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

Dorothy Rowe

Sunday 31 January 2010

It’s been quite a productive day …

despite not waking up early, and not being in the mood.

I finished a sample of free motion lace, which I started yesterday and didn’t like – somehow this morning it didn’t look quite so bad. Can't show you that as it is drying after I washed out the water-soluble stabiliser. IMG_0385

I also made a few machine wrapped cords. I have a confession to make, if you promise not to tell teacher. [Warning for non-embroiderers – technical bit coming up.]

When I make cords, I do it with the feed dogs up and the normal foot on, not free motion, although these are supposed to be free motion samples. I find the cord feeds through  better than if I’m trying to free machine it, because the foot holds it firm and it doesn’t wiggle all over the place. Of course you end up with a very regular stitch – although you can vary the stitch length as you sew.

Now I've got to decide what I’m going to do with all these cords. I was going to make a lattice but I don’t think it will work …

And then I made a couple of books. [Can you tell it was Wensleydale’s day to slave over a hot stove?]


One is a map fold book containing the results of my mark making yesterday.




I’m not sure how we were meant to store/present this exercise – so I may be in trouble …





degree 20106

The other is a little sketchbook – since we had a package from Amazon earlier this week.  The packaging, some spray paint and paper, a bit of duck tape and thread, and Keith Smith’s ‘1,2, & 3 Section Bindings’ for inspiration.

So maybe I was in the mood after all …

Friday 29 January 2010

I was so busy whingeing yesterday …

that I forgot to show you these -IMG_0378 proof that JP was right when she said spring is on its way.

Of course the forecast is ‘Chance of snow’. :>(

Thanks to JP and Sandy for their encouraging remarks yesterday. Not sufficiently encouraging to get me darning a 1” diameter hole, though, even if it is ‘hand embroidery’, Sandy.


IMG_0374 I also forgot about this, which I finished before the free machining disaster day. It looks a bit like a storm cone – or an escapee from a Saatchi art competition.

Cobi made an interesting suggestion about what to put in the middle:



but I don’t have any spare cutlery <g> – and I was afraid it would be too heavy for the structure to support. The central diamond [can’t remember the proper geometric name for that shape!] is made of gessoed craft Vilene, which I just happened to have in my stash – as you do. I added machine embroidery in a diamond pattern, cut out equilateral triangles, and used jump rings to hold all the bits together.

Today I took my courage in both hands and returnedTop-11.BMP to FME – but this time I used my Bernina, not the Elna I take to college. And some more interesting fabric than calico. Not perfect – but much, much, much better.  The flower and leaf shapes were in the hand-dye, so I just outlined them in a variety of stitches – and thoroughly enjoyed myself – until I cut off the corner by mistake. Which is why there is that couched cord top right …

Thursday 28 January 2010

A boring post …

because I haven’t got much to report. Yesterday was college day. We started with an interesting lecture on gender and politics in art – except it was much more about gender politics. Interesting how many feminists came out of the closet …

Then we had a session on machine embroidery, about which the less said the better. So I’ll say something.

It was one of those sessions when I didn’t have the right thread, the right fabric, the right machine, the right inspiration, the right amount of sleep the night before, there was an ‘R’ in the month, the wind was in the wrong direction, and the gods of free machine embroidery were not on my side. You get the picture.

So today – after I had put back all the wrong stuff I had taken the day before, and got out the stuff I would have taken if I had known what it was we were going to do – I began to think about starting again.

You will have noticed I didn’t say I started again? That’s for tomorrow, gods of free machining  willing.


Just to improve my mood, I realised this morning that I had a very large hole in the heel of one of my favourite hand knit socks. The left one of these.

Quite beyond darning, even supposing I did such esoteric things.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Another Tuesday trip!

The excitement may be more than I can bear.

I’d heard about the opening of the new premises of the National Needlework Archive, which used to be in Southampton but is now in Newbury, so we thought we’d take a look. [So great is my antipathy to driving in Southampton that I would far rather go to Newbury.]

So we pottered up there  – and arrived in the middle of a power cut. However there was enough light to see by, so we had a good look round. The exhibition space is not enormous – the building was previously the chapel for Greenham Airforce base – but there were some interesting textiles, old and new, and a couple of sewing machines as well.

There is a wonderful irony in an exhibition of ‘women’s work’ in a  place that was once famous for its efforts to keep women out. And, like their suffragette predecessors, those women used textiles  to publicise their cause.

On the way home we popped into Whitchurch Silk Mill again. If you Gift Aid your entrance fee, you get free entry for a year, which is quite a bargain. Wensleydale always enjoys the technology, and their little exhibitions are usually interesting – at the moment there is one about scagliola, and another about wooden printing blocks. [I’m sure you know that silk is used in making scagliola. And of course you know what scagliola is, like I do – now.]

Monday 25 January 2010

I’ve been procrastinating …

ever since Wednesday, about the work for Drawing Studies which we missed because of the snow. Partly through fear, partly because it involved working with big pieces of paper – A1 and A2. Working with paper that size means working in the conservatory - and the conservatory is unheated.

However I had told myself very firmly that I would do it on yesterday – and the fates looked kindly upon me because the sun shone, and the temperature in there rose to 22  degrees C, which is warmer than the house.IMG_0371

So I did this - writing on A1 with all my fingers dipped into ink.






I wore a disposable glove.

Despite which …

And that is after washing it.



IMG_0355 Then we had to select an area, and reproduce it five times on newspaper. I wasn’t sure whether we were meant to make 5 versions of the same area, or five different areas, but I chose the former, using different methods of mark making.




drawing studies4

I’m afraid I cheated a bit on the black paint – the ones on the left are gesso and a candle, over-painted with black. I really like the candle one – you get glimpses of the colour in the newspaper where it resisted the paint. IMG_0366

And I put a coat of emulsion on this gentleman. Mmm – I think I may have the beginnings of a nativity scene …





I have only done about half of what I need to do for Drawing Studies and, of course, today has been vey cold. Sun is forecast for tomorrow, though, so keep your fingers crossed …

Friday 22 January 2010

Now what?


With this?








Which used to look like this. [I’ve realised what they remind me of – the rather nice choccy biccies they give you with an Americano in Costa coffee in Haskins  - and possibly other Costas as well.]

I know I said I was going to add beads, but when I tried, they didn’t look right. I then struggled to get a thread through the tubes by dangling a needle down and hoping it would drop through. [It didn’t.]

Then I remembered my rouleaux turner – which worked perfectly. Doh.

So I assembled the tubes, and made a tassel and hanging loop, and held it up – and realised it looked a bit empty. The obvious thing is another pearl tassel – but I’ve run out of pearls.

Current ideas are:

  1. a different, bigger tassel – perhaps in wool, for a contrast of texture.
  2. another smaller diamond shape in a contrasting material , yet to be decided [i.e. I don’t have a clue what.]
  3. something like these Рor is that a clich̩?

Anybody got any better ones?

And that was all I managed, despite having almost a full day to play – or so I thought. By the time I'd been shopping and done some cooking, there wasn’t much time left.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Thanks for the comments …

there is someone out there after all! Obviously the onion had stumped everyone.

For once, it didn’t snow on Tuesday/Wednesday night – well, not here in the coastal plain, anyway. Mr and Mrs Cheddar had some, and so did some of my more far-flung fellow students. We just had rain, rain, a touch of sleet – oh, and some rain …

Despite the weather [and some fairly horrendous traffic on the M3] we enjoyed our trip to the Art Gallery. Got to like a teacher whose first act when we got to the gallery was to send us into the [very good] cafe for coffee. [I can recommend the chocolate flapjack. and the feta, tomato and mint sandwich I had for lunch.]

The we had a scene-setting tour of other areas of the gallery, before going into the Hodgkin print exhibition. Mel, the teacher, took us round in reverse – and I realised why, when we got to the ‘first’ room. She was saving the best till last.

The exhibition is called ‘As Time Goes by’ – the titles of two huge [20’ by 8’] prints. And they are mind-blowing, even after the big beautiful prints we’d already seen. One is mostly in reds, the other predominantly blue. Well worth a visit – and the other pieces in the rest of the gallery at the moment are interesting too, including a very covetable Monet.IMG_0346

Today has been for hibernating – although I did finish the doggy bag. That is a sketchpad inside it – although I didn’t manage to get crayons to put in the crayon pocket. Babybel’s daddy is coming down tomorrow, unfortunately without Babybel, so he can take it back with him.




After that I went a bit further with the rolls of paper from the Contemporary Textiles workshop. Well – a bit over the top really. What started off an an experiment with weaving - I’ve got weaving on the brain at the moment - ended up like this. 

I had been thinking about figures – but he [definitely a he, despite appearances] wasn’t quite what I thought I was making - definitely one from the subconscious. I find him totem-like.

The droopy bits of thread were because the fabric was torn and I liked the dangly ends – and that led to some bigger dangly ends.

The fabric wasn’t a reasoned choice – it was the first thing which came to hand – so I think he may meet some paint tomorrow.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Sorry to go AWOL …

but things have been a bit busy around here, so not much creative has been happening, apart from a commission.

I don’t usually take commissions – I haven’t got the bottle to charge a realistic price, and I don’t like the pressure of working in a less slapdash manner than I usually do, to a deadline – but this was different. The commission is for a shopping bag for Babybel, so when she helps her mummy and daddy with the shopping she has a Babybel sized bag instead of a mummy and daddy sized one. [Sounds like a new version of ‘The Three Bears’.]

jan 20102

So I started a doggy bag- it’s not quite finished and it’s really a doggy and teddy bag, because I didn’t have enough dog fabric.

It is based on this pattern, except that it is smaller, I didn’t have the same fabric, and it will be an across-the-body bag. I have included the crayon pocket, as I thought that would make it dual purpose as Babybel loves to draw.

Not sure what to charge, but I think some kisses and cuddles might be about right …

We did manage a Tuesday trip today, to the Hillijan 20101er Gardens again. I like the gardens in the winter, because you can see the underlying shapes of the plants so well at this time of year.  Very inspirational.


IMG_0342 I also took charge of this – a kind gift from an internet acquaintance. In case you haven’t an inkling, it’s an Inkle loom [sorry] – so now I have another learning opportunity coming up. No, I don’t need another textile activity – but I thought I could use some of my redundant knitting yarns on it. Of course I don’t know what I’ll do with the bits of weaving when they are woven – that’s Plan B.


Last time I posted I asked if anyone could guess what I had printed this with. No-ne risked a guess – which means either that I stumped you – or that there is no-one out there …




The answer is - half a small onion.






We’re off on a college trip tomorrow – if it doesn’t snow. [It has snowed every Tuesday night this year.] We are going to this – so if you are in Southampton Art Gallery tomorrow and see a bunch of noisy students – that’ll be us. Hodgkin is one of my favourite artists, so I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday 16 January 2010

What can you make …

IMG_0316 with a 4mm dowel, lots of newspaper, and some masking tape?

Yes, it was Contemporary Textiles Workshop again – although as A. said, there didn’t seem to be many textiles involved. [Is paper a textile?]


The answer, of course, is some of these. Roll the newspaper round the dowel on the diagonal, starting at one corner, and fasten with masking tape. A. got those lovely stripes all over hers but as I was using a more downmarket paper I only got a few of them.


So what can you do with giant fire lighters? Well, you can wrap them with eyelash yarn and weave embroidery thread through them. No, I’m not sure why either, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.






Or you can stick the ends together with more masking tape, and plait them.



And then you can do this – you can see my basket weaving skills are not what they might be …




or you can do this. No idea what, if anything, I’ll do with him. I'm not a great one for figurative work – art dolls and stuffies do very little for me – but I rather like this little chap.

He reminds me of this big chap. [And the giant firelighters remind me of these.]

The paper tubes are surprisingly strong and pretty rigid, and I thought it was an interesting technique, which of course I had to experiment with.

On of the few advantages of insomnia is that you can get up and try out all those ideas that are buzzing round your head. [Of course the insomnia may well be due to all those ideas buzzing round your head…]


These were made about 2 a.m., using magazine pages, rather than newspaper.

One of the disadvantages of rolling on the diagonal is that the ends have fewer layers than the middle and are a bit feeble, so I tried rolling with the dowel parallel to one side.  They were a little harder to get started that the diagonal ones, but not impossible. I ran a glue stick over the last couple of centimetres to hold them together, because I wasn’t too keen on the masking tape. And of course, although the wrapping isn’t compulsory, it helps to hold them together. The result was neat, shiny, firm tubes.


These are pages from a clothes catalogue. The photos all seem to feature backgrounds in shades of beige, so I ended up with this rather interesting coffee and cream look. Come to think of it, the clothes were pretty beige too, which is why the catalogue got recycled!

I think these may get some beads – and then I need to find out how to fix them together. One of the disadvantages of rolling parallel to the sides is that the ends are the same thickness as the middle so you can’t overlap them to bind them together. And although they are hollow, I don’t have any sewing needles long enough to get a thread through them. I may have to resort to wire – or dangling a needle on a long thread and hoping it goIMG_0299es through …

And finally –here’s something I made earlier.  Can you work out what I used to stamp this flower? It wasn’t a flower, or a leaf, but I bet many of you have one of then  in your house right now.

Answer next time – if I remember.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

We had some visitors today.

Not Babybel and her entourage, this time – but these two beauties. IMG_0291 Sorry about the quality of the photo - it was hastily snatched before they went away. They were having an enjoyable time chasing each other, rolling in the snow, and even leaping over each other. I suspect from what I've Googled since that this was a courtship routine.

We had an extra inch of snow overnight, so I bottled out of going to college, even though it was open. As someone said, ‘Even if you’ve got 4WD, someone else can still slide into you’ – and I knew the side streets round college would not have been cleared. Of course I felt very guilty about it – I rarely let the boys get away with not going to school because of the weather, as they will tell you at length if you mention the words ‘Hurricane of 1987’ …

Top-15 Unfortunately I haven’t achieved much during my prolonged holiday. I did manage another drawing from the ‘Historia Ecclesiastica’. [Original here.] I did this one in pen – so no rubbing out – and once again i couldn’t fit all of it in. Perhaps I need to find a bigger sketchbook? Or draw a bit smaller, although I find that harder than you might expect.

Mind you, I do wonder if the scribe also had problems fitting it all in – there is such a layering and overlapping of letters. All those little animal heads biting the letters remind me of the Muppets, for some reason. Do you think Jim Henson was influenced by 9th century manuscripts?

Monday 11 January 2010

The exception that proves the rule.

I’m fond of posting that I got up early and achieved a lot. Today we got up early – and I achieved very little.

Top-5 I did finish this…







and this – but the first one was done in front of the telly last night, and the second while watching ‘Talking Threads’ on the computer at 2 a.m. – which is one reason why I haven’t achieved very much today.

[If you haven’t come across ‘Talking Threads’ go here and type it into the search box. Unless you want to watch programmes about county pursuits, of course. There’s a lovely combine on at the moment – who else can hear the Wurzels singing?]

I’m quite pleased with the way those two transfer prints have come out – somehow they remind me of 50s embroidery and Dorset feather stitchery. That led to a happy half IMG_0288 hour browsing through these.

One of my most prized possessions, inherited from my mother and probably as old as I am.

Does anyone know how many booklets the Needlework Development Scheme actually produced? – because I would like a full set. I think I may have one, as I have numbers 1-5, which is all I found on EBay and ABE books – but if there are any more I would like to start saving up for them – prices were a minimum of 50p a page …

Sunday 10 January 2010

A bit of this, and a bit of that.


‘This’ being – er – this. Which I think is seriously cute - so cute I may make another one, subject to confirmation from Babybel and her mum.

Free pattern here if you like it as much as I do.

Top-14.BMP ‘That’ is more drawing – some very disciplined and some less so. This is another image from the booklet about the Staffordshire hoard – although it isn’t part of the hoard, rather an example of decoration from a book of the period. Wish I knew what it says.

As you can see I didn’t space it correctly, so the twiddly bits underneath are some of the details I didn’t have room for.

I love its exuberance – the way the letters intertwine and the little faces added wherever the scribe fancied. It made me think of graffiti – the scribe could make his mark by adding his own little flourishes and decorations, just as a graffiti artist has his own tag. It was great fun to do.


This was also fun. I remembered  the exercise we had done in Contemporary Textiles, drawing with three pens rubber banded together. So this is my teasel drawn with a big fat pen, a very fine one, and a calligraphy pen. It was quite difficult to keep them all touching the paper at the same time, but I am very pleased with the final effect.



I am trying to keep in mind that the purpose of my drawing is to inspire embroidery – and therefore I should be thinking about making the sort of marks which translate into stitch.  The drawings which I like best, I realise, are those, like the teasel and the ‘kimono’, which I can visualize as stitch.




Friday 8 January 2010

The veg must get through …

Congratulations to Riverford Organics, who delivered our box of veg today, despite the weather. OK, it was a day late, but all the more welcome for that. I see leek and potato soup in my future.

The bin men, on the other hand, didn’t make it, although we keep seeing their trucks.

This is the result of the snow dyedegree 20105ing. Unfortunately the colours are rather murky  – and the French Navy dominated everything else. The good news is that I managed to dye some felt -  in the middle of the image at the bottom.

Most ‘wool’ felt is a blend of viscose and wool, and viscose will dye with Procion, so I knew it ought to work.

Incidentally, three of those bundles of thread were washed in a mesh bag ‘to stop them tangling’ – and one wasn’t. Can you tell which is which? No – neither can I.


I liked yesterday’s embroidery so much I did another one. The one on the left is on polycotton – and it was a later transfer print, which is why it is paler. I didn’t think it would work out as well, but I like the more subtle look. I'm thinking book covers or vessels.

And it’s official – I’ve had enough snow – although we seem to be stuck with it for a while. Thanks to Cheese Minor for alerting me to this amazing image. Top-11

So I did a bit of drawing. I decided it was time to try something I couldn’t rub out  - although that didn’t stop me trying. It was a bit frustrating - is it characteristic of  Conte pencils to break every 5 minutes and refuse to be sharpened? And I really agonised over those bits of filigree in the background, until I realised that the original craftsperson hadn’t got it right either – there are different numbers of hearts in each space and in one place s/he’s filled in an awkward sized gap with a little curly ‘S’. Quite reassuring, really …

Thursday 7 January 2010

Snow dyeing, embroidery and a walk in the sunshine.

jan 2010

Not tutti-frutti sorbet, but some rather mucky snow –which melted pretty quickly despite sub-zero temperatures outside.

This is even more experimental than usual as I used some elderly Dylon cold dyes – heaven only knows why I had ‘Sunshine Yellow’, ‘Mandarin’, and ‘French Blue’ but that’s what they were and I decided it was time to use them up. Fingers crossed that they are not too old. They are batching by the boiler now and will be rinsed and washed tomorrow.

degree 20104I worked on this last night – blah interim version on the left, ‘finished’ version on the right. I decided to use some in-your-face, why-did-I-ever-buy that? holographic gold thread and work FME squiggles in the jar-opener shape. And then I added some zigzag stars, with purl tails. Not sure it works but it’s ‘only a sample’ and it is no longer blah.


And today I did this with  the transfer dyed sheer and felt.  You can’t really see the felt under the sheer but I think it helps to intensify the colours. The stitch is a narrow satin stitch – it is a bit irregular, due partly to having a very loose top tension and partly to a dirty machine – things got better after I cleaned it. However I quite like the blips.

It is now in the washing machine shrinking – I hope. *

I only started working with these colours because they were, more or less, the colours of the original collage – but I have come to like them. I suppose they are a sort of split complementary, although I’m open to correction on colour theory!

IMG_0248 In between all this textile activity we had a short but pleasant walk down the road to the golf course – although it was more of a tobogganing and snowball fighting course this morning. 



This is the last of my daily picture posts – and the last trees in the book. Cut up magazine photos, inspired by Mondrian's trees. 

* The purple piece hasn’t shrunk – which proves fairly conclusively that the felt that wouldn’t dye wouldn’t, because it is not viscose-wool felt. Mmm – I do have rather a lot of it.

It will transfer dye though – and I suppose I could always use it for padding a print table, which is what I bought it for originally …


Wednesday 6 January 2010

Looks like three inches to me …


which is less than most people have had, but is quite enough, thank you.

[I would like to point out that I thought of this measuring technique quite independently of Mr Cheddar, who has posted a similar image on Facebook. Although a snazzy red ruler -  and more snow.]


As I haven’t posted a picture of the cherry tree for a while – here it is this morning. That is a colour photo, believe it or not.







As is this – our little lane.






Despite the quantities of snow available, I didn’t get round to snow dyeing - but I think there will still be some tomorrow. I have put the fabric into a soda soak, and this time I remembered the threads. I had assistance in winding the threads into hanks – Quality Control has only been going out when she absolutely has to, and so has some surplus energy, best used up by assisting with thread and yarn related activities.

I’m not sure why I didn’t get round to the dyeing, as I don’t seem to have achieved much in my day off-  apart from taking a few photos. O.K., 80+ photos.


I did draw this, described in the British Museum pamphlet as a ‘plate’. Those are, apparently, one-legged beasts biting each other’s necks.



And I pondered on this, which is the printed silk inspired by the fractured goldfish.  As you can see I added some couching. What you may not be able to see is that I then added some seeding, running stitch and free cross stitch in a failed attempt to make the jar opener shape stand out. And it’s all a bit blah.

I think I may have found a solution – we will see.



While I was out with the camera I took some photos of my favourite apple tree. The one that appeared in my C&G sketchbook.





Like this –  a credit card print, layered on a weaving and then tinted – several times …