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Journal

Posts tagged stitching
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…

 
 
Resolutely into the New Year...
 
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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

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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

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

Coming up for air...

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

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

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

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

Stitching...

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

Out and Abouting...

Bath

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

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Bath Christmas Market...

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

The Workhouse

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

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

In the lane...

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

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

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

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

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

In other news...

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

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

Very best wishes...

Happy Stitching!

Anny x