Sunday, 29 September 2013

Delight more than a Dilemma

I have come to that point in the road where changes need to be made. New directions. I write about this regularly in my personal journals, and the desire seems to be occurring more frequently. Surreptitiously does the body begin to feel the onset of age (I won't say OLD, but I hope you know what I mean). I am wittering and not saying what is whirlygigging itself into a knot in my head. Come clean - new  technology is beguiling me, new creative materials and supplies are stockpiled in my roof space, and new professional ways to share what I do are waiting to be set down on paper.

All of which tells you nothing! Which shows you that when I meet that fork in the road, I will not know as yet in which direction to travel. Be myself and avoid cul-de-sacs. And I'm incapable of creating a post on mu iPad !!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Light a candle ...

Out shopping yesterday for functional items for the house and garden, I spotted this beautiful, delicate and subtly-scented candle - well it was the holder actually that caught my eye. And as that morning I had achieved a self-imposed goal, I decided it would look perfect in my office-cum-workroom, on my desk by the window where I think and write creative thoughts.

For you see, whenever I light it, I will remember with gratitude the support of so many people who unknowingly have helped me reach my target of 10,000 page-hits on the Blog that I am engaged to write for the Three Counties Showground. At 9.00am yesterday, I switched on the computer, checked the stats, and the magic figure was there! 

So my candle represents a celebration for all the times readers known and unknown have read the blog or responded to a prompt on Facebook or Twitter. Thankyou for making it happen. I am not celebrating my achievement, for I am but the voice telling a story; it's the subject that matters. And I'm not stopping at 10,000; I never thought such a figure could be reached when I began in February, previewing and reviewing the Malvern Shows, and next week I'll be at the Autumn Show - more posts. Such a magical setting, and so much inspiration-in-waiting for all the things I most love doing. I hope my posts will beguile you: Ann's Malvern Jotter.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Images for Printing on Cloth

The secret of the rocks
Brittany Indulgence - I spent ten days with my husband in Brittany and of all that we did, travelling with our motorhome, this was my most perfect afternoon, at Kerval Plage near Douarnenez. The long beach was deserted and in the distance, with the tide coming in, I spotted this cave. I had to explore. Took me ten minutes to reach it, and I had to make sure I would not be cut off. And when I got there, what a find. Recent rocks falls, where the whole cliff face had dropped away, had revealed such rock structures and formations and colours to die (dye) for. I must have taken 30 large shots, intending to print on fabric. Reducing them does not do them justice. I was afraid that the strong sunlight would bleach them but no, I have enough material here to print and snip and re-purpose. It was just so beautiful, so peaceful, and completely restorative. Just what the doctor ordered !!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Just an Experiment

Trialling various new techniques in this altered book
In my spare time over the last few days I have been experimenting with various techniques that I plant to use when on holiday for an 'altered book journal'. By rights this should be posted on my Journaling Blog, but on that I like to give guidance as to how to achieve similar results, and this post is actually to demo to myself a new scanner. So here goes - many different techniques were used here, though I think the one I am most pleased with is the map at the bottom: scanned in the new scanner then printed on paper I had dyed myself using old tea-bags. The map is much clearer that way than antiquing it afterwards. Or at least I think so!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The significance of beetroot

A feast for us, and leaves for the hens
Those who read this blog occasionally may well wonder why beetroot is significant today, especially since I have not posted for three months. But those who follow me on Facebook may well understand when I mention the word 'kitchen' which has been a stranger to me since the refurbishment began so many months ago. A stranger in the sense that I have been without running water, sink, cooker and dishwasher for much of that time. The grit and dust is interminable, and as RQ commented tonight to our younger son, it's half an inch thick ALL OVER THE HOUSE. Well not quite as bad as that but pretty horrendous. And as RQ continues the grinding, we live in the motorhome during the day.

Until this evening: although there is still weeks of work until all is finished, the cooker and sink are reconnected and I prepared our supper in the house again. Hence the significance of beetroot, for I prepared a huge dishful, grown in the garden, boiled and cooled, sliced and doused in malt vinegar to preserve it until all is eaten. So delicious and a vegetable apart when compared with shop-bought. I could not have done this in the m'home (well I could, but the steam would have been impossible). So we delighted in the beetroot and my dilemma is, how will I know where anything is for I will now be preparing meals again in two places - m'home during the day when dust flies everywhere, and the unfinished kitchen in the evening - such a LARGE space - when tools are put away. Oh such delights that are yet to come.

Sunday, 12 May 2013


When you have been on a Showground as beautiful as that of the Three Counties Agricultural Society and have been writing and posting solidly for five days, I think one may be forgiven for expressing a feeling of exhaustion, particularly when, as in my case, I had to actually LOOK at what I was writing about! I cannot keep away from this location, so it is good to have been working here, at the Malvern Spring Gardening Show, and previewing it for the last three months.  Do check it out: The link may need to be pasted into your browser as I am writing this on my iPad, and technology has been problematical over the last five days.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Will this work?

Experimental, but I think it will work - and followers of this blog
are the first to be able to comment on its success - pleas do so.
For the last three months, I have been engaged to write a new blog for the Malvern Spring Gardening Show, which this year runs from 9th-12th May. Ten posts in all, culminating in the one I posted today: It's been a wonderful adventure - something in all my years of commissioned writing that I have never attempted before. I will be blogging 'live' next week over the four days of the Show, a sort of kaleidoscopic scrapbook, and decided today that I could make use of TurboCollage to create the scrapbook feel. The image above is an experiment - I have often posted my photo collages on Facebook, but never tried to paste them into a blog. Does it work? What do you think of the idea to encapsulate the ambiance of a special event?

Saturday, 13 April 2013

More flowers on my windowsill

As I have commented before, I think, my dear husband does not buy me flowers. I think the cost of those my mother expected him to pay for on our wedding day (55 five years ago) discouraged him for life! For a long while, I was hurt by this - though he did pick me a beautiful little posy from our Spring garden when I lay near death in hospital around 2001. I have never forgotten it - primroses, polyanthus, forget-me-nots and the bluest blue gentian which I grew in my greenhouse. He lay them on my pillow and kissed me awake.

Of late, I have thrown caution to the winds and bought bunches of flowers for myself when there is nothing in the garden. He does not seem to mind (he does not berate me for spending money on them, though I only buy the cheaper sort). These were a modest £2.00 and I just loved the vibrancy of them against the view from the kitchen window over the wet and misty village green.

I may have written of the flowers on my pillow before; the memory is still so vivid, even if my recollection of very recent events is not!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

To sew, or not to sew

A labour of love that was took a year from
start to finish (first idea to final stitch)
I have two family heirlooms on the kitchen wall (or had, until R began decorating). Not this sampler but ones hand-stitched in Victorian times. I asked R if we could re-hang them and he said he would, though they actually need restoring. I can't even remember where I have put them. But it occurred to me how much he liked the times when I used to stitch of an evening and how selfish it is of me to now sit pen in hand and scribble or sketch. That's all he ever sees me doing, that or tapping away on the computer.

I have always been fascinated by alphabets and historic samplers having grown up with the family ones since I was little. I took to designing and stitching my own; as birth gifts for our grandchildren and to celebrate special birthdays. This one was for our daughter's 21st and took me six months to design and as long to stitch. The colours are much brighter than here - silk thread on a coffee-coloured ground, and the stitches so small I had to work it through a magnifying lamp.

This design measures 11.5" x 9"
(the one above, top right,  is even larger)
I have many other unstitched designs stashed away in the roof, but stopped stitching as my eyesight deteriorated and arthritis increasingly affected my fingers. But R would be so pleased if I took this up again; he made me the most beautiful little marquetry-covered chest of drawers around 20 years ago and filled it with silks as a Christmas gift. It sits there doing nothing - how ungracious it is of me to now ignore his gift. I don't think I could ever again tackle something as complicated and large as this, or even the one I designed and made him for his 65th (he's now over 80). But I could design and stitch small 'slips' and incorporate them into my paper and fabric journals. That would please and delight him (though he would never acknowledge it!) - my dilemma is whether I could see to stitch, or even hold the fabric. I can but try.

I design my samplers (or did) on squared paper, placing dots for every stitch - not necessarily in the colour they will appear but so as to easily distinguish the juxtaposition of one against another. I had a formula for calculating what the finished size will be so as to start with a suitably-sized piece of fabric (every stitch is created across two threads, and the top stitch of each cross all slope the same way.) I start in the centre and work outwards. Or did - it's a long while ago, but very soothing, so long as one stitches in good light. (And my apologies, these images are copies of copies as I cannot find the original digital files.)

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Winter walk 2012

The River Mole, East Molesey, Surrey, England - March 2012
I find this image calming, and in my busy - and at the moment, fraught - life, I need such influences. This particular photo reminds me of the day on which I took it, of the place and occasion. We were staying wIth our younger son and his lovely wife and family in East Molesey, Surrey (near Hampton Court) and went for a Sunday morning walk. I took many images so as to document the weekend in a small textile journal which has not yet materialised. So stupid as it would not take long to make and all the word-whispers were written as I walked. I found the photo again the other day when sorting my thousands of dis-organised images for something else.

The rest of the walking party wondered why wife, mother and grandmother lagged behind. But then I usually do - looking, recording, inspired by where I am and by what I see and hear and do. All would pass me by if I chatted, blinkered; very unsociable. It was exactly a year ago, before husband R became ill (though he already was) and before I, too, succumbed towards the end of the year to the pressure of it all.

It is a delight to me, this river, running swift and swollen towards its confluence with the Thames less than a mile away. (And seventy and more years ago I would be driven past it by my grandparents way upstream, beyond the north Downs towards Betchworth and Leigh, when I lived with them at the start of World War II. Raymond (my husband) has fished this river, in a mill pool at Cobham, not far from where we lived when first married. Full circle in a way.

I am composed now, writing all this. Writing for me, for my own pleasure, not for work. The dilemma is in keeping myself this way!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

My creative weekend

A glorious example of what you can do with fabric from NaturaLeigh
(seen on their stand at a recent trade show for the craft supplies industry)
I am skiving! Should be working, planning schedules and writing. But the urge to create  overwhelms me, and I have a list of projects to complete, and exciting new ones to begin. So I make notes, as usual, in my 'commonplace book' and sort fabrics, paper and supplies, and am delight in the fact I will be able to replenish stocks at the NEC (National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, UK, 21st-24th March) at 'Sewing for Pleasure' and two other shows - all interlinked: 'Hobbycrafts' and 'Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch'. And I will be making a beeline for a stall that I only discovered in the Autumn: NaturaLeigh who supply the most beautiful fabrics and embellishments for textile projects. 

Beautiful ribbons, too - can't wait to visit the Show.
French Chambray fabric to die for, and embellishments; ribbons and wooden buttons, delicately painted in subtle colours. Or as they state: All toward the nostalgic look I am aiming for, for items I am producing for the forthcoming Warwickshire Open Studios, when I am again exhibiting in my caravan. I have been collecting and devouring books on 'nostalgia' over the last few months - the latest on the flea markets of France (never been to one, but here's hoping). I must list them some time.

So whereas my exhibition last year was mostly on past work, landscape and nature-based, this year will see a different approach. And projects will be outlined as I work on them in my 'Journaling the Journal' blog, with step-by-step guidance on some of the techniques I use and have developed over the years. I don't usually add links to 'Dilemmas & Delights' but am so excited about what I am doing creatively this year, that I wanted to share. A delight for me, and maybe a dilemma for you, if you don't like the idea of clicking onto other sites.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Found in my garden

Walking into the garden to feed the hens and the wild birds, there was so much to enjoy and delight, from miniature crocus in flower in 'the plum patch', to emerging cowslip leaves around the 'Comice' pear. And then, seeing how near to flowering are all the bulbs newly planted last Autumn in one of the raised beds in the courtyard pottager, I spotted this delicate skeletonised ivy leaf lying between the spears of tulip. How lovely to translate it into a delicate machine embroidery, I thought, and brought it indoors where it now lies pressed between pages of my garden journal. 

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Creating with seedpods

Strange how the mind has lapses and remembering simple tasks becomes impossible. Just now, I was again playing with the iPad because it is such a useful device when we are away from home. Though right now I am lazily lap-tapping in bed, not because I am I'll, but within that early morning draining tea time. And I was practising using the photo app which comes with the iPad but can't find - or have forgotten - how to get an image into a blog post! Emailed it to myself, saved it, and now cannot find where it has been stored. So I will have to resort to the laptop.

But the purpose of this image is to share my love of seedpods. Nigella, or Love-in-a-Mist which has delighted me ever since I was a child. Annuals, I sow them every year, they they self-seed readily. The seedpods change from a subtle green with tinges of mauve and then the whole thing changes to a bleached calico colour. I sketched a page full some years ago, emphasising the colour. It was during the time I went to an art class and was encouraged to work LARGE though I prefer miniatures so it was a tough assignment. Later, I scanned the results and used them in this cover for a textile book which was to be called 'Seeds of Inspiration' - a joint project with a friend in America. The project fell by the wayside, but I still have the notebook in which are recorded all the entries that were to be created back and forth between here and the USA. They just never came to fruition.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Just playing

Sitting in the Press Room at the NEC killing time earlier this afternoon between one activity and another. Time for a mug of tea, biscuit and a play on my iPad. Discovered you can edit in iPhoto, though whether it has saved the non-cropped version I do not know. This was an experimental piece to try out a new light-weight sewing machine, and is a representation of a nigella seed pod that I had sketched and painted some years before. Not complete, but one to go into a sampler book, perhaps. Dilemma or Delight? I am not sure.

Thursday, 14 February 2013


Yesterday, whilst shopping in Bloxham (near Banbury, Oxon), I had time to kill before going to discuss 'stitching matters' with a group of Embroiderers' Guild friends. I always glance in the showroom windows of Hunt Bespoke Kitchens & Interiors; not because I am interested in a new kitchen (which is happening here anyway, with my husband slaving away for days on end), but because they have such lovely accessories. And this caught my eye and is now hanging in front of me as I write. Not because my own is wooden - it's full of love for my husband (even when he does irritate me, and I him!) but because I collect treasures. And this is now one of them. Perfect for today.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Reminds me of Summer

Summer flowers - and a feeling of sunshine
Sorting my digital photos today, or some of them, to remind myself of what I have, or have forgotten I have. And this one reminds me of the hot summer when I made potpourri - or my version of it - from dried rose petals, feverfew (such a wonderful bright white) and catmint. All retain their colour and even their scent after many years, so long as they are not subject to direct sunlight. (Last year was hopeless for creating anything like this as the plants were rarely dry and would have gone mouldy.) In the background is a beautiful casket my husband made for me, turned from kingwood; and when you lift the lid, their are a number of round spaces into which to slot little bottles of essential oils.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Flowers like silk

Creating my own pot-pourri
I went shopping into town today and would normally have bought fresh flowers. But the beautiful amaryllis about which I posted on 12th January are ageing with elegant grace. To me, they still look beautiful with a silken air to them. I am adopting my method of 'water-drying'. You can only do this with certain flowers - roses, lavender, feverfew, hyacinths and the like. You just leave them in the water  (better if it has had the cut-flower sachet added which comes with some bunches, at least it does from our supermarket). Strange though it may seem, you achieve a much more realistic result when water drying; the petals dry more naturally without so much shrivelling. I have bowls all over the house; they do not last for ever, but rose petals retain their fragrance for years.

Gradually, the petals become papery and eventually quite desiccated; at which point the petals can be snipped off the stalk; they can be laid on a cake rack covered in muslin until they are quite dry, and then heaped onto a platter or into a bowl. Eventually you will have a collection of 'pot-pourri' that will last for years; just keep it free of dust! I do not add fragrance sprays or anything like that; it's the beauty of the petals that I like, and anyway, I am allergic to scent of any kind!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Which way now?

So much nostalgia; a visit to Cornwall, and a  Daphne du Maurier novel
Many dilemmas tonight, which I will not pursue;  but will post this nostalgic delight from times past. I think that if you visit my more personal blog - Wild Somerset Child - you may gain more insight into the past couple of years. The posts on this blog are not meant to be soul-searching, but the D&D title is a double-edged sword.  Its inception was in fact never intended, but a trial to setting up blogs for a magazine article I was writing at the time; and it grew from there. Most of my posts have been 'delights', but it worries me somewhat when it comes to 'dilemmas'. Dilemmas occur for all of us I guess every day. So why did I choose such a title?

Because it was never intended to be an actual blog! 'Dilemma' at the time seemed to encapsulate some sort of flippancy; and, always enjoying the sound of words, 'Delights' followed: a sort of alliteration to which I remember being introduced in my 1947 English class. The joys of childhood. OK, I have rambled enough. Delights outweigh Dilemmas, and surely that is sufficient?

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Saturday cheer

Cheerful and demanding to be sketched
These seemed such fun on a cold January day; not snowing or raining, but a sharp wind from the east. I love amaryllis and these glorious flaming flowers have been gradually unfolding on the lounge window cill all week; bought as a bouquet of three blooms, they were only a couple of pounds and far cheaper than if I had grown my own from a tuber, and much more magnificent. So I post them to celebrate a good and productive week; much accomplished, office work in order, a large trailer-load of scrap wood collected this morning to heat the house, the sun is now shining (14.23 hrs) and I am about to disappear beneath ground into my workroom-cum-laundery room to stitch my 'Florilegium' which has been languishing since the Open Studios event in July. Need to finish it as I am demonstrating at our local embroiderer's guild on Thursday night - so long as it doesn't snow and I can get there!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

What you can do with paper ....

Paper fabric made from bits of torn wrapping paper,
pages from a dictionary and tissue
pasted and stitched onto a muslin backing
I'm having a lazy day - sorting photos, writing and typing 'word whispers' for a new textile book and generally enjoying myself. I came across this gift bag I made for a magazine feature a few years bag. Basically you make fabric out of paper which you then stitch into whatever you want. The feature was a step-by-step tutorial; an idea I had put to an editor who thought the technique was a little different and so she said, "go ahead". Which I did, but the paper I chose to use was somewhat too substantial and by the time I had created the 'fabric' and then quilted and stitched it, it was so tough that it could not be used for what had been intended; to fill it with lavender harvested from my own garden. Instead, it is perfect as a gift bag with a bar of scented soap tucked inside. I learned a lesson that day: don't offer an article using techniques you have not worked to completion! The technique is perfectly OK for lighter weight papers - if you care to read the article, leave me a comment and I will email you a scan as a pdf (it's only a single page), so long as you have an email address in your profile.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Back in bed !!!

From my iPad photo trawl
You will not believe that only two days into the new year I am back in bed. And all was going so well, not been overdoing it, making time to play and read and full of plans for my 2013 working commissions. At least I can trial my new iPad blogger app, and the iPhoto one and see if I can post without fetching the laptop from the office. Thought that has to be done as I have a really complicated schedule to prepare in chart form. This 'under-the-weather' dilemma is one that it seems may pursue me; horrible, for I have never been a shirker. P.S. Didn't work from iPad - I need to practise using the apps!