Four days absence.

I’ve just completed a four day embroidery school. Two projects – as different as chalk and cheese.

I probably threaded needles more than a hundred times, pricked fingers repeatedly, unpicked quite a lot, lost  a hank of threads on the Turkish rug as it blended with a part of the plush green pile.

(Our instructor, the inimitable Margaret Light with one of the ladies holding the white board.)

Plus side? Learned and finessed stitches, handled linens, silks and one ply wools of subtle colours,  developed a touch more confidence in my modest abilities, shared the time with  women of like mind and much more skill than my own, benefited from a master creative embroiderer’s knowledge, partook of delicious lunches, drank gallons of tea and water.

(Nicola Jarvis design, stitched by Anna Scott)

The room in which we stitched is a paradise, a garden of earthly delights. Forget the stitching. I could just spend hours studying the art-work, the stitched pieces, the books, the orchids, the enigmatic sculpted pieces. And all the while, the venerable clocks mark off the hours with a kind of sonorous dignity. The ambience of the room excites as well as calms.

(A stunning tree peony from the garden)

Then of course, down below the deck, there’s the garden. But maybe that’s another story.

I have come home to two e-proofs to be checked and re-checked before they are printed by Ingram-Spark – proofs of Guillaume and Michael; print books to add to the already published e-books. I’ve also come home to my blog, to quite a full email box and to two Works In Progress that are shouting at me to return them to their adventures.

I quite politely tell the characters that if they hound me, I shall merely pick up the oyster linen and continue embroidering the Scandi-styled Honesty, Scabiosa, poppy and lotus heads. Or else I will pick up the cream linen and work on the William Morris style needle-fold of Morning Glory and Wallflower.  After all, there’s months of stitchery to do in order to complete the pieces.

My characters’ choice … or maybe mine.

One could ask why take time off to do something so completely different if one pretends to be a writer?

It’s quite simple.

Any creativity needs variety and most creativity thrives on different manifestations and mediums. One fires up the other. As I stitched, so my mind searched for dozens of different words to describe colours,  relating this stitch, that fabric back  to the twelfth century which is my chosen timeframe for historical fiction. Equally in historical fantasy, my characters might embroider, weave, spin wool for thread. In my imagination, it’s quite easy to place my fellow embroiderers in a twelfth century solar, dressed in draping robes, stitching and chatting, passing the skills on. No experience is ever a lost experience for a writer. So in a way, perhaps there hasn’t been four days absence after all.

Maybe it’s actually been food for much thought.