A Montage of Mosaics

I had a brilliant day yesterday! I went on a course at the Amble Pin Cushion to learn what is a new skill for me: mosaics.

Our trainer, Hazel, is a self-confessed mosaic addict. “if it stays still long enough, I’ll mosaic it” she says. Hazel was first inspired by the ancient mosaics she saw while on holiday in Cyprus. She found the souvenir copies on sale to tourists less inspiring and decided to have a go herself. She began by making door plaques and house numbers for family and friends and now makes all sorts of pieces and kits for sale, as well as teaching, giving talks and demonstrations.

The morning session involved making coasters using pre-cut mosaic tile squares in two sizes. We had a huge colour selection to choose from, including glittery and iridescent tiles so deciding which ones to use was probably the hardest task of the day!. We drew round plain coasters and arranged the tiles on the paper outline until we were happy with our design, making sure to incorporate gaps to allow for the grouting. We then transferred the tiles to the coaster base, glueing them in position. We used a PVA glue, not too fast drying, to allow any adjustments to tile position. We left the grouting until the end of the day to allow the glue to dry.

I managed two coasters before we broke for lunch (which was included in the price of the full day course – some participants attended for half a day only).

My coasters before grouting.

After lunch we worked on “intermediate” projects, involving more complex shapes and cutting the tiles. It took a little while to get the cutting technique right but before long I was getting the shapes I wanted. We used safety glasses for this stage – the tile fragments can fly in all directions if you don’t hold them securely- they can be quite sharp too so care is needed. I worked on a photo frame in shades of blue and white

We finished the day by mixing up some grout and using it to fill in the spaces and create a neat edge. Hazel describes the perfect grout consistency as being like butter icing. We used our fingers to apply the grout, pushing it into all the spaces and running a finger along the edges of each piece of work to get a neat edge. The grouting dries quite quickly so the next stage was to use a piece of wet sponge to wipe away the excess grout, wetting it frequently and dabbing it away to reveal the mosaic, not forgetting to clean the cork backing of the coasters.

Completed Coasters

Grouting really makes the colours pop. We used plain white, but you can use acrylic paint to tint the mix. I’m really pleased with the result. As time was running out I brought some grout powder home and completed my photo frame today, removing the glass from the frame first and ensuring that there was no grout left in the corners to stop the glass going back in later. There was enough mixture left to fill in a couple of tiny gaps I noticed in one of the coasters too.

I’m really happy with what I’ve made and have lots of ideas other projects that I can’t wait to try.

Have you learnt any new crafts or other skills recently?

Knit and Natter Friday: 6th March – Knitting is Good For You!

We loved looking at this big colourful haul of gorgeous knits from the Knit and Natter Group, who meet at Alnwick Medical Group on Friday afternoons. At the top of the picture are baby jackets, mostly premature size. I love the contrasting edges on the ones at the top right. We also have some beautiful blankets and premature baby clothes from a lady who loves knitting but doesn’t come to the group. The multicoloured blankets left and front are knitted in beautifully soft chenille yarn. The pink/purple baby clothes and blanket were all made out of one big ball of ombre wool. The blanket is knitted in a design of alternating stocking stitch and moss stitch with a moss stitch edge. Isn’t it effective?

We were joined by a couple of members of staff from the practice today. Of course, we can’t let anyone visit us without doing any knitting so we found them some wool and needles and got them started. One had knitted before and soon picked it up again. The other was a complete beginner and after a bit of tuition she was doing brilliantly.

They were there to gather information for Social Prescribing Day (next Thursday, 12th March. Our knitting group was set up as part of the medical practice’s social prescribing work. At the end of the session we took part in a video interview and answered questions about the knit and natter group and what we get out of it. It was interesting to reflect on why we enjoy doing what we do. From my point of view……

  • It’s good to interact with a friendly, supportive group of people with a shared interest. We enjoy each other’s company.
  • We can share skills and learn from each other. There must be several centuries of knitting experience in the group!
  • There’s a shared sense of achievement in completing a project or learning a new skill.
  • Knitting for charity is a worthwhile use of our knitting skills to help others.
  • Communal knitting is fun!

One question that really made me think was about the importance of holding a knitting group in a doctors surgery. I think it legitimises knitting as a worthwhile activity that’s good for physical and mental wellbeing. I know that those of us that knit have known this for years, but there are still people out there that consider it to be a boring solitary hobby, primarily for elderly women! Nonsense!

There are real benefits to mental and physical wellbeing

  • The repetitive action of knitting has a calming effect, lowering heart rate and blood pressure (like stroking a pet or doodling)
  • It’s a mindful activity. By concentrating on the activity of knitting you can slow down, focus on what you are doing and reduce stress and anxiety.
  • It keeps your hands moving, good for the blood supply and muscle tone in the fingers.
  • There’s always something new to learn. Learning new skills encourages the development of new neural pathways, great for maintaining a healthy brain and improving memory.
  • Knitting groups are a great way of combatting social isolation and its effects of mental and physical health.

Now that this is being endorsed by healthcare professionals maybe more people will take up knitting!

What do you think are the benefits of knitting?

Scone of the Week #10: Salt Water Cafe, Beadnell

What a beautiful day it was today. The sky was brilliant blue and you could just about feel the sun’s warmth on your skin. We decided to head up the coast and arrived in Beadnell, where we found the Salt Water Cafe on a corner in the heart of the village. With outside seating on both sides, this will be a lovely place to visit in warm weather as it is sheltered from the sea, overlooking Beadnell House on one side and St Ebba’s Church on the other.

Beadnell House
St Ebba’s Church

The Cafe is open all day from 8.30am, serving breakfast, snacks, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner from 6pm. (the dinner specials board looked great, and included pigeon, halibut, chicken and a vegetarian option). I could see a good selection of cakes, desserts and pastries on the counter and in the chiller cabinet as we walked in, as well as a well-stocked bar.

We chose our usual cheese scones, and were asked if we wanted them warmed. They soon arrived, with three foil wrapped pats of butter (more generous than the usual two), and this was at room temperature, easy to spread.

The scones were really tasty and full of flavour. They were alarmingly yellow! I did ask about this and was told it could be from the mustard used in the recipe, though there was not a lot of mustard heat in them – I wondered if they contained turmeric. They had a good crumbly texture and a nice cheesy crust. Absolutely delicious!

Our coffees came with a little shortbread biscuit on the side and the milk was served in tiny churns.

I was quite fascinated by all the mirrors. There are gilt framed ones of various shapes throughout the cafe which look rather stylish grouped together. There are two amazing mosaic framed ones in the bathroom, which really attracted my attention. I’m feeling quite inspired to make one myself!

It was a lovely relaxed place to stop for our snack and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit snack. it’s dog-friendly during daytime service too. Saltwater Cafe definitely an asset to the village. I’m very tempted to return to try breakfast or dinner!

What’s the most interesting piece of decor that you’ve seen in a bar or restaurant?

Rescued from the Storm.

We had an interesting time on Saturday. Once a year I get glammed up in a long dress and K gets his dinner suit out. It’s a ball: canapés and champagne on arrival, dinner and dancing until the small hours, all held in a marquee in the grounds of a big house.

Now this event had already been postponed when Storm Dennis passed through. Though it wasn’t as severe round here as other places, the marquee hire company vetoed it. As it happened that suited me perfectly – it meant I could attend a leaving do for our friends who are moving away. We breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the marquee going up earlier last week. The forecast did not look good, but we were all excited. Daughter had a new frock and I was recycling one from a few years ago (well, if it’s good enough for the Oscars dress code…..). The taxi arrived and off we went.

The marquee looked wonderful, complete with a dance floor and chandeliers. The table settings were perfect, decorated with arrangements of red roses and heart-shaped helium balloons. The guests arrived and everyone looked wonderful (some gorgeous outfits). I did notice that the marquee lining was rippling, the balloons were bobbing and the chandeliers were swinging to and fro as the wind gusted stronger and stronger.

We chatted with friends, and sampled delicious canapés. There were tiny smoked salmon blinis and hoisin duck wraps, chorizo and prawn skewers, miniature tartlets and all sorts of other delicacies, all accompanied by the bubbly. Two of the guests on our table had very thoughtfully brought hip flasks containing damson and sloe gin, which they generously passed round. It really enhances a glass of fizz!

As we took our seats for dinner it seemed that the wind had abated a little. Joints of roast beef were brought to each table, and one of the guests on our table carved ours…it was perfectly cooked and there were plenty of roast potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire puddings and gravy to go around. We ended our meal with generous portions of sticky toffee pudding, served with copious amounts of custard. All very tasty.

As I drank my coffee I noticed that the chandeliers were swinging again as the wind came back with a vengeance. Daughter decided she couldn’t wait any longer to hit the dance floor, so off she went, only to return a few minutes later with bad news. The storm was worsening and it had been agreed (after consultation with the marquee company and insurers) that the event had to be abandoned for the safety of all present. We were advised to contact our transport providers and arrange to be picked up as soon as possible. What a shame! There’s so much planning goes into something like this and I really feel for the organisers, especially after it had been rearranged once already, but their decision hadn’t been made lightly and it was the right thing to do. What a disappointment for all of us that had been looking forward to it…some had made rather more effort that me (new dresses, hairdos, professional makeup and spray tan….). We can control a lot of things, but sadly not the weather!

I got on straight on the phone to our lovely taxi driver and he was brilliant. Fortunately, he wasn’t far away and was able to take us home before his next booking. We fought our way through the partygoers who were clustering round the bar waiting for their own transport, having been moved away from the stage and dance floor (I think that was deemed to be the most vulnerable part of the marquee). As soon as we got outside it was easy to see why the event had been abandoned. I found it difficult to walk in the wind: it was so strong, definitely the type of storm that brings trees down. A promised, our driver picked us up promptly and got us safely home.

We’d still had a wonderful evening. I’m so grateful to Alnwick Wizard Taxis for rescuing us from the teeth of the storm.

Have you ever been to an event that’s been stopped because of adverse weather or other unexpected circumstances?

Knit and Natter Friday: February 28th

Here are this week’s completed pieces and work in progress at Alnwick Medical Group‘s Knit and Natter Group. From the left: my sock (the dark coloured item); a blanket square in shades of blue; a couple of tiny baby hats in lemon; peach-coloured premature baby top; white/mix baby cardigan; bright baby top with long sleeves and on the right a hat in self striping yarn. It’s such a pretty yarn, pastel shades with deeper pink and green splashes on the white section. It looks almost like a floral design has been knitted into it.

The Group, which was set up as part of the practice’s Social Prescribing work, meets every Friday afternoon, 2.30-4pm. Tea/coffee/biscuits are provided and all are welcome. Participants either work on charity knits like the premature baby clothes in the photograph, or continue with their own projects, There is a mix of experienced and novice knitters and crocheters in the group, and there is always help and tuition available to those who need it. We also have a supply of yarn, which has been kindly donated to the group to be used on the charity knits.