Merry Christmas

I would like to wish everyone who drops by this blog a Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2018.

Instead of a plant themed Christmas greeting I am sharing with you my Christmas sewing and craft projects this year.  I have really embraced my love of sewing and embroidery this year and made some lovely new friends through it.  Apologies for the poor quality photos, they are from my Instagram account and have lost something in quality in the transition to the blog.

The top photo shows a wall-hanging I have made this year.  The centre is embroidered in red work and has a quilted border.  It’s only my second wall-hanging  so I am pleased with the outcome.

The cushion was designed and made for my Embroiderers Guild Christmas competition.  The theme was ‘stars’ and I was thrilled to claim second place against tough competition. You can see the other entries on our Facebook page (see 16th December). I have to say though that sewing on white felt wasn’t the best idea and I learnt that I’m not very good at repetitive things.

My final project is a ribbon wreath.  It was very easy to make just involved a lot of ribbon cutting and tying – simple but effective

I hope you enjoyed seeing something different to my usual plant themed photos.  If you are interested in my handicrafts I share them on my Instagram account and maybe I will share some more on the blog in the New Year.

So it just leaves me to say Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

French Dressing

Most readers will be aware that I have recently re-embraced my love of embroidery.  However, what you might not know if that deep down in side me I have a love of fashion, particularly historic garments.  So you can imagine how thrilled I was with an exhibition entitled French Dressing at the Fashion and Embroidery Show at the NEC. The garments are all created by Ollivier Henry.  Ollivier is an embroiderer, teacher and costume designer and along with Jean-Noel Lavesvre had created the exhibition.

This dress is inspired by a French Court dress of the 1750s, at the time of Louis XV.  Can you imagine having to steer that dress through doors!

Whilst these are modern designs the ‘dresses’ are still constructed in the same way with the separate bodice to the skirt.  I think the detail on the stomacher is stunning.

Another exquisite piece of embroidery and such a simple and effective colour palette.

This dress is based on French style’s of the 1630s – at the time of Charles I in England, just before the English Civil War. You could imagine Queen Henrietta Marie wearing something like this

Back to the 1745s and a French lady’s hunting costume – though I am baffled how you would ride a horse in this outfit, side-saddle or otherwise.

 

Again, exquisite embroidery and look at those stunning buttons.

Now we skip forward to 1805 and a ball gown. The embellishments are of a more simple design but the strong contrast between the black and the pink (which is slightly dark in real life) provides enough drama.

We now skip forward to the latter part of the eighteenth century, one of my favourite periods of fashion. In fact my wedding dress was very much of this style including with a bustle but nothing as wonderful as this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love this one because of its relative simplicity – dating from 1885. I particularly like the floral swag running down the side of the bustle.

Reading through the programme I was stunned to discover that all the embroidery is done by hand – I had assumed a sewing machine had been used due to the quality and neatness of stitches over large areas. If you want to see how these works of art are created, and they are works of art – check out Ollivier’s website

A year of stitches: day 28-70

Back in January I shared a new project, called a Year in Stitches  and I thought it was time to do an update.

Essentially the idea is that you stitch each day adding to your piece of work. The project is being undertaken by a few thousand people around the world, who all post a picture every Sunday on the Facebook group of their progress to date. Some people are working on proper pictures, some have patterns, and some are more random like mine. Some have already completed one hoop but I am hoping to make the one hoop last all year.

I have released that I’m not very good at random and I need some structure. I decided early on that I would add a flower for each day in the garden or visiting a garden. Since my last post I have also decided to do one of the large circles for each month of the year and I have added two more Paisley fish, one of which is nearly completed.

I am enjoying the project and found it very frustrating when my shoulder and arm were in spasm and I couldn’t see for a couple of weeks. The project is making me think about colour and pattern which is good as I have only followed other people’s instructions before. This and another project I am working on have given me the confidence to sign up for an embroidery course to help me develop my skills both with stitches and design.

Whilst I am learning lots from the doing what I really like about this project is seeing what others are doing and getting inspiration from around the world.

 

 

There’s more to the life than gardening (and blogging)

IMG_5950

I was surprised to discover today that it is 17 days since I last posted a post on this blog and even more surprising for someone who has posted 3 times a week for at least 9 years is the fact that I haven’t missed posting nor have I even thought about it.  I didn’t even share with you the photo of my blue meconopsis poppy, grown from seed, which flowered this year with half a dozen flowers nor did I ever get around to blogging about all the gardens I visited in Suffolk or my visit to Croome Park last weekend.  Something has changed in me not just in terms of blogging but in other aspects of my life and it is for the better I think.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while particularly over the last 18 months will know that my job has changed and this past 18 months has been quite unsettling for me as I step up to a much more responsible role with a huge feeling of needing to prove myself.  It has taken its toll on me at times emotionally and physically but recently a new phase seems to have started – maybe I feel more assured in my role, maybe its not as scary and new – whatever it is I am now sleeping better and I don’t feel so stressed which can be no bad thing.

IMG_5962

One of my coping mechanisms in recent weeks, which I think has helped enormously, is walking.  Most evenings I go out after dinner for a walk, to the adjacent common or sometimes on the hills.  And it has made a huge difference particularly to someone who spends so much of the day at a desk or in meetings.  The local common is a wonderful place to walk as the grass is allowed to grow tall with just some paths mown through it and you can just loose yourself and let your mind drift; then on my return home I embroider.  In a strange way the compulsion I used to feel to garden in order to de-stress has been relocated to walking and sewing. I am sure that some of this relates to my new neighbours clearing the fence line and reducing my privacy.  I have tried to employ my usual Pollyanna approach to this saying it will be fine but I am struggling with it and we are looking at ways of addressing it – I’m even toying with moving house!  But I also think that the garden isn’t fulfilling my need for creativity any more.  I have basically run out of spaces to dig up.

IMG_5957

I have nearly finished the revamp of the front garden and just need to put the path in.  I say ‘just’ but this actually means laying a brick edge hence the delay while I work through all the excuses why I can’t do it this weekend or the next until I decide to just get on with it and stop procrastinating.  I will have to post about it soon as I am rather pleased with how it is looking in its first year but I am waiting for some of the asters to flower to give it colour before I do.

There is nothing new to do in the back garden aside from day to day maintenance which I have been doing as and when but I have to make myself garden these days.  This morning I made myself deal with the dead rose blooms I could see and of course once I was outside I spent a satisfying couple of hours dead heading, cutting the grass path and re-engaging with the garden.  I was thrilled to discover some banana seeds had germinated in the greenhouse, that a wren appeared to be nesting in the old bird box and that the fig tree I had brutally pruned a couple of weeks ago, when I rediscovered it under the triffid branches of the Geranium palmatum, was covered in lots of new emerging shoots.

IMG_5955

Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy my garden but not in the compulsive obsessive way I used to.  I don’t drool over the bulb catalogues any more instead that bad habit has been transferred to sewing magazines.  I don’t have a desire to spend every minute of my spare time in the garden, visiting a garden or at a garden club – instead I am a more rounded person which can only be a good thing.  Whilst I enjoyed my trip last month looking at gardens in Suffolk I would have liked to have had the opportunity to visit Gainsborough’s birthplace museum which was just near our hotel but always shut by the time we returned and I have recently developed an interest in the Northern Renaissance artists which may influence my holiday choices next year.

My family and friends think I have moved to a better place and that the real me is finally emerging.  Expressions like ‘you have blossomed’, ‘you have grown’ etc are being used and I think they are right.  I will always love my garden, whether its this one or a new one, but I don’t now need to rely on it to justify who I am, to prove I can achieve something and I don’t need to blog relentlessly any more to satisfy my need to mental stimulation and desire to connect with others.

IMG_5978

This new phase, with adult children and a demanding but rewarding job, means that I have the time, funds and courage to embrace interests I used to have many years ago.  I want to travel more, maybe I will have a go at gliding again, I want to get fitter, I want to expand my sewing and embroidery abilities, I want to see art, I’m going to go canoeing for the first time and if I loose some weight along the way I will be thrilled.

There will be blog posts but probably more as and when and I have started a new blog to record my sewing journey and to connect to other sewers but I don’t know how successful that will be as to be honest I am actively trying to avoid looking at screens when I’m not at work but we shall see and that’s the key change instead of setting myself mad targets and schedules, looking for things to blog about, I have moved to a more relaxed ‘lets see’ approach and I am comfortable with it.  So ‘lets see’ what the future brings – I may paint the spare room or I may read a book this afternoon, it doesn’t matter.

IMG_5973

 

Pandora’s Box Completed

IMG_5315 1

 

Whilst I am finding it challenging to write about the garden, just because I don’t have anything new to say, I am feeling very enthused about sewing so I wanted to share the project I finished late last night.

It’s called Pandora’s Box and the pattern is available free online from Blackwork Journey.  Why I loved this project is that it is broken down into 8 sections and Elizabeth, the lady behind it, published a section on the 1st of each month so you have plenty of time to complete four blocks.  Each section includes some pulled thread work, blackwork (although mine is red) and some Assisi, which is cross-stitch with edging and finally some cross-stitch.  It is easy, even for someone with little experience as me, to complete a block (square) in an evening and as you work through the project your confidence in these techniques grows.

The other wonderful thing about this project is that it is accompanied by a Facebook Group, which currently has 680 members from across the world.  As the project started there was a lot of discussion about fabric and threads, then as we completed a couple of sections we started to show our progress which prompted more discussion on colour choices.  Through the FB group is you couldn’t understand one of the instructions, although Elizabeth writes them so well and they are very clearly articulated in diagrams, you could ask for advice and within an hour or so you would have a response.

I am thrilled with the finished piece of work, I think it is the most satisfying thing I have stitched for a very long time.  I am planning on having it framed and I think it will go in the living room which has recently been redecorated with a red highlights in tartan curtains – trust me they look wonderful!

Elizabeth is now working on another project which she will start to publish later in the year, from memory I think it is November.

Note: if you are interested in following this project you need to look at the Freebies section on the Blackwork Journey website.

Block 4 completed – Pandora Box Project

IMG_4166

I shared with you at the end of January that I had embarked on a new, yes another one, embroidery project – Pandora’s Box.

The project is supported by a Facebook group which is how I first came across it and on the first day of each month another block is released.  The block is essentially another row of 5 boxes.  I have spent the last month catching up so now I am ready for the next block to be released on the 1st March.  That will be the final row of boxes and then the following four months instructions will be to fill in longer boxes around the edges – I think.

I have really enjoyed the limited colour palette and how with a very small range of stitch – cross stitch and back stitch – you can create all sorts of effects.  My pull work (the all white squares) is improving as I get more assertive with pulling the threads.

To answer the inevitable question about what I plan to do with the finished project – I think I will have it framed and it might well go up in the spare bedroom which has a bit of a red theme in it.

While I wait for the next block to be released I shall go back to my oriental cross stitch project. So now you know why I haven’t been on social media much lately.

 

Pandora’s Box – An Embroidery Journey

IMG_3989

My love of embroidery keeps growing and it has really stood me in good stead over the last month, providing a useful relaxation at the end of a long day at work.  The simple act of pushing the needle and thread through the material in a fairly regular fashion really helps my mind empty of other things and to create something pretty, or if I am lucky beautiful, as a result is an added bonus.  I blogged a few weeks ago about the cross stitch my sons gave me for Christmas which  I have really been enjoying and which is coming along nicely.   However, I follow a number of embroiders on Facebook and Twitter and a week or so ago one of them posted about Pandora’s Box , an on-line sew along which she had just started.

IMG_3992 1

A few questions were asked and links followed and I found myself on the Blackwork Journey website downloading the first set of instructions.

The project is essentially a sew along in nine parts which a new part being released each month.  I think it started in November so you can see I am somewhat behind but then so is Chris and others are joining all the time.  It doesn’t matter.  The project allows you to explore some new embroidery techniques which you might not have tried before, in this case Assisi, Blackwork and Pulled Thread Work.  I haven’t tried any of these before so was immediately interested but what really drew me in was the owl motif in the first row.

IMG_3990

Sorry the photo is a little blurry.

I was quite nervous at first due about the framework which you can see in the top picture is a series of blocks and squares worked in four-sided stitch.  This stitch creates a sort  of ladder effect and you are meant to pull the threads tight to create the small holes at the corner of each square – I suspect I could be a little more robust.

IMG_3991 1

I have got one more square to complete on the first block and then I have two more rows (or blocks) to do before I am up to date. Saying that the fourth block comes out in February so I will be behind again.  However, all I have to do is go onto the Facebook group and see what others are up to and realise that lots of people are at the same stage as me and as I said it doesn’t matter.

I am completely loving Pandora’s Box.  The framework stitch is far easier than I expected and so satisfying and I love each little square, they are like little masterpieces in their own right.  In the next block I get to do a butterfly with a spider instead of the owl, which I am sure will be fun.

Tropical Stitching

IMG_3878

I’ve mentioned from time to time my new past-time of embroidery and I mentioned a few posts ago that I was working on a cross stitch that my sons had bought me for Christmas.  I thought I would share with you my progress to date.  I’m fairly pleased although I might re-do the outline of the bird’s tail again but then I could be being a little fussy as this is but a small part of the overall design.

IMG_3879

It should keep me quiet for some time.  Whilst I was intent this time last year on learning new embroidery techniques I find that of a weekday evening tackling something challenging with thread is not the best recipe for relaxing whereas cross-stitch is fairly simple. Also the cross stitch is building my confidence and sewing is becoming a habit in the evenings which is very relaxing and I find better than faffing around on the internet which I have wasted far too much of my life doing in recent years. As sewing starts to become a norm in my life and horticulture is becoming a less all consuming passion I am starting to feel more balanced which I think must be a good thing!

The title of the post refers to a small seasonal cross stitch I did last year which took me ages as I needed to get my eye in.

Festive Stitching

IMG_3514

I am rather pleased with myself for having finished my Christmas sewing projects before Christmas.  I did think I was being somewhat optimistic at one point especially when I got distracted for a few weeks with knitting a poncho.  I wasn’t too ambitious but I wanted something festive and simple which I could occupy my hands with in the evening without having to concentrate too much.  I am really pleased with the little bird photo, he looks like some form of Blue Tit but is actually an American Chickadee, so pretty.

IMG_3520

I’ve also done three cards for my nearest and dearest.  Seeing them in the photo I realise that I really should have ironed them before mounting them – opps! They are now under a pile of books to try to flatten the fabric but I am sure they will be fine and the creases won’t be so obvious when they are stood up.

Now they are done I can go back to knitting the poncho….

 

Careful – Weekly Photo Challenge

IMG_3150 1

This week’s  Daily Post’s  photo challenge theme is  “Careful.”  

‘Careful’ makes me think of small things.  We are careful with babies, small children, delicate ornaments for fear of injuring them.  “But what am I careful with I wondered” and more importantly I added “that I can illustrate with a photo”. Fiddly things come to mind, things I have to focus on – so sowing seeds and embroidery.  “Easy” I thought “I’ll take a photo of my current embroidery project”.

Foolish me, it’s not easy to take a photo of yourself sewing; not unless you have someone else to take the photo or you can set the camera up on a stand.  How do you focus the camera on your own hand when you have to hold the camera?  Impossible.  So I have ended up with a photograph of my embroidery without my hand doing careful sewing.  It is a careful occupation and the photograph was taken carefully – so I have doubly completed the challenge!