Saturday, 6 June 2020

lockdown wanderings

It seems to have become completely normal now, this restricted life in response to the pandemic we are still experiencing. We have settled into a sort of routine: weekly family Zoom get togethers with the Man's family who are spread far and wide; tea, socially distanced, in the garden with beloved daughter, cake or biscuits and crochet mandatory; walking down to the "village" for shopping in a small supermarket which has remained wonderfully well stocked for our simple needs; the Man's trips to the butcher where they bewail the lack of football; my various crafty activities and, of course, Mum's diaries.

The garden has continued to grow despite the lack of rain, and we were on the list to be part of the open gardens scheme for our local hospice this month. Instead they are having a virtual open gardens on their Facebook page and asked us for some photos that they could share. I thought you might like to enjoy a few of them as well

Early morning sunlight just catching "Mum's maple" - given to me by her some 25years ago and finally planted in the soil when we moved here

 a beautiful rose that came from my son in law's grandmother's garden. I love it that gardens can speak to us of people through the things that grow in them

New shed, new maple and new slate pathway which leads to ...

our new seating area, where tea and cake are taken and plants from the greenhouse are nursed along before planting out

 the Man's domain, where vegetables are produced and badgers are battled - they being rather partial to bean seedlings and other vegetable delights!

and finally, Down in the Dell where the badgers dwell, looking green and thriving

For my walks I am lucky enough to have the sea within five minutes drive, or fifteen minutes walk from the house. The weather has been so glorious, and our beach has, so far, remained thankfully unvisited for the most part, just a few locals taking the air

A friend wondered how we'd managed to escape to some hot Greek island, but no, this is the place we call home

I am everlastingly grateful to live here

Friday, 15 May 2020

More sparkle

Well my first attempt at Or Nue is completed. I am pretty pleased with it, despite the slightly suggestive bulge at top left where I tacked down the thread on the back at an angle rather than across the back of the border threads - just don't think of Mick Jagger in tight trousers and you'll be fine!

It has now been tucked into a small box frame and sits on the good man's mantlepiece in his study where it catches the light coming through the bay windows and reminds him that I love him every day, not just on our anniversary. And yes, I did manage to get it finished for the special day and, yes, I did have enough of the gold thread to finish, so didn't have to investigate the scrambled muddle of "less gold" gold thread.

I really enjoyed stitching this, though I'd probably work any future projects in slightly slower time: all that peering through an illuminated magnifier and stitching for long periods resulted in a migraine and very stiff neck and shoulders once it was done. The combination of simple stitching with attention to the finer detail felt very mindful, and listening to my playlist of medieval music provided a lovely and appropriate background. However, enough stitching for now. I have returned to a knitting project that I started more than two years ago - remember that lovely Noro yarn? I lost confidence when I got to the sleeves; the increases in combination with a lace pattern, not something I've done before, so it got tucked away. But I needed something big for my eyes to focus on so out it has come again and I have promised a friend and fellow knitter that I will finish it in time for our next meeting for tea and cake, whenever Coronavirus allows.

I was right though, the increases on the sleeves are rather tricky, but I won't be beat this time!

Saturday, 9 May 2020

A little bit of sparkle

The pleasure of watching Rachel's patient stitching on her Dreams of Amarna project has revived my interest in goldwork. She is now up to episode 7, so if you'd like to spend a gentle 20 minutes or so listening to her thoughts on embroidery and watching her design take shape you can find her here.

Yes, I do have far too many other projects on the go that need my attention - in fact an overwhelming amount, but I found myself going back to a deserted piece that was begun in a lovely workshop we had with Becky Hogg four years ago. I had abandoned it because it was not as well stitched as I would have liked, but when I got back to it I thought, "hmmmm, that's really not too bad" and having finished it I am rather happy with the result. You have to understand that this woodpecker has not preened his wing feathers recently, which is why they are a bit askew! He has also failed to peck the hole in his bit of tree trunk, I assume he is a lazy woodpecker! You can see how he really should look here.

Rachel's current project uses a technique called Or Nue, a very old technique using rich gold and silver threads couched down with fine silks to create pictures that glitter seductively in the light. Mary Corbet has a rather nice piece about it here. Rachel is using a spiral thread, where the gold begins at the heart of Akhenaten and spirals out from there. Having decided that I would really enjoy this meditative stitching, and having a wedding anniversary approaching, I thought I might devise my own, very simple design, and work it in time to give to my dear heart.

Spiraling looked a bit too scary, so I am running the gold thread from side to side on the fabric. This came from a rather louche bundle that was part of Cecil's stash - definitely not the way one should store goldwork supplies. This is the tidier bit, and I am hoping there will be enough because the untidy bit (for which read something that looks like a large bundle of knitting wool that a kitten has been over enthusiastic with) is a slightly different gold.

So, I set to yesterday with much enthusiasm and little understanding and have got this far by this morning.

I am using embroidery floss rather than silk, because my dry skin turns any length of flat silk thread into something resembling Gonk hair. The eagle eyed among you will notice my basic error; I am running the gold thread across in singles rather than in pairs. This means twice the stitching so it will go slowly; unhelpful since our anniversary is in three days time! It is only our second anniversary, though we have known each other 22 years now. Traditionally gifts are cotton, but I think the linen ground fabric is an acceptable substitute.

Wish me luck

Monday, 27 April 2020

beauty and silence

The weather is almost heartbreakingly beautiful at the moment, as though we are being rewarded, or perhaps gentled along through this great pause that has been forced upon us. Yet that awareness is always balanced by the knowledge that there is heartbreak across the globe as more folk die of this contagion.

Here in the garden and in my trips to the shops for necessities I am aware all the time of the background silence. It extends the physical space that surrounds me, by giving access to distant sounds, normally drowned by the constant buzz of traffic and other human generated noise; crows in the trees across the valley, "thank you NHS clapping" in the streets surrounding us on a Thursday evening. We are five minutes away from one of the main routes along the south coast, in fact the only route West from Dover unless you choose to go up to the M25, so not some delightful rural backwater. Our home is in the outskirts of a conurbation that basically stretches across 3 small towns at the edge of the sea. Even more so, I am struck by this silence.

I noticed today that I was being tickled by the sense of some echo of this silence within myself, a deep feeling of rightness about it. Then I realised, this is what the world sounded and felt like in my childhood; there was so much less traffic that you could actually hear; rather than living in a state of constant unconscious filtering, you could truly feel the space you were surrounded by.

Even more beautiful just now is the expanse of the night, as the young moon nestled in darkness watches Venus throwing her clear light down to us.

Monday, 20 April 2020

where stuff happens

This little mouse came to me from Steph during the DBM episode. She said I needed to get in touch with my inner mouse! It has now found its true role in life, as indicator of my having decamped to "The Workshop" - the idea being that I place it on the dining table where the Good Man cannot miss it.

"The Workshop" is our garage, never used for cars, with the addition of a very fine sink, a water heater, some random furniture, a print bench, and two skylights for natural light

The rug in front of the sink was hooked by Mum back in the early 1960s to her own design which sat in front of her gas fire all of my life. It is now sadly on it's last legs, but gives me a soft spot to stand when working there and is a link to her. Our coastline hangs on the wall, four pathfinder maps laminated to a large board, so I know where I am in case I get lost - a project from many years ago. Some ancient mirrors and one of Jen's GCSE artworks, also from long ago give the end where the garage doors are some interest.

Looking the other way, there is a door to the back garden, which means I can go in and out from the back of the house. There are shelves and cupboards for storage, and I am beginning to get things organised

In the corner by the garage door is my ponder spot, two chairs of Cecil's, one an upright beautifully caned chair, the other a little low legged upholstered chair which used to sit by her bed and hold her clothes ready for the morning. Again, I have known it all my life and it is another link to deeply loved people. Here it is, still holding clothes, but this time my workshop apron and clothkits smock

On the bench in the foreground is one of my Coronavirus project pieces, the textures I was collecting from the garden to reflect activities that have been part of our isolation experience. I did further rubbings yesterday and have now added a new layer of dye.

The other place that "stuff" happens is here. In theory it is the spare bedroom. In reality it is my sewing and "whateverothercraftactivityI'mdoing" room. Yes it is a bit of a muddle, but I know where everything is (honest)! One of Nanya's oil paintings hangs above the fireplace.

I can sit and plot and design and cut out stuff, and baste things together at the table (another piece of Cecil furniture). I can clamp my little tapestry loom to it's edge (yes, I'm tapestry weaving again) to do a bit of weaving, and on the table behind me is my sewing machine to stitch things together. The room is south facing, so again plenty of natural light to see by.

I am thankful every day that I have these places to retire to and explore the various creative activities that bring me joy - I know that many have much less. I am thankful too for the network of folk who share these interest with me. In particular Christine's wonderful transferral of Studio 11 to an online space has encouraged me to really make use of my garage-workshop. It has been a long time coming, but walking in there every day, turning some music on and using the things I have gathered together over the years to explore the current Studio11 projects is a huge pleasure.

I hope you too are finding time for creativity in the these strange lockdown days

Monday, 13 April 2020

Corona creativity

Because we are unable to gather at Studio 11 for our monthly creative delights with Christine, she has, in her usual undefeatable resilience, put together an online course for those of us who want to continue exploring cloth and stitch. Her suggestion was that we work on the theme uppermost in our minds at the moment which is, of course Covid-19.

What an unprecedented experience for all of us, both close and far - something which will probably redefine "normal" for most of us once we have got beyond this stage of lockdown For us, me and my dear man, life is in many ways unchanged, we are both retired, but the loss of weekly markers, Bridge for him, various things for me, lends a sense of timelessness to days, a stasis which is quite hard to rise above.

The garden has provided a retreat and sanctuary space for both of us, and as I have sat out there I have been much more mindful of my surroundings. The extra level of hush brings birdsong to the fore; an aircraft passing above is something to remark on, rather than ignore; the textures of things around me, visual textures and sounds, are things to focus on and enjoy. So, I spent some time taking rubbings of things, first on paper with a simple wax crayon - some came I was very happy with,

So focusing on those I liked, I took some cotton out into the garden to collect again, this time with candle wax. The marks are there, but could be more definite, what you can't see here are the lovely contact marks the dye made on the back of the cloth. I will add more marks, and more colour, and see where we get. Had I thought, I could have left the first layer of wax on, taken a second layer of marks and then added colour, but I was too hasty with wanting to see what it looked like so it has all been washed away. I will do my best to overlap the rubbings so I retain some of those white marks

The other thing we did was to look at the imagery attached to the virus, drawing it in various different ways. I played with stitching and clamping, linen and ramie, to see what shibori methods could do to evoke that spiky ball - lots to think about here, and to play with some more