This is the end….

I am saying this very quietly so that my subconscious can’t hear.  I think I may have become a person who finishes creative projects…!  Sshhh….

For years I would get close to the end of a project, sometimes a gnat’s whisker away, and then for no apparent reason just stop.  My life was full of semi-finished projects (and books that I’d stopped reading a couple of pages from the end!)

However, on Thursday in the last embroidery class of the term I finished my Klimpt embroidery.

And then this weekend I not only finished the poppy book cover I started on the Scrumptious Stitch course, but I also attached it to a book…and started using the book to sketch ideas for my next project….

Sketchbook Front

Sketchbook Front

And the Sunday before that I finished the felted vessel I started on the Saturday in my ‘Felting Ideas and Techniques’ class at the City Lit with Heather Belcher.

Sketchbook Back

Sketchbook Back

This is getting to be a habit…!


Scrumptious Stitch

On Saturday I am off to the Mary Ward Centre to do the first Saturday of a two day course called ‘Scrumptious Stitch’.  I did a course there before Christmas –  a partner to this one called ‘Subversive Stitch’ which looked at what subversive means and has meant in the history of stitch with lots of practical exercises.  We used text in a sampler style for a phrase that appealed to us.  I picked ‘Oh what a piece of work is a (wo)man!’  which was the first thing that shot into my head .  (It was only after I had finished stitching it that the Scotsman commented that I was misquoting and not in the way I meant to.  It should be ‘Oh what a piece of work is (wo)man!’) 

We also stitched into a postcard – mine was a Magritte postcard of clouds.  I cut out and collaged some fluffy sheep in amongst the clouds and then sewed over with white thread…an idea which, if I ever find time, I will consider adapting to make greetings cards with… How to ‘add value’ using embroidery without spending hours stitching.

Everyone on the course was agreed that two days wasn’t enough for a hand embroidery course – particularly for the novice stitchers – it used to be three…we were also pretty much all agreed on the deliciousness of the food in the Mary Ward Cafe….I used to go there for lunch regularly when I worked nearby.

Anyway I have sorted out a whole load of bits of silk and velvet, beads, sequins etc and look forward to the chance to make something of them.

What are you going to do with it?

It’s often what people ask when they see me with a piece of embroidery in my hands.  The answer usually is ‘I haven’t got a clue’.  That’s not why I do it… When I make felt  I am often thinking about functionality as well as what it looks like…hats, bags, jewellery, slippers (if I ever get them finished.)  I am aiming for the William Morris ‘useful and beautiful’…

But I embroider because I like the process.  Most of all I like it because it is SLOW and contemplative…and about as far away from sitting at a computer as you can get!!  I am often to be found during my lunch break french knotting away happily, and I enjoy my Thursday evenings sitting with a group of other women in my regular class occasionally chatting and slowly producing beautiful things.


This is what I am working on at the moment.  It’s based on a Klimpt landscape and it is pretty much all knots and straight stitches.  I love knots (except the ones I get by mistake!)  I painted it onto calico before I started and am gradually working out how to shade just using the knots like my own version of pointillism. 

I think the ‘frame’, which is currently mostly covered by the embroidery frame, is going to branch out into chain stitch and couching so I can add some gold thread.

The Soul and Essence of Embroidery…

Small bag by May Morris in William Morris Gallery

Small bag by May Morris in William Morris Gallery

I went to the William Morris Gallery in Wathamstow recently for an exhibition by Nicola Jarvis called ‘The Art of Embroidery’ – works on paper and textiles created in dialogue with the techniques and ideas championed by William Morris’s daughter, May Morris.  I have to say that my favourite bits of the exhibition were the designs and embroidery by May Morris exhibited alongside the modern work. There seems to be limited information out there about her – perhaps I am just looking in the wrong places – but from what I can find it seems that she was a worthy successor to her father, as Director of the Morris embroidery department, with her own work which has an amazing degree of skill and delicacy of shading, and in her promotion of women’s craft work with the founding of the Women’s Guild of Arts in 1907 (as the Art Workers Guild did not admit women.)  I particularly liked this quote:

‘While inferior work can be tolerated for the sake of the design, if that is good….excellent work on a worthless design must be cast aside as labour lost; so that, you see, design is the very soul and essence of beautiful embroidery.’
May Morris 1893
I still have a lot to learn but I am really interested in how to create a design in stitch, so maybe even someone as slapdash as me can become an interesting embroiderer…..!

Edinburgh, Paris, Amsterdam and back again….

I have been away and, while that is no excuse for my lack of blog posts, that is my excuse for my lack of blog posts!  Also when I am tired / busy the written word seems to desert me and even my personal journal of 30 plus years stays mostly silent…

So to recap – earlier in October we went for a very relaxing short break to Edinburgh, because we love it and particularly to see the Peter Doig exhibition No Foreign Lands at the National Galleries of Scotland. His work has a great textural use of paint which made me think about the possibilities of layered / veiled embroideries. Watch this space….. 

At the Musee d'Orsay

At the Musee d’Orsay

And then mid October the Scotsman and I took to Eurostar for a longer holiday. In Paris we stayed at a small hotel near the Stalingrad Metro which backed onto a big canal basin – a really interesting area, with two cinemas one on either side of the canal, people walking their dogs, playing Petanque and learning to walk the tightrope!  We finally visited the Musee d’Orsay (they were on strike last time we tried), and went to the cinema (‘La Belle et La Bete’ in French), the Theatre (a three man Othello in English, by a Dutch Company with French surtitles!) and the Museum of Modern Art where we saw an exhibition about artists creating tapestries and carpets. My favourite was a ‘sheep’ carpet ‘Les Moutons’ by Francois-Xavier Lalanne, but as we weren’t allowed to take photos and there was no brochure or postcards showing it that’s the most I can tell you.  There is a picture of a similar work here 

Flying Dutchmen in the butterfly house

Flying Dutchmen in the butterfly house

Then we went on by train to Amsterdam and to stay in an Air bnb apartment. Our absent ‘host’ Anya had left us lots of useful information, but apart from a visit to the Van Gogh museum we mostly chilled out and wandered around pointing and going ‘Ooh’.  The sun shone on my birthday and we visited the Plantage which is a lovely quiet area of Amsterdam just behind where we were staying.  We sat outside and had mint tea and cake at the Botanical Gardens and looked at the plants and the butterfly house.

And now here we are back in London….

A Cunning Plan

My cunning plan to help myself write more blogposts (with pretty pictures) by buying an iPad has been temporarily thwarted by modern technology. 

The nice man in the Apple Store showed me how to link to WordPress.  Ah, I thought, I can carry the iPad around with me and take photos or download photos directly to it.  I even bought a special connector thingie to put my camera card into. 

However, what I hadn’t realised is that my camera is, in technology terms, a dinosaur!  It is a little compact Fuji digital and it has served me well – tough enough to put up with me throwing it in my bag, small enough to carry round easily and it takes colour and black and white photos.  Trouble is it has an XD card rather than an SD so the Apple connector I bought is no use!  

I know I can take photos directly with the iPad, but I don’t like the colouring of ones I’ve taken so far… and I’ve worked out how to download photos via my PC to iTunes and then onto my iPad but frankly that’s just too much faff for anything apart from moving some of my favourites. 

So, I’ve just discovered there is a different adapter that lets you plug in your camera to your iPad via a USB lead so I’m waiting for it to arrive and keeping my fingers crossed.  I’ve also bought an SD card to put in the newer version of the same make of camera owned by the Scotsman just in case.  (He mostly uses his phone to take photos these days).  Phew!!!

In the meantime, I have missed telling you about the slow movement of my embroidery towards being finished.  I’ve decided that I love bullion knots almost as much as French knots – especially the great big fat ones I did, which look like little stripey bugs!  I’ve also learnt how to do pendant couching and bought two books on stumpwork….now I’m tackling another version of needlelace.  Photos soon I hope.

And on my Nunofelt course this week I made an iPad carrying case with all sorts of different types of natural coloured wool.  Which would have been lovely, but I didn’t realise the dark pink silk chiffon I used for the inside layer wasn’t colourfast and it has dyed the whole thing a sort of sugary pink.  Not my favourite colour – I may have to start again and consider this as a prototype…