Understandably, my head's been a little distracted these past few days, and jumping from one thought to another, I found myself digging out my lace bobbins yesterday, and going through old photos.

me, circa 1997/8? making torchon lace

me, circa 1997/8? making torchon lace

On occasion I've mentioned that I've made lace, and it's always been my intention to sit down and talk about it, or more specifically, talk about the bobbins.

hand-painted commemorative bobbins from my collection

hand-painted commemorative bobbins from my collection

Getting them all out and looking through them yesterday was wonderful. I've counted them all, and I've 152 spangled (i.e. with their beads and ready to use) and a further 22 ish waiting for spangling. That might sound like a lot, but if you want to make any lace with any detail then it really isn't many at all.

Lace bobbins are rather special objects in and of themselves. Mine are all hand-made, and the art of wood turning real comes into itself with these fine, detailed tools. I have so many usual pieces (of course!) but I don't think I got them out yesterday to look at those, I got them out to look at the commemorative bobbins.

Commemorative bobbins are a big part of the bobbin collection. There's way too much history to them and I'll recommend the book 'The Romance of the Lace Pillow' by Thomas Wright for anyone wanting to look further into it. Bobbins would be hand carved or hand painted, or their spangles would have special beads to denote anniversaries or other occasions. They're not only beautiful pieces of craftsmanship, they're also personal tokens, imbeud with memories.

In my collection I've a number of bobbins I'd had hand-painted by Sallie Reason, an artist who sadly passed away a few years ago. I briefly met her once, at a Lace Makers fair at the NEC, but we communicated by letter a lot, as she painted my many requests. Her work was beautiful, and the detail at such fine scale was amazing. I've never known who to get in touch with since she passed away, and I've a mental list of all the memories I'd like painted should I ever find another artist.

my most precious hand-painted bobbins

my most precious hand-painted bobbins

The gloss finish made these very hard to photograph, but I hope you can see some of the details!

"thank you for being there", "forever in my thoughts"

"thank you for being there", "forever in my thoughts"

These were the bobbins I wanted to touch when I went looking through them all.

I had these two bobbins commissioned when I lost my cat Twiggy in 2001. She wasn't my first cat, but she was the cat that I've shared more of my life with than any other. She saw me through some of the very worst periods of my life, too.

Twiggy, 1995 ish

Twiggy, 1995 ish

After going through all my bobbins, I went through all my old photographs. Like any black cat, Twiggy was notoriously hard to photograph.

She came from a rescue centre in Hadleigh, Southend. As every other cat came to the front of their pen to meow for attention, she sat at the back of hers, watching. I didn't see her at first, my then boyfriend did, but I didn't need any persuading that I'd found my cat as soon as I saw her.

She was docile in nature, lap and cuddle friendly, and she went pretty much everywhere with me. She lived with me in at least 5 different homes, and was always by my side as I lived through studying, travelling, and survived emotional abuse, domestic violence and an attempted rape. She saw me go from leaving home to becoming a teacher. And just as I was coming out the other side of it all, I lost her to lymphatic cancer.

I'd never felt so alone. But I knew she must have been ill for some time without my knowing, and had stayed with me as long as she could, until I was better able to cope on my own.

my favourite photo of Twiggy

my favourite photo of Twiggy

I cried myself to sleep the other night, thinking about her. I wanted to feel the warmth of fond memories but found myself heartbroken as my memories were not as clear as I'd hoped. This is what having a nervous breakdown or two does for you. My memory has never been all that great since the first major breakdown and the sadness at having lost the good memories as well as the bad is almost too much. So I went looking for the memories, and this is where I am now. They're not all with me yet, and I don't know how much I will be able to recover, but it'll be worth all the tears.

We're planning on decorating the stairwell wall in the bus with photos, printed and wall-papered on, and this special lady will be up there with all our other memories. And this couldn't make me happier. After spending time yesterday going through all of these photos, I woke feeling a little lighter today. The relief of not having lost her for good.

This hasn't been the easiest of blog posts to write, and I'm sorry if I've made you cry. Crying is a release, it's good. And as much as I try not to look back in life, sometimes we have to, to remember the good parts amongst the bad.

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I'm sure by now many of you will be familiar with Karie Westermann's fascinating Kickstarter project, This Thing of Paper. Before the blog tour to support the project even started, the kickstarter was fully funded and the amount pledged continues to climb, and that's testament to the amazing support of knitters for this intriguing project. The fundraiser is open for two more weeks, finishing June 22nd, and every penny raised will be appreciated and put to very good use in bringing this book to print.

Karie's project will be a beautiful book of knitting patterns inspired by the age of Gutenberg.

 
 

Text and textiles are inexplicably linked. They both tell stories, fact or fiction, and it only seems fitting then that Karie should bring these subjects together again in this way. The knitting patterns will be accompanied by essays, and the book will be divided into 3 main areas:

Story 1: Manuscript. The story of handmade manuscripts and the people who worked on making them. This story features one garment and two accessories.

Story 2: Invention. The story of the period in which Johannes Gutenberg transformed book production. This story features one garment and three accessories.

Story 3: Printed. The story of when printed matter became more commonplace and helped spread information across Europe. This story features one garment and two accessories.

It goes without saying that I'm curious about the Hat projects that will be part of the 10 patterns! Naturally Karie wants to keep details under wraps, so as to not spoil the big reveal upon publication. She was though happy to talk about one of the Hats in the collection (there will be two) and her inspiration behind it.

 
 
This Hat is part of a Hat & glove set inspired by type setting. I’m playing around with the idea of a pattern scaled in different ways across the Hat & the gloves. Construction-wise, it will be worked from the brim up.

Stitches as words, as characters. Mixing and matching them to create different expressions, different pieces of code, each combination resulting in a different outcome. Something that's always fascinated me from a design perspective is how changing one thing, one simple component of a design can result in an entirely different new design. By switching the direction of a twisted stitch, or it's occurrence, you change the narrative. I'm absolutely fascinated to see what Karie does with this Hat design!

As we talked, Karie explained a little about her design process. She tells me she works heavily on paper, starting with the story and concept before any swatching occurs. This is rather different to my process, whereby yes, I'll have a concept, usually structural, but I'll generally work on the needles and let the story develop organically, and it got me thinking again about not only how we tell our stories as designers/artists/writers/creators, but the value in knowing and understanding our different voices. Karie's voice is strong in this project; the concept is undoubtedly hers.

This Thing of Paper is due to be published in spring 2017, and it will be an interesting journey to watch. I do hope Karie keeps us all updated through her blog as she explores bringing this book together and working through the many challenges a project like this will present! In the meantime, the next stop on the tour is Tom of Holland. You can catch the full list of blog tour participants here, and it's a wonderful collection of different voices, each offering their own perspective into the project - very much worth a read.

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Santarcangelo is home to the most amazing little place - the Button Museum. I finally had the chance to visit with Susan and once we'd walked in, I knew I had to take as many photos as possible to share. The place was so beautiful! The small cavern on the side of a street that leads up to the old town, packed with displays of buttons, all arranged by date and material, is a must-see for any button lover. Seriously, this place is button heaven. The lovely folks who run the museum know their stuff, too - they've lived and breathed buttons all of their lives and all of their knowledge and passion is there for everyone to see.

And what could be better than the wonder of all these fabulous historical and beautiful buttons on display? Being able to own some of them. Excess buttons are sold to help fund the museum, so anyone visiting could potentially own some of the most sought after vintage buttons. Susan went home with number of original buttons for her vintage designs, and given half a chance, I suspect she would have gladly bought the remainder of stock.

Jealous much?

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I don't have any pictures of it looking lovely and new, with it's neat little drawers and cute wooden handles. These, now, are the only pictures I have of my favourite button box. I could try to put it back together again to give you an idea but the seams and joins are all rotten and it only wants to fall apart.

The gruesome discovery was made yesterday evening, as we needed to get into the thread box to sew on a new button to a pair of Tom's trousers. The thread box seemed a little dusty, and looking a little closer, we saw that the button box was in a bad way. We had no idea just how bad until we got it out.

The boxes were underneath one of the seats in the bus. Damp is one of the biggest problems we have to deal with - moisture collects in the air so easily when you all live in a small space, and over winter when it's too cold to open the windows or doors, mold spores start breeding. Normally we're hot on their heels and deal with damp before it gets set in - this is one of the only patches we've found from this winter, everywhere else faired better than last year.

But this is the kind of rapid growth mold, the sort of stuff that can do this kind of damage in a few weeks, not months. We don't know whether something got spilt down there (most likely) or whether it is condensation (this box was right beneath the vent so not so likely) but either way, this wasn't like this the last time we went under the seats. Just about everything else is stored in air tight bags or clear plastic boxes, all of which are mold proof.

Apart from a few buttons that have a light green dusting, all of my buttons have survived in tact. Typically, most of my buttons are wood or other natural materials so they would be favourite fodder for the mold. I'm very relieved that they at least are fine. They will all get a very warm wash though.

This button box has sentimental value, making this loss all the more sad. It was gifted from an ex-boyfriend of mine, after I'd spent months and months coveting it, and he's someone with whom I have remained good friends. For nearly 20 years, this pretty little box has homed all of my buttons and kept them safe wherever I've travelled. The gold Liberty mark is barely visible now under the green mold, this isn't the sort of box I can afford to replace. I don't even know if they still make them.

I could try cleaning it but there doesn't seem much point - the mold has worked it's way through the fabric covered cardboard walls. The cotton lawn fabric is too fine to survive such damage and the board is too damp to hold up to anything. The box is well and truly dead; such a sad way for a special box to go.

I guess it's now time to find an old tin for my buttons.

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CategoriesBus, Textiles

Yesterday saw the first birthday of P/hop - 'Pennies Per Hour Of Pleasure' - and there are lots of great things going on to celebrate! There's a blog-a-long this week, which anyone can join, and I will be contributing later in the week with something special to help them celebrate their first year. If you've never heard of P/hop go have a look - they are helping to raise funds for MSF through knitting - worth supporting, huh?

Recently a special parcel arrived all the way from India. Inside were plenty of goodies, and the dear Swapna spoilt us rotten!

There were 2 shirts for Aran, local hand loom fabrics and absolutely gorgeous as I'm sure you'll agree:

Aren't they just beautiful? I think the red one is my favourite, appeals to my inner hippy ;) We haven't tried them on him yet but they are plenty big enough (Aran's a skinny chap for his age, tall too) and we can't wait until the weather warms enough for him to wear them.

Included in the parcel was also some wool! (of course)

50g each of this local pure wool, and already the yarn has been put to good use (though you'll have to wait until later in the week to find out how, and it has something to do with P/hop!) According to the Rav database, Wendy Aristocrat bears little or no relation to the Wendy yarns most of us are familiar with. I can't help feeling that they might have been in some way, though.

This parcel made my week, it really did, with all it's yumminess and thoughtfulness. But there was more delight to come... on the day this parcel arrived, Swapna had her own delivery - the birth of her little girl! As I logged onto Facebook to tell her the news, there was her news staring straight back at me. How's that for timing?! I'm so, so happy for Swapna - this is a very special, long awaited baby and it's wonderful to know that she is here safe and sound.

Finally, I can announce the draw/contest winners - both MaLinda and LaCrumpet will be receiving copies of the Italian stitch dictionary! It was a tough decision, deciding the winners, but both winning comments struck a chord with me for different reasons. Thank you to everyone who took part, and I'm hoping to find other goodies like this to offer again!

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