Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Planting Poppies at the Tower of London

A few weeks ago I got up early and headed into London to take part in a very special project: planting ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London as part of the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation. 


You've probably heard about the Tower Poppies by now. 888,246 poppies are being planted in the moat, commemorating the British and Colonial fatalities in the First World War. Of course, such a large project requires lots of volunteers!

I arrived early with plenty of time to see how the sea of poppies had grown since I visited in the summer. The area around the Tower is usually buzzing with people so it was great to have a chance to to stand and look at all the poppies in the quiet of the early morning.  

 

After signing in for my shift, I and the other volunteers got kitted out with gloves, a "volunteer" t-shirt and a badge. We watched a video about safety on site and how to make the poppies, then headed out into the moat to start work. 

 

I was a teeny bit nervous about volunteering on my own, but the nerves soon went away after chatting to some of the other volunteers. Everyone was very friendly and just as excited as me to be taking part. Some  had signed up on their own or in pairs and others had come along in groups from local offices.


Constructing the poppies was hard work! We added washers and other components to each "stalk" (these were a very tight fit!) then carefully added the poppy flower and end cap and set the finished poppy aside for planting later. 

 

We worked in little groups in the sunshine, chatting about the installation and how incredible it was: the scale of it, how beautiful each poppy was and how amazing they looked all together, and - of course - about the meaning behind it.

 
 

Each of the hundreds of poppies we put together and planted that day represents one human life lost in a terrible conflict. Seeing a number like 888,246 written down it's just a number and almost impossible to visualise. The sea of poppies in this installation conveys the scale of the devastation in such a simple but powerful way.

 
 

Everyone was quietly in awe of the installation and really proud to be taking part in such a special, meaningful thing. I feel very lucky to have been just a small part of it. It was an amazing feeling looking down at the poppies when walking back to the Tube after my shift was over, thinking "I planted some of those!" 


The final ceramic poppy will be planted in the moat on November 11th.

After that the poppies will be "picked" by more volunteers (you can sign up here if you're interested) then washed and sent to the people who have purchased them. All the poppies have now been sold but you can still make a dedication or a donation via the Tower of London's website. 

 

You can watch a great video about the installation of the poppies here.

If you've not yet been to see this installation and have the chance to do so, take it!

 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Learning New Stitches

Back in the summer I decided to try and add some new-to-me embroidery stitches to my repertoire... but I have to admit to blogging about my intention to do this and then kinda forgetting about it for a while! Oops.

Apart from learning a couple of new stitches while working on those Christmas ornament kits, the embroidery I've done over the past few months has all involved the same old boring stitches. Tsk tsk. Must Try Harder.

I finally made a proper start on my stitch-learning project a couple of weeks ago.


I'm slowly working my working my way through the stitch guides in The Needlecraft Stitch Directory (which I reviewed a couple of years ago), trying out lots of different stitches.

Some of these experiments have worked out better than others! I'm not worrying too much about neatness and precision at the moment though, just giving myself some time to experiment with a needle and thread.


I might eventually stitch a sampler showcasing some of the new-to-me stitches but in the meantime I'm happy just randomly stitching and filling up a piece of felt with colourful patterns.

 

With any luck I won't forget about this project again but will have some more stitching to show you sometime soon :)

Please note: the Amazon link in this post is an affiliate link.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Doodle Stitching: The Holiday Motif Collection

Last year I was delighted to be asked to contribute a couple of projects to an embroidery book by Aimee Ray. Aimee is the author of the charming Doodle Stitching series which includes Doodle Stitching: The Motif Collection and Doodle Stitching: Embroidery & Beyond.

The latest book in the series? Doodle Stitching: The Holiday Motif Collection!


The Holiday Motif Collection includes over 300 embroidery motifs for Christmas and other holidays, with the patterns all included on a CD so you can easily print them at the size you need instead of faffing about resizing them from the book.

 

As well as Aimee's adorable patterns, the book also includes 21 different projects to stitch using some of the motifs. How cute is that house teapot?? Just adorable.


Those of you with long memories might remember me working with lots of blue supplies last year. Well, I was stitching these Penguin Stocking Ornaments:

 
 

I also stitched a pair of Gingerbread Bookmarks:

 

Stitching Aimee's cute designs was so much fun! It's lovely to have been part of such a sweet book.

Doodle Stitching: The Holiday Motif Collection is published by Lark Books. It's available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK and many other bookshops.

[Please note: The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links]

P. S. Before my contributor copy had arrived I was thrilled to get my first look at this book at The Knitting & Stitching Show a couple of weeks ago. It's always exciting to finally see a finished book that you've contributed to - to see how your projects look, and to discover who else made things for the book and what they stitched - but this time round it was extra fun. I was at the show with Carina who also stitched a project for the book, and we got to share our excitement when we stumbled upon some copies while browsing a selection of embroidery books. So nice :)

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Knitting & Stitching Show 2014

I had a lovely bit of luck a few weeks ago - I entered a giveaway over at Feeling Stitchy and won a pair of tickets to The Knitting & Stitching Show! Yay!

I visited the show last year and loved it, but am on a tight "crafty treats" budget after splurging on lots of pretty fabric at the Festival of Quilts (and afterwards!) so I'd planned on saving my pennies and giving it a miss this year. But a free crafty day out with a friend? Yes please! :)

So last week I caught a train, the tube, and another train... and eventually arrived at Alexandra Palace station and walked up the hill to the venue.

 

It was chucking it down with rain that morning, so these are some photos I took on my way home :)

Even on a grey day, the views out over London are pretty fab.

 
 

I met up with my crafty chum Carina and we sat and had a pre-show brunch under the trees in the Palm Court, chatting about how it totally didn't seem like a year since we were last there together.

 

Then it was time to explore the show!

First up was the fabulous knitted pergola - a colourful, joyful community knitting project raising funds for Livability.  


Next up: shopping!

There's such a varied and colourful selection of supplies on offer at a show like this: fabric, yarn, beads, buttons, trims, craft kits, magazines, books and more. We did lots of oohing over all the loveliness, including...

... fabulous hand-dyed yarn from Debonnaire Yarns:


... beautiful beads from Ilona Biggins, bright felt and threads from the Eternal Maker... and a veritable mountain of yarn!


...  and wonderful, colourful trims from Aarti J.


Big shows like these are great for discovering interesting new suppliers, being able to see colours and feel materials in person but also to be able to pick up those little bits and pieces that would be a bit of a faff to order online. 

I was mostly window shopping (thanks to the aforementioned tight budget) but I did buy something for a secret project that I'm working on and it was a pleasure just to wander round and soak up all the delicious crafty goodness on display.

I loved this sheep on the Woolyknit stand!


And these amazing needlefelted creations by Fi Oberon of Alua's Garden.


The organisers had added an extra day to the Ally Pally show this year, and being the first year that extra day was a little quiet so instead of pushing through bustling crowds we enjoyed a quiet stroll round all the stalls and had plenty of time to chat to the stall holders, catch up with crafty folks we knew from blogging, and ooh over all the loveliness.

Of course the Knitting & Stitching Show isn't just about shopping - there are lots of textile-themed exhibitions on display as well. We stopped for a quick cuppa then went to explore...

There was a great mix of knitted and stitched pieces on display as well as work connected to and inspired by textiles. There were fabulous knitted garments, fascinating needlefelted sculptures, banners stitched from textiles washed up on the shores of beaches, intricate embroideries and much more.

It was a pleasure to look at it all and to have a chance to chat to many of the makers and artists about their work. It is always wonderful to be able to tell someone to their face "I love your work!" and always so interesting to hear about peoples inspiration and processes. Photos weren't permitted of many of the displays, but I got permission to take a few snaps to share with you guys.

These fun Hobbit-inspired knitted characters by The Knitting Witch were delightful. (Do visit Carina's blog to see pics of the amazingly intricate knitted coat that's just out of shot in this pic - sadly my photos of it turned out super blurry!)

 

This installation by Caren Garfen exploring women's relationships with dieting and food was really interesting, and her stitching was so tiny and neat! This kitchen looks like a small model in the photo but it was a full size room...

 

... with lots of stitched details throughout, like text on the walls and cabinets and quirky objects like these stitched biscuits.

 

Caren was also exhibiting some other pieces exploring women's experiences - I especially loved these medicine bottles with stitched labels.


I also really enjoyed Prism's coded:decoded exhibition which was exploring "the tension between stitch and artform", especially this fun piece about food labelling by Helen O'Leary...


... and these wonderful sculptures by Jackie Langfeld:


We just managed to get round and see everything before it was time to head home! Phew!

Missed this month's Knitting & Stitching show? Click here for info about the Dublin & Harrogate shows later this autumn and the Olympia show in March 2015.

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