Monday 31 December 2007

Happy New Year from my Sofa

I am so excited - in a silly sort of way, of course. To explain, I have to tell you that Clive's attitude to computers (and possibly life in general) can be summed up by the phrase 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. Mine however is more in the 'What the heck - let's try it anyway' line of thinking.

This is why we have never got as far as enabling our wi-fi internet options. However the wwsil came round today with the express intention of giving me the right to roam. I can now use my new laptop while lying on the floor - like so.

Or, with the cat's help, from the sofa, in my sitting room. She always likes to sit on her cat-rag on my head.

Not a very flattering pic, but one that I feel encapsulates my feeling of freedom, while allowing a view up my nose.

I have used the opportunity of escape from my desk to rack up some credit card usage in the M&S Sale. Perhaps Clive was wise in keeping me under control when I sat next to him. What with buying new laptops, ovens and so on we shall be broke.

Thanks for all the comments on my latest domestic disaster. I agree that the best thing for me to do is keep out of the kitchen altogether.

I would like to thank you all for bearing with this blog through the highs, the lows and the messy bits (especially lately) of my life. Your comments have made me think, made me laugh and have kept me blogging. Please keep them up and I do wish everyone the happiest 2008.

Saturday 29 December 2007

Kitchen 3 - Maggie 0

You won't believe this but my kitchen is still out to get me - and it's winning. I thought the same as you, Sarah, that my three things had happened but, as I was cooking the turkey carcass up for stock, the pressure cooker valve gave way in a most spectacular manner. There was an eruption of soup shooting up high in the air like a geyser. Old Faithful had nothing on my cooker hob! It just missed me, luckily, but it did scare me to death. I had to have a brandy to get over the shock (and then another one because if one helps, two can only be better).

Clive was a hero and did all the mopping up but the cooker hood still drips the odd bit of soup down your neck if you lean too far over the stove. We found part of the metal valve in our turkey fricassee later that evening.

Therapy was called for, so Clive devoted himself to a global jigsaw he'd been given for Christmas. I'm not a great jigsaw fan but this was fascinating. It made wonderful vessel shapes as it was being built up and I plan to steal it when it is done and make things with it. Here it is, in its current state of near completion.

I took a close up as I loved the edge shapes.

Then I used the close-up pic as a Displacement Map with one of the swoopy Christmas light photos from Thursdays blog. So glad you've had fun with that idea. I love it.

This is fun. I must try it with some other images.

BTW Sharon the swoopy pics are in the next book. Should be here in early June. I have just finished the second proof and posted it today. Mean of them to send it over the holiday.

Linda, thanks for the info on emulsion paints. Ain't the Internet wonderful.

Yes, everyone must go and see the Golden Compass. Then they will make movies of the rest. Our kids are still talking about it. I've never known a film to have such an effect.

I have a posh new Toshiba laptop and am getting to grips with Windows Vista. The machine is very black and shiny, like patent leather. Looks more like something you'd find in a massage parlour than an office (not that I frequent such places).

However, the really good news is that the local laptop doctor has mended my old one and I have spent the day transferring data. I am quite good at backing up important files but I was horrified at how much I had overlooked.

Lessons learned: back up regularly and locate riot shield to use in kitchen at all times.

Thursday 27 December 2007

Multiple Equipment Failure

That went quickly, didn't it? Thank you all so much for your good wishes. I have missed blogging and am back here at the first opportunity.

We had a lovely family time which was only slightly affected by the fact that the oven followed the example of the laptop and packed up. We had visitors at the time so it was an interesting exercise in damage limitation. Thank heaven for the microwave.

This was Christmas Eve, no chance of buying another one, so on Christmas Day we had to cook a large turkey in the small top oven. It was decided to remove its limbs to make it fit and it was at this point that the electric carving knife gave up! At least that was the third thing. Anyway, we managed very well. I was so pleased that the big family meal on Boxing day was outsourced to a local restaurant this year.

In the morning of Christmas Eve we took the three biggest grandchildren to the movies (saving daughter's sanity) to see The Golden Compass. I was so worried that the filmakers would ruin the story, but it was wonderful. The cinema was full of overexcited children beforehand but everyone was spellbound during the film. The children haven't stopped talking about it and we have had wide ranging philosophical discussions about souls, religion and whether Leo's hamster could turn into a daemon. Great stuff.

We went for a walk just as it was getting dark on Christmas day and I took these swoopy pics. One of Val's ideas - you set the camera to night setting and then swoop slowly over a light source when you've pressed the shutter. Takes a bit of practice but it's great fun. I've got it in the book with ideas for using the results. Margaret R has a lovely 'proper' night pic on her blog.

The one above was a fast swoop of a brightly lit house. The pic below was slower and you can just see the shape of a star (and a couple of cars). Good time of year to play this game.

I'm off to buy a new laptop - the cooker can wait but I need 'puter power now!

Saturday 22 December 2007

Happy Christmas

Here is a sort-of Christmas card, well Christmas scroll. Hope you all have a lovely Christmas.

Thanks for help with the emulsion question. I don't think it would be Primer so the water based one sounds hopeful. We can buy tiny little pots so you can test the colour - might be a cheap way to try.

I do use Paint Shop Pro most of the time, Sharon. I have the odd little bash with Photoshop Elements, just to keep my hand in and to use one or two effects that I like. I find Elements has certain things that PSP doesn't, such as gradient maps and I also like some of the restore photo filters. Mostly it is what you get used to and find easy to use, I think.

Disaster - my laptop died yesterday. Luckily I'd backed up most things but I am a bit worried about my Talks folder. I shall have get it to a specialist in data extraction and see if they can retrieve it. It's all my fault, too, as Clive wanted to get me a new one and I kept putting it off. I hate new machines. He has been very noble about not saying I told you so, especially as I am now having to use his laptop. I have resolved to save the worrying until after Christmas.
We had such a lovely lunch for Fiona's birthday. Here she is with the wood-working son-in-law who is doing an impression of Professor Winston with a cracker moustache.

The two cousins are having a great time and Lauren was happy to join Sophie in doing the kids fun pack. We all failed to do the Christmas anagrams - even Clive Grey, BA! I blamed the Margheritas.

One good thing about the lack of laptop - I can't do my article. Hooray! Off to the kitchen for a festive cook-up.

Friday 21 December 2007

A Christmas Rose

Carole - emulsion paint is water-based so I'm not sure about the latex. It is the very basic stuff, a superior form of whitewash, that we paint on plain walls. It does only seem to work on white, or very light shades. That's when you get the lovely grey tones. I'll investigate the garage later to see the ingredients.

Penny's piece was a Gaudi image, Sharon - one that I took in Barcelona. Not manipulated but his architecture looks as though it has been, I agree.

I envy you Kangaroo island, Penny. It is still on my to-do list for next year. Have a great time. We have a family birthday today, too, as Fiona is 21 again. We are having a family party at Frankie and Benny's restaurant. Fiona's daughter, Sophie, has insisted that her big cousin Lauren comes too. Isn't that sweet? Poor Lauren has to go to the dentist first but we shall fit it all in and I'm really looking forward to it.

Kate - I do hope that your back is better soon. Backs are horrid.

I photographed some icy images yesterday. The frost was very heavy and stayed most of the day. Here's a poor little rosebud, all rimed with frost.

Lets play with the Layers option and see what we can do with it. Paint Shop Pro only, I'm afraid, but easy to work it out in Elements, too.

Make sure you can see the Layers Palette. If not go to the View menu, then palettes and layers.
Go to the Layers menu and click Duplicate. Note what happens in the Layers palette.

Repeat this step and you should have a palette that looks like this.

Now click on the middle layer - click the bit that says 'Copy of background'. Go to the Adjust menu and Colour Balance. Click negative as shown, below.

The image won't look any different. Now go to part of the palette that says 'normal'. This is the Blend Mode. Change the top layer to Difference.

You should get a pic like this. Very Christmassy.

Try changing the Blend Modes of the top two layers. Endless fun. Here's a sample.

This exercise was based on PSP9 but you should be able to find the commands easily in your version.

I am off to start that article I have been threatening to do all week.

Wednesday 19 December 2007

More Embellishing

Brrr, is it cold here. Just been for a good walk on the local common and it was freezing. The good thing about that was that there weren't many other idiots about, so we saw a huge dog fox trotting about his business and some g. spotted woodpeckers.

Good to be home in the warm and making mince pies. As you can see, I'm feeling very Christmassy.
Megan, I love your granny's saying about the laughter. Do you think our grandchildren will quote us? Heaven knows what mine will say. My granny had a wonderful one. If she saw any of us children scratching our behinds she would say 'Butter will be cheap when grass grows there'! We never did work out quite what it meant but it certainly has a ring to it.
Sharon, you must try to get to Urchfont. If you do go to the exhibitions, make sure you book for lunch. Their lunches are fantastic.

T'other Maggie. Sorry about the challenge - just go with the antlers and show us the result on you blog. I think baby reindeer are called showers.

Carole - Happy Chrimbo back and I'm sure that everone's blog will go from strength to strength in 2008. I'm so glad I got into it - loads of fun.

Here are some more pics from the embellisher weekend. We were experimenting with working from the back and making patterns. This little sample (below) from Rita is worked on silk carrier rods (pods).

This one from Sarah uses black chiffon over built-up silk fibres. The chiffon is applied by working up and down in rows which pulls it into chevron patterns.

Here we were ironing T Shirt transfer prints over embellished surfaces and Penny has put some glitter on this one. She will go on to work into it with the sewing machine to enhance the architectural lines.

Cindy produced a lovely landscape on a prefelt with lots of hand stitching that we destroyed with the embellisher.

Finally here is Barbara's finished piece - an eyeglass case.

Monday 17 December 2007

An Urchfont Christmas

It was a great weekend at Urchfont and the girls did some really good stuff. Lovely to be there at the same time as Sian, too. Hello to Christine, a blog follower who was on the course. A very creative lady who did good work (see landscape below) and invented altered computer printing. Did it all dry out all right? More on Urchfont later.

First of all, Clive would like to say a big thank you to all for the congrats. You're right Jane, it is a very tough course and certainly not an easy option. I was really surprised at the amount of work and the depth of the course. I am a little worried that now he won't have his nose into his books he will have time to see all the dubious stuff that I get up to.

Margaret - think of the marks on the bum from mini chairs as love tokens. Oh dear, that sounds a bit suggestive - think I'll have to rephrase that before Em sees it. I got back from Urchfont in time for the candlelight carols and it was lovely. The hard church pews sorted out my twingy back at the same time.

It's really cold here and the frost this morning looked like snow. It must be strange to have heat at Christmas. Although we have a son in Sydney, I can never tear myself away from the grandchildren to go over for Chrimbo dinner on the beach. 'Throw another turkey on the barbie', doesn't have quite the same ring about it.

Marjorie - glad you are enjoying Quiltwow. I intend to have a go at that bag with embroidered squares. I'm not a quilter but that one tempted me too.

Back to Urchfont. I don't usually teach residentials due to lack of time but I always love it when I do. Especially Urchfont where the food is wonderful. I'm still chomping Gaviscon. We had a Christmas dinner on Saturday night - here we are with our hats on.

I had got all dressed up on Friday night to get it over with - didn't know about the special dinner. I peaked too soon. Val loved Urchfont at Christmas and always did what she called a Christmas silly, which is how I came to be there. Not sure ours was silly enough but we did laugh a lot. Here's a few pics of the work.

The beginning of a long hanging from Cindy.

A lovely tonal piece from Maggie.

Another landscape from Jane.

I'll put some more up tomorrow as I want to get to the shops early. Meanwhile here is the sheep sculpture that Maggie Harris showed on her blog a while back. He is proving that all along he was a reindeer in sheep's clothing.

Thursday 13 December 2007

Clive Grey BA

Hooray, Clive has passed his last Open University exam and has now finished the course, only two points short of a distinction. He started it to keep his mind active, before he knew how much activity I had planned for him. It has been a struggle keeping it going and I do admire him for sticking at it. He started off with Art History but the course was so politically correct that it missed out most of the major art movements unless they featured women. However, with the OU, it is a pic'n'mix so he did some interesting stuff ranging from sustainable energy to creative writing.

Vicki - on the subject of PC we found another one today. I bought some Christmas cards and inside the greeting was 'Winter Wishes'. How do you wish someone a winter?
The 'no arguments' clause was a first for us, Julie. We hardly ever fall out, but the Christmas Tree does it for us every time. Must be turning into old softies.
While I was getting ready for my weekend class I found two lovely boards of Val's. We had a project where we both had to prepare a design based on our names. Then we swapped over to work on them. I worked a design in PSP on Mags. It is top, left on the board below.
Val took my Mags design and put it through a pixelation filter to make it suitable for beadwork. She then produced two super boards with letters from the design. You can see the M below - worked on a bead loom.

And here is the G.

Wonderful beaded chains. I've never got very into beading - too regular for me but Val did make me learn how to do chains. I like them better when they have been dunked in the Melting Pot.

Just been to the smallest grandchild's Christmas play. It was lovely, but a tad overlong and two hours of sitting on mini chairs is very hard on the bum.
I shall be off to Urchfont tomorrow - talk to you on Monday and hope to have pics of the course.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Ding Dong and Stuff

The Christmas visit to the chunky guy in red went off well, in spite of Jake telling him that no-one had been good this year. They still got a lovely present and the train ride was even longer this year. Nice to have a visit from a granddaughter on the blog. Glad you enjoyed the visit Lauren, and managed not to fall out of the carriage this year!

The youngest granddaughter (6) changed schools a couple of months ago and I asked her how she liked the new class, which is rather more politically correct than the last one. She said 'It's OK, but we did nothing for Halloween, didn't even dress up.' This evidently was a serious business as she then heaved a great sigh and said 'It was the worst day of my life'. I'm still chuckling about it.

Anna - I'd heard from Hazel that the course was good. Janet is an excellent teacher. Val would be so pleased.

Carole - we must get you blogging. It is such fun. I'm typing away here all on my own and imagining you all out there. It is so lovely to get comments, too.

Aussie Jo - what a long holiday - no excuse for you.

Arti - I forgot the camera - how daft is that!

Today I was supposed to be getting ready for Urchfont but was overtaken by displacement activities in the form of:

a) the need to eat and therefore to shop
b) having to get the proofs to Batsford
c) lovely sunny day for a walk
d) Christmas decorations

As I'm not home from Urchfont until late Sunday afternoon we will have to go straight to the local Candlelit Carols and one needs to come home to a Christmassy house and have mince pies. It's a lovely service and the church is lit only with candles (which actually means you can't see the hymn sheet and you have to wear old clothes as you come out covered in red candle wax) and another of our traditions. So we decided to do the decs today.


Broken baubles one
Falls from ladder none
Arguments about how to put up the tree none
Non shining fairy lights none

Probably our best result in 24 years.

The wood-working son-in-law (TWWSIL) made me a new mantlepiece this year. It is made from pearwood (not sapient, I'm glad to say) and it looks lovely with a garland on it. I know it should be real but our house is hot and they don't last five minutes.

I had a blue theme in the little sitting room.

The closest I've come to a textile today is to gaze at these two lovely silk paper pieces from Val at Silk Sacks. Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday 9 December 2007

Quiltwow, Books and Father Christmas

Well, Quilwow is launched and seems to be going down very well. I'm particularly pleased with the pics which, thanks to my new way of reducing them for the web, look good and clear. Do let me know what you think of it.

I think you need to get a blog, Carole, so we can see your UTEE experiments. Or have you got one tucked away somewhere? Have you tried the stuff they sell to colour the UTEE - I think it is called To Dye For, but I may be getting muddled. Jane Wild got good results from it. If I get time this week I will have a go.

I am teaching an embellisher course at Urchfont College next weekend so I must get ready for that. I don't usually do residentials but this was one that Val was booked to teach and they asked me so nicely that I couldn't refuse. I know I will enjoy it, but I also know that I will put on even more weight. The food is so good there. All these Christmas lunches have me feeling as stuffed as the turkey.

The other excitement has been proofing the Image to Stitch book. Here is a double page spread that you might recognise. The small piece, left hand page, bottom is one of Val's which I scanned and put through a Displacement Map. The right hand pic shows my gauntlet - remember that? It doesn't look much like one from this angle but I like the way the soldered edges show. It is made from a variety of prints - transfer and ExtravOrganza, plus quite a bit of constructional stitching on Wireform.

They have done such a good job with the book. I tried a new approach when sending it in and made up a file of double page spreads so I could judge the amount of text and the size of pic. Usually I just rabbit on, marking where the pics go, until I have the correct total word count.

I must go as I have an appointment with Father Christmas at the local garden centre. They do a train ride, through a winter wonderland, which seems to be a very long way - due to all the loops and bends. All our grandchildren love it and it is an annual event with drinks and toasted tea cakes afterwards. All for charity, too. Even the fourteen year old is not too cool to accompany us.

Sue - I had the front half, of course. The back is much too antisocial.

Friday 7 December 2007

Embroidery Machines

Where has this week gone? Haven't even had time to blog.

Jackie - it's very good to meet you. Any relation of Ian and Ruby's is a friend of mine. If it hadn't been for those two, we'd have had great difficulty getting the Val exhibition up to Harrogate. Good to hear that the World of Embroidery mag got you moving. I bet Ruby had a hand in it, too.

Judith - I expect you got caught up in the Fiona telephone kerfuffle - you should have the password by now , I'm sure. Any problems, I'm on Must get around to putting that on the blog.

It turned out that Fiona's neighbours had been having trouble with phones earlier in the week, so we think that was why a 'set' of password messages didn't get through. It was while BT were sorting out the earlier problem that they caused the later one!

Actually I am back in love with technology again as the new car has a ipod connection and it worked straightaway. Sounds really good, too. No more taking all those CDs on long trips - just one tiny device with my entire collection, quite amazing, really.

Interesting feedback about software driven embroidery. I do use it quite a lot and have the digitising programs for several machines. Yes, Carole, you can just set it up and it stitches by itself. Best to keep an eye on it in case it has a hissy fit but, in theory, you can go off and leave it.

I did like your husband's comment, Penny. My son is a hydro-geologist in Sydney, so he is very involved in the drought situation. It has to be said that his solution seems to involve him spending a lot of time surveying surfing beaches. However, joking apart, it's a nasty state of affairs and Ian has been writing warning articles for years to try to get someone to take it seriously. Now they are.

Swap you a machine for a pony any day, Penny. I used to own half a horse and would borrow another (very quiet) one and take my daughter out for day rides when she was about four. We'd tie our sandwiches to the D-rings behind the saddle and just take off. Now I'm too scared of breaking a limb to even get on a horse. Do you ride yours?

Back to the embroidery machines, I almost always stitch on felt and cut out the motifs to re-apply them. In its native state, the stitching can be very flat and most of the work I've done on the machines has been in the form of experiments to raise the surface (I keep having to use that phrase, must be a subliminal message to sell the book). The design below used the drop shadow effect in a paint program to mimic raised, cut-out Celtic motifs.

This was then digitised and the background stitched. I then digitised thin strips and stitched them on felt. The cut-out motifs were threaded onto these and 'bunched' to raise them up.

The piece is a collection of three flag shapes and is called 'Fly the Flags for HRT'. I felt so great on HRT that all my work got very colourful but that was before the scare and I had to stop taking it. Then, as Amy Winehouse would say, it was back to black.

The proofs for the Image to Stitch book have arrived and I'm delighted to say that Batsford have done a really good job and it looks great. Now for the proof-reading.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

Raising the Surface

What a good title - could be used for a book!
Yesterday was another round of pleasure! Christmas lunch for Wessex Textiles in a lovely restaurant in Wimborne. Great to see everyone and I was able to thank Ruby Lever for setting up and manning the Val exhib at the Harrogate K&S. I saw some pics on Julie's blog and it looked great.

Glad you're all enjoying WoW. I thought it was a goodie and I loved the Linda Westerman article and Ruth Lee's shoes. I hadn't thought of moulding Tyvek and can't wait to have a go. My next book is on mixed media stuff and I am having great fun with it - and I've only got as far as gesso.

Great that Aussie Jo has been found - thought we were going to have to search the outback.

Yes, technology is a pain, Chrissie - and we depend so much on it. We have always had a separate phone line for our fax and decided to keep it (even though we get very few faxes) as a back up in case the main line went down. When this eventually happened both lines disappeared and we discovered that we didn't have two lines - just two numbers and two bills! They swear they have fixed this, hopefully we will never find out. Fiona's phone should be back today. Relief.

I was going to talk about the cloaks for the Master of the Rolls doll which were a quickish make on the embellisher. I do like combining stitch with embellishing as I find it needs a contrast of surface to stop it being flat.

This motif is one that I've used many times. It came from a floral wall in the Alhambra, Granada, and I flipped and extended it.

I have digitised it and it pops up in quite a lot of my work. Stitched on felt, it can be cut out without fraying. When I'm in my workroom, I often have the sewing machine chugging away, stitching out some of this sort of patterns so that they are stockpiled ready for the time when I need a quick motif.

I left quite a good border of felt and embellished it to a foiled felt background. it made a good surface. The black surround gives the metallic stitch an emphasis it would lack if stitched straight on to the fabric. Of course, this kind of motif could be free machined in satin stitch, so it doesn't have to be auto stitched.

Here's a detail of a bag made in a similar way.

I'm off to have my hair cut and then over to Fiona to help her sort out her backlog of emails. Quiltwow is going mad at the moment, which is great. Won't be long now until the first full issue.

Sunday 2 December 2007

Those Dolls Again

More about yesterday's party. I forgot to mention that we sell tickets and raise money for charity - this year it was a local children's hospice and the Macmillan nurses. It is a very popular event and we are limited by the size of the hall so there is a real scramble for places. We are almost at the stage where they will be selling on ebay. This year we were selling threads and yarns from Val's workshop clearance, so we made pretty little bags and offered a pick'n'mix which raised £250.

I think Val would have been pleased. I turned out to be rubbish at bag-making so I just stuck to the painting of the papers.

The toilet roll dollies seem to have struck a cord. I love the idea of us all making and displaying on Flickr. Here are some more from yesterday.

This one, by Nan Kenyon, is looking cross because she has been forced to sit on a a toilet roll and considers it beneath her dignity. She is made from painted paper and a wooden spoon

This is a clever one from Betty Ruffell illustrating the saying ' inside every large lady there is a thin one trying to get out'!

I love Jane Wild's character - made from brown paper, of course.

This is a rustic angel from Sue Miles - all the leaves have been machine stitched.

Finally, here is Bishop Odo - who has nothing to do with loo rolls, but was made by our speaker Terri Hitchcock. He is the only bishop to have his own carry case (below) - mitre shaped, of course.

It is blowing a gale here and the light keep flickering. My modem also keeps disconnecting; luckily, so far, it has come back again. Sometimes I really hate technology.

Fiona's phone is still down but the blog has proved an effective way of communicating with people wanting to talk to her. Not just an indulgence, after all.