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Let there be light!

7 Apr

How wonderful a weekend it’s been! Not only has there been glorious sunshine – and warmth – but I’ve also been back home in Somerset to see family, friends and learn a new skill. Yesterday, I attended a three-hour lampshade making course with Louise of Lolly & Boo. It was held at the beautiful Reading Rooms in Stratford-sub-Castle – here’s the view from the carpark:

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Having never made a lampshade before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Louise advised each member of the group (there were eight of us in total) to bring half a metre of fabric and, when we arrived, we were able to choose our size of shade – 15cm, 25cm or 30cm. I’d come with a cotton material with a large floral print so opted to make a 30cm standing lampshade – for where, I’m not yet sure!

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It turned out that the whole process was surprisingly straightforward – you line your fabric with PVC to give it tension, then use sticky-back tape to secure it to the wire rings. Rolling the fabric around the rings was tricky – could have done with a third hand – but I think the end result turned out pretty good. Not bad for a first attempt.

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Louise was so friendly and encouraging, and made the entire experience fun and easy to follow. Now I’ve mastered the basic technique, I’ll definitely be giving it another go.

lollyandboo.co.uk

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Knit one, purl one

9 Feb

It’s official. I am truly a knitting addict! Having been taught the basic knit stitch by a colleague from work, I have been creating endless scarves and snoods for friends and family, and can’t get enough it. But, I’ve also been keen to master purl – I’m told that once you have these two stitches you can knit anything! So I signed up for a morning knitting course at the stunning Mrs Moon haberdashery in St. Margarets.

Mrs Moon Little Miss Married 2 Mrs Moon Little Miss Married 1

From the moment I entered the shop, I knew I was in for a treat: a warm welcome and floor-to-ceiling displays of brightly-coloured yarns, ceramic buttons and knitting patterns – I couldn’t wait to get started. There were only three of us in the class – the average amount – so it was easy for Mrs Moon co-founder Karen to keep her eyes on what we were all up to and give us personal tips and guidance. We started off going over the basics – casting on and knit stitch – then moved onto purl, stocking stitch, and how to create a rib pattern. We also practised increasing and decreasing stitching and learnt how to cast off – all in the space of three hours. At £35, it was incredible value for money.

Mrs Moon Little Miss Married

Before I left, I couldn’t resist buying a stunning ivory baby alpaca and merino wool mix by Debbie Bliss, which I intend to transform into (yet, another) snood, this time using moss stitch. Watch this space for the results…

mrsmoon.co.uk

I’m a fan – of fans!

3 Feb

Fan Museum Little Miss Married 3

After signing up to it at the end of last year, today was finally the day when I returned to the wonderful Fan Museum in Greenwich for my fan-making taster class. I’d been feeling a little silly all week when I told people what I was going to be getting up to at the weekend because surely fan-making is just pleating a piece of paper, which anyone can do, right? Wrong! The course began with an introduction by Helene Alexander, the museum’s founder, to the history of the fan, its different styles, and the varieties of materials used to make them over the years and then it was over to us (a group of six) to try and replicate the traditional Chinese and Fontange shapes ourselves. I’d treated myself to two beautiful papers from Libertys, especially for the course – one a vintage-looking map of central London; the other an intricate Oriental-themed pattern. What I hadn’t realised it that when you print paper, it distorts the image meaning straight lines become curved and colours richer and more intense. There’s also a real skill required in attaching the spokes of the fan to the paper, and ensuring it opens and closes correctly; there’s so much more to fans than meets the eye. After three hours, we all had two fans to take home. If you look closely, mine aren’t perfect but, for a first attempt, I’m pretty pleased with the results. I’m planning to frame them and put them on display. Fans are works of art, after all. Check out these examples from the museum’s latest ‘The Fan in Europe: 1800-1850’ exhibition – stunning.

Fan Museum Little Miss Married 1

Fan Museum Little Miss Married 2

thefanmuseum.org.uk

One of my Plan Bs!

31 May

A very special friend celebrated a significant birthday at the weekend and, to mark the occasion, I wanted to give her a suitably memorable present. Instead of heading the high street, I decided to make her a pair of earrings out of metal clay. Following the success of the set I gave my mum for her 60th, I figured why not give it another try. But this time I was doing it unsupervised and on my own. Eek!

The first earring went really well but, obviously it couldn’t all be plain sailing! Fortunately though, after the second one over heated and melted – pretty cool effect btw, I was left with my finished pair. What do you think? Could this be a possible Plan B in the future?

The Putney WI’s second meeting – success!

16 Apr

Hooray! Tonight marked the second installment of the Putney WI and I’m overjoyed to say our numbers have not just grown, they’ve practically tripled! I was so pleased to see many familiar faces from the first meeting as well as lots of new ones. I have a feeling this group is going to be a success.

I’d called in a favour from a friend of mine to give our first demonstration. Gift-wrapping guru – and the loveliest lady! – Jane Means came along and wowed us with her beautiful creations, showing us how to wrap everything from boxes to tins to wine bottles. She also showed us how to create a ribbon rose, tie the perfect bow, and make our own beautiful gift bags.

Jane runs classes around the UK so you can pick up tips too, and she also sells an amazing range of her own designs of ribbon. Just check out her website – janemeans.co.uk. Not in the UK? Don’t worry! She has a DVD – again, see the website for details.

Metal Clay at the London Jewellery School

15 Jan

Yesterday my friend and work colleague L and I headed to the London Jewellery School (londonjewelleryschool.co.uk) near Hatton Gardens for a wonderful day-course learning the art of metal clay jewellery making. It was the perfect way to spend a Saturday! Metal clay is clay infused with tiny strands of silver and, when the substance is fired, the clay burns away leaving behind a piece of solid silver. It makes it easy to mould different shapes, create textures, and mount gemstones. We were there from 10-5 and came away at the end with a pair of earrings, necklace, and a ring. For someone like me, who’s not naturally creative, it was an easy way to create some very unique and, I like to think, professional looking jewellery. I’m so proud of my wares! The day itself was so much fun. There were just seven of us on the course and, even though we were there for what it in effect a full working day, the time couldn’t have gone faster and I came away feeling refreshed and relaxed with a new zest for life – perhaps I’ve found my perfect career sideline. What do you think?

Day course

And, as if the weekend couldn’t get any better, I was met off the bus on my way home my M, who had secretly travelled to London to surprise me! It was the perfect end to a perfect day – homemade risotto, a good film and my lovely man. Then a full English brekkie at Wallace & Co (wallaceandco.com) this morning with a walk along the river. I’m a very spoilt and lucky woman!

London Jewellery School

25 Oct

Just back from a jewellery-making course with my work colleague L. It was a taster session held at the London Jewellery School in XX (londonjewelleryschool.co.uk). We headed over straight from work and spent three hours being shown the basics of making beaded jewellery. There were about 10 of us there and we had so much fun sitting around a table covered in beads, making bracelets and rings, and eating cupcakes! Our teacher was the lovely and patient Chu-mei (graceandfirefly.co.uk), but there were also other jewellery designers on hand to help out. We got talking to Sima Vaziry, who makes the most beautiful pieces out of metal clay (simavaziry.com). That’s our next course! L and I went home wearing our creations, feeling relaxed and like we’d had a productive evening. Jewellery making was easier than we’d thought. What do you think of our wares?

Blaze hair and make-up course, Brentwood

23 Oct

Just back from my old stomping ground, Brentwood. Yes, the home of TOWIE and the Sugar Hut, although for some reason I never made it there while I was living there!

Anyway I was back through for a make-up masterclass. I’m embarrassed to admit that when it comes to make-up I’m totally hopeless. So when I saw a deal on Groupon for a one-day masterclass I had to sign up. It was organised by Blaze (blazema.com) and Lauren, who was running it, was fantastic. When I arrived I was so nervous! I was one of the first there but by the time the class started the room was packed – I think about 40 people had turned up!

Lauren started off demonstrating a basic day look with neutral tones, a bit of blusher, and subtle lips then showed how to update it for the evening with a smokey eye, false lashes, bronzer, and bright red lips. She also showed us how to do the perfect quiff and fishtail plait. Finally we were split into pairs to practise ourselves. I was terrified – what if I made my partner look awful? I needn’t have worried though. I think my attempt was pretty good (sorry no pics so you’ll have to trust me on this one) whereas the girl doing my make-up, bless her, was a little heavy handed with the bronzer, which for someone as pale as I am, wasn’t a good look! I’m sorry to say that whereas everyone else went home with their make-up on, I slipped into the toilet before getting back on the train to wipe it off. Picked up lots of great tips though and now can’t wait to be able to put them into practice – when I next see M he won’t recognise me!

Vintage Pin-up Hair & Make-up at Drink, Shop, Do

14 Oct

Drink, Shop, Do (drinkshopdo.com) is one of those places you’d wished you known about sooner. I only came to hear about it a few weeks ago through a chance conversation with friends over dinner. Somehow I’ve been living in a bubble and hadn’t been party to the amazingness that is this quirky vintage cafe next door to King’s Cross. Part cafe, part craft shop, part activity centre, it’s everything you need for a fun time out in one setting. It was also the destination for my first proper night out with my new house mates –  perfect bonding sess!

I’d seen Drink, Shop, Do ran courses, my favourites being Musical Bingo and the Vintage in-up Hair & Make-up night, a must try. So last night J, K and I turned up after work, not knowing quite what to expect. The basis of the night is you go along, get your hair and make-up done all retro style, then pay what you think it’s worth. Sounds too good to be true but it really is as simple as that, but SO much better than you could ever imagine.

We popped our name on the waiting list then chilled with cocktails (the Front Garden, a mix of gin, elderflower, basil and lime is to die for), a Scotch egg (the menu is like stepping back in time), and a hefty wedge of orangge and almond cake. When it was our turn, Dolly and Rhonda, two stylist wizards, performed what can only be described as a complete transformation on us. Check out the waves! The eye flicks! The red lippy! I left feeling like a total starlet and it’s confirmed…I was born into the wrong era!

Dolly and Rhonda work their magic

Mushroom foray on Wimbledon Common

9 Oct

Autumn’s here and today my friend B and I did our first ever mushroom foray on Wimbledon Common. It was actually the first time I’d ever been mushrooming at all – the fear of picking a poisonous toadstool is excuse enough to direct me to the aisles of my local grocer! But fortunately we’d signed up for an expert-led foray with, wait for it, A Fungi To Be With (fungitobewith.org)! For £22, mushroomer Andy, led us to the mushroom hotspots of the Common. Unfortunately for us we’re having one of the driest and warmest October’s on record so not the best conditions for mushroom growth (best to go out a few days after rain). To my great excitement though, our four-hour foray did reap some rewards and I did find a handful of mushrooms – not enough for the hearty risotto I’d had planned but mushrooms nonetheless. I cooked them up with a little butter when I got home. Yum! So now, equipped with an identification guide, I’ll be back out there when the weather turns.

A Fungi To Be With

My mushrooms!