Friday, 23 December 2011

Making & Baking - the xmas installment

Because it came in a v.large box and was therefore difficult to hide and because I was standing in the hallway when it was heaved carried up the stairs and therefore saw it straight off (and because this Christmas I intended to make presents rather than buy them), Mitch gave me my xmas present early. I am now the proud owner of my very own sewing machine and I love it! Hats off to Mitch, although it was two weeks early the christmassy present effect was still the same, it was such a good surprise and the perfect gift.

What with Christmas fast approaching, the quilt has been put on hold. In it's place I've been busy making presents, namely cushions, and so far so good. Of course, this being me I'm making a mental note of all the sewing and craft projects I could do once the cushions are complete and the festive season comes to a close, I don't think Mitch could've known what he's instigated (or what our flat will look like...)! I've been given the means to make my own clothes (I shall definitely be attempting this) as well as all the cushions and bunting I could possibly want - absolute joy. 
Feeling like a domestic goddess (although, I'm yet to make anything) I decided to do some baking: bread and biscuits. I'd never made bread before but Lorraine Pascale provided an incredibly simple recipe to start me off. The ham, cheese and chive loaf turned out pretty well. As for the spiced biscuits, it's an age old, simple recipe that I've been making (and assisting to make/ice) since I was very small. They've become some what of a Christmas tradition and my first Brixton batch of them turned out just as I remember them. I can't take credit for the icing though, that was down to Mitch. Nothing says 'season's greetings' quite like a dinosaur shaped biscuit :)

Merry Christmas everyone! 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Interval Ice cream & the Long Commute

As well as a couple of trips to the pictures - The Rum Diary (v.funny, catch on dvd), 50/50 (laugh out loud jokes from Seth Rogan but bring your tissues, I cried alot), My Week with Marilyn (amusing in places but also quite sad, it's an interesting glimpse into Monroe's fragility, Michelle Williams is excellent) - I recently went to the theatre to see The Lady Killers. Verdict: you should most definitely see it too, whether you've seen the original 1955 film (or the bizarre 'remake' by the Cohen Brothers) or not, it's a brilliant version to be enjoyed in it's own right. Graham Linehan (Father Ted, IT Crowd) is the man behind the adapted script and additional hilarious situations created for the stage production. The witty dialogue is expertly delivered by an excellent cast, most notably (I reckon) Ben Miller and Stephen Wright as Louis and Harry respectively. Lastly, the revolving set is superb, from Mrs Wilberforce's subsiding house to the inspired depiction of the heist half way through the first half (I won't say more than that). And, although it's available at most theatres, the ice cream at the interval is always appreciated and makes a nice change from popcorn.

Stage show line up compared the original film cast below.

What is (if there is one) the plus side of an hour or so commute? Answer: I get to read a lot. (It is the only  good thing about the journey). I've rattled through a mixed bag of books including the 3rd part of Stephen King's The Dark Tower Series (now I've started it must be finished), Iain Banks' The Wasp Factory (a v.disturbing, isolating story with a good twist), Norwegian Wood by Murakami (it's interesting and despite the fact that I disliked all the characters, it's pretty morbid and the ending - if that's what you call it - was v.odd, it's made me want to read another of his), a collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman (most were surprisingly grim but the story that has stuck in my head was in the introduction, a creepy short about a wedding gift which I ordinarily would have missed as I rarely read book intros) and most recently Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. I've read a few of her books and what I've found is that opening one you haven't read before is like speaking to a good friend you've been out of touch with. It's familiar in a sense but also exciting because there's lots of new things to catch-up on, and most importantly you know that whatever they're going to say will be interesting. 

Oryx and Crake is a brilliantly, compelling book. The reader is plunged into a dystopian future where mankind has been wiped from the planet by a virus created by a possibly mad, possibly genius man (probably both) named Crake. The only human standing left standing and forced to survive on the post-apocalyptic Earth is Snowman, formally known as Jimmy. So, yes, it's science fiction and hence ticks several of my boxes. It's set in an 'end of the world as we know it' time but there are plenty of flashbacks (courtesy of Jimmy as he pieces the story together) to the world before human extinction but even that time is quite unlike our own, or rather an exaggeration of it, where we might end up if we're not careful. Atwood is a bloody awesome writer not just because of her imagination but her ability to put it all on the page in such a way that her stories linger with me a long time after I've read the last line. Talking of last lines I'm sure you can imagine my disappointment when I finished Oryx and Crake (as with all good novels), I mean this was the book that got me through a lovely district line journey where the train randomly stopped and the driver announced that he lost traction and wasn't sure why, how or when we would be moving again. My response had been to thumb the unread pages of the novel and calculate that we'd have to be stuck for at least an hour before I ran out of book to read (after which I probably would start to panic). Alas, I actually finished it the next day a third of the way through my commute but the good news is I've more Atwood in the pipeline...

Thursday, 15 December 2011

long-awaited beard update

I don't know about 'long-awaited' but it's been a few months since the last beard status update so if you're curious here it is. Pretty modest at present.

market places, market faces

We're well into the Christmas lead-up and for the first time ever the presents situation is in hand! But I'm not here to boast, in fact this will begin as a mournful post, a 'this time last year' jaunt down memory lane...

This time last year it was all gluwein and bratwurst, novelty mugs and plenty of snow. I massively enjoyed myself on two trips to Germany last winter only two weeks apart. Little did I know that my Christmas Markt over-indulgence of 2010 would not be repeated in 2011, at least not authentically or to even a 10th of the scale. However, people with no money to go Germany to experience the real Christmas Markets cannot be picky. Hello Winter Wonderland Hyde Park! I went a couple of years ago and I'm pretty sure it's doubled in size - there's plenty of food, drink, terrifying-looking-fairground-rides for those sausage-filled thrill-seekers and even some more authentic looking German craft stands. Of course it's no where near as good as what I saw in Cologne, Dusseldorf or Hagen (where are the gluwein mugs Hyde Park? Where are the cute little Christmas themed mugs for me to drink my four-quid gluwein - huh huh?! And why is it almost double the price is a plastic cup?). I got my bratwurst though and even managed to ask for it in convincing German (so convincingly that the sausage seller tried to make conversation with me in German at which point I said thanks and walked off - smooth)!
chocolate ginger heart from Hagen Christmas Markt

Also on my market radar of recent is the one to be found at Greenwich, tucked away in the centre of a square of shops. Although it's not Christmas specific (it's on all year round) there are minced pies and mulled wine and the individual stalls exude a festive spirit. It's very craft friendly and a number of the stalls ('tis the season) have lots of little Christmassy gifts from tree decorations to cracker prizes, stocking fillers to the stockings themselves! We got chatting to a lovely lady (and her husband) who was selling quilts (surprise surprise) in all sizes and colours including some seasonal stuff too. Aside from the from the stalls themselves the neighbouring shops that look out onto the market square are worth a visit too.
Sandie from Eni-Meni Patchwork

Brixton village plays host to a number of varied events including music. At the beginning of the month my friends' band Silvers performed in between the awnings and shop shutters to mark the release of their new EP Parades which you can listen to here (it's very good): 
They have also just made a Christmas song in conjunction with Greggs (yes, the steak bake people!) to raise money for the Help for Heroes charity, watch the video here
Staying within the Brixton area, last weekend saw many talented crafty people gathering in The Dog Star pub to set up mini stalls and sell their pretty creations from jewellery and hats to screen prints, home-ware and clothing, all courtesy of The Crafty Fox. It was incredibly tempting to buy a number of things (Storm in a Teacup for numerous pretty things, Love Lexi for bunting, Key Lime Pie for awesome t-shirts and Lucie Ellen for cute wooden accessories), however I restrained myself and only purchased three items that were Christmas present (for others) related.
Awesome screen printed wrapping paper from Frinton Press, cufflinks from House of Ismay and some extra large pretty pins from Zeena

And finally, I took a trip to an altogether different market in London's east end, Walthamstow - young Mitch's local market. He said a lot of it had changed (less stalls, the loss of a computer shop he used to go to) but thankfully one thing had not disappeared, our main reason for riding the length of the Victoria line, Manze's - the old pie and mash shop - home of very tasty pie indeed. It's been there on Walthamstow high street since 1927 with what feels like (in a good nostalgic way) all the original decor, tiles and wooden benches, even the brass cash register.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Earl Grey (& some DIY) at the Artist's House

My work takes me to some interesting places - Quilt festivals, knitting shows, sewing conventions - but the latest escapade was on an altogether smaller scale.

I attended an artist's open house back in October to see the work of/interview Jennifer, a textile artist and quilter. Her latest collection is all about recycling old fabrics and she uses anything from old clothes to clothware, mattress ticking to vintage sewing bits and buttons.

She had quite a few people looking around and so, with the crux of the interview done, I left her to mingle with her guests only to return one v.rainy day (recently) to get some images for the feature. Just her, me, earl grey tea and her fabulous quilts (there might also have been a couple of chocolate biscuits). After the tea, the real work began - choosing which quilts to photograph, where to hang them (the conservatory full of natural light was chosen) and how to hang them. The latter point soon became the issue. Numerous nails had been hammered into the brick wall of the artist's conservatory but no two were level so that we could hang the quilts without them being wonky. Jennifer was supporting a broken arm (and is also older than my mum but younger than my nana) so it fell to me to bash in some more nails.

It was one of those surreal moments when I took an outside look at the situation I found myself in. There I was half way up a ladder, in an almost stranger's house, hammering a nail into the painted white wall of her conservatory whilst the rain battered down on the glass ceiling. It just goes to show, you never know where your day will take you.

It turns out I'm pretty rubbish at hammering, just when I thought the nail was going into the wall it flew out, narrowly missing the artist. At which point I asked whether she had an existing pictures we could use, thankfully she had and good quality ones too. After another cup of the earl grey and some chat I went on my way with a selection of high res images suitable to print AND a little present from Jennifer, an essential piece of sewing equipment (because sticking needles and pins in clothes and pillows - whatever's closest generally - is just bad practice)...

And, for anyone who's curious, below is one of Jennifer's quilts that I was trying to photograph. It uses, vintage sewing paraphernalia (button cards and the like), old clothes (even a lady's glove!) as well as one of Jennifer's favourite processes - screen printing - which was also employed to make my little pin cushion.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Confusion on the U-Bahn (adventures in Berlin)

Last month I spent three and half jam packed days in Berlin. It is an awesome city and will I definitely go back, mainly to see and do all things that I didn't get round too!

We stayed in East Berlin at the Odyssee Globetrotter Hostel - v.nice indeed, free coffee, cheap beer and the offer of a good old German breakfast.

Kreuzberg was the most recommended district to mooch about  in - shops/bars/eateries - we spent a lot of time there, in particular, wandering down Oranienstasse where I bought my gravy jug and comic style tights!

We did all the touristy things too - visiting the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial (by Peter Eisenman), the Tacheles and the Berlin Film Museum where there were showing a very interesting exhibition on story boards as well a lot of history about the German film industry. We attempted to see the Bundestag but, and a word of warning to anyone else who wants to see it, you can't just wander in - woah no - you have to register three days prior to your visit so that they can check your not a suspicious kinda person - there was a terror threat last November so security is large.

Berlin transport is v.efficient, we only took the trains (not a fan of trams in general) and they are pretty easy to follow except for one detail: their U-Bahn and S-Bahn appear on the same map - it doesn't help that some of the lines are practically the same colour. The London equivalent being our tube AND rail network all thrown in together. It's not a big deal but Katie and I got a little confused on a couple of occasions.

Food and booze was mostly cheap in Berlin - swimming pools (super tasty cocktails) for 3.50 euros and on our first night we had pizza for just 3 euros! Other notable places - Michelberger Hotel (also on recommendation) - the comfiest hotel bar/lounge and where my sister and I created the excellent card game 'Who's got the Goat?', Angry Angry Chicken doubling up with Soju Bar, this really lovely cafe by the river - sadly I forgot the name - where I had the best Chai Tea Latte EVER. They like their nuts and meat out in Germany (including pistachio meat - amazing!) which was great for me as I like those things too but those with a nut allergy beware, pesto find it's way into lots of things.

Lastly, how could I write about a German adventure and not mention the currywurst, one word: YUM

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Reading & Seeing 4

Ryan Gosling in Drive

Jurassic Park
What? (you might ask) This was released almost 20 years ago, why is she writing about it now, silly girl. Actually "clever girl"(you see what I did there) because I got a ticket to see it in all it's dinosaur glory at the IMAX! Kudos to Mitch for getting the tickets - v.good surprise. To co-inside with its Blu-ray release some excellent people decided to show it on the (really) big screen. Seeing as I was only around 5 or 6 in 1993 when it was first shown, I was too young to be taken to the cinema to see it and so missed out only to watch it on VHS a couple of years later in the comfort of the living room, cushion at the ready for the scary parts (namely t-rex eating the lawyer off the toilet). No place to hide my face at the IMAX (you'll be pleased to know that I can watch it ALL the way through now) but what an awesome experience it was! Particularly enjoyed the fact that some of the audience started humming the theme tune whilst we waited for it to start and that we all clapped afterwards. The joy of being in the company of other dinosaur fans! On a side note: I realised that when I watched it as a child I not only missed a couple of quite obvious continuity blunders but also that I wasn't listening to some of the dialogue. I remembered all the cracking good lines (mostly owned by Jeff Goldblum) and can still recite most of the script but that was the first time I heard Jeff Goldblum explain Chaos theory to Laura Dern in the car AND the first time I heard Samuel L Jackson talk about the access codes whilst hunched over Dennis' computer! It's a film that just keeps on giving!

What? (you might ask again) This came out at least two years ago, what now? Another fancy screening? Why yes, actually. The lovely people at the Nomad Cinema did an outdoor screening of it beneath the stars at the London Observatory Greenwich. Clear skies, picnic, blankets - perfect. I didn't get to see Wall-E at the cinema either when it was first released so this a lovely treat for me (and Mitch)! It was first time with the Nomad cinema and I'm already looking forward to their film schedule for next Summer.

I think I'm probably one of the last people to see this film so perhaps there's not much to say apart from: "I loved this film". However incase there still are a few of you out there who have not yet gone/waiting for the dvd...its atmospheric, beautifully shot, the soundtrack is awesome and, in a way, bewitching, what little dialogue there is delivered by an immense cast (Gosling, Cranston, Perlman) and it's beautifully paced. There's no danger of being lost in a complicated plot but the story development is substantial, the difference between the way it begins and way it concludes is vast but as the last scene ends your not surprised you ended up there. Highly recommended.

It's the end of the world. That sort of film premise will usually get my attention (I do like my sci fi) and it was the subject of love and controversy at Cannes (so it's a decent 'end of the world' film not like 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow). Although it is one film, to me it felt like three all linked together. The first is the beautiful opening sequence of events with slow motion and scenes of the Earth and Melancholia and their fatal meeting in space. The second is the wedding party. The third is really the crux where it all ends, literally. But this could also be a film about the relationship between two sisters, wherein the conclusion is the same (the world ending) but it's not the focus, rather just a way to conclude it. Either way you want to look at it, Melancholia s quite a hope-less film - Kirsten Dunst's depression, Keifer Sutherland being an arse (and a coward), the world coming to end, Charlotte Gainsbourg trying to juggle it all - but it's good. See it but make sure you've got something upbeat to watch/do afterwards.

Imperial Bedrooms
The most recent, albeit over a year since it was first published, book from Bret Easton Ellis. I bought it nearly a year ago and then, truthfully, couldn't bring myself to read it. Imperial Bedrooms is the sequel to Less than Zero, Ellis' first novel. I distinctly remember how I felt after reading Less than Zero: empty. The events that transpire in that short book are pretty disturbing and I expected the same feeling to resurface upon finishing Imperial Bedrooms. It's the same friendship group but now, instead of teenagers, they're middle aged yet drugs, sex and violence are still the glue that holds their world together, or rather allows them all to fall apart one way or another. It's quite a cold and  emotionless world that Ellis creates, and, leading on from Less than Zero, the characters are still unlikeable and you don't get too attached to them especially to Clay (our main protagonist as before). Will I read it agin? No, but I'm glad I have. The only thing left of Ellis' I've yet to read is The Informers, however I don't think it, as none of his others in my opinion, could top The Rules of Attraction.

The Best Of Everything
After the emptiness of Ellis, I needed something which wouldn't require me to think too much about what I was reading, hello Rona Jaffe's The Best of Everything and, as you can imagine from the title, it did the job nicely. It's about four girls trying to make in New York City in the 1950s. However, although there is a bit of drama based around their jobs, what this book is really about is trying to find a man/husband. The four girls are all v.different (you can see how the comparisons to Sex & the City have been founded), different in terms of love, sex and career. What this book also does (and SATC to an extent) shows female insecurity in it's various forms. Unlike SATC though, at the end of the book there's no Candi Staton belting out 'You Got The Love' whilst  the central characters smile and link arms with each other/their potential husbands. Only two find love, and all four women are separated from each other - so much for sister hood, but it's the 1950s, you go where your man goes and leave all hope behind. So, although I normally dislike books that end in a lovely neat bow, but that is what I wanted with The Best of Everything and it's not what I got.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Making & Baking

Inspired by the trip to Festival of Quilts (see past post) and, of course, the mass exposure to beautiful fabric I have decided to make my very own quilt! I, perhaps stupidly, decided to make a large one (to fit the new bed) comprised of different patchwork blocks measuring 12cm by 12cm. On reflection I should have made the blocks bigger but oh well I've started now and I must finish it. As I currently don't own a sewing machine, I'm sewing it all by hand and hope to have it ready by the beginning of December (or at least before Christmas).

Like a true stitcher, I've also starting stashing and thinking about new thing at a time is a hard rule to stick to.

To celebrate my sister's un-birthday, she held a tea party (think Alice in Wonderland's Mad Hatter). There was plenty of tea as well as games, bubbles, playing cards bunting, cucumber sandwiches, biscuits and cake, some of which I provided. It was a very enjoyable evening indeed! 'Eat Me' biscuits, strawberry tea (with milk!) and pin the grin on the cheshire cat were my highlights.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


Autumnal delights, because summer really is over.

Clockwise from top left: Woven aztec satchel from Urbanoutfitters, £45 - love the stitching.
Green skinny Leigh jeans from Topshop, £38 - it's about time I strayed away from the traditional blue or black and purchase some statement ones. Gotta love green. 
H by Hudson Wexford Chelsea Boots (available at Office), £130.
KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer in cobalt (available from John Lewis), £377.10 - appealing to my lazy side, my love for baking AND my eye for attractive kitchen appliances, I want this. Choose from a range of colours!
Little Swallows fabric from Fabric Rehab, £3.10 per quarter - most recent fabric love, it's 100% cotton, incredibly soft and light.
Back to the Future print by Brandon Schaefer, £35 - the Richard Goodall Gallery had a stand at the London Film and Comic Con back in July and, among others which were also awesome, they were displaying this poster and it's stuck in my mind ever since. Brandon's other artwork is definitely worth a look.
John Lewis sewing machine, £99 - I've never owned a sewing machine and although I massively struggled with them at school, I've got lots of things I want to make so this would be a wise buy methinks. And it's red!
In case you can't see, yes it is a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Dinosaur jumper from Topshop, £26 - sold.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Square Eyes

When I was little my mum used to tell me that if I watched too much TV I'd get square eyes. Now that I'm an adult I think my eyes must just have adapted what with all the cinema outings, TV watching and, let's not forget, the vast amounts of computer gazing I do every day...

Fruits of the cinema outings, careful there are spoilers.

Captain America
From gorgeous 40's fashion, costumes and set to the very 'buff' Chris Evans - what's not to like about this film? It's THE comic book hero fighting a rather terrifying looking Hugo Weaving as Red Skull, there's battles and humour, it's patriotic but not in an overbearing way, solid performances from the varied cast (I was sad to see Stanley Tucci's part cut short though) and, very excitingly, it starts to link to together the pieces in The Avengers puzzle. If you haven't seen it shame on you, I think you've missed it on the big screen.

Super 8
If Captain America was patriotic then Super 8 is most definitely nostalgic - the push bikes, the floral shirts and those haircuts all point towards a by gone era (v.much reminiscent of E.T). It's the summer and  a group a boys are making a film about zombies, and then there's an alien loose in their town, there's adventure and, as always, there's a girl (reminiscent of The Goonies?). I mention E.T and The Goonies because that's what it's been compared to. The difference between them however is that the other two know their message, their purpose and stick to it, Super 8, however, does not. So there's a monster and it's been mistreated and want's to get home. Humans are the bad guys. The alien starts taking people (as well as metal objects). Where? To it's lair. What's he doing with them? Eating them. Alien is the bad guy. But he's not killing all of them. Alien is the good guy...? Towards the end he chases our young protagonist, the girl and his friends into a dead end, and, instead of eating or killing them it has a change of heart (aww) and then just decides to leave, cue townsfolk gathering in the street to see the alien depart in a spaceship made out of the town's metal in some sort of weird E.T-esque departure. Only this time there 'aint no rainbow. Don't get me wrong, I really liked this film - the cinematography, the script were great - except from the last 20 minutes which were utterly disappointing. It felt as though the makers of this film had all become caught up in it and then forgot they had to end it. Error.

Hobo with a Shotgun
The second of the Rodriguez & Tarantino grindhouse trailers to be made into a feature length. It's exactly what you'd imagine it to be: Rutger Hauer as a hobo delivering bloody justice to a bunch of bastards. Brutal and unnecessarily gorey but funny and to the point, I think it only lasts about an hour and a half. I have to admit though, and there's no room comparison other than it was also a grindhouse trailer, I preferred Machete perhaps because of Danny Trejo and it had more of a ridiculous storyline, if that's even possible.

30 Minutes or Less
Ever since watching the trailer for this, which was basically a short scene from the film, I knew I must see the whole thing. I was not disappointed. Jesse Eisenberg plays a pizza delivery guy (hence the title) who is kidnapped by two douche bags who, after strapping a bomb to him, tell him he's got so many hours to find them enough money so that one of the douches can pay a hit man to kill his dad. Sounds crazy? It is and very funny too. In not so funny news, this is apparently based on a true story. The laughs are mostly orchestrated, not by Jesse Eisenberg but by his best friend who comes along for the ride, Aziz Ansari, an American actor/stand-up comedian. I actually laughed out loud watching this one - go see!

Cowboys and Aliens
Two very different genres thrown into the mix. I must confess that when I first heard about it I thought it was going to be a spoof because how could this be done seriously? The answer is: it can, with some humour of course, mostly thanks to Sam Rockwell's one liners and Harrison Ford being a crotchety old man (for, sadly, that is what he is now). The film revolves around Daniel Craig's character who wakes up remembering nothing and also sporting a strange contraption around his wrist. The aliens attack a town, stealing some of the residents. Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and the remaining men set off to track the aliens down, tagging along with them is Olivia Wilde (she's a little different from the rest of the womenfolk). Once finding the alien's craft, cowboys and indians unite to rescue their kin/kill the murderous aliens. In this film, unlike Super 8, the aliens are most definitely bad (it transpires that they move from planet to planet wiping out the indigenous people). The plot is simple, it's action packed and pretty fun. I particularly like the idea of aliens invading earth in an era that isn't relatively present, that gets done a lot. Exploring different centuries in which the aliens invade can only be a good thing, I'm holding out for some sort of Henry VIII vs UFO production.

The Skin I Live In
I've been quite lucky of late. The previous two films were viewed courtesy of Empire magazine's Big Screen, and more recently I won tickets to see the new Pedro Almodovar film thanks to Little White Lies. The Skin I Live In is brilliant - it's shock and horror, not in the sense of blood and gore, but in a way that makes you think and keep thinking after you leave the cinema (in kind of the same way I felt, although not to the extent, about Dogtooth). It's chilling, gradually building up and up as the plot unfolds, the flash back is perfectly placed. I didn't know the ending when I watched it and I think it's best that you don't either so I won't give much away. Awesome performances from all involved, I most definitely recommend.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

My Old Dress & The Festival of Quilts

Things have been rather hectic lately, mostly because I have started a new job. I am no longer a data monkey and instead of toiling away at a database, my day-to-day activities now involve fabric, patterns and quilts (yay :D)! You might sense a bit of a sewing theme...

Partly because of the new job, but mostly because I like to make things, I decided to recycle an old dress that, alas, no longer fitted me. Here is it in one piece (it had a good life - travelled abroad and even visited the natural history museum).

So far I've used it for three small projects. Firstly as a means of sprucing up an otherwise plain pair of flip-flops. Secondly I cut a length of it to wear as a headband (getting into the festival mood before lovebox, see past post). Lastly (and my fav) you'll see that it's one of the four fabrics I used to make bunting.

The Festival of Quilts is Europe's largest event to celebrate all things quilt-ish. Aside from displaying around a thousand quilts (traditional and contemporary, large and small) submitted by individuals and groups, adults and children  from all over the world, there are rows and rows of stalls selling fabrics, threads, books, sewing machines, not to mention the various workshops taking place and the mini exhibitions dotted around focusing on artists' and museum collections alike. The festival is vast hence why it's spread over four days (continuing throughout the weekend). And where would you find this Quilt Mecca? The NEC Birmingham (it's pretty much in the middle of nowhere and, to be honest, a bit grim - it's a good thing the quilts are a beautiful reward for your travels).
A more traditional quilt made by 25 people.
Tetris quilt from the contemporary section
Postcard patchwork from the Miniature collection.
This is a very high tech sewing machine - automatic (you just use the handles to move it around), with programs AND it sews at lightening speed - all for just £9,000!

I also wanted to mention Mary Koval and her Antique Quilts. She had boxes of fat quarters dating back to the 1950s and some rather incredible vintage quilts over a hundred years old. Mary had come all the way from Pennsylvania where her shop sells quilts made as early as the late 1700s. Below is the fabric I chose from Mary's stall, not sure what I'll use it for just yet, watch this space.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Reading & Seeing 3

Two brilliant beardy fellows who have provided me with my most recent reading escapades.

First, the older gent to the left - Frank Herbert - hugely respected and influential Science Fiction author, that's right folks I finally read Dune. It is awesome. In all honestly, it took me a little while to get into the story - there are a lot of character names to remember and a good few unusual places and customs to pronounce - but once these were mastered, I was able to engross myself with the desert planet Arrakis - it's people, the spice and of course the sandworms. Although I'd never want to live in such conditions (I probably wouldn't survive) I love the concept of a world without water (or v.little of it) and the inventions born out of such a climate, the imagination behind the technology, particularly the stillsuits, is ingenious. The plot itself is epic, dealing with various story-lines running parallel before culminating in the final stand-off where all the different groups come face to face. I would say that the very ending, the last page in fact, where the Lady Jessica verbally bitch-slaps Paul's (our hero's) wife to be is a little odd but thankfully it doesn't have to end like that. There are sequels and prequels all about the Dune universe. If you like your sci-fi and just haven't got round to it: Read This Book. If you're not a big sci-fi fan but you want to try it out: Read This Book. There's a reason why it's so acclaimed. Word of warning: keep a glass/bottle of water to hand when reading, it's thirsty work reading about a desert planet.

The younger bearded man to the right is Robert Kirkman creator of The Walking Dead comics, upon which the Frank Darabont TV series of the same name is based. For those who've seen the first season, you'll be happy to know that the next televised installment is due in October (for the USA and soon after for the UK), the trailer looks awesome. If you, like me, found the gap too long to wait for some zombie related goodness, you might like to read it. The series has steered away from the plot of the comics so that when I picked up vol. 2 I embarked on a alternative story with the same set of characters. Even though Simon Pegg's afterword says: 'Savour it, think about it, re-evaluate it and like the best zombies, take it slow', it's a page turner and you'll devour it super quickly, I'd advise maybe getting two or three volumes at once.

These two fellas (also supporting excellent facial hair) both appear in the two preoccupations of my TV viewing.

On the left we have Joel Kinnaman star of the US remake of the Danish series sensation, The Killing. Now I know that I might have screwed up here and I should have watched the Danish one (everyone keeps telling me it is immense) but the problem I have is that I've started the US one and I'm completely sucked in. I like the mix of social worlds clashing within the overall plot, the rainy but atmospheric Seattle setting and most of all the character interactions between the two case offices, Linden (Mireille Enos) and Holder (Kinnaman). It is truly compelling viewing. I can't remember the last time I was so impatient to see the next episode of a show. If I could I'd watch all of it in one go. I'd probably be severely depressed and needing a good dosage of sunlight, happiness and cake at the end of it because, let's face it, it's pretty grim, but I've got to know who killed Rosie Larsen.

Baldie/beardy combo on the right is Bryan Cranston returning to the role of Walter White in Breaking Bad. Cranston plays the chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer who, in order to make some money to support his family (wife, disabled son, new baby) after he dies, enters into a partnership with a former student to cook and sell crystal meth (as you do). It's as mental as it sounds but after scooping a few Emmy Awards last Summer, it's back for the fourth season and things are, as you'd imagine in the drug world, getting completely out of hand.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Front to the Back: LOVEBOX

Last weekend was the musical feast and all round festival extravaganza that is Lovebox. We like thousands of others flocked to east London's leafy Victoria Park for three days of dancing,boozing, random-stall persuing, muching and general merriment. (Although Lovebox was over three days, we only attended the Friday and Saturday instalments but I'm guessing from theline-up that Sunday was just as fabulous.)

 Lovebox started in 2002 as Groove Armada's club residency and has been growing ever since. Although it was originally a dance based festival the variety of live music has also expanded with several stages and a couple of smaller pop-up musical outlets/tents, not to mention the stalls selling clothes,crafts,jewellery,even recycled bits turned into festival essentials (thanks to Scrap Dragon for my Juliper beer top earing, it's a fitting souvenir) and of course food. So. Much. Choice.

Friday's highlights: it was super hot on the first day and not as busy as it would get during the rest of the weekend. NYC Downlow  - a life size ruin of a nyc housing block with amazing music happening inside. We managed to catch the end of Photek Live (awesome). Metronomy - v.much liking their newer stuff but was I particulary happy to hear 'you could easily have me' and 'thing for me'. Beatboxing Champs - in the tent next to the Gaymers bar and stage we witnessed some rather impressive beatboxing. The sound the guys can produce is pretty cool, especially when three of them were improvising at the same time - crazy! We ended the night in the garage tent (the wombats were closing/headlining, which was a bit of a disappointment in my opinion, are they really that big/good? The crowd seemed to think so at least).

Saturday's highlights: it rained a lot in the early afternoon and the park was a bit of a muddy bog but with wellies and anorak on the weather didn't stop me. Santogold on the main stage - easily the best performance over the two days. She put on an excellent show (I love her voice/attitude - the whole ensemble) The crowd got her awesome tunes from the first album, the appearance of a pantomime horse and the chance (some 8 or so lucky people) to get up on stage and dance (mostly badly but who cares) to a drum pounding rendition of 'Creator'. Lykke Li - a new album heavy performance (not a bad thing in the slightest) but she did sing 'Little Bit' (my fav) and 'Dance, dance, dance'. And of course, Snoop Dogg and the gang. We were left in some suspense waiting for Snoop to come out on stage and, aside from him actually arriving and performing lots of old school stuff, the best bit was the short little films that played as a precursor to each song. Snoop is a man of many talents.

Oh yeah, beard update: it's coming along nicely.

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