Sunday, 31 July 2011

I was going to talk about walking today, but then I found a treasure trove.

Yesterday we went for a wander around Hastings Old Town, which has many delights, if you can ignore the tacky seafront circus of penny arcades and amusements – which sounds very elitist but isn’t meant that way – it’s just an odd conflation of the very old, irregular and full of history, with the very new, jangly and full of loud excitements. The day trippers love it. However, the Old Town, which is the venue for the Jack In The Green celebrations I blogged about earlier this year, is also the place to find lost treasures. It is packed with little shops stocking all manner of mysterious things, old books, old paintings, Aunt Edna’s English Village Tapestry fire screen, the scraps and leavings of others' lives. There you can find embroideries that can be picked up for pence and might be “useful” for “something”. There I found this delightful set of table linen. I was looking for old, worn pieces that I could use in a new way – once I figure out how! However, these treasures will be kept for their original use, not translated or re purposed. I couldn’t bear to do anything to mark or damage such exquisite embroidery.

Even the back is masterful!
 I’m not sure whether they are the work of a very skilled “home” embroiderer or high quality commercial work. I am sure they’ve never been used or washed, the stitching is too undisturbed and the transfer lines are still visible – I’d guess they’ve been tucked away in a drawer waiting for a special occasion that never arrived, or were, perhaps a gift that didn’t fit the decor. No idea what period they are, but there are 8 napkins and one tray cloth. They will be “tucked away in a drawer”, but used, with pleasure, if the occasion arises – if I can bear to risk them …..
How much were they? An absurd £2.80!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

A busy weekend!

Gosh, what a lot we seem to have done.

Yesterday we went to this amazing place to choose a wood burner for the sitting room. I'm hoping to be warm this winter!
Mark Ripley Forge

It was an eclectic space, full of all sorts of architectural reclamation, most of it to do with iron or fires, or fire irons! We have ordered a little chunky stove, to fit our small narrow fireplace. We have to have a survey and stuff done to the chimney, all of which should be delightfully disruptive, along with the hall floor being sanded and vinyl being laid in the conservatory!

Then we went to our favourite Merriments for garden tour, lunch and a bit of plant buying to go with those I brought back from Hampton Court. The garden was, as ever, delightful - a showcase for the plants they sell, but also a lovely space to wander through, with a dell full of wild birds at the bottom.

curious development of flower head

birch grove

Common Blue Butterfly on clover

Goldfinches here and gone!
Today, in a fit of delight in the sunshine, I cleaned all the downstairs windows at the back of the house! Then, inspired by India Flint's book and blog, I had another go at some simple eco dyeing.
First I assembled some cotton, yet more sheets from the past, but good for tearing into bits and doing "stuff" to. Soaked in washing soda to prepare them for dyeing.
then the copper pan, which has spent at least some of its life in red soiled Africa, and has the most beautiful verdigris on the bottom.
and the plant material - onion skins, walnut leaf and bark, and bits and bobs from the garden, soaked first in hot water.
onion skins and hypericum
laid out on the fabric, which was then folded around the leaves
and finally tied round hard objects - here a rock from the nearby beach, before being
bundled into the pan on the stove to simmer for a while, then left to steep for a while more
Then unwrapped - or at least two were, after around four hours in the pan simmering and steeping.

Results! I am amazed - though the colours here are on wet fabric. You can really see the way the copper has brought green into the mix - it's very different from the hankies I dyed a while back. The one on the left above had hypericum leaves wrapped in as well, the other had some elder leaves, which had no effect, but the hypericum has given a very clear yellow.
Two are still steeping, I will leave them overnight and see what happens after work tomorrow, we are due some sunny days so time for drying.

Meanwhile my dear one was digging and delving in the back garden creating a new bed,
A well earned rest
or rather extending the one he created last weekend.
As with the moon bed, we are clearing grass to bring flowers into the space.

These are all in shades of rusty reds and orange, though there is a steely blue eryngium hidden away, which we brought as a seedling from the old garden. I am hoping that all these will delight the bees and hoverflies - there's also achillea, echinacea and bergamot, along with some rather lovely grasses to sway in the evening breeze and catch the light as it slants across the lawn. 
Raisin, unimpressed by all this activity, saunters up from the bottom dell, hoping he's in time for a few biscuits.

Friday, 22 July 2011

craft blogging

I'm sure I have commented on this before, but there are such riches to be found amongst those sharing bits of their lives by blogging. Recently I have been watching several things being created, bit by bit.
There is Judy's Manitoulin Circle Project, which always holds within each post a deep sense of art and craft in action and in community.
Gina with her great textile creations and current, sketchbook project - really inspiring, in an "if only I could manufacture enough time" way!
Susan's lovely Lavender post, dye and stitch in soft harmony,
Penny's Celtic Crow, along with the numerous book inspirations in her side bar,
Karen's lovely piece of peaceful circles
And always Jude's amazing and fascinating work, words and pictures. I keep promising myself some time spent following one of her on line courses, but don't feel myself skilful enough yet to take advantage!

All of these good souls take time, not only to create things that are lovely, but add that extra time to photograph, think about and share their processes with anyone who wants to watch and maybe join in. I am learning so much from them, not least that you can only create if you - well - create, which seems obvious but  I tend to spend too much time reading and not enough doing. The beauty of  blogging of this quality is that you get to see the doing and the thinking behind it, along with the time it takes to create. Real lessons from real life in how, really, to follow the dream.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Evening garden

Just a few images from the garden this evening, the first being a penstemon grown from a cutting from a garden I left nine years ago. The first time it's flowered

ripening walnuts
layers of green

Teasel with fly

Blue on blue on blue
rain jewels on columbine

strangalia maculata apparently 

beasts in the undergrowth

Monday, 18 July 2011

Mindful Ironing

I’m not much of a one for ironing, but I had some sheets that had to be washed – sheets I’d found tucked away in a drawer in Mum’s flat, The were stained, but had evidently been put away after a good laundering, compressed but perfectly ironed, rust marked and rather stuffy. I washed them in a good hot wash, tumble dried them (it’s been raining a LOT) to a perfect dampness, then ironed them mindfully. That is I paid attention to what I was doing, savouring the rising steam, enjoying the feel of hot cotton under my fingers getting smoother and smoother, letting my body get into a gentle rhythm of ironing, rather than dashing at it because “it’s got to be done”. Once you find the swing of a task, you do it quicker and better anyway. While I ironed I remembered.

The last time I ironed sheets was with Mum, in the “up in the eyrie” top floor that was her flat in our building. So I remembered that. I remembered her courage in the face of a body whose bones were crumbling within her, while her bright blue eyes still smile dot light up a room. Remembered the fun we had at times, even though other times were difficult.

The sheets bore labels saying “English Lady” and “Horrockses Linen”, which spoke of days gone by, one declares itself to be Egyptian Cotton. One was laundry marked – “Lomer”. Now they are single sheets, and the name Lomer was my grandmother’s (Ganna ) surname  once she married my grandfather, Gerald Hugh. Here they are on their wedding day in St Leonards on Sea, Sussex.

Gerald Hugh Lomer
Here is Gerald,in his uniform, helping with the gardening in the garden at Arklow, where she grew up. He an English soldier in a Southern Irish town at the time of the troubles, keeping the peace. He met her as the family put on evening entertainment for the soldiers; Dr Rowe’s three daughters with piano, violin and voice. She Ethel, the daughter of the town apothecary – known as Dr Rowe, at a time when armed men could be found skulking through the ground floor rooms, while you stayed upstairs, silent, ‘til they had gone. So I remembered them too.

Alice Constance and Alice Katherine Rowe
Then I recalled how, when first married they had a double bed. This, Auntie Connie, Alice Constance Rowe, and their mother Alice Katherine, declared incondusive to the good health and strength of the newly weds. They strongly advised twin beds for a good night’s sleep. Astonishingly, the newlyweds complied with family wishes and twin beds were bought, hence the single sheets for a newly married couple.

Then I remembered further back, to the time when Alice Katherine, four years widowed, aged came across to St Leonards on Sea, England, with her three unmarried daughters, from Arklow, County Wicklow, on the whim of a pin placed, with eyes closed, onto a map of southern England. Why choose such a curious means of deciding when she had a brother in Liverpool, who had six girls of his own – known collectively as “The Frodshams”. Perhaps because said Gerald Hugh was a son of the south, having been born to a family in Southampton who had been “county solicitors for generations”.

So I ironed, and remembered: remembered talking of all these things with Mum, who had talked of them with Ganna, who came across the Irish Sea. And the remembering was good, the ironing done in fine company. For such is the passage of family myth.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Stitchfest 2011

 Today I drove over to the South of England Showground at Ardingly to attend my first Embroiderer's Guild event, Stitchfest 2011.
Regional Challenge stands
This was the event for which Beezeyeview was created and here he is amongst the rest of the East Sussex bees, twirling in front of their blue sky with little pots with each of their names sitting below. The regional challenge was Flight, look out for Elvis coming at you head on
and Hip-Bee with her cool flower power pants
It was really enjoyable and quite busy, despite, or perhaps because of the rain falling outside. Downstairs there was a goodly range of traders to tempt, while the exhibits and food were upstairs. I was very struck by how much variety creative people can come up with, given a one word theme and lots of skill and imagination. There were quite a few bee and butterfly themed displays, but also kites, balloons, witches on broomsticks, a prehistoric panorama, a marvelous airship flight complete with ticket office and attendees and some beautiful and very skillful pieces of individual embroidery around the theme. I got the impression that some stands had been put together specially for the challenge, while others may have included work done in the past by branch members, brought together for this particular theme, though I may be wrong here.

Here is a selection of just some of the things I enjoyed
East Surrey's garden trellis with butterflies

several of which really repaid a closer look

Butterflies fluttering about
Croydon Branch display
more butterflies, these from Maidstone 
some close ups of the high quality and lovely presentation of some of the embroidery there

One of the several very lovely things on the Chichester display

and finally the airship from Tunbridge Wells complete with fairground ride, Mystic Meg, tea and cakes and some very fine costumes

Did I buy anything? How could I not. There were shimmering silks on the Silk Route stand - so I chose their Summer Leaves silk pack for a hanging in the very early planning stage. Another stall had some delicious hand dyed silk and threads from Neredah McCarthy, so I chose a couple more bits to go with what I had already, along with some of her threads in rich deep shades. There were stalls with sumptuous thread in every colour, thickness and texture that you could possible want, so I also bought some of the Wildflowers Collection by Caron in deep greens. These are exactly what I was looking for to bring some dark tones into Uffington, who is now back on track, having been put aside for the bee. Here he is, with colour gradually flowing in from all sides,as he gallops across the Downs, pulling the rising sun behind him as the night stars fade, a little bit of early morning cloud on the horizon, some shadows at his feet.

Still plenty more to do, but I am really enjoying how he's coming along, evolving with each stitch as the story grows.