Monday, 24 December 2012

A Little last minute shopping.

Our daughter Lucy arrived Saturday after a long journey by train from London. She is spending Christmas with us here in Ullapool. Today I thought the nicest thing to do would be a trip to Cromarty to introduce her to the delights of the Black Isle. Needless to say we ended up in Gardiner and Gardiner and being heavily into vintage delights she fell instantly in love with this wonderful Aladdin's cave of antiques and curios to say nothing of a wonderful warm welcome from the proprietor Helen Gardiner. 
I'm so pleased that Lucy also fell in love with this late Victorian beaded caplet I had imagined her wearing it on my last visit to the shop. I love the way she has teamed it with a Gap vest - very chic!
One of my 'finds' was just as pleasing, a roll of heavy satin name tags  that was obviously from a London store, It looked quite old and a little web research revealed the  department store was famous for having it's windows smashed by the suffragettes in 1912.
An hour or so spent beach-combing (the best pastime ever) on the sands and rocks of the Cromarty Firth finished another lovely day.
Seasons Greetings to one and all.



Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Playing Cricut

I've been layering up some cut-outs from my new (second hand) cricut machine and adding a few beads and stitch, very frivolous but just the colour hit I needed today.
I stitched one frame down completely and just stitched the second frame very lightly. I like the fact that it frame stands away from the background making the image 3D. I wish I hadn't stitched the first frame down flat, must try another sample and layer the the frames with minimum stitching.

You can see how the curly frame sticks out on this side view, definitely more play to come.
I've made some memory pebbles to remind me of last week's outings with my friends. I've added the date and their names on the back of each one so that I can recall the exact day we went to various beaches. I find it more and more important to record  good memories in some physical way. My blog is a great aide memoire I just wish I'd started it sooner - like fifty years ago, ha ha! 
My last little piece of work was a very plain felted purse that I have embellished. I bought in a craft fair last week in the tiniest village hall on the Gairloch coast. It was heaving with people despite being miles and miles from anywhere of significance. The tables were filled with the absolutely amazing local produce and crafts and the little kitchen was turning out the most appetising stuffed crepes I've ever seen.  People live so well up here. 
Talking of which I've ordered the christmas fare today -  a haunch of venison, a side of hot smoked salmon and some scallops (weather permitting). I must look out for some Stornaway black pudding for our all time favourite starter - Scallops and black pudding seared with chillies and olive oil. Sounds an unlikely pairing but it is scrumptious. I think I will have to climb a few mountains to burn off the extra calories in the new year (as though that is going to happen). 


Sunday, 16 December 2012

Clootie Tree and Cromarty



The Clootie Well on the Black Isle driving out  to Cromarty is one of the most fascinating sights to come upon. The tradition which is thought to have originated in pagan times revolves around taking the waters from the well and hanging fragments of clothing of sick members of the family in the trees in the hope of a cure. This tradition is still taken up with some enthusiasm because there are about fifty yards of textile hung trees. 

Our friends, Biddy, Fran and Bill found the experience fascinating and slightly unnerving.  On a icy cold winter's morning it was quite surreal to wander amongst the hopes of so many people.
The aim of the day out was a visit to
which proved to be the best experience of all. It was lovely to be with people who had knowledge of some the wonderful things we looked at in Helen's shop. Chinese pottery and robes, old linens and tapestries, treen and intricate copper stamps, paisley shawls and fossils. The list is endless, everywhere is artistically arranged with treasures and curios and a big log fire and tea made by Helen herself which was very welcome. We could have stayed for hours and listened to Helen telling us stories and showing us rarities and desirable objects.
We all came away pleased with our purchases (as usual I had a bag of linens). 
The week has gone so quickly and tomorrow John will drive our friends to Inverness Rail for their journey home to Peterborough. It will be very quiet without them and the dog is going to be devastated without all their attention.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A Day to Remember

Today was memorable in many ways, good friends, good food and a perfect winters day. When I saw the early morning sparkling light I knew it would be a good day to introduce our newly arrived friends to Achmelvich beach. After a drive through the dramatic scenery of Knockan Crag and Inchnadamph and a walk alongside Loch Assynt we arrived at Lochinver just in time for lunch at the famous 'Pie shop'. It lived up to it's reputation,  it was so good to watch everyone enjoying the meal. We decided to walk lunch off on Achmelvich beach.
This is the first time I've been on the beach when it was frozen solid, a strange experience, even the dog refused a swim (the first time ever).
The car temperature said -3c in the relative shelter of the car park. I think it must have been at least -5c down on the shoreline - I could feel my eyelashes freezing. It was glorious, we spent almost three-quarters of an hour playing with our very hyper dog and collecting shells before the cold drove us back to the warmth of the car.
We have enjoyed each others company so much today - what more can you ask for? (Some people had pies for tea as well).


Saturday, 8 December 2012

Rainy Day Crafting

I have been crafting for the past two days, the weather has kept me in the workroom. It has been relatively mild but that means rain and a bit of a storm blowing. The waves on the loch have white tops to them today - very nice to look at through the window but too blustery and wet for a comfortable walk.
It gave me a chance to work on my third altered book. Not quite there yet on layout, however this is as far as I can get until I get home. I thought I had packed for all my crafting needs for my five week stay here but I forgot my Dremil (a tiny electric drill). I use this to drill the needle holes for stitching into the pages.
I've also used the time to finish off these little dresses for Isla.
I'm not sure where the trim on the second dress comes from, it's a vintage piece from my collection. I think it could have come from a traditional costume from somewhere like Armenia it has a very eastern European look. The stitching is very skillful and so tiny - I love it! I've stitched it to a cashmere base - these are definitely best dress wear.
I almost forgot - I have a new gadget! I picked  up a Cricut Expressions cutter on ebay for a bargain price and it arrived a couple of days ago. These machines are used primarily by card makers and scrapbookers. I use lots of paper cut outs in my work and wondered if it would handle my painted papers. So an hour of producing a dozen large papers later (I have to say an Aga speeds the drying process up no end) I tentatively started cutting or should I say the machine did - Success, who knows what else this machine will cut - the experiments start here!  



Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Strange Light

A little dress making today - for Isla who is growing out of the last two dresses I made for her in 'newborn size' and is ready for the three to sixth month sizing. I 've used a lovely soft corduroy in chocolate brown ( how seventies) and some very worn Indian silk, probably forties/fifties era.
Our walk this afternoon was amazing!
I often take this shot, it is walking north out of Ullapool where the loch enters the sea  and the route the ferry takes to Stornaway. I'm not sure if you can see it but there was a peculiar white halo around the Summer Isles, making some of them look as though they were floating above the sea. I must ask one of my local friends if this is a well known phenomenon, I'm sure it was down to light conditions.
 It all adds to the 'other worldly' feeling that I love about this place.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Lazy Sunday Afternoon


I didn't want to venture out today. I just wanted to finish this book ( so I could start another one). The days are short up here, it's easy to hibernate and not get any exercise but John and the dog needed to walk so reluctantly I tagged along. No snow in the village yet but the surrounding mountains have a good dusting of the white stuff.
I've promised myself that I will go swimming in the local pool, It will have to be bath temperature at least to get me in. It's one of those ideas that sounds wonderful when you say it but in reality not so tempting at this time of year.
I did feel warmer for the walk and it gave me some thinking time for the next altered book.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A Winter Walk Along the Loch


Looking down the loch from our bedroom window this view called us out to play quite early this morning. John and I got ourselves bundled up against the elements and decided to head out the point at Rhue. It was bitingly cold at first but as the sun came over the mountain the exercise soon warmed us up.

This old wreck looks like a rotted whale carcass from a distance and always marks the point of decision on this walk, to go on or head back to the warmth of West House. Today we carried on.

By the time we got to the second wreck we could see veils of snow falling on the mountains and decided to head for home.

There is something wrong with this picture..... only one black lab. Sadly Tarka the old lab. died last week at a grand old age. She died mid walk along these shores. I can't think of a better way to go, she is greatly missed by many. However the younger dog kept our spirits up with his antics on the walk back. When I read that Gina's beloved Barley died yesterday I realised that that was the fifth labrador of my acquaintance that had died in the past fortnight. A big hug for all those that are missing their companion.
A little crafting is taking place, I'm working on my Indian themed altered book. My phrase for this piece hasn't come into my brain yet so I'm not sure where it is going for the moment, no doubt inspiration will arrive in due course. 



Tuesday, 20 November 2012

First Altered Book

click on image
 I was the only person at the workshop who didn't start a book. I think I was overwhelmed by the numbers and certainly overwhelmed by all the possibilities. As usual I was taking everything in and by the end of the meeting I knew where I wanted to go with this genre. It was important for me to set myself an objective. I challenged myself to make something beautiful using the minimum amount of materials. I do realise that beauty is very subjective and that my idea of it may not be the same as everyone elses but it was my challenge to myself and this is what I came up with.
I used white and a little blue acrylic paint, the Telegraph travel supplement,
glue, a set of metallic rubs, one home-made stamp,a small piece of voile and one gel pen. Limiting my choices made me focus my efforts.
I usually have a phrase going through my head  that I come to associate with each piece of my work that I do, this one was inspired by hearing an old Marianne Faithful (now that immediately dates me) song on the radio last week, 'As Tears Go By' the first line of which is 'It is the evening of the day'. That helped me see the whole piece complete with a subtle sunset in the background.
I have started another one which will be very different to this, it should occupy me for the few days left before I head for the hills.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Time flies when you have fun.

It was Embroiderer's Guild meeting this afternoon and we had an 'in house' workshop on altered books. Lin Oxley whose delicate and very pretty  work was so admired at our  recent exhibition lead the class. We had a really good turn out for this and it was great to see new faces at the meeting. I took some photos about an hour into the workshop and was amazed to see how everyone was absolutely flying with this idea.
I think I have caught most people's work at this half way stage, I tried to capture the great atmosphere and sheer enjoyment of this workshop.

I couldn't get everyone in the frame.  
Lovely handmade beads.
A lovely afternoon spent with enthusiastic like minded people.
Thanks Lin!


Friday, 16 November 2012

Fabric Printing

A blissful day of printing yesterday with a really good friend. We are both involved in running a short workshop for our local Emb, Guild. She has already run the first part - 'making your block' and I shall run the second part 'printing with your block'. Not rocket science I know, a simple potato print demonstrates the principal easily but there are a bewildering number of mediums to work in and I want to demonstrate as many as possible in my sample book. On the day we will print with acrylic paint and a fabric medium but it will be useful to discuss and actually see what kind of result can be obtained by using fabric paints, thickened procion dyes or simple printing pads. Lots of experiments to come. I have used all of these mediums over the years and each has it's place and pros and cons.

The last days of Autumn are upon us here and I've been watching a neighbouring Liquamber gradually undressing itself from the top down. I think next weeks high winds will put paid to the last of it's leaves. This must be one of the most colourful of trees even rivalling the acers for it's blaze of fire farewell.
It makes me think of this wonderful James Hawkings painting that is so evocative of this time of the year. It has been my screen saver throughout Autumn, I think that I must start browsing his winter portfolio very soon.   

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Another One

You may recognise this piece of cloth, if you look at the post 'Cromarty Calling' in  October you will see where I sourced it. It is a creamy coloured linen tray cloth - very definitely 1960 because it had it's date embroidered in Roman numerals in one corner. I can't seem to stop seeing combinations of my fabrics for more dresses. Thank goodness I'm printing tomorrow hopefully it will distract my brain.
I can get a tad obsessive about these things but I want to check these dresses for size before I go into production. Apparently mismatching fabrics are very fashionable now I don't think I could go as far as clashing colours for a baby but who knows where this latest passion will lead? 


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Vintage Baby Dress

You know how one thought leads to another, yesterday I was thinking about combining crochet, embroidery and fabric when I realised this would make a fabulous mix for some dresses I had promised to make for my first great grand daughter Isla who is now several weeks old. I had some beautiful very fine cashmere tweed (just enough) and my lovely but diminishing stash of Liberty 'Hera' fabric circa 1964 and some crochet flowers that I made a couple of years ago.  

In the early seventies this was called a pinafore dress and was worn with thick tights and a long sleeve tee-shirt. It just reminded me of my late mum at that time, making clothes from old dresses and curtains for the grandchildren, boys included, who wore flowery dungarees made by her. She would have adored to work with the luxury fabrics I have access to today.
Very cute, very retro and made with love.


Monday, 12 November 2012


I like to mix crochet with fabrics and have produced a little sample  that does just this. The pattern needs refining but I think this would make a lovely lap quilt. The downside is that it's very labour intensive. I think I shall try it in the round and maybe I can use it as a motif on the front of the little dresses I'm making for Isla Rose.
I was looking back on some previous work for inspiration.

Now that would look quirky on the front of a little vintage tweed
pinafore dress. Just need to get the dress made!


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Two Down One to Go.

One edelweiss inspired piece finished. It started out with out any real purpose and turned itself into a lid for a box that I happened to have waiting in the wings.  Lots of french knots to try and capture the density and shadows from the drawings and some little glass droplets to capture the dew that had collected on our real piece of edelweiss from Jacky's garden.

The cushion is also completed I'm pleased to say but the real challenge of the matching quilt has not started yet. I have no real deadline for it so I shall have some 'thinking time' before I make a start.
I think a period of making lots of sample pieces is coming up. I generally go on to use these in my composite work such as Sylvia's Box. I want to try my hand at blackwork, canvas work and to take my needlelace practise a bit further. All good pursuits for winter hibernation.  


Monday, 5 November 2012

Usual Prevarication

Twenty days until I'm back in the Highlands again ( for five weeks) and I have so much I want to do in the meantime. The low light levels yesterday left me craving colour and although the printing blocks I made a few days ago were pretty low on my priority list, they provided an instant hit of happiness. I used acrylics with a bit of silkscreen medium (to keep the paint from drying too quickly) and when they were dry I used my Inktense pencils to beef up the colours even more.

Just two blocks have given me a huge range of papers to play with before I get down to printing on fabric.

Today I met up with Jackie and Jean (Trident group) and had a relaxing day working on the theme of Edelweiss - Jackie is an alpine grower with great knowledge and skill on the subject so it was appropriate that for her challenge to us it was this strange alien looking  plant. We have each come up with a different approach to the subject and have agreed to be finished for our next meeting on the 23rd of this month. I started with a few drawings to familiarise myself with the basic structure of the plant and used my felter to make a quick background. I'm glad I decided to work small for once.

Lot's of stitching to do on this piece but I'm sure I'll make the deadline.