Wednesday 26 November 2014

It's a Cracker

This in an unashamedly festive post today (yes I know it is not even December yet) and while I'm being unashamed, it's a bit self promotional too! I made this sparkly pair of crackers a couple of weeks ago as a special end of term project for my weekly machine embroidery class... but I shall come to these in a little while...
 As a self employed artist/embroidery tutor marketing and promotion are just as important as actually doing and making stuff. At times I stuggle just to keep up with the game never mind staying ahead of it but I do quite like using Facebook because it is a great way of sharing images and it is pretty much instant, unlike writing a blog post which takes a bit of planning.

I'm aware it's not everyones cup of tea but used carefully it can be a great way of getting stuff out there. Facebook users will know that there are personal pages or profiles where you can have "friends". I have one of these and although I never put very much personal stuff on there I do still limit my friends to people I actually know or have met... so please don't take it personally if you have ever sent me a friend request that I have ignored! But there are also business pages where you have "likes" and these are open for anyone to like... and I have one of these too!

What is a mystery to me is how some artists have thousands of "likes" or followers and others, like me, not so many. So I tried a bit of a promotion last week and put some of these cracker photos on my page with an offer of a giveaway to one of my page likers... plus a request that if people felt like it they could share it on their pages too. Hooray... overnight I gained about 50 new followers (or likes).

Yesterday my class finished their crackers...

And the results were absolutely stunning... all so shiny and sparkly...

And all so different... don't you just love these pastel colours?

And so I put up these photos on Facebok yesterday with a reminder that I would be giving a cracker away on 1st December, and again overnight as if by magic, my likes increased from 875 to 920.
And I got to thinking how excited I would be if my "likes" actually reached 1000 by 1st December, so I'm letting you, my blog readers know. All you have to do is click on the link on my sidebar that says "Like my Facebook Page" and you could stand a chance of winning one of these sparkly decorative crackers pictured below... it might only be a 1 in 1000 chance but but you have to be in to win! And remember... do feel free to share!

And for those of you not on Facebook or not lucky enough to win I was also thinking of writing up a tutorial for making these and possibly selling the PDF in my Etsy shop*... just in time for Christmas. What do you think? Worth the effort?

And while I'm feeling festive... the first batch of mince pies were made yesterday. A little reward for those clever students for making such beautiful crackers! Would it be nice if I could share a mincepie with you too for reading this far!
* In response to Erica's comment - yes, several years ago there was an article on making crackers in Stitch magazine by Carol Colman  which gave me the idea for making crackers but  I have devised the method for making these myself. Any tutorial would be my own work.

Monday 24 November 2014

All I Need is Time!

What a splendid time I've had in Harrogate!
I'd like to tell you I had plenty of time to see the beautiful town, visit its many attractions and that I'd had tea and cake in Betty's (there was a big queue outside) but it wouldn't be true... that will have to be a treat for another time.  For most of the time I was sat behind a table on Art Van Go's "Artists in Action" stand at the Knitting and Stitching show.
I arrived Wednesday afternoon in time to set up my table (it has a calm before the storm feeling, don't you think) and met some of my fellow artists... Clare Bullock, a wonderful feltmaker (without a website unfortunately) Alison Hulme and myself had a lot of laughs over the days we were there... many that seemed to involve the security guards but that would be telling!

The time whizzed by as we demonstrated, worked on projects and even did some collaborative work... Clare made felt, Alison printed on it and then I stitched it... and of course we chatted to the public, who were all so friendly and interested. I met several ladies who said they read this blog... HELLO!!! That's a big wave to you all, it was lovely to meet you!

It was so much fun I ended up staying an extra day  (which involved having to find an M & S to buy clean knickers but that's probably too much information) and didn't get home until Saturday evening... absolutely exhausted! Yesterday and today, I've pottered about, putting things away and tidying up but feeling very inspired to finish off work with plenty of ideas for new things as well. All I need now is more time... If only M & S sold that too!

Before I went away, I had a fabulous day in London where I met with two fellow bloggers - Frances, who had come all the way from New York and Celia, a friend from not so far afield. We had a lovely day that included a visit to the Constable exhibition at the V & A and a leisurely lunch. Celia has written so eloquently about the exhibition here that I'm not even going to try, but I do need to share the lovely gifts I received. A set of Celia's beautiful Christmas cards together with buttons that she had covered with Grayson Perry fabric... I think I may have squealed just a little at these. And Frances had hand knitted this dear little fairisle sweater. Mine is already pinned up on my notice board and will not be relegated to the Christmas decoration box, that's for sure.
So that's my busy week... although there are commissions to finish and teaching to do in the coming days so it will be back to work for me in the morning. If it's true that there's no rest for the wicked then I reckon I must have been pretty bad as some point! Catch up with you soon!

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Art in Action

Typical isn't it... the busier life gets the more there is to write about, the more ideas I have for blog posts and the less time I have to do it. The weekend was spent away at Missenden Abbey with my year 2 City & Guilds students, Monday I was in London for a lovely day with two fellow bloggers, one of whom I met for the first time, today I was teaching again... all things I could tell you about... and I will, but not right now. Because I'm busy packing for a trip up north...
I'm going to Harrogate where I will be an "Artist in Action" at the Knitting and Stitching show. It's the first time I've done anything like that... and my first time ever visiting Harrogate.

I'll be digging out my Frida sketchbooks...

And hope to demonstrate some machine embroidery... as well as finish off some work.

Some of this work has been sitting around the studio for far too long so it will be good to make some progress.

I'll be there all day Thursday and Friday morning so please come and say hello

And maybe next week I'll catch up with my blog writing, blog reading... and possibly even some sleep before I head off for another weekend at Missenden.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Natty Knits

Another exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum can only mean one thing... another day out in London for me and Gill.
This time we went to see "Knitwear - Chanel to Westwood". Although there was at least one original Chanel jacket and another Westwood sweater, the exhibition was mostly an eclectic mix of knitwear from the private collection of Mark and Cleo Butterworth, collectors of antique and vintage clothing and there were as many domestic hand knitted items as there were designer pieces.

Items on display ranged from knitted sportswear such as golfing jackets from the 1920s through to some pretty amazing swimwear. Does anyone remember having to wear a knitted swimsuit?

There were also some wonderful fairisle tank tops and lovely examples of multi-coloured handknits from the war years, knitted from unravelled sweaters in true make do and mend style. As well as knitted garments there were crochet dresses too. I may not have worn a knitted swimsuit but I did have a mini crochet jacket similar to Twiggy's!

It got Gill and I reminiscing how we both also had knitted suits in the days back when, and so this evening I had a rummage through some old photos and this is what I found... me aged 24 looking positively middle aged in the most revolting pink boucle knitted two piece!

As with every other exhibition we have ever seen at this gem of a museum, it was brilliant - well staged and well thought out with the added bonus of a wonderful free guided tour, something that takes place every Wednesday lunchtime and now Fridays too I believe. We always come away from exhibitions here feeling inspired to go home and create. Gill has a yearning to try fairisle, we both fancy digging out some vintage patterns... but I don't think either of us will be sporting knitted suits anytime soon!

Monday 10 November 2014

Sweet Sunday

Because I often work weekends I really value a lazy Sunday with no pressure to do anything in particular...
time to spend an hour or so in the garden raking leaves.

Having spicy parsnip soup for lunch...

With a homemade cottage loaf,,,

even if the top did go rather askew...

It still tasted good! And then after a lazy afternoon reading the paper, a night out at the cinema to see a good film.

A Sunday all the more sweet for knowing that next weekend I'll be working!

Saturday 8 November 2014

A Saturday Selection

I went out for walk to get the Sunday paper last week... I thought I'd go the long way round. I hadn't been gone more than 5 minutes when the heavens opened. Did I turn back... no... like a mad woman I carried on and turned up at the shop like a drowned rat. But there was a silver lining to my soggy cloud because I discovered a tree full of crab apples on my wandering. Yes, I stopped in the pouring rain to fill my bag with apples!
And then later in the day I went out again and filled another bag full of sloes.

But there was a reason for my madness...I have only ever made jam or marmalade before but when I spotted the crab apples I had a sudden fancy to try making jelly.... and like they say, no point waiting for the storm to pass...

And this was the result. Five jars of the most gloriously magenta hedgerow jelly

Which was wonderful on hot buttered toast. In the interest of project "Shrinking my backside" I only had one slice and resisted the urge to make scones. But I have no doubt it would make the perfect accompaniment to scones!

And other stuff this week... there has been some more cushion making in amongst some teaching, plus a meeting with seven wonderful ladies aged between 87 and 101. It was my job to listen to their memories (and their giggling!) and now I have to convert them into a wall hanging (the memories, not the ladies) for their new lounge in their residential home. I'm really excited about this project so watch this space...

I've also been getting to grips with some new specs. I've needed reading glasses for several years and they usually stay permanently perched on the end of my nose with me peering over the top. But now that my distance vision is going too I've got some varifocals to wear all the time. If you've had them you will know that they take a bit of getting used to... and I am slowly becoming accustomed to them. But when I put this photo and a comment on Facebook you wouldn't believe all the "expert" advice that came my way... from "take them back straight away" to "I've probably got the wrong prescription"! The consensus seems to be though, that they do need wearing in, so that's what I'm doing!

Did I mention I made cake too? I know, I wasn't meant to be making cake but this wasn't for me, it was for the village over 60s club (which could almost be me!)

And then today I made more to take to our Embroiderers' Guild meeting. I may have eaten just one... and licked the icing bowl... but it was my lunch so don't worry on my behalf. Project "Shrinking my backside" is still on track!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Monday 3 November 2014

The Year in Books :: November

Is it really November? Where has this year gone? I read somewhere that the reason time seems to go past so much faster the older we get is that we compare it against what has already passed. So that when we are only seven years old,  by comparision a year seems like an awful long time... yet when we are fifty seven years old a year is but a small fraction of what has already gone. No idea if that's true but I do know that summers never seem as long as they used to!
But I digress... my October Year in Books choice, Longbourn by Jo Baker was delightful. A gentle re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice from the viewpoint of the servants but a story in its own right too. Not particularly taxing but a thoroughly enjoyable read. A pleasure!

I also read another Peter May thriller this month - Entry Island, which I found every bit as gripping as previous books of his that I've read. He tells a good story and it was an entertaining page turner.

Having a few days holiday last month meant I got through another couple of books too. I picked up Perfect by Rachel Joyce with some reservation. I had loved her first book - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry but had read some poor reviews of her second novel, Perfect. I suppose its main theme is mental illness told through the parallel stories of childhood friends James and Byron, and that of Jim, a man struggling with severe OCD. I found it a very sad but excellent read and gripping story. I've also treated myself to a copy of Grayson Perry's Playing to the Gallery, which is more or less based on his very entertaining and insightful BBC4 Reith Lectures last year.
It has occured to me that all the fictional books I read in October, although not in the least similar, do share something in common and that is a good story. And I do like a good story!

And my book choice for November is We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Liking it so far! Have you read any good stories recently?
Joining in with Laura's Year in Books at A Circle of Pine Trees