Thursday 30 December 2010

A Very Happy New Year to One and All.

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy, creative and prosperous New Year. I shan't make any resolutions as I usually break them within a week, but will try to lose a bit of weight (when it gets warmer) and get fitter. Having a sedentary hobby is no help at all.

Thought you might like to see what I have just finished. In February 2011, the Bristol branch of the Embroiderers' Guild celebrates it's 30th birthday. Each member of the group I belong to - Gordano Textile Artists - has been a member at some time or other and we have all gained so much from our membership.

We thought it would be a nice gesture to create a special joint exhibit to mark the occasion at the 30th anniversary exhibition. As pearls are appropriate for a 30th wedding anniversary we took them as our theme. One of our members obtained oyster shells and each of us has one to fill or decorate in some way. This is mine:

The colours are faintly lavender greys and creamy white and my shell is quite rugged. I started in the centre of my design and made it up as I went along.
I worked on a fine single mesh canvas in colours I saw in the outside of the shell. I traced off the outline of the shell and worked within it, adding a few pearl beads to finish and an edging of freely worked buttonhole stitch. When the stitching was complete I cut out the shape allowing a border of about half a centimetre, then snipped in to the stitched edge all round and folded the edges back. I padded the deep part of the shell with snippets of quilter's batting and placed a larger piece over the top. I then ran a generous trail of Appliglue all round the inside edge of the shell and pegged the embroidery in place until the glue was dry. I knew those mini clothes pegs would be useful one day! There are little tawny patches on the outside of the shell and these are echoed by the colour of the canvas, where I have deliberately not covered it completely. I am looking forward to seeing what our other members have done with their shells. We are planning to display them on draped fabric with driftwood pieces and maybe one or two other shells.

Monday 27 December 2010

Running to catch the Poetry Bus.

This week we are invited to write about the worst Christmas present we have ever given or received. I must be fortunate and have never had a worst present, but thought this little tale might amuse you.

The 'Perfect' Gift? (A true story)
My mother-in-law
enjoyed her little garden
but had to move
to accomodation with none.
So, one Christmas
I gave her an amaryllis bulb
all nicely potted,
which she could have on her windowsill.
Something to grow, I thought,
but without any mess.
The perfect little gift.
A few months later, on my birthday,
as I opened my presents
I came to one from my mother-in-law -
vaguely familiar in size and shape.
Inside was the very same amaryllis!
I thanked her politely
and we continued our loving relationship.

A few chilly photos before the thaw sets in - though there may be more to come as very low temperatures are forecast for the end of the week.
Something with big feet - could be a nosey seagull.
This is the surface of our pond - hope our cat doesn't try this after the ice has thawed, though I don't mind if our neighbour's marauding cat does!

I have kept an eye on the waterfall every day to check that it is still flowing - this lovely little ice bridge gradually formed over a period of days.

It's even lovelier in close-up.

This little pied wagtail doesn't seem to mind ice cold water, but he wouldn't turn sideways for me to get a clearer picture of him.

I don't think we've ever had one of these in the garden before and had to look it up in the bird book. We think it is a brambling - it is so pretty and quite colourful.

It spent several minutes tucking in and was very obliging, posing this way and that for me.

We had a very quiet and restful Christmas Day then thoroughly enjoyed the mayhem of Boxing Day evening. I must be getting old as I had forgotten the chaos that toddlers can create, but it was wonderful and lovely to have four generations of family all together, even for a short time.

Thursday 23 December 2010

A lovely surprise.

When I opened my post this morning I found this beautiful little hanging from Wendy Kirk, whose blog is Wendy's Art and Craft. My photo hasn't captured the colours accurately - they are so rich and vibrant, and mostly deep reds and purples. The background is the darkest purple felt - I thought it was black at first. The hanging is made from layers of sheer fabrics machine stitched to form the pattern, then incised in places with a soldering iron and four little sections cut right out. I love it and can't think what I have done to deserve such a lovely gift. Thankyou very much Wendy. In case any of you are interested in this technique you will find Margaret Beal's book 'Fusing Fabric' very helpful.
This is a rather blurred close-up to show some detail and the sides are straight, not as they appear here! It was very dull and overcast this morning and putting an electric light on seems to make the colours even harder to reproduce.
Wendy makes beautiful cards, tags, little books and all sorts of lovely things using various craft techniques and I love her use of colour. Give yourselves a treat and visit her blog.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

A Christmas Card for all my Bloggy Friends.

Wishing all of you a Merry ........

................. and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Hope the old gentleman brings you a few goodies too.

I might get too busy to do another post before the end of the week so thought I'd pop this one in now. Keep warm and safe, and thankyou all for your 'virtual' friendship throughout the year.
Here's to the next one.

Sunday 19 December 2010

I hope the Poetry Bus isn't running late - I'm frozen!

The Weaver of Grass is driving the bus this week and her theme for us is Star - any kind of star. I have gone for the obvious and hope that plurals are allowed.

Here is my contribution-:

There are no stars on view tonight
they are hidden by a thick blanket of cloud.
Even so, on a clear night
I see only part of the amazing light show
as I am surrounded by street lights,
security lights, and further into town
and city it is even worse.
How foolish man is to obliterate
such a stunning and free display
with his own tawdry illuminations.
I once slept under the stars
on a clear night
and saw them as they are meant to be seen.
It was truly magical and breathtaking.

Three of our neighbours are out scraping ice off the road to help keep it passable, bless them. We are the oldest inhabitants now so I don't feel too guilty about not being out there with them. My husband has just managed to drive up the slope in reverse. Last time we had snow he couldn't even do that. We have only had about an inch but a few miles in almost any direction it seems that much more has fallen. The sky looks quite leaden and I think we will get more. No pictures of snow - I've gone off it!
I thought I would leave you with a nice cosy image. Sorry it's only a gas fire, but we have no chimney so it's the best I can do. Keep warm and keep safe.

Friday 17 December 2010

Getting in the Festive Mood.

I can't remember the exact year when I bought these first two Christmas tree decorations, but it must be nearly 50 years ago. They become more precious each year and have outlived all of their contemporaries.
There were two little bells once, but the other one broke several years back.

These apples are home-made. About 10 years ago, the group I belong to had an exhibition for which we made a cornucopia with lots of glitzy precious little gifts spilling out of it, as a centrepiece for the gallery we were in. These are the four remaining ones, and although they are not the traditional colours for Christmas I have been persuaded to hang them on the tree.
They are very simple to make - if a bit fiddly. I bought some polystyrene apple shapes, cut out tiny squares of various fine fabrics and stuck them all over the surface. I then went round all the edges with gold dimensional paste and added a few sequins here and there. A gold cord loop fastened with a pin finishes them off.

This little boot was made for me by a friend and must have taken her ages. There are so many perfectly placed sequins held in place by pins. The top surface of it is covered in white sequins.
A friend who is a quilter made this little bird .........

...................... and this bauble which looks incredibly complicated to me. I apologies for the blurred picture but tried several times to improved on it without success.
The bauble hangs from the centre of the mantlepiece, but all the others are on here ..................
................... talk about 'done up like a Christmas Tree'! I must now go and iron the dark green cloth which hides the ugly metal stand before I forget - again.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

A lovely surprise.

When I opened my post yesterday morning, this mysterious little package was inside one of the envelopes. It had come from Sara Lechner whose blog is Fabric and Meditation. Inside I found this delightful little piece of her work. Thankyou Sara.
There is a pin on the reverse so it could be worn as a brooch, but I would be worried about snagging it on something or losing it - it is far too precious to be worn so I might find a tiny frame for it. I treated myself to Sara's book 'Gesichter' or 'Faces' a few weeks ago, which is full of her delightfully dreamlike and magical designs. I love to visit her blog too.
Sara has even drawn a little face on the label which I might be brave enough to try to turn into a little person one day.
It sounds as if we might be in for another Arctic blast at the end of the week, so stock up for the weekend early, dig out the thermals, hotty bottles and bedsocks again and pull up the drawbridge. Keep warm and safe.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Decorations by stealth!

My husband doesn't agree with Christmas decorations going up too early, so I am breaking him in gently with these two, and will probably do the rest towards the end of the week. I usually have a table lamp where this pot of twigs is standing, and am hoping the light from these little bulbs will provide the same amount of light. The mantlepiece will have a swag of greenery along it eventually. I used to make all the swags myself from fresh material pushed into pieces of soaked Oasis wrapped in polythene forming a long rope - rather like a string of sausages. It is very time consuming, makes an awful mess and is extremely hard on the hands, so I now use realistic artificial greenery, but there is nothing to beat the real thing. There used to be one for the staircase and one each above the windows at either end of the living room. It was quite a palaver getting them into position and so much easier now.
This is another labour saving device - straight out of it's protective carrier bag. What a cheat I have become!
I am in a frenzy of cleaning - I can't think what has come over me - I must be sickening for something, or maybe just sickening! Just done the oven and I want everywhere clean and tidy for Christmas, after which I shall revert to normal but hopefully find myself in a creative frenzy with time to play for ages with no 'big' housework to do.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Too busy for photos.

I am feeling very smug at the moment, having spent most of the morning cleaning out the cupboard under my sink. The shelves are clean and the baking tins, saucepan lids, cleaning cloths and products are all in mesh baskets, and quite a lot of stuff I haven't used for ages has been sent to the charity shop or recycled, where possible. I think it must have been the contrast between the lovely expanse of clean paintwork around the kitchen and the grubby and untidy interior of the under sink cupboard which spurred me on - there has been quite a lot of cleaning before everything could be put back in it's place and now I can open the cupboard doors with confidence even if someone is looking! Still haven't cleaned the cooker yet but it is next on the job list.

The garden is looking decidedly drab after last week's magical covering of frost. Nothing worth photographing out there and even the birds have given me the run around. The other day there was a beautiful green woodpecker feeding on the front lawn, but of course by the time I'd fetched my camera it had flown away. Similarly, two or three long-tailed tits were on the peanut feeder right by the front door - they too waited just long enough for me to get them in focus before doing a bunk.

I am between projects at present, so there is not even 'work in progress' to show you. I hope to make another book - more of a journal this time. It will be based around my visit to Glastonbury earlier this year. I collected quite a few useful bits and pieces which could be included and my daughter and I hope to go again next year.

I still haven't tried out the Flower Stitcher foot or the Melt Pot which I acquired a few months ago so maybe if I get myself organised and produce a few worthwhile samples I'll have something to show you. Have a nice weekend.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

A lot of white, but no snow.

It seems very strange to see all the trees and bushes looking so white, and yet there is no snow here in South Gloucestershire.
This frosted web across the window of our garden shed must have been made by a novice - they haven't quite got the knack have they?

This one is far better - definitely the work of an improver.

A bit of 'free' art here and quite festive looking. It looks as though it is time my husband made another bird house. Two hard winters in a row and a hot summer in between are taking their toll.

The oak tree beside the house appears to still have all it's leaves - very odd when all the others have shed theirs.

Even brambles look lovely with a coating of hoarfrost,

and our neighbours birch tree looks beautiful.

Looking up the footpath beside our house.

This is the tree with all the pigeons on it the other day.

Looking over the front wall and across the little stream to the other side.

I love this tangle of twisted hazel twigs and hope I get a few more catkins next year.

After all those chilly photos I thought I should leave you with something cosier. The rug is finished at last, apart from being properly backed. I hastily tucked all the excess hessian under just to take this photo and that untidy bottom right corner will be finished neatly. It's amazing how the colours, so carefully selected to go perfectly with each other, have reacted within their placement in the rug. I have spent quite a lot of time pulling bits out to rework them in another colour. Even now it doesn't look quite as I had anticipated, but on the whole I am pleased with it.
I hope the very low temperatures with snow and ice in so many areas are not making life too difficult for you. Keep warm and safe and well.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Where has the week gone?

I can't believe it's a whole week since I last posted. We've been having the kitchen redecorated and even though one of our sons-in-law did the work for us, it has meant a lot of moving, clearing and cleaning so he can get on. We started emptying the kitchen last Tuesday and he began work on Wednesday. He pulled the cooker out so I could clean down the back and sides which hasn't been done since it was installed! It's a snug fit and we couldn't move it ourselves.

We have a long kitchen with a table and a bookcase for cookery books at the end, a large dresser and two sets of wall mounted shelves full of pottery, etc., as well as all the usual paraphernalia and everything had to go into the hall - which is narrow - and the living room which under normal circumstances seems quite adequate! Thank goodness we didn't get any unexpected visitors. Getting the table back into the kitchen from the garage was an effort - the door is slightly narrower than the others and there is a step to negotiate too. It is all, more or less, back where it should be and looking very clean, fresh and lovely. I shall try not to steam it up too much. Even though we don't eat fried food the tops of the cupboards were dreadful inspite of being covered with paper. Tired arms, hands and shoulders today, so a spot of blogging is the perfect pastime.

I looked out of the front window this morning to see this. They must be hungry, even though we put food out every day - I have never seen pigeons eating these berries before. They make a nice picture and are all smiling for the camera apart from the grumpy one on the right who didn't want his photo taken.
We've had rain for a couple of days so it has been milder, but overnight the temperature has dropped again and everywhere is frosty. These are not drops of water but of ice and they shine like diamonds in the sunlight. I can't believe it is so cold outside - the sun is shining directly through the window and I can feel the warmth on my back.

Couldn't resist a shot of these icy patterns on the surface of the pond. At least we don't have to break the ice now as the little waterfall keeps one end free of ice.

This photo is blurred I'm afraid. I was trying to capture the sparkle on the frosted leaves. It looks as if someone has sprinkled very fine glitter all over the border but I don't think I've got it here. Keep warm and take care on the icy roads and paths.

Sunday 28 November 2010

If I only had a brain!

This would have been the perfect picture to go with my previous post but I have only just thought of it. You've seen it before but I love it and make no apologies for showing it again.

Hope you are managing to keep warm and with no broken down boilers to contend with or footballers to support from the sidelines this weekend. I have found the perfect pastime - ragrugging. My rug is coming on well now and I'm very cosy with it spread across my knees as I work on it. It may not get as far as the floor if this weather continues.

The birds are queuing up for breakfast each morning and yesterday we had quite a flock of seagulls swooping down to see what was on offer. There must have been about 30 of them - one or two were brave enough to land on the lawn and help themselves to some bits of bread but most of them just wheeled about and then flew off. Feeding small birds is one thing, but feeding seagulls is asking for trouble - we'd end up with 300 in no time at all.

Friday 26 November 2010

A ticket for the Poetry Bus.

This week the task is set by Dana, whose blog is 'Bug's Eye View'. She has very kindly given us three options and I found the third one irresistible as I love trees. She asks us to write about winter trees. Here goes:

Leafless, but not lifeless.
Beauty is revealed in their nakedness
as they take a rest before Nature's cycle continues.

Sunlight dapples trunks and branches with shadows,
and frost and raindrops glitter like diamonds
on every twig.

Some are warmly cloaked in ivy,
others wear velvety moss or
close fitting sleeves of lichen.

The light changes throughout each day
to show them as golden and majestic
or sometimes stark and sombre.

Myriad branches and twigs form a fine mesh
which, from a distance, gives the appearance
of fine paper cut-outs silhoutted against the sky.

Best of all, is to see a full moon
rising behind this intricate pattern of lacey limbs.
Every season has it's glories.

Monday 22 November 2010

Remember this?

As I am between projects at present I decided it was time to work on my rag rug again. I had to abandon it months ago as the dust and fibres from it aggravated a cough I was trying to get rid of and it has been dumped in a corner of my workroom ever since.
It is quite difficult to know how much fabric will be needed to complete a section, or how the colours will react with one another. They all look good wound into balls and placed in a group, but when it comes to working them into the design I have had a few surprises and cause to pull out some sections and rework them. It is an ideal pastime for cold evenings as it keeps my knees beautifully warm!

When I had padded and laced my finished embroidery, I placed a simple gold frame over it to get a better idea how it might finally look. It's a good job I made enquiries about a box frame this morning as it can't be ready till the last week of January! Just in time, thank goodness.
Having heard various weather forecasts all warning of plummeting temperatures, I lined the greenhouse with bubblewrap today. I had been meaning to do it for the past fortnight but the mild days lulled me into a false sense of security. Hopefully my geraniums will survive to add colour to the garden for another summer. Nice to think of summer even if we haven't officially reached winter yet.

Saturday 20 November 2010

A Miserable Day.

It has been such a dreary grey, wet and dismal day today so I decided to do nice warming things to cheer us up a bit. I made a ginger cake - less exciting than coffee and walnut with butter icing, or a batch of gorgeous brownies, but hopefully kinder on the waistline and cholesterol levels. It is cooling and will be just about ready to cut when I have a cuppa later.

I also made a batch of rolls to go with this ....................
........... it's not soup yet as I have to get all the chicken bones out then blitz it with the hand blender. It would have made sense to have boiled the carcass first, strained it and then added the vegetables which would have made the whole job so much easier, but in my enthusiasm I just plonked everything in together. I shall be able to put the bones in the new handy caddy for cooked food waste - provided by our local council for their new recycling scheme which comes into effect next week. We have a smart and dinky little caddy which sits on the draining board and a larger bin into which it is emptied and when full put out for collection. I can't see us ever filling it as we have hardly any cooked food waste - we usually eat it all!

When I have tidied the kitchen I can do a bit more work on this piece of embroidery which will eventually be framed and glazed, probably triple mounted or in a box frame as I don't want the ribbon roses and beads to be pressed against the glass. It is a birthday present for one of our daughters.
She collects those pretty ceramic Victorian style shoes and will like this I think - I hope!

It started off properly stretched on a frame but some of the stitching was almost impossible like that so I took it off and worked with it in my hand - my preferred way of working even if it is not strictly correct. I am working it on off-white silk muslin bonded to cotton fabric and am wondering whether the texture of the background is too noticeable and that a smooth fabric would have been better. It's a bit late now to worry about that. I will press it very lightly when it is finished and stretch it over a piece of foam board or stiff card and may even add a layer of thin batting to pad it very lightly. I have until the end of January to finish it so there is plenty of time. I came across the design in a back number of Stitch magazine - issue 46, April/May 2007 - and have altered some of the stitch patterns slightly as I didn't have exactly the threads, etc., that were used in the article.

Changing the subject quite a lot - I have just read on the front page of today's Daily Telegraph
that pupils will lose marks in exams for poor spelling, punctuation and grammar. I am horrified that there have obviously been times when these shortcomings have been allowed to become acceptable. Perhaps I am just too old-fashioned, or naive.