Tuesday 27 March 2018

Working Away

Working away and travelling for work is not always as exciting and glamorous as it might sound but I quite enjoy going off to different places to teach, especially when I get a chance to explore and learn more about my surroundings. It would have been easy to have written off my recent trip around the M25, knowing I was staying in a Premier Inn located literally yards away from the M20 near Maidstone.

But after depositing my bags on Thusday evening, I went out for a wander in the opposite direction to the motorway and strolled along the River Medway. It was a beautiful evening and surprisingly peaceful with just boats, walkers and wildlife.

I made an unexpected discovery and spied this castle on the opposite bank

Back at the hotel I was spotted by one of the ladies on my course who just happened to recognise me (the trappings of fame you know!) who asked if I wanted to join her and her sister for dinner and so I spent a very enjoyable evening in their company.

Up early the next day we headed a few miles up the road to Aylesford Priory, a beautiful and fascinating venue, still a working Carmelite priory and shrine, where our two day workshop was being held. The room was well lit and cosy, the lunches were good, there was time for a wander around the grounds and a visit to the pottery. The twelve ladies on my course worked hard on their textured landscapes producing these wonderful pieces of work. They are all yet to be finished off but they will have some lovely results when they are done.

And as usual when I teach a workshop, I worked on my own picture alongside those in class so I could demonstrate each technique as we progressed and I finished up with a rather unseasonal autumn landscape.

So although I've been away working it was in many ways not like work at all and the break from the routine at home was welcome. A change is as good as a rest as they say. Although it was still good to be back home with a glass of wine by the fire on Saturday evening!

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Since Last Time...

  • Three friends and I co-hosted a charity supper for over forty people on St. Patrick's Day . A lovely village event where we provided a three course supper for a nominal amount to cover costs and then people gave donations. We were raising money for CALM - a small charity that specifical works with young men to help prevent suicide, which happens to be the biggest killer of men under 45. It's a cause that feels close to home at the moment so I was delighted that we raised over £500. I made paper flowers to decorate the tables!

  • I dressed up for the event... it would have been rude not to really! Anyone who knows me also knows I don't need much excuse to dress up... I've done it a previous incarnations of these charity suppers... There was the Scandi supper and the recent 1960s event too!
  • I made several loaves of soda bread which we served with soup. There was a beef and Guinness stew which was served with colcannon and then we finished off with chocolate Guinness cake. I think I may have over catered... we're still eating the cake!
  • There has been more dress making. I volunteered to make waistcoats for the groom and his six groomsmen (two of whom are actually women) for son no. 2's wedding. I have finished one... just six more to go! It's okay I have until July!
  • I made cakes for my machine embroidery class as it was the last class this term. Of course there were several left over which means we are now eating left over cupcakes as well as Guinness cake.
  • Today I've been trying on dresses for the forthcoming weddings (all three of them) but I was horrified by my pale and lumpy reflection in the changing room mirrors and thought that I looked awful in everything I tried on. Please don't mention all the cake I've eaten this week, I need you to be kind to me. It probably didn't help that I couldn't be bothered to take my Doc Marten style boots off and had my trousers round my ankles. Add to that mental picture if you will as the first dress I put on made my now very scruffy hair (having missed my hair cut due to the snow two weeks ago) go static and stick to my head and stick up in equal measures. I probably could have done with putting on some make up and shaving my legs too... but minor details. Needless to say I have come home without a dress although Jacob did remind me I have a very fetching "sheep" onesie that would cover me up.
  • This afternoon I have been packing my bags for a couple of days away, teaching the ladies of Maidstone how to make little textured landscapes on Friday and Saturday. I might have also been drinking tea and eating cake in an attempt to cheer myself up after the abortive dress purchasing mission this morning. Like that's going to help!

Whatever your plans are for this weekend... I hope it's a good one!

Monday 12 March 2018

A New Coat

Before I tell you about my new dressing gown coat, I must thank everyone who left a message of support either in the comments or via email etc. after my last post. Knowing there are so many people thinking of us and giving words of support really does make a difference. I don't really like to focus on the rubbish stuff on my blog but once in a while it doesn't hurt to remember life isn't always a bundle of fun and we all have difficult times to bear now and then. But today this little online space will go back to being a place of creative escapism. Do you remember the expensive wool fabric that I bought way back in October? Bought entirely on a whim with the idea I would make a coat.

I loved that fabric so much I couldn't bear to to cut into it (translated as I spent so much on that fabric I didn't dare cut into it)

It is a very easy and simple pattern so I decided to adapt it ever so slightly to give it a little more interest and I added some sleeve turn ups and pocket flaps... nothing too adventerous. But still I didn't cut into the fabric!

But eventually I was brave and cut it out... ignoring the advice of more experienced dressmakers that I should consider a toile. But I have made Sew Me Something patterns before and I know they fit me well... so I threw caution to the wind!

It stitched up in no time at all as there was no need to finish off the seams and I even added some double rows of topstitching as well as some home made Yorkshire buttons on the pockets

All finished, I tried it on and it fitted well, the shoulders were in the right place, the sleeves were the right length but somehow it felt wrong. More like a dressing gown than a coat! And so it hung on the outside of my wardrobe door for two months reminding me I had made a ridiculously expensive dressing gown.

Until Saturday, when I had an unexpected trip to Covent Garden to teach a rag rug class and I decided to throw caution to the wind and wear my dressing gown to London. And amazingly no one stared at me on the train as though I was rather odd (I didn't wear my slippers and nightie... just saying) and in the end I decided I quite like my new coat

I might even wear it again!

Friday 9 March 2018

Get a Grip!

Okay... I've loaded some photos but now what? I thought I'd write a blog post as it has been a few days but to be honest my mind is all over the place and I'm not sure what I'm writing about. Life feels like a challenge. To be fair it is calmer over the past few days when compared to the distress, self harming and night spent in A & E but we are still on a knife edge. We are getting help but the next appointment is on May 1st... that's nearly eight weeks away! When I called to ask why I was told that is just the way it is. Meanwhile the crisis helpline or emergency services are our options when things get tough. Sorry, I don't mean to offload but sometimes it feels too much to deal with.

I know I'm stressed because I drove through red lights in the middle of Cambridge yesterday. Someone hooted and everyone politely slowed down... it was Cambridge after all... so no harm was done. And I find myself randomly crying... although maybe crying at Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma isn't so random. It is quite emotional after all. So when people ask, I say things are better and yes, we're okay and meanwhile I try to carry on as normal. I'm taking part in an Instagram challenge called "March Meet The Maker" which is fun and I've learned all about Flatlays (photo above). Who even knew that taking photos of randomly arranged objects from above was even a thing... not me obviously!

I've been making things and listing them in my Etsy shop. Bags and tea cosies, although I'm not convinced anyone except me uses a tea cosy anymore. And then this week I read that Etsy in the US actually list weapon accessories such as gun speed loaders... I kid you not. I innocently thought Etsy was all about hand crafted and hand made, so now I plan to close my shop because I don't want anything to do with an organisation that sells weapon accessories. Does anyone else have experience of Folksy or possibly having their own website shop? Although my long neglected website has been a victim of malware and is now temporarily closed... or is about to be closed. My email has also been having problems which may or may not be related, so trying to do anything technical with my website isn't going to be straightforward.

But as well as making stuff, I've been teaching and going out with friends (I'm lucky to have some lovely friends) and at home I'm reading or knitting and drinking tea. So I'm trying to maintain some semblance of normity

That was bit random and heavy for a Friday night wasn't it? I blame the Prosecco... I'm okay really...  as long as you don't start playing Pavarotti!

Saturday 3 March 2018

Beast from the East

So how have you coped with this "Beast from the East"? If you are not in the UK you probably haven't a clue what I'm taking about. It's not some sort of Abominable Snowman (which is how I quite like to imagine it) but a snowstorm that has swept the country and brought us to a standstill. There's nothing like a bit of weather to get us all talking and posting snowy pictures all over social media. We've not been hit too bad in south Cambridgeshire apart from the biting winds and sub zero temperatures but still we've not ventured out much except for a couple of essential doctors appointments... which reminds me, thank you for the kind wishes on my last post. Things are now a little calmer and we are finally getting some support. I missed the appointment for my hair cut though so I'll probably end up looking like some shaggy Beast from the East by the time my next appointment comes around.

Of course we have also had to go out for dog walks although even Hector wasn't convinced he wanted to go out this morning... he looked at me like I was crazy.

He enjoyed it once we were out and it was particularly beautiful and peaceful at 7.30 this morning... the only other tracks were rabbits, birds, deer and even a fox. Quite magical... except the bit where the rabbit tracks coincided with the fox, that wasn't magical. It looked like there might have been a scuffle.

We decided we ought to clear the driveway (not that we have taken the cars out today) but I got bored with shovelling snow so harnessed my inner child and built a snowman instead and I left the shovelling to Stewart. (I've just remembered... I must rescue my hat)

Other than that it has been a good excuse to stay home by the fire and keep warm with some new socks to knit. I've not decided whether I am keeping these or giving them away.

I've also spent time in the studio doing some sewing. I've been faffing about with not much of a plan but have ended up with another three little applique bags.

Potential Mother's Day gifts maybe?

They've gone into my Etsy shop anyway.

I also made some Brownies but I can't show you a photo of those because we've eaten them. I'm ready for some warmer springtime weather now though... are you?