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

Dorothy Rowe

Wednesday 31 December 2008

The blue book

I have completed the first embroidered entry in my blue book - the one based on printed holey paper. I should have said before that the paper was blue, which is why the print came out more purple than the original image. Apart from a bit of couching and some beads, this is all Sorbello stitch. It is a lovely stitch, and can look very different depending on the length of the legs and the thickness of the thread. I apologise for the ragged edges. It kept telling me it needed a beaded edge but I don't have enough suitable beads.

The next piece to work on is this - the same image printed on several layers of hand made paper - also blue, so I am not sure why it has retained the orange colour of the original ... I wasn't sure what to do with it until Jackie posted this image in response to the meme in my previous post. What else could an image of lichen be but paving stones? Thanks, Jackie!

In a serendipitous moment, while I was working on something else, a scrap of hand dyed silk ended up on an offcut of wadding - and I loved the way it looked. A little bit of stitch to hold the two together and this is how it ended up. I have a lot of this silk which was a 'failed' hand dyeing experiment - I think its time may have come, although I have so many ideas and not nearly enough time ...

Not much will be done over the next couple of days because we are awaiting the arrival of Babybel and her mum and dad for New Year's Eve - and then tomorrow we are all meeting up with Mr and Mrs Cheddar and going 'on the buses', which seems to be becoming a family tradition - i.e. we will have done it two years running.

Monday 29 December 2008

Mad memes

Just to be sure I was using the word correctly, I Googled 'define: meme' and came up with:

'meme - Richard Dawkins’s 1976 coinage, on the analogy to gene (with a little aid from mime and mimic), for a cultural copying unit, such as the word or melody that is mimicked by others.'

from here.
So here are two nicely silly cultural copying units from Carol's blog. [Carol got them from here.]

First - grab the nearest book to you - which in my case is Maggie Grey's 'Textile Translations'.
Turn to page 56 and copy the 5th sentence.

'Sponge with a teabag or diluted walnut ink and allow to dry.'
Says it all really!

The second meme is to post the sixth photo in the sixth folder in wherever you keep your pictures, and tell the story behind it. I must confess to a certain amount of editing here as the 6th folder from the top only has 4 photos in it and they weren't taken by me, so I don't feel able to post one.

So, from the 6th folder from the bottom - this is a kaleidoscope made here, in the summer when I was madly making kaleidoscopes out of everything in sight.

An interesting pair of memes. The results say a lot about me ...

Speaking of kaleidoscopes - I gave Wensleydale this for his birthday, which was just before Christmas. [For Christmas I gave him the complete works of Thomas Tallis and a pair of hand knit gloves, which says a lot about him, too...]

I have just worked out that if I stand the kaleidoscope on end and turn the camera flash off I can actually photograph the patterns, albeit a little blurrily.

Lots of embroidery inspiration here, I think.

Saturday 27 December 2008

So now it's all over

at least until New Years Eve. Hope you all had a good Christmas, as we did.

We were expecting Babybel tonight but unfortunately her mummy isn't very well [get well soon, L], so we have to wait until New Year's Eve for our next cuddles. However we had lots yesterday when we all congregated at Babybel's house for Boxing Day lunch. We all went out for a walk before lunch - and Little Red Riding Hood wanted to walk too, although she can't quite manage it on her own yet.

As we had a quiet time over Christmas I have been working on the blue book. I started with collage using magazine photos, which isn't my favourite medium but filled in a few of those 190+ pages! However I was quite pleased with this minimal effort, which wasn't meant to be a design for 'Around the World in 20 Quilts' new theme 'Brave New World', although it might become one...

I also started some blue embroidery, inspired by this photo of lichen.
I saturated the colour of the image and printed it on some holey hand made paper, as suggested by Maggie Grey in 'From Image to Stitch'.
Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the paper - but this is the carrier sheet on which it went through the printer, so you can see where the holes were ... The thread is for the next layer of stitch.

I layered pieces of the hand made paper on a remnant of denim from the book cover, glueing it down with a bit of painted Bondaweb I had lying around - as you do. On the left is an unstitched piece, on the right a partly stitched one - some couching and some Sorbello stitch, which reminds me of the patterns in the lichen in the original image. More Sorbello and some beads to follow, I think

And finally - I was delighted to find this in a cracker on Christmas Day. The out-of-focus paper clip is there to give an idea of its size. I think it would make a lovely alphabet book for Babybel when she is old enough to not to try to eat it.

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Late breaking news

- pushes Babybel off the front page!

Here are some action shots of Ronaldo the wonder dog in action, for footballing Border Collie fans!

And a happy Christmas to all my readers

From Santa's little helper and me.
Thanks to Babybel's daddy for the photo.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

How to make something simple very complicated

I have been reading the late Julia Caprera's new book, 'Exploring Colour' and was inspired to do a colour study. So did I go out and buy a small sketchbook? Of course not - that would be far too simple ...

I thought I had a dark blue box I could use for a cover, so I chose blue for the study. Using the box seemed simpler than making a cover from scratch, and 'box books' have lots of room for adding stuff. If I could make two Mulled Wine box books in the middle of the night I could make this one almost equally quickly, even if it was bigger.

First complication - I decided to pre-paint some pages rather than colouring them in situ, which can get messy, in my hands at least. So I used crayons and paintsticks and acrylics as resists on big sheets of paper, sloshed over Brusho and Koh-i-Noor and some pale glittery paint I got from the Works, and left them to dry while I looked for the cover.

Second complication. The box is dark green, not blue.

So rather than paint some green papers I decided to make a cover. I didn't think the blue card I had would be tough enough so it had to be fabric - and I found a perfect remnant of thick dark denim.

Fourth complication - I can't just leave the cover plain. I'm an embroiderer for goodness sake! But I really couldn't face doing anything elaborate - the embroidery is meant to be on the inside, not the outside. Time to explore the alphabets on the Bernina - and fortunately I have lots of blue variegated thread. So, in case I forget, the cover says BLUE BLUE BLUE repeatedly. It isn't back to front/upside down, by the way - the cover wraps over to allow for expansion when I start putting stuff inside.

Fifth complication - thick as the denim is, it needed to be stiffer . And I have decided I don't really like craft Vilene. Fortunately I found another offcut of some thick mystery fabric which was big enough. Bond the two pieces together and zigzag round the edges - easy! And I found a suitable twisted cord for a tie, no need to make another one!

Now all I had to do was put in the pages ...

I found a picture of a long stitch binding I liked in EK Smith's 'How to Make Books', used her clever technique involving graph paper to punch holes in the cover and pages and started to sew. And realised - sixth complication - that I hadn't checked how to do it so I hadn't punched enough holes. I needed 6 in each signature, not 4. Unpicked, punched more holes. [It's not easy to do this retrospectively.]

Started sewing again - and had problems with almost every signature. Getting signatures upside down, sewing the tying cord into the pages, knots, pages out of place - everything that could go wrong did.

But - it is finished - and I like it. It feels wonderful in the hand, and once the smell of paintsticks wears off it will be perfect. And I don't have to put something on every one of its 190+ pages, do I?

Friday 19 December 2008

I can't sink lower than this

- posting pictures of amusing vegetables. Rude amusing vegetables. This is a Sainsbury's 'Basic' aubergine and it is pretty basic.

I'll tell you what it tasted like tomorrow.

No more tonight as Babybel is on her way to help celebrate her granddad's birthday.
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Thursday 18 December 2008

In the midnight hour

- or more accurately, about 2 am - I made these. What, you say, she made 2 Schwartz spice packets? But they are not what they seem. As soon as I spotted these little boxes I thought 'books' - and so I upcycled them. [Love that neologism.]

Of course they are only about 5x10 cm so have little practical use, but making them occupied an insomniac night quite nicely.

The contents improved some cheapo red wine very nicely too ...

One of the problems with insomnia is that although I can sometimes get things done in the middle of the night, I usually feel totally inert the next day. Fortunately today I didn't feel too bad. I worked on this - which I made on Monday, without having any real idea what I was going to do with it. I started it with the intention of using it as a background for the button pieces I am still thinking about - but it morphed into something too elaborate for that - sort of inadequate crazy patchwork. On Monday it was telling me it thought it was a cushion cover but I am definitely NOT a cream silk and lace cushion person.

Then I found
this - and the purpose of the not quite crazy patchwork was revealed. I love the restrained originals - but as you can see mine are rather more vulgar. That is my contribution to Christmas this year done!

While i was doing this Wensleydale put up the 'real' [i.e.fake] Christmas tree. - with assistance, of course, from QC. Here is the front half

- and the back. She reminds us of Mog in the delightful children's book, 'Mog's Christmas' - fluffy and none too bright ...

Wednesday 17 December 2008

The dangers of Googling

- you end up writing a post of no interest to anyone but yourself which is really just a list of links ...

It started when wandering around on the web, I came across this, which is the website of the National Library of the Netherlands.

There are some beautiful illustrations, including this which is one of the most wonderful embroidered book covers I have ever seen.

I also found this - and was entranced by the idea of a chemise for a book! So I Googled 'chemise book binding' and ended up here, at the glossary of illustrated manuscripts on the British Library website. Not only a clear explanation of a chemise binding, which it likens to a modern dust cover, but lots of other definitions with beautiful illustrations. Twenty five pages of inspiration [there appears to be no page for 'Y'.]

Then I went here and ended up ordering the book from ABE books. My library of books on books is threatening to overtake my library of books on embroidery.

This link is to the V&A conservation department. It describes how they made a chemise for what can only be described as an 18th C altered book. The side bar provides links to articles from the V&A's conservation journal. Dip in and enjoy - if you are as odd as I am ...

I love the V&A website - I used it a lot for the History Of British Embroidery, and every time I go back I find something else interesting..

Tuesday 16 December 2008

You win some, you lose some

but a few days ago I felt that the balance was definitely on the wrong side.

It was all to do with these - over which I had been procrastinating for some time. I wanted to machine embroider the last one, but I have been feeling very unconfident about my free motion embroidery recently and that was discouraging me. In the end I decided not to FME it but to use set stitches. It [top right] is OK, but doesn't have the texture of the others - and of course, I couldn't do French knots by machine. I tried machine eyelets instead, which had a nicely wispy outline, but are flat, of course. I added beads by hand - I know you can do it by machine but I bottled out.

So finishing the embroidery on the not-landscapes was definitely on the winning side of the equation. [Win #1.] I had bought some stretched canvases to mount them on - but the canvases were slightly too big and I had to staple the backing fabric to the sides, not the back. [Loss #1] Then I looked in the stash for some black felt to cover the backs of the canvases. It was too small. [Loss #2.] Never mind, I've got a big piece of white felt. Except I can't find it. [Loss #3.]

In the search for the white felt I found some canvas type stuff that I think came from my father's upholstering days, and decided that would do. [Win #2.] Except that I cut the first two pieces too small. [Loss #4.] Fortunately there was enough left to recut the pieces. [Win #3.] I cut it, hemmed it, started to sew the first piece on - and realised that because I am planning on covering the sides with ribbon to hide the staples - I can staple the canvas on too. [Loss #5.] So now the not-landscapes are piled up waiting for me to raise the enthusiasm to wield the stapler.

However - things are definitely looking up. I have finished this, which restores the balance. This is the cover

and the inside pages.

It was inspired by planets but Wensleydale says it looks like alchemical symbols. It is minimal embroidery again - a few fly stitches, some beads and some machine embroidery to attach the panels to the pages. I was so pleased with it I cut out the pieces for another, slightly bigger book.

Thursday 11 December 2008

I haven't picked up a needle in days

-apart from the knitting variety [ another baby-soon-to-be-toddler cardigan]. I have lots of ideas for embroidery but somehow can't get started.

I have had a good throw out, mostly of stuff I printed from the net and now cannot imagine why. This was inspired by Wensleydale who has celebrated the end of his stint as chair of governors by making the shredder earn its keep. Pity it's too cold to make paper out of the shredded paper [something I do outside].

I have also been doodling in the altered book. Despite colouring the pages with black and grey Brusho, it has ended up very blue - and these mournful looking women keep appearing in the pages.

Or trees. I used the lovely Inktense pencils Wensleydale gave me for my birthday to bring out the lines - dipped in water, they work well on the textured surface of the pages.

As my mind has been running on goddesses - because of the book I'm reading - I added a few goddesses for them to pray to.

This is Venus [by Titian, I think, I've lost the little note I made].
According to Clare Gibson's book, one of Venus' symbols is the rose - so I added a rose. I decided after I'd stencilled it that it was too bright so covered it with a smear of gold ink pad. Then it seemed to disappear completely so I drew round it in gold pen [love those metallic pens]. It's still not right, so I shall have to think about what to do with it next.

Although Mary isn't a goddess, according to Gibson she acquired many characteristics of goddesses, so she is in there. This is based on a carving by Eric Gill.

At the other extreme - here is Kali.

And this must be Bastet, the Egyptian moon goddess. It is one of my favourite stencils. Pity Quality Control never looks this elegant!

I'm quite enjoying pottering around in the book, just trying out ideas - and if it doesn't work I can always paint over it ...

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Blogs I like

A few days ago Wil was kind enough to nominate me for the Kreativ Blogger award. I have been lazy about doing anything about it, partly because I know some people don't like participating in such things, and partly because I suspect that may of the blogs I read get nominated umpteen times. Instead I decided that I would list a few I enjoy, without making a formal nomination.

What kick started me into it was coming across this textile related blog, where artist Solveigh Goett posts her 'on-line card index' of small textile pieces with brilliantly chosen relevant text. It is engrossing and thought provoking, especially to someone like me who has lots of vintage haberdashery - I mentioned my inherited stashes in my previous post. I have to confess that I particularly enjoyed 'A sheep story' - [scroll down to November 18th] which is rather lighter than some other items.

I reached Goett's blog via that of Kirsty Hall, an artist who posts about her own work and links to other art blogs, not all textile related. You can spend hours fossicking about on there too!

I suspect many stitchers know Jude Hill's 2 blogs - 'Spirit cloth' and 'What if?' If not, you are in for a treat. Hill was recently featured on Quilting Arts.

And finally, for the C&G Embroidery students out there, Helen Cowans is blogging her History of British Embroidery. I'm sure no C&G student would be guilty of plagiarism ...

Monday 8 December 2008

Creative Textiles - and some good news

Although I haven't mentioned the Creative Textiles workshop for a while, I haven't forgotten about it. I have been working on some ideas, although I don't think I will return to the long piece I started in the workshop - the quilt has confirmed my preference for small pieces!

The work we did on modifying marks got me thinking about similarity and difference, and I developed an idea for some pieces on that theme using buttons rather than marks. [Having inherited three women's stashes as well as my own I have a lot of buttons.] Buttons have functional features in common - e.g. holes - but can vary in a number of ways - size, shape, colour, number and position holes etc. - similarities and differences.

But as buttons are usually relatively simple in design I decided they would need some interesting backgrounds. I experimented with making stiff backgrounds because I am bored with using craft Vilene for book covers. [You had realised books were involved, hadn't you?]
So I glued bits of a variety of papers on decorators' lining paper, cartridge paper and calico. Then I sloshed on white emulsion paint [my occasional substitute for gesso] and, while they were still wet, painted them with Brusho. I used grey, black and blue Brusho, although the grey is quite blue and was bluer still by the time I'd finished ... Then they got a spritz of moonshadow mist and the calico was dry brushed with black paint - just because I happened to have some that needed using up. [I am mean about paint and don't like washing it down the drain.]

Unfortunately, when it was dry, I realised that it just wouldn't work with the buttons. Time for Plan B - which according to Wensleydale is 'thinking up Plan C,]. Back to mark making.

At the time, I didn't want to use any of the ideas for marks the workshop had generated. [I have had some ideas since then, which may appear later.] So I decided to stamp it instead. If you are not a perfectionist stamper, each repeat of the stamp is different, which I like. The dark blue tones, the conjunction of the moon with Venus and Mercury [I think?] and my new book ['Symbols of the Goddess' by Clare Gibson] - all suggested planet imagery. I stamped various circles and arcs with found objects - and this is the stage I've reached. Now for some embroidery ...

Still need to think about what I'm going to do with all those buttons though.

And the good news?

This is finished. Quilted, bound, washed and ready to be wrestled into some wrapping paper. I would like to show you the beautiful free motion quilted butterflies I covered it with. I would like to show them to you but unfortunately my quilting skills aren't up to that and it is all straight lines - a diagonal grid in the centre and lines round the borders. I can FME small pieces - but not this, which seemed to grow by the minute. It is, however, a good size for snuggling on the sofa under, as Wensleydale found when I was finishing the binding. I just hope the recipient likes it.

Since then, someone on the British Quilt List has asked about 'In the Night Garden' quilts - and I had already realised that if the hungry Caterpillar is successful someone might produce 'Wild Things' fabric [Babybel's daddy's favourite book.] However, a girl can have too many quilts.

Thursday 4 December 2008

Our Wednesday wander

was to this. Unfortunately I forgot my camera so I can't show you any photos. I can show you what I bought - this wreath, which is our only concession so far to Christmas ['Bah! Humbug!']

and this Czech duck. When you pull him along he moves his head and quacks. I know he's Czech because he has something written on his tummy which Google tells me means 'Unsuitable for Children under 3 years' in Czech. Pity I didn't spot that before I bought him - now he will have to go into hibernation for 2 years or only be played with under supervision.

We went with Mr and Mrs Cheddar and at their suggestion went down to the market just as dusk was falling and the lights were coming on. We have only been in day time in previous years and it was definitely better to go in the late afternoon. It seemed quite quiet too - but it was very very very cold!

Incidentally, the reason I forgot my camera was because I took it out of my bag to take this photo of some sofa testing and forgot to put it back. She's not dead - just asleep. It was very difficult to take a photo which didn't make her look as though she had no head.

Today has been much more industrious - I have quilted and bound the caterpillar quilt, apart from hand stitching down the binding which will be a pleasant task for TV listening. [Photo of that when I have finished.] I also made this with the left overs from the quilt. Babies need bags for all their stuff!

Monday 1 December 2008

A stellar display

I mentioned a while ago that I had joined the group 'Around the World in 20 Quilts' [or ATWI20Q' for short]. We have been working on the theme 'stellar' and all the finished A4 quiltlets were revealed on Nov 30th. There is a link to the group blog in the sidebar [under all the pictures of Babybel] if you want lots of ideas and lots of inspiration.

I have finished [?] the second not-landscape. It has changed a bit since you last saw it - the brown has gone. I think the kantha-ish quilting works and I may add some to the first not-landscape. You will notice that some bead and French knot encrustation did creep in after all...

I spent the weekend working on an altered book for Maggie Grey's online class. This used to be a copy of an Enid Blyton story - I decided it was worthy of altering when I realised that the girls in the story had a governess and the threshing machine was run by a traction engine. As it wasn't a first edition I decided it was probably of limited interest to 21st century children and proceeded to attack it.

Here it is drying on the radiator. Some pages were removed, then I glued a variety of papers [newspaper, paper towels, tissue, pages from a completed crossword book and an old phone book, and paper doyleys from the pound shop] to some of the remaining ones. All were brushed with gesso and sprayed with black and grey Brusho. I think it looks wonderfully tatty. When it is dry I will have to decide what else to do to it. At the moment, still thinking about mark making, I am pondering on runes ...

Having taken the plunge with altering a book - I am tempted to do it again. I think, apart from my reluctance to deface books, i have always been put off by the style of the altered books I have seen. Maggie's, of course, are different, and much more to my taste.

The quilt is temporarily on hold as Wensleydale is administrating on the dining room table, which is where I layer my quilts. He has promised it will be clear by tomorrow, so I can get the three layers assembled and pinned - I hope to tackle the quilting on Thursday.

On a completely different topic - as this blog has been a bit doggy recently - here is Quality Control testing the printer. Notice that blank sheet of paper emerging? That is what happens if you tread on the buttons on your way up. She is looking alert because she has just heard the fridge door opening two rooms away ...

Thursday 27 November 2008

Most important things first ...

the quilt top is finished. That is the top, you understand, not the whole quilt. And simple as it is it took some cursing, some minor errors and one major one and a lot of unpicking just to get this far. Now I just have the dreaded quilting to do.

This is the first quilting kit I have ever bought and I don't think I will buy another one as there wasn't enough fabric for me to make the design changes I wanted to make [or to put right the major mistake]. I did simplify the pattern a bit anyway.

When I bought the kit I thought it was single bed size - but it isn't. It's about 120 x 180 cm, so will probably make a topper for a single bed. I think it will be good for snuggling under while being read to, or as a wall hanging - although I don't think there is enough spare wall in Babybel's bedroom. I hope she likes it as much as she apparently likes her birthday DVD.
I have also been working on the landscapes that aren't. I am back into minimal embroidery with this one, couching and my favourite clusters of beads and French knots that I think of as encrustations. It also has a border of running stitch as, although I bonded it to the black fabric - it is coming unbonded.
I am less happy with this one. I like the couching but I am not sure about the brown straight stitches / Bokhara couching. I have begun to add running stitch in copper - but I am not sure about that either. I may unpick it and try a slightly thicker thread - unless you have a better idea. I was aiming for a sort of kantha but I'm not sure it will work. I do have some coppery beads in reserve if I decide to encrust it.

Speaking of Bokhara couching - having seen the suzanis in Glasgow last summer I enjoyed the article about them in 'Stitch', which answers a lot of the questions I had which the information in the Burrell didn't answer!

I am always a bit ambivalent about 'Stitch' - it usually has too many 'blind followers' patterns for me - but this month's has some interesting articles. And who knew Jan Mesent wrote for Mills and Boon?