'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 September 2013

Living in interesting times.

It's been a bad news/good news couple of weeks. We had some worrying news at the start - the sort of sitation in which, because it involves other people, all we can do is offer support and hope for the best.

For some reason, my frustration led, not to embroidery, but to patchwork - just throwing together scraps of the colours which reflected how I felt. Then I found myself squaring off the resulting polygon - perhaps habit, perhaps my need to try to control what was happening. That was followed by scraped-on paint and some very undisciplined machine quilting. It is stalled now, partly because I need a break from it, but more because, unusually for me, I have plans for more machine work on it and I can't machine sew and watch cycling at the same time.

Fortunately, a few days later we got some excellent news. Let's just say that Babybel, to her delight, will be a bridesmaid some time next year. I'm not sure she knows what a bridesmaid is, but she knows there will be a pretty dress and an important role for her!

What with cycling and stress, not much embroidery has taken place, but there has been a lot of knitting. The second using-up-the-leftovers blanket has made quite a lot of progress. 

Before all the excitement, I decided I could improve this.

Definitely better - amazing what a little paint can do. The paint has also stiffened it up, so much that I don't think it would take stitch now.

These are my other papier mâché experiments. Abaca tissue and muslin on the left, brown paper and muslin on the right. And yes, it. is wonky!

I'm pleased with the contrast between these, but I'm not sure what stitch to try, so I'm putting papier mâché on the back burner for a while. (Sounds a bit inflammatory.)

Over the last couple of days, I have done something other than knit and worry.

A bit of hand quilting - transfer dyes on polyester satin, left over from my initial explorations of  repetition.

And some more experimental stitching on metal mesh - which is difficult to photograph with all the reflections.

Mmm - I seem to have developed a taste for bling!

Sunday 15 September 2013

Circuits and Bumps

All circuits now complete, I'm glad to say. I've had enough of circles.  These are all the circle pages.

They are even bound, and labelled. 

Although I've been thinking that it's time to stop repeating myself, it hasn't quite happened yet. I made these Kandinsky-inspired shrink plastic 'bumps' when I was doing City & Guilds, but never used them. I came across them when I was looking for something else (story of my life really) and decided their repetitious time had come.

This was inspired by some bedtime reading. In Moyra McNeill's book on drawn thread embroidery, she suggests màking slits in non-fraying fabrics like felt or Vilene, and working drawn thread stitches through the slits. It sounded repetitious to me, so here is an apped photo of the wrong side of a stained glass window at Salisbury Cathedral, printed on Tyvek. I cut it and worked twisted border stitch using lace instead of thread - photos before and after ironing. I've got some Evolon, felt and PVC lined up for similar treatment, though probably without the ironing.

However, I have moved on from repetitions. During another bit of bedtime reading, Fibrefusion's 'Beyond Boundaries', I came across a recipe for papier mâché you can stitch into, using muslin and abaca paper. Ah, paper tubes! (Maybe I am being repetitious?)

This is my first attempt. The odd colour is because I was using up some brown abaca. The bandaged appearance is because I got bored with wrestling with wallpaper paste and little scraps of musin and resorted to strips. I didn't take a 'before' picture but Wensleydale said it looked like a bleeding stump.

As you can see, you can stitch into it, although it helps if you make the cylinder big enough to get your hand into. The odd pattern is because I ran the couching along the edges of the bandage muslin.

Today I got a bit carried away. The one on the left is abaca and muslin, the one on the right is brown paper and muslin. Now I have to wait about 24 hours for them to be dry enough to bring into the house, and another 24 for them to dry out properly. Good job I've got some undrawn thread work to do.

Obviously I haven't given up repeating myself at all!

Saturday 7 September 2013

Four more pages finished.

Though not without some anxious moments. The top left page has drawing pin stitched circles - OK apart from the appliqued fabric not lying flat - and the smaller flower stitcher circles. First I had to remember how to use the flower stitcher, the instructions not being completely clear. And then I realised that the machine wasn't stitching out the patterns I had selected. They were interesting variations on zig zags, but bore even less resemblance to the diagram on the machine than they usually do.

Quiet panic set in - was I going to need a new motherboard? I have just had a welcome tax refund, but nowhere near enough to pay for a new Bernina motherboard!

Then it dawned on me that you drop the feeddogs to use the flower stitcher, so - I think - the machine was stitching out the sideways movement, the flower stitcher was doing the forwards movement, but any backwards stitches were not happening.

At least I think that's what it was - it stitched OK as soon as I tried it without the flower stitcher.

On the positive side, I had an idea what to do with the very boring bit of hand quilting below the flower stitched piece. It was coloured with Markals but it seems to get paler every time I look at it, so it definitely needed a lift.

The answer was elephants. 

I bought them ages ago and never found a use for them. I had to glue them down - no stitching holes - but they definitely improve the page.

The other two pages are pretty ordinary but, to tell the truth, I'm getting circled out.

Just two more to go. Some more boring quilting, machine this time, which is going to get some couching over the top. It was coloured with spray paints which are also doing a vanishing trick.

The other one is the sunprinting, which I didn't expect to work, but which was very successful. More couching for the larger circles - I'm pondering on what to with the smaller ones. Buttonhole rings come to mind...

Then a quick Japanese style binding and no more circles! Probably.

And finally - an apped-about photo from our Wednesday wander. We went to Salisbury to see the Rex Whistler exhibition at the Salisbury Museum, which is recommended, and I took a few photos of the cathedral, to play around with. I'm rather pleased with this one. Apps were XNSketch, Popsicle and iColorama, to blend the other two together.

Sunday 1 September 2013

Circuits and Bumps.

You may remember that at the conclusion of my last post I said I was going to play with Grilon, and similar threads, which shrink when exposed to heat.

Let's not talk about that, shall we? I spent the whole day trying to get one which worked. Three went in the bin, the fourth went in my sketchbook as an example of what not to to do. I'm sure it was me, not the threads, but I shall not be trying again.

Thursday was much better.

Wensleydale, Babybel and I (the VHC was in nursery) went to the North Pole. Must be true, here's a sign to prove it.

(Actually it is Mottisfont's 'Pooh trail', but don't tell Wensleydale.) 

So on Friday I turned my attention to a new challenge - trying out every method of adding colour to fabric I could think of. (Bar dyeing, I've done a lot of that.)

These are the results, apart from the transfer crayons which were too anaemic to be used and are hidden under the Bondaweb.

The Bondawebbed one - plus a bit of the Shisha one.

I challenged myself using this fabric - it's a shiny synthetic curtain fabric I bought when I thought my C&G 'goldwork' was going to be copper. 

It, and the accompanying resolved sample, turned out to be gold - and I still love them.

But I digress.

I started with the Gelli plate, freezer paper stencils and Colourcraft Aztec. 

Lesson 1

See that mottled effect? Aztec reacts to the Gelli like watercolour, it beads. Quite a nice effect but not what I was after. It also runs under the stencil, contributing to lesson 3.

Yes, those are holes.

Lesson 2

For machine cutwork, use two layers of tearaway stabilizer, one isn't enough. And choose a thread which   doesn't break every five minutes.

Lesson 3

Freezer paper stencils detach themselves from the fabric and cling to the Gelli plate with a vice-like grip, perhaps because I hadn't ironed them enough - this fabric does not like a hot iron. (See lesson 11.)

You don't need freezer paper stencils anyway, you can just use ordinary paper on the plate. Doh.

Lesson 4

Acrylic paint worked much better, but I overdid the textile medium. It does help to keep the paint from drying too quickly in a hot studio conservatory, but if it's too runny it runs under the stencils.

Lesson 5

Don't do monoprinting in 35 degrees C.

Lesson 6

The splodgy dots were done traditionally, with a stencil and brush at room temperature, but they still ran. I used Opalite which is lovely but I still haven't worked out the best way to use it. 

Lesson 7

Sometimes foil can be too bright. I added Hotspots and foil to the three circles next to the splodgy ones to try and make them more interesting, but now they are OTT. Not sure what I'm going to do with these. Emulsion paint?

Lessons 8, 9, 10 and 11

Markals (right hand end of the top row) and spray paints (underneath it), on this fabric, come out very pale but sunprinting with silk paints works well (left in the middle row). 

And Markal rubbed onto a nappy liner, ironed onto fabric, covered with another nappy liner rubbed with Chromacoal, stitched down and zapped is - er - interesting, but all that heat shrank the fabric

Lesson 12

Don't buy cheap Shisha rings.

All those lessons! No wonder I'm tired. Just hope I remember them.