Saturday, December 15, 2018

How to dye muddy fields and pathways ...

 ... was the challenge I set myself on our last day in 2018 in the Institches Studio. Drop cloth and batching plastic and mark making tools were everywhere alongside thickened procion dyes and lots of white and previously dyed pieces of shrunk cotton fabric.

Pictures speak so much better than words for this. All these marks were made by brushing  dye onto different weights of plastic film, waiting for it to settle and gently pressing the upturned film onto the fabric.

And I couldn't resist some more usual mark making tools, namely a credit card and bottle tops.

I'm sure I'll be able to use some of these fabrics for my Walking the London Loop project.

After all we've gone around in (lost) circles
many times, the whole walk is a loop and
there is often more than one suggestion about
which pathway we should take!!!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Book review - The Children Act by Ian McEwan

In The Children Act McEwan lays bare several moral dilemmas, moving between their individual, even idiosyncratic nature, and their universality. The saving of a life, the strength of a belief system, passion, love and lust all feature.

He is a writer with a skill for bringing his characters to life. From the beginning the reader knows each of the players. The story weaves setting, personal stories and culture with ease, adding an essential ingredient for this particular book -the law and the normally hidden workings of the Family Courts. The ‘plot’ moves quickly, slowly, then quickly again, it never drags and rarely surprises but seems solid, well grounded in reality. 

But it is always a risk to expose professional lives -is this really the way a Family Court judge might behave?  In places it all seems a bit far fetched.  

The choice of third person narration is interesting as the perspective is always that of the main protagonist, Fiona Maye. Perhaps that says something about her approach to life -she comes across as impersonal and objective until her inner and outer worlds join in a rather critical way. 

It’s not often I read a book after I’ve seen the film, and as I reached the end of this short and very focused novel I learn why! Yes, film is a different medium, especially on the large screen ... for a start there is (usually) more than an audience of one. The book and reader are more mutable, intimate and I did not need the drama of the film ending to understand the story’s end. McEwan’s continued measured prose was sufficient. 

For a review of the film go to

Back to the book, its just but only just worth 4 stars but not one of his best. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Stitching news in Colour!!!!

Yes, this is the third blog post today and will go some way to explaining the long gap! I've been busy with, amongst other things

- a workshop at Happy and Glorious, run by Cas Holmes

Here's the small precious objects piece  I left the workshop with ...

Paper, teabags, fabric and hand stitching inspired by my Mother's lace.

It took a while for me to find my way to the set of three and to add some free motion machine stitching ... but now just look!!

and one reason it took a while was more playing with fabric, this time a small length of woven strip cotton, more details on this are here

The top piece is rusted in salt water and the lower piece found itself in a tray of dye at the Institches Studio last week,

I've probably said that I'm on my third year long course with Hazel and Terry this time learning all about adding colour.

Some great results last week, well worth all that rinsing, washing etc, because some of the fabric is now being auditioned for one of the 'pages' of my London Loop project.

Here's what it looks like so far .... comments welcome.

I'm trying for the deconstructed and reconstructed look to give Heron a well deserved stage.

Finally, something else found its way into the dye tray. Originally my embroidery and Mum's lace but neglected somewhat so it had mould stains that washing did not shift.

I'm not sure what I'll do with it now but it certainly looks more loved than it did. I'm pleased that the lace has taken the Procion dye so well. I might play with lace and dye again.

That's all for the moment ... it is still very windy and raining hard here ... a good day for indoor tasks like the one now done here.

Book review Education by Tara Westover

This is a powerful, raw and probably unique memoir that examines issues at the intersection of (amongst other things) the personal, family, belief, learning and organised religion. Westover’s prose is at once dense and flowing, hesitant and sure footed but above all it is authentic. 

She is a reliable narrator even though much of what she is writing about relies on her memory as a young child and young woman. Where she has doubts she lets the reader know. 

Westover’s 5* story left me thinking about two main aspects of her life, Firstly, the way our given intelligence and curiosity about the world, past and present, surfaces and how it does this come what may. In this way a child who never went to school becomes an original thinker -as she says, she becomes someone who writes history.  

Secondly, at times reading Tara’s struggles with herself in respect of leaving or staying within her family, I could hardly believe the impact of the strength of her Father’s belief (for example, that the world would end and they had to be prepared) on her. The bonds are almost unbearable and unbreakable when she is a child and they persist as she matures. Eventually the connections between her and her family start to fray and her knowledge of how others in and outside their religion (they are Mormons) see the world grows. 

One day when she makes her choice.  I won’t add the spoiler. Read the book! It is well worth your time to do so. 

Book review Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

I gave this book 4 stars, it would have had 5 with a different ending. In contrast to the rest of the story as it finishes Egan rounds down the shape of several characters’ lives and smooths out the edges of what happens to them. It all felt far too neat and tidy.  

That apart the book has much to admire, I learnt lots, e. g. about diving at the time, sea life during WW2 and the social mores of the place and time, and I enjoyed reading Egan’s writing. Her characters feel authentic, I could see Lydia, Mr. Voss, Dexter Styles and others, and Anna, who was always there, always living her life forward. 

Egan shapes the story in a straightforward way, yet lives diverge and converge all the time, creating interest and tension. A very good read. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Jericho Writers - a review and a thank you

Earlier today I was wondering what to post   - perhaps something on the way forward for my stitching projects but then, well, I've rather neglected any updates about writing ... what to say that could be of interest. Well, as I was pondering, the weekly newsletter from the always interesting Harry at, arrives.

Wow, as well as the usual good stuff, there is a great offer   - the Jericho Writers people are more wonderful than I thought!  They will give me a year of membership if I write a review of their website on my blog (or  a website). Very opportune.

Joining Jericho Writers is a key part of my writing plan for 2018/9. It will give me access to more, much more,  of their sound advice, events and, most important, editing and how to get published knowledge and skills. I spent time watching some of Harry's free on line seminars this summer. His 'teaching' style is easy to follow, very clear with lots of examples to contextualise the points he's making about enhancing and editing your writing. I was tempted to join then. But I was about to hand my draft novel over to two beta readers for their comments - another part of my plan. I hesitated.

Perhaps I should wait for my friend's comments first? Decision made, I used more of the useful free advice from Jericho Writers. I focused on finding potential agents, how to identify a few that might be interested in my novel, how many should I send my work to at any one time, how best to approach them, how to weave my way through the myriad of advice my internet search on the subject had come up with.

There is a lot that is free on Jericho Writers is generous to those who hesitate before joining. I did (lots and lots) of my own research, made decisions about who send to and what to send guided by Jericho Writers website advice and their speedy answers to a couple of questions. Thank goodness for Harry (and I presume, his staff) because, although he clearly leads with his expertise and experience, surely one person can't run it all!

The Jericho Writers helped me plan a process to follow once I thought my novel was ready to be considered by an agent, and to keep writing number two novel as the rejections arrive in my inbox. My plan ends with the need to accept that, as advised, if ten or so agents reject it, I absolutely need more editorial help for the next draft. That's where membership of Jericho Writers comes in ... it was to be my 2019 beginning of the year spend on my writing practice.  And now it may be a gift ... which is wonderful.

This post is long enough but before I close I want to add that I've also been receiving newsletters  and information from organisations like Jericho Writers. There are lots of similarities amongst them but Jericho Writers and Harry get my vote not the least for their style and focus. This is one of their strap lines (a copy from their website)


and hopefully, soon, I'll being able to read and participate in more of what they offer. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Book review Force of Nature by Jane Harper

I kept hoping this book would get better! The ingredients were there ... context, geography and characters but reading it was like reading one long beginning. The plot almost took of,  it touched on some current and important and often neglected issues and focused on authentic aspects in the lives of contemporary woman. But the distractions from these were too visible. That all meant an unwillingness by the author to go deeper and a story that was superficial and tame. A shame  - the prose flows, the detective character from her previous  book, The Dry, is well sustained if a little overdone. The book just needed more story and more depth to the main issues. 

That said Harper's second novel got 4* on Amazon

and here's what the Guardian said

NB I read the book on my Kindle so the above image is from Amazon, with thanks.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

All about the waiting ....

For what? You ask.

For lemons to ripen, our desert grape vine to settle in after planting and the basil, well, I guess we are waiting to find it frost free zone so we can continue to reap the benefit of its wonderful flavour.


And I am waiting for one more day before unwrapping the fabric around a great selection of rusted bits and pieces .... watch this space for the colours and patterns that'll emerge!!!

I'm hoping for some fabric that will be suitable for book spines. So far I've printed a photo of the book spine onto fabric ... some are interesting,

others not so much. So maybe what I need is a mixture of photos and free motion quilting of the lettering onto a matching fabric. One more reason to watch this space....  I'll post more pics soon.

And I will leave you with beautiful morning sunshine now the mist has cleared ... looks like a day to be outside.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

History of Violence by Edouard Louis -book review

History of Violence by Edouard Louis, translated from the French by Loren Stein

In this book Louis narrates an attempt on his life and rape through multiple mechanisms. Mostly as victim, he reports what he overhears his sister telling her husband - clearly a second hand version of what happened as he, Louis, had told it to her. Through this we learn some family background and of the victim’s recent history. 

Interspersed into this eavesdropped account are moments when we learn about what happened via Louis as victim. Then there are paragraphs in the third person as if the narrator needs more distance from the horror of what has happened and the subsequent reporting of this to the police. 

So, a complex approach to the prose which focuses on a horrific unexpected attack and the equally difficult process of getting medical help, involving the police, and accepting the support of friends. Put simply that’s what the book is about -the attack and its aftermath for the victim. 

All is told in forensic details -the guilt, the unexpectedness, the swinging nature of helplessness and hopefulness about what is likely to happen as it happened and the insidious impact of trauma in the short and long term.

The writing is intense, it allows us into the victim’s mind and gives the reader access to thoughts that meander, unravel, minimise and exaggerate each and every aspect of his reaction to the trauma. When the story reaches a stopping point, a few months later, we reach the end. There is no conclusion because there can be no end to the impact of that night of violence. 

Not an easy book to read, not a book to enjoy but I was gripped. To spectate over someone else’s pain is a privilege and telling stories like this, ones that expose the fine detail of trauma through facts and memories is important. I was impressed with all this and would read more by the same author, though perhaps not just yet.