Friday, 3 October 2014

Taming our jungle.

We have our little friend Poppy with us this weekend, and while we were in the garden today I noticed this marigold which has deigned to put in an appearance for the first time this year!   People tell me they will grow anywhere - you can't get rid of them.   Yesterday I saw an entire row of them growing along the foot of a wall in very poor soil, but will they grow for me?  No.  I had to cheat and buy a couple of plants in pots to get this measly specimen.   I don't know what happened to it's friend which was a lovely rich orange colour.  Maybe I am too kind to them and they prefer harsh treatment and poor soil conditions.

I have been cutting things back quite ruthlessly and am determined to 'put the garden to bed' properly this year.   My husband has taken four huge bags full of dead bits and foliage, two to the tip and two for shredding.   I am now waiting for a bit of rain to soften the soil so I can break it up a bit and do some serious weeding and plant some spring bulbs, but there are still two corners to tackle.

I must buy one or two more Asters, as we have to call them now - they will always be Michaelmas Daisies to me.  The bees seem to love this one and it shows no sign of mildew in spite of the very dry conditions.  I have watered it now and then but even so the soil is still very dry.  I can't tell you which one it is as the labels always get lost even though I push them into the soil right by the plant.

Our Anniversary rose is looking lovely - a present from two of our grandsons.  It was this that prompted my start on jungle clearance as I had to make a space for it and one thing led to another.  It has lots of lovely buds to open and looks as if it could flower until Christmas.  

One very autumnal looking plant is the miniature crab apple tree, absolutely loaded with its tiny fruit.
They look so pretty but best of all is it's blossom in springtime.  I planted it four years ago and it is still only about 7ft tall.  I might cut 18inches off the top this winter to keep a nice compact shape.

Weather permitting I shall do some more clearing tomorrow and my other little friend - the robin - might come and sing to me as I work.   He is so tame and comes almost within arm's reach.  At the end of our garden, and in our neighbour's garden, is a horrid conifer hedge which they are planning to have trimmed by about 6 feet - Hooray!!   Ideally they would get rid of it and replace it with a nice tall fence, but that would be very expensive.   However, the hedge is a tenement for sparrows and blackbirds.   The garden has been full of them this year and I see them popping in and out all day long.  Much as I dislike the conifers, they provide nesting sites and cover for several different bird species and cats can't get at them.  It would be a shame to lose that.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

It was a good party.

One poor harassed daughter trying to make her cake icing behave itself on a warm night in a warm room!  She worked her magic and it looked wonderful as you can see.
She made each flower and leaf individually and you might just catch a glimpse of a ribbon round the edge too.
Our daughter-in-law made the cake and daughter no.3 iced and decorated it.

We had loads of cards including one from the lady above, which was a great surprise.  I had no idea that cards other than those for 100th birthdays were sent out.   I answered the doorbell to sign for the recorded delivery packet and had just opened it and said 'well it won't be from the Queen as we aren't old enough'! The family had organised it some weeks in advance - there is quite a strict procedure to follow.

My photos of the gathering were not entirely successful and several have not come out at all.  I'm no good at taking shots in artificial light but this gives some idea and you can see that through the open door - far right - there are several people taking advantage of the cooler air outside in the courtyard.  That looks like my husband out there - one son-in-law in the left foreground,  son and two grandsons with one girlfriend in the middle distance and two more sons-in-law and two daughters at the far end.   Everyone else is outside.    The age range of those attending was between 5 and 86 and the youngest guests all behaved impeccably.  It helped that the evening was so mild and they could run around outside to let off steam.

Someone presented us with this balloon and a very long banner plus loads of those little metallic confetti number 60s which were sprinkled across each table but soon found their way onto the floor.  I'm sure the couple who run the restaurant will be sweeping them up for weeks to come.  The buffet was excellent - they did us proud.

Background music was provided by our youngest daughter's husband who made a compilation disc of music from the 30s, 40s and 50s.

A good time was had by all and we are both shattered today.   The next big occasion will be our grandson's wedding next year but we won't have to organise that, thank goodness.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

We made it!


Today is our 60th wedding anniversary.   Needless to say you would not recognise us from the above photograph!   I can't quite believe that 60 years have passed even though our son will be 57 next month, three of our daughters are now in their 50s and our 'baby' will be 40 next year.   It is all the more confusing because mentally I still feel about 23 years old - that is on the days when I am not 12!

We are having a large family gathering on Saturday evening with all our offspring, and their offspring, and in some cases their offspring too.   We have much for which we are responsible!  And much for which we are most grateful.    It should be a good evening all round.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Finishing things off.

I have been finishing the book I started on the weekend course with Frances Pickering - above is the front cover decorated with rubber stamped images machine stitched alongside the letters, cut from offcuts of the printed fabrics which make up some of the ages, and spelling out the name of the poet whose words inspired my drawings. 

I have several rather nice rubber stamps of wild flowers which gave a fitting design for the lining of the cover.

These are the pages which needed more work - I think I have improved on them.



This is the back cover lining featuring more wild flowers.  I made the covers from a printed fabric with a pattern of roof tiles.  I used the reverse of the fabric and knocked the design back further by overlaying it with muslin, and bound the edges with the reversed fabric.


My other finished book is the one made from assorted fabrics which had been bundled up and left in the garden for weeks.  They have taken on interesting stains which give them a lovely antique look - not easy to see in these photos.  I call it my scruffy book.
I toyed with the idea of making a separate cover then decided that the largest page would be ideal for the purpose.  As all the fabrics were just bits and pieces from my ragbag (I didn't want to risk anything special)  my pages are all shapes and sizes as you can see.
It gives quite a nice effect and I deliberately arranged them in a very random fashion to make the most of this.

I haven't bothered to photograph all the pages separately as you have already seen them in an earlier post.
This is the back cover.

So what shall I do next?   I have several ideas - it is simply a question of which one is the most persistent and keeps pushing itself to the fore.

Monday, 8 September 2014

A wonderful weekend.

This is Hawkwood College near Stroud in Gloucestershire where I have been enjoying a weekend workshop tutored by Frances Pickering and enjoying meeting up with several of the students I met last year, and yes, I did sign up for next year.
It is in a beautiful setting and a haven for wildlife as the gardens are not manicured but allowed to naturalize.  There were bees and butterflies everywhere and birdsong all day and owls hooting at night.
There was a huge clump of these magnificent globe artichokes growing just outside the studio windows.
And St.Francis of Assisi stands in the overgrown rockery.

I love this giant mobile hanging from one of the enormous trees.  I think those stones might be old roof slates - they are quite big

Our theme for this workshop was 'Black and White and Read all over'.  We were asked to include text in our designs and work mostly in black and white plus shades of grey, and one other colour was permitted.   I chose yellow but kept forgetting to include it.
All of my text has been taken from lines of poetry by John Clare.   To get us started we did mono printing or transfer printing on white fabric.  I decided to stick with mono-printing and found that my abstract marks turned out to be very useful and easy to adapt to landscapes and woods.   I printed with a feather on this page so thought a quotation featuring birds was in order for this one.

Most of these pages need more work done on them but I am not quite sure what.  I shall put them away for a day or two, then take another look at them.

I was very brave and did all my drawing directly onto the fabric pages with a black Pitt pen.  The one above is from 'Open Winter':  "In sheltered spots - primroses, when they get behind the wood's old roots where ivy shields their crimpled curdled leaves, will shine and hide".

This one is "Old elm that murmured in our chimney top - the sweetest anthem autumn ever made".  I like that swirly pattern of my background print and thought it could represent the tempest that felled the elm tree.  It was so hard trying to make it look like a fallen tree and I haven't quite got it right.


This one also needs more work and I think I will make the moon a bit larger.  It's a bit lost behind those trees and I need a few more branches here and there to break up all the vertical lines.

I think we all felt exhausted by the end of Sunday but had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and worked ourselves to a frazzle.   The  weather was lovely, the food was delicious and plentiful, the bed was so comfortable and the company was delightful.    If that wasn't enough, among the other students was none other than Jan Messent who has been a textile heroine of mine for many years.  I love her work and have several of her books.   I took the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Embroidery one with me so that she could sign it, which she did.   I even sat next to her one lunch time - she is a very serene person but has a lovely sense of humour.  It took great control not to be like a schoolgirl hyperventilating with excitement!

So it's back down to earth today, with chores and gardening crying out to be done before I start work on my pages again.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Busy playing.

I finished the rune book cover with a rub of copper gilding wax and was very relieved when the pages went in fairly evenly.
I now have to decide what to do with the spine.  Shall I leave it alone or do something decorative with it?

I am going on another of Frances Pickering's weekend courses shortly, and to get myself in the mood for the approaching one I folded a long strip of paper and made this tiny accordian book with a doodled sketch along it's length and a couple of lines from a poem by William Wordsworth.  The theme for the workshop is the written word and we are to work in black and white, though they can be mixed to produce grey, and we are allowed one accent colour.
I am hoping to work with lines from John Clare's works as I love the countryside and trees in particular.
But I do have a terrible tendency to change my mind at the last minute and do something completely different.   I shall find out on the day!

I look round at my overstuffed workroom and decided that I either need to throw a lot more stuff away or start using it all.   As I can't bear to part with any more I have made a start.  Here are the first pages of an altered book.  The book was 50p from a charity shop and I gessoed the pages before spraying them with coloured inks and when dry I stuck the torn top layers of paper serviettes on top.  I used gel medium as the glue because it doesn't tear the tissue as easily as ordinary glue.


I am not used to working in this way and haven't decided quite what to do next.   It's a nice project to have on hand to go back to when I've nothing else in the pipeline.

I also looked at my collection of fabric, lace and bits, and took pity on my daughters who will have to clear my workroom out one day if I become incapable of doing it myself.   As I seem to keep wanting to make fabric books and love these old illustrations from another charity shop book.  (I also have ideas for at least two more books and plenty of old sheeting for pages).
Some of the pages are made from fabrics I bundled up and left out in the garden for weeks last year.  They have lovely discolourations, some from the plant material I included in the bundles.
Not all the fabric pieces are the same size so I have added strips of lace to make them wider and/or deeper.
I must just decline the next offer of fabric and threads when someone says to me 'You sew don't you?  Would you like my mother-in-law's sewing threads/tapestry wools/rag-bag?'  

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Nearly Done.

The front cover of my rune book with the word 'runes' spelt out in runic lettering made from Friendly Plastic.  I may bring up the texture with a little copper gilding cream.   
This is the back cover.   The runes included in the book are Anglo Saxon ones taken from a sword found in the River Thames in the 19th Century.   The cover is made from pelmet vilene and has scraps of lace and muslin randomly stitched in place, then gesso painted on top and sprayed with Quink ink with a further spray of blue Glimmer Mist and copper Moon Shadow Mist.   I lined it with a buff mottled cotton fabric and bound the edges with copper ribbon.

Each label carries the name of the rune, it's meaning and the letter it represents but unfortunately the book I was using had incomplete information for two or three of them and I can find nothing about them so far in any other books so I have left a blank space to be filled later.
I had great fun thinking up the various heads, tails and feet for each character.   Originally I wanted to make them more sinuous but in doing so I lost the true shape of the rune, so I tried to keep the shape and just add the heads and tails. 

This is the Mother Rune from which all the others can be made.   There is no other meaning offered for this one.

I now have to bind each group of pages into the cover and am waiting for courage to arrive to make a start.  I have measured and marked where the stitching should be placed and will be interested to see whether the pages will all lie together evenly when I have done it!   Wish me luck.