'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 28 November 2012

Bad stuff and good stuff.

Bad stuff

I had to have a tooth out yesterday - and I don't have that many to spare. I was eating toast on Saturday morning when I heard a crack, and one of my few remaining, much patched molars became painful and wobbly. It turned out that the root had broken, so it was goodbye tooth. In the words of Pam Ayres, 'I wish I'd looked after me teeth'.

Good stuff

My lovely Welsh dentist told me to go home and put my feet up. I didn't need to be told twice - and so I have finished my first Karen Ruane block. Maybe. It may get extras when I come to join it to its brothers and sisters. (I should point out this is straight out of the embroidery hoop and it needs blocking to make it look better.)

I like some bits better than others - although  I like the look of the cutwork, I wish I'd made it smaller, but that isn't really something you can unpick.

Now on to block two. I wonder how long I can spin out this 'I've got to sit down, the dentist told me to'?

Sunday 25 November 2012

Playing around...

with my Karen Ruane piece.

Look at this piece and admire the dedication that made me tackle two of my least favourite stitches - cross stitch and bullion knots.

I must admit that I love the look of the cross stitch hearts on silk, so much that I bought some more waste canvas.

And my bullion knots are better now that I know the right way to do them (milliner's needle, wrap clockwise). Not good, you understand, just better.

The more I do on this piece, the more I like it. I can see so many things that I could have done better, but I still like it. As there is a lot of stuff in it which I inherited from mum, I find myself thinking about my somewhat ambivalent relationship with her as I work on it, which is quite bittersweet, and adds to the process.

Working on it has reminded me how much I enjoy flitting from one process/stitch/patch to another - low boredom threshold! Only having a little bit of cross stitch or a few bullion knots makes them tolerable and doable. And, as Karen points out in her videos for the course, you can always add more. I like to kid myself that I have a 'less is more' aesthetic, but  sometimes nothing succeeds like excess. 

I think it may become a work in intermittent but continuous progress, as I make more blocks to add to this one. 

I have also been playing with my tiny Sandra Meech sketchbook. I have a collection of printouts from the Internet for ideas for sketchbooks, and I decided to work my way through them with no very clear idea of where I was going. It ended up being a very productive process, giving me lots of ideas for my piece for the NEC in March. 

Hence the scribble on the yellow spread. 

It is definitely going to be called 'Moving On' (maybe).
It is definitely going to be a small concertina book (maybe).
It is definitely going to have eight pages (maybe).
It is definitely going to include those arrows (maybe).
It is definitely going to involve patching and layering fabric (maybe).
It is definitely going to use the indigo fabrics I dyed with Tiggy Rawlings last year (maybe).
It is definitely going to be hand stitched (maybe).

That led to some explorations of ways to join fabric together - only with paper. They are mostly stitch, although I have to admit that a little glue was involved, purely as a temporary measure, you understand.

The second image is the reverse of one side of the first one, and I included it because I like the way the backs of the stitches seem to develop from the black marks on the left - a B&W print of the over-enlarged detail of foliage on the right of the top image. The foliage is in the apped photo of a truck at the top, except I ripped that bit off.

I trust I make myself clear?

More joinings. I vaguely remember doing something similar for City and Guilds, except that variations of faggotting were involved in that one, and mine, which was black and magenta, ended up looking like a section from a tart's corset. Which in turn reminds me of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, although I don't remember any magenta corsets in that, even on Magenta... 

And as I correct yet another nonsensical autocorrection, I must point out that any post which is even more gibberish-ish (yes, autocorrect, that is what I meant) than usual is all the fault of Paddy the iPad (maybe).

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Conflict of interests.

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting much about my work for Karen Ruane's latest class. Well, I haven't been posting much of anything, despite all my good intentions, but nothing about 'Embroider, Embellish, Create'. 

That's because I haven't been doing much work for it, as I wanted to complete two other things first.

Thing 1

(I diagnose too much exposure to Dr Seuss.) But I digress. Thing 1 was the 'Attack' series I posted about lat time. (I suppose that should be 'Things 1'.) They were the last bit of the last lesson of 'Embroiderer's Ledger' (although not my last use of the techniques, or the ledger), and I knew if I put them on one side I'd never finish them.

Thing 2

is this. (Haven't blogged about it either.)
Four of the bits I made in the last Contemporary Textile Workshop, embroidered, mounted, and turned into an accordion book. The next CTW is sometime next month (my diary secretary isn't here right now), and again, I wanted to get it finished because I was afraid I wouldn't, if you know what I mean. I wasn't sure quite what we were supposed to do with what we'd made, so I did my own thing. (Now there's a surprise.)

I'm pleased with the result, both in itself, and as a try-out for an idea I've had for a book for our exhibition at the NEC next March. (Which is something else I need to get started on, pretty soon.) (And which will look nothing like this.)

Finishing that left a little time for some embellishing. 

I'd love to claim that I made the little bird motif, but I cannot tell a lie, it was one of several I found in mum's stash when I inherited it. This seemed a good time to use at least a couple of them.

You may also be able to see an outbreak of cross stitch on the waste canvas at the bottom. Long time readers of this blog will know that I hate cross stitch.

Never say never. Still don't like it, but it looks so effective on Karen's pieces, I decided to give it a try. I've been breaking up the monotony by working some of the other sections in between hearts.

(Mmm - rereading this, I seem to have used up this year's supply of parentheses.) Whoops, there's two more gone...

Saturday 17 November 2012

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

Bet you're all too young to remember that film.

This is my version.
Karen Ruane's emulsion paint and watercolour technique, with a bit of stitch.

It has a companion piece, Attack of the Killer Fried Eggs.

We went to a very important birthday party today, so I'm too tired to be sensible. A good time was had by all - in fact the birthday girl was having such a good time we saw very little of her. The VHC had a good time too, despite being a bit under the weather, and despite not being able to get into the bouncy castle to join big sister, no matter how hard he tried. And rotten granny wouldn't help, because she was worried about him getting bounced on by all the big girls already up there.

The cake was good too. (I don't think I've mentioned that Babybel is an apprentice mermaid.)
And to end a perfect day, there's 'The Killing III' on TV tonight. What else could one ask? (Well, unfortunately we had to sacrifice watching the cycling for the party, but there's more on tomorrow.)

Monday 12 November 2012

Things are looking better.

Thing 1

is definitely better for a touch of emulsion paint. It is whiter in real life, photographing it in artificial light turns it yellow. I've added some beads and some more tiny French knots.

Thing 2

went black overnight, with a touch of red rub-on.  Also an improvement, I think.

I worked on a few more of the sketchbook pages, using the arrow motif which emerged from Kare Ruane's Ledger class. I'm not sure if I've mentioned that the Eastleigh graduates have been invited to take a stand here, which is very scary. Our theme is - guess what? - 'Moving On', and although that isn't why I started taking photos of traffic, they seem relevant. Of course the arrows are a long way from the photos, but the motif did emerge out of the picture bottom right, so there is a connection. I see possibilities in a couple of these.

I'm beginning to think that I prefer working with linear/geometric shapes - hence all those tubes. Have I discovered my 'preferred way of working' at last? Who knows - I could decide something completely different tomorrow...

Sunday 11 November 2012

Back to work...

after all the excitement.

Today I did something I haven't done for ages. I made a book.

I recently bought  Sandra Meech's new book, 'Connecting Design to Stitch', which includes instructions for making a small, interesting sketchbook. 

So over the last few days I have painted paper, printed off images and details of images in colour and B&W, and painted some of the B&W images, and today I sat down to assemble them into a book.

Well, either I was feeling very dense today, or there are some errors in the instructions. Has anyone else tried them? I know enough about book making to cope, but anyone who doesn't might get a little puzzled. If you do have the book and you want to have a go, I would recommend finding instructions for making 5 hole pamphlets, and using those to assemble the signatures. And don't use the elastic bands until you are ready to weave the pamphlets together, at which point they work very well...

I do, however, like the result, although this is all the actual  'sketching' I've done in it so far. 

I'm thinking of trying some of Karen Ruane's techniques in it, as well as Sandra Meech's.

I don't like the cover, though, it will have to have some attention - like more emulsion paint.

While I had the paint out I screwed up my courage and overpainted this.

Definitely an improvement. When it's dry it will get a few beads and possibly some more French knots. 

Tomorrow we have a day off from grandchild-sitting, as it's Babybel's birthday - hard to believe she's five! Instead we will be making our Christmas cake, using our usual excellent recipe. Which is about all the preparation for Christmas I shall do before December. Bah, humbug!

Friday 9 November 2012

Congratulations to my classmates!

And all the others who graduated this week.

This is probably the only picture of me which will ever appear on this blog.

For some reason I look like a rabbit caught in the headlights, although I was feeling quite relaxed. 

The ceremony swithered between being quite moving, and very boring. Moving when I caught sight of the procession of dignitaries coming up the nave, from the West Door of the Cathedral, and when we left the same way. (I've never seen those doors open, and probably will never see again, so it was great to walk through them.) Boring after we'd had our brief moment in the spotlight, and had to wait while hundreds of others had theirs. And it was cold ! 

We followed the ceremony with an enjoyable meal en masse (more or less) at Brasserie Blanc, and came home knackered. But Winchester Cathedral is definitely the place to have your degree ceremony - I can recommend it - if you wear your thermals.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Where did that week go?

I thought I'd be spending most of it on the sofa with my feet up, but it didn't quite turn out as expected. Of course we still had small people to look after on Monday and Thursday, I have recovered more quickly than I expected, and it was pretty boring sitting on the sofa, even with embroidery to do. In any case, the NHS Direct advice was not to sit on your backside all the time, so I didn't/couldn't.

There has been some painting, which I could do sitting down.

This is Karen Ruane's emulsion and watercolour technique. Karen showed us some of her work from university, where she had painted on strongly patterned fabric, then drawn and stitched on the painted areas, which were almost completely hidden. It's an excellent technique for adding stitch to fabrics.

As I can't draw, my efforts are a little more pedestrian. I used the perspective lines from my source image to make freezer paper stencils for the emulsion paint, then added watercolour when it was dry. Now I'm pondering on whether to add some lines in pen - and then, some stitch.

Some embroidery has been done. This is an emulsion paint and ink piece from the Contemporary Textile Workshop. As soon as I'd done it, I thought 'French knots' - but now I'm not so sure, I think because the big ones are too pale. (This image is greener than it is in reality - and that orange dot is not permanent!)

I'm swithering with the idea of giving it another coat of emulsion, to reduce the contrast, and then adding a few more knots and some beads. Any comments or suggestions gratefully received!

And I've got started on a block for Karen's new class, 'Embroider, embellish, create', which is an excellent class for anyone with a stash of odd bits of fabric, lace, old hankies etc. A lot of mine came from my mother, so this is inspired by her - that's why it's purple.

So far we've covered making the block and adding seam embellishments - on Friday we move on to decorating the empty bits. Mine looks a bit boring restrained, compared with other people's, but I'm encouraging myself to get a bit more adventurous.

However, not much more work will be done before the weekend. Tomorrow is a Babybel and VHC day. The VHC now has a name for Wensleydale and I - the same name. 'Gaga'. It may or may not be appropriate, I'm not committing myself.

Then on Friday it's G Day - graduation, that is. I and my colleagues will go and collect our bits of paper from the VC (I think) of Winchester University, and then process out of the Cathedral in our finery. Then we are all heading for Brasserie Blanc, entourages in tow, for what a colleague has called a 'large, jolly party'.  And as W. and I intend to go in on the bus, we may be jollier than the rest.

You may wish to avoid the centre of Winchester tomorrow...

Friday 2 November 2012

Another anniversary. Unfortunately.

Last October, we went to the very edge of England to learn about 'Food and Health', and I came home with a sprained ankle.

Last Wednesday I was walking back from the gym and fell over. And sprained my ankle. 

Maybe I should give up trying to be healthy, at least in October?

This led to a reorganisation of our plans for grandchild sitting on Thursday. Babybel, whose affections seem to have switched from cows to heavy horses, had already changed her mind about going to Manor Farm and asked to go to the Heavy Horse Centre instead. 

So grandad took her there, the VHC went to nursery, and Granny stayed at home with an ice pack feeling bored, lonely and decidedly miffed. (Granny likes horses too, heavy or otherwise.)

This should have provided an opportunity for lots of embroidery, but the only thing I had to do was a lot of small tent stitch in cream, which got boring very quickly.

Today I've been a bit more mobile, as recommended by NHS Direct, and worked on my Karen Ruane sketchbook. Much of this had already been done, and I was able to work on the flaps while sitting down.

This exercise involved finding shapes in an image, and then using them to make abstract designs. The photo, bottom left, is one of my own, apped with Laminar (I think) - and all those shapes are there, honest, just smaller, more irregular, and in different colours.

I really like the interlocking arrows, and got a bit carried away with them, as you can see. The arrow shapes in the needlepoint were interesting to do, but the background isn't, as I may have mentioned. I have  ideas for other stitched versions, but as 'Embroider, embellish, create' has just started, I will have to put them to one side for now. And once I've assembled the cloth for that, there will be lots of hand embroidery I can do sitting down. What a good excuse!