Sunday, 29 November 2020

Too much excitement for one week?

You might be pleased to hear that my dizzy head is almost back to normal and I'm allowed to venture out on my own once more (I'm not sure I was ever not allowed but we were being cautious). I have even taken the dog's lead again, with some trepidation I might add! However there is still a lot of giddiness down to excitement round these parts.

Isobel and I launched the first  episode of our podcast - Izzy and Gina ...in stitches, last Thursday. Lots of informal chat about art, embroidery and life in general... although mostly just introducing ourselves in this first episode.


We were ridiculously excited and nervous about how it might be received but so far we have had lots of lovely feedback and we're busy getting episode 2 ready for release on 10th December. Have you listened yet? I'd love to know what you think... well maybe only if you liked it! We've got a whole episode planned about feedback and receiving validation from others. Izzy and I have both written blogs for quite some time (I think we have a podcast episode planned about blogging too) so we are used to waiting for comments and wondering if anyone is reading, and more importantly enjoying what we are putting out there. I've also had the occasional negative comment too so we think this could be quite a meaty subject.

In fact we have loads of  meaty episodes planned so if you enjoyed the first episode you might like to subscribe in future. It's available via all the usual podcast platforms.


The excitement continued this week as I received my copies of WOWbook 6 on Friday, in which I have an article on how I combine painting with stitch. I wrote the article and went to have my work photographed by the lovely Michael Wicks way back at the beginning of the year before the first lockdown, so after such a long time it was wonderful to actually see it in print.


Photography: Michael Wicks

Photography: Michael Wicks

It's a gorgeous book and full of fabulous articles so it would be a good one to put on the Christmas list if you like creative textiles. It's available from d4daisy books. Or if you fancy winning a free copy, I am planning to give one away next week to newsletter subscribers only. You can find a link to sign up in the side bar.

I've also taken part in a virtual Christmas market in our village this weekend, seeing as any real Christmas markets or craft fairs are not happening. I wasn't really sure what to expect or how it would work but it was actually fantastic! It was all done via a Facebook event and it was hard work keeping track of who wanted what,  and then sending payment instructions as well as arranging collection or delivery, but it all came together and was really successful. There was also a virtual raffle that raised lots of money for charity and I continue to be impressed with the way people are finding ways to work around these difficult times.


My best sellers were these little angels...  I sold out! I spent a ridiculous amount of time making boxes for them and then writing little individual stories for each one that I put into miniature books. Totally bonkers I know, but I think we could all do with a bit more bonkers in our lives don't you?


And if you fancy making you own angels I have a course telling you how right here... and it's totally free!


So after all this excitement the plan is for some down time with some knitting and tea... although I confess the mug of tea has been replaced with a glass of wine!


So what have you been up to this weekend? Listened to any good podcasts?

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Pastures New

Thank you for your lovely comments and concern about my head (last post). I've not moved very far from the sofa all week and I'm going a little stir crazy as I still have vertigo, but today the giddiness might just be down to some excitement round these parts!

Anyone who receives my newsletters will have picked my hints that there was an exciting new project I've been working on. And of course if you receive my newsletters you'll already know why I'm excited. It's something that has been on the back burner for a while since the summer when my friend, Isobel Moore and I, first had the same crazy idea. I had just about come to the end of Open Windows and I was wondering what I could launch myself into next, musing over ideas whilst walking the dog. (I know, before anyone else tells me, I should be paying attention when walking the dog as with my track record, the only place I'm likely to launch is in the bushes).


Various crazy ideas popped into my head but one wouldn't go away, so I sent Izzy a message asking had she ever thought about doing a podcast and she responded instantly with a resounding "YES!" (I believe there was some screaming and splurting of coffee too but don't hold me to that!) It turned out that she had been thinking the exact same thing and what is more she also thought it would be fun for us to do it together! We are now ready to let the world (or my limited readership) know what we have been up to, so you might want to see a little taster...

Izzy & Gina... in Stitches


Isobel and I have known each other for about ten years. We are similar in many ways: we both took our City & Guilds Diploma in machine embroidery at Missenden Abbey with the same tutor, albeit at different times, we're at exactly the same stage in taking our teaching online, and we are both dog owners - but our backgrounds, interests and personalities are definitely different! Hopefully this will allow for some lively discussions and debates on the pros and cons of being a textile artist, teaching and running a creative business…  but our main aim is to have FUN!



We'd both be absolutely thrilled if you would join us on this adventure. You can find our new podcast here, with links how to listen on the usual podcast platforms (if we’ve done it right - this is a very steep learning curve for both of us!) We're aiming to release an episode every other week, with the first one a week from today on Thursday 26th. We finished recording our first episode this morning and it was absolutely nerve wracking even though we were only chatting to each other, but we did laugh... and it was fun for us, at least.

I'd love you to leave me a comment to tell us what you think of our mad, crazy idea, and especially if you have any questions you would like us to discuss or if there's anything you'd like us to talk about! It's terrifying and exciting in equal measure - neither of us has done anything remotely like this before - so be gentle with us! And wish us luck.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

November Days

 

Despite another Lockdown here in England and the ever shortening days, life had started to get into a pleasant rhythm of daily dog walks and beautiful sunrises at the beginning of this month. I'm trying not to sound like a cliche but finding the simple pleasures in life seems more important than ever right now, and getting outside and appreciating our surroundings is one of those pleasures.


I  launched my final online class of the current series of three this month and although I am working on a short free class to launch next month I had decided to take a little break from creating new classes


Instead I thought I would try to get back to some painting. I've not picked up a paintbrush since before breaking my hand in the summer so I have been easing myself back by working in a sketchbook and following Laura Kemshall's sketchbook challenge to fill a sketchbook in November. It is a series of eight classes, two per week, just colouring pages, stencilling, printing etc, all very relaxed and informal... and excellent value. It was all going so well...


Then out walking with the dog on Friday afternoon, on our way home, literally ten yards from our back gate, Hector spotted another dog and lurched to say hello. I was completely off guard, so the lead whipped around my legs pulling me with it and the next thing I knew my head was smacked against the road. I thought that 'seeing stars' was something that only happened in Beano cartoons but it happens! I've never known my head hit anything so hard. What followed was a blur of trying to sit up (I couldn't), being moved to the pavement (I was in the middle of the road), hearing someone say there was blood and Stewart calling an ambulance. Neighbours came out with blankets and a hot water bottle and all I could think was that I couldn't possibly die as I hadn't finished sewing our grandson's advent calendar and there was no way Stewart would know what to do!


I was taken by ambulance to hospital and it was scary for a few hours - I've heard way too many horror stories of brain damage and worse after head injuries - but although it wasn't really what I had planned for a Friday night, I cannot fault the hospital staff who ran just about every test possible. A ct scan showed I was lucky, my head was just bruised so besides concussion, vertigo, some minor cuts and a headache I was fine. In fact, more than fine... blood pressure, heart and lung function and everything else was absolutely tip top! They let me go home at midnight.


Saturday morning the dog wouldn't leave my side... you might be fooled into thinking those doleful eyes are saying sorry, but I'm not. He's a hooligan and would do it all over again if another attractive pooch were to wander past. I do wonder what we achieved with all those months of puppy training.


Meanwhile I'm confined to the sofa. My headache has eased but the vertigo not so much. When I get up and walk I feel like I'm on a boat. It's very strange and quite disorientating. Fortunately, if I don't move my head too much I can still read, type and knit so there has been a lot of progress.  The painting and other activities will have to wait again until I can safely get out to my studio. You can find details of these hats on Ravelry. I've been on Ravelry for years but only recently started to figure out how it works! Well, how some of it works at least.


And I'm still counting my blessings and appreciating the simple things in life because to be honest, I was grateful to wake up on Saturday morning (even if it was at 4 am with a stonking headache).
I hope you are all keeping safe and well.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Cables and Cake

Hello... it's been a while, but we're on holiday in Norfolk and the weather is rather damp today so we're having a lazy morning sitting around reading, knitting, drinking tea etc in the hope the rain might ease a little so we can walk this afternoon. So I thought it would be an ideal time to drop by this sadly neglected blog in the hope there might be someone out there!

It has been so long since I was last here I'm not sure where to start, but the one consistent feature in my life over the past six weeks has been knitting! My hand has virtually mended now and except for heavy lifting or bare knuckle fighting I feel I can tackle pretty much anything I did previously. (For new readers... I'm not in the habit of fighting, honestly!)  I'm sure knitting has helped to keep my fingers flexible. Mostly I've been making hats and have fallen in love with cables. I don't think any of this woolly headgear will be destined for me as I look about 103 in woolly hats... it's not a pretty sight.

Once I was able to wield a pair of scissors safely, I also cut out the fabric to make a new dress... It's the Factory Dress by Merchant and Mills since you ask. It's a lovely dusty pink linen that I bought over a year ago. I don't like to rush things! And it just so happens that it is a perfect match for the beautiful yarn that I bought from Whistlebare last week. I'm progressing from hats and intend to make myself an Aran cardigan in the pink, although the blue is already another cabled hat.

Talking of Aran cardigans, I have also been doing some surgery on an Aran jacket that I knitted over 40 years ago from yarn that my parents brought back from Scotland in 1978, bought directly from the mill.

As you can see it has been sadly neglected in recent years, often just worn around the garden or to keep me warm in the studio (hence the paint on the very worn cuff) It has been given a good wash, seams have been repaired and both cuffs have been ripped back and re-knitted, with a ball of yarn that was spun from my friend's Ryland sheep. And I have to say it is as good as new!

This is me wearing it about 37 years ago... I know because the small child I am dragging along is my eldest son and he recently celebrated his 38th birthday. Which makes me feel very old... maybe I really am 103 so it's no surprise that I look like an old lady in woolly hats! I do wonder if the jacket will still be going strong in another 40 years (when I actually will be 103 in the unlikely event I am still around). I have a feeling the jacket will outlive me and hope there will still be someone who wants to wear it.

In other news... there has been baking. As the weather cooled, the Aga was switched back on which means once again I have an oven and can bake. My lovely sourdough starter Vincent Van Dough has gently bubbled away in the fridge, occasionally being fed or being added to pancakes and is now incredibly vigorous.

So now it is supplying us with bread as well as pancakes.

Of course I have been making cakes too whilst still basking in the novelty of having an oven, after a summer without one.

So that's what I have been up to... as well as seeing family while we still can, getting out to walk, reading lots of books and generally avoiding the news. I think this might be the pattern of our lives for some time yet. I'm also continuing with my online teaching which fortunately is going really well as this morning I have had conformation of yet another face to face class being cancelled. Details of my latest class are in the link below but the best way to keep up to date with what I'm teaching is via my newsletter which you can sign up for via the link in the sidebar. I think online teaching is the future for me now and it certainly has its appeal without all the bags to pack and load in the car, not to mention the long car journeys around the country too.

Free Machine Fun - Thread Painting

So that's my news... how have you been?

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Knitting myself in Knots

An update on the hand since I was last here...
I turned up for my scheduled surgery having had nil by mouth for 12 hours to find I wasn't on the list for the day. During the long wait to find out what was happening, a young lad with an identical injury to mine asked me if I had broken my hand fighting. Being rather alarmed that I looked the sort of person who might sustain an injury due to fisticuffs I explained 'my fall' but wish I had told a little white lie. It probably would have made his day to have met a boxing granny! Eventually I got to see the surgeon for him to tell me he didn't think I needed surgery after all, which was actually a relief, although probably quite convenient given I'd been missed off the schedule. I didn't really want anyone cutting my hand open so I didn't mind. Apparently there is a slightly higher risk of me breaking it again without a pin so it means my fighting days are over but I reckon I can live with that.


The cumbersome cast was removed and replaced by a splint with some pretty snazzy purple strapping, allowing some freedom of movement in my forefinger and thumb. The world was my oyster with such a nimble pincer movement, although I soon discovered picking up anything heavier than a jigsaw piece was pretty much impossible.


Much as I appreciated being lent the jigsaws, after finishing the second one I really had scaled the heights of boredom. I couldn't cope with this for another four weeks. Spying some knitting that had been languishing on the needles for the past six months I had a mad idea. This was the first of a pair of Latvian mittens that I offered to knit for a friend who didn't understand the pattern. I didn't like to tell her that I didn't understand the pattern either, so this was about the third reincarnation of mitten no. one which was why it had been abandoned. There were just about six rows left on the thumb and it would be finished. What if I could adapt my pincer movement to knitting? I found by supporting the knitting with my left hand I could grab the yarn and wrap it around the needle with my thumb and finger of the broken hand. It was slow, it was cumbersome, but I could do it and after about three nights I finished the first mitt whilst watching endless episodes of the Fruity Knitting podcast.  In fact I have learned so much about knitting during those few rounds of the mitten thumb I think I now sort of understand the pattern and the second mitt will be a doddle. Well it might be once I can use my hand properly again. At least I have cast on and I'm ready to go.


Inspired my my mitten success I thought I would practise on something a little less fiddly and found a kit I bought last year from my lovely friend Lucy Locket for a hot water bottle cover. Except it wasn't less fiddly and in fact was cast on over two circular needles creating a seamless bag, something I had never done before. But my technique has improved and I can now even support the right hand needle in my right hand... and all that thumb twiddling is proving to be excellent physio.


So now I have a lovely new hot water bottle cover which I don't really need but that's beside the point!


Something else I have discovered I can do with just a finger and thumb is press those buttons that say 'buy now' and I seem to have purchased several more balls of yarn for the literally hundreds more knitting projects that I'm planning. I don't like to do things by half... I'm all or nothing me.


In between all the knitting planning, knitting watching and knitting doing I've also found time to record the final videos for my next online class "Free machine fun - drawing with the needle". Some of my stitching is a bit wonky but I can draw better with the sewing machine than I can with a pencil so it has all worked out quite well and is a lovely introduction to free machine embroidery for the beginner or anyone wanting to brush up their skills. You can find out more about it here if you are interested:


So that's my news for the past couple of weeks. I've still got another week or so of wearing this splint so plenty of time to discover more skills... which funnily enough don't include cooking, washing up, vacuuming, ironing etc. But I think I can cope with that.

 

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Just when you least expect it

You guessed I would be back didn’t you, although I’m here for reasons I would never have guessed! Since I was last here it has been quite a month one way or another. 

 

It all began with my daughter in law being taken into hospital in labour three weeks early. After four very stressful days for them (and considerable worry for us), the labour wasn’t progressing and so Rosie was delivered by emergency caesarean. Fortunately, all was well eventually and we have another beautiful and very tiny granddaughter



Meanwhile, Stewart had received a call that his father was very poorly. He drove straight up to Scotland not knowing if he would get to see him. As it happens his lovely Dad hung for another week before passing away peacefully, so Stewart, his Mum and sister were all able to be with him. Not entirely unexpected but sad, nevertheless. Meanwhile the dog and I carried on at home, with one more weekend of Open Windows and then the launch of my online course. Amid all the stress and sadness, it was an incredibly successful launch and the class was full within a week. So far so good and there have already been some beautiful results, so I have started to plan and film for some more shorter classes to be launched in the autumn, although I’ve had to put a temporary stop to that for now. Read on and you’ll understand why.



Couple of the finished landscapes from my course.


Of course, we have since both returned to Scotland for the funeral, which was a beautiful send off for a much loved man, despite only being allowed twenty people, all masked. Given what a tough few weeks we’d had, I suggested we stop off for a couple of days break on our journey home. Despite what seemed like the entire country choosing to vacation in the UK we eventually found a fabulous B & B in Ambleside in the Lake District.

The town was too crowded for my liking and there was an awful amount of litter everywhere, but it was still beautiful and the weather was kind to us.  There was a lot of rain overnight, however it was dry during the day and we managed two wonderful days of walking. Until…




I slipped on some wet mossy rocks on a steep descent falling heavily on my lower back, putting my right hand out to stop my fall. After lying in the wet for what seemed like an age, I got up, brushed myself off and walked gingerly back to our B & B. After a hot shower I decided I was a bit shaken up and bruised but okay and we even managed to go out for pizza. Fortunately, I can still hold a wine glass in my left hand.



We drove home the following day and despite not having much pain in my hand it was very bruised and swollen and I couldn’t grip anything or apply any pressure so called 111 for advice. After endless questions and answers, which I then had to repeat an hour later to the clinical practitioner who called back, I was told I should not go to A & E but rest, ice, compress and elevate my hand for 72 hours. 72 hours later, with virtually no improvement, I called 111 again as advised. Despite them having all my notes cue all the same questions all over again… four hours later when I got the call back I went through them yet again for a fourth time… questions designed to ascertain if I had internal bleeding, was about to have a heart attack or had contracted an infection. All I needed to know was could I get myself an x ray! And the diagnosis… ‘I can’t tell from your answers whether it is bone or soft tissue damage’ No shit Sherlock! As a result, I was advised to call my GP who could book me in for an x ray… hooray! Except after going through it all again, I discovered he could indeed book me in for an x ray (although he was reluctant as he didn’t think my hand looked swollen enough from the photo) but because of Covid there would be a six week wait. So finally, the next morning we drove 25 miles to a walk in critical care centre, where the staff were wonderful.  I was seen within an hour, received x rays of my hand… and received the diagnosis. A spiral fracture of my fourth metacarpal on my right hand, plastered to my fingertips there and then and referred to plastic surgery to have a pin inserted, which will happen tomorrow!



I’m not complaining… when it works our NHS is wonderful and when I finally received it, my care was excellent but it does feel like the right hand hasn’t a clue what the left is doing… bit like me at the moment really. The nurse who did my plaster agreed 111 needs to get its act together!

 

So here  I am trying hard not to focus on all the things  I can’t do which are many, like write, draw, paint, knit, crochet, sew, tie my shoelaces, cut up my own food etc and instead think of all the things I can do, which are few!

 

I can type very slowly with one finger of my left hand, which is why I’ve written a blog post, although it has taken all morning so I can’t really see it becoming a regular activity.


 

I can read and fortunately have a pile of books to get through. I have just finished ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ which I really enjoyed despite finding bits of it hard to believe. I also felt the last couple of chapters were superfluous and it could have done without all the explaining… hard to say much without giving away spoilers but I prefer an author who leaves something to the imagination. I have also read ‘The Distance Between Us’ by Maggie O’Farrell who always writes a good story and I’m currently loving ‘Moon Tiger’ by Penelope Lively.

 

Of course, I can watch TV and we’re working through the entire ‘Line of Duty’ boxset.  I’m not sure how we missed this up until now but it is edge of your seat amazing. So cleverly scripted and well-acted, I love it.

 

Well meaning friends in the art community have suggested it is an opportunity for exploring work with my non dominant hand but I’m not really feeling the urge for that right now. Maybe in a week or so when I’m really bored.

 

So that’s my news. I’m now going to stop as I have cramp in my left hand from all this unexpected activity. I’m going to see what I can rustle up for lunch as Stewart is at work and I’m on my own today… could be interesting. And then I’m going for a walk (without the dog, who I can’t manage on my own) to borrow a jigsaw from a friend, although it now looks like it's going to rain and I'm not sure I can get my coat on. Can’t remember when I last did a jigsaw!

 

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Venturing into the Unknown

I realised the other day I have been writing this blog for thirteen years this month, which coincided with me thinking again that perhaps it is time I stopped. I'm no longer very sure who my target reader is or whether they are still reading and I am no longer very sure why I am writing. As I write less and less frequently it is feeling as though the blog is gradually fading away and maybe that's the way it should end rather than with a big announcement from me. So I'm not here to to say that this is my last post (although it could be) but I'm not sure when I'll be back again.

Last time I was here I spoke of feeling a bit 'flat' and I know a few of you identified with that feeling. We're all getting a bit fed up with the current situation yet know it's far from over. But I'm not one to stay feeling that way for long and the last couple of weeks have been quite exciting. The Open Windows project was hugely successful and far exceeded my expectations. I ended up creating over fifty drawing in the end, of 71 people (five of them twice), 11 dogs (2 of them twice!), 2 cats, 2 goats, an owl, a budgie, a sock puppet and Iggle Piggle! I sat outside and spent my weekends drawing, stopping to chat to visitors who came to see the portraits as well as those just passing. We have got to know our neighbours better and made new friends in the village. It became quite the talking point.



We were lucky with the weather too and of the eight days it was only last Saturday that was wet. I started out sitting outside but as the rain started I retreated to just inside my front door.



I sat for a while working (more about that in a minute) but as the rain became heavier it was obvious that no-one was going to be hanging around looking at pictures in my window, so I called it a day. But Sunday I was back outside for a great last day. If it hadn't been for the virus, Open Studios would have taken place as usual and I would never have come up with the crazy idea of filling the forty panes in my living room window with portraits of friends and neighbours. Sometimes it takes a change of circumstance to make us think outside the box and venture into the unknown.


And so to my next venture into the unknown which is online teaching. I had occasionally thought it was something I might try one day, but there was never any real incentive until of course, all of my face to face teaching stopped. And so for the past three weeks every spare minute has been spent recording and editing videos and adapting one of my most popular courses into an online course which goes live this Saturday.
It is rather exciting but slightly nerve wracking too... I haven't quite finished editing and uploading the videos (that's what I was doing while the rain kept me inside my doorway at the weekend). Enrolment for my Machine Textured Landscapes course has already opened and I'm discovering how much time it takes to answer all the questions that keep coming in and keeping an eye on everything. A bit like walking around a classroom checking on everyone I suppose. So although it has been keeping me awake at night it is mostly VERY exciting!


So if you fancy learning how to stitch your own landscape like the one below you can find out more by clicking on this link


So here I am venturing into unknown territory, not sure what the future is going to hold... and already thinking about the next big new idea. So maybe I shouldn't stop blogging just yet or you will never find out what that is. And it's a good one!