Monday, 20 August 2018

A little indigo a little Japan a little Jude

I was deeply moved by the quilts of Shizuko Kuroha at FOQ in Birmingham last weekend. A lovely weekend spent with my daughter meandering up from and back to the South Coast.

This was my second time at the show, and again Christine was there exhibiting; this time with unFOLD, a textile group she belongs to. All the works were themed around Lynn Knight's fascinating book book "The Button Box". Here you can see Christine with her "Just Got To Finish the Mending", in the background and below, mending being metioned in the book as an informal contraceptive of sorts - read the book and you'll find out. Christine's piece, which we have watched develop during our Studio 11 days, is densely stitched over a deconstructed shirt, with the darning stitch so often used to mend, and mend, and mend in those days when we still did that sort of thing. It was marvellous to see it hung in the gallery space along with so many other thought provoking textiles.

If you look closely there's just a hint of a daughter in the background as well!

While there we also really enjoyed Ruth Singer's textile meditations on the lives of women prisoners. Again, such an inspiration to see how textile artists express their thoughts about life and ideas using the medium of cloth and stitch. A thing I aspire to, but haven't quite worked out the how yet!

But back to Kuroha and her beautiful indigo quilts, impeccably pieced and hand quilted, each one a symphony of movement and subtle colour. They really are works of art. She was there in her gallery space, signing books for eager middle aged ladies, amongst whom I include myself (though not in this picture); her smile so sweet as she inscribed the book with my name and her signature. 

I was touched to the core, both by her and her art.

On my return home I had a week off work, but am preparing for two momentous things: first, at the end of the month, after forty years of fulfilling work in my local library service, I am taking early retirement - a big step, but one I am longing for. The ability to just go to bed in the afternoon and sleep for a couple of hours will be transformative! Oh, and get on with my stitching, and weaving, and dyeing, and gardening, and perhaps a little piano playing, and a thousand other things that have been waiting for "when I have time".

Then in September, I am off to Bhutan. How easily that types itself out, what an amazing thing to be doing. One of Colouricious' textile trips, I will be beside myself when it happens. Will try and post a couple of updates while I'm there.

So, Indigo, Japan, Jude? What's the link you are asking yourself?

Well, I need to take a sketchbook to Bhutan, obviously. I loved the simplicity of the indigo quilts, and all sketchbooks should have a cover. Especially one made from a couple of pairs of jeans I haven't worn since my slim early twenties, but have always kept because "I'll do something with these one day".

And Jude? Well this is a sort of Jude house, patched and darned and quietly stitched.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

updated yarn

A yarn can be something that you knit or weave or even stitch with, or it can be a tangled tale with twists and turns and little diversions along the way.

The first meaning is obviously what the image below is all about. Yes, a little while ago I treated myself to some lovely Noro yarn, on sale in a very fine wool shop near where I live, which was closing down. Both my loss and my gain. Then a couple of weeks ago I went out with beloved daughter to buy a dress for her for our wedding, and was lured into buying yet more yarn, as one is from time to time. 

I felt it only right that the less recent purchase should be knitted up first, so here is the knitting in progress, along with the pattern.

I have to say, I don't think I'll look anything like as fey and girlish in my version, but (and this is very important to me) the cardigan will be symmetrical across the front, not all skew whiff like the illustration in their pattern book. I have puzzled over this for some time; why oh why are all Noro patterns knitted up all any old how in relation to the (absolutely beautiful) colour changes in the yarns? A brief bit of research online found me this little gem of a phrase from the "blurb" on their website.

"Harmonize natural unevenness, asymmetric pattern and complex color to portray the beauty of the nature. Taking sufficient time to dye and yarn natural flavors and tenderness of materials to preserve their original characters"

Well - apart from the delighfully idiosyncratic translation from the Japanese, I guess the "asymmetric pattern and complex colour" explains the lack of symmetry. But when did you last see an asymmetric butterfly, or flower, or bird's wing pattern, or tabby cat's stripes? 

Nope, just can't be doing with all of that. My cardigan will have, I hope, perfectly matched colour changes across the front and the sleeves, which will give me great satsifaction. Yes that does require hunting through the remaining balls to find the one which starts as near as possible to the end of the previous one, and cutting out the excess but I can use that up in the collar, so no waste there! And what satisfaction when I finally sew it all together and the colour bands flow across my imperfect body in perfect symmetry!!

So, to my second yarn, the tale of the Damn Bloody Mouse - known as DBM hereafter. Yes, there is a link with the following pictures I promise.

We have two lovely cats, Rum and Raisin, who have shared our lives for the past ten or so years. We love them dearly, and feed them far too many biscuits but they are cats, and they do what cats do; catch things. Rum's catches ususally get crunched up on the lawn, though occasionally they are brought in for consumption overnight, with little bits left by the Man's chair in case he's peckish in the morning. Raisin, however, is a bit more squeamish. Once the excitement of the chase and catch is over, he's not quite sure what he should do with this poor wriggling furry thing. So in he comes clattering through the cat flap, a scurry, a yowl or two, and I rush into the kitchen to find a mouse (DBM) cowering under the dresser (where all good mice should hide) and a grumpy fat cat doing his best to get under the dresser. A cat and mouse impasse. I removed the cat, and found things to block up the ends of the dresser so that DBM couldn't escape. However, DBM had escaped already, to hide beneath the bookshelf in the sitting room. Aha, I thought, I can block up the wavy front esdge of the bookshelf with "more things", heavy enough and malleable enough to fit under the wavy bits and leave one small space for DBM to come out. The one small space was, of course, cleverly adapted with a humane mouse trap, baited with rather nice nuts and chocolate biscuits. No problem I thought.

Two days later, having sat each morning listening to little mouse scrabbles, and thinking, "oh, he'll be out soon, tidily captured in the mouse trap" I came down to find that two of the "things" used to block all exits had been wriggeld through and there was no DBM any more. And, to add insult to injury, DBM had been very grateful for the nice feast I'd supplied him, easily accessed by nibbling through the soft corduroy cover that ennables wheat packs to be heated up in microwaves before being applied to sore necks. Perhaps not my best choice for a mouse barrier!

So what does this have to do with the pictures below?

Well, for the next two nights I was awoken several times by little scrabbles and scuttlings in my bedroom. Ye Gods, I thought, DBM has found it's way upstairs and is negotiating the maze of boxes and whotnot under my bed. This is definitely Not Good. The first task, obviously, was to buy more humane mouse traps; the second to move all the boxes out from under the bed, then crawl about, with no thought of dignity, with torch and long poky thing to find the whereabouts of the DBM.

What did I find? A great deal of dust; a pen I'd lost; a single sock; a bookmark; an empy pack of aspirin. I also reacquainted myself with the precious contents of these many and various boxes: old writing cases belonging to Ganna and Mum, stuffed with letters, diaries, account books and the like; a complete handwritten draft of one of Gannas novels, along with the typewritten version that Mum did for her to send to the publishers; a small suitcase with a set of old reel to reel tapes which I know have all of us (me, Mum, Dad, Ganna and Grandad) talking many many years ago in Petersfield when Dad was still alive and playing with his new Grundig tape recorder. And this very fine collection of rug yarns, complete with the canvas (3' x 6') and a handwritten list of the amounts of every yarn there. 

Some were easy - just count the drums and you know how many pieces you've got, but I had a vision of Mum sitting and patiently counting out 929 pieces of green, 482 pale pink, 33 dark blue, 2 khaki ...... as all those below were just small remainders, carefully packed into plastic bags to keep them safe.

They have sat there I'd guess, for the best part of the last 40 odd years, kept for "one day" when she would have time to make the next rug. One day never came - it often doesn't, so here they still are, awaiting a hand and a design to make the best use of them, along with the list of amounts, and calculations of how many pieces would be needed to fill that canvas.

But what of the DBM? Not a sign, not the merest twitch of a whisker, nothing. But still, occasionally, I hear a little scratch and scrabble in the middle of the night. Not in my room, no no, in the walls of my room. I assume the wretched creature has found its way in somehow, and is now searching the fabric of the house for more tasty morsels. All we can hope is that a) it doesn't start trying to eat the wires, b) it finds its way outside somehow, without encountering an enthusaustic feline on its journeys and c) it does so very soon, as I'm rather tired of sleeping with one ear cocked just in case it finds its way onto the bed!!

Beatrix Potter children's illustration of mouse family iin bedroom with dolls for Two Bad Mice

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Friday, 25 May 2018

Many interludes

In fact this blog seems to contain more interludes these days than it does words and pictures!

Life has been busy, sometimes tiring, but good in so many ways. I am still stitching, along with knitting, weaving, and recently beginning a patchwork class with one of our lovely Embroiderers' Guild members who is also a patchworker. And, in between all this, my dear Man and I got married, just two weeks ago tomorrow. A wonderful day despite the rain; our ceremony in the glorious Durbar Hall in Hastings Museum - one of the many legacies the Brassey family left the town. Having managed the reference and local studies collection in the library in Hastings for many enjoyable years, there was a real sense of connection for me in celebrating such a happy event there. Afterwards we repaired to our garden where a marquee provided welcome respite from the heavy showers that scudded past all afternoon. The good cheer and warm hearts of friends and family made wet weather merely incidental; fine food was provided by "Caroline the Cook" and Geoff's lovely guitar music provided just the right atmosphere for folk to chat or listen as the mood reqiured.

Of course all this required the house and garden to look slighty less chaotic than it usually does, hence mcuh clearing, cleaning and tuidying by me over the past several weeks, but our lovely irises came out,

the wisteria was still just clinging to its branches, a small frog provided two small girls with much delight

and the cats repaired to the bottom of the garden to wait for all this good cheer and laughter to go away!

And the following day, when all were gone, of course the sun came out

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

a musical interlude

Woodstock, hippies, peace and love - you've got to be a certain generation to even know what I'm talking about. I remember commenting on a "hippie bus" some years ago and my dear heart's older grandson asked "what's a hippie?" How do you answer that one?
One of my favourite songs, and the source of one of my favourite quotes “life is for learning” is Joni Mitchell's Woodstock. I love it for its sense of celebration and idealism (though in the real world, I’m not sure butterflies would have been much use against the Luftwaffe) but which version?
Joni’s – she wrote it, though I didn't hear this version until I sought it out on YouTube some years ago
CSN&Y – she wrote it for them, and theirs was the first version I knew on their wonderful album Deja Vu - here accompanied by hippies and hippie buses

Or Richie Havens' lovely mellow version

Which is your favourite?