Coming up for air...

Hooray! I made it into my hidey-hole at last. I'd begun to think it was going to be the New Year before I found a few minutes to write, and then just as I began to despair, a slice of morning opened up and here I am....

So chaps, what's been happening? I wish I could actually settle into something resembling a routine (do I honestly mean that? I've never been one for routines, it's just that for so long now I seem to have ricocheted from one thing to another, I'm beginning to wonder if a monastic routine wouldn't get more accomplished). Are you a creature of habit? Does it work for you? 

I'm not sure that I could adopt a true routine, I inherited too many of my dad's 'get out and about' genes to be properly settled, but nevertheless there are times when I feel as if I'm walking through treacle and it would be lovely to think that a plan might actually have a cat in hell's chance of coming off as scheduled. Is it the creative spirit that's to blame, or is that just a feeble excuse for not being better organised?

Anyway, in amongst all the other stuff this is what I've been doing...

Stitching...

There's been good progress with the piece I showed you in the previous post - partly because I came down with a head cold at the weekend and stayed in the warm. I was lucky, it was one of those mild affairs that gives you a good excuse not to go out spreading germs to everyone, but allows you to actually get on with a few things at home (in between the occasional medicinal hot-toddy)

Out and Abouting...

Bath

I squeezed in my annual visit to the Bath Christmas Market last week. If you've known me for a while you'll remember that I'm not at my best around Christmas time, it generally brings out a sense of panic, exasperation and utter failure which can make me tricky to live with. Then a couple of years ago, we went on a day out to Bath - my favourite city in the country - at about this time and suddenly things felt a lot better. There's something about walking around in such beautiful surroundings that takes away the stress for me and calms my nerves. Last week was every bit as brilliant and I'm feeling a whole load better already. (I've even put up some fairy lights in the sitting-room - and it's not even a whole week into December - must have done the trick). I know it must make life difficult for the inhabitants of Bath, but I for one am extremely grateful.

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Bath Christmas Market...

coincidentally, my favourite tree in Bath is currently blue and red.

The Workhouse

We've been busy at The Workhouse getting ready for the new exhibition - Christmas at The Workhouse - which is now in full swing. I'm delighted to say it's getting a fantastic reception, with loads of people coming in to buy their Christmas gifts and cards. I'm still finding it such an amazing experience listening to people talk about their reaction to the art and crafts there. It's clearly so important for everyone to have access to quality art in their lives, whether they make it, buy it or simply want to enjoy looking at it. Art is a necessity, not a luxury, I'd really love a few hard nose politicians to come and spend some time with me there, maybe it would make a difference.

Wherever you live, I hope you'll find time to pop into your local galleries this Christmas and soak up some creative goodwill.

In the lane...

The last few weeks have moved us from the last golden days of autumn into the beginning of a very grey (so far) winter. I've finally succumbed to a new hat, one that I can pull down over my ears and I've managed to find some of those fingerless gloves with a mitten bit that you can pull over the top - I'm experimenting with them, as you can imagine the fun, holding the Delinquent Dog in full bark, attempting to use the fingerprint log in on the phone and taking pictures in sub-zero temperature, but so far, so good.

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I was thoroughly downhearted this week when I realised that the lane had had it's biannual pruning. Of course it did need cutting back, it was getting dangerous in places and it is a road after all, but really, the butchering of the hedges makes me want to cry. It will recover I know, I've seen it happen before and at least now I can really see my oak properly again from behind the whitebeam hedge, but it still hurts to see the sheer brutality of the attack.

'My' oak, now almost entirely bare of leaves, but looking wonderful to me at least.

'My' oak, now almost entirely bare of leaves, but looking wonderful to me at least.

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But the Delinquent Dog is quite happy at the moment because thanks to these chaps having just arrived back in the field, he's currently getting the longer walk (the one that avoids having to walk through the sheep). I briefly googled quotes about sheep and was disappointed to see that they mostly talk about people being like sheep or wolves in sheep's clothing. Personally I find some of them quite menacing, they stare at you in a certain manner...I suspect they're plotting world domination with the squirrels.

In other news...

  • Not having had a Christmas Party for years, this week I'm going to two! Whoops with vegetarian delight.
  • I found a book about Henry IV in a charity shop and I'm realising how little I knew about him. I'm not seeing Jeremy Irons in my mind's eye (Hollow Crown fans will understand).
  • Another sign that I've succumbed to the Christmas Spirit - a bottle of cheap whisky and Crabbies Ginger Wine have appeared in the kitchen...

And with that I wish you all a happy and productive run up to Christmas. I hope to be back in my hidey-hole again before the festivities begin, but you know me and plans...

Very best wishes...

Happy Stitching!

Anny x

From the beginning...

There's something new bubbling in my stitchery cauldron at the moment and instead of getting all caught up in the initial excitement and forgetting to take any pictures (which is my normal state), I've been moderately organised and snapped some photos to show how it's coming along, so if you're interested in seeing the stitchiness beginning to take shape, read on, here we go...

A Stitchery Spell

Ingredients: Take a large piece of natural cotton scrim - loose weave but reasonably robust - this forms the base layer onto which all the rest will be stitched. A bundle of recycled sari silk ribbon for couching the 'lines'. Pieces of organza in a range of colours to act as the background shading. Angelina Fibres melted into large pieces to add sparkle and mystery. Scraps of printed cotton and silk in coordinating colours to add texture and shape to the design. Reels of cotton in similar colours, silk threads and woollen yarns for adding the details. Pins. And a piece of chalk.

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I was fascinated to see how closely the colours of the beech leaves match the colours I've chosen or this piece - the work came before the photo.

I was fascinated to see how closely the colours of the beech leaves match the colours I've chosen or this piece - the work came before the photo.

Method: Lay out the scrim on the kitchen table and mark out in chalk the dimensions for the finished piece. (I then stitched around this in a coloured thread so I always know where my 'edges' should be. If you've never worked with loose-weave fabrics you may not have had the pleasure of watching your creation veer off in dramatically diagonal directions, believe me, it adds considerably to the design challenge, my advice is always know your edges...)

then...

Chalk out the basic lines of the design. Couch these lines with the sari silk ribbon, held down with a thread of your choice (red and green silks for me this time). Next cut the organza to fill the spaces between the lines - slipping some Angelina fibres behind where required. Tack all in place. (I used pins because as is often the way, my fabric-glue pen had gone walkabout - naturally it came back just as I finished the pinning).

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Once the organza layers are firmly down, add the fabric scraps - this takes a fair amount of trial and error until the happy accident happens and you discover they've found the right place to be. Stitch them down. And once you reach this stage it's finally time to get creative with the stitching. I suppose I think of all the stages to here as putting in the background but it's the stitching over which really provides the detail and the dimension.

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That's where I'm at now. Gradually beginning the real work of bringing it all together with hundreds and hundreds of stitches. Work might have progressed marginally more quickly if it hadn't been for the arrival of Max Adams' latest book. I can never resist a new book and this one is every bit as fascinating as his others.

So kind of Max Adams' publishers to provide his new book in a coordinating colour scheme...

So kind of Max Adams' publishers to provide his new book in a coordinating colour scheme...

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In other news...

  • I'm currently working on an issue of Loose Threads to go out before Christmas so as ever if you haven't previously subscribed and would like to receive a copy just fill in the subscription box in the sidebar.
  • I've just read 'Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life' - Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. Have you come across it? Ikigai is roughly translated as a person's individual purpose in life and their reason for getting up in the morning. Finding your ikigai is felt to be the secret to happiness. The book also covers wider aspects of life and attitudes to living, including resilience. I loved it. I'm not sure about the sushi, but everything else resonated so strongly with me. I'd love to know what you thought.
  • I have six photographs on display at The Workhouse in Dunstable until the end of the month. This is such a huge departure for me but the response so far has been really positive. It's given my creative juices quite a boost.

Right then, it's back to the stitching for me, wishing you all well and happy!

 Love Anny x

In The Workhouse...

I've learned something since last week's post - I've discovered just how much work goes into launching an art gallery and I can tell you, it's not for the faint-hearted! I think it's safe to say that on Wednesday last week there were people who doubted whether the gallery would open as intended on Saturday, but of course I'm delighted and proud to announce that not only did it open on time, it also looks magnificent and is a wonderful testament to the ambition and vision of the lady whose dream it is, Joanne Bowes.

Joanne has a particular vision of what she wants from her business. As an artist herself she realised how difficult it can be to find a good and suitable space to show your work. She also appreciates how intimidating it can be for people wanting to buy art. So The Workhouse is designed to be a friendly and welcoming space where artists and art buyers can mingle and get to know each other.

I'm delighted to have some of my work in The Workhouse right now. I'm particularly pleased that with the gorgeous lighting my twinkly metallics are looking very good indeed. They certainly come to life under the lights.

I'm going to be over at the gallery doing some stitching a couple of days a week, which I'm really looking forward to - it's always exciting to show people how you work and to hear their reaction and for someone whose default setting is to be sat at home alone with her needle, it can be good to get out and meet people.

I'll leave you with a few pictures from the opening weekend. 


 

Happy stitching!

Anny x

This week...

We're having a very green early autumn this year and I'm wondering if it will turn golden later or not - there have certainly been other autumns I can remember when the whole orange and red tapestry failed to materialise - or am I just being impatient?

The colours are the only thing missing, apart from that there's no doubt which season we're in. As I walk along the lane each morning I can smell the crab apples crushed in the road, it's a faintly boozey scent, that ancient aroma you used to have in the barns and sheds where the apples were stored.

Our path through the wood is slightly more fraught as we try to dodge the spider's webs strung between bracken fronds and hogweed skeletons. But I'm not so scared of these outdoor spiders, their weavings are exquisite especially with a string of dew diamonds twinkling in the early light. It's their indoor cousins that send me screaming across the room.

There's been a wonderful amount of hedgerow fruit this autumn, I have sloe gin slowly turning a ruby red in a cupboard and I've breakfasted on blackberries several times. The hips and haws pepper the hedgerow with their splatter of crimson and scarlet. In one sunny spot in the hedge a bramble has decided to flower again, blossom in October...

These mornings are still warm enough to stand at the Thinking Gate and pause. Everyone should have their place for a moment of calm, somewhere to just be.

My stitchiness has been of the meditative kind this week. I've been playing with colours, thinking about texture. Taking the recycled sari silks and wondering about what to do with them. Part of me I think is hankering after doing another needlepoint so I begin stitching one evening and the familiar repetition feels natural, but I don't know where it wants to go and I abandon it to the side of the sofa. Mind and fingers are not entirely in harmony just at the moment.

In the way that somethings work, I ended up driving to Worcestershire twice last week. This is the county of my birth and the earth that made me. I visited the country churchyard where generations of my family are resting for eternity. It's a lovely place, tucked into the folds of a hillside and visiting although a little melancholy is also strangely soothing. I have a chat with the old lot and it feels perfectly natural. I put chrysanthemums on the graves because that's what my mum did, a tradition I suppose.

This is not a very old churchyard, only just over 100 years since the church was built and I get the distinct feeling that it won't be so long before it returns to nature. I find this doesn't worry me, in fact it feels right in some way. There are other ways of remembering.

And later in the week we made a trip to Worcester with our youngest daughter who's thinking of studying there. She hadn't realised that this is the city I know best, hadn't realised its significance to me, she just liked the feel of the place. Inside the cathedral an orchestra and choir were rehearsing a performance of Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man and it was simply sublime, the acoustics were just marvellous, it was almost too moving.

I sloped off to say hello to King John before we left, another tradition but this one is just mine.

On our way back we passed my second-favourite building in Worcester - The Guildhall. A perfect counterfoil to the gothic splendour and elegance of the cathedral. The Guildhall is all gold and shiny and a bit over the top - I wonder if that's part of it's appeal, and if subliminally it feeds my metallic habit?


This week I'm off to The Workhouse, Dunstable for it's opening exhibition where I'm showing some work. We set up mid-week and welcome people in at the weekend. I may surprise everyone and wear a dress...

Have a wonderful week whatever you're doing. Anyone in the Bedfordshire area do come along to Dunstable and find us, we'll be so pleased to see you and there's the possibility of cake.

Happy stitching

Anny x


footnotes

  • Just to say in case you didn't know, I post daily on Instagram mostly with photos from the lane, occasionally old places I've visited and sometimes little snippets of stitchiness in progress. Do follow me there if it's your thing.
  • Occasionally I put together some extra snippets and send out a copy of 'Loose Threads' to anyone who'd like to receive it - the subscription box is over on the right or in the menu.
  • I've been so tired my bedtime reading hasn't gone far this week, but I'm really enjoying Max Adams' - The King In The North (all about Oswald of Northumbria).

Preparing for The Workhouse...

No, don't worry, it's not as bad as it sounds...

Almost the end of September and at last I'm getting back into the swing of things on the stitchy front. Which is good news because in less than a fortnight I'll be showing a selection of work at the newest and quirkiest gallery in the area, The Workhouse, Dunstable - (I was always that child who did her homework on a Sunday evening, and it turns out some things never change).

Although to be fair, this time it wasn't really that I couldn't get myself organised, more just having a lot of things happening at the same time. 

I've actually been doing quite a lot of stitching over the last few months, but it's felt very much like a kind of transformative period, I've felt the need to stitch with my hands in order to let my brain run free. So I've pushed needles through various fabrics, combined all kinds of threads in a rainbow of shades (well alright, mostly blue) and watched to see where it took me.

And where has it taken me? Well, I'm not entirely sure, I'm probably still en route. But I have made a few decisions.

The first is that I do need to bring a little more organisation into the process. Buzzing around in my head are several themes I want to work on and past experience tells me that it might be better not to ricochet from one to another. I'd quite like to discipline myself to spend a little more time in the preparation stages, possibly working on a small number of pieces exploring each theme.

For me this is going to mean allowing myself not to feel pressured to dive straight into a new work but to give myself time to play with it, research and experiment. 

When I first began to make textile art, I was content to slip from one piece to the next without much thought. But now I seem to have so many more ideas I'd like to pursue and I think I panic a little that I might forget what I wanted to do on one while I make another. But time not stitching always felt like a waste before, now I can see that if I'm going to have a chance of actually exploring any of them I'm going to need a plan (albeit of a fairly basic nature).

So it's time for me to stop being quite so impulsive and to attempt to bring some structure into my process. (We'll see just how well that goes won't we...)

Anyway, while I was happily stitching and thinking, away over in Dunstable my Discover artist friend Joanne Bowes was being altogether more ambitious and brave. She has finally brought her dream into reality by opening her own gallery - The Workhouse in Ashton Square, right in the heart of the town (and not coincidentally on the site of Dunstable's first workhouse). It's going to be a friendly, welcoming space where artists, makers and art-lovers can meet and mingle and where people will feel comfortable coming inside to see what's new.

And that is where some of my work is heading at the beginning of October. 

Of course as many of you will know, I would much rather be stitching something new rather than properly finishing off something I've already made - which means that I'm currently desperately trying to get frames made for the work I'm going to take to Dunstable - I really wish there were framing elves who'd come down each night and magically frame everything while you slept. (If you know of any, please put in a good word for me).

Still, it isn't the night before the opening just yet, so I'm still in with a chance of it not becoming a nail-biting, up to the line, eleventh hour panic...arrrgh!

These are the pieces going to The Workhouse (framing permitting)...

I'll take proper photos once we're set up and give you all the details for anyone who fancies popping along to The Workhouse in October.

Right, where's my hammer...

Happy stitching x