'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 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?

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Tuesday trip

For the first time for ages our weekly outing has actually been on a Tuesday. We went down to Gosport to the Gosport Gallery. It must be about 15 years since I last went to Gosport and on the way down I remembered why, when I was working in the area, I used to dread having to go there. I'm sure it's a great place - it is getting in and out that's the nightmare...

However it was well worth fighting our way through the traffic. We went to Kurt Jackson's exhibition, 'The Solent Project', although I must confess I hadn't heard of Jackson before we were shown some of his work at the first Contemporary Textiles Workshop.

The Solent Project comprises seascapes of - you guessed it - the Solent. For non-Brits, the Solent is the stretch of water between the south coast of England and the Isle of Wight which is the island at the bottom of a map of England. It is one of the busiest stretches of water in the world, and Wensleydale used to look out of his office window at it, lucky thing.

Jackson's paintings are beautiful, especially the moonscapes, which are breathtaking. However my favourite was 'Waders, flint, mud, light, geese' which gives you an idea of his evocative titles - and probably a fair idea of the painting. With the emphasis on mud. Jackson writes the titles on the paintings which somehow adds to the atmosphere.

As we drove home the sun was setting and there was a beautiful sky which reminded me of the paintings.

His work reminded me of Barbara Lee Smith who exhibited at the Knitting and Stitching show a few years ago.

I didn't realise until I started writing this that Jackson also does assemblages. Now I have a collection of driftwood and bits of fishing net but I couldn't make it look like this in a million years.

Unfortunately we couldn't afford even a little painting [I do have a tiny Lee-Smith!] but I did buy the catalogue and I've ordered another book so at least I can drool and dream of winning the lottery. Suppose I would have to do it first ...

Sunday 23 November 2008

Am I coming out of my black and white period?

This is pretty brightly coloured. It is Babybel's Christmas present - do you think I'll finish it in time? I have been procrastinating about starting it because it is a loooong time since I made a full size quilt - and my friend with the long arm quilting machine has moved to the other end of the country. I am dreading quilting it and think I may do it in sections to make it easier to manoeuvre under the machine.

This is the centre of the quilt - the butterfly is the right way up, that's the way Eric Carle drew it. Some of you may have noticed that there is one more square down one side than the other, which is why the right hand side is curling - that will be corrected, I promise. I counted the squares twice and still got it wrong - it was only when I looked at the pattern the squares make that I realised what I'd done. And to think I have A-level maths ...

I have also been working in colour on some journal pages. I intend making contemporary textiles squiggles on top of all the crud - which in this case is glued down paper of different types, gesso, Koh-i-noor and my new favourite, Moon Shadow Mists - coloured walnut ink sprays for those that don't know. I think this is the silver one.

The MSM have also made an appearance on my monoprints which are NOT landscapes. [I was told not to make them look like landscapes.] The tutor suggested that I paint one of them so I did. The fact that it makes it look like a landscape is of course entirely accidental ... I do feel a bit more positive about the monoprints now, although whether I will get round to embroidering all of them I don't know.

And finally - Jolly Good Yarn Girl asked about the program I used to muck about with the pictures in my last post. Those were all done with Picasa, which is what I use when I'm feeling lazy. The new version offers several different ways of making collages with your photos - which, as you can see, I use a lot. When I am feeling more energetic I try to use Paint Shop Pro, with varying success - I swear it never does the same thing twice ...

Saturday 22 November 2008

I've been a lazy blogger

but nothing much creative has been happening - apart from starting [and frogging] a knitted scarf and starting [and restarting] a pair of mittens, to go with my new raincoat.

However, yesterday was the second day of the Creative Textiles workshop. We actually got to do some stitch in the afternoon. The topic is still markmaking, as it will be all year. We looked at the work of textile artists who use repeated marks - unfortunately their names have gone from what passes for my memory these days. [Reminder to self - collect some examples to go in the journal.]

Then we fastened three markmaking tools [in my case a Biro, soft pencil and Pitt pen] together with elastic bands and made various marks on paper - names, numbers, squiggles - which we over wrote in different directions. Some very interesting patterns emerged - if , like me, you don't like your own handwriting, this seems a good way to produce script-like marks. The writing was definitely the best, I felt, as it had more variety than just numerals. This lot has been scanned as a black and white image and as a negative, cropped in different ways and collaged.

Then we selected a simple mark from a source picture and developed it by making successive changes - on paper with charcoal and a putty rubber, and then with black and white paint on calico. This mark came from a collection of photos of circular objects I made for Sharon Boggon's course in the summer.

Finally, when our painted calico had dried [sort of] we worked into it with BIG stitches.

As usual, when I came home I wasn't happy with what I'd done but looking at it again this morning, I think there are some ideas I could develop. I can't see myself working as big and bold as this - but I would like to play around with some of the marks I made and develop ways of using them.
I love the quality of line in some of them - for example this one, based on my initials - where I had relatively little paint on the brush. I spent some time this afternoon playing around with it in Picasa and this is the result.

I also asked for an optional tutorial, because although I like most of what I did with the monoprints [and even the failures were learning experiences!] I felt I hadn't really used the monoprints to inspire stitch - I'd just developed ideas for using them as backgrounds.

The tutorial advice was:
a] to work bigger than I had been doing - well, the tutor is a quilter!
b] to look at what the print was telling me to do and do that - and
c] not to impose anything on the image itself apart from what was there.

Not sure if that is clear but writing it down helps me to clarify to myself what I am trying to do!

I felt the style of advice I got was very different from that I would have received from my previous tutor I wonder what A. thought as she also had a tutorial. It seemed more open ended and non-specific, when the C&G tutor would have made some very definite suggestions. To begin with I felt a bit disappointed, but on thinking about it - I decided it wasn't a bad thing. I'm a grown up now and open-ended is better than directive! I suppose it reflects the difference between an accredited course like C&G and a a workshop style course.
So I have spent half of this afternoon cutting up a monoprint as suggested and preparing it for embroidery.

Monday 17 November 2008

I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away

or rather. Mr Cheddar has - many thanks to him for his efforts. By some techy magic he has restored the photos which I carelessly deleted - so here are a few.

Here is someone setting off very determinedly towards the sea for another paddle.

Here is someone else having a paddle. She is actually dribbling the ball with her paw - which is why I call her Ronaldo the wonder dog.

Here is Babybel's Adda returning from a paddle.

Not much creative has been happening at Cheese Acres, probably as the result of 2 insomniac nights. I did play around with some monoprinted fabric and my Embellisher - there are monoprints in these, honest. Not wild about the tree which may not make it to class on Friday. The FME leaves on the other one are C&G left-overs - everything gets used eventually.

In the absence of the muse, I went for instant gratification and made - not a book, but a bib. Babybel is not a great bib wearer, preferring to dress down for her meals - but I hope she will be tempted by this one, from a pattern here, as it is quite big and wraps around. Quite enjoyable to make apart from the bias binding, which isn't quite such a botched job as it might appear - that is the back of the bib peeping out at the right. If it is approved I have some cat fabric as well ...

Sunday 16 November 2008

The birthday girl

The star of the show at yesterday's birthday party, in her beautiful party dress and shrug. She was a bit overwhelmed, i think, with all the people and the presents, but was very well behaved as usual.

I have nothing else to say today as I feel she deserves this post to herself!
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Wednesday 12 November 2008

Babies, birthdays and books

Babybel is one today!

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Babybel!
Happy birthday to you!

Now I've sung that you can all take your fingers out of your ears. We are looking forward to seeing her on Saturday for her party.

While she was celebrating with her mum and dad, we had a Wednesday wander. A while ago I came across a mention of this on some booky website, so I persuaded Wensleydale to go into Portsmouth to see it. [He feels about Portsmouth like I feel about Southampton - been there, worked there, go back as little as possible.]

It was well worth the arm twisting. [Lots of pictures - not mine - here.]
Despite my love of making books I have not seen many real artist's books in the flesh - and here were dozens laid out for inspection. We were impressed by how imaginative and creative they were, and how beautifully made. I was particularly interested in those made from junk mail, envelopes etc. - and the altered books.
I have a very ambivalent attitude to altered books - I was brought up not to damage books so I find it difficult to alter them myself [although I write all over recipe books so I am not entirely consistent]. My other problem with them is that many of the altered books in magazines or on the web all look the same - and that look is not to my taste.
But the altered books in this exhibition weren't like that - [even I can accept an altered phone book!] and I found them quite inspirational. I even bought the [rather expensive] catalogue so I can browse and drool in comfort.

On a more mundane level - here is my own latest effort. I don't like it as much as the previous monoprint book but considering the cover was in the bin at one stage - it turned out better than expected. The colour is wrong because of the reflection of the flash.
There are some monoprints under all the crud. [I should perhaps point out that in the context of embroidery 'crud' to me is a positive concept - if the first layer doesn't work add at least three more].
I have come to the conclusion that producing monoprints I didn't like led to a lot more creativity. If I had liked them I would probably just have added some more or less sympathetic stitch and called it done.
The braids on the book are machine embroidery in metallic thread on felt which was then zapped with a heat gun so they ended up crumbly and lacy. The tapes/ties are machine cords.

[Technical discussion - ignore if you are not interested in making books!]
As promised, this book is sewn over tapes - I wanted to experiment with using the tapes as ties and it sort of worked, although I think the spacing is wrong. It would be interesting to try sewing over a single wide tape - with kettle stitches top and bottom, as in this one, it should be reasonably stable and the tie might work better.

With this one I was concerned that the covers would not be firmly enough fixed to the spine by sewing alone - I didn't want to add endpapers as the cover is fabric and I wasn't sure it would work. It is fairly firm, but with a single tape undoubtedly wouldn't be. Perhaps another experiment is coming on?
Discussion over!
On a level that is so mundane it is positively earthy - on the instructions of Maggie Grey I have brought in my catalogues from the wilderness that is our front garden - and here they are. [I did remove the leaves, worms and woodlice.]

I am now spraying them with disinfectant as suggested and awaiting further instructions. The catalogues are - to put it bluntly - yucky - and I am not sure if they will ever dry out ...
I had hoped to show you the Maggie Grey towers book but it doesn't stand up correctly and has been disassembled for surgery. I hate redoing things - I'm too impatient - but this will have to be done.

Sunday 9 November 2008

One down and one to go.

Monoprint books, that is. I have finished the first one and here it is. I am very pleased with it.

The covers aren't as 3D as they appear in the photo, The black lines are couching and the circles are charms from a belly dancing anklet. No - I don't belly dance - I bought the anklet when I needed bells for the leaf hanging which was, I think, the first thing I ever blogged about.

The cognoscenti amongst you will have noticed that although I said I was going to bind it over tapes - I didn't. I decided Coptic stitch would go better with the design on the covers. This is a two needle Coptic stitch, which I have not tried before and which caused a fair amount of swearing, unpicking, stopping for tea breaks - you get the picture. It would have been easier if I had had four hands - or possibly five, one for each needle and one for the book. [Yes, I know I said it was 2 needle Coptic stitch. Some people call it multi-needle Coptic stitch which is more accurate, I suppose.]

The stitching is not perfect but I hope that the colour and the tightness of the loops will mean no-one notices. Apart from my readers of course.

To relax from the book binding I made this totally ridiculous object - which turned out to be quite unrelaxing. The pattern came from Quilting Arts 'Studio'. We don't use many tins here at Cheese Acres, and when we do our tin opener leaves a lethal edge - so when Babybel left an empty baby milk tin behind I grabbed it, and this is the result. As you can see the walls of my workroom are red - so I decided to make a red corset - and that led to red velvet. [What does it say about me that my thoughts run on red velvet corsets? I don't have one - and me wearing one would not be a pretty sight!]

Let me tell you that putting eyelets in velvet is not easy. Cue more swearing and stopping for tea breaks. However I like the end result, so if Babybel has any more tins she can spare they will be gratefully received and given corsets. They just won't be velvet ones!

Jude has kindly asked for updated photos of Babybel - but unfortunately I don't have any! We haven't seen her since our trip to the seaside last month. [Sniff.] However there will be lots of photo opportunities next weekend when she has her birthday party - the presents are already wrapped and we can't wait!

Friday 7 November 2008

Bobs and bits

I haven't been posting much because I haven't had a lot to post about, I'm afraid - but a few things came together today, so here I am.

First - we had a Friday trip this week. [We had a Tuesday one as well but that was a routine trip to Bournemouth so doesn't really count.]
The Discovery Centre [that place again - if the cakes were as good as the coffee I'd probably move in] has an exhibition of Hockney etchings. They are illustrations to Grimms' fairy stories, which Hockney made in the 60s. It is a touring exhibition from the Hayward and seems to have been on the road for several years so you may have seen it elsewhere. [I picture someone at the Hayward saying 'Didn't we have some Hockney etchings? Whatever happened to them?']

But I digress. As usual. The etchings are well worth seeing. There is one of a rose which I would dearly love to own if I was rich enough - and I don't like pictures of flowers. If you want to learn from a master how to use line and make marks - get yourself to the Discovery Centre.

On a more mundane level, I have finished my 'Stellar' quiltet for the 'Round the World in 20 Quilts' group. Sort of. I cannot reveal it all until the end of the month but here is a rather bad photo of a corner of it. This is one of the Inkaid pieces which I thought would be too stiff to hand embroider, although as you can see I managed to do some. It is sort of finished because I think it needs more fly stitches.

i am also working on these from Maggie Grey's on-line class for owners of her book 'Textile Translations'. These will eventually become a book, although they look like witches hats' to me. They are made of Vilene, believe it or not. I don't want to give away Maggie's techniques - if you want to know you'll have to buy the book - but there is a lot of stuff on there. Not much stitch, but a lot of crud - er - artistically applied mixed media.

You may notice, although the photo isn't clear, that the pieces are edged with zig zag. I wanted to edge them with blanket stitch but for some reason my sewing machine did not want to do blanket stitch on the Vilene. I tried everything I could think of - I even cleaned it and changed the needle - but no go. It would do FME. It would do zig zag. It would do blanket stitch on other fabrics. but on the Vilene? No.

Books are also being made for the Contemporary Textiles Workshop. Yes, in the plural. To make a cover, I stuck some monoprinted brown paper on Vilene, foiled it, added some monoprinted Lutradur, stitched it, zapped it with a heat gun, hated it. Threw it in the bin - then fished it out because I thought I could make some more samples from it - samples of what not to do.

So I made another piece on felt - except I'd run out of foil. I called in at our local craft shop, 'Creative Crafts' today to get some more but they had every colour except gold. So they persuaded me to try a new line of paint they had just got in - 'Precious Metal Colour'. This is the result - and the photo doesn't do it justice. The paint ain't cheap. but it just glides on - and the manufacturer claims you can use it on all sorts of surfaces including glass and plastic.

This afternoon I sat down to work on the witches' hats - looked at the first monoprint piece - and thought - it's not so bad after all. That's why I am now making two books.

Monday 3 November 2008

Some bits and bobs.

Inspiration seems to have returned - at least as far as the monoprints are concerned. Here are a few more of my little samples. The two top left and centre are tissue paper, right top is woven monoprint and magazine pages. Bottom left is the sample I have shown before but now it has its swirl. The final one is monoprinted brown paper again, with holes cut in it and blue fabric behind. There are curtain rings appliqued round the holes.

You may wonder why I have been so consistent with the size. When Cheese Minor went home after his birthday in the summer, he left behind the packaging from his prezzie. The tag has already gone on to my black/white book - and the box now looks like this.
And here are the samples inside it.
At first glance this may not look as if it has anything to do with monoprinting. I used the Gormley heads I produced with cereal box transfer painting, for the covers of a book made by sewing over tapes. The method came from 'Book Arts - Beautiful Bindings for Handmade Books' by Mary Kaye Seckler - except that it is a different size, I didn't make wooden covers, and the structure is slightly different because the cereal box card needed a backing to beef it up a bit.

It is connected to monoprinting because it is a dummy run for a book covered with monoprints. I was going to make a vessel - and I still might - but I saw an inspiring book with what looks like a tape binding in a Val Campbell-Harding book ...
I hadn't made a book like this before - it gives a good result but you could really do with several extra hands while sewing it. Real book makers have a frame for sewing over tapes so I may need to speak nicely to the resident carpentry expert.

And finally - this. If you read Maggie Grey's blog you will know exactly what it s - if not you will think - not for the first time - that I have flipped.

Maggie has instructed her readers to put an old catalogue out into the weather to mature. We don't know why yet but we are so trusting that lots of us have done it. Mmm - maybe I have flipped after all.

Saturday 1 November 2008

I've been quiet - but this post will make up for it!

I have been quiet because I have been lacking inspiration.I have finished the comfort blanket, and fiddled around with some more bits of monoprinting, although I have nothing to show you yet. I have been feeling uninspired, I think, because it was one of those weeks when we had a lot of odds and ends to do.
We did have an enjoyable Wednesday wander at the Hillier Gardens. My heart sank when we drove in because the [large] car park was almost full [half term week] - but most of the cars' occupants seemed to be queueing for the restaurant and when we got into the depths of the gardens we hardly saw a soul.

I did collect a few goodies. I think this is birch bark. The tree trunk was the most amazing pink, and the marks look very like stitch to me. One of my groups has a challenge to make an autumn embroidery - has anyone ever sewn bark? Did Indian birch bark canoes really exist and were they sewn? A bit of Googling may be needed.

These were on the path outside the gardens, some distance from any trees, but I think they are maples. Unfortunately I forgot to scan them when I got home, as the colours were even better before they dried out, but as they dried they curled up, making beautiful vessel shapes.
The start of November has been better than the end of October, however, as we have had a wonderful and inspiring afternoon. I am on the Hampshire Museums mailing list, and about a week ago I got this:
Get behind the scenes at Hampshire Museums
Saturday 1 November, starting at 1pm

Museums Service at Chilcomb House, Chilcomb Lane, Winchester SO23 8RD

Join us for an afternoon delving into the Museums and Archives collections to discover the County’s treasures.

We're gathering objects together for an exhibition next year in the gallery at Winchester Discovery Centre called Hampshire's Treasures. In the exhibition we will be exploring the concept of treasure - everything from high status objects to low - and why these objects and collections are important. Whether weird or wonderful, bizarre or impressive, treasures can be so many things - we want to hear your favourites and your ideas.
Come and see where we work, explore our collections and help shape the exhibition.

Who could resist? So we toddled along this afternoon and had a wonderful time!

We were shown selections of objects in a range of categories - textiles, childhood. metalwork, archeology, photographs, pictures and maps, etc. etc. etc.
We didn't get round them all - although I bet you can guess where I started!

It was wonderful to have the chance to talk to knowledgeable and enthusiastic experts who didn't seem to mind giving up their Saturday afternoon, and to get up close and personal with some wonderful objects. Of course we weren't allowed to photograph or touch, but Wensleydale was given a seven barrel gun to hold. [If you want to know what one looks like and you have this week's Radio Times to hand, turn to page 25, wrench your eyes away from Sean Bean and look at what Daragh O'Malley is holding.] [I have a thing for craggy blond Yorkshiremen. Fortunately. Well, Wenseydale was blonde once.]

I did not expect to be interested in guns but the expert, whose name I unfortunately don't know, was very good on his topic. There was one 'gun' I would have loved to bring home [and despite the UK's gun laws it would have been perfectly legal!] It looked like a little revolver - but when opened it contained scissors, crochet hook, mirror, etc. - it was a little needlework case, with the potential to scare attackers as it looked quite realistic [to an uneducated eye, at least.]

The textiles were fascinating - and too numerous to go through - but I found out that in the thirties Louisa Pesel [then in charge of embroidery at Winchester Cathedral] had set up 'Yew Tree Industries', an embroidery group, in Twyford, just outside the city, to provide employment for local women. There were a few samples on show - mostly linear stitches on evenweave fabric, and some very pretty designs. I have Googled but cannot find much information apart from the fact that Hampshire County Council has some - which I knew. If anyone out there knows anything - I would love to know more.

The County Archivists were there too - so as a dedicated Janeite I was delighted to see some of Ms Austen's tiny handwriting. There was also a much bolder - and bossier - example from the young Florence Nightingale.

At the end we were asked to choose our favourite object - and although I loved the textiles, and the needle case - my final choice was a pram! it was indescribable - but I will attempt to describe it. Imagine a cross between a 1950s US car, a pram and a Lloyd loom chair, except the 'wicker' is cream plastic. There was a chrome bumper on the front, and wheels that looked like they came off a 1950s pedal car. If that description made you laugh - that was our reaction to the pram.

I'm really looking forward to the exhibition - it will be great to see how many of our favourites make it.