Linen thread

I’m very attracted by linen thread. Over the last year or two I’ve built up quite a collection. I got them all out the other day and put them in my useful shallow basket:Linen thread collection

At the bottom right is some of the thread I bought from Namolio at a show. This is lovely, but comes in quite a limited range of colours. On the left is a little stash of vintage Swedish linen thread which I got at the Linladan stall at K&S in Harrogate in 2015. (Click on the links to get to the Namolio and Linladan websites).These are beautiful threads, although pretty expensive. As usual, when I buy something quite expensive I’m wary about using it. Which is a ridiculous attitude if you spend half a second thinking about it. The only thing that could possibly justify the expense, surely, is actually using the materials. Well, it’s illogical, but I think it’s quite a common attitude. There’s a feeling that you’re under pressure to produce something really good, and it would be wasteful to just experiment and maybe produce something you’re not satisfied with. Understandable, maybe, but it’s an attitude that needs resisting.

At the time I pulled back from buying a whole box of Linladan thread – at £38 per box, it seemed a bit much. But look at this example here and you’ll see why I was tempted…Linladen thread box

Isn’t it lovely? Now that I’ve got my actual threads together I see that they’re mostly in rather sombre hues, and there’s very little contrast. Either I shell out on this box of threads, or I use some cotton or silk when I want a bit of colour contrast. I think for the moment I’m content to do the latter.

And what am I going to do with these threads, I hear you ask? Well, more on that next time….

 

 

Tate Modern

Just a quick note here about Tate Modern. I was staying nearby last week and dropped in for a quick look. I hadn’t been for ages, and not since they opened the new Switch House. There is a 10th storey viewing gallery from which you can get a very good view of London. Have a look here for more on this. We got the lift up to the 10th floor and spent quite a while on a wet and blustery afternoon looking out over the grey view of grey London. London has changed a lot in the decades I’ve been looking at it. When I first went to live there and to work in the City of London, there were very few high rise buildings. Now the City is full of them, and there’s a view of Canary Wharf and also you can see the Shard which is pretty tall. I guess it’s sensible to build upwards when there is so little space, but I’m pleased I had the opportunity to appreciate the London skyline before it got too crowded with very big concrete things.

So, what about the art, I hear you cry. Well, actually I didn’t look at all that much of it. I do sometimes find that I just get outfaced by the scale of the thing, and if I don’t have something specific to see, I end up wasting time. There were some interesting photos of the Ukraine during the Soviet era, which interested me because they’re good photos, and also because I went to Kiev and Kharkov and some of the surrounding countryside during the Soviet era. I’m sure it’s all very different now…. And I spotted an El Anatsui which I liked very much: El Anatsui

I had my phone with me, and it was charged which is not always the case, so I got my act together and put the photo on Instagram. I’m a bit cautious about social media – still haven’t got onto Facebook and I’m not sure I’m going to – but I do quite approve of Instagram. Not so much for what I put on there, but for being able to follow other people I don’t see very often. One of my daughter’s friends, Justine, is a florist and she puts some beautiful photos of her flowers on Instagram. She’s also set up a lovely website – see it here – so if by any chance you are located in the Peak District and need some wonderful and original flowers, she is the person to go to.

Oops, I’ve wandered off the Tate Modern theme a bit there. Never mind. If you look at this blog a lot and nothing much is happening (which is the case for regrettably long periods) it’s worth having a look at Instagram to see if I’ve posted anything there. Also Pinterest – I’ve been more active there of late, encouraged by the fact that some of the images of my own work are proliferating. They’re proliferating in a rather modest and retiring way – we’re not talking many thousands of repinnings – but one of the Cochineal Dream images from this website has been repinned a lot. It’s a thrill to see it, I must admit.

Ramsters

The next Ramster exhibition is from 10th March to 26th March 2017. I’ve been aware of it for years, but have not previously applied to exhibit here. By the time I did so in 2016, applications were closed, but Miranda Gunn kindly put me on a waiting list. And, woo hoo, someone has dropped out so I have the opportunity to send some work in. Sending the work in doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be selected for exhibition, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this.

I was hoping to include the rather nice poster for the exhibition, but I can’t currently work out how to import the pdf into WordPress. There’s usually a way of doing these things, but I’ve had a few goes and can’t just get it sorted out at the moment. Anyway, click here to go to the Ramster events website where you can find out more about the exhibition. It’s in Chiddingfold in Surrey, so rather a long way from where I live. I’d love to go, but there are various events going on in my life at the moment which could make it difficult to get away.

I’ll report back if I do get to have my work exhibited here. I’m also planning to send some unframed pieces and some cards, so if you’re there and in the shop, please do look out for my work.

 

More pincushions

I’ve decided to produce more pincushions so I can put some of them into the Prism shop at the Birmingham exhibition to see if there’s any demand for them. If there is, then I’ll feel more confident about offering them via an Etsy shop (yet to be set up, but you never know – I may just get round to it one of these days). I had to think about how best to present them, and decided that they would look better presented in a box. Cue much searching around on the internet for suitable cardboard presentation boxes. I wanted black, 10cm x 10cm, and deep enough for the pincushion. In the end I couldn’t find black, but I did find a very nice off-white which come flat-packed. Yesterday I made them up and put the pincushions in. I may add some tissue paper, but this is how they’re looking at the moment:Pincushion, boxed

Nice, and a good fit. I’m pleased.

Previously, I’ve read artists accounts of how much time they spend on applying for exhibitions, boxing work up, dealing with the admin, and so on. I can attest to the truth of this. Some of the time it’s taking up at the moment is no doubt because of my inexperience, but still, it just does take a long time. When you still have a day job, this means even less precious time to spend on actually making. However, there is a certain satisfaction to be gained from doing these things properly.

As well as the finished pincushions, I decided I’d try offering them in kit form. Again, this is experimental. Now, this really has taken up a lot of time, as it’s required some careful thought and sourcing. But I’ve loved putting the kits together, and some aspects of it are quite creative. Here’s a photograph of part of the assembled kit: Pincushion kit

On the left is the base material of strips of silk and cotton appliquéd to a ground fabric of lightweight calico. The block of solid colour is the fabric for the base of the pincushion. Then there is a knot of threads (selecting these was the really fun bit), plus a couple of needles and two buttons from my collection. Also in the kit, although not visible on the picture, is an embroidery hoop (not sure about this, but thought I’d perhaps better put one in), a bag of polyester filling and three pages of instructions with colour illustrations. We’ll see whether anyone goes for it or not, but I think they would make nice presents for sewists in your life, and actually, they could be made up by someone with very little experience of sewing. I’ve produced seven of these so far. They’ve taken an age to put together, but I guess now I’ve got the hang of it, I could produce a few more if there’s any demand for them.

Excellent present

It seems (and is) rather a long time since Christmas, but I thought I’d just tell you about an excellent present I received. My son and his girlfriend have been spending quite a lot of their spare time recently producing mosaics. They’re both really into it, and it’s a lovely, creative, activity that they enjoy working on together. On Christmas Day they gave each of us (husband, me and daughter) an identically sized package to open, which turned out to be a very well-executed mosaic. It’s such a pleasure to be given something that’s been made by the givers, and the more so in this case, because the mosaic theme, colours etc. had been carefully selected for each of us. And in each case, the mosaic expressed something about the character and interests of the person to whom it was given. Very clever.

Here’s mine:1-IMG_0395

Those readers who are familiar with my work and tastes will realise that this piece ticks a lot of boxes for me. For one thing, it’s square, and I dearly love a square. The choice of colours and the regular gradation within a strict format are also likely to appeal to me. So, well done them. It’s also a great pleasure to see your children being creative. Like me, my children have chosen careers in the professions/business, but of course, like me, they can make the most of their spare time to do other things.

This piece of mosaic is framed and stands on my desk so I see it while I work. What a pleasure!

Prism 2017

Yes, it’s been a while, hasn’t it….. I’ve been both busy and not very well for the last few weeks, a killer combination as far as writing blog posts is concerned. More to come in due course about what I’ve been up to. For the moment, just a brief post to say that I’ve had some work accepted for the 2017 Prism exhibitions in Birmingham (from end of April 2017) and London (from mid October 2017). I’ve had the work ready for a while, but hadn’t yet framed it, so I’ve been busy the last couple of days getting the work framed and ready to send. I’m very pleased about these opportunities, and feeling a little more on top of it this year because I know more about what is involved.

I won’t show any images of the Prism work, but I can say that it is fairly sombre in respect of colour palette. All the more important, then, to keep going with some more colourful bits and pieces in odd moments. I’ve been continuing work on the pincushions of which I have quite a collection now. They’re great to do, original in the sense that each one is unique, but easy to pick up in an odd moment here and there.

K&S Harrogate 2016

As usual, I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate this year. Got there on the first day of the show, the Thursday, and had a belting time. Fortunately, I was feeling quite energetic because the whole experience was exhausting. But I stuck it out for well over five hours, with only a cup of coffee to keep me fuelled.K&S logo

So, what was good? Actually, this year, I was most attracted by the dressmaking, and spent more time on that than anything else. On going into Hall A, I was immediately attracted by the Maker’s Atelier stand which I don’t recall having seen before. This is the brainchild of Frances Tobin, a fashion designer, who has set up in business designing dressmaking patterns. Each of her designs was available to inspect, made up in simple, high-quality, fabrics. I loved them, and so, by the looks of things, did lots of other women. Many of the visitors to this blog will know just how difficult it is to find simple and stylish clothes, especially when one is at a certain age and a less than ideal size. I spent some time talking to Frances and her assistant on the stand. The assistant was particularly inspiring as she was wearing a couple of the items that she had made recently, but, and here’s the thing, she had only started dressmaking about a year ago.

I bought two of the patterns and was directed to Rosenberg’s stand where a mighty scrum was taking place as many, many women all attempted to buy fabric at the same time. I’m not surprised – the quality of fabric seems to be excellent and the prices are unbelievable. Have a look at Rosenberg’s website here. There was a long wait but it was all very good-humoured and cheerful. A woman standing next to me told me that you have to get in at opening time, 10 sharp, in order to get to the front of the queue. I eventually managed to buy some lovely fine wool at £12 per metre, and I hope that I will find time in between all the working and the pincushioning etc to actually get something made.

What else did I buy? Well, not a vast amount, as I really have all that I need. I bought a few small pieces of silk and some sari strips from The Silk Route – I almost always buy something from them. And some plain Kona cottons in fat quarters to provide a sturdy backing to my pincushions. Other than that, not a lot. I spent some time looking at the exhibiting artists’ stands and was especially impressed by the work of Debbie Lyddon. I’d been aware of it previously, but hadn’t seen it in the flesh. The work in the show had been inspired by time spent at Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk, and I thought it was genuinely evocative of the place (which I first visited a couple of years ago).

So, yes, all good. I’m pleased I went, and I’m looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with dressmaking. I did a lot of it in my youth but it was a lot easier back then when I was slim and a UK size 12 pattern would fit me without any alteration. Ho hum. Times have changed and so have I.

New blog visitors

Hello new blog visitors! It’s a bizarre feature of this blog that the less often I post, the more views I seem to get. I no longer look at the statistics every day. I used to do this when my website and blog were new, hoping that I might get at least one visitor each day (sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t). Nowadays, I get quite a lot, which is very pleasing, and which should encourage me to write more often. Note to self: must try harder.

When I do look at the stats I always drill down a little further to see where my visitors are located. And I’ve noticed recently a lot of new readers in Russia, and especially St Petersburg. Welcome new Russian visitors! I’ve never been to St Petersburg (indeed, when I was last in Russia it was still called Leningrad which gives you some idea of how long it’s been), but I’ve visited a number of other Russian cities, Ukrainian and Georgian cities (e.g Moscow, Kiev, Rostov and Tblisi). I like to think of us all across the world in England, Russia and many other places, busy stitching away (or drawing or dyeing or doing something similarly useful and important). It’s an uncertain world out there, and I think anything that brings us closer together should be encouraged. So, busy stitchers, keep plugging away at your non-trivial pursuits.

A whole lot of pincushions

Regular readers will have observed that I’ve not been posting much recently. I’ve been too busy a) working and b) making pincushions to have much time for anything else. I’ve just finished a pile of 8, as shown in the first photograph. Pincushion towerEach pincushion is 4 inches square (approximately 10cm square) and each has a button top and bottom. It’s been a great opportunity to explore my button box which otherwise doesn’t get touched very often. I’ve put a small button on the embroidered side of each pincushion and a larger feature button on the plain side. Here’s a plain side to illustrate:Plain side of pincushion with feature button

And finally, here’s a close up of one of the recent additions. Close up of pincushionWhy so many, and what am I going to do with them? Well, there are many because I’ve simply enjoyed making them very much. And what will I do with them? Sell them, I hope. If my work goes into the next Prism exhibition I’d like to put some items into the shop. And I keep returning to the idea of opening an Etsy shop and these little items would be ideal. I may even get round to it someday.

 

More pincushions

After making one pincushion (see previous post) I was seized with the notion of making a few more. I’m currently busy with some work that I intend to submit to the 2017 Prism exhibitions (this is not a typo – there are two exhibitions, one in London and one in Birmingham in 2017). In this work I’m exploring some ideas in black, white and my favourite chromatic greys. It’s very absorbing but it’s not what you’d call colourful. So, embroidering some pincushion bases in a riot of colours makes a lovely change from the more sombre colours. I’ve prepared several of these pieces. The one pictured below was finished this morning:Pincushion base

It looks a bit of a mess, but will look much better when it’s made up into the finished article. I prepared eight of these in advance and took them away on a recent trip,  and I’ve spent some very contented hours stitching them. Before I left I stuffed some threads into Ziploc bags, divided into eight colour groups. Choosing the thread colours has been a lot of fun. With something like this you can try out mad colour combinations just to see if they work. Having said that I’ve stuck, broadly, to complementary colour theory. So in the piece above there are yellow/purple and red/green complementaries. Most of the scraps of fabric here are silk. They include (second from right) a little strip of Margo Selby woven silk, which I just love. I got a small remnant bag from her shop a few years ago and much of that small amount is now gone. Wonder if I can get some more?

Here’s a close up of the stitching. Pincushion close up to show stitchingI just use whatever stitch comes into my head at the start of a line. So liberating.