'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 29 September 2011

Decisions have been made…

as have aprons. And mind maps.

Fortunately I made the apron before the decisions, or poor Mrs Cheese Minor might have had to wait a long time for it.

image It was going to be a quick job – find a pattern on the internet, find a bit of fabric, and whip it up.

Mmm – well, the pattern I found turned out to be enormous even on me, and Mrs CM is considerably slimmer. So the first one has become a dyeing apron, as it covers most of Cheese Acres, and this one is smaller – although still quite big.

I decided it looked a bit boring, so why not add a bit of machine embroidery? – just an automatic pattern, nothing too time consuming.

That bit was OK – but when i came to top stitch the other sides, the thread kept breaking -

and break ing

and br eak ing.

I changed the needle – twice. rethreaded the machine top and bottom times without number, adjusted tensions in all directions. finally moved the spool from the vertical prong to the horizontal prong – and it that seemed to solve it.

So, sorry Mrs CM, bits of it should not be looked at too closely – but it should help to keep you clean.

On Wednesday I hauled half the contents of my work room into college, and did qimageuite a lot of printing and a bit of stitch – which I have forgotten to photograph.

In the afternoon I had my tutorial, and after inspection of my summer work [most of which is now quite definitely samples], judgment was given,

This -





but primarily this, together with its baby brother, have been given the thumbs up.

The rest, nowhere.

We then had a long discussion about where I could go from – and I was sent away to see ‘What if?’ and make 15, all different, by Christmas.

At which I quailed just a tad.

I realise that what I should have done this summer was just try out ideas without worrying about what constituted a PC – and leave making decisions till now. Which is what I did in the end, [but not ‘without worrying’]

So, last night I made a mind map [don’t I always?] and came up with several ideas – which I am already considering imagediverting from…

Never very good at doing what I’m told, me.

As it was a lovely day, I went out and took photos using the different settings on my camera – which I may Photoshop later, for the PMS. I’ve gone back to the idea of making a book as well – although according to Sue the tutor, the bunch of sticks is a book because it’s got a cover [sticks top and bottom] pages [rolled up newspaper] and a binding [plastic cord].image Works for me.image

This afternoon I made another one, with cellophane. This may be a way to use up some of the acres of paper-like substances i have squirreled away.

One down, 14 to go – unless I include the originals…

Monday 26 September 2011

Did you know I was trendy?



No, neither did I. [I'm sure no one says ‘trendy’ any more, proving irrefutable that I‘m not.] Can’t work out if it’s a wrap, a top or a dress, but I like it – although I would undoubtedly wear rather more underneath.


Coincidentally, I tacked up the hems on this lot yesterday – though as I was watching a bike race at the time, I was a bit distracted. Well – a lot distracted at the end.

250 metres out I was sure he was going to lose.

But he didn’t. And by the end my heart was going nearly as fast as his must have been. [Well, perhaps not quite.]

Several good things have come out of Copenhagen this year.

That was the highlight of my week. College was catching up and finding out what we’re doing this term [‘student directed learning’ mostly]. However next week is ‘print and stitch’ which meant that most of my free time has been spent assembling this lot.


I want to experiment with printing on collaged backgrounds – which meant collaging some backgrounds, both fabric and paper. Then getting things to print with – paint, gesso, gels, Inkaid, stencils, leaves, feathers, collagraph plates, plastic bags, crisp packets – yes, that is a Guinness can  on top.

Then things to stitch with sewing kit, threads – that bit was easy. Plus the stuff I’ve worked on over the summer for a tutorial.

Getting it all out took far longer than the lesson will – and then it will have to be put back.image

I took this in to do during lulls in college, and got so much done I was inspired to finish it – though it still needs blocking. I like it, and I enjoyed doing it, but I’m not sure it says anything about litter. So it’s into the box for the tutorial.


Tomorrow I need to go through all the other UFOs and decide what to work on next. The partly embroidered photo? The disgusting plastic bag that never got finished? Some more fake cans? Or the adaptation of a Japanese basket using a plastic bottle and plastic bag cord? Decisions, decisions…

Friday 23 September 2011

A day of two halves.

It was a good morning – despite having to be at the bus stop at 9.01 a.m. [Yes, I know, I used to get up earlier too.] [9.01 because I can’t use my bus pass before 9.]

In pursuit of this week’s theme of any course that’s on offer that isn’t related to college work, I’d signed up for the first of a series of recycled jewellery workshops, run by Jacqueline Rolls. The first one was wire, which appealed because Wensleydale gave me quite a lot of redundant cable, and tells me there is even more in the garage, though by rights it belongs to Cheese Major.


These are my efforts – completed one on the left, too big and a boring shape , so therefore to be deconstructed and recycled on the right. I’m told the thin multicoloured wire is phone/IT cable - which makes Cheese Major’s left-overs even more interesting…

Although recycled wire is not  litter, I have some ideas for using it for college work – when [if?] I make up my mind what I’m doing. I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to use what I have [heaven knows there’s enough of it] rather than buying more – and therefore what I make has to be adapted to the materials I have. Plus litter.

Then I met W. for a nice lunch at the usual place, and we drove over to Hobbycraft for some retail therapy.

Where the Vilene shelves fell on me - and I hadn’t been rough with them, honest!

So we went to Haskins for coffee to recover – where I dropped my change in my coffee. It’s not even Friday 13th!

Everything has been relatively peaceful since then, apart from the normal M3-on-a-Friday-afternoon traffic coming home. [Fortunately we managed to miss the end-of-shift-at-the-Ford-factory traffic.]

I spent 15 years commuting up and down the M3 – from before it was the M3 - but I still forget that it is always worse on a Friday afternoon. Lorries in the inside lane, car drivers who are going slower than the lorries but think the middle lane is the place for cars, and boy racers on the outside. Grrr!

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Exciting ironing?

A contradiction in terms, you may think – but ironing my indigo pieces was definitely exciting.image

First up – the plains and fancies – samples dyed without any shibori at the top, shibori’d or discharged at the bottom.

I’ve had trouble getting the colour of these images to look right – for example, the ‘grey’ piece [middle left] isn’t grey at all, but a slightly greenish blue, because the original colour of the silk was a yellow-cream.




The sample in the middle at the bottom is the discharged piece you last saw looking like this – bit of a change there.

the one above it to the right is also discharged, with Tiggy’s wooden stamps. It has come out better than I thought it would and is probably good enough to make a little bag for Babybel, which is what I’d planned. I’ve learned never to judge an indigo piece till it’s dry – the contrast is usually stronger than you think it’s going to be.


Cotton muslin tied with rubber bands at the top, habotai silk bound with string at the bottom – each about a metre square.

Both of these are saying ‘scarf’ to me. I think the silk one would make a great beach wrap – if I ever went to the beach with the intention of swimming.





This one was always going to be a scarf, after I’d seen Tiggy’s pole wrapped muslin, though mine is silk noil. I wish I’d given it a few extra dippings, but it’s still pretty.




I think I enjoy dyeing threads even more than I enjoy dyeing fabric – so I did some of those too.

The wool at the top was going to be a hat for me but it is such a beautiful baby blue [paler than it looks here - one dip only] that I think it will probably become a cardigan for Babyboy – don’t want him to be jealous if his big sister gets a bag…

Most of the threads were from a dyers pack from Texere – there’s cotton, linen, wool, rayon, viscose – and a couple that had lost their labels. The differences in colour are fascinating, given that they all went into the vat at more or less the same time.


And finally – the piece de resistance. [Sorry, couldn’t resist.{Sorry again}].

Again – it’s bluer than it looks here. It was experimental because the resist was tied buttons, which as they were wood – or possibly coconut shell – we thought would take the dye. They didn’t – instead some of the colour from the buttons transferred to the silk, giving a browny green blob in the centre of each circle. It’s a happy accident which I love. I think this is destined to be a wall hanging, perhaps quilted, with some stitch using those dyed threads.

Despite having officially given up quilting, I’m inspired by Tiggy’s sampler quilts to use the smaller pieces to make one – and, despite what I said yesterday, I have a purpose for most of the other fabric. I can still pet it though.

I will need a bit more dyed fabric for a quilt, but this afternoon Wensleydale braved the loft and found a long-unused beer brewing bucket, and its associated heater, which I hope still works. I’ve got a vat, got fabric [just a bit] just need the other ingredients. And some time, as all of this will, of course, have to be fitted in round a bit of degree work – back to college tomorrow to find out what this year has in store for us.

Monday 19 September 2011

Dyeing in Dorset.

Despite the weather, and the traffic on the way home, A. and I had a great weekend. We went down to Walford Mill for a ‘Dyeing the Blues’ 2 day course with Tiggy Rawling – and had a wonderful time. Tiggy is an excellent teacher, and I would strongly recommend her courses if you want to learn about shibori and indigo dyeing.

On the first day – when we  had a bit of sunshine – some of us tried out dyeing with ferrous sulphate solution [bottom centre, clamped and overdyed with indigo].

Then we tried some shibori – which I have tried before with little success, though A. is expert at it. I was more successful this time – some samples bottom left. I think it helped using thicker thread and slightly heavier fabric, which made it easier to get a good resist.

Then we learned the care and feeding of indigo vats, and got down to the really exciting bit – standing with our hands in a murky, warm, blue green liquid, taking them out, putting them back etc. etc. etc.image

Top left is a plain piece, dyed for later discharge [bottom right] with potassium permanganate paste. This was the least successful process for me – I either got too much of the paste, as you can see here, or too little, when I tried using some wooden stamps. I’ll show you what it looks like after discharge when it’s dry!

Top centre is some pole wrapped silk noil, unwrapped top right. I’m very pleased with this, which I think is just about long enough to make a scarf. [While we were dyeing on Saturday, one of the other visitors to the Mill came over and asked A. what the fabric was for. A., very quick wittedly, started talking about cushion covers. We got the feeling that ‘It‘s for stroking’ would not have been an acceptable answer – and A’s indigo dyed silk velvet was definitely for stroking.]

Overnight we all went home and did voluntary homework – some more stitched resist for me and this experimental piece, which I neglected to photograph before it met the indigo. Visimagecose wool felt, marbles and string. Hairy string, which in this case was not a good idea. The little beads were attached at Tiggy's suggestion so I could tell my dripping blue lumps from other people’s dripping blue lumps. Surprisingly, there seemed to be no doubt about who owned this one…

  1. Post dyeing and machine felting bottom left
  2. after I'd separated the hairy string from the hairy felt, and removed the marbles top left. A couple of the marbles had already made a bid to escape – hence the holes, which I love. It makes me think of bladderwrack.

On the second day – when it rained – we retreated upstairs at the Mill for more shibori-ing. I did a couple of traditional tie dye targets, an experimental button resisted piece – which got more experimental when I dropped a button and couldn’t find it again, so had to rethink the design - and made lots of hanks of thread and wool. We dyed again in the afternoon when the sun came out, and finished with the discharging I’ve alreimageady mentioned.

This afternoon I tackled this lot – rinsing, untying, and washing – show you more when they are dry.




Thoroughly exhausting but great fun – and lots of ideas to try with procion dyes as well as indigo.

Thursday 15 September 2011

It’s been a beautiful day.

See what I mean?image

We had already planned to go to Highcliffe today, and struck lucky with the weather.

We went to see the exhibition by Quattro: Linda Gleave, Dawn Thorne, Liz Heywood and Linda Robinson – for whom I cannot find a link, apart from the one from my blog entry about their previous exhibition – which no longer works.

I found it much more inspirational than most of the textile exhibitions I have been to recently – Robinson’s use of sun printing [?] and tiny areas of stitch, Heywood's combination of knitted wire, paper pulp and machine stitch [how does one come up with something so original?], Thorne's wonderful 3d works, which I have admired several times before [W. coveted her coach bolts!] and Gleave’s mystical combinations of stitch and watercolour or transfer prints [not sure what they are but I’d like to imagefind out].

Gleave’s work was our favourite, however – so much so that we bought one – this watercolour called ‘Evening Calm’. In contrast to the stormy watercolour of hers we bought last time, which I can’t photograph because it’s under glass.




While at Highcliffe we also saw Collection’s [sic], a contemporary art exhibition. The art was better than the punctuation.

In no particular order, we liked Elly Scrivener’s 3D pieces using knitted wire and other bits of hardware [W. wondered how she’d got galvanised metal to rust], Amanda Thorp-West’s landscape triptychs, Isabel Devall’s amazing geometrical pieces, especially the ones which seemed to be printed on iridescent plastic, Janet Bullas’s seascapes [seems to be a developing theme in our tastes], Demeter Dykes’ origami-like constructions, including one which seemed to be made out of cigarette packets, and the atmospheric video stills of Sharon Pearce.

After all that art, we strolled down to the beach, climbed back up again, rewarded ourselves with a cream tea [up to Compton Verney standard] and came home. [To more tea, but without the cream.]

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Slash and burn.

Make that stitch and burn.P1000634

This – yesterday’s sample -








led to 21 of these – a stitched photo before and after burning. [You can tell that I am still coming to terms with my new camera.]


I like the way the stitch makes the bottle cap look almost 3D.




Safety procedures were followed – although I forget to wear my mask , and the process is smelly.







The burned scraps are waiting to be stitched together.

The yellow background is temporary - my messy surface, which is a John Lewis bag over foam board. Useful because I can lift it off the table onto the floor when I want to do something odd like eat off the table.

All that after a bad night, a visit to the gym, and the usual chores.

Will it last?

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Things to do with a photograph.



  1. Stitch into it –the black line].
  2. Set fire to it.
  3. Like it.
  4. Consider doing the same to 20+ photographs and stitching them together into a hanging, inspired by Bonnie Epstein. The current plan for the hanging is use litter photographs where the litter becomes more and more dominant as your eye moves from the top to the bottom

I had a long discussion with W. about my concerns about originality/derivation/plagiarism. His view was:

  1. All artists are influenced by someone.
  2. Were the [few] people who tried Pointillism copying/plagiarising Seurat?

To which my answers were:

  1. True
  2. Possibly – but at least at first, with his knowledge and encouragement.

I find it a difficult issue – working like Seurat [if you’ve got the patience] seems less derivative than working like Warhol. Where does one draw the line? And using a specific technique, like sewing bit of paper together like Epstein,  seems more derivative than using found paper, as she does.

Of course I’m using my own photos rather than found paper, and I’m feeling a bit happier about it since I did the stitching & burning bits, which also seem more developed from the original.

Curiously, I’m not worried about plagiarising people who stitch into photographs – partly because there are several of them, [most recent discoveries here and here] which maybe makes it a movement, like Pointillism – and partly because none of the people I've discovered are using stitched outlines.

Need to get back to college and ask for a tutorial – because as you can see I'm enthused by this.

Probably won’t last.

Sunday 11 September 2011

A good [long] weekend!

Despite the weather.

A few good nights’ sleep helped, of course.image

On Friday I managed to finish the new bag – it looks good, provided you don’t look too closely. And although it is only a couple of inches wider than the previous one, it holds all my gubbins comfortably – so much so that I am trying very hard to resist the temptation to put even more essential stuff junk in it.

So, flushed with success, I made another one.image

This has to be the world’s quickest bag – a pair of bag handles, of which I have several, and a scarf, of which I have far too many.

So quick that I spent longer photographing it [using the camera’s different colour settings], than making it, and that included finding the scarf.

Instructions here. If you have a genuine Furoshiki, lucky you, but I made do with a bit of hand-dyed silk.

On Saturday we went to Chawton House, which was open for Heritage weekend. We went a couple of years ago and inspected the house, the horses and gardens, but the weather deterred us from doing more than the house on Saturday. Still interesting, though – and W waited patiently while one of the room stewards and I compared the relative merits of Colin Firth and Toby Stephens…

Saturday ended with a very enjoyable visit to see Babybel, Babyboy and their mum, dad and dog. We delivered the socks, and got a cuddle and some cakes – and other lovely food as well.image

We also got to read most of this collection of Topsy and Tim books, which Babybel enjoys as much as her dad used to. The collection doesn’t include the book with the dinosaurs, though – does anyone know what the title of that one is? I can’t remember.image

Today has been quieter, but a little college work has been achieved, in between the housework. 

This is a little sort-of-book of litter kaleidoscopes, inspired by this one on donna Meyer’s book a day blog. I’m still off the idea of making books for my final year’s work – but this treatment seems to make the most of the kaleidoscopes.


I’m afraid that my other college work this afternoon is also derivative – inspired by the work of Bonnie Epstein. I have a lot of photographs arranged on the ironing board, which is the biggest clear space in my work room, waiting to be sewn together.

I am very ambivalent about working so derivatively – it doesn’t feel right, but when I tried it with the work of Karin Wach, but then wandered off onto a road of my own. A dead end as it turned out, but still my own road – and I make revisits the dead end to see if I can find a path out. [This metaphor is getting a bit overstretched.] As something may come out of this, I’m persisting with it for now.

Thursday 8 September 2011

Anything but college work…

image a little knitting – some boot socks for Babybel -







and a little non-college embroidery – for the flap of a new bag.

Of course both of these are essential – Babybel likes handmade socks in her wellies, so after I had finally remembered to measure her feet [5” long, 6” round the instep] I was happy to oblige.

And having:

  1. got some new bigger reading specs
  2. got into the habit of actually taking my mobile with me when I go out [sometimes I even switch it on!]  

I needed a slightly bigger bag. I spotted one I liked the look of on the net and copied was inspired by it. I’m sure it is bad internet etiquette to admit you've knocked off a copy of something you’ve seen – but I’m afraid this will be fairly close to the original  – just in different fabric and with simpler embroidery. And definitely not for sale.

I didn’t even design the embroidery – it is taken from a transfer, at least 40 years old, which I inherited from mum. [No, transfers don’t transfer on to blue fabric, which is why you may be able to see embroidery pencil marks on there.] Working on it gave me a lot of respect for the designer – as I added each of the extras – French knots, fly stitches, detached chain and straight stitches – I realised how much they contributed to the overall design. And I remembered how much I like Dorset feather stitchery.

This afternoon I've been wrestling with the bag lining. I found a bit of hand-dyed silk satin, left over from C&G, in the right shade of pink. I thought hard about using silk satin for a lining but recited my mantra ‘what are you keeping it for?’ and cut into it.

And remembered who it has been hanging around since I finished C&G – if you have never tried to cut or sew silk satin – you haven’t lived. It is a  b****r. Talk about slippery! Pin, tack in your smallest tacking,and it will still fight back.

I will resume the fight tomorrow….

Monday 5 September 2011

Despite the weather…

I’m feeling a bit more cheerful than I have for quite soimageme time.

Partly because of this lot, made last week.They are more Unidentified Litterlike Objects – and a cat. [I didn’t kae the cat]. The ULOS are, clockwise from top right:

  1. three bits of woven, ironed plastic bag;
  2. Another bit of Japanese wrapping – rolled newspaper, twigs and plastic bag cord;
  3. The leftovers from 2 of the woven pieces, used on my flower looms. [I don’t know why I have both a Clover and a Prymm one, but they do produce slightly different results.]

The odd photos were because I was experimenting with some of the different settings on the camera – this one is ‘pin-hole’.

The better reason for feeling cheerful was the lovely afternoon we had yesterday with Babybel, Babyboy, their mum and dad, Mrs and Mrs Cheddar and assorted dogs. [Quality Control decided not to attend.]

It had been a foul morning, but by the afternoon the sun had come out and we had a great time. We went along to cheer, baby mind, hold dogs, etc. etc. while Babybel and Babyboy’s mum and dad competed in a 4k race. Yes, I did say Babyboy’s mum. To save you backtracking through old posts and counting on your fingers, he was 2 weeks old on Saturday. And not only did she compete in the race, she won! [Well done. L!]

Needless to say, her role model is Paula Radcliffe.

Oh – their dad came fourth. Well done, R!

This afternoon, less excitingly, has been spent making several miles metres of wired plastic bag cord – and very slippery it is. This is for the purpose of experimentation in another Japanese Basketry technique.

Thursday 1 September 2011

The importance of being flexible.


Plan A

On Tuesday we were going to go to Walford Mill to see the current exhibition and have lunch, and then on to Kingston Lacy for a walk in the gardens/round the house [dependent on weather] and tea.

The car had other ideas [flat battery]. The RAC man restarted it, but by then it was too late to go mad in DorseP1000280t.

So we went to Mottisfont. We had had a quick look round the current exhibition with Babybel a while ago, but it wasn’t really her sort of thing – she preferred the ribbon tree 







and the ‘fiss’. 

So it was good to go back for another look. I’m afraid we galloped through the Cicely Mary Barker flower fairies – this makes the third exhibition of her work I’ve been to – but the rest of the exhibition slowed us down - some really big names including Paula Rego, Peter Blake, and Cornelia Parker [wonderfully spooky, this one].

A million times better than the similarly titled exhibition at Southampton Art Gallery a couple of years ago.

Plan B

Was to swap Thursday for Tuesday and go to Dorset today.

Car starts? Check.

No traffic hold ups? Check - cleverly avoided by turning off just as one was starting.

Cafe open? Ah. 

We were hungry so…

Plan C

We went straight on to Kingston Lacy, and had a good lunch [Brie and gooseberry chutney sandwiches strongly recommended]. Then, because the weather was beautiful, we walked round the sculpture trail – work by Paula Joule Blake



My favourites were the long tailed tits, but I failed to get a good photo of them – and the sheep.

I loved the way Blake uses her materials to capture the essence of the creatures.





Materials? Chicken wire, what I suspect were metal lathe turnings, and plastic bags – this is the sheep’s back.








Then on the way out, we spotted this – tiny with the naked eye, but thanks to the brilliant zoom on our new camera, instantly recognizable [I hope] if you know what it is.

I’m sure someone out there can tell me...

I say on the way out – but when we bought lunch we were given a voucher for 10% off a cream tea – so how could we resist?

That’s my carb allowance for this week gone…