Sunday, 18 March 2012

March Pleasures

Well, I seem to have done quite a lot since my last post, all of it pleasurable - lucky me!

Firstly, I have finished the canvaswork piece, better late than never, for my City and Guilds. I am pleased with the result, and hope it doesn't look too much like a mish mash of stitches for the sake of it, but has some sense of coherence.

You can see the original little cross stitch, sitting on its side above the finished needlepoint, reminding me of which colours to use. In the bigger piece I tried to expand those colours a bit, while using different threads to see how they worked on the canvas. I really enjoyed the way the space dyed threads created their own dynamic within the patterns of the stitching, in particular, the wash of pale blue stripes, overlaid with a grid of duck egg blue, in the central block. When you look at the real thing, it sets up an interesting optical effect, as first the grid and then the diagonals take precedence in the eye.

Then, on a warm Saturday, I spent the day with textile artist Claire Buckly being introduced to machine embroidery, something I have been wanting to try for ages, but hadn't the nerve to attempt. I had a lovely time and, with just one other student there, we really benefited from Claire's attention and advice. She also showed us what is possible by sharing the work she did for her MA, beautiful detailed embroideries done with great skill and delicacy.

Last week I was on leave, so on Monday my dear soul and I took the train to London to the very excellent exhibition at the British Library, Royal Manuscripts, the Genius of Illumination. It was enchanting and utterly absorbing; books of all sizes carefully displayed in cases, glittering with gold leaf, resplendent with colour and deep in meanings of all sorts. There were psalters to aid with prayer; rules, regulations and advice about the best way for a monarch to live; early medical books; maps; bibles; genealogies; books of hours and tales of King Arthur and Guinevere. The detail and inventiveness of these early scribes just took my breath away, reminding me of a comment about the Book of Kells: that it was the work of angels. Photography was obviously not allowed, but you can see some images here and look in even more detail in the British Library's excellent Turning the Pages section, which is a real feast of delights. I could have spent hours and hours there, but my body doesn't allow for such indulgences, so restricted myself to an hour and a half of absorbed gazing in an atmosphere that was, despite the large numbers of people there, one of hushed reverence.

Then, on Wednesday, I drove all the long way to York to collect my daughter home for her Easter break.

I always stay at the same hostelry, a lovely B&B called the Warrens, close to the City centre and also to Jen's various places of residence over the last four years. It feels like a home from home, and Richard and Jenny who run it are the nicest of folk. I went, of course, to the Quilt Museum where, each time I've stayed, there has been a new exhibition to inspire. This time was no exception with Decline and Revival the theme, and a lovely selection of quilts on display showing the changing fortunes of quilting and patchwork. Exhibits ranged from its early days of decorative functionality, through the fall from grace as people had less time to stitch and ready made bed covers to buy, up to the current day, with some lovely art quilts from modern textile artists. There was also a great little exhibition in the side gallery from the New Horizons Textile Group, which included workbooks and trial pieces that you could handle, to get a feel for how the final pieces were made.

Having spent a very enjoyable hour there, peering at stitches and fabrics, I went out to St Anthony's Garden, as is my habit when there, to absorb it's lovely tranquil atmosphere.

To my delight, having learnt all about hellebores recently, the garden was simply awash with them, waves of colour, spilling across the soil and giving much pleasure to a visiting peacock butterfly and whole families of ladybirds.

I sat for some time, coatless in the warm March sunshine, letting my inner space meld with the outer peace.

On the following day Jen and I popped in to have a brief look at St Clement's Church, just a short step away from Warrens. It is a rather lovely little Victorian church with a couple of stained glass windows, one of which includes this delightful dragon sending his fiery breath rather too close to the skirts of Margaret of Antioch!
A busy time indeed, and I still have Monday to play with, before it's back to work on Tuesday!


  1. Great to see the final canvaswork piece. I know what you mean about the space dyed threads - a little bit of magic appearing as you stitch. Thanks for the B&B recommendation too. We love York and used to stay at the Premier Inn a few miles out, but the girls are getting too big to share a room now. I'll make a note about Warrens.

  2. Thank you for the happy comments = hope you enjoy the Warrens if you stay, it's taken me nearly four years to register the connection between their name and the fact that the key fob for each room is a rabbit!!!
    Your metallic tree is a delight by the way, and evoke the richness of stained glass. I had a similar feeling about windows in a church in Brussels a few years ago