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

Dorothy Rowe

Friday 31 January 2014

It's been one of those weeks...

when I had to go places I didn't want to go and do things I didn't want to do. But, as Tom Paxton sings 'the things that you dreaded never happened at all', and it's all over now - as someone else also sang.

However it was all a bit time consuming and for most of the week, the only creative thing that happened was sock knitting. 

Before it all kicked in, I did get a chance to try out my bright idea for the machine networking from Visual Marks - inlaid appliqué.

From this...

to this. It's OK, but if I was going to do it again I wouldn't try to cut felt with a craft knife!

So as most of the stress is now over (one big stressor is still around, but it is being tackled) I disappeared into my workroom. 

At the beginning of the year I challenged myself to make a book a week, so here are numbers 2, 4 and 5. (Number 1, a pamphlet about our trip to the Spinnaker Tower, has gone to its new home, and I can't find number 3, although you can see it here.)

Number 5 is a circle accordion from Alisa Golden's 'Expressive Handmade Books'.  I followed her suggestion to use prepainted paper for the pages, with the idea that I might doodle round the pre-existing  marks. 

Will I keep up weekly book-making for the rest of the year? Highly unlikely, but I can dream.

I also found time to do a bit of sketchbook playing for Visual Marks. Machine embroidery is all very well, but those stitches are a bit small. So I decided to try reproducing the patterns in cut paper,


Can you spot the deliberate mistake?

I have ideas for more VM playing tomorrow, plus a commission for a tooth fairy pillow. 

The Traveller's Blanket has been on the back burner - this is as far as it's got. However, not only is it good sitting-on-the-sofa-listening-to-the-TV/Radio 3 embroidery, it is particularly good sitting-on-the-sofa-listening-to-the-TV/Radio 3-on-a-dark-and-stormy-insomniac-night embroidery, because it is about 1.5 metres square and warm.

However, I think tonight will be knitting again - there is something so comforting about it, on a filthy night like tonight. I hope, wherever you are, the weather is a little dryer, or if not, at least you have escaped the floods.

Friday 24 January 2014

I'm glad I had those socks to work on because...

1. in my flurry of finishing I'd left myself without any sitting-on-the-sofa-listening-to-the-TV/Radio 3 embroidery (and in case, last night's TV was Alistair Sooke on Egyptian Art, which required watching as well as listening, for at least two reasons). (Andrew Graham-Dixon tonight, for those who prefer their art historians a little more mature.) And because...

2.  Good job I finished some the new ones last night.

I've started another pair, as although I have accomplished several things today, starting any sitting-on-the-sofa-listening-to-the-TV/Radio 3 embroidery was not amongst them. 

I did pin the Traveller's Blanket together, which should provide several weeks of sitting-on-the-sofa-listening-to-the-TV/Radio 3 embroidery, but before I can start work on it I have to do a bit of design exploration - like working out how many little patches I can get out the fabric. And before I could do some design exploration I had, of course, to make a sketch book.

I've fallen in love with the single section case binding in Heather Weston's 'Handmade Books', so that is what this is. The images come from scans of my fabrics, but the printer was running out of ink, so the colours are a little bit duller than in real life.

After my pinning and book making, W. dragged me out for some fresh air at Hillier Gardens, where I took some photos in the winter garden. When I got home I played around with my new favourite app, 'Waterlogue'. Before-and-after images above.

Let's hope that tomorrow I manage to start some sitting-on-the-sofa-listening-to-the-TV/Radio 3 embroidery - except that it's subtitle reading night, so I shall be knitting whether I have embroidery or not...

Thursday 23 January 2014


Or maybe not...

This is the repetitous Contemporary Textile Workshop piece. I wasn't sure about adding machine stitch, as instructed, but it worked quite well in the end, introducing a new texture and bringing out some of the details. I also used the machine stitch to attach the canvas work to a very blingy bit of lamé fabric, which is just visible through the holes in the canvas, but also provided the means to attach the embroidery to the box canvas. However my stretching of the fabric over the box canvas left a little to be desired, so tomorrow the staples are coming out and it will be reattached.

Unfortunately the Chairman's Challenge, a.k.a. the star spangled sampler is going to need a bit more work. The edges need top stitching, the top needs adjusting, and I think it might benefit from a bit of weight at the bottom to make it hang better - I'm thinking beaded tassels.

Apart from that, they are both finished!

The Traveller's Blanket has been languishing, due to this frenzy of finishing - I'm hoping to get round to assembling the layers tomorrow and then beginning to think about how to use the African fabrics.

'Visual Marks" came around again for this month. We shared our Chairman's Challenges, finished and unfinished  - amazing the variety of things we came up with, from my banner to panels, a bag, Christmas cards and a cracker! 

Then we enjoyed some 'machine networking' - work some machining on a piece of felt, pass it to your neighbour, and repeat until your own piece comes back to you - assuming you recognise it when it does! 

We were going to try both automatic stitches and free motion, but ran out of time. 

Initially I wasn't very inspired, but the ideas are beginning to flow now - inlaid appliqué? Book covers? 

And of course I played around with some apps - Flipomatic, Mirrorgram, and, surprise surprise, iColorama.

So, plenty to keep me busy. And if I run out of things to do, there are always socks...

Saturday 18 January 2014

Slow but steady...

progress on several fronts.

1. One pair of socks finished and another started. Somehow I always have more wool left from each pair than I'm prepared to throw away, so the half ball of mid blue had to be incorporated in the new pair - yes, it is the same colour. I did manage to bin the few metres of the light blue left over after I got two pairs out of it.

2. The Chair's Challenge seems to have taken a great leap forward. (Good thing, since it's the next meeting of Visual Marks on Tuesday. Time to get lost in Southampton again.)

This is it, hanging around while I decide whether it needs anything on that lower red horizontal band. It is going to get some star sequins on the Tyvek rectangle at the bottom, and there are paper stars on the red on black lattice - they just don't photograph well.

It is not attached to the backing yet - when it is, it will be a little straighter. 

I have no idea how I am going to suspend it, and I fancy a few tassels somewhere, but these decisions will be made in due course...

3. Progress on the Contemporary Textile Workshop piece has been slower, partly because I've been concentrating on the star spangled sampler above, and partly because the CTW is cross stitch, and regular readers will know that I don't do cross stitch, especially not in uncontrollable metallic machine embroidery thread. 

4. And just in case I didn't have enough to do, I've signed up for Dijanne Cervaal's 'Traveller's Blanket' class, because it looked like a good way to use up some stash. So I started by buying some muslin (I thought I had lots, and will probably find it again now I've bought some), and some bump, which Dijanne  recommends instead of wadding. So yesterday was spent dyeing, which I haven't done for ages.

Here are the results, plus some threads I dyed at the same time, and some African fabrics from my stash for the appliqué.

Did you know that so-called 'African fabrics' were based on Indonesian batiks and originally made in Holland or Lancashire? Must be true, it said so in 'Embroidery' magazine. So some of my Lancastrian ancestors may have worked on the original fabrics, though I am pretty sure these were made a long way from the North of England.

Bite off more than I can chew? Moi?

Saturday 11 January 2014

Lots of excitement this week...

if you live a very quiet life, that is.

Socks were finished...

and started. There wasn't enough of the pale blue left  to make another pair, and not very much of the mid blue, so I am knitting quickly to finish before the wool runs out. 

It was Contemporary Textile Workshop this week. Unfortunately the tutor who was scheduled to lead it is ill (get well soon, T!) so no-one was sure precisely what she had in mind, except that it included tapestry canvas, potato prints, sheers, hand embroidery, machine embroidery, added embellishments and a square box frame. More or less in that order.

This is my response to the magical mystery tour. As you can probably tell, the hand stitch has not yet been completed. (Cross stitch? Me?) 

And finally, the biggest excitement of all - Babybel had her first visit from the tooth fairy! (I have no idea what the going rate is for teeth these days, but I bet it's more than sixpence, which it was in my day. That's 2.5p, for younger readers.)

Granny has inexplicably neglected to provide a tooth fairy cushion, so she spent a few minutes on Google in order to repair the omission. Most of them seem to be tooth shaped - but not the shape of baby teeth as I remember them - and any case that design seems quite unpleasant to me - so I shall have to keep looking, or invent something myself.

We hope for a quieter time next week  - if only to give granny time to make the tooth fairy cushion!

Saturday 4 January 2014

Living on top of a hill has advantages...

when it has rained (heavily) every day this year. We have had puddles in the garden, but living on chalk has advantages too - they drained away very quickly.

There was one sunny day, although even that turned wet by evening. Fortunately it was the day we had the little guys, so we took advantage of excellent visibility to take them to the Spinnaker Tower. The VHC loves boats, and it took a lot of encouragement to to get him to turn his back on the waterfront and go into the tower. 

But when he got up to the top he was mesmerised, as was Babybel. 

As we left Babybel said 'I had a really lovely time in there', and we all agreed.

Of course, weather like this should have allowed me to make good progress on the Chair's Challenge, but for one reason another, mainly lethargy and procrastination, not much has happened - and 50% of what I did try went wrong.

The phone camera struggled with these in artificial light, but I hope you can get a feel for them. Just like my summer efforts with 'Repetition', I've been experimenting and trying to use stuff up. 

Top left, out of focus, is machine embroidered and zapped felt - my second attempt. This will get some shrink plastic stars, which I forgot to photograph, in due course.

Top right is stitched and Rub-Onned hand-made (but not by me) paper. The backing is two of the things which came in my challenge bag - some very wide wired silver ribbon and some leather binding.

Bottom left is the twig star I showed last time, and bottom right is some foiled black velvet. I had used the silver previously to foil stars, so there were star shaped holes in it. I ironed the red foil over the top to fill in the holes - and then added some black FuseFX to calm it down a bit. I think I shall use this to back some Hearty Clay stars, which I also forgot to photograph...

I seem to have spent more time knitting socks than anything else (more tonight as 'The Bridge' is back!).

I finished Wensleydale's grey pair but didn't manage to photograph them before he took them away.

So I made sure these were snapped before he snapped them up. (Sorry! )

Although I have a lot of sock wool, there is not enough of most of it to make a complete pair - hence th stripes. I suspect they will get even more bizarre as I get further down the stash. But W. doesn't seem to mind, and his socks are usually hidden by his Docs anyway!

Keep warm and dry, everyone! The weather must get better soon, mustn't it?