Venice, palazzos, pizzas and more

Our recent trip to Venice was very interesting, and not just for all the usual reasons such as the stunning scenery and the delicious food. Yes, there was all that in abundance, however there was also a chance to think about the city in its modern context, not just as a fascinating historical city.

One of the things that I remember seeing in lockdown was photos of dolphins swimming in clear waters in the canals of Venice as the tourists were not there, and consequently there was not the constant traffic of vaporettos, water taxis, ferries and gondolas.

The Grand Canal is amazing, and I loved looking at all of palazzos as we passed and wondering about all the people who had built them and lived in them over the centuries.

Venice is one of the most visited cities in the world, with over 25 million individual visits in 2019 and the pandemic and the restarting of travel has prompted Venetians and others to try and think differently about the city.

There are around 250,000 residents in the greater Venice area and only 55,000 who live on the main island. The population is shrinking by around a thousand a year, partly because properties get sold for tourist purposes rather than being affordable for locals.

I was glad that we had already planned lots of the things that are recommended to make travel there more sustainable. We were staying for a week, when many visits to the city are for just a day, especially from people on cruises.

That makes the central areas, such as St Mark’s Square above, very crowded, and also does not benefit the whole of the city as much. One of the arguments for tourism is always the economic benefit that it brings so I was pleased that we had the chance to visit the more outlying parts of the lagoon in our time there.

I knew that Venice was in danger of degrading, but had not really considered what I as a visitor could do about it. However reading information left at the apartment, and later some websites and books about Venice, made me think about my trip in a different way. I travel not just to look at wonderful things, but also to learn about the places that I visit, and this holiday really made me think.

We also stayed on the outskirts of the main island, a decision made out of practicality for us, as I remember the difficulty of finding our hotel last time, but one which is recommended by those who are trying to save Venice from becoming overloaded.

We had the most gorgeous apartment, Apartment Ganeo, in an area called Sant Elena, situated in a beautiful and quiet wooded area, but still on the main No 1 vaporetto route.

That meant that we could use the local facilities there such as the little shops, and three excellent restaurants and bars minutes from our apartment, that served the most delicious pizzas. I can heartily recommend Vincent Bar for the food, hospitality and the view, as we also got to enjoy some amazing sunsets over the Grand Canal.

We also got a chance to see some of what real life was like for the residents of Venice. Being in a more normal part of Venice, where we were finding out about how the rubbish is collected, (door to door each morning and you sort your recyclables before collection), really makes you think about your individual impact as a tourist.

I came across this book in one of the museums and downloaded the Kindle version when I got back. Reading something like this makes you think far more about the impact of mass tourism, especially in such a small city. I love to travel, obviously, and live in an area of a country famous for mass tourism, so it is good for me to think about what I do, both here and when I go away, so that my travel can be as beneficial as possible for everyone.

I have also ordered Jan Morris’ book about the history of Venice to read, which will be waiting for me when I return to the UK.

One of the things that we did was buy a museum pass, and that meant that we visited museums that we not have otherwise, as there were eleven included. This meant we visited some of the smaller, and less well know ones, as well as the wonderful Doges’ Palace pictured below.

That gave us a really good sense of the history of Venice in many different aspects, as well as the chance to admire some truly splendid ceilings, such as these in the Correr Museum!

On the top floor of the modern art gallery in Ca’ Pesaro is the Museum of Oriental Art , there was an amazing collection of Asian weapons, art and lacquerware. It was fascinating to see this, especially having just visited Japan.

I will share some more of the museums in a future post as there were some really exciting textile finds, as well as wonderful medieval art and maps in the Correr Museum.

I appreciate that by visiting Venice I may be considered part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. However I was glad to know that my impact might have been more beneficial than other types of stay. It is good to be aware of these aspects and was something that I will definitely apply to my future travels.

My friends who were visiting me in Spain have now all left. I have had a brilliant ten days and despite dire forecasts the weather was fine most of the time. It is a really hot day today, so I am getting all of my washing dried and planning an afternoon sewing quilt blocks, possibly followed by another trip to the pool if the forecast rain does not appear this afternoon.

I hope that you have had a lovely week, and are enjoying sunny weather and the Bank Holiday if you are in the UK. Whatever you are doing enjoy it, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Micro camper heaven

There are many things that I knew the Japanese were famous for. I had already heard from Jake about the wonderful convenience stores, I knew that the toilets were very futuristic, and that the metro system was clean, efficient and well organised.

I did know a little bit about campervans in Japan, as two of my favourite bloggers Travel Beans, and Kinging It, have been there recently and hired campers.

However, I was not expecting to actually see any while we were there. I did see so many of the cute little cars that lots of people have in the city. I took some pictures of these in the car park when we went to our woodland walk in Kamakura. How cute are they?

I kept saying to my children that they would make great campers, and we did actually come across this gorgeous pink camper with a cute vintage front grille in the village at the start of the walk.

Then we were on our way to a lovely park during one of our explorations of the outer areas of Tokyo and came across an outdoor exhibition full of campers!

I was in heaven. I admit to being slightly, (very?), obsessed with campervans, even after years of researching before I got mine, and having the excitement of getting things sorted in her. I am still watching You Tube videos, looking at Facebook posts, and generally geeking out over all types of vans.

These were incredible. The design and workmanship in these little vans was just stunning. This is my all time favourite, just look at all of that beautiful layout, it looks so high quality and comfortable.

I was very impressed by this one, with a roof tent which meant that they could use the rear space for a bath!

Not that I would consider a roof tent for me. Aside from the very high cost, I need to be able to get out at night for trips to the facilities and would probably fall down the ladder, so a tent at ground level is a far better option.

I also saw a lovely couple of very high spec larger vans when we went to visit a shopping centre. These are similar size to the new VW vans but are much better kitted out inside. This one even had a microwave.

These cost around £25,000. So when I win the lottery I am going to go back to Japan, buy one of these, travel around for a few months, then have it shipped back to the UK. Conveniently they drive on the left as well.

We were at the shopping centre to see another of the marvels of Japanese culture, not a campervan, but a giant robot. These are called Gundam, there are four large versions of these in Japan and China. They come from an animated series which has been around since 1979.

This one is 40 feet high and every hour lights up and moves a little, which is very impressive. It looks brilliant at night as well.

This one is called the Unicorn Gundum, due to the horn, and within the shopping centre is one of the main Gundam model stores, with hundreds of versions of these.

You buy most in kit form, and they have areas where you can go and build your kit with help from the staff. Jake has had many of these in his time, and when he got to Japan one of the first things he did was go and visit this giant one.

Oh and the toilets, they are amazing as well. Combining toilet and bidet, with most having a privacy noise selection as well, so that you can have sounds of running water and birdsong while you use it, they have more controls than most washing machines. That is another thing that I am buying when I win the lottery 😉

I hope that you have had a good couple of weeks. I have had a very lovely time with my friend Sharon, from Marsden, visiting. We have been on some great coach trips and over on the boat to Tabarca. This is a tiny island off the coast that I have posted about before.

Unfortunately the weather here is very unseasonably wet at the moment, and I have another friend arriving today, so we may not be able to do all that we planned. We are actually forecast rain for a whole week, which is unheard of in May 😦 However this friend, Sue, spends her time living between Yorkshire and Scotland, so is used to a bit of the wet stuff!

I will be back next week when I can share with you some of the photos from my recent birthday trip with Mum. We went to Venice, which was brilliant. We have both been before, just for a day, and loved the chance to explore more. There were many gorgeous textiles there, including a whole museum devoted to lace!

See you all soon then and have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Precision cutting …. and sewing and pressing!

There is nothing like working on your quilt block skills to really develop your attention to detail. Never has the phrase, ‘measure twice, cut once’, been more appropriate.

As I mentioned in my last post I have set various targets for myself for this 90 day period in Spain, and I am thankfully ahead of myself so far. I am just waiting for some wadding for my lap quilt, then I can start on the hand quilting, so thought that I would spend a little more time making blocks for a future quilt.

I still had 8 blocks left from 2020, when I did the Riley Blake block a week challenge, so I have gone back to the site and am making additional ones, using both the designs that I have already made, and some new ones.

It is brilliant that the resource is still available, as are the challenges from 2021 and 2022. Thanks to all the designers that host the tutorials on their blogs, the help is much appreciated!

I first made some scrappy Churn Dash blocks as I have so many small scraps of Liberty left from other projects. I also love making this block and it is really easy to turn it into a scrappy one. I first tried this after seeing a tutorial from Crazy Mom Quilts and it is so effective.

The second block made this weekend is the Sawtooth Star Block, I used this really clear tutorial from Amy Smart from Diary of a Quilter. She has a really helpful printable chart showing how to make the block in multiple sizes as well. I have made this one before as well, but have no idea where these blocks went, they may well turn up sometime!

This time at least, my points were fairly accurate so I am very pleased. I really love these blocks, they are just so pretty!

I have now got 12 blocks made, my aim is 42 for quilt topper for my double bed. I am putting no time limit on this, I will just make blocks as and when I have the time and the inclination. The plan will be to sash them all with Liberty, thus using up more of my scraps.

I am very proud of myself for making these, at one time I never thought that I would be able to make, and actually enjoy the process of making, anything as complex as these.

After my friends have gone I will be getting on with the last two things on the list, the medieval dress, and a bear and blanket made from the Moses basket cover I made for my great niece, Willow, who celebrated her first birthday last weekend.

I also have a pair of knitted reindeer nearly finished, for a friend here who didn’t win the ones I made at Christmas. Then it will be time to set some new goals for my summer crafting! This will include at least one of Julie of Little Cotton Rabbit’s new pattern, which is a horse with a unicorn option, so excited!

I will see you all again in a couple of weeks, until then have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

The beauty of Spring

We were lucky enough to be in Japan during spring, landing in fact when the cherry blossoms were at their peak. This time of year is very significant in Japanese culture, not only are there drinks, ice cream and cakes flavoured with the ‘sakura’ or blossom, but also the season has a spiritual significance, signifying the new year.

This is very much reflected in art and we saw some beautiful examples of art and textiles honouring nature and blooms at the Tokyo National Museum. The museum is located in Ueno Park, which is one of the main places that the Japanese visit to see the blossoms and the exhibits are themed seasonally.

There were some stunning robes on display here. We had seen an exhibition about the kimono in New York, which looked at how it has influenced Western fashion, and how Japanese fashion changed in the early 20th century as more Western fashion began to be worn.

So it was brilliant to see the different types of kimono, from the early kosode seen here in the red and gold embroidered examples from the Edo period of the early 1600s above, to the later furisode below which is dyed using the shibori technique. You can read more about the history of the kimono here in this article by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

What is also very interesting is the parallels with costume in Europe at this time, the long sleeves of this kimono signified an unmarried women.

Similar long sleeves with yards of excess fabric are common in medieval dress, signifying in this case that you have the wealth to afford excess material and servants to do the menial tasks.

There was also legislation banning excessively decorated kimonos, as there was legislation about who should wear certain colours and fabrics in medieval Europe, the sumptuary laws.

The garments are stunning in the sheer amount of embroidery and goldwork on them. This peacock was one of my favourites, the work that has gone into this is amazing.

There were also many examples of delicate art and calligraphy, all framed with silks and brocade.

The museum itself was a very gorgeous building, full of decorative doors and lamps, it dates from the early 1930s. As with many of Tokyo’s buildings, an earlier one was destroyed in an earthquake.

A really beautiful collection and I loved seeing all the detail of the gowns. Sadly the other museum we wanted to visit, covering the Edo period, was closed for refurbishment, so this was our only museum trip while in Japan.

I only have one more post for you about the Japan trip and that covers something that I didn’t really expect to find, but was great fun! More on that later. I have friends coming to stay for the next two weeks so I will be out and about with them, showing them what Spain has to offer.

I will pop back later in the week as I have been hard at work in the craft space. I am actually ahead of myself in terms of targets for this block of time here so have been spending some time with my machine. More of that next time, meanwhile, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Developing my skills

One of the great things about having a blog, aside from all the lovely new people I meet through it, is that I can track progress of my skills. I had a lovely afternoon yesterday, finishing off the quilt top for Katy. I am so pleased with the end result, which overall has taken about 3 years.

I first started developing my skills with quilt blocks about 5 years ago, and made many for pouches and bags for friends, or that that were sold at my friend Sarah’s stall at Yarndale each year.

I have some particular favourite blocks from those makes, including the Churn Dash block, that I made so many versions of including this scrappy one.

A major leap in my skills came about 3 years ago, at the start of lockdown, when I was doing the Riley Blake Challenge to make a different block each week. I ended up with a really good selection of blocks.

It is very interesting to read those post, not only talking about developing my skills, but also looking back on how I felt at that time. It is very heart warming to think that 3 years on we have been able to return to almost normal, and have the precious freedom to travel, and more importantly spend time with friends and family.

Every year at this point I like to reflect on what was a very low point for me, after the first few weeks of isolation, when I just had to leave the house and have some human contact. Although making quilt blocks was brilliant, it was so nice to see other people again!

I am celebrating that anniversary today in my beautiful little house in Spain, still working on quilt blocks but with a very happy heart, especially after the last wonderful few months of travel!

During that challenge I learnt so many new skills, and made lots of blocks that I had only ever heard of. At the time I wasn’t quite sure what I would do with the collection. Last year I finally decided to use some of them for a lap quilt for the van, adding some blocks with embroidery to some of the Riley Blake ones. This was the progress in January.

I was debating whether to add a scrappy border after I had finished the white sashing and I am so glad that I did, it really adds to the overall effect and you can never have too much Liberty, at least not in my world 😉

I really love all of the blocks, though I think that the ones with the embroidery left over from making the tablecloth jacket are a particular favourite.

The task now is to hand quilt it, once I have got hold of some batting. I am hoping one of the local craft stores might have some, but if not will have to resort to Amazon. I am planning some hand quilting in perle thread so that it will tone in with the mandala and embroideries that are currently in Katy.

I don’t think that I have shown you the cute new tin that I got for her as well. I am collecting campervan and caravan themed tins and decorations for her as well.

Riley Blake have another challenge for this year and you can find all of the patterns here. I have been admiring people’s creations on Instagram, and although I do have other projects to focus on will definitely be making some more blocks to join the ones I have left.

I hope you are having a happy Monday, and enjoying the extra Bank Holiday if you are in the UK. I will be back later in the week with some lovely Japanese textiles for you. Until then have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Disney Days

One of the highlights of the Japan trip was our two days at Disneyland. Our family are huge Disney fans and one of my travel goals is to visit all of the parks. I have so far been to Paris, Florida and Hong Kong, so this was something that I was really looking forward to.

We went to the main Disney park on Ellen’s birthday. This was the trip that was planned for her 29th but finally happened on her 32nd so you can imagine how excited she was.

Even though it is very much the same as the other parks in terms of the layout and the rides we still love it. The attention to detail is amazing throughout the park and there were some slightly different things.

One of the immediate differences is that the Main Street area is covered as Tokyo has a lot of rain. There is also a beautiful New Orleans area with some stunning iron work balconies.

The iconic castle, and the Fantasyland area behind it are just beautiful, and so pristine given that the park is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Jake and Ellen love rollercoasters but I don’t so I spent some time on some of the gentler rides such as the steamboat while they did the thrill rides. I just love all the scenery that they have created and never get tired of looking at details such as the geysers.

We did also do old family favourites, such as Star Tours, and I went on Small World, which I love and the children hate. The little dolls are so cute and the costumes all stunning.

A few days later we returned to the Disney Sea park, which I was really looking forward to as it is unique to Disneyland Tokyo. It has its own Mickey themed monorail to get to the park from the main railway station which was cute.

The park did not disappoint and we loved the creation of all the new areas. This beautiful globe is at the main entrance. I love globes and this one was just wonderful.

Our first exploration was the Mediterranean seafront with its beautiful recreation of Venetian architecture around the gondola ride.

The American Waterfront is also very impressive, including a full size ocean liner and lots of cute shops and food areas.

From there we caught one of the trains round to Part Discovery, which is one of the more futuristic areas. Here we went on several rides, including the amazing Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

This is based on the Jules Verne novel and I really wanted to go on it, despite the fact that it is a roller coaster inside a volcano. I was very brave and survived it, despite it being scary at points.

One of my favourite areas was the Arabian waterfront, first seen from one of the many boats rides available, and that was stunning.

Although there are only a few of the smaller rides here the architecture is just so gorgeous, and again the attention to detail is superb.

The final area was a visit to one of Ellen’s childhood favourites, the Little Mermaid area. Above ground is beautiful, with sea inspired architecture with beautiful ceramics and mosaics.

When you enter you find a whole under the sea area which is just magical.

Of course we had to have a go on the Jumping Jellyfish ride!

A wonderful couple of days, we were also so lucky with the weather as we had to book tickets for specific days. It was very reasonably priced as well, at £54 per day for the adult ticket, which when you consider the cost of theme parks generally is very good value. Thanks to my lovely Mum for treating us all to this bit of the holiday, we had such a brilliant time.

I have a couple more things to show you from the Japan trip and then I will tell you all about my Mum’s birthday trip this year. One of my goals for retirement was to be able to spend much more time travelling with Mum, and we made it outside Spain this time.

We are now planning further adventures for later in the year together as she has some hospital treatment coming up so we won’t be going away until that is finished.

It is another lovely day here, despite a damp start. I have had a busy weekend going out with Mum and friends, so am planning to spend the afternoon working on my Liberty quilt, and then maybe have a quick bike ride. Hope that you are all enjoying life whatever you are doing. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Small Spring fashions

Twice a year our local foodbank charity here in Spain has a fashion show using the clothes that they have had donated to the shop. They always have a fantastic selection of clothes and the show is brilliant. Last year the bridal section had some wonderful things, with some beautiful vintage pieces from the 1980s and 90s. I think people probably declutter once they move here so they get rid of things they have been hanging onto for a while.

I decided that I would do a Barbie clothes fundraiser this time, previous ones have been a Luna rabbit for the Jubilee last year, and a pair of reindeer for the Christmas Craft Fair at the charity.

The doll that I have used for this set of clothes is one that I got in a bundle from Etsy. I wanted a more Spanish looking doll, and so I was lucky enough to win a bundle with this doll and four others, including another darker skinned one.

Here she is in her basket with five extra outfits.

I was originally going to do just do fabric clothes, however I did a lot of knitting of little dresses while I was away, and when I tried them on the doll thought that they looked really cute. I also thought that they would be easier to get on and off for small fingers.

The knitted dresses are from my favourite Little Cotton Rabbits, Julie is an amazing designer and I particularly love these dresses. I have knitted nearly all of them now and they are so easy to do. The pattern is the Textured Dresses one and can be found here. I have also got a few more in stock now for future knitted animals.

I did add an extra four rows after the textured section to make them long enough in the body, but otherwise just followed the pattern. The dresses are knitted from the bottom up so it is easy to alter the length.

I think they look brilliant and love the colours together. The textures make them extra special and are really simple to do.

They are just sewn up at the back to just above waist height and fastened with a button. The rest of the outfits have velcro as well for ease.

I decided to make fabric dresses in the same colours as the knitted ones as I already had the pink one above made. This one is made from a charity shop skirt for the bottom half, and stash fabric for the bodice. I love collecting small scale prints from charity shop stock and have lots in the stash for future outfits.

I also had this turquoise one made but redid the skirt as I wanted things in varying lengths. The bottom of the dress was part of an old skirt of mine so I could use the tiers and the hem. This was a really quick make.

The lilac one took the longest, mainly because of the need to fit the dress. This is a pattern that I have made many times before. It is a vintage Barbie one from GailsDollEPatterns on Etsy. She has a fantastic selection for all types of dolls, and this one is a vintage Simplicity Pattern from the 1960s.

The doll is one of the diversity range, with wider hips and a smaller chest, hence the fiddly fitting, as the vintage patterns were designed for the original dolls. The thing I have found is that even the non- diverse dolls vary so much in their shapes that it is definitely not one size fits all.

I am very pleased with the overall set and hopefully they will find a happy home next week. Then it will be continuing with more couture outfits, inspired by all of the wonderful blogs and Instagram posts that I have seen over the years.

I have just made the swing coat pictured on the pattern in a dark jade green silk with some of the ribbon stash from New York, and am also making another version of this dress in the green silk and cream brocade.

I will be using some more of the New York stash, here is a peak at three of the bundles that I got while I was away, including some beautiful stitching threads from Japan. I have the middle fabric and tulle in a lilac and a pink colourway.

I also need to work on the Liberty lap quilt, I have to take that back with me in July, along with a gift for Willow and hopefully a new peasant dress for re-enactment, (that I only started about 5 years ago!). I just couldn’t find my mojo during the Covid years when there were no events and last year was too busy finishing a Steampunk jacket and hat. You never know it might get done for this year 😉

I hope that you all have a lovely weekend ahead and enjoy the extra Bank Holiday if you are in the UK. I will be back next week with more of Japan. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Rural Japan, temples and bamboo

Much as Tokyo city was very interesting, it was the two trips that we took out to more rural areas that were the most fascinating. We were lucky to have our excellent tour guide, Jake, who knew all the best places to explore, and that meant we saw a lot more of Japan than we would have done on our own.

One of the side effects of him living there though the pandemic has been that he has done lots of visiting rural places, such as temples, shrines and going on mountain hikes, as much of the city was closed during that period and he wanted to avoid crowds.

Our first visit was to Japan’s ancient capital, Kamakura. We went on the train for this which was brilliant, I love train journeys and it was fascinating to see the extent of the city of Tokyo. We got off at a station not far from Kamakura and went on a hiking trail from the small village.

This meant that we got to visit a couple of small shrines and see lots of the forest.

I was fascinated by the wild bamboo and very excited to see a Japanese squirrel!

Ellen always laughs at me when I see squirrels as there were so many of them at her last National Trust job at Clumber Park so she saw them every day. I love them and am now happy to say that I have seen four types of squirrels on three continents. We saw some very fat grey squirrels in Central Park in New York and I have posted previously about the lovely little dark squirrels that we have here in La Marina.

The hiking trail took us up to the top of the area, with brilliant views over to the sea. The photos in no way do it justice and it was so wonderful to see all of the flora around.

At the summit there is a beautiful park, and then when we came down the other side we visited the Great Buddha that I have previously posted about. The trail was a little muddy at times and there were some very steep bits but it was brilliant fun.

Our other rural trip was by coach to see Mount Fuji! Jake had done this trip before but sadly it was misty that day and he didn’t get a good view but we were really blessed and got great views. I was very pleased that we could see it so clearly from the coach.

It was a really interesting trip as well, seeing the beautiful hills and mountains covered in blossom trees and the rural towns and villages.

We went to one of the five lakes surrounding the mountain, Lake Kawaguchiko, which is a very popular tourist spot with lots of hotels and boat trips.

The views were beautiful, not only of Mount Fuji, but also across the lake itself and I amused myself taking arty pictures through the trees.

By the time we were leaving the clouds at top had cleared and we were able to see the peak, which was extremely exciting.

I am so pleased that we got to explore so much of Japan. We will hopefully go back in a couple of years and explore more of the country. Now things are fully open Jake is keen to travel a bit further.

His last visa renewal was for three years, so fingers crossed he has another couple of years of exploration, and hopefully more as he would like to stay there as long as he can. I am so pleased that my children love travel as much as I do, and so proud of them for making their own exciting lives.

I have finished all of the Barbie collection of clothes so will post about that next. The fundraiser is next week, hopefully it will be popular and raise lots of money. I am having a quiet few weeks here trying to get some of my crafting to do list done before I have friends come to stay with me, which will be fun, the first ones since my retirement.

I hope that you have a good week ahead. It is getting quite warm here now so although I have done a couple of short bike rides, I am visiting the pool today. Whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.