9 December 2012

Screen printing at The Make Lounge

Let me start by saying: I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew. This class was no exception. However, this is not in any way due to it being too complex or anything like that. Sadly, it seems I just like to set myself one hell of a task.

Screen printing in its most basic form involves a simple stencil, some fabric (or paper), printing inks and some silk screen equipment - a frame and a squeegee. Having done a fair bit of screen printing at university, I clearly had much bigger ideas. However, an advanced course, this isn't. It is back to basics and brilliantly so. Helen, our teacher for the evening, explained how it works and how you created both negative and positive images. We then set about designing our stencils. Having been advised to have an idea in mind, I brought in a pair fully mocked up designs. Not so much ideas as "I want this please":

These were the simpler of my original ideas too - I was originally going to do a Dia De Los Muertes sugar skull design, but that would have been impossibly fiddly.I settled for the four bird design once I realised that lining up the overlaps on the six bird design was going to be a rather large bird-shaped headache. As screen printing is quite time-consuming (and as my printing partner had also gone for a rather complex design) I decided to go from three colours to two.

The process itself is fun and messy - you set up your frame, sealing off any areas you don't want ink to seap through, then add the ink and pull the squeegee across the image. The result though, is a simple and very eye-catching design.

the finished result

The Make Lounge will provide you with a tote bag (large or small), a tea towel or a pencil case (of which you get to pick two items). If you want any more, you have to buy them or you can do what I did and bring your own items to print. I wanted to make cushion covers, so I ordered them from here a few days ahead of the class.

The screen printing class at The Make Lounge costs £57 and includes two items to screen print, snacks and wine.

The Make Lounge

5 December 2012

Hidden London - Aldwych Station

I've always been a bit of a London Underground geek - from the history of the lines themselves and the disused stations to the iconic logo, maps and typography, it's proved to be a minor obsession. So when the London Transport Museum announced that they were throwing open the doors of Aldwych station for a number of days over the Christmas period, I leapt at the chance. I've always thought Leslie Green's Underground stations with their distinctive red glazed brickwork, Edwardian styling and bottle green tilework were beautiful, so couldn't wait for a snoop around.

Which is how I came to find myself shivering in a queue in a quiet side street of London near the Thames. We had our bags checked by a museum volunteer, who also checked that our shoes were both flat and practical should we need to be evacuated down the tracks to Holborn. After a 15 minute wait, my husband and I found ourselves inside and I couldn't resist but photograph everything in sight, and this was before the tour had even started.

Aldwych station facade

entrance to booking hall


 book here

We were given a potted history of Aldwych station  (you can read more here if you're interested) before being taken below ground to see the platforms. The westbound platform is the one most people are familiar with - Aldwych only had one "functional" platform for the vast majority of its working life as the Eastbound one was closed in 1917. The westbound platform is the one that was open up until 1994 and has been used as a film set for films like Atonement, V for Vendetta, 28 Weeks Later and various music videos alongside of being an air raid shelter in both world wars. The posters on this platform tend to change with each filming project and as such are reproduction posters.

 tunnel to the westbound platform

posters on the westbound platform - the two on the right are reproductions

train on the westbound platform

front of train - actually a 1970's Northern Line train!


The eastbound platform in some ways is far more interesting - it ceased to be used after WW1 and was used to store treasures from the V&A and British Museum during the second world war. The posters here are original as this platform was often used as a test platform - from testing the glue to put up posters (still going strong after 40 years in some cases -it must be good!) to experimental tiles eventually used at Piccadilly Circus.

original posters on the eastbound platform

experimental tiles eventually used at Piccadilly Circus

more posters - all dating from around the 1970's

and a view of the Eastbound platform

When we finally returned to the surface, we were greeted up glasses of mulled wine and the TfL choir serenading us with a combination of old-time popular songs (Daisy Bell and Let's All Go Down To The Strand) and well known Christmas carols.

 R humoured me as I wanted to recreate the Anton Corbin Joy Division photograph. Also, a mysterion Bakerloo Line sign...

This current run of Aldwych visits is sold out, but LTM seem to open its doors about once or twice a year, so it's well worth keeping your eyes peeled for another set of visits.

way out

London Transport Museum

4 November 2012

Chronicles of Yarnia

It's been quite a while since I flexed my more creative side. Having tried and failed and tried and failed at bribing a knitting-savvy friend into knitting me a nice, chunky winter snood I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. After all, there are times when a normal scarf just simply won't cut it.

Following a trip to the shops for supplies (wool, knitting needles) and as I had the founder of
Yarnia in Leeds staying with me, there really was no excuse: I was going to have to learn to knit my own darn snood.

It turns out, knitting is easy. It also turns out, I am an angry knitter. I was so determined to finish before I'd even begun that I knitted with such ferocity that my houseguests were left cowering in the corner, lest I stab them with a needle. I have since learned to calm down, not least because Angry Knitting inevitably means that you accidentally put several extra stitches into the scarf and make it rather... interesting.

If you live in Leeds, I'd highly recommend paying a visit to Yarnia - it's held in a bar that serves teapot cocktails, and Georgie is an excellent (and extremely patient) teacher. 

If you want to make your own snood, you'll need a set of 12mm needles and some chunky yarn. My snood had 24 stitches ,was about 5' long and used 5 balls of yarn. I'm not about to start doing knitting tutorials, but there are plenty to be had through an internet search. Try it - it's fun, relaxing (if you're like me - once you get past the angry, determined stage) and you might even learn a new skill.

I guess I should really learn how to make something other than scarves now. Anyone for a tea cosy?

26 October 2012

When I get older

Milestone birthdays have always managed to unnerve me. Admittedly I haven't experienced all that many, but the ones I have seem to have set the tone. That being fear.

Turning 18 for example filled me with so much dread - was I now meant to be responsible and a grown up? Was I meant to think about bills and what the hell I really wanted to do with my life? Obviously not the case at all, but 18 when you've only ever known being a child (no matter how "mature" you feel) sounds so terribly grown up: I could now go to pubs (legally - I'd been drinking in pubs underage for a good two to three years before then). More importantly, I could now vote. With age comes great responsibility you see.

21 threw me even more. I spent the night before my birthday listening to Ladytron's 'Seventeen' on repeat, my childish heart mortified that 21 would render me "no fun". Still clearly not the case, though I was starting to feel like one of the slightly older girls when going to indie clubs (do we all grow up so fast?)
I didn't do anything to particularly mark the coming of age birthdays - 18 didn't really feel of age, and by the time I turned 21 it felt like a missed opportunity, beyond finally being able to buy my own alcohol in the US.

25, while not really a milestone caused another wobble - what the hell was I doing with my life? What did I want to do? It certainly threw me in terms of what I thought I wanted to do, as I fell foul of the first wave of recession. Ultimately though, it set me on the path of knowing what I wanted to do.

So this year, I had to face up to the biggest one so far - 30. In the run up, I remembered a scene from 90's law drama Ally McBeal where the title character checks her face for wrinkles on the morning of her 30th birthday. I toyed with the idea of having a bucket list of things to do before I turned 30, until I remembered that I had probably ticked off most of it by the time I was 21 and I didn't want to live my life over again. The only other desire was to get married before I was 30, and since that had happened back in May (and for the right reasons, before you ask!) there was little to do but wait.

The day itself arrived with little fanfare - I didn't suddenly get wrinkly and old overnight, nor did I have some strange personality shift and become composed and serious. Best of all, I still get ID'ed when buying wine. It's not all bad: all those I've asked who got there before me say your 30's are the best years of your life. And I think they are probably right. You leave behind the crippling insecurity of your early 20's, you are more comfortable in your own skin (indeed, you don't actually age overnight) and if you're lucky, you're in a job you love and feel at ease with the direction your life is going. Just don't mention turning 40.

22 October 2012

Pear, walnut and blue cheese salad

A few weeks back, I bolted to France avec ma famille for a long weekend with the intention of avoiding turning 30. Sadly, I didn't manage to avoid getting older, but by way of compromise I was well and truly spoiled. Despite coming down with a cold, I was taken out for a fantastic lunch at Beffroi Tentations in St Antonin Noble Val ahead of a magnificent dinner where my sister, mother and husband all took turns to produce a course - pear and walnut salad, gorgeous monkfish with capers, and a birthday ice cream instead of a cake!

This was my sister's course and was an absolute treat: crisp, autumnal pears, creamy Saint Agur and nutty, bitter walnuts. She used Saint Agur, but any blue cheese would work depending on your tastes - a pungent Roquefort or creamy Dolcelatte would both be delicious. As there's no cooking involved, it's very easy to put together. Perfect when you're a little short of time but still want to impress!

Ingredients (serves 4):

For the salad:
100g rocket
100g seedless grapes, cut in half
50g crushed walnuts
50g Saint Agur, crumbled
2 ripe Williams pears

For the dressing:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red white vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 tsp wholegrain mustard


Divide the rocket between four salad plates. Scatter the grapes over the rocket and then sprinkle over the crushed walnuts and crumbled Saint Agur. Make sure you have a reasonably even balance of all three ingredients.

Peel the pears, slice in half and remove the core. Slice it into 5mm slithers and place half a pear on each salad.

Mix up the dressing and drizzle over your salad. Easy as, well, salad!

Hollywood Costume at the V&A

Rainy October Sundays require rainy day activities - what better then, than a trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum? The V&A is pretty much my favourite major museum in London, and they have recently had a slew of fantastic exhibitions (Ballgowns, Grace Kelly: Style Icon, The Golden Age of Couture, the upcoming Bowie retrospective) and Hollywood Costume is no exception.

The exhibition takes you through the role of the costume designer and the vital role they play in bringing characters to life. Clothing is one of the most important means of finding a character believeable - that they had a life before the film begins. The actor or actress has to inhabit these clothes to "find" the character they play. The costumes are as much about being noticed (Audrey Hepburn's little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany's) as they are about blending into the background and playing a supporting role (Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity).

Of course, one of the most important exhibits is Dorothy's gingham dress and ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. For the opening two weeks of the exhibition, the original slippers are in the same room as the gingham dress for the first time since filming wrapped in 1939. I was lucky enough to get to see these (pictured above), though talk about saving the best til last! Most of the exhibition was too dark to take any photos so as not to damage some of these extremely beautiful and very, very old costumes. As a result it wasn't particularly suited to photography, plus I suspect the V&A would have something to say about people snapping away. I couldn't resist taking a sneaky snap of the original ruby slippers, however.

I highly recommend paying this exhibition a visit - it's on until the 27th January and is one of the best exhibitions I have seen in a long time. It is so well put together and fantastically well researched, with seamless commentary from a number of actors and actresses, along with the costume designers. My favourite costumes were the shimmering red dress from The Bride Wore Red, the flowergirl outfit from the beginning of My Fair Lady, and of course the original ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL

Exhibition until the 27th January 2013