Thursday, 13 November 2008

Take a break

I am in a melancholy mood at the moment. Life seems to consist mainly of sleep and work and so I am reluctantly taking a break from updating this blog at the moment. There is just too much going on in my life, some not particularly fun things. I am hoping to start again at the beginning of December in a much happier frame of mind.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Grand days out

The past few weeks have gone past in a blur. I have been so busy that I haven't had time to update this blog. Work is hectic as always, with lots of teaching to plan and deliver. However I have been busy with fun things too. On 4th October I attended a 'Vibrant Velvet' workshop run at Walford Mill by Jane Venables, a very talented textile artist. I have experimented with dyeing cloth in the past but sadly don't have the space at the moment to do it. As soon as I saw the course advertised I knew that I wanted to attend. I have read several of Jane's books so jumped at the chance to be taught by her.

Getting to the venue in Wimborne meant that I had to get up quite early. I woke up at 6:00 am with butterflies in my stomach - excitement and nerves combined. When I arrived I was welcomed by Jane who then proceeded to show us some of her stunning work. Her technique involves painting dye directly onto the back of the velvet using a large brush - very similar to painting in watercolours. Because the velvet is dry, and the dyes are very runny it starts to spread and the trick is to paint quickly so that you have some control over it. I couldn't wait to get started.

I was the only complete beginner there. Everyone else immediately set to work and produced stunning works of art. To my embarrassment mine resembled the daubings of a three year old. Jane was very supportive and gave me lots of encouraging advice. So, undaunted I embarked on my first scarf length. Part of the joy of this technique is that you really are not sure how it will look until you are finished and can turn it over. To my immense relief the design of red tulips on a dark background looked quite nice. My next attempt was going really well until I accidentally dropped dye where I shouldn't have. I then had a go at creating my own devore using fibre-etch fluid. This was a bit of a disaster and will probably be relegated to the back of a drawer. I have one length of velvet which can be made into a scarf and one piece which will be used for my beadwork. I also ended up walking around with blue hands for a couple of days after picking up a piece of velvet which wasn't completely dry. The next day I got some very strange looks from the woman on the supermarket checkout. I wonder what she thought I had been up to! Despite my lack of artistic talent I thoroughly enjoyed my day and have signed up for the next one day workshop in June.

My feeble attempts at painting silk velvet

Last Saturday I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace with my long suffering OH and three friends - M, P & K. I have been to the show before but none of the girls had so I was interested to see their reaction. It involved a very early start. I am used to getting up at 6:00 am but even I struggled to get out of bed before 5:00!! Once on the coach my OH discovered that, apart from the driver he was the only man amongst 35 women. Brave soul! I think that everyone had a good time. M gives a very funny account of the day on her blog 'Knitting Keeps Me Sane'. The highlights of my day were meeting Nicky Epstein, seeing the work of Takako Sako and the looks of complete wonder on my friends' faces when they entered the Great Hall for the first time. I bought a copy of Nicky's new book 'Knitting On Top of the World'. She was there at the show that afternoon and signed my copy. It was a real privilege to meet such a talented person. I rounded off the day by buying some gorgeous hand dyed sock yarn and a scarf pin. Then it was home again on the coach, happy but very exhausted.

Alexandra Palace (affectionately known as 'Ally Pally') in North London

Full sized kimono by Takako Sako - it contains over 180 colours and more than 2,000,000 beads

Scarf pin from Purlescence

Cherry Tree Hill 'Supersock' and Hand Maiden 'Casbah'.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Life's ups and downs

Life is a bit hectic at the moment. The beginning of the new University term is looming so I am spending my time preparing for the Autumn round of teaching. Last Saturday was a welcome break from this. I attended the inaugural meeting of the Priory Beaders. There are 20 members so far and we meet in Stanpit Village Hall on the outskirts of Christchurch. It is a lovely venue with great views across Christchurch Harbour towards Hengistbury Head. The Beadworkers' Guild are celebrating their 10 anniversary in 2009 and to mark this occaision they have asked each of their members to make a beaded bead. These will then be made into a giant necklace, with the aim of getting into the Guiness Book of Records for the longest necklace in the world. It will subsequently be auctioned for charity. As most of the Priory Beaders are members of the Beadworkers' Guild we decided to spend our first day together making beaded beads. For those of you who are wondering beaded beads are just that - beads made out of smaller beads. They can be hollow or have a wooden core. You can see some superb examples on the BeAdfinitum web site created by Gwen Fisher and Florence Turnour. I am in complete awe of their talent.

Some of my beaded beads

The weekend was also spent knitting a second Marsan Watch Cap for my Other Half. He liked the first one so much that he asked for another. I used differnt yarn this time and to my utter frustration it has turned our shorter than the first one. I will now have to partially unravel it and reknit it. Grrr!!

Spurred on by my good friend 'A Girl in Winter' I have cast on for the February Lady Sweater featured on Ravelry. It has an intriguing structure in that it is knitted in one piece from the top down. This has the advantage that you can try it on at any point to check the fit. I will let you know how I get on.

Finally after a lovely, relaxing weekend disaster stuck. On Sunday evening I bit into an oatcake and broke a large chunk off one of my teeth. It just goes to show that eating low fat food really isn't good for you. I am sure that it wouldn't have happened if I had been eating a chocolate digestive! After an emergency visit to my dentist yesterday I emerged with a temporary filling, another appointment on Monday and a bill for nearly £100. That was a very expensive oatcake!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Back again!

I have sadly neglected this blog over the last few weeks. I had some more time off from work - to recharge my batteries before the onslaught of the new academic year. I took the time to concentrate on my beading and my other creative work. I have decided not to post any pictures of my passion flower vase until it is finished, which hopefully should be quite soon. I have also been trying very hard not to be seduced away from beading by the knitting bug. For that last few evenings I have been obsessively knitting a scarf. The yarn is a beautiful skein of Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend which was purchased on a trip to London with my friends. The colours are gorgeous and I am really looking forward to wearing it. Every time that I do I will be reminded of that day spent with three wonderful women, 'Chesh', 'P.' and 'A Girl in Winter'. It was filled with laughter and friendship. I have never had a large circle of friends and I really cherish the ones that I do have. I am not really an outgoing person and I think that it probably takes people a while to get to know me. I am really glad that I have these three in my life.

My Other Half wanted a hat so I looked on Ravelry and found a great pattern to knit him one. It was fun to do and only took me a couple of evenings. However, he wants another one and a scarf and gloves too. I now have lots of knitting projects queueing up in my head. I need several lifetimes to get through everything that I want to do. If only I didn't have to go to work! I am just kidding - I love my job, but it would be nice to have some more creative time.

'Marsan Watch Cap' from Ravelry

And finally - Autumn is on its way. there is a definite chill in the air. Last weekend I glumly contemplated my sparse winter wardrobe and tried to steel myself to go shopping. I would normally rather stick needles into my eyes than shop for clothes - I absolutely loath it and usually end up totally depressed and disheartened. However on my way home recently I saw these boots and fell in love (virtually unheard of for me!) Now all I have to do is persuade my Other Half that they are worth every penny!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008


You never know where life will take you. I suppose that can sometimes be one of the great things about it. A chance meeting or a seemingly insignificant event can result in some surprising, occasionally life changing consequences.

Five years ago, just a few weeks after moving to Bournemouth, I happened to see a poster in the window of a quilting shop advertising an exhibition of work by local City & Guilds embroidery students. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed at the time, I had just moved to a strange town, started a new job, I had no friends or relatives nearby to talk to and to make matters worse my OH was working over a 100 miles away and we were only able to see each other at weekends. I have always loved looking at textiles and embroidery so I went along to the exhibition to cheer myself up. When I arrived I was surprised to see some amazing beadwork on display. Intrigued I chatted to one of the students who was acting as a steward. I had dabbled in off-loom beadwork but was mainly self-taught and so found it difficult. That afternoon a whole new world opened up for me. I immediately signed up for the Level 1 City & Guilds Beading course. In the past four years I have learnt so much and made some wonderful friends. I am blessed with a wonderful teacher who has given me constant inspiration support and encouragement. One day I would like to teach beading and she has given me the confidence to believe that anything is possible.

A beaded passion flower created by me and based on a pendant designed by American beader Laura McCabe

A detail from one of my necklaces inspired by a trellis covered in climbing roses. Four years ago I would not have had the confidence to design and make my own jewellery.

Recently another event has unexpectedly opened up a new range of possibilities and a chance to make more friends. A few months ago P, R and I attended a talk by Linda Harrold, a local medical herbalist, about the medicinal properties of herbs. The talk was very interesting and Linda proved to be an engaging and informative speaker. At the end of the session she mentioned that she was interested in setting up a local herb group affiliated to the Herb Society. P, R and myself volunteered to help. Last Thursday was the first meeting of the Dorset Herb Group. The aim is to provide an friendly and informal atmosphere where like minded people can discuss growing and using herbs. P gave a wonderful talk on how she grows and uses herbs in her garden. Every month there will be a 'Herb of the Month' spot presented by one of the group. This time I was asked to talk. After much deliberation I chose nettles, not an obvious choice. I think that they are very under used and under appreciated. They are often considered a nuisance by the gardener but can be useful for conditioning your soil, encouraging wildlife into your garden and are very good to eat. The whole evening was a great success. Yet again I have been able to get to know a whole new set of people and to expand my range of interests. As I said you never know where life will take you next!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

As Promised - more holiday pictures....

My Other Half staring over the cliffs near Stair Hole. I couldn't resist taking this as he hates heights. I suspect that he is clinging onto the railing out of shot - the sign says it all!

My Other Half having a surrealist moment.

Armillary Sphere in the grounds of Kingston Lacey House.

Part of the Fernery at Kingston Lacey House

Temple at Stourhead

Abbotsbury Sub Tropical Gardens

Abutilon flowers in Abbotsbury

Chesil Beach as seen from the viewing point in Abbotsbury Sub Tropical Gardens. Another steep climb (oh, my aching knees!) but well worth it.

Lulworth Cove seen from the rocks above Stair Hole

Part of the coastal footpath leading to Durdle Door. I really am very lucky to live in such a beautiful part of Britain.

I am going to leave it at that for now as I am in danger of becoming one of those people who insist on boring everyone with their holiday photos. No one is interested but they are too polite to say so!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Holidays at last!

I have not been able to add any entries for the last two weeks as I have been on holiday. When I started my vacation I made a conscious decision not to log onto a computer, as I knew that I would not be able to resist checking my work emails. I needed a complete break from everyday routine. Plus my time away from work was actually very busy so I really didn't have time to update this blog.

The first week was spent preparing for and helping at the City & Guilds Exhibition - Textile Kaleidoscope. It showcases the work of City & Guilds Beadwork and Embroidery students. Also this year we have some work by the local branch of the Embroiderers' Guild on display. I was unable to display anything this year but was in awe of the talented people around me. Here are just a few pieces on display.

Gabby's necklace inspired by an old snakes and ladders set given to her by her brother.

Liz's lizard (affectionally known as Lily) inspired by Antoni Gaudi

Tricia's wonderful beaded lampshade inspired by Tiffany glass

Val's Cherry Blossom necklace

The second week was spent in Lulworth - about 40 miles from where I live. We have been wanting to explore that area of Dorset for some time. My Other Half had been told about the Castle Inn in West Lulworth and so we decided to stay there for a few days. It is a lovely 16th Century thatched pub which offers bed and breakfast accomodation. It is full of character - our room had a four poster bed and exposed beams.

On that first day my OH persuaded me to go for a walk to Durdle Door. It turned out to be quite an afternoon! The footpath is long and very steep. These pictures give you an idea of the scale of it. And no, in the first pictures those dots are not specks of dirt on my camera lense but people.

About half way up the footpath to Durdle Door. By this stage my knees were starting to hurt!

The footpath to Durdle Door seen from Stair Hole

Durdle Door

We then walked down into the village and went to look at Stair Hole and Lulworth Cove. The strange rock formations are created by layers of shale and limestone which have been forced up at an angle through the earth's crust. The shale erodes faster than the limestone creating dramatic ridges and folds.

The next day we visited Abbotsbury. The Sub Tropical Gardens are well worth a visit as they have so many exotic trees and plants. There is also a viewing point (yet another steep climb) where you can see Chesil Beach.

On the final day we decided to go to Stourhead. This was stunning as always although the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Thick unpleasant drizzle coupled with high temperatures did not make for a comfortable afternoon. We trudged on regardless. After all being British it takes more than a bit of rain to spoil our day.

On Friday we went to Kingston Lacey and wandered around the fernery and gardens. I will post more pictures in future entries. I really needed the break and will now return to work with renewed vigour!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Time for beads!

We are now into the Summer Vacation at work and everything has slowed down. However I suddenly seem busier than ever. I have been trying to go to the gym at least twice a week and that really seems to be helping my general sense of well-being. If anyone had told me six months ago that I would be going to a gym and not hating it too much I would have thought that they were mad. M is away on holiday at the moment but K has agreed to go with me this week. It is a bit boring but I find that I am able to do more each time that I go and it does make me feel better about life in general.

I was recently asked by one of my colleagues if I had any pictures of my beadwork. I brought in what I had and this has resulted in me selling a couple of pieces. I am very bad at selling. I find it hard to price the things that I make. They take a long time to make and I put so much of myself into them that it is sometimes hard to part with them. But I don't wear them often enough and it is only right that they should go to someone who will appreciate them. I have decided to document my beadwork in more detail in future. It is really good to look back at some of my pieces of jewellery and remember the process of designing and making them.

Last weekend I went on a 'bead' trip to Shaftesbury. I normally buy most of my beads by mail order (thank heavens for the internet!) but nothing beats handling and choosing them in person. Unfortunately there are very few places in Bournemouth to buy craft materials. There is a good bead shop in Poole but it does not have a range of seed beads and cylinder beads - the type of bead that I use most frequently. The nearest bead shop is Shaftesbury in Dorset. It is quite a trek for me but I try to go two or three times a year. There are now three bead shops in Shaftesbury, one having recently opened at the top of Gold Hill.

Stitch and Craft in Swan's Yard is my favourite. They stock a dizzying array of beads in all shapes and sizes, Swarovski crystals, beading thread and wire, sterling silver clasps and even a range of knitting yarn. The staff are very knowledgeable and helpful, nothing is ever too much trouble. If you can't visit Shaftesbury they have a great online shop.

Bijoux Beads is literally a few feet away from Stitch and Craft, also in Swan's Yard. They stock a range of larger focal beads, pearls and a small range of semi-precious beads. they also have shops in Salisbury and Bath.

The latest addition is The Beadster which is situated behind the Town Hall and at the top of the picturesque Gold Hill. This is not a great photo of the shop -you can just see it on the left hand side of the picture. However it does show how pretty Shaftesbury is. Gold Hill was immortalised in the famous Hovis advert which featured a young boy pushing a bicycle up this very steep cobbled street.

I spent a great morning wandering around Shaftesbury and then headed home to continue working on my Passion Flower vase. I am a bit stressed about it at the moment as I want to finish in time for the City & Guilds exhibition at the end of next week.

Finally here is a selection of photos taken by my Other Half at the weekend. He is talking about doing another photography course. I hope that he does as he is very talented (although I might be a bit biased!)

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Race for Life

This Sunday myself and M took part in the 'Race for Life' to raise money for Cancer Research UK. It is for women only and anyone can register to take part. The course is 3 miles (5K) long and you can choose to walk jog or run. We chose to walk on this occasion. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm but rather windy. The course was along the seafront from Bournemouth Pier to Boscombe Pier and back again. The only down side was that we were sandblasted on the way back as the strong wind whipped up the fine dry sand. There were 3,000 entrants and approximately half decided to walk. It was a great fun event with all ages taking part from small children right though to women in their 70s and 80s. M and I walked the 3 miles in 1 hour 4 minutes which I am quite pleased with. I am particularly proud of M as she has never done anything like this before and was rather nervous about the whole thing. In the end we both enjoyed it and are determined to take part next year. Between us we have raised £100. It is a cause that I feel very strongly about. We were each given a card to pin on our backs saying who we we thinking of when we were taking part. When I was writing it on Sunday morning I rather sadly realised that I had quite a long list of family members and friends who have been affected by cancer. In the end I decided to put my Father's name as it is 20 years ago on 18th September that we lost him to liver cancer.

I continue to bead as much as I can. Last year I made a beaded chatelaine as part of a group project. It involved beading around a wooden needle case, a tape measure and creating a beaded scissor case. I based my design on an Art Deco wall tile. I was sitting at the dining room table (where I do most of my beading) the other day, deep in thought and I looked down at the beaded tape measure and realised how much I enjoy using it. Underneath the beads it is a cheap plastic tape measure costing only a few pounds but now it makes me happy just to look at it, use it and to remember the experience of creating it. Joy can be found in so many everyday things, I will try to remember that the next time that I am feeling down or frustrated with my beading.