Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Amsterdam, Netherlands

My boyfriend and I went to Amsterdam for a long weekend and it is definitely a place I would love to return to! Amsterdam is so beautiful and I found the bike-riding culture very amusing, they were everywhere!! I was getting pinged at (to move) every other minute and although at the time I found it quite irritating, I wondered how different London would look if it had adopted a similar attitude to travel. (It is starting, but I can't imagine it changing anything about the city until many more years).
I can't really say anything about the food because I could have easily been in a London cafe/restaurant ... the menus were pretty much the same! ...and I absolutely hate cheese so I can't really speak about that either and had to hold my breath every time we walked past a cheese specialist shop to my boyfriend's amusement!
One of the places I wanted to visit was the Museum of Bags & Purses. I didn't expect it to be anything amazing, but I do always love to see anything related to the history of Fashion when possible... and I was totally blown away! This museum is definitely a hidden gem and it exceeded my expectations. There must have been over 500 bags in the museum that covered over a century and most importantly, photos were allowed!!
I loved these carved ivory purse frames and the embellished bags were so beautiful!!
Of course, Amsterdam is known for its Red Light District so we just had to take a stroll through and it was so surreal! I felt like I was in a film, and these were all actors. It just didn't seem real, seeing these half-naked women, behind glass doors, trying to entice passers-by. We then popped into an Erotic Museum which was just quirky and very amusing! I think I was more amused at several groups of grown men giggling at naughty photos! 
After visiting a couple of European countries this summer, it really occurred to me just how prudish England is!! I have lived in London for 27 years and if anyone asked me where there was an Erotic Museum, I would not have a clue!! I'm sure I would find one if I was browsing 'alternative museums' ... but why can't London just have one in a reputable place? I'm not suggesting the Victoria & Albert Museum, but it doesn't make sense that there isn't a prominent one here. However, even while I type this I wonder if my blog is going to be marked as an 'over-18' blog for UK visitors just for mentioning the Red Light District!
I took so many photos but I just had to include this one in my blog post... a lovely way of adding art to the pavement!! ...although I did wonder just how many people may have tripped over it!
The thought of going to the cinema while on holiday was always a little strange to me but there were so many films we wanted to watch on the big screen that we couldn't resist! So when we came across the Tuschinski Theatre, we just had to watch something there! The building is of the Art Deco (my favourite) period and just stunning!!! We didn't mind paying the premium to see it in its glory! I also found it very spooky and felt a chill down my spine when I was using the Ladies Toilets when I couldn't see where the exit was! The doors were camouflaged into the walls!
Overall, I love Amsterdam! ... we didn't do everything we wanted to do as this was our 'relaxing' holiday after our very busy holiday to Athens ... but we will certainly be back!!
Click here to see more photos including my visit to the Museum of Bags & Purses! nuvonova- Flickr

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

London Embroidery School.

I finally got round to using my Living Social voucher for a 3 hour beginners session in Goldwork, ran by the London Embroidery School and it was so much fun!!
I have always loved embroidery and embellishment but always felt there were so many more techniques out there that I wanted to learn, and Goldwork was definitely one of them! I loved how luxurious it looked and it was always something that caught my eye whenever I was looking at costume design.
I dragged my sister and best friend along with me which made it even more enjoyable and here is a quick overview of what we did... (whilst trying to remember it all!)
We started by trimming down some yellow padding to fit within the pre-drawn leaf shape template that was attached on some calico and fixed in an embroidery hoop.
We were then taught how to correctly stitch this into place - using a couple of large stitches to hold it, then smaller ones are added in afterwards.
We were then given some copper coloured thread which we would pull through a piece of wax so that they would stick to one another, and therefore become another padded area in the leaf shape, and again, we would sew this into place while cutting certain areas off so that it would smoothly taper into shape. I found this part a little tricky as I got slightly distracted and couldn't remember what count I was at!... but looking at my photo, I think it looks pretty good!
Then the fun part!! Excuse my terminology as I'm not sure if it's right... but we added in a coiled wire called 'pearle purl' (on the left) to frame the padded shape... then we added 'purl' onto the copper thread area which was the part I wanted to learn about the most! It was much trickier than I expected because of how precise the measurements need to be to fill an area.
We were then introduced to 'bright check' which was like a square version of the purl. It could be used in the same manner to fill an area (like on the right) or tiny pieces could be cut off it so they were more like 'beads' ... I loved this as it was so sparkly and I can imagine just how twinkly it would look on a larger scale.
Now, you're probably thinking, how could all of that have taken 3 hours? (the leaf shape had a length of about 5cms!) ... well believe me, it did, and I was nowhere near finished! The 3 hours actually felt like 10 minutes and all I could see were black blotches for about 10 minutes after we finished because of the long period of concentration!
I am definitely looking into doing the other classes they have... I can see this turning into an addiction! On another note, I have also appreciated the skill more than ever, the patience and finesse required to embroider anything in that technique is just amazing!
Look out for my future blog posts on embroidery as this certainly isn't the last!