Monday, 13 June 2011

Inspiration is everywhere

It is amazing what we experience during the course of just one day, we are constantly bombarded by sights, sounds and sensations. Often ideas come to me, as I go about my normal working day. A shape, texture or snatch of music will stimulate an idea. I have not been feeling too great today, probably a combination of an arthritis flair up and the medication that I am having to take to counteract it. I have still been having ideas, despite struggling to function. For example an idea popped into my head this afternoon about how to incorporate vintage buttons into a bracelet. I have found that on days like these the best plan of action is to write these flashes of inspiration down as soon as I can, before I forget them.

I hit a bit of a brick wall about 6 months ago where my beading is concerned. I am not really sure why it happened. For the last 5 years I have been completely absorbed by it but perhaps I just needed to take a break and recharge my batteries. I think that I am now working through the beaders' block and hopefully coming out the other side. Going back to my opening sentence - I have so many ideas buzzing around in my head that it would take several lifetimes to realise all of them. On days like today when just navigating my way through the working day takes all of my energy, writing my ideas down is the best plan of action. It also means that when I have a bad patch with my beading I can browse through my notes and ideas and see where it takes me. (Sorry if I am rambling, but as I said earlier - very bad day!).

During my City & Guilds and NCFE beading courses I got into the habit of keeping a beading journal. I now have a small collection of sketch books. I have found it a great comfort looking through them over the last few months. Even if I have lacked the energy to actually make much I have at least been keeping my mind ticking over.

I also have a couple of large lever arch files full of beaded samples with scribbled notes and instructions. These have proved absolutely invaluable.

I would definitely encourage you to start a creative journal, whatever your chosen craft. I don't profess to be an expert and there are many books available on creating and keeping journals. However here, for what they are worth, are my tips for keeping one -

  • Buy a number of inexpensive journals or sketchbooks. I find the Daler Rowney range really useful as they come in a range of sizes and the paper is robust enough to cope with paint, marker pens and glue.
  • If you find a blank white page daunting then colour it with a pale watercolour wash or diluted ink.
  • Write in your journal or notebook regularly. It will soon become a habit. It doesn't matter if you think that you cannot draw. Don't worry about being neat, no-one else has to see it.
  • Collect items which inspire you - postcards, magazine cuttings, scraps of fabric, dried flowers and leaves, feathers - whatever takes your fancy.
  • If you are frightened of using colour in your work, use your notebook or journal to experiment. Get some magazines (garden and interiors magazines are good for this) and tear pieces out, then create a collage. See what works and what doesn't. Very few people have an instinctive way with colour. We all see colour differently, good use of colour come with practice and trial and error.
  • If you make something write down instructions and the exact details of your materials before you forget them. Then, if you need to recreate a piece you have all of the information in one place. I have been extremely thankful on a number of occasions that I have done this.
  • Finally - have fun. Who knows where it might lead!

I honestly couldn't have got through the last few months without the support from my family and friends. It was 'A Girl in Winter's Birthday today and I decide to make her a bag to say 'Thank You'. A couple of years ago, at the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace we bought an Anne-Marie Horner bag pattern, splitting the cost between us. The idea was that we would each make a version of the bag. For various reasons that simply did not happen and the pattern has lurked in my stash since then. I recently came across it and decided to make it for her as a surprise.

For those of you who are interested, the pattern is 'The Multitasker Tote' and the fabrics are Amy Butler's Daisy Bouquet in 'Misty' for the handles, side pockets and lining and Sweet Jasmine in 'Gray' for the main outside panels. I was a bit worried about my fabric choices. I ordered the fabric online and when it arrived, as often happens, it was not quite what I was expecting. However they are definitely 'A Girl in Winter's favourite colours so I hoped that it would be OK. As it turned out she loved it.

The pattern was easy and fun to make. It is not a pattern for a complete beginner, but would suit an intermediate sewer. I have made a number of bags and I have to say that I found the instructions mystifying on a first read through. My advice would be to simply follow the instructions to the letter and everything will fall into place. The construction is really ingenious.

I made the following modifications to the pattern -
  • The finished bag is quite large, and as I was using quilting weight fabric I was worried that it would be too floppy and not robust enough. Therefore I attached medium weight fusible interfacing to the pocket panels and lining and fusible fleece onto the external panels. This gave the finished tote just enough substance and strength.
  • I used a double layer of fabric for the interior pocket (instead of the single layer in the instructions) for the same reasons as above - to give it strength.
  • I added a magnetic snap to the upper edge of the tote, to make it more secure and to prevent the top edge gaping open.
I was very pleased with the finished bag. OH remarked that the fabric reminded him of a 1950s apron, which was exactly the look I was aiming for. I would definitely like to make myself one. The only problem is going to be deciding which fabric to use.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Rainy Sunday

The weather was appalling today, gale force winds and torrential rain. It has been unusually dry in the South of England this Spring and some of us have been secretly hoping for a good downpour of rain to soak the parched gardens and freshen everything up. Well today we got our wish and more than we bargained for. I had arranged to meet a couple of friends at the Pavilion in the centre of Bournemouth, as there was a Vintage Fashion Fair being held there. So I ventured out in the driving rain to meet them.

Unfortunately one of my friends had to cancel at the last minute, but I did meet up with 'A Girl in Winter'. I am glad that I made the effort, as despite the weather as it was really fun. It was being held in the ballroom which has some lovely period features such as the Art Deco wall lights. Despite the foul weather outside the atmosphere was very warm and welcoming.

There was so much on offer - vintage clothing, shoes, hats, bags, jewellery, buttons, textiles, knitting and sewing patterns. I bought some vintage celluloid buttons and some buckles. I have an idea for incorporating them into my bead work. I will put pictures and further details here on my blog, if my ideas work out. There were some beautiful clothes if you have the confidence and the figure to wear them. I found a beautiful blue felt cloche hat which really suited me and an immaculate beaded bag, complete with a small mirror in a case. Sadly both were outside my budget. However, I could not resist buying a vintage Vogue Knitting magazine. It doesn't have a date on it but I am guessing from the photographs that it is from the early to mid 1950s.

I am not sure that I would ever knit the beaded halter neck top in the 'Evening Glamour' section.

But, there are many really timeless designs (well, we are talking about Vogue after all!) and I could definitely see myself knitting and wearing some of the sweaters in the future.

You can't really see it in this picture (I don't have a scanner at home so had to resort to my digital camera for these shots) but this cardigan is knitted in a interesting textured stitch, rather like basket weave.

Part of the fun of reading period magazines is looking at the adverts. It gives you a glimpse of what everyday life was like at the time. I particularly love this one for the Rallie Health Belt which promises you a more slender and youthful figure if you wear it for 5 minutes a day. Oh if only it was that simple!

'A Girl in Winter' bought some lovely buttons and some beautiful vintage embroidered cloths, possibly to make into cushions. Then it was out into the pouring rain to walk, to a nearby Costa, for some hot drinks to warm us up and a bit of a natter. Although we both work in the same office things have been so hectic over the last week that we have hardly had time to talk to each other. It was nice to catch up.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Vintage Market

Last Saturday I went to the Boscombe Vintage Market with two of my friends. Both K and M (aka A Girl in Winter) had been before but I had not. My reason for going was twofold - I am always interested in vintage or antiques fairs, but more importantly M and I wanted to look at it with a view of having a stall in the future. For some time we have been talking about trying to sell our crafts online. We are considering setting up an Etsy or Folksy shop. M knits, crochets, makes cards and does cross stitch; I knit, sew and make beaded jewellery. I was really impressed with the Vintage Market. It has only been in existence for 4 months but I was bowled over by the sheer quality and diversity of the good being sold. It was extremely busy and there was a very warm and friendly atmosphere.

It was heartwarming to experience this as, you see, Boscombe has a reputation for being a tough area of Bournemouth. There have been attempts recently to redevelop and rejuvenate the area. It was hoped that the artificial surf reef would attract more visitors and money has been spent on Boscombe Gardens, refurbishing the pier and building new apartments on the seafront.

After a couple of hours exploring the Market we went to a local restaurant, Bosconova, for some lunch and to discuss what we had seen. After much consideration we have decided to rent a stall and see what happens. Life is too short for regrets and we both feel that we ought to try it once and see what happens. Hopefully we will be successful and sell enough to cover the cost of the stall. If not then we will set up an Etsy shop to sell our craft work. I personally feel that I want to take the chance or I will always regret it and wonder what would have happened. Who knows where it will lead!

The lovely things bought at Boscombe Vintage Market - two Liberty fabric remnants, a couple of vintage brooches, a handmade felt and bead dragonfly brooch, some purse frames and some lovely beads.

I couldn't resist this dragonfly. The designer Meninafeliz had a selection of hand embroidered butterflies, dragonflies and birds for sale as well as some beautiful flowers made from paper.

Another stallholder was selling vintage clothes and jewellery. Again I was drawn to a dragonfly brooch (do you sense a theme emerging here!).

There was someone selling beautiful beaded jewellery. She had large glass dishes full of loose beads on her stall. I was immediately attracted to them, they looked so pretty sitting there. I chatted to the stallholder and she told me that she was taking a bead needle weaving course herself and that she was addicted to beads. I had found a kindred spirit! In fact all of the stallholders were very friendly and only too happy to talk to us about their items and how they were made. The whole day was very inspiring and uplifting. I honestly did not realise that there were so many creative and generous spirited people in my local area. Plus I got to spend some quality time with two wonderful friends. What more could I ask!

Finally inspiration for all you men out there. My OH is constantly losing buttons from his shirts. I have to admit that mending and sewing buttons on are not high up on my list of favourite activities. In desperation last year the poor man asked me to teach him how to sew the buttons on, if I was not willing to do it for him. I happily got my sewing box and spent half an hour teaching him the basics. Last Sunday he asked me for a needle and thread and then proceeded to replace some missing buttons on one of his shirts. I felt a little bit bad for not doing it for him, but also very proud of him too!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Fun Days Out (Part Two)

The Saturday before last I met up with a couple of friends and, along with OH, we went to visit The Knitted Garden in Bournemouth Public Library. You may have heard of it. Lots of community groups around Bournemouth worked together to recreate a garden completely made out of yarn. I had read about it and assumed that it would be a small display in a corner of the Library. Nothing could be further from the truth. It occupied most of the Library space! Knitted and crocheted flowers were everywhere, twining around pillars, spilling over bookshelves and there was even a knitted vase of flowers on the Enquiry Desk.

There were creatures galore, bugs of various sizes, frogs, mice, hedgehogs, spiders, birds, a barn owl with a mouse hanging from its beak and a rather scary looking cat. There was even a life-sized green man sitting in a deck chair. Apparently the Library staff have been having great fun by moving him around the building and giving him different books to read such as an Alan Titchmarsh gardening book. The sheer scale an exuberance of the whole thing really bowled me over. Not just the huge amount of work that had obviously gone into creating it, but also how well it had been integrated into the space. It really made me wish that we could do something similar in the Library where I work. Another bonus was the amount of people it attracted, some of whom might never have set foot in the building before.

A knitted and crocheted picnic and barbecue. I particularly liked the knitted prawns.

I was really taken with this sweet little mole poking his head through the knitted grass. My rather blurry photo doesn't really do him justice.

As a Librarian I couldn't resist taking a shot of the Returned Books Bay festooned with flowers.

Flowers of every shape, size and colour adorn the entrance lobby to the Library.

Another favourite. You can only admire the patience it must have taken to knit all of those bees!

I would love to have a pond like this on my living room. I don't have a garden at the moment and it would certainly be low maintenance!

After our tour of the garden we walked to a nearby Cafe Nero for coffee, cake and lots of laughter. The perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.