Saturday, 15 February 2014

Birch Blog Finished

Phew - just about got it finished today. Slaving over a hot needle last night while the wind howled and the rain lashed and the lights flickered. Smudge was sure it was our fault and he kept shouting at us to get it fixed.

I have hung the piece in the porch and, while I am quite pleased with it, I feel it is a little busy but, when I removed some leaves it looked too bare. So there will probably be some tinkering yet.

I may take out some of the leaves and add little trails of flowers - I happen to have just the thing. We will see.

Details of the piece are shown below, from top to bottom. I do feel that blogging every day made me work on a project when I might otherwise not have done. On reflection, it would have probably been better to do it when I had a week clear of other matters an was not trying to put the finishing touches to March WoW and various urgent bits of business. Let me know what you think.

From the top.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Birch Blog Day 5

No, I haven't quite finished it. Yes, that was my intention, but life got in the way and it's been a day full of phone calls and NPW (non-productive work). There is also the fact that the wonderful lady who keeps our house clean came today. She has seven children and a life like a soap opera, so I can't bear to miss the latest instalment. She also never charges for chat time - even though she goes through the house like a human dynamo when we've had our chat.

One other excuse is my feeling that I needed some bigger leaves as they were all a bit samey - an inevitable consequence of using the cutter. I made one a bit bigger by cutting the Vilene and leaving a gap behind the metal so that it formed a border in front - see below. 

That was OK but I cut a few big leaves freehand just to help things along. They are painted and I am now waiting for Clive to light the fire (yes, that is sexist and yes, I can light fires, but he is better at it than me) so that they dry out.

Anyway I finished the top part and am pleased with how it looks and the colour and tonal balance. They have now been stitched to the wrapped wire and are firmly in place.

The metal looks good and I have darkened some of the leaves and used silver wax to wake them up a bit.

The little strip of organza (on extreme right in photo below) with the fringing looked good, which was a bit of a nuisance as I had to make some more and that took ages.

Glad I decided to use the metal but, again, I had to get the cutter out and make some more.

I have been remiss about comments so here are some answers:

Fibrenell - the varnish was called Plasti-coat Krystal Clear, I think he said that B&Q do it but any Plasti-coat stockist would have it. He said that it wasn't completely  mat and it was best to build it in layers of light spray.

On tidy workrooms - I am with Wabbit as I too need the repetition of putting away to soothe me into getting going. Well, it is a good excuse. Adele - I am horrified at your tidiness. Cultivate chaos at once.

Thank you for all the help in choosing the colour scheme and sorry Gill for toning it down a bit. I have made another piece using the leaf die and that is wildly colourful - I will show you tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Birch Thing Day4

This morning was a little tedious as it was mostly taken up with wrapping several miles of thread.

The exciting variant here was adding a strand of wire to give 'bendability' when the leaves are suspended.

The other time consuming operation was getting the hanging device to work. Clive is good at this but there was a lot of trial and error involved - his preferred option of mirror fittings were unsuitable on a bumpy surface.

Eyelets took a long time to fix and then we made the top piece of wood all wonky. I hope you are absorbing all these technical terms. Eventually a metal eyelet at the top was agreed so I had to disguise it with yet more wrapped thread. The next task was to paint a few more coloured leaves in case it needed more contrast.

Finally I gathered all my bits and fixed the wrapped wire to the front. An experiment in the form of a strip of organza with a pattern stitch and a fringed edging was added to the mix. You can see it in the front in the pic below. Some little flowers were made from punched shapes in case a frond or two was needed.

Here is the beginning - bending the wire around the slats of wood, the organza is ready to be folded over the cord with the fringe hanging down.

Then the leaves were pinned into place - a mix of metal and gessoed Vilene, with the odd splash of colour. Note the less than elegant hanging device at the top.

A close-up - the leaves look brighter than they really are. I think it needs a few slightly bigger leaves to change the scale a little.

Finally - the story so far. Tomorrow will be a day of leaf making and probably more wrapping. I am still not convinced about the brighter colours but I think the metal and gesso ones look good.

Focal points will need some thought tomorrow, too - it's getting a bit busy.

I am afraid that Smudge has been very boring today It has been lovely and sunny (praise the Lord) so he lay on his back in the conservatory all day. He says he will try to be more Smudge-like tomorrow That's worrying.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Birch Blog Day 3

Many thanks for all your comments - I am enjoying them and I do read them all. Today was something of a consolidation day - putting in some solid work on the birch bark background and making more wrapped thread (more is still needed) and working some extra leaf experiments.

It started with a visit to Phil,the woodworking son in law. Started early, took my daughter.

As expected the WWSIL had just the right coating for the bark and we tried a sample. As it would take a while to dry the girls decided that we would have an outing to the local 'Treasure House'. Imagine ten car boot sales crammed together in a huge warehouse. A very cold warehouse. Both of my girls are treasure hunters - Fiona does vintage and Claire has a good eye for specialised toys which she re-sells.

Much later, lighter in the purse but heavier in the boot, we returned to find the wood dry and looking good. So I stole the spray from the lovely WWSIL and was home in time for lunch, travelling through atrocious conditions - gale force winds and icy rain.

Not a lot of time left after I had sprayed both sides of the birch.

However, I wrapped some thread and then started some experiments on using the die-cutter on flimsy fabrics. I had previously tried this and failed but a new process was discovered, which worked really well. I am going to be mean and keep it under my hat for now as I am writing an article for Workshop on the Web on cutters, so you will see it then.

I wanted some 'flimsy' leaves to contrast with the heavy Vilene and metal ones and this metallic organza is just the thing. It doesn't look very transparent in the photo but it is in real life. They look good with the leaves that I hand and machine stitched last night.

So tomorrow will be a whole day of putting it together. Hopefully it will be well on the way to being finished before the weekend.

Jane Lemon always says that you should leave your workroom clean and tidy to encourage you to make a start the next day. Hmmmn!

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Birch Blog Day 2

A big thank you to all who dropped in yesterday. The discussion on the best leaves moved between blog comments and Facebook - mixed social media?

Today did not start well as two home truths were discovered quite early on: there was no food in the fridge and there were several urgent emails that needed attention. I also needed to look at the New Products for the March issue of WoW.  It really was 'Wow' as Sam Packer, who tests all the WoW products, had been playing with her Gelli plate, using some interesting implements. Watching her demo at the Devon show had convinced me to get a Gelli but I shan't play with it yet. This is a sample of her gelling.

By the time those issues had been addressed the morning was almost gone.However, as is often the case, a slow start can mean a fast catch up so I set to work just before lunch to produce reams of wrapped thread to join the pieces of wood together. This was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle and took our combined intellect and a quick lunch to sort out. Clive then drilled the holes, making sure they lined up. With great presence of mind I took a photo before he bore them off to the shed.

Lacing was far from easy and I need to make more wrapped yarn so that I can have some knots in dangling down the front of the work.

I needed to get it all hanging together as I am off to visit the WWSIL (wood-working-son-in-law) tomorrow for some advice on whether to wax or varnish the wood. I shall have to take it to bits again to do that so it is quite loosely held together. I shall also seek advice on the hanging mechanism - mirror plates perhaps, as it is quite heavy.

I spent some time dissolving some water soluble paper on a stamp, drying it and then sticking it onto the bark. the edges were dissolved so it looked like part of the surface. It looks OK - better than the photo above suggests.

I tried some of the leaves - almost everyone liked the first and last pic (many thanks for that confirmation) so I combined the Vilene leaves with the metal ones - see below


Looking good, I think and I just about managed to machine embroider two of the leaves which I shall paint tomorrow and see how they look.

Now I am shattered and find myself looking enviously at that cat, fast asleep on the bed.

My cleaning lady thinks that I have trained Smudge to lie on his old dressing gown - she is well impressed. Never having had a cat she does not realise that they learn at their mother's fetlock (I'm sure cats don't have knees) to lay on anything placed on a bed - just in case it is a freshly washed and ironed shirt.

Time to collapse in the chair and work some seeding stitch on the leaves. See you tomorrow.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Birch Blog Day 1

Well here I am, as promised on the first day of my ‘make a piece in a week blog’. Today was to be a day of sampling to decide what was going on top of my strips of laced birch bark. As this piece will be in the forthcoming book on cutting techniques I had to use my die cutter with a leaf die. 

I was pretty sure how the wrapped cords should look so I decided to crack on with those first. Then I could lace the strips together and try my samples on the intended background. Knitting yarn, glitzy yarn and suitable top and bobbin threads were gathered and I began.  

The next hour went something like this:

Search for piping foot (has a channel underneath and doesn’t squash the cord). Fail.

Feed cat.

Find piping foot in thread box. Begin wrapping. Machine jams.

Search for machine brush for bunged up race. Fail. Borrow Clive’s razor brush.

Feed cat.

Remove sufficient fluff to stuff two cushions. Decide to do proper job and remove lots of machine bits. Clean and oil and re-assemble.

Machine purring nicely, commence wrapping cord.

Listen to Clive and cat discussing cat’s need to be fed – again. Close workroom door.

Miles of wrapped cords later I can start the samples.

 Several hours later I have laced some of the strips together and produced a variety of finishes on the cut leaf shapes. Now to try them out.

 It is really not my day. Blogger has just closed me down, luckily I had been saving. It is a little worrying that my Publish button is greyed out.

First sample: metal leaves, embossed and coloured with acrylic paint.

Followed by painted silk applied to Vilene. Too bright, not keen.

Painted Vilene, plus one metal.

Gesso-resisted painted Vilene. Like this.

Brighter version of the one above, plus metal. Ummmm

Mixture of gesso resist, metal and one leaf drawn on paper. I might have one more try tomorrow at replicating the drawn leaf in stitch. Then I will decide.

Which do you think I should use?  Or a mixture? 

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Penance and a Promise

I wrote in the last blog that December had got away from me - well it looks like January went the same way. The problem I have is that I feel so guilty when I don't blog that I lose all desire to do any more. Isn't that silly?  Anyway, to make up for it I am going to post a little bit every day next week and invite you to help me create a new piece of work. Brave, huh? that means that it is almost certain to go wrong.  Here is my idea and it is based on logs.

At the end of last winter we ran out of logs. When we tried to buy more we discovered that most of East Dorset were also out of logs and no-one had any decent ones left. So we were forced to buy some very expensive ones from the company who supplied our burner.

Well they may have cost more than the average but they were beautiful and they burned hot and long. So much so that we decided they were a good buy and bought some more. One or two had quite loose bark and I managed to pull it off. 'It came away in me 'ands, guv!'.

I had a fancy to make something with it, possibly involving the leaf shapes I had been using with my die cutter. It was laid out on the worktable and considered for a while.

Then I made a five minute drawing with a 3B pencil - no time to be fussy, just blocking in texture and tone. I scattered about a few leaves and tendrils that I had cut from paper.

Looked OK so I got out the cutter and cut the tendrils from craft Vilene and leaves from Vilene and metal shim, I plan to back the metal with the Vilene so that I can stitch them.

It will be necessary to join the bark strips so Clive drilled holes in them and I looked over my braiding samples. I think I will use a wrapped cord, although it was good to see the samples again.

Here is a leaf and its backing Vilene - all ready to go,

I will be working through this next week so do please join me on Monday (we have a 'no computers on Sunday' rule in our house). I have a whole week blocked out in the diary so watch this space.