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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

I am just a maker...


I have a friend who thinks that I should be a little more forthcoming about myself for the folks that might not know me but may want to come to one of my classes, she's  drugged up on Chemo and Radiotherapy at the moment but I think she may have a few good brain cells left...


This is me in the seventies, a time when adults thought it was fun to give a kid a monkey to hold and make them wear patchwork flares.


This is my other half, also in the seventies, when it was socially acceptable to trim your kids hair using a bowl as a template.  That didn't put me off, he had improved a little bit by 1991, although he was rather partial to red shell suit.


We had a boy and I started making stuff.


I even got to make quilts on the telly with Phil and Fern,  Britain's Craftiest, I was fairly pregnant at the time although you can't tell.  I really dislike the term craft because I think that it generally downgrades handmade or handcrafted work.  Centuries ago 'crafts' like tapestry, stained glass and metalwork etc. were regarded more highly than painting but this gradually changed - thats a post for another day.  I go along with Richard Sennett, "The Craftsman" (best book ever), in a nutshell, to be an expert you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice, to know your craft inside out.  For example if you are a Clockmaker you must be able to take apart and rebuild so it is even better than the original, which means you are so knowledgeable you can work out how to fix any fault that presents itself and the more time you spend at your practice the more critical of your own work you become, you see the detail that others don't and you perfect and perfect and perfect your skill.  Your craft can be anything at all, stamp collecting, hairdressing, gardening, plastering, absolutely anything that you work at and can do with with your eyes closed, a skill that is the result of time invested.  There are no shortcuts.  Sadly today any old dross is passed off as craft, something poorly made, cheaply made, made from a kit.  What often goes under the name of craft is inferior and ugly and people accept it because it comes with the craft tag, which is why I say I am a maker.  The same reason I avoid anything that says quality, if you need to label it as such it probably isn't.



Then we had a girl, I made more stuff and took a liking to knitting.


I enforced an early love of Liberty Lawn.


I started small with textile courses at Burslem School of Art,  a couple of City and Guilds at Reaseheath -  Patchwork & Quilting and Embroidered Textiles, City and Guilds Feltmaking at Stafford College and then the big one, MA in Art and Design, (Textile Design) at Wolverhampton University.  My original degree was Art History.


I travelled the world looking at hand made textiles.


I even had men running to put on trousers on.


I would recommend India but it was good to be home.



I love wool and so do my owls, 


I like using old textiles, stuff just used to be better made,


but my favourite modern stuff is still Liberty.


I make dolls out of a bit of old stuff and a bit wool and a bit of Liberty.


This is Princess Angora, completely hand-stitched from pure wool felt, stuffed with proper sheep's wool, and a mane of Angora (rabbit), each strand individually stitched.  Her face is stitched with the most fabulous Danish embroidery floss and her dress is from an old piece of table linen.  ONly the best for a princess.
I am all about the fibre.


I have a little bit of a Junior Quilting Bee going on.


I also teach embroidery at the village primary school, 15 future creatives,  reception to year four, boys and girls, it's good always good fun but I sometimes need a lie down afterwards.


My philosophy on children is, start them young and keep them at it,


teach them about risk -  moulten jam in particular,


and make them fearless.


I reached the big 40 last year in Berlin.


For this milestone I decided that as I was on the downhill slope I would take up boozing and from being absolutely tee-total I thought I would just start at the top and stay there.  I partake in a bottle of Champagne every weekend and I can't see the point of bothering with anything else.


I have no co-ordination and was always the last to be picked for teams at school, unless they needed someone tall,  and consequently I've never done any sport.  I decided 40 would be a good time to start, I do 6 miles (10k)  in under 50 minutes, I will be improving on this.  I have run 12 miles in two hours but I did start to get a bit bored, even with Buggles, "Video Killed The Radio Star", as my power song.  I can't run in leggings like every other lady runner I pass,  I am sure they would be much cooler if they were brave, but it's serious short shorts for me.  I am learning to embrace the old lady mindset of not caring what I look like and I am trying to pass on this empowering attitude to my daughter who is currently under fire from all of the askew female stereotypes that the world can throw at a seven year old.  I have had success already with the twelve year old and he can usually teach me a thing or two.


I go to Spinners and Weavers, I don't spin, I just like going and they tolerate me, some more than others.  Betsy and I also go to WI and it's not a young WI as people keep assuming - apart from the 7 year old - it's just a good mix of women.  I despair when people ask if I know of a young WI, if you only want to mix with young women go to a night club!


I bake a bit,


and make stuff to eat from scratch,


and I have been known to make the odd award - first at the county show with about 50 other entries - winning quiche.  I may just add that for competition purposes the WI require that a quiche is baked all in one, no blind baking, and I can assure you we had no soggy bottoms, which is not easy.   I think prayer helped, they were praying for some divine intervention so as not to have to taste test another.

  I have vowed never to enter another WI competition,  they do not "Inspire Women" as their motto goes, the judges obviously live in a time warp and  the knitting judges must be high on the acrylic fumes of their  Jean Greenhowe world.


We love Shetland


We have roaming chickens.


I must shamefully admit that I was once defeated by a craft project, I think because it was called a 'craft project' and every tiny detail was prescribed.  I did keep it hanging around for about 18 years and 95% of it was complete but I reached a time in my creative journey when I just had to walk away.  It went in to a UFO swap, and did get it's own back because I came away with a half finished knitted ballerina. However some wisdom has come from my many years of being a maker, although it is impossible to throw one's own project in the bin it is very easy to chuck out someone else's, and I know that the ugly ballerina knitter knows that.


Finally, the best photo ever taken of me, sadly I am drinking rum out of a jam jar in the street.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Junior Sewing School



A couple of enthusiastic quilters I know, aged 11 and 7, got down to some serious end trimming, seam pressing, sandwich making and basting at Saturday morning Sewing School.


Now the work begins...

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Comte We Love You!



Penkridge Market has a very good Cheese Stall on a Saturday...


we go for the Comte, excellent with a glass of Champagne, or just every time you pass the fridge.  We usually queue up in the kitchen for a taste and critique as we unpack, today was Comte, Nantwich Blue and something with garlic?

 Miss Belle asked, 

"Can we be Paul and Mary?  I'll be Mary you be Paul."

My work here is done.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Beginners Lace



A pleasant mornings work with cake!


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Birmingham Vintage



To make the most of Louis' last day off we had a mother and son trip to Birmingham for some shopping and a spot of lunch.  He is the perfect shopping companion, he carries the bags, finds a comfy spot and gets a book out, he's got all the time in the world.  We did some normal high street shopping but thats dull compared to the old stuff.  3 Dresses, two scarves and an old lady shopping bag for £50 all from my favourite vintage shop.


All screwed up out of the bag but this is fantastically cut and the embroidered chiffon sleeves are divine.



Another floor length beautifully cut that will eventually get shortened about an half an hour before I need to wear it!


Miss Belle loves anything that's proper old lady style.


Sunday, 14 April 2013

Thank You Gladys Wherever You Are




When people know what you are into they give you stuff and it's always gratefully accepted but last week we had a real treat.  Gladys was a friend of Mary who is a WI friend of ours.  Gladys died recently and Mary sent us a bag of Gladys' stitching stuff.  There were tape measures and beautiful buttons on cards from a long time ago and a pristine pair of Singer Scissors in there original case.  We didn't know you Gladys but thank you, we shall treasure them as you did, we have written your name on their case and we will think of you every time we use them.  Which will be a lot!


We baked Hello Kitty Friands and Custard Creams for my Continental Knitting Class, the Custard Creams didn't hang around for the photo shoot.


Bakewell tart for tea last night.


Friday, 12 April 2013

Great British Sewing Bee




I don't think GBSB works as well as Bake Off but I do have a 7 year old stitcher who loves it.  We were inspired to spend a day in the studio and ended up with this little top in some Amy Butler fabric that should have magically transformed in to a dress about 6 years ago!


We were accompanied by someone filling up a notebook with Tekkit ideas, I have no idea what this means but it kept him busy all day.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Betsy the Photographer




This week Betsy has taken over 300 photos of the house, kittens and herself!


 Louis took over camera duty at Cannock Chase.



 Children should be set to work early, Cherry Friands from Jo Wheatley's "A Passion For Baking", laundry by Louis.


Nigella's Banana Bread by our resident domestic god.