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experiments in stitch

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Recently I’ve been getting back into sewing, having knitted almost exclusively for the last few years. I don’t know if it’s the creative vibe around these parts, but I’ve been experimenting with machine embroidery and patchwork as well as more traditional needlework. I’ve been picking up a few projects that have been hanging around for aeons as well as starting some new ones that have been in my head for aeons.

The patchwork was inspired by a visit to a local art centre where there was a fantastic exhibition of art quilts by a couple of well-known textile artists. There were some pretty big concepts behind the quilts such as evolution, the origins of the universe and quantum physics, but what I particularly loved was the way the artists used bold colours in their work. Something about the neatness of the patchwork piecing also appeals to me; even when used in a contemporary way it retains a certain orderliness.

The first experiment was some machine embroidery over a printed upholstery fabric (you might recognise it from here).

This one is a project I had in my head for quite a while and started a couple of years ago; it was one I kept picking up and doing a bit of then would put it away for months at a time. I finally finished it the other day, although as with all my completed projects I now don’t know what to do with it.

I loved the patchwork so much that I went straight home and had a go myself; this is my attempt. While happy with the sewing itself it made me realise my fabric stash is woeful in terms of colour, something I hope to rectify in the near future.

And this is another one that had a very long incubation period; it’s made from those annoying ribbons you have to cut out of clothes when you buy them and which I kept for literally years with the vague intention of making something with them. And yes, it does sound a bit weird when I say it out loud.

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bond in motion

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Ooh, look what else I found in my drafts. This must be one of the last things we did before turning our backs on city life – the Bond in Motion exhibition at the London Film Museum in Covent Garden. Amazingly, it’s still on; extended due to popular demand, apparently. And if you’re remotely a fan of Bond, or even just cars, you should definitely go. We all loved it, and our levels of fandom varied wildly right down to the girls who haven’t seen a single Bond film.

ok not so new now

the neverending story

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I know I said we were taking a sanity break between bathrooms, but it really wasn’t that long, I promise. In fact, we started and finished the en suite well over a year ago. It’s just that we sold the house practically as the last tile was being laid and moved to a cottage in the countryside about three months later. And no, that wasn’t in the plan at all.

So here’s the en suite we waited ten years for and enjoyed for less than three months. It was almost enough to make me think twice about moving. Almost.

P1220098

oops i did it again

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A couple of years ago I mentioned that I may possibly have something of a builder fetish. (No, not like that for goodness sake. Get your mind out of the gutter.) It’s just that we seem to be unable to go more than a year or so without doing something major to the house.

This year it’s the turn of the bathrooms.

Ok, that sounded rather more ominous than I intended. Although it is pretty serious; our family bathroom and en suite are in such a state after ten years of relentless use (and let’s face it, they weren’t great to start with, having apparently been constructed in somewhat of a rush by our house’s previous owners) that we are completely gutting them and starting again. In the case of the family bathroom, this also involves reorganising the (frankly shit) layout to give ourselves enough space to move around in the room and changing the door around so it opens inwards instead of outwards into our very narrow landing, where it blocks access to one of the bedrooms.

Currently we are at the halfway point, having completed the family bathroom and decided to take a sanity break before embarking on the en suite. So I thought I’d show you the progress so far as I’m rather pleased with how it’s turned out, especially as most some of the best ideas were mine.

apart from the lights - they were nick's idea

eight men and a fool

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A couple of weeks ago we visited my dad for the weekend. It’s always hard to get a date in as they’re so busy at weekends, but this time we went for the ‘if you can’t beat em join em’ strategy and arranged to meet them at Chippenham Folk Festival, where he would be dancing with the Icknield Way Morris Men.

hankies at the ready

I’m fully aware that at this point you’ve probably either rolled your eyes so far up in your head it’ll take a crowbar to get them back out or fallen off your chair from laughing uncontrollably at the very mention of morris men. Either way, no one is left reading this post by now so I’ll feel free to wallow in self-indulgent nostalgia.

You see, a fair amount of my childhood was spent trailing in the wake of my parents’ involvement in the folk scene; bands, ceilidhs, folk festivals, morris dancing, men with hairy beards drinking from tankards, the works. While I found the music and singing a lot less interesting than the lemonade and crisps I would be allowed in the pub gardens where these events usually seemed to take place, the morris dancing is my most sentimental memory so I was looking forward to it even if Nick and the girls weren’t quite as keen.

Half-term holiday traffic meant that we didn’t arrive until the team’s last ‘set’, but it also meant we missed the heavy rain they’d had earlier (and satisfied my reminiscence just enough without testing its limits too far). We even had some time after they had finished for the day to wander round the craft tent (I’ve always been a sucker for a good craft fair), that requisite element of any self-respecting folk festival.

in full flow

another bite of the cherry

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A random marketing email recently prompted me to visit the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. I had been once before, years ago, when I was working my way through a City and Guilds in Embroidery, and thought it would be interesting to go again, this time from the point of view of a recently converted knitter. I’m not terribly keen on very busy, crowded places so I only spent a few hours there before my impatience got the better of me, but it was long enough to get round everything at least once and to be overwhelmed to the point of wanting to make ALL THE THINGS.

Rather than bombard you with words, I thought I’d break with tradition and list my show highlights.

1. Celeb-spotting: although I apparently missed Debbie Bliss on the Quadrille Publishing stand, I was apologised to by Stuart from the Great British Sewing Bee who bumped into me on another stand (although I only realised who he was as I walked away).

2. I tried not to buy too much stuff that I wouldn’t use (like I did last time, as my thread/yarn stash bears testament to…)

These were my (considered) purchases:

(a) a bundle of fabric squares as I really want to have a go at making a patchwork quilt;

(b) a skein of sock yarn as I’ve not tried socks yet (beautiful colour, gorgeously soft AND machine washable); (c) a circular needle for my current project.

3. I also bought (d) some chocolate from the one and only chocolate stand, which I somehow stumbled across almost immediately. No photo I’m afraid, as I’ve already eated it (predictable, moi?). I did share though.

4. I honestly saw a teenage boy there with hair that looked exactly like a sheep fleece. Seriously, look at these and you’ll see what I mean.

5. There were a lot of large ladies there. And I mean, A LOT. Getting around without bumping into any was, um, challenging.

6. The amazing textiles on display inspired me to pick up a needle and thread again at the weekend, something that’s taken a back seat to my near-obsessive knitting in recent months.

And the piece I restarted work on was itself originally inspired by a sampler I saw at the show the previous time I went. Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn, eat your heart out.

nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be

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Back in July the last of my many cousins got married. From booking the date, they had exactly 100 days in which to arrange the wedding; enough to send the calmest of couples into a tailspin when the average time to plan a wedding is 7 to 12 months. Well clearly my cousin and his new wife are the calmest couple EVER as their wedding was quite possibly one of the best planned I’ve ever been to, including my own.

Everything had been thought about from the guests’ point of view, starting with the fairground entertainment and steel band laid on for the boring part between the ceremony and the meal, right down to the baskets of flip-flops, pashminas and toiletries in the ladies and the pizza served at midnight when the most hardened wedding guests were still going strong.

But the wonderful wedding aside, the other highlight of the weekend (for Nick and me, anyway) was the B&B we stayed in. Part of the superb organisation was the usual wedding website with a very comprehensive list of places to stay near the venue, from basic rooms to gypsy caravans to luxury hotels. After some careful research, I settled on the whimsical-sounding Dippersmoor Manor, which turned out to be anything other than whimsical.

It is in fact the most beautiful 16th century manor house, reached by an impressive tree-lined drive and run by the charming Hexie and Amanda Millais. Billed accurately as luxury bed  & breakfast accommodation, Nick and I were so taken with the place that we spent a good half-hour before leaving papping the house and grounds, much to the owners’ mild bemusement.