Adventures in linocut

Block printing is something I have been interested in for ages but taking the plunge to actually buy some kit was a big step. Finally with my birthday money this year I invested in some essentials. There is so much choice out there. maze and vale

If I lived in Australia I would have definitely gone for this Maze and Vale kit. I got my stuff from Intaglio Printmaker, which happened to be right round the corner from where I was staying in Borough, London. They have really knowledgeable staff who don’t mind spending time to advise novices like me! I might do a post on what you need to get started later.

I started off printing with acrylic paint which isnt the right stuff. It gave the blurred image below. 2015-05-04 16.44.43

I recently got myself some proper printing ink and had a go today at printing my first linocut image. Here are the results.



Run baby, run

If you were to ask if I am a runner the answer is a definite no. I was the one puffing at the back of the dreaded cross country course we were forced into as teenagers. My love of running was not helped by the ignominy of having to wear blue gym knickers, in the middle of winter as we traipsed across the Lancaster countryside. Over the years I have occasionally dusted off my running shoes and pounded the tarmac, namely in the pretense of pleasing boyfriend of the time. Never more than 5km though. That was my limit.

I would describe myself as a walker with attitude who likes a challenge. So how did I find myself completing a half marathon last week and loving it? It wasn’t just any old run, it was The two oceans marathon, billed as the world’s most beautiful marathon and in a place that was on my short list of holiday destinations. So when my friends dropped out and offered us their places I didn’t hesitate too long before signing up.

Two Oceans Marathon

Here’s my quick list of what I did and what I didn’t do…..

  • Got together a training plan. I hadn’t run much more than 5km so working up to 21km was a bit of a challenge especially as I had 7 weeks. This plan worked for me.
  • Got myself a running buddy. Mainly my husband who gallantly ran at my pace even on race day. Other friends also supported along the way with my training runs.
  • Did other cross training stuff like yoga and swimming.
  •  Put my runs into an online programme

What I didn’t do

  • Change my diet. Carb load or low carb diet whatever is the trend now.
  • Get a fancy watch to track my running pace
  • Obsess over the schedule. Sometimes I skipped sessions
  • Take any diet supplements.

I don’t have any ground breaking tips but it’s true that on the day the atmosphere just spurs you on. The kilometers just sped by as I jogged along in a sea of humanity. I did my fair share of people watching, amazed at all the shapes and sizes and ages taking part.  What got me up one of the massive hills was focusing on a rather large, pink Lycra wrapped bottom. Whatever it takes.

So watch out all you non runners out there, you might find yourself signed up to run a marathon!

Christmas is coming

I’m getting really excited about Christmas. It was the Christmas Trust Fair at the weekend, full of great vendors such as Mango Patch which is an amazing textile company supporting single mums and Kamili Designs where I volunteer once a week. I got to help out on Kamili’s stall which was a great experience.

The Nairobi Music Society also held their Christmas concert where I had the privilege in joining the violins to blast out some great festive songs!

We have only got a few more days before heading to the UK for Christmas but I couldn’t resist putting up my “tree”. It was a bit of a variation on last years twigs and Im really pleased with how it turned out. IMG_0006 IMG_0001 IMG_0002

In the pink

What does one take to a Hen party in Kenya?! With limited retail outlets here to buy sexy undies or novelty toys I had to resort to a homemade present. I did toy with the idea of making a lacy garter but my recent baking obsession, inspired by Great British bake off, promoted me to make lingerie biscuits. Here are the results of my afternoons work!!

Shortbread just out of the oven

Shortbread just out of the oven

Outline done in thick royal icing

Outline done in thick royal icing

Icing "flooded" over biscuits

Icing “flooded” over biscuits

Displayed on pink tissue paper

Displayed on pink tissue paper

Hope there are not too many blushes when I give them to the bride to be!!

Wrapped up in glass paper and ready to go.

Wrapped up and ready to go.

I forgot to say that I had to improvise a homemade biscuit cutter from a tin. I just cut out both ends with a tin opener and then squished it into a a kind of heart shape!

Make a biscuit cutter out of a tin

Make a biscuit cutter out of a tin

What happens when hubby is out of town

Im not going to say I enjoy it when my husband is travelling but life is certainly different. Here are some of the things that have happened since he’s been gone.

Husband away

  • Left the door unlocked (by mistake)
  • Invited myself for a sleep over at a friends
  • Spent the whole afternoon making jewelry
  • Avoided supermarket shopping completely
  • Forgot to put fuel in the car
  • Eaten at random times
  • Watched a film in the bath on my laptop
  • Spontaneously had lunch with a friend
  • Stayed up late (er hem its now 00:50!!)
  • Had a girls night watching a film
  • Signed up to an online course on complexity!!
  • Missed the early morning running group……..twice!
  • Chatted on skype with distant friends
  • Haven’t used the teapot (its now got ants living in it!)
  • Caught up with girlie series and cried openly at every poignant moment
  • Planned all the things Im going to do when my husband gets back

How to make a washbag

As well as travelling to war torn countries I like to make stuff. The place where I volunteer (Kamili fabric printers) are looking for something to make with their new print. Its a quirky black and white design – think retro, bookish traveler. I thought it would be good as a washbag for guys. The next job is to show the sewing team how to make it so Ive prepared the instructions below. I thought I would share them here in case you fancied making one. Its really easy.  

 IMG_0006 You need

2 pieces of material 32cm x 36cm

32 cm zip

Rotary cutter/scissors

Set square (optional)


IMG_0007Line up the long edge of your material with the edge of your zip. Right sides together. Pin and sew. Repeat for the other piece of material – right sides together pin and sew. 









IMG_0008When you lay out your pieces it should look like this.

Wash 3Fold the material over, right sides together then sew along the bottom long edge

wash 4Now the bottom is sewed closed open up the zip part way then fold the fabric out so that the zip is running down the middle and stitch the bottom seam closed.





wash 6You can add a handle if you like. Stitch the top seam closed.






wash 7Now to make the wash bag a square shape you need to pinch the corners and measure 12 cm. Mark the line with pencil.





wash 8





You can use a quilting ruler to make sure the line is 90O to the seam.


wash 9


Repeat on each corner. After stitching trim off the excess material.





wash 10Turn the wash bag right side out and you have your finished article



Back in Congo


Im back in DRC after 11 years. The place where I met my husband. The place where I cut my teeth in the humanitarian sector. The place where I experienced the greatest atrocities but saw the hugest smiles. Here are some of the things that have taken up my time over the last few days.

– Pondering if one of the most dangerous volcanoes on earth might chose its moment to spew its guts this week. 

– Bumping over the lava encrusted roads from the violent eruption in 2002.

– Running a workshop on behaviour change and WASH. Or how our reptilian brains can be motivated to use soap! 

– Training to climb Mt Kenya by doing the 7 minute challenge twice a day

– Catching up with old friends at Lake Kivu Lodge. Feels like you could be in Lake Geneva rather than the conflict prone Eastern Congo.Le chalet Goma

– Watching Out of Africa but wishing I had a copy of Gorillas in the mist

– Being amazed at the range of restaurants available

– Being perplexed at this stunningly beautiful location that has been ravaged by 20 years of conflict 

Main street in Goma

Main street in Goma

Im looking forward to next weeks adventures when I will be visiting some of the surrounding villages where we are working for our project.

If you want some background about the place, take a look at this great article on Goma.