Saturday, 24 December 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go...

I can't believe that it is Christmas Eve already! The last few weeks have just flown by. For various reasons this year I have found it difficult to get into the Festive spirit. Work has been quite a struggle, very busy and stressful. Also last week I had a wisdom tooth extracted and so have been nursing a very sore mouth and jaw. I was sedated during the extraction so the 24 hours afterwards is a bit of a blur. OH was great as usual. He took me to the appointment, drove me home afterwards and even took the following day off work in order to take care of me.

While I was recuperating I beaded some Christmas ornaments to give as gifts. The pictures above show two of the designs. The top one is adapted from a design by Lynn Firth and the one immediately above is adapted from an original design by a Canadian beader called Cathy Lampole aka That Bead Lady. I hope that the recipients will keep the baubles and use them each year and when they hang them up they will spare a thought for me.

OH and I don't really bother much with presents for each other at Christmas. We have been together for a long time so just tend to give each other a small gift rather than a large expensive one. I know that a lot of people will find this strange but neither of us is particularly materialistic. I usually try to make him something if I can.

He loves notebooks and has a collection of them. If I see a nice example when I am out and about I will buy it for him. This year I decided to make him a note book as a Christmas present. (I can share this with you as he is now safely tucked up in bed until Christmas morning). I have been fascinated by the art of bookbinding ever since I saw a demonstration when I was a student. A local bookbinder showed us how to re-bind a book. I was fascinated and entranced. Books have always been very important to me. Although I like the idea of Kindles and e-book readers nothing beats handling an actual book as far as I am concerned. So I love the idea of creating them.

I have been on leave for the last few days so decided to put the time to good use. I gathered together some supplies and, following the instructions in an amazing book called 'Cover to Cover' I set about making a notebook.

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I have done several City & Guilds beading courses over the last five years. One compulsory element of the course is to produce a sketch book showing your experiments with colour, texture and form. As a result I have collected a small range of different types of paper. So, for the pages of the notebook I used some lovely handmade paper that was lurking in my stash. The cover was made from some offcuts of board, left over from making some display boards for my jewellery. The cover paper was from an old, out of date Ordnance Survey map of Dartmoor. I chose the Plymouth section for the front cover as that is where I was born and brought up and holds a lot of memories for both of us. The front tie is a scrap of ribbon which had been in my sewing basket for a while.

The whole thing came together beautifully. What really pleases me, and I hope will also appeal to OH, is that it is made from odds and ends that I already had lying around. I have also given a new lease of life to the map which might otherwise might have been consigned to the recycling bin.

I love the recent revival in 'make do and mend' and using vintage materials. I think that it is mainly due to my parents' influence. They both grew up during the Second World War when severe rationing meant that you didn't waste anything. I think that some of that has rubbed off on me. Both my Mum and Dad were always making things when I was growing up and I am eternally grateful that I seem to have inherited a little of that talent. Making things enriches my life beyond measure. I hope that it also gives pleasure to the recipients of my handmade gifts.

I wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas wherever you are.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Children in Need

This Friday M (aka 'A Girl in Winter') and I took part in a craft fair to raise money for Children in Need. For non-UK readers this is a huge national fundraising event, which this year has raised over £26 million for children's charities. The fair took place at work and proved to be a great success. M provided some beautiful handmade Christmas cards and I donated some jewellery. There were a variety of other stalls selling cakes, Amaryllis bulbs, jewellery, card making and stamping supplies and 'nappy cakes' and other baby things. There was also a tombola, which raised a lot of money on its own.

I took along a few pieces of jewellery that I had made during my City & Guilds courses. Plus I had a rummage through my UFO box. I normally try not to have too many unfinished things lying around. By nature I am a 'completer/finisher' type person. But I do have a small box where I put any things which are experiments and work in progress. The idea is that one day I will revisit them and try to make jewellery out of them. Well, over the last couple of weeks I have done just that. I finished off some beaded charms and a beaded bead and strung the results onto lengths of organza ribbon. I then added some sterling silver clasps. Voila! Some very attractive necklaces. I added some beaded earrings, based on art deco designs, hung on sterling silver ear wires.

M's Christmas cards proved very popular. In my opinion their simplicity was a major selling point.

I found a new use for some vintage buckles picked up at antiques and vintage fashion fairs. Coupled with some pretty buttons they make unusual and attractive brooches.

Obviously the main object of the exercise was to raise money for Children in Need, and we did in fact raise £95. But it also proved to both of us that our craft work will sell. It was also a useful dry run for attending a commercial craft fair.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Brief Update

Work has been dominating my life recently so to be honest I haven't had much energy for beading. However I am currently working on some small things. I will share very soon.

Until then its back to checking my emails and planning my teaching sessions. Time to get to grips with a seminar on financial regulations - oh joy!

BTW - can you work out what the picture is? It is a close up of a poppy seed head courtesy of my OH.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Autumn in the New Forest

Yesterday OH and I took a drive through the New Forest to visit Exbury Gardens. It was a bright, dry day with a slight nip in the air. The perfect day for a country walk. Autumn has been late coming to the south of England. September and much of October has been exceptionally mild. But over the last week or so the trees have started to change colour and the temperatures have begun to dip. Autumn is finally here. I love the changing seasons, Spring and Autumn are particular favourites.

Exbury has a huge collection of trees and so is famous for its Autumn colour. I took my little 'point and shoot' digital camera. I take it with me everywhere in case inspiration strikes. OH used his fancier digital SLR. Between us we got some beautiful shots. Here are a very small selection....

Part of the woodland walk takes you along the very edge of the estuary. It was a tranquil scene, with the odd boat drifting silently by.

The Sundial Garden is a particular favourite of mine. It is a totally enclosed space with formal topiary arranged around a stone sundial. The total surprise was to find it ablaze with colour. Dahlias, salvias and fuchsias blooming away as if it was the middle of August not nearly the beginning of November.

Part of the reason for going to Exbury was to relax and kick back a bit. I have been very stressed out recently and not really enjoying life. Yesterday was a great tonic. Thanks the continued love and support of OH and my friends I am slowly regaining my equilibrium and starting to feel better.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


Wow! Is it really nearly a month since I last posted. Apologies but I am not in a particularly good place emotionally and physically at the moment. Therefore I am putting both blogs on hold for a week or two in the hope that I will feel better. If you are a regular reader (I know that there are only a very few) I am sorry but I really don't have the energy to update regularly at the moment. I hope to be back soon.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Creative Stitches

This Saturday we went to the Creative Stitches show at Westpoint just outside Exeter. For the past 6 years I have made the trip up to Alexandra Palace for the Knitting and Stitching Show. It has always been one of the highlights of the year for me. However, last year was very different. Due to my health problems I found the whole day gruelling and not particularly fun. I was in a lot of pain and I just didn't have the energy to cope with it. So, this year I decided that I would go to the smaller and more accessible show at Westpoint.

It was hot and a little crowded but it was much easier to get around and see everything. Last year I only saw about a quarter of the stalls at Ally Pally before having to give up in defeat.

I bought a few things - some more cables for my Knit Pro Interchangeable needles, some black beads, a kit for a beaded necklace from Spellbound Beads and a really interesting book called Treasured Notions. It has some gorgeous images in it and lots of inspirational ideas.

I did attempt to rummage through the yarn mountain at the Black Sheep stall, but gave up when I couldn't find what I wanted. (For those of you who don't know what I am talking about - Black Sheep sell discounted yarn packs. They simply make a huge pile of them on the floor and you have to dive in and rummage around, literally).

It was a good day and I am extremely grateful to my OH who drove me there and back (a round trip of over 200 miles) and waited patiently while I browsed around. On the plus side for him there is a garden centre close by and he did manage to get some garlic and onion sets for the allotment while we were there. It is a shame that I won't be going up to London in October this year but I have had my fix of craft shows for now.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Busy times

Life has been too hectic recently to update this blog as frequently as I would like. Work has been very stressful indeed. I won't go into details, but are in the process of reorganisation and my job is about to change quite dramatically. In honour of this I have made another charm for my bracelet. I have always loved butterflies and dragonflies. It was only after I made this charm that I realised that it could symbolised new beginnings, just as the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis.

I embellished a 14 delica bead peyote tube with Czech fire polished crystals and size 15 seed beads. I then added a beautiful Swarovski butterfly.

I wore my bracelet this afternoon when I went to the hairdresser. One of the staff asked me where I had bought the beautiful charms, as she had never seen anything like them. I explained that I had made them myself and she was very surprised. OH says that I should carry business cards in my pocket, and then produce one when someone asks me about my jewellery. I am definitely going to consider making and selling the charms as they can be embellished in so many ways. People certainly seem to like them.

Saturday, 3 September 2011


Apologies for the long gap since my last post. Life has been so hectic for the last couple of weeks. I have been too tired to do very much after work except cook a meal and go to bed.

In my last post I promised to explain how I made a scrap booking embellishment into a beaded pendant. I was inspired by an article in 'Bead Unique' magazine. Three beadwork artists were asked to incorporate scrap booking elements into their beadwork. There were no instructions, just photos and a brief statement by the designer. The following is my interpretation of those photographs. So, this is how I did it -

The scrap booking baubles are made from clear acrylic and have a self adhesive coating on the back. I could have left it on the clear acetate backing in the pack and simply cut around it. However I decided that I wanted a bit of colour behind the butterfly to show it off effectively. I dug through my stash and found some pale lilac handmade paper.

I stuck the bauble onto the paper and cut around it. As the paper was going to be next to my skin it needed a protective layer to seal it and to keep out dirt and moisture.

I painted the back of the bauble with a thin layer of 'Glossy Accents'. You could use any varnish or even a decoupage medium such as Modge Podge, It is up to you.

(You might have noticed that the bauble above is different to the one in my previous post and in the two pictures below. Unfortunately I managed to delete some of the pictures of the original so I was forced to improvise!)

I now needed to start creating the beaded bezel. I picked up enough beads to fit around the bauble. I used size 11 delica beads and Fireline 4lb test beading thread. It took 98 beads to completely encircle it.

I worked six rows of circular peyote stitch, then two rows with size 15 delicas and then a row with Czech size 14 Charlottes. I popped the bauble into the bezel, needled to the other side and then repeated the rows of size 15 delicas and Charlottes. Using the Fireline thread meant that I could keep the tension very tight without running the risk of it breaking. I don't think that Nymo or C-Lon would be strong enough.

Well, that is how I did it. Look out in future posts for the finished necklace.

I have been continuing to work on my charm bracelet. More about that, and some other creative adventures, in my next post.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

A new charm

I have been on leave this week and so far it has been a strange mixture of stress and relaxation. The stress was caused by a visit to my Dentist on Tuesday only to be told that one of my wisdom teeth needs to be extracted. She assures me that it should be straightforward to take out. Apparently upper wisdom teeth are much easier to extract than lower ones and luckily this is an upper one. So I have an appointment in two weeks time to have it pulled. I have a really good dentist and I trust her completely but I am a bit stressed out about it.

The rest of my break has been quite relaxing. Monday was a really beautiful day so we decided to go for a walk. We are very lucky to have a great deal of green space in Bournemouth. The Gardens run through the centre of Bournemouth, for about 5 miles down to the sea. We joined the Gardens in Westbourne and walked down to the centre of Bournemouth. It is a beautiful tranquil space filled with a wide variety of trees and shrubs, including some beautiful Sequoia. This is what the Upper gardens looked like on Monday afternoon.

Below is a picture of the Upper Gardens taken this afternoon (Thursday) by Nick Beck for the Bournemouth Echo. This morning we had a freak storm. At 11 am it was so dark that we had to turn on our living room lights and there was a violent thunder storm raging overhead. Over two inches of rain fell in less than two hours. The result was flash floods, which caused havoc in the centre of Bournemouth and Poole. Shops and houses were flooded, roads blocked and traffic in both areas ground to a complete standstill. Luckily we were not affected directly by the floods, but the car park at the back of our flats was ankle deep in water for a while. Sadly it meant that the first day of the Bournemouth Air Festival had to be cancelled. The forecast for tomorrow is much better, so hopefully the rest of the planned events will still go ahead.

On the beading front I have completed another charm for my bracelet. I created a peyote tube and then embellished it with size 15 seed beads and 2mm Swarovski crystals. I glued sterling silver grommets onto the sides of the bead to give it more stability.

Finally I attached a tiny Swarovski crystal heart charm. I have had this in my stash for a while. I bought it at a bead show without really knowing what I was going to use it for. It was in the 'bargain basket' on a stall, and I have never been able to resist sifting through reduced price beads. You never know what treasures you might find.

For me it symbolises two things. The first is a resolution that I have made to try to improve my general health and well being. Unfortunately I can't do anything about my arthritis, but I can try to take regular exercise and eat well, to ensure that my body is as strong as I can make it. Hopefully that will make coping with this auto-immune disease a bit easier. The second is to symbolise the love and support that I have received from my friends and family. I will talk about this a bit more in my next post in my other blog Arthropy. But this last twelve moths would have been virtually impossible to bear without their constant love and support.

And finally I have also been working on my butterfly necklace. I have embellished the bezel and added some beaded dangles to the bottom of the pendant.

The next stage will be to create a beaded rope and a bail. I will ashow you more pictures and describe how I created the necklace, in more detail, in my next post.

Friday, 12 August 2011


Just a quick update. A while ago I wrote about my plans to create a beaded charm bracelet to record my progress in coping with the recent changes in my life. Well, I have made the first charm. It is fairly plain but for me symbolises the start of my journey. Not trying to take on too much at once. Hence the simplicity of the design.

Also as part of my coping strategy I have started another blog, simply called Arthropy (see the link to the left). In it I try to explain what coping with a chronic illness means to me. I have been having some counselling recently and the counsellor suggested that I might want to record my thoughts in some way. I agonised for quite a long time as to whether to keep the blog private. In the end inspired by 'Stitched Together' and 'A Girl in Winter' I decided to make it public in case it might help someone else in my situation. After all, you don't have to read it if you don't want to.

Finally I have been experimenting with using 'found objects' in my bead work. This butterfly is actually sold for scrap booking but I thought that I would see if it worked as a pendant. I will tell you more about it and post some more pictures in future posts. So far I think that it looks really good and would make a great centrepiece for a Victorian inspired necklace.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Time Off

I have been on holiday for a few weeks and so I am afraid that this blog has been sadly neglected. It has been really good to have some time off and we managed to pack in quite a lot. The first day of my leave was taken up with collecting OH's new car and then taking her for a bit of a run up to Shaftesbury. It it really strange having our own transport after many years of having to rely on public transport, but it certainly gives us more flexibility and independence.

We also managed to fit in another trip up to London. It was a bit of a spur of the moment thing. Several weeks ago I had tried without success to get hold of tickets for the Cult of Beauty exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. As time was running out (it finished on 17th July) I decided to make another attempt, and was successful. Whilst having coffee with a friend she reminded me that that was the same weekend as Knit Nation at Imperial College. As the V&A and Imperial College are right next to each other I decided to try to take in both on the same day. As it turns out it was a very exhausting day, it was very hot and humid and extremely wet. It rained solidly until mid afternoon.

The exhibition was interesting and full of beautiful things. Exhibits included 'Veronica Veronese' by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (see the image below), silverware by Christopher Dresser, Arts and Crafts dresses, William de Morgan tiles, William Morris hand painted furniture and a whole host of Pre-Raphaelite paintings.

The exhibition was well worth the trip and the discomfort. I am not sure that the same could be said for Knit Nation. I went to it last year with 'A Girl in Winter' and we had a good time. This time I felt that there were not as many vendors and was also disappointed that Wollemeise were not attending. I did however pick up a skein of Wollemeise sock yarn from the Loop stall. It is really hard to get hold of so I took the opportunity to buy some. I understand that lots of people tweeted to say how wonderful Knit Nation was this year, so I may be alone in my opinion. However I am certainly glad that I did not make a special trip just for that alone.

Another highlight was a trip to Sandle Cottage, near Fordingbridge, which was open as part of the National Gardens Scheme. It was a lovely tranquil spot with lots of interesting plants. We then drove home through the New Forest.

I have not been idle on the beading front during my time off. I was working on a necklace as my entry in the Stitch and Craft Swarovski Charm Challenge. the idea was that you were sent a Swarovski bead every month and had to create a charm with it. You then had to put all twelve elements together to make a necklace. I am afraid to say that I sadly was not able to complete my necklace in time. I was hoping that I could spend the whole of Friday putting the necklace together. However the tingling and pain in my right hand just got too much and I had to admit defeat. I will continue with the necklace and hopefully post pictures of it in future posts.

I am a bit upset and annoyed with myself that I could not finish in time. However, I enjoyed making the charms and I have come up with some new ideas for jewellery to make in the future. Here are three of the charms -

A ring bead with a sprig of leaves and flowers attached to it.

A large crystal triangle rivoli. I created a bezel around it using delica beads and size 15 seed beads. I then embellished it with circular netting.

A 27 mm crystal button bezelled with delica beads and size 15 seed beads, topped with flat circular herringbone and then embellished with netting.