Thursday, 17 October 2013

Endangered words

Have you ever wondered what happens to the words that are no longer used? They become classed as obsolete, confined to only the largest of dictionaries by lexicographers (those guys whose job it is to compile dictionaries.) As new words are created to fit with our new fangled lifestyle, old words are inevitably pushed out and lost. You can't really be a literacy teacher without spending a large amount of your time thinking about words but it wasn't until last week at Ally Pally when I saw a collection of endangered knitted specimens that I started to worry about their fate. Some might say do we actually care but I'm with Safia Shah and I'll happily join the campaign to bring words back to life especially if it involves knitting them.


Who better to involve in such a virtuous adventure than my own child, along with a friend, especially as they were off school today due to teachers striking. The girls embraced the idea of saving these dejected words and with very little encouragement from me, set about composing their very own dictionary.

Along with words featured in Safia's website (jargogle, ninnyhammer, brabble), they unearthed many other delights:

Jollux - 18th century slang for a fat person

Elflocks - tangled hair, as if matted by elves

Twitterlight - an alternative word for twilight

Hugger-mugger - to act in a secretive manner


And even more apt for any 10 year old girls - twattle - the act of prattling on, talking idly and gossiping (as if that needed any explanation).


But what to do with such a fascination of words and how best to save them from extinction? Fortunately I know a lovely lady with her own ceramics painting cafe, delectable glazes and a kiln in which to fire everything into an everlasting memory.


Thank you very much to Catherine and Gail at Espressions

Not only did they have the whole kit and caboodle for preserving the moment but Catherine also had a pile of ancient books overflowing with a superabundance of words clambering for that second chance.


Safia's book Carnaby Street's The Great Uninvited is released on 31st October and will be eagerly awaited by my two wordsmiths and I will be able to collect the tiles next week.


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Learning and education

Today I asked Charlie what he learnt at school.

He replied "We didn't really learn anything thing today. It was science day so we just did science." I do love how clearly he seperates learning from doing.

For my little six year, if you haven't learnt some facts about a subject then it doesn't really count. The facts can be as random or specific as you like. For example did you know that more people are killed each year by dogs and pigs than sharks? No? Neither did I until Charlie told me.

I'm in the business of education. Yes that's right, the business. I am employed by a corporation, our college is branded and everything in my working life is driven by targets. However from deep within my paperwork based uniform almost extinguished by performance related statistics, you will catch a small glimmer: a spark to light the fire of possible of cognition in my students.

Ask anyone who their favourite teacher was and why and I doubt very much that they will use the words like retention, attainment and achievement, but this is how us teachers are measured these days. A lot of what truly inspirational teachers do is impossible to measure just as it is equally unreasonable to judge a pupil's learning by an assignment, test or exam.

This is R A Butler. It was his vision, shortly after World War II, to make secondary education a lot fairer. Wishing to move away from the class system where only the rich were educated, he introduced the 11plus as a way of establishing which of the three secondary schools would be most suitable for children to attend. Unintentionally this resulted in a "pass or fail" scenario for 11year olds due to there only being a choice between two schoolsin most areas. The grammar schools selected those who passed the test and with the lack of secondary technical schools, the other children attended secondary moderns. The whole system was mostly abolished in favour of Comprehensive schools in 1976, but in some areas including Kent, the selection process is still very much a part of our children's final year a primary school.

So on the eve of the Kent test results day, I'm very much preoccupied with how tomorrow's outcome will affect the path of Josie's education and influence her learning.



Friday, 11 October 2013

Ally Pally knit and stitch

Once a year, I get to go back to London to my beloved Alexandra Palace for the Knitting and Stitching Show. It's the mecca for all stitchy ladies (very few boys I'm afraid), like a giant magnet pulling us in by the knitting needles, armed with shopping bags and packed lunches. There is so much to see, I feel like a child in a sweet shop, dizzy with excitement and slightly battered by the hardened elbows of veteran bargain hunters. Despite manners being slightly amiss amongst the crowded aisles of the great halls of the palace, I challenge even the shyest of people not to make a friend when they sit down for a drink and the stall holders and exhibitors are the loveliest people in the world.

Habu Textiles is an old favourite now and it's my first port of call. I love the colours, the texture of the yarn and the exquisitely delicate garments created using their products. Mostly I like the linen and the paper threads and this year discovered a new stall, Namolio, fab for linen crochet thread.

Felt was also on my shopping list because I would like to make a stocking for my nephew's first Christmas and I can't leave out his sister. There were plenty of stalls selling felt wares but in the end I got some from The Eternal Maker because the colours were delightful.

Picture courtesy of Bella Leonard

Out of all the enchanting exhibitors, I was drawn to Bella May Leonard's pieces but as I don't have permission at the moment to use any of her images yet, I will have to leave photos until later. The use of perspex and thread reminded me a little of my own degree show all those years ago and I do think that once you have spent hours and hours exploring a medium in your art space, you never lose that love.

Another textile artist after my own heart was the inspirational Mandy Pattullo. Since arriving home last night, I've already spent some time researching her influences and previous work. Although I love the accuracy and pure genius of the amazing winning quilts (see below),

 Mandy's pieces rescue the sad and rejected treasures of yesteryear in the spirit of what she calls her "Thread and thrift vision". A thread and thrift vision just sounds so akin to my own ideals and that's without even starting on how much I would like one of her quilted skirts.

Jennie Atkinson was just as stylish and wonderful as her elegant finely knitted tops. One day I will knit something from a pattern and hopefully it wont be a disaster but until then I will just have to make do with flicking through Jennie's book and dreaming.

Other highlights for me included so many threads in so many colours at the handweavers studio
Pom Pom trim and Pinterest greatness at Caro London, super screen printing, mini style from Thermofax Screens and a new blog to explore Dolly does.....

The Knitting and Stitching Show is on at Alexandra Palace until Sunday 13th October after which it heads off to Dublin and Harrogate. You should seriously go if you get a chance, if not, maybe see you next year at Ally Pally.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sunday sun

Today has been such a glorious day, it feels like the warm weather will never end and it's easy to forgot that those chilly days are on their way.
It was perfect weather for a stroll along the seafront at Broadstairs and it as packed as on any summers day.
The chalk cliffs of the East Kent coast are always spectacular in bright sunshine and their crumbling nature allows for transient graffiti artists to adorn the concrete esplanades without reprimand from their parents.
And mini explores can hang precariously from the rock face without safety harness or fear
I have huge admiration for the plants who appear to be oblivious to the eminent hostility of their location.
Nestled in crevices
Holding fast to walls
With tiny seed heads capable of surviving the harshest conditions.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Time well spent

I am not a naturally tidy person. That isn't to say that I don't like stuff organised. In fact living with children has left me craving neatness. It is quite astonishing how a small person can destroy a house that has taken all day to tidy in a matter of minutes. But seriously do we actually have time to fritter away our precious life on housework. Last week I went to Josie's assembly and the headmaster told us that we'd blink and it would be their leavers' assembly. I don't want to blink and her last year in primary school to have vanished. I often worry whilst hanging out the laundry that time is slipping away, second by second, sock by sock. And there's the dilemma, how can I keep and tidy home and not waste my opportunities to make life memorable instead of dust-free.

I'd like to say that the photo above is a representation of how I normally layout my new projects but it isn't. I usually get so excited about my ideas that I just dive head first into them surrounded by mess and chaos. So I decided to tiny a little and lay everything out clearly ordered for Charlie's new quilt. I did wonder whether I should have been spending so much of my day off enjoying myself cutting and sewing fabric but thought that in years to come it will be there quilt that Charlie remembers and cherishes not a well kept ordered home.