Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Happy New Year

I hope you and yours have had an enjoyable, if quiet Christmas and New Year. Tomorrow we take down the tree with it's message of hope for the return of light in the darkness, and our little colour changing angels and snowflakes will be safely tucked back in their boxes to come out again next year. 

We aren't amongst those who have a themed Christmas and buy new decorations each year. Some of mine go back 30 years to when my daughter was a child, and upstairs I have a box with the last few remining ornaments that went onto our tree in Petersfield when I was a very little girl. And yes, Amanda Jane is tucked away in a box upstairs as well, along with all her clothes. She was given to me twice, the first time I was underwhelmed by her and she was "tossed to one side", so Mum packed her back up, put her away and brought her out again the following year when I was more appreciative!!

I have some new reading for the New Year. Thank you Rachel for the indirect recommendation - I was given two for the price of one! I am amused by the way that the same font has been used on both covers. Better finish "Early Mesopotamia, Society and Culture at the Dawn of History" first though. I think these will keep me busy for a good while, in between such delights as re reading PD James, for when I have an evening brain rather than morning one - you know how it goes.

I have been stitching as well, those little bits of blackwork all finished now, along with some Dorset buttons, which are rather fun to create, and may get a bit more embellishment. I will probably work a better version of the darkest square as well, it's lopsidedness is even more obvious here. They will be gathered together with others for a group project which must be finished in the next couple of months. I will post the results when it's done. I wonder what it might be?

I have enjoyed doing some simple stitching that hasn't required too much thinking. Sometimes that's all you need, a set of instructions, a needle, some thread, fabric and an embroidery hoop. Oh, and some good music to stitch by, in this case one of my favourite Christmas albums - Jethro Tull's Songs From the Wood with it's glorious ringing out of Solstice bells.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020


The residual marks left when existing text on vellum is scraped back for reuse. Christine Chester made a beautiful textile in 2015, relating it to her own ongoing theme of memories lost. You can read her thoughts behind her work here.

Here, just visible, the shadow of blackwork unpicked. I hadn't centered the pattern properly, didn't like the way it interacted with the edge, so out it came, leaving a trace of black fiber within the slightly larger holes. I am hoping the stitching will cover that little remnant.

I'm not happy with the way this one is centered either, so might have to find another square of fabric

This, on the other hand, has worked well - the difference in colour is down to the lighting

I'd forgotten what fun blackwork can be - the rhythm of the stitching so soothing, the patterns almost stitch themselves, and the back can look like cuneiform ...

Sunday, 27 December 2020


 An old gift joins a new gift to catch sunshine after the storm. Our days begin to grow longer again

I hope you and yours have had a kindly festive season. 

Monday, 21 December 2020


When I go for walks I have two options, to drive somewhere and walk, or to go out of my front door and see where the pavement takes me. I tend to do both in equal measures; sometimes I am treated to the wild rushing sea and views from our seafront, where the pavement is level and I can get a reasonable pace going; on other days I wander around the neighbourhood, peering at gardens, wondering about who lived here in past times, what this space looked like. Every so often something catches the eye and one thinks, hmmmm, where did that come from?

In this case, it is a rather lovely line of trees, Scots pine on one side, chestnut and other natives on the other. They are big trees, as you can see, much older than the surrounding houses and obviously planted, but by whom and what for?

They soar over one, and are home to a bevy of crows

They sit in a long green open space, called Ashcombe Park, between several modern developments. Folk walk along here with their dogs, conkers litter the ground in Autumn

So I did a little digging about and found a rather wonderful thing called "Bexhill Open Street Map" which has an amazing range of overlays on a standard map of the town. From this I can see that at one stage this space was open fields, belonging to Birchington Farm

then between 1899 and this 1909 map, Effingham House appears

and within a very short space of time, it becomes Effingham House School, run by Miss Ismay, who applied to the district council for a temporary gymnasium in April 1919, and shown here on a 1955 OS map. By 1911 the school had 37 boarders, aged 11 - 16 from as far afield as India, Holland and Argentina as well as the more predictable London, Yorkshire and Somerset. There were 5 academic staff, two matrons and 9 general staff.

Here you can see the line of trees in the aerial photo from 1967, angling across the middle of the image,

You can find pictures of both the school and their uniform in this Bexhill Museum publication from an exhibition they had about Bexhill's schools

And finally, to my delight, I found this 1954 advert for "Girl Golfers" at Effingham House School. You can see those lovely trees in the background.

Isn't it amazing how much history we can find, just by looking in different places

Sunday, 6 December 2020

growth and green

I have been adding some green growth to my layers test piece. The river brings growth, and we harnessed that growth for our own purposes back in those Mesopotamian days to extraordinary effect. In the distance, space marked out for a fragment of royal inscription. I was amused, when picking up my test cuneiform stitching to judge the size of that space, to find myself turning it the right way up - which tells me the stitching has, at least, taught me a bit about how to view cuneiform :-)

Then there is this, one of many reels of, for the most part unusable thread, having aged to fragility, that I have inherited from mother, grandmother, aunt and probably great grandmother. This was probably produced in wartime, a delightfully informative website tells me.

isn't the green delicious

I'm using it in a piece we did with Cas Holmes, a delightful teacher and artist, whose work I have admired for many years. The workshop, run over two sessions, focused on how we could blend momigami, "very squashed" paper, and textile scraps, in a piece with both hand and machine stitch. It was so enjoyable, in particular because she was teaching us via Zoom sessions, which bring their own challenges. The first was in part about preparation of the papers we had selected, by crumpling and kneading them in our hands until they loss their stiffness and became more fabric like - this is the momigami element. She encouraged us to layer these with scraps of fabric, pinning them to a calico backing, then stitching them loosely down using expressive stitches that worked with the underlying strata. In the second session she showed us how she uses machine stitch over the initial stitch layer, painting into the fabric with thread, creating texture and highlights, turning the piece over to stitch from the back to add elements of less purposeful stitch. Throughout both sessions she also talked to us about the design process, using her own work to show us examples of how the layers come together. Here she is talking about her piece "In Great Grandmothers' Shadow".

So far, I have got to here, a sort of landscape, with sort of buildings, and a ground layer to divide the space. 

As you'll see I've not reached the machining stage yet, and the paper element of this is so fragile that I suspect it will disintegrate once I start. For Cas that is a good thing; something she uses in her work and I can see its potential. But for this bit of stitching, I'm not so sure - which probably means I really should, and learn from moving beyond my inhibitions. For now I have just done hand stitching, and am happy with the result, though I feel it needs a bit more. I enjoyed the tactile nature of the paper, the difference in sound both as the needle and thread pass through, and the sound and feel as you handle it, skin rubbing against different fibres. I may well explore more, another way of layering.

I hope your stitching week has been good?

Saturday, 14 November 2020

stitching cuneiform

Seems to lend itself to fly stitch. I find myself wanting to make the stitching as decorative as possible, along with representing the cuneiform; enjoying the patterns made by the cuneiform shapes. I allow myself to turn my fabric through 90 degrees, as the scribes might have turned their tablets, pressing stylus into clay.

I wonder about those Babylonian ladies, stitching mottos into their loved ones' garments: spells of protection, charms to ward off evil. Is this the stitch they might have used?

And because Rachel enjoyed my seaside, yesterday's walk gave me this