Thursday, 15 December 2011

An unmade bed

Something struck me about Lily's unmade bed.  Blankets flipped back, revealing a lovely warmth of a slumber recently ended.  Those retro rummaged second-hand matching sheet and pillow case!  The recycled hot water bottle cover (with her own design on).  Those hand-made socks which will, no doubt, too soon be outgrown.  This little domestic vignette, captured in time, made my heart skip a beat:

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Engaging children in creative education

Children are naturally drawn toward creating things with their hands.  I always have a crochet knitting project in my bag, very useful for those times I am kept waiting, perhaps in the doctors surgery, or whilst the kids are having their swimming lessons.  I often find a little group of children inching ever closer with a zombie gait, their eyes curious about what I am making.  Before I know it they're upon me wanting to know what I am doing and how I am doing it!  I feel quite sad that basic heirloom crafts like knitting and crochet are overlooked by the school curriculum.   Picasso said "All children are born artists.  The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up".   Learning basic knitting and crochet stitches is absorbing and stimulating and taps into a part of the brain that brings a sense of achievment and relaxation. Both my husband and myself are lucky to be artistic and creative and can pass on these additional skills to our children: 
Jack totally immersed in the process of  making chains with a crochet hook!
Lily creating music with her daddy!
According to Sir Ken Robinson (international advisor on education in the arts to the government) schools kill creativity and suggests that  "Creativity is as important as literacy and we should treat it with the same status"  In this fantastic talk he goes onto say that children get "educated out of creativity" I couldn't agree more:

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Introduction to crochet

First stitchcraft sessions have taken place and so far so good! The Cafe sessions have been reasonably well attended, and the cafe settings were nice and cosy. Crochet and tea and cakes are an excellent combination. Naturally this has been a learning process for me too, and I'm now aware of the maximum number of people I can comfortably teach, and I've enjoyed working with learners all at differing levels of ability.
Crochet and cupcakes

Mastering double crochet on week 1
 I have planned a number of sessions, suitable for all levels of ability, and have more planned that will fit around the those who are free in the daytime and those who are free in the evenings.  Keep an eye on the workshop section of the website for new workshops.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Little Bird School of Stitchcraft

After many a moons of procrastination, I have finally taken the plunge and registered myself as a Limited Company,  namely the Little Bird School of Stitchcraft.  It became an official entity on 19 August 2011 and with some fantastic support from Business Link  I intrepidly dipped my toe in the waters.  I say 'dipped' because my venture is essentially about having fun and not worrying too much about making loads of cash.  I have not taken out any bank loans.  I have not rented any accomodation to run the School of Stitchcraft and I do not intend to take any risks.  It is early days and I now consider myself in the 'pilot' phase.  I want to see if the good people of Charnwood are interested in what I have on offer and, if in the next 2-3 years, I find that they are, then I will work towards getting myself in a 'bricks and morter' set-up.  Until then I tentatively share my skills and beaver away.  If things don't work out then at least I tried and at least I won't lose out financially.  All I can say for now is that I am happy with what I am doing and have done so far, and I am really looking forward to running my first stitchcraft sessions!  Check out my website, that I built all myself (except the logo), here!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Blogging has gone quiet because...

...apart from it being the summer school holidays.  I have been working very hard on a big project.  Will tell you more in due course but for now here is a taster...

The idea for my big project was inspired by this old, but very efficient, sewing machine.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Beach art

The summer sun and the call of nature enticing me to the nearest coast has me thinking of long lazy days on the beach.  I love wandering along the beach looking for unusual rocks and shells, picking up bits of sea sculptured wood to incorporate into a sand sculpture.  I love to sculpt the sand into something and then sit and watch the sea reclaim it as its own.

Often, when walking along beaches I will come across bits of plastic and, if the beach is really dirty, other undesirable bits and pieces.  It makes me sad to think that our seas and beaches are being polluted by things that will take probably hundred's of years to decompose not to mention the gases that it gives off in the process.

I came across this pair of talented artists who have created these fantastic works of art from plastic that they have foraged from the Californian coastline.  Richard and Judith Lang have managed to take these ugly pieces of debris and recreate them into something stunning.

Here are just a few samples of their work that I have put together for your pleasure:

obanten by Judith Selby-Lang and Richard Lang

Cheese Spreaders
Cheese spreaders

Beach combs

You can read more about their work and some interesting facts about plastic at this link: Plastic Forever

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Breathtaking Junk!

If you came across a pile of old rubbish, would you stand there and think "if I place this pile of old rubbish in a certain way and then shine a light behind it so that it cast a shadow onto a blank wall, could make it look something like this?":
Dirty White Trash (With Gulls) 1998
or this...
SHE (part of a diptych) 2004
or even this...

Miss Understood & Mr Meanor 1997

It's incredible isn't it?  This is the work of duo Tim Noble and Sue Webster both contemporary artists.  Their creations reflect a breathtaking vision of how we can turn something, previously used but currently redundant, into something stunning.  Noble and Webster take normal everyday objects and arrange them in such a way that when a light is projected through the objects that they create an identifiable image shadowed on to a background.
Such is their contribution to the British contemporary art scene and their influence on the younger generation of artists that they were both awarded Honorary Degrees of Doctor of Art at Nottingham Trent University in 2009.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Product photography

There is always a sense of catchup when there has been a school holiday and something has to suffer.  In this case it has been my ability to blog.  I have, however, managed to snap half and hour here and there to have a go at getting the photography of my work to a better standard.   It has not been easy.  I wait for the day to be bright but not too sunny.  Shadows are an issue.  I have a lamp that has a bulb which is supposed to mimick daylight, that I have tried to use to get rid of the shadows, but it doesn't seem to make much difference.  You can buy mini kits such as this one but it can mean a bit of a financial outlay.

But the results are good:
See for more information

I don't really have the funding to purchase such items but do have a little bit of a geek tendancy.  I have  tried to recreate a lightbox effect using photoshop and with a bit of sucess, I have figured out how to lighten and square the images and then lighten the background to make the background melt away making the item stand out a bit more.  I am fairly happy with the end result but not totally because there is still that shadowing.


"Disunion Jack"

If you look at my previous post you will be able to compare the original "Spirals" image with the one above that I have manipulated using photoshop.  The next task is to get rid of that shadowing and I think I may have a solution. 

Friday, 27 May 2011

Wheezles and sneezles

Christopher Robin
Had wheezles
And sneezles,
They bundled him
His bed.
They gave him what goes
With a cold in the nose,
And some more for a cold
In the head.
They wondered
If wheezles
Could turn
Into measles,
If sneezles
Would turn
Into mumps;
They examined his chest
For a rash,
And the rest
Of his body for swellings and lumps.
They sent for some doctors
In sneezles
And wheezles
To tell them what ought
To be done.
All sorts and conditions
Of famous physicians
Came hurrying round
At a run.
They all made a note
Of the state of his throat,
They asked if he suffered from thirst;
They asked if the sneezles
Came after the wheezles,
Or if the first sneezle
Came first.
They said, "If you teazle
A sneezle
Or wheezle,
A measle
May easily grow.
But humour or pleazle
The wheezle
Or sneezle,
The measle
Will certainly go."
They expounded the reazles
For sneezles
And wheezles,
The manner of measles
When new.
They said "If he freezles
In draughts and in breezles,
May even ensue."

Christopher Robin
Got up in the morning,
The sneezles had vanished away.
And the look in his eye
Seemed to say to the sky,
"Now, how to amuse them to-day?"

By A A Milne

Oh been poorly with the wheezles and sneezles this week.  The only way to get better is to snuggle up with a good book and a soft cushion.  I'm reading "The Battersea Park Road to Paradise" by Isobel Losada a great way to lift the soul and just the ticket for turning this wheezeyly, sneezely Christopher Robin like girl into a bouncy Tigger like one.  Read the book and you will know what I am on about! 

Here are just a few soft snuggly upcycled cushions that I have created this week, all stuffed with Cornish organic sheeps wool. Be assured, they have not been in contact with any of my germs.  I have my own special snuggly cushion and I call it Dave!

"Vintage Buttons"

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Recycled cushions that smell of the countryside!

Cushions everywhere just waiting to be stuffed with sheeps wool.  It's been  a bit of a learning curve with the felting and rope making.  It took me several attempts to get the ropes to a standard that I was happy with but I got there in the end.  I have a desire to make flowers.  This seems to be a popular choice with many.  I did sucumb, as you will see from the pictures but there are some flowerless shapes too.  The cushions, I make, are stuffed with Cornish organic wool and are so soft.  You can smell the lanolin in them.  I gave one to a prosepective buyer once and she inhaled deeply with her eyes closed and said "Mmm, I smell the countryside.  It's gorgeous"!
A sneaky peek at my next batch of recycled cushions

Friday, 6 May 2011


Would you look at all these jumpers i've acquired.  They're all made from at least 80% pure wool.  I'm not going to wear them, i'm going to felt them.  I love working with felt.  I am not so keen of the synthetic stuff that you get from your standard craft shop.  I much prefer proper handmade felt especially if it is made from old woolly jumpers like these:
This is only about a quarter of the wool jumpers that I have acquired!

cut into strips ready for the felting process
The one thing that I have been meaning to do for a long time is make felt ropes.  The process is a bit of a faf but they look good when done, if I can do it right, and are very versatile.  I found out about felt ropes via the maya*made website.  From here I was able to link to a tutorial available from Odile Gova at Woollyfabulous, a very clever lady who makes the most gorgeous items from felt:
Felt daisy and rose zipper bracelet
Felt daisy and rose zipper bracelet by woollyfabulous
I won't tell you the process for making the ropes because I am sworn to secrecy but you can find out by going to this link.  Here is the end result of my efforts:
They  just need de-fuzzing!

I can tell you, my arms and wrists really ache from making these but I am fairly pleased with the result.  The thing is, what do I do with them?  Any suggestions?

Sunday, 1 May 2011


I have aquired lots of children's clothes and amongst them denim items.  I get all these clothes to sort through.  The good quality ones get refreshed, repaired and sold via this popular auction site.  Those that don't quite make the grade for a second life in their current state, get washed and cut up for use as something else.  Now I have all these patches of denim in varying shades of blueness but what to make with them.  My first sense is to do something patchworky, maybe a cushion.  Here are a few items I have chosen for inspiration:

I love the random nature of this cushion by J Augur Design

Blue Stripes Cushion by Laura Clifford Textiles

The main inspiration of all is around me daily and that has to be my partners paintings.  His main passion is abstract art and his ability to construct an aesthetically pleasing piece of work is far better than mine.    I love the fact that we can have beautiful and original art on our walls at home and I never take this for granted.  I really respect this quality in him and together we are working on combining his artistic skills with my needlework skills to create something original and unique.  These are on our sitting room walls at the moment:

Convergence Spots

In Kilter

And from our collaboration we have come up with our own interpretation of abstract art translated into a cushion design using scraps of denim and other recycled textiles and stuffed with Cornish, soil association approved, organic sheep's wool:
In Kilter - the cushion version!
Reel Around the Fountain


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Happy birthday to me

In celebration of my birthday I bring to you the delights of recycled cards and packaging.  There are so many clever people out there making absolutely beautiful things, to celebrate special events, out of everyday things that we send off for recycling.    I really dislike paying out for mass produced cards as well as all that wrapping paper that, in all probability, thousands of other people will receive for their birthdays and probably chuck out after a few days of being displayed on a shelf in the sitting room.  It's so special to receive a card that someone has made with their own hands or a present that has been lovingly wrapped with handmade paper making it unique and for you only.  I am more likely to keep an handmade card or try and salvage packaging that has been lovingly made. The cards that my children made for me are, most definately my favorites, and will be cherished for years to come!

recycled greeting cards
Handmade cards by Craft stylish

Bird Silhouette
Silhouette card by the Spotted Sparrow

Recycled paper cards and packaging by design*sponge

A wonderful idea that cuts down on waste and great for sending presents throught he post:
The ebay box by Packaging of the World

Friday, 15 April 2011

My fascination with paper continues

I keep stumbling upon things made from paper.  So much paper is sent for recycling from our household.  My feeling is that there is rather alot of unwanted packaging around things I buy from the supermarket.  I'm not bothered that my cornflakes should be in a cardboard box but, I suppose there are many who would object to not having their cornflakes in a shiney box with words on, especially the advertisers.  My children will often forage through our recycling to make things out of boxes and paper.  They're really rather creative in their designs and I like to allow them the freedom to make choices about what they create. 

I have recently come across this artist called Susan Benarcik, an installation artist based in New York who makes these wonderful paper installations amongst other beautiful works of art incorporating paper. I love that she has taken a simple object such is paper and transformed them into something so beautiful.   I hope you enjoy viewing her work as much as I do!

Mental Notes


Friday, 1 April 2011

Folksy Friday: Recycled Paper

Here's a little collection I have curated for your viewing of recycled paper items made by folksy folk.  I just love the idea of upcycling the things that we would usually put in the recycling bin.  I have a bit of an obsession with maps.  I used to do mountain walking before having children, and would spend days poring over maps, planning my route, imagining the landscape and reading them as if they were a good book telling a story in 3D.  I would be tempted to imagine the landscapes in the paper garland and butterfly card but they would be more like a 3D (very) short story.  What an ingenious idea by Nant designs, to bring an old Paxo stuffing box to life again as a note book.  I did something similar for my daughters birthday party with cereal boxes but used the inside of the box as the outside of the book cover and let them design their own covers using printing blocks.  Fancy chopping up a Beano for garlands!  But I quite like the idea.  I may have to get some of these to decorate my son's bedroom though  I will have to watch he doesn't do himself an injury trying to read them!
Large image
Paper garland - recycled map
by Bookity

Large image
Recycled 'Paxo' bos
by Nant Designs

Large image
victorian butterfly case recycled card
by Ethel and Iris

Large image
Recycled comic paperchain
by Lucie Kate & Hazey Jane

Monday, 28 March 2011

Recycle, repurpose upcycle: What it means to me and my work?

Recycle? Repurpose? Downcyle/Upcycle? Unicycle? These buzz words keep popping up in the (rather hippy) regions of the craft circuit, in which I happily circulate.  It can seem rather confusing. Perhaps a brief exploration of their meaning will help me to locate myself in all this.
 Recycling (as most people know) is the process of turning used or waste products into something new. Paper may be pulped and treated in order to make more paper. Most people do this regularly now, and most local authorities are aggressively promoting recycling.  Most items in our domestic household can be recycled and the common items are paper, glass, plastic, aluminum, food, etc.  Repurposing  is to convert something from one use or format to another. We have repurposed old empty cable reels as plant stands on our decking. Upcycling is the process of converting waste or redundant products into something of better quality or of some kind of higher value- be it ecological, social, aesthetic or whatever. Melting plastic bags down in order to form high end furniture is upcycling. Using redundant or waste materials to make art or craft is also upcycling, and this is the particular field where my own interests lie.
These cycles help us to lead  more sustainable lives, which is more important and serious than any buzz word. I lean toward Buddhist philosophy which identifies the cyclic nature of life:  We are born, we live, we die and the process, known as kharma, starts again.  Dharma is the word for the description of the process and the ultimate route to happiness.
I chose the words "making sustainable stunning" as part of my title in order to indicate that my work is not just to recycle or upcycle materials, but also to make them as stunning as possible- to make high quality craft.  So, I wish to demonstrate that I care about environmental issues, and to make others aware of these issues, but most of all I need to create something stunning for someone to cherish until it again finds a new life as something else.
 The 'flyer' part of my user name is simply reference to my birdie surname!

upcycled hat made from old felted jumpers

upcycled cushion made with same textiles as the hat above and stuffed with cornish organic wool