slurp some off the top first... Proost!


On our last day we had a very leisurely boat trip around the canals of Amsterdam and another little wander before catching our train back home. It's been a while since we had a break and it was just what we needed... nothing like some walking, eating, drinking and time spent with good friends to recharge the batteries!

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Second Hand September

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I mentioned I was signing up for Oxfam's Second Hand September - A month of not buying any new clothes. But as I don't buy that many clothes anyway it didn't seem much of a challenge for just a month. So a friend and I have pledged to not buy any new clothes for a whole year, except for necessary underwear. Second hand knickers are a no, no! We both like to do a little dress making so we are allowing ourselves that luxury, although I only intend to use fabric I already own, but other than that is is only going to be second hand clothes or maybe even rediscovering items I've not worn for a long time. I thought it might be fun to document my progress here each month.


The idea behind the campaign is to support a slower and more sustainable consumption. In the UK alone 11 million items of clothing end up in landfill every week - that's 300,000 tonnes every year. More new clothes are bought in the UK than in any other European country. The carbon footprint of producing new clothes is huge, just that of all new clothes bought in the UK each month is the equivilant to flying a plane around the world more than 900 times.
There is also a huge impact on poorer countries (where their carbon footprint is much lower than ours). Their garment workers are not paid a living wage and the textile  industry uses precious water resources making life tougher in poorer areas. And if all that isn't enough the textile industry creates more pollution than aviation and shipping combined.


Something has to change. So I kicked off on September 1st by wearing a new top that I made from fabric from my stash. It is the Camber Set pattern from Merchant and Mills.


To be honest I don't buy much in charity shops but then maybe that's because I don't usually go in looking for clothes. Mostly I go in to take bags of my own things and will usually browse the books or DVDs. I sometimes look at the clothes if I am looking for AmDram costumes or fabric I might use for projects, which is how I ended up with this T-shirt. I bought it for the fabric to cut up for rag rugging as it was reduced to £2 and a nice bright colour. But after giving it a wash I tried it on and liked it and have been wearing it all summer.


But I currently own only two other charity shop finds - a black patterned dress that I love. I wear it in the summer on its own with sandals and in the winter with thick tights and a cardigan. And a Phase Eight skirt that I bought just for the label and because it was only £5. I didn't think it would fit me but reckoned I could sell it on ebay if not. As it happens the sizing is generous and I have worn it for several summers now.


So I shall be perusing charity shops over the next few months, learning to mend and using up my fabric stash... although I probably have more than enough clothes already  as I don't throw much away!

So who's up for joining me in September... or even for the year?