Archives For Crafting

A Stitch in Time!

January 19, 2020 — 83 Comments

This month I have to be the project leader for my own career. It requires a slightly different approach and tempo than when I am working on a role for an opera company as I have to fix my own schedule, set my own goals, and establish deadlines for these tasks. I personally find that I work well under strict deadlines, this is what has enabled me to push myself to complete the memorisation tasks of new musical scores that seem daunting at first. I now need to explore different methods so that I can make the best use of my time whilst preparing for multiple projects with different timelines, which often overlap. To focus on how best to direct my energy to ensure that I can take each piece through the various stages necessary to take a piece from good to great.

I am preparing for auditions, a competition, a recital, and learning new arias and songs to add to my repertoire for the future. I hope to gain some more performance opportunities in the coming months and I want to be planning ahead now on how I will manage the additional workload so that I can deliver my best performance possible for each event

To help in my self-preparation I plan in regular coaching sessions with both my singing teacher Rosa Mannion and my excellent repertoire coach Andrew Robinson. They help me to focus on my deadlines by breaking down each larger task into smaller achievable goals which I can work on in between my sessions.  Always working towards the larger goals over several months.

This month I also had a super opportunity to have a coaching with the delightful British Mezzo Soprano Kitty Whately.

Mezzo Soprano, Kitty Whately

I heard Kitty perform at Wigmore Hall last year and enjoyed many of her recordings, especially her album “Nights not spent alone” where she performs songs by Jonathan Dove, alongside my good friend and coach Simon Lepper. I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing Kitty sing at a celebration held for Jonathan Dove in December 2019. Later I was thrilled that she agreed to work on the interpretation of English Song with me and help me add a little fairy dust to my pieces, as a bonus she advised me on how I could prepare future pieces.

In my first month of my voyage of 2020, I would love to hear from you, my friends and fellow bloggers. I have visited your sights and seen so much talent for the arts, literature, film, food, travel, spirituality and your life passions, (to name but a few). How do you find ways to manage different projects, prioritise goals and bring your own ideas and projects to fruition?  I believe in learning through others and I want this year to be the best one yet!

To inspire you to share, I want to share a beautiful story about my dear friend Hilary Birkin.

I’ve known Hilary since I was 11 when she created my costume for the role of the young Cosette in Les Miserables. It would be my first role at Knutsford High School, where I would later attend for my secondary education. She has worked tirelessly on so many school productions before, during and after my time at Knutsford High School, making sure we all felt beautiful and confident to strut our stuff in our solo song, a dance number or as part of the ensemble chorus. Everyone was made to feel important and I learned so much through her attention to detail and professional approach.

After graduating from Knutsford High School, Hilary and I have kept in touch and she has been supporting me by following and contributing to my blog.

My Drawings For The Twelve Days Of Christmas

Six years ago, in December 2013 I decided to run a 12 Days of Christmas competition on my blog where I drew the Dozen Gifts the songs describe for one of my blog friends to win. Janice Spina was a worthy winner and to my amazement, she had the drawings framed after I posted the originals to her.  I was so pleased that she got as much enjoyment from receiving them as I did when I drew them.

The Images Framed By Janice Spina

However, unbeknownst to me, Hilary had been following the competition and saw these drawings and was struck by an idea. She quickly got in touch with my father (luckily) before the pictures were sent to Janice in America and asked for a scan of the images. With the secret vision of making a Quilt.

Hilary imagined that this quilt would be created out the 12 images replicated using embroidery and cross-stitching. Her Husband, helped her to expand the scanned images from miniature to the desired size and then the work began. She started by copying the designs onto embroidery linen, which had been a gift from an elder relative, adding a little extra sparkle to this handmade gift. Then, using a lightbox she would copy the illustrations and then begin stitching, all whilst paying attention to the detail of color and pencil markings.

Hilary would work on one square at a time. The twelve squares have been popped into her bag, accompanied her on many travels, visited many relatives, and been a creative constant over the past several years.

The final designs she brought together with the help of her daughter and with tips from her quilting group, with whom she meets on retreats occasionally throughout the year. When she invited me to spend some with her during my last visit home you can imagine how thrilled I was that she presented me with this fabulous piece of art.  Such a personal gift from a wonderful friend.

Me and Hilary With Her Fabulous Quilt ( click to enlarge )

I am utterly in awe of her creation. The patience, care, love, and attention to the smallest detail that she has shown throughout the creation of this beautiful piece of embroidery. I feel very lucky to have her as a friend and I am so grateful to have this memory from the start of my blog, which has so deeply influenced my life and work. This beautiful gift will take pride of place in our new home and I will treasure it always.

Thank you, Hilary.

Traveling Home for Christmas

December 23, 2018 — 72 Comments


My Friend Victoria Thomasch and Me

Recently I met up with my friend Victoria Thomasch who was over from New York to audition in London.  We had a great time afterward as I showed her some of the sites around London.  Of course, we had to call in at the Opera House and as she is a keen Harry Potter fan we managed to get a few pictures for her scrapbook at Platform 9 ¾, Kings Cross station.  I finished the week with a  performance for Surrey Opera in their Gala Christmas Fund Raiser which I believe was a great success for them.




Tonight, I will be sat in the living room of my family home, the winter fire dancing, and flickering whilst I’m snuggled under my blanket ready for some cosy restful days ahead over the Christmas break. We have always loved to celebrate Christmas as a time for family in our home, my parents go to such a lot of trouble to dress the house and plan fun activities for the whole family to enjoy. I love this time of year, as I get to see my family and friends, play games, and create crafty designs with my Mum.


My older brother Matt has brought home some of his favourite board games to play. A family favourite is Telestrations, a drawing game that is similar to Chinese whispers, each player has a booklet, you have to draw a miscellaneous object from a mystery card, then pass it on around the other players, the next player has to say what they think the object is from your image. This pattern continues around the group and you have to hope that by the end of the game, the object is the same as the beginning. It’s always funny to see how a word can evolve into something entirely different, and in our family, the drawings can be quite hilarious! I really recommend it!

This afternoon my Mum and I played some Christmas songs to set a festive atmosphere. Then we created some Christmas cards ready to send to our friends next year. I love this activity as you can always use glitter and sparkle this time of year!

How do you spend your Christmas holiday?

I want to wish everyone a fabulous festive break where ever you are in the world and I hope that you have a fantastic time, filled with love, relaxation, and delicious food.

Happy May Day

May 1, 2016 — 69 Comments

I can’t believe that it is the 1st of May already, this year is just flying by with the end of my undergraduate course zooming towards me faster and faster. This weekend I have been researching and concluding the work on two of my academic essays and because I get so absorbed I find that the hours just disappear and I nearly forgot to put my post on. So rather than bore you all with the intricacies of my essays I wanted instead to share with you one of the craft projects that I started last time I was at home. I find the distraction of doing something totally different takes my mind off my studies for a while, then when I return to college I find that I am better able to push on and tackle new projects with extra energy and focus.

I wanted to create some gifts for friends that were a little different from the thank you cards that I would usually make at home. I flicked through some magazines and discussed some ideas with my Mum and decided to create some hanging hearts as they seemed an ideal way of saying thank you 🙂

I started with MDF hearts about 20cm by 20cm


Then with the trusty essentials, PVA glue, foam risers, double sided tape and a hot glue gun it was time to get started.


The first job is to select scraps of paper in colours and designs that you think will go together.


For the first heart I cut out the backing paper with scissors, glued it down and finished off with a scalpel to fit.


Stick it on to the MDF with PVA glue.


To decorate I used chalk to dust the torn edges of pictures I had chosen. A torn map and a car I cut out of a sheet of men’s toppers you can get from craft shops.


I finished off with a some musical accents, an mdf clock and a little ribbon to hang it with 🙂


For the next heart I layered scraps of paper in strips and stuck them to the heart using PVA glue. Once dry I turned it over and cut off the excess paper with the scalpel.


I wanted to use an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme for this heart using some decoupage images.


Cutting them out and building up the picture with foam pads can be fiddly work.


After putting together the rest of the items and glueing them down here is the finished article.  Playing cards from a set out of a Christmas cracker, a ‘drink me’ bottle from craft supplies from The Works, I cut out the teapot and china cup from a craft book and added hot glue to make the tea and coloured it when it was dry. Hope you enjoyed my craft day.



Sometimes on my lunch break from work, I enjoy getting crafty with my Mum and my friend Gill.  So when Gill offered to show me a new technique to colour cards and paper I jumped at the chance.  It was going to be fun as it involved shaving foam, card dyes and possibly getting messy. 🙂

To start, I sprayed an even layer of (bargain priced) shaving foam onto a plastic tray.


After adding the shaving foam to the messy tray I sprayed the dye on to the surface of one side.


I then added a second colour to the surface.


Then to add a little texture to the surface I used a wooden stick to create straight lines up and down the shaving foam mixing the colour on the surface of the foam.


Then take the piece of card or paper that you want to transfer the pattern to and place it gently on the surface of the shaving foam.


Once the paper is resting on the surface of the shaving foam press it gently to get an even coating of colour.


Peel back the paper or card gently and evenly lift it out of the tray.


Place the paper or card flat on your work surface.


Then gently scrape off any shaving foam that has stuck to surface with a  ruler or other straight edge.


The ink dries quickly to the paper or card and you can wipe away any foam that might be left.


The swirls and patterns can make lovely backgrounds for cards or other craft projects.

It is really quick to do and the only other thing that I would recommend to you is using latex gloves to keep the dye off your fingers. You can use the shaving foam in your messy tray more than once just add a little extra dye.

If you give it go I would love to hear from you, Oh and don’t tell my Dad it was me that took his shaving foam 😉

One the things I enjoy when I’m back home with my parents is adding to my crafting skills.  I find that dabbling in craft and art projects is a great way to relax.  My fabulous friend Gill had been promising to show me how to make clay roses for some time, this was a skill she picked up when she first left school at 15 to work in the one of the Staffordshire “Pot Banks”.  These were the factories that were found all over Staffordshire at the time which made all the hand finished fine bone china which was exported all over the world.

So with a good supply of air dry clay she sat down with me and my mum and gave us a master class in clay rose creation.  I suggested videoing her demonstration so that I could use it here on my blog and to make it exciting I asked if she thought that she could complete it in the time it took me to sing one of her favourite songs “Danny Boy”.  So I started to play the track as she started to demonstrate the process, but you will have to play the video to see if she makes it 🙂

Gill holds demonstration classes in Stockport and I hope that you will all agree that she has quite an amazing skill and one that she makes look so easy.  So to help anyone who wants to have a go at making one of these beautiful roses Gill photographed my attempt and I have used the pictures along with a written explanation to help break down what she taught us.

Break off a small amount of the air dry clay, I found a ball shape of about 2 to 3 cms in diameter was sufficient.  Then roll it in your hands to produce a cylinder shape ( like a sausage ).



Grip one end of the cylinder between the base of your index and middle fingers. Then pressing firmly on the opposite end, flatten out the clay on the palm of your hand to make roughly an oval shape.



Take the cylinder and pinch the clay at the base of the flattened oval, then bend the top of the flattened oval shape ever so slightly before breaking away the excess clay from the base of the petal. Make sure to leave enough clay on the base of the petal to use when you add it to the finished rose.



Continue by repeating the above process making eight leaves in all.


This is the Air Dry Clay that we used.

Then taking a similar amount of air dry clay as before make another ball shape about 2 to 3 cms in diameter, Then on your work surface roll out the clay to make a cylinder about the length of your thumb.  Then place it on to your work surface and flatten it out in a rough rectangle shape.



Try to make one of the longer sides a little flatter than the other as this will be the top edge of the rose bud of your rose. Then starting at one end roll the clay a bit like a “Swiss Roll”. Then pinch the base of the roll leaving the thinner petal end clearly on show.




You then take one of the petals that you made earlier and using the excess clay left at the base of the petal attach it to the base of the rose bud that you have just made.  Then press along one edge of the first petal so that it attaches to the rosebud, leaving the other side loose.  Do the same with a further two petals, spacing them equally so that the centre of your rose starts to take shape.


Then with the remaining five petals that you have left add them using the excess clay at their bases to attach to your rose. Try to space them evenly around the centre to give a natural  look to your rose. With all the petals now in place press them together firmly all around the base, you should now have the petals in a very traditional rose shape.


Then to finish off hold the rose upside down and gently rotate the base by twisting lightly between your thumb and index finger. As the base starts to become thinner and longer remove any excess air clay by pinching through and breaking it off.



Make sure you leave just enough air clay attached to the base of the rose to allow you use it in whatever craft project springs to mind.  I’m going to use them on cards and in my box frame pictures but they look just as good painted when dried and used to embellish all sorts of things.

Here is a card that I created using the flowers that I made, the middle flower is just a rosebud, the only problem is that I now have to learn how to make the boxes to deliver them in 😉  But that is for another day ……








Feeling a little board…

December 15, 2013 — 75 Comments

I started to feel a little better today and as a result my Mum saw that I was getting a little stir crazy, after all what does a girl do when she can’t sing 🙂 I looked around my bedroom and found my old “Hannah Montana” storage box and I thought that I could give it a little make-over. We had some paint left over from decorating the lounge and Mum found some paper that we use for carding and we agreed that I should use “collage pauge” to transform the old box.

The technique involves tearing paper and coloured tissue into small irregular pieces and then glueing them onto the item to be decorated. You build up the layers of paper one piece at a time and watch it transform as you do it 🙂


I sanded down the box to roughen up the surface to allow the paint to stick to the surface a little easier.

Then I painted the box with the old emulsion paint and let it dry. Whilst the paint dried I took the chance to tear up the paper and sort it into little stacks ready for glueing.


I then built up the layers one piece at a time. This is the fun bit seeing the colours and patterns take shape and bring new life to something old.


Once I finished the sides and back I thought that I had better check the draws still fitted 🙂


I have some pink glitter paper left from my flat wall and I just might use them on the front of the draws, what do you think ?


I normally take the train, which is so much easier, but following last week’s concerts I found myself in Glasgow with my little car and it gave me a great opportunity to go home for the weekend 🙂  so on Friday the 15th of November, I drove home from Glasgow for a little “me time” with my family.

It took me four and half hours, which began fabulously, my attention was focused and the excitement built as I felt like an explorer on a great adventure! Following the road as it meandered through  the beautiful mountains it made me wonder about people who must have travelled this route before the motorways and trains had ploughed their way through the landscape.

But after my first rest break the scenery changed and with the motorway growing more monotonous  I just wanted to get home. Boredom kicked in and I had to keep pinching myself to stop me from attempting doing to silly dances to my music playlist in the car.

After successfully reaching my Mum and Dad’s offices, I ran in to give them hugs and kisses before immediately dashing off for a long overdue hair cut. It was fabulous to relax after the long journey and I caught up with Christian and told him all about what I had been up to over the last few months.  I decided I needed a change of hair style and talked myself into having a fringe cut in 🙂

I was then treated to a surprise late birthday meal by my Mum and Dad, which was truly delicious but to be honest the best part was spending some time with my family. I am such a family girl at heart and my parents provide me with support and help me to talk through my plans and aspirations.  We chatted and discussed my coming concerts and repertoire and when we finished I felt tons better and ready to begin my term with renewed fire in my belly.

On the Saturday I was taken back to my childhood with the beautiful 😉 singing of our family friend Lee.  When I was tiny we often duetted to the “Back Street Boys” and “Five” including all the dance moves 🙂  I felt compelled to join in and we both had a really good laugh.  Then the door bell rang and my Nana and Granddad greeted me with big grins and even bigger hugs and before I knew it the whole family was almost back together.


We had a great afternoon my Nan, my Mum and me all together making Christmas and Birthday cards, it was brilliant fun.  Thinking about it we left my Mum with all the clearing up to do 🙂 sorry Mum, but hey at least leaving home hasn’t changed me at all LOL !!


Lastly just before I set off to return home I received this lovely letter from the Kathleen Ferrier Society along with a certificate for the Audience Prize and I would love to thank them 🙂