Tuesday 27 January 2009

Going Grey

After yesterday's colourful post some thoughts on lack of colour...

I've always had very dark hair... even as a newborn.

Then in my late twenties the first couple of white hairs appeared and I immediately resorted to a bottle of hair dye. I continued to dye my own hair, keeping it dark, for the next ten years or so. But soon the roots began to show more and the colour didn't look right and so I started to have it coloured at the hairdressers. I went a few shades lighter and had blonde highlights added which tackled the problem of the roots but as the years passed it looked less and less good. The blonde began to look like I was trying too hard and in the winter it started to look decidedly straw like! Also, I was having to have it done more often to keep the roots under control. Unhappy with the way it looked, this autumn I went for a radical change and went coppery red. I thought I was happy until I came home and read a newspaper article that referred to my new shade as "menopausal red"! That was the last straw... at the next appointment my hairdresser was instructed to "Cut it... as short as possible and no colour!"

That was a couple of months and three cuts ago and there still traces of the copper on the ends.

But mostly it's all gone... and for the first time in several years I feel really comfortable with my hair colour.

My hair feels healthier and suits my skin.

It feels like one of the most liberating decisions I've made in a long time!

And think of all that money saved that can be spent on colourful fabric and yarn!

Monday 26 January 2009

Resistance Was Futile

There is a lot of rather gorgeous colourful crochet going on in blogland. It has been spotted here, here, here and most of all here in Attic24. Who wouldn't be tempted by those glorious colours? But no, I'm still only half way through my ripple blanket and it would be silly to start another one... wouldn't it?

But the hexagons are so intriguing and it wouldn't hurt just to learn how to make one... would it?

But having made one, I needed to make another to find out how to join them together which saves all that boring bit of sewing them together... necessary don't you think?

And then while I was out shopping for something totally unrelated I happened, quite accidently you understand, to buy this yarn.

And before I knew it... another blanket started. And it's even more addictive than the ripples. There's always the tempation to add just one more hexagon... and another... and another...
I knew you would understand!

It might have been bigger, but like Lesley I grew a little too confident and cast aside the instructions (which you can find here) which resulted in several "not quite right" hexagons. I tried to ignore them but the slightly obsessive side of me couldn't let it go and so they were unravelled and started again.

With all this colour I couldn't resist a colourful lunch today... just about my favourite soup... Ginger and orange with lentils.

I think we all need more colour by the end of January - that's my excuse anyway!

Sunday 25 January 2009

Can't think of a Title!

What a fun day we had yesterday at Art and Stitch. I got to sit and play at my sewing machine all day, talk to lots of people and meet some blogging friends... which can't be bad for a day's work. This is me with Angela, photo courtesy of Julie!

I did lots of demonstrating (and drinking tea and talking!) so now as well as there being a turquoise brooch there is also...

A red brooch with a flower...

A purple (yes... it is purple) brooch with a flower...

And a red brooch with a heart. So the winner of my heavy metal giveaway can choose their prize and pick the brooch they like best.

Which leads me nicely to ... the winner... Toffeeapple. If you email me with your address and tell me which brooch you would prefer I'll get it in the post this week.

A quick change of subject... many of you will already know that tonight is Burns' night. Not any old Burns' night but the 250th anniversay of the birth of Robert Burns. So yesterday my dear Scottish husband came home with this... a haggis.

Now call me fussy... but to someone who hasn't eaten meat in over 15 years the idea of minced up lamb's lungs, heart and liver, mixed with spices and oatmeal all wrapped up in a sheep's stomach isn't all that appealing! But I was a dutiful wife and I cooked the said beast and even bashed some neeps to go with it!

There are some compensations to it being Burns' night though!

Friday 23 January 2009

New Zealand

Before Christmas I was commissioned to make two landscape style pictures that could hang together, inspired by New Zealand... interesting as I've never been there. I decided to start with the beautiful colours found in paua shells.

Then with a little bit of internet research (this is when I decide perhaps I do love computers) I started to play with some ideas.

And this has resulted in the following two stitched landscapes. (Although the photographs are not entirely true to the colours.)

These will be on their way to New Zealand in February as a wedding present for a couple I have never met. I quite like the idea of them being on a wall on the other side of the world. I just hope the recipients like them!

Thursday 22 January 2009

Heavy metal Giveaway!

There were a couple of questions after my last post, about stitching on metal, which I thought I would answer here (probably about as close to a tutorial as I'm ever likely to come!) Stitching on metal is pretty much the same as stitching on fabric, as long it is soft and pliable enough for a needle to pass through. You can buy special packs of metal shim which come in in different types such as copper, brass and pewter but to start with you can just as easily use an empty tomato puree tube - preferably washed! Although the tubes are coated aluminium the inside is brass coloured.

I use a no. 90/14 universal needle and although you can use a smaller needle it is more likely to break. You can use any thread - for the cuff I used a metallic thread but here I am using rayon. The most important thing is to use a fairly thick backing fabric - such as pelmet vilene or felt. This is important because as the needle pierces the metal it leaves sharp edges which would shred the thread and possibly scratch your machine, but by backing it with a thick fabric the sharp edges become embedded in the fabric.

The machine is then set up for free machining - feed dogs lowered, embroidery foot on and top tension slightly reduced.. and away you go and start stitching your design.

Finish off with some beads, satin stitch it onto a firm backing, add a brooch back... and there it is... tomato puree jewellery!

In class on Tuesday, the ladies started some samples of stitching on metal but will be finishing them next week so you'll have to wait to see the results but I can show you what they finished from the week before which was stitching with foils with excellent results.

I will be demonstrating these techniques among many others this Saturday at a special open day at "Art and Stitch" which is Angela's needlework and craft shop in Peterborough. If you are in the area please come and say hello. And talking of Angela, look at the lovely things I won in her giveaway... this fabulous Oliver Twist inspiration pack...

And chocolate!
Thank you Angela.

On the subject of giveaways... I totally missed my 250th blog post so instead I'll have a 253rd blog post giveaway. If you would like to win the little turquoise tomato puree brooch... leave me a comment by Sunday evening and I'll pick out a name.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Playing with Metal

This afternoon I'm teaching my weekly machine embroidery class in Letchworth. This term we are looking at stitching with things other than fabrics and today we are stitching on metals. Although I have lots of samples and techniques to try I thought it would be fun if they had a little project to work on and so I've been playing and have come up with this cuff.

Very simple and rather made up as I went along...

but I was happy enough with the results that I might even wear it! Squares of copper shim stitched onto a background of velvet bonded onto pelmet vilene and finished off with some beads stitched on by hand... just in case you were wondering!

And if you like the idea of stitching into metal can I recommend this book. Not only because it is full of fabulous ideas and gorgeous pictures but also beacause it was written by a friend. I did my City and Guilds with Ann and she is a very talented embroiderer, winning a City and Guilds medal for excellence twice... and she's a lovely lady as well!

Friday 16 January 2009

Random Stuff!

This post is full of random stuff, with no link between any of it... sometimes it happens that way! I've just got back from Granchester where I've been speaking to The Cambridge Quilters. No matter how often I talk to groups I always find it nerve wracking and convince myself everyone is going to be bored silly! But they were a lovely group of ladies, who laughed in the right places and said nice things about my work so it has been an enjoyable morning. If you are looking in ... thank you Cambridge Quilters, it was lovely to meet you!

Thank you all for the wonderful supportive messages you left on my last post. I don't know why such a lack of confidence seems to accompany working creatively but it does and your encouraging words meant a lot. As promised some more photos of the shirt, which is far from complete. Hand sewing text is laboriously slow!

But I'm enjoying seeing the work grow and eventually hope to cover the whole things with these messages.

All of them have been things that I have actually said over the past few weeks so I think it will be interesting to read them in years to come.

My Dad said it reminded him of when I was a teenager and didn't want to come home at a reasonable time etc... that was different though, wasn't it?

It is now all packed up and ready to take to London tomorrow. I should also thank my tutor James Hunting for his support and help during this module. He's been brilliant!

I've had a super parcel in the post this week from Andrea of Indigo Blue who send these fabulous wiggly bags made by her year 10 students. You can read how she went about it on her blog. They are fabulous Andrea, thank you so much and please thank your students too. It's not too late if anyone still wants to make wiggly bags (these are bags used by children receiving treatment for cancer. It keeps their IV lines tidy and out of the way) - just drop me an e mail.

What else.. Julia at Marmalade Kiss is having a giveaway so do go and pay her a visit! And I have to tell you about the latest book I am reading - The Time Traveller's Wife - it is fantastic and very clever. It tells the beautiful love story of Henry and Clare who meet when Clare is 6 and Henry is 36 yet marry when Clare is 22 and Henry is 30... you just have to read it! I'm having trouble putting it down at the moment!

Finally, I would like to leave you with something I saw in the Times this week that amused me... something for those of you who keep chickens and are also partial to a little knitting... a project for the weekend!

They are rescued battery hens whose feathers are not as thick as they should be so they have little sweaters to keep them warm. Was it wrong to laugh?

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Another module finished.

It has been a long time since I posted anything about my degree but that doesn't mean I haven't been working during all the Christmas prep, Young Embroiderers, exploding ovens etc etc. The last time I posted I was looking at materials and in particular the idea of protection. The idea of making a jacket with the "teeth" around the cuff has been put on hold (I took note of your comment Jodie!) but I'll come back to it I'm sure. Meanwhile I moved onto the next assignment which was about language. I looked at banners from the suffrage movement and from there went on to look at artists who use text in their work, in particular the work of Arthur Bispo do Rosario and Tilleke Schwarz. Before long I found myself back looking at the idea of protection and in particular how we protect our children. I involved the boys and we got to talking about all the things mothers say when children leave the protection of home to go out - things that in their eyes are seen as nagging but really are just hidden ways of saying "I care, I want you to be safe... I love you."

From this came the idea of a protective garment so I chose a school shirt - something they all might have worn to leave the house and I have embroidered messages all over the surface, much in the same way their friends scribble messages of friendship over their shirts in marker pen when they leave school. This isn't finished due to to me slicing the end of my thumb while chopping carrots which is making hand sewing a bit tricky, and I doubt it will be completely finished before assessment day.. on Saturday... but I'll show more at the end of the week.

The final assignment has been a personal project concerned with aspects of domesticity. Again I was drawn back to family life, my role within the family and once more the idea of protection. It was also apparent that text and lists were featuring heavily in all my work and so I decided to make an apron as a symbol of both domesticity and as a protective item covered with lists of words. This then evolved into three aprons to represent the multiplicity of my roles within the home - as a wife, a mother and a housekeeper.

This one was "Mother"

All three aprons are worked on a fine muslin with machined drawn fabric work edging and free machined lettering. Fun and games working on muslin let me tell you!

This one was "Housekeeper" - I didn't want to use the word "Housewife" and I don't like the American term "Homemaker" I wanted to incorporate a piece of traditional looking needlework on the housekeeper apron. Stewart objected to me putting ironing on the list as he does most of the ironing!

And the last apron was "Wife"

It's funny but Stewart didn't object to me writing "nag" on the list of words on the bottom of this apron!

The idea behind the three aprons and that they are made from muslin (apart from the fact muslin is often used as a cleaning cloth) is that they can be layered so that the different roles can be worn "on top" but without completely covering the other roles.

I quite like this as a concept but I'm not sure how well it works. I've called it "Who am I?"

It wasn't easy to photograph and looks better in "real life"

So now it all has to be packed up and taken to London for assessment on Saturday and we get a few weeks off before the next module starts!