Drawing Strength Potion

 This week's #secretsofselfpreservation potion follows on from thoughts last week. I am still drawing, sketching every other day, and finding I am not as hopeless at it as I thought (although perhaps still slightly hopeless... practise makes better!)

I am doubting myself ever so slightly less than I have done of late. So, the stitching this week reads "Have more faith in your abilities". This applies to every area of life; work; friendships; juggling swords. My dyspraxia aside, I feel more comfortable in my own skin, more sure of myself, and more ready to try doing the things I feel trepidatious about, but I know either must be done or I desperately want to do. The peachy pencil represents conquering my fears and proving myself to the only person I need to prove myself to; me.





Remember you can get involved too, via the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation, by writing about a simple way you plan to, or already do, take care of yourself. Alternatively, you can create your own embroidered (or written on paper) potion - just remember to include the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation along with your snaps of it.

TinyLetter



TinyLetter is an ingenious website which allows you to share your work and your life, indeed, however much of yourself you want to share, with subscribers. I have started a newsletter-come-loveletter via TinyLetter, and will be writing to you (should you choose to subscribe) at least once a month. Once I have a fair few subscribers I shall send out letter number one; it's all written out already.

So if you fancy receiving love notes, navel gazing and flights of fancy all written and illustrated by a sensitive artist and sipper of mixed drinks living in the birth place of William Morris, writing, stitching and drawing, a madvocate and feminist who loves dancing to Northern Soul, greasy spoons, and amassing a formidable collection of mid century frocks, sign on up!


Visual Diary

The last couple of weeks I've been trying to put plans in place and get my life together a little bit. So Milk Thistle has suffered somewhat, but I'm happy to report that I'm back on the stitching and page seven (of 8) is underway.

Inspired by my online contemporaries and the ever-present desire to write, I began keeping a diary last month. Alongside my lilac written diary, I've started collating a visual diary (or art journal) too. It's a lovely way of recording special moments and it will hopefully be wonderful to look back over the course of the year and realise that, actually, it was pretty good.


This first page depicts mine and Pip's visit to Brighton to stay with friends... with added mallards. On our trip to the seaside we ate far too much rich food, played crazy golf and despaired over the price of vintage.


Soon after, I stayed with my parents and grandparents in the Highlands, visited Tobermory (the site of fictional Balamory), and stocked up on fancy chocolates for Pip. This trip was characterised by, once again, eating far too much rich food.


When I returned, we visited Lucy Sparrow's rather fantastic Corner Shop, which I blogged about here.

The next day, I had a wander around Epping Forest with my Mum, marvelling at how verdant and heady everything smelled.


The next day, inspired by this walk, Kat and I took a bunch of photographs in Walthamstow Forest, which you can see here.

At the end of the week, Pip and I went to two special screenings, the first being Stuart Murdoch's bittersweet twee musical God Help The Girl, the costumes and songs of which I enjoyed immensely, although the extent of the earnest, melancholy male gaze in it was almost painful to watch. Still, mostly good fun.

The second film was outstanding. I'm slightly biased, as Brief Encounter is my favourite flick ever, but this screening was very special; the film was presented in concert with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and the soundtrack of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 (with which the film is so inextricably bound up) was painstakingly removed and then played live and seamlessly at the appropriate moments. It was so technically astute, in fact, that I often forgot the orchestra were there at all.

I've got some visual diary-ing to catch up on; I find it quite therapeutic and nostalgic; in this world of instant media it's refreshing to go a bit analogue. Do you art journal?

Helenium: tears

The sixth and latest page of Milk Thistle is one of my favourites, possibly because it is about crying, which one could argue is my very favourite theme (see here, here, and also here).

I stitched some stanzas of Keats's Ode on Melancholy on to a handkerchief (aptly), and based the illustration to accompany the lines on this illustration from a book that I snagged from my Mum's work:



But more on that later.

The reason why tears feature prominently on this page is because it is based around a Kensitas Flowers card featuring Helenium, a flower which, in Greek mythology, grew where Helen wept.

Consequently, the text I have written and stitched for the page reads

Nobody brought me a bedside bouquet,

but everywhere I wept, flowers sprung,

until I watered a meadow




To accompany the Kensitas Flower, I stitched the following line from Keats's On Melancholy on to my handkerchief:

But when the melancholy fit shall fall

Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,

That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,

And hides the green hill in an April shroud

as I felt they were appropriate. The eye illustration that accompanies the text is the "weeping cloud" of the poem.























There are only two more pages to go now, and then I can (finally) stitch the whole thing together. It's been a long commitment but I think it will pay off.

The bright fairy bower


 
The third page of Milk Thistle deals with Romantic (with a capital R) preoccupations with sickliness, and the cult of the (myth of the?) tortured artist.

 


 
 
The text reads:
 
Down in the thicket, the bright fairy bower
I am sickly and fey, I'm a delicate flower
 
Up in my garret, my ivory tower,
I wax and I wane, I pale by hour
 
 
I've surrounded the words with a garland of ribbon roses and tiny beaded blooms, and a thicket of wild flowers springs from the page.

It Could Be Worse

I've had a bit of a scant internet presence of late. Mostly because I'm in a period of re-adjustment and looking for work; I will not being continuing at the Royal School of Needlework in September, but I will be getting my certificate in technical hand embroidery on Monday, and perhaps more importantly, going out for dim sum and cocktails afterwards.

I am not a natural optimist. I am also aware of the jobs market at the moment, which is particularly disheartening when applied to the arts.

There doesn't seem to be much else to do than to face my situation with my trademark self-deprecating humour, and the determination to make something of myself.

Even the bleakly humorous bunting I made to "celebrate" this recent development didn't turn out as planned; it was far too big and unwieldy to rig up inside, and once outside the letters spun around in a pleasing but ultimately illegible manner.


It's true though; it could be much, much worse, and that at least is something to celebrate.

Crystal Ball

You might remember a number of posts (spanning from all the way back in February to more recently) all about a certain quilt I was (mostly failing at) working on.

Well, now that Big Teeth is finally finished I can set to work on The Constellation Quilt. This quilt is more of a story book or comic strip, telling the tale of the fortune-telling but unlucky in love witchy siren Polly Kettle (a performative alter ego of mine).

As well as spelling out Polly's name letter by letter in square patches, the quilt has a narrative, typewritten below:


In between the narrative and letter patches will be illustrative, playful patches portraying Polly and her accoutrements (crystal ball and all!) Here is one below. It's stitched on to hand screen printed linen by Room39:



And the first (though not chronologically) of the narrative patches, complete with iridescent sequins for shading:


I haven't quite decided which patch to stitch up next; possibly an appliqué of Polly herself. The quilt may have to take a bit of a back burner once again, however; I'm starting my training at the Royal School of Needlework next week, and imagine I'll get fairly busy fairly quickly! A post on that to follow.

Rest Cure


As much as I do love London, occasionally I need to escape it for a little while. I've been feeling a little disenchanted recently; I think from constantly working so hard on projects, from the long summer which I've been failing to fill effectively, and from spending too much time staring at screens (she says, staring at one!)

So a two week rest cure at my parents' house in the North West Highlands was just what the doctor ordered. I brought my current project, Big Teeth, along with me (and got a surprising amount sewn on the train!) My aim for the holiday was to sit and sew and look out at the sea.

So far it has also included rather a lot of staring at screens (surprise surprise), fine food (and wine!), and the odd walk around the hills and down to the beach. The wild landscape is the perfect setting for constructing a book about fairytales (many of which, of course, had fairly savage beginnings).

First of all, here are some holiday snaps:



An old friend adorning a stone shed on the walk down to the beach (painted by a family friend).

Giant daisies growing against the shed in my parents' garden.

The first bushel of gooseberries grown in the garden; there's almost enough for a crumble!

An entirely unintentional shot of me wandering around in the garden in a lovely dress.
Of course, most of my time has been given over to sewing, and this current project isn't an easy one (but then I'm always one to bite off more than I can chew!)

Someone else who hasn't been finding my sewing easy is our dog, Rosie. A few days ago, the phone started ringing whilst I was mid-stitch; thinking it might be my boyfriend, I got up in a rush, thrusting the embroidery aside. It landed on the dog.





Poor pet!

My reading material for the holiday has been fairly light; I desperately wanted to read The Little White Horse, but couldn't find it at home or at my Grannie's (hers is the house next door to my parents'). Instead, Grannie lent me Linnets and Valerians, also by Elizabeth Goudge. I must admit, so far I haven't touched it; I've been too engrossed in Issue Five of Magpie Magazine, which, as well as being full of beautiful photographs and articles, has quite a number of the best poems I've read in recent years. They've inspired me to write some of my own (not quite ready to share yet, though). My final "reading material" is my previous artist's book, On Being Soft, which is sob-inducingly superior to my current efforts, but acts as a good source of inspiration nonetheless.


And on to those poor efforts! I think my real problem is that the story/poem that runs through the book is rather text-heavy, and my pages are rather tiny!


The first few pages are charmingly off-kilter, but the last couple are so dense the text is almost illegible! The second to last page in particular is just not gelling for me; I think the blanket stitch around the text is too bright. I may unpick it and start again. Also, the last line of the first page is missing and I can't for the life of me find where it's gone! Typical me!







I do like the soft tones of the scanned and cloth-printed Polaroids against the clumsy blanket stitch and the hand sewn text, though, and I am (more or less) happy with every page other than that pesky second to last one. Perhaps I should have stuck to using the same fabric for each page, as I did with On Being Soft. Oh well, I'm sure the contents of the Polaroid pockets will be more impressive. And speaking of, I'd better crack on with them. No rest for the wicked!


An interview on the origins of Poesie Grenadine

Recently I've been contacted by a number of different students wanting to interview me on my practice as it relates to feminism, writing, and fashion. It's a real pleasure to answer their questions (not to mention immensely flattering!), and it wasn't very long ago at all that I was bothering artists Joetta Maue and Iviva Olenick with a plethora of nosy questions for my own projects.

This interview was with a fashion journalism student who is creating a literary magazine which focuses on the marriage between poetry and fashion. I'm very excited to see the finished publication.

What came first - your love for writing or your love for sewing?

Writing came first for me. I struggled with literacy at school, but after receiving my first "proper book" (with chapters!), Horse Pie by Dick King Smith, in my stocking, one Christmas when I was seven or eight, it was like turning on a tap; the writing just poured out of me.


When did you start doing each?  Why?

With the writing, the more I put in, (in the form of novels, poetry, non-fiction, plays) the more continued to pour out of me; this continued from the Horse Pie incident and hasn't really stopped, although my writing is a lot more pared down and concise now, as it often has to be embroidered, and embroidery is a very time-consuming medium! Aside from GCSE Textiles, when I embroidered a dress I'd hand printed with unfurling fern designs, I began embroidering in earnest after a very debilitating period of mental illness three years ago, as both an occupation and a form of therapy; I found the meditative, repetitive process soothing; perhaps I was stitching my ego back together again. Occupational or art therapy, if you will!

Are there any themes (in your writing and sewing) that you constantly use in your work?

As the above may hint at, I'm particularly concerned with public (mis?)conceptions of mental illness, notions of romance (and romantic notions), pop fem(me)inism, flora and fauna, the tortured artist cliche, sickness and recovery, the English national psyche, and art which is soft, twee, delicate or "girly" as a foil to darker subtexts.



Where do you get your inspiration from?

The online embroidery and feminist art communities are a constant source of inspiration and support, and I am very grateful to them, and to the web for making them so accessible. I try to take in as many exhibitions as financially possible, and, as it did in my formative years, my reading material continues to inspire me in wonderful ways. Being in nature is, in my opinion, also really important for the creative process, and helps me breathe.


What's your creative process like?  I.e. Do you find yourself writing first and then applying that to your stitch work?

The seed of an idea for an embroidery often begins as a scribble in a notebook, or, more often than not, as a note saved in my phone! There's always rather a lot of writing and planning done before I "commit to cloth". Documentation and reflection is a very important part of my creative process, and I do this by blogging over at http://poesiegrenadine.blogspot.co.uk


What is the significance of words on clothes/accessories for everyone to read?

Words on clothing will always make a statement about the reader to passersby or the general public. Why else do people buy branded clothing than to broadcast their affluence and sophistication to the world? Similarly, my brooches convey pride in oneself and allegiance to a feminist (or femme) cause; a pride in one's womanhood.




So far, which item that you've sewn has been your personal favourite?  Why?


 It's very difficult to pick an absolute favourite embroidery I've sewn; of the embroidered accessories I've created, my "Thunder Thighs Are Go" heart shaped brooch, with its play on the Thunderbirds catchphrase and body positivity, has proved a firm favourite with the Tumblr crowd and is a favourite of mine too (I may have to make myself one to keep!). I'm also rather fond of my Stitch Witches rosettes, created for my collaborative project Stitch Witches, which is soon to culminate in a zine celebrating contemporary and subversive stitch craft, curated and created by an embroidering girl gang of two.

CUSTOMISABLE Stitch Witches Rosette


Is there one in particular you believe to be most powerful?  If so, why is it?

People have really embraced "Thunder Thighs Are Go" as their own phrase to celebrate their bodies, and I'm moderately proud of that. I think that makes it quite powerful. Some of my embroideries on the subject of mental health, created in bitter and knowing irony, have been taken literally and reclaimed as a badge of honour, and I think either taken in this reading or in the spirit they were originally intended, they are powerful statements of defiance.



Describe some of the word play you use. 

My work is always underpinned by the written word, whether that be by beautiful etymologies, dreadful puns, or linguistic philosophy (though it is a little heavy on the puns!)

Currently, how many different projects do you have going on?
 
I'm currently taking a break from my most ambitious project yet; a hand made quilt on the subject of the stars and fortune telling, based around my character Polly Kettle, an occult siren. Whilst I'm ruminating on that, I've embarked on a blackwork series of turn of the century childrens' book illustrations. I'm also working towards bringing out the first issue of Stitch Witches zine with my collaborator Hannah Hill (http://hanecdote.tumblr.com/)

When you created your first piece, what were the reactions like from other people?

The people to see my first piece of embroidery were my parents, and I think they were tickled by the playful wordplay and clumsy stitches! Considering how amateurish it is, it's received a surprising amount of attention on Flickr.



What are your hopes for your creations in the future?

This September I will be starting the tutor training course at the Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court Palace, to learn, practice and teach hand embroidery to the highest possible level. In addition to and because of this, I would hope to exhibit my work more widely, and expand my practice of participatory performance embroidery workshops, social events where I use embroidery as a tool to open up conversation on a theme in a fun and performative setting.

By the way, where did the name Poesie Grenadine come from? 

Poesie Grenadine is a French phrase which translates roughly (and very broken-ly) as "purple prose". As much of my earliest embroidery arose out of re-workings of terrible teenage love poetry, it seemed most apt. I'm also somewhat of a florid, pinkish person, so it's suitable in that way too!

Life! Death! Prizes!


“Life! Death! Prizes!” (complete with exclamation marks) is the rather incongruous strapline of Chat magazine, “your smart real-life read”, aka one of the recent spate of pulp magazines, that, as one reviewer of a book named for the strapline puts it, trade “in human misery by revelling in real-life traumas”.
On a lighter note, I was tickled by the phrase and cross stitched it during my second year at university.
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I chose green as the colour for “life!” due to its association with nature and new life, red for “death!” due to the obvious connotations of blood (alternatively red could have been used for “life!” for the same reason), and a variety of bright colours for “prizes!”, analogous with a flashing neon sign that would be found in an amusement arcade or fairground.
The phrase stuck in my head as I began to plan The Constellation Quilt, and the idea that it could be a neon sign hanging in a fairground made me think that it would make the perfect companion piece to my “fortune telling” patch, with a wheel of fortune or fairground fortune slot vibe.
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When translating the phrase into a patch for The Constellation Quilt, I kept the colours of the text the same (adding purple flowers growing out of the “life!” line), but chose a different font for each word. I think the font of “prizes!” is particularly akin to a neon sign. To add to this effect, I stitched star sequins and purple beads, to tone in with the rest of the quilt, issuing out in rays of “neon light”.
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This was my first time using water soluble cross stitch aida, and I’m largely happy with the results, although as the plastic  texture of the aida makes it difficult to use an embroidery hoop, there is some puckering between the words.
Here is the patch alongside its companion piece. Only three more patches to go, and then it’s the scary part; piecing together the quilt by hand.
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Don't interrupt me, the stars are tessellating


Another week, another patch of The Constellation Quilt completed.
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This phrase, “Don’t interrupt me, the stars are tessellating” could be spoken by the hero to the heroine in a clichéd romantic scene in a musical or melodrama. The stars are often associated with romance, and this is something I wanted to pick up on in the quilt.
This phrase is one which I cross stitched when I first began embroidering, one of those phrases that comes to you and persists, nonsensical though it may be.
don't interrupt me the stars are tessellating
Of course, the stars can’t really tessellate; that is, unless they appear in a quilt, for which there are many tessellating stars patterns, one of which I based the motif of this patch on. As I’m keeping the quilt’s construction very simple, I wanted to make reference to the more complicated star patterns here.
The patch is something of a stitch sampler, with back stitch, running stitch, stem stitch and chain stitch all featuring. You can’t tell from the scan, but the thread of the text is in two different shades of gold; I picked it up on a bountiful recent visit to Wroxham.

Stardust


I’m so inspired to complete the remaining patches of The Constellation Quilt that I’ve even been dreaming about them! The next patch will be a playful look at the stars as they apply to fortune telling (appropriate for a quilt based on my character Polly Kettle, a fortune telling siren).
I’ve just finished reading Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, and amongst the reams of gorgeous imagery is quite a bit of writing about the chaos and majesty of the stars, including the below:
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 Yes, it’s a little melodramatic, but so is Polly Kettle, so it seems appropriate! I enjoyed adding all the tiny gold stars (or should I say stardust?) The background fabric of the patch has the slightest gold sheen; I will be interspersing the Polly Kettle letter patches with these, and with patches of a warm yellow-gold colour. I think this “stardust” patch may be the “cornerstone” patch which ends the first “Polly” line of the quilt.

Polly Kettle


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My Polly Kettle patches for The Constellation Quilt are all finished! Next comes the trickiest step so far; getting out the graph paper and figuring out what the proportions of the quilt will be. I envision half size rectangles between these squares, embroidered with found text and my own, and appliquéd with moths (there they are again) and moons.
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I”m so loving the rich colours of these patches, and their mystical patterns.
To get myself in the mood to write and quilt I’ve written a Polly Kettle-inspired piece, which I’m going to share here, although it’s very much free, stream-of-consciousness verse, and I’m not sure if it’s finished or not yet. Polly is an occultist, part witch, part fortune teller, part medium, and so this piece has occult or supernatural themes:
Gossamer muslin blossoming out of gossiping mouths speaking in tongues and sipping mixed spirits, mixing with spirits, leaving ghostly lipsticks on spritzer glasses and crystal tumblers, wiped away with a white ‘kerchief; a parlour full of parlour tricks, above the mantelpiece the old clock ticks. It is well past the witching hour, and we are bewitching, we are divining, and we are divine, on the divan we deviate, we divide and conquer the dead and the living.
We swoon, we cry for the moon, eyes big as flying saucers, full as a saucer of milk. We three sisters, hag, maiden, whore. It has to be one or the other, the spinster, the mother, the fresh-baked home-wrecker with her wrecking ball.
Hush now sisters; I see a tall dark stranger in my future, the future’s mine, the future’s bright, mine eyes have seen the glory of the ghoulish night, and I’m a moth to my future’s white hot flame, my turban is tattered and unravelling, and I’m suddenly a slip of a thing, thinner than a paper moon, and I see a girl naked in front of her lover, I see my lover in soft focus, vaseline smeared on the glass, I must wait for my crystal ball to clear of mist, I must adjust my lens.
As explained in this article, “ectoplasm” that was produced during Victorian and Edwardian seances was, in fact, muslin, or some other thin natural substance, hence my mention of “gossamer muslin blossoming out of gossiping mouths“.
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I’m currently collating all the writing I can on stars to get me inspired for the small passages of poetry which will make up some of the patches spaced between the Polly Kettle squares. As well as writing my own snippets, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves is proving a mine of stellar imagery. It was given to me by Pip for Valentine’s Day, and by coincidence was going to have moths as its central motif, not waves… I’m sure this will act as inspiration for the lunar moth(s) I’m going to add to The Constellation Quilt!

"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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Plathitude


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I actually began embroidering this piece during my holiday in the Highlands last summer. I think I was a little daunted by taking on an embroidery this size, and by the amount of satin stitch required to shade those arms, but now that I have more time on my hands I’ve picked it up again and finally finished it (and at quite a remarkable rate!)
As Alvy Singer says in Annie Hall: “Sylvia Plath – interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college girl mentality“. I couldn’t help adding a dash of dark humour with the sweet treat cupcakes and the perfectly painted fingernails juxtaposed with the foreboding text. By a sheer coincidence it happens to be the 50th anniversary of the publication of Plath’s seminal novel The Bell Jar, and of the poet’s untimely death, this February. Of course, some Plath fans would say that I am distastefully poking fun at suicide with this piece. And to them I would say, you have to laugh or else you’d cry (or is that a little too facetious?)
In a way this piece is dedicated to my teenage years when I wrote atrocious poetry and a part of me really did want to be Sylvia Plath. Thank goodness I’m past that now (not sure I’m over the atrocious poetry though).
P.S. This post would just not be complete without a mention of incorrectsylviaplathquotes.tumblr.com, which does what is says on the tin. Peruse at your leisure.

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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The wild blue yonder looms


I had a dream a month or so ago that I wrote a song about betrayal, cold hearts, and melancholy, the central metaphor of which was goose eggs.
This struck me as exactly the sort of song harpist and singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom would write, and I only wish I could.
Why do I mention this? Because whilst stitching the next altered page of What To Look For In Winter, a few lines from one of my favourite Joanna Newsom songs kept popping into my head:
And yonder, wild and blue,
The wild blue yonder looms
‘Til we are wracked with rheum
By roads, by songs entombed
~ from Swansea by Joanna Newsom


As the winter months roll on, and the nights draw in, I grow less and less inclined to venture out into the “wild blue yonder”. The world outside can seem very dark and lonely at this time of year; much better to curl up with your family (and Border Terrier!) in front of a fire or boxset.
As I mentioned in my previous post on What To Look For In Winter, the colder months can bring with them common-or-garden blues. However, as I am all too aware, for anyone with an underlying mental illness, it can be a much more trying time of year, bringing very real fears of the outside world. Thankfully so far this year my blues have been of that common-or-garden variety, although it can be something of a battle to keep anxieties on an even keel (aided by listening to lots of empowering Destiny’s Child, and, I’m even more ashamed to say, Cher’s “Believe“!) at times. I am incredibly grateful to be in such a good place, with such a good support network around me, this winter.
What To Look For In Winter will take the reader on a journey through the emotional highs and lows of winter, set in context with the changing winter landscape, and culminate in a spring unfurling, both literal and metaphorical.
yonder
In the most recently completed pages of What To Look For In Winter, there is a juxtaposition between the loneliness felt by the speaker when confronted with the wide open “wild blue yonder”, and the waterbirds who “gather together in flocks”. It was somewhat serendipitous that this page happened to be so very blue!
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The prose of the original Ladybird text is almost magical, and charms me, as an (ever-so-slightly) whimsical adult, as much as I imagine it charmed its original readership of children in the early ’60s. Surely only the most hardened cynic could fail to be beguiled by a description of the half-decayed veins of leaves “remaining like delicate fairy skeletons“? Or perhaps I’m just a little too romantic for my own good? (It’s been suggested.