'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, 30 August 2008

Today was a very unusual day.

It was sunny! And warm enough to be out in the garden! We were trying to work out how often that had happened this summer – and decided no more than half a dozen times.

And the Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for the South tomorrow – very heavy rain and possibly thunder.

Now some people may think that a sunny Saturday means gardening – or sport [shudder]. But of course it really means sitting in a comfortable chair outside with some hand embroidery.

Unfortunately this is on hold till I can get some more cream wool – annoying as one reason I started it was to try to reduce the stash. However it has rekindled my interest in needlepoint. I used to do quite a lot BC&G [before C&G], although using kits – or other people’s patterns – Shock! Horror! I am thinking of a cushion, also based on Uzbek designs, but in inauthentic blue to go with the sofa - and to use up some more stash.

Instead I worked on this, which I had started during an insomniac morning when nothing else appealed.

Although it may be hard to believe it will eventually become a pincushion and was inspired by this:


While you’re there have a look around – Lisa does some wonderful stuff. I want to embroider like her when I grow up – although my stuff would probably be a bit louder.

I enjoy doing crazy quilting - I find it gives semi-instant gratification [provided you haven’t decided to make a quilt!] and once you have made your block, design becomes a series of choices about seam treatments. I am useless at inventing stitch combinations so I Googled around to seek inspiration. Lisa’s are beautiful – but why do so many crazy quilts look like a dogs dinner?

You may think that someone who puts her name, in naff plastic beads, on her work may be living in a glass house and shouldn’t throw stones – and you may be right – but just because the Victorians used every colour in the rainbow – do we have to? The Victorians were not, on the whole, noted for their taste. Not until William Morris. And the Victorian quilts I have seem seem to use a lot of dark/saturated plain colours - not everything in the scrap bag.

And I can justify the beads – I felt the block needed some more white to balance the lace. Mind you, I am not altogether happy about the lace – but I like the border on it so it is staying!

And finally – to return to my experiments with sewing with plastic magazine wrapping. Should anyone be mad enough to want to do the same - I have experimented with every sample that has come into the house since – and none of them have worked. The only one that came close was the wrapping from ‘The Psychologist’ – which I realise is not widely available. Unfortunately I cannot remember the source of the successful sample although it might have been ‘Cloth, Paper, Scissors’. I will keep testing and let you know if I find anything which works.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Tuesday trip - 2 days late

Unfortunately I can't think of a travel related term beginning with ‘th’…

Today we kept a long standing promise to ourselves and went back to ‘Art in the Garden’ at the Hillier Gardens. [I can recommend the carrot cake in the cafe.]

We still haven’t seen all of it – and part way through my camera decided that the memory card was full, so I didn’t manage to photograph everything.

Here are some examples - you may spot a theme developing...

This one is for the co-grandparents [hereinafter known as Mr and Mrs Cheddar], proud owners of Ronaldo the Wonderdog. [I think I may have spelled that wrong, and it should probably be Ronalda anyway, but I am sure someone will correct me if necessary.]

And this is for Ronaldo. They - and another sheep, a pig, a goat a goose and a cat - were all made of chicken wire by Mandy Flynn.

These are by Darren Greenhow. The lizard is made from bicycle chains, and his others all incorporated recycled engineering bits. Including the fish on a [real] bicycle which we came across after the camera packed up.

Not sure who made the rooster but I think the colours on his head are wonderful.

I find a lot of animal sculptures twee but I liked these.

While we are on the subject of art – our paper on Saturday published a two page spread of a self portrait by Tom Deininger, which led me to Google him.


There is some ‘adult content’, if that is a concern for you.

If you look at the thumbnails it may seem fairly conventional – but look closer … There are ideas for embroiderers there, I think – for example the seascapes made of denim, but also the supermodels, some which look as if they were beaded.

It reminds me of the work of John Dahlsen:


some also made from junk, and also quite inspirational for embroiderers, I think. My wall hanging for part one of C&G was inspired by a Dahlsen piece but it drifted …

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Three good things arrived today.

The first was some lovely pictures of Babybel, from her other granny - thank you S. You can see one at the right, taken on the only hot day this year, during a walk in the country park.

The second was this, which we ordered from John Lewis when we ordered the third thing. Although she is a little young for it yet, I think it will be Babybel's birthday present. along with a VHC quilt. [I don't think this will spoil the surprise because I don't think she reads my blog.]

This is what is inside. There is a plate in there as well.

Even the box is cute - and as it quite sturdy I hope it will be recycled.

I happened to be experimenting with transfer dyeing today - so I couldn't resist doing this. Sorry about the photo - the butterfly is on satin so I couldn't use the flash because of the reflection. [Carle's butterflies always look upside down to me.]
Here are some of my other experiments, prompted by some suggestions on Ario's website:

The top one is sgraffito - transfer crayon rubbed over previously transfer painted paper. I didn't put enough crayon on because I didn't think it would work - but it did. it would probably also have been better with a lighter colour underneath, but one of the problems with transfer paints is that you don't really know how they will turn out till you iron them.

The lower one is also transfer crayon over transfer paint, using a rubbing plate. It reminds me of something but I can't remember what it reminds me of, if that makes sense. Both are on polyester satin - if you haven't tried your transfer paints on poly satin - you should.
These are all on Vilene. The first used wire as a resist, as suggested by Ario, but I thought it looked a bit thin. It might be better with lots of coils of wire.

For the second I scrumpled the paper, straightened it out, ironed it on, then rescrumpled it and rubbed a fabric crayon over it before ironing it again.Ario's example had more pronounced veins than mine -I was a bit light handed because I was worried about flattening out the scrumples.

The third was my attempt at a thicker resist bu using a pipe cleaner. Obviously the pipe cleaner 'fur' is a man made fibre because it took the transfer dye beautifully.

And finally - the piece I like best. Ario suggest using a leaf as a resist. I went out to get a leaf and right by the front door was - a dandelion. [You can tell what sort of gardeners we are...] So this used dandelion leaves and heads as resists. The heads were a bit tricky as I had to cut them off as flat as possible and then hope they didn't collapse. The paper had had transfer crayon squiggles painted on before washing with transfer paint.

The piece told me it wanted to be quilted, although it is quite small as I only had a small piece of satin left. Not sure what I am going to do with it - I don't really want to hide it in the journal. Anyone got any bright ideas?

And the third thing? This. Am I sad to be excited about a new washing machine? Well - although I am not one to air my dirty linen in public, this is what has accumulated since the old one died. Yes - I could have hand washed it. I used to hand wash everything when we were first married - that's why I like washing machines!

Monday, 25 August 2008

What I did in the holidays

Today is a public holiday in the UK. Guess what the weather is like? Yep - cold and grey. However the weather cannot get me down - up until 2 years ago the August Bank holiday preceded the return to work - not any more!

Following long established tradition here at Cheese Acres – we stayed at home. Wensleydale did DIY – and I played with my white book. I am now officially whited out – if only because the book is full.

So here are
some edited highlights.

The cover – the tag was part of the packaging of one of Cheese Minor’s birthday presents. Hope he doesn’t want it back. [Babybel and her granny both find the packaging as interesting as the contents.]

The other side of the tag.

The last few pieces – some inspired by Jackie’s wonderful work.


No prizes for spotting that the button wasn't sewn down when I took the photo - it is now!

There is also the obligatory C&G wrapped pipe cleaner, and, as promised, oversize crossed corners stitch, worked in torn silk habotai and the plastic wrapping from a catalogue. I had said I would try plastic but I was too lazy to get up to look for a bag so I reached into the waste bin [kept at my elbow for easy discarding] and took the first plasticky thing that came to hand. [Yes, ‘Yuck’].

I cut it into half inch strips and provided I avoided the joins it stitched quite well. I also discovered that if gently stretched it became a thin, slightly lumpy and quite strong thread – which I used in the tiny sample, which is silk paper over canvas, inspired by a piece in Jill Carter’s book ‘New Canvaswork’. If I repeat the exercise I will use a larger gauge canvas as I struggled to get the stitches in the right place through the silk paper.

Some completed pages - these are the little bits of paper left over when you tear pages out of a sketchbook. Of course then you have to be sad enough to unwind them from the coil binding ...

I haven't forgotten about the pots - hand made stamp and ribbon stitch.

On her journals course Sharon Boggon suggested making paper cuts - here's what happens if you make them from an illustration in the newspaper. I can see this inspiring black work.

More newspaper - cut into narrow strips. More blackwork?

I have also been trying to teach myself Paintshop Pro. I have an elderly version uploaded at some time by one son or another – not sure which one. I bought a book – but it was written in computer speak. [So few IT books are written for Luddites with no previous knowledge.] Then some time ago I bought Maggie and Clive Grey’s CD version of their book on my elderly version – but did nothing with it apart from print it out. [Yes – I’m a scaredy cat – I don’t mind admitting it!]

I had bought and played with a couple of cheapo programs that had less scary names – but with Mggie and Clive's help I have decided it is time I got to grips with the grown ups’ version. And I have had fun. I won’t say I’m an expert – I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of its potential – and it does things I don’t want it to and I don’t know what to do about it – but I have done one or two things I like. And if I can find where the **** program has put them I’ll show them to you …

Friday, 22 August 2008

There are not many advantages to insomnia

but one of the few benefits to waking at 4 am is the chance of 4 hours uninterrupted play! Before Wensleydale got up I managed to finish the ‘rag book’ which is part of my Tamsin van Essen/white study, and get started on some stitch samples for the compost heap [a.k.a. studio journal.]

The TvE study is increasingly becoming a black and white study. I have found that it encourages me to try out techniques and ideas - the pages are small [14cm square], I'm not sampling for anything in particular, and I don't get distracted by colour choices. And I can try to make one page look pretty and scribble all my notes on the opposite page - although the backs of pages onto which I have sewn/stapled/whatever samples are often quite interesting in theri own right.

These are some of the the rag book pages. They are not pretty and don't have the crispness of the paper book [I deliberately haven’t pressed them] but still an interesting exercise.

Machine stitch with a strip of bandage to span the gap.


and insertion stitch.

Hand stitch - inspired by black work although you will be forgiven for not realising this in advance!

The punk page

more hand stitch.

and staples.

This is the spread I made the stitch samples for. It started as a Sharon Boggon colour exercise which went off track a bit when I found several space images in my stash. Then I made some thread wrappings and had decided to work a stitch sample but I hadn’t got round to it until yesterday morning.

I started with the square sample [top right on the left hand page], in crossed corners stitch, then played around with different layouts and finally got bored with sticking to the rules and did some liberated crossed corners [top left] – which I really like. This version doesn’t need an even weave fabric. I can imagine it worked en masse – perhaps even crossed corners over the crossed corners. I also like the more formal approach, although for anything but a tiny piece I would want to work on a larger scale. Interesting to try it on rug canvas with something really chunky - perhaps torn fabric or plastic strips. Perhaps in white?

I am less happy about the colours of the crossed corners samples– but that is all part of the learning experience, and I can't imagine ever wanting to work anything in blue, red and orange ...

The image above the sun on the right hand page is one I found on the net, showing crossed corners worked in a brick pattern – I’m afraid I can’t remember where I found it so if it is yours, please let me know so I can attribute it! The page looked prettier before I added it the idea but am trying to remember that this is a compost heap not a flower garden and compost heaps are not pretty - well, ours isn't.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

It was a good day until ...

We realised the washing machine was b******d.

I used it yesterday but the washing came out pretty wet – which usually means the filter needs cleaning. Wensleydale nobly cleaned it out this morning and when we got back from the Tuesday trip I ran another load. And we realised that the drum was not rotating. Wensleydale has diagnosed a stripped bearing. So I have a load of washing which is dripping wet but not washed, dripping over the bath as I type,.

We have decided that as it was 15 years old we have had our money’s worth, I have consulted ‘Which’ [UK consumer advice magazine] and we will be off to John Lewis [UK department store] tomorrow. It would, of course, happen when we are still recovering financially from the holiday, and I have lots of post-visitor washing. But of all my appliances the washing machine is the one I could least do without – only Wensleydale is more crucial to my mental health, if only because he is more versatile.

On the plus side – we had a good Tuesday trip, managing to dodge the rain which only fell when we were inside. We had a picnic lunch at Highcliffe Castle – about which I have written before – and then went on to the Red House Museum in Christchurch to catch the last week of ‘Please Touch’:


It was really good to be able to touch the textiles for once, and I came away with some ideas for toys for Babybel when she is a little older, as well as lots of ideas for other pieces..

Then we had a walk in the garden. We have been to the Red House several times but never realised what a pleasant garden it has, much bigger than expected. One section leads on to another and each is slightly different. We managed to catch a sunny interlude in the usual UK summer weather [cold, wind and rain].

By the way. I must thank everyone for their kind comments on Babybel and on my books. I have made a fabric version but it is not quite finished as I suddenly thought about safety pins – you can tell I predate punk, can’t you? I have also started a little book of white - although some black has crept in as well.

I was particularly interested in Jackie’s comment that some parts of the paper book might be pieces in their own right – which raises all sorts of interesting questions about what is ‘an embroidery’, how much stitch do you have to put into it, and- crucially – how do you know it’s finished?

Increasingly I want my work to have some sort of meaning, even if it is only for me. The cloth book has become a ‘rag book’ in my mind – and ‘rag’ has interesting connotations. I am also always conscious of my family history – mostly Lancashire weavers as far back as I have gone. With the occasional widow taking up dressmaking. What for me is a pleasure was what, for them, kept bread on the table – and I want to reflect that too. Now all I have to do is put all those vague ideas together and come up with something to sew!

And on that philosophical note I shall go and watch telly.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Not much to post today

but for the Babybel fan club, here are some of this weekend's pictures.

Heading with great determination for the kitchen.

Made it!

Exploring her new baby walker

and a coaster

and tucking into a piece of tomato.
Unfortunately I forgot to take the camera to her dad's birthday lunch where she was as good as gold for 2 hours and had the maitre d' eating out of the palm of her hand.
And try as I might Blogger will NOT let me get rid of that little blip at the end of 'tucking'. it looks fine as I type, it looks fine in the preview - it looks crap on the blog.Grrrrrr!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

I'm still working on ideas inspired by Tamsin van Essen's pots

Another pot in the exhibition had what looked like gauze bandage wrapped round it, under the glaze. [I think – I know nothing about ceramics.] So I have been playing around with texture, including bandages.

These are gauze bandage and gesso on paper and calico

and these are the ubiquitous creative embroiderer’s standby– tissue paper and PVA.

Silk paper, some with bobbles in it, because another of the pots had acne – not literally, but there is a medical theme to Van Essen’s work in this exhibition.

And of course the texture pieces ended up being made into a book – which demonstrates that even the ugliest beads have their place. The cover is the watercolour paper/bandage/gesso combination which is rigid but can be sewn - might make interesting vessels..

I love the contrast here between the silk paper and the tissue.

Van Essen's pots have inspired so many ideas that I am thinking of starting a themed sketchbook to explore them, inspired by a denim covered book in Kay Greenlees' ‘Creating Sketchbooks for Embroiderers and Textile Artists’.
On re-reading Greenlees, she implies that painting your pages and decorating the cover may be procrastination – ‘The contents are more important than the cover’. Guilty as charged – but I do find some work looks better on a coloured background – for example this Gormley inspired spread, which I am rather pleased with. If I were to translate this into stitch – and the silhouette is fabric, albeit covered in texture gel and paint – I would want to incorporate the serendipitous effect of the colour I sloshed on fairly randomly. Of course a real artist would have planned it!

And there is a reason why the cover looks like this! [Not, I'm not planning on doing one a month.] I hoped that if the cover looked a mess I’d be less hung up about what went inside. Only partly successful, I’m afraid. I think this a result of doing C&G, particularly ‘Creative Sketchbooks’. In those courses design work is a product more than a process, which will be evaluated by the assessor. In ‘real art’ the sketchbook is part of the process of producing the design and you don’t have to show it to anyone. But I am coming round to the idea that making books is what I do so I should stop farting around and start thinking of ways to combine books and stitch. If Frances Pickering can do it ...

In her class on Studio Journals – which I have failed completely to do justice to - Sharon Boggon talks about the studio journal [so much more encouraging than ‘sketchbook’] as a compost heap – you throw everything in it and hope something fertile emerges. Trouble is, I’m having so much fun with my compost heap that not much stitch related is emerging!

One piece that did is this much more traditional WIP. This is the flap of the Suzani inspired bag, which is working up quicker than anticipated. I think this is because it has a lot of small motifs which work up quickly and make me feel I am making progress – and the random background grows quickly, too, because it is more interesting than if it was all in the same shade.

I will go quiet over the weekend as Babybel and her parents are coming to celebrate her dad’s birthday. Just hope he doesn’t expect to be the centre of attention … I have made him a chocolate Guiness cake, but that will have to do!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

This is probably the oddest book I have ever made...

I mentioned in a previous post that at the exhibition in the ‘Discovery Centre’ I was struck by the ceramics of Tamsin van Essen. I think I have also mentioned that, as part of the preparation for the Creative Textiles course I am starting next month we have to keep a sketchbook – and part of that sketchbook has to be a study of two artists whose work we have seen. [My problem has been sticking to two...]

One of the pots which struck me at the exhibition was this one:


and scroll down to the white pot. I am often drawn to achromatic pieces, although I usually use colour in my own work. [Preferably lots of colour.]

When I do use an achromatic scheme it tends to be black and silver or gold. [If that counts as achromatic.] The only time I tried a cream piece I got so bored I had to add some blue.

But - I have been exploring different ways of attaching one piece of white paper to another – and the book is the result. [The pliers in the photos are there to hold the pages open.]

This is the front cover - staples. The whole thing is held together with string, and sewing that through 8 layers of watercolour paper wasn't easy, even with prepunched holes. Hence the pliers ...

More staples.


Duck tape. I really like this one.

Decorative brads. I knew I'd find a use for them eventually.

Eyelets. The string is for decoration only.

Cross stitch. Regular readers will know that I loathe and abhor cross stitch, but I can manage four.

French knots. Purists will notice that these are not well made French knots - if I made them properly the paper tore. Hence the little tadpole tails.

I am going to make something similar using fabric. I am not sure if this will lead into anything in embroidery – perhaps something 3D? - but I am having fun.

Although I find it hard to believe, this is my hundredth post – and coincidentally Mary has kindly given me an ‘I love your blog’ award.

The rules of the award are:

Put the logo on your blog.

Link the person you received your award from.

Nominate at least 7 other blogs.

Put links of those blogs on yours.Leave a message on the blogs of those you’ve nominated

Well – Mary’s excellent blog is


so I’ve managed two of the five. I am still pondering on who else to lumber – er -nominate – so watch this space!