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.