Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Nasty Norton Nincompoops

I have steam coming out of the ears as we have spent all morning trying to renew our subscription to Norton for our anti-virus, security thingy. 'Click here to renew' it said beguilingly and, trusting little souls, we did. I won't bore you with the details, suffice to say that they have taken our money (that part was easy) but the renewal code they gave us keeps being rejected. Then they said turn Norton off. You've guessed it - it wouldn't turn on again. Eventually sorted that out and now we wait for the email from the helpline (please allow 2 days for us to respond). Anyone know a better way? I bet the Mac fans are smirking!

Barbara - not much in Bournemouth itself but there is a Hobbycraft at Longham (near Ferndown, north of Bournemouth) which is quite good for paper and beads. In Bournemouth you'll find Fabricland which is a good source of cheap felt, velvet, organza etc.

Aussie Jo - I like the trainee shopper. Clive would be with your husband on the clothes front - Claire used to say to me, on shopping trips, 'Shall we buy him a jumper and ruin his day'.

Daniela - good to hear from you. You do such lovely work - I especially like your monoprints on your blog.

Chrissythreads - you must get into walnut inks. Just buy the basic crystals and then add food colouring to get a few different colours going. Experiment; red gives a good terracotta and blue goes green.

The shopping was good on Sunday and the best thing to do on such a wet day. I bought a copy of Belle Armoire, as someone told me they had a good review of Stitch, Dissolve, Distort. It was good, but described Val as 'the author of several craft books' and me as the embroidery expert. She would not have been amused.

In Starbucks they were giving away lovely, crumpled, printed tissue paper. Oh what a dilemma - how much can you decently take? Would anyone else appreciate it as much as me?
Here is a piece of it, bonded to Vilene and waiting for the ink and bleach to hit it. What a good freebie.

I'm glad you all liked the Shopping piece. I'm working myself up to a new big piece but need to work through a lot of design stuff. I usually work on several themes at the same time (recent ones have been Icons and Fruit) but feel the need of a new direction. Clive gave me a super book for my birthday - Return to Chauvet Cave. All about cave painting in southern France and very inspirational. Looks good for the inky stuff - watch this space.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Of Ethics - Blogging and Shopping

Thanks for the feedback on PayPal, Julie. It does seem to have improved a lot.

Margaret R - so good to have you back. I have to confess that I was so worried about where Margaret had gone, that I emailed to see if she was OK. This blogging lark raises interesting ethical considerations, such as the fact that it is not fair to expect people to keep blogging all the time, but how do you then find out if they are OK? Your bug sounds horrid, Margaret - much worse than my pathetic little cold. Do hope that you are both soon very much better.

I'm still musing on books and thinking how good Val was at recording all her experiments in them. From the drawing stage through to all the stitch experiments they are all in books, files or folders. I think this will be next year's resolution.

When I did Val's C&G course, Historical Heirlooms (at Urchfont College a couple of years ago), we did lots of ink experiments and I made a book called The Little Book of Walnut Ink. You've probably seen it before, but here it is again.

I have found this so useful, not only for 'recipes' but for scanning in individual pages to make colour schemes. This page is one of my favourites. It is walnut ink with a squirt of Adirondack colour wash sprayed into it while damp. Then I spattered black ink to get some spots.

I used this page, together with a design put together from catwalk photos and logos, for my piece called 'Shopping is the New Religion'. A detail, below.

The design was used as a displacement map on the coloured ink scan. The piece is based on an Islamic prayer shirt and my musings on what people did on Sundays nowadays.

The conclusion was that they shopped. The disintegrating water soluble paper on top represents the old religion slowly fading.

I do like my 'fat little credit cards, puffed up with debt'. This is a print on cotton, placed on felt and stitched. Then the felt is zapped to puff up the cotton.

Having delivered that lecture on religion and worship, guess where I'm going? That's right, I'm off to Bournemouth to do some shopping and lounge around with the papers in Border's cafe.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Dribbly Glue and Embellishing

Chrissythreads - I think the time to stop working on a piece is usually, in my case, just before you actually do. I am fine when I'm working on a big piece as I almost always design these before I start. It may not be a fancy design - often it is just a working drawing - but this, I find, is the best way to satisfaction. My problem comes when I am working on 'intuitive' pieces, where you just play and see what happens. That's when I get carried away. I think your method of stopping and looking is the best way for these. Anyway, disasters can be cut up and stitched into other pieces, so it is all about recycling.

I do think that crumpled pages are quite good, Artisbliss. I usually use PVA glue or Golden acrylic medium as adhesives. I paste lots of pages together and then l place non stick paper either side of them and put a weight on top. This does help. Here is another of my book pages with a little bit of shrinking plastic on the left and some glue gun dribble on the right. The glue is painted black and then gilded with wax.

Nanouanne - very odd that you're having trouble with the Quiltwow site as it has been quite busy this morning. It won't go wrong for me! I'm talking to the site people and have emailed you, so I'm sure we'll sort it out. Have always been pleased with the Protx people as the site has been very stable for the several years we've been using it. How do people get on with Paypal? I've had trouble in the past but I think it is better since Google took it over. Do let me know what you think.

Today I finally feel better. Went to bed really early and woke up ready to do some serious work. I love doing the products page for WoW as it's lots of fun trying all the new stuff. I even did some dyeing (which I don't usually like) and it worked. Then I got to play with the embellisher for the first time in ages. Here is a little sample from a pack that 21st Century Yarns have come up with. I have always liked their thick wool rovings as you can make shapes with them and embellish the edges. In the pack were two squares of felt with a matching roving and it really looks as though the felt is carved with these rovings protruding.

I did a whole piece with the pack but will save that for my product report. This is just a taster.

Next on the list is some new ink from Dale - how much more excitement can I take!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Books and Stuff

Hey - thanks for all those lovely comments, they really cheered me up. Glad you all liked the book.
Dale - I think I've already shown my best distressed wall , so I'll let you have the glory. Hope the journey home was OK.

Virobirdie - thank you (I think). My grandchildren do call me 'Granny Cool' to distinguish me from their other granny - I think this is a compliment.

Doreen G, I'm stuck for another hand word, but I'm working on it.

Pat - yes, Ian has lived in Newtown for about twelve years so we know it quite well (and I know just the shop you describe).

Yes, I know what you mean Jacqueline - it's a fine line between integration and a vanishing act. Jan Beaney has a great saying that goes something like this 'Look at a piece of work from a distance and if something is shouting 'Yoo-hoo, I'm a piece of Tyvek' then it needs working into'. I use gesso or Paper Perfect on papery surfaces and lots of stitch on fabric ones. This pic, also a book uses gesso to bed in a piece of cast paper. I did gild it with metallic wax so, although the edges bed in, the centre is quite bright.

Keep looking at the work, too. Val always used to tell me off for putting too much onto a piece of work, but was also the first one to admit that she did it, too. We would often crit each others work and that is a useful aid.

Penny - glad I'm not keeping you up at night. I can't go to sleep without reading a novel but I'm so exhausted these days that I only read about a page. Then I can't remember who the characters are and keep going backwards. My life will settle down a bit in December, I hope. Meanwhile, I think I'll keep reading the same pages, over & over again.

Hi Ann. Good to meet you. Yes, that is just what an altered book is. I had great trouble finding a book to alter as I know how much angst goes into the writing. However, my book was called 'Railways of Kent', so I thought it deserved it.

I stick the pages together until I have a really robust surface and then paint it with gesso, to cover the print. Leaving some print showing is good, too. You can carve great holes out and set things in them.

I also use board books. This is a child's story book. Again use gesso. If the pages are very shiny rub them down with sandpaper.

Dorothy - we're all into rust dying - perhaps you've just invented mildew dying!

I am doing some Procion dying for the December Products page. I have to confess that I find dying messy and would much prefer a quick squirt of fabric paint.

We had an exciting morning as one of Grandaughter Lauren's friends was on Nickelodeon kids TV, doing a challenge. My son in law filmed him on a web-cam and he had to do all kinds of daft things - like making a hat from mashed potato and sausages. He was great and won a Wii and a camera but lost, very narrowly, in the final vote.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

The Handbook

If you've wondered where I've been - the answer is 'poorly'. All together now'Aaah'. Have had a sniffle since Ally Pally but it took a week to turn into a proper cold because of all the anti-cold things I took (echinacea, First Defence etc). The revenge of the cold bug was terrible when it finally broke through the defences!

Glad to hear that Dale enjoyed Marrakesh, as I'd told her she would love it - a terrible responsibility. Tomorrow I will look for my best pink wall photo and get it in before she does.

Other Maggie. Glad you are enjoying the Val pics. You are right - her work is pretty well timeless. It was quite emotional manning the stand and I still haven't been able to read all the comments in the book.

I've been drooling over Lynda Monk's dressels. http://www.purplemissus.blogspot.com/ Such a clever combination of vessel and clothing. This one could run and run. I love wordplay and clever titles for work. Cindy Hickok does some wonderful ones. I remember one of hers called simply Saints that showed a line of draped, sepia figures with halos and in the middle was a harassed mum with a baby and two toddlers, wielding a broom and a chicken. Magic!

With this in mind I'd like to introduce you to my Handbook. An altered book with lots of drawing, painting and danglies, all somehow concerned with hands.

And below is a detail of the cover - a little piece of Tyvek ironed over a stamp. Then set into the cover with Paper Perfect. I do like things to look as though they are set into a surface, rather than plonked on.

I like to search out strange hands in strange places. The one below was found in a suburb of Sydney called Newtown - my son lives there. It's a very vibrant, multicultural place with lots of eateries spilling out onto the pavements. This hand was a plastic stencil to be used for hand painting. I painted it and then put the heat tool on it, at which it all but disappeared.

Every time my friends go somewhere exotic they bring me a hand. Jane Wild is an especially good hand finder and lots of them come from her wanderings.

This hand is hidden in a little pocket - one needs surprises hidden in a book. It opens out to show the hand.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Artefacts and Distressing

Really is going to be a quickie today as Clive is cooking the dinner and it's nearly ready. It's a bit early but we somehow missed lunch along the way.

Had a great day playing with distressed surfaces. A WoW article from Linda Westerman came in and really got me going. Her work is all based on artefacts - especially long buried pieces, very textured, look like grave goods. I decided to write a companion article as the December WoW had got itself unbalanced and needed some machine stuff. Normally it's hard to find good hand-stitching. These magazines take on a like of their own - it happened with Embroidery when I edited it and it often happens now. You commission a good wide range but all kinds of things happen on the way. Talking to other editors, I think it is a universal truth - the mag is out to get you!

Anyway I'm not complaining as it gave me a chance to play with inks and other exciting stuff.

Glad you are enjoying the Val pics. These will be last for a little while. These are from her book on Celtic knots. .

Here's a drawing page

A page on computer design.

This stencil...

. . .came from the drawing at the top and was used for the stitched pieces further down.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

More of Val's Work

Wendy - love the oven idea. Will get Yellow pages out tomorrow and do that.
I agree, Virobirdie that retirement seems an unlikely option at the moment. Too many exciting things going on.
You must come over, Aussie-Jo. It's well worth it and I'm sure that somehow it could be tax deductable. Bring your espresso machine and I'll hire you as show coffee maker - on a contract basis, of course!
Arti - Cat's thumbs - if they had them, we'd be under them!

I'm so wanting to play some more with the abaca tissue, Kate. It looks so much like a broken metallic surface. I was using Oliver Twists tissue at the show - her colours are so good that I don't bother to dye much these days. Steff Francis, too. Between the two of them, they keep me going. If I do colour the paper I use the Ranger Adirondak sprays. Tomorrow I will try to spray with a dark colour and then use a Moonshadow Mist on top. I think this technique could be extended with embossing powders, too. Now I've finished the book I can get down to some serious playing.

The photoshoot went well yesterday and seems under control. Michael had to take a photo of me drawing something and I managed to do it without giggling or wobbling about. Good trips both ways and home by 4.30. No more long drives for a while, I hope.

Met my friend Carolyn today in Christchurch. She brought some of Val's work back from the NEC for us. We could have filled another stand twice as big.

Here is one of Val's book wraps - this one is on a blue theme. She used Cyanotype fabric and produced transparencies on the PC. You need to make them into negative images before exposing to the sun.

This one used jig-saw puzzle pieces.


Some cyclamen prints from a Search Press CD (I think).

And good pieces made from the fabrics - torn into strips. Here are the cyclamen again, scanned into embroidery software. I'm fairly sure I stitched these out for her. They look familiar.
Plus a detail.


Woven strips knotted to a frame. Lovely work - she was so inventive.

I can keep going for a few more days with Val's samples - are you getting fed up yet? Let me know.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Running the Gauntlet

Today I have made a gauntlet. It was supposed to be a cuff but I got a bit carried away. It's a sandwich of felt, Wireform and heavy Vilene with a silk printout on the top. Then light machine embroidery. I'm pleased with it but I can't show you, as it's for the book, and I want to keep it as a surprise. I will certainly make another one next week and show that instead. It is the very last piece and I planned to do it later and post it on to Michael, who does my photos, but the postal strike makes things difficult. It's a good feeling getting it all done but after tomorrow, I'll have to do all those things I've been putting off. The first will be to clean the oven. The smoke alarm has become the dinner gong just lately - not good practice.
I am also trying to get the book photo log sorted out, but that cat is very clingy and keeps sitting on my papers.

Arti - that garden looks so lovely and the weather, too. It's getting quite autumnal here and the leaves are all falling today. Did your stall do well?

Pat - I'm a great fan of Linda and love her blog. She has made the most super vessel today. She has also got a good record of the show - more on that later. I fear her photo of Dale and me is a good one of Dale. I seem to be asleep (quite likely!). I do hate photos and never let Batsford put them on my books.

Aussie Jo - not sure that I've ever been to a show in Oz, although the Forums have some great traders. I think that the Knitting & Stitching show is very special, especially the London one. Andrew Salmon really invests in talent and stages some wonderful exhibitions. He does try to have something for everyone and I think you'd be hard put not to find something to enjoy. It's not just the big exhibits, though - I love people like Ruth Lee ( her knitting book is great), Alyson MM, Hilary Hollingsworth, Leslie Morgan and Claire Benn, plus so many others who chat about their work and pass on their knowledge. Ruth Issett is a good friend of mine and watching her demo is always fascinating. You do really need to go for more than one day. What are the Aussie shows like?

A really exciting thing about being part of the show is catching up with people that you don't see very often. Generally this is folk who live far away, but I've become such a hermit lately that it includes some of my best friends! I saw Jane Wild, very briefly, and managed to sneak out for a coffee with Elli Woodsford. We are both lovers of good coffee and queued for ages for a good one at Café Yum which was like a three wheeled Indian tuk-tuk, all kitted out with expresso equipment. We decided that when we retire from stitch we shall invest in just such a van and call ourselves Hell's Grannies. Actually one of Elli's other retirement schemes was a cloistered environment for elderly stitchers to be called The Little Sisters of the Soldering Iron!

Here is Val's daughter Sarah having a go on the embellisher. Although not a stitcher she was very taken with it.

It is possible to play noughts and crosses on the embellisher - working from the back, of course.

Here's a couple more photos from the show. This is a rare big piece of Val's work.

Plus a wonderful beaded book cover that is impossible to photograph. machine embroidery flowers and solid squares of peyote stitch.

A small excitement was embellishing dyed abaca tissue over the top of transfoiled velvet.

And finally a silk printout with silk fibres around it and a border made from some wonderful silk ribbon from Mulberry Silks.

Off to London tomorrow - see you later in the week.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Just to say Hi

A very quick post today, as I'm absolutely shattered. It always feels a bit like jetlag after four days of non-stop talking. Clive will have a peaceful couple of days until my voice recovers. Had a wonderful show - everyone was so nice about the Val exhibition. There are some wonderful comments in the book. Sold lots of books. Met up with Dale - here's a pic.

Didn't dare mention the R word to Dale. More about that later. Thought there was some good stuff at the show. The Pfaff exhibition was wonderful. Jan & Jean were very red - Jan was calling their stand the Bordello. Great books again.

Val's family were wonderful and came and gave us a break - so did lots of other kind souls - thanks to Hazel and Janet for all their help and Leslie, Claire and June for the coffees.

I had a great time on the embellisher and made enough pieces for the book, plus some extras which I'll show tomorrow. Found some super new embellishy products and played with them. Val's daughter Sarah was with us yesterday. She teaches art (amongst other things) and is not at all stitchy but she loved the embellisher and made some great pieces. Val would have been proud of her. Pat of www.alteringthoughts.blogspot.com gave me two delicious ATCs. Hope you don't mind me showing them, Pat. Just the colours I was using, too.

Arrived home about 9pm last night - just in time to watch a bit of rugby. I have never been at all interested before - seemed to me that a very chunky guy just caught a ball and then lay down with it. However, we were staying with some lovely friends and Peng is very keen. His wife, Peggy warned us that watching with him would be a noisy experience, and it was. The result of his enthusiasm is that I am now hooked on rugby and can't wait for the next match.

Anne - will send address - have been remiss with emails as have hardly had time to eat. Arti - glad there is someone like me. I never remember in time about the gloves. I always think that this will be the time that I don't make a mess. Always wrong.

I have to get my work ready for the photos on Wednesday so will tell more about the show tomorrow.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Rugby and Taking Silk

Just been having a good laugh at the facebook link. Thanks, Verobirdie. Reminds me of what happened to one of my friends who is very shortsighted and refuses to wear glasses. She had an encounter with a flasher in the park but only realised it ten minutes later when pondering the strange mac action. I do hope he was sufficiently downcast to give up. Thanks for all the thoughts on the rugby, folks. It's good to go off topic sometimes and this is a bit more macho than the cat. Aussie Jo - let's hope they don't try nude pole-dancing - the very thought brings tears to the eyes!

Will look forward to seeing you at the K&S, Leanne. Sunday is a good day, not quite so frantic. Some of Val's family are coming visiting on Saturday and I do hope they like the exhibition. It's a pity they couldn't get to the NEC as we had a bigger space there.

I do look forward to seeing Dale, Doreen, although last year she was missing from her post every single time I went to see her. Ian was coping manfully, though.

I have packed and am working on some stuff for the demos as it is a good chance to catch up with some work. I printed out another computer design - this time a repeat pattern - and laid it on felt before embellishing. Mixed a little silk and then worked a tiny bit from the back. Promising, I think. Hope to work on yesterday's design at the show.

Fiona and Phil are moving in while we are away and Phil is going to decorate our hall and stairs. Fee has offered to do all the emptying and moving furniture - noble, eh? So we should come back to a lovely tidy house.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Further Displacements

A much calmer day today. I even had time to do some proofing for Workshop on the Web. The December articles are looking good and there are two new techniques (to me anyway) that I can't wait to try.

I am packing up my demo stuff for Ally Pally. I thought I would kill two birds with one stone and use my demos to do the last two pieces for the Image to Stitch book. I thought about printing a design on some fine silk, using BubbleJet Set. It's not as good as the ready-to-print silk but OK for embellishing experiments. Then the silk would be applied to a base using the embellisher.

I hit on a good idea for a design. Here's how it went:

I scanned in one of OliverTwists inspiration packs in Silver Birch.


Then I scanned in a drawing of the centre of an ammonite. Drew this when I was having a big thing about fossils.


Used the ammonite pic as a Displacement map for the Oliver Twist scan.


Plan to apply the printed silk to felt and embellish with items from the pack. Possibly will hand stitch with the yarns. Can't wait to get started.

Have been following Dale's Rugby enthusiasms - so sorry the All Black's lost. I love their ceremony before the matches. Someone on the radio today suggested that the French should do the can-can before their matches. The Irish could do something from Riverdance. From what I remember (through an alcoholic haze) of the Forums, the Ozzies would probably take all their clothes off. What would the Poms do? Morris dancing, perhaps - or a little ballet. Any ideas?

Saturday, 6 October 2007

In Haste

A very quick blog today as I'm feeling a bit frantic. Why does it always take so much time to finish off the last little bits for a project? Not to mention the three large pieces that I still have to do for the book (photo-shoot two days after Ally Pally). A small brainwave suggested that, as I am demoing the Embellisher at Ally Pally show, I could base the last few pieces on that. So I shall spend the next couple of days getting the fabric ready.

Arlee did make me laugh with the 'dinner off the chest' remark. Due to gravity (and the shelf effect) I fear that mine would still sit there however shiny the surface.

I was trying to jazz up my Jersey wallpainting. Here it is again - you've seen it before.

Because it was taken with a handbag camera, in poor light, it's not a good photo. Tarting it up in the software helped a bit, but it was a little monotonal. I printed it on T shirt paper and then painted into the print with inks and a fine pen (see above). It transferred really well onto heavy Lutradur.

I really like the colourful border. Now to carve into it with a soldering iron.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Val Anniversary

I'm glad you all like the Flower Stitcher article. I can't wait to get the book and the show out of the way so I can have a play, too. This gizmo doesn't fit all machines but it is often possible to buy a shank adapter to make it fit. Thanks, Kate, for the info about Jaycotts - a very keen price, too. One more piece of advice about the FS: it sometimes seizes up, usually quite soon after you have got it. Just oil it and it should be fine. I was much amused by Dale Rollerson's blog downunderdale.blogspot.com as she has found an original flower stitcher (they have been going for quite a while) and persuaded the owner to swap it for a new one. This reminded me of Aladdin - new lamps for old - and I suggested that if she rubs the old one, Constance Howard might pop up. She was definitely the genie of creative stitchery!
Penny - will you put your Picasa postcard on your blog? Would love to see it. Glad you like the Quiltwow taster. I do think it is very clever of Carol to write about about a piece of software that everyone can use. She is working on some Shibori scarves for the December issue - they are so lovely.
I have been thinking so much about Val - it is exactly a year ago today that she died. She must have decided that I needed a boost as I have finished three big pieces for the book and I'm sure she was pushing me on. I distinctly heard her say 'Put that down, Maggie, that piece is finished'. She was always very strict about not overworking an embroidery. I think it is a universal problem - knowing when you've done enough, but not too much. Here is a very early cushion of Val's, loaned for the exhibition by Julie Smith. I think it is transfer paint, ironed through a stencil with very simple hand stitching. A revolutionary idea back then. We didn't have room for it at the show so it's good to be able to show you here.
I have moved on to my last few book pieces and I'm having fun ironing transfer prints on to felt and then using the embellisher. It breaks down the slightly waxy surface very well and then fibres can be added. I hope to continue with these explorations at the K&S next week.