Sunday, 21 December 2014

Friday, 12 December 2014

An Experiment

I enjoy testing out theories. This one is about plied threads having a sort of up and down; up and they behave themselves, down and they twirl and twist, squiggle and wriggle, tie themselves into ungainly knots and, generally, misbehave.

wonder if you stitchers out there have similar "thread lore" that you've been told or have tested

So, a piece of lovely Ed Mar rayon in purple and pink - not being tested on this fabric, that already belongs to a cushion, but at the edge of something. 

I've threaded each end, and will cut and stitch to see how each behaves. 

Same needle, same bit of fabric,

and quite a squiggly wiggle on the right

though subsequent stitches didn't behave the same way, however

the red thread, coming from the left, has untwisted quite a lot at the end, compared to the purple one

and look at how that stem stitch sits in opposite directions, though placed into the fabric in exactly the same way. The purple thread, which squiggled but didn't unravel sits above the line, the red, which squiggled less, sits below. Food for thought.

I am intrigued ...

Saturday, 6 December 2014


these are little things, family treasures, kept from Cecil's house.
they sit here gathering the filtered light,
like faery flowers

Friday, 5 December 2014

Catch up

I haven't shown you this recently. I've done all sorts.

I took out these distracting open chain stitches in dark blue and purple - I am learning the value of unpicking and persevering. These were originally done to explore creating a cell like pattern to sit above the organza for the dragonfly project, which is simply in abeyance at the moment, not forgotten

it has evolved into something else, a counter-play between the surface and what lies beneath. Now I'm focusing here in the top left corner. Just an echo of the wave pattern picked up from the fabric below. I need to do something to hold down the organza at the top left. Something delicate that doesn't draw the eye away from the orange wave. So I'm looking at the threads I've got

Absolutely wrong, too pale and shiny though it has been used elsewhere 

A good purple, but too fat and shiny, again it will draw the eye too much.

Lovely colours, and the right weight, but might tucking bright orange up here be a bit distracting, in this quiet space?

But here, the colours of the organza are echoed closely, the weight is right, and it's a matte thread so won't draw the eye, just blend gently I hope. I'm also looking to break the edge at the side by bringing the flow out onto the ground fabric so it softens that line of blue on the left.

And for an interesting change of scale and tone, I have a Studio 11 next week so also need to consider these - not sure if this will become something functional or decorative, but I love the patterns created by the breakdown process shown in video by Clare Benn and Leslie Morgan

The family of fabrics I've dyed to go with the printed fabric - resist screen printed at the top, embedded screen printed  at the bottom. I'm rather pleased with them. 

Sunday, 30 November 2014


This is the time of year when everything slows down, the sap settles, leaves tumble in the air and all things ripen. Usually we think of harvest in terms of fruit and vegetables, sheaves of grain, rosy apples and russet leaves.

Because I've recently read Hild by Nicola Griffith, I though about a different kind of harvest this year. We have several hazel trees in the garden, of different ages and types of growth. The two nearest the house are relatively young and my plan has always been to coppice them. So this year, I have started in earnest.

This one lives by the well, just outside the sitting room. It's spreading branches shade me from the late evening sun at certain times of the year, and it has a pleasant shape. But there was plenty of young, straight growth that could be taken out.

The second one faces it from the opposite side of the garden, and is mostly straight growth. It tends  to tangle in the wire that runs to the shed, so needs managing carefully. There's also a rather nice hebe at it's base, just behind the fern, that could do with a bit more light.

I took out a significant number of straight tall branches from as near the base of the trees as I could

Then processed the result into various lengths of useful wood, some for burning, some to use as stakes in the garden. I had help!

I can sense you're puzzling about where Hild comes in. Well, I was intrigued by the term "tree hay" that the author uses several times. Thinking about the society she describes, 7th Century Britain, and the way they would have managed the land, the practice of coppicing would have been part of any gathering of people; nature being adapted, when at all possible, into use. It is part of what makes us human, this ability to devise ever more intricate tools from whatever can be used around us. Coppicing would have provided stakes, fencing, the finer branches would have been woven into baskets or hurdles, and then there's tree hay. I looked it up, and found that it was used, until relatively recently, as animal fodder. Usually the branches are harvested in late spring, when the leaves are full of nutrients, then stored for winter.

The little pile to the right reminded me of this, harvested at the wrong time, of course, but still, I could see how it could provide winter fodder. I marveled at the way humans in the past found ways of using what is around them, employing as much as possible of anything that came our way. Now we are so accustomed to plenty that we have forgotten the importance of thrift; throwing things away when we tire of them, and we tire very quickly. It seems to me to be a loss of something precious, our inventiveness put aside in our consumer led society.

So my harvest this year brought some interesting (to me) reflections on human history

What did he think? 

"Where's the biscuits?"

Friday, 14 November 2014

Catching Up!

After many weeks buzzing to and fro from Henley life is beginning to find a slightly kinder pace. I had two lovely workshops this month, then our visit to the London Poppies, by way of some of the more extraordinary buildings in London

the building in front reminds me of the library I worked from for many many years, the one behind is simply surreal when you're close up. 

The poppies we found very moving, each one a human being lost to all.

The garden is looking autumnal

and these two were singing their hearts out atop our tatty spruce

At last I have time to sit and stitch for a bit.

Some knot practice for another piece I'm working on

Those orange knots are too small, the thread being so much finer than the blue knots half way down the sweep.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

A wonderful read

Darling daughter and I went to London on the weekend to view the poppies at the Tower, of which hopefully more anon. However, I made the mistake of taking her into Waterstones by Charing Cross, where she pounced greedily upon this

If you've not discovered Patrick Rothfuss yet, and love a good fantasy series, don't hesitate, dive in. This is a little novella which follows the first two in his Kingkiller Chronicles, and shouldn't be attempted unless you've read them first. It is enchantingly beautiful, from the title all the way to the end - and Jen's let me read it before she does; what a girl! The series itself is also marvelous, glorious writing, brilliant imagination and stirring story telling. I'd recommend him any old day. Now waiting impatiently for the third book in the series, which must be due out soon .... surely .... :-)

Saturday, 8 November 2014


Another Studio 11 session and here are my results

Layers of colour - a fat quarter of each

More layers of colour - each related to the other

Such pleasure to be had with cloth and a dyepot and an excellent tutor.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014


Eventually this whole piece will be detached from the surface I'm stitching against. The initial shape is created with a couched double line of thread onto a pad formed of: folded calico, the line drawing of the design and finally that old favourite, tacky backed plastic. The plastic gives a smooth protective surface, allowing the needle to slide under the threads of the lace to create the next row; part embroidery, part knitting, part crochet, on a tiny scale! 

Intense work, but satisfying

Sunday, 2 November 2014


falling leaves

some cradled for a while

from a Saturday workshop with Kay Dennis and her husband Michael, using Stef Francis fine perle. They had a very cunning setup with a digital camcorder (I guess), projector and screen. This meant you could see the demo in detail, vital for such fine work. Do click on the oak leaf in her gallery - she works the needle lace in white, then delicately paints the result in autumnal hues. 

She taught us mushrooms two years ago.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Experimental shibori

For my next session with Christine I'm preparing these little bits of silk. I've layered three pieces of lightweight silk together with big tacking stitches, folded them concertina style, then stitched a generous running stitch wave down the centre longways

Next I stitched from the innermost point of each curve, out to the edge through individual layers of the folds.

I will draw all the stitches up and tie them off before dropping in the dye pot.

I want to learn two things; firstly how to prepare a small amount of dye for a little project like this - and I'm well aware that this will make the colour unpredictable. Then I want to see how the colour takes in each silk. I did some dyeing in the summer last year and found that silks seem to be warmer in tone than cottons from the same dye bath; I wonder if that is because they are very thirsty, take up colour quickly and so get a higher proportion of any redness, as I'm sure Christine said that red takes first.

Also, of course, I want to see what effects come from the stitching - I hope to get three small pieces of silk that are closely related, because they have all taken the same pattern. The folds will create repetition so the long wave should echo across. The smaller stitching from centre to edge might create an effect of wings, as they will be in pairs nestled between the curves.

We'll have to wait until the 8th of November to see what happens, next class on the 7th :-)

Sunday, 19 October 2014


my dear heart says that should be spelled xorsted, whatever, it expresses how I feel. I did my last trip to Kidmore End this week, up Thursday, back Friday. Cecil's house now emptied, vaccuumed, despidered and ready for new occupancy. A long long two days, after a very long three months with motorways almost every weekend. The final sorting meant packing up delicate glass and china and moving some stuff into the garage, so that the final items being taken away were done so by the right group of people! That of course entailed bumping knuckles, bruising wrists, pulling muscles and general wear and tear. So much easier though, knowing that she is here safe and sound and available to come to Sunday lunch with me and mine today.

I won't be sorry to see the back of the M23/25/4 for a long while now!

I will miss the exultant, keening cries of the kites high above.

Slept for ten hours last night and the night before.

Very .... ....  .. . very tired

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Current Occupation

Found in a drawer, schooldays or the army so, thirties or forties, tucked away.

Very useful for old ladies in residential care homes, keeps the clothes together. It is an odd thing, though, to be using artifacts bought for such a distant and different situation. 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Decision making

Sorry, I am very absent at the moment. Still trailing to and fro from the south coast to the interior, clearing Cecil's home. It means spending a lot of my non work time driving too fast on motorways, and has been occupying time since the end of July when we moved her here.

But aha! on Friday, the pleasure of a Studio 11 day to just do creative. My plan this year includes broadening my technical skills, and Friday was the first chance to start. I brought along a breakdown printed piece that I did in my first year there, a lovely process - here shown by Claire Benn of Committed to Cloth. I used two processes, half of the piece of fabric in each. Friday's plan was to dye some fabrics in a family of colours to use with this to create a quilt, or at least that's the plan for now, these things can change. The point of the exercise was to use a systematic process to take two colours and, using measured quantities of dye and fabric, move through tints as well as moving from one colour to another. It follows the same principles as the colour exercises that we did in City and Guilds, learning how colour works. 

So back to Connie and Harry's sheets, one of which provided me with the requisite four meters of fabric. Divide into four pieces. The colours used are scarlet and either plain turquoises or turquoise touched with golden yellow. Using four parts, one part and a quarter part of each colour, dye the fabric starting with the first colour. I went for the scarlet, so have three shades of this. You can see these at the bottom of each picture.

Then I did test patches, using the delightful method of mixing dyes in with print paste, squishy, scraped on with a credit card to create the blocks! That's what the patches are in the top bits of fabric, the same idea as we used with Michel Garcia though there we were trialing mordants. In the one above, you've got the red to turquoise transition on the left, red to green on the right. I've left out the unmixed red in each as they are at the bottom. 

This one looks very similar, but I've swapped the colours round at the top, to try that green against the left hand fabric.

What I will do next time, is to tear each of my red squares in four and do the same exercise with the second colour, getting mixes of both colour and tint.

The decision is about the colours to use. I love the way the muddy red and greens look, and they do compliment the right hand fabric, but perhaps not the left? This will determine what colour my second dip is. I will end up with 16 fat quarters, one of each colour.

Another view in artificial light.

I love the faint whiff of chemistry lesson about this process, and I love the interesting colours achieved. My fabrics, which are supposed to be a completely even tone, are slightly mottled, which I rather enjoy - it has more character than flat colour.

I'm also preparing a shibori, but more of that later, if I have time!