Monday 30 March 2009


Last week I finished my essay and assignment on the history of English embroidery and started the next assignment looking at Samplers. I happened to notice that there was an exhibition called Sampling on at Nottingham Castle. So... on a bit of a whim Stewart and I drove up to Nottingham on Saturday to visit the castle...

or more specifically, the castle museum. It is a fabulous museum, housing some wonderful treasures so Stewart went off to explore while I did some in depth study of the Samplers on display.

The exhibition was quite small but had some exquisite examples of Samplers from the Embroiderers'Guild collection, together with new work from artist Heather Belcher. Although the new work was interesting, it was the old stuff I'd come to see.

Some wonderful 17th century Spot Samplers stitched in coloured silks and silver gilt on linen cloth. The stitching is unbelievably tiny and so neat!

There were also Band Samplers from the same period.

The 18th century was represented by work largely made by children in the schoolroom, like this Scottish Sampler with a house motif

And this fabulous Verse Sampler stitched in 1788. These were made by children to encourage such qualities as virtue and obedience! (That is obviously where I went wrong!)

Later in the 18th century samplers were made to show practical skills such as darning. This Darning Sampler is a particularly beautiful example.

I was also delighted to see some work from the 1930s by Rebecca Crompton as she was one of the embroiderers I studied for my Diploma in Machine Embroidery. The machine stitching is perfect... I've a long was to go before my free machining is that neat!

While I was in Nottingham I had hoped I might bump into the sherriff....

Instead I had my own lovely Friar Tuck (which explains the mystery of the cake) to drive me home!

Saturday 28 March 2009

Friday Evening...

I thought I would make a sponge cake to enjoy with our afternoon tea over the weekend.

This was what remained on Saturday morning! And it wasn't me.....

Thursday 26 March 2009

Baubles, Bangles and Beads

A few weeks ago I was the very lucky winner of a giveaway on Silver Pebble's blog and I received this beautiful old tin full of wonderful beads and jewellery making supplies.

Every day when I've gone into my workroom the beautiful tin has sat there taunting me and every day I've thought maybe tomorrow I'll have time....

Finally today, in between writing an essay I've found some time to play and let me tell you it's not as easy as you might think! I've been confused by the terminology of crimps, clusters and headpins, by the difference between round nose pliers (I never even knew pliers had noses!) and snipe nose pliers and frustrated by snapping wires and dropping beads into a black hole in my kitchen floor. But I persevered and with Emma's excellent instructions I made a ring!

Bolstered by my success I went on to make a bracelet, and although the joins and attachments might not pass muster under close scrutiny I'm really pleased with the result.

It's a little bit too long and I would like to add some more beads but I can't do that until I've got some more headpins (see, I'm speaking the jargon already) which of course meant I had to do some shopping. And while I was shopping for headpins I just happened to pop a few extra items in my shopping basket... quite by accident!

... I almost forgot to show you the matching earrings!

Thank you for such a lovely giveaway Emma. Back to my essay now....

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Class catch up

This Tuesday was the last class this term for my weekly machine embroidery group. Over the past couple of weeks they have been stitching on Lutradur, a man made material that can be painted and distressed with heat. They made landscape type images which they then stiched into book covers and these are some of the results:

And Pat brought in a cushion that she'd finished using a technique of stitching onto tapestry canvas that we did in the autumn.

I've not posted much recently from the Zigzag group, mostly because we haven't had a meeting since before Christmas and also because they have been working over several months on a piece for an exhibition. These are now virtually all finished ready for the exhibition at the Haberdasher's Aske School in Elstree, Herts on May 9th. They started with this picture which was cut into pieces and each member had a piece as inspiration. The only rule was to produce a 2-D textile approx A4 size.

I can't show you their finished pieces before the exhibition but this is a taster of some of the work... some were inspired by colour or shape and others by the subject matter but each one is very different but also very beautiful. Super work ladies... well done!

I'll show the full pictures after the exhibition.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Flower Power

At our Embroiderer's Guild on Friday evening we were treated to a fascinating talk by Linda Rudkin. On a visit to see the Bayeux Tapestry Linda was inspired by the vibrancy of the colours of the wools used for the embroidery and decided to investigate the types of natural dyes that might have been used. This has led to some wonderful work and fabulous discoveries which she very generously shared with us.

She was selling some of the plant materials she uses among which were these Woad seeds. Of course I couldn't resist and now plan on growing Woad this year... not to paint myself like the tribes of Boudicca but to produce a blue dye for fabrics and threads. Watch this space!

Linda was also running a workshop for the Guild on Saturday on "Flower Pounding". I was in Derbyshire on Saturday giving a talk to the Trent and Erewash Valley branch of the EG so I couldn't attend the class but Linda told us enough about the technique for me to give it a try and it was such fun I thought you might like to try too!

1. First select your plant material.

2. Pick the specimens you wish to use and arrange on a piece of white cotton.

3. Secure and cover with masking tape.

4. Turn the cotton over, place on a bread board and (this is the bit I liked) bash with a hammer.

5. As you bash you can start to see the plant dye being released on to the cotton.

6. When you've bashed enough, turn the cotton over and remove the masking tape.

7. And as if by magic... a perfect print of your flowers.

8. Which you can then stitch, paint or embellish to your heart's content.

9. And then turn into a Mother's Day card!

I've spent a lovely day with my Mum, Dad, Brother, his wife and the rest of the family plus two dogs. Lots of eating and drinking as usual! Hope you've had a lovely day too!

Saturday 21 March 2009

A Grand Day Out

It all started with a leisurely 11.30 rendezvous with Jude and Valda at the Royal Academy of Arts to see the Byzantium exhibition.

A beautiful exhibition with some amazing atefacts but disappointing due to the crowds and very low lighting which made it difficult for me to see... it's an age thing! From there we moved on to the Victoria and Albert museum, one of my favourite places.... and headed straight to the cafe for lunch! Suitably refreshed we then saw the exhibition "The Magnificence of the Tzars" which was magnificent indeed. The most splendid outfits, well lit and no crowds - wonderful! We still can't work out how all the ornate and richly decorated clothes survived the revolution, but I'm glad they did.

Another tea break and then we were off again, this time to see "Hats - An Anthology by Stephen Jones" which was just fabulous. Literally hundreds of hats, old hats, royal hats, celebrity hats, ourageous hats... just about every type of hat you can imagine. Well worth a visit if you are in London before the end of May.

There then followed the obligatory visit to the V & A shop which I always think is like an exhibition in itself and then not being ones to let a couple of exhibitions get in the way of good food and drink we headed off to another one of our favourite places... Joe Allen's in Exeter Street for a spot of dinner.

A grand day out indeed!

Tuesday 17 March 2009

For Supper Tonight

Braised beef and dumplings in Guinness (with a hint of orange)

Followed by Chocolate Guinness cake

(from "Feast" by Nigella Lawson)


Monday 16 March 2009

More Jersey

My first workshop of the week was "Button Babes" and this is Muriel and Vera being very studious and sensible. By the end of the week , after a few more classes and getting to know each other a little better it was a slightly different picture as you will see later!

A lot of my photos didn't come out but these are a couple of the finished "Babes".

There were some fabulous books made in the "Bonded Books" class which was made interesting as I was being filmed for Channel ITV. The three hour workshop was condensed into a couple of minutes which was aired before the news on the evening of Friday 13th and can be seen here... about 15 minutes into the programme right after the weather! Forgive my excitment but I've never been on telly before! Apart from the presenter calling all free machining "granite stitch" (I didn't tell her that!) it went quite well. Although I have to say she did do some pretty impressive granite stitch considering she hadn't touched a machine in fourteen years!

There were some amazing flowers made in the "Tyvek Triffids" class

But the highlight of the week was definitely the Sock Monsters. You might think they were working hard and being sensible....

But it wasn't long before the silliness set in!

Which ended up as almost mass hysteria mostly because the hole for the stuffing is between the legs! Do I need to say more? This is Vera looking somewhat less serious! Hello Vera, I know you're reading this!

You might think Angela is actually concentrating hard and being sensible but you'll be wrong...

Because amid all the laughter she managed to stitch the ears on where the arms should be and the arms on instead of the ears! I think he looks quite cute (and I'm impressed that he matches your nail polish Angela!) It was a fun class and I haven't laughed so much in ages... thank you ladies!

Vera's friend Kathleen was making a sock monster too. Vera and Kathleen often make stitched items for charity stalls and Vera was telling me how Kathleen always pins and tacks everything and finishes off her stitches by sewing the ends in by hand, because she was taught properly. So imagine Kathleen's horror when I demonstrated stitching up the socks by holding the edges together with no pins or anything and finished off with a bit of reverse stitching! We were laughing that Kathleen would have to be slapdash and not proper... and so my demo sock monster became "Kathy Slapdash" and here she is...

I might even get her in my sadly neglected Etsy shop this week... well that's the intention anyway, although it's back to work for me tomorrow so it might have to wait!