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Journal

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Sliding gently back into the game...
 
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Hello again…x

Thank you to the brave souls who’re sticking with me through this bumpy ride. Although I’ve been silent here, and although there have been several days of self-piteous gloom, I really do feel that a corner has been turned. I’m no longer rash enough to state with any certainty that it’s straight up from here, but let’s just say things are looking up and that’s a good place to be.

A couple of posts back, I mentioned that I was going to be taking things slowly and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I’ve read more, which I find very relaxing, even though most of what I’ve read has been Cadfael novels. I’ve rested a little more than usual, although it’s perhaps the hardest thing to enforce. I’ve meditated more often, but not daily and I’ve kept reminding myself to go with the flow.

One old chestnut that I’ve found increasingly helpful is to concentrate more on gratefulness. I know it crops up in every self-help book in one guise or another and it’s easily waved off as trite, but if I’m totally honest, this has helped me more than anything else to get my feet back on the ground. I am slightly worried that I’m losing my edge in the world of paid-up cynicism, but then again, perhaps it’s a function of age.

Then of course there’s the stitching. While everything else has been trundling along, I’ve stitched. In fact I’ve pretty much been stitching for England over the last three months. There have been days when I finished a small piece and thought I’ll just post a few pictures and words on here, but then, as I keep my thread stash in the same place as my laptop, I’d look at both and be drawn inexplicably towards the threads, pulled by their invisible allure-force and that would be that, straight on to another piece and the website never quite getting a look in.

When you’re feeling low, it’s a huge benefit to have something that you can pour yourself into, something that absorbs your attention and soothes you. For me that’s undoubtedly stitching, for you if might be baking, writing, doing the crossword, gardening, Morris-dancing, dog-walking, juggling with fire - the list is of course endless. Whatever it is, it really makes sense to let yourself go there.

Oh and let’s not forget walking the dog…

If you’re not following me on Instagram, you can see a few of the pictures from this week in the lane over here. Probably after ‘gratitude’, ‘getting outside’ is the next most common advice for improving your mental well-being. It’s one of those habits that I know is good for me, but mainly when for some reason I can’t do it. Dark winter mornings can be a challenge, especially when it’s a choice between duvet-heaven and an icy-cold bathroom. But once outside, I’m a different person - it works!

So, anyway, to stitchiness…

Currently in the studio (euphemism for on the sofa) are…

 
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And…

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But don’t hold your breath with the first one. It’s quite large and I like the colours, but something about it isn’t working for me at the moment. So I’m actually working on the one above - funny how sometimes when things get stuck, letting it sit and doing something else instead can help release the problem.

That and a huge influx of new threads! Yes, I admit to going off and buying a whole load of delicious new threads at the end of the week. And when I got them home, I spent an absolutely brilliant couple of hours sorting through the thread stash, putting them into trays according to colours - and generally having a jolly good time. I suppose that might indicate a return to feeling better (which I’m sure is true), but it might just be the start of the pretend it’s not Christmas yet by making yourself busy with anything else period…just saying…x

Well then, thanks again for sticking it out with me. I hope that wherever you are, you’re looking after yourself too and being kind to yourself.

So, until next time, take care and happy stitching!

Anny x

 
A Tom Denny Interlude...
 
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Regular readers here will probably have already realised that I have a bit of a thing for the stained glass windows created by artist Tom Denny. I had set myself a goal this year of arranging a tour to see a selection, but you won’t be surprised to know that I haven’t done that - yet.

However, in July, I did manage to visit Hereford Cathedral where Tom Denny has four panels dedicated to the seventeenth century poet and priest, Thomas Traherne.

Traherne’s writing, poems and meditations, are perhaps a forerunner of those of William Blake, mixed with the delight of nature you find in John Clare. 

Like most people, I’d never heard of Thomas Traherne until just a few years ago. In fact, the story of the discovery, or more accurately re-discovery of his work is only just short of a miracle - you can read about it here if you’re interested.

My own awareness came in a suitably roundabout way, through reading the Merrily Watkins novels by Phil Rickman - (they’re set in Herefordshire and who will occasionally make reference to the work of Traherne, who was a Herefordshire man).

Anyway, I’d seen photographs of Tom Denny’s Traherne windows, and was excited to finally be in the cathedral with time to go and look at them. The first surprise though, was that I couldn’t find them.

Tom Denny’s work is so unlike anything else I’ve come across in stained glass that I wasn’t anticipating any problem spotting the Traherne windows, but having walked a complete circuit of the cathedral, I hadn’t found them. Eventually, confused, I asked a cathedral guide if she could point me in the right direction.

And it turns out that the windows are quite difficult to find, as they are actually in a tiny side chapel, the Audley Chapel, at the very far end of the cathedral.

But oh were they worth the hunt.

I was astonished to discover that they are actually quite small - something I hadn’t appreciated from the photos I’d seen.

Small they may be, but despite that, they are crammed with the incredible details that are the signature of Denny’s work. And in the Audley Chapel, you’re able to get right up close to the windows, so you can really see and appreciate the details.

Looking at them, I couldn’t stop myself from repeating out loud, ‘oh wow!’ - which seems like such an inarticulate response, but in fact they simply did take my breath away, I was literally awe-inspired.

Now I’m not a stained glass artist, and despite being immensely attracted by the art form, I’ve never had any inclination to try working in this medium, so for me there remains something entirely magical about the way that light works through the colours, it’s magical because I have no idea how it’s created, I’m content to let it work on my senses without needing to understand the process.

I have recently discovered a video which shows Tom Denny working on the windows he created for Leicester Cathedral, in which he describes some of his process. This is fascinating, but fortunately doesn’t dispel the enchantment for me.

So I was able to stand in the tiny, dark chapel and be entirely overwhelmed by the play of colours, hidden images, light and shadow. 

Here are the photos that I took while I was in the Audley Chapel…

 
 

I continue to find this medium deeply inspirational. Deeply moving. The intensity of the colours does something to my spirits, something that I can’t put into words, but which I feel on an inner level. I’m drawn into the images, I feel their richness, I want to soak myself in them, to absorb their light.

Over and over, I try to recreate that feeling of light in the embroidery and fabric art that I make. I try to find ways to create the luminance with threads and fabric and to create that movement of light. It’s an on-going process of trial and error, but I always go back to stained glass and know that somewhere there I’ll find the answer, I just have to keep on trying.

Happy stitching.

Anny x

 
Taking it slowly...
 
 the Thinking Gate…

the Thinking Gate…

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that creativity comes in waves, or perhaps in cycles - let’s not get too worried about the metaphor - sometimes you’re riding high on the crest of a wave, carried along by it’s strength, it’s purpose and it’s movement. These are the good times, when you feel as if you’re in control, you’re driven, you have found your mojo…

And then of course there’s the other phase of the cycle. The urge leaves you, your energy is low, you wonder where your inspiration went, dare I say it, you feel bored, irritable, missing something.

I’ve been running with these cycles now for long enough to understand them, to realise that they’re happening and I’m beginning to let them be, without getting too uptight about it, beginning to trust that eventually the curve will turn again.

Which is a convoluted way of saying that I’ve hit a down patch.

It’s been a strange few months. In many ways absolutely wonderful. I’ve travelled, I’ve stitched, I’ve taken a million photos (possibly a slight exaggeration). I’ve enjoyed the heat of our remarkable summer (something I’d never have thought possible) and I’ve watched as my daughters transform into real adults, which is perhaps the most beautiful experience imaginable.

And then, something happened that I didn’t see coming, something which has knocked me off my feet for a while. I won’t bore you with all the gory details, but just to say, that since the beginning of August, most of my hair has fallen out. Don’t worry, I’ve had tests and apparently apart from low stored iron levels, I’m fit and well. It seems that this is a not uncommon occurrence, triggered by a variety of things, of which low iron is thought to be one. Apparently this is a phase and it is most likely that eventually my hair will start to grow again.

So, as with the creative urge, it seems I will have to accept that I’m very physically part of a cycle of comings and goings. I can tell you that watching the leaves begin to turn yellow this autumn has a special poignancy - I truly feel like a tree that’s lost it’s leaves and will have to wait patiently for the spring to roll round again.

I’m well aware that compared with so many awful things that happen every day to ordinary people, this is nothing, and I’m grateful to be otherwise healthy. In fact I wasn’t going to mention it at all. But the truth is, I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t had any impact on me. It has been quite a blow to my self-confidence. I hadn’t appreciated how much of my identity was tied to my appearance. It has felt very much like a bereavement, a feeling that the person I once was has gone. I’m not sure that I recognise myself any more.

So, while I’m going through this phase of the cycle, I’m going to be going slowly (three goings! ha!).

I apologise for the delays in working on the workshop. It’s still something I very much want to do, but at the moment I need to give myself time to use stitch purely as a personal therapy, helping me to find calm and courage. I trust that eventually I’ll be back in the mental place where I can devote proper energy to it again. I’m sure my friends you’ll understand.

Likewise, I apologise for a total lack of Loose Threads.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. I do believe that whatever life throws at us, it’s a good idea to look for the positives and this is certainly a lesson in making that happen. So, I’ve been having a think and this is what I’ve come up with…

For a while I’m going to…

  • read more of whatever I want, without feeling at all guilty.

  • rest more often.

  • meditate daily.

  • go with the flow.

  • take gratitude seriously.

  • set myself some gentle creative goals to give me more structure.

And meanwhile, autumn is setting in. I like this time of year. Autumn suits me.

Thank you for bearing with me.

Happy stitching!

Anny x

 Detail from the West door at Leominster Priory, Herefordshire.

Detail from the West door at Leominster Priory, Herefordshire.

 



Goodbye August...
 
 
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Ah well, there goes August...

Ah well, there goes August…

Are you a fan of August? I certainly used to be, it was usually the month when we went away to the far north west of Scotland. August for me should involve sitting on rocks looking out to sea trying to spot seals bobbing up in the waves, or walking along deserted beaches (often wearing full waterproofs), or up quirky mountains, or being eaten alive by midges. Happy days!


We didn’t go away last month - somehow our hearts weren’t in it and what with A levels and other stuff, a holiday never got off the ground.


Of course I began August with a head full of all things workshop. Some progress was made, but very much true to character, I began to get bogged down. Trying to plan a physical workshop and simultaneously plan an online version sounds like a good idea right? In practice, I’ve found myself getting quite muddled. It’s more complicated than I’d imagined. Anyway, it’s certainly teaching me some new skills, even though I seem to need a week to get my head around every new aspect that crops up.


By the way, many thanks to my army of naggers - you are much appreciated. I hope you’ll stick around even though my progress is slow.


One thing that I did have to divert to, was the structure of this website. Although I’d loved the previous theme, it turned out to be quite restrictive in what I could do with it, and that was only going to get worse as I went on, so a chunk of August was spent changing themes. There are still a few things I need to tidy up on that front, but I’m mindful that sometimes it’s better to just get on with things rather than aim for perfection. I hope that if you’ve noticed anything, it hasn’t been too unpleasant, I’ve tried to keep things as similar as possible.


So I feel a bit like the swan gliding serenely across the water, while paddling like mad below the surface at the moment.


Thank goodness for our morning walks! And thank goodness it’s cooled down a bit and we’ve had some rain. The field has quickly turned green again (although the nettles and thistles that normally grow so thick in the field have barely begun to recover). The bracken in the lane has lept up in the last week or so, and the hogweed seedheads continue to give me so much pleasure with all their wonderful shape and textures.

 
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In other news.

  • In the absence of the ‘Fortunately’ podcast (they’re on holiday), I’ve discovered a couple of alternatives that makes me laugh - Jules Von Hep and Sarah Powell’s ‘Jules and Sarah the podcast’ and ‘Wobble’.

  • I joined SEW - the society for embroidered work. Although I’m really fortunate to show my work in a gallery that promotes textile and stitched art, I’m well aware that in some circles it isn’t given the attention it deserves. I’m hoping that we can all play our part in changing that.

  • And on that note, I currently have two pieces in The Workhouse, Dunstable - Maiden Castle and Enclosure (although it was a tight thing, as the framing elves decided to ‘have a life’ and go off enjoying themselves instead of getting on with my frames…).

  • Oh, and I found Francis Pryor’s Britain BC in a charity shop last week, so that’s pretty much stopped me doing anything else while I immerse myself in Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age archaeology. (By the way, every charity shop I went in last weekend had it’s Christmas cards in store! For pity’s sake, it was mid August, can they really expect us to endure five months of Christmas?)…arrrgh!

 Maiden Castle - inspired by the wonderful earthworks and ditches at this iconic heritage site.

Maiden Castle - inspired by the wonderful earthworks and ditches at this iconic heritage site.

 Enclosure - thinking about the symbolism of the circle and it's occurrence in archaeological sites.

Enclosure - thinking about the symbolism of the circle and it's occurrence in archaeological sites.


And finally

 I seem to have visited a lot of country churches in August. The photograph at the top of this post was taken at St. John The Baptist, Aldbury. Who wouldn't want a wildman to rest their feet on for eternity?

Until next time,

Happy Stitching!

Anny x
 


 
 
Going round in circles...
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going round in circles

well, stitching in circles...and visiting a few...

Well, how time flies when you’re having fun!

Apologies for the long absence, I’ve just had the craziest six weeks I can remember, with so much packed in that until now there’s been no time to sit and collect my thoughts.

If I tell you that since my last entry I’ve visited three Scottish Castles, the island of Tiree, Callanish on Lewis, Jarlshof on Shetland, Avebury, West Kennet Long Barrow, Bath, Oxford, Leicester, Hay on Wye and Hereford, you’ll begin to get a feel for the dashing about that’s been happening.

In between the trips there have been birthdays, school-leaving, three days over in Bedford for the Bedford River Festival, helping at The Workhouse and the occasional frantic loading of the washing machine.

And throughout it all, it’s been hot! The best summer for weather since 1976 (and I do remember that summer very well), which has simply put the cherry on the top.

It’s been amazing and to be honest I’m only just beginning to slow down long enough to appreciate everything I’ve seen, but I’ll admit to being pretty exhausted too.

So here I am now, back with both feet on the ground and looking forward to spending time mentally processing some of the wonderful things I’ve seen and thinking about how I’ll incorporate them into future art pieces.

Circles in the landscape...

My fascination with stone circles, ditches and ancient earthworks is a fairly recent thing. I suppose there was something tickling the back of my mind, but it's really only been in the last ten years or so that I've fallen under their thrall. But this year has been the great unfolding for me and I've been so excited to visit sites that are full of mystery, places that speak directly to the imagination.

Pictures from this summer's adventures; the Rollrights - Oxfordshire, Callanish - Lewis, Jarlshof - Shetland, Avebury - Wiltshire.

The circle was clearly of deep significance to our ancestors, it’s there in the neolithic, bronze and iron ages. It’s significance is something I’m sure you could spend a lifetime considering.

 Circles have been finding their way into most of my work for some time now, I couldn’t tell you exactly why, it just seems to be something I need to explore (although I'll also be honest and say that there are more now that I use less needlepoint. Have you ever tried to stitch a circle in tent stitch?). But I do wonder where the human love affair with the circle begins? Once you start to look, they are everywhere. 

Circles in hand...

Unsurprisingly, the piece I'm currently working on includes circles - at least three of them.

It's still at an early stage - as you can imagine, there hasn't been too much time for stitching recently, but in case you're interested, here are a few close up photos to show how it's developing.

The canvas is a linen scrim which I painted with acrylic paint and pens. I then attached (glue and stitch) fragments of fabrics and couched sari silk thread to highlight the lines. I began adding running stitch to sections of the piece, these somehow give it movement and hold everything together. And then I decided (possibly rashly), that the circles would include some tent stitch. Here I'm using a DMC metallic thread which has the thickness I needed.

You can see a little more of the development in the three pictures above. Still a long way to go but I'm over the initial feeling of marginal overwhelm and now it's beginning to feel exciting. I'm still posting updates to Instagram Stories on the days when I make progress with this piece, so if you follow me there you'll see it coming together.

In Other News

The dry, hot weather has parched the countryside, bleaching the fields where the only green is random patches of docks. The thistles haven’t appeared this year. The few surviving nettles that line the lane and usually trim it in green are all brown and limp. Everything looks tired - in fact it looks like late August, which is how it’s been feeling. There are sloes on the blackthorn and crabapples beginning to drop into the lane. No blackberries for us yet, but on Twitter I’ve seen people picking them - too soon, I’m not ready for the onset of autumn, and that’s what blackberry picking is for me.

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It’s good to be back. I’ll be picking up the reins again now. I may even put together the occasional gallery from my travels…(only 2058 photos to process...x).

 

Best wishes and happy stitching

Anny x






 

The story continued...
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the story continued.

More stitching, a smattering of heritage and wildflowers...

Apologies for making you wait for the next instalment in the stitch piece I featured in the last post. As I mentioned, it was a holiday week here and as expected there was much coming and going.

Happily for me, the going included trips to Claydon House (on a very wet afternoon) and the Rollright Stones, Chastleton House and Hidcote Manor Gardens (on a very hot day). More of that later, but first to the stitching...

A Stitchery Update

When I left you, I had started to add stitch details to the canvas. I never start off with a plan of how I'm going to do this bit, but somewhere in the back of my mind I feel that the over-stitching should blend the edges of the fabric sections so that you're not really looking at each section, more feeling it as part of a whole.

In practice, this just means adding rows and rows and rows of running stitch. As I've said before, I don't have a wide repertoire of stitches, I find that the simple ones work best for me and a running stitch is like a brush stroke adding a colour (I think of stitching much more in terms of painting with threads than as embroidery).

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I'd added a small section of needlepoint and was feeling the desire to do more. But once I tried, I realised it just wasn't sitting well with some of the other stitched areas. I may well start another needlepoint project because much though I love this more relaxed medium of expression through stitch and textiles, there's nothing quite like needlepoint for a total absorption into the flow of process. But it wasn't right for this piece. 

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So more running stitch, more couching and generally using stitch to integrate all the sections. I really struggle to take good pictures of the finished piece (often that's because I call time late in the evenings and then rush on to the next project and forget about photos). This is no exception. The real thing is much more vibrant. And of course the metallic threads manage to hide whenever I'm trying to capture them - arrrgh!

But you get the general idea.

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This is a slightly better picture to show the stitch details.

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And that's that - I mounted it onto a canvas which the framing elf then framed for me - I like the floating/tray frame system for my work. And it's now on the wall at The Workhouse Gallery in Dunstable, where I'm hoping someone will fall in love with it and want to take it home. I called it Tranquility, which is very much how I was feeling during most of its formation.

Posting daily work updates on Instagram Stories and Twitter seemed very popular with people there, so I'm continuing to do that and I've just begun work on a new piece. So if you're on either of those platforms and want to watch what's happening (it's very slow progress, I warn you), please look for me there.


So, what about those trips out?

Well chaps, you know in an ideal world, what I'd really like to do is to write up each one. But experience has taught me that once I get lost into other projects I'm unlikely to get that organised. So instead, I've put together a small gallery of shots from those visits which I hope will give you a flavour.


Hedgerow Watching..

And meanwhile, in the lane, everything continues verdant and lush...

It's turning into such a glorious summer here. After having terrible weather over winter and spring it's unbelievably lovely to be able to walk around feeling warm - even hot sometimes. I'm loving it!

I hope you're having a good time too, wherever you're reading this. Until the next time...

Happy stitching!

Anny x

 

More experiments in stitch...
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more experiments in stitch...

and a rainy lane.

Well they say you have to experiment from time to time, shake things up, push your boundaries. So having started loosening up and allowing myself some playtime, I'm continuing to see where it takes me.

This week I've moved on to another new piece.

A couple of weeks ago, when I had my painting session, I set up several pieces of fabric, some linen scrims and some old cotton pillowcases, and painted them with a mixture of acrylic paint (variously watered down) and acrylic inks.

The piece I showed you last time used the cotton pillowcase for the background, but this time I'm using painted linen scrim.

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The first thing I did was to add shapes using fabrics from my stash. This was also the first time I've ever really used Bondaweb in anger and once I got to grips with it (literally) I started having quite an exciting time.

I was choosing fabrics for their colour and texture, so I've included some organza, silk, more scrim and something meshy that I have no idea where it came from but which I kept from years back because I liked it.

This was a decidedly interesting afternoon - there was one point when I thought I was going to have to buy a new ironing board cover, but thankfully I managed to peel the offending fabrics off without doing too much lasting damage. I've now developed a greater respect for greaseproof paper...

The Delinquent Dog kept an eye on me from a safe distance near the door - I suspect he was just checking that I hadn't forgotten his teatime.

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Once I had the basic pieces in place I pulled together a selection of threads to use with it (always an exciting part of the process)

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And then I began to add some stitches. Beginning with some basic couching to define some of the spaces and help give it structure. I'm never sure where these lines are going to go exactly, so I often just lay the thread over the piece and see how it falls, giving it a little tweak here and there until it looks right.

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I know several readers are interested in following the development of each piece and I'm pretty rubbish at keeping a regular habit of photographing and posting updates, so this week I thought I'd see if I could be better organised about it.

I decided to try and post an update on Instagram Stories each afternoon and Tweet at the same time - so if you follow me on either of those, you may well have seen these already. It feels slightly better to me, but then of course this week coming is a holiday, so typically just as soon as I get into a routine things go and change. But I will aim to carry on doing that on the days when I'm actually stitching.

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The big difference between this piece and the last one is the nature of the background fabric - the scrim is obviously a much looser weave, and whilst I'm very familiar with it, I'm usually creating the background as I go, this time it's already there and I'm working out how to incorporate it, how to bring the whole piece together.

After the initial couching, I started adding a few cross stitches and running stitch in a variety of threads, to get a feel for what each would do on the scrim. So far on this piece I've used sewing threads, embroidery silks, weavers' silks and 4 ply knitting yarns.

They all do different things and it's fascinating to see how each one looks and how they combine with each other (well, ok, our definitions of fascinating may differ, but I imagine you know me well enough by now to understand).

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Look closely and you'll see I've also done a little section of needlepoint (tent stitch) - going back to my roots perhaps? I'm thinking about it. This canvas just seems to be asking for more needlepoint - we'll see.

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So here we are as of today - my entire repertoire of stitches and the beginnings of some lines and texture.

It's a holiday here this week and I have the OH at home and Number Two Daughter manically revising for 'A' Levels, so I have no idea how many stitches will happen over the next few days - we'll just have to take each day as it comes. If I do manage to fit in some work I promise to try and keep to my Instagram and Twitter postings, so if you follow me there you'll be the first to see what's happening.

In other news...

Hedgerow Watching...

We've had some tremendous thunderstorms this week which have taken their toll on the may blossom, but we've now seen the first of the elderflowers begin to open and, best of all (I'm sorry but they are the best) the dog roses are here!

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I've been catching a few minutes of TV coverage from The Chelsea Flower Show this week, but you know, each morning when I walk the dog and look at the flowers in the hedgerow, there's nothing from Chelsea that I prefer to nature's own.

Wishing you a peaceful, creative and productive week.

Happy Stitching

Anny x

 

Out and about in May...
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out and about in May...

I blinked and there we were, three weeks into May!

Well, it’s all been happening around here. After weeks of being cooped up by the interminable grey weather, we’ve finally been granted a summer and we’re making the most of it!

If you're familiar with my stitch work, you probably won't be surprised to know that I'm very interested in Britain's ancient history, especially the remains left in the landscape from the neolithic to the Iron Age.  Over the Bank Holiday weekend the OH and I travelled to Overton Hill, the start (or end I suppose) of The Ridgeway (one of the oldest paths in England) and walked a 5 mile circular route taking in Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow, Avebury Stone Circle and a short stretch of the Ridgeway back to the start/end. Of course we chose the hottest day of the year, but somehow that didn’t matter because I was finally getting to see places I’d wanted to visit for a very long time.

As it was a Bank Holiday we’d anticipated Avebury (biggest stone circle in the country - with a village inside the circle) being very busy, and I suppose it was, but it didn’t detract from what I thought was an incredible atmosphere. Although I think perhaps that walking there, seeing West Kennet and Silbury Hill on the way, had prepared me by working its magic. There is certainly something so different about the whole landscape in that area, literally teeming with ancient earthworks, stone circles, barrows and mounds. By the time we reached Avebury in the very hot mid afternoon, I was happily away in another dimension.

 Silbury Hill - despite archaeological investigations, no one has yet established a reason for it's creation. It's one of many mysteries in the landscape.

Silbury Hill - despite archaeological investigations, no one has yet established a reason for it's creation. It's one of many mysteries in the landscape.

 Avebury stone circle - of course without a drone or helicopter it's difficult to give any impression of the scale of Avebury. In fact there are three circles in all contained within a massive henge. 

Avebury stone circle - of course without a drone or helicopter it's difficult to give any impression of the scale of Avebury. In fact there are three circles in all contained within a massive henge. 

 Walking back towards The Ridgeway even small copses of trees turn out to be guarding ancient burial mounds. The air was tingling.

Walking back towards The Ridgeway even small copses of trees turn out to be guarding ancient burial mounds. The air was tingling.

That evening we had dinner in Laycock (the village where the 1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice was filmed) and then walked across the river and around Laycock Abbey as the sun went down. We watched bats flitting past and a heron fishing in the river and as we approached the Abbey in the gathering dusk, the one window illuminated from inside was the famous oriel where arguably the first ever photograph was taken by William Fox Talbot in the summer of 1835. A truly magical day.

After that we slipped over the Severn Estuary and met up on the Monday with my brother at Chepstow Castle.

Chepstow is a lovely historic town and the castle has such a long and fascinating history, perched up on the cliffs above a turn in the notoriously wriggly River Wye, it’s a perfect place to spend a lazy day wandering about. Although it was so hot when we were there we had to pace ourselves and stop frequently for tea and ice cream.

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Then last week we nipped up the M1 to Leicester and paid our respects to Richard III again, this time we weren’t rushing so much so we made it to the Richard III experience across the road from the cathedral. Have you been? I enjoyed it, although I thought the historic background on the ground floor was a bit thin on detail. But upstairs, the exhibition of the dig that uncovered Richard was enthralling. I must admit to feeling quite moved by the whole thing. It’s hard not to feel that there was some guiding hand pointing to the spot where his bones were lying and encouraging those who were so committed to finding him. Well, it made me wonder.

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In the cathedral, the chapel beside Richard III’s tomb has two windows specially created for the occasion of Richard’s interment by my favourite stained glass artist, Tom Denny. So you can imagine, I took about a zillion photos and spent a long time gazing up at the windows. They have a strange power, they always seem to draw me in, I feel as if I'm becoming part of the story. Quite hypnotic.

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Hedgerow Watching

Meanwhile, out in the lane the transformation from spring to summer has gone on apace.

There’s so much may blossom this year, surely it must be more than recent years? But not just the hawthorn, we’ve had a wonderful carpet of bluebells, lilac, apple blossom, stitchwort, holly blossom and cow parsley. Yesterday I noticed the first buds on the dog roses - I love these, especially when there’s been a little rain and the raindrops are caught in the ridged leaves. Our morning walks have been even more uplifting for the last couple of weeks as every day seems to bring on some new flower to make you smile.

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Slow stitch diary

And then there’s the stitchery stuff…

Thank you so much to everyone who messaged me after the last journal post. It does help to see through other people’s eyes, and I have persevered with the smaller piece which I’ll show you shortly. But I said last time that I needed to play, and that’s what I’ve been doing.

 Experiments with acrylic paint and ink on canvas. I miss getting the paints out and it felt good to use them again. This is the first time I've used them on fabric.

Experiments with acrylic paint and ink on canvas. I miss getting the paints out and it felt good to use them again. This is the first time I've used them on fabric.

Inspired by Stephanie Redfern’s book, I got out my old acrylic paints, taped a variety of plain fabrics to a board and splashed the paint about. It was hugely cathartic and it fascinated me to see how differently it looked on the various substrates as it dried. It’s helped enormously to just stand there and experiment, now in my mind I’m already thinking about what I want to try next.

From the pieces I painted, there’s one waiting for me to work at it with threads and there’s this one, which I decided to go straight to work on. The background is hand painted with acrylic and metallic inks and then I’ve stitched on some silks and worked over the whole in threads. I’m not sure if it’s quite finished yet - nearly though.

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So, all in all a busy but productive couple of weeks. I hope you’re also having a good time with your creative work at the moment, it’s such a cyclical thing isn’t it, we have to find a way to work with the flow.

And so until next time,

Happy stitching!

Anny x