'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, 31 December 2009

A Happy New Year to you all!

It doesn’t seem long since we were awaiting the beginning of 2000 – and now it’s nearly 2010. Where did those 10 years go? Of course when I think about it a lot has happened – two marriages, one granddaughter, four years of  C&G, one granddaughter, nearly 4 years of retirement, one granddaughter, a term of another degree, one granddaughter. [Got to get your priorities right.]

Unfortunately my priorities today, after going up to the shop for emergency supplies of Lemsip and Kleenex, have been drifting about the house complaining about how ill I feel. And sneezing. So not much has been achieved. Wensleydale has done some wonderful cooking for tonight [venison bourguignon] but I don’t think I will be able to do it justice.

But, let’s look on the bright side.  It isn’t raining. Yet.

After a little research [interesting to read my posts of a year ago] I know that I started posting  a daily photo on Jan 7th, 2009, so I   need a few more to complete the year – and possibly some more to compensate for the gaps. So, at the risk of boring you still further with images of trees, I will probably go on to the end of the C&G  sketchbook.


There are trees in this one – but they got a bit fragmented and interwoven.

Thanks to Carole and JP for their kind comments on yesterday’s post. Mmm – dare I tell JP that I did Creative Sketchbooks and hardly drew anything?  However a lot of the techniques I learned on it appeared in the C&G sketchbook – like cutting holes in your pages …

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Don’t get too close to the screen …

I’ve got a cold and I don’t want you to catch it.


The cold led to a bad night, so I haven’t had much energy today – although I did manage to finish this, which I’ve been working on, off and on, since before Christmas.


More off than on, as


  • It is cross stitch
  • I think the variegated thread nearly works  - but not totally
  • I was underwhelmed by it until I added the back stitch outlines.

Of course. after I’d started it I discovered that in ‘real’ Assisi work, you do the back stitch first, and it should be long arm cross stitch.

But hey, I’ve got C&G, I’m allowed to break the rules!

Unfortunately, I think it would look better with long arm cross stitch  – which for some idiosyncratic reason I find more interesting than ordinary cross stitch - or free cross stitch, or blackwork. So I might do another one. Maybe.

drawing studies3

I also continued with my exploration of things the jar-opener shape reminds me of. Fortunately we have some poppy heads in a vase of ‘deadery’ [dried flora] so I had a real one to draw. And then I got side tracked into drawing the top – I love the star shape. Looks like a tassel …

Although my drawings aren’t very good I am coming to enjoy the process – and find myself noticing lots of things that I never previously noticed.

Teasels  tomorrow. Probably.


And yet more C&G trees – string stamp on the left, a blurry photograph of winter branches on the right. It would be interesting to draw – which is something I never thought I’d find myself saying …

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Not much to show you today …

apart from this.  Can you tell what it is yet?


The jar-opener shape from the collage reminds me of several fruit and vegetables  – like artichokes, or pomegranates, or persimmons.

Unfortunately, we are temporarily out of artichokes, pomegranates and persimmons at Cheese Acres.

So I drew an onion. Top-2.BMP

I’ve worked out that photos of my drawings don’t work on the net, but scans do – which gave me the opportunity to play around with the scan.


Like this.




And this. 







I want to try printing with a cut up onion – but as we don’t have many onions either, it will have to wait until we’ve been to Sainsbury’s – or until I can persuade Wensleydale that a bit of printing ink will add extra flavour to his curry …


From onions to yet more trees. Torn paper on the left, tree-like watercolour paint marks covered with baking parchment and left to dry on the right.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Still playing around….

with the jar opener ideas.


This is a section from the jar-opener-inspired collage I made at college –





which, surprise surprise, I plugged into some photo manipulation software - [Paint.net, I think]   and got this  - which to be honest didn’t inspire me much.


But then in the early hours of this morning I remembered an idea from a book. Pleat some fabric, print on it, then spread out the pleats.


So I tried it on paper first – and realised that if you have wide pleats close together you get  a very fragmented image. [All these samples were pleated horizontally and vertically – but not all ‘horizontals’ and ‘verticals’ were geometrically accurate.]





I used this stamp – as I’m sure you can tell <g>. Although it doesn’t look it in the photo, it is of the  negative spaces left when I cut out the jar opener shape for the other stamp. I used this one rather than the positive shape because there is more of it!


This is newspaper – which looked a bit drab till I painted it with  Koh-i-Noor purple. Yes – purple. my camera is a purple free zone, unfortunately. I stapled the pleats in at the top, after it dried.





And this is silk – which after the paint dried was stitched to a bit of felt. The pleats were about 0.5 cm wide. and a couple of cm apart – although as you can see they weren’t parallel.



I’ve got this lot out to embroider the silk  – now all I’ve got to do is decide what to do with them.





Here are some more C&G trees. I really like these – I’m not sure why I never did anything with them. They would have been much better than my abortive attempts to cover a lampshade with Klimtian birches …

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Down to earth …

and trying to get back into our routine.

I hope you all had a good Christmas – we had a quiet time on Christmas Day [no complaints about that] and then a huge family party chez Babybel on Boxing Day when a good time was had by all – thanks to her mIMG_9874um and dad for hosting it.

The Babybellerina didn’t want to wear her tutu at first but after her adoring fans had left she gave her mum and dad a twirl – thanks to them for the photo on the right.

Her dad had tried it on earlier. 



Today I have done a little design work and a little embroidery. [And a little cooking, but that was less interesting …]

IMG_9736 You may remember this.






Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that this inspired a stamp. Or five.

These were made with fun foam - not today, I hasten to add, before Christmas.



And that shape morphed into this, a string stamp. 








Which reminds me of this. But I digress.



The string stamp led to this – the sketchbook page was stamped with gold paint and given a wash of ink. The embroidery is whipping, beading , French knots and seeding on a Colour Catcher.

It's been a good afternoon.


Returning to the C&G sketchbook – this is also inspired by Mondrian’s trees,  but the trees are more abstract, and the colour more what I think of when I think of Mondrian.

Looking at this, I realise I’ve been very restrained about cutting holes in my degree sketchbooks – time to get the craft knife out, I think …

Thursday, 24 December 2009

The only creative thing I managed today …

was some ironing. Which is not one of my favourite activities – but this was the snow dyeing.


This is some silk organza – lovely stuff. I had one dyebath with blue and red dyes, one with blue and yellow, and one with yellow and red.







This is a heavier silk. The red and blue has rather a lot of white left, but the others came out well.



This is cheesecloth – I had intended to use it with the dyed felt.







This dyed felt. Maybe not.




This is needlepoint canvas – or was until I washed it. I inherited it from my mother, but it was musty, so, knowing no better, I washed it. Not a good idea if you want needlepoint canvas, but a better one if you want a soft even weave fabric with relatively big holes. And even better if you then dye it. For some reason the blue/yellow piece is almost entirely green.




These are some cotton and viscose threads I dyed as well. i always forget about threads until the last minute, so they didn’t get as long in the soda soak as perhaps they needed, so they are a bit pale.




And this is a piece of calico I used the left over dyes on. For some reason it is mostly green but there are some interesting areas on it. It is darker in reality than it looks here.


These Mondrian inspired trees from my C&G sketchbook go rather well with the calico! I scanned the prints I showed yesterday, printed them and then coloured them with water colour.





And that is it for the next few days  - for obvious reasons! Have a very happy celebration of whatever you celebrate – and I hope to be back after Boxing Day.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

It is finished.

Well – strictly speaking – they are finished. The most onerous part being the C*******s shopping. I went to the butcher’s this morning – ferried a few hundred yards by Cheese Major in his Chelsea tractor as I can’t ice-skate – and the box of organic veg arrived late this afternoon. Wensleydale is mulling the wine, and anything we haven’t got now we can live without.

And I finished that little book of samples from Kim Thittichai’s workshop, that I was going to whip up in a couple of afternoons. Trouble is I kept having ideas.


These are the last finishing touches. You may spot some distressed Tyvek on the left. I did it, so it’s in there – doesn’t mean I’ve changed my mind about the stuff!

The distressed Lutradur – which I do like – has gained a tree. It started as a stencil from Ed Roth’s ‘Stencil 101’, but the paint alone looked a bit lost so I added some copper FME. It still looks a bit lost in the photo, but it looks better in real life.


The cover hasn’t changed much since I showed it first – except that I’ve reoriented it, to accommodate the tree. I was going to do a Japanese stab binding but decided on a stick binding with a Tyvek bead on the stick. [If I’m going to have Tyvek samples, I’m going to have Tyvek samples – and Tyvek beads are sort-of-OK.]

So that’s it. Tomorrow, when not cooking [for historic reasons, which no longer apply, we have Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve] I shall start thinking about my ideas from the great collage experiment last week.

JP made some kind comments about yesterday’s post – but I am worried that I have misled you, JP. The sketchbook pages I’m showing are all from my old City and Guilds course, not recent work. The sample book above is recent – the workshop which inspired it was part of the Foundation Degree I’m doing at Eastleigh College in Hampshire. Several of the pieces in it were made in that workshop – I made the book to hold the samples, but it sort of grew a bit …

And when I wrote about ‘slobbing in bed like a retired person’ – I was talking about myself. I’m very good at not getting up. I'm sure all other retired people are like my neighbour, who goes swimming before most people are at work.

The snow dyeing has been rinsed, washed and is drying as I type. It is looking good – apart from the felt. Either viscose/wool felt doesn’t dye with Procion dye like I thought it did – or it isn’t viscose/wool felt. Pity – it looked quite interesting before I washed it …

I have some other white felt I could try – but unfortunately the snow is rapidly disappearing, as we are having a thunder storm. This is, to put it mildly, unusual in the UK in December – but it’s the second one in as many weeks. And as W. has just said, we can’t remember ever having a thunder storm while there was snow on the ground. Now it’s hailing as well.


Another spread from my old C&G sketchbook. Having got the Green Man out of my system I moved on to trees – inspired by Mondrian.

You may not associate Mondrian with trees, but he made some beautiful – and increasingly abstract – images of them. There are a couple here. These are credit card and pencil rubber printed, based on our apple trees.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

If it snows, do snow dyeing.

I had forgotten all about this fun technique but fortunately I was reminded about it by Wil. Of course, I should have been going to the gym, but – mmm, slippery footpaths, dangerous for a little old lady like me. [Stop laughing at the back, there!]

Unlike Wil, I haven’t nuked it in the microwave [did too much] so fingers crossed it turns out OK tomorrow.

december 20094I took these just before the snow finally melted – that’s snow, not ironed cellophane …

It’s batching now next to the central heating boiler.


Speaking of ironed cellophane – this was the wraIMG_9849pping off some Sainsbury’s chrysanthemums. It’s eat  my words time – sort of – I like these, but I can’t imagine how one might use them as they are very fragile.



No ironed cellophane here – this was the point in C&G when woman-with-flowers-in-her-hair morphed into man-with-leaves-in-his. We’d been told to make a 3D piece with silk paper [one of the techniques I do like, as I don’t think it overwhelms the stitch]. One of the suggestions was a mask – which was what led me into the Picasso portraits, as I thought, mistakenly, that he’d painted a pierrot with a mask. And that led to the woman with flowers.

And then I thought ‘Green Man!’ I’d always wantedIMG_7514a to make a Green Man, but never found the right technique.

This is the result, which I’ve probably shown before. I moulded the silk paper over a plastic mask, and over real leaves. I left tendrils of silk paper round the edge of the mask, and held the whole thing down on some hand dye with couching, and beading. He’s still one of my favourite pieces. 

Monday, 21 December 2009

It’s amazing …

how much you can get done if you get up at a reasonable time – instead of slobbing in bed like a retired person.

All because I had to take Wensleydale to have his hair cut – and he insists on booking appointments at the time he used to have them when he was working. Eight a.m.

drawing studies

So I finished this – although I’m not sure about the beads.  This is the book of the Contemporary Textile workshop I have been working on, off and on, for a while.

drawing studies1

I also made a cover for my 2010 diary, from one of my painted Bondaweb samples. And after my rant yesterday I’m ashamed to say the only stitch in it is the zig-zag round the edges. Not sure how well the Bondaweb will stand up to a year in my bag, but it is a [very tight] slip on cover so if it lasts and I can get the same type of diary in 12 months time, it can be re-used.

Anyone else find it hard to believe that it’s 10 years since Y2K?

Here are a couple more of my inspired by Ms Thiitichai samples. After yesterday's whingeing - I quite like this [blush, blush].


This is Lutradur, painted with procion dyes, zapped with a heat gun and pulled apart – which is how you get those wonderful edges. The background is painted Bondaweb on brown paper, with a spritz of Moonshadow Mist [or equivalent]. It need some stitch, though I'm not sure what – but it is ‘just a sample’.


As is this. The grid is another Bondaweb and brown paper sample which I didn’t like – until I started mucking round with it. I machine embroidered it with a sort-of-fly stitch, changing the stitch length as I sewed - [great fun if you haven't tried it]. Then I sliced it up and wove it, and began to stitch it down with big silver cross stitches, which you can just see down the left hand side. Probably needs some beads – it’s got the sequins already …

The background is a piece of newspaper which was under some Lutradur when I painted it, which I have backed with iron-on interfacing to give it some body.

After yesterday's rant, Penscombe asked if I thought ‘technique mania’ was a C&G thing. I think flitting about looking at lots of different things, as you do on  C&G, encourages it, but I have met non-C&G people at all those workshops I’ve been to. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is good to have a range of techniques you can call on – and our C&G tutor was very good at encouraging us to design our piece first and then decide how we were going to achieve it. [Not that everyone did – several people seemed to work the other way round – including me on occasion…]

Doing the degree has made me think quite a lot about my personal practice – and although we haven’t started making work yet [which is why I'm faffing about making sample books] – I don’t see much distressed Tyvek in my future … And you all have permission to sneer if in three years time I’m making pieces with it!

drawing studies2

Another effect of doing the degree is seeing drawings everywhere.  These are Wensleydale’s efforts on the drive. And those white blobs are what you think they are…


Here is a more conventional drawing, again inspired by Picasso, and scanned and printed on an acetate. It is a further exploration of the woman and flowers theme – she flips over to show the effect against the coloured collage and the sepia version. I am fond of this drawing – she pops up in all sorts of places. Just wish it was half as good as the original.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

More experiments – and a rant.

In the mad scientist’s lab, I tried ironing the foil packaging from a packet of teabags, and as promised, it crinkled up nicely.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo before Kim thittichai4tearing it up and sewing it down – but you can see it here, bottom left. The sea foam effect on the right is the ironed cellophane.  The rest of the page is made up of some scraps of glitzy fabrics which have been sitting in a drawer while I decided what to do with them, all stuck down on crumpled brown paper [from the over packaged Boots order] with painted Bondaweb. Then the whole thing was FME’d - badly.

Kim thittichai3

‘Page’ because it is going in this book of samples. The cover may not look much different from the last time I showed it, but shiny things are difficult to photograph with flash. I’ve added some not quite eyelets through beads, and then, because they didn’t really stand out on the Tyvek sandwich, some silver bugles - which seem to have disappeared into the general bling. Then I sprayed the lot with Moon Shadow Mists. The Vilene drank it thirstily but there is a faint sparkle.

All of this, and some other bits I haven’t finished yet, have led to some pondering on this sort of work – and the conclusion that I don’t really like it – not just the result, the process. Ironed tea packet foil is fun – but what do you do with it?

I think I mentioned that Kim Thittichai said that she felt embroiderers collect techniques, but don’t really do anything with them. I think the question is – what can you do with them?

We seem to have reached a stage where techniques – melting things, burning things, coating fabric with gesso or glueing paper to it, whatever – is more important than the stitch. Stitch has become something you add as an afterthought or to blend in the burnt, melted, glued gessoed fabric. Which is why we find ourselves using only a limited range of stitches – FME, seeding, French knots, couching, Cretan or herringbone, if we are feeling really adventurous. Because there is no room on the b****y thing for anything more elaborate, even if you can get a needle though it.

But I like stitch. I like raised chain band and buttonhole, stem and back, feather and fly. I like pulled work and drawn thread work. I like all the varieties you can use in canvas work. I may moan about it but I even like cross stitch when it is liberated from Aida and twee designs.

Bring back stitch! Bring back traditional materials like canvas and cotton and silk – especially silk. And velvet.

Of course I will have to decide what to do with all boxes full of stuff I bought for all these techniques I don’t like – which is why I’ve never used them …


I may make an exception for some techniques – like the one this lot of design work led to, by a rather circuitous path. This is the other side of the sketchbook page I showed yesterday, with the acetate flipped round against a different background.

More experiments I don’t like tomorrow.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

A little drawing, a little embroidery, and a little smearing.

The drawing was part of my Old Year’s Resolution to draTop.BMPw every day – and show some of the results. So this very simple effort is appearing in public. [The cat really did look as if it was about to topple over – honest! It was standing on a box to raise it to eye level.]




Remember this? Which no-one but me liked?







Now it looks like this. It has gained some transfer painted Lutradur and some FME’d feathers, which you may be able to see if you peer at the monitor. Even Wensleydale likes it now.

And the smearing? I added some blue rub-on wax to the turquoise and silver effort from yesterday. No point in a photo, it barely shows to the naked eye, but it has calmed it down a bit. I have some ideas for stitch, so may try those this evening before I have to put down hand work to read ‘Wallender’.


This is also one of my drawings [two in one post!] This was part of my Picasso inspired work in my C&G sketchbook.

I collected a lot of images of Picasso portraits – you can just see Picasso’s ear, in a self-portrait on the next page, under her nose. This is the face from one of those portraits – a woman with flowers in her hair.

My drawing was scanned and printed on an acetate, which is why she is see-through. The flowers are stencilled texture gel, then Brusho with cling film crumpled on top while it was still wet – the Brusho, not the texture gel …