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

Dorothy Rowe

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Tale of a Book

I sat down at big Mac to print off a couple of transparencies to make another acetate book, but got distracted into printing other stuff. That led to looking at Facebook, reading my emails, wandering off to do an ICAD, playing around with some watercolour - you get the picture.

Then I remembered the book. I spent some time wrestling with iPhoto, trying to get the photo to print the size I wanted, tried Word, and then decided that what I wanted to do wouldn't work. So I printed them the size iPhoto wanted them to be. On the wrong side of the acetates.

I washed off the acetates, and put them to dry. I have no idea whether I can reuse them, but it's worth a try. I got out two more, printed the photos again. On the wrong side of the acetate.

I washed off the acetates, and put them to dry. I have no idea whether I can reuse them, but it's worth a try. I got out two - er, only one left. So I printed the two photos, half size, on the one remaining acetate, and managed to get it right this time. Good job I only wanted to make a simple pamphlet book. The good news is that I have found a better way to fold acetates (score them with my patent scorer - a tapestry needle which accidentallky got stuck in a biggish bead, which makes it easier to grip). The bad news is that I scored one of them 1/4" away from the centre. The good news is that I like the way it looks anyway. The bad news is that the photos aren't very good.

In other news.

Embroiderer does embroidery! Still on my trees theme, inspired by bark, although it may not look like it at first glance.

Embroiderer also knits sock. One down, one to go.

Embroiderer also felts TOPOKIED, makes it look even odder. After felting, I cut a hole in it as well, and added a bit of stitch. Bits of it definitely look like bark - or they would do if trees were turquoise.


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Bits and Bobs

It's been another busy week, if sitting on the sofa watching bike racing can be described as being busy. It certainly gets the adrenaline flowing: I've discovered that, when your favourite rider removes himself from the race on the first day,  so you have no-one to will to win, willing somebody (anybody) to beat the one you don't want to win, is just as stressful. (It's the immature, sexist one I don't want to win, and so far I've been successful in getting him beaten.)

That isn't all we've done: yesterday we had a taster meal at the hotel where Cheese Major and his Senorita will be getting married next spring. It was delicious, but we could barely move afterwards!

I went to a Visual Marks meeting at Manor Farm (Babybel was dead jealous, especially when I told her about the baby donkey.) (I wouldn't have mentioned it if we hadn't already planned on going there when the school holidays start!)

We had a meeting there to prepare for our exhibition at the Farm over Christmas. (First, Wartime Farm, soon, Visual Marks. I don't think we will be required to dress up or operate antiquated machinery.)

I took a lot of photographs, and even made some drawings. OK, very basic ones, but fit for my purpose, designing organza appliqu├ęs. I want to get cracking on these because when term starts I don't think I'll have a lot of spare time!

I've also been working on another VM piece. Right back at the beginning we had a joint mark making session with a big piece of fabric and some thickened dyes. After some discussion we decided to divide it into nine pieces which we would embroider/quilt and reunite as a series of banners ( I think). I chose to hand embroider my piece, but it is closely woven fabric and very hard on the hands, so progress is slow.

I can't remember how far I had got by last weekend on these two, now known as TOPOKIED (the oddest pieces of knitting I've ever done). Further progress has been a bit slow, because:

a) they need more concentration than I've been able to give while watching adrenaline filled bike races, and

b) I've run out of steam.

So I started some simpler, race watching and subtitle-reading knitting. Another pair of socks. Not my favourite yarn, which is why it was still mouldering in my stash, but it won't show much inside shoes, and hand knit socks are definitely warmer and nicer than bought ones. Not that we need warm socks at the moment, but we will, we will.

There nearly wasn't a book of the week, but I came across a reference to 'acetate books' and that started me thinking.  I printed a tree photo on acetate and turned it into a very simple book. It was a bit bodged because I was in a hurry - the acetate is difficult to fold, and I made a mess of the central cut, but I think the result has possibilities. I love the way you get the printed image, the view through it, and reflections as well. I'm pondering on sewing the pages together to make it more obedient, but I'm not sure it's a good idea. I've stuck it back under my old Singer, a.k.a. the book press, in the hope of disciplining it a bit more before I decide.

Rest day tomorrow for the TDF, but not for us, it's a grandparenting day. Perhaps not as physically demanding as riding 200km, but it feels like it, at times.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

An Exciting Week

in France, that is, not at Cheese Acres. Very little has been happening here. We have been busy - watching bike racing, looking after grandchildren, watching bike racing, delivering Visual Marks' competition entry to the National Needlework Archive, watching bike racing, watching our ballet girl and boy do ballet - oh, did I mention watching  bike racing?

Since bike racing demands almost as much attention as sub-titled detective series, I have continued with last week's weird knitting - which is getting weirder.  The ginormous sock is gaining some accretions, before it meets the washing machine, and the other turquoise tube is looking more and more like an aberrant windsock. I persuaded myself I did need some more needles, but they haven't helped much - I think this yarn, which is really machine knitting yarn, is just a b****r to hand knit. But 'it's only a sample'.

As is this. In theory this is a square bipyramid, but after it was stuffed and washed it turned into a rather nice ball. No idea what I'll do with it, but it was fun to make.

I snatched a few moments this morning for the books of the week, from here. They are quite small - you can cut two covers/pages from one sheet of A4 - so I used up some of my stash of lined paper for the pages. The card I used for the cover was a bit thin so I Bondawebbed another layer inside, which covered the wrong side of the stitch neatly. They are much firmer now, and slip nicely into the pockets of my sewing and knitting baskets.

Not much progress to report, then, and there won't be much more to report for the next two weeks. And I hear there may be cycling in the Commonwealth Games in August...

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Better Late than Never

It has been a busy week. It was Eastleigh College exhibition last weekend - probably the last one I shall be involved in. What with putting up the exhibition, stewarding, and taking it down, I was in college three times in five days. It was nice to meet some friends, indulge in a little retail therapy, and admire other people's contributions, though.

The rest of the week has been beginnings and endings: to begin with the endings.

1. A pair of boot socks. Not elegant, but they make my inelegant wellies more comfortable, which is a Good Thing, and if you know why I capitalised that, you have probably read this.

2. The book of the week - perhaps a bit of a cheat because it's a needle book. It's big enough to take all my sewing needles, and fits into a pocket of the new basket, so I'm pleased with it. Plus it used up more stash, which is a Good Thing.

3. The Race for Life. Not finished by me, but by Babybel and her mum, in a time of 32 minutes, which isn't bad for a 6 year old. At least this year B. wasn't running with a broken arm, and she raised quite a lot of money for a good cause. Also a Good Thing.

4. Several knitting samples - holes, slits and bobbles, in plastic, string, raffia and fabric.  Perhaps Odd Things rather than Good Things.

To end with the beginnings.

1. Of course, the most important beginning in this house was the start of this year's Tour De France. Excellent pictures of one of our favourite parts of Yorkshire (a Good Thing), traumatic pictures of one of our favourite riders falling off in the final metres (a Bad Thing). It will not be the same without Cav. 

2. More sampling is in progress. I'm using stash to try out knitting a loooong cylinder, with every variation in the fabric I can think of. (The safety pins are so I can add a lump, bump or branch at a later date.) A Bizarre Thing?

3. This, which looks like an oversized sock knitted toe up, is destined to be felted. You may notice that there are only three needles in the photo.  It is on hold because I broke the fourth one, and despite owning enough needles to start a shop, I don't appear to have another set of 4mm double points. A Bad Thing.

4. So I have spent the afternoon watching the TDF while sorting my needle collection (only the circulars to go) in order to justify putting in an order for some double point versions of the pretty one in this photo. I justified the purchase of the pretty circular because you need humungous needles to knit scribble lace (the multicoloured bit in the bizarre sample) and trying to knit in the round with only 60 stitches on the only 12mm circular I owned was like wrestling with a recalcitrant snake. The pretty Knitpros are interchangeable, so I can add a short cable to big needles. A Good Thing.

And then I ordered some more because they are pretty, the points feel like silk, and interchangeable needles are so flexible! (OK, I already have a set of interchangeables, but the joints catch on the yarn and come undone when you don't want them to. And they are not humungous enough.)

After the sorting, I have a large bag of redundant single point needles looking for a home. (Nobody needs 8 pairs of 7mm single points - especially when she rarely knits flat. This is what happens when you inherit three knitters' stashes.) (I don't think I can justify buying some Knitpro single points, though.) This is a Good Thing in terms of stash reduction, especially if I can find a good home for them.

5. And finally, I have begun a little light heavy reading. Two books I fancied when they were first published, but couldn't justify buying - but now, well they are almost textbooks, aren't they? And I did get them second hand. And as, together they way nearly 5 kilos, I get a workout as well when I read them! Definitely a Good Thing.


Saturday, 28 June 2014

Back to Basics

After last week's maundering, back to needlework - although none of it is very exciting. 

There's a sock and a half. I'm expecting to get a bit further up the other leg during 'Inspector Montalbano' tonight. Or, as I think of it, 'Midsomer Murders with Mafiosi'. They are supposed to be wellie socks but it's been so cold here I may end up waering them around the house.

There are three little books. (One of them is stitched, so it's needlework.) I had to miss the practical session of Visual Marks the other week, but yesterday I got round to the challenge, which was to make a concertina book with pockets. Making little books is like eating Pringles, so I recycled some brown paper and made three. They all have pockets, just that some of them are more secretive than others.

And, returning to the subject of organisation, I invested in a new sewing basket. I'm not a fan of those fancy ones with flaps and compartments, and for a while I've been using a small shopping basket, which I think came as a gift with tea and biscuits in it. But it really was too small, and kept tipping over, so Google came to the rescue and I bought a bigger one.

Life is never simple. I hadn't realised quite how big it was. Things were going to get lost in the bottom. I decided to make a lining, with pockets, to keep the contents under control. There must be some suitable fabric in my stash...

Life is never simple. I realised I was going to need quite a big piece of fabric, but most of my bigger pieces were too big - dress or skirt lengths, which I am keeping in case I decide I want to dressmake again, unlikely as that is. If they weren't too big they were the wrong colour - too bright, too hand dyed or too dark - the wrong weight - too thick or too thin. 

I finally found a piece of coarse Broderie Anglaise I'd bought because it was cheap but never used because it looked it. But life is never simple. It was white and just didn't look right. I really wanted a nice light blue. Fortunately, it's cotton, so I bought some dye. 

That was the easy bit. Life is never simple, but I'll spare you all the tribulations of actually making the lining, nor will I show you close-ups of the stitching. After frequent unpicking, muttering and cursing, it is finished. And I am amazed how much I can get into it, including the varied notebooks I wittered on about last week and. those essential needlework tools, pliers and a screw driver, and it still looks half empty. I could undoubtedly get my hammer in there too, but I think that might be a step too far.

Life is never simple. I like my sewing accessories to match, and the bits and bobs I'd made for the smaller basket didn't go with the pale blue - you can see in the photo that that orange needle boob cushion has got to go. (I wonder if I can find a blue handled screw driver?)

The little plastic canvas box for oddments I made years ago was the wrong colour, and it had never been big enough, and making another one would use up most of my stash of plastic canvas and several hanks of my vintage tapestry wool, and this year is all about using up stash... 

So, I have made a bigger box, which you can see in the photo, and I'm working on a sort of matching (because I used up most of the lighter blue tapestry wool on the box) plastic canvas needle book, which may or may not replace the orange needle boob.

Procrastinating about getting back to my tree knitting? Me?

Saturday, 21 June 2014

On organisation: more than you wanted to know. Probably.

I was reading my last ever subscription copy of Quilting Arts a couple of days ago. (It and I seem to be moving in opposite directions these days - one of us likes representational, naturalistic art quilts, and one of us doesn't much. If you feel the same, I recommend 'Fiber Art Now' which is much more wide ranging and goes from strength to strength.)

But I digress. When I first glanced at QA, I found one interesting article - on Melinda Lin's organza pieces - but then I realised that Lynn Krawzyck's item, which is superficially about making a little pouch, contains some good suggestions about organisation. She distinguishes between two types of creative ideas, which she calls 'Fun' and 'Big Goals': she says fun ideas are necessary to stretch our creativity, but big goals are the more involved, artistically important, and goal oriented ideas. She gives criteria for picking your big goals, and describes how she uses index cards to break down big goals into smaller steps, and prioritise organise, and monitor the steps.

For some reason I can't remember, I have a lot of small pink index cards (plus a few blue ones). I had been thinking of using them for ICAD, but they are really too small and too pink. Krawzyck's idea seemed a better use, especially as I will need to be more focussed when I become a university student again.

Krawzyck uses pouches to hold her cards, but I remembered seeing an index card 'book' - you can guess the rest. Some scrap card, a recycled painting, Bondaweb, double sided tape, some elastic and two book rings, and I have two books. The worst bit was punching the holes, and I was very relieved when I realised I didn't have to do them all at once.

While I was making the books I was pondering on my love of organisational techniques - nicking adapting other people's, and developing my own. And now, for my benefit (clarifying my ideas) more than yours, you are going to suffer a diatribe on the subject, so you may wish to switch off now, or at least scroll down to this week's obligatory textile content.*

I am not always organised, but I can be if I need to be. I had to be at work - young people's progress, and part of the college's finances depended on it. I was reliant on other people keeping good records, so I had to develop systems that were simple for others to use, and which allowed me, and others, to extract the relevant information easily. Other people, including auditors, told me I succeeded.

One of the things I learned at work was that if something isn't staring them in the face, preferably leaping out and biting them, people will miss it. (Like the auditor who told me that a student's assessment record was missing, when the top piece of paper in the file was headed 'Assessment Record'. It wasn't the type we usually used, so he missed it.)

When I started the Foundation Degree, on a couple of occasions I lost marks because the marker thought I hadn't done something when I had. I got all bureaucratic and made some forms, to record things like time management and planning. I don't suppose anyone ever read them through, but they were bright green, clearly labelled and collated, so they were hard to miss, and my marks improved. Plus I knew where I was with my work, and what I needed to do to keep to schedule.

Of course once I finished the FDA I stopped all that, but I still keep records - of ideas, of what I've done, what I could do, and what I want to do, of materials and techniques I've used, etc. etc. etc. For a long time this was mostly scribbled notes in sketchbooks, printouts in folders, and lists on scrappy bits of paper, but it just wasn't organised enough for me. So over the last year or so, long before I thought of going back to Uni, I've begun to try to sort it out.

A few months ago I discovered Bullet Journalling. I don't use it to the extent that its creator seems to - although I might if I was still working. Nor do I use the recommended Moleskin notebooks with squared paper - I did track some down in Paperchase but jibbed at the price. Guess what, I make my own with squared file paper. (The squared paper really is better, I've tried lined and it's not as good.) 

I use the technique in a monthly journal, where I summarise what I've done and what I want to do, in real and textile lives. I use it in two disposable notebooks, substitutes for the scrappy bits of paper. I have one upstairs and one downstairs. In those I record ideas from books, and flashes of inspiration (!). And I also use the technique in themed sketchbooks, where I collate relevant ideas from the notebooks at the back of the sketchbook. Notes on the techniques and materials I've used also go in the sketchbook, on the relevant pages.

The system does involve quite a lot of rewriting, when I transfer uncompleted activities from one month to another, or from the notebooks to the sketchbook, but I like that because it makes me evaluate the ideas or activities and weed out the dross.

I've recently discovered 'Sticky', an iDevice app which sticks virtual Post-It notes in virtual notebooks. I like it because I can make notes when I'm web surfing, when I have my phone, but not my upstairs/downstairs notebooks. I can add hyperlinks, websites, or photos from the Camera Roll, and, I realised this week, I can use the camera phone within the app to add photos direct. I can save notebooks as images, which means I can print them and add them to the sketch book.. I like it so much I paid for an upgrade to allow unlimited notebooks.


I realised that I had folders and scrapbooks full of printouts and images, which I never looked at. Now I save articles to Pocket (where I do occasionally look at them) and images into a digital journal on the desktop (where I don't look at them).

But the gap in this system, which I was unaware of until I came across Lynn Krawcyck's article, was that I didn't have a system for planning and monitoring Works In Progress. Possibly because since I finished the FDA I haven't really had any serious WIPs to plan and monitor.  I do make To Do lists, far too long and on scrappy bits of paper that get lost. (The aforementioned green forms had a space for a To Do list, never longer than three items and carefully monitored.) As I see major WIPs in my future, I also see a need for a structured system for their planning. I have no idea if task management will be on the marking criteria at Uni - I rather suspect not - but, as I think I have made clear, I like having structured organisational methods - plus an excuse reason to make books...

Don't be fooled into thinking that I am one of those people who is completely organised, and lives in a neat and tidy house. I am not. Neither my house nor my workroom is tidy. I have too much stuff in too small a space and although I try to keep it under control, in the throes of creation everything comes out and ends up draped and dropped everywhere. It does get put back again when I've finished - and the next lot comes out. Nor am I so organised that I keep records of what fabrics, yarns and threads I have. That would require a major audit, plus keeping on top of what I import - although recently there has probably been net emigration, rather than immigration, of books and materials from Cheese Acres - a lot has gone to charity shops and the National Needlework Archive at Greenham. I've still got too much though. 

If you are still reading, what do you think? Do you share my need for bureaucracy or do you think I'm completely nuts? Do you have any organisational tips to share?

*Obligatory textile content.

After my last post, I pulled back the too long sock, and started again. It may still look too long, but I have tried it on and it is OK. The ribbing pulls it in, so it looks long and thin, but on my foot it is short and fat. Just like the rest of me, really.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

This week has been like the curate's egg...

 parts of it were excellent.

The worst bits were, worst to least worst;

1. Getting a (fortunately mild and brief) stomach bug.

2. This sock - designed to fill out and warm up my recently acquired yellow wellies, but too long in the foot. I think this wool is a bit of my hand dyeing - whoever did it, the dye comes off on my hands. Hope it will be better when washed.

3. The book of the week - a roughly similar design to last week's, but involving duck tape rather than gummed brown paper. Duck tape is very good at sticking to things - fingers, scissors, itself... This, plus the slightly different design and my innate clumsiness, produced a less than satisfactory outcome, somewhat rectified by neatening it drastically with a Stanley knife.

The good, but exhausting, part of the week was extra grandparenting duties. Fun, but hard work. Which meant that my 5 hours a night, insomnia busting, sleep deprivation only happened on a couple of nights. Believe me, I have not been insomniac this week.

The excellent bit was also the scariest. Ever since I finished the Foundation Degree, I've been thinking about trying to convert it into a full honours degree. My fellow FDA graduate, C, mentioned that she had applied to Chichester University to do the third year of their BA in Fine Art. My first reaction was that I couldn't possibly do that, but the more I thought about it, the better idea it seemed.

So, I applied, I had an interview on Tuesday, and I was lucky enough to be offered a place. It's part time, so it will take two years, but won't interfere with the grandparenting. Of course, now I'm torn between excited anticipation and sheer terror... Me, an art student? 

To finish off the day, on the way back from Chichester we went into Uppark, (I'm ashamed to say we've never been before) to get some lunch, and discovered there was an exhibition of contemporary art in the house. So we ate sandwiches in the sunshine, then admired the art and the house and came home. Another night when insomnia did not strike!