Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Free Motion Embroidery

 I have been wanting to try free motion embroidery on my sewing machine for quite some time, but just haven't managed to pluck up the courage to have a go...until now.  I tried using a double layer of calico first,but found it was a bit too floppy.  These are the two pieces at the bottom of the photo above.  I then used two layers of calico with some thin polyester wadding in between.  It felt a bit odd initially, because the whole idea is to keep the lines fluid and not keep stopping (which I kept doing).  I have seen people demonstrating this on the TV and they suggest sitting and doodling with a pen or pencil, keeping the line fluid and trying not to take the pen or pencil off the paper, so that is something else I need to do.
 My next attempts with the wadding inside definitely worked better and quilted the fabrics too.  I wasn't sure how fast I should attempt to go, but I think I can go a little more slowly, which will allow me to have more control.  It will take a fair bit of time to get really proficient, but I was quite pleased with my first ever attempts.
I managed to write my name and draw a flower or two.  My idea is to practise lots more and then possibly use this type of embroidery to embellish my felt pieces.  Hand sewing as embellishment works really well, but is very time consuming.  Free motion embroidery will give a different look to the pieces and again, I won't be able to duplicate any patterns exactly, so will keep the individuality of each piece.  All I need now is time to practise...a lot...

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Late Summer in the Garden

 Two weeks ago, the bank holiday weekend was hot and sunny.  It seems a long time ago now and the weather has changed rapidly.  Yesterday was cold and autumnal, with heavy rain showers.  Today it has been bright but windy. Autumn is definitely just round the corner.  The garden is taking on its late summer colour with the Japanese anemones - Bressingham Glow above...
 ...and Bowles' Pink here.
 This Japanese Anemone is Pretty Lady Maria.
 The hydrangeas are gently fading into their old velvet colours.  Dark Angel is above...
 ...and Coco or Fireworks (not sure which) is here.
 The Asters September Ruby and Little Carlow seem to be quite early but make a lovely colourful combination with Helianthus Lemon Queen. All these plants are much happier since the wall has been built and without the five foot of ivy which (unfortunately for them) shaded them so effectively.
 Rose New Dawn is flowering well again.  We are going to give it a new metal support this winter, which will create an arch over the path.  I think it will look lovely.
 This morning, I was taking the photos above and was lucky enough to just be in the right place at the right time to see this Red Admiral enjoying the buddleia.  
 I haven't seen many butterflies this summer, except for the odd cabbage white, so was really pleased to see this one, making the most of the nectar.
A few more sunny days like today would be most welcome (for all of us, flora and fauna alike!)

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Latest reading - for my inner 'young adult' and 'adult' selves

(All images taken from 
I have been reading several 'young adult' books recently, which I have enjoyed.  My very good blog friend at Elephant's Child (I consider her such, even though we have never met and she lives in Australia, so the chances are we probably won't) often reviews books she has read and I usually have to go and search them out because they sound so intriguing.  The Grimm Legacy was my favourite of the two and I would have loved it if I had read it as a teenager too.  It's about a very special library which has magical collections and someone has been stealing items from it...
 This book will need another reading, I think. Again set in the library, but all about time travel.  My unscientific brain felt a little confused in places.
I am just starting this sequence of books, having allowed them to pass me by when I was a child/young adult.  They sound to be just my sort of books.
 Chris noticed this one in our Uni library and it intrigued me.  I wouldn't have read it as a young adult as it would have been a  little too scary/gory for me then.  It is a re-imagined part of the story of Frankenstein and his creature, when he comes to London to work on creating a mate for the creature. Mr Creecher meets a young pickpocket called Billy and together, they follow Frankenstein.  It is very cleverly done and does fit neatly into the original story.  I felt that you would need to know a bit about the original book to really gain the most from it, but it was very accessible.  Even the look of the text gave the book an 'old' feel.
This one is for the adult reader - the start of a series (bother - I will probably have to read more...) of ten stories (so far) about the work of a forensic archaeologist in Norfolk, who is called in to look at a skeleton which turns out to be Iron Age. There were lots of red herrings and I thought that most of the characters was the murderer at some point in the book (but then I'm not very good at discovering the murderer in these types of books, so that didn't really surprise me), but it resolved itself satisfactorily. I now have the Dark is Rising sequence, as well as a couple of biographies to read (one on Mrs Keppel and her daughter Violet Trefusis and one on a female artist called Gluck.  We watched a good documentary on Gluck on BBC 4 and this has piqued my interest).  On with more reading...

Monday, 28 August 2017

The Asylum - Steampunk Festival 2017

We went into the city to see the Steampunk Festival, as we did last year (see here).  It has been on since Friday and did seem to be a little quieter today.  It has been a glorious weekend with lots of sun, but I did feel sorry for those Steampunkers who had suits and long dresses.
 Here is our friend Rachael in her Steampunk inspired outfit, standing with the Knight that she painted in situ, right by the Cathedral.  He is, as predicted, very popular with children.
 This Steampunked van was drawing lots of interest.
It has many interesting details.
 Although it was a bit quieter today,  there were still lots of people in Castle Square.
 Usually, Steampunkers are very happy to stop and pose for a photo.  There is a rather cross looking fairy trapped in the cage.
Chris made a purchase of a rather smart coat, so it looks like we will be taking part next year (although I seem to remember we said that last year too.)  Hmm, now what character do I want to be?

Here is the weekend's timetable:  - there were lots of activities to take part in.
For some more photos, click the link:

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Coincidence? Lady Audley, Louisa Ruth Herbert, Mr Whicher and the Pre-Raphaelites...

Recently, I have noticed some rather intriguing coincidences happening in my life.  One happened a few weekends ago, when Chris and I were looking at used books in various charity shops.  I bought three books, each from different shops.  One was Lady Audley's Secret (1862) by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, which had been on my radar for a while as it is a Victorian murder mystery and I had seen it mentioned on other blogs. One was The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Road Hill House Murder by Kate Summerscale and is an account of a true-life Victorian murder.  I was also aware of this as I had seen the TV adaptation. The final one was Desperate Romantics by Franny Moyle, about the Pre-Raphaelites, which I approached with caution as I didn't like the TV series based on the book.  However, I felt that if I hadn't read the book, I was in no position to be critical of it, or the series.  So, three books, all based in Victorian times.
(You will notice that Lady Audley's Secret is not in the photo above because I have lent it to a friend to read.)
Once I began reading, I noticed that the books were all linked.  In Lady Audley, there is a description of a painting of Lady Audley, by a Pre-Raphaelite artist (unnamed), which becomes important.
 "No one but a pre-Raphaelite would have painted, hair by hair, those feathery masses of ringlets with every glimmer of gold, and every shadow of pale brown. No one but a pre-Raphaelite would have exaggerated every attribute of that delicate face as to give a lurid lightness to the blonde complexion, and a strange, sinister light to the deep blue eyes. No one but a pre-Raphaelite could have given to that pretty pouting mouth the hard and almost wicked look it had in the portrait."

The painting above is of Helen of Troy by Rossetti with Annie Miller as the model, but the description of the colouring of the model in the fictional portrait does make me think of this one. This image can be found here.
There is also the possibility that a facet of the character of Lady Audley was based on one of the family involved with the Road Hill murder case, Constance Kent.  The first actress to play Lady Audley on stage was Louisa Ruth Herbert, who became a muse for Dante Gabriel Rossetti during 1858 -9. Here's what he wrote about her:

"I am in the stunning position this morning of expecting the actual visit at 1/2 past 11 of a model whom I have been longing to paint for years – Miss Herbert of the Olympic Theatre – who has the most varied and highest expression I ever saw in a woman's face, besides abundant beauty, golden hair, etc. Did you ever see her? O my eye! she has sat to me now and will sit to me for Mary Magdalene in the picture I am beginning. Such luck!"
 The author Mary Elizabeth Braddon said Louisa Ruth Herbert gave her favourite performance as Lady Audley.
Here is a carte de visite of Louisa Ruth Herbert in 1865.
Here is a pencil sketch Rossetti did of her in 1859 from wikipedia - there is a hand to the left of the picture with the word 'stunner' beside it - Pre-Raphaelite slang for a beautiful woman.  Of course, she appears in the book Desperate Romantics (which is much better than the awful TV series made from it).
Then on Friday, I was reading blog posts that I follow and on Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood, appeared a post all about - yes, you guessed it - Louisa Ruth Herbert!  There was also a link to another blog, The Kissed Mouth, with a post all about her, including some photographs of her, showing that she really did look like Rossetti's drawings.
So what does all this mean? Well, it could just be one of those things - as there is an obvious link through Victorian culture.  However, I like to think I was meant to buy and read the books and remind myself of Louisa Ruth Herbert too.  (She and I have a connection of about thirty years, as I also used the black and white drawing of her as the basis of part of an A level art work, many years ago...spooky!)

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Jewellery and gardening

 My best friend who lives in Canada had a big birthday at the end of July and I knew that I wanted to make her a proper, hand knotted pearl necklace with sterling silver findings.  I gathered everything I needed; pearls, silk thread, sterling silver toggle clasp, sterling silver beads, sterling silver french wire and watched many a video on the internet as well as consulted books on the subject.  I decided to use a pair of jewellery tweezers to help with the knots as I felt this looked the most user friendly way to choose.  I stretched the silk thread the day or so before starting in order to lessen the stretch once the necklace is worn.  It took an afternoon to do the knotting and threading, after a couple of false starts and a few choice words.  I was really pleased with the end result.
 I duly sent the jewellery off, but as sometimes happens, circumstances conspired against me and the parcel's progress went a bit quiet.  I had sent it with tracking and signed for, to try to ensure it arrived safely, but after a good fifteen days, missing my friend's big day (bother), it hadn't arrived and I was more than a little worried.  However, when I checked the tracking progress again, it suddenly reappeared and my friend has now received it.  She left me a lovely phone message and I think she liked it!  
The garden is slowly starting to show its late summer colour - this year, the dominant colours are blue/purple/lilac, thanks to the agapanthus, clematis and hibiscus.
 One of my favourite plants for July/August is Hibiscus Syriacus 'Oiseau Bleu/Bluebird' which has the most exotic looking flowers and which has flowered brilliantly this year.  It is always featured on my blog.
However, to offset all the pastels, I have enjoyed seeing the crocosmia (here, it is 'Columbus') unfurling, with the rich yellows and oranges providing a lovely hit of colour.  Lots to enjoy in the August garden.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Creative endeavours

I have had some time off work and have managed to complete two projects.  I have made another needlefelted sheep, based on a Lincoln Longwool sheep.  I think I have improved on the way the head attached and placed, so it is a matter of more practise.
 Here are two real Lincoln Longwool sheep.
I used Lincoln Longwool fleece to add the curls.
 Here are my first two sheep together. The start of a little flock, I think.
 My other creative endeavour was to upcycle this card index unit.  The unit had been sitting under my table with nothing in it for a long time and I decided it would be perfect storage for Blockwallah stamps.  However, it was covered in a dull, ugly brown textured paper, some of which had come off.  So, out came the emulsion paint (the same shade I used on my paper storage unit.)
I covered one side in this lovely paper (which has glitter in it)...
 and the other in this (being very pleased with the way it complemented the paint).
 The back got a makeover too...
As did the top.
For the drawer fronts, I used the same papers as I had used for the paper storage unit.  I think it is a huge improvement and am really pleased with how it looks.  I have lined the drawers with remnants of oilcloth as the stamps have been oiled and this can mark some surfaces.  My pretty card storage index now has a new lease of life on my shelves.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Please keep checking your bank statements/transactions

(Sad face from:  Angry face from: )
Here's how I'm feeling today!
I called in to the bank this morning, as I do pretty much every week, to keep an eye on my spending and on my accounts generally. Today, there were some payments on one account which I did not make.  So, I went to the counter and the account was checked for me.  It seems that someone had got hold of my card details from the internet and had been having a lovely time spending my hard earned money.  (Some of the things they had been spending on were just not very nice.)  My card was blocked immediately and I now need to keep checking the account as the payments were pending and until they appear on the account statement, the bank aren't able to start fraud investigations.  I was assured that my money was safe, despite appearances to the contrary.  So, I'll be back at the bank on Thursday to check again.
Please do keep a close eye on your accounts and make sure you know what you are spending and what payments you have made.  It is a really horrible and shocking experience and is awful to know that someone has your card details and is spending your money on whatever they want. I'll keep you posted with any developments.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

More experiments

I have been busily sewing more stock for the craft fair in November, which is creeping ever closer.  I am going to get some business cards and postcards printed up soon and then I'll need to get on with the packaging.  I'm glad that I still have a few months to prepare.
I enjoy block printing and was wondering whether I could use my Blockwallah wooden blocks on my felt, to give a different look.  So, I tried, using acrylic paint which can be heat set for fabric and fabric paint.  I had to press the blocks firmly, but was encouraged by the results.
 Some of the images worked more effectively than others.  They have all been heat set, so the paint shouldn't come off.    I also wondered whether a bit of embroidering might add a little something extra, or some beads... I will probably make these into little decorations or bag charms.
 I liked the multicoloured images.  I have now bought some screen printing ink for fabric, which I am hoping will work well (more experimenting to come) and I have lots of ideas floating around in my head for felted backgrounds with printing on top.  I do have some time off in August so will enjoy more experimenting then.

Saturday, 15 July 2017


It is hydrangea time in the garden and as, in the past, (whisper) I didn't really like them and so did them a bit of a disservice, I feel it is only right to focus on them now.  I have completely changed my opinion of them now and have several in the garden, mainly in pots.  Above is a lovely pure white one, either 'Coco' or 'Fireworks' - I lost the label.
 This one, 'Diamant Rouge' is one I bought last year and haven't seen the flowers yet, so am eagerly watching them to see what colours I get - judging from the name, I'm expecting red.
This is Merveille Sanguine and I like the way the bracts change colour from cream with a hint of green to bright pink.
 This is 'Dark Angel' which is moody and magnificent with its purple shaded leaves.  Again, it has cream and then pink bracts but it also has blue/purple flowers.
 I hadn't really noticed these before but they are stunning...
 Each flower looks like it has been outlined with white.
Finally for now is my favourite (don't tell the others), the only one planted in the border and always reliable, Arborescens Annabelle.  Beautiful, huge creamy white with a hint of green flowers.  I pruned her back (I have to call her, 'her') quite harshly in late Spring, but she has rewarded me by flowering beautifully.
Just stunning.  I enjoy the way that hydrangea flowers fade during the autumn too, so have no doubt they will appear again then.  I am really pleased that I have embraced hydrangeas - I would have missed so much gorgeousness.