Tuesday, 24 January 2017

All At Sea

I've been indulging in a little creative embroidery lately as our church embroidery group is due to meet tomorrow.  Embroidery isn't a skill I've been formally taught, yet, in the company of the church ladies, I really enjoy a bit of stitching and find being in the group increases my confidence in my own abilities.

Alison, hiding behind the flowers on the left, is our leader.  As well as being a very talented textile artist and patient teacher, she's also our minister.  It's a few years since the group made these pulpit falls - the burning bush for Pentecost, an autumn wreath and one to celebrate a past flower festival.

These were collaborative projects where we all worked together on the same piece but Alison now has in mind a much bigger project - one in which each of us will work on separate scenes from the same story.

We will be depicting the life of St Nathalan, thought to be the founder of our own church, here in North East Scotland at Bethelnie, near the village of Oldmeldrum.

According to legend one very rainy summer, the saint, in a moment's weakeness, cursed the rain which was hindering the harvest.  In penitence, Nathalan padlocked his right arm to his right leg, tossed the key into the River Dee and set off to walk to Rome to seek forgiveness.  Upon reaching Rome, he bought a fish at a market for his supper but when the fish was cut open, he found the very key he'd thrown into the Dee many months earlier.  It is also believed that Nathalan saved the village people of Oldmeldrum from a plague later in his life by praying on his knees all round the settlement boundary.  He perished at the end of his traverse and where his staff was struck into the ground, it is said an ash tree grew.  A tree has grown on this site ever since and is known locally as The Parcock Tree.

Scenes from Nathalan's eventful life will be portrayed in our textile artworks using this gorgeous hand dyed felt and these beautiful silk threads produced by 21st Century Yarns.

We spent some time last year practising so we could all become familiar with these materials and the stitches we're going to use.  Here are the practice pieces I made.

First of all we created a tree and then we had a go at a landscape featuring another tree.  Finally we stitched a person.

The last time the group met was November and we decided who would create each scene.  Hence the reason I'm all at sea!  I opted for the stormy seascape as Nathalan returns to Britain following his pilgrimage and is almost shipwrecked in sight of the White Cliffs.  No trees - a tiny bit of cliff landscape and maybe some distant figures in a boat.  I needed more practise!

So I've been trying to create a turbulent sea in felt and thread, taking inspiration from this lovely book - Life Journey by Mary Fleeson, a writer and artist who lives on Holy Island (Lindisfarne).  I'm not sure what the group will think - but I'm going to find out soon!


Tuesday, 10 January 2017


It's my first post of 2017 and my word of the year for 2017 is 'purpose'.

I chose a word for 2016 and that was 'kindness' - you can read about my word choice here. 

As I wrote when I chose my word last year, New Year resolutions are often broken a few days into January but a word is just a word.  I'm not making a promise to anyone or saying I'll do anything spectacular.  I'm just creating a focus for the things I choose to make and, who knows, perhaps for my life in a wider sense.

So, what about my word for 2016?  How did I incorporate kindness into my crafting and what happened as a result?

I contributed two crocheted squares to this Kindness Blanket Project I saw on Instagram.  The predominantly blue blanket was being created by Sarah-Louise Roberts to raffle in aid of Mind, the mental health charity, and her colour choice reflected the charity's logo.  Sarah-Louise received enough squares following her Instagram appeal to make two blankets, one of which is pictured above, and the raffle raised an excellent £604 for Mind when it was drawn in May.

I knitted a few hats to give away to different causes.  Two premature baby hats went to the Special Care Baby Unit at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness following an appeal by Louise on her Caithness Craft Collective Podcast and which I handed in at Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March.  The pink hat went into my Christmas gift shoebox for Romania, an initiative undertaken every year by my local church.  I made a couple of hats for fishermen, the black and maroon ones pictured above, to send to The Mission to Seafarers but will wait til I've made a few more before I send them off.

I crocheted a sheep for the Yarndale Wooly Sheep Project after reading about it on Lucy's Attic24 blog. Yarndale is an annual fibre festival held in Yorkshire each September.  This creative community project in 2016 saw all 700 of the donated knitted and crocheted sheep from 32 countries being sold in aid of Martin House Children's Hospice and raising over £3100.  Each sheep received was documented and recorded on a set of Pinterest boards here and I was able to find my wee sheep amongst them in the top row of this board.  Hope someone is loving owning her!

I donated these knitted mice to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home as toys for cats awaiting rehoming and received a lovely letter of thanks from Joe at Supporter Services.

My final make for charity in 2016 was a hot water bottle cover for Knitaid following an appeal by Helen of the Curious Handmade podcast.  She released a free pattern so that covers and bottles could be sent to Knitaid as part of their consignment of warm knitted goods to help refugees in Greece.

I'm also counting gifts I made for others as part of my 2016 personal kindness project.  I made and gifted these three crocheted shawls.  I wrote about the Thousand Kisses Shawl (pictured left) here and the Fortune's Shawlette in the middle, here.

And here's a round-up of all the other knitted items I made and gave as gifts this year.  A few of the hats and neck cosies appeared here in my previous blog post as I knitted them for Christmas.

The big picture shows a hat I knitted for my friend Vicki and she's wearing it in the wee black and white photo.  Her hat is made from Wool/silk from the Dye Ninja that I purchased at Edinburgh Yarn Festival and is gloriously soft.  I also love the pattern Koru by Truly Myrtle who, like Vicki, is from New Zealand.  Designer Libby (aka Truly Myrtle) says 'The lace and cable panel is reminiscent of New Zealand’s baby ferns, delicate and gently uncurling.' 

Finally, I made a wee hedgehog for my brother-in-law... because... he likes hedgehogs.

And if that isn't a kind thing to do, then what is?

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