Sunday, 15 November 2015

As One Door Closes...

Meet Bilbo, who saved our sanity in the wake of losing Stanzi.

He came to us as a stray, shortly before we had to say goodbye to Stanzi. He had been sleeping on our log pile for a week or so during the day and we assumed he was just put out in the morning and let back in at night.

But he was clearly hungry so we started feeding him. We put a strong paper collar on him with a message, in the hope of finding out where he came from so that we could express our concern. The next day when he arrived there was no sign of the collar.

The weather suddenly got much worse so we built him a shelter next to the log pile and continued feeding him. We took him to the vet's to be checked for a microchip, nothing.

One vile, stormy night he was outside our front door literally begging to come in. So in he came, and the rest is history. Having checked the lost and found for several weeks, and having placed an ad ourselves with no response, we came to the conclusion that he had been abandoned.

He was clearly traumatised by the treatment he had received before being taken in by us. His behaviour led us to believe that he had been kicked, if not worse. He used to go and hide under our bed every evening. He was a bundle of nerves, jumping at the slightest thing. He had nightmares; oh, those were so distressing to witness!

Well, there is a special place in hell for people who mistreat animals.

He is now, nearly a year on, a happy and well adjusted cat but those first few months were an uphill struggle. Now, he brings joy and love into our lives every day.

I'll leave you with a couple more photos of our darling boy and will be back later this week to start posting again about my crafting adventures.

Cuter than cute!

Tissue frenzy!

With Great Sadness

3 plus years is a long time to leave a blog; I've been meaning to revive this since the end of last year but have been putting this post off for reasons which I will now explain.

On December 27th we had to have our beloved Stanzi put to sleep. She was 17 and had developed irreversible kidney failure. Our wonderful vet was very honest with us; she said that we could possibly keep her alive for a few more months by sending her to their hospital for treatment but her quality of life would never return. Basically, we would only be keeping her alive for us, not for her.

It was an unbelievably hard decision to make. She had been our only cat for several years and her loss hit us both very badly.

We decided to have her cremated, something we have never done with other cats who have passed. We are glad that we did because we will be able to have her with us always when we eventually move.

Bless you Stanzi, you will live in our hearts for ever.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Fun with the Coiling Gizmo!

I love gadgets and I especially love getting to grips with a new one and exploring what it can do. Our new Artistic Wire Coiling Gizmo is no exception. I take my hat off to the inventor, LeRoy Goertz, for creating something so simple and so easy to use that makes short work of what can otherwise be an arduous task, making wire coils.

For the modest sum of £12.95 from GJ Beads we've acquired something which opens up a whole world of possibilities and is fun to use into the bargain! I've been wanting to make a greater variety of wire beads for a while now but in the past all I'd ever achieved was simple spacer beads made with short coils wound round various diameters of crochet hook (well, my crochet skills are very rudimentary so those had to "come in handy" for something!)

So, here we go...

Coils upon coils, oh my! The Gizmo comes in 5 different diameters, so given that and the huge variety of wires available we're going to be having lots of fun experimenting.

Had some fun stretching the outer coil for this one... (Modelled on one of my A Level set books from the 1970s, that has miraculously escaped being "chomped" for a vintage paper pack!)

My new fastener design - this took a bit of fine tuning but I am really pleased with it! Did someone say brass is the new gold? It certainly costs a lot less and I am in love with the colour.

Multicoloured dangles, some on brass and some on copper. I love enamelled copper wire, the range of colours available is just breathtaking. And I am well pleased with how good this photograph done on my maternal Grandma's lesson plan book looks.

And to sign out with, here's something completely different! The boss, the one and only Stanzi, posing for the camera. She was on the verge of doing her silent maiow thing, where she tries to convince us she's so weak from hunger she has lost her voice. As if, this cat could eat for England! I actually think she was brassed off because we had both been really busy with stuff and had been ignoring her...

Well, that's it for today folks! I was up at 3.00 a.m. with vicious heartburn (own silly fault for eating too much creamy sauce) managed to catch a few more hours sleep later on but I am still pretty much sleepwalking. Thank goodness for that traditional old remedy, brandy and hot water!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

More fabric adventures

Following on from a brief excursion into making fabric beads (to which I will return, oh yes!) I've turned my attention to making yoyos. This decision arose from looking at my vast fabric stash and realising that I have to do something with it otherwise we will end up living in one room becasue we can't get into any of the others. (Note - slight exaggeration but not much.)

Back in the mists of time, when there were still such things as jumble sales, I used to attend as many as I could find and as well as buying designer labels to spruce up and sell on E-Bay I also bought more run of the mill clothes for the sake of their lovely fabrics. I washed everything (of course, just felt the need to put that out there...) disassembled it all, folded it neatly and put it away carefully in my fabric cupboard.

From time to time this stash was supplemented with items of our own clothing that had given up the ghost.

Fast forward a goodly number of years and I realise I haven't used any of it. Having also very recently acquired a large number of end of roll synthetic satins the truth dawned on my and I set about deciding how to use this treasure...

And this is the result - yoyo heaven! Big ones, little ones, round and heart shaped ones. And I'm going to do some ovals very soon...

Some of my lovely satin, photographed on one of my maternal grandma's lesson plan books.

  More satins. The two on the left were made by sandwiching a fine green net with the ox blood satin.
I couldn't resist using grandma's diagram of climate zones for this photograph... 

  I love gingham, it speaks to me of childhood and innocent simplicity. 

Lovely jumble sale fabric! I can't remember what this was, I think a blouse.

So this is how it all began. Be warned, if you start making yo-yos, it is addictive. "I'll make one more and then stop", you think. Then the "last one for today". Then, "oh, just one more"                   


Monday, 20 February 2012

Adventures with fabric beads!

Well, hello again everyone and here I am at last after heaven knows how many long months (a year or more, even!) away from this blog, very sorry for the over long absence but I *will* make up for it, I promise!!!

I've now taken early retirement from both my posts with the local Council and am attempting to follow my dream full time so here we go, adventures with fabric beads.....

These are made from a mixture of fabrics, felt and fibres, I'm kind of leaning towards preferring the felt ones but the ribbon based ones are quite fun too:)
Following a disastrous attempt at using a hot glue gun (why oh why do I always burn myself when I do stuff like that?!) I've used PVA glue and it's worked brilliantly.
Initially I was winding them round a crochet hook but got confuzzled with getting them so that I could still thread some wire or tiger tail through, then I hit on the idea of cutting up drinking straws to wind them round; ta da, success at last!

I've also just done some that are wire wrapped and I'm really excited about those, no photos of them yet but there soon will be:)

<<< And these ones are now listed in my Etsy supplies shop! The first of many and I am definitely going to carry on with the wire wrapped idea, the more I think about it the more I like it:)

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Beautiful beads, found on Etsy!

The second of my posts on recent wonderful finds on Etsy and Folksy.

I mentioned in my last post about re-considering the type of jewellery I make and since I've always found pieces incorporating semi-precious stones sell well I have just treated my self to a whole load of them from Michelle at DoubleDDesign on Etsy:

I blogged about her a while back as she is having a sale to help her doggie who was attacked by "persons" sadly still unknown

Here's my order in all it's riotous glory (minus some beads I'd already used at the time of photographing):

And here's a closer look at the stunning green and turquoise dyed magnesite. I've used dyed howlite before but not dyed magnesite and have to say I'm extremely impressed by the quality of these beads. (I'm also not sure if howlite and magnesite are "related" at all, my attempts to Google this have brought up conflicting results.) And there was an extra bonus here as Michelle had the green beads on offer due to there being four that were coin shaped in stead of oval. They're ever so slightly darker than the rest and are going to make a perfect couple of pairs of earrings!

Just look at these! Clockwise from top left... The end of the aforesaid strand of green dyed magnesite - yes it really is that stunning colour. Some lovely nephrite jade ovals. Some amber chips - I've never used amber before, I think I could become addicted, the colour and warm feel of these is superb. Some really great quality silver plated crimps - best I've found in a very long time. Some pretty little cherry quartz rondelles - these are a great find as I have been hoarding some cherry quartz hearts for ages and now I have something to put them with. And, last but not least, a mouthwateringly lovely leopardskin jasper pendant. I've recently bought some more Sterling silver wire so am planning some wire wrapping fun with this one.

I said I'd already used some of the beads and here's my first creation with them! I'm especially pleased with how the unakite beads from my stash team up with the nephrite jade and the amber, it's as though they were made for each other.

Michelle has some fantastic bargains in her shop and everything I've bought from her is superb quality. She's a great person to work with and is on my Etsy favourites as I'm sure I'll be buying from her again very soon!

Lovely lucite, found on Folksy!

This is the first of a series of posts about all the lovely things I've been buying on Etsy and Folksy recently. The first two of these posts are going to be about some stunning beading supplies I've found - I'm a self confessed supplies junkie who loves nothing more than to browse for new items to add to my stash!

I've been thinking a lot lately about the kind of jewellery I'm making and it's potential audience and have come to the conclusion that I need to try some new things. While I love beadweaving, the market for my more complex pieces (the ones I like best to do) it is fairly limited due to their expense. So while browsing the Folksy forums recently I experienced nothing short of an epiphany when I spotted a post from Liz Dyson of The Little Bead Box, enquiring about forum members' preferences for combining packs of lucite flowers. She had just taken delivery of 5400 of them!!

I was seduced straight away by the stunning array of colours - here is part of my order, sorted by size and colour, ready to put away in its new home.

Just look at those mouth watering colours!

New home - as you can see, the sun was over the yardarm at the time of photographing! The only problem with these drawers as they are is that I have to carry them around strictly upright to stop everything spilling out and have to store them where Stanzi can't get at them and knock them over with a paw-swipe. I think the ultimate solution will be to screw them down somewhere, which will happen when we have the back workroom sorted out. I'm only using them because I've run out of box space but I am liking the way the flowers look in them!

Some experiments in layering these little lovelies and there are so many possibilities yet to explore. Only thing is, I can feel the need for more shapes creeping up on me...

My first actual earrings; I've decided to keep the orangey ones. My excuse? The fire polish faceted beads I've used in them are the last of a lot and the colours aren't quite matching. (I don't need much of an fact I'm wearing them as I type!)

Liz has a fantastic array of beading supplies in her shop and is a lovely person to work with; she's on my Folksy faves now and I'm sure I'll be visiting her again very soon!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

A day out in Fairyland.

We decided this afternoon to take our new motor for a spin and ended up at Cannon Hall near Barnsley, seat of the Spencer Stanhope family. It's always been one of our favourite haunts and we hadn't been for quite a while so it was the logical choice.

In winter we usually while away a couple of hours in the house admiring the collections, especially the Moorcroft pottery and the paintings, but this afternoon the house just got a cursory glance as the warm sunshine beckoned us into the pleasure grounds.

We headed first for the little area surrounding a carp filled pond known as Fairyland, which was designed and laid out by Sir Walter Spencer Stanhope, a British conservative politician, and Cecily Winifred, one of his daughters.

He cleverly incorporated a number of architectural features salvaged from nearby churches. The last time we visited these were very overgrown but in the last couple of years they've been thoroughly cleared and restored.

Here you can see the amazing water lilies; I don't remember them ever being so profuse but maybe that's just down to how long it is since we've been here!

These carp were simply enormous! And they were getting a lot of attention; there were quite a few children there who were clearly fascinated by them, all looking and pointing excitedly.

We moved on to the walled garden, another favourite spot that always has some really beautiful roses in summer. Neither of us are rose enthusiasts so I've no idea what variety this one is but the colours are vibrant indeed. Not overly fragrant, but beautiful nonetheless.

Now for the kitchen garden and here are sweet peas, one of my favourite cottage garden flowers. Wish I could manage to grow them like this without them becoming straggly! Again I don't know what variety this is; it's a shame there was no label as I'd have taken a note so I could look for some seeds.

Still in the kitchen garden, one of the several espalier trained varieties of old pears.

And finally, a pretty pink flower that we couldn't immediately identify, growing in profusion in the "ha-ha", a deep walled ditch whose purpose was originally to separate the livestock from the pleasure gardens. Will have to consult one of the four or five wild flower identification guides we have somehow managed to accumulate!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Paper beads - a bit more about the process.

Since I'm now feeling better - hurray!!! - I thought I'd post a bit about my process in making paper beads.

I started out by experimenting with old magazine pages but decided I wanted more control over the colours in the end result so began to design my own patterns. I was initially a bit reluctant to do this since one of the plus features of many paper beads is that they are up-cycled but I'm afraid I just couldn't get on with the colours my magazine pages were producing.

I design the patterns in Photoshop. I start by using the "Paint Bucket Tool" to create an overall colour, might be a pastel shade, might be something brighter. Here I've used a pale green.

Then I go Brush Tools and select one that appeals to me - the one I've used here is called Crosshatch 3 but to me it looks for all the world like a waffle! I pick a contrasting colour for this tool and then get to work with a pattern.

I tend towards stripes as when cut and rolled I invariably find the end results aesthetically pleasing but I do sometimes go for more random patterns. I generally use the brush freehand and a bit wiggly as I have done here, though sometimes I've used the Select tool to pick out rectangular stripes to drop colours into.

Next, I start to have fun with filters! This one is Brush - Crosshatch (again) and I've tweaked the stroke length, sharpness and strength.

Then I have even more fun! Here I've tweaked all three scales in Colour Balance and added another filter - Sketch - Chalk and Charcoal.

I do "Save As" at each stage of the process so I can return to any of them and take them in a different direction. Memo to self - I really, seriously, need to organise my filing system soon or else the whole thing is going to go into meltdown!

Once I've printed out my design I turn the paper over and print out a grid of long interlocking triangles that Roger created in Publisher (which I can't get to load here!) on the back - I've learned from bitter experience that freehand guillotining results in rubbish results and a very bad tempered me.

Rolling the beads is pretty straightforward, I use cocktail sticks and keep a nice steady rhythm. The first few I made, I used far too much glue and got in a nasty sticky mess. Now I only spread glue on the final couple of inches before rolling up!

The last bit's the most time consuming - varnishing. I keep them on their cocktail sticks and secure them in a piece of scrap polystyrene then apply three coats of polyeurethane varnish. Takes days but it's worth it. The end result is water-resistant though not waterproof. I've been wearing a necklace incorporating some of the first ones I made for three months now (not all the time, obviously, but pretty frequently) and the beads are holding up really well. I'm a fairly heavy user of moisturiser and perfume and neither seem to have affected them so far.

The worked example above is a rather boring colour as it's one I just created quickly for this post (I can't remember the individual steps I've been through with all the ones I've already done, the ravages of encroaching age and all...) So here are a couple somewhat more colourful examples from my extensive files:

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Return of Stanzi!

She's back, the one and only Stanzi, aka Shming Shmong, Winzip, Zoony etc, etc!!

Firstly, here is her classic "Spooky Eyes" pose, complete with equally spooky claw marks on the banister rails...

And here she just wants to say "Hi, I'm inspecting your desk light, it seems to be in perfect working order now, what exactly was your problem with it...?"

And finally, this is pretty much what I also feel like right now - sleep, lovely sleep!!

Well, the pleurisy is very gradually loosening its grimhold (hey, I think I just made that word up but what the heck, I like it!) It's not really painful any more, just a constant dull ache and I'm still sleeping far more than usual. But then they do say sleep gives your body the best chance to recover so that must be what I need to do. I'm going to see the doc in the morning so will know more then.

Before I go, another plug for fellow Etsy seller DoubleDDesign's shop, where she's holding a sale to help her injured dog: - see my previous post for details.

I've just bought some nephrite jade and some tumble chip Baltic amber from her, I know when they arrive (and when I feel up to doing anything with them) I'm going to be in bead heaven!

***For some reason, even though it looks exactly the same as the link in my previous post, the one I've put here doesn't work, so please go to said previous post if you want to "'ave a gander" at her lovely shop. (Sorry, being poorly is bringing out the Essex girl in me!)***