Hi, I've moved to rubykittyruby.weebly.com, so you're welcome to wander over there and take a gander. x
(Image from the Advertising Archives)
This is a really beautiful image showing an (idealized) picture of Christmas shopping in the Thirties. Modern shopping isn't quite so glam. You'd have to have the courage of a lion to tackle a Saturday afternoon in Oxford Street. The scrum, the queues to pay, the increasing feeling of panic that you've not bought enough or bought the right gifts, or you've been too mean, too generous, bought a garment too big, too small, bought the wrong scent, the wrong toy. We hadn't even got to Halloween before the Christmas advertising on TV kicked in. Not just buy a toy or clothing, but buy a new sofa, a new dining table, a new bigscreen TV! It's not enough to have presents under the tree now. Apparently you need to overhaul our sitting room too. .... and don't get me started on holly decorated washing up bottles, the so-called air freshners with festive fragrances. I wouldn't be surprised to see bottles of bleach with a Christmassy theme! This got me thinking ..... is it possible to opt out of Christmas? I mean, just say 'no' to it all.
Traditionally, if you weren't religious you could celebrate in a low key way - a slap up dinner and reasonably priced pressies, perhaps reflecting the original pagan idea of a winter celebration. But now that for millions of people there's no real link between the Christmas Message about Jesus and the commercial overkill of December, can you opt out? Say 'no' to Christmas and you get accused of being a scrooge, a miser, a killjoy. The consumer pressure is huge, and this year thousands of people will go into thousands of pounds of debt because they find it impossible to opt out. To say 'this year I can't afford it'. We're constantly told Christmas is about family, but for most people it's about overspending, overeating, about stress, about feeling you're not having as much fun as everyone else. As much fun as the families you see on the telly adverts. Yes, there's Christmas joy. There are carols that bring tears to the eyes, there's glitter and tinsel and shiny baubles to brighten your rooms. It's just - for me - that the taint of commercialism stinks more every year as the adverts get more expensive, the billboards more intrusive, shops stock up for the 'Festive season' in autumn before the kids are back in school. Oh, I don't know ... we need to redefine Christmas, take it back from the retailers, reclaim it as our own. Don't we?
November already. How did that creep up on us? I'd say 'Christmas is round the corner' but supermarkets have been plugging that message since - what? - August, September. They've barely got the Halloween sea of orange and black plastic on the shelves before tinsel and 'Christmas essentials' are given floor space. It's a sad thought that for many urban dwellers the seasons are mainly marked by what's in the supermarket rather than what's growing in the hedgerow or the moon and tides. Anyway, I've got a non-consumerist message to offer in the way of a book recommendation. 'How green are my wellies?' by Anna Shepard. Borrow it from your local library or you may find it 2nd hand, it's a fab book for green inspiration. It's written in a very accessible way, easy to digest and to read through in chronological order or dip into as the whim takes you. There're sections on recycling, traveling, green weddings, beauty and greening your office. Some ideas you'll have come across already. Others will give you that light bulb moment.
(On the subject of books, I finished the 'Grace' memoir mentioned the other day. Enjoyed the first half of the book more than the 2nd, but if you a dedicated follower of fashion you might get more out of the name dropping and insider info than me. :-) My other problem with the book was the excessive thinness of some models featured. So gaunt and bony. I know that's not the author's fault, but she's still part of a business that promotes extreme thinness .)
Onto to other things, have you ever tried to write instructions? Sooo difficult. Even the how-to for something as basic as a pin cushion is driving me nuts. It does gives me a new appreciation of needlepoint authors though. The reason I'm doing this is I'm trying to do a mock-up of a needlepoint kit. Seeing how much it would cost me to produce, estimating what I'd need to sell it for. Questions present themselves: should a needle be included in the kit? Backing fabric too? The purchaser won't expect a kit to include filling, would they? Has anyone else tried to make up a needlepoint kit ? Any tips or knowledge you learned along the way would be much appreciated.
Tumbling blocks is an extremely old patchwork pattern. It can be machine-made, but this one's assembled using the English paper piecing method. It's a slow & steady way to create, but has the advantage of being very portable. You can take your sewing with you on sunny days in the park or when you travel. The 3D effect works well as long as you have a darker diamond, a mid coloured one and a lighter shade. I'm using two mainly red fabrics plus a variety of lighter ones, but the pattern would work with a complete mix of scraps, as long as the dark/medium/light balance is kept.
On the reading front, I've started 'Grace' which I stumbled across by chance in the library. (As always, thank heavens for libraries. They're a blessing, aren't they?) If you've not heard of her, Grace Coddington is a creative director at American Vogue. I only really knew about her, like many people, through the film 'The September Issue'. She was the inadvertent star of it, much more engaging than the chilly Anna Wintour, and clearly passionate about clothes. I'm not a fan of Wintour (she wears and through the magazine American Vogue promotes the wearing of real fur. Vile.) and don't buy fashion magazines. Too advert-heavy, too interested in fashion brands rather than beautiful clothing. However, it's fascinating to read about this entirely different world, and how a girl from a remote island off North Wales became immersed in it. I used to buy fashion mags as a teenager in a dull as ditchwater English market town. During boring factory jobs, dreaming of escaping, I read Vogue and Elle, seeing glimpses of another life, one of glamorous locations and fabulous photoshoots. It's a shame that fashion mags nowadays are just vehicles to push brands. Clothes, perfume, make up. It's all about who made it and what it cost. Clothing has been reduced to brands, when it should be about flair, creativity, individuality, telling stories of who we are, who we want to be, the tales of our lives, not just which shop we went into or how much cash we have.
Hey! They don't do this with their rolling pins on the Great British Bake Off.
No, it's not a pirate themed post, despite the 'har har me hearties!' title. Sometimes a girl just feels like breaking out into pirate-speak. ;-) I'm still harking on the same theme of hearts.
Making these little swatches is a great exercise. You can do something similar playing with coloured pencils and graph paper, but it's not the same as seeing the stitches.
As you keep going, you get ideas about developing the pattern, as shown here. Adding a checkerboard background to the multi coloured hearts makes 'em stand out. Doing that led to more hearts, but these ones squashed up together. You're made aware of the space between the motifs - in this case, small squares. Should they be cream to make them merge into the background? Or a bright colour to draw attention to their shape?
As I type this, it's pouring with rain outside. I'm venturing out for my painting class this afternoon, so fingers crossed it clears up. Oh well, it's filling the reservoirs and gives me a great excuse for not tending my allotment!
I'm enjoying this theme of hearts, playing around with colour on small swatches of canvas . This time I put the hearts in lines of 4 and against a wide-striped background. Initially I stitched the tomato red hearts and added two grey stripes.
Grey's not a colour I use - or wear - a lot. Maybe it reminds me too much of dreary school uniforms or rainy cold skies. It's not a chic colour like black, or an uplifting colour like a zingy citrus shade, for eg. But grey can be good for backgrounds as it can make a motif stand out.
With the red and grey in place it took ages to work out what other colours to use. The mustardy yellow and chocolately brown were chosen by trial & error as well as being limited by what wool I've got. But they were good choices as they warmed up the grey, and I think the end result looks rather pleasing. That swatch led on to another, not yet completed. (See photo below) I'm considering adding a black & white/cream checkerboard background to the multi coloured hearts. Oui or non?
I used the hearts from yesterday's needlepoint pattern to create another repeat design. Using the gold metallic thread definitely gives it some extra zing. I reckon the combo of tomato red and green goes well together, though I'd have preferred a lighter minty green. (It was another case of working with the colours I'd got, rather than buying new wool.) I might try the hearts on a striped background next. Though I really shouldn't be diverting myself from completing projects already in progress. Honestly! I really am the mistress of procrastination. Anyone else having the same problem?
Loitering in the library the other day I came across a book of Fair Isle designs. While it's designed for knitters, the Fair Isle patterns translate beautifully into needlepoint. Finding this little crown pattern I had an idea about creating a red, white 'n' blue pincushion. Using the wool I had rather than buying new I limited myself to white, red, a pale and a darker blue, plus a gold metallic thread.
Useful notes : white is a deadening colour. Often cream or off-white works better than brilliant white which can be too harsh. The gold metallic worked better than silver, which just disappeared into the background. The crown pattern works well viewed close-up, but doesn't translate quite so well from a distance. I might have another go at the design, and tweak it a bit.
(The Fair Isle book, by the way, is '200 Fair Isle Designs' by Mary Jane Mucklestone. Published by Search press. A lovely publication.)
And finally ... don't these luscious colours make you want to pick up a needle?
Sunday afternoon was partly spent at the Windmill Hill art trail. I splurged on a couple of ceramic pieces. They were too lovely to pass up, and great value at a tenner each. It's always good to buy handmade, especially direct from the maker rather than a conventional high street shop. I particularly like the blue swirls on the teacup and saucer, and its generous size. Having done a ceramics course (I was a bit hopeless at it ...) I really appreciate the work that's gone into making them.