Monday, 15 July 2013

Commission update - church banner

This year marks the 200th anniversary of my church in Cardiff.  The church has organised a number of activities to mark the occasion and amongst them is a banner made by members of the church.
Now, as I don't live in Cardiff anymore, I'm not entirely sure how it all came about, but my understanding is that one of the younger members of the church is a budding designer and she designed the banner. Someone has prepared the banner by cutting all the pieces out and applying them with a fusing material (eg bondaweb) to the backing fabric and then it has been passed around a number of members to embellish/sew around the edges.
When the idea was originally mooted, I showed an interest and was told I could probably be responsible for a motif on the banner, eg the cross.  However, the design doesn't include anything like that and I have now been asked to embroider a verse to go beneath the appliqued design.  The chosen verse is part of verse 4 of Psalm 100:
"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise"
I thought I'd take the opportunity to do some goldwork again, although it has been a very long time since I last had a go.  Then, when I saw the applique design I decided against that idea and was stumped for a while as I wasn't sure goldwork would suit it.  I then came up with the idea of doing the lettering in blackwork, outlined simply and emphasising certain words with a bit of gold. However, once I got down to it and measured out the space I had and found a nice, clear font (with a bit of help from a colleague in the graphic design team - thank you George!) I altered the idea slightly.  I did like the idea of keeping it fairly graphic and simple, in keeping with the applique design, and decided to stick with the principle of black lettering.
After a bit of rummaging about, I realised that I still had some fabric left over from my first attempt at goldwork (back at school).  I'd made an ecclesiastical stole for my uncle's ordination. As I knew that the fabric held up well to heavy stitching etc it would be just the ticket.  And thankfully, there was more than enough of it left.
You may recall that last spring I attended a Royal School of Needlework course, so I'm going to try to follow a similar style for my lettering.   I've bought the perle thread, found my old stash of Japanese gold thread, purl and gold kid, found my course notes and embroidery stitch reference book, so I'm good to go. The fabric has been 'strengthened' with a calico backing and I've even invested in some charcoal sticks that I can ground down to make my own 'pouncing powder' to 'prick and pounce' the design onto the fabric. So now, everything else is on the back burner so I can concentrate on this for the next month or so.
Here is my progress so far - slower than I'd have liked unfortunately.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Royal School of Needlework - update

At the end of March I promised to let you know how I got on at the Royal School of Needlework on my 'Introduction to Embroidery' course, and here it is (finally).
Initially, I was a little disappointed as I'd interpreted the title differently and was expecting to have a little bit of everything else they offer, a sort of 'taster course'.  But the 'Introduction' is really that - and introduction to a few of the 'traditional' embroidery stitches like you may have learned at school or from your grandmother, such as chain stitch, back-stitch, french knots etc.
We were a group of seven, smaller than usual for RSN courses aparently (usually about 12), as this was an additional date, but in my opinion, the size of the group was just right as we all had the opportunity for some one-to-one and were all able to ask questions.  Our tutor, Heather, was lovely.  She is a freelance embroiderer - lucky lady! and regular tutor at RSN.  At the beginning of the day we all introduced ourselves and gave a little of our 'embroidery background'.  I was a little surprised that I was the only Friend of RSN on the course and also the only one who'd done much embroidery, although quite a few had done a little with their grandmothers when they were small.
We were all given a kit for a 'leaf' motif with each leaf being done in a different stitch and Heather demonstrated each different stitch by starting one of us off while the rest of us gathered round to watch.  As the day progressed and some of us stitched at a different pace, she showed us in smaller groups as we became ready to move on.  We had a tea-break mid-morning and were able to take a quick look at some of the school's library and their complete range of both DMC and Anchor threads and at lunchtime we were taken to the RSN shop ("child" and "sweet shop" are the words that spring to mind!) to pay for our supplies (and anything else that took our fancy, which was quite a lot really, but I managed to resist and 'only' bought 7 skeins of DMC and a pair of super-duper embroidery scissors so that my beloved Swiss army knife can retire).


There were five leaves in the original kit - one each for chain stitch, fly stitch, blanket and slip stitch, Van Dyke stitch and threaded back stitch - with some goldwork couching and french knots to boot.  Three of us got a bit enthusiastic and used the 'prick and pounce' method to add an extra leaf to our design and we chose to try trellis stitch (which I finished at home).

It was a brilliant day.  I was so enthusiastic and excited about my embroidery at the end of it and I can't wait to go back again and try another.  I think the natural follow-on would be crewel work, and I am tempted, but I really fancy blackwork.  It was the first time I'd actually be taught embroidery, as I'm self-taught really and it was such a privilege being taught by such an expert.  It was wonderful being surrounded by examples of fantastic embroidery too (some of Heather's and some apprentice pieces).  At the end of the day Heather also took us to see an amazing embroidered screen (middle row, right in link) in an adjacent room.  It is about 6 feet high and was completely covered in beatiful crewel work (loads of trellis stitch and millions of french knots, which actually looked like velvet or chenille). Being inside Hampton Court Palace was fantastic too, and although you couldn't really tell from the room we were in - climbing up the old stairs and peering out of the window at the Palace gardens made the day all the more special.  I wonder what Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII etc would think of us all wandering around 'their' palace in our modern get-up and picnicking on their lawn?!

Crafty Easter - sheltering from the snow

Earlier in the year, I was chatting over a cuppa with a friend who has two kids.  One of them is DH's godson, so we try to see them fairly regularly.  Anyhow, we were talking about this blog and she asked if she could bring the kids over sometime to do some crafts together and we set a date for yesterday.

In the meantime, I've been roaming Pinterest for ideas that are suitable for early primary school aged kids - and found loads (along with plenty that would be a bit adventurous for that age-group).  If you are on Pinterest you can see some of my favourites. Then it was 'just' a matter of choosing which ones to concentrate on with them.

A couple of years ago I spent some time teaching at a small primary school and near Easter as part of my German lessons with the juniors, we talked about German Easter traditions, which includes dying/painting blown eggs.  I haven't done it since and it was pretty successful (if a bit smelly with boiled eggs and vinegar in a fairly small classroom!).
This is the outcome 

I thought we might give it another go.  I've found various methods for dying - natural and using food colouring (I don't think I realised how much you need to get vibrant colours when we made the ones above) and also found that it is possible to get white eggs (ie eggs with white shells) at M&S.  I chose the lightest brown ones I could find for the classroom session above, which obviously affects the shade of the finished egg.  Still looking back at the photo a couple of years on, they look pretty good, even though I say so myself

To save a bit of time, I blew some eggs ahead of time.  It is possible to get 'egg blowing kits', but the ones I found online cost more to post than the cost of the kit.  However, there is such a thing as a nasal aspirator (lovely!) for babies that can be used instead, but none of the branches of Boots I went to had them in stock.  Instead I resorted to the old-fashioned method of huffing and puffing and exhausting my poor cheeks.  The only 'downside' is that DH and I have had to use up the extruded egg in various things - pancakes, cakes, scrambled eggs, omelette .... our systems will be totally eggs-austed!!!

However, our 5 and 6 year old friends had different ideas and got stuck straight in with paint, glue, glitter and tissue paper (I think I over planned and forgot that kids need to let THEIR creativity run wild, not mine!)
In egg-cup: 5-year old's 1st attempt
In box - clockwise from top right 6-year old's 1st, Mummy's creation, 6-year old's 2nd,
5 year-old's 2nd, DH's 'creation' (with help from kids!), mine

We had great fun and made a huge mess (there is still glitter everywhere)!  But that is half the fun isn't it?  And we even got DH to join in!!!
The proud artists with the cake we decorated for tea

Long time - long list

The more observant amongst you may have noticed that I posted an empty post with this title yesterday.  It seems that Blogger wasn't letting me play, so I ended up with an empty post after spending some time writing and rewriting my post!  Grrrr!

So, here goes again.

As I was trying to sort through my published posts to get them a bit more organised (more to come on this I hope) I realised that it had been a while since I last wrote something.  Despite my crafting activities continuing, things have been a bit full on and as a result I haven't got around to posting about it.  Again, more to come on my latest crafting activities soon.

So, in the meantime, I'm resorting to an old favourite - my reading update.  I thought the list might be longer, but it isn't too bad and I enjoyed myself along the way.
Anne Frank's diary - This doesn't really need any explanation.  I decided to re-read it after our visit to Amsterdam and the Secret Annexe in November.  More on my impressions as I re-read it.
The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (I re-read this before seeing the film.  I last read it with my class in my primary school way back when and remember that we based our class assembly on an extract where my friend Alex and I 'played' the sun rising and setting!  As a consolation, we got to say the prayers as we hadn't had any lines to say!  I'm quite glad I re-read it, if for no other reason than I was able to pick a good time to nip out to the loo during one of the long added sections in the film!)
Wessex Tales - Thomas Hardy (I'm a bit of a TH fan, so it was nice to revisit his works with this collection of short stories)
The Phantom - Jo Nesbø (having joined the Nordic noire band wagon, read the Millennium trilogy and some Wallander books, I thought I'd give this Scandinavian author a go.  Didn't really do it for me though)
Heartbreak Hotel - Deborah Moggach (the author of Best Exotic Marigold Hotel sets this story in mid-Wales - quite freaky really, as DH, parents in law and I came up with the idea of something similar set in Wales along with quirky characters after we saw the film - she must be telepathic)
Hanas Gwanas - Bethan Gwanas (BG is a Welsh writer and TV presenter and this is her autobiography.  Both hilarious and moving in turn)
Dyddiadur Gbara - Bethan Gwanas (I then went on a bit of a 'Bethan-fest'.  This is her diary of two years spent in Nigeria doing VSO after graduating)
Yn ôl i Gbara - Bethan Gwanas (in this volume she revisits Nigeria 20-odd years later and chronicles her impressions/emosions - quite moving)
Byd Bethan - Bethan Gwanas (earlier in her career BG spent time writing a column for a Welsh newspaper and this volume is a selection of those articles)
Mwy o Fyd Bethan - Bethan Gwanas (a further collection of articles written for the newspaper - both volumes are amusing and insightful, depending on her topic at the time)
Ar y Lein Eto Fyth - Bethan Gwanas (During her TV career she has made 3 series following a 'line' around the world.  The first followed latitude 55 degrees north, the second went through the poles and this one follows the equator.  I love her travel writing and I wish there was more of it in Welsh.)
My name is Red - Orhan Pamuk (in honour of our holiday in Turkey earlier this year I read this historical novel by Turkey's first Nobel prize-winner)
Istanbul - Anthology (again, in honour of our holiday - before the riots! - and a nice way of revisiting a fascinating city after our return)
Death comes to Pemberley - P. D. James (after some fairly serious books, a bit of light relief.  I'm a PDJ and Jane Austen fan, so this was a must really)
Life of Pi - Yann Martel (now reading this after being mesmerised by the film, I'll let you know how I get on at some point in the future)

So, what are you reading?  Do you have any recommendations for me?  Have you read any of the above and if so, what did you make of them?  I'd love to hear your comments.

Friday, 5 July 2013