Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Felt Ball and Forest

I spent the weekend at Khao Yai National Park north of Bangkok, Thailand. We were not lucky enough to see any gibbons on this trip. Instead we saw a troop of macaque monkeys and we did walk through the spectacular pristine forest and we could hear the gibbons whooping in the tree tops quite nearby. Some of the magnificent tall trees that rise way above the forest canopy are hundreds of years old and are the height of a 10 storey building, something which I find hard to imagine even standing right next to one.

The forest felt damp, was alive with bird calls and the floor was covered with leaves, some enormous. I was surprised to learn that although the rain is seasonal, the forest floor remains damp all the time.

At the end of our forest trail was this huge strangler fig tree. It is 300 years old, so it was around in the 1700's! Strangler figs are parasites. The seed grows in the hollow of a mature forest tree and gets all its nourishment from it, eventually killing the host tree. The fig drops its own roots to the ground as it grows and strangles its host, often forming a hollow in the centre where the original tree stood. We didn't hang around here too long because I founded a dreaded leech crawling up my shoe and I was off...

Back in Bangkok, I have started on my little project for Liam's birthday next week. Before I left Cape Town, I cut out the felt segments I need to make a felt ball - about the size of a tennis ball. The pattern comes from an old toy-making book passed on to me by Pam Lightfoot. Thanks Pam!

I am using a tiny, really tiny, stab stitch on the inside seam to join the pieces. To make sure the stitching is almost invisible on the outside I pull each stitch down firmly into the felt until it is almost hidden. Then when I open up the seam and look at it on the outside, the thread hardly shows at all - I hope.

We are off again tomorrow, this time down south to the beach. More about the ball next week. Also, I'll pass on a tip I found useful, a tip about joining those eight pieces so that they meet up neatly at the top and bottom of the ball.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

I'm in Bangkok for my grandson's first birthday. This weekend the family are all going to Khao Yai. We hope to spot gibbons and I always hope for a glimpse of one of the few elusive tigers they have in the park.  

The monkey-like gibbons have pretty golden fur and live in the top story of the forest canopy. They have extraordinary long arms for swinging through the jungle and foraging for food in the tree tops. 

White handed or Lar Gibbon.(Photo by Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot
 on the website

Cindy reminds me that the tigers are nocturnal and sightings are very rare. It is nevertheless wonderful to think that you are walking around and may be very close to one of those magnificent big cats in its natural surroundings.

Thank goodness its not leech season. I don't fancy the leeches that you so quickly pick up either on your shoes when you walk along the path through the jungle or when you brush against the vegetation - and they are everywhere in leech season.

Not much stitching has been happening lately but I do plan to make Liam something for his birthday. Its all cut out and I ready to go when we return from Khao Yai.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Embroiderers' Guild House in Walton-on-Thames

On my recent trip to London, I went to Embroiderers' Guild House to visit the EG bookshop, but I found that the bookshop is no longer open to the public (see my previous blog post).

While we were there my daughter Bronwyn and I were invited to have a look at the Beryl Dean Gallery.  I felt quite in awe when I saw work done by embroiderers of the stature of Constance Howard, Beryl Dean, Jane Lemon and many other well known embroiderers.There is a display too of exquisite work by members which pushes the boundaries in thought-provoking and creative ways and I would have loved to be able to spend more time enjoying it.

I was thrilled to see a fragment of 4th century Coptic weaving from Ancient Egypt among the treasures on display - its the tiny piece on the right in the photo below. Isn't it amazing to think that fabric can survive for over a thousand years and that we can still enjoy seeing it and appreciate the workmanship of those long ago textile workers who perhaps worked in very primitive conditions?

Part of the Beryl Dean Gallery. (Photo taken with kind permission.)
Before we left we chatted to some of the friendly but very busy EG staff. We heard a little about their trip to South Africa to see embroidery of a non Euro-centric nature. We also met and spoke to Terry Murphy, CEO of the EG, who has ties to South Africa and regularly visits Cape Town. What a small world we live in these days! Most of the EG folk we spoke to had crossed the African continent and visited our shores. Perhaps in the future we can meet up in Cape Town and share some of our embroidery that we do here.

Back into the freezing cold, even the locals were stomping their feet and rubbing their hands, and time for a pub lunch.

Were we glad when the fire was lit right next to us!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Embroiderers' Guild bookshop

I had a brief trip to London before Christmas - just in time to see my grandson Jake turn one. On the big day Jake had a lovely party at a local play centre with his friend Zak and the two boys had a wonderful time riding on the rocking horses and sliding down the little toddler sized slide.

Somehow on previous visits to London I had always missed going to the Embroiderers' Guild bookshop even though it was at the top of my list of things to do. I wanted to go because specialist embroidery books are quite scarce in the bookshops in Cape Town and over the years the EG bookshop was reputed to be a treasure trove of embroidery books.

Recently the EG has moved from Hampton Court Palace to Walton-on-Thames. After phoning ahead to make sure they were open, my daughter and I went along hoping to see their large stock of embroidery books. We found the house in Kings Road quite easily - on a sunny but bitterly cold day. Later that afternoon we had light snow, but it was too wet to last long enough to take any photos of it. I was glad to get inside out of the freezing wind.

It turned out that the bookshop is no longer open to the public. It is now an Internet-based e-bookshop and the books are housed elsewhere.

I was disappointed that I couldn't page through some of the books that I was interested in, but among the small stock of books remaining at the Guild, I did manage to find two Gail Marsh books on 18th and 19th Century embroidery that I am now very pleased to have on my bookshelf. You can see how purposefully I am clutching my precious purchase!

More about my visit to the EG in my next post. Till then, Happy Stitching!