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

Dorothy Rowe

Friday 29 February 2008

Sketchbooks Part 3

In the third term we had to make a book of our own – ‘book’ being pretty broadly defined!

We had already made a couple of books by this time. This accordion book on 'Line' was the result of a Saturday school when we drew and painted in all sorts of ways – without looking, using brushes tied to long canes, with wire etc. Good fun – especially for those like me who can’t draw and find it scary.

The wiggly cream line on the right is string dipped in paper pulp.

The second book was a holiday task between term 2 and 3. This is mine on India – one of my favourite holiday destinations. It has a stick and elastic band binding, which you can only just see see because the cover has a ‘door’ cut in it. You will see that I incorporated some Indian bits. [For Brit embroiderers,they came from a Glitterati goody bag.]

My final book was also inspired by other good holidays – Egypt, in case you hadn’t guessed. It is constructed from papyrus paper I bought on the web. The images are tracings, stamps, transferred images and some drawings. I really had fun with this, and became more confident about my drawing and painting skills. Nor completely confident, you understand, just more confident!

Maz asked about the cost of a course like this compared with on-line courses. I can’t remember how much I paid, but the college [Eastleigh] is currently advertising the cost at £392. The Kemshalls’ advertise it for a minimum of £650.

I don’t think this is a rip-off – overheads are different and some colleges do still seem to subsidise Adult Ed courses. [I used to work in FE and could bore for Britain on the subject of funding but having been out of it for nearly 2 years I am out of touch now, thank goodness.]

I just came across this blog:


which gives a day to day account of someone taking the course. This is a slightly different approach – but looks just as much fun!

Wednesday 27 February 2008

Creative Sketchbooks Part 2

Sorry for the break – Wensleydale and I went to Bournemouth yesterday and got back worn out – all the sea air, you know. Or carrying all the books we bought at Borders and the birthday presents from a shop I won’t name. [Both daughters in law have birthdays in March – all the Cheese women do apart from the new one!]

So – back to Creative Sketchbooks. In the second term we completed a bought sketch book on a theme of our choice – mine was ‘Doors and Windows’.

This is the front of the book – we were encouraged to decorate the covers. The window frame uses a technique from Maggie Grey’s ‘Raising the Surface with Machine Embroidery’ – plastic canvas embroidered with string and covered with tissue paper. The spine is decorated with keys and key fobs made with Scoubidous [or however you spell it!]

The book makers amongst my readers may be cringing at the way I have wrecked this but I love the sight of a work book bursting at the seams – I suspect many textile artisans would agree with me. The wavy line at the bottom is a page added by tying it to the coil. We were encouraged to tear, cut or even burn the pages – it is actually written into the syllabus!

This is the first page – the door mat says ‘Welcome’ -wonkily. The drawing is of a local door – it was the wealth of beautiful architectural features in the city that made me choose this theme. The background was done with a stamp made from polystyrene

This is the door of my sewing room – with some sayings about doors on the left. The background is Koh-i-noor - which I may have mentioned before ...

I meant to do another page about windows but couldn’t produce a drawing I was satisfied with!

This was inspired by the door of our cathedral. It isn’t obvious but there are three pages here, two of which have archways cut into them, the first one larger than the second.

This is only a small selection of pages – it was a 50 page sketchbook. We didn’t have to fill it – but of course I wanted to [anal personality or what?]

Some are not fit to be shown in public, especially when real artists read my blog, but I learned a lot from doing it, and there was a big spin off into my embroidery design, which is what I’d hoped. It is also what got me into making books. I would love to do a real bookbinding course and learn how to make them properly!

Monday 25 February 2008

Creative Sketchbooks

A couple of people have asked about the ‘Creative Sketchbooks’ C&G course I took last year, and I promised I would blog about it – so here is Part 1. [I have divided it into sections because my posts seem to be getting longer and I don’t want to bore everyone silly!]

Which reminds me that I have been meaning to comment on the number of visits to my blog – nearly 1300 when I last looked. I never thought when I started this that there would be so many [or any, really!] Thank you all – you encourage me to keep going.

So – back to Creative Sketchbooks. This course was pioneered by the Kemshalls and you can see lots of other people’s work on their website:


However I took the course at my local college, with Susan Chapman:


In the first term we looked at the C&G design staples :





and texture

and made samples for a portfolio.

We also looked at lots of different techniques, including sloshing Koh-i-noor on blank pages, printing, air brushing, sloshing Koh-i-noor on blank pages, making rubbings, making stamps etc etc etc - oh, and did i mention sloshing Koh-i-noor on blank pages?

If you have read my blog before you will probably not be surprised that I didn’t just put these in a portfolio …

I made one of these little books as an experiment:

And discovered that it fitted neatly into this box:

So all my technique samples ended up in it. [The box had a bottle of wine in it originally and hung around my workroom for years because it was too good to throw away.]

I painted it with Brusho mixed with meths, as described in the leaflet that came with the Brusho. Not recommended - the colour ran - although it does show off the grain.

Part 2 will follow when I get a moment ...

Sunday 24 February 2008

A good day and a bad day

Yesterday was a good day - I finished the ribbon flower piece. It took about 3 days which is far too long for a few final samples! Still – I learned a lot, not least about how to make an interesting background on the embellisher. Thanks to Myfanwy for your kind comments, it was your book what done it!

I have also nearly finished the magnum opus, the history of embroidery. It comes to [Anne, look away now] 140 pages. Thank you Guzzisue for telling me yours was two ring binders, it makes me feel much better! And you’re right – you do learn a lot. I don’t regret a minute of it – well, perhaps cutting bits out at the end!

Now all I need to do is print it out, get the editor in chief to proof read it, correct it, add my postcards, and samples and put it in its cover [already made, thank goodness]. OK, maybe it won’t get done by Thursday, especially as Sunday is one of the few nights there is something worth watching on telly.

Today has not been so productive. This morning I was going to start on the design work for the historic fashion piece – but I couldn't find the drawings I did in class. Which led to a bout of tidying. I have been tidying off and on since I finished the metre piece – I can work in mess but need reasonable tidiness to start something new. It is also, of course, procrastination. [Tidiness is of course, always relative - my tidiness is probably a total mess to most people.]

While I was tidying/looking for my drawings I decided that I needed a storage unit we had spotted in Homebase earlier in the week. It was in the children’s storage area – a timber frame into which you can slide 6 large plastic storage boxes. I already have a similar unit which holds a lot more than you expect. I put off buying the new one before because my room is due for major refurbishing but I don’t want to start it until C&G has finished. However this morning the level of grot got to me and I decided to take the first step.

So we went out and bought one. I had hoped to have room for more but the radiator got in the way. However, when I added on the cost of 6 plastic boxes the price doubled so perhaps one unit was enough!

I was going to spend the afternoon putting stuff in boxes but Wensleydale decided the unit needing sanding and staining first – so that was put on hold. So I haven’t achieved much today – although I did find the drawings. Which were in the first place I had looked, of course – the sketchbook was with a collection of other sketchbooks, I just hadn’t looked in all of them.

Thursday 21 February 2008

How I get sidetracked

As I have mentioned before, I have been making samples of manipulated fabrics for C&G. I am not completely sure I know what C&G means by manipulated fabrics, but one advantage of making lots of samples is that the tutor could throw half of them out and I would still have plenty!

However, I am getting bored with it, so today I thought I would tidy up the fabric I had been using, make a few ribbon roses for a last sample, and move on to some design work I need to do for next week.

Well – ribbon roses led to lace rosettes - and then I began to wonder how I was going to display them. [Are you surprised?] They would get a bit lost in the bowl.

I remembered that when I tidied up the fabric there had been a piece of dyed hessian which might make a background. But it was a bit insubstantial – so perhaps I could back it with felt? Could I use the embellisher to put the hessian on the felt? Only one way to find out.

So out came the embellisher, and yes, you can embellish hessian to felt. Then, as I usually do, I turned the piece over and embellished it from the felt side – which produced some rather organic green shadows on the hessian. So I added a few more. And then I added some stems using string and some nice loopy mohair from one of Texere’s variety packs. [I used to wonder what to do with the thicker fibres in a Texere pack before I had the embellisher.]

So now I had a nice background – but the few rosettes and roses looked a bit lost on it. So of course I had to make some more. Serendipitously Janet of


had posted a link to her method of making roses, on the BQL Yahoo list. She also has instructions for leaves. And rosebuds. And violets. So far I have only made the China silk flowers [the small blue ones top right, although mine are down market sparkle organza] and they are easy, quick and effective.

The small specks of colour you can see on the flowers are pins - this is a work in progress!

So tomorrow I have some more flowers and leaves to make. Of course, if I had intended to make a piece like this I probably wouldn’t have picked these colours but I am NOT starting again, although quality control made her opinion very clear.

I might get round to the design work at the weekend.

Tuesday 19 February 2008

I am officially hassled - but it is still more fun than going to work.

When I was teaching psychology, I used to talk about two measures of stress [just don’t expect me to remember their names]. The best known measure lists a range of life events which can cause stress and rates them in order of seriousness – so you can tot up which ones you have experienced recently and work out how stressed you are. Death of a partner or divorce are high up on the list – but so are moving house and Christmas.

But someone else had the bright idea that most of us experience those sort of events no more than once a year [usually much less often] and yet we feel stressed. So their scale lists hassles – more minor but more frequent events, like things breaking down or dental appointments. The more of these everyday events you are experiencing the more stressed you feel.

So why am I officially stressed?

First, Adobe started playing up. I tried to download a pdf and got all sorts of strange error messages. This has happened before and usually sorts itself out in a few days – but not this time. So I tried deleting Adobe Reader and reinstalling it. No luck. The computer told me that ‘Windows cannot access the specified device, path or file. You may not have the appropriate permission to access this item.’ Cheek!

I have e-mailed the computer doctor but so far no reply. Nothing new there. I do not understand why he can’t drop everything and rush round to sort out his old mum. Just because he has to go to work …

So that was the first hassle.

I promised my teacher that I would try to finish my history of British embroidery, which is the major piece of written work for C&G. I have been working on it on and off throughout the course and it was pretty well finished – or so I thought.

I started to print it out and realised two things:

  1. The borders I put round some of the pages weren’t going to work when I bound the book. Anyone know how to indent borders about 3 cm from the left?
  2. The whole work is …far…too…long. The section on the 20th century alone runs to 24 pages. I wouldn’t like to mark it, so I can’t expect A to. Which means I will have to cut some of my deathless prose.

So that was the second hassle.

Yesterday I decided I wanted to make a bowl to put my manipulated fabric samples in. [They are a bit lumpy to go in a book, unfortunately.] I chose a pattern from Linda Johansen’s ‘Fast, Fun and Easy Fabric Bowls’ because it seemed to suit manipulated fabric samples.

The samples are turquoise so I wanted a turquoise bowl. I have a walk in cupboard full of fabric of every type and colour – but none that was right for my bowl. If it was the right colour the piece wasn’t big enough. If it was big enough it was too fine / slippery/ nasty. I spent all yesterday afternoon going through every piece of blue/turquoise/green fabric I own. I finally decided on some hand dyed silk noil that was supposed to be black but turned out a greeny grey – but by then It was time to stop for the day. So this bowl wasn’t ‘Fast’.

That was the third hassle.

This morning I started making the bowl. And found that every thread I tried shredded. There was something about the combination of silk, Bondaweb and canvas that threads did not like. The only solution I found was to change the needle every time the breakage got too bad. It didn’t matter what type of needle – embroidery, top stitch, jeans – they would work for a while and the shredding would start again. I must have used half a dozen needles. I have made bowls before and never had problems. So not ‘Fun’.

And that was the fourth hassle.

But – the bowl is finished – and it was easy.

Here it is empty - interesting shape, isn't it?

And here with its contents.

I sometimes think I worry more about the presentation of my C&G stuff than the stuff itself!

Monday 18 February 2008

Let sleeping babies lie!

Just to prove she wears other colours apart from pink! This is a rather nice babygrow courtesy of Granny B [the other doting grandmother].

We visited Charlotte and her parents at the weekend. Granny Cheese got some big smiles but Granddad Cheese got giggles! Not sure what he’s got that I haven’t.

However he spent the afternoon helping repair a dishwasher while I helped make a cast of Charlotte’s feet and hands, and played with her. Mmm – I know who I think drew the short straw!

To change the subject – here is another picture of our cherry tree - a great improvement on the few blossoms I posted before. It has been a beautiful day – very cold but very sunny – and the tree was looking its best. We love it even more now we don’t have to park the car under it - the departure of sons has meant that we have been able to make enough room in the garage to put the car in there! The tree is lovely but it drops blossom in spring, cherries in summer and leaves in autumn. And the birds love the cherries so they leave their calling cards too …

Friday 15 February 2008

Back in January ...

I mentioned that I was taking Sue Bleiweiss’s Mixed Media class at Joggles.

I have been quiet about it ever since because I have been so busy that I have not managed to keep up with the lessons. [And Sue really crams stuff in, 2 items at least per lesson. It is a very good value course, especially at the current exchange rate!]

So today, having cleared a space in my work room, I made this. In case it isn’t clear, it is a cover for a concertina booklet. I think it may become granny's bragging book.
[I did try to take a photo of it flat with singular lack of success – and scanning it didn’t work either.] And yes - the table does need cleaning.
Last night’s ‘Show and Tell’ passed off successfully, and my metre piece is signed off. The general conclusion [including that of the Internal Verifier who was there] was that the scrawny tassels I don’t like add to the texture and contrast well with the horizontals and verticals. So they are staying and I don’t have to wield the superglue!

The teacher also confirmed that I have completed 7 of the 8 ‘constructed samples’ I have to do. At this level of C&G using ordinary fabric for a background is a no-no – we have to explore different ways of making backgrounds [and then embroider on them] and we all get confused about what is what.

I have 2 silk paper samples [including the green man], 2 made of forms of patchwork, 1 of fabric bonded together, one felt and one knitted. The last will be made when we do paper making in a few weeks time.

I was then told that I could have a [virtual] star for being the most up to date in the class – which means I become the class swot and everyone hates me, I suppose!

Thursday 14 February 2008

Nothing much has been happening

on the creative front over the last few days. Apart from a shopping trip to Guildford, I have been tidying up the aftermath of the metre piece – my working method being to get out everything I might possibly want to use and then leave it all over the floor until I’ve finished. [Fortunately I have a room in which I can do this]. Putting it back always seems to take a lot longer than getting it out – possibly because putting a quart into a pint pot is harder than pouring it out.

I have named tonight’s college session ‘Show and Tell’ as the teacher, A, has asked us to bring in almost everything we’ve done so far, so she can check whether we are up to date or not. This has caused some grumbling as she has never done it this way before. Having dealt with course work deadlines myself in the past, I realise why she is doing it. In previous years she has allowed a fair amount of slippage but this is the last year and there is no wriggle room.

I can be smug because I am pretty well up to date [I think]. However I have had to think about what I have done – and where it is!

I thought I would show you a couple of the pieces that came to light.

The first is my 3D silk paper sample. This was supposed to be inspired by my design theme, which is 20th century art – and it is. My design notebook shows the development from Picasso’s Harlequins [especially those with wreaths of flowers round their heads] to Green Men.

The second is the only piece anyone has ever offered to buy. It is the raised work sample, in hand dyed silk velvet – lovely stuff and a b****r to sew. This [perhaps more obviously] was inspired by Georgia O’Keefe, but also by the lovely little Tudor bags called ‘sweet bags’.

Needless to say it isn’t for sale!

Monday 11 February 2008

A grand day out

Wensleydale and I had a trip out yesterday to see ‘Of Quiet Observation’, an exhibition by Hilary Bower at Walford Mill in Wimborne, Dorset:


We had seen some of her work at the Knitting and Stitching Show, and I was keen to see more. I wasn’t disappointed.

The work uses textiles and thread in combination with metals and wood. It is muted, achromatic, and peaceful. Bower says she uses landscape as part of her inspiration, and I was strongly reminded of the work of Richard Long, because of the colour, the mood – and the poetic lines from Bower about some of the pieces.

Wensleydale commented on the shock of moving from the gallery, with its muted tones, to the shop, where there was a lot of brightly coloured glass.

Despite the evidence of my metre piece I very rarely work in neutrals – the only other time I tried I had to introduce some colour, as I was so bored with what I was doing. But Bower’s work really makes you look at the variations in colour and texture in a piece of metal, or [hand-dyed?] grey fabric or thread.

It is quite a small exhibition, but well worth a visit if you are within reach. The gallery is free, the shop has some interesting stuff, and there’s a cafĂ© with good coffee and cake – what more could you ask?

Coincidentally, today I read June Underwood’s article on shadow in art – specifically art quilts - here:


She mainly discusses the representation of shadow or the effect of shadows falling over work – but makes little mention of three dimensional art. Having spent the previous afternoon looking at Bower’s work, I think there is a third alternative - where the shadow of the work itself is an intrinsic part of it

I am very interested in textile works which use light and shadow – Cherilynn Tyler is someone else who comes to mind, although her website doesn’t show the works I am thinking of, where she suspended translucent embroidery clear of the background in shadow boxes.


Does anyone know of anybody else working in this way?

All this has inspired me to begin taking photos of my leaves at different times of day and in different lighting conditions.

Saturday 9 February 2008

The metre piece is completely finished ...

- unless, of course, my teacher says otherwise.

This is the finished book of the piece. Sheila commented that she made her book as she went along. I do the written part like that [on the computer as my handwriting is illegible even to me].

When we get the design brief I start a Word document with an action plan and a weekly diary. I keep all the design work and samples, although sometimes I have to hunt a bit to find them later.

This is the section of the diary where I wrote about my design inspiration. The pages were decorated with webbing spray to make them a bit more interesting.

That baby gets in everywhere, doesn't she? She was my excu - er - the reason why my action plan slipped in November!

At the end I write an evaluation – and then make up a book to put it all in. The books seem to have got gradually more elaborate over the years, although the wall hanging one I posted about before is relatively simple. A lot depends on how much time I have, but the current one only took a couple of afternoons. I do it because I like making books! I took another C&G course last year called 'Creative Sketchbooks' which just reinforced my bad habits...

I used a Japanese binding called hemp leaf, which seemed appropriate. [I do know hemp leaves are a different shape.] The raffia used in the binding was left over from the hanging.

I put some left-over leaves on the cover, and strung my sample beads on an elastic loop to keep it closed, as it is rather floppy. I wasn't sure how else to include the bead samples

I had to include some large design pieces, which is one reason I made the book so long. I still had to fold some, like this Zandra Rhodes inspired sketch, and the full scale mock up. The spots at lower left are holes made with a leaf shaped punch. When it is folded up the green shows through against the white back of the paper.

This is an envelope I made from another piece of design work, for the sample string of leaves.

The book and the hanging will go to college next Thursday and with any luck it will be signed off.

I forgot to say that the foreign embroidery study was also signed off this week with some very positive comments about the covers.

Friday 8 February 2008

What I did yesterday

Well - some of the things I did yesterday.

First – I took some photos of the leaves in daylight.

You may have noticed that I have moved them since I took the night time photographs. There are cup hooks screwed into the rafters of our conservatory to hold up the fairy lights, which are the brown things you can see on either side at the top. [A kind gift some years ago from son # 2.]

Wensleydale suggested that I move the hanging to the next rafter, which puts it fully in front of a window. I am still not happy with the weedy tassels but I think I have a solution – Superglue. I shall experiment when I feel strong enough [Superglue? Embroidery? Shudder!]

I have discovered another design flaw. The glitter in some of the little parcels has sunk to the bottom – like snow globes that need shaking!

The second thing I did yesterday was at college – I tried screen printing for the first time. I have to confess that I have had a screen for some time, bought on special offer from Fibrecrafts, but never got round to trying it. Why didn’t anyone tell me how much fun it was? Messy – but fun! Unfortunately I don’t have anywhere at home where I can make mess on such a large scale, [shut up any sons who are reading this] so I shall have to wait until the weather gets better and I can use the garden. Let’s just hope we don’t have another summer like the last one…

So here are pictures of my efforts. As usual, there are some trees. I like trees. Unfortunately there was some slippage but I still like it.

The other used torn newspaper as a stencil – something I saw on the web somewhere. The design is not brilliant, but I shall try it again with a bit more forethought.

The other good thing which happened last night was that our teacher told us she will be running her master class next year - a fortnightly meeting for those who have completed C&G. I had been wondering what I would do when I finished – after doing C&G for four years it would leave a big gap!

Today as been spent making the book of the hanging. It is nearly finished but we have a Saturday school so may not get done tomorrow.

Wednesday 6 February 2008

I've been rather quiet

about my metre piece for C&G since I first posted about it. That is because, as usual, I got so far with it and then got bored. But as teacher wants it in on Valentine’s day, over the last few days I have made a determined effort and it’s finished.

I am fairly pleased with it – my biggest doubt is about those little tasselly things, which are actually beefed up knots, at the ends of the strings. I am not happy about them but cannot think of any other solution that would not require major reconstruction. I’ll see if the tutor has any bright ideas. I also want to see what it looks like in daylight – the Kunin felt beads look a bit white, so I may paint them with cold tea.

I also have to complete the write up of the process [action plan, costings, diary and evaluation], collect my samples, and make a book to put it all in. Most of the writing is done, so making the book will take the most time. [You probably realise by now that I spend rather a lot of time on these inessentials!] My current idea is a narrow book [A3 cut in half lengthwise] with a Japanese stab binding and some of the left over leaves on the cover. I hope to get time to start it tomorrow before going to college.

Monday 4 February 2008

I now know how to get comments on my blog!

Post a picture of Charlotte [or Custard].

I have been tagged by Wil,

and I am such a newcomer that I had to check her blog to find out what this means.

Just case there is anyone else in the Blogosphere who doesn’t know about it either, here are the rules:

1. Once you are tagged, link back to the person who tagged you. [Done that]

2. Post the rules on your blog. [Done that]

3. Post 7 (weird or random) facts about yourself on your blog.

Mmm – well
· Although I come from Cheshire, [hence the name of the blog] I have only spent 1/6th of my life there. I do like Cheshire cheese though. [Does that count as two facts?]
· My earliest memory that I can date is the Coronation in 1953, which was the first time I saw a TV.
· I saw the Beatles live in 1963 when they were third on the bill to Tommy Roe and Chris Montez [who?].
Thanks to the wonder of Google I can tell you that it was 23rd March.
· I got engaged to my husband within three weeks of meeting him – we married 18 months later and are still together after nearly 37 years. Must have got something right!
· I like most foods – but NOT white chocolate. Nasty!
· After decades of saying I loathed exercise, I recently joined a gym.
· I own a Singer sewing machine which was made around 1894.

4. Tag 7 people and link to them.

More of a problem, as I think many of the people whose blogs I read regularly will have been tagged many times.

So here are some of the interesting blogs of those of you who have been kind enough to comment on my blog. In no particular order, and with apologies to anyone left out because I got to No. 7:

http://stitchingtrail.blogspot.com/ - Sheila is another C&G student - fascinating to read about someone else’s C&G work
http://creatilfun.blogspot.com/ - I’ve read Françoise’s blog for ages – flattering to know she reads mine
http://sharonserranoahmed.blogspot.com/ - Sharon shows some fascinating techniques
http://quirkyartist.blogspot.com/ - I love Wendy’s art
http://barnaclegoosepaperworks.blogspot.com/ - some inspiring book making from Carol
http://lesleyv.blogspot.com/ Lesley is another C&G student, the provider of the sugar and vinegar recipe for texture which I must get round to trying


http://kittystitch.blogspot.com/ - My C&G mate’s blog – although she’s been a bit quiet recently…

5. Comment on their blog to let them know that they have been tagged

Will do!

Saturday 2 February 2008

We've had a little visitor this weekend

And her mum, dad and dog came too. She is such a placid, happy young lady - a complete contrast to her dad at the same age.
Am I a besotted granny? Of course not!