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

Dorothy Rowe

Wednesday 30 September 2009

A finished piece.



Actually I finished it a while ago but couldn’t show more than a bit because it was for Art Quilts Around the World and due to be revealed today.  It was inspired by the ‘Solent Project’ of Kurt Jackson – and views of the Isle of Wight from the mainland.




By coincidence we went to the coast today – so here is a photo of a similar view. Perhaps I should have added a boat?

We had an enjoyable walk by the sea with Mr and Mrs. C and Ronaldog – who is a bit of a seadog.




Today’s flower is from Mottisfont again– a wonderful baroque honeysuckle. Possibly one to play with in imaging software, as it has such an interesting shape. Copied, flipped, inverted etc.?

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Today’s post


is brought to you by the letter ‘L’.  A stuffed denim ‘L’.

These things are like Pringles – you can’t stop at one. ‘Q’ and ‘B’ are on the drawing board.

Alphabetical order would be more logical, but I keep having ideas which won’t necessarily work for all letters. For example, I thought ‘L’ would be easier to stuff than ‘B’. I did briefly consider turning it inside out to have the seams on the inside but decided that was insanity – and I like the raggedy seams, it seems more graffiti-like.

Of course if I decide to make words – which was the original idea – I will either have to choose a technique which works for all letters – or work with a very restricted vocabulary …IMG_7335

Some more old-fashioned roses from Mottisfont. They smelled beautiful too.

Mmm – I have been having an e-mail discussion with Mrs C. about colours for tutus.  These are a bit tutu-like, and yellow and cream looks rather nice.

Monday 28 September 2009

Of boxes and books …

Months ago, when I was feeling uninspired, and it was a nice day to sit in the garden and sew – I started an embroidered box from instructions in ‘Stitch’. And then it stopped being warm enough to sit outside and sew, and I realised I didn’t have enough of the rather nice knitting ribbon I was using and nothing else worked – and it all got shoved into a bag and sulked in my sewing basket reminding me that it wasn’t finished.IMG_8603

So, in an effort to clear the decks before starting the degree – I simplified the design, and managed to finish it. 

It is much greener than it looks here – that’s in colour, not ecologically speaking, given that it is made from synthetic materials.


I have also, as promised, turned my green roller-printed pages into a book – a concertina binding.







And some St John’s Wort to finish with. One of those plants I tend to take for granted, but when I look at it the colours are lovely, and a little bit unexpected.

Sunday 27 September 2009

Shock! Horror!

Cheshire goes to the Hillier Gardens without Wensleydale!

Well – it was to an embroidery workshop. Wonderful as W. is I don’t expect him to accompany me to those. He stayed at home and painted the front door. Which looks very good. Should either of our sons ever visit us again they won't recognise the place.

[That is a test to see if either of them reads this blog.] [Daughters-in-law reading it and telling sons doesn’t count.] [But I digress.]

The workshop was with Caroline Hyde-Brown, whose work I’ve admired at a number of craft exhibitions in the past. You can see her work on her website.image

Here is my [unfinished] version – ‘only a sample’.

I’m quite pleased with it – although as usual I felt that if I’d known what we were going to do I’d have taken a different collection of stuff. Like different chiffons and  different threads.

The background is kozo paper which is wonderful to sew on – and did you know Angelina will stick to kozo when ironed? So you can stick snippets of fabric, thread and roving to it with Angelina? I didn't do it on this piece but I’m sure I will in the future.

There is another piece but as that is even more unfinished, it isn’t worth showing.

IMG_8580 On the other hand, this is completely finished.

Except that I’m not sure about the buttons.




Today’s flower isn’t a flower – I’m not sure what it is – apart from seeds, obviously. But I love the visual texture of it. Lots of little snippets held down by beads or French knots.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Some days I wake up …

and feel like stitching. Not often  these days, but this morningIMG_8571 it happened. I had some ideas to explore my Banksy-inspired interest in lettering.

Like this. [Sorry about the reflection.] It’s my favourite technique of sewing things into plastic pockets. Not very challenging, I admit!



IMG_8579 While I was at it I made a couple of wonky samples of lettering ideas – the plastic pocket one and some couching. These are on recycled Colour Catchers, but after my previous experience I backed them with iron-on Vilene. There are bits of pages which fell out of an altered book under the letters, and recycled card to stiffen them. I’m feeling virtuously green.

In due course they will get grommets and strings, but I couldn’t be bothered getting out the hole punch, the grommets, the grommet setter, the hammer and the string. graffiti

I didn’t entirely neglect the printed papers I did yesterday – the blue-greeny-yellowy ones got a wash of Koh-i-Noor. I think these will become – guess what? - book  pages - but I’m not sure about the black ones. There are rather a lot of them. And  there are still 9 chapters of Peot’s book to go, and I haven’t finished the chapter on prints yet.

I hope to get back to Peot later, depending on whether the embroidery muse goes to sleep on me again. She’ll have to wake up in a couple of weeks though. Actually she’ll have to be awake tomorrow but I’ll tell you about that later.


Yesterday I showed you one of the two types of flowers we have in the garden [apart from daisies, dandelions etc., that is.] Here’s the other one. A sedum. Green, I may be, but definitely not green fingered.

Friday 25 September 2009

Another instalment …


from Margaret Peot’s book. This involved a dozen paint rollers and several other ingredients. [I know what they look like – but they are much too big.]

You may have come across the technique which involves printing with a brayer wrapped with elastic bands. I’ve never done it because I don’t have the right sort of brayer.


sept '094

Peot substitutes foam paint rollers for the brayer – and elastic bands do not figure in her instructions – but I tried them out anyway. Of course you get a different effect because the foam roller is distorted by the elastic bands – see bottom left, above. I think.

sept '095

Or it might be bottom centre, on the right. Peot tells you to make test pieces and note which roller you used. Did I? No. Should I have done? Yes.

Other things I learned.

  1. Read the instructions first.
  2. The techniques work best with a light and even coat of paint on the roller.
  3. You can’t rely on your husband to have every DIY material mentioned in every craft book you own.
  4. PVA does not make a satisfactory substitute for tile adhesive. And it drips a lot.
  5. The techniques work best with a light and even coat of paint on the roller.
  6. Rubber gloves do help to keep your hands clean.
  7. Not all the techniques are as easy as you think but they work best with a light and even coat of paint on the roller.
  8. Using stencils over a previously applied light rolling works well.
  9. The stencils I thoughtht were made of plastisept '093c weren't - so …
  10. it was not a good idea to soak them in a bucket of water.
  11. Other colours apart from black can look good, especially with a leafy effect.
  12. Oh – the techniques work best with a light and even coat of paint on the roller.


Some time ago I boasted that I thought that our display of cyclamen was better than that at the Hillier Gardens. Well – I’ve just been out to take some photos – and I think I was a bit vainglorious.

But its not bad.



I think I also once mentioned that we always knew when our figs were ripe because the blackbirds ate them. 

Here’s the evidence.

Looks like a shot from ‘Silent Witness’ doesn’t it?

Of course, it might have been a squirrel.

Thursday 24 September 2009

We’ve been getting educated today.

We went to a talk at  the Discovery Centre, on Spanish painting and sculpture, by  Dalila Castelijn. And very good it was too. She concentrated on 15th – 17th century art, and as well as looking at the greats like Velasquez and El Greco, she also introduced us to some lesser known artists.

Castelijn was very good at explaining the national and international background to the work, and its social history, so we were able to put it in context, and understand why pieces were made the way they were. We had chosen to go because we didn’t know much about the subject – I think we know a lot more now, and can look at such paintings with a new eye. There are, apparently, a lot of Spanish paintings at Kingston Lacy, so I think we may be paying it another visit soon. IMG_6942

But concentrating for three hours was blooming hard work!

So here is a relaxing picture, of a tiny garden behind the Cathedral, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before. Taken on one of the few sunny days this year.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Thanks again

for all the interesting ideas involving wooden stamps – if I ever get time to play I shall have fun.

Today has just been exercising and shopping – although the shopping was interesting. I had a £5 Hobbycraft voucher – so I had to go and spend £25 in Hobbycraft to use the voucher, didn’t I? I stocked up on stuff I think I will be using when the degree starts, some balloons for Babybel’s birthday in November, and some adhesive fun foam to try making roller stamps like those in the current ‘Cloth Paper Scissors’ - which I was able to buy in my little local  dammit shop at a very reasonable price. Not sure if they stock ‘Quilting Arts’ but my sub to that hasn't expired yet.

As it happens, B&Q, that other Mecca for mixed media fans, is between here and Hobbycraft – and it’s Diamond Card day today – so I bought some paint rollers for the next chapter of Margaret Peot’s book, which could be subtitled ‘cruelty to paint rollers’. I also managed to find some liming wax, much used by Maggie Grey  et al, but which I've never managed to find before. It’s a biggish pot and it wasn’t cheap even with 10% off. Now I will just have to find the books which tell you what to do with it …

Speaking of degrees, I had an otherwise very nice e-mail from the tutor [who has taught me before] in which she describes me as a ‘challenging’ student. Me – challenging? I’m sure A would confirm that I am a quiet little mouse in class … Just like her.

daisy seurat

My memory being what it is, I can’t remember which flower images I’ve shown you – but I'm trying to spin them out a bit longer as I can’t think of a different topic. I think I posted the original of this when I made a daisy book cover – but this has been got at, as you probably realise. Not a free program unfortunately, but Corel Painter Photo Essentials which came bundled with Paint Shop Pro. This is the ‘Seurat’ effect. I would love the full program but I think that will have to wait until W. has got over the fees for the degree…

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Another Tuesday trip.

This time to Salisbury. I had noticed that there was an exhibition by Peter Eugene Ball in the Cathedral and as W. is never reluctant to visit Salisbury Cathedral, off we went.

We started off, as usual, with lunch at Salisbury Arts Centre. - good cafe with rather a nice Art Gallery attached. The current exhibition  is ‘Birdland: An Artist’s Imaginary Aviary’ – which could have been naff – but wasn’t. I particularly liked Mahali O’Hare’s deceptively simple canvases with almost stencil-like birds – there's one on the link – but Lizzie Sykes’ video installation of a magpie was fascinating to watch.

Then we wandered over to the Cathedral for the exIMG_8490hibition by Ball.  He uses driftwood or other pieces of weathered timber with bronze and other metals.

There were some secular pieces but although I’m not a Christian I preferred the religious ones – like a cross between medieval reliquaries and the Benin bronzes. The pieces looked completely at home in the setting of the Morning Chapel of the Cathedral, especially those set in the wall niches,

IMG_8509 and the Madonna and Child in front of the altar. [I took lots of photos but the ones on his website are much better quality.]







Of course there are a lot of sculptures outside the Cathedral as well, like this one






IMG_8525 and this rather worried looking gentleman who we were told was a fairly recent arrival.







On the way out of the Close afterwards I spotted some rather exuberant flowers.  I hadn’t realised before that petunias are scented – well, I think it was the petunias, there were quite a lot of other things there as well.





And when we got back to the car park I couldn’t resist this little fellow, masquerading as a fire hydrant.

Monday 21 September 2009

Thank you, gentle readers …

for nice comments, which give me something to post about.

First, thanks to Lynne for confirming that other Oxfam shops are stocking crafty bits – well, at least those in the SIMG_8475outh of England. Of course her post encouraged me to go back in again this morning and buy a couple more stamps – and some glitzy patchwork pieces – and a  second-hand jigsaw for Babybel – and a book – and some wooden letters as stencil substitutes …

Lynne said she had wondered whether they would stamp very well – so I thought I would try mine out.


First I tried a stamp pad.  Mmm – not very impressive. [Not all of these are Oxfam stamps, by the way, the paisley shape and the human [?] figure came from elsewhere – and cost twice as much.]


Then I tried some runny acrylic paint applied with a roller. Much better – and would probably have been better still with a pad of newspaper under the paper. I love that horse.



Then I tried rubbings. I couldn’t find a black crayon so used white on black paper. This was a bit tricky because the stamps are quite deep and the paper tends to slide around – but nice results. Could be interesting to try fabric crayons  – and fabric should be easier to use.

Another thing I thought they might be good for – but didn’t try – was ironing Angelina over.

And having looked at Lynne’s interesting blog, and spotted her lovely metal framed mirror, I wondered if you could mould soft metal over them. Never having tried this I have no idea if it is possible – but might be worth a try. 

As I had the stamp pad out, I tried the next chapter from Margaret Peot’s book – making eraser stamps. Peot suggests cutting erasers into squares – as my erasers were 2cm wide this gave me smaller ones than I would usually use. She gives suggestions [definitely not prescriptions] for ways to cut them, and then to make patterns with them. As I am into letter forms at the moment [graffiti again] I did my own thing. 

My intention was to make a few basic forms IMG_8470[essentially variations of sticks and balls – you can take the woman out of the primary school but you can never take the primary teacher out of the woman] and use then to form letters. And, as you can see, it worked – more or less. I had real problems with ‘z’ and ended up carving an extra short narrow stick – also needed for ‘e’. I haven’t tried upper case yet but I like the anarchy of these lower case ones. The erasers were made by Staedtler and had ‘S’ patterns on them, but I like the effect of that too.

And finally – thanks to Leah and Kitty for their comments on ‘Nanny’. Truth be told, I’m so delighted that Babybel has a name for me that I don’t mind it being ‘Nanny’.

Kitty said that she had called her grandparents after their pets. Mmm. TS Eliot pointed out that cats have many names, and that is certainly true of Quality Control. The vet knows her as Custard [her sister is Roobarb] but I don’t think I want to be called that. Her other names include Tiddles, Moggins and Mogbad the Bad – older readers may detect the influence of long-gone BBC children’s programmes here.

Of them all, I think I prefer Mogbad. ‘If you can’t be a good example, be an awful warning.’

Perhaps it’s best to stick to Nanny.


For once – here is a seasonal flower – although they surprise me every autumn. Another favourite – especially, of course, the purple ones.

These are at the Hillier Gardens, but I think our own cyclamen display is better. Smaller, but thicker. I might potter outside later and photograph them for comparison.

Sunday 20 September 2009

A Sunday saunter

for once – we don’t often go out on Sundays – because we don’t have to. We went to the Stitch and Creative Crafts show. Although it is less my cup of tea than the Knitting and Stitching Show - too much paper and cross stitch - it is easier to get to. And this time I wanted to get some alphabet stencils, so I thought all those paper stalls would provide some. Well – I did find one eventually, although it was smaller than I really wanted, but it is metal so I can use it with a soldering iron. Apparently card makers don’t use stencils.

I only spotted one stall selling nothing but cross stitch, and they didn’t look rushed off their feet – the assistant was reading the paper – so perhaps other people are coming to share my view of cross stitch. [Regular readers will know that cross stitch is not my favourite form of embroidery.]

So what did I buy? This lot. The only things which weIMG_8469re actually on my list were the stencil and the fabric, although I wanted to look at the books before buying them form Amazon or the Book Depository. [Resist temptation? Me? And Yorkshire Books had them for £2 off.]

The Burmese dolly is, of course, for Babybel – she is probably a bit young for her yet, but that will give Nanny time to make her some more clothes. [I would have preferred to be Granny, not Nanny, but I didn’t get any choice. W. is also Nanny, which can get a bit confusing …] The knitting yarn is also for Babybel – it is self patterning and looked good knitted up. Perhaps toddler and dolly cardigans? 


Today’s flower is a foxglove in the woods at Kingston Lacy – looking even gloomier than they actually were because of the flash. Lovely colours, shapes and textures.

Saturday 19 September 2009

I’ve had a good afternoon.


To begin at the beginning – when I wandered into the Oxfam shop earlier in the week, and bought some wooden stamps, I also bought this book by Ed Roth. Which has a little bit about how to stencil  and a lot of pre-cut stencils. [Still the Banksy influence, you notice.]

It also recommends this IMG_8463 book by Margaret Peot - which I bought, sight unseen, from ABE Books. And I'm glad I did – I only wish I'd had it last year for Contemporary Textiles.

It is one of those books which takes something you know about and expands it a bit – or a lot. Or it did for me, anyway.

So I started, like the book,  with stencilling and using masks.



Like this.  The chimp came from the Stencil 101 book, but the idea of putting it over a bit of rug canvas, and spraying through the lot, came from Peot.

The piece underneath was done with a crumpled bit of hessian as a mask. I also tried dress net which didn’t work so well, perhaps because it was too small and springy to scrumple well.IMG_8458

When I blotted the stencil with kitchen towels I got these.



Peot uses acrylic and something called a Preval spray – I used Brusho and an Arty’s pump sprayer. [Anyone know a good way to unbung them when they stop spraying? OrIMG_8459 is it just me who wrecks them?]

The other instruction I ignored was to wear rubber gloves -



IMG_8461 Athough I did wear one for this. But I still got Brusho up my arm.

Peot encourages you to stick to black and white initially, although later in the book she moves on to lemon juice. [I kid you not.]



These are lace – and rolled oats…





and kebab sticks, plastic forks, plastic letters and feathers – in case you hadn’t guessed.




Then I moved on to brushes [one with bits cut out of it to make jagged marks], sponges,  and torn or cut masks.

Right at the end of the book Peot mentions the scary word ‘draw’ and suggests you try drawing into your stencilled/printed/blotted/whatevered pieces. Which will have to wait for another day.

These were all done on paper but would work equally well, I think, on fabric – though probably not using Brusho.

For once I have a bit of embroidery to show you, althoughsept '092 I can’t show the whole thing, because it is for ‘Art Quilts Around the World’ and is embargoed until the end of the month.  The title is ‘Where the Land meets the Sea’. Not quite finished yet, but very close. No, not more encrustation – I think there’s quite enough.


Today’s ‘flower’ is a tiny thistle [?] we spotted at the Hillier Gardens – wonderful shapes, definitely calling out for French knots and straight stitches. Or beads, if we wanted to get really 3D.

Friday 18 September 2009

Thank you

for your kind comments on my good news yesterday – you can be sure I will blog about it! Unfortunately I shall miss the first session due to a long standing commitment – but from 14th October on, you should get weekly witterings on the subject.

And thanks too, to Julie, for identifying yesterday’s plant as toadflax. I Googled and it definitely was – so named, allegedly, for it’s resemblance to a toad and flax. Obviously.

After all yesterday’s excitement it has been a quiIMG_8449et day today. A little charity shopping produced these two. [I’m not intending to do any church embroidery but some of the designs are stunning and if I ever need to make an alb or a chasuble, I now know how to.]

The other is the well-illustrated catalogue of an exhibition, in 2001 in Dorset, which I’m sorry I missed.

sept '091

I’m cheating a bit with today’s flower because, as you can see, it’s not a flower – although it was once. W. found it on the pavement so I scanned it in grey scale, and tinted and collaged it in Picasa [I couldn’t resist a bit of image manipulation].

For those who haven’t guessed – it’s an unusually flat conker – and for those who don’t know hat a conker is, it is the fruit/nut [?] of a horse chestnut. Beautiful moirĂ© patterns, and I like the shadows which resulted from scanning it.