Thursday, 31 July 2008

The Fabric of Myth

Jacob has gone on holiday with his Dad which has given me a break from the daily routine of blood tests, injections and regular meals and snacks. This has meant a day out all on my own today! I ventured into the depths of Warwickshire to Compton Verney... not a secret in Warwickshire I'm sure but certainly a well kept secret from me! Set in beautiful gardens (even on this dull day) designed by Capability Brown...

this grade I listed mansion designed by Robert Adam houses a wealth of Art treasures.

In particular I had gone to see an exhibition called "The Fabric of Myth" which explores textile myths from classical literature and looks at their influence on historic and contemporary art. It looks at artists who consciously use textiles as their medium. This is very relevant to my Opus course in more ways than one, plus I have to review an exhibition for the current module so it was a useful day as well as fun. The exhibition was brilliant - a diverse range of work to see ranging from this fabulous tapestry designed by Henry Moore to classical artefacts and manuscripts.

There was a particularly poignant set of work produced by people who had been institutionalised either in prison or in hospital for various reasons, again as diverse as embroidery from Mary Queen of Scots to the incredible miniature embroideries of Ray Materson created from recycled thread taken from old socks while he served a long term prison sentence. That's what I call resourceful!

These embroideries are about 3 x 2 inches and amazingly detailed. As well as going round the exhibition twice I also had a superb lunch (grilled vegetables and goat's cheese salad) in the restaurant which served a fabulous range of locally sourced food and spent money in the small but carefully stocked gift shop!

Three new books (including the exhibition catalogue) all relevant to my course so all totally justified of course!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

So Exciting!

When a packet arrives with this written on the back, you just know it's going to be something exciting...

Inside there was a multicoloured parcel and chocolate... a good start... chocolate is exciting!

But nothing prepared me for the excitement of opening the parcel. Inside was my mini quilt from the very lovely, slightly mad but wonderful Lucy Locket. Mad... because she agreed to make so many quilts for her quilt swap but lovely and wonderful for making something so special for me. It has my dog Barley, with his birthday sausage and lots of bunting and I can't even begin to describe how amazing this is. It is very special and very precious, so Lucy Locket....


And look who it was designed by.... Daisy Locket.

So... THANK YOU Daisy too!

I feel very privileged indeed to receive this and it will be proudly displayed in my house for all to see! An added bonus was I got to have a lovely long chat with Mrs Locket today too!

On a slightly different note I was recently tagged by Jenny to do a "six random facts" post because apparently she is intrigued! Try as I might, so far I have only come up with two things which I will save for another time but meanwhile to satisfy your curiosity Jenny you can follow this link and it will take you back to when I did this once before... with seven random facts. Not very intriguing but it does have some embarrasing photos!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

A Day Off...

from studying and a day in London instead. One of things we got to see yesterday was "The Hyperbolic Coral Reef" on display at the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank. This amazing display is a constantly growing crochet coral reef that was conceived in direct response to the plight of the world's coral reef which is diminishing at a rapid rate due to polution and global warming. A combination of science, art and handicraft - it was stunning! I hope I'm not breaking any rules by showing you my photographs but as I was allowed to take them I'm assuming it's okay to share them...

It's hard to believe that some of these are actually crochet! I don't have a list of the contributors but I do know that one of them is Helle Jorgensen who has a blog, so do pay a visit. The exhibition is on until August 17 if you happen to find yourself in the area - I can recommend it.

We finished off the day by going to the cinema to see this...

... which has to been one of the best films I've seen in a long time. Top marks for "feel good factor" and laughter so I definitely recommend this too. (I'm going with a friend to see it again on Tuesday!)

The only downside is that I can't stop humming Abba tunes all day today!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Lazy Days

What fantastic weather for the first week of the school summer holidays... warm and sunny. I have been reading blogs about lazy days filled with activities like paddling and wishing I could be spending my days like that. Instead this is what I've been doing indoors today... studying! There have been no photos of stitch samples or artwork for Opus recently because my current module involves lots of reading, writing and research about issues of twentieth century art, which will result in an essay at the end of the module.

There was compensation at the end of the day though!

The angle of that photo looks as though I've already had a couple before I took it! I hadn't... honestly!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Gifts and Another Birthday

One way or another I've recieved lots of good things lately so thought it was time I mentioned them. First of all, Vicky gave me this Brillante Weblog award. Thank you Vicky - it's always very flattering to get awards as I still find it somewhat incredible that anyone actual reads this ramble. Of course there are rules... post the logo, (done it) link to the sender, ( done it) and the inevitable pass it on to seven other blogs. But I just can't do that because I read so many which are all brilliant and brighten up my day and I would worry about who I was leaving out. So I'm opting out and passing it on to you all!

Also last week I received a belated birthday gift from my friend Diana who has been in Iceland visiting her son... these amazing little knitted mittens. That's a 5p coin beside them to show just how small they are. I think they are fanatastic - they appeal to my sense of the ridiculous!

Next up a gift to myself... I've recently discovered another lovely blog... Contemporary Embroidery. Karen makes the most exquisite hand embroidered silk cloths and I couldn't resist treating myself to this pin cushion from her etsy shop. She also sent two beautifully embroidered buttons. It makes me want to knit or sew something just to use the buttons.

But my biggest surprise of all this week came from Dot. We got to know each other quite a while back when Dot asked would I like to swap a sock creature for one of her dolls. Sock creature Sally Splatt went to live in Australia and I received Esmerelda, in return. We exchanged emails etc and as a result I sent a small parcel over for Dot's niece Phoebe who has similar problems to Jacob. I certainly didn't expect anything in return so imagine my delight and surprise when a parcel arrived on Saturday absolutely full of gifts. There was this beautifully stitched doll with two more smaller dolls in her pocket.

Also this hanging bird covered with stitch and beads and sequins - the detail is amazing.

And nestling on its back is another little doll.

As if that wasn't enough Dot also sent this wonderful stash of fabrics plus beads and buttons which I will put to good use. Thank you Dot - you are a kind and generous person - this was a lovely surprise to receive.

The last thing isn't really a gift but home grown veg always feel like a bonus! My purple podded peas (seeds from Celia) are ready to pick.

And this is the result... aren't they fabulous. I love the colours together... and they tasted pretty good too... steamed with broad beans and courgettes for dinner last night.

Did I mention a another birthday... oh yes... my blog is one year old today! I could get all philisophical and reflective at this stage but I'll spare you as I think I've written enough for one night! Sadly, no cake!

Monday, 21 July 2008

A month earlier than planned

but the money ran out! Joe arrived home today after eight months travelling through South America, New Zealand, Fiji, Australia, Singapore and Thailand.

He has arrived back minus his hair (we think he sold it for the price of his air ticket home) but has gained a tattoo! Apparently it says Joseph in Thai. It sounds as though he has had an amazing time (apart from a scary incident with a mountain bike) but it's wonderful to have him home... even though he has already gone out again for the evening!

I was at Heathrow to meet him this morning at 6 am which means I've been up since about 4 am so most of the day has been a bit of a write-off (apart from the six loads of laundry), however I have managed to put some items in the etsy shop including this chap... hope to get some more in by the end of the week.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Remember these?

I've overcome my fear and have found a home for them which means they are no longer free to hide in dark corners of my workroom. I used the opportunity to experiment with some bag making techniques and this is the result:

A clutch bag made from a brocade furnishing fabric which I free machined with a spider web pattern and lined with purple silk to match my spiders! I even piped the edging which doesn't pass close scrutiny but it's the first time I've piped anything (other than cake icing but that's not the same is it?) so I was feeling rather pleased with myself.

I even had to handle the said beasts to stitch them in place and now they don't seem nearly so scary. So I've conquered my fear of (plastic) spiders... real ones are another matter... and I've got a bag into the bargain!

Time for blogging... Can you tell Open Studios are a bit slow this afternoon and we've been short on visitors. However... Fannie Mae has been sold and poor Freddie is now all on his own.

Friday, 18 July 2008

I would like to introduce you

... to Freddie Mac and his sister Fannie Mae... financial whizz kids!

They've come to replenish my stock for my second weekend of Cambridge Open Studios. If you live within easy reach of South Cambs then please come and visit us. We're open from 11 am until 6 pm Saturday and Sunday and would love to see you.
Of course, should Freddie and Fannie not find suitable new homes then they will be going in the etsy shop... that is providing I can remember how to operate it!

Thursday, 17 July 2008


The gooseberry ice cream!

A match for Haagen Daas any day!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Fruit for free

Thank you for all the kind wishes for my open studio weekend. It went well with almost 50 visitors over the weekend and an added bonus... I actually sold seven pictures on Sunday. I was very excited let me tell you! Almost as exciting was meeting my first visitors through the door on Saturday. A couple came in and the lady said how strange it felt walking into someone's house. We agreed and laughed and then she told me she reads my blog... that felt strange! We all know there must be readers out there we are totally unaware about but it's not something I'd thought about very much until now. So for Catherine and all the other anonymous readers out there... HELLO!!!


Before the weekend I picked these cherries from trees in the field behind our house.

And I was given this wonderful bowl of gooseberries from a friend's garden.

Beautiful colours although I imagined they would turn a sludgy brown if cooked together so instead I thought I would try to make some cherry jam.

I've never made cherry jam before and reading that it doesn't set very well I added some chopped rhubarb from the garden... and voila! Three pots of cherry and rhubarb jam for the price of a bag of sugar.

I was obviously feeing creative and inspired by Amy's jam pot cover, I made this from some scraps of felt.

And then of course I had to try the jam so had to make some scones too. Verdict... cherry and rhubarb make a very good combination!

And as for the gooseberries - they got stewed up and mixed with custard and cream to make this Goosberry Fool. Uninspiring to look at but tastes delicious. And there is so much of it, half will be frozen and turned into ice cream... yummy!

Friday, 11 July 2008

A virtual tour

I've finally finished hiding junk in cupboards and drawers and stuffing stuff under the beds and I'm just about ready for Open Studios in the morning. This is the fourth year I've participated in Cambridge Open Studios and I'm a lot more relaxed about it than the first time - we completed repainted the hall two weeks before opening then! Only certain parts of the house are open but it's still a little nerve wracking knowing that total strangers will be wandering around. Mostly people are very kind and polite but occasionally someone will forget that they are in our home - like the lady who complained about the lighting! The biggest job was getting my studio relatively tidy - there is so much junk in the room and I seem to work in a permanent mess. This is after the clear up... at least you can see the floor!

But there are still lots of bags and boxes under the tables!

I've got the orange dress on display in the hall.

Plenty of pictures hanging in the hallway

And in the dining room

Baskets of sock creatures waiting to find new homes

And some brooches and other bits and bobs for sale.
(Those left over will go in my very neglected etsy shop)

Of course what I didn't need to be doing today was making vast quantities of tirimisu for our Embroiderers Guild Summer Supper Party this evening. But I hadn't really thought that one through!

All I need now are visitors in the morning!