Saturday, June 27, 2009

Screenprinting questions

I fancy trying some screen printing but have stalled at the purchase of the screen stage. Some of my fellow Twelve by Twelve artists use thermofax screens but I gather this involves a fairly expensive machine and as I have no confidence I shall do this again past the initial experiments I am thinking more of the wooden frames and the Daler-Rowney System 3 products which Linda Kemshall demonstrates so well in issue three of the Threefold Journal CD. That is using acrylic paints with textile medium to pimprove the hand

But where to get the frame?
There does not seem to be much choice. Speedball brands are available in a few places and have 43T mesh described as 'especially suitable for textile printing with water based inks'. But I shall be using paint. Of course if I get on with my screen I might use inks later. Or I can find a much cheaper one on Ebay which has 53T mesh decribed as 'suitable for arts and crafts.' (Always a bit suspcious of cheap things on Ebay!)

I have no idea what the T stands for or what number I need in front of it. Can anyone help?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Easy does it...

.. is a potential name for this quilt, pieced last evening and today and shown here hanging over the edges of my design board. There is a blue border down the right too. The big picture blocks are not by me - I got them in a swap ( along with one other which will go into its own smaller quilt.) and was a bit fazed at first about how to combine them all. Of course, any sensible person would have trimmed them to a size divisible by the dimensions of the smaller squares. Did I do that? No ma'am.
But, I had decided already to take a relaxed approach - the aim was to end up with a top. End of. So I trimmed a bit and added a bit and stretched a bit and, well, I think it makes a decent snuggle quilt. More interesting than the blue and white teacups for sure. It is about 66.5 inches by 65.25 inches. Exactly square is so passe darlings! (I know that has a French accent on it but I don't know how to type it.)

Why the name? Well firstly a lot of easing of fabric went into getting it together. And I had an unexpected and unplanned day of work, so I was taking it easy at home playing with fabric. And encouraging a dear friend, at whom life has thrown more bad things in the last couple of years than a roomful of people should bear in a lifetime, that taking it easy was something she had earned and needed. Oh, and you might have noticed that it is not exactly a complex pattern!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bits and bobs

I have been very tired this weekend so there has been a fair amount of being supine on the sofa with the laptop on my tummy looking at pretty pictures on Flikr slideshows. But I did get this together - not my ususal style but it is a gift and hopefully is in the style of the recipient. Dennis kindly offered to chip in half to get it longarm quilted to save me some time. It will be going to Chris Marriage who I use from time to time and who does a good job. It is so simple that I feel it needs a really good pattern to dress it up.

Talking of Dennis, he did not like my previous embellisher samples but he does really like this piece I made last night - three different knitting yarns onto black wadding. It hs a lovely textured feel and he said it was the kind of art he liked and it would look great framed behind glass. He is not going to be happy when he reaslises my intention is to cut it all up and use it for stitch sampler background!

Close up:

Despite the fact that there is a fair amount of yarn on there it is lovely and soft to stitch through.

And finally - look what I found. Whilst online hunting for sources of roving and yarn to use on the machine I came across Wingham Wool Work No only are their prices great but they offer a Try Before you Buy Day. Basically you go and make samples of any of their yarns by felting or spinning. For free. To keep. No obligation to buy. The only condition is that they make you play with lots of different yarns not just lots of a small number ( So you can't go and make a jumper for free). Oh what a hardship! Great marketing idea as you just know there is no way you are coming home empty handed from that. I have arranged for me and Best Quilting Buddy to go on 26th July.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Look-ee what came to live in my house today!
Thank you for all your advice. As you can see I went for the 12 needle Babylock in the end. I had a look to see if there were any local stockists and found that there was a large sewing machine store I had never heard of in Eccles. That's about 30 mins from me and, by co-incidence only 1.5 miles off the route I was taking to work on Friday.
So I went and had a go on the Janome and the Babylock. I went for the latter because of all the brands it has the fastest motor, most needles, a yarn guide that when I tested I at once realised was a good thing and it also has easily removable needles. It is easy to clean too. However, whilst I do agree with supporting local shops - especially those who let you play on their machines, I actually bought from Sewings Machines Direct as they were a full £100 cheaper than the shop! I ordered on line at 1pm and it arrived at my door at 9.30 this morning with a free carry case. That was too big a differential to ignore.
So today I got to play. Samples first then a bag I am very proud of! My Best Quilting Buddy and I have a 'thing' for Aboriginal art at the moment and she set me off with ideas when she commented that the dots commonly used in such art could be done on the embellisher:

The piece is made of boiled wool scraps, french knots from knitting ribbon and stitched with Perle thread then mounted on an A4 sheet of felt.After playing a while I chose to use the 'fuzzy side' as the right side. That is the side that was underneath when I felted the scraps down. I discovered that if you make the French knots on the right side but embellish them a little they go slightly fuzzy but you still get the raised texture which is a nice contrast to the flat fuzzy scraps.
This sample is (bottom layer up) boiled wool, a piece of silk separately embellished to felt and then attached to the bottom layer, a strip of boiled wool later stitched with King Tut, and on top a piece of crinkled dress making fabric already embellished to felt.

It is very rough and ready but for some reason I want to call it 'Egoli' -the name for Johannesburg meaning City of Gold. In real life it is lustrous and would be worth working up into more than a sample.
This one is just lots of yarn on felt then mounted on a larger felt piece. The photo is not good but it kind of looks like tree bark.

Then I started a sample which grew like topsy into this bag. Again it is all boiled wool scraps stitched with Perle thread in running stitch and french knots ( not embellished this time) and with Aboriginal Art as inspiration.

I sized it so that it operates as a light pouch slung across my chest to hold my pens, brushes etc in easy reach when I am sketching in a museum because I am sick of juggling them or sticking them behind my ears! The flap just folds backwards to give me a kind of tool belt. The strap is just machine wrapped yarn. All the greens in these samples are much brighter - photographing late evening under house lights does them no favour!

Now, I am off to mail order felting wool and a book to tell me how to do this properly.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Embellisher advice please

I am in the market for an embellisher but I am not sure which one to get. The only real review I have seen is here. (I just read Dennis the whole review and he listened patiently asking a few questions as we went along and then said, "I have no idea. Put it on your blog and ask them.")

It seems that the main options are the BabyLock 12 or 7 needle, a Janome or a Pfaff which have 5 needles. It also seems that they all have different advantages and no one machine does everything which is jolly annoying! Particularly when I don't yet know exactly how I will end up using it the most.

So which is more important -more needles or a needle up feature? A quite and fast motor or a single hole plate?

One option is to wait until Festival of Quilts and go and look at them - bit it seems to me that I will only see features I can read about online. Plus I did that last year and resisted buying one but clearly never came to a clear conclusion or I would not be writing this now! Or I could get one now which means I have a week off at home before Festival to play a bit and then at Festival I can focus on shopping for things to embellish! (I resisted last year because I was not really sure what use it was to me. Now I am doing more embroidery and I can see how it would be used for backgrounds etc. and it seems time to move towards getting one).

I have a slight preference but no certain choice at the moment so I wondered if anyone had any advice or experience with these things and could help me?

PS One thing I have established is that none of them are light enough to come on a round the world trip with me. Bah!

Some days....

.... don't need words, just an image. But I suspect I would let my 'public down' if there were no words, so here is the tale.
Today I was booked to teach two linked half days - divorce/domestic violence and private child law both for support staff. I tip up and look at the delegate list. No support staff. Several senior solicitors. Turns out someone missed a crucial two words off the publicity material.
Let me put this in context. Imagine your LQS ask you can you spare an hour to show beginners how to use a rotary cutter. Then you get there and Ricky Tims, Alex Anderson, Elly Sienkiewicz and Helen Godden are sitting there awaiting your Masterclass.
Oh Shoot. The domestic violence part I can survive because it was my area of research at Cambridge. So I just talk and do the equivalent of a trunk show which is of interest to anyone interested in quilts in general. But blagging is not going to work in the afternoon.
I ring home in the half hour gap between sessions and give Dennis blow by blow instructions on how to find on my lap top and assortment of files which will give me some material and how to email it to me. The wonders of technology. I nip to the shop for a sandwich and come back. Twenty minutes left.

I eject the cretin who made this error in the first place from his computer and log onto my mail via AOL. My mailbox is unavailable due to temporary maintenance. Well heck, I liked the colour it was before and as far as I know it was not leaking so what the %^&( are they doing to my box without my consent?

I ring Dennis back and tell him to email it to an employee of my client. It fails to come through. He does it again. We now have about 15 minutes left. My email box comes on but there is nothing in it. Great. they maintain it and now it leaks! I ring Dennis. He says that he cannot get the new email to leave my outbox. It just sits there. Ten minutes left. I ring employees of other clients, tell them I have no time to explain why, but I am in a sticky situation and I need copy of notes I did for them. Like NOW please, not withstanding it is lunchtime.

Suddenly the client's server spews out several emails. Mine is there. We print every attachment. Big mistake. 493 pages start to come out of the machine. Five minutes left. I pull warm paper of the printer and try to identify useful parts. I cut and paste like billy-o and assemble a set of notes. Send to another printer where a minion starts to collate enough copies for the delegates.

I walk into the lecture room. I welcome people. I introduce myself. I explain what I am going to cover. The minion walks in with the set of notes I hand them out and we begin. Let us just say I honed my skill at speaking about line one of a paragraph whilst simultaneously reading lines three and four.
I asked for coffee much earlier than usual to give me a break to read notes I have not seen for months. The delegates when told coffee is available say, "Oh, can we not have a break? Can we just bring it in and keep going and finish early?" I continue my crosseyed talk'n'read act. We finish, I collect the feedback forms and you know what? There was general consensus that my talk and more amazingly, my notes were to be rated excellent.

Sometimes you can't choose the picture for the day until that day is nearly over.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Inspired by

'Inspired by' is a competition run by the Victoria and Albert museum for adult learners. It requires constrcution of a pices inspired by an item in the museum. I was able to visit the small bu prefectly formed resulting display on Monday. I was the only one there so I was able to dump my handbag in the middle and take photos in comfort. Here are a few of my favourite - the slightly wonky angles are the result of trying to avoid light glare through the glass.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A good place

What? Why am I posting a picture of a shower? Well, the Internet being the wonderful world of information that it is, it may be that one day another woman in search of a good place will come across this blog.

Maybe she too will have schlepped down to London at her own expense for a meeting which if it came off would have led to lots of very good changes in her life.

And maybe that meeting didn't seem to go too well, which was entirely her fault, and maybe she was very British and focused on having an afternoon free in London. Maybe she went to see some art and bought a nice magazine and maybe she almost kept the disappointment at bay. Until she missed a bus and sat on a metal seat on a four lane road clogged with growling belching traffic and realised that she was about to cry. For certain she will have known that crying on the bus would have turned her into the 'nutter on the bus' and so maybe she contemplated sneaking past all the homeless on the steps of St. Pancras church and going in there to cry in a pew.

If so, she should know that these new shower stalls in the refurbished first class lounge at Euston are excellent places to lock oneself in, turn on the hot water and have a bawl and a howl and a good, long, heaving sob.

And then maybe the bawling and the howling and the sobbing will just be starting to subside when she is surprised by a giggle at the thought of blogging a shower photo and she will recall that there are women (and maybe lurking men) all around the world who think her interesting enough to read her blog and maybe then she will consider that maybe she is not totally useless.

And perhaps she will remember that amongst the blog chit-chat of yard sales and quilted birds and fabric altars those women shared little bits about breast cancer and losing a child, about the death of parents and the failure of cycle after cycle of IVF. Then, maybe, she will wrap the towel around herself and sit in the cool lime green chair, look herself straight in the eye in the mirror and tell herself that the collapse of some pretty dreams are not on the same scale, that her life as it is not so bad ( even if it feels horribly insecure at the moment), and then maybe she will be able to leave that shower stall with a smile on her face, fragile but ready to dust herself off and face life as it is.

And maybe she will go home and find that her Daisy Chain quilt pattern is in this month's editions of British Patchwork and Quilting and she will manage a wobbly ( and very clean) smile. No day is totally bad.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

New web links

Until recently I liked to indulge in the slightly subversive activity of visiting a branch of Borders and taking magazines up to read in Starbucks . Only now I can't because I visited one store where they put a sign up saying, "In order to help us keep our store tidy please only take a maximum of five magazines into Starbucks'. So now it appears it is not at all subversive. Ah well. I still do it.

Here are some web links I discovered during my browsing yesterday.

Upfront - see their altered bras. Two members of this textile group with their own websites are: Corrine Phillips and Gilly Mound

From one of those sites I found a link to textile artists Jo Dewar

Fiberart Wales has artist pages with lots of images from artists working with fibre in many different ways.

The Beetroot Tree looks like a place I will have to try to visit.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The post I meant to write...

... only I got interrupted by the last post.
Although City and Guilds embroidery has been taking up much time I have actually been doing some piecing. I see that Sharon is doing her blog roll again and If I don't have fiber content she will drop me from her list - she is on C at the moment so there is time for me to hang on in there! The above is all for me - I thought, given my job it was about time to do a traditional Courthouse steps block. But then being me I could not resist a little twist. I need to decide whether to quilt in black thread or an orangey thread. What say ye all in Quiltland?
Now I have to go to Leeds just overnight. I like to stop at Borders at Leeds-Birstall retail park juts off the M62 on the way and browse magazines over a Starbucks. They used to stock Fibrearts but I rang to check today ( because there is an alternative branch in Leeds itself I could go to) but they do not stock it any more. In either branch. Boo hoo. I think I might have to subscribe. They have Selvage in though :)

Grumpy old woman

So, I have just sat down with my newly returned ( and so far working) laptop to read the blogs. I have a long awaited cup of tea next to me then. .... the door bells rings. Not once but several insistent times. Ting-aling-aling-aling-aling- aling. Then, before I can even get up the letter box is raised and dropped. Several times. Clunk Clunk Clunk Clunk. I make it to my feet and the banging on the door glass with a fists starts. Thump, thump, thump,thump. My goodness what is it? Are the elderly couple next door but one in distress? Has the neighbour opposite noticed my roof on fire? Is it the Police looking for a mass murderer?

I open the door. A young man wielding a clipboard and clutching a pile of leaflets beams at me. "Hi. He says. How are you?"

Now, I suspect he was hoping for the response, "Oh All the better for seeing you. Now, what can I buy from you today?"

Needless to say he did not get it. Is it just in our area or are you too seeing an increase in door to door sales? We have had the landscape gardener who wanted to cut down my beloved cherry tree, the local firm who offered us a very good deal to replace or three week old double glazing. We get local restaurants wanting us to join dining clubs, charities wanting old clothes and hospices wanting money. Then there are the phone calls. Swinton Insurance are calling at a level bordering on harassment, Carcraft rather optimistically called to ask if I would service my car with them (and were rather non-plussed when I reminded them what happened last time I did business with them - I promise, it is a good story if you don't recall it). I have even had the automated voice that asks me to hold so I can take a sales call.

Maybe it is the effect of the economy that businesses feel the need to get out there and tout for work but believe me the quickest way to get me not to do business with you is to show up on my front door step and disturb me or to ring in the middle of my favourite TV programme. If I want to buy something I will research it and then go and buy it. I am not going to part with money just because you battered my door down, beamed at me and asked me how I was when you do not know me from Adam? OK?

Unless of course you come with fabric or thread. But no one ever does. Why is that?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

And the result of the public vote is....

.... by 14 votes for, 3 against and 3 ambivalent either way pieces of advice... The Suite!!!

Which, darn it, meant I lost the bet! I apologise sincerely for underestimating the sheer classiness of you lot! I really did think that you would (nicely) tell me to get over myself and tell me to spend the money on fabric instead! Dennis knew you better. But I very much needed and appreciate the 'permission' to book the suite which of course was the one I wanted. I was particularly swayed by the private email vote from my Best Quilting Buddy, who knows well the value of the hard earned pound. She does not mince words (she does not have to with me) and has had a few previous emails from me of the "I'm sorry to show off but have you seen this" variety over this trip. The exasperation coming down the broadband was almost tangible when I read her message:

"oh for god sake woman .... it has to be the suite .... ...... you spend days away from home listening to the scum of society rabbiting on about their trailer trash lives to earn enough money to make the trip so ....... stop the guilt and enjoy !!! ....the suite has marble bathroom and enough space for you not to have to talk to each other -and you have room to set up your sewing area".

Now that's a point. Dennis hates it when I sit on a hotel bed to watch TV and eat a snack and let crumbs drop in the bed so imagine how he will react if I were to drop pins in the bed. and of course I have to sit on his side because I hate to get into an already warmed bed..... if you think about it this suite could be a good financial investment if you compare it to the costs of a divorce....

Anyway, your votes were less about the room and more about whether I was right to suspect I was a 'bad' person or not. I now know I am not and have booked the suite and am now officially a lucky, lucky girl.

However, I am not promising that come January you will not be asked to participate in an emergency vote on 'How many suits am I allowed to buy at the tailors?' Terry wanted to spend room money on a suit - well I always intended to have the suit whichever room I was in but a good few years ago we went to Bangkok for the second time. The first time I was a student and only looked at the tailors and bought instead some (very good) pre made silk shirts from the markets. On our return the plan was to buy one of the packages the tailors there do - usually two suits & three shirts or three suits one shirt, for a set price, that kind of thing.

At nine am we arrived at a tailors I had chosen from a flight magazine article and the first thing they did was tell me to pick of the shelf in their enormous shop every bolt of fabric I liked and to choose patterns for suits that would suit the fabric then eliminate things from there. Now this was way before I discovered quilting but there must have been something latent because there was not much left on the shelves. Then they brought out their pattern books and it became apparent that the more I bought the cheaper each suit became until they were way cheaper than buying even high street off the peg in the UK. They ended up sending our for lunch for us because I was having such a good time and by early afternoon Dennis gave in and started ordering too out of sheer boredom.

He bought three suits and I ended up with nine suits, two dresses, three shirts and a kimono. The tailor suggested that maybe I would like to have the final fittings at his house over dinner and we spent a wonderful evening with the Sihkh family being fed homemade Indian food, running into the bedroom to be fitted between bhajis and samosas and listening to a first hand account of the 1984 occupation of the Golden Temple at Amritsar.

Travel planning I do well. Control? Not so much.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Your votes please

Spoiled as we are, we have to choose between our shortlist of two very nice rooms indeed in our chosen hotel in Hong Kong, that being the only unbooked city of our RTW trip. Well, when I say we have to choose, Dennis' choice is, "I'll go with what you go for". Helpful.

Even more helpful when he conceded that I could book which ever I liked and there was little chance of him remembering what the options had been by the time we checked in! Semi-joking I suggested we put it to a poll on the blog but then we realised we had very different ideas of what you as a general readership were likely to say. So, I want your votes - less because I will listen to what you say (I might - but then I might not, but either way it will probably polarise my view one way or another) and more to see which of us wins our bet as to what your collective choice will be!

So, voters, here is your choice:

First this room at HK$1870 pn

Second this Suite at HK$3300 pn
(Converted to UK pounds those prices only have low three digits and do not sound anywhere as near as bad!)

Your criteria to bear in mind is:

1. We are not actually made of money and these are only options at all because (a) we saved up hard for a special trip and want to spend wisely. (Which is not always the same as cheaply) and (b) to get a harbour view at all within range of budget we chose to stay on Kowloon not Hong Kong island

2. It is however a special trip on which we are determined all will be as perfect as pre-planning will make it and on which we are prepared to spend for high levels of comfort. But not unnecessary luxury that will be wasted.

3. By the time we get here we will have been away from home for over 2.5 months and both of us agree that in a trip of that length there are bound to be days when one or both of us does not feel well or does not want to do tourist things but wants to just sit and read or 'have a day off' as we would at home. Lucky though we are to travel like this I know from business that living in hotels can get very wearing. And we fight over the TV controls. (Dennis hates watching my beloved reruns of Friends.)

4. We have a set budget for the trip which we are happy to spend (but not waste) and both rooms place us well within our overall budget ( thank you really good prices in New Zealand and friends/ family with beds in Australia and California!) but then any money saved goes to the next trip. Or shopping.

I am conscious that there is a high possibility that even posting this makes me look like a spoiled princess with no concept that we are living in a recessionary world but (a) I have been thanked before for my honesty in revealing my true character on my blog and (b) this is Dennis' retirement trip after an illness that ended his career and I am determined that he gets what he deserves after all he went through.

So, your votes please for which you think we should go for and shortly I shall reveal what we each thought you would all say and who was right.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Cinnamon roll recipe

I have been asked to give you the recipe for the cinnamon rolls in my last post. I am not reposting the photo though out of respect to Carol who has wheat allergies and whom I tormented last time I posted the picture!

I have to say that my instructions come from my breadmaker recipe book but I checked and this site as instruction to make it from scratch with ingredients that are not too disimilar so if you combine the two you should get something like!
250ml water at room temp
30g chopped butter
1 60g egg ( or in my house one egg - who weighs eggs?!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
520 g strong white plain flour (bread flour)
2 1/2 teapsoons dried yeast

35g melted butter
1/2 cup sugar ( sometimes my hand slips a little more in)
2 tablespoons of cinnamon

mix 1/2 cup icing sugar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence ( that isn't essential) and 2 tablespoons of milk until thin enough to drizzle.

Put all that lot in the breadmaker in that order and press the programme for pizza and other versatile doughs. Or somehow combine and let rise. On my machine it takes just short of 2 hours for this mixing and rising process.

Take out of the machine and grease and line a 25cm baking pan ( or in our house a roasting dish big enought for four greedy portions of lasagne)

Mix the sugar and cinnamon. Roll the dough out into a 45cm x 22 cm rectangle. (Or in our house a rectangle the depth of the working surface and not quite as wide). brush with the melted butter. sprinkle over the sugar-cinnamon nix. Roll up the dough and pinch the edge to seal. Cut into 2.5 cm slices. (In my house -2.5 cm ish) and place in pan.

Cover and allow to rise for 1 1/4 hours or until doubled in size. (usually a little less than the stated time for me but our house tends to be warm).

Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 mins an 180 degrees C or until golden brown.

Lightly drizzle with glaze.

I bet you burn your fingers eating them because you can't wait. They take ages but are easy to do and worth all the waiting time. If not eating straight from the oven you can microwave them 30 - 35 seconds to reheat. Yum.