Monday 30 April 2012

Stitching, Baking and Cleaning

After my dithery Wednesday last week it was full-on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday!
There was lots of teaching, lots of cleaning and lots of baking. As well as teaching bookmaking last week I was also at Bee Crafty in Huntingdon teaching the ladies how to make tassels, cords and these beads... all on their sewing machines.

And these were some of the beautiful results. I'm back at Bee Crafty in a few weeks (18th May) making embroidered books so if you fancy joining us give them a call as I think there are still some places left. It's worth it for the homemade cake and biscuits!

The extra cleaning and baking was all to do with our Embroiderer's Guild. We had a social evening on Friday and our speaker was the lovely Fiona Wilson. Fiona was staying with me on Friday night and as the dog has picked this week to go for a full-on moult it necessitated lots of extra vacuuming and washing of floors. And there were cheesecakes to be made for the Guild supper that we provided too. But it was all worth it as Fiona gave a really entertaining talk on how she progresses from design ideas to realising them in stitch, with lots of beautiful examples of her work too... do click the links to visit her website and blog and see for yourself.

And then on Saturday Fiona ran a workshop. I don't often attend workshops as a student these days so it was a real treat. We started with some drawing exercises to free us up and get us thinking about drawing and mark making in different ways. (Yes, I know mine look like scribble... but that is the point!)

We then played around with different threads and different tension settings on our machines to see how many different types of marks we could make with stitch.

Not the sort of workshop where you come away with a finished project...

But one where I came away inspired to develop ideas...

and to think about new ways to approach my own work

Not only was it an excellent talk and workshop but it was fun getting to know Fiona too who was a delightful guest even when I presented her with a jar of homemade jam for breakfast on Saturday that she opened to discover a thick layer of mould on the surface! I've admired her work ever since I saw it at the knitting and stitching show a couple of years ago so it was lovely to spend some time with her... and I treated myself to one of her lovely prints on a wooden block.

There have also been lots of books of one description or another over the past few days too... but I think I'll save those for another post!

Wednesday 25 April 2012

This and That

 It's been one of those days... it started with a whole clear day ahead of me and then I've dithered about doing a bit of this and a bit of that without feeling I've actually achieved anything... do you have those days? The reality is that I've probably done quite a lot but nothing feels finished... except perhaps for this tiny little embroidery.

Only about 2" square it's a little badge for Jacob's girlfriend.

Because she's celebrating a special birthday today!

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Blizzard Books

More folded structures for this week's book making classes, including one of my favourite folded books - the "blizzard book" or "crown binding"

I never tire of this clever construction devised by Hedi Kyle.

I love that from a single sheet of paper you can fold such a strong structure, that can stand alone as a book, yet can also have pages inserted and various covers added. If you want to know how to make one of these books, I posted a tutorial a couple of years ago.

Of course, as I was making these samples for my classes it wasn't long before I started to wonder how small I could make one of these blizzard books... 

And so the next little matchbox book on my list... a lace book... just happens to be a very tiny blizzard book.

And inside each of the folds is a tiny sample of lace from my collection of bits and bobs.

Nearly everyone who has received one of these books comments on how they are taken by surprise at how small they actually are... despite the fact that we all know the size of a small matchbox. Even a close up with my thumb doesn't really give a sense of the scale.

I admit I was really pleased with this book, so it made it very difficult to come up with an idea for a second lace book.

But this little one with folded pockets seem to have fitted the bill

And has let me include more little samples of lace inside its pockets

And the final book I finished this weekend has been another bird themed book

I rather like these little sleeves for keeping the books shut so they are appearing a lot.

And just because I like the structure so much... another blizzard book too.

I hope the recipients like them too!

Monday 23 April 2012

Back to Normal?

Well... as normal as I ever am. Apart from a little extra sleepiness at either end of the day I seem to be back to normal in the middle and it has been a busy weekend of sharing lots of food with friends, interspersed with a little work. We went to friends for supper on Friday and had a wonderful evening with excellent food and company. Thank you Anne and Peter... I know you read this!

I then headed off to Gravesend on Saturday where I was talking to members of the North Kent Embroiderer's Guild... such a lovely friendly group and I was given a very warm welcome... and cake! Back home it was our turn to have friends for supper on Saturday evening followed by several members of the family here for lunch on Sunday. Although I often make bread using the bread maker I felt the need to knead... and made a batch of Hugh's magic bread dough

Which made amazing bread sticks for dipping while everyone waited for me to produce lunch...

and pretty good pizza for our supper. I'll make that again! And there was pudding which you've seen here before and will probably see again, but Nigella's chocolate Guinness cake is hard to beat... especially with strawberries sprinkled with balsamic vinegar which were quite sublime! Funny but I jumped on the scales this morning and I seem to have gained a couple of pounds since getting back from New Zealand... I wonder why?

There were also some more books made over the weekend... samples for classes this week and a couple more of the matchbox books... but you'll have to wait for another post to see those.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Looking at the Stars

I've been back a week and I'm still having jet lag problems. I'm no longer having trouble sleeping but I am finding it impossible to stay awake beyond 9.30 pm and I am feeling very vague and not quite with it. I wake up every morning feeling like I've been drugged or have got a hangover... not fair when I've not had a drink all week! But it has been back to work so I've just had to get on with it and my students have just had to put up with me! 

I've started something new this week - a six week book making course which I'm teaching on a Tuesday and then repeating on a Thursday. We started with various folded book structures all made from a single folded sheet of paper.

Some were old favourite and others were new structures that I've discovered recently.

Although some of them looked as though I would never get them folded back again...

And one or two have provided a bit of a challenge for the tutor as well as the students!

But fiddling about with books all week has got me back into my miniature books and today I finished the first of the remaining twenty four that have been ordered.

This one was an "Oscar Wilde" themed book and the cover has been decorated with one of my favourite quotes "We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars"

Inside I have made a book folded from a single sheet with integrated pockets... a new structure that I discovered this week.

And in each of the pockets is a little tag with another Oscar Wilde quote. Only another 23 of these little books to go! As for the jet lag... tonight I'm trying the Gin and Tonic cure. I figure if I'm waking up with what feels like a hangover I might as well justify it... and I'm not teaching tomorrow!

Monday 16 April 2012

Fear of Flying

That is probably a misleading title because I don't actually have a fear of flying, I just dislike it intensely. Something about being confined in that small space (ironic given I had no problem with the small spaces in the caves), all the other people and the fact that it all feels out of my control... which I think is the real problem as I know I have issues with control! With any other form of transport I feel at least I have the option of stopping and getting off if I want. (Although the reality might be something else... it might not be that easy to stop a speeding train!). So given that I was going to be airborn for 7 hours to Dubai, then another 14 hours to Australia and finally 3 hours to New Zealand not to mention the 24 hours coming home too, I decided to turn my journey into something of a film and literary festival! In total I saw six films and read almost four books.

The Descendants... was okay and fairly entertaining given I was a captive audience, although I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it.

My Week With Marilyn...  was excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed this and thought that Michelle Williams was superb as Marilyn Monroe.

The Help... was also excellent. I had read the book a couple of months ago, which I also thoroughly enjoyed, and I think it was probably a good thing as the Jackson, Mississippi accents weren't easy to understand against the background of airplane noise. But this one I would like to see again.

The Artist... was delightful. I had my doubts after all the hype and the oscars but it didn't disappoint. It was original, charming and funny. And the little dog was an absolute star!

The Iron Lady... I didn't really fancy this being no great Thatcher fan but I was pleasantly surprised and actually found it enjoyable but quite sad, although think she lost the plot long before the onset of dementia.

War Horse... this was another film I didn't really fancy but I ended up thoroughly enjoying it. It was over romanticised, sentimental and far fetched but still a great story and a real epic of a film that totally absorbed me.

As well as watching films I also managed a fair bit of reading.
The Fine Colour of Rust by P. A. O'Reilly - Nancy very kindly passed this on to me and it arrived the morning I left. I read it cover to cover on the flight out and loved it. A really delightful feel good story set in rural Australia and laugh out loud funny in places too. My Mum is reading it at the moment but when she is finished I'll pass this on if anyone else fancies it.

Unless by Carol Sheilds... this was another excellent read although quite a thought provoking story looking at complex issues within a family. I read this for this for my book club this month so think I might have to be more eloquent in my review by the time we meet!

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes... I really enjoyed this story looking at memory and how our memories can be quite selective and how difficult it can be to discern what is actual truth and what we believe to be truth. Then when I got to the end I didn't understand what had happened at all and I wasn't sure whether this was deliberate or not. The main character is always being told "He doesn't get it" and I'm not sure I do either. As it's so short I'm reading it again in case I missed something!

And finally Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell... which I'm still reading, finding a bit strange and yet also quite compelling. It is six separate yet intertwined stories written in different styles or genres so quite unusual.

Now I'm back home I'll probably revert back to my usual 2 or 3 films a year and one book a month!

Sunday 15 April 2012

Black Water Rafting

One of the highlights of our trip to New Zealand was seeing the glow worm caves at Waitomo. There are huge networks of caves in this area of the country that feature glow worms that are native to New Zealand. Mum chose the sensible option where she could walk down into the caves and then have a boat trip through to see the worms... but not me and Joe.

We opted for a five hour experience called "Rip, Rap and Raft". After getting kitted out in wetsuits, helmets and harnesses we were taught how to use the the harnesses to control our speed when abseiling. Looks easy on the grassy hillside doesn't it!

Feels slightly different when you are suspended over a 23m drop!

I thought it was brilliant! All the way down into this watery cave.

Our group of six were led off  away from the daylight into the depths of the cave where we had to scramble through tight holes.It might look bright in the photos but it was pitch black and only lit by the bulbs on our helmets.

I was worried my backside might get stuck in this one!

We ended up in a huge dark cavern, we lay on our backs, turned off our lights and were treated with the most amazing display of glow worms. Next we grabbed our inner tubes and set off floating down the underground river.

Where again we turned off our lights and were treated to another light show from the worms that looked just like stars in the night sky. Slightly scary floating on an inner tube in the pitch black and hearing the roar of water running over rocks getting closer and closer... but we put lights back on and stood up to climb over the rapids.

There were more tight holes to squeeze through

Until eventually we found ourselves back where we started... but how to get out???

Harnesses on and we climbed the 27m up that rock face... not that easy in those stylish white wellies let me tell you!  I may look like I've just had a stroll in the park but believe me I was exhausted!

 But a totally amazing experience and boy did I sleep well that night.