Saturday 30 June 2007

Birth of a Book

I really love this blogging thing and it's so good to read the messages and look at the blogs of people who respond. It's a real displacement activity when there is something that you don't want to do - like pack up for a class. I love the teaching - just hate the packing. Now I am ready for Urchfont tomorrow and the hateful task is done. It is Urchfont open day and they have an exhibition of Val's students' work - anything anyone has made with Val, ever! I shall try to bring you some pics on Wednesday when I get home.

I am so far ahead with the Image to Stitch book that I am aiming to get it in by September, although it is not due at the publishers until December. One of the reasons is that Fiona has offered to type the last two chapters for me. It's really fast to speak into a dictaphone and she is so speedy at typing - unlike my two-fingered approach. Here is a pic of the embryonic book.

I work in a rather odd way with books. I've usually got a pretty good idea of the chapters and work really hard at the outline stage to get the structure right. Mostly I know what I'm going to write about, so the next stage is to put the text together, with pics of work already done. I write all the words for the whole book and then work through it, revisiting all the techniques. By the end I've forgotten the beginning so it's a good check to see if the writing makes sense. This playing time is the most fun and invariably new discoveries are made and the text is revised. I'm at the playing stage with this book so, when time permits, the fun continues.

Had a little time to play with the sample for the Schism piece. The outline shape of the serpent was hand-stitched and infilled with detached chain. Machining into this gave a good 'scaley' look.

It will need some texture so I shall revisit something that was part of a Workshop on the Web article a little while ago where I tried various resists on zappy felt. Model Magic and gesso were great when painted with interference colours.

Here's a sample of the same technique, except the pieces of zapped felt are pulled apart and layered up. Will add a little contrast to a fairly flat piece. Needs other colours as it's all a bit green. Hopefully I can get on with this embroidery next week.

Home on Wedenesday so I'll be back then.

Thursday 28 June 2007

Madly Metallic

Good to hear from the Aussies and that you have some sog as well. You can have ours if you like - we don't want it. My stepson is a water consultant (I'm sure he is called something much posher, like a hydro-geologist) so I know something of the water problems in Oz. Hope it continues wet for you.

I was hoping to do more on my Schism piece today but real life butted in and I decided I had to do my samples for the course on metals that I'm teaching at Urchfont Manor next week. I'm working with Siân Martin and her Distant Stitch class. The following is a technique we shall probably not be doing in the workshop as it's not quite right yet. Working with metal shim is not easy as you have to knock back the shine to just the right level. Too bright and the metal dominates, too dull and the piece goes flat. I started with a piece of ribbed velvet and ironed on Bondaweb and Transfoil.

Added some Markal (Shiva) to this for more colour. Then - deep joy- off to the embellisher to add some chifffon. It's ages since I used this machine. Where the chiffon was a little heavy it was zapped with a heat gun.

Used a design from my Celtic sketch book to draw into the metal shim. This was stitched to felt and had a form of reverse applique worked over the top. A new experimental colour process worked well - using metallic acrylics and letting them dry before using alcohol inks on top.

Then I did a mad wiggly metal piece in the middle, edging cut metal shapes with wrapped pipe cleaners. It doesn't show too well in the photos but you get the idea. The whole thing is completely over the top, but it was fun to do.

Wednesday 27 June 2007

Soggy, soggy, soggy

Not much happening today as we are making a great onslaught on all the admin that has built up over the last few days. Just wanted to reply to Bird on a wire who came back on my Monday musings about the FOQ and said that she would be saddened if it were the only quilt show on the block. It's true we need variety and that is what we Embroiderers lack. There aren't many smaller shows for embroiderers. Bird says that she makes a point of entering the Sandown show and others throughout the country to support them and we need to persuade more people to do this. Must say I really enjoyed the show. I noticed that there was only one entry in the embroidery section at Sandown. Why don't we all put our embroideries in next year?

Weather - terrible pics of floods on the news last night. Do hope everyone is OK. Big sympathy hugs to anyone caught up in it. Will need an Ark if this goes on. My stepson in Sydney rang today and it was the same temperature over there in their winter. Just off to put the heating on.

Tuesday 26 June 2007

Schism Revised

Ominnimo - thanks for the explanation. Good name.

Leanne - glad you are looking forward to QuiltWow. The good news is that we are hoping to bring it in at fifteen Brit pounds - even cheaper than WoW, which is a bargain!
Yesterday I was playing with the idea of Schism - in the context of a life changing event. This was brought on by something I read in the Sunday sups about a couple who were pootling along the motorway exit slip road, talking about getting home, when they were hit from behind and she never made it home. Very sad. The gloom was deepened by remembering my mother saying when Dad died (very young) that the ordinary, boring times are the best and I should cherish the present moment. Very soon after that I divorced my first husband, which was probably not at all the effect she was aiming for! Anyway, that is all too sad, but I was still thinking of the single, life changing event and hit on the Garden of Eden. One bite of the apple and Oops, out you go.

I made a piece in this vein before and called it 'Scrumping, the original sin'. In England scrumping is kids stealing apples - minor offence. Can't show you it as I sold it and forgot to take a photo.

The Adam and Eve figures were still in my sketchbook and I saw the Garden of Eden as rainforest. So out came the Aussie photos and a big collage was made from the printouts. Somewhere in there is Jan Beaney, sitting on a rock. Scrolls were placed at each end and I really like these. The design is overbright as it will be scanned and printed on inkjet cotton which sometimes dulls colours. The design was difficult to photograph as it is quite large.

Adam and Eve are printed on transparencies as they will be on sheer fabric in the stitched piece. Probably. The snake morphed from a drawing (left) of a climbing fig, clinging to a tree. This went through several Displacement Maps (Digital Gran's favourite). Hope you can see the serpent in the final pic.

Detail of the scroll below. I added some words from Genesis, printed on painted tissue paper. Can't wait to turn it into stitch and plan on hand as well as machine stitching.

I seem unable to write short pieces - probably write too many articles. Sorry.

Monday 25 June 2007


Yesterday Carol Dowsett took me to a patchwork show at Sandown Park racecourse. She is trying to educate me as we are launching a P&Q version of Workshop on the Web (it will be called Quiltwow) in December. Carol will be the editor and I will be the tea-person. (I was going to put tea-boy but thought that it might be sexist!). She has organised a super free taster issue - I'll let you know when it is up on the site.

It was soon obvious that I don't usually go to quilt things - saw lots of people I knew and they all said 'What are you doing here?'. I don't know why I don't do quilt things (other than the Birmingham Festival of Quilts, which I love) as I really enjoyed myself. So good to go to a show and not have to worry about getting back to the stand.

Pics below from Angela Ambrose (top) 'Fields of Green' which came second in the Small Wallhanging section. Below that is a detail from Angela's sister, Pam Webley's colourful quilt. This is called Wild Geese Migration and it received a Judges Merit Rosette.

Everyone said that this show, which hosts the National Championships, has been badly affected by the big NEC show, the Festival of Quilts. Are there just too many shows now? The new K&S show at the NEC looks to be busier this year than last, but are there just so many people and so much money to go around? What does anyone think? We are doing the Festival of Quilts with a bigger stand than last year and I'm at the NEC and Ally Pally K&S with the Val CH EXhibition. Will be a gibbering wreck at the end.

The really good news is that I have put away all the stuff from Scotland and tidied my workroom. I propose to give myself the afternoon off to work on a new piece. It has been in my head for a while and is shouting loudly to be let out. Called Schism (I often find that the title arrives before the work) it is about the fragility of everyday life and how one event can fracture it. Sounds a bit dark, doesn't it? Perhaps there will be a companion piece called Schism 2 - rejoined.

The shape will be a sort of scroll - a bit like this one that I worked for the Paper & Beyond CDROM. This was called The Abyss and has all sort of writings inside it about abysses (can that really be the plural?). Phillip Pullman's book, His Dark Materials sparked this one off.

If I get the design sorted, I 'll show you tomorrrow.

Saturday 23 June 2007


I wasn't going to post today but I fear that I am addicted. Just love all your messages. All I am going to say - well confess, actually, is that I still haven't put away my stuff from the Dundee trip or the Ipswich workshop. I was very low on stuff like embossing powder and metallic waxes and I did a big order, which has now arrived. So I now have that to put away as well.

I am going to start now. Jane Lemon says she never leaves her workshop without setting it all up ready to stitch the next day. I can't even see my sewing machine under the junk!

Dale is a tease just showing us a hint of her garland. Above is a hint of my work for the same publication. Back to the sorting.

Friday 22 June 2007

Playing Truant

Again, thanks for the replies. It's a great way of chatting - thanks to ominnimo (why that name?) who I met in Dundee. Makes the world seem small, doesn't it?

Just a quick post today as I'm off to Bournemouth (nearest large town). The excuse is that we have broken our long arm stapler which is needed to finish off the Val CH boards. I also need some white velvet for my inkjet transfer paper experiments. I suspect that ironing it over will flatten the pile but it's worth a try. I know I've got loads of white somewhere, but it is in hiding.

Here's a page from the experiments book which insists on sitting up here next to the text. I've put in loads of CRs. Anyone got a cure?

Really the stapler is just an excuse to go to our favourite coffee shop, armed with the paper, and chill for a while. Neither of us has time for this, but we've put in a couple of fourteen hour days this week so we need a treat.

I'm attempting a photo but they all look so awful. I always resist having an author's pic in my books but Interweave are insistent. So, hopefully, here I am checking out how the beard's growing. Believe it or not it's the best of a bad bunch.

I was trying not to have a gloat while reading Dale's blog (about struggling to get things finished) as I have finished my article for the Quilting Arts 'special. Got paid back for that when I finally got round to doing some more book writing - a chapter has disappeared! Serves me right.

I'll keep you posted on the velvet experiments.

Thursday 21 June 2007

The daily round, the common task - stops you stitching

I'm really beginning to see the point of this blogging - it's great to get your messages. I'm learning fast and can now go to your blogs and see who you are. Just like Friends Reunited!
Sarah Jayne - I'll be interested to see your embellished printout. I have to say that there'll be lots of embellishing in the I2S (Image to Stitch working title) book. Val and I were working together with this and some good stuff was emerging.

Helen from Canberra - sadly there are no plans to take the VCH exhibition to Australia. Not sure how the family would view it - we're keeeping them from her work with the K&S and they may want it back soon after. BTW I once spent what seemed like a week trying to get out of Canberra. My tiny mind couldn't cope with the circular road grid.

Anyway - to work. Yesterday was spent trying to catch up with the admin that had built up while we were away. I also made a start in unpacking the course stuff. If I don't put away the materials from the classes I can't get in my workroom, so that is a great incentive.

Some of todays excitements are visiting the accountant and having Clive take my photo for the Interweave web site. I think they have published Stitch, Dissolve, Distort in the USA - it's usually about a year behind the UK which causes all sorts of problems when retailers like Quilting Arts want to stock it early. Batsford won't wholesale to them because of messing up the co publishing deal. This book has gone well over here and I've been doing some follow up work with water soluble film.

There is an idea in the book for using machine wrapped cords to outline free machined motifs - you stitch them on before dissoloving. It gives good definition and makes a stronger line. I've now discovered that this technique works well with the Super film from the Soluble Film Co ( This dries to a very hard finish and makes this technique very suitable for jewellery and 3D pieces. There's a pic above.

I had a letter from Yvonne Morton today. She stitches the most wonderful textile pieces from silk felt that she makes herself. She's done some interesting things on the embellisher (on the embellish and stitch site). Other than that you won't find her on the web. We are both part of Wessex Textiles, an exhibiting group.

She has an unexpected exhibition at the Atrium Gallery, Bournemouth University, Thursday 19th July to Saturday 29th September (Mon-Sat 9-6). I know that Yvonne has lots of new work and it's a great chance to see her in this prestigious gallery.The piece below is a detail of 'Lean on Me',
Still have lots of links to put up and I promise I'll do it tomorrow. Especially Margaret R.

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Wet Windsor Wandering

Many thanks to you all for the 'welcome to blogging' messages - lovely to hear from everybody.

It was a busy day yesterday. Jane Lemon (who does wonderful goldwork and heads the Sarum group of ecclesiastical embroiderers) and I are putting together an exhibition to celebrate the life of Val Campbell-Harding. This will be touring with the UK Knitting & Stitching Shows to Birmingham, London and Harrogate. There are some wonderful bags and bookcovers but Val always described herself as 'queen of the samples' and we puzzled for a while as to the best way to display these wonderful little gems. Eventually, we hit on the idea of theming them by book as most were worked for her many books. However, it is taking us ages to mount them all up so, yesterday, I took along a secret weapon - Clive - as he's very nifty with a craft knife.

We headed off to Jane Lemon's cottage where we spent the morning mounting Val's work on A1 boards. They looked great and we are very nearly there. The boards are black as VCH always showed her work on this colour. We both liked to work dark too, and had to make a great effort for our shared books to lighten up (richly metallic, dark pieces don't photo well). We would phone each other and say things like 'I'm on dark red today - aren't I doing well'? I do miss her so much.

This is a delicious piece of Val's work, done on the embellisher and stitched. It was to be included in part two of our Embellish & Stitch book.

If I do write a follow up, I'll have to make sure that this piece goes in. At the moment, I'm writing a book for Batsford called 'Image to Stitch' about stitching into transferred digital images. Having great fun with that. The piece below shows an image of the Watts Chapel (near Guildford, Surrey). I'd redrawn and coloured from my photo, then transferred to Lazertran. I prepared a base by sticking crushed eggshells onto thick interfacing (Vilene) and floated the Lazertran off the paper and onto my image.

After a good lunch with Jane we were on our way to Windsor for the Creative Studies exhibition opening. This show was excellent this year with good results across the board. The final year work from the Higher Education Diploma students (Jan and Jean's class) is always good and was exceptional this year. Lovely to see so many old friends and J & J were both on great form. You can see a general photo from the City & Guilds exhibition below. These shoes were delightful.

Above, you can see strong work by Yumiko Reynolds from the Higher Education diploma. Based on the horrors of Hiroshima, it was beautiful and horrific at the same time.

The Advanced Embroidery Workshop students' exhibition was the biggest surprise - must find out who's teaching this as they have done such a good job. The opening speech by Diana Springall was enlivened by a huge clap of thunder and a cloudburst. This made going home quite a challenge as all the roads were flooded. Luckily our sat nav had a hissy fit and sent us home via the M25.

Monday 18 June 2007

In off the top board

Well, this is a new departure and I'm embarking on it with enthusiasm while muttering about Dale Rollerson. She talked me into it so, if it all goes pear-shaped, I shall blame her. It may not be a 'post every day' blog as my life is a little hectic but I'll do my best.

I write books on textiles, edit and write for magazines and also travel a lot doing teaching and talks. In fact this first posting was compiled during a 1500 mile trip to Dundee for a wonderful weekend with the girls from the local Embroiderers' Guild.

I stopped off on the way to review the Guild's Riches of Stitches exhibition near Wolverhampton. A bit patchy but with some little gems like this piece (Tropical #14) by Fiona Rainford. Full review in the next Workshop on the Web.

The Scottish workshop was great and excellent work was produced. We were exploring techniques for producing frescos, rock paintings and the like. Had a lovely time bonding crumpled tissue paper to felt and then painting it with walnut inks and the fabulous Moonshadow mists. I love the effects that are possible with these paints. Below, you can see my Little Book of Walnut Ink and a page from the book.

We also discovered new things to do with the melting pot, especially dripping it onto stamps. Freehand dripping became known as the 'Dundee dribble' and I'm now experimenting with hand-stitching over the top of the embossing powder. Here's the beginning - I'll show the finished piece if it works.

Dashed into home for a night to give the cat a cuddle and then off to Ipswich Guild for a dayschool. We left home the day before the class (it's a 200 mile journey) and had time to go to Ely Cathedral where we found an interesting exhibition in the Lady Chapel. Called Bride it is an installation by Emily Haysom and forms part of the Lantern Dance Theatre latest production. The mobiles are formed from wedding dress remnants and reference the church as the bride (and thus a body of people). Thought provoking and good to look at in this large empty area. The sun filtering through the sheer fabrics changed the aspect, too.

It brought to mind Lucy Brown's stripped and woven wedding dresses. Obviously a trend in the making.

It's wonderful to be home - the cat thinks so too - but tomorrow I'm off again. This time to see my friend Jane Lemon and do some work on the exhibition celebrating the life of Val Campbell-Harding we are curating. This will be touring with the Knitting & Stitching show at Birmingham, London and Harrogate.

As if I don't travel enough, from there, it's on to Windsor for the private view of Jan & Jean's Diploma students and the City & Guild work. I'll bring you news of that on Wednesday. At least I get to sleep in my own bed tonight.