Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A circlet of interwoven materials: To form by twisting: to twist together: to twine about or encircle: to twist.

Last night I was a busy Nora.
With the grand opening of 2011 official and global Christmas festivities due upon us tomorrow there was just about enough time for a bit of last minute craftiness.

Last night 20 lovely ladies joined mine own self and the glamourous assistant, Kirsty, at our local pub.

And we made wreaths.

Lots and lots of wreaths.

We ate chocolate, we drank drinks, we met up with friends and new people.
But mainly we enjoyed ourselves.

At the end of the night Kirsty and I decide it was one of the most enjoyable classes I have run so far.

Lots of old faces, some recent faces and some new faces.
Such fun.

There is nothing Nora likes more than chatting over a pile of fabric.

You can see more of what the ladies created here.
So now this corner of south London is a little readier for the Christmas onslaught.

Phew! Thank Goodness for that.
If you like the look of the wreaths you can find out how to make them here.
The only difference being our wreath frames were a double ring, so I made the strips slightly shorter, about 5".
I am off next week to a really Christmassy place in the far north.
If there is no snow I will throw a tantrum. Work or no work!
Much Love Nora xx

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Long long time readers of this blog may remember the original wonky and some of the less than encouraging comments the Hippy made about him.
But Wonky has been a well loved member of the gang often being lobbed out of bedroom windows just to see how far and how fast a wonky can really go.
But someone other than the boys really really loved Wonky.
He is a dear and special friend to all of us is Lou.
It was his birthday.
So a dear and special wonky was called for.
And so I bring you the Flaming Wonky.
With hooves of fire he travels the neighbourhood bringing warmth and comfort to all who meet him.

The glowing embers of his face welcoming friends new and old.

And his ring of fire repelling those who have annoyed,
or big sisters who are being too bossy.

Happy birthday Louis and good luck in your new home Flaming Wonky.
May you keep each other forever warm.
I am thinking how much I enjoyed making another Wonky and that if I can muster the energy (for I too along with other members of the household am feeling a little wonky at the moment) may post a how to about him.
Is this a good idea?
Or is it only me, the boys and Lou that love a wonky?
See you on the other side of all the aches, pains and general grumbly grumpyness.
Nora xx

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


Oh and while you are about it you can take your close friend inertia with you.
My very best friend once told me that our problem was that unless the deadline is biting us on the bum we really just do not get on with it.
Oh how true that is.
I am currently working on quite a big job for my day job.
A production of "West side story" for a theatre in Norway to be precise.
8 beautiful 1950's party dresses designed by some one I really like and admire.
So why are they still hanging there looking at me accusingly?
Why are they not nearly ready for their second fittings in a couple of weeks time?
I mean I've had long enough, we started them in September for goodness sake.
I realise now its because I've had a visitor.
They are a stealthy visitor. One I didn't notice for quite a long time.
To be honest Procrastination is a very low maintanence house guest.
I think he moved in at the beginning of October.
The arrival was soon followed by me signing up for Karen Ruane's buttons and more class.
Its good to keep your self open to new ideas. It keeps me fresh and up to date, stops me from going stale etc etc.
Oh how you must have heard it all before.
We all do it.
Now don't get me wrong, Karen's course is AMAZING.
It really really is.
I have no regrets and it did all of the above listed things.
But was it the beginning of Procrastinations extended visit?
Lets face it we have all been enjoying the spoils of his visit, the tales from the scrap heap, the tutorials. I've been having a great time!
But all the time tick tock tick tock.
I have so many blog posts I want to write, so many things I want to make, cards to send, workshops to organise, bedrooms to decorate, a house to clean and yet they are still undone.
Why is this?
Ah Inertia the whispy and transparent friend of Mr P I see you have arrived under the cover of darkness, snuck in on a blast of cold air one evening when I went to put the rubbish out.
Well now I say BE GONE!
And so I bring you the real post as opposed to the very long pre amble you have just read.

Always that was said in that steely tone of voice that only your own mother can muster, and that you seem to fail at miserably every time you attempt it.
Karen Ruan's excellent course.
I found it really inspiring and so much fun.
I've been meaning to share with you what I made for ages, but for the reasons listed above it hasn't happened.
Before I show you my masterpieces (ahem, cough cough)
I must tell you that karen is re running her course starting next week.
You can find all the details here.
She is a great tutor giving clear instructions and video lessons as well as loads of fantastic advice and feed back.
And at only £30 for a 3 week course an absolute bargain. I would happily have paid double that.
And so to the pictures.

Barroque noughts and crosses.

Cut work button with web stitch and french knots.

Sun a rise early in the morning.

The union flag.
As ever going slightly off piste, a piece of drift wood covered with linen, covered in embriodery, destined to be a brooch.

And then as you do I got interested in something else.
Japanese Borro textiles.
Which lead to this

and this

which made me think about Japanese wood cuts,
which lead me to waves

And finally...

A dorset button.
Not sure I'll revisit this one, but I guess it was interesting to make one!

And the mad thing is there are at least 3 types of button I haven't got round to yet.
You can see more creative spaces here.
Much love and many thanks for bearing with me on this ramble.
The unwanted guests are packing their bags as I type.
So hopefully normality will resume soon.
Love Nora xxx

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

We have just come back from a wonderful weekend staying with
the Hippy's family back in the flat lands.
A weekend of leaf covered trampolines.

A weekend of bike rides in the lane.

A weekend of night time walks to the pub to catch up with friends.

A weekend of Autumn colour,

mouldering piles of leaves,

and strange and wild beasties.

A happy cozy Autumn to you all.
Love Nora xx

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Oh yes folks Nora is going back to school.
Not only that but Nora has been back at school.
Two different schools, two different projects.
One to come, one in the past.

Let me take you back to my first school adventure.
Because trust me it was an adventure.
The Ginger ninja's school have started a programme of parent volunteers.
Sadly I am never going to be good at sitting in a class room reading with
bored children.
I politely explained this but did say I had other more crafty skill to offer.
I was collared by Mr D, the Ginger one's teacher from last year.
"I'm not very good at craft, please help!"
Ooh hoo! I do so love a challenge.
So just before half term in I wandered to have a chat with the kids in year 5.
They explained to me that they were in the middle of a BIG project.
The apprentice.
The children are in enterprise groups.
Each group has to come up with an idea.
An idea that will make some money.
An idea that will bowl every one over at the school christmas fair.
The groups are putting their pitches to the headmaster
and the lucky ones will have their own stall.
So we all sat down and came up with some ideas of
what they thought they could make.
A week later armed with lots of felt, beads, buttons and
colourful fabrics I was back again.
Even though it was only mid October and felt quite frankly wrong we all set to making Christmas decorations.

5M's decorations

5D's decorations

It was quite a challenge for me.
My classes usually only have 10 - 15 children in them, and then I have a glamourous assistant.
That day I worked with both classes in the year group so that was probably pushing 60 students over the whole day.
But the teachers were all amazing getting really involved and helping the children.
Though as I now recall it I don't believe I ever saw Mr D with a needle in his hand!
The students worked really hard and came up with some great ideas.
Some were neat

Some were inventive, yes that is lavender stitched on to the star.

Some were traditional.

And some were so amazing they still make me smile and laugh when every I think of them. Before you ask this is of course a Henry Hoover.

I can't put a photo of every single decoration here,
but let me say they were all fantastic.
And I went home at the end of the day, exhausted, having more or less lost my voice (a blessing for some) and feeling very very excited about what we had all achieved.
So excited in fact that I have been asked to go back after Christmas and do something relating to the Tudors and Elizabethans.
I feel a costume extravaganza coming on!
Let me tell you as some one who made Colin Firth's costumes for "Shakespeare in Love" and Cate Blanchete's costumes for "Elizabeth"
this is some thing I do know about!

And so on to my upcoming school adventure.
I have been asked by the lovely people at Telferscott school to host
an evening sewing workshop for adults.
So I bring you
The Flora Extravaganza.

We shall be making beautiful floral brooches.
There will be lots of amazing fabrics and trims for people to play with.
In fact I went today to my secret stash, so secret it is locked away in a top secret location away from the rambling shed.
So secret and wondrous are the fabrics stashed there that I had forgotten some of them existed as I rummaged wildly looking for the prefect leaf fabric.
Needless to say I brought lots of brooch making goodies back with me.
So on to the nitty gritty.
The class is on the evening of 17th November
at Telferscot Primary school in Balham SW London.
It costs £10.
If you are in the vicinity and fancy taking part let me know.
Love Nora xxx

Friday, 4 November 2011

So here we are again, back on the scrap heap.
I have been pondering what to do next with the fast dwindling supplies of the scrap heap.
A large wall seemed to have been erected through my head.
The ponderings were getting me no where.
And then I couldn't sleep.
And then I started musing on some of the wonderful things I have been given over the years.
It would appear I have been given quite a few over the years.
And then the wall crumbled and I danced delightedly upon its rubble.
Fuse your obsessions girls, fuse your obsessions.
Brooches, birds, birds, brooches....

So yesterday I took my miners lamp, a pick axe, a whistle and a very long length of string and set forth to mine the scrap heap for the exactly right scraps.
We are now well and truly in to November so I feel no remorse in mentioning the c word.
I bring you a Christmassy festive brooch.

I started with a rather poor and tiny sketch of our favourite Christmas bird.
The brooches are about 1.5" wide by 2.5" long.
After a lot of frustrated rubbing out and starting again. I realised I should draw round my brooch base before commencing drawing.
It was at this point the plan started to come together.

I should mention here how I make the bases for my brooches.
I use 3 layers of heavy wool felt.
I tend to make a large sheet of it up and then cut it up in to the smaller shapes. I stitch the outer edges of the 3 layers together and then stitch in a random zig zag pattern back and forth across the felt.
I like the texture this gives the finished brooch base as well as the stability it offers.
I don't worry about cutting through threads or finishing ends off, it all adds to the frayed organic look!

At this point sketch the out line of your bird on to the brooch base.
After much rummaging in the scrap heap I found a selection that pleased this old girls eye.
The floral piece in the background became the body of the robin, with the cream back ground as its tummy. The red silk dupion became the breast and the rust silk? Well sadly it was relegated back to the heap.
I also like on small pieces of machine embroidery and applique like this to use up all those annoying bobbins with colours you may not need again. In fact if they are the right colour I use them as the top thread.

Cut out your Robin shapes from the scraps.
Place the body on to the brooch.
I don't bother pinning it, but I have done very little with my life over the last 24 years other than sit at a machine and sew!
So please pin if you don't feel confident.

I sew my shapes on using free hand machine embroidery. If you have never done this before, plunge in to the deep end and have a go. Its so much fun.
Consult your manual for how to do this on your machine.
Basically you will have to drop the teeth or feed dog on the machine. Though on more modern machines you may have a plate that you attach over the plate to stop the feed dog from working.
The feed dog is the moving part of the machine just under the foot. It is what moves the fabric through the machine. By dropping it it is up to you to move the fabric through the machine. Which gives you loads of scope to stitch any which way you like!

Stitch on the tummy. I have given it some more texture by stitching back and forth across it.
Now I really like the raw frayed edges. I feel it makes the bird look more alive, gives it more movement.
But I realise this may not be to every ones taste or style.
If this is the case and you want a cleaner line I would suggest you iron some bondina on to the back of your scraps, then fuse your shapes on to place brooch base.
This will prevent the fraying and give a cleaner line.

Stitch on you breast.
A robin has a blue grey highlight round the breast and on to the tummy. I did this in a contrasting thread.
At this point I also stitched on the outline of the wing with a few extra lines to help with the definition.

Then the finishing details.
Eye, beak and legs.
Snip off all your threads, sew a brooch clasp on to the back and DAAA DAAA!
A christmassy bird brooch!

In fact I loved making this bird so much that I carried on playing around and experimenting. And so I give you
A king fisher

and a yellowhammer

I was having so much fun exploring the return my inner stitched twitcher that I made a whole flock of the robins.

I have put them and the other birds in my shop if you haven't got the time or quite frankly can't be bothered to make one of your own!
And speaking of my shop.
There are still a few freebie Tales from the scrap heap scrap bags (you just pay the postage) left.
And I am thinking of listing some scrap bags of coloured linings if any one is interested.
Happy stitching kids.
Love Nora xx