little raindrops, tiny epiphanies

"Moments of love, hate, poetry, frustration, action, surrender, delight, humiliation, justice, cruelty, resignation, surprise, disgust, resentment, self-loathing, pity, fury, peace of mind - those tiny epiphanies, in which the absolute possibilities and temporal limits of anyone's existance were revealed."

Friday, January 03, 2014

Deconstructed Umbrella Bag

Ah Glasgow - even as I type the wind and rain are thrashing outside - it's the place where umbrellas go to die. If it's the frame that needs to be mended, I have a couple of quick fixes involving wire paper clips, pliers and a fair amount of swearing, which sometimes provides a temporary rescue and a few more rainy days worth of use, but most regular umbrellas don't last very long, particularly when the weather is bad enough to blow dogs inside out.* 

*something my dad says when it's windy.

It always seems a shame to throw a carefully matched accessory or expensive gift in the bin, so what can be done with a busted umbrella?

If you're not in the market for Umbrella Bunting, there are several tutorials to be found online to make bags from your brolly. I've adapted this one to come up with my own version.

Deconstructed Umbrella Bag

You will need:
  • an old umbrella (preferably with the frame beyond repair)

  • scissors and / or rotary cutter and board
  • seam ripper
  • dressmaking pins
  • matching or contrasting thread
  • sewing machine
1. Remove the fabric from the umbrella frame. I used my trusty stitch un-picking seem ripper tool for this - nip all the stitches holding it to the frame so the fabric comes off. You might need to lever off the stopper on the end if it has one. (The bunting tutorial mentioned earlier has detailed picture instructions about taking fabric off a frame.) Wash the fabric and dry it before you go any further, this one had some stains from where the metal parts of the frame had corroded but they're mostly on the inside.

2. The brolly I used for this was made up of 6 triangles sewn together. The next step is to separate them. I started with the seam ripper, but this was a particularly well sewn umbrella and the stitches were tougher than the fabric... so after damaging a couple of panels, which can still be used for handles, I used the scissors to cut the triangles free.

3. Once you have your triangles of fabric, iron them with a cool-ish iron.

4. Neaten the edges (this is where the rotary cutter comes in useful), then decide on the size of your bag - this one is going to use 4 triangular panels. Arrange the triangles top to bottom, edge to edge. Then pin together, with the outer sides facing each other (so that the seams will be on the inside. Aim to have a level edge at the top of the bag where it will open. Pin three pieces together then get your sewing machine set up. I recommend stopping for a cup of tea at this point!

5. Once you've got your machine threaded and ready, sew along where you've pinned to join the triangles together - check you have all the pieces facing the same way and that you're not sewing more than two pieces together at once... (my first attempt at this involved some extra unpicking... it might be worth doing a practice on a piece of scrap fabric to test the stretch, the umbrella material can be quite stretchy and might be a bit out of shape, but don't worry if it's not super straight. Fellow rookies with a sewing machine take note - once I changed the direction of the pins, things got easier!). It should start to look like this:

6.  When you're happy with the seams, pin the remaining piece into position and sew together.

7. The last seam will form the body of the bag into a cylinder shape - it can be tricky to pin as it doesn't seem flat, but as long as you don't sew more than two pieces together at a time and aim for the top edge to be straight, it should work.

8. Iron the cylindrical shape and flatten the edges and the seams you've made. Then make the bottom of the bag by folding the corners in, pin along the fold and sew so you get a rounded bottom to the bag.

9. Use the remaining panels to make handles. Fold and iron the pieces to make strong enough handles to carry the bag. With the material I had left, I cut two equal pieces retaining the top hem, folded, ironed, then sewed with a straight stitch, tucking the uneven bits at the ends in.

10. Attach the handles to the inside edge of the bag, pin in place then stitch an 'X' shape, going over a couple of times if you need to.  I wasn't happy with the top, it was a bit too flimsy and uneven, so I folded it over to make a top hem for added strength on which to attach the handles.

11. Turn the bag back the right way round and you're done!

Sunday, December 01, 2013


"You Must Accept," by Kate Light

You must accept that's who he really is.
You must accept you cannot be his
unless he is yours. No compromise.
He is a canvas on which paint never dries;
a clay that never sets, steel that bends
in a breeze, a melody that when it ends
no one can whistle. He is not who
you thought. He's not. He is a shoe
that walks away: "I will not go where you
want to go." "Why, then, are you a shoe?"
"I'm not. I have the sole of a lover
but don't know what love is." "Discover
it, then." "Will I have to go where you go?"
"Sometimes." "Be patient with you?" "Yes." "Then, no."
You have to hear what he is telling you
and see what he is; how it is killing you.

"Since the Majority of Me" by Philip Larkin

Since the majority of me
Rejects the majority of you,
Debating ends forwith, and we
Divide. And sure of what to do

We disinfect new blocks of days
For our majorities to rent
With unshared friends and unwalked ways,
But silence too is eloquent:

A silence of minorities
That, unopposed at last, return
Each night with cancelled promises
They want renewed. They never learn.

"It May Not Always Be So; And I Say" by e.e. cummings 

it may not always be so; and i say
that if your lips, which i have loved,should touch
another’s, and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart, as mine in time not far away;
if on another’s face your sweet hair lay
in such silence as i know,or such
great writhing words as, uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

if this should be, i say if this should be—
you of my heart, send me a little word;
that i may go unto him, and take his hands,
saying, Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall i turn my face, and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Top Tips for Band Promo...

I've been putting together information on the line up for a festival's new website, collecting photos and what I'd call bios (i.e. short informative descriptions of each band) to go with an external web link for each artist on the bill. I thought this would be a straight forward task...

A lot of bands make this easy and have PRs to deal with requests for such things, or have great websites with all the material someone who is trying to spread the word about an event that the bands are involved in might need, but there are some who seem to need a bit of help...

Here's some important things I've noted, if you want people to find out about your band:

  1. Have a name that is Googleable! 
  2. If you use MySpace (really?), Bandcamp and Facebook they will likely show up top of a search,  so make sure they're up to date. If you don't want me to listen to your old demos, take them down. If it's the first time I've heard of you I won't know which page you want me to use, so...
  3. Have your own website – even if it’s just a place to cluster all your links. It would be better if it were more than that - you've got a great opportunity to control your image, please use it.
  4. Unless you’re super well known and too cool, write something about yourselves. How do you want to be presented? Please God, not just “indie rock”. I don’t have time to listen to your entire back catalogue, watch all your videos, read all your press. Condense it.
  5. Have an easy to find contact email. If you have a PR working for you, lucky you! Why not make it easy to find them so they can do their job!?
  6. Even better, have a nice high res picture that is downloadable from your website.
  7. While you’re at it, name that picture file with your band name and if the photographer wants a credit, stick their name in there too. 
  8. When replying to emails that are requests, please check that you’re sending what’s being asked for – a list of hot shot record company flunkies who might be interested in your band, a list of platforms where you’re releasing your single and some gigs you might have coming up ARE NOT THE SAME AS A BIO!
  9. A bio is this: Who are you? Where are you from? What do you sound like? What’s your website?
  10. That photo – is it a picture of three or four disinterested blokes standing against a wall (or worse, train tracks)? IT DOESN’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR BAND and you’re wasting an opportunity to make me interested. 
  11. When I Google you, do I find your best, most representative song? WHY NOT?
  12. On Facebook, which shouldn’t be your only web presence, have you filled in the contact details in the ‘About’ section? This is a quick reference and should help people to describe you (yes even if you’re so wildly and fantastically original that your music defies categorisation sometimes it’s necessary to use, you know, WORDS). Failing that it should let me email the people you pay (or owe favours to) to do this for you. OR let me email you and ask you for what I need.  
  13. Nominate a band member to deal with this stuff, bass players often have a lot of time on their hands...
  14. Finally, when you're emailing someone who is obviously dealing with a lot of artists sending them stuff, remember to mention the name of your band in your message so they know who you're talking about.
Come on, you're not all like Nickelback are you?
There's tons of advice out there from places like Hypebot, Musician Coaching and Fresh On The Net 
Anyone got any more to add? I'd be interested to hear what you think. And don't get me started on gig listings!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Repurposed T-Shirts: Accessories

Inspired by Stitch Up  I dug out my bag of old, well-loved T-shirts and decided to do something to reuse a few of them.

I wanted to rescue the print from a shirt I got a long time ago (in Barcelona!)  I'd already chopped the neck and sleeves and worn until it was falling to bits, but I like the design and I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.
I decided to decorate a tote bag (this one was a freebie at a conference).

I ironed the shirt (inside out) and then roughly cut out the design, (I could do with some sharper scissors!) 
I don't have a sewing machine, so I used my old favourite, Gaffa tape.

Cut out the design from the shirt,( if you want to use the rest of the shirt for something else, try to cut it away in large pieces). Leave enough room around the edges so you can use tape to stick it onto the bag without covering the design. (This one worked as a square but some designs require a bit more ingenuity, it really depends on the size of the picture and the condition of the shirt. In this case, I think the black tape makes a bold design and covers up any rough edges.)

Try and make the edges of the tape the same size and level at the ends (it's tricky, but fabric Gaffa tape has lines on, so you can cut it fairly neatly). 

This left me with the rest of the T-shirt material, I found some tutorials linked by Stitch Up  and decided to have a go at the No Sew Necklace

When I chopped my T-shirt, I kept the bottom section in one piece (so it was still a tube). This shirt had no side seams so was just right for the necklace. First, cut off the bottom seam, then cut the tube into strips about 1.5cm wide, they don't have to be particularly neat but it helps if they're all about the same size. 

Cut the whole section up into loops and then pull them to stretch, the material will curl in on itself, making the loops thinner and still quite elastic. 

That one on the end was too thin and snapped, but it came in useful for fixing things together later!

Put all the loops together and then double them over, until you have a necklace at the length you want, then tie them together by wrapping the spare loop around (I looped it over and then wrapped it round, tucking in the ends. See what works with what you have left over.)

This gave me a necklace like the one in the tutorial, but it was a bit loose. So I used a bit more of the left over T-shirt to make a flower rosette (which I learned the last time I went to Stitch Up!)

Cut a rough circle out of the material, about the size of a small saucer, then cut it into a spiral (this one is very rough, I definitely need sharper scissors!)

Thread a needle with cotton, mine was a bit darker than the fabric. Start in the middle and layer the fabric, sewing with small stitches as you gather the flower/ rosette together. This is the back:

Sew until you run out of spiral, you can then cut the edges to neaten it up if you want. This is the front:

The stitching in the middle was a bit messy so I added a button. I flattened it out a bit then positioned it on the necklace to sew on, in the end I tied a bit more of the spare T-shirt thread around to hold the strands together behind the flower, then sewed it on fairly loosely. 

I've also redecorated a couple of other tote bags with designs from old T-shirts - I used Gaffa tape (it comes in different colours) so these are no-sew projects:

This is a nice way to use T-shirts that have got too worn out to wear, and also it means the bags will last a bit longer as the T-shirts make a good patch for any holes!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Caitlin Moran Stole My Life.

Well not really, but sometimes it kind of feels like it. I'm finally reading her book, How To Be A Woman and remembering how I first came across her when she used to write for the Melody Maker.

My Gran, keen clipper of articles from the Daily Mail, presented me with a full page feature on the young Moran, aged 16. In the accompanying photo she is resplendently grungey in long floral frock, doc marten boots and possibly a floppy velvet hat. She is brunette, a bit fat and a bit goth. Granny passes me the page and says something like "She looks a bit like you. She's had a book published already. You could do that. Why haven't you done something like that?" 

In that fabulous way that family members have of undermining your confidence while at the same time imagining they are boosting it, she didn't understand why I read the article and went off in a strop. At 17, I may have been reading the Melody Maker and NME religiously but I was still stuck in the sausage machine of A Levels - seemingly the only logical option for someone with a modicum of intelligence wanting to leave a Midland town in the early 1990s - and here was this girl, published, leading a rock 'n' roll lifestyle free of parental constraint in London, who had been home schooled by hippies and had no qualifications to speak of at all.

Later, when I did leave town and adopt my version of a rock 'n' roll lifestyle (though from reading the book it certainly contained less sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll than Moran's) our paths did briefly cross.

At a gig in Wolverhampton in 1995, I spotted Moran and Pete Paphides ligging at a Radiohead gig. Had I been less shy and more drunk, I might have introduced myself but I didn't. I was just a pleb and they were proper music journalists. I always wondered what it was that stopped me being more like Caitlin Moran and getting on in the way that she has and now, reading her book - which like the cover says is "part memoir, part rant" - I think I've worked it out. She wasn't afraid of making a fool of herself, had the luck to be in the right places at the right times, was brave enough to be a bit stupid sometimes and most important of all had the confidence to throw herself headlong into things and not worry about the consequences.

I'm just over half way through the book now and I've identified with her, laughed at her jokes, agreed with her most of the time and recognised some familiar episodes of teenage angst that seemed to be so popular in the 90s. I was always annoyed that she managed to make a living writing one of those "me, me, me"columns about everyday stuff, that seem so easy but unless you are prepared to exploit yourself and your experiences like a true writer are actually very difficult.

I think I'm still a bit jealous.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Review... Sophie Hannah Spilling CID series

Sophie Hannah: Little Face, Hurting Distance, The Point Of Rescue, The Other Half Live, A Room Swept White. (Hodder)
After finding the latest three of Sophie Hannah’s books in paperback in Biblocafe, having been alerted to their existence by an ITV adaptation staring Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd called Case Sensitive (which turned out to be loosely based on the third of her Spilling CID series The Point Of Rescue), I found myself compelled to read the whole set and binge read the lot. A quick trip to Amazon found me the first two but by the time they arrived I had already hungrily got through most of The Point Of Rescue and The Other Half Live.

Hannah’s psychological cop thrillers stand out both for the strength of her writing (she is also a poet and author of several non-crime novels), and for the inventiveness with which she approaches the genre. Each book is written from at least two perspectives; beginning with a teasing, scene setting chapter from the point of view of a woman at the centre of a usually complex and emotionally fraught crime, she then switches to the third person to take us to the heart of the investigation from the police side. Alternating view points like this cleverly allows Hannah to set up some nail biting suspense and audacious plot twists. There is a victim’s eye view from some often unreliable narrators alongside the unfolding investigation.
Her team of cops, based in the fictional but well-realised town of Spilling, centre around DS Charlie Zailer, an academic-turned detective with a sharp tongue and a volatile personal life; DC Simon Waterhouse, a brilliant but emotionally suffocated sleuth and their glacial boss, DI Proust (nicknamed The Snowman). The rest of the CID officers – including the boorish DC Sellers and the hardnosed DC Gibbs - each have their own fleshed out characters, but Hannah is savvy enough to know when to paint with broad strokes and when to delve deeper. 
Each book untangles the emotional fall out from a case – Little Face centres on a manipulated and manipulative young mother and the identity of the baby she claims has been swapped; Hurting Distance is a convoluted but ultimately gripping investigation into what starts off as a missing persons case, becomes an allegation of a rape, looks like an attempted murder but finally is none and all of these, dragging all the protagonists through an emotional firestorm which has repercussions in successive books.
The Point Of Rescue pulls together a double murder, an abduction and the detectives’ own increasingly complicated relationship – Zailer and Waterhouse’s bond is too awkward to be called a romance, but the author gives you just enough to keep you intrigued, denies you easy outcomes and leaves a lot unsaid, coming back to the underlying tensions between them at salient moments, allowing you to piece together what has happened in the gaps between the books.
The Other Half Live, billed as a murder mystery with no dead body, pushes credulity but has some nicely written details like a Sunday Newspaper “rising stars” feature linking important characters and some (for once in this sort of novel) fairly accurate Art History. A Room Swept White is the most ambitious of the books, encompassing well researched, but potentially sensitive material about mothers wrongly convicted of killing their own babies, a shamed forensic paediatrician and some rather colourfully drawn TV documentary makers. As with the other books, this one is told from the perspective of a woman embedded in the story but possibly deluded about her role in it.
I found myself pulled in and gripped by the whole series (even though I read them from the middle outwards) and I enjoyed the relative unpredictability of the plots - a formula is starting to emerge but even five books in (with one more available in hardback) there is still enough invention to keep a lit-snob like me happy. Like Kate Atkinson, but with a cruel psychological bent, Sophie Hannah keeps enough style and wit in her writing and interest in her characters to satisfy even a demanding reader.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Live Review: Best Coast

Here's one that got away...

Best Coast, The Arches, Glasgow, 27/4/11

Photo by Alex Woodward,@ CrimsonGlowPhotography

On last July’s Crazy For You, the much touted long-player from trio Best Coast, singer Bethany Cosentino conveys an obsession with her native California with the intensity of a teenage infatuation. It’s all about crushes on boys and long days at the beach being the most important things in the world.  As one song puts it, “When the sun don’t shine you aren’t mine.”
Taking the stage to the Beach Boys’ California Girls and greeting us with a “Waaaasup?!”  Cosentino’s distinctly lo-fi glamour and directness with the crowd is demonstrated when she decries a heckler for daring to tell her that he doesn’t like her beloved cat, as featured on the album cover, with a pithy retort. (“Suck My Dick!”) She’s like a surfer dude version of Courtney Love.
It soon becomes apparent that the stoner attitude of her songs are her code to live by, after The Sun Was High And So Was I she says “Feel free to move, y’all look kinda bored, smoke some weed like my guys have.”
There is a Ramones-like quality of happy dumbness to Summer Moon, which is dedicated to the beautiful weather. New song Gone Again has a wordless vocal intro and sounds like a work in progress. Like on the older material, too many of the harmonies that gave their album richness are missing, a backing singer or some vocal participation from ex-Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler would make no end of difference.
Boyfriend, the most direct nod to the saccharine masochism of the 1960s Girl Groups is the pop hit of the set. A stoned Shirelles go garage. When The Sun Don’t Shine looses its melodic hold and while most of the songs are basically solid enough, sometimes the band can’t quite keep up with themselves and things seem on the verge of falling apart. Cosentino needs to vary her wailing vocal, as the songs are already unsophisticated.
Lesley Gore’s That’s The Way Boys Are is followed by a demand that we all go home and “download a bunch of her songs.”
Our Deal, gets bogged down and comes off like Joan Jett with no bite.  A new song, When You Wake Up/11.30 has no wild departures from the formula and yet more of what is starting to sound like mooing. A crowd surfer braves the security guards and receives congratulations and Cosentino apologies for referring to the UK instead of to Scotland, pleading our forgiveness as she didn’t graduate high school.
A mosh pit erupts at the younger end of the all ages crowd as if to embody the dumb urgency of youth embedded in the songs. Apparently members of the support band Spectrals (who owe an even bigger dept to the Phil Spectre back catalogue than Best Coast) are causing a ruckus, spitting beer and generally kicking off.  Closing number Each And Everyday is the noisiest of the night, it takes unrequited love to levels that without the innocence of the tune might be construed as stalking, but as a threat it lacks teeth. The band don’t seem to have the chops to cut loose and really impress, and without the production values of the album, nor do they quite have the charm. 

 More photos by Alex on his site

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