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.
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:
- 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.