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

Dorothy Rowe

Thursday 30 September 2010

Architectural drawing?

That was what we were supposed to be doing in college yesterday – but in my case it turned into architectural cutting and pasting [and today it’s been architectural GIMPing].

In the morning we were asked to ‘draw a diagram’ of our redesign of the classroom. Now when I read the word ‘diagram’ I think ‘maths’. As we had been drawing nets* for boxes the previous week, I immediately thought of drawing a plan of the room – floor, walls and ceiling. And as we had been given art magazines to cut up – why not decorate the room with art? IMG_2693

Which led to this. Not quite, judging by the teacher’s reaction, what she had anticipated.

I did draw the out-of-proportion little figures, though.

[The room is in an old Victorian school and has a vaulted ceiling – hence the odd shape.]




Then I did  more drawing some tracing. I like this – and so did a lot of other people.






And then I photocopied the tracing over the net – which I also like.



architectural drawing4




In the afternoon we were supposed do work inspired by the outside of the building – but by then it was pouring with rain, so I seized gratefully on some photos which Mel had taken earlier, photocopied them, and did some more cutting and sticking.


Layered photocopies bottom left, the remnants left when the images were cut out bottom right, and a tracing of the first image using a light box at the top. I like all of these cheat’s drawings.

The final task, which i didn't get round to in class, was to find our homes on Google Maps, and produce a third piece of work from that.

The people who did get round to it all seemed to be drawing maps – so of course I had to do something different.image

I did start with a [non-Google] map of our immediate neighbourhood, which I traced. [Bit of a pattern emerging here?]

I love the curly bits.


architectural drawing



Then I GIMPed it.

I turned it upside down, and copied and flipped it – and look, a butterfly!

So I added a few more lines, and, after Wensleydale said it looked like stained glass, layered it over a gradient and coloured it in.

Not, I suspect, what Mel meant by architectural drawing.

We have to translate one of these into stitch – and at the moment the butterfly is winniimageng by a mile. Cutback appliqué, I think.

So I had a really enjoyable time and hardly did any ‘real’ drawing at all.

And I have a tracing of another map waiting to be played with. I think this one is a bird.




* a two-dimensional pattern of a three-dimensional figure that can be folded to form the figure. http://www.icoachmath.com/Net.html

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Do you think this is experimental enough?


Five or six layers of vegetable nets, [the number seemed to change every time I counted them], a handle from a paper carrier bag, some paper ‘raffia’, paper balls, embroidery thread and string.


Babybel picked it up and started tickling me with it, so I suppose it’s a tickling flower.

I’d like to make a bunch, but unfortunately I don’t have enough vegetable nets. Better start eating onions as fast as we can – or enlist Babybel’s help with satsumas.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Two out of three ain’t bad.

Experiments that is – and the third one may be OK if it ever dries out.IMG_2642

Against my expectations, the Paverpol one has dried. It isn’t as grey or shiny as it appears here, although there are shiny patches on the inside where, I think, the excessive stuff I painted on has pooled against the cling film. [The instructions do warn you not to use too much.]

I haven’t tried sewing it, but I think you probably could get a needle through, although I wonder if too much handling would soften it. But I'm impressed with anything which can make two layers of polyester organza stand up by themselves. [Thicker layers would probably not be sewable.]


This is the PVA one, also dry. Again, it is blacker than it appears here, and, to my surprise, not shiny – though that may be because the top layer is lace. You definitely couldn’t sew into this one very easily - it is quite rigid and firm.





It’s the wallpaper paste which is taking its time to dry, although it was dry enough to take off the mould, to encourage the inside to dry. It is much softer than the other two and could be easily sewn into – although I think handling might make it even floppier.

I did make the paste a bit too runny [possibly one reason why it’s not dried yet] so thicker paste may have made it stiffer.

So – some good results. None of these is going to be a ‘resolved sample’ – but the experiment has given me a lot of ideas.

Not much embroidery today as we went out to cheer on Babybel’s mum in the Highclere Multi-Terrain 10k race – another personal best and, we think, the 11th woman home – well done Babybel’s mum!



While mum was doing the hard work we inspected some interesting tree stumps






and fungi.





Didn’t spot Dame Maggie though.

Saturday 25 September 2010

I’m going backwards in time.

I.e. I’m posting about last Wednesday after my last post about last Thursday. Confused? Join the clan.

Wednesday was the first degree session this semester, and was a continuation of our work on 3D pieces. We started by making fairly straightforward little vessels, following Janet Edmond’s technique from this book.

It was, as usuimageal, one of those sessions when I thought ‘If I’d known what we were going to do I’d have brought something different’ – and my piece was pretty boring.

So this morning I got out the black gesso and a rubber stamp. 

Part-way–through and after images to the left. It is due to get some metallic paint and possibly some verdigris at a later date. Anything to make it a bit more interesting.


Wednesday afternoon was spent constructing a fabric to make a vessel to stiffen with PVA, which is not a technique I’d come across before, although we did PVA fabric together to make a background on C&G.

The piece I made for that was so uninspired I’m not even going to show it to you.IMG_2626

Instead, as we keep being told to be experimental – and I keep being told I’m coasting – I decided to conduct a small experiment.

Experimental piece one - a yoghurt pot, covered in cling film, draped with various black sheers and painted with PVA – with a dollop from one of these which are my new favourite things.




Experimental piece 2 - another yoghurt pot/cling film combo, draped with black  sheers painted with wallpaper paste and the essential confetti glue.







And 3 is – yes, you guessed it, yoghurt pot and cling film, sheers, confetti glue – and Paverpol, this time. Another of those things I’ve had for years and never used.

The sheers are black, by the way – I think I may have been a little bit too generous with the Paverpol.



Those of you with a scientific background may be thinking that this is not a well-designed experiment – too may uncontrolled variables, like the type of sheers I used and the way I draped them – but doing all three the same would have been boring - even assuming I could remember how I did the first one.

I hope they’ll be dry by tomorrow – though I have my doubts about the Paverpol …

Thursday 23 September 2010

Determination leads to triumph.

Not mine,  - but Babybel’s. I knew she was a stubborn determined little madam [can’t think who she gets it from] but today she demonstrated just how determined she is.

We took her to the local soft play area.I haven’t been to one since her daddy and uncle were small – and soft play areas have clearly changed in the ensuing years. This one resembled a floor-to-ceiling jungle gym – and when I say ceiling, I do not mean a domestic ceiling.

There was a toddlers’ area as well, but Babybel, ilk her father and uncle before her, thinks toddler play areas are for wimps. She did try it out but she really really really wanted to play where the gang of older, noisy boys were playing. Unfortunately the sort of scaffolding tower she had to climb to get up to their level was just a bit too widely spaced for a 2 3/4 year old, even one with long legs. She kept trying, getting increasingly frustrated until finally, just before we were due to leave, she realised that she could help to haul herself up by pulling on the netting round the whole caboodle.

Up she went, level by level, quicker and quicker – until she disappeared from sight.

At this stage Granny began to panic. Not that I was afraid she would fall, I knew she couldn’t – but I couldn’t work out how she could get down again. The only route seemed to be via an enclosed slide, which as far as I could see could only be reached by crossing a rope bridge. And although I knew she had been over one of those before, it wasn’t 20 feet in the air with a clear view down to the ground.

Fear not, granny. Babybel came into view, inching her way cautiously but confidently across the bridge to the lip of the slide, where she paused.

We couldn’t work out from the ground what was happening. Was she scared to get into the slide – as far as I know she has never been down an enclosed corkscrew one before. Did she not know what it was? She had studied it carefully from the bottom when the boys were coming down it, but that didn’t mean she recognised it from the top – and of course, by now, the boys had disappeared so we couldn’t ask one to go up and help her.

Finally, after trying a number of ways of getting into it, she came sailing down to the ground.

Whereupon rotten gran declared it was time to go home – which it was, but gran could also spot the signs of tiredness and knew a second attempt might not be so successful.

Cue for tears and tantrums, but gran has dealt with such before and was not moved. And we will be going back next week for some consolidation of learning.

I am very proud of her guts and determination – and know that she has learned the valuable lesson that in life, determination and effort can lead to success. [Never have a psychologist in the family, it leads to interpretations of your behaviour.]

Of course, stupidly, I had forgotten my camera, so her triumphant emergence from the slide has gone unrecorded.

Monday 20 September 2010

P.S. Charlotte’s web


Wensleydale just drew my attention to this little family, currently occupying a corner of our downstairs loo.




It probably tells you something about the quality of my housekeeping – but what do they find to live on in a windowless room where the door is usually shut?

More glue and glitter.

More Cas Holmes inspired work this afternoon, although it was a bit more muted than the Indian piece – at least to begin with.


This was the first layer – a piece of calico which some time ago, I folded and stood in a cat tray of left-over coffee – as you do. I thought I would get a narrow stripe of coffee along the folds.

As you can see, it didn’t quite work out that way.





Then some  paper – brown, tissue and pattern tissue. [Cliché, I know.]

Yes, it does say ‘shoulder pad cover’ at the bottom. You can tell why that particular pattern was ready to be recycled.



Then a fabric layer – cream scraps and some of the inherited, nasty, poor quality, Broderie Anglaise edging of which I have several miles – well, about 7 yards before today.

Other people inherit antiques, money, property – I inherited textiles. And not silk, either.

sept 20106



A bit of bling – chocolate foil and glitter glue. [Come on, Green & Blacks, make recycling easier – make your foil easier to remove from its backing paper!]

The rather nice swirly design came from an old blouse.



And a final layer of  coffee dyed polyester sheer – scrumpled and dunked in coffee this time, again some time ago.



The result is far more atmospheric than I had any right to expect, given my ad hoc approach to design. I think it speaks for the strength of Holmes’ technique that I’ve ended up with two very usable pieces of fabric.

One problem though. IMG_2613

Although it didn’t seem to affect the coffee in the the calico, the paste did begin to dissolve the coffee in the sheer – and the combination oozed out.

Coffee flavoured wallpaper paste – nice.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Shopping and – er – shopping.

Today we went to the Stitch and Creative Crafts show at Sandown – free, courtesy of a kind person who had won tickets and couldn’t use them, so passed them on to me.

I know from past experience that there is relatively little stitch in the Stitch and Creative Crafts show, apart from cross stitch, and this year there didn’t seem to be much of that. However there did seem to be more knitting yarn than previously.IMG_2596

So, having walked half way round resolutely saying that I didn’t need any more knitting yarn …

Who could resist? – despite looking blue in the photo, it is purple, which, I have on very good authority, is Babybel’s favourite colour.

Er – no, it’s not for Babybel. [Purple is her gran’s favourite colour as well.]



For some reason, this side of the lovely packaging reflected the flash more, but you can just about see the pattern – although it is unlikely I’ll be wearing it with a skirt quite that short.

Some other yarns from the same pleasant lady here.





Of course that wasn’t all I bought. The one thing you can get at S&CC is stuff for paper crafts, and although I don’t do things like card making or scrapbooking, I do like some of the goodies that go with them. Like this lot. [Plus a pompom maker]. Those paints were all very cheap, which is why there are so many of them.


IMG_2589 And of course, some books – plus a tip on a good pub near Skipton from the man from Yorkshire Books. [Devonshire Arms in Cracoe, if you're interested.]

I haven’t had a chance to look at the Mixed Media one properly yet, but the Ruth Lee one is great – especially when college work this term is centred on 3D pieces.

So tonight I shall snuggle down with my new books, my [old, but nearly finished] knitting, and my cold…

Friday 17 September 2010

Getting down to glueing.



As a penance for ducking out of going to the gym [bad Cheshire!] I made myself get on with the Cas Holmes/India inspired piece.

In the end I didn’t do any painting, but there was a lot of glue.

The top image in the collage is the first layer, which is paper glued to the hand-dyed, failed-image-transferred fabric. I used some of the paper I stamped earlier, plus some Indian paper. [Note to self: the stitching on Indian paper is chain stitch and comes undone very easily when you are trying to tear the edges.]

The middle picture is after the second layer of bits of fabric from the scrap box [I think I am finally getting to the end of the samples from my C&G gold work cushions.] There are also some of those Indian ‘jewels’ from Glitterati’s mixed goodies packs, which I never know what to do with. Not sure if they’ll stay stuck but they are covered by the final [?] layer of sheers, as seen – or not – in the bottom picture.

The sheers went transparent when I glued them, so it probably doesn’t look any different from the previous one, apart from  the glitter. I bought some Early Learning Centre glitter glue for Babybel but it was rather too gloopy for her use. It’s probably too gloopy for her gran’s use as well, but I dribbled some on and brushed it out – and it looks quite good.

This was destined to be cut up and turned into book pages but Wensleydale doesn’t want me to do that with it – have to see what it looks like when it all dries, about a week next Sunday, after all the glue I put on.

I had a moment of panic this morning when I couldn’t find the bit of paper I thought I had telling me what I needed for the first day of college next Wednesday - [getting ready for college being procrastination about starting the glueing, you understand.]

But then I got an e-mail from college, so I decided I hadn’t lost it after all.

Got most of the stuff but the sewing machine is in for service, nor do I have any ‘Ideas for 3D piece … e.g. shells, fruit etc.’  I guess it will be shells, then.

We are also instructed to bring our 100 drawings for handing in. No one said anything about handing them in!!! In that case I want to add an explanation of my agonising over ‘what is a drawing’ – so I’m procrastinating over that by writing this …

Wednesday 15 September 2010

If in doubt – make a book.

I had planned on doing some more on my India/Cas Holmes inspired piece – print on some more fabric, glue things together, that sort of thing – but I have to be in the right mood to slosh paint and glue about – and I wasn’t.

So, I made a book, inspired by this, on Jim Escalante’s site, [where I also found the instructions for this].

You may have noticed that the accordion book is made of hand made paper, laminated together, while still wet, with ribbon hinges.

I didn’t have any pulp, and I didn’t feel like making any – paper making being up there with painting and glueing in the list of things I didn’t feel like doing.sept 20104

I did have Colour Catchers.  [Surprised?] And Bondaweb, and knitting ribbon. So this is my version.

Looking again at Escalante’s site I realise that Jean Funcke, who made the original, had 4 ribbons, but no ties. My ties don’t work terribly well, but I like look and feel of the result. It just needs a bit of embroidery…



After that I decided to do a bit of colouring in – though I definitely went over the lines

Copying - being inspired by A., I joined Carla Sonheim’s on-line class ‘The Art of Silliness’. After all that stress over ‘what is a drawing?’ I felt the need of a bit of silliness.

The test piece was this, to which we had to add a story.

A’s story was about cooking,  mine about mental illness. Does that say something about each of us?

‘But it looks like paint’, I hear you cry. Well – it was water-soluble crayon – and I did take a wet paintbrush to it, at the end. So maybe I felt like painting after all.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Mmm - maybe not…


This is the best of my attempts to transfer some dim pictures of India to hand-dye. I think we can conclude there was too little colour in the images and too much in the cloth – and possibly too little acrylic gel between the two, and too much paper left on the back.


However, there is a fair amount of other crud stuff destined to go over the top – like this lot of stamped papers.

I was quite surprised by how many Indian stamps I've got. And how much pink paper.





I rolled some gold paint on the back of the fabric, with a lace covered roller.

Now that I like.






I have finished another pair of more red pages – which I'm also underwhelmed by. The threads on the ‘flowers’ seem too assertive, especially on the back, while those on the glitzy diamonds aren’t assertive enough.

I think we can conclude that the last couple of days have been learning experiences.

Sunday 12 September 2010

More book pages.

sept 20101


Front and back this time.

I’m not quite sure what these are about – let’s call them samples – possibly working towards one of the ‘resolved samples’ for the 3D unit of the degree – if a book is 3D? Some of these pages are definitely lumpy…

sept 20102



Mostly, it’s just playing with scraps and bits and seeing what happens. I am getting interested in what happens on the back, though – the unintended mark making resulting from the intended mark making on the ‘right’ side. Like the backs of the fly stitches to the right, which are really quite interesting.



I’ve also been experimenting with a Cas Holmes technique for image transfer. It is especially experimental because I’ve used some hand dye which is quite strongly coloured – while the images [some of my photos from India] aren’t, because the ink cartridge is running out – as usual. And although Holmes tells you to use closely woven fabric – the top piece isn’t.

So there may not be much to show tomorrow!

Saturday 11 September 2010

Back to business.

For the first time for a few days I had the energy last night to do image more than simple knitting [can’t think why not <g>]– so I finished this, which I started a while ago. It is one of my collagraphs on a piece of fine polyester fabric, backed with white felt and worked in running stitch in two strands of embroidery floss.

I had been reading an old WOW interview with Olga Norris in which she talks about her use of running stitch – see here for some examples. She uses two different coloured threads in the needle, and works the stitch to introduce controlled distortion to the pieces. So that's what I tried.

There isn’t very much distortion, perhaps because of the felt backing, but I like the way using different thread colours allowed me to introimageduce more shading to the piece. I'm very pleased with it!

That was last night – today I made a book. In my internet wanderings I came across this tutorial, and knowing I had a piece of scrap leather somewhere, decided to have a go.

Serendipitously, by the time I'd cut the irregular edges off the leather, it was just big enough to take pages made from brown paper packaging. [I’ve got a ton of it!] It fastens with a jeans button and buttonhole cut into the leather.

I love the interlaced binding, but I think the edges look a bit unfinished, so I may go back and work a whip stitch round it with some more of the cream threaIMG_2546d.

And then, I embroidered a book page, for a book which is yet to be constructed. The page is Bondawebbed together Colourcatchers [which I’d done earlier], with velvet applied with machine and hand stitching. I'm quite pleased that the back, which will show in the finished book, is almost as neat as the [not very neat]front – but I forgot to take a photo and my camera battery is flat, so that will have to wait!

In between all that I’ve been reading my new book. Although I’ve never been lucky enough to see her work for real, I've admired  Cas Holmes’ work in magazines and on the net. And look, she makes books! So when I heard about her book I ordered it sight unseen, which I don’t often do.

I wasn’t disappointed. She writes about how she constructs the fabric for her pieces – a more interesting take on ‘fabric paper’, not that she calls it that. I’ve just got on to her thoughts on mark making with stitch, which also has some great ideas. Strongly recommended for fans of layers, loose ends and carpet tape stamps- although it’s not, I think, a book for new embroiderers - or for neatniks.

I have also ordered Gwen Hedley’s new book, so I hope that is equally good!

Friday 10 September 2010

We survived!

And we had fun – and so, I think, did Babybel. apart from an unplanned close encounter with West Berkshire Fire and Rescue.

No, we didn’t set Cheese Minor Mansion on fire – we just happened to arrive on the canal towpath at the time as two fire engines, coming to put out a fire on a narrow boat – and Babybel found it all very noisy and ‘a little bit scary’. IMG_2493

She prefers her activities quiet, preferably involving animals she can pet. Or ‘milk’.

Lily the cow at Manor Farm was the biggest hit.

Thanks to everyone who made recommendations for visits – we didn’t manage to follow them up this time, but they are on the list for the future.

Gran and ‘Grangrad’ are, of course, totally knackered. Looking after an active 2 year old is the best cure I’ve found for insomnia.

You forget what it’s like – not only the physical activity but the constant flow of questions. We’ve moved from ‘What's that?’ to ‘What’s he doing?’ – shortly to be followed, I suspect, by the dreaded ‘Why?’.

Today’s parents do have it easier in one respect than we did, however.

They’ve got CBeebies.

Sunday 5 September 2010


Not quite what I’d intended it to be – the picture of men, bikes and sunflowers did not transfer as hoped – so I cut out some of my collagraphed leaves and made a pop-up. image

Unfortunately I haven’t managed to photograph it very well, but the central leaves are attached to a concertina, like a flag book.

Is it a drawing? Who cares!


I have also spent part of the afternoon wrestling with my printer in an attempt to get it to print on the fabrics I prepared earlier in the week. I have ironed them onto freezer paper, but it definitely does not want to print on any of them. It throws up it’s little pizza wheels in horror and sulks – in that ‘I’m never going to print anything again, but neither will I let you cancel the print job’ way that all my printers have had.

So when I get a moment [i.e. Friday at the earliest] I shall try the glue stick and ordinary paper technique and see if that works – I already know that it won’t do the masking tape on the leading edge method – not fooled by that trick at all.

Failing that it’s a new printer – which W has been suggesting for a while. Nice Epson with Durabrite inks I think …

Saturday 4 September 2010

Numbers 92 & 93



are these two collagraphs - not perfect, but the instruction was not to make 100 perfect drawings. Or if it was, I missed that bit – too late now!.






Number 94 is a cheat er - ‘found art’. Spore prints on the bottom of a box of large mushrooms. I wish I'd added some stitch before I put it in the sketchbook, although I don’t know whether the box would have stood up to it.



Number 95 is a tissue and paint sun print, overprinted with found objects. I was sorting through a pile of the stuff I’ve done over the summer and decided to include some of them – in truth, I’m getting a bit bored with all this ‘drawing’.

IMG_2453 Number 96 is a tissue and paint sun print without additional printing. A bit of doodling on it might be called for if I can work up some enthusiasm.





Number 97  is a screen print, which I think you've seen before, with washes of Koh-i-Noor and ‘The Works’ cheap opalescent paint, .






IMG_2457 Number 98 is another screen print,  on turquoise card, over-stencilled with spray paint.






Just for a change, number 99 is a new pieceIMG_2455. Before I printed with the collagraph plates, I tried using them as rubbing plates with a black oil pastel – and this one looked like a seascape with dinghies to me.

I cut it up because I was inspired by Linda McLaughlin’s beautiful quilt here - I hope she will forgive me pinching her idea. Then I gave it a wash of different shades of watercolour.

And number 100? It doesn’t exist yet – or only in embryonic form. I decided I had to include an image inspired by my essential summer viewing – and the image which epitomises the TDF for me is one like this. So while I was pinching ideas, I pinched an image from a well known cycling magazine, and will work some chemical magic on it to transfer to one of the sketchbooks.


And then I made a book. Very quickly.

Here it is with the means of production.

I’ve never stapled a book together before – see what sins buying a long arm stapler can lead you into?

Stapling a book together isn’t quite as easy as you might think – it’s a bit difficult to get the staples in precisely the right place. But not that difficult.


And it is much, much quicker than sewing.

The whole book is made from recycled packaging – apart from the ribbon – oh, and the staples. [Not even I will attempt to recycle staples.] I was going to use a bit of recycled Christmas ribbon – until I ironed it.

The pages are made from the brown paper Amazon and others use as filling in their parcels, and which I can’t bear to throw away. The cover is corrugated card, which I had painted white at some time, for no very good reason, [left-over emulsion paint of course] and the concertina spine is a from a box base.

I think I may use it as a sketch book – it’s got 112 pages so it could be for drawings 101 – 200.

Or maybe not.

Little will happen next week, as we are on four days of Babybel duty. Apart, that is, from lots of dog walking, play park visiting, and the occasional outing to places with animals or birds of some variety, preferably ones who are amenable to being fed. [Any recommendations for suitable places in West Berkshire or Hampshire will be gratefully received.]

Followed by sitting down to recover, preferably with a glass of something cool and white, after we have returned her to her doting parents …