Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Taa-Daa: A Fabric Book for a Special Little Boy

If you've been following my blog for a little while, you know that recently one of my friends, Lee-ann, lost her two year old son. It was terribly shocking news and, unsurprisingly, it has knocked everyone sideways, even those who did not know the family terribly well. There's just something so frighteningly unnatural in losing your child that way. It was an unexpected death, he hadn't been ill, and his family still don't have any real answers to the cause of his death.

When a child dies like this, it makes everything else fall into perspective. It has made me realise just how utterly fundamentally life-affirmingly important my own children are to me, even when they are being little sods (which happens quite a lot ;o). I have never made any secret of finding motherhood extremely demanding - but maybe I do whinge too much. Really, I have the most important things in life right here before me, don't I? Says I, currently irritated so much that my teeth itch, by silly questions, mardy teenagers, too-loud television, homework not done, meals and snacks that are constantly whined for, siblings fighting, constant attention seeking behaviour etc etc etc. But even so, these are the days that I will look back on when I am old and grey and, as much as I moan, I cannot imagine for a single moment how awful it would be if one of them were taken away. 

After any death, I think it's natural to feel completely impotent. If I could have done anything, no matter how big, to change William's death or take away his family's pain then I would have done it. As it stands, there's very little one can do, is there? Other than contemplate life, and feel one's own pain and imagine the horror that the immediate family are feeling.

Right from the start, Sophia, William's big sister, said that the family should have a party to remember William. And so Lee-ann and Mark began planning a celebration of William's life, rather than a funeral. In a very touching tribute they requested that all adults and children that could not attend the funeral jump on their beds at 2pm. A lot of people joined in, and a lot of fun was had in William's name.

Lee-ann mentioned to me that she wanted a Guest Book in which funeral guests recalled their memories of William. Immediately I saw a way in which I could help in some small way, so I offered to make one. Amongst William's favourite things were: the colour orange; 2 pence pieces, especially when whizzed down those swirly charity boxes; daisies; jumping in puddles; bubbles and dandelion clocks. I wanted to include as many of these items as I could.

Here is my tribute to sweet William:

William's Memory Book



William's Memory Book - both covers

It was emotionally tough to make, but not nearly as emotionally tough as it was for it's recipients, I'm sure. It was important to me to make it well and to get it right too. I nearly had a complete meltdown when my husband, without really looking, said that the back cover looked like a happy boy on a cloud! Yikes, how inappropriate would that be?! Thankfully, after looking carefully he agreed it did not, and friends back this up and so it was sent off (with me having palpitations until it was received and approved of!)

Technically, I really enjoyed the mix of sewing, applique and both hand and machine embroidery. I was very unsure how to tackle the bubbles, but machine sewing circles onto bits of voile worked really well as it made them stand proud, as well as being transparent. If I could go back and change anything, I would make the fabric onto which I embroidered the dandelion clocks less patterned as I think it's hard to see them. Also, I made the picture on the back a little too wide, so a sliver of the umbrella slides off the edge. This was me getting carried away with making the picture on a deliberately cut-too-big piece of fabric; I wasn't careful enough at measuring the size of the finished book.

Anyway, you live and learn, and this was one of those projects that meant a lot to me. On reflection, I am pleased with what I created and I learned some important lessons that will help me to progress further with future projects. 

I'm also incredibly grateful to Lee-ann for letting me share something so private. Sleep tight, William. My memory of you will always be how much you made your Mummy smile x

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Adventures in Beekeeping

Hello lovelies - how are you? I hope all is well. It's been a BUSY couple of weeks, and I didn't want to post too soon after my last post as it all seemed a bit trivial somehow.

Anyway, to change direction completely, a thread about beekeeping. As you know, we have five beehives in our garden and Dominic and I take great interest in looking after our buzzy charges. The boys even like to get involved too - Charlie more than Jonathan, admittedly. They get suited and booted in their bee suit too, and help Dominic to go through the hives and check the bees are OK. They all love eating the honey, but I guess that goes without saying.

May - June is the time of the year that bees swarm. Dom is registered with East Riding Council as a beekeeper who will go and rescue swarms. He doesn't charge and the council should not either. This short film is a swarm that we recently rescued. In my opinion, it's a miracle that many people don't get to see. I hope you enjoy it.

See you soon

Claire x


Friday, 6 May 2011

On Days Like This The World Should Stop

Today my friends and I received the most awful news: the son of our friend had died in his sleep. He was excited about his third birthday this week. 

There is no clear reason for his death, it was sudden and unexpected. I think I speak for us all when I say that I feel lost, unable to find the right words and bewildered. Lord only knows what his mum and dad are feeling.

I've been trying to find the right words, helpful words, comforting words, all morning. Words that can express how devastated I feel, and how much love I want to send his parents. That express how grateful I am for every moment with my own little family, and how much I need to have them with me right at this very moment. Words that will allow me to understand what has happened, and to give comfort to others.

Words have never felt so inadequate.

I'm not a great photographer, but I have taken some photographs in my garden today, looking at the little things. And praying that William will sleep tight, that his parents and sister will find peace and that no other little one will be lost. God bless you, William.


When I was editing, I spotted this. It wasn't taken today, but it seems strangely apt. Written by my five year old, I am sure that if William could say anything to his mummy and daddy and big sister right now, this would be it:


Lee-ann, if there's anything I can do then please, please ask. My thoughts and prayers and love is with you *squeezes hand*

Thursday, 5 May 2011



Ooh, that's a blast from the past. In writing that title, which just popped into my head, a theme tune also popped into my head. A theme tune familiar but long forgotten. A CBeebies show that Charlie used to love when he was a toddler. Remember Doodle Do? With ?Chris, who a lot of my mum friends fancied? I didn't, especially, although he did seem like a cool bloke. I wasn't keen on one of those spiders though, if I remember correctly.

Funnily, Charlie and I have taken up doodling again recently. We both enjoy spending time in each other's company whilst scribbling in a book. I have a tin of "best" pencils; they belonged to Dom's Grandma and are one of the precious things he inherited. They are Conte Watercolour Pencils. He generously gave them to me, so I to save them for Special Colouring Occasions.

I love them, because you can increase the richness of the colour by adding a bit of water. I also love pen drawing. There's something bold about pen drawing that makes me more confident - when I use pencil I spend too long rubbing stuff out. Sometimes it's just good to get it down on paper. I find colouring in relaxing, and I am one of those odd people for whom doodling makes it easier for me to listen.

Charlie appears to have inherited my love for colouring - and his Great Grandma's too. There's something lovely about him connecting with his Great Grandma creatively, and directly through her own craft materials, sadly she died five years before he was born and six months before I met Dominic. I love the idea that a Great Grandchild of mine might use one of my craft materials, and think of me in the process.

I'm not claiming that I am particularly good at drawing. However, doodling has a wonderful informality. Things can be slightly surreal. They can be as cartoony as you wish. They can be any old size, and perspective doesn't matter. It doesn't even matter if it looks that good.

Today I challenge you to have a go. Even if you just do a bit of colouring in, have a go. It's blissfully relaxing and it's one of those things you'll never do unless you decide to make it happen. Show me what you do!

Lots of love

Claire x 

Monday, 2 May 2011

Are You Promiscuous With Your Failures?


As I am sure I have mentioned before, I am an aficionado of audiobooks, especially when I am crafting. I LOVE reading, but have found that the time I can make available for it seems to diminish year on year. I think this is largely to do with my family commitments and I hope to be able to return to reading properly as my children grow and need me less (a thought in itself that makes me sad, in one of the spirals of my life). However, in the mean time, audio books keep my mind sharp, provide an escape and make me reflect on my life.

One of my favourite book genres is the self help book. Yes, I KNOW they're sometimes cheesy and they get a bad press. However, I think that the concept of self reflection and re-evaluation of the world is a helpful one. I'm yet to read a permanently life changing self help book, but I think the combined wisdom of them does help me to live a braver life, both personally and professionally.

I'll be perfectly honest: as you may know I have the 'accolade' of owning a failed business. A few years ago I did not think this could be possible. I believed that I would succeed every time. I believed I could and would work, work, work to make anything successful if I wanted it enough. This has been one of the big lessons I have struggled with in recent months. The world does not revolve around me.

For a long time I felt personally responsible for the collapse of Generation Publishing. I wondered what I could have done differently and how I could have tried harder. The thing was, there weren't enough hours in the day to work harder. Although I didn't realise it at the time, I had surrounded myself with the wrong people. There were things happening (like changes in the global economy) that I couldn't control.

At the time, I went to some CBT sessions and was made to draw a pie diagram of the reasons my business failed. I saw, very visually, that I could control a very small part of that pie. I could see that I wasn't responsible for the whole thing. However, it has taken many, many more months for my emotions to catch up to my awareness. I'm just now starting to feel as though I did as much as could be realistically expected of me.

Failing is horrible. It is humiliating and it is frightening. We live in a world where failures are not tolerated. A large proportion of our television schedules is filled with programmes where we are invited to critique and criticise others on their many and varied attempts to do something. It feels satisfying to pass comment, to pat oneself on the back and feel as though one would not have been so silly as to do THAT.

The thing is that, because one is afraid of failure, it becomes much easier not to try. Its easier to take the easy option and do what you are told and not to take risks. The thing is that life is much less satisfying that way. Unless we innovate, and unless we try then we stagnate. And we cannot try unless we risk failure.

This afternoon I've decamped to the dining room sofa with my knitting needles and my iPhone. I've been determined to finish the long started silk scarf for an elderly relative who is going blind. I also chose to listen to "Poke The Box" by Seth Godin. 

Godin argues that the most important characteristic we can have personally, and the most important thing we can have for our economy in general, is the desire to innovate. To generate forward momentum. To risk things. To have a go. To come up with new ideas. To risk failure. Although it may sound glib, he was the one who asked 'are you promiscuous with your failures?' Arguing that if you don't innovate then not only are you letting yourself down, because you're not using all your talents and being all that you can be, but you are also letting everyone else down too. He likens not innovating within your company to stealing a laptop and flogging it on Ebay. It's stealing. Who knows what joy, what opportunity for others may come from your idea or your work? Is it right to deny other people because you aren't brave enough to try?

With trying comes failure. By failing, you are doing something that most other people are afraid of - you're edgy. Your projects may be fail-fail-succeed-fail-fail-fail-succeed-succeed-fail, but who cares? No-one will remember the things that you tried that did not work, as long as you gave them the best chance you could to succeed. The important thing is starting.

Within his work he gave an anecdote that rings bells to me. I believe he called it the dandelion theory:

We are mammals. Our children take a great deal of investment of energy. Therefore much of our time is devoted to preventing them from taking too many risks, because this would be a waste of our energy. We are raised to avoid risk, and we instinctively raise our children the same way too.

Compare this to a dandelion. A dandelion produces thousands of seeds a year. If you look at it from the point of view of the actual seed, most will land on concrete and other places where they cannot germinate. Most of the dandelion's energy seems to be "wasted." However, come spring, all the pavement cracks are filled with dandelions. And that's the point. You won't know which of your ideas will be successful and which won't - the important thing is to start something. If you're too afraid to fail then you will never succeed. You obviously have to work hard, and finishing things is equally important, but it's the starting that takes the bravery. From each failure one learns something new. It's this new knowledge that makes us remarkable.


My Great Aunt will hopefully feel her scarf and be pleased with the sensations it arises in her, but she will never know that it was an opportunity for it's maker to reflect and to learn something, and to help to heal an awkward, sore bit of her psyche. Here is the picture of the now renamed Dandelion Scarf:

Dandelion Scarf


I shall spend this week making like a dandelion. Thanks, Seth!

Lots of love

Claire x