The biggest pencil cases you’ve ever seen.


Yesterday I broke the rule. The one about not starting Shiny New Projects until you’ve finished at least three…but rules are meant to be broken, yes?

Paul asked for a bag for his new birthday present. He said he wouldn’t mind a drawstring bag, but as he picked out this rather fabulous tie-dyed denim, I thought it may be a bit stiff for pulling a drawstring tight. So off into zipland we went, and I lined it with white cotton too.


Tie-dyed denim zip bag with strap


Now, if you’re going to make one bag, you’re probably going to wish you’d done a second one to carry around that lovely hardback book on photography, too.


Tie-dyed denim zip bags


This is what he’ll keep in his bag. Lovely new tai chi shoes, just in time for the championships.


Tai chi shoes


I’ll admit to a moment’s panic when I handed it over – oh, please tell me it came out the right size!


Denim zip bag with tai chi shoes



There are a few other things in the pipeline, if you’d like to follow what else I’m making you’ll find me posting work in progress at

See you there 🙂



I don’t know about you, but it’s been a strange and eventful start to the year at NixieMade Towers. Is it me, or is there a digging theme hereabouts…

After a three week break from aikido, I was given a surprise grading. I don’t mind admitting that I grade kicking and screaming; I’m sure I can’t do it until I’ve done it. Aikido has been a huge battle with my own mind that has gone on for years, so making it to the middle grades is a massive win. At every milestone, we are asked to dig deep…


Aikido Orange Belt


I’m told I aced it. I need to remember that.

At about the same time, our neighbour’s boiler packed up. They weren’t allowed a new one because their water pressure was low. We share a supply, and ours is fine…so the problem’s on their side of the T-piece, right? Out comes a builder, who exposes the pipework and finds (a) lead pipe with (b) a leak in it. The water board are contacted…what a mission…but they can’t cope with the idea of two problems in one piece of pipe…so when they eventually send out an assessor, they send a second one at the same time. Getting them to replace the pipe was another battle. When they did, they sent four men. Yep. Four. Then the builders found the next leak (think Italian fountain), so the entire shared pipe has been dug up and replaced. Every time we talk to somebody about this another couple of hundred quid evaporates. Man plans, God laughs. Ever feel a bit like this…




Still, life’s a long journey, the world keeps turning, and there’s always a bigger picture. I have a bit of a thing for social history and I’ve just discovered Bernard Cornwell. I’ve worked with norse runes for a while, and when we went to the St Mary’s book sale I picked up The Last Kingdom, the first in a series about the Danish occupation of England. Loving it. I haven’t enjoyed a book so much in ages, and then a talk on local archaeology came up and my geek gene got all jiggly.

I discovered that a few streets away, ancient lead coffins were unearthed in back gardens (coins had been placed on the eyes of the dead), along with Roman mosaic pieces, pottery with a woman’s name scratched into the base of some bowls, a dog skeleton, a chisel, and brooch pins. In the centre of town, underneath a charity shop, is an old smelting site – two thousand years ago a manufacturing area thrived right on our high street. We didn’t have a local mint, yet there are a lot of locally produced coins, so it looks like there were some busy forgers. A Roman sandal was found in the bottom of a well (what happened to said Roman?); there are three wells in the area that I hadn’t known about. There are pouches of coins and jewellery buried beneath our feet, safely stowed before battles and never retrieved. There are driveways that we know cover untouched artefacts, so one day who knows what else will come to light. All I know is, every time I look out on our garden, I just wonder.

And I wonder what the next few weeks will hold for us, our little lives, as the world turns and we go on…

Have a glorious day. I’m going to eat cake in my pyjames and draw pictures and watch Buffy. When it comes to adult responsibility, this house is a zero tolerance zone right now…


Make no. 14: Crystal bags and tai chi fan cases. For, y’know, crystals and tai chi fans.

One of my tai chi teachers asked if I could come up with some bags for tai chi fans. Yes. Yes I can. She liked them so much she asked for some smaller bags for her reiki and crystal students, who come to class with gems tumbling from their arms. Well, we can’t have that… they’ll be leaving with three times as many as they arrived with!


I have a pretty impressive collection of fabric remnants so this was a great stash-buster. And it’s nice to make small, pretty things sometimes, right?

On to number 15!


20 Beliefs That I Took To Aikido (and killed with aikido)

I am weaker because I am smaller.

I don’t have much patience or perseverance.

I will never be really good at a martial art.

People will think I’m stupid if I keep getting things wrong.

At some point I am bound to be laughed at and feel humiliated.

Training in a male-dominated environment is scary.

Making mistakes is not enjoyable.

I’ll never cope without some previous experience.

A negative experience in class will set me back.

My feelings of inadequacy are a part of me.

I’ll have to do weeks of research to understand what’s being taught.

Being in the spotlight is embarrassing and uncomfortable.

I’m likely to get hurt.

I will never be part of “the gang”.

I should understand instructions immediately.

I don’t have any special abilities.

I will never have the “breakthrough moment” that people talk about.

Martial arts won’t affect the rest of my life.

I will never learn this complicated, subtle art.

I cannot change my mind.

As it turns out, every single one of these thoughts that have crossed my mind at some stage is a LIE.

Does your head lie to you?

The Why of Aikido


I’ve been taking aikido classes for a few years now, and one of the things that interests me is how people respond to this.

“Oh, what’s that?”

“Is that like judo?”

“I used to do karate.”

What people never, ever ask me is why I go. Perhaps they make assumptions about learning self defence or keeping fit, or assume that I just enjoy it (sometimes I do love it, and sometimes I struggle with it). Or maybe they don’t ask the question because their exposure to martial arts is limited and they’re worried they won’t understand the answer. Or maybe they think it looks cool and people generally like to look cool.

So today’s post is about what I get from the mat, for anyone who is curious or toying with the idea of trying it out.

Patience. When I went for my first lessons I went home and cried afterwards. Not because people were being mean to me, or because I was taking a beating. Just out of pure frustration; aikido is subtle, multi-layered, and can’t be mastered in a hurry. In aikido, there are no short cuts, and most people develop in bursts between (sometimes agonising) periods of incomprehension. You’ll be patient, or you’ll give up. Aikido is a very good exercise in Not Giving Up.

Posture. As time goes by, I wear the deepening imprint of my teachers’ words. “Sink. Settle. Relax. Be soft. Be ready. Keep your energy in your centre.”  Somebody who recently came to watch a tai chi class observed that sinking is the opposite of conventional wisdom. “We’re supposed to stand up tall with our shoulders back and our head up, right?” Right; and aligned posture is a good thing. However, it’s pretty damn easy to knock someone off balance physically or emotionally when their energy is up in their shoulders and their head. I frequently marvel at how different I feel making the drinks or going up and down stairs at work now, compared to five years ago. Posture affects everything. It matters.


Leading and blending. The philosophy of aikido is to seek a win-win; take what you’re given, add to it and direct it. This is a philosophy, as well as a way of dealing with a physical attack. Aikido is a mindset.

Fear. I was afraid to try. I’d had numerous bad experiences at school where language, conventions and subject matter were foreign to me and sporting prowess was king (I am not sporty). I’d been made to feel small for a long time so taking part in activity that involves a fair amount of Japanese, where most of the class are high grades and men, strangers, and bigger than me and where there is a realistic possibility that I might get hurt was very, very unattractive. But my rule is, if it scares me, I have to find a way to do it. I won’t let my worst enemy live between my ears. And as it turns out, I am a perfectly adequate human being, capable of learning a martial art and getting along with people. Hooray!

Dealing with threat. The first rule of aikido is Stay Safe, which begins with awareness and observation. If trouble comes your way, don’t be there. If you have to be there, time on the mat helps to practise the possibilities available to you. Practising techniques trains my brain to watch what is happening and move my body in response, rather than freezing like a rabbit in the headlights. Providing I can remember what I’m doing, of course 😉

Finding out what I am, and learning how I learn. Don’t talk to me in degrees and angles. Give me images of hosepipes, turntables, little birds, roller coasters, glasses of milk and crocodiles and I’m there. I’m understanding the architecture and traits of my body, movement and reactions. I am training both sides of my body and brain. As a dinky person, some techniques seem practically useless to me, yet others bring a 6’4″ hulk of a man to his knees so fast, you’re left wondering what happened (and so is he). Know what you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

Aikido is beautiful. Go and see for yourself.

Friendship. I went to aikido for mental discipline and self defence. There I found the most eclectic, lively and warm group of people there from all walks of life, with different religions, occupations and demeanours. Class kicks the winter blues in the butt, learning and laughing and getting things wrong together. Which leads me on to…

Love, and I’ve never been happier. Now, I’m not saying you can be assured of romantic attachment with an aikido club, but you never can tell… 🙂

So if there’s a bit of you that thinks “Hmmm, maybe that would be fun”, you owe it to yourself to find out if you like it. And of course, be patient…