'If you make happiness your goal, then you're not going to get to it… The goal should be an interesting life."

Dorothy Rowe

Saturday 28 December 2013

We survived!

The trees across the road, however, didn't. Literally 'across the road', as you can see. One came down early on Christmas Eve morning, and others were left leaning at nasty angles, and were taken down.

Fortunately no-one was hurt, though neighbours lost their land lines, and the street lights are (mostly) out.

Also fortunately, it happened after we had taken the little guys home, as I think they might have found it a bit scary - although the VHC would have enjoyed watching the trucks and workmen.

We had a good time while they were with us - some duck feeding, 

some card making (we hope to get all the glitter out of the carpet by next Christmas), some 'Snowman' watching (scary to realise that when we first watched it with her daddy, he was about Babybel's age), 

and an abbreviated trip to Mottisfont because they were closing early because of the wind.

We did manage to attend the Snow Queen's Ball, which Babybel adored - dressing up in pretty things and dancing, what could be better? The VHC, on the other hand, was a bit overcome, and preferred to keep his opinions under his hat.

Speaking of his hat, does it remind anyone else of 'Rocky Horror'?

After all that excitement, it was good to have a very peaceful Christmas Day on our own, before getting together with the little guys and their parents on Boxing Day. 

It has been pretty quiet since then as well, which has meant I've been able to get on with the Chairman's Challenge. 

I found the bottom of one of the bathroom curtains in the stash, which wasperfect  for a backing, and several bits of red, black and silver for a patchwork strip down the middle. It is all just pinned together for now, and it's a dodgy photo anyway, but hopefully you get the idea. 

The plan is to add a few stars. This is the first. I knew there was a good reason for keeping those painted twigs from a bunch of dried flowers...

All should continue quiet, weather willing, until New Year's Eve when we get together with the other half of the family, plus the Spanish contingent, who are coming over for a visit. Weather willing!

I hope all my UK readers have also escaped the worst of the gales ((and anyone else who's had bad weather) and that you will continue to do so, as more is predicted here.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Three down, two to go.

The three down are:

1. The aforementioned blue blanket, doing its job on a stormy night.

2. One sock, rather strange around the heel.

3. A cushion cover, which emerged from a drawing I did at the last Visual Marks session, via some tracing paper, some sort-of paper dolls, inspiration from Greek vases, and finding a transfer dye paper bag in my search for Greek vase coloured paper.

Did I intend to make a cushion cover? No.

Did I need a cushion cover? Yes, but not one like this.

You did realise that I'm nuts, didn't you?

The two to go are:

1. Another sock. Obviously.

2. 'The Chairperson's Challenge'. I wasn't able to make the Christmas get-together of Visual Marks, as it coincided with W's birthday, but a challenge was issued by our chair, E. and the materials for it reached me by a circuitous route. These are they. 

I don't know how she realised that our Christmas decorations are red and silver, but they are. 

So - how to rise to the challenge? My first response was tree decorations, but he who is in charge of tree decorating is very fussy particular about what goes on the tree. Silver balls and litte red apples. So even red and silver hand made decorations might not pass the test. In any case, they wouldn't be finished in time. (He is very particular about the timing of Christmas decorations as well - up on his birthday, down on Twelfth Night.)

Then I thought about a crazy patchwork something - perhaps a cushion cover? But I need a red and silver cushion cover even less than I need a rusty brown one...

So my current thinking is a banner, provided I can find a suitable backing fabric and extras in the stash.

Something  like these, which were also made in response to a challenge, to use a range of processes and materials which I cannot now remember.

(Sorry for the lousy photo, for some reason I've never managed to take a good one of this hanging.)

I probably wouldn't make three, but it would be a chance to use up some of the red and silver in my stash - although I think there is more silver than red. It's that sort of stash...

We are being invaded by the little guys tomorrow, so all thought of needlework must be put on one side till they go home on Monday.

There may, however, be some mixed media work. 

Yes, that is a cat litter tray, but I promise it has never been used by a cat. They make very useful storage trays (thanks to fellow stitched textiles graduate K. for the idea), as well as being brilliant for dyeing, paper making and all sorts of wet activities.

So, as I am unlikely to blog again until The Big Day, a Happy Christmas to all my readers!

Sunday 15 December 2013

Bag and Baggage.

This is the bag. The VHC has taken to a little Christmas bag I made for his sister, and it has proved quite useful for carrying the things hè likes to take around with him. Like juice, and Thomas books, and other essentials. This was going to be a Christmas present, but I think he may get it early because it makes granny and granddad's life easier. The handle is like that because it is adjustable as one grows. I made it fairly quickly yesterday morning, with bits and bobs from the stadh.

The baggage, on the other hand, was not quickly made.

I could go on at great length about everything that went wrong, but I won't, because almost everything that could go wrong did. And if it did go right, I changed my mind about it...

It is some of the velvet which I roller-printed after the last CTW session. It was going to be a Dorothy bag, but after I found Alysn Midgelow-Marsden's instructions here for 'spice bags' it became this, although the techniques are different to hers. 

Much easier to construct, I thought, no setting in of bases or channels for pull cords. And the instructions were clear and it was indeed easier to construct - if I hadn't had to deconstruct it several times...

Still, I like the result. Totally useless of course, but a good way to show off a bit of stitching.

The other thing I finished this weekend was a third and final (?) blanket. I forgot to photograph it before I washed it and as I'm unwilling to wrestle it off the drier to repair the omission, you will just have to imagine a large, dark blue, square woolly thing. As I finished it half way through the last episode ever of 'Borgen', (sob, sob, weep, weep) I had to find some more subtitle-reading knitting, so I started something very slightly smaller.

Socks. I have too much sock wool, although not as much too much as I had Shetland, so Saturday nights,  for the foreseeable future until I get bored, will be sock knitting nights. Assuming there are subtitles to read, although 'The Bridge' seems to be returning in the New Year. Worth watching if you missed it the first time, and even if you didn't.

This afternoon has been spent wrestling with a Christmas tree (him) and with present wrapping and card writing (me). Soon to be followed, I hope, by a cup of tea and a mince pie. I am generally of the Scrooge persuasion at Christmas, but some things I like - mince pies, trees, and school Christmas concerts. We went to one of those last week, and have another at nursery this week. Can't wait!

Friday 13 December 2013

A belated report...

on a Wednesday wander. Despite the fog, we set off on what, on the basis of two trips, we are now calling our annual Christmas visit to Stourhead. The fog didn't clear quite as quickly as we hoped, but there were clearer patches, one of which was at Stonehenge. Emerging out of the mist, and lit by a low, red sun, it was almost impressive. (I always find the view disappointing, even if, unlike us this time, you get out of the car and pay it a proper visit. I think it's because it is dwarfed by the landscape, you can't get close enough to see how big the stones really are, and I find the circling tourists a little incongruous.)

But I digress. We go to Stourhead at Christmas to see the house, and once again it was filled with festive food, flowers and fir trees.

Unfortunately we didn't have any little guys with us to help look for the hidden robins, but granny found a few, not to mention some misguided primroses in the gardens. One of the rooms had a comfortable chair, a foot stool, a lovely work box and some embroidery, set out by the fire - very appealing!

Then our equally traditional Christmas trip to the farm shop - local venison and local cheese - and back home, meeting the mist again. Coming down the Test valley, the tops trees were silhouetted against thesetting  sun, while their trunks were wreathed in pink mist - beautiful. It's the sort of effect I would love to capture in fabric but it would be so difficult to keep that ethereal look.

Saturday 7 December 2013

The last time...

I forgot to show you this - my first handspun in place. The change of colour is where I changed from spinning Leicester to spinning merino. Having no taste, I preferred the Leicester - and not just because of the romantic associations of that county, which is where I was proposed to - and accepted.

I had hoped to show you these, finished too, but the fates decreed otherwise. (Those are not tacking stitches on the grapes. I found an image of some 3d-ish grapes supposedly worked by Mary Queen of Scots, where she had stitched pentagons and hexagons round the grapes - so I did too.)

Together with their partners they have been applied to a Vilene backing and then removed, to be reapplied using my walking foot. And the method of hingeing (sp?) the pages together is - er - under consideration. 

In between those bits, I have started two more - I do like to have plenty too much to do. There is some very experimental stuff inspired by the last Visual Marks session, which is so experimental it may be consigned to a sketch book - or the bin - and some quilting on a bit of this, inspired by CTW, which is intended to become a completely non-functional bag.

And finally - if you can get to this, and you are interested in textiles, Kate Plumtree's bird inspired ballgowns are stunning. I'd like 'Magpie 1’ in a slightly bigger size and with sleeves, please - although I have no idea where I'd wear it...

There are work books to look at, and fabric samples to feel, and the displays in the gardens and in the rest of the house are pretty good too! We are hoping to go back with our cygnet princess and caterpiller prince soon.

Sunday 1 December 2013

Where did the last two weeks go?

I won't bore you by telling you, but we have been a little busy. 

'Visual Marks' was all about drawing. We all brought items which, for us, symbolised 'connections', which were used to assemble a still life. We then drew it from different positions. Now, as you may have gathered, I am not a confident drawer, and it took me quite a while to settle in to this exercise, so my efforts will not receive widespread publicity. However, inspired by some of the things our chair, E had done with the previous session's group graffiti, I did play around with them in a couple of apps.

These were produced using Mirrorgram, Flipomatic and Kaleidoscope apps for the iPad. (It was Mirrogram which produced all the helmeted warriors!) I learned that the effects work best if you zoom in to very small details.

I also tried the low tech approach of using tracing paper and picking out interesting shapes from two blind contour drawings, one in chalk, one in oil pastel, on top of each other.

More little figures emerged.

I'm not sure how these will develop into stitch, if at all, as I have ideas for a couple of the drawings I did direct onto cloth, and which have been ripped up to be reassembled in a new improved format. Maybe.

You have no workshops for a while and then two come along at once. Last  Friday was Contemporary Textile Workshop day. We took in images of 'landmarks' - in my case, photos of organic and inorganic things on the ground, like twigs, leaves, puddles and gratings - which we used to inspire hand made stamps.

Like these - a mixture of eraser and fun foam stamps, plus a new idea I found here. I modified the idea slightly, because I forgot the suggestion to use a paint roller to hold the pipe insulation, until now... 

I made a miniature rolling pin by inserting a smaller tube into the pipe lagging - in this case, the inner tube from some ready rolled icing. (Or it may have been marzipan - in either case, I knew it would come in useful one day.) The inner tube was slightly too small, but wrapping it in duck tape solved that problem.

I used a Fiskars craft knife to slice and dig the foam out - the sharper the better! And as my friend A. suggested, instead of cutting away, you could apply or wrap things on the surface of the foam, like string, lace, rubber bands, self adhesive fun foam etc. 

The gold and turquoise sections above were done at home, printing on to black fabric, including stretch velvet. My current plan is to make a bag with it, once I've finished the plant images for VM - three down, one to go.

This week should be a bit quieter than last, so I hope to have the time and the energy to pick uo a needle!