Sunday, 19 December 2010

Deep and crisp and even...

 An astonishing amount of snow has fallen here in the last 24 hours. It started yesterday morning at about 9am and stopped at 7ish yesterday evening. I have never seen so much snow in my whole life. Not even as a child when I  used to go sledging down the hill behind my house. I have been up there this morning to see the children enjoying themselves but they are only sledging down the south bank and have left the steeper, north side untouched. Wimps.
Yesterday, everything was quiet and everybody stayed tucked up in their homes, today the whole street is alive with the sound of shovels scraping the pavement and excited chatter.
I plan to spend this afternoon finishing another Christmas present, the embroidered fabric below is going to be another wintery cushion cover. The last one turned out quite well and now I have the stitching bug. It's funny how I always prefer to stitch in winter and paint in summer. I think it's because I find stitching a quiet, repetitive process whereas painting requires (I think) a bit more active participation which I don't seem to have so much energy for in the fallow months.

This will probably be my last post until after Christmas so I wish you all a merry and restful Yuletide and I'll be back soon with my resolutions and new year crafty plans.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Stocking fillers

This is something I have been working on for the past week. It will eventually become a cushion cover. There is plenty more to do still, I plan to do quite a bit more hand stitching around the felt tree (the same tree from this post and this post, when will I ever be free of this tree?) and I also want to stitch some seed beads on to the back ground. This will end up in some one's stocking, though I have not decided who is getting it yet!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

A wintery weekend

It has been truly bitter here for the last couple of days. Last night and this morning saw the sharpest frost I have possibly ever seen. It was thick like snow. The air was filled with tiny ice crystals that looked like glitter floating. It was really quite magical.
I have been busy trying to make at least some handmade Christmas presents, I try to do this every year and usually end up frustrated, in a temper and out of time, but this year I vow to make at least three. I will post some pictures tomorrow of a little hand stitching project I have underway.
In other news I have been trying to make the flat look a bit more seasonal, I am aiming to have my own handmade twiggy tree rather than a bought one but it's really been a bit too cold to go out collecting twigs. In the mean time I have settled for some ivy on the mantle piece. It all looked lovely until I accidentally set fire to it with one of my lit candles.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Of remnants and doilies

Perhaps, still being fairly youngish (32 this weekend) I should be spending my Saturday nights out with my friends, pretending to have fun in crowded bars and checking my watch to see whether it's decently late enough to make my excuses and go home. Instead, I find myself watching Strictly..., three glasses in to a bottle of prosecco and making new cushion covers. And, by golly, am I proud of these.

Most of the fabric came from the Katherine House Hospice charity shop in Banbury market place. They have two things that put them a cut above many of the charity shops around here: a fabric remnants bin and a Random Crochet Doily Bin. Random Crochet Doily Bin is my favourite place to go rummaging and most of the bits I bought have been hand dyed and stitched to these cushions. I honestly didn't think they would turn out any good so I am really surprised. Now my bed is a lovely picturesque and comfy space to lay and read my books and listen to the thumping bass coming from the flat above, grumbling like the crotchety old spinster I am surely becoming.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Autumn mists and a bit more nesting

Yesterday was exactly the kind of day I like. Misty, dark and damp and perfect for doing nothing except maybe reading a book and grabbing a pile of blankets to hide under. However, I went on a pilgrimage to find the perfect coffee table at Barn Antiques which is truly a place I love. I'm glad I did venture out, mainly because I managed to take these pictures on the way home. I got mum to stop the car whilst I ran out and stood in the middle of the road with my camera. The fog descended very quickly and, within 3 minutes, was gone again. I have a small canvas waiting to be used and I thought these photos would be great source material.

And the coffee table? Well, you know when you have an idea in your head of exactly the thing you want and you can never find it? Not so here, I could have spent a fortune on other lovely bits of furniture too, but this table is perfect in every way.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Bread and blueberries

My Monday evening post work post is becoming quite regular. It seems to be an ideal time to upload photos of the weekend's crafty activities and mull over what the coming week will bring. Above are the results of my little natural dying experiment. I cannot tell you how chuffed I am with the results. I particularly love the piece of blueberry dyed silk in the last photo. It's come out a moody, storm grey colour. All the fabric pieces have been washed in hot water with detergent until the water ran clear so hopefully this is how they will stay, at least for a while. Time will tell how colourfast they are I suppose. I already have plans for a series of small, stitched winter landscapes. My instinct with mixed media work is to start mixing paint with fabric and paper, building up collages and imagery but I want to keep any work I do with this fabric as pure and clean as possible. I am also keen to try something where I use no machine stitching at all but stick to hand stitching.

Below is my other little weekend project which worked quite well. This is the first time I have ever made proper bread without the help of a bread maker. The recipe is one of Rachel Allen's from her Bake cookbook. It worked beautifully, the smaller rolls were delivered to my parents yesterday whilst I kept the small loaf for myself. Tonight I am making white chocolate and peanut butter blondies. Just to make writing my class plans for the week a little sweeter.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


I have been itching to try using natural dyes for ages, ever since I bought a woad plant, on a whim, from the National Herb Centre back in May. Said woad plant is still languishing in a very small pot on my mum's patio- I will try and plant it this weekend. I want to mention two very special blogs that have inspired this new endeavour; Carolyn Saxby's Love Stitching Red and Cathy Cullis.

To me, the best thing about this new project is that the results are quite unpredictable and the process feels very experimental. There is no great long list of equipment needed to get started; you just have a go and see what happens. This appeals greatly to the way I create work as I'm not very patient and not very good at planning. I won't write out a long "how to" article because, frankly, I don't feel qualified (I am very much a beginner) and there is plenty of good advice on the two blogs mentioned above as well as a lot of books out there on the subject.

These two jars are filled with blueberry and turmeric dye so they're not exactly plant dyes made from bits and pieces I've gathered myself wearing a peasantish dress made of roughly woven linen whilst the sun hangs low in the sky casting a Hardyesque tinge to the scene. No. They are what-I-could-find-on-the-shelves-of-Marks-and-Spencers dyes hastily acquired on the way home from work, in the rain. I'm fairly certain that if my landlord stumbled across my little experiment he might think I have Wiccan tendencies. And it does feel very witchy in much the same way using a pestle and mortar makes me feel like some 14th century wise woman. I plan to leave them where they are until the weekend when I will admit to either failure or success. Contained in the jars are a selection of fabric scraps; bits of lace, crocheted doilies, muslin, silk. I have no idea what I will do with them once they are dry and ironed, they will probably join my ever expanding pile of handmade papers and collages, ready to use once inspiration strikes.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Getting my mojo back

I have a few new ideas and some projects waiting to get started but for now I'm just happy painting hydrangeas.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Mushrooms, more mushrooms and ghostly children

So, can you guess what we were doing in class last week? That's right. Mushrooms. I'm having so much fun with the watercolour students right now, just painting things you find in the fridge. For the next session I have asked them all to bring along two objects from home to paint. The only stipulation is that it needs to be non perishable as we will be painting these objects over two weeks. I wonder what they will bring...

Below is what I have been making with the ton of mushrooms I had left after the class: mushrooms stuffed with Danish blue and goats cheese, toasted walnuts and thyme served with rocket salad and toasted date and walnut bread finished with a drizzle of garlic oil. I've had this three times since Wednesday and I'm not even beginning to get tired of it.

In other news I'm still reading Wolf Hall (loving it) but did take a brief break to read The Small Hand, Susan Hill's new ghost story, mainly because the library had a queue forming of people waiting to read it after me. The Woman in Black remains one of my all time favourite winter reads and I hear Hammer Studios are filming it with Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role. The Small Hand is only a little book but thoroughly creepy and great for a rainy afternoon, under the duvet, with chocolate.

I also have a lot of new ideas for art projects, like making some mini stitched concertina sketchbooks using up all of the layered, painted wallpapers I made as class samples last term. I also want to try a Citrasolve image transfer- I read about this recently (I'm afraid I can't remember whose blog it was) and it seems to be quite a good technique for transferring images to fabric without the mess of using a gel medium. They seem to look quite distressed and vintage too, I will post the results when I've tried it which will be after I've figured out how to get Citrasolve in England as it's an American cleaning product.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Season of mists and mellow melancholy

Sorry I have been away a while. Since starting this blog I have had a couple of unscheduled breaks from it because sometimes I find I have very little to say. Or I stop thinking that what I have to say is very interesting. One or the other.

Since the show went up (and came down again, yesterday, very sad) I have found that I don't want to start anything else just yet. There are a few projects and ideas bubbling away under the surface but I have given myself permission to not do anything this autumn other than go to work, teach my classes (apples and onions this week), nest, enjoy being around my lovely family and maybe bake a few things. I made rye bread on Wednesday. Hilarious. Lobbed deftly it could kill someone.

I'm sat here at the moment staring at the rain and feeling a bit sad about being single. I'm not one of those Bridget Jones types (really) who constantly whinge about not having a boyfriend but at this time of year I seem to miss the ex the most. Right about now we would be getting excited because the pub in our village has just lit its first fire of the season, praying for a good frost so we could legitimately light ours, snuggling up to watch telly on a Sunday night and planning crisp smokey walks to pick up leaves and conkers and spot animal tracks. Of course I need to remember that there is also a real possibility we would instead be having an argument of epic proportions about money and his lack of commitment etc. Rose tinted glasses and all that.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Weekend frivolity

I am pretty sure that for the whole of my life so far my poor mother has dreaded my tendency towards boredom. As I have grown older I have found productive ways to fill my time; little projects here and there, painting, generally making a mess, but, even now, in my early thirties, Mum still gets the occasional phone call: "it's my day off tomorrow, shall we go out somewhere nice?"

Friday saw us traipsing off to Oxford where I purchased a small set of seasonal candles from Culpeper and some poppy seed heads. I love seed heads and I love the Covered Market in Oxford where you can find all sorts of wonderful things. At Christmas the butcher hangs out whole deer carcasses and rabbits and pigs and I love it! I know that sounds terribly blood thirsty and carnivorous but it does feel so festive and Dickensian.
I also have home grown tomatoes ready for brushetta this evening and two vintage pillow cases purchased from a car boot on Sunday. I don't usually go in for second hand bed linen but these were so lovely and look and feel so old and of such good quality that I couldn't resist. The lady on the stall had a remarkable array of goodies; glass bottles of rose scented linen water, old perfume bottles and original oil paintings of small french villages. I go to enough car boots with Mum to know that these kinds of stalls are few and far between, it makes it worth wading through all that Primark and Matalan crap.
Term starts next week and I still have a huge amount of prep to do for my classes but for now I'm just happy snuggling into my sofa with my candles burning and a good book- there are two on the go at the moment depending on my mood Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The show is up!

Below is a photograph of the fabulous work done by members of the Cherwell Valley Embroiderer's Guild at a workshop I taught on Saturday. Despite having a show to organise, mount, frame and put up, I was more frightened by teaching a workshop out of my normal surroundings than of finishing my exhibition! I need not have worried though, it was a great day and thankfully the weather was good for drying pieces of printed fabric and paper.

Here are some images taken of the gallery space at the Mill with my work on the wall. Just over a year ago when I planned the show and booked the slot it felt like a really big deal. Today, however, I just feel a bit deflated. I think this might be tiredness talking though. Tomorrow is the private view so just a little bit more to do and then I can really relax and take it all in. On Friday I plan to take myself off window shopping somewhere nice for things for the flat; I have been too busy painting and prepping work to even think about nesting. I came home on Monday night and it felt so empty with all my paintings gone! It's really a bit too big for just one person to be honest, I need to make it feel a bit cosier some how.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Some more book covers...

The exhibition goes up in just over a week and I feel that panic should be setting in about now but it isn't yet. I have done the foolish thing of having all my work ready and ready framed for about a week now. Foolish because it has given me plenty of time to find fault with it.
In an attempt to fill the time I am making more books...