Just to let everyone know that my father is coming to the very end of his life now: he’s at home, he’s comfortable and happy and being well cared for, but obviously this means I’m not going to be doing much online (or offline) for a while. So accept my good wishes for the festive season. I will be back!
My apologies for so long a gap between blog posts. My Dad went into Hereford County Hospital at the beginning of October, came out a week later, was doing well, and then ended up rushed back there again on the 8th of November. So I’ve been doing too much tearing around and organising things to do a coherent post.
Anyway, he’s making a good recovery at present, and yesterday he moved to Ludlow Community Hospital. He’ll be there for a few days, until he’s quite ready to go home. My sister is now taking over phone and visiting duties for a while, as I am off to Nottingham this morning for a weekend at Novacon 44 – the annual science fiction convention there. The box in the picture is one for the art show, as is my version of Tanya’s dragon. I’m quite pleased with the finished result now he’s mounted on a board.
I hope life will get back to somewhere near normal soon, but I’m not counting on it….
I’ve been staying at my father’s place this weekend. A very pleasant weekend. Eating curry, going for walks in the sunshine, doing a few odd jobs and errands for Dad – and putting the last few stitches into the dragon.
I’ve made some minor changes to the detail stitching from Tanya’s original design. Things that seemed to suit the colours I’d chosen and the personality that my dragon was developing. When a piece of embroidery starts telling me what it wants done, I usually listen. The main change was re-drawing the eye. I’m pretty pleased with the way it came out. I learnt a lot, too. I didn’t really take to split-stitch as a technique, but I was definitely getting much better at it by the end.
Last post I mentioned that I’d talk about the materials this time. The fabric is linen or a linen/cotton mixture – there’s a lovely flax smell when you press it, but it is quite soft and not as eager to crease as most linen. It was a tea towel from Shrewsbury market a few months ago. The weave is fairly close: I did a rough thread count and found it about 44 x 38 to the inch. It took the yarn well, without puckering. I used a size 20 chenille needle for all the stitching.
The yarn was fine acrylic machine-knitting yarn – two-ply, and very similar in weight to Appleton’s crewel. (As I’ve mentioned before, using wool was out, because of my stupidly sensitive skin.) The story of the yarn started two and a half years ago, when striped scarves were the in thing.
So was Loncon 3 a good World Science Fiction Convention? Did Kevon and I have a good time? Was the art show a success for me?
Loncon 3 was a lot to take in, a bit too much at times, but overall we enjoyed it. The convention was huge, full of people and with a massive programme of events. We could only get to a small fraction of the things on offer. Some interesting discussion panels, a very good talk by Lord Rees the Astronomer Royal, among other talks. Kevon and I took part in an academic experiment on our initial reactions to real and constructed languages – which languages sound friendly, aggressive, etc. Fascinating food for thought.
Kevon and I went off to Greenwich early on the Saturday morning, and ate breakfast sitting in the sunshine by the Cutty Sark, before walking past the National Maritime Museum and through Greenwich Park to the Observatory. (Kevon was most put out that the Greenwich Meridian was not at exactly zero according to the GPS on his mobile phone.) This pleasant outing was the only bit of sightseeing we had time for in London, as we didn’t want to miss too much of the convention.
The art show was huge, with artist talks, tours and demonstrations and well-attended workshops as well as the display of artwork. This made the show a lively, friendly place, and we art exhibitors were encouraged to be there at lunchtimes , so people could chat to us. (It also gave us a chance to chat to each other. I met some old friends and made some new ones there.) Plenty of buyers, too. I took nineteen pieces and came home with only four, so I’ve no complaints.
The Excel Centre staff were friendly, the loos were clean and there was plenty of space to sit and talk and numerous food places, serving affordable meals. And we got plenty of exercise walking from the hotel at one end to the convention area at the other – it’s a massive place! On the downside, Kev had an upset stomach the first night and I started a heavy cold on the Sunday evening. (Then Kevon started it a few days later. It got a large number of convention attendees.) So we didn’t feel like doing as much as we might otherwise have done.
I was very good, and didn’t spend too much money, despite the tempting bookstalls and dealers selling everything from flying drones and animated Tribbles to T-shirts, pearls and pyrogravure. On the Thursday evening, I’d gone to an entertaining talk on medieval spinning and weaving by Katrin Kania of Pallia and A Stitch in Time blog and later I bought a couple of metres of linen band from her stall. Trust me to go to a huge SF con and come back with no books, but with yet more embroidery material!
I bought a book on Thursday last week. A very new book. Children’s author and Shrewsbury resident Pauline Fisk produced her My Tonight From Shrewsbury blog in 2012 – a year in the life of the town from January to the end of December – people, places, events, history, little known facts and hidden corners. I’ve mentioned it before. It’s an excellent piece of journalism. The heart of the blog has now been condensed down to a book: Behind Closed Doors in an English County Town. On Thursday I went to the launch party at the new museum. It’s a good book, and I think it will do very well as there’s plenty to appeal to locals in it as well as plenty to interest visitors to the town.
For the launch, Pauline made a big cake and iced it with a picture of Shrewsbury as it is shown on a Tudor map: complete with the castle, old streets, walls, fortified bridges, houses and churches – and the swans on the Severn larger than most of the buildings. The light was poor, so I couldn’t get a very good photo, but here it is:
The multi-talented and amazing Tanya Bentham of Opus Anglicanum blog, is doing a ‘stitchalong’ project on the blog as an introduction to medieval laid-work embroidery. The first design is a little dragon, based one from a 12th-century church pillar. I’ve wanted to have a go at this type of work for some time, but I’m allergic to wool and this is a technique that won’t work properly with threads without a bit of spring in them. After considerable experiment, mine is being worked in acrylic yarn on linen rather than hand dyed crewel on wool. (I’ll talk about where the yarn I am using came from next time I write on this project.) If you want to join in, Tanya’s instructions start with the materials list here, and she also has kits for the project for sale on her Folksy site.
After working with fine threads on a small scale for so long, my first reaction is how surprisingly fast this piece is growing. Just a few stitching sessions, and I am over half-way through the first stage. I’ve never taken part in a ‘stitchalong’ before, so it’s all new to me. The entire project is for a small bag with a silk lining, but I will probably only do this one dragon.
One other piece of good news to end with: I had a hospital appointment yesterday, for them to see how my bladder is doing, after the removal of a small malignant growth earlier this summer. And the camera showed that all is well in there. That was a great relief. I will get another check-up in six months, but it looks like they’ve not left anything behind and no sign of anything new. Thanks for a job well done, Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.
I’ve been busy. I’ve now got nineteen pieces ready for the Art Show for Loncon3 in the Excel Centre – which is all set to be the biggest ever World Science Fiction Convention. (A scary thought, as I don’t enjoy being in large crowds.) There will be far too much going on for me to see everything, I’m spoilt for choice. Somewhere among those nearly 10,000 people will be lot of good friends that I am looking forward to seeing again. And an Art Show.
For my fractal artwork, I have splashed out on good, ready-cut mount boards. The framer around the corner from me here in Shrewsbury retired a couple of years ago, and I miss his selection of ready-cut frames. So I tried Cotswold Mounts, online at www.cotswoldmounts.co.uk. I’ve not used Cotswold Mounts before, but I will certainly use them again in future. My order arrived a few days later: securely packed, clean, sturdy and flawless. I added some of their precut backing boards and cello-bags to my order, too, which made mounting the pictures a brief pleasure rather than the usual long, slow chore that I dread. Most importantly, the black-cored mount board gives the fractals a lot of added ‘oomph’ and brings out the colours. Now I just have to show the finished pieces next weekend and – with luck – sell them.
I’ve not been doing much stitchery. Apart from finishing that art show stuff and the day job, I’ve been engaged in furious housework. The flat has been getting a long overdue tidy up, spring-clean and sort out, ready for my Australian friend Kevon, who is coming over to London for the convention and who will be coming back to stay with me for a week afterwards. I’m just about ready now, so we can relax in civilised surroundings.
My apologies for a long delay since the last post. Life’s been a bit busy.
My father’s health started deteriorating in April. By Easter he seemed to be failing fast. We thought it was something connected with his stroke at the end of January – the stroke he seemed to have survived so well. It wasn’t. While he was in Hereford, the hospital doctor had stopped one of his usual medications. Once his GP restarted the tablets, he started improving mentally and physically. He’s pretty much back to where he was before the stroke now, and keeping busy with various projects. But April and May were a bit of a blur as a result. I also had a few hospital visits of my own, so my spare time has been a bit limited.
No further news of the death watch beetle (no more click-click-clicks in the quiet, as the mating season is over), and no more news of getting the leak in the ceiling by the window fixed. So that side of the living room is decorated with my hi-fi speakers in a tower, topped by a piece of chipboard, topped by a spare plastic washing up bowl. Not an elegant piece of sculpture, but effective. Fortunately, there hasn’t been enough heavy rain to start the leak again recently. I will be very glad when something is done about the roof.
Thank you for your comments on choosing a third flower for my set of silk pictures. I am definitely planning to do daisies now. I haven’t done more than look at daisies very carefully, make a few sketches and do a couple of small samples of petals to see how to go about them. That project is on hold. I’m trying to get work done for the art show at the World Science Fiction Convention, Loncon 3, in August. The deadline for finalising what I will put in the show is fast approaching, so I dare not start any other embroidery projects until I’ve got the show pieces done and mounted. I’ve made a start – you can see a couple of the coloured drawings here.
I’d never found a four-leaf clover before this summer, but I have found a clump of white clover, quite near where I work, which has a tendency to put out the occasional quatrefoil leaf among the usual three-leaflet ones. In fact I’ve found four of them on that group of plants so far. I picked a few of the dead flower heads this week, and I have put them into some soil in my Dad’s garden – in the hope that some of the heads have viable seeds and that some of the seeds carry the four-leaf trait and one or two of them will germinate. You never know, I might be lucky!
Here’s a close-up of the violet: