Saturday, 30 January 2016


Hello my friends.
Let me start with a thank you.
Thank you for the encouraging heart warming comments you have been leaving, thank you for believing what we are doing is the right thing, thank you for the offers of help and thank you for continuing to read these ramblings and visit. Especially when I am so rude as to not always pay a return call and rarely comment these days.

So, where did I leave you last time?
Oh that's right standing yet again on the crumbling edge of a cliff waiting for the story to limp towards its conclusion. To recap, The very short version of what has happened is...
Lots of refuges making perilous traumatic journeys from all over the world to try and get to the relative safety of Europe.
Compassion overload from many people.
Me feeling impotent in the face of such horror, teaming up with my new friend Anna to try and sew the world back together.
Initial experiments would appear to be successful.
With me so far?
(If You want to read the full version you can do so here, but you may want to settle down for the long haul with a cup of tea to do that.)
After the success of our bird making workshop people were constantly asking for more. Many people hadn't been able to make it, many people just had the bug and wanted to make more.
I thought maybe some very simple instructions with the pattern attached I could email out to people with an address to send them back to.

Then with only 3 weeks to go till Christmas some bright spark said, why don't you make them up into kits to sell? 
Yes said I but its only 3 weeks till Christmas and I haven't done my shopping yet and have work deadlines coming out of my ears.
But now is the perfect time to do it Jane, the bright sparks said back.
Yes but... Said I
This went on for about half a day before I admitted defeat and called Anna.
Yes said she.
Am I mad? Said I 
Yes! Said she. Let's do it.
Phone calls were made, favours from friends called in, frantic over night ordering of threads, needles, pins and stuffing was made.
A mad impromptu photo tutorial was made.
But most importantly at this stage The Mad Old Cat Lady herself came on board.
Our good friend Fishy took away the jumble of images we had for the tutorial, deciphered my scribbles and created the most beautiful instruction booklet for us. 
She designed labels and stickers and printed every thing out.
Then on a cold, wet and windy evening in early December 15 of us gathered in Anna's sewing parlour.

Some wound thread, some stuffed stuffing in bags, some counted and pinned pins, others folded instructions and stuck stickers and yet more cut big bits of fabric in to small oblongs of fabric.

At the end of the night 150 kits were sitting in the window waiting to be sold.

Quite a gamble. I can't say I wasn't nervous and yet with a minimum of advertising they flew off the shelves.
Gone! I tell you gone!
How long did they take to go?
Three days!
By which point Anna and I were exhausted, and yet the interest had only just started.
The lovely Lexie came on board and took over the social media stuff for us. She has been twittering away for weeks building interest and shoe horning what we are doing in to every possible situation.
She also set up our Facebook page for us which has grown massively in the few weeks it has been up and running.
So what next?
Well more kits are being made up and an online store opened for people to buy them.
We are holding another workshop here in Hastings in the evening of 25th Feb from 7pm. A children's bird making workshop has been booked for 18th Feb at 11 O'clock sewing for the greater good the junior version followed by a film, slap in the middle of half term. Both at The Observer Building where Dublin and Holland have been a constant support to all our endeavours.
The money raised from the sale of the kits will in part go towards helping fund the work Hastings Supports Refugees is doing.
But the other part, the part that I am finding most exciting will be developing the kits into an art therapy resource that can be used by volunteers working with refugees.
We are hoping to be working with The School Bus Project initially in this regard, but are now actively scouting for more leads and contacts.
Some of the birds people have made up in the kits have already flown back to us to be sent on to the Children we are all desperately trying to help.
So here is the rub, we need your help.
We need to spread the word, we need shops to stock our kits, we need people to buy the kits, we want people to host workshops for us in areas we can't get to and then send us lovely boxes of birds.
So what can you do?
Well the easiest thing to do is like and share out Facebook page.
Talk about us on Twitter and instargram using the #abirdinthehandproject and #sewingforthegreatergood
 But if you would like to help in other ways especially in hosting a bird making evening, then please get in contact.
We are all novices at this and feeling our way. It's exciting but also rather daunting.
And basically watch this space, the online shop will be up and running very soon for anyone who wants a kit of their own.
Well that's it folks, I appear to finally come to the end of this particular chapter, defiantly not the end of the story.
 Love Nora xxx

Friday, 22 January 2016


And so it turns out I am not as good at being back here as I thought I was.
A week has gone by. 
I left you all dangling mid air teased by the announcement of an announcement soon to be made.
I was amazed so many of you were still out there, still reading my rambling. 
Still leaving heart warming comments.
Thank you all it mad me feel very loved.
Ya ya ya, what ever, cut to the quick you soppy old bag, people are waiting here you know.
I think the reasons I stopped blogging can be left for another day. I'm not totally sure I understand them my self.
But I was waiting for something to come along that was important enough for me to start writing again.
Although part of the reason I stopped blogging was because I became so involved in what I'm about to talk about.
Told you it was complicated didn't I?
It all started in August.
After becoming increasingly upset about the refugee situation in Calais I had a conversation with my Mum. The conclusion of which was, while it is a lot of money, I could easily afford to spend £50 on aid to Calais and it would not leave me destitute. It would may be mean a few less treats for the boys that month, or no new clothes for me, or missing out on a family trip to the cinema. But £50 could if spent well make a huge difference to people with nothing. 
Next came a meal out with friends where the same conversation was had and more importantly a decision was reached. We would all put in what we thought we could afford and find a way to get aid out to Calais.
Things spiralled. 
I met likeminded people on Facebook, we met an amazing woman who was going out to Calais as a volunteer to help in "the jungle".
I went shopping. Others collected blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothing and food. 
My Mum and her partner, Barry,  donated £100 that we spent on tarpaulins.
All the while the crisis is becoming worse hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing war and persecution and making their way to the safety of Europe. 
We realised we needed an easier way to communicate, we set up a Facebook group.  
Hastings supports refugees, with the idea that the few of us could communicate more easily. 
4 months later we have well over 1000 members.
We have sent a huge shipment of children's clothing packs and shoes to the Greek Island of Leros.
We send clothing, firewood, blankets, sleeping bags regularly out to Calais.
We have helped to fund volunteers to go to Calais.
We have raised money for volunteers to spend on aid in Lesbos, Greece.
We have raised enough money for UNHCR accredited shelters to house refugees.
We have donated money to the Humming bird project for shelter building.
We are helping fund projects working directly with unaccompanied minors in Calais.
The list goes on and on.
The fund raising goes on and on.
We are a small team of admin who run our group and we are trying ever more inventive ways of raising the money to help.
We have to fall back on our strengths.
Mine is sewing.
But what to do. 
I can hardly embroider the world back together.
The cracks are too big to be darned.
Or are they?
Together with Anna Winston of La La Rookh I decided to do a bit of sewing for the greater good.
And so the "Bird in the Hand Project" was born.
Making little hand sized birds for the hands of little refugees.
Birds are often seen as symbols of hope and peace. What could be more apt.
We started small (ish) with a making evening.
We were over whelmed by the response. 45 people came to make birds with us in late November to be sent with the children's clothing packs to Greece.
45 women and children and big beardy men, A group of Eritreans now living in Hastings came along to help via Links a local organisation working with asylum seekers in our area.
And every one was clamouring for more.
This was about to become sewing for the greater good on an enormous scale.
This tale is long and complicated, some of the major players in it haven't even been introduced yet.
So I am going to yet again leave you on the precipice of the cliff.
Next time I shall tell you how our little birds have taken flight.
If you are still with me thank you. It has been a wordy old post with few pictures.
Love Nora xxx
PS: The FB link to the refugee group will take you to our public page rather than the closed group.

Thursday, 14 January 2016


Any one out there?
It's every so dusty round here.
Mice have got in the biscuit tin, there are no tea bags left and the milk has turned into a new and interesting life form.
6 months is a long time to be away.
I never meant to go away for so long.
But inspiration got up and left.
Life became a long hard slog.
Writing became an impossibility.
I have been waiting to see how long it would go on. 
To see if I wanted to come back.
Turns out I do.
As I type I can feel the old spirit returning.
There are things happening here in Flaming Nora land.
Big things, exciting things.
Things I shall tell you about soon.
In the meantime here is a picture of some very special kissing birds.
They are what I am going to be telling you all about when I have finished cleaning up round here.
I'm off to open the windows, run the feather duster round and plump up the cushions.
I would love it if you come back to say hello.
Much love to one and all
Nora xxx

Monday, 13 July 2015


Recently I have found my interest in dyeing yarn has been revived.
I have been contemplating and cogitating on the idea of eco dyes.
A long time ago I bought a big tub of Turmeric with this in mind.
The other day I dusted it off and mixed some of it up into a paste in a big old dye pot along with a dose of Alum. 
This lot are a selection of cotton yarns that I have gathered over the years from various charity shops and car boot sales.

After I had finished with the yarn I decided to have some fun with some old napkins and scraps of old embroidered table cloths.

Very happy all round with the results.
Love Nora xxx

Thursday, 9 July 2015



I appear to have been away for rather a long time. 
The reasons are boring and all revolve around work, so I shall mention it no more.
Today the Hippy has been cutting the hedge. It is a massive hedge. It takes a long time to cut.

Whilst cutting it he found this beautiful abandoned nest. The babies have hatched, fledged and flown the nest.
If you look closely you can see some little flashes of colour from all the off cuts of yarn that I used to throw out into the garden when I had finished weaving my ends in.

As the saying goes one man's junk is another man or birds treasure.
Love Nora xxx

Saturday, 13 June 2015


Today was a rather special day.
For the last year and a half our Little Man has been attending art classes at The Creative Art Academy.
Its a fab place run by Marcia Buckley who rather handily is one of our neighbours. Marcia and Emma hold really relaxed sessions for children aged 5 -15, our Little Man loves it and counts down the days each week till he can go again.
At first we sent him to keep him occupied and to do something fun one afternoon a week. But it turns out he is actually quite good at it.
The paitent teaching involved at the academy has brought him on in leaps and bounds.
A local bar/ bistro was so impressed by the Academy's young students that they offered to hold an exhibition of their work.
We all went along to the private view this afternoon.
So much fun, so many happy children and parents, a truly wonderful expirence.
The Little Man had three pieces in the exhibition.
Here he is with his bird painting.


Third painting down is his magical tree.

And here he is with his beach painting.
I love this one.
I love it may be a bit too much.

He decided that my voice counted for nothing and he wanted to sell it. 
The lure of the filthy lucre was just too much for his 7 yr old mind!
It was gaining a lot of interest and compliments.
So here it is with a little red dot.

Thankfully Marcia knew how much I love it and so only sold to The Hippy who bought it for me.
£10 well spent I say. Both Mother and child went home happy!
Just so this isn't only a post about me bragging here are a few images of some of the other wonderful pictures in the exhibition.

I love the colours and movement in the top picture.

The perspective in the middle picture really reminds me of a colourful Alfred Wallis.

You do have to apreciate a girl who so loves her boots she paints pictures of them! 
And these last two I just liked because I can!

Right that is it. Bragging over. Back to the normal life from now on in.
What ever that is.
Love Nora xxxx

Thursday, 11 June 2015


Yesterday I promised you yet more end of year treats from my students.
Today is the turn of our first years.
This year somehow we managed to bag the black box performance space at the college for them to show their work in a kind of exhibition fringe. Smaller unofficial events running alongside the official college graduates exhibitions.
They have been working hard this term on an immersive theatre project, covering mask making, costume design and character exploration, 18th century costume construction, sound and set design as well as dying and painting into textiles.

The project was based on Howl's Moving Castle, drawing on both the book by Diana Wynne Jones and the film by Studio Ghibli.

Mo's Blue Calcifer.
They started with a series of mark making workshops with one of the art tutors, which involved them all crawling around on the floor drawing children's toys with neon chalks and a giant game of exquisite corpse.

Jess's Calcifer costume.
 The batton was then taken up by the design tutor with whom they developed the most amazing collaged designs for the characters in the story and strange and bizzare settings, whilst at the same time exploring mask making techniques.

Millie's Blue Howl

 Detail of Millie's mask.
Then over to yours truly for the costume construction elements. We decided to base the project firmly in the late 18th C, and so used historically accurate patterns form this book by Janet Arnold and this one by Norah Waugh.
Early on in the design process a strong element of U.V emerged

Jack's Witch of the Waste.
Wich meant it was over to our amazing technician for painting into the costumes and making them glow in the dark beautifully. The main lesson we learnt was what ever you think is enough U.V paint isn't!

Sheridan's Howl.

 Detail abstract smocking on Sheridan's Howl costume.

In between all this the guys in collaboration with Olli one of our set design students created an amazing setting, and recorded a some what surreal sound track that involved anongst other things kitchen implements and an old car horn.

Emma's costume for Old Sophie. 

 Details of Emma's U.V button print on the sleeves.
They worked so very hard and every moment of it paid dividends 100%.

Olli's setting for the piece.
It was an stunning experience, one I wish I could do justice to here.
Though it is probably going to be recreated as part of The Costume Games in Brighton in September.
Love Nora xxx