'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 30 January 2011

Slow progress this weekend …

caused by a combination of the after-effects of insomnia – and Wensleydale re-arranging my room so that he could get to the window, to replace the old curtains with a much more practical roller blind. My room being in the state it is, this involved quite a lot of rearranging – but as a result I no longer have window coverings which dangle in the paint.

This meant that yesterday I couldn’t get at my machine to finish off the last drawer lining – and as the blind-erecting turned into an overnight job [as in, ‘Oh, b****r, I've put it up back to front, let’s have a drink and I’ll start again tomorrow’] – I made a sketch book.

2011-01-301 I had already made some layered backgrounds, as suggested in Gwen Hedley’s new book, so I used those for some of the pages. My covers seem to get more vestigial as I go on – in this case I just took off the address label, removed half of the internal flap and stapled the other half to make a pocket, ‘ strengthened’  [maybe] the spine and added the pages. As I’ve got a bit bored with using elastic to try to hold my sketchbooks shut – this one has a rather glitzy red ribbon.

The rather odd internal stitch patterns are one of Keith smith’s 3 section sewings, which he calls Beethoven’s Fifth – I think because it makes zigzags on the spine, which I forgot to photograph.


I had to cut down the paper to make the pages fit the mailer – which meant I had some left-overs. So what can you do with left-over paper?

Make a book of course. This is a rather more elaborate cover, made from a scrap of the drawer linings – but a much less elaborate binding.



Today, when I could access the sewing machine again, I finished the last drawer – the rubber band drawer.IMG_4471I hope you can see the specially made dust bunnies.

The whole piece isn’t quite finished. I am still pottering around with the contents of the string drawer – I know it needs something more but I can’t work out what.

Then I decided I’d better tackle the paperwork – or ‘gathering together all the widely distributed stitch samples and putting them in th2011-01-302e workbook’ work.

The problem with putting 3D samples in a work book is that they are 3D. I can make a workbook lumpy with 2D samples, so you can imagine what this one looks like.

But just in case you can’t, here are pictures.

That’s a rejected string sample trying, but failing, to keep it all under control. Now I need to add some words of explanation [‘I’m nuts’?] and the all-important evaluation, decide on what I’m going to do with the string drawer, do it - and it’s all finished. [I am feeling a bit pressurised because I can’t make the hand–in session and I have promised to get the 3D piece and my essayIMG_4483 in early. Fool.]

Then I used the last of the left-over paper to make another book. Really vestigial, this one, as I experimented with staples to hold the pages in.

Unfortunately they have failed, so I will have to stitch it after all…

No wonder I feel knackereimaged.


As does someone else, after a hard day – er - sleeping.

‘Cats sleep anywhere’.

Friday 28 January 2011

Out and about.

[And if that title makes you burst into song, you have been watching too much CBeebies.]

We managed two outings this week – one with the principle CBeebies watcher, and one without.

The first involved going to Basingstoke – a town I have, in the past, spoken about rather disrespectfully. But such is the love of a gran and granddad that they will penetrate the Basingstoke ring road to find the Willis Museum, just because it has an exhibition about animals aimed at pre-schoolers.

So we looked at some stuffed animals [OK] played with some stuffed toys [much better], experimented with some dressing up clothes [not at all certain about that], played some games [good] and read some stories [best of all]. Then we had coffee and cake, or crisps and fruit juice, depending on age [very good] and went home. A nice introduction to museums of a slightly smaller scale than her previous experience of dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, but unfortunately the exhibition ends this weekend!

Today gran and granddad, on their own, skirted round yet another pair of redundant Reading Brewery silos making slow progress to Southampton Docks, and pottered down to Walford Mill. After lunch in their cafe, we went round their current exhibition by Pat Hodson.

What can I say? Inspirational, luminous colour, fascinating use of print and stitch, amazing hangings. But for someone who likes making books – her beautiful books, including a handling copy of this one, had to be the stars of the show. I’m dribbling on the keyboard just looking at her website…

Then, to finish it off, we climbed several flights of stairs for a stash  enhancement opportunity, a.k.a. a sale of textile craft materials in the loft at the top of theimage Mill.

As you can see I bought rather a lot of beads, and some cow buttons for the cow fanatic in the family. [Just got to knit a cardigan to go with them.]



The book came from the mill shop, and results from my Lois Walpole obsession from our last visit to the Mill.

We did also buy a Pat Hodson book, but have to wait till the end of the exhibition to collect it. Not the £3,800 one I really coveted, I didn't have enough pennies in my money box!

Monday 24 January 2011

You may have had…

the teensiest suspicion that in all this chatter about not being able to do hand embroidery except in the evenings, so having to do other things, there was a tiny amount of procrastination going on.

You may well have been right.

But this afternoon I screwed up my courage and tackled the electrified drawer. which meant completing the drawer lining, fiddling with the drawer lining to get it to fit, fiddling to get the fabric with the circuit on it into the bottom of the lining, sewing in the switch, couching down the wires to the switch so they don’t cross, checking it works, putting it all in the box, checking it works, adding the diffuser, cutting the paper tubes down because they are now too big,  putting in the paper tubes, checking it works, taking everything out again because it had stopped working, tightening the connections so it did work, replacing everything [with it switched on this time just to be sure], stopping for tea and biscuits, resuming, making some more tubes because there weren’t enough and finishing with it IMG_4464still working.

Then I wrote some instructions on how to turn it on, so the tutors can get the full effect. Wouldn’t want to put in all that swearing work for nothing.

Unless, of course, it’s stopped working when they mark it.

It is difficult to take a photograph of a dimly glowing box – this is the best I could do!

Babybel tomorrow, college on Wednesday, so drawer 4 will have to wait…

Sunday 23 January 2011

For some odd reason …

I have a fixation that hand embroidery can only be done in the evening, in the living room – the days are for the work room, and machine embroidery, or other things not done in the living room. I think this dates back to BR [Before Retirement] when I had to make the best use I could of the weekends, which were the only times I could get to the work room and do stuff.

At the moment I need to finish off the hand embroidery on the drawer linings, and then sew them up on the machine – but I can’t bring myself to do the hand embroidery during the day. And it wasn’t possible last night because of the need to read subtitles on another of BBC4’s excellent Scandinavian police series – Danish, this time. Beautifully shot, beautifully paced and scripted, and the effect on the family of the murdered girl treated in far more depth than I have ever seen in a fictional piece. Try watching the scene where the murdered girl's parents tell her younger brothers about her death without crying – I couldn’t.

Interesting that a country with a population smaller than London, with  a language spoken by few outside its shores, can make such excellent television – and what do we make? Midsomer Murders.

But I digress.

As I didn’t have much machining to do, I had to find other, non-college related things to do during the day.

Like making bowls – the usual Lois Walpole design, with selected strips of sari ‘silk’ for the weaving. [I am addicted to sari silk, I can’t stop buying it.]IMG_4450 It needs shearing, but I am pleased with it. I’m thinking of experimenting with using craft Vilene for the ‘warp’ as:

  1. I have too much Vilene and
  2. no more of the right sort of cardboard. Lots of cardboard, it’s just all too thick.

I did get two drawers finished, though -

IMG_4448 the button drawer






and the string drawer 


although the contents of the latter are short of three red balls - I've decided they need either tiny tassels or beads, not sure which.

I got the results for Module 6, the 3D samples back on Saturday [always posted, so we can’t argue on the spot <g>]. 75%, which I'm perfectly happy with. Reading between the lines, I lost marks because my eIMG_4198xperimetnal samples weren't experimental enough.

There was a suggestion that I should think about combining the knitted vessels, like this one




with the woven pieces like, I assume, this


or this - which has me stumped!

The mean, moody black and white photos are because we had to submit them in b&w.

Friday 21 January 2011

Just because …

it was a lovely sunny day, and it seemed ages since we’d been out together, we decided it was time for a trip.IMG_4442

And on lovely sunny days, our thoughts turn to the seaside. Even in January.

So, after taking one look at these on Romsey Rd and deciding to take a different route - we went to Bournemouth, to the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery. After a very pleasant and reasonably priced lunch in their cafe, we meandered round the gallery.

They have an exhibition on at the moment called ‘Food for Thought’, which combines items from their collections with some connection to food, and the work of 4 contemporary artists on similar themes. To be honest, some of the connections are a bit tenuous, but that made it more interesting – the last thing I wanted to look at was a room full of Victorian paintings of food. There were plenty of those, but also some interesting ethnographic artefacts connected with agriculture, hunting and cannibalism. Just what someone with a new found interest in ethnography wanted.

The art works I liked best were by Paul Amey - this and one a bit like this, but with crockery under the net rather than crabs.

For those who don’t know, the Russell-Cotes Collection was started by a Victorian hotelier, Merton Russell-Cotes, and his wife Annie, and is displayed, in part, in their house. I think it is fair to say that they had more money than taste, but there are some gems amongst the oversized nudes, and you can explore a high Victorian house which combines ‘Renaissance with Italian and old Scottish baronial … Moorish, Japanese and French decorative styles alongside contemporary Victorian design’. Yes, it is every bit as OTT as it sounds.

If you visit and you are the right sex, don’t miss the ladies’ loo in the house, [not the one in the modern extension].

Thursday 20 January 2011


Just started another cold – less than a month after the previous one. The kind donor was Babybel, always generous to her granny.

The cold may be part of the reason I spent all yesterday afternoon [came home early from college] and a significant part of today trying to couch down about half a metre of thread.

Sounds easy? Well, it would have been, if I hadn’t been trying to attach some of these to the thread – and make them wimageork.

For some reason i cannot now remember and have some cause to regret, I decided it would be interesting to put lights at the bottom of this.

So I bought one of these. Yes – the reduce, re-use, recycle ethos of the 3D piece went completely out of the window.

Of course, when it came – no instructions. And Google, for once, let me down. Lots of instructions for inserting LEDs, but all of them written for electronics experts who can’t sew, rather than sewers with no knowledge of electronics.

So I snagged a passing techie who reassured me that I couldn’t blow it all up if I wired it up the wrong way, drew me a wiring diagram, and promised to come back if I got one of these. Err – I think not.

Couldn’t be easier, I thought. And it was, the first time, except that I’d wired the switch in the wrong place. So I moved the switch and tried again – and again – and again, to get all the lights to light up. Individually yes – altogether at the same time – not on your nelly. [No, it wasn’t because I’d wired them in sequence, I’d been warned that would lead to difficulties. And I kept replacing the thread.]

Finally, as I was about to give up, I decided to try some copper wire I just happened to have lying around.

Easy peasy. The prIMG_4438oblem had clearly been with the ‘conductive thread’ which I could not get to make a decent connection with the LEDs.

So here they are, all lit up – although you’ll have to take my word for it.




Two tips I did pick up from my Google search:

  1. couch the thread down rather than trying to sew with it. Essential if you use wire but also easier with the conductive thread. [Anyone with experience of using metallic thread will be able to guess how it shredded and split and generally behaved very badly indeed.]
  2. Use a press stud as a switch – I found it easier than the minute switches in the kit, and of course it looks more appropriate. In fact all you need to do to get the LEDs to light up is get your wires crossed, but for the purposes of getting this thing marked I decided a switch was better.IMG_4440

The next step is to line the drawer, insert the electronics which are sewn to a separate piece of fabric, add this red diffuser cut from a plastic file folder, insert the tubes of paper, and light the blue touch paper – switch on.

When it probably won’t work…

But the external examiner told me to try something I’d never thought I’d do. So I have. And I might even try it again, although I'll pass on the conductive thread.


[The EE also said our work didn’t have to be beautiful, which is a good thing in the circumstances…]




In another pat of the forest chest of drawers, the result of my experimentation with string.


Crochet chains, some with beads, made on the biggest hooks I could find IMG_4434– I knew that 12mm one would come in useful one day.

I did try some binding and wrapping, but decided that the process was too slow, and the results too small, to fill the drawer in the time. I think it needs some red, though.

So, despite my cold, and the frustrating wiring, I’m quite pleased with progress on this piece.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Small steps…

some of them very small. IMG_4417

I decided I needed some fluff in the corners of my drawers – I’m sure none of you have fluff in your drawers, but I do in mine. [No, not that sort of drawers!]

How to make fluff? Felt and an embellisher. I know you can use dryer fluff, but as I don’t have a dryer …

It felt silly just embellishing felt on its own, so I experimented with layering the felt on brown paper, sure the paper would just disintegrate.2011-01-161

But it didn’t – well, not straight away –you can see the beginnings of some disintegration bottom right, but I had to embellish from the paper side to get it to do that.



I don’t think I’ll be using this technique  for this piece, but the effect is interesting.


Other bigger small steps are:

finishing the itsy bitsy button bags [here in the wrong drawer] -






and the layers of rubber bands – now I have to pluck up the courage to fit it to the drawer -










and adding some handles to the chest – doesn’t it look distressed? -





and turning lots of ‘string’ [or string-like substances such as macramé cord] into machine cord.

I have bitten the bullet, taken out a second mortgage and, as advised by Ruth Lee, bought a cording foot – and it does make making miles of machine cord easier – the cord doesn’t get flattened, but because the feed dogs are up it doesn’t wiggle all over the place.

The next step is to sample various processes for making loops with this – crochet, wrapping and binding, buttonhole rings – or anything else I can think of.

As an alternative, I want to sample ways of filling a drawer with bubble wrap – anyone got any bright ideas apart from ironing it?2011-01-16

And finally, I retrieved this from its perch on top of a radiator – the bowl I made from the left over brown paper pulp. It has dried very hard and crunchy – I wish I’d made it before I handed in the 3D samples, it looks the perfect receptacle for unidentified archaeological artefacts – after a bit of distressing, of course…

When the weather gets warmer I want to experiment with making hand made paper with brown paper, too.

Mmm – is that one step madder than cutting up fabric and sewing it together again – shredding paper and making paper with it?

Friday 14 January 2011

Now you see them…


now you don’t…

Or, to be truthful, you dIMG_4412o, but in a truncated form.

My original plan was to use horizontal rolled instruction leaflets, but it became obvious that I didn’t have enough, and when I decided to  develop a theme of circles [or roughly circular forms, anyway], they had to go. End on and shorter, that is.



My second idea was to use shorter, vertical rolls of brown paper [regular readers will know that I have a lot of brown paper], but brown paper alone looked boring, even with different sized rolls, so I added the instruction leaflets, and some bus tickets as well, just for variety. At the moment they are sitting in a failed drawer with no lining – I shall have to think about the lining, as you can see it through the larger rolls.

I didn’t manage to pluck up enough courage to unpick the needle lace last night, but might manage it tonight, although I have a few more button bags to sew. It looks like 160 will be enough. [For the first time ever, Wensleydale said something which implied that he might have the teeniest tiniest suspicion that, perhaps, maybe, I am possibly a wee bit – well, shall we say bonkers?]

He might be right – although I found making the bags quite meditational, like knitting. And Radio 3 have a new series of World Music on Thursdays which went very well with itsy bitsy button bag manufacture.

So – I have one drawer of rubber bands, one of paper, one of buttons – not sure about the fourth, might be bubble wrap, might be wrapped, crocheted or turned into machine cord string – or something else I haven’t thought of yet. [Stitch? You think I should have more stitch? In the tutorial I was expressly forbidden to get too hung up on stitch!]

While I was feeling destructive I distressed the chest of drawers a bit more, with an ink pad. I have resisted the temptation to attack it with a hammer. So far.

IMG_4413 Must add the handles.


And just to prove that insanity making chests runs in the family -

this one was made by my father in the 1950s [it’s tiny, I keep sewing tools and haberdashery in it]




and this one by my great grandfather, a wheelwright, in [probably] the late 19th century - by the look of it from what he had lying around at the back of the shed. It is a little bit bigger –big enough to hold spare quilts in the top.

Although they probably wouldn’t approve of the rough and ready construction of mine, my forefathers would definitely approve of the recycling, a trait which  runs deep in the family [Dad had it too].

Did I mention great grandfather was a Yorkshireman?

Thursday 13 January 2011

Here today and gone …

by this evening, very possibly. Well, a lot of this will be.


I had a tutorial in college yesterday, and when asked the reason for the needle lace on this, I realised there wasn’t one.  At one stage  planned to make the rubber bands detachable from the base, so they needed holding together. Now I’ve decided to sew them to the backing, I don’t need any additional stitch - and, as was also pointed out, it hides the interesting background.

So tonight I will remove the needle lace and the shisha, and add some more layers of rubber bands, trying to make them look as if they are piled up in the drawer. Yes, I could just pile them up in the drawer, but I want something that won’t move around.IMG_4399

These, on the other hand, will be left loose. I just need a few more of them, so I made about 100 more little bags this afternoon [polyester sheer and a soldering iron] and found some more buttons – yes, I have a lot of buttons. So my alternative task tonight is sewing buttons into little bags.

I could have machined them, but I wanted a thicker line and the tassel-like ends which come from using embroidery floss. Anyway, I don’t think machining would have been much quicker, because of having to manoeuvre each tiny bag under the foot.

In case you hadn’t realised. they are inspired by those little bags of spare buttons which come with new clothes and which you keep in the back of a drawer, although you can never find the right one if you do lose a button.

Apart from a tutorial, the other college event was the presentation. I only made a minor cock-up with the technology, I kept to the time limit, and nice things were said by several of my fellow-students as well as the staff, so I am happy with that – and even happier that its now over!

Friday 7 January 2011

Back to work

On her excellent and inspiring blog Margaret Cooter has written about being ‘energized’ by going back to college. I know what she means – but in my case it is blind panic which has led to an outburst of activity. Panic caused by finally allowing myself to accept that the 3D piece is due in by the end of this semester, i.e. February. [I can feel my blood pressure rising just typing that.]

So I had to make some decisions. The first was that I would line the drawers with some Cas Holmes inspiIMG_4381red fabric. Unfortunately the piece I made before is not big enough, so I spent yesterday afternoon making some more, while the rain drummed on the roof of the [unheated] conservatory - the only place suitable for sloshing wallpaper paste around.

Then this morning I moved the fabric inside, otherwise it will never dry. It is now squeezed between the dining table and the window, which is fine provided no-one wants to sit at the table…

Last night I got started with a sample of embroidery to put in the drawers. Yes, embroidery! Not cardboard engineering. Not glued fabric. Stitch!


I want the drawer contents to be those everyday things we all have at the back of drawers, but used in an unusual way. Hence the rubber bands used as the cordonnets for some needle lace. [The blue threads are temporary, holding the cordonnet to the temporary backing.]

Plan A with the real piece was to use blue rubber bands as we have lots of them. Plan B was to use red ones as we have nearly as many and, as Sheila Paine points out, red thread has special significance in a lot of traditional embroidery.

But I like the look of the boring beige ones so much I had to go out this morning and buy some more, because I’ve used all we had in the sample.

This afternoon I found two more book mailers and made two more drawers for the chest, so they are all the right size, if nothing else. So I now have four that aren’t the right size, as well as four that are. I used a dud drawer to see whether sanding them made the surface more interesting- I knew they’d come in useful - and as it did, sanded the real thing.

And finally, I made some crud pulp from brown paper and PVA and tried to fill in the holes and gaps in the chest – which wasn’t as successful as I'm hoped.IMG_4382Still, I figure  I can sand it down again after it has dried.

There was, naturally, a lot of crud left so I lined an old bowl with cling film and made a moulded bowl.IMG_4379

No idea if it will work, and it has no connection with the 3d piece, but I couldn’t bear to throw the crud away. [Yes, I know what it looks like…]

It is sitting on the radiator, otherwise I don’t think it would ever dry out. I would have liked to make paper with the crud but as I normally work outside when I make paper and it has been a wet, windy, January day – I decided not to.

Back to the sample tonight. I hope you realise how brave I am being using needle lace, when the external examiner has written books on it…

Monday 3 January 2011

A little belatedly…

may I wish everyone a happy New Year!

The last few days have gone past in a bit of a blur. Mostly a ‘Oh heck I’ve c****d it up again’ blur.


You would think that some one whose favourite subject at school was geometry [yes, I know, sad] would be able to make a simple cardboard box, wouldn’t you? Or if she made a mistake with the first but she’d get it right after that – especially as she’d carefully made paper mock ups first?

You’d be wrong. I made six and none of them are completely right. Folds in the wrong place, too long, too shallow, too short – and now I’ve run out of book mailers. So I’ve decided that fate intended these drawers to be less than perfect, so I will have to live with it…

Then I though I would wind a hank of wool to start some new knitting. OK it was rather a large hank – and my swift is a bit decrepit – but did it have to collapse on me?


Result – a basketful of spaghetti. Mind you, it wasn’t helped by a misguided decision to try to untangle it while Babybel was here …

And finally – an attempt to make a basket out of newspaper. I realised early on that it wasn't going to be as robust as I’d hoped, but when I got to the sides - and I remembered that weaving baskets works best of you’ve got an odd number of stakes – I decided to cut my losses and bin it.IMG_4359

Should have stuck to Lois Walpole’s instructions.

However, we did have a good day yesterday, at the annual King Alfred’s Bus Running Day. We went on this one, this one, [a.k.a. ‘Bertie’] and this one – but Babybel really really really wanted to go on this one. Because it’s purple.

Mmm, I suppose it’s a bit anorakish to be able to identify them all – but we had a great time and Babybel loved it.

Back to the routine tomorrow – day with Babybel, then college on Wednesday. And the three modules due in over the next few weeks are all done and dusted, so perhaps I didn’t muck everything up this holiday!