Thursday, 22 December 2011


Exciting news!  
Whoever would have thought that I'd be spending Christmas with James Martin - who I'm guessing must be most girls' idea of near perfection - a handsome young man, comfortably off, with a lovely house in Yorkshire, several flash cars and fast motorbikes, and able to rustle up a sticky toffee pudding, or a rhubarb crumble without too much fuss.  
He's probably no good at DIY, but you can't have everything.

Sadly we are only spending Christmas together on my book shelf .......
courtesy of a drawing of me, by my some-time watercolour art teacher and friend, Christine Spence,  which she has very kindly made into a Christmas card for me.
and my other 'alternative' Christmas card, painted by my friend Jill, who is still one of Chris' students (as you can see, she's a miles better artist than me - which is why I've more or less given up painting and decided to stick to stitching instead)
It's so lovely to have a card that's not only handmade, but made just especially for me, so thank you girls xx

As you know, cooking isn't one of my particular accomplishments either. Consequently I bought the Christmas cake, but I HAVE marzipaned and iced it myself, and I think it looks pretty.  (Blogger doesn't like the word 'marzipaned' - could it be that it's not really a verb???)
Anyway, in case I don't get to speak to you again before the festivities,  I hope you all have a lovely Christmas wherever you are, and whoever you're with.  And if you are spending it with your family - then treasure them xxx  

James - Camera Obscura

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Oh dear I've not been very good at this blogging business recently. No time!
Anyway, just to catch up.
I went for a weekend with my friend Lynn, who had told another friend of hers that I collect old sewing machines.  Wouldn't really describe myself as a collector, but I do have a couple.  Anyway, this friend of a friend said "Oh, she might like this then" .....
It's a miniature Essex sewing machine.
And, just to prove it's miniature

Having done a bit of research on the internet, it turns out that it was made in a factory in Wanstead - which is still there,  although no longer makes sewing machines.  Which is a pity, because despite the very best efforts of my Dad,

who cleaned and oiled it so that it turns smoothly now, unfortunately there is no tension mechanism, so it won't work.  Never mind it looks pretty, and I might contact the factory to see if they have any spares lying around!

I have recently been on a printing course at The Artnest in Hitchin (no website yet)
We did lino cuts and then printed them ....
Lots of robins, snowmen and mistletoe (and maybe the odd heart)
liberally interspersed with nibbles, mulled wine, and cake.
Finally, (and this is really for my Dad 'cos I don't think he entirely believed me.  A few weeks ago I bought another attachment for my bird feeder and some little black Niger seeds (I think they come from Love-in-the-Mist, so it won't matter if they seed themselves.)  None of the usual birds seemed the slightest bit interested, and I decided that I wouldn't bother with those seeds again - then one day last week I was in my kitchen and I saw a  swarm(?) of Goldfinches!  There were six altogether, although by the time I got my camera, some of them had flown away so there were only three left 

These two were there for ages. I love my bird feeder.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Box O' Chocolates

If you've been with me for a while, you may remember that in Christmas 2008 I had a box of felt chocolates made for me by my lovely sister.
She had seen a picture of them in a magazine, and although she asked Father Christmas for a book with instructions on how to make them, she couldn't wait for that to arrive, so she fiddled around with little bits of felt and tiny stitches, and devised her own patterns - and very beautiful the results are too.
I took them along to my (then) City and Guilds group, where they were much admired.  So much so, that at Angela's request, and despite never having taught before, my sis went along to Art and Stitch and took the class.
I'm sure you'll understand then, that Linda was very much in my thoughts as I drove to the last meeting of the Young Embroiderers' for this year, where we were going to show the girls how to stitch a little box of chocolates, to maybe give as a handmade Christmas present.  The girls excelled themselves -
(and THESE photos were stolen directly from Gina - but she said it was ok)
I thought that our Young Embroiderers would enjoy making them, but I was really impressed by how enthusiastic they were - and how they kept coming up with new ideas for their next chocolate, while they were still stitching the last one.  
So I really hope that somehow, somewhere,  Linda is aware that today, indirectly, she kept 12 little girls (and four bigger ones!) thoroughly engrossed and entertained for hours.
Thanks sis xx

Box O' Chocolates - Three Black Eyes

Monday, 7 November 2011

Peter Cushing Lives in Whitstable

I've just had a lovely girl's weekend in Whitstable with a couple of friends - staying in the perfectly appointed and beautifully decorated Curlew Cottage in the centre of town, just a stone's throw from the harbour.  We arrived on Thursday and spent a few hours in Canterbury (didn't have my camera, with me I'm afraid) and then spent Thursday evening talking one of our party into the idea of visiting Margate the following day (I'm guessing she thought we'd try to drag her to Dreamland!) but managed to convince her that with the new Turner Contemporary gallery, Margate was now the happening place to be.  The gallery was brilliant -
and currently has Rodin's 'The Kiss' on loan
We spent a couple of hours wandering around the current exhibition -
Photographs were not allowed in the main gallery area, but we were allowed to take a couple in the foyer.  I think there must be a lot of unhappy youngsters around, judging by the slogans on these T-Shirts
And we loved this 'then and now' display of photographs of the models when they were teenagers, and how they look now - it was fascinating to see how they'd changed.
When we came out of the gallery - I did wonder if the doors of these lock-ups around the harbour were painted by chance, or if they were designed to be a bit of artwork themselves.
We HAD to stop here for coffee and cake
And I insisted the girls pose here, much against their better judgement
At the end of the day, having visited - and shopped at - numerous vintage shops and second-hand bookshops,  we all agreed that despite our preconceptions,  Margate is well worth a visit.
On Saturday, we stayed in Whitstable. I loved it - no sign of any Tesco supermarkets (always a bonus, in my book) and absolutely NO chain stores that you get everywhere - just lots of individual, independent businesses - a fabric shop, a wool shop, lots of second hand shops, and independent clothes shops covering all budgets.  Oh, I lied - there was one chain.  When we had first driven along the High Street, I thought this was a cinema.    
However, on closer inspection, it turned out to be a Wetherspoon pub  converted from an old cinema, and named after one of Whitstable's famous residents.   And what a fabulous conversion - we popped in for coffee, and it was as beautiful inside as it was outside.  
I can't say I'm much of a Wetherspoons afficionado - but this is without doubt the loveliest I've ever visited.  I'd definitely go there again.
We spent the rest of the day pottering, and also visited a fabulous textile exhibition at the Horsebridge Arts and Community Centre by 1IN2textiles.  I came away very inspired and itching to stitch.
On Sunday, despite a slight drizzle and a chilly wind, we had a wander around the harbour, where some of the fishermens' huts have been converted into an Art and Craft market.  
Obviously, you can't have a trip to the seaside without a dip in the sea, but sadly the photos of me swimming didn't come out, so you'll have to take my word for it.  Would I lie to you?
 To sum up - Whitstable was fab - masses of lovely shops, a thriving art scene, and loads of live music in the pubs. All that and the seaside as well!  Now, if I can just win the lottery ...........

Peter Cushing Lives in Whitstable - The Jellybottys
and in case you are doubting me - it really IS a song title.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Lady Linda

Today I went to a brilliant workshop at my Embroiderers' Guild - Stitching on Plastic, with textile artist Kathleen Laurel Sage.  She was an excellent and inspirational tutor, and we could barely keep up with writing notes on all the wonderful techniques she suggested.  Despite being slightly wary about how tricky stitching into plastic was going to be, let alone free machine embroidery, I have to say my machine behaved beautifully and I produced lots of samples, some with paint, some with applied fabrics, and some with sequins.

There were lots more ideas I wanted to try if only we'd have had more time, but I left with a head stuffed full of ideas to pursue at home.

It was just the sort of day that usually, as soon as I'd get home, I'd make a cuppa, get comfy on the sofa, and then ring my baby sis, Linda, to tell her about everything I'd done at the workshop and promise to take the samples up to show her the next time I saw her.
Which brings me to my dreadfully sad news, and the reason why I've been away for a while.

A month ago, my dear sister, known to some of you as Patchwork Linda, died peacefully after a short and sudden illness.  It has been a terrible shock to all of her family and friends, as Linda was only diagnosed as being ill three short weeks before that.
As those of you who know me are aware, we were incredibly close, having been best mates all of our lives, sharing literally hundreds of holidays, countless trips to Knitting and Stitching Shows, Quilting Exhibitions, stitchy weekends away, and so much more. 
It has been, and continues to be, very difficult to motivate myself to do anything very much, but Linda made me promise to her that I wouldn't  give up stitching, and that I'd carry on going to workshops.  In fact to quote her "Don't use me as an excuse not to do your homework!"  
She was so strong and brave, and kept her brilliant sense of humour to the end, and she will always be an inspiration to me.  I know that I'll miss her forever, but I also know how very fortunate I was to have a sister, and how especially lucky I am that it was her.
In the three years since I started this blog, Linda was my most avid and enthusiastic reader.
So, Dear Linda, I hope that wherever you are now, that you've got internet access.  I shall continue to blog with you in mind, so that I can share with you all the trips I take, the loud gigs and the stitchy workshops I go to, my occasional finished projects - and my culinary disasters.
With all my love forever, big
Linda Margaret
7th November 1958 - 21st September 2011

Lady Linda - The Beach Boys

Monday, 19 September 2011

Been A Long Time

Ooh, it's been ages, hasn't it?  I had a couple of long weekends in Norfolk with my folks, and I have done a fair amount of pottering, in the garden and in my shed studio posh shed.  I have been working in my summer sketchbook, as set by Gina.  We had to choose a colour we wouldn't normally use, so being a bit of a pink/purple/orange girl - I went for blue.  Just a few pages from my book...
watercolours + salt
watercolours + wax crayon or candle resists

watercolour + glitter glue
carrot prints (it probably won't come as any surprise that I didn't have a potato to hand!)

some simple stencilling (does it look like a face to you or have I just got a vivid imagination?)
a bit of everything - including glitter paint carrot prints
more wax crayon resists

and some printing using Pressprint which I really like

I've still got quite a few pages to fill - and I'm determined to fill this one, as it has to become the basis for a finished piece of work.  Well, that's the plan, anyway.
I've also been busily knitting and sewing, and on Sunday having finished the jacket I've been knitting, I needed to sew it together. I was just about to start, when, on a whim, I decided to reorganise my bedroom, because the sun shines in there in the mornings, and it was a lovely day.  So, although there isn't really room for a chair,  I started shifting the furniture about. (God, where does all that dust come from??)  It's a very small room, and at one point I found myself trapped in the corner and had to clamber over several pieces of furniture, whilst carrying the cleaner (that's a vacuum cleaner, obviously - I don't have 'staff').  Anyway, it all came good in the end, and I was able to sit in the sunshine by the window and stitch.  
I'm pleased with my knitted jacket - and I even found some buttons in my stash, courtesy of my little sister, that were just perfect for the job.
And, having sewn them on, I realised that the holes were big enough for me to thread ribbon through if I wanted to.  Maybe that's a bit of an odd design feature, - or maybe I should just choose different ribbon. Anyway, the option's there, should the fancy take me.
And then all I had to do was sew some chunky rickrack round the neck of my 'sixties' style dress, that I'd also finished sewing that morning.
Who says I never finish anything?

Been A Long Time - The Black Crowes