Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A long time coming

I found knitting and needlepoint great companions when I was first ill with the debilitating illness eventually diagnosed as Myalgic Encephelomyelitis (M.E.) or Post Viral Syndrome or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or whatever - it meant that I had very little energy to do anything and slept away for much of the day, every day.  I am still like that quite a lot but there are more better days, twenty-three years on from the beginning.  Anyway, doing a little archeological excavation through the layers of life in our house, I came across a completed panel of stitching, which I recall working on at the beginning of my six year journey through the world of City and Guilds Embroidered Textiles.  This was when I found I was expecting my third child, who has recently had his sixteenth birthday, so that gives some idea of the time it has been sitting around, unfulfilled and purposeless.  I remember thinking that it was probably the last kit project I would ever undertake.  Oh, memories!

I remembered another two panels of stitching I'd worked from a design by Beth Russell for Ehrmann, based upon tile designs by William de Morgan (I've had an almost lifelong love of Arts and Crafts and William Morris and all that), before the passionflower-bedecked piece I had come across, and a little more searching brought them to light, also.

Anyway, hidden away, unpurposed and incomplete they are no longer.  They have been joined by a sample piece of Liberty Hera design (peacock feathers), backed with dark blue velvet and stuffed with cushion inners, to sit resplendent upon my navy-blue sofas.  It is about time!

I think a lot of the delay was caused by being anxious about spoiling them by trying to stitch them onto a backing,  In the event, it was so simple, logical and, once the necessary materials assembled, fast.

So, my time piece is being paid attention to, and I'm determined to complete more projects planned or started, and buried in the domestic chaos that is our home.  The excavation continues!  It feels good to have finally put my stitching to good use.  And, today I mended moth holes in my knitted shawl, so I can wear it once again.  Small targets, but progress is being made,

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

My time is up

Well, it seems a long time ago since the latest International Quilt Challenge theme was announced, and I have been struggling with time, ever since.  "Time" was the theme, and my initial thought was of childhood (also a long time ago) and my fascination with dandelion clocks.  However, my very talented friend, Sue Martin, interpreted this theme so beautifully and independently that I decided I'd best change tack.

I came across this memento of my maternal grandmother, who had a good sense of humour, and it started me on a train of thought about inheritances, objects from the past and good advice.  The round tuit is a procrastination preventative: : now you have one, you no longer have an excuse to put off doing things...

We went to Denmark at Easter, to visit my daughter who is spending a year studying in Copenhagen as part of her degree course.  We visited the National Museum, which had some wonderful displays of artefacts including Roman bronze articles with glorious aged patinas.
These in turn reminded me of some Chinese bronzes I saw a couple of years ago at a museum and art gallery in the Cotswolds (the name of which escapes me at present).  Sadly, photography was not permitted, but I long to return to maybe sketch these beautiful surfaces.

 I decided to have a go at dyeing some fabrics with a verdigris effect but the results, above, were strangley far from successful - pale and washed out, with the exception of the fine silk organza.  That was the clue - my dyes were for protein fibres, not cellulose, and my procion dyes were hiding from me.  I did have some habotai which took the dye reasonably well, but I was concerned that this would not stand up to heavy stitching, so I had to think again.

In one of my local fabric shops (The Spinning Weal) I found this verdigris-like patchwork fabric and also another stone-like one, for a background.

In fact, I had hoped to use a piece of cloth already in my possession for the background, but my house had eaten it and, after a number of days looking for it (more time wasted) once I had got my new cloth home and stitched, the missing length appeared somewhere I had looked several times for it...  Anyway, I used a variegated YLI quilting thread to free machine stitch "I'll do it when I get around to it" or "When I get around to it, I'll do it."

On the green disc, I meander-quilted and then stitched the words: tempus fugit - do it!"
I came to realise that this could reasonably actually be a time piece and had fun and games working out how to do this, which involved finding a clock mechanism and hands (from Maplin) - although the second hand was a discordant red and so I painted it silver.

In Hobbycraft, I found a 12" square box frame to contain my fabric piece and was able to drill a hole in the mid-centre of the backing board through which to pass the clock mechanism spindle, and then made holes through both cream and green quilted sandwiches to pass it through as well.

So my time piece is a time piece - a clock, to remind me to seize the moment and not waste time or opportunities.  During the time I was making it, my son and husband both celebrated significant birthdays and we heard of the sad death of a good friend.  It seems apt to have made this now.  It's a shame it took so much time.  In the end, time was of the essence, in more ways than I thought when I started out.

Now for the next challenge: Landmarks.  Best get my thinking cap on!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Back to the Needle!

Oh, it has been a long, miserable winter of operation recovery, energy-sapping fluey bugs and life's little hiccups, but finally I've found my way back to my needle case.

 The picture above shows my contribution to the International Quilt Challenge third theme, "Architexture".  It was inspired by our trip to Marrakech in Morocco in 1996, and was inspired by the Almoravid Koubba and the city walls, the colours and general ambiance of the city.  There was so much food for creative thought there that, in fact, I developed a sort if artistic indigestion, and it has taken until now to begin to be resolved in this small piece, and there is hopefully much more output to come.  We took the first flight out of Bristol to Marrakech on this holiday, and I'm sad to discover that the troute is no longer available, as I'd love to return there.

I am currently a student with Karen Ruane  on her "Extending Embellishment course.  Above is my most recent sample, comprising three different stitched elements (two on scrim and one on silk straw paper).  It is an intriguing course with much to be learned and absorbed, and Karen gives such excellent material, inspiration and support.

Here you see the effect of adding hand stitched details to machine-stitched forms on cotton scrim.  We are less than half way through and I wonder what delights are yet to come!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Shadows on the Wall

Well, I am a bit pleased with myself.  Not only have I just completed a stitched textile piece of work, I have completed it to deadline as my first entry to the International Quilt Challenge, with ten hours to spare.  I overcame my self-doubt and trepidation and actually did some stitched art.....

The first theme which challenged us was "Light and Shadow," and I was pursuing to separate ideas until I was struck by a beautiful photograph on a blog I follow, which completely fascinated me.  I loved the shapes of the leaves reflected by low sunlight onto a garden wall, but even more was intrigued by the way that the texture of the wall was variably visible through the shadows.  It had to be that one, and my other thoughts fell by the wayside.

I am pleased with the finished work, and enthralled by the incredibly beautiful and interesting variations being posted to the challenge blog as the big reveal happens.  I wonder what the next challenge will be?

I am very good at sabotaging myself and my creativity with self-doubt and paralysing anxiety, but it feels so good to have risen to the challenge and made something in cloth - it's been too long.

I am having hip surgery on Monday week, and the convalescence from that will probably provide ample opportunity for thinking about how to interpret the next subject.  I hope I can make an earlier start next time around and finish with more time to spare!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Heartfelt Creativity

Last year my friend and erstwhile C&G tutor, Jan Connett, curated an exhibition: Heartfelt  in Bristol's Centre Space Gallery.  This year a new Heartfelt will be held at the Bradley Grant Gallery during the month of September, this time in support of  the British Heart Foundation.  

I have submitted two hearts for this exhibition.  The brief was to make hearts which could be seen from both sides, so my first one was worked in traditional rag rugging techniques on hessian.  Above, you can see the hooked side.  Below the proggy side is shown and I like the way it creates a sort of fringe at the edge of the hooked side.

Mt second heart is in foiled stained glass, and I plan to make more of these in due course as it was very enjoyable to create, even if a drop of solder did leap off my soldering iron and onto my hand, so I now have a pair of scarred hands.  The burn is one, and the other is my poor index finger which was gashed a few weeks ago when caught in the car door.  It's still very tender and unfortunately the wound became infected so I needed a course of antibiotics.  It's now virtually healed but will take a while to return to normal.

I am looking forward to seeing what other people have come up with this time around, and really hope a lot of   money is raised for BHF.

Friday, 20 May 2011

More Cosiness

I found another, naked, hot water bottle lurking in the appropriate cupboard, so decided it, too, needed to be more safely cuddlesome and that I must knit a second hot water bottle cover.  This time, I decided to follow the Toasty pattern, which is knit in chunky yarn, but that I would adapt the pattern to be worked in the round rather than from one long strip (avoiding an upside down cable on one of its faces, and the need to sew up afterwards) and to decrease for the neck in a similar way to Hoot, with eyelets and an i-cord to keep it snugly in place rather than a double polo-neck.

I finished knitting it yesterday.  It immediately needed washing, as the Texere Chunky yarn dye was not totally colour fast and knitting had given me turquoise hands, clothes and knitting needles.  Fortunately it washed off my hands and clothing but my wooden knitting needs now have some turquoise graining after washing them: luckily it's my favourite colour, but I prefer to choose where I have it!  It took three separate washes (first in silk and wool detergent, then twice with Colsperse before a final rinse with vinegar) before the bleeding stopped.

The cover has stretched a bit on the washing line too, but not disastrously so.  I'm glad I decided on a necktie for it, and the i-cord certainly makes a very satisfying tie.

I like the cables very much and would certainly work this pattern again, perhaps with a size smaller needle.  It seems silly to be thinking about cosying up next winter already, when we still seem so close to the last one, but poorly tums and achy backs can now be more comfortably and safely soothed as necessary.
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Thursday, 12 May 2011

Knitting in Jade

In March I challenged myself by knitting Annis.  It's a pretty narrow shawl in laceweight yearn, and a free pattern on Knitty.  What was challenging about it was that for the first time in my life, I had to tackle nupps.

I found a gorgeous yarn (silk/cashmere mix 2ply) in a fabulous jade colour, which would go well with some fabric I've bought to make some summer clothes when my sewing mojo returns.

I found knitting nupps made me feel tense cross, so I was relieved when that bit was over - dealing with keeping 7 loops being knit into one stitch tidy and together was not easy for me.  There is another way (at least one) of working them which involves the use of a crochet hook, and when/if I return to the nupp, I will try out that method instead.

Annis completed and blocked is, however, a pretty thing and the colour and feel are gorgeous.  I'd better hurry up and get sewing so I've got the rest of the outfits to go with mine!