Thursday, December 31, 2009

The year is going, let him go

I was reminded of the Tennyson poem when I was listening to ‘The Armed Man’ the other day.

As far as I am concerned this year can’t ‘go’ quickly enough. It hasn’t been a good one to live though, although it is ending on a high – hence the rainbow.

This year I was diagnosed with a very nasty sounding disease (PBC – anyone else out there have it? I’d love to hear from you!) which has proved to be most benign at the moment – and I have learned to live for the moment.

My grandson and his fiancée were delighted to be pregnant but were told at the twenty-week scan that things were not looking good. Subsequent scans were closer to normal but there was careful monitoring and a great deal of anxiety for us all. Harley was born mid-November and is a bright, alert and absolutely gorgeous baby. I’ve had lots of ‘Harley hugs’ over Christmas and ‘Finn fixes’ and cuddles from Jack and I consider myself a most fortunate Mother, Grandmother and now Great-Grandmother. I must sound like ‘the old woman who lived in a shoe’?

And as I had a wonderful 70th birthday party in November that is probably quite true. bring it on!

Roll on 2010!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Getting there!

This is just a vey quick progress report. I now have walls (painted) and floors. Everything is very white and stark, just waiting for some colour to be introduced. A blank canvas, you might say?

I seem to have been walking aimlessly around, tape measure in hand, mumbling "105 centimetres, tea with two sugars and coffee with one sugar ... , etc ..."

All that is going to change this weekend as I take a break from the cleaning and refresh myself ready for the week ahead. The exciting bit is yet to come!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Well and truly plastered!

I've just spent a delightful afternoon in the company of my lovely daughter-in-law (I much prefer the French 'belle-fille'?) and my youngest grandson, Finn, as he chatted and giggled his way along his first train ride on the 'Docks' railway at Preston. The trains had 'Thomas' faces on several of them, which made it very exciting, and he got the chance to climb aboard some of the engines. It's definitely a 'boy' thing!

What a welcome break from the last week! I seem to have spent the week charging around IKEA or B&Q with a tape measure and trying to work out 'what' will eventually go 'where'. So many decisions to be made!

On Saturday, the plasterers came. Despite having to listen to the dulcet strains of 'Rock FM', the lads worked hard and now - I'm plastered!
I'm well aware that the pictures are pretty boring but they're all I've got so far. Hang on in there!

Whilst all this is going on I'm being very industrious. I'm clearing out drawers and cupboards so that when I can get at my fabrics and fibres again I will have the time to be creative. All the boring housework will be done? That's the plan anyway.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hitting a brick wall

Well ... I should have known. It was all going so well. That just doesn't happen to me. On Friday, Alan started to take down what he and the building inspector had both decided was a 'studded wall' (no, it doesn't mean anything to me either) only to find this ... breeze block. Literally hitting a brick wall?

Cue another visit from building inspector on Monday. There will probably have to be some kind of support for the walls above. (My worst nightmare was a sudden collapse from above - don't anyone even dare to hum " ... and the walls came tumbling down ...")

Then when I plugged in the kettle - a very necessary piece of equipment at the moment? - no electricity in the utility room. The electrician was due and we had power in the kitchen. Tea problem solved. (I have to tell you that Alan likes the weakest of tea - it's me that has the 'builder's tea'!!!)

I went off to order the laminate floor to match the existing floor (this is now a 'special order', which may delay things? But, thankfully, still available). And another ex-pupil in 'Floors 2 Go. They're all over the place!

Returned to find this ...

... the source of the electricity problem. A nail - which had been hammered through the electricity cable by the original builders!!! - had moved when the plasterboard was removed and touched the wire.

And, yes, a leak in a pipe...

Cue buckets and a boiler that needs 'topping up' at regular intervals because the water pressure keeps falling.

And then, when everyone had gone, no Internet access!!! Quelle tragedie!

It has taken me till now to work out that the 'computer' sockets had also died on me. Ran an extension lead from the utility room and we have lift-off!

So - picture this - trailing leads, buckets of water and a boiler that needs more attention than a baby (will I have to get up in the night to 'feed' it?) Not exactly a picture of domestic bliss, is it?

It all makes me feel very 'ditsy' and silly and well ... 'girlie'? In my defence, I do have my own drill and screwdriver. It's just knowing what to do with them that's the problem ...

Still, I have enjoyed a lovely visit with my friend Elaine to 'Art in the Pen' at Skipton this afternoon. So nice to see her again now that she has returned from New Zealand.

Oh ... and the ladies at the Platform Gallery didn't reject my piece. But I think they were only concerned with the back - and, yes, it did have mirror plates and a label .... So far, so good.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

'B' day + 1

Yesterday I had a garage door - and today I have a wall and a window! Magic!

And this is the view from inside. It's beginning to look like a room?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

'B-day' - at last!

It may not look as if a great deal has been done but the foundation for the front wall has been dug and the concrete poured. Bricks have been removed from the sides so that the new bricks can be 'eased in'. This is Alan boxing in a pipe in what will be my new office.

Tomorrow - weather permitting - the wall will be built and the window put in what will be my office. Then it will begin to look like something other than a garage.

So far the noise and dust are making me excited - wonder how long that will last?

As this is supposed to be a textile blog - and textiles are very thin on the ground at the moment - and, as I always need to have something to worry about, I am now imagining the scenario when I take my felt piece ...

... into the Platform Gallery for the Open Exhibition. As it was selection by photograph, what happens when they see it in the flesh and decide they've made a big mistake?

Don't I have enough to keep me awake at night?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

'B' (for build) Day minus 1

A very short post today just to say that it’s ‘B-day minus 1’. 'B' is for 'build'. The bricks are here – and appear to be the right ones. It was a very tense moment as the lorry arrived – what if they weren’t the right ones and had to be sent all the way back to Durham?

Because this is supposed to be a ‘textiles’ blog I will show you the results of my session today at ‘Fell-Side Felters’ – the lovely felt group that I belong to. I’ve got very ‘achey’ shoulders tonight because I was determined to make a nuno piece out of some fabric that just didn’t want to let the fibres through. I won in the end because I’m very stubborn but now I’m wondering if it was worth it?

Pretty rubbish really ...

The nice thing about our group is that there is always someone willing to give you advice, which is always appreciated. The fact that we laugh a lot - and have cake – helps as well!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What a brick!

You wouldn't think it would be a problem, would you? After all, a brick is - well, a brick. My house was built around six years ago so you wouldn't think it would be too difficult to get some more bricks, would you? Think again ...

The builder is 'incommunicado' (more of that later) and the brick is rather unusual, and very attractive. One of the many reasons I bought the house. Now I need 150 bricks to build up to a window when my garage door is removed.

On Monday it was looking like I was going to have to settle for something less than a 'perfect match'. I had visions of ...
Being of a rather perfectionist nature, this was obviously not going to do.

Did you know that there were such things as 'brick libraries'? Neither did I. (I had visions of popping in to exchange an 'Accrington' for an 'Olde English'???)

Photographs were taken and websites consulted but my brick remained elusive.

And then - 'ping' - a light bulb moment. Wouldn't the local council have a copy of the plans - and might that perhaps include a note of the type of brick used?

I had been in to the council offices the day before to sort out my 'Building Regs' (whatever that is but it cost me £180) and caught up with a delightful ex-pupil who now runs the front desk. We had a long chat and a 'catch-up', which was lovely, and there she was again when I ventured in once more to enquire about my 'brick' problem.

Mary consulted various different people and then a computer - and, several screens later, up popped the brick. It was a 'Tyrone Navan multi-brindle brick' - made in Ireland.

(I have to say that this is when you're so grateful that you got on with the students - Mary was a 'star' in so many of my school productions and the sort of student you remember. Another one is Diane, who takes my blood at the surgery. Phew!)

Then the search for the brick really started. Long story. I finally tracked down what seemed to be the only supplier in the UK. In Durham. Another long story. But - at last - the bricks are on their way. Watch this space ...

After numerous visits to the tip and the charity shop, the garage and my office are nearly empty. You can see the walls - and some of the floor?
Where did the rest go?


Sunday, July 26, 2009

From the sublime ...

I spent a wonderful weekend on the Embroiderers’ Guild Summer School at Alston Hall on the course run by the delightful Lucy Smethurst.

I have long admired Lucy’s work, especially her exquisitely worked jewellery boxes. I think I’d chuck the jewels and just keep the box! Not that I’m likely to be given either jewels or box!!!

Lucy was so organised and patient and very generously showed us how to work with rouleaux and beautiful appliqué and cutwork.

Sitting there, calmly and peacefully hand-stitching was ‘just what the doctor ordered’ and I came away feeling relaxed and re-motivated …

… for this …

This is the interior of my garage. When I moved to my present home, nearly five years ago, I brought with me so much ‘stuff’ which wouldn’t fit into my much smaller house and, of course, it all ended up in the garage. My car has lived outside ever since and more and more ‘stuff’ has accumulated.

I have spent the past few days amongst the dust and cobwebs, ‘sorting and siding’ and visiting the local tip ...
... it says 'Here to help' on the back of their jackets ... but you mostly see the back of their jackets

… when this has been your main source of human contact for the last week it’s good to keep the end in mind. A workroom! I have been scribbling ‘plans’ of where everything is going to go in my new space and working out colour schemes and getting very excited. There’s a long way to go but I keep telling myself it’ll be so worth it in the end.

Of course, having a workroom (I can’t say ‘studio’) will remove all those excuses about not having the space/table/right conditions in which to work. All that will be left will be ‘time’ but having the right conditions will surely make me want to stay home and create? Please say ‘Yes’???

I shall invite friends to 'make' rather than 'lunch'?

As a bit of a boost to my very easily-dented confidence I went with Jackie to the Preview of the West Lancashire Open Exhibition at the Chapel Gallery in Ormskirk on Friday. I tried hard not to show how excited I was at having a piece selected for display – jumping up and down would have been a bit ‘infra dig’, I suspect - but I did succumb to having my picture taken with ‘Pool at the Jardin Majorelle 2’.

So ... watch this space for a progress report?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Double Trouble

This has been an ‘annus horribilis’ for my family and last week was ‘last straw’ week. It helped that I was so busy that it rather took my mind off ‘things’.

I have long wanted to go on a ‘Double Trouble’ workshop and my dreams were realised when my friend Brenda and I travelled to Nottingham to spend two days with Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn. We had some excellent tuition and were shown some wonderful techniques, but best of all was being able to get up close to all the samples that Jan and Jean had brought. We were encouraged to look very closely, ask questions – and ‘handle’ the samples. For someone who finds it SOOO frustrating not to be able to touch work in exhibitions - especially when it is as tactile and textured as theirs - this was a joy.

Negotiating the one-way system in Nottingham was a nightmare but fortunately we stayed in a lovely B&B in Southwell, just outside the city, which is a beautiful cathedral town.

We had breakfast in a delightful garden (first picture) and found a scrumptious little restaurant called ’The Piano’. We managed to fit in a quick visit to the Minster,

which had many features of interest to an embroiderer ...

especially the ancient door, which just asked to be translated into ‘smocking’?

A lovely workshop with Carol Naylor on Friday was followed by a visit to Woolfest on Saturday.

I had made two corsages for the IFA stand and was amazed to find that they had both sold! Sorry, I didn’t take piccies because I was so sure that I’d be getting them back … but here’s one I made earlier ...

All I wanted to do today was to lie down in a darkened room!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I have spent three hours today peacefully sailing on the Leeds-Liverpool canal from Skipton. The weather was beautiful, the scenery magnificent, the company fun and the wild life plentiful. Herons, swans and their cygnets, mother ducklings (I want to say ‘shepherding’ but that doesn’t seem right) carefully guiding their broods through the water. Blue skies and lots of greenery …

All in all, a very colourful day.

As I am, at the moment, being very mindful of colour and its importance in my life, I thought I’d like to post some photographs of some colourful items I made for my dear friends, Mags and Adrienne.

Bags made from dyed silk …

A nuno felted book cover ...

and an appliqued one with it's own little tag ...

... and here we are enjoying an interval break from 'As you like it' ...

which we did - very much! More later ...

(Hey, the photos all came through in order. I haven't forgotten it all!)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

An absence of colour

I have had considerable ‘tellings off’ about not blogging and I know that if I don’t do it now, then I never will. I hope I remember how? I suppose I haven't felt that I have had anything to 'blog' about lately ... but ...

I’ve been to ‘Art and Garden’ today - a beautiful, sunny day, the lush garden, the sound of the river and such colour on display! Lots of paintings and jewellery and some textiles and, of course, Jackie’s stall, so full of colourful brooches, books, pictures, bags and so many other gorgeous things. Now I’ve no money left but I have got three very colourful brooches.

I have had Jackie’s post about ‘paintboxes’ on my mind ever since I read it. It took me straight back to my childhood! I could see the paintbox I had, with all those wonderful names …

Yes, ‘Rose Madder’ and ‘Cobalt Blue’ and ‘Violet’, but what about ‘Vermillion’? That surely is the name that instantly transports me back sixty years. The things I actually painted with this magical box of colours have faded into the distance (I suspect that even then they weren’t ‘originals’, more country cottages and landscapes and ‘fashion plates’ – the ‘New Look’ anyone???) but it’s the colours that stay with me …

How I longed to swim in an ocean of ‘Ultramarine’ …. And wear a dress (long, made of velvet, with a ‘fishtail’?) in ‘Viridian’ (shades of Rita Heyworth?) … and what a wonderful sight a ‘Scarlet Lake’ would be? … and ‘Prussian Blue’ sounded so exotic. I could go on … 

Does anyone out there who is my age remember any of these things? The world at that time seemed such a drab and colourless place that the paintbox seemed truly to be a ‘box of delights’.

My parents had been in India before the war and the stories they told me all seemed to be steeped in colour and I longed to go there and see for myself. It was to be sixty years before this dream came to fruition but the reality was just as I imagined it. My abiding memory is of a dull brown landscape which would suddenly explode into the colours of my paintbox as the women working in the fields came into view. Full circle.

Which is probably why the piece (above) which I – finally – produced for the Embroidery 2000 exhibition at Lytham felt so unsatisfactory to me. It was ‘colourless’. Dictionary definition – not only “not colourful” but “lacking vividness or distinctive character”. I should know that I don’t do ‘subtle’. There isn’t a single piece of beige in my wardrobe - and brown and I just don’t 'get on'. So why would I want to produce a piece with ‘earth colours’? Maybe I’ll just use the same design source with the colours that make me feel alive? Schiaperelli’s zinging pink or the violet of the delphinium that trumpets that summer is here? Or the deep aquamarine of the Greek ocean …

To thine own self be true? Watch this space …




Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Just January

Goodness, how I dislike January! This year has been a particularly bad one as I have had an awful bout of neuralgia (something I am prone to) which took ages – and lots of painkillers – to shift. I hate taking tablets of any kind and the painkillers seemed to ‘fog’ my brain.

However, that’s all gone now but the state of ‘hibernation’ didn’t completely disappear either. I have had to sit down and really try to work out why I have felt so slow and lethargic – and not at all creative.

I have finally worked it out … I was invited to join an embroidery group which exhibits and, whilst I was pleased and flattered, (it is a group I have long admired) I have also allowed myself to become totally ‘spooked’ by being in the company of artists who seem so secure in their own ‘areas’ – and totally comfortable with the design process. (I hasten to add that I could not have been made more welcome by these lovely people).

So I have given myself a really good talking to and sat down with paper and pencil. I ‘brainstormed’ around the theme and have eventually decided on something that I feel (reasonably) comfortable with. Better to start somewhere – and within my comfort zone - than not at all? I will report on progress.

Anyway, January will soon be over and February is such a short month - and a very busy one (I really am not wishing my time away!) and it will soon be March. March is when I get to return to Marrakesh, which is one of my favourite cities. This time I am going with a small group of ‘similar souls’, mostly artists, and hope to see the place through ‘new’ eyes. There will hopefully be time to pause amidst the hustle and bustle and sketch as well as take photographs. My drawing skills are rusty and I find it so hard to do something that I don’t feel pleased with – that pesky little perfectionist that sits on my shoulder and laughs at my efforts!

My photograph today is of a box I made inspired by a visit to the Bahia Palace in Marrakesh last year. Sultan Ba Ahmed – ‘The Brilliant’, the son of the Grand Vizier, built the palace in the nineteenth century to house his 4 wives and 24 concubines. My daughter and I continued a discussion that we started when we visited the Harem in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul – what was it like to be a concubine?

We were told that the women prepared themselves in all their finery (a good thing?) before promenading in the courtyard garden. Ba Ahmed (in what way was he ‘brilliant’?) would view the gathering through a screen (sounds like a bad thing?) and make his choice from among the girls. Was it like getting ready for a Saturday night ‘hop’ and hoping to catch his eye, or did one take to lurking behind the jacaranda trees?

We couldn’t decide but, whatever the thoughts and feelings of the women involved, it was still like being in a ‘box’.

(I've quite forgotten how to use 'Blogger' so the images have come in the wrong place - it's 'Just January'!)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Happy New Year

Well, I bet you can’t guess what my New Year’s Resolution is? Got it in one – to pick up my blogging where I left off.

I hope everyone out there in blogland has had a lovely Christmas and is looking forward to 2009? It’s a bit scary at the moment with all the talk of recession, etc. but I’ve been reflecting on how much of one’s ‘happiness’ doesn’t actually depend on money. OK, things like clothes and holidays are likely to be thinner on the ground but they’re not really the things that make us content.

Family, friends and being creative are the things that push all the right buttons, aren’t they?

There are lots more NYRs, of course – the usual ones that I make every year (and never manage to keep) like lose weight, walk more, be more organised, get enough sleep, and learn to say ‘No’ occasionally – but they’ll probably hit the dust before the end of January? But – I have been for a walk and cleared out two drawers today!

I’m posting a picture of the thing that gave me a great deal of pleasure over the holiday period – a jigsaw! (Not in the right place or the right order - need to get to grips with Blogger all over again?) Not so much the ‘doing’ of it but the fact that, for a little while, there were no ‘deadlines’ to meet. A lot of sneaky pleasure in being lazy just once in a while?

However, I’ve got something to do for Embroiderer’s Guild and I have a drawing to do and a little boy has just rung up and said “I’ll see you at the ‘White Pub’, Grandma” so it looks like I’ve got a ‘date’?

Off we go again …