Sunday, 27 May 2012

Needle Weaving

A couple of weeks ago I went across to Unique Cottage Studios near Spalding for their annual Sheep Day.  I got there a bit later than I intended to on a very chilly and gloomy day to find things in full swing.  For some unfathomable reason I didn't take any photos so I will have to direct you to Tina and Angela's blogs.  Do have a look at Tina's beautiful cloth book on her blog.  Her hand stitching is always a work of beauty.

As well as Angela giving dyeing demonstrations and Tina sharing her hand stitching  Wendy  was giving a mini workshop on needle weaving.  No sooner had I arrived than I was put to work learning this technique.

Above is my first attempt and I have to say it is a very straightforward and addictive activity.  In the last couple of days I have started on another piece which I have yet to complete.

This one looks a bit wobbly because I could only find some very thin copper wire at home so until I have it all woven it is a bit flimsy.  The thread is very fine cotton crochet thread and is allowing me to make some daintier holes than the anchor thread allowed.  I can see that this could easily turn into a little carry along project as it doesn't demand many materials and I would love to incorporate some beads.  As Wendy suggests you could use these little plaques in all sorts of ways, as brooches, on bookcovers, on cards, as pendants etc etc.  I shall be sourcing a little box of goodies to keep me busy in idle moments when I'm out and about.
 (This is the existing building where Stitchcraft will be based, plenty of parking too).

On Friday I went along to meet the ladies who are opening Stitchcraft in Grantham in September and had a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours talking about their vision for this new venture.  I did wonder why they had invited me to meet them as I am not a teacher or anything but it became clear that they are keen to meet like minded people and to hear what people would like from this new opportunity.  The premises where the shop and workshops will be is in a modern building with large rooms and a very attractive cafe which offers tasty lunches and plenty of tea and cakes!  Very important when you are planning a quilting/stitching business!  While none of the rooms has yet been fitted out for the shop they have settled on their logo and Kathryn and Christine were very excited by the reality of seeing their business name in lights, as it were.  The website will be up very soon.  

As a result of the meeting I have agreed to go along on the Open Day with some of my work to chat to anyone who wants to listen about my stitching journey.  I'm planning to take some workbooks as well to show people that you don't have to do anything fancy in a sketchbook.  Mine is definitely a mishmash of notes, sketches, photographs and scribbles so not a thing of beauty.  I'm really looking forward to the opening and I sincerely hope the shop will be a great success.  Our town is sorely in need of a good fabric shop and workshops on the doorstep will be fantastic!.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

A Busy Week

I've been very quiet on here this week as we have been invaded by builders!  We decided it was time to bite the bullet and get the bathroom updated.  As we only have the one bathroom and no alternative facilities we knew it was going to be a bit of a nightmare.  As it turned out it was less stressful than we expected but it did involve getting up much earlier than we are usually up and spending most of the day out of the house so that we could avail ourselves of other people's loos.  (Too much information!) 

One of our avoidance-tactic-days took us to Ely to see an exhibition by the Stitch Links group at the Babylon Gallery.     The gallery would only allow generic photographs of the gallery and no details but you can get an idea I hope.  (Last year we were able to take closer shots).

The green and purple work on the far wall is by Heather Hunter and to our eyes looked like a map of the underground.  Heather offers no interpretation of her work but allows the viewer to take what they will from it.  Each of those strips is closely machine embroidered in shades of green and purple and I liked its lines and the movement within it.

This exhibition was titled 'Reworking the Image'  and follows their very successful exhibition two years ago which I went to see with 3 blogging friends.   Having looked back at that previous exhibition it is  interesting to see the similarities and the developments in the artists' work.  I still like Sheila Cahn's work which you can glimpse on the left in the top photograph and on the right in the second.  Her work continues to explore layers and raw edges.

From the gallery DH and I made our way into the centre of Ely to visit the cathedral, which I think I may have blogged about previously (here ).  I can't believe it's 4 years since I visited the cathedral!

This Priors' doorway is in one of the oldest parts of the Cathedral.

Thanks to DH I have this image of the central octagon tower. (Apologies if it is slightly blurred as it was a long way up). 

Definite suggestions of quilt patterns in the Lady Chapel, the largest building of its type in the country.

This very subtle mediaeval pattern was painted on the wall in one of the small side chapels.

This banner above, kept under glass in another chapel, features motifs that have been applied to the surface of the base cloth.  It may even be that the figures were painted and then stitched onto the fabric.  I think I need to go back and have another look!

By the time we had toured the Cathedral and then had some lunch the sun had decided to come out and we had a very pleasant stroll along the river watching the potential mayhem of a school rowing lesson coming to blows with the Cambridge Rowing Team practice session!  

I should have started this post with this image which my three blogging friends will remember.  DH and I started the day here with tea and an excellent coffee (according to DH) and scones.  I'm pleased to say Peacock's tea room hadn't changed since our last visit 2 years ago and by the afternoon the tables outside were all busy too. 

As I said at the start of this post our builders have finished our bathroom and, with the delivery of some furniture I am now starting the mammoth task of trying to organise my sewing room.  It's so hot here today that I probably should have left it for another day but I can't wait to be straight so I am plodding away at it and might be able to show you some photos of my new work area soon.  Either that or the heat will get me and I'll melt away in a little heap!

Back soon with more news of the new Stitchcraft shop that is opening in Grantham in a couple of months.  I met the girls who are behind this exciting new project yesterday and spent a very happy couple of hours discussing their vision for this new venture.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend and think of me in the heat tomorrow trying to tame my stash into a few drawers instead of a pile of boxes!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Alzheimer's Awareness Week

This week from 20-26 May is Alzheimer's Awareness Week in the UK.  Alzheimer's is the most common of a group of diseases that cause changes in the brain, followed closely by vascular dementia.  My mother-in-law had Alzheimer's for several years before she died and this awful disease laid waste to her brain with devastating consequences.  After a stroke in 2010 my own Mum, as I have spoken of here, now lives with vascular dementia and we have to watch and support her as she struggles to continue to make sense of the world around her. 

By 2021 there are predicted to be over one million people living with Dementia in the UK (currently there are 800,000).  The figures for the United States are even more frightening where currently 5.6 million people are living with the disease. 

The positive message is that life can still be meaningful living with this disease and my Mum still keeps her sense of humour and enjoys her time with her family, especially with the newer members :-)  

I have to admit that I sometimes think of the dementia before I think of the person and this is a good time to remember that my lovely Mum is still in there and is now sweeter than ever in her confusion.  Happily she still has her sense of humour but it would be lovely if she still had her independence.

Beth, whose father suffered from Alzheimers for 19 years from when she was 12 years old, has just started a blog to continue raising awareness of this terrible disease so please go and give her your support.  

PS The little boy in the photograph is my brother and the girl is, of course, me.  We'd have been aged about 5,(me), and 4 or thereabouts.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Photo Collage Workshop

What, another workshop?!  'Fraid so.  A couple of weeks ago now I went to a Quilters' guild regional workshop not far from where I live with Hilary Beattie who specialises in bonded applique collages.  Hilary is an enthusiastic and lively teacher and the day moved along at a cracking pace so that we were encouraged to work intuitively, especially in the early stages.  Below are some images of Hilary's work.

Our workshop was based around a photographic image pre-printed by Hilary on a specialist image transfer paper which she had sourced through Homecrafts.  It is best to ring them to be sure of the right product.  Once the image is printed and the backing is removed the transfer is slightly transparent and when bonded will reveal a lighter coloured fabric below which can be very useful in this collage technique (as seen in the Poppy piece above).

Above is as far as I got on the day.  My photographic image was of a penguin flexing his wings in a penguin pool.  I chose it mostly for the rocks and decided to cut it up.  Ill-advisedly I used a photographic image of my own that I feel is pulling the eye away from the intended focal point but I am working to change that.


 A slight state of chaos in my workspace above.


 By the end of the afternoon there was a wide variety of collages on the table.

This lovely collage was made by Maggi who blogs here.

 I particularly liked this piece based on Fountains Abbey.

Above are two more versions of the Fountains Abbey image.
My piece is still a work in progress but is nearing completion.  I have free machined a loose grid over the surface and added some watercolour crayon marks.  Next is to add some hand stitching to bring back some highlights in the rocks.  I'll try not to take too long over it ;-)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Lucky Me

We've had a lovely family day today with my Mum in good form and my brother and his wife calling in to see her, bringing film of her new great grandchild and his older brother, so there has been lots of oohing and aaahing and lots of laughter. 

As a footnote to yesterday I should have shown you these beautiful fabrics I won in a giveaway recently.  The giveaway was hosted by Alex who blogs as Under A Topaz Sky. I have been following Alex's blog for a few months and she does some beautiful embroidered work. She is interested in natural dyeing, rusting fabrics, felting and generally playing and with her love of beachcombing we are kindred spirits.  You can read more about some of the fabric I received here.   

Thank you Alex, I shall enjoy using these fabrics and making the most of their beautiful marks.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Free Machine Embroidery

I've had a great day today down at Art and Stitch in Peterborough.  Gina Ferrari led a workshop exploring the basics of free machine embroidery.  While I've done several machine embroidery workshops I was keen to work with Gina again as she is a very calm tutor and inspires confidence.   Before I went to Peterborough today I watched Gina's DVD "Creative Free Machinery Embroidery" which she made with Colouricious. I was really glad I did as it put me in a good position to benefit fully from today.  

The aim today was to slow things down (not literally as far as the stitching was concerned) and concentrate on excercises involving only straight stitch.  

My main efforts working on different patterns within in a grid, after having played with some very basic (more basic than this!) scribbles to settle into controlling my machine and tension. 

The next step was to work on a 'colouring in' exercise which took a while but was a lot of fun!

I was so pleased with my effort I even signed it! lol  It's about 4" x 3" (10 x7.5 cms)

With the remainder of the time (in my case not that much of it) we made flowers and leaves which again was fun and I can see lots of uses for these,

The leaves are made of paper stitched onto felt.

The atmosphere all day was one of fun and enthusiasm and there were some great results considering most of us were fairly novice (as in havn't practised enough before!) at FME

Don't you love Sally's dragonfly and mushroom?

I don't know who did the owl but I love him!

Sorry I can't attribute any of these properly but everyone did really well.

Of course, a workshop at Art and Stitch wouldn't be complete without lots of cups of tea and coffee and a little treat to keep the day moving:

Raspberry and white chocolate cupcakes. Oh my!

I need to catch up on another workshop I did last weekend with Hilary Beattie (no wonder I'm shattered!) so I'll try  and get that on here in the next couple of days.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Arts and Crafts 2

The second Arts and Crafts property we visited recently was Blackwell Hall in Lancashire.

Blackwell Hall was built as a holiday home for the Manchester brewery magnate Sir Edward Holt by the architect Baillie Scott.  The house is very elegant and gracious and is run on very welcoming lines with the visitor allowed to wander freely from room to room and to spend time sitting in the window seats enjoying the beautiful views of Lake Windermere which it overlooks.  If you hover over the headings on the web page for Blackwell  you can read the present and past history of the house.

You are aware of the beauty of this house before you even go through the door.

I don't think I've ever seen chimneys like these before.

As an added bonus to our visit there was a sculpture installation in the grounds by Laura Ellen Bacon.

If you click on the last photo you should be able to read more about Laura's inspiration.  I don't know whether she intended the two willow sculptures to be viewed incontinuation as if the inside of the house is morphing with the outside but I'm sure she would have been aware of this view.

As with Wightwick Manor photographs are not allowed due to copyright attached to some of the objects on loan to the house but I did snaffle a couple of pics (naughty!).

Just one of the many window seats where you can while away pleasant hours enjoying the view.

I really liked this beautiful stained glass window. 

If you have a look around the Blackwell website you will be able to find further photographs of the interior.  The house is beautiful inside and out and has an unusual Great Parlour which is effectively split into different areas by the arrangement of furnishings, shortened walls, seating areas and carpeting.  You can see an image of part of the room on the Events page of the Blackwell site.

We spent a very relaxing time in Blackwell Hall and rounded it off with naughty but scrummy cream scones in the comfortable cafe.  As we left I was looking up at the building again trying to soak up every last view and my eyes spotted these residences waiting for their occupants to return,

I would think by now they are refurbished and busy with new life.

Our holiday featured quite a lot of wildlife

This duck obviously has an identity problem and thinks it's a dog lol

These ducks wouldn't believe me when I said I didn't have any bread and continued to give me a good peck!

Aaaaaah!  These sweet ducklings were on the site we were staying on.  I think she had 14 altogether.  So sweet!

PS In addition to the sculpture installation outside there was also an exhibition on the second floor titled "Woven From Nature: Four Contemporary makers".  The artists involved are basket-weaver Mary Butcher and tapestry weaver Jilly Edwards,and Jo Mcdonald and Maggie Smith.  The exhibition was varied while having the connecting thread of weaving and Jo McDonald's work with paper was both impressive and emotive.  If you follow the link to her site you will see many of the pieces on display at Blackwell.