Saturday, 21 October 2017


What a busy month I've had so far! I'm off to England next week so I've been really busy making stuff to take for birthday and Christmas presents.  So here is a catch up of a few recent projects, but some will have to wait till later in the year!
Firstly this is the needlepainting I made of the sketch of the river at Chinon using organza, painted with acrylic inks for the water and in the trees.

In case you missed it here's the sketch that inspired the embroidery.
One day, sitting by the sea I was attracted by the different colours I could see in the water and when I came home I got out my fabric and yarns and stitched this little piece. I realised it was the perfect shape for a bookmark so I tidied up the edges and ironed on some backing, then gave it to Joanna who was staying at the time. 
Since then I've made several and given them away as cards with a simple mount that allows the bookmark to be removed for use ( for those of us who still prefer paper to electronic books!)
My friend Luba has given me so much inspiration with the fabric samples from her time as a fashion director that I wanted to make something special to say thank you.  I embroidered the picture while the lilies were in bloom and then bound it onto a notebook.  She was delighted when I gave it to her last weekend.

Here is one of my lily sketches from last year.  This year I sat by the pot, stitching and copying the shapes of the petals and adding the wasp when I realised that they were more attracted to the flowers than the bees were.

My lichen embroidery turned into a book cover too, a present for someone special.

I found a few scraps of this fun fabric from 'Get Cutie' in Brighton, part of the pack Justine gave me for my birthday.
I made them into a pencil case for Jimmy to go with the book I made for him in August.
Here's the book which he loved and drew lots of pictures in when he was here  for a few days holiday.

And finally my new hat.  No, I'm not planning to wear it in public, it's part of my fancy dress costume for Justine's party in November.  The theme is games and I've chosen to go as the black queen chess piece, hopefully I'll have some photos to share with you when I come back home in a few weeks!
I've prepared my sketching kit and a few yarns and fabrics to be working on while I'm away and I'm even hoping I'll be able to pluck up the courage to do some embroidery on the train to Paris and then the Eurostar (with Justine's encouragement).

Sunday, 1 October 2017


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


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


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


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



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!