Accepting my early retirement I am filling my days with quilting and sewing projects as well as catching up on my blog and organising my huge backlog of holiday photos. I have also started the Royal School of Needlework's Diploma classes at Hampton Court Palace. That's what I love – hand work, travel, being around my family and writing about it.
When I travel I love to visit museums that feature local handicrafts and costumes. I found a little gem of a museum in the back streets of Chania’s old town on the island of Crete. It was developed by Irini Koumandraki who displays historic pieces of embroidery, applique and lace in vignettes alongside old irons, farm utensils and crockery. It’s charming and protected by Irini’s ten year old dog who likes to check out any visitors.
Best of all was talking to Irini about her own work (see the first five photos) which she makes entirely by machine with silk threads (see the photo of her thread stash). “It is all just in my head,” she said, “I don’t have a pattern!” I bought the olive tree piece for my own collection and in driving around Crete I realised that Irini has got the tree just right with it’s numerous scraggy trunks and the purple hued leaves.
What can I say Santorini, Greece is as beautiful as they say with the white and blue buildings radiating light as they bask in the hot sun. The town of Oia is where you’ll find the quintessential blue domed buildings; Fira has white/cream domes but it’s where you’ll see the donkey steps and the huge cruise ships moored out in the bay.
The most excitement of the day was taking the two hour ferry ride from Rethymno, Crete (near where we were staying) to Santorini Island. The ferry had more passengers than cars so the vehicle decks were used to sort out the hundreds of people as they quickly got on and off the boat. And I mean QUICKLY – the ferry docked with its bay doors open and the passengers got off while others got on (see photo). This all took minutes and then the ferry left as the bay doors were raised!
Then we were collected by buses and had to drive up the cliff face on a twisty road full of other traffic – a bit scary if you were on the seaward side of the bus!
At the end of August, my husband, our girls and our sons-in-law spent a week in Crete, Greece. We don’t often travel together but this year it was a perfect mix of beaches, hikes (the kids!), good food, archaeological sites and a visit to the very, very over populated Santorini (see next blog post). Never thought Crete would be so mountainous (it made for some very interesting drives) and I absolutely loved the pink sand at Elafonisi Beach.
As part of my Alpine Experience embroidery retreat (see last blog post) we had a day trip to Chamonix. The saner part of the group decided to go shopping which included a lovely outdoor market. The more adventurous spirits, myself included, decided to take a two part gondola ride to get close to the top of Mont Blanc. It was breathtaking and bloody cold at the summit but worth the long queues and the scary gondola ride that took us, at one point, about six feet (2 m) from a rock face.
In August I had the good fortune to attend embroidery classes with Nicola Jarvis in Les Carroz, France. It wasn’t just any old class. The Alpine Experience classes are a cut above with magnificent accommodations and fabulous meals offered in the setting of two chalets high up in the French Alps. The week starts and ends with transport from Geneva airport so that, from beginning to end, there is nothing to think about but embroidery! Thanks to Nadine and Mark for a wonderful week!
Nicola Jarvis is a superb teacher – she lets the students work at their own pace and on their own projects which incorporate her designs, of course. She gives a short stitch lesson to one or two students, then offers thread colour choices to another but still has time for a heartwarming chat or a personalised art lesson. Her kits are beautifully designed and screen printed making it easy to follow the various elements.
Steve and I went to Guernsey and Sark (on my brother’s recommendation) a couple of weeks ago for an unexpected five day break.
Guernsey is a lovely place with an old world charm, skinny roads and a 25 mph speed limit everywhere. There are gorgeous wide sandy beaches sitting alongside physical reminders of the German occupation during WWII. The Guernsey Tapestry is a remarkable project depicting in stitch Guernsey’s history between 1100 to 2000 marking the millennium. And the Little Church and Victor Hugo’s Hauteville House show the quirky nature of some of the island’s previous residents.
I love the photo of the quintessential British beach shop because it makes me so happy and I just want to buy a bucket and spade and an ice lolly and be eight years old again. Mind you when I was really that age we were living in Belfast and the beach was probably on the Antrim coast which is not known for being warm!!
Canada Day and graduation day at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace. Received my Certificate in Hand Embroidery under blue skies accompanied by my stitching buddy Claire! Being a graduate this year I was able to include a couple of pieces in the annual show so I chose my Jacobean and Blackwork (Roald Amundsen) projects.
During our visit to Budapest in Hungary I constantly snapped stained glass windows, tile floors and local embroidery for inspiration for my own sewing projects. I got ideas for at least seven quilts plus a possible project for my Diploma Whitework unit at the Royal School of Needlework. So much potential!
I recently spent five days in Budapest, Hungary. The architecture is stunning especially in the downtown area along the Danube River. These photos include the Hungarian Parliament, St Stephen’s Basilica, the Chain Bridge, Mathias Church, the Fisherman’s Bastion and the New York Cafe. Seeing the buildings lit up at night from a river cruise was a real treat!
Living in the UK is exasperating, breathtaking and unusual all at the same time. Steve and I sat in a traffic jam for half an hour this morning only to discover it went on for several more miles. We turned around and went to another National Trust property to walk the dog and have lunch. Here there was birdsong and amongst fields of buttercups there was the most amazing view of an old church and colourful farmers fields.
On the way home we saw a motorcycle hearse with a casket inside driving down the motorway. Obviously taking a bike enthusiast to his/her funeral – I have never seen the like before. It was a bit of a strange day but we had the top down on my car and the sun was shining!!