Monday, 6 August 2012

Time Off (Part Two)

In my last post I promised to tell you more of our adventures over the past few weeks.

One evening OH and myself went to explore Knowlton Church and Earthworks. This is situated near Verwood, a short drive from our home in Bournemouth. It is a ruined medieval church built within a Neolithic henge. People have been using this site for worship for over 2500 years.

It was a beautiful, warm summer evening and I stood on top of the henge and watched the swallows darting about and the butterflies feasting on the wildflowers that grow all around it. It is a magical place with a unique atmosphere. They still hold regular church services here, weather permitting and the sense of continuity and connection with past generations is very strong. A magical place!

Our next adventure was a long weekend in Bath. We both love Bath and when we lived in Exeter we used to visit often for the day. We decided to go for a longer stay as there is so much to do there. As this was to be our only holiday this year we splashed out and picked a good quality hotel. It is very difficult to find cheap accommodation in Bath. Apparently hotels there are more expensive than central London. I found the Ayrlington online and I was impressed by the glowing reviews. To my relief the hotel more than lived up to its reviews. Our room was large, beautifully furnished and spotlessly clean. I would highly recommend it. Also, if you like cats this is the place for you. The owner has three, two of which roam freely around the building lapping up attention from the guests.

It is a short level walk from the Arlington over Pultney Bridge to the centre of Bath

We went to the Herschell Museum and I thought it was one of the most interesting museums I have ever visited. The small Georgian house contains the telescope Willam Herschell used to discover Uranus in 1782 and two of Saturn's moons. He was also the first person to discover the existence of infra red radiation. As a gifted musician he composed 24 symphonies during his lifetime. His sister Caroline was his assistant and made important astronomical discoveries of her own including eight comets and eleven nebulae. She was honoured by the the Royal Astronomical Society. Remarkable achievements at a time when women were universally considered to be of inferior intellect to men and rarely received a good education, by our modern standards!

A statue of William Herschell and his sister Caroline in the Museum garden

Everywhere you go in Bath you see can see evidence of its elegant Regency past -

I also had time to visit the Fashion Museum and of course a bead shop (Bijoux Beads), a yarn shop (Wool) and a quilting shop (Country Threads).

 The final part of our adventures will feature in my next post.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Time Off (Part One)

Yet again I have to apologise for the delay in posting but I have had a few well earned weeks off from work. The past year has been difficult, as last September my job changed dramatically with very little warning. I suddenly found myself with twice the workload in an unfamiliar area. The past 12 months has been a very steep learning curve. Just before I went on leave I had my annual appraisal meeting with my line manager. This allowed me to reflect on things. I wouldn't have been able to get through the last 12 months without the support of my colleagues, friends and of course OH!

I haven't been idle during my time off. The first few days was spent at home catching up with a few things and trying to relax. One of my goals was to finish a quilt. I made the quilt top several years ago. It was based on a pattern by Kaffe Fassett - Mossy Radiation from 'Quilt Road'.

The 'Mossy Radiation' quilt designed by Kaffe Fassett
We needed a summer weight quilt for our bed, so I raided my modest fabric stash. The triangles are strip-pieced so it was a good opportunity to use up all of my scraps. I decided to use blues, greens and pinks. I spent a happy two weeks sewing the centre of my quilt and then I suddenly lost confidence in what I was trying achieve. Also, at 80 inches square it is the biggest quilt I have ever made. I had decided to machine quilt it to make it more robust and the thought of trying to maipulate such a huge quilt on my machine daunted me. Disheartened, I folded up the unfinished top and put it away.

Three weeks ago, while sorting through some things in our spare room I came across the quilt top. I laid it out on the floor in our living room and had a really hard look at it. Coming to it afresh I realised that it was actually quite attractive. I just needed to add the final two borders and then quilt it.

I took a deep breath and set up my sewing machine. Two weeks later I am very proud of the result.

We have been sleeping under it for the past few nights and I am very pleased with it. Basting it on a small dining table was a challenge. I also found that quilting it on my sewing machine was not as difficult as I had envisaged. I took my time and did it a section at a time, starting at the centre. I used a blended batting - 80% cotton and 20% polyester by 'Warm and Natural'.  I normally use 100% cotton wadding, but as this is going to be a 'working' quilt rather than just decorative, I chose the blended version so that I could wash it more easily and the lines of quilting could be up to 6 inches apart.

This is my ninth quilt (I have given four away to friends and family) and my favourite so far. I am already planning my next quilt but this time I will be making a smaller lap quilt!

More about my adventures over the last two weeks in my next post.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Art Deco

In my previous post I promised to tell you more about an Art Deco inspired watch band that I have been working on. I like lots of different design styles such as Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and Gothic Revival, but I keep being drawn back to Art Deco. I love the clean lines and beautiful shapes. I have several sketch books full of Deco design ideas, I even have a Pinterest board devoted to it.

I recently had the idea of designing an Art Deco inspired watch band. For a number of years I have bought watch faces and created my own beaded watch bands. I have really small wrists and hands so I find it very difficult to buy a dainty watches that fit me. I used to have to resort to chunky leather straps. Then one day I decided to have a go at making my own. My first design was a very basic ladder stitch pattern but I loved wearing it. It was comfortable and attractive.

This time I chose a square silver watch face. I then created a series of peyote stitch squares with open centres. I used my two favourite colours - blue and green. I then linked the squares together with green fire-polished crystal beads and finished the whole thing with a magnetic sterling silver clasp.

These images were taken by my OH, who used them as part of a project for a photography course. The photo above is a basic shot of the watch on a neutral background.

He took this shot of the watch lying on my sketchbook to emphasise the fact that it had been designed and handmade by me. I try to keep sketches and notes for all of my designs so that I can replicate them or re-use certain elements. Plus, it is a nice record of how my work has developed over the last 8 years.

In this photo was taken with the watch lying on a mirror. He deliberately left space around the image. The brief was to come up with a layout which could be printed in a magazine, and so space needed to be left so that text could be inserted.

I think that they are really good photos, but of course I am biased!

I now have an idea for a necklace rolling around in my head. More about that in the near future.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Hello, remember me?

Sorry, I don't know where the time has gone since I last posted! I haven't been idle. I have been doing some knitting, sewing and beading.

I have been struggling a bit with my dressmaking endeavours. Nothing seemed to be going right. So I decided to take a break from making clothes and make a bag instead.

I bought a floral bag from a well known high street chain about 5 weeks ago (I am not naming names for obvious reasons). After 2 weeks the bag started to fall apart. The print faded dramatically, the base of the bag developed a hole in the outer fabric and one of the straps started to shred. Admittedly I didn't pay a huge amount for it, but I was bitterly disappointed. I decided that I could make a much nicer and more robust bag myself, for a fraction of the cost of the high street one.

A couple of months ago, during a trip to Fabric Land, I had bought a bag pattern on impulse -

The Lisette Foreign Exchange Bag pattern seemed to give me everything that I need. It had a small outer pocket, an inner zip pocket and a divided slip pocket for my phone, pens etc. I decided to sew View D.

I had a piece of Amy Butler fabric, perfect for the bag. I paired it with some blue cotton drill and some blue and white polka dot fabric for the lining.

I spent a few evenings happily sewing my bag. 10 or so years ago I used to make and sometimes sell bags and I had forgotten how much fun they are to create. It went together with only a few small hitches. I loved the pattern and would definitely sew it again. It was fairly easy to make. However, the instructions left a little to be desired in a few places, so I don't think this is a bag for an absolute beginner, but perfectly fine for someone with a few projects under their belt..

I am really pleased with the result.

As you can see my version is not exactly like the one on the pattern envelope. Here is what I did -
  • my fabric is quilt weight so I added fusible fleece to the outer fabric and medium weight fusible interfacing to the lining
  • I added a central zip top pocket to give me much more organisation within the bag
  • I added a piece of plastic canvas to the base for added stability
  • for more security I added a magnetic snap fastener to the top edge
  • the original pattern tells you to leave a gap in the side of the lining, then slip the bag inside the lining, right sides together, stitch the top edge and then pull the bag through the gap in the lining. As I had added an extra pocket and extra layers of interfacing this was not going to work. So I made some binding from the Amy Butler fabric, dropped the lining into the bag and bound the top edge.
I am particularly pleased with the front pocket. It is the perfect size for holding my travel card and swipe card for entering buildings at work. Plus it gave me the opportunity to showcase a beautiful 1950s vintage glass button from my stash.

I have been using the bag for a few days and I have to say it works really well as a work bag with plenty of room for my pens, phone, MP3 player, purse etc. There is also enough room to carry a notebook or file, if I have to go to a meeting.

I used the instructions from Lisa Lam's wonderful book 'The Bag Making Bible' to create the extra internal pocket.

Another recent purchase was a Kindle. I have always loved books and really enjoy handling them as beautiful, satisfying objects. I never really saw the appeal of e-readers.

However, after talking to a couple of friends who own Kindles I started to rethink my attitude. They both told me that they read so much more than they did before buying their Kindle. It is much lighter and easier to carry around than a paperback or hardback book.

So, I decided to buy one. I have to say that I love it! I am now able to read waiting for the bus, waiting for appointments and during my lunch break at work. I would highly recommend them.

I have been doing some beading too. However my beading endeavours have been hampered by my having contracted a rather nasty virus. This left me shivering, coughing and sneezing, on the sofa, covered in a quilt for a few days. My head feels as though I have cotton wool stuffed inside it and it takes a great effeort to concentrate on anything. However I am trying to carry on with a design that I am developing for an Art Deco inspired watch strap. More about this and my knitting endeavours very soon.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012



I discovered yesterday that I have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger award by A Girl in Winter. Thank you so much. It is much appreciated and very unexpected.

The rules of the award are:
  • Thank the person who gave you this award;
  • Include a link to their blog;
  • Next, select 15 bloggers that you follow regularly or have recently discovered;
  • Nominate those bloggers for the Versatile blogger-award;
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself
Here are my nominations for the award, in no particular order -

Flossie Teacakes - she sews, quilts and creates patterns.She has inspired me to try making the Collette Beignet skirt, her version looks so elegant.

What's Up Cupcake - truly inspiring - she dances, plays the piano accordion, knits, crochets, sews and bakes the most delicious looking cakes. I am very jealous of her fabulous handmade wardrobe.

Rhymes with Magic - like me Heather is a Librarian. She is also an artist turning unwanted books into jewellery and sculptures. She also crochets and paints in watercolours.

Christen's Creations - Christen is an artist, designer, crafter and poet. She collects all sorts of treasures such as buttons, ribbons and fabric scraps and turns them into beautiful jewellery.

5 Precious Things - Ruthie is an artist, illustrator, sculptor and crafter. Her blog is full of beautiful images. She draws on the Scottish scenery around her home for inspiration.

Joanna's Blog - Joanna lives in Australia and produces the most amazing jewellery using bead needle weaving and bead embroidery.

Purple podded Peas - Celia hart is a designer, illustrator and printmaker. She also blogs about her beautiful garden

Bead Origami - Cindy Holsclaw is a jewellery designer and bead weaver and she also does origami. Her beautiful designs are based on geometry.

Patty the Snug Bug - Patty shows off her great sense of style on her blog and has created a beautiful wardrobe of handmade clothes. She has created very detailed and helpful sewing tutorials, she also knits.

Yes, I like that - sewing, art and design from a London based blogger. Beautiful sewing projects.

Non-plot Blog/Plot 50 - adventures in gardening and photography.

Did you make that? - inspirational knitting, sewing and crochet blog. Check out her beautiful vesrion of Colette's Sorbetto.

Beadizzy - Valerie uses beads, hand dyed threads and ribbons to create beautiful unique jewellery.

Moonlight and Hares - Alison is an artist, illustrator and woodcrafter. Her blog is full of stunning images of work and things that inspire her.

This is My Patch - not a needlecraft blog but contains glorious photos of gardening adventures. The images are a constant source of inspiration for me.

 And finally 7 things about me (I really struggled with this one!)-
  1. When I was 9 years old I won a poetry competition. My poem was judged the best entry from the primary schools in my home city of Plymouth, in the 9 - 11 age group. My prize was a sewing box.
  2. I love bluegrass and Appalachian music. Gillian Welch singing 'I am not afraid to die' always brings a lump to my throat.
  3. I am addicted to chocolate in all of its forms, but my absolute favourite has to be Green and Black's Maya Gold.
  4. My favourite film is 'Harvey'. (I think it would be great fun to have a 6ft 2 white rabbit as a friend!)
  5. I suffer from claustrophobia. One of the worst experiences of my life was having an MRI scan in hospital recently. Sliding into that narrow metal tube was a total nightmare!
  6. I studied French language and literature as part of my degree. I used to be a huge fan of the French film director Francois Truffaut.
  7. I hold Level 1, Level 2, Level 2 Advanced and NCFE Level 3 certificates in Bead Needle Weaving. (That probably sounds like I am showing off but, by this point I had run out of things to say about myself!)
Well, that's me done for now. Thanks again to a 'Girl In Winter' for the award.