The F Word…..

I learned this week in my millinery class that there is one word that is definitely not to be used there – ‘fascinator’ otherwise known by our tutor as ‘The F word’…. !!

The subject came up as we are all currently making small constructed hats – the exercise is being used to teach us basic skills like wiring a brim or edging with petersham ribbon, but in a way that takes less time than making a full size hat.

Brim wire being attached with blanket stitch

Brim wire being attached with blanket stitch

We held the wire in place with masking tape and used a version of buttonhole stitch with an extra twist round the needle to attach the wiring.

I’ve shaped mine into a tricorn brim, although it won’t strictly speaking be a tricorn as it will have the wrong sort of crown.

Beginnings of a Tricorn

Beginnings of a Tricorn

The wire needs to be shaped before the petersham is added to the edge so am just beginning to sew it on with a stab stitch hence all the pins.  (I was packing up when I took this photo which is why the spare petersham is sitting in the middle.)  I think it’s going to look cute.  Much better than any old bit of feather, ribbon and wire, otherwise known as a fascinator!

Brim ready to sew on the petersham

Brim prepared ready to sew on the petersham

Milliner or Hatter….I’m not quite sure

I’ve started a Contemporary Millinery course at Morley College on Wednesday evenings, hoping to add finesse and finish to my hats. My felt making has definitely improved in technique over the past three or four years – but I thought it would be useful to learn some more about hat construction and finishing. I doubt I will ever be tempted into Couture levels of millinery. I’m more interested in the everyday hat, with a dose of historical and theatrical hat thrown in.

My tutor for the course is Karen Shannon – who has a background both in couture with Freddy Fox and Stephen Jones, and also for film and theatre.

I have singularly failed to take any photos in my first couple of classes. We are starting with felt which suits me although I have never worked with commercially made felt before. I guess the techniques will be translatable though once I’ve learned them – steaming, blocking, wiring a brim. We have each bought a ‘cone’ to make a small brimless blocked hat and a ‘flare’ to cut up and make a mini constructed hat (apparently you can’t buy commercial hat felt in flat pieces so you cut it up and steam it flat). Pictures soon when I remember to take my camera.

Karen currently has an exhibition at Craft Central in London for anyone who is interested. It runs till next weekend.

Yarn Bombing – in Southport

My sister told me at the weekend that the crafty people of my home town of Southport, Merseyside have been Yarn Bombing one of the pedestrianised streets with knitted and crocheted flowers.  They have apparently submitted their efforts to Britain in Bloom! 

It seems that craft is booming in the North West – not how it was when I was growing up when arts and crafts seemed to consist of the local watercolour society and a few courses at the local college…

Here is the coverage in the local newspaper, The Southport Visiter – check out the fantastic gallery of photos.

Foraging Damsons

I have been anxiously watching the damson tree on the local disused railway line, now turned into a public walkway. I walk past the tree most mornings and it is dripping with fruit this year, but when we tried last weekend they were still clinging firmly to the tree.

However halfway through the week I noticed a few damsons had dropped, so the Scotsman and I set out on Friday afternoon with our ladder and self made ‘damson hook’ for hooking down high branches and bagged ourselves the best part of two kilos (we did leave quite a few on the tree for other people).


Now there are two bottles of damson gin macerating in our kitchen, and juice dripping from a j cloth bag hung over a pan for damson jelly. Mrs P from the launderette downstairs gave us a bag of apples from her daughter’s garden as we were on our way back from picking so I added a bit of apple too.

Now I just need to do the design for the back of my book cover. It’s all go!


My studio – aka the second bedroom – got a bit of a tidy this weekend as we are having builders in to quote for a new roof. ( It currently has a horrible leak which doesn’t encourage me to go in there and work! )  As part of the process it will also be getting a skylight which should do wonders for the level of light.  In the meantime here is a look at the ordered chaos!20140724-062256-22976082.jpg


I love the quote on the bag from the Van Gogh museum  ” I hope to do it better in time. I myself am very far from satisfied with this but, well, getting better must come through doing it and through trying.”

I am a little in love with Vincent Van Gogh – especially since I played his landlady/lover in the play Vincent in Brixton a few years ago. (There is no actual evidence that Ursula Loyer was his lover except in Nicholas Wright’s imagination, but it’s a wonderful play about the nature of creativity.)

Vincent in Brixton

Vincent in Brixton

Colouring Glass

This weekend I went back for a second go at glass painting at the Rainbow Glass Studios in Stoke Newington. Last year I did a one day course which showed me basic painting techniques and silver staining – the mainstay of much of the glass painting of previous centuries. Apparently the name stained glass actually refers not to the joining together of pieces of coloured glass, but the silver stain which adds additional yellow and amber glazes to different colours of glass.

This time I was doing a two day course, and so Richard let us loose with the more modern coloured powders used today to literally colour plain or coloured glass once a trace outline has been painted.

We started off with a recap of the same techniques as last time and I produced a rather pretty owl – and even managed not to ‘metal’ my silver stained background.

However, I was also trying to complete two pieces of glass for the small windows in our landing at home – a T and a J for myself and the Scotsman. Mine had sunflowers – mostly because I like them and the Scotsman’s had thistles. I did the designs in a tearing hurry last week – mostly in my lunchbreaks – and would really have liked some time to tidy them up…nothing new there then.

I might have made it to the end of the two designs if I hadn’t realised part way through Sunday afternoon that I had put the J down upside down after its first visit to the kiln and had been gaily painting on the back of it since then!! Cue me wiping all the colour off and starting again…it would have worked after a fashion but wouldn’t have matched the T. I blame the people across the road who had a party on Saturday night and stopped me getting a full night’s sleep…!

Anyway I finished the T and partly painted the J – I go this evening to pick them up and see what they look like. In a similar way to ceramic glazes and transfer dyes you can’t judge the colour until it’s been fired.

DSCF7838 DSCF7839

Now I just have to wait for an opportunity to go back to the studios and finish off the J….

This is the end….

I am saying this very quietly so that my subconscious can’t hear.  I think I may have become a person who finishes creative projects…!  Sshhh….

For years I would get close to the end of a project, sometimes a gnat’s whisker away, and then for no apparent reason just stop.  My life was full of semi-finished projects (and books that I’d stopped reading a couple of pages from the end!)

However, on Thursday in the last embroidery class of the term I finished my Klimpt embroidery.

And then this weekend I not only finished the poppy book cover I started on the Scrumptious Stitch course, but I also attached it to a book…and started using the book to sketch ideas for my next project….

Sketchbook Front

Sketchbook Front

And the Sunday before that I finished the felted vessel I started on the Saturday in my ‘Felting Ideas and Techniques’ class at the City Lit with Heather Belcher.

Sketchbook Back

Sketchbook Back

This is getting to be a habit…!