'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 October 2011

Student does college work shock!


OK – not very much of it – but I am back in the mood, after finishing this [sorry about the c**p photo] and running up a bag from the leftovers for the recipient’s big sister.










I rolled a few envelopes – not many this week, POT has only grown by a couple of inches – although it depends whether I measure him contracted or extended. Doesn't it always?





I played around in my sketchbook – I like the yellow pages stripes on the left, which I may translate into tubes – if i can work out how to tie them together.



image And I finished some plastic tubes I started the last time I was in college, nearly three weeks ago – except I then decided they needed wrapping with shrink wrap, heat gunning, soldering and rubbing with black paint – original in the middle, zapped on the right, painted on the left. For some reason W. says the last one looks Japanese. I just think it’s a lot more interesting than the virgin one in the middle.

So far I’ve only done the one – but intend to tackle the others tomorrow.


Plus I've done a bit of paperwork, and got ready for college [not difficult as I didn’t really unpack after my last visit…]

And as the icing on the cake, I’ve found some good examples for contextualisation – now to Google the maker, Dorothy Liebes and ‘rigid weft’ weaving.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

A bit of this…

i.e. college work – and a bit of that – i.e. a Christmas stocking.


A day late I got round to photographing T&T. Brown paper T is  soggy and beginning to show signs of wear around the edges – the result, I think, of this morning’s heavy rain – but the plastic bag T is also living up to expectations and looking good.




POT also got some attention – and in response to Karen's question about how I fasten it together, I took some step by step photos.


Step 1.

Collect tools and materials.  The secret weapon is my rouleaux turner, which has penetrated far more envelopes this last month than it ever turned rouleaux. [The tools also include Radio 3, but you’ll have to imagine that.]

Step 2.

Roll tubes


You can see the ends of the strings emerging from POT, ready to attach the new tubes. The ball of string is in waiting in case it is needed.

Step 3.

Insert rouleaux turner into tube. It is just long enough.


Step 4. image

Snag one of the strings  emerging from the last tube into the hook of the RT.

Eagle eyed readers will have noticed that this is a different tube – I couldn’t get a decent photo of the blue one, which is slightly longer.

Step 5. image

Remove the RT, bringing the string with it.


Step 6.

Insert the RT into the opposite end of the tube and snag the second piece of string emerging from the other end of the last tube. Pull through.




The tubes should look like this. [Those extra bits of string sticking out of the palest tube are the tail ends of a knot.]


Side view of snugged up tubes.

Step 7.

Repeat till you run out of envelopes. Or glue. Or string. Or patience.


Much quicker to do than describe.

If you are wondering about the preponderance of plain blue envelopes – we are in the process of moving our bank account to the Co-op, so we are getting a lot of letters, in duplicate, in their rather nice mid-blue or indigo lined security envelopes.

After all that, I tackled the Christmas stocking – which has required more unpicking, rearranging, resewing and at one point, chucking in the bin and starting again [only the back, fortunately – I cut it out upside down] than many more complex things. I have decided to hand quilt the front [only ‘big stitch’, in the ditch, nothing fancy] – and sitting down to do it has been wonderfully relaxing, especially compared with the previous stages. Good for the foot, too – I have realised how little sitting down I actually do when machine sewing!

Monday 24 October 2011

You might think…

that having done nothing for college while we were away, I’d be busy  making up for lost time.

Er – actually – no.image 

POT has progressed – this is how he looked on Saturday.  I though there would be a lot of envelopes waiting when we got back – but we appear to have had very little post. [The postie has made up for it since.]

I’ve been collecting envelopes for about a month and POT is just over 2 feet long – which means that by Christmas when he is due to be handed in – he could be 6 feet long. And if I carry on till the degree show [aaaaagh!] – he could reach the 20 feet Sue the tutor suggested when she looked at my first 9 inch effort.

Not sure she really meant it seriously …image

Today I managed to get round to assembling this lot, which have been sitting on my desk for too long. This one [‘No Entry’?] is definitely not long enough, and it would be better if the diagonals were higher up – but I was interested in whether the technique would work – and as you can see, it did.

But three a day? Depends what you count as three.

  1. feed sourdough starter
  2. add envelopes to POT
  3. work on Very Important Sewing.

Baby Bellerina has a birthday soon, and I had a request for a bag for her ballet kit, as part of her present. A pink imageone. With dancers on it.

With a little help from the members of the British Quilt List, I found some fabric [thank you Angelika] and made this. 

Not sure her mum will be able to wrestle her tutu into it, but it should take her shoes and cardigan.



Babybel’s mum also asked for a couple more aprons for herself, a bit longer than the last one. That ought to have been a quick job – but of course I couldn’t resist adding contrasting bindings, and pockets, and embroidery. Or, unfortunately, making mistakes, unpicking, resewing, unpicking etc. etc. etc..

Last but not least, the VHC needs a Christmas stocking. His big sister has one, and I can just see his little face looking at me saying ‘Where’s my stocking, granny?’ OK, he will only be 4 months at Christmas, but he has a very expressive glare.

I’ve got as far as cross-stitching his name for the top, and tomorrow will be spent making some patchwork for the rest of it. And quilting it, if I get up early enough.

Then making sourdough bread.

And rolling up envelopes.

And trying to find my recipe for Christmas cake, which has to be made in half term week. It’s a tradition. I used to make Christmas pudding and mincemeat as well, but we don’t really like the first and don’t eat enough of the second to make it worth while.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Good job I have a good excuse got not going out much at the moment…

Saturday 22 October 2011

I haven’t disappeared…

off the face of the earth – just to the very edge of England. image

That’s Wales, over there.







We have been here to learn about organic food and cooking for vitality.imageUnfortunately my vitality was a little compromised because:

  1. it was very cold [but we’ve been before so were suitably dressed]
  2. I fell down a step on the first day and bruised/sprained my foot. Luckily one of our fellow guests was a GP, so I had expert medical attention and the foot is steadily improving – though it did cramp my style a bit.

We had some imagefree time so went on a nostalgic trip into Wales, where we saw something we’ve only seen a couple of times in the 30+ years we’ve been visiting the area -water pouring over the Pen-y-Gareg dam. It was so spectacular I had to walk up to the dam to take photos.

If Cheese Major was still responsible for Welsh Water’s control systems, I’d know who to blame – but he isn’t, so it must have been deliberate.image

On the last night we were challenged to help ourselves from the kitchen and garden and produce a rainbow coloured meal.




So, with a little artistic licence:

  • red – dried strawberries [we learned to do some very interesting things with a dehydrator], chillies
  • orange – carrot, nasturtiums, marigolds
  • yellow – polenta – which I forgot to photograph
  • green – fennel, aduki sprouts, salad leaves
  • purple – beetroot.

Ah, I hear you cry, deimagefeated by blue.

Not so. 

There was a gardener amongst us who could recognise borage when she saw it. [That’s a delicious dairy free chocolate mousse with damson sauce underneath, though the chef, Daphne Lambert, made that.]

And to top it all off, we were presented with a dollop of well-established sour dough starter to bring home. I was delighted because I have tried and failed to start a leaven several times. I was advised to use filtered water as our highly chlorinated stuff probably caused the failure – which makes sense, really.

So did I get any college work done?

The road to hell is paved with good intentions…

Saturday 15 October 2011

What’s been happening?

Not a lot.image

Tubes have been made and strung. [The eagle-eyed amongst you may be able to work out that the gas bill came today. Fortunately Wensleydale was sitting down when he opened it.]






Tubes have been made but not strung – I branched out into plastic bags before returning to my favourite newspaper and Brusho.





But mostly [apart from routine stuff like the gym and getting my hair cut] – it’s been sorting out stuff for college. Which isn’t very photogenic.

We had been given rather confusing instructions about what to hand in for each of the modules due in at Christmas – which overlap just a tad – and thanks to C’s dogged pursuit of clarification - we were clarified. Basically, hand it all in, and they’ll sort it out. Sighs of relief all round.

However, I asked a supplementary about what we should hand in from all the stuff we did over the summer, which has now been rejected. [It seems that I am not the only one to whom this happened]. The answer was – not a lot, for fear of p*****g off the markers. [I paraphrase.]

This was good news – until I got started and realised that it was not a simple job. There were practical problems, such as things in the sketchbooks to be included which were on the back of things that were not to be included – and motivational problems like finding  myself thinking ‘I've done all this !”&£$£%”£^$ work and some of it’s quite interesting – and in any case it shows how my thinking progresses – so I want to hand it in.’

My solution:

  1. leave the sketchbooks as they are, it's too much trouble to try to weed them.
  2. put the background stuff in one folder, make it clear what it is, and then it’s up to them whether they look at it or not. Fortunately I’d done most of it loose-leaf, so it was easy to weed out the irrelevant/rubbish. I was tempted to call it ‘How I got where I am today’ but I'm not sure the tutors share my somewhat odd sense of humour.

Of course I kept changing my mind about what I wanted to keep, and at one stage found myself raking through the recycling bin because I thought I’d thrown something away I now wanted to include. [It was in a sketchbook all the time.] However, it has clarified my mind about how I got where I am today, so it has been ‘A Good Thing’ [© W. C. Sellars and R. J. Yeatman 1930].

But of course it took a  l-o-n-g  t-i-m-eimage.

The highlight of the week was babysitting with a princess and a very hungry caterpillar.

The princess was fine, though a little reluctant to go to bed – perhaps there was a pea under the mattress? – but she was persuaded when her granddad offered to continue his marathon reading of the collected works of Jean and Gareth Anderson upstairs.

The VHC was hungry, despite demolishing what had been left for him. [I thought my days of pushing prams full of crying babies round the neighbourhood in the dark, to persuade them to go to sleep, were long gone.]

Fortunately his mum came home just before he starved to death. I think when he was born he took one look at his dad, his mum, and the princess and decided he had a lot of growing to do…

Tuesday 11 October 2011

One thing leads to another

A week or so ago we took the painting by Linda Gleave which we bought at Highcliffe to be framed.

And while we were there we fell in love. Not with each other, that happened in 1970, but with this. P1010076

‘Lavenham Storm’ by Terry Watts. The sky! The clouds! The church and field catching the light! The fact that we spent the first night of our married life in Lavenham! The way it matches the paintwork! [Not really, we’re not that crass, and didn’t realise till we got it home.]

It was a tad expensive, but the shop assistant quietly pointed us in the direction of the ‘Own Art’ scheme – and now we’re in hock to the Arts Council for life 10 months. Except it may be for life because now Wensleydale’s got the bit between his teeth, he’s planning what to buy next.P1010067

From the sublime to the ridiculous. 

It was T&T’s day to have their photos taken – they are looking surprisingly well, considering we’ve had some quite windy days.

I’m sure you’re bored with my enumerations of my three a day – but photographing T&T was one of them, and I managed the other two too. It works for me.

Sunday 9 October 2011

The ultimate test…

of the 3 a day system was always going to be the day after an insomniac night.

Today was such a day – and the system worked. So often after a bad night I mope around feeling sorry for myself, and achieve nothing.

Not today.image

  1. Roll up some more tubes.
  2. Photoshopping X –but it is going to happen after I finish this.
  3. Finish the Country Gardener  
    It gets a red tick because it is so overdue.]
    Here’s the proof. I tried tying it up with some lovely red satin ribbon but it was too wide, so I ended up doing raised chain band in 4 strands of perle cotton.  I wanted the tubes to twist – and they do, as you can see – but unfortunately the red circle disappears as a result. Perhaps better if I’d painted it on both sides.

And I finished this - a cardigan for the very hungry caterpillar [VHC].


Made with the wool I indigo-dyed at Walford Mill. There wasn't quite enough so the sleeves are shorter than the pattern suggested – although they don’t look too short to me. The test will be in the wearing.

Yesterday was a 3 out of 3 day too – although I had included Mr Cheddar’s birthday bash in the list. The other items were the usual envelope rolling, and making my weekly record of progress on POT.

imagePOT on the left, another work in progress on the right, looking remarkably similar. It is a sky scarf – 2 rows each day based on the colour of the sky at coffee time. I started the scarf in August and POT at the end of September, so the latter is growing quicker, and the weather seems to have been better wherever the envelopes have been…  image

We enjoyed Mr C’s birthday at Popham Airfield, and so did Babybel – here with her other granny.

Thanks to Mr C. for the photos – hope he enjoyed it too.

Not sure about the VHC.

Funny how everyone who sees him with this expression on his face comments on his likeness to Wensleydale… 

Friday 7 October 2011

Never say ‘I don’t like…’

Some readers may remember that in the past I have said that I don’t like realism in art.

I take it back – although I think what I like is photorealism in art. Like these images by Robert Davies, who has an exhibition at Winchester Discovery Centre now. Yes – those are drawings. There’s a video in the exhibition showing him working on one, although you can't see what techniques he uses. He does also take photos, and those of the River Avon are very lovely.

I decided that it is photorealism which appeals to me because I also like the work of George Shaw – though I’m not sure ‘like’ is the right word. His work is eerie and disturbing, with all sorts of connotations that I'd rather not think about in too much detail.

There’s one in Southampton Art Gallery for those nearer there than Gateshead, where he is a finalist in the Turner Prize. I note that the Daily Mail dismisses his work as ‘boring’ – they moan every year about the lack of what they call art, but give them a realist painter and they don’t like that either!

Visiting the Davies exhibition was just one part of a busy day,image so needless to say there has been slippage on my 3 a day. Only 1 envelope in the post, but even that hasn’t been rolled. I hope to get some time for Photoshop later on – assuming there’s nothing on the telly. So 1 – maybe 2 - out of 3 – and the Country Gardener is still slipping, because I keep having ideas. I finally got it ‘tacked’ together yesterday, but then when I was looking for something else I came across an oval mask – and decided CG needed a red oval. 

Now I can’t decide whether to continue with my original idea of adding half hitches or raised chain band to hold it all together, or just to replace the ‘tacking’ with something a bit more robust – and whatever I do, what colour? Any suggestions?

Busy day tomorrow as well as it’s Mr Cheddar’s birthday bash – happy birthday, R!

Wednesday 5 October 2011

A day off!

No college today, as the new third year were being inducted.

We decided to take the chance to visit Cranborne Manor, as the gardens are only open on Wednesdays.  Maggie Grey mentioned the Manor on her blog, and I realised that we had driven past it several times on oimageur ‘avoiding the A31’ route to Walford Mill .

Although W. and I are not great gardeners, we do like gardens if they have a bit of art scattered about.

Like this lot.

Not the best day for exploring gardens – a bit cold and threatening rain – but probably as a result we had the place almost to ourselves. The gardens are unimageusual – there are lots of small, distinct spaces, separated by hedges, often with vistas through gates or gaps, which is the sort of thing I like.

There is also a tea shop, with well-filled freshly made sandwiches, a garden centre if you are more into gardening than we are, and a shop. [Lovely little girls’ dresses, less than lovely and more than little price tags…]

Then as we were only just up the road, we went on to Walford Mill. The current exhibition is ‘Women Working in Wood’ – some lovely, covetable furniture and miniatures – and some less covetable.

I loved this table by Tomoko Azumi – add half a dozen of these and I might give up my black ash, chrome and glass collection! These by Akiko Kuwahata were inspirational. Not every exhibitor was Japanese, but those were the ones I particularly liked – and most of the pieces on show had a similar simplicity of line and respect for the medium.

So, after toasted teacakes and tea, we came home. You might think that this means that my three a day has slipped – but no worse than yesterday! Especially when you consider that we got no post yesterday so No.1, adding the day’s envelopes to POT, could be crossed off straight away. I did get the mending done – and I did catch up with Monday’s slippage – here’s the proof.imageTweedledum and Tweedledee [hereinafter known as T&T] in situ. My plan is to photograph them once a week until the summer, so any deterioration can be recorded for posterity – or at least for the degree show. [I have to keep writing that to try to lessen the panic.]

But assembling the Country Gardener got abandoned half way though, and won’t now be resumed till tomorrow.

Today’s list was:

  1. Go to Cranborne Manor and Walford Mill
  2. Add envelopes to POT X
  3. Write college diary for last week and plan for next week & X

Notice the bit of cheating clever idea there? Build in what you are going to do anyway – a knack learned in writing action plans when I was a manager. [Sometimes I don’t miss work at all. Well, all the time, really.]

I have written as much as I can of the plan for next week, leaving space for my three a day [which all start ‘envelopes’ – apart from Sunday]. The diary will be written after I’ve finished this – honest…

Monday 3 October 2011

Marks out of three?

At least 2. Possibly even 2.5.P1000908

  1. “Add any mail to ‘Postage of Time’  [POT].”

    Notice the posh cream one? A. has threatened to send me a lime green one. Red letter days I’ve heard of – but lime green letter days? [Before anyone writes to tell me, I know red letter days have nothing to do with the mail.]image
  2. “Make 20 brown paper tubes, and 20 plastic bag twists and tie them together with garden twine.” √ 
  3. “Hang the latter from a tree and take their photographs.” X

After naming POT, I’m tempted to go back to naming my pieces. At first I tried to think of sensible names - ‘Plastic or Paper’? – but of course things rapidly got silly - ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledee’? ‘Pinky and Perky’?

I would probably have got round to the hanging if I hadn’t:

  1. Spent 10 minutes looking for the twine [which is green, the photo lies]. Because it is green, I keep it in the green thread drawer – except it appears that I don’t, because I found it in the string box. That is more logical, if only because there is more room in the string box. Well, there was till I bought some more. I’m quite partial to string – especially with brown paper. [Not to eat, you understand.]
  2. Spent 10 minutes looking for the eraser stamps I carved on Friday. [No, I didn’t need them today, using them wasn’t on the list, I just realised I couldn’t find them while I was looking for the twine.]P1000917
  3. Spending another 10 minutes carving a new stamp and proofing it. [As you can see, it isn’t a very complex stamp.]Just when I got to the stage when I remembered that the drawback to carving out all 6 faces of an eraser is that it guarantees you end up with inky fingers, I remembered that I’d washed the previous stamps after using them and left them to dry by the sink. So now I’ve got three stamps with very similar patterns of lines on them…
  4. Getting perfectionist about not twisting the bindings on the tubes  - or rather, only twisting them back to front, not left to right. This led to frequent unbinding.
  5. Getting perfectionist about getting the right amount of twist on the plastic bags.

Is it is possible to be a perfectionist when you are working with brown paper, plastic bags and garden twine? For ‘perfectionist’, read ‘mad’.

Despite all that, I enjoyed myself. I am finding the ‘3 a day’ lists quite motivating, even though I didn’t finish. I think this is because they make me break tasks into smaller parts, in order to make them doable in a day, and there is a greater sense of achievement.

The idea came from Margaret Cooter, although I’m not using her system. I started with bits of paper, but I’ve now redesigned my college planning sheets to include space for daily lists. I am including mundane things in the lists as well - tomorrow’s includes the dreaded word ‘mending’.

Of course I reserve the right to change my mind in the morning – these things should be spontaneous.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Despite the excitement …

of making decisions about PCs – nothing in that line has been done today.image

This is why. 

Granny and Granddad were trusted to look after the very hungry caterpillar and his big sister. [Believe me, the nickname is well earned.]

After his mum and dad, not forgetting the dog, came back from their bike ride, we had a lovely, leisurely lunch in the garden while the caterpillar slept and Babybel caught up with an old friend.









We had a great time, and hope they did too.

I had managed to do a bit of creative stuff yesterday.  The tubes at the top are destined to be imagea work in progress for some time – possibly up to the degree show [gosh, that sounds scary].

Inspired by Bonnie Epstein's use of found paper, I’ve decided to make tubes from all the envelopes that come through the door. This is 3 days worth, so it could end up quite long – it is already surprisingly heavy. Wensleydale christened it ‘The Postage of Time’ which I though was very clever of him.

The lower lot are also a work in progress, but one likely to be finished rather quicker. I’ve named it ‘The Country Gardener’ because that is what it is made out of – plus a little Brusho and some glue stick – which keeps coming unglued. I want to use this one to explore different methods of fastening the tubes together.

All in all, a good weekend – we just won’t mention last night’s insomnia.