News and stuff

A mixed bag of things to talk about, so I’ll start by catching up on more general topics, then those with no interest in embroidery can wander off without reading on.

Smolensk square completed

My father’s house is still up for sale in Bucknell – the property market there seems dead at the moment. Which is a shame, as it’s a good, practical house in a pleasant South Shropshire village, near Ludlow, and it wants to find someone who will love it. My sister and I are hoping that the spring brings some new viewings.

I had my annual trip to Novacon science fiction convention in Nottingham a couple of weekends ago – my only chance for a trip away this year. It was a pleasant weekend with a chance to meet up with old friends. The art show went well – plenty of variety from a fair few artists, and plenty of sales. Most of my work on show was previously unsold pictures, as I haven’t been in the mood for making much artwork this year. I did quite well in the art auction, considering, and now have a little more space in my portfolio for when I get going with new pictures.

The Christmas lights are up in Castle Street, where I live, and the shop windows below are trying to out-glitter each other. I’m not feeling sparkly yet. I think I’d rather just let this Christmas go by with the minimum of fuss and look forward to next year, when life is going to be a lot more interesting. I’ve got my plane ticket booked for a trip to Melbourne in the autumn, I’ve booked my hotel room for Mancunicon the Easter science fiction convention, which is in Manchester this year, and I’ll be back in Nottingham for another Novacon in November. Plus I’ll make sure I have plenty of days out, do things, go places, spend time with friends…

Right, let’s get stitchy. Up there at the top of the page is the completed Smolensk square, which I promised to show you. (This post is the start of this project.) I’m not that proud of it. If I did it again, I’d work the crossed filling stitch slightly differently. I’ve had more practice, and done some more gazing at the photos, and I’m seeing the original method more clearly. But I didn’t want to change methods in the middle of this square.

Rachel of Virtuosew Adventures blog, is currently starting on a fascinating challenge – multi-coloured, pattern dying as practised by the Egyptians in Roman times. I’m eager to see if she can figure out the mechanics of this. I’m not planning on doing any dying myself – I got as far as tie-dyed tee-shirts in the late sixties, and a bit more faffing around with Dylon later on, and came to the conclusion that this was the sort of big, messy subject that I didn’t want to get involved in. (There are a few.) But it’s an interesting spectator sport, not least because I can play with the results of dying without doing all that wet and messy stuff myself. So I was delighted to find that Shrewsbury Market is now home to a friendly weaver and dyer called Brigitta Shuker, who teaches and lectures on using natural dyestuff, and usually has some skeins of dyed silk for sale in her shop (among other lovely things). Not only are these rather gorgeous (it’s 30/2 Nm Swiss spun silk, quite close to a pearl cotton #8 to look at) each skein is carefully labelled with its ‘ingredients’. Here are a few. From left to right we have:

Brigitta Shuker natural-dyed silk

  • Cochineal 1st exhaust, mordants: alum, and cream of tartar.
  • Rhubarb leaves (as mordant and dye).
  • Madder root, cochineal, overdyed with logwood chips, mordants: tin and oxalic acid.
  • Ornamental maple twigs, mordant: alum and cream of tartar.
  • Logwood chip exhaust, mordant: rhubarb leaves.
  • Madder root, mordant: rhubarb leaves.
  • Dyer chamomile, mordant: alum and cream of tartar

I am looking forward to finding the right projects to use these threads. Brigitta doesn’t appear to have a website at present, so I can’t give you a link. You’ll have to visit her stall, which is on the gallery level of the market.

I also want to mention Mary Corbet of Needle’n’Thread blog – far and away the best and most useful embroidery blog on the Internet – because she is busy fighting cancer at present. I’m sure all those who know her as a friend through her almost-daily posts will be wishing her a full and speedy recovery. But on a more practical note, almost everything Mary has provided on her blog is free (and there are masses of articles, stitch videos, printable patterns, how-tos and useful reviews…) however she does have some downloadable books and booklets there, for sale for a very reasonable fee. Mary is a wonderful explainer, clear and direct, sensible and amusing. So if you’ve been thinking about getting one of those downloadable books ‘someday’, right now would be a very good time to do it, I reckon. (Dare I mention that one might make a good Christmas gift for a stitching friend?)

Right that’s all from me for now. The twinkly lights are swinging wildly in the rain and wind outside, and the Saturday shoppers down below are huddled under umbrellas or lurking in doorways, not looking at all jolly or festive. I’m staying here at home, in the warm, looking forward to reading your comments.


15 Responses to “News and stuff”

  1. Those threads look gorgeous! I will keep an eye out for that stall next time I visit Shrewsbury. 🙂 Although you have reservations about your embroidery, I love the subtle colours you’ve chosen. I’m fascinated by all kinds of openwork embroidery and this is an interesting technique. I too was sorry to hear about Mary’s illness just now. She is, as you say, one of the best and most generous sources of embroidery know-how. I think a lot of people in the embroidery world will be thinking about her at the moment and wishing her well again. 🙂

    • suetortoise Says:

      Brigitta is moving into a larger space shortly, next door to her current tiny stall, so she should be easier to find.

  2. This embroidery is beautiful anway. I do hope you will try again and show us how (but don’t feel preasured).

  3. So looking forward to seeing you. I will hunt out embroidery and sewing places in Melbourne to visit! Don’t celebrate Christmas myself, the being a childless, widowed orphan puts a real dampner on feeling festive.

    • suetortoise Says:

      Your Melbourne embroidery-shop suggestions will be welcome.
      I will enjoy having the break from work and some ‘me time’ between Christmas and New Year. It will take a while to get used to my new circumstances. But I’ve got friends to visit, and a few Christmassy things that I really want to do, I’m not going to be totally bah-humbug! But it will be low key, no rush, no fuss and (I hope) fairly stress free.

  4. Melbourne you say? That’s where I am too! If you’re in the city, you have to visit L’ucello 😀 If you’re in the suburbs, I’m clueless. If you’re in the countriside, there are quite a few nice places to visit with great craft shoppes. Hope you have a relaxing time here 🙂

    • suetortoise Says:

      Hi Michelle – I’ve just Googled L’Uccello, it looks like a pretty place to visit. I shall make plans much nearer the time, but getting into the city is easy from Kevon’s flat in Balaclava. We’ll probably be in Tasmania part of the holiday, but I’m going to make sure I get a chance to meet my Melbourne stitching friends on this trip. (Kevon can amuse himself for a while if it’s all too girly for him.)

  5. I’ve been getting very mixed responses to my dyeing project. The author of a book in coloured textiles I bought in Harrogate seemed to think the whole idea is vitiated by the fact that resists disintegrate after about sixty seconds in a dyepot, but apparently there’s a dyer in France who has block printed mordants already….

    I shall read over the winter and then when I come to experiment with real fabric I’ll write it up as much as possible so you can follow along without getting wet!

    • suetortoise Says:

      If anyone can figure it out, I reckon you can. Maybe you just need faster-dying dyes and more-resistant resists?

  6. Megan Hodges Says:

    Reading the comments already here and your responses, yes – a low key Christmas sounds like it would suit you this year, being the first without your lovely Dad.
    I second the recommendation to visit L’ucello here in Melbourne! They import odds and ends, a lot from France – very exciting for us. Lots of silk and metal thread/plate etc.
    I love natural dyed threads – the muted colours. Lucky you in having a local supplier!

    • suetortoise Says:

      Brigitta has been doing mostly pinks, reds, and gingery colours so far. They are lovely.
      It looks like we may be having a meet up to visit L’Ucello next September, then. Sounds like my sort of place.

      • Megan Hodges Says:

        L’ucelle is in an old, old (for us!) building in the city. There are other yummy shops there, and various artists’ studios. It’s rather cool.
        September, then!! 🙂 🙂

  7. My first receipt of your blog. A pleasure to read. Really enjoyed seeing the yarn and “ingredients.” I’ve long had an interest in pigments, and the pink-reds are among my favorite colors. I’m admiring them from afar in Seattle.

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