Saturday, 17 September 2016

still here

just quiet for a while, but still doing when health permits ....

a total change of direction, though I am still stitching as well, and had my first session at Studio11 this month.

These are from way back in 2011, the year after Mum died.

Looking back now, I realise they were worked during March and April, the year she would have been 85. March was her birth month.

They have been brought back out again, and finshed, in response to some weaving classes we're having with Claire Buckly. The bamboo is fresh from the garden - cut today, the warp knotted round - still some trimming to do.

A little smidge of we embroiderers have got together and are learning about small scale tapestry weaving - on a frame loom, at Steph's house. Claire's teaching is quite different from the course I did in 2011, so I'm glad I have a little bit of the basics to start from, and can learn more.

We assembled last Monday, five of us ready to learn. We warped up our looms, we tore up strips of paper and made a collage,

we were allowed to choose six balls of weaving yarn, to tone with this

We've made butterflies, little bundles of neat yarn to pass in and out of the warp. and learnt about colour blending - using a sewing cotton, for example, to nudge the base colour one way or the other

We are preparing designs to weave. Next time we will design, based on the collage each of us has done.

Now I have the fun of thinking about how to translate this into a woven piece. Quite a different mood

Sorry I've not been here xx

Monday, 4 July 2016

Tool packaging shibori

Nearly there

I have been quietly busy. This year's final day with Christine, and I'd missed the previous two because I felt poorly. So, a pleasure, and some inspiration. I found time over the past few days to wrap up some fabric and see where a bit of shibori can get me.

A silk scarf, folded, clamped, rolled, clamped, Apply three blanks from some piece of tool packaging, aligned top, bottom and between, as perfectly as I could manage

clamped with acrylic shapes as well, so apply an even pressure across the ends.

Edges rolled and clamped to make small white marks I hope
And some little crescents, just to see

Different clamps, all submerged in turquoise, acid yellow and some old black, just to see

Then a piece of silk, scrunched, pushed together, wrapped tightly in a laundry bag, with some marbles to add extra texture 

I'm hoping for clear edges and spaces of white, all to echo the dark holes in the centre, and perhaps some patterning from the bag itself, and the elastic band

The marbles, in tune with the piece of silk shading I am working on now and again, very slowly, glasses off, eyes close to the frame, because it's the only way I can see clearly enough when using just one strand of embroidery floss! This was our "here's how" piece from the last Branch workshop.

I have no idea what will happen now

Time to unwrap

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Mindful gardening

It was Bank Holiday weekend so I spent some time gardening. Of course I did, it's what we do on Bank Holidays, but with physical frailties, how to do this safely. I am always conscious that, unlike Mum, Ganna and Connie my bones aren't yet fragile, but I still need to be careful with any sort of excercise outside the usual walking to and fro!

Doing Pilates regularly, and Tai Chi occasionally help me to minimise damage from tweaks and strains. Both draw your focus in to how the body moves;  make you aware of which muscles should be working and which should be supporting; where your weight and balance are. I try to bring this awareness into gardening particularly, because it's easy to do myself a mischief, so here's how I try and make it work .....

Mindful weeding and digging .....

Push the small hand fork into the soil, just to the fork's depth, then a wiggle waggle carefully in a criss cross pattern to loosen things. Do this over a small area, making sure not to extend beyond the natural reach. Then down to hands and knees and, bit by bit, work the loosened soil with a hand fork, pulling out the weeds and their roots, apologising to worms if you accidentally bring them to the surface and tucking them back into a bit of soil you're not digging. Work each small area, changing the task frequently to use different muscle groups, so: fork in soil, push down with foot, wiggle waggle, repeat several times, down to hands and knees, sift, lift, discard, apologise to the beetles, repeat. Do for no longer than 30 minutes, preferably 20 then rest. 

This is about what I can manage in half an hour.

which is a start, but also a bit daunting in the context of what's left, the bed where the old dears live. I cleared and replanted it last year, but it has got a bit uppity while my back was turned. No wonder the old dears grumble.

I was amused a couple of weekends ago by a friend who, hearing I was digging, declared that I must be better. I never feel that "better" is an option. Managing, and sometimes not quite managing is closer to the truth. The last thing I want is to sound self pitying, but it's hard to be real about this stuff without it looking like a whinge or being mawkish! The truth is, I wake up almost every morning exhausted, usually in some pain, but still feel lucky to be where I am and with the people I belong to. Life is good and the world is beautiful, rain or shine

So, here's another recent project; the little bed next to the well just outside the sitting room, which I look out on from my chair. The flowering currant has finished, the hydrangea just coming into leaf and some rather oversized bergenia which were threatening to engulf the Japanese lady have been moved to a more appropriate spot, much to her relief.

The whole area has been weeded and replanted. My good soul did the digging and planting, once I had finished dithering about deciding where things should go. Little delicate woodland plants, much more in keeping with the size and situation of the bed.

The cherub expresssed a preference,

the chaps had had their say

and our wild canine visitor had made her suggestions.

Later on she brought the new kid on the block along to give his/her opinion as well. More interested in what tasty morsels the birds might have left I think.

Oh, and I really am thrilled with my new galoshes! They've got sparkles, and I'm still far too much of a child not to love them

Monday, 2 May 2016

Byzantine Klimt

Remember this? Layers of organza on a base of gold Thai silk, from a sleevless top I picked up in a charity shop years ago - saved until it was the right fabric - its day had come. The layers of organza, pared away with the soldering iron, were my introduction to the technique I used on my Anglo-Saxon cuff.

Well, I wondered about - the startling colour change is all to do with the light, not a profound change in the piece!


A mock up using a sketch app on the iPad. Mixing my media! The image, taken in a rather odd light, has been "drawn on" as well!

The blue framing fabric (another Thai silk blouse) was found in different charity shop to the source of the gold, and found after I'd been to Wendy's workshop. How awesome is that! The vivid blue picks up on the blue in the organza, the patterns are the same as the gold base fabric, but on a slightly different scale and can be arranged to echo the patterns in the centre. The fabric is identical in weave and texture. I can use the blue with a bright or dull side, which allows for more subtlety of tone. They can be arranged to echo the patterns in the centre and it allows me to create the illusion of dangling ornament, which echoes the Klimt inspiration

Lots more stitching and beading needed, but it suggests a way forward; definitely worth exploring

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Inspired by the EG

I have been neglecting this little space in the blogosphere because I have been rather busy. We've had several good sessions at the branch of the Embroiderers Guild that I belong to; another of our mini workshops, this time my choice was ribbonwork, but I've not done enough finishing to share with you here yet. We also had a marvellous talk by Anthea Godfrey about the work of her mother, Margaret Nicholson. It was so interesting to hear about someone who forged her own path at a time when women were still expected to stay at home and look after their families. Anthea brought an utterly inspiring set of her mothers embroideries for us to see.

Margaret used a wide variety of embroidery and beadwork techniques, employing all sorts of materials and methods. She particularly enjoyed Or Nue which is a goldwork technique which involves laying metal thread on the surface of the fabric and attaching it with embroidery silks in such a way that the stitching, using different colours, creates a picture which sparkles and glimmers in the light. It is a very old technique; a great speciality in this country during the 14th and 15th Centuries, when it formed part of the repertoire of English embroidery, known as Opus Anglicanum, or English Work. You can see examples in the V&A and we exported embroideries across Europe, often to religious foundations or churches, as the Church was a major patron of the arts then.

Margaret took this technique, combined it with others and, with her wonderful talent for design, created beautiful images full of imagination and colour as you can see here.

Anthea brought so many pieces that we could have spent all day just looking at one or two; the technique is so fine, and so labour intensive, it seemed miraculous that one woman could create so many beautiful embroideries in a single lifetime.

After such an inspiring talk I came home full of fire to get on with another Guild project, our regional challenge which we have every year. The theme this year is "Inspired by Royal Jewels" and the branch are busy creating all sorts of bits of embroidery to display at the annual Regional Day. I had a good look at royal jewellery and found myself rather uninspired, until I thought of the Alfred Jewel which is held in the Ashmolean (always a place to spend many happy hours!). This took me to the Anglo Saxons, and I discovered this rather lovely brooch found at the burial site of an Anglo Saxon princess in Kent. 

That seemed pretty royal to me, and much more inspiring than tiaras and diamond necklaces, so off I went. Drawing on the techniques I learnt at our Wendy Dolan workshop last year, I decided to create a cuff or bracelet based on the design of the brooch. Much trialling and stitching later, and I'm really rather pleased with the result - if you'll excuse the "old dear wrinkles"!!

Goldwork, beads and layered organza cut back with a soldering iron to emulate the cloisonne technique of the original.

I just might see if I can do something else now.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Badger's gift

As regular readers will know we have a large badger sett down in the Dell at the bottom of the garden. With Spring in the air, they have been doing some housekeeping from deep within their dark underground spaces,

digging and delving in amongst the trees, creating more hummocks and dips and piles of freshly turned earth

It's all rather wild and woolly down there, but as I was checking the earthworks, to make sure the neighbour's fence wasn't in danger of collapsing under the strain, I found this

Isn't it lovely? 

Just a simple old bottle really, but how marvellous to find it unbroken, waiting there in the soil to be recovered and brought into the house, where it could be cleaned and made to catch the spring sunshine.

And in the garden, which I have neglected over the winter, there are other signs of Spring

a ribbon of daffodils in their second year of flowering - how lovely they will be in another couple of years when they've clumped up and had a few more added to fill in the spaces

hellebore and jonquil,

grape hyacinth and pulmonaria, yet more daffodils and hellebore

and Wol, enjoying the warm sunshine by the flowering currant

Happy Easter everyone