Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Twiddly Couching - the Movie

I recently put a video up on my Facebook page and have since had lots of requests to put it on my blog for those who don't use Facebook. It's a bit smaller here than the FB version so, if you'd like to be my friend - that will be fine.

It's a how-to for the twiddly couching method that I used for the Treasure Keeper on the last page of my new book, Long Diaries and Tall Tales - see pic below

It is a really quick and easy way to cover a large area of background. I make the little keepers by cutting three pieces of Craft Vilene (which has had painted silk bonded to it)  into triangles, making a pocket inside the front ones, at the lower edge and then inserting strands of wire, bent into a wiggly shape, like this, into the pocket.

Buttonhole round the edges and slip stitch them together before attaching your treasure. My treasure is a pair of beaded beads, given to me by my late friend, Val Campbell-Harding.

I will be putting some free classes - extensions on the book techniques- on the D4daisy Books site early in the New Year, so watch this space.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Pebeo Prisme - a New Idea

The book has been launched on an unsuspecting world and I am a happy bunny. The folk on the Workshop on the Web Members' Facebook page are posting some of their results and it is great fun to see them all.

I had a query on the Pebeo Prisme tiles. I use these in the book as a header bar for one of my story panels but they are great for all purposes -  I am currently working on a little book with a patterned surface of Prisme. This will be one of the first free lessons, early in the New Year at  (www.d4daisy,com), for those who have the book. This is how the header looks - with two inch tiles.

I use a product called Cerne relief around the edges. This dries to give a hard raised edging to the tile and allows a deeper application of the Prisme paint. It occurred to me that PVA might work just as well as the relief paint and this is what I did:

Painted a thin coat of PVA over a Twinchie (mountboard square) to give a sealed surface and allowed this to dry.

Either ‘pipe’ a line of PVA around the edge (if your PVA pot had a fine nozzle - mine doesn't) or paint a thick line of it on non-stick baking paper. Push the edge of the tile into the PVA to give a raised border.

Repeat with other sides, holding the tile in the centre for the last side (or you will get very sticky). When all sides are edged with PVA, allow to dry thoroughly.

Then rub some metallic wax, quite thickly, over the PVA edges. Gold paint would possibly work just as well, but I haven't tried it yet.

When coloured to your liking, apply some of the Pebeo Prisme paints to the centre, using a kebab or cocktail stick.

After a short time, before the paint is quite dry, prop it up against a very slightly raised surface - I've just used another tile. The paint will slowly drag as it moves a little, to give an interesting effect.

Lots more like this in the book, folks.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

New Book and Some Free Software

Thank you all for the great welcome back. The book has been printed ( and I feel as though I can do other things. 

We are really pleased with it and it has more pages than expected - the designer fell for Nina Humphreys' artwork and insisted we add a page or two. See right.

In the book, I do use the printer for some of the effects as I love the look and feel of paper and it is much stronger than you might imagine. Combining printouts with traditional drawing techniques is huge fun and I have several step-by-steps that feature this.

There isn't much use of image programs in Long Diaries as it is so difficult to find one that everyone uses. However I have found a splendid, totally free program called It is quite free, quick to download and seems extremely stable. Just google on for details.

I think it may be more Windows-based than Mac as it a development of the very basic Paint program that comes free with the Windows operating system. It really is the easiest software for Layers, which often cause hassle. I have used this part-stitched image in the book, printed on ordinary printer paper and crumpled it has hand stitching added.

Here is a tutorial on how to do it in

1    Go to the File Menu and select Open. Choose a suitable image. Trees work particularly well.

   Go to the Layer menu (in the top bar) and click on Duplicate layer. Note that the image will    appear in the Layers box on the right.

         Repeat Step 2 so that three layers are showing in the layers box.

           Click on the MIDDLE layer so that it is highlighted. 


        Go to the Adjustment menu on the top bar and choose Invert Colours. This will change the    colours of the middle layer only but you won’t see a difference yet.

6       In the Layers box on the right, click on the TOP layer.

            At the bottom right of the Layers box is a powerful little button called properties – see
        arrow. Click on this and a box will appear. 

        Click on the little arrow (Mode) and choose the option ‘Difference’.You will see how the 
        image has changed. Good fun, eh?


        When you have finished playing, either save in the native format (.pdn) to keep the layers 
        intact, or merge them down in the Layers menu by clicking 'Merge Layers Down'. Do this 
        twice to ‘flatten’ the image and save as a .jpg. 

        I promised to show some ideas for making text looked distressed but I think this is enough 
        for now and I will be back soon with ideas for mock calligraphy.

Friday, 4 December 2015

The story so far

Here I am again – just when you all thought I’d gone for good. I do have valid reasons for the non-writing of the blog for much of this year. There are so many excuses in fact, that I could offer you a bullet list! You have already heard some of them but I am determined to extract the maximum amount of sympathy so I'm listing them all! If you wish to escape my hard luck story, skip to here ***.

Here is a pretty pic of a detail of some recent work to keep you going.

It has been a dispiriting year for many small businesses; beginning with the EU inspired digital VAT disaster. This was aimed at collecting overseas VAT from mega businesses selling online but most of those have managed to evade it while the smaller ones – such as one person selling knitting patterns – was caught in a bureaucratic nightmare that saw many small businesses ceasing trading.

We had no sooner got over that than the company that organises our credit card facilities for WoW and D4daisy changed some ‘protocols’ involving costly and time consuming work. As a result of these requirements, we took the opportunity to restructure Workshop on the Web and that took months of ‘deeds of variation’ and form filling.

However it did involve both Fiona and Sam taking a more in-depth role and that perked WoW up immensely. With a member-only blog and Facebook page, we now have lots of extra content, with more workshops and product reviews, kits for the workshops and lots of contact with members. We love to see their work, which is classy stuff, as you can see from this pic by Mardi Robson, based on a Lynda Monk workshop. 

That was a popular kit, which included one of Lynda’s silkscreens. We even have the odd video. All this has resulted in increased subscriptions so WoW is safe once more.

I think everything is on an even keel again now but I have felt as though much of this year has been spent tied to a desk or a telephone and it was all rather depressing. In the end we have a better business model and are more secure, so there is a silver lining.

***I have been able to get in enough stitching to produce a new book, due out shortly. It was supposed to be out in February/March but the work was getting finished much more quickly than expected so we decided to make a monumental effort and publish before Christmas. It’s at the printers so should be around next week sometime. I have so enjoyed working on it as I have taken a new direction, with a theme of diaries and story-telling.

WoWies will recognise my long diary, subject of an article a while ago. I had so much feedback that it prompted me to explore the theme further in a book. It’s the story-telling that has really got me hooked and I have been working on a theme of Myth and Legend. In addition to my own textiles, I have included work by some of my friends and they have turned into characters in the book. Here you can see a wonderful oil pastel work by my good friend Jane Wild. 

This chap became the hero of a tale about a band of travellers, seeking Peace Island to bring peace to the world. God knows that we need it right now.

He rather took over the story, which resulted in a completely different direction to the one I had planned, but he did engineer a happy ending. It was a good ending for me too as Jane has given him to me, so I shall get him framed very soon. I intend to pursue this theme of fantasy through several more pieces of work and make some illustrated stitched books.

As usual there are lots of techniques one of which involves making pressure stencilled patterns on silk. I spoke about this in  my last blog but have developed more ideas. Val Campbell-Harding and I did this for a book once, but I’ve developed it further. The beginning is very simple – you just paint a piece of silk and, while wet, place a plastic stencil on top. As this was for a piece about a mythical wood, I used a Clarity stencil tree design. Putting a weight over the stencil as it dries caused interesting effects. 

I have then scanned the resulting pattern into a paint program and worked on it by changing the colours and highlighting different areas. Such fun and I shall be putting ‘how I do it’ posts on here and the d4daisy books web site when the book is out. 

I am really excited about continuing the theme and, as I have an exhibition coming up at Art Van Go in March and a ‘progress’ to Scotland in April, there will be chances to show the work. I shall also be at Craft4crafters in Exeter in February – a busy time ahead.

Now the book is done there is a lot of catching up for Christmas so I’m off to hit the shops. Tomorrow our unaccompanied singing group, ‘Local Vocals’, is performing at the local stately home so we will be feeling very Christmassy after that.

I will be back soon, I promise – I’ll need to tell you when the book is here!

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Myths, Magic and Muddle

Another long gap between blogs, mostly due to bureaucracy - hence the word muddle in the title. We decided that we should change the base of the Workshop on the Web partnership to recognise the role that Fiona (and not forgetting Sam) play. Same business - just a new name added. It involved the restructuring of practically every aspect of the business, including re-applying and being approved all over again for everything from the bank account to the taking of credit cards. It all went through OK,  but they took a mighty long time to do it. It must be even harder for people with brand new businesses - at least we had a good track record. I shall spare you the unrelated saga about changing to a shopping cart system on our web page in order to offer kits. Thanks to the amazing Fiona Dix who hosts our site, we can now offer kits through WoW - our first accompanied my article on silk carrier rods (backed by metal shim). 

However, I think we have made it through the dense thickets of corporate clumsiness and it may even have been responsible for a whole new design theme I am exploring. In the middle of it all I had no time for stitch so I went back to drawing. 

While doodling, I drew a landscape with high cliffs, guarded by a barrier. Mysterious. Then I found, by chance, the Facebook page of Symphony of Shadows Masks - some great work there. She recommended a book, 'Mythago Wood' by Robert Holdfast and, guess what, it is all about a mysterious wood with barriers and cliffs. It is deeper than that on so many levels, working on the premise that we create our own mythical figures and settings based on old, folk memories. A tough but gripping read.

So I have started a design book, based on that book and plan a series of stitched textiles when I have finished working through the ideas I'm exploring in drawing and paint.

This page (right) represents the myth of the Green Man - a leafy creature that I am longing to stitch. If I thought about him within the confines of Mythago wood, he would become real and probably quite threatening - he looks a bit cross. The whole thing coincides rather wonderfully with some work I started in the 'Cut, Shape, Stitch' book - I invented a race of warriors and lion-like beings and they are very at home in this land of myth and magic.

I found a wonderful Pebeo paint called Prisme which gives the mottled, metallic effect in the warrior below, left.

You can also see the work in progress on some of the other pages. Many are coloured by laying stencils (some commercial, some of my own) on wet paper. Weights are placed on parts of the stencil to change the take-up of the paint. Val CH and I used to call them pressure stencils.

Blogger is refusing to let me place any of the pics where I want them - but you get the idea. 

I also tried some of the Spectrum Noir alcohol markers that Sam Packer reviewed in the last issue of WoW. They come with a fine point at one end and a chisel shape at the other - great for mark-making. You can see it on the warrior's face and the landscape below him.

I used the Brother Scan n Cut to cut out a tree and, in the pic below am filling the shapes with Prisme.

This is one of the characters from the book - she enters the wood to search for her brother. I might use her for an icon-type textile - she is very suitable.

Well, that is all for now - my mythical wood calls me but I hope to be back soon.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Later, that same year...

Well I think this is a record for the longest time between blogs. It has been a stupidly busy time. My Exhibition, '30 Tones of Grey', at the Craft4Crafters Show at Exeter in January went very well. Fiona, Sam and I had a lovely time and we received lots of lovely comments, met up with multiple WoWies (always a pleasure) and enjoyed the show, especially the West Country embroidery exhibition '30 Tones of Grey' will be shown again at Art Van Go studios in March 2016.

Since then, life has been a mad scramble getting the March issue of WoW out and setting up our members-only Facebook page - more on that later. 

I did have time to get to my stitching group Beyond Stitch (yes, we are usually so far beyond stitch that we don't get any done) where Jane Wild called us to order and gave us a great workshop on these little books. Lots of bonding, gilding and zapping and with a particularly interesting stitched spine. 

I haven't quite finished the pages of mine so will show you when I have completed it.

We did find time to play truant and see the snowdrops at Kingston Lacy - our nearest National Trust house. I am so enjoying the long walks that my new knee now allows. Almost worth having the gammy leg in the first place.

My granddaughters have really caught the crochet bug and they are now far better at it than me. Such a lovely way to keep up with them as we have regular crochet and knit mornings. We are trying to teach their mothers to knit and that is coming along quite well. In fact, Fiona has shown great innovation and I will never view a scarf in quite the same way again!

Sophie and I had a craft session on Saturday and experimented with a substance called polymorph. Kate Crossley introduced us to it in a brilliant WoW article and I am in the middle of making a video about it for the WoW members page (yes, yes, - a shameless plug). Sophie and I made goth stuff, using black Fimo and working with skulls and such-like moulds. I do seem to have had fun. I'm quite pleased with this pic as I usually look miserable in photos.

I made a shell and attached it to one of my small triangle books. Really pleased with the results.

Jill Taylor made a lovely book from my mini workshop - see below left. The one on the right is a work in progress and I plan to couch threads and stitch beads on somewhere.

Do visit the WoW Facebook page and, if you are a member, ask Fiona to enrol you on the members-only section. There will be  a members-only blog very soon for those who don't care for Facebook. It's all rather exciting.

Monday, 12 January 2015

A Tribute to Jane Lemon

Jane Lemon died last week and, in many ways, this feels like the end of an era. I am proud to have had Jane Lemon as a friend and colleague and am very sad at this great loss. 

Her contribution, not only to ecclesiastic embroidery but also in the secular field, has been huge. Her books on constructions such as boxes were immensely popular – not many people know that Jane once made a box for the Queen. 

The one below, which she called The Drip, not only shows her talent but also her sense of humour. She gave me an image to use in my ‘Putting on the Glitz’ talk and it always raises a laugh.

She led the Sarum Group of Embroiderers through the making of well over a hundred pieces of work, from alms bags to very high profile altar frontals.  St George’s Chapel, Windsor was one of their high profile clients.

My favourites will always be the Salisbury Cathedral frontals. The Festal frontal - see right - with its message of water flowing, like blessings, from the cross to the believer. 

Also the Energy Frontal, below, with colours that picked up the great Prisoners of Conscience window above it. 

She loved to talk about her days as wardrobe mistress for the Saddlers Wells Theatre Ballet Company and as a costume designer for television. This form of design gave her the ‘eye’ to work on the scale and tone which produced such outstanding designs for the altar frontals.

Upon her marriage in 1962, Jane resigned from the BBC and became involved in the Women’s Institute. Needless to say she soon began giving talks and leading workshops.  This brought her to the Embroiderers’ Guild, where she served on the Executive Committee for many years.

She was invited to join the Practical Study Group, (now the Textile Study Group). She became well-known for her books on embroidered boxes and metal thread embroidery. A lecture tour of Australia and New Zealand confirmed her front-line status.

In 1977, Jane met with Dr Sydney Evans who was looking for designers for Salisbury Cathedral and the die was cast. The Sarum Group, led by Jane, was formed in 1978 and the commissions kept coming. They included work for churches and cathedrals not only throughout the UK, but also in America. Their work is held by the cathedrals of St Albans (shown below), Exeter, Salisbury and Wells, plus Bath and Sherborne Abbeys. 

This talented group worked very well together and became close friends. Jane produced the designs and decided on the interpretation but members all provided their own special skills and these were much valued by Jane.

The frontal shown below, with detail on the right, was made for a church in Houghton, in memory of Mollie Collins - a Sarum Group member.


Jane had a strong faith and a vivid imagination but she also had a great sense of humour. She liked to make the work relevant to the church family and always made a point of reading the church notice-board before she began designing.

Jane and I had a wonderful time on Val Campbell-Harding’s Historical Heirlooms City and Gulids course at Urchfont Manor in 2006. I think we were the worst students ever and caused as much havoc as we could. However, we both admitted that we learned an awful lot.

Jane was the President of West Country Embroiderers for many years and took an active part in running this lively group. The fact that she talked me into taking over this role two years ago is testament to her gift of persuasion, although I admit that I enjoy the group and their fellowship just as much as she said I would. 

In 2011 Jane produced a series of panels for Amnesty International.  The theme was Prisoners of Conscience and celebrates the 50th anniversary of Amnesty. The series was displayed at Salisbury Cathedral and I reviewed this for Workshop on the Web. 

You can see the review by clicking the link below. 

For the last few years, I have caught up with Jane at a group that meets at the Kingcombe Centre in deepest Dorset. She has been a wonderful asset to this group (as she was to the other groups that she attended) and was always ready with ideas and suggestions. She was also inclined to give a prod if she thought you were slacking and neglecting your work!

Clive and I often went out for a pub lunch with Jane and were due to do so later this month - so sad to think that will not happen now. We shall all miss Jane immensely but I think it is safe to say that she was a tour de force who will not easily be forgotten.