Unbalanced

It’s Balance Awareness week this week so I thought I’d do my bit to try and raise awareness and understanding of how a lack of balance can affect our lives.

There are three main things that help us to keep our balance, vision, our leg and core muscles and our ears. We take visual cues from our surroundings, our legs can sense if the ground is soft and uneven and our ears act like a spirit level, telling the brain if we’re overbalancing. With information from these three areas we know which way is up, we can stay standing and walking with no problem. If messages from one area are struggling such as in darkness, the other two can usually manage.

Balance is one of those things we take for granted…until we have a problem! This can be a short term ear problem such as vertigo or labyrinthitis, or longer term such as Meniere’s disease or like me where no cause has been found, though I suspect it’s probably auto-immune. It’s also one of those invisible disabilities, people can’t see there’s a problem so can get frustrated if for example they’re trying to walk past me and I’m walking in a wobbly line.

I have no balance from my ears, it started in between babies and they’re 25 and 27 years old now!!! The only messages my brain gets are from visual cues or from my leg muscles and central core muscles. Take one of those away and I have a problem;

Darkness is an obvious problem, but so is bright sunlight, there’s a square in the centre of Leeds which has white paving stones, I struggle to walk across it in brilliant sunshine. Painting walls was a problem I didn’t anticipate, but when you’re close up to a plain wall, there are no visual clues for balance.

We also get visual cues from our surroundings, being able to see a horizon gives your brain clues to help you balance, this isn’t just in the big outdoors, even in a shopping centre the lines of sight are giving you clues. However, in the middle of a crowd, such as a busy train station or leaving a theatre, many visual clues on the horizon are lost and I need a friendly arm to hold on too. Similarly a narrow passage can cause issues, when I go for the bus on a morning there’s a narrow snicket with hedges on each side, I really shouldn’t walk down it in the dark but it saves me about 5 minutes so I do,,,with a fair bit of ricocheting off the hedges!!

There’s no way I could walk across these stepping stones 🙂

Soft, uneven ground can cause issues, if I’m walking in the countryside then I always use walking poles, it just gives me that extra point of contact. Having a third point of contact makes all the difference, even walking around town I’ll just keep fingertip contact with walls or fences, whatever I’m passing really. In the garden I have ‘wobble poles’ decorative metal stakes I have placed in beds to just give me that extra point of contact, these are especially helpful when the ground is soft. I’ve also worked out that it’s a loss of contact points that makes digging tricky for me, to dig you have to stand on one leg, it may only be for a few seconds, but it can be a few seconds too long.

People with no balance classically fall like a tree trunk, straight over like Delboy in that wonderful clip from Only Fools and Horses. We don’t realise we’re falling until it’s too late. When I’m taking a photo on one of our many walks and I’m stood on soft ground, looking through the viewfinder, I’ll often feel my friend grabbing my rucksack on my back to stop me falling, when I’m completely unaware of it.

My brain doesn’t compensate for head movements, not only does this mean everything ‘wobbles ‘ as I move, it also makes it difficult to focus on things or people unless I’m still, I can walk straight past people I know and not see them, I find it hard to read road signs or information boards unless I’m standing still. It also makes it difficult to find things in places like supermarkets, I can’t quickly scan the shelves as I’m walking down an aisle.

To me living with any issue is about knowing your limits to keep you safe, but also to keep pushing yourself, expanding horizons that are within your capabilities. I love to walk up mountains, I accept that sometimes I will fall over, touch wood I’ve never hurt myself, but I know and my walking buddy knows which areas I struggle with and importantly when to turn back and abandon the walk. I’m lucky in having a close circle of family and friends who appreciate and understand my issues, I’m fiercely independent and will climb ladders and stand on chairs rather than ask for help, but sometimes even I have to admit that I can’t safely do something without help.

I can appreciate it’s difficult to imagine life with no balance, so I put together a two minute video a couple of years ago to try and show the world through my eyes, it’s on YouTube so here’s the link. If you want further information about balance issues, the VEDA website is very good.

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Stitching my Garden SAL

I’m still making reasonable progress on my stitching of the patio area of our garden, this is going to be part of a textile book about our garden. This whole idea has been inspired by an excellent on-line course called ‘stitch-a-garden’ by Nicki Franklyn of the Stitchery. Three weeks ago it looked like this…

I’ve since added a couple of rose trees and filled in gaps with trailing blue geranium and the bright pink geranium too, the foliage near the right hand apricot coloured rose bush (called Jude the Obscure) is meant to be a marjoram plant. The green loopy plant in the middle of the top border is meant to be a hosta. I just have the little space in the middle to stitch and then I can move onto the border opposite.

It’s taking a while to do this part of the garden but I do feel it’s coming together now, the other bed at the bottom of the embroidery won’t take as long as I haven’t got a raised bed behind it. Once this one is finished I have another two areas at least to stitch, the amber and amethyst garden and the lawn and pond area by the summerhouse. Hopefully now I know what I’m doing a bit more I won’t procrastinate for quite as long!

This SAL is organised by Avis, we post our progress on our individual projects every three weeks, just often enough to keep me motivated on longer pieces. Please follow the links to see what everyone else has been stitching.

AvisClaireGunConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretHeidiJackieSunnyMeganDeborahSharonDaisyAJCathieLindaHelenConnieCindyMaryMargaret

Posted in embroidery, Garden, Serendipity, Stitch-a-long, Stitching my Garden, Textile Books | Tagged , | 17 Comments

Stitching Roses

I have two standard rose trees in my garden, a creamy white one called Claire Austin and an apricot one called Roald Dahl, they’re gorgeous! When I started thinking about my stitched garden book I wanted to include a little embroidery of my two standard roses. My original plan was to just stitch the actual rose tree, however, plans change!

Roald Dahl

I started with the Claire Austin rose which is down by the patio. The fabric looked somewhat white so I painted a soft circle of green with watercolour paints to add a bit of depth. I stitched the trunk with whipped stem stitch, whipping it makes it stand out a bit more, gives it a bit more shape. For the roses I used stem stitch, this is a new way to me to stitch flowers and I rather like it, when there’s a lot it’s also a lot quicker than bullion knots! I used two or three shades of white and cream. The leaves are stitched with fishbone stitch, I like this stitch for leaves anyway but I think it hints nicely at the serrated edge that many roses have at the ends of the leaves.

I was pleased with how the rose came out but as an embroidery it seemed a bit lacking. I have to confess I have no in progress photos of this one, it was my handbag sewing mainly, stitched at work during lunchbreaks or in the dentists waiting room. I do however have a photo of the Roald Dahl one at the same stage as I’ve already started that one…

It needed a bit more stitching, the trunk just looked too unbalanced really. I decided to add some flowers round the bottom.

In this flower bed I have a beautiful paeony with the most delicate pale pink flowers, a perovskia otherwise known as Russian sage which at the moment has sprays of blue flowers on sage green leaves, and there is also a penstemon which I think is called apple blossom. In reality the penstemon is a pale pink and cream, but the embroidery called for a bit more pink…in reality the paeony flowers in May/June before the roses have many flowers and the perovskia is flowering now…it’s called artistic license! Anyway, this is the finished piece…

I used woven stitch for the paeonies with lazy daisy leaves. The perovskia is blue French knots with straight stitches for the foliage and the penstemon flowers are little straight stitches with fly stitch leaves. I then just added a bit of seed stitch for the earth.

I’m pretty pleased with how it came out so I’m planning to do something similar with the Roald Dahl one too. These embroideries are coming together nicely, I’m going to have to start turning them into pages soon to make my garden book.

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Monday’s Meander Round the Garden

Having decided not to move house I thought I’d better start the autumn tidy up! I’ve found a gardener to help me too, an old nursing friend called Sally has been doing gardening for many years, she’s going to come round for a couple of hours twice a month, just knowing she’s coming has given me the impetus to get out in the garden again, at least it will look like I’m trying! She was meant to start last week, but typically it was raining heavily so we called it off til this week.

After a long dry summer, it’s feeling decidedly autumnal now, a bit backendish as they call it round here. When I set off for work it’s only just starting to get light and the evenings are drawing in too. The days can turn out pretty warm still so I’ve managed a few afternoons in the garden.

Knowing I’ve got some help coming I’ve been noting in my mind which areas I struggle with. I’ve started tidying up the pond area, both the pond and Hubert the heron pretty much disappeared this summer behind a mass of foliage, there’s a lot of things need thinning or splitting. The crocosmia lucifer and the Solomon’s seal in particular are both getting out of hand, as well as the irises. I’ve tried digging the area before but digging is one thing I can struggle with due to my lack of balance. I’m OK with fairly soft soil, but anything compacted and I struggle as you do have to stand on one leg for a moment or two, not my best stance especially on uneven ground!

Hubert is just in sight now…

I’ve been tidying up round the amber and amethyst garden too, my standard rose has still got a few blooms, I planted it last year in memory of my mum, it’s called Roald Dahl and as a primary school teacher she loved reading Roald Dahl books to her class.

Over by the steps I’ve a somewhat sprawly sub-shrub which I’ve rarely seen for sale, it has lovely blue flowers, it’s never going to take centre stage in a bed but actually at this time of year it adds a bit of colour. It’s actually from the clematis family, but rather than a climber, this one is a shrub. As you can see from the photo, I’ve not started tidying and weeding this border yet!

The pots by the patio need a good sort out, though I’ll probably wait until early spring, see which ones have survived the winter and which ones would be better planted out. The water feature I turned into a bird bath by adding lots of pebbles hasn’t been a roaring success but I’m not giving up yet, I do need to sort out the duckweed though, which has obviously been transferred on an odd pebble from the main pond, the lime green colour of duck weed does stand out somewhat!

Last spring I planted a new rose, it’s a climbing rose to go over the arch by the patio, I used to have one called Teasing Georgia there but having been there for many years it was definitely past it’s best so I dug it out. You have to be careful replacing a rose with another rose, sometimes the second rose will get rose sickness, to try and avoid this I dug out a lot of the old soil, replaced it with lots of home grown compost and also used a micorrhizal product to encourage the roots. The new rose is called Wollerton Old Hall and the flowers are just gorgeous…

…fingers crossed it stays happy and healthy!

Looking forward to Sally’s first visit, there’s certainly plenty to do!

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Staying Home HQAL

I’ve not spent a huge amount of time on my staying home quilt but I have made some progress. Everything for quilting is set up in our lounge for when I’m watching TV but my embroidered garden is also in there and keeps being chosen over the quilt, maybe I need to move the embroidery into the sitting room where we tend to sit and chat and drink tea!

Three weeks ago when I last shared my progress I had just started the first block …

I was still trying to decide how to quilt the house blocks. Well I decided to include the door and make some windows. Having stitched two house blocks I’ve realised I’ve quilted them differently, the first one was quilted 1/4″ round then stitched in the ditch round the door and added some windows. The second one was stitched about two weeks later without checking the first one! I stitched the house and door in the ditch (right on the seam for none quilters!) and then added windows. I’m still not sure which I prefer, the first looks quilted more, the second one is neater without the quilting lines to distract. I’ve still one wall to quilt but here’s the block so far…

I’m still not sure about the windows, I might unpick those, I’m not sure whether to miss them off completely, make them the same height as the door or add two more windows above.

I’ve also stitched round another embroidered block, I’m thinking of quilting just inside the row of running stitches under the arch of houses…

So four done, twenty one to go and I’ve still not started the sashing. We’ve got a quilt show in Harrogate in a couple of weeks time so I’m thinking of looking at disappearing marker pens to help mark the stitching lines for the sashing.

Hand Quilt Along Links

This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyMargaretDebNanetteSharonKarrin, Daisy, and  Cathie 

I’ll also be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, so please follow the links to see lots of inspiring hand quilting and stitching.

Posted in embroidery, Quilt-a-long, Quilting | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Tuesday’s Totter Round the Garden

Our house sale fell through a couple of weeks ago when the buyers backed out, we therefore had to back out of the house purchase, fortunately it was just a couple of days after agreeing a price so we hadn’t incurred any legal costs. After a couple of weeks mulling things over and my daughter craftily talking to us both individually and planting a seed of an idea…we have decided to stay put and hopefully get help for the garden, as she pointed out it’s a dormer bungalow so perfect if we get to the age when stairs are difficult as we can live quite happily downstairs as both our bedroom and the main bathroom are downstairs! We’ll look at ways of making the garden safer for me too.

Having neglected the garden somewhat since we agreed the sale, I thought I’d better start some weeding and tidying up at the weekend.

My OH helped weed round the lawn by the pond…

Down by the patio I have a couple of lovely hydrangeas in flower. In the spring I moved two from pots into a newly dug bed. Of course the beautiful pale blue one I bought about five years ago at the Harrogate show looks really healthy…but yet again not a single flower!!! It hasn’t flowered since I bought it!!! However, the gorgeous cream one I bought on Otley market has three stunning blooms, they’re huge…

I’ve another light coloured one in a pot which has several flowers on it too, it’s one of those which fades beautifully…

I’m thinking of moving this one to the raised bed in the autumn. Considering what a dry summer we’ve had, I’m pretty pleased with these, I’m not exactly good at remembering to water plants!

I’ve a couple of late flowering clematis down by the patio which are still covered in flowers, these are both many years old, well probably about 15. This purple one is called Romantica, it fascinates me as some of the flowers have five petals and some just four, I’m pretty sure it’s not just that one has fallen off.

August tends to be a bit of a funny month in a typical English cottage garden, most of the summer flowering plants are past there best and the autumn ones haven’t really come into their own yet. I was pleased to see a little vista from the path across to the big fence has still got lots of interest. The coarse leaved plant at the front with little blue flowers is actually a shrubby clematis, I bought it a few years ago at the Harrogate show, it’s not a shrub you often see for sale here, it’s not the most interesting plant but it fills a gap in late summer.

The pink rose in the foreground is called The Alnwich rose, the pink flowering shrub is a spirea and the white rose further down is called Champagne Moments, we bought these when we got married and they flower their socks off all summer and into the autumn.

It’s been a very dry summer here in the UK, we currently have a hosepipe ban until the reservoirs fill up again. Apparently many mature trees are struggling and dropping their leaves already so it’ll be interesting to see which ones survive the winter. Our black sambuscus on the right is already loosing it’s leaves where as usually it’s leaves don’t drop until mid autumn.

I’ve quite a bit of work to do in the garden now, starting the autumn tidy-up and pulling up the weeds before they set seed. I think I need to discipline myself more to get out in the garden more regularly!

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Stitching Flowers

Over the weekend I concentrated on finishing my flower sampler, this is for my textile book about the garden. I’ve been doing an on-line course with Nicki Franklyn frm the stitchery called Stitch-a-Garden and this sampler is one of the things she suggests, it has been a useful exercise in trying out different stitches. Last time I sharde my progress I was about three quarters of the way through…

I stitched some more bullion roses, added some straight ones too which could be veronica or liatris. I’ve used three different shades of pink for the rose bush, I think it works pretty well.

The final set of three samples is flowers using applique and fabric manipulation. The first one is made with hand-dyed silk ribbon, I cut a circle and then stitched it to the calico, scrunching bits up as I went. This is a technique which Nicki showed us. The central purple ones are just circles of silk ribbon stitched with a single seed stitch in the middle, tweaking it a bit to make the flowers a bit more random. The right hand sample was meant to be needle turn applique, the one onthe left is the only one done this way, it’s come out OK int the end but it’s very buly and it was pretty fiddly, the other two are just circles of cotton stitched on with fly stitch. The details of the stitches used for these last ones are all relating to the leaves, I think fish-bone stitch is still my favourite.

This piece will probably go in my book opposite the tree and shrub version. I’ve stitched quite a few little pieces for my book so I probably need to start making them into pages.

Posted in embroidery, Stitching my Garden, Textile Books, Workshops | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Stitch-a-Garden SAL

My garden stitching is coming along nicely, I think before I had a bit of white page syndrome, worrying about how it was going to come out so actually stitching not much at all. Now I’ve got started and it’s coming out how I envisaged, it’s coming on nicely. Three weeks ago I was just really starting the borders, still somewhat hesitant…

Having started with the irises and the clemetis up the canes, I started on pink geraniums which billowed through the gate last year, alchemilla mollis, astrantia, camassia. I added a couple more applique shrubs to be a box and a spirea…

I added a pink rosebush, brunnera Jack Frost, roses over the arch, clematis over the arbour, plants in pots…I really feel it’s coming together and giving the effect I wanted of the cottage garden look.

I think stitching the flower sampler over the last couple of weeks has helped my to branch out a bit with different stitches for different flowers, it’s very easy to stick to the same few comfortable stitches, such as French knots, chain stitch and straight stitch, so the blue veronica in the middle of the top border is bullion knots, the camassia is pistil stitch. I’ve used French knots for the pink and yellow roses but I’ve used 4 strands of thread to make a nice chunky French knot, much more effective than the smaller pink ones over the arbour which I did at the beginning of the project. None of it is horticulturally correct, but it doesn’t matter with this kind of piece, so the spring flowering magnolia stellata is not only in flower with it’s leaves, but at the same time as the roses 🙂

Hopefully now I’ve got going with this it won’t take too long to finish, then I’ve just got the amber and amethyst garden (AKA the beer garden) to do and the top lawn with the summerhouse and the pond to stitch…

If you would like to stitch a garden, this is inspired by an excellent on-line course by Nicki Franklyn from The Stitchery

This SAL is organised by Avis from Stitching by the Sea, we post our progress on our chosen piece every three weeks, it does help to keep me motivated! Please follow the links to see what every one else is stitching.

AvisClaireGunConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretHeidiJackieSunny

MeganDeborahSharonDaisyAJCathieLindaHelenConnieCindy, MaryMargaret

Posted in embroidery, Garden, Stitch-a-long, Stitching my Garden, Workshops | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Skipton Stitchers

We had a lovely meeting a Skipton Stitchers, very simple idea but so much fun…

I think it was Sally’s idea, inspired by The Great British Sewing Bee program where they have one and a half hours to recycle a random item into something vaguely wearable.

Sally gave us each an envelope with identical contents, five pieces of fabric, four little buttons and a short length of lace together with a piece of calico. We had ninety minutes to create something…

I decided to rip the fabrics into strips and weave them together, stitching them onto the calico. The darker green patterned fabric was a little bright so I turned it over and used the back. Once I had arranged them all, pieced in places as some lengths were too short, I pinned them onto the calico and stitched a simple back-stitch round to secure everything.

I decided to couch a variegated thread in a circle. I started with the green button in the middle and then just kept going, stitching the buttons as I went a long.

In true Sewing Bee fashion we had regular timing updates…’you’ve got 30 minutes left’…at which point we negotiated unanimously to extend the time by 30 minutes! Everyone entered into the spirit of the challenge, no one went to make coffee or have a comfort break – we were too busy stitching!

I was pretty pleased with mine, it reminded me of the rings of a tree. After we’d finished we gathered them all together, it was amazing how different everyone’s was, we’d all started with identical packs and ended up with a wide variety of ideas. To see all the other entries please follow the link to Skipton Stitchers blog.

If anyone is in a stitching group, I can recommend it as a meeting idea, it was great fun.

Posted in embroidery, Skipton Stitchers | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Stitch-a-Garden

As part of the stitch-a-garden course Nicki Franklyn from The Stitchery has included little samplers of how to stitch different parts of the garden. I stitched a tree and shrub sampler earlier in the course…

It’s useful to see different ways of representing trees or shrubs and how to add some texture to the stitching.

I’m now working on a flower version. Nicki showed different stitches which could be used to create flowers, I’ve tried on the whole to make them like flowers in our garden. It was a useful exercise which has certainly broadened my repetoire of flower stitches, it’s very easy to just use a few easy ones, such as French knots, chain stitch or straight stitch, stitching this sampler is making me think of other ways to give the effect.

I’m stitching on one of the lovely linens I got in a ‘treasure’ pack from Sookie Soo, I like the texture of these fabrics. I started by stitching the outline to make twelve boxes, then I just started concentrating on one stitch for each block, the squares are just under 2×2″. Nicki uses an old fashioned typewriter to write ‘labels’, I did originally plan to have the writing on little pieces of fabric to stitch on, but I couldn’t get it to look right. In the end I just wrote on the square as neatly as I could in a sepia coloured finepoint pen. I still haven’t decided whether to stitch over the title square.

This is the row I’m working on at the moment. I particularly liked the woven wheels and the stem stitch flowers. I’ve not come across stem stitch flowers before but they’re much quicker than bullion knots and really effective. As you can see I’ve a few more bullion knots to do, I’ll do some straight too a bit like veronicas or liatris.

I’ve then got one more row to do, there’s a couple of ways using applique and I thought I might do some raised picot stich, unless someone thinks of another stitch to try.

Posted in embroidery, Stitching my Garden, Workshops | Tagged , | 2 Comments