Events, Inspiration, Uncategorized

For the Love of Learning

For the love of learning!

I love to learn!  Anything, and everything!  I have an inexhaustible appetite for learning new things.  From new stitches in embroidery, to new jewellery techniques, and new crafts.  But I also have what some may call “academic interests” as well.

Those of you who know me personally may already know that I left school at 15, and went straight into the workforce.  This was my choice – I hated school, but I have always loved learning.  It was only in later years that I finally realised that “school” and “learning” are not necessarily the same thing!

My “academic interests” have always been a great love for history, and for mythology.  My favourite book as a child was the Greek and Roman myths by Robert Graves (I still have several copies) I was incredibly lucky to have parents that shared my love of reading, and learning, and they always encouraged me in my interests.

When I attended my local comprehensive school, I didn’t even take history as one of my GCSE options.  This was due to the fact that their idea of history was World War 2!!!!!  An important part of history of course, but not the type of history I wanted to learn.  I wanted to know about the Ancient Egyptians, and the Aztecs, the Middle Ages, The Renaissance, and Regency times.  But these did not form any part of the National Curriculum!

After leaving school I fell into an office job, and I have worked in offices ever since.  Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly lucky to have been in full time work my whole adult life, and I have generally always enjoyed my employment (some more than others!), but my day to day work has never addressed my deep seated need to learn, to know, to discover!

Sadly, I have never been able to afford to go back in to education (university is faaaaaar too expensive!), but what I have discovered is night classes!  Too many people turn their noses up at night classes!  With certain people you get that slightly condescending air that somehow a night class is not “a proper course”.  To these people I say Piffle!     

Around 18 years ago I discovered the WEA (Workers Education Authority) and I have never looked back!  The WEA holds night classes in most localities, and their courses cover a vast range of subjects.  Over the years I have attended classes on Greek Mythology, Egyptian History, Persian History, the History of Art, and most recently early British History, starting from around 330AD, working our way through the Anglo Saxons, Viking Invasions, up to the time of Alfred the Great!  For the last 3 or 4 years it has been more or less the same group of students, so it becomes a really lovely learning experience.  This term we are veering off history slightly, and tomorrow night we start Norse Mythology!  I cannot wait to get started learning more about Odin, Thor, Freya and Frigg to name but a few!

In the interests of keeping myself out of mischief, I have also signed up for a distance learning course.  Distance learning is another wonderful option for those who (for many reasons) struggle to get out to a physical class, or want the comfort of learning at their own pace, in their own home.

The course I have signed up for is Cryptozoology!  I looooove mythical beasts!  It caught my eye online a little while ago, and I put it to the back of my mind, but a friend recently tagged me on Facebook with a link to the course (and it was on offer!!) so I felt it was fate really!

So why am I telling you all this??????????????

Really, it was just to get the point across to everyone that it is never, ever, too late to learn.  There are so many options available nowadays, and you should not let anyone, or anything hold you back.  I want to empower everyone to accept, and to believe, that just because they don’t have a University degree, that they are capable, intelligent people.  That they can still learn what they want, when they want, and thrive while doing so.

So go forth and learn!  (and let me know how you get on!)

Hugs

Zoe

To find out more about WEA courses in your area, go to https://www.wea.org.uk/

Events, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Thread Love

I am writing this post in conjunction with the Stitch-A-Long that is happening in my group shortly. It’s all about the threads………

All threads are not equal!!!!!

I have a confession to make …………. I am a thread addict!  Seriously, I love thread.  The colours, the textures, the endless possibilities.  There are so many different brands, and types of thread out there that it would be impossible to list them all, so here are a few of the most common threads, some of my favourites, and not so favourites!  

Standard threads come in a skein of 6 thin threads, twisted together – these can be separated into individual threads, so you can choose how many threads you use in a particular design – if you want a very fine line or stitch, you can use a single thread – going right up to the full six if you want a really thick, prominent stitch.  On most of my hoops I tend to use two threads for an outline, and three for a filler stitch.  The most commonly known brands of standard threads are DMC and Anchor, but there are lots of others!  What threads you but can depend on the type of embroidery to do. 

Both DMC and Anchor threads have reference numbers for every colour shade.  If you are following a specific pattern they often list these numbers so that you are guaranteed to get a result similar to the pattern.  If you are more of a wing-it kind of a person (this is me!)  then you can mix and match brands as you like.  I would just add that it can be worth paying a little bit more for threads to get a decent quality.  There are numerous non-branded multi packs of threads available in general craft shops, etc. and some of these are perfectly good for embroidery, but some are really stiff, and not at all easy to stitch with.  If you can, have a good feel of them before buying – squidge them about a little bit, and if you can, actually feel the thread – if it feel stiff or scratchy, you may be better giving them a miss!

Both DMC and Anchor also do various “speciality” ranges – different types of thread that give different effects. 

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These are DMC Satin Embroidery Threads – they are still six strands, but they have a beautiful glossy sheen to them.  They can be a little bit slippy when you are stitching!  These look lovely if you use them to fill in a larger space – the gloss really shows up

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DMC Light Effects – these are six strand metallic threads, and I will freely admit I hate them with a passion!  They look gorgeous when you see them in the complete skeins, and to be fair, they are very effective when used…….but they are horrible to sew with!  Due to the metallic nature, they are very stiff, and stitches don’t “flow” very well with these.  If you do use them, try to work with very short lengths – they are slightly more manageable that way!

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DMC Mouline Etoile – I absolutely love these!  They are six strand threads that have sparkly glitter running through them.  They come in a fabulous range of colours – and you can get them all in a collectors tin!  They are very soft, so lovely to sew with, and you can get a lovely sparkle using only one or two strands.

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Threads don’t just have to be silk or cotton – these threads are 50% wool.  These do not split, they are a single thread, which is roughly the thickness of 4 standard threads.  These are lovely and soft, and look almost fluffy when you use them – they make a really unusual outline thread, or great for filling in.

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Moving away from the DMC/Anchor now….

These are hand dyed mulberry silk embroidery threads, with short colour changes – so they produce the most amazing effects.  If you have ever seen the rainbow hearts that I make – these are the threads I use!  They come in a good range of colour schemes, and are lovely to work with.  They are a single thread, which is roughly the thickness of two standard threads.

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Something very different – these threads are from flax grown and spun in Sweden’s textile are in the 1960’s, and were recently rediscovered by an amazing supplier.  They are in the most gorgeous muted tones, and they feel amazing!  I have to admit I haven’t actually stitched with these yet!  I bought them quite a while ago, and have been saving them for a special project…….which hasn’t come along yet!  I will use them eventually, and at the moment, I just like to open the box occasionally and stroke them!  If you have any suggestions on what to use these on, I would love to hear!

The next two threads are my absolute favourites!  They are both a bit more expensive, but if you have a really special project, they are totally worth it!

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Chameleon threads are hand dyed in Africa, in a fantastic range of colours.  They come in individual colours, as well as variegated skeins.  They are a perle thread – which basically means a single, twisted thread.  I could honestly talk about these threads for hours, and I regularly spend far too much time on the internet looking at the different shades! 

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These are very special!   I attended the Knitting and Stitching Show at Harrogate last year, and came across a stall selling these amazing threads.  They are hand wound pure silk twists.  The thread is roughly the thickness of two standard threads, and I cannot accurately describe the richness of the tones.  You don’t get very much on the tube, so they do work out quite a bit more expensive than most threads – but they are worth every penny!  I would only use these on small designs, where the quality of the thread really shines through.  They stitch beautifully.  Because they are pure silk, they are very smooth, and an absolute delight!

I hope you have enjoyed these run through of threads!  This really is only a small example of the threads that are available.  My best advice if just to try out different threads until you find what you like to work with – try out an individual skein first, so that if you don’t like it, you haven’t wasted too much money (I learned this the hard way!)

Pair different threads together and see what happens!  There are no rules! Just have fun with it!

Hugs

Zoe

Events, Uncategorized

Stitch-A-Long

I am very excited to let you know about an online event I am running – a month long Stitch-A-Long!

It will be a little different to the standard Stitch-A-Long which normally has a set pattern that everyone works on – this one doesn’t have a pattern at all!  It will be a series of daily prompts for everyone to work on – quick, easy, one word prompts that are completely open to the individuals interpretation!

I’m hoping it will be a lot of fun, and quite freeing as there is no “right” or “wrong” way of doing it.  I can’t wait to see the results!  I think they will be very varied, which is great!

The entire event is taking place in its own Facebook group, which is attached to my page.  So everyone can share their work in a safe and supportive place.

There is a minimal joining fee to take part – to cover part of the admin costs, and to keep out looky-loos!

Have a read of the pinned post on my facebook page if you would like to know more!

http://www.facebook.com/athenamakes

Course Review, Inspiration, Uncategorized, Update

Wire Work

Wirework

Hi everyone!

I can’t believe it’s August already!  Where is this year going??????  I have just realised how long it has been since my last blog post, and I have been so naughty neglecting it!    But…….you may be happy to know (or not!) that I have just brainstormed a load of topics for future blog posts, so stay tuned!

Anyway, to catch you all up on what has been happening in my little corner of the world……..

I recently attended a wirework jewellery class.  It was run by the very lovely Jo of Willow Moon jewellery (See link below) and the class was to make a wirework bracelet and ring in copper wire.  Jo also offered the option to make in sterling silver, for a very small extra fee.  I really wanted to make something that I could wear every day, so I went for the sterling silver option!

After a good introductory chat from Jo, where she explained all about what we would be making, the different options, and an overview of the tools we would be using, we got started!  I chose to do a sleek, non-beaded bracelet.  Jo measured out the wire we would need, and we got to work! The design used seven lengths of wire, and I swapped two of them for copper to add another pretty element.

All throughout the day Jo explained, and demonstrated, each technique very clearly and by mid-afternoon myself, and the other three ladies had all managed to finish our bracelets!  They were all very different – but equally beautiful!    To finish off the class, we then made wire wrapped rings!  Jo had a lovely assortment of beads for us to choose from, and I think we all managed to make at least two!  They were quite quick and easy, and huge amounts of fun!

Jo had also brought some examples of her own work in, which were completely drool-worthy!  She also had an assortment of semi-precious cabochons, and the most gorgeous lilac coloured pearls that she explained a lady had used in a previous workshop to make her bridal tiara!  How amazing is that!

The class ended far too quickly for me!  I could have stayed on for hours!  But Jo did send me home with the copper wire that I would have used for the standard class option, so I had goodies to play with at home! 

Needless to say, when I got home I promptly got my tools out and had a practice, and managed to make another two, slimmer, bracelets! 

So,  the end of this tale is that I have completely fallen in love with wirework!  I ordered some supplies in, and I have been practising!  Many of you will know that I have a hoard of gemstones and beads, and this is giving me a fantastic chance to use some of them!

I have made myself a pendant in a similar style to my bracelet, and a couple of wire tree of life pendants, wrapped around some gorgeous labradorite!

I will keep you updated on my wirework experimentations, but I also wanted to quickly mention a big upcoming project.   Starting from the 1st September, I am running a month long Stitch-A-Long!  There are plenty of details on my facebook page and group, but this will also have its own blog post shortly!

In the meantime, I hope you are all enjoying the lovely weather – stay safe!  Wear sunscreen!

Hugs

Zoe

https://www.facebook.com/willowmoonjewellery/

Events, Inspiration, Update

What have I been up to lately?

Quite a long update for you today!  Points to everyone who manages to get to the end!!!!

I have been continuing to challenge myself with my work recently – which I am really enjoying!

One of my recent makes was the beaded hedgehog – I hadn’t done any bead embroidery for a little while, and decided to throw myself back in at the deep end!  I love how he turned out, but at the time I really thought I had bitten off more than I could chew!  Those spikes took a loooooong time to do!  Every bead is added by hand, then the spikes stitched in place.  I’m sure you can imagine, it took quite a while to do!  I had forgotten how much I enjoyed bead embroidery though – there will definitely be some more coming soon!

I have been lucky enough to be able to collaborate with one of my absolute favourite artists recently.  The amazing Christiana of Canea Chrysalis very kindly designed a pattern for me based on her fabulous Paperhorns!  (Disclaimer – Christiana is one of my bestest friends) It was a total honour to work on the design, and I am super happy with how it turned out!     If you don’t know about the world of the Paperhorns – check out the Facebook page here www.facebook.com/CaneaChrysalis/

Across on my Facebook page I ran a voting poll recently to select an animal art challenge piece.  There was a list of unusual/obscure creatures, and the followers of my page got to like, or comment on the one/s they wanted to see!  The results were quite varied, and unexpected, but the winner was the Pangolin!  I love pangolins so much, but they are not the easiest of things to embroider!  Getting the detail in, while working with a very limited palette was quite a challenge!  I do love how he turned out though – and he is available should anyone like to adopt him!

Pangolin

I am already planning ahead for the next Makers Emporium event (which will be the 31st May)  The theme this month is all things Floral.  I have already completed a trio of Floral Affirmation hoops – I love this type of design – Simple, but effective!  These three will all be available on the night, alongside some floral animal hoops I am currently working on, and possibly another little surprise!

I am trying to get this all done in advance as I am off on my holibobs next week!  A week in glorious Norfolk, with my lovely mum and the dogs.  The plan is chilling, drinking eating, and maybe a little bit of crafting!  After that I am back at the day job for a few days, then I am on jury duty for a fortnight!  I am not sure if I am looking forward to it or not – but it should be interesting!

Last weekend I attending a full days class on using silver art clay – it was a fantastic day, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I got to make lots of lovely things – but they deserve a blog post all of their own!

I would love to hear what you think of my latest endeavours!  Pop a comment below, or message me!

Bye for now

Zoe

x

Inspiration, Uncategorized

Spring is Springing!

Dare I say that spring appears to be well on its way?  I don’t want to jinx it, but the last few days have been considerably warmer, the nights are getting lighter, and my garden appears to be blooming!

I like this time of year – it sounds a little twee, but it really is a time of new beginnings.  I see it as a time to dust of all those things that have been dragging you down, and start afresh with a spring in your step. 

For crafters, inspiration really is all around us now.  The flowers are blooming – cheerful daffodils with their faces up to the sun, the pretty crocuses and tulips in the fabulous colours, and my personal favourite, muscari in all its purple glory!    The birds are nesting, there is plenty of billing and cooing, and you can see the signs of nests being built all over the place!

So what has all this got to do with Athena Makes you may ask!  Don’t worry, I haven’t lost the plot – on the contrary I think I may have found it!   Followers of my Facebook page, especially those I am also friends with, may have noticed several references to losing my mojo.  This has been the case for quite a while now.  I have been going through the motions, making hoops, making jewellery, but my heart has not been in it, and I believe this has been reflected in my work.  When you are not putting your heart and soul into something, it shows.  This is made particularly obvious when your work isn’t selling.  I hate to talk about “sales” and “money” but the simple fact is that I have been really struggling to sell my work.  The last few sales events I have taken part in have been the worst financially, and by number of sales, that I have ever done.    This has given me a bit of a wakeup call that things need to change.  Quite frankly, there is no point in making large numbers of items if no-one wants to buy them!  for a short while I even toyed with the idea of closing Athena Makes down altogether.

But……I don’t want to.  I don’t want to give in to the niggling voice in the back of my head that says it’s because my work isn’t good enough.  I want to prove it wrong.    After much thought, and consideration, and taking advice from a very valued friend who got me into this in the first place, I have decided to do things differently.  Instead of focusing on making a dozen hoops or a dozen pieces of jewellery, to get the maximum number of items in events etc. I am just focusing on doing one or two.  But those one or two will be more complex, using more detail, different techniques, and making them to the absolute best of my ability.  There is still so much to learn in embroidery, and I am devoting my time and energy into progressing my skills – and hopefully making some embroidery art that people love!  My first endeavour into this new mind-set is my lion hoop.  I have had this pattern for nearly a year – I love it as soon as I saw it, but I never had the confidence to tackle it as I was scared of mucking it up.  So last week I bit the bullet and I did it!  And you know what?  I think it turned out great!

There are so many different forms of embroidery – stumpwork, whitework, crewel, kantha.  I intend to embrace them all!  This is going to be a real period of learning for me, and I will be sharing it with you along the way! 

I do apologise for the length of this blog post – I have a tendency to waffle once I get going!  But I really just wanted to share my thoughts and feelings with you.  If anything I have said has struck a chord with you, please let me know – sometime we all just need a tweak to our mind-set!

Congratulations if you have got this far!  

Hugs, as always

Zoe

Events, Uncategorized

News!

I have exciting news to share with you today!  A selection of my embroidery hoops are now for sale in the Focus Gallery in Nottingham.

I am amazingly proud to have been accepted as one of their artists, as the shop and gallery really are wonderful.  The gallery has just undergone a complete overhaul, and refurb, and is looking fantastic!

You can find out more about the shop and gallery if you follow the link below, and also check out the workshops they hold in the jewellery school, which is just below the gallery. I have attended several of their classes, and enjoyed every single one of them (check back through the blog for class reviews)

https://www.focusgallerynottingham.com/

Look! My hoops in a shop!!!!!!!

Amongst all this excitement, I have also been working on more jewellery!  I am steadily working my way through my stash of lampwork glass beads that I have accumulated over a number of years.  It is really nice to be actually using them, instead of just taking them out to drool over occasionally!

A selection of these will be listed in the upcoming Paper Panda and Friends Emporium (details below) I am also working on some more hoop designs for the next The Makes Emporium event, the theme of which is wildlife!  I am planning on making a very special hoop for this event.  It will be the most intricate design I have tackled to date, so I am building myself up to it!  Hopefully more about that next time!

For now, hugs

Zoe

Upcoming Events;-

The Makers Emporium  28th February starting at 8pm

https://www.facebook.com/groups/498933563623248/

Paper Panda & Friends Emporium  8th to 11th March https://www.facebook.com/groups/LLDsEmporium/