Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Ready to come together

I've still been felling pretty rough over the last couple of days - in fact I had to forgo my next workshop with Christine at Studio 11 yesterday, as I really didn't feel up to it. However, as long as I sit quietly the world stays relatively still and I can get on with some stitching, so have been adding to my stumpwork piece and now all the separate elements are ready to come together, so here they are before being assembled
 the completed mushroom stems along with the background grassy blobby bits
and a close up of the blobby bits so you can see where I've tried to give a bit of variety and evoke the "greenery yallery" fantasy natural feel of the original pieces. Sadly, you can also see where the padded stem stitch is less than perfect. if I were doing this again I'd probably do the background first, then the stems as the stitching, once done, is rather vulnerable to a moving needle trying to create French knots!
 and the two extra pieces that will sit over the base of the mushroom stems to give that 3d effect, along with two of the mushrooms - the canvaswork one you've seen before and the one from fancy fabric which will, I hope, blend well with the colours of the threads I've used. These two bits and the stitched mushroom will now be cut out, the edges turned and applied to the stems with, hopefully, neat, invisible stitches!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

A quick stitch update

I've not been totally useless these past days, even though I've been feeling pretty grotty. However there were those stumpwork mushrooms to work on. These, as mentioned in my previous post, were all supplied by Kay Dennis in the form of ready to work kits for our Saturday workshop. Here are a couple of pics of work in progress
There's the canvaswork mushroom, OK it doesn't look much like a mushroom at the moment, but this is before I cut it out and shaped it.
Then there's the embroidered mushroom - yes I know it looks like a Christmas Bell. We were told to be as fanciful as possible ... dare I mention, the phrase "magic mushrooms" was heard, and this in a room of sedate middle class ladies all past a certain age!  I had limited threads to use, having put the "going to a workshop kit" together with a bit too much abandon, not knowing what to expect. I'm rather pleased with the sheen of the pink thread; it seems to work with the, hurriedly coloured with what came to hand, pale green background.
And here are the stems - which give you an clearer idea of how the mushrooms are shaped - you can see the felt form for the first one already stitched onto the ground fabric. This bit I found the most interesting as I'd not done anything quite like it before. We started with rows of chain stitch worked up and down within the pre-printed lines given for the stems. Then we laid bars of thread (a single strand of 6 stranded floss) evenly across the chain stitch. Then comes the top layer of raised stem stitch (there's a good photo tutorial on this here) again worked on the first one with a single strand of embroidery floss. The initial foundation of chain stitch provides the plumpness (lovely word that) over which you work the stem stitch. In the middle stem I tried using two strands of floss to enable me to vary the colour a bit. I've shown the final stem before I completed the top layer so you can see how the technique comes together. I love the finished result - not because I think I've been particularly clever, but because using such fine thread gives a wonderful effect that mimics closely that silky/fibrous texture of mushroom stems. Since I worked these bits I've completed the mushrooms; the final one is shaped "fancy" fabric supplied by Kay, folded around a felt form. There are also little shapes filled with French knots to resemble the ground the mushrooms are growing from. The next stage is to stitch all these separate elements onto the ground fabric to complete the picture.

Then there's Cecil's quilt. I finished the piecing today - all now pressed and ready to layer with wadding and backing
I picked up some delightful fabric from Fabric Design in Matlock Bath. It's actually a furnishing fabric, but I thought it the perfect thing for a lady who has spent most of her life working in one of our lovely National Trust historic homes. I think the little vignettes of pastoral folk will delight her feeling for history, her pleasure in fine furnishings and her well developed sense of whimsy.
Whilst all this creativity has been going on, the garden has been settling itself down for the winter. We've been having an exceptionally wet Autumn, following a pretty wet summer and we Brits do seem to love moaning about the weather endlessly. I'm not going to do that - I'm not a great sun lover, I find constant sunshine a bit boring to be honest, much preferring the variety that comes with moisture in the air; it keeps this country green, gives us wonderful piled high clouds, the delights of shade and sunlight, rainbows, mists and mellow fruitfulness. Certainly this little fellow is appreciating the full growth and resulting seeds
as for the resident squirrels, they have been beside themselves with delight at the harvest from the yew tree
 performing the most daring acrobatics to get at that lovely, luscious, jewel like fruit

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Still here - honest

Hello good souls. In case you think I've forgotten you - I haven't. I'm just struggling a little with a combination of fibromyalgia (long established), chronic fatigue syndrome (newly diagnosed) AND labyrinthitis (all this month!). If only such delightfully exotic sounding names didn't have such unpleasant manifestations!! As it is, the world sways in a rather unnerving way if my head goes off the vertical (beware oh cats, when I stoop to put biscuits in your bowls - you may find ME in them instead) and I feel constantly under the weather - which has been misty moisty all week. However, I still managed to have a very fine time last Saturday being taught Stumpwork by Kay Dennis at our Embroiderer's Guild day class, which was tremendous fun. We were all tasked with making a start on one of her project kits; she showed us, clearly, precisely, with both skill and humour, what to do; we did our best to follow suit. I'm about three quarters of the way towards finishing. There are three exotic mushrooms on a little hillock! Will post some pictures once I'm done.

In the meantime, you might enjoy Ember's delightful post on being stout, which gave me particular pleasure recently! If only I could be so sanguine!

Monday, 15 October 2012

knitting and stitching

Yesterday I made the long haul to London to visit the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. It was a long haul as well, with work on the fast track and the closure of part of the Victoria Line on the Underground, meaning that it was a 4 hour slog from home to sitting with my cheese sandwich on the steps outside, gathering strength to go in and face the hoards! Mind you I had made the effort to walk up from Wood Green station. I figured it was probably the only exercise I'd get for the day!

My first amusement  as I went in, was to find Barbara, who is part of our local Guild, wandering about with a bag full of goodies, trying to drag herself away as she needed to be in Worthing by tea time. We stopped for a chat, she commenting that she has "all these City and Guild students about to start their course, so she had to come and stock up". Rather cheeky, I thought, to use us as her excuse!

It was, as Gina has commented in her delightful (un)grumpy old woman post, hot and crowded, but not unbearably so yesterday. It was only my second visit; perhaps you get used to the overwhelming nature of the show when you're a seasoned visitor but I did find it left me "moithered" as Cecil would say.

As you go in you find yourself in the display area where all sorts of interesting things made by other talented craftspeople are there to inspire. One exhibition that really caught my eye was Nancy Crow's Colour Improvisations. This was a group of large, vibrant quilts, based around that single theme - improvising with  colour . Reminiscent of the Improvisations in so many areas of music, from Jazz to Classical. Take something, work with it, see what happens. Many of the quilts were densely stitched. I noticed how in some cases stitching added colour, contrasting or complementary, building on the fabric beneath like harmonies in music. In others it brought the light and shade of texture into play, giving a sense of movement or density. They were all by contemporary quilt artists from North America and Europe, and I could have looked at them all day, going back and forth between them, preferably standing further away in some cases. I guess on a crowded day, this could have been quite claustrophobic, but yesterday there was enough space to gaze. No photographs were allowed, so I'm afraid I can't show you any.

Other pieces that I really enjoyed, and which I was allowed to photograph, were all from member of the New Embroidery Group's Exhibition "Touching the Earth"

Margaret Mary Griffiths : Will This World Survive?

Liz Holliday : Downland Contours, Box Hill and Devil's Dyke
Downland is a theme I particularly warm to since I love maps; how could one not, having worked in a reference library? And I am a Downland person - not in the sense of having lived within their folds, but they have always been the backdrop of my life, first in Hampshire, now at the other end of the Way.

Veronica Chambers : Sugar Beet Singling. East Cambridgeshire Fens, 1950's

Anna Diamond : My Garden

I did my usual trick of pushing my glasses down my nose to peer closely at the detail in this lovely garden piece

Edel Zollinger : Aurora Borealis
And I long to see the Aurora Borealis one day .....

Having spent time looking and learning and being inspired, I then plunged into the fray that is the marketplace, bedazzled by stalls of every colour and design selling far too many interesting and desirable things to take in, especially as the soles of my feet were beginning to feel a bit jaded. I wandered about, looking at this and that, touching, stroking, peeking, squinting, resisting, getting turned around and around in the strange maze that is these big craft shows and emerging, eventually, back to Palm Court where the door to light and air beckoned.

I finally left at about 4:15 and, yes, it did take almost four hours to get home; and yes, I did spend money on thread and silk, but I tried to be prudent!

On the way home, even London managed to look strangely beautiful as the sun set, glinting from the rails

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Show and Tell

Well hello there, I'm back after a lovely week in the Lakes preceded by a couple of days in Matlock Bath. Thank you all for lovely comments whilst I've been away.

I thought I'd start by having a bit of a show and tell - y'know how it is, you go away, there's unusual shops selling stuff you haven't seen back home, you practice a stiff upper lip for about three minutes before the logic of knowing you'll not find this or that anywhere else allows you to indulge. So here's a whistle stop tour of the best bits.

My treasured purchases; some delicious embroidery silks from Wye Needlecraft in Bakewell
and some luscious wools from the wool shop in Ambleside, just beside the Giggling Goose
While in Matlock we visited Hardwick Hall, which was simply fabulous

Then there was a day out in Carlisle, where we visited the delightful Tullie House Museum and Gallery, immersed ourselves in the Pre Raphaelites there
and repaired to their restaurant where apparently you can purchase the chef's daily, served warm with olives!
There was the trip down Windermere, dark with rain
and amazing clouds
a sighting of a Hercules (apparently known as Fat Albert) flying over the lake
and some dogged fellow passengers braving the weather
There was  St Martin's Church at Bowness with beautiful stencilled silk curtains to a side chapel, made by war disabled craftsmen in the thirties. You can read more about it here
the modern etched glass panel beneath the tower was sublime 
and contrasted beautifully with the medieval stained glass in the windows behind the altar
There I was greeted by the most delightful elderly gentleman who told me something of the history of the church -  a real pleasure. 

Then there was getting locked in St Mary's Church at Wreay .... 

Yes, honestly, I know, it's not a very big church is it? This is it in its entirety; beautiful but also pretty simple.  I was down the front, fiddling with different shutter speeds to try and capture the atmosphere and the vivid glass. I suddenly realised that the noise I had taken for a strange phone jingle, having heard someone come in at the door, was actually the alarm setting itself; that the effortful door closing wasn't because it was difficult to close, it was because it was being very firmly locked!  "Oh eck!" I thought as I scurried down the aisle to said door, where I realised there was no-one beyond to hear my shouted "Hello!!", only the echoes in the emptiness. The alarm was quite sure I was trying to steal the church, so twittered and tweetled away in, well, an alarming fashion, and my dear one had wandered off outside to examine the area. Eventually he returned, found someone who knew someone who could come and release me, found the someone who could release me and I was duly released into the evening air! I'm afraid it appealed to my sense of the ridiculous. I was reminded of getting myself locked in Hastings Cemetery many years ago. I'm sure I failed to treat it with the seriousness it deserved, but for heaven's sake, l've locked up a whole five floors of a public library, complete with rows of shelves, nooks and crannies, corridors and little rooms, and managed not to lock anyone in!!

During the week I was also searching for grids, a theme for the City and Guilds we're starting next month ... have I mentioned that? I found them aplenty
electric grids

and reflected dotty grids
also an Ambleside resident, who popped by to say hello
There were Klimt birch trees

little bits of decoration in odd places
reflections in Weir swirled water
light and shadow in the leaves
wonderful trees leaning forward to greet us
and, whilst indoors, some slicing and dicing
chain piecing and piling up
ruminating
and, now I'm home, some proper planning
I'm hoping to get this finished for Cecil for Christmas. There are still two more rows of blocks to cut, some adjustments to the final design, then the piecing, layering, basting, quilting, binding .... It was an excellent diversion during the many long hours of rain! 

I've not tried a traditional quilt with proper blocks before - this is Roman Stripe. What fun!!