Saturday, 29 November 2008

Gingham at the Christmas Fair

Fascinated still by Yvonne Droge Wendel's talk yesterday at the Whitworth I started to look around the house today to see if I had any obvious ginghams, apart from the stash of fabrics in the sewing basket. I absolutely love gingham patterns and my favourite colour is red although I have used the navy blue one for party bags, wall hangings and in projects with a Dutch theme (I wonder why?).

Anyway here's where I found gingham : 

Cushion covers on my Ikea chairs (a Swedish look, fabric bought in UK and inspired by Dutch interiors)

On the cover of a book about Dutch food :

On jam jar lids (French). I have been collecting them for a while because I love the pattern, they are very useful storage jars and look miles better than plastic containers.

Tonight Mr Betsy and I took the monkeys to the Manchester Christmas Market. I was told the best market in Europe at the moment and whether that is true or not we had a fabulous time. Plenty of gluehwein and food from all around Europe abound, we really felt on holiday. It was a little too crowded to take pictures but I was pleased to see the red gingham at the Dutch Cheese stand and at another German food stall. This universal pattern lightened up the place.

Something else lightened up the market : the fabulous Christmas lights. The trees were tastefully decorated and the lamp posts had the most adorable light parcels hanging off them  (sorry pictures not great....) 

Apart from all the food we bought I found these adorable Christmas tree decorations. I do not know who made them but there is a sticker saying Made in Cubria. I look forward hanging them in the tree. 

Tomorrow we are off to Ikea, better get some rest now (partying students permitting!)

Friday, 28 November 2008

Cloth and Culture NOW 2

Recently I visited the cloth and culture NOW exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery and I was lucky to be able to book a place on their one day conference today. There were several speakers and artists giving their view on the topic 'A Sense of Place: art and the construction of identity'. 

One of the artists that I most admired, Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene (gosh this is hard going in the middle of the night!) presented a slide show with some of her other work. The ones in the exhibition entitled Autumn Collection are just fabulous, roses embroidered on rusty objects typical of life in the country. I have always had a soft spot for rusty items and have had a rusty lamp and candle sticks in my own home, be it not embroidered! She kindly let me take a picture of her work. 

I took the opportunity to visit another favourite piece again: Architectural Monument by Lina Janike:

And I listened to a very good talk by the Dutch visual artist Yvonne Droge Wendel. Her presentation was about the universal use of the gingham pattern and it's possible origin or rather a lack thereof. She was very funny and the slides just great. Check them out on her site Universal Pattern

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

"My Little Shopping Bag"

I can't quite believe it's nearly 10 days since I last sat down to write anything but hey there we are. It has been quite an exciting week, not least because of the great success of our "My Little Shopping Bag"! We've done a lot of sewing, selling, promoting and received the loveliest comments. Rosana and I were absolutely thrilled!

Anyway the week started with a fun evening of wine tasting in a local tapas bar organised by the lovely Olayinka of UKTogether. There were about 50 wines on offer but after about 20 I really couldn't taste anymore. We've made it good though by ordering some so we can taste some more at home. That was a great solution don't you think?

Then in between sewing we went to another great event organised by the wonderful ladies of Innerglo. I was so looking forward to this event and it really didn't dissappoint. Innerglo is a fabulous new social networking group for mums in Manchester and Cheshire and their events are extremely well organised. We got talks from a business consultant about work-life balance (sometimes hard to get right), a lady who had been on Dragons Den and a couple of life coaches. In between we socialised and best of all drink Champagne! 

Then on Friday the little ones from the Arts and Crafts Club came along to do some stamping. We used ready made stamps and made our own from cardboard, potatoes, funky foam and stamped pictures, gift wrap and textiles for shoe bags. The mums now have the lovely task of sewing these, I am looking forward to the results!

And then on Saturday we had the first big event with our bags and they went down fabulously. We couldn't have hoped for more and best of all they are now being stocked at Pixie in Didsbury. This store just sells the most adorable baby clothing and the coolest and most beautiful children's wear. 

I don't really know what happened with the rest of the week apart from catching up with sewing orders and sending of Phoenix cards parcels. To end the night I will quickly finish this little girl.....

Monday, 17 November 2008

'tis the season

I am starting to get very excited about the Christmas season, almost as much as girl monkey. Ever since she was a toddler she's been mad about Christmas. For a number of years she was asking from March onwards when we would put up the tree and unpack all the baubles. We've got a big box with all the decorations in it and it is just a treasure chest for her. I have been collecting decorations since I was little, some are from the fifties, others handmade from the seventies and every year I add some lovely little trinkets. So far this year I bought a teeny weeny little pig (I LOVE pigs!), little wooden reindeer and a teeny weeny Pinocchio from our trip to Italy. 

One of the bags of decorations that I kept for about 16 years ended up in the bin a few years ago. This needs some explaining. When I had my own little place when I was about 19, I bought my first little real tree and as I didn't have a lot of money left I got some little decorations and I bought a bag of marshmallow wreaths. These are very popular in Holland and look lovely in the tree with a nice red ribbon. I had put these up a couple of times but then they ended up in a box at my parents. Years later when I was pregnant my dad came over with a lot of stuff, including the box of Christmas decorations. So when we moved up North we got a really big tree and I was thrilled to put all the decorations in it. Girl monkey was just two and loved it all, including the marshmallow wreaths! How did she know they were once edible I do not know as she had not ever seen anything like it. Anyway two little wreaths and many dirty sheets later, they all ended up in the bin. I felt awful! She has never touched anything in the tree since but still adores Christmas.

I was really getting into the spirit today as I had to make some more gingerbread people for a friend (aren't they cute?)....

... and some doves and toadstools for the tree. 

The monkeys chose lovely biscuit stamps this afternoon on our way back through the village. They can't wait to bake. 

And then girl monkey asked me to take this picture to show EVERYONE, bless her. It is a lovely tree stump though, quite fancy one in our garden.

Not sure if I'll be blogging in the next few days as we've got to work hard to get our stock ready for the weekend! It's going to be bags galore again.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Holly Clifton Brown

I was just reading the Selvedge newsletter and came across the fabulous illustrations of Holly Clifton Brown. Please check out the illustrations on her blog they are absolutely fantastic!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Cloth and Culture NOW

There is a lot to say about cloth and culture now but most importantly it is the title of an absolutely fabulous exhibition I went to see today. But the first thing that happened this morning was that the monkeys 'decorated' my bedroom. They felt mum needed cheering up and had nicely put drawings and sleeping beauty cards on the chest of drawers.

Then off I went to the Whitworth Art Gallery to see the cloth and culture NOW exhibition. On show were pieces of contemporary international textile art that had all incorporated traditional methods but worked in a totally new way. I had seen a few of the works before in magazines but seeing them close up was pretty amazing. The detail and craftmanship that had gone into them was just amazing. One of the works that appealed to me most was a photo print on canvas with embroidered detail. 

After coming back down to earth (and home) I started gathering information for a talk that I am preparing about embellishing and refurbishing clothing. With the current credit crunch looming it seems that crafts are becoming more important yet again. Over the last few years there has been a revival of all crafts and I am not sure what the reason is but nostalgia, originality, eco-friendly, make do and mend are a few words that come to mind. I believe the current vogue is only just starting. 

Anyway, I am a great believer in all the above reasons for crafting and refurbished an old skirt myself today. Some time ago this had a funny shade of khaki. It was one of those impulse purchases. I don't have many but it does happen during the sales sometimes. The skirt was a bargain but the colour was just not great. I bought myself some fabric dye in my favorite colour blue and decorated it with some flowers.

The flowers were cut out from a sweater that I felted a while back and the circle shapes were hand sewn on with running stitch.

The rest of the jumper ended up as a tea cosy and some egg cosies. I'll try and put a picture up some day. Waste not want..... 

Monday, 10 November 2008

Where to start?

I am starting to loose the plot a little. With all the craft fairs coming up I know I need to focus but it is hard going at the moment. The Reason (yes it is a big reason)? My stash of fabrics. Well if only it would be a stash, they are spread over a couple of rooms in bags and boxes. Because we moved house quite a few times in the last few years I couldn't be bothered to unpack everything all the time. But now it is getting to me. Mr Betsy doesn't quite see our space problem as he is at work all the time but the monkeys and I would quite like to have a bit more room for our things. I know that a studio on a farm near the seaside is not ever going to happen but just a small spare room for me and a room for girl monkey who keeps boy monkey awake at night now would be nice. 

What is my solution to this fabric problem? 1. get a cheap and cheerful bookcase that I can paint to my liking. 2. Pick up the first fabric that I see and do something with it (this could keep me busy for some time). 

So as I picked up this furry animal print first I decided to make a slouchy dress for girl monkey. 

The fabric next to it had a lovely Tinkerbell print that looked nice for the bias binding. 

And with some left over fabric, beads, buttons and an old zip I made her this brooch to pin up wherever she likes.

I fancied a little denim skirt for myself and found an old pair of jeans in the rag bag that I turned into something useful again. 

The bottom part of the trouser legs ended up in Christmas stockings I made for the monkeys. Yes the cream fleece was the next bit of fabric I picked up. It was a massive shawl that was a freebie with some cosmetics last year. And as is often the case with freebies, the quality of the shawl wasn't great but perfect for the stockings. 

I am now going to put my feet up with a cup of tea, my novel and a piece of home made carrot cake!

Friday, 7 November 2008

La vita e bella

I woke up with a smile today. I often do but it is always better when the sun shines and today was yet another beautiful autumn day. Another reason I had a smile on my face was because I was thinking about last night. My friend Liz and I had a great night out; we were treated to make-overs, drinks, lots of goodies and fun company in town and it was just so good to be out and pampered! Mind you I am doing a lot of fun things at the moment. 

And then of course the best reason to smile was because I was expecting a group of toddlers coming to make some fantastic art. Today's subject was Seurat's Bathers. Initially I had planned a textile printing session but because of the beautiful weather that made me long for the beach I thought that Seurat's work would be more fitting. The little ones painted lots of boats, whales, storms at sea and crabs in a pointillist style. It was lovely to see them concentrating while painting with cotton buds. Of course my own monkeys wanted to do the same this afternoon but somehow they seem to have less patience and instead of dots they painted a few big streaks!

Evie painted some rather scary waves with a little boat on top (above); just so imaginative!

Now it is time for bed, I should go to sleep but can't wait to finish my book (De eetclub, Saskia de Noort). 

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Smiles all around

Several things made me smile today: the headlines of the American presidential elections, the fireworks tonight (especially boy monkey's face), the gorilla in the chocolate advert on TV and the thought of the little ones coming to art class in two days time. I had planned to do printing this session but I just read Katie and the Bathers by James Mayhew and I liked it so much that I decided to do some pointillist pictures instead. I made a little example this afternoon, though I cheated, only part of the picture was done in dots. Girl monkey can't wait to put it in her room now. 

She was very happy anyway this afternoon because I got her a doughnut in town (Krispy Kreme, no other) and am sewing her a little slouchy velvet leopard print dress. I love smiling and seeing smiling faces. Life is too short not to. 

Monday, 3 November 2008

Sew sew

A number of weeks ago Mr Betsy chose this fabulous sewing machine for me. My first electronic one (yep I had a few antique ones before that) was about 20 years old and gave up on me just after I finished some theatre costumes. Now it has taken me a while to open that box for various reasons (knitting, hand jobs, domestic dramas) but today I got it out and sewn my first little pillow case on my new machine!! I was thrilled to bits, I've got a long list of things to do, amongst others sewing a lovely silk Christmas dress for girl monkey, and I can't wait to get going. 

I bought some lovely ribbons at the Contemporary Craft fair at Manchester Grammar School last week at the Selvedge stand and I will now be able to sew myself some long needed linen pillow cases. 

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Busy Betsy's been spoilt

Nothing seems to last forever but one thing that I treasure and that never seems to leave me is friendships. I truly love my friends and I know they will be there for me at every hour of the day, come whatever situation. The age old saying that when some doors close others will open is just so true. I feel like I am starting a new life and my friends are there for me all the way, helping me out in whatever way they can. Friends seem to have an extra sense for whenever you need that little bit extra TLC. 

I do not know why I get this sentimental but I just felt compelled to write about my truly blissful evening. Yesterday I was given a TV with a big screen by some friends (the monkeys were thrilled), today they came round with a wonderful sofa and armchair. So instead of doing some sewing as planned I sat down on my lovely new comfortable sofa, in front of the big screen watching a certain Mr Clooney who gets better looking by the year (I never fancied him in ER at all) in Leatherheads, snuggled up with big woolly socks bought on honeymoon in Peru (feels like another century) and a beautiful cream woolen blanket sent by our dear friends from New York. A truly blissful evening that made me appreciate again what I have got and how lucky I am to be spoilt by wonderful friends!

Smile and the world smiles with you!!!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Post - halloween blues

We are all exhausted. The last few days we had a sweetie overload and too many activities. Thank goodness we didn't have a post-halloween party but it feels like we did. We had a ball last night at the scary party. It was complete with drinks in a witch's kettle, apple - bobbing, a lucky dip coffin filled with gooey stuff, entertainers and trick or treat bags. 

The trick or treating itself was great fun complete with all the treats, money and toys but I am afraid to say that I need to hide a couple of bags. The two monkeys came back with a bucket and a bag of sweets each. It makes me feel slightly sick!

I told them they could choose five each to take to the craft fair today to avoid buying lots of sweet things there but somehow they managed to find a few doughnuts and biscuits whilst helping me out. They were ever so good selling my wares and I am thrilled to bits. My bags and necklaces nearly sold out, the Christmas labels and gingerbread figures were a huge success and I have requests for more! So rather than having some time to relax, I will be sewing first thing tomorrow again!