Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Moving to France 5, plus a bit of stitching

All the cleaning, decluttering, packing and trying to get the place looking reasonable has meant that any serious workhas been out of the question. All the decluttering and packing has meant everything being "relocated" to my workroom so a) I have nowhere to work and b) I can't find anything.

My workroom is the one room left to be decluttered - so after our fortnight in France househunting, (we're off this Saturday), I shall be diving in there. I think rationalising rather than decluttering is probably a better description, because I really can't bear the thought of throwing anything out - it has taken me several years to gather my stash together!

So I am afraid the City and Guilds has taken rather a back seat for the past few weeks, but I am hoping to have a few weeks between getting back from France and moving to finish my current module.

But I have been doing a bit of stitching.

Firstly, a blackwork cushion, which is to enter in the village show in July (if I am still here). It is a very traditional show, so as you can enter two items in each class, I am trying to enter something traditional and something more creative to see what happens.

Secondly, we have been doing trapunto at my patchwork class. This might go in the village show as well!

So, no more blogging for a couple of weeks. We are off to France on Saturday (DH has booked us on the 3.29am shuttle - good grief), and will be spending all next week looking at houses, some of which look like real possibilities. So I am hopeful!!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Moving to France 4

Well, if I was excited yesterday, I'm even more so today - we've got a buyer for our house!!! We are a bit shell shocked at the speed things are going.
Things are beginning to drop into place. The only thing we don't want to drop any further is the euro. The exchange rate rose a cent today, and that makes a difference of over £2,000 to the amount we have available. Frightening!!

Monday, 17 March 2008

Moving to France 3

I'm so excited - the next step, and it's a biggy - as from tomorrow, our house is on the market!!

We've lived here since 1971, brought up our three sons here, but I am not a sentimental type, and I am SOOOO looking forward to moving to France. We have been wanting to do this for such a long time, so we went out to lunch to celebrate.

Now we need to find a house in France, and we are off to look after Easter. We have a few lined up already, but we are just going to do the rounds of estate agents and see what we can find.

It has taken ages to get the house looking pristine, and now we have to keep it that way. It's making it very difficult to work, particuarly as I am trying to work big - I've just got no where I can work and make a mess.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

A Blogroll at last!!

Youngest son, the computer geek, has finally got around to showing me how to create a blogroll. If you've been with me since the start you will know I am barely computer literate, but I must be improving as I can actually remember how to do it.
So I am gradually adding the blogs I read on a regular basis.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Not sure where the last few weeks have gone....

.... one thing for certain, I have made very little progress - actually, absolutely no progress with my hanging.

It's not that I've been completely idle!

I went to the Prism exhibition with my friend LB, which was great. Some really fantastic work. I've been going for a few years now, and I really enjoy seeing how people progress. There seemed to be lots of series of work this year, all for sale individually. They often make such an impact by being hung together, I think it is sad they get broken up.

We had our grandson Joey for a day. Joey is nearly 2, so no work that day. Although when my sons were little, I would probably have worked away merrily all day. I suppose that's the difference between being a parent and a grandparent. We probably only see Joey every other week, so when we do see him, we are happy to spend all our time with him.

I've been to a 'Pile and Slice' workshop. Great fun. Came away with 12 blocks, which are just waiting for me to do something with.

I started off with 12 x 12" blocks, which I divided into 2 piles of 6. Working with one pile at a time, you cut the pile in half, take the top piece from one side and put it on the bottom, then stitch each layer back together again. You keep repeating the process until you are happy. These were cut 5 times.

DH and I spent a day in Oxford, where I haven't been since I was a child. The reason for going was to see the Treasured Textiles exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Unfortunately we chose the wrong day. It's half term, and the museum was buzzing with childrens workshops, and I couldn't get near at least half of the exhibition, which was a bit frustrating. I was reduced to taking a few pictures.

First, a detail from a Chinese robe.

A beautifil Chinese child's jacket. This design is batik.

This is a detail of a quilted 'chapan' from Turkmenistan. A chapan is a robe worn by men on special occasions. It is the most beautiful colours, this doesn't show the indigo blue. The robe is pieced together from narrow panels of warp ikat silk, and quilted with tiny running stitches.

There are three or four pieces of mola work, which I had really wanted to see, but I couldn't get near them for the floor was completely covered by children making masks and helmets. DH volunteered to pick his way through and take a picture.

The exhibition is on for a few months, so I might suggest another visit. The museum itself is incedible - full of the most interesting stuff, including lots of textiles. Well worth a visit. This is a witch's ladder:

It was discovered in 1911 in the loft of an old lady who had lived in Wellington in Somerset. It is cock's feathers stuck into a rope and is thought to be a charm "for getting away the milk from neighbours' cows and causing peoples' deaths". Odd mixture, but what a fascinating thing.

From Oxford, we went to Swindon to see our new granddaughter, Emily Ellen, who is now 7 weeks old. Lots of lovely cuddles and some smiles. It is only the second time we have seen her, and how much she has grown.

So that accounts for 5 days, and apart from that, I have been concentrating on my sampler quilt, cos the class is moving in in March to trapunto - something else I haven't done.

I've been tagged by Celia (Cheshire Cheese), so next post..... also, I promised Celia I would blog about the book I'm doing about my hanging, so something else for the next post!

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Moving to France 2

Here's Gus. Put a box on the floor and he'll be in it in seconds - put a box on the floor in front of the fire and he won't move for hours!

He's nearly ready to go move to France. He's been chipped and he's had his rabies injection. He needs a blood test in a couple of weeks to make sure its taken, and then he can go. Taking him to the vets is a nightmare - he hates going in the car, but interestingly he doesn't make anything like as much fuss on the way home. I think he knows where he's going - the vet always does something nasty to him.
Details of houses have started to arrive, some look really interesting, and we're hoping to go over at the end of March / beginning of April to have a look.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Hanging 1

As promised, stuff about my hanging - it's one of my final assessment pieces.
The brief is to pretend you've been commissioned to make a hanging to show a sense of place. My place was easy. In my village, there is a restored ragstone quarry , which is now a public open space, and it is really interesting nature wise - especially the flora. I know it really well because a few years ago, I was involved in the practical conservation of the area.
I'm planning to do two vertical hangings to hang side by side - one is an ammonite (lots have been found in the quarry) and the other is based on a huge area of teasels.
I made lots of drawings of ammonites in Maidstone Museum, and one in particular really captured the spirit of an ammonite. So I scanned it into the computer, rotated it to vertical and then selected part of it, which I then printed out large. So here is the full size design, stuck up on the wall in my hall. It's about 5 foot tall, but I think I'm going to lengthen the bottom section of the ammonite, just to make it a better proportion.

Today I've been working on the background for the teasels. I've made a series of papers using brusho, salt crystals, torn paper masks and some "Creative Colour Sprays" which are advertised in the current issue of Stitch. (They arrived the day after I ordered them.)

Needless to say, they look much better than they do in the photos! So tomorrow I'm going to have a go at the full size background.

I'm beginning to think about how I'm going to turn them into textile pieces - I shall need to do lots of sampling.

Thursday, 31 January 2008


After such a long spell of not achieving a great deal, its such a relief to be able to blog about lots of progress on various fronts.

My sampler quilt is coming together - I've now made all nine blocks, some of them are quilted, and I am nearly ready to start joining them together. Here they are, laid out on the table at my class, in their final position I think.

I've also finished the first of two stitched pieces for the "Computing into Stitched textiles" C&G. The original design was created using Paint Shop Pro. The embroidery is a series of layers. I took three layers of Fibretex, painted them and then stitched a grid with strips of organza.

Then I zapped it with the heat gun.

Then I made a patchwork of the nine squares of colour and mounted the fibretex on top. Forgot to take a picture at that stage. Then I gradually built it up using bits of organza, chiffon, silk.

AND... best of all, after months of inactivity, I'm making real progress with my C&G. I've been working on the designs for my hanging. Half of it is stuck up on the wall in my hall, and I'm working on the other half. It is such a relief, having been stuck for so long, having been on the point of giving up, that finally things appear to be coming together. See next post for details!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Catching up

After seemingless endless pictures of France - some stitching at last!
These were some of the few things done last year, when I wasn't well and wasn't blogging.
They were done for a competition at my local Embroiderers Guild branch. The challenge was to embroider a 6" square, and there was quite a range of techniques. The branch used the squares to make a branch banner.

For this one, I layered up some dyed cotton and organza, machine stitched and then hand stitched into it. It was based on a photograph of grasses.

This second one is stitched on calico, so is a slightly more free piece of blackwork than if it had been stitched on evenweave. I'm really fascinated by geometric patterns, and really enjoyed doing this. I do like the less regimented quality of doing blackwork this way. The black bugle beads in the centre don't show very well in this photo, and of course they are both now in the banner.

Neither piece won - c'est la vie!!

Monday, 21 January 2008

Well, I'm really chuffed. A big thank you to Lesley for nominating my blog for a Make my Day award.
The rules say that I have to "give the award to 10 people whose blogs bring you happiness and inspiration and make you feel happy about blogland. Let them know by posting a comment on their blog so they can pass it on. Beware you may get the award several times."
So, I suppose eventually, everyone is going to get it, and most of the people I would want to give it to have already had it at least once - Magstitch, Digital Gran, Purple Missus, Creatilfun - all of them amazing creative women who share their work, ideas and techniques so willingly.
and Lesley herself.
Fiona - Neverending Lists
Susan D -
Celia -

I've remembered!!

That lovely brickwork in the Bergerac area that I couldn't remember the name of - I think it's called "colombage" - don't know if that's the correct spelling, but here are some more pictures.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Moving to France 1

This is an exciting day for us. We have taken the first step in our long held plan to move to France. We have been to a French property exhibition in London, and registered with several Immobiliers (French estate agents).

We are hoping to move to the Bergerac area. Bergerac is a beautiful town on the River Dordogne, and the area is lovely - not quite far enough south to be dry and Mediterranean, but with rolling hills, fields of sunflowers and lots of vineyards (and exceedingly cheap wine). There is an airport at Bergerac so we can get back quickly and the kids can get out to us easily.

We need to get a move on as the eldest son and his wife (expecting their first child at the end of June) have announced that they expect to spend their September holiday with us in France - no pressure then.

So while we wait for a selection of properties to view, we need to get the cat, Gus, sorted with a chip, rabies injections and a pet passport.

I shall report progress as it happens, but just to whet your appetite, here are some pictures I took when we were down there last September. Firstly a sunflower field just before it was harvested, followed by two pictures of old buildings, and the wonderful brickwork in the area - it has a lovely name, which I cannot remember!

Sorry I forgot to rotate this picture before I imported it and I can't find a way to do it now!

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Sampler quilt

A patchwork class started at my local village hall - too good an oportunity to miss - so I have started going with my friend J who has been doing patchwork for several years. We are doing a nine block sampler quilt, hand pieced and hand quilted, using the 'quilt-as-you-go' method. Here are the first four blocks, sashed and partly quilted.

From top to bottom - Shoo Fly, Dresden Plate, Dutchman's Puzzle and Ohio Star.

Apart from the odd bit of machine patchwork, I have never done patchwork seriously, and I am really enjoying it. I understand why people get completely hooked. I know this is all very basic stuff, but I have to start somewhere!

Monday, 7 January 2008

A bit of dyeing

I've been meaning to try dyeing in a plastic bag for ages, but just never got round to it.
I've been going to a patchwork class for a few months, it's a quilt-as-you-go sampler quilt, which I haven't blogged about yet. I was really reluctant to spend lots of money on the fabric for the backing, so I thought I'd have a go at dyeing in a plastic bag. There's a really good tutorial for graduated dyeing on the Fibre and Stitch website, but I decided not to try graduated dyeing and just used one colour. The one fabric I have in abundance is cotton curtain lining left from when I was a curtain maker, so I had a go, and apart from only using one dye, I did what the tutorial says. It worked really well , except when I washed the pieces in the washing machine after I dyed them, they lost a lot of their texture. But I am pleased with the colour and am using them to back my quilt.
Then I booked to go to a class "Accidental landscapes" at Puddleducks, my local patchwork shop. Because I'm a very new quilter, I don't have a stash (yet) and thought this was the perfect opportunity for a bit of graduated dyeing. Once again it's curtain lining, and this time I didn't wash the pieces in the washing machine after they had been dyed
The first set of bags were blue through to yellow, and here is the result.

Then I did a set black through to orange, but I forgot to take a picture of these. Once they had been rinsed, I tore them in half and then put one half of each into what was left in the blue/yellow bags, and below is the result.

For a first attempt, I was really pleased with these. The class was fun, and although it isn't finished, this is what I did.

I'm not very pleased with the design - I find it very difficult to make a 'real' landscape out of my head, but really enjoyed the technique. I shall carry on with it. The one thing I am pleased with is how well the colours go together.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Welcome to 2008

I'm really glad to see the back of 2007. It was not a good year for me healthwise, but I'm nearly there now and looking forward to 2008. Also not a good year creatively, but I've been going to a few classes in the last few months, and it's given me the kick start I needed to get going again.
Two bright spots in 2007 - a wonderful holiday in New Zealand to mark DH's early retirement, and I've lost nearly 4 stone (just need to loose another 4 now).

2008 has got off to a great start - my middle son and his wife have just had their first child - a girl - our second grandchild. Mother and baby are doing well, father is beside himself with excitement, and we are absolutely delighted.

We took my mother home to Suffolk today and we visited the winter walk at Anglesey Abbey, a National Trust property between Cambridge and Newmarket. Despite the weather - dull, dark, trying to snow - it was absolutely beautiful, especially the birch grove, which was quite magical.

The trunks are white, but where the bark has peeled off, its the most beautiful apricot colour which contrasts with the soft green verdigris.

These are just a few of the photos I took. Can't recommend this place too highly.