My other half was invited to participate in The Chelsea Flower Show within the 'Artisan Retreat'. Tucked away in Ranleagh Gardens he has recreated a little corner of his artistic world amongst the trees and wildflowers, if you wander further you of course will encounter the traditional flower show which is celebrating its 100th year.
Here I am helping out a little. I'm sewing on vinyl records onto a couple of my quilts, yes it sounds crazy. It's just to hold them in place and keep them safe. If it rains it won't take a second to scoop everything up out of the inclement weather.
Here we are in our workers jackets.
(security is very strict there!)
Here is part of the interior......
Finally a glimpse within the studio with some papercuts in progress.
This week I went to the Fashion and Textile museum with my friend Jane, fellow knitter and sometime needlepointer to see an exhibition looking at Kaffe Fasset's Kaleidoscope of work.
He has done so much to raise awareness of textile craft and how not to be afraid to use colour.
On show were the tapestries, quilts and knits that we have seen over the years as well as the paintings, studies and collections of objects that form the staring points for these works. I was happy to see he had made use of patterned fabrics to produce unexpected designs. I particularly liked how he used striped shirts to great effect in the patchwork below.
Once again I've been working on another machine knitting pattern, this time a hooded jumper for my long legged bears. I'm always surprised at how long it takes to get it right and then once I get the pattern right, how long it takes to knit and sew up! I may as well be making up an adult sized garment for all the time and effort that goes into one piece! But I can't stop once I've started, I have to keep going until the mission is accomplished!
A couple of years ago I had a book that I nicknamed my show book, in it I stuck photos and leaflets from shows and exhibitions that I visited with The Other Half. But life got busy and I wasn't always able to keep it up, in the end I just shoved the leaflets into the book with no comments and no photos, it became a dumping ground! So this weekend I thought maybe I should use my blog more to document what I see. So here I begin..... On Saturday The Other Half took me to see flooring that he had designed a while back for the Chemotherapy Department at University College Hospital in London. Out of respect to the patients and families that were present, I did not take any photos. The floor looked great in red and white linoleum using one of his bell themed designs. I'm mighty proud of his work (as always) and hope that this work will offer a moment of thought to all who see it at what must be an incredibly harrowing time. Also on Saturday we visited the Wellcome Collection to see the 'Souzou' exhibition of outsider art. The works in this show were created by people with behavioural/developmental/mental illnesses who attend specialist care centres in Japan. I'd only heard good things about this show so was looking forward to our trip. It was amazing and definitely well worth the visit. Heres a link that will tell you more.............
Having spent days making plain jumpers and dresses for the bears, I thought making a multi coloured bear dress would be a nice change.
Ha!How wrong I was!
From the start I was faced with tangles and pulls that would've challenged a saint! There was a moment when I was ready to pack away my knitting machine for good! And then as if the knitting wasn't enough, the making up nearly had me going loopy too! So much so that I abandoned sewing back the knot of yarns that you can see in the top picture. The back looks pretty bonkers 'n all! Ah well, you can't win them all!
Over 21 years ago I gave birth to our second daughter Barbara.
To celebrate I secretly made a patchwork quilt using scraps of old fabrics from her childhood, pieces from her sisters scrap box and from mine, together with new fabrics ......
I used a mixture of alternate 'nine square' and 'plain' blocks.
For the quilting I succumbed to my usual choice of a circle design.
I made a continuous strip of bias binding for the edging....
And as a final salute to Barbara's childhood, I collected together ribbon roses and bows similar to the ones that I used to decorate the bags and clothes of the dolls and teddies that she and her sister played with. I wasn't sure how to use them at first, I had thought of spacing them throughout the quilt, but that could've ended looking a bit twee. In the end I decided on placing them all in one area for a burst of nostalgia, also giving B the option of tucking them out of sight if she didn't want them on public display!
I have been sitting down a lot lately, sitting travelling to see my parents in Birmingham, sitting in hospitals, sitting next to hospital beds. And all the while I take along my knitting, it keeps my hands occupied and soothes me. My father died this week, so now I am sitting in my mother's house knitting in between phone calls and visits from relatives, friends and neighbours. Thank you whoever it was who came up with the idea of knitting and thank you to those who developed it over the centuries and thank you to my mum and my first infant school teacher Mrs walker for teaching me how to knit!
Today I ventured out to sunny Dalston - yes it was actually a beautiful sunny day! (it's been grey and dismal lately). I've been living in London for about 30 years now and have never been along to the famous Ridley Road market until now! I'd been hearing about a fabric shop called Dalston Mill for yonks so decided to visit as I needed to get some fabric for my next project. I wasn't disappointed, the place is jam packed with fabrics from floor to ceiling in the main ground floor room. The staff there are very helpful and it wasn't long before I was directed to another room crammed and heaving with wools and suiting....my studio mate later told me that there's another room upstairs filled with silks! They also sell haberdashery and wool. A great shop, I'll definitely will be going back.......
I went back to Birmingham at the weekend to see the folks. You could've bowled me over when I saw this 'pop man' and his van, I can't believe they are still going. When I was a child there were many people who sold their wares from door to door - the coal man, the chip man, the veg man and of course the pop man. Back then we called any sort of fizzy drink 'pop' (soda) including, cherryade, limeade, dandelion & burdock and other sugary delights, hence the pop man tag. This was a treat that other families had delivered weekly to their doorsteps, we had a bright orange squash called 'Treetop' from the Co-op as our flavoured drink! I'm surprised that I have any teeth left!
I received this fabulous Harris Tweed book for Christmas from the Lovely Libby. . a few days later after getting the book I treated myself to a length of real Harris tweed that I bought from Merchant & Mills' new shop in Rye....I can't wait to turn it into tabby cats......watch this space!
At the beginning of the year I went fabric shopping, something that I haven't done in yonks! It was a great morning, I went to Soho and went into the old shops that I used to go to and I discovered new shops too (new to me that is, ha ha!). I rekindled my love of finding new fabrics, it was quite thrilling and has inspired me to go on searching for delicious fabrics wherever I find myself. I ventured into the basement of a shop called Misan,which is full of end of roll pieces and remnants - there I found a lovely piece of fabric that was begging to be made into ginger toms the results of which you can see above......here's to fabrics old and new!!!!!!
During our trip to New York last year, me and the other half went to a really interesting jeans shop called 3 X 1. Instead of having the cutters, seamsters (I don't know if this is a word, but I like it!)and seamstresses hidden away in a basement or attic or distant village, they are placed in full view on the shop floor within a glass walled room, so you can see bespoke jeans taking shape before your very eyes! You can choose from an incredibly wide selection of 150+ types of denim along with thread, zips, rivets and studs in an array of colours to create your own custom made jeans. Needless to say this service will cost you a pretty penny and will reflect the true price of making garments that have been made by workers who have been paid a living wage in decent working conditions. Don't let the price tag put you off visiting because it is an enjoyable experience with welcoming staff and gorgeous fabrics to stroke and coo over! Above is one of 3 x 1 videos that can be found on their website, if you've got a couple of minutes take a look at how a pair of jeans is made at this inshop mini factory...... 3 X 1, 15 mercer St, SoHo, NYC.
Last summer I went along with the other half to a wonderful evening party held at one of my favourite spots - Chelsea Physic Garden, hosted by Brunswick. I felt very meek as every person there was at the top of their profession, people working in business, charities, communications and so on. I felt slightly sheepish when I told the party goers that I was a toy maker, but I needn't have worried because they were interested in what I do. The lovely Frank who organised the event was so warm and welcoming, he took care of me and Rob all evening, he even took one of my cards! A few weeks before Christmas I received an email from Frank's P.A Naomi inviting me to show my work at their work place in Lincoln's Inn Fields, I was mighty surprised and was considering not going as I'm a bit shy, but talking to the other half and to friends made me realise I could only gain by it, so with the help of Naomi a date was set in December. I'm so glad that I agreed to visit as I had a great afternoon. I took a selection of the things that I make, together with a page explaining and what I do. I set up in a lovely room that looked out onto Lincoln Inn's Field, I'm afraid my photo doesn't do it justice! People came in ones and two's to look at my work and have a chat, some people even bought a few things! Everyone was positive and incredibly friendly - I made a mental note of all the good things that were said. It was a real boost to my confidence in my work. Thank you Frank and Naomi and thank you Brunswick People! Here's a coincidence - I was born and brought up in Brunswick Road in Birmingham!
It is so cold, wet and windy here in London, that I have decided to perk myself up by looking back at part of our trip to New York this summer. One day we walked the full length of 'The Highline'and discovered this cooling water feature, perfect on a warm summer's day as our feet were tired from pounding the streets!
One of the highlights of this trip was visiting the offices of Etsy situated in downtown Brooklyn in a place called Dumbo - Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. A group of us were invited to their weekly workers lunch, quite a big affair as I think there are over two hundred people working there! It took us a while to get in as everyone was at a meeting, luckily the lovely receptionist above heard us knocking at the door and came to our rescue!
We ate our lunch in a cosy relaxing room decked out with handcrafted good galore behind these curtains (picture above). Everyone was really friendly and happy to talk about Etsy and their work. After lunch we were taken on a tour which included the open plan offices, meeting rooms, film - makers office, telephone booth.....every space big and tiny seemed to have some activity going on it, finally we were taken up to the 'Etsy Labs' where members can use the art and craft facilities.
The lab is equipped with letterpress
and screen printing machines,
materials and equipment to inspire and excite...
And look at this lovely sewing machine and display of threads!
They also have a photobooth machine in the lab for members to use, together with a basket full of dressing up regalia to play with. What fun! Here we are - there were actually five of us crammed into that tiny space!
I told my eldest girl (now a woman!) that I was having a sort out at my studio and was going to unstuff the toys that no one would ever want to have, a kind of recycling. She was horrified and reminded me that there was no such thing as a reject - mum, don't you remember the Raggy Dolls?! Well shame on me, I had infact for a brief moment of blind madness forgotten that tv cartoon series from our daughters' childhood which had a great theme tune, and by the magic of You Tube and so that I will never forget, here is 'The Raggy Dolls'....
And if you'd like to sing along here are the words..........
Opening theme tune lyrics: It’s not much of a life when you’re just a pretty face, Just to be whoever you are is no disgrace, Don’t be scared if you don’t fit in… Look who’s in the reject bin! It’s the Raggy Dolls (Raggy Dolls!), Raggy Dolls (Raggy Dolls!), Dolls like you and me, Raggy Dolls (Raggy Dolls!), Raggy Dolls (Raggy Dolls!) Made imperfectly! So if you got a bump on your nose or a lump on your toes, do not despair, Be like the Raggy Dolls, and say I just don’t care, ‘Cause Raggy Dolls (Raggy Dolls!), Raggy Dolls (Raggy Dolls!), Are happy just to be, Raggy Dolls, Raggy Dolls, Dolls like you and me!
Closing theme tune lyrics: It’s not much of a life when you’re just a pretty face, Just to be whoever you are is no disgrace, Look around and you will find, People of every kind! Like the Raggy Dolls (Raggy Dolls!), Raggy Dolls (Raggy Dolls!), Dolls like you and me, Raggy Dolls (Raggy Dolls!), Raggy Dolls made imperfectly, So if you’re not at ease with your knobbly knees and your fingers are all thumbs, Stand on your two left feet and join our raggy doll chums! ‘Cause raggy dolls, raggy dolls Are happy just to be, Raggy dolls, raggy dolls, Dolls like you and me!
And waiting at my studio is a big bag full of 'Sad Sacks, Hi-Fis, Lucys, Claudes, Back-To-Fronts, Ragamuffins........... which like all other toys I'm told, come to life when you leave the room!
Today I made this kitten version of the Cat Meeow that I created recently. It fits snuggly in my hand, infact it could be a great stress buster if you don't mind strangling kittens! It's the first attempt so I'll probably make a one or two more variations until I'm happy with the design. Below are some of the embroidery yarns that I use on my toys, found in charity shops over the years - I love the band designs.
'Barbarabearo' was the name given to my creative projects which at the moment usually involve denim or corduroy or both! Barbarabearo is one of the nick names of my daughter Barbara , it seemed so natural to use the name when I started making denim bears for her and her sister Maria, so barbarabearobears was born, shortened to Barbarabearo - thanks Babs!! My Barbarabearo Etsy shop was my first venture into online sales.
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