Friday 30 November 2007

The Secret of the Plunger

Missed you all yesterday - spent too long in the workroom, having a great time. Ages since I've had a whole day of stitch.

Glad you liked the Frome Exhibition. The review will be in the March WoW, Aussie Jo. We have to work a good way ahead. I've got some more reviews to do for March - there seems to be a lot going on in the early spring. Tomorrow (December Wow) you can see a great review of the Ruth Lee exhibition, written by Fiona Dix of the site. It's in the free bit. Here's a pic of the Chapel (should that be ex-chapel?), fairly plain on the outside but I love the windows.

Here's just one more pic - a very delicate mixed media piece from a lady called Sue Conrad. All hers were glazed, so difficult to photograph. Lovely work, I think.

Hey, Sharon - you certainly need WoW - but then I would say that, wouldn't I? I do think that the December issue is one of the best we've had. I got very excited and spent ages trying out some of the ideas. I'll be interested in your feedback, folks.

I think you nearly invented a new technique with the glue, Carole. Pity nothing groundbreaking happened. I don't worry too much about proportions with the glue stitck but, if you put too much in, it doesn't pour well. You still can't stich through it though - it just stops it from being too brittle and snapping. That's why you need to push scrim, fabric or WS paper onto it. These can then be stitched, securing the moulded piece.

Must look into the wormspit site. Love the name. Of course I don't mind the questions - love to share. Do you know of a good mail order site in Canada for all our weird stuff, like puff paint, etc?

Now, what was I doing yesterday? Well, I can't tell until tomorrow, but you can have a guess. It involves a sink plunger and a toilet roll.

An embellished, foiled surface with lots of cut-out stitching applied.

Plus a couple of computer prints on cotton, but I'm not showing you that as it would give the game away!

Wednesday 28 November 2007

Frilled in Frome

I have been to an interesting exhibition today and I'm going to write a little about it now, before replying to your (very welcome) comments on yesterday's blog. This will make you all read right to the end!

I must say first that I had a great lunch with Jane. We went to Walford Mill - our local craft centre and saw the Christmas exhibition. Good stuff. I wanted to buy a bronze hare, he was so lovely and very well priced, but I came home and hinted heavily to Clive instead. The food was excellent and we giggled a lot.

Today's exhibition was in Frome (pronounced Froom) and it celebrated the 300th birthday of the Rook Lane Chapel. This one-time Methodist Chapel has been renovated by a firm of architects, who occupy the upstairs, and the whole of the ground floor is gallery space. Very impressive conversion. This is a view of the chapel, reproduced in earthenware by Steven Jenkins.

I went to review the exhibition for March WoW so I won't say too much about it here, other than the fact that it was a worth while trip. Not so much for the textiles, which were OK but not overwhelming, but for the concept and the glass, ceramics and painting. Because the entire exhibition, put together by glass artist Carolyn Griffiths, was based around the chapel it had a great feeling of integration. Patterns in glass popped up again in screen printed lengths of fabric or a ceramic vessel. Here are some pics. I loved this shoe, also by Steven Jenkins.

This screen printed textile by Claire Comacho uses recycled fabric. With a pattern taken from the chapel, it has a retro feel to it.

This is a detail of a rusty found object with a glass plate made to match it. I'll show the whole piece in the review (our exhibition reviews are not password resticted). By Fabrizia Bazzo, whose work was wonderful.

And some of the lovely glass from Shelley James. We met Shelley and Fabrizia at the gallery. Shelley will have more pieces in the 'proper' review.

These glass bricks had transfers applied so that they nestled inside the glass. Also by Shelley James.
Now to the chat. I bet Matawa caps are hard to paint, Carole. The only thing I can think of is to use Ranger Adirondack sprays. They are more like a dye. On the other hand, the ready dyed ones from Stef Francis, Oliver Twists or Silk Sacks are all ready to use. Gets my vote every time. Glad it turned out OK, though.
The glue stick - was it for a hot melt glue gun? Another trick may be to snip it off in small pieces to help it melt more quickly. Let me know.
Now I must go and write my WoW review before I forget the best bits of the exhibition.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

Guns, Cars and Inspirations

Hi Margaret - it is good to be back. Jan writes under the name of Juliet Landon. I think they are a bit in the Mills & Boon style. She has sent me one to try.

I like the big black heat guns, Carole. The ones shapes like a small hair dryer take a long time, although they are fine for embossing powder. Don't write off your paint stripper before trying it. I have a ferocious looking one. When Jane Wild saw it she said, 'Wow, that comes from the dark side'. I think of this remark every time I use it and it always makes me laugh. I do add Lustre powders to UTEE sometimes but the ones I was using in the video are the bronze and gold commercial ones. I often mix the colours.

Yes, Kate, - more is much more. Look forward to checking your blog for the results.

Yesterday disappeared in a car hunt. We want to change ours and have been doing lots of on-line research. I have to explain that our usual way of buying anything from a house to a sofa is to see one, say 'that looks good' and buy it straight away. No looking around. This time we wanted a change from our usual VW/Seat purchases, so much time was spent looking. Went out and drove loads of different cars, which is a hairy pursuit with all those different clutches. What did we get? The same model as we have now - a Seat Leon. Just loved it the best. Could have saved all that time and angst. However it is a very pretty grey/blue. We are now pursued by car salesmen offering better deals than yesterday!

Ages ago I said I would look at things to do with an inspiration pack so here is an Oliver Twists one. It contained abaca tissue, yarn, wire, silk pods and silk fibres.

I embellished the tissue to felt and added the fibres.
Then added the fancy yarn by embellishing in places
Free machined some motifs on felt, cut them out and applied them.
Finally rolled the pods over one side and hand stitched them.
Must rush - off to lunch with Jane W.

Sunday 25 November 2007

Back in Action

Back again. Had a good time - haven't taken photos off the camera so not many pics today.

I never worry about using ready made stamps or stencils, Kate. If I'm working to a particular theme, I often make my own but there are such good ones about and they often fit to a particular topic. I love Sherrill Kahn stamps ( and she does a good line in angels. If you drip the melted UTEE over a shaped stamp and then press on the Wspaper, it can be great fun. Here's one made with Sherrill's angel stamp.

The process is not exact and I like that. I made a series of these small angel panels. The angel above was minus a wing so I called her 'Almost an Angel'. The next one oozed a lot so she was 'More than an Angel'. The one below came out thin and lanky so she was 'Atkins Angel'.

Clive is always interested in anything on the arty or artefact side of textiles. Hand stitching leaves him cold. He does the most wonderful drawings - usually birds but sometimes abstracts. His study of a bicycle pedal adorns an Australian wall even now.

Carole, you will love your embellisher. I have to use mine this week for a secret project which I will reveal next Sunday. It is really silly, so don't get too excited.
Sorry about the Clearsnap mix up. My brain knew it was Clearsnap but my fingers typed coloursnap!

Margaret - I love the idea of a shrine for lost earrings and I certainly think it should house the lone survivor, pining for its mate. Sod's law dictates that you only lose the earring from the pair that you really love. Never the grotty one that someone gave you and you have to wear sometimes in case you meet them.

I met Jan Messent at the Basingstoke talk (they are such a lovely EG branch, we had such fun). She used to put together fantastic design books and her illustrations are wonderful. She now writes meticulously researched historical novels. It was so good to see her again - she used to live in Yorkshire but has moved to Hampshire. She shares an interest in all things Celtic and Anglo-Saxon with Clive, so we are going to visit her soon. This is now sounding like Hello magazine. Will Victoria Beckham leave David and turn to stitch? Read tomorrow's exciting instalment.

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Shrines, Shines and the Keeping of Teeth

Well, the video seems to have sorted itself out. Someone emailed me to say that Google video (where the blog videos are held) was down for a while yesterday, so I expect that was the cause. When the blog is uploaded I don't think the platform (mac or pc) used to view it makes much difference.

I'm sorry not to be going to Harrogate, Kate. I'm teaching for the next few days so won't be blogging until Sunday. The sad thing is that Jane Lemon is not very well, so she won't be going either. Ruby Lever has been wonderful and I can't think of anyone better to set the exhibition up. She will have Val's girls, too, so make sure you say 'Hi'. Val's daughter, Sarah, was so taken with the Embellisher that I have talked Janome into lending them one for the show. Hope that they take photos.

Sharon: Molding mats are unmounted rubber stamps, made by Colorsnap ( In the UK they are sold by Art Van Go or Rainbow Silks. Dale has them in Oz. They are not too expensive and come in lots of designs. Moonshadow Mists are walnut ink mixed with a lovely bit of glitz. If you Google Moonshadow Mists you'll find lots of stuff on them.

The blue metallic paint was Metallica by Jacquard, Wendy. I did add a little blue Pearlex-like stuff called Primary Elements. They come as a powder in little pots and you can see them, below.

Doreen - do try with mesh or water soluble paper. It makes it so much easier to integrate with a base fabric. This is my favourite piece made with this technique. I used a feathery molding mat with lots of WS paper, painted while wet. The background fabric is embellished organza on felt and there is a silk pod stitched across to make a divider.

Hi to Carole in BC. I love Canada and so want to go back again. The trouble with my life is that there are no longish chunks of time to travel. Glad you like the Stitch, Dissolve and Distort book. I feel so sad that there won't be another book with Val. Yesterday Batsford sent me two choices of cover for my Image to Stitch book and I so wanted to ask Val what she thought. I have to say that they were both great covers - hence my dilemma.

I am starting my next set of 'outings' with a talk on Celtic Inspiration at Basingstoke. I do enjoy giving talks. Clive does the history part of this one and, as part of the research he got very into shrines. These were, as I'm sure you know, used to hold sacred relics or books. One of the shapes was a house shrine like this one. Based on the churches which were very simple house shapes.

Clive made this shrine - he even did the stitching on a machine called a Poem which linked to a computer. The software was so horrendous that Clive (who used to be involved in computers before he accepted the job as my minder) was the only one who could make it work.

The technique is one that I used in my Raising the Surface book and involves pasting tissue over plastic canvas. He inked it and then we waxed it with metallic wax. He did a good job, didn't he? If I have to have my tooth out perhaps he'll make it a tooth shrine. Yes, they did have those!

Yesterday's dental happiness was short lived. When the dentist filled the tooth he said it might not last, but that we should see how it went. In the event it went very quickly so I'm off to the dentist again this morning.
We had a power cut yesterday evening so I didn't get my Celtic stitching done. You'll have to see that next week.

Tuesday 20 November 2007

The Big Drip

Today is a good day - good things come in threes.
1. I broke a tooth on Sunday while eating a soft boiled egg and soldiers. Demanding stuff. The dentist has managed to fix it today, and I didn't even have an injection.
2. We have had a pair of Goldcrests in the garden all morning. Tiny little chaps with brilliant flame coloured heads. Lovely.
3. I think the longer video clip is OK. I'm sure you'll let me know.

Thanks for all the encouraging messages. Sharon - you certainly need a book on the embellisher. I can recommend one (grin). I printed my design on Jacquard Ready-to- Print Silk. I know you can do your own by soaking the fabric in Bubblejetset but I'm always too impatient. It works really well on the embellisher, although you can't always recognise the image when it has been chewed up. Part of the fun.

Today's instalment of the soap opera features one of my favourite toys, the Melting Pot. If you don't have one you can melt the Ultra Thick Embossing Powder (UTEE) in a ladle by holding a heat tool underneath it - or use a gas flame if you cook by gas. Try to find a ladle with a spout to make pouring easy. To make the results less brittle snip a small amount of a glue stick and melt it with the UTEE. I'm using it here to make a roundel for a Celtic book I'm working on.

I love dripping onto a mini Moulding Mat as these are very strong and don't mind the heat. You need a flexible stamp to make removing simple. The problem is always how to fix the resulting treasure to fabric and this is my solution.

Be careful as the melted UTEE is very hot. Allow to dry and remove from the stamp. Then you can stitch through the scrim to attach it to anything. Here is how the 'drippers' look when peeled off.

The water soluble paper has been wetted, 'pulped' and formed into a circle. I have sprayed both drippers with Burnt Umber Moonshadow Mist. You can also see some lovely little hands that Dale sent me - also dipped in the pot. I have cut a circle from a tissue/ felt fabric as a background to my scrim piece.

This is what the scrim diripper looks like when stitched onto the felt piece. I painted the fabric with blue metallic paint first. I stitched all round close to the UTEE and then snipped off the remainder of the scrim. Lots of french knots that you can't really see.
Here you can see it on the front of my Celtic book which is not finished yet. I dripped in a zig-zag pattern to make the chevrons.
This is the watersoluble paper piece, below. It had a little wrapped cord stitched on when dry and has been painted with a dry brush of gold paint and some Pearlex.
Tomorrow I'll show some more drippy stuff on the Celtic theme. Let me know if you've enjoyed this and have found it useful.

Monday 19 November 2007

It's Short but it Worked

Ohm - I was only using the pack for scanning purposes as it had such great colours. I then used a drawing of an ammonite to displace the image and printed the result on silk fabric. This was used on the embellisher in yesterday's photo. I did do an article in WoW on using the Oliver Twist experimental pack so I will look the resulting embroidery out for you on tomorrow's blog. Had a smile about the mac, and yes, you are so lucky not to have the virus problem. I don't think it would have helped with the movie as it uploaded OK so it was at the Google end of the process that it went pear shaped.

I agree about the sulk and the walk. Not good for walking here today as we have had torrential rain, thunder and hail, so far - and the day is only half over!

My April plans for Oz have been moved to September - partly because the son may be coming here for Christmas and partly due to work pressures. The book may be at critical mass then, depending on how fast they progress.

The movie has worked. It's a much smaller movie as I think I was too ambitious before in both running length and resolution. It's the same theme - applying silk ribbons - and nothing particularly new. Now I know how to do it and how long it takes I can do something more exciting.
I was trying to make an embellished piece without using silk or wool fibres. So we have abaca tissue and a variety of yarns on a velvet with some silver foil Bondawebbed on. Then the ribbons and a piece of computer printed silk. On a Celtic theme as I am doing a Celtic talk this week. Here is my design. I only used the middle bit.

It gets very distorted by the embellisher and winds up like this.

I need to do lots more to it, but this is a start. So many people think that you can only use an embellisher with fibres.
And now for the mini movie.

Sunday 18 November 2007

Not Trying a Movie

I'm glad you miss me Doreen. I have to say that writing this blog does feel like writing to a mate. It's quite an odd feeling though when I go to do a talk or a class - everyone knows so much about me. Strangely, they seem much more interested in the cat's latest adventures than in my work!

It is raining here too, Daniela. Horrid and cold and dark. A long way from the Distant Stitch Summer School where we last met.

Arti (it's no good, you are stuck with that name) I'll ask Jane - I suspect that it was washes of Golden's quinacridone paint, used as glazes, but will enquire further. Jane has done far more with glazes than I have, but I love the effects so will have to play more.

Yesterday was a bit of a disaster on the birdwatching front. Having handed over Sian's work we set off for one of the RSPB reserves. Even though we are members, they are very coy about giving the locations of these in the handbook and we usually browse the web, but we forgot. After driving around for nearly an hour and narrowly avoiding get drawn into Glastonbury carnival as a float (we could have labelled ourselves 'Navigators, Failed') we went to Montacute House (National Trust) instead. This turned out to be a good move, as they had an excellent farmer's market and we wandered around, having little tastings and spending a fortune. Then a good lunch in their restaurant before heading for home.

I am going to try to tag a video on the end of this blog. If it is not there you will know that I have failed. It is just a quick one looking at applying lovely velvet ribbons (from Mulberyy Silks) with the embellisher. I cut the selvedges and the ribbons sink into the background. Here is a pic of the result.

And another one showing the ribbons used as a frame for patterned silk.

This may, or may not, be the video!
It isn't the video. It uploaded pretty quickly and then muttered to itself for an hour. I'm giving up and going out. Will try again sometime with a very small movie. Shame.

Friday 16 November 2007

Where Have I Been?

Where, indeed. Haven't posted all week and the reason is that I was suffering from complacency! Having finished my stint with the Val exhibition and taken all the stuff to Michael for the book photoshoot, I thought I could relax. Then I looked in the diary and realised that I had a talk and workshop to do this week and I wanted to update the talk and do something new in the workshop. Panic! Then all the work came back from the photo session and there was a lot that had to go back to the kind people who had loaned it. Double Panic!!!

Anyway, all is now done. The talk was good and Winchester Guild were a great audience. We do little movie clips in our talks and Clive was anxious to find out how his new camera worked out. It is much brighter and sharper than the old one so he was pleased. He also managed not to get any shots of my cleavage this time - always a possibility when he is filming from behind while I work on a machine.

The workshop produced excellent work, too. It was awful getting to the venue as there was an accident and it took me two hours to cover 40 miles. Just got there in time - although most of the participants had also been held up. I was glad of my 'out of the box' starter kit which I always try to carry. Putting all the 'ingredients' for the first activity in one box means you can zip straight into something without too much searching.

Susan (I always think of you as Arti, having misread your blog title right at the start of this madness) I like your fleur de lys piece. Do I detect a hint of embossing powder?

Hope you are going to show your mixed media textures, Becky. I'm going to be playing with mixed media as soon as I've caught up with myself. I have some classes booked and there's lots of exciting stuff out there to play with. Here are a couple of pics from Jane Wild, who does the most wonderful mixed media work. The piece is called 'Whispers', I think, and was developed for our Paper, Metal and Stitch book. It is cast paper, gesso and scrim, all built up on Wireform to allow some movement. We had such fun doing that book that we went on to do the 'Paper & Beyond' CDROM.

I'm glad that you all seem to find the clickable pics are working. Hope these are OK, Jane.

Tomorrow we are going to have a day out, under the pretext of taking Sian Martin's work back (she was very kind and let me use two super pieces for the forthcoming book). Sian lives in Somerset so we are going on to do a bit of 'birding' in the Somerset levels. The weather for the last few days has been cold, crisp and sunny with heavy overnight frosts so I hope it keeps going for another day.

On Sunday I am hoping to bring in a movie - it tells me that I can, so we'll give it a try. Has anyone tried it? Any advice? I guess it might take a while to load, so be prepared.

Monday 12 November 2007

Lots of Layering

Glad you all liked the rust pieces. I was interested in Sharon's need to distress the silk. Will have to experiment with other fabrics that more readily disintegrate. I'm all for the happy accident in both art and textiles. Sometimes the problem lies in remembering how you achieved it.

The weekend class is over and I always feel rather sad. Exhausted, too. (Serious catching up with the Sunday papers is on the agenda today). The course was good - a bit experimental and we took a few risks but they all have some great samples and most have nearly finished pieces to work on. Here are some pics - the light was not great for photos and I had to scuttle round a bit as I don't like to waste teaching time - but they give a flavour. Sadly, some didn't come out too well, so it's a fairly random selection.

This piece (above) by Jenny Younger is a detail of a Lutradur trapping which has been zapped with a heat gun.

A good example of layering from Jackie Wyatt. A three dimensional effect is given with puff painted Thermogauze.

Ann Goodwin has a great idea for her samples - she brings dear little luggage tags and writes the method on them. This motif from layered stitched felt was lovely but the photo doesn't do it justice.

The piece above, by Marion Whitby shows the true layers effect. On a background of velvet we've added foil, organza and zapped Thermogauze. This is in the process of having layered felt motifs applied.

I'll show some more tomorrow. Meanwhile - the papers call.

Friday 9 November 2007

A Saw Point

I think I have cracked it - it all hangs on the pic size, as you say, Susan. All except dog pic should go bigger when clicked. I've resized to a max 0f 600 pixels (in any direction). This is slightly bigger than I'd use for WoW but it seems to give a good balance between enormous and tiddly. I find PSP good for resizing as you can specify a percentage or make it exact.

Dale, it adds a whole new meaning to perspective. You will laugh when you see 'your' photos in my next book. I used the one of the three coloured pots quite a lot!

Welcome to the wittering rainbow - a woman after my own heart. Listing 'staring at things' and 'looking up chimneys' as interests on your profile, rings lots of bells with me. Also 'walking old lurchers'. This was my little lurcher, sadly departed some time ago. She was a whippet/terrier cross but as she got older her whippety bit filled in and she looked like a little golden lab. She lived to be eighteen. When we retire we shall have another dog.

While sorting out stuff for the course I found this bit of rust dying.

It came from a very rusty old saw. You can see the shape of the saw in the silk. Clive wishes it to be known that it was not his saw. He says he looks after his! It was very rusty and there are lovely coloured bits in it. I sprinkled it with white vinegar and salt, wrapped fine silk around it and encased it in cling-film. Then I forgot about it for about a week. I think that is why it worked so well.

The details are great. Next week I shall try using them as Displacement maps. On with the packing for the Layers of Stitch course. Hopefully, will have pics of it next week.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Thanks for all the advice. I think I have cracked it, so try it out and let me know. As we say in England - how was it for you!

Yesterday the man came and cleaned the oven - thank you, to whoever told me about that one. It looks like new and I can now leave the kitchen door open when cooking, without the smoke alarm (or, as it is known in our house, the dinner gong) going off. Next time I shall cook a duck the day before he comes. I love duck but it makes such a mess of the oven.

Have been shopping which was exhausting. I don't think Clive and I have recovered from our bug yet. We are fine when in hibernation mode but as soon as we go out we are shattered. This is worrying as I'm back to teaching this weekend. I expect the adrenelin will kick in and carry me along.
We are working on layers - both on the embelisher and sewing machine. I've been playing with Lutradur - nothing earth shattering, just layering up silk and metallic fibres on painted Lutradur.

Then laying on another painted piece and stitching. It's quite interesting how different patterns work so it is worth making a sampler with close stitching and open areas.

Then zap it - this one is half zapped as I want to save it for a teaching sample.

The one above is the other side. I also like to include snippets of net and painted lace.

I followed t'other Maggie's advice about selecting None and Medium for the size. We shall see.

Tuesday 6 November 2007


Not a proper blog - aha - fooled ya! Trying out this pic thingy. Thanks for the advice. Have loaded pics first, as suggested. The one below is very high res and took ages to load. It is a background from the embellisher book and used some very lightweeight non woven fabric with lettering on it. Margaret Beal sells it and it is lovely on the embellisher.

This is my pastel drawing again, loaded small to see if that makes any difference. I have found on other blogs that the click doesn't always work. They say computing is an exact science - I don't think so!


Stitches, Shoots and Leaves

I'm so glad that you all enjoyed the tree pics. It is a fantastic year for tree colour and they were not retouched at all. Even the old silver birch at the end of my garden is trying hard. Usually the leaves go brown and then just drop off. It is on the boundary of three houses and the other two would like to get rid of it but I love it and, luckily, it has a preservation order on it.

Vonne, so sorry to hear that you can't get out. ME is a horrid thing. My friend's daughter has had it since her teens.

Dianne - glad you are pushing on with the Paint Shop Pro CD. They have been surprisingly popular. We really only offered them as an afterthought when we decided that we couldn't keep up with books on all the new releases. Details on my personal web site

Sabine - I like that sentiment - living with the impression of nature. You are a poet.

Help needed. Does anyone know how to get the 'click to make the pic bigger' effect. Can't find it in the settings. Dale says that hers just happens.

Here's my pastel sketch. based on one of the displacement maps. I dabbed some Xpandaprint on the top left, to get the speckled effect. I'd like to work it in free machining on water soluble as a long, narrow piece.

I picked up some fallen leaves at Westonbirt and left them on the kitchen windowsill. They curled up into this lovely shape.

I rearranged them a little and plan to make a little bowl based on the shape. I have a class at the weekend where we are layering and burning so may make this up using poly-cotton and a soldering iron. We have a Beyond Stitch meeting today so I will try to get the stitching done then. It's my turn to bring the coffee stuff so I'd better go and get it all ready.

So many ideas, not enough time.