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Not together though! Firstly, the technology. Last Tuesday I was very excited and also initially pretty nervous to chat to Susan Weekes of Stitchery Stories via Zoom – a technical first for me – as she recorded me for this week’s podcast which goes live on Wednesday 17th October.

Looking at the sort of people who she has already had as guests on Stitchery Stories I can’t quite believe I am going to be among such amazing company! We were chatting before the recording about social media in general and Facebook in particular. Having seen the sort of hassle Facebook causes during my time in teaching I have never had any inclination to be part of it, but I am aware that I really could do with promoting myself a bit more on social media. Susan recommended I start using Instagram and so, another technical first – I am now on Instagram as Underatopazsky.

Not sure how I feel about it yet. I don’t find it very intuitive and keep clicking on the wrong icon, but I do like the immediacy of it and the ease of use, as opposed to making  time to sit down and write a blog post. I definitely won’t stop blogging, but I will probably carry on Instagramming too.

Now to sea glass. These gorgeous little nuggets of multi-coloured Seaham sea glass have finally found homes that showcase their beauty. I love the subtle layers in this one.

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And the two colours in this one which only really reveal when you hold it up to the light.

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I put the blue nugget into a vintage silver tone cage pendant which you can find in my Etsy shop here.

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And the aqua/green multi into a silver cage pendant which can be found here.

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Then I added a fabulous lilac and clear multi to a vintage 800 silver pendant. I really love this one. The shape and colour of the sea glass fits so perfectly with the leaves.

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It’s in my Etsy shop here and was also one of the first things I Instagrammed!!

Last week I directed ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ for Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club – hence why I’ve been awol again.

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Everything was going swimmingly until two weeks from show week we discovered that we didn’t have First World War period evening dresses for ‘Bob’ and Lieutenant George in the ‘Major Star’ episode. Nothing in the Club stock and nothing available at the place we were hiring the uniforms from. It was too late to buy the dresses available on eBay as they were in China and so the only option was to make them. That job ended up on my plate.

I can sew. I can use a sewing machine and I made the tree costumes several years ago for one of our pantos, but that was under supervision from my mum, who is an experienced dressmaker. This was going to be flying solo with a deadline and with the memory of my one and only other excursion into making clothes hanging over my head.

My first needlework project at middle school was to make a blouse so my mum equipped me with a paper blouse pattern and some horrible yellow polyester. In the first lesson it obviously didn’t occur to my needlework teacher to tell a class of eleven-year olds that when you have a paper pattern from which you can make different versions of a garment, you only need the pieces for the style you plan to make. I did as I was told: I opened the packet, cut out all the tracing paper pieces, pinned them onto the fabric and cut every one out. I was then promptly held up to ridicule in front of the whole class. I never did finish it and that was the end of my sewing for a long while.

So I bought a pattern, hunted through the Club’s fabric stock for something that would be suitable for evening dresses and ten days before show week, I made a start on the first frock. It was…interesting. And challenging. And thank goodness a) I’m not working at the moment because I ended up pulling some seriously long days and b) I was able to ring my mum and get her advice when I couldn’t make head or tail of the instructions or the pictures. It was not the straightforward pattern I had hoped for as a complete novice.

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My 90 year old Frister and Rossmann coped superbly with taffeta, lace, satin and organza. Multiple layers? No problem? Different fabrics? Easy. I love that machine sooooo much!

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There was a lot of hand stitching and finishing as well – the Friday before our Sunday Get-In I stitched for thirteen hours with breaks for cooking and eating meals, but I am pretty pleased with the results. Firstly, Bob’s dress.

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There wasn’t enough of the floral print for a whole dress but the taffeta matched the turquoise flowers perfectly and she was literally on stage in it for less than three minutes.

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George’s dress had to be made for a very tall and skinny bloke, which was another interesting challenge, but thanks to the purple lace I found in a box while looking for something else, I think this one worked a treat.

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My middle one loves it and had to be dissuaded from taking it back to university with her!

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I’m proud of the back.

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Well out of my comfort zone, but I think I may have finally laid the ghost of that bloody awful yellow blouse. And the show was a triumph too.

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Sneaks back in looking shamefaced… Sorry I disappeared – the summer has been a bit busy and trying to get all the various things I want to spend the rest of my working life doing off the ground has eaten up time in a frightening manner. I am trying to make the most of the evaporating minutes by being more disciplined, which includes making dedicated time for my blog again.

The free frame I found outside a local charity shop back in July was just what I needed to get back to my Baby Leaf-Tailed Dragon, which I began back in 2015! I had started him off in a large hoop, but as I wasn’t happy with the tension I didn’t continue, but the frame was perfect and once I had stitched him into it, he was my project of choice to work on for National Stitching Day back in early August at 2021 Visual Arts Centre in Scunthorpe.

Back in 2015 he looked like this:

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My first job was to finish putting the vertical threads in on the green section.

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And then to start couching them down.

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I really enjoy working this stitch. I love the texture of it once the vertical stitches are all couched down. Baby Dragon got a lot of interest from visitors, especially the men, who were more interested in the historical aspect and it seems that I’m not the only one who likes the texture – everyone wanted to touch it!

Once his back was completed, I moved on to the purple leaves on his tail.

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It is lovely to do something that works up so quickly, especially in comparison with some of my french knot work!

Since National Stitch Day I have had a couple of committee meetings and been able to move onto his tummy, legs and chest.

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He is a great deal larger than my usual meeting stitching projects but at least nobody sits too close!

The little free cross stitch of the rhododendrons at Stagshaw Gardens from our Lake District holiday in May is completed, as is the journal itself, something of a super-quick finish given that I’ve only just completed my journal for our last family holiday in Dorset last July!

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The bluework has crawled on from this:

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To this:

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Not much change, apart from the beginning of some umbellifer-type flowers in split stitch, free cross stitch and french knots near the foot of the bowl.

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And as I went down to London at the end of last week to see my foster daughter get her PhD at the Barbican, I needed something small and easy to transport and work on. The result was some not blackwork.

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I had some oddments of blue Aida and decided that gold on blue would be nice. The patterns were freebies from the internet which I stitched as a repeat rather than single motifs. Sometimes it’s nice just to do little odds and ends.

 

Windfalls

A charity shop near the premises where my amateur theatre group meets has started leaving bits and pieces outside on the pavement at night for people to take. The other week when I arrived for a rehearsal (I’m currently directing Blackadder Goes Forth) I noticed an eclectic mix which included a child’s scooter and a fish tank! When I came out of rehearsal the scooter was gone, but it wasn’t until I was pulling out of my parking spot that I noticed something propped sadly up by the wall and half-hidden by the lonely fish tank. Something that was enough to make me brake and jump out of the car to rescue it.

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As I only have one frame like this and there is a very old and very long term project hogging it, I was over the moon to acquire a new (to me) frame. It’s missing one of the bolts but that should be easy enough to replace. The cross stitch design on it, which looks to be almost finished, must have taken hours.

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So sad that it ended up on the pavement, but the frame at least has gone to a good home. If anyone is interested in giving the cross stitch a good home then please drop me a message either in the comments or via email (scroll down to ‘Contact me at:’ on the right hand side of the blog) and I’ll happily post it out worldwide.

Like buses, these things never come along singly. I dropped off a bag of stuff at the charity shop yesterday and as I turned away from the counter, I spotted this sticking out of a miscellaneous box, priced up at £2.

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To be fair, it was the partly worked canvas work design which attracted me first and reminded me that I quite fancy doing a bit of canvas work.

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And what’s £2 these days? So now I have a frame I can actually use and a nice little piece of mounted up canvas work to have a play with.

We went away for a week to the Lake District not long after the Alice Fox workshop. The work I’d done with papers and found objects really whetted my appetite to get back to some found object work of my own as part of the journal I usually make to hold the memories of our time away.

At the end of the first day I wandered along the edges of Langdale Beck while the children splashed about in the already low water levels (and this was in May, before the long hot June and July we’ve had in the UK.) I was delighted to find this crumpled piece of metal with holes already nicely placed for stitches in close shades of green silk.

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It went very well with a thickish piece of beautifully textured hand made paper with inclusions of leaves and stems.

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On a visit to Stott Park Bobbin Mill I was fascinated by the offcuts of wood thrown out by the different machines in the process of turning chunks of wood into bobbins. The initial machines created a basic bobbin shape from the blanks, shaving off pieces a few millimetres thick. So I picked up a few bits and made them into my own bobbins!

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The next process shaved the rough bobbin down to the proper shape, throwing out endless translucent ribbons of wood which piled up around us on the floor. I definitely needed some of that! Different woods behaved differently. The one towards the top split pretty much wherever I tried to fold it, whereas the paler one was more like paper, holding at least some of its bends and folds without splitting. I want to add some more needle weaving to vary the widths of the holding stitches and some ‘chips’ in a needlepoint ribbon to the background.

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Playing with a printed National Trust logo from a paper bag and some scraps of hand made paper.

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Later in the week we visited Honister Slate Mine and I picked up a few slate chips from the car park. I painted some more of the hand made paper with watercolour to echo the colour of the slate and just had a bit of a play.

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I’m really pleased with the way the paper echoes the texture of the rock.

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Free cross stitch in various silk threads to echo the rhododendrons of Stagshaw Gardens. This one just needs finishing.

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And at the end of the holiday, a quick beachcomb on the shores of Coniston Water revealed this lovely fragment of verdigrised copper which I mounted on two pieces of paper left over from my Alice Fox work.

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I really enjoyed finding objects I could stitch into and around and the relatively quick way many of them came together. And of course, the memories they have captured. Slightly different to some of my other holiday journals, but I like to be different!

It was a real success.

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The weather was lovely and we had a steady stream of interested people through the doors to admire a room full of beautiful textile art including both people’s own projects…

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…and work from the last couple of years, such as the goldwork initials on the left.

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Bovver birds. (Wearing bovver boots…)

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Outcomes from Mary’s Sea Workshop:

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Chris Gray’s amulets:

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My Stitch Play:

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Competition Pieces:

Sandra’s beautiful heliotrope fan won the Regional Award for the Competition – ‘A flower beginning with…H’.

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And I believe this William Morris inspired competition entry on the left is Lynda’s. Each one of those sunflower petals is an individual free standing woven picot. Stunning!

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Some of our Alice Fox work:

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As well as more projects, new…

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…and old.

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And in one corner, my jewellery stall (complete with my budding archaeologist on the left). Upcycled jewellery on the left, original jewellery in the middle and beachcombed jewellery on the right among the driftwood.

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I half hoped I might sell a couple of bits, but in fact I sold nine items and had so many lovely compliments and conversations that it’s a wonder my head got through the door at the end of the day!  I am so grateful to the committee for suggesting I have a stall and I am definitely ready to do something like this again – I just have to find the right type of fair/market.