Friday, 11 December 2009

Viruses and Christmas Knitting

I can't believe that it is two months since I last updated this blog. To be fair I have a couple of good excuses. First of all I had major computer problems. It managed to get a virus and that completely corrupted my hard drive. The result was that I had to have it rebuilt. Then three weeks ago I managed to get flu. Now, I know that people often say they have flu when all they actually have is a bad cold. Trust me this really was flu - I couldn't get out bed for three days, then just to finish it all off nicely I developed bronchitis.

Despite spending my Birthday shivering on the sofa, cuddling a hot water bottle watching awful day-time television it hasn't been all bad. I have at least had some time to do some beading and knitting, although I have found it hard to concentrate at times.

This year I decided to make a lot of my presents. Although I like Christmas itself I hate the build up to the festive season with a passion. Quite frankly I would rather stick needles in my eyes than fight my way around the shops at this time of year. So I have knitted something for everyone. Since discovering Ravelry I have had no difficulty in finding lovely things to make. Plus I have lots of support and encouragement from my OH and my friends.
Now that my Christmas knitting for other people is almost over I have started something for myself. I have wanted to make myself a shawl for quite a while. I love having something warm and cozy to wrap around my shoulders either in the office when the air conditioning is just a bit too much or at home in the evenings. I have just started a Milkweed Shawl using a skein of Violet Green Supersock. It is hand dyed in a range of blues and purples and is called 'Parma Violets. I am a great fan of Violet Green. The yarn is absolutely gorgeous and very affordable.

Milkweed Shawl designed by Laura Chau

I have to admit that I have not done as much beading as I would have liked in the past few weeks so now that I am feeling better I must concentrate on that.

And finally just to cheer everyone up (he always makes me smile), a picture of a friend's adorable dog Charlie. Who could resist him in that Santa hat?

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Of yarn and beads and other lovely things

It has been weeks since I last updated this blog. The time has just flown by as I have been so busy at home and at work.

On 12th September I went up to London to attend the 'IKnit London Weekender' with M otherwise known as 'A Girl in Winter'. We had a lovely day and I came home with a selection of yummy yarn. When we were having lunch Ysolda Teague wandered past so M. asked her to sign her copy of 'Whimsical Little Knits'. We were both a little bit starstruck as M. has knitted several of Ysolda's designs and I am just about to start her Damson shawl. The afternoon was spent listening to Alice Starmore talk about her design influences. The talk was illustrated with stunning pictures of her Hebridean home, she is very lucky to live in such a beautiful place. Then there was just time for tea and a little bit more yarn shopping before heading home.

On 24th September I started my new NCFE Level 3 beading course. It looks as though it is going to really challenging and fun. Our tutor is going to arrange a visit to the new V&A jewelery gallery to give us some inspiration. However it was with great sadness that we discovered that one of our group has been diagnosed with lung cancer. I knew that she had been ill over the Summer, but did not realise how serious it was. It is a sad time for all of us as we are very fond of her and she was greatly missed at our first meeting. Our thoughts are with her and her family.

Last Sunday M. came around to my flat for a sewing day. She wanted to learn how to make herself some skirts but had done very little sewing. I am quite an experienced needlewoman and used to make a lot of my own clothes so I was only too happy to help her. She did really well and after a few hours work she went home with a lovely skirt. Thanks to my OH we were kept supplied with tea and coffee and he made some delicious pumpkin soup for lunch. If you want to see M.'s finished skirt check out her blog 'Knitting Keeps me Sane'.

I have got a little bit sidetracked with knitting Christmas presents at the moment but I must knuckle down and do some beading. I am off to the Knitting & Stitching show this weekend at Alexandra Palace. I have seen a list of traders and unfortunately there will be lots of opportunities to purchase more yarn and beads.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Gardens and goodbyes

Life is starting to get hectic again at work and the days are flying by. Last week was very emotional as my friend P. retired after working for nearly 20 years at the University. As a very personal present from her immediate colleagues I made a friendship quilt. I asked all of them to each sign a strip of muslin and then I sewed them together into a quilt. I had to work into the early hours on a number of evenings to finish it in time. As I put the last stitch in the binding just before 1:00 am on the day of her retirement I experienced mixed emotions. I am happy for her as she will get a well earned rest and be able to spend more time with her family. But I will miss her desperately and she has been a valued colleague and friend for the last 6 years. She was almost moved to tears when she saw the quilt. The expression on her face more than made up for all the work which went into it.

My OH and I took advantage of the late Summer Bank Holiday to visit a couple of gardens in Wimborne - The Secret Garden and The Dean's Garden. I am not sure whether I liked the Secret Garden, which was full of quirky things such as a shell grotto, a human skull and an obelisk. The Dean's Garden was much more to my taste with its sweeping lawns, lake and walled kitchen garden.

The Secret Garden

Shell Grotto

Kitchen Garden

Now it is back to working on my beading. More on this in my next post.

Friday, 28 August 2009

What I did on my holidays

I have just had two weeks off and it has been rather a jolt getting back to work. We decided not to go away this year. My knee injury put a stop to our plans to go back to Lulworth for a walking holiday. So we decided to stay at home instead. We were very lucky with the weather. This year has been rather mixed as far as Summer weather goes. One day blazing hot the next day 5 or 6 degrees cooler. The last two weeks has been glorious, hot and very sunny.

Some of the time was spent pottering around at home some on days out.

Salisbury is one of my favourite places to visit. It is easily accessible by bus from Bournemouth and there is lots to do and see. Saturday is the best day to go as there is a market in the Square selling everything from work boots to locally made beer. We often go home with a loaf of artisan bread, mouthwatering olives and a plant or two. My OH is a keen gardener and loves to browse the plant stalls selling herbs and unusual perennials and shrubs. The shops themselves are really good and I usually pay a visit to Bijoux Beads and Franklins to browse through their range of knitting yarn and fabric. Very close to Franklins is Fisherton Mill which has been converted into an arts centre. They sell a range of locally made crafts. When we visited last there was someone weaving cloth on a loom and a silversmith making jewellery. They have a great cafe selling delicious food too.

Gilbert the Dragon who has recently taken up residence in the centre of Salisbury.

One of my dear friends - P - is retiring next week and she held a Barn Dance to celebrate her and her husband's retirement. I was not able to dance unfortunately, due to my ongoing knee problem, but found watching everyone charging around the hall very entertaining. Much fun was had by all and I was able to finally meet fellow blogger Nadia, of 'Shadows and Clouds' fame, and Mr M. who were over in the UK for a visit.

A good deal of my break was taken up with knitting, sewing and beading - more about that in future posts. In search of inspiration as always I finished my holiday by visiting Wimborne to see 'The Banquet' exhibition at Walford Mill. The room was laid out for a feast. However this was a meal with a difference in that every item of food was made from non-edible materials such as wood, felt, yarn silk, glass and ceramics. I found the whole thing really inspiring and took lots of photos.

Now it is back to normality with a bump after being a lady of leisure for a fortnight.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Textile Kaleidoscope

Things have been a bit hectic over the last few days so I haven't had time to add any updates. The end of last week was taken up by the Textile Kaleidoscope exhibition. I was stewarding on Friday morning and then helping to pack the exhibition away on Saturday. Sunday was spent recovering. Although my knee is getting better I still find standing for too long very painful. I have taken the decision not to use my stick anymore and I seem to be walking better. Hopefully this means I am well and truly on the road to recovery. Here is a selection of the work on display last weekend.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Summer at last

I am progressing with my beaded bag. I have decided to take some elements of the passion flower and play with the shapes. It will be a pyramid in shape and very heavily influenced by Art Deco. I plan to line it with coffee coloured silk dupion.

My OH has also been very creative recently. One of his work colleagues is leaving to return to her native Australia. He came up with the idea of making her a cake in the shape of the Australian flag. Although he hasn't done much cake decorating before but it turned out really well. I am very proud of him and I know that everyone in the office enjoyed it very much.

On Friday evening I took a walk down to the beach. I am very lucky in that I only live a short walk from the sea. The route is through a wooded valley, locally know as a Chine, which is actually a dry ravine. It is only a ten minute walk but it was a positive step forward for me (no pun intended) as my knee is still quite painful. It was really nice to sit on the sea front and watch everyone playing on the sand and walking their dogs. My next goal is to start going to the gym, I have asked one of the staff to devise a programme which will allow me to ease back into exercise.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Sunshine and thunderstorms

I was woken at 1:30 this morning by a loud clap of thunder. Summer has finally come to the South of England and after several hot, humid days we were treated to a spectacular storm. Realising that I would find it hard to go back to sleep, I got out of bed and padded to the living room and watched out of the window for a while. There were some amazing forks of lightning, I only wish that I had been able to take some photos. My OH of course slept through the whole thing!

At one time I was a bit scared of thunder storms. Silly I know, but I think it probably stems from an experience in my childhood. Whilst staying with my grandparents on the Kent coast, the house next door was hit by lightening during a particularly violent storm. It shook the whole house and scared me out of my wits. For quite a long time after that storms made me nervous. Now I don't mind them so much and even find them quite exhilarating.

Summer (and the hard work of my OH) has brought its rewards. Last night we sat down to a meal of salad, including the first of our potatoes from the allotment, followed by fruit pie, containing homegrown blackcurrants. I can claim absolutely no credit for them, especially at the moment with my limited mobility. I really do appreciate his hard work as you really cannot beat homegrown fruit and vegetables.

Yesterday was a sad day for me, it was the last day of my City & Guilds Beadweaving course. To mark the occasion we all went to a local pub for lunch. We sat in the garden, enjoying the sunshine, chatting away and it struck me how lucky I am to have met these women. They are all ages and from many walks of life with one thing in common - their creative spirit.

I will see some of them at our annual exhibition - Textile Kaleidoscope - which showcases the work of City & Guilds beadwork and embroidery students, in three weeks time. I am working away on my Art Deco bag , which will be one of the exhibits. So the weekend ahead will be full of beading and writing up my design journal.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Reasons to be cheerful...

This week has been hard. My leg has been hurting and I have found the normal routine of work and everyday life quite difficult. To make me feel better I have recently got into the habit of counting my blessings. I know, it makes me sound a bit like Pollyanna! But it really can help, so here are a few things which bring me joy -

1. Strawberries from the allotment, still warm from the sun.
2. Beading with friends.
3. Feeling the sun on my face and the warm breeze in my hair.
4. Summer evening walks along the beach listening to the waves crashing on the shore.
5. The soothing rhythm of my knitting needles as the yarn slips through my fingers.
6. Three wonderful women who are happy to spend time with me no matter what my mood.
7. Fresh asparagus from the allotment.
8. Sitting quietly reading with my OH.
9. Sharing a meal with good friends.
10.Wearing hand knitted socks.

I could probably go on and on. I feel better just writing this list!

Some more good news this week, my team at work has won a national award - a Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Award. So now I am part of two award winning teams at work and out of it, that can't be bad. Another reason to be thankful!

Friday, 5 June 2009


I attended one of my City & Guilds beading days yesterday and discovered that not only have the Priory Beaders won the Beadworkers Guild Group Challenge but one of our members, Val Robertson, has won the Intermediate Category for individual beaders. Congratulations Val! Both entries can now be seen on the Beadworkers' Guild website.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Good News

I received an email from the organiser of Priory Beaders telling me that we have won the group entry of the Beadworker's Guild Challenge. Great news I am so thrilled. We are a very new group having only been formed in September 2008 so it is a great achievement. I don't have any pictures of the finished piece at the moment but will post some as soon as I can. This cheered me up immensely as the saga of my injured knee continues. I have had the results of my MRI scan and there is good and bad news. The good news is that I have not torn the cartilage and so don't need an operation. The bad news is that I have extensive bone bruising. This means that I have lots of little cracks on the head of my femur and tibia. It will take a long time to heal, possible up to Christmas and beyond. So far I have been trying to carry on as normally as I can but it is very painful and I will have to continue to walk with a stick for quite a while. At least I haven't done any permanent damage!
On a brighter note I have been working on my next beading project - a beaded bag. It is once again inspired by the shapes and colours of passion flowers. The whole thing will have an Art Deco feel and will be pyramid shaped. I am aiming to make it up from beaded shapes and line it with silk in a contrasting colour. I am going to incorporate lots of Swarovski crystals and fresh water pearls.

Some beaded elements for my Art Deco Bag

And I am continuing my adventures in sock knitting. Spurred on by the success of my Salvation Socks I bought a copy of 'Cool Socks Warm Feet' by Lucy Neatby and I am now knitting some toe up socks with a Turkish Heel. Great fun!

My finished 'Salvation Socks'

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Fun days out and not so fun days in!

I had the week leading up to Easter off. It was much anticipated as work has been very hectic recently. It gave me an opportunity to unwind, do some beading and generally take it easy. My OH and I went up to London on one day. We both love gardens and are interested in their history so we planned two visits - one to the Garden Museum and a second to the Chelsea Physic Garden. I would thoroughly recommend both.

The Garden Museum (formerly know as The Garden History Museum) has recently been given a face lift so I was looking forward to visiting it. The museum is based in a converted church in Lambeth, right next to Lambeth Palace, where the plant hunters John Tradescant Senior and his son, also called John, are buried. The garden itself is quite small but beautifully planted with box topiary and many fascinating plants. When we visited there was a exhibition about the gardener Beth Chatto which proved very interesting.

After a delicious vegetarian lunch at the Garden Museum we then went to the Chelsea Physic Garden. This is a beautiful walled garden situated right next to the Royal Chelsea Hospital. All of the plants are well labelled and regular guided tours enable you to get the most out of one of the oldest medicinal plant gardens in England. Then after tea and homemade cake it was time to head home.

This photo does not really do this beautiful garden justice.

The rest of my leave was very enjoyable and on Easter Saturday I went to a meeting of the Priory Beaders which meets in Christchurch once a month. We were working on a group entry for the 2009 Beadworkers' Guild Challenge. The theme is 'Celebration' as 2009 marks its 10th Anniversary. I can't give too much away about our entry but we were all given the task of making a beaded representation of ourselves to be incorporated into the piece. The instructions for doing this were devised by one of the organisers of the group, Jane Griffin. We will have to wait several months to find out if we have won. Even if we are not placed we have still enjoyed immensely working on this project together and have some great memories.

Me - represented in beads - blue and green are my favourite colours.

I was enjoying the remainder of my Easter break when, on Easter Sunday, disaster struck. I slipped getting out of the shower and twisted my knee. It soon became apparent that it was fairly serious so I took myself off to Accident & Emergency. Luckily my X-ray showed that I had not broken anything. However I have damaged the ligament on the inside of my knee. The result was one week at home followed by the past 10 days back at work hobbling around on crutches in a fair bit of pain. My physiotherapist is convinced that it will heal fairly quickly, I hope that he is right. I have always been ridiculously healthy and never hurt myself like this before. I can safely say that I never want to use crutches ever again after this and will be extra careful in future.

'Salvation Socks', so named as they saved my sanity during a period of enforced rest.

During the week that I was stuck at home, after being instructed to keep off my leg completely, I turned in desperation to knitting to keep me occupied. I read until my head ached and saw enough daytime TV to last me for a very long time. Sock knitting proved my salvation. I have been knitting a fairly complicated pattern called 'Mermaid Socks' by Lucy Neatby (later rechristened 'Salvation Socks'). I absolutely love them, and I think that they will be fun to wear. At least something positive will have come out of this experience!

Friday, 13 March 2009

I saw this on A Girl in Winter's blog and could not resist having a go myself. Why not see how many you have read? -

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen - YES
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien – YES
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte - YES
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling – YES
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee - YES
6 The Bible – bits of it
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte - YES
8 1984 - George Orwell - YES
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman - YES
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens - YES
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott - YES
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy – YES
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller – NO
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – some but not all
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier - YES
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien - YES
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks - NO
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger - NO
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - NO
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot- YES
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell - NO
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - YES
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens - YES
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy - YES
25 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams - YES
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh - NO
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky - YES
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll - YES
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame - YES
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy - NO
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens - YES
33 The Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis - YES
34 Emma - Jane Austen - YES
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen - YES
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - YES
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini - NO
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres - NO
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden - NO
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne – YES
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell -YES
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown - YES (This definitely has no place on this list!)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - NO
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving - NO
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins - YES
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery - YES
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy - YES
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood - YES
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding - YES
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan - NO
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel - YES
52 Dune - Frank Herbert- NO
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons - YES
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen - YES
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth - NO
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon - NO
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens - YES
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley - YES
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon - YES
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - NO
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck – YES
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov - NO
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt - NO
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold – NO
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas - YES
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac - NO
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy - YES
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding - YES
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie - NO
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville - NO
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens - YES
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker - YES
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett - YES
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson - YES
75 Ulysses - James Joyce - NO
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath - NO
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome - YES
78 Germinal - Emile Zola - YES (in French! Do I get an extra point for that?)
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray - YES
80 Possession - AS Byatt - YES
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens - YES
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell - NO
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker -NO
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro - NO
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert - YES
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry - NO
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White - YES
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom - NO
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - YES
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton – YES
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad - NO
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery – YES
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks - NO
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams - YES
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole - NO
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute - YES
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas - YES
98 Hamlet – Shakespeare – YES
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl - YES
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo - NO
A total of 64, not as many as 'A Girl in Winter' but not bad.

Friday, 9 January 2009

I'm Back!

Well I have decided to start writing again. I have been feeling very low for the last few months. My Birthday just made me feel even worse. And to add insult to injury just a week before I had my eyes tested and discovered that I needed reading glasses. So now I look like the stereotypical librarian with glasses perched on the end of her nose! Thank you to all who have left nice comments on this blog while I have been away. They are much appreciated.

One thing to celebrate - after over 110 hours of work my Passion Flower vase is finally finished. I have gone through many emotions whilst creating it - frustration being the main one. However now that it is finished I am quite happy with it. Tomorrow I hand it over to my City & Guilds tutor for assessment. Now I have to start the next project, a beaded bag.

We are having the coldest winter here in Britain for 25 years. Normally we would never see snow here on the south coast but here are some pictures taken on my walk to work just over a week ago.

The daylight hours are starting to lengthen so hopefully that means Spring is on the way.