Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Listening & learning

 

I've been musing and mulling over ideas of late.

Taking time to listen, think and notice what's around me.

A friend recently shared the Dalai Lama's words with me and they hit me with their simplicity.

"When we talk, we are only repeating what we already know. But if we listen, we may learn something new."

Window gazing.

Walking from here to there I happened upon this little mouse practising her juggling skills.

I spotted the most exquisite dress in a vintage shop.

Gathering my thoughts together while I look about.

Despite the heavy bank holiday rain the dealers came out to trade and so I went off to see what fabrics and trims might be about.
Slim pickings of some beautiful barkcloth, but great to meet up with friends and chat to other inspiring artisans. More about that on my next post.
The rest of the bank holiday was spent trying out ideas for workshops which involved running up a couple of new tops.
A Red Riding Hood from Burda 7203 found on Treefall blog.
Then followed by this Pussy Bow Blouse in some beautiful lightweight 1940's cotton.
 
There wasn't enough for sleeves so I carefully bound the armholes.

All in an a day. With a bit of cursing too.

I've also been busy gathering fabrics to offer more Happy Shoppers for sale. These have both arrived with their new owners .

Last week a friend texted me to say Milk & Moss Coffee were searching for makers to run creative workshops in their cafe. Rather than think about it I messaged Sophie the owner of the cafe straight away. Usually following your instinct is the best way.
We met up, chatted ideas and that's how I will be running a Felt Floral Brooch workshop there on Thursday 21st between 7 to 9pm. For £30 you'll have one to one tuition, all the materials you'll need plus a hot drink and slice of cake.
Spaces are limited so please get in touch here, by email or via my Instagram page if you fancy coming along. It would be lovely to meet you.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Life in all it's finery

I've a whole of stuff to share with you today. Good lord how ever did I find the time to go to work? Whilst I do need to find a job very soon, for now I'm making the most of this unexpected break.
I've been busy catching up with friends, following leads for work with people I know. It's who you know they say, not what you know after all. But then, wouldn't they find out you didn't know much if that was really true? Ideas have been mulled, things are being made and big changes are afoot.
Now before I get going telling you all my news, I have to say your responses to my post about Vanessa were very touching. I'm going to go and put a reply to each of them next promise. If I say here how I really feel it risks sounding gushy, I'm not gushy, but I'm honest so thankyou for your kind words and for stopping by to visit as you do.

Right off we go.
Somehow, with all this extra time off I've had plenty of fabric, plenty of plan, but little time for stitching. I have cut out and started the Elizabeth dress from the Burda vintage book. I plan to make a colourful net to wear underneath too.

One thing that took a bit if time was putting our home up for sale the week after Easter. Lots of tidying and sprucing to look less like we live here! In a week and a half we had lots of viewings and then last Friday a lovely couple looked around and then two hours later offered the full asking price.

Our Millie is a believer in Christianity, plus touches of Buddhism. I tend more towards my own spirituality, but we've always encouraged our girls to have faith in their own beliefs. She told me later that in Christian Union club at school on Friday they were asked to say a prayer for something important to them. Millie told me yesterday she'd prayed our house would sell. She was a bit shocked when it happened.

This helps me worry a bit less about her. My eldest Rosey just wants to move on and start our new life, for all her strength she's sensitive underneath, very like her mum. Millie is the more genuinely kind one of us all. The empathetic girl who always responds to and thinks of others needs before her own. I've worried that she might become hardened by all of this, but perhaps it's just growing up that does that anyway. She hasn't wanted to leave our magical home where so many memories are stored. Neither do I, but sometimes you just have to be realistic and face facts don't you. Her prayer reassured me a bit that she's doing ok.

These are from the agents details of our home. I thought you might like a quick look round. I also want to store our memories away in the right boxes so we can return if we wish.





Right enough of that emotional stuff and on to the next thing.
Last week I made my first ever carrot cake. Now isn't that news indeed. Millie's been asking me for ages to bake one. Well I assumed they were a whole lot of faff. Turns out it wasn't. The faff was that it got eaten in less than two days so a bigger ones needed next time.

Other discoveries have been a double crochet blanket in Oxfam, plus a very interesting book with writing exercises.

I found out that by mixing the blue bottle with the pink bottle I had a very drinkable drink.

A new little friend has been coming to bed with me this week too. It doesn't snore or insist on absolute darkness either.

In bed of an evening I've been stitching together the squares for my quarter of the Do You Mind if I Knit Blanket.

I've also got distracted by more fabric, more blinking ideas.
How could I resist?

As I'm typing this I've just had a text asking me to go out for the evening. Let's get glammed up I was told . Seems I might need this sassy dress soon after all.
I'm moving from being wife and mum to younger girls, to having teenage daughters who are growing into very wonderful young ladies and being Lisa. It's all very exciting really when you ignore the scary bits.

I also came across this on Facebook, it describes me perfectly.
Rules have always driven me insane.
I've been ignoring them most of my life when I can. I intend to carry on doing so.
Number 4 on the list sums up how I always listen to my instincts first. Thank heavens I did when I gave no time for thought about starting the Do You Mind if I Knit? Blanket project. I just got on with the doing.
On Tuesday evening I opened the doors to the Just Giving page for tickets to take part in the raffle to win the blanket. They're £2 each and it's open to everyone around the world to take part. You have until midnight on June 1st to buy some and please tell as many people as you can to take a look. All monies raised go straight to The Mental Health Foundation, as asked for by Vanessa's family as this is a charity which helped Vanessa with their Mindfullness programme.
When I last looked this morning we had nearly hit the £200 mark already.
Please follow the link straight to the page by clicking on the badge at the top of my page.
Well that's me done for another day for now. Back again soon.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Do You Mind if I Knit? Blanket

It can be quite hard to explain to someone who doesn't write or read blogs, take part in Instagram or any of the other online platforms what it's really all about. I usually find people are polite but bewildered when I try and explain how I posted a picture of a ball of wool and then all these people I've never met have a good old chat about it with me.
In the main they're really not all that interested. No matter, it's my twilight world outside of the everyday where many exciting and wonderful things have happened over the past six years. One of the most amazing parts of this world is the networking and friendships that come from it. There are people to chat to who share your interests, people who are supportive and caring, people who inspire each other, people to have a blinking good laugh with while you're on your own in the bath drinking a beer and tapping out a conversation.
Invisible threads link us all so that was how I was given a lovely hug from Ellie of Jelly Jam down in Dorset via my friend Cat of Lulumama the other evening. Eleanor of Stitches and Seeds commented on my blog a while back so I followed the link to the island she was living on in the South Pacific. When her family returned back to Scotland she mentioned her neighbour was the artist Vanessa Cabban. I said "say hi to Vanessa for me please". Not adding I'd missed chatting to her since her life changed direction.
Reaching out in this way meant that when Vanessa died in December 2014 Eleanor emailed me and sent the announcement from her family. I remember how stunned I was and then I cried for this beautiful lady I'd never met, but who I'd talked to via emails and on the phone. This lady who was so gentle, amazingly talented, warm, funny, colourful and inspiring who I hoped I would meet one day. This lady who wrote the Do You Mind if I Knit? blog and illustrated children's books, painted, knitted and stitched, visited gardens and celebrated her joy in life as well as hinting at some of her lows.


I felt it important to share the news on my Instagram feed and blog as I knew Vanessa meant so much to a lot of people here too. As word of this sad news spread there was an overwhelming amount of love shown and shock at her death.
On the day of her funeral on the 30th December I started an Instagram memorial for Vanessa at 11am with the hashtag #vanessacabban. Each of us wrote under our chosen picture what she meant to us. It was understandably an emotional day reading all the tributes as they rolled in one after another on my feed and the private messages I received afterwards.

Although I'd read Vanessa's blog for a while and we'd chatted about this and that in emails, I got to know her a bit more in 2010 when she revealed a beautiful papier mâché of Emily and her piggy. She'd made this pair for herself, but was starting to make little teacups and such for sale.

It was a new direction for Vanessa and one that she felt anxious to ensure she developed in her own style.
I was blown away when I saw this pair and knew straight away that I'd love one of my sheep mad girl captured in this way. My girl who named all Sheep Betty after the Shirley Hughes poem about an elderly sheep.
I thought how on earth can I ask such a question? Surely it would seem cheeky. Turns out Vanessa was absolutely thrilled and honoured to be asked. She said being her first unasked for commission in papier mâché it really boosted her confidence. So by asking, the project got under way and by asking her Vanessa told me she felt thrilled to know she was creating something that others responded to.

We spoke a lot in the months it took to create this amazing piece, Millie and her Beautiful Betty. I answered Vanessa's questions, sent her photos and we just chatted, all in her quest to capture my girls essence in her 9th year.
Can you imagine my delight when the finished piece arrived in a large box in March 2011 just in time for Millie's birthday.

When Vanessa's life changed direction she withdrew from her blog, understandably finding it hard to find the same words and expression she once did. Her work changed in style, but thankfully she was still creating. I still sent her messages to say hello as I was concerned about her, as quite a few of us were I've since found out.
So this brings us back to what she meant to me and in the same vein how she touched so many others with her generous spirit and inspiring creativity.
After the online memorial I was asked if I'd thought of raising money for mental health by @dansnan by possibly making a blanket. I pondered for a day and chatted about it before putting the idea out on Instagram on New Years Eve. The response was a big YES.

In my head I saw a blanket made up of patchwork squares using Vanessa's striking signature colours. The Little Squares scarf she made influenced by Sophie Digard's work was my starting point. I spoke to my friend Penny at Planet Penny to chat over yarns and such and between us we agreed on a cost effective one with a good palette. Penny kindly sorted out the colour cards for me.
I asked my mate Jane of Teawagontales if she could make an identity badge for the project, so out came her paints.

Once the colour cards arrived I got down to the design and maths part, working out sizes, number of squares and how many of each colour were needed.

With this all done it was time to launch the project and see if it could work. I had emailed Vanessa's parents initially with our condolences. Later on I wrote again explaining the blanket and to ask if they were happy with this. I got a lovely reply from her mum Cherry saying "this is a Vanessa world! She so loved blogging" and that they were in support of our project. I chose Instagram as it's the easiest place to chat quickly back and forth to announce it all.. In early January of this year I wrote a post explaining it, describing what was needed and how to make a square. This was on a Saturday and by the Sunday all squares had been taken with requests for more coming in. I also asked a couple of people who I knew Vanessa meant a lot to, but were no longer on Instagram if they wanted to take part. I had to enlarge the blanket in the end so that everyone who wanted to could take part in a project that meant something personally to each and everyone involved. All of us have been touched by mental health issues in some way or other so it was a special thing to be part of.


My online friend Laetitia of The Bloggings of Mrs Bertimus was sad she can't crochet, but I found a way for her to be involved. She's a darned fabulous artist herself and creates stunning machine stitcheries so I asked her if she could create the date badge for the blanket.

As the weeks rolled by I received little parcels of coloured squares. Inside were hand written notes, cards, sometimes gifts and chocolate. Just as I'd started this fundraising project my own marriage completely fell apart. This was when the online community's friendship and these little parcels really came into their own. This project kept me busy in a good way and was just what I needed in one of the hardest parts of my life so far.

All the way though this project there have been offers to make extra squares if needed, to sew them together and to spread the word. Complete generosity and enthusiasm from this kind, supportive and caring place.
By Easter I'd received all of the squares and so it was time to get on with the next exciting part of all this. Penny of Planet Penny, Celia of Purple Podded Peas and Caroline of @granplumley and I set a date to meet and put the squares together before we stitched them up.

When I asked for help setting up a Just Giving page and Zoe of @Sweetpea.1 immediately put up her hand to offer to do it.
It was all written and ready and waiting to go by last Tuesday.
On theThursday the ladies arrived for the assemble and stitch. Sadly Caroline couldn't make it because of work, she'll still be stitching her squares once I've dropped them off.
It was truly exciting to start laying them out. We worked in quarters and moved the squares up and down until we were happy with the arrangement.

Walking out of the room and then back in to see it laid out made me behind happy. Having taken a leap into this project I then worried all along "what if they look awful together, what if I've got it wrong". Stupid really but that's caring about something for you and wanting it to work.

How could it fail really with all these amazing women giving their time and belief to it.
By early afternoon Celia, Penny and I had eaten all the cake, munched our lunch in the sun and were ready to start stitching our pile of squares.

Lots more stitching still needed and then we'll meet up to stitch all four pieces together and ta dah, there we will have one Do You Mind if I Knit? Blanket. Phew.


This week the Just Giving page will go live. I'll post the link here and on Instagram for you. All tickets for the raffle to have a chance of winning this beautiful and original blanket, plus most importantly give to an important cause will be priced at £2 each. We have opened it up so everyone from around this whole planet can take part.
Now that's not the end of the story.
@louloubone said she'd love to make a blanket like this as well as buy tickets. Well that got my brain whirring again yesterday as I watched Rosey playing her netball matches. I thought how about creating a pattern to sell as a PDF with more funds being raised for The Mental Health Foundation.
Once again I asked online and they said YES, plus offered help and ideas. So watch this space for more news on this too.
Right I tried this on Instagram and it turns out you can't mention lots of people in one post, but I can
here so I shall. These are all the wonderful people,in addition to the ones above, who made squares for this blanket. Some are bloggers, but I've used their Instagram names:

@bobbieanddave @relovedpreloved @dockandnettle @henpin @littleteawagon @ cupcakejojo @ coffeekisses @granplumley @melliemoo_xx @sweetpea.1 @louloubone @cuckoob @forgetmenotbluehome @janegoble @fondantfancy @stitchesandseeds @juliapblue @revampedvintage1 @tiddlesjim @frenchknotsjo @mumquarr @pinkmilk42 @planetpenny @sam71 @chippernelly @celiahartartist @sam_loves_vintage @attic24 @nelnanandnora @adabea @bobobun68 @penelopmakes @lollystitches @amandabloom2@lucy_milner @rabbitquilter @mrspip @mrs_bertimus @hellolouisa @yarnroundhook@justlaalaa_ @rebeccamaryjane and finally Vanessa of Coco Rose Diaries.
What more can you say to show how positive this online lark is.





Saturday, 18 April 2015

Change can be ok

This week all sorts of stuff has been thrown at me.
The most interesting being the loss of the fabulous course I've run for the past three years. I'd hoped to stay employed until July at least so I'd have money to get through until September, but other than the possibility of cover teaching work it just isn't to be. Lots of politics and shenanigins so tight lipped and affecting a devil may care attitude that I'm sure you all know to be nonsense.
Our home has also gone on the market, so now we have strangers visiting deciding if it's good enough for them or not.
With all of this going on my daughters, friends and mum are blinking stars. Keeping me sane, happy and laughing.
Do you know, I really didn't realise what fabulous people I knew. Each and everyone of them has shown themselves to be the best kind of friend someone could ask for when distractions and company are badly needed.
In the midst of this I contacted my mate in Oz who was the closest thing to family I'd ever known. We didn't speak for over a year after a thing that happened. Then you wake up and realise it's just not worth losing some people. Right now it turns out she needs a bloody good mate too. I even wonder if might use some of our house sale money to go on a long plane trip.

There are people I've met through blogging and now through Instagram who have become real mates, others who I can't wait to meet up with and know I will one day soon.
For a girl who was a real outsider and a quiet loner once she seems to have grown into a woman who has found where she fits and who actually enjoys all this sociable stuff a whole lot.
I'm also wondering if I should finally send that letter to the lady who gave birth to me. I've a few brothers and sisters I'd love to get to know, plus all that wider family I've never bad.
Next week I'm joining the W.I. I'm thrilled you know as I've fancied this for a bit, but couldn't find the one for me.
Through vintage markets I've met quite a few of my mates. Everyone knows everyone else. For a couple of years I've known my W.I. mate, but just recently we've started to get to know each other better. I like her a lot.
To be honest, my marriage ending has meant I've got to know a lot of people better. Not because I wasn't allowed to, but it's a time thing isn't it. I gave my time to my family life. Now I share it out more and that's a really positive thing to come from all of this.
I'm a firm believer in trying to find the good, the positive, the upbeat and what I might learn from something.
At a low moment this week I gathered a small bit of my fabric stash together and took a few happy photos. My own therapy which worked.
Now I have a few irons in the fire still. Two friends have given me heads up on possible jobs so I'm meeting up with them next week. I'm taking some bits to sell from a shop in Southwold. Then, excitingly three ladies and I will be getting together to put together the Do You Mind if I Knit Blanket?
All the squares are in so it's time to get stitching ready for the raffle to raise funds for MIND in memory of Vanessa.
Fabric, friends and family are what make my life tick. My head has a few ideas for our future, one a blinking big idea that requires a leap of faith and courage.
I keep telling myself over and over, you have far more courage than you have fear.
For now I'm thinking, researching and keeping as sane as a woman can do who is watching her world dissolve before her eyes.
I intend to find the best I can from all of this and use it.
That's where all these wonderful people I know and that's you included come in.
You say the most incredibly supportive things that really hold me up through this time. Even though I'm getting worse at replying through blogger, I need you to know that your comments are so very appreciated, make me feel comforted and wish that I could say to you right there and then thankyou and for you to know I really do mean it.
I'd started off intending to waffle on about fabric and hide my thoughts, sometimes the writing just takes over. I've let it for today.