Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Saying Goodbye

We had to say goodbye to our very special friend last night. He was an old man, twelve and a half - a good age for a labrador and he had a good and happy life in a family where he was very much loved, but I never anticipated it would be this hard to say goodbye.
I think for people who have never had a dog it is difficult to imagine what a huge gap they leave. He was always there, a constant presence, a part of our family. If we went out, whether for two minutes, two hours or in some cases two years, he was there when we got home wagging his tail always delighted to see us. I don't want to go out today because I don't want to come home to an empty house... but I don't want to stay home without him here either. He was a calm, gentle giant of a dog who loved everyone. He was my reason to get up in the morning. Whatever the weather, rain or shine he got me up and out of the house for a walk before I did anything else. A time to appreciate the seasons, get my thoughts in order, put the world to rights... and it won't be the same without him. It has hit us all very hard in what has not really been a great year!
Goodbye Barley, our beautiful dog. I never imagined I would miss you this much.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Angels, Coasters and Cookies

Today my Young Embroiderers have been making angels.
Beautiful angels...

Smiling angels...

Pouting angels...

Happy angels...

and colourful angels!

There was also a colourful fairy...

a perfect princess...
and three handsome kings

They also made funky felt coasters...

with holly and snowmen...

and Christmas trees too.

And me... I made gingerbread cookies for them all to eat at snack time

There weren't any left so it was a good job I made extra for us to eat at home!

Another fabulous day with our Young Embroiderers... thank you girls and boys... and my lovely band of helpers too!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Times Flies

I feel as though the days are flying past this week and already we are hurtling torwards another weekend. So I've been trying to get some jobs done... with mixed degrees of sucess.
1. Fruit successfully soaked in plenty of brandy (feeling very smug and pleased with myself)... then I went and left the cake in too long last night and it is looking decidedly dark around the edges. (Well, burnt if you must ask). Made the house smell good though.

2. Completed a special matchbox book commission in plenty of time for a January wedding and the recipient was delighted... happy about that!

3. Made a dozen lavender bags with a seasonal twist in time for a Christmas Fair. Pleased with the results but know I can never charge enough to cover the amount of effort involved so wonder if my time might be better spent!

4. Made four pots of Chilli Jam but played about with the recipe and now I think it is far too sweet... why?... why, when I have a perfectly good recipe that everyone in the house likes??? Stupid... that's why!

5. Made a beetroot chocolate cake today... still awaiting the verdict on this... yet to be tried! (But I'm keeping quiet about the beetroot bit!).
How's your week so far?

Sunday, 18 November 2012


I don't particularly relish the thought of a weekend away working but whenever I have a weekend teaching at Missenden Abbey it is always an enjoyable time.
The grounds and the building alone are so beautiful, especially on a bright, frosty morning like today I can't think of a more lovely place to be, even if it is work.

And there is also that certain thrill of not having to be responsible for dog walking, chicken tending or family meals etc for a full 48 hours. It's quite liberating only to be responsible for oneself, if only for a brief spell..

Although I do feel a responsibility to my students.

I only had a small group this weekend. Six students each with their own individual expectations of what the weekend would deliver.

... which doesn't always match my ideas of what I plan to deliver! But I relish the challenge.

There is often some juggling and impromptu demonstrations but in the end I always hope that everyone in the class goes away with some of their expectations met.

Six beginners were trying their hand at free machine embroidery. Laying down strips of fabric onto a backing fabric and stitching into the surface to create new colourful fabrics.

I had brought in some of the petal bags I made a few weeks ago (from Jenny Rolfe's book) as samples and some of the students turned their fabrics into their own petal bags. Whilst others came up with their own designs. (The foiling was one of the impromptu demonstrations!)

But when I hear a student exclaim "I'm so excited I can't even speak" on mastering a technique I think I have succeeded in delivering at least one person's expectations.

Like so many adult education centres, Missenden Abbey has gone through challenging times recently with dropping student numbers and necessary cutbacks in service but I still believe it offers a great learning experience in the most glorious surroundings. And with new management and some exciting new changes planned I think things can only get better and better. And I'm certainly still willing to give up my weekends to work there. Although it is good to be home in front of the fire with a glass of wine this evening!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Let Them Eat Cake

About a month ago I posted about Inspiration and Excitement. I was fired up and ready to go and made a start with these little chaps...
and teased you with this...

Some of you recognised some of the cakes... and some even guessed what I was up to. But I suppose I should explain for those of you who haven't been reading since last year... or perhaps for those of you who have been reading and haven't been paying attention... or are not really interested... or perhaps have just forgotten... or just don't care? But I'm going to tell you anyway and it all started with this knitted bodice...

You can read about why this came about here. To start with I thought it would be fun to decorate Marie Antoinette's 'woolly vest' with knitted cakes in tribute to the alleged statement "Let them eat cake"* but it just didn't work. So then I came up with idea that perhaps I could use knitted cakes to re-create the ridiculous hairstyles worn in the Court of Marie Antoinette. I really do worry sometimes where these crazy ideas come from but not long enough to stop me acting on them!

Now it became apparent it would take me forever to knit enough cakes and so of course I enlisted your help. And as ever, you came up trumps. It started as a a bit of a virtual party... which then became a real party... and eventually I ended up with over 90 knitted and crocheted cakes. And since last October I've been procastinating and putting off doing unything with them and they have remained in boxes under the bed in the spare bedroom. Until last month...
And so finally, here it is... I give you "Let Them Eat Cake"... a wig for Marie-Antoinette... made with your help and support. Thank you!

Piled high with all sorts of wonderful cakes.

And because in real life these ridiculous hairstyles were often left undisturbed for months and frequently had all manner of vermin living in them... I thought a couple of mice...

and a nesting bird would add to the effect

Now... don't laugh... but it is not only a slightly crazy art installation... but quite practical too...

if you want to make a complete twit of yourself that is... I said don't laugh!

Shame they're not real... could pick one off if you felt peckish!

Not entirely sure what I'll do with it now... as it won't fit back in the box under the spare bed... but I've got one or two ideas... watch this space!

* "Let Them Eat Cake" is most likely to have been the result of journalistic cliche and never came from the lips of Marie Antoinette.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Christmas Shopping

I'll be honest... I'm not sorry to see the end of last week, which felt like an entire week of back to back teaching (it wasn't quite but that is how it felt). And much as I love teaching there is a limit to how much packing and unpacking of bags and lugging a sewing machine from venue to venue that I can take. But that said, I've met some lovely people, re-aquainted with others and have seen some amazing work produced by students which is always a joy.
Another benefit of working with lots of different groups of people is that it sparks ideas and I find myself working in ways I hadn't previously considered, trying out things I hadn't thought about before. Whilst demonstrating and stitching poinsettas for a Christmas garland at Bee Crafty on Thursday... I started to wonder just how small I could make them?

Quite small as it happens... this one is barely 3 cm across.

And then I got to thinking it might be fun to put one of these on a tiny matchbox which could house a miniature book... because it has been quite a while since I've made any miniature books.

And then before I knew it I had made five miniature books each with their own little matchbox case and so my rather empty Etsy shop suddenly has some stock!

Five little Christmas themed books...
which would make perfect little unique stocking fillers.


And I even made another Christmas Garland.... which may also end up in my shop if we ever get enough light for me to take some decent photos. But meanwhile my mind is still racing with new ideas of how I might use these flowers... but you'll have to wait before I reveal what they might be.

On a completely different note there is a little game going on... The Compound Word Project devised by Ali... do pay a visit and play along. You can find out how to play here. I'm already stumped!