Saturday, 9 November 2019


Today is my niece Esther's birthday and I'm celebrating with this portrait inspired by a photo I took of her posing by her graffiti earlier this year.

Esther is a talented artist mainly working in acrylics and one day last winter she went out with some spray paints and produced this self portrait on a rail footbridge near her home.

I started by printing out the photo and tracing her outline, then found this beautiful chiffon fabric in my stash.

I attached bondaweb to the back, cut out the image using the traced outline then ironed it onto a piece of white cotton fabric.  Next I used my lightbox to transfer the picture to the chiffon in a pen that disappears when heat is applied.  As you can see I carefully positioned the portrait using the printed image to make the most of the flowers and birds. 

I stretched the fabric in my large embroidery ring and started to free machine stitch on the lines I had drawn using a fine nylon thread, the sort normally used for invisible hems in manufactured clothes.  I chose this thread as it has a softer look than normal black cotton.  After I had finished the stitching I decided to cut out a few of the swallows from the spare fabric to iron on around the portrait as they all had bondaweb on the back, making it very easy.

Here's the back of the portrait which I think is just as pretty.

I decided to have a go at making a portrait of Esther's brother Sebastian in the same style.  I love how the birds appeared on his face especially as he is keen on travel and has flown the nest several times already in his life.

The machine embroidery in progress on my beloved Bernina.

Like Esther's portrait I added some extra birds flying out, can you just imagine what's going on in his mind, where to next?  The photo this was inspired by was taken when he was travelling in Cambodia.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019


We had a good time in September camping close to home and our first stop was at St Cast le Guildo, not far from Dinard on the north coast of Brittany and only one and a half hours drive away.  The campsite was on terraces with lovely views across the bay towards the next headland. This is the view through our door on our plot where we spent a week, walking and getting together with our caravanning friends at the start of their own autumn holiday.

I usually gather a bunch of typical wild flowers to put on our table and here is the first selection.

There was a lovely coastal path around the beach at St Cast, lined with rocks and boulders, many of them covered with brightly coloured lichen.

The rock Samphire growing in the cracks was a lovely bright lime green that contrasted with the orange lichen and the dark grey of the granite rocks.

I decided to interpret them in a hand embroidered stitchpic, coloured with inktense crayons then stitched in various yarns.

This is a sprig of Eucalyptus I picked from a beautiful tree we came across in a park in the town.  The seed heads are an interesting shape, like little bells.

Our next stop was at Angers, a town we've often driven through but this was the first time we stopped to explore.  We found a handy campsite, only 3 kilometres from town with access to the wonderful cycle and footpaths that  lead along the rivers and through the countryside as well as into the town. We spent a couple of happy days exploring the banks of the river Maine where it joins the Loire .

The mistletoe covered trees have always fascinated me and after drawing them I just had to make this embroidery using various scraps collaged onto green linen.  There's nothing nicer than sitting in the sun after a tiring cycle ride stitching a new picture!
We had a brief stopover at Saumur and took a walk into town in the hot sunshine when we had to stop for a rest in the shade to admire the chateau.

Our final campsite was the municipal at Chinon where we've stayed many times before.  We were lucky enough to find our favourite pitch available with this lovely view of the castle clock tower above the trees.
I'll finish with this sunset view of the castle reflected in the river Vienne taken from the campsite, now you can understand why this is our favourite place!

Tuesday, 13 August 2019


When I was studying dress design at art college in 1966 my boyfriend was a student of photography and one evening he took me to his part of the college to take some photos.

I put on one of my latest creations, a jumpsuit made from burgundy coloured needlecord and tied my hair back with a wide velvet ribbon.

In the photography department there was a huge roll of white paper that spread out over the floor and I was told to stand there and pose moodily.

Being only 16 at the time and not used to being photographed I didn't really know how to pose, despite studying Vogue magazine closely every month.

However the photos weren't too bad when John developed and printed them.

I lost the photos for many years and have only just rediscovered them so I felt I had to make something special of them.

I traced the faces to start with as well as the figures on a smaller scale then transferred the faces to a piece of white linen using my light box and an erasable pen.

I cut out the hair and collar shapes from a piece of Liberty fabric that I had backed with bondaweb and pressed them in place before machine stitching all the lines in black thread and straight stitches.

I used some organza for the shading around the eyes and hand stitched the figure outlines afterwards.
I think the back of the picture is just as interesting as the front as I tried to keep my threads under control!

I'm really pleased with the result and I think I'll try this treatment on some other photos soon.....

Saturday, 3 August 2019


My weaving addiction is keeping me busy and recently I decided I needed to make something to display my holiday stitchpics on.  I wanted to use the soft blues of Bob's old shirts and some green linen from my stash along with some cotton yarns.

I cut up the shirts and kept the collars and button bands to use later and started to make strips from the fabrics.

I used a rotary cutter on a cutting mat to make even sized strips approximately 2 cms wide.  I found a pale blue net curtain donated by a friend and some green organza to add variety to the collection.

I set up the loom with pale blue cotton yarn and started to weave a 35 cm square, luckily it just fitted on the loom although it was a bit tight as I got near the end.

Here's a close up of one of the 9 squares I made over a week of afternoons;

And here is a square auditioning for it's future role as a background for my favourite holiday stitchpic.

I think this is going to turn out well as the colours complement each picture perfectly.

I machine stitched around all the edges of the squares to keep the weaving secure, cut away the surplus ends and then machined them together into a metre square.  I used a slice from an old sheet to back the piece and then I used the collars and button straps to edge it.  The collar stands became the loops at the top to hang it to the rail.

Here it is completed at last ready for the next step.

I have hand stitched each picture to the hanging and left plenty of space for future embroideries to be added.  It will soon be hanging in the hall, as soon as I can persuade Bob to drill some holes in the wall for the rail!

Saturday, 6 July 2019


Sorry, I nearly forgot to finish posting my Baltic cruise journal sketches but I'm back now and starting with this sketch done as we sailed away from Helsinki. We had taken a tour to a traditional village and had a look around the city but the weather was damp and I wasn't too inspired till I saw the pretty islands as we left and the seagulls escorted us along the coast.

Our next port of call was Stockholm and we woke to a beautiful sunny morning, sailing through the archipelago.  We seemed very close to the shore and had a lovely view of the pretty red cottages and pine forests that line the coast.  That swirl on the bottom right is a scrap of silk and mohair yarn I bought later in Stockholm in a fascinating shop in the old town.

Our mooring was a few kilometres out of the city and we had a magnificent view from our balcony of the amusement park with it's incredible rides.  I could hear the screams of the people as they swooped down on that tall tower structure.

We were transported to the city by bus and decided to visit the city hall as we had already been here before and seen most of the other sights.  We had a very interesting tour and then went in search of lunch in the old town, Gamla Stan, where we had meatballs, the typical Swedish dish.  After a bit of shopping for herrings and crispbread we took the bus back to the ship for our tour of the ship's bridge which was a great experience.

From Stockholm we had a day at sea while we sailed to Warnemunde in northern Germany where we docked right next to a pretty holiday resort.  We were able to walk ashore and explore and found that we could take a train to Rostock for only a few euros.

We found an attractive town with some interesting architecture and a good choice of bistros for lunch.  Later we took the train back to the ship and bought a few souvenirs along the way in a fantastic shop by the port.

Our last stop was at Copenhagen which we had visited before so we decided on a casual walk from the port with our new friends, Jerry and Sorrel.  We stopped for coffee in a pretty hotel courtyard and a herring and beer lunch at Nyhavn before another drink stop on the way back to the ship.
Here we are on the last shore day of our cruise after lunch at Nyhavn.
We had a wonderful cruise with so many new places seen and friends made and it certainly was a new experience for us.  We're normally country folk, preferring rivers and landscapes to cities and crowds but this was the only way to be able to see so many places in a short time.

Saturday, 15 June 2019


On Friday of the first week of our cruise we arrived at Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, a wonderful mediaeval city built on a hill and enclosed by walls.  We went ashore and had a look around on our own as it was only 15 minutes by foot from where the ship was moored. It was a fascinating place with narrow streets and a lovely central square where the craft market was in full swing.

We climbed gradually to the top for the fantastic views, stopping along the way to look in souvenir shops and some of the galleries selling textile art in particular. We finally got to the Alexander Nevsky cathedral at the highest point and found a quiet bistro for a delicious fish lunch.  Because of the damp weather the outside tables were empty and the place seemed closed but we looked inside and found an old curved roof and rough wooden tables and just a few people eating so we stayed and avoided the crowds down in the square! 

This map gives you an idea of the fortified design of the city and our route as we strolled about.

I couldn't resist spending some money here and when I met Natali on her stand at the market selling her beautiful scarves I just had to go for it!  She sells under the name of iTALA and you can find her on Facebook if you want to see more of her products.
Soon it was time to leave Tallinn and head for St Petersburg to spend the weekend. This map shows you where we were able to go with our guided tours.  In Russia it's essential to have a visa to visit the country and for us it was easier to take advantage of the group visa organised by the travel company.  We were warned to keep up with the group and not to get lost as it would cause a lot of difficulties finding our way back in a country where few people speak our language.

I took hundreds of photos of the Hermitage and Winter Palace and made a few sketches in my journal after we came home.  The pace of the visits didn't allow for any spare time and we were pretty exhausted by the end  of each day!
Every souvenir shop is full, floor to ceiling with Russian dolls of all sizes and prices from 7euros to 700 euros. I decided to buy a fridge magnet instead as I know a doll would just gather dust on a shelf somewhere!

On the Saturday evening we were taken to a 'Cultural Faculty' to see a display of traditional music and dancing.  A small troupe gave us a wonderfully vibrant, lively show with lovely costumes, beautiful singing and the men really did do those high leaps and crouching dances.

I had never heard of the Cathedral of the Spilled Blood so when I saw a preview on the ship I had to go and see for myself.  Its just as you would imagine, an onion domed church with the most amazing interior covered in mosaics and golden highlights. 

All too soon it was time to leave this fascinating city and set sail for Helsinki. 
I amused myself sitting on the stern of the ship watching the wash as we sailed along.