Friday, 29 March 2013

Road Art

The HD3QBEM and I have had a quick road trip. In this case, quick being a relative term, as we drove seven and a half hours to get to our destination.   The funeral over, fed and watered, we drove back again.   Needless to say the HD3QBEM is now tucked up in bed and I shall be following very soon.
Nary a stitch was sewn although I carried my current project both ways! 
But in the interests of recording this event I did photograph a few "items" that I have termed road art
In the middle of the North Island, the small town of Ohakune is known for its ski lodges and for growing delicious carrots.   Currently in a drought situation they are feeding last years "stored carrots" to the sheep.   I wonder if the fleece will turn orange?
Further north is an even smaller town with the exciting name of National Park Village.   At 2287 metres above sea level the sole reason for its existence is the ski lodges and the turn in the road leading to three volcanos where kiwis (that is, we New Zealanders) go skiing.   Petrified wood forms this sculpture of our Kiwi.
The next shot is not really road art and is well known among New Zealanders because one of our painters Peter MacIntyre had a holiday home near there and painted many pictures of this scene.
Some time on the road and further north again is Te Kuiti -  world famous in New Zealand for shearing.   With the number of sheep on the large land holdings around the town there is obviously plenty of practice available for would-be record holders.   This town has a shearing comb as its symbol. 
Near this monument is a wonderful cafe and usually the HD3QBEM and I stop there for a coffee and some carrot cake.   Today every man, his wife and his dog were already there so we drove on to the next major destination, reasonable size town, minor village, my birthplace, Otorohanga, where there is a large Kiwi conservation area and a devotion to all things Kiwi (in the broadest sense of the term).   The wall of their town office is dedicated to Kiwiana.
Having been regular patrons of Subway these past two days we were anxious to get home for some healthy home cooked food.   Can you imagine my horror when I unlocked the door and found that the Ajax on my hot water cylinder had sprung a leak.   An emergency visit from a delightful and delightfully expensive plumber (it's a public holiday here today so surcharges apply) cured the problem and I am left mopping up the carpet with every towel I possess.   So on that despondent note I am off to fill in three items in today's page of the gratitude book.
 -  I'm grateful for safe travel on congested roads on a busy public holiday
 -  I'm grateful to live in such a beautiful land
 -  I'm grateful to plumbers who work on public holidays!!

Ornament SAL March Update

My ornament for March has already been shown on this blog but I am now officially able to show.
A small (as in will not contain anything) green velvet Christmas Stocking with a hardanger cuff.  
Fun to stitch and easy to construct but no use for anything much.   I'm off now to consult my selected charts to see what I will stitch for April's ornament.

Sunday, 24 March 2013


How do you use up left over fabric?   I had four "corners" left from the Confetti of Hardanger HAL and at the price linen is nowadays didn't want it to be wasted.   Knowing that if I cut out the completed piece I would find all the little triangles difficult to manage, I elected to keep the piece as intact as possible.

A small Wessex Stitcher needlecase has been stitched and cut from the 'bite' in one corner.   I stitched up all the pieces for a hardanger tassel in another corner.   Last night I decided to embrace my latent creativity (blame my Brain Day lectures for this!) and made a start on a self-designed needlework roll hussif.  I love counted work but wanted to try something new.   Late last year I found a book in our Embroiderers Guild Library called Tallesyning which is apparently the counted form of Hedebo and cousins of Hardanger. The book was written in one of the Scandinavian languages but had clear photographs.

So clear that the small portion in this photograph is the fourth time I have stitched the beast.   Merely satin stitch and cable, I wonder why I took so long to master this but an uneven count combined with a fizzy photo proved to be a hurdle too high.   I am working this in DMC Perle #8 in colour 928 which is the exact colour of the linen.
I definitely do not need another hussif, but already in my mind's eye I can see this complete.   A small cylinder lined with silk holding scissors, a tiny biscornu pin cushion, a packet of needles and a couple of floss tags. Maybe even a tape measure.   The appeal of this project is threefold
-  using up the last of the linen is a definite nod to my Scottish forebears and satisfies the desire for frugality
- mastering a new technique is satisfying and stretches the frontiers of my embroidery knowledge
- adding another hussif to my collection (while all are basically unnecessary) gratifies the acquisitive side of my nature
The HD3QBEM has been ill all last week and still doesn't look too good.   Next weekend is Easter and a four day holiday weekend for us so I am hoping to find time to relax, do some gardening, make a start on my winter sewing ( a skirt) and sort out stitching projects to take when the HD3QBEM and I go for a week's holiday (mid April) to see Little Brother and his mini-farm.  
Hope you all have a good week.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Brain Day

Yesterday I travelled back in time.   Forty years of time to be precise.   Yes, it is at least that long since I was a student and had sat in a lecture hall.   I went to university in Wellington and travelled by train and cable car.   But yesterday's excursion was to Auckland University and I went by bus then ambled up the tree lined street to the lecture hall.
The historic buildings converted to lecture and tutorial rooms looked inviting but Brain Day was a big event.   Too big for the small rooms of these quaint buildings.   These house Political Studies.
Originally to be held at the medical school on a different campus, the Brain Day event proved to be too popular and the swell in numbers necessitated a move to the larger and more modern School of Business.   Riches created this state of the art building.

On entering I was accosted by a most polite 16 year old student who asked me to participate in a research project.   Her theory is that speedy readers have a more reduced vocabulary than slower readers.   The computer based questionaire involved firstly a Stroop Test (check out the link here)

This is not as easy as you might think but I did well at that the student told me and got a "whooppee" score of 6 seconds.   That statistic means nothing much to me but brought a smile of great glee to the face of said student who then passed me over to another official who tested me on how many words I could say in any given 30 second period starting with a given letter.   Not as easy as you might think.   I managed a respectable score but had a far higher degree of dissatisfaction with my level of vocabulary.   Was fun though and a great introduction to Brain Day.
Creative Thinking
Now why Brain Day you might ask.   For a number of years now I have been an avid supporter of the Neurological Foundation and am interested in their research into Alzheimers and other brain diseases and disabilities.   Each year they, together with the Centre For Brain Research at the Medical School host this Brain Day.   This year I opted to attend two lectures.
One by an eminent neurologist was on "Silver Linings".   Barry Snow spoke engagingly of how different areas of the brain can take over functions of disabled parts.   Not perfectly but often adequately and how rehabilitation can assist in the adjustment and acceptance of brain disability.   Most interesting however was his detailing of research into Parkinson's patients who, as their illness progresses and they lose control of speech, inhibition and motor control, find themselves released in a creative way.   He had photographs of artworks produced by some of his patients.   It was astonishing to see that what had obviously been latent was only released by this hideous disease.   At the question time when asked what was one single recommendation for the prevention of brain degeneration he enthusiastically, indeed animatedly, recommended thirty minutes per day of rigorous exercise.   If that can forestall the onset of the big A or any other such debilitation I will persist in my less than enthusiastic daily attendance at the gym!
The second lecture I went to was called "Science of Happiness".   An energetic pint-sized Filipino doctor by the name of Tony Fernando held the audience enthralled for 40 minutes (yes he went over time) as he outlined three keys of happiness.
1.  Calm   -  serenity, contentment
2.  Excitement  -  goals, drive
3.  Connection  -  relationships
Dr Fernando said our brains are geared such that positive emotions are fleeting and not easily fixed into the memory, yet negative emotions adhere and are readily filed in the permanent memory bank.   Statistically the ratio of our positive emotional state to our negative emotional state should be 3:1 but in reality most of us would find it to be 1.8:1  He recommended a consciousness of "banking" positive memories.
Apparently gratitude is the turbo charger of happiness.   Followed closely by kindness and compassion.
And so the lecture closed with another triplet of "keys"
1. Focus on practices that promote happiness
2. Manage your expectations
3. Keep a gratitude diary

Don't you think this notebook will make a great Gratitude Diary?   Somehow I feel the William Morris design is appropriate.
I'm off to do some more hardanger while I watch my pre-recorded episode of The Amazing Race.   Hope you all have a good weekend.
And the first thing to go in my Gratitude Diary?   We have rain!  The first since the beginning of February and it brings with it the hope that this drought will not be permanent and rainbows may yet once more appear in our southern skies.

Saturday, 16 March 2013


This week has been hardanger week at my house.
I completed (and have now sent in my photo) for the Needlework Masters Monthly StitchALong.  Here's a shot for the record.
Edelweiss and I became good friends thanks to Abi Gurden's excellent instructions.
The centre medallion of my Confetti of Hardanger HAL is completed and I have begun working on the buttonhole ribbon lacy edging.   Cutting all those threads took a couple of evenings and a lot of concentration!
And now for some non-stitching interest.   This week I borrowed this massive tome from the library.
Why you ask?   Well didn't you all see Heatherwick Designs wonderful cauldron at the Olympics and want to know more about such a designer?   I did.   This book fulfills that desire to some extent.  It is heavy, a real coffee table tome but it is fascinating too.  Have you ever seen a rolling bridge -  well maybe some of you have seen the actual rolling bridge.
Have a look at this video link and definitely have a look at the book if your library can get it for you.
Then I found out about the world's tiniest book which is only 0.75mm square.   But it is of great interest to stitchers as it fits into the eye of a needle!   See here.  Twenty two pages of  floral illustrations with the names of each printed in four scripts.   The newspaper report said "it is difficult to read without a magnifying glass".   I should think so.

And on that note I wish you all a  good weekend.   I am off to the Brain Day lectures at the University and am looking forward to that - especially the one on The Science of Happiness.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Cruel Work

Today's photos of stitching updates contain no shots of the cruel crewel work.   Stem Stitch and French Knots I can manage OK it seems but Satin Stitch looks less like satin and more like slub.   Perserverance is the name of the game but having to show my amateur efforts is not compulsory!

So instead.... feast your eyes on huckaback, hardanger and strawberries.
Huckaback Sampler for the NMMSAL

Hardanger page for the NMMSAL
The last strawberries of the season
Tonight I will have another tussle with the cruel work and hopefully also complete the last centre medallion of the Confetti of Hardanger HAL.   Have a good evening everyone.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

World Book Day and in a world of her own

Today my post isn't really about stitching.   Why?   Well I am in the process of reverse stitching my Blanket Stitch Flower which should have formed the pretty centre of my hardanger.   It will....eventually.
But today is World Book Day and I requested this book from the library, telling the HD3QBEM that she would probably enjoy it as Simon had written an interesting review on it.  (My daily dose of Simon's blog inevitably ends in requests at the local library and the exponential growth of the pile of books beside my bed!)
In due course this large print edition arrived and the HD3QBEM is in a world of her own, shared of course by Mrs Harris and her associates.   After a hard day at work I arrive home to be greeted "Hello. I am enjoying that book and want to finish it tonight before I go to bed".   Well, I can take a hint so will do the dishes and quietly get on with my stitching.  
Now in the fading light of an extremely hot day I am going to trace my crewel design onto the linen and before I start stitching that, finish off the hardanger page for the NMMSAL.  
In May I will be going to a weekend stitchers class and the mailman brought the needs list today.   What a good excuse to go back to my LNS.    I also need some more beads to complete this

So near and yet not quite finished.  
I only need another 7 beads but will have to buy a whole phial.   So much for using scraps of linen, floss and beads from stash!   Only with the extra beads will I be able to complete what has turned out to be an epic strawberry adventure.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Another piece for the Blackwork Etui

After a gentle but necessary prod from Lee and the assistance of fine tutorials on the web, I succeeded in creating my first covered tape measure.   What's more it actually works.
Were I to do this again I would put a blackwork motif in the centre of each side but I consider this finished for the current etui.

Chris at work tells me he is polishing the aluminium for the floss winders,  so soon the little tin will full and this task will be completed.
Threads and pattern are chosen for my "learning piece" of crewel work.   I intend to make the preordained errors of the novice on this one before I attempt the pinball on which I have set my heart.   Besides which, a crewel work piece will make another page for my NMMSAL.   My March page will be hardanger and I hope to do a simple but different drawn thread edge for this page.
Here's a progress shot of the hardanger -  still a far way to go before I can cut and decorate!
I have been busy at the library over the last week and have managed to find 15 of the books on my To Be Read list as well as another 4 that look interesting so the pile beside the bed is very high.   Just as well the library issues for a month!  
I am particularly enjoying this one  and am challenged by the fact that so busy a man as the editor of The Guardian newspaper could find time for piano practice and master Chopin's Ballade No. 1 in a little over a year.   No wonder the book is sub-titled An Amateur Against The Impossible!   Perhaps I may dust off my piano and some of my music and attempt to imitate Alan Rusbridger -  although with something a great deal simpler than a Chopin Ballade!   I never reached the dizzy heights that Alan did and am definitely classified as amateur.
Well that's all for tonight.