Wednesday 28 September 2011


 My vegetable gardening failure has reached almost legendary status.
 But I can grow things on my sewing machine, in the fertile soil of my spare room, on a bed of felt.
 I water with thread and feed with velvet.
 I judiciously prune the leaves (splitting infinitives as I skip merrily through the pumpkin patch) 

and when they are ripe I can pick them.
 then lay them out for quality control.

 As in life there are a couple of left handers.
 Ten fat pumpkins all made into brooches for Halloween chic.
 Available here by request or in my etsy shop for slightly more.
 Pick a number. any number.
All different. 
(Blog readers get 20% discount on anything in my etsy shop with coupon code 'squashes' until 22nd October)

Monday 26 September 2011

How to make a brooch

Technical ability
Handmade felt.
Hand dyed silk velvet
Machine threads
Liberty cotton lawn
Fabric glue
brooch pin


  • For the technical ability

Spend five years studying C&G creative studies and learning skills. Join Felt group and learn technical skills of feltmaking. Join International Feltmakers asscociation and Embroiderers guild.
  • For the inspiration
Study, draw, visit exhibitions, read books, look at pattern and colour...for years.
  • For the felt:
First drive 60 miles to Wingham wool works and buy merino wool tops. Drive home.
Spend a while on the internet choosing colours and ordering.

Then spend a few days laying out the fibres, wetting, soaping rubbing and rolling the wool tops until you have felt.
Next spend a day letting it dry. If its winter and central heating is on, or if its a sunny summer day, but if its a grey damp humid summers day it will probably take 2 or 3 days to dry.

  • For the velvet:

Buy three metres of silk viscose velvet from Whaleys Bradford at  minimum £18 a metre plus P&P.
Buy a selection of Kemtex cold water dyes plus soda ash, urea and syringes. Mix up several pots of dye mix. Prepare plastic bags for dyed fabric.
Spend a day tearing the velvet into small pieces and space dyeing them. Leave them  overnight and next day rinse several times until the water runs clear. Dry then finish  in tumble dryer to preserve the pile.

  • For the threads:
Order Natesh threads from Silken Strands , pay and wait for the delivery next day.
  • Bondaweb: phone Freudenberg non-wovens and order a 25 m roll of bondaweb .
  • Find Bfnt online and choose the three hole brooch backs . Order and wait for delivery.
  • Liberty cotton lawn: Find a market stall, friend with offcuts and buy or beg.
  • Make a room in your house to sew in.
  • Fabric glue:find some on ebay and order.

Prepare the room for sewing. (Electricity, sewing machine, lights, chair, iron,ironing board) and have a lot of fun for about 10 minutes applique-ing velvet to felt and drawing with the needle to produce a little patterned piece of art.

Repeat ad nauseum  infinitum or until creativity dries up.

Trim .
Glue the brooch back to the back of each piece. 
Cover back
Trim the excess fabric away.
Finish with a coating of dilute PVA to prevent fuzzing of the surface, and leave to dry.

To sell:
Photograph from all sides and upload photos.
Compose description and add tags on Etsy. 
Promote shop by twitter, blog, Flickr and Facebook.
Wait for a lovely person to buy. 
Leave feedback.
Print card labels.
Wrap in cello bag, tissue, jiffy bag.
Print address labels and 'thank you' label.
Walk down to the post office and pay for postage. If its a Wednesday (half day closing)drive to the next village 
Keep proof of posting for accountant. 
Pay Etsy fee. Pay paypal fee.

Apply to several craft fairs and accept rejection from some and ensuing depression. Pa fee.
Drag yourself along to one with all your stock, set it out and stand there for two days or so selling or not.

If you are very lucky send items to lovely Galleries who have asked you for goods usually at a reduced rate. Not always!

Submit accounts to accountant.
Pay accountant.

How much do they cost? 

Is it really too much?

UPDATE: several commenters have asked if this is in response to something that has happened. No it isn't in particular but its something I've been thinking about for some time. 

Friday 23 September 2011


The whitest legs in Christendom have been scaring fish in the blue waters of the Aegean for the last week. I performed a valuable public service..making everyone else on the beach feel tanned.
 Up a total of 168 steep steps we found the delightful Villa Iris above the harbour on the beautiful Island of Symi in the Dodecanese Islands.

We arrived in Rhodes on 15th September and spent the afternoon strolling and exploring the old town.

I once saw a film about  Rhodes as 'The crossroads of Civilisation' and so it is, with remnants of the Crusades and the Moors everywhere.
The pavements in the old town are suitcase wheel wreckers..but very beautiful.

In a side street snuggled against the city wall we found a lovely small taverna where we ate our first Kalamari of the week and restrained ourselves from buying a wine can. 
They look colourful  and  right on  Greek Island but once in UK a bit different.

A glance over a ruined wall revealed a huge patch of Morning glory...


The Dodecanisos Seaways Express whizzed us from Old Kolonna Harbour to Symi island in about an hour and we were taken to our villa, high above Yialos, cool and airy with a lovely terrace from where we could watch the goings-on the harbour.

Can you see us? Find the ruin just right of centre, and ours is the one on the lower left of it with white windows almost in the centre of the top of the picture above the brown vertical stripe of the near building.
Take a look around the inside of a Greek Island house, albeit with a French owner and a few added artefacts.

It was an airy and  really pleasant place to relax in with a stunning view.

But of course it comes at a price: the view can only be so spectacular because its high..steep steps to climb..every night.

Here's one particularly steep run. I loved this bit. Or I should say the look of it.Climbing it was another matter. The doors and the walls painted pink and lilac, and the huge pile of fallen and dried bouganvilla petals that lay on the lower steps held the picture together. Enlarge to get the best view.

Most beaches on Symi are too remote to be reached by foot so you have to go down to the harbour to catch a taxi boat . However, Nimborio is walkable and one of the roads over the hill started above our house, so join me on the road to Nimborio.

Upwards from the house.
 Passing a few neighbours on the way.

Island life is relaxed and there is no manicuring of the landscape here.

 In searing heat we passed a little chapel with a ships mast in the grounds.
 We saw where the donkeys go after work.
 Parts of the road are paved with marble.
 Notice there is no shade whatsoever.
 Until we reach another church.
 Just what you imagine on a Greek Island?
 At last a glimpse of the sea.
 Look at this road.
 How did they build it? 'Health and safety gone mad' is not a phrase you hear often in Greece!
 The beautiful Aegean.
 Sudden amazing flowers jump out from behind a fence.
 Look carefully and you will see sea anemones here just beneath the surface.

Finally we reach Nimborio where we swim in the clear blue sea , 

lie under the Tamarisk Trees 
 and eat at the taverna until its time to walk home on the lower road.

On another day we caught the new and very fast taxi boat to Marathounda beach.
 We lay under the rather tatty umbrellas and ate in the taverna and swam in the sea....again!
 A hard life.

Excellent food here, especially the bread.

We had fun fending off the locals!
 On our return to the harbour we went for the obligatory frappe/ouzo/ or Mythos beer at Pacos bar, watching the world of Symi go by.

 Ancient looking Gulets from Turkey jostle with huge charter yachts with staff rushing about swabbing the decks .
 The best day was went we went on a boat trip around the Island in a Traditional caique, The Poseidon.
The first stop was at a blue cave where some people swam. I didn't.
Then to St Emillianos where we looked around the monastery, swam, and ate the most delicious picnic prepared on the boat,
 and the barbecue.
 Saw a little resident.

Then off to more isolated beaches for swimming in the gorgeous water.

 The week continued much in the same way. Walking, swimming, eating, sunbathing. But still my legs remained as white as the driven snow! All hopes of changing that vanished on the last day, when we once more walked to Nimborio and after our swim .....
 .......the heavens opened! It was a first for us, to see rain in Symi. And what rain! Thunder and lightening. We all moved into the taverna where the roof cover began to bow with the weight of water, so Maria got her brush and pushed it off. Much laughter ensued as it hit the umbrellas and poured back in over someones tzatziki.

 It was a lovely holiday. The only downside was the air traffic controllers strike in Rhodes which resulted in 7 hours at the airport. Ah well.

I'll finish this post with a hazy view from our bedroom window, which was covered in a bamboo blind.We were lying in bed one morning when this woke us.
especially the last few seconds.

A Greek Holiday:A little piece of stained glass in the wall of memory.
Hope you liked it.

st of my pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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