Friday, December 23, 2011

28 days later...

... And I'm finally line free! Hallelujah! I have gone through exhausted, past shattered and arrived at catatonic. I've tried to think of ways to describe it, having a head full of cotton wool making all my thought processes dull is one part. Having limbs like lead whilst trying to walk through treacle kind of gets the physical aspect. It's just all a bit blurgh. To be really rather annoying, it turns out that the original sample that set off the whole MRSA panic in the first place has been reexamined and reclassed as not MRSA but MSSA, or methicillin sensitive staph aureous... All that barrier nursing and schmozle wasn't necessary! Gah! A least the drugs do seem to have finally worked and my chest has improved and is drier than it has been for a long while, so I'm hopeful that I might actually be able to stay off the ivs for more than just a month - fingers crossed...

I have also had my first proper shower for 28 days! Yes, I know that sounds utterly disgusting and like I have not washed in all that time, but don't panic, I have! The problem with having a port is that the needle is in my left upper chest, and it's covered with a fairly large dressing. You have to try and keep this as clean and dry as possible to minimise infection risk. The port line goes all the way to just by my heart so if bacteria got into it via the access point it could go very quickly right round my blood stream, not something I want to happen. So you have to be really careful to not splash it- not easy, especially when you have long hair which needs washing. This means showering becomes a fairly comedy routine or trying to shower one side of your body whilst sponging round the dressing! The other rather ick thing is that when you take the dressing off after fourteen days there is rather a lot of dead skin and oil from your skin stuck under it, so after 28 days it is just gross, but now I am clean and fresh and can splash about in the shower as much as I like- bliss!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

December disaster

Well so far I could really have done without December, and that's before I've even started thinking about Christmas. I had an awful head cold that rapidly went to my chest. So off to Papworth I went and got two weeks of Tazocin and Colomycin, annoying but necessary. It meant that I had to have a line in at the G and S ball, not really an accessory I'd chose to wear to a white tie event, but at least I got to go. The drugs didn't really fully get me better, so I was expecting to have to do another week. What I was not expecting was that a sputum sample I gave them at day seven of the drugs would come back as MRSA positive and that the doctors wanted to admit me for two weeks of three antibiotics to eradicate it.... Argh! Now MRSA in itself is not that much of danger to people with CF as it does not cause a massive decline to the lungs. However it's not something I really want lurking so I could see why the consultants wanted to be so aggressive in their treatment. What is really annoying is that by having an instance of MRSA I was immediately banned from the CF unit because of the risk of infection to the rest of the unit... So I had to have a side room on a different ward. Fortunately, the room was very nice and ensuite, sadly the air conditioning within was incredibly noisy and I could not turn it off. On the first night I was freezing and ended up with an awful headache. Also, the staff are just not the same as the CF nurses, who I've known for years, are experts in CF care and let you sleep undisturbed. They also don't quibble about heating up food that you've brought in yourself, home cooked or bought. As I was being barrier nursed the housekeepers simply woud not heat up anything for me... Apparently once something has been into a barrier nursed room it is not allowed out again, even if it's going to me nuked in a microwave! However, this was not a protocol observed by all of them, some of them would, some of them lectured me on infection control and would not! I've lost quite a bit of weight as a result which will result in the dietician yelling at me! Being barrier nursed is just frustrating!

To my further annoyance five days into the treatment the docs tell me that actually I might not have MRSA! Apparently as the lab has moved from Papwroth to Addenbrookes some communication issues have sprung up. The lab did not ring up the CF nurse to tell them of this MRSA as they are meant to, it just popped up on the computer when they checked for the results. So Sam the CF specialist nurse rang up and they confirmed it was MRSA. However, because the lab has had a few mix ups in the aftermath of the move my consultants got the consultant microbiologist to re-evaluate my results to make sure the diagnosis was correct. So possibly hurrah I don't have MRSA! Eventually the consultant got back to them saying that the initial pattern of growth for my sputum looked like MRSA but after a while of continued growing it didn't! So they are resending several of my samples to be more thoroughly tested to try and get a definitive result. So they know it's definitely staphaureous, which I have grown occasionally for years, the question is, is it methicillin resistant or not??? Apparently it is an 'unusual organism' and they need more data to decide. In the meantime I am left with all this to-ing and fro-ing as to whether all this treatment was actually needed. This regime is pretty hard core, ciprofloxicillin, fosfomycin and teicoplanin are all very strong. But I'm carrying on with it just in case, but it's only cos the lovely Dr Barker is very understanding, that she let me out after a week of incarceration and dropped the dose of fosfomycin from four doses to three. Doing a dose every six hours results in very little sleep and near hysteria! I also may not have needed to be barrier nursed at all if I don't have it, what a waste of bloody time that would have been. Darn microbiologists! I don't think they realise that the bugs are actually from people and how much stress messing up causes them...

Monday, December 05, 2011

Real life photos of a dress in action!

Yes I know I have not blogged in a month-total hat a week fail! But to be fair,I have had the head cold from hell for the past month, although it feels more like a year... I'm back on the IVs in an attempt to stop it going to my chest, which to be honest has not worked as it has and I am producing more gunge than a bad horror movie-sigh. Also, as is so typical as soon as I feel really grotty I get loads of requests for work which I have tried to keep up with, but some requests have had to be refused as I simply don't  have time when I feel this crap-its so annoying! This cycle of IVs every four to six weeks is just getting me down. I nearly missed the GandS Reunion Ball which would have been awful.  I did manage to go for some of it, but that was with a line in (not a particularly attractive look!) and doing no dancing (boo hiss!) and leaving early.  Better than nothing, but still so frustrating. I would have loved to dance with my lovely friends, but at least I got to dress up and see them.  I will try and get some photos of Mr EB and myself in our finery (white tie no less) but I didn't take my camera with us as it doesn't fit into an evening bag! Hopefully some of my friends will have got some shots of us...

Anyway back to the point of this post, I have received some lovely photos of an unusual gold bridal dress I made earlier in the year and it is so nice to see it on a person not my dress dummy. Helen actually wants me to remake the fabric of her detachable train into another garment (watch this space!) and very kindly gave me these shots when she popped over a while ago to talk about this new project. I have to say I think Helen looks amazing! She just has the style and personality to carry off this fairly unusual and dramatic dress-
I love these pictures! She just looks so happy and I like to think her dress added to her enjoyment of such an important day in her and her husbands life:-)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hat a Week 4 - Spotted Bonnet

This weeks hat was a bit of an experiment. I wanted to try combining the two main ways of making hats, blocking and flat pattern making. Blocking is using a wooden shape and steam or heat to mould the hat form on the block, usually felt, straw or sinamay, for example this black felt cloche. Flat pattern cutting is when you work out how to make the shape out of flat pieces, for example this tricorn and most of my first hats were made from flat card patterns cut from buckram and then covered. The two methods are a bit like draping on the stand and flat pattern cutting when making clothes - one is done on a model in 3d the other flat on paper in 2d. Id never tried combining the two before and it is doable but can involve a lot of trial and error.  This hat is inspired by a hat made by Jeanne Lanvin in about 1910, the back is created on a block and brim was cut flat then the two were joined together.  It is a lovely tight fitting back sweeping into front brim that extends over the forehead.  I suppose it is technically a bonnet rather than a hat, but it is a rather charming that I have wanted to try and recreate for ages.
This is hat once the two parts have been joined, the edges wired and the shape mulled in domette. You can't really see the join (which is the idea!) but it runs from ear to ear over the top of the head. I finished the hat with a fabulous scarlet polka dot fabric and decorated it with black bias strips inspired by the decoration on the Lanvin hat. The back of the hat is pleated to take in the excess fabric around the curved back.
Detail of the pleated back.
As some of the under brim is visible when being worn I decided to line the whole in the same polka dot fabric, which adds to its rather cheerful appearance. I am really pleased by how this experiment turned out, and I have definitely learned a lot about using both methods in one hat! The next hat a week maybe a bit late as I actually have the opportunity to make a swanky dress for me for the G and S Society 50th anniversary ball in December, as well as some other ongoing work, so the hats may well have to take a bit of a backseat for a little while at least.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hat a Week 3- Not really a hat.....

... But still something you wear on your head so I say it counts! These are some Victorian beaded flowers. I have been trying to make them for ages but have not been able to get wire thin enough to work. The beads themselves are only about 2mm wide with a teeny tiny hole which is fine if you only need to pass the wire through it once but to make the flowers you may need to get two or three passes through it and my usual wire is way too thick for that. I was going to order some very fine gauge wire over the Internet but the sites I use only offer big reels of wire and I didn't really want to buy a big expensive reel before I knew it would work. John Lewis let me down for once and only had the 0.6mm wire I usually use that is too big. I finally found some in the crazy little craft shop in Saffron Walden called Colour Craft. It's one of those amazing shops that are crammed floor to ceiling with a huge array of craft stuff. Wool, beads, tapestry thread, paint, books, pencils, brushes and more fills the shelves. I can't think why I didn't go there before probably cos I don't go into SW as much anymore so just didn't remember! So I finally had my wire and I have sooooo many beads, so off I went. It really is very simple and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to do. Even on IVs and drugged out of my head I managed to make these three in a couple of days. I've popped the two silver ones in hair pins and the third iridescent one may go on a hat.
Little iridescent flower with rounded petals
I know this is a couple of days late, but I'm still struggling with lack of computer and having to swipe Dad or Mr EB's when they don't need them! The one I was using wont connect to the wifi at my parents house cos basically it is a bit rubbish... oh well better late than never!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Hat a Week 2-Black felt cloche

Well so far so good, I've managed two hats in as many weeks! Oh ok, I actually made both this one and the ivory pill box in the last fortnight but I only just finished the inside of this one so I'm using it as Hat a Week 2. This one is a black wool felt cloche made using another gorgeous Guy Morse Brown block that was my Christmas present from my parents. I love the shape of it, its so smooth and curvy! It also has a string groove around the bottom of the brim which really does make blocking so much easier. You can see in the first picture how you just use a cord to pull the felt into the groove and use one pin to secure the cord tightly. I also used a cord to pull the felt in tightly around the base of the sideband so that it adheres nice and closely to the shape of the block.

Here the hat is off the block and with the edge wired and finished but not yet decorated, you can also see how messy my workroom gets mid hat making!
Finished! I was pleased by how the geometric hat band turned out. It's made from overlapping circles of red and white felt that are finished with a black satin cord tied in a little bow.

Close up of the trim and bow.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

A Hat a Week

Recently my health has been rather depressing. I'm now on ivs about every six to eight weeks, when once I only needed them every six months. My lung function is about 50% now, which to be honest is crap and means I am tired all the time and I can't do things that I love, like playing the flute or lindy hop. This combined with some other health rubbishness which I won't go into cos its all a bit raw still, has made me a bit depressed. I've been prone to depression since I was a teenager and I can now recognise the signs that mean I'm on a downward spiral. In an effort to prevent myself sitting in a corner and brooding about how unfair life is, why me, blah blah blah I have decided to start a new project. I find that forcing myself to keep busy and think about other things does help stop me getting too depressed and gives me time to try and sort myself out. So my project is A Hat a Week- pretty simple, I am going to make a hat a week, although I include in 'hat' pretty much anything that you wear on your head, so veils, fascinators, flowers, tiaras, anything that attaches to your head! This will of course be work and health dependent sometimes I may not manage it, equally if I don't have much on if I may even make more than one hat-how reckless and daring!

My project has also turned out to be computer dependent too! I have actually had this post and hat ready for about two weeks, but unfortunately my faithful old computer, emphasis on old, turned up its toes and died-again... So I have been unable to blog properly cos the ipad doesn't really do photo uploading easily. Thankfully Mr EB really is a computer genius and managed to get all my files off the old computer and apparently can even get it working again, although this involves time which is something that he does not have a large supply of. So eventually I shall get the old machine back, but in the meantime I am borrowing one of Mr EBs spares!

So the first Hat a Week is another bridal one. This is a mini pillbox made from ivory sinamay and finished with an ivory ribbon and silver wire spirals set with swarovski crystals and freshwater pearls. When I use this block again I am probably going to use it slightly differently in that instead of blocking the whole hat with one piece of sinamay I'm going to block the headband and tip as two separate pieces then sew them together. This should make it easier to turn the sinamay under at the bottom, with one piece there is a whole lots of fibre that has to get turned in!

A Veil for Holly Race now Beckett!

Lucky me!!!! I finally got asked for a silk tulle veil by my lovely friend Holly! She is such a stylish lady and knew she wanted an ultra soft, drappy veil in silk tulle, so whats a girl to do- buy lots of silk tulle:-) Don't get me wrong non silk tulle is also lovely stuff but it has much more body so when you gather it up it is more pouffy and has more volume- ideal for petticoats and some styles of veils but not if you want a lighter less fluffy look. Silk tulle is just like cobweb, all wispy and light. It also sticks to itself, just like cobweb, and everything else as well. This can get a tad annoying, but its worth putting up with because it moves and drapes beautifully. The lightest breeze makes it dance-oh God I sound so soppy! Holly also chose a lovely ivory lace to edge it, which went beautifully with the lace of her dress. As you can see from the pictures it just looks beautiful (shame the workroom is such a mess...)

This is a lot of Tulle!
Detail of the Lace edging
This is a picture taken at the wedding by Albert Palmer- we had such good luck with the weather! I love the movement in the veil, and you can see just how long it is as well.  Gorgeous!
I love this photo!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Please vote for me!

The competition that I have entered my crazy green fibonacci hat in has now opened the voting for one of the prizes. If you have a mo please goto the website below and take a look and vote for me!

Thank you!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fibonacci Fascination!

I'm entering a millinery competition being run by Vogue and Stephen Jones and this has been the perfect excuse to go a bit bonkers with my ongoing fascination with using Fibonacci numbers and the golden section in hat making. The result is a rather outrageous green and cream hat made from 16 intersecting fibonacci spirals (8 clockwise and 8 anti-clockwise).  I created a single spiral on paper from the first seven terms of the Fibonacci series - 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8,13. There is a lot of info on Fibonacci here, I find it very interesting but to be honest some of the complex maths goes totally over my head, but the intro and illustrations of creating a spiral are very clear if you fancy a bit more Fibonacci knowledge!

Having decided how big I wanted the hat to be, I copied the spiral even times from the first to create the clockwise pattern, I then made a reflection of this to create the anti clockwise pattern.  This created a very pretty flower like lattice that I made from tulle covered wire in two shades of leaf green. I then attached this to a circular, cream silk covered buckram crown that perches on the side of the head. I had quite a job weaving the wires in and out or each other and got poked quite a bit in the process... However, I got there in the end and I am really pleased with the end result. When voting for the competition opens I will start pluggnig my entry like mad!
The hat laid out on the paper design secured with clothes pegs!
The finished hat on my dolly head.


I hereby assert my right to be identified as the designer and creator of Fibonacci hats, fascinators and other headwear. Also, I am the originator of the use of Fibonacci and the golden section when creating hats. These hats are works of artistic craftmanship and are therefore protected by copyright. I will persecute anyone copying my designs or using my ideas to the fullness of the law (and I mean persecute!)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A gorgeous dress for a gorgeous friend :-)

One of my favorite things about making wedding dresses is that occasionally I get to make one for a close friend. This time, I got to make a dress for one of my absolute best friends Anne Carter, now Jones! As Anne and her new husband Phil met whilst ballroom dancing, it was clear that dancing would always be an important part of the wedding. As Anne could not possibly jive (her favorite dance) or quickstep in her full length plus train bridal dress, she wanted a second shorter dance dress for the first dance and the evening reception. She very kindly asked me to make it. I was so happy she asked me and was just so pleased to see how beautiful and elegant she looked dancing in it with her new husband.  Actually, the whole wedding was totally wonderful, it was so great to see two such lovely people getting married and so happy together. I loved my dress and hairdo (as bridesmaid), the breakfast was just delicious, the photos on the beach were so much fun and playing croquet with friends I'd not seen in ages was fantastic, if not strictly adhering to the rules! I could carry on with this list for several pages, but I think it's pretty clear I had an amazing day! 

These photos are sadly not of Anne in the dress, but I'm hoping to put some of her official photos up once she has got back from her honeymoon and actually got them! It is a lovely knee length, prom style dress, with a fitted bodice covered in ruched chiffon and a flared two layer skirt of chiffon over satin. There was also a burgundy satin flower at the waist with the lace, but I had not finished that in time for these pictures....
The contrast burgandy lacing matched the colour scheme of the wedding-and looks really cool!

This is such a pretty lace motif, that I found on the web after trawling loads of shops!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hats and Hormones

My bridal hat collection is coming along well. In fact I have far too many ideas of things I want to try and designs I want to make, than time or energy to fit them all in at the moment. I'm currently taking part in a medial study at Papworth, which is very interesting but rather time (and blood!) consuming. They are investigating if a pwcf's appetite can be increased by supplementing our production of ghrelin -the hormone that controls appetite. Annoyingly pwcf do not produce as much ghrelin as they should, so although we need to eat loads to maintain our weight we hardly ever feel hungry. Forcing yourself to maintain a high calorie diet when you just don't feel like eating is not a lot of fun, so anything that will make me actually feel hungry for a change is good in my book! I already tried to do the five week programme in April, but i got ill half way through so had to stop to have iv drugs. This time I had a total nightmare with my port.  It stopped working half way through a blood test and then had to be re accessed twice more to finally manage to get it working again and hep locked properly-sigh. Am now very sore from having three needles shoved in the one place and did not get to start the second part of the trial.

Oh well... back to the hats. This one is a rather fun button hat covered in pleated silk crepe to resemble a shell. It is finished with a huge silk and tulle flower. I love the flower it's just so big and bold whilst still being quite elegant.

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These photos are sadly not very good as, (A) the photos are by me and I am not that good at it! (B) when photographing something that is basically the same colour all over it is really difficult to get the detail to be clear and (C) the light really was not good enough for photos, but I wanted to get some pictures of it up before I go on a little holiday so won't be able to post... When we're back I will get Mr EB to take some much better ones!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Why Hats?

I was at Papworth for my annual review recently and I saw the new social worker. He is a very nice chap and we got chatting about what I do outside of CF! I was sitting making some more ribbon roses for anther hat I have in mind, so it was a pretty obvious topic but I've often been asked how I got into hat making and it got me thinking. It certainly was not planned in detail from a young age. I've always loved making things ever since I was a small child. At primary school I was always volunteering to make things for plays or projects- often to the teachers dread! I don't think as a youngster my actual skills anywhere near matched the crazy ideas that were in my head but I was incredibly keen... I loved the way you could change things like fabric and paper into totally new objects and shapes, how they became something new.

I've also always loved sewing and making things from fabric and sequins and anything shiny- definite magpie complex that is still with me. My mum often made me clothes and her mum made practically all her clothes for years. In fact, I wore some of the evening gowns that Nanna made for my Mum at May Balls when I was at Cambridge, luckily for me we were the same size when each of us was aged twenty. I also get my hoarding gene from both these ladies, my Nan especially would keep tiny off cuts of fabric for donkeys years just in case she ever needed them! When she had to move into a residential home Mum and I found bags and bags of offcuts from clothes she made for my mum when Mum was a young woman.

Yes, that's me on the right!
My love of sewing and glitz made costumes an obvious choice during my uni days. I had tried being on stage and actually was in the chorus as a fairy for a production of Iolanthe at Cambridge Arts Theatre- which was fantastic fun, but incredibly knackering. I did not have the lungs to manage that much singing, but I loved the theatre and still wanted to be involved. I volunteered to do the costumes for a production of the Mikado at the Minack theatre in Cornwall and have never looked back. I did quite a few hats during the various productions I was involved with, including a two foot tall twisted top hat for the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.

A suitably Mad Hatter!
However, I didn't really know what I was doing, I just made it up as I went along from various crafty techniques I had learnt at school, and from Mum and Nan. The Mad Hatter hat for example, was made using willow wands, wire, sticky tape and hope! When I went to RADA I got to do some proper buckram and wire hat making for my ladies project, a reproduction of a masque costume worn by Lady Henrietta Howard. It was brilliant learning to finally make hats properly and not just bodge it as I had been doing and I still loved transforming flat fabric into a three dimensional shape.  

Me, in my Ladieswear Project.
I carried on with costumes including the odd hat, but as my health deteriorated, I had to stop making Costumes and working shows, I simply do not have the strength or stamina anymore. Bridal and evening wear was the direction I choose to move towards, as I have always made my own evening gowns, but the hats came along when I got fed up of the hats I could afford to buy for various weddings.The ones I could afford were just not dramatic or glitzy enough! So I started by making historical shapes in miniature using the wire and buckram method, I had learnt at RADA and it was just like being back at school again. I am just so happy when I am working with gorgeous fabrics and feathers and sparkly things and making a total mess with glues and stiffeners. I'm indulging my inner child! 
The first hat I made to wear to a wedding.

 As I got more daring and experimental with the wire and buckram creations I bought more and more books about hats, and downloaded everything I could find to feed my hatting addiction It soon became clear that I needed to give blocking a go. I'd always been a bit put off from this technique of hat making, because hat blocks are expensive things and I did not want to shell out £100 or more to find I was not going to get any use out of the block. Thankfully, I found the marvellous block makers Guy Morse Brown, who do an introductory block, pins and book set for a very reasonable price so I decided to try it out. On receiving the block my inner hatter was ecstatic to find that not only was blocking something that I could learn (with a bit of practice and swearing) but that hat blocks really are gorgeous tactile objects in themselves. So when my friends asked what I wanted for my 30th birthday I asked for another hat block and bless them, they bought me five mini fascinators blocks that are just fabulous. Now I must admit to being rather obsessed with hats, I can't help it! Not only is making them incredible fun and interesting, but the finished product is so beautiful (I hope!) and gives such pleasure to the people I make for -I just wish I had discovered this wonderful art earlier and that my Nanna could have seen some of the things I've made, I like to think she would have been proud of me.