Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The View from my Washing Line

It's been a while since I have posted and that is because during the summer months my garden seems to take up most of my time. I am constantly amazed at how my garden has flourished from winter bleakness, to the new shoots of spring and now that summer is here, an abundance of blooms. And of course with all the rain we have had mixed in with the sunshine the weeds have also flourished with a vengeance. I just can't keep on top of them and my garden often seems an arduous business a lot like painting the Forth Rail Bridge - a never ending task which only seems to diminish when Autumn arrives and I can gradually turn my back on the garden as winter approaches without feeling guilty.   I have to say I am very much a fine weather gardener but for now am taking lots of pleasure from my garden and every time I go and peg out the washing there seems to be a new flower in bloom and I can never resist dashing inside for my camera to take a few snaps....

The Geums I planted last year from small plugs are looking magnificent and just seem to keep on blooming. 

Love these giant Oriental Poppies but they are always quite short lived and all the rain we have had has not done them any favours. The seed heads though once all the petals have dropped off look attractive and this year my aim is to harvest the seeds. 

My favourite shrub in the garden - Viburnum Plicatum 'Pink Beauty' - the flowers start off white then gradually turn pink.  

Geranium 'Wargrave Pink' puts on a magnificent display and is ideal as ground cover. 

 Another hardy Geranium ideal as ground cover. I think this is x Magnificum.

The wonderful Digitalis (Foxglove) spires give architecture to a border and look so pretty but beware as they are oh so poisonous especially to cats and dogs. 


Love this cushion forming alpine Saxifrage which I will plant out in my rockery after it finishes flowering.  

The bees love feasting on the blackberry flowers.

My first every gooseberries. I bought this bush last year and was looking forward to baking a gooseberry crumble but disappointingly not a huge harvest.  Still quite a young plant so hope for  better things next year. 

Photo of the Violas taken a few weeks ago but sadly not at their best now. They always remind me of traditionally dressed Japanese Geishas. My garden always inspires me to get out my paints and do some watercolours. I am a huge fan of mother and daughter textile artists Linda and Laura Kemshall and on Linda's blog she has been busy painting the flowers in her garden in a concertina sketchbook. I too have a concertina sketchbook that's been lying around with blank white pages for far too long so with that in mind I am determined to set aside an hour or so each week to fill it with watercolours of the flowers in my garden. In between all the gardening that is!  

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Digbeth Street Art

I thought I would share with you some of the most amazing street art we have recently discovered during our meanderings around Digbeth (a district of Central Birmingham) in search of real ale, food and art. Digbeth is dominated by old industrial buildings with some dating back as early as the 18th and 19th Century and was once the manufacturing heart of Birmingham due to its nearness to the River Rea, the Grand Union Canal, Digbeth Branch Canal and the arrival of the railways in the 19th Century at Moor Street Station. Today Digbeth is a cool and creative hub with galleries, pubs, bars, restaurants and independent shops taking up residence in converted factories such as the old Birds Custard Factory aka The Custard Factory which is at the heart of the regeneration of the area.

Walk round any corner and you will be met with pictures like this.  Take a trip to Digbeth and explore the streets and see what you might find in the way of great beer, food and art.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

So Just Who was Balaclava Man and Who is H?

What a cracking series Line of Duty 4 turned out to be. Absolutely edge of the sofa stuff in Sunday's season finale.

Much as I am absolutely hooked on Line of Duty, is it me or am I the only person who gets a bit baffled and bewildered by all the forensics that AC12 spew out in those brilliant interview scenes?  Fibres from this, DNA from that, blood spatters from whoever.  There are only so many times that Other Half will put up with having to rewind that particular bit of evidence. 

The fate of DCI Roz Huntley's arm was always a slow burner throughout the series but I think we all guessed it was on borrowed time once she started wincing with pain and getting the plasters out. It was starting to make me feel queasy everytime she changed the dressing so I was glad to see the back of it to be honest. She recovered quickly enough though - a mere flesh wound! Losing her hand put me in mind of that memorable scene from ER Season 9 when Dr Romano's arm gets chopped off by a helicopter blade. Ultimately helicopters were his undoing poor chap as one fell on him in Season 10 but he was a bit of a nasty character anyway so no loss there.

And who can forget that jaw dropping scene of hijinks from Mad Men Season 4 when after the John Deere account is signed and in the bag, office secretary Lois takes a John Deere tractor lawnmower for a spin round the office and ends up accidently cutting off advertising executive Guy's foot.  OK yes admittedly Roz losing her hand was not quite so dramatic but still bizarre all the same.  
On a complete digression here, a la Ronnie "so I said to my producer" Corbett, how I love that we Brits seem to have now adopted the American way of referring to each TV series in terms of seasons and not just plain series. I believe this is to do with the fact that most American TV seasons actually do last for a whole season i.e. they air on American TV in the Autumn and go on till Spring and can be anywhere between 10 - 22 episodes long. And have you noticed how mid-season there is always a  Christmas or thanksgiving episode slotted in which is timed to air during the festive season in the US. By the time we get to see these episodes in the UK though it's usually BBQ season here. We do our own bit though with TV series over here by having Christmas Specials to air on Christmas Day or Boxing Day.

I first noticed the use of Season not series when US dramas took off back here during the 80s/90s with great TV like Thirtysomething, LA Law, Ally McBeal and Sex and the City and I started buying DVDs of whole seasons of favourite TV programmes. Loving the use of the term Season Finale too as it sounds so much more exciting than final episode don't you think? Of course now with the advent of streaming channels such as Netflix and Amazon Prime we can binge on Box sets watching season after season, perfect for rainy bank holiday weekends.

So back to Line of Duty and the burning questions remain. Who was Balaclava Man?  Who is H? And no it can't possibly be Ted Hastings.  Did Frank Ifield (oh no he was a popular singer back in the 60s who everyone thought was Australian but came from Coventry). Did Tim Ifield dismember those girls and when are Steve Arnott and Kate Fleming going to admit they have feelings for each other and get it together?  If only LoD lasted a full season of 22 episodes.  Bring on Season 5!

Monday, 24 April 2017

Fashion & Embroidery Show 2017

After blogging about the Cardigan for Cardigan in my last post I said I would show you some of the fabulous textile pieces I found at the Fashion & Embroidery Show at the NEC last month. Combined with Sewing for Pleasure it really is a great showcase for the very best textile art around. Here are just a few of the ones that particularly caught my eye: 

I love the patchwork jackets of textile artist Maria Thomas.  Maria creates these jackets from found materials such as this one made from a vintage linen tablecloth combined with food packaging. Her work is inspired by memories and experiences of family life and domestic chores. 

Loving the use in this one of an old paper sewing pattern and tape measure.

A jacket made from vintage denim jeans.  Another idea perhaps for all my old pairs of jeans.

And I loved this piece she made using old bottle tops and sweet wrappers. Maria will be Solihull Embroiderers guest speaker on 2 May talking about her journey through stitch and displaying her work so please come along if you can. Visit Solihull Embroiderers Facebook page for details of the event. 

Who remembers wearing cute little smocked dresses such as these? 

Girls will be Girls is a celebration of exquisite dresses that butter wouldn't melt little girls used to wear. A unique collection of heirloom-sewn dresses created by Wendy Hickson, textile conservator at the National Needlework Archive. 

For fans of Game of Thrones this amazing embroidery was created by members of the Embroiderers' Guild and consists of 4 panels butted together to make one vast embroidery 5.5m long and 3.8m high. To celebrate Game of Thrones Series 5 HBO commissioned the Embroiderers' Guild to create a special artwork featuring a 'White Walker' from the series.  

I have never got round to seeing Game of Thrones (late in coming to the party again but am hinting to DH for the box set) but this really was a sight to behold and the work that has gone into this piece is stunning. Along with the Royal School of Needlework, members of the EG from all over the country took part including Deborah Philpott from my own Solihull branch of the EG. It has since become known as the 'Hardhome Embroidery' after the battle that took place in GoT. Who said embroidery was dull?

Oh to have a waist like this but the poor women who had to wear this style of dress back in the day must have suffered dreadfully.  

All of these historical French costumes formed part of an exhibition called French Dressing and were created by Olivier Henry from Ecole Duperre in Paris. 

The High Street Stitch-Up - Crickhowell in Stitches - Two panels, one depicting the East and the other the West side of the High Street of Crickhowell in South Wales and the result of a commission from Arts Alive Wales.  

Over 600 people took part in the community art project with many of the  participants depicting themselves and their own shops and trades. 

Always enjoy browsing the trade stands so treated myself to a Merchant & Mills paper pattern which I am going to make up in linen. 

And a little bit of whimsy to end on. Couldn't resist this dapper little hare in his tweed suit.

Monday, 10 April 2017

A Cardigan for Cardigan

Last  month I made my usual visit to The Fashion & Embroidery Show at the NEC.  We are lucky living in Birmingham to be so near to the big sewing shows and festivals.  This one is one of my favourites as it showcases textile arts, embroidery, experimental stitching, knitting, mixed media and fashion design. Now as the title of this blog suggests, I do love a good cardigan so was delighted to come across this beauty.

The Aberteifi Cardigan was designed by artist Lisa Hellier whose idea was to bring together the townsfolk of Cardigan to create a huge 5 metre cardigan to celebrate 900 years of the town's heritage. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund over 300 people of all ages and walks of life in the local community knitted pieces to make up the cardigan.  The knitters had free reign to create their own patterns and shapes, meeting every Sunday and listening to talks about their town's history as they knitted. All in all the cardigan took 9 months to knit and a further 6 weeks to sew it all together. 

Lisa works as an illustrative map maker and graphic designer and designed the cardigan as a knitted map of the town of Cardigan and the coastline. This really was the mother of all cardigans.  Just one of the highlights at a fantastic show which is heaven to me and all who are interested in textiles.  More to follow about the show in my next blog.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Image Transfer - Do Try This at Home

So for me and  I suspect for a lot of other artists working with fabrics and textiles, the holy grail of techniques is image transfer. That is transferring images and text onto fabric in order to incorporate that piece of fabric into a quilt or stitched project.  The other week I had the pleasure of attending an image transfer workshop taught by well known textile artist and tutor Annette Emms

There are myriad ways to do image transfer and much has been written on the subject involving some really convoluted methods using nasty chemicals but what Annette has done is demystify the whole process by paring it down to a few key tried and tested techniques and all using items found around the house such as emulsion paint, cling film and a hot iron.  

As always after any workshop I attend I like to consolidate my learning in the comfort of my own home. In other words go home and have a go myself accompanied by a cheekly little glass of something chilled. So here are my results both in and out of the classroom. 

This image was transferred onto cotton calico using emulsion paint.  Haven't we all got photos like this of unidentified relatives that have been passed down through the generations from parents and grandparents?  I have a few that were passed down from my mother and I have no idea who they are and she didn't know either as by the side of one of the photos in an album she has written 'your guess is as good as mine'. Photos like these lend themselves perfectly to image transfer to give an  ephemeral quality.  

This method used gel medium.  It's one of my daughter sat gazing into a mirror in a restaurant while we were on holiday. One of my favourites of her. When using images like this in my work I am not looking to achieve that perfect facsimile of the original but more of a distressed look.

This method uses sellotape then stuck down onto cotton.

Sellotape combined with page from a vintage book.

Another using emulsion paint but this time transferred onto brown paper.

The iron-on T-shirt transfer method

And at the end of a very creative and productive day all my results are neatly collated along with copious notes into a little handmade notebook from Annette. Another successful workshop and Image Transfer demystified.