Sunday, 24 April 2011


I'll be quite glad when Easter is over this year.

First of all, I've wasted DAYS dyeing squares of fabric in rainbow hues and bedecking the washing line with multicoloured prayer flags:

And I've gone through a truly shameful number of freezer bags:

All because I found out my course is continuing after Easter and I promised my students we would play with dyes.  So if I'm teaching it, I need to know what I'm doing.  And dyeing a few bits in plastic bags in a litter tray at home is very different to dyeing a few bits multiplied by the number of students in a room with one small sink and no hot water supply. 

And to make matters worse, this morning I was painting sketchbook pages with leftover dye solution and left a pot of dye on the window sill, and the wind got under it and tipped it up onto the patio.  So we now have turquoise splats on our lovely new paving stones.

And even worse than that, the dye I had used was Dylon and it occurred to me afterwards that as it already has the soda mixed in, my pages are now painted with alkali dye and will probably rot or do something heinous.

So I comforted myself at lunch with a truly massive simnel muffin.

of which we had made a dozen:

And we had one each at lunch, leaving nine.

Except when we finished our cup of tea, there were only six.

Because one had disappeared without trace into the Whippet and another two were half chewed on the worktop.

Whippets are tall and have long noses.

They can also be fatally poisoned  by any sort of raisin, sultana or grape.

Whippets don't like being dosed with soda crystals, and when that doesn't work, salt solution, and when that doesn't work a trip to the V.E.T.  On a Sunday.  And not just any Sunday.  Oh no, why not do it in style.

The only thing that has gone right this weekend are the HCBs:


Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Acoustic image transfer

After taking a multitude of photos at Ightham Mote  (see previous post) I was then faced with the inevitable problem of what to do with them all.

First I dumped them all onto the PC.
Then I made a collage in Picasa.

Then I thought I would like to have print outs of the patterns, as it was the patterns that caught my eye and I wanted to record them - which is why I took over 100 photos - but printing out photos of dark wood carvings would use up all the printer ink, which as we all know is one of the most expensive liquids on Earth.

So I transferred a photo to Photoshop and tried to invert it, so the dark became light and vice versa, thinking I would then just be able to print the "lines" of the design.  But it just looked like a plaster cast and I knew it wouldn't print.

So in the end there was nothing for it but to reach for a piece of paper from the scrap paper tray, and the first writing/drawing implement to hand, which happened to be a black rollerball, and transfer the images acoustically.  By hand.  Drawing.

And I think I'm quite pleased with the result.  Not brilliant, but not too bad.

It also dawned on me that this is precisely what "everyone" tells you to do - draw from the original.  And wouldn't you know it, they're all right.  And it only took 5 minutes to do these scrappy little sketches, so I could well have just plonked myself down on the floor of Ightham Mote and drawn them there and then (ten year olds and short attention spans permitting). 

For some reason I was reminded of my first summer at college when one afternoon I drank the best part of a bottle of wine whilst sunbathing on the roof of the halls of residence, and suffered the inevitable consequences*.  Sometimes you just have to find these things out for yourself, often the hard way.

*I didn't fall off the roof, but it felt very much as if I had. 

Saturday, 16 April 2011

What a lovely day

After a tiring and rattly bus trip to Brighton with the Girl yesterday (we went to ransack the Lego shop with birthday monies) we fancied something a bit different today. 

So we ventured over hill and dale and the Ashdown Forest and found ourselves in Otford for the Sevenoaks EG branch exhibition.  After finding a particularly wiggly (but beautiful) cross-country route I have now been dubbed "Chief Nagivator" and no, that is not a spelling mistake.  Ha ha, people.  I have a feeling I'm going to be stuck with this one...

Anyway, we knew we were there when the Husband started playing "spot the old lady" as we turned into the car park.  As penance for being rude I didn't let him go in and get a cup of tea and cake, he had to stay outside and play on the swings with the Girl.  Anyway, I enjoyed the exhibition and bumped into lots of people I knew.  A very friendly bunch, the Sevenoaks lot, and not "old ladies" at all!

Then, because some of us needed a cup of tea, we wiggled our way further into the Kent countryside to Ightham Mote - which we've been wanting to visit for ages, but because it's a wiggly journey we needed more of a reason - so thank you Sevenoaks Guild!

And I think we're going to be back.  There were so many fab patterns in the house.  I did the embarrassing Mum thing and went round taking photos of fireplaces and bits of furniture:

And I took far too many photos of apple blooth:

And then finally we had to return to the Woo (aka the Whippet) who we'd left home alone.  But at least we didn't leave him in a prison, like this Grade I listed prison at Ightham:

He was still cross, and had managed to steal the oven gloves AGAIN even though we thought we'd left them out of reach.

And to round off the afternoon I had one of my favourite new drinks involving these ingredients:

which mixed with some fizzy water make this drink of purest green

I invented this because I was drinking fizzy beer to wash down these

And the combination of beer and naughty chilli crackers is not good for the waistline.  I've replaced the beer, but I can't break the chilli cracker habit just yet.  They're just too good. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

We have achieved. Mightily.

Spring having sprung and all that, I thought it was time for a sort out.  First I sorted through all my WIPs and UFOs and even chucked some stuff. 
Very liberating.  

Then I tackled the problem of the exploding sheers

(Don't tell anyone, but I just put them in a different drawer.  They still explode, but slightly less so).

And I created order here

And I tidied the bottom bit, where things tended to get stuffed in with the embellisher, and even managed to find a place for my paint brushes and jam jars so they don't have to live in the kitchen next to the bread bin.  Here it all is, pre-tidying:

And after many hours which became days, we now have this:

My “studio” is very clever - it's actually a cupboard, made to fit exactly between the living room door, the dining room table and the dog crate cage prison - but I have to be very tidy for it to work.  Ah.  Therein lies the problem.  I'm not sure it's humanly possible to be creative AND tidy.  And despite my perpetual doubts and worries, I think I must be creative as I'm definitely not tidy.  What's more, it's hereditary. 

Here is a glimpse of the Girl's desk, as at first thing this morning:

and THIS is my absolute favourite and best bit

You just have to love all the strings and paperclips and party hooters and tinsel and beads and pebbles and small plastic creatures, all held together in a delicate entangled web of delight.  You have to love it, because questioning its existence and listening to the answer creates a sort of crushing fizzing pain behind the temples only soothed by large G&Ts and lie-downs on sofas.

But feeling brave, and spurred on by my own desk drawer emptying triumphs, I thought it would be a good idea to have a go at sorting through this



And Lo.  After many gruelling hours of negotiation and three black bin bags, we found this

We love the Girl and all her creativity, and wouldn't have her any other way. 
We love her even more now because as well as being very stoical about the desk tidying, she has learnt to make this:

Friday, 8 April 2011

Pale and interesting

Continuing on my theme of plants, leaves and strippy "patchwork",
I made a book

thick with handmade (not by me) paper pages, with a couple of cords to hold it together.

Here is the front:

and here is the back:

I got all worried that it wasn't botanically correct.

Which gave me an idea.
Maybe my university days and my BSc in Horticulture* won't be wasted after all!

I'm off to the woods later to sketch more wild flowers while the Whippet chases squirrels.  I also hope to find some more half-haycorns.  I don't know what I'm going to do with them, but I'm getting a little obsessive about finding them now.

*You certainly wouldn't know this about me from looking at my garden...

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Back on track - again

I feel I may have lost the plot over the past week.

It may be because I'm getting slightly twitchy about this - my name is up, but so far no pictures.  But it's there.  Which means I really have to start getting some work together.  And therein lies the problem.

When I finished my machine embroidery diploma in 2009, my tutor and I both agreed that a personal style was beginning to emerge. 

I've spent the last 18 months trying to find it again. 
Trying to grasp it and get a hold of what it could be feels like trying to grab hold of sand slipping through my fingers.

I know some may feel that having a defined "style" may be rather limiting, but right now I think I need limits: I've been faffing around and playing for too long.  The problem with doing City & Guilds is that over the years you try EVERYTHING and so when starting a new project I could use ANY material in ANY method and the result is that I feel permanently STUCK!! 

Following yet another Google search for "finding personal style" I found some advice to:

Take one subject
Take one (limited) colour palette
Take one medium/method

And you basically do this for as long as it takes.  Obviously the more you do, the quicker something starts to emerge.

I woke up on Monday and knew it had to be "plants", specifically "leaf".  And after several weeks too many faffing about with glue and paint, I'm back to stitching strips of fabric together.  Something that has always worked.  I liked the leaf sample I did a few weeks back on collage fabric/paper, so I incorporated the sheer applique with the strips - new twist.  And I found a new and better way of adding papers without using paste and emulsion and varnish...

Here are a couple of first attempts:

They are only tiny, but I feel that I'm home again.

I'm not a "slap any old thing down and keep the loose ends showing and call it art" sort of person, so why was I trying to be? 
I'm a bit of a neat freak.  I like lines.

Well, I say neat, just don't look at my desk at the moment.  Or my ironing* pile.

* We never iron clothes.  Something has gone badly wrong if someone has to get the ironing board out.  We use the "sedimentary" method of getting our clothes flat - ie. we stack them neatly folded in the airing cupboard and let gravity and time do their magic.  Sometimes, and today is such a time, the pile threatens to topple over, and clean socks and pants have to be "mined".  We feel so deeply attached to this method of dealing with our laundry that one of us even wrote a poem about it.

Friday, 1 April 2011

'Nuther landscape

Here's yet another landscape after I told myself I wouldn't do one again:

But I was quite pleased with the sketch, done on a dog walk last week. 
I really liked the lines of trees and criss-cross fields, and the view across to the Downs.

The background is paper and fabric collage, overpainted with some watered down "jasmine white" from a tester pot found in the garage, then sealed with some acrylic matt varnish used for the shelves in the porch...I then stitched all over with the "utility" stitch patterns on my machine.

I won't be doing it again and definitely don't recommend the above method for making a background - I had to hoover a fine dust of paint particles from the innards of the Bernina.