What do you mean I have too much stash?!

i might win the lottery


Despite promising myself I wouldn’t go to the 2015 Festival Of Quilts, I have found that I have “magically” booked the Friday off work that corresponds to the Festival of Quilts. Surprise! I still don’t have a ticket, mind, but there are generally tickets available on the door on the day. Previous years I also went to some of the social events, and I’ve noticed that this year, the Gala Dinner is back on after a few years absence – however it’s black tie and I would be coming straight from work, so no chance to glam up before hand!

I already have loads of stash lying around the house, including plenty of fabric, but have yet to make something with any of it. Each year I promise myself that I will and the next year comes along and yet……Does anyone else find this?

I’m finding myself getting better at resisting actually spending the big money on stuff, often by not taking the cash with me in the first place. I think this year I will concentrate on some of the books, as well as the “necessities” (needles, threads etc) that will always be used no matter what craft you’re doing.

In previous years I’ve taken photos of the winners of the competitions, and I’ve kept them after deleting my other blog. I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do with them, and don’t think I will take photos this year.

I would love to hear about any Quilt Festivals that you’ve been to.  Is there a regular one near you? What was the last one you went to?

Sunday Salon: Tracking Reading


I never used to track the books I read until a few years ago – I knew that I read a reasonable amount of books each year but had no real idea of how many. I became much more active with other book readers and wanted to know how well I tracked against what they were reading. Since I was already using both Librarything and Goodreads to log my books, I decided to use both in earnest, and use Goodreads’s Reading Challenge to track what I was doing each year..  I’ve found out that I read around 100 books a year – but this doesnt necessarily reflect the size or the quality of the books. As I’m working through my shelves, the larger books are becoming more and more prevalent – these are the 1000+ page tomes that I have been avoiding in favour of the shorter, quicker reads (500 pages and under).

I’ve used Bookcrossing since 2003, but never used it to keep proper track of the books I read – just to keep track of the books that came though my shelves. I noticed that my reviews ended up very sloppy and poor (“enjoyable read” being the most frequent), so when I started writing my blog, I *knew* I had read books, but couldn’t tell anyone what I thought of them.

Even with 400+ books on my actual bookshelf, and having read thousands over the years, it’s rare for me pick up the same (physical) book more than once, even those I haven’t read yet. There is the occasional freebie ebook I like the look of, only for the system to tell me I already have it, but that demonstrates a consistency in the type of books I like more than not remembering what I have in my library!

I rarely share my list of books with anyone else – that’s more out of laziness than anything! I used to do a monthly reading summary post, as well as a “this is what I got this month” post, but often my reviews would come out weeks if not months after the day I read the book, so thought it was more trouble than it was worth (“I read a book and you’ll read what I thought in 4 months time!”).

My blog is also a way to track what I read – sometimes it’s fun to write a review, which then gets published several months after I’ve read it as it reminds me not only what I’ve read, but makes me check that the review I’ve written reflects what I thought of the book


So do you keep track of the books you read? If so, how? If not, why not?


Friday Salon: Patterns and Instructions

From Dana Rothstein (webking)
From Dana Rothstein (webking)

So when making something, where do you get the directions from? Do you make everything off the top of your head, or do you get patterns from somewhere. If so, what types of patterns do you go for and where do you get them? Do you go to the same sites again and again?

When I started out, I brought plenty of magazines, books, charts and kits, many of which I still have. Of course that means an awful amount of money has been invested in stuff that is taking up room and is only occasionally looked at.

Now with the internet, I’m often finding stuff that can be downloaded onto a computer hard drive and printed out only as and when needed. Some are free, some are not.  Click here for an example of what’s available http://www.craftsy.com/patterns?page=1&sortBy=magic&free=true

Does anyone make dresses? Do you download patterns off the internet or do you (still) use the published patterns? If the former, I’ve always wondered how practical this is – if cutting for an adult figure how can you get the right sized print? What’s the practicalities? I’ve been looking at dress making in a very casual way, as whilst I love the children’s clothes that are available, I do object to having to pay over £60 for a dress that will be worn once or twice before they grow out of it. “How hard can it be to make?” does go through my head before I remind myself that I cant actually make dresses of any size, so it’s hard enough for me!

Writing Inspiration

I left a comment over on this post a while back, and I’ve decided to expand the comment on my own blog!

When I was a child I was notorious for writing. And Writing. And writing…..Somewhere along the way however, I seem to have lost the ability of doing it.  After working for decades in the IT industry, my writing as a whole is dry and factual.  My fiction writing is fairly poor, and when I do attempt it, the results can be disappointing.love_of_books_202371

Currently my main writing output is producing book reviews, so my writing is in reaction to someone else’s work. The most difficult review is where the book is just average. I much prefer books that incur some kind of reaction, as it makes it easier to write.

Over the last year or so I have been taking part in formalising my non-review pieces, and posting to Sunday Salon etc. The source of those comes from memes and prompts that I have found from around the internet. I often don’t have inspiration or time at that moment, so I have a huge store of prompts and themes which I delve into whenever I’m in the mood. I don’t always answer the question directly, but usually work on a theme.

It’s been several years since I have tried The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, where the underlying principal is that you doing “morning pages” – no matter what your creative medium is – before you get up for the day. This is designed to get you in the mood to be creative and remove some blockers. In a similar vein NaNoWriMo forces you to write 50,000 words in 30 days, no matter the quality, in order to stop you self editing as you go along.  The last time I did NaNoWriMo (2002 ish) was my most successful in that I got to 25000 words, but couldn’t go any further .

Another source of inspiration is other people’s blogs! I am trying to consciously comment on other people’s blogs, and it can sometimes lead in the most unexpected directions!


Book Review: Rhode Island Red by Charlotte Carter

rhode island redSaxophonist Nanette Hayes, a majestic five-foot-ten-inch Grace Jones lookalike with hot style, lives for the music of her jazz forebears. Self-taught Nan is no Charlie Parker, but she dreams big. She performs regularly—on the sidewalks of New York City. Not exactly the Village Vanguard, but it pays the bills in ways that her master’s degree in French does not. Mostly, Nanette just tries to stay cool in the face of the worst kinds of hardship. Recently, this has taken the form of getting dumped—hard—by her live-in boyfriend, Walter.

When her normally messy life is at its epic messiest, fellow street musician Sig walks up, and—after insulting her playing and narrowly missing being hit by a bus—changes everything. Out of nowhere, sixty grand that can’t possibly be legit appears in Nan’s sax. Suddenly she is contending with two grisly murders, a former lover who wants her back, a jazz-obsessed ex-con, and some scarifying cops who are trying to shake her down.

Equal parts tough and romantic, Nanette uses her street-musician smarts and her New York City savvy to try to save her own skin and solve a musical mystery no less a legend than Bird himself.

From Netgalley in exchange for a review

This is a reissue of a book originally published in 1995. Nan is a sax player, with a Master’s in French, hair shaved close to her head, missing living in Paris as she lives in a dubious area of New York. She’s got an on-off lover in Walter, who starts the book having walked out on her, but who comes to show just how bad he is for her.

Busking on a street corner one day and not getting many tips, she’s about to go home, when she gets stopped by another sax player, who she gives a floor to for the night. She wakes up in the middle of the night to find that Sig is lying on her floor, a knife sticking out his neck.  After the police have come and gone (several of them being particularly offensive), Nan realises that her sax contains more than she expected – $60,000 more.

She has a principal where she believes this money should go to Sig’s “old woman” so manages to track her down and gives her $20,000 and returns the rest of the money to the police – it turns out that Sig was an undercover cop and this was police money. However, the girlfriend ends up dead and the money is missing. As the bodies mount up (and one of her lovers goes missing) Nan gets pulled deeper into finding what “Rogue Island Red” is, what it’s worth, and why people are spooked when the name is mentioned.

This is a relative short book, and finishes rather abruptly (the problem with ebooks is that you cant always tell where the story ends, so I was expecting this go continue for another 100 pages or so).  Nan does have principals at the beginning of the book – such as wanting some of the money to go to the girlfriend. At the end of the book she still has morals and standards, but they’re not necessarily the same ones she started with.

This is a strong start to the series, and it’s rather a shame to see that only 3 books were written for the series. Nan’s colouring doesn’t really come into it – yes she’s an African-American but it only comes up occasionally, mainly when she’s telling us how she’s dressed, or when other people (usually men) mistake her for a stripper or a prostitute. She’s not stereotypical in that she’s well educated and travelled, even if her income, love life and current living set-up dont show this.


Sunday Salon: Who do your books mingle with?

Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?

Shelf 2It’s a split really.  Most of my unread paper books are gathered together on one set of bookshelves in my living room. However, they have spilled over from their defined bookshelf onto the bookshelf that has my Permanent Collection. I also have a coffee table in the middle of the room and some hardbacks have migrated over onto this table. Because of space issues – I have an apartment, without any stairs or much “dead space” – books are not generally put anywhere else. Sometimes you might find a few books sitting on the bedside table, but that’s usually because I’ve actively taken them out with the intent to read them in the immediate future.

TBR Shelf 1In the end, I’m trying to keep my rooms tidy and books where I can find them. I rearrange them occasionally to see which books are left. I continue to work my way through those books that are currently unread, and when completed they head off into the “release box” under one of the bookshelves. It is these books that are then handed over to other people and are ultimately replaced on the shelves with other books from the overflow.

So how do you keep your unread books? 

Friday Salon: Review of Taking Time exhibit

In 2009, I went to the opening day of “Taking time: Craft and the Slow Revolution” at the BMAG and I published the following review. I would have liked to have included some images, but to no avail, as they are not available to be included here. However there is a video at the bottom, available via YouTube

The Interactive piece from Shane Waltener and Cheryl McChesney Jones is still fairly new and blank, and encouragement needs to be made for the browsers to actually interact with the piece. There is a certain reticence for people (with many having been brought up with a “Don’t Touch!” mentality in Museums) to actually pick up some knitting/crochet needles and add to the piece.

Having an old fashioned typewriter as a piece of interactive art was a great idea, and I loved playing with it – you are invited to type a letter (or review, or just general words), and if you wanted to leave it for the artist as an archival piece, then great. The downside is that the typewriter doesn’t actually work (the page doesn’t move, resulting in each letter coming out on top of the previous one), so no letter to leave! The amusement factor of having the typewriter linked up to a computer monitor was short lived in that the monitor didn’t show anything either. Have no idea as to whether what I typed has been captured anywhere or has been lost to the ether…..[eta this was apparently fixed, following my review]

I immediately clicked with Sonya Clark’s “Climb” – millions of tiny blue beads, linked together into a amazingly tall ladder leading us upwards…..time, effort, attention to detail, imagination (even if it’s a deceptively simple item). I like to think I got it immediately!

Esther Knobel’s items for “Mind in the hand” series are lovely as are the rolls of hand printed wallpaper – made as part of a community effort with older Black women in particular in a great bringing of people together (and the workbook nearby was a good thing to rifle through to see where/how people got their inspiration).

I do have a certain partiality for china, so Ann Linnemann’s commission with Paul Scott has resulted in some delightful blue and white china pieces.

David Gates’ “In our Houses” series unfortunately for me embodied the “what?” part of installation art. Stuff. That looked like nothing I could correlate to. Which made me think “why?” “huh?” “what?” and “where’s the next thing…?”. I was also unable to put the large floor installation of pottery into context of “Taking time”….only one piece attracted me because of the colouring, but overall I had a feeling of “you’re showing me this because……?” (there was nothing around the installation that could give me a clue, so a little help please?).

There is an interactive touch-screen on the way out that allows you to provide additional feedback (although pictures of the items up for “what was your favourite section” question would have been better for me than just presenting the names – the assumption is that I’ve paid more attention to the artist’s name than the item, which in my case is an incorrect assumption).

Overall, nice time spent, and if I get the chance to go back I will if nothing else to see how the interactive pieces have come along. I appreciate that it was the first day of the exhibit, so things were still moving along, and I may have missed on some things by being early.