Overcasting on linen

My first waking thought this morning was “What if …” for the title of this week’s blog post and then various phrases going round my head.
So here goes…


This might be a line of enquiry in a piece of work; adding something different to something I’m cooking; putting colours together in a new way for me; wearing things I don’t normally wear together; at the moment trying another way of keeping my hair out of my eyes when I wash my hair!


It’s about challenging my comfort zone, it’s too easy to just go with what I normally do. It doesn’t have to be a huge change, sometimes just a little tweak will make a big difference to outcome. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but that may suggest something else to try instead, or it may be it needs more.


If I don’t take it too seriously, but consider it playing or experimentation, fun to try, to see what happens if….. then I am much more likely to push my comfort zone. This is how my work develops and changes over time.


A couple of weeks ago I signed up for a free taster course on Abstract Painting called “Find your Joy” with Louise Fletcher. A fairly intense week of videos to watch, assignments to do, Q&A sessions, challenges to partake, a closed Facebook group to share work and thoughts. It was purely play and experimentation, to try new things, to find what you like doing and do more of it, and what you don’t like and to not do it any more. This applied to colour, paint and mark making tools. The intention was to PLAY, not to have finished paintings. Some of the assignments were loose, some prescribed, some had limitations; time or amount of marks made, and probably the most fun was to make a deliberately UGLY painting. This was difficult as elements that I liked kept coming through, but certainly very freeing. It makes you release that the world doesn’t end because you did something that didn’t work.

One of the prescribed piece, marks limited and in a particular order.
Not my usual colour palette.


It wasn’t a waste of time, or paint or paper, which is too easily the first thought, but a way of helping to find what you like and don’t like. It’s about the process, and enjoying that rather than the outcome. 


One of the things that was suggested when we looked at others work was to make a list of things we liked and disliked, not to be critical, nor to copy but as a learning process to help us discover what we do like, colour combinations, shapes, types of lines and marks, abstract or figurative, etc.


Many aspects of the course apply to stitching too, and certainly over the last couple of days I have considered these things as I’ve stitched. Ok, I also need to challenge my stitching, but why do stitches that I don’t enjoy doing, or fight with certain types of thread (the ones that knot and tangle as soon as you look at them), or use fabrics that fray uncontrollably or slip through your fingers. They are so many that I do enjoy using it makes sense to use them, at least most of the time.

Overcasting


One of the “What ifs….” I’ve tried over the last few days was on green red cabbage (oh, I do love that contradiction in terms!), was overcasting on a piece of linen(?). Simple random lines, that look like contour lines on a map.

Continuing stitching

I really enjoyed doing it, and got quite carried away, adding more lines, it then got an UGLY bump in the middle which wouldn’t lie flat.

Getting bumpy

Disappointing. I didn’t want to unpick, it would leave UGLY marks, but need the piece to fit on to the rest of the strip of slow stitch. “What if….” I carried on stitching, up to and around the bump? Would it, could it make the bump lie flat / flatter? I’d got nothing to loose by trying and it’s my new favourite stitch, so I carried on. Yes, it’s still got a little bump, but the whole rectangle will more or less lay flat. And, I like the deeper ridge too. I did manage to stop stitching before I’d covered the whole piece as I like the negative spaces.

Finished stitching

Now I need to attach it to the main piece. Which way up? Having tried it several ways I settled on this – the lines lead into the rest of the piece rather than out of it..

Takes the eye out from the rest of the piece
Drawing the eye in

I have finally finished the travelling book I have at the moment. Time for tea is the theme. I started it weeks ago, but although I was thrilled at the time with the few stitches I had managed to do, I knew they weren’t good enough to put in the book.

First wonky right handed stitches

I wanted to use the peppermint leaves image of the Lidl peppermint tea packet. A simple zigzag outline for the leaves and fly stitch for the veins.

Lidl peppermint tea

The original fly stitches were not so bad, but the outline just wasn’t working. Stem stitch wasn’t right and I didn’t want to do running stitches and then fill in the gaps, it always leaves little spaces between the stitches.

I’d watched the Emily Tull session on drawing and stitching eyes on the Textile Artist.org community stitch challenge 2020 where she uses a curved stitch that is a combination of stem stitch / couched stitch / running stitch which I realised would be perfect for the serrated leaf outline.

Emily Tull technique for curved stitches

It’s basically a loose straight stitch that you then bring the needle up in the middle of the stitch on the oupside of the curve, go over the straight stitch and back down into the same hole. The amount of curve depends how far out you bring the needle up.

Traced outline on the right, used the window as a light box to trace the design on to the fabric with a fine pencil line.

The stitch is easy to do and very effective for curved or zigzag lines. I’m sure I will use it a lot.

I then did fly stitch down the centre of each leaf. I frayed the edges of the calico, and now all ready to be attached to the travelling book.

Finished piece

The right hand page I did weeks ago, simple sketches and collage. The leaf is attached to the left hand page with double sided tape. Signed and all ready to go to it’s owner.

Finished double page spread

The last rotation of this travelling book journey. It will be interesting to see them all and to have mine back.

Joint project banner, 2 letters each and background stitched

I was invited to join Grasby Embroiderers in August 2013, which I was very excited about, a new challenge after finishing my Contemporary Fine Art degree in the June.

We are an exhibiting group of textile artists using hand and machine embroidery in our work. Generally we meet monthly and work on a project for two years, all having the same starting point or title but ending up with very different work, reflecting our own style and interest. We review each other’s work, encourage and make suggestions when we have problems, technical or aesthetic. Group projects, smaller challenges and workshops happen alongside the main bodies of work.

Our most recent exhibition was to be at Grasby Village Hall, to coincide with Lincolnshire’s Open Churches, but it was cancelled due to Covid 19.

This was disappointing after all our work, but unavoidable due to lockdown, hence a Lockdown Challenge. The post fairy delivered us all a used colour catcher and an explanation of the Challenge: basically whatever we wanted to do, just use the colour catcher somehow.

Mine was a grey papery one, a challenge on both counts. Firstly, we had glorious sunshine and blue sky, and I realised some years ago how much I am influenced by the colours I see around me. And secondly, paper is very unforgiving when it comes to stitching, so no unpicking as it leaves a hole. If a line is wrong it can’t be changed; the odd stitch can be re-done if you use the same hole, but it weakens the paper. My hand is still a bit shaky especially as it tires, which it does quite quickly in stitching terms.

My idea came quite quickly, the effects of breaking my arm right at the start of isolating and lockdown were my starting point, and I’d had a “humorous” birthday card with a humerus on. I stem-stitched the outline of the bone slightly reduced in size, and made into two unhumerus pieces not one.

Original design with corrections

The triangle, running-stitched in the colours of my bruises, represented my husband, son and daughter-in-law shielding and looking after me in the first days and weeks of lockdown. I used each colour separately and randomly around the shape.

Bruising – interesting colour palette!
Bruise colours

The square showed me back as part of the team, blue thread as we had day after day of wonderful blue skies and sunshine. This matched my mood, pain reducing and feeling good to be more and more able to do things, left handed initially (hanging washing out one handed was a challenge) and gradually with my right hand and arm too.

The original drawing had the square enclosing the triangle, but the humerus was slightly bigger than I’d intended by the time it was stitched, therefore the triangle too.

The circle couldn’t be any bigger to fit on the colour catcher, so the square was altered and part hidden by the triangle, which fits with not being seen or seeing anyone outside of the home. The circle showed the gradual re-joining the outside world as lockdown is slowly reduced.

The circle is chain stitch, well, really lazy daisy stitches in rainbow colours for the NHS, but nowhere is it a complete rainbow representing the ups and downs of the difficulties they faced and are still facing.

Rainbow colours

The wonky stitches are due to my hand and arm tiring quickly and being a bit wobbly, but this seems quite fitting with the wobbles most of us are feeling from time to time.

Finished piece – the circle is 9cm diameter

The pieces done by others in the group can be found on Facebook under Grasby Embroiderers.

Cheap acrylic paints from Lidl

Over the last few weeks I have been playing around with colour in various ways. Dyeing and painting fabric and paper with different media.

I started with painting some linen with acrylic paint for the ‘Beach in a box’ containers for the Debbie Lyddon workshop I did a few weeks ago.

A beautiful afternoon so I decided to paint outside. I didn’t want the fabric to be too stiff to stitch, but apparently the paint helps to stop it fraying. So a bit of a balance between the paint and the fabric. (It does seem to work pretty well). I wet the fabric first, to try and help keep it soft enough to stitch, still only beginning to stitch at that stage. Then mixed red and blue to try to get a colour that would tone with the grey stone. Added more watered paint in each colour directly on the fabric to get the right hue.

Red and blue

Then started the rusty coloured piece, bit more tricky to get the right colour. Started with the red, yellow and blue, a bit of peach and a bit of green, mixing as I went, then adding more of single colours directly to the wet fabric until I got it right. I didn’t want to match the stones and shell exactly, but wanted something that toned with them.

The three primaries – red, yellow and blue, peach, burnt sienna and green

This time to go with the shell, more obvious colours in it than the stones. I used the same tubes of paint as I wanted them to harmonise with one another, as well as pick out the object colours.

Again the same colours to mix with
I do like the palette – sad but true

I’d got some paint left over, and the paint on the plastic bag I was working on, so not to waste it I painted a few more bits of the linen.

Waste not, want not
Hung out to dry

I’ve only started to stitch one so far. The idea is for each container to have a grommet in, which in effect is a little window to peek at what is inside. I have used strands from the unpainted linen to stitch the grommet with and will do the other two grommets in the same way. I want the surface stitching to echo the surface texture of the treasure inside. I realised after starting that I should have done the plain one first and made it up to solve any issues with it before spending time on the surface stitching. The perfect reason / excuse for starting the other one. The surface stitching will take a while on the greyish one, and longer for the shell.

Painted fabric with stones and shell

I was filling up the turmeric jar last week and a bit got spilt, so I mopped it up with a bit of cotton fabric, knowing how it stains if you spill anything with turmeric in down your front. Lovely bright yellow, so washed the empty bag out into a large yogurt pot and added the fabric and left over night. A beautiful sunny yellow.

Turmeric powder.

I’m not sure what I’ll use the fabric for yet, but several photos I’ve taken in the last few weeks are this colour. Seems I need a fix of sunshine at the moment.

Water irises at a local wood.
Dandelion when out on a walk
Tulip in the garden

In February 2017 I went on a workshop with Jan Dowson to make a memory cloth in slow stitch. We were to take a selection of fabrics that meant something to us personally. As usual I took far too much, and it was suggested that I narrowed it down, maybe by colour.

This helped considerably, as the finished piece was meant to be about 30 cm square and I had enough fabric to make a king size quilt! Predictably there were lots of greens, all of which told their own story. Most of the fabrics I’d found in a suitcase I blogged about in Vintage Fabric on 27 October 2014.

The flowery one was a long-sleeved dress that I had for my uncle’s wedding in 1970 / 71. It had leg of mutton sleeves, with a deep buttoned cuff, and a long pointed collar, very fashionable at the time. My sister’s was the same in apricot, mum’s mauve and in the same style; her dress was just below the knee – the new midi length.

Dress fabric, mine green, my sister’s apricot

The ridged green crimplene was trousers and a waistcoat to wear with the dress. We all thought we were the bee’s knees. I think my nanna made them all, although mum may have made hers herself at the sewing class they went to at the time. It must have been a long engagement as mum was notoriously slow at dress-making, nor did she enjoy it, but it was a huge financial saving and money was very tight at the time.

Trouser and waistcoat fabric

My nanna on the other hand loved it, and had an early all-singing, all-dancing domestic Singer sewing machine that did fancy patterns. I vividly remember the first time I was allowed to have a go.

The beige piece with green stitching was a test swatch of tension and stitches, and an uncut buttonhole, again from the vintage suitcase. Just perfect for this piece.

The green, white and pinky-mauve tiny squared fine cotton was a summer dress for my aunty. She was only 8 years older than me, but suddenly around this time decided that we should no longer call her just by her name, but start calling her aunty …, we thought this was silly, but she was adamant that we should. We soon cured her of the idea by calling her great-aunty ….!

Aunty’s summer dress fabric

The two patterned crimpolenes I remember nanna wearing as pinafore dresses, but I have a vague recollection of my great-grandma wearing as dresses. Maybe there had been enough fabric for both, or the pinafore dress was a later alteration, but I seem to remember sleeve/s of the fabric in the suitcase.

Manna’s pinafore dress fabrics

I can’t remember if I printed the little hedge sparrow or whether it was in a pile that Jan had done in preparation for us; but perfect, because when I was little, the sparrows used to come down to the ground near where I was playing ‘7’s’ with a ball against the side of the house. I used to try and catch them, and was told that if I ‘sprinkled salt on the tail’ I’d be able to catch them. I never managed either! Hence the little printed quote.

Only the green muslin, the bird and the quote are not original 70’s fabric.

The fabrics were all laid down on a piece of calico and arranged in a pleasing composition, pinned, tacked and then the slow stitching started. Just simple running stitches in parallel lines, some horizontal, some vertical.

Fabrics laid out and pinned
Printed and stitched hedge sparrow

The letters were cut free-hand from felt, NANNA in capitals and ‘me’ in lower case, and stab-stitched down, giving a slightly raised effect.

Capitals felt ‘NANNA’

The threads are mainly vintage Sylkos on wooden reels, with names like Sable Squirrel, Dark Lovebird and Grass Green, and a variegated green and purple Oliver Twist thread.

It really is slow stitching, quite meditative, bringing back lovely memories of times spent with my nanna, who died when I was 16, but had instilled in me a love of practical stitching. My other nanna gave me a love of decorative stitching, but that’s another story.

I pick this up when I’m stuck with other pieces, wanting a change or, in the last weeks, as a start to stitching again. Literally one length of thread was all I could manage to begin with, but as these are not intended to be all perfectly even stitches, the perfect thing to stitch. It’s almost finished, just a few more lengths of thread, then a decision of what to do round the edge. Blanket stitch or bind it, or…..?

Nearly finished
From ‘Singing Jazz’, Bruce Crowther and Mike Pinfold, 1997

I first heard this song in the mid 70’s when I saw the film ‘Lady sings the blues’ with Diana Ross playing Billie Holiday. The first few bars still make my skin scrawl. As a child I was pretty sheltered, going to a secondary school where there were two half-caste kids in my year of 200-ish pupils. I don’t recall any other coloured kids in the whole school of more than a 1000, this on the outskirts of Birmingham!

Unconsciously sheltered, I was shocked and horrified to discover that the colour of a person’s skin could affect how they were treated. The death of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 in Minneapolis, and the violence and rioting since make me wonder how little we have progressed since the poem was written in 1937 and later set to music for Billie Holiday.

The photo of the dying amaryllis, taken several weeks ago, made me think of the bodies hanging from the poplar tree, particularly when they started dripping thickish, red liquid that looked like blood. It made me wonder if it would dye fabric. I had some small pieces of fine, white cotton sheeting, dampened it and wrapped the flowers with it, putting elastic bands to hold them in place, to see what would happen. Some of them dried out very quickly, and were still white, so I re-wet them and left them all for a few more days. When I unwrapped them, they did rather look as if they had mopped up spilt blood. Whether it has stained or dyed the fabric I don’t know, I don’t want to wet or wash it to find that it disappears, which it could do over time in the light. The stem started to thin and collapse like a body after a blow, but was filled with liquid, which appeared rather like plasma. I didn’t want to burst it as I thought that it would nourish the bulb; this is the third or fourth time it has flowered over as many years.

In 2015 I started a piece of artwork called ‘Open your eyes’, a response to bullying and intimidation, from words going round and round in my head in the middle of the night, and keeping me awake over several months until I wrote them down.

It came about by accident when a phrase ‘I can take anything as long as it’s not violence’ by Perez Hilton was spotted on a piece of Observer newsprint that I had used to keep the table clean while I was painting a piece of pelmet Vilene for another piece on a rose window.

Some of the words I’d written down were free-motion machine embroidered on calico with red thread, with the ends left hanging to represent blood running down. The piece of newsprint was scanned and enlarged, flaps were cut where the stonework template had left marks on the original newsprint, partly obscuring the words underneath. I then realised these looked like eyelids, hence the ‘Open your eyes’ title.

We all need to open our eyes to what is going on in the world concerning injustice to our fellow human beings, whether that be caused by race, colour, religion, sexuality, gender, poverty, age…..

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Bottom of the box, sand and all.

This week I signed up for the TextileArtist.org new Stitch Club. The first session was with Debbie Lyndon making containers for your treasures.

I was really struggling to choose three objects to use, the shells and pebbles I have gathered over the years although plentiful I couldn’t remember from where most of them came from and their story needed telling too. I wandered around the house looking at various pieces but nothing quite grabbed.

The next morning I remembered that there was a box of my Irish treasures, from a tour round Southern Ireland with some of our dear German friends in 2013. I’d barely even given it a cursory glance since, life overtook me when we got back. So although I’d intended to start a new body of work with it, I’d just finished my art degree, it never happened.

What a treat when I opened it, like Christmas surprises. I gradually picked them out, shells, pebbles, bits of drift wood, laying them out on the kitchen table while talking remotely to my old school friend. I’d said to her it was like having a beach in a box, hence my title. Even had a trickle of fine, silvery sand come out of a bivalve as I picked it up, managed to catch most of it in another shell.

I had a fun hour or so sorting them out, examining them and photographing them. I don’t know just where any of them came from, we travelled down from Dublin and basically followed the coast, with the odd foray into the centre. Achim had a plan and an itinerary, he’d done his research as always.

I had not had time to even look at a map , we left days after my degree show and final assessments, meeting them in Birmingham at my dad’s for his 80th birthday, where his garden became their campsite again for a couple of nights.

I like not knowing where we are going it feels more like an adventure, and as usual plans are made to be changed, largely as a couple of days in a lorry on the other side of the road took Achim’s wing mirror off.

Not good as he’s left hand drive, so it basically left him blind to what was behind. It took nearly 10 days for the right one to arrive and then be fitted. So things changed a little, but seeing as I didn’t know what the original plan was I don’t know what we missed.

Oh, happy days, three and a half weeks of exploring, mainly sunny weather, the only time it rained was from Skiboree and round The Ring of Kerry, the cloud so low we couldn’t see the sea a few metres away, so only one night at the first campsite, continued on round and the weather gradually improved throughout the day, and by the time we stopped for the night the heat wave had started which lasted for the rest of the summer.

I digress, still struggling to pick three treasures, too much choice. The idea is to make a vessel / container from fabric that relates to the treasure with a hole through which you can see a peek of it. I ended up putting some back in the box for various reasons, too fragile, too brittle, didn’t grab my imagination, too beautiful to hide. I started grouping them in threes, wanting something that related them to each other, colour, texture, shape, type, etc. But still had to many to choose from.

Again slept on it, also wanted to see them in better light and photograph them again in groups. I felt like Goldilocks as I started discarding again, too textured, too thick, too deep, too delicate. I finally settled on the three biggest ones.

Final choice

The main way they relate to one another is size. I decide that bigger was probably better as the stitching is only just starting up again, and as my arm gets tired my stitches may come a bit erratic which feels more acceptable on bigger, rougher and readier than something tiny or delicate.

Wisteria

We have a wonderful wisteria growing over the patio area of the garden, a birthday present from my mum and dad 28 years ago, the year our son Miles was born. Two tiny twigs a year later, one of which got broken off when he was toddling about, it must have done it good, as it is now huge, gives total shade over the outside table and smells wonderful when it flowers. It has to be heavily pruned each year as it gets as unruly as Miles’ curly hair. The stems are huge and beautifully twisted together.

I dream of lying under it in the hammock every year while it’s flowering, but have only managed it a handful of times, rarely is the weather warm enough when the flowers are out, and when it is not having time to do so. The table gets put under it once it’s warm enough to eat outside too. This year the weather and time have coincided but I thought there was no way I’d be able to get in and more tricky, out of the hammock, very ungainly at the best of times. But my arm and shoulder have improved so much this week that on Wednesday I was persuade to try, with the promise of helping (hoisting) me out if necessary.

So I gathered everything I needed, sunglasses, pillows, book, tiny sketchbook and a limited palette of fine liners, my iPad to take photos and request help getting out if needed. (I get messages from the home workers upstairs throughout the day, mainly concerning food times).

Wisteria limited palette -2 greens, mauve, blue

I managed to get in and blissfully comfortable, blue sky, sun shining, warm, the birds singing, a perfect afternoon. Three little sketches, leaves and flowers hanging down against the sky, a vapour trail and eucalyptus twigs against the sky, as much as my arm would take. So finished reading an art download and the continues with my book until I dozed off. Woke up toasty warm with the sun on my hands and face, having come round the building next door. Colin stopped the hammock swinging as I got out, simple.

Wisteria trunk

When I got back in I faced the other way, sun now on my feet and not in my eyes, different view, unfortunately no sketchbook or iPad now and left reading until dinner was served at the outside table. Miles stopped it swinging for me to get out this time.

Yesterday when I got in the hammock I couldn’t get at all comfortable, so gave up, but did manage to get out on my own!

Today is much cooler, and windy, the flowers blowing about, and the individual flowerets(?) coming down like mauve snow. Hopefully the weather will be warm enough again before they finish for another try.

Wisteria snow (and weeds)

I also realised it’ll be easier to clear up the petals without the table there, nor will we have added bits in the dinner. So I continue to dream of lying in the hammock.

Tiny, bits of stitching have also happened this week!

Tulip in our garden

I’ve never had so many flowers in the house as in the last few weeks. The old bunch of roses or tulips brought in with the weekly shopping, that have graced the kitchen table. Flowers through the post for my 60th birthday in lockdown, these made me cry, I’ve never had flowers delivered before. White lilies that smelt wonderful, with snapdragons, delicate pink at the bottom of the stem gradually getting paler up the stem to white at the top.

More flowers through the post just under 3 weeks later for our 35th wedding anniversary, these made me cry too! I must be getting sentimental in this lockdown. These were bunches of carnations, one pink, one peachy, orange, the nearest to coral on the choices. These are still mainly going strong, but are ready for a bit of a sort out. The orangey ones on the coffee table in last weeks post. The other in my mum’s rose bowl on the kitchen table.

Tidied coffee table – challenge to self from last week.
The flowers need sorting out again now.
Still waiting for the orchid to open.
I’m a plonker in flower arrangers’ terms, even more so doing it left handed!

Wedding photo 35 years ago

Apparently 35 years is the coral anniversary, so the dear friend who I sent the fabric and thread parcel to a couple of weeks ago tells me. She sent me a photo of her experimenting with stitch, which I copied and printed to make a card. I usually make cards for Colin myself so this was a bit of a cheat. I did manage to add the Happy 35th wedding anniversary but couldn’t even get that where I wanted it to go, so unfortunately it’s right across the stitching.

Wiz’s experimenting with stitching
I could’t even get the text where I wanted it!

The following images are from the garden or out on our occasional walk. I’m still struggling to use and move my right arm so even taking photos is a left handed challenge, so some have worked better than others.

Tulip in garden
Double white lilac n the garden, few flowers just the right height to sniff.
Dandelion with bee in the nearby woods

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Alcove shelves

On reading an article on boredom in last Sunday’s Observer Magazine (3 May 2020), “Why it’s good to be bored”, it set me thinking about when I was last bored and what bores me. I’m rarely still long enough to be bored, which I think goes back to being a teenager and on odd occasions complaining to my mum that I was bored, and was told to find myself something to do or she would find me something to do instead. Living at the time in a big, ramshackle old house that was always being improved, the things that I’d be given to do would likely be far less interesting than anything I could find for myself to do. And once I’d been given a task, it was expected to be seen through. I very quickly learnt to find myself something to do and not to mooch around my mum aimlessly, or she’d give me a job to do. I completely understand nowadays where she was coming from, never enough time (or sometimes inclination) to do all the things I want or need to do.

Unexpectedly, in a way, I have not been bored in the last almost 6 weeks when I have spent most of my time in the same chair day and night, unable to do very much. It has been when I was in spaces / places that were not visually stimulating, no bookshelves to browse, one or two pictures that didn’t hold my interest for very long, a couple of very simplistic knick-knacks, plain white(?) walls (so uninspiring I can’t even be sure), no people to watch or talk to. If I know I’m going to be somewhere like this, I take a book or a magazine, or a bit of stitching. It’s been when I’m caught unawares that I have been bored, and usually there’s enough going on in my head to entertain myself, ideas or plans to think about, so it’s very rare that I’m bored.

Ok, we have too much stuff. But I do like the visual stimulation of our things around us. And I / we like colour, so from my chair I am surrounded by bright orange walls; it always feels warm and cosy even when the wood-burner is not lit, it faces due south so when it’s sunny the sun streams through for most of the day, but it rarely gets too hot.

The bookshelves at the moment have my birthday cards tucked in, which remind me of the good friends that sent them with their best wishes, some humorous (one with a picture of the humerus complete, which mine should be more or less again now); the caged bear with the “‘alf armless” message; places that look really appealing, cottages in Tobermory, a calm bay and a stormy sea, flowers and garden benches; and the ones that remind me that I have had the privilege of reaching 60 (both my mum and nanna died at 56).

Book shelves with my birthday cards

The (top photo) shelves in the alcove at the side of the chimney breast are (over)full of memories. Presents and mementos from friends and family, here, no longer here or abroad. Old toys and puzzles, including a clockwork clown. A plaster cast print of Miles’ hand from primary school; 3 plaster casts of my hand in different positions I did in the sculpture module of my art degree. I can’t remember for the life of me how I did them – need to look out my old sketchbook. Four pretty, little Winsor and Newton ink bottles, sunshine yellow and orange, that I used on the mural I did in my bedroom when I was 17. The rest of the room was orange too! Things go full circle! Old needlework books, the first couple Christmas presents from my husband several years ago, I just love the diagrams and old fashioned language and phraseology; the rest are charity shop finds. A lovely old set of grinder bits that I found in my dad’s garage when we were emptying his house. Old cameras and films. I am really enjoying a full on view of these objects at the moment rather than the oblique one I normally have sitting on the settee.

Left to right. Cork screw, plaster cast hands, skull, ink bottles, card from a friend top right, old self generating torch, acrobatic clown, glass paper-weight.
Old needlework books
Old grinder tools
I thought for many years that no photos had ever been taken of this mural,
pre digital cameras nobody ever took one to my knowledge.
But many years later I discovered that our dear American friend Dottie had taken one and she gave me a copy. It was about 6 foot by 8 foot.
I always wonder if it is still there when we occasionally drive past the house, very unlikely as it’s more than 40 years ago!

Through the window I have watched the rose come into more leaf and gradually grow across the window, a tiny bud that will soon bloom in yellow and fade with pinky tones streaked across it. I can see the changing colour of the sky and gauge the wind by how much the rose, the winter flowering jasmine and the tall mock orange stems are dancing about.

Inside, under the window is an old blanket box full of my on-going projects, with the two canvas work cushions I did several years ago on top. This box tends to overspill with various bags and smaller boxes, supposedly there for me to tidy away into it “when necessary”. The overspill is now also a big wicker basket full of plastic wallets of PHD’s (projects half done). During a conversation with a friend this week, we came to a bit of a conclusion that PHD’s sound far more likely to get finished than UFO’s (unfinished objects), which has an abandoned feel to it.

Sun streaming through the window onto the canvas work cushions.

The coffee table has become the usual dumping ground at the moment. My vision for it is a usable space with flowers or a plant in the middle with a few key current things on, with space to put cups or glasses, a little plate of cake or pudding that then gets cleared away for the next time. Instead of which, it has a pot of paint brushes, sponges, pencils; a pencil box; the travelling book in its bag; my wallet sewing kit; three beautiful stacking little pots of Madeira threads, Opal, Metallic and Rayon, each with 10 colours, which I bought years ago in Alnwick when we were away in the camper van; various books; a felted bag for taking my iPad out, that was inspired by ferns growing in one of the famous Cornish gardens, (another camper van holiday with our dear German friends); and much, much more! The current plants are an amaryllis given to me by my niece and great niece 4 years ago that has almost finished (but I love the shapes of the dying flowers, same with tulips), it’s the third or fourth time it’s flowered; and an orchid from friends when they ate with us a couple of months ago that has almost come out (it’s been keeping me in suspense for weeks).

Cluttered coffee table. This week’s challenge -clearing it.
Fern inspired felt bag

So as I sit in my chair I have lots of visual stimulation which triggers many happy memories, of times and places, and more importantly of people I love.