'If you make happiness your goal, then you're not going to get to it… The goal should be an interesting life."

Dorothy Rowe

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Is it a bird?

Is it a plane? Is it an Easter egg? No, it's a Visual Marks challenge, as set by me, so I have no-one else to blame. It is the 16" oval collage, including lace and felt, inspired by the sea, and sea green in colour. I've got in everything except the 16", although you may not agree that it is 'sea green'. My choice was based on a 'sea green' T-shirt in a Cotton Traders catalogue, and what I had in the stash.

The 16" (ish) will come when I turn it into an A4 book, A3 paper being 16.5" long. It was going to be this week's book of the week, until it became clear it wasn't - it was harder than I expected to apply the ovalish bit of 'collage'. Hence the cord, which will serve, I hope, to hide the infelicitous edges.

What I learned from this:

No matter how carefully I preplan my crazy patchwork, it won't be the right size.

Cutting out a perfect oval is difficult impossible.

Even a Bernina doesn't like sewing 2 layers of cotton, 1 of felt and 1 of silk velvet.

Silk velvet is beautiful and evil.

So that meant thinking up plan B. Fortunately a bit of paper with something not unlike this on it fell out of a pile of print outs. I'm not sure where it came from, possibly here, but the original was much neater than mine. 

What I learned from this:

Ironing envelopes with windows in them is not a good idea.

I needed more envelopes than I expected.

Measure twice, cut once. (You would think I would know this by now.)

Cut the landscape pieces very slightly narrower than the accordion.

There was a good reason why I hadn't used up that bit of double sided sticky tape which came in a packet labelled glue dots - and it wasn't just because it wasn't glue dots.

Left over scraps of card with holes punched out of them will find a use eventually.

It is very easy to photograph books upside down without realising. 

The purple socks were the biggest success of the week, and despite my anxiety I didn't run out of the darker purple. You may wonder if I am becoming buried in socks, but my shop-bought ones continue to wear out (another two went this week), and I have given some to other people. Which leads me to:-

What I learned from this:

Do not show  nearly-completed purple socks to a purple loving granddaughter. She will covet them, and in exchange for being told they are too big, she will ask demand make it clear that she will be seriously displeased if I do not immediately make something for her. 

Fortunately this will be a scarf. No, it's not scarf weather,but she wants a scarf. A purple one - (good, I have a lot of odd balls of purple in my stash).

Until, on the way to Manor Farm, I go with her to Hobbycraft, for purely altruistic reasons (her daddy wants some glass paint)  when she decides she wants pink, which I do not have in my stash.

It is still possible to persuade her that the £££ per ball stuff will not work but the cheap pink acrylic will - although I suspect this will not last. (Lest you think I am a cheapskate - and I am - she is certain to lose this scarf fairly quickly.)

There are several nice free patterns on Ravelry but if you choose this one, cast on a few more stitches than it says - the pattern suggested 18, I cast on 30 and I think I may pull it back and make it a bit wider - and work a couple of extra rows of bobbles while I'm at it.

After the scarf debacle, while the sun shone, I didn't make hay, but I did do some big drawings of trees. Sort of. One is three blind contour drawings of different trees on the same piece of paper, the others were tracings of two different tree shadows on the same piece of paper.

What I learned from this:

Multiple blind contours work best if there is lots of contrast between the different media - which I didn't have.

Shadows move quickly, even if it isn't very windy.

My aged joints are not keen on sitting/kneeling on the ground to draw on A1 sheets of paper.

When you are tracing shadows the only cloud in an otherwise cloudless sky will move across the sun.

Despite all this, tracing shadows is fun and I got some interesting patterns.

What I haven't learned worked out is what to do next with them.

More mistakes learning opportunities next week!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

When I realised...

it was Sunday (I'm always hazy about what day it is between our 'work' on Mondays and Thursdays) I found myself wondering where the week went. And then I realised it went into 3 days with the little guys (albeit shorter days than usual) and three evenings of recovering from 3 days with the little guys. Still, we had fun - an Easter egg hunt at Mottisfont in the rain, the 'spin tower' + a return trip on the Gosport ferry, also in the rain, and, for old times sake, the ducky place in sunshine. (For those not in the know, the Gosport Ferry is Portsmouth's answer to the Staten Island Ferry - just smaller, quicker and with more historical but slightly less spectacular views.  I'd say 'cheaper' as well, but I strongly suspect it isn't.)

OK, that's only 3 days out of 7, but other, mostly less interesting but less tiring grown up activities have got in the way of textiles as well.

So I have only made slow progress on the Visual Marks challenge - although the pressure eased a little when I realised that I can't go to the meeting next Tuesday, due to extra little guy minding. 

Not sure about thad odd bit on the right, the primary purpose of which is to cover up some fraying fabric. I think it will have to come out.

And I still haven't worked out how to get some felt into it, as per the criteria.

The weekly book was an insomniac quicky (which sounds a bit like something completely different, but for that you need two insomniacs...). A variation on the 'instant book', it is mostly 'here's one I made earlier' - pre-painted card, an unsuccessful screen print from last week, and a bit of glue. I think it needs some stitch, which might have been better done before I stuck on the cover, but it was 2 a.m. And if I'd measured it properly the pages would not have been bigger than the cover. I could trim one side, but if I'd trimmed the central fold the whole thing would have fallen apart, hence the extra fold in the fold.   

Today was meant to be spent fulfilling a promise I made before Christmas, when I gave the little guys' mum and dad some redundant cushions. As they didn't match their decor, I promised to make some cushion covers for them, but it didn't happen. Fortunately, as it happened, as they have now redecorated and aubergine cushion covers would no longer do.

On Friday I discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that if you go to the right place it is still cheaper to make cushions covers than to buy them. And you don't end up with redundant cushion pads because shop bought covers always seem to come with pads these days. 

I haven't made cushion covers for a while and I thought I could whip up four plain ones today. (I remember how long City and Guilds cushions take, but that involves designing, and costing time and money, and embroidering, and rememebring to do something fancy on the back as well because your tutor will always look at the back and fail you if you haven't...)

I can hear the hollow laughter of experienced cushion makers from here.

I managed one. Partly because I changed my mind part way through, and partly because it was my first experience of using continuous zips (why did no one tell me how wonderful they are, even if they only come in the wrong colour?) and I had to Google them. But mostly because it takes longer than I thought it did. 

And I'm not sure the little guys' dad will like it anyway, so it is probably better to take this one as a sample and get his opinion before I go any further.

My knitting has been more satisfactory. I discovered another advantage to the random stripes pattern - apart from using up oddments of wool, and it not mattering if you miscount the rows in a stripe. If you think you are in danger of running out of the cuff, heel and toe colour (it has been known) you can make the random stripes a little less random so you use more of the other colour. And you would never have known if I hadn't told you.  

Of course you have to be the sort of person who doesn't mind wearing non-matching socks, but I figure anyone who spots that they don't match will only do so because they are grovelling at my feet, when it won't matter.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

An easy week?

We thought we were going to have an easy week, because we had the day off from child care on Monday. We took the opportunity to go down to Stourhead, walk round the garden, and buy some cheese. (If you got to Stourhead, do go into the farm shop - 30+ varieties of West Country cheese and lots of other goodies.)

The weather wasn't brilliant, but the spring flowers made up for it, although it was sad to see the effects the storms had had on some of the trees.

Tuesday was errands, Wednesday and Thursday were child care (we didn't really have a day off, it just moved - though it was shorter than usual) so it was Friday before I got down to anything serious in the workroom.

Like book making. Five 'books of the week' plus last week's. I used my drawings from Dionne Swift's course, and every variation of the boustrephodon book I could find - some of them twice.  Some of those pages are quite inspiring!

Yesterday I hauled out the screen and tried screen printing from the long neglected bit of net with lace and stitch on it. With very little success, as you can see. The right side resolutely refused to print. The best one was when I printed with nothing under the screen, to use up the paint.

I meant to try using the net with the Gelli plate today, but my arthritis is playing up at the moment, so I decided to spend the afternoon on the sofa with my knitting. But then, when I tried to sort out the photos for this post, iPhoto, on what the VHC calls the high-pad, kept crashing, which meant I had to bite the bullet and deal with the excess of photos I have had on it. Which meant facing up to iPhoto on Big Mac, a far greater challenge. In theory, I save my photos on Big Mac, which has a much bigger memory, and then delete them from the high-pad. In theory I do it every week. In practice - I don't. And because I haven't done it for ages, I couldn't remember what I'd saved and what I hadn't.

But, after an hour or two of muttering and cursing, I have a whole 4.8GB available. Luxury!

Despite this trauma, the accursed fraternal socks have been completed, with only a small striping error, easily corrected, on the second one, and I have started a second pair, same basic idea, just finer yarn and more stitches. (But why do I keep picking colours which are difficult to distinguish in artifial light?)

I have also done a little more on 'Full Fathom Five' for Visual Marks. 

Next week is the Easter holidays, which means we get to spend more time with the VHC and Babybel.  Trips to Mottisfont and 'Spin Tower' are planned, after which more sofa recovery time will be necessary, assuming the technology will let me...

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Book of the Week

A quick and dirty book made from one of the A1drawings I made on Dionne Swift's course. To construct it you fold the paper in half lengthways, into quarters widthways, and then cut three quarters of the way up the lengthways fold. The advantage of this is that the paper can still be opened out to full size. I have found more complex versions called accordion books, snake books, ox plow books or boustrephodon books - take your pick. 

After I'd made it, I realised I didn't need two pieces of string to tie it together, but I rather like the look of the result.

I may do the same with the remaining drawings, as it makes an easier way to store them. And each one will use two of my large humungous pile of book mailers, which has to be a good thing. (My mother hoarded plastic bags, I hoard cardboard. Amongst other things.) 

I also managed to have a quick go at the second week of Dionne's course.

Inspirational drawing on the left, two sides of the Embellished and sttiched version on the right. Being me, I think it needs some colour - preferably red. (Note to self: try using some other colour with black and white. You know it makes sense.)

Thanks to Sandy for saying I make her laugh. That is sometimes my intention. 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Life has its little ups and downs.

The week started badly when our child minding journey took nearly three times as long as it normally does - overturned lorry. At the moment, luckily, we are going later and not taking the little guys to school, so there was no desperate need to get there on time, but then if we had been doing our customary silly o'clock trip, we would probably have missed the worst of the congestion. 

The second down of the week was this. I do know how to turn a heel, honest: but when you get too engrossed in wildly improbable British detective series you can end up turning it twice. Yes, I confess, we were watching 'Midsomer Murders'.

For those not au fait with sock knitting, 'turning the heel' is the process which changes a vertical tube which fits the leg, to a horizontal tube which fits the foot. Working two heels, as I did, would give a sock which turned through 180 rather than 90 degrees. I'd already pulled it out once because it was too narrow, so it took three attempts to get it right. 

The pattern is an adaptation of this one with different heels and toes, but the errors I made are all mine. 

However, those downs were more than balanced by the ups, chiefly the completion of numbers 3 (well, in part) and 4 on last week's 'to do' list.

1. Dionne Swift's course.

2. The book of the week.

3. My piece for Visual Marks, plus making some stamps, both for next month.

4. The self-imposed nine part series for Contemporary Textiles Workshop, for after Easter.

5. Knitting.

Here are the stamps, and my test stampings.  The image in the centre shows the cloth we painted at Visual Marks, which inspired it all. What we are going to do with them will be revealed at the next meeting...

And this is my 3D, fit-in-a-coffee-cup series. (Yeh, right. Individually, maybe, sort of.) From top left to bottom right, washers, paper coils, laced broken chopstircks, knitted worms I cord, embroidery (!), wrapped pipe cleaners, gathered cloth, sprayed paper balls, buttons.


I realised that although my original intention had been to represent everyone's marks from the original exercise, (see left), I'd ended up mostly doing circles and lines. So I converted the sort-of-leaf shapes into spirals, made some more lines and circles, constructed an outer box and called it done.

I enjoyed doing it, which is probably why I let it take priority over more urgent things. I've made odd little things in boxes before, and there may possibly be more in my future, when I've decided what I want to do when I grow up - apart from being Scandinavian, which is already decided (or Welsh). (Indecisive, moi?)

Today I've started my challenge for Visual Marks - the thing which has to be a 16" oval collage, including lace and felt, inspired by the sea, and sea green in colour. 

The first two criteria were my biggest problem - I usually work smaller or much bigger than 16", and the thought of a 16" oval was very scary uninspirational. But then I realised that A3 paper is just over 16" on the longer side, and if you fold it in half you get A4-ish book pages. So I could make a book and put a sea themed oval cartouche on the front. That was a step forward, but I was fixated on the idea that the cartouche would have to contain a representational image of the sea - you know, beach, sea, sky, waves, maybe a dinghy and some seagulls - and I don't do representational. Plus I had a bit of Shakespeare running through my head - this bit.

    Full fathom five thy father lies; 

              Of his bones are coral made; 

    Those are pearls that were his eyes: 

              Nothing of him that doth fade, 

    But doth suffer a sea-change 

    Into something rich and strange.                 

My problem was solved when I decided that 'something rich and strange' could be silks, satins, beads, maybe a few pearls - in crazy patchwork. Well, crazy patchwork is sort of like collage, isn't it? So, after Googling how to draw an oval, I started. 

So now my list looks like this:

1. This week's work for Dionne's course -which I intend to tackle tomorrow.

2. The Visual Marks crazy patchwork for next month.

3. Book of the week - also for tomorrow, unless I run out of time, when number 2 will have to stand in.

4. The other sock. Preferably without three attempts at the heel.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

How to set priorities and manage your time. By an expert.

I knew this was going to be a busy week, including as it did a birthday do, two childminding days and a meeting of Visual Marks. 

The birthday do (mine) was at Winchester Science Centre (followed by cake at home) and I think that a good time was had by all.

I can't comment on the quality of the Visual Marks session because I led it this month, talking about using mind maps, word association etc. in designing. We played an adaptation of 'embroidery consequences', which I found here. As a result I have to make a 16", oval collage, which includes lace and felt, which is inspired by the sea, and, which, fortuitously, is sea green in colour. And as it was my idea I feel obliged to have a go. Add all that to the book of the week, the work for Contemporary Textiles and the ongoing knitting, and I had plenty to do.

Unfortunately I had forgotten that an on-line course I had signed up for started this week.

The course is Dionne Swift's 'Drawing for Textiles' and having previously taken her 'Developing Sketchbooks' course, (it was good, that's why I signed up for another one) I knew that she would be giving us plenty to do - and I couldn't start till Wednesday.

So in the best principles of time management I made a prioritised list.

1. Dionne's course - daily exercises of up to an hour, to be done this week.

2. The book of the week - for this weekend.

3. My piece for Visual Marks, plus making some stamps, both for next month.

4. The self-imposed nine part series for Contemporary Textiles Workshop, which is so far away I'm not   

    even sure when it is - certainly after Easter...

5. Knitting - no time pressure. (Whew!) 

Knitting is an evening, slumped in front of the telly recovering from the day activity, so it gets done no matter what, and I managed to finish the mittens which started off as socks, and start another pair of socks. (The mittens, and the cowl I made earlier, will, of course, ensure there is no repeat of last year's end of March snow.)

So what did I spend Wednesday and Friday doing? 

These, for CTW.

Plus I've got the makings of two more, and then there's this, using a twisted cord I made earlier. It seemed like a good idea at the time. 

I know what it makes me think of, but if W thinks I'm making another and wearing them, he's being uncharacteristically optimistic.

To be fair to myself, I have spent today having fun layering blind contour drawings, tracing shadows (when there were any shadows to trace), and drawing curved objects using 30cm or 10cm straight lines. Next up is drawing with different media on a long stick, and pattern making with extracts from the drawings - but I've got an app for that... Next week we move on to textiles.

After that I was knackered - so I thought I'd make the book. Earlier in the week, in a fit of optimism, I had pulled out my Tarot Artists' Book Ideation Cards, which suggested I make a manifesto based (!?!), whimsical book, with an asymmetrical, innovative structure, in neutral, muted or pastel colours, including transparency and pockets or windows, using high tech techniques and abstract, non-verbal or garbled text, and collaborating with another artist for the images. So no pressure there. 

Needless to say, I decided to ignore all that and make something really simple and quick. I pulled out Esther K. Smith's 'How to Make Books' which has some interesting versions of simple forms, and spotted an 'instant book' made from an envelope. Good, I have envelopes. 

I happened to choose one with a window in it.  

You may be able to see where this is leading...

A transparent window! That's two of the nine Ideation Card criteria!

I went back the list. 

I thought I could describe it as whimsical, and the colour was muted, so that's another four out of nine. But it wasn't asymmetrical. Could I fold an asymmetrical one? Three books later (you can see them bottom right - the first book, one try-out which worked, one attempt at the real thing which didn't work because I didn't follow the techniques I'd tried out, and my final successful attempt) I had my book. And I decided it was innovative. So that was six! I was two thirds of the way there!

The next problem was to decide what 'manifesto-based' meant. Well, I still don't know, but I know what a manifesto is, so I wrote my own, and used Wingdings to type it out (high tech and garbled text in one go!). I was rather pleased that the Wingdings symbol for the first letter of the title is a bomb, it seemed appropriately manifesto-ish, although mine is entirely peaceful.

So there was just the collaborative image. Well, I can't claim that whoever designs clip art for Microsoft knew s/he was collaborating with me, but, with some difficulty, I found an image which suited my manifesto and added that. (Microsoft were very happy to sell me an expensive copy of Word for my Mac, but whatever I paid them clearly was not enough to persuade them to make it easy to find or download clip art from their website...)

So much for my quick, simple book!

Tomorrow will be spent drawing with things on sticks and making stamps. Or not, as the case may be.

* i assume that you, gentle reader, recognise irony when you meet it. 

Friday, 14 March 2014

Where was I?

As I remember, bracing myself for the invasion of the little guys. But before that, I went to another session of the Contemporary Textiles Workshop, which was not what quite what I was expecting. We had been told to bring sticks and wire, so I was anticipating 3D constructions of a type I've done before. 

We started with a communal mark making activity on paper, similar to those we've done at Visual Marks. We picked a mark and made it repeatedly on each sheet of paper, using a variety of media. The papers were torn up, and we all got 4 pieces to inspire us in working on a series ('a series is more than two') of 3D pieces. Which had to fit into a cup.

The marks included circles, spirals, leaf and tree like marks, and my split circle with a line through it which has developed from my initials. The difficulty was, of course, moving from 2D to 3D, but in my bedtime reading I'd come across some designs made with what I can only describe as overgrown quilling, in circular frames. Inspired by the circle and spirals I decided to use torn paper strips to make short tubes (now what does that remind me of?), but in a square frame because it was easier to do. I measured the tutor's rather large cup to make sure it would fit. It will, provided I don't get too enthusiastic about making it reach the bottom. Or much beyond the lip, really...

One thing led to another and before long I had two frames. The contents of the second were made from some mono-printed fabric with spirals on it, although as I gathered it you can't see them. However the graininess of the print resembles some of the marks.

I have since made another frame, with added buttons. Circles again. The colour scheme is pretty repetitive for me, too. I have a mad ambition to make 9 in total, and fit them in an outer frame, hence the pile of recycled and painted sushi chopsticks, (which were not the sticks I'd taken and which are now not going to become another piano hinge book). I think things may drift a little from the original inspiration, however...

Everything went onto the back burner, of course, while the little guys were here. The new sleeping arrangements were given their seal of approval - to the extent that we had to go upstairs every couple of hours to look at 'my new Thomas bed'. It was the first thing mummy and daddy were shown when they came to collect the pair. Babybel assured me that the horse blanket was exactly what she had wanted when she asked me to make her one, so that was a success too.

Since Sunday, however, things have not been so successful. The latest pair of socks has been frogged as I realised that there was just not enough wool to make two. I started a pair of mittens/hand warmers (depending on wool consumption) but the first one has also been frogged because I realised that my stitch count was off, and I needed a bigger size.

And my plans to make another 6 framed 3D constructions were put on one side when I got caught up in a major workroom re-organisation. Since last autumn I have been slowly working through all the books in my workroom, deciding which ones to keep, and which to get rid of. (Local charity shops will be receiving several bags of books.)

I wasn't intending to tackle the shelf full of sketchbooks after I had finished all the proper books*and I can't remember now how I got started, but once I had, I had to finish. Most of what I used to call 'sketchbooks' pre C&G, were just scrapbooks, and my tastes have clearly changed since then, so the majority of those have gone in the recycling. (One of the few advantages of having used glue stick is that it was very easy to remove the few images I did want to keep.)

I have preserved almost all of the proper 'sketchbooks' - not that there are many 'sketches' in them, mostly cut paper, prints etc. I was pleased by how interesting I found the pre- and post-degree ones - and surprised by how uninspiring the degree ones were - perhaps a reflection of my lack of confidence about what I was doing? 

After I'd sorted the sketchbooks, I had to rearrange all the other books. Good exercise with floor to ceiling shelves. But I now have much less junk on the work surface - all my works in progress in their cat litter trays are neatly stacked on some of the emptied shelves. It won't stay neat for long - and 'neat' is, of course, a relative term...

Apart from the sorting and unknitting, not much creative has happened, although I did find time one insomniac night to make a series of books of the week, using the inspirational papers from CTW. 

And we managed some gallery visits. We had a day off from grandchild minding on Monday, so went down to Walford Mill to see the Cabinets of Curiosities exhibition - some good stuff. And on Wednesday between Wensleydale's haircut and my birthday lunch, we went to the Discovery Centre to see 'Hidden' - massive photographs of people like Hilda of Whitby and Tom Paine, and events like the Peasants' Revolt and the Swing Riots. No, photography wasn't invented then, but Red Saunders has recreated them on a large and dramatic scale. The accompanying video was well worth looking at, too.

Now I've written all that lot, I wonder why I feel I haven't done much?

*well, those in the workroom - there are a few more in the spare bedroom, which will get the treatment soon.