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

Dorothy Rowe

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Another Tuesday Trip

Two in the space of a week - quite like the old days.

This time we went down to Salisbury to an exhibition in the Salisbury Museum. We arrived at lunchtime and were delighted to find that the excellent cafe there now has tables in the garden, and that luckily there was a table free. So we ate our plough person's lunches with this view to look at.

The exhibition was as good as the lunch. I was expecting a collection of landscapes - and there were quite a lot - but the 'circles and tangents' in the exhibition title refers not to landscape features, but to the interconnections between many of the artists in the exhibition - X was married to Y and lived next door to Q who was frequently visited by P whose child F is working as a painter and living on the edge of Cranborne Chase. You get the picture - well, rather a lot of pictures, and quite a lot of sculpture as well. 

My favourites included this one, which is officially 'Seated Man II', but to me it looks like Freud (Sigmund, not Lucien - he was inside. - or rather 3 small drawings by him were).

But I digress - the sculpture is by Elizabeth Frink, but much as I like it, I liked her two smaller pieces inside even more. A gorilla and a horse and rider - and looking at them I realised how brilliant Frink was at catching facial expressions.

Some other favourite pieces were by John Hitchens, whose carved wood 'blades'  contrasted so strongly with his ethereal paintings.

But I'm glad we went yesterday rather than today, sunshine rather than rain - we have finally capitulated, and turned the heating back on.

Today's app is 'Halftone' which does rather what you might expect from the name. You can add text...

and speech bubbles, coffees stains and several other things, if you are so inclined.
Or you can go completely over the top with high saturation and big dots. 
 OK, it's another one-trick pony, but I like the level of abstraction in this final image,

Monday 27 August 2012

Plan B

When I left you I was about to start coiling some nasty coloured stuffed knitting ribbon into a basket/bowl/vessel thingy. 

I did start it, honest - and it looked - well - nasty. And very orange. So I uncoiled it and it is sitting in my work basket while I work on Plan B. Which, if you don't know, is thinking of Plan C. Dye comes to mind...

I have not been idle, however. In my quest to:
a) use up my stash and
b) find a firmer core for coiled pots,
have been researching different sorts of cords. You can see the somewhat dubious results on the right. (I seem to have lost any colour sense I ever had.)

I remembered making finger looped cords for City & Guilds, so I dug out my C&G folder of print-outs - and came to the conclusion that if I understood the instructions then, I don't now. In any case I found them slow to do, almost impossible to put right when I (frequently) went wrong, and of limited length.

Back to the drawing board.

I thought of finger knitting. Googling suggested there are 2 sorts of finger knitting, one round 4 fingers, and one round 1 - although I suspect you can use 2 or 3 as well. In - er - on - my hands all were sloppy - and the one finger one seemed structurally equivalent to crochet chain. So I found my crochet hooks - I can just about manage a chain. 

This is where things started to get silly... I'd been working with yarn, but I decided to try fabric, hence all the lumpy things. And then I tried plaiting, a lucet and knitting. With a plastic bag. Did you know that an Asda bag cut into 2.5 cm strips will make about 1.25 metres of 2 stitch I cord on 5.5 mm needles? In pretty green and white stripes. Never say my blog isn't educational.

In the process of working little coils with some of the samples I reached two three conclusions:
a) if you want firmer coils, just pull the thread more firmly (doh!)
b) plastic cord and rayon thread don't play nicely together
c) I really don't like this type of coiled vessel thingy, I much prefer the ones where the core is completely covered.

So I went away, and inspired by this post, and Sheila Hicks (did I mention I've got a crush on Sheila Hicks?) made a little loom. Hicks apparently makes simple looms for her smaller pieces, using stretcher bars and nails, but they are not as small as this - the weaving area is about 8 by 8.5 cm,and you can fill it, warp and weft, with one hank of tapestry wool with, I suspect, some left over.

What am I going to do with it? Who knows? But I want to make some more elaborate ones, so the intention is that it is the first of a Hicks inspired series. 

Can you tell that our Bank Holiday was spent at home? Wensleydale upstairs grouting, me downstairs coiling/weaving, occasionally meeting for a cup of tea. Fun.

I also took some time this weekend to set up a website for neuf. There isn't much over there yet, but please take a look if you wish, (and let me know if the link doesn't work!)

What on earth is neuf? I hear you cry. We are the exhibiting group of the nine graduates from the Foundation Degree in Stitched Textiles at Eastleigh College - or we think we are. We haven't actually been told that we have graduated, you understand - but we have been invited to the degree ceremony, which suggests we may have done...

No apps today. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Friday 24 August 2012

Another experiment.

As promised, the green Sheila Hicks-inspired binding has been coiled into a bowl. I am ambivalent about it - I love the combination of colours (the contrast between the wool and the perlé cotton binding is not as pronounces as it looks in the photos), but I don't like the floppy, about-to-fall-apart feel. Previous experience suggests that embellishing it might firm it up, but I think that may destroy the variegated colours.

The underlying problem is that the cord itself is too soft. It is firmer where it is bound, but if I bound it completely I'd hide the variegation - and I might as well use washing line, as I did for the first one, which is still my favourite.

I think I prefer that technique to this one, but before I make up my mind completely, I'm going to try another experiment. 

I thought I'd get stuffing. 

You might think from this image that I have completely lost any taste I ever had - but this is, after all, an experiment. (If you like orange, yellow, blue and magenta together, I apologise to you. I don't.)

Heaven knows where I got the knitted ribbon from, but last night its time came. I spent an hour stuffing it with some orange threads I also didn't see myself using anywhere else - I know it was an hour because I was watching the Vuelta at the time, although the stuffing stopped when it got exciting.

The other ingredients include a spice jar top for the centre, inspired by Lois Walpole, orange perlé, and some beads - although I will admit I'm not sure about the beads...

Watch this space.

Tonight's app is Haiku - another Jixipix app, so you know it'll be good - and different. There are lots of options which can be adjusted in various ways, and a magic 'randomise' button.

I love both of these versions of the landscape

It wasn't so successful with the portrait and flower, but still interesting.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

A Tuesday trip.

It seems a long time since we had one of those!

I mentioned a while ago that Stella Harding  was exhibiting at the Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth. It dawned on me that if we didn't get down there soon, I'd miss it, so I twisted Wensleydale's arm to head down to Pompey. (He feels about going there like I feel about going to Southampton - after daily visits for work for years, we'd rather avoid the place.) Yes, I could have driven myself, but he knows the roads round the centre of the city far better than I do - and he enjoys these trips too.

I've only been to Gunwharf Quays once, on the way to the Spinnaker Tower, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that once you get away from the shops, it is quieter and interesting - and probably a good place to take small people. Little ships to sail in! Floating rolly balls to play in! Bouncy castles and sand pits! Yarn bombing outside the gallery!

Just a pity it costs an arm and a leg to park...

I hadn't realised  how small Aspex is. One largish room with an installation by Suki Chan which means more to me now I've read that web page - now I understand the Dickens connection! - and other exhibits in the cafe (good coffee and flapjacks) and near the shop. We looked at Harding's work  - every bit as inspiring as I expected - indulged in some retail therapy, talked to a fellow ex-student who we bumped into, and came home.

Today's purchase was the ceramic sea urchin  - not sure who made it till I've Googled the names on the Aspex website. The pot behind it was our 25th wedding anniversary present to ourselves, bought in Stratford but made, it turned out, by Peter Lane  in Hampshire. 

Tonight will be spent watching the Vuelta, and turning this into some sort of vessel. The semi-binding is because one insomniac night I came across the work of Sheila Hicks, bought a too-expensive book (sleep deprivation and ABE books are a dangerous mix) and got inspired. Of course my version is a little smaller than Hicks, and she doesn't turn hers into bowls.

Today's app is Grungetastic, which does what it says on the tin. It's another Jixipix app (another of theirs, Kyoobic, is free at the moment if you like odd apps). 

Like all the Jixipix apps I've tried, there are lots of options, and things to adjust, and a randomise button for when you are feeling lazy.

Definitely 5 star. I even like the portrait!

Monday 20 August 2012

Saturday 18 August 2012

Where did last week go?

Looking after Babybel and the VHC, various appointments, and the usual boring household stuff, mainly, but we did fit in a trip to Stourhead on Thursday. We've been round the gardens a couple of times, but never looked round the house, so this time we did. I was expecting something like Petworth - imposing but unliveable in - but found Stourhead more on a human scale. Yes, there are huge rooms and amazing pictures, but some smaller rooms I could almost imagine living in.

Of course we sampled some National Trust food, and also went to the farm shop. Who could resist an advert for 33 different varieties of cheese - most of which we'd never heard of before? We brought home samples of three of them, plus some other goodies, including tonight's venison burgers.

Today we had an impromptu belated birthday lunch for Cheese Minor and his family, who were intending just to pass through on their way home from a brief holiday, but ended up staying, along with Cheese Major and his señorita. I hope they all enjoyed it as much as we did.

Tomorrow is an early celebration of the VHC's first birthday, so it will be a busy and cake filled weekend! Back to the diet on Monday...

There has been a little needlework.

These are some experimental pieces of embroidery on apped photos. You may recognise the one on the left, which has been Fotoffitied. Bottom right is a Langstrothdale tree, apped with MokuHD, and the top one is the car window, apped with something I can't remember, unfortunately.




Speaking of apps, today's is Fotor. It's a fairly straightforward photo editor, but with more options than most.






There are several dozen filters and a selection of frames, but it also makes collages. I'm still searching for a collage maker as good as Picasa: Fotor isn't it, but the 'photostitching' option is interesting.

You can add frames as well as filters, but the options for editing them are limited. I'm still struggling to do much with this photo...












Not an app I would turn to as my first choice if I wanted to do something really interesting, but better than the bog standard apps.






Tuesday 14 August 2012

Many thanks...

for all the comforting comments about Quality Control. I still half expect to hear the cat-flap bang and her triumphant 'I've caught something!' song, but we are beginning to accept that she isn't coming back. I've been surprised at how upset I've felt, given that she wasn't my favourite of all our cats, but I think that's because, as Cobi said, cats should die in the comfort of their own homes at a ripe old age - and all our previous female cats have. (The two males both contracted nasty illnesses, but somehow that isn't as bad as dying in a road accident.)

We have decided not to replace her, as, being realistic, another cat could outlive us. It is a little sad, but, I think, the most sensible decision. I shall enjoy my grand-dog and grand-cats instead.

Saturday 11 August 2012


to Quality Control, who ran out of lives yesterday in an argument with a car.

I hope you are happily stalking rabbits in cat Valhalla. We'll miss you.

Friday 10 August 2012

Still here...

though my productive life seems to have slowed down again. This is due to:

  • Watching a lot of cycling
  • A cold (Thanks VHC!)
  • Watching a lot of cycling
  • Doing other non-creative things
and did I mention watching the cycling?

Now all those adrenaline rushes are over for a while - we did try the BMX but didn't get hooked, although now I know why I keep seeing young people on bikes which look far too small for them. I'm hoping we get some coverage of the Vuelta and the Tour of Britain, but I'm not very optimistic.

During the cycling I made several scrunchies - it was something I could pick up and put down when things got exciting. I would have shown you a photo - but someone spotted them on her morning here and they disappeared off to nursery with her. One in her hair, one on each wrist and one on each ankle...

I have been fiddling around with this. The idea came from Jae Maries' book 'Contrasting Elements' - photos and fabric and stitch. It's stalled for a while because I think it needs a bit more stitch, but I'm not sure what - or where. Quite like it, though.

I've also been mucking about in sketchbooks (yes, plural) one for the 'mapping' homework for the course I've finished [still no formal results :>(] and one more general one, which was originally intended to be about my (also stalled) basketry experiments, but morphed into somewhere to try out almost anything. Also 3D pieces don't fit very well in a sketchbook,,,






Oh, and there's this - which, as I had the embellisher out, emerged after reading an article by Jane LaFazio in issue 45 of 'Quilting Arts'. It was going to be green, in keeping with the mapping/landscape theme, but then I found a little collection of blue embellishing stuff (looked like a kit I'd forgotten about), so it turned blue. LaFazio suggests machine embroidery after felting, so it got some. It's not quite as purple as it appears, and looks like an aerial photo of the sea to me, so perhaps it fits in with mapping after all.




Now, like this piece and the Jae Maries one, its's waiting for me to come to a decision about hand stitch.

The embellished pieces are especially interesting/challenging because I would like to preserve the double-sidedness of them, but I'm not sure how, apart from the rather cliched roll them up into a cylindrical vessel thing. Anyone got any bright ideas?



After the cycling finished one evening, I tried another app, Fotoffitti, which sort of Banksyfies your photos.

You can change the background, image colour and intensity, but not the shape, so odd sized images get truncated. However, I like what it's done to the tree from the landscape.


As before, I found it hard to get anything I liked from the portrait ....













and the camellia turned out quite abstract. Bits of this look like cross stitch, so I wonder what would happen if I put it through an app which pixelated it?

Another one trick pony, but an interesting one.












Saturday 4 August 2012

Always expect the unexpected....


Last time I showed you these three coiled - er - thingies, and said I was going to wash one and run another through the embellisher.
So I did.

I'm not quite sure what I thought would happen. I did expect the paler one (which went in the washing machine) to shrink - but not quite this much. I love the little tails, but it is a bit too shrunk for my liking - perhaps putting it in a hot wash with my towels was a bit over the top?

But the big surprise was the effect of the embellisher. The fabric curled up around the needles quite dramatically, producing what Wensleydale called 'a little hat' - I turned it the other way round to make the brim. And it blended the colours together beautifully on the underside - you can just see the result in the top image. I want to make more of these.

While I had the embellisher out, I tried an idea from an article by Samantha Pope in issue 36 of 'Quilting Arts', which suggested embellishing yarns in a sandwich of net. Now I have written whinged before on this blog about the inadequacy of some magazine instructions, and I didn't really think this would work, but I tried it anyway. I hereby apologise unreservedly to Ms. Pope for ever having doubted her. Her instructions are clear, and the technique works brilliantly.

As you can see.

The top image is the 'wrong' side, the other is the side that was uppermost on the embellisher. I used dark green net, but it is almost invisible.

One thing I really like about the techniques is that it is quite delicate - you may be able to see the holes in places - and could be even more delicate than this is. On her website Ms. Pope has some pieces mounted on interesting backgrounds - like corrugated iron.

My problem now is deciding which is the right side, as I want to add some stitch, unless I can get really clever and make it two-sided.

And then I want to make some more.


I also have some experimental hand stitching in progress - show you that another time - some socks on the needles for watching Scandinavia-noir (noire?), some crochet scrunchies promised to Babybel a long time ago, some apps to explore - oh, and some cycling to watch.

It's a quiet life when you're retired.

Friday 3 August 2012

A beginning, an end and a sort-of-middle.

In noreverbs particular order - the quilt for the VHC is finished. You can just about see the scrappy binding in this photo taken in the hall, the only place where there is enough space to spread it out. Unfortunately I can't find my patented hanging device (i.e. three skirt hangers - perhaps they're holding skirts?) so the floor had to do. Now I need something to wrap it in, a present that is of more interest to a one year old, and a card, and we're done

These are the beginning - an experiment using a variation on coiling. The core is 9 strands of Paterna tapestry wool, the binding is Anchor/DMC. The result probably isn't rigid enough for functional baskets, but tomorrow I am going to stick the one with the ends left showing in a hot wash, to see what a bit of felting can do, and stick another one under the embellishing machine. And I'm thinking about trying knitting ribbon stuffed with yarn to see if it works better.




The sort-of-middle is, of course, the continuing story of too many apps. This one is Filter Mania, and it goes against my previous suggestion that you get what you pay for, because it's free and it's really quite good. You upload your picture, you choose from one of the basic filters, or download one of what seems like hundreds more, you add more filters if you feel like it, and you can end up with something quite interesting. Or not.

I've posted before about my difficulty in doing anything I really liked with this image - but I like this.




You can't adjust any of the filters, and some of them are quite eccentric.











You are stuck with a square format, designed for Instagram. (Am I alone in not really understanding Instagram?) But I can live with it because it's such fun!