Monday 30 June 2008

A New Kind of Felting

Aussie Jo you will certainly have to buy him a shed - a man needs a shed, or three!

Dale - all sport is considered a vice in this house (except the Wii variety).

Maggie-Tom - good idea about the garage sale. Seriously thinking about that. I have some Gizmos and some Flower stitchers to give away on the blog later in the week - watch this space.

Cherry - you are too kind and you are right, I do love doing it. I like playing with words and I think that is why I love writing books so much. And you all thought it was because of the stitching! Well perhaps writing insurance stuff wasn't so much fun, so OK, it is the stitching.

Hope you've reached Gwen, Pascale: we're still having problems with a couple of addresses.

Had a wonderful few days with Lutterworth and Lincoln branches of the Guild. They were super audiences for talks - and that really does make a difference. As a speaker, you can feel the response and it does lift you. Felt like a 'proper' author signing so many copies of my book - very flattering. Have eaten too many naughty things and now trying for a strict diet.

Went to the Fabric of Myth exhibition at Compton Verney on the way but was rather disappointed. This tapestry from a Henry Moore design woven b y Pat Taylor and Fiona Abercrombie was wonderful but it was one of the few good things.

A couple of other wonders - a series of tiny, perfect embroideries from a guy who unpicked socks while in prison and then did the most amazing hand stitching and a good piece from Alice Kettle but there was a preponderance of installation. Yes, I could understand the meaning of the thread of life running from chairback to chairback but it didn't do much for me aesthetically. I do enjoy some installations but they are tricky to pull off, I think.

Great acanthus designs on the sphinx who was guarding the bridge. I feel a sketch book coming on.

Lovely to be back home - Stevens had thrown up and I feared the worst, but it was an overload of hair. She is moulting like mad. There was so much hair that I think she has discovered a new way of felting - it picked up like a mat! Possibly spewmo felting.

Sorry about that - what a picture to leave you with. Here's a nicer one, of Lincoln Cathedral's doorway. Another one for the design sketchbook.



Wednesday 25 June 2008

In which you hear about Clive's vices

Glad you enjoyed the cloning session Cathy. I think we were talking at cross purpose about posting pics on other folks' blogs. I thought you meant on your blog. Don't think you can post pics in remarks - but I may be wrong.

Sojourner - glad you are no longer lurking. Your new dog looks lovely and it is quite true what you say about Borders - they do need a lot of work. A friend of mine had a lovely one but she was exhausted through most of his puppyhood. She was desperately wishing for a version of doggie nursery school as he wanted someone to play with the whole time. To get back on track - yes, I was using Paintshop Pro - version 9, so quite an old one. To put tissue through an ordinary printer work like this:

  1. Take a sheet of ordinary A4 (letter) printer paper and cut a sheet of tissue paper slightly larger.

  2. Go all around the edges of the printer paper with a glue stick. The 'stripe' of glue should be about half an inch.

  3. Press the tissue onto the printer paper and cut to the same size. Make sure that there are no sticky edges.

  4. Print using the Transparency option, if you can find this on the driver but it is not essential. Tissue paper doesn't need as much ink.

  5. Finally print in the usual way. Leave to dry and cut around the edge or pull gently apart to release the tissue.

You are not adding bulk so it should go through perfectly well - no responsibility accepted if it doesn't! Some people fold over a leading edge but my printers have never liked this.

ArtiSue - we'll have to work on one. My freezer is full of the pasta recipe and I have variations. Will share when more time.

Has anyone had problems with sending emails to btinternet addresses? I have had to use snail mail to get some of the QuiltWow passwords out. We have all tried - from Fiona's house, my house, even the other daughter's house. All different machines and even clicking reply won't get them through. They don't bounce but don't get through either. Frustration.

Here is what I am doing today - joining up samples to make a long, thin piece of work. I have a mixed media course on Saturday. This is dangerously close to piecing and I don't do that, but it is quite soothing chuntering along with the 'proper' foot on the machine.

Will show you the finished piece next week. I'm quite pleased so far.

I will leave you with another Windsor piece from Debbie Lyddon. It was based on the sea and on music and it went around several walls, going from light to dark.

And a detail.

We are clearing out the garage in case we do get round to moving. Clive took me down there yesterday and showed me some of his vices! Not as exciting as his etchings.

In view of the clearing I shall be back soon with a hardware giveaway or two.

Sunday 22 June 2008

Clone a Letter, Miss Smith

Margaret - don't think I will ever organise another Reader's Weekend (Margaret referred to one I did when I was editing Embroidery). I didn't sleep for weeks before that one! We did have a lovely time, though.

I’ve been taking advantage of a lull in the usual frantic round of talks, teaching, WoW and Quiltwow preparation and email answering to do some work on the next book - the Mixed Media one. There’s been a lot of interest (and a lot of books) on this subject so I will concentrate on ways to combine it with stitch.

Lovely to have a whole day to devote to just making things. It doesn’t take long to do the writing but the actual pieces take much longer and many are rejected. I do think a whole book on ‘How to recycle a failure’ would be a great idea.

I promised a tute on cloning for lettering, which I often use in mock manuscripts or icons, such as the one below. Here goes.

I think that you have to be careful about copyright so investigate fonts - I used one called blackletter686. Sometimes I scan some of Clive’s calligraphy.

The next step is to open a new page and fill a background with a parchment-like colour and add texture. Make the texture quite strong.

Use the Fill bucket to fill the blank page. Still using the Fill, change the tolerance to a low number and add more fills in some places using a slightly different colour. If the whole page fills, lower the tolerance.

Now go back to the lettering page. Your background colour for this should be white, so make sure that the background colour in the materials palette is white (see below). Then use the Select tool to draw a rectangle around the lettering. Copy this using Edit, Ctrl and C or clicking the Copy icon.

Click on the prepared background and then Edit, Paste as Transparent Selection.

Go to the Selections Menu and click on Promote Selection to Layer. Those of you who are familiar with layers will know that there are quicker ways of getting to this stage, but they are more difficult to explain to those who don’t use layers. Then Selection menu again and click Selections None.

This gives you a background of coloured paper with a layer of text floating above it. Use the eraser to rub out some of the text for an aged look. Then use the Clone Tool. (I don't have the aligned tool enabled). Place the cursor over some of the lettering and click your right mouse button. Then paint elsewhere on the page using the left button. It will copy the lettering wherever you paint. Watch the area you right clicked and you will see an X passing over it to show the bit you are copying.

You could click on the paper layer and draw a little shape under a letter with the Shape tool. This looks a bit like an illuminated manuscript.

When you have done, you could play a little with the Blend Modes in the Layer Palette.

Or Merge it all to flatten it and have some fun with the Warp brush (Arrow next to Paint Brush Tool).

I usually print it out on tissue paper by sticking the tissue edges to a piece of printer paper. Then use fusible webbing to get it onto fabric or Vilene. In the piece below, I have done this and sprayed it all with webbing spray. Then added a print on metal.

Here's the finished piece, not a good pic.

I have to go as the GCs are here and they have brought Smudge for a visit. Only two weeks until he moves in.

Wednesday 18 June 2008


Yesterday was a brilliant day. We had an easy morning and then did a talk in Lymington before moving on to the Private View of Jan and Jean’s Windsor exhibition.

The talk went so well - it is a fairly new branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild but so lively and interested. The questions at the end went on forever, always a good sign. We incorporate short movies into our talks - you can show so much more then and it breaks up the run of images. The digital projector is one of the best toys we’ve ever had. We did one movie on embellishing printed silk and one on the Melting Pot.

The new book had a good reception. InkAid has really caught everyone’s imagination and, although the talk was actually on texture, I had some samples with me. We had a short seminar after the talk.

Then on to Windsor, via the Royal Ascot ground where all the toffs were leaving. Exciting hats and outfits but, unfortunately, we didn’t get stuck in the usual traffic jam so I couldn’t see too closely.

It was a wonderful evening at the Windsor college with a fun atmosphere. Lots of odd little chaps like this popped up all over the college.

So many people we knew - most of them only seen once a year at this event. We’ve always got on well with Deirdre Hawken and she usually moderates the Diploma course so it was good to see her again. Even better to hear that she is hat-making again after a break of a few years.
Jan and Jean were in top form. Jan commented that we only really get to catch up properly when we teach in Australia and we had a brief reminisce about the last time we taught in Horsham. All the tutors were given a special treat - a trip up a mountain with a guy who was an expert on rock art and a bird expert. Apart from the climbing bit, it was great. We were instructed to keep three points of contact between our bodies and the mountain. As coming down was worse than going up, I asked if our bums could be one of the points as I thought I’d be better going down in a seated position, like a toddler going downstairs.

Here’s a Hello style look at some of the personalities. Pam Watts (left) and Margaret Walker (centre) who heads up the arty side of City & Guilds. Margaret said she expected some good news on the C&G courses soon and would keep me in touch. I do hope they find a way to resurrect them as they started so many people on their textile journey. So sorry, but I can't remember the name of the lady on the right, which is awful because I do know her.

Leslie Morgan and Clare Benn, reflected in one of the Diploma installations. I left the flash flare as it added drama. This exhibit needed reflections to make it work.

I found the Final Diploma exhibition a bit more difficult this year - lots of installations - and these really need a good look and a think to get the most from them. You need to get your head around the concept, I think. Wish we lived closer - I’d like another look on a quiet day.

I loved this piece entitled Star Echoes by Sue Faulkener. It is based on research showing that the death of a star can be recorded in growth rings by trees on earth.
Here the tree growth is recorded as a bar code. Interesting idea.

Here is Diana Robertson’s Rolling Waves.There were three or four of the panels in total.

I liked it that we saw the design as well.

The diploma first year's showed promise, as you can see, below. This Beryl Cookish doll from Janet Heawood made me smile. Sad that Beryl Cook is no longer with us.

Unusual materials from Christine Pulker

Jan gave me permission to take and use the photos but I couldn’t ask the artists so I hope they don’t mind. I have more pics, so maybe next time. This blog is much too long, already.

Finally, above is one for Sue, who said she didn’t mind having her pic shown.
Actually the reason she is looking like that is beacause she has dipped her brush in the paint without taking the cover off! Glad you enjoyed the course, Sue.

Monday 16 June 2008

Ups and Downs (or possibly Downs and Ups)

Back again - seems a long time and I've missed you all.

Thanks for the book comments, maybird and pascale et al. I've had some lovely emails about the book, too. I don't ever remember a book having such a reception before but I wasn't into blogging when the last Batsford book launched.

I made the pasta, Artisue and it was lovely. Now firmly on the family favourites list.

Chrissie - is there a great feeling of relief in your house now the dreaded exams are done? Out with the wine

Cathy - Ta! I promise to do a tute on cloning script later in the week.

Shirley - they will probably use all your words but the downside then is that the pics will have to be smaller. It's all a trade off - I hate books that are too thin with not enough text, but we also need to see the textile clearly. My tip would be to arrange your manuscript in a file and visualise it as double page spreads, putting the 'roughs' of pics in the file in the place where they should go. Bear in mind that it is annoying to have to page forward or back to find the pic that relates to the text. I always do this and hand the file to the publisher so that the designer can see what to do.

Sue - it was so lovely having you on the course. You are such good company. Hope you weren't too tired. I did take a photo of Sue but she was pulling a face so I won't embarrass her.

I was having a 'down' day for various reasons but Jackie's comment on the book has cheered me up no end. Thank you.

I think most of my down day was just tiredness after the weekend course. I am usually a cheerful soul and not used to feeling blue. Much better now, and I've just had a most wonderful idea which I will tell you next week. I shall have to keep it a secret from Clive for now, as new ideas are not allowed for another six months. It is true that my good ideas always involve poor Clive in a lot of work. Watch this space.

The course was fun but, as usual, I tried to pack a four day workshop into two days. So not much in the way of finished pieces but loads of treasures placed on their backgrounds and well on their way.

Here's a good bit of zapped felt from Sue H.

And Juliet turned out to be ace at ironing Tyvek.

I'm sorry but I can't remember who owned this lot of lovely layers. Possibly Jenny.

More felt from Jackie - evidence of some stitching here.

I'm fairly sure that this embryonic book cover is from Halina.

Talk to you all soon.

Wednesday 11 June 2008

In which I play with Lutradur and cook Artisue's recipe.

Phew, have I been slaving over a hot sewing machine. I have a new course on Friday and Saturday on all things hot (in other words zappable). It is one of the courses we arrange ourselves - well, Fiona does all the hard work - and we will have a talk and a meal on Friday evening. People come and stay in B&Bs and I don't like the thought of them staying in on their own, so we always do something.

Thank you all so much for your kind words on the book. I don't think I have ever had so many emails and blog mentions about a book before. I'm also very encouraged that so many people sit and read it. Val and I always had a theory that everyone looks at the pics and the captions only. Now that we can have so many colour pics, the word count of books has gone down a lot. When I started, it was about 25000 and now I aim for 15000 to 18000. I do take quite a lot of my own photos these days. They are nowhere near the standard of Michael Wicks but it is useful for step-by steps as long as they are small. My camera can handle 10 mega pixels so the resolution is not bad. I will have to send you a message on a piece of paper (or in a bottle) Penny. Then you can stick it in the book. I shall do some more on Inkaid next week when things return to normal. I have stitched into it on paper, Shirley, but have yet to try fabric.

Thanks, too for all the catty messages. I think the new boy is going to be called Smudge, Jordi. He is white and pale grey and looks like a charcoal smudge. I am encouraged that your older cat took to the young one and I shall take note of the advice. I love your pics of the Station murals. Very inspiring mosaics. I do so love mosaic work and am thinking of using it as one of the design sources for the next book. It is quite difficult to turn into textiles though, so it will be a challenge.

Not sure that Clive is up to moving targets, Aussie Jo. The baby won't be with us for a few weeks yet so perhaps Clive will have got some practice in by then.

Chrissy - can I cope with two? When Stevens is on form, she can be pretty crazy on her own.

I think you need a kitten, Carol - much better than InkAid if you are broody.

Glad you like the blog, Cathy J - I still feel that it is a very selfish exercise because I enjoy writing it so much. Clive is now less keen as, for some reason, my laptop won't let me upload photos into blogger any more. I think the path has become corrupted but all attempts to change it have failed. It's fine on Clive's machine so I keep pushing him off.

I've done a lot with Lutradur for the course. This is the heavyweight version which can look very like leather, depending on what you stitch it to.

This is on cotton which won't react to heat and is good for zapping through to. Just a quick sample. More after the course. Don't want to give it all away.

Artisue, I loved your no-sagne recipe. Going to make it for supper tonight.

Saturday 7 June 2008

Yes, Sir. That's my Baby!

What a cutie, isn't he? Sorry, but the early part of this blog is a bit catty. Textiles nearer the end for those who want to skip the cat thing.

He's been visiting Stevens again and she is amazingly good with him- even when he made an attempt to investigate her undercarriage in search of sustenance.

He did have a little hiss at her when she was over-enthusiastic in the matter of earwashing. I hope he's not going to be a bully, as he is likely to be much bigger than her. You will see that Stevens sleeps in a wicker bowl. It used to hold my threads but she kept sitting on them so I gave in and handed it over. I can't tell you how many cat baskets I have offered her over the years.

You are right about the benefits of blogging Chrissy. I'm so grateful to Carol.

Clive has to do figure drawing in the next module - hope he's not going to suggest I pose for him.

Dale - so glad that the book is selling well for you. Here I am in signing mode - I have got writer's cramp and Fiona has book-stuffer's elbow. They have all gone in the post now, so should be with you soon.

I find that I spend more time looking over the top of my glasses than looking through them, lately. I have ordered a new pair with a flat top for peering over.

Anna - thanks for the tag but hope you don't mind if I respond next week. I seem to have a lot to squeeze into this epistle.

I think I will update to version 12 of PSP, Cathy. That is such a good price. I am keeping Amazon going, as I've recently had lots of books and the expresso maker died last week. I cannot live without it and am waiting for the new one to arrive.

I will look forward to your Layers demo, Maggie-Tom. Seem to be doing a lot of talks just now on computer design. I wonder why?

You are in the States, aren't you, Wabbit? (Just love that name). The books come out much later there.

I do like your drawing blog, Penny - lovely stuff. Lots of base material there for scanning in and playing. There is an article in the free taster of Quiltwow on doing stuff with Picasa. Have you seen it?

A product that features in the book is InkAid (Art Van Go in the UK). You paint it on to a surface for a better print. I have used it mostly on paper - it makes the most fantastic difference to the print quality and allows you to print on almost anything - even black paper. Jane Wild and I had huge fun making collages and printing on them. The question was often posed - does it work on fabric. Here's the answer on black poly-cotton - you can see the product (the white bit on the edge) . I don't paint the stuff all over the fabric as I love the hints of black that show through. I ironed the fabric onto freezer paper first and it went through my ordinary printer with no problems. (No responsibility taken for other people's printers, please note. The next thing is to see if I can machine into it.

Wednesday 4 June 2008

The Book is Here

Hooray - the Image to Stitch book is here at last. Penny - so glad you are enjoying it - you Aussies have stolen a march on us as it got held up at the port over here. But now we have it and Fiona will be in touch with those on her list. More info - or order - from

Back to Penny - I wrote it to be as unspecific regarding programs as possible - more about exciting things to print on in a fuss-free way. Well that is what I aimed for, anyway.

Thanks for all those wonderful comments. I think we may have done with Displacement for the moment. I think the last few ideas show that you should never use just one effect when fifty will do!

Genie - I’m glad you liked the Stitch article. I wanted to give Urchfont a bit of a boost as it is such a wonderful place and the courses are all first class. I don’t teach at residential colleges these days but when I did, this was my favourite. The open day is July 6th and I’m looking forward to that.

PJ - We used to teach classes on computer design down here in Dorset but we lost our venue and anything involving computers is so expensive to hire that we don’t do it now. I have taught it in Oz - at the Horsham Forum - a couple of years ago. The computers at the venue were very poor and they couldn’t find us a working inkjet printer so we couldn’t do anything with the designs. It was still good fun as Jan and Jean were there and we did a lot of catching up. A good place for all things to do with computer design is

Aussie Jo - you got it! Both the question and the answer.

Cathy - did love the chimney piece and the comment came through, fine. I’ve put a label on the camera whooshing technique so it should pop up when you click - let me know if it doesn’t. Such fun to see you all in Kent.

Wabbit - love the transfers you’ve been doing and must have a bash. I’m a big fan of all things Adirondack - especially their spray paints.

Margaret - it takes ages to catch up, doesn’t it? I do love all the blogs but have to ration myself or no work would be done. Here is a bit of Clive’s art. He has never done much with charcoal before and he loves it. Jane Wild, who is such a kind and encouraging person, has given him a ‘charcoal rag’, which is a soft cloth, thoroughly immersed in dense charcoal and you smudge it on the paper. She also gave him lots of papers to try, and now I hardly see him. I am cross because I had a lovely pic of one of Jane’s water colours but I accidentally left the camera flashcard in the computer and, when it booted up, it wiped the card. Anyone else had that problem?

Talking of rags and smudges leads me into my next piece of news. I am having a baby - well a baby cat. Bet that got you worried! My daughter breeds rag doll cats and she has always wanted me to have one but Clive was of the opinion that Stevens was more than enough cat for one household. Now Claire is giving up the cat breeding and big boy Hugo, her stud cat, is going to have the operation. So, Fiona and I are having the last two kitties. Hers is a seal point girl and Sophie has named her Cupcake. Mine is a grey and cream boy and he is so beautiful. He looks just like a pale charcoal smudge so that seems to be a good name for him. I wanted to call him Raggy Omar (in the Stevens tradition, but was outvoted). He has left his mum briefly, to meet Cat Stevens who gave his ears a good wash, so that seems hopeful. He will visit again soon but won’t move in until early next month as Claire likes to keep them with their mum until they are ten weeks old.

This brings me to the aforementioned cat, known as Stevens. As some of you will no doubt remember she has had many visits to the vet which left her with her dignity in tatters and the vet’s hands in much the same way. In spite of all the expensive investigations (do get pet insurance, folks, it is so worth it) she was getting worse - very poorly - and I was so sad because I thought we were going to lose her. She was being sick all the time.
However I think we may have had a breakthrough, thanks to Carol Coleman (does lovely things with water soluble). She read on the blog about Steve and told me about a site where people were writing in about how dried food made their cats very ill and the stuff prescribed by some of the vets was worst of all. So I have been feeding her home cooked chicken with just a little good quality wet cat food. We’ve also been giving her Aloe Vera and I think that is helping. It has been over three weeks since the last episode and she has put back a lot of weight and is running around the garden again. As you can see.
Thanks so much Carol - and all through this blog.

I am machine embroidering like mad to translate that last design (the one with the words) into stitch. I plan to have a heavily machined border with a transfer technique for the lettering.

This is a variation of the rub-away techniques like Picture This. First I stitched the paper print to look like tatty bits of gold lettering. Then Translucent Liquid Sculpey was painted over the printout - just a thin film.

It was baked in an oven for 15 mins.
When cool enough to handle, the backing paper was removed by damping it and GENTLY rubbing away the paper.

Slightly shiny but very effective - I just added a little cast paper which I will gild with wax. Hope to show you the finished piece next time.

I’m off to sign several hundred books. See you soon.