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Journal

Posts tagged textile blogger
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

 
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

 

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...

From the beginning...

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

A Stitchery Spell

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

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

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

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

then...

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

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

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

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

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

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In other news...

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

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

 Love Anny x

Almost Halloween...
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And finally I get to sit at my computer and write! It's been an age, I apologise, I'd meant to be here well before now but then real life kicks in and you're on a roller-coaster that leaves just enough time for sleep and marathon ironing sessions (I'm guessing I'm not alone).

The part of me that used to live in corporate world thinks this is an error of prioritisation and that I should certainly have put writing before ironing, but then the post-corporate me thinks well if I don't clear the pile there's practically no chance anyone else will do it and I'm probably the one who'll run out of things to wear first. And so...

Anyway, how are things with you? Are you celebrating Halloween or Samhain? This year we were given a packet of giant pumpkin seeds and after a couple of false starts managed to grow 3 enormous pumpkins. If you've never tried I can thoroughly recommend growing them for the entertainment value. They grow so fast you can practically see them spread across the garden. Our plants also kindly took off across the lawn, so we haven't mowed it since mid August - result!

Whitby Abbey

As it's nearly Halloween and there's been everything Dracula on the radio lately I thought I'd show you a few of the pictures I took in Whitby back in August. The Abbey is wonderfully atmospheric whatever your gothic desires, it's easy to see how it inspires people. I particularly love the eroded stone work, the arches look like sinuous fingers to me.

I love Whitby. It's a town with fantastic character, great pubs and excellent fish and chips. If I was Dracula I might well have come ashore there too.

In Other News...

  • It's been a wonderful three weeks so far at The Workhouse in Dunstable. For the next couple of months you can find me there on Wednesdays and Fridays. I've learned - or should I say I've re-learned - the lesson that art is in the eye of the beholder. It's a fabulous gift to sit and watch people's reaction to the art as they walk around and to listen to their comments. It is a fact that what one loves another won't, but there is someone who will connect with your work. I have heard people look at the same work and dismiss it, while others give the identical work high praise. So it is, and for us artists it's a lesson to keep front of mind. Make what you are called to make, don't worry about who's going to want it. The right people will find you.
  • I've been on a mini-jaunt to Wales. I'll try very hard to post photos before I am called back to the laundry heap. We visited Tretower Court, Hay on Wye, Llanthony Priory, Raglan Castle, and Goodrich Castle - all my favourite places and only slightly diminished by me having a grim and evil tummy bug which denied me the excellent breakfast at the hotel - arrrgh!
  • I've finished stitching another piece - hurray! But I haven't taken any decent pictures yet, so that will have to go on the 'To Do' list too.
  • And lastly, I've done something I've never done before - I've had a small number of my photographs printed and framed for sale at The Workhouse in November for the 'Mist & Mystery' exhibition. I will definitely show you those too. Photography is the the way I capture the essence of the seasons as I make my daily walks along the lane and through the field and woods, it's become so much a part of what I do I hadn't stopped to look at it as another art form. This week I was prompted to go back and consider them with a view to showing a selection and I have to say it's made me quite excited, they've printed up so well.

Have a good Halloween if you're celebrating. I'll be lighting a few candles and having a quiet contemplation. Reflection has gone out of fashion, but I find the wheel of the year, the cycle of life and the rhythms of the seasons keep me grounded and somehow deeply reassured.

Blessings to all and happy stitching x