'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 March 2014

Book of the Week

A quick and dirty book made from one of the A1drawings I made on Dionne Swift's course. To construct it you fold the paper in half lengthways, into quarters widthways, and then cut three quarters of the way up the lengthways fold. The advantage of this is that the paper can still be opened out to full size. I have found more complex versions called accordion books, snake books, ox plow books or boustrephodon books - take your pick. 

After I'd made it, I realised I didn't need two pieces of string to tie it together, but I rather like the look of the result.

I may do the same with the remaining drawings, as it makes an easier way to store them. And each one will use two of my large humungous pile of book mailers, which has to be a good thing. (My mother hoarded plastic bags, I hoard cardboard. Amongst other things.) 

I also managed to have a quick go at the second week of Dionne's course.

Inspirational drawing on the left, two sides of the Embellished and sttiched version on the right. Being me, I think it needs some colour - preferably red. (Note to self: try using some other colour with black and white. You know it makes sense.)

Thanks to Sandy for saying I make her laugh. That is sometimes my intention. 

Saturday 29 March 2014

Life has its little ups and downs.

The week started badly when our child minding journey took nearly three times as long as it normally does - overturned lorry. At the moment, luckily, we are going later and not taking the little guys to school, so there was no desperate need to get there on time, but then if we had been doing our customary silly o'clock trip, we would probably have missed the worst of the congestion. 

The second down of the week was this. I do know how to turn a heel, honest: but when you get too engrossed in wildly improbable British detective series you can end up turning it twice. Yes, I confess, we were watching 'Midsomer Murders'.

For those not au fait with sock knitting, 'turning the heel' is the process which changes a vertical tube which fits the leg, to a horizontal tube which fits the foot. Working two heels, as I did, would give a sock which turned through 180 rather than 90 degrees. I'd already pulled it out once because it was too narrow, so it took three attempts to get it right. 

The pattern is an adaptation of this one with different heels and toes, but the errors I made are all mine. 

However, those downs were more than balanced by the ups, chiefly the completion of numbers 3 (well, in part) and 4 on last week's 'to do' list.

1. Dionne Swift's course.

2. The book of the week.

3. My piece for Visual Marks, plus making some stamps, both for next month.

4. The self-imposed nine part series for Contemporary Textiles Workshop, for after Easter.

5. Knitting.

Here are the stamps, and my test stampings.  The image in the centre shows the cloth we painted at Visual Marks, which inspired it all. What we are going to do with them will be revealed at the next meeting...

And this is my 3D, fit-in-a-coffee-cup series. (Yeh, right. Individually, maybe, sort of.) From top left to bottom right, washers, paper coils, laced broken chopstircks, knitted worms I cord, embroidery (!), wrapped pipe cleaners, gathered cloth, sprayed paper balls, buttons.


I realised that although my original intention had been to represent everyone's marks from the original exercise, (see left), I'd ended up mostly doing circles and lines. So I converted the sort-of-leaf shapes into spirals, made some more lines and circles, constructed an outer box and called it done.

I enjoyed doing it, which is probably why I let it take priority over more urgent things. I've made odd little things in boxes before, and there may possibly be more in my future, when I've decided what I want to do when I grow up - apart from being Scandinavian, which is already decided (or Welsh). (Indecisive, moi?)

Today I've started my challenge for Visual Marks - the thing which has to be a 16" oval collage, including lace and felt, inspired by the sea, and sea green in colour. 

The first two criteria were my biggest problem - I usually work smaller or much bigger than 16", and the thought of a 16" oval was very scary uninspirational. But then I realised that A3 paper is just over 16" on the longer side, and if you fold it in half you get A4-ish book pages. So I could make a book and put a sea themed oval cartouche on the front. That was a step forward, but I was fixated on the idea that the cartouche would have to contain a representational image of the sea - you know, beach, sea, sky, waves, maybe a dinghy and some seagulls - and I don't do representational. Plus I had a bit of Shakespeare running through my head - this bit.

    Full fathom five thy father lies; 

              Of his bones are coral made; 

    Those are pearls that were his eyes: 

              Nothing of him that doth fade, 

    But doth suffer a sea-change 

    Into something rich and strange.                 

My problem was solved when I decided that 'something rich and strange' could be silks, satins, beads, maybe a few pearls - in crazy patchwork. Well, crazy patchwork is sort of like collage, isn't it? So, after Googling how to draw an oval, I started. 

So now my list looks like this:

1. This week's work for Dionne's course -which I intend to tackle tomorrow.

2. The Visual Marks crazy patchwork for next month.

3. Book of the week - also for tomorrow, unless I run out of time, when number 2 will have to stand in.

4. The other sock. Preferably without three attempts at the heel.

Saturday 22 March 2014

How to set priorities and manage your time. By an expert.

I knew this was going to be a busy week, including as it did a birthday do, two childminding days and a meeting of Visual Marks. 

The birthday do (mine) was at Winchester Science Centre (followed by cake at home) and I think that a good time was had by all.

I can't comment on the quality of the Visual Marks session because I led it this month, talking about using mind maps, word association etc. in designing. We played an adaptation of 'embroidery consequences', which I found here. As a result I have to make a 16", oval collage, which includes lace and felt, which is inspired by the sea, and, which, fortuitously, is sea green in colour. And as it was my idea I feel obliged to have a go. Add all that to the book of the week, the work for Contemporary Textiles and the ongoing knitting, and I had plenty to do.

Unfortunately I had forgotten that an on-line course I had signed up for started this week.

The course is Dionne Swift's 'Drawing for Textiles' and having previously taken her 'Developing Sketchbooks' course, (it was good, that's why I signed up for another one) I knew that she would be giving us plenty to do - and I couldn't start till Wednesday.

So in the best principles of time management I made a prioritised list.

1. Dionne's course - daily exercises of up to an hour, to be done this week.

2. The book of the week - for this weekend.

3. My piece for Visual Marks, plus making some stamps, both for next month.

4. The self-imposed nine part series for Contemporary Textiles Workshop, which is so far away I'm not   

    even sure when it is - certainly after Easter...

5. Knitting - no time pressure. (Whew!) 

Knitting is an evening, slumped in front of the telly recovering from the day activity, so it gets done no matter what, and I managed to finish the mittens which started off as socks, and start another pair of socks. (The mittens, and the cowl I made earlier, will, of course, ensure there is no repeat of last year's end of March snow.)

So what did I spend Wednesday and Friday doing? 

These, for CTW.

Plus I've got the makings of two more, and then there's this, using a twisted cord I made earlier. It seemed like a good idea at the time. 

I know what it makes me think of, but if W thinks I'm making another and wearing them, he's being uncharacteristically optimistic.

To be fair to myself, I have spent today having fun layering blind contour drawings, tracing shadows (when there were any shadows to trace), and drawing curved objects using 30cm or 10cm straight lines. Next up is drawing with different media on a long stick, and pattern making with extracts from the drawings - but I've got an app for that... Next week we move on to textiles.

After that I was knackered - so I thought I'd make the book. Earlier in the week, in a fit of optimism, I had pulled out my Tarot Artists' Book Ideation Cards, which suggested I make a manifesto based (!?!), whimsical book, with an asymmetrical, innovative structure, in neutral, muted or pastel colours, including transparency and pockets or windows, using high tech techniques and abstract, non-verbal or garbled text, and collaborating with another artist for the images. So no pressure there. 

Needless to say, I decided to ignore all that and make something really simple and quick. I pulled out Esther K. Smith's 'How to Make Books' which has some interesting versions of simple forms, and spotted an 'instant book' made from an envelope. Good, I have envelopes. 

I happened to choose one with a window in it.  

You may be able to see where this is leading...

A transparent window! That's two of the nine Ideation Card criteria!

I went back the list. 

I thought I could describe it as whimsical, and the colour was muted, so that's another four out of nine. But it wasn't asymmetrical. Could I fold an asymmetrical one? Three books later (you can see them bottom right - the first book, one try-out which worked, one attempt at the real thing which didn't work because I didn't follow the techniques I'd tried out, and my final successful attempt) I had my book. And I decided it was innovative. So that was six! I was two thirds of the way there!

The next problem was to decide what 'manifesto-based' meant. Well, I still don't know, but I know what a manifesto is, so I wrote my own, and used Wingdings to type it out (high tech and garbled text in one go!). I was rather pleased that the Wingdings symbol for the first letter of the title is a bomb, it seemed appropriately manifesto-ish, although mine is entirely peaceful.

So there was just the collaborative image. Well, I can't claim that whoever designs clip art for Microsoft knew s/he was collaborating with me, but, with some difficulty, I found an image which suited my manifesto and added that. (Microsoft were very happy to sell me an expensive copy of Word for my Mac, but whatever I paid them clearly was not enough to persuade them to make it easy to find or download clip art from their website...)

So much for my quick, simple book!

Tomorrow will be spent drawing with things on sticks and making stamps. Or not, as the case may be.

* i assume that you, gentle reader, recognise irony when you meet it. 

Friday 14 March 2014

Where was I?

As I remember, bracing myself for the invasion of the little guys. But before that, I went to another session of the Contemporary Textiles Workshop, which was not what quite what I was expecting. We had been told to bring sticks and wire, so I was anticipating 3D constructions of a type I've done before. 

We started with a communal mark making activity on paper, similar to those we've done at Visual Marks. We picked a mark and made it repeatedly on each sheet of paper, using a variety of media. The papers were torn up, and we all got 4 pieces to inspire us in working on a series ('a series is more than two') of 3D pieces. Which had to fit into a cup.

The marks included circles, spirals, leaf and tree like marks, and my split circle with a line through it which has developed from my initials. The difficulty was, of course, moving from 2D to 3D, but in my bedtime reading I'd come across some designs made with what I can only describe as overgrown quilling, in circular frames. Inspired by the circle and spirals I decided to use torn paper strips to make short tubes (now what does that remind me of?), but in a square frame because it was easier to do. I measured the tutor's rather large cup to make sure it would fit. It will, provided I don't get too enthusiastic about making it reach the bottom. Or much beyond the lip, really...

One thing led to another and before long I had two frames. The contents of the second were made from some mono-printed fabric with spirals on it, although as I gathered it you can't see them. However the graininess of the print resembles some of the marks.

I have since made another frame, with added buttons. Circles again. The colour scheme is pretty repetitive for me, too. I have a mad ambition to make 9 in total, and fit them in an outer frame, hence the pile of recycled and painted sushi chopsticks, (which were not the sticks I'd taken and which are now not going to become another piano hinge book). I think things may drift a little from the original inspiration, however...

Everything went onto the back burner, of course, while the little guys were here. The new sleeping arrangements were given their seal of approval - to the extent that we had to go upstairs every couple of hours to look at 'my new Thomas bed'. It was the first thing mummy and daddy were shown when they came to collect the pair. Babybel assured me that the horse blanket was exactly what she had wanted when she asked me to make her one, so that was a success too.

Since Sunday, however, things have not been so successful. The latest pair of socks has been frogged as I realised that there was just not enough wool to make two. I started a pair of mittens/hand warmers (depending on wool consumption) but the first one has also been frogged because I realised that my stitch count was off, and I needed a bigger size.

And my plans to make another 6 framed 3D constructions were put on one side when I got caught up in a major workroom re-organisation. Since last autumn I have been slowly working through all the books in my workroom, deciding which ones to keep, and which to get rid of. (Local charity shops will be receiving several bags of books.)

I wasn't intending to tackle the shelf full of sketchbooks after I had finished all the proper books*and I can't remember now how I got started, but once I had, I had to finish. Most of what I used to call 'sketchbooks' pre C&G, were just scrapbooks, and my tastes have clearly changed since then, so the majority of those have gone in the recycling. (One of the few advantages of having used glue stick is that it was very easy to remove the few images I did want to keep.)

I have preserved almost all of the proper 'sketchbooks' - not that there are many 'sketches' in them, mostly cut paper, prints etc. I was pleased by how interesting I found the pre- and post-degree ones - and surprised by how uninspiring the degree ones were - perhaps a reflection of my lack of confidence about what I was doing? 

After I'd sorted the sketchbooks, I had to rearrange all the other books. Good exercise with floor to ceiling shelves. But I now have much less junk on the work surface - all my works in progress in their cat litter trays are neatly stacked on some of the emptied shelves. It won't stay neat for long - and 'neat' is, of course, a relative term...

Apart from the sorting and unknitting, not much creative has happened, although I did find time one insomniac night to make a series of books of the week, using the inspirational papers from CTW. 

And we managed some gallery visits. We had a day off from grandchild minding on Monday, so went down to Walford Mill to see the Cabinets of Curiosities exhibition - some good stuff. And on Wednesday between Wensleydale's haircut and my birthday lunch, we went to the Discovery Centre to see 'Hidden' - massive photographs of people like Hilda of Whitby and Tom Paine, and events like the Peasants' Revolt and the Swing Riots. No, photography wasn't invented then, but Red Saunders has recreated them on a large and dramatic scale. The accompanying video was well worth looking at, too.

Now I've written all that lot, I wonder why I feel I haven't done much?

*well, those in the workroom - there are a few more in the spare bedroom, which will get the treatment soon. 

Wednesday 5 March 2014

The good, the bad and the ugly.

I didn't think I would have time for a book of the week this week, but the combination of an insomniac night (bad) and coming across the instructions for these little things (good) meant that I managed to make two in about 10 minutes. I stuck pretty close to the instructions, but used card for the cover, and a couple of glue dots to keep the pockets in place.

I think the little guys may like to draw in these when they come at the weekend, but they would also make good pocket notebooks, although I would staple or sew those rather than the suggested elastic band binding I've used for these.

Insomniac nights have also allowed  the completion and testing of the insomniac socks (ugly) which are too big, but reasonably warm - and as W. said, they are big enough to wear another pair underneath on really cold nights.

I took a break from socks to make a cowl, inspired by this pattern, I recently bought a fuchsia coat and although I have enough scarves to start a shop, none of them matched. So this single hank of Colinette which has been languishing in the stash for years, was brought out, and I searched Ravelry  for a pattern you can make with 50 metres of lumpy bouclĂ©. 

As you can see from the link, mine turned out a little longer than the original - long enough to wear as a hood (good) - and I used about 49 of those metres. However if I did it again - and I might - I would cast on a few more stitches to make it slightly wider.  

This is definitely ugly. No, I haven't lost my marbles. Well, I don't think I have. 

When I took my sketchbook to the last meeting of Visual Marks, E. suggested that the net, lace and machine embroidery samples I'd made could be used for silk screening. I didn't want to use those samples, so I decided to make another one - and realised it was a good opportunity to use up some of the uglier bits of lace in my collection, and to empty a few bobbins. Hence the rather interesting colour combinations. I won't get a chance to try it till after the little guys have been, so watch this space.

The most recent VM challenge is looking good, although I severely underestimated the number of soldered pink flowers I would need, chiefly because I thought that dotting single ones up and down the lace would work. It didn't. So I have spent the afternoon making several more, and hoping I don't run out of fabric before I've got enough. 

I managed to avoid doing this again with the soldering iron. Definitely bad, although surprisingly unpainful at the moment. I anticipate it getting worse when the blister bursts.

Saturday 1 March 2014


Oddment 1.

More experiments with inks - plus a bit of fabric painting and some rubbings.  The inks had additions of freezer paper, washing up liquid, string (very little effect) and cling film. The rubbings were taken from the stump of the late tree. I hoped to get rings but what I got were saw marks...

The fabric painting is the beginning of the February challenge for Visual Marks - I showed you the oversized shoe lace earlier. I'm not sure what it is made of but I'm sure it is synthetic so I used silk paint rather than dye - and added some synthetic fabric and some cotton thread to the mix, while I was at it. Which  brings me to...

Oddment 2.

The fabric turned out a little pale, and a dragon mysteriously appeared. Well, it is St David's Day, and I am listening to Bryn Terfel. And my cherry tree is  flowering, so I felt it was time for a little blossom.

Oddment 3.

Socks have been completed and another pair started. The green ones are great, apart from the odd coloured spots, the mauve ones are turning out rather large - and I have remembered why I don't like acrylic yarn. I think they will become insomnia socks, kept in the pocket of my dressing gown for those small hours of the morning, cold feet moments.

Oddment 4.

The books of the week have been made. 

This one is recycled packaging, and the single leaf Coptic stitch binding from Keith Smith's 'Sewing Single Sheets'.

This one is a piano hinge binding, after (a long way after, due to not reading instructions properly) the instructions in Alisa Golden's 'Unique Handmade Books', (and no, I didn't pay that much for it!).

We have been eating a lot of Waitrose sushi recently, and because I am too cack handed to eat it with the provided  chopsticks, I had to think of a way of recycling them. They are just the right size to make an A5 book, which is very convenient. I have tried this binding before and I still find it clumsy, but I can see more in my future, unless I can think of another way to recycle the chopsticks.

I made two because, when I said the little guys were coming this weekend, I mis-spoke, it's next weekend, so I doubt there will be much bookmaking. Unless I show Babybel how to make a little folded book and let her decorate it. It is about time I did some more crafty stuff with them, we've just about got the glitter out of the carpet from Christmas!