Monday, 2 August 2021

Secret Garden

Once upon a time there was this

Polyester voile with paper lamination 2015

and this

New cotton/silk mix. Mandala sample 2017

and this

Vintage cotton sheeting. Pole wrapped shibori 2017

Brought together, would they draw you across a room?

And when you got closer, would you want to see more?

Might they tell you a story?

Or should they be left to go their separate ways, being too much of a muddle all together?

The only stitched element so far is the butterfly, an earlier idea that was rejected. I have not the faintest notion of how I might combine these varied objects with stitch. It is for now, just a muse .....

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Debbie Lyddon Textile ReTreat

I have just spent a very pleasurable four days on a course, Decorative Surfaces for 3D Textiles, with Debbie Lyddon over at Studio11. She is a textile artist based in Wells-next-the-sea in Norfolk and a member of The 62 Group. Her work is deeply rooted in the landscape which she has been coming back to for many many years; you can read more about it here. I first came across her via Christine and then was lucky enough to see some of her pieces when she exhibited at Festival of Quilts in 2014. I find them quite magical, the way she evokes the experience of landscape and the sense of "hidden and revealed layers" in her work. She was a delightful and generous teacher, sharing with us the techniques she uses and enabling each of us to create things that drew on our own inspirations using those techniques. 

There were seven of us on the course, three friends from Studio11 and three new folk. One of the delights in working alongside other people is seeing how they use what is learnt to express their own vision.

On our first day (and on subsequent days) we went down to the seaside in the morning, the Studio being a short walk from Eastbourne seafront. Debbie encouraged us to look and listen carefully to our surroundings. Then we made some very sketchy visual notes of things that drew us or excited us in the little sketchbooks we had made before leaving the Studio. I have done this before on an Alice Fox workshop and have found both times that this quiet, almost meditative looking and quick sketching is a marvelous way of awakening one to the surroundings without adding the angst of "am I drawing this properly?" which so often defeats me when I try to sketch outdoors.

I admit to "cheating" by taking a couple of photos on my phone as well. But, with sketchbook in hand, I was reminded of how easy it is to "just" take photos rather than really looking at what has drawn me to the thing I am snapping. When you sketch you are drawn in (if you'll pardon the pun) to the subject matter, you really see it.

I loved the lines of the wooden groynes, the punctuation marks of the rusting bolts, and the way the brilliant green seaweed showed the pull of the sea as it flowed across the wood

The pier with its wonderful crisscross girders, tensioning irons and rich rusty orange was very eye catching

and I have always enjoyed the layers and echoes on our beaches that come from the repeated shapes of the groynes and the contrasts of the colours in the shingle with the sea and sky.

Once we had gathered some ideas we went back to the Studio and spent the following days watching, learning and trialing as Debbie talked us through folding paper into simple (or complex) shapes, applying emulsion, wax, home made gesso and stitched/found textures to linen, canvas and muslin. We added colour to those pieces of cloth, using watercolour paint and her secret ingredient - boot polish! Once we understood how the techniques worked on the ground fabric Debbie asked us to think about how we could use these, and what we had learned from the paper folding exercises, to reflect on and evoke the objects and textures we had experienced as we walked on the seashore. We were tasked to create something that brought all these things together. Debbie commented that she always wants her students to be able to create a finished object to take home, rather than a muddle of samples that we might do something with "one day".

I had picked up some lovely sedimentary pebbles with layered lines on them, and some flint stones with interesting cool grey and black pits and marks. I used these and the colours on the seashore as a starting point and created a linked set of three "pots" with the emulsion and wax techniques. These can sit inside each other, or next to each other, depending on space available, and are another way of creating a piece which is formed of layers. You can see them in the foreground here, slipped inside each other with the stormy sky behind.

With the gesso technique we had stitched linen to fit round our formers, in my case a piece of plumber's pipe, before applying the gesso. Once this was dry we could then add texture. I had collected a couple of silvery blue mussel shell fragments, some fine shingle and a bit of sand. These were applied to the outside of the pot by using a "plaster" of gesso soaked muslin. Then I added colour with watercolour, a little bit of drawing ink and the merest whisper of dark oil pastel over some of the highest points of texture. 
These images were taken on the final day when we returned to the beach; linking the made objects to the source of our inspiration; allowing them to speak to each other.

Once back in the Studio all our works were arranged together on one of the benches so we could look and admire and be encouraged by what each of us had made.

You can see some more closeup inspiration from the course on Debbie's Instagram here.

What a marvelous way to spend four days doing delightful things with a generous teacher. My thanks to Debbie and, of course, to Christine who made sure we were Covid safe, and provided us with delicious lunches each day. It was an enormous pleasure to be back in her Studio sharing a love of learning and textiles with everyone else in the group.

Monday, 21 June 2021


 My pink transfer pencil was less clear when ironed on than I would like, and despite best efforts there is a bit of blurring, but I have plentiful pictures to go on and can make judicious use of a lightbox and sharp pencil if more detail is needed

I began with some simple things, leaves and hillocks

Another few sessions with the needle and the first half open cornflower takes shape. I'm tempted to do the snail next, it is so delightful

I am improvising some of the stitching, adding in techniques I've learned over the years. The stitched vintage example has less opportunity for definition because six strands are used throughout. Here, with finer threads, I can go just a little bit more Jacobean.

Can you make out the mouse? Here's how he looks in the vintage version

Monday, 31 May 2021

more serendipity

Because it was in my mind, and because I have been working with the design, I was putting strings of likely keywords into the Ubiquitous Search Engine. I found this on Etsy, with closeups of the stitching. It could be her cushion cover, the fabric looks the same. I wonder if it came as a kit. Not sure I'll use their method of six strands of embroidery floss though, which looks rather bulky. I'll have to have a think about what will work better. Even three strands of floss would give more delicacy to the image.

How strange it is that this object from my long ago past has been strewn in my path by the universe! 

I have the design sized up on baking parchment

and quite a nice piece of oatmeal coloured Irish linen, which would acknowledge her Irish heritage. 

I also remembered the "this will come in useful one day" purchase from long ago which still seems to work - a pink transfer pencil. Now to see if the current measurements come anywhere near standard cushion pads! 

And, of course, to delve into my stashes of thread!

Saturday, 29 May 2021

Such treasure

This is Ganna's chair.  

It was always called "The Bergere Chair", and she sat and pondered in it every day. It lived in her ground floor bedroom, just beside the window which looked out over Alexandra Park. It proved a difficult object to negotiate in the middle of the night when, creeping back in, having forgotten my key, I was glad to find her window unlocked, but dismayed to find that the back of the chair was hooked over the brass handle, with which one pulled up old fashioned Victorian sash windows. It added somewhat to the weight I had to lift, and made waking my grandmother, at 1am, far more likely. 

When she sat in her chair, she always had a cushion at her back, stitched by her. It was one of the things which drew me to embroidery. To my dismay, it disappeared from our trove of "household objects" at some stage, and I have, over the years, trawled the web to try and find the pattern, to no avail.

I sit in her chair most days, tucked into another bay window, in another Victorian house. I ponder in it sometimes, but stitch more often. I too use a cushion at my back. I have a great deal more muddle around it than my orderly grandmother would ever have tolerated!

As you know I am part of Christine's Studio 11 community. Yesterday, on Facebook, she posted about a piece of fabric, part of a trove of vintage linens that have come to her. She has plans to "stitch it to show deterioration due to age and dementia", part of her long running series of textile works which reference her experience of losing her father to the disease. But first, she has kindly photographed it for me. It is, of course, Ganna's cushion, unmistakable. I can trace it out for myself, and use to recreate this early treasure, and lean against it in the chair that held its original. 

Given my track record this may, of course, take a while! I hope I can do it justice

Friday, 21 May 2021

What a compliment

I popped over to Rachel's blog today to find that she had very kindly put me up for an "Outstanding Blogger" award. I'm sure she must mean someone else really, but as I have been offered the honour I shall respond. There are five questions to answer, so here we go.

What would my perfect holiday be?

Well that's a rather difficult question to answer. I would love to be able to take the sort of holiday my very fit cousin takes, walking somewhere wonderful and remote for days and days, with a comfortable place to stay at the end of each day. Not being particularly fit, I will stick with the somewhere (reasonably) comfortable. I have a great hankering to go to Japan both to see their beautiful Zen gardens, and their textiles. Having done a little bit of Shibori in the past I am in awe of the way the experts in Arimastu create stunning fabrics with their nimble fingers, beautiful designs and careful dyeing techniques. So that is on the future plans list. 

A little "moon over the sea" shibori

I would also love to go back to Bhutan, every time this picture comes up on my desktop I think, "gosh, I took that, I really was there". 

Those are, of course, travels to distant parts, but for the most part our annual holiday is taken in the Lake District, in a self catering lodge near Ambleside. After 15 years going there I still look forward to it every year. As Autumn approaches my heart lifts and I think "not long now", so perhaps I already have my perfect holiday, the one I take every year; its perfection in recognising that I don't need to go very far to find happiness

Where is my favourite place to walk?

Lockdown has inspired me to walk more than I have in the past (despite best intentions). For the most part this has either been around my local streets or on our lovely seafront. This is a great pleasure, the view across the sea to Beachy Head as the sun goes down never fails to raise my spirits. 

But, if I were braver, and fitter, I would love to do one of those long walks across the South Downs, finding a hostelry to stay each evening, and glorying in the rolling hills, the song of the skylark above, the wind rippling across the hills and valleys, and views, views, views in all directions to set the soul free. And, of course, that sense of long past human activity in the patterns of the fields, the clusters of tumuli on hilltops and, at times, the things we have engraved on the landscape. I visit them occasionally for short walks, and they always make my heart sing.

What inspired me to start a blog?

When Mum died in 2010 and we moved to our current abode I felt bereft and in need of something to keep me going. I started my blog "Of Gardens Grandmothers and Gleanings" just as we were getting ready to move. The first post really sums up my reasons for starting - it was called Beginnings. Since then I have explored many of those things I hoped to explore, joining the Embroiderers' Guild along the way, developing new and treasured friends there and learning so much of value. I've also found many interesting and inspiring blogs to read written by artists with tremendous skill and talent. I have been very grateful for the way the Internet allows folk with like interests to share their artistry and to connect with one another. As the blog continued, I made the decision to bring all things textile over here. It seemed to make some sense to take this interest, which has grown so much, to a new place and continue with my other ruminations back there.

What did I miss most during lockdown ?

Apart from my daughter's lovely long cuddly hugs, to be honest, very little. I am quite a solitary soul. Our stitch group and the textile classes at Studio 11 kept going online so the inspiration and connection was still there, though the pleasure of meeting with the rest of the group was a loss. It will be wonderful when we can all meet up in real space and time once more. The other loss has been that of spontaneity. We have both missed saying "lets go for lunch at the Lamb this weekend" or "do you mind of I trot off the the British Museum next Saturday", little pleasures which we are beginning to enjoy once more.

Darling daughter looking pensive in St Paul's - 2008

What was the last book I read?

The last book I thoroughly enjoyed was The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, a delightful mix of history and fantasy, so beautifully written. I am currently engrossed in the sequel, which is bringing equal pleasure. I read far too much fiction, and always have, and am sure I would get a lot more done if I banned novels for a month, but where would be the fun in that? In between novels, I have also been reading Art of the First Cities, one of many I have read about Mesopotamia. They feed my interest in this distant time and provide visual references as I try and express, in textile form, the things that inspire me about this dawning of history. 

a sampling of layers and stitches and a small bit of cuneiform

When I still lived at home with Mum, and was working in the lending library, I could never pass an interesting looking book by. I remember her dismay one day on coming home from work with yet another novel to read. "Honestly Kath, this has to stop. I've just had to pick up 40 books from your bedroom floor just so I could do the vacuuming"

I have shelves now, but there still may be a few books on the floor here and there!!

And finally, my nominations - all three lovely blogs which are visited by me regularly for the pleasure they bring


Stitchery Spellbook

Tanglewood Threads

No obligation of course, but it would be fun to see your responses. Thank you Rachel for the nomination

Friday, 14 May 2021

Badger developments

Having enjoyed the Becky Hogg mackerel so much, I have now made a good start on her badger kit. With badgers in the garden I couldn't resist him when we did the woodpecker workshop way back when. As with all her kits, he came beautifully presented in a smart cardboard box with each element of the kit packaged separately in paper packets (no plastic anywhere) and full instructions for how to work the project. So far I have just done his body, and then put him to one side to concentrate on that blackwork project our stitch group has been doing, of which more anon. For now, here are some progress pictures.

You can see below that I have tucked my couching stitches just a little too far towards a previous row in one place, so there is a bit of a line along the back, but by the time I noticed I hadn't the heart to unpick. 

The back, with all those strands of silver waiting to be tied down and tidied up

I am so pleased with the progress so far, and looking forward to completing him, hopefully in time for us to take part in the Open Gardens scheme in aid of our local hospice in late June. He can then serve as a talking point for visitors and as a reminder that badgers, who live an a large old sett at the bottom of our garden, dig holes, so to take care when wandering across our "lawn" (we call it a clearing!).

Back to the other stitching which I will report on in a later post. For now, happy stitching