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

Dorothy Rowe

Saturday 28 December 2013

We survived!

The trees across the road, however, didn't. Literally 'across the road', as you can see. One came down early on Christmas Eve morning, and others were left leaning at nasty angles, and were taken down.

Fortunately no-one was hurt, though neighbours lost their land lines, and the street lights are (mostly) out.

Also fortunately, it happened after we had taken the little guys home, as I think they might have found it a bit scary - although the VHC would have enjoyed watching the trucks and workmen.

We had a good time while they were with us - some duck feeding, 

some card making (we hope to get all the glitter out of the carpet by next Christmas), some 'Snowman' watching (scary to realise that when we first watched it with her daddy, he was about Babybel's age), 

and an abbreviated trip to Mottisfont because they were closing early because of the wind.

We did manage to attend the Snow Queen's Ball, which Babybel adored - dressing up in pretty things and dancing, what could be better? The VHC, on the other hand, was a bit overcome, and preferred to keep his opinions under his hat.

Speaking of his hat, does it remind anyone else of 'Rocky Horror'?

After all that excitement, it was good to have a very peaceful Christmas Day on our own, before getting together with the little guys and their parents on Boxing Day. 

It has been pretty quiet since then as well, which has meant I've been able to get on with the Chairman's Challenge. 

I found the bottom of one of the bathroom curtains in the stash, which wasperfect  for a backing, and several bits of red, black and silver for a patchwork strip down the middle. It is all just pinned together for now, and it's a dodgy photo anyway, but hopefully you get the idea. 

The plan is to add a few stars. This is the first. I knew there was a good reason for keeping those painted twigs from a bunch of dried flowers...

All should continue quiet, weather willing, until New Year's Eve when we get together with the other half of the family, plus the Spanish contingent, who are coming over for a visit. Weather willing!

I hope all my UK readers have also escaped the worst of the gales ((and anyone else who's had bad weather) and that you will continue to do so, as more is predicted here.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Three down, two to go.

The three down are:

1. The aforementioned blue blanket, doing its job on a stormy night.

2. One sock, rather strange around the heel.

3. A cushion cover, which emerged from a drawing I did at the last Visual Marks session, via some tracing paper, some sort-of paper dolls, inspiration from Greek vases, and finding a transfer dye paper bag in my search for Greek vase coloured paper.

Did I intend to make a cushion cover? No.

Did I need a cushion cover? Yes, but not one like this.

You did realise that I'm nuts, didn't you?

The two to go are:

1. Another sock. Obviously.

2. 'The Chairperson's Challenge'. I wasn't able to make the Christmas get-together of Visual Marks, as it coincided with W's birthday, but a challenge was issued by our chair, E. and the materials for it reached me by a circuitous route. These are they. 

I don't know how she realised that our Christmas decorations are red and silver, but they are. 

So - how to rise to the challenge? My first response was tree decorations, but he who is in charge of tree decorating is very fussy particular about what goes on the tree. Silver balls and litte red apples. So even red and silver hand made decorations might not pass the test. In any case, they wouldn't be finished in time. (He is very particular about the timing of Christmas decorations as well - up on his birthday, down on Twelfth Night.)

Then I thought about a crazy patchwork something - perhaps a cushion cover? But I need a red and silver cushion cover even less than I need a rusty brown one...

So my current thinking is a banner, provided I can find a suitable backing fabric and extras in the stash.

Something  like these, which were also made in response to a challenge, to use a range of processes and materials which I cannot now remember.

(Sorry for the lousy photo, for some reason I've never managed to take a good one of this hanging.)

I probably wouldn't make three, but it would be a chance to use up some of the red and silver in my stash - although I think there is more silver than red. It's that sort of stash...

We are being invaded by the little guys tomorrow, so all thought of needlework must be put on one side till they go home on Monday.

There may, however, be some mixed media work. 

Yes, that is a cat litter tray, but I promise it has never been used by a cat. They make very useful storage trays (thanks to fellow stitched textiles graduate K. for the idea), as well as being brilliant for dyeing, paper making and all sorts of wet activities.

So, as I am unlikely to blog again until The Big Day, a Happy Christmas to all my readers!

Sunday 15 December 2013

Bag and Baggage.

This is the bag. The VHC has taken to a little Christmas bag I made for his sister, and it has proved quite useful for carrying the things hè likes to take around with him. Like juice, and Thomas books, and other essentials. This was going to be a Christmas present, but I think he may get it early because it makes granny and granddad's life easier. The handle is like that because it is adjustable as one grows. I made it fairly quickly yesterday morning, with bits and bobs from the stadh.

The baggage, on the other hand, was not quickly made.

I could go on at great length about everything that went wrong, but I won't, because almost everything that could go wrong did. And if it did go right, I changed my mind about it...

It is some of the velvet which I roller-printed after the last CTW session. It was going to be a Dorothy bag, but after I found Alysn Midgelow-Marsden's instructions here for 'spice bags' it became this, although the techniques are different to hers. 

Much easier to construct, I thought, no setting in of bases or channels for pull cords. And the instructions were clear and it was indeed easier to construct - if I hadn't had to deconstruct it several times...

Still, I like the result. Totally useless of course, but a good way to show off a bit of stitching.

The other thing I finished this weekend was a third and final (?) blanket. I forgot to photograph it before I washed it and as I'm unwilling to wrestle it off the drier to repair the omission, you will just have to imagine a large, dark blue, square woolly thing. As I finished it half way through the last episode ever of 'Borgen', (sob, sob, weep, weep) I had to find some more subtitle-reading knitting, so I started something very slightly smaller.

Socks. I have too much sock wool, although not as much too much as I had Shetland, so Saturday nights,  for the foreseeable future until I get bored, will be sock knitting nights. Assuming there are subtitles to read, although 'The Bridge' seems to be returning in the New Year. Worth watching if you missed it the first time, and even if you didn't.

This afternoon has been spent wrestling with a Christmas tree (him) and with present wrapping and card writing (me). Soon to be followed, I hope, by a cup of tea and a mince pie. I am generally of the Scrooge persuasion at Christmas, but some things I like - mince pies, trees, and school Christmas concerts. We went to one of those last week, and have another at nursery this week. Can't wait!

Friday 13 December 2013

A belated report...

on a Wednesday wander. Despite the fog, we set off on what, on the basis of two trips, we are now calling our annual Christmas visit to Stourhead. The fog didn't clear quite as quickly as we hoped, but there were clearer patches, one of which was at Stonehenge. Emerging out of the mist, and lit by a low, red sun, it was almost impressive. (I always find the view disappointing, even if, unlike us this time, you get out of the car and pay it a proper visit. I think it's because it is dwarfed by the landscape, you can't get close enough to see how big the stones really are, and I find the circling tourists a little incongruous.)

But I digress. We go to Stourhead at Christmas to see the house, and once again it was filled with festive food, flowers and fir trees.

Unfortunately we didn't have any little guys with us to help look for the hidden robins, but granny found a few, not to mention some misguided primroses in the gardens. One of the rooms had a comfortable chair, a foot stool, a lovely work box and some embroidery, set out by the fire - very appealing!

Then our equally traditional Christmas trip to the farm shop - local venison and local cheese - and back home, meeting the mist again. Coming down the Test valley, the tops trees were silhouetted against thesetting  sun, while their trunks were wreathed in pink mist - beautiful. It's the sort of effect I would love to capture in fabric but it would be so difficult to keep that ethereal look.

Saturday 7 December 2013

The last time...

I forgot to show you this - my first handspun in place. The change of colour is where I changed from spinning Leicester to spinning merino. Having no taste, I preferred the Leicester - and not just because of the romantic associations of that county, which is where I was proposed to - and accepted.

I had hoped to show you these, finished too, but the fates decreed otherwise. (Those are not tacking stitches on the grapes. I found an image of some 3d-ish grapes supposedly worked by Mary Queen of Scots, where she had stitched pentagons and hexagons round the grapes - so I did too.)

Together with their partners they have been applied to a Vilene backing and then removed, to be reapplied using my walking foot. And the method of hingeing (sp?) the pages together is - er - under consideration. 

In between those bits, I have started two more - I do like to have plenty too much to do. There is some very experimental stuff inspired by the last Visual Marks session, which is so experimental it may be consigned to a sketch book - or the bin - and some quilting on a bit of this, inspired by CTW, which is intended to become a completely non-functional bag.

And finally - if you can get to this, and you are interested in textiles, Kate Plumtree's bird inspired ballgowns are stunning. I'd like 'Magpie 1’ in a slightly bigger size and with sleeves, please - although I have no idea where I'd wear it...

There are work books to look at, and fabric samples to feel, and the displays in the gardens and in the rest of the house are pretty good too! We are hoping to go back with our cygnet princess and caterpiller prince soon.

Sunday 1 December 2013

Where did the last two weeks go?

I won't bore you by telling you, but we have been a little busy. 

'Visual Marks' was all about drawing. We all brought items which, for us, symbolised 'connections', which were used to assemble a still life. We then drew it from different positions. Now, as you may have gathered, I am not a confident drawer, and it took me quite a while to settle in to this exercise, so my efforts will not receive widespread publicity. However, inspired by some of the things our chair, E had done with the previous session's group graffiti, I did play around with them in a couple of apps.

These were produced using Mirrorgram, Flipomatic and Kaleidoscope apps for the iPad. (It was Mirrogram which produced all the helmeted warriors!) I learned that the effects work best if you zoom in to very small details.

I also tried the low tech approach of using tracing paper and picking out interesting shapes from two blind contour drawings, one in chalk, one in oil pastel, on top of each other.

More little figures emerged.

I'm not sure how these will develop into stitch, if at all, as I have ideas for a couple of the drawings I did direct onto cloth, and which have been ripped up to be reassembled in a new improved format. Maybe.

You have no workshops for a while and then two come along at once. Last  Friday was Contemporary Textile Workshop day. We took in images of 'landmarks' - in my case, photos of organic and inorganic things on the ground, like twigs, leaves, puddles and gratings - which we used to inspire hand made stamps.

Like these - a mixture of eraser and fun foam stamps, plus a new idea I found here. I modified the idea slightly, because I forgot the suggestion to use a paint roller to hold the pipe insulation, until now... 

I made a miniature rolling pin by inserting a smaller tube into the pipe lagging - in this case, the inner tube from some ready rolled icing. (Or it may have been marzipan - in either case, I knew it would come in useful one day.) The inner tube was slightly too small, but wrapping it in duck tape solved that problem.

I used a Fiskars craft knife to slice and dig the foam out - the sharper the better! And as my friend A. suggested, instead of cutting away, you could apply or wrap things on the surface of the foam, like string, lace, rubber bands, self adhesive fun foam etc. 

The gold and turquoise sections above were done at home, printing on to black fabric, including stretch velvet. My current plan is to make a bag with it, once I've finished the plant images for VM - three down, one to go.

This week should be a bit quieter than last, so I hope to have the time and the energy to pick uo a needle!

Sunday 17 November 2013

Finished, half finished and just begun.

Finished, just in time for the second meeting of 'Visual Marks' next week. The more stitch I added, the more soft and crumpled it became, but I like that feeling of wear and tear.

Half finished, because I intend to make four. I've soldered out lots of little organza circles to start the third one, a bunch of grapes, inspired by a photo in Margaret Swain's 'Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots'. A balance to the Tudor rose, perhaps. 

And this is just begun. This what I decided to do with my little bit of hand spun. There isn't enough to cover the whole surface, but it makes an interesting contrast to the papier maché. 

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Another two bite the dust.

This one... 

and this one, have fallen to the ground. Well, it is autumn. In both cases, it's the string, the only organic element, which has given way. 

Six others are still hanging around the garden - these five, and the mirror piece which I forgot to photograph.  They have been up now for 18 - 24 months.

So much for biodegradeable. 

The highlight of last week was learning beginning to learn to spin. I impulse bought a hand spinning kit on holiday last year, and then panicked about using it. Fortunately several other members of neuf were keen to learn to spin too - pictures over on the neuf page on Facebook.

And this is what I am thinking of doing with my few metres of dodgy handspun. (It's just pinned on at the moment.)

On other fronts, the second page of the Visual Marks book is done. Probably. 

And Christmas preparations have begun. Wensleydale has not only made the cake, he had an idea. 

Making blankets with left over Shetland wool resulted in an assortment of left over cones. He suggested that some plastic primer and spray paint would produce Christmas trees, which will shortly acquire some LED tea lights.

And I made a little present. Or twelve. Instructions here, except that I used ribbon instead of fabric.

The black and white Visual Marks cylinder has been on the back burner due to a world shortage of no.3 cotton perlė. As usual I exaggerate, but I had to mail order some, as none was available locally, not even for ready money. It has now come, so I shall be back to that tonight.

Sunday 3 November 2013

From this...

to these.

My responses to the mark making we did for 'Visual Marks'. Both unfinished, both experimental. And the cylinder will have to wait for a while as I've run out of black perlé

Not much, perhaps, for a week's work, but it was half term (Mottisfont, Manor Farm and the Lakeside Railway) and there has been cycling on the telly, although the BBC  did its best to hide it by putting most of it on the red button and not starting it at the time they advertised on their own web site. Grrrr!

Sunday 27 October 2013

Is this a series?

If so, it's still a very experimental one.

The two at the bottom you have seen before, but without stitch - they also appear top right with one of their new siblings. The little one, which is now finished, was relatively easy to stitch into, but I discovered a drawback to making longer ones. I can get my hand inside and stitch right down at the bottom of it, but I cannot finish off the thread. I did think about cutting the cylinder down to a more manageable size, but decided it was better to perfect the art of very neat finishing off on the right side. Or leave dangling ends. 

The one with the black top is destined to become one/all of my 'Visual Marks' pieces, the response to the black and white drawing. I have plans for the colour piece, but they involve a lot more work, so may not happen.

This is the design for the cylinder. With great skill by sheer chance, I made a mould for the vessels which has the same circumference as the length of a piece of A4, which is very convenient. After discovering the drawbacks of a tall cylinder, I've reduced the height to about A4 size too. It remains to be seen if I can fasten off ends at that depth...

The marbled one is very experimental. The original cylinder, made with abaca tissue and bandage, was very soft, so I tried adding an extra layer of fabric, and this bit of marbled muslin fell out of my stash. I discovered that adding more glue to thin papier mâché makes it go very soft, so it was a bit of a struggle getting the extra layer on, but it did suggest that future cylinders could be deliberately distorted.

I'm not sure what is going to happen to it next, but one problem opportunity I shall have to explore is dealing with the area where the fabric overlaps, which is much more obvious with patterned fabric than with plain.

Half term next week, so life will be a little hectic in Cheese Acres. Babybel has planned the programme, and Granny and Granddad have fallen into line. The VHC is a little too young to make his opinion known as yet, but he is working very hard on getting this talking thing perfected!

Sunday 20 October 2013

Despite the weather...

(fortunately we were out of range of the Hampshire tornado) - and despite having a cold - I've had a busy and productive week. 

After Sandy's kind comments last week, I dipped the top of the wonky brown paper cylinder in some walnut ink, then tuned it right way up to drip.

I'm very pleased with the result, which looks distinctly landscapeish to me. It needs some stitch now, to make the most of those trees. 

I haven't got round to it because of exciting day out number 1.

Exciting day out number 1.

Recently I was invited to join a new textile/mixed media group, 'Visual Marks'. The first meeting was on Tuesday, in an area of deepest Southampton I've never been to before (wrong side of the river), so I fired up our new (and first) satnav, gritted my teeth and set off.

And got there and back safely and much quicker than expected - by me, the satnav was spot on. It was even better once I'd told it to avoid toll bridges...

The journey (and the parking) were the most traumatic bits, the session was fun. We did some mark making, as you might expect, given the group name. 

Group mark making, on quite a large scale - one piece in black and white, one in colour. Everyone got a bit of each to bring home and be inspired by.

These are my bits.

I scanned them, so they look a bit fragmented. 

Given the way my mind has been working recently, I rolled up my black and white chunk and thought 'vessel'.

So here's the beginnings, inspired by those chains of 'beads' on the original.

I got quite excited by the idea of beads, as that night we watched a good but too short programme about the Cheapside Hoard, from which I learned that Tudor  grandees were sewn into their jewellry - those long enamelled chains were sewn down to hold them in place. (That link will  take you to the exhibition website, but try Google images for pictures of the actual jewellry - it's stunning!

That led me on to blackwork, for the black and white piece, and Tudor embroidery for the coloured one. No idea if that's how they will end up, but it's how they are starting...

I took a little time out from thinking about - and researching - Tudor embroidery, and exploring ideas in my sketch book, to finish (?) the tesselation. 

Bird side up at the top, bunny side up at the bottom - I hope you can see them! 'Finish' gets a question mark because at the moment it's just a piece of quilting. I think it may become a bag for Babybel in due course.

Exciting day out number 2

The last event in a busy week was another 'neuf' meeting. Our multitalented member Nicky ran a session for us on working with glass. This was in the wilds of Hampshire rather than the depths of Southampton, so the satnav came into its own again. (It took me there one way and brought me back a different one - no idea if that is normal for satnavs but it made life interesting...)

In the session we all made a clock - Nicky even provided movements, and I can confirm that it keeps good time. Even if the placement of the blobs in mine is a lttle wonky. 

Then my colleagues made some exciting 'glass appliqué' images and I - didn't.

I was really taken with this glass, I just wish I had done it justice. I found the glass very hard to cut, hence the erratic edges. I don't see working with glass in my future, but despite that I enjoyed the session. And we needed a clock!

Next week should be a little quieter, except that our long anticipated, much needed new sofas should arrive on Wednesday, so I will no longer need to apologise to guests for the uncomfortable seating!

Saturday 12 October 2013

Endings and Beginnings

After spending a lot of time odd minutes here and there wondering what to do with these...

I poured the remains of a bottle of blue-black Quink into the smaller one. As you do.

As you can see, it spread up the sides in an interesting way. Osmosis - I think. No idea why it looks green on the bottom, though - and it's not just the camera, it really is greeny blue. 

It may not be completely finished - do I add stitch?  Wensleydale says not, as it looks like ceramic, but that makes me wonder whether I should be even making things that look like ceramic in fabric? Isn't a bit like making plastic things that look like wood? 

Long time readers of this blog may remember me wittering on about Tamsin van Essen who has certainly influenced me in making these, as, of course, has Edmund de Waal. Maybe I'm a potter in embroidere's clothing?

The wonky brown paper one definitely doesn't look like ceramic. I'm thinking of making it a sinamay jacket, except that my bit of sinamay isn't quite big enough...

This really is finished - inspiration on the right, completed embroidery on the left, with 5p to show how small it is. Got to use up some of that fine gauge canvas before my eyes get too bad to see what I'm doing with it! 

The beginning that has followed that ending is another piece inspired by the Contemporary Textile Workshop session last week. As I'm sure you can see, this is tesselated birds and rabbits - although I've just realised that if you turn the birds upside down they become rabbits.

I drew out the pattern, painted the birds with transfer paint, and ironed it on to some polyester satin - the duller back side, I resisted the tempation to go for the full bling. Now it's going to get some quilting, which hopefully will make it more obvious what it is.

And finally - a finished subtitle-reading blanket, and the makings of another one. I think this is the last of my oddments of machine knitting wool, so this should be the last blanket.

Does anyone else find that you tend to finish different things that you are working on around the same time, or is it just me?

Whoops, forgot these.  I found this bit of card, which I haved obviously used under some painting, when I was having a clearout. I was going to chuck it away, but it said 'sketch book covers' to me, so that's what it became. So that's a beginning and an ending in one -or three.