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Journal

Posts tagged slow stitch
A Good Hanging...
 

…in which we visit The Workhouse, fail to make much progress with the stitchery and finally leave Narnia.

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Hello again. How’s your week been? Here things have been a bit unusual.

After dropping the Daughters off at the airport at some unreasonably early hour on Sunday (and in -6 degrees!), all thoughts of a slow romantic day with the OH were shelved when I realised that despite considerable wifely urging, he still hadn’t framed any of the pieces I was intending to take to The Workhouse on Monday for the new exhibition.

Luckily, by the time I had to leave the house on Monday, he’d just about finished, so if you should visit The Workhouse in Dunstable over the next four weeks, you’ll be able to see a quartet of work from yours truly…(unless of course some kind soul pops in and buys them).

(Avalon Meadow, Merlin, Minerva and Uriens)

I spent Monday afternoon helping to hang the new exhibition, which is called ‘Mysterious’.

It’s always exciting to see the new work that local artists have brought in for the show. Every time I’m reminded how much talent there is all around us. You don’t have to go to exclusive galleries in expensive cities to see remarkable work. The Workhouse attracts amazingly gifted artists from the surrounding counties, many of whom are new to exhibiting and it’s a joy to see them take the plunge and show their work.

Like many other small galleries, The Workhouse in Dunstable runs as a not for profit organisation, to keep the costs of showing and buying affordable. It is staffed entirely by volunteers, most, but not all of whom, are artists, who give some of their time to help the gallery thrive.

It’s always on the lookout for other people with a bit of a flair for art and who enjoy talking to people, to swell our band of volunteers, and it occured to me that this might be true for a lot of similar galleries. So if there’s one near you and you’d like to get involved, be brave, pop in and ask them. The more time I spend in The Workhouse, the more I see just how important access to art is to everybody, not just a privileged few and so it’s vitally important to do what we can to help these places survive and prosper, because in the end, we all benefit or we all lose.

And although as a volunteer I’m not being paid for my time there, there’s actually a huge reward to be had, listening to and watching the reactions of customers as they walk around the gallery. If you ever have concerns about your work, spend some time in a gallery and see for yourself just how true it is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, so often I see it, where what appeals to one customer will leave another cold and visa versa, there really is someone out there who’ll love your work! We all know that in theory, but a few hours in a gallery and you’ll really know it’s true.

Stitchiness

Well, what with trips to airports and hanging exhibitions, there hasn’t been a massive amount of progress on the current piece. But I’m still loving the palette, which is something of a departure from the blues and purples very much in evidence in ‘Mysterious’.

I’ve fallen for the Gutermann cotton quilting threads with their subtly changing colours, so they feature quite extensively in this piece. I find that not knowing exactly what shade will appear where, adds to my enjoyment. I like to feel that I’m not making all the decisions and that the piece itself might be determining it’s development.

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Also, the light has been so poor that I’ve scarcely been able to take any decent pictures with this one, which is why I haven’t posted updates on Instagram Stories.

(Ali, if you’re seeing this, do you recognise the background?)

I’m using a cotton hand-dyed by my friend Ali, as the foundation layer for the work and it’s really the colours in there that have brought together the palette. As usual, there’s a mixture of batik and recycled sari silk there too.

in other news…

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At the weekend I was feeling decidedly jealous, seeing so many photos of springlike bulbs, snowdrops and Imbolc celebrations. Around here we were most certainly not enjoying the return of spring, more like perpetual winter. But I’ve walked the lane enough years now to know that we’re always a bit behind, we just have to have patience.

And sure enough, as I ventured out with the Delinquent Dog on Wednesday morning, there was a shift, suddenly even though there’s nothing particular to see, spring is here. Later that day I saw that according to the Anglo-Saxon calendar, spring begins on February 7th - and I have to say, they were spot on here!

Oh and talking of Anglo-Saxons, I’ve finally got my act together and I’m off to the British Library next week, to see the Anglo-Saxon exhibition before it closes.

I wonder if the Anglo-Saxons had any theories about the weather and reclining sheep?

I’m sure they were trying to tell me something…

I’m sure they were trying to tell me something…

If you’re interested and haven’t yet seen it, I’ve recently added A Lane in January with more pictures from recent walks.

Wishing you a peacefully uneventful week.

Happy stitching…

Anny x

* A Good Hanging - Ian Rankin’s Rebus short stories…

 
 
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

 
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
 


 
 
working up the workshop...
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working up the workshop

or 'please nag me'

You may remember a while back that I’d been asked to run a workshop at The Workhouse to help people who wanted to try slow, contemplative stitching themselves and who had expressed an interest in my work.


At the time I said that I’d start thinking about it - which I have been doing, but even though I’ve been mulling it over, I knew there were a few things I didn’t feel sat quite right and I needed to work out what exactly I could realistically offer and how I could go about it.


Well, the good news is that I think I’ve finally come up with a plan that I hope will offer helpful guidance and some hands-on experience. I’ve had a couple of flashes of inspiration lately that have fired me up and into action.


So, yesterday I sat myself down and started proper preparation. My plan is this - I’m going to draft out a one-day workshop schedule (which I’ve started - hooray!). Once that has been suitably fleshed out, I’ll prepare the materials I want to use and have a couple of dummy runs (the daughters have volunteered to trial it with me). If that goes well, I intend to offer the workshop at The Workhouse in Dunstable in the Autumn and see how it goes.


Now, one of the issues I had from the beginning was that I knew there were people around the world who’d like to participate and I wanted to find a way to offer the same or similar experience online to them too. So, I decided that as I was working up the workshop format, I would also try to create the same thing as an e-course or online workshop.


I’m getting my head around that, trying to break the information down into useful chunks and work out how to communicate in words and pictures. It’s going to take time, but I’m really keen to make it happen because the global community of stitchers is something I really appreciate being a part of and if there are people who’d benefit from developing a stitch practice, I’d like to do my bit to help.


But here’s the thing…if any of you have read Gretchen Rubin’s book ‘Better Than Before’ or ‘The Four Tendencies’ - you’ll be familiar with the term Obliger…which is definitely my character, spot on.

Obligers are good at doing things that other people require them to do, but can be pretty rubbish at doing the things that they tell themselves they should do - in other words, they’re good at responding to outside pressures, and bad at responding to inner ones.


That matters here, because getting this workshop up and running still fits too snugly into an inner pressure - no one is going to make it happen if I don’t. Gretchen’s remedy for Obligers is to have them enlist the help of other people to whom they can be accountable  - and provide the external pressure.

So, dear readers, this is where I’m going to ask your help.


Please, if you think this is a good idea, will you nag me to keep at it? (I’d prefer gentle nagging if you don’t mind, I’m easily scared). Drop me a comment asking how it’s coming along? That sort of thing. I feel fairly sure that will help me keep up the momentum.


Also, now that I’m getting into the nitty-gritty, I’d love to bounce ideas off you - more of that next time, when I hope to show you an outline, then perhaps if you have a few moments, you could tell me what’s missing or what needs more or less emphasis.


So, there you have it. I am getting my finger out. I am inspired to do it. I am a bit scared and at the bottom of the learning curve. Stick around and see what happens.

Best wishes and until 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

 

April highs and lows...
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April - highs and lows...

Well I’m here, just in time to wave goodbye to April. Crikey what a month!

Out in the lane everything has kicked off despite the weather veering dramatically from winter, straight to the height of summer and back to winter again.

(We appear to be missing spring out entirely this year around here, which is frankly annoying. I for one need some time to acclimatise between the seasons, I have to gradually warm up, not go from wearing my thermals to factor 50 sunblock in the space of two days).

But nature won’t be held back indefinitely and at last we’re seeing new growth in the hedgerows. Over the last four weeks the celandines have finally made a show, the bluebells have started ringing, there’s apple blossom, pussy willow, garlic mustard and of course the blackthorn blossom put on a spectacular show until the next round of gale force wind and rain stripped the branches.

Now, acid green new leaves are unfurling throughout the wood. The beech trees are almost unnaturally green for a short while, just to accentuate the bluebells beneath them.

Blackthorn blossom - a short season, especially when the weather is so poor, but how lovely while it lasts...

Blackthorn blossom - a short season, especially when the weather is so poor, but how lovely while it lasts...

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Out and About

Desperate for a change of scene, we nipped over to the coast during the Easter holiday. Sadly, I managed to time that precisely with acquiring something that if not exactly ‘flu, was as close as you’d want to come. But on the plus side, if you’re going to feel grotty, a flat on Cromer seafront with a view across the waves is not a bad place to be.

Just before becoming ill, I managed a trip to one of my all-time Top Ten Favourite Places - Harvington Hall, Worcestershire. Anyone who’s followed my ramblings for a while will know how much I love it there, but that’s not going to stop me adding a page of photos to the Spellbook just as soon as I can. It’s a wonderful house, absolutely dripping in real history.

Then just this weekend I ended up in London and squeezed in an hour at the British Museum, looking at the Iron Age to Medieval Europe rooms and indulging my Celtic art fetish. I stand there looking at the swirls and the spirals and I’m entranced, but at the same time I feel connected. I know how it feels to need to make those same lines.

Hopefully, if we ever do achieve a summer, I’ll be getting out and about a lot more very soon. I’ve always needed to keep my levels of ‘old places’ exposure topped up, it refreshes me. Do you have the same need? Or what is it that you need to do to feel inspired and balanced? I’m intrigued to know.

A detail from the Battersea Shield - well over 2000 years old. Made in Britain and recovered from the river Thames. Many similar items have been discovered in rivers, it seems the Celts made offerings to their gods by depositions into water.

A detail from the Battersea Shield - well over 2000 years old. Made in Britain and recovered from the river Thames. Many similar items have been discovered in rivers, it seems the Celts made offerings to their gods by depositions into water.

Stitch Diary

I’m going to be entirely honest here and tell you that it’s not exactly coming together on the stitch-front at the moment.

Minerva and Guinevere both seemed to practically stitch themselves and I was happy with the way they turned out, but since then I’ve hit an ‘off-patch’.

I’d so enjoyed the pallette I used for Guinevere that I decided to use it again straight away and I set up a new piece just as I usually do. And I stitched - quite a lot. And do you know, it just isn’t working this time. And the more I throw at it, the worse it gets.

So I thought I’d ditch it and start something else. I bought some new fabric - it’s Osnaburg, a soft linen look cotton, and I chopped off a little bit to play with. I got out my paints and had a go at painting the fabric - not something I’ve done very much at all before - and I enjoyed it. Then I thought I’d add a few stitches, still using the palette from Guinevere and at first I thought it was going to be ok.

But for some reason, it just isn’t. Not sure why, it’s just the way it is.  The creative batteries are running low. (Although I do love the Osnaburg, it’s a dream to stitch on/in).

'Minerva' and 'Guinevere' ( below ) practically stitched themselves...

'Minerva' and 'Guinevere' (below) practically stitched themselves...

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Laying out the next piece and choosing the palette...

Laying out the next piece and choosing the palette...

And simply not working....

And simply not working....

I’ve been feeling for a while that I need to have a spell of playtime and experimentation without setting myself any expectations, and now I think I’m actually going to do it.

And as if by magic… I was catching up with blogs yesterday and noticed that Stephanie Redfern’s book is published - so I’ve bought a copy and I’m looking forward to lots of ‘ooh, that’s interesting, ahh, so that’s something I hadn’t thought of and ‘yes!’ I’m going to give that a go’ moments.

Watch this space!

And in other news…

  • A word of warning. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Mac computers can’t be infected with malware or viruses...they absolutely can. I am currently writing this on my totally rebuilt Macbook. Take care.

Have fun chaps and until next time…

Happy stitching (or whatever else keeps you sane).

Anny x

Bring me sunshine...
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bring me sunshine...

Yes, you’ve guessed it. As we’re still waiting for anything like sunshine to find us in our little corner of the shire, I’ve had to take measures to make our own…

I’m happy using gold - although generally as a highlight rather than a feature. But yellow and orange? Well, there comes a time.

This is being worked using various sewing threads, silks and exquisite purples and greens all the way from Texas, (with huge thanks to Laura, who sent them to me in a parcel of delights which certainly lifted our wintery spirits!).

All worked through layers of organza and shot silk, with additions of recycled sari silk.

I assume I’ll just keep adding stitches until the real sun finally decides to make an appearance.

Hoping things are warm and sunny wherever you are.


In other news

  • If you subscribe to Loose Threads you should have received a new issue in your inbox this weekend. I hope you enjoy it. Please do let me know what you think.
  • This week I’ve also added a couple of new pages to the Spellbook - one for the piece I made earlier in the year called Excalibur, including pictures through the working process, and a page for The Lane in Winter. I’ll be adding these pages as and when through the year.
  • On Monday I travelled over to Peterborough and spent a fabulous few hours exploring that amazing building. I'll be adding a page for that when I have a few moments - I’ll keep you posted.

Until next time...

Happy stitching!

Anny x

 

 

A Stitchery Sort of Christmas...
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A Stitchery Sort of Christmas...

Happy New Year!

Hello again - how's 2018 treating you so far? Are you having fun keeping all your New Year Resolutions, or have you already ditched them in a fit of January-blues pique?

Around here it's just a battle against the grey weather. Our lovely spell of pre-Christmas snow gave way to mild but extremely dull weather. With the exception of an hour or so one morning the week before last, we've had no sunshine at all. Knowing how easily this can bring my mood plummeting I have tried very hard to keep myself afloat and it's mainly been a case of stitching my way through the weather.

Do you remember the piece I had on the go in the lead up to Christmas?

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Here it is, finished just before Christmas Day (which was lucky as it meant I could move my big wicker basket out of the way for a couple of days. It's not quite as wonky as this photo would have you believe, but the murky light has made getting decent photos a real issue - take it from me, it's one of my least wonky pieces. I immediately added it to the pile of work waiting for the framing elves to do their thing. So far I think we'd have to say they haven't come up with the goods.

Anyway, the brilliant thing for me this year (or last year now if we're being picky), is that I managed to hibernate for pretty much the entire Twelve Days. There is something hugely restorative about being able to sit around reading and dozing for days on end. I've found that with a fridge and freezer full of food and enough technical* adults in the house able to feed themselves, there really isn't that much I need to do once the main event is out of the way.

But do you know, it wasn't many days (probably more like hours) after finishing that last piece that I needed to get down to stitching again. I've had a couple of palettes in mind, neither of which I actually ended up using - as is the way of things - so shortly after Boxing Day I began putting another piece of textile together. It was mere coincidence that it began around the time of the Woolf Moon, but I wonder if there was something directing me when I started...here it is...

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I'd like to point out that this one isn't wonky either but the Delinquent Dog wouldn't give up his seat on the sofa for me to stretch it out properly - and this is pretty much the only place in the county with enough daylight to take a photo...

Blue and silver (with just the occasional hint of gold). Possibly one of the twinkliest of pieces I've ever made - which naturally you'll appreciate doesn't come across well in photos even at the best of times. You'll have to take my word for it. 

Large areas of this one are very simply stitched with the most basic running stitch. Ever since seeing the Fabric of India exhibition at the V&A I've been fascinated by the way this humble little stitch can transform the fabrics you introduce it to. The variations that can be achieved are so numerous. Combine running stitch with shiny fabrics and the effects are mesmerising.

Hibernation with stitching is pretty much the perfect antidote to stress, for me at least, and so I'm starting 2018 proper in a fairly relaxed state despite the grey clouds and misty mornings. I'm not a Resolutions type of girl, but I'm playing with the idea of having a word to be guided by, and at the moment that word would be relax.

I read somewhere that women of a certain age can be prone to feeling anxious and if I'm honest this is me more often than I'd generally admit, so as I really don't have anything concrete to feel anxious about, I'm going to make stronger efforts at combatting anxiety when it creeps up on me. Anyone able to offer advice on doing this? What works for you?

Meditation is my usual route. Sometimes traditional style, quiet place, focus on the breathing type of thing. Sometimes listening to a guided meditation recording on YouTube. Mindfulness is where it's at too of course, I love the whole chopping wood and carrying water approach - although I tend more towards the washing-up and vacuuming version.

Walking the boy is probably a form of meditation too, although not walking meditation in its traditional form - far too much danger of distraction. But of all the possible techniques, stitching is far and away the most meditative practice I know.

And this is the one I've just started...

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With the studio assistant as you can see assuming his duties of guarding the stitching from his position on the sofa.

So that's where I am as we head off into mid-January. Gradually emerging from hibernation with a few projects piling up for the elves and a mild sense of optimism. Could be worse...


In Other news...

If you follow me on Instagram you'll probably already have seen this, but just in case I  thought you might like to meet our sheepish friends. These are the sheep who're currently living in the field where we usually walk (we don't walk through while they're in residence). They're kept as pets by a local family and they certainly have personality. Every morning when we reach the Thinking Gate they spot us and come running over to say hello - although actually I think they expect me to feed them. Anyway, enjoy...

Oh and also from my Instagram account, here are the photos that apparently were the most popular in 2017...

Top of the Instagram Charts 2017...

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A suitable mix of the lane in its different guises with old places - can you spot Llanthony, Kenilworth Castle, Whitby Abbey, Hadrian's Wall, and Charlecote House?

Here's to another wonder-filled year of enjoying stitch, countryside and old places. Love to all xxx

Anny x

* technical adults - definition: children and husbands old enough to switch the cooker on and put their own dinner in it...