Wednesday 30 October 2013

Soul Food

A couple of weeks ago when I wrote this post about feeling as though I'm being pulled in too many different directions a friend sent me an email with some useful suggestions. One of them was to write a list of all the optional activities I take part in and decide how important they are, how much time they take, what I get from them and what would happen if I didn't do them. She then suggested I make a second list of the things I don't have enough time for.
I haven't physically made the lists yet but I have given them a lot of thought and the one thing I never seem to have enough time for is working in my garden. I always forget how much I enjoy it. But this afternoon I decided to make the most of the wonderful autumn sunshine and cleared out my vegetable beds.

And after two hours of clearing, digging and harvesting in the fresh air and sunshine, I realise that I do need to make more time to work in the garden. We have a large garden that takes a lot of work and usually doesn't look its best. Stewart cuts the grass but he'll be the first to admit that he doesn't know his Dandelions from his Delphiniums... and the less said about the Hollyhock/weed confusion the better. So if I want my garden to look good I need to put the hours in. So the first thing on my second list will be gardening... essential for my mental wellbeing on so many levels. (Do read Nancy's excellent post on mental well being)

And of course, with all the extra exercise I can indulge in guilt free cake eating... coffee and walnut this afternoon... which is just as well as baking is another activity that feeds my soul... as well as my stomach!

Sunday 27 October 2013

A Scandinavian Hands Up For Uganda!

I was going to say this story started about 9 months ago but I should probably go back further.  A few years ago the wife of the Congregational Church minister in our neighbouring village started a series of community suppers held in the church school room, to raise money for both the church and various charities. Over the years different people have hosted the suppers with different themes... and so it came about that at a Scottish themed supper at the beginning of this year I happened to ask my friend Anne if they had ever held a Scandinavian supper. (We had both recently bought a Scandinavian baking book so had a shared interest)
And from that simple question the seed was sown and we move rapidly forward to last night... our Scandinavian Supper. We had a few trial runs of the menu in advance, multiplied the quantities to feed 44 people and got together a small team of willing cooks...
The school room was decorated with a Scandinavian theme...

The people arrived and we then set about serving up vast quantities of meatballs!

Of course there was cake too... Norwegian spice cake...

and Swedish Tosca cake.

For entertainment we had baskets of lego...

With  a competition for the best lego models...

And there was a sing-a-long to well known Abba songs and even some dancing.

We had a gorgeous blonde maiden preparing the food and a viking to serve the Glogg

And there was even a Swedish Chef!!! ( I own up... it's me)

We all had a brilliant evening but best of all was that we managed to raise lots of money... Anne and I chose "Hands Up For Uganda" as our charity which if any of you receive Bobby Britnell's newsletter will know is a really worthwhile charity that works at grassroots level in the village of Kisaabwa in Southern Uganda. Please do follow the links to find out more about this fantastic worthwhile cause.

Friday 25 October 2013

That'll Do Nicely

I like the challenge of working to commission, trying to come up with a design that will satisfy the customer yet also be something I will enjoy working on. Last week I was asked to come up with a design for a book jacket as a leaving gift for an American Express empoyee. In a mad moment I thought it would be a good idea to try to recreate an Amex Card.
It might have been a good idea but deciding how to execute it was another matter altogether. I started by dyeing the fabric and then worked on the Centurion motif, which I shaded with crayons and free machined.

I then agonised over the lettering and made some test runs...

but in the end it all seemed to come together.

Now I'm just hoping it will fit the book. I did get to measure the actual book before I started but it has gone off to be filled with photos and memories so I won't actually get to see it with its jacket in place.

I've a couple of more commissions to finish off in the next few weeks but meanwhile we've a busy weekend ahead involving meatballs, Smorgasbord, Swedish chefs and Abba... I'll be back early next week to tell you all about it!

Sunday 20 October 2013

Books Galore

Yesterday I taught a bookmaking class at our Embroiderer's Guild. We were making these books that I shared here a couple of weeks ago... probably one of my favourite book structures but not one I have never taught before. After several trial  runs I thought I had it nailed... but I think I may have under estimated how tricky they are!
However, despite having to grapple with mathematical formulae to get the covers the right size and then needing at least two pairs of hands to hold everything in place whilst trying to stitch the thing together, there were several finished books at the end of the day... and a few more that were almost done and taken home to finish. Each and every one of them looked fabulous.

And I just love the way they look together...

With each combination of colours and pattern looking so good

I forgot my camera so these photos were kindly taken by Jill who made the gorgeous blue/pink book on the left in the photo below.

Gill finished hers off at home... a pink book of course! I'm hoping I'll get to see the others that were finished at home too. Thank you ladies... it was a super day and you all did so well.

I managed to use some lovely Italian marbled paper for the cover of the book that I made in class...

I bought it in Florence some years ago and I had been saving it for "best" which I've decided is a silly thing to do... because beautiful things should be enjoyed every day.

So I'll be making more books with this paper.

I made a little one too... because I can't resist making little things!

Just 3" square.

And today has been a rare day off from work and deadlines... instead I've cooked lunch for my family and baked a chocolate fudge cake, we've sat around the table and laughed and relaxed... which has gone a little way to restore the balance... for now at least!

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Play Time

My head seems all over the place at the moment... At the moment? Who am I kidding, I seem to have spent most of my adult life feeling like this. Too many differents things going on and too many things pulling me in different directions. Piles of stuff that need sorting out, deadlines to meet... and endless paperwork.
I'm finding it hard to focus on one thing or another and as I result I feel that I don't focus on anything very well... and all this goes on against the backdrop of usual family dramas ranging from panic attacks to flat batteries! (Neither of them mine I might add)

I'm not entirely sure what the answer is. There is nothing obvious I can give up or change so instead I'm trying to work in my sketchbooks... just a little each day. Nothing mind blowing or ground breaking... but just doing.

Last week at Spectrum we did mono printing so I've been cutting and sticking some of my images and making nice pages.

Taking time out from all the things that have to be done...

Time out to play.

Sunday 13 October 2013

My Feet Are Up

Much as I like to be busy this has been a rather crazy few days so it's good to have my feet up this afternoon. The overwhelming impression I brought back from my day at the Knitting and Stitching show is what an awful headache I had. I remember being unimpressed last year and I felt much the same again on Thursday. A couple of excellent exhibitions but not much else... and the less said about the state of the toilets the better!
However I have had a fantastic weekend at Missenden Abbey with my brand new group of City & Guilds students. They are all enthusiastic and fun, have worked really hard and I know we are going to have a brilliant couple of years. While we were there we stumbled across a fantastic exhibition called Pinpoint at The One Church Street Gallery in Great Missenden. Over fifty contemporary miniature works of art -  "that express a sustained conversation with materials" - textile inspired in one way or another. There are some really cutting edge pieces of work from a diverse group of artists and the exhibition which is open until November 9th is well worth a visit.

Something else I managed to do whilst I was at Missenden Abbey was finish off some knitting in the evenings. These blue Parade socks have been on the needles for some time so it was good to finish them... and wear them! Perfect socks for putting one's feet up.

And while I'm talking socks these are another pair I've finished recently - the first time I've ever tried socks with different colour toes and heels. I might have been really pleased with them except I seem to have made a mistake...

One has got a single rib cuff and the other has got a double rib which I didn't notice until I tried them on. They were knitted toe up so it wouldn't be that much of a problem to unravel the cuff on one sock and re-knit it, but to be honest I can't be bothered!

One thing I didn't managed while I was away was to pick a winner of the make up bag made from Celia's fabrics... so I enlisted the help of my assistant on my return home this afternoon...

And  Vivienne of Green Rabbit Designs is the winner.
But now it's time to get off my backside and unpack the numerous bags that are taking up space in my studio and then start the dinner... so much for putting my feet up.

Monday 7 October 2013

More Secrets

I didn't want to show you the final couple of makes from Celia's fabric on Friday. Because they were a secret until they arrived with their recipient.
But I can show you now. Just two little patchwork lavender bags made from the left over bits of fabric.

As a little thank you to Celia for letting me use her beautiful fabrics.

And remember, that if you would like a chance of winning this make up bag made from the fabrics then go back to my last post and leave me a comment by Friday 11th October.

And some time over the weekend I'll pick a winner and I might just have time to pop back here and tell you! Mad crazy week coming up... teaching, more teaching, followed by a day helping out on the Missenden Abbey stand at the Knitting and Stitching show on Thursday and then actually off to Missenden Abbey on Friday for a weekend of even more teaching. No rest for the wicked.

Friday 4 October 2013

Secret Sewing Project

You may have caught wind of a secret sewing project!
A few weeks ago at the beginning of the summer Celia send me an email to say she was designing her own fabrics... very exciting! But even more exciting, she asked if I would like to recieve a sample of the fabrics to make up into something. Yes please!
The fabrics arrived and the colours and prints were beautiful.

So beautiful that I dithered and dallied not wanting to cut into them - so many decisions about what to make and which combinations of the fabrics to put together.

Eventually I took the plunge and made a tea cosy featuring a lovely print (Ruby Hearts)  taken from Celia's woodblock "The Birds' Wedding".

Different birds front and back.

And fully lined with one of the other fabrics (Sea Sprigs)

I know that it is not terribly modest to say that it is quite lovely... but it is and I think that is more to do with the fabric than my sewing/design skills.

There was still plenty of fabric left so I embarked on a second project which took me right out of my comfort zone...

a pieced and quilted cushion cover.

With rather cute little buttons on the envelope back.

I'm sure you can see that these really are beautiful fabrics and they are available to purchase from celia here:
However if sewing is not your thing, both the tea cosy (sold!) and the cushion cover (sold) are in my Esty shop. Rather reluctantly I must say as I would quite like to hang on to them.

And because there was still some fabric left I have made a little padded purse to give away.

Finished with a zip and fully lined...

Perfect make up bag size (18 cm x 14 cm)

Just leave a comment by next Friday, 11th October and I'll pick a winner.
You can see what the other secret sewers Su and Tracy have been up to today too!