Archive for the everyday life Category

Wheels, Workshops and Water

Posted in Embroidery, everyday life, out and about with tags , , , , , on March 2, 2020 by suetortoise

My National Bus Pass became valid in January, and I have been making use of it for shopping and other sensible things, and for a bit of out-and-abouting. Plans to do more of this have been somewhat messed up by weather and flooding, but I hope to do more once we’ve dried out a bit. There are even several local bus routes that I have never taken. Admittedly, most of them end up going around housing estates, but you never know until you take them. The longer routes do usually go somewhere more interesting or useful, and also places good for a walk or a meal.

There was a small advert for workshops in the window of Ewe and Ply in Shrewsbury Market just after New Year. I only glanced at it, as their workshops are usually knitting or other woolly things, and I don’t get on with wool. But the name “Tanya Bentham” caught my eye and ensured a second look. I enjoy Tanya’s excellent blog, Opus Anglicanum, and I am in awe of her talent for, and knowledge about, medieval embroidery. I have already done a couple of her stitchalong projects from the blog, so I know she is a good ‘explainer’. Tanya was coming to run a day workshop on laid and couched work at Ewe and Ply’s woolshop (and teashop) in Oswestry, north Shropshire. It was only a couple of weeks away, but there were still places left, so I booked up. I even used my buss pass on a “dry run” trip to Oswestry to check I could arrive in good time and to find where to go. I was so much looking forward to meeting Tanya.

Just before the big day, a phonecall. They had not got enough people signed up. It wasn’t happening. But would I like to transfer to the one on the 22nd of February instead, which already had enough people? Oh yes.

And then the weather turned very, very wet and the waters rose, and there were floods in Shrewsbury. Not that I am in danger of flooding up here, on the top of a hill in the middle of town, but the bus station was underwater and I wasn’t sure whether the Oswestry bus would be able to run, even if I walked out to the temporary terminus. But yes, the water levels began to fall and by the time Saturday 22nd arrived all was well with the buses.

Tanya is great fun, her work is wonderful: she brought so many hangings and panels I never did get to see them all. Seven of us were somewhat jammed into Ewe and Ply’s workroom, with a choice of design and colours and all the help we needed.  Much chatter and laughter, and a lot of useful advice and hard work. Here are some of the group showing their progress.

Teri of Ewe and Ply provided refreshments and most of us had the Pot Luck lunch from the teashop. If you are looking for tea or coffee and home made cakes in Oswestry, I can heartily recommend The Eclectic Tearoom.  Pot Luck that day was a spicy bean stew: tasty and good.

I chose a design of a cat with a bow and arrow, from an old manuscript. I got a fair bit done, but there is a long way to go yet. Here it is so far, although I think I will re-stitch some of it. I have several other things to get done for an Easter deadline, so it may be a while before I get much further with “Tom of Oswestry”. Tanya’s partner Gareth made the frame. It’s sturdy and strong. Most of us paid to keep them. (The pens and things around the edge are compensating for my too-slack lacing-up. Easier than re-doing all the lacing – and very effective, if you ever need some extra tension.) I am not using Tanya’s beautifully dyed wools for Tom, just boring fine acrylics, because of my silly skin. This workshop was my Christmas present to myself. A bit later than intended, but well worth waiting for.


I was very glad that the workshop was on the Saturday – by Sunday the rivers were coming back up and the floods were coming back. Here is the bus station on Tuesday morning:

Tanya’s isn’t the only workshop I have been to. The local library had a session on Colour in English and Persian Calligraphy, run by Sohrab Samari. He gave us all a word to play with, along with pens and inks and colours and examples. We learned a bit about the history of Persian, he showed us how to write our names, he even sang us a song! It was only an hour long, so we didn’t have time to do much, but it was great fun. Here’s my effort: the word means ‘happy’ – I don’t know how legible it is to anyone who reads Persian, but I am happy!

 

T’was the night before Christmas…

Posted in Christmas, Embroidery, everyday life with tags , , on January 4, 2020 by suetortoise

IMG_04012020_111420_(300_x_400_pixel)It was Christmas eve and I was having a quiet, lazy evening after a very pleasant afternoon with my friend Sam, who had come for tea and a good, long natter. Now she had gone home, and I sat by myself in my comfortable chair, feet up on a stool, cards on the shelves beside me and the old tree glowing cheerfully on the window sill. I’d just started watching the DVD of Hogfather, and I was almost falling asleep….

The doorbell rang.

I toddled to the entry phone and talked to someone who knew my name and had something for me, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what she was saying. “Hold on, I’ll come down.” I said.

At the street door was a stranger bearing a big red basket of good food, a card and a bunch of flowers. They were from the owner of the newly opened bar next door. This was utterly, totally unexpected. And so very kind.

There is a Santa Claus.

I have treated myself to some “goodies” that will last a little longer than the chocolates, pies, nibbles and other edibles. These are Sajou Fil Dentelle au Chinois,Cocons Calais little cocoons of lovely cotton lace thread, barely thicker than sewing thread. It is very smooth, obviously good for very fine crochet but good for stitching and hand-sewing too. The cocoon is all thread, no core, pulling tidily from the centre, And, oh, so pretty!

I spotted them in the wool shop in Shrewsbury Market Hall, Ewe and Ply, back in October, and I have been adding two or three to my collection most weeks. There are 72 colours in the full range, 24 of them variegated, and I have only collected 33 so far.

What else have I been playing with? Counted fly stitch. Oh, it makes some great patterns, even on humble Aida fabric. Here’s a design I made for cards:

IMG_04012020_111332_(300_x_400_pixel)And here are some further experiments on some leftover aida:

IMG_04012020_111217_(400_x_400_pixel).jpgThe finest thread on this little try-out is the Sajou, so you can see it has Possibilities.

What have you been playing with recently?

 

 

 

Good Wishes from the Tortoise Loft

Posted in everyday life, Uncategorized with tags , on December 18, 2019 by suetortoise

Hello, again. Thank you for your patience! Yes, I am still alive and looking forward to getting back to blogging more frequently from now on. (Yes, I have said that quite a few times before, haven’t I?)

Things didn’t go exactly to plan this year. My health has been iffy, there have been a few other problems. But I am back, in time to wish you the compliments of the festive season and a very happy and peaceful 2020. The tree is up and lit.

IMG_18122019_155426_(400_x_600_pixel)

My big news of the year is that I have retired. It has taken some getting adjusted to, but I am starting to feel the benefit now.

I have more time to stitch, I can get to daytime events easily and I have joined a couple of craft groups. I can make the best of a fine day, not sit staring at it from the office window. There’s less stress, less rush, less hassle. I may have less money, but I have more time.

I have things to show you and tell you, but they will have to wait for my next post. You won’t have too long to wait for it – I promise!

 

With knobs on!

Posted in Embroidery, everyday life, science fiction with tags , , , , on April 17, 2019 by suetortoise

Just a quick one, as I am about to rush off to Heathrow for the annual Easter Science Fiction Convention in the morning. We are staying in a hotel near the airport. (The names of these Easter meet-ups vary from year to year. This year it is called Ytterbium.) As usual, I will be involved in the art show there. As I’ve already mentioned. I have been busy making bookmarks. In order to display them to good advantage on my fairly limited table space, I wanted to lift them up from the table a bit. Ideally, I wanted one stand, but long enough to take all five bookmarks in a row.

 

I spent a long time looking in Rymans, The Works and a couple of other likely shops here in Shrewsbury, but to no avail. Nothing suitable. Nothing long enough. Nothing light enough. It was frustrating. In the end I gave up and decided I would have to concoct something homemade with cardboard.

The rest of my shopping list that day was boring: groceries and household stuff, including loo rolls. I went into Wilkinsons homeware store for the loo rolls. On the way to the bathroom section, I passed through the toy section. Where my eye was caught by some large baseplates for building bricks (not Lego, but Wilko’s own budget brand, Blox). Hmm, those grey baseplates look as thought they might be about the right size, they are very light and they seem rigid enough. I wonder if it is worth buying one, and some blocks to make a ledge along the bottom, and trying it…?

To cut a long story short, I bought one and it was exactly the right size. Spot on. The bookmarks are a perfect fit. With an old folding bookrest of mine (at least 50 years old) to support the plate, what could be better? What is more, the plate is also exactly the right size to fit flat in the bottom of my big sports bag, so no problems with transporting it on the train tomorrow.

I do love serendipity!

Ytterbium, here I come…

Eyes On Stalks

Posted in everyday life, Needlework with tags , , on January 22, 2019 by suetortoise

I have a new tool. Shrewsbury has a QVC shop that sells returns and left-overs from a shopping channel. It’s the sort of place which is about 90% tat, but the occasional gem lurks among the polyester clothing and strange household gadgets. Yesterday I acquired a wearable magnifier, which I rather expected to be a waste of money. I have tried-on headbands and spectacle-type magnifiers before, and found them too heavy, too uncomfortable or simply not angled right for embroidery. (I dislike round-the-neck and magnifying lamps because they make me sit too still in order to see the work.) This one was reduced to £4.99, so would probably prove another purchasing mistake….

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December with Dragon, Peacocks and a Catbus

Posted in Christmas, Embroidery, everyday life, Needlework, out and about with tags , , , , on January 1, 2019 by suetortoise

Well, here we are, Happy New Year everyone, and onwards into 2019. Which will probably be just as mixed and tricky and confusing a year as usual, despite our good wishes and good intentions. And we shall cope with it all, as usual. I don’t usually make New Year resolutions, but when I do I like to start them early. So since I finished work for Christmas I have been making sure I do at least a little stitching every day. At least one needle-full every day. And so far so good. How about you?

This piece was started at the beginning of November, but made little progress – it was interrupted by the Christmas card run, and by indifferent health and life in general. But by Christmas Day the end of the slow, slow outlining was in sight (That’s one strand of DeVere Yarns 695 Peat – an extremely dark greenish-brown that I tend to use rather than black for these sort of projects.) I finally got started on the coloured silk shading on the 30th, and the photo above is the state of play at the very end of the year. I am using Chinese silk for this stage.

Progress will slow a little now, with work recommencing – this project needs good light. (I have simpler things on the go, so I shall keep stitching!) Regular readers will remember I worked this same design in 2017, my very first project with the Chinese silk, when I only had limited choice of colour and was learning how to use it as I went along. Now, I can build on that experience, have a much better palette of shades to choose from and hope to do the design full justice. It’s a Victorian printers’ ornament. I’ll show you how I am getting on in my next post.

I haven’t only been stitching. I enjoyed my break, good food, rest, good company. A trip to visit friends in Welshpool last week featured a visit to the National Trust property Powis Castle. We went to see the interior decorated for Christmas, with some magnificent trees and room settings. It looked very festive and very grand. The peacocks were strutting around in the courtyard – here’s one.

I also watched lot of video. I always enjoy The Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, and My Neighbour Totoro on Christmas Day – a tradition of quite a few years standing, now. And my favourite character in Totoro is the Catbus. So imagine my delight to get a cuddly, plush Catbus from my friend Sam at work. Catbus now sits on the arm of my sofa. (The picture also shows that I downloaded the Prisma photo-processing phone app on Boxing Day – I shall have fun playing with this and adding effects to phone photos.)

My other ‘not quite a new year resolution’ is to write Tortoise Loft blog posts much more frequently this year than last year. I say this every year, and it usually doesn’t happen. But here’s one, on the very first day of the year. It’s a start.

So what shall we talk about next?

Year’s Turning 2018

Posted in Christmas, everyday life, out and about with tags , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2018 by suetortoise

embroidered tree designAnd another year has got away from me, with far too few blog posts. As usual. It’s been a bitty sort of year. My health hasn’t been all it should be, recent changes at work have put me under more stress than I really like to cope with, and I haven’t been as creative as I would like to be, either.

Still, there have been Good Bits. Since my last post, my friend KRin from Australia arrived for a short visit, giving me a chance to be a local tourist guide for a day and also an excuse for a train trip with her as far as Machynlleth the next day, where she headed north along the coast to her next destination, and I went on to Aberystwyth in lovely weather. Here’s Aber looking almost exotic in the autumn sunshine. 

At the end of that week, I had a couple of days in Manchester, doing the Museum of Science and Industry and the Whitworth Art Gallery, among other places. (I must also give a mention to Wasabi Dessert Room in Falkner Street, where I had an amazing thing called Green Tea Snow Ice, hand crafted for me while I was being serenaded by strange Japanese pop videos. It was delicious.)

At the end of the month, I met up with Rachel of VirtuoSew Adventures, to see her work on show in an exhibition at the Anglican Cathedral – and to talk rather a lot, of course.

In November I went to MathsJam The Gathering at Yarnfield Park near Stoke. This is run by Colin Wright, Rachel’s husband, and she talked me into coming along. I had little idea what to expect, and I have never been a whizz at maths. I didn’t really know what to expect….

It was a lot of fun! The conference centre is a training centre for telephone workers in the week, and the first thing I saw on entering the car park was a forest of telephone poles in an enclosure. Fortunately we were not expected to climb them ourselves. The accommodation and food were excellent, and the conference areas were good, with plenty of space to sit and talk or chill out, away from the main room, tea and coffee on tap and friendly staff. The event itself turned out to be lots of very short talks about a huge range of subjects – mostly recreational-mathematical, but ranging from the topology of canal bridges to card tricks to recreating old photographs to double-sided blackwork embroidery patterns – and much else in between. I think I made good sense of about a third of the talks, was totally bemused by a further third, and got the main gist of the rest. There were puzzles to play with, a baking contest, competitions and maths tricks to look at. I think the people with the tricks were very happy to have a non-mathematician to baffle. And there was conversation, lots of it. I came home hoarse but happy. I might well go again next year.

While I was at MathsJam, I got quite a bit of stitching done: the card design that is at the top of this page. It’s on 32 count linen, worked with Gütermann Sulky Cotton 12, mostly in straight stitches over 4 threads. The star at the top of the tree is 8-point woven star stitch over an eyelet of straight stitches. It comes with my very good wishes to all my readers (who have been very patient between blog posts!) for the festive season, and for 2019.