Posts tagged stitchery spellbook
Resolutely into the New Year...

Resolutely into the New Year…

Happy New Year!

I’ve spent this morning removing the Christmas decorations and giving the house the first proper clean of the year. I’m never going to win prizes for my housekeeping skills, but I do like to start the year off with a good vacuuming and application of the duster. That’s all done now and the diffuser is serenely wafting a ‘festive season’ essential oil mix about, so I’m taking the opportunity to write before I settle down to serious afternoon stitchery.

A quick round up before cracking on…

I’m relieved to say that Christmas didn’t leave me frazzled this year. The Daughters were enormously helpful, really taking over a lot of the things that used to make me stressed, and to be honest, we all took things a little more gently this time.

For years now I’ve enjoyed a pre-Christmas visit to Bath, there’s something about it that puts me in a festive mood, even though I rarely do much (or any) shopping while we’re there.

Bath Abbey at night…

Bath Abbey at night…

Then, just before Christmas, we travelled west to meet up with my brother. We stopped on the way for a late afternoon wander around Gloucester Cathedral, one of the most exquisitely beautiful buildings in the country. If you want to see a few more pictures, have a look here.

More Tom Denny stained glass in Gloucester Cathedral…sighs…

More Tom Denny stained glass in Gloucester Cathedral…sighs…

We met up in Hay on Wye, so you won’t be surprised to hear that I came home loaded up with enough reading material to see me through to Easter.

Christmas passed off quietly. Much ringing of bells, considerable quantities of food consumed, the usual thing. The Delinquent Dog sported his festive bow-tie (kindly made by a ringing friend).

Who’s a handsome boy then?

Who’s a handsome boy then?

Between Christmas and New Year, the OH and I had a couple of days away in Ely to celebrate our wedding anniversary. I love Ely, and this was the first time I’d spent longer than a few hours in the town. Naturally we spent most of the time in the cathedral - visiting both towers and the stained glass museum, as well as all the rest of the amazing building. Again, if you’d like to see a few more photos of the Octagon Tower, click here.

And oh my word, what a town! The best haberdashery, at the back of a toy shop! And a Toppings bookshop - honestly, what more could you want!

A detail of a John Piper window in the Stained Glass Museum, Ely Cathedral. John PIper is my second favourite stained glass artist…x

A detail of a John Piper window in the Stained Glass Museum, Ely Cathedral. John PIper is my second favourite stained glass artist…x

And on our way home, we popped into Cambridge for a couple of hours. It’s not somewhere I know at all, having previously visited only once, on a bike, twenty three years ago. I was so terrified, I didn’t remember a thing. This time I decided to embrace my inner tourist and take photos of as many college gates as I could. They’re over here if you want to see them.

Is this the most cliched view of Cambridge? I think it may be…

Is this the most cliched view of Cambridge? I think it may be…

Onwards Chaps!

And so here we are, 2019 and raring to go (well, ish).

I’m not only a poor housekeeper, I’m also a New Year Resolution refusenik. Or at least I thought I was.

But part of recovering my spirits has been a realisation that I’m actually happier when I have some structure in place. Not, I hasten to add, any kind of rigid commitment, but when I have something to drive me forward, I seem to do better.

So this year, in a radical departure from most previous Januarys, I’ve given myself some - well, let’s not call them by the ‘r’-word - let’s call them bones. They are the bones of a structure, which, if I can maintain it, should at least prevent me from falling into the ‘what shall I do, what am I here for’ kind of slough.

In my previous incarnation, my specialist super-skill was planning, and so it can be a bit too easy for me to make plans. The problem is, can I actually bring them off, can I take the necessary actions? Well, I don’t think the first week in January is the time to decide, but I have taken the advice of Gretchen Rubin and scheduled some key points. At least now I’ll know if I’m on track or falling behind.

We’ll see how it goes. Part of me is always aware of the old saying about if you want to make the gods laugh, tell them your plans. But without some bones, there’s the danger of drift, and that’s what I want to avoid at the moment. So I’m risking it.

One of the things I’m planning, is to write an e-book on stitch. Back in the summer, just before the hair decided it had had enough and would rapidly fall out, I’d begun working on a workshop programme. The whole hair episode massively derailed progress on that, but lately I’ve been getting back into the swing and over and over I keep thinking I should start by writing the book, then condense that into something practical. In a way I think I need to do it this way round to help me clarify my own thoughts before I try to explain them to other people, if I don’t I’m afraid I’ll keep going off on ‘or you could try it this way’ tangents, which I think would become deeply frustrating.

The other thing I’m properly planning, is to resume ‘Loose Threads’. I apologise to all of you who’ve been kind enough to subscribe. I know you’ll understand that 2018 was a daft old year of stuff that just made life too much of a roller-coaster to concentrate effort there, and I’ve always been determined that it would never be something I sent out unless it was at least partly worth reading. But my aim in 2019 is to send out ‘Loose Threads’ about four times, roughly at the equinoxes and solstices. Thanks to everyone who’s patiently waiting.

And what about the stitch?

Well, in my last post, I mentioned the piece I was working on and the one that hadn’t come together.

A detail from the finished piece - possibly to be called ‘Merlin’.

A detail from the finished piece - possibly to be called ‘Merlin’.

And oddly enough, I did persevere with the large piece and guess what? It did work in the end. I just kept adding stitches until at some point it tipped over from the ugh? to the ahhh! In my mind, I’m calling it Merlin - that might be it’s title when I show it later in the year at The Workhouse. Merlin is one of the most enigmatic characters in the Arthurian legends, and I won’t claim to have done more than scratch the surface of reading about his mythology, but magic is purple and sparkly in my head, and so is this piece. It’s a start.

So, it’s early days. New beginnings, new challenges, but always stitch.

May your New Year be blessed, peaceful and happy.

Anny x

Sliding gently back into the game...

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…




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

April highs and lows...

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...


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...

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

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.

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...)


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).


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.


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...


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