Friday, 30 July 2010

Ben's Blanket

Many years ago (over twenty in fact) when Ben, my eldest son, was only seven I organised a sponspored knit for the PTA of his primary school.

Participants had to agree to knit a certain number of squares and get friends and family to sponsor them. All the money raised went to the PTA and the squares were sewn into five large blankets which were given to Save the Children.

A lovely lady came and spoke to the primary school children and showed them a film of how the blankets would be used, which made quite an impression on my then seven year old. So much so that I taught him to knit and he made several squares of his own to add to the blankets.

When it was over he decided he would like his own knitted patchwork blanket and so we set about knitting the 96 squares required. Admittedly I probably ended up making most of them but Ben knitted several of the squares that went into the blanket. I can't tell which were his and which were mine which may say as much about my knitting skills as his!

And it has lived in his room, which became Joe's room when Ben moved out, ever since. But tomorrow I have a lodger moving in for a month (I'll tell more next week) so Joe's room needed clearing out. It has taken me three days to clear the mess and debris Joe left behind (and was meant to clear before he went travelling!) and among it all I found the blanket... which has now been washed and repaired.

It might not be the prettiest blanket and it's looking rather worn and tired but it is soft and warm and rather special.

As for Ben's knitting skills... he has no recollection of ever having learned to knit! But then he also claims not to remember wanting pink pyjamas when he was little either!

Another Winner

As promised, one week after my anniversary post I've picked another winner. Twelve more names were added to those already in the bowl and this time Jan's name was picked. If you email me with your address Jan I'll get a green corsage on its way to you early next week.

For those of you who didn't win, there will still be one more chance when I reach 500 posts (this is 470 so I'm getting there.) Of course that could be weeks away so everyone will have forgotten about it by then... so a nice surprise for someone maybe? Meanwhile can I offer you a chocolate chip cookie to make up for not winning?

And if you've not entered your name for this triple giveaway yet there is still time to leave a comment on the anniversary post and your name will be added for the final draw.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Sketchbook Project II

So you've made your spaghetti and ink drawing but you're not impressed... so now what? If, as I have, you have used regular black fountain pen ink (i.e not waterproof) then you can liven things up by taking a wet paintbrush and running it over your drawing.

And you have instant colour. This type of ink bleeds out giving beautiful shades of blue and grey. I've also added a line of yellow ink down one side to suggest shading.

If you actually dip your paintbrush into ink* rather than water to begin with then you can achieve all sorts of interesting coloured effects.

Such as this... which I think takes the fear out of making a coloured drawing. It would be good fun to repeat this exercise using some really whacky colour combinations.

Or of course you could just fill up the page with colour. Whatever you try it doesn't matter. Remember you are not trying to make perfect drawings or beautiful works of art, you are experimenting and you are trying to generate ideas... keep pushing boundaries and see what you come up with. You might surprise yourself.

*I've used Kohinoor ink palettes to add colour to these drawings - available from ArtVanGo

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Beach Hut Bunting

When I was visiting Silverpebble's Open Studio on Saturday, not only was I enamoured by her beautiful silvery jewels, delighted by her cottage garden and seriously envious of her beach hut studio... I also fell in love with some crochet bunting she had trailing through the garden leading to the hut.

And so over the past couple of evenings I have set myself the task of making some of my own. There was a lot of trial and error and ripping back but I'm quite pleased with the results.

Of course, now I have to decide where to hang it...

Would it be going too far to build a beach hut in garden from which to hang my crochet bunting? No, I thought not.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Sketchbook Project I

Me again...!

My new textile group that is starting in September (as yet nameless) has been set a summer sketchbook project. The theme is "On Your Doorstep". Using a quotation from Marcel Proust as our starting point:
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes"
they have been asked to look with fresh eyes at their immediate environment and fill a book with what they see.

There are obviously lots of different ways of working into sketchbooks but for our purposes I'm not really interested in fancy techniques... the kind that produce a work of art in their own right. I want the students to really look and record what they see... and I think the best way of doing this is to actually draw. I am well aware that this can be really off putting for many but I truely believe that everyone can draw... we're just not always thrilled by the marks we make! And so to offer a bit of encouragement and to give some ideas for starting points I am making my own book and I'll be posting what I do here for the ladies to follow.

So first of all a favourite technique of mine and that is using something other than a pen or pencil to draw with... a stick of dry spaghetti (well, it was linguine actually) and a pot of ink.

The lack of control over the stick of spaghetti gives a very free and spontaneous mark. The idea is not to judge whether the drawing is "good" or not but to record what you can see.

Thick lines, thin lines, blobs of ink... none of it matters. Just get those marks down on the paper. Fill the pages... no timid marks down in the corner of the page... be big and bold! If you are worried about "spoiling" the first page... start in the middle of the book. If you really think what you have drawn is awful stick a piece of brown paper or newspaper over it and start again.

The important thing is to make a start, don't be afraid of making mistakes (because there is no right or wrong way), don't be precious about what you do... and enjoy the process!

Now try drawing with a stick... or a feather... and see what other marks you can make. What happens if you use red wine instead of ink... told you this was fun!

Anyone else care to join us?

The First Winner

Well thank you lovely blogging friends... not only for all the comments on my Blog Anniversary but for also becoming followers. Which meant I passed the 100 mark last night and so the first prize draw was made. Nothing technical here... just names printed out...

Folded up and put into a bowl...

And a winner picked out... Lucy Locket! Which was rather nice as Lucy has been a commenter on my blog for almost the whole three years I've been blogging... and she became my 100th follower last night! Lucy... let me know if you'd rather have a pin cushion or a brooch and I'll send a parcel your way.

Of course, all the other names will stay in the bowl until Friday when I will pick out the second winner. If you haven't left a comment on the anniversary post and would like to enter the giveaway, there is still time to join in and I'll add your name to the bowl before the next draw. The final draw (when I reach 500 posts) might come sooner than expected too as I'll be back later today with another post!

Sunday, 25 July 2010


It doesn't get much better. Frittata for supper...

Courgettes, broad beans and new potatoes from the garden. Eggs from my girls. A totally home produced meal.
Just call me Barbara!

P.S. Only two more followers and I can pick the first winner.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Bridesmaids and beads

I might have sworn never to make another bridesmaids dress... ever, but when my friend's daughter asked if I could make some pearl chokers for her bridesmaids, I found myself agreeing to do it. Why they thought I might know anything about jewellery I don't know but after consulting with another friend I gave it a go!

Giant sized pearls separated with tiny crystals.

I quite enjoyed making them but don't think I'm giving up textiles for jewellery making just yet! (you should see the amount of discarded bits!)

They look like bags of sweeties don't they?

If you missed my last post... there's a giveaway! My followers have gone up to 95 so if you become a follower the first draw could be sooner rather than later!

Friday, 23 July 2010

An anniversary

I thought I would celebrate my first day of study free time by a trip into Cambridge for a little retail therapy. The idea was to give my tired looking wardrobe a bit of a boost. After only 45 minutes I remembered why I don't do clothes shopping and don't often wear jeans... do changing rooms deliberately have lighting and mirrors designed to make one's backside look huge and lumpy... or is my backside actually huge and lumpy? Don't answer that one. So instead I fulfilled my need to spend money with some fabrics from a lovely new shop called Cally Co. I don't need the fabrics and I don't know what I will do with them but resistance was futile!

I then treated myself to the latest Rowan magazine because it is full of the most beautifully photographed knitwear that I shall only ever dream about making, but love looking at!

Having decided that was probably going to be the extent of my shopping I then ventured along to the Fitzwilliam museum where there is an exhibition of Maggi Hambling wave paintings. I am a great fan of her work, and especially love her portraits and her sculpture... one of my favourites is the scallop shell on Aldeburgh beach.

I thought these new paintings of waves were stunning and very atmospheric... all that was missing was the sound of them crashing on the shingle.

And so that's it for today... except the anniversary... it is three years today since I first dipped my toes into the world of blogging. I never imagined it would last that long... but I'm not about to stop just yet. A month or so ago I thought I would be very clever and make this three year anniversary coincide with 500 posts but I'm not quite there (this is no. 463). Then I thought it might coincide with getting 100 followers but I'm up to 94 so not quite there with that either... but hey, I'll have a little giveaway anyway.

So if you fancy winning either a little pin cushion jar or a fabric corsage all you have to do is leave a comment on this post... nothing more... except perhaps tell me which one you would prefer and what colour you would like. I will draw three winners... one in a weeks time (Friday 30th July) to celebrate three years of blogging, one when I reach 100 followers so who knows when that will be... and the last one when I reach 500 posts... which could be quite a while yet!

Look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

All done...

The first draft of my essay went to my tutor at the end of last week. I had my final tutorial on Tuesday and after some minor tweaking it is finished! Hooray!

My journal and research portfolio have also been assembled and packed up and so now all that is left is to get the whole lot in the post ready for marking... a whole week before the end of this module! More hoorays! I can't tell you the plans I've got for all the things I'm going to finish or make during August!

Although it is a relief to have finished I have thoroughly enjoyed all the reading and research for this module and have not experienced any of the crises of confidence that I seem to get during the practical modules. The essay I chose was to compare two contemporary artists who use the body in their work.

I chose Marc Quinn who rose to fame for his work Self which was exhibited at the Sensation: Young British artists from the Saatchi collection exhibition at the RA in 1997. It is a frozen sculture of his head made from 9 pints of his own blood. He remakes this every five years as an exploration of the changing state of the body. He is also known for his classically inspired marble statues of people with disabilities, probably most famously for his controversial 3.5m tall Statue Alison Lapper Pregnant which stood on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2005.

The artist I chose to compare him with is Yinka Shonibare who also uses the body to explore ideas about identity but in a completely different and humourous way. He is well known for his use of colourful "African" fabrics which are not actually African but are printed European copies of Indonesian batiks, that he buys on Brixton market in London. He makes headless mannequins which parody Western colonisers and Victorian values, calling into question ideas about race, hybridity and authenticity.

And although it has nothing to do with the body he also has an installation on the fourth plinth at the moment.. this magnificent ship in a bottle with sails made from his trademark fabrics.

And so unusally for me I've now got some time on my hands to finish off some planning, explore some new projects and generally catch up with myself before the new module starts in September...

And I've also got something of a blogging anniversary coming up so call back tomorrow and I may just be giving something away...

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

There are some days...

When really only chocolate can hit the spot... I was inspired by the white chocolate stars!

p.s. Thank you for your brooch suggestions... I think I may have found some!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

All sorts of brooches

Well, that's it for another year of Open Studios for me. This last weekend was much busier than the first - plenty of lovely people who stayed a long time and showed lots of interest. Sales were still way down on previous years but I think I attracted some new students to classes as well as gained a couple of new Young Embroiderers. Unfortunately, despite loads of interest from real visitors and blog visitors the latest collaborative brooch didn't sell this weekend... so if you are interested in a pink Hellebore brooch just let either me or Emma know. (£30 plus pp)

And now a little query... in the few quiet moments over the weekend I was musing over some new ideas and I thought about the embroidered buttons I made for my fashion module. "Wouldn't they be fun as little cheap and cheerful brooches to brighten up a T shirt" me thinks...
" There are bound to be plenty of suppliers on the interweb..."

What I had in mind was basically a self cover button... the sort where the back pops into place... but instead of a button shank it would have a brooch pin on the back. I thought they would be easy to find... but no! Unless I'm typing the wrong thing into Google, but I did try almost every combination of words I could think of (including some I probably shouldn't... but it's so easy to get side tracked)

The closest I found was a flat backed button where you can glue a brooch pin on the back but then I couldn't find a UK supplier that could provide the right size (I want 38mm). I found an Australian supplier but the postage was more than the buttons.
But surely someone manufactures these with the brooch pins already in place... do you know of any suppliers... can you help me? Do I sound desperate? Well you know what it's like when you get an idea... I just want to make some!!!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

A Collaboration

Designed by nature

Free machined petals:
Made by me

Precious jewelled stamens:
The result:
A beautiful corsage to dress up your outfit

And if you hurry you might just be able to get one of the remaining two brooches at either my Open Studio this coming weekend or at Emma's Open Studio the following weekend. Do email if you want details on how to find us... or check out . We're getting together tomorrow to discuss more ideas for some collaborative efforts... what do you think? Should we make more?