Sunday, 14 May 2017

A new rose bed

We've had a flower bed in front of our dilapidated shed for some years now. When we first moved here in 2010 there was nothing, just grass, weeds and muddle.

So, in 2012, having painted the shed, and wired it up to give the roses more support, we dug out the grass weeds and muddle and planted it up with irises, which started life in our old garden in 2008

These were beautiful for a couple of years,

but gradually we got less and less flower and more and more weeds - the lack of flower I think because the soil was poor and tended to be very waterlogged in the winter - the weeds due to my not having the energy or is that diligence, to keep on top of things.

So this year, taking our cue from the two rather beautiful roses which thrive and were here when we arrived,

my Good Soul dug up the remaining irises, still quite a collection I might add, and will take them off and nurture them until we decide where to try next. They have been very forgiving so far, so I hope they do well once we move them to their new place - probably in the front garden where they will get lots of sunshine to bake their rhizomes.

I then spent about six days, on and off, taking it mindfully, pacing myself to avoid too many aches and pains, and dug through the whole bed. I pulled out all the weeds and as much suspicious root as I could, then turned in a generous quantity of composted manure and mulch and mix to feed the soil. The process reminds me in an odd way of making pastry or mixing up a cake - not that I do much baking, but it's a similar thing, just on a much larger and more exhausting scale and the heat comes from the sun rather than an oven!

Having done all that I have planted it up with three more roses; deep plum, stripy pink and dusky peach, in the hope that, like those already there, they too will thrive. I've tucked in some annuals; blue pansies and some pinks,

and rich rusty magenta petunias,

Also a few perennials; columbine, my very favourites, to join the self seeded one that was there already,

don't you just love their little curly topped seedheads?

really, you can't have too many

Also some speedwell, a couple of sedums from another much loved Aunt's garden and a some geraniums (not pelargonioums) which will bush up and give us more blue and pink. Oh, and added some edging to the bed - a slightly obtrusive plastic one that I hope will tone down a bit as the years go by. It should prevent the grass from taking over again.

Now to sit back and look forward to seeing what the summer will bring.

Qute a change from the picture up top eh? Look how those roses have grown.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Holiday dyeing

I've been doing some holiday dyeing - which of course means the laundry and houswork are way overdue! I had some left over dye from a previous experiment, and wanted to see if it really was spent. So, a torn off bit of one of the endless "Connie and Harry sheets", soda soaked, folded and wrapped, the dye applied from the bottles it has been sitting in since I last used it - it all looked rather promising; lovely vivid shades, couldn't wait to unwrap

However, the dye really was spent, and most of it washed out - very pretty, but definitely not vivid; more delicately faded.

Christine's mantra is, "you can always stick it in a bucket of black" so, treating this as a test piece, out came the plumbers pipe and string and a bit of "sort of" arashi shibori. I'm not sure if I can really call it this, since arashi normally involves wrapping the fabric diagonally along the length of the pole. In this case I've placed it so the centre of the piece is over the end of the pole, folded it carefully down the sides, then spiral bound with thread. Into the dye vat it went - a mixture of turquiose, a touch of royal blue and black. I had hoped that the plastic bag on the end, firmly tied and elastic banded, would work as a cap to preserve the yellow centre but I may not have tied it tightly enough because the dye managed to soak through.

This is where I got to with stage two - notice how much more of the first layer of colour washed out with this second process. An interesting pattern though, and I'm learning all the time, but the delicacy of the inital image has been lost, both because of the first colour fading and because the second process has produced a much more definite pattern

I thought this looked a bit neither one thing or the other, in fact, a bit "meh" as my daughter would say so, back in the soda solution and on to stage three, and a stage one for a second piece of sheet - just to use up the second batch of dye

Refolded and bound in a similar way to the first process but this time with elastic bands rather than thread - they were harder to tie tightly, but I'm a bit wary of elastic bands!! Again, Christine's advice is; for multiple layers, using the same or a similar process allows the layers of colour to have some relationship with each other.

And the second piece of cotton, pulled out along its diagonal from corner to corner, roughly pleated and bound with thread, closely, criss crossed and more loosely as I worked along the length.

More dye applied, this time freshly brewed - and then the wait .....

Well, vivid has returned, and I think has integrated the arashi pattern better, it has more balance now - and the second piece makes me think of summer sunbursts and ice cream - I rather like it, and can see where the binding, tight or loose, has affected the pattern of the dye - more white where it was tightly bound - more learning

but what on earth to do with them both now?

I'm off to Studio11 tomorrow, so a bit of show and tell discussion might help.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

I've been mulching

Which makes me sound like a ruminant in a field. Actually, it's just spreading stuff on the ground to feed the soil and suppress the weeds. Should be done in Spring and Autumn. 

I garden in little bits, it suits my state of health to do, say half and hour, then stop and rest, then go back and do a little more. I've had this on the go for the past two weeks I think; I dig a little bit, pull out as much weed as possible, on hands and knees, working bare hand if necessary, round those delicate things you find when you are close to the ground, self seeded thises and thats, which need careful fingers about them to ensure that encroaching grass doesn't grab them too, as you pull it out.

The mulch is a mixture or garden centre bought stuff, dark rich brown and very most; then some leaf mould collected a couple of years ago, stored in a plastic bag to rot down until ready; add some ground up prunings that have been sitting in a black bin for a couple of years; stir in some birdsong and fresh air and there you are, a lovely soft brown blanket to snuggle around the plants and keep the moisture in.

In this area I haven't even finished the weeding, 

but I've cleared round Mum's tree and the azaleas and given each a good spread of the brown stuff. I'll tackle the weeds again tomorrow


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Some garden for Els

Els does the most wonderful stitching, and felting, and drawing and knitting aaaaaaand gardening. This post caught my eye, as I had just come in from taking photos in our garden, hundreds of miles away ...

here they are Els



the old dears

moist and mossy

full of light

and shadow

Monday, 10 April 2017

free flight

buzzard and seagull vying for space as Spring surges

a little breath of wind

a flutter in the undergrowth

light held so delicately

I have had increasing tooth problems in the past couple of weeks and months - two abscesses, two extractions, much lowness of spirit, some forbearance;

I'm on the mend

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Weaving progress and goodbye

I'm very much enjoying my weaving. I keep having to unweave and reweave as I go wrong. But I'm happy with where this is going, and am learning a lot. 

Because I'm doing the 1YearofStitches2017 project it is an easy transition moving from one thing to the next: because you are in the same room; because you see it awaiting your touch; because you have awoken the inner whatever; because colour and texture are there calling to you. 

Part of that daily practice opening doors.

We had the funeral service for Cecil this week, a gentle saying goodbye for a very few of us. Pen lead the service, as she did for Mum. She is exactly who you want to help say goodbye to someone you've loved; her kind heart shines out, she is reverent, firm, gentle in her words, gently humorous too, all expressed through the foundation of being that is her faith.

When I stitched that afternoon, I nestled in some last seeds, dispersing in the spring breeze amongst the ripe buds of new beginnings, life always arising in the release of old life passing. Part of letting go of a beautiful person, adding a little memorial - not to remember her by, she is engraved on my heart, but to say

"this person meant something"

Robin Moon

This little chap was singing his spring heart out as I walked down to the seaside last night

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Practice too

One of the pleasures of Christine's classes is the lunch time discussion. Last time we talked about the benefits of using sketchbooks and also a daily practice like 1 year of stitches. In both you take yourself out of, analytical, active rational brain mode, which tends to predominate in our day to day lives, and relax into doing and being mode. We talked about the way this sort of practice can release creativity. One of our class members was very dubious so it's got me thinking about it as I stitch or weave. What is happening here?

I would liken it, in part, to the hours spent practicing scales, arpeggios, five finger excercises and then my pieces, when I learnt the piano. I think in part you are developing muscle memory; allowing your body to do just this thing, whatever it is, without thinking about the why. You are being with your needle and thread, piano keys, the shading in this bit of the sketch, these colours of weft and the rhythm of the weave. You are getting into the zone.

But the other thing that is happening is that the act of doing allows the subconscious to make associations: it resembles when you're trying to remember something, and the minute you stop trying it pops into your head, or a day later, or the following week. The trying can act as a block, but in doing, you are opening yourself to the possibility of something, without worrying about what.

With my tapestry weaving, still very much in its infancy, I am just watching what happens as I work. My fingers are learning the shape of the weft on the loom, my eyes are absorbed in colour and form, I have a sort of plan, but mostly I am learning how to do that thing; how to make shapes, to change colours, to put colours together.

So, having noticed that my weaving wasn't covering the warp threads, I loosened out my tension, creating "bubbles" to allow the yarn to flex at round the warp, shown here before beating down.

Then I realised that my weaving was putting on weight, a diet was needed. I had begun with three colours, one thread of each, to allow a level of refinement in the shading ....... however

So I cut down to two colours on the go at a time, with the odd insertion of a single pass, or half pass in a different colour, just to see what will happen.

And meanwhile the sort of design, shady in the back of my mind, continues to emerge

Likewise, with my stitching ......

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Bright lights big city

So I went on an adventure, to the big city with some girlfriends. We went to the Knitting and Stitching show, on its first day, when everyone is fresh and there are all sorts of temptatious things to buy. 

We met up on the train, met others we knew when we got there, parted, wandered around a lot, saw lots of wonderful pieces, Dorothy Caldwell, Debbie Lyddon with The 62 Group, so much to see, so much queuing involved, such lusciousness. Oh there were lovely things, crochet sumptuousness, soft sleek knitted dresses - not really suitable for someone soft but not sleek, simple timeless patterns that even the soft but not sleek can risk. We met up again for lunch, but felt shopping wasn't quite over so wandered off once more. There were stalls upon stalls of fabric, my overnight case weighed more when we left than it did when we arrived. 

Yes, overnight case, that's what you take when you stay overnight. A proper adventure (though without rhinoceros). So I had the chance to wander up to the Vauxhall Bridge and view the beauty of London at night, all reflected in the depths of the Thames

Proper fairyland stuff. 

I had myself a pleasant meal in a little cafe  near the hotel, where I chatted with an interesting woman, briefly, about offshore wind farms, I slept a good night's sleep and got up the following morning to go and see Paul Nash before he is no longer there to be seen.  There's a lovely review of the exhibition here.

I have loved Nash for many years, both for his dreamlike evocative landscapes and his war work, so utterly contrasting. It was a pleasure to see favourite paintings in the context of his life's work. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though it was a struggle to get round, and I was glad of those rooms with seats so I could rest my aching bones! My body's not used to all this activity. Note to self, get more exercise. 

The breadth of what was on show, and the arrangement in themed rooms, meant that you could follow his thoughts and interests, seeing how they transformed according to both his experiences and his artistic explorations. I took the catalogue with me so I could read at least some of it before going - sitting in bed the previous night, then read more on the train on the way home. I was interested to discover how local he had been to here at some significant times of his life. Nash and his wife Margaret stayed at Oxenbridge, just above the Rother valley, overlooking the river where Mum, Cecil, Nanya, all spent time when they stayed at Nirvana. His wife was a Christian Scientist, as were Connie and Ganna, the background to my childhood was Mary Baker Eddy, her books nestled on Ganna's shelves, her thoughts a quiet undercurrent to our lives. Also, Nanya painted around Iden, and Connie and Harry were a lesbian couple at a time when that was something rather hidden. Nash and his wife also stayed at Rye, where Radclyffe Hall lived for a while. In our family treasury we have a letter from her to Connie commenting on how lucky she was to have had a sympathetic mother who was determined that her daughter should have a wedding, even if it was not to a man.

I wonder if all those paths ever crossed.