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Have you, like me already been asked several times - What would various family members like for christmas, or do I have something I'd love to find under the tree on the 25th ??

Let me just say this  I DON"T KNOW ............. or do I ?

It's tricky - I haven't yet had the time to devote to leisurely wandering around the shops looking for ideas, and enjoying the festive sparkle, although now I think about it ..

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last year I asked for a magazine subscription - not overly exciting you might think, but I can't tell you the pleasure I get when it arrives on the doormat every month, and getting to spend some me time, relaxing and catching up on all things fashion, cookery & crafting, star interviews and book reviews.

I also selected a few craft workshops that I would like to take - keeping the dates free in my diary until I unwrapped on the big day - which one would I get!  Although I had to wait a few months to attend my course, it was nice to be able to look forward it, and great when the big day finally arrived. I did stained glass - by the way, and it was a lovely reminder of not only the giver and Christmas, but now have something physical at the end of it - something that I made !

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Actually the more I think about it ... I'm going to put both of these on this year's list too - I just need to spend a while browsing craft school brochures, websites and online workshops; which can be a revelation in itself - I could do taxidermy, learn the ukelele, felt slippers, make willow piglets or perfect Viennoiserie (that's breakfast pastries to you and me), there really is something for everybody! And if you're really unsure, play for a bit more time and ask for a voucher .. most craft schools including I Made it Crafts, offer this option.

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Don't get me wrong ... a beautifully soft cashmere cardigan, a pair of sparkling diamond earrings, some bubble bath or even new socks will be also very welcome, but if you give something creative, you might start a lifelong passion or hobby - now that's really a gift worth giving, or finding beautifully wrapped under your Christmas tree.    

 

Not sure where to look .... here are a few of my favourites:

http://www.oldbankstudios.co.uk/

https://www.assingtonmill.com/

https://www.ardingtonschool.com/

http://denmancollege.org.uk/

http://www.newbreweryarts.org.uk/

 

 

 

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Not knitting a T-Rex ... although that does conjure up an interesting image, but that many of our traditional crafts are dying out, and some are aleady extinct !

Crafting is actually undergoing something of a revival - knitting, crochet, patchwork, and baking, to name a few, but not all crafts ... I was surprised to learn that traditional silver smithing was on the 'at risk' list ... although I'm pretty sure this worrying trend is not linked in any way, to my busy silver clay classes !  

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The Heritage Craft Association is so concerned it has produced the Radcliffe Red list - not just of crafts becoming rare, but of those vanishing to the extent, that within a few years there will no practioners left - highly skilled techniques will be lost forever.

I think we'll end up the poorer for losing the skills that we have been honing for centuries. Critically endangered crafts such as clay pipe and fan making, along with wagon building and collar makers might have had their heyday, and however much I love the idea of candlelit balls with fluttering fans, I can see those days probably aren't coming back either, and these incredibly delicate, and complicated pieces of social history are just that - history.

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But surely piano makers, equine harness makers, boat building, even bagpipe making, millinery, clock makers, glove making and wood turning, still have a place today? Take a look at the list ,you'll be surprised that at some of the crafts under threat. http://bit.ly/2l7cXM8

Some I'd never heard of  .... like passementiere - tassel making, Lorinery - making small metal objects for bridles, stirrups and bits, Fore edge painting - the picture on the page edges of a closed book .... 

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I know we have to move forward ... you wouldn't be reading this if I was still using a quill and parchment (that's another one on the list) along with Calligraphy ... don't get me started on the handwriting of todays children, but along with looking to the future we shouldn't forget what we've learnt ... and isn't that the very reason why crafting is so popular today - as a break from the stressful modern world ?

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l love to see the seasons changing and Autumn is definitely one of my favourites. I know it represents the end of the summer, trees begin to shed their leaves and most of the plants in our gardens start turning brown.

Depressing, you might think, but not at all !!  It's a time to be creative... in my case with a bumper crop of tomato's and apples. I enjoy finding interesting and tasty things I can make, apart from stewing apples for crumbles or making chutneys.

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Mornings are getting chilly, and we start thinking about putting on jumpers, slippers and cardigans. As evenings get darker and cooler, fingers start twitching and knitting bags all over the country are dragged out from behing the sofa.. patterns perused and wool 'wish lists' written.

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Corduroy is acceptable wear again, and mini bib & brace dresses are everywhere in the shops ... I've already sourced a great pattern to make mine !

Halloween, is on the horizon, with all it's ghoulish fun and creative possibilities ... pumpkin carving, giant spiders with pipe cleaner legs, egg box bats and graveyard cakes !

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So you see, whether you're a serious knitter, a spooky blood splattered just for fun creator, a resouceful kilner jar and freezer filling cook , sewing your christmas party showstopper, or are a misty countryside photographer, autumn is full of positivity, creativity, colour and new projects.

What are you waiting for ... ?

 

 

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August is almost over, our longed for summer holiday, with hopefully more sunny than wet days, if you're in the UK, and if you've headed further afield, with not quite the 40 degrees that seem to have been beating down on large areas of europe.

Holidays at anytime of the year are good, but it's the ones in the summer that seem to carry such a weight of hope ... perhaps because they are often for 2 weeks, and there's more going on in the summer ... I don't know, but we all need to relax and recharge not only our physical but creative batteries.

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Recharging, could be two weeks sitting in a shady spot, realxing with a good book, with only the occasional glance up to enjoy a wonderful view, or going to a gallery, or musuem, and having time to stand and appreciate the beauty and talent in someone elses creations, be that modern or traditional ... or challenging yourself with art or sculpture that's out of your comfort zone.

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We often try new things while we're away from home ... water sports, local food and wines, visiting new or historic places. We might even be taking a dedicated painting holiday, a yoga retreat or a dancing workshop, but in amongst all those new experiences and effort, we relax and recharge.

According to psycologists, learning may increase our stress levels temporarily, but this is by far outweighed by the longer term boost to our positive emotions. Those who engage in new experiences are better at feeling positive. I see this with my own students .. they arrive feeling apprehensive and a liitle bit nervous, but leave thrilled with what they have learned and created - often against all expectations, and definitely have an 'up beat' and positive vibe about them when they leave !

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So, I hope your summer holiday has lived up to expectation - I went to experience the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time and without doubt witnessed some things that were ... shall we say 'challenging' !

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With best Wishes 

Melanie x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You may have seen in my post yesterday, about the temporary new statue in Trafalgar Square, London.The Mud Soldier, made from the soil of Flanders fields; it's been designed to slowly disintergrate over several days, back into mud, symbolizing the terrible conditions and the sea of mud that our soldiers had to contend with on the battle fields of Belgium that claimed over 500,000 lives in 3 months in 1917.

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The battle of Passchendaele was just one of the horrors of World War 1, but as I was trying  and failing to imagine what it might have beeen like, I got to thinking about how, in times of hardship, our handcrafting skills seem to come to the fore, and our sense of community, ingenuity and yes, new business opportunities flourish.

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The women left at home were called upon to serve their country but in a much more creative way ... knitting clothes, socks, balaclavas, underwear, scarves.

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Wool manafacturers played their part by producing wool in Khaki for the first time, and patterns were printed for all the regulation army basics.

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The Mud Soldier, is an incredibly moving and thought provoking piece of art, and as the 100 year commemoration of the battle is held on Sunday, but we musn't forget those left at home ,who did all they could to help keep our soldiers warm, dry and surviving at the front. 

They say an army marches on it's stomach - but they also need socks !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As a July baby, I can't deny that I was a bit disappointed when I discovered that my birthstone was the Ruby. Somehow, it just didn't seem to be as glamourous as diamonds, as classicaly beautiful as pearls or a startling vibrant colour like an emerald. In short, I felt short changed, but then I hadn't seen Victoria Beckham's ruby !

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Older and a bit wiser, I still don't own a piece of ruby jewellery like Victorias, but I appreciate how beautiful they are. Even the name Ruby, is undergoing something of a revival !

Thought to have been first discovered over 2000 years ago in India, rubies are formed in marble, and it is more often their colour that denotes their value, rather than size. Ranging from pale pink, right through to deep blood red, they have long been associated with enduring love, courage, passion and wisdom.

Also favoured by royalty, rubies are often seen in crowns - like that of Catherine the Great, and our own Coronation crown is no exception - to emphasise the wearers status and right to rule.

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Perhaps this was why it was chosen to represent the Lion of the zodiac. The king (or queen) of the jungle, brave and fearless, and why ancient warriors wore rubies into battle to give courage and protection.

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Actually now I think about it, the ruby has quite a positive and grand history... but being a bit of a romantic, I'm going to focus on the enduring love apsect , they were after all chosen by Richard Gere, for his Pretty Woman ... what more can you say !

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It strikes me there seems to be a shift in the perception of what, the noun 'craft' actually stands for.The Oxford English dictionary states - craft : an activity involving skill in making things by hand.

Which is pretty much what I would have thought, and yet a few years ago, if someone mentioned they were interested in craft, for many it conjured up an image of elderly ladies or embarassing family members making hideous jumpers, toilet rolls covers with dolls in them, and an assortment of other useless and probably ugly items. Homemade had an unfortunate metaphorical 'whiff' of hard times and lack of style, or even worse - both

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Yet now, we are being sold amongst others, artisan handmade breads, small batch craft beers and spirits - all of which attract a premium - because they are, you've guessed it - handcrafted. As consumers we have fallen in love with the images these words conjure up in our minds ... the hard working baker, making beautiful, little uneven loaves by hand. Larger producers, who really have no choice but to mass produce, create special runs of vintage beers, with slightly odd flavours and even stranger names. Old fashioned craft is good !

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TV programmes such as the Bake Off and Sewing Bee have played a part in glamourising 'crafting' to such an extent, that handcrafted is again something to desire and appreciate, something that commands a premium, because of the skill involved. So I'd like to thank whomever was behind starting this very clever piece of marketing, because 'crafting' really is something to be proud of, it's just a shame that some other clever marketing person tried to convince us otherwise ... but good will out as they say !

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I'm guessing here, but I don't think it can have escaped anyone's notice that it's been a bit warmer of late.The streets seem quieter, dog walkers are only emerging late in the evening, and everyone is tired, lethargic, and wants to be by the fan.

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I've noticed is that whereas friends are putting off doing some things, such as going to the gym, any old excuse will do for that one ! but local craft groups, Knit and Natter, the Quilting Ladies and the Lick & Stick Clubs, are still meeting up. Not to be creative, because it really is just too hot, but to simply get together, the sewing and crochet comes along, but only a few stitches or rows are completed before being put aside. Drinks are handed round, and maybe a slice of cake - OK there's always cake, and the chatting takes over.

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Which makes me think that although we really love our crafting hobbies, it's not just about the handiwork. It's the being with likeminded people, and of course the pleasure we get from having a good old chat with friends that makes the whole meeting so much more beneficial.

It's well documented that crafting is good for us, both mentally and physically, but spending time with our friends doing nothing much ,sharing food and chatting, can be equally positive. Talking about the books we're reading, television programmes we're following, gardening problems, family issues... it doesn't really matter.

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One of the problems in modern life is isolation, and I've noticed that in my classes, the students say it's not only the course they've enjoyed but meeting everyone else too, and hearing their stories. We're mostly, very social animals, and by denying that, we all lose out - that's why solitary confinement is used as a punishment.

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I think I was born in the wrong month - instead of July, I should have made my entrance into the world in June, then my birthstone would have been a pearl, rather than ruby.

I love pearls ... they remain my 'go to ' everyday earrings , either stud or drop, and although I rarely wear them as a plain rope around my neck, I have countless necklaces that include pearls in various ways.

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But it doesn't only seem to be me - when I teach my silver clay workshops, I have a selection of semi precious stones, such as turquoise, amethyst and rose quartz for students to add to their designs, but it's the pearls, that are by far the most popular!

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I always use real freshwater pearls, but you can buy some really lifelike imitation ones. Almost every high street shop you go into that sells jewellery, will have at least one pearl piece .. whether it's Sainsburys, M&S, Primark or Zara, and they wouldn't stock them, if they didn't sell.

Pearls are truly amazing, they are the only jewel created by a living thing .. with only 1 oyster in 10,000 producing a pearl in the wild. The lives of traditional pearl fisherman were often short, risking shark attack and the crippling effects of the bends each time they dived, so you can understand why pearls became so highly valued.

Probably the most famous in the world is La Peregrina - with an unbroken chain of ownership that twists and turns through the last 550 years. It began with a slave, and goes on to include some of the biggest names in history - King Phillip II of Spain, Tudor Queen Mary I , Napoleon Bonaparte, The 2nd Marquis of Abercorn and Elizabeth Taylor to name a few. When last sold ,as part of Miss Taylors estate, it quickly surpassed the pre sale estimate of $3 million, and in only 4 minutes of bidding ,sold for $11.8 million !! 

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Pearls have featured in our jewellery for centuries and it doesn't look like they are ever going to go out of fashion, but even if they do .. I will continue to wear them because they are flattering, versatile, timeless and above all beautiful !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There has been a lot in the news recently about mental health along with the 'Heads Together' campaign, supported by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, and both  have gone a long way to highlight a sometimes misunderstood area of health.

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In the crafting world, the stress relieving and calming effects of hobbies like baking, knitting, sewing and crochet are well known, and the huge growth in popularity of the mindfulness colouring books must be proving something. Some find mowing the grass theraputic .. it's not just the walking up and down and getting the stripes level, but the it's the smell too, making it a strangley satisfying experience. This isn't my lawn by the way !

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Is it the repetitiveness that is so calming?  Our brains and hands are still quite busy, counting stitches and rows, following a pattern or receipe, thinning seedlings or changing threads. All this needs to be accurate, in order for the finished piece look right, but somehow, we find it relaxing, although every now and then, if things aren't going to plan it can be a bit testing, but we carry on because we enjoy it and more importantly, benefit from it.

The 'Combat Stress' charity, originally started in 1919  to help ex servicemen after WW1, already understood that art and recreational therapies could play an important part in supporting the mental health of these men. It was definitley an idea that was ahead of it's time, but time has definitley proved them right, and they continue today with programmes to help PTSD, anxiety and depression in our veterans.

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So we shouldn't feel guilty if we want to spend an hour or two being creative, or learning a new craft, alone, in a group, or even online, instead of doing the dusting, or the washing up. We're doing something that is benefitting us more than we can probably realise, and enjoying it !!

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Lack of rain has slowly been turning my garden yellow, but with just a couple of days of gentle drizzle, the vibrant colours are already returning, and Ireland's not called the Emerald Isle without good reason, but this got me thinking ....

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 There are lots of greens in nature, but why choose Emerald green ? Well, it could be because of all the gem stones, emeralds are the only ones that don't come in any other colours - they are always green, with emerald green, being that truly intense shade, quite unlike anything else.                          

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Back in ancient Rome, green was the colour of Venus, the godess of beauty and love, but it was also associated with new life and spring, which is kind of where we began with nature. 

The gem itself is quite unusual in that they almost always contain tiny little inclusions or faults, so if you're ever offered a perfect Emerald, it will most likely be man made ! They have been centre stage in some truly amazing pieces of jewellery over the centuries, and are mined around the world. Many then go on to Jaipuir, the largest emerald cutting centre in the world, but although they can be cut into any shape, the most common is the oblong, or aptly named,'emerald cut', as this shape ensures it's trademark deep green appears uniform.

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Emeralds remain eternally popular; loved by men and women, and remain one of the big four gem stones today. It is said that Nero used to watch the gladiators fight through a beryl (emeralds are part of the beryl stone family) - maybe he was just being an early trend setting style icon in green sunglasses, or perhaps looking through the stone disguised the colour of all the blood !?  I guess we'll never know.

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So whether it's your birthstone; just perfect for the spring month of May, an engagement ring, like Jackie Kennedys, because of it's ancient link to love and beauty, or simply as a piece of stunning jewelley, emeralds will always be the very best ambassador for green ... sorry Kermit!

 

 

 

 

 

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I got to thinking last week whilst doing some research on the histroy of embroidery; how many things are actually really new?

I was surprised to discover that many of the stitches still in everyday use today, were completely recognisable as those being used centuries before.Textiles survive from ancient Egypt and China, demonstrating amongst others, chain, blanket, satin and cross stitch.

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But it's not only in embroidery - if we're looking at crafts, knitting, crochet, leatherwork or stonemasonry for example - the basic techniques don't really ever change. What does differ is the final look of the item, but that's only because fashion, style and colours go in and out of popularity. 

Ok - thank goodness we're no longer all wearing knitted swimming costumes , and I for one, am very grateful for the invention of lycra ... I couldn't produce lycra myself, but if I had the material, I could in theory make a swimsuit, and I'd need at some point to use running stitch - the very same stitch that has been used to make clothes, practically since we began wearing them.

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It's quite amazing that in the 21st century, we are still utilising these 'ancient' skills, and that in so many cases we haven't been able to improve on them. For example, when I finish my pieces of silver jewellery by hand, and want to make it really shine, I'll use an agate polisher. Agate is a very hard, natural stone, which burnishes the surface of the silver, and has been used by jewellers since the days of the bible ... and I love this link to the past.

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Is this what makes handmade crafts and skillls so popular ? I don't know, but handcrafted or homemade items do carry a premium. It's undeniably something to be proud of, and we all love being able to say ' 'oh, thank you - I made it !' when we're complimented on our sponge, jumper, table or earrings - it really does mean so much more than 'oh thanks, it's M&S'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 We've all walked around art galleries or craft fairs, and seen things on show that you really like, and might even buy, but we've also seen things and thought ... OMG, who would buy that ! 

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Beauty as they say, is in the eye of the beholder, but there will always be someone out there, who will not only love, but will part with cold hard cash for something you wouldn't give house room.    

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We all like different things and the world's better for it; we appear to instictively know what we like and dislike. Yet we are also notoriously far more critcal of our own work than anyone elses. I see this time and again during my classes, students just don't seem to like their own creations as much as those of their neighbours, whereas in reality they are equally as good as each other.

It seems we're being far too hard on ourselves. As we all have an inbuilt 'perfect' picture in our minds of what our creations should look like, but which in reality, can never be achieved. However your neighbour at the craft bench, doesn't know what your mental 'ideal' image looks like, and can only judge what they actually see .... and they like it!

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I always look at my creations and think ... OK, that's not too bad, I'm quite happy with that, but what can I improve on next time. It's all a learning curve after all. 

So I think perfection is over rated - if we managed to achieve it the very first time we tried, where would be the fun, satisfaction, and even frustration, in working to get better at something !

 

 

 
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That's right ... Diamonds, and Dame Shirley is not alone. Out of all the gem stones in the world, nothing has been written or sung about or more desired, than these little bits of carbon.

So perhaps is not surprising that it beats all the other gems hand down .. it's supreme in it's hardness, and extraordinary ability to reflect and refract light. It shouts power, status and wealth, yet despite all these macho characteristics, it has for centuries been associated with love and romance, and is of course a girls and sometimes a boys best friend!

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Formed deep within the earths crust billions of years ago, they are bought to the surface by volcanos. Some contain impurities, which results in diamonds of colour - the rare vivid yellow, fancy pinks and intense blues, are highly prized by collectors, but can also be found on the high street, although it's the bright white traditional diamond that remains the favourite.

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Mainly found in South Africa, where De Beers have a large mine, but also in Botswana, Canada, Russia and India, they are not as rare as you may think, although sadly you're unlikely to find one in your back garden. The market is well controlled by the big mining companies, who stock pile the gems, ensuring they remain rare and the price high.

Now, we all know diamonds are weighed in carats, but what's a carat ? Well, one carat is equivalent to 200 milligrams or one carob bean, the traditional weight used for balancing the merchants scales. Interestingly carob beans, are naturally always the same weight.

Talking of weight, this is the Cullinan III & IV brooch - one of the Queens favourites. Made from cleavings cut from the biggest diamond ever found the Cullinan, most of which is famously in the Coronation Crown, these are the off cuts and are charmingly known as Granny's Chips, by the Queen !

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Diamonds are not only forever, but are the birthstone for April, they have for centuries represented eternal love, there is even a planet names after them, so just why wouldn't a girl want a beautiful, sparkling diamond to wear, and if no one looks likely to give one to you, buy your own .... Marilyn, I think, had it just about right ! 

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I was given my first Pysanky many years ago by a friend, and was amazed at the intricate patterns and vibrant colours. We don't see them very often in the UK, so when my friend posts her photo of this years mulitcoloured clutch on facebook, I thought it was time to find out a bit more about them.

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Pysanka, roughly translates from the Ukranian as 'written on' - which reflects the way they are traditionally made. The designs are written on in beeswax, with colours gradually being overlaid from light to dark. 

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No one quite knows when the decoration of eggs began, but in many cultures the sun was believed to be the source of life, and the egg a symbol of spring and new life. Over time ,these ancient beliefs and customs have been adopted into the religions we follow today, with Easter and eggs becoming inextricably linked. Albeit today with a bit more chocolate involved.

Legend has it that the fate of the world depends on the Pysanky - evil in the form of a serpent, lies chained, and every year sends out minions to see how many pysanky have been made. Too few and his chains loosen and he gets free, but if enough have been created, the chains remain tight and good triumphs over evil for another year.

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Traditionally, made at easter, Pysanky are given to close family members, to symbolize love,life and protection. Children tend to receive ones with bright colours and designs, the more muted colours being used for the oldest relatives. They are then displayed prominently within the home.

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Although not all pysanky are small - they appear as architecture, in embroidery, jewellery and the world's largest can be found in Vegeville, Alberta Canada, made in 1974 to commemorate 100 years of the Canadian Mounted Police .. I've seen it, and believe me it's huge ! 

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The colours and symbols incorporated into every egg, are perhaps the most important thing- yellow represents the sun, green for spring and white for purity, whereas flowers symbolize beauty, diamonds indicate knowledge and birds are for protection. So each one contains a collection of hopes and wishes .. which is quite a lot of resposibility for one little egg ! 

                                                     

 

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It wasn't until I was recently writing a post about the Indian festival Holi, the celebration that involves the throwing of coloured powders, to represent goodness and love triumphing over evil, that I began to wonder where we'd be without colour ? Not just in clothing or the furnishings in our homes, but in nature and wildlife too, like this tiny octopus and bird of paradise.

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We look forward to the seasons changing and the arrival of Spring, not just for the warmer weather, but for that first blast of colour after months of nothing but brown in the fields and gardens. It's depressing.

Nature breaks us in gently, at the start of the year with the subtle white and green of the Snowdrops and gentle soft yellow primroses, before hitting us squarely between the eyes with the vivid purple and orange of crocus and loud bright yellow daffodils, and the zingy green of new foliage, before summer erupts into full colour.

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Having spent time in a snowy Canadian winter, with it's limited light and everything in varying shades of white and degrees of grey, it's like only being able to see in black and white for weeks ! You don't appreciate how much pleasure colour brings to our lives until it's not there.

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We're so lucky ... we have easy access to vivid strong and rich colours, purple, orange, every shade of blue imaginable, green and pink. But this hasn't always been the case. Colour has often been the preserve of the rich, with lesser mortals being left with what they could dye at home, and some colours completely forbidden for all but royalty or the church.

Now I'm not advocating a return to the full on psychedelic patterns and swirling mixed colours of the sixties .. yes , I'm just about old enough, to remember an incredibly loud party dress, which my Mum eventually cut down and remodelled into a small garment for my loved bare teddy. Mum did a good job, as he's still wearing it over 40 years later, and somehow it's never seemed odd that Teddy, who's definitely a 'he' wears a dress!

But that's beside the point ... What I'm saying is, go on, be brave and add a bit more colour to your life, and enjoy some of the positivity that only colour can bring.

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If someone asks you to imagine a tropical beach with palm trees, golden sands and clear blue sparkling sea .. it's likely you'd describe the sea as being turquoise blue. Which it a bit odd as although turquoise is a vivid shade of blue, as a gem stone it's always opaque and about as unlike a clear tropical sea as you could imagine.

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Now bear with me ... I'll make it clearer where I'm going with this. When I think about clear blue , sparkling sea, I think of Aquamarine, I guess the clue is in the name, as Aquamarine translates from the latin as water of the sea.

I guess it was the obvious watery choice for the zodiac sign of Pisces and the planet Neptune, so if you were born in March, then this special gem is your birth stone. It's been used for many centuries and was believed to be the gift received from mermaids, and traditionally sailors have worn them in amulets to ward off sea sickness and to keep them safe at sea.

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Aquamarines are very closely related to emeralds, as they are both members of the 'beryl' family. Often found in quite large pieces Aquamarines are frequently completely free of flaws, unlike their greener cousins, and fine deep blue examples, are more valuable than some lesser quality sapphires or emeralds.

The largest ever found, was quite recently in Pedra Azul, Brazil, in the 1980's. It weighed in at a massive 60 pounds and two feet in length, before it was accidently dropped by the miners and shattered into three pieces. The largest and finest piece was preserved and transformed into what is now known as the Dom Pedro Aquamarine, and resides in the Smithsonian Institute in the US. The two smaller bits, also of exceptional colour, were cut and faceted into gems and sold on the commercial market.

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Not surprisingly, the Queen has a fine collection of aquamarines, and Kirstie Allsopp is often seen wearing a particularly fine and large ring. Being hard wearing stones that do not scratch easily, they are perfect for wearing every day and although the Queens are perhaps more bling in style, there are many amazing modern designs incorporating this beautiful stone.

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So it really doesn't matter if you were born in March or not ... everyone can enjoy wearing these beautiful gems the colour of a tropical sea.

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Most of us find the unfamiliar and unknown a bit daunting and I'm no different.

Going somewhere on our own, like joining a craft class for example, most of us would rather go with a friend, as there's safety in numbers!

Well yes, if that helps you get there in the first place, and yes, if your friends are those who encourage you but mostly it's about having someone to chat to and experience the day with ... but do you know what .. in every class, students just start chatting, everyone's there for the same reason after all, so you have at least one thing in common!

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I've been teaching craft classes for quite a few years, and after a while you get to know the pattern - everyone's quiet at the beginning, there's always at least one student who just knows they won't be able to do it, and someone who makes the class laugh, and of course, some students will be better than others, but that's life.

May Martin, past judge on the BBC's Great British Sewing Bee, dropped into one of my classes, whilst we were both teaching at Denman College, and loved our colourful polymer clay brooches.

Although May said she'd used Polymer Clay before, she couldn't possibly make something like that herself ! This is the woman who wouldn't turn a hair at having to make an evening gown out old an old shell suit in only 2 hours, something that would make me pass out , just thinking about it!  All this reinforces the old saying that although we can't all be good at everything, we can all be good at something.

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But do you know ... it's those with the biggest doubts at the beginning, that are so often, the most pleased with their final creations, and I love this !  It's not really being good at something that is important, it's being willing to give it a try, and the fun and companionship of your fellow students along the way.

So, if you want to have a go but are worried about being hopeless - don't. Jump in and you'll be amazed at what you can achieve !

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Right, May, just one more time .... how do I put in this invisible zip ? 

Melanie x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is a longer post than usual but if you've got a minute I'd love to know your thoughts....I recently had an interesting conversation with Maeri from the Make & Do Studio. It went something like this. MAERI: When I was returning from Vermont this Summer, one thing that popped into my mind, it was “why is the sewing and craft industry taken more seriously in America than in England?”. It was a fleeting thought, that I didn’t really pick up any further on, but when I saw the potential cancellation of GBSB, I found myself thinking exactly the same thing again. MELANIE: I, too, notice a real difference in approach to crafting in the US compared to here in the UK. I sense that US crafters view themselves as being part of a vibrant community of like-minded, sociable people who love to take part, get involved and share their passion for their subject. As much as I want to believe this is true here in the UK my experience suggests that we prefer to craft at home and lack the confidence to shout about our amazing skills. Since creating ‘I Made It! website of online craft classes the most challenging aspect has been convincing craftspeople that they really are good enough to present their skills and projects online – clearly something they don’t have a problem with in the US! I understand it’s just not very ‘British’ to be upfront about being good at something but come on UK crafters, you are brilliant, talented, clever and creative. Let’s show the world just how good you are…… (and I do agree that cancelling the GBSB will do little to promote British crafts). MAERI: Absolutely – I couldn’t agree with you more. People need to get over the perfectionist thing when it comes to making and not be afraid to show it off! WHAT DO YOU THINK?

This post originally appeared on our Facebook page and prompted some very interesting comments, read more https://www.facebook.com/IMadeItCrafts/

This week, let's all make an effort to fly the flag for UK Crafting!

Melanie x

 

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I'll explain .. I appreciate that 'as sober as an amethyst' is probably not the old adage you're used to hearing, in fact I'm willing to bet, that you would have expected it to be a judge instead.

However, it was commonly believed that drinking wine from goblets made of amethyst, prevented you from becoming intoxicated ... and I admit that 'as sober as a judge using an amethyst goblet' doesn't quite have the same ring to it. But Amethyst does seem to have a long standing association with alcohol.In fact the Greek word 'amethystos' means not intoxicated.

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Regardless of this, throughout the ages, this gem has been worn mostly by royalty, and those holding high office. Church Bishops still traditionally wear an amethyst ring, although I doubt this has anything to do with protection from excess drinking.

It can be found in a variety of shades from pale lilac, to lavender and mauve, but it is the rich, deep royal purple amethyst, that is truely prized. It's a member of the quartz family, albeit at the very top end and is not unsurprisingly, the most valuable. 

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It seems that it's the Amethysts colour that is it's USP (unique selling point).

It's deep purple is a colour that is expensive and difficult to achieve artifically - the imperial robes of Roman Emperors were deep Tyrian purple, the dye being extracted from a mollusk found on the shores of the mediterranean sea, and was time consuming and expensive to produce.

Although we can now all access purple on the high street, it is still a colour associated with royalty, just think of the velvet inside most of the queens crowns, her long ermine trimmed robes .... it's giving out a message - expensive and exclusive. And when it's a really rich tone like the one the Queen is wearing here, it's simply stunning.

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The Amethyst is really quite a special stone, not only being the birthstone for February, but also the gem for Wednesday, and the planet Jupiter.

Found in may places around the world, one of the largest was quite recently in 1993, in Maine, USA - when a 9 foot cave was discovered containing more than a ton of Amethyst !!

And for those of you born in February - here's a little bit of ancient advice

                              The February born shall find, Sincerity and piece of mind,

                        Freedom from passion and from care, If they, the amethyst will wear.

                 

 

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