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.