Saturday, 6 January 2018

Happy New Gregorian Year to Everyone!

* The Diagram for the Basis of Plaited Braid Stitch is down the bottom of this page

I hope you all had good holidays and enjoyed some downtime where you could reflect on all things creative and maybe develop some ideas from that feeling.

I bought a lot of books for myself over the holidays.  You know how it is, what I tried to resist in the rush up to Christmas, eventually made it into my shopping bag in the New Year sales.

I now have a feeling of pressure coming at me from all sides e.g. I'm literally running out of space!

I decided to cancel my subscription to Evernote, as I'm self-imposing extreme economy on my household........its a long story, but basically I have taken over a lot of things from my DH and 'economy' is now served up three times a day, and also between meals...

Thank Goodness, economy is 'self-imposed' and rather fun in many ways, like a kind of game where you have to suss out who's trying to fool you out of your money the whole time.

Whereas if its not self-imposed its basically called 'poverty' and if there is one thing no woman in her right mind will do, and that is become voluntarily broke!  Am I right ladies?

Isn't the cold weather completely clarifying and bracing!  

We went to the Caribbean again in November, I know, I know, that had to be a break from economy, or who am I fooling?

Yeah, and because there had been all those hurricanes out there, I decided I couldn't read anything other than books about natural disasters.

So I read a collection of short stories about people surviving natural disasters, hurricanes, floods, stranded in snow storms etc.

It was then I realised I really enjoy reading about HOW TO SURVIVE anywhere...and especially how to retain 'grace'.

Last January I started the year walking along a beach on the Eastern Coast, which is basically Dutch, and faced the natural ferocity of an invigorating sub-zero wind that lashed my face and made my eyes water like crazy.

I walked on, the stronger and colder the wind blew, the more well I began to feel? 

By the end of the 3 mile trek my hands were red and sore even in my pockets, and my feet were completely numb.  That's when I headed back and gradually my ears recovered and sensations returned to my feet.

It was wonderful!

The best way ever to welcome the New Year, face on, laughing in the face of adversity...!

I'm going back there next week and I'll take some photos.  I like it there, the people are pretty strange, its like a tribe or something, where their roots are Dutch and they know that you're NOT of Dutch decent.  

I have no problem being an outsider, I've been one all my life.
I'm so used to it now, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Yeah and the other thing that happened last January, was I reconciled with my mother.

I don't know if anyone knew, but I had a Cold War with my mother for 17 years.

I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, it kind of stinks if I look back, which I don't anymore...

Anyway last year I reconciled with her.  I basically just let all my pain and anguish (read anger) just ebb away and I saw her for how she is now, old, in pain and tortured.  I decided to call it a day and offered her genuine friendship again.  

So lets hope reconciliation and courage in adversity continue to extend their magical powers over us mere humans.

Oh, and the other thing to report here is I kind of learnt how to read Tarot cards and now I'm starting to look at Runes.  I like what I'm learning about Runes.  Especially as their basis is more than likely from the Phoenician alphabet.  

So here is the image of the knot that in my opinion is is essentially Plaited Braid stitch, completed on a spike:

It took me a LONG, LONG time to find it, but at last I did.  So this proves that the knot\stitch was recognised in the culture of the day, probably coming from fishing or cord making traditions from much earlier times e.g. possibly Bronze age?  

Because hair braids from the Bronze age have been recovered virtually in tact, and they used incredibly complex knot-making skills in those days, make no mistake. 

That's my take on this whole Plaited Braid thing anyway...

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Slugs detest limewash paint - yippee!

Had to show y'all my King Kong strawberries!

and a 360 degree view from Pocket Handkerchief in August

As ambitious as it sounds, here's a Bougainvillea in full flower, loving the incandescent light radiating in the evenings from the corner location of the sunbaked fence.

I bought this plant to remind us of the Caribbean, its so pretty...

I painted limewash on my raised beds.  Slugs detest lime and wont walk across it...

Before I go, here's an image that will be very interesting to those interested in the probable cultural evolution of some of  the more complex embroidery stitches?  On the left hand side of the image below you can see a Viking chain made of coiled gold.  When I first saw this image, I was searching for something completely unrelated to needlework, and yet on seeing it I could hardly believe my luck and quickly made the necessary visual connections.  Its my personal view that the chain is formed by Plaited Braid Stitch, made on a stick for support.  I hope to devote an entire post to this hypothesis soon...

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Hello reader,

Well this is going to be one of these really speedy posts due to better weather, a zillion things to do, new bags and ancient history. 

After what happened to me earlier in the year, discussed in previous post, I've been different.  You know good 'different'.  

So there I was tending to my darling plants:

My fig is starting to grow figs:

My strawberries are still pumping out fruit.  They were a little quiet earlier in the year, then I realised they needed diluted white vinegar each time I water them.  In fact all my fruit bushes need acidic water.  Especially the blackberries, which have turned out to be delicious this year.  As they're thornless they're never that sweet, but cooked they're sensational.  Acidic plants grow where there's a lot of rain, whereas alkaline plants grow where there's hardly any rain.  Its funny to think rain is thought of as producing 'sour' soil, when its described so often as sweet rain.  Well, from what I've discovered, where there're a lot of rain, there's also a lot of algae and its the algae rotting that produces the acidic content.   

My Mother's hydrangea are still looking perky.  Not my favourite plant, by any means, but good 'fillers' in any patch.

And my pelargoniums are sprouting more blooms and less leaf, thanks to a tip I learned recently that if you want more flowers, take out large leaves once a week, so that all parts of the plant can receive sunlight, water just inside the rim of the pot, not the plant itself, and constrict the roots so they produce more flowers by planting them in small pots arranged within a big pot.  

Alas, I had to pull out this darling thing, only because its going to turn into a tree and I don't really have room for (big-ass) trees. Such a shame, I felt dreadful about the whole thing.  It was a gift from someone that obviously hadn't seen my 'pocket handkerchief garden'.  

It took quite a while to pull it up, very hot work I can tell you. Afterwards I took it to the dump and placed it in the corner there where a lot of people leave their pre-loved plants.  I also had to get rid of my dwarf palm tree this year because it fell prey to Spider Mite.  I think those creatures were residing in the bark when I bought the thing.  

Then I saw this ancient Minoan Snake Goddess and was transported!

Its a long story, but basically I visited the British Museum wanting to see some Neolithic Jomon pottery.  I saw some really fine pieces with jagged edges which to my mind represent the teeth of now extinct animals.  Its funny how the further you go back in time, the more you can visually understand what you're supposed to be looking at.

So this snake Goddess hit me like a thunderbolt.  She's not in the Museum I visited but she's in a new book I came across in the Museum Bookshop, aka the place where you end up really poor!  

What an arresting image!  All an artist ever wants to do is create the elusive 'arresting image', as we're told in art school, and this is certainly it.  Perhaps because I now get to keep my own 'curves' (!), her bodice region seems to me such an amazing statement of triumph and defiance!

But more than that, its her face, the way she's staring back at us and making us feel 'different'.  This is not the classical sweet demur image of chocolate-box-femininity, this woman is someone who makes you feel humbled before her, someone to revere.  Not in the first flush of youth either...hehehe.

At first I thought she was made of ivory, because clearly she's trying to resemble that precious material.  But actually it turns out she's made of clay and covered in plaster in a process called 'faience'.  

Neolithic plaster is an amazing substance and the Minoans were incredibly creative with it, not only using it to make waterproof coatings on baths and cisterns but also as an artistic patina in which to carve into.  

I don't know if I've set myself an impossible task, but I think I would like to reproduce this figurine?  I have three really good images of the artefact, displaying different angles, front, back and side to work from.  When I found the side image, I realised I could do it.  

My first thought was to draw or paint her, but as I peered more closely, I realised all the evidence is there from which to really learn e.g. "To copy, is to understand".  

Comments most welcome.

P.S.  I'm going back to sewing the Victorian Couple soon, as everything is a lot less busy now and I hope to take the piece on holiday with me.

Monday, 24 July 2017

And it rained and rained from page 47 to page 122!

What a lot of rain we've been having in dear old Blighty!

One of my favourite things in life is walking in the rain, for a long, long way, with no one else about.  

However, as this last torrential downpour has cost me an urgent guttering repair and plenty of droopy flowers, I thought I'd post this short video of one of my favourite plants.  Its called a Lythrum Salicaria, or Purple Loosestrife and I tell you what, no matter how hard it rains, as soon as it stops, the very second that it stops, these darling little fat chaps fly in a straight path towards it and get back to work...

Its a controversial plant in many parts of the world, as its invasive in wetlands but as a pollinator, to my mind there is nothing out there that comes close to it.  Because of this, I make sure its well watered and fed, in fact I go one further and I even cook this plant soup!  Haha, I know that sounds hysterical, but I do.  

Reason was I noticed it really likes a drink of old, green rainwater.  I gave it clear rainwater and it didn't do so well.  So I realised it was actually the algae in the old rainwater that it likes, the greener the better.  

So then I experimented with some other plants and I noticed the older the plant, in terms of evolution, the more they love algae in the water.  

Well it turns out Algae is packed full of pectin and its actually the pectin that transforms plants, because it provides building blocks for new growth, flowers and fruit etc etc.  

So then I decided to make pectin soup.  I basically save all my apple, orange, banana and lime peel, chop it up and throw it all in a large stock pot, with a little vinegar and a crushed eggshell and cover with water and cook after a rolling boil on low simmer for about 40 minutes.  

The end result looks like this:

Then I dilute it and give it to the plants.  They all love it but the fruit bushes adore it!  

Well, apart from that, I decided to alter my aprons, all 3 of them.  I really cannot stand having an apron round the back of my neck, so have decided to change them all to cross back, Amish style, like this one:

This way, none of the fastenings will be too tight.  I tire very quickly of tight fitting aprons.  I also don't like thick aprons, but the pattern on my thickest apron is so cute I'll live with it.  

Here is the first apron to be altered:

Because after all, you do need a good apron when you cook goodies like these....alas, they ripened too early, so they're a little sharp and have to be cooked.

Well, have to dash off now and stir something hot...

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Bet you wondered where I disappeared to?

Hi everyone

Well, its certainly been a very eventful 6 months.  I've had not one, but two top drawer health scares in 6 months, which is quite something.  Obviously I'm very pleased to say both turned out fine, but I have spent hours in hospital waiting rooms and long days and nights, over many months, tormented by thoughts of my own mortality.  I look back now and realise I was actually living in a sort of parallel universe for most of it?  Weird really did, get weirder??

And now, as if it was all almost imaginary, I'm back in reality, in the moment, in the throes of survival, work, relationships, responsibilities and basically real life again....?

Healing is a very mysterious thing, to be sure.   Its much stranger than we will ever know.  They tell you to be positive, well you know what, I found this time that trying to relax and stay positive was actually making me feel worse and as if I was hiding from reality - as it was then...

In fact I only started to really 'heal' when I resigned myself to the idea of my number being well and truly up and analysing how much of a mess I was leaving behind me?

I feel I have been on this incredible journey, or wasn't a rollercoaster, it was more like floating in space, or at sea, being away from things that make you comfortable and somehow floating into the unknown???

It was hard people, I mean really really hard and it had to be kept private, totally private, or else I would never have coped.

Finally, I was given the all clear.  Well that makes you numb, then confused, then a bit angry, then very very relieved.

But the really weird thing was, after I was given the all clear, I noticed a very strange feeling came over me.

Basically I've lost a great deal of fear?

This has translated into all kinds of weird and wonderful escapades, where to put it succinctly, I now trust my instincts much more than I used to and this has altered my approach with just about everything.  This really is a new beginning for me now...

One of the really strange things that's happened is I've gone to look for things and found evidence of so much indecision?  So many things mixed in with ideas that should have been about something else?

So the operative word now is purge, and I'm certainly purging!  Huge chunks of detritus are just flying out of the door.  Things I've held on to for so long and realised they were in fact a waste of time all along.  The feeling of letting things go, of streamlining my life, of having a clearer direction, are all the result of this strange dissipation of long held notions of fear.

Anyway, enough about being a mere mortal, here's something I made a while back.  I remember I wasn't feeling terribly optimistic at the time, as a family member was becoming unwell and I needed something to take my mind off things, that wasn't too demanding.

What's interesting about this little appliqu├ęd bird is I used Egyptian applique technique, as seen on YouTube.  Its a great way of applying complex shapes and I'll talk about that more next time.

Here are my ripening blackberries, don't they look promising...

Here is an image of textile blackberries from the Restoration mirror at Salisbury Museum I told you about last time...yum yum

I'll leave you with a picture of a rose I grew... remember folks, art only ever imitates nature...nature is The Queen!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Salisbury Museum - June 2017

I've wanted to visit this particular museum for some considerable time, as you'll be able to see from the next few posts, its well worth a visit and I've promised myself to return...

I'll start with the needlework images.  In this first batch they're all from the same mirror.  I believe this design was originally sold in kit form, from house to house, where the supplier would also provide the threads you would need.  

If you Google 'Restoration Embroidered Mirror' you'll see many more, especially if you refine the search to only 'Images', at the top there.  

This typical design incorporates a huge variety of stitches.  The piece doesn't cover the period that I'm most interested in, as I prefer to see needlework from roughly 30 years or more earlier. 

Its my personal observation with these mirrors, that not all the examples of Cloth Stitch, which is a lacemaking stitch, were made especially for the piece, but in my view, collaged from samples.  I could be wrong, but scale, apart from anything else, seems to be the giveaway?  Comments most welcome.  

However, apart from the odd piece of collaged fabric, the rest still needed an incredible amount of work to stitch and then put together and must have taken years by a single stitcher, or perhaps less if there were say 3 or 4 sisters working on it together?  

The colour is obviously very faded, which is a shame, but at least it must have been displayed and enjoyed over the years, instead of put away, never to be seen again, as can so often happen to heirloom pieces.   

I decided to leave the image below in its original orientation, to preserve the detail.

There are more in this series, but I'm exhausted at the present time, so will have to grab some zeds...

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Salisbury Museum was Incredible - Highly recommend Wessex Gallery

Since returning from our holiday in Cornwall, I've been inundated with 'stuff', you know the kind, the kind that keeps coming at you, no matter how much you want to avoid it or get rid of it quickly, including having to finally succumb to massive operating system upgrades.

I've taken lots of pictures recently, as promised but I ran out of battery in the museum and had to switch to iphone.  Then realised I should have just used the iphone, but at that time, I knew my operating system needed replacing, so several pages later reader, I'm now in the process of drafting a museum post.

But for now I send you something really special.  Everyone knows I practice organic gardening, permaculture, make my own compost and compost tea etc, well here is a picture of my lawn, as it is now, two months after applying Alfalfa Meal natural fertiliser, then spiking the lawn, then applying compost tea with a watering can, after dividing the lawn into 4 with markers.  Should mention I also rolled the grass, back in March, after the frost.  You only need to do a light rolling, they say.  I went over mine twice, with a three quarters filled roller.

So here it is:

In a word: lush!

See folks, Believe in Better and it CAN be done!

Next time I'll show you pictures of pre-Beaker people hand-axes, that are circa 480,000 years old, found around the Stonehenge area. Only goes to show just how long people have been making stuff and making it always as well as they possibly can, given their circumstances.  

IMO, its only when you make stuff you truly connect with all of mankind.