Wednesday, 10 February 2016


Long, long ago, when Adam was a boy,
the Internet had yet to be invented and I was just
a small girl, I was given a doll called Lobelia.

An appropriate name for a doll straight out of a
horror film.  She had been passed around the family
for a couple of generations before I drew the short
straw and she came briefly into my possession.

Not the real Lobelia but close enough to send shivers.

She really freaked me out, I was a "teddy" girl through
and through.  This abomination had moving eyes, rosebud
lips and a wig of real human hair made by my grandfather
who was not only a West End "coiffeur des dames" but also
dabbled in the dark art of the handmade "peruke" as a very
lucrative sideline.  Just don't ever ask where he got
the hair!

I took an instant disliking to Lobelia.  She was hard and
unyielding, her arms and legs stuck into my chubby infant
flesh and her eyes seemed to follow my every move.
She instilled terror and was thankfully taken away from me
the day I picked up the scissors and decided to give her a
"Tony Curtis".  A fashionable cut back in the day.

Guy (Michael Zajkov) and Dolls

The years rolled by and I had all but forgotten the porcelaine-
headed monster that used to haunt my childhood dreams
- that is until today because today I stumbled upon the work
of Russian craftsman Michael Zajkov!

After graduating from Kuban State University in 2009 Michael
chose to work as a pupeteer with a theatre group until he went
on to hit the big time in 2013 with an exhibition entitled
Art Dolls in Moscow.  Michael is very easy on the eye btw!

They look quite a handfull.

His dolls are so real you almost expect them to blink.  They're
multiple jointed and made from polymer clay with hand painted
eyes from Germany and French mohair tresses.  Guaranteed to
fascinate, unnerve, repel and horrify all at one and the same time.

How spooky are these?

Come back Lobelia, all is forgiven.
Just please don't ever leave me alone with one of
Michael's spooky humanoids.  Promise?

That's one way to put on your mascara I suppose.

Sunday, 7 February 2016


Hands up anyone who remembers Kit Williams and
his golden hare?  How I wish we could all have another
dose of his magic in our lives again right now.

And for those of you for whom the name doesn't ring any bells
let me enlighten you immediately although sadly much,
much too late to join the treasure hunt his beautiful book which
sold two million copies worldwide sparked back in August
1979 when virtually the entire nation fell captive
beneath it's spell

Masquerade as it is called is a picture book like no other which was
both written and illustrated by Kit.  However his talents don't stop
there as he also created a breathtakingly beautiful, jewel
encrusted 18 carat golden hare which he then hid in a secret
ceremony with just one celebrity witness, Bamber Gascoigne,
somewhere in the British countryside (Ampthill Park, Bedfordshire).
Clues to the location were buried deep within the pages and
lavish illustrations of the book.  The riddle was finally solved in
1982 and the amulet was later bought at auction in 1988 by a
mystery buyer for an astonishing £31,900.

It can still be read to this day as a charming children's tale about the
moon falling in love with the sun with Jack Hare as their go-between
but the buried treasure has long since been discovered by the winner
after deciphering correctly all the fiendishly difficult clues.

A second puzzle book followed some time later and this time the
challenge was to discover it's title and represent it without the
use of the written word..  Often referred to as "The Bee
Book" the answer was finally revealed as "The Bee on the Comb".
And just like all good nursery tales the competition ran for exactly
a year and a day.

The Wishing Fish clock

Kit went on to publish a couple of other books and was also
commissioned to create three public clocks with elaborate mechanisms
and moving parts such as animals.  He is now virtually a recluse and
continues to paint figurative art at his studio in Gloucestershire.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Parrot in Art (well I've got to write about something)

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed how often the parrot
crops up in portraiture? 

 Or is it, perhaps, that I really
ought to get out more instead of spending my evenings,
when not stitching, trawling obsessively through works of
art on the internet in search of something both interesting
and entertaining with which to amuse you.

And it's not a recent thing either.  The parrot Alice dear,
not my nocturnal trawling activities.  Good old Polly has been
playing a leading role in works of art throughout the centuries,
through fashions and fads and, it would seem, is equally at
home alongside a recumbent nude as she is perched between two
well-scrubbed children of who knows what intent.

Further detailed research (how sad is that?) has led me to discover,
in an obscure, ancient classic penned by none other than Macrobius,
yes THE Macrobius, that Julius Caesar after he had defeated Mark
Anthony at the battle of Actium was spoken to by a parrot who is
alleged to have said "Hail Caesar, conqueror and leader." and in
Latin too.  One wonders what he was smoking at the time?

This story was then, apparently, handed down through history, 
goodness knows why, until by the Middle Ages "Ave Caesar" had
been turned into "Ave Maria".  It's all a bit far-fetched really
especially when you're supposed to then stretch the point even
further and believe that the parrot's words contain a coded
prophecy of the Virgin birth of Christ!

During the Renaissance these pricey ornamental birds were the
status symbol of the day and, as can be seen from the accompanying
pictures, could be worn on either the left or the right hand according
to personal preference.  What's more in Holland two parrots were
the avian equivalent of the possession of rare tulip bulbs in terms
of a demonstration of wealth.

Between the 17th and 19th centuries painted parrots became fraught
with erotic meaning, because they had once symbolised Eve,
and were used to depict sexual lust and longing.  Hence the
plethora of paintings during that period of big busted old tarts
laying about with their kit off.  It had a similar effect on some of
the blokes too (see above).

It has transpired that thankfully I'm not alone, as I once thought,
in my parrot odyssey as a few years ago The Barber Institute in
Birmingham played host to an exhibition called "The Parrot in Art"
which was the brainchild of Richard Verdi it's director and a
distinguished art historian and parroteer.  And here's the best bit
-  he dedicated the exhibition to the memory of his late lamented
pair of parrots Mr Lily and Mr Lotte.

And now I'm all parroted out you'll be delirious to hear.

No I'm not.  Zitella has just reminded me that I have forgotten
Polly Wright's parrot of Deerfield.  Just visit their site if
you want to know more .....

Monday, 1 February 2016


The word "trinket" is a noun, I'm reliably informed,
and covers a whole host of things from small ornaments to
little items of jewellery.  

A momento of my first meeting with my daughter in law
Dr Suze - a little chair made from a champagne cork cradle.

Generally speaking these objects have little or no monetary
value but nearly always carry some deep, intrinsic link
with our past.  They're little reminders of someone or
something that we simply can't bear to part with.
That's probably why the chest of drawers was invented if
mine is anything to go by as it's stuffed with the bloody
things, each with their own story to tell.

A pin cushion bear made by son when he was eight.

Some people like to make their way down Memory Lane
via old photos which is perhaps the least hazardous route
to take but that's not for me.  I'm usually far too busy
trying to avoid injury from falling bits and pieces I've
collected over the years that leap out of cupboards at me
or trying not to break anything in an attempt to gain
access to my books.

Plastic greyhound who lives in my kitchen cupboard.

Such is the lot of the hoarder, the collector of small,
emotionally charged objects, the magpies amongst us
of which I am one.  I think of myself as a closet Victorian
not because I try to hide from others my attachment to
small bits and bobs - au contraire - just simply because
they're all in the closet.

The wooden dog with two tails (both now broken)
who lives in the stone with a hole in the conservatory.

The Victorians invented "souvenirs" and have a lot to answer for!
They had wonderful words for them like knick-knack,
bauble, gewgaw, gimcrack.  They even created cabinets
especially to house all their curios.  How dedicated is that?

A hairey ring if you'll pardon the expression.

But where they really excelled in their passion for personal
reminders was the momento mori, or mourning jewellery,
so packed with symbolism and stuffed full of dead hair
just like their lumpy mattresses.

Ada's sunflower

I have nothing quite so macabre but do still hang on to a
worthless little marquesite sunflower that my Victorian Granny
Hendriks always wore.  I have to admit that I didn't much care
for old Ada and when I see her pendant each morning hanging
from a vase on my dressing table I can still hear her
saying to my mother, "That child's much too flibberty gibbet
to have the patience to sew!"

Well swivel on this Granny, how wrong you were!

An old cotton reel made by my grandad next to a
picture of my father which both live in the bookcase.

Friday, 29 January 2016


Today my little sedate, sedentary, stalwart stitchers
(a fine example of illiteration for those of you who are
even remotely interested) we're off in our armchairs into
the realms of psychological phenomena.

However this does also involve the visual stimulus of the
mind to make it work but not necessarily a set of
jump leads.  Some of you may not wish to try this at
home and my response, in this instance, consists of only
one word!  No, not that one Alice dear, simply -
followed by much flapping of the elbows and loud
clucking noises.  A childish response admittedly but
nonetheless extremely satisfying.

Not a chicken but close - an owl.

So, let us continue on our voyage of discovery now that
we've weeded out the cowardy custards in our ranks.
We're going to perceive a familiar pattern of something
where none actually exists.  Yes - we're going to start seeing
things just like some of us did in the sixties but this time
without the aid of mushrooms and maybe not so many
flashing colours either.

The Jurist

There's nothing new about pareidolia, it's been around
for ever.  Leonardo da Vinci wrote about it in detail in his
notebooks and in 1566 Guiseppe Arcimboldo painted a
whole load of poultry and fish that looked like a face
in his work The Jurist.

What's this ear?

There's examples to be found everywhere if you only look.
Faces hidden in flowery curtains, little animals in the tea
leaves discarded in the sink (I really must compost more)
and even giant figures in rock formations or angels in the
clouds.  Why the other day I even thought I'd seen a man
in the dust that gathers so annoyingly under my bed but on
closer examination it just turned out to be an extreme example
of wishful thinking and nothing more.

Ssssssssh - I'm concentrating

Now we come to the climax of our psychological journey.
I want you to stare hard at this picture of Sean Bean, screw up
your eyes a bit, hold your breath, cross your legs, count
slowly to 17,594 and then tell me what you see .......

Here's my own guardian greyhound - can you see him?

You might just have caught a fleeting glimpse of the next
Long Dog masterpiece due for release later this year if you're
exceptionally lucky (or a fibber) and I'm not going to
share what I thought I saw for fear of making you all blush!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

A woman of character .......

..... with a very dirty laugh.
Who am I talking about?
There's only one person it can be, apart from myself,
- my cousin, Jan Wright.

Jan has been involved in the textile business for many years.
She's well known in the UK for knitwear design and then
she discovered overlockers and her career took off (just like
her horse Sam), in a totally new and unexpected direction.
She has lectured all over the UK and Europe and has 
produced many books and videos on her subject.

One of my girl friends, Gala, can strip and reassemble a
Kalashnikov rifle in a matter of seconds, a skill she learned
during her school days in Russia, and I'm perfectly sure Jan
could give her a run for her money when it comes to a
Babylock Evolve!  There's nothing that woman doesn't know
or can't do with her trusty machine.

Jan's sewing classes are always accompanied by fits of laughter,
her bespoke concourse d'elegance costumes always bring gasps
of admiration, her horsemanship is inspiring and her jokes are
- unrepeatable even on my blog.

When I called round recently she was busy doing a thousand
things at once as usual so I climbed into her wonderful sewing
studio over bolts of cloth, half stitched saddle blankets, dogs
and various accoutrements (what a wonderful word don't you
think?) to settle down for a good old catch up over a cup of tea
and a couple of custard creams.

Now I've finally got round to what I wanted to tell you about.
Just look at these duvet covers she's put together out of bits and
pieces of surplus lengths of material that have been laying about
for ages waiting for inspiration to strike.  Aren't they something?
And all done on an overlocker!

Lady Muck - she's ever so posh!

If you want to find out more about Jan Wright go to the website  visit her on Facebook at Oh To Sew or watch out
for my little cousin and Sam taking part in horse shows 
and equestrian events across the UK - she's the one with the
big grin and all the rosettes!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

A new year - a new design

And what a year it's going to be.
2016 isn't just any old year you know because
this summer Long Dog Samplers will be celebrating
twenty glorious, stitch filled years of designs each
one more dazzling and death defying than the last.

Each one stuffed full of colours, backstitches, 
cross stitches, happy stitches, Julia being really silly
stitches and the odd carnation and chick-a-birdie too
for good measure but also to fill in the spaces where
nothing else would fit.  See - my secret is out!

This new design is just the first of many projects scheduled
for release at intervals throughout the coming year with
the real "piece de resistance", the "Long Dog to end all
Long Dogs" (with a price to match) due to hit the road
running (because that's what Long Dogs do best)
this coming summer on our birthday.  You
have been warned so start saving your pennies now!

But to the business in hand, it is with glee and delight
that I give you the first flash of Band of Braves.

I really ought to iron these first but I hate ironing!

Band of Braves is heavily influenced by Native American
symbols and colours.  It measures 154 x 312 stitches in its moccasins,
is stitched throughout in DMC threads and the ransome
demanded on this occasion is £12.60 or a nugget of gold.

Now hurry up and buy yourself a copy before I go on the
warpath and send out a posse to bring you all in.

I'll be waiting for you!  Darn tootin' I will.
You will notice that I have refrained from adding
"yeehah" but the temptation was enormous.