Saturday, 31 January 2015

Starting and finishing

As these bits of embroidery should be seen from the back and the front, I have no muslin to hide threads behind. One way of doing this is with an "away knot"; you bring the thread through from front to back some distance (at least a needle's length) away from where you start, begin with a small back stitch to secure, then weave the waste thread in once you've finished. As this fabric has a good even weave, and is quite firm, I am lacing the tail end through the very top thread of the weave on the back, where it will be over stitched, then taking the securing stitch. It will save me time and the end result is the same.

Finishing off

The tacking thread shows me the perimeters of the space I'm filling in each quadrant. I've divided the space up in a similar way to some of the carpet pages in manuscripts like Kells and Lindisfarne. I'm quite nervous about all this, truth be told, there are so many fine needle women in the guild, who have been members for many years. I hope my stitching is up to scratch! There has been unpicking already!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Get Lucky

Sometimes, you just get lucky. I was planning a gardening post about cutting back the flowering currant as it is starting to shoot (with apologies for iPad photos of dubious quality).

For me pruning is always about where the plant or shrub puts its energy.

So here it is all scrambled up with tall shoots growing up beyond the height of the fence. The energy of last year has reached for the sky and there is ivy clustering about the base. Branches will rub together in the wind and damage each other. Not good

and here, with around a third of the oldest growth cut right down, a third cut back, and the rest of last year's shoots reduced by about a third. I try to do this each year as it keeps the centre open and leaves plenty of space for the coming year's growth. However, while I was deep in the heart of it, right at the back near the fence, I looked up just in time to see my very favourite little bird, the goldcrest, enjoying the fat block about four feet away on the nearby feeding station. I stood stock still and just watched. Oh a precious sight. Then it got better. I wandered down to the bottom of the garden to see how the Dell was doing.

The walnut and the birch bracket the space with their lovely pale trunks, the grass is all died down and there is very little sign of the flourishing growth that heralds high summer. As I drifted back up the garden I heard the nearby call of a fox. I stopped and stood, and stood, very quiet and relaxed, trying my best to disappear and there he was, trotting up the path

and a little later, whilst I was enjoying the sun setting behind my favourite oaks,

I heard yet another bark, and there he was again retracing his journey

Oh lucky me

Monday, 26 January 2015


I am away from work at the moment, on doctors orders. This gives me some time to nurse the daily hurts that come with having Fybromyalgia and a connective tissue disorder, which leave me feeling drained and exhausted. I don't talk about my health much here, it seems too much like an indulgence, and is only part of who I am. However, I reached a point where I simply had to stop. This allows me to do things at my own pace, to rest when I need to and to take a focused course of Ibuprofen to try and help my body to heal itself. I feel like a convalescent, but the positive side is that I have time to work on a stitch project our Branch Chairman has suggested, a sort of stitch dictionary. We chose two bits of fabric and a piece of folded paper on which was writ our stitch - in my case, blanket stitch. One is to work the stitch in as many variants as possible, using a variety of threads and pushing the stitch to see where it will go. The second bit of fabric is to create an image, using the threads and stitches.

The first task, of course, is to audition threads. I tried a varity, the brief being to use as many different weights and types of thread, and to push the stitch as far as it will go. There were a number that didn't work

This little twist of greens (from Cecil's stash), while full of lovely textures, moves the colour range too far away from "neutrals" which was the brief

likewise, the yellow/orange is, too far away from the initial range. 

So here is what I came up with

the darker piece of fabric will be my test bed, the rosy coloured one I'm keeping for the image. This is my excuse for moving the colours towards the rusty and ruddy, which blend with the darker fabric as well. I have a few ideas for an image, but nothing firm yet. I'm waiting to see what the stitch can do and what it says to me.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Here's what happened

a little late in posting because I had to be at home at a time when there was natural light to get the colours right. Here's the piece I showed you in full before I popped it into the dye bucket. It's roughly a yard wide.

It reminds me a little of sunset clouds over the sea - OK that takes a bit of imagination, but if you stand back, squint a bit, and think of mackerel skies, it kind of works. I'm very happy with the way the patterns of the shibori stitching flow with the orange streaks, they zig zag across the cloth without being too insistent. Some of the colours really zing out and when you look at it close up, as with all shibori, you get lovely shapes and accidental images. All part of the technique, not my cleverness I must add.

And the piece I wrapped around the pole? This one is smaller, around 21 inches wide.

A sort of mandala, that spins and dances on the fabric. The plastic capping at the end didn't work, but I think that's OK as it would have left an uninteresting splodge of white in the centre. Again, the colours have gone very zingy in places, which I like, but might not be to some people's taste.

Of course the eternal question that Aunt Cecil always asks is "but what it it for Kath? What are you going to do with it?"

To which I reply, it's for learning ... rather like life I always think.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

an echo for Pen

She will know what it's about
A little pastel from back in the days when I still did

you'll see why if you go here and scroll to the final picture.
And if you fancy a retreat, this is a lovely part of the country, quiet and gentle, like Pen

Friday, 9 January 2015

Shibori experiments

A lovely New Year treat at Studio 11, despite waking up with a horrible migraine. One of my focuses this year is to pursue Shibori further and I thought it would add some interest to use one of the pieces of fabric I dyed two years ago in the Colour Fun workshop that was my introduction to the pleasures of working with dyes and fabrics. So I took this piece, which was a tray dyed bit of cotton, rippled across diagonally then dyed with a variety of reds, rusts and the odd spot of purple and green

I folded it concertina style

loosely tacked the folds down at each edge, then stitched diagonals across the folded fabric, running the stitching in the same direction as the marks on the fabric

my plan to pull all the stitching up and overdye with another colour. But what colour I wondered? After discussion with Christine, who has a marvelous sense of colour, I decided on a mixture of petrol green with a touch of indigo, colours across the colour wheel from the ones already here, in other words, complimentary, rather than analogous.

I also did a small bit of pole wrapped fabric, not the usual pole wrapping which involves spiraling a single layer of fabric around a pole, wrapping thread round in another spiral, then compressing it all by sliding the fabric and thread to the bottom of the pole. This creates lovely rippling patterns, but I wanted to try for a mandala effect.

I placed the pole vertically at the centre of the fabric, drew the fabric up around the pole and taped that firmly while I wound thread in a spiral. I tied a piece of plastic over the end of the pole, intending to create a bright heart, with the pattern radiating out from the centre.

How did they turn out? I'll let you know when they come out of the washing machine.

I also did some work on the breakdown printing for which I dyed a family of fabrics earlier