Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy Christmas to You All!!

Yes, I know that it is some days past Christmas but I have been busy celebrating with the family. Firstly with Anne  and her family at Leamintgton Spa. Ruth and Robin andChris from Kuala Lumpur were there. Then some of us moved back to Malvern for 2 days then Ruth and Robin and myself drove north to Dundee while Ruth's children all flew up from Birmingham. The flyers had the better journey. It was gales and near-snow from Carlisle northwards and very difficult to see so there was no fast driving, just 65mph if I was lucky.. So my sister, Dorothy now has 7 guests staying with her and there is a lot of cooking and washing up. Yesterday every one under 70 went to Edinburgh for the day and Dorothy and I 'rested'. I spent most of the day creating weaving drafts for the 12 shaft loom which has come north with me. I had created four previously but felt they were not ambitious enough so I have changed the threading and the new drafts are much nicer. The idea is is that I put on an 8 yard warp, weave a yard containing a small bit of every draft   When the Guild weaving course starts at the end of January, each one of the class takes the loom home for 1 or 2 weeks (1 I hope!!) and weaves a yard of their selected draft - or samples of more than one, if they wish. The warps are wound and I will start to put them on on Monday 2nd Jan after the whole KL bunch have left. Those who live in KL are flying to Gatwick and leaving from there on Monday afternoon. The others are driving down to London on Monday. Dorothy and I will then get on with our textile plans for the next two weeks. Which are very ambitious. 

No photos this time but I ought to be able to get photos onto here when there is something to record in the textiles.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Michael and Music

One very odd thing in life this year is hearing strange stories, unknown to me till recently,  about Michael. 

One concerns computers. There were 14 in the house when he died along with as many ,if not more, keyboards and mice, many still in their original boxes. We are now down to 5 plus a laptop which is a great improvement and I hope to get down to three shortly. Anyway, the more important computers run LINUX, not Mr Gates's offerings, and I know nothing about Linux. So when I needed help, an old friend of Michael's came round and sorted it out. I complained bitterly to him about the lack of notes from Michael. I always keep a hardback notebook with details of my computers and its programs in it (Mine are all Microsoft anyway). Richard laughed and said ' I worked for Mike for 15 years and he never kept written notes. It was all in his head'. That may explain the lack of info but it's not helpful. A bit startling though. I never knew that.

The other story concerns the chaplain at Malvern Community Hospital who  is a middle-aged lady with a fine taste in knitwear. I never saw her with the same multicoloured cardigan  on twice. She was very good at her job and I saw her dealing with several people with real problems.but never saw her talking to Michael. One day she approached Michael in bed and he said 'I warn you that I am a devout atheist' and she said ' It's the 'devout' that matters not the 'atheist', Now, shall we have a good row about religion or shall we discuss something else?' This story I got from some one else.  But although Michael was an atheist, it did not stop him liking church music. Byrd's masses were a particular favorite of his.  My tastes are a bit different.

I was reminded of all this by what has been on offer on Radio 3 this week. It started with Palestrina's Mass Sancta Maria which is one of the greatest and last night we had Bach's Christmas Oratorio which is another of the greatest. I was brought up on Peter Schrierer's version which uses a very small choir. Once we were in Munich for Christmas and went to their annual performance of the Christmas Oratorio at the Symphony Hall and it was upsettingly dreadful, mainly because they had an enormous choir and, dare I say it, some of the solists were not much cop. Well last night's was up there with the best, a small choir from  Trinity College and first rate solists.    There are moments when  I wonder if all these composers, not to mention painters, had something and maybe I am wrong. 

I am working my way through Victoria's complete works at the moment.  The same remark applies to him. They have a fine choir and choral scholars at Worcester Cathedral. Maybe I should go there more often. 

On the textile side, yesterday I made up all the rest of dye solutions which have been emptied and the garage table now holds a pile of stuff ready to go to Dundee next week. I am taking the Guild's 12 shaft loom and have wound one warp and half another for it. The Megado warp is finished and I might start threading up today but first I must finish the paperwork. How come I need to spend so much time on paperwork?

Another bout of cooking is required.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Finished T-Shirt

Here is the finished T-shirt. I did as I said, unpicked the machine stitching for stamens on one flower. Then auditioned lots of different fabrics for application, thought black and white looked best, bondawebbed on circles of the chosen fabric and then stitched them down. I also outlined the faded flowers. I am reasonably pleased. At least I will wear it.  

I made up a lot of acid dye solution this afternoon to replenish stocks after the November class. I am doing an acid-dyeing class in Dundee in January and have collected together on the garage table everything I need to take. As I am taking a 12 shaft loom plus loom accessories and two other people with their luggage, I am making the assumption that I can buy/acquire most things except the dye solution up there. 

I have nearly finished the sectional warping. With half a section to go, I have run out of wool which has been turned from skeins into balls. And my swift is elsewhere being mended!!!! So I am off to see if I can cobble something together using my Ashford skeiner. 

You would be forgiven for thinking I am not doing much towards Christmas. I made small cakes this morning and a lot of stew. That has gone into the freezer for use just after Christmas. Tomorrow morning at 0830 I will be at the supermarket entrance to get the rest of the ingredients. I have two puddings and another lot of cakes to make tomorrow.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

I started warping up the Megado on Sunday or rather I went back and checked all the numbers. This is a double weave blanket and the wool is Borg's from William Hall. Unfortunately about a third of the yellow is a  slightly different shade and I had to work out what to do about this. I managed to do 6 sections on Sunday out of the 50 needed. I should be finished today and on to the threading. 

At the Bournville class, we have had some sessions on Deconstruct, Reconstruct. I took this (then white) T-shirt to cut up but changed my mind.  It is a good shape for me. The problem is that the original design was in black and gold and all the gold has slowly washed away. So I decided to dye it and do some shibori. Here I have outlined the leaves in green embroidery thread (machined) and added some stems. I have also added some stamens in machine stitching to the flower on the upper left - but I did not like the effect so I slept on it. 

I have decided to finish  sewing stems on all the flowers, including the single flower on the back but then use  acrylic paint and  textile medium to do the stamens. If this works, I will unpick the sewn stamens. I might also outline the black flowers I do not like machine stitching on T-shirt material, even when it is stretched in an embroidery frame.

The Christmas presents are all wrapped up and all the cards posted. I am going to make some French cakes to take with me to Leamington Spa and need to buy the ingredients today.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Progress (Some)

In the last few days, I have concentrated on finishing a few jobs. Like creating liftplans for Diversified Plain Weave to send round to the spring weaving class. I am in Dundee for three weeks immediately after Christmas and so anything for the end of January has to be done now. I am taking a 12 shaft loom with me to warp up in DPW. I shall put on a long warp, probably 10 yards so that the weaving class can each weave 1.5 yards on a 12 shaft loom. The first thing to do will be to install some more heddles as there are none on Shafts 9 to 12. Which reminds me that I do not want to take the warping mill with me so I had better wind the warps soon. I spent some time finishing off Christmas cards and presents, realising as I did so that I had promised Ruth shibori-ed T-shirts for Christmas. So yesterday was spent dyeing. 

I dyed 2 M&S T-shirts for Ruth and an old one for me as well as two calico shoppers (see left) with the leftovers of Procion MX dye solution.

Winter has set in here and it is very cold in the garage so the Procion dyeing was done in the kitchen. But I did dye some feathers in the garage. I started by boiling them for 5 minutes and then brushed on acid dye, wrapped them in cling film and steamed them for 40 minutes. Yes they all dyed nicely, some green and some blue but they never went back to their original feather shape. I tried brushing them with a clothes brush but no use. I threw the lot out.  Oh well.

Today I must deal with the post - a never ending task. It seems to take me half a day per week. I know, without looking, that I have to write to the lawyer and accountant and there are certainly some bills. And then I must get on with framing four pictures. One of them is needed for Christmas!!

Friday, 16 December 2011


On Wednesday I went to Birmingham and to a meeting of the Midlands Textile Forum, which is held in the Birmingham Art Gallery Tearooms. Another exhibition has been organised which has intrigued me - it is entitled 'Legacy'. You can read all sorts of meanings into this and my mind is busy imagining and rejecting! After the meeting, I went to see the Exhibition 'Lost in Lace'. I have read two slating reviews of this. I walked in, took in the scale and colour (none) and thought 'This is a Pat Exhibition'. I urge anyone who can to visit it. It is wonderful. One of the best Textile exhibitions I have seen in a long time.

The idea is that modern artists create a work, or two, based on lace. All are in black and/or white except Michael Brennan-Wood whose is bright red. Everything is on a large scale. One exhibit has a large room to itself, about 20 foot cube and it is three quarters filled with what looks like a black spider's web- see it here. If you Google Lost in Lace, several links have photos. 

The Birmingham Christmas German Market was on and there was a stall selling nothing but stamps, made of metal. There were some flamboyant Fonts but, at £20 a letter, a whole alphabet was a bit expensive. So I bought some trees - see left. The workmanship is too fine to use acrylic paint, it will have to be ink and have I got any textile ink?

I also visited Waterstones and bought a book or two, then took the train home and set about the Christmas cards. I then wrapped the Christmas presents, rushed out on Thursday and bought the last ones, wrapped those and posted everything.

I had someone round to help me turn out the garage and we took a car load to the tip. The garage is now in a fit state to do some dyeing in. I need to do that this weekend as I have promised Tie-dyed T-shirts to Ruth for Christmas.

The car boot is now accessible. A local garage sorted out the problem in 20 minutes. I was shocked to discover that the Saab garage I have used for years has closed down. It is not surprising since Saab has gone broke. It was in Droitwich which is at least 30 minutes and often 45 minutes drive so taking the car there occupied most of a day. The local garage, which is not a Saab specialist, says they can service the car so I will hang on it for a few more years.

Today it is Christmas party time at the Bournville class and then I have the weekend to myself. I have a lot of Christmas presents to finish making and hope the weather is good so that I can work in the garage and in the cellar.  I have realised that it is sometime since I had anything on the Megado and will try to start on the next warp over the weekend. I am missing it.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


This piece started life as an exercise in drawing and then cutting up the drawing and rearranging the pieces. Eventually I did a colour value exercise and decided that inverting the original (dark on light background) looked better and ended up by making it. Then added leaves cut from the leftovers of the back door curtains. It has also been quilted.  Not sure about this. Makes a good table mat.

This is going into the Betty Smithers exhibition in Newcastle-under-Lyme. The background fabric is Diversified Plain Weave with lots of different types and colours of shoes and overlaid are prints of shoes photographed by m. Then the shoes are over stitched. It reflects the many pairs of shoes in the collection. I quite like this.

Nightmare Journeys

I have driven to Dundee and back over the last three or four days. Not a good idea. I started out at 3 pm on Friday and should have reached Dundee at about 10 pm. Instead of which I was tucked up in bed at Tebay at that hour. There were 2 serious accidents on teh West Midlands motorways. In one I just sat stationary for 40 minutes and ditto for the other one only for more than 70 minutes. Add to that the Friday night traffic and the pouring rain and you can see I was more than 2 hours behind by the time I got to Manchester.  Given that the roads were said to eb icy in Scotland, I decided to stopover in Tebay.

Next day got me through the snow covered peaks to Dundee by 11 and a warm welcome from my sister, Dorothy. The whole idea in going was to take a table and other things up to Dorothy including a large amount of wood for a woodworking friend of Dorothy's.

I did manage to lock the car boot in such a way that it cannot be opened which is a first class pest. Then home on Monday, stopping off to have coffee with old friends of my parents in Edinburgh and lunch with a friend of Dorothy's in the Borders.  Very isolated. When I left I was on the main road from Edinburgh to Moffatt. From their house to the next house was 7 miles!! It rained heavily later so the last hour or so were horrible with the rush hour traffic. Home at 7. Not at all pleasant.

I did, under Dorothy's supervision, manage to quilt the erythroniums piece and then hem round the edges. So I need to put on a sleeve if I want to hang it but I am not sure I do! It is too dark to take photos so I will do that later. Indeed I have finished off a few things so must have a photography session.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Trying Again

Dorothy's ExtravOrganza works well and so does her JetFX paper but it is no good to me. While the JetFX takes well on calico shoppers, it does not take neatly onto my weaving because the fabric is not smooth enough. I tried applying the JetFX to the backing canvas and had one or two successes but two disastrous failures which left black smears on the canvas. So the canvas has had two coats of white acrylic applied to get rid of the smears. Which leaves me with the organza. Now I have to try and fix the organza to the weaving. I'll get there in the end.

I have been thinking about living by myself. I find the worst time is about 9 in the evening. So I try to organise myself into doing something then. Thinking back, I have realised that I only ever lived by myself for a year when I first went to Cambridge. After that, I shared a house with three other girls and then, after a few years, got married. I don't remember feeling lonely during that yera but then I suppose there were lots of other people in a similar situation around all the time. Also I was working - quite hard as I recall. Whereas now I am retired and there is no work - well hardly any. I have worked all my life apart from two years having babies. This was unusual  45 years ago but is not today.I am not sure where these thoughts are leading so will go away and see to the organza.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A New Coptic Binding Style

This is a Coptic binding book which was mostly made at the last bookbinding class. I finished it off at home. The covers are cotton printed by me. The cotton was spaced dyed = shoved in a yoghurt pot with some Procion MX dye. 

The binding is yet another variant from Keith Smith's book. The sewing lines across the spine are in pairs and each pair is done with a single thread  of silk from Oliver Twist but it has a needle on each end. This produces a tight binding which seems much better than anything done before. I intend to use this for preference in future. 

I now realise that a lot of his sewings for Coptic books are very similar and I don't have to try them all. I think I have found one which suits me. Now for headbands!!

View of back and front.

There are guard papers which have been cut from the same sheet as the end papers. While the visual effect is quite good, the paper is much thinner than anything I have used previously for guard papers. I will not use such a thin paper again.

I have prepared a set of covers and the papers for a Coptic book to be done tomorrow. Definitely I must try headbands.

Today has been a bad day. I was aiming to finish off the weaving of shoes for an exhibition and I must have it finished by next Thursday (9 day's time). My intention was to put on top of the  woven rows of shoes, photographs of some of my best shoes at life size using JetFX paper. Well my JetFX paper had gone off. It was 6 months or more since I used it last. I got round to calling ArtVanGo today who were clean out of JetFX but might have some in just before Christmas - which is too late. Oh well, the fall-back position is to turn the same photographs of shoes into ThermoFaxes and screenprint them on. So look up Thermofax Limited on the website and find there is no chance of getting Thermofaxes done in time. Weep on my sister', Dorothy's shoulder (metaphorically since she is 400 miles away). She has some JetFx which has never been opened (mine was out of its packet for six months). She also thought that printing on organza might do the trick and has stuck some in the post. I tried out some  of my organza ironed on to freezer paper and managed get one print but most of the ink finished up on the freezer paper and the image on the organza was too delicate. Dorothy says that my fabric is probably nylon organza and that silk is better. I await the arrival of her parcel with interest. I have left this far too late. 

I had started framing four pictures, got as far as cutting the mount board but that is now on hold!! Bah!

Monday, 5 December 2011


This week's funny story:- On Saturday at the Guild meeting, I tool possession of a 5 gallon drum of indigo vat left over from the Newbury Coat. I am arranging to hold an indigo day in January. When I got it home, I put the drum in the garage. The roofers had been in on Friday and put the new roof on the kitchen. It is all waterproofed but they need to return to finish off a few things. On Monday, the builder turned up to start the tidying up and spent a few hours painting and such like. When he had done, he came to the door to say he was finished and added. 'The roofers have left a 5 gallon drum of some funny chemical in the garage. It's got a funny smell and doesn't look like anything I have seen before. It must be a finishing coat. Anyway I thought I would warn you'. So it now has a label tied to  it, saying 'INDIGO VAT PROPERTY OF P R FOSTER'.

Curtains - and other things

This is a scan of the curtain fabric. I worked hard on Friday evening and got the curtain for the back door, sewn and hung. A photo of teh curtain in place is pretty well impossible so a scan of a bit of leftover fabric is  shown on the left. The colour is quite accurate. The pale thread is silver in appearance - certainly metallic. The material is noticeably scratchy. I would not want to wear it.

I think a tie-back is needed and will consider whether I can make a suitable braid or whether I should try weaving one of Robin Spady's designs in her book . I might use it as an excuse to weave a few of the designs. 

The last few days have been very busy. Saturday was Kennet Valley Guild's Christmas lunch. It is the first one we have held in our new venue and it does work nicely. The hall has an entrance hall which is very large - large enough to lay out all the food for 60 or so people!! And it was not overcrowded when in operation.

I had to leave early because I attended a HD performance of an opera from the New York Met. Very high class in singing and style though only the Met would have a two story library complete with staircases and upper levels for people to return books and sing their hearts  out at the same time. Oh and there was a real horse. I did not see the point of that. The text doesn't mention a horse. On Sunday I was back south of Swindon for a Braid Society meeting where I did a bit more kumi-himo. I am making a braid for a bag for the Bournville class (Topic Carnival). I have nearly finished and will post a photo shortly. And then I went to The National needlework Archive's Christmas party. They have a really good exhibition on 'Poetry in Stitches'. They seem to run this every year. The brief was  to produce an embroidered piece 24 inches square based on a poem. The NNA produces 100 poems for you to choose from. The results from the horribly sentimental to the very apposite and beautiful. The standard of workmanship is uniformly high. I had a search on the web when I got back but they do not seem to have posted photos which is a pity. Maybe it is a bit too soon.

Now back to work. Post today followed by framing three pieces of songket - gold thread weaving from Malaysia.  But first I must make the covers for the next practice of Coptic book!


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About Me

I am weaver and - -. I dye my yarns with acid dyes, I paint my warps, put fabric collages and stencils on my weaving. I have three looms, a 12 inch wide, 12 shaft Meyer for demos and courses, a 30 inch Louet Kombo which is nominally portable but has a stand, two extra beams and a home-made device containing a fan reed. And last a 32 shaft Louet Megado which is computer controlled, has a sectional warp and a second warp beam and I am the proud owner of an AVL warping wheel which I love to bits and started by drilling holes in. I inserted a device for putting a cross in. I have just acquired an inkle loom and had a lesson from an expert so I can watch TV and weave at the same time. I am interested in weaving with silk mostly 60/2 although I do quite a bit with 90/2 silk. I also count myself as a bookbinder with a special interest in Coptic binding.