Friday, August 24, 2012

Château du Clos Lucé, Loire Valley

This post outlines some of our adventures on our Spring Trip in April/May 2012.

Here we are at the Château du Clos Lucé. This castle was built in 1471 and has the honour of being the final home of Leonardo da Vinci. (As well as home to other Kings and royalty beforehand, but what did they ever invent? Yeah, exactly.)

Chateau du Clos Lucé, castle entrance, Loire Valley, France

In 1516, King François I, a huge fan of Leonardo's, invited the scientist to come and live at the castle (the King lived at the nearby Château d'Amboise).

The gardens of Chateau du Clos Lucé in the Loire Valley, France

Leonardo live here for the last three years of his life with an allowance and his works financed by the King.

A bust of Leonardo da Vinci at Chateau Clos Lucé
Leonardo da Vinci

A true admirer, all the King asked for in return was to be able to talk to Leonardo, which he apparently did nearly every day.


Guess which painting Leo brought with him when he moved in?

The Mona Lisa
Oh yes he did

The castle is nicely decked out in period furniture:


In the basement is the model room, which shows scale models of some of Leonardo's many inventions.

A model of a military tank designed by da Vinci.

In the basement there is also the secret passage that's said to lead to the Château d'Amboise. The King would use it to pop in for a visit when he couldn't be bothered getting out amongst the peasants.


The castle is indeed lovely, but the highlight (especially for the kids) is the extensive gardens around the residence. Parc Leonardo da Vinci contains several life sized versions of his inventions, set up for interaction.


Here's the tank again, this time built as one of those merry-go-round things you sit in and spin until centrifugal forces push your brains out your ears and vomit out your nose. Fun!


Leonardo was a prolific inventor. Just a small portion of his inventions are represented in this room of little models, just outside the castle.

Can you imagine how awesome a sewing machine Leonardo could invent were he alive today?

Quite the architect (as well as artist, engineer, twelve-time strip poker champion) Leonardo was also keen on designing staircases. Although not proven, most folks think that he designed the famous double helix staircase at François I's Chambord castle.


Another of Leonardo's designs, this time a bridge over a pond:


Where this poor duck and her mate were being harassed by a rather vicious fish:


At exactly 11:55am the two ducks hopped out of the pond:


And waddled over to the café next door just in time for lunch at midday.


After lunch, we spent the afternoon wandering through the gardens:


I loved this 15th century pigeon house in the grounds.


Square on the outside and octagonal on the inside, it has 1000 little niches for pigeon pairs to live in.


Pigeons were serious chi-ching back in the day. You could eat or sell the pigeons and their eggs, plus they produced lots of quality fertiliser for the owner's veggie gardens.

The kids got a good work out on the playground:


We all played 'spot the Leonardo invention' as we went around:


I suggested that perhaps we also get a life size drawing of a naked man to hang in our garden, but my suggestion didn't make it through the committee.


I'm just trying to bring more science into our lives, that's all.

Leonardo da Vinci's flying machine

So, that was the Château du Clos Lucé - a visit definitely recommended for families and those interested in the fascinating life of the great Leonardo da Vinci.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Liberty or Death

Don't get those petticoats in a twist, I'm not making a political statement - just a declaration of fabric adoration.


The liberty I'm talking about here is the gorgeous fabric of Liberty of London. If you've spent any time looking around the craft blogosphere, you'll know that some ladies would indeed die (and maybe kill?) for it.

The Organic Stitch Co. is holding a Liberty Scrap Challenge - I received some Liberty charm squares and was challenged to come up with a project tutorial.

You can find the master list of all the tutorials over at Nova's A Cuppa and a Catchup, and the flickr group for the Challenge is here. There are some truly gorgeous creations on both sites.

If you'd like to let the world know how much you love your Liberty, read on to find out how to make this project yourself.

I started with:
  • a Liberty charm square sized scrap (with a small scale pattern)
  • coordinating embroidery thread (perle cotton)
  • linen
  • double sided adhesive sheet (bondaweb, etc)
  • 7 inch diameter hoop
First of all I traced the hoop onto some plain paper which I then cut out and folded into quarters. The folds help immensely in centring your design (especially if you have a lined cutting/craft board).


For my lettering I tossed up using various pretty scripts but in the end I went for the font used on the Liberty logo. (You watch me get a cease and desist letter over this.)


I used my fold lines to help centre the two sections of the phrase:


Obviously the word 'Liberty' doesn't contain all the letters we need - I just ad-libbed and used the B to craft the D, the E to make an O, the R to make the A and pulled an H out of my proverbial.

Once I was happy with the placement I went over my pencil with Sharpie and then taped it up on a window.

Even window dust deserves liberty

Using the window as a kind of lightbox, I could trace the design onto my linen with a water soluble pen.


Then I googled 'George Washington silhouette', 'Thomas Jefferson silhouette' and browsed until I found one I liked. I printed it out, tested it for size, adjusted the percentage and then printed again.



I put my double sided adhesive sheet on top of the silhouette and traced it on the paper backing. Note: if you don't care which way your George faces, just trace away. But if you want him to face the same way as your picture, you will need to reverse your picture first.


My silhouette was fairly detailed - I smoothed over it a bit to make it easier to cut out and embroider. You can thank me later for the chin lift, G Dub.

Put the non-papered side of your adhesive sheet against the back of your Liberty charm and iron it on, according to your product's instructions.


Let it cool completely, then cut it out along your tracing marks.

At this stage I embroidered my lettering before ironing the silhouette down as I didn't want the handling of the work to stress my George. I used stem stitch for my letters - see a great video tutorial on that here.

Once the lettering is complete, wash away your water soluble pen and then re-iron your linen (face down, on top of a towel so you don't flatten all your lovely stitches).


Right: lettering complete. Now remove the paper backing from your silhouette, centred it and iron in place.


I used a very small blanket stitch to detail my edges - the short stitches let you get around those curves. You could also use floss if you find perle cotton too thick.


Once you've finished your silhouette, give it a quick iron and you can pop it in your frame straightaway, no problems. If you would like to add a small finishing touch, you can wrap your frame with some Liberty too. I found a tutorial for this here at little lovelies, via sewingseed.

I cut some fabric into half inch strips and fired up the 'ole glue gun. Starting at one end of the outer hoop I glued the fabric on the inside of the hoop and wrapped it around and around covering the wood.


If your fabric strip runs out, glue it down on the inside of the hoop (cut off any excess) and then start a fresh strip. Continue until the end.


There are many ways to finish off the back of your work, I like to finish mine off like this.


I use double sided tape to stick the edges of the linen down.


Then I create a padded, fabric covered back board from cardboard:


It usually stays in place on it's own (it's kind of spring loaded in there), but today I undercut my cardboard. A few strategic dabs of hot glue helped (not too much and only on your doubled over fabric so it doesn't soak through to the front of your work.) Voilà:


And there you have it, a subversive message within a subversive message. Just the way I like it.


For bags of lovely Liberty scraps, don't forget to check out Jo's shop at the Organic Stitch Co!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Les Jardins d'Albertas in Bouc-Bel-Air

Thank you for all the encouragement regarding my new point and shoot camera - I'm hoping things will only get better once I read the instruction manual!

Jardins d'Albertas in Provence, France

I've put all the camera details and the reasons why I chose it in on my Resources page for those who are interested.


Wednesday was a public holiday here so we took a little excursion to the nearby Jardins d'Albertas. 

Jardins d'Albertas fountain, Provence, France

Their website shows a short video of the flower markets they hold in the Spring (which we sadly have not attended).


We have, however, visited the gardens before - almost exactly 2 years ago.


I took my DSLR that day - yesterday I brought the point and shoot.


These were all taken with the automatic setting (because I still haven't read the manual) and I think they turned out pretty well for not too much effort on my part!


And so we wind down to another weekend. The mister is taking off to participate in an epic, one-week biking event (the Haute Route) for which he's been training very hard. He is indeed crazy. Crazy with very tight buns. Je profite, non? 

Have a great weekend, everyone! See on Monday with a little Liberty tutorial.


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