I can do this with my eyes closed
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Blind Veterans UK (BVUK), Llandudno 13-17th September 2015 …

“I can do this with my eyes closed …”. Actually, I couldn’t! A couple of members made poppies from cord that I was unable to do without looking. That’s despite having tied dozens of them.

Typical of the dexterity and determination of the folks Barry and I teach at BVUK.

Sure, like any workshop, there was a mix of expectations and abilities. More to the point, this workshop had a mix of disabilities too – not just sight loss, but loss of mobility.Alan

All our students were great company, with many stories to tell, some of which were very disturbing.

Here’s Alan, wearing a poppy that he made. We got to know Alan as “The Trivia King” because of his knowledge of  celebrity gossip! Just the man to have on your side on Quiz night, I reckon. Alan was also extremely patient with us when we were busy with other people. He never complained, just waited until “his turn” came up again – thanks Alan, a pleasure meeting you.

Mary

 

Then there was Mary, a young slip of a lass at 91 years of age. Here she’s wearing a “Paracord Pal” brooch she made.

Mary and Joan, a Scottish lady, became the expert paracord pal and Solomon bar key fob makers. These girls were hard to keep supplied with cord at times.

 

 

Peter and Dave (sorry, no photos of these guys) progressed to making giant poppies and bracelets of various types.

Albert

Albert was a helper/demonstrator, rather than a “student”. Albert is a very established knot tyer, although his sight is now severely restricted.

Here he is, tying yet another Kringle mat around his fingers. He turned up this week with over 120 Kringle mats for the Arts and Crafts Department to sell! He also demonstrated rope making, with the rope making machine he brings every time. Nice to meet up again, Albert.

 

 

Staying for a whole week, we were lucky enough to meet and socialise with members who were on other training courses, or simply having a holiday …

Mark

Mark was brilliant company, along with Isabelle and Jim, his friends. Mark has a t-shirt for every occasion.

We managed to introduce Mark to one of our students, Peter, who teaches self-defence to blind people. Mark showed me a few moves that he learned from Peter, reminding me of the days I studied Aikido. I won’t be messing with Mark or Peter, that’s for sure!

It’s a sad fact that blind people, being vulnerable, are subject to attacks and muggings. There are some despicable low-lifes in our society, unfortunately.

 

Kerry, a blind masseuse, was working at BVUK Thursday and Friday, and it was great catching up with her again. Kerry massaged my head, neck and shoulders on Thursday evening when I had a headache, and the headache disappeared, so she certainly knows what she’s doing! Spirit, her guide dog, is a fabulous fellow, and is due to retire soon – we’ll miss you Spirit. Kerry also proved again what an aptitude she has for knot tying, so I’ll be knocking up some audio instructions for a couple of projects for her, and others who may be interested.

I could write a book about our experiences at BVUK, but I think I’ve gone on long enough now! Thanks to everyone at BVUK for making our week such a memorable one.

Visit http://www.blindveterans.org.uk/

Phil

Gone fishing …
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BVUK_water

Where to start?

For the third year running, my friend Barry and I had a wonderful week at Blind Veterans UK in Llandudno, teaching decorative knots.

braceletWe were reminded just how quickly some blind veterans learn – so much so, it’s becoming more difficult to stop them becoming bored with simple stuff! Everyone loves making dragonflies and zip pulls, but we moved onto bracelets and light pulls with some of them. By the way, a basket was filled with dragonflies and key fobs, ready to sell at the garden party on 28th June. This is something we’ve witnessed before, the members are very keen to help the charity by making things to sell – selfless, generous people throughout, with a real desire to give something back.

When we first tried decorative knotting in Llandudno three years ago, we had three at most at any one time, but word is getting round that knotting is good fun, and this time we had up to eight at a time! Some other veterans who were visiting the centre are now asking about workshops. In fact, we’ve been invited back later this year to hold another one.

fobA special buzz for me was teaching Kerry how to make a key fob using “crowing over two” with six strands. Most folks managed key fobs by “simple” crowning with four strands, and I really believed that crowning over two was extremely ambitious. There are many sighted people who struggle with this, but Kerry mastered it very quickly, supported by her lovely guide dog “Spirit”.

Not just decorative stuff this time, because Barry sorted out new rope and a new system for the three flag poles outside the main building

“What about fishing?”, I hear you ask. Well, Barry and I met some blind fishermen who were there for a week’s fishing. They needed to tie braided line to monofilament, so Barry taught them the “Improved Albright Knot”. Much fun was had trying to make the knot come apart, but it proved impossible (as fingers and pieces of furniture will testify!) I, for one, didn’t realise how technical fishing could be, and it evidently gives one quite a thirst! A very sociable crowd, and we thoroughly enjoyed their company and their stories (and I don’t mean fishy ones).

On Friday, after the workshop finished, even I taught someone a practical knot! Bill needed to learn the “trucker’s hitch” for fastening luggage to a trailer. Don’t worry, Bill assured me he wasn’t doing the driving!

Barry and I feel privileged to be involved with Blind Veterans UK, albeit in only a small way. The talents of members and staff never cease to amaze us. Find out more about the organisation here, they are an awe-inspiring bunch  –
www.blindveterans.org.uk

Thanks to everyone at BVUK Llandudno for a fantastic week!

Braid Society at Westhope Craft College
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College

 

 

A fabulous weekend. Great teachers, great company, and wonderful food throughout the weekend.

 

Double faced weaving on Saturday with Celia – what a revelation for me! No way could I have learned this from a book – thanks Celia!

Numerous options on Sunday for making vessels and pouches with Averil and Julie. Brought some ply-split braiding home to finish.

At times, the silence was deafening as we were all concentrating on our various projects!

Fender Key Fob Workshop
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A very pleasant day was spent teaching a group of ladies from Aldbourne Braids on 12th April.

The subject was fender key fobs, which everyone grasped quite quickly. In fact, we even had time to look at making zip pulls before winding things up.

Berkshire Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers
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Visited the Berkshire Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers to give a talk in January. I was so impressed with the activities that go on there that I’ve decided to join! I have already had help getting started with the Inkle loom I bought last year (but until now never got to grips with).

In 2015 I plan to travel around the UK and “get knotted” in lots of different places. So many places to visit, so little time …

Braid Society “Try It” day
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Attended my first meeting at Aldbourne in December 2014 and was made very welcome. A nice, friendly bunch of people who were so willing to help and share ideas and knowledge. Looking forward to the next meeting!

Knot to be missed …
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October was another enjoyable month.

First of all, the half yearly meeting of the International Guild of Knot Tyers at the Blue Lias Inn in Warwickshire, by The Grand Union Canal. A wonderful venue, and we were very well looked after. Some stayed in local hotels, and some of us camped in our caravans and campervans. Lots of ideas and tricks shared, and I’m particularly grateful to Jeff Wyatt (not for the first time) for teaching me how to tie a globe knot around my fingers.

Then there was the Braid Society AGM weekend, held at Wokefield Park, near Reading (a mere 20 minute drive – what a nice change). A great group of (mainly) ladies, and I made lots of new friends, being relatively new to the Society. There were three workshops held over two days, and I opted to learn some new techniques and ideas using a marudai.

End of the month … preparing November’s newsletter, again with some great ideas from clients and friends.

 

Busy, busy …
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Wow – September was a busy month!

It was great fun catching up with old friends (when I say “old”, obviously I mean “established”!) and it was nice to see my Mum for the first time in months.

I spent a week in Norfolk with Simon and Ros, in the beautiful and welcoming village of Hickling. A couple of boat trips, a visit to a museum, and also a lesson in Kumihimo! Kumihimo is traditionally used for Japanese silk braiding, and although I have used a marudai for braiding larger stuff (to make lanyards and bell ropes typically), I now know how to effectively tie strands to bobbins – thanks Ros!

The weekend of 6th-7th October is the half-yearly meeting of the IGKT (International Guild of Knot Tyers), so I’ll be catching up with more of my old knot tying friends. A short rest then before the AGM of the Braid Society two weeks later, where I hope to make new friends and learn lots at the workshops being held.

After that? Well, Christmas fast approaches …

Phil

 

“Can do”
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My friend Barry and I have just spent a week at Blind Veterans UK (BVUK) in Llandudno, teaching visually impaired veterans how to tie decorative knots. Yet again, just like last year, the guys and gals there demonstrated how determined and resourceful they were, and the members kept us on our toes by picking things up so quickly!

Dragonflies, solomon bars and key fobs were just a few projects we covered. After a couple of days, some of our visually impaired “students” were even teaching others – now there’s an achievement worthy of note!

We found it quite ironic being thanked by everyone for helping out. Little did they realise just how much Barry and I gained from the experience. We were treated like royalty, and I for one came away with a very positive attitude and renewed enthusiasm.

Some members (not “patients”, not “clients” – members) not only suffer sight loss, but many also have to live with other disabilities, making their achievements even more remarkable.

Although Barry and I were there to teach knotting, the Arts and Crafts Centre is full of fabulous works of art produced by the members, none of which would be out of place in the better known galleries. I particularly like the mosaics being produced. Many young, able-bodied, sighted people would consider these items beyond their abilities, but if they could only witness what the BVUK members are capable of they would realise what is possible with the “can do” attitude of our veterans.

As well as the members, Barry and I were privileged to meet part of the team of managers, carers, housekeeping and catering staff, all of whom are absolutely dedicated to supporting the members. These folks represent a huge team that any businesses would be truly proud of.

A thoroughly enjoyable experience and I can’t wait to go back.

Find out more about Blind Veterans UK here – http://www.blindveterans.org.uk/