Saturday, 13 September 2014

A Present of Sashiko

I mentioned in Thursday's post that I had made another 'Sew Beautiful' bag using some sashiko embroidery. Sashiko is the japanese word for 'little stabs', not to be confused with 'chiku chiku' which is the onomatopoeic phrase for sewing - chiku is said to be the noise the needle makes when it goes in and out of the fabric to form one stitch. The japanese are very keen on onomatopoeia. When I had finished the fabric I intended to use for the outside I had a strong urge to leave it as it was and frame it or something.
sashiko fabric
I really like how it turned out. I didn't use any traditional patterns so the embroidery is a bit random. I used scraps of traditional japanese fabrics and used the embroidery to secure them to a felt backing.
closeup of sashiko bag outer fabric
closeup of sashiko bag outer fabric
closeup of sashiko bag outer fabric

The finished object...
sashiko washbag
sashiko washbag
This will be making its way to england in time for my step-dad's birthday.

Friday, 12 September 2014

How To Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety

Last week I ordered this zine from Etsy, and I am so glad I did.

The cats of Ebisu were woefully ill-informed. I held a number of emergency one-on-ones, and one one-on-two, but one of those was cleaning their foot the whole time so I don't think that counts.
how to talk to your cat about gun safety
how to talk to your cat about gun safety
how to talk to your cat about gun safety
Even Bruiser stopped hating everything generally for a moment to specifically focus his hate on this zine.
how to talk to your cat about gun safety
In his case I suspect he's now thinking about where he can find a gun. He is one big furball of angry.

There is another publication by the same people, called "How to talk to your cat about evolution", but I'm saving that for next term.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Around the World Bloghop

With my recent travel malarkey and corresponding jetlag-from-hell I got a bit behind on my emails and so thought I had been nominated for this, whereas I had left it too late to reply, but by then I had nominated someone and she in turn had nominated someone and so I was left a bit unsure about how to continue. bring everything up to speed I hereby nominate myself for this bloghop, and therefore inflict my answers on you unfairly. Only the brave will read on.

This bloghop, as I am sure you will all have read on other blogs by now, asks you to answer four questions. And so it begins...
(Babylon 5 joke there. Bit geeky. You can read about it here but basically don't worry about it.)

What am I working on?

It's probably quicker to say that I am not spinning anything, nor do I plan to. Other than that I am someone who has a little bit of everything going on all at once. I sometimes claim to have a short attention span but if I'm finding something interesting I will work on it for hours, days even, until it is done or I stop finding it interesting. When I first read about 'flow' (wiki link) I knew this is what I long for in creating things. So for instance, I am in the middle of planning a cross stitch of some graffitti lettering, this morning I have made one skirt from 2-way stretch fabric and cut out the outer fabric of a cotton circle skirt for which I made up a pattern. Yesterday I bought more fabric for my Lucy Boston 'Patchwork of the Crosses' EPP patchwork and made a load more fussy cut and random cut pieces for it. I have a huge quilt in progress for a friend. I have a pair of cabled socks on the needles for no one in particular, but probably a christmas present, plus I am about to start a knitted hat for my sister. I just finished another Sew Beautiful bag which is a birthday present, but I only included one zipped pocket since it's for a man and they have fewer little things of stuff in general. I also keep picking up and putting down some weaving strips as I really want to give that a try and start making proper baskets but I'm a bit nervous about ballsing it up, but then I do have some ribbon on order to make a woven ribbon piece to then use in a metal frame purse. The only times my mind isn't twitching from one idea to the next is when I'm experiencing flow. I guess that's why I like it so much - it gives me a real rest.

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

I think there are two things - the breadth of crafts I blog about and my writing about when it all goes wrong. The example of the latter which comes most readily to mind is my blogpost containing the words "malformed buttocks" used to describe a felted mobius basket I made. The pictures of that post don't seem to have made it through from 2010 so I reproduce here, just for you, this poor article in all its glory.
Terrible mobius buttock bag
More recently there were these purses. Ghastly.

Why do I write/create what I do?

It is definitely a compulsion - both to make things and then to blog about it afterwards. Although I write as if I'm writing for someone else most of the time, I really just blog for myself. It's both an outlet and a record of what I've done. And like a real diary, there is a paper copy.
Blog Books
Except now of course there is a 2010, 2011 and 2012 volume. In fact I only finished the 2012 volume when I was in england last month as I had got a bit behind. I still have 2013 to do. I use a company called Blurb who have a process they call 'slurping' which pulls down all your blog posts between a specific date range, and the photos, and pre formats a book size of your choosing for you. It's then up to you to go in and tweak it.

Going back to the 'making' is something I have had since I was a child and I don;t really understand it. I don't like sitting still and watching television, or listening to the radio, or even just doing nothing. What I do like is doing these things with a project in my hand. I think that explains the diversity of projects. There are some that need a sewing machine, or strong daylight, while there are others I can easily transport and do in a dark corner. When I cannot think what to make next I get very frustrated and uncomfortable.

How does my writing/creative process work?

I am not a terribly creative person. I rarely come up with some stupendous idea by myself but...I am very good at taking what someone else has done and adapting it to my own ends. I don;t consider this to be creative because it is essentially just 'copying with variations'. This means that Pinterest has been the greatest internet invention ever, as far as I'm concerned. I belong to this group on Facebook that I was invited to join by the Pinterest company themselves and I quickly realised that most of those people invited were pinning as a way to raise their own profile or drive business. Me? I am pinning for myself. That's right.
39 boards and more than 4,000 pins, all for me! I do seem to have a lot of followers and I've got the 'follow me' thing up on the blog but it's not something I check on or work to promote. I have a 'secret' board (one only I see) called 'Imminent Makes' which are things that are inspiring my thoughts at the moment. One of these is a crocheted circle bracelet, for which I bought these last week.
DMC 5 cottons
I pin my own photos sometimes too, to remind me of what I've seen and what it made me think of at the time.

Other than acting on inspiration I tend to make things on demand. For example, it is someone's birthday...I have made several Sew Beautiful bags as presents recently...would they like one...yes, I'll make one. But even then I make it special for them and combine a technique or two I've been thinking about. In this case Sashiko.
sashiko fabric
I rarely make things without an intended recipient.

So there you have it! I hope those of you that read for this long (well done, madam) found that interesting. I am nominating just one person - Nickerjac. I have nominated her for several reasons. First off she is an amazing crafter with the same sort of diversity in her interests as me so I can discuss all sorts of things with her and be inspired by what she's doing. Secondly she is someone I met, at first online, through blogging back in 2005 (I think) and we have been friends ever since! Lastly, I will be very interested to read what she says. She will be blogging on or around Monday 15th so I sincerely look forward to that!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

August Makes

First of all, thanks for your kind comments on my last post. I've edited it to give the rest of the saga so you can find it here if you're interested.

I was crafting on the go in August since I spent the whole of it in England.
August makes
From top left,

  1. A brown cowl for my sister. I used Drops Merino Extra Fine and really liked it. It is DK and was less than £4 for 50g so not bad. 
  2. A cardigan for Jasmine, followed by...
  3. A beanie hat for Jasmine. She looked so cute in it!
  4. Smocked peg bag for Mum
  5. Cross stitch for a book cover.
  6. Dress for Mum
Only one thing for myself on there - which this morning I turned into this:
cross stitch book cover
I really love it although if I do another I'll make the flaps that the covers go into extend further. 
cross stitch book cover inside
On this one they only go about half way so I have a feeling they'll often fall off with this notebook. It has frosted plastic covers and you can see the lining through it so I used some tape measure fabric I just got hold of. So pretty!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Sometimes Incredible Things Happen

(3rd Sept - Edited to add the end of the saga)

The title of this post is something a cleaner we used to have once told Pooch and I when asked where some missing items had gone. It is a phrase much used in the Byrne household ever since. On Friday, an incredible thing happened. I'll give you my timetable.

Friday 29th August
  • 9am: Cab arrives to take me and my very heavy suitcase to St Pancras
  • 9.45: Train to Gatwick
  • 10.45: Check in with Vietnam Airlines for 13.10 flight to Hanoi, where I'll transfer to a Tokyo flight, due to arrive the next day at Haneda at 3pm Tokyo time (8 hours ahead of the UK). 
  • 12.10: Due to be given gate number for departure. Departure board changes to "next update 14.00" with no reason given.
  • 14.00: No update
  • 15.30: Told flight is delayed (no reason given) and we are being put up in the Hilton (really not as grand as it sounds) and they'll phone if we can take off tonight. Otherwise a letter will be put under our bedroom doors telling us what to do next. 
  • 16.30: Finally get to hotel after fannying about at security and collecting suitcase. 
  • 17.00: Still queueing to check-in at hotel, who want us all to share rooms. 
  • 17.30: Get to own room. 
Saturday 30th August
  • 06.10: Wake up, no letter under door. Call reception who give me a copy of a letter saying the airline is doing all it can to get me to Australia. 
  • 08.00: Get correct letter which says to check out at 10am and come back to the check in desks at the airport. Try to find a phone number to see what is going on and find Vietnam Airlines's offices are not open at the weekend. 
  • 10.00: Transferred to Ho Minh Chi (Saigon) flight, due to take off at 13.10. They refuse to book me onto a transfer flight as they cannot guarantee we will land in time to make the connection. They promise this will be sorted out when we get to Vietnam.
  • 12.50: Gate number finally given, board plane.
  • 14.30: Flight finally takes off.  
Sunday 31st August (Vietnam time - 6 hours ahead)
  • 05.00: Idiot english guy on plane has drunk too much and vomits 2 rows behind me. Plane smells of vomit and the shoes of the poor woman who was sat next to him are no longer wearable. 
  • 09.00: Land at Ho Minh Chi. Transfer desk is swamped - half the plane are there and irritable. 
  • 10.00: Told we are being taken to another hotel as there is no flight until 00.10, and that it is only going to the airport way out of Tokyo, not the central one scheduled. It will get in at 8am on Monday Japan time (2 hours ahead of Vietnam), but it will take me another 2-3 hours to get home. 
  • 11.30: Finally get to hotel
So here I am. I wasn't expecting to see Vietnam and I don't consider I have really, except some impressive traffic. 
Ho Minh Chi Traffic
Ho Minh Chi Traffic
Ho Minh Chi Traffic
It seems like traffic lights are obeyed, but roundabouts are a free for all. No wonder bike helmets are being sold everywhere. 
Bike Helmets
I just really hope the flight tonight does take off when it is supposed to. If it does I'll get back a few hours short of 2 days after I should have done.


Sunday 31st August (continued)

  • 6.30pm: Dinner in the hotel restaurant. I thought this was pretty good but those that had made it to lunch (I slept through it) were surprised to find the exact same food on offer. The buffet style dishes included a large number of variations on 'pig trotters', snails and one dish which was labelled as 'deep fried pig's food'. I didn't try that one. 
  • 9.30pm: Coach back to airport. Arriving at the Customer Service desk we are asked for our passports, which Vietnam Airlines had insisted on keeping to ensure we came back, since you need a visa to enter Vietnam and none of us had one. After explaining several times that they had our passports, to the blank faces of the staff involved, someone is reluctantly dispatched to look for them and returns 20 minutes later much to the relief of all of us. However, no one has booked us onto the midnight flight. Are there still seats available? One minute please, says nonchalant staff member. Ten minutes later we find out that luckily we can all get on the plane. By now the 13 of us trying to get to Japan are joined in the feeling that we're caught in a cross between 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Carry on Vietnam'. We are sent to check in our bags and 12 of us get through but there's a problem - one guy is not on their system. The fact he is standing right in front of them and they've had his passport all day doesn't seem to count. It's now 11.20pm, boarding is due to start in 10 minutes and we've all sworn that 'no man gets left behind' so all 13 of us are standing around the now deserted check-in desk waiting for him to get his boarding card. 
  • 11.30pm: In the gate lounge, we are all looking rather the worse for wear. But we're here, and we're alive, and that's what counts in this man's army. We are unanimously expecting this flight to be delayed, or cancelled, but miraculously it takes off, no one throws up during it, and it lands on time. 
Monday 1st September
  • 8.30am: We're collecting our bags and saying our goodbyes. It's been emotional. 
  • 11am: I get home, 41 hours after I should have done. 
I have since looked online and this treatment by Vietnam Airlines seems fairly common, and they are notoriously awful about compensation. I've sent them a standard letter quoting the relevant EU directive but it could take months to get anything from them, if they give me anything at all. What a company! Please warn your friends that if they are visiting Asia or Australia they should avoid Vietnam Airlines at all costs. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Goodbye Family, Hello London

Before I shook the dust of the south west off my trainers we had a visit from Dad and my other brother and sister, Piers and Freddie. Strictly speaking F and P are half-siblings and Dad gets all sentimental when we all get together as it doesn't happen that often. Add Jasmine into the mix and he was like a wise owl puffing out its feathers in pride.
Jasmine with Dad, Freddie and Piers
After an excellent lunch we found a bench on the village green and watched the cricket.
Cricket in Corsham
Piers was outraged they weren't wearing white and Sian was annoyed when they played snippets of pop music whenever someone got a 4, 6 or out. It's all part of the 20/20 scene apparently. Jasmine seemed unmoved but enjoyed all the attention from her family.

With just one more day left together we took Jasmine to Yo Sushi to see if she'd be tempted by a taste of Japan.
Jasmine and Sian at Yo Sushi
While she was interested in the conveyor of food, she pulled the most expressive of faces when I tried her with some salmon sashimi. I think she'd been fooled by the colour and was expecting it to be fruity so I can understand her disgust! Raw fish is clearly some way off. On my final morning with her she got hold of my hairbrush - a nifty device Sian got me for my birthday which cuts through long hair like the fabled hot knife through butter.
Jasmine brushing her hair
One side of her silky soft hair was very well combed in a vaguely sixties look. She seemed very chuffed with it.

Final goodbyes were tortuous as I felt the strongest protective feelings towards her and really did not want to say goodbye to her or my sister. Sian sent me some photos afterwards and I have to admit a tear or two was shed.
Jasmine Singing
My sister has done such an amazing job bringing Jasmine up single handed after her utter shit of a husband went off before she was even 1 year old.

Back in London I am using AirBnB again and am in an admittedly tiny but very comfortable room in East Dulwich (south london).
Cod Fellas chip shop
Yesterday saw me watching 'Guardians of the Galaxy' in Peckham while today I'm going into town to be a bit of a tourist before meeting some drinking buddies tonight. I doubt I'll have a chance to blog again before I go so it only remains for me to say...see you in Japan!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Fashion Museum in Bath

Bath is the biggest town in my sister's vicinity so I have been there a few times during this visit. Today's prime purpose was a haircut. This was at the suggestion of my sister who briefed me fairly intensely on what to ask for. When I got there I repeated an, ahem, slightly watered down version of this to which the eastern europeanly accented hairdresser replied "hmmmm, no, that will not look good" and so I went with what she said. Somehow, between the three of us, we got to this.
Me with Layers
Layers. Layers, I am told, are key. They reduce 'weight'. Not of the body, but of the hair. As does reducing length. That makes sense to me. Less hair means less overall mass. My sister was ecstatic when I got home. We'll see what kind of dandelion mess it looks like once I've washed it and not blow dried.
Static electricity

I did not know there was a Fashion Museum until I looked up the location of the hairdresser and saw it on the map. Aha, I thought. (Not a complicated thought, but honest.) At £8 it's not cheap and also not huge, but overall quite satisfying. And were I a Downton Abbey fan I would have been highly chuffed with the dozen or so costumes on display as part of a War Time Fashion exhibit.
To Dress Extravagently
Well put.
Votes for Women
Costumes from Downton Abbey
Above there's a Maggy Smith on the left and a suit for the man that's the Lord or whatever. There were displays on knitting for the troops as well as how working changed women's wardrobes.
On her their lives depend
Dowstairs there was a special exhibition on the Georgians. There were some incredible garments on display - some dating back to the 1600's and looking like they could be picked up and worn at a moment's notice, although I am sure they are really very delicate.
Back of a Georgian Dress
Georgian Striped Dress
See the hips of the one in the background in the photo above? That was what you had to wear if invited to Court during, I think, George III's reign. One touch I liked was that there were modern replicas you could try on and then take photos of yourself in against a printed background. Some of the replicas were genuinely complicated adult dresses so this wasn't just a funny-hat-photobooth type of thing. Moving on, the Museum had cunningly converted their archive storage into another exhibition.
Vintage Dresses
Every single one of the grey boxes you can see above is full of parasols.
Georgian Dress
Some of the storage was in plastic tubs (above) and each section had a little illustrative display in it.
Dress Belonging to Queen Victoria
Above is one of Queen Victoria's actual dresses! I was quite in awe of it as it fitted so well with the images I've seen of her after Albert died. The detail of the lace around the bottom and the beading was beautiful.

There was also more recent clothing - including some of Princess Diana's wardrobe. Her going away outfit:
Princes Diana's Going Away Outfit
All the sketches in the background were done for her and many were executed.

It was very interesting to visit and the building - The Assembly Rooms - was also interesting. But unless you were interested in the exhibitions they happened to have on it isn't something I'd suggest making a special trip for.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Return to Longleat

My first trip was back in 2011, blogged about here, and I loved it. My return trip yesterday was with Sian and Jasmine and was brilliant. When we got back we heard the miniature train had derailed and a woman broke her leg! We saw the air ambulance take off but were in the Safari Park by then.
The Batcave was closed when I originally went so I visited twice this time. I love bats! Jasmine was pretty thrilled too and loved it when they flew about. There were lots of other fun sights.
Jasmine at the Stingrays
Sian and Jasmine with the Meerkats
Longleat is 100% child, buggy and wheelchair friendly but my word it is expensive to get in - £31 each for adults! We were very lucky that Sian has a friend who works there who got us in free or you can swap £8.50 of Tesco vouchers for a ticket too. Regarding children - Jasmine is 15 months and was quite interested in things that move. But really for that amount of money you probably want them to be 4+. When we went on the safari (a drive through one) Jasmine came to sit in the front and was consistently more interested in the dashboard buttons than in the animals.
Jasmine in the Car
It was only when they were very close she perked up.
Monkeys on the Car
On the car did make her a little wary though. But then she laughed when one started trying to chew on the plastic nugget thing (technical term) on the bonnet.
Monkeys on the Car
What she most loved was sticking her head out of the window as we drove slowly through the Park, much like a cartoon dog, with the breeze ruffling her little hairs.
Me and jasmine
I had a bit of time to look about, when not being trampled by the tiny explorer. This was my favourite sight.
Tree in the Park
There were lots of fun moments, but this was one of my favourites!
Sian and Me

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