TIF Challenge July 1 and August 1

“What is it to be at the half way mark?” That’s Sharon’s Take it Further Challenge for July. The short answer is – I don’t know – June’s challenge has got as far as being written about and July’s… is only now filtering into my brain. I’m thinking that in general the ‘way’ part is more important to me than the ‘mark’ part – I seem to be a process person rather than a goal person, and thinking about where I’ve got to or where I’m going doesn’t come naturally. Engaging with the process is a good thing, but the negative side of it is lacking direction, running round in circles, muddling along.

Well that’s as far as I’d got on a draft post about July’s challenge in July… and now there’s August too (and I only wrote about June’s, I never stitched it). I don’t know if this says I get to the half way mark and then stop! or just that I’m having an even busier summer than usual. I did jot some randomness about the half way mark into my notebook en route for Cornwall last week, and oddly enough some of it also relates to Sharon’s August challenge, which is

"What is balance to you? Do you maintain a balanced life? How do you balance aspects of your life? That is the challenge this month – balance."

So as I haven’t a hope of catching up, I’m thinking I should aim to combine June, July and August’s challenges in one piece or a couple of related pieces.

These were my jottings: some thoughts to start from…

half way mark – stamina – staying power
like a dog going for a walk – back and forth, exploring everything
"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons"
"When they were only halfway up they were neither up nor down"
"halfway down the stairs is a stair where I sit"
"it’s not at the bottom, it’s not at the top"
mediocre – medium – average – mean – median – half measures
point of no return
equal – balance
TS Eliot
"We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
turning point
"We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun"
middle – mid-point – centre – central – centred
sitting on the fence
midstream – mid-flow
halfway house
“Rest and Be Thankful”
relay race

And some images of Cornwall…

flowers near St Agnes apex of the roof of Sterts Theatre
rusty anchor chain light through trees

drawing breath

Life always gets away from me in the summer when time away (lovely as it is) means twice as much work to fit into the weeks afterwards – and it’s not long before we set off again, this time heading down to Cornwall. In between, a little space to draw breath and share what I’m up to.

Our visit to Tiree was momentous, to say the least. Alan’s on sabbatical next year and we’ve decided to seize the day and do something we’ve been thinking about for years – to live and work in a small community on a remote and windswept island. So we went there looking for a home – and found one! We’re now jubilant and terrified in about equal measure. The move won’t be till November but there’s going to be plenty to do before then. We have two daughters starting uni this autumn too, one moving from Cornwall to Liverpool, and one just moving round the corner in Birmingham, but both will need help with their stuff. I’ll need to work hard to keep time for art among all this excitement!

While we were on Tiree I at last joined in with the World Beach Project.

World Beach Project at Traigh Ghrianal

And I did a bit more sampling of gathered fabrics while I was away. The ones in the middle will end up being dyed, I think.

gathering samples

I got fascinated by the effect of visible stitching…

gathering samples

and tying…

gathering samples

Tomorrow I’m going to a short workshop with the intriguing title “Kendal Green meets Shibori Dyeing”. I think I’ve mentioned before that Kendal’s town motto is Pannus mihi Panis – “Cloth is my Bread”; and the arts centre is having a festival to celebrate the town’s heritage with lots of textile events. Kendal Green is an old dye colour mentioned in Shakespeare, but I think we’re going to use a modern version! It should be fun, anyway. I’m just wondering if I can take my gathered samples along and throw them in too!

And these are some pics of Tiree I’ve put on Flickr, colours of sea and sky, rust and sand, light and water.

Tiree mosaic

1. Gunna Sound, 2. rocks at Caoles, 3. light and waves, 4. Balevullin, 5. light, waves and seaweed, 6. fences at Balevullin, 7. cows on the beach at Balevullin, 8. rust and lichen, 9. Crossapol beach, 10. oystercatchers, 11. rusty machinery on Crossapol beach, 12. sunset, 13. clear sea, Gunna Sound, 14. rusty metal at Hynish, 15. Crossapol beach, 16. Balevullin

Woolfest 2008

Although I’ve already posted today, I wanted to write about the Woolfest before I go away or the memory will have faded. It’s a wonderful show – a combination of all the elements of fibre arts – from the animals who provide the wool to the rainbows of fleece and yarn on sale, from tools and books and dyes to so much exciting felt, knitting, crochet and weaving that you hardly know where to look next. It’s small enough to wander round twice or three times in a day, discovering new things each time – and big enough to provide a very satisfying variety of experiences. I met up with my Mum and my friend Julie and we had a lovely day.

I’ve just picked out a few things to share that were highlights for me…

Helen Melvin of Fiery Felts had curtained her stand with beautiful lengths of cloth, dyed by mordanting and then rolling up with bits of earth and flowers and leaves. This view is of the back – some of these were nuno-felted on the other side.

cloth by Helen Melvin

The Hebridean sheep (these are from Heathland Hebridean in Kent). I bought some of their lovely dark fleece to try dyeing it for felting.


These graceful alpacas from WhyNot Alpacas of Sedbergh – I love their just-shorn textures and the range of colours.


These amazing clothes, modelled by young women from Estonia, Slovakia and Cumbria, in a youth project called "From Sheep to Dress" – clothes made by hand, from Estonian Native Sheep wool, by girls from Saaremaa Island. There’s a bit about this (and some of the other exhibitions) at knitonthenet, and I found an image gallery on the web as well.

From Sheep to Dress

Finally, the gorgeous display of dyed hemp yarns from the House of Hemp.

dyed hemp yarns

I tried to be restrained but I did add a few lovely things to my stash as well as the Hebridean fleece: some beautiful undyed alpaca rovings in four different shades, a tiny skein of purple hemp yarn, some space-dyed knitting ribbon in rusts and pinks and bronzey greys, Liz Clay’s book on Nuno Felt, and a small felt-rolling mat from Jenny Pepper’s stand.

Provisional dates for next year’s Woolfest are 26th-27th June 2009 – it’s in my diary already 🙂

And now I really must go and think about what to pack!

TIF Challenge June 1

I only started to think about Sharon’s June Take it Further Challenge a few days before the end of June. It’s about stashes, our collections of materials, the stuff of creation, how they comes with their own tales to tell, and how in using them we invest them with meanings old and new –  “stories that are and stories that are possible”.

I’ve always used the word material interchangeably with cloth, but I discovered recently that if you look up material in the O.E.D. cloth isn’t one of the definitions. Actually I read this in a post about material culture – textiles and technology on Alan’s blog, and didn’t believe it till I’d looked it up myself!

Stashes are made of things like cloth and fleece and thread and paper and buttons – and more – I loved reading Monika’s lyrical description, on her blog Red 2 White, of her stash that includes “nettle in the garden, gorse behind it … onion skins, shells from a beach”. 

And at the opposite extreme I’m remembering a phrase that has stayed with me since A level English Lit – “Extreme, material and the work of man” (Thom Gunn, writing about the city).

Stray thoughts… random snippets from my mental stash.

Material matters – I’d like to somehow celebrate the physicality of the stash, the embodiment of the story, the clothing of the idea in messy reality. All those little bits and pieces that make up our lives, collected here and there and spilling out of cupboards and boxes and jars, loved into order and relationship by the work of our hands and our heads and hearts.

And before the end of July, I hope!



looking and listening

A little bit of weekend inspiration 🙂

This is a quote from the opening page of “The Twelve Dancers” by William Mayne, published by Puffin Books, 1964.

Blue is the colour of the sky. Marlene was in bed still when she thought that. It was the colour of the sky in a chalk drawing or a painted drawing, but it was not the colour of the sky this morning. The sky now was green over the hills, with silver clouds lying tarnished above it. Higher still the sky was bruised with overhanging morning.

[…] The hills were a different green from the sky. Miss Williams, down at the school, would never allow a green sky into a drawing. Marlene thought Miss Williams must be an artist, to see things differently from ordinary people. She could look at the sun, and make people draw it yellow. Marlene had never looked at the sun, except once. It had looked white at the moment, then black for the rest of the day. Nobody else thought the sun was black.

And I just discovered (via BBC News 24) Nick Penny’s Sound Diary 2008 – Nick Penny is a musician who’s been recording snippets of sound daily since the new year and posting them in an audio diary on his web site. Birdsong, creaky gates, wind and waves, bells, machines, even the sound of silence. Very evocative.