Sunday 30 September 2012

Blog swap - the gifts I sent

So, here is what I sent over the sea to Ireland.  There is a notebook with stamped decoration, a bookmark to match, a felt brooch and felt heart made out of my felt, a gemstone bracelet and earrings set (Picasso jasper, botswana agate and labradorite) and a macrame bracelet, a sunshine badge made by Chris, some pumpkin and pepper seeds and some leaf decorations.
I also added a postcard with a quote on the back and a postcard from Lincolnshire.  Here are the packages ready to go.
I have since seen another item which will be just perfect (shame I didn't see it earlier, but never mind), so am going to send that as an extra surprise.  I'll let you know what it is once it has been received.
It was a lovely thing to be involved with and I would highly recommend the process.  If it runs next year, I'll definitely be signing up again.  I'll try to include some more items local to this area, as my blog swapper did, because that was a lovely touch.

Saturday 29 September 2012

Blog Swap results

 You may remember me mentioning that I had signed up to take part in my first blog swap.  The theme was 'cosy autumn' and we could send a minimum of five items, two of which had to be hand made.  Here is what I received from my swapper - the cookie jar- who is from Ireland.  It came in this lovely sturdy storage box (this was something I hadn't though of doing, but will do if I take part in any more swaps).
A treasure trove of purple packages.
Or should that be a mountain of purple packages!  My swapper had been extremely generous.
 Here are all the lovely goodies.
 A gorgeous scarf (in my favourite colours) and a pair of long length fingerless gloves/mittens which will get a lot of use because I have extremely cold hands.
 Hot chocolate and some fair trade chocolate with marshmallows and pieces of honeycomb in it - Chris has already decided we are sharing that!
 A cat and knitting wool mug, some beautifully scented soap and a scented candle.
 An embroidered notebook, a cake/biscuit recipe book and a copy of 'Dubliners' by James Joyce.
 Finally, two sets of tulip bulbs and a card.
Wow! What an amazing swap this was.  Chris remarked that it felt like Christmas.  I am very lucky, absolutely delighted and am hugely grateful to my swapper.  Thank you so much!  So, what did I send, you are asking?  That will follow in my next post...

Monday 24 September 2012

Ugly Beauty (and a new hobby?)

We went to see this puppet show on Saturday afternoon.  Chris is very interested in puppetry and did his dissertation on it at University.  I have always liked the way children react to puppets and tried to include them in my teaching whenever I could (to me, learning should = FUN!)  This particular company has a very good reputation, so when I noticed an advert in the local paper, I booked up.  There were quite a few children at the performance, but on the whole, they were well behaved.
The story was a relatively simple one.  In one part of the land, there lived a one-legged musician called Melo who was treated badly by most people, including the beautiful princess, Suzanna.  She was so beautiful, she had to wear a golden mask, so as not to blind anyone who saw her radiance.  However, she was unhappy and this made her nasty.  Eventually, Melo's music helps her to remove her mask and show her for what she really is, a normal girl, who finally feels free and so is able to be happy and pleasant once more.
The music in this performance was played by the puppeteer, Daniel Lempen, using a Xaphoon (Za-foon), which sounds like a mixture of clarinet and saxophone, but has holes in it, like a recorder.  There is a link to Lempen Puppets' website and to Ugly Beauty here and you can hear the Xaphoon too.  It was a magical show and we had the opportunity to speak to Mr Lempen afterwards and to look at the puppets close up, which fired Chris' creativity again.
Chris and I really liked the idea of the Xaphoon as it is portable and creates a lovely sound (once the player has got the hang of it), so decided to investigate on the internet and have ordered two (very exciting).  I'll keep you posted on our progress.  Perhaps I should warn the neighbours that there will be strange and horrible sounds emanating from our house over the next few weeks. On second thoughts, perhaps I'll just leave it as a surprise for them! 

Saturday 22 September 2012

More macramé

 Here are the latest bracelets, made using gemstones and glass beads.  Above is one made for a friend at work because her daughter 'borrowed' the one I had originally made for her birthday.  I did make one for her daughter too.  It is made using botswana agate and grey agate and the small stones on the ends are zebra jasper.  I found it quite tricky to get the cord through the gemstones as the drill holes were quite small, but found enough for this bracelet. 
The other two here are blue sandstone (back left) which is glass with beautiful sparkles inside it, like the night sky. I think it is made by infusing copper into the glass, but am not sure. It is a beautiful thing though. This is just knotted in between each stone, but I am not sure the cord will be very long lasting. (I may end up taking it apart and making it into a bracelet with beading wire). The one in front is aquamarine and amazonite and has a lovely fresh look to it. The turquoise blue cord works well with the stones, I think. I am really enjoying using macrame in jewellery making. I have now received my clay roller too, so will have another try at polymer clay over the weekend. 

Saturday 15 September 2012

September Plants

 It is certainly heading towards autumn now.  We have had some lovely sunny days but there is a chill, both in the mornings and once the sun has gone.  The plants feel it too and the autumn flowering plants are starting their display. Above is a New England aster (September Ruby?) with colours that echo the echinacea below.
 Helianthus Lemon Queen which is about six foot tall this year, with a background of beautiful blue sky.
A summer bedding snapdragon, with bigger and more open flowers than the usual ones.  It was a bargain plant and has flowered really well with its large primrose yellow flowers.
 Astrantia major had flowered earlier in June and hadn't done terribly well.  However, I cut it back and it has rewarded me with a second flowering.
 Another aster (Snowstorm?).
 The aforementioned echinacea purpurea 'The King', which was a relatively recent purchase, prompted by seeing the lovely echinacea at The Garden House, Saxby.
A lovely miscanthus sinensis 'Kleine Fontane', which has reddish flowers which open to fluffy seedheads.  I like the way the sun is shining through the leaves and flowers in this photo.  I'm pleased to say that there is still lots going on in the garden at the moment (and I planted some narcissus bulbs this week too).

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Food, glorious food

We had more blackberries to use up, so I just had to make a blackberry and apple crumble, didn't I?  Served with clotted cream ice cream (sadly not home made and no, not a low calorie pudding), it tasted delicious.  Perfect for a slightly chilly evening.
 I picked the very last of my blueberries too.  The bush has done incredibly well for us this year, probably due to the amount of rain which the blueberry really enjoyed.  There weren't quite enough blueberries for my liking, so I bulked them out with 'Galaxy' chocolate pieces.  The photo makes the chocolate look a little odd, probably because it wasn't chocolate made for cooking, but I can assure you, that doesn't affect the taste.  Yum!
(Welcome to Tracy, a new follower).

Sunday 9 September 2012

My first polymer clay pendants

Well, here they are - my first ever attempt at polymer clay pendants.  I am really quite pleased with the way they have turned out.  I used bulls-eye canes, spiral canes and foil.  The cooking went well too and I didn't burn them, which was something I was a little concerned about.  I am sure that as I get more used to working with the clay and adept at making, I shall improve.  I really enjoyed the whole experience.  I am now waiting for my clay roller to arrive, which will make rolling out lovely thin pieces of clay a doddle to do.
I thought I should include the aftermath of my creativity - the remains of various canes, bits cut off, bits with foil, mixes of colours and three half-used blocks of clay (I haven't used the blue yet).  I'll post other photos of other projects as I embark on them.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Polymer clay, here I come... and macramé bracelet progress

 I am so excited as I received my polymer clay starter kit in the post today.  There is a box to keep the clay in, two acrylic sheets for shaping, sandpaper for smoothing, a roller for ... rolling, cutters, a black and a white clay block and a pack of very sharp blades. 
 I also ordered a few extras - more clay in purple and blue, some glaze to protect the work and give it a shiny finish and some rather gorgeous looking foils which are applied to the clay and then burnished, and the heat caused makes the foil stick to the clay.  I also have a 'How to' DVD and have watched a couple of the sections this evening when I got home from work.  I am hoping to have a first attempt at the weekend.
Here are my first two macramé bracelets, the one above using waxed cord and the one below using hemp cord, with a variety of wooden beads. I found the finishing off on the knots quite tricky - I used a bit of PVA glue in the hope that it would secure the ends unobtrusively.
I am unsure whether to include one of these in my blog swap, but am thinking I should make another one for that, just in case my swapper happens to see my blog and this ruins the surprise.  I need to keep going and have a go using gemstones and cord next.  I am really enjoying the challenge of learning new jewellery making skills.  Oh, and the PeaceFelt piece has been prepared, so once it is received (probably in October), I'll post a photo of that too.

Saturday 1 September 2012

Inspired by Klimt

 I have ordered some more jewellery making equipment - sculpey/polymer clay (you may know it as 'Fimo'), to make my own pendants.  So why is this post featuring Klimt, you may ask?  Well, I was watching jewellery maker on a polymer clay demo day and the designer made these beautiful pendants which reminded me of a Klimt painting.  Not the figures, you understand, but the lovely jewel colours and amazing patterns in the backgrounds.  In my opinion, Klimt would have been a fantastic textile designer/maker.
Apologies as the quality of some of these images isn't very brilliant, but that's due to them being tiny cropped pieces of not very big pictures (most from
 I really like the repeating shapes and the colours.
 In fact, to me, the backgrounds are far more interesting than the subject of the paintings.
 Here are a couple of flower filled sections.

 This one combines shapes and earthy colours very effectively.
 I love the purple and pink swirls here.
This is from an unfinished portrait, but still has the pattern and colour taking shape.
So, I am waiting rather impatiently for my new kit and DVD and then I shall launch myself into the joys of making canes, using foils and trying to bake the clay at the correct temperature.  I am very excited as I love learning new things! 
At the moment, I have two creative projects on the go - a blog swap, with the theme of 'cosy autumn' where I need to make at least two items out of a minimum of five and send them to a partner blogger (my partner is in Ireland) and also Peacefelt 2012, where I will be given the name and address of someone to whom I send a piece of felt work.  Someone else will be given my details and they will send a piece of felt work to me.  It's all very exciting at the moment and I am enjoying the various challenges.