Saturday, 1 April 2017

Walks with my Sister

The theme of the book I started and have been working on during March is "Walks with my Sister".  For several years now I have enjoyed walking with friends along the country footpaths and bridleways of Essex and Suffolk and since November 2016 my sister has joined me on several of these walks.  We now regularly walk on a Tuesday and so I thought I would start a book to record the walks we have done along with photographs I have taken.

The cover is a collage of fabrics - the photograph of us as children is printed on organza overlaid onto a page from a dress making book, the little row of houses is from one of my landscapes, again, printed onto cotton, the tree is printed onto sari ribbon and the spotty and stripped fabrics scraps from my stash of fabrics.  The vintage cutwork border that I have used for the spine comes from Rose Hip and together with some hand embroidery and some words print onto organza make up the front and back cover.

On opening the cover I have placed a picture of myself taking a photograph - like my mother, I seem to be the one who has always been behind the camera.

The first walk we did together was quite short - around Marks Hall wood and footpath that are outside the gardens and arboretum.  We did this several times and is a good one to do when conditions are a bit muddy underfoot.   The map and description are printed onto fabric and are sewn into the book.

This is a photograph of my sister and opposite is a description, printed onto organza, of our second walk in Castle Hedingham which, again, is a good one to do in the winter.

These two pages show the map of the walk in Castle Hedingham printed onto cotton and opposite a picture I had been saving that I had cut out of a newspaper.  Thought it was just right.  

This is all I have done on the book so far as I have run out of fabrics to print on but a trip to Art Van Go next week will solve the problem.  We have done several more walks since including, Chalkney Woods and Great Tey, Great Bardfield and Finchingfield, Stoke-by-Nayland and Polstead and lots more are planned.  

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Making Arrangements

January has been a month of making arrangements in more than one way - earlier in the month I went to Anglesey Abbey with friends - the snowdrops were starting to peep through but the cold weather had held them back a bit.  However, whilst there I went to the secondhand book shop to find more books to rescue and found a copy of Wuthering Heights and three beautifully faded books on Roman history tied up with a ribbon.  I made this arrangement on my bedroom windowsill which includes the faded books, pottery birds by Paddy Peters, a pottery house I bought at Made in Clay last year, a wooden house by Kirsty Elson and a stone I found which had markings on it that look like trees (I have emphasised the marks using a pen).

Other arrangements I have been making are booking advertising space in Embroidery and Stitch magazines for the EAST exhibition "Following a Thread" which starts at Braintree Museum at the end of April and runs through May and June and then goes to the Pond Gallery at Snape Maltings, Suffolk, in the first week of July 2017.  And in an effort to be extra organised I also took the opportunity to have cards printed by - images below.   

I also arranged to collect a piece of work from my framer in Haughley - the piece had been framed in 2015 and had been irritating me - the balance of the picture was just not right - I feel so much better now I have made the alterations.  Picture below.

The nicest arrangements made at the beginning of February were not made by me but were made by my friend Lynne who had booked for us to go to see the National Theatre live streaming of Amadeus.  The day started with a lovely walk from White Colne - we passed the water mill into Chalkney Wood and then followed the footpaths cross country to Great Tey, stopping for coffee at the village pub.  We then walked cross country to Abraham's Farm, passed Florie's Farm and the beautiful Cucumber Hall, came up the other side of Chalkney Wood, crossed the Earls Colne road and walked along the old railway walk - a walk of just over 8 miles.  Back at Lynne's I watched as she prepared a lovely vegetarian lasagne which we tucked into with friend Ange before we then set off for the cinema to see Amadeus.  A wonderful performance only spoilt by the screen locking once - we lost 15 minutes - but we were soon reconnected.  It was a memorable day and I fell into bed exhausted.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Patchwork Inspiration

We're half way through January already and I have finished my Gee's Bend patchwork inspired knitted throw.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of working out the pattern and interpreting the design of a fabric quilt into a knitted version.  I used double knit merino wool and 4mm needles and garter stitch - I felt I needed to adjust the colours - the original colour combination was red, orange, yellow and off white - I didn't feel comfortable with the off white so substituted it with a lime yellow.  I incorporated a knitted border (4 rows of seed stitch) with the stripes rather than knit it separately and added knitted buttons - I have decided not to line it.

It has been a good exercise as besides being very therapeutic, it also allows you time to think of other things such as what direction my work will take this year.  

I would definitely have another go and one idea that sprang to mind whilst knitting this throw was a painting by Keith Vaughan.  Keith Vaughan was an artist who lived from 1939 to 1977 and who spent some of his life living in Toppesfield, a village not far from where I live.  A few years ago some of his work was featured in an exhibition at the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden and amongst the exhibits of his drawings, letters, etc. was a cushion knitted by his mother.  It's funny how things stick in the back of your mind - from what I remember it was simply knitted square but was very much in the colour combination below which is one of his paintings.  I would love to have a go at doing the knitted version of this - I feel in working so closely to something somehow you get a better understand of it, plus I remembered that my friend Rene had lend me a book of his Journals.


Sunday, 8 January 2017

Winter Projects

My first post for 2017 and after watching the news today I think I have probably been suffering from the same cold bug as the Queen which really likes hanging on.  However, the thing that has been keeping me going through it is my winter knitting project - the last couple of years I have found that a winter knitting project really helps to clear my mind.  I don't follow a pattern - I like the puzzle of figuring out colour, size and shape, etc. myself, although this year's project is inspired by a Gee's Bend Quilt.  Some years ago I came across a book of postcards on "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" -

"Nestled inside a sweeping curve of the Alabama River southwest of Selma, Gee's Bend is one of America's most geographically isolated communities.  It has been linked to the outside world by a single road, which remained unpaved until the late 1960's.  The residents' ancestors worked in the cotton plantations there, first as slaves, then for several generations as tenant farmers...........".

The quilts are very unique, made from discarded, worn fabrics and I just love the colour combinations and formats and shapes used reflecting the creative and individual imagination of what was a poor community. 

I haven't stuck rigidly to the design as I am knitting and the quilts were made from fabrics, by this I mean that I have altered the colour rather than the shapes/format. 

On the left is the original Gee's Bend quilt - as you can see some areas are made from patterned fabrics and the little dots are ties holding the layers together.  On the right is my  knitted version so far, lots still to do, I haven't even started the two stripes (the red and patterned stripes) on the left side of the quilt and I'm still knitting the red, orange and lime stripes on the right.  I am knitting the stripes to a certain length and then putting the stitches on stitch holders as I think I will extend the stripes a little more.  The colours haven't come out very well on the photograph but there is a greater difference in the orange and red  wools than shows.  The wool I am using is a 100% merino wool and I am knitting on 4mm needles.  Once I have finished the throw I will, I think, line it with a thin cotton wading and back it - on the other hand I might not, depends how things work out. 

On the stitching front, I have done just a small amount of work on my last rolling landscape - I think once I have completed this one I will draw a line under rolling landscapes and move on - New Year/New Projects. 

The photo below shows the stage at which I left it, the area to the right of the village still to be worked on.

The area to the right of the village shows a few fields which I am now merging into an area with trees.  I decided I would use the photograph of trees I took back in the summer, in Cornwall, where the trees that had been in someones garden had ended up standing on the beach due to coastal erosion.  I took the photograph in the bright evening sun and so also got the shadow of the trees, making it look as if there were twice as many trees as was really there.  I printed the image on silk organza and cut away anything I didn't want.  I have laid a plain white scrap of fabric under the image so you can see it.  I have pinned the image in place on the left.  

The image will help to show me where I need to put the embroidery stitches to achieve the image I want.  To give the image more depth I then rolled back the image and placed a piece of silk organza underneath that I have dyed in appropriate colours and then laid the image back down as in the pictures below.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Before 2016 Is Over

I thought I would squeeze in one more post before the year is over, having had a wonderful Christmas, despite having a rotten cold before Christmas and now having a chesty cough approaching the year end.

One thing I have been doing for years is to design my own Christmas cards, it is rare that I have any left over and so I don't always have a record of the cards I have done.  So I thought that this would be a good opportunity to record this year's cards.  The cards have varied over the years, sometimes they were stitched or beaded but now I have less energy I usually either take a photograph, if the opportunity presents itself, or I paint and then photograph something from my sketchbook.  This year I designed two cards from my sketchbook - on both designs there is a little bit of fabric.  On the card on the left the little house has a house made from organza and on the card on the right I have overlaid a strip of organza across the card between the trees and the field giving it a misty feel and the bird's head is printed on organza.  I photographed both pictures and then went onto the website to have them printed. 

Christmas itself was lovely - I spent most of it laughing as I found someone with a very similar sense of humour to myself but to add to that my lovely husband bought me this painting by Jelena Lukic - I hope I have spelt it right.  I have always been a very light sleeper and often remember my dreams and occasionally suffer from nightmares.  I thought this picture was just perfect - it is so dream like, I love how the horse's ears become the sails of a boat and the dribbles of paint that are it's legs as if it only became a horse when the paint ran.  I had the strangest dream last night - it was very vivid - I dreamt that we had an infestation of insects - they weren't bees but they were stripped like bees - I dreamt they were living in the armchair in the corner of our bedroom - they were all over the floor and I thought I must deal with it.  I was very relieved when I woke to find it was just a dream.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

December Sunset

This afternoon I went for my usual walk round Marks Hall near Coggeshall - it was about 3 o'clock and as I walked the sky was lit up with colours - soft blues and pinks to the east and brighter colours to the west.  These are some of the photographs I took.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Sunny November Days

Today is a glorious sunny November day - I only wish that last Monday had been the same!!  I went for a country walk with friend Lynne - we tried to walk from Clare to Belchamp St. Paul but with the remnants of a cold, rain and darkness coming down, we only managed to do about 4 miles.  However, at least we had done some exercise and once back to the car park we went to the Antique Centre and Lynne treated us both to a large hot chocolate topped with cream and a slice of chocolate malteser cake.

So with a beautifully bright day today I have taken some photographs while the light is good.

This week I have been putting together a small piece of work for my Alfred Wallis collection.  The long tapering triangle is very typical of the tree shape he used but the colours are certainly not - I have been looking carefully at colour and colour combinations, it is such a particular thing as to what brings something to life.  Once I had appliqu├ęd the trunk I embroidered the tree branches and then laid some old net over the top which had flowers embroidered on it.  I then stitched French knots all over the branches and embroidered around the flowers.  In my garden I have a hawthorn tree and I have planted a clematis underneath it which has now almost reached the top of the tree.  I then found some scraps of dyed habotai silk and a block printed cotton to create the landscape around it.  I think it certainly has a naive look to it.

Also this week I have been looking back in my sketchbooks and the marks in a landscape that make it interesting and give it texture.  I had been preparing some samples using procion dyes and just thought I would draw very loosely, without using Manutex, to see how the dye spread and puddled and was really pleased with this piece below.  The top layer is silk organza, the under layers calico, habotai silk and again more organza.  I don't know if I will ever get round to actually stitching this piece, but maybe one day. 

In turn this sunny landscape led me back to the piece I designed back in August - I like the colour theme that my work is starting to develop - a combination of greys and yellows - and I think these colours will definitely feature prominently in my new work.  I can see it may not be to everyone's taste and it has to be carefully balanced but it will be a good challenge.

I like the words within the landscape "a secluded world of cool sun ..... was in the midst of its green world"  - I like the way these random words can suggest a mood.