Saturday, July 28, 2018

WW1 Sawdust Hearts Project-The Idea and Art Work




It's finally finished. This is the secret piece that has kept me busy for the whole of July. A piece I feel very emotional about, and one that truly captured my heart. 

This is my contribution to the Untangled Threads Sawdust Hearts Project. My piece will form part of the Sawdust and Calico Heart Exhibition at Woodend Scarborough from the 3rd to the 30th of November 2018. This is a commemorative exhibition and public event to be held on the centenary of Armistice Day 2018. My heart is one of 1568 handcrafted hearts commemorating 100 years since the armistice. It represents day 218 of the 1568 days of the war; the date the 2nd of March 1915. On this day the British Battleship HMS Canopus joined in the assault missions on the Dardanelles.







The History of the Sawdust Heart

"During WW1 thousands of commercially produced kits were made and distributed to soldiers and civilians.  The hearts were pre-stuffed (with sawdust) ready to be decorated.  The kit contained a template-cut cardboard box, which was ideal for holding collected fabrics, beads, pins and sequins.

The therapeutic effect a wounded soldier gained by making and sending one of these sawdust hearts was immense, and indeed the practice of Occupational Therapy in the UK can be traced back to this time in history.

5% of the proceeds from the sales related to this project will be donated to Combatstress, a charity which supports former servicemen and women to deal with issues like trauma, anxiety, depression and PTSD."
                (source: Untangled Threads Sawdust Hearts project 2018 leaflet by Helen Birmingham)
  
Some information about my piece:

Title: Hope Soars on the Wings of a Lark.

Medium: Acrylic Paint on Canvas with black embroidery silk. The piece is adorned with beads and pins.

Inspiration:The vivid red colour used in my piece forms the memory of how I imagined the poet's world looked on hearing the words to Wilfred Owen's poem Dulce et Decorum Est, at the age of 14. A piece I studied in English and one that I can still recite to this day.

The bird depicted in my piece comes from the poem by the English poet George Meredith, and the piece composed by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams; The Lark Ascending, this piece is often interpreted as a piece about the war.

 

 

This piece is dedicated to my Great Grandfather William Rae (1888-1951). He served as a fireman for the Merchant Navy aboard the SS Lady Salisbury.



P.S. the embroidery and beadwork can be found on my sewing blog Made by Sun Rae .

Friday, June 15, 2018

Yoga Bunny









I'm now into my fifth week of practising Hatha Yoga and to say I'm enjoying it, is an understatement. I had dabbled with yoga when I was a lot younger; early twenties to be precise, but I never really stuck with it. Why? In my younger days, I was more of a physical person; I enjoyed Karate, weightlifting, track and cross country running; I liked the fast pace, and the feeling of pain when exercising. Strange, I know. Then, in my mid-twenties working life and socialising kicked in and I forgot about exercising, being blessed with an athletic body I felt I didn't need to keep up with the gym. In my late twenties, I went through a terrible breakup and my weight soared, so I joined Weight Watchers and returned to the gym. I dropped from a size 16 dress size to a size 10 in one year and I felt fabulous. I met my soul mate Paul and continued exercising until I fell ill in 2010 with PTSD. My weight has continued to soar since being ill, and even though I attended therapy to recover,  I've never really managed to get it under control. The result of this, well, over the past year I've been complaining of excruciating lower back pain, sore hips and debilitating period pain. I've always suffered from the latter since I was a young girl, but since coming into my late 40's the pain has become a lot worse.

Therefore, my return to exercise, yoga to be precise has been a long time coming. It has been a form of exercise I've wanted to study for a very long time, but one that I thought was too complicated to practice. There are so many versions, and when you're a beginner it can seem very daunting.  My thoughts,  do I follow DVDs, do I follow YouTube or books? All of which have failed me before. Then I heard about a yoga class through a work colleague, a beginners class for curvy women called Peachy Yoga. I felt a bit apprehensive about going but with the support of my friend and with my yoga mat under my arm I agreed to go along. To say I loved my first class was an understatement, yes it was hard work, yes I was sore, but boy my back and hips felt fantastic after the first class. My second class was extremely hard and I left thinking is this really for me? By the third week, I had bought myself yoga leggings, slouch pants, yoga tops and yoga cards (photos above). I even started practising at home. By the fourth week, I knew my period was due around the time of my class and I was worried about the pain, but this month there was no pain, even though my flow was heavy and the same as previous months. Was this a fluke or is this the yoga? I don't know. I've also noticed slight differences in my physique; I'm holding myself differently, my back is straighter, my hips don't hurt after standing all day and my lower back pain comes and goes but feels like more of a tightness rather than a constant dull ache. My arms look slightly more shapely and stronger. While my stomach appears less flabby. I have a long way to go in this area, but I'm determined.

I'm so overjoyed with the results, so far, that I don't want the class to break up for the summer holidays, because I think I'm going to miss it.



p.s. If any of my readers are interested in receiving 25% off their first yoga club box (they are now in the U. K.) please use the following referral link:

https://my.yogaclub.com/shirleyrae

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Crazy World of Gardening!










At last!  My little garden is starting to kick off. I always get anxious at this time of year (I've been gardening since 2013), and every year it's the same- "Have I started too late? Is the garden going to be bare in the summer? Do I have enough plants? Maybe I should buy or sow more!" Also, every year Paul says "Stop fretting; I'm sure the garden will look stunning soon enough."  It still doesn't stop me worrying. 

It has been an incredibly long winter, here in Scotland (not that we get great summers mind you) and the plants have been scared to emerge from the safety of the soil. I mean, when have you ever seen a daffodil out until the end of May? Crazy!  Most of my birthday plant purchases* have been hiding out in my little greenhouses and have only seen the elements during sunnier days, with the month of May showing the most promising weather.

Seeds that I've sown have taken a little bit longer to come through; well the Sweet Peppers at least.   The peas, on the other hand, are shooting up at an alarming rate and will need to be moved on into their permanent container, very soon. Then there are the carrots; hopefully, I will get to them tomorrow, they need sowing.  Fingers crossed we have probably,  turned a corner weatherwise, and the plants will now flourish.  Here's hoping!

 

* Nemesia Easter Bonnet, Fuschia Southern Belle Pink Marshmallow, Calibrachoa Can-Can Coral Reef, Can-Can Hot Pink Star, Starlight Pink, Lysimachia Lysii, Geranium New Century Red, Argyranthemum Grandaisy Red, Sweet Peppers and Peas.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

New Sewing Blog Launch



My new sewing blog can be found here.

Don't worry I'm not giving up on Squirrels Knitting Conquests, this blog will still be my diary and personal blog for all other areas of my life; baking, making and gardening.




Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Bumblebee Top












 
Boy, this material has been sitting in my stash for what seems like forever (actually only a year, but that's long enough).  So why was it sitting so long? Well, sometimes I go through this rigmarole of loving a print too much, that I then become scared of cutting into it because I think I'm going to muck it up. I know, stupid right? Well, this very fabric had that effect on me, hence why it stayed out of harm's way until a suitable pattern came along. So, a year later that pattern did indeed come along! Say hello to the perfect pattern the Gypsy Swing-top by Annie of Sew This Pattern. I knew as soon as I saw the pattern that the bumblebee fabric would be ideal.  So armed with the pattern and my one metre of fabric, yes, I was going to try and squeeze this pattern out of one metre, and I nearly got away with it.  I even dropped down a dress size; well, I need to lose weight anyway was my thinking. But even dropping the dress size, I just couldn't squeeze the bias out of the length for the armholes or the ties at the back. I did think about using navy bias binding (shop bought) except, I think deep down I knew that was going to look naff.  Now, I didn't buy this material it was gifted to me through a swap.  I wasn't even sure the print was still available, and yes, I had cut out all the other pieces.  So, I thought why don't I do a search online and see what comes up.  First half an hour I felt deflated, everywhere I tried it came up 'NOT AVAILABLE'.  I was ready to give up and go down the road of shop bought bias when I thought why not try eBay and see what that brings up.  Well, I found one lone seller with cream, pale blue and a grey version and then I saw a navy version. They had one metre of the navy in stock, so I snapped it up. I wasn't even sure if that was going to be enough (I just felt smug that I'd actually found some, go me!) we are talking about cutting something on the bias here, weird angle and all.  Anyway, to stop me stalking the postman, I set about sewing up to the point where I would need to put in the bias (the whole time I'm sewing, I'm thinking please let the metre be enough, please let it be enough, please). Well, as you can see from the pictures the metre of fabric was indeed enough.  Looking at the top now I think using the same material instead of shop bought bias was the way to go. And, do you know I was also pleasantly surprised when I pulled the top over my head to try it on, because even though I dropped down a dress size the top does fit me, perfectly, and it will look even better when I lose some weight.  It was fate I tell you, fate. It was meant to be!

Oh! Before I forget here is a quirky little piece of information about me.  When I'm sewing, I nearly always tack or baste hems and other pieces together first before machining.  The weird part though; I have to use red thread, no other colour will do.  It has to be red (did you spot it, in the photographs?)




Saturday, April 07, 2018

Creative Ways To Beat A Storm

 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Pfff!  What a month! March came in like a soft woolly lamb and went out like a savage wolf. What on earth happened?  Firstly, this happened-Beast from the East brought snow and freezing weather to my little part of the world (Scotland) where we saw the worst storm, drifting snow I may add, since the 70's.  I had no work for about five days as it was too dangerous to go out.  Any break in the weather we did get (see photos) we snatched the chance to get some provisions before hunkering down for the next round.  I think the only creature who loved it was my dog Bean. She happily bounded and raced around in the snow without a care in the world.  The more snowballs you threw for her to catch the better. Secondly,  I may have accidentally bought another machine; a sewing machine that is; the Janome Atelier 5.  I know,  I'm a Brother machine type of gal, but this was too good an offer to pass up, and I've always wanted to try another brand.  It's a previously owned machined,  in mint condition, serviced and it came with loads of accessories, way more than I would have received if I had bought the machine from new.  The person who owned it previously naturally passed everything over when they traded the device in, and the company who sold me the machine then passed these on to me. None of the extra pieces were even mentioned in the price.  So, you may be asking what did you receive? Well,  the most significant surprise was the quilting kit extension table with all the accessories.  I also received loads of bobbins, two new machine needle packs, extra seam ripper, thread the list goes on.  Even Paul was gobsmacked when I opened up not one big package, but two.  But don't worry, this doesn't mean I'm going to get rid of my Brother. Oh! No my Brother Innovis -350SE is too unique to part with,  it's my main machine and always will be, I know all its quirks and nuisances lol! Just noticed this mistake, should say nuances.   It's going off for a service and will be back on the table as soon as it comes home. Thirdly,  I've been sticking to my good intention of sewing some beautiful clothes, and I'm having a ball. To date, I've made four new garments, not bad for someone who would leave their machine sitting for months on end without lifting the cover off to use it.  My first non-clothing make was pyramid pattern weights; I've always wanted to make these but was never sure if I would actually use them. As you can see from the photos, I'm getting quite a bit of use out of them, but still using pins as a security measure (just humour me, pleasssee lol!)  This leafy grey georgette material from Sew Hayley Jane is being made into the Venus Kimono by Annie from Sew This Pattern.  This kimono was constructed from three large pattern pieces. All the main sewing consisted of French seams (a process I'd never tried before.) I found these very nerve-racking to complete, but after sewing a few,  I settled into the technique easily. The second technique that was new to me was a rolled hem. I found this extremely hard and fiddly, even though I was using a rolled hem foot. The foot just wanted to suck up more material which resulted in a puckering effect. The slippery material I was using didn't help one bit, but I persevered, and the result was stunning. Oh, before I forget,  if you ever get a chance to buy one of Annie's patterns, please do as they are awesome; they are fantastic to follow, they have clear instructions and are just a dream to construct. This is the first pattern I have purchased from her, and I've gone on to buy two other styles (I will blog about these soon).

And finally, I won another competition. The final photos are the prizes I received from Love Sewing Magazine. What can I say? I've already put these pieces to good use.

Have a good weekend, and I will see you in a couple of days to post some of my other makes (sewing, related of course).