Tuesday, 29 April 2014


Back in February I completed this mask as part of a submission for an exhibition. It forms part of a pair of wall hung pieces of work. The work was accepted so I knew I had to make the second piece of work to make up the pair.
But I was really stuck on what imagery to use on the second mask. Everything I thought of seemed too cliched and obvious - graveyards, war images, hospitals etc - somehow none of them worked, despite endless mock ups and painted versions.

With the deadline looming I decided that I just had to get on with it, so I spent yesterday at my sewing machine and this is what I have come up with. I'm hoping it looks bleak enough to convey what I'm trying to express.

It's not just my students who have crises of confidence!

But I think it provides enough of a contrast with the original "happy" mask... which I'm now going to rework as the stitching is much better on the "gloomy" mask.

I will reveal the completed work nearer the time but should you want to make a note of the date in your diary... this is where you can see it complete.

unravelling the message
Prism at the Mall Galleries
27th - 31st May

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Wonderful Work!

I have been away teaching this weekend, back at Missenden Abbey where as usual I've had a fabulous weekend with my Machine Embroidery City & Guilds students. It is the fifth weekend of twelve (taken over two years) and this time I've been overwhelmed by what my students have achieved. It is as though we have turned a corner and things are starting to pull together and make sense... which always takes time in a course like this.
There is a lot of design work in City and Guilds courses as well as the actual craft and the students have to produce five "resolved designs". There is much discussion over what is meant by a resolved design... and I'm not even going to begin to put my views out there... but for the sake of C & G they have to be ideas that could be executed in any discipline. So for the design unit of "Colour" as with all the design units, they have to present an idea that might be taken forward into a finished project in any discipline. Ann very cleverly presented her complementry colours blue and orange on a box.

Jane has shown how colours can be hot or cold and is planning a cold project for the future!

Mara made a beautiful resolved colour design based on gardens.

Scilla found a stunning range of complementry blues and oranges in photographs from a holiday in Morocco.

Wendy chose to focus on one colour, blue, but then explored the vast range of different blues from cool to warm. And Tracey looked at three pairs of complementry colours and used her Gelli plate to print out designs.

Linda also compared warm and cool colours and took the warm colours through to her samples showing manipulation techniques.

Ann presented her manipulation techniques in a book

Jane displayed hers in a frame...

Mara made a really innovative display by pinning her samples to a net hanging.

Scilla put her beautiful samples in a frame too

and Wendy put hers onto the sides of a box

Tracey presented her samples into a really clever and innovative folding format.

A couple of the students have also finished their first major assignment - Jane has made a very contemporary looking wallhanging based on tall buildings.

And Mara has finished her fabulous wall hanging inspired by the stained glass windows of Missenden Abbey. Neither of these last two photos really show the  skill and intricate stitching in these final pieces.

It is wonderful to see each student grow and progress over the time since we started the course in October and every piece of work here really is fabulous. Please do leave them a comment to let them know... I sometimes think I need to be teaching self esteem and confidence classes rather than machine embroidery and I know it would really make their day to hear what you think!
And if you wonder if you could do this... you can! I'm teaching level 1 machine embroidery for beginners at the Missenden Abbey summer school and a second certificate class will be starting in October. Do get in touch if you would like to know more.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Things always take longer than you think!

I had a plan for today.
It started well - an early morning swim followed by a Pilates class. Home for a quick breakfast whilst I checked and replied to emails and caught up with some blog reading.
Then it was turn the computer off and come into my studio to work.
The plan was to use this collaged fabric that I had made earlier and to turn it into another bag. A pleasant morning sewing, followed by lunch and then an afternoon spent doing my paperwork for this week.

Well that was the plan.... which started to go pear shaped as soon as I realised I needed to make some extra fabric for the collar of the bag. That took until lunch time.

I then realised I didn't have quite enough of the fabric that I wanted for the handle so spent a considerable amount of time searching my stash for something suitable.

I've yet to make one of these bags without doing something wrong... so I then had to do some unpicking so that I could put right the twisted handle!

I had to cover a button...

Take lots of photographs...

and then upload it all to my etsy shop... by which time it was almost 6 pm. So much for the paperwork!

So I then thought I might as well write a blog post to let everyone know  there is a new bag in my shop. Just half an hour... then I'll get dinner started...

That was well over an hour ago and already two of them have come in to ask when's dinner and Stewart has just announced he's going to have to resort to some "emergency toast" while he waits!
Of course, if you would like to make your own collaged fabric and possibly turn it into a bag... the tutorial and pattern is also available in my shop. And a huge thank you to everyone who has bought one so far!
I really had better go and make dinner now....

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Time out

We've had a quiet weekend and I've been determined not to be ruled by my ever growing list of work projects, admin, jobs around the house etc and instead I've taken time off and I've made time to play which is not something I find easy to do.
Inspired by the patterns created by the arrangements of my cornflake cakes, I got out my sketchbook and crayons yesterday and spent a blissful few hours just drawing... and wondered why I don't find time to do this more often.

Pencil, kohinoor inks, neocolour II crayons and a black ink pen... and this is what I've ended up with. I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this... but then that doesn't matter really.

And today I've recreated the same image but with decorated papers and a pot of glue. To be completely honest, it hasn't just been playing for the sake of it as I'm trying to "practise what I preach" in advance of our next Spectrum meeting but I've been reminded what fun this can be.

And now I'm sat by the fireside, feet up and knitting at the ready while Stewart cooks me supper... a rare but much appreciated event. And I'm making the most of it before the family descend tomorrow when I'll be back in the kitchen.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Easter Baking

I had an urge to make chocolate cornflake cakes. I've no idea why because I don't think I've made them since my boys were all small and would help with the stirring and mixing. I had to go out and buy cornflakes especially.
I added mini eggs to make them more seasonal... you can't imagine how difficult it was to find a packet of mini eggs yesterday. I think I may have just bought the last packet in the universe. Sorry if you were hoping to pick up a packet or two today.

Strangely satisfying arranging them in geometric patterns... which is just as well because no-one is eating them. There's only three of us at home (one of whom is diabetic) until Monday and to be honest they are a bit sickly after the first one. Sickly but good!

I did grown up baking too... but we've got the same problem...

A dozen huge hot cross buns and only two of us actually eating them.

They made a rather splendid breakfast. Would it be wrong to have them for elevenses and lunch as well? Don't answer... I'll freeze some unless you fancy popping round for afternoon tea?

Have a lovely Easter weekend whatever you may be doing... or eating!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Brooches and Butterflies

Quite a long time ago... an embarassingly long time ago actually, I spent a lovely day with a very kind lady called Terry who taught me how to make mosiacs. Well... a mosiac actually, the one pictured below, because I'm not really sure I could repeat the experience and remember how to make another one! The idea was that we would have a skills swap.

We did have a date set for Terry to come to my studio to do some embroidery but with one thing and another I had to postpone. Finally my guilt got the better of me and last week, Terry and I met at Wimpole Hall. We bought some lunch and sat in the corner of the restaurant trying to avoid the hoards of children on their Easter holidays and I showed Terry how to make a brooch using needle weaving.
A couple of hours later Terry had made the most exquisite brooch which she finished in time to wear home. Unfortunately my photography was not so exquisite and you cannot see how pretty it looked!

While Terry worked on her brooch I worked on one of my own and this is what I ended up with. I had forgotten what fun these are to make.

Tiny squares of woven threads adorned with beads.

And so inspired was I by Terry's pretty blue/green combination I made another one that evening.

And it did occur to me that as well as a collection of expensive bags...

I could also make a collection of not quite so expensive brooches for Open Studios in July.

And then at knitting on Friday, Pam was giving away some gorgeous threads... and I thought these would be just the thing for a whole range of beautiful brooches.

I would say watch this space but no doubt I'll be excited by something else by this time next week... butterfly brain... that's me!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Bag loads of bags

Before I released the instructions for my collaged fabric onto you dear readers I had been road testing it on my weekly machine embroidery class. As ever, armed with the same instructions and my samples, each member of the class has come up with their own individual interpretation.
Margaret made this lovely purple and turquoise combination into a changing bag for her first grandchild... and very obligingly, baby Penelope arrived this week!

This summery looking bag belongs to Linda our newest member of the class... but she always makes such lovely accomplished things that I really am going to have to stop calling her a beginner.

Di included some fabulous fabrics in her bag, including these old doilies.

And of course, as Di is a beader she had to add a little special beaded touch... have you spotted the butterfly?

Jan made two bags in the time everyone else made their first one and was already on her third by the end of term!

Barbara's pictured below was still a work in progress...

As was Ann's below. Ann has a lovely handle to attach to hers when it is finished. It also has an incredible amount of stitching and it reminded us all of Mary Poppins' carpet bag!

And Jean made this lovely bag below following my bag instructions to the letter, thoroughly testing it and proof reading it for me. Thank you Jean!

Feeling inspired? Then why not buy your own tutorial to make some crazy collaged fabric for yourself... available here!