Thursday, 29 December 2011


A pleasant day spent doing more of the same - trying different ideas and colourways for this lovely stencil. Photo's look a bit flat but some sense of depth is being achieved. Yesterday's work was on heavyweight cotton rag paper and todays is worked straight  into my journal.

Tomorrow I shall start experimenting on fabrics. I have in mind some of my French Linen.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Back in the workroom

It's so good to be 'making' again after the Christmas break. Very soothing and calming to be playing with some rich colours.
On our way back from visiting our daughter and a wonderful lunch in Fortnums in  London last week we called into Artvango at Knebworth, as always we had a really warm welcome from Kevin (and a welcome coffee). It's a dangerous place to visit  especially when basking in a glow of Christmas largesse. I came across some cotton rag paper which I often use as it takes paint and stitch so well. I usually use the 210gsm weight but just had to try out some 640gsm I found on the shelf, it's practically a board so it should take a lot of  abuse with paints and dyes and stitch.
I have had this copper stencil which I found in an antique shop in Cromarty during my last Visit to Scotland. The very knowledgeable owner thought it may have been applied to linen that was imported into Cromarty from Eastern Europe at least a hundred years ago, may be more.

I have used procion dyes, Golden iridescent acrlyic, Inktense and gel crayons to create an image from the stencil. The next part will be to challenge my much abused sewing machine to sew around the edges of the design.
This is all part of my explorations for an Emb.Guild challenge for an exhibition in the coming year. So I really am doing some proper work and not messing about with 'eye candy' although it is a teeny bit glitzy.

Happy new year to all those people who have looked at my blog during the past year I hope to make it a more exciting affair in the coming year as I get to grips with posting and adding a bit more interest and gadgets to the presentation.
Happy crafting to all!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Looking Back

It's interesting to look back at the things that I have  been involved with this year. As per usual I have shown little self discipline and allowed myself to pursue whatever takes my fancy, from quilt making to bookmaking, drawing, embroidery, collage, crochet and dozens of other things I've already forgotten. Oh well - a lot of fun was had on the way and it all percolates away in my head and informs each subsequent piece of work.

I have also worked on a couple of large projects for a couple of exhibitions next year, I won't show any images of these pieces until the exhibitions are over but the interesting thing about them is that they are almost devoid of colour. Given that I am known amongst my peers for quite vibrant colour combinations I think they will be quite surprised by my sudden show of restraint.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Vintage Vibes

My buttons were taking on a distinct 50's feel so I have carded them up onto a pictures taken from an old American McCalls magazine circa 1954. I should have written  'elegant buttons for elegant ladies', typically I didn't give it enough thought. Too much to do at this time of year  (but then haven't we all).

I have not put this one onto the card backing yet. When it is  finished that will be the last of the handmade presents and I will still have enough buttons left to put into my components box for future projects.
I have to say I adore these  images of 1950's languid, elegant ladies and love the current vintage trend that a lot of  women have adopted. Alas being very short and dumpy does not make for elegance.....  one can but dream.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Buttoned Up

The last few days have flown by - a visit by family from Ullapool has passed all too quickly (as good company always does). Whilst chatting and catching up on news I kept my hands busy by embroidering a few buttons. I had some procion dyed linen that I had produced a couple of years ago and thought that it would be perfect for what I had in mind.

I made the first two or three by embroidering before I assembled the button -  this meant accurate measuring was needed for each design but I quickly discovered that it was much easier to make the button up before stitching.

I was amazed at how quickly the finished buttons mounted up. I shall make a couple of dozen or so to add to my component box which contains elements to use in large pieces of work, which honestly I am going to start on soon.

These are not an original idea, I have seen lots of similar (and better stitched on Flicker), however each one is a different design as I'm making them up as I go along. Another fun thing to do that doesn't demand much concentration.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Winter at Last?

All of a sudden it feels like crochet time  - nothing nicer than sitting beside the fire on a cold Sunday afternoon and playing with colours by producing little gems of crochet. These pieces often end up in larger pieces of work combined with embroidery or will form a blanket should I feel so inclined.

I am definitely not a cuddly toy kind of person but when grand children come along you forget your prejudices and start thinking cute toys. This is the first one I did from a pattern. He was subsequently 'loved to death. It didn't take long to start designing my own little creatures.

Sadly grandchildren grow up too quickly.This year I have been asked by the boys if I can produce a Super Mario figure and a killer robot.......boys! 

Friday, 25 November 2011

A Little Creativity

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in London, Thursday at the Knit and Stitch show in Harrogate. All very enjoyable  but today I needed to ease myself into 'making' again. I dived into my saved papers box  and pulled out a wad of used envelopes that I collected a couple of years ago ( it doesn't take long to amass a huge amount of these with all the junk mail we receive). I save the ones with the printed interiors. I also had an old brown envelope from Hong Kong that felt like rag so I used that to make the cover. I always draw and doodle on my shopping lists so I thought a collection of these would be interesting to look at  in a few years time - a bit of a glimpse into domestic life at a moment in time. 

I sewed it together using the same method as I did for the Kantha book. I like the contrast of the used, creased papers with the considered binding. I also alternated the pages so that some have the printed side showing and some have the envelope fronts on view. Even without anything put on the pages it looks interesting with the advertising and addresses showing.

Very crude and rustic but quite pleasing, mmm... I wonder what other non - conventional papers I can use for background pages?

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Uproar in the Garden

What a pity that I had to take this shot through the sitting room window, it is a good shot but could have been a great one with a little more clarity (and cleaner windows).
I was still in bed when John got up to make us an early morning coffee and called me to the window. I was still a bit sleep fuddled and originally thought it was a huge thrush but as my eyes focused I could see it was a hawk of some sort. I ran down stairs, grabbed the camera and literally crept on all fours to the sitting room window the sparrowhawk was about four feet away. The collared dove was plucked and eaten in about ten minutes. Cruel, but fascinating to watch so closely. We have Red Kites flying around on a daily basis but I have never seen a Sparrowhawk up so close and personal before.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Not So Productive

When I last posted I was planning to get on with 'the next big thing'.  Thinking time was over and planning, sampling and exploration was about to take place, however this last week has passed in a non - functioning daze. Strange bug - no voice until about lunchtime,  a pounding headache and very little sleep - still struggling to get on top of it. Never the less a little bit of drawing has taken place, therapeutic colouring in really (just like an ill child). These are the watercolour papers left over from the pages of last week's Kantha book. I'm making a little book of imaginary landscapes, I think that these are heavily influenced by the Highlands.
We have taken some of the big storage units out of the workroom this week and put them in the under used dining room. This has raised the light levels enormously, John and I seem to spend almost all of our time in the work room because it is the lightest room in the house during winter.We are most definitely creatures of the light!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

After a Little Consideration

So - following on from yesterday I made the front and back cover attatched them to boards and sewed the linings on. Then came the fun part stitching the book togther. This is the method I took from the Kemshall ladies tutorial on DMtv. I was so pleased with how it came together - totally down to Laura's teaching skills.

Lots of stitching went into the front and back of this book so I'm really happy that the binding hasn't let it down.

I have filled the book with lovely watercolour paper and will enjoy thinking of what to put in it. It's always good to have a blank book or two around for a special project so I won't hurry to fill this one.

The back is plainer but the lovely kantha stitching has given it a beautiful and tactile texture.
I feel some painted papers coming on next,  my stash is getting quite depleted - a lovely excuse for a huge mess in the work room.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Desparately Seeking Colour

What a grey day (oh dear - that's a bit Larry Grayson isn't it?)
I can't make any of my colours 'Sing'. I'm stitching away at the cover for the next book I'm making. By mid-day I had been stitching away for three hours and realised I hadn't moved from my chair in all that time.  Twenty minutes on my treadmill and a few neck exercises thrown in for good measure and I'm ready to switch to my previous book and fill a couple of pages. 

I'm using the text as a link throughout this little book but other than that I'm just letting the pages flow in a seemingly random way. This may spark an idea for a larger piece of work. On the other hand it might not but I'm having fun anyway.

I will get back to my new book cover this afternoon as I want to start sewing pages to it before tomorrow's 'Calico' meeting.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Stitching the Woodwork

Great fun making this  - very labour intensive for a 10cm x 12cm little book, but the great discovery for me is that you can sew through balsa wood.  Of course this first book was rushed together on a wave of excitement and lots of things can be improved, such as using a ruler a ruler next time instead of eye, especially for the stitched binding.

It is pleasing isn't it? (in an eye candy kind of way).

I shall, over the next few weeks fill it up with painted papers and stitch. I will theme it round the little title on the cover - 'Unruly Passions' which for me is all about my need to keep making eye candy when I should be making things that I am already committed to, however I have already started to make my next book. I will post as I go along to give you an idea of the process.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Omiyage Pumpkin?

It was fatal looking in the Omiyage  book that I mentioned in my last post. Two days of demented stitching has produced this little bag that a Japanese lady might keep her tea making equipment in. It looks very seasonal - like a carved pumpkin .  I think this was down to the fabric I chose, a lovely print from South Africa which I bought from a visit to Beecrafty in Ellington ( thank you Sarah). I think the little fan print looks oriental -  anyway - its a Japanese bag made with South African fabric and it was a challenge to make.

This is the bottom view all squishy and puffy.

And this is some of the 150 pieces that went into the making of it. It wasn't until I started cutting that I realised just how complex it was and all hand sewn.
This week's Emb.Guild. was a fantastic mini workshop on Kantha with Libby Smith who generously shared some of her work with us. Kantha is lovely but I was also inspired by a little handmade book she had brought along. I am currently into combining it with a bookbinding method that Laura Kemshall demonstrated on DMTV last week and hopefully I can come up with a piece done in my own style but sparked off by two great textilers. I'm saying nothing about the work I should be doing, but I am going along with Gina's idea of  'thinking time'.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Art of Giving

Last year I was so industrious and inspired by Kumiko Sudo's book - Omiyage that by the end of November I had a dozen of these little chrysanthemum bags made and filled with chocolates. Eight of them were ear-marked for girlfriends and the other four for last minute gifts. I had a budget of five pounds each for these presents - but honestly what can you buy for that amount these days  - certainly nothing as special as a hand made gift. 

I also had the enjoyment of stamping and printing the gift tags. So - if you are stuck for small gift ideas I really recommend this book . There are so many cute ideas to explore in it and it is a great way to use up scraps of fabric (although I would have to sew non-stop for two years to use up all of my scraps and some people who shall be nameless would probably need ten).

The baubles are progressing and looking more christmasy - I know I should stop making pretties and get on with some serious stuff  (I really have committed myself work wise for next year), but a little glitz now and then lifts the spirits and the repetitive nature of  making these baubles gives me thinking time for what to get up to next. Well that's my excuse anyway! 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Puting the garden to bed.

Many, many years ago when I first left school and couldn't decide what I wanted to do in life I trained as a florist. I have never regretted this choice as it taught me so much about so many things. The first lesson was about hard work  - not the  the lady like profession you would think it would be  but very cold, long hours on your feet, very early starts, deadlines and disasters with such an ephemeral product. The thing I value the most from those days  is that it taught me composition. The repetition of using such a variety of shapes and colours to form a pleasing arrangement is something that I rarely have to think about, thanks to that early practise. 
 I was stuck into clearing the overgrown veg plot and borders today when I just had to make a table top autumn arrangement before the frosts kill the tender plants in the borders. I know the wind will blow it away but thanks to the wonders of digital photography a moment captured in time.

Ornamental cucumbers in the afternoon sunshine. Very pleasing textures but not edible.

A Christmas bauble worked whilst visiting our children and grandchildren yesterday. Green and red but the camera is reading it as orange and turquoise or is it my eyes?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

This and that.

Today has really settled me into being back home - a whole day of social sewing with two good friends, laughing and dreaming up all the things we are going to do in our monthly meetings in the coming year. We have decided that messy is the best way the spend the day day so lots of dyeing, painting, gluing,melting and general experimentation to look forward to. It was also lovely to get back to friends in my other sewing group 'Calico' yesterday, with a change of venue to look forward to in the new year.

Whilst we were talking today I was making another bead - quite a bit larger than I usually make - this is about one and a half inches in size. It didn't look anywhere near as elegant as the usual half inch, three quarter inch and one inch that I usually make. I was going to put it down as a failed sample  but with a threaded loop looks a perfect size for a christmas bauble. I think I shall try some in christmasy colours.
The other thing I have been working on is a new 'raggy' ( new readers see old posts for the rationale behind a raggy).

Looks very random at this stage but a few months of mindless stitching will pull it all together, but even at this early stage a little masking and framing reveals some lovely areas starting to form.

It never ceases to amaze me that out of such randomness little compositions start to form.

I'm looking forward to an evening of mindless tv. and equally mindless stitching my raggy.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Last day of workshop

This is how my sample wall ended up by Friday lunchtime and in the afternoon I felt the need to leave the colours behind and produce something a little quieter.

Emulsion painted cotton - sewing ephemera and a little pencil work. I made it for John as a little thank you for treating me to the course as an early xmas present. As the end of the day approached my thoughts turned to going home on Monday.

                                         What a wonderful week with a fabulous bunch of ladies.

I shall be packing up the exhibition pieces tomorrow and saying a sad farewell to my relatives and friends but it will also be good to get home again.