Winter Stitching

So, what's new? Not a lot, I'm still soldiering away, battling the winter blues and a hefty Canvas Work design. However, I think I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel; I would say more than half of my Canvas Stitches piece is finished at this point! It has seemed at points as if it would never end, but now I feel one final push should do it.

The coral garden last week

The coral garden earlier today

A close up of Upright Cross coral (green), Romanian Couching waves (purple and brown), Victorian Step water (purple and light green)
I'm not entirely sure about my choice of colours; I fear the piece is too busy, but the main thing is that I am enjoying it, and learning so, so much.

Other diversions that have been cheering me up during these short dark days include plastering every square inch of wall in my room with art (and bunting, but of course)...




It certainly helps to have a cosy hideaway to hibernate in during the winter months!
... a stack of "What To Look For In..." Ladybird four seasons books to be stitched into someday to accompany last year's What To Look For In Winter...



...and all my Christmases coming early in the form of not one, not two, but three Santa stacks filled with vintage satins, printed cottons, and yards and yards of lace trimmings. I don't think I've ever been so grateful to receive old cast-offs!

Some purchased fripperies which are destined for brooches and artist's book #3

I'm already sketching up designs for my Black Work piece (it might just be Polly Kettle themed!), and have availed myself of some evenweave to practise the stitches on. It's going to be a busy stitchy Christmas!


At a snail's pace


"Slow and steady wins the race" is an adage my mother is fond of quoting to me when I am bemoaning just how long it is taking to move things forward. Never is this more apt than with needlework; as a family we recently got 'round to watching Fabric of Britain, and in the embroidery edition of the series (which featured a certain Royal School) learned that it can take six hours to embroider just two tiny cheeks of a face in split stitch. This makes my progress with my Canvas Stitches coral garden look positively speedy!

Jacquard Stitch on my Canvas Stitches coral garden piece


I have never been good at sharing works in progress, whether in the contexts of work, academia, or on this blog. It must be the perfectionist in me. Right now, though, I only have works in progress to show. This feels fitting; it seems like my life is a work in progress right now, moving forward, though in no way speedily. Slowly, slowly, at a snail's pace, I am learning technique, and I am learning so much about myself. Learning what makes me happy and keeps me healthy. This new experience is an education, in every sense of the word.






Although it's tough, sometimes even mentally and physically exhausting, I am enjoying every stitch.

Perhaps all this is why snails have appeared so often in my artwork over the years; from my oh-so-"conceptual" GCSE art project in which a colourful character hid their light under a bushel (or more accurately, inside a box covered with snail shells) within a colourful inner sanctum that was literally bubblewrapped from the outside world;













...to Dale the Snail (not my choice of name!) who takes pride of place in the Jacobean Crewel Work I (finally!) completed for my RSN course (still needs to be mounted, though).



Or perhaps I simply like snails... the way they carry their homes around with them, their dual timidity and curiosity at the world, and if you want to get really "Dartington", how they leave a trace of their existence behind wherever they go.

I'm learning other ways of taking better care of myself in addition to endless meditative stitching; learning to be thankful for all the wonderful people and experiences in my life, reading the work of my favourite writers, surrounding myself with art that makes me feel good. That includes the art of my contemporaries, for example the wonderful Hannah Hill, a young artist and good friend of whom I expect great things (and who is already making great things happen!) This piece in particular has been a great comfort of late; the text is taken from a piece by another young Tumblr artist, Eryn (of the blog "botanicalmovement"):

Hannah has really made Eryn's words come alive

I am, as ever at this time of year, trying to look for the little things that make winter wonderful, when it is such a difficult time for people like me, who have a tendency towards depression. So I felt I'd stumbled on a literary, stitchery, wintry goldmine when I came across this cross stitched Annie Dillard quotation by Jessica Kelly on Flickr:


Dillard is definitely a writer I'll have to do some investigating into pretty imminently.

All these wise stitched words have spurned me into stitching some of my own; I've written a wry little manifesto for myself moving forward:
  • Being a damsel in distress went out with wimples; be your own hero
  • Red lipstick wasn't rationed for a reason; it's a shell to fling at the world, a suit of armour
  • Playing the invalid invalidates you; heal yourself
  • What to look for in winter; fungus, ferns, frost; two bodies under a blanket; a warm dog sat in your lap
  • Remember you're a milk thistle; unlily your liver
  • Shout boo at every hissing goose to cross your path
I am picking away at embroidering the manifesto (tentatively titled "The Tentative Manifesto of a Big Girl's Blouse"... I wonder why?) and practising my split stitch while I'm at it. Picking it up after a hard day's stitching homework and returning to sewing as a form of therapy, which is so important for me.




I've also made the decision to re-open my Etsy shop. The time feels right, when I am so full of enthusiasm for the future. When these two little fellas have been transformed into rosettes, I will be putting them up for sale alongside framed embroidered art from The Cure for Love and other projects, and a few vintage garments I'm very excited to share with you all.


When the time comes I will post all the pertinent information and links here on the Poesie Grenadine blog. Until then, I'll be stitching!


Putting one stitch in front of another

Hello all. Where oh where have I been for the past month and a half? Well, I've been feeling under the weather, in many ways quite literally; the storm that huffed and puffed and blew our neighbour opposite's fence down didn't help. This time of year hits me hard, but at long last I seem to be emerging from the big black maelstrom that was gathering above my head.

In the winter months I find solace in posting loved ones little treats, in an effort to raise our collective spirits as the nights draw in and the days grow shorter.


I have also been spring cleaning (so appropriate for November, I know), and my bedroom is finally an approximation of what I've been wishing it to be for years (though there's still bunting to be put up; one can never have too much bunting...). More importantly, however, my room is clean and tidy, which I must say is something of a revelation to me. Who knew this would lead to me actually knowing where things are?! The plan now is to apply my (somewhat idiosyncratic) organisational methods (business cards go in a box with embroidered patches, obviously) to the makeshift "studio" in the loft, which is currently crammed to bursting with fabric, thread and other gubbins.

Noelle the narwhal "helping" me get organised
And yet more gubbins are pouring in; I seem to be becoming a receptacle for all the unloved fabric and needlecraft equipment that has been languishing in the attics of loved ones and acquaintances; not that I'm complaining in the slightest! I've had a surfeit of gorgeous '60s and '70s quilting cottons of late, and other bits and bobs which aren't quite to my taste are taking a little trip to Significant Seams to be turned into all manner of exciting textile-y goodness.

A little peg lady who sat atop a swag bag of fabrics donated to me; I think she looks like a little mini-me, don't you?

Besides gathering a snowball of beautiful fabrics, there is so much else to look forward to right now; mine and Pip's two year (really??) anniversary is coming up on December 1st; Christmas holed up in the Highlands with my family and an almost obscene amount of delicious food; returning to Hampton Court in January invigorated and ready to give my training in the ancient art of hand embroidery my all. Until then, I shall be taking time to look after myself and enjoy the season, and above all simply putting one stitch in front of another.

A rainbow on my window one recent morning reminded me to be grateful for the little things in life



"Working towards normality": the story of my life

Tea, comforting films, Pip, and the spirit of the Suffragettes are helping me power through


Colours of the deep blue (and green and purple and pink and orange and grey) sea

The beginnings of a coral garden


                                   
Tarnished jewel-toned seawater cottons and metallics



Jacquard Stitch (Please try to ignore the surrounding spaghetti junction; Canvas Work is like sausages; it's delicious, but you don't want to see how it was made)


Winter's End


A week before the season’s end, I’ve finished my winter project. What To Look For In Winter? ends on a slightly melancholy note, with the heroine, who is now ready for a new season and new love, wondering what to look for when the weather turns colder again.
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But what to
look for
in winter?
The yellow thread that I chose to embroider the phrase picks up the celandine and coltsfoot blossoms in the illustration, and contrasts with the blue moth print paper which lines the index.
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Moths will continue as a motif in my next project. Now that I’ve finished my modest winter undertaking, I feel ready for a  more ambitious make; I’m going to attempt my first quilt. The Constellation Quilt will focus on my character Polly Kettle,  and writing about  the stars and night.
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In the meantime, here’s the completed What To Look For In Winter, a winter’s worth of writing and sewing.

"When the gorse is out of bloom, then is kissing out of fashion"


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English Rose
Your lips
have thawed
And there’s a
Spring
in your step.
This penultimate page of What To Look For In Winter harks back to the very first page, which addresses the English Rose heroine of the tale/poem:
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The coming of spring has freed the English Rose from the cruel clutches of Winter, and now her heart and lips have thawed and she is ready for new life and new love. Only now will she truly “wilt no more“. There is a link between the original text and my own writing on this penultimate page; the mention of the folklore surrounding gorse and kissing and my mention of thawed lips, just as I wrote that the heroine’s lips were “too chapped and dry to kiss” on this page, which mentions and shows mistletoe:
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Only one more page to stitch, and then I will embark on possibly my most ambitious project yet; a narrative quilt on the subject of the stars.

Unfurling


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Ah, spring. The promise of new life, of green, of renewal. The promise of the seasons’, of life’s, cycles. I do a fair bit of recycling in my art and writing; my most recent page extended ideas of laddered hearts first explored in this cross stitch. These next two pages borrow from snippets of writing which have been revised over the years. It may not quite be spring, but I can feel myself growing more ambitious and optimistic for the months ahead… in a way I’m doing my own unfurling…
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My heart is thawing
Unfurling slow
as ferns under frost.
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Unfurling slow
as bowstring ferns
puckering up
their octopus
feelers.
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Fissures


What To Look For In Winter continues apace; the book is getting rather fat now (perhaps it’s fattening up for the winter?), and I’ve promised myself that it will be finished by, or on, February the 28th, ready for the onset of spring, by when, perhaps, I may have found precisely what to look for in winter.
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 Like roots split
the earth
Like fissures
in the ice
My heart
When held up
To the light
Was laddered.
I feel there is a hint of spring to this seemingly melancholy page; the heroine’s heart, may be laddered, broken, due to her treatment by her cruel husband Winter, or, like “fissures in the ice”, this laddering may be a sign that spring is on its way. You’ll have to wait to see the next few pages of What To Look For In Winter (and for me to stitch them!) to find out…
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Mothball Moments


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Mothball moments
Tumbleweed moments
Rolling on through the hours,
the years,
rolling on through 
the centuries.
This page is about the inertia of depression, when it can feel like the whole world is wintry and pressing down on you, yet passing you by. This is how the heroine of What To Look For In Winter feels, wedded to the cold-hearted Winter.
I wasn’t quite sure how to incorporate the imagery of the farmer into the last couple of pages of What To Look For In Winter; he didn’t quite fit in with my intended narrative. A tenuous link I can make is that the earth is rolled by the plough, just as the moments roll past the heroine of the fairytale.
As with the earlier “When I married Winter, the world was put on permafrost” page, I tore through the paper slightly with needle and thread, and patched up the reverse of my embroidered page with another embroidery, a fallen oak leaf which I imagine may be one of the fallen leaves of the illustration opposite the leaf, which features my very favourite animal (the fox, not the hounds!)
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Mothmetamorphosis


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As well as being a fairytale, What To Look For In Winter is taking on a fantastical element, with coats and people metamorphosing into moths…
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He pulled his coat
over me
his moth’s wings
And I was mothballed
moth-eaten
I blended into the
curtain
just like a moth.
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I like moths. They’re badass, melancholy winter butterflies, bewitched by the moon (so the Stitch Witch in me approves!)
I embroidered a moth for my series The Onion Cutters’ Club:
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Doubtless I’ll be using the lepidopterans as a motif in the future.
The text of this latest page of What To Look For In Winter is inspired in part by a grainy webcam self portrait I took in which I am blending into the curtain “just like a moth“.
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"A nice new winter coat"


I actually finished this latest page of What To Look For In Winter before I departed for Berlin, but had so much last minute packing etc. to do I didn’t find the time to post it here.
As with previous pages, I aimed for a marriage between the original text and the writing I laid over the accompanying image with needle and thread. The topic, too, is marriage; that of the narrator and “Winter”; a wintry fairytale.
As “The stoat in the foreground” of the illustration “has his semi-winter coat”, I thought I would clothe “Winter” in his best coat, keeping the cold out although he has “put the world on permafrost”.
He wore his best coat
(for it was Winter’s wedding)
And carried me over 
the ice.
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Winter carries the heroine over the threshold of the frozen lake and into his frozen fortress.
The next page of the original text, and my alteration of it, continue to mention coats… although they may not be all that they appear.
PS I borrowed the title of this blog post from one of my favourite Lily van Der Stokker wall paintings:

Ah, winters!


The hacking cough which I’ve had since before Christmas seems to finally be abating, and just in the nick of time; I’m off to far colder climes next week. The boyfriend and I are escaping to sub-zero Berlin, taking in cabaret, an abandoned Soviet amusement park, and German wine (gulp? Quite literally…) My excitement is mounting, particularly since I haven’t been out of the UK for four years, and is reaching a slightly worrying fever pitch (or maybe that’s just my cold). I will return on the 22nd with reams of photographs and stories to share here, I’m sure.
It may be a little late to be getting into the wintry spirit, but a recent visit to the Serpentine gallery has got me dreaming of a white Berlin even more; my friend Rohanne and I visited an exhibition of video artist Jonas Mekas there, which was filled with joyous imagery and poetry of the snowy season, including the typewritten proclamation “Ah, winters!”
Perhaps it’s all this dreamy imagery and dreamier day dreaming which has led to What To Look For In Winter turning into something of a frosty fairy tale.
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Winter has become personified as a man so cold he sets the world on permafrost when the heroine of the fairytale marries him.
I’m not sure if I can get away with blaming it on my cold, but I’ve made a couple of mistakes with these latest two pages; I got a bit too needle-happy with the “When I married Winter, the world was put on permafrost” page, and tore straight through the paper! However, a mistake can soon become a happy accident, and I patched up the hole with a teeny tiny pine cone embroidery which ties in with the narrative and illustration on the reverse of the stitched page.
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I accidentally omitted a comma after “kiss” on this page, and ran out of the right shade of blue thread just at the last minute of stitching! Here’s hoping my holiday will revivify me so I won’t make any more rookie mistakes!
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