Wednesday, 10 February 2016

All done

I can't really believe it was November. November since I last blogged?! To make up for lost time, here is a very picture-heavy post!

This is what my room looked like before the builders started on it. Goodness knows where everything went, including 5 bicycles!!

They started on 10 November with the drills. Oh, the drills. Drilling out brickwork for the window, and drilling into concrete driveway for the footings.

Then they stopped, for two weeks.  Then there was the hoo-ha about the gas meter people, and whether they could climb through a window or needed to come back in January. That was fun. Then there was another lull. Then they came and knocked holes in the wall

and made a lot of dust, and then the plasterers came who didn't make dust, just drips of pink plaster.

The living room wall was replastered too, which was nice: we have (had) two large recurring  cracks in the living room walls: one called George, and one called Penny, on opposite sides of the room and named after the previous owners. They were hidden by furniture when we viewed the house. I think it's George who's finally been obliterated now :)

Then there was a lull, followed by a mad dash to the finish for the carpenters before we went to France at Christmas. There was a bit of bother about the skip.

And although we were initially quite fond of our skip, the romance soon cooled and we were more than a little relieved when it was collected - albeit it after we had left for our holiday, and we even asked a neighbour to text us to confirm it had gone.

Then there was Christmas, where all the photos looked like our summer photos.

Apart from the wellies.

Then there was the longest lull ever, waiting for the invisible plumber, who has still not even now returned my calls/texts. In the end we asked his brother - also a plumber – to come and attach the radiator, and kindly replace our leaky hot water tank for double the money. And finally, on Friday, the very efficient but equally hard-to-track-down electricians came and finished off my gallery lighting and my cubby-hole lighting strip, and added a couple of mains smoke alarms and a new living room socket while they were about it.

We even called on the neighbours to help - one to help with putting up some of the new shelves

and one neighbour with woodworking capabilities and tools, to cut shapes out of a bit of shelving board so I can use it as a splashback - something I only realised I needed after a little "incident" with the blue Brusho! You can see the board in position here

next to the clever shelves that hang on the electricity meter cupboard and the clip-on baskets hold all those things like soldering irons and heat guns. (The cupboard door is just primed at the moment, but I have plans for it).

But it was exhausting just having "things done" and having to be up-and-about promptly of a morning, just in case an elusive tradesperson should arrive early. And I did have to paint the walls, and go to the land of blue and yellow no fewer than three times. And I've got an RSI in my right hand now - triggered by painting the walls, and exacerbated by lifting heavy boxes of flat-pack with my small hands - I've not enough hand/finger to grip securely and so I've strained the gripping muscles in the back of my hand. And there were a lot of boxes…

And I did have to carry on teaching and preparing work, including doing two exhibitions, all the time my materials and equipment were scattered in plastic boxes all around the house and up in the loft.

But am I pleased with my space? Yes, yes and yes. A thousand yeses. I have a door (albeit a primed not painted door; I haven't got round to that yet) - and yes, the door went in straight, not with the wiggly red line...

but I finally have somewhere I can retreat to other than the bathroom. And I can think. And while I'm still not the most efficient little worker bee, my head is clearer than it has been in years. And I am slowly but surely working my way through the "to do" list. For example, yesterday I was supposed to do all sorts of things with short deadlines, but I chose to do something from my "to do" list that has been on there from I don't remember when: I finally uploaded some pictures and opened my Society6 shop.

Anyway, without further ado, welcome to my studio:

So pleased the little cubbyhole drawers fit in the alcove!

Now the electricians know why I wanted sockets at seemingly random heights

How exciting! The calico is right under the ironing pad

And all those little bits and pieces are in a drawer, released from their plastic boxes

And the fabric stash is within reach of the sewing machine

Needed the spice racks. Don't know why, just did

My reading corner, and massive pin board, and whiteboard for mission control. There was supposed to be a tall bookcase here, but after the plasterers had done their bit I realised we were 10mm under for my planned 4000mm length of wall. But it all worked out for the best, as the whiteboard fits, and when I got the shorter bookcase I realised that two more of them would fit further into the depths of my secret cupboard.

Reading material

Dingle dangles, including the lacy organza bags for the course I'm teaching very very soon at Missenden Abbey.

But where's all the other stuff Isobel? The stuff that has been removed from the office, dining room, living room and loft? Resulting in a chest of drawers, a dresser, two merchant's chests, a blanket box, a massive quilters cupboard, and about a gazillion plastic crates being surplus to requirements?

It's stuffed under here of course! I have two art trolleys, three big storage trolleys, two more bookcases and a tiny bit of floorspace for bags of random stuff.

Can't quite believe we haven't always had this room. You wouldn't know it was new from the outside.

A job very well done indeed! Next up - new front door and living room window and woodburner and decorating the living room, stairs, landing, our room, the office....I think we'll leave it a while until we tackle that lot!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Stalled, drifting and floating

Gosh that sounds deep! It isn't...

Stalled at this:

Which is very dull. We are waiting for a bricklayer to come and build a wall. He's got until Tuesday at 8am when the gas people come and move the gas meter into the new meter box in the new non-existent wall. Dull but also making me strangely twitchy. Until the gas meter is moved and the wall is built, the floor can't be done, nor the walls lined...nothing can be done really, and I just want it all FINISHED!!! 

Drifting: because now Mrs B has my cupboards, all my stuff is packed into crates and tidy heaps and deposited all around the house. I've been trying to catch up with a few of those projects that you put off until you have a decent amount of time with no other pressures, but without making any mess or getting too much stuff out again. (But why is it when you do have the time, you don't feel like doing it?). 

Yesterday I made another sack dress this time from a Clothkits pattern that I picked up back in October at the K&S show. I also managed to get the last 2 metres of beautiful navy linen from the Merchant and Mills stand at the same time, but because I'm absolute pants at making clothes (despite being a wizz on the sewing machine!) I've tried it out first by using an old cotton sheet. I've used cotton thread throughout, and I will dye it. 

But yet again (must be due to body dysmorphia!) I've cut out a Medium and it is rather...."smock-like" as Mr G put it kindly. So back to the drawing board, and I will trace off a Small and start again...I'll have to use calico next time, as I have no more sheet, and I will dye that one too. So I will then have one capacious and one hopefully OK dress, dyed in some as-yet-to-be-decided colour, by which time I will be too bored of dressmaking to actually attempt it in a rather lovely navy linen!

Other jobs on my list include washing and then shortening the dining room curtains so that whippets and husbands don't tread dirt all over them, making a hot-water bottle cover from an old jumper, and then making four curtains for our bedroom: nothing to really stir up the creative juices there!

Floating: At the moment, my work is in the New Town Arts Collective exhibition at the Greenstede Gallery, Chequer Mead, East Grinstead. Here is all the work laid out on the floor waiting to be hung:

My work is at the front. I always worry that I'm bringing too much, so it was useful to see that it only takes up the same space as John's massive acrylic paintings! 

But there are no red dots yet (well, there may be a couple of private negotiations after the exhibition). Maybe there will be a late flurry? Live in hope...

Anyway, back to the floating. Back in the summer my sister asked what I would like for my birthday present. "A lie down in a darkened room?" was what I answered! So whaddya know, I received a voucher for a floatation session!! And with the floaty place being just down the way from the gallery in East Grinstead, I finally went along on Monday afternoon (ironically I've been too busy and stressed do go before now!). 

I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but I enjoyed it - I did relax and switch off, once I worked out that if I needed to move (for example to scratch my elbow) I needed to do so v e r y  s l o w l y as the slightest movement sets you drifting across the pool which feels very strange in the pitch dark. I fell asleep at one point (which I was sure I would do, as I've been a bit sleep deprived recently) and suddenly snapped awake so I had to waggle my legs because I couldn't feel them at all - so that set off more waves again. On Monday evening, I was incredibly sleepy by 8.30pm - not like me at all, so perhaps it did do me some good. So I want to go again now and find out! I can see it could get addictive...

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Three builders and an IKEA catalogue

You may remember this picture of our living room

Well we've got all our building approvals and wotnot, and chosen a man who can - make straight edges to holes in walls for new doorways! The garage is nearly empty, just need to sell my old bike and move more bits into the sheds. We now have two mini sheds outside the kitchen, and the summerhouse - never truly sure of its identity (summer living room? Meditation room? Studio? Model railway room?) is now our posh bike shed, green roof and everything!

And I've been busy with the catalogue of all things flat-pack and my squared paper, planning to the millimetre exactly what is going where. Fun fun fun, I used to spend hours doing this sort of thing when I was 10. Should have been an architect.

And with two weeks until New Town Art Collective hang an exhibition at the Greenstede Gallery, East Grinstead, for which I have no new work, I thought I'd use my half-term break to empty my cupboards and desks ready for the Great Furniture Merrygoround that will keep things like the piano out of the way of builders and the ensuing dust.

Look at all those empty shelves and drawers...the stuff still inside the cupboard is all in crates and can be moved out tout suite when we need to dismantle (!!!!) the desk.

The cupboard in the way of the squiggly red line in the living room is quite an important one to shift early on, natch - can't have that sitting in the doorway to my studio! Let me say that again. MY STUDIO. 

I have had to make some hard decisions along the way

Pots of bits? Foily bits? Fabric bits? Leaf skeletons and dried petals?? I know exactly what at least one person reading this would say to do with it all...and she may be right.

But I've also found things like my Grandmother's pin box, and my Mother's needle cases and tatting shuttles...

I've kept out a supply of materials to finish off some work (I will do it, I just need a stupidly short deadline) and I've also kept out some books that I got the last 18 months or so, that I haven't read properly yet (where does the time go?). The rest of everything is either stacked in the office or in the loft. Mr G has expressed concern that one room, even all for me, already won't be big enough before we've even started...

Oops, sneaked in a box of shells there...sshhh

But then we took a cupboard over to Mrs B's workroom - the wonderful Mrs B who has agreed to buy my enormous sewing cupboard and two other sets of drawers (she's hankered after a cupboard like mine for years, she says) and her work room and the volume of STUFF EVERYWHERE beats mine hands down. I don't know if he was relieved, or worried that it was a glimpse into the future, as Mrs B has a head start on a few years over me....

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

If it ain't broke

There's a double meaning in that... When I started this blog, it was a bit of fun, a place to share my creations, a place to waffle on about life.

Then more teaching happened, and I began to get noticed on the Threadnoodle Facebook page...and I started to get confused about who I was, and who I was writing for (am I Iz, on a quest for the ultimate flapjack? Or am I Isobel Moore, Textile Artiste and Teacher extraordinaire?) So there followed a year-long dry spell in the land of Blog.

But I'm back. I'm both Iz and Isobel. I have accepted my random teaching style, my tangents and digressions. I will try and mindmap as a way to tame the thought processes or at least make them accessible to my students (Jan!).

But meanwhile, here is a blog post about breakfast.

A certain celebrity chef popped up on my Facebook timeline with a video about a kushti breakfast recipe. Let's call him Damie Jolliver. I was intrigued. I was tempted. Girl had expressed a dislike and boredom of the homemade birchermuesli offering (summer breakfast; winter breakfast being porridge) and wanted packet cereal and milk again. Oh no, thought I. I will make this kushti granola sweepings just like Damie Jolliver and all will be well.

Except it wasn't. It never is, is it?  As usual, I quickly concluded that Damie doesn't do his own prep or washing up. "Just" toast 1kg of oats and 1/2 pound of nuts? Like how, Damie? I didn't have a big enough oven tray so thought I'd use a dry pan on the gas and do it in batches.

One hour later.

The next step shows an excitable Damie cramming it all in a food processor. Uhuh. Not going to work, no Magimix in these parts. So I did batch blending in my mini chopper.

Fatal error no.1 was adding the ground coffee. Fatal error no.2 adding orange zest with cocoa. The only chocolate orange combo I will ever eat belongs to Terry, and I'll only eat it if I'm in a post-Christmas torpor and not thinking straight. I hate chocolate and fruit, loathe it. Why did I not trust my instincts?

Then there was the dust. Oh, the dust. Dirty, dirty. Oaty chocolatey coffee grounds dust. Then I didn't have a big enough container for it all. What a palaver. 

By this stage it had already taken nearly two hours to do what Damie's little video suggests you can knock up in a matter of moments, and that's before I'd cleaned up the kitchen.

Then, the first taste...hmmm, strangely gritty but not too awful. Was hoping for more than "acceptable" so I went in search of Mr Gonecycling and commanded him to eat a small bowlful of the stuff with milk. The results were not good. The final reckoning was at breakfast the next day, with all three of us. All three of us who then had a bowl of emergency porridge. 

I tried to salvage the granola dust muesli sweepings in the form of flapjack - not many things can't be helped along with the addition of butter, sugar and syrup. But I was wrong. 

We put it out for the birds. They weren't partial. 

Since when, I've actually been skipping breakfast altogether. Sort of lost my taste for it. The others are back to porridge. 

Moral of the story? Don't be in the thrall of celebrity chefs who don't do their own washing up. 

Secondly, blog as myself: it's good to be back! Next up, tales of cupboards and knocking holes in walls.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Catching up

Well gosh a mercy, it's been a long time. If you know me though, or follow me on Facebook or whatever, you will know that since I was last here I've been to Brittany, taught my first summer school at Missenden Abbey, had an exhibition, prepared my classes for this term, booked an amazing holiday for February, learnt a bit about painting, and generally had a hard time of it with Girl. I could have blogged about any of those things, but didn't, so here is a quick snapshot just to catch us all up: Brittany: We had a bit of a storm Which was terrifying, a bit floaty in that our tent was - floating - but did give rise to the expression "#waterproofgear" to be used hereafter in any inclement weather (one of the German boys came over to check we were OK, much to Girl's delight, and was checking and helping everyone in our section of the campsite because he "had the waterproofgear". And a big torch. Meanwhile, I was trying to move everything off the floor of our tent by the light of an LED tea light). But it wasn't all rain. Our last full day was definitely a beach day, so we tootled off down the coast to our "secret" beach i.e. only locals, no tourists - followed by the compulsory ice-cream from the little shop in Ploumoguer, eaten on the steps of the enclos paroissiaux:
Summer school:  I was terrified (but that's nothing new - I'm scared of everything!) but I had an absolute blast. A fabulous group, and wonderful work: Here is my Facebook post with the finished pieces (See my website for details of my 2016 courses at Missenden Abbey). Exhibition: No time for new work, apart from a few cards, but it was a lovely venue and I think we got it all together remarkably well - our first real group exhibition!
More pictures here. Holiday:
I'm already scared about driving my own snowmobile (obviously) but I'm ridiculously excited about our winter holiday to Norway. Must leave room in the suitcase for some knitwear and Sami anything!!  Painting: I went on a course with Emma Burnett, and painted this:
Not entirely sure I've found my métier! Which just leaves... Girl: Here she is in "colourful" mode
Funny thing is, it could be me at the same age. But don't tell her that!  

Monday, 6 July 2015

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside....

Oh yes, I really do! But before the summer holidays begin, I really must wrap up the teaching year. I promised to post these photos many many weeks ago, so without further ado, here are the amaaaazing seascapes we stitched in class at the beginning of the summer term - some finished, some not quite:




Carole B






detail of Morag's

Carole H

These last ones were "practice" pieces, for trying out different stitch techniques, but worthy of being framed in their own right! 

What a fantastic bunch of work - it was a bit of a trial run for my Missenden Abbey Summer School course and my guinea pigs students had to trust me with each step, especially those who didn't work from a photo. Most people ended up using a combination of working from imagination, memory or a photo. I think you'll agree they did a superb job, and every single one of them should be jolly proud of their work! 

So well done to all the Newick and Fairwarp ladies - see you in September if not before!

And if anyone else fancies giving a seascape a go, then there are still places available on my summer school in August. Full details are available here.

And I've just noticed that my two weekend classes for 2016 are also on the Missenden Abbey website! Here (lacy organza bags) and here (fabulous fearless free motion machine embroidery).

Looks like I'm going to be a bit busy...I really have to get this time-management malarky sorted out!


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