'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 31 March 2008

"A five minute job"

Wensleydale is fond of this phrase – by which he means the sort of DIY job which ought to take only a few minutes – but ends up taking a lot longer.

He had a five minute job this afternoon. He wanted to install a new bathroom cabinet – but before he could do that he had to take down a mirror. However the mirror was reluctant to be unscrewed – we realised it was in situ when we came here nearly 20 years ago. Clearly it liked being where it was.

As the mirror was showing its age, Wensleydale decided the only way to remove it was to break it. I can hear the intake of breath from here - and you are right. The pieces of mirror fell into the wash basin underneath and cracked it. So the five minute job has become basin replacement. Oh, well – the room needs redecorating anyway and he did get the cabinet up without further mishap. Only another 6 years and 364 days of bad luck to go ...

My five minute job was an altogether more positive experience. I found this:


and remembered that I although I didn't have a cigarette case, I did have this little tin. What is remarkable is that I found it in the first place I looked…

We think the tin originally belonged to Wensleydale’s dad and is probably over 60 years old. It measures about 6x5x2 cm and has clearly had a hard life.

I thought making the needle case would just fill the time between getting home from the gym and making lunch. Which it did. But I noticed that the tin had two holes drilled in it – which suggested that I could put a cord through it and hang it round my neck. [There is some logic in this as I may be more likely to park needles in something which is round my neck than in the arm of the chair – which tends to upset Wensleydale. Especially when I forget they are there …]

So after lunch – I found some threads and made a machine cord. As you probably know, it is a legal requirement that a machine cord must have a tassel and some beads. Finding the beads took some time because of the thickness of the cord – and tassels are fun, but fiddly. So the five minute job took a good chunk of the day by the time I had finished it. But it was more fun than Wensleydale’s!

Sunday 30 March 2008

The mock Picasso is finished -

which means that I have completed all of my eight constructed samples - just the 3D piece to go - unless a rewrite of the history of embroidery is called for. [Never mind the quality - feel the weight!]

It is a habit of mine to scan my work in grey scale and black and white as well as colour - sometimes the scans provide more ideas for designs. Not sure what I could do with these, though.

I was hoping to show you how a black and white [well - mostly black] scan led into a piece - but I can't find my pictures of either - so perhaps tomorrow.

I spent yesterday afternoon on the second phase of the great work room re-organisation - no pictures of that either, I'm afraid. It is tidier, but the new units did not swallow as much junk as i had hoped, so still not the neat oasis of calm I had envisaged. [I can hear my sons' laughter from here - assuming they are still reading ...] However - I can now see much more of the floor!

Thursday 27 March 2008

After nearly 40 years

in education. I can't get over the feeling that, as it's Easter, I must be on holiday. This is despite the fact that:

a] I'm retired, and
b] college doesn't finish until next week.

But - as I feel that I'm on holiday - I've been doing something different - making books! The difference is that these are not books to put something C&G related in - they are just [mostly] blank books, made for fun, and to try out different techniques.

So from left to right - the orange one is a Moleskine sized notebook [not that I have ever seen a Moleskine but I've read about them The cover was an experiment with Brusho on card - it is too thin for this purpose. so the elastic is wrinkling it a bit. The next one will be better.

The long pink one is described in the instructions as a Jacob's ladder book. I think, as it is pink, it may have some pictures put in it of my favourite wearer of pink. It was made from scrap card and some hand-made paper from a bumper pack I got from 'The Works'.

The blue one is [I kid you not] a book of envelopes. After I made the birthday presents that cannot yet be revealed I was left with some hand made paper envelopes. [I love hand made paper.] I found some instructions on the web for making them into a book - so I did. The cover paper was inexpertly marbled on shaving foam. [How men can use stuff that smells like that every day I don't know.]

The idea was that I would keep postcards that I have collected in there but it is unfortunately a tiny bit too small - so I will need to think of another use. I am pleased with the look of this book but the structure leaves a little to be desired, due to not following the instructions properly.

The fat pink one is a bit of a cheat as it is just a cover for a naff photo album. The cover is made from a piece of shibori dyed fabric I received in a swap. Unfortunately I cannot remember who dyed it, to give her credit.

I am using this book, not for photos, but for samples of painted papers, together with notes of how I made them - so it is a bit C&G related!

Monday 24 March 2008

Of shoes, and string stamps, and sealing wax ...

well - mostly string stamps.

Wendy commented on the string stamp I used in my cushion designs – although when I looked at the picture I think the one she mentioned is a carved eraser!

So in the absence of anything very creative happening chez Cheese, I thought I would show you some of the stamps I have made, all bar one influenced by Klimt. [The other one is a long way after Mondrian.]

The two larger swirls on the right are positive/negative [and reversed] images cut from funky foam, which is one of my favourite methods, not least because you get two stamps for the price of one. The trees and the swirls top left are string, and the double swirl is a carved eraser. You can tell that I am not punctilious about cleaning my stamps – but it is difficult to clean the string or foam ones as you can’t get them wet, and I think a coat of paint helps to strengthen them. [And I’m lazy.]

I had tried making string stamps in the past using glue but found I ended up with a sticky mess. This much easier method of making them was taught to me on my Sketchbooks course by Susan Chapman. I use cotton parcel string.

First you draw your design on a piece of mat board – I find simple designs work best. Avoid crossing lines if you can.

Then cover the surface with double sided sticky tape. [Recently I have been using left over carpet tape which is more difficult to handle but the price was right.]

Remove the backing of the tape and press the string onto the design. If lines in your design do cross, cut the string at that point and restart on the other side - you don’t want a raised section or the stamp won’t print properly.

When you have finished outlining the design, paint the string and the exposed sticky tape with PVA glue. This seals the string and desticks the sticky tape.

Allow to dry and print your stamp. I use acrylic paint or ink pads.

The same method works for funky foam. I have also made some using pre-cut funky foam shapes, as suggested in Ruth Issett’s newest book, but I haven’t actually tried those out yet.

Saturday 22 March 2008

Paper making: part 2

The purpose of all the paper making was to produce a background for stitch [we have to make 8 samples where we have made the backgrounds ourselves.] Of course, I had forgotten that the piece was supposed to be inspired by our research topic – in my case, 20th century art. If I had remembered that I would have thought more carefully about the colours I used. I did think about making some more paper – but a] I didn’t have time and b] the blender had blown up. [Subsequent testing suggests it hadn't after all.]

So – what could I use as inspiration? Fortunately I have a very linear mind and ‘paper’ made me think ‘collage’ made me think ‘Picasso’. And Googling led me to this:


[No, I don’t know what the language is!]

So here is my tribute to Picasso – not finished yet. The background is some of the paper I made last week, there is ‘some I made earlier’ [British joke, lost on anyone who has never watched ‘Blue Peter’] and some ‘found objects’ as well [and will be more].

I think I may have mentioned before that for relaxation I like to make things following other people’s patterns – so this little bag was made from instructions on ‘Quiltwow’ by Di Goodwin. Of course I can’t follow instructions to the letter – why use bought bin bags and shower plastic when you have plastic bags to keep out of the landfill? So this was made from a Damart bag and a transparent carrier bag of the type I seem to collect at shows. It went together very easily apart from the grommets – grommets and I don’t get on.

It was difficult to photograph because the shiny surface reflected the light – and of course it's far too small [ about 5" by 7"] to be of any use as a handbag for anyone who hauls around as much as I do. I think the volume of one’s handbag increases exponentially with one’s age …

Friday 21 March 2008

Making paper while the wind blows.

I see that my friend A has blogged about our papermaking exploits last week -


so I thought I would too. At the time it seemed like a bit of a disaster – but with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight it wasn’t so bad after all.

I have made paper before, several times. On a warm sunny day I have been known to soak the contents of the shredder bin, go into the garden and make a wonderful mess. [N.B. Don’t do this if you have shredded a credit card, unless you want to blunt your blender blades and have sharp bits in your paper. Ask me how I know.]

However last week all sorts of things seemed to go wrong. I have come to the conclusion that there are some things I can do in a room full of people, but paper making isn’t one of them.

However – before my blender blew up I did manage to produce some pieces: these are the best ones.

This one uses a child’s play-doh cutter as a stencil. They are meant to be whales - the shape of the cutter made it difficult to get the paper pulp into all the corners. One of my paper making books suggests using a turkey baster to put the pulp in. Now why didn’t I read the book before the lesson?

The top one is cast over a wooden moulding from B&Q – pulp kindly supplied by my friend A. [Hence the lime green.] The bottom one was done by putting squeezed out pulp into the top of a cat food container – can’t remember the brand as quality control usually has to make do with Sainsbury’s cheapo cat food – this was a Christmas present!]

This was embossed with a plastic doyley from the £ shop. I got the shape by using a circle of plastic canvas as a mould.

To be continued …

Monday 17 March 2008

This young lady

came to wish her granny ‘happy birthday’ this weekend - you will understand why I didn’t post. Too much cuddling going on. Grandad did get a go too - and proved very good at singing her to sleep [unlike granny he can sing in tune].

She brought her puppy with her [as well as bear and heffalump] which is why quality control decided to inspect the top of the cupboards. [Quality control did come down again and came to an amicable agreement with Puppy whereby she ate his food and he ate hers.]

It’s been a bit flat since Charlotte took mummy, daddy and Puppy home again so, as promised, I have taken some photos of the book of the gold work cushions.

This is the cover - fabric remnants from the cushions and a spare button from the back - my tutor was insistent that the cushion backs should be decorative as well as the fronts. I gather this is a common C&G thing.

The title page. You have to have a 'client' for C&G coursework pieces: the tutor tells us to make one up - so I did. Emilie Floge is the woman in the portrait - a 'close friend' of Mr Klimt's. Her dress inspired the design.

This is an early sketch of the idea, to prove that I can't draw. The page decoration is done with string stamps.

This shows the last part of my action plan [with time and cost estimates] and another design experiment on the right. By this time i was using eraser and string stamps for designing - one of the stamps is on the left hand page.

Another paper design - trying different colour ideas.

Fabric experiments on a sheer, showing my dodgy machine embroidery.

Another experiment, trying out different fabrics and stitches for the flower shapes.

More fabric experiments, closer to the final piece. The stems and spiral leaves are made with stretchy gold 'string' from Hobbycraft, intended, I think, for tying parcels. All is not gold that glisters.

Friday 14 March 2008

Just a short post

because I am going out for my birthday meal later.

There has been some discussion of gold work on the C&G Textiles Yahoo list so I though I would post a picture of my gold work mini piece and my gold work major piece. One is slightly bigger than the other – and there is more work on the major piece.

My design subject is 20th century art and these were inspired by – in case you hadn’t guessed – Gustav Klimt. I know it’s hackneyed but when we got onto gold work I couldn’t resist using Klimt – although I did play around with some Art Deco idea first.

This is the picture which inspired the cushions:
We have tickets for the Klimt exhibition at Tate Liverpool in the summer – after which we will head for Glasgow [via the Anthony Gormleys on Formby beach] for a bit of Mackintosh. I discovered in researching my history of British embroidery that Klimt and the Mackintoshes actually met, and Nicholas Pevsner thought that Mrs M was the one who influenced Klimt the most. But then he does seem to have been a man who liked women …

Later, if I get time, I might post some pictures from the book of the cushions about the design process. I am pleased with them and you can see that quality control approves of them too.

I have a busy weekend ahead of doting and cuddling, so expect some more baby photos as well!

Thursday 13 March 2008

Happy birthday to me!

I celebrate a big birthday today. I am not saying which one – but pensions, bus passes and my own personal B & Q Diamond Card are involved. [For those that don’t know – B & Q are a big DIY chain and when you reach mature years you can get a discount card – 10% off on Wednesdays. Very useful for creative embroiderers.]

Here are my birthday cakes. One for college tonight, one for the family at the weekend. They are Chocolate Guinness cakes – which sounds unlikely but tastes good. I like Guinness. My midwife told me to drink it 30 years ago: she never told me to stop. I gather that these days, not only are you discouraged from drinking while pregnant, you are limited to a glass a day afterwards. Not sure whether Guinness cake contributes to the one a day, although I'm sure you know that chocolate is a vegetable and so one of your five a day ...

The recipe is a Delia Smith one from the net - I had a genuine Guinness one but lost it so thanks to DIL #1 for finding a replacement. I am not [dare I say it?] a Delia fan but this recipe works well, although there are probably a year's supply of calories in the icing alone!

The real celebration will be this weekend – meal out on Friday, visit from my favourite birthday present at the weekend. [The one that arrived 4 months early, last November.]

Tuesday 11 March 2008

We got back safely

from Newbury last night, just before the worst of the storm. It was well worth going – the play was excellent. It was ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged]’, which I am sure almost everyone in the English-speaking world has seen, apart from me and Wensleydale. If you haven’t seen it – it is hysterical, even if you know nothing about Shakespeare. Even in you have seen it before– our co-grandparents had, and said it had been updated.

I am not sure whether the [primary?] school which had sent a school party really knew what they were going to be seeing, though.

And now for something completely different - as someone once said. Some time ago I mentioned that I had been taking a course with Sue Bleiweiss. Then I went silent – because I couldn’t keep up. This is not something I am comfortable with – as I have mentioned before I am somewhat of an anal personality.

Today, having finished the magnum opus, I went back to week 1 of Sue’s course [blush] and made a book. [Now there’s a surprise.]

This was a new structure for me – a cover made of cloth and tissue paper, stiffened with card, and with three pamphlet stitched signatures. I am only showing you the outside because the inside is a bit ropy – not the teacher’s fault, entirely the student’s. But I had fun making it and the next one will be better.

The buttons are entirely non-functional but they seemed to go well with the cover and they make me smile!

Monday 10 March 2008

It's been a frustrating sort of day ...

but finally I have finished the magnum opus, the history of British embroidery. With a lot of last minute cutting and pasting and the realisation that it would have been better to make the covers after I had finished the contents. [Although if I had done that I would probably just have stuck the whole lot in a lever arch file!]

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t decided at the last minute to add some of my vintage needlework magazines. I didn’t want to punch holes in them so I put them in plastic pockets. Which protrude. And one of my additions is longer than the cover. But – it is finished. A. will get it on Thursday and I will suggest she marks it by weight …

The thing that really frustrated me however, was this. Simple little thing isn’t it? First – I wanted to use an elderly Microsoft program I have to, play around with the picture and add some words. But every time I tried to upload anything into the programme – it crashed. I even tried deleting it and re-installing it, to no effect. Perhaps it’s telling me I ought to learn Photoshop.

Then Picasa would not let me put multiple copies of the photo in landscape – which would have fitted better. I got cunning [or so I thought] and turned the picture through 90 degrees. Then it would arrange them in landscape but not in portrait.

When I tried to print – the cradle jammed. My HP throws a hissy fit if you put in more than a few sheets of paper and the transfer paper on top of ordinary paper was too much for it. Unfortunately once the cradle has jammed the only way I can persuade it to print again is to turn everything off – printer and computer – and start again.

After I’d succeeded in printing the pictures I realised that the bib I had bought, supposedly designed for this purpose, was towelling.

So the picture looks blurred and Puppy looks fluffy – which he is. I don’t suppose Charlotte will mind. And I have 3 more copies if I find some more suitable bibs …

We are supposed to be going to the theatre tonight, in Newbury, with Charlotte's other grandparents. Those of you who live in the south or west of England will have noticed that it has been a little bit windy today. We have also had thunder and enough rain to make puddles on the drive - which as we are on chalk is not common. So far it doesn't look too bad - I am hoping it doesn't deteriorate. I haven't been to the theatre in ages and this is something I have wanted to see for ages.

Saturday 8 March 2008

Sorry not to have posted for a while ...

- things have been a bit busy around here and they are not likely to get much quieter for a few weeks.

We have three birthdays this month so I have been making birthday presents. These cannot be revealed on the blog until the relevant birthdays – so I shan't be posting pictures until April. I can report that one was received today with appreciation!

I have also been attempting to tidy my room. I think I wrote that I had spotted some storage units in Homebase and decided to buy one. Wensleydale decided it needed sanding and varnishing: he finished that on Tuesday and on Wednesday I moved a lot of stuff around – here are the before ...
and part way through pictures.
When it got to this stage I decided I would like another unit to go ...

So we went back to Homebase – and of course they had sold out. So we went to another Homebase – where the computer said they had two but they couldn’t find them. Finally at the third Homebase we found one.

I should add that the young men who dealt with us could not have been more helpful – nothing was too much trouble.

So when Wensleydale has sanded and varnished number 2 - things should look much better. [I am an eternal optimist.]

Saturday 1 March 2008

Back to embroidery

This is what A calls the mini fashion project, although I don’t think this is quite what she meant.
It is one of the extended samples - as opposed to ordinary samples, 8 samples of constructed back grounds and the 4 finished pieces. Confused? So am I.

The brief was to produce a pocket, neckline or cuff, inspired by historic fashion detail and using fabric manipulation and edgings.

‘Cuff’ made me think ‘bracelet’ which is why this buttons into a cylinder. I tried to photograph it on my wrist but got too much camera wobble! It is a little bit too big and I wish I had shaped it slightly - but it will do.

I cheated a bit [surprise surprise] and used a detail from a 19th century Breton fisherman’s wedding waistcoat in the V&A, although the rickrack edging came from a Mary Quant dress, also in the V&A. I was also inspired by a bracelet worn by an actress in ‘Lewis’ last Sunday night – it was heavy ridged metal, which led to the pintucks on this.

I cheated a lot more and appliqu├ęd a lot of braids and ribbons which is why it is finished so quickly, Anne!