'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 June 2013

Never say never.

I may have said on this blog - I have certainly said it elsewhere - that I don't like monoprinting. I like what other people do with it, I just don't like my own efforts. 

So you might assume I would not be in the least bit interested in a Gelli plate. But I like the look of what other people do with them, and then Handprinted  had a 10% off offer - and I succumbed. The plate sat around for a while, while I did other things, including subscribing to an on-line course with Carla Sonheim, and reading everything Google could find on the subject.

Yesterday I felt like getting on with it, despite it being the first day of a certain bike race. I did have the TV  on in the next room so I could rush in when things got exciting, and of course I made sure I didn't miss the rather unusual and disappointing finale.

I needed to work in the conservatory (only place with enough space) and it was 35 degrees in there, even with the doors open and the fan running. There were two advantages to this - it was easy to persuade the last drops to emerge from my elderly bottles of Lumiere paint, and paint dried quickly. There were three disadvantages - I was dripping with sweat, my specs kept sliding off my nose because of it, and the paint dried quickly.

I am not going to show you the results of yesterday. 

Today I decided to have another go, but using fabric instead of paper, so I collected an eclectic selection of Gelli plate sized bits and got going. It was even hottter today, so I  - er, let's just say it's a good job our conservatory is not overlooked, and I have paint in unusual places...

These are the edited highlights of the results.

Top right is a piece of PVC.  I don't know if the paint will stay in place, but it definitely makes boring brown PVC more interesting.

The grey piece in the middle of the bottom row is furnishing velvet. The print is very soft, as you would expect, and I love it - just need to work out what to do with it!

The others range from a very fine polyester to furnishing  fabrics, and all worked well, in different ways.

Things I learned.

1. There are no very crisp prints, but I suspect that is due to the speed with which the paint dried.

2. If you don't clean the plate between prints, some of the colour will come off on subsequent prints. I like this effect, but obviously you need to think about the colours you use. That was the problem with some of the paper prints from yesterday.

3. I personally prefer the more abstract imagery to the representational stencils and rubbing plates I used. Some time ago I made some print plates for making 'collographs' without a press, using various scraps and junk papers, and those worked well.

4. Most were made with just a single application of paint, but using 2-3 different colours, and I think most of them are good enough to use as they are - they are intended to be backgrounds for stitch, not finished pieces.

5. Adding fabric medium to the paint seemed to extend the drying time a bit - but only a bit.

6. A bit of metallic paint - or a lot - works well.

7. I read somewhere that you can clean the plate by adding a final layer of paint, adding the paper or fabric and leaving it to dry. That's what I did with the largest image in the collage and it's gorgeous, but  unfortunately it's on paper not fabric. I did the same yesterday using a bit of patterned paper bag and it is the best thing I did all afternoon.

8. I used some fabrics which were already dyed, printed or accidentally marked - not all of them worked, stronger marks were a bad idea. I'd like to try some commercial fabrics - black and white prints, say, or possibly batiks.

Ooops, nearly forgot.

More repetition. On the left, the book page which inspired the work on the right.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Keep calm...

And carry on stitching.

This has been one of those weeks.

As far as I can remember, Sunday was O.K.

On Monday afternoon the VHC's daddy got a phone call from his nursery to say he wasn't well - and he wasn't, breathing very unevenly and having crying jags, despite doing his best to be his normal cheeky cheerful self. We looked after Babybel while daddy did emergency doctor and chemist visits, and arranged to take over care the next morning when the VHC would normally be in nursery. Fortunately he recovered very quickly from what seems to have been a throat infection with added tummy upset, and after a good night's sleep, and a morning of quiet play and lots of 'duddles' (cuddles) he was well enough in the afternoon to go out and feed some fish.

(The ducks didn't get much of a look in, as the fish are very determined.)

On the way home, we heard that mummy had had a phone call from school to say that Babybel had fallen off a climbing frame. So we looked after the VHC while mummy and daddy did emergency hospital visits and a broken wrist was X-rayed and strapped up. 

Their other granny and granddad have taken over today, but we're on duty again tomorrow, as Thursday is our usual day. We just hope there are no more dramas.

So today, a little embroidery has been restful and therapeutic - together, at the moment, with a little Allegri. Bliss!

This is the embellished piece, with added Cretan sttich, and turned into another book. Wensleydale has claimed this one for a diary.

And here's one I made earlier - the book, but not the embroidery. I had decided that my summer homework -  ’Repetition', if you need reminding - was going to be moslty sketchbook based. 

But then I came across this little (about 20 by 6cm) book, made ages ago from the offcuts from something else, and those coffee stained pages said 'repetition' and 'stitch' to me. 

And in the small hours of one insomniac night, when I had finished the book cover and desperatey needed some embroidery to do, I found some aida, pinched a  pattern from Gay Eaton's book on Wessex embroidery, and started what in any other circumstance would have turned into a bookmark. Amazing how  therapeutic a bit of simple, repetitive stiching can be.

It doesn't look like the coffee marks, but there are non-coffee pages, and I have a piece of fabric framed up and awaiting some eyelets before it gets added to the white page you can just see. 

I wonder what excitement tomorrow will bring?

Sunday 23 June 2013

More finishing.

Finish No. 1. - Baby Bunting

A little bling and a repair.

Finish No.2 - Spirits of the Cloth

is now a book, with rather more bling! 

Friday 21 June 2013


This is the embellisher piece I started in the Contemporary Textile workshop. I wired the edge, and although a slightly heavier wire would have worked better, I'm pleased with it. It reminds me of a shell, in a strange, over the top colour, way.

This started in the CTW as a collection of samples - how did the tie dye look on different backgrounds, and can you really embellish silk rods? Sue the tutor suggested that they looked a bit like baby bunting, so when I got home they got some additional stitch and were attached to stuffed knitting ribbon. They are awaiting some tiny sequins, and a decision about whether to put them in the college show. I think they may be a bit too unfinished-looking for most people, and I don't want to be considered odd, do I? (Although it may be too late to worry about that...)

This was also inspired by the workshop, although I did it at home. Can you embellish silk rods? Yes. 

It is awaiting some hand stitch, probably Cretan stitch, and will then also become a book cover, unless I decide that it isn't robust enough. You can   embellish silk rods but they don't necessarily like the process.

'Spirits of the Cloth' is also nearly finished and will also become a book cover, not least because I found rather fewer spirits on the left hand side than on the right, which implies a back and a front to me.

Friday 14 June 2013

Just passing through...

with the results of today's Contemporary Textile Workshop.

The brief was to spend the morning making a background for embroidery, and the afternoon embroidering it. Of course, I didn't stick to that.

Bondaweb, paint, Angelina, sheers etc. had been mentioned, but so had the embellisher. I wan't excited by the first four but the idea of a little embellishing appealed. My preparation for the session had been a bit rushed due to an extra day looking after Babybel and the VHC, so I ended up with a rather odd collection of stuff. I'd read somewhere that you can embellish split silk rods, so as I have rather a lot of them, I grabbed all the red, orange and yellow ones, and any co-ordinating fabric and threads that came to hand.

Which is how I ended up embellishing together a bit of tie-dyed muslin and some pink fleece. Oh, and a peeled silk rod, that's it in the middle. The blurry yellowy pink bits are random dyed cross stitches, also embellished, and the white is back stitch, more to be added later. (Sorry for the blurry image, I was too lazy to get a camera so took the photo with the iPD, which is too heavy for me to hold steady.)

My original idea was to make a conical bag with it, but although the fleece was square to begin with, it wasn't after I'd embellished it. So the new idea is to wire the edges and fold the corners up into a sort of pasty shape. Of course by tomorrow I may have a completely new idea - or have gone back to the first one.  Whichever it is, tassels may be involved...

This, plus all the rest of my CTW productions, will appear in the Eastleigh College exhibition, at Desborough Campus, between Thursday evening, 4th July, and lunchtime on Saturday 6th. Please come along! Amongst other work you can also see the exhibition of this year's degree students, which I am really looking forward to. It doesn't seem a year since we were agonising over ours!

Friday 7 June 2013

Two unusual experiences.

Unusual experience 1 - buying tights.

At work, I wore skirts - and hence tights - all the time, and I had lots, which have lasted me until now, because since I retired, I have probably worn trousers on 355  days out of 365. Possibly more, given that we haven't had a decent summer in all those years.

But for the last few days the sun has been shining in the Cheese Acres neighbourhood (we won't mention today's thunderstorm), so I fished some suitable skirts out of the back of the wardrobe and looked under  the socks on the sock drawer. 

And found no wearable summer tights. Plenty of thick black ones, but they didn't seem quite right. So I headed for M&S, who do not make it easy for the out of practice to buy tights.

Plenty of very fine denier, shiny ones (! - I'm sure they didn't have those eight years ago) but not many sensible run resist.

Lots of black ones, but not many lighter ones. Possibly others had had the same idea and got there before me. 

Sizing advice in tiny print, so those who have lost weight <g> since they last bought tights had to get their specs out to work out what size they were. 

Larger sizes at the bottom of the rack so elderly knees were tested as I searched among the battalions of unsuitable packets for the few reasonable ones. 

I did get some in the end, but I hope they will last another eight years, by which time I will be a very aged granny and either wearing lisle ones like my granny (anyone know where to get them?) or I will feel the cold so much I shall never wear a skirt at all.

Experience 2 - being the audience at an exam.

I have taken quite a lot of exams in my time - I tried to tot up how many but fell at the first hurdle of remembering how many papers there were for O-level English, or A-level maths, or undergraduate psychology. I have invigilated a fair number too, which is almost as bad as taking them, and infinitely more boring. But I have never before been invited to be in the audience for one. 

The Senorita kindly invited us to her last exam - being very clever she has done a joint music and acoustic engineering degree, and the final exam was a recital. She played, beautifully, Fauré's Sonata No.1 for violin and piano (not on her own, you understand) and Ysaye's Sonata for violin. No, I hadn't heard of him either, but he was a violin teacher and clearly enjoyed taxing his students with pieces which explore the full range of what you can do with a violin, short of hitting your teacher over the head with it.

It was the most enjoyable exam I've ever been to, although I suspect the Senorita didn't enjoy it quite as much as we did. Now we have our fingers crossed for her results, and then in the autumn she starts her D.Eng. (I told you she is a clever lady.)

Life has returned to our normal, not to say boring, routine since then - and to be truthful I'm not sorry, I can only take so much excitement in a short time.

Saturday 1 June 2013

It's half-term...

so it must be 

Manor Farm. This is the first time the VHC has been old enough to participate properly - including feeding the wack-wacks and chick-chicks, although he wasn't interested in feeding the four legged animals. Fortunate, really, because it isn't allowed.

He watched Abigail the cow being milked with great concentration - but I think he felt rather disappointed when the end product was given to the calves. He is very fond of 'juice' - his word for milk.

Babybel enjoyed herself as well, mananging to wangle being the first to get a go at milking, which she adores doing. 

When not visiting farms in the rain, I've been having a sort out, in the course of which this materialised. It is a piece of marbled silk, which I think I made on the C&G sketchbook course about six years ago. (Other people marbled paper for their sketchbooks, I marbled fabric.)

I've been looking at the work of Leonora Carrington, and I think it's had odd effects on my psyche, because I began to see all sorts of bizarre little figured in the marbling. (Perhaps I like her work because of my odd psyche.)

I forgot to take a 'before' picture, but the section on the left has not yet had any stitch.  I have no idea what I'm going to do with it when it's done, but it's fun to work on. I put a backing cloth on it, thinking of adding some Trapunto and Italian quilting, but now I'm not so sure. Watch this space.