Saturday, 28 September 2013

Everybody's Reading Festival 2013 :: On being a zombie!

Today, I had fun being a zombie.  At short notice I was asked by the talented poet and spoken word artist Lydia Towsey to be the resident zombie artist at the Medieval popup  Library in Leicester Train station for the Everybody's Reading Festival 2013 taking place over the next week in Leicester.  What fun I had...
 Gav Gore, horror makeup artist, did an excellent job of transforming me into a zombie.
 And the end result was truly terrifying!
People came and chatted as if chatting to the undead was an everyday occurrence.  It was, well, weird.  Folk were more surprised that the book's in the medieval library were being given away for free.  Lots of people passed through, watching a zombie craft zombie's from wool, and it was great to have the support of familiar friends.

Secret agents from the KGB (Knitting Guerillas of Birstall) may have sneaked a few of their delightful woolly zombies into the library too.
But, oh dear, somebody got bit - I fear there may be a zombie epidemic about to break out in Leicester.  Good job Leicester City Council has a proposed zombie policy.  You had better read it- just in case.
To join in more zombie fun during the Everybody's Reading Festival, check out 'Reading Zombies at the Y' an evening of zombies with Lydia Towsey et al on Monday 30th Sept at the Y theatre, Leicester or for children (and their grown ups) 'Adventures in Zombieland' with performer and professional storyteller, Lindsey Warnes-Carroll and myself on Saturday 5th October at the Curve theatre, Leicester, where we will be making three-dimensional monstrous characters from recycled textiles which will feature in a story!


Saturday, 14 September 2013

Heritage Open Day :: G.H. Hurt & Son

What a treat I had today.  It was Heritage Open Days in the UK.  Many hidden gems throwing open their doors and revealing their secrets inside.  I went to my birth town in Nottingham to visit G.H. Hurt and Son, a fine knitwear lace factory in Chilwell.

Fondly known as 'the shawl factory' and established in a former seed mill in 1912.  I only heard about this place a few years ago and so was very excited to have the opportunity to have a look inside and I wasn't disappointed.

Come take a look at what lay within...


This  is the detail of the hooks on the automatic machines.  Hundreds of tiny little finger like hooks
One of the automatic machines at work
Chevrons patterns produced from beneath the machine.  If you look on their website you will see this one is for a baby shawl
 A sample piece from one of the vintage framework machines
Upstairs in the finishing room, this lady explained that she was stitching on labels to these shawls which were destined for Japan. The machine she was using was an industrial, almost identical to the one I have at home
  One of the vintage framework hand machines
Close up of the detail of one of the shawls
This lady was overlocking baby shawls.  This machine also cuts the blanket too giving them a neat finishing.  She mentioned that these shawls might be destined for Harrods
 Colour absolutely everywhere...
I cannot believe that this place is here.  How did I miss this for so long?  Nottingham is my birth town, although I have not lived there for a long time, I visit regularly as my dad lives only a couple of miles away from this hidden beauty.  I have recently found out that I come from a long line of ancestors, who were framework knitters, from the Hucknall area of Nottingham, one even had the grand title of a 'Jacker off'.  A very knowledgable PhD student explained that this role involved removing the knitted piece off the machine and passing it on to the finisher.

I should love to have a go on one of those old framework machines but I am told it takes many years to learn how to master them and sadly the number of people skilled in using them is diminishing. 
On another note, I have discovered that the studio I work in, originally belonged to a person called James Vann  part of a family of prosperous Wigston Hosiers. There is a framework knitting museum in Wigston so I am going to explore this further to see if there is a connection between the two.
On the way out of the Shawl Factory today, we asked if they are having more open days.  None were planned but they did say their shop was open Saturday mornings for a couple of hours. Their shawls adorn the rich and famous and even the odd royal baby or two. I think I may have to go back and treat myself when the place is less busy!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Through the keyhole :: a space to be creative

For sometime I felt that working from home was troublesome.  The kitchen table constantly doubled up as a workbench and then reverted back to a dining room table every few hours, which became far too much hassle.  Earlier this year, along with my good friend Jacqui, (who is now one of my governance group members), I decided that a space to be creative was needed. For months we have been searching for that perfect spot, somewhere practical and beautiful,  and close to my local community, at a price I could afford.  I can now say that, after a long search, the perfect place has been found, and this week we, moved in. Here it is! Welcome to Cross Corners Community Arts Centre:
It is absolutely adorable, and looks just like the houses I used to draw when I was a little girl! It's perfect for running arts and craft for health and wellbeing workshops and for community group meetings. Cross Corners sits in a conservation area, and is very close to a place called Belgrave Hall , in fact the back of Cross Corners opens out into the gardens of the hall.  You may have heard of this place which managed to find it's way into the worlds media in 1999 when, what looked like, two ghostly figures were recorded on the security camera's.  Eventually a rational explanation was found but the place is still remembered for being haunted! 
Come inside and take a look around Cross Corners Community Arts Centre through the gate...

 ...and into the courtyard.  This beautiful building was, I think, once the stables.  This building is not in current use because it is a bit unsafe.  This courtyard needs a bit of a tidy.  We have a plan in place for this which involves all sorts of creative ideas.  More on this as it happens!
This is the entrance to the building.  Come on in...
 This is the reception area.  I think that fireplace is in an Adams style.  The building is very old.  It was built around 1777 and is grade II listed 
 If you turn,  after entering the building, you will see this door...
Turn right then you enter this corridor with these beautiful terracotta tiles and a staircase make of old pine wood.  This floor pattern reminds me of a patchwork quillt..
There are some beautiful shadows in this building and I particularly love it in the afternoon when the sun hits the stain glass window above the door that leads to the garden.  If you proceed down this corridor and turn right you will find the door to...
 ...the studio.  I have made a door sign out of textiles but you can't see it very well in this picture.  It is also home to the KGB headquarters another community group I have set up and am involved with along many other talented and enthusiastic people. 
And this is what is behind the door.  The studio is a shared space with two others. It is is a bit chaotic at the moment whilst we are sorting things out...
...but things are slowly coming out of boxes and our own creative space is being formed...
I feel quite privileged  to be in such a beautiful space with historical importance.  There is a little more about the history of Cross Corners in this document that talks about the house being built for a family in the hosiery trade.  I can't seem to find much more about the history of the building, but if anyone can help with this then please let me know.  I have a fascinatation for the building and its history and would love to know more about it where I will be spending many happy future hours!

Watch this space for a tour of Belgrave Hall garden's.  You never know, you may spot a ghost!

Monday, 2 September 2013

What we did on our holidays :: Norfolk

We stayed in a houseboat in Norfolk, water and nature right outside the door and we had our own rowing boat for river adventures.  We visited stately homes.  Blickling was our favorite with lots of beatiful tapestries and hand stitched quilts.  There were lots of windmills and one with a funny name - Horsey Windpump.  We found a red and white striped lighthouse at a jolly lovely place called Happisburgh and we jumped over waves.  The land was flat and there were salt marshes that went on for miles.  I spent some hours crafting and managed to rustle up a zombie.  Norfolk is a lovely inspirational place.  I think we'll go back again soon!
I think we will be going back to Norfolk.  It's a lovely place and not too far from home.