The story so far…

It’s very nearly the end of the month, so I thought I’d show you a quick update on the current piece I’m stitching. I haven’t given it a proper name yet, although the astute amongst you might be able to see a tree hidden in the pattern, and I suppose tree might feature in the name eventually, but I’ll wait to see if it shows itself more clearly as I stitch, or whether it decides to remain obscure.

So don’t get too excited, this is slow art remember…

IMAG3165Nearly two months in and perhaps a quarter done.

I know you’ll be questioning the sanity of anyone who opts to use tent stitch only on a piece that’s the best part of 2′ square, but what can I say – it feels right to me, or should I say it makes me feel right, because there is undoubtedly a soothing sensation that comes with the act of stitching something relatively fine. And after the textures of the last piece, the urge to create something smooth was undeniable.

Many of us find a peace from the process of stitch – in its many forms – and this is especially true for me in this piece. There is nothing extraordinary about filling little areas of scrim with yarn, and yet, inch by inch, as I sew, the focus of my mind changes and I know I’m calming down, feeling tranquil. It’s that transformation that I love – the fact that at the end I can see a little more filled in canvas, is just an added bonus.

I continue to be delighted with the way both Natalie and Victoria’s knitting wools are performing, they stitch brilliantly, but best of all, as the tiny sections of colour grow and you stroke your finger over it, it feels soft and warm – it’s sensual.

I’ve started to incorporate a few sections in silk. It’s much more of the prima donna to work with – there are creative tantrums, but I want the occasional shininess to slip into the piece and silk does it like nothing else, so in it goes – in moderation.

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So there you are – at this rate probably not going to be ready by Christmas, but that’s ok.

Happy stitching!

 

-)O(-

 

 

Spiralling in blue…

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When you doodle, is there a recurring shape or pattern that always seems to flow through you? For me it’s a spiral – if I’m chatting on the phone, looking for inspiration or waiting for the next question at the pub quiz, I can be quite sure to be doodling in spirals.

And so I don’t find it surprising that I seem to be drawn to spirals I see around me.

This one is a special spiral because it combines all my favourite things – spirals, shades of blue, shiny bits and best of all, can you guess….

IMAG3048yep, pigs!

This particular pig is Sulis. If you go to Bath, you can find him behind Bath Abbey. He was made by Natasha Rampley and was one of the Bath pigs who adorned the city for a public art project in 2008. They’ve all gone off to good homes (I hope) now, but if you want to see them, they all have their pictures on the King Bladud’s Pigs website.

Happy Stitching.

 

 

-)O(-

PS: Just so you know, if you’re seeing any adverts on my blog, it’s WordPress, not me putting them there. If I’m feeling flush one of these days, I’ll go ad-free, until then, please forgive.

Pebbles in the mind…

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One of the analogies for the process of meditation that I love, is the one about the busy mind being like water rippling over stones – still your thoughts and you’ll be able to see the stones that lie beneath.

I rarely manage to see the ‘stones’ – but every time I walk along a river bank and see pebbles, that image comes to mind.

This little photo was taken last month on the banks of the River Findhorn in Scotland.

Although I so often work tapestries in bright colours, part of me is aching to translate these natural tones and textures into yarns. But so far, my imagination and my hands haven’t found a way to communicate effectively. Oh well, it’s filed away somewhere in the recesses of my mind – maybe one day my subconscious will see a way forward.

At least my old worries about achieving the palette are beginning to fade – I’ve seen some knitting wools that would work perfectly.

Time to let the still mind do it’s work.

 

Back in the frame…

Oh what a summer! I’d almost forgotten what it was like to have weeks and weeks of warmth and sunshine. As expected, with the girls at home there was no blogging – I tried to keep up with blog reading, but even that eventually ran away from me, but things will return to normal – I hope!

Although there were no updates, there has been some stitching on the new piece – albeit mostly snatched half hours, between taxiing the girls and cooking endless cheese toasties. This is where I am today…

stained glass 2013

 

This is the new piece painted up - in alcohol inks.
This is the new piece painted up – in alcohol inks.

I’m sticking to the plan of using only tent stitch or derivatives for this piece (which also has no name as yet). There was so much texture in Splodge that I feel the need to go flat again for a while. But I am having a wonderful time trying out new yarns. In addition to the lovely yarns from Natalie Fergie, I’m also incorporating a couple from Victoria at Eden Cottage Yarns. They are perfect for working in this linen scrim and give me the tonal variations I was looking for. It seems to me that this is the route I’m going for the future – needlepoint yarns are fine, but there is so much variety and texture available from knitting yarn dyers – it’s a wonderful resource for people like me – and using so much, it makes far better sense to buy larger quantities.

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During the summer, I realised that I have hundreds (well in fact that’s probably thousands) of photographs, sitting on my computer, taken because there’s something I like about a scene, a colour or a texture – but they just stay there, rarely revisited. So I thought I might try an experiment and put up the occasional photograph here – a kind of ‘something about this appealed to me but I’m not entirely sure what’ approach. So if you start to see random photos, you’ll know what it’s about…

Perhaps something like this…

The roof of the Chapter House - Elgin Cathedral.
The roof of the Chapter House – Elgin Cathedral.

It’s good to be back. Happy stitching.

Journey to the centre of the splodge…

Wish me luck chaps, I’m going in…

Yes, after considerably longer than I originally thought it would take, I’m now getting nearer to the centre of the splodge.

Remember when it started…

IMAG0766A few weeks in…

IMAG1337And now in the best Jules Verne tradition, I’m going into the middle.

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It won’t stay in the frame now, so I’ve taken to lying on the sofa with it propped over my knees – I hesitate to think what the nosey neighbours think I’m doing.

Hope I’ll have something complete to show before too much longer. If I’m not back before July, send a search party.

Happy stitching.

A bit of cornering…

I’m wondering if those of us engaged in slow work, should introduce a version of the building trade’s ‘topping-out’ ceremony to mark important milestones along the way. This weekend, I finally completed the four corners of the splodge/spring flower. So today I’m having a little cornering ceremony.

 

Champagne is in short supply (and anyway it goes straight to my head, which would wipe out the rest of the day), so instead I’ll have a pot of coffee and a slice of lemon drizzle cake.

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Now that I look at it off the frame for a few minutes, I don’t think it’s very flower like – more like what happens if you drop a tin of reddy/purple paint onto a piece of canvas from a moderate height. But then that title doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. Oh well, never mind.

The good thing, is that it is now beginning to have some weight. One aspect of this type of needlepoint that I love, is the way that as it is stitched, the texture of the whole cloth changes, moving from a flexible, thin loose-weave fabric, to a thick, soft and tightly bonded cloth.

Right, celebrations over, time to put it back on the frame and get into the middle.

Happy stitching.

 

Dithering…

I thought I’d just pop by and say hello. The downside of choosing a very slow art form, is that blogging about the progress on a larger piece, risks being about as interesting as watching paint dry – in fact I sometimes wonder if paint drying wouldn’t be quite fascinating…

Anyway, I’m still at the Spring Flower, although at the current rate of progress I’m more likely to rename it the Last Bloom of Autumn.

I didn’t take it off the frame to photograph it today, so this is what is looks like at the beginning of May.

I suppose it's about a third stitched now...
I suppose it’s about a third stitched now…
The most recent corner...
The most recent corner…

 

Last week I had a fit of inspiration and even went so fas as to sketch out a new piece. But now the feeling seems to have left, so I’m not sure if I’ll do anything with it.

If I’m honest, I think I could do with a bit of a yarn fest. I’d like to spend a couple of days fingering twinkly, jewel coloured threads and let the imagination take over.

This morning, I was skimming through the latest issue of Current Archaeology and spotted this…

Escrick ring, from the June issue of Current Archaeology.
Escrick ring, from the June issue of Current Archaeology.

It’s called the Escrick ring. Apparently experts now think it may date back to the 5th or 6th century. It’s made of gold, with a sapphire and red glass. Now that’s what I call bling – and they think it was for a man to wear! See, my jewel fetish creeps into everything. (I admit to a particular thing for sapphires – did you see the one Mrs Thatcher used to wear).

Of course when you’re in dithering mode, lots of other things grab your attention. I’ve been delighted to discover this blog from the National Trust Textile Conservationists.

I don’t think I have any of the skills needed for this type of work, but I’m green with envy at their access to such amazing pieces of needlework. The slow nature of stitching, inevitably means that  something of the spirit of the person who spent their time creating the piece is inextricably woven into the  fabric, and how incredibly wonderful it must be to be able to connect back with those people. I’m afraid if I was allowed to touch any of those pieces, I’d just have to sit holding it, with my eyes closed, attempting to commune with the person who made it.

Ahh well, better go and weave some more stitches into my own work before winter sets in…

Happy stitching.

 

 

 

Playing…

Several weeks ago, when I was once more celebrating my 39th birthday, I was given a set of linocutting tools and pieces of lino. I seem to remember in the dim and distant past that I did this once at school – but then again, I might be fantasising. Anyway, I was itching to have a go – did in fact do a little bit, but the one thing I didn’t have, was any printing ink.

I ordered some, but it has taken weeks to get here. I had thought that I’d be able to manage with the various paints and inks I already have – I did give it a try, but I couldn’t get the consistency to what I imagined was ‘right’.

Well, the long-awaited ink has now arrived and so I spent a happy hour this morning, practicing printing.

leaves linocut

It was supremely good fun. There’s a gorgeous noise as you take the paper off the lino – something akin to sucking and ripping simultaneously.

Later, I tried adding a touch of colour.

red leaves linocutblue leaves linocut

I’m going to have to do some more of this – it’s magic.

Anyway, as for stitching – yes, still at the flower. I did warn you, it’s bigger than I normally do, but it comes along at its own pace.

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Happy cutting, sticking, gluing, stitching etc…

Moving on…

I put the last few stitches into the Gothic Window on Tuesday evening, and as usual, it will now go on the pile while I decide what if anything to do with it – am I the only person who loses interest once the stitching is finished?

Strange really, because I feel very attached while I’m working them, but once they’re finished, I want to move on to the next piece. If there’s anyone out there with a burning need to finish off, frame, hang, or otherwise use a pile of needlepoint, I have a stash that could keep you busy for yonks.

Anyway, moving on…

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I didn’t intend this as I was drawing it and painting up the canvas on the kitchen table yesterday, but I think months – or perhaps years – of watching Flog It! at tea-time (mainly to annoy the girls!), has affected me – can you spot any Moorcroft influences here?

In my mind, I’m working out how I’m going to stitch the design, and I thought I’d couch the edges of what I’ll loosely call the petals (you might prefer strange splodge shape), with the recycled sari silk, then see what works in the layers between. Perhaps it’s that edging that makes me think most about Moorcroft.

As ever, I don’t expect the finished piece will look much like this, but I need a place to start.

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It’s about 24″ square, so should keep me off the streets for a while.

Happy stitching.

 

 

 

 

Gothic sun window nearly stitched…

Well, if you can rely on me for one thing, it’s that I’ll be slower than planned getting something finished. So you won’t be surprised that the Gothic Window is still not completed, but it’s really very close and the light was so good today, I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures.

gothic sun detail

 

There’s just a bit more of the sun to stitch.

gothic sun detail

 

As you can see I’ve gone totally overboard with the metallics and shiny threads.

gothic sun

 

I just couldn’t help myself.

gothic sun corner

 

I’d like to say I’ve managed to purge myself of the shiny obsession,

gothic sun detail

 

but it would be a lie. In fact I went out last week and bought a couple of new twinkly threads. I’m just a sucker for anything glitzy.

unfinished gothic sun

Quite by chance, I caught a TV programme on iPlayer all about the stained glass east window at York Minster in the week. I’ll always be one of those people who can just stand and stare at these amazing pieces of art – I suppose after 600 years or more, they still work their magic on me.

Happy stitching.

 

 

Indulging in hedonism…

Now, I’d be telling a porky-pie, if I said it had been a brilliant January – sick child, sick dog (when will they learn to use a bucket), leaden skies, snow, ice, more snow and more ice, frozen shower, sick car (amusingly timed trouble with the clutch – great fun on icy roads) – you know – very January.

But – while all that stuff was going on, I was also having a whale of a time with the piece of experimental couching/needlepoint I started at the beginning of December.

This piece has seen me through all the pre-Christmas stressiness, the relaxing time between Christmas and New Year and the grot of the last couple of weeks. I’ve loved every moment! (click on the picture if you want a closer look)

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Something about the curviness drew me in completely. As it progressed, it demanded jewel colours and lots of twinkly threads. The day the first red went in, I held my breath, but it was right. So here it is, gaudy, swirly, shamelessly glittery – and I love it.

The only thing it never acquired while I was stitching, was a name.

But then as I thought about it, just one word popped up – hedonism,

Sensual indulgence – the ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires), is the highest good and proper aim of human life. (Dictionary)

I think that’s what it wanted…

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Happy stitching.

 

 

 

Playing with windows…

So here I am, happily couching for England, having a thoroughly good time with the treasures I bought last week, fascinated by watching where this experiment is going.

IMAG0344 IMAG0343 IMAG0347 IMAG0348 IMAG0345And yet I am living a double life, because while I’m stitching, my mind is actually seeing something completely different. I’m becoming obsessed again with stained glass windows.

I blame the visit to Prague last year. Seeing the windows in St Vitus’ Cathedral was a bit like being immersed in sensory overload. Looking at all that coloured glass was how I imagine it would feel like to live inside a kaleidoscope. I’m not sure my brain went back together with all the pieces in the same place.

And at last, thanks to seeing what can be achieved with couching, and being able to use a greater variety of threads, I can feel in my bones that what I see in my mind, might make it onto the canvas.

I’ve had a little play this afternoon to see how it might start out.

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Of course it won’t look anything like this once I really get started, but sometimes it helps to get a few ideas down on paper.

 

Happy stitching.