Thursday, 12 June 2014

Meditation - dealing with cancer

This blog is unusual as it isn't about beads.  It is a bit of my back history... and a bit about my current situation.  I've written this blog for Womb Cancer Support UK, who are interested in people who use meditation to cope with cancer.

Womb cancer and endometrial cancer are massively ignored in the media - it's the fourth most common cancer in women in the UK - yet it is overlooked. 

I was diagnosed with early stage 1 endometrial cancer last year in April.  I was 33 at the time, and it was a complete shock.  I’d noticed a dramatic change in my periods, and was in a fair bit of pain, so I went to see my GP.  She referred me to the hospital for an ultrasound, which showed a thickening of the lining of my womb.  I then went on to have a diagnostic hysteroscopy – a camera being put into my womb through my cervix; which showed a growth, which looked like a typical polyp (according to the doctor).  I had the poly removed; but to my horror it was full of pre-cancerous cells and some stage one cancer cells.

My consultant decided the best way to treat it was hormone treatment – which was very difficult, as it put me in a medically induced menopause.  Following the treatment, I had another hysteroscopy and biopsy, which showed abnormalities and pre-cancerous cells; which was devastating.  I felt like the sky was coming in.  I got the results the day before my 34th birthday.

Even though my husband and I had only been married for five months at the time of the second biopsy, and would dearly have loved to have children, we decided that having a hysterectomy would be the best course of action. My consultant agreed that it was a reasonable course of action, and I had a total hysterectomy (removal of womb and cervix only – I still have my ovaries) on 19th May this year.

As part of my recovery plan, I’ve taken up mindfulness meditation.  A friend of mine is a practitioner of mindfulness meditation, and she took me through the basics, and I found it to be very calming and relaxing.  Knowing that my recovery would be a long, slow, probably painful process, I thought that it would be a good thing to take up. 

Mindfulness is all about experiencing what is happening at the moment – how you feel, what is going on around you etc.  It helps you to stop worrying about the future, focussing on the past, and is very stilling and grounding.  I have been using the audio tracks available on the internet, and found them to be very helpful.  The tracks I listen to are from the UCLC Mindfulness Awareness Research Centre (  There are different tracks for different circumstances, basic breathing meditation, full meditation tracks, mindfulness for dealing with difficulties (which is very useful for helping deal with pain) and my personal favourite – a body scan to prepare you for sleep.

After major surgery, it is very important to be kind to yourself, and mindfulness helps a lot with that.  Insomnia is common, so being able to relax and unwind to help with sleep is invaluable.  Although it’s very early days for me, I know I will carry on with practicing mindfulness, meditating and giving myself the time and kindness required to recover fully.  

Monday, 9 June 2014

Competitive Art

It's the time of year for The Battle of the Beadsmith... and also the winners of Bead Dreams have been announced.  It makes me think about the idea of competitive beading, and competitive art in general.  

Art is defined as "the expression or application of human creative skill or imagination typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power".

No-where in that definition does it mention quality, judgement of one piece of work as being 'better' than another or classification of championship.  I've never really understood art competitions, and the idea of entering one seems odd to me.  Who are the judges to say that my work is better than someone else's or vice versa?  How do you even begin to critique such different pieces of art?

In the summer last year, I started a beading challenge run by Stitchncraft, my local(ish) bead shop.  It's a four-seasons challenge, so a piece of beadwork has to be made for each season - and specific beads and colour-schemes are provided which have to be included in each season.  The summer piece has to be a necklace, autumn is a bracelet, winter is a sculptural piece and spring is a free choice.  

I can't show you the progress I've made on any of these pieces, as judging is supposed to be anonymous, sorry about that.  I feel very odd beading, knowing that I am going to be judged on what I do, and that I am in effect 'competing' against my friends. I just don't know how I feel about that.  

I would love to know what your thoughts are about beading competitions, and other art competitions, how you feel about competing against your friends and how you deal with the disappointment or elation of the results.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Feeling the Love

I have always thought that beaders are wonderful people.  Since discovering beading in 2007, and making friends with other beaders on facebook I have made some wonderful friends.
I've gone on holiday with people I've only met online, and come away with friends who will be close to me and have a special place in my heart for life.
This last year has been tough, and the support that I've been given by all of my friends, particularly my beading friends has been invaluable.

Yesterday, I received the most amazing gift in the post from a group of friends, showing me their support and love for me.  It has completely blown me away.  Twenty ladies have spent their time, money and creativity to make this beautiful piece of art... some of whom I've never met!  The fact that they care enough to contribute to this is just staggering.

So, here it is... the beautiful picture, showing people's love - for me! 

I've put the names of the beaders next to the hearts they've made - a couple of people have contributed two hearts.

To name check the wonderful people who contributed to this... because they deserve to have their talent shown off, and their kindness and generosity shouted from the rooftops.
In no particular order:

Michelle Knight, Lynda Harrison-Twells, Jenny Argyle, Nicole Stanley, Gemma Andrews, Lorraine Imasogie, Nancy Dale, Vickie Christian, Carol Paris, Ruth Duck, Karen Jones, Elise Freedman, Shirley Campbell, Clair Rigby, Dawnn Harris, Donna Sanders, Julie Cowan, Sarah Tucker, Barbara Pearson, Mary Marshall and Ann MacLeod Crisp.

There are so many wonderful people out there and I am very blessed to have these beautiful ladies in my life.  Every day that goes by, I thank God for them and their friendship.

This is a gift that I will keep for ever.  One of those special things that comes along once in a lifetime, and it means the world to me. 

Friday, 30 May 2014

Taking some time out

Well, I don't have much creative to report - or at least, I've not been designing recently - my head hasn't really been in the right place.

About 13 months ago, I was diagnosed with cancer - endometrial cancer (lining of the womb), and on 19th May this year, I had a hysterectomy, as the treatment hadn't been successful.  

This whole situation has made me think more about what I want from life - as the route I had planned (having a family of my own) wasn't open to me any more.  Family wise, I have a niece or nephew on the way in August, so I get to be an auntie, and that will be fantastic; and my husband and I now sponsor a child in Tanzania, so we can help look after someone else's baby.

But the question is, what do I do with the rest of my life?  Although I have a long stint of recovery ahead of me, I have a good job to go back to, and I still have my wonderfully supportive husband by my side, I don't really know what to do past that!

I think the idea of having a completely blank slate in front of me is quite scary... where do I go from here?  I'm still waiting for the results of the tests they'll do on my womb to find out if I need any radio- or chemotherapy, but the thought it is that I won't need it.

It gives me space in my life to pursue my career - do I want to go up the ladder, study, and progress my career, or do I want to follow my creative side, write a book, spend more effort to try to teach beading, and design more?  I don't think I can do both - or at least, not at the same time.

Cancer is scary, it makes you re-evaluate everything.  There are some things I know for sure now though - that I have family and friends who love and support me - more than I ever imagined.  My house is full of flowers and cards, I've had visitors, and been prayed for so much.  I've had so much support - I have no idea how to thank people.

I will be back though - stronger, fitter and better... with more beads, more whimsy, and more rambling; thanks for your patience with this very impatient patient!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Kumihimo Weekend

Well, it's been a wonderful weekend - I've been away at a family wedding.  I'm the kind of person who goes a bit nuts with no creative outlet, so instead of taking my beads with me (which aren't the most portable of crafts), I decided to pack some kumihimo.

I've been making some beaded cross pendants recently, so having handmade cords to hang them from is rather nice.  I've done a little bit of kumihimo in the past, so I was quite happy with what I was doing with an 8-warp braid. I made a couple while I was away, but came home and decided to try something different - a 12 warp braid with a spiral effect.

So, here are my little bits of kumihimo - two standard 8-warp braids and a 12-warp spiral.  You can find the instructions for the 12-warp spiral here.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Herringbone Rope

Usually, I'm not much of a fan of making beaded ropes, I find them repetitive and quite dull if I'm being really honest.  But recently, I've been rather under the weather and the meditative, repetitive action of making a simple beaded rope has been quite welcome.

Instead of making one long piece of rope, I worked on a project from the Bead & Button Stitch Workshop book on Herringbone.  The project I chose was the Link to Creativity Necklace by Shirley Lim.

It's quite an exercise in colour (and patience), choosing the right shades of beads to blend from one colour to the next.

Because I like numbers - I freely admit I'm a bit of a geek, I decided to work out how long a piece of herringbone rope I would have made, if all the little segments were joined together.  There are 32 segments of rope in this necklace, each about 11cm long... which in total gives about a 3.5m rope; so if it was all lined up end to end, it would be about twice as long as I am tall Another thing I realised as part of making this project is that I used a whole reel of One-G thread in it (plus a bit more).  The only other project I've used more than one reel of thread on is the handbag I made for my wedding.

There is one thing I changed from the pattern, and this was how I made the clasp - it's still a beaded toggle clasp, but I attached it in a different way that looked a little sturdier.  All in all, I'm really pleased with how it came out.

So, here are the photos I took of the finished thing!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Beaded Bowls

Bowls full of beads.... or bowls made of beads.  Either is good  with me!
My slight obsession with beads means that I often buy beads when I don't actually *need* them.  Well, who does actually need beads...???

So, I bought some big tubes of bead soup a while ago, I think I ended up with 6 tubes of 24g of miyuki bead soup - just size 11 beads... nothing fancy, but some gorgeous colours.
Quite often I sit down with some beads with no idea what the finished product will be and just 'doodle' with beads (or beadoodle, as I like to call it).

I didn't have a plan when I started off with this, but I ended up with a bowl, looking rather like this!

It's a little flexible, but holds it's shape nicely, with a rolled-edge at the top for stability.  It measures about 7.5cm across at the top.

The bowl is made using a mixture of peyote, netting and right-angle-weave - it's quite a multi-stitch project, but it has been great fun to make.  So much fun in fact, that I made three!!

I'm not sure they actually have much of a practical purpose, due to the holes in them, they're not massively useful for storing beads... but they are quite handy for putting earrings in at the end of the day.

 The earrings in this little bowl are made using bead quilling techniques - the pinky ones are designed by Kathy King, and the golden ones are my design - published in Bead magazine in December.

I plan to write a tutorial for making these cute little bowls... I'd love to hear what you think about them.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Lime Surprise

As a beader, I've always shied away from fringing.  Don't know why - it's just one of those things that I've been fearful of.   In the last few months, I've got over my fear of it.
Another thing I've never done, is make individual bead embroidery elements and link them together... until now!  
Before Christmas, I bought some gorgeous vintage cabochons from a shop called Rosebudlia; she sells a beautiful selection of cabs and other goodies.  I decided to put these cabs to use for another beading first - joining embroidery elements.

I decided that five elements would look best, and surprisingly, I had the right colours in my stash, so this was quite a stash-buster too!

This is what the finished necklace looked like, and here is me wearing it - so you can see how it sits.

It's just my opinion, but when making a piece like this, involving no metal components in the design, the best way to finish it off is to make a beaded clasp.  I love beaded toggle clasps - and the circular motifs in this lend themselves to a toggle clasp.  

 This shows a close-up of the beautiful cabs I used - they reminded me of ammonites, and the little bits of glitter in them give them a bit of sparkle.

One other slightly odd thing about this piece is that I actually used bugles in it.  Usually I don't use them as they are often sharp at the ends and can cause threads to fray and break, but these matte ones are very nice, and they work well in fringing.

I'd love to hear what you think about this latest piece of beading... I'm very excited about it, and I'm looking forward to using this technique more.