Cord for macrame

I am learning macrame and I’ve been looking for cord that would work well for a macrame plant holder project. It needs to be fairly thick, flexible and not too resistant to being knotted and flexed, and strong enough to hold a pot of earth which may be watered.

A plant holder project requires eight strands of 3 metres of cord.

In a DIY store in a retail park in Newhaven, I measured out 30 metres of red rope in an aisle of B&Q and then searched for an assistant who had a pair of scissors. I’ll go back another time for some lengths of the other types of rope, but I am trying to force myself to finish one project before buying materials for the next.

This large scale rope (in the photo below) is tethering a passenger ferry to the quayside at Dieppe. The port of Dieppe is a four hour crossing directly from Newhaven.

At the ferry dock, there is a cluster of concrete shapes. They look like letter press glyphs, rubber stamps inked up with a green seaweed colour or lengths of extruded clay.


I have used this white rocky substance recently in the making of two things; home made base cream and silver jewellery. Here it is on display in the Natural History Museum.


For the cosmetic, a teaspoon of powdered borax, dissolved in water, turns a melted mixture of cocoa butter, bees wax, almond oil and wheat germ oil in to a white cream.

In silver smithing, a hard stick of borax is ground down in a dish at the same time being mixed with water. We painted this milky liquid on to the small areas of silver that would be stuck together. A tiny piece of solder was balanced on joint and we torched it with a heat gun until the silver glowed rose and the solder ran liquid.

The face cream recipe was from a Neals Yard book and the silver smithing taught by Lara Mathers at The Papered Parlour


Black and white and yellow

Director J.Lee Thompson chose to rely on our imaginations in his 1953 black and white film, The Yellow Balloon. In the setting of bombed post war London, a boy loses his pocket money and the chance of buying a balloon. Upset, he steals his friend’s yellow balloon, an incident which leads to tragedy and blackmail. Later, a manipulative gangster buys the boy a red balloon to gain his trust.

The colours of the balloons are conveyed only by words, in the title and the dialogue, the opposite of the language of film, which tells a story using pictures.


We are used to seeing old master drawings, etchings and lithographs are usually drawn in black or sepia on a cream paper, grey or off white paper, perhaps marked or discoloured with time. The have the aura and patina of age. But Gauguin’s Volpini suite is printed on a strong buttercup yellow paper. The colour instantly makes the print look modern.

Snuff bottles


A selection of Chinese Qing Dynasty snuff bottles caught my eye. They are made of a variety of natural materials; turquoise, glass, clay, jade, silver, pearl and the blue one is decorated with kingfisher feathers set in silver. They look like they would be a pleasure to hold. The imagery comes from nature; dragons, waves, a goat, a landscape, flowers, stems and a lemon. Like kingfishers, they are small but dramatic with their daring colours and decoration.

The full set of snuff jars from the Qing Dynasty can be seen on

Slow quilting

I now have a Museum Association pass, and wishing to exploit it, I found myself paying a speedy visit to the Quilts exhibition at the V&A. This was coincidently the same week that I had a go at quilting myself, using the cut off ends of brown trousers and a Singer sewing machine from Lidl.

There are 65 quilts hanging, billowing and lying in the exhibition and they date form 1700 to the present day. Looking at beautiful objects on display, and deciding which one I like and don’t like, reminds me of the shopping experience. Once in the mood, it’s okay as the shop is not far away.

The patchwork quilts are made up from many pieces of fabric, often small pieces fitted together as a means to make a big covering. This process is very efficient in use of material and as time consuming as it is efficient. Some say it is a way of creating social bonds, as many people work collectively on one piece. A great deal of thought, planning and care is involved. In fact the skill is quite astonishing; one clever seamstress turned out to be 10 year old girl and other precise workers were wounded soldiers.

The quilts give the feeling only hand made objects can, a mysterious quality shared with home made food. Sometimes old fabrics, which had a nostalgic value, were reused and given a new life as part of a quilt, like a fabric photo album or scrap book.

It is the opposite of throw away mass production. Quilts were major gifts or commisions and so valued they were likely to be kept as an heir loom; unlike the quilts, high street and Ikea products are made to be with us for a short time and then replaced. They come in high quantities. There is no connection with the far away maker, the products are quick to manufacture and without the value that is added by craftsmanship. I do not know if the people in the factories are rewarded with a an increased social bond.

So will I be making a quilt or paying a trip to Ikea? It just depends if there is time….

Image generated by the V&A Patchwork pattern maker

Matlock Thermal Spring

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The mill in the photos is the Cromford Cotton Mill of Richard Arkwright. As we toured the mill, I was struck with the way Arkwright worked things out. He worked out how to process cotton using a machine; he designed the mill as a fortress, with good defences as the machinery was unpopular with some;  he built the workers cottages with room for a pig and with light coming in at the top floors so the men could use them as workshops (most of his employees were women). The Peak district water would freeze in the winter, but he located the mill so the  warm water of the thermal spa could keep the mill working all the year round.