Friday, 24 October 2014

30 Tones of Grey

A great excitement - I have been offered a wonderfully large exhibition space at the Craft4Crafters show at the Westpoint Arena, Exeter, 29th to 31st January. 

Shapes of Grey (thanks to Deb Jackson for the title) will be a retrospective, covering thirty years of stitching. I have managed to find some of my City and Guilds work (omg, am I really brave enough to show it?). 

The pics right and below show work from the last ten years - they all came out of the box marked 3D. Perhaps it should be called Fifty Shapes of Grey.

The little bag on the right is heavily stitched gold thread on net. At this stage I was fascinated by the movement that dense stitching could create - the vessel below has outer 'leaves' of machine stitched felt. Buttonhole stitching around the edge makes the leaves curl.

I still like this mask (below) made from heat-manipulated Softsculpt. Lots of metallic wax and Pearlex powders used here. Plus a beaded fringe - influenced by Val Campbell-Harding, I think.

I am really looking forward to digging out my bigger pieces - a trip for Clive here, as the loft may be involved.

Together with Sam Packer and Fiona Edwards, I will be doing lots of demos and promoting Workshop on the Web, of course. We are right next to the West Country Embroiderers stand (I am very honoured to be their president) and they give wonderful demos. Hopefully we can co-ordinate our fabric decoration and stitch so we can pass samples back and forth. 

I think, if I have room, I might bring the Brother Scan N Cut. I have a project that will probably still be on the go in January - more on that later.

Yesterday my friend Jane Wild came round to play with the cutter. I wondered how she would use it as her art is very much centred on the figure. Here she is preparing her design - a wonderfully abstract lady .

Here is the first cut - and the sketch that produced it.

It turned out to be wonderfully Picasso-ish as the scanner omitted an eye and lost one of her boobs. We like her that way.

Jane left my house with a book to review - thus proving that there is no such thing as a free lunch. We had great fun and vowed to do it again, soon.

The fantastic sketchbook below is from Paula Watkins and is a response to Workshop on the Web's support of the Teenage Cancer Trust. We are asking for sketchbooks or hand-made books to be donated so we can sell them online in aid of the Charity. We have some great ones already, from artists such as Cas Holmes and Anne Kelly. Details on More on this blog, too.

Finally, if you purchased my latest book 'Cut, Shape, Stitch', you will find another free online class at Based on trees, as you can see below.

 Many thanks for all your good wishes to my new knee. It is doing well ans sends its love. All signed off from hospital and physio and I am able to go for wonderful walks. Still doing the exercises!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Pssst! Wanna See My Operation?

Well you can't - even though I have a magnificent knee scar. I am feeling much better now at two and a bit weeks on. The staples are out and the physio is pleased with me. Still get some pain at night but very little in the day and I am sure it will be well worth it. I can already walk further than I could before the op and with less pain.

Clive has been feeding me rather too well and I can see a major diet is in the offing when the excuse of comfort eating is over. Smudge is a pain, of course. As he can't lay on hands (or paws) he is trying to lay on fur with lots of rubbing round my legs. A stick does come in handy for a gentle prod.

I thought that I would get loads of drawing, stitching or crochet done - or at least some reading, but I'm finding it hard to concentrate. Magazines seem to be the only thing I can do and I was getting a little bored so we had an outing to Blashford Lakes - a quarry infill near our house. Saw lots of birds from the hide, including a colourful lapwing and loads of herons. 

I was fascinated by the layered look to the landscape and think I might be getting back into making stuff. When we got home, Clive moved all my cutting stuff to the dining table so I could sit and work. I made this little (unpainted, so far) sample using the Scan N Cut but I want to find a way to use some of the new dies I bought and make a bigger version on the Sizzix.

I hope it will be a cover for the book I am making for Workshop on the Web's book challenge, in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. We are asking people to make us sketch books, filled or not, that we can sell to raise money for them. We already have lovely ones from Cas Holmes, Anne Kelly and other lovely, generous people. I have just received this super one from Diana Brown.

We will be selling them in December and I will give everyone a heads up. If you want to send a book, it can be posted to Fiona at 19 Merriefield Avenue, Broadstone, Dorset BH18 8DA.

I am also hoping that my folded landscape technique will become one of the free online lessons for those who have purchased the Cut, Shape, Stitch book. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Book Looks Very Bookish

Well, the 'Cut, Shape, Stitch' book is published and is selling very well. If you have purchased it, you will find a free class on the site.We're all delighted with the quality - our printers are just the best. If you ever want a really good printer go to the Colour Factory at Sittingbourne, Kent. They are a delight to deal with. It looks so different when it is a book - we proof from pdfs, so it doesn't give you the feel of a book. One of my favourite sections is where Sam and Paula produce work from the same shape - a circular die that comes in different sizes. 

Paula's concertina book with hand stitching, is wonderful and Sam's machine embroidered collar below shows real innovation. Actually, it is a mix of two collars - Michael got creative with the photo and we love the effect.

I managed to get to a wonderful exhibition at the gallery in Upton Park, Poole, Dorset, on Sunday. By four =friends who call themselves the 'Body of Work Textile Artists', it was a really jolly show. Very sunny and suitable for the sea-side were Jennie Pickering's beach hut designs, below. I have written a review for the September WoW.

We are running a sketch-a-thon in the next Workshop on the Web in aid of the Teenage Cancer |Trust where we are asking people to donate sketch books or decorated books for us to sell. I had a friend who lost a daughter a fourteen and I shall never forget how awful it was. So when I met one of the fundraisers for this charity, who do such great things, I thought  our Wowies would come up trumps for that. 

The pic above is from one of the late, great Val Campbell Harding's sketch books, based on a design source of painted fairground ponies. I love the way she includes the original - a detail of a photo, then draws it and finally produces wonderful samples.

I am still having the time of my life with the Brother Scan N Cut. I am working on concertina landscapes - see my free cut sample below.

I have drawn out the design, ready to cut - see below. If it works, I'll write it up as an online class for those who have purchased the book.

I will have to turn the design half way as it is quite big and will not all fit on the mat. That should be a challenge.

I think I told you that my knee replacement is happening in a few weeks' time. I hear that Kim Thittichai has to have the same op soon. I have suggested that we have it at the same time, in adjacent hospital beds and then Clive can look after both of us. Fiona says that we could also run a mean three-legged race!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Big Day Off

It has been a very hectic time lately, what with the book, the show and the knee. I have a date for the new knee - 19th August. I have already had operations on my hand, now my knee - hope my boomps-a-daisy doesn't go next.

I am having a whole day off because it is my birthday. In a minute, we are going to Walford Mill in Wimborne. It is a great gallery and they have an interesting-sounding exhibition. Later, various kids and friends are descending and this evening we are descending on Fiona for dinner. Well; that is the plan. Clive bought me a new Kindle and a box set of Trollope (Clive does love a good trollope) to watch when I am chair-bound. He also bought me a Calla lily as they are my current fave thing. It has replaced the elderly orchid in the bathroom.

Do you remember my wood warrior race? I was playing with them on the Scan N Cut. I was puzzled as to how to mount them and in the end they ran away and hid among the leaves of my birch bark piece.

The lion masks that the warriors wore have been terrific fun to work with. They have been vessels, been mounted on stencilled backgrounds and are about to be stitched as a background to a large hanging I am working on. I am having a retrospective exhibition at the next Craft for Crafters show in Devon so I'm working on new, big stuff for that. 

I have also used the lion drawing for a Brother tutorial on the Scan N Sew - will let you know when and where it appears.

I am really hooked on this Brother machine and am now pursuing the heads theme by looking at a series of carvings that we found in Scotland. Stirling castle was a very inspirational place and we spent a lovely day there last month.

The heads, which were carved, were once brightly painted and they had fantastic head dresses. Don't know if you can see them in the pic below. I'm also fired up by the Green Man legends. I think they sprung from my wood warriors - their antecedents. 

Thought I would cut them in a similar way to the lion but my first attempt looks like Rod Stewart on a bad day. Perhaps he will be better with his hat on.

The book on cutting  is coming this week so, if you are on the 'let me know' list, we will soon be in touch. If not, you can go to and join the list - no obligation to buy and you might win a prize. I can't wait to see it at last - it seems to have taken ages but really we did most of it in the last two months.

I am doing a talk on cutting at the Festival of Quilts. I am also giving a new talk on mixed media techniques, shown as videos as well as images. I foolishly called it 'Textiles, the Movie' but forgot they only put the title on the show booking forms so it wasn't clear what it was.  So it didn't get many pre-bookings. If you are coming to the show, you might like to come and join me - everything from metal to Tyvek will be considered. It is on at 11am on Thursday 7th.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Our Friends in the North

Too much going on, no time for anything but the next book, so I've grabbed an early morning spot for a bit of a blog catch-up. Comment on comments at the end of the blog.

The cutting book, 'Cut, Shape, Stitch', is so nearly there and is looking great. I have started a new project based on some wonderful carved heads that were discovered on our recent trip to Scotland and hope to continue using my cutter for that.

We had a lovely time, in spite of our car not being fixed after our prang many weeks ago. I think that they hand-crafted our headlight in Korea. However the garage loaned us a courtesy car and, to our amazement, said we could take it to Scotland. That was a challenge – packing enough work and materials for a couple of events, plus enough clothes to keep us going for over a week, all having to fit in a VW Polo.

We stopped at Newark for our first night. I always enjoy this town although that is tinged with sadness now, as it was the home of Sarah Lawrence, who sadly died a while ago. She produced some lovely work.

I have been so busy that summer clothes shopping just hadn't happened so I was overjoyed to find that Marks was still open. I think I look pretty happy - king of the castle, in fact.

We also had a lovely meal down by the river. Good grub, a sunny evening and time to talk to each other for the first time in ages - although you may note that Clive has the paper handy as a stand by.

We managed to squeeze in a trip to Cragside, in Northumberland, on the next stage of the journey. This is one of my favorite National Trust houses. It was one of the very first to use hydro-electric power - or so they say. The grounds are wonderful and my knee (which is waiting for an op) allowed us to have a bit of a walk before seizing up.

The house has some nice touches - loved this lampshade and can see a garland being cut on the Scan N Cut soon.

Then it was on to Edinburgh Guild on the Saturday, to help them celebrate their sixtieth anniversary.  We had such a good time with them. Hope that they enjoyed it as much as we did. I gave a talk in the morning and then we had a fabulous buffet lunch - there was a short period of panic when it was discovered that the M&S lorry had broken down en-route to the local shop, but all was delivered in time. Then we did demos and a mini workshop in the afternoon. A really lovely day with really lovely people.

On to Stirling where we had a couple of days before the next gig. We are not great castle visitors but someone told us how much there was to see and we certainly took a whole day going around it.

I loved the carvings of ancient heads, known as the Stirling Heads. Took lots of photos and I can feel a theme developing. Below, you can see a reprint from a painting of the time, alongside one of the heads - apparently a courtier. The head is described as wearing costume for a masquerade - obviously it was 'boobs out, girls'. I am working on a sketchbook for the WoW Sketch-a-thon - watch this space.

I kept in touch while we were away by showing photos on Facebook of what we were doing - represented by....'The Feet'.  This shows the feet having a rest after their exhausting day at the castle. They were very happy feet that evening. In fact, they look as though they may have had wine with their dinner.

I didn't get around to posting the last feet photo. It showed a pensive foot, enjoying the plant life and feeling a little mellow after the lovely break. What the foot didn't notice was the stinging nettle it encountered while standing up again. good thing it wasn't a video.

Other highlights included a lovely drive along Loch Lomond and an unlovely cross country drive down an extremely narrow track when the road ahead was unexpectedly closed and we got lost. 
Then a lovely time with the Quilter's Gathering in Glasgow. Such wonderful people live in Scotland.

Finally we popped in to another NT house on the last day (for lunch, of course) and found they were featuring a Woolly Wood exhibit. All kinds of knitted and felted wildlife, hiding in the trees, much of which was made by children - really good to see that.

Our last night was spent near the motorway at Stafford and we had planned some more sightseeing for that day. In the end though, the call of home was strong so we got up at 5am in order to avoid the Birmingham traffic. Home by 9.30. Deep Joy.

I loved your comments - especially the ones on the cutters. I am still so in love with the whole process of cutting and hope to have lots of demos on our stand at the Festival of Quilts (NEC in August). I am also doing a couple of talks at the show. A word of warning - if you usually book your talks when you get there - and I know that lots of you do - be aware that the lecture spaces are much smaller than usual and are filling up fast, so you might want to book your seats. Always good for a sit down!

One of our talks is going to be a series of short movies, showing techniques, followed by images showing what to make with that technique. A bold and scary move that we may regret!

A few comments I didn't get to answer:
Carol, the Scan N Cut would be good with vector files from Illustrator but it works just as well with a hand-drawn scribble.
That filigree pattern sounds interesting, Jane. Can't wait to get on with more cutting.

Tricia, the book is called Cut, Shape Stitch (by me and Samantha Packer and Paula Watkins) and it should be out around the end of July. If you'd like us to let you know when it is here you can go to the d4daisy site and put your name on the list. No obligation and you might win a prize for being on the list.

This is the beginning of a fishy vessel using the Scan N Cut built-in shapes. the final one is in the book.

As soon as I get into play mode again, I will try to cut hand-made felt. It certainly works with very thick commercial felt.

I will try to be a better blogger. I managed to get so behind with everything that I had to have a week of 5 am starts to get the book written.

Friday, 23 May 2014

I'm Getting a Pony and Trap

Hello again – at last. If you are puzzled about the title of this blog, read on. Life has been a little tricky lately as I have been rather frantically catching up with the wordy bit of the forthcoming book on cutting techniques. There has been a lot of early morning keyboard bashing  one morning, I wrote two thousand words before breakfast. 

One reason for the rush and panic is that we have decided to take a stand at the Festival of Quilts in August and it is always good to have a new book on offer. The book, Cut, Shape, Stitch is co-written with Sam Packer, features editor of Workshop on the Web, and Paula Watkins  many of you will know her for her wonderful mixed media work (and her stitching is pretty nifty, too). The book is based on all kinds of cutting machines, from simple punches through basic die cutters (these can be purchased quite cheaply second hand, I’ve discovered) to computer and scanner-linked machines. I have to say that I love using the cutters and for a long time had only two dies. I really got very hooked on the shapes that remain after cutting and there is an entire book section on that. The pic below shows Sam using a die called Artful Dwellings by Sizzix. The little houses she has made are great  all finished now  the pic below was a stage in their production.

I have almost caught up now and yesterday we went to Michael Wicks's for the photoshoot. It was a gloriously mad day – all three of us rushing around with armfuls of work, painting, cutting and stitching for the step-by-step photos and generally getting excited. I was hobbling rather than rushing as my poorly knee was protesting.  I am officially on the waiting list for a new one but don’t think it will happen any time soon.

We put the Brother Scan’n'Cut machine through its paces for Michael – he was very impressed. I must admit that I haven’t tried any of the computer linked cutters (I’d welcome feedback from anyone who has one) but I am impressed with the way the Brother machine translates a scan into a cut shape. I wish my scanner that links to my PC was half as accurate.

I have to say that I haven’t been this excited for ages and think this will really have a big influence on my work for years to come. I keep thinking about how much my late and still much missed friend, Val Campbell-Harding, would have loved it. My preferred material is Craft Vilene, which cuts very cleanly and Paula has introduced me to Derwent Coloursoft  pencils, which she has used to beautiful effect on the Vilene. I have also been amazed at how well the machine cuts metal. Apparently it will cut wood veneers, too – the wood-working son-in-law pricked up his ears when he heard that. DD: yes, the Vilene is an interfacing.  It is thick, doesn't fray and is good to stitch into. I get through rolls of it,

These fish that I showed you last time are having a little shower of colour  then I shall 'do a Paula' and use the Coloursoft pencils. Excited about that.

We did take time out to take a stand at the Brockenhurst Needlework Fiesta. I was demo-ing the simple hand punch machines so had lots of material to use for the book, as well. Granddaughter Sophie took to this demo-ing lark as though she had been doing it for years – stitching on water-soluble film, which can be tricky. Sadly, one of water-soluble bracelets in the foreground of this pic disappeared soon after. One of my favourites, too. My fault – I had it pinned down but unpinned it to show something and didn’t get around to putting it back.

It is so lovely to have stitchy granddaughters. My other girly, Lauren, knitted me this ballet dancing cat. Don’t you love the tail. I’m not sure that I can knit as well as she does.

Another reason that we were a little behind with the book was the fact that we had an accident in the car recently. We weren’t hurt at all but the poor car was not so lucky and nor were all the people who were waiting to hear a talk at the Woking Evening Branch of the Guild. We were less than a mile away from the venue but you can hardly ask the guy loading you onto the tow truck to hang on for an hour or so. The ladies were so nice about it and I know it put them on the spot – we have rebooked for another time.

It has taken hours of time to get it all sorted out and we are still waiting for the car. The repair shop ordered the parts two weeks ago and they are still waiting for a battery lead to arrive. They have all been great though and we have had a hire car and, now, a courtesy car from the garage. The time spent on paperwork and the hours on the phone have all added up and we did feel very woozy for a day or two.

I am really off travel in any form. Yesterday, coming home from the photo thing, we were about to take an exit onto the M25 when the matrix sign flashed up, ‘M25 long delays. Junction 4 to 31'!!! That’s most of the M25, isn’t it? We came home a roundabout way and it took us an extra two hours! I think I shall stay home and play with the Scan'n'Cut instead.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Scanning and Cutting

Woe is me, it has been nearly a month since I last hung out here. Here are my excuses:
  • Very behind with my next book - the one on cutting
  • Quite behind on Workshop on the Web
  • Too laid back about the Brockenhurst show where I am exhibiting on Saturday

However, (woo-hoo) I am back on track and I have this lovely toy to play with - the Brother Scan n Cut.

It only came last week but I've had loads of fun already. I am making a piece of work called The Butterflies' Revenge. You may remember that I made a piece based on some poor butterflies that wound up as exhibits in a butterfly cabinet. Wouldn't see that now - it was a few centuries ago! Anyway, I have invented a mythology about the 'wood-warriors' (they were the nasty tribe who perpetrated the butterfly killings). You can see some of the drawings of the warriors and their lion leader in the pic below.

The butterflies got their own back by entering into an intensive breeding program. It was hard work, they said, but somebody had to do it. Eventually there were so many of them that they all sat on the wood-warriors and suffocated them. Then they mounted their heads and kept them in a cabinet. I am making the mounted heads - I have scanned them and cut them out on the Brother - easy peasy.

Knocked up a few trees as well to show their habitat. I cut them from Craft Vilene and the cutting very clean.

Some of the warriors were made into stencils and the cut-out areas were too good not to use so I am stitching them onto a background. They have running stitch war-paint.

I will, hopefully, show you the next episode when they are all stitched and mounted.

While I was getting a feel for the machine, I tried some of the built-in patterns. Love these fish (see below) where I have deliberately allowed random overcutting to change the shape. I am colouring them and am going to make a fish bowl. That is near completion and may be used by Brother as a project and this seems a good subject.

The cutting book also shows ideas for simple cutters like the ones below - just punches that produce shapes that you can link together. They look like shoes.

I have cut 'straps', nibbling away at the edges to make good shapes. I plan to stitch these to a background. Detail above.

So, lots of work to be done - back soon with some finished stuff. I hope.