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

Dorothy Rowe

Thursday 24 April 2008

Tuesday Trip - not

No Tuesday Trip this week as Wensleydale was busy governing.

I used the time to work on the samples for the 3D piece. These are silk organza and habotai, with the wax added using a freezer paper stencil. This time I let the wax dry and then crumpled it to see if I could get the cracked wax batik look. As you can see it worked on the habotai but not on the organza. I don’t want to admit it but really the organza isn’t suitable – it distorted under the stencil so the trees are wonky, it is difficult to get the wax thick enough to act as a resist, and it is difficult to paint.

I have been reading Yvonne Porcella’s book ‘Colour Changing Hue’ and decided to try her silk painting method, which doesn’t involve a frame. You slosh the paint on the wet silk on a drop cloth or in a container of some sort. The paint congregates in the folds and wrinkles to give a hand dyed look. She uses fabric paint but I thought I would try it with silk paint.

The organza was done on a plastic cloth, the habotai in a cat tray. [I didn’t borrow Quality Control’s tray, it was one I keep for dyeing!]

I don’t’ like the look where the cloth was folded, but I do like the slightly wrinkled effect. Not sure I will use the technique for the real piece – I shall consult A1, the teacher and A2, the silk painting expert, tonight [though not necessarily in that order].

The smaller samples are of the two types of fabric on the two types of stiffening I have. One is buckram, as suggested by my book on soft furnishings. This gives a more translucent result, and the weave shows. The other is sticky backed plastic which a kind person on the C&G Yahoo list sent me. It is thicker than usual sticky back plastic and is less translucent than the buckram, with no texture of its own. As I will have to sew it to the frame I tried making holes in it – my Japanese screw punch struggled a bit and tended to slip, but I found you can get a needle through it fairly easily.

I thought the buckram would be easier to use than the plastic but, at least on these small pieces, it wasn't. The big piece would definitely be a four handed job though!

Sunday 20 April 2008

What I did in the holidays.

I have had a book making frenzy recently [no, I didn’t have a flutter on the Grand National]. Call it procrastination if you like ...

I made two more books in Sue Bleiweiss’s class – the yellow one is a sketchbook, with pockets for pencils, pens etc. The cover is a piece of hand dyed fabric that was a bit too strongly patterned to use in a quilt.

The blue one is made from another piece of Japanese fabric that was too nice to cut up for quilts.. I had fun with the pages of this one, mixing hand made and copier paper in blues and rusts. The copier paper looked a bit boring so I sprayed it with walnut ink. I added pockets, tags, stamps and punched shapes.

The group of three include a Coptic bound book, a tiny Japanese bound one and my first flag book [the cover is deliberately crumpled, honest!]

I have been reading Esther K Smith’s excellent book ‘How to Make Books’ and she suggests using whatever you have lying around to practice on – so I did. These are made from scrap card, failed monoprints, painted papers, leftovers of bonded tissue paper and whatever else I could lay my hands on. They have made a bit of a dent in my stash of paper – but not much.

Thursday 17 April 2008

Tuesday trip - a quick P.S.

Thanks to Heather for her comment on my previous post. For her, and for any other Jane Austen fans thinking of visiting Hampshire - there are other Jane sites near Chawton.

The house in Winchester where she died can be seen, although it isn't open to the public - but, more importantly, she is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

Unfortunately the Cathedral charges admission. However you can also admire the Anthony Gormley statue in the crypt - which is one of my favourite pieces of art - and an altar cloth by Alice Kettle. There is also a restaurant in the Cathedral close which is open all year!

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Tuesday trip

This week’s trip was to Chawton, another of my favourite places, [and I am sure it has been on TV at some time].

It is a prime example of a pretty little English village which is really no different to any of its neighbours – except that someone famous once lived there. Not so much a one horse town as a one famous resident village [1FRV?].

We once lived in a 1FRV – East Bergholt in Suffolk, where John Constable was born. I enjoyed living there – the touristy bit was some distance away and the money the tourists spent helped to keep the village shops and other facilities running.

Chawton is Hampshire’s 1FRV – and its famous resident was my favourite author, who lived there from 1809 – 1817. She is probably the only author all of whose books I own and have read, most of them frequently. The exception, which I have only read once, is “The History of England by a partial, prejudiced & ignorant Historian”, - so I bought it there, just so I could claim to own all her works. There is a very comprehensive book shop in the house, with several pictures of Colin Firth, should you need one ... [Another local boy, incidentally.]

In case you haven’t guessed, the famous person is Jane Austen, and it was her house we went to visit. We have been several times before, and never fail to enjoy it. Chawton Cottage is a lovely little house, one many people would be glad to own [including us].

The garden is also pleasant - the spring flowers were just blooming and I noticed that there is now a small 'dye garden'.

An additional treat this time was an exhibition of some of the costumes from the recent BBC production of ‘Sense and Sensibility’. I think I enjoyed the costumes more than the production.

If you are interested the exhibition continues into early May. There is no tea shop at the house – there is one across the road but unfortunately it was closed.

Monday 14 April 2008

The beginning of the end? And why sampling is worth while...

At the weekend I got started on the final C&G piece - a 3D [or constructed] item. As this is the last piece there is a tight deadline – it has to be done by the end of next term or we don’t complete the course. So anyone in their right mind would choose to do something safe and simple – like a cushion cover, say.

So what have I chosen? A lampshade. And not a small lampshade – one for this light. The current shade is about a metre high and 60 cm in circumference.

Have I ever made a lampshade before? Of course not! Which is why I am feeling a little stressed. And stress in my case, leads to procrastination.

But I have wanted to make a lampshade since we started the course nearly 4 years ago. And this picture I spotted in a book of prints sparked a lot of ideas.


Klimt and trees – what more could I ask for?

I was playing around with design ideas in class before the holidays and A. took one look at what I was doing and said ‘silk painting’ and ‘batik’ – and she was right. Hence the expedition [I want to write ‘expotition’ but those of you who don't read Pooh will think I’ve gone even madder than usual] to Fibrecrafts, and the borrowing of A’s ginormous silk painting frame.

But I haven’t done a lot of silk painting and an unfamiliar technique leads to procrastination. [Can you see a theme developing here?]

However, having committed myself in public to getting started – I did so over the weekend.

I fished out all the pieces of white silk [and some polyester] I could find that were big enough. Some of them were only just big enough, so I ripped narrow strips off the edges for my samples.

I had bought some cold batik wax which I thought would be easier than having pans of hot wax around – and it was. However, I think it would have been better to let the wax dry before I started painting: – first lesson learned from sampling.

This is the rather Heath Robinson affair I cobbled together to sample the different paint colours on the strips – this is not A’s beautiful frame, but one I bought in a sale decades ago. The clips proved to be a b****r to get on and off – hence the klippits.

These are the samples drying. As you can see, I did have a couple of larger pieces of silk, and on those I tried out the colours and also did a quick Klimt knock-off. [You can also see that the sun was shining when I took the photo.]

The paler one was the silk organza I had thought about using in layers – but having tried it I’m not sure it will work. The other is a silk twill which is really too thick, so I was a bit heavy handed with the paint – but using dishwasher salt for the silk technique was very effective. [another lesson learned from sampling.]

I like the way the paint has run into the wax on the tree trunks but I am not sure how I achieved it. Possibly because the fabric was relatively thick, the wax didn’t form a complete resist – hence the colour runs in the colour samples.

The instructions for the cold wax tell you to heat set the paint as usual and then wash the wax out with warm water and detergent. The wax went a nasty rubbery yellow colour when ironed, and was a bit reluctant to come out when hand washed – so, as these are samples, I shoved them in the washing machine on the ‘Delicates’ cycle – which got the wax out. Third lesson learned from sampling.
Of all the fabrics I tried, I think the silk habotai will be the best – but I shall consult the expert when college starts again next week. A. – you have been warned!

If I have another burst of enthusiasm I may try using a freezer paper stencil for the wax instead of painting it on free hand. If I let the wax dry before painting I may be able to get it to crack which might give me that silver birch look. And if I get really keen I’ll try some of the more likely samples on the two types of stiffening material I have.

Then I need to think about some suitable embroidery stitches as I doubt I’ll get away without any.

Of course if it all goes pear-shaped I can always make a quick silk cushion cover ...

Friday 11 April 2008

" I can gather all the news I need on the weather report'"

I don’t know why I am so fascinated by the odd weather we are having at the moment – may be in my genes, as my father was a meteorologist, albeit only circa 1939 – 45.

Today we woke up to bright sunshine – a beautiful spring day. At lunchtime it began to hail heavily, for about half an hour. The front garden looked like this.

And the metre piece looked like this.

And now [4 pm] the sun is shining again!

I am probably wittering on about the weather because nothing much creative is happening chez Cheese – well, Wensleydale is making boards for posters for the local election but I’m not sure whether that counts. I am procrastinating about getting started sampling for the 3D piece. My friend A. kindly lent me her silk painting frame, so I must get on with it before college starts again. Put it down to sheer, unadulterated fear!

I know I will feel much better once I have got started, and I am planning to do so tomorrow. Promise!

Wednesday 9 April 2008

The Tuesday trip

This week’s trip was to Highcliffe Castle [which coincidentally has also appeared on TV - the Antiques Roadshow this time].


I love Highcliffe - it has survived some hard times and what remains is little more than the shell of the building, but it has a wonderful atmosphere and provides an excellent environment for exhibitions. It is undergoing restoration at the moment so I am looking forward to seeing the changes when it is finished.

The structure on the far left of the building is the Winter Garden. It is licensed for weddings and Wensleydale and I have agreed that is we ever get married again [!]. we will do it there. It is a double height room with walls of windows and a view of the sea – a beautiful place.

The castle also has immaculate gardens, beach access and the essential teashop.

The drawbacks are that parking is expensive [but free in the winter] and on a beautiful day in the school holidays the teashop was very busy.

The exhibition we visited was by Wessex Textile Artists:


We saw some beautiful work, including a stunning stomacher by Carol Green.

After lunch in the café we walked on the beach and I did a little beachcombing. I was very restrained, only returning with two things, one of which was this pebble. The colours and patterns remind me of some of Mondrian's work, when he was beginning to move towards full abstraction.
Perhaps if there are any geologists out there someone could tell me what type of rock it is?

I also took some photos. You might think this was the south of France in the summer – but no, it was the South of England in April. What a contrast to Sunday morning!

Mind you, an hour later we had sleet…

Sunday 6 April 2008

Snow? What snow?

The picture of my metre piece in my previous post was taken about 10 this morning.

This is what it looked like at 6 pm.

Glad I have the photos to prove I didn't dream it ...

Saturday 5 April 2008

All can be revealed

now that I have delivered all the birthday presents, including a last minute one.

Both my daughters-in-law have birthdays in March. I made each of them a notebook, using techniques I learned in a workshop with Brenda Weekes.


DIL #1 likes purple and DIL #2 likes turquoise and as I like those colours too I had plenty of fabric and fibres to choose from. The notebooks are half A5 size [about a quarter of the size of printer paper, for those in the US].

Then I made an extra last minute present for Charlotte’s mum, using the Jacob’s Ladder book I made recently. [sorry about the reflection of the flash.]I put in some photos [plenty of room for more] and made a slip case. Well – actually I made 3 slip cases – the first two were too small, despite careful measuring, allowing a bit for ease and making a paper model first. The third is, of course, too big, [hence the ribbon tie], possibly because it is in flimsier card – I was getting desperate by then! If it doesn’t hold up to use I will make another and hope I can get it right.

As slip cases are [when measured correctly!] quite easy to make I decided to make a slip case for the magnum opus, [I got back it from the teacher on Thursday night with some very positive comments,] The MO is so unruly I think it needs a case to control it, although I will have to find a large piece of very strong cardboard for it.

I said I wouldn't post any more pictures of the cherry tree - but this one is a bit different.

and here is the metre piece this morning.

I know this won't look like 'heavy' snow to many of you - but it is a lot for round here - and it seems to be thawing already.

Tuesday 1 April 2008

Just to prove that my friend A is not the only one to use pink and lime green

here are two examples of recently finished stuff in that colour scheme [and a bit of red, black and white].

A couple of weeks ago I had a request for a quilt for Charlotte to use as a play mat. They have wooden floors so it is a bit hard and cold for her. Of course she already has a cot quilt, although you cannot use them with babies until they are a year old, but I was happy to provide another quilt, and offered a choice of two UFOs. This is the one that they chose. Ihave finished it and will take it up next weekend for Charlotte's mummy's belated birthday bash.

[The request was for 'a big one' but I pointed out that to a quilter that means a king size bed quilt!] The pattern came from one of the patchwork magazines - I hope Charlotte enjoys playing on it.

My second completed object is this journal. i am taking another class with Sue Bleiweiss on journal making. [No, I didn't finish the last one but that hasn't stopped me!] When I saw the instructions for this journal I knew it was an opportunity to use a piece of Japanese fabric that was too nice to cut up for patchwork.

What made me want to do the course with Sue was the things she puts in her journals - which you can see if you go to her website:

So here we have a fabric pocket inside the cover, and a [gusseted] paper pocket on the first page. The origami kimono is my own addition.

This is a print out of origami paper from the Canon website. I have used a paper punch on the opposite page.

These are luggage tags covered with origami paper and another decorative paper that I have used for the pocket as well.

And finally - a badly sewn plastic pocket, using the same technique I used for the metre piece but with rather less success. It is made from a plastic page protector with punched paper shapes inside, sealed with sewing. I used double sided sticky tape on three sides to attach it to the page to make a pocket.

Now I have to decide what to put in my journal. I do have a collection of Japanese postcards looking for a home ...

You know you have retired

when you realise on Tuesday afternoon that the clocks went forward last Sunday morning but you still haven’t adjusted your watch …

Wensleydale and I were out on a Tuesday trip – we usually go out on Tuesdays because it is the only day we don’t normally have any other commitments. So today – because I needed some supplies – we decided we would visit Fibrecrafts and then go on here:


which is quite close by.

I have ordered from Fibrecrafts before but never actually visited them. It is a very tempting place but I firmly turned my back on the books and the spinning wheels [I would love to learn how to spin] and stuck to the shopping list. So I now have a lot of silk paint, for the final C&G piece which I am procrastinating about because I think I have bitten off far more than I can chew. I also bought some Supermend powder as mine mysteriously disappeared just after I decided to use it for the metre piece, some stuff to carve stamps and a locker hook. I read an article on locker hooking in ‘Classic Stitches’ magazine and as I have a lot of knitting yarn and a lot of canvas, decided to try it. Of course I need another textile activity like I need a hole in the head ….

Then we went to the Watts Gallery. If you watched the BBC series ‘Restoration’ you may have seen the gallery: the building is in a sad state and the pictures seem to be too. Although we lived nearby 30 years ago we have never been before. It was built by the painter G.F. Watts and his wife Mary to house his paintings, and is well worth a visit if you are interested in art, especially Victorian art. And if you go on a Tuesday it only costs £1.

After a good cup of coffee in the tea shop we went down the road to here, which was the highlight of the trip.

No - we didn't pop over to Italy - it is the Watts Cemetery Chapel:


It is absolutely amazing - very inspirational for an embroiderer – and not at all what you expect to find in a small Surrey village.