Category: General Posts


An adventure on the (distant) horizon

I have been asked to plan a week of embroidery next July for The Watermill, Posara, a rather wonderful place in Tuscany that hosts painting and knitting holidays among other things. Bill and Lois Breckon, who run The Watermill, have been gradually restoring and improving it over the past thirty years or so, and they have a gift for unobtrusive excellence of organisation I’ve never seen bettered.

At the moment, we are thinking of running an embroidery week along the lines of the knitting courses, with studio time alternating with the excursions and fabulous lunches, and I have been thinking quite hard about what might make for an interesting week.

The painting classes are “plein air”, so involve setting up somewhere and painting all morning, followed by a delicious lunch (when I painted this watercolour I had my back to the trattoria where we had lunch) and painting some more in the afternoon. Apparently the knitters sometimes set themselves up somewhere and Knit In Public as well – the locals in all the destinations being so accustomed to artists and tourists that they barely even notice.

My idea for the embroidery week is to go adventuring Beyond Long And Short Stitch, to play with the ideas that are my first love in embroidery, the use of the ornamental stitches and varied threads to recall texture and pattern, to bring pictures to life without too much detail: “Impressionism in stitches”, if you will.

So I’ve started to plan Impressionistic stitcheries inspired by The Watermill and the excursions, which can be put together into a Watermill Sampler. The first (this is a detail) is inspired by the stands of bamboo which are merrily naturalising themselves up and down the valley, and by a recent post on Queenie’s Needlework blog about a stitch she calls “Danish Knotted Cross Stitch” (since the book she found it in didn’t give it a name at all!). When the stitch appeared I was already thinking about the Bambouserie, as they call it, and it occurred to me that it might make an effective stitch for the joint in the bamboo stalks – and sure enough, it does!

The long, rustling leaves of the bamboo are worked as clusters of long Detached Twisted Chain stitches, which I think are somehow much more evocative of the rustle than straight stitches would be. “Bambouserie” has set quite a high bar for my next “Watermill Stitchery”!

Episode 65 of SlowTV Stitchery is now live, in which we make an early start to avoid Noises Off, and thoughts of the sky as a sampler of graduating colour lead to a reconsideration of the idea for canvaswork cushions inspired by the Ironbridge and “Coalbrookdale by Night”.

Who remembers Blogging Awards?

Blogging has changed quite a bit since I started years ago, and blogging awards are among the things which have fallen by the wayside as the blogging world has fragmented into blogging, vlogging, and whatever the generic term is for instagram, pixelfed and the like. However, just in the last couple of weeks, an Outstanding Blogger has been circulating, and Alex from UnderATopazSky nominated me among others. So, on to the questions!

Verrucola

What would my perfect holiday be?
Our family isn’t good at holidays. I recall a week’s holiday on Anglesey in my teens during which we came home in the middle so my Dad could make a phone call, and I never took to the idea of working on a tan. Resorts, beaches – definitely not. However, Mam and I have been on a couple of painting holidays, which have involved painting tuition and lots of lovely food, and we have both been rather taken with them.

But then again, I’ve been rereading “The King In The North” by Max Adams, and thinking that pony trekking the trail from Bamburgh to Yeavering in the company of an archaeologist or a historian of fourth to eighth century Northumbria might be a really fascinating way to spend a day or so…

Where is my favourite place to walk?
To be honest, it’s the company that makes the walk, as far as I’m concerned. Although, now I think about it: Paris. I spent a year there when I was an undergraduate, and it feels almost as much home as home does (if you follow me). My second favourite is Lisbon, which has a very ordinary cafe which sells the best hot chocolate that I’ve ever had, and beside that – pastel de nata. If you’ve not had a pastel de nata, you don’t know what you’re missing!

The Lady's Head
The Lady’s Head

What inspired me to start a blog?
I thought it might provide a sort of accountability and help me to keep at my embroidery. I already knew that I loved embroidery and that it helped me keep on an even keel, but I’d also noticed that I tended to do it after everything else, and consequently it wasn’t getting done. I thought that if I had a blog to feed (as it were), there would be an added reason to embroider. That was certainly true, but the other thing that happened was that I found there were other embroiderers out there. Before I started blogging, the only people I knew who embroidered or were interested in embroidery were all related to me. That’s not true any more!

What did I miss most during lockdown?
Concerts. I’ve enjoyed several online ones, but it just isn’t the same, especially in the case of ensembles I’ve known for years and who know me. I grew up going to concerts, in fact I’ve been going to concerts of the Allegri String Quartet since I was eleven (my Dad was particularly fond of Beethoven and Schubert), and I know that being an audience member isn’t an idle thing, it is something which contributes to the success of a concert almost as much as the musicians. I’ve missed being an active audience member, holding one end of the golden cord of concentration that stretches between musician and listener. And I’ve been worrying about my musician friends, deprived at once of livelihood and soul-comforting passion.

What was the last book I read?
I read and reread constantly, so by the time you read this I’ll be on to something else. One bonus of last year was two of the best books I’ve read in the last several years – “Reynard the Fox” by Anne Louise Avery and “Kindred” by Rebecca Wragg Sykes. I mentioned them both in passing on SlowTV Stitchery episodes while I was reading them.

Cover for the book "Nefertiti Lived Here", by Mary Chubb

Another one – which I have also mentioned – is the Georgette Heyer ReadAlong on Twitter. We’re on “The Tollgate” at the moment, and discussions have included some fairly serious social history, a comparison of pikelets and muffins, and the Heyer/Pratchett crossover moment none of us saw coming..

But I couldn’t fail to remind you of “Neferiti Lived Here”, could I – the book that launched a decade of embroidery projects!

And now on to the nominations:
Queenie’s Needlework

An Elbow’s Length of Thread

Addison Embroidery At The Vicarage

Only if you want to, of course!

And now: Slow TV Stitchery Episode 61 is live, in which I continue to make progress on Tynemouth Priory, while musing on Oswald of Northumbria and his times..


A Happy Christmas to all!

Christus Natus Est
Christus Natus Est

So What Next for SlowTV Stitchery?

Progress on the Christmas Angel
Progress on the Christmas Angel

The next episode of SlowTV Stitchery is now live – Episode 30 – in which the cornering plans are discussed, and the future of SlowTV Stitchery is considered, while the second corner is completed.

Since it looks very much as though we’re all going to be spending a lot of time at home this winter, I think I’ll continue with SlowTV Stitchery, even when the Amarna Family Group is finished. So my first thought is to work on finishing this canvaswork angel, which I started some years ago, galloped through the actual angel, and then ground to a shuddering halt on the background when I got sidetracked by an inspiration for one of the Dreams of Amarna projects.

North Shields Headland

If that doesn’t keep me quiet for long enough, I’ve been working on a sky for the first version of the North Shields headland that I worked for Leaving The Tyne. This is another piece that simply needs me to sit down and work at it, but although it’s small, it’s fiddly to hold the frame and stitch at the same time. Putting it on my stand and using my magnifying light will help me to settle down to it.

But first, the Angel. At least, until I run out of metallic threads!

Progress on a project long in abeyance

Playing With Greens
Playing With Greens

You may recall this tablecloth, which I won in a job lot of things in an auction on eBay, a long time ago. I regarded it as my “traveling project” for a while, but didn’t travel much, or when I got there, found I couldn’t settle to it, and it’s been lingering and hanging over my head rather. It may well be that the current situation will give me the opportunity to get it finished. It will make a change from the details of the Amarna Family Group!

So, since I’d forgotten what I’d planned (or if I’d planned!), I laid it out on the floor and played around with skeins of cotton, to see what I could come up with.

Basque Stitch
Basque Stitch

The way I’ve worked on the tablecloth is that as I’ve what to do with each motif, I’ve worked each instance, and that way the whole tablecloth advances at once.

The Basque Stitch of these leaves is rather more spaced out than in the previous appearance of that stitch in the tablecloth – spacing, as well as scale, plays a part in altering the appearance and emphasis of a stitch.

Coral Stitch Outline
Coral Stitch Outline

Coral Stitch is nice and simple. Such a nice rest…

Yes, I know the concept of or nué is simple, but the execution isn’t, believe me!

And, speaking of or nué, Episode 12 of SlowTVStitchery is up! Do go and have a quiet half hour with me…

Happy Christmas to you all!

Christus Natus Est
Christus Natus Est

A Happy Christmas to all!

State of the Tablecloth – 2

Basque And Herringbone Stitches
Basque And Herringbone Stitches

I like Basque Stitch – it has a family resemblance to blanket stitch, and recalls chain stitch as well, so it’s a good stitch to pull together a piece that includes both.

The inner petals are closed herringbone stitch. I’m determined to nail this stitch one of these days, but this is not that day. It was a constant battle, and it looks a bit raggy.

Although not raggy enough for me to unpick it!

Blanket Variation
Blanket Variation

I unpicked and tried several variations for this one, and I’m still not sure of it.

The centre is a spiral of stem stitch, and the blue is the one from the tulip in the previous post.

The outer petals are in fishbone stitch, and the inner petals are in another blanket stitch variation. I think I may have got this one from one of Edith John’s books, and I’m pretty sure it will look much better once the transfer has been washed off. If not, I may have to re-stitch yet again!

Vandyke Stitch
Vandyke Stitch

I think I suggested these might be harebells, or something similar. They are worked in Vandyke stitch, and although they do create a strong effect, it may be a bit busy.

Whatever else it is, this will be a wildly colourful tablecloth!

Knitting and Stitching Show, 2019

Harrogate Haul, 2019
Harrogate Haul, 2019

It’s that time of year again, and usually I try to do my Harrogate Report over the weekend when I’ve come back. This time, however, I went straight from Harrogate to help with the MathsJam Gathering, and didn’t really get home until Wednesday.

The two pieces of silk are to give me choices for the Faience necklace, the Sheepjes Whirl and pattern are for the next trip to see The Australian’s family (I don’t know when it will be, but I’m ready!), and the figured organdy matching silk and silk thread are honest stash: I fell for the organdy and got the others on spec. I’ll think of something to do with them eventually. Yes, really. I’m determined to!

I met up with Elizabeth of Sew In Love Stitch Art (always great to have a coffee together, and a wander through the halls), and met in person for the first time Georgina and her lovely goldwork animals, and Tanya and her modern medieval embroidery, inspired by the Luttrell Psalter. I bought her kit of Hounds to help me reboot myself over the holidays. I fell in love with those hounds months ago, but Akhenaten wouldn’t let me buy them. He doesn’t get a vote now I’ve finished him!

Two Workshops
Two Workshops

I also got Katrina Witten’s new book – signed by the author, no less. I’ve always loved what Katrina does, and there are ideas percolating in the back of my mind.

There are two reasons for going to the Show over two days, firstly because it makes the buying a little calmer and more methodical, and secondly because it means there are opportunities to attend the workshops without everything else becoming crowded and stressed.

This time, I investigated “Contemporary Fabric Manipulation” (I’ve no idea what, if anything, I will do with that) and “Drop Spinning”, using an absolutely gorgeous blend of baby alpaca, baby camel, and silk. I don’t know what I will do with it, but it’s lovely!

Acquired At MathsJam
Acquired At MathsJam

Then when I got to the MathsJam, an old friend popped up with a small box, which turned out to contain a gorgeous pair of Ernest Wright “Stork” scissors (pretty sure he doesn’t read the blog, but just in case – thank you!), Sue of TortoiseLoft appeared with some rather nice Sajou threads I’ve never seen before (thank you!), and Scott Elliot gave all of the attendees one of his very newest puzzles (thank you, too).

So, what with one thing and another, I have many new things to play with!

The LoveCrafts Blogger Awards – #WhyIMake

Well, that was a surprise. I’m only vaguely aware of competitions and awards at the best of times, and with a good many things in my offline life distracting me and a good deal of embroidery swirling around in my head, I wasn’t in the least prepared for an email asking whether I would accept a nomination in the LoveCrafts Blogger Awards “Stylish Stitching” category. And having accepted the nomination – just you wait until you see the company I’m keeping! Wow! *cue music: “If they could see me now, that little gang of mine….”*

I suppose I should say “Vote for me!“, and I do, but really, go look at everyone’s blogs, have a rummage, and see more wonderful, delightful ways of using needle and thread to create magic than you ever imagined!

On to #WhyIMake…

Japanese Crane Design
Japanese Crane Design

Why do I make? To tell stories in stitch. Really, I think it is as simple as that.

Sometimes the story is purely one of delight in fabric or thread or stitch.

The Japanese Crane here was worked purely because I love Hungarian Braided Chain stitch, which I’d just discovered. It’s variation on broad chain stitch, and the intricacies are particularly well suited to showing off the colours in the variegated thread.

Leaving The Tyne 1915
Leaving The Tyne 1915

Sometimes the stories are much more complicated and emotional.

“Leaving The Tyne, 1915” relates to my Swedish Great Grandfather, and his service as a merchant seaman during the First World War, but elements of the design and stitching, and even the choice of that story to tell, are all part of my own response to the world around me now, the demonising of “migrants” or “others”, who yet contribute very greatly to our life and culture. I don’t think I’m a political person, but in this one, however subtly, I’ve nailed my colours to the mast.

Cover for the book "Nefertiti Lived Here", by Mary Chubb
Cover for the book “Nefertiti Lived Here”, by Mary Chubb

And as for “Dreams of Amarna” project that has been taking my mind for the last ten years, nearly – that’s a response initially to a book I read, called “Nefertiti Lived Here”.

It’s an enchanting book, about a dig in Amarna in the nineteen-twenties, seen through the eyes of the secretary of the dig, who was also a student of sculpture. Her sympathetic imagination peoples the site with ancient Egyptians, and her interest in everyone she met, the local labourers, the Gufti excavators, Museum officials and her colleagues brings life to everything she encounters. My embroideries seek to convey the delight she found there, and that I found in her book.

So, um, yes Vote For Me, please!

State of the Tablecloth – 1

Corner
Corner Section

That transfer I’ve been working on wants to be finished, and I’m pretty much at the stage of thinking about the leaves, so just so we all know where it’s up to, I’m doing a State of the Tablecloth post.

So the petals of the purple flower are in nested fly stitches, the centre is a sort of looping interlace, and the little buds are spider’s wheels. I packed the spider’s wheels quite tightly, to raise them up and increase the texture – I know that raised elements on a tablecloth can be a problem, but it’s no problem on the falling part!

Buttonhole Fans
Buttonhole Fans

The small starflower is the only element that I’ve done as the instructions that came with the tablecloth suggested – satin stitch.

The ruffly flower – do you think it might be a crysanthemum? – seemed a perfect opportunity for buttonhole stitch fans. I might decide to whip the edges to pull out the colour progression a bit more, but we’ll see what the flower wants when the leaves are on.

Double Chain Stitch
Double Chain Stitch

Double chain stitch is easily confused with closed feather stitch, and in this case I complicated my life considerably because I changed the breadth of the stitch to match the petals of the flower. I rather like the effect, and although I said it was a complication, the actual stitching flowed quite nicely.

And rather than give you a Long Read, look out for episode 2…

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