Archive for June, 2013

hot fabrics 1 the organza sandwich

So I have new toys 😉

text 1a HEAT GUN and a SOLDERING IRON, both from Lidl’s occasional bargain section, tbh I would not have bought these right now, but £17 for both, when a heat gun is £25-£45 on its own, was more than I could pass up …

I enjoyed torturing fabric on the embroidery course, and while I lived with an open fire could still use a hot poker, but I have missed it since.

So, how to get back in the swing of it/ get familiar with the new shiny toys 😉

I made an organza sandwich, using an 8″ x 18″/ 20 x 45cm length of organza in a colour I bought cheap  and am not fond of it (I’m aiming to burn most of it off, remember). This is a good chance to use scraps of silks and rayon, nylon, tulle, satin, chiffon, mixed with sturdier fabrics, moving up from lingerie lace to cotton. Only use polycotton if you are brave, it can do VERY strange things under heat, and STINKS to high heaven.


text 3

I like to use quite vivid scraps, and arrange them in a jumble, though because this is a test piece I grouped my cottons at one end. Pin a few anchor pieces to the halfway point and then fold the organza down. The fabrics need to join/overlap because the organza will, in effect, DISSOLVE, and what will hold the piece together are the threads and the remaining fabric.

Use leftover ends of thread, clear bobbins etc, but try and keep the front multi coloured and the back black or plain. I use different stitch patterns or colours as I stitch across linked fabrics, eg feather stitch across all the tulle, pinking across the silks, so I can guide the scorching for the effect I want.

All this bit is much quicker than it takes to explain, but experimenting will be more effective if you take photos or make notes. I colour coded on the course which helped keep me on track 😉


using up

At this point I stopped (fibro fatigue) but making a few at once is a good idea, even duplicates if you are testing effects for a specific piece.

Now to the hot stuff!



SET UP YOUR WORK SPACE: open 2 windows/a door to the outside to have a through draught, have a bowl of cold water in the sink in case of burns. Have a metal surface to work on and use a foil baking tray to rest the organza sandwich on, and barbecue tongs are very handy! (£/$ shop is your friend!)


NEVER lay a hot heat gun on fabric, it will scorch and burn in seconds and could burn the house down when everything fuses. ALWAYS work at least 3inches/10cm above the surface, coming in closer as you need to. Know where you will lay the heat gun if you get tired/ burn yourself/ the phone rings/ the dog barks… I use an upside down metal biscuit tin, not ideal, but ok if I can turn off the heat gun as I lay it down, as the ridge keeps it in place.

So, having scared you all into health and safety, prepare for fun! The artificial fabrics scorch and melt really fast, so start high up and move in slowly, ready to draw back..watching  the organza shrivel and the colourful scraps emerging is very pleasing.

Tulle and foiled fabrics go quickly too, cottons and thread are slowest, this is where threadsyour stitch patterns/colour lines come in, there will be a heat shimmer and the organza dulls down the fabrics, so follow a line to bring out the interesting scraps, and make holes in the dull parts 😉

org,notcotCotton won’t burn into holes, unless you have a top range heat gun. But you can use an incense stick, a match, a skewer heated in a gas flame or a soldering iron to make small to large scorch holes (see further down!) So, turn everything off and lay it down safely and evaluate.

dogsdinnerAfter all this, your sample may look like a dog’s dinner. Do not despair if the effect is not what you wanted! Mine looks pretty dullllll…

or does it?

Bring it to the light!


Silhouettes give you a much better idea of where the work is really at…if you are a process artist, this is where the ideas really start flowing, because the silhouette can be so striking…

wiindow 2

The soldering iron can be used to make bigger holes in cotton, but I bought it more for other things, because I don’t like the mess it makes of the end, it cleans up easily, but because I have the tools for hot knifing, it’s much easier to use those, kind of like washing a food processor or a grater, the grater is slower, but if you count the washing up, tons easier 😉

More work to be done on the sandwich, my sewing machine is not happy at the moment, so part 2 may take a while…




summer solstice garden

so, ok, I cheated, these were taken yesterday, as I couldn’t hold a camera steady with frozen shoulder/dead arm on the actual solstice, but these pictures are about the very green lushness of the garden at this point. We have had a wretchedly long winter, but at last some blue skies and warm summer sun are bringing out the flowers. A fortnight ago the foxgloves were nowhere, now they’ve catapulted themselves up in places I don’t remember planting them:

STA45085STA45084 these are taken from the back of the rockery, which is now becoming an island bed between Ben’s new raised beds and his badminton lawn. He has uncovered some more lovely rocks and done some more heavy pruning, but has left this holly arch for me to play with 🙂


– with holly and ornamental thistle, this is a very prickly bed 😉

I love the contrast of the rocks and the lush vegetation though this is very non traditional for a garden, ornamental rockeries traditionally have alpines, and small tidy succulents, but I like the feel of being on the edge of a shaded woodland glade – as there are giant copper beeches at the drive gateway, with hollies as tall beside them, and then the badminton lawn, this makes for a very natural feel AND a lovely surprise for an inner city garden, all at the same time. 🙂


I thought the foxgloves I grew on the allotment were huge, but the super rich ‘forest floor’ of the reclaimed rockery is making giants, this is the biggest basal of a foxglove I’ve ever grown, it’s at least 12″/30cm across, more like 20″/50cm…STA45091

The liquorice blue agastache looks lovely against the dilapidated creosoted shed, and the bees are in heaven, we saw at least 3 kinds, with about 3 dozen in total, one bumble bee was wobbling around very drunk between two of the biggest flowering foxgloves 😉





















I’ve never seen this grass before, and wonder if the pollen is what is making me sneeze every morning…it grows from strap rosettes, a bit like bluebells….Yes that sycamore needs chopping back again already…

my potatoes are doing well:

STA45106 and right next to them, I saw a Monet in ivy…Monet is famous among painters for the variety of his brushstrokes, 28 different styles of mark in a small square is average for him. Look at all the different ivy leaf shapes in this square foot:


and finally, my sweet peas are out! Jen came round and said how lovely it was to smell them as she waited (I am very slow to the door) and I really like how welcoming the pot is. That’s the spring one, daffs, violets and sweet peas, now I need to think about an autumn one 🙂 I have some heritage peas, a salmon flowered short ‘umbrella’ kind and gave Jen some for her allotment, but may use the rest in the next tub, with some autumn bulbs and cyclamen…


the law of unintended consequences

oh, the joy of frozen shoulder…i have been a somewhat grumpy cat about losing yet more mobility, even if it is temporary, two weeks of hardly being able to turn my neck has been too long…(from the low labels at the trent show, the chiropractor reckons)

so without art and craft , i have needed some humour:

– an excerpt from an after dinner speech given by Gerard Hoffnung….this is the story of a very bad day in the life of a bricklayer…

an oldie, but hilarious for the way he tells it including the infectious chortles 😉

waste not, want not 1: sprouting seeds, growing potatoes

I have been thinking about waste again, partly because I am reading Richard Girling’s ‘Rubbish! Dirt on our Hands and Crisis Ahead’!+dirt

which is very interesting, and more general than the textile upcycling/waste horrors I read about in Kate Fletcher’s ‘Sustainable Fashion and Textiles’ for the Eco Garments course with Linda Lloyd Willis, some scary statistics on how much unused fabric, still on the roll is sent to landfill….noooooooooo!!!!

So, what is waste?

Something you don’t know how to find another use for, and nobody else does either.

Anything else is awaiting its next use or to be stripped down for parts – that includes nutrients eg worm farms eating food waste, compost heaps making potting compost while growing potatoes:

STA45047 This is the compost heap in the front garden, it’s in 3 parts, this is the last stage, growing potatoes as it matures. When the potatoes are ready to harvest, I will riddle (big sieve) the potatoes and compost into separate containers (well, realistically I will be directing someone else, but you get the picture.) I will save the died down potato foliage for the newest compost, send the tatties upstairs to cook and the bucket of fine compost goes to the potting bench to use when I sow sweet peas and french beans or garlic. The coarser compost goes on top of the raised beds to feed them. What raised beds? That’s another post 😉

There are things like tyres that annoy me: surely they should be compulsorily re used for shoe soles until the mountain has dropped a bit, it would make shoes last 5 times as long too, and even the girliest of girls could have a pair of ugg boots with real soles, I walk behind them, wincing at the soft soles worn down and wonky, giving them twisted posture and spine problems in years to come..

I could rant for ages….but…takes deep breath

Instead I will be constructive!

And make a pledge: 1 in 5 of my blog posts will be


and you are welcome to share the link for these, on your own blog or via Facebook. Best of all would be if you try them and write your own post about what works for you 🙂


This is even more fun with kids of course, draw a face on a washed out egg shell and put cress seeds on damp cotton wool in the bottom, add a spray of water for 3 days or until it has green hair 😉

They can sprinkle the cress on their salad or egg sandwich and once they realize they like little green things, grow alfalfa, the ‘superfood’ that has been used since mesolithic times (found in burial chambers, and amazingly, it still sprouted!) and that only takes 3-4 days. Or cress, or radish, or sunflower seeds…it’s so nice to grow something on your own windowsill with no waste! I put the seed packet in the papermaking pile, but you could make a notebook from all your packets and envelopes turned inside out, a couple of punched holes and a bit of string…voila! notebook 😉



Biodiversity loss: the past’s sci-fi warnings are here

This is the song that frames Silent Running, a film I have never been able to watch without crying…that it should ever come to pass that the only way to save the biodiversity of Earth would be to send habitat domes into space, and then the governments would decide it was a waste of money, seemed a long way way away as a child ( I was about 8 when the film came out) but possible…that a pacifist should have to kill humans to save the plants, but then could not live alone…all this because of people choosing greed over need…was and is deeply upsetting…

And now…yes, only 40 years later, if Kew Gardens loses financial support for the Millenium Seed Bank, which has over a BILLION seed types, and there are countless more to come in…we will lose the organic structure of  life as we know it…

A warning from the past, set in a future that was never supposed to happen, but seems more likely now than then…if you can, please donate, if not, please share to facebook, someone you know might be able to:

progress on bundles

Thanks to Wain for asking why I wrap bundles, it gave me the spark to write a post. I have been working slowly as I am very tired after the physical effort of going to see the graduate shows and then answering comments on the last post. People felt I’d been disrespectful, so it felt important to answer mindfully…though as it cut into making time/energy today I need to draw a line now. But Wain’s question was a good reminder to consider why and how I am working on cradle for stones.


This was my answer:
I gather leftover making waste from my mixed media studio and wrap it in more waste/remnants until it acquires interest. The interaction of the visual elements begin a dance of their own which means the next element suggests itself from the tray of leftovers in front of me. That probably sounds like a how, but there is a ‘why’ in there, I am seeking to make even the waste have meaning or bring beauty to the world…as a metaphor for the solution to the problem of first world waste: we buy things, when we are seeking experiences.
After my husband died (dropped dead of a heart attack) I found I bought many materials for the machine embroidery course I started a year later, as a solution to the problem of not being able to paint now, as my damaged collar bone comes loose too often.
I feel I acquired a huge stash, very fast as: on the one hand, choosing between things was too hard, on the other, there was such joy in feeling the potential in materials, to feel absorbed and safe from the pain of bereavement, cocooned in making. Now I am working through the remnants and trimmings from many projects (large room installations, huge quilts etc, eco garments) as I also had a problem releasing leftovers…so the bundles are cocoons of acceptance and healing, and the wrapping is the healing skin/ the oak burr/ the pearl in the shell…”


It is an absorbing process, as my hands do a lot of the thinking, reaching for the next fragment of colour or texture, whether it be a bead, a snip of fabric, a tangle of thread, an end of machine cord; but then the eye has to accept and approve…and something else too, the brain function in charge of resolution has to feel satisfied. I have removed a couple of embellishers because they felt slightly “off”. Given that these are components of a very large piece, and so far, all balance in the palm of my hand, that is very meticulous! And slightly cracked 😉 But the devil is in the detail…

I love making machine cords and creating complex cloth with a  twisted version of crazy quilting ( as in the crazed surface of porcelain) using automatic machine stitch patterns, I enjoy mingling automatic/ machine and hand held techniques, so would be thrown out of  the slow cloth movement groups with a thud, but I feel at home in the mindful process approach.

I want to feel at ease when the piece is being assembled/installed, that different elements can be juggled to suit a specific site, and for me that means working each component to resolution… I made more cords and some shifu cloth with fibre additions today, very pleasing, blackcurrant, orange and black, mmm…and did some boring underpainting on the papier mache shells. Well, boring till I added glitter paint 😉  So more photos soon…though I have the chiropractor tomorrow, who is not going to be happy, as making my rollator ‘bump’ up and down buses and entries has been very hard on my neck…it will be a case of yelp, she yelps…

trent uni degree shows: the importance of respect

Cherise invited me to look round the Fine Art Degree show yesterday…oh my, I was so disappointed…and increasingly cross…things like breaches of health and safety, notes to invigilators to warn of people coming in wheelchairs so that things could be moved (bad) with NO invigilators around (WORSE) sharp pointy things projecting into public walkways, people who were possibly invigilators picnicking in the corner of a room of art…ACCESS is not a privilege in a public access site/event, it is a right…but the art made up for it? Well no, after one floor of disappointment, and with that warning in the back of my mind, I said I’d meet the others later (apparently it improved and I missed some better work, drat it!) and I went back to the ground floor where I had seen some EXCELLENT art, and got to feast my eyes and replenish my soul…

So, these images were taken with permission in the TEXTILE DESIGN 2013 EXHIBITION. I have added the credits, so while I’m pretty sure they are all correct, I apologise for colour and font maybe not matching graduates work/taste. The invigilators were present and very helpful, which as the easiest access for me to the Bonington is by getting a hand for lifting my wheels down the four steps, I was very grateful for.

To access the official pdf:


The first pieces to catch my eye were the ‘suffolk puff’ neckpiece and the perce/burnt collar, it looks a little flat in my photo, but was lovely and light, with a variety of textures as well as the very supple suedette.

I loved the blue piece by Alexandra Austin, her machine embroidery is excellent and all her work repaid close inspection.



This piece made me audibly gasp! It is a beautifully tailored dress, made of a light tweed in a totally pleasing mix of colours, much better than my photo shows!

It IS lighter than her samples hanging in the background, but still vibrant, so I’m not sure why it looks slightly frosted…. many apologies to Katie McKeon, but as my favourite piece of the day, I wanted a reminder! Selfish, but true 😉


Emma Gillett deserves to walk straight into her own business or a good design job, these were so pleasing, perfectly designed and well made, another factor that struck me about this course in comparison to the Fine Art, the vast majority of pieces in Textile Design were well made, well finished and with a respect for industry standards, but also a respect for the student’s own achievements shone through: beautiful fabric should be displayed to its best advantage, whether as a mini bolt/samples or made up garment/product.


Amanda Ferguson and Ben Marston also looked industry ready: their surf and skateboard culture designs would sell straight off the rack…They were shown in the dim stairwell section of the foyer, but were so vibrant it wasn’t a problem, focused lighting and bold work caught the eye and HELD it…none of the unfulfilled promise of the Fine Art, where poor finishing and lack of resolution plagued so many pieces…


There were many others in the Textile Design show who made excellent work:

STA45002   Serena Francis, Emma Bradshaw and Laylah Cook are beautiful designers for woven fabric, their samples were stunning, subtle, elegant…

STA45006 Stephanie Smith makes beautiful embroidery, her frosted rime on this piece was superb, I have a feeling she will be at Harrogate or Alexandra Palace soon 😉

I was also struck by  the work of Harshita Pala (page 96) and Charlotte France (page 44), and wish I had taken usable photos of their work (I may go back if I have the spoons, I was pretty exhausted after 2 hours at Trent…) they had a looseness in their style that makes me wonder if they will cross over to art later, their work is professional and industry-appropriate, but there are hints of that certain something 😉

The whole exhibition was vibrant, professional, made by people excited by their own work and that of their colleagues, with attention to professional details like promotional images/business cards with contact details and the colour image year book. (Contrast with a tiny print badly oriented A4 map in Fine Art, 100 printed for ALL the visitors (!!!) where students had only a name credit on the wall, no titles, no instructions, eg do not open the drawers was on the A4, but NOT on the wall next to Sarah Kyndt’s piece).

The main room was crowded, but still accessible (as opposed to empty and dangerous, sigh) there was a flow of impressed visitors and students and their significants will feel this has been time, money and energy well spent. This exhibition is their springboard into a hopeful future, which given the economic climate is twice as necessary… holding themselves to these standards means that outside college, many will have the confidence to try online selling/small business as well as industry.

AMENDMENT: The Fine Art graduates (see lengthy comments section) assure me they feel happy with the preparation they have received, so what follows is inappropriate concern for them. And as other people liked it, these are not problems for them.

It is still a record of what I felt, coming away from the two graduate shows, and not meant to be “bitchy” in any way, simply a musing on how it made me feel, and think.

The  fine artists will have no preparation for putting on group exhibitions to attract curators and buyers, and yet, that is what artists most need, the practice at becoming self-sustaining… I am angry at them and FOR them… Making things well is an act of respect for ourselves, the viewers and the planet, a necessity in a world crowded with dross and rubbish. I hope the art students look at and learn from their design colleagues, whose work, presentation, commitment, passion and self respect all shine…