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

Dorothy Rowe

Monday, 29 August 2011

After an afternoon off yesterday…

I managed a bit of college-related work this afternoon.

You may remember that I wrote that I’d changed my mind about making books.image

Never believe anything I write. In my pattern sorting out I came across some illegible instructions for making triangle books, which I’ve always wanted to do. Despite being unable to read the very small print, even with a magnifying glass, which led to cutting the paper for the concertina too small, I managed this. The photo [same one twice] is of crumpled foil/litter, presumably dumped from someone's sandwiches. To give you an idea of scale, that tinsel-like stuff is a pipe cleaner – pressed into service when I realised the book was not going to stay shut. I covered the cover with what my friendly DIY man tells me is ‘self-adhesive aluminium flashing’.

Then, flushed with success, I did something else I’ve been meaning to do for a while.image I’d made and coloured the paper rolls, collected the sticks and made the plastic bag cord – I just hadn’t got round to assembling them.

This – as yet nameless, if only because I'm beginning to have problems remembering the names - was inspired by a Japanese technique for storing chillies in the excellent book Basketry Projects from Baskets to Grass Slippers. Not that the author, Hisako Sekijima, uses anything as trashy as newspaperimage and plastic.

I’ve come to the conclusion that what I like making most are these woven/baskety/3D things, combining natural objects and rubbish. And I like photographing all my ULOs in their natural environment – too much exposure to land art, perhaps?

Land art for the littering society?

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The gaps appear to be getting longer…

No reason apart from not having a lot to say – must be a first for me. That is because not a lot has been happening on the creative front – just housework, shopping, sorting and reducing stash, optician’s appointment [=£££s for new specs] half - a quarter - about an eight of the porch ceiling falling in [=£££s I expect, but we hope the insurance will pay for it].

Just a normal sort imageof week then <g>.

All I’ve done which is at all creative was take a very simple drawing of a bottle…







use Photoshop to bend it, bend it, just a little bit [if you are now singing you are as old as I am], and colour it -rather unsuccessfully.







But a bit of pixilation in Picnik and saturation in Picasa work wonders.   







And now I'm going to find something entirely unrelated to college work to do…

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

I didn’t mean to disappear…

but BT had other plans for me. No internet connection. I had two different explanations from 2 different gentlemen in India, and finally got it back after 48 hours. For now – so I’m makingimage the most of it.

Mind you, not a lot has been happening at Cheese Acres. Apart from the big thing, of course – although at 7lb something he’s a bit smaller than his sister was. 

Here he is at about 18 hours old





and this afternoon [counts on fingers] at 5 days.

The considered opinion is that he looks like Wensleydale, but with slightly more hair.





  1. In the intervals between admiring babies and their big sisters, I’ve been:
  2. 1. photographing sunsets [followed by pouring rain which knocks one old adage on the head],




2. playing with PostWorkshop [glad not all the photo-editing software I use is on line]image,

3. drawing squiggles to make Photoshop brushes – although I haven’t yet made the brushes,








4. doing some old fashioned embroidery on one of the pieces of needlepoint canvas I bubblejetsetted and printed,


And - of course -





5. watching the repeat of ‘The Killing’* on BBC4 at 10pm on most nights of the week. Just as gripping, just as brilliantly acted, but with the benefit of knowing whodunnit you notice nuances of his performance you didn’t spot first time round.

Speaking of which -  a belated anniversary present to W. 


* NB – the original, not the US remake, which we couldn’t bring ourselves to watch. How do you follow perfection?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

I’m a granny again!

Babyboy arrived safely in the very early hours of this morning – mum and baby doing well. Off to meet him this afternoon!

Friday, 19 August 2011

A bad start – but definitely improving…

It started when I had to leave the house before the rush hour was over. I'm sure you realise that pensioners are forbidden to leave the house that early – enforced by not allowing us to use our bus passes – but I had a hospital appointment at 9a.m. Today was HA day – the day I got my hearing aids.

Everyone who knows me is probably saying ‘not before time’ – but it makes me feel old. And being assured that my particular type of hearing loss is inherited, not due to ageing, is no consolation…

I can hear much better - in fact everything [and I do mean everything] sounds incredibly loud.

I was assured that I would habituate to this fairly soon – but listening to myself eating lost its charm very quickly.

So this afternoon I found myself something quiet to do.

I mentioned that I’d been inspired by the work of Karin Wach. I love her stuff but I don’t want to copy it exactly, so I began to think about developing it for textiles.

My first idea was to use T-shirt transfer paper – but:

  1. would it work if I overlapped it?
  2. would the colour show through the layers?

The answers were no – and no. The colours were fine on the rather pale coloured image I was using, but getting everything lined up when you are working without being able to see what you are doing, because you put the images face down on the fabric, was a nightmare. And then peeling one layer of backing paper from between two transfers wasn’t much easier.

Then I thought ‘Stack and Whack’. I have made a couple of stack and whack quilts, but no more. Fun when finished? – yes. Fun to make? – no. As yP1000091ou will shortly see, I don’t do precision.

Last night I played with a few off-cuts of transferred photos to try the idea out.

Not a very inspiring image, but worth following up.

So I did.




I carefully [who am I kidding?] cut equilateral triangles out of 6 transfer paper copies of this not very exciting image – and then made interesting patterns with the left-overs…



It is not a good idea to put a hot iron down on a section you’ve already taken the backing paper off. Ask me how I know…

However there is an article by Margaret Applin, on using transfer papers, in the April edition of Quilting Arts. She suggests colouring the fabric around the print after you have transferred it. So if I add some more black smears, possibly the original black smear will be less obvious?

I remembered that Maggie Grey has a section on using transfer paper in ‘From Image to Stitch’. I found the book [with some difficulty – I had a tidy up of my bookshelves one day when I was procrastinating] – and decided to try applying the images over textured backgrounds – of which I had several, in the ‘interesting things to put through the printer’ pile.image

But as they were based on Bubblejetsetted or Inkaided or Printabilitied fabrics – I decided to print on them first – with an enlarged, sepiafied copy of the same image.

Of course I had to scan the results before I did anything else with them. [To think I decided to use them because I thought it would be quicker than Bondawebbing some lace or scrim to cotton…]




And finally – I made my hexagons. 

The transfer paper [an old packet from WH Smith which says very firmly it should only be used on cotton] struggled a bit with the odder elements of the substrate, and tended to peel off – and I’m not sure the background print was such a good idea – but I like the slightly surreal effect. Maybe I don’t even need to do the cutting up and reassembling?


So, overall, it’s been a better day than I thought it was going to be. And it may turn out to be even better, if a certain event happens tonight, as expected. Not saying any more, we’ve had one false start already…

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Perhaps it’s the start…

of the beginning of getting back to work – despite another attack of insomnia last night. At least this time I managed to do something productive, instead of playing computer games or fossicking about in my new time waster research tool, Pinterest.

I didn’t have the energy to battle with Photoshop – instead I played with PostWorkShop, where all I have to do is upload a photo and click on the ‘apply random style’ button a few times. [You can do much more than that, but imageat 2 a.m. it was all I was capable of.]

And then I added a frame with Picnik [don’t know of you can add frames in PWS, have to find out].

The photo was taken at Manor Farm [where else?] on Monday when we did a spot of Babybel sitting. This is her new best friend.




I also printed off 12 copies of this,








so that today, inspired by the work of Karin Wach, I could do this.

Fiddly, but fun.

I always said a knowledge of geometry would come in useful – and a pair of compasses and a protractor.





Yes, I could do something similar on the computer – and in fact I have [this is Sumopaint] – but playing around with bits of paper was peaceful and satisfying.




Tomorrow – who know? It is the one day this week I have no other commitments – yet.

Monday, 15 August 2011

What’s happening?

In terms of college work – not a lot.

In family/personal terms – a lot. The latter has got in the way of the former.

So what have I achieved?

I washed the quilt from hell, but it didn’t seem to shrink much, so I am going to wash it again at a higher temperature.


I took one small plastic carrier bag, an afternoon and a lot of machine embroidery thread to make 4.5 yards of cord, knitted it on 3.75mm needles and ended up with a piece 2” square. [Sorry for the mixed measurements, it comes of having mixed tools – and a mixed-up brain]

Like the result – but I feel the work input/product output ratio is a little unbalanced…

This is the product of a larger bag from a well known UimageK grocery chain. Half for the cord at the top, half for the weaving at the bottom. The weaving was done on a 4 sided wooden loomy sort of thing I’m too lazy to go and photograph.  It wasn’t going to stay put unless I ironed it – so I did. I like this but it is only about 4” square so I think I need to make lots and lots and lots…

Unfortunately it’s not going to get any quieter for at least a week – paramedical appointments from here to Friday, and the potential arrival of Babybel’s little brother.

Oh – nearly forgot – we did get to the tiny Fortuny exhibition at Whitchurch Silk Mill – but only because we were on our way to something else which was cancelled at short notice and it seemed a better idea than gong straight home. I didn’t know:

  1. Fortuny is still in business and
  2. they do furnishing fabric and lamps, as well as dresses. I covet this lamp – so if anyone has a few 1000$ to spare? Because you really need two or more of them. Mind you, I'd have to redecorate the place to go with them.

I covet the dresses as well but I don’t quite have the figure for them…

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

This is the worst quilt…

I have ever made. And possibly probably definitely the worst bit of sewing I've ever done, worse even than the skirt I made in school when I was 10, entirely by hand – although I unpicked that even more often, at the teacher’s insistence.

Today I found a good light, sat under it, and unpicked to Radio 3. [Bach is excellent to unpick to, Prokofiev less so – too jaunty.] The plastic stood up to it as well as could be expected. Not well– just as well as could be expected.

I free machine quilted it, very very very badly. In my own defence, for conceptual reasons [‘ark at ‘er] I’d chosen a fake leather backing, and it did not slide easily. No more unpicking, it would not have survived. Then, fed up with it, I zigzagged round the edge, but even using a walking foot the borders shifted. image

Told you it was bad.

But – I’ve learned a lot about what plastic works – the mail wrapper from Quilting Arts, which I get from a UK stockist whose name escapes me – what works less well – a Debenhams's bag -and what doesn't – bin bags, and a laundry bag from a Chinese hotel Cheese Major stayed at on a business trip in 2003*. [Never throw anything away.]

And I'm quite fond of her [Paddy, because I threw so many making her]. The ‘wadding’ is felt, so I’m hoping that by the time I’ve shrunk her and zapped her, the worst excesses will be disguised. The design concept is messiness – I decided I wanted something that was the antithesis of what you think quilts are – i.e. not comforting and cuddly – and messiness, wrinkles and holes just add to the aesthetic. [‘Ark at ‘er, again – AEE, for future use]

Did I have that idea in mind when I started? No, I started off as I so often do with ‘I wonder what would happen if…?’ and then made the rest of it up as I went along.

And after all, if Tracy Emin can make quilts which don’t reach the standards of the quilt police** why can’t I?

* I know this because the only things I could read on the bag were his name, the name of the hotel, and the date. Just before he came home he would have all his clothes laundered and then pack them still in their bags. He has always been very good at finding an easy way to do things.

** If you think the quilt police don’t exist, you haven’t listened to the comments of some more conventionally quilters on Ms Emin’s work. Er – no, it’s not well made – that’s part of the point.***

*** That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A chapter of accidents.

  1. The bin liners I painted yesterday to see if they would take acrylic paint. They looked fine to begin with but when I tried to cut them up to weave with them, the strips gave way under any tension at all. Into the bin.
  2. Then I discovered the paint had come off on my cutting mat…
  3. The black bin bag which I tried free machining on. Not a good idea without some sort of supportive backing. Into the bin.
  4. Waking at 2 am and not getting back to sleep till 8, when I would have been better getting up.
  5. The layered [shrinkwrap, black bin liner, iridescent film, black felt], then free machined, then shrunk piece I had hoped would reveal interesting layers when zapped – didn't. The layers seemed to meld together. Not into the bin, but definitely more boring than I’d hoped, though the burnt felt wasn’t bad..
  6. The plastic patchwork – which worked fine till the very end. [It was a bit slippery, so my piecing was not very accurate, but I could live with that.] Then I broke a needle. In trying to find the tip of the broken needle I broke my stitch ripper [don’t ask], and when I started again, the machine decided to rip the plastic not once but twice. Which meant replacing most of one block and a complete section of border.
  7. Quilting the result – despite heavy pinning, the plastic shifted all over the place, which means I have to unpick it. Tomorrow – I’ve had enough. Fortunately I have another stitch ripper.

Rather better news – our anniversIMG_6827ary present to ourselves arrived, just in time for Babybel’s daddy’s birthday – not to mention that of Babyboy,  who is due around the same time.

I’ve had fun playing with it.

It’s a Panasonic, as recommended by A., and is going to take a bit of getting used too.


Quality Control made a good model for a slightly more elegant image than






this one – not taken with the new toy, but when she dozed off on the scanner. Cat scan.






This is even less elegant – but interesting – a rotting apple in the garden. 

W. will get a look in, I promise – if only because he knows more about photography than me.


And the other good news is that Mark is finished – maybe. I’ve run out of green wool, but I fancy making him into a little cushion, so may add something else round the sides. imageMacro close up on the left so you can see the shards of coke can hidden in the ‘grass’. Not sure why the other one has ended up with an orange cast, but it is brilliant example of the way shadows are the complementary colour to the object <g>.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

I didn’t mean to disappear…

but sometimes life gets in the way of art – and blogging. A combination of several insomniac nights and some unexpected events [some good, like an evening’s Babybel sitting, and some less good] left me with little energy for PMSs or PCs – or even SAMs – still lots of ideas, just no motivation.

The only thing I managed  was a revived interest in playing with Photoshop. I had been trying to work through a ‘Classroom in a Book’ but I've decided I much prefer working with my own images, not ones selected by the author. So I bought myself a companion volume to PFAEC – this one is Photoshop Photo Effects Cookbook. [PPEC.] image

I like the effect of removing the colour from the background.

The books were written for an earlier version of Photoshop but I have managed most of what I’ve tried so far.

Apart from the pen tool.


This morning, after a couple of good nights’ sleep, I got up raring to go.

I intended to work through some of my ideas for free machine embroidery [which you may remember I don’t do], but started with a little ironing :>( and a bit of tidying. I have realised that if I tidy the work room first, even minimally, it clears my mind for later, more creative activities. And I find things.

Like the pin weaving board I warped up ages go with some left-overs from Daisy and then put on one side.

“I won’t get started on it now, but I’ll go and look for those bits of wood found objects I thought I would include in the weft.” [This led to a cat in a cupboard, so it has had to be left open until she decides to emerge.]

“I'll just push them through and see what they look like.”

“Not bad but I don’t like that bit of bark, I’ll go outside and look for a stick.”

“I could hang it up from that stick.”

“I wonder if this shrink wrap I tried making machine wrapped cord with* will work as a weft?”

“I'll just go on till lunchtime and then I’ll get the machine out.”


Bet you can guess what happened. I was enjoying myself far too much not to finish it**. Completed the weaving, made tassels [shrink wrap and floss], and a twisted cord [shrink wrap – surprisingly, but reinforced with floss], hung her in the window and took photos. Might not be art, but I reckon that’s a Personal Cloth, don’t you?

I was going to try zapping her, but like her too much to risk spoiling her. Gives me ideas about natural objects and plastic as well: this is turning into an exploration of plastic, rather than litter. [Told you I was weird…]

I might do a bit of reverse engineering, make some smaller pieces as ‘samples’ and try zapping them. How many times can I go into Superdrug, buy a packet of paracetomol [39p] and ask for a bag before they begin to wonder if I’m contemplating suicide?

* It kept catching in the hole in the plate and breaking. Black bin liner worked better – just.

** her – Penelope.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Of plastic bags, Colour Catchers, drinking straws, pinching ideas off the internet – and exploding paint cans.

But chiefly pinching ideas off the internet.

1. First internet idea – pompoms made of plastic bags. I’m sorry, I can’t remember whose idea it was, but I thought it was an interesting idea.

Then I spotted instructions for making a ladybird in the instruction leaflet from my pompom maker. [Yes, I know you can make pompoms with two circles of card, but I bought myself a pompom maker. OK?]

Now – this little fellow, who I have just naIMG_6782med William [because he’s orange, obviously] is either an ironic comment on nature and plastic bags – or he’s naff. Personally I am leaning towards naff but cute. He has no spots because I couldn’t work out how to add them – the leaflet suggested glueing on bits of wool which I found a tad unhelpful – and no eyes because I couldn’t find my googly eyes.

While I was wrapping the plastic round the pompom maker I had ideas of making him lots of brothers and sisters, but after I’d added the legs and feelers I decided it was too much like hard work.

2. Second internet idea is from the ‘Between the Lines’ blog. The great looking originals wereimage leather – would it work in plastic?

Mmm – that’s a definite ‘maybe’. I think it’s partly the colour – perhaps a few more shopping trips to Superdrug are called for, to supplies to make pink ones?





They look great made from Colour Catchers, but CCs aren’t litter…

[I did some research and apparently most litter is either smoking or fast food related – which matches my own more limited observations.]


3. I put those on one side for the third internet idea from Aunt Peaches. [Well worth looking around both those blogs, for two very different but equally appealing aesthetics.]image

It’s not quite a chandelier, but these are my efforts.  The ones on the left are the original design.

Then I tried leaving a shorter gap between the two cut ends, and squashing the straw segments flat.

The result looked as though it would liven up a flower from internet idea 1. I haven’t quite perfected the method of attachment, but definite more interesting. Pink ones with white stamens, perhaps?

Then Wensleydale suggested they looked like dandelions – before and after seeding – so I tried wiring the flattened ones together

Photographing them on the black paper made me think of the work of Mrs. Delaney – which gives me a whole new set of ideas…

And the exploding paint tin? Felt like tragedy when it happened, but is starting to seem like farce. I decide I wanted to add some webbing spray to a page of my sketchbook. I should make clear that this was NOT Krylon webbing spray, but a can I bought in a sale from a DIY chain which no longer stocks that make. [Could be  a reason fro that.]

In taking the top off the can I knocked the spray nozzle off – and the $**&”!%& stuff began to spray everywhere. I put my finger over the end and panicked – couldn’t think what to do. Go out in the garden? I didn't want nasty black stuff all over the grass. I headed for the scullery, yelling for Wensleydale  – but still couldn’t decide what to do. Don’t want it in the sink, don’t want it in a bucket, why did I come in here, better out in the garden…

W. arrived, a tad calmer than me, and said ‘plastic bag’ – he grabbed a bin bag and we shoved the hissing beast into it. Then, bless him, he helped me clean the overflow off the floor, the sink, my specs, myself. I can recommended Tufanega cleanser and Superdrug exfoliating mitts – though I still have trendy black nails, albeit on only two fingers…