I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










What a show!




I was mixing with the fashionistas yesterday.  They’re not my usual crowd, but hey, what an inspirational bunch they are.




I’ve written before about the collaborative project which has been going on between the students of Kingston University and a group of expert WI craftswomen.  Yesterday was the start of the grand finale; the end of term show at the university and the chance for everyone involved to see what these clever women have created.  We gathered in the Fashion department amidst photographers, press, proud family members and the artists themselves and awaited the show.

It was rather exciting!




I chose a seat at the end of the back row amongst my friends and colleagues, thinking that I could stand and take a photo without impeding the view of anyone behind me.  But then, a bunch of students arrived and squeezed in to stand behind us – oh oh.  Thankfully, one of them accepted the offer of my camera and I gladly handed it over to her – leaving me to focus fully on the exciting things which were happening!




The music began – full volume – and the first model hit the catwalk.


Though I’ve been to fashion shows, they’ve usually been to showcase ready to wear clothes on sale somewhere and though some have used professionals to show their garments, I probably wouldn’t have described these people as “fashion models”.   But yesterday afternoon, we were treated to the real deal.  The professionally gorgeous, impossibly slim, remarkably confident and extraordinarily aloof models that I would only associate with Vogue or similar.

Oh my.




The first creations we saw were the main collections designed by the eleven fashion knitwear students who have been working on the project.  These were solely the responsibility of the students themselves and each collection of six outfits had to fulfil the particular brief of the syllabus as part of their final degree project.




Though their creativity had been taken to the limit occasionally, there were many garments that we’d have given our eye teeth for – not that everything would necessarily have been totally practical for shopping in Waitrose, of course.




After each student had shown the individual garments, the collection was shown as a whole to much enthusiastic applause.  I can only imagine the roller coaster of emotions these young women have experienced in the last few days and know that at least one was finishing into the wee small hours in order to be ready.




Though all the participants were women, two of the students chose to work on menswear.  This particular collection had a theme of shopping (surely not inspired by WI members?)  The fabrics had been printed with store logos – ASDA in the case of this jacket and an all over print of TESCO on the trousers.




Who says fashion can’t make a statement, too?




Finally, there was the eleven collaborative garments to see.  Each student had worked with two WI members and utilised their technical handwork skills to develop their concept further.  The results were altogether amazing.  Sadly, it was only at the end of this part of the show that Kate told me the battery of my camera had died, so these last few photographs are quick snaps taken on my phone (because I just couldn’t resist taking pictures!  Just as well perhaps…)




This is the resulting garment designed by the student whose inspiration came from the button man, shown in pictures here  (third and fourth picture down)  Featuring a collection of hand made Dorset buttons and embroidery, it was clear that this concept had been successfully followed through to conclusion.




Here is the original design sheet from an earlier meeting, which I didn’t feel able to share before.  Isn’t it interesting to see the finished garment?




I realised too, the importance of styling and wonder whether the Aran knitters quite expected their garment to be modelled with such spirit?




One each garment had been shown, the students each came down the catwalk with their model and in a spontaneous demonstration of the links which have been forged between students and members, they sought out their partners and grabbed them by the hands, culminating in the most amazing, emotional finale imaginable.  I am sure it’s something none of them will ever forget.




And it’s only the start, too.  Next month when the WI comes together in the Albert Hall to celebrate the centenary of the organisation, there will be another chance to see the collection modelled and I, for one, can’t wait to have another look (and hopefully get some better photos!)  Then, the work will be on show at the Centennial Fair in Harrogate in the Autumn and once again at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally (and maybe beyond?)

But really, how lucky was I to be in on the whole shebang, from start to finish? And though that’s the conclusion of this particular collaboration, who knows where the next one might take us?  One thing is sure, I’d love to be in on it!


The answer to finding my mojo


is to spend money on fabric.  But then, that could be the answer to so many issues, couldn’t it?




Since we finished Edward’s room, we’ve recognised that there needs to be a bedhead of some description there.  The Aerobed is terrific and works perfectly.  Both users have reported it super-comfortable and it’s quick and easy to get out and put away.  However, a fixed bedhead would look odd when there’s no bed there and having thought about cushions and other solutions, I came up with the idea of making a quilt/wallhanging.

The room is plain white with dark grey curtains and just a flash of colour in a couple of cushions.  I took one of them with me to Higgs and Higgs yesterday to choose some fabrics.




At this stage, I had a better idea of what I didn’t want than what I was really looking for.  I didn’t want flowers, didn’t want anything too geometric that was going to reveal my inability to piece precisely and was hoping to avoid anything too kitsch.  Fortunately, there was a collection of Hemingway fabric there which fitted my brief perfectly.

(Except the price)




Bearing in mind this wasn’t intended to be a work of art (!) but a simple, practical solution, I didn’t dwell too long on design and concept.  I drew a few rectangles on a piece of paper, scaled it up to the right proportions and cut a few pieces of fabric. 




I’d like to say that the slight wonkiness here and there is simply the single layer of fabric slipping on the wooden floor.  But it isn’t.  It’s the bit of quirk that comes with a hand made item.

Isn’t it?


Has anyone seen my mojo?


I’m finding it difficult to complete my latest travel journal.  I know from experience that unless I get on with it during or immediately after the trip, I’ll find it hard.  But in spite of good intentions, here I am again, trying like mad to complete it before I move on to the next thing.




I got off to a reasonable start, recording all of those small details which tend to get forgotten or overwritten by events.  I spent time in Hong Kong drawing the framework so that I could do a bit of colouring in when I had an odd five minutes and of course, waking up early is a good time to sit quietly at the desk and draw.




I managed to keep it up for a few days in Myanmar, relying on my favourite ways of incorporating a wealth of ephemera – yes, the turkish map fold appeared about four pages in!




But as soon as we embarked Ananda and began a tight schedule, following a daily programme of activities not to mention enjoying the company of our fellow travellers, we were simply doing too many interesting things to keep up and the result is a few blank pages.




A lot of blank pages, in fact.  Because once I’ve let it go, it’s doubly hard to keep up.  After all, do I work on today’s page or return to the last one I was working on? At the end of another busy day, with my head buzzing full of the most recent experiences, it’s hard to think back.  So, I focus on my blog and keep that up to date as much as I can, so I can rely on that to remind me when it comes to creating the journal page.




At least I scribble in a few topics for the day and on this occasion, I printed out some page titles too, which means that I can dip in and out when I come across something which can be stuck in there.




So when we had a sea day and I wanted to have a quiet hour or two, I could complete a day or two in the middle, knowing I was on the right page, if you see what I mean.  But there remained quite a few empty pages to fill.




I’ve tried to tackle the project methodically, so began in Bagan (isn’t that a song title!?)  After a few short bursts of drawing, painting and sticking, I’ve moved on a bit and have completed several pages.




This morning, I made a page about the Bamboo workshop and used a photo to record the journey.  No prizes for identifying which one!  I don’t have that much ephemera to fill the pages though, so the pages are quite sparse.




Not quite as sparse as this one though.

Perhaps that’s the answer for getting it done?




Anyway, in between visiting classes (three this week – should have been four but one was cancelled), writing reports and attending meetings, I am making a real effort to fill some of those empty pages.  After all, soon, we’ll be off on the next trip!

(no, not that soon, really)


In the meantime, if you should see my mojo, please box its ears and send it home.




I wonder if it got packed up after last weekend’s show?


Set up


I was up early this morning to collect Marion and make our way to the showground.  We kept our fingers crossed that the rain would hold off at least until we’d unloaded the car.  Thankfully, it did.




Over the next couple of hours, from a heap of bags and boxes, some order was created and the story of a century of craft in the WI took shape.




The early years were illustrated with Lady Cripps’ beautiful pulled work, a few pairs of handmade gloves and a beadwork valance which my m-i-l Bettine found recently, probably worked by her grandmother.  The story was one of exquisite needlework skills then, including the blue embroidered nightie too, not shown in my photograph but referred to in this blog post from last year.




The story continues throughout the years when materials were hard to come by, when WI speakers toured the county showing women how to make footstools from empty tins, when my grandmother did some beautifully regular crochet around four men’s handkerchiefs to make a tablecloth and small scraps of fabric were used to make lampshades and table mats. 




A few vintage knitting patterns, a rushwork stool and a marquetry picture illustrate the 1950s with a few small bits to fill in a gap here and there.




New materials, new colours and Marion’s Kaffe Fassett scarf and a beautifully knitted tam o’shanter brighten the story a little with a few kanzashi flowers leading through to the story of how our travels and the internet led to our trying all kinds of new and different crafts.  I’d hoped for a macrame owl to include here but it seems no one valued them enough to hang onto one!  There was, however, just enough room for my small patchwork pincushion, the only evidence of Laura Ashley design I could find anywhere, though at some point, we must have had quite a few patchwork cushions.  I wonder where they went?




Temari, kumihimo, kusadami and Australian Cross stitch might provoke a conversation or two.  We’d originally planned to place the appropriate books alongside but by now, we were fast running out of space.  There was room to squeeze in a little dressmaking and a crochet shawl over a paint effect stool, but with a couple more important developments to record, we had to be choosy about what to leave in and what to take out.




There was room for my willow pig, a tatted collar and my silver brooch, all made in WI classes and useful illustrations of how the organisation enables women to acquire new skills.




That just left about eighteen inches at the end for the future, when computing skills will probably be integral to developing new crafts as digital cutters, sewing and knitting machines begin to be used in conjunction with traditional hand crafts.


We stood back, returned to tweak one or two things and heaved a sigh of relief.

Did I say “done is better than perfect” ?


Getting it together


You might have noticed that the Women’s Institute – the WI – is celebrating its centenary this year. 




My own WI, Avening, which has been meeting on the second Thursday in the month since October 1930, joined in the celebrations whilst we were on our travels.  The baton in our President Gwyneth’s hand is being passed to every WI in the country during the year and she held it tightly as she hopped into the Ferrari to take it to our friends in Tetbury last month.




Other celebrations are planned – we are looking forward to going a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in June hosted by two WI members, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Countess of Wessex.  A couple of days later, the Queen and the Princess Royal – both of them members themselves – will be there at the Albert Hall with more than 5000 members (me included!) at what will surely be the most memorable AGM.  What will we wear?




In the meantime, a small pile in my studio is growing in size by the day.  Some time ago, in a mad moment,  I agreed to put together a small display of crafts for the RHS Malvern Spring Festival.  This “small” display has evolved to three six foot tables, which will need a little more thought and consideration than I’d first anticipated.  (Serves me right for applying my usual rule of saying yes first and wondering why later). 




My friend and colleague Marion and I have been sifting through various archives in preparation for another, larger exhibition later in the year, so we had a few things in mind to tell the story of “A century of craft”.  Sadly, the beautiful Guild of Learners badge above isn’t ours to include, but as you will imagine, the WI does have a long and very interesting history when it comes to enabling and encouraging women to pursue all manner of craft skills.  But time is short, the security of an open, public show is unlikely to be quite as tight as the museum space where our “real” treasures will be exhibited and the space would be more effectively filled with larger, more visually appealing items.




Cue the pile of things by my desk in the studio (and the even larger collection of things in Marion’s garage not to mention the boot of her car…)




I spent yesterday putting the exhibition labels together and made a mental note to myself never to buy Hobbycraft brand spray adhesive again.  It might be cheaper than the branded alternative but oh my goodness, it’s a nightmare to use!




Today, I’m writing notes to myself, “small paint effect stool”, “silver brooch”, “don’t forget wicker pig”.  Not only that, I keep eyeing other things up and adding them to the pile: A small digital book in an Altoids tin fits the digital craft bill perfectly and I’d forgotten about that small quilt which will be easier to stage than a huge one…

Tomorrow, we’ll be setting up and from Thursday to Sunday, it will be open to visitors.  Here’s hoping for sunshine or at least, calm, dry weather.




Oh heck, the pile just got bigger…