For the first time in over a decade I have spent the summer months in Brittany remaking acquaintance with my sorely neglected garden. Years of abandon had seen a serious reserve of weed seed build up plus some sort of pernicious creeping sow thistle that would regrow from the smallest section of root. During the lockdown period I devoted at least part of each day to clearing, digging and manuring and was pleasantly surprise just what can be achieved by methodical persistence. Perhaps that should really come as any great revelation since my work with embroidery entails a similar mind set. Unable to travel back north to the Hebrides it seemed logical to start growing as much food as I could and by late June the freezer was three quarters full and trips to the supermarkets were considerably reduced.
Then restrictions reduced and the holiday period was in full swing. Never have we seen so many people in Finistere, presumably they decided to come to Brittany because we were clean and to all practical purposes free from covid. Not for long though and so I returned to my garden and studio. It wasn’t until early August that I realised that in living alone I had made no physical contact with another human since mid-March. My home and studio in New Tolsta was calling; with that panoramic view down the croft to the Minch and the north east coast of Lewis, so I booked my ticket for the day after a dental appointment on the 8th September in the hopes that I would be able before then to have harvested the bulk of the fruit and vegetables. The seasons are definitely changing and everything seems almost a month in advance which has meant that the apples are picked and stored, the slow gin is made and the hazel nuts are drying. Unfortunately the walnuts will not be ready before I leave so I’ve asked a friend to collect them in a few weeks’ time. Similarly the bumper crop of quince and meddlers will not be ready, but those will be harder to find anyone to gather as the former requires work to prepare jelly, and the later rotting fruit few people, apart from myself and Henry VIII seem to like or know what to do with.
My embroidery project over the summer months has been a stitched book and to that end I have completed over half. The wooden framed pages are hinged together using a boxwood mechanism which to my delight has worked out perfectly despite not first making a trial prototype. There was no fixed theme for the pages and I have stitched very much according to what came to mind.
There is a wide range of stitching and technics used to create each page, and while some derive influence from 18th century samplers others are very contemporary using the attestation we required here whenever we left the house during the covid lock-down period. Other pages use a mixture of technics with appliqué and embroidery as in the two pages of the bear trap (a view of man’s extra ordinary ability to constantly create traps for himself). I estimate that by the end of the year the project should be nearing completion.
Meanwhile I prepare for the journey north and the knowledge that I have a further two weeks quarantine to complete on arrival and a second and very different garden that requires my attention.