Monday, 21 April 2014

Silk-shading at the RSN and Hampton Court Palace...


Last Sunday I returned to Hampton Court Palace and the Royal School of Needlework for an introductory class in silk-shading. This was the the third of the day classes that I had booked after my first lovely two days at the RSN back in August. I was keen to try silk-shading as it is one of the core modules on the certificate course that I think I'd like to try at some point in the future.


I was in a different teaching room from those I've been in previously. It was on the other side of the palace courtyard with these lovely round windows looking out at the palace gardens. All around the room are examples of beautiful embroidery...

During a stroll in the gardens at lunch time, the spring bulbs are looking lovely...




And finally, here is what I'd managed to complete by the end of the day...

...as you can see from the faint blue outline of the pansy, I have a lot of homework to do to finish this project! And whilst this was meant to be the last of the courses I was undertaking at the RSN, I've since booked three more for during the summer and later in the autumn...

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Windsor castle...


Two weekends ago, L and I took a little jaunt out to Windsor for lunch. After a lovely Sunday roast at The Two Brewers, we spent the afternoon at Windsor Castle. L and never been, and this is my favourite of all of the Royal Palaces, so it was no hardship to return.

As it was the first spring-like weekend we have had, the bulbs are out and the gardens are starting to come to life...





A lovely was to spend a Sunday afternoon...

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Adding to the capsule wardrobe...


I've been on a bit of a sewing spree lately. Late last year, I spent a couple of weekends at Sew Over It in Clapham making a 1940's wrap dress. It was such a lovely experience. So when I saw that they were advertising a new class for a lace dress, I thought it was finally a brilliant opportunity to make up the fabric I bought in Sydney (ahem...over two years ago). 


I've subsequently spent the last four Wednesday evenings being taught how to make this dress by the lovely Julie. I decided to make it with a soft beige colour lining to make more of the embellishment on the lace. The yoke and sleeves are unlined...


So, I now have a lovely new cocktail frock to add to my wardrobe.

In terms of a capsule wardrobe, the majority of my dresses are either shift dresses or wrap dresses. I do love both styles. I previously had a black and white patterned wrap dress from Banana Republic that I finally had to retire last year as after so much wear as it wasn't particularly looking black or white any longer. Sew Over It offer a class in making their Ultimate Wrap Dress, but unfortunately, I couldn't make the dates for the upcoming class. So, instead I bought a copy of their pattern, and now have this hanging in my wardrobe...

This was a great dress to make - it was reasonably quick to sew up and the instructions were very clear to follow. I think there will be some more of these made in the coming months...

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Exploring Suffolk...

High St, Lavenham

My friend L is currently staying in London for a few weeks, so we decided to arrange a short trip on one of the weekends whilst she was here. Suffolk fit the bill perfectly - neither of us had been there before, it is full or antique shops, and is only a two-hour drive from London.

Despite the fact that the sudden Spring warmth of early March had disappeared and it was back to being quite chilly, we had a brilliant weekend. We mainly explored Lavenham and Bury St Edmunds - lots of antique browsing, tea and scones on several occasions, a very nice farm stay b&b, and a great meal in the local pub (which was handily next door to the farm).

Lavenham is a lovely village, which has retained many of its half-timbered homes...







And a lovely church...



On Sunday morning we wandered the Abbey Gardens in Bury...


Which we shared with the locals, and enjoyed the signs of spring...




Tuesday, 25 March 2014

A new way with photographic memories...


In the days when I used a film camera, I used to be organised. I would routinely have the photographs printed, and file them safely into photograph albums.

When I moved back to London eight years ago my parents bought me my first digital camera - a little pocket size that was much easier to carry around than my old film SLR. As time has gone on, I've now also converted to a DSLR. However, I've never really managed to transfer to a successful means of printing/displaying photographs.

Some I print and frame, but other than this blog, many of them just remain in computer files. I seemed to have lost interest in traditional printing and album storage - not least because I live in a small space and albums take up such a lot of it.

So a few years ago I started toying with the idea of photo books. I started using a particular software tool, but again, didn't love it enough to ever get a book finished to production stage. Then probably about a year ago I read about Artifact Uprising. There was something about the simplicity of the design that appealed to me. So recently, I finally devoted some time to developing my first book of photographs and sending it off for printing....and yes, you can see by the photo above just how behind I am in getting on top of this task!


The books come beautifully bound in a linen cover (in a choice of colours), with a dust jacket. There are a large range of page layouts so I could choose how to display my photographs.




I am very pleased with the result, and now inspired to get on and start working through the intervening years of photographs. 2007 is already complete and ready for printing...and as my travel has slowed down in recent years I feel sure that this won't be the mammoth task I originally envisaged....

Sunday, 9 March 2014

On simple pleasures...


I was reminded this past week of the delight one can take in the simple activities that bring pleasure. When one lives in a busy city like London, it can be easy to be swept up into a pattern that seems to revolve around work commitments and commuting. Even planned social events can sometimes take on a feeling of responsibility rather than enjoyment. This seems compounded after several conversations with people for whom there seems to be a level of competition over who is the busiest or having the most difficult time at work.

This week I was given some reminders of the benefit and importance of balancing what I need to do with what I enjoy doing. Firstly, we seem to be in one of those infrequent periods where there is actually quite a few lovely television programmes to watch. I've been watching the Great British Sewing Bee for the past few weeks - which has whet my appetite for some more dressmaking. This past week also saw the first episode broadcast of Mary Berry's new cooking programme - I loved it. The episode focused on afternoon tea, but it was more the grace and experience that this wonderful lady portrays - you can see that she still takes so much pleasure from baking and cooking for her family and friends.

Yesterday, I returned to the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace for the third time. This time I was undertaking an introductory course in goldwork. Again, I was surprised at just how quickly six hours can pass when engaged in an activity that I find so enjoyable.

So this afternoon (after I had caught up with yesterday's postponed chores), I have spent a happy few hours finishing off my goldwork sampler. I had an audiobook playing for company, and outside the sun is beautifully shining, heralding spring's approach.

It was a nice reminder that building in these opportunities into my week makes the rest of the more mundane tasks much more palatable...

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Exploring my knitting heritage...


When I was in Sydney last October, my mother allowed me to go through my grandmother's old knitting patterns and keep those I wanted. This was perfect timing, as I was looking for a small project to take with me as I travelled on the the US for the rest of my scholarship trip.

It was lovely to go through this legacy of patterns - my mother was able to recall which garments that either she or my grandmother hand knitted my sister and I over the years.

This one above was a particular favourite of my grandmothers - fortunately, there were two copies for some reason, so my mother was able to keep one also. This was a layette that was knitted for me when I was a baby. The pattern is dated from 1948 - costing 6 shillings (and obviously predating Australia's transfer to decimal currency).

Traditonal layettes are not particularly popular anymore, but I thought that the matinee jacket could be easily modernised by the choice of wool. After visiting the local wool shop, I was prepared with a few balls of a beautiful soft gray marled wool to take with me.



I think it now a nice mix of traditional with a hint of modern country.

And in today's other news...
I'm brightening a grey afternoon by launching into my new vanilla candle that I brought back with me from Sydney two weeks ago...