Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Quick News Spot

I'm currently busy creating more polymer clay octopuses while the snow slowly turns into multitudes of icicles. Looks like another intense winter for Scotland.

I have just posted a giveaway on my facebook page

And Suzanne, a lovely fellow McEtsian, has done a little feature on me on her blog.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Some Day ...

Here I am almost 2 weeks into NaNoWriMo and falling dreadfully behind on my word count. I see posts on the NaNo forums whose authors are already past the 50,000 word count and we're not even halfway through the month. I haven't even hit 11,000 yet. And while I am managing to write something every day (even if it's only 100 words or so) so many other things are just not getting done at all.

For example, I haven't found the time to work out how to photograph my Medieval belt designs so that the details are clear while at the same time the whole item fits in the picture (see above). Suggestions very welcome, oh pretty please!

It is so easy to get caught up in all the little things that seem urgent but aren't terribly important in the long run. And then there are such a lot of them that they seem to work like a black hole and suck all of your time away. So many things you would like to do fall prey to the "I don't have time right now but I'll do that tomorrow" and tomorrow is always a day away. So time passes and you find you still haven't done whatever it was. I've got a long list of those things, waiting for the day I finally have time to do them.

Well, I'm no magician when it comes to ticking off those "some day" plans (hence the list) and I have a notebook that my sister gave me 18 years ago with the inscription "I look forward to seeing this published!" which is still empty. But for me NaNoWriMo is about making a start and, even if it takes me another 18 years, I'm going to get there.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Words, Weekends and Wickerman

Why do I always seem to find more to do when I already have a list as long as my arm? As if I didn't already have a queue of things patiently awaiting my attention, I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo. For those not in the know that is short for National Novel Writing Month and it is happening now.

I must admit I have always wanted to write a novel but never had the motivation. This seemed like the perfect way to get started. You have a clear goal (50,000 words in 30 days) and plenty of support if you join in on the forums and events. What you write doesn't have to be blindingly brilliant, it's just a first draft after all. Four days in and I'm just on target, my hubby has read chapter one and says he wants to read more (always a good thing to hear) and I have a rough idea of where I want the story to go (although I neglected to do any advance planning - oops!).

Unfortunately there are side effects I had not counted on. My eyes seem to be losing the ability to focus due to spending hours starting at a blank white page. I have a head that feels like it's stuffed with cotton wool. I feel guilty if I do anything, including eat, before I've at least managed to write a few hundred words for the day. And I'm beginning to worry that I won't manage to leave the house for the whole of November.

At least I spent my last weekend of freedom (for a month) out in the fresh air at Archaeolink and just to prove it ...

(Did I say fresh air? Better change that to flame-filled.)

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Autumn Madness

No new photos to share and the bag tutorial has been put on hold while the house undergoes a good clear out and some re-organisation. Everyone talks about spring cleaning but I find that autumn is when I get the urge to completely re-vamp my home. I guess it's a preparing for winter instinct (like hibernating animals stuffing themselves to build fat).

There will be some great benefits when I'm finished though. I will finally have all my fabric organised so I can actually see what I have and start to plan some projects. There is currently a pile of storage boxes waiting to be filled, but this will require getting ALL my fabric out so I can sort it by colour (OCD here we come). I will also have a little more space as I've steeled myself to be ruthless and actually give away items I will probably never use. Mind you, this will most likely lead to an uncontrollable urge to buy more to fill the gap.

I also have a small flurry of sewing alterations that have just come in. All of these customers have been looking for someone to do this for several months at least. It seems strange to me that so few people offer this type of service, especially when it is mostly just taking up hems. Oh well, at least it will keep me busy.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Roman Food Evening

Well, another victory for the Romans. On Monday I was involved in a Roman Food Evening at Elgin Museum that turned out to be rather a success.

Tickets for the event had sold out some time before the night, making me rather nervous to say the least. And, unlike the brilliant Museum Curator, David, I am not in the habit of speaking in front of an audience. Hence this rabbit-in-the-headlights picture of me taken by my lovely husband just before the event began.

I think I only put one person to sleep during my talk and everyone seemed to enjoy the food tasting afterward. Shona, the chef from the Beach Bar in Lossiemouth, had done a magnificent job with completely unfamiliar recipes and some unusual ingredients.

All in all, a successful event, although I doubt this is the beginning of my worldwide lecture tour.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Random Rambling

Where did August go? I'm positive some sneaky individual hit the fast forward button while I wasn't looking. If it was you, take note, I'm on the lookout now and you won't catch me out for September.

For anyone looking forward to the Tote Tutorial, I have a little progress report: I have taken a photo of the cut out pieces of fabric. And that's it! Aren't you just amazed at the huge amount I have accomplished towards this project in a mere four and a bit weeks. With my speed and prowess I'm sure I could revolutionise the world in the blink of an eye (or maybe a few centuries).

I did manage to corner my poor husband and force him to play photographer on one of those rare sunny days we had. So I finally have some shots of my polymer clay lentil necklaces on a model (only me, I'm afraid). Due to the wonders of Picnik I was able to take some rather oddly lit shots and come away with decent pictures. I'm particularly pleased with the one below because it's the first image I've been able to get of this necklace where the colours look right.

But now, fair readers, the lists call and I must away.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Handmade Quilts to Support Children with Cancer

As the curator of the McEtsy blog, I have had an event brought to my attention that I think deserves a mention. Michelle of Rubarb & Ginger, has made a commitment to help children with cancer by making quilts. Individual, customised quilts will be made for children at Ninewells hospital plus extra quilts will be sold to raise funds for CLIC Sargent.

Michelle has asked anyone who has spare fabric (or suitable craft materials) that they would be willing to donate or anyone who would like to help make squares for the quilts to please get in touch. You can check out the latest news about the event on the Rubarb & Ginger blog.

I think this is a really worthwhile endeavor and want encourage anyone who can offer their support to contact Michelle.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Not For the Fainthearted

I recently managed to get registered with an NHS dentist, after being without for 5 years. The dentist assured me that my teeth were fine, but I would need to visit the hygienist after such a long break. Today was the day and I'm sure you'll be quite relieved to discover there are no photos accompanying this blog post.

As I lay back in the chair, I was advised that the water syringe could be a little cold and if I wanted a break I could raise my hand. I can handle cold, I thought, I like the cold. What I got was an experimental form of water torture. It may be called a water syringe (although I wouldn't trust my memory on this) but it feels like a pneumatic drill. Firstly my face started to spasm, but I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing calmly through my nose. As the pain increased I tried to calculate how much of my mouth there was left to do and if I could make it all the way through without biting the hygienist's hand off. I was afraid if I asked her to stop I wouldn't be able to let her begin again, so I lay there clenching my hands over my stomach and trying desperately to keep my mouth open wide enough for her to actually finish the job.

Finally she stopped and asked if I was fine. I gargled unintelligibly. The hygienist correctly interpreted this to mean I needed to rinse and spit before I could manage human speech. I was concerned at this point that I was on a compassionate break, due to all the face twitching, and I was going to have to lie back for more. Relieved to find this was not the case, I discovered that now it was time to have miniature bottle brushes forced between my teeth. In comparison to what had gone before, this was almost pleasant, even if not painless. After testing a couple of sizes, the hygienist informed me that the brushes should fit when the swelling had gone down and not to worry about bleeding for the next 7-10 days.

Thinking that my ordeal was over, I started to relax, only to be cheerfully informed that I'd had a general clean and that next week she'll be going under the gums. As I sit here, hours later, nursing an aching jaw, I wonder if it's feasible to give up eating and drinking altogether so I don't have to go back.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Sew, Sew, Sew Your Tote

First up on the list of sewing jobs must be the tote bags I've had cut out ready to put together since the beginning of the year. And that brings me to a good tip if ever I had one (although I admit I don't remember if it was my idea or if I borrowed it from someone else): hang onto those heavy duty plastic covers that sheets and duvet sets come in and use them to store your sewing projects. I even included thread and buttons in a couple of the bags (how organised am I?).

I'm looking forward to finally seeing these completed, mostly as an excuse to start cutting fabric for new projects. Fortunately this should only take me a day or two (allowing for the spate of interruptions I can guarantee will occur as soon as I switch the machine on) as you can also see my pile of men's shirts awaiting transformation in the background.

This is what the finished article should look like, and this design is fairly simple to put together. If I'm very organised I'll have my camera ready when I'm putting these new ones together so I can post a tutorial sometime in the near future.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Advance of the Octopus

A number of interests have all come together in the last couple of days. A love of marine creatures, steampunk, randomness and polymer clay finally combined, resulting in a small collection of miniature cephalopods.

I hold my hands up and admit they are not anatomically correct, for a start they are suckerless. They are also somewhat different in colour to wild octopuses but just as difficult to photograph. And yet, these delicate little creatures have just devoured most of my day and I don't regret it one bit.

I'm not sure what to do with the unattached ones. Are they too delicate to use as pendants and, if not, how would I safely attach them?

I will now be packing away my polymer clay for a while as I have a large list of sewing projects waiting, and there is only room for one thing at a time on my dining table. Look out for upcoming projects including my version of Kristen's Men's Shirt Makeover (

Friday, 23 July 2010

Fuzzy Dice of Change

After many false starts, I finally took the plunge and used the template designer to update the look of my blog. Here is me moving away from the safe, but rather plain, black into a new world of light and colour (although I haven't gotten rid of black altogether). As has often been said, a change is as good as a holiday (which I have also been trying to enjoy).

And in this mood of change, I feel that it is time to stop spreading myself so thinly and focus on what is most important. After all, now that I'm 40, I have to admit that there is not enough time in any one lifetime, possibly even in half a dozen, to do all the things I have on my lists. When there are so many things demanding a look in, nothing actually gets the attention it deserves. Very likely, I will also need to stop procrastinating, but that is a whole other truckload of fuzzy dice.

What this means for anyone dropping in on this blog is that, yes, you guessed it, lots more polymer clay with possibly some sewing thrown in. I might even manage the odd tutorial (once I work out how to do the technical putting-it-on-my-blog stuff).

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Turning Forty

My poor blog has, once again, been woefully neglected. I do have one or two pathetic excuses but I'm really not sure they let me off the hook at all.

On a positive note, I have accepted the challenge of keeping the McEtsy Team blog ticking over and have managed to do better there than I have here. It's a great team with an amazing variety of talent and I'm enjoying getting to know everyone (and one day I might even meet some of them!). You can check out the blog at

Another positive, and not really an excuse for my bloglessness, is my imminent 40th birthday. I know many approach this milestone with dread, but I'm actually finding it quite amusing. I certainly don't feel 40 on the inside, although externally my body does sometimes remind me that I'm not 20, or even 30, anymore. I think there are so many advantages to being that little bit older and wiser. I've mostly learned to enjoy the moment instead of constantly yearning for what hasn't arrived yet. I haven't lost any of my enthusiasm and excitement in learning something new (see previous posts about polymer clay for proof). And I admit I'm very fortunate to have a gorgeous, affectionate husband and son whom I love to bits.

Above is your no expense spared, free of charge, totally gratuitous polymer clay photo, because you can't have a blog without at least one picture :-D

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Grey Skies

Well, the gloomy grey skies have conspired to keep me indoors this week. Although, true to the saying "Every cloud has a silver lining", this has meant that I finally sanded all my polymer clay lentil beads and can now start putting them into some actual jewellery. I managed to reward myself for all that work by making a couple of pieces and one is pictured below.

And there are other benefits. The on and off again sunshine and rain has made my garden go wild and, as long as none of us get swallowed by the knee high lawn and I continue to ignore the weeds elbowing their way in between the "proper" plants, I can smile every time I look out the window. The "Dig In" seeds ( I managed to plant last month are growing well on my windowsill and I hope to get them out into the garden later this month. I'll certainly need to move the french beans before they get much more triffid-like. A little bit of clear weather will likely prompt a gardening frenzy and then I can leave it all to itself again for another wee while.

Speaking of time, there's not that much of it left until the summer holidays when, for six weeks, work takes a back seat to being a mum. Which means that I really should be filling every moment until then with getting as much done as possible. Ahhh, but all work and no play makes Jo a dull girl - so there might just have to be a little bit of fun in there somewhere, cue more experiments in polymer clay!

Monday, 7 June 2010

The Sky is the Limit

As I seem to have been lacking in blogger motivation lately, I've decided to look to the skies for some much needed inspiration. Now one thing I think Scotland does particularly well is clouds. I understand that we can sometimes get tired of them day after day but it would be a shame to wish them away and miss out on all their incredible beauty.

I admit I have a bit of a fascination for clouds and have a large collection of cloud photos. But there is such an array of shapes and, dare I say it, moods to these simple collections of water vapour.

I'm sure even the most sun-loving Scot would have to admit that sunrises and sunsets are much improved by the addition of some suitable clouds. And the sight of shafts of light piercing through the cloud cover to fall on the landscape like a spotlight always thrills me.

So ends my small tribute!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Baking of Bread

Oh, how neglectful I have been. And it's not just my blog that has been pushed aside by the more mundane aspects of daily life. The list of things needed for our Roman weekends hasn't gotten any shorter either.

I am now in panic mode, with a weekend at Archaeolink in less than 6 days and no progress made on additional items for my wardrobe or cooking practice completed. So it seems that this week I'll have to neglect everything else in an effort to prepare for Saturday and Sunday. Out will come my list, to be divided into things that can be accomplished in less than a week and the "you've got to be joking" tasks. At least today I can say I have made a start on the cooking practice. The photo below is my attempt at Hapalos Artos (Soft Bread) taken from Mark Grant's book, Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens. Although the recipe called for baking in a tin, in future I will go for a simple round version. It, at least, has a thumbs up from my son, who tested it out for lunch (before I remembered to take photos).

After reading up on Roman recipes, I think my cooking at Archaeolink will initially be a case of sticking to simple foods that can either be prepared in advance or cooked in a pot over the fire. After all, we are an army camp not a noble house in the middle of Rome.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

I'll Admit It, I'm Addicted

Here we go with more polymer clay (no rolling of the eyes, please). I just can't seem to move on, but at least I've dragged myself away from the lentils to try a new technique.

This week I discovered stacker beads thanks to Carol on the 'Handmade in Scotland' Flickr group. This really cool technique came from Amy of Ovenfried Beads and after following her tutorial (link below) I made the beads pictured above. But never fear, the most exciting part was yet to come. I have been wanting to make ammonite halves ever since I realised the possibilities of polymer clay but hadn't had time to try and work out how to get the patterns. As soon as I saw this technique it all just fell into place and the results of my first attempt are pictured below.

I haven't entirely neglected my lentils this week though, as the following picture will show. Plus I managed to make my first Goddess pendants and a sneak peak of these can be seen on my Dragonflight Designs fan page. Polymer clay just seems to have gotten under my skin and I'm addicted - could it be that I have I found my ultimate craft?

Carol's shop is at
Find the Stacker tutorial at
Find my fan page at

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Something to Talk About

There I go again with another almost blogless week. But I haven't been doing nothing, I promise! Lots has been happening, I just haven't got around to writing about it.

It has been a rather bitty week - a bit here and a bit there - but important all the same. The biggest news of the week is finding a lovely new local shop to stock my jewellery, focusing on the polymer clay items (a feature will follow). It's so nerve wracking approaching a complete stranger to ask if they will display your creations but so encouraging when they say yes. I also delivered new items to Thirteen Moons ( and put some new listings in my Etsy shop. Last, but not least, I almost wore out my hands making more polymer clay beads (after discovering some of my new clay is rather hard to condition) but now my struggle is to decide if they are better left matt or sealed to give a shiny finish. I like both, hence my dilemma. A small selection is pictured below.

So, here's hoping that I can build on this week's small successes and make the next week something to really talk about.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Reaping of Rewards

Due to an unexpectedly busy week I've neglected to blog at all (what sacrilege!). Both work and family have been keeping me on my toes and nose to the grindstone.

Work consisted mainly of commission pieces which are now almost finished, two were copies of the Roman necklace I made for Archaeolink (pictured in an earlier blog entry) and the third was an order for a very special surprise gift which presented me with some interesting challenges. In addition, my son's very full calendar had me out every afternoon or evening from Monday to Friday and busy painting faces to raise money for his school on Saturday morning. My reward for all this hard work? Saturday saw the arrival of the first part of the prize for my star email in May's issue of Beads & Beyond magazine (pictured below).

And even better, I still have the second part of my prize to come. So how much work am I going to have to do to earn that?

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Display Dilemma

I rarely do craft stalls and space can vary for home parties so I have yet to come up with a definitive display solution for my jewellery. Late last week, with a booking for the Friday, I had my usual mad scramble to organise something to hang things on.

My husband had kindly found me some second hand lever arch files which we thought would be strong enough to make a stand from, and he had removed the metal insides, but by Thursday I still had no real plan and was desperately searching the Internet for inspiration. I had considered making a kind of pillowslip covering but then realised the weight of the jewellery would make the fabric sag, unless is was rather stiff and very tight. I did manage to glue two of the files together to make a 3 fold structure but was still struggling with how to make it look pretty and fit for purpose. Friday morning dawned and I finally made some progress by stapling faux suede onto the front side, finding a matching ribbon in my stash and choosing a small selection of colour co-ordinated buttons for decoration. The two things I was missing were time and some very wide ribbon to finish off the edge. My husband came to the rescue in the ribbon department - braving a local craft shop with only the name of the colour and the instruction to get ribbon "as wide as they have". The rest of the day was spent madly stapling and gluing (and then crossing my fingers that the glue would dry in time for the evening).

And there we have the not-quite finished product - it's not bad if you only look at it from the front and it certainly did it's job on the night but there is some finishing off to do and it doesn't actually fold up like I had hoped. I have more of the files so, with a bit of tinkering, hopefully I can come up with another display that is not such a rush job and does actually fold up for transport.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Sunshine and Splinters

It's amazing how inspiring a little bit of sun and warmer weather is. With a beautiful clear sky today turned into a bit of a work whirlwind, and about time since these school holidays have been terrible as far as getting any work done is concerned.

First on the list was photography, to make the most of the sunlight on my front windowsill. I got all my new pieces photographed and the picture above is a compilation image for one necklace (the "neck shot" was taken by hubby yesterday). Not content with the damage caused to my back by that exercise, I couldn't resist getting out in the sunshine to pull some weeds and trim back my climbers before they start shooting skyward again. As we have road works and a set of traffic lights virtually outside our front door at the moment, my tussles with overgrown plant life must have given the drivers some amusement while they waited to move on. Unfortunately, the plants weren't so amused and have left me with several scrapes (some self-inflicted as I dug fern splinters out of my fingers), an infected spot from a splinter I missed (will get out a needle to deal with it shortly) and a rather painful swelling on the back of my hand where I was caught by a rose thorn.

The moral of this story (as it is every time I get gung-ho in the garden) is to wear gloves when gardening. I'm sure it will also be the moral after my next bout of gardening, and the next, and the one after that ... I love to feel my garden, even when it bites me.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Soldiering On

Opening Day at Archaeolink was wet and windy but, all in all, a good day. The visitors that chose to ignore the weather forecast seemed to enjoy themselves, which is what it's all about.

Our Roman outfits worked well and I received a very nice compliment from one lady, although I do need to make myself some Roman shoes (black Magnum work boots are not quite authentic). My palla, which is quite a fine weave wool, was surprisingly good at blocking the cold wind when we did venture outside. As the photos of me do not really show my Roman jewellery I have included a picture of the two soldiers instead. You can just see the bottom of some of my handiwork (ie. braccae) covering my husband's knees.

Maybe next time round there will be a photo of me that I'm not embarrassed to share. But I wouldn't recommend holding your breath.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

When Not in Rome

In preparation for being Roman tomorrow at Archaeolink Prehistory Park, I have spent the last few hours whipping up some suitable jewellery. In case any historians, archaeologists or other knowledgeable parties stumble across this blog, these items are not attempting to be authentic reproductions as, at the very least, I admit to having used modern materials and tools, they are merely inspired by ancient Roman jewellery.

I have spent some time pouring over photos of real archaeological jewellery finds to get a feel for the style and techniques used. There is plenty to choose from but it seemed best to start with something relatively simple, particularly as my Roman persona is not a noble woman in Rome but a merchant woman in the far flung province of Britain. The photo that follows shows necklace, earrings, cuff bracelet and ring made with brass wire and carnelian chips. There is also a copper wire hairpin that I forgot to include. After a little more practice I hope to make some similar items for sale.

My future plans certainly include one day having the equipment, materials and skills to produce truly authentic pieces but, for now, I will have to satisfy myself with these Romanesque examples.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

With Needle in Hand ...

I'd really forgotten how satisfying hand sewing can be. And surprisingly quick if you don't have huge numbers of seams and hems, which is mostly the case with ancient Roman clothing.

My husband's braccae and my son's trousers and over tunic have appeared almost as if by magic. My peplos, however, is a little discouraging. Not only do I have multiple seams and edging to do since the modern fabric I'm using has to be cut to size (as I lack slaves to weave me fabric of the perfect dimensions) but my outfit also bears more than a little resemblance to a sack. It would appear that, contrary to the somewhat skimpy Roman fancy dress costumes that proliferate on the Internet, ancient Roman women took a great deal of trouble to wrap themselves in vast quantities of fabric. Not that I should be surprised, statues of clothed Roman women sometimes show no more than face and hands beneath a tower of folds. But the presence of pleats and folds may well be my answer. I hope that after repeated washing, folding and flattening I may get my fabric to drape in a vaguely attractive manner.

If all else fails my consolation is this, my huge swaddling of cloth should at least keep me warm while the winds howl through the tents of our small Roman camp. And I am already considering a second outfit, made with a much finer and lighter linen (that I have yet to source) in case we actually get some sun this Summer.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Eye of the Storm

Well there's another week gone while I wasn't looking. I'm sure it shouldn't be allowed to do that.

Doesn't it sometimes seem like you are caught up in a whirlwind of activity that just seems to be taking you round in circles? This week seems to have left me still dizzy and without that much to show for it. At least I have made a number of new pieces of jewellery with my polymer clay beads, that I just need to find time to photograph properly (but here's a sneak peek at three of them).

I also think I'm ready to start sewing Roman clothing for my family's roles in the Ninth Legion ( and I have compiled a list of accoutrements I'd either like to buy or make myself (some more new skills to add to my To Do List). At some future date, photos of the ensembles are sure to appear here.

Well, I think the eye of the storm is passing so it's back to the twister for me.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Watching Nature Work

Today I'm not thinking about crafts, I'm thinking about Spring. The snow drops are out in my garden (yes, probably everyone else is over it by now but this is the North of Scotland and we're a bit behind) and it was actually quite warm in the sun.

I'm looking forward to seeing the results of all the little green spikes that are currently crowding up through the soil, which isn't bad since some of them were actually pushing up through leftover snow just a couple of days ago. Last year I had the most gorgeous forest of muscari (pictured below, lacking in sunshine) along my front path, backed by daffodils. As I leave all my bulbs to their own devices, apart from a little helping hand distributing seeds to other parts of the garden, they'll probably be thicker than ever. In fact, I doubt there is any soil left between the bulbs in that particular section, they are just too tightly packed to fall over.

And as I walked my son home from school I was admiring everyone else's crocuses because I still haven't got around to buying myself any. I probably had people wondering what I was doing leaning over their fences and gesticulating at the ground. So before my neighbours decide I'm a danger to their gardens, I should make myself a shopping list and actually purchase the plants I drool over.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Fabulous Fabric

After a two week break it's back to my Sunday feature spot and time for some local loveliness. Aileen Clarke is based in Fife, Scotland and makes beautiful textile art and jewellery.

I really love these cuff bracelets (hope hubby is paying attention) in those incredible colours and with so much detail. But, if jewellery is not your thing, Aileen also does bookmarks (for those who would never participate in the sacrilege that is folding down the corner of a page), cards and art for your walls. Something for everyone, really. I really don't think I need to say more because these lovely things speak for themselves.

To see more go to or

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Double Duty

I'm in a quandary. I can't decide which of two things I want to talk about today. But as this is my blog, for once I don't have to struggle with my eternal indecisiveness because I can do both.

Probably most importantly, I made my first piece of jewellery with my own beads. Technically, this is actually the second piece (as I already made a gift for a friend) but it is certainly the first commercial piece. Now that I've opened the can of worms further pieces should be forthcoming. This also has an added advantage - it's the only way I'm going to be able to let go of the beads. I've included a sneaky peek picture below (the bracelet will now go in my photography box for official shots later in the month).

More excitingly, my second mention is that I made my own lip balm. Not rocket science, I know, but I'm pleased. My son likes it too - in fact, he wants to take it to school for show and tell next week, although I have my doubts about how exciting this will be for his classmates. Maybe this will encourage me to start making more of my own body products - I've always wanted to try bath bombs, I'm fussy about face cream and I've had soap making ingredients in my craft cupboard for at least a year. I knew that list of jobs as long as my arm was getting way to short!

On a final note, my fan page giveaway gets drawn today (as soon as I can accost some passerby and get them to stick their hand in a hat!).

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Chainmaille Bracelet Giveaway

Usually Sunday is my feature day but I missed last week and now I haven't been organised enough for today either. It just goes to show that even with the best of intentions things don't always work out how you plan (or not plan, as the case may be). So to make things easy I'm going to feature my fanpage giveaway - almost everyone loves a freebie after all.

I'm offering up a chainmaille bracelet in a weave of my own design, which I even got listed on the Maille Artisans International League website ( I've called the chainmaille pattern Handfast Weave as it reminds me of two people clasping hands. The bracelet is made using lightweight bright aluminium and has a handmade hook clasp of silver craft wire.

For a chance to win this bracelet go to where you can find the details of how to enter. Best of luck!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Sewing up Aladdin

The sewing machine made it out of the cupboard today. This is not a sign of major organisation but an emergency measure, as indicated by the fact that the sewing machine is balancing on a small stool next to the sofa.

This is one of those "there's nothing we wouldn't do for our kids" moments. As a costume is required for tomorrow (technically, the costume is optional but not in the mind of a 6 year old) all possible steps to produce one must be taken. So, major scavenge through my fabric to locate that particular blue remnant, bought months ago for I forget what, that should be perfect for an Aladdin jacket. Happily this was sitting next to an old sarong in matching blue and my ribbon box also supplied a close match. For the next step (Warning: do not try this at home), due to lack of a pattern, just fold fabric and cut to an approximate shape and then sew it all together.

My reward this afternoon was a delighted son who offered cuddles and kisses. And no sign of disappointment that I chose not to attempt a turban.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Press [Bead] to Start

After all that journal inspiration on Sunday I have spent the rest of the week without any. I just haven't had anything to say. And worse than actually saying nothing is using lots of words to say nothing.

Today I did what I should have done at the beginning - get cooking! I use cook in the sense of concocting or inventing rather than preparing food, although it did involve the use of an oven. Yes, I've been making beads again, but it is amazing how one creative process seems to spark everything else off. Somehow in making that handful of beads I feel refreshed and awakened. I feel like I have something to contribute and, although that contribution might be slightly dodgy looking lentil beads, it's a start.

And we all have to start somewhere. Today some beads, tomorrow the world?

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Bound for Inspiration

We're back to Sunday once again and it's time to take a look at something a little bit different. GILD Bookbinders make stunning hand-made leather journals and bookmarks, just the thing to inspire you to write down your most precious thoughts.

Amongst their works are some lovely Medieval designs and fantasy creatures but my favourites have to be the leaf journals. Stamped using real leaves and then hand-coloured, each one is beautifully unique. This is what a real book should be. None of your mass produced paperback piffle here. Imagine how exquisite a bookcase full of these would be.

I'm sure even I could overcome my dreadful scrawl and be inspired to write glorious imaginings. And if a grand novel or heart wrenching poetry escape me, at least I can spend my time enjoying the lovely textures and colours.

You can see more of their creations in their Etsy store at or on their website at

Friday, 19 February 2010

I Have a Dream

I was recently reminded that I have been seriously neglecting the fabric side of my life. Now I do admit that my sewing machine has been hibernating in the cupboard over Winter and by "my sewing machine" I mean the one I have on semi-permanent loan from a very generous friend.

Sadly we only have one kitchen table and it is currently indentured to another craft. But, I have a dream ... a glorious dream of a dedicated workroom with purpose built benches, a cutting table, comfy visitors chairs, a dress mannequin, massive tailored storage systems and a stunning display area to show off my best work. The likelihood of this dream ever becoming a reality is microscopically small but you have to have hope.

For now, I will content myself with crafting in blocks. A week here, a month there and so on. March is not far off, maybe then sewing will get a look in.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Imperfect Obsession

I have become a little obsessed and, while this is not unusual, it is not normally so much fun. At least in making beads I have retained a measure of self-control to prolong the pleasure and limited myself to one batch a day.

I admit that these beads are rather organic in nature but that appeals to me. The process is evident in the result, from faint fingerprints to nail impressions, off-center holes to imperfect shapes. I could sand them to remove some of these imperfections but in making them more uniform I think they would lose something. A measure of their value, at least to me, is in their individuality. I formed them with my own hands and although someone else could use exactly the same products in the same combination they will not produce an identical item.

The pinnacle of this process for me is my son's reaction to the beads I make. He has said he would like to keep some just to look at and has been offering me names for them. Some suggestions, such as Ocean Beads and Chocolate Beads, I may use but I think the ill-fated Meat Beads (as he says they look like the steaks Alex the lion eats in Madagascar) will be quietly shelved.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Beauty of Bubbles

Today I want to showcase the fabulous glassware of Olde Hansa. It's almost hard to believe these amazing Medieval design pieces are meant to be used.

I think the bubbles are just glorious and I love the softness, the almost organic nature of the shapes. But Olde Hansa doesn't just offer glass to the Medievally minded, there is plenty to look at and lots of great information to be found. Not only will I continue to re-visit them electronically but I'm also going to dream of visiting them in their real world in Tallinn, Estonia, one of these days.

You can see more of Olde Hansa's creations at in their Etsy shop or on their website. I think it's well worth the visit.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Climbing the Learning Curve

I am now definitely asking myself why I didn't start making my own beads months ago. I'm having an absolute ball experimenting with the different types of polymer clay and making patterns.

As I only have a small supply of PC I've been limiting myself to one batch of beads a day or I'd run out of clay too soon. So far I've tried Pardo, Sculpey III and Fimo Soft which all handle differently and have a different finish when baked. Next I want to try mixing the brands to see what effects this will produce. And then it's on to doing some sculptural pieces and adding some Steampunk accessories. And then reproduction Roman beads. And then ... this could go on forever!

I'm getting so inspired I may also have to break out the air drying clay my husband bought me a while back. And I do need to remember to actually use the beads in some jewellery rather than just stock piling them.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

New Skill No. 1

I'm rather pleased. After several months of having an array of polymer clay types and colours sitting on a shelf below my laptop, I finally made my first beads today.

Unusually, instead of distracting me from work, my husband actually managed to inspire me to "just do it". So the kitchen table became a temporary training ground and I managed to draw some of the ideas that have been swirling around in my head into the physical realm. For a first attempt I think they look pretty good and I'm sure will soon find their way into a new piece of jewellery.

The moral of this story must certainly be to think less, act more. I have high hopes that this year will be one full of new discoveries.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Damsel in this Dress

Time to talk about the lovely Michelle Thorstrom and her fabulous corsets. I have to admit to being a little jealous of her skill and definitely lusting after several of her creations.

It is a very good thing to see someone designing beautiful clothing for real women's bodies. We should revel in our curves and a corset like one of these will show off all the best ones. Michelle's designs would be a great start for a Steampunk outfit or Renaissance festival but why not wear one whenever you want to feel gorgeous. I think that would make any day a good day. I could rave on for hours but the pictures say it all really.

You can see more of Michelle's work on her website at or check out her blog at

Saturday, 6 February 2010

DIY History

Well, yesterday was rather philosophical, today it's back to the more practical aspects of reality. A child's birthday party and grocery shopping, with hopefully a chance to do a little investigation on the Roman front.

Living back of beyond is not exactly condusive, even in this internet age, to having easy access to suitably authentic supplies for the DIY Roman. Fabrics can cost more in postage than they do to buy and there is little opportunity to confirm texture, weave and true colour before purchase. Many of the accessories available from invisible web-vendors are either copies labelled as authentic that have actually been re-designed for modern tastes or limited stereotypical examples representative of only a short date range.

In an ideal world, I would be able to manufacture all my requirements in my own back yard but, as this possibility is still far into the unforseen future, I will have to satisfy myself with attempting to find the next best thing. I could be some time...

Friday, 5 February 2010

So Much To Learn, So Little Time


So here's my new foray into the world of the unreal. Who knows where it could lead, but at least it will give my husband some peace.

A new friend has just asked what I create and this has opened up a whole can of worms. Is what I create defined by actuality or potentiality? If time were as elastic as I wish it was there would be no need to be selective about what skills I learn, what information I accumulate. As this is not the case, must I really confine myself to a limited palette of expression? Can I not count as part of my repertoire all the things I would like to create as well as the things I actually have?

My list of desires far outweighs my list of accomplishments and will likely continue so, since I am forever finding new additions for the first and only slowly adding to the second. At least this is the beginning of something new and something new is always exciting.