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

Dorothy Rowe

Thursday, 29 May 2008

It's not procrastination

but as I am sure that I can finish the box by the end of next month – I gave myself a day off. Here is a picture of the completed lid to prove I am well on the way.

As it was lovely and sunny when we woke up, we decided to have a tripette out to Stockbridge Down, National Trust downland with an Iron Age hill fort on top. It was less sunny when we went out after lunch, but still warm enough not to need coats. We had a pleasant walk – fortunately the car park is at the bottom of the hill so we did the climb while we were still fresh and stumbled downhill again at the end. It isn’t really very far but we are old and decrepit!

We did seem to be the only people there without an animal of some sort, canine or equine – apart from what Cheese Major once called a ‘joggler’. [CMa was about three at the time.]

The views from the top of the Down are stunning – this is Danebury Ring, a neighbouring hill fort which recently featured in a TV programme. [You have probably go the impression that Wensleydale and I watch a lot of TV – we don’t, but the programmes we do watch seem to link to places we visit, like Danebury, or would like to visit, like China, Japan, India again, Egypt again …]

Of course I couldn’t come back empty handed so as there was no National Trust shop to spend money in – I acquired these. The star shape is flint. Any bone experts know what animal the bone might have come from? The hill side is riddled with rabbit holes, but it looks a bit big for a rabbit.

No tea shop either – we could have gone into Stockbridge to find one but came home instead, rather than offset the benefits of the walk with tea-shop cake.

Half an hour after we got home the heavens opened –rain, thunder, the full works. It has eased off a bit but it is still raining pretty heavily. Of course it is schools’ half term holiday…

Back to work this evening – I will work on the hand embroidery on the sides of the box while I listen to the TV – or more likely, Radio 3.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

In case you think I have been suspiciously quiet

about the box that used to be a lampshade - it has been making steady progress.
This unlovely object is the full size mock-up, which for once I made before the real item. I’m glad I did because I decided that the proportions were wrong and that my original idea of ‘leaf litter’ on its own didn't work and it needed a focal point – hence that spray of leaves. [Leaves again – there is definitely a pattern here.]

I also changed the design of the sides after Wensleydale dropped some heavy hints. ‘Are you going to do the sides like that?’ - which always means ‘I don’t like it.’

I have also:

painted and over painted some fabric for the sides and base [not brilliant but most of it won’t show, and I’ve run out of the crucial colour of paint];

Stamped leaves in Lumiere paint on silk organza and machine embroidered them. I love how they look on the fabric – almost too nice to cut up, but I made myself wield the scissors. However I think I will make myself a stole this way ACAG [after C and G];

Finished the embroidery of the top panel, apart from adding beads which I left until I had decided where the spray would go;

Made the spray;

Prepared the fabric for the sides;

Padded the frame for the embroidery and the base and laced the fabric over the base.

I’m exhausted just typing all that!

Busy day tomorrow but I hope to get the frame covered and possibly the embroidery mounted in it – and more work on the sides.

I think I will finish this by the end of June!

No Tuesday trip this week as I was working on the box and Wensleydale was DIYing – but we did have a tripette on Friday. There are currently 2 very different art exhibitions on in Winchester ‘Discovery Centre’. [I hate the name – it’s the Library!]

The first is ‘Art and Artefacts’ – details here – scroll down:


Immaculate work but many of them are a bit too whimsical for me!

In complete contrast:


We saw Hodgkin’s exhibition at the Tate a couple of years ago and thought his work was stunning – the prints are different but just as good. There is one of a palm tree at the entrance that I would have loved to have brought home - anyone got a few thousand £££ to spare?

Monday, 26 May 2008

Good day / bad day

As I mentioned, we went to visit Babybel and her mum and dad on Saturday. Babybel is six months old and growing rapidly. She is sitting up, taking a lively interest in everything and beginning to babble. She also has two teeth, somewhat to her mum’s regret!

We had a good day – Wensleydale helped fix the leak and then we sat in the garden playing and gossiping. [As I expected the hoodie I had made was too big but I have started a smaller one.]

The day took a down turn on our way home. It was a public holiday weekend and the start of a school holiday so we had expected the traffic to be bad. However, in the morning we were driving into London and most people were going the other way, so it wasn’t too bad. Coming home around 6 was much better as the traffic had eased off – until on the quietest bit of the journey we were overtaken [just] by a guy in a battered car who clearly was not in control of it.

We were not surprised, a few miles on, to find him in the ditch, facing the wrong way, with power cables draped around the car. He had hit a wooden electricity pole and snapped it about half way up – which suggests the car was in the air at the time. He was slumped in his seat, but moving.

Other people had already stopped and phoned the emergency services, but we did too, as we wanted to make sure the police knew how he had been driving. Fortunately no-one else had been involved.

The ambulance and police came very quickly: according to the policeman who spoke to us the guy was ‘in drink’ [a phrase I have only ever heard policemen use!]. I don’t know how they knew because he wasn’t in a fit state to be breathalysed and the paramedics were being very cautious because of the power cables!

The police took Wensleydale’s name and address and sent us on our way – I haven’t been able to find out how the guy is but the road was closed till the next morning and the residents of the neighbouring village must have been without electricity for most of that time.

So that rather spoiled what had been a good day until then. I just hope we never come any closer to a drunk driver than that! And I have to confess that I don’t feel very sorry for him.

Friday, 23 May 2008

It's official

I am no longer making a lampshade. Unfortunately the teacher felt that a book would not fit C&G criteria, since it is not a ‘household object’. [They are in this household – we probably have more books than any other object]. However we compromised on a box.

I came home from college early, found my books on making boxes, and by the time Wensleydale got back from governing I had decided what I wanted to do. One like this – only rectangular, rust coloured and [probably] shallower.

I had one of my bouts of insomnia this morning so by breakfast time I had found the fabrics and card I need and painted some more silk. Procrastination? What’s that?

Of course I have run out of steam now…

Not much will get done tomorrow as we are off to see Mr and Mrs Cheese Minor and Charlotte [a.k.a. Babybel]. Just to prove that I have kept busy while I have been procrastinating about the lampshade, I am taking this with us. I think it will be a little big for her, but I am sure she will grow into it.

As usual Wensleydale will be helping with plumbing while I play with the baby – seems fair to me!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

I've been tagged

by Jackie at


She has such a lovely blog, and does such beautiful embroidery - how could I refuse?

So here goes:

The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.[I am not going to do this - nay volunteers?] Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?

It's hard to remember that far back! Teaching - I was still newish to the job [special needs in a VIth form college] and it was still scary / exciting. And worrying about whether Cheese Minor would get into the university of his choice.[He did.]

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today?

Apart from answering these questions -
Make sample leaves for my new 3D piece;
Go to the gym;
Paint some papers for design work;
Put the postcards I bought at the exhibition we went to yesterday into my 'Exhibitions I have been to' scrapbook for C&G.

All achieved apart from No. 3

3) Snacks I enjoy.

Bread and butter. Sandwiches. Toast. [A bread-maker is a dangerous thing.]

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire.

Mmm - a billionaire? I do periodically dream of winning £1,000,000 on my £10 worth of Premium Bonds [had them since 1969, never won anything]. I don't even know how many 0s there are in a billion.

Obviously, share some of it with the family and make sure we've got enough for a comfortable retirement. I like to think I'd give the rest to Oxfam but I suspect I'm not really that public spirited!

5) Places I have lived.

Stockport, Newcastle on Tyne, East Bergholt in Suffolk, Bangor, Leicester, Wigan, Leatherhead, Wonersh just outside Guildford., Washington [not the US one], East Bergholt again, and Hampshire. In the future, we hope, somewhere in Powys.

6) 6 people I want to know more about.

Not sure I understand the question. I am not very nosy about other people's private lives, if that's what it means. However there are lots of people I would love to spend a day in their studio with - too many to mention!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

I have not had a good two days!

Several minor hassles on Monday – nothing major but all irritating.

Today we had a Tuesday trip to Guildford. Cheese Major and Cheese Minor were born there and we go back quite often – not to visit the ‘re-purposed’ workhouse in which they were born, but because it is the best shopping centre around.

On the programme today was:
1. lunch at Loch Fyne:
2. a visit to the Wey Valley Embroiderers’ exhibition in the Guildford House Gallery and
3. shopping in Lush and Waterstones.

Between 1 & 2 I went to the bank to get some cash – but the ATM told me it was an ‘Unauthorised Transaction'. As we were in the bank I queried it – and was directed to their phone to call the call centre to find out what was happening.

Well – any call to a call centre is going to be a long process. [At least the bank were paying for it.] Wensleydale sensibly found himself a chair. This call centre is in the UK – in Bootle, for a guess from the accents – but I still got the soothing music and was redirected round umpteen different recorded messages and three real people.

It turns out that someone in the US had tried to get 51p [i.e. $1] out of my account. The bank had detected that it was fraudulent and frozen the account. I am grateful that they did but now I have to wait until they send me a new card. And I can’t get a mini statement from the ATM to check on any other withdrawals.

After that I couldn’t really concentrate on the embroideries – and we only had time for a quick visit to Lush.

However, thinking about life, the universe and hassles on the drive home – I decided to rethink the lampshade. I am really really really not happy with it, and rather than continue and wreck a £50 lamp – I have decided that I will ask – no, tell - the teacher on Thursday that I am moving to plan C.

[This is a family joke: Plan A is what you start with and Plan B is thinking up Plan C.]

So – what will I make instead? Well – if it is acceptable as a 3D functional item – a book. Bet you are surprised!

When I got home I tipped the bits of ‘leaf litter’ I have made out on some painted silk – and liked what I saw much more than the lampshade. With some hand embroidery and beads I think this will make a good cover. I thought I would make a stick binding with a donation from the birch tree in the back garden. So a minor hassle prompted a resolution of a major one.

Keep your fingers crossed that the teacher agrees. If she isn’t happy with a book I will make a box but that will be more work and something I am less comfortable with.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Life has got in the way of embroidery

over the last few days, but I did manage to do some. These are samples of ‘leaf litter’ for the 3d piece. I also did some leaves but they are not ready to be revealed to the world yet.

On Friday I got distracted into following up Thursday’s lesson on transfer techniques – although I’m still not sure what the point of it was.

In class we discussed techniques like ‘prick and pounce’ and tacking for transferring designs, and then used some dreadful smelly stuff to transfer photocopies of our designs onto fabric. This is my effort – but as you can see it is pretty blurred [and it still stinks!] Fortunately I had chosen a fairly simple image: those who tried more detailed pictures were very disappointed. I suppose the learning that took place was not to bother with this stuff, the name of which I don’t know!

We also tried Dylon Image Maker, although as I had some at home I left that till Friday, when I got sidetracked into trying most of the transfer techniques I could think of – all the stuff you buy on a whim and never use, or techniques you’ve read about and never tried. Most of these were more successful than the smelly stuff.

I won’t show you them all because they are colour variations on the same image but I can tell you that I printed onTyvek, calico on freezer paper, tissue paper on Bondaweb on its backing paper and Craft Vilene with no ill effects – although the latter had to be put through with care not to jam. This is the result on Vilene.

However if you do the same it is at your own risk!

As usual, I printed onto the wrong side of a transparency in an attempt to try to transfer from it onto fabric. I shall have another go at that today. I used t-shirt transfer paper which worked well, and I also want to use transfer paints and crayons.

All of this seems to have moved a long way from where we started, how to transfer a pattern to fabric for further embroidery – but it has been an interesting journey!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Does silence indicate procrastination?

Well – in this case – yes. I confess, I have been stalling on getting on with the beech/birch wood. I could rationalise it by saying that I was waiting for this lot to dry. I also put some dimensional paint on the tree trunks [and then rather wished I hadn’t] – so I had to wait for that to dry too.

So what do I do when I am procrastinating? I make books. I think I have mentioned Esther K Smith’s ‘How to Make Books’ before. In it she shows how to make a book out of a cake mix box. Seriously. [I have also seen books in blogs made from Ritz cracker boxes.]

Biscuits and cakes rarely enter the doors of Cheese Acres – but when I was going through my stash of paper I found two other possible covers.

The red one came home with Cheese Major from one of his trips to China – it is, I think, the wrapper of a cigarette packet. The brown one was a present from Mr and Mrs Cheese Minor when they returned from living in Singapore. It contained ‘Pocky’ - lovely [Japanese?] chocolaty things for dunking in your coffee.

The boxes are not very strong so I lined them with fabric [the Chinese one] and hand made paper [the Singaporean/Japanese one]. The latter has a straightforward straight stitch binding but the red one is a bit more elaborate.

But - when I got up this morning I was motivated to get started on the 3D piece – hurrah! Not that i seem to have got very far ...

First I found my Angelina and made a few patches see if I liked the effect. Unfortunately none of the colours I have were really right so I will have to see if I can find something more suitable - perhps a trip to the craft shop is necessary?

Next I auditioned all the threads I had that might do – these are the candidates:

and this is the long list – sampling will decide on the final choices.

Then I collected all the stuff I needed to start to turn the pile of fabrics into leaves and leaf litter. Having ‘reorganised’ my workroom recently I couldn’t remember where half of it was …

Here it is all collected together.

The synthetic fabrics were heatgunned / cut up with my soldering iron. The silk was cut up and candled to seal the edges.

I tried what I’d done on the background. This is why I wanted to hang on to A’s frame. The green is OK but that orange is far too bright!

Tomorrow - some embroidery?

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Little progress on the 3D piece

apart from removing the wax. Unfortunately most of the crackling came with it. i am thinking of adding fabric paint or dimensional paint to the trunks to replace it.

Instead of the 3d piece I have been working on a stitch sample we started in class on Thursday. The brief was to explore a simple stitch to see what variations we could come up with.

I used a piece of my marbled fabric and chose running stitch - not very imaginative faced with fabric with a lot of lines on it but I wasn't feeling very imaginative.

Some time ago i took Sharon Boggon's Joggles class on 'A Personal Library of Stitches' - which was all about how you could develop stitches - but could I remember any of it on Thursday night? Of course not. So my attempts in class were just running stitch in different threads along the lines on the fabric. However when I got home I was able to refresh my memory, and as it was a lovely day yesterday i sat in the garden and played. I had a very peaceful time and I am quite please with the result.

Today I shall put my marbling samples in my portfolio and then I will have no more excuses for procrastination!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

I am beginning to recognise the power of virtual social pressure:

if I say on here that I am going to do something – I feel I have to do it.

So, as it was a nice day, I went out into the garden and painted my trees. It was so warm they dried very quickly. I have added some Lumiere in green and bronze, and that has dried too – so I should be able to return the frames to their rightful owner tomorrow.

I am a bit ambivalent about the result – I think it looks better in the photo than it does in real life. I will get the wax off tomorrow and see how it looks then – but I am not painting it again. If it is no good I shall make a cushion!

It will have embroidery on it, when I get round to sampling that: I am not committing myself to doing it tomorrow!

While I was out in the garden I did something else I have been meaning to do for a while – I photographed our silver birch for the write up I have to do about the piece. [I think of the Klimt trees as birches although the title of the picture is ‘The Beech Wood’.] The bark is lovely: this is why I wanted to crackle the wax on the
painted version.

To show how much more advanced spring is here, 300 miles south of Yorkshire, here is some more of the garden. There isn’t much in it except apple trees, so it looks at its best at this time of year. We are not great gardeners – the ‘grass’ [aka moss] is cut regularly and that’s about it. I think of it as reverting to the chalk downland it originally was …

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

No Tuesday trip this week either

as I had a hair appointment. I did take the opportunity to visit the latest incarnation of the Pound Shop in the city centre - it's got more expensive but has a good selection of stationery items, including big stencil letters [about 8 cm high] and similar sized fun foam letters which I will make into stamps.

This afternoon I got on with the 3D work. I painted some silk in leaf and leaf-mould colours. I took A's advice about watering down the paint and i am much happier about the shades I got.
I am thinking of adding snippets to the relevant areas of the shade, holding them down with free motion embroidery. One of the problems with making a lampshade is that the back of the stitches will show through when it is illuminated. I could do shadow work but FME will be quicker.

by the way, neither of these is Quality Control's litter tray - she has a much fancier one provided by her previous owners, although she much prefers the gravel drive.
If you think the drop cloth underneath looks familiar you must have been a Clothkits customer about30 years ago!

I also got started on the shade itself. Making the full scale mock up had convinced me that I needed to think carefully about the layout of the trees - I couldn't just do a few tree shapes as the fancy took me. So I made a 'window' in the proportions of the shade and moved it around on the Klimt picture until I found a section I thought worked.

Inspired by the this section I made a freezer paper stencil and ironed it to the silk. then erected A's ginormous silk painting frame. [You will get it back, A, honest!]

I had to assemble the frame on the hall floor which was the only space big and empty enough. Then I stretched the silk, manoeuvred it out into the garden, and painted the wax on. Fortunately it has been a really nice day!
The technology of the frame means that I couldn't prop it up vertically for the photo. It is finishing off drying now, flat on the conservatory floor.
So far I think it looks good but I can still ruin it when I add the paint. If we have another nice day tomorrow I will try to make myself paint it. [I do have another piece of silk if the worst happens.]
I must also remember to paint some threads in case I decide to add some hand stitching.

Monday, 5 May 2008

I haven't lost my marbles ...

I missed last week’s C&G session on marbling because I was in Yorkshire, so I spent yesterday catching up. I had marbled before so I had a vague idea what I was doing – and of course I had most of the materials somewhere – I just had to find them.

While I was waiting for the medium to mature I did some shaving foam marbling – not sure it was in the class but it’s fun. I usually use inks but this time I decided to try some left over silk paints, and found that they worked well - they seemed to go on producing prints for a long time. Unfortunately I didn’t have a wide range of colours but some of the prints are quite effective. The pale one at the top is on crystal organza.

Once the marbling medium had set I tried that, this time using the ‘right’ paint. With these I usually only got one print – sometimes there was a bit of paint left on the surface which gave a paler second print. The circular one is on a cheapo paper doyley from the Pound Shop.

You get more control with ‘proper’ marbling but as I’m not very good at it that isn’t a major advantage! The big problem is that these are taking for ever to dry, perhaps because it’s quite humid in the conservatory where they are.

We are apparently going to be using these in class on Thursday which is why I wanted to get them done.

Today I have made the full stage mock up for the 3D piece. I had hoped to get more done but I’ve run out of drying space so the mock up is drying on my work table, which is preventing me from starting waxing the silk for the real piece. It’s not procrastination, honest!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

I haven't fallen off the planet -

I’ve been on holiday. [This is a long post because my fried A. said she was looking forward to reading what I wrote – so blame her if you get bored!]

The co-grandparents, R&S, had told us about the cottage in the Yorkshire Dales they have been to several times. Wensleydale has had a very busy time governing recently so when the chance to go there came up at short notice we leapt at it.

When we got there we understood why R&S [and Skye, their amazing footballing border Collie] love it so much – this is [part of] the view from the front door. The cottage is in a village of 35 houses up a single track road a looooong way from anywhere.

This is the water supply for the cottage - the water is filtered and irradiated and perfectly safe although it is the colour of over-watered Scotch.

In the photo of the fosse [waterfall] you can just see the end of the footbridge over the river which is at the foot of the garden. From the opposite bank you can see the cottage at the right hand end of this building.

Lovely as it was, we did leave the village on most days. We went to Hawes but it was full of retired holidaymakers [!] so we passed up the Wensleydale Cheese Experience – after all, I have that all the time.

We went to Bolton Castle instead, which was much quieter. It is one of the many castles Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in - an embroiderer, so of course she appears in my magnum opus, the History of British Embroidery.

We followed a school party in but there were only a minibus full and they were better disciplined than the coach parties in Hawes - they didn't mill all over the place or suddenly stop in front of you.

I didn’t explore the castle fully – I don’t like heights or spiral staircases. I do like windows and there were lots of interesting ones, so I photographe
d them while Wensleydale climbed higher. Then we had a cup of tea in front of the log fire in the tea room, and took some photos from the garden of the thunder storm approaching down the dale.

We also went to Fountains Abbey – in fact we liked it so much we went twice. We are National Trust members [it's obligatory for retired teachers, you know] so we got in free – and of course, like most Trust properties it has a very good tea shop. Fruit cake with Black Sheep Ale, anyone?

I was fascinated by the contrast between the ruins of the Abbey and the 19th century church. by William Burges. in the grounds. The church looks fairly plain on the outside but the inside is a little more elaborate.

I think you either love or hate Gothic Revival – I love the intensity of colour and pattern on every surface. Unfortunately I neglected to take a photo of the organ housing made to look like a medieval house, b
ut this is the Lion of Judah. The sun was shining weakly - it
must look magnificent with strong sunlight through those windows.

On the way back from the Abbey we went to Brimham Rocks. Wensleydale remembers going there as a little boy and having a wonderful time climbing around. We were a little more restrained this time but I did take lots of photos. They are natural formations although some look as though they have been carved. This is just a sample - they cover several acres [or hectares if you prefer].

We also visited Skipton and bought cheese in the market - mostly Wensleydale, naturally, but also some called Bowland, which is the local area my grandmother was born. We also visited Skipton Castle -another Mary Queen of Scots connection, and more windows.

I bought some postcards of portraits of former owners of the castle to go in the magnum opus. [You thought I’d finished that, didn’t you?] These were 16th and 17th century residents and their clothing was embroidered, so I had to have them. Plus they were only 20p a time. I also bought a book on the Bayeux Tapestry to add to the three I have already …

We had a very relaxing time but it was good to get home and Quality Control was glad to see us back. [She did have a cat sitter while we were away, my first DIL Ginge who used to own her - thanks, Ginge!] [No, she wasn't christened Ginge.]

We were struck that in Yorkshire the daffodils are still out and, as you can see from the photos, the trees are only just beginning to come into leaf. At home the trees are fully out and our apple trees are in blossom. The weather is pretty much the same though – sunshine interspersed with gloom and occasional rain.