Monday, July 21, 2014

Mandala Monday

They're everywhere at the moment aren't they!

This morning I finished off the mandala I started on the train last week and I really love the colours and how it's worked out - much better than the first version I made.

I'm short of time so it's just a few photos rather than a detailed update:

Tilly felt that the cotton was far too dry and so remedied it by pouncing and slobbering all over it!
I'm helping aren't I?
Here it is, all blocked and ready to go. It's going on the wall in the dining room but I'm not sure yet whether to stiffen it and hang it just as it is or perhaps to mount it in a frame.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

British Folk Art at Tate Britain

A few days ago we ventured into Londonium again for a visit to Tate Britain to see the exhibition of British Folk Art. It had great reviews and I was really excited to see it.

We had a lovely walk along Whitehall, by the River Thames, past the Houses of Parliament & Westminster Abbey then onto Millbank. It was about 1.5 miles so not too far for a gentle stroll. I snapped happily as we took in the views:

Wonderful winged horses/sea serpents standing guard
The war memorial dedicated to the work women did during World War II
Part of Westminster Abbey - I love turrets!
The Houses of Parliament with beautiful statues and stonework

We arrived at Tate Britain 20 minutes before opening time and so we wandered around the back streets.

A rather impressive Henry Moore sculpture
Along one side of the Tate building we noticed all these craters
It occurred to us that it must be bomb damage and indeed it was
We rounded a corner and came across a little garden so headed off to find some shade. I loved this adult gym equipment and had a go on it even though I was wearing a dress!
Finally it was 10am and so we headed off excitedly to view the exhibition. We weren't allowed to take photos of the exhibits but I asked permission to take this photo of the beautiful railings around the central staircase. Isn't it stunning?! The dark bit are black glass and echo the pattern on the floor.

The first item we saw when we entered was a magnificent quilt which took our breath away. Sadly I can't find any photos of it but there are a few photos of some of the other exhibits here and here.

It was a fabulous mix of unusual artefacts from a wall covered in old 'trade signs' which shopkeepers used to advertise their trade before the general spread of literacy (I loved the giant boot for a cobbler!), a room full of paintings where people and recorded events on whatever came to hand (for example, on cardboard or old bits of floorboard), many items with a nautical theme including several pieces of embroidery stitched by sailors on their long journeys away from home, quilts made of bit of felted wool by Prisoners of War (my favourite was the Crimean quilt which you can see in the links above - the pieces were only about 1" square and the colours were fabulous), enormous figureheads from ships and shipyards, the sheer scale of them took my breath away and some very strange sculptural artefacts and textiles.

Apart from the Crimean quilt my favourite thing was the cockerel you can see on the front of the brochure and in the links above. He was made of mutton bones by French prisoners in the Napoleonic wars and he was stunning.

But as soon as we'd been through the exhibition we were left wanting more. It was over far too soon and we felt it was rather overpriced (at £14 each) for the 35 minutes we took viewing it; and we stopped and studied all the pieces so we didn't rush around. Never mind, we then went on the explore the permanent exhibitions which were free and it was nice to remind ourselves what was there. 

I can still remember my first visit there back in circa 1974 as an art student. I was obsessed with the work of Bridget Riley and there was a major exhibition of her work.

We had an exciting lunch planned for afterwards and so we wended our way through the backstreets of London to our destination 2 miles away. We could have taken the tube for part of the journey but we preferred to just wander and take in the sights in the sunshine (although it did get a but too hot for us eventually and we were ready for a sit down!).

En-route I snapped away at anything that caught my eye:

A former Public Baths now used as a cafe
A different view of Westminster Abbey
The London Eye peeping over the top of the buildings
Finally we arrived at our destination, Benares restaurant in the heart of Mayfair. It is owned by the brilliant Atul Kochhar who is renowned for his fusion of Indian and British cuisine and we had been wanting to go there for ages so were very excited.

It didn't disappoint!  Here's my starter which consisted of so many elements I can't remember them all. The balls are beetroot patties decorated with edible gold and sitting on a paneer something-or-other with a peanut dressing and a tomato-based smear. It was sublime.

We loved everything about the restaurant; the service was exemplary, the food was divine, the atmosphere was perfect. All in all it was perfect.

Then there was more walking back to the station for the train home. We took the back streets when possible to avoid the crowds as it's prime tourist season. As usual my eye was drawn upwards as I love all the stonework.

This concrete panel was at the entrance to a hotel. It reminded me of crazy patchwork and samplers.
That was a most enjoyable day indeed and on the train journey home I started working on another version of my overlay crochet mandala which appeared in Simply Crochet magazine. This time I was using Rowan Cotton Glace but with similar colours to the original.

I reckon that by the end of the day we'd walked about 5.5 miles so we must have burned off at least some of the calories from our lunch!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nellie and a mandala

She's finished and she's so sweet!

Before I show the finished Nellie I need to mention her trunk. I really didn't like the way the end of the trunk was finished. I looked at all those on Ravelry, including the ones where people had chosen to turn  the trunk up rather than downwards and inwards, and the more I looked the more I didn't want my Nellie to have a trunk like that.

Sorry this is out of focus but you'll get the idea. You see the end of the trunk is made using a pentagon motif which is the same size as the penultimate one. However, the 2 smaller ends are joined together which leaves a lot of bulk at the other end. The instructions said to gather it and sew it underneath which I did but I really didn't like it.

Nor did I like the bit where the 2 end pentagons joined as the join went in and then the end of the trunk inevitably flared out again and looked odd to my eye.

I spent ages trying to find the solution and in the end it was obvious - take off the end pentagon. Eureka!

So here she is in all her african flower loveliness:

Sniffing the lavender 
Searching out the watering holes in the garden
I love her crinkly ears 

The other thing I finished off today was the mandala idea for Yarndale. After much fiddling and undoing I finally made the border I wanted.

Not quite right yet 
I wanted it to have the suggestion of bicycle wheels (to fit in with Lucy's theme for Yarndale) so the edge had to have spokes of some sort and the way I chose was to just finish it off with a bit of overlay crochet over the last few rows.

Here it is in its unblocked form. It measures 7" so is just right. I'll take another photo when it's been blocked and stiffened which will make a huge difference to its appearance.

I'm off into London again today for a meeting with DeNDRoN where we'll be getting an update on the new website we've been working on which will allow people to sign-up to take part in dementia research. 

We've been working on this project for so many years that I can hardly believe it's happening. All very exciting.

Must dash, I have a train to catch!

Wandering around Wisley

Last week I joined people from our village Horticultural Society for a visit to the gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley. I've been a member of the society for nearly 40 years (crikey, where does the time go?!) and used to be a regular visitor when we lived closer but hadn't been there for over 17 years, the last time being with mum before dementia took her away completely.

It must have been in the autumn as the leaves are turning and mum's wearing a warm hat. I love how her outfit matches the autumnal leaves! Seeing her smiling like that makes me rather emotional and I wish we could go back to times like that as we used to love visiting gardens together and it was mum who imbued in me a deep love of nature and gardening.

In my last post there was a photo of the back of the main building and this is the view looking away from the building. I love how they'd mowed a wavy pattern into the grass.

There are so many areas to explore and we just wandered around taking in the views, stopping to examine interesting plants and generally soaking up the atmosphere.

The glasshouse is really something special and it houses the most amazing exotic plants, many of which are sold as houseplants here in the UK but in there grow to their natural size, i.e. massive!

It was completed in 2007 and so it was the first time I'd seen it in real life. Huge is the word that sprang to mind! It's ridges are 41ft high with a display area equivalent to 10 tennis courts.

Outside the entrance there was a table full of insect-eating plants:

Inside it was really humid with an amazing array of exotic plants.

I love these air plants - so-called because their roots are not in the ground but in the air and they use other plants for support
 There were hundreds of exotic flowers, including many different orchids.

This one was nick-named the 'lobster claw' flower for obvious reasons!
This huge palm was nearly touching the roof already and we wondered what they would do when it did reach the top
Another carnivorous plant, this time a Nepenthes of some sort. I used to grow one in our bathroom as they need a humid atmosphere
Anyone looking for design or pattern inspiration could have a field day in here. What a beautiful pattern on the trunk of this Philodendron Selloum
There were also 'learning zones' and I loved this subterranean one made to illustrate what goes on underground.

There were lots of different videos showing all manner of thing from pollenating insects to pests and diseases. Very interesting and a great way to catch the attention of younger visitors.

A side view of the glasshouse
I took many, many photos so will restrict myself to just  a few:

I liked the idea of a gently sloping pebble beach around the edge of this informal pond
I was admiring the magnificent Gunneras across the lake when I noticed the 2 sculptures of herons placed in the water
The area around the glasshouse has been landscaped using 'Prairie style' planting but I didn't like it much as I don't think that style should be restricted in shaped beds. I am a great admirer of Piet Oudorf but prefer large swathes of plants in an area unfettered by boundaries
Another view of the glasshouse taken at the top of the hill and showing the huge beds either side
I took lots of photos of plants that interested me but my blog will grind to a halt if uploaded all 72 of them so I'll just show this one simple rose. I love yellow roses and this one is 'Mrs Oakley Fisher'. I wondered who she is/was. Such a soft buttery yellow with a very pretty centre.

We had the most glorious weather and were able to enjoy our lunch sitting outside which always feels special doesn't it. There was also a fabulous plant centre to mooch around but their prices were pretty expensive so I was very restrained. We also wandered into the gift shop which was another temptation as they have a very good book section.

Before we headed back to the coach we managed to sneak in a cup of tea with cake which we snaffled before I thought to take a photo so I took a photo of the pretty sempervivum which was on our table instead!

On the way home I crocheted lots of different edges on the mandala, undoing each one until I got just what I wanted.

We had been very lucky with the traffic on the way there and even on the way back until we were just 4 miles from home when the traffic came to a standstill. My heart sank as I could see vehicles turning around and going another way. Apparently there had been a multi-vehicle crash up ahead and the whole road was closed. We all hoped no-one had been badly injured. The coach driver was an absolute star and managed to turn it around on a rather narrow stretch of road and took us through the back lanes to get home safely. Of course even the back lanes are busy as people tried to find a way around the obstruction but we were soon home safe and sound.

Next will be either our visit to the exhibition of British Folk art or Nellie, or the mandala………...