Friday, 24 December 2010

Short Break

I will be taking a short break from blogging until the New Year. Unfortunately life is a bit difficult at the moment and I need to divert my attention elsewhere for a while.

My Mother has been taken seriously ill and will be spending Christmas in hospital.

I hope to return in the New Year. Have a really Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Sunday, 19 December 2010


Today was not a good day in some ways. I woke up in pain and the bitterly cold weather has moved in again. We managed to go out and do some food shopping on Saturday but the journey back from the shops was stressful. We faced a 10 minute walk on sheets of ice and compacted snow to get home. My OH was great as usual and carried most of the shopping bags. He went out again in the snow today to get a couple of things that we had forgotten to buy. On his way back home he fell heavily on the ice. Luckily he only suffered some bruises and did not break any bones.

This weekend has had its good points too though. My OH made a lovely lemon drizzle cake to cheer us both up. Also he spotted some yarn for sale in a local charity shop. On investigation I discovered a bag of very good quality chunky yarn, enough to make a sweater, and a skein of hand dyed double knitting wool. I bought both for just a few pounds.

This afternoon I sat down to write the last of my Christmas cards. However, I discovered that I was a bit low on cards so decided to make some of my own. During my various City & Guilds courses over the past 5 years I have collected quite a range of paper, card, ribbons, beads and sequins. Now seemed like a good time to delve in that stash and do something useful with it. So I sat at the dining table in my living room and made some cards. It was quite strange sitting there creating Christmas greetings with the snow falling steadily outside, but strangely comforting at the same time. The resulting cards would not win any prizes but I am quite pleased with the way they turned out. I only hope that they get to their respective recipients in time for Christmas.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Knitted hats and other cosy things...

Following a suggestion by Crafty Cripple I have attempted to recharge my creative batteries over the last few days. I have been browsing through Ravelry and also through my yarn stash. It is small by most knitter's standards but big enough for my very small flat. It was great to sit and look through my collection. Many of the skeins have been purchased on special days out with my OH and dear friends so it was soothing to think back to where and when I bought each one.

I came across two skeins of Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend in a lovely mix of blues and greens and some Malabrigo Worsted in a glorious purple colour called Velvet Grapes. With the bad weather approaching again I am now knitting a hat with the Silk Blend. It is a Woolly Wormhead pattern called Limpetiole. I hopefully should have enough left over to make a scarf.

Limpetiole by the lovely Woolly Wormhead

As for the Malabrigo it will probably become a shawl/wrap. I have had Hawthorne by Susanna IC in my Ravelry Library for a while now and the Malbrigo would be perfect. The only worry is whether I have enough of it. Oh dear, another excuse to buy more yarn!

On the beading front I have just received the latest copy of Interweave Beadwork. So I plan to settle down tomorrow evening with a mug of hot chocolate and have a browse. So watch this space!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

What shall I bead next?

For some reason this past week has been a bit of a struggle. I have found the cold weather particularly hard to cope with. Probably as a result of this I have found myself completely demotivated when it comes to my beadwork. I am finishing a couple of things but cannot really get inspiration for anything new. Hopefully this is just a temporary state of affairs. I am going to spend the next few days looking at my beading books and magazines to see if that sparks any ideas.

I normally have some knitting in my bag and try to knit a few rows in spare moments such as during my lunch break. I usually have a sock, hat or pair of gloves on my needles. However I also seem to have run out of steam where my knitting is concerned.

Maybe a break for a few days will re-energise me!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

We have been very lucky in my part of Southern England recently and missed out on the snow, that is until Thursday. We woke up to find everything covered in a white blanket. It looked just like a Christmas card and was a complete surprise. It continued to snow quite heavily during the day. We apparently have our own micro-climate in Bournemouth, due to the proximity of the Isle of Wight. It is very rare for us to get snow here, at least snow that settles on the ground.

I was unable to get to work as I rely on public transport a lot of the time and lifts to work from a kind friend. She was unable to get her car out of her drive and I did not think that I could cope with the long walk. It would normally take me nearly an hour to walk to work in normal weather conditions so I dread to think how long it would take me in deep snow. Two of my friends who live nearby put me to shame by making the effort to walk. I know it sounds really feeble but I have problems with my left leg at the moment so like many others I worked from home. I am glad that I did as a bit later in the day the decision was made to close the University. I am fairly new to the wonders of broadband Internet access but it was great to be able to read my emails, work on a presentation and also help by staffing our online Chat service, all from the warmth of my living room. All due to the wonders of technology.

This is the scene that greeted us when we woke up.

After several hours of steady snow fall this was the view from my kitchen window.

The poem 'London Snow' by Robert Bridges sums it up completely -

'When men were all asleep the snow came flying,
In large white flakes falling on the city brown,
Stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying,
Hushing the latest traffic of the drowsy town;
Deadening, muffling, stifling its murmurs failing;
Lazily and incessantly floating down and down:
Silently sifting and veiling road, roof and railing;
Hiding difference, making unevenness even,
Into angles and crevices softly drifting and sailing.
All night it fell, and when full inches seven
It lay in the depth of its uncompacted lightness,
The clouds blew off from a high and frosty heaven;
And all woke earlier for the unaccustomed brightness
Of the winter dawning, the strange unheavenly glare:
The eye marvelled - marvelled at the dazzling whiteness;
The ear hearkened to the stillness of the solemn air;
No sound of wheel rumbling nor of foot falling,
And the busy morning cries came thin and spare...'

I first read this at school and growing up in the far South West of England, kept warm by the Gulf Stream, I had never experienced heavy snow, and it was very hard to imagine. Looking out at the scene on Thursday morning I was reminded of his vivid description. When I went out to take these pictures the normally busy road was eerily silent

And finally a picture of a gorgeous cake that my OH made for my Birthday (the strange round things on the top are Maltezers). Another reason to cheer up and forget about the winter weather. As one of my friends says 'There is never a bad time to eat cake!'

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Christmas comes early

I have a new toy to play with. Last Friday after work I went with my OH to a local shopping centre and bought a new laptop. We chose an Acer Aspire 5742 and to our great delight discovered that it was on special offer at PC World. I have to say that shopping for a computer was a bit humiliating. The sales assistant looked as though he was about 14 years old and yawned his way through the whole transaction. I also inadvertently provided a bit of entertainment for his work mates. I am sure they were snickering at me when I mistakenly asked if the computer had a 3i processor! I should have said i3. My only excuse is that it had been a long and tiring week and although I consider myself quite computer literate, it doesn't come naturally.
I am not really a gadget person, I was probably one of the last people to buy a mobile phone in the UK. Perhaps it is my age. I won't disclose what it is but just let us say that I grew up when there were no home computers and mobile phones! However, I am really excited about our latest purchase. It no only gives me some flexibility about where I work but it hopefully will mean that can update this blog more frequently.

Sadly my Mother-in-law died last December just before Christmas. She left us some money in her will. Instead of frittering it away we have decided to buy a couple of things such as the laptop and possibly a new camera for my OH. We are also going to make sure that we have a really nice holiday. The rest will be safely tucked away for a rainy day. I was extremely fond of my Mother-in-law and her long illness and subsequent passing was very distressing. I would like to think that she approved of how we are spending the money. She always tried to enjoy life despite her poor health. Thank you Eileen, wherever you are!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Now that Winter's here....

Here are the pictures of my OH's gloves as promised. Not very exciting I know but they are the first pair of gloves that I have improvised from a basic pattern. He chose the colour. I am really pleased with how they turned out. He wore them to the allotment yesterday and reports that they are very comfortable. They are made out of superwash sock yarn so at least I can throw them into the washing machine if he decides to plant broad beans or turn his compost heap whilst wearing them!

I finished them just in time as we woke up this morning to find the UK in the grip of its first bad winter storm. I love the changing seasons, particularly Autumn with its glorious colours and Bonfire Night. Plus it is an excuse for lots of cosy nights sitting at home knitting! However this morning was not pleasant with gale force winds, torrential rain and falling temperatures.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Brief Update

It is quite a few weeks since I updated this blog. Everyday life has got in the way and I seem to be splitting my time between work and waiting around at the hospital for various appointments.

I have been plodding on with a number of projects. I have almost finished my commissioned necklace although I have had to apologise to my client for taking so long. I have to admit that I have found concentrating on anything for any length of time difficult. In addition to the beading I have been knitting some fingerless gloves for my OH and have finished my own gloves, athough they took me 6 weeks to make. That must be a record! Pictures to come very soon. When I have finished the necklace I am going to dust off my crochet skills and attempt this hat from Stitch Diva Studios. I love wearing hats and, as I am currently growing the layers out of my hair so that I can have it cut into a bob, this pattern seemed ideal. It is quite a while since I have crocheted anything so we will see how I get on!

On the health front things seem to be progressing well. I am having physiotherapy for the problems with my left leg and I finally seem to have found the right combination of pain medication (the past few weeks has been a bit of a struggle with bizarre side effects such as vertigo). I have to admit that I consider myself very lucky to have all of this excellent care without facing huge medical bills. At the risk of opening a can of political worms this whole business has made me realise how lucky we are to have free healthcare in the UK. I know that the NHS has its critics both here and on the other side of the Atlantic. I am just glad that I have been able to get the support and care that I need without having to worry about how I am going to pay for it. The past three months has been stressful enough without that too!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Thank all of you who have given me your support and best wishes, they are much appreciated. Crafty Cripple suggested that I look at Lene Andersen's blog about her experiences of living with rheumatoid arthritis. Thank you, it has really helped and I would highly recommend it to anyone else who has been diagnosed with arthritis.

One of Lene's posts which struck a particular chord with me was about living with pain. September is apparently National Pain Month in the US. She asks not only for better understanding of pain but also for pain sufferers to be more honest about what they are experiencing. Most people try to hide their pain from others and think it is weak to admit to it or talk about it. I have definitely been guilty of that. During my trips to the doctor over the last few years, due to pain in my back and left hip, I have been made to feel stupid, a time waster or simply a nuisance. As I was otherwise fit and healthy my pain was usually dismissed as a trapped nerve or a pulled muscle which would heal in a week or two. Sometimes the pain went away sometimes it didn't. After a while I just put up with the pain and survived by taking over the counter medication. Fortunately the pain was moderate so I was able to get by, until recently. Finally three months ago I had had enough. I really liked my GP and decided to talk to her about the problems I had been having and the new problem with my ankle. Instead of dismissing me as a hypochondriac or just hysterical she actually listened to me and took me seriously. It is thanks to her that I got my diagnosis earlier this week. Sadly for me (although not for her) she has just retired, but I will be eternally grateful to her for believing me and helping me do something about it.

I do realise that I am partly to blame. I should have been more assertive with my doctors. There have been a few times over the last couple of months when I have been close to tears because of the exhaustion and pain. The only person that I have been able to talk to is a friend who herself lives with chronic pain so she understands what I am experiencing. I have now resolved to me more honest about how I am feeling.

I am gradually coming to terms with my diagnosis and I have now got dates for physiotherapy and an appointment with a rheumatology specialist. I still feel guilty for putting my OH through this though. His Mother suffered from severe arthritis for most of her adult life and she unfortunately died last December from the complications of her illness. He knows only too well what to expect and I am so sorry to have to put him through this. The only positive thing is that my arthritis is fairly mild at the moment. Hopefully, with the right treatment, I can stay well most of the time with only the occasional flare up.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

When life gives you lemons...

Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn and you find yourself somewhere you never ever expected to be. Such a thing happened to me yesterday. I have been having problems with my back for many years. About 18 months ago I had an accident and hurt my knee quite badly. After the accident my back problems got much worse and then my ankle started hurting. At first it was simply dismissed as complications of my knee injury as I was not walking well. However as the knee healed it became apparent that my other problems were getting worse. Worried, I visited my GP and was referred to a rheumatologist. You see, I have a very strong family history of arthritis and my doctor was concerned that there might be a connection between this and my symptoms. So finally yesterday, after weeks of hospital visits and tests I finally got the diagnosis - rheumatiod arthritis.

After a sleepless night I am still in shock. Lots of things are running through my head at the moment. How will this affect my future, my relationship with my OH and also my working life? I really haven't come up with any answers yet. I feel as if the rug has been pulled from beneath my feet.

I am determined to be positive about this latest development but at the moment I honestly don't know quite what to do next.

I thought long and hard before writing this blog entry. I was worried that it would appear as though I was wallowing in self-pity. That honestly isn't the case. It really does help to write it down. I will let you know what conclusions I come to over the next few weeks.

Understandably I haven't been able to concentrate on my beading. However I have a commission to complete so I will have to try to forget my problems and get on with it. Hopefully it will help me feel better, beading usually does.

Friday, 17 September 2010

'Time is free, but it is priceless' (Harvey MacKay)

The weeks are flying past so fast at the moment it is quite frightening. At the moment I am bracing myself for a very busy period at work. As things get more hectic I am starting to daydream about all of the things that I want to make. When the stress levels start to rise I just take a few moments to think about my latest knitting or beading project and it calms me down. At the moment I am still knitting the 'Bobbie' gloves. I am probably one of the world's slowest knitters. I really envy people like my friend 'M' aka 'A Girl in Winter' who can produce beautiful socks and shawls in a matter of days.

Last Saturday 'M' and I had a really lovely day in London attending the IKnit Weekender. We caught a coach up to Victoria and walked the short distance to the Royal Horticultural Halls in Vincent Square. It was really nice spending the day with 'M' and browsing through the lovely yarns and books. I bought a copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann's 'Knitting Workshop', some Addi circular needles, a couple of patterns and a skein of gorgeous yarn from the Natural Dye Studio. 'M' and I both bought some amazing buttons from Textile Garden. Theirs was, not surprisingly, one of the most popular stands at the event.

Sunday was spent recovering from the previous day. I have a problem with my leg at the moment which is making walking too far really painful. I am currently on the waiting list for some physiotherapy so hopefully that will help. It is so frustrating to go from being fairly fit and active to my current state in just a few months.

'M' and I have made a pact that we will both starting wearing what we make more often. Spurred on by this I have been making a necklace which I will wear to work next week. It was inspired by an article on vintage jewellery in a jewellery making magazine. The original idea is not my own but I have adpted it slightly to use materials from my bead stash. I have strung the pendant onto a piece of suede thong but I am not totally happy with it. This weekend I will be going to Salisbury with my OH so I will look for a lovely piece of ribbon to replace it.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Life's little challenges

It has been such a long time since I last posted. Sorry everyone. Life has just been too hectic recently.

Since I finished my NCFE beading course I have been looking for a new challenge to spur me on. Last week I found it. I was ordering some Fireline thread and crystals from my favourite bead store - Stitch and Craft when I saw the details of their monthly charm challenge. The idea is that each month, for twelve months, they send you a Swarovski crystal bead or stone and you have to make it into a charm. All of the charms should then be attached to a necklace. The only rule is that the beads cannot be simply strung they have to be incorporated into the beadwork in some way.

So far I have received one artemis bead, a rivoli and a square ring. I have lots of ideas for the rivoli and the artemis bead but I have to admit that the square ring has stumped me! I think it is going to be fun.

I also received some good news last week. Someone who attended the Textile Kaleidoscope exhibition has commissioned me to make a necklace for her. This is my first real commission, as in the past I have always made things for friends and relatives. It is very flattering to think that she was so impressed by my work.

This Saturday I will be going to London with M (aka 'A Girl in Winter') for the IKnit London Weekender. In addition to my sock addiction I have now got hooked on making gloves. Now that September is here I have started thinking about hats, gloves and scarves again. I have ridiculously small hands and find it almost impossible to find a ready made pair of gloves that fit me properly. Knitting them myself has been a revelation, as I can try them on as I knit and so make sure they fit me to a tee. When M and I attended Knit Nation recently I saw some of Julia Mueller's gloves on display on the Wollmeise stand. I was smitten and immediately got her 'Bobbie' pattern from Ravelry, dug out some Violet Green sock yarn from my stash and cast on. I think everyone might be getting gloves for Christmas this year!

Unfortunately it means that I will miss the first meeting of the Piory Beaders, but I am really looking forward to spending the day with a good friend and drooling over all that yarn!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Green Fingers

This weekend I visited an amazing garden as part of the Open Gardens Scheme. Behind an ordinary looking house we discovered an exotic wonderland full of bamboos, banana plants and palm trees. By now you will have gathered that my OH and I are both gardeners and love plants in all of their shapes and forms. I love the way that gardens feed all of our senses. As we sat in that garden on Saturday I was struck by how tranquil it was even though we were right in the centre of a town. The wind was sighing through the bamboo plants and everywhere we looked were vibrant colours and shapes. It had been raining a little bit earlier in the day and I could smell damp earth and scent from the flowers. My only dissapointment was that there were no herb or vegetable plants. I really believe that no garden is complete without at least a small herb bed, but obviously that is just my opinion!

The landscape architect Russell Page once said that "Green fingers are the extension of a verdant heart". I do hope that is true.

Flowers fascinate me and I have tried over the last few years to interpret them in my beadwork. This weekend when I wasn't wandering around gardens I was trying to create one in beads. I have been working on a collar for the last two weeks. At the moment I have just been experimenting with shapes and textures but my aim is to completely cover the necklace with flowers, leaves and tendrils. I might also include a butterfly or insect as I am enthralled by them too and they have their place in every beautiful garden. For once I have decided not to plan it too carefully but just to let it evolve. I can't wait to get home every evening to work on it. I will post more pictures as it evolves.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Happy Holidays

I have not updated this blog for a couple of weeks as I have been on holiday. I decided that I would not go near a computer for the whole time because if I did I would have been drawn into doing work and answering work related emails.

Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th July saw the final Textile Kaleidoscope exhibition, at least in its current form. The Thursday of that week was taken up with setting up the exhibition. It was totally exhausting hauling furniture around, not helped by the extremely humid weather. However it was an opportunity for the 9 of us to spend some quality time together and to admire each other's work. The exhibition went well but I was a little bit disappointed that numbers were down slightly compared to last year. Nevertheless we all received some lovely comments from the visitors and I got to meet someone who had actually read my blog! I was really surprised as according to my Stat Counter I have a very small number of followers, but it was great to meet her.

The event was overshadowed by the news that one of the Priory Beaders had been taken seriously ill. Sadly she died on the Saturday. She will be missed. Although in her mid 80's she was always out and about attending beading shows and beading classes. She lived her life to the full and was a joy to be with.

After the exhibition we had a small get together to mark the end of an era. We have all finished our beading classes now and our tutor Jane is moving on to pastures new. I will still see most of them at Priory Beaders but somehow it just won't be the same. Jane handed us each her feedback on our work and told us that we had all passed our NCFE Level 3. I felt a great sense of achievement at finishing my course. I am one of life's plodders, always have been and always will be. I remember being told by one of my lecturers when I was studying for my degree that I was an average student and that I would never 'set the world on fire'! I was upset at the time but have come to realise that he was right. I may never be a high flyer but I feel that I have achieved a lot over the last 6 years and feel really proud of myself.

The second week of my break from work was really quiet. I was happy to spend some time at home recovering. I am struggling physically a little bit at the moment with pains in my back and left leg. It is possibly a legacy from a bad fall that I had last year which left me walking with a stick for three months. I am due to have an MRI scan of my back soon so hopefully that will shed some light on what is causing the pain.

Last Saturday I went to Knit Nation at Imperial College in London with 'M' aka 'A Girl in Winter' and my OH who came along for the trip. 'M' and I spent a couple of hours wandering around the Marketplace drooling over the gorgeous hand dyed yarn on sale. We were a bit starstruck too as we saw Woolly Wormhead, Ysolda Teague and the founders of Ravelry, Jess and Casey. We had a good day ending up in a lovely pub found by my OH.

Now it is back to work and back to reality.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Beady Delights

On Saturday I attended a Beadworkers' Guild Cascade Day at Stanpit Village Hall near Christchurch. The idea is that someone from the Beadworkers' Guild brings along examples of beadwork from the Guild's extensive collection. Everyone is encouraged to use the pieces as a starting point to experiment and produce their own work. The theme of the day was 'Tassels, Fringes and Trims'. There were some beautiful examples of Victorian beadwork on display and a selection of more contemporary work. We were each given a workbook containing lots of hints and tips to get us started.

It was great fun. There was lots of laughter and a steady supply of tea and cakes - who could ask for more? I experimented with different types of braids and will put up some pictures of what I have made in the near future. Plus it was a great opportunity for me to catch up with some of my beady friends.

I am still beading like a maniac to get my work done for the exhibition in two week's time. I have finished the Art Deco brooch and watch strap and I am currently working on the necklace.

Here are a few pictures taken by my OH at our allotment yesterday. It was too hot for me to go with him plus I am having a few mobility problems at the moment. The good news is that I have an appointment with a Rheumatologist next week so hopefully I can get to the bottom of some of the weird symptoms that I have been experiencing over the last 12 months.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

You always want what you can't have...

Today has not been a good day. It started early this morning with a doctor's appointment and has gone steadily down hill ever since. I can't wait to get home to my OH and to lose myself in my beading. I am on the home stretch now with the Textile Kaleidoscope exhibition in my sights. I have two projects on the go at the moment, a set of Art Deco style jewellery and a beaded collar. I am sad in a way that my course is coming to an end in a couple of weeks time. After 5 years of studying there will be no more courses to take. I have learnt so much not only about beading but also about myself in the process. I have definitely developed my own style and I think it is quite distinctive.

It is strange however that I always want to be able to bead like someone else. Last Thursday at my beading class I took the opportunity to walk around the class and see what other people have been making. My excuse was that my back was hurting me as usual and I needed to stretch my legs. In reality I am just plain nosey! Plus it is always a delight to take time to fully appreciate how talented my fellow beaders really are. I was particularly taken with a beautiful lariat, covered with flowers leaves and buds and I remember thinking 'I wish I could make something like that!'. Imagine my surprise a bit later in the day when I overheard the maker of that exquisite piece of beadwork telling our tutor how much she wished she could produce precise beaded pieces like mine. It seems that we are never satisfied. I admit it I am a total 'neat freak'. I hate living and working in mess, everything has to be in its place. Luckily my OH has accepted this personality trait with his usual tolerance and good humour.

Centrepiece of an Art Deco necklace

Although I will be sad when the exhibition is over I am looking forward to spending time on my other interests such as quilting and knitting. I already have a queue of potential knitting projects building up. After this morning's appointment it looks as though I will be spending more time waiting around in hospital clinics so they will come in very handy for passing the time.