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

Dorothy Rowe

Saturday 31 January 2009

Another grand day out

even if it was b***y cold. We all went down to the coast together to help celebrate Mrs Cheddar's birthday.

Some of us paddled. The more mature members of the party didn't.

I forgot to photograph Mrs Cheddar's present before I delivered it but it looked rather like this. After I made that for Babybel, hints were dropped. Fortunately I found another panel in Hobbycraft.

I realised when I trawled through older posts in search of that photo that on January 30th last year I posted a picture of the cherry tree in bloom. No sign yet this year, and snow is forecast ...

Tonight's design work is two pixellated versions of the pebbles image. One is of a version with very saturated colours which I think I have already shown you - and the other is paler. Either could be patchwork or, more to my taste, canvas work, with lots of squares in crunchy textured stitches.

Although I still have lots of ideas to explore with this image - I suspect you may be growing bored with it. So I have decided to switch tactics. I mentioned that Susie MacMurray had suggested either trying lots of techniques with one idea, or the same technique with several ideas. So as of tomorrow [I hope] I want to try exploring one technique - making stamps - with lots of different stimulus images. This is also inspired by Dunnewold et al's suggestion of making an eraser stamp a day for 30 days [OK, 28 days as it's February tomorrow.]
Mind you, as Wensleydale hasn't quite finished the DIY in my room - it might be February 2nd before I get started ...

Friday 30 January 2009

Here's one I made earlier ...

because I knew that after class today I wouldn't have the energy to do anything.

This is a tracing of the negative space in the pebbles picture - the spaces between the pebbles.

And this is a multiple exposure of the original image and the rotation of the image. Some really interesting shapes, I think. Apart from using linear stitches like stem or back, this could be embroidered with heavy stitching in colour in the spaces - reverse pebbles, if you like!

When I was wandering around the net earlier in the week I came across Helen Suzanne's new blog, 'Today's Title is ...' Helen suggests a title and asks us to post a piece of work which reflects our spontaneous reaction.

Her first suggestion was 'Blue Chair', which for some reason I found so evocative that I had to join in. I knew what sort of chair I saw in my mind's eye - wooden, blue [obviously] high back, four legs - so as I can't draw I had to find one to photograph.

I don't know what sort of chairs you have in your house - but I have come to the conclusion that we have a very odd collection. To start with, very few of them have four legs.
For example - we have three chairs like this - just one leg, as you can see.

We have two like this - four legs, or two pairs of conjoined twins?

Then there are six of these - a pair of conjoined twin legs?

This is a bit more conventional. [I did think of asking Wensleydale to pose in it like this but I didn't think he'd agree and I certainly wasn't going to ...]
If you think we have a liking for classics of early 20th century design - you'd be right.

I am very fond of this chair which my father re-upholstered years ago - but it wasn't right.

So it had to be this tatty object. Definitely in need of a little TLC, if anyone knows a chair restorer. It originally belonged to my grandmother which means it is getting on for a hundred years old. Several Cheese babies have been rocked in it.
You may have noticed that it isn't blue - but I fixed that. If you want to see the result you will have to visit 'Today's Title is...'

Tell you about the class tomorrow.

Thursday 29 January 2009

Remember these?

The unlandscapes are finally completed [apart from putting some sort of hanging mechanism on the back.] Of course I was not motivated to finish them by the fact that I have a class tomorrow and I want to take them in ...

In another part of the forest - this is another idea from Maggie Grey. I made two copies of the 'hot stones' version of the pebble photo, sprayed one with black webbing spray, then cut it up and wove it through the other one. This looked a bit bland, so for the first time since I started the daily photo/design exploration series - I added some fibres.

First I just wove the black wool through but it was not very firmly secured so I add 4 cross stitches. I started off stitching over the thread ends but in a moment of aberration made one stitch in a paper square [the one at the bottom]. Guess which one I like best?

If I was going to follow this up as a 'real' embroidery, I think I would first mount the prints on felt to give them a bit more body, and possibly add machine embroidery to the result, before cutting and weaving and adding [perhaps more complex] hand embroidery. The grey and orange colour combination appeals to me more and more [and I don't like orange ...]

Quick post because I have to prepare for tomorrow and clear part of my workroom. Wensleydale is going to put up an extra worktop for me which should provide:
  1. a painting/gluing/generally making a sticky wet mess place so I don't have to use the kitchen;
  2. a high surface so I can work standing up without my back objecting;
  3. more storage space so I can keep the aforementioned space clear.

This will be done [we hope] while I am out tomorrow. but first I have to make room ...

Notice how yesterday Blogger wouldn't let me add spaces between paragraphs and today it insists on adding great big ones?

Wednesday 28 January 2009

"I've looked at life from both sides now" *

or more accurately - not life, a piece of paper.

It is the ink and bleach effort from yesterday. I was putting a sample in my little sample book, turned the piece over to put glue on the back - and realised that the back was much better than the front. It has a watery look which goes well with the pebbles. So an extra learning experience - always turn your pieces over and look at the back. I should have known, because when we painted prints and photocopies with Koh-i-Noor for 'Creative Sketchbooks'. the back often came out better than the front.

Here are my scans. [I have tried repeatedly to improve the layout of this section but blogger has its own ideas and won't let me. Of course now I've written this it might and you will wonder what I am wittering about ...]
So today you get two pieces of design work for the price of one.
This little lot started off as the blue lump below - an unfortunate extension of the layered look I started with. Scanning it as grey scale improved it. Then I saw the hearts design in the new 'Stitch' magazine and decided to try to adapt it to a pebble. And that led on to playing around with some ideas from one of my collection of old needlework books - 'Discovering Embroidery' by Winsome Douglass. [Isn't that a
wonderful name?] You can get an idea of her style from this.

I have a feeling she contributed to the
Needlework Development Scheme so if you have seen their publications you will have a good idea of the look. 'Dorset Feather Stitchery' is similar, but more linear.

The style seems to be in for a revival as some of our Christmas prezzies were wrapped in paper that looked like one of Douglass' designs.

I had another challenge to my preconceptions today when we went to the Jerwood Drawing Prize exhibition at the Discovery Centre. Before we went I thought it would be an exhibition of beautiful, painstaking drawings in pencil or ink - exquisite, but probably not as exciting as some of the other exhibitions we've seen there. I couldn't have been more wrong ...

The first prize winner, 'Study for Portrait V' by Warren Baldwin, is more or less what I expected - but it is also a wonderful piece of work, beautifully observed. However, if you click through the other images on the link you will see that 'drawing' is fairly loosely defined - and the catalogue does say that 'the judges are sole arbiters of what is or is not a drawing'!

A lot of the work was inspirational for textile artists, even those who can't draw! I found 'Lost in Translation - Departure ' by Chya Ikeda, very interesting - perhaps it was all the pins! This may be it, it is difficult to tell from the photo, but it gives you an idea of the work. Lots of other stuff but I can't find images to link to, so if you want more you'll have to visit. The exhibition is free and I can recommend the rock cakes in the cafe.

I can also recommend the toys in the shop - look what came home with us! Safe for babies, washable, only a fiver, and with a distinct look around the ears of Babybel's 'Ish' [formerly known as 'Adda' but she now calls him 'Ish' which is closer to his real name.]

Sorry, Mrs Cheese, they didn't have a Border Collie.

* Joni Mitchell, for those unfortunate enough not to have been young during the 60's. Of course that means you probably won't have heard of Joni Mitchell either ...

Tuesday 27 January 2009

After a successful day yesterday...

today has been frustrating. I spent this afternoon working on some fabric postcards that just didn't work. And nor did my design exploration.

The cards are for an 'Around the World in 20 Quilts' swap, 'Seasons'. I wanted to use part of this poem by Swinburne - the fourth verse - because it expresses my feelings about winter and spring so well.

So the plan was:

  1. use transfer crayons to sketch a landscape and print it on some green polycotton;
  2. print the verse on tissue paper;

  3. fuse the tissue to the background;

  4. add some flowers - a bit vague this, i was designing on the hoof;

  5. back and edge finish the post cards.

Simple! Not.

The first mistake was the green polycotton - it is almond green, not spring green and it didn't work.

The second mistake was using transfer crayons, which always end up looking - well, like crayons. It would have been better to use transfer paints. Although I quite liked the look of the paper after I had ironed off the print onto the polycotton. I thought of using white polyester instead of green - but the only white poly fabrics I have are sheers or satin, neither of which is the effect I want.

Third mistake - printing the poem in a font I can't read.

Fourth mistake - printing the verse out exactly to postcard size, and then cutting it exactly to size. I have done this so often I ought to know better! By the time I got the verse on the background there was no room to add an edging and no room to add the flowers without hiding the verse.

And the 'silk' flowers I decided to add didn't go with that artificial green.

So this was definitely a learning experience.

The design exploration was a learning experience too. The idea came from Maggie Grey [again] - paint an ink jet print out with Quink blue-black ink and then discharge it back to the print with bleach.

Simple! Well - yes - but I don't find the results very inspiring, I think because the print I started with, the pebbles, wasn't suited to the method.

This is a collage of my usual four scans. The original is bottom right. Yes, I did say it was blue-black ink. Not turquoise.

I started off trying to discharge the negative spaces between the pebbles but because they were dark in colour the results didn't show. At the bottom of the image I discharged the lighter pebbles. It does give a watery look, but I am definitely underwhelmed by it. [Interesting - I didn't think underwhelmed was a real word - but Blogger's spellchecker does. Although it doesn't recognise 'Blogger's'.]

Of the four scans, the negative is the most interesting, because the colours are unexpected - definitely a 'hot coals' look, except that they also look to me as if they are floating. For some reason it makes me think 'canvas work' although I am not sure why, and it might be difficult to get the subtle shading. My other idea is massed French knots and beads.

This evening I am intending to sew ribbon round the edge of the not landscapes to hide the staples. [No, I hadn't forgotten about them.] Not much can go wrong with that - can it?

Monday 26 January 2009

Two endings and a beginning

It is surprising how often I seem to finish several things at around the same time. For example - I have just finished this, which has been my computer knitting/knee warmer for some months.
Basic recipe - collect all your bits of green yarn, asking yourself why you have so many when you don't wear green. [Apart from 1 sweater, known as the green blob because that's how a visually impaired student described me when I wore it!]. Add a bit of turquoise and grey.
Find a circular needle in an appropriate size - I think it's about 5-6mm - and cast on a lot of stitches. [No hope of remembering how many!] Knit a moss stitch border and then in a pattern of 1 row knit, 1 row knit 1 purl 1 - except when you forget and do a knit row instead.
Work 2 row stripes and change to a different yarn every 3 stripes - except when you forget and do a stripe too many - or when you run out of one colour before the third stripe is completed.
When you have used up all the yarn, knit moss stitch borders on the remaining three sides because you were clever enough to leave some yarn on one side to do it with. Darn in a lot of ends - enough to see you through 'Lark Rise to Candleford' and beyond. Feel pleased with yourself and cast on for something a bit smaller, like a pair of socks.

I have also finished the mystery machine embroidery, which has become this. I belong to a Yahoo group called 'Stitched Textile Design' which is aimed at post C&G students. There are monthly challenges and although I often fail to complete challenges despite the very best of intentions, I had to do this one because I set it! The challenge was to 'be good to ourselves' and make something personal after all the things we had made for others for Christmas [possibly].
I set the challenge because I realised I had never made myself any embroidered jewellery - and I needed a brooch for my new mac. My original plan was to make one the way Margaret Beale suggests in 'Fusing Fabric' using PVC and felt - but my PVC and felt resolutely refused to play. Individually they were happy to be cut with a soldering iron - but not together.
So Plan B came from one of the books I bought on Thursday at the show - Janet Shipley Hawks 'Sculpted Threads'. The design is Hawks - 'being good to myself'' involved being lazy and not inventing my own. I like the result, but unfortunately it is just a bit too big for the lapel of my mac. I suppose I'll have to make another one ...
I did do some desing work with another favourite technique - making an eraser stamp of a rather stylised pebble. I particularly like the 'flower' in the centre, but the individual shape also reminds me of a tulip. In my C&G Klimt cushions I used a [string] stamp to stamp direct onto the fabric and then layered sheers and nets over the top before adding couching and FME - and I think I could do the same with this.
Doing this design exercise has both stretched and surprised me. Stretched because I have tried so many techniques - and surprised because I have found so many to try - and I still have some ideas. When we went to hear Susie MacMurray speak she recommended either doing the same thing in lots of different ways - or lots of different things the same way. I think I've tried the first - perhaps later I can try the second?

Sunday 25 January 2009

Fragmented pebbles -

a favourite exercise from Dunnewold et al's 'Finding Your Own Visual Language'. The original is top right.

Although in the past I have always used designs like this in a repeated pattern, for some reason these remind me of 60's canvas work like that of Mary Rhodes - big, highly textured and often brown. I rather like the style [if not the colour] but then I rather enjoyed the sixties!

The machine embroidery has also made progress: here it is with the soluble stabiliser washed out, drying on a rather grubby radiator.

Short post because I spent most of the afternoon struggling to make a birthday card for ? I managed it at last after a lot of swearing. I hope ? likes it ...

Saturday 24 January 2009

More embroidery has been done -

by machine, this time. What are they? Watch this space...

I am prepared to reveal that this unlovely piece is my attempt to lessen the roundness of the pebble tracing, by cutting it up, rearranging it, and adding some straighter lines.

Using the L--shaped card thingies produced the two sections below - a sort of flower and a sort of person/duck. I wasn't actually trying to produce something representational - it just happened that way! I would like to play around with these a bit more some time.

Then I copied, and inverted, and flipped, and stuck the bits together - all digitally, no glue sticks were harmed in the process - to get two patterns - now named 'Ducks' and 'Hearts'. Possibly blackworky borders?

And serendipitously [blogging does test the spelling] my tracing of the original sections landed on top of a print out of 'Hearts'. Sort of digital doodling?

Friday 23 January 2009

Lots of lovely eye candy ...

here. Great to see so many men included.

I am pleased to report that after a hiatus of some weeks, embroidery has been resumed chez Cheese. Last century I made a lot of Christmas stockings - mostly in canvas work but also in patchwork and crazy quilting. This one was the last one I started before getting bored with the whole idea. I think I last worked on it when we went to Helsinki in 1999!

It surfaced again when I had the big clear out. I was going to bin it but I decided to finish it because I like the colours. The motif isn't original, I'm afraid, and the outline of the stocking will need redrawing to balance the pattern, but I've added another 4 motifs since it came out of the heap. And I remember why I got frustrated with it - it is very easy to make a mistake ... Of course Babybel already has a Christmas stocking but that's a big one, so this may become a little girly one for her - especially if I can fit her name across the top ...

My design work today was inspired by the little book on illuminated initials I bought yesterday, although they are not as elaborate as the ones in the book. I started off using a stencil for the C's but then got brave and used Paint Shop Pro for the A&B. As you can see I am hooked on doodling, which seems to be all over the blogosphere at the moment - which reminds me of this.

I have a feeling that there as another LP cover with a similar design, but I can't remember what it was. Can you?

Thursday 22 January 2009

We had a busy day today

so I have used the lazy woman's design methods. The bonus [as long as you are not bored to tears with all this] is that you get several images , not just one.
The lazy method - for me - is doing simple things on the computer. So this was done in Picasa - I turned my original image to black and white, applied 'film grain' [I think!] several times, and then a graduated tint. Looks like someone had a very hot fire on the beach!
I think it might be interesting to try a Julia Caprera approach on this - lots of repeated stitch changing gradually from orange to grey.

This is the same image 'Hockneyized'. Possibly one for techniques from Maggie Grey's 'From Image to Stitch', for example weaving two copies of the same image through each other.

This is the image 'Warholized'. I love the colours here, especially the purple. It looks like layered resists - randomly applied batik wax, followed by dyeing, more wax, more dye etc. After all that it might not need much stitch!

The same image again, turned into an 'Amazing Circle. It reminds me of a glass paperweight. Like a lot of the images in this series, my first reaction is applique, possibly under sheers to get the shine.

So that is today's design exploration. The rest of the day was spent at the Stitch and Creative Crafts show at Sandown Park. This show probably appeals most to card makers, scrap bookers or cross stitchers and doesn't compare with the Knitting and Stitching Show but is the most local for us. As parking is easy I have made some big purchases there in the past, like sewing machines and embellishers, because we didn't need to carry them far. No expensive purchases today although I was very tempted by some beautiful devore jackets. At nearly £100 I decided I couldn't justify buying one - especially as the only occasion I could think of to wear it was to college - so I could try to persuade A. that I had made it myself. [A. does beautiful devore - I, as she very well knows. don't.]

I did buy this lot - well, almost all of it. The big book, 'Above the World' was a freebie for spending more than £15 with Yorkshire Books.

You will notice that there are no threads or fabrics in there [the pack at the bottom is paper.] Threads and fabrics were on offer, including Oliver Twists, but I stuck to my textile diet. [I did look for some red yarn to knit for Babybel but as all I could find was nasty bright acrylic or 'hand wash only' I passed']
There is no book diet though.

At the risk of sounding like a newsreader - and finally... one of my annual 'harbinger of spring' photos - some ratter tatty snowdrops. I post these more to encourage myself than anything else - I hate winter, although it is more tolerable now I don't have to go to work and come home in the dark.
The cherry tree isn't out yet, so it isn't really spring. And as the British Gas engineer has not been able to repair our gas fire due to a lack of the appropriate spare - there could be another cold spell. Once he has repaired it, all danger of snow will be over for this year.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Through the window

I have been playing around with my pebble tracing - not very successfully! I started with the usual L-shaped pieces of card - every book or person I come across seems to have a different name for them - but couldn't find a section I liked. Everything was just too round!

In one of her books Sandra Meech suggests cutting three parallel windows in a card - like a triptych. So as I like triptychs I tried that and this is the result - coloured with Derwent metallic pencils, which, I have just discovered, are water soluble. I like the slightly recessed look of the 'windows'. Could be stained glass, especially if there were arches at the top. Like a mini version of this ?

It also reminds me of the work of John Dahlsen which is what inspired the C&G wallhanging which led me to take the pebble photo in the first place. Having looked at Dahlsen's work again, I can see that my image could be worked in lots of textured stitches - as I don't have very much beach detritus lying around. Some, but not a lot ... The colour scheme, which I would never have thought of using if I hadn't started with that rather unprepossessing picture of pebbles, is growing on me.

It also reminds me of this window at the Weald and Downland Museum - which in turn inspired an image in my 'Creative Sketchbooks' book. Which I can't find.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Daily photo # 13 [!]

This is based on a section of the original pebble picture which I just filled in with doodles - very therapeutic! I borrowed ideas for some of the fillings from a lovely little Dover book by R.M. Proctor called 'Principles of Pattern Design'. One obvious way to translate this into stitch would be black work, or I could revert to the applique idea using some of my collection of black and white fabrics.
When not doodling I have been making these - 18 month size in case we get a summer this year. When I did the big stash sort I realised I had some remnants which would make toddler dresses, so despite my assertion that I didn't bother sewing for Babybel because it was cheaper to buy from charity shops - I've done a bit of sewing. The patterns came from a book I bought in Oxfam, so there has been a charitable donation involved!

Monday 19 January 2009

Today's daily photo is a scan.

This is the grey scale version of the original - because when I looked at the sepia coloured original it occurred to me that it looked - er - a bit like the contents of a baby's nappy.

This came about because the pebble extract I traced reminded me of my recent BQL challenge quilt - so I wanted to try the design out in layered applique - or, at this stage, in layers of paper. I just chose the wrong colour supplement page to cut the paper out of ...

This is the negative scan which is much better, and reminds me of Mackintosh roses. If I were to turn this into an embroidery, I would want to keep the ethereal feeling - perhaps reverse applique using sheers?

I find it interesting that when I look at the image the other way up, that little piece sticking out at the right looks totally wrong - but this way up it works as a little leaf.

I have been re-reading Dunnewold, Benn and Morgan's 'Finding Your Own Visual Language' [strongly recommended for struggling designers] and they recommend turning a dubious piece round before you decide it really is a failure. Worked for me!

I have finally finished the last bag - it's very orange because that was the only piece of even vaguely suitable fabric I had which was big enough. I am determined not to buy any more fabric if I can possible avoid it -although I did buy some elastic today, as that is one thing I don't seem to have a stash of.

I needed elastic because I have been doing something I haven't done for ages - dress making. Not for me of course ...

Hopefully I will have something to show you tomorrow!