Tuesday 31 July 2007

Off to Steeple Langford

Had a most annoying sleepless night with too much going around in the head. And not even Harry Potter for company as I've finished him. Should have got up and done some filing! That would have sent me back to sleep.

I found the lost pic from yesterday, so Diane Carrington's 'Gothic Slendour' (from the BOLT exhibition in Kenilworth) is having a solo show here. It was big and very bold and I love the heavy gold contrasting with the distressed areas.
Spent some time yesterday thinking about my half day class at the Festival of Quilts. I'm doing something on working with paper and it will probably involve Moonshadow mist sprays. I shall have to prepare the papers in advance as they won't have time to dry. Dale Rollerson tells me that they now do inks, so it would be good if the ones I've ordered arrive before the class so we can try them. Dale blogged about them recently at www.downunderdale.blogspot.com

I think we might add metal accents so I've been looking out some of my stuff on borders and tiles. Loved the borders sample but we won't have machines so the challenge will be to turn it into hand stitching. Might rope Clive in to do some wire 'wigglies', too.

Today I am off to Steeple Langford, Wiltshire, to see Jane Lemon. I've spoken of her before but for newcomers she heads up The Sarum Group who make the most wonderful ecclesiatical embroidery. Very forward looking, dramatic work.

Jane has written lots of books for Batsford and has a great idea for a new book. I've been nagging her for ages to get her proposal in (nagging is what Val used to do to Jane to get her to do things). So I'm spending the day with Jane to make sure that we get it done. We need good books on modern goldwork and Jane is adept with machine as well as hand stitching.

Will let you know how I get on tomorrow.

Monday 30 July 2007


Thanks for comments - and birthday wishes, Margaret. I'm trying to put it all behind me - really don't feel so old - must be a chronological error.
Doreen - the lace is OK, if you are careful but, if I'm not sure, I anchor 'difficult' materials down by embellishing chiffon all round them and then zapping some of it away.
The BOLT exhibition was great. Quite small but definitely perfectly formed, and the work was excellent. Sometimes you go to a really big exhibition and only like a few pieces, but everything here was very classy and inspirational. Linda Westerman's work is always spot on. She is writing an article for Workshop on the Web (December). I'll certainly be trying out some of her ideas from that.

Deb Jackson (hi Deb) works on our most precious memories with her pieces based on nostalgia. Interesting to imagine the reaction from the viewer. I saw these baby dresses and went straight back to my daughter's first summer - so were the people next to me at the exhibition feeling that, too? Textiles that play with our senses - there's a thought.

Jessica Abrahams' text pieces were lovely (top, below) and Sheelagh Stephens had some fascinating work on Lutradur. Selfishly, I'm only going to show you a small piece of this as I've bagged it for my Image to Stitch book.

There was a really big Gothic column from Diane Carrington. It was gilded and distressed - most impressive. I was going to show you but, for some reason it won't let me bring in any more pics. How annoying - is there a limit, other than the overall mg one? Will show you tomorrow.

I didn't intend this to turn into a review as I've already done that for September WoW. It will be on the free section of the site so everyone can see it. Let's finish with Jean Littlejohn's piece on Pathways - below.
Jan and Jean had just returned from the Quilting Arts Textile Cruise where they were tutors. They were full of the wonderful Arctic scenery (the cruise went from Vancouver). Jean was raving about a glacier which, she said, was the most beautiful thing that she had ever seen. They'd had a great time but were very tired - they had 100 students between them which meant they had to be very organised. They were amazed at how much work the students did and they all completed a book. Did anyone go on that cruise? Love to hear from you.

We went home via the usual National Trust lunching post. This one was Upton House, near Banbury, and the paintings (especially the remnants of altar pieces and icon-like works) were very special. The gardens were wonderful, too, sort of hanging gardens - very hard on the legs with lots of steps. My ankles are still aching, even today but think how good the exercise was!

Friday 27 July 2007

Making a Bolt for it

Tomorrow I am going to the BOLT exhibition in Kenilworth. This is a super group who do some wonderful work - Jean Littlejohn is their mentor and a member of the exhibiting group - so it is very flattering to be asked to open their exhibition. I am practising my opening speech on the cat. This will make sure that it is not too long - the cat has a short attention span.

The invitations are great - computer printed and tacked to felt - see below.

I first saw their work at the Art Van Go Studio in 2005, so I know we are in for a treat. They are at the Jane Powell Art Studio until 11th August (not Mondays), so if you can get there, you'll love it. One reason why I enjoy seeing this group is that they show their sketchbooks, which are delicious artworks in their own right. I'll try to get some pics to show you.

It has been a very busy day today, tying up lots of loose ends. So much, in fact, that it's time for some bullet points. So far I have:

  • Finished proofing September's Workshop on the Web (great issue)

  • Finished Harry Potter (great ending)

  • Finished the text part of the 'Image to Stitch' book (took great effort)

  • Put together another of the boards of Val's work for the exhibition (great work)

Here are a couple of the pieces from the Val box. There is so much that I don't know if these will go in. Jane Lemon and I wanted to show some of her teaching pieces and this is a good example. The piece below shows lots of textural snippets, from scrim to lace, embellished on to acrylic felt. It could be zapped to add more texture and this is shown at one end. The pieces could also be stitched down if you don't have an embellisher.

Then the whole thing is painted with white emulsion paint. Yes, the stuff we paint on the walls. After this, it is coated with black Quink ink which reacts with the emulsion to give a lovely blue-grey colour.

When dry, a little gold paint gives that finishing touch. Good, eh?

Thursday 26 July 2007

Back to the Embellisher

Sorry folks, promised to post yesterday - forgot we were away. I'd been playing on the embellisher with some really chunky yarn from 21st Century. It is really part of a WoW product test but there are so many great products this time that I think this one can have an early outing. Anyway, I built up a background with scrim and wool fibres, pulled the thick wool roving into diamonds and embellished it on top. Just nibbled round the edges to keep the shape. Looked promising, so now I've started adding stitch. Will keep at it - it may be a cushion when it grows up - and show you the next stage, soon.

Yvonne Morton does some very interesting things on the embellisher. She works from the back, using a single needle, and really concentrates on mark making. Her main fabric is a silk felt that she makes from tussah silk, lovely and soft.

As you can see from the reverse of this border, (below) she has used a tan wool fibre on the back to produce the tan marks and black muslin for the black ones. Great effect, isn't it?

My birthday saga took an interesting turn on Tuesday evening when we had a call from daughter Fiona. Could we babysit that night as they had a chance to go out with friends? I should have been more suspicious. When we got there, of course, there were our mates hidden behind the furniture in a wonderfully decorated room. I had declared a total embargo on parties (I hate them) but this was a small select bunch and Fiona produced a meal and a cake, so we had a great time. I just wish I'd worn something other than old jeans and a t-shirt!

Tuesday 24 July 2007

The Curse of Paperwork

Thanks so much for all the lovely birthday messages. You are all so kind. I've got over the shock of the nasty big birthday now. Had a great evening and decided to have an official birthday next April when we are going to Oz. We shall have a trip on the Ghan - the sleeper train from Darwin to Adelaide. We've been talking about doing it and Dale sent us some literature, so it seems a good birthday treat. Also decided just to go as trippers - not a working trip as it has always been before. It is getting so much more difficult to take all the things one needs when teaching overseas and it is a bit scary to have to stage an impromptu exhibition of work for the benefit of the security men. When I came back from America last year I bought Clive a present of a very large water cannon (he had declared war on a squirrel). Not surprisingly, there was a note to say that my case had been searched!

I have still not unpacked from the weekend course but have been doing some of the paperwork for the Festival Of Quilts. Whatever happened to the paperless office? We should now have lights and a power point - by the end of the day we may have some tables and chairs.

The next job is to play with the Embellisher machine and do something for the WoW products page with this lovely thick wool from 21st Century Yarns. This will not be a great hardship and I'll show you how it turns out tomorrow.

Monday 23 July 2007

No Work Today

A day off. The course went well and we had some lovely people on it. We went to Yvonne's exhibition, which received a rousing thumbs up, and then for a meal on Saturday evening, which was good. I forgot to take the camera so haven't got any work to show you but they've promised to send me photos of the finished pieces. We had great fun printing on the heavy version of Lutradur for backgrounds (stitches like a dream) and then ironing transfer prints on to more Lutradur and using a soldering iron to burn out motifs. These were applied to the backgrounds.

I am not working today as it is my birthday. A very nasty big one. Clive had a romantic notion of a surprise trip to Paris but when he looked in the diary there was no time! So we went to Pizza Hut and then to see Shrek3 with two daughters and five grandchildren. It was lovely and, I think, just as much fun. The kids are always good entertainment value!

Tonight we're off to our favourite restaurant, so no time to write more. More stitchy bits tomorrow.

Saturday 21 July 2007

Textured Transfers

Haven't had time to blog for a couple of days but there is just time to write a few lines before the course starts. Must allow time to pop in and buy Harry Potter on the way. We have both finished our current reading books so will have to buy a copy each. How sad is that? With five grandchildren there is always someone to pass it on to.

Hope all the students get to the course OK. Terrible floods and the road conditions are very bad. I checked the venue and all is well there. What a summer.

We are working on computer images and how to achieve texture with T-Shirt transfer papers - they are always so flat. Here's a sample on needle-punched felt. Clive will be kept busy printing out all the images. I'll show you some of the work on Monday. Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday 19 July 2007

A Personal Private View

Phew! Yesterday was so hectic that I didn't get time to post anything - not even a letter. Julie do come and say Hi at the FOQ. Janice , you are welcome to use my boos at any time as I don't use booze much these days. I find that as I get older my bad habits are giving me up! All except food, of course.
Getting ready for my weekend course on using inkjet transfer paper - keep finding exciting new things and adding them to the course. At this rate I shall never be ready and two days won't be nearly enough. I love doing these courses that we organise ourselves. Folk come and stay in hotels or b&bs and last time we had students from Ireland, France and the USA. We have an 'event' on Saturday evening - sometimes I do a talk or get a speaker in, then we all go for a meal. This weekend we are going to Yvonne Morton's exhibition and she will be there to talk to us about her work and show us her sketchbooks. More on this later.
I enjoyed myself at West Country Embroiderers. We made rocks from Suffolk puffs and added needleweaving and rough cords. I had forgotten how to do needleweaving and had to have a lesson from my friend Sue. Here's my starfish - a bit twee but having made him (blood, sweat and tears) he's staying there. Actually. one leg (tentacle?)was made by Sue.

Early evening we went to Yvonne's private view. As I'm reviewing the exhibition for Embroidery magazine we went along early and had our own extremely private viewing. I love her work. She has been researching the Kuba tribe for ages and it is fascinating to see the work change and grow. Here's a sketchbook sample.

Yvonne makes her own silk felt and then mark makes or adds linear patterns with embellisher and sewing machine. I love this use of the embellisher, making marks with a single needle from the back. Looks like animal skin.

Must go now and do some more packing for the course. Possibly some more experiments too.

Tuesday 17 July 2007

Almost a Day Off

Thanks for confirming my thoughts about Jennifer Gray, Maggie. Will have to think about the book on embroidery around the country. We could call it Stitching up Britain (should be the UK but it doesn't scan well). Clive had a idea of doing one on textiles overseas but I think it was the thought of all the travel costs going down as expenses that had the most appeal!

Gill, I like your knitted piece. I can only knit in the winter - it makes me too hot, even with the present unsummer weather.

Lovely post from Susan - great having a son dancing with Sadlers Wells. Do make yourself known at the K&S Show. The Val exhibition is coming together well but I'm behind with the Festival of Quilts preparations. I have some great work from both Workshop on the Web and the forthcoming QuiltWow to display. We had a QuiltWow meeting yesterday and Carol Dowsett, who is the editor, has signed up some great articles. Getting excited, now. You seem to spend so long talking about these things that it's good when the work comes in.

Today I am going to my local West Country Embroiderers group. Pat Mummery is doing seascapes, but I hope I can get away with a cliffscape as I have a UFO that would fit well. It came from a drawing of cliffs.

I drew it with Graphitint pencils. I'm sure that you all know them - they are graphite pencils with a hint of colour that come to life when you add water. See below.

I scanned it and printed on cotton, tore it up and worried the edges. Have just begun stitching them down again.

We were supposed to take painted calico so I may get thrown out for having the wrong background.

Will let you know how I get on.

Sunday 15 July 2007

600 Miles Later

Home again. Great trip. More about it below. Thanks to Sara and Jane for the Urchfont comments - loved the blog about Urchfont Sara - good memories. You were all a great class and we'll catch up at the FOQ. Hope the bag turns up. Jane.

We were off to Hull last time I posted and I think I shall draw a veil over the journey up. Torrential rain, roadworks, missed lunch at the National Trust and had the worst pizza known to man at a motorway services. I thought they couldn't mess up Pizza. I was wrong.
However the next morning I opened the curtains at the Travelodge (cheapish hotel chain) and discovered that this hotel, on a very busy road, was completely fields and trees at the back. In a tree just feet from the window were a squirrel and a green woodpecker and rabbits were playing on the grass below. Like waking up in pet's corner. Wonderful.

We were due for our talk, near Hull on the afternoon so we went into Beverly - a lovely little town. In the Minster there were a set of panels on the life of Saint John of Beverly, all completed in the sixties by students from the Hull Regional College of art. One of the panels by Jennifer Gray is shown below. I seem to remember that she was the tutor for this college - quite a well known and much respected figure. Does anybody know more about her.

Very evocative of embroidery of that time they were worked on dyed fabrics with applique and laid fillings. Lovely stitching - see detail below.

Also in the Monster were a series of modern panels - mostly commercial screen printing but some had embroidery, like this delightful small panel showing the ship building industry.

You can see from the detail how lovely the work is. No-one could tell me anything about it or who made it. it does annoy me when good work goes uncredited.

The talk on 'Putting on the Glitz' for the East Yorkshire Embroidery Society went really well. A big audience, probably around 100, and they are a lively bunch. As they are EYES they have a junior group called eyelets. Cute, eh? Much needed, too.

A good trip home in sunshine and we are shattered today.

Friday 13 July 2007

Just Before I Go

I wasn't going to post today as I'm off to do a talk in Hull. But I do have just five minutes before I go............ Is this a sign that I'm totally hooked?

Helen Suzanne - loved your sketch blog. Is the idea to do a sketch a day? Yvonne Morton and others had an exhibition once which showed their sketch a day approach - it was so interesting.

Stewcat - lucky you, having a class with Sherrill Kahn. She's doing a WoW article in September and has sent me a couple of pieces to show at the Festival of Quilts next month. Here is a detail of one of them. Just love her work.

Yesterday we had the invasion of the teenagers - well just two, but it seemed more. My grandaughter Lauren and her friend Becky came to play Polymer Clay games. I had a new gizmo to make even-sized beads. it defeated me but Lauren managed to suss it out. Will show you the results when they've finished them.

They have just had a school initiative, working with Cas Holmes, and they were very impressed with the results. We ended with a barbecue and an intellectual discussion on euthanasia. They do cover ethical issues well at their school and it makes for some interesting conversation.

Car packed, Clive hassling - here we go. See you next week.

Thursday 12 July 2007

Embossed Angels

I am packing again - this time for a talk in Hull on Saturday. The title is 'Putting on the Glitz' and it is one of my favourites because we cover the historical aspects - mostly goldwork. There are such lovely distressed pieces in the golden oldies section. It's also interesting coming up through the 20th century to see the development into the work we do today. This piece by Val Campbell-Harding was worked on furnishing fabric -a common choice in the 70s. Don't you love the folds in his neck?

Coming up to date I think that some of the stuff being done with melted embossing powders is a new goldwork and many of the same rules apply for using it. The small embroidery below was poured from a melting pot onto a Sherrill Kahn angel stamp - it's not an exact science as you often get an incomplete motif, which is great. I slapped some water-soluble paper over the melted UTEE so that it had a base. When the paper is dissolved and dried it can be stitched to a background.

I made a series of these for an exhibition and sold them all. This one had a wing missing so she was called 'Almost an Angel'. Then there was 'More than an Angel' who had an excess of powder; you can see her below. Finally there was a very skinny one who just had to be 'Atkins Angel'.

We shall be sure to record anything interesting that we find en-route to Hull. No doubt we shall be visiting a National Trust place or two - if only for the food.

Please keep the comments coming - I don't always get around to replying individually but I love reading them.

Wednesday 11 July 2007

The Answer is a Mushroom

Well guessed. The fungi folks were on the right track. Hanbury Hall had a mushroom room (is that two rooms?) where they used to grow mushrooms for the estate. Now they grow them for the tearoom. Here's the close up.

They grow them in small trays on a sort of greyish straw and the spores are sewn in a dark compost so it gives great tonal values. The room is half underground and has no windows - apparently this makes for ideal growing conditions.

I have had one of those days where you don't get anything done - just dribs and drabs. Today's lost item was the image that we use to print the 'How to Use Paint Shop Pro' CDROMs. At least that was only on the computer - easier to search than the house.

I have also been writing book reviews for Workshop on the Web. This always takes ages as I get too deep into the books. There is a fabulous new beetle book from Prestel - all close ups of wonderfully colourful bugs. I shall put this chap on to transfer paper and do some stitching on him.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

Mystery Design Source

Back from Birminham - the demos and talk went well, I think, and we met lots of lovely people. We were so well looked after, too. I demo'd the Moonshadow Mists among other things - the front row of the audience nearly got sprayed, too. It was like the moment in the aquarium when the whale hits the water! It's a great idea to get the speaker to do a demo - then you can explain a lot more about the things you are covering in the talk. Someone took some photos so I'll put those up when I get them.

We stayed overnight in a great hotel but had to get up at 5am today to miss the traffic. Now it's midday and I feel like I'm jetlagged.

On the way to the 'do' yesterday we called in at Hanbury Hall - a National Trust property, near Birmingham. If you are a member you get in free and I like to go to lots to feel I'm getting my money's worth. They also have rather nice cafes which are great for a quick lunch. The weather was amazing - huge black thunder clouds and sunshine all at the same time. Made for some dramatic photos (and a very heavy downpour, too).

The Hall was not terribly inspiring but the food was good. We did manage to have a good walk around the grounds, between showers.

Here is a puzzle for you. This is a great design source, discovered at the Hall. I have not doctored the photo. Who can guess what it is?

I thought it could be interpreted using Jennifer McFarlane's technique (with natural Scottish wools) that she uses on the Embellisher. Here is a piece of her work showing the wool background, with circles, worked from the back using silk noile.

I shall put a close up of the mystery on the blog tomorrow. Will you all guess? Do try.

Saturday 7 July 2007

Lost Cause

Today we are getting ready to go to Birmingham for our gig on Monday. This is the one with demos and a talk. We need to do it today as we always try to have Sundays off - we work from 7am to heaven-knows-when in the week, so a day off is great. Also a much needed time to see the family. The packing is not going well. Clive decided to change the lamp on the digital projector. Although the warning light is not flashing he's been meaning to do it for ages. Now we can't find the manual. Despite the fact that we haven't referred to it for ages we now feel very insecure about going away without it. On with the search.

I've been having a great time playing and have resolved my challenge about using Tyvek, walnut inks and embellished surfaces. I sprayed tissue with the inks, jazzed it up with Moonshadow Mist (wonderful mix of walnut ink and glitz) and then embellished it with chiffon over the top. The Tyvek was ironed over a stamp (this was a WoW technique a few issues ago) and made a focal point when painted. I stitched silk pods over the edges.

Loved this, especially the glitzy tissue idea. Looking forward to more playing at Birmingham. Will show the results later in the week.

We invoked the help of St Anthony (patron saint of lost things) and the manual turned up in the boot of the car - where we had already looked. We are now searching for Clive's invaluable notebook which must have fallen from his pocket during the hunt!

Thursday 5 July 2007

Pics from the Course

Just a quick post today as I have loads of catching up to do. It's the time for concentrating on Workshop on the Web and the articles are coming in. This is always really exciting and I love seeing all the work. We've got some especiialy super articles for September - a great 'design to stitch' one from Gwen Hedley and a real gem from Sherrill Kahn, who is a big favourite with Wowies.

Back to the Urchfont course. It's always interesting to see how folk who are totally new to the embellisher produce work. This lot did some exciting things with very basic materials - just a few bags of silk and wool fibres and some chiffon. We mostly used velvet with transfoil ironed on, placed over felt. Here are some pics. Alison (top) and Gwen's landscape with detail below.

Can't leave the subject of the C&G course without showing you Alison's patched 'pinny'. A brilliant piece of work from a series that I think is called 'Impossible Ingredients for Indigestable cooks'. Someone please correct me if I am wrong.

I am doing an interesting thing in Birmingham on Monday for the local Embroiderers Guild. It is an evening talk together with afternoon demos. I have told them I shall be demoing the embellisher but I forgot that and told Ario (who will be the traders) to bring lots of Tyvek and water soluble paper. So I now have to put together some work combining all these materials. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday 4 July 2007

Home Again

Many thanks to all who left messages after the last blog. So exciting to see them all.

In reply to Sue I fear that the Pam Watts book is out of print. The prices are high on Amazon and that is usually a sign. Batsford used to keep almost all their titles going but I guess there are just too many now. I wonder if Val's books will become scarce. Most of the recent titles are in print now but the older ones already go for a good price.

Judy - thanks to the pic I can remember talking to you in Dundee. Isn't this blogging great, makes for a small world. Annette - so good to be back in touch.

Here I am back at home, exhausted and inspired by my Urchfont trip. At the exhibition I met the 'other Maggie' (an old friend) in person, plus other bloggers. The open day was on a smaller scale than usual as the C&G classes were at an interim stage. However it was great to see the work from this, usually it is eclipsed by the assesment pieces. I loved this display by Sian Martin's students - all based on a black and white theme.

Sian's Masterclass were showing some great work and I loved the pieces by Sylvia Grant - all papery with straws and mixed media. Again the mono colour scheme is very appealing.

Elli Woodsford's jacket which combined machine knitting with the embellisher was causing gasps of admiration. I'll put a pic of this up tomorrow as I'm planning to show some of the great things my class did with the embellisher. The book below is by Olga Legg from Textiles 21. The 06 group had some great stuff, too.

Can't leave the subject without encouraging anyone who can get to Urchfont to consider the Machine Embroidery Historic Heirloom C&G run by Janet Crowther. It's all about distressing and ageing (today I feel both aged and distressed) fabric and mixed media, based on a study of old textiles and artifacts. It's run over a series of weekends and is one of the best of the shorter C&Gs.

My stay at Urchfont means that I am now on starvation rations. The food is just so good that it is irresistable. My class were wonderful and are all doing their C&G with Sian on a distant learning basis. We had folk from all over the world, including English Rose (Sarah) who I'd met through this blog. Not everyone comes to the Summer School but those who do have a wonderful time. Sian's tutorials inspired them and they were really buzzing. I worked with them through some metal and mixed media techniques and we had a ball. Pics below from Margaret (top) and Jane (below).

It was good working with Sian and she had some super ideas for the evening sessions, which she taught. I shall certainly use one of my designs, that grew out of her drawing ideas, for a piece soon.

Urchfont have two embellisher machines and the class took to these with enthusiasm. Many of them were new to the machine and, boy, were they hooked. There were so many super things made that I shall have to show you those tomorrow.

Great to hear from from the class Jane - I loved the message (you can run but you can't hide). My grand exit from the class (which continues today) was rather spoiled by forgetting my overnight bag and having to drive quite a way back. Clive, who nobly came to pick me up, went a bit thin around the lips as he turned the car round but I soon convinced him that it was all his fault.