Thursday 30 October 2008

Let Them Eat Cake

Am I the only one who hugely over estimates what can be achieved in one day and then ends up cross and frustrated that there's not enough time to do everything?

On Saturday I'm teaching a class on Tassels, Cords and Beads at Chelmsford Embroiderer's Guild. I thought I would be very organised and get everything ready this morning (as opposed to Friday night!), leaving the afternoon free for some degree work and a trip to the supermarket.

First of all I needed to make up some more samples of beads

So that I could make up some more samples of pendants.

That done, I needed to cut some tassels frames

So that I could make up plenty of kits of necessary materials.

Doesn't sound like it should take long does it? But it has taken all day and I'm still cutting out frames, the wet washing is still sitting in the machine and there's not a scrap of food to feed my army of men for dinner... unless of course I make them eat scones. I found time to make more of those!

Tuesday 28 October 2008


We all need a bit of colour in our lives
To brighten up dark autumn afternoons
Today Jacob and I made scones
with buttermilk
(recipe courtesy of Alice)
Complete with ruby red plum jam.

Someone who literally brought colour to the lives of many was Julia Caprara. Many of you will have already read on other blogs the sad news of Julia's death on Friday after a long illness. I first met Julia at an open day when I was considering taking the degree with Opus. It was her generous and encouraging words that gave me the confidence to believe in myself and to believe I was good enough to do this degree. A lovely, generous, inspiring and colourful lady who will be missed by many. Condolences to Alex and his family.

If you've not experienced Julia's wonderful way with colour then I can whole heartedly recommend her book "Exploring Colour" which is full of wonderful images of her work together with assignments and exercises designed to inspire those who wish to explore colour and stitch creatively. Put some colour in your life.

Sunday 26 October 2008

A Temporary Halt

Just as I thought I was making really good progress on the ripple blanket (it actually covers my knees now) there was a bit of a halt in proceedings....

A crochet hook calamity you understand... my beautiful turned wood crochet hook snapped in two.

And of course I have crochet hooks in every available size except the size I needed. But at least this has meant instead of crocheting in the evenings I've been knitting and have finally finished the socks I started months ago.

Which is just as well given the state of my other hand knitted socks....

It looks as though I might have to start darning in the evenings instead.

As for the crochet... our village Post Office came to the rescue and had a hook in just the right size. Our wonderful Post Office sells far more than just stamps!

So I think I will be crocheting again in the evenings.... especially now it's getting dark so early.

Friday 24 October 2008

Wiggly Bags

Another hectic week where time seems to have disappeared. I've not had time to reply individually to all your lovely comments lately so just wanted to say they are all very much appreciated, I love reading them and thank you very much! (Please don't stop!!!) A few updates from the the last couple of posts... For those of you who wondered when the Wishing Eel was on display in Cambridge, he should be in the window of the Cambridge University Press bookshop during December after the official book launch on December 2nd. He would love you to visit him! (and buy the book of course!)

The outrageous Miss Lily the Pink is on her way to her new home this morning... I did have a picture of her climbing into a jiffy bag but seem to have deleted it! Thank you Julie who actually bought her and to everyone who showed an interest. An extra £16 has now gone to Breast Cancer Care.

Talking of charities... today I have been making Wiggly bags. Not bags that are wiggly but bags for wigglies! Wiggly bags are used by children who are being treated for cancer. They can hang them by a ribbon round their neck and they keep their IV lines clean and out of the way. At our "Pink" fundraiser a couple of weeks ago, as well as raising money for Breast Cancer Care, one of the other charities we supported was Leukemia Research. As an extra, my friend Jane has been making up kits for Wiggly bags - the money raised from the sale of the kits going to Leukemia Research and the Wiggly Bags going to Ward C2 at Addenbrooke's Hospital.

As you can see they are less like bags but more like little lined envelopes held together with velcro.

Very quick and easy to make and a great way of using up those odd scraps of fabric that get left over from bigger projects.

Over a cup of tea with Jane this morning it suddenly occured to me this is just the sort of thing you might like to help us with?

So, if you fancy making a Wiggly bag (or two or three!) out of some fun fabric, which really does help to brighten up these childrens' day, then leave me a comment so that I can email you the instructions and then you can send the finished bags back to me. The more astute among you may have realised this is a clever ruse to get lots of mail... and of course lots of comments! (Which brings me right back to where I started!)

Sunday 19 October 2008

The Wishing Eel

I have previously mentioned my involvement with a wonderful project in Cambrigeshire called Vital Communities. As a result of one of the Vital Communities residencies by writer Gillian McClure and artist John Wiltshire at Fawcett Primary School in Cambridge, a beautiful little book has been published. The story of The Wishing Eel and the accompanying illustrations has been created entirely by the pupils of Fawcett Primary School.

My involvement began when I was asked to make a "Wishing Eel" to be part of the book promotion and as a result the following "sock eel" was created!

In reality he is rather reminiscent of one of those 1970s style draught excluders but apparently has been well received by the children on his book tour!

But when Cambridge University Press decided to feature The Wishing Eel as a window display in their Cambrige shop, I was asked to make another eel that looked more like one of the illustrations in the book.

So this is eel version two.

I just wish he didn't look quite so sad!

or just plain darn scared!

It is a lovely story, with beautiful illustrations and would make a great stocking filler for young children. Only £4.99 ISBN 978-0-9560205-0-5 and available soon from Amazon!

On a completely different note, the cut back in commitments has allowed for some creativity in the kitchen this weekend.... sun dried tomato foccacia

Spicy carrot and parsnip soup

and cranberry and macademia nut cookies!
(which are nearly all gone)

Off to make a sticky toffee bread and butter pudding now!

Friday 17 October 2008

A Quick Update

You were right... the girl is trouble! I need to get rid of her!

I was going to do a blog raffle but the thought of trying to sort out the sale of tickets and getting payment etc was too much for my little computer illiterate brain. So instead Lily the Pink has gone into my Etsy shop for the rest of October and if someone is kind enough to buy her the proceeds will be donated to Breast Cancer Care's "In the Pink" campaign.

In the Pink.

Originally intended for the raffle at our "pink" fund raising evening... but not finished in time.

This is Lily the Pink

with some pink lilies.

Which let's face it...

are a lot prettier than her!

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Thursday 16 October 2008

Art Van Go

I've had such a lovely day at Art Van Go today that it didn't feel like work! I thought you might like to see some of the results of the students' hard work though. Jo put together some lovely colours and did all her preparatory stitching only to have problems with her machine so she couldn't stitch it all together but I thought the colours were so beautiful together. It will be fabulous when she manages to get it finished.

That said they all need to have some more stitching before they are finally complete but they are all looking good.
This one below is by Chris.

This is by Joan

This is by Margaret

And last but not least this is by Angela

They were all beautiful and all so different which is what I love about a class like this. Fancy joining us next time? I'll be back at Art Van Go on April 3rd and June 13th next year!
When I got home I was treated to a lovely surprise. Julia had promised to send me some soap nuts but inside the parcel was this as well as some soap nut tea bags...

A novel about Havana which she had mentioned on her blog recently along with a CD of some Cuban music... perfect to transport me right back there! Unfortunately she couldn't work out how to send the Mojitos so I'll have to make do with a glass of wine tonight. After three days of teaching I feel like I deserve one. Thank you Julia.

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Barnacles and Buttons

Many years ago when my friend Jude and I did our City and Guilds Machine Embroidery, Jude made a tiny but exquisite sample of feather stitch that looked just like a barnacle encrusted rock. So today in my City and Guilds class when we worked through samples of whip stitch, moss stitch and feather stitch there were several attempts at barnacles. There is something quite satisfying about working very small... these barnacles are only about 0.5 cm in diameter.

Still working small... there have been more buttons. Hand stitched this time and carrying messages.

Bigger than the barnacles at 1.5 cm but still pretty small. Not sure I want to work big again!

Once again, thank you all for your kind messages of support. Cutting back my workload... and working small is definitely helping!

Monday 13 October 2008

Some Advertising!

I had a wonderful time at the Knitting and stitching show on Thursday and was remarkably restrained in my purchases! Some sock yarn, a few skeins of thread and a couple of books because most of the time I was chatting to people... fellow Opus students, fellow Missenden tutors, some of my current and ex-students and of course some bloggers - Stephanie, Dale, Lynda and Maggie. I also met a "lurker" (I'm sorry I can't remember your name!) who recognised me whilst I was trying on a gorgeous jacket. Ah yes... the jacket.... I bought that too!

Since Thursday I've been doing a lot of thinking and reassessing. For a while now I've been feeling exhausted and slightly run down. Lots of headaches, trouble sleeping etc. and over the weekend I decided some things had to change. I've made a difficult decision to give up some of my work committments and to concentrate on my own work and my adult teaching. I will miss working in schools and the community work but I know it's the right thing to do because already I feel much better and more relaxed. And talking of adult teaching....

On Thursday I'm teaching a machine embroidery class at Art Van Go - Machined Textures. We will be looking at various ways of building up texture with the sewing machine resulting in a landscape panel like these:

So if you live near or within easy reach of Knebworth (good rail links from London) and fancy a fun day out there are still places on the course. Just ring Art Van Go on 01438 814946. I would love to meet you!
And while I'm advertising... do you remember these dubious gentlemen?

I finally finished three more tea cosies to go into my badly neglected Etsy Shop.

Two have already sold but there's still this one left!