Monday, 31 August 2015

A question for you

There can be few things nicer than receiving a surprise thank you gift of beautiful flowers, especially when you really weren't expecting them!


I discovered these left in the garden by a courier who didn't find the bell to let me know he was at the door! Since the lilies opened I've had to find a second vase as this one wasn't large enough for so many blooms. The colours and scents are simply wonderful and are cheering me up on a wet and dismal day! Summer seems to have made a sudden departure and it's chilly enough for socks today.


Coincidentally, even the colours of this jug look autumnal. Now a question for you. Does anyone recognise who might have made it? I bought it at the market on Saturday but the signature on the bottom is almost illegible. Looks like it may say Sophie or Sofia but I can't decipher the surname. I paid a bit more than I wanted to but it looks perfect in the conservatory, and anyway, I thought it would make a perfect prop for a still life painting so maybe that makes it tax deductible?


I realise I haven't mentioned my Finish Me Journal for a while - that doesn't mean I have been neglecting it though. Here's a close up of one of the map pages where I've made a rubbing from a cardboard shape and surrounded it with blue ink in the background. DMTV members who are taking the Art Diary challenge will soon get to see this page and several more on the same theme. I've been very busy trying to keep one step ahead of everyone who's been in touch to show me their title pages. I'm not sure who'e encouraging who here - I thought it was me showing the way but I have some hard acts to follow I'll tell you! Keeps me on my toes.


Cooler days are perfect for spending time in the kitchen. Last week's Focaccia was so well received that I tried a variation today. Richard Bertinet suggests cherry tomatoes, chillies, pesto and olives as an alternative topping. For once a rare thing happened and I found I had most of the ingredients to come up with this...........


A rather generous slab of deliciousness if I do say so myself. We have family party planned in a few days time and I think this recipe will make another appearance alongside the rosemary and rock salt version for the timid folk who can't take the heat!


Finally, and still with food in mind, just take a look at our mushroom log. Another thing in the garden you can't turn your back on! Last week it was giant courgettes, this week it's mammoth shitake. I usually forget to check the log because nothing happens for ages then all of a sudden there are monsters. Relying on the unpredictable is a dangerous way to plan dinner but it beats shopping anyday. And yes, they were very tasty!

Talk again soon.
Bye for now,
Linda

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Magazine out now and more of the good life

If you haven't heard already I'd like to let you all know that Laura and Annabel have released the 6th Issue of their Through Our Hands magazine this week. It's available now to read online for free! If you prefer to download a copy to keep and enjoy at your leisure you can buy a pdf version for only £3.


I think this issue looks amazing and has something of interest for everyone who enjoys art in general and textiles in particular. Annabel is to be praised for her ability to source such diverse articles. Some of the artists featured will be familiar to you all but I confess that some names were completely new to me and all the more exciting for that - who doesn't want to be introduced to new, stimulating and thought provoking work?  Laura has done her usual brilliant job with the design layout of course so it all looks simply beautiful!

I think you'll love this issue and you can read it online for free here. Please tell all your friends to take a look too. Let's all do our bit to spread the word about the exciting creative world we live in!

I'm being creative in my own way today but on a slightly less cerebral level. I've been taking the easy way out for too long. I rely on my basic bread recipe all the time because I don't have to give it a thought and the results keep us in sandwiches for the working week. Today though I've Richard Bertinet's Focaccia recipe (taken from his book Dough) to thank for a most delicious lunch.


The weather's been really weird - we ate breakfast in the garden in beautiful warm sunshine but  yesterday's wild storms returned by lunchtime and I had to flush 'he who gardens' out of the greenhouse, where he'd been hiding from the driving rain. I'm happy for him to spend as long as he likes out there as long as he comes back into the house bearing the fruits of his labours.


After a slow start the tomatoes are ripening apace now. Nothing could taste better than thick slices of these served with avocado in a lime and caper dressing, with Brie de Meaux and a still warm Focaccia. Oh yes, and a nice glass of Shiraz helps too.

Now that the inner man is satisfied it's time to make the most of what remains of the weekend. I'm off to my workroom to see what the muse might conjure.


Even on such a dismal day my little sanctuary still looks inviting don't you think?

Linda x

Thursday, 20 August 2015

A cautionary tale........

Or, why you should never turn your back on the vegetable plot no matter how busy you happen to be.


This is how I like my courgettes - small, tender and not much more than finger sized. But in the aftermath of Festival of Quilts when Amelie requires constant entertainment because it's summer holidays and there's no nursery school, when exhibition quilts need to be returned to their makers, when videos have to be recorded for DMTV, and the latest Through Our Hands magazine has to be made ready for online publication, it's all too easy to forget the daily essentials.


Those same two courgettes are included with their big brothers in the picture above to give a sense of scale. I'd have held the monsters in my arms for the picture if I could have lifted them both at once! This is what lurks in the vegetable plot if you ignore the plants for just a couple of warm, rainy days. Looks like I'd better find the soup pot out!


We've been too occupied lately for our regular Saturday excursion to the flea market but we managed it recently for the first time in weeks. Even though it's in a dilapidated state I couldn't resist this lovely old book for £1.


Written in the late 1800s by Arthur G Butler, seen here with his wife...........


it's full of the most charming illustrations and descriptions. Just the sort of thing I love.


I used one of the drawings as inspiration for this intaglio print. DMTV viewers will get to see how I made the print plate in this week's video and next week I'll show the inking, printing and finishing techniques. It's very satisfying and, much as I love quilting, I could happily spend all day making prints.


I am always pleased to hear that one of our videos has encouraged someone to try something they haven't done before so I'm grateful to Diddy for sending in a photo of her beautiful discharged fabric which she tells me will soon become a book cover. Lovely work Diddy!

And finally - always keen to encourage creative drawing at any age, here's a recent picture of Amelie making a portrait of her granddad. What sensible coffee shop owners to include blackboard tables to keep little ones happy while the drinks are being made!


Not sure why she's incognito on this occasion!

Thanks for dropping by - Love Linda x



Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Festival of Quilts, new book and normal service resumed

August is always a lively month for us. We've had a presence at Festival of Quilts since it started 15 years ago. We've worn all manner of hats! We've taught, demonstrated, lectured, judged and exhibited our quilts. Of course we've also traded but this year, for the first time, we didn't take a trade stand. I know that disappointed a lot of people but it turns out it was a wise decision. The huge Through Our Hands Gallery certainly kept Laura busy all four days and it would have been impossible for her to be in two places at once! I was only able to be at the show for a few hours on Saturday.


But as you can see I soon got into the swing of things as I answered questions and explained about the big quilt reveal we'd planned. The piece you can see behind me is our collaborative quilt that Laura was gradually transforming by cutting away sections of the top layer. If you weren't there on Sunday afternoon to see the finished quilt it will be on her blog as soon as she's unpacked the truck!


If you weren't able to get to either of the recent exhibitions, or maybe you did and you'd like a reminder, you'll find lots of information on the website and you can buy a copy of the Through Our Hands book - a visual treat for anyone interested in the diversity of art quilts from the affiliate artists.


You may remember the talisman pockets we made for the TOH exhibition in Bilston Craft Gallery. We never intended to show them at Festival but so many people requested to see them Laura and Annabel found a little corner of wall to hang a selection and the rest were displayed on a table. Because the pockets were about family and memories they seem to have struck a chord with visitors - we sold nearly all of them and a healthy donation from the proceeds will be going to Alzheimers research. Thank you to everyone who took a talisman home with them.


Back home, I was sharing my time between entertaining Amelie (I had to search her pockets for jewels before I'd let her out of the house) and taking care of mom now she's out of hospital following the knee replacement surgery. My sister and I have been taking turns to sleep over for a week or two but mom's making great progress and is more mobile every day.


She always had the best legs in the business but now one of them is bionic!

Thanks for reading my ramblings. Life is getting back to what passes for normal around here and we have new work coming soon! Linda x

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Freebies!!

Just a really quick post tonight to let you know we still have a few free tickets for Festival of Quilts to give away. If you're interested to know more please pop over to our Facebook page for details. The deadline is fast approaching so you'll need to be quick! All you need to do is leave a comment and you'll automatically be included in the random selection of winners. Good luck!

Linda x

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Reasons to be cheerful

I know I've been uncharacteristically quiet on the blogging front for a while. The reason being that my mom has had a total knee replacement and visiting the hospital involved a 100 mile round trip each time. Since she came home from hospital, my sister and I have been vying for the title of 'nurse of the year'. I made soup and cake today so I've notched up a few points! It's a major operation at any age but undoubtably more so at 87. The wound is healing nicely but the colours and extent of the bruising are a sight to behold. Although she's not shy to let anyone and everyone have a look (whether they want to or not!) I decided not to subject you to any photos. Just imagine a beautiful red sunset with purple, blue and black clouds masking the yellow of the light and you'll be pretty close. Arrrgghh! Never mind - we're so glad it's over now and she's getting better each day.


This splendid fellow greeted us at the entrance to the hospital - how very surreal. I almost wondered who'd been on the morphine, me or mom, when I saw him. No one batted an eyelid - it was as though it was perfectly normal to have a peacock wandering about the grounds. In the interests of health and safety, flowers are forbidden in the wards - apparently wildfowl in the entrance to the foyer are OK.


I know I tried to spare your delicate feelings by not showing 'the leg' but then I go and let you see this moth with no warning at all!


You may not have realised he was such a mega moth till I let you see him next to the quilting ruler! My sister knows how fascinated I am by all flying creatures so she kindly saved me this monster who flew into her house in southern France. I usually envy her time spent in France but this looks like one good reason to stay nearer to home!


I always enjoy sharing images of work our members have created with inspiration from DMTV video workshops - here's a beautiful stencilled columbine quilt from Laura. A really sensitive interpretation of a delicate subject and lots of close quilting which I love - well done Laura!


And I love this glorious sketchbook page sent in by Frances. Thanks for letting everyone see your work ladies! (Coincidentally, Laura and Frances are the names of my two daughters).


And finally, not to be left out, here's a portrait Amelie made of me for my recent birthday. No body to speak of yet but notice the fingers. She's not yet 3 but very observant and obviously knows how important my hands are to me!

Thanks for reading - I promise to show more of my work next time. One good thing about being away from home while taking care of mom is there's more time for hand stitching and the latest quilt is coming along nicely!
Linda x

Monday, 20 July 2015

Jam, pomegranate painting and patchwork

In the very week that the official recommendations are that everyone in the UK should reduce their sugar intake by a half my sous chef and I are making jam like demons.


What can you do? When the raspberries are in full swing jamming is the obvious course! If I can salvage most of these before she eats them all we'll have enough to last all year and, in my defence, I do give quite a lot away. People seem to love a jar of homemade jam!


With such a generous crop we can afford to be extravagant. I soften the fruit and then sieve it before adding the sugar and boiling it up for a few minutes. That means we get a jewel-like jelly with none of the irritating seeds to stick in your teeth! Intense flavour and quite delicious.


Raspberries aren't the only fruit under consideration this week. Laura spotted an enormous pomegranate when she was grocery shopping and she thought it might be an interesting subject for me to paint.


I've just treated myself to a secondhand easel I discovered at the flea market. It holds my extra large drawing board much better than my old easel so I decided it was time to work on a bigger scale than of late.


I'm working with Liquitex acrylic paints and inks again but what you see is simply a beginning - after the initial blocking in of opaque colour there will be numerous layers of transparent inks to try to capture the richness and depth of colour I see in the fruit.


It's actually a miracle that I've managed to do any painting at all as I've spent a ridiculous amount of time filling the drawers of my new/old watchmaker's cabinet. You wouldn't believe how long it takes to sort all the buttons and beads into the same colours and sizes! Serves me right for mixing them up in the first place I suppose. I'm hoping that being able to see what I've got will mean I make better use of the treasures - we'll see if that happens.


And then, just when you decide life is too short to stuff a mushroom, I have a whim to start a hand pieced quilt for our super king sized bed. Laura thinks I must have been out in the sun too long over the weekend! DMTV members will get to see this very soon but don't hold your breath - it's a bit of a project!

Hope you're finding the time and inclination to be creative right now - remember, no matter how busy you are, making stuff is good for the soul.

Linda x