Hello again

Hello again, it’s been a while since I last posted, almost a whole year.  What a year it has been!  Last time I posted here it was to share what we’d been doing for the Tall Ships Regatta with community groups in Blyth.  The Regatta was a huge success, and our exhibition attracted over 600 visitors.


These are the three sails which were made to represent Blyth’s past, present, and future.

Following on from the exhibition in August I enrolled on the Fashion and Textiles HND course at Northumberland College.  It’s now almost the end of the first year so I should get my life back for a couple of months, until Year 2 kicks off in September.

Here are some of the things I’ve done



Marvellously Messy

The community art activities for our Voyage Through Blyth project have been going well, and we’ve had a lot of fun with all the groups.  I’ve worked with the Bright Beginnings in Northumberland toddler group, the St Cuthbert’s Church toddler group, and making Portholes with adults at Weave in Lynemouth.  We had a fantastic response from all the parents who were so enthusiastic about doing something for the Tall Ships.  The Portholes workshop was well attended, and everyone had a go at doing something they hadn’t tried before.

Our session at Bright Beginnings was incorporated into their regular session where babies and toddlers get to experience the joy of getting messy.  They absolutely love it.


We we printed the babies feet onto paper, and then the mums and grandmas painted in masts and sails to create sailboat pictures.  These are going to be printed onto fabric and stitched into the sail to represent “The Future”.

At St Cuthbert’s we created a huge collaged seascape, with tissue paper waves and paper boats stuck onto a painted paper background.  The finished collage will be exhibited in the Church during the Tall Ships Regatta.

We held the Porthole workshop on Sunday.  I love it when everyone at a workshop starts with the same prompts and each creates something totally different.

You’ll be able to see the completed works of art at the exhibition which will be held in St Cuthbert’s C of E Church during the Tall Ships Regatta at the end of August.

April Showers

What a month it has been for extraordinary weather.  We expect rain in April to “bring forth May flowers”, but sleet, hail stones, and snow do nothing for delicate seedlings.  We’ve had to delay planting out the vegetables that are propagating in our utility room otherwise they would have been destroyed.

Meanwhile there has been progress with the community arts project, mostly in the form of meetings to develop ideas and plan workshops.  We’ve been collecting inspiration on Pinterest where we have a board called Tall Ships Project: A Voyage Through Blyth, its People and Places.  Sometimes our problem is having more ideas than can be managed in the time available.  We’ve been sampling activities ranging from making paper boats to sewing portholes. This is my first attempt at a porthole –

image    The idea of the porthole is that of a window onto the voyage of your life.  My images tell the story of how my parents met, my heritage in Irish linen, and my family.  I plan to sample a few more with different images and words, and possibly a map.



Time for an update

I have a habit of losing track of time.  It may be an age thing, it may be because I don’t go out to work.   Sometimes  it’s because of the dreaded MS fatigue.  Whatever the reason for it I forget to tend to this blog, then I suddenly discover that I haven’t published a post for over 2 months.  So here goes – a whistle stop tour of the last 2 months.

February started off reasonably well, however I did a silly thing when we went to have a look at my son’s first choice university for the day.  It involved a trip across to the west by car, which was fine.  When we got there I should have used my mobility scooter, but instead I thought I could manage with just my walking stick.  BIG mistake.  I spent the drive home exhausted and in pain.  My legs ached for the next week, and I had a recurrence of the dizziness and nausea that had ruined my Christmas Eve.  Sometimes we learn the hard way, and this was one of those times.  It took a lot of massage plus acupuncture to get me functioning again.  Most of February and the beginning of March were a write-off.  I did manage to submit my application for funding to the Arts Council, and I honestly think the stress of getting that in on time compounded the problem.

With help I managed to pull myself around long enough to get down to the Wyboston Lakes Hotel for the Stitch Retreat I’d been looking forward to for almost a year.  It was fantastic, and I learned so much from Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn.  If you get the opportunity to do a workshop with them grab it with both hands.  This is one of the samples I completed




I was extremely tired when I got home on the Monday evening, and spent most of Tuesday in bed.  I did manage to get up, washed and dressed to attend the Nortumberland Adult Learner Achievement Awards 2015/16 ceremony.  I knew that I had been nominated and shortlisted for an award, however it wasn’t until my name was read out on the night that I knew I had won in the Languages, Literature, Arts and Culture category.  I was amazed, and very proud to be a winner.


The following day things just got even better – I received notification from the Arts Council England that my application was successful, and they have awarded me the full amount I had applied for.  This means that my community arts project in Blyth can go ahead, culminating in an exhibition in August to coincide with the visit to the town of the Tall Ships Regatta in August.  I have three artists working with me to deliver the project, and for health reasons they will be delivering the majority of the workshops for me.  I know my limitations which is why I recruited a great team of likeminded artists so that the project will be a success.  We start off with a mentoring session on 4th April, from which the community workshops  can be developed.  We are all so excited to have Maggie Hickman Smith to mentor us that I think me might burst!  We’ve started batting ideas around and can’t wait to get things underway.

In the meantime I’ve been practising the layered texture technique I learned from Jan and Jean, and I’ve put together a mini photo tutorial on my Facebook page.  Here are the steps:




The best way to do this when you are experimenting  is by using very small squares, no bigger than 5cm x 5cm.  Jan and Jean were very clear about the need to try, test, and practise techniques before launching into a full size project.  The samples above are inspired by ice.  If you have any questions please contact me, and if you have a go I’d love to see what you make.

So that’s it, we’re all caught up now.  See you again in April.

What I did next: My learning from Donna’s FME Workshop

A few days ago I re-blogged Donna Cheshire’s post about the workshop she taught at Weave.  I was one of the lucky participants and learned a lot from the day.  At the end I did that thing so many of us do: I compared my work to everyone else’s and was disappointed in myself.  I was just about to cut it up and reconstruct it when I had a light bulb moment.  Instead of trying to change it, or make it better, I have displayed it on the wall of my studio.  That way when I look at it I’m reminded to push past my comfort zone.  When I was stitching on it during the workshop I fell into doing vermicelli stitching, an old technique I learned at college, probably due to muscle memory and staying with what I knew.  I can look at it now and think “What did Donna teach me?”  That way I’m inspired to try something different.

The main technique I took from the workshop was painting on craft vilene to create a background for stitching on.  Craft vilene is a great substrate for FME as it doesn’t need to be put in a hoop, so it gives much more freedom the for shapes and sizes of your stitched pieces.  The result of this light bulb moment is a crab for inclusion in my maquette for the Newbiggin Geneology Project, a piece based on Joan Cuthbert’s story of her family entitled “Inside the Tartan Shopping Bag”  I’ll share the full piece once Joan has seen it; for now here’s my edible crab.  I traced an outline, from an image I downloaded from Graphic Stock, onto craft vilene, and painted it the colour of the type edible crab you can catch in Northumberland.   I then FME stitched all over it.  I am pleased with the result and I hope you like it.





Freestyle Machine Embroidery – Reblogged from Donna Cheshire Textiles

I was lucky enough to participate in this workshop with Donna

Donna Cheshire Textiles

So, what a wonderful creative weekend this has been  (apart from writing this blog post as it keeps deciding to eat itself !)

Friday night was spent on another workshop introducing a new group of people to needle felting – more of that in a future post …but this is all about Saturday and Freestyle Machine Embroidery (FME)

My mission was to introduce a group of budding textile artists and designers to the thrill that is FME. My aim – to get them to try different approaches to FME and to consider how these could be used to further develop their own creative textile ‘handwriting’ – that is to use FME in a way that would enhance the content and meaning of their work as opposed to being just another process in their textile toolkit.

We were working at the fantastic Lynemouth Resource Centre, where a disused function room…

View original post 1,191 more words

Project Progress

Today I went to a meeting at Headway Arts in Blyth to discuss the possibility of working with them, and some other emerging artists, to create a Tall Ships project.  Fran and Allie were very positive about our ideas.  I need to focus mine down more tightly as it is in danger of mushrooming out of control. Luckily I have an idea of how to corral it!  I’m hoping to persuade some other artists to get involved and take ownership of working with some of  the groups that have expressed an interest in getting involved.  Now I have to look at the costs for inclusion in the funding bid, and create an artist’s impression of the project.  That’s the tricky bit because I can’t draw.  There’s going to be some physical, and some digital, cutting and pasting going on for next week.  Now I’m off to look at equipment prices on line.  Wish me luck.