Monday, 26 November 2012

Anti-ageing Amulet

How to run yourself ragged in under a week whilst making a Mightily Significant Birthday Gift in 10 easy steps

Step 1.
Go on a course with Libby Smith and be totally inspired by her Indian bags and tassels and Afghan amulets.

Step 2.
Despite only completing 1/8 of a hand-stitched and hand-beaded tassel (to go with the equally unfinished Indian spice bag begun last time Libby came to do a workshop) decide that very evening to make an "Afghan Amulet" for Mother's 70th Birthday - and present it to her at the Birthday Weekend.  In six days time. 

Nothing like a deadline.

Step 3.
Decide that the amulet will be inspired by Mother's many travels - including but not limited to Pakistan, India, Mongolia, China, Kenya, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Tibet, Australia (she's just returned from trekking in the Himalayas) and will symbolise in stitch all that she means to us, as her children and grandchildren - and her stepchild, as in my case she literally "stepped in" to be my mother when I was just five years old.
Step 4.
Spend a whole day dithering over which symbols to use for each person in her immediate family, and decide to use African Adinkra symbols.  Spend yet more time consulting with siblings and obtaining approval.
Step 5.
Gather all materials - African fabric (hoarded for years), cowrie shells (ditto), lots of beads - including previous presents from Mum of painted beads from Peru, and tiny African beads she bought from a Masai tribesman, Indian shisha mirrors (to deflect the evil eye), silk from an old blouse Mum passed on to me, Indian sari silk scraps, various and many embroidery threads...etc and so on.

Step 6.
Begin.  Just begin, just do it.  No time to think anymore, just get on with it!  And yes, hand-stitching is slow and hurts your fingers but stop whineing and just do it woman...

You'll notice from the light in some of the photos that a lot of work was done "after-hours".....

Step 7.
Stop to teach three machine embroidery classes, total of 8 hours not including prep and travel.

Step 8.
Finish at 4.32pm on the Friday you are supposed to be travelling to Dorset for the Birthday Weekend.  And remember, you are taking the evening meal, the Birthday Cake, the soup for Saturday lunch, some fizzy candles and you need to pack some clothes and the Child and the Husband, and dispose (temporarily) of the Dog.

Step 9.
Stand back and admire, briefly:

The finished amulet

The top - note crocodiles (adaptability), paddle (strength), adinkra circle (leadership), cocoa pod (hospitality) and tassels with five cowrie shells to represent Ma and her siblings...

Nine diamonds to represent children, spouses and offspring:
Brother: education and lifelong learning (he works for a University)
Brother's wife: excellence, authenticity, genuineness (she's a whizz at spreadsheets!)
Brother's son: fondness, love, parental discipline
Me: wisdom (?!), creativity
Mr G: independence, freedom (self-employed...nuff said)
The Girl: child of Heaven (I'm saying nothing....), guardianship
Sister: love, harmony, faithfulness (always)
Sister's husband: law, justice (he's a solicitor...)
Sister's son: love, safety, security

And of course, there are 70 beads on the three cords holding the diamonds and tassels.

Never mind the Four Hour Week, how about the Four Hour Tassel!  Not kidding!

Step 10.
Present to Ageing Mother.

I think she liked it.  She did wonder where to put it, and I think we've decided on a spot on the wall above the telephone. 

(Then the Girl piped up and said it would be useful, because it would be nice to look at if you were on the 'phone to someone boring...)


  1. It's beautiful... and I admire the girl's logic!

  2. Wow it's lovely. What a well travelled Mum you have and so clever of you to incorporate some of the things she found on her travels, that makes it so special!

  3. And write a blog about it too!

    It is truly wonderful. And your mum sounds pretty amazing too!!


  4. I love it, it's beautiful, a lovely present, well done for finishing it in time!

  5. That just takes my breath away. I love it. I have printed out the photos for the scarp book as I feel i need to make one. love the colours.

  6. Brilliant idea, sounds just perfect for your well-travelled mother! Amazed at what you achieved in such a short time, but as you say - a tight deadline works wonders.

  7. Oh it's lovely!

  8. It's wonderful - such a special gift. And I love your daughter's logic!

  9. My jaw has dropped so far I'm not sure I can get it back......

    Oh my goodness; its absolutely amazing.... and beautiful.
    I am in awe; you are so clever.
    And what a unique mum you have too....

  10. Fabulous amulet. No wonder the tassel took so long, it is gorgeous.

  11. This is stunning & whatever anyone says or thinks, it's what & how you felt when doing it that just shines out of the whole beautiful piece.What a lucky mother.


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