Monday, 28 July 2014

Gathering roses

Thank you so much for your lovely comments on the cards and gifts I made for friends and colleagues. I truly enjoy reading your messages and love catching up with the wonderful blogs that I'm following. Starting to write a blog a few weeks ago has got me thinking about meeting new people and how the 'blogosphere' has opened up so many rich opportunities for meeting like-minded friends.

One of my favourite sayings is 'Every encounter is an opportunity'. Opportunities for friendship can arise whenever our paths cross with someone new- we meet many people but only some will become as 'kindred spirits'. This is usually when we meet someone who shares the same interests and values as ourselves.   Did you like Anne of Green Gables? How I loved that book, the sequels and the TV series-it's high time I read it again! Anne must have coined the phrase 'kindred spirit' in referring to true friendships. Since starting my blog I am finding, just like Anne, that kindred spirits are not so scarce after all!

Some weeks ago my path crossed by chance with a wonderful new 'kindred spirit'  - Dorothy of  Dorothy's Room-who many of you already know. It was one of those encounters when you just know that you are going to get along so well with a person. Dorothy had contacted me when she very kindly bought some of my vintage patchwork, asking if she could feature this on her blog. I was absolutely delighted and very flattered -of course she could! I had thought about blogging myself for so long and like many other ideas, it was just on the back burner. Dorothy was so encouraging she really inspired me to start! I already knew that Dorothy, like myself was a sewing enthusiast interested in all things vintage, then I also discovered that she is a lecturer as well, like me! (She does work a lot harder than me though as I only work a few hours a week now) Dorothy makes the loveliest bags as gifts for friends and I was absolutely delighted this week when I received one that she had created just for me. Isn't it gorgeous?

Dorothy's appliqué is amazing-I just love the cute cottage and the washing line reminds me of my Mum's back in the 60s! The fabric on the cottage looks just like brick too-what thoughtful choices. 

On the other side is such a cute flowerpot in lovely retro shades with fun buttons and all set off on one of my very favourite Cath Kidston Rosali pink and red spot. Such a wonderful gift which really made my day! -The problem is it's just too lovely to use! 

Dorothy has introduced me to some wonderful like-minded people and exploring the community has brought me into contact with many more of you who enjoy the same interests. I am now looking forward every day to updates about the crafting going on and have found so much inspiration! 

'Good friends are to be gathered like roses'

You lovely new friends share so many of my interests-  exquisite embroidery which reminds me of my mother's -every stitch worked with care and thought,  gorgeous crochet projects which have made me take up the hook again, arty projects which make me want to experiment in mixed media and many, many other wonderful ideas. I need never buy a craft magazine again (but I will as I can't resist them ) and flowing through all the wonder of the handmade projects is that theme of friendship... as you share snippets about daily life and travels to beautiful places near and far.  

The gorgeous yellow roses above were given to my daughter Laura by one of the children in her class at the end of term. I had yellow roses at my wedding-she knows I adore them so she kindly allowed me to display them. I've put them here with some of my mother's embroidered linens and cups from the collection she gave me. The cup and saucer is Royal Albert  'Autumn roses' -I love this because it is also a plate for your cake and biscuits! The little cup from Luxemburg was given to me in the 60s as a little girl from my cousin. All my cousins were quite a bit older than me and working. One of them had begun to travel abroad for work-I think it was quite something to start doing that back then! I can vaguely remember not being totally excited about a little cup and my mother saying 'It's something you can keep all your life'. So there it still is, among many other cherished treasures.  

'...but friendship is the breathing rose
 with sweets in every fold'

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

Although I adore yellow roses I think pink have to be my favourite. What about you? 
They are just so bright and beautiful but as you look at the shades each one seems totally unique and different ...just like my 'kindred spirits'!

Well we're off to Torquay for a few days this week starting with a visit to Agatha Christie's 'Greenway'. We have tried to visit several times before, but have never quite managed to get there yet. One time the boats were not running due to stormy weather, another time we went on the wrong day, then at the third attempt got there found you can only park when you have 'booked' a car parking space in advance - it meant a 2 mile walk from the village in the rain.  It all makes the place seem very mysterious (no pun intended!) so let's hope we're successful this time or I'll begin to think we're in one of Agatha's stories! 

...and just to finish-how true Agatha! I knew there was a reason I adore keepsakes so much. It must have been all about that tiny cup from Wiltz that my mother told me to treasure!

Hope you're having a lovely week
Best wishes
Alison xx

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Merci and Vielen Dank

A little bit of bead crochet. 

So it was time this week for fond farewells to colleagues and friends who are moving on to various new ventures.  I wanted to give them a little special 'Thank you' from me so I made a few of these lovely beaded crochet necklaces based on Fiber Flux's Coral Blossom necklace. Fiber Flux is just such a wonderful blog-it has completely re-inspired my love of crochet-there are some fantastic tutorials on You Tube as well.  I had never used beads in crochet before and couldn't wait to try the design out with some of the gorgeous Japanese Toho beads I've been loving lately. Toho are top quality seed beads which come in an amazing array of colours and styles and have a large hole which makes threading easy-they are a pleasure to work with!

With this one I had a colleague in mind who loves blues and turquoise.

Tiny gift envelopes.

I made little gift envelopes from some pretty scrapbook papers using a Bigz L Sizzix mini envelope die. This die makes a cute little envelope ideal for small presents such as necklaces, earrings etc.

I added a glue dot to close the envelope.

A new art pen!

I have recently treated myself to a new Rotring art pen . I used to write with these a lot -they are the unparalleled kings of German fountain pen engineering! Such a lovely smooth write; I have been using cheaper italic markers for so long but with false economy-for normal writing you need the fine tip and the nibs always 'go' on them far too soon. Can you see the little stuck on label below which reads 'Mum's art pen'? Now why would there be a need for that-well because my pens have always either disappear without trace or I find them been used to scratch something on the family calendar-does this sound familiar? Well I am not having my new Rotring used for that, Vielen Dank!   

I practised my writing by making some little labels.

I popped one on each necklace with some natural jute twine.

A la cards...

For colleagues with whom I had taught languages I decided to make a Paris themed card. I gathered together some papers with French vintage themes, keeping to a palette of mostly deep red, black, vintage creams with silver accents.

Then I played around with different layouts-I love these Eiffel Tower shapes-I cut them from deep silver grey card. 

I'm a little bit in love with Graphic 45's 'Couture' collection at the moment! Gorgeous fashions from the Gatsby era in reds, black and vintage creams with plenty of Français going on as well.

I hand stamped some greetings and came up with a design which I mounted on a 5 x 5 in cream card...voilà!

I love my art altered these days and am also enamoured of the gorgeous designs from 7 Gypsies. The backing paper to the left of card above and backing the one below is from the 'Lille' collection- 
The lovely lady from 1922 is printed with a rubber stamp.

With this one I couldn't resist adding a bit of bling to the tower-after all it's always lit up at night! 

Au revoir...not Farewell.

So,  goodbyes and a little something for lovely friends to keep. Luckily I shall remain in touch with these wonderful friends and colleagues as most of them will be staying in the county. For those moving 'up country' as they say down here, there's always social media to keep in touch. I do like that of course, but how I miss the joys of letter-writing, when I could use my italic pen to my heart's content!  

Summer ends of terms are often a time for showing gratitude or saying goodbye to those moving on ...have you had to say goodbye or thank you to a friend lately? 

Hope you are having a lovely weekend...warm but with a nice breeze I hope!

Alison xx 


Sunday, 13 July 2014

Ahoy me hearties!

A-pirating we will go...

Ahoy me hearties! (Which actually means 'Hello my friends' in pirate-speak). Don't worry-I haven't actually become a pirate (though living in Cornwall there could be some danger of this, as pirating once ruled the waves around these parts). My greeting is due to this week's Beading Club project taking on a pirate twist. So who's the most well-known pirate? Well we can forget Blackbeard, it's Captain Jack Sparrow of course! Our pirate bag charms were to be based on Jack Sparrow's Kuchi beads. Captain Jack Sparrow , the character played by Johnny Depp in 'Pirates of the Caribbean' inspired the trend for pirate jewellery. Jack's hair is adorned with all manner of beads and trinkets gathered from all around the world, each one reminding him of a different adventure.

The trend for all things skullish. 

 When you think of pirates you most likely think of golden earrings, eye patches, half legs and skulls. I  must admit, I have never liked skulls-but of course pirates are famous for adopting the skull and crossbones as a symbol to strike fear into their enemies. I did discover however, that the skull as a symbol can have other meanings in different cultures. In Mexico for example, skulls symbolise the Day of the Dead, a big annual festival where the dead are celebrated in carnival-like festivities. Fabric designer Alexander Henry celebrates this so well in his Folklorico range - skulls with floral tributes in amazing colours-take a look! 
It's also unavoidable that there is a current interest amongst the young in all things skullish and when I spotted these skull beads I knew the children would love them. 

Coming in such gorgeous colours they are actually quite cute!

The project:

Our project was to make a pirate key ring or bag charm, using waxed cotton cord and simple knotting techniques.

We had a selection of cord in yummy colours at the ready.

We made a simple double strand by folding a length of cord and making a loop at the top. We then added the skull beads into designs which included a mix of wood, glass and silver beads. We had a range of cute sea themed charms-mermaids, anchors, fish, shells, ships' wheels and even a tiny pirate's dagger! The children dived into the beads and, heads down for an hour of concentration designed their creations. What surprised me most was the children's determination to get the design right first-they tried out multiple ways with colour and shape before starting to thread on.

Adding more beads to the second strand.
Many of the designs were symmetrical-links to Maths again! They also enjoyed using sea-themed cork boards to work on-I decorated these with  Graphic 45's 'By the sea' scrapbook papers.

Some of them added an extra fun charm to the top by knotting on extra, shorter threads.
They then popped on a ring and clip. Some of them wanted to make extras for friends and family members!

Well shiver me timbers- didn't they do a fabulous job!

A profusion of sea colours seemed to rule this session's beading waves!

The children continued the theme with an extra take-home project where they followed instructions to make a Kuchi bead hair braid like Jack's-here is their design brief:

They are planning to wear them at the end of term barbecue-let's hope it's a fine and sunny day!  

What fun we had a-pirating...and without a bottle of rum in sight! 
Hope you've had fun this weekend too!

Alison xx

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Reviving Laura's Wild Clematis

Many thanks for your lovely comments on my last post-I do so enjoy reading them! Have you had a sunny weekend? A few showers here earlier but a lovely sunny afternoon-definitely one that truly makes England in summer a beautiful place to be. Such afternoons bring to mind picnics by the river and endless sunshine as you flit about on your vintage bicycle amongst the wild-flowered byways, in a big floppy hat. Such days always evoke thoughts of Laura Ashley's wonderful  tiny country floral fabrics from the 70s and 80s.

 One such fabric is 'Wild Clematis', a traditional country cotton. Many of these designs are becoming increasingly rare and it has become my quest to track down as many as possible so we can enjoy them once again! Whilst I do like to enjoy gazing at my 'finds' sitting on my collection shelf, my prime motivation for collecting is to re-use them  into various projects.

'Wild Clematis' features such a pretty rambling floral design  on a plain background in various shades. It was very popular for home furnishings, especially curtains as this seems to be where I find most to reclaim. It is possible to discover unused fabric-what a find it is when you do. This can still be in pristine condition, I'm still amazed by the quality of the fabrics.  I located some colours in my 1987 catalogue, but the design must have been around some years before, as someone reports furnishings made from it with fabric bought in 1979 on the Laura Ashley blog. The fabric generally retains its colour so well, with just some fading to edges, depending on where it has been situated.

A while ago I came by some of the lovely green, which I incorporated into a quilt along with a mix of other fabrics. I don't do quilts very often and have never done one where you have a pattern or plan, my designs just sort of evolve, usually from some central fabric that I fancy the look of. I wanted a very natural mix of country style designs with a soothing, green theme, for a bedroom which has the more up to date Laura Ashley 'Heligan' (natural) as its main theme. As there was quite a bit of this it made a pretty border.

Recently I came upon some very small pieces of the brown on cream colourway. I had a small fabric panel of a black labrador which is exactly like our lovely Bonnie, and knew my younger daughter would love this as a cushion for her room. I also wanted to incorporate some vintage Laura Ashley for her and the cream pieces were ideal. I just need to finish backing it now!

Suddenly I was on a roll of little fabric pics and made a little padded kitchen hanger with this cute cat.

I also like to revive these fabrics to be shared and used by other sewers and incorporate quite a lot of my reclaimed fabrics into themed collections-here I used  'Smoke' in a blue themed collection.

Hope you have had a lovely sunny, floppy hatted crafty weekend! I don't have a pic of wild clematis but here's a little snap of some pretty Cornish wildflowers I took when walking along the river yesterday.
Alison xx

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Beading Club Summer

Each summer term I run a Beading Club at the school where my daughter is Year 6 teacher. I love this-firstly to teach alongside my daughter is a dream I had many years ago when she asked me to get her a Playmobil classroom 'just like Mummy's'. (I have since wished I could move the students in my classes about just like the plastic 'students' on more than one occasion!) I did not think she would go down the teaching route in the end but she was not put off by seeing us both in it and although these days it is a very challenging job, she loves it.

I am no beading expert by any means, but love to dabble in this from time to time. When  asked to run the club, I worked out a short programme of sessions which would be progressive and build a few skills (teachers!!) rather than just a beading free for all with the usual kits they may have done anyway. I looked into the history of beads, where the oldest came from, what they were made of etc. and planned a first session using  pony beads, which they would be familiar with. For skills we would meet simple knots, look at  use of the colour wheel etc.  The focus was on looking at how early beads were used in an abacus for counting, so I browsed various tutorials on making an 'abacus bracelet' -this link shows one with a little bit of history. The ones I looked at gave me ideas but I needed to modify them in order to offer something the children (9- 11 year olds) could manage, and in the time slot given.  I eventually settled on a simple design using flat suede cord with 3 sets of three beads.

Here's a little tutorial:

Directions: directions given are based on the wrist of an average 9-11 year old. For larger/smaller sizes increase/decrease measurements. For example for myself I increased the 5cm/10cm measurements by  1-2cm.

You need: 
Approximately 1 metre flat suede cord
9 pony beads

1. Cut approximately 1 metre of flat suede cord and choose 9 pony beads, blending or contrasting colours in groups of 3.
2. Starting at the left side, measure approximately 20cm. 
3. Make a simple knot in cord.

4. Threading from the right side, add on first three beads. Leave a space then knot again. (space should measure about 5cm between knots.

5. Measure a further 10cm -make another knot . There are no beads in this section.

6. Repeat step 4, threading on the three beads you would like to appear in the middle of the design. 

7. Repeat Step 5.
8. Thread on final three beads, knot again after 5cm. 

9. You will have a longer piece left at right side-trim to 20cm.

Design is now finished! Wrap bracelet around wrist three times,  leaving 20cm lengths underneath. Knot or tie a in a bow beneath wrist (a crafty friend is useful here). The three sets of beads should lie on top of wrist with knots at sides. Beads will slide, as on an abacus.  

The children discovered a simple pattern to remembering measurements between knots:

20cm (ends), 5cm (beads), 10cm (gaps)

Whole bracelet from left-right: 20cm-5cm-10cm-5cm-10cm-5cm-20cm

-Craft linked with numeracy-defiinitely ticks the boxes!

They were planning lots of variations on number of beads, sections etc. -and to persuade their mums to make a visit to Hobbycraft!

Abacus bracelets can be used for counting rows of knitting or crochet, but the children here liked the idea of using them to cheat at Maths!

The children loved creating the bracelets - do you know any children who would like this project? Great for summer holidays or for adding to your rainy day crafty project bank!  

More little beading projects beckon with the same group during July -they are a joy to work with. Much more fun than the plastic pupils!