Saturday, April 22, 2017

Colouring in the garden

Its still sunny! Perfect weather for unwrapping and unstacking the paper I left overnight in dye and steam baths.

I found a great set of tutorials to help with eco dying, see I followed most of the instructions given, but also used the remainder of the Logwood and Persian Berry dyes as a bath for some of my stacked and wrapped papers.

The big hit was poppy heads, with bay leaves coming a close second in terms of subtle colours and interesting shapes. Most of what's shown in these photos is paper, pre-soacked in an alum bath ... next task is to try the poppy flowers - the bank behind the house is covered with them, and bay leaves from our very large tree, on some fabric.

Inside, my design wall has been moved to be flat against a solid wall so now I can audition fabrics, tea bags, whatever and they stay in place!!! 

the beginning of a quilt. 
this may become a curtain!!!!
Finally, a quick catch up ...

for my stitch a line a day project today's thread was red (left over from sewing  the binding on a quilt) and today's stitch was running stitch,

my yoga socks are finished ...

and I've been chain stitching ... the motif on the old piece of lace just seemed to call out for this stitch to be added, even though I've used it on this piece before ... some things are so good you do them more than once!!!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunshine and a very good book

Its summer in April here ... such a joy to stitch and read outside. 

I've added some feather stitches to the stitch-a-day piece ...

and finished reading Sarah Lapido Manyika's wonderful book. Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun. 

This is a short coming of old  age book, with all the issues of disappearing independence that reaching her mid-seventies and slipping from the edge of the bath brings to Morayo De Silva. She is on of the most memorable characters I've met in a novel for a very long time. The prose is beautiful, events and the other people in Moraya's life are touched on in just the right amount of detail and honesty   ... I just loved it. 

Read other reviews here 

and here

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A few days in a few pictures

Bonjour, its warm and sunny outside and some weeds need pulling, so this will be brief.

Finally, I'm set up to do some natural dyeing .... its a wonderfully slow process

Logwood, Persian berries and onion skins ... 

Solar dying with avocado skins  ... might be ready in July

I'm learning how strong the Logwood dye is even after several days 

I'm also doing more slow stitching, inspired by Hazel  from Institches Creative Textile Courses

... this is an old, rust spotted chair cover (provence unknown) and, with some hemp thread that has proved useless for anything else, I'm learning some new embroidery stitches from several great websites including

and relearning some old favourites ... only one stitch a day mind, and only one length of thread.

Finally, as I'm at home in France a photo of the new dog kennels and the lime and hemp bricks that will soon be the walls. 

Oh, and by the way last week the wonderful Reuben Woolly published one of my poems on I am not a Silent Poet.
Here's the link   ... there are lots of other great poems there, so do visit the website and just in case the above link fails here's my poem.

Westminster, March 2017

The people who won't be going home today
are people like you and people like me.
This morning they checked their emails,
read another chapter of their book,
bought a coffee to go and, wrapped against
only the March wind, chose the pavement.

The people who ran towards the blood
are people like you and people like me.
This afternoon they took off their coats
to pillow an injured man's head,
blew their breath into a dying women,
put their palms across pulsing wounds.

All these people walked from the south
or the north, they were willing to cross over
and look east and west towards the other side,
the side with plenty of places for more bridges
if people like you and I make the space. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Book review: The Essex Serpent

Just finished this very good book. Here's the long review

and my short version is - beautiful prose, characters that were strangly and wonderfully out of character and a book that carried the research that shaped it lightly. Well worth the time it takes to read it.

A beautiful day for walking

... more of the London Loop. This time from Malden, through Kingston to Bushy park

Springy grass, muddy paths, pavements, local wildlife and the splendour of a reflected tree ...

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Go to Margate, to Entangled at the Turner Contemporary ...

... go as soon as you can, its the most wonderful exhibition of threads and making by an inspiring group of women from all around the world.

Here's a small taste of what's on display ...

from the studio of Marion Baruch

delicate work by Chrisiane Lohr

Work by Tatiana Trouve
The bonus is that the Gallery's cafe has great food (I recommend the vegetarian hash) and Margate has an buildings that more than hint at an interesting past, including The Royal Sea Bathing Hospital and of course, Dreamland. 

Here's the link to the Gallery so you can find directions and opening times  Go soon, entangled really is a fantastic display of what can be made with threads and associated materials.   

While you're there do stop to look at the steps down to the beach and this amazing door which is in the wall at the back of the nearby car park. I think I may have found a stitching project!!!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Cornwall & London: poetry, art and lines

Catching up at home again after a week in St Ives writing poetry,  enjoying the beach and finding lines everywhere.

yes, Doris was forecast and passed by on her way up country 

some of Hepworth's inspirational lines 

sent out to write about what we found, and now have poems called Lines I and II in draft!  

I'll post more on the poetry retreat later this week ... I've been in London today at a wonderful exhibition of art by my brother-in-law, Andy Thornley. Its on for one more day and well worth a visit. Here are the details ... 

I ended my day at Tate Modern, and captured a few more lines!

Sometime soon something in my line photo collection will link with the fabric and thread and stitch ideas and become, well, I'm not sure what yet.  Maybe the place to stitch one of the Lines poems.

Friday, February 17, 2017

From this to this and a great book.

Briefly and in pictures  ... a few days of dyeing fabric, rinsing, washing, and this morning the best ironing task ever to reveal the results.

First the soaking and seeping

and after the bucket and machine washing hanging out to dry ...

and finally, discovering the patterns and shapes  - I found faces, flowers, a staircase and lots of forest ... 

And in case you missed my tweet about this wonderful book I recommend it as very good read. Powerful, insightful, I was captured by its relevance to the present, authenticity and straightforward style. I just kept wondering how I had missed it all these years of reading ... thanks to my book group I've now had that pleasure. One to read again. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Scalpel, stitch and poetry

Title says it all really!  Firstly, a poem for a dull day  ... comments welcome.

How many candles will we need?

On the third day of fog, I light the red candle.
Inside and outside shouts for brightness
in this repeat of yesterday’s white envelope.

The day before the blanket drifted away
and the sky was sunlit until setting time,
we lifted the cloches, walked the long way
around the woods, you said midwinter has passed.

In contrast, it was a sunny as we walked another section of the London Loop ( on Tuesday, this time 17 km from Banstead to Malden. As always there were landmarks ... a prison built about 1770 and a fungi covered tree trunk

The Watch House in Ewell, more details at

Possible stitch patterns ... 

There was quiet in the studio on Weds as we 
played with cut outs. I've posted two pics of results below; so glad to have lots of odd pages to ruin in this way. 

I'm now looking for an old hardback book to use the same technique but that first cut is going to be very hard. Cut into a proper book! It feels bad enough to write in one. 

And finally a glimpse at my latest stitching project. A line a day, a variety of threads and running stitch on a very light (and forgiving of a large needle) scrim. It was inspired by seeing lots of folk from many places and cultures waiting in line at US airports.  Often this sort of thinking will result in me writing a poem but instead this time I'm  stitching.  

Two days, two lines,