Friday, 15 April 2011

Everybody hurts

I have been listening to a lot of R.E.M. recently and I had forgotten how uplifting their music can be. A particular favourite is 'Everyone Hurts'. It so perfectly sums up the human condition and the way that I am feeling at the moment. http://

I am blessed with a wonderful partner and amazing friends. The past couple of the weeks have been quite difficult. My health has not been great and I have been dealing with a very unpleasant and stressful situation at work. You really find out who genuinely cares about you at times like these and I count myself very lucky.

Spring is definitely here and that makes me feel much better. It seemed to be such a long time coming!

Last week my OH and I went to London for the day. I almost didn't go with him as I was feeling quite low emotionally and physically. At the last minute I changed my mind and I am glad that I did. We had a lovely day out. When we arrived at Victoria we walked around the corner to Baker and Spice for a coffee and a blueberry muffin. Rather unexpectedly we ended up sharing a table with Anton du Beke of 'Strictly Come Dancing' fame. Then OH wanted to go to a Syd Barrett exhibition. So, whilst he did that I had a wander around Liberty's. I must admit that I was disappointed by their range of fabric and yarn. I suppose it is a sign of the times that they are cutting back on stock. I do think it is a shame though! I then walked the short distance to Kingly Court which is just off Carnaby Street. The small shops are arranged around a central courtyard. It is such a haven of peace andf tranquility that you would not think you are a stone's throw from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street. I visited 'Buffy's Beads' and 'All the Fun of the Fair'. There is also a vintage clothing shop with the wonderful name 'Fur Coat No Knickers'. Unfortunately it was shut when I was there. My OH met me outside the Camelia Tea Rooms and we had a salad for lunch and a cup of herb tea. they have an amazing array of teas. The canisters are on display and you can browse through them, take the lids off and sniff the teas before making your choice.

Unfortunately, I still have not finished my 'Jewel Bead Necklace as I have not been feeling well enough. However here is a picture of one of the beads. Hopfully I will finish the entire necklace this weekend.

One of my friends showed me some ribbon yarn recently. She bought it from 'IKnit London' and she is making a scarf with it. When I was in 'All the Fun of the Fair' I saw the same yarn for sale and couldnt resist buying some. I am sure P. will forgive me for copying her.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Weekend adventures

Each weekend we make a point of going somewhere for the day. A couple of years ago we resolved to come up with a list of fun things to do, to make the most of our free time together.

One such trip was to London a few weeks ago. I was keen to see an exhibition at the Foundling Hospital near the British Museum. The exhibition was called 'Threads of Feeling'. During the Eighteenth Century mothers were given the opportunity to take their children to the Foundling Hospital on Coram Fields. If the children were illegitimate, or the mothers simply could not provide for their child, they knew that by leaving them at the Hospital their son or daughter would be well fed and cared for. The idea was that they gave official guardianship of their offspring to the Hospital and if their circumstances improved they could come back for the child. In reality only 1% of mothers returned. In order to identify their son or daughter the women left tokens. Many of these were scraps of clothing, ribbons, small charms or buttons. The result is that the Museum has one of the finest collections of Eighteenth Century fabrics in Europe.

The exhibition was very moving. The ledgers were on display with a description of each child and the scrap of cloth or ribbon. As we walked around the Museum there were facts about everyday life in the Eighteenth Century displayed on the walls. One really shocking fact was that in Eighteenth Century London 75% of children would die before the age of 5. That really stopped me in my tracks. It is really easy for us to look at these things with our 21st Century view of life with its childhood vaccinations, good quality health care and long life expectancy. My heart went out to these poor women who had to make the decision to hand over their children with the knowledge that they would almost certainly never see them again.

I have recently become interested in creating memory jewellery. A way of incorporating fragments of everyday life into my work. This exhibition certainly gave me food for thought.

The exhibition has finished now but here you can find out the background to it. If you every have the chance to visit the Foundlings' Hospital I would urge you to do it. I am told that they graze sheep in Coram Fields, in front of the Hospital, and that in the Spring and Summer the air is filled with the sound of sheep calling to each other. Quite a strange experience in the heart of London!

Another fun exhibition was a bit closer to home in the Salisbury Arts Centre. We went to see a touring exhibition called the 'Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef'. The project was created by Margaret Wertheim, the Director of 'The Institute Of Figuring' in Los Angeles. It is quite simply, as the name suggests, a coral reef made entirely out of crochet. It is touring the world and everywhere that is appears local people are encouraged to add to it. The reef even has its own web page and blog. It was absolutely fascinating, particularly as close inspection showed that parts of it were made from crocheted wire, plastic bags and even lengths of audio and video tape. One of my favourite parts was the large octopus. I think it is nice to think that like a real coral reef it is constantly growing and changing.

I would certainly like to use some of the ideas, shapes and textures in my beadwork. A very inspiring experience.

I am still working on my 'Jewel Bead Necklace' due to the continuing problems with my right hand (which have now been officially diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome). Hopefully I will be able to show it in my next post along with an account of another recent visit to London.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Sunshine and shadows

At one time I used to make quilts. I haven't made one for a while, although I have to confess that I do have a quilt top lurking in my spare room, neatly folded on top of a roll of batting. One day I will get around to uniting the two to make another (hopefully) much loved quilt.

I have always liked Amish quilts and admire their complex patterns which seem so simple on first glance. Their use of clear colours and the balance between light and shade fascinates me. One of the things that has stuck with me is the idea of 'sunshine and shadows'. The Amish believe that you can only experience great joy in life if you have known great sorrow - life is made up of sunshine (joy) and shadows (sorrow). This has great resonance with me at the moment as I am definitely going through a 'shadow' phase in my life.

I have made eight quilts in total and have given half of them away. One full-sized bed quilt to my Mother, one baby quilt to a friend and two memory quilts, also to friends. I have four that I use everyday. The first quilt that I ever made, a log cabin quilt, is used as a Summer bed covering when the duvet is too heavy and warm. Another Mariner's Compass quilt is draped over the back of the sofa in our living room. I can see it out of the corner of my eye as I write this. The other two, a nine patch and an Ohio Star, are folded up on a rocking chair in our spare bedroom having done their duty as winter lap quilts and an extra layer on the bed when needed (my OH can testify to the fact that I suffer from chronically cold feet in the Winter!). They might have points that don't quite meet and the odd wobbly quilting stitch but they are very important to me. They remind me how far I have come in my sewing life. I have learnt so much making them. I still vividly remember cutting out the strips for the log cabin quilt without the aid of a rotary cutter. What was I thinking! I went out and bought one pretty quickly after that I can tell you.

I had a similar experience recently when a friend asked me to repair a necklace. It is actually one of mine. She bought it from me several years ago and she wears it a lot. Unfortunately one of the fire polished beads on the edging has become detached. It was really interesting for me to see it again after so long. I made it as part of my City & Guilds Level 2. I was looking at it earlier today and I started thinking about how I would have done things differently if I was making it now. For one thing I would use a different thread, probably Fireline, to avoid accidents such as the one that I am having to repair at the moment. But despite its flaws she loves it and that is the most important thing.

Sadly one of my friends lost her battle with cancer last week. Although we knew that her condition was terminal the speed at which she faded away was a shock. She was one of the first friends that I made when I moved to Bournemouth nearly eight years ago. I still find it hard to believe that I will never see her again. In the last conversation that I had whith her she said 'We have had so many laughs together haven't we? Remember that when I am gone, don't be sad'. I am going to try to do just that, although it won't be easy. She will be remembered with much affection by all who knew her.