'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 October 2009

Things are getting silly around here.



Not this – this year’s Christmas cake. The fact that it is so level is pure fluke, believe me.



Nor this – the faggotted piece from yesterday. The stabiliser did turn out to be heat removable, which reminded me once again why I don’t like heat removable stabilisers – difficult to remove from heavy stitching, and you can’t just leave it to soak like you can with wash-away.

IMG_9016 Nor is this silly – the design for which I tore paper yesterday and then had to postpone while the page dried. Of course you can't actually see the page – but I know it’s there … So maybe it’s a bit silly.

 IMG_9023No – the silly thing is my 3D experiment.

I used my line to make a more or less symmetrical shape, cut out 4 of them from wallpaper and stapled them together.






And then the points insisted on being rolled over.






Since then I've been trying to reproduce it in the fabric/paper I made yesterday. Which is a lot more difficult than doing it in paper, believe me. I think I've got to stage C – take it apart and start again.

That tissue box isn’t just a stage prop – or rather it is – take it away and the thing falls over.


This is nothing like what I had intended to do for Contemporary Textiles, but I am really enjoying myself. Perhaps working open-ended is better for me than telling myself I'm going to do some tiles, or an alphabet, or some graffiti?


Today’s sketchbook page is, amazingly, another sketch. I have been using water-soluble crayons a lot because you can blur out a lot of the less successful bits with a nice atmospheric wash …

Friday 30 October 2009

I’ve started so I’ll finish …


I managed to finish one thing today. This. Sewn together and put in my Contemporary Textiles sketch book.

 IMG_9009But then I thought that it would be interesting to try joining two of these shaped pieces with faggotting. Like this. 

The pieces were already stiffened with tear-away stabiliser so I tacked them to a piece of wash-away stabiliser and worked overlapping rows of an automatic stitch to join the two pieces. Then I rinsed it to get the wash-away out.

It was at this stage I discovered three things:

  1. there were gaps in the stitching
  2. the tear-away stabiliser was really wash-away stabiliser.
  3. the wash-away stabiliser wasn’t.

Not so much a case of ‘If all else fails, read the instructions’ – more a case of  ‘Don’t throw away the instructions thinking that you will remember which stabiliser is which - because you won't.’

The good thing is that there is still stabiliser in there, so I should be able to fix the gaps in the stitching.

The bad thing is that I can’t do that till it’s dry. And if it isn’t heat away stabiliser – which is my second guess – it will be staying in there for all time. Good job it’s ‘only a sample’.

So while it dried I decided to try making a 3D thing with several shapes. Feeling lazy, I decided to use the same fabric for all of them – but after I'd ironed some Vilene to a piece of calico I decided it looked a bit boring. I pondered on several ideas but in the end decided to use some interesting tissue paper with swirls printed on it – crumpled and glued to the calico with PVA.

Mmm – glue.


So while that dried, inspired by this image from the workshop, I decided to try an idea from Kim Thittichai’s new book, using some of the papers I printed yesterday. After I’d ripped up the papers I looked at the sketchbook pages and decided they were a bit – white. 

So I drew streamers on the pages with chunks of crayon and painted them with Koh-i-Noor. 


Mmm – paint.




So while that dried I decided to do something which definitely wasn’t wet. Back to those lines.

Remember this?



This is today’s version. IMG_9014a Satin stitch on a scrap of leathercloth –hence the reflection of the flash.

Because I couldn’t mark the front of the leathercloth, I worked it from the back – and for the wider lines I used crochet cotton, which for some forgotten reason I had wound onto a bobbin. The tension isn't right but it looks quite interesting.

I did consider doing the mysterious mountains this way but I couldn’t face all those zigzags.

So perhaps I finished two things.


Today's sketchbook page is one of the weirder ones. It didn’t scan well because it is 3D - little paper clay faces. Roll a ball of paper clay, press it with a thingy also made of [dried] paper clay – and you get this rather Neanderthal face. Can’t remember where I got the idea for the thingy – somewhere on the net – but it makes a fun face. Or three. Rubbed with a little wax to make them less white.

Thursday 29 October 2009

I took my own advice

contemporary textiles8

I went into my workroom today and just did stuff.

I tried out the stamps I made.  Rather pleased with those.






This is another idea from Sylvia Bramley’s book. I used the templates I’d made on Tuesday to cut out fabric and edged it with satin stitch. Yes. I know I said I’d probably work on the  mysterious mountains – but I didn’t. Maybe later.


I liked the first piece so much I made a few more, in different fabrics…






and tried arranging them in different ways.






Mmm – landscapes again. Do other people find themselves making lots of landscapes, or is it just me?





This isn’t a landscape, though. I think this was subconsciously  influenced by the giant Christmas baubles I spotted in the window of ‘Next’ this morning. [What do you mean, it’s only October?] There is a tear away stabiliser in there, but if I did want to go 3D [and I’m very tempted] it might be better to use a medium Vilene. It’s a long way from transparency and loopy thread.

I have no idea where this is all leading, but I’m having fun – and I've got lots more ideas.


In contrast, there are relatively few ideas in my Gormley-inspired book – here’s that stamp again. I do like fun foam stamps.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Nothing creative today

but we did go to Netherfield Hall with Mr and Mrs Cheddar – or, to be more accurate, to Basildon Park, the National Trust property which played Netherfield in the other version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. The one without Colin Firth.

Disappointingly, the house is shrouded in scaffolding at the moment, and the rooms in the film were largely set dressing – but it is an interesting house, and it was lovely to see it full of children enjoying Halloween/half term activities. image0

So here’s something creative I made earlier. A sketch, inspired by a sculpture at  ‘Another Place’, and on the following page, a stamp of Da Vinci's Vetruvian man, as another example of an archetypal figure. 

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Someone once said -

probably Picasso because he seems to have said everything that wasn’t said by Oscar Wilde – that inspiration only comes if you work at it. Or something like that. So today I decided it was time to stop feeling sorry for myself and start trying to get inspired by what we did in the Contemporary Textiles workshop.

The things that interested me most in the ‘installations’ we made in the workshop were the transparency of many of the pieces, and the loops and drizzles of threads. So when, in one of my collection of old embroidery books, [Sylvia Bramley’s  ‘Embroidery with Transparent Fabrics’] I’d come across a design suggestion involving a piece of string – it seemed like a good thing to follow up.

Bramley suggests dropping a piece of string on paper, drawing along the edge, cutting along the line you’ve drawn and using the edges that result as a template for line patterns. Instead of the string I used one of my drawings. IMG_8657

I had attempted to draw this.






This is my drawing. [Don’t laugh.]




Cutting along the edges produced this.




These were traced along the curved edged – I had already cut the edge of the page, based on what is on the other side.






This used the cut-off zig-zag piece as a stencil, with sprayed Brusho – in reality it is blacker than it looks here. I like this – it looks like mysterious mountains to me!





Then I used one of the shapes from the drawing [the bit outlined in red, above] as the basis for some stamps – still wet in this picture which is why  they look shiny – and why I can’t show you what they look like in use.  Being me I had to make positive and negative shapes of two different versions. But why do leaves keep cropping up in what I do? And landscapes?

I found all this quite encouraging – that I could take a rubbish drawing and get some interesting ideas out of it. I think only the mysterious mountains stand any chance of being converted into textiles – but who knows?Top.BMP

And now for something completely different – except that it also involves a fun foam stamp, this time of a Gormley-inspired figure.  The quote is because I feel that Gormley's figures are like archetypes – or like Everyman – universal symbols. I think that is why they are so effective.

Monday 26 October 2009

Moving on …

from Banksy to Gormley – my other Installation artist for Contemporary Textiles – although some other artists have crept in tTop-4.BMPhere as well. I thought I hadn’t done much in the Gormley book, but now I look at it again, there is quite a lot – although it’s quite repetitive.

Can’t show you the cover because I used someone else's photo for it,  but it involves a seascape and this stencil. The stencil, and ‘halo’ figures, appear quite a lot. The background is layers of ephemera and paint.

Incidentally, there is a mention of Contemporary Textiles – and the degree - in an interview with Susan Chapman in the current issue of ‘Patchwork and Quilting’ – I glanced through it  in WH Smiths and thought ‘I’d recognise that hair anywhere’.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Just a quickie …

as I have a cold and can’t think straight. Although I’m better off than  Babybel’s mummy, who has swine flu, to round off her holiday.


I think this will probably be the last post from the Banksy book – unless I have a flash of inspiration, which is very unlikely, the way I feel at the moment!

This was inspired by a piece by June Linsley in a Jean Littlejohn book, ‘Fabrics for Embroidery’. With a touch of Anthony Gormley. And, yes, it’s cross stitch.

Saturday 24 October 2009

Lists, lists and more lists …

but I have now transferred all my scribbled notes from my scrappy little notebooks to my sketchbooks. It was quite inspirational to revisit old ideas - have to hope it lasts until I've got time to do something about it.

I have managed to finish the cards/booklets frIMG_8972om the Ruth Smith workshop – and I am trying to resist the temptation to make the 19 pocket ‘Dragon’ version from the pamphlet I bought from her. Not sure I have a big enough piece of paper for it, anyway. 


Here’s today’s unsketchbook page – I’ve had that scrap of gingham ribbon for years and couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. Knew I'd have a use for it one day.

Friday 23 October 2009

Comparing one day with another …

On Wednesday I felt I’d wasted the whole day – today, although I don’t think I've done much more, I feel I’ve achieved much more.  Not much to show for it, though, short of photographing the shopping, or of the lists I've made [transcribing ideas for lettering from several small notebooks into a large unsketchbook].


There is this, however.  I did several of these ‘halo’ images in my other Installation Art sketchbook. [I can call it that because it does have some sketches in it.]  However this one, on an old ‘Bibliophile’ catalogue, seemed to fit with the graffiti concept – not sure why.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Just to prove


that self-striping knitting yarn doesn’t always work.  It’s OK for socks which are pretty much the same circumference all the way along – but on a sweater you get odd variations in the width of the stripes.

And it was going to have a hood, but I wasted so much yarn getting the stripes to match up there wasn’t enough left.

Still – perhaps the little one [currently on holiday with mum, dad, dog and bikes in Derbyshire] can wear it for mucking about in.


Something much more successful were these, the result of the Ruth Smith workshop today,






which will be even better when they have been united with their insides.

For those who don’t know, Ruth wrote this and this, and is an expert on these booklets [scroll down for lots of pictures].

In a day we could only get started on a small sample, but I bought Ruth's pamphlet on how to make one like the dragon decorated example in the photos, plus instructions for some pretty little boxes and an Advent calendar. [I already have both her books and her previous project pamphlet.]

It was a very enjoyable workshop – embroidery in the morning and paper cutting, glueing and folding in the afternoon. Perhaps not a inspirational as Jackie Langfeld's last week, but very good fun, especially for a book making fanatic!Top-16.BMP


Speaking of books … another unsketchbook page.



Wednesday 21 October 2009

Do you ever have days …

when you plan on getting lots of things done, and then seem to achieve nothing?

Glad I'm not alone.

W. is out of action at the moment, due to an injured knee, so we had to cancel our outing with Mr. and Mrs. C. So I had planned a day of embroidery and unsketchbooking.

Well, I managed some unsketchbooking, although it’s not very inspiring. And some housework of course. And that’sTop-15.BMP it.

So here’s one I made earlier. Yes, I know that ‘R’ looks odd – that’s because it’s a ‘'B' with a chunk cut out of the bottom, because I didn’t have an ‘R’. [That sounds as though it might develop into something rude so I won’t pursue it.]

Tomorrow should be better as I’m going to this

Tuesday 20 October 2009

An end – and a beginning …

This is the end. IMG_8947

I actually finished it before we went away, but it has been languishing ever since waiting for a button. It is rather a big button for a small girl, but then it is rather a chunky sweater. Babybel is a bit of a jeans and T-shirt girl, so hopefully this will go with denim.


And this is the beginning. A few rows of tent stitch. I hope to get onto the more interesting bits tonight.






This is today's unsketchbook page – it says ‘Hanging by a thread’. Twice, once on the page and once on the tags.

Monday 19 October 2009

I was going to do so much today …

but then I had a lousy night and my get-up-and-go got IMG_8929up and went.

I did manage to draft some more Suzani inspired canvas work –’design’ is too grand a word for a straight steal from this lovely piece. As you can see I changed my mind several times – and I’m still not sure about the left hand border. The colours [grey blues]will be inauthentic, as this is another stash-busting exercise. The embroidery will be inauthentic as well as Suzanis aren't canvas work – but if in doubt, do a bit of tent stitch.

If you want to know more about real Suzanis there’s a good introduction here.

Regular readers of my blog may wonder how, if I find cross stitch boring, I can stand tent stitch. Well, as it’s only 1 stitch not 2, it’s only half as boring - and somehow working on pieces like this is motivating because of the frequent changes of colour.


Even backgrounds aren’t boring if you work them in a range of similar shades, like the background here – and it helps to use up all those partial skeins I have, because I inherited two canvas worker’s stashes.

I did also manage some photo scratching too IMG_8940– another image from the Contemporary Textile workshop. I don't like this one as much – you may not be able to tell from the photo but I found some plant forms in there. There is also a dragonfly's wing at the right, but that is nothing to do with me!


These are today's unsketchbook images – companion pieces, constructed by tearing or cutting as appropriate.






Not very inspiring, but they might be more interesting in fabric, if I could persuade it to tear in the right  way …

Sunday 18 October 2009

Two things I learned today.

First, from LK Ludwig’s ‘Point and Shoot’ on-line class, on using your own photos in journals – the wonderful effects you get if you scratch your photos. [!] 

Top-12This is one of the photos I took at the last Contemporary Textiles session, converted to B&W, printed on cheapo glossy photo paper from [I think] WH Smiths and scratched with an awl and an embossing tool – which I have never used for its intended purpose.

The loops of thread looked like one of those ‘taking a line for a walk’ drawings I used to do in primary school – so I filled in some of the spaces with doodles. I can see this as free motion embroidery on water soluble.


When I looked at this dribble of thread I spotted a Mackintosh rose in the middle – [well, possibly plastic mac more than Rennie Mac] so scratched parts of it, then coloured it with Inktense pencils. The colour is more intense where the image has been scratched, paler where the surface is left, so you get interesting colour variations without really trying – the texture left by the scratching helps too. I love the translucent, stained glass effect because you can see the photo behind the colour.

The journaling class is pretty good – I have an on-off relationship with journaling, partly because I don’t want to use other  people’s images and I can’t draw – so the idea of using my own photos appeals.image

And the second thing I learned was from here.   Going to a class where I embroidered corrugated card has led to a move away from textile-related  words, I’m afraid, but I think the technique could be adapted for cloth – perhaps for appliqué using Bondaweb. [Livewriter’s spell check wants to substitute ‘bondage’ for ‘Bondaweb’. Er – I think not.]