Handmade Monday 86 – “Star Gazing Project – The Announcement”

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The big news for Bits and Bobs Crafts at the moment is that myself and the Headway Craft Group have been awarded £250 to create a sculpture on the theme of Stars and Stargazing for the grounds of Mottisfont House, Romsey!

The Story of our Journey!

Its amazing where knitting lessons lead I think! As a result of teaching Cami, a member of staff at the local Headway branch to knit, I’ve had the priviledge of working with group of people of various ages who are recovering from some form of acquired brain injury. The group consists of 2 men and 2 ladies, who have various physical and concentration based challenges as a result of their brain injury. Some have been recovering for a longer time than others but what they all have in common is a desire to get the most out of life.

A while back I received our local council’s SHAPE newsletter – its an arts / music / crafts type listing, put together very ably by Steve Hill. In there was a short paragraph about a project being run via the National Trust’s Mottisfont House – Stargazing. As I  read , bells began to ring! I was  working with some amazing stars  and it would be fantastic to put their newly acquired or re-emergening crafting skills to good use and create something special around the theme of stars. I spoke to the lovely Cami, who got the craft group together following a few knitting lessons and chats about what she did, what I’d done in the past etc and she was equally enthused. We mentioned it to the group and they immediately got excited too!

Workshops and Sharing

A couple of coffees later Cami and I had written a mini workshop, exploring what stars meant to the individual members of the group and also focusing in what made them special – why were they stars!  This word map is what I’ve made from the comments, feedback and experiences shared and emotions expressed by the group. The one thing that struck me, was each person related a story of how their relatives were told to expect them to die or wake up and be virtually useless!


We finished the session by challenging the group to come up with some ideas for individual stars that celebrated their journey. Cami, myself and John – another member of the staff team who is  into working with metal   then worked with the group t0 design a framework hich their stars could be set on. We arrived at an idea based on a combination of plywood and wire frames, depending on the content of the star and its construction.

I was asked to make the central star that the others would hang on and  through discussion with the group came up with the idea of having a wooden frame with a “Blue Planet” in the centre – something similar to the photo’s Neil Armstrong had taken from space.

My challenge was to come up with an idea of how I could do this in crochet.I’ve created a “magic ball” of yarn and am experimenting with fillings that are both robust but can have wires inserted into them…. possibly the finished crochet will cover a tennis ball. I love water and emphasising its beauty and power is all about the process of getting out of a wheelchair for the majority of my day. Water based rehab has helped me learn to balance again and has increased my mobility with a zimmer frame – no I don’t have a bag on it with my knitting in yet lol! – and given me a little bit of my old life back.

The group also wanted to get the staff involved in creating the framework. Cami and the staff team had taken part in an Encaustic Art Workshop along with other service users and thought they would like to contribute to the project by using this technique, so we’ll also be pulling in local Encaustic Artist, Karen Tait, to help them decorate the plywood with encaustic art. The group see the the staff as helping them develop frameworks to rebuild their lives outside of hospital and felt this was a key part of the project


My next step was to turn their sketches, ideas and feedback into an artists statement and proposal – something I had to learn to do quickly thanks to some internet research. Sharing in the discussions of what stars meant, how their own recovery made them a star and how they wanted to use these thoughts, ideas and feelings to create the finished piece, has been extremely special.   Its helped me make more sense of my journey with disability and an often disobedient body too!

I’ve already mentioned their fight back to life, but its equally important to recognise the major life changes and challenges they faced once they woke up. Some people had lost full or partial use of a limb or two, all had to re-learn how to use their memories and still struggle with certain aspects of finding the words they need, so expressing themselves through art seems to be even more important and significant.

The Stars!

We now have 4 individual stars being prepared

The 2 guys are in competition to cover their shooting stars in french knitting,and trust me its turning into a race to the finish!

One lady has had her needles flying to make cute little hats for the points of her star – we spent Monday morning together with a l couple of lengths of wire and some pliers, creating an inner framework and extending our vocabulaies a little before we arrived at the solution! We now need to scan and print a photo onto acetate of her grandson and then fit it to an inner frame. He’s the star who’s inspired her and being encouraged to knit is something she identifies as a turning point in rehab.

Our second lady was previously a skilled embroiderer. She has designed and is creating an embroidered, beaded 3 dimensional piece. Its taken her some time to accept that she is having to go back and be a beginner again whilst her brain reconnects all the memories and movements she needs to take up her craft.But her progress and speed is phenomenal – which goes to show how much is locked in our brains – its just finding the key

The men have both chosen sporting themes – Celtic FC and F1 Racing, for their french knitting – but differ in their choices for the centres. One spoke of  spider man, because like a spider, he’s had to hang on to life and then try try and try again to make progress, so once the frame is covered then we’re going to work together to create a web in the centre of the star.

The second wants an F1 car, so we’re experimenting with making wire models which can be wrapped with yarn. We already know thin jewellery wire is not going to work, so our next step is finding a wire that is both pliabile and thin but also capable of holding its shape. We’ve found buttons that resemble wheels and I discovered some silver sequins we can use for hubcaps!

The Result

We’d already decided to go for it, make the sculpture and hang it somewhere locally whatever the outcome….. BUT on  Wednesday night I got an email….. And the lady from the National Trust, She said YES!!!! …..And what’s really great is that the National Trust are giving us pride of place, they’re erecting a metal archway for us outside of the cafe and gift shop, so out finished creation will definitely be seen by all! And we get £250 to spend on getting it just right!

A few more talented ladies….

Here’s the final post about The Southampton Community Craft Fair which is taking place tomorrow. If you’d like to come along you can download a free entry  flier with all the details HERE

Our confirmed list of sellers, with weblinks where available are:

Name                Business Name                                     Craft

Karen Tait    Kazie’s Encaustic Art        Encaustic Art + Children’s Beaded Bracelets

Lucy Abraham Bits and Bobs Crafts           Children’s Junk Bangles Make + Take

Cara Sandys         Silk Dreamings                    Recycled Jewellery from plastics

Sam Taylor          Taylor Made                         Jewellery

Sarah Pullinger  Sarah Facepainter             Face Painting

Edona Moore                                                          Glitter Tatoos

Julia Wills            Gifts with Elegance            Mixed Crafts

Christina Barnes   Knitting Design                Knitwear

Bev Newman          Bits and Bobs Crafts   Knitted and Crocheted accessories

Leisha Norman     LN Designs                      Recycled Homewares

Sue Thomas           Mrs Badcrumble        Handsewn gifts and accessories

Ashleigh Gergiou    Ashleigh’s Picnic    Photogrpahy, picnic rugs,rag rugs, gifts

Lynne Bartholomew    Vintage              Vintage ladies accessories and nightwear

Tracy Alexander           Cakes All Occaisions    Homemade cupcakes and cakes

Nagine                      Nagine’s Bakery     Homemade Cakes

Vicky Hopkins                                          Artist

Teresa Booth       Artees             Sculptures, handsewn gifts, mobiles

Today’s Featured Sellers

Lynne Bartholomew – Vintage

Today’s first  featured seller is Lynne Bartholomew, who sells her vintage goods on behalf of a local charity, Basics Bank.

Basics Bank is a local charity offering emergency food and clothing to people in need across the city.  We have received lovely vintage clothes and linen in our donations which we sell to help towards funding for our van, which moves the food around to the different venues,.  At the moment the van is also collecting food from Harvest festivals in schools and churches across the area.

Having known of people in the past who have really benefitted from Basics Bank, this is a really worthwhile cause to support and I would really encourage everyone to have a look at Lynne’s beautiful stall and spend some of your pennies there, as for some children in the city, basics bank can be the difference between going to bed with a full tummy and going to bed hungry.

Sue Thomas – Mrs Bad Crumble

Our second Seller is Sue Thomas, otherwise known as Mrs Bad Crumble. Sue makes a range of beautiful accessories from scrap fabric. Here’s what she has to say about her creations and inspirations:

I’m Mrs Badcrumble  (aka Sue!)
I am an avid up-cycler of other people’s unwanted resources.
So I take remnant and scrap materials and turn them into new items.
Currently, I have been making patchwork & applique cushion covers, patchwork bags & little purses, plus fun bunting for children.
My creations are simple, quirky & modestly priced.

Recycling has been important throughout my life.
It stems from my parents desire never to thrown something away that could be re-used or reconditioned into something new or useful.
My Mum taught me to sew when I was very small,
& I have an especial fondness for patchwork,
where a story can be told from every little fabric component.

I am also a baker of delicious Celebration Cakes!

Here’s a quick pewview of her work – the tomatoes are a particular favourite for me!

We’ll aim to get some photo’s up early next week from the fair, so that those of you who sadly aren’t local or can’t make it can see what our talented cohort of crafters has produced!

Craft Fair Vignettes

I can hardly believe that we have another fair in 2 days time! Its been a really hectic run up this time and I feel like a juggler who is lacking sufficient arms at times, but its all part of the fun! We’ve got lots going on for all the family and are offering free entry via the attached flier, so please feel free to download and print :FREE ENTRY FLIER

The press releases have gone in, many local schools, organisations and workplaces have been bombarded with emails, posters, fliers, and anything else we can think of. Some lovely and very dedicated volunteers have been a big help in spreading the word too, taking fliers around local churches, mosques, gurdwaras and community centres. We’ve also run a training afternoon for all involved in the fairs, so that our team of volunteers knows exactly what we need them to do and when. The coffee shop is organised, the Asian ladies are hard at work making snacks and munchies for us and the cake makers are cooking up a storm! And later I’ll have the needles flying to make a few little things to add to my table too!

I’ve promised a more indepth look at some of our local creative talents so here goes:

Teresa Booth – Artees


Teresa is a local artist who loves to create in a variety of media, from fabric to ceramics. Her facebook group is well worth a visit and browse through her lovely things. She creates everything from giant fabric elephant sculptures to delicate angels and her children’s cushions are absolutely beautiful!

Leisha Norman – LN Designs

Leisha is a creative lady after my own heart. Her mission statement says it all:

LNdesigns, Stresses the need to reduce, reuse, recycle. Creating new things by reusing satisfies many needs and provides an intriguing framework to be resourceful within. From; painting to reupholstering there is nothing better than the rejuvenation of a disregarded object.

She creates a huge variety of “new” items from old, sometimes by totally repurposing them and others by adding embellishments that bring things that are “unfashionable” right up to the current trends.


Tracy Alexander – Cakes All Occaisions

Tracy creates a wide range of beautiful birthday and cupcakes, for all ages and occasions. Based in Southampton, Cakes All Occasions is a home based bakery which specialises in traditional, contemporary, chocolate, novelty, mini cake and cupcake designs for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and special celebrations. Here are a selection of my personal favourites from her extensive repetoire:




Handmade Monday 84 – Excellence in Craft Teaching

Welcome to this week’s Handmade Monday – if you’d like to join in or read some of the other fantastic blogs written by some very talented people, then pop across to Handmade Harbour and join in the fun

This Saturday I went along to a workshop provided by Hampshire County Council for its craft tutors. I met some lovely ladies and it was a fantastic opportunity to network, listen and learn.

Being  the Learner

I went along fully expecting a day where we’d be demonstrating our teaching styles to each other and receiving feedback and pointers but was mystified by the instruction to bring a mirror! When I arrived  – a little late due to lack of street signs in Romsey and going to the wrong class room –  I was sent off to the Art Room. My heart immediately sank as I’d been begged on bended knee never to take an art exam when I was at school. Apparently my perceptual skills were and probably still are if I’m honest, not working well! I do find depth perception and drawing in 3D is really challenging, which is why I prefer knitting and crochet – I can actually see the work grow in 3 dimensions and understand it without having to look at a picture and interpret.

The next shock was that at the front stood an art tutor! As I’d taken my wheelchair I managed to successfully lurk at the back as I thought that would be safer and would be less likely to get me involved in doing anything too stressful – but I think she also had a psychic ability to spot the terrified and I soon realised I wasn’t going to get an easy ride – especially when she said we would be doing protraits!! I can still remember the humiliation I went through during my first half term at senior school when my attempt at a self portrait gave the class bullies the opportunity they needed to up their game, so my inner coward was definitely flapping by now!

But…. the tutor was amazing! She broke the work down into tiny, easy steps, explained it all very clearly and made sure we understood before putting pen to paper. She also gave us a huge sheet of paper and a thick marker pen to draw with and was really clear that we did not need to be accurate.  So I could actually approach the first drawing in a relaxed manner. We also had to try to use a continuous line meaning we couldn’t be over precise. The way she taught us meant that I lost my fear – it was ok to get it wrong and make mistakes. I also pretty rapidly realised I wasn’t the only person in the class out of their comfort zone and that no one was going to laugh at my efforts and that helped too! She was really clear about where on the face the features should go to achieve proportion and as well as explaining demonstrated and got us to look at how everyone in the class may have had different features, they were still placed in the same place. Another thing was that she put emphasis on the face being convex, something I’ve never really appreciated, hence all my face drawings tend to be of the flat, primary school variety!

Once we’d finished the first attempt we then spent time looking at the structure of the eye, nose and mouth and how to draw them well. Again things were explained and demonstrated and we got to have a go at drawing them in rough first. It was also interesting to hear what the more artistic tutors were saying about how using a chunky pen meant your hands were more relaxed and that it was easier to get the portrait to flow – again something I’d not really understood before but I could see it made sense from my own experimentation.When we’d spent some time looking at adding features we were challenged to repeat the portrait but this time imagine we were an ant. The ant was going to draw a map of the terrain it was crossing as we created our faces. Initially I wasn’t sure I could do this as I find precision really difficult in drawing but I persevered with it as I felt encouraged from my first attempt. I was actually really surprised at how much easier it was to create a portrait this way though. And how using the tutors tips for drawing eyes – heavy line at the top, soft at the bottom, avoid making them almond shapes and hanging the pupil from the top lid, made it come to life more. I know it still needs work but I feel much more confident when it comes to trying again. You can see some of my practice eyes just above her head.

We had a mini break and then moved on to the final part of the workshop – making a clay bust of ourself from the portraiture skills we’d learned – hence the mirror. My school career with clay was also a bit hit and miss but I do enjoy modelling with salt dough and plastecine so its not quite as scary – but I’d never made a bust. The closest I’d come was to make a “Beryl Cook” lady which exploded in the kiln and so never got finished. But again the tutor’s relaxed and calm approach removed much of my anxiety. I also have a good feel for the shape of the back of a head as I’m a well known baby cuddle snatcher so often have a little head resting in my hands. So I set to and with constructive feedback and suggestions from the tutor I sculpted the basic head, neck and shoulders from the clay and built up the back of the head. I needed a bit of help with shaping the face as that was hard to get my head round –  I could see it in the mirror but had forgotten the “convex” principle. However once it was explained I got going. And although I’m not 100% happy with my “neanderthal”  version of me, I ‘m happy that I had a go, that the others in the group and the tutor were positive about my efforts and that was great.

At the end of the session I spoke to the tutor about how much difference she’d made to me confidence wise with putting pen to paper and how school had written me off artistically many years ago and she was really pleased with the feedback.

Reflect and Set Goals

After lunch we had a reflective session looking at what we’d learned, what was expected of tutors in terms of excellence and shared examples from practice about what works, what doesn’t and the challenges we face when expecting to teach at a certain level only to find those booked are either more advanced or complete beginners for example. We then chose 6 things we would do to improve our practice:

Being a learner in a subject I found challenging really made me think and I realised just how far out of their comfort zone students are. I’ve also realised that for the low cost classes I run, I might need to do some more work gaining people’s confidence before offering a course, perhaps doing something less formal like a have a go day, so they can see its not like school!

My key aim was: Giving the group the skills they need to explore their creativity.

I work and plan lessons  to create a relaxed atmosphere where its ok to make mistakes – its actually part of the class plan, spotting and crorecting errors as its a good learning point for everyone. I also think its essential that people work at their own pace, so I’ll move on those with a bit of experience and spend a bit more time initially with those needing a little more help. I want people to come away from a lesson inspired to practice at home and want to experiment and move on.

The ideas I picked up that I thought might help with this are:

1. Always have spare materials and an extension activity, plus a beginners pack with me, just in case

2. Use a variety of suggestions to raise learners’ aspirations – internet, books, photo’s, trips, visits, exhibitions

3. Learning from Mistakes – put a bit more emphasis on this as the end of the first lesson – that homework doesn’t have to be perfect, that we need people to show their mistakes so we can all learn from them

4. Experimental Working – have the courage to set up a free form class – encourage learners to take inspiration from their surroundings, use different materials and unleash their creativity

5. Use Group Feedback – at the end of the session encourage learners to review their own work and each others in a constructive, positive way. Get them thinking about what they’re making, understanding structure, form and colour

6. Personalise their work – this is something I’m trying this term, using sessions 3 -6 for learners to work on their own pieces instead of following a group pattern. Sharing the new skjills they’re learning with each other and inspiring each other to try new things, but in a safe place, following some basic guidance about choosing a first pattern.

Southampton Community Craft Fair – 22nd Sept 2012

Well its craft fair time again and the applications are rolling in, and so are requests to be featured on the blog! Today is however sneak peak day! So here’s a quick preview of some of the lovely stalls we’ll be having along. This time we’re also offering facepainting, glitter tattoos and some make and take activities for adults and children. So if you’ve ever fancied knowing more about making mosaics or encaustic art, now’s your chance to find out! And for the kids, a great opportunity to make your own jewellery too! We’re still getting applications in for stalls, so we hope to have at least 20 people along on the day selling everything from knitted goods to art.

We’ve also released dates for the next 2 fairs – 3rd Nov and 8th Dec 2o12, so if you can’t make this one, then please come along to one of the others! We’ll be taking bookings as soon this fair finishes for stallholders! And for customers, a great opportunity to buy really unique Christmas gifts, meaning you don’t run the risk of duplicating gifts too!

One of the key aims of our fair is also to improve the experience of both stallholders and customers, so we’ve made some changes this time including:

  • Targetted Marketing
  • Contacting major employers and asking them to advertise on their intranets
  • Changing the posters to be easier to read and translate into community languages
  • Volunteer training
  • Improved signage around the building
  • Creating a decicated cafe and foodhall area

Here’s the bit you’ve been waiting for: – The stall holders who have confirmed to date:

1. Time for Me  Workshops – Margo Price

Margo is a multitalented crafter and is offering the opportunity for you to make mosiac coasters!

2. Kazies Encaustic Art

Karen is another multitalented lady who makes cushions and jewellery. But her passion is encaustic art – painting with an iron and wax. Her pictures are amazing and I’m determined to join one of her local workshops soon so I can have a go!

3. Naginas Bakery

Nagina is 16 and makes cakes to die for!  Her stall went really well last time and we’re really pleased she’s coming back!




4. Vintage Linens  – Basics Bank

The Basics Bank is a local charity, that provides help in terms of food, clothing and furniture to those in need. Lynne has a real eye for vintage and picks out anything special so that she can sell it at our events to help raise funds, so her stall is well worth a visit and definitely worth supporting.



5. Bits and Bobs Crafts

This is my company and I’ll be there showcasing my designs, taking orders for commissions and promoting up coming courses and classes





6.  Cakes All Occaisions

Tracy makes some fantastic cupcakes and will have a wide selection for us to try and enjoy!

7. Taylormade Jewellery

Sam Taylor makes all her own jewellery creations, this is her first event with us and we’re really looking forward to seeing her makes!



8. Silk Dreaming

Cara Sandys is a talented local artist and produces amazing jewellery from leather and fabrics which she sells in galleries in both the UK and Australia




9. Gifts with Elegance

Julia Willis and her friends are a co-operative of local crafters who make a wide range of beautiful things, again this is her “debut” at our fair and we’re waiting to see what she makes – but having seen her table at other fairs, I can honestly say its going to be a priviledge having her along.

10. LN Designs

Leisha Norman is a talented local lady who creates beautiful homewares with a vintage feel by recycling, upcycling and reusing. Her facebook page is well worth a visit!





11. Edona Moore and Sarah Pullinger – Face painting and Glitter Tattoos

Edona is a glitter tatooist, beauty therapist and nail artist – and runs a family friendly salon on Hayling Island. She specialises in providing parties for little ladies using child friendly products. Sartah is a talented local facepainter and we’re looking forward to seeing more of her work!

We’re also having our henna tatooist plus our selection of asian snacks too! And I have 5 forms still to be returned so it should be a really good day.

This afternoon we’ve run a training session for the volunteers who are helping us on the day covering everything from health and safety to customer care, so hopefully the day will run smoothly and we’ll all enjoy ourselves.

Handmade Monday 82 – Seeking Inspiration

Here’s this week’s Handmade Monday, its a great way to share your work with lots of talented like minded crafters, so if you’d like to join in, head over to Handmade Harbour for more info – and to view the other lovely blogs too!

The majority of my Monday mornings are spent over at a local Headway Centre working with a great group of ladies and gents who are recovering from an acquired brain injury. The initial damage could be due to accidents, strokes, surgery, haemorrhages or infection and most of the group have come very close to death in the past few years, some more recently than others.

As a group we work in crafting skills, from loom knitting  – which is very much a male province and hence competitive – to 16th Century embroidery. Sometime ago I got sent a link to a project a local National Trust property, Mottisfont House, had announced. The theme was star gazing and the brief to create a 3 dimensional sculpture of something star like that could be hung in their grounds over the Christmas period.

Mottisfont House, Grounds

We’ve already  run a focus group type activity at the centre already and explored what the word star means to individuals, and also looking at their achievements and personal highspots in their lives, pre and post their brain injury. From there we all grabbed pen and paper and designed our stars – each person has come up with their own idea and then I’m going to make a central star that the others will hang from or shoot off. A further meeting with another member of staff who has more of an engineering / sculptural background and a couple of the other guys who are into woodwork, has lead us to consider making wood a big part of the project.

House and Garden

However before we do the final design and polish off the proposal document, we also need a feel for the house and grounds. Its been a nightmare trying to find a day to get everyone out there so I took my daughter with me on Saturday and we had a lovely day out, and as her entry was waived due to accompanying me and my wheelchair, also had a really delicious lunch, plus icecream for pud! My original aim was to wander the grounds and identify places where we could hang the stars, but as we wandered I got more and more entranced by the house too – its built into the church of a medieval priory – and so thats been snapped and has helped me come up with some ideas we can discuss at the next session re how we finish the wooden frames – ultimately the group has the final say, but it’ll be interesting to see how they respond to the photo’s next week!

Mottisfont is also famous for its rose garden and here are a few bonus shots of roses, flowers and butterflies: