Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring and all that Jazz

Wow, but it is lovely weather. Haven't had the central heating on properly for ages - just a quick blast in the morning and the log fire at night. Good stuff.

Blogger is being very unhelpful and won't show me my comments from last time, so apologies for that.

I went with my stitchy mates on a retreat to the Kingcombe Centrea week or so ago and finished lots of stuff for the cutting book - including all the centres for the garlands.

Since I have been home I have wrapped miles and miles of thread for the poles. It doesn't show much but I know it is there.

I have some fine tuning to do as the flowery bits are pinned to the poles at present but most of it is there.

At the Kingcombe centre (which belongs to the Dorset Wildlife Trust) they have a cabinet containing a 19th century butterfly collection. I hate the idea of the poor things trapped in there (I know they're not really but you know what I mean) and think I might do a piece on 'Beauty Caged'. Quite excited and have borrowed a butterfly cutter from my granddaughter and made a start. Looked at the shapes of some of the exhibits..........

........ and got a bit creative. It turned into an article for the June issue of Workshop on the Web so I shan't show the result yet.

I have already confessed on Facebook that my time at Kingcombe had an ignominious end when, having been on a fairly strict diet and not had sugar for ages, I succumbed to the wonderful cream meringues at the final dinner and was ill all night. Entirely self inflicted! Clive had to come and rescue me. However my splitting headache turned out to be caffeine withdrawal and I was fine after a coffee. I don't drink a lot of coffee but do like it strong and black. Just shows what a powerful drug it is.


Monday, 10 March 2014

Home again - briefly

Just back from a great trip to Jersey, courtesy of the Harbour Gallery's Jersey Textile Showcase. I went over to judge some of the competitions and it was a very hard task as the standard was so high.  Here are some of the winners - not great photos because of the reflection but you will see how high the standard was..

Naomi Renouf has written for Workshop on the Web in the past and her work is as good as ever.  Endlessly fascinated by the landscape of her island, she still manages to produce something different every time.

Lisa Bloomer's work was a winner under the Mixed Media category. She screen prints most successfully on everything from silk paper to brown wrapping paper. I love this one which uses minimal stitch but makes that stitch such an important part.

Also - these lively dog studies - the one on silk paper was lovely, but I didn't get a close up - durrr.

This very interesting piece came from Victoria Goddard. When you look at the detail you will see why I chose her for the stitching award.

So many different techniques, skilfully applied so that each piece fitted and the overall effect was not 'bitty'.

After the Gala dinner - an excellent meal and luckily served in the hotel where I was staying as it was a very foggy night - a wonderful sunrise to greet. This was the view from my room.

Then it was off to judge the open competition in a local church. Some of the entries from schools were very good. This entry won the category for imaginative display. We  done L'abbe school.

This one really captured the essence of the theme - Festivals - as it looked at the Rio carnival. I didn't catch the name of the school but will try to come back and correct that.

It was such a lovely couple of days and even the flights were fun. Going over, I sat in the midst of a netball team and they were lovely girls. We had a real laugh. Coming back I bonded over a take-off fruit pastille (it was hard on the ears) with a very glam lady who worked for the teenage cancer trust. She was so committed and told me all the great initiatives they had in progress. Especially building units in hospitals for young cancer patients to avoid them going in the children's ward. If you are looking for a good cause, that is certainly a winner. Must think what we could do on WoW. We had a book challenge once for the tsunami victims - perhaps a sketchbook challenge could work for us.

I am now packing to go to Kingcombe with Textiles 21 for a relaxing few days of chatting, eating and stitching. Poor Clive will be abandoned again.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Birch Blog Finished

Phew - just about got it finished today. Slaving over a hot needle last night while the wind howled and the rain lashed and the lights flickered. Smudge was sure it was our fault and he kept shouting at us to get it fixed.

I have hung the piece in the porch and, while I am quite pleased with it, I feel it is a little busy but, when I removed some leaves it looked too bare. So there will probably be some tinkering yet.

I may take out some of the leaves and add little trails of flowers - I happen to have just the thing. We will see.

Details of the piece are shown below, from top to bottom. I do feel that blogging every day made me work on a project when I might otherwise not have done. On reflection, it would have probably been better to do it when I had a week clear of other matters an was not trying to put the finishing touches to March WoW and various urgent bits of business. Let me know what you think.

From the top.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Birch Blog Day 5

No, I haven't quite finished it. Yes, that was my intention, but life got in the way and it's been a day full of phone calls and NPW (non-productive work). There is also the fact that the wonderful lady who keeps our house clean came today. She has seven children and a life like a soap opera, so I can't bear to miss the latest instalment. She also never charges for chat time - even though she goes through the house like a human dynamo when we've had our chat.

One other excuse is my feeling that I needed some bigger leaves as they were all a bit samey - an inevitable consequence of using the cutter. I made one a bit bigger by cutting the Vilene and leaving a gap behind the metal so that it formed a border in front - see below. 

That was OK but I cut a few big leaves freehand just to help things along. They are painted and I am now waiting for Clive to light the fire (yes, that is sexist and yes, I can light fires, but he is better at it than me) so that they dry out.

Anyway I finished the top part and am pleased with how it looks and the colour and tonal balance. They have now been stitched to the wrapped wire and are firmly in place.

The metal looks good and I have darkened some of the leaves and used silver wax to wake them up a bit.

The little strip of organza (on extreme right in photo below) with the fringing looked good, which was a bit of a nuisance as I had to make some more and that took ages.

Glad I decided to use the metal but, again, I had to get the cutter out and make some more.

I have been remiss about comments so here are some answers:

Fibrenell - the varnish was called Plasti-coat Krystal Clear, I think he said that B&Q do it but any Plasti-coat stockist would have it. He said that it wasn't completely  mat and it was best to build it in layers of light spray.

On tidy workrooms - I am with Wabbit as I too need the repetition of putting away to soothe me into getting going. Well, it is a good excuse. Adele - I am horrified at your tidiness. Cultivate chaos at once.

Thank you for all the help in choosing the colour scheme and sorry Gill for toning it down a bit. I have made another piece using the leaf die and that is wildly colourful - I will show you tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Birch Thing Day4

This morning was a little tedious as it was mostly taken up with wrapping several miles of thread.

The exciting variant here was adding a strand of wire to give 'bendability' when the leaves are suspended.

The other time consuming operation was getting the hanging device to work. Clive is good at this but there was a lot of trial and error involved - his preferred option of mirror fittings were unsuitable on a bumpy surface.

Eyelets took a long time to fix and then we made the top piece of wood all wonky. I hope you are absorbing all these technical terms. Eventually a metal eyelet at the top was agreed so I had to disguise it with yet more wrapped thread. The next task was to paint a few more coloured leaves in case it needed more contrast.

Finally I gathered all my bits and fixed the wrapped wire to the front. An experiment in the form of a strip of organza with a pattern stitch and a fringed edging was added to the mix. You can see it in the front in the pic below. Some little flowers were made from punched shapes in case a frond or two was needed.

Here is the beginning - bending the wire around the slats of wood, the organza is ready to be folded over the cord with the fringe hanging down.

Then the leaves were pinned into place - a mix of metal and gessoed Vilene, with the odd splash of colour. Note the less than elegant hanging device at the top.

A close-up - the leaves look brighter than they really are. I think it needs a few slightly bigger leaves to change the scale a little.

Finally - the story so far. Tomorrow will be a day of leaf making and probably more wrapping. I am still not convinced about the brighter colours but I think the metal and gesso ones look good.

Focal points will need some thought tomorrow, too - it's getting a bit busy.

I am afraid that Smudge has been very boring today It has been lovely and sunny (praise the Lord) so he lay on his back in the conservatory all day. He says he will try to be more Smudge-like tomorrow That's worrying.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Birch Blog Day 3

Many thanks for all your comments - I am enjoying them and I do read them all. Today was something of a consolidation day - putting in some solid work on the birch bark background and making more wrapped thread (more is still needed) and working some extra leaf experiments.

It started with a visit to Phil,the woodworking son in law. Started early, took my daughter.

As expected the WWSIL had just the right coating for the bark and we tried a sample. As it would take a while to dry the girls decided that we would have an outing to the local 'Treasure House'. Imagine ten car boot sales crammed together in a huge warehouse. A very cold warehouse. Both of my girls are treasure hunters - Fiona does vintage and Claire has a good eye for specialised toys which she re-sells.

Much later, lighter in the purse but heavier in the boot, we returned to find the wood dry and looking good. So I stole the spray from the lovely WWSIL and was home in time for lunch, travelling through atrocious conditions - gale force winds and icy rain.

Not a lot of time left after I had sprayed both sides of the birch.

However, I wrapped some thread and then started some experiments on using the die-cutter on flimsy fabrics. I had previously tried this and failed but a new process was discovered, which worked really well. I am going to be mean and keep it under my hat for now as I am writing an article for Workshop on the Web on cutters, so you will see it then.

I wanted some 'flimsy' leaves to contrast with the heavy Vilene and metal ones and this metallic organza is just the thing. It doesn't look very transparent in the photo but it is in real life. They look good with the leaves that I hand and machine stitched last night.

So tomorrow will be a whole day of putting it together. Hopefully it will be well on the way to being finished before the weekend.

Jane Lemon always says that you should leave your workroom clean and tidy to encourage you to make a start the next day. Hmmmn!

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Birch Blog Day 2

A big thank you to all who dropped in yesterday. The discussion on the best leaves moved between blog comments and Facebook - mixed social media?

Today did not start well as two home truths were discovered quite early on: there was no food in the fridge and there were several urgent emails that needed attention. I also needed to look at the New Products for the March issue of WoW.  It really was 'Wow' as Sam Packer, who tests all the WoW products, had been playing with her Gelli plate, using some interesting implements. Watching her demo at the Devon show had convinced me to get a Gelli but I shan't play with it yet. This is a sample of her gelling.

By the time those issues had been addressed the morning was almost gone.However, as is often the case, a slow start can mean a fast catch up so I set to work just before lunch to produce reams of wrapped thread to join the pieces of wood together. This was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle and took our combined intellect and a quick lunch to sort out. Clive then drilled the holes, making sure they lined up. With great presence of mind I took a photo before he bore them off to the shed.

Lacing was far from easy and I need to make more wrapped yarn so that I can have some knots in dangling down the front of the work.

I needed to get it all hanging together as I am off to visit the WWSIL (wood-working-son-in-law) tomorrow for some advice on whether to wax or varnish the wood. I shall have to take it to bits again to do that so it is quite loosely held together. I shall also seek advice on the hanging mechanism - mirror plates perhaps, as it is quite heavy.

I spent some time dissolving some water soluble paper on a stamp, drying it and then sticking it onto the bark. the edges were dissolved so it looked like part of the surface. It looks OK - better than the photo above suggests.

I tried some of the leaves - almost everyone liked the first and last pic (many thanks for that confirmation) so I combined the Vilene leaves with the metal ones - see below


Looking good, I think and I just about managed to machine embroider two of the leaves which I shall paint tomorrow and see how they look.

Now I am shattered and find myself looking enviously at that cat, fast asleep on the bed.

My cleaning lady thinks that I have trained Smudge to lie on his old dressing gown - she is well impressed. Never having had a cat she does not realise that they learn at their mother's fetlock (I'm sure cats don't have knees) to lay on anything placed on a bed - just in case it is a freshly washed and ironed shirt.

Time to collapse in the chair and work some seeding stitch on the leaves. See you tomorrow.