Archive for the everyday life Category

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…

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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….

Continue reading

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.

To Talk of Many Things

Posted in Embroidery, everyday life, out and about, science fiction, Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 29, 2018 by suetortoise

So what has happened since my last post in March.

I went to the annual Sewing for Pleasure event at the NEC in Birmingham in March was well worth visiting, and an excuse to meet up with Rachel of Virtuosew Adventures. We enjoyed looking at the trade stands and the exhibits. Perhaps nothing as impressive as last year’s court costumes, but there were some fine old kimonos on show, and a display of embroidered panels that were a collaboration between European textile artists and Afghani embroiderers. Both of these displays were worth seeing – as was Rachel’s crochet bag on its first outing.

I managed to restrain myself fairly well. Here is my loot from the day:
The strange brown plastic thing is a lucet – an impulse purchase thanks to a very persuasive ‘luceteer’, Ziggy. My own attempts at making cord have not been very successful yet, and I suspect that this gadget will end up in the back of a drawer. I don’t seem to have the knack.

Easter was spent at the British National Science Fiction Convention, Follycon, in Harrogate. Appalling weather, endless rain, cold winds and even some snow, but I had a fine time. Some good talks, including Kim Stanley Robinson on Galileo and Nick Jackson on some female mathematicians. And we had an Easter bonnet parade at a splendid Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. A fairly successful art show for me, and my stitching workshop on ‘Darned Planets’ went surprisingly well. A dozen people learnt how to do some simple pattern darning to create a textured area on a card (one of my samples is at the start of this post), and I learnt how few people know how to thread a needle easily. (I could do a post on that if anyone is interested.) Here’s the group busy making their planets, in an unsettlingly-mirrored room in the Majestic Hotel.

Another highlight of that weekend was a concert by Jon Boden and two of his Remnant Kings, just for us. About a month later, I saw him on stage at Theatre Severn with the whole group. A fine noise they make, too! At the end of May I saw the excellent Celtic band Breabach there. Last weekend it was Ralph McTell and Wiz Jones getting amazingly complex sounds out of a couple of guitars. (The usual album stall outside in the interval seemed to be selling as many guitar-tab books as CDs.)

Sometime last year, I was looking at some illuminated manuscript illustrations online, and found one that I very much want to do as a piece of embroidery. It’s from the Aberdeen Bestiary and is the illustration to The Wolf. The photo on Wikipedia is HERE. It’s going to be a long-term project, preceded by several practice pieces. The first one is just the small wolf standing on the sheepfold roof. I started it before Easter but struggled with it. I could not get the shading on the wolf to look right. In the end, after a lot of unpicking, I left it for a month and came back to it fresh. This time it went much better. I was happy.

Until I took it off the hoop, that is. I used lemon-cream coloured silk dupion for the base fabric, tacked over Egyptian-cotton sheeting – the double layer was very easy to stitch through. The thread is all silk – a mixture of Chinese silk and Devere Yarns 06 silk. Despite having a heavy build-up of silk thread in the shaded areas, it had stayed very flat in the hoop. No puckering. I was very pleased. But as soon as I got the damp cloth and warm iron on it, ready to mount it – disaster. Between the legs, under the tail and head and below the roof – horrible puckers in the unstitched silk fabric. Pinning it out damp did not solve the problem. I was nearly in tears by this time. The next day I very slowly and carefully cut away the cotton backing outside the stitching area. (Trying to separate the layers between the legs was fraught, but I did manage to get my scissor-points through the cotton without damaging the silk – eventually.) Then I blocked the silk and got rid of most of the puckers. A second firm pinning out, pulled tight over the foamcore mount board, and it looks okay. Well, okay-ish. (I resorted to gluing the fabric down on the back of the board before removing the pins, just to be extra sure it woud stay put.) I am very glad that this was only a sample, not the whole piece. I guess I’ve learnt a lot in the process!

Now I am looking forward to starting a new small project. I think it will be counted thread for a change, before I go back to another silk piece. I found some light grey 32 count Zweigart linen in a charity shop last month, and it keeps waving at me and asking to be used. I shall consult my books and resources and ponder….

One final thing: the WordPress stats tell me that I get a lot of visitors to this site, but very few visitors leave comments or ask questions. I do like to get some feedback on my blog posts. Otherwise it feels like I am just talking to myself and the one or two (very welcome) regular comment writers, and I get discouraged. And, as always, if there is something you would like me to write about – embroidery techniques in particular – let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

Meetings

Posted in Embroidery, everyday life, Needlework, out and about with tags , , , , , , , on March 25, 2017 by suetortoise

Several pleasant, embroidery-related things to talk about this month, including a trip to the NEC in Birmingham: blogger meets blogger.

I haven’t yet mentioned the Saturday-morning stitching group that is run by Shrewsbury Textiles and Creative Stitch (STACS) – the group that formed from the local EG group, when we voted to go independent last September. I joined the Saturday stitching group in January. It’s a friendly and welcoming bunch. There are usually about half a dozen or so adult stitchers, as well as a small but thriving junior group (who make interesting things on the other table). We meet at Bayston Hill Methodist Centre on the first Saturday of the month, where we have a well-lit room to work in. I am enjoying the chance to stitch in company again. Continue reading

The Seasonal One

Posted in Christmas, everyday life with tags on December 23, 2016 by suetortoise

Yes, I think it’s time for my usual Christmastime post, wishing you all the compliments of the season and good wishes for the New Year. Last year, I was still grieving too much to want to decorate the Tortoise Loft, but this year the tree has been up for a few days, and here it is being suitably festive:

A Merry Christmas - or other winter festival of your choice - and a Very Happy New Year!

And for anyone who feels the need for a little more reading material, particularly a short piece for reading aloud, I offer The Antisanta which I wrote in 2010.

Thank you for your kind comments over the year. Blogs die too easily from lack of comments and feedback, so make sure you drop your favourite sites a line occasionally and keep them healthy.

Have fun, and I’ll see you all early in the New Year.