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

Dorothy Rowe

Friday 31 July 2009

Turned out nice again

For a change.

We woke to a gloomy, cold, windy day – so no surprises there, it’s what we have come to expect in July.

We had planned an outing today but nearly didn’t go because the weather looked so unpromising. But as we were going to be indoors most of the time we took a chance – packing sweaters, macs etc. just in case.

It turned out to be a beautiful warm sunny day. The sort we used to have in the summer. [Of course it’s clouding over now.]

We went first  to the Dorset Arts and Crafts Association show at Bovington Middle School. We had been a couple of years ago and been impressed by the range of crafts on display and the quality of much of it. This time we found it less impressive – definitely too many kits in the embroidery section – and why do people do absolutely beautiful lace knitting in nasty tacky cheapo acrylic yarn?

However there was some atmospheric and original photography, some beautiful  Japanese embroidery and a fascinating display of wood turning. The latter included small samples made from a variety of woods, including lilac, which turns out [pun intended – sorry] to be a beautiful wood. We have quite a lot of it stacked up in the garden, if anyone is interested …


And I did manage a bit of shopping. Four second-hand embroidery books, towards my aim to own every Batsford embroidery book ever printed, [or maybe not] and four Markal paint sticks which cost nearly as much as the books.


After a picnic we went on here – which is just up the road. 

Not our dream cottage – I would prefer one with a loo – but Clouds Hill, former home of TE Lawrence. Four sparsely furnished rooms, no kitchen, a bath but no loo – and bags of history, although it was a bit busy to be atmospheric. IMG_7657

My final texture photo [I’m changing topic  – sort of – tomorrow] is a collection of some of my beach-combings – shells, pebbles, and bits of sea -worn brick. I heard once that Henry Moore got inspiration from pebbles and I can see a Moore in the one top right.

And finally – more progress on the embroidered book cover. [The vertical lines are tacking, showing where it will be folded.]

I think it will get some more stitch and possibly a few beads and sequins, before it meets the pages which have been waiting for it patiently for a while now.

Thursday 30 July 2009


I’ve known for a while that although G-mail was talking to Outlook, Outlook was only talking to G-mail when it felt like it. Turns out that, for the last few days, Outlook was telling me it had sent my e-mails when it hadn’t. So apologies if you were expecting an e-mail from me and haven’t had one. It seems to be working again since I reset it all – although for a while I was getting 4 copies of everything.

My second Grr is human based – we have just waited in all day for a delivery we were promised would arrive today – and it hasn’t. Familiar story, I know, but irritating none the less. And as it’s a five barred gate its not the sort of thing they can leave in the porch.

So now we have to phone and ask why, if on Wednesday they told Wensleydale to his face it would be delivered today – it wasn’t. And when are they going to deliver it?


  Ah, well – back to the shells.This one isn’t really gold inside, but it looks as if it ought to be.

No embroidery today, but I have made a duvet cover and pillow case for Babybel. I gave up making adult sized bedding a long time ago – my boredom threshold is too short for those long straight seams – but cot-sized is tolerable, and I had a piece of pretty flowered cotton that was just the right size. No photo, I’m afraid, because they are in the wash, as the fabric had been sitting in my stash for – mmm – a year or two …

Wednesday 29 July 2009

More embroidery has taken place.



Some rather sloppy stem stitch.







The inspiration for the shapes came from one of my texture photos  - a panel from a fence – although it has morphed a bit.

I think this would lend itself to several embroidery techniques. I keep seeing a nude in it too.

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Embroidery has occurred.



Not a lot of it, admittedly, but after the weeks of [metaphorical] drought … 

This is a bit of felt I mucked about with on the embellisher a while ago. There is a felt bound book in ‘Re:bound’ which uses shrunk knitting but I decided to use my embellished bit instead. So it has had a bit of free machining added and tomorrow it may get some hand embroidery as well. Has the muse returned? We will see.

Of course the drought is only metaphorical as it continues to be cold, wet and miserable here. Wensleydale and I have bought what can only be described as Pacamacs. [Curious how what you laughed at when your parents had them seem sensible and practical after the third such ‘summer’.]

Will the purchase of rainwear be enough to overcome the curse of St Swithun? My money’s on the saint.


And as a change from shells – some visual texture spotted when transferring the shopping to the fruit bowl.

After admiring it, and photographing it – I ate it.

Monday 27 July 2009

Try again –

as Blogger doesn’t want to speak to Livewriter.

IMG_7671 This is yesterday’s shell  from the other side.

I love the colour – especially the blue white at the bottom. Difficult to reproduce in textiles as it’s so smooth.

Sunday 26 July 2009

Another shell


with a very interesting texture – layers of sheers zapped with a heat gun or a soldering iron, I think.

Just a quickie as we’ve had a busy, enjoyable day celebrating our 38th wedding anniversary. Just proves what a patient, long-suffering man Wensleydale is!

Saturday 25 July 2009

Normal service can now be resumed.

Or what passes for normal at Cheese Acres.

I spoke to Babybel and her daddy last night and although she isn’t quite back to normal – only chattering fifteen to the dozen instead of her usual nineteen – she is definitely on the mend. Thanks for all the kind messages – they are very much appreciated.


So here is the delayed texture photo – a stone I found on a beach somewhere.  Lines of stem stitch, I think.

Friday 24 July 2009

A bulletin has been issued …

from Cheese Towers, announcing that Babybel is much better today – still subdued but talking and playing. She is reluctant to take her Tamiflu but her dad was always a stubborn little so-and-so as well.

This long distance worrying is exhausting – although I bet the up-close worrying is just as bad.

Thursday 23 July 2009

Putting the daily photo series on hold.

Just for a few days.

We had a phone message from Cheese Minor to say that Babybel has swine flu. She is on medication and when we last spoke to her daddy, just before lunch time today, was as well as could be expected, but obviously it is a worrying time. I'm sure you’ll forgive me if I don’t post quite so regularly for a while.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

And another book …

I am really on a book making bender at the moment. The excuse of making sketchbooks has long gone – I have to admit I’m just in the mood.

july '098 This one is based on the tutorial on Diane Aldred’s blog – very clear and very thorough.

I found some more of the black Asian paper for the cover – but unfortunately that really is the last of it. And I can’t get to the Knitting and Stitching show this year to stock up again – wonder if there will be any at Festival of Quilts?

I love this ribbon binding – it would be wonderful for a book about corsets. I used some of my Pollocked paper inside.


Today’s texture photo is another shot of the late lilac tree  - definitely manipulated fabric of some kind – perhaps clusters of gathered sheers? Held down by French knots, of course.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Texture again

This is the surface of our cheminea – whiIMG_7038ch has also served on occasion as a cat bed …

Not sure how I would turn this into stitch – perhaps machine lace or heat tool zapped sheers.



Only a short post tonight after a routine shopping trip to Guildford – successful and enjoyable but I’m knackered!

Monday 20 July 2009

Some more bark



I’m not sure which tree this was as it’s a while since I took the photo – and I suspect losing your bark is not a sign of health – but there are some interesting shapes and colours there. Recently I seem to be seeing everything as canvas work – which is probably something I should take notice of.

Wensleydle and I stumbled on an interesting little exhibition today – in the Courtyard Cafe under the Guildhall in Winchester. It’s called ‘Food for Thought’ and includes paintings, photographs and some textiles – soft sculpture and embroideries. I particularly liked ‘French Fancy’ – a joky little embroidery of a cake – and a Gallic charmer.

The real coffee and cakes are good too.

Sunday 19 July 2009

What I learned from the internet.

A few days ago I mentioned Kit Vincent’s ideas for creating sketchbooks. When blogging around I came across – and succumbed to – Craftypod’s e-book on weaving without a loom. And finally I found CaiLun’s tutorial on tacket binding – which was new to me. [If you are into making books CaiLun’s blog is well worth a visit.]


Put all those ideas together and you get – a book.  With a woven hessian cover from Craftypod, a tacket binding from Cailun, and [walnut] inked and cut out pages from Kit Vincent. The cut-outs are a bit hard to see, but they are there.

The pages will get more work as suggested by Kit – but I’m very pleased with it already. I think this will be a Creative Textiles sketchbook – when I’ve decided which installation artists I’m going to choose …

IMG_7023-1 No difficulty choosing today’s texture image – although I can’t remember what plant it is. I suspect it’s an elderberry, there not being much in the way of flowering plants in our garden – and one fewer since the lilac fell over. The apples seem to be following suit, although they are just drooping small branches in the wind and rain, not collapsing completely.

Which reminds me of something else I learned today – although from Radio 3, not the internet. Last Wednesday was St Swithun’s Day.

St Swithun's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain na mair

I ought to have known, really, because St Swithun is our local saint.

Of course, it rained on Wednesday. You have been warned.

Saturday 18 July 2009

Another one


from an intermittent series of Hampshire moths. I think they keep presenting themselves for photography because they have come in to get dry -it has been raining pretty heavily here – oh, since about the beginning of the month …

I’m afraid this is an odd angle – blame the photographer, not the moth!  This is visual texture rather than real texture but as it’s all 2D anyway…

Friday 17 July 2009

And today’s texture is …

a shell. IMG_7661

I know about as much about shells as I do about moths, so I have no idea what type it is. I think it came from Florida – the only time we went there we arrived just after a hurricane, and one result was that there were a lot of shells on the beaches. so I acquired several. This may be one of them – or not - I tend to pick them up whenever the opportunity presents itself!

It would be interesting to try to replicate this in hand dye and pin tucks.

Thursday 16 July 2009

More paint – and more texture.

I sploshed some more paint around this morning – and this time I remembered the additives. textured surfaces3

Clockwise from top left:

  • washing up liquid and salt;
  • Brusho powder sprinkled on damp paper;
  • plastic canvas put on the wet paint and left till dry;
  • ditto with bubble wrap.IMG_7787
  • I picked these up on our walk yesterday – I know what they look like but they are actually bark chippings from a woodland path. Rather than trying to reproduce the texture in stitch, I'm thinking of incorporating them in an embroidery – when I get my muse back…

Wednesday 15 July 2009

A Wednesday wander

to the Hillier Gardens again, this time with Mr and Mrs Cheddar, although Ronaldo the wonder dog had to stay in the car. [She had a walk and a game of football later.]art in the garden '094

We managed to get round most of the Art in the Garden we hadn’t seen last time. Lots of animals this year, although we didn’t spot any dogs. The pink pig apparently has a hornets’ nest in his nose, which is perhaps why he’s got it in the air …



art in the garden '095

There were also several flower-like forms. I love the rusty ball full of nails.






art in the garden '093

And lots of real flowers.






Today’s texture photo is also a plant – the stem of one of the enormous Gunnera plants near the pond. Amazing to think that last autumn they were cut down to stumps and now they are back to 6 foot +.

I’m not sure how you could work those little projections in stitch – perhaps picots?

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Oh, Pollocks

You may remember that on the day the tree fell down I had intended to go out and slosh paint on paper – but it was too wet and windy. And the weather hasn’t got much better. Today it is sunny [so far] but still too windy to spread sheets of A2 out on the grass. So I put down a lot of plastic sheeting and newspaper in the conservatory  and sloshed inside.

I had been inspired by an article by Jacqueline Sullivan, in the Spring 2005 edition of ‘Cloth Paper Scissors’, about using transparent watercolours to make backgrounds. I have a lot of watercolours of different types but I have no idea if any of them are transparent. And most of them come in small tubes or cakes and don't really seem suitable for diluting in water and spreading liberally on paper, using plastic water bottles.

Then I had an ‘Aha’ moment. Brusho.

So I mixed up some yellow, brilliant red, ultramarine and grey [Brusho not running to colours with names like ‘alazarin crimson’ or ‘Payne's grey’] and sloshed them on as per the instructions. textured surfaces2

This is the result. Good, no?

Of course they are nowhere near as subtle as Sullivan’s – and I completely forgot her suggestions for adding stuff like salt, metallics, sand, charcoal, alcohol or plastic wrap. [She doesn’t mention washing up liquid but that does interesting things to wet paint, too – just make sure you get the colourless stuff. Unless you want green or yellow blobs, of course.]

I would add a couple of suggestions to Sullivan’s instructions.

First – after the first coIMG_7700uple of sheets I took up the newspaper and put down brown paper and wallpaper under the sheets I was painting. Paint was running all over the place and I didn’t want to waste it. 



Secondly, Sullivan suggests that you drain off paint into a drip tray. I put paper towels into the tray to slurp up the paint. Instant painted paper towels – a bit murky but not too bad. 


textured surfaces1It wasn’t just the paper that got painted. Do you know how difficult it is to photograph the soles of your feet? Of course sane people like my readers probably wouldn’t want to…


While I was sloshing and dribbling I had a go with some walnut ink, too. 

So what is all this Jackson Pollocking in aid of? Book pages of course.


IMG_7660 While I was in the conservatory I spotted this little fellow on the window sill. Not heavily textured but look at his spots!

And he is such a perfect 90 degree angle he is calling out to be tessellated, I think - or something clever with folded hand made paper – with frilly edges.

Must get a book of British moths, then perhaps I can work out what all these are!

Monday 13 July 2009

I must apologise

if I have given anyone the impression that this is an embroidery blog. Unfortunately my complete lack of inspiration continues. I even got out some of my old magazines and tried to find a project in there that grabbed my interest. Nothing. [So far anyway – I do have quite a lot of embroidery magazines yet to work through.]

However, books are a different matter.

Our homework, for the Contemporary Textiles Workshop, is to start a sketchbook on installation art, including studies of two artists. [Only two? I can think of at least 4 …]

The sketchbook can be bought or made. Now there's a challenge. Of course I have several bought sketchbooks but I’ve decided I prefer working with A4 size and the bought ones are too big or too small. In any case, where’s the fun in a bought sketchbook?

I was going to use the ravens’ claw one, but I realised that although it would be fine if I only sketched in my sketch books, but as soon as I started sticking things in [and I will] it would start to bulge. And as I am rather pjuly '097roud of how flat it ended up …

So yesterday I decided to make a book which would accommodate accretions. [Forgot to mention it in all the tree excitement.]

So this is it. Unusual – no?





This is how it started – except that I forgot to photograph it before I cut the edges off.  Yes – it’s a thingy for packing books to post.






Embroidery books, as it happens.

I got the idea from here, but modified it a bit, by using the mailing thingy, turned inside out and lined with brown paper,  and by sewing in the signatures rather than tying them in. Hence the duck tape to strengthen the spine.

It was quick and simple to do and I'm tempted to make another one when I get another suitable cover.july '096

Well – one is never enough, is it?

This is a bit more elaborate.

It is a secret Belgian binding. I’m not sure if it’s called that because Belgian book binders tried to keep it a secret – or because you can’t quite see how the signatures are attached to the spine – but it’s a nice looking binding, and as the spine is wider than the fore edge there's lots of room for padding.

I covered the cover with some Indian paper bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show , with no real idea what I was going to do with it. It makes a good looking cover – pity I didn’t buy more of it …

There may be a few more books in the future because today the postie brought me this – book cover made from an old hot water bottle, anyone?

and this - which I thought was about scrap-booking until I saw some interior images on a website somewhere. A few projects but lots of inspirational ideas.   Including a different sort of wooden cover and as I just found another bit of scrap plywood …

Unfortunately neither of them came in a suitable bit of corrugated card. And I suppose I ought to start doing my homework. I always did leave it to the last minute …

And finally – another inIMG_7586 my occasional series of textural moths. [I have several photos of moths because they perch (do moths perch?) on the washing, hanging up to dry and stay there.] I think this would make a wonderful piece of canvaswork – either fairly realistic or Bargello—ish.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Tree trauma

When we woke up to sunshine this morning, I decided it would be a good day to go and slosh some paint on big sheets of paper in the garden. [The coffee-sloshed paper, by the way, ended up in the ravens’ foot book.]IMG_7623

Of course by the time I was ready to slosh, the weather had taken a turn for the worse.  I went outside to confirm that the grass was too wet to put  paper on – and  was confronted by this.

Not a bush, but our beautiful purple lilac doing its best to lie down on the grass – having dealt the washing line a terminal blow on the way down.

I know lilacs are inclined to do this – the white one in the front garden tried to drop a branch on Cheese Minor a few years ago, but fortunately missed.


Of course I had to get in there and take a few photos. Isn’t this lichen wonderful? So this is today's texture photo – velvet stitch again, I think, or a very luxuriant fringe.

So Wensleydale spent the morning chopping up lilac tree. Although I will miss it, the house end of the garden is now much lighter and we have a much better view when we eat outside.

In a way I am glad I didn’t get round to painting the papers as it has given me the opportunity to have a go later at this on Kit Vincent’s inspiring blog. Isn’t that a brilliant idea? Thanks to Dahn for the link.

Saturday 11 July 2009

I promised you a book

but in an outburst of creativityIMG_7609  I made three.

This is the Raven’s Foot binding from ‘Book Arts: Beautiful Bindings for Handmade Books’ by Mary Kaye Seckler. Sorry about the flash reflection – the photos with no flash were even worse.

It’s what I started yesterday but gave up when I got to the last signature and realised that I didn’t have enough thread left to tie it off.

Annoyingly, when I was deconstructing it today, I discovered that if I had spotted an undetected tangle in the second signature I would have had enough after all. However I think I did it better the second time, so it was probably a good thing really. [‘Always look on the bright side of life’ -fill in your own Eric Idle impersonation here.]


In case you are thinking ‘How could she run out of thread on those little ravens’ claws?’ – this is what ate the thread – the sewing and  wrapping which holds the signatures to the ravens’ ‘legs’. [I think one raven may have a badly mended break in his.]july '095

This is the second book. Like the first, the covers are made from offcuts of plywood which Wensleydale donated – skilfully cut and drilled by him, much less skilfully varnished by me.

As you can see I was feeling purple when I made this. It is yet another attempt at a Coptic binding – I’ve tried following several different sets of instructionIMG_7598s but don’t really understand any of them!

Then I used the leftovers from the pages of the triangular book to make this one.


It uses the technique we were taught in ConteIMG_7601mporary Textiles. I made four pamphlets and then held the four together by weaving in and out of the stitching on the spines.



Today’s texture photo is another moth – unless you want to look at the texture of the laundry he’s resting on. It was difficult to get a good photo because he was quite small – about 3 cm from wingtip to wingtip. I think he looks like ruffled lace.

Friday 10 July 2009

Yet more texture


We have pine trees in addition to apple trees – or they may be firs, I'm not sure of the difference. Possibly as a result we have a lot of squirrels. I know grey squirrels are vermin – rats with nicer tails – but then I like rats too – although not the wild kind.

So today’s texture image is a pine cone – and some interesting texture in the grass too. Possibly some canvas work stitches for an abstract pine cone, and random Bokhara couching for the grass?

I had hoped to show you a book as well – but my 2.5 metre length of thread was about 5 cm too short. So that is on hold till tomorrow when it will be restitched with a slightly longer piece …

Thursday 9 July 2009

As a change from apple trees …

here’s a plank. I think this would be interesting in free cross IMG_7013-1stitch or, as a change from French knots, four legged knot or Danish or Sorbello – which I think are all slightly different, although I could be wrong. Perhaps on top of free machining on something which will disintegrate if zapped with a heat gun …

Bad news on the alphabet - ‘P’ has turned into a bit of a disaster and will need rethinking.

And I was knitting so tensely while watching David Millar not winning today's stage of the TDF my hands are aching.

Time. I think, for a medicinal glass of white wine.

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Despite the rain


we went for out planned visit to Whitchurch Silk Mill this afternoon – and even got a walk round the grounds in between the showers. Of course these two didn’t mind the weather.



Last time we went the garden of dye plants was looking very sparse and dry – but it seems to have grown a bit. So much so that most of the labels were hidden in the undergrowth and I don’t know what some of these are.

IMG_7582 We came home with some goodies.

We paid for the guide book – the feather was a freebie plucked from the river, and probably donated by a swan.




Although the gardens are pleasant even in the rain and the mill is very interesting in its own right [technically minded husbands seem to enjoy it as well], we really went for this exhibition, curated by Lynn Szygenda, from the Embroiderers' Guild.

Like all exhibitions at Whitchurch it is small – two cases, one with smocks from the EG’s collection, and one with items by the Smocking Branch of the EG – or, as one notice has it, the Smoking Branch. Which conjures up an interesting mental image of women with smocking pleaters and other embroidery paraphernalia standing in doorways with cigarettes in their mouths. [Of course I just typed ‘smoking pleaters’ – criticising other people's typing is asking for trouble …]

I found the exhibition a real eye opener, especially the early 20th century pieces which were made for children or as demonstration pieces. I’ve seen pictures in books, of course, but books don’t do them justice –  the dense cream on cream stitching, both smocking and surface embroidery, is quite beautiful.

There is one smock which is believed to be a genuine 19th century work garment – and as you might expect, the embroidery is more utilitarian and the materials coarser.

There are also a few 1950’s girls dresses which may be familiar to those who, like me, were young then, and had mothers who embroidered. I particularly liked the red dress with matching knickers …

Worth a visit if you are in the area and want to see some interesting pieces. Last time we visited the mill we Gift Aided our entrance fee and were given free admission for a year – which is useful as there is an interesting looking exhibition of unusual knitting planned for the autumn …

Oh – and for those who coveted my little loom – they have some slightly different ones in the shop, which you can get to without having to pay to go into the mill. But don’t expect to pick up lengths of silk for a song. When you realise that just warping a loom can take three weeks, you understand why the stuff ain’t cheap.


Today’s texture picture is – yet again – an apple tree. [We do have several but unfortunately they are mostly unproductive, being, we think, about 80 years old – and, let’s be honest, neglected.]

This isn’t an easy one to envisage in stitch -  possibly bits of silk paper layered and stitched? Anyone got any better ideas?