Wednesday 27 February 2013

A Monday Mosaic

So do you want to see what I got up to on Monday? I shall show you anyway! Something completely new to me (except for a small tiled coaster that came as a free kit with a magazine years ago)... Mosaic. I tell you, those Romans knew a thing or two...
Last summer I had two lovely ladies visit my Open Studios... Enid and Terry. Enid is an embroiderer and Terry is a dressmaker who also makes the most exquisite mosaics. We chatted for ages and then met up again at Enid's house for tea later in the summer. I saw Terry again just before Christmas and to cut a long story short, I happened to mention I would like to try mosaic. We came up with the idea of a skills swap and on Monday Terry very kindly invited me over to her studio for the day.

I had no idea what I might end up doing and there were so many inspiring mosaics of Terry's around the house and garden that I didn't have a clue where to start. In the end I decided to make a plaque with a heart motif... and this is the result!

I had brought along a small bag of bits and pieces like beads, buttons and shells and was delighted that I could use this beautiful glass bead...

as well as this ceramic button.

I wish the photos could show you how pretty the tiles look, especially the pink iridescent glass tiles. I had said that I wouldn't use pink or red for my heart, but changed my mind when I saw these tiles. Terry was a very patient teacher and I spent a blissful day snipping and sticking. And if that wasn't enough, Terry also made me lunch... and cake!

I loved the fact that in terms of materials, it feels so far removed from handling textiles yet the idea of piecing things together is not so different. And although I can see from looking at the photos there is much room for improvement I am absolutely thrilled with the results. Thank you so much Terry!
Now... have I got room in my house and my life for another hobby? Probably not, but it is so tempting.

Monday 25 February 2013

Beaded Buttons

Once in a while it is good to try something new. I would never call myself a beader. I don't have the patience to really get to grips with the craft and I have a lot of trouble with keeping my thread under tension. There have been many a beading project where I've come to the end and discovered a bead dangling in the middle of my work. But at Textiles in Focus last week, Sarah from Bee Crafty asked me if I would like to try out her Beaded Button Corsage kit.... well... it would have been rude to refuse!
I picked out a green and purple kit from the several kits Sarah had prepared specially for the show. The first step was to cover the button and stitch on the beads which was easy following the excellent step by step instructions.

Next I had to gather up the beautiful shaded silk ribbon included with the kit (and decide whether to have green or purple on the outer edge.)

And then combine the two to make the corsage. At this point I have to confess that although I love the beaded button and think that the shaded ribbon is gorgeous I'm not that keen on them combined... but I'm aware that is just a case of personal taste. For me it feels a little bit too much like a rosette. But however you end up making up the kit, it is excellent value with very clear instructions and with plenty of beads left to make more than one button...

Which is a good thing because I love my beaded button.... so much so I've even made another one!

And today I've been trying out something else new... but that will have to wait for another post!

Sunday 24 February 2013

Mamma Mia!

Having visited and loved The Nordic bakery in London, I was keen to buy the cookbook of the same name but when I read the reviews on Amazon they weren't that great. The general opinion seemed to be that the recipes, although sounding interesting and innovative, weren't that reliable... but I went ahead and bought it anyway! 
Our neighbouring village holds a community supper every few months or so. Different people organise it, there is always a theme, tickets are sold and money is raised for charity. A friend and I have been toying with the idea of doing a Scandinavian supper and so it seemed a good excuse to invite her and her husband over for supper to give some of the Nordic recipes a trial run... and to see what might be possible to scale up for 40 or so people!

After digging out an old Abba CD to set the mood, I made Rye bread and Gravadlax to start but the bread was not a huge success. It tasted okay but didn't look so great... hence you've not beeen treated to a photo! We had Swedish meatballs and celeriac mash as our main course... and then some baking from my new book to finish. A blueberry tart with rye pastry... not bad!

As well as a toffee topped Tosca cake, which was delicious... so I've decided I rather like my new Nordic Baking Book! And of course we are now all set with plenty of ideas for our community Scandinavian supper. Although I think I'll need to eat a little less cake if I'm entertaining the idea of dressing up in a jumpsuit and platform boots!

Thursday 21 February 2013


Yesterday I had a day out in London with Gill to see the Valentino Exhibition at Somerset House. It was a stunning exhibition with 130 gowns on show. It was arranged so that we were walking along a catwalk and the dresses were where the audience would usually be, so it was a chance to see each gown right up close and in detail.
There were several stunning dresses and the couture detailing, embroidery and beading were amazing... yet I have to say (and eavesdropping on other conversations we were not the only ones to think so) there were some hideous creations too... numerous monstrosities in awful colours with far too much embellishment thrown at each dress

I certainly wouldn't want to wear the dress below to my Oscar ceremony! Yet the highlight of the exhibition for me was a small display at the end showing some of the couture techniques up close with a film of how they were achieved. I came home determined to try some out... although when I googled "Budellini" which was one of the techniques on show I discovered it was Italian for "Intestines" which is not quite what I had in mind!

After the exhibition and some lunch we braved the bitter cold and had a wander through Covent Garden and on to Soho to do a bit of window shopping (we were both very restrained shoppers yesterday!) ending up in the fabric shops of Berwick street.

In Broadwick Silks (a fabulous shop) we spotted this amazing embroidered fabric covered in sketchy portraits. At £85 per metre it was a little over our budget but they very kindly let us take a photo and I even came away with a tiny sample... with a view to trying my own version.

At our last Spectrum meeting I got the ladies to draw portraits of each other. The purpose of the exercise was not to end up with great works of art or fabulous likenesses but to make them realise that to make good drawings that record information we can use later, we need to spend more time looking at the subject we are drawing rather than at our sheet of paper.

Although I have to say I do often think I'm wasting my time as whilst some members happily embrace whatever exercise I throw at them, I still get all the usual comments of "I hate drawing" and "I don't do portraits" which seems to me to be missing the point completely. The point being it is excellent practise in being more observant, in being able to record information, which in turn will make for better designs and ultimately better work... but I fear I am wasting my breath!

But I digress... because I dug out my own portraits from the last meeting (very sketchy and very rough) and used them and other sketches from my sketchbook to produce a small sample of my own "portrait fabric".

Yes... you are all in there ladies... but I'm not letting on who is who!
Thank you for you kind messages after my last post. Our poor hen never did return home so we are down to just one chicken... but thinking of indroducing a couple of companions for her.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Feathers and Finery

Despite the sunshine I'm feeling sad today. As I sat eating my breakfast a dog came tearing into my back garden in hot pursuit of one of my chickens. All I could see was a mass of feathers amidst squeals and a lot of squawking. By the time I had run into the garden there was no sign of the chicken and the dog was circling like a mad thing. I opened the back gate to shoo it out to find the owner strolling along quite oblivious to the mayhem going on. When I told her that I thought her dog had killed one of my chickens her reaction was "Well have you got a gap in your fence?"... Oh... my fault then that your dog is not under control! I'm afraid I was left speechless and slammed the back gate on her while I tried to see if I could find the chicken. But there is no sign of her. Feathers everywhere but no chicken to be found in the garden or down the road. And our one remaining chicken (we lost two last year) is quite distraught! And to think we've been worried about foxes lately!
So what was meant to be a post to show you some of the brilliant work achieved in just two hours in my workshops at Textiles in Focus on Friday has turned into a bit of a rant... sorry! But back to the workshops... as you can see there were some lovely results to my "Weave it, Wear it" brooch making workshops.

There was a touch of scepticism that these would be finished in just two hours but several of the ladies wore their brooches at the end of the class.

Not all were finished and not all came out well in the photos but this is a selection from the twenty five brooches that were started.

I had four very young attendees too and the pink brooch above was made by one of the young girls... so I'm now thinking this might be a good project for my Young Embroiderers to tackle.
Well done to everyone who came to my workshops, young and old... you did brilliantly!

Textiles in Focus was an excellent show as usual with some fabulous exhibitions, displays and shopping opportunities.

Although with teaching a class in the morning and another in the afternoon as well as fitting in a quick lunch with friends, I didn't get as much time as I would have liked for looking around.

Especially as soon as I finished on Friday afternoon it was a quick dash home before packing a bag and heading off to Dundee. We arrived at 1 am, straight to bed, then spent Saturday celebrating Stewart's Mum's 80th birthday with a super high tea with all the family. Sunday it was back down the A1 and home again... a bit of a whirlwind weekend.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to see if the chicken can be found anywhere, but I'm not too hopeful.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Sharing the Love...

With giant sized, homemade, heart shaped Jammie Dodgers filled with fresh raspberry sauce. Just for you this Valentine's Day.

I thought it was about time I made something from this book.

And talking of books... the winner of my Valentine's Day giveaway...

In past giveaways I have been known to photograph all the names written out on all the little bits of paper, and then take more photos of a hand pulling the winner's name out of a hat... that was until one day Sam fell about laughing at my antics.   "As if that is going to convince your readers you haven't fiddled it" he chortled. Well I haven't fiddled it, but I do take his point, so you'll just have to believe me when I say that the winner this time is ANNA. Well done Anna!

Sunday 10 February 2013

Fancy Pants

Would you like to see my knickers?
Okay... before regular readers turn away in disgust and any new readers think they have stumbled upon a most inappropriate blog... let me explain. On Friday I mentioned that Gill and I did a bit of unecessary shopping at The Creative Sanctuary (such an enticing shop). We were both seduced by the frills, bows and fabulous fabrics in these knicker making kits.

Such frivolity!

And so I ended up spending yesterday afternoon making up my kit and this is the result! I did struggle a bit with the instructions and ended up doing my own thing but they seem to have turned out okay... although the liklihood of me actually wearing them seems pretty slim (at least you are spared views of my bum!)

In the unlikely event of them being worn, I decided I wouldn't want the label inside (far too scratchy) so have stitched it outside for all to see... except of course no-one is likely to see them!

Now I really must stop procrastinating with frivolous projects because there is work to be done this week. But first... I just want to cast on with the yarn that I bought on Friday....
On a completey different note, I would like to send you over to visit my friend Catherina's blog. I have known Catherina for quite a few years now and we started our degree together. We share a love of textiles and often meet for coffee or lunch, and sometimes an exhibition. It is Catherina who has now got my piece of work for our weather project... and I have hers (more about that another time!). Catherina has been thinking about writing a blog for quite some time but then suddenly last year she experienced every parents worse nightmare. Her beautiful and talented daughter Kiama died from a sudden illness and understandably all sorts of plans came to a stop. But Catherina is one of the strongest and most inspirational people I know and now that blog has become a reality. I could tell you much more... but I will leave that to Catherina. Please pay her a visit and say hello because she is my friend and she is lovely!

Saturday 9 February 2013

Baking Mad

A little while ago I was approached by a representative of Bakingmad to see if I would like to make one of their recipes and review it on my blog. Given how much I love to bake, I didn't have to give it much thought and I chose one of their Valentine's Day recipes... A Brownie Rolo Heart. You can find more Valentine's Day recipes here:
 I made sure I followed the instructions to the letter, assembling all my ingredients before I started, lining my tin properly etc.

But despite taking all this care I stumbled at the first hurdle. The recipe calls for the butter to be rubbed into the dry ingredients (something I've not come across before in a brownie recipe) but the proportion of fat to dry ingredients was too large and instead of the expected breadcrumb like texture the result was a very sticky creamed mixture, the majority of which was stuck to my hands. At this stage I got out my electric mixture and proceeded to mix everything together with the whisk. Back on track, the cake went into the oven... for 30 minutes according to the recipe.

But it was 50 minutes before the centre of the cake stopped looking liquid and I was prepared to risk taking it out of the oven. I've made a lot of Brownies over the years and I know that they should be squidgy in the centre and not at all dry... but I didn't think they should be poured out of the tin!

I was concerned that the outside edges would be hard and dry and a little burned, which is always a problem with chocolate... but it looked okay so I went ahead and decorated the cake.

And the verdict.... well the proof of the pudding as they say... in the eating!

And this went from Heart to nothing in 24 hours...

With comments like "Oh Boy" and "Good Cake". It was moist, very chocolately and with a toffee like layer along the bottom... the Rolos had obviously all sunk to the bottom of the cake! I think it was more of a chocolate fudge cake than a Brownie and I wouldn't make it if it was Brownies that I wanted. But with a bit of tweaking to the recipe, I would definitely make it again! The evidence speaks for itself!

And for having the pleasure of testing... and eating this excellent chocolate cake, the Bakingmad people have given me a cookbook to giveaway to my readers.

Called the Big Book of Bread, it is not only filled with all manner of bread recipes for yeasted breads, fruit breads, flatbreads etc...

But it also has sections on using bread in other recipes such as desserts...

and main courses.

If you would like to leave me a comment telling me your favourite chocolate recipe then I will pop your name into a draw to win this fine cook book. The winner will be picked on Thursday which is Valentine's Day. I'm sorry that I will have to limit this giveaway to UK readers this time as it is quite a heavy book and I'm not sure I can afford to send it overseas without taking out a mortgage!