Friday, 23 December 2011

We interrupt this post...

the post about bauble-making

(beads found and leapt upon by me and the Girl in Hobbycraft last night - we had to kill time before picking up Mr Gonecycling, who seemed surprised that we were able to spend a happy hour in a craft shop - hello??)

mystery present stitching and constructing

mega-baking'n'decorating sessions

and snowglobe making'n'shakin'
 (I knew I hoarded those mini jars for a reason.  The first one looks like he's jogging around the jar, and the second one has come unstuck and just drifts around....know the feeling)

and box decorating and chocolate stitching'n'stuffing
 (thanks Gina!  And decoupage paper found in Hobbycraft, just along from the beads...the Girl and I have discovered a new craft.  The chocolates just need some tissue paper and their label: "Stuffed - the chocolates are, so you won't be" or some such, which I shall leave to the Girl to compose.)


to stitch a very special name onto a very special someone's very first Christmas stocking:

Born late this evening, but not a moment too soon!
I've no idea how much he weighs as I forgot to ask, no doubt my sister will fill me in with all the details tomorrow - we just know he's finally here - only 13 days late! 

I think Christmas can start now.

Have a happy time, everyone - see you in the New Year if not before!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Tree of difficulty

Well I finally managed the french-knot sheep, but then I decided I needed a tree in the foreground.

An indefinite blob-tree was too blobby for something in the foreground, so it had to have branches.  The first two got unpicked and this is what we're left with.  I think it works OK now!  The line of sea in the distance was a late addition as well.  The problems all come from thinking too much...

Now I just need to leave it alone and find a frame...

Monday, 12 December 2011

Tidy desk tidy mind?

Oh dear.  No hope for me then.

Things started well.
Only a small selection of fabric was taken out of drawers to start off a new piece:

and by the end of the afternoon it had reached this stage:

but unfortunately this had happened in-between times:

I'll french-knot some sheep and reveal all tomorrow!
(Unfortunately I've already had to tidy - we needed the table to eat dinner.  Pah).

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Throwaway culture

I went to Glyndebourne and all I got was a paper bag

Actually, it's a really nice bag.  And completely over-the-top for three postcards, a pencil, a bulldog clip in the shape of a grand piano and a small book...goes with the territory I suppose! 

So I now have a very special paper bag sitting on my recently tidied and de-cluttered desk.  What on earth should I do with it?!!

The reason for our much-anticipated and surpassing-all-expectations visit to Glyndebourne is described, far more eloquently than I ever could, here

Thursday, 1 December 2011


...from clearing up my desk.

I can't help it.
I'm supposed to be tidying up but I keep finding little bundles of fluff and thread like this:

Would you look at those colours?  Beautiful.
But what can I do with it? 
Put it in a little plastic ricotta pot (washed) and hoard it, of course!

And then there's this little bundle of bits:

The trimmings from the edge of the advent calendar I made for the NEW LITTLE person, due to arrive anytime soon...the advent calendar I didn't take a photo of because I had to deliver it in person to the prospective very tired people  parents at very short notice on Tuesday and didn't finish it until 11pm Monday....sorry!

Like the soon-to-be-born little niece/nephew, these snippets of linen and cotton are truly tiny:

and as if by magic they are stitched together down one side...what else can they become, other than a book?

Why does it take me all day to tidy my desk?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Out of my comfort zone

...starting with the bus ride to Hailsham to attend a workshop here.  The first 500 yards went well - and then we turned left where I thought we would go straight on.  Thereafter, at every junction, I thought "as long as we turn right here, I'm on the right bus".  And so of course we turned left.  Or went straight over.  And we followed the hilly line of the Sussex Weald for miles and miles, meandering around the Sussex villages and little towns.  I knew we were heading in more-or-less the right direction, and as long as we turned off the Weald at some point and headed for the Pevensey Levels all would work out in the end.  And so it did.  We just went a slightly more devious route than I would ever have imagined!

But enough of bus journeys.  The other week, no sooner had I said to myself "I need someone to show me how to use acrylics" I saw an acrylic workshop advertised, and only £12 for 3 hours.  Rude not to.  I rang straight away to book, asked what to take, and was told only brushes as everything else was provided.

Which is where I had been slightly mislead.  Everyone else, claiming to be "complete beginners and absolutely hopeless" brought neat little sets of paint tubes in all sorts of colours, and mysterious baking trays of parchment and rubber bands, and jam jars for water, and kitchen towel....and I had to make do with some dried up tubes of paint in a plant saucer, in a very limited colour range. 

But considering the limited materials, the state of my brushes, and that my only previous experience with acrylic painting involved a paint roller and a can of Dulux, I'm more than pleased with the result!

The photo it's taken from was just chosen from a great stack the tutor had  brought.  I mucked up the skyline on the first "pass" but ended up very pleased with the clouds top right - in fact the sky is my favourite bit.  Then I had to be daring and paint in the trees.  And finally, that huge expanse of grass!  Grass is HARD to paint.  It was all a bit khaki for ages and I was worried, then I was rescued with a blob of emerald and a dab of someone else's brilliant blue, and it all came together.  I didn't have time for my teasels because people started packing up.  But overall I'm fairly amazed with myself.  Nothing like being chucked in at the deep end! (doh! Missed that off the list from my last post)

And tomorrow I'm out of my comfort zone again, with a project that unfortunately (a) is becoming a bit too quilt-like for me, and (b) involves more maths than I thought - button sudoko anyone?

(Sorry for the blurry pic).
It also involves sewing lots of these...

onto a mystery item.  Suffice to say there are 24 of those little squares and I need to get it done by 1 December. 

And finally, the Boy has definitely been out of his comfort zone.  We downloaded a Thunderstorm CD for him to listen to at his leisure.  We had a few wobbles to start with, but if we play it loud when we're getting ready for a W.A.L.K or if he's eating stinky lamb dinner* he doesn't notice the thunder at all.  All we need now is a CD of "rain on canvas tent" and we're good to go to Brittany on holiday again....

*I cooked up some lamb breast (and carrot and parsley and thyme...ahem...not spoilt at all) in the pressure cooker and nearly gagged it was so foul.  Luckily he thinks it's delicious. 

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Fluency and flow

When I was nine years old I swam in Lake Geneva with a German girl.  She couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak German, but we had fun splashing about nevertheless.  When it was time to leave, her father said to me “tomorrow, you will be a fish!”. 

Well I still haven’t grown fins and a tail, but my swimming is definitely coming on – and is feeling more flowing than drowning.  And as I’ve been wafting my way from one end of the pool to the other and back again (repeat 32 times) I’ve come to see swimming as a bit of a metaphor for life.  (Whether I can now remember any of my great, watery insights is a different matter, but here goes!)
  • You can spend a lot of time faffing about before you even get to the pool: where’s my swimsuit, oh no it doesn’t fit, have I taken my contact lenses out, where are my goggles, where’s my towel, have I got 20p for the locker, oh no look at the time I haven’t got time to do this I should just forget it for today and do something more constructive I’ll go another day….
  • Having shown up at the pool, there is still scope for faff – are my goggles too loose, too tight, have I got my shampoo, where shall I put my towel, how cold is the water – maybe I could just dip a toe in….
  • When you get in, you could just bob about in the shallow end for half an hour then get out and dry off.  But you won’t achieve anything or feel any better for it – you’ll just get out feeling cold.
  • To get that lovely warm and glowy feeling, you have to exert yourself – take your feet off the bottom and move.
  • Once moving, you have to keep going for a significant period of time to get any benefit – one lap isn’t going to do it.
  • You have to get your face wet.  In fact, to move smoothly through the water, you have to look straight down at the bottom of the pool, confront its watery depths, and lead with the top of your head.
  • The water gets deep.  You have to go to the deep end in order to stretch out, leave the bobbing old ladies behind, and get up some speed.  You can’t touch the bottom, it can be scary because you can’t put your feet down if you stop.
  • The more you struggle, the harder it is.  If you struggle, you sink more easily and all your effort goes into staying afloat instead of moving forwards.  The more relaxed you are, the more fluid your movements, the less you splash, the more you find you actually float and glide and moving forward becomes almost effortless.  You can go faster and further for the same level of exertion if you just learn to let go, relax, trust yourself and the water, stretch out, be completely in the moment.
  • Swimming then becomes about refinement and technique, not about avoiding drowning.  Lose yourself in thinking about your feet, your ankles, what your fingers are doing, the water flowing over your head, watching the tiles go past underneath you as you glide along.
So to put that in context with the past week:

"Faffing about looking for goggles" was not doing any of the grand plans I had for this week, but spending too much time noodling about on the internet...

“Bobbing about in the shallow end” was just finishing this piece from last weekend.  It’s quite simple, different to anything else I’ve done, unplanned, wrinkly…

“Trying not to struggle and be more relaxed and fluent” was French class on Wednesday.  Heck, it hurts my brain.

“Getting my face wet” was talking to a lady in a gallery about how to submit work and join.  It’s a cooperative gallery ie. you pay a small monthly fee, do a stint behind the desk every 3 weeks, produce lots of work which has to be changed every 6 weeks, pay a small commission on sales…that’s it.  The only catch is arranging to show them my front crawl or breaststroke whereupon I realise I’m still in armbands…

“Swimming in the deep end” was an impromptu chat with another lady in a local fabric shop/workshop venue about teaching machine embroidery classes there…the water’s so deep with that one, I can’t even see the tiles at the bottom.  And yes, the tendency is to panic and thrash my way back to the safety of the pool edge and hold on tight!

Monday, 14 November 2011


We went for a walk in the Hundred Acre Wood yesterday.  We'd forgotten about the Remembrance Day ceremony at the airman's grave until we couldn't park at our usual spot, and as we didn't think anyone would appreciate a Whippet tearing through the proceedings at 38mph, we drove on and found a new walk in a different part of the Forest.

We were all glad we did. 
We found leaves to kick through, a deserted hillside in brilliant sunshine, an old moss-covered bridge over a stream - very Tolkienesque and elvish, some old ornamental fish ponds with bamboo-covered islands, secret wooded paths winding back up the valley....layers were shed, the sun shone on our faces and arms and we topped ourselves up to the brim with vitamin D.

And when we got home, after a homemade soup into which I had successfully smuggled a large cauliflower, I "painted" (scribbled)  a couple of sketchbook pages:

They really are nothing special at all, I'm just pleased I did something spontaneous!  I couldn't be bothered to get the paints out so I used watercolour pencils. 

And then in the evening, with absolutely no natural light, and working on my lap in front of a telly programme about vegetables, I continued the spontaneous vibe by grabbing a piece of fabric and my box of random bits and offcuts, and started putting this together:

It's wrinkly.  But it's spontaneous.

I would have done more today, but I seem to have spent a lot of the day mucking about trying to get my head around Facebook.  I've added some buttons and whatnot to the blog - see if you can spot them!  (Blimmin' well hope so, or I've wasted a lot of time!). 

(I also added a few more bits to the shop)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Good in parts

I never did like the expression "a bit of a curate's egg - good in parts" but that's what this week has been so there we go.

The not-so-good parts in no particular order:

  1. I shrank a cashmere jumper in a mixed wash.  It was from the charity shop, like all my other clothes, but it was cashmere for goodness sake!  It thought it was machine-washable.  It wasn't.
  2. Mr Gonecycling's cycling shorts came out of the machine with fuzzy bits of wool stuck on them
  3. Someone sold one of my little keyrings for less than half the price it should have been
  4. Someone sold one of my bags on the last day of the exhibition.  A good thing, surely?  Not if it had already been sold on the first day of the exhibition, but just not collected.  Luckily we knew the lady who had bought it.  Unluckily I had to try and explain to her what had happened, even though I didn't really understand how it could have happened, red dots and all...
  5. I used three sheets of Transfer Artists Paper to make Mr Gonecycling's birthday present.  First I forgot to flip the image before printing ("doh!") then I ironed it for too long onto canvas, which scorched and smelled like peanut butter.  Mr G hates peanut butter.  Third time lucky...
  6. There is definitely an "atmosphere" within the embroidery group I exhibited with and I am seriously considering my options
  7. I don't know what my options are
  8. I need to get on with my own work and not worry about anyone else but I still haven't worked out what my own work "is".  Sigh
  9. I'm growing out my hair.  It's very curly and it always seems a shame to cut off the curls.  But it's reached the stage where it's just sticking out over my ears and looks absolutely dreadful, but it's still too short for any hair accessories.  Apart from alice bands, which make me look about 12 years old, or a full scale head-scarf which makes me look twice my actual age, or a bandana which makes me look like Bruce Springsteen.  Double sigh.

The good parts

1.   The Whippet has a new luxury set of felted cashmere PJs:

2.   The exhibition was hugely popular, and I did very well.  I'm still a bit fazed by it all.  I met some lovely people who came to collect three (three!) pieces yesterday, one of which is going to their daughter in California.
3.  I'm saving money by not having to fork out for haircuts every six weeks
4.  The birthday present worked in the end, thanks to one of my students for her handout on how to bind edges!

It's hard to know what to make (a) when what you "do" is sewing and embroidery and the person you are making something for is male, and (b) when said male insists that he doesn't "need" anything.

But I thought that a book cover for little moleskine notebooks would be useful and inspiring:

And I even added some Shakespeare on the bookmark:

And finally,
5.  Birthdays mean cake and cake means chocolate.  Every year I ask "ridiculous and pointless" questions about the quantity of chocolate buttercream required.

Apparently this year I got it about right.

NB.  The cakes were a bit "under-tinned" and threatened to escape.  Luckily they rose like souffles and held themselves together, but it did result in a rather large construction overall.  No complaints, mind.

Saturday, 5 November 2011


I'm still reeling.

After my marathon card-making stint on Wednesday (or was it already Thursday?) night, and having a cracking start to the exhibition as soon as it opened, I got up early on Friday and sat in my PJs to finish off some little life-form keyrings, then got dressed, scoffed some muesli, saw the Girl off to school, walked the dog and hurried over to the next county to put said keyrings in my little basket of goodies at the exhibition.

But I was told that I should take them home again.
To let "other people have a chance of selling some work".
Perhaps I could bring them in another day if they were needed.

So of course I just mumbled something about a half-empty basket looking a bit pathetic, put them in my basket anyway, then left.  I couldn't really say anything because my jaw was somewhere around my ankles.

But now I'm worried. 
Is thirteen keyrings going over the top?  Is it too much?  Am I taking over? 
Perhaps I'm stopping all the other people from selling their little life-form keyrings. 

Guess what the first sale in the first five minutes of the exhibition was.  Go on, guess.

Yes!  A little keyring.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Red dots of loveliness

Bit of a mad day couple of days (aren't they all?)

First off, having enrolled myself on an "increase your fluency in French" course (see no. 3 on the holiday resolutions list), I spent two hours yesterday morning in mild panic at not being able to remember my avoirs and my etres.

While I was out, the Whippet had been a Very Good Boy and slept all morning, so I took him out for a bit of squirrel chasing, came back and mounted up a few pieces of work, "cooked" dinner (slightly ashamed to say that I switched on the oven and used some scissors to open the pizza box...) and then went to teach for three hours.

But when I came home it seemed that somebody hadn't been a Very Good Boy any more and I was told terrible tales of puppies eating beds and table cloths and barking naughtily and getting the jellywobbles about fireworks...(this is the same Whippet who ate a bit more of the dining room door on Monday when there were fireworks and he was alone for ten minutes).

So there was nothing for it but to stay up with the Very Nervous and Trembly Whippet and make a few cards:

which I finished some time after one o'clock in the morning.  But when I turned the light off, the Boy turned into a Very Lonely Whippet and did Barking and Singing.  We had a little chat, the Boy and I, and we all eventually got to sleep at 2am.

But no time for a lie-in!  Time to get up and drive to East Grinstead to help set up the exhibition:

Sorry for the gloom, the skies had gone black and torrential rain was lashing the windows by the time I got to take the photos.

Guess who did a Linda Monk workshop and made yet another chimney:

And because we needed more "big things" I took in my tree wallhanging, made in an inspired session of feltmaking a few years ago:

And already there are red dots!  Red dots of loveliness! 

So all the madness is worth it after all.

Now we just need to fix the Whippet.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Bottoms up

At the very start of the year, I had an urge to buy some chicken wire..

I then started to weave it into a sort of chimney shape (supposedly for the ill-fated machine embroidery group project on "chimneys", which has since been allowed to die quietly as nearly all of us ignored it and carried on doing other things ...)

I am pleased to announce that this morning I FINALLY had a bottoming out ceremony for my woven chimney - it had been sitting bottomless on the bookcase for about 6 months.  I even added a bottom to a felted coiled chimney (and that one was started even longer ago, in July last year...)

I quite like them, but the chicken wire chimney is a bit squishy:

The turquoise one is a bit more robust, as the felt overlaps itself and there is a massive length of thick copper wire attached all the way around...that was interesting to sew, I can tell you.  Nearly had an eye out...


Why this sudden burst of procrastination-busting finishings off?  I'm exhibiting with the Wednesday Workshop group of the local Embroiderers' Guild branch, and it all kicks off on Thursday.

Losing the thread?  It may be too late...

Friday, 28 October 2011

It's the law have a honey ice-cream

if you ever find yourself in Aberaeron.

Like the Girl and I did on Monday.
It was our first day "out" since arriving here on Friday:

Not least because the car suspension had complained very loudly about being driven down the track to the cottage and we didn't want to push our luck by driving out again until we really needed to:

This is the view from near the top, by the road (I say road, it has grass growing up the middle and the hedgerow threatens to touch both sides of the car...)

And this is approaching half-way towards homemade cakes and an awaiting Mamgu:

Thank heck there is now a cattle-grid and not a closed gate.  That was always fun when arriving in the dark of winter...

Since we returned, well-fed on welsh cakes, maids of honour and apple tart, the Girl has been a bit busy:

We finally dug out the peg loom (lurking in the office for over a year - ahem) and a table mat was born:

And the next day, the Girl sat herself down with her box of bits and whipped up a little improv embroidery:

Seriously jealous. 
And a little bit worried that the Girl has a box of bits already. Scraps of fabric, the odd button, oddments of thread.  Uhoh.

But I did at least create something the day before we went away:

(I'm the blue one, since then I've unbeaded a bit - I had to finish for the photo in a rush).

A lovely workshop with the lovely Jill Flower.  I've wanted to do the flower workshop for AGES and I finally got the chance!  Hooray!