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Sunday, 1 October 2017

MORE FROM OUR TRAVELS

Staying at Montreuil Bellay for a week we had plenty of time to relax and explore the area.  We cycled out a couple of times along the 'Loire à velo' routes and found some pretty places and interesting sites. On the day we went north towards Saumur we turned back after about 10 km as the weather became too wet and we knew a storm was forecast, we were passed by a line of cars full of wine pickers on their way to the vineyards to start the harvesting before the grapes were damaged. 



 
When we went south we found a different landscape, fields of sunflowers instead of vines as far as the eye could see. Some had been harvested but most were brown and waiting for the farmer,  however there were quite a lot of self seeded plants in the fallow fields as well as along the verges and I managed to pick one and get it home safely in my saddlebag to draw in the sketchbook. It lasted for over a week in a plastic water bottle vase until after we came home.
 
 
 
The stormy weather blew a lot of bark off the plane trees and I couldn't resist picking up this brightly coloured piece to draw around and colour in using the inktense pencils.

 
We used the 'escalier St Pierre' to go back down to the campsite from the village after our daily beer in the café.  It's a pretty flower lined stone flight of stairs with fabulous views from the top and along the side an old wall with this partly bricked up interesting old doorway.
 
 
The yew tree continued to keep me fascinated while I was stitching it's portrait and one day I took a few twigs back to draw. There lots of berries and it was interesting to see the way the unripe ones were hidden under the leaves till they turned red.
 

 
After a week we were ready to move on to Chinon, one of our favourite towns where we've been several times since we started our camping car life.  I have already drawn the chateau so this time I sat on the wall by the river Vienne to draw the alley of plane trees and since then I have started another stitch picture which I'll share when it's finished.

 
Here is my interpretation of the plane tree bark and lichens, stitched on a scrap of linen in running stitch and buttonhole stitch.
Have a good week and I'll see you again soon.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

BACK FROM OUR TRAVELS

We're home at last after a lovely trip in the camper car to the Loire valley.
  We started with 3 days at Nantes with some friends who come over from England with their caravan to spend the autumn searching for the sun.  Their dog Florrie is adorable and managed to keep up with us as we walked over 20 kilometres around the beautiful city but had to be concealed in a shopping bag to be allowed to take the tram back to the camp at the end of the day.

 
We moved on to Montreuil-Bellay, a 'Petite cite de charactere' only 20 km south of Saumur. The campsite was by the river and just a short walk up the hill took us to the town and a handy bar to refresh ourselves in. This old Labrador kept watch on all the passers by and greeted all the regulars as they arrived for their morning coffee or glass of beer.

There was plenty to inspire me to draw in my new sketchbook, this is the view of the chateau from the ruins of Saint Peter's church. The chateau that dates from the 11th century and has been added to over the centuries is still occupied by the same family for the last 200 years.

 
I sat on a tumbledown wall and drew this in the inktense pencils I've had for years but keep forgetting about.  I love the effect when they are washed with water and the colours are perfect for this kind of subject.

 
The yew trees in the cloisters were incredible with twisted trunks and incredible canopies that spread almost to the edges of the space, giving lots of shade.  As I drew I was imagining the monks all those centuries ago, wandering about meditating.

 
This is the view along the street towards the chateau entrance from the terrace of the bar, actually across the road to catch the sun in the morning.  The waitress had to negotiate the traffic and several steps to serve the drinks but she kept everyone well served without spilling a drop.
 
 
On another day as we sat in the sun with our beers, I drew the bar itself and the next door cottage with it's pretty woodwork and plants.

On the Friday night at Montreuil-Bellay there was a heavy rainstorm with strong winds and in the morning the ground was littered with pieces of bark blown off the plane trees.  They caught my eye with their bright green lichens growing on the surface.

We walked all around the pretty town and found all the sights as well as the ancient walls where a lovely avenue of horse chestnuts had been planted.  I couldn't resist picking up a handful of conkers and a few golden brown leaves to draw.

 
 The yew trees in the ruined cloisters really caught my imagination and I decided to make a stitched picture using some variegated wool as well as fine sewing threads.  As the work progressed each day I went back to study the tree again and soak up the historic atmosphere.
There is more to come from my sketchbook and needle case so come back soon ...

Monday, 4 September 2017

SUMMER AT HOME PART 2


Here is our favourite beach, Tourony, which has beautiful views to the Sept Iles and lots of rock pools to play in.
Jo and Jimmy came to stay and we had a lovely time here collecting crabs and shells and paddling in the rather cold water.


I made Jimmy a book to draw in while he was here and he loved it and the multi-coloured pen I put in the elastic slot on the spine.

I have a collection of creatures that Jimmy loves to look at when he comes to stay and this time he asked if we could draw them together.

The bat is his favourite and I think he made a lovely job of drawing it with the wings open even though mine has it's wings folded. He asked if I had a gold pen to use on the bee and then decided he wanted to keep it!

We found some lovely green crabs on the beach which were added to the sketchbook but left on the beach when we came home.


A quick sketch of another beach day with friends.

We visited friends on their boat for lunch one day and caught the bus back in the evening.


My friend Luba and her husband Herve have a fig tree in their garden which always produces far too many fruit for one family to eat so she gave me a couple of kilos, most of which I made into chutney.


As a Belarussian Luba loves to forage in the forests for fungi and she can't resist collecting far too many so I'm the lucky one who receives the spares.  These 'pied de mouton' were delicious in a pasta dish.
Well, that's a good catch up for now, it will be a few weeks before I can blog again as we're off on our travels in the camper car next week so see you at the end of September.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

SUMMER AT HOME

As most of you probably know already we live in a seaside resort on the north Brittany coast and this is the best place to spend the summer holiday months with all the festivals and fireworks going on every week somewhere or other.

 
I was sitting on the beach one day gazing at all the beautiful blues in the sea and realised I had most of the colours in my yarn and embroidery thread collection so I set to and made a few of these long narrow pictures.  The thicker yarns I couched onto the linen background as they were too thick to stitch with and I especially enjoyed sculpting the clouds and waves with a fluffy white wool.
What to make of them?  A perfect shape for a bookmark so I gave a couple away and turned the rest into cards with a slot at the top so the fabric can be easily taken out to use in a 'proper' book!
 

 
A friend came round to 'play' one afternoon bringing some of her fabric scraps and we set to with yarns and threads.  This is my effort and I'm still waiting to see Julie's when she comes back from a trip to England.

 
The lilies in the garden came into flower again in July, delighting me with their wonderful fragrance.  I was interested to see that the white ones particularly attracted wasps rather than bees and added one to this needlepainting I did using some crinkly cotton.  What a lovely afternoon I had sitting by the flowers, stitching and breathing in their perfume.

 
My granddaughter Sarah got her exam results during the holidays and I stitched another of my sun prints for her as a congratulation card.

 
What could be nicer than sitting in the shade of the parasol on a warm afternoon, stitching a portrait of my darling sister Rosi.  This is from a photo from 1979.

Mum got the same treatment too, a copy of a sketch of a 1985 photo where I pushed the colours a bit!
This is the start of the embroidered portrait quilt project I want to make over the next 2 years to celebrate the life and family of my mother who was born in 1919.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

FLOWERSTITCHING

 

 
Ever since our holiday I've been in love with hand stitching flower pictures and this is the first, copied from my travel sketchbook.  I can still remember sitting by the river Loire, watching the heron feeding and listening to the raucous calls of the crows in the trees.

 
Anyone who knows me knows I love buddlea ad I have several different varieties around the garden flowering at different times of the summer. This is just a little stitch sketch  of a few details of these fragrant flowers.

 
Every summer my herb garden delights me with the perennial herbs that grow with no effort on my part and I love to see the colour combinations that appear as they bloom and then go to seed.  This group of oregano buds and parsley seeds appears every year and just had to be recorded in stitch.

 
Many years ago Justine gave me some Nigella seeds from her own garden and they self seed every year now and in fact the flowers are gradually turning pink from the original blue... I wonder if the pink granite has anything to do with it? I just love those seedheads too, hence the re-seeding every year!

 
Another favourite is my lavender of which I have several varieties that flower at different times in the summer.  I collect the flowers from the common one on the right to dry for lavender bags but the others are too small to use and anyway I think the bees thank me for leaving them for their food, they certainly buzz very loudly when I come near the plants!

 
Another Love in a Mist flower, this time stitched on one of the sunprinting pieces I showed you last time.  I sat in the sun to sew it with one of the flowers at hand to make sure I did the feathery leaves correctly although the colour is probably a bit too yellow caused by the sun dazzling my eyes!
 
 
The other sunprints came out so well that I decided to stitch some more.

 
Those parsley seeds again, don't you just love the pale prints in the background?

 
I have only just found out the name of this shrub and I had to add it for it's peculiarity.  My neighbour came calling several years ago with a wheelbarrow full of plants she was clearing from her garden so I was delighted to take them off her hands.  Now I have at least 3 big shrubs, covered in flowers for most of the year and even the hardest pruning doesn't (thankfully) destroy them!
Right, now as a test to see who in my family actually reads this I'm asking those who have a birthday in the next few months to choose which picture they would like on their birthday card and let me know in the comments or on Facebook!!
Over to you sisters and brothers in law, niece and auntie.  You know who you are!
 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

SUNPRINTING

 
Have you ever heard of sunprinting?  No, neither had I till a few weeks ago when my friend in Sweden posted a picture on Facebook.  I had to have a go after looking up the process on the internet and I'm really pleased with the results of my second attempt after a failure the first time.

 
Basically all you do is take a piece of natural fibre fabric like cotton or linen and pin it to a board, then lightly wet it with clean water.  Mix a 50/50 water and acrylic paint or ink solution and paint it onto the fabric evenly making sure the whole surface is covered.  It's a good idea if the colour is quite dark and contrasts well with the fabric, like the blue I painted onto the yellow or purple over pale blue. The dark blue silk on the left here didn't work as well, especially as I over diluted the black ink I was using.
 
 
 Before you start gather a selection of flowers and leaves, making sure they are interesting shapes and a reasonable size to give an imprint and pin them to the damp fabric then put the board in strong sunshine for an hour or so till the fabric dries. The first time I did this I didn't pin down the flowers and there was a breeze so everything moved a bit!  Apparently the wet paint moves from the shade of the flower to the brightly sunlit part and leaves the imprint uncoloured.
 
 
As you can see from the top picture all went well this time except the dark blue but it will still get used for something in the future.  I have cut out the fabric now into squares and started to embroider them in the imprinted area.

 
This Love in a mist was the first one stitched while sitting in the garden with a fresh bloom as a model and I love the way it's turned out.

 
Here is the pale blue linen before it printed with some buddlea and hydrangea flowers as well as the love in a mist.  I started to embroider one of the hydrangea florets but it took ages so I think I might leave that for a while and try the buddlea next instead.
So what am I going to do with these pretty embroideries, make a patchwork, frame them, or turn them into birthday cards for my family?
You'll have to wait and see!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

SUMMER TRIP 2017 LAST PART

Our last week of the holidays was spent at a wonderful campsite at Volonne, just south of Sisteron in the Alpes de Haute Provence recommended by a charming German couple we had met at Annecy.  After a morning's drive through the alps round hairpin bends and cloudy peaks we arrived in hot sunshine to find this friendly place with 2 swimming pools and a restaurant on the site.  We chose a pitch and settled in for a late lunch and a siesta. 

 
The pitches had trees for shade and they were essential as the temperatures rose to 36 degrees during our stay.  We moved our table and chairs around the plot during the day so we could stay in the shade of this lovely tree with very interesting bark.

We swam in the pool every morning when it wasn't too busy and then sat on the restaurant terrace for a cool beer before lunch which we sometimes took a there as well.  This is the view of a typical provençale house we could see across the pools to the hillside opposite from our table under a beautiful pine tree.

As we always sat at the same table I had a good view of the pine tree and decided to draw the bark over a couple of days.  We soon got to know the waiters and waitress who came from different parts of the world: Vietnam, Romania and Denmark and they looked after us very well.  In fact the whole team on the camp were so friendly and keen to make our stay as pleasant as possible that we decided to stay for a week which even gave us an unexpected day for free!

 
This is the view from our front window of the river Durance which has been dammed to make a lake to produce hydro-electricity.  All the camping plots were together at one end of the site which had many chalets to rent as well.  We reckon we got the best value for money paying only 17 euros a night which included the use of the pools and the very well maintained toilet and shower facilities.

 
We left Volonne after a lovely but very hot week to go to Vaison la Romaine which we knew also had a pool.  I had always wanted to re-visit Roussillon to do some sketching on the ochre footpath so we stopped there on the way.  I managed to do a couple of quick pen drawings but it was far too hot to stand in the sun and draw as well as try to see around all the people also enjoying this magnificent place. 

 
I took photos to back up the sketches and when we got home I got out the pigments I had bought on the first visit and mixed up some gum Arabic to make watercolours.  So these sketches are painted with the actual pigments you can see in the ground!
We arrived at Vaison at 2 pm only to find the campsite full so we ate a quick sandwich in the nearby supermarket car park while we decided what to do next.  As it was so very hot we decided it was time to go home to our comfortable Brittany temperatures, about 10 degrees less than in the south of France.

 
We did the return journey in 2 stages of about 650 kilometres with our first stop at Saint Amand Montrond  which is in the geographical centre of the country.  We often use it as a stopover as there is a handy camping car park only 5 minutes from the motorway and then in the morning we set off early to go to our favourite vineyard at Amboise to top up on wine before the final leg home.
The orchid survived the journey too although the flowers are smaller and paler than usual.
We had a brilliant holiday, visiting many new places and finding excellent cycling paths where we could cycle happily without the fear of traffic or too many steep hills!  Looking back through my sketchbook I can see the drawings consist mainly of trees and water which tells me that nature is definitely my favourite subject for drawing as well as sewing.
Next time I'll share some of my needle paintings with you so don't forget to come and visit soon!