My Etsy Shop

Monday, 21 July 2014

Art Deco Bird Cross Stitch Pattern

One of my favourite sources of inspiration is old books. I am lucky that the love of old books runs in the family so I have plenty to browse when I'm looking for new ideas. There has been debate in recent years about whether books will become obsolete with the growing popularity of digital literature. Not as long as there are people like me in the world they won't! I find the suggestion quite ridiculous. I love everything about old books: the texture of their covers, the artwork, the fonts and of course that smell of the pages of a book that has been loved and cared for by several generations of readers and bibliophiles.
My next few blog posts will be about some of my designs which have been inspired by various lovely old books. The first is my Art Deco Bird pattern which was inspired by an illustration in a children's story anthology published in the 1930s. The copyright page shows two stylised birds, one on either side of the list of contributors. I am not certain exactly what they are but they are clearly some kind of birds of prey. They are created by using simple shapes and art deco motifs. My cross stitch version is worked mainly in black with a few touches of gold to give a hint of art deco opulence.
This anthology contains a large number of short stories and poems, many by very well-known authors such as Sir Walter Scott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert Louis Stevenson and Frances Hodgson Burnett. I was quite excited when I came across a story by Hans Christian Andersen entitled The Red Shoes, which is about a little girl called Karen. I had a pair of red shoes when I was little and I've known for a while that my name is Danish so I was eager to read what happened to my namesake in this story.
I was expecting there to be magic but I wasn't prepared for how shocking it is in places! I won't give away the ending but it's a moral tale about pride and selfishness. I will now think twice before buying any more red shoes!

All photos (c) Karen Eley 2014

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Bonjour, Leeds!

It's not very often you'll find me happily getting up at 3.30am, especially on a Saturday, but it's not every day that the most prestigious bike race in the world comes to the streets of Yorkshire. Leeds had been chosen to host the start of the first stage, le Grand Départ, of the Tour de France on 5th July, 2014. Living in south-east Derbyshire, we're not that far from Leeds but we wanted to make sure we arrived in plenty of time to get a good spot. After leaving the house at about 4am, we arrived at the Elland Rd Park and Ride at about 5.30am. Just before 6am we boarded the first bus along with many of the volunteer Tour Makers who helped to make the event a great success.
This was the first time we'd been to Leeds city centre and we were very impressed with the quality of the shops. If you live in Leeds, how lucky are you to have a Hotel Chocolat and a Patisserie Valerie? Even better than that, the latter is right next door to an old-fashioned sweet shop! We'll definitely be back at some point to do some shopping but that day was all about le Tour. It had certainly capture everyone's imagination and many of the shops had decorated their windows with Tour-themed displays, yellow being the dominant colour. For those who don't know, the overall leader of the race is awarded the yellow jersey (le maillot jaune) and this bright and sunny colour was very much in evidence throughout the streets, helping to create a carnival atmosphere. There were even banners translating French into Yorkshire dialect: 'ooh la la' became 'by eck' and 'je ne sais quoi' became 'it's neither nowt nor summat'.
After a lovely breakfast in a certain New York-Italian diner, we took our place at the barriers on The Headrow (the main street through Leeds). The clock on a building across the street told us it was nearly 7.25am and I thought that waiting four hours for the peloton to come by would feel like forever but it went surprisingly quickly. It's a good job we got to the barrier when we did because by 8 o' clock the streets we much more crowded.
Before the race starts, the caravan of the Tour's official partners and sponsors comes through with freebies which are thrown into the crowd. We got lucky with Bic and RAGT (a supplier of seeds) but unfortunately we missed out on the Haribo.
The excitement began to build as the time for the Départ drew closer. The helicopter hovered above as the fleet of support cars went past sounding their horns. The biggest cheers were for Team Sky, home of reigning TDF champion Chris Froome.
Not long after 11am the noise of the crowd increased as the peloton began to make its way along the route. Luckily for us Chris Froome was on our side of the road and passed by just feet away, alongside Mark Cavendish and Alberto Contador.
It was one of the most exciting events I've been to, much more so than when we went to see the Tour of Britain when it went through Ilkeston in 2012. My favourite headline of the day is this blog from French newspaper Le Monde - Roule, Britannia! It also features a photo of a bike made from various items from a local butcher. I want to give a special mention to the police who joined in with the fun, laughing and joking with the crowd and taking pictures for people. It was also a real novelty to see them alongside their French colleagues the gendarmerie. Chapeau to you all.
There was a nice surprise for me in the official fan pack that we bought. As well as the bandana (which has become my new must-have fashion item) and T-shirt, there is a set of bracelets which are ribbons representing the Tour's jerseys. As well as yellow, there is a spotty one for King of the Mountains and a green one for the best sprinter. I am planning to use them to create a piece of hoop art to commemorate the day. I've never used ribbons before so any tips and ideas are welcome. You can contact me through Twitter and Facebook.
It's a shame that Mark Cavendish crashed out that day and it's even more disappointing that Chris Froome was forced to abandon the race during stage 5 but he's such a great champion I'm sure he'll be back. Allez, allez, allez!
All photos (c) Karen Eley and Roy Eley 2014.