An embroidered alphabet: letter L

Embroidered letter L (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Last week saw The Times Cheltenham Literary Festival in full swing and each day I discovered from my copy of the Times fascinating talks I would have loved to have gone to had I been more organised – there’s really no excuse when the venue is all of 10 minutes away on foot! However, as it was, our week has been very full and we have been off into town every day to join in with something – or in my husband’s case – to deliver something (deliver in the sense of giving a talk or overseeing a discussion, rather than trudging around with parcels and knocking on doors!).

Embroidered letter L (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Tuesday found me knitting, chatting and having tea (porcelain tea pot and matching cups) and scones (homemade) beside the warm glow of real coals in the kitchen at The Holst Birthplace Museum. Every Tuesday in October (2 – 4 pm) the museum is holding ‘Knit Your Bit’, World War I themed knitting sessions with an experienced volunteer knitter on hand, knitted garments to examine and period knitting patterns to rifle through. Some patterns were ludicrous – ‘what’s a balaclava?’ asked a perplexed 19 year old male museum volunteer of an especially strange creation –  while other patterns were so lovely that the curator disappeared off and made photocopies for those that wanted one. While we all sat knitting our 21st century patterns, Neela Mann (author of ‘Cheltenham in the Great War’, published by The History Press) entertained us with what she had discovered about knitting, textiles and women’s roles during that time. Such a wealth of  knitting knowledge in one place – this Tuesday I think I shall tap into it and see if someone will teach me cabling.

Neela Mann (author of ‘Cheltenham in the Great War’ and fellow knitter at work in the kitchen of Cheltenham’s Holst Birthplace Museum

Laura Kinnear, Curator of Holst Birthplace Museum chats to Neela Mann about knitting

Like the little figures of a man and a woman who pop in and out of a weathervane house (one is always in when the other is out), while I was at The Holst Museum on Tuesday, David was there on Wednesday and Saturday to talk about the some of the paintings in the house and to discuss how they reflected the taste of the Regency period. (Interestingly with respect to matters of taste, in recent weeks a complaint was made to the curator that a Theodore von Holst painting in the room, ‘Bertalda frightened by apparitions’, was disgusting for showing the heroine with bare breasts. In fact, the painting would probably not have been hung in such a middle class sitting room and is there largely because Theodore von Holst was the great uncle of Gustav Holst, so to a degree, the complaint was justified – even if a bit surprising today.) Meanwhile, on the Saturday I was at The Wilson (Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum) to view some of the museum’s patchwork quilts and coverlets. Textiles are so fragile and prone to deterioration so it was really fascinating to look at handwork from the mid C19th at such close quarters. One of the quilts employed a method of piecing none of us had seen before and was sewn with such tiny stitches that we all wanted to see the size of the needle she’d used – smaller than any I have, I’m certain! But more of this next week, when I’ll blog this event with pictures.

Sketches of various Ls found online

Sketches of more Ks found online

Thursday and Friday and we were at The Wilson again where my husband is starting up Art Appreciation groups for Cheltenham  U3 A (University of the Third Age). These will be  informal  discussions about art (mainly painting, prints and some sculpture) through the medium of slides, trips upstairs to Cheltenham’s collections in the galleries and some viewing of pieces brought to us out of store. My husband is very keen that people should feel that collections held in their name should be accessible. This is becoming increasingly difficult at a time of heavy cuts to public services. The museum has now only one full time member of staff, while other posts have been reduced to part time or job share; recently the part time conservator left and that post remains unfilled (I believe that not all salaries are sourced by the local authority via The Cheltenham Trust). For comparison, during the time my husband was director, the museum and art gallery (including the fledgeling Holst Museum) had 10 full time members of staff, plus 3 part time as well as 6 security staff, not all of whom were part time; all were paid by the local authority. Times are indeed hard and even with a good team of volunteers, life is tough for museums.

This week’s letter is based on Renaissance designs carved in wood and used for printing. I used Anchor stranded cotton No 89. The L itself was padded out in chain stitch over which satin stitch was sewn using three strands. The finer lines of the foliate stems was done in whipped backstitch with 2 strands of thread.

More pictures of the curator, Laura Kinnear in the Holst Birthplace Museum.

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An embroidered alphabet: letter K


Embroidered letter K (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

After a busy 10 days of helping out in London, I’ve returned home in holiday mood. I love alternating these two different life styles. It’s a joy to be with my daughters, son-in-law and grandchildren and to be able to mark all those developments since I last saw the little ones. My grandson (nearly 5) can now scoot a scooter and even ride a bike since l last I saw him in July, while my granddaughter (18 months), who has very dextrous fingers, can now feed herself moderately neatly and happily has lost interest in dragging the kitchen steps across the room. Unfortunately those fingers can also undo her car seat, which is not such a great idea. Oh well, let’s look on the bright side – perhaps she will be good with an embroidery needle – or even a violin!

Embroidered letter K (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Wonderful to relate, there has been a definite improvement in the house’s general tidiness.  This is a great step forward and makes any sorting and tidying I can do that much more enjoyable. I’m now even wondering about doing  Marie Kondo folding on my daughter’s T shirts and trousers which would I think help her to more easily find the particular piece of clothing she wants and avoid the disruption caused when you have to pull something out from the bottom of a sedimentary layer of  very similar garments. I am assured that all my daughter’s clothes – however old and worn –  give her great joy, as Marie Kondo  says they must if you’re to keep them, so there will be no clothes for the charity shop and the drawers will be as full as ever – just tidier (fingers crossed). The garden has also been tidied up ready for winter – well nearly as the local squirrels are still enjoying eating the pears from next door’s tree … and then throwing what remains of the fruit over our side of the fence.

Sketches of various Ks found online

So I’m now home and time is luxuriously mine to spend it as I will. Today we wandered down to the tented city housing the Cheltenham Literary Festival. It has been one of those lovely bright, dry and not too cold autumn days – the sort that are so enjoyable that for a few hours you feel you might even name autumn as your favourite season. We strolled through the Waterstone tent but happily were tempted by nothing as we had already bought two books at the little bookshop on Suffolk Parade which always has the best of the latest publications.  Outside the tiny kisok in Montpellier Gardens amid all the comings and goings we stopped to watch the world go by and enjoy a very good ice cream cone at the same time.  Next year, I shall book us into something.

K in couched gold thread (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Gothic K monogram (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Whitework letter K in Renaissance style (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

No time for sewing last week, I have only just completed this week’s letter – a very calligraphic and unadorned K. I have an aesthetic problem with Ks because I often find the point at which the kicking bits of the letter leave the upright arm unsatisfactory. This K manages, I feel, to be simple and elegant.

Note to self before I lose the label on what little is left in the skein: the yellow thread is DMC 18.

Included above, see a few more embroidered Ks I’ve done over the last few years. (Click on the link to read more about each one.)

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