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Monday, April 30, 2007


The football season is over, at least as far as Robin's team is concerned, and we get our weekends back! No more disappearing to watch, or play, or run the line. Hurrah. So we went out both days, as the weather was fine. Saturday got swallowed up by shopping; Sunday, however, was a joy. We went into Suffolk, to visit the village of Lavenham. Lavenham is an artist's paradise, a medieval village which was at the centre of the wool trade. The National Trust has a property there, the Guildhall of Corpus Christi, a beautiful building filled with interesting textile things from before the Industrial Revolution, and a Dyer's garden, full of all sorts of herbs and plants for dyeing. But, though the Guildhall is gorgeous, so is almost every other building in the village. I particularly enjoyed the Crooked House Gallery

Of course, its intruiguing architecture is part of its charm, that's obvious from the picture; but it is a treasure house of art inside, much of it unusual, including some wonderful small sculptures by Zoe Rubens, witty and intruiguing. I would have loved to have taken several of them home...but sadly, the pocket wouldn't allow. Still, there's her website, and her blog...and a girl can dream...and save up! For now, though, the cash is going to pay for a lovely bolt of cloth for dyeing, so sculpture will have to wait, I'm afraid. Sigh. All in all, a good time was had by all concerned (and a good lunch, to boot). And yes, I did forget my camera (thanks to the Crooked House Gallery for the image...), but believe me, I'll be back there, soon, camera and pastels at the ready.

Friday, April 27, 2007


I found my glasses, Rayna found hers and I discovered I am Not Alone in the losing of glasses. Next time I wander round the house looking for them, I shall think of you all, and grin!
And thank you for the advice; yes, indeed, mine were on top of a book, beautifully camouflaged so that neither Robin nor I could spot them...sigh.

I'm working on the quilts for France, five down, several to go. I say several, because I haven't quite decided how many or which. But I will, I will...and preferably before France emails and says, 'Well???...'.

I didn't draw yesterday, out and about instead, collecting my Brother (that would be a sewing machine, you understand, not an unknown relative), and besides, Thursday is Therapy Day, and that's more than enough focussed activity for one day. Today, though, I drew this. It's not perfect, technically speaking, but it is me. What's more, I discovered why I'm doing these drawings; to find myself. I think too much. Way too much. It gets in the way, and I get confused. What's important is not what I think, but what I see, but looking in a mirror doesn't do it the way that drawing does; neither does a photograph. As a meditative practice, a self portrait is perfect for me. So, I'm going to set aside an hour a day for this practical branch of meditation. Self obsessed? Perhaps. But it's better than listening to the voices that say 'you're not....' or 'you're too...'. Or even, 'you're worthless, useless, pathetic'. And of course, it has the added benefit of improving my drawing, my observation skills and goodness knows what else...and it's cheaper than a life class. Hurrah, indeed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Seeing Things...

or rather, not. I have reached the age where two pairs of glasses are required, one for reading, one for seeing in general. I can't have bifocals, because one eye is shortsighted, and the other longsighted, and apparently that doesn't work with bifocals...or bifocals don't work with that. So, this morning, I free motioned a piece, and bound (you read it here, I bound) a couple of pieces, then thought, lunchtime...and off I went, reading glasses in hand, seeing glasses on nose. I rang up and bought a bolt of fabric for dyeing, and used my reading glasses to Consult The Catalogue. Then took them off again, and started off with them in my hand, to go back up to do more quilting. Somewhere between here and there (two flights of stairs, two phonecalls and a trip to the loo), my glasses have disappeared. Hear me scream!!

This is, sadly, a regular occurrence. When Robin sees a vision of loveliness in a nightdress floating around aimlessly before bedtime, he says, you'll have forgotten your glasses, right? And helps me find them. In fact, it's a well known fact of life in this house that where I am, there are my glasses not. But I've been looking for ages, and I Can't Find Them At All. I've even looked in rooms I know I wasn't in, in the hope that I'll come across them. Heaven knows, my memory is as poor as my eyesight. Sigh. Lets hope I find them soon. Reading with the book two inches away from my nose is just Not An Option.

Hopefully, I'll find them before Barcelona; I'm going there next month with Sandy and Dijanne (in the photograph). I have to say that a glass of wine is more likely to be seen in our hands than the wherewithal for altering books....did I say that? Oh well...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I'm doing this...

before I change my mind. I thought I might share with you my journey through self portraiture. I spent a year doing a self portrait a day, several years ago, and for reasons which I won't bore you with today, I decided to take that discipline up again. This is the first of what I think will be many; this one took two days, and there's still something wrong with the right eye.... come to think of it, the face is too long, the nose is dreadful (my noses always are...what is it with noses???), and there are other things wrong with it. But it is A Start. And it is a start that I've been putting off for a long time. Why? Oh, all the usual things. It's Not What I Usually Do, for a start. I'm Not Good At It, for another. It's Hard. It's time consuming. It's hard. Did I say it was hard??? And that I'm not good at it? You get my drift.

I've come to the conclusion that these are Not Good Reasons for failing to do something I enjoy. It's the first time I've used pastels, too, come to think of it, and that might be oil avoidance, but there again, I'm keeping a sketchbook, and it is all in pastel, too. I rather like pastel. It is such a direct medium. Especially when you lean too hard on a small bit and it crumbles into dust...sigh...

Above all, though, I'm doing this in order to put my money where my mouth is. I spend a lot of time encouraging others, especially beginners, to do the work, to show the work to people they trust, to do more work, and so on... I know how hard that is; I was a beginner once myself. And here I am again, at the beginning of a new learning process. 'Cept I'm showing this rather poor drawing to anyone who's daft enough to look at it. Gulp. So if I can do that, so can you, Ms Beginner. It'll be okay. I promise. Now to publish this before I change my mind... gulp...

Monday, April 23, 2007


in the zone, though, is entirely a different matter. That said, this morning, I completed a painting that I'd promised as a housewarming present. This makes me feel somewhat smug, of course...and then I went on to add paint to 'Peaks and Troughs', yesterday's picture. You can see the difference. Or, I hope you can see the difference. I think it transforms the whole piece. But then, of course, you can't see the whole you'll just have to take my word for it.

I'm now painting samples of lutradur, a tedious job, but I intend to make them into Something A Bit More Interesting, so I dare say I'll survive. One of the things I Really Must Do This Week, is to dye some cloth for backings. Working small has led to me cutting up this and that, til it's too small to serve as a backing, even for a small piece. Sigh. I dare say it's good for my soul...and I do want to do some dye painting, too, though it rained today, so I couldn't have got out into the garden which is the best place for dye painting.

It's 2pm and I'm contemplating a rather late lunch; I want to go draw this afternoon, sketches for a painting I have in the back of my mind. Or maybe I'll read a bit. Or sew... Decisions, decisions....

Sunday, April 22, 2007

In The Zone

This is a small part of the top section of a new quilt, Peaks and Troughs, which will be shown at theLyon exhibition this year. I'm still delighted to have been invited to show work there, and I'm looking forward to teaching a lutradur workshop too. I've been working on some new things for that exhibit, and though I'd intended to take some older works, almost all of the work I'll be showing there is new, and all of it uses either lutradur or evolon. It's also all larger than I usually work, though not much, no shocks there, I can't see myself ever working the size that Sally achieves

I've been working hard all week...well, I say hard are you working when you can drink as much coffee as I do...sigh...or talk as much on the phone as I do (usually with the aforementioned Sally, come to think of does she manage to make such large quilts?). But there's a real feeling of flow about the work, and it's a joy to be in that state. If you're interested, there's a book by Mihali Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, The Psychology Of Happiness, which is interesting reading. It's not a self help book, more a suggestion of some principles that lead to happiness, and examples of people who have used them for doesn't, however, tell you what to do! Which is just as well, as I'm known for being contrary and doing the absolute opposite of what I'm told...sigh...

I'm planning to work this way for the rest of the week, get all the pieces finished, or at least, only requiring their sleeves, and perhaps do some dye painting to boot. Purr. My idea of a good week. Hope yours is as happy, creative and enjoyable as I intend mine to be...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Stately Visiting

We joined the National Trust this year, with the intention of working our way through England's heritage, or at least, the bits that are within reasonable travelling distance. Last weekend, we went to visit this beautiful stately home, Oxburgh Hall, in the village of Oxenham, near Swaffam. I was struck by the beauty of this gate. All in all, I was surprised that I didn't take many photographs while I was there, and those that I did take are of walls and/or buildings. I hardly ever seem to take pictures of people. Robin doesn't much like his photograph taken, and I can rarely ever catch him unawares (dammit!).

Oxburgh has a lot of fine art, but its particular claim to fame, or one of them, is that it has a set of three hangings made by Mary, Queen of Scots together with Bess Hardwick, two of the finest embroiderers of the time. I admired them, of course, they are beautiful, and I know that they are full of interesting references to political and religious matters of the day, amongst other things. But I was struck by a sign outside that pointed to the 'Marian Hanging'. Despite the spelling, it did seem a little...well...threatening? It turned out that it was one of several pieces made by contemporary artists who have spent time at Oxburgh, and who have made art in response to it. I suspect it was almost inevitable that someone would make a piece for a bed, though it was presented as a coverlet, rather than a hanging. Personally, I preferred the work we saw as we arrived, beautiful work on a small scale with paper. And, of course, I did spend some time in the second hand bookshop...oops...!
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Thursday, April 19, 2007

I can resist anything...

except temptation...and these were wondrously tempting. The chocolates, for that is what they were, are long gone, but I kept the boxes, meaning to alter them. And I wonder why my studios are cluttered...sigh... I have rather a large collection of alterables, including some large cheese boxes that are irresistable...and a wonderful book from the 1960s entitled 'Fabric Collage'. I thought I'd do some contemporary fabric collage within its pages.

Today, though, AT (After Therapy), I went wandering in Norwich. The buskers were out in force, including a piper in full Highland dress (didn't recognise the tartan, though that isn't unusual). What was unusual was that I enjoyed it. Most busking pipers are, well, not very good. This one was, so I popped a pound in his case. Like all good pipers, though, he wasn't for stopping. Which was fair enough.

I find myself looking at Frida Kahlo's work, and bought myself a book about her today. I didn't like it much, but as I grow and change, my tastes change, too. I admire her honesty and strength. I'd like to think I could make art that has that honesty...but meanwhile, I'll just keep on trying.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

And Now...

for something completely different. I was playing with the Embellisher on Saturday, and found myself playing with flowers...These blooms are embellished onto lutradur; I had the intention of making a bag with them, but now I'm not so sure. Perhaps some added stitch...perhaps not. I like the simplicity of it. Perhaps I'll make some more...perhaps not. Either way, I've enjoyed making something out of my usual style. Or is it?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

They say...

that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Mine were to blog every day for a while, given that I've been appearing so spasmodically recently. But I'm up and down, tired and tireder, so I've not been giving the blog the attention it deserves. Will Try Harder, I promise. Then Julie tagged me for the 'The Thinking Blogger Award'. I was taken aback, rather. One of my core beliefs is that it's essential to create meaning, so I blog as part of that expression of self, really. But I read for fun, pure and simple. So finding five meaningful blogs was, I thought, going to be challenging. And then I thought about it. Olga's blog has to be up there at number one, it's just great, visually and textually. Then there's June's brainchild, the Ragged Cloth Cafe. Thelma's always interesting, particularly when blogging about curating (hint, hint...), and both she and Dijanne discuss textiles in the context of real life. It's a good reminder that an artist doesn't exist in a vacuum, and has issues other than the price of cloth to contend with. The fifth, I guess, has to be Arashi, who isn't posting at present, but when he does, he makes me think, and think, and think. five nominations are these. And thanks, Julie, for the vote of confidence. I'm flattered.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


you have to wait a while before the solution becomes obvious. While Sandy was drifting through my sewing room, she found a piece that I made when I first got hold of lutradur. It uses a piece of lightweight lutradur that was printed by Dijanne Cevaal which she sent me in some samples of lutradur to play with. That was a while ago! I'd layered it over a print I'd made, a symbol I use often to indicate abundance, part of my personal imagery. But there was something unsatisfactory about it. I picked it up and put it down, and finally, it joined the mayhem in the workroom, those things that you don't want to throw out, but aren't happy enough with to continue.

Anyway, out it came last weekend, and I knew immediately what to do with it. I added a little more stitch, and then burned out the lutradur to show the underlying pattern. And then, added a little copper foil, just a hint of it. And here it is.

I usually throw out things I'm not happy with, or cut them up. To be honest, it doesn't happen all that often, perhaps I'm just easily pleased. But I knew there was a solution to this particular problem, just didn't know, at the time, quite what it was. I'm pleased with it, now. I think I'll mount and frame it; it's only A4 sized.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Spring is Sprung...

everywhere is frothy...the daffodils dance in the breeze, the cherry blossom flounces over the trees, and fields are full of oilseed rape. This relative newcomer is taking over...everywhere you look, on grass verges, in cracks in the pavement, in the garden, there'll be an oilseed rape plant straggling up somewhere or's the new dandelion. I'm a fan of it in its place, en masse in the field, I love that vibrant yellow colour, I don't mind the scent, which is like heavy honey, and unlike most of the population, I'm not allergic to it, either.

Working on Urban Tattoo II, this is a section of it in, whilst still in the stitching stage. I think I've completed that, now, but I want to add paint and possibly painted bondaweb, so I'm not finished. I might even bind it. Now that would be unusual; I hate binding (don't like frames, either, come to think of it). But I'd hate to be too predictable...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What Happens When...

you add this woman to this mess? Answer....she tidies up!!! I watched Sandy Marcoux as she gently wandered round my sewing room, picking up a bit here, and a bit there, and putting it who knows where? I surely don't. All I did was to take her up to the cloth studio to admire my new machine, and off she went. Ask her how long it has taken to unpack her own sewing room (snigger).

Actually, apart from the attempt to tidy up my cloth studio (and who can blame's always nice to be able to see where you're walking...), we had a good time. Played with some lutradur, stitched on a quilt or two, laughed a lot, ate more than we ought, perhaps, went to the pub... all in all a very civilised time was had by all concerned. Perhaps we should consider a UK Bloggers retreat this summer...what do you think?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Here's One I Knitted Earlier... true Blue Peter fashion. Two pages of the altered book described below. For those of you interested in the technical stuff, I prepped the book in the usual way, stuck two pages together, coated them with acrylic gesso, which had been coloured with acrylic paint, and added scraps of scrunched up tissue paper. When that had dried, I sprinkled Brusho powder on the pages, which I'd dampened with water, and then misted them with more water. And this was the result.
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Out and About

to retrieve my now fixed Bernina. This part of the countryside is particularly beautiful, and the weather is mild, so the drive was a pleasure. I spent some of it thinking about writing an article about using lutradur for one of the patchwork magazines. It's funny how these ideas come to one as if by magic at times when you can't actually write them down, like in the shower, or driving the car. The creativity fairy clearly has a sense of humour... But then, if it's a good idea, you'll remember it...won't you ?

I've been making altered books. This one is part finished, I used it to try out working with Brusho paint, which I'd had for a while but not used before. I'm pleased with the results, but not entirely sure where to go now with it. I've been finding that a recurrent theme in the (still ongoing) therapy has been looking after myself. The first two books I made were very much about things that happened in the past, a description of my childhood, direct and indirect. This larger book seems to want to be rooted in the present. I think I will turn it into a reminder of all the wonderful things and people I have in my life now. Watch this space!

ps actually, watch the one above it...I can't add the picture, so I'll try another method...which will mean the picture is separate...sigh...I've been happy with the new, improved Blogspot til now...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

New Toys...

in the plural. Would it surprise you to know I bought another sewing machine? No? You know me too well... I bought an old Bernina, a 1090S. I already have a 640, but, as you know, it is in sulk mode. So I thought I'd better have a backup for my backup. And thank you, Fulvia, you were right about the Husqvarna (but it didn't stop me buying something else...). Robin is mildly disgusted. He fails to see the point of having more than one machine, or rather, more than two. He accepts I have one for free motion, the other for straight and fancy stitches. He just doesn't see why I'd want any more than that. And right enough, he's an accountant, he has one backup....but then, you can buy a calculator just about anywhere. A sewing machine is an entirely different kettle of fish.

I did say toys in the plural. A small boiler was offered on freecycle, and I snapped it up. Why? Well, I dye in my utility room, which has no sink, strangely enough, so all the water for dissolving dye and the like has to be lugged through in buckets and bottles from the kitchen, through the hall (cream carpet...). With the boiler, I can have lots of water in situ, and only have to fill it once. I am woman, hear me purr...lovely stuff.

And the same can be said for two parcels from Thelma. One contained some cloth, the other some threads and an intruiguing piece of felting, over a bar of soap (leastways, I think that's what it smells lovely). Not sure whether to wash with it or admire it. My money's on the latter. Thanks, Thelma...

I'll talk about the weekend tomorrow, but meanwhile, a piece of work, a postcard, a linoprint on handmade paper, a lovely, soft brown (wish I could remember where I got it from...sigh...) fused to pelmet Vilene, covered with lightweight lutradur. I'm pleased with the overall effects.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What Are The Odds...

that all three sewing machines should break down at the same time? Slim, yes? Within a fortnight? No problem at all. The Brother has a problem with the feed dogs...they're stuck in the lowered position. That would be okay...except that I want to use it as a normal machine, and the foot for free motion work is broken.... sigh. Then there's the Husqvarna. It seems to be in perfect working order. There's just one small problem; the foot is hovering high above the feed dogs, even in the lowered position. As far as I know, the shank didn't shrink, so what on earth is *that* about? And finally, the Bernina just Won't Go. Problem with the belt, I think. It's not broken, just not turning. That narrows your options just a tad.

So I've arranged to borrow a machine, and two of the three will go to the sewing machine guru. This is annoying...I'm two thirds through quilting my curator's piece for 'From The Heart'. I hate to stop when I'm in full flow. But hey...

One piece of technology that is finally working is the laptop. We were lent an external CD drive, and discovered that the internal one just ain't working. So I finally have access to over a hundred photographs that were on the hard drive. Like this one...which I don't remember making...Dijanne, is it one of the things you made when you were here the first time? Or what? Must be nice to have a memory that works...mine seems to have gone the way of my sewing machines...which takes me back to where we started.