Archive for the out and about 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!

 

Meet the Empress

Posted in Embroidery, Needlework, out and about with tags , , , , , , , on March 17, 2019 by suetortoise

I’ve got some catching up to do. I’ve got several finished pieces to show you, but I shall talk about just two for now, and my trip to Stitching for Pleasure.

This is the stitched box I started a while back (here’s the first post I made on its progress). It took almost forever – all that metallic thread, very hard on the fingers! The last stitch went in just at the end of February. I call this one “Empress of Mars”.

Here’s a close up of the lid, to show off the texture and the central decoration. The pink cut-glass beads came from an old necklace. I attached them with strong thread, before hiding that with metallic thread on top.

On Friday, I went to Stitching For Pleasure at the NEC, once again meeting up with Rachel from Virtuosew Adventures, for a natter and a look around the stalls and the exhibitions. Rachel’s superb piece “Leaving the Tyne” was on show in the Embroiderers’ Guild display of their “100 Hearts”. I was pleased to see it was one of three given pride of place right at the front entrance.

On my wants list this year were some more colours of Gütermann Sulky Cotton 12 – which I found on the Barnyarns stand, Some Stef Francis Superfine silk thread from the Silk Mill stand, a couple of fat quarters from Bombay Stores, and some offcuts of evenweave from Fabric Flair which I think was on the Yorkshire Book Company stand. I was remarkably restrained and didn’t buy anything not on my list, this year, despite temptation. Although I did come home with a portable, rechargeable LED lamp. I was only intending to look at the different models this visit, but i made my mind up quite easily. I’ll talk about that on another post, as I haven’t yet tried it out properly. All in all, a very successful and enjoyable day out, but very tiring.

There’s nothing like a day spent looking at supplies and lovely finished pieces to get the old fingers itching to try things out. Needless to say, I ended up spending much of this weekend making yet another bookmark. This one is on a piece of 28 count cotton evenweave from my Fabric Flair purchases at the NEC. It’s printed with pale blue random ‘clouds’ and is stitched with one strand of a slightly darker blue stranded cotton (two strands for the buttonhole stitch edging). Stitches used include double cross, tiny eyelets, a big spider eyelet and something like a double leviathan stitch. I’m quite pleased with this one. I think it’s made something quite delicate out of a somewhat unprepossessing piece of fabric.

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.

Going for Gold

Posted in Embroidery, museum, Needlework, out and about, Stitches, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 10, 2018 by suetortoise

Hanny Newton (standing on left) and about two thirds of our workshop group busy with their stitching.

I have just spent the day at an excellent goldwork workshop, here in Shrewsbury.

Hanny Newton is RSN trained. She produces beautiful work: combining technical excellence with fascinating simple design. Have a look on her website – although photography never does goldwork full justice. She’s a very good tutor: inspiring learning by experiment, rather than pedantic coursework, but able to give lots of tips and pointers.

I have never had a great urge to get into goldwork as such – although it is hard not to be a little tempted after today’s workshop. However, this day was focussed on couching, and knew I did need help with that! I’ve let myself down with bad couching when I have wanted to edge silkwork with metal thread (an effect I really love), so I went hoping for help and tips. I wasn’t disappointed. I have come home with lots of good advice about the thread to use (fine passing) and how to get it to sit neatly in place – and to stay there.

We were in a beautifully light room, in the barrel-vaulted attic of a medieval mansion house, part of Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery. We were one storey above the Corbett Bed, and I think that some benign influence from that feast of stitching percolated up to inspire us.

It was a relaxed and friendly day, everyone enjoyed it and learnt from it. My humble efforts are hardly worth showing here, but I was there to learn, and I hope that I can practice and do better. You can see rather wobbly lines of couching, some playing about with buttonhole stitch as a couching technique (one of the triangles is detached buttonhole stitch) and an attempt to couch down a big twisted cord, going from very visible stitches to hidden stitches. That one was not much of a success (I was getting tired by then), but all the experimenting was valuable.

Thanks to Hanny for an excellent day’s stitching, and to Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery for setting it up for us and providing refreshments. More please!

On Friday I am off to Sewing For Pleasure at the NEC in Birmingham. I will be touring the embroidery supplies stands looking for fine passing thread!

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