portrait three

Yesterday I began a third stumpwork portrait, another man this time, wearing a striped blazer and carrying or wearing a straw boater. I tried the Jan Messent method for his hat-holding hand but I wasn’t happy with the result. To give the fingers form, the book says to use “cord or smooth string no thicker than 1mm (1/16in)” but I used a soft crochet cotton of a similar diameter which I only had in a green shade. It all went well until the final stitching around and between the fingers. I used fine 100% nylon lingerie and bobbin thread so that I could make really small stitches and the book doesn’t give any suggestion as to what to use. I’m not sure if the lingerie thread was the main fault or I just didn’t take enough care over it (I really shouldn’t watch television and stitch at the same time I know) but it’s not suitable for this portrait anyway. A hand in this position is more often seen resting on a lady’s lap and not for doffing a hat, which is my intention.


I promised photographs if I ever made a hand the Messent way so here’s three in one, showing the process. Top left: lay a piece of stiff vilene on a base fabric, draw a hand and fingers outline then lightly glue the cord fingers in place. Lower left: add a little light padding over the back of the hand when the glue is dry then cover with the actual hand fabric. Centre: stitch around and between the fingers using small back stitches. Cut out close to the outline stitching using fabric glue/fray stop on any raw threads.



On the other hand (ha ha), here’s the stumpwork hand which is much better for my purpose. Each finger wire was bound with two strands of embroidery thread then the tip was bent over and the whole finger bound with thread from the tip all the way down to the “wrist” before securing the thread end. All the fingers and thumb were then bound together. With this method it’s possible to shape the fingers with small pliers to make the hand more realistic. I’d never made one of these hands before and I didn’t pay too much attention when I was wrapping the hand itself (blame Foyle’s War for that) so it’s a bit rough and ready. Still, it was only a test and I like how they could be made larger or smaller depending on the gauge of wire used or how finely or thickly they were wrapped. I still think that there’s something about these hands that make them look a little creepy, but we can’t have everything, can we?



Green fingered? I think not.

This morning,  it took me an hour to get out of bed, make tea and toasted pitta for breakfast and log on to my laptop. This would normally only take fifteen minutes or so.  Then I realised that JP had put the kitchen clock forward for British Summer Time after I had gone to bed last night. Phew! Haven’t quite lost it altogether then!

Yesterday was a glorious day all day – birds were trilling noisily, the temperature was high and the whole town seemed to be out enjoying the day.  I even identified the song of a blackbird but that was only because I could see it quite clearly and it was singing at the time. The reason for being out was to visit a local garden centre to stock up on compost (to sow those Christmas gifts of herb and veg seeds before it’s too late) and just generally have a mose around.  When opening the garage door, I observed that I had left the house without a jacket. Had I lost my mind? Normally I have shirt and sweater plus lined fleece or rain jacket with possibly a scarf for good measure and I was also wearing gloves most days until a couple of weeks ago!

I was given two small ‘greenhouses’ more than a year ago so that I could grow veg and herbs on our sunny balcony in the absence of a garden. I’m not particularly green-fingered – my houseplants thrive in spite of my neglect so the possibility of growing things that we might actually be able to eat was a challenge of great magnitude…  Last Spring, I bought plants and sowed seeds, sought tips and ideas from colleagues and the internet, bought trays and all sorts of paraphernalia.

After a short space of time, my little greenhouses were fully stocked. I felt like a gardener. I had visions of proudly bringing my home-grown produce to the dinner table and basking in the compliments. I wondered if I might also have room to grow a bag of potatoes but decided against it. I watered and fed and encouraged my little darlings, gave them shade when the sun would have burned their tender leaves, checked for signs of rot, infection and sundry bugs, left feeding and watering directions for family members when I went away for a week but all to little avail. My many trays of salad veg seedlings gave up the ghost just as they were due for transplanting and my final greenhouse crop was only a dozen or so very small tomatoes, six capsicums which were barely edible and some scrawny mint. I even grew horseradish, considered to be as rampant as mint, but the roots when harvested could have been used to floss teeth they were so thin. By the end of the summer I was down to pots of straggly sage, dead mint (several, of different varieties) and some indifferent basil, the latter having being given by a friend at work who assured me that it grew like wildfire in her garden.

However, spring has sprung yet again and this year I have asked my son if he would like to grow my seeds and anything else that takes his fancy while he waits for his name to rise to the top of the allotment waiting list. Me? I’ll stick to buying the occasional pot of fully established herbs (rosemary, parsley and lavender – 3 for £10 yesterday) which like my indoor houseplants, don’t seem to mind a little neglect now and again.

The photo is of the larger greenhouse and you might just spot an extremely sad rosemary plant from last summer on the top shelf. I told you my plants thrive in spite of my efforts! The horseradish too has revived from last year and seems to be flourishing. Isn’t nature wonderful?