Saturday 31 May 2008

What a lot of fun!

I've spent today in John Lewis in Cambridge running a flag making workshop for children... this is the calm before the storm.

My first customer was six year old Amelia, who made this stunning stripey flag.

She was rapidly followed by a constant stream of children who drew all sorts of beautiful things from these racing cars, amazingly drawn by a three year old...

More stripes...




and of course, flags!

It was also lovely to see the young Miss Dotty Cookies as well as little Miss Pebble. These are the Dotty Cookie flags - This beautiful richly coloured pattern (work in progress)...

And this fabulous person (not sure who it was meant to be!) Pretty good for a five and three year old!

In all about a hundred flags were made which I've now got to iron to set the fabric crayons and then stitch onto tape to make bunting. Guess what I'm doing tomorrow!
The Sainsburys dress has been delivered... just! Stewart dropped me off at JL and then had half hour to kill in Cambridge before the shop opened and he could deliver the dress for me... between 10am and 12 noon. He came back to meet me for lunch. "Everything okay with the dress?" I enquired... he went a deathly pale and then rapidly disappeared and apparently broke the land speed record down St Andrew's Street (carrying a rather conspicuous orange dress!) Fortunately the shop was still open and he has been forgiven but the poor man has exhausted himself and is having to lie down to recover!

Friday 30 May 2008

More Orange Bags

What does every orange plastic bag dress need? An orange plastic corsage of course!

Despite plans for sleeves and other additions, in the end the dress looked best with just a few simple additions - some straps to keep it up and a corsage. It is now packed up and labelled ready for delivery tomorrow. Some of the dresses will be on display in "The Shop", Jesus Lane, Cambridge over the next few weeks in order to promote the Cambridge University Fashion Show which will be taking place on 19th June at the Cambridge Corn Exchange.

Now I know some of you were expecting to see me model this very fetching garment... and much as I hate to disappoint... it ain't gonna happen! However my friend's 13 year old daughter Sophie, who is very tall, very thin and very beautiful is going to be my model at the fashion show. So there will be pictures of her modelling after 19th June. She tried it on this week and looked stunning but my camera battery was flat - so you'll have to wait!

Wednesday 28 May 2008

This and That!

Not very much happening craft wise here but lots of this and that... bit of gardening between the showers, clearing my backlog of paperwork, some (but not much) tidying up and housework. I've also been cutting up lots and lots cotton fabric into triangles because on Saturday I'm running this children's workshop in the John Lewis store in Cambridge.

If you live within easy reach of Cambridge and have a child or two... please come and join us!
I've recently added some new links on my favourite blogs - some I've been reading for quite a while but there is a new blogger that I can recommend - Emma, who runs the Art and Craft Fairs in Reach has recently started a blog, Silver Pebble and already has some lovely thoughts and images. Emma makes beautiful silver jewellery and I was a lucky recipient of this very pretty necklace and earrings. Stewart bought it for me from Emma at the Christmas Fair and safely hid it away. Christmas came and went and then about mid January he suddenly remembered he'd bought this as a Christmas pressie for me but couldn't remember where he had hidden it! We'd given it up for lost when several weeks later he remembered his "safe"place (a pencil case!) and I had this lovely late surprise.

Last but not least of my "this and that" is this ATC from Annica. Annica recently put up several cards for a swap and I was lucky enough to receive this - which is lovely! It is made from hand dyed and printed fabric with hand and machine stitch. Thank you Annica.

News of the "plastic bag dress" soon... and there might be something happening for my 150th post which is rapidly approaching... have to think about that one!

Sunday 25 May 2008

Happy Birthday Sam!

Twenty three years ago today Sam (son no. 2) was born at the Newton Wellesley Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts weighing in at 8lb 10oz!

Actor, playwright, politician and soon to be novelist... Happy Birthday to my very clever, very funny and extremely hairy son! I can't believe how quickly the years have past. (As you can see below he wasn't always this hairy!)

Birthday cake today is a coffee and walnut, courtesy of Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries.. as he says "A Good Old Fashioned Cake"!

Sam's birthday marks the start of a six week run of family celebrations... Stewart's daughter Kirsty is next with her 21st birthday, followed closely by Joe and Stewart, then our wedding anniversary and finally my birthday. You could be seeing lots of cake over the next few weeks!
I know both Lucy and Katy have posted pictures of their mini quilts but as they have both now received them I'll put up pictures too...

Lucy's quilt

Katy's quilt.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend... raining here!

Friday 23 May 2008

A Preview

A sneak preview of what went in the post yesterday afternoon. I finally finished the mini quilt for my swap partner Katy. She said she likes red and green so my challenge to myself was to make something in these colours that didn't look too Christmassy... hope you like it Katy.

Oh... just look how those seams line up! I'll never make a quilter - I can't be doing with all that accuracy!

And the second quilt to go in the post was for Lucy - swap organiser extrordinaire! This was all done by hand - the idea being it would be in the style of Janet Bolton. Not sure it was all that successful but hope Lucy likes it!

I did enjoy all the hand stitching.

Last but not least is this corsage... which is finally on its way to you Angela (no blog YET... so no link) Angela ordered a corsage from me to go with a wedding outfit but I rather messed up with the postage in my eagerness to get it to her and it didn't arrive on time... so this is by way of an apology from me. A corsage in Spring colours!

Bank holiday weekend here in the UK so hoping to get some gardening done, although the forecast is for rain. Hope the sun shines where you are and you all have a good weekend!

Thursday 22 May 2008

Days Out

I have great plans for all the things I'm going to do in my two weeks off, long lists of jobs around the house and garden, neglected for months... but so far I just seem to be having days out! Stewart had the day off on Monday so we ventured up the A1 to Rutland where we visited the Barnsdale Gardens - home of Gardeners' World. I've always had a yearning for a vegetable plot but my vegetable growing is a bit haphazard - courgettes in the flower beds, runner beans up the fence, occasional tomato plant in a pot. So for my birthday last year a friend bought me a ticket for Barnsdale plus an out of print copy of Geoff Hamilton's book The Ornamental Kitchen Garden... such a lovely thoughtful gift. So finally I've got around to using the ticket! The gardens are beautiful and very inspirational - lots of flowers...

...and foliage. So we've come home inspired!

I told Stewart I was cultivating a hobby for his retirement so he won't be under my feet! This is not imminent as he's younger than me and has no plans to retire but you have to start these things early!

Yesterday I was out in London again. Having been born in London, spent part of my childhood there and now having relatively easy access to the city it's often easy to overlook the fact that it is one of the major cities of the world... and I love it! I was back to Trafalgar Square with all the tourists...

...for a study day at the National Gallery. This was a follow up to the talk on Saturday covering the topic of drapery in paintings in more depth. There were different speakers, including Alison Watt (see last post) plus another chance to look at paintings in the Gallery. An interesting and informative day which I hope will have some relevence to my degree... but if not it doesn't matter because I enjoyed my day out.

Today it's back to my long list of jobs... no. 1 on the list is to post a couple of mini quilts... more about that later!

Sunday 18 May 2008

Assessment Day...

... exhuastion day! Yesterday I was up early on the train to London to leave my work from the last three months in a room in Portland Place for assessment. It wasn't due to be assessed until the afternoon so it was ceremoniously dumped under a table. Thank you all for your lovely encouraging comments which certainly helped me feel better about the rest of the work if not the cylinders (I know they are not up to scratch!) I think self doubt is common to anyone working creatively and is actually a healthy thing. The day I become content and satisfied with what I produce will be the day I stop. Once the work was deposited the day was free to explore... first stop... Somerset House.

This is a fabulous building despite the grey and drizzly day. I was recommended by Katy to see the "Skin and Bones" exhibition currently on at their Embankment Galleries. The exhibition looks at comparisions between fashion and architecture - the way both provide shelter and protection and both create space and volume from flat two dimensional materials. I found the connections interesting and some of the photographs of the buildings were amazing but best of all were the outfits. There was an huge number of the most stunning, radical architectural designs from designers such as Miyake Issey and Junya Watanabe - all so relevent to the work I've just done on Sculptural Dress. I was delighted to see that my honeycomb skirt was constructed in the same way as Watanabe's - something I hadn't been able to work out from photographs (but I bet he didn't stitch every seam himself!) Thank you for the recommendation Katy... and I would certainly recommend going to visit this exhibition if you are in London. It is open until 10th August.

It was then a quick dash from the Strand to Farringdon to see an exhibition of work by Maxine Sutton . Maxine has made a collection of contemporary embroidered work giving a fascinating insight on domestic rituals and crafts from the past. She uses a combination of applique, printing, hand and machine embroidery with a lovely colour palette to produce quirky and appealing pieces of work. She was inspired by the collection at the Geffrye Museum which houses a collection of furniture, textiles, painting and decorative arts displayed in room settings from the 17th century up to the late 20th century. When I was a child we lived in North London and the Geffrye Museum was one of my favourite places to visit. I loved looking at all the different room settings and imagining living in them!

By now I was running late so it was a case of grabbing a quick sandwich and hopping back on the tube to Trafalgar Square. There was an afternoon tour/lecture arranged by Opus, led by Opus tutor and art historian Jacqui Ansell, looking at drapery in paintings of the National Gallery collection. We looked at several old paintings before making our way to see the current exhibition "Phantom" by Alison Watt. Alison paints draped white cloth but it is so much more! The canvases are huge and I found them absolutely mesmerising - very evocative and erotic. Seeing photographs is nothing like standing in a room full of these paintings but I'll show them anyway!

This above is Phantom (2.34 m x 3.35 m)

This is Host (approx 6 m x 3 m)
and below is Alison working on the paintings in her studio to give you an idea of scale.

I know modern art isn't to everyone's taste but these were very impressive especially as we had been looking at drapery in other paintings. There was time for a quick cuppa and a chat to other students before a mad dash back across London to pick up our work (we'll know results in about a month) and a then get train back home. An exhausting but exciting day... and it feels so good to have got to the end of another module!

Friday 16 May 2008


I've finally done it - I've got to the end of the week and I've finished everything ready to take into London for Opus assessment day tomorrow. Overall I'm happy with the work - lots of good samples and a bursting sketchbook full of research and ideas. I was pleased with my metal cloth and the cactus sculpture from my last post. But I really do not like my final piece and that is making me feel miserable about the whole module!

I wanted to return to the idea of making a cloth but using pieces of silk organdie with metal fragments from drink cans, to keep it very light and ethereal. I tried a small sample and it stitched easily and worked beautifully. I was especially excited when I curved the piece into a cylinder and it made an interesting sculpture. From this I conceived the idea of making several large cylinders that would hang as a group, ideally as something that could be walked through. So I made the following maquette of three cylinders about one third of the proposed size. Despite the sample they were a nightmare to stitch and I've had a week of shredding and breaking threads... and lots of very naughty and very loud swearing! But I have persevered and now I don't like the darn thing! It doesn't hang properly, the cylinders are not round and there is no way I'm going to get it into London on the train.

So I've resorted to a photograph which makes it look a lot better than it is!

However I am pleased with my dress which now has its bodice. This is going to assessment as a photograph too as I'm not taking this on the train either! I still want to work on this before the fashion show so there will be further updates.

I'm not the only person daft enough to knit/crochet plastic bags. If you follow this link there is a very clever lady making the most amazing coral type forms from crochet... including orange Sainsbury's bags.

Have a lovely weekend : )

Tuesday 13 May 2008


I've been absent for a few days because I've been a little preoccupied. Opus assessment day is looming and there are projects to be finished, forms to be filled in and notes to be updated. So a little glimpse of what's been going on. For my final project for "Sculptural Form" I was inspired by a drawing of a cactus I'd made on holiday.

So on Friday I dyed some fabric and threads.

I then embellished some scrim onto the back of the fabric to give some texture.

And the rest of the weekend and all day yesterday was spent hand stitching the whole lot into my cactus inspired vessel. I was grateful that the weather was fine and I could sit outside... but I know now why I usually work on the machine!

I've now got one final project to finish before Saturday (which will be entirely machine stitched!), not to mention the plastic bag knitting and then I've got two weeks off before the start of my next module. Yippee!!

Thursday 8 May 2008

Salad Days

Thank you so much for your wonderful encouraging comments about the plastic bag skirt - it was especially lovely to get comments from "new" people... all VERY much appreciated. I'm still working on the bodice but will put pictures up when it's finished and let you know about my progress in the competition.

It's been a good week so far - not only have I finished that skirt - but I've more reasons to be proud of Sam. Sam graduated two years ago with a degree in theatre arts and with plans to be a writer. It was never going to be an easy career but he has stuck at some pretty boring temp jobs to finance his dream. He wrote his first novel the year he graduated and has put up with a constant stream of rejection slips from publishers and agents over the past two years. But on Tuesday I took him to Ely where he met with Melrose Books, an independent publisher - and they are going to publish his first novel - "Cold Turkey and the Case of the Missing Crime" - a humourous detective spoof. Needless to say we are all very excited and I'll keep you posted!

No photos to show of Sam meeting publishers... so some gratuitous food shots instead (well it's been a while), The wonderful weather we've been having this week in the UK has meant salads for dinner so on Tuesday it was my favourite Greek Salad...

Which comes from this book.
I especially like the addition of fennel rather than cucumber in this version.

And tonight it was a classic Salade Nicoise which came from Delia's How to Cook Book Two.

Eaten with some crusty fresh walnut bread, a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc, looking out on the sun dappled trees in the garden and listening to birdsong and the sound of leather on willow... it doesn't get much better!

Monday 5 May 2008

I'm so excited...

...and to be honest it doesn't take much! But I finished my honeycomb plastic bag skirt. It was all a bit of an experiment and I was never quite sure it would work but it has! I think if I was to make it again (which I'm NOT going to do) it would have a few more layers and be slightly longer but overall I'm really pleased with the way it has turned out.

There have been one or two of you who asked would I be modelling the said garment but although I can get it on, until I've shifted a few pounds you'll have to be content with seeing it on my super skinny dressmaker dummy!

Although this has been the resolved project for my assignment on Dress as a Sculptural form it is also serving a dual purpose. There is a competition being held by Cambridge University to create an outfit using only Sainsbury's plastic bags. I've never entered anything like this before but thought it might be a bit of fun. However, a skirt alone does not constitute an outfit and so I am knitting the bodice... from orange plastic bags of course!

The outfit has to be finished by the end of this month and winners will be modelled at a catwalk show at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in June... so you may see me modelling it yet!
There have been lots of other samples for the degree made over the past couple of weeks too and because I've not made a collage for a while... here they are! These are for my last assignment which is Sculptural Form (but not in the context of dress). I've still got to resove this assignment and then consolidate everything I've done so far... all in time for assessment day on 16th May! ... so why am I blogging????