Saturday, 26 February 2011

A quick catch up

Well, there's very little to report here as this week has been full of half-term entertainments and viruses.  It's all over soon and hopefully normality will descend once G is back at school.

I have managed to get a headdress made and three cute little cuffs that will be perfect for summer evenings with pretty t-shirts and jeans but pics on websites will have to wait until tomorrow.  Here's a little peek though....

And tonight I'm off to eat Turkish food, gossip with friends and watch Ozgen dance.  Yay!!! 

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Oooh, ooh.......

So my friend the lovely Kitty Kohl aka Kathryn has been fabulously productive and has bagged The Hipnotic School of Belly Dance a gig in town for Reading Women's Week.  We'll be teaching and performing a town centre venue in order to introduce people to the dance we all love, belly dance.

It's billed as A Belly Dance Extravaganza and an extravaganza it will be!  Details are up on Facebook so if you're a local come along and bring your friends who have always wanted to give it a go but who have never gotten around to getting to a class.  We'll show you what it's all about!

We're also going to be opening a performance of the Vagina Monologues on the Saturday night which is also happening in Reading.  The events being put together for this week will raise money for Berkshire Women's Aid which is a fantastic cause and we're really pleased to be involved.

Plus, I have a couple of other things in the pipeline which I shall share once they are signed and sealed!  Watch this space.....

Monday, 21 February 2011

Mum...........I think he's doing something he shouldn't......

Ah the joys of school holidays.  Serves me right for thinking everyone was playing happily which meant I could go and change the beds....

Sunday, 20 February 2011

New things....

I have almost got a new headdress finished tonight, another one that has gorgeous jewellery drapes and some stand-out flowers.  No feathers on this one, but don't worry feather fans, some more of those coming soon!  (Now a small boy is up again demanding attention - it's always iffy if he falls asleep before 6pm at night, always means that he'll be up again by 8pm and doesn't go back to bed until at least 9pm.  Being Human is on tonight so 9pm is the watershed.)

There are two more prepared bases to decorate and make into something luscious and they'll maybe get done this week too if I get my way, although as it's half-term there's always a possibility that they won't!

And after half-term?  I plan to show you how I will make this heap of loveliness into a headdress.  Let's hope I can get some good pictures :)

I'm waiting with bated breath for some new feathers to arrive.  The ones I want just aren't available in the UK at all, and in particular I cannot find the dyed ones I'm after here, so they're being shipped from Canada.  I have spent hours sourcing them and am happy that I'm getting what I want at the best possible price (thanks to the  wonders of the Net).  So you can expect more feathered earrings and hair accessories soon. 

(Wonders will never cease, small boy has just taken himself to bed....)

And lastly, the full moon on Friday brought me computer problems aplenty.  With the help of some tweaks from a friend (thank you again!) and a couple of new programmes to help eliminate the pesky problems I *think* things are back to normal.  Shocking really how distressing it is to be without the Net now.  What, can't email anyone, have to phone people up?  Well, that's do-able obviously, but what about everything else a person does with the aid of their magical box?  I was pretty distraught at the thought of losing every thing but had luckily backed most things up recently so it wouldn't have been a total disaster is it had all gone really pear-shaped.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Mundane Matters

Yesterday saw me putting together a set of bunk beds for the children.  Theirs is a small room, so I chose a small set of wooden bunk beds and have to say I'm glad I did because now they're up they fit perfectly and they make the room look huge!

It's something of a task to put them together by yourself, but it was so worth it to see the look on my daughter's face when she got home from school.  My hands are still feeling sore but no matter, they're up and done.

School half-term next week means that precious little will get done in any other area of my life.  There are lots of plans for the children to meet with friends, but I have the feeling my daughter will just want people to visit so that they can play in her room :)

Whilst my two-and-a-half year old son was having a tantrum in the street I got a call today inviting me to attend the training for the voluntary role of a Making Life Better coach (oh the irony!)  However, this training clashes with another voluntary role I'm interested in and so I have decided to go with my first commitment.  Some of the reasons for this were outlined in a previous post, but I was pleased to have been offered the role as the interview was quite rigorous.

Tonight I think I may have to catch up with the most mundane matter of all - housework.  I think it was Phyllis Diller who said, "Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the path (walk) before it stops snowing."  I agree but am drawn to have a big clear up every now and again - it makes me feel better even if it only lasts moments.

Sad but true today I treated myself to a new mop.  Oh the glamour.  So if I'm a good girl this evening I will be vacuuming and mopping so that when the children get up in the morning they can completely cover a really clean floor in stuff and nonsense.  And maybe tomorrow night I can add my own stuff and nonsense with bits of feather fluff and many of the other bits I pieces I leave behind after an evening of creating.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Busy busy busy

There's a lot going on here at Blackwillow Towers at the moment.

In my home-life things continue as they should with small children, although I wasn't banking on two footballs, a childs plastic chair, a toy shopping trolley and a plastic truck getting thrown over the fence and into the river (ok, it's a canal but it's more romantic to call it the river) this afternoon by my 2 and a half year old son when I let him and his sister and her friend from school out into the garden this afternoon.  I couldn't deal with all of the shouting anymore so out they went.  Then the shouting continued because of his primal need to throw things in the river.  By the time I got into the garden it was too late to save anything.

He didn't appreciate being brought back into the house, but at least there's not much more he can throw into the river.  Unless I count the big gorilla buckets full of toys.  And the gardening utensils and...ok, there's still a lot that could go in.....

Dance news...the troupe I dance with, Covert Bling, have been asked to take part in two events in aid of Women's Week here in Reading.  Both are very exciting for us and I'll be able to post more details when I know more.

We've also got performances coming up soon outside of Reading, and as usual we are working hard to get everything ready for our next Hipnotic night.

In my own classes I have three new members who are staying for both classes, which is excellent.  Although it's hard to integrate new people into existing and long running classes it's a challenge that I enjoy.  If you're interested you can read more about that here.

Personally, I am working on two new pieces but not as much as I should if I'm honest.  My focus for next week is to get working on one of them with more attention.

And on the making things front there's just not enough time in the day.  Got a couple more things made and photographed tonight but I also have to eat and at some point tonight I'll need to go to bed.   In fact.....goodnight all!

Feather Earrings - Sneak Peek

At last, some pics of the earrings I made this week.  I'll decide on where I'm going to sell them later this evening and let you know where they'll be.  All three pairs are mounted on sterling silver ear-wires and have been made from hackle, emu, Lady Amherst pheasant feathers and one pair features extra long grizzly hackles.  All feature diamante accents.  Prices and dimensions to follow.

Having a clear-out

You know how it is, there comes a point when you really do have to let go of items from the stash of belly dance costumes that accumulate.

Why do we keep it all?  Even when it doesn't fit properly, or isn't a colour that suits?  I think it's just that magpie in us all, the one that loves the shiny, sparkling twinkly things.  And there's an element of, "Oh, yes, I could wear that with....." and the conversation you have with yourself about MAKING it work.

The good thing is that as a beginner belly dancer you can have a large amount of stuff and if you shop carefully you can get it for fantastic prices.

My problem is that I now have so many boxes and bags of fabrics, feathers, rhinestones, beads, jewellery and other twinkly things that I just have to make some space.

I'm now finally getting around to taking some pictures of what I have and putting it up on my belly dance website (as opposed to my costuming site which is about tribal and fusion costuming).  Nearly all of the items are for beginners and all of them are in very good condition, and most of it is cabaret sparkly stuff.  When I get around to moving on the tribal and fusion items they can go on the other website.

Monday, 14 February 2011


If you've worked out my process yet then you will have worked out that my earlier post about fly fishing feathers
was going to lead to a blog about how I've made something from feathers like those I mentioned earlier.

I've made a few pairs tonight and once the glue has dried I can get them finished and get some pics up to show you what I've done.  I've yet to decide whether they go onto the Blackwillow Tribal site or the Etsy shop.

Fly Fishing Materials

My new favourite search term on the Net is "fly fishing shops".  They contain a whole new world of feathers that I never knew existed and had never considered until recently.

It came as something of a mild shock to discover that I can also buy dyed squirrel tails, bird wings and sometimes even complete bodies.  I don't want to though, I'm too squeamish for that. 

To take a look at what I'm talking about (feathers, not the squeamish stuff) then just take a look here.  Prices are a little breath-taking, but ooooh, aren't they pretty?  And, yes, I've looked at shops in the UK too but there's no-one in the UK that has a range like this.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Being Human

My adoration of the BBC Three series Being Human continues unabated. 

Consistently superb writing is the mainstay of this series.  After the actor substitutions of the pilot, the casting is sublime.  Each character is believable and my empathy remains with all involved.

If you are unfamiliar with this series and a pocket of darkness and humour exists within you, then I urge you to watch.  Darkness because ultimately this is about a vampire, a ghost and a pair of werewolves.  Humour because, well, it's funny.  When it wants to be.  Tonight I actually bit my hand (didn't draw blood, I'm not THAT dark) during my involvement with the stories and emotions that unfolded.

It's quite possible that the vampire, (John) Mitchell is the easiest character to write.   ?    The tortured vampire; tortured by his nature and the blood-lust and the absolute need to explore every avenue, even those not offered, is something of a theme in horror writing.  But I feel that the characterization is fresh and compelling, and so extremely watchable.

George and Nina the werewolves display the most human qualities throughout, but their (doggily) pragmatic natures are always thrown against the wall and smashed when faced with the monthly ordeal/need to submit to the will of nature. 

And Annie the ghost?  Lonely and needy and so so cheerful in the face of adversity (yes, even ghosts face adversity), holding back even the mention of the terrible ordeal she went through in Purgatory, that none of us but her have experienced.  Trying to cling onto "life" through a relationship that is perfect and challenged and doomed. 

I think I love everything about it.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Black Swan

Tonight I went to see Black Swan with my good friend Kitty Kohl.  What a fabulous film.  Engrossing, engaging, intriguing, dark, sad and painful. 

I do like a funny film, but all of the above ingredients make for a more thoughtful watching experience.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Becoming a volunteer

Today was the day I went for an interview for a voluntary role with the Citizens Advice Bureau.  They have a new project that trains and support Healthy Lifestyle Coaches, to assist people with myriad issues that are affecting their lives.  The idea is that the coach assists the individual to identify, create an action plan for and reach particular goals.  These might be to do with resolving issues about relationships, weight, substance use and abuse, work/life balance issues......

In my previous life, before motherhood, I worked with people in many roles; as a residential social worker with children in care, then with adults with disabilities in a care home, then as a volunteer project manager where the volunteers had disabilities, and in the job I had before maternity leave, a volunteer project manager where the volunteers were all under 25 and the recipients of their volunteering actions were children with disabilities.

I kind of feel that the post I went for today SHOULD be a paid role.  I understand why it isn't.  My feeling that way isn't going to change society, the way funding happens (it's all down to fashions folks, not just about there not being enough in the pot to go round.  If your particular project is not "of the now" you'll have to fight harder and longer and probably eventually give up the ghost - I used to fund-raise as a part of my roles.)

The upshot is that the times I would need to be available over-run school times, so I would need to employ a childminder.  And the organisation that is offering the post is unable to offer full expenses for this.  I don't blame the organisation.  It's always been a tough call trying to get parents of pre-school children involved with volunteering because of that very issue.  If an organisation can't offer full expenses, or even two thirds of that because don't forget you need a childminder for not only the period where you won't be with the child, but for a period either side of that to cover your travel time, then you can pretty much forget someone like me being able to take up a post.

The Children's Centre where I hold my classes and attend toddler groups has offered me the opportunity to do something for them as a volunteer.  So I've taken it up.  I already attend one group a week, with my son, helping out at a Speech and Language group.  And through them I shall have another opportunity soon where they will take my son at their creche for the twelve mornings training required, and where I can take my son with me to the sessions I will be volunteering at.

A completely different role than the one I was interviewed for today.  But because it's child friendly I shall take it up.  It's still a valuable role and one that I think will be good for me.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Tonight the most amazing thing happened..... two and almost a half year old son ASKED to go to bed at 7.20pm.  And stayed there.  I was planning on taking him to bed at 7.30pm and having to take him back to bed at least three or four time before he would finally settle.  My daughter went to bed at 7.30pm.  I have done a ton of filing, answering emails and got another set of falls made.  Excellent!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Making yarn falls

This is a pretty easy if time consuming task. 

You need your basic ingredients and for my falls I always use a base of Point 5 wool by Colinette.  Midnight (black, or as close as dammit) is the colour.  I'm also using some lime green roving.  The other yarn pictured here didn't get used in the end.  It didn't look right.  You'll also need a pair of scissors, two strong elasticated covered hairbands, a needle and thread and some hair beads and other things for decoration if decoration is what you want.

The lime green roving is shown here in the first stages of being formed into dreads.  You pull a section of the roving away from the long thick strand you get, and then start rolling it between your hands.  All the way along its length.  To get a close texture to the fibres keep doing this over and over.

Once you've done all of the roving strands and you're happy with them it's on to the fun bit.

I start by taking strands of Point 5 and counting along the strand a regular number of thicker sections.  The wool is both thick and thin and is consistent in this thick/thin texture along its length.  So I start with 6 strands, all 7 thick sections long.

Take each strand and take a loop through the hairband - at all stages of this process try not to have the ends of the yarn exactly in line with one another, you get a better look and overall texture to the falls.
Then take the two ends and push them through the loop, pulling the yarn so that it sits tightly against the band.
Complete this process for all of your cut strands, then add one length of the roving.

Now start to add layers.  Don't just keep looping yarn around the band.  That way you get a lot of yarn on your band, but there's no bulk to it, the strands will all be spread along the entire band.

What I do is take another 6 strands of Colinette, this time 6 thicknesses long.  And I loop them through some of the tighter loops created by the first base layer.  Here's a pic of black yarn looped through the roving.
Continue, loop strand after strand through previous loops, so that the strands sit on top of one another.  Keep taking a look at your yarn fall.  Does it need more stands?  Add them.  I add two more pieces of roving either side of the first one.
Now another layer.  This time I use 5 thickness lengths of Colinette, again using 6 or so, plus another two strands of roving.

The next layer is made up of 6 strands of Colinette, all 4 thicknesses long, plus more roving.

Once I'm happy with the thickness of the falls I take my needle and thread and sew through all of the loops up at the hairband.  Not lots and lots of stitching, just enough to make sure that everything is going to stay in place and be secure.
To complete your falls you can add beads, bells, wound sections of thread, shells, bits of jewellery...anything you can think of.

Tonights Job

Tonight I shall be mostly making hair falls.  Here are the ingredients:
There's lime green wool roving, some Midnight Colinette Point 5, another green yarn, two hair bands and some hair beads.  Once they're done I shall probably add some other bits and bobs but haven't decided what they'll be yet.

I also have to make a pair in red and black but am unsure whether they'll get done tonight.

If I'm a good blogger I'll take pics as I go so that I can show you how I make them, although tbh there are quite a few yarn falls *how-to* projects on the web already.

Bindi pics

Ok then, here are the picture of my recently made bindis.  I'm not sure I'll have time today to get them measured and described for the Blackwillow Tribal website, nor will I get any up in the Etsy shop, so that's a job for tomorrow.  Here's a sneak peek in the meantime:

The bindi pictured above is SOLD

The bindi pictured above is SOLD
They've all had some extra bling added in the form of Swarovski crystals and are backed with clear vinyl.  I'll let you know once they're up on the websites.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Single With Kids Blog

Single With Kids Blog

If like me you're recently single, with kids, then visit this blog and then go to their main site.  It's been a lifesaver.


Last night I made some bindis.  Unbelievably this was my first foray into bindi making, or rather jewellery re-purposing with extra bling.  Pics probably won't be available until tomorrow, toddler tantrums are top of my list this morning.

Monday, 7 February 2011

How I got the bug.....

I've always been interested in making things.  Never made jam though....

Sewing is my main addiction (after belly dance of course) but I never really had the time to indulge in much in my twenties, as I had a pretty full on full time and extra hours kind of job.

After doing some travelling I came back to the UK, found myself in the library and picked up a book called Creative Bead Embroidery.  I was immediately hooked.  I don't have pictures of the very first things I made unfortunately, and would often make things for other people as gifts so there's lots of stuff hopefully still out there that I made.  I hope they didn't get thrown away....

And then we move on and I found belly dance around 8 years ago.  Here's a pic of the first bedlah (bra and belt set) I made, that is still in my collection:

Pretty clumsy but ok.....

Then when I went on maternity leave I found that I had some time on my hands and I made this:

I absolutely adore ammonites and their internal, fossilized structures.  Beautiful organic creations created by time and pressure.

My next forays into textile art included melting and burning fabrics before adding embellishment and embroidery:

And now?  Well, with two small children to look after I get very little time to experiment.  So now I'm trying to combine a number of addictions; as a designer and maker of costume items primarily for tribal and fusion belly dancers I've expanded my range to beautifully decorated cuffs which can also be worn by women who love to look beautiful, not just dancers who perform....

At the top is another ammonite inspired piece, below is a section of embroidery I did 13 years ago, bravely cut up and transformed into a piece of wearable art.  I'm pretty interested to see where this goes....I'll keep you posted.....

Development of a style....

Once upon a time I used to make symmetrical headdresses.  Flowers on either side were well matched even if not exactly the same.  Used to add a bit of jewellery, but not too much.  Still made the bases in the same way that I do now in terms of basic construction, but I used to add less stuff. 

For the most part I would make what I thought people could afford, and to be honest, that worked because everything I made got sold....

The next stage was to make things that weren't so symmetrical, flowers one side, feathers and other things on the other, with the addition of the beaded yarn tassels that I love to make as they add so much drama to a piece as well as lengthening the neck for everyone who wears them.

And now?  Well now I just add whatever I can.  Soon I shall throw caution to the wind and just go wild with something, but for the moment I still err on the side of affordability even if prices are higher than they used to be.  Any I do try and make sure to add in a few pieces that have taken less work, less time to construct in order to offer a range of items with a range of prices.

But beauty is as beauty does and even with caution, things can get out of hand, too beautiful to bear, and although I'm still always happy to see an item go to a loved home, I'm sad to see it leave its place on display in my home.
The above headdress can be seen with more pictures here and there is a further new headdress here.

Coming soon!  How to make a fabulous headdress for yourself!

Blackwillow's Blog

Hi all!

Thanks for taking a look at my new Blog.

I hope to be able to share snippets of wisdom, give instructions on how to make things for yourself, or just share my thoughts with you.

Make sure to pop back regularly and I'll post updates on Facebook and Twitter so that you can keep up with what's going on.