Friday, December 21, 2007

Another day, another fancy dress costume


Apparently there are uniform requirements for Sixth Form after all: for example, on the last day of term before Christmas,you must wear fancy dress. Which, in this house, means Mum must get creative on the sewing machine again... So here we have our West Country Squaw, Anna, kitted out for school, as photographed by her proud Dad. Mum (me) was fast asleep, trying to recover.
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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Jardin Majorelle

A short caleche ride from Jma el Fnaa is the extraordinary gardens created by Jacques Majorelle, which were rescued from decay and lovingly restored by Yves St Laurent. Trees provide shade from the heat of the day and high perimeter walls shut out the clamour of the city. It is very different from the English style of garden: there are these wonderful cacti and succulents mulched by gravel, in a bewildering range of shapes, shades and forms.

Then there is that essential ingredient of the Arabesque/Moorish garden: water, in the form of ponds, fountains and rills, the splashing and the condensation adding to the cooling effects of the tree-given shade.

A garden is not a garden without some flowers, and these all featured at Majorelle in October.

Finally, there is another ingredient that makes Majorelle unique in itself: the rich cobalt blue that runs through the garden on painted masonry and woodwork, which has been named after the artist and the garden: Majorelle. This is certainly an oasis I would return to: a little piece of paradise on earth.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Anyone for Tea?

One of the great pleasures of life in Morocco was Moroccan Tea. or mint tea. It is served always in an ornate silver teapot, complete with server to protect your fingers, on a matching mat. The tea is usually sweetened in the pot, and may be poured from a great height with great ceremony and loud ullulations (if taken in J'ma El Fnaa at one of the evening food stalls) into tea glasses. It is served less extravagantly in other settings. It is, without doubt, one of the two most refreshing drinks there. The other is citronade, freshly prepared. A clse third is the freshly squeezed orange juice which is also ubiquitous but may be adulterated with water and/or sugar, and almond milk is also delicious but less refreshing. I also tried avocado milk shake for the novelty and rather enjoyed it. However, for me the tea won every time. On one occasion we were offered it in a shop within the Souk de Teinturiers, where we had gone to buy various items like henna and pigments. We were all suffering from poorly tummies and this tea came with added aniseed, which was immensely soothing. We came home with our own teapot and set of glasses so the question is, do I make my own tea server and mat as illustrated above?
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Cats in the Casbah

Here is a small selection of the many photographs taken of the feral cats in Marrakesh. My eldest and youngest between them took photos sufficient for at least four editions of Medina Moggies calendars. Cats own Marrakesh. These ones deign to share the courtyard of the Musee de Marrakesh with its human visitors, but they kept a close eye on our behaviour, sometimes undercover.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Moroccan Medley

We had a family trip to Marrakech, Morocco during the recent school break, and by way of a taster, here is a collaged selection of the many photographs taken while we were there. It was very beautiful, very different, very exotic, inspiring and thought-provoking. Unfortunately, we brought home the souvenir no-one wants: travellers' tummy, or whatever you like to call it. The good thing about it is that I lost a stone in weight! The bad thing is that it's triggered the post-viral syndrome big time, so I'm finding it very difficult to do more that sleep or slump on the sofa. And Christmas is coming! Nevertheless, it was an amazing visit and I daresay I'll gradually catch up with everything, including blogging about it. At least it's good hibernation weather, all dark, dank and damp.
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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Autumn Sunset

Apart from the arboreal splendour, there can be spectacularly colourful sunsets at this time of year, as demonstrated in the collection of images above. I love these fiery skies.
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Autumn Leaves

A heads-up from my sick-bed. These colourful leaves prove a valued distraction but the coming windy weather will probably put paid to this wonderful display until next year. Not a good year for health in our house at all.
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Monday, September 10, 2007

Scenes from Ironbridge

We had a mini-holiday this summer, when the chance presented at the last minute to have a week away. We decided to take the opportunity to visit Ironbridge, a place which had long tantalised our curiosity: we were fortunate to find last-minute accomodation and our choice proved a wise one in terms of having something to interest all of us (parents, daughter (16) and son (11). Ironbridge Gorge is the "cradle of the Industrial Revolution" but set in a place of great natural beauty, which at times seemed quite incongruent.

Even the weather was reasonably kind to us - the forecasts had predicted possible heavy rainfall and I worried about flooding, but luckily it didn't materialise. The journey only took us a couple of hours or so - almost close enough for a day trip. Indeed, with the right transport we could have made the journey by water, for it is Ironbridge's position on the River Severn which provided one of the significant circumstances for it to be a locus for industrial growth (ease of transportation by water) apart from the availability of natural materials (iron stone, china clay, charcoal and coal in the vicinity.
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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Going to the Zoo

Last week we went to Bristol Zoo with friends. It was a leisurely trip. The boys spent a lot of their time in the amazing playground, once we had devoured our picnic lunch and watched an "Animal Performance" featuring rats, a parrot and an owl. Absolutely beautiful creatures - not so crazy about rats, personally, but these were not too bad. It was great to see the meercats, and also the penguins. I was reminded how much zoos have changed for the better, with much more creature friendly habitats that when we first visited the zoo in 1989. I recall a depressed polar bear and utterly miserable monkeys doing their best to go blind.... Oh, the improvements.



Bristol has wonderful gardens as well as animals, and I am always struck by this featured silver birch tree, which has such glorious colourings on its bark.


Another improvement at the Zoo is that they now have electric buggies for hire, so I availed myself of one. I was still exhausted when I got home, but at least my legs weren't too painful, and I coped with the trip to Fibrefest the next day as well.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bad Hair Day


This lovely lady is to be found in the display rose gardens at David Austin near Wolverhampton. Notice the frizz round the edges! Obviously didn't have time to use her GHDs.
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Fabric ATCs

During the past few years i have made and swapped several paper-based ATCs (or Artists' Trading Cards, 2.5" x 3.5"). These, made for members of Unlimited Textiles, are the first ones I've created from cloth. They are a fabrc sandwich with pelmet vilene in the middle, and it's surprising how much texture and pattern can be achieved with in the dimensions.


The basic fabric is one I made during my City and Guilds course in embroidery, consisting of strips of neutral-coloured material sewn together using automatic sewing machine stitches, then cut up and reassembled a few times using the same technique. This cloth is like pastry: each time I use some, I cut and repiece the remainder to made another usable piece. Now I am coming to the end of it, and I can see that I will have to repeat the exercise to provide for future creative play.


For the cards, I machine-couched some copper jap to form the horizontal lines, and used the same dark red thread to overcast the raw edges. then I hand-sewed a number of tiny bronze sequins ( from Dale at the
Thread Studio, densely in the middle, and then dotted around the edges. They took together about 3 hours, not counting the time taken to make the "crazy patchwork" type base fabric. Great fun.

I'm very tired today. I was so anxious about the return to new schools that I threw myself into displacement activities, including quite a lot of housework (seriously needed) and registering us all with a new NHS dentist. Luckily, Anna and Ben had a good day and Ben had enough energy left to go and have a kick-about in the park with big sister Sarah and her bofriend, Joe. Today I am fit for nothing - this is the third time I've written this blog entry, having succeeded in erasing it twice previously before I posted it! C'est la vie.
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Some sewing content!


This is a 5" square quilt I've worked recently for a swap. Working smaller than usual is not a bad idea: it's very portable, for starters. Although there's some turquoise, it's somewhat outside my usual palette with the complementary reddish orange and the colours really zing. I think it could also make a good image for a greetings card.
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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

First day at School

Today was a first day at a new educational establishment for both my two younger children: Ben's at secondary school, Anna's at Sixth Form. Ben has a new uniform to wear, and Anna no longer has to wear uniform.


As both places of learning are within the same school campus, they went off together (in the inevitable sunshine) to catch the bus. So grown up...


The house is very quiet without children in it!
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Sunday, September 02, 2007


Because my confidence in driving has been somewhat dented by a car accident a few weeks ago, I didn't think I'd get to Fibrefest so was totally thrilled when my darling husband offered to take me there, and alder daughter Sarah offered to collect her sister from work and look after her brother during the day. It was only an hour's drive away down the M5, and luckily the traffic wasn't too bad: travelling north was a different story, with half the world's population seemingly en route from Cornwall and Devon for home and the start of the new school year next week. Luckily they'd all made an early enough start to leave us a reasonably clear run on our homeward journey.

Fibrefest was tacked on to a village-fete-type affair to raise funds for Coldharbour Mill which we'd visited last summer and felt well worth supporting as a valuable piece of industrial heritage. I didn't really have a shopping list but was looking forward to seeing what there was to see, and to seeing some fellow fibre f(r)iends. The latter was spectacularly successful, as Sarah and Dave from Spinning Weal, my local textile craft shop in Clevedon, were on the first stall I came to on entry. Sarah taught me to spin, introduced me to the Avon Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers and is a very special person. It was also very good to catch up with Jeni of Fyberspates and to chat with some fellow members of the Spinners, Weavers and Dyers. I enjoyed seeing how a peg loom works. My especial highlight was finally meeting my great cyber pal, Ruth and her lovely friend Luciana. I could have spent all day chatting with them! (Or perhaps I did).

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Of course some wool came home with me, and a lucet with instructions for variations on the theme, and some wonderful ceramic buttons. I would have loved to buy some alpaca fabric which is so silky soft, it is positively sinful, but at £50 per metre it was a bit beyond my budget. The only problem was we had not foreseen difficulties in buying lunch there, but my gluten/wheat intolerance meant virtually everything available was unsuitable. I lunched on a very tasty lamb + beef burger with a helping of fried onions and no bun, plus a cup of tea. I hadn't thought to take emergency rations along but clearly I don't get out often enough.

I enjoyed being driven and worked on some hand-stitching for a swap I'm involved in - very enjoyable and relaxing. It's good to be stitching again.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Back from my holidays

Didn't mean to take such a long break from my blogging, but it's been a funny old summer. We didn't actually go away, apart from a mini-break to Ironbridge, which was great fun. Time has rushed by. Today, DH and I went to Fibrefest. I had a wonderful time meeting up with friends and doing a little shopping, while my beloved was very patient and enjoyed the unusual experience of spending some time chilling in the car with the radio and a computer magazine when he felt he was intruding on my socialising. It was especially wonderful to meet Ruth after such a long virtual friendship. I hope to blog some more with illustrations tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A touch of Monet

Nice weather for ducks, though - and waterlilies?

They are looking very lovely in our tadpole pond, which is due for refurbishment later in the year, when the tadpoles have grown up into frogs and are ready to leave home...

In My Garden

The garden has been battered by rain and wind over the past week or so, but there are gems to be found and wonderful scents to be enjoyed when the weather is being kinder than it is this afternoon..

I'm glad that there are more shaggy red poppies to come.

The jasmine is growing up through the grape vine along the fence.

Stocks and Pinks are communing near the house.

This Philadelphus smells wonderful during fine evenings but the rainfall is bruising its petals, poor thing.

Knitting in the Round

I'm very chuffed to have this opportunity to test drive Ysolda's Snow White knitting pattern, and it's growing well. The garment is knit in the round. I've used a circular needle for the body and am now working on a sleeve. I thought I had a set of dpns in the correct size for this project, but I was wrong. My DH very kindly took my car shopping on Saturday so he could fill it with petrol, a most welcome and generous act, but it meant I couldn't dash off to Get Knitted for the correct ones. On his return we hit our local Garden Centre/Department Store and then John Lewis just before closing time, but without success on my mission. The only alternative (apart from waiting until the shops opened on Monday and not knitting for 36 hours or so)was to master the Magic Loop, which I think I've now done. I don't especially like it but it saves buying another set of needles and it has grown on me slightly now it's becoming more automatic....

My Magic Loop

The yarn I'm using, Lana Grossa New Cotton Seta, is proving a joy to use even if the balls are prone to falling apart and tangling in use. The yarn is also tinting my wooden needle points a delicate shade of turquoise but I can live with that as it isn't doing the same thing to my fingers, as far as I can see. I hope it feels as good to wear as it does to work with in this humid weather we're having. I would find wool a trial at the moment.

Friday, June 08, 2007


Apart from being the HQ of the Somerset Fire Service, Hestercombe is home to a beautiful garden which is being restored. Having visited it a few years ago when it had just been opened to the public, it was interesting to revisit with Sarah, who was interested in architecture and water.

So here is a collage of Hestercombe snapshots, mostly but not exclusively of hard landscaping:-

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I love the texture of the stone, much of which (if not all) was quarried on site. It is inspiring me to work with these lines in textiles - let's see if the muse continues to influence me.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

How the Days Fly By.....

I can't believe how quickly this year is disappearing. It has been a rather hectic time for me; or rather, periods of hecticness interspersed by periods of prostration in the magic armchair due to abysmally low energy levels.

Throughout May I had an exhibition of my textile art here, at Gallery 370, which linked in with North Somerset Arts Week 2007, and then after a 5 day gap, put up a second at the Octagon Gallery at Castle School, Thornbury, S. Glos with my textile art group, Thread Carefully. I have posted images of some of my recently exhibited work on my companion blog, The Magic Armchair Traveller in Stitches. I had two pieces sell - to a pair of very discerning patrons of the arts - and so had a rush to produce two extra works for the Octagon show. Meanwhile, I had to put my dressmaker's hat on and make a ball gown for my younger daughter's Year 11 School Ball, just to ring the changes.

I've also had to label a large heap of civvy clothes for my son to take to Scout Camp and again to his Year 6 School Camp in the Forest of Dean - so I can look forward to another heap of laundry to do over the weekend, with the compensation of a lot of hugs which, I must confess, I am rather missing this week.

I have diverted from the knitting of socks to the knitting of a cardigan for myself, but have now paused this project to concentrate on the test-knitting of a pattern for a jumper,
Snow-white for Ysolda.

Eldest daughter Sarah is home for the summer, having completed her second year at university, and younger daughter Anna is at home quite a lot at present, studying for GCSE exams which require intermittent chauffeuse duties at present. She's also trying to find local jobs to apply for so she can earn the money to buy clothes, as she will not be required to wear school uniform for sixth form studies. Sarah has also been looking for paid work and had an interview this morning which looks hopeful. Thus we've had a week or two of extreme highs and lows in the gainful employment area.

I've also been collecting materials to create a wrap to commission, in autumnal shades of russets, browns and greens, in embellished filigree felt. I will start with dyeing some fibres soon, especially Wensleydale locks, which make such delicious fringes. I also have a pair of trousers cut out and waiting to be sewn, and a pair of curtains to complete....

Boredom? Pah! What's that? Except for the recurring days of hayfever, which are extremely boring and tedious in the extreme despite the mediation of anti-histamine.
At least I can see the glorious roses in the garden from the comfort of the Magic Armchair....

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Belated Mothering Sunday Celebration


I had these lovely flowers for Mothering Sunday from my eldest daughter. They were exquisite and I'm glad to have the photos as they've long been consigned to the compost heap, sadly.

Since then, I've been caught up in a panicky whirl, preparing for an exhibition and private view at Gallery 370 in Cleeve, then making a ballgown for my youngeer daughter to wear last Friday to her Year 11 Ball (photos to follow). Unfortunately my health has continued to test me so it has all been more of a challenge than it should be, and than I anticipated. Howewver, despite being in the midst of SATs and GCSEs, I now feel as if I'm in a little sea of calm in comparison.

Much entertainment is to be had at present from the comfort of my Magic Armchair and Sofa, watching the hard work of a pair of starlings who are working overtime to keep their (at least three) chicks fed. They are nesting under the eaves of our dining room roof, and we can now see these hungry beaks protruding greedily for the next nourishing morsel their parents bring them. I suspect it won't be too long before the parents decide it's time their youngsters start to fend for themselves.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A story to tell the grandchildren

At the weekend, Sarah went to Bournemouth to stay with her friend Hattie there. On Thursday evening they went into town to Elements, where S put her bad foot in her handbag (figuratively speaking) and enjoyed herself, dancing. Look who she found to partner her for a while. Yes, it is! He'd gone out for an evening on the town with some fellow officers and a few security men, to mix with the "locals". Unlike some more mercenary young ladies, Sarah did not sell her story to the Sunday Mirror, but then, she did not go back to the barracks afterwards.